Friday, November 30, 2007

Energy Use and Carbon Emissions

An article from the NYT suggests that there are a lot of easy and cheap ways we can cut carbon emissions and save money at the same time. Of course, being the New York Times they have to throw in some government mandates, just to demonstrate their ideological purity, but in general I agree with some of their points.

I am waiting for the NYT to advocate everyone keep down the temp in their house to 60 degrees, like I do. Just got our last electric bill. $36.00. Last month was over $40.00. We use electric to cook and to heat our water. Just wear your long johns and sweaters in the house.

Yet, somehow I doubt there are many greens who can sacrifice their bodily comfort to try this. Am I wrong? I would love to hear from you greens on this. Most of the greens I know are more along the Al Gore line, content to chastise others. Logs and splinters.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Immigration and Deportation to Mexico 2

In my last post I started off to talk about the evils of deportation to Mexico and midway through decided it was too long a topic. So here is the second half.

I often hear claims that it is just terrible to break up families by deporting a mom or dad to Mexico leaving their American-born kids behind.

I don't get it, on several levels.

First, deportation does not break families up. It reunites them! Don't these poor deportees have extended families in Mexico? Wouldn't the kids like to go live with Grandma for a while, eat good home Mexican cooking, learn more about their roots? Anyway, if the kids are American citizens can't they come and go back as they please? They have US passports. I don't see the deprivation here. And if the dad or mom who stays in the US is here legally, can't he or she travel back and forth? This just is not any great hardship, folks.

And besides, it is not like Mexico is some horrible third world hell-hole. Mexico may not have US levels of affluence, but isn't Haiti either. People have plenty of food, especially if they have a family member in the US sending them extra cash. We are supposed to believe that being sent to Mexico is a kind of punishment? So why does MECHA want to have large parts of the US turned into Azatlan? If Mexico is so horrible, shouldn't Latin immigrants want to keep the US as it is?

Funny we don't hear much of these activists protesting IN MEXICO for improvements in the economy there. Mexico is a democracy of sorts. The current government was the opposition just a few years ago. Internal change is possible, and in the last couple of decades a lot has changed for the better.

These people just can't seem to make up their minds. Is Mexico great and wonderful or a hell-on-earth?

Immigration and Deportation

A recent article on immigration shows the number of illegal immigrants is very high in historic terms. As high as it has ever been as a percentage of the population.

I have no problem with high levels of immigration. In my formerly lily-white family I can think of 5 cousins who are married to non-Euro foreigners, and all but one live in the US. Including myself. And all are legal immigrants.

I also have no problem with Latino immigration, Mexican or otherwise. I speak Spanish quite well and have lived in Latin America myself.

But I do not like politically active illegal immigrants in the US who demand 'rights', or who claim that this or that part of the US belongs to Mexico. They base their claims on various old Spanish land claims, or on a supposed ancestral connection to the land. Both are bunk. The Spanish attacked and conquered Mexico and large parts of what are now the US. They also claimed large areas they never occupied further north. Then the Texans, Californians and the US conquered it in turn. Our claim is as good as the Spaniards was, according to the rules of the game as played in those days. Besides, after the Texan and Californian independence the Spanish land grants remained in existence. The descendants of those claim-holders are now American citizens and have been since the beginning.

As for the genetic connection, well, ask the Apaches, Hopis and other Native Americans of the Southwest how they think about Mexican claims to their homelands. The aboriginals of Mexico may have fought wars of conquest against these peoples, but what rights does that give them now, 400 or 600 years later? Certainly the Mexicans descended from tribes further south of the border have no special family claims. The Aztecs were the bloody bullies of Mexico. We are supposed to celebrate their brutality and reward their descendants? If a Mexican can show that his family from time immemorial has lived within a hundred or two hundred miles of the border, maybe he has something to discuss. None of the other Mexicans do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

IQ and Economics

I would like social reformers to remember one little thing. Half of the population is below average in IQ. That means that every time you add a layer of complexity to society you are leaving another slice of the people out.

Do your own taxes? I guess that a lot of very intelligent, but wealthy people have someone do their taxes for them. So the complexity of the tax code is irrelevant, as long as there are experts who can be hired to do taxes, the wealthy couldn't care less. In fact, the complexity is a feature, not a bug. It allows all sorts of tax shelters to exist hidden in the mass of paperwork.

