Friday, December 25, 2009

I wish for you a very Merry Christmas

December the 25th is not a "Winter Holiday", it is designated as Christmas Day.
It is also very likely NOT the birthday of Jesus the Christ, but it is a designated day to remember that event. (Shepherds would not likely have been "in the field" in winter.) The event was attended by some celestial signs and visitors, but nobody bothered to mention the actual date. Perhaps the date was considered of less significance than the import of the event. God had visited man - no, God had become a man. The second Adam had been born to redeem us all from the taint left by the first Adam. Good News, indeed.
Here is the major distinction of Christianity from other religions: The way of salvation was invested not in following elaborate rules, but in a Person. Messiah Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save it. In those hours on the cross, He absorbed all the sins of the world - past, present, and future.
And that is why I can wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stimulus Effects for Retirees

The Federal Government has issued the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) adjustment figures for Social Security and military retirees. Here you go:
Social Security.
Cost of Living increase = 0%.
Cost of Medicare Part B goes from $96.50 to $110.50.
Net Benefit to seniors = -$14.00.

Military Retirees.
Cost of Living increase = 0%.
Tax increase due to stimulus = $10.
Net benefit to military retirees = -$10.

How's that hope and change working out so far?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why Governments Never Shrink

Our wonderful Republic (not a Democracy, regardless of what says. ) was founded by some really smart guys.  They were not, of course, saints.  They did, however, recognize the fallibility of humans.  We are a flawed people.  Because they rightly discerned the nature of man, they invented a system of government with checks and balances and wrote the Constitution to limit the power of the Federal government.  For my purposes, I will refer to the King’s power as statism and the people’s power as anarchy (Democracy has been defined as two wolves and a lamb voting on what is for dinner).  They strove to seek a balance between the two.  They envisioned the rule of law rather than the rule of a person.  The ideal was that certain “truths” were “self-evident” as put forth in the Declaration of independence.  This new experiment would balance the needs of the minority as well as the majority, because the law was supreme.


The constitution outlines three branches of government, taking the king’s legislative, executive, and judicial powers and spreading them around.  Each branch of government was to be suspicious of the other branches.  The Congress was to have two houses, one in which all states were equal (Senate), and one in which the states with larger populations had a larger vote (House of Representatives).  Originally Senators were to be chosen by the state legislatures (Article I Section 3), later that was changed (17th Amendment) to require direct elections by the people.  Because slavery was a contentious issue and because the less populous states feared that states with large slave holdings might have undue influence in the House, they settled on an enumeration that include three-fifths of a person for each slave held.  There is a general misunderstanding today about that three-fifths clause, which I will probably have Dave and Blarney discuss in the future.


But the point of this article is that each branch then was free to hire people to assist them.  The President has a staff, Congress has staff people and the supreme court has numerous law clerks.  The executive branch is the one most likely to grow, but Congress can commission studies and offices for itself.  Let’s say that we decide to eliminate poverty, or maybe reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  We could have a “War on Poverty” or create a “Department of Energy”.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  The people in those areas would be hired to solve those problems.  We could throw money at the problem and create large executive departments filled with people who are charged with solving the problem.


Oh, wait.  We already did.  And how is that working out?  Not surprisingly, neither problem (poverty or dependence on foreign oil) has been solved in spite of armies of people and billions of dollars attacking the problems.  Not surprisingly, you say?  Indeed.  It is Basic Economics.  Once a federal agency is created, it takes on a life of its own..  If they ever solve the problem, they will be out of a job.  It takes a strong character to cut out one’s own job.  Not gonna happen.


And that is why governments never shrink.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Dave and Blarney and photosynthesis

Blarney: Dave, you still haven’t told me why you think Lisa P. Jackson was stupid to call carbon dioxide a pollutant. After all, the UN has stated that it definitely causes global warm… Climate Change. Humans are to blame.

Dave: Blarney, have you ever heard of photosynthesis?

Blarney: Is that something like using Photo Shop to make up phony pictures?

Dave: Good parsing of the word, but no. Photosynthesis is the process in which plants convert carbon dioxide and water to make glucose. In the process, the plants release oxygen into the air.

Blarney: Really? You mean carbon dioxide is food for plants?

Dave: Yes. I forgot you attended liberal arts schools. The lack of plants to generate oxygen is one of the concerns about deforestation.

Blarney: I thought you were a conservative. Why are you worried about the planet? Aren’t you one of the Global Warm… - I mean Climate Change – deniers?

Dave: Wow. No sane person denies climate change, Blarney. We only deny that man is causing it.

Blarney: Oh.

Dave: See, that is one of the problems in talking with you. You drop out significant words, like “man-made” or “anthropogenic” when calling us “deniers”.

