Friday, December 19, 2008

Unsolicited Financial Advice

Just what everyone needs, right?

With the government handing out money it doesn't have at truly astounding rates of speed, my (admittedly not expert-level) economics education tells me inflation is a-comin'. Hyperinflation, meaning double-digit inflation, is not an unrealistic prospect. What's hyperinflation do? Well, six years of 12% inflation would turn the hypothetical $2 bread into $4 bread. And rest unassured, it doesn't mean your hypothetical $30k/year salary becomes a $60k/year salary in the meantime. That's what "tough times" are. Your job gets an automatic pay cut every passing month for your hard work. (And you're working hard, because if you slack off you become a targeted budget cut. 10% unemployment doesn't sound too bad until you realize it means one out of every ten people you know is reduced to surviving on charity.)

So what to do? With these four easy steps, you too can weather a recession!

1. Pay your tithing. I'll spare the explanation; if you haven't heard it a million times, there's a prerequisite to paying your tithing you need to fufill in the first, namely, belonging to the organization to which one would tithe.

2. Pay off your debts. That terrible spectre, consumer debt, becomes particularly nasty when banks start to feel a pinch. To wit, a charming example of what that means.

3. Maintain your food storage. Two reasons - firstly, if things get really bad for you, it's nice to be able to eat and stuff. Secondly, unfinished food (like bulk wheat) is always cheaper than finished, and if you rotate your food storage properly you'll use some of it, which will generally save you money on your groceries.

4. Invest in something not money. If you want your earnings to retain their value, put those earnings into something that isn't pegged to the value of the dollar. Inflation hits investments hard, but only as hard as it hits not investing at all. By clerical error, I was never enrolled in my company's 401k back in May. My company offers a 50% employer match on contributions. As of right before Thanksgiving, the money I would have invested would have lost so much value it would have wiped out the employer match completely, and a little extra besides. Imagine that with a high inflation rate. My big suggestion? Buy a home. If you have a home, invest by paying down your mortgage. When that's gone, you can worry about a retirement account.

And there you have it. With these simple steps, I guarantee you'll be exactly as financially prepared to handle the coming crisis as I am. ~_^

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why not call it a 'M' for 'Meaningless'?

For your reading pleasure, I present ABC News, in a riveting story of
self-esteem and second chances: "Are Students Coddled? Schools Get Rid of 'F's."

Oh, wow.

Cliff Notes:

At public schools in Grand Rapids, Mich., high school students will no longer receive "F"s but instead will earn the letter "H" when their work falls woefully short. Superintendent Bernard Taylor told that the "H" stands for "held," and is a system designed to give students a second chance on work that was not up to par.
At one Boston area middle school, a policy known as "Zeros Aren't Permitted" gives students who do not complete their homework on time an opportunity during school hours to finish so that they do not fail the assignment.

Now let me just say that I am something of a connoisseur of 'F' and '0' grades. I received more than enough through high school, to say nothing of my abortive first year of college, to qualify as a subject-matter expert. Fs can come from one of three sources:
1. A lack of ability. The student simply did not learn the material in the time and environment (to include the teacher,) given. This type of student may not be a "write-off" necessarily, but a "Hold" is going to hold them back from learning anything else, not just hold their grade. How many held grades will one rack up before one is simply overwhelmed?
2. A lack of effort. My personal specialty - and let me assure you, no amount of lunch grace periods and high-school versions of "Incomplete" are going to motivate this type of student to do work they already chose to avoid in the first place.
3. A fluke. The bright (or at least, not slower than average,) hardworking student didn't get enough sleep the night before the test. The dog literally ate the homework. My house burnt down last night, sorry my presentation isn't here. But you know what? Students who work hard and show aptitude already get time to make up these things, and some sort of extra credit to make up for randomly bad tests. Heck, even I got these opportunities, and you had to be truly blind to see how little I cared. I had a policy of making it clear to my teachers within the first three weeks of a class that any homework not necessary to pass the class would not be done, ever.

So, what benefit, exactly, do policies like these provide - other than artificially inflating your school's comparative GPA, the academic equivalent of a government printing its way out of debt.

Now that's an intriguing concept. I wonder how hard it would be to create a "GPA exchange market," and track comparative grade strength. Well, son, the Deer Valley HS is very weak right now; it closed at 0.47 last week, which means your 4.0 is only worth a 1.88 GPA for our admissions policies."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Official Position on an Automotive Bailout

You Have Got to be Kidding Me.