But lets look at it from the point of view of the stupid. And lets not kid ourselves. There are stupid people, and they have to do their taxes just like everyone else. But hey! What high-paying jobs are there for stupid people? A lot of them work for the government, of course, but really, stupid people tend to get paid low wages. So they are stupid and poor. Not many hire a tax accountant to figure out their burden. Instead, they muddle through it, miss all the savings they might have gotten, make mistakes that could get them in trouble, and end up paying when they shouldn't have. Besides all that, it takes hours and days to figure out all the forms, if you only do it once a year. Wasted money, wasted time, wasted life.

But hear the outcry when anyone suggests a major simplification of the tax code. In spite of all the good it would do for the most vulnerable in our society, the stupid, no big name Democrat is willing to sign on.

Amazingly it is Republicans who favor tax simplification (at least a few Republican pols say they favor it) while Democrats oppose it, supposedly on the grounds that it would reduce revenue to the government.

I am confused. The evil mean corrupt Republicans want to simplify the tax code and make life easier for the weak and helpless in our society, while the shining knights of liberalism want the current dark swamp of despond tax code we currently have?

Don't they care about the stupid? Looks to me like they care more for the welfare of the government than for the poor.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Serious Books

It has been a while since I have read any serious books. I used to read a great deal of the old classics of western civ, the kinds of things we never got in high school or college, the old Greeks and Romans. I sure do wish I had read these under a competent prof, but I was too busy with Biology and Chemistry to take the time, and none of it was required so I didn't. Oh, wasted youth!

I did manage to read a lot on my own, but the last couple of years my reading has been mainly soft sci-fi fun stuff. Brain rot. But today I re-started Aristotle's The Art of Rhetoric. Enthymemes and Syllogisms and all that stuff. Good tough brain food. Hope I do better with it this time than last. I have Wiki now to help me with the hard words. :--)

Obama = Giuliani

Classical values blog has this interesting post today. Mr. Obama seems to think us country hicks are OK to have guns, but big city folks are not. He compared Iowa and Philly. Classical Values makes the good point that Philly is a much more dangerous place to live than rural Iowa.

I would like to add tha Rudy G is in the same camp with Obama on this, and it seems to be a pretty common view among the political class.

Maybe they just know their own people best? Maybe country folk are just smarter, calmer and better educated and self controled than city people? Or, could it be (whisper) they are all just a pack of racists? After all, we know that some types of people are more common in the country, and others concentrated in the cities.

Gun control in the US was instituted along with the rest of Jim Crow to control the freedmen after the war. The history is all there in Black and White (pun intended). Why should we think it is any different now?

Except that it is not probably strictly racial, it is more class and money. Even in NY and LA the rich and well-connected can get their gun permits, while the rest of us just have to depend on luck and prayer that today isn't the day we get beaten, robbed or murdered.

Self control is learned. Take away the environment that produces self control and you eventually end up with people who don't have it. So it is in Chicago, NY, LA, Philly, Detroit. The lower income urban population has been treated like zoo animals for so long they no longer have, or need to have those old values.

I see the Repubs giving this lip service from time to time, but the Dems don't even seem to recognise the problem. From an electoral point of view there isn't much to choose between them along party lines. Again it comes down to the actions of individual pols. I will prefer to vote for the man or woman who has demonstrated self control in his or her own life, has run a business, or sucessfully run a city or state.

Sorry Hillary and Obama. What have you done but work in government you whole lives? Health care? You got it, paid for. Police protection? 24 hour secret service, armored limos, gated homes, private jets.

Mit Romney and Bill Richardson have this. So does Rudy, and Mike H.

Iraq, what's gone wrong?

Can someone explain to me what has gone wrong in Iraq? As wars go, it seems to have been about as 'good' a war (for us) as any could possibly be. The offensive was over in a couple of weeks. Rounding up or killing the bitter-enders and foreign jihadis has taken a few years, and cost us a few thousand lives.

From a geo-political standpoint, so far it has been small change. Nobody really cares about the money spent, obviously. Except ignorant people who don't understand that the money, whether spent overseas on war or domestically on some make-work program, is all wasted money anyway.

From a spending standpoint, I could wish that money had not been spent by any government anywhere, domestically or in foreign parts. That is the La-La-Land Libertarian in me speaking. The older, more world-weary part tells me that the government will spend, HAS TO spend, every possible thin dime left over in the economy. The is never any left over.

So I don't feel the money spent in Iraq has been wasted any more than any money spent by the government. Most all of it is wasted.

And the 4000 some American lives lost in Iraq? Makes me very sad. A young man from my small town is among them. I attended the ceremony for a memorial in his honor. For the families of the slain this is a true tragedy.

But was the job worth doing at that cost? I so, yes. Removing Saddam was not wrong. Repressing the jihadis and terrorists who were making home in Iraq was not and is not wrong.

