Thursday, December 29, 2005

In case you missed it...

The Sixth Circuit ruled that the Constitution does not demand a "wall of separation" between church and state. It called the ACLU's repeated use of that phrase "tiresome". Although this decison was reported in several smaller newspapers and the First Amendment Center, it failed to make the alphabet networks or the NYT.

Scott Ott at Scrappleface has a humorous look at the event (non-event according to NYT).

Those of us who could actually read the Constitution already knew that the wall of separation was a fabrication based on a comment in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist minister, assuring said minister that the government would keep out of personal religious matters.

Of course, this is in keeping with the Times' War on America, as documented by Michelle Malkin.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Once Upon a Time...

... there was a woman named Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren. However, through miraculous circumstances she became pregnant. In the sixth month of her pregnancy, an angel visited her cousin, Mary. The angel told Mary that Elizabeth was already pregnant and that Mary soon would be. This was startling news, so Mary went to see Elizabeth. While there, she confirmed that Elizabeth was pregnant and that so was she. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months.

Now, Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph and when she returned he was quite startled to see that she was three months pregnant. He thought about quietly divorcing her, but an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to worry. So they went ahead with the marriage plans. However, about that time, there was a census and Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to register. Due to the traffic, and the fact that they traveled slowly (Mary being pregnant and all), they arrived late at night and all the hotels were filled. One innkeeper kindly allowed them to stay in a barn. Mary gave birth to their first-born son and called him Jesus. Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a feed trough. (Later people would call him the Bread from Heaven.)

God was so proud of the birth, that He sent angels again, causing a great light in the sky. They announced the birth to shepherds. The shepherds were so excited, they ran to see. After the excitement died down and the census was complete, Mary and Joseph took care to perform the required rituals and were amazed by some prophecies that people made about the baby. Joseph prepared a home for his growing family in Bethlehem.

Now, when the angels lighted up the sky, magi from the East noticed. They spent some time gathering gifts and organizing a caravan, then set out for Jerusalem (where else would the King of the Jews be, but the capitol?) After nearly two years, they arrived at the palace and enquired about the new king. Herod's scribes told them they had missed it by a few miles and might want to check Bethlehem. They told Herod the time of the star and were surprised that it appeared again as they left the palace. The "star" led them to the house and they saw the young child, but did not return to Herod.

God also warned Joseph to flee, thereby escaping the slaughter of those under two by Herod. They stayed in Egypt for a while. Once Herod died, they returned to Israel and Joseph's original hometown of Nazareth. They stayed there until Jesus was ready for his Bar-Mitzvah. But that is another story.

Merry Christmas again.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

Yes, without the X (although X is the first letter of Christ in Greek). I thought I would share with you the Christmas story, this being the Christmas season and all.
First, the really short version (John 3:16):
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Then, the slightly longer version (John 1:1-5,9-14 - KJV) (John 1:1-5,9-14 - NIV)

Have a blessed Christmas season.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Santini Hits a Homerun

Check out this song (to the tune of Winter Wonderland) over at Scrappleface.
Here's a sample:
Iraqis vote, Zarqawi fidgets
At all those purple middle digits
He can’t do a thing
In Iraq, freedom rings!
Thuggies dressed in women’s underwear

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Medical Privacy Upheld

Judge David F. Crow's decision prohibiting prosecutors from asking the talk show host's doctors about his medical treatment and condition or information he shared with his doctors during his care and treatment should put an end to the harassment of Rush Limbaugh.

Of course, next on the liberal chopping block are Bill Frist and Tom DeLay. Frist faces charges of insider trading since he divested himself of medical stocks just before they went down. The fact that he had tried to remove those stocks for over six months to avoid an apparent conflict of interest seems to have no bearing on the accusation.

Delay, although having some charges thrown out, still faces a money-laundering indictment, which will no doubt prove just as spurious as the charges against Limbaugh. The politics of personal destruction rumbles on with the Washington "climate of corruption". Has anyone heard of the Barrett Report?

Monday, December 12, 2005

No Liberal Bias at MSM

A new ABC poll has some interesting results, in spite of the spin put on it by ABC themselves. For a detailed analysis, see what Captain Ed has to say about it.