Of course, they’re not kidding anyone.  They’re deadly serious, even as top officials at UAW insist Detroit was making money like gangbusters.  That’s the saddest part – they seriously think this isn’t their fault.  The “big 3” have been inching closer and closer to oblivion for decades.  It was common knowledge, at least until involved parties turned the spin machine up to 11.  We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.  Duh.


And this is why the other bailout was a bad idea.  You can’t arbitrarily fork over billions of taxpayer dollars to a relatively few institutions and not expect every single corporation in the country to find a good case for jumping on the gravy train.  ”Too big too fail” isn’t a slippery slope, it’s sheer cliff.  Newsflash:  Companies have to fail in the competitive marketplace.  Not just little ones.  When a company – or an industry – fails, it’s not just “the times.”  It’s also, without exception, a combination of a bad idea and bad management.  If you prop up failing companies, they continue to fail.  They just do it at our expense.


Let us suppose, for a moment, the United States guarantees the success of any company in this “too big to fail” category.  What exactly do you think the executives of those companies would do?  Magically become self-motivated to wean themselves off the public breast, find new revenue streams, and prove to everyone they’re financially stable?  Or perhaps they’ll discover they find the taste of free federal milk delicious?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My "Place"

An anecdote - I am in a fast-food restaurant this afternoon, getting dinner. There is only one group eating in the restaurant, a (by all appearances) family - one older woman with four children, ranging from maybe four up to teenagers. The four-year-old refuses to eat her sandwich ("It has the yucky cheese!") The (again presumably) mother replies, rather sweetly, "no honey, it's swiss, don't worry. I thought it was the yucky cheese too." Child expresses vocal disbelief, and continues to refuse to eat. Mother's next response? "Stop being such a a*%#$@% and eat your g$#&@#$ sandwich!" A distinct lack of eating continues. "Eat your sandwich, d#$%@! I didn't buy that for you to stare at!" ... "G#$*@$@# you little s#$@ if you don't eat your f#$@@$ sandwich I am going to smack the s#%@ out of you!" Presumably, at this point child begins eating, because the profanity ceases to be sandwich-related. Teenage girl: "Why are you always such an a#$@@%#?" (Unkown who this is directed at.) Mother: "Shut your snippy f#@#&$ mouth you little b#$#@, who the f#$@ do you think you're talking to?"

So, what to do? Answer in the World According to Cory: nothing. This provides an excellent analogy of my take on government intervention. I can feel reasonably confident these children do not live in what I would term a healthy family environment. I believe the damage being caused to them is probably nothing short of tragic. But I also don't believe I have any right to take away the agency of the mother in raising her children. If the aformentioned threat had been carried out in my presence, I may have called the police. But I wouldn't call CPS, because I'm not reporting bad parenting, I'm reporting assault. Just so, the fact that I oppose a kind of behavior does not mean I support using the government to prevent it. My vote of "yes" on 102 was decided almost entirely by the counsel of the Prophet, whose counsel I have agreed to heed. And even then, it was a close decision. (At some point, I may focus a post on all the arguments for and against 102 that I considered, but not today.) Do I think drugs are bad? Yes. Do I think alcohol destroys families and inidivual lives, and that tobacco is at best noxious and at worst lethal? Yes. Do I think the government should be telling people you can't do drugs, alcohol, or tobacco? Absolutely not. Just like getting my nose in that family's business, it wouldn't actually stop the behavior, like as not, and *would* make me obnoxious, and *would*, eventually, infringe on the rights of someone who wasn't doing something wrong, because nothing is black and white.

Thank you, that is all. /soapbox.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Required" Service, Tax Credits, and Captured Surplus

Thoroughly addicted polijunkies like myself no doubt saw Obama's new site is now outlining his intent to require 50 hours of community service in middle and high school, and 100 hours per year in college. Before Godwin's Law strikes (too late!) Let us take a rational look at this:

First, he can't "require" college students to do a thing. Since universities are universally not federal institutions, he would have to "lean" on them in some fashion to implement his plan. How could he go about doing that?

-He can't pull a Commerce Clause magic trick and compel universities to adhere, since a very large chunk of college education comes from private universities and colleges.

-He can't revoke a university's accreditation, the accreditation associations are private entities with no government strings. (Go, free market, go!)