One can argue with this or that failure on the part of the President, but that does not invalidate the action.

Why do they call?

So I am in the office and get a call on a rural property I have listed. People want to know how much, how big etc. Fine. I don't hide anything.

Then I offer to send them information on properties that suit their needs. They tell me their needs. I research a bit and e-mail or mail some listings. They call back with questions. I answer. We go look at property together a few times. And I never hear from them again.

That's fine too, I suppose. I don't expect every call to result in a sale. But I just wonder sometimes what people are thinking when the waste so much of their own time, weeks and months of blundering around the countryside only to finally decide not to buy anything. It's a hobby, I guess.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Get N Better?

Why did I Name my blog Get N Better? It certainly doesn't describe my typing skills.

I was asked a while back what my motto was, for a newspaper bio in our local paper. I had to think a bit and came up with 'life is good and getting better'.

And I think that is true both personally and globally. With a few exceptional years my life has gotten steadily better and better. I have more money to spend, more saved against hard times, and in many ways things are better now, particularly in comparison with my school years, when I never had an extra dime, and didn't really like school anyway.

The years after school were generally tough too, low income, low paid jobs, no car, and a quality of female companionship that went along with that.

By my late 20s though, things were looking a lot better. I had a decent job and plenty of money to spend on myself and my girls, so I had a lot more girls...

Then I got married and had only one girl, and was happy with that, then 2, then 3. We stopped there. Family life suits me.

Globally, again with some exceptions, life is also getting better. There are some countries where life is getting worse, but in the main people are living longer and are better fed, and political rights are slowly expanding across the globe.

Why be a pessimist? Be happy. Life is getting better and better. I would hate to be one of the dull people who are always whining about how terrible this or that situation is. Get out and do something about it, if you think it is so terrible. And have fun doing it! My years in the Peace Corps were fun, and I may actually have helped a few people a little bit while I was doing it.

Now, I am helping people find nice new homes for their families. This is fun too.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Environmentalists Revisited, or, Out of Sight, Out of Mind

...Actually, I suppose environmentalists do care about birds, in the abstract. It is just that they care a lot less about birds than they do about making political statements and being in the limelight. I am sure the architects, builders and the big heads of this university sat for hundreds of publicity photos and had hours of interviews taken singing praises of how wonderfully caring they all are....

In a recent post I wrote the above, but I realise on rereading it I made an error. I stated that environmentalists care about birds in the abstract, but I should have said in the concrete. Environmentalists in my experience are deeply caring and empathetic people. They do care when they see a dead or injured animal, or when the see or hear of hunters shooting animals. The sight or memory of blood and death shocks them deeply. And honestly, I believe.

But this does not outweigh their other interests. Out of sight, out of mind. They don't let one principle stand in the way of their political aims. They want what they want, and no animal will stand in the way.

They want people to stop hunting, trapping, wearing fur, drilling for oil. Their concerns are for peoples' behavior, not animal welfare specifically. Thus we see domesticated fur animals like minks released from cages en mass, where they immediately start fighting, killing and eating each other, and the few survivors quickly starve to death because they don't know how to hunt.

This calls to my mind a street preacher who used to come on campus and yell bible verses at the girls who were not wearing enough clothing to suit him. The physical manifestation of 'sin' worried him quite a lot. He seemed less interested in the spiritual welfare of of the girls.

Environmentalists, some of them anyway, are the new Puritans. They know that they run over little animals every day in their cars, but don't stop driving. They don't stop to look at the dead.

They know that oil wells in third world countries cause a lot more environmental harm than anything in the US, but they don't allow new drilling in the US. They don't travel to Nigeria or Venezuala to protest oil drilling.

Instead they fly to Bali or Rio to attend global warming seminars.

Do what is fun, easy. Go where it is pretty and 'protest' then come home all warm and fuzzy because you 'did your part'.

Remember the Puritans? The Salem witch trials? One funny historical tidbit is that the people who confessed to being witches were not killed. They confessed their sins, repented and were readmitted to society. Only those who refused to 'admit' to being witches, under torture and threat of death, were killed.

Hard environmentalists are Puritans. They want confession and repentance, freedom from environmental sins. They threaten death for those who refuse to confess (literal, not figurative death).

I suppose I am not green enough to escape. Even though I drive a small car, limit my water use so my family never uses enough water to owe more than the minimum required charge. We recycle everything and never throw away food. We limit driving to the minimum and I do all the shopping on my way to and from work.

