Monday, December 29, 2008

May The Lord Help Me So To Do

"When the Saints trickled into the Salt Lake Valley, all they owned, or could hope to get, was carried in a wagon, or they must make it themselves."They marked off the temple site before even the rudest log home was built."There was an architect in that first company, William Weeks, who had designed the Nauvoo temple. But the hopeless desolation was too much for him. When President Young went east in 1848, Brother Weeks left, saying, 'They will never build the temple without me' (see Thomas Bullock Journals, 1844-1850, 8 July 1848, Church Archives).

"Truman O. Angell, a carpenter, was appointed to replace him. He said:
'If the President and my brethren feel to sustain a poor worm of the dust like me to be Architect of the Church, let me . . . serve them and not disgrace myself. . . . May the Lord help me so to do'
(Truman O. Angell Journal, 1857-8 Apr. 1868, 28 May 1867, Church Archives)."
Boyd K. Packer, "The Temple, the Priesthood," Ensign, May 1993, 19

Saturday, December 27, 2008


"In 1936, at the height of the Great Depression in the United States, when people were struggling to make ends meet, Elder John A. Widtsoe admonished the Saints to pay their tithing because of the spiritual blessings they would receive. He said: 'Obedience to the law of tithing . . . brings a deep, inward joy . . . that can be won in no other way. . . . The principles of truth become clearer. . . . Prayer becomes easier. . . . The spiritual sense is sharpened [and] . . . man becomes more like his Father in Heaven' ("Tithing Testimonies of Our Leaders," Deseret News, May 16, 1936, Church Section, 5)."

Sheldon F. Child, "The Best Investment," Ensign, May 2008, 80-81

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silent Night

One of the all-time great Christams Carols is Silent Night. It was written in Austria by Joseph Mohr in 1816, with the music composed at Mohr's request by Franz Gruber on December 24, 1818. It was originally written with guitar accompaniment and the pair sung it at Midnight Mass that night.

Silent Night quickly gained in popularity, partly because it was sung by a traveling family singing troupe and eventually was even sung for royalty.

Silent night Holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Yes Virginia There Is A Santa

From the New York Sun, via the Deseret News, comes this timeless editorial:
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following editorial, among the most famous ever written, appeared in The New York Sun in 1897 and remains appropriate for this holiday season 111 years later.


We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor! I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun it's so.'' Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon.

115 West Ninety-Fifth Street.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Follow the above link to read the rest. It really is great.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
“Pooh-Pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry Boo-Hoo!

“That’s a noise, “grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow …

But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN‘T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2008

Layoffs - An Example

A real world example of the layoff discussion I recently wrote about:

My company let an employee go this week. As controller, I had a small part in that decision because I put together a productivity measurement for this particular division and it shows a fairly gloomy outlook for them at their current staffing level. This report measures each employee's productivity, aggregates them, and gives us a cost per unit number.

The cost per unit is too high, which necessitated the staff reduction. We looked at the employees with the worst productivity, factored in other performance issues, and selected someone to let go. This improved our cost per unit by 9%.

2008 was not a kind year to this division, and that's putting it gently. Our product is very labor dependent, so a 9% drop in labor cost per unit is significant. It allows us to keep our prices competitive in our market, as well as begin to improve our overall performance. Without this improvement, it's not unreasonable to expect our owners to contemplate shutting down the entire division. An action which obviously would affect the entire company.

But our former employee is without a job. She is now part of that unemployment rate statistic broadcast consistently in every media source. She likely doesn't know about the data used in the decision making process - nor is she likely to care. All she knows is that she was let go, and who knows what the job outlook is.

These are the dueling concerns every business faces. No one takes joy in staff reductions, but those with the data know that without reducing costs the business may not last as a going concern.

Keep That Christmas Spirit Year Round

Here's how.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Layoffs - Pros & Cons

From NPR's Planet Money program comes this segment on layoffs, including an interview with Don Boudreaux, an economist at George Mason University who also blogs at Cafe Hayek.

Mr. Boudreaux explains that layoffs keep business and the economy flexible, which is a good thing. Of course, the two recently unemployed people interviewed don't share his view.

Of interest is the story told by one of the interviewers about the riots in France a couple of years ago. He said the young people rioting consistently told him they had nothing to do because they could not get jobs. French employers, on the other hand, said they would not hire young workers because they have no flexibility if the employee doesn't work out. Young people have no work history to report, and the lack of labor flexibility means they won't be hired.

It's an interesting story, particularly in light of the way this radio segment was presented. Mr. Boudreaux's view was treated as purely academic; a cold, libertarian, unconcerned-with-real-people view. However, the French riots illustrate quite well how dismissing cold theory can lead to "real person" suffering.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Iraqi Reporter Throws Shoe at President

Perhaps you've heard the story.

For context, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, from the archives:

It was dark when they brought a group of people (prisoners) in front of the vehicle. The drivers got out of our vehicles and turned on the headlights," he said.

Some prisoners tried to grab an automatic rifle from a guard, but failed because "we were so weak," he said.

Soldiers then opened fire. "I ran and fell into a ditch. It was full of bodies. I fell on a body. It was still alive. It was his last breath," said the witness. "It was really unbelievable, the number of people being killed like this."

Slightly wounded, he stripped off his clothes, thinking he was more likely to blend into the color of the sand if he were naked, the witness said. He then began running again.

"As I was running, I saw many pits, I saw many mounds, and I saw lots of people who had been shot," he said. "The desert was full of mounds that had people buried underneath."

The witness said he took refuge with Kurds living nearby, then traveled north. For the next 15 years he lived in hiding, moving frequently, until Saddam's ouster.

A Kurdish witness — Mutalib Mohammed Salman, 78 — told the court that his wife and 32 relatives disappeared in 1988 after troops overran his village in northern Iraq.

Salman said his wife's body and the remains of two other relatives were found in a mass grave after Saddam's regime was toppled in 2003.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Mother of All Home Christmas Light Music Displays: Wizard in Winter

From the youtube user who posted this:

Wow, this thing has really gone crazy with the viewers. Let me first start by saying that this is not my house. Regardless of what any of the comments read, this house really does exist, I have seen it with my own eyes and nothing you see in the video is trickery, it's all real.
This display was the work of Carson Williams, a Mason, Ohio, electrical engineer who spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that controlled the 16,000 Christmas lights in his annual holiday lighting spectacular (from Christmas 2004). His 2005 display includes over 25,000 lights that he spent nearly two months and $10,000 to hook up. So that the Williams' neighbors aren't disturbed by constant noise, viewers driving by the house are informed by signs to tune in to a signal broadcast over a low-power FM radio station to hear the musical accompaniment.