Wonder how long it will take for the Democrats to admit that their polling numbers were outright lies? Here are some actual results:
  • 76 percent of Iraqis express confidence that this week's elections will produce a stable government
  • 57 percent of Iraqis prefer democracy to either strongman rule or an Islamic state
  • 99 percent of Iraqis support women voting or working as medical doctors
  • 63 percent feel very safe in their own neighborhood, up sharply from an Oxford poll in June 2004
  • This survey finds 10- to 13-point gains in ratings of local crime protection, security and medical care, as well as in the still-problematic areas of electric supply and jobs.
Update: The link to the poll results was broken. Fixed it.

Happy Monday

I know it is too late to comment on the bad news that Tom DeLay got last week. (Some charges were dismissed). I know, most people think that would be good news, but not in Demoland. It is bad news because some charges were not dismissed.

OK. But we do have good news from Iraq. The voting has started. This marks the third in the country's experiments in representative governments. Turnout is expected to be high as in the previous elections.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mortgages Clarified (?)

Here is a typical amortization schedule:





























































Notice that you could double up payment 1 and Payment 2 by simply adding $100 to payment 1. Adding another $101 to payment 2 takes care of payments 3 and 4.
Adding $102 to payment 3 takes care of payments 5 and 6.
and so on. In fact, you could simply add $105 to the payment for six months to knock six payments off the end of the mortgage. You invest $1,260 to save $3,594.

You can add principal at any time, without making any special arrangements with the mortgage company.

About Monthly Payments

This may prove useful in discussions with your children about money. Let's allow me some license with my early figures. Say you find clothing on sale for 20% off. Say further that you decide to buy $1,250 of clothing for the amazingly low price of only $1,000. Whether or not that is a good deal depends on where the $1,000 originated.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that your monthly discretionary income is exactly $1,000. If the money you spent on clothes came from that, no harm, no foul - unless you want to buy something else this month. Suppose you had other things you wanted to buy. Reach for that handy store charge card and we'll pay for it next month - out of next month's discretionary income. Aye, there's the rub.

In this scenario, you have just obligated income that you don't have yet. You have just guaranteed that you have NO discretionary income next month, because you have already obligated it. You spent next month's income before it actually came in. Now, if you control your spending and your income continues, no harm, no foul. After next month, you will return to having discretionary income. Suppose you had a sudden illness (like a heart attack, maybe) that stopped your income. You now have to pay money that you don't have. Of course, things like that probably won't happen.

What is more likely is that you will find something you want to buy next month as well. But you owe that pesky $1,000. Well, lookie here: The nice store will let you pay less than the $1,000, so you can still buy something next month. As long as you pay the minimum payment, everyone is happy and you still got a great deal on those clothes. Ya think?

I was going to give the name of a nationally known clothing store, but decided against it. The following figures are taken from an actual revolving credit account: Minimum Finance Charge per Month = $1. This rarely comes in to play, but if the finance charge computed to less than $1, they will still charge you $1. The reason that rarely happens is the Annual Percentage Rate is 22.8%. The only way the finance charge would calculate to less than $1 is if your balance were only $4.38. Update: Finance charge is $1 when the balance is $52.63. (Sorry for any confusion.) The minimum monthly payment works out to 5% of the outstanding balance, or $50 the first month.

You figure you can live with only $950 in discretionary income, so you decide to pay $50 a month until the balance is zero. You can verify these figures in any spreadsheet. Simply add the interest (22.8% / 12) per month and subtract $50 until the balance is zero. In a mere 26 months, you will have achieved your goal. You will have paid a total of $1,270.08 (that, by the way, is $20 more than the non-sale price of the items). But you can do better. The minimum monthly payment for balances under $200 is $10. Suppose you paid only the actual minimum payments. In a mere 76 months (that is six years and four months for those without a calculator), you would have paid a total of $1,532.98 for the $1,250 worth of merchandise that you charged for $1,000.

Let's say you decide to devote 10% of your discretionary income to paying this bill. After paying $100 for 11 months, you would owe $20.35. You pay that in the 12th month and in a mere year you have paid $1,120.35 for the items.

By now, I hope you get the idea. Those monthly payments can add up to quite a bit. That's why the car commercials no longer tell you what you will actually pay for the car, they tell you what your MONTHLY PAYMENT will be. That's why the "interest only" mortgages emphasize the amount you "save" each month over a conventional mortgage. Never mind that a conventional mortgage will eventually have a zero balance, while the interest only loan will always have the intial balance.