So all that's left (irony of ironies,) is a "market" solution. Like so many other things the federal government "mandates," what they actually do is threaten to withhold already existing funds for noncompliance. There are two angles he could take:

-Withhold federal funding to the university itself. This would be accomplished with something similar to the Solomon Amendment, which gives the Secretary of Defense discretion to withhold federal funding to schools that refuse to participate in the ROTC program. Private schools, at least, have already signaled their willingness to forgo the federal gravy train in defense of their principles. Public schools would likely cave, but it would nonetheless generate real animosity towards Obama in academic circles, which I don't think he'd want.

-Withhold federal funding from the students. The far more likely solution - it would look a whole lot like universal service without that "mandatory" thing hanging over it, never mind the government will be imposing a requirement upon you in order to obtain that which it had previously promised unconditionally. The real intent would likely be further muddled by implementing his other big change to higher education at the same time - a $4,000/year refundable tax credit (read: grant) to all full-time students. By tying the two together, it will look like he's giving students the opportunity to "earn" $40.00/hour doing some community service (again, hoping you ignore the fact that you would lose Stafford Loans and Pell Grants too if you opted out.)

So operating on that assumption, let's dust off that section of your long-term memory that's desperately trying to cling to your Econ professor's lectures. Given that there are no statutory restrictions on the price of college tuition, the price of tuition is primarily determined by market forces. (WARNING! Dry reading alert! Scroll down to the bolded sentence to get the bottom line up front.)

Suppose every citizen of the country is given $4,000 each year on the condition they attend college full-time. As the demand curve shifts rightward, the quantity supplied/demanded increases, and the price paid also increases. Since suppliers are not mindless automatons, however, they will set their price at the point where they can capture the greatest amount of real profit from the surplus. Translated, that means the colleges will balance the prospect of new students who couldn't/wouldn't attend college previously against raising the tuition by $4,000 on all students, and keeping the number of students the same. I think it's fair to say that anyone who *wants* to go to college, and is *qualified* to go to college, *will* go to college, unless they cannot/will not fit school in around their current work schedule. Since $4,000/year isn't even a double-digit percentage of the median American salary, we can safely assume nobody will be quitting their jobs to go to school full-time thanks to Obama's plan. As a result, the number of people who are actually willing to start going to school that would otherwise not have done so is very small. This is a classic example of inelastic demand - the quantity demanded will be roughly the same regardless of price. Adding the money will shift the demand curve rightward, but since it is inelastic, the quantity demanded shifts only slightly while the price increases dramatically. End result? The average full-time tuition goes up by just under $4,000, and the number of new college students as a result of this policy is a fraction of a percentage point of current enrollment.

And the students this is supposed to help? Let's say Joe American-Dream is a junior at a state university. Joe is from a low-income family. He's the first member of the American-Dream clan to see the inside of a college lecture hall. Ever. Joe gets about 90% of his money for school from Pell Grants, Subsidized Stafford Loans, and a few scholarships for disadvantaged students. Obama's plan goes into effect. Joe gets a $4,000 check from the government every year, but Joe's tuition goes up by $3,750 that same year. After these two events cancel out, Joe's left with $250 - about enough to buy two used textbooks. In exchange for that $250, Joe had to work 100 hours with no other compensation. Effectively, we've consigned Joe to working for his "community" at $2.50/hour. Furthermore, Joe can't say "take this job and stuff it," because if he *doesn't* take it, he loses almost all of the income he's using to pay for his education. He's "fined" by the government for noncompliance.

For viscous irony, let's contrast that to the case of Lance Fratboy. The Fratboy family may not be "filthy stinking rich," but they certainly exceed DoE's means test cutoff by a fair margin. Lance's Expected Family Contribution is exactly equal to the value his school tells the DoE is the expected cost of attendance. Lance has the option to take out about $2,000 in Subsidized Stafford Loans, which he does, because his parents refuse to buy his beer, pizza, and XBox 360 games. When Obama's plan goes into effect, Lance gets the same options: $2.50/hour job for a few weeks, or you lose your federal loans. The difference is Lance's family can afford to take the $6,000/year hit. They have the option to decide that Lance's schoolwork can't handle 100 hours of interruption. The Fratboys get "fined", too, but their penalty is a fraction of Joe's.