Blarney: Well…

Dave: And when you were confronted with the fact that the earth is actually cooling, you switched from “global warming” to “climate change”.

Blarney: That’s because you might get by with denying global warming, but you would be an idiot to deny climate change.

Dave: Indeed. And. As I said, nobody does deny climate change. We simply point out that it will happen with or without man’s activities.

Blarney: Don’t you care about the environment?

Dave: There you go again. We can be all for clean air and water without getting hysterical about some mythological man-made climate catastrophe.

Blarney: Well, you don’t have to resort to name-calling.

Dave: What?!? Never mind. Plants take the carbon dioxide from the air and use it along with light and water to make glucose. In the process they release oxygen back into the air.

Blarney: OK. So plants clean up the pollution.

Dave: No, Blarney, that isn’t my point. Humans breathe in the oxygen and use it in a reverse process to extract the sugar from foods and release carbon dioxide back into the air.

Blarney: So I’m polluting the atmosphere just by breathing?

Dave: One more time. Carbon dioxide is NECESSARY for the plants. In fact, the richer the atmosphere is in carbon dioxide, the better the plants do.

Blarney: How can a pollutant be good for plants?

Dave: I think you are almost getting it. That’s my point.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dave and Blarney, UN and Pollution

Blarney:  Dave, why so serious?

Dave:  I just can’t believe the stupidity of some people.

Blarney:  To whom do you refer?

Dave:  EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, for one.  She called Greenhouse gases a threat to our health.

Blarney:  What is stupid about that?

Dave:  Do you know what the largest greenhouse gas is?

Blarney:  Sure.  Everybody knows that it is Carbon Dioxide.  That’s what is causing Global Warming – I mean – Climate Change.

Dave:  Actually, Blarney, the largest greenhouse gas is water vapor.  It makes up about 4% of the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide makes up about four hundredths of one percent.

Blarney:  But, I heard that the concentration of carbon dioxide went up dramatically over the last thirty years.

Dave:  Well, it has increased over 35% in the last 300 years.  That means it went from 275 parts per million (ppm) to 375 ppm.

Blarney:  You’re saying that it increased only 100 ppm in 300 years?  The concentration went from 0.000275 to 0.000375?  And that caused all this warming?

Dave:  Actually, the globe has been cooling since about 1998, even though the atmospheric carbon dioxide continued to increase.

Blarney:  Why would that be?

Dave:  Well, it wouldn’t IF carbon dioxide caused warming.  That’s one of my points.

Blarney:  ONE of your points?

Dave:  Yes.  You do know that there was a big Ice Age, right?

Blarney:  Yes, that first one was the best of the three.

Dave:  Not the movie, Blarney.

Blarney:  Oh.  OK.  Yes there was an ice Age.

Dave:  And you know that there was a little ice age?

Blarney:  Yes, around 1550 to 1850.  But there were warming periods in there.

Dave:  You get a gold star, Blarney.  Now tell me what caused those warming periods or for that matter, what ended the big Ice Age?

Blarney:  Well… I don’t know.  I never thought about it.

Dave:  And you know that there were concerns about a new ice age in the 1970s?

Blarney:  Yes, but it warmed up instead.  That was caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming.  The science is settled.

Dave:  Why do I bother?


Friday, December 04, 2009

Dave and Blarney and AGW

Dave: Well, Blarney, how’s that Global Warming working out now? Houston has the earliest snowfall ever.

Blarney: Dave, you should know you can’t take one data point and make a theory go away.

Dave: Speaking of data, how about those emails in Great Britain?

Blarney: I don’t know what you are talking about.

Dave: There has been some data washing going on at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU).

Blarney: That is the first I have heard of it. There is nothing on my major news stations (ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC).

Dave: That isn’t particularly surprising. But it has been reported in the New York Times and on Fox News.

Blarney: Fox is not a real news source. My favorite bloggers call it Faux News. Get it? Faux, Fox?

Dave: That’s really clever Blarney. You do realize that “faux” rhymes with “no” instead of “knocks”. Right?

Blarney: Of course I knew that, but you should see the right wing nuts react to it as if “Faux” is just another way to spell “Fox”. It’s rich.

Dave: But then aren’t they too stupid to know the meaning of faux? And if so, they don’t get the insult. Maybe they just think you are an atrocious speller.

Blarney: Huh?

Dave: But back to my topic. How does the recent cooling trend affect global warming?

Blarney: See, Dave, you just don’t get it. We quit calling it “Global Warming” years ago.

Dave: So what do you call it now?

Blarney: It’s now “Climate Change.”

Dave: So now the claim is not that man is causing global warming, but he is causing global climate change?

Blarney: Exactly!

Dave: But the climate is always changing – it is either cooling or warming all the time.

Blarney: That’s the beauty of it! No one can deny climate change.

Dave: {sigh}