The rough quality of the video has led some viewers to believe it was put together in stop-action form from still photographs, but that is an artifact of the high compression used in the clip circulated via e-mail. Mr. Williams has posted instructions for recreating his "Wizard in Winter" sequencing, and another of his choreographed Christmas light music shows can be viewed here.

Carson's Christmas display proved so popular that it was featured in a Miller Lite beer commercial in December 2005.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frisco Square Lights

Snow College's Top of the Mountains Bowl

Snow Bowl

I went to the Top of the Mountains Bowl last Saturday to watch Snow College play Butler in the Junior College football National Championship game. I have no personal link to Snow, other than them being in Utah, but it was a beautiful day to watch a championship game. Plus I got to check out the new Rio Tinto soccer stadium for the first time.

The game itself was really good. Snow struggled on offense for much of the game, as they could not seem to protect the quarterback and insisted on running a 5'9" 175lb guy at a stacked defensive line. But the game completely changed once the 4th quarter began. Snow forced a fumble on the 30 yard line or so, and threw for a touchdown. Butler's ensuing drive ended with a 3 and out, and Snow returned the punt deep into Butler territory. The good field position resulted in another quick touchdown and a tie game. Butler got the ball back with about 2 minutes left and had a pretty good drive going, which had all the Snow players' parents in the stands worried (that was actually one of the more entertaining aspects of the game - the mother of one of the players sat right behind us. She was a hoot). But that drive ended and Snow got the ball back with a little bit of time, making it seem like Snow was destined for a fantastic finish at Butler's expense. A long pass got them into Butler territory, about one good play away from field goal range, but the referees started the game clock up really quickly after the first down and no one on Snow's team realized it until only a few seconds were left. So they called a timeout and were forced to go for a touchdown. They pulled a Boise St. and tried the hook and ladder, but were unable to get into the endzone. So the game went into overtime.

Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime. In the second overtime, Butler got the ball first and Snow's defense held. After already having blocked an extra point and a punt, I think everyone in the stadium could sense another block coming, and that's exactly what happened. It was pandemonium in the stands. Until, that is, Butler's players starting jumping around and the referees signaled a touchdown. Apparently, after the kick was blocked, the ball was touched by a Snow player, rolled into the end zone, and was recovered by a Butler player - resulting in a most improbable and gut wrenching touchdown. Even worse, on Snow's very next play, the receiver bobbled a pass and had it intercepted to end the game. Two quick plays, one right after the other, and the game was over. The nature of the ending, particularly after a fourth quarter that had the momentum entirely in Snow's favor, had everyone in shock.

All in all, it was a great game, and a fun way to spend an afternoon. I got to see two good teams play for a championship in a brand new stadium, and I even got to chat about Boise St football with a stadium usher (I was wearing a BSU hat and he came over to shake my hand because of it).

One final note however. Immediately after the interception that ended the game, there were a handful of Butler players that rather than celebrate with their teammates, chose to sprint all the way across the field and point and taunt the Snow sideline. One player even did a backflip. It was truly classless. On the bright side, the U now knows where to look for its future stars...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Tree Facts from National Christmas Tree Association

  • There are approximately 25-30 million Real Christmas Trees sold in the U.S. every year.
  • There are close to half a billion Real Christmas Trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers. Real Christmas Trees are grown on farms
  • North American Real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. Eighty percent (80%) of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
  • Real Trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • There are more than 4,000 Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States.
  • For every Real Christmas Tree harvested, up to 3 seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
  • There are about 500,000 acres in production for growing Christmas Trees in the U.S.; much of it preserving green space.
  • There are about 21,000 Christmas Tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part-time in the industry.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 - 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years.
  • The top Christmas Tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington. (See a complete list of all 50 states ranked by several variables.)
  • The top selling Christmas Trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine.

    USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) and your local Christmas Tree professional.

FDR's Pearl Harbor Speech

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Siberian Sleigh Ride Lights

I think the best part about this one are the comments at youtube about how this would make an awesome song on guitar hero or rock band.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Salt Lake City, Temple Square Lights

One of the best Christmas traditions is going to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the lights.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

O Holy Night

O Holy Night was written in 1847 in France by a poet named Placide Cappeau, who was asked by the parish priest to write a poem for Christmas Mass. December 3, while on a trip to Paris, Cappeau pondered Luke 2 and pictured himself there on the night of the Savior's birth. Using that imagry as inspiration, he wrote "Cantique de Noel". Cappeau felt it should have music, so upon arriving in Paris he asked his friend Adolphe Adam to compose a tune.

The song quickly became a Christmas favorite, though it suffered through some persecution as it was banned by the Church because its author's subsequent vocal anti-slavery views, and it's composer was accused of being a Jew. But the song could not be kept down, and continued to be sung and loved by the masses.

It made it's way to America in 1855 when it was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister and journalist who was drawn to the implied abolitionist tone of the song. It was Dwight that translated Cappeau's words to say,
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
O Holy Night quickly became a favorite in the US.

Of note is that on Christmas Eve 1906 a Canadian inventor in Massachusetts, Reginald Fessenden, played O Holy Night on a violin for the first ever AM radio broadcast. He also read from Luke 2 and played Handel's "Largo" on a phonograph.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I often prefer instrument-only versions to those that are sung. I enjoy listening to the power of the music, and silently supplying the words on my own.

The Amazing Story of O Holy Night

Poorly Run Organizations...

Michael Ramirez, Investors Business Daily

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

He shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God

The time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent...shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay....He shall suffer temptations, and pain....And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mosiah 3:5, 7-8

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

I am the Christmas Spirit.
I enter the home of poverty, causing pale-faced children to open their eyes wide in pleased wonder.
I cause the miser's clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.
I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the glad old way.
I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.
I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind them hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way, and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears-tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.
I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been, and pointing forward to good days yet to come.
I come softly into the still, white home of pain; and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
In a thousand ways I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.
I am the Christmas Spirit.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Music Online: Mike's World & Pandora

These are the two best ways I know of to listen to Christmas music online.

First, for a list of Christmas music playing radio stations from around the world, there's Mike's Radio World. From North Dakota to the Netherlands, they've got a pretty good list for your listening pleasure.

Second is for when you want no commercials (ever), and have a specific artist or genre in mind. Pandora. For the uninitiated, Pandora is an online music source which picks songs that are similar to ones that you like. This way, you can create your own "stations" based on a favorite song or artist. For Christmas, I've created stations based on Christmas music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Andy Williams, and Bare Naked Ladies. You can even set it up to select from multiple stations, so you get a little of everything you like.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Okay, little brother. You got one. Good job, good game, good luck in the BCS. Here's hoping Urban Meyer doesn't give you the little brother treatment.