In fact, for the first 45 years of my life I didn't even own a car. I took a bike or public transportation everywhere. I grow a lot of our food in my big garden. I don't burn leaves but compost them. We use a rake, not a leaf blower. We keep the temperature down in our house to 60 in the winter, and never use the air conditioning in the summer. We do a lot of other things to cut energy and eliminate waste.

But we don't do these things for the right reasons. We do them because our income is low, not specifically to 'save' the environment. I could challenge any environmentalist to a contest, but I doubt few could beat me unless he lived like the Una-Bomber.

But unless I confess my sins and believe, I am lost to the environmental Puritans.

Sorry, I already have a religion. I don't need yours.

Apocalyptic Mortgage Failures

I blame the banks, of course. Your average person is expected to be an expert on whatever he does for a living, and maybe a few other things he has interest in, but not everyone is deeply interested in finance.

I can do a little research, 15 or 20 minutes on the computer and I can tell you what any given home in my market area should sell for, what it has sold for in the past, how much that neighborhood has appreciated (or DE-preciated) in the last given number of years, and what all the neighboring homes sold for last. Etc.

I don't expect other people to know how to do all this, or to even have access to the data to easily do it. I often run into wannabe sellers who have the most exaggerated ideas of what their home will sell for. Almost always they are wrong on the up side, not the down.

But when we go to a bank for a mortgage, one of the first things they do is appraisal of the property. They are not supposed to lend any more than the property is worth. The property is, after all, the collateral against which the money is lent. So if the borrower can't pay, the bank simply takes back the property and sells it again. In theory, the bank should always come out ahead. They have been paid something over however many months the borrower did manage to pay the mortgage, plus they can resell the property if they have to take it back. Minus their transaction expenses of course.

So why are the lenders in trouble?

Appraisals are a big game. Banks want to lend, buyers want to buy, sellers want to sell (for a gain), and everyone is happy if the property just happens to appraise for a hair over what the buyer is offering. How wonderful.

What the home is appraised for and what it can be sold for are two very different things, as banks are again finding out. The lender is supposed to look out for his own interests, and incidentally not trap borrowers into debt beyond what they can afford. They are failing badly on both counts.

I make my living off of commissions. The more the house sells for, the more money I make. This is a clear moral trap. I have often told people that if the bank tells them they are good for 'X' loan, they should strongly consider only actually borrowing 75% of that. That advice hurts my bottom line, but I have to live with myself, not just live. Lenders have pushed too many people into bankruptcy by over-lending. And this helps the banks how?

I don't expect non-experts to be experts, and neither should banks. A little honest advice, a little credit counseling at this point might have avoided much of the trouble we are in. I want to see bankers' heads rolling. A little unemployment might be a good learning experience for them. It probably won't make them any more honest, but it might make a few of them more cautious.

'"We haven't faced a downturn like this since the Depression," said Bill Gross, chief investment officer of PIMCO, the world's biggest bond fund. He's not suggesting anything like those terrible times -- but, as an expert on the global credit crisis, he speaks with authority.
"Its effect on consumption, its effect on future lending attitudes, could bring us close to the zero line in terms of economic growth," he said. "It does keep me up at night."
Some 2 million homeowners hold $600 billion of subprime adjustable-rate mortgage loans, known as ARMs, that are due to reset at higher amounts during the next eight months. Subprime loans are those made to people with poor credit. Not all these mortgages are in trouble, but homeowners who default or fall behind on payments could cause an economic shock of a type never seen before.
Some of the nation's leading economic minds lay out a scenario that is frightening. '

Friday, November 23, 2007

Unintended Environmental Consequences

So it appears the greens are screwing up again. Environmentally 'friendly' buildings slaughter birds in the 100s of thousands. Taken along with wind power, it looks as if environmentalists hate birds. The more dead birds the better, is their mantra.

Actually, I suppose environmentalists do care about birds, in the abstract. It is just that they care a lot less about birds than they do about making political statements and being in the limelight. I am sure the architects, builders and the big heads of this university sat for hundreds of publicity photos and had hours of interviews taken singing praises of how wonderfully caring they all are.

Thanksgiving Food

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. I imagine a lot of people had my experience, of temporarily ignoring my normal diet guidelines.

My diet is a bit unusual. I mostly follow the paleolithic diet as outlined by Ray Audette, Loren Cordein and others.

What that means is that I avoid all foods that were not part of the human natural diet. And that means no or very few grains, no milk, no or few beans, no potatoes and no highly processed 'modern' foods and generally low carbohydrates.

Thanksgiving. Pie. Mashed potatoes and gravy (made with wheat flour). Hot buttered rolls. Pie. More PIE!