So whose policies, exactly, are going to help the "working class" again?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Blog Post! With photos! (Well, not yet...)

So, after doing my duty as a citizen, I felt compelled to blog the experience. I'm back!

Showed up at my polling location about 5 after 5pm. My polling precinct, Hereford, extends to the border, and so centrally-located means the Palominas Fire Station, about 10 minutes South of home. For all you folks who might feel compelled to complain about parking at your suburban/urban polling place, consider this: *your* long walk wasn't along a 55-mph state highway. (Photos coming as soon as I find my transfer cable for the Blackberry.) Line was entirely outside, which was actually kinda chilly at this point of the year, but that's what jackets are for. I was more irked that the wind was hampering my reading.

I had to vote a provisional ballot, since apparently 4 full months isn't enough time to get me on the rolls. This is the third election in a row when I've moved the summer of the election year, and I've had to vote provisional ballot. This year, I'm going to try to get some information about how this can be happening.

In the post-election venue, I like to state my reasoning for my votes, and so here it goes:

President: McCain. I was originally going to vote Barr, as a "vote of confidence" in a multiparty system, but the most recent polls suggested Obama could theoretically win Arizona, and while I strongly dislike McCain's likely policies, I *loathe* Obama's. I see no good, from a fiscal conservatism perspective, coming from a Democratic sweep of federal government, and Obama is a party man, through and through.

Representative: Paul Davis (Libertarian). Giffords tries to be everything to everyone, and so she votes for all kinds of social program increases and votes against raising taxes, which just doesn't add up. But she hasn't been a truly unbearable representative; she's pro-border-enforcement, anti-amnesty, supports small business incentives, and opposes the cut-and-run mentality that would truly disasterous for us in the long run. I don't know enough about Tim Bee, the Republican, to know whether or not he's the kind of Republican that's driven me out of the party. So, I get to feel good about casting my "vote of confidence" here. (Side note: as of this post, Giffords and Bee are about 300 votes apart, but I still don't feel bad about not voting for either. UPDATE: Giffords just pulled ahead *hard*. Bisbee or a big part of Tucson must have just come in.)

Local elections: I didn't vote for any local offices; I didn't spend nearly enough time looking into candidates to feel confident casting an informed vote. In the past, I would vote Republican in any contest I hadn't researched well enough, but like I said, I can't go party lines anymore. My only excuse is I wasn't prepared for the amount of research needed to do that. Won't happen again.


101 (Ban real estate "sales tax" or "transfer tax") - Yes. My father's a real estate agent, and I'm inclined to trust his assessment how how disastrous a local real estate "transfer tax" would be to homeowners in that area.

102 (Marraige amendment) - Yes. I heed the counsel of the Prophet, and when he says this could have disastrous consequences, I'm inclined to trust that he's a little more experienced than I. Left to my own devices, I would probably vote No for a variety of reasons.

105 ("Majority Rule") - No. Does anyone seriously think requiring a majority of registered voters, not just voting voters, to vote yes is a good system for anything at all?

200, 201,202 - I'm not even going to break these down. All three of these were specifically drafted and marketed to sound like they would do the exact opposite of what they actually do. No on all 3. And I'm wondering what can be done to combat this kind of underhanded sliminess in our electoral process here.

300 (pay raise for state legislators.) - No. If you want more money, try passing a budget on time for once. End of story.

School District Unification - Background for people who don't live here - in the area, we have 3 unified (K-12) school districts around here - Sierra Vista, Bisbee, and Tombstone. Each has one high school. There's also one Elementary district, that doesn't have a corresponding High School district - Palominas. We live in the Palominas Elementary boundaries. Right now, families in the PESD area can elect which of the three high schools to attend. Unification would parse up PESD into the other 3 districts. I voted yes - right now, the hodgepodge system is costing as a lot of unecessary money.

UPDATE: In the time it took me to write this, every major network has called it for Obama. We live in interesting times.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Drudge has the story of a California superdelegate selling his vote.  Um, huh?  Huh???  There’s got to be more to this story, because it sure looks like soliciting a bribe to me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


The title says it all. I encourage you to contact your representatives. Our soldiers deserve better than some sort of Warsaw-Pact-esque industrial slum.