As for the rivalry little brother, this year hearkens back to 1988. You hadn't won in a long time, and you came out and hung a bad loss on us. But, in your euphoria this year kid bro, don't forget what happened in '89. 70 to 31, and it was 63-10 in the 4th quarter.

So enjoy it while it lasts kiddo. Cause next year's gonna hurt.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rivalry Week

Q: What's the difference between a Ute and a dollar bill?

A: You can still get 4 quarters out of a dollar bill.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Edward L. Glaeser: Want better schools? Hire better teachers

"The clearest result from decades of education research is the importance of teacher quality. My colleague Tom Kane finds that students who are lucky enough to get a teacher in the top quarter of the teacher-quality distribution jump 10 percentile points in the student achievement distribution relative to children who end up with less able teachers. Improving teacher quality has about twice the impact on student outcomes as radically reducing class size."

Monday, November 10, 2008

IBD: It's Not Taxpayers, But Tax Takers Who Aren't Doing Their Fair Share

"Since the war on terror began in 2001, Washington has sounded an intermittent drumbeat for the wealthy to make a greater "sacrifice" in the form of higher taxes. The dubious charge is that these taxpayers have been shirking a duty performed in other conflicts.

The accusation bears reviewing, and its inaccuracy needs to be refuted...

America is not undertaxed. Washington is overspent — but not as a result of the current conflict. The sacrifice truly called for is on the spending side. And it would not have to be large.

Last year's federal deficit was $161 billion. As large as it sounds in nominal terms, it was 1.2% of GDP and just 5.9% of total federal spending. Less than a 6% cut in spending would have eliminated the federal deficit.

So the next time the call for "sacrifice" comes from Washington, America's response should be: Lead by example."

Additional reading:
The Achilles Heel of a Progressive Income Tax
Tax Cuts for the Rich: 1999 vs 2007
Repeat After Me: The Poor Pay No Tax

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Coming Soon: UTA to Eagle Mountain

Eagle Mountain's Proposition One, of which I wrote about here, to bring EM and Saratoga Springs into the UTA taxing district, passed by healthy margins. 76.5% of EM and 66.8% of SS voters voted in favor of annexation.

I emailed a councilman and the mayor of Eagle Mountain before the election to express some concerns and questions I had about the proposition, but I did not receive a response. The week before the election, EM hosted a "meet the candidates" night, and as part of that meeting the mayor subbed for a UTA official to speak in support of the proposition. After all the candidates had given their 3 minute speech, each went to their assigned spot and met one on one with voters. I was able to talk to the mayor for a few minutes, and ask her the questions I had emailed before.

The mayor's view was that EM desperately needs mass transit, this is a great opportunity to get federal funding for it, and it won't mean a huge increase in local taxes. I asked her why these bus lines would cost so much money, and she didn't know. I asked her if there were any other alternatives to UTA for an express bus service, and she didn't know.

The city councilman I emailed posted his view on his website. It reads much the same as the mayor's view. Transportation is something that falls under government jurisdiction, EM really needs a bus service, and if we join now we can get $600,000 in federal grant money.

I had a few problems with this proposition.

First, I felt really uncomfortable with the fact that I seemed to be the only one asking the question, "is this the best we can do?", and perhaps even more uncomfortable with the fact that no one seemed able to answer it.

Second, I didn't like that one of its major selling points was that it came with "free" federal grant money.

Third, both the city councilman and the mayor dismissed the sales tax increase as minimal because Eagle Mountain currently doesn't have much in the way of retail sales establishments - meaning most residents shop in communities that already have the UTA tax. However, a quickly growing city of 25k+ residents will have shopping at some point. So it will cost taxpayers money.

Fourth, the bus fare is expected to be $160 a month. At a gas price peak of $4, it cost me about that much to drive my own car. With rapidly falling prices, it costs me substantially less. With a single car pool partner, my commute cost is cut in half. And I don't drive a special, expensive, gas saving vehicle - I drive a 2003 Toyota Corolla. It simply does not make financial sense to subsidize a bus system that costs me more to use than it does to simply drive myself.

It very well may be that that final point encapsulates my hesitation at this new UTA bus line. My personal commuting situation, coupled with a rise in gas prices, caused me to make changes in what I drove and how I drove. They were not drastic measures. They were simple actions taken to better manage my personal economy.

This UTA line would basically remove those incentives to change. And it costs substantially more - particularly to those not interested in riding a bus. Perhaps this thought line can be summed up best by an excerpt from a comment I received on my previous UTA post. The comment comes from Frank Staheli, a former city councilman whose city faced this same decision during his term:
Others could cut costs in similar manners, but most people don't look for alternative solutions, because government solutions make sluggards of nearly all of us.
That's the rub. This bus line was sold as a "something for nothing" proposition. We'll get $600k in federal money, pay next to nothing in sales tax ourselves, and Poof! we'll have a bus line. No one has to take personal responsibility for change, no one has to find alternative solutions of their own.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Anna Schwartz

Anna Schwartz is 92 years old, lived through the Great Depression, and wrote a book about it. The Wall Street Journal interviewed her about the current situation:
"The Fed," she argues, "has gone about as if the problem is a shortage of liquidity. That is not the basic problem. The basic problem for the markets is that [uncertainty] that the balance sheets of financial firms are credible."

So even though the Fed has flooded the credit markets with cash, spreads haven't budged because banks don't know who is still solvent and who is not. This uncertainty, says Ms. Schwartz, is "the basic problem in the credit market. Lending freezes up when lenders are uncertain that would-be borrowers have the resources to repay them. So to assume that the whole problem is inadequate liquidity bypasses the real issue."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This Is Why Most Americans Opposed the Bailout

From an op-ed in the NY Times, written by David Scharfstein and Jeremy Stein, two Harvard professors:

Although there are many things to like about the government’s plan, the failure to suspend dividends is not one of them. These dividends, if they are paid at current levels, will redirect more than $25 billion of the $125 billion to shareholders in the next year alone. Taxpayers have been told that their money is required because of an urgent need to rebuild bank capital, yet a significant fraction of this money will wind up in shareholders’ pockets — and thus be unavailable to plug the large capital hole on the banks’ balance sheets.

Moreover, given their own equity stakes, the officers and directors of the nine banks will be among the leading beneficiaries of the dividend payout. We estimate that their personal take of the dividends will amount to approximately $250 million in the first year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Samuel Adams

No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and Virtue is preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.

-Samuel Adams
1775 - letter to James Warren

The Patriot Post

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Caused The Economic Downturn

“Your congressman is trying to make mortgages more expensive. Ask him why he opposes the American dream of home ownership.”
So said a Fannie Mae sponsored commercial issued in response to some in the federal government calling for increased regulation or competition. Unfortunately, even after a $200 billion bailout and Fannie Mae going into federal conservatorship - along with the ripple effect largely responsible for the $800 billion "rescue" bill - expensive mortgages are the least of our worries.