Oh, on the subject of mortgages (or any long-term loan), you can cut the number of payments (and therefore the amount you actually pay) substantially by making double payments early in the loan. You have an $800 mortgage and you are thinking "I can't pay $1,600 on this note each month". You don't have to. Look at your amortization schedule. You are probably only getting $150 of that $800 applied to principal. To double the payment, you simply include an extra $150 (Total of $950 in our example) with your normal payment.

Or, you could calculate what the payments would be for a 15-year instead of a 30-year mortgage. For example a $100,000 mortgage at 6% would have payments of $599.55 (principal and interest) for a 30-year mortgage and $843.86 (principal and interest) for a 15-year mortgage. The 30-year motgage will cost $215,838.19 and the 15-year one will cost $151,894.23. You do the math.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Chicken Age Calculator

I received an email from a friend with a "Chocolate Age Calculator". Now, this calculator works, but only if your age is less than 100 and only for this year. Since there are lots of Americans over that age (or at least that age), I am providing this new and improved Chicken Age Calculator as a public service. This will work even if your age is triple digits. It will also work for any year from now on (sort of).

Write down the number of times each week that you eat chicken. This number must be between 1 and 9. If you don't eat chicken, just pick a number from 1 to 9. Remember the number. Now do the following:

  1. Multiply the number by 25 (you can use the calculator that comes with the operating system).
  2. Add 50.
  3. Multiply by 40.
  4. Add the two digit year for your last birthday (for me that would be 05, might be 04 for some. Next year at this time, mine would be 06).
  5. Subtract the four-digit year of your birth.
This leaves you with a four digit number. The leftmost digit is your original number. The right three digits will be your age (for me it is 062). If you happen to be over one hundred, it will be your exact age also. This will work for the rest of this century. After that, I won't care.

Have fun.

So THAT's Economics

For those of you (like me) who struggled through economics in college - wondering why it was a required course - let me recommend two excellent books on the subject: Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy, and Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One, both by Thomas Sowell.

I wish my professors had been able to put the definition ("The study of allocating scarce resources that have alternative uses") and principles (starting with the role of prices) of economics so succinctly. Mr. Sowell not only makes economics understandable, he makes it almost fun. You will enjoy his many expanations of why high-minded policies for example, rent control) result in unintended consequences (like a shortage of affordable living space in New York and San Francisco).

Realizing that the incentives created by public policy trump the intentions of that policy, helps explain many apparent anomalies, like how lower taxes (wthin bounds) generate higher income to the government, or how wage and price controls contribute to a shortages and long lines. Why a centrally planned economy cannot match the efficiency of a market economy (We all saw the demonstrations of that in Russia, but some think it was the conduct of planning, rather than the idea of planning that was the problem).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Where Are the Jobs?

You will recall during the 2004 campaign, John Kerry asserted this was the worst economy since Herbert Hoover. Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats continued that theme, in spite of the actual economic figures that showed the economy was growing. Finally, the President has talked about the economy.

Our economy added 215,000 jobs for the month of November. We've added nearly 4.5 million new jobs in the last two-and-a-half years. Third-quarter growth of this year was 4.3 percent. That's in spite of the fact that we had hurricanes and high gasoline prices. The unemployment rate is 5 percent. And that's lower than the average for the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

About time!

Falling Temperatures Prove Global Warming

So you thought that rising temperatures indicated global warming. Well, that's true as long as temperatures actually rise. However, if temperatures start to drop, that still proves global warming.
Confused? Read the study.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

OK. I'm Able to Sit Longer...

... so I can spend a little time composing. I am composing a final exam for my student and I can compose some posts.
Health Update
I will try to not be away so long in the future. I had a slight setback last week, but I am mending well. I should be able to return to work by the middle or end of January. I am walking longer and can sit at the computer longer. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and thoughts. Thanks, also, for the birthday wishes.

About the WOT
I am so glad that there is at least one Democrat with some spine and some sense. Joe Lieberman wrote an excellent piece for the Opinion Journal. This took a lot of guts, because he is bucking not only the media, but the rest of his party. Read the article.
Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. ...
None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

In case you missed it, the president gave a great speech at Annapolis yesterday. In the speech, he outlines the strategy for victory. Also posted on the White House site is a fact sheet about training the Iraqi security forces. The president quotes Senator Lieberman:

As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."

Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief.

One more thing
In case you want to help our soldiers and support our troops, you can adopt a soldier at Rush Limbaugh's site. Do it.