UPDATE: This article at CNN indicates that the 82nd, and the Army as a whole, has heard the concerns identified in this video, condemns the conditions, and has taken steps to rectify the situation. Good on them. I'll be interested to here where the disconnect occurred that allowed this to happen, but until then, I'm just pleased to see the Army is taking prompt action on the issue.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

A Saudi cleric puts those silly freedom-of-religion-lovers in their place.  The best part is where he switches to English to say “too much,” and then tries to emphasize by saying “two-three much.”  Arabic does not have any way to express the word “too,” as in more than is good.  The closest word, israf, means unseemly extravagance.  There’s something delicious in the irony of hearing a man extolling his own education confuse “two” and “too.”


Extra credit: compare and contrast.


(via Hot Air)

Never Enough

In a stunning display of goalpost-moving, Congressional Democrats have declared Iraq’s $6.4 billion dollar budget surplus, fueled (pun intended) by soaring oil prices, to somehow be a point against Iraq.  If I can understand it, their complaint is budget surpluses are inherently bad.  What the Iraqis should have done, say they, is somehow anticipated the surge in the price of oil, and implemented all the preliminary steps of billions of dollars worth of public works projects before they actually had the money.  Or maybe they just don’t realize it actually takes a measurable period of time to spend that kind of money intelligently.


Meanwhile, Captain Obvious, apparently a political correspondent at CNN, regales us with this headline: “Officials: Petraeus unlikely to recommend troop cuts.”  Really?  A senior military commander, whose entire career depends on success in Iraq, isn’t going to suggest he can do his job with fewer troops???  Darn, and I thought we were playing Name that Tune.  “Senator, I think I can win that war with only 3 soldiers.”


Monday, April 7, 2008

Holocaust Ads by MTV

The folks at Hot Air suspect subliminal Bush Derangement Syndrome, I’m far more inclined to take them at face value. MTV has a, for lack of a better term, activism community site called MTV Think, which put together these ads to increase awareness of the Holocaust in younger demographics. Honestly, I can’t see how you could do a video on this motif any other way. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. That having been said, I find myself in the odd position of congratulating MTV for doing something praiseworthy.


To anyone who thinks 1984 is a great book, but overwrought and unrealistic, I present for your reading pleasure the wisdom of Illinois Rep. Monique Davis:

What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous … to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

It is important, I think, to condemn the enemies of liberty, no matter where their views lie in relation to yours. It’s easy to champion free speech for those that agree with you – after all, you’re really championing your own beliefs. Your true opinion of liberty shows when you see someone whose beliefs you think are wrong, on every possible level, being silenced.

(via Volokh)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Science Fiction = Future Science Fact

With a hat tip to the mighty Instapundit, I discover this article at Wired about what is, essentially, the world’s first use of Black IC. I suppose you have to get a little bit of the creepy along with the really, really cool.

Back to creepy though, I sincerely hope to hear about the apprehension and prosecution of these degenerates who think triggering a seizure is in any way whatsoever acceptable behavior.

Crossed Rubicons

I see, by way of Hot Air, this article, wherein Republicans mull freezing up the Senate unless Democrats accede to allowing Bush to appoint at least as many Judicial nominees as Clinton did in his last two years in office. I get a little anxious reading things like this. On one hand, my gut reaction applauds giving the Democrats a taste of their own medicine, in what amounts to a filibuster used against 6 years of filibustering. Still, the Democrats have used some very underhanded procedural tricks to get their way in recent times – from filibusters to recess sessions to fleeing their state. So far, Republicans have stayed largely aloof of such tactics. This is in part due to enjoying a majority status for the better part of the last 7 years, though I don’t see that as a barrier to loophole exploitation. The recess gaveling, after all, is a majority tactic, and if anything, demonstrates that the tactics the Democrats have used are less the desperate tools of an oppressed minority and more a testament to the fact that evil + creativity = power. And the GOP did refrain from the so-called “nuclear option,” if only barely.

Which brings me to the crux of my dilemma. Every time a “procedural loophole” like those mentioned above is used, it drifts farther out of the classification “loophole” and into that of “tradition.” Our government can function, marginally, under these conditions, but not indefinitely. What happens when the default action taken by either party upon Judicial nominee is filibuster? At best, recess appointments will undermine the intent of the Constitution; transforming a theoretical lifetime appointment into a one-year gig, where you don’t even have the luxury of campaigning for your re-election. On that note, what happens to the impartiality of the Judiciary when your continued tenure is directly dependent on the continued goodwill of the appointing party?