What is Fannie Mae? They, coupled with Freddie Mac, are a Government Sponsored Entity (GSE). Which means they are private corporations created and sponsored by the federal government. Fannie was established during the Great Depression in order to provide more liquidity to the mortgage market. They did this by buying up mortgages that other banks made to consumers. They would then resell some of these, while holding on to others. This buying activity allowed banks to make more and more loans, because they didn't have to service them. It was generally thought of as a good idea because banks making lots of loans meant it was easier for average citizens to buy homes. In fact, through these programs, US home ownership steadily rose.

Steadily, that is, until the last decade, during which time home ownership rates increased quickly as interest rates fell and the buying and selling of loans increased. There were other entities that competed against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the mortgage buying market, but, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office Dan Crippen said, "The debt and mortgage-backed securities of GSEs are more valuable to investors than similar private securities because of the perception of a government guarantee."

This government-induced value made Fannie Mae very profitable. So profitable that they were able to pay their executives tens of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses. They were also able to use those profits to lobby Congressional leaders with millions of dollars.

As competition grew, Fannie became more aggressive in what kinds of loans they would buy. They had begun to lose market share to competitors, and naturally wanted to retake the lead. But they also had other motivators beyond profits,
“Fannie Mae faced the danger that the market would pass us by,”

“We were afraid that lenders would be selling products we weren’t buying and Congress would feel like we weren’t fulfilling our mission. The market was changing, and it’s our job to buy loans, so we had to change as well.”
And what was the underlying mission that Fannie felt pressure to fulfill? Artificially facilitate mortgages to ever more and more people. As a result, between 2005 and 2007 Fannie guaranteed three times as many risky loans (loans made without documentation of income or savings) as it had in all earlier years combined. And that doesn't even include subprime loans.

During this same period, it became apparent to some members of Congress and the financial industries that Fannie Mae was in danger. But because of Fannie's government mandated "mission" - facilitate more mortgage loans, no matter what - all attempts to regulate or otherwise reign Fannie in were defeated. Despite sharp warnings from officials like Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan,
"Enabling these institutions to increase in size...we are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk."
And increase in size they did. By July of this year they owned or guaranteed half of the $12 Trillion mortgage industry. Their scope meant just about every mortgage lender in the country, both large and small, relied on Fannie and Freddie to help them continue to make loans. Worse yet, because of the government-backed nature of the GSE's,"
Although banks are typically prohibited from concentrating their money in the stock or bonds of any one company, those regulations create an exemption for debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have long been considered the safest of investments."
Not only were banks heavily reliant upon Fannie, but they were allowed to dangerously leverage themselves because Fannie was backed by the government.

So we set up a program whereby the federal government can influence the market (making it behave contrary to its nature), force that program to expand until it dominates that market, and then induce excessive risk taking because it's backed by the very same government.

That is what caused the economic crisis. It wasn't greed. It wasn't capitalism.

It was government.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Caused the Bank Failures?

Instead of thinking, "hmm, I wonder if it's a good idea to rely so much on sub-prime mortgages?", Fannie Mae executives were painstakingly planning and executing the hilarious practical joke of covering an entire car in Post-It notes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Joe Biden=In Command of Facts=Blithering Balderdash

Mark Steyn:
Senator Biden was glib and fluent and in command of the facts — if by “in command of the facts” you mean “talks complete blithering balderdash and hogwash.” He flatly declared that Obama never said he would meet Ahmadinejad without preconditions. But, on Debate Night, the official Obama website was still boasting that he would meet Ahmadinejad “without preconditions”. He said America spends more in a month in Iraq than it’s spent in seven years in Afghanistan. Er, America has spent over $700 billion in Afghanistan since 2001. It’s spending about $10 billion a month in Iraq. But no matter. To demonstrate his command of the “facts”, Senator Biden sportingly offered up his own instant replays:

“My friend John McCain voted 422 times against tax cuts for the middle classes. Let me repeat that so the American people are clear on this. My friend John McCain voted 673 times against tax cuts for the middle classes.”

The problem was that it all sounded drearily senatorial. Mention any global crisis — civil war in Bosnia, genocide in Darfur, Russian aggression in Georgia, the lack of five-star restaurants in Wales — and Biden has been there, usually within the last two weeks, and always at public expense. What the American taxpayer gets for the Emir of Delaware’s frequent-flyer miles is harder to discern. Biden was doing his best to turn in a decent karaoke version of Lloyd Bentsen, but, unfortunately, Governor Palin declined to play Dan Quayle. That left Joe sounding like an ancient pol being generically vice-presidential. Sarah, at her best, sounded like the citizen-politician this country’s Founders intended. She hasn’t voted 397 times against this or that in the U.S. Senate, because she’s been running a state, and a town, and a commercial fishing operation. She’s a doer, not a talker, which is why so many of my fellow professional talkers disdain her.

When Regular Joe Six-Pack Bluecollar Biden tried to match her on the Main Street cred, it rang slightly wacky. “Look,” he said, “All you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie’s Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me, where I spend a lot of time.” Why? Is he moonlighting as a checkout clerk on the evening shift? Or is he stalking that nice lady in Lighting Fixtures? As for Katie’s Restaurant, ah, I’m sure it was grand but apparently it closed in 1990. In the Diner of the Mind, the refills are endless and Senator Joe is sitting shootin’ the breeze over a cuppa joe with a couple other regular joes on adjoining stools while Betty-Jo, the sassy waitress who’s tough as nails but with a heart of gold, says Ol’ Joe, the short-order cook who’s doing his Sloppy Joes just the way the Senator likes ‘em, really appreciates the way that, despite 78 years in Washington, Joe Biden is still just the same regular Joe Six-Pack he was when he and Norman Rockwell first came in for a sarsaparilla all those years ago. But, alas, while he was jetting off for one-to-one talks with the Deputy Tourism Minister of Waziristan, the old neighborhood changed.

The Chicago Way

Editorial from John Kass at the Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Way is a road the Beltway media establishment dare not travel. It must frighten them. It conflicts with their fairy tale about Obama as reformer, and they're much too busy rummaging through garbage cans in Alaska to bother about Chicago's political alleys.

But any child in Illinois knows the Chicago Way leads through the most politically corrupt city in America, in a politically corrupt state, where muscle trumps reason, where Democratic warlords brazenly promote their offspring into public office, where even souls are offered up for sale.

The national media have never wanted to understand, much less expose, political corruption here, or examine how Obama prospered under the Daley machine's guidance. A trip down the Chicago Way would force them to re-examine their ridiculous narrative that sets Obama as a political reformer riding a white horse, or is that a winged unicorn?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Does Eagle Mountain Need UTA?

Eagle Mountain is about 45 miles from Salt Lake City. It is very much a bedroom community, with most people living in EM and commuting to work in either SLC or the Provo area to the southeast. It is such a new area that roads are often overcrowded, as supply has not kept up with demand.

So in comes the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to provide express bus services to Eagle Mountain and its neighbor, Saratoga Springs. It will cost an additional quarter-cent in sales tax as well as a $200,000 a year federal grant for the first three years of the new route. After that 3 year period is up, UTA says FrontRunner will be at Thanksgiving Point, "boosting the service". At that point, the route would likely change from going to Salt Lake to just going to the FrontRunner stop.

UTA claims that the bus service would get 25% of commuter traffic, reducing congestion. Lehi, which has seen its city streets explode with traffic as EM and SS grew, would see a 15% drop in traffic, according to the UTA. However, some have expressed deep skepticism in those numbers, citing historical data showing traffic capture of only 1-2%. The heavy commuting nature of Eagle Mountain would likely mean higher commuter-transit usage than other areas, but wouldn't push the numbers quite that significantly.

Cost for this bus line includes:

-$600,000 in federal money
-sales tax money, which the city estimates would have been $10,000 in'07-'08
-the regular $4 per ride, $160 a month bus fare.

Once the two cities approve the bus lines and are annexed into the UTA taxing district, they are guaranteed to pay the tax, but are not guaranteed the bus service. That is up to the UTA commissioners to decide, though it's very unlikely that the service would be removed.

My question is, is UTA necessary? Currently it costs me $160 a month to drive to work in Salt Lake City, and it takes me about an hour. With my carpool partner, the cost is cut in half to $80 a month, and driving in the carpool lane saves time. Now, that doesn't include the cost of buying or maintaining the car. But I would own it even if I didn't commute to work. Maintenance costs obviously are increased because of the increased mileage, but I do it myself and it isn't substantial. With even one more carpool partner, the effective maintenance costs would be decreased further.

Is there a more targeted, more efficient way to provide for mass transit than UTA? I know and understand the benefits of mass transit. What I don't understand is how two passengers in a vehicle costs less than a bus full of people. Also, in addition to my own monthly fare cost, plus the increased sales tax, why must people in Arkansas or South Dakota foot the $600,000 bill to subsidize my commute?

Eagle Mountain residents will vote on the issue in November, and the question I'd like answered by then is, is there an alternative to UTA-directed mass transit?

Sources used:,5143,700264432,00.html

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Jameson Jones Fund

As reported at the Daily Herald, and repeated here,
For months, Mark Myers nursed the pumpkin patch in the empty lot next to his Saratoga Springs house.

It's been a tradition in the neighborhood for years now; when the pumpkins are plump and orange, kids come running to pick their favorite ones to take home. Back when it all started, next-door neighbor Cindy Jones helped plant the first seeds.

"This is something I just do for fun, just for a hobby," Myers said.

But this year, Myers tended to his pumpkins with a specific purpose. In February, he and the rest of the tight-knit neighborhood reeled from news that the Joneses' youngest child, a 3-year-old boy with Down syndrome named Jameson, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Myers and others around the block hatched a plan: The pumpkin sale this year would be a fundraiser to help the family. The neighbors sought donations for the sale and eventually secured some extra pumpkins, corn stalks and straw bales. The last step was telling the Joneses the sale was for them.

"From the moment they decided to plant the seeds, they knew they'd be donating this money to Jameson," neighbor Heather Anderson said. "Everybody in the community pitched in on this, and they had no idea the whole time."

Myers said he'll never forget the day he asked Jameson's father, Troy, to meet him in his driveway.

"He said, 'There's probably other people who could use it,'" he said. "I said, 'No, not as much as you guys could use it. You guys have been through hell and back.'"

Consistent rain didn't stop people from coming out for the sale Saturday afternoon. As friends and new faces alike paced the rows of pumpkins looking for the perfect one, Jameson got a wheelbarrow ride down the street from Myers.
I found out today that the pumpkin sale was only one day - last Saturday. But the reporter of the story told me that there is a fund set up at Mountain America Credit Union. You can go to any branch and ask to contribute to the Jameson Jones fund.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Weezer - The Good Life

A gold star to whoever identifies the actress who plays the delivery girl in this video.

Oh, and youtube fans must watch Weezer's "Pork and Beans" video.

Bailout? Ask Ex-Presidents For A Loan

As the world ponders the merits and effectiveness of a $800 Billion bailout plan, and investors large and small wonder if a Great Depression 2.0 is on its way, it seems timely to discuss how much money our living former presidents are making. I don't mean making like how regular citizens make money, but making from the United States government. That means from taxpayers.

Their retirement allotment comes to $191,000 a year. But they are also entitled to much, much more in the form of payments for a wide array of services. Things like postage, office supplies, travel, office rent, etc. Which doesn't really sound that nefarious on the surface. Until, that is, you see what those presidential telephones are costing us.

George Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton spent $904,000 on telephone service, and $7 million on rent. During that time, Bill Clinton received the lion share in those categories, asking for $420,000 for telephone and $3.2 million for office rent.

In all, the price tag since 2001 for the three living presidents is $17.5 million dollars. Jimmy Carter cost $4 million, George Bush cost $5.5 million, and Bill Clinton cost $8 million. This, despite the fact that all are millionaires.

So as politicians and citizens alike ponder the Main Street vs. Wall Street debate, and wonder why the government is giving hundreds of billions of dollars to huge banks, perhaps we could also discuss why we're giving our ex-presidents such a substantial bail out of their own.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Biden's Low Expectations

I read the following comment on a blog last week, and thought it share-worthy:
I think Biden Rocked!

He came in with low expectations. Especially after the Couric interview where he had a huge gaffe of explaining that when the Stock Market crashed, FDR got on TV. I was fully expecting a gaffe-fest from him but he was able to overcome this with clearly rehearsed lines from his advisors.

But he was able to sidestep many direct questions by Ifill choosing instead to offer rebuttals to Palin’s arguments or further explain his ticket’s position.

I wasn’t that impressed how he kept using the same words over and over again like “fundamental” and how he kept having to repeat things. He did do a good job relating to the middle class by mentioning Scranton repeatedly, which we all know is a blue-collar, middle-class town.

He was only incoherent one time, trying to explain the McCain tax plan, and he made one big gaffe when he said the U.S. and France kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon . But I wouldn’t hold all of his Foreign Relations experience against him.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ads From The Debate

The ads using material from the debate last night are already out. Here's the first two that popped up on my youtube account:

First, from Obama,

And from McCain,

Juanes - La Noche

So I just recently discovered Juanes. He's a Columbian singer, and while I still don't know a ton about him, I've liked what I've heard so far. Here's a song called "La Noche":

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Joe Biden, Clean & Articulate

There has been much talk lately of Gov. Palin's performance in interviews with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson. With help from Gibson's editors and Couric's anti-female feminism, bloodthirsty Democrats, eager to wash away the stain of their own dirty politics, are crowing about Palin's supposed blunders.

In light of this, I thought it instructional to point out her counterpart's own blunders. Blunders which have earned him the nickname, gaffe-o-matic.

Joe Biden plagiarist:

Joe Biden Indians & Dunkin Donuts:

Joe Biden Clean and Articulate:

Joe Biden forgetting TVs and an FDR presidency didn't exist in 1929:

Joe Biden tells wheelchair bound man to "stand up":

Joe Biden's fake helicopter story:

And that's leaving out how he slammed his running mate's campaign commercial without even having seen it, accidentally opposed his running mate's position on the AIG bailout, and telling a supporter that he and Obama aren't supporting clean coal when in fact Obama is - and that just days earlier he gave a speech in favor of using more coal.

I realize Biden doesn't think the presidency lends itself to on the job training, but you'd think after 20+ years in the Senate he'd have the VP thing down.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Being A Mormon Blogger Is Cool: Redux

A few months ago I wrote about the many Mormon-related search terms that brought people to my blog. I have two addendums to add to that post.

First, no, Sarah Palin is not a Mormon. She was born in Idaho, but as we found out with Larry Craig, that doesn't always translate to LDS Church membership.

Second, I just got an awesome comment to that previous cool post, and I wanted to share it with all my readers.
"I am very concerned about the mormon church and their treatment of non-momorns in utah. I mean I have heard dozens of horror stories of non-mormons being cheated, lied to an falsly imprisoned (on trumped up charges)simply for not being a mormon. I mean the fact is mormonism is a cult and there needs to be laws passed to protect non-mormons in utah. I hate mormons who try to force themselves on us. I wish to God that jospeh smith had never been born or at least had castrated himself. Anyone who think that God is on their side is dangerous as hell."
I'm guessing this guy didn't vote for Mitt Romney. Wait till he actually visits Utah and finds out we all have horns. That'll be fun.

It's September 30th, Do You Know Where Your Paycheck Is?

The $700 billion bailout failed yesterday. As of last Friday, Utah's congressmen were officially unsure of how they would vote. Here's the roll call from yesterday morning:

Rob Bishop: Nay
Jim Matheson: Nay
Chris Cannon: Yea

Two of these congressmen are up for reelection this year, and one is not. I'm not sure what, if anything, that says about Rep. Cannon's vote.

Last week I posted a link to Harvard economist Greg Mankiw's blog, wherein he posted a note he received from a colleague asking for his view on the bailout. Mankiw was a bit wishy washy, but ultimately decided that if Ben Bernanke thought it was wise, then it must be wise.

But I want to highlight something in the letter Mankiw received:
"A LOT of payrolls get paid at the end of the month. The next for many companies is September 30. Three different people with hugely relevant knowledge said to me today words to the effect of: "Why don't your economist buddies want [insert fortune 100 company/companies here] to be able to pay their employees on Tuesday. If Washington doesn't do something now, they won't be able to". That just scared the hell out of me. I can go into more details if you like, but all of them involve the four horsemen of the apocalypse."
That was written last week, in the midst of the "give me $700 Billion or the economy gets it" rhetoric. Are there payrolls not being met today?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thoughts on Baseball, Fantasy & Otherwise

Last time we discussed my fantasy baseball prowess, I was tanking in both leagues - one team was in last place, the other in 6th. That was midway through June. The regular season just ended, so both of my teams have now finished playing. Here's how they fared.

After completely tanking the first couple months, my last place team played .500 ball the rest of the year and climbed out of last. Our 8 team league had two divisions of 4 teams each, and each division took 2 teams to the playoffs. So despite having a poor record, I was still in the playoff hunt. It went down to the wire between me and another team. I had a 2 game lead with 2 to play, both against my rival. It would take an epic fail to miss the playoffs. And epic fail I did. I lost both games, and since I lost the season series to that team, I also lost the tiebreaker and he went to the playoffs and I was sent packing.

But I still had my other league to follow, and I was again making a late charge to the top. This league was rotisserie scoring rather than head to head, so all I had to do was concentrate on specific categories in order to make up ground. My stolen bases were too low, so I added Willy Tavares and rode his 60+ steals to the top half of the league. Sadly, he completely stopped hitting over the last month, and then he got hurt so I fell only 4 steals short of gaining all the points in that category and pulling the leaders down.

My pitching staff finally took shape as Ryan Dempster continued his inexplicably great year, Adam Wainwright came back from the DL and pitched well, and I rode the huge second half comebacks of Roy Oswalt and Brett Meyers. I pieced together a serviceable bullpen by adding Jonathan Broxton and Brad Ziegler to Francisco Cordero and Kerry Wood. My ERA and WHIP finally started dropping, while my wins, saves, and strikeouts climbed. I ended with the most wins and third most saves, and it looked like I was going to catch the leaders in WHIP. But then Brett Meyers 2.0 reverted to the old Brett Meyers we all know for his final two starts and killed that chance. In a last ditch effort, I added Hiroki Kuroda and Jesse Litsch for the last day of the season, hoping they could bring my WHIP down. They did well, but it was too little, too late. I was able to tie the leaders in WHIP, but I couldn't get past that mark.

Going into Sunday's final games, I was 4 points off the overall lead with 5 or 6 categories still in play. I wound up 3 runs, 4 stolen bases, and .01 WHIP percentage points short of first place, finishing in 3rd overall, 2.5 points off the lead.

This was by far the worst showing I've ever had in fantasy sports. But it was a lot of fun.

My other baseball thoughts as the regular season closes:

Albert Pujols is the best player in the game. Period.

Josh Hamilton is the best story of the year. And he's a darn good baseball player too.

Yankees suck!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Greg Mankiw Weighs In

If I were a member of Congress...

An economics professor I know who teaches at a leading business school (who prefers anonymity, as he is still untenured) sends me a critique of our profession and a plea:

Dear Greg,

This is a strange email, but these are strange times.

I saw that your name was absent from the Shimer/Kashyap/etc initiated "letter" to the speaker and senate pro tempore. I don't know if that is reflective of your view about the appropriate course of action or not. But as a person with a very large microphone at your disposal I wanted to share the following, which is informed by my experience in the private sector prior to graduate school.

Let me preface this by saying that my personal view is that Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson are very, very smart people who have better information than anyone who signed that letter, and that questioning their view to the point where it is used by senators to justify inaction is reckless at best--and ideologically driven white-anting at worst.

But I digress. A LOT of payrolls get paid at the end of the month. The next for many companies is September 30. Three different people with hugely relevant knowledge said to me today words to the effect of: "Why don't your economist buddies want [insert fortune 100 company/companies here] to be able to pay their employees on Tuesday. If Washington doesn't do something now, they won't be able to". That just scared the hell out of me. I can go into more details if you like, but all of them involve the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

As I say, I don't know what your view is. And if it is that the problems with the "bailout" exceed the benefits then I obviously respect that.

But I am terrified about the consequences of inaction--and our profession seems to be advocating just that. If you do favor action then please avail yourself of your microphone. If not, free disposal!


[name withheld]

What is my opinion about all this? I am of two minds about the complex situation we find ourselves in.

On the one hand, I share many of the concerns of the letter signers and other critics of the Treasury plan.

On the other hand, I know Ben Bernanke well. Ben is at least as smart as any of the economists who signed that letter or are complaining on blogs or editorial pages about the proposed policy. Moreover, Ben is far better informed than the critics. The Fed staff includes some of the best policy economists around. In his capacity as Fed chair, Ben understands the situation, as well as the pros, cons, and feasibility of the alternative policy options, better than any professor sitting alone in his office possibly could.

If I were a member of Congress, I would sit down with Ben, privately, to get his candid view. If he thinks this is the right thing to do, I would put my qualms aside and follow his advice.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Motley Fool Weighs In

Dear Fools:

We need your help.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has put together a plan that is actively under debate and allows the Treasury to invest in assets that are crushing bank balance sheets. We view this plan as being an important step in allowing the global financial system to recapitalize itself. We agree with financial intellectual titans Warren Buffett and Bill Gross, as well as both presidential candidates, that the Paulson Plan needs to be passed and will benefit Main Street.

We believe that if the Paulson Plan is done correctly, American taxpayers will profit not only from the return of lending capacity to our banks, but also from these troubled investments. However, the plan should embrace the tenets of free-market capitalism. The government should demand equity stakes in the banks.

We think taxpayers deserve to benefit from a deal soundly rooted in free-market principles. We, the undersigned, encourage you to call the people who represent you in the House and Senate and demand that the approved deal include provisions for equity ownership. Go to and to find the phone numbers for your elected representatives.

Finally, even though these are extraordinary times, we stand by our belief that the best way to build long-term wealth is through equity ownership. Just look at who is doing a lot of buying of late -- Warren Buffett.

We encourage you to take a few minutes -- now! -- to call your elected officials and let them know that there needs to be an equity component for taxpayers.

Tom Gardner, CEO and Co-Founder, The Motley Fool
Scott Schedler, President, The Motley Fool
Bill Mann, Senior Advisor, Motley Fool Hidden Gems, Pay Dirt, and Global Gains

P.S. We have opened a discussion board where Fools can gather to talk about this important issue. Please come and share your opinions.

An Open Letter to Suzy Shuster's Open Letter to Tina Fey

You loved Tina Fey's Saturday Night Live impersonation of Governor Sarah Palin. You think it is directly responsible for Palin's supposed drop in popularity. Because of this, you want Fey to don the Palin costume every Saturday night until the election.

You don't like Sarah Palin. You think she is unqualified to be vice president. She "scares" you. But rather than push to publicize the reasons for your fear (assuming you have valid, rational reasons), you push to make a comedy sketch show a partisan election changer.

Which is nothing new of course. Comedic commentary during campaigns has a long history. I remember well SNL's skits involving Bob Dole, George Bush, and Ross Perot. They even did some with Bill Clinton, but those mostly revolved around his "improprieties", and we all know that doesn't matter.

And SNL made a splash earlier this year with a skit lampooning the media's love affair with Barack Obama. Funny, now that the primaries are over they don't seem to be doing too many skits like that any more. It was around the same time that Joe Biden decided the presidency was a position that lent itself to on the job training.

But what is it about her that's so scary, that causes readers of the Huffington Post to be so "scared out of our wits" that they bring in their big gun celebrities? While begging Tina Fey to continue her electioneering, you write,
And I think its your responsibility to do so, or else we face the consequence of a woman in the White House who would strive to take away your daughter Alice's right to choose along with every other woman's in this country.
Ohhhhh. So that's it. You're a "Single Issue Voter". You're one of those people that gets lambasted by celebrities, bloggers, and news media types for voting for a candidate based largely on a single issue: abortion. Except those lambasters generally save their ridicule for those that vote against abortion. That's the only type of Single Issue Voter that's completely stupid and deserving of ridicule.

That's why feminists like Ms. Shuster are lining up to trash Gov. Palin. She's such a hypocrite for claiming to be a woman when clearly authentic women must be abortion advocates. We can't have a woman in the White House that isn't actually a woman!

Thank you, Ms. Shuster, for clearing that up for me. Now I understand that, like most things, voting for an issue is only "scary" when one side does it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Surprise!'s Facts Are Wrong

I hope you haven't already written that letter...

Since (and pretty much everyone else) didn't properly vet their choices of attack lines, let's look at the anti-Palin claims one by one:

1. Palin recently said that the war in Iraq is "God's task."

Here's what she really said,
"Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan."
Pray that our leaders are sending our soldiers out on a task that is from God. Pray that our nation acts in accordance with God's plan. I've said that prayer myself. Sorry MoveOn, you'll have to do better than that.

2. Palin has actively sought the support of the fringe Alaska Independence Party.

If by actively sought you mean "never been a member of", then sure.

3. Palin wants to teach creationism in public schools.

Flat out, unconditional lie. In an article titled, "Palin has not pushed creation science as governor" Palin is quoted as saying in 2006,
"I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum,"

4. Palin doesn't believe that humans contribute to global warming.

Here's the quote they're using,
Q:What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

A: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.
Here's what she did as governor,
"A few months into her term, Palin directed a group of state commissioners to develop a strategy for addressing climate change. State lawmakers had already formed a climate commission, but the administration up until then had nothing.

"'I'm not an Al Gore, doom-and-gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climate on human activity,' Palin said Monday, 'but I'm not going to put my head in the sand and pretend there aren't changes.'"

5. Palin has close ties to Big Oil.

The source for this? ThinkProgress. TP's source? An Anchorage Daily News story during Palin's run for governor in 2006. The problem? TP didn't actually read the story. It's about an oil company called Veco. A company that has long played a heavy role in Alaska politics. A company that supported Gov. Palin's opponent in the primary and produced a newspaper editorial space that constantly criticized her. A company that gave her exactly zero dollars during her campaign.

And this is found in a story which says, "Palin often draws heat from the oil industry".

Huh. It's so weird that MoveOn/ThinkProgress would take that as having close ties to Big Oil.

5. Palin is extremely anti-choice.

For the uninitiated, "anti-choice" is code for "I think 100% genetically human beings should have more human rights than a Chimpanzee."

6. Palin opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools.

I wonder what they mean by "comprehensive". Anyway, again the source is ThinkProgress, which links to a Politico story containing this quote,
"explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support."
But they neglected to report the LA Times story which shows Gov. Palin saying the following,
"I'm pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues,"

7. As mayor, Palin tried to ban books from the library.

In a article titled, "Sliming Palin" we find,
One accusation claims then-Mayor Palin threatened to fire Wasilla’s librarian for refusing to ban books from the town library. Some versions of the rumor come complete with a list of the books that Palin allegedly attempted to ban. Actually, Palin never asked that books be banned; no books were actually banned; and many of the books on the list that Palin supposedly wanted to censor weren't even in print at the time, proving that the list is a fabrication.

8. She DID support the Bridge to Nowhere


And then changed her mind. Which, if we decide that's an immediate disqualification for a presidential ticket, I think it safe to say we can just call the whole election off this year. Along with every election in the history of the United States. As with the experience angle, I don't know that it makes for good strategy for Democrats to attack on the grounds of "changing one's mind".

So there you go. That's the list that makes Governor Sarah Palin so scary. Incidentally, I haven't received any new lists since this one was emailed to me, so I can only assume this is the best they've got. And it's all pretty much a bunch of ill-researched garbage.

Which reminds me. When I first posted this list, I was told that it was completely true, and that
"the bullet points here certainly are not "rumor-mongering". All of them can be easily researched and proven accurate in a few moments, from established mainstream sources."
Well, that "easily researched" thing turned out to be correct. But the whole "proven accurate" thing, not so much.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Democratic Party, Both Local & National, Proves I Made The Right Decision

I've generally considered myself a moderate. I've voted for Republicans and Democrats alike, never aligning myself too closely with either party. But over the last couple of years I have gotten the inclination to be more active within a party. And for much of that time I flirted very heavily with the Democratic Party. The thinking was that out west in Idaho and Utah, the Democrats can be quite moderate, and since they are few in numbers it's easier to be involved and be heard. In fact, many Democrats in Utah are Dems solely for that reason. However, it is the fact that the local Democratic chapters are so different than the national party that prevented me from jumping in with both feet. It didn't make sense to affiliate with a national movement with which I had so many philosophical differences, despite the example of a few Democratic congressmen that I admire. Nevertheless, my flirtation inched ever closer to a full fledged relationship.

That is, until I saw how despised by their own party those congressmen I admired were. I began to realize the "Big Tent" wasn't all that large after all. Consequently, my flirtation began to wane. But what has occurred over the last couple of weeks was the final nail in the coffin.

From the very moment it was announced, Governor Palin's nomination has made the Democratic Party go absolutely insane.

Here it is, the party of "rational" thought, a party which proclaimed its "Big Tent" appeal, its work for women and minorities, its position as voice for the little guy. And it has thrown that false facade completely aside to rear its ugly, partisan, sexist, gutter-politics head as it rushes to throw garbage at McCain's vice presidential pick in hopes something, anything, might stick.

For instance, on the very day Gov. Palin was announced as the candidate, Daily Kos posted a "story" claiming her infant Down Syndrome baby wasn't hers, but was her daughter's instead, and that the Palin's pulled their daughter out of school in order to hide the pregnancy and claim the baby as their own. They even posted links to pictures which "proved" that Palin was waaay too skinny to have been pregnant. Her teenage daughter on the other hand, plenty of "baby bump" potential there. Now, some might argue that Kos users can post anything they want, and the Kos site can't be held accountable for every crackpot user. But this particular user also put a poll with the story, asking if this sad, despicable, rumor-mongering story should continue. Over 22,000 people voted, and 64% of them said yes.

Sadly, Logan's own KVNU blog posted the same story - slightly less accusatory, but swallowing the Kos rumors hook, line, and sinker nonetheless.

It's an example of how the party faithful actually aren't all that different, whether they be a national Democrat or a local version. So while national commentators have been outlandishly juvenile, their local faithful have been much more disappointingly so.

Let's take a stroll down memory lane and revisit some of the things said about Governor Palin in the days following her announcement.

Radio host and TV commentator Alan Colmes speculates the Palin's first child was conceived out of wedlock. That fancy bit of journalism followed his breathless reporting that "17-Year-Old Bristol Palin Five Months Pregnant".

Sadly, local blog "One Utah", on day 3 of Gov Palin's nomination, jumps on the bandwagon, positing "her 17 year old unmarried daughter is pregnant (I heard whispers the father is 24)". Shockingly, he's not.

CNN reported a National Enquirer story claiming Governor Palin had an affair with her husband's former business partner. Andrew Sullivan excitedly posts that a former business partner filed an emergency motion to seal his divorce papers. Those fun Daily Kos-ites picked up the story as well, hoping beyond hope that it were true. Shockingly, it's not.

But that didn't stop local blogger Richard Warnick from spreading the same lies.

Even my own commenters fall into the trap of believing every last petty rumor written on a website somewhere. Democracy Lover offered up this gem as proof that Governor Palin is scaaaary - not to mention racist. But, once again, it's a complete fabrication. Just more garbage throwing in hopes something will stick.

But even if we were to put aside the muckraking and rumor mongering, the sexism on display by the Democrats, and the Obama campaign, is astounding.

Take this image, for instance. Or Richard Warnick complaining Gov. Palin is from the pages of Vogue. Or this image. There are countless others. All just as crass.

South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler said Governor Palin's "primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.” She later apologized.

"Obama adviser" Anita Dunn said, "She's new, and a good performer of that speech that she reads, but that doesn't necessarily translate into votes eight weeks from now,"

Reclusive Leftist is not impressed:
A good performer of that speech she reads. Sarah Palin is the goddamn Governor of Alaska. She’s a crack politician who has made her own way. She is not some blow-dried twit on cable news. And of course Obama trots out a woman to spew this garbage. Irony overload: you know how everyone on the left likes to say that Palin is a typical anti-woman conservative, the type of successful woman who’s ready to stick it to other women instead of helping to raise us all up?

Sounds to me like a perfect description of the women on Obama’s staff.
But it's not just the women staffers saying it.

It's Obama's VP pick, Joe Biden.

It's even Obama himself.

It's the rampant misogyny that was on display throughout the primaries, and has reappeared with Gov Palin's nomination.

It's been quite disheartening to watch it unfold. Even more so to realize that it's not just the weirdo liberal blog sites behaving this way, but it's prominent national Democrats. Worse, it's local Utah Democrats.

So I will continue to vote bi-partisanly, based on individual candidates and races. But whatever moderate high ground the Democratic Party may have once held, is now no more.