I love my diet. Not having 3 migraines a week is the main reason I stick with it. A couple of days of eating bread or anything with wheat in it is usually enough to bring one on, and I will often get several over the course of a couple of weeks as the gluten gets slowly processed out of my system.

Low carb, whether under the paleo diet or the looser low carb pop diets that are so popular, is also easy to follow. The whole digestive system seems to work better, less gas, regular 'movements', no bloated feeling, mor energy all day long. On a day to day basis I can follow the paleo diet without feeling I am missing anything.

But Thanksgiving now, that is different. So I ate mashed potaotes and gravy. And pie, several slices.

I think I got more wheat and more carbs yesterday than in the previous three weeks. Thanksgiving bloat? I could hardly move for hours, I felt hot and weak and sleepy. We all sat and watched that movie about the kid and his Red Rider BB gun and tried to recover. It was about 6 hours before I felt normal again.

One day doesn't kill a diet. I have no regrets, though I may if the migraine kicks in tomorrow! And next year I will do the same.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Adverse Possession

Follow this link and read an outrageous story about how a politically connected individual can steal his neighbor's land. It is called Adverse Possession and it is a long-standing tradition in our country.

It is also called squatter's rights. What happens is if someone moves onto an unoccupied piece of land and stays there and uses it for some statutory length of time, in Illinois 20 years, then they can claim that land even if the owner pays his taxes, asks the person to leave etc.

Now this had a noble origin. It was intended to prevent a few rich people from monopolizing all the new lands in the country through politically connected land deals. A pioneer could move onto a patch of forest or prairie, develop it, fence it, live on it, and eventually claim it as his own property. The owner never knew about it because he had never actually seen the vast tracts he had 'purchased'.

In fact Adverse Possession was common enough that the super-rich never really tried to monopolize all the land, because they knew they couldn't manage it and throw out all those squatters.

The states liked it as it allowed for faster development of the state and kept out-of-state landowners from controlling too much of the land.

Poor people liked it because they could move out into the wilds and cut out a farm and make a living through their own sweat and energy.

But in these days it is used mainly by the fat cats to steal land from their neighbors, as in the case above.

I wonder what political party the thief supports. Only one guess allowed.

Begging for money in a good cause!

The big brain types are ramping up efforts to win this Supreme Court case. Those of us with lesser brains need to help too. Bucks, friends. And exposure. Tell all, pass along.

Copied in its entirty from Clayton Cramer's blog:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Your Chance To Help Us Win The Supreme Court CaseThe following comes from Professor Joe Olson:
Academics for the Second Amendment ("A2A") will be filing an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court in support of Mr. Heller (and urging the Supreme Court to affirm the Court of Appeals decision that the DC gun laws are unconstitutional). Our brief will be written by attorneys David Hardy and Joseph Olson with historical assistance from Clayton Cramer. As one of the several pro-gun amici, we'll be taking an approach that focuses on the ratification process in 1791 and the meaning and usage of terms found in the Second Amendment. We will show that no one in America, at that time, could have understood the amendment to preserve a state or government organization's "right" and that everyone who did speak out did so in the context of a meaningful individual right to keep and bear arms.District of Columbia v. Heller will decide whether or not the Second Amendment protects any American from gun bans and confiscations.
Preparing and filing the amicus brief will take thousands of additional dollars. A2A will be facing attorney fees, printing expenses, filing fees, travel and lodging expenses, etc. We have some money but not enough.
A2A is a tax-exempt educational organization recognized under IRC §501(c)(3) [that makes your contributions tax-deductible]. Our primary goal is to give the “right to keep and bear arms” enshrined in the Bill of Rights its proper, prominent place in Constitutional discourse and analysis.
A2A was formed in 1992 by a number of present and former law school teachers, joined by historians, political scientists, and philosophers of government, who believe it is time to stand and be counted in support of a complete Bill of Rights which includes an individual right under the Second Amendment. The organization seeks to foster intellectually honest discourse on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and, of course, the environment in which academics, judges, politicians, and the public place the rights preserved by the Second Amendment.
A2A has filed friend-of-the-court briefs (A2A was an amicus in the U.S. Supreme Court in Lopez and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Emerson), sponsored academic symposia, encouraged media commentary, supported research and publication, and challenged the legal profession and the public to appreciate the place of the individual right to keep and bear arms in the American constitutional scheme. A major endeavor has been a series of “Open Letter” advertisements signed by groups of University and College professors. The signers cannot be dismissed by the media as “gun nuts” nor can their statements be ignored as without foundation. Their academic records and reputations are too strong for that to occur. The message is simple – the Second Amendment is there, it does preserve a meaningful individual right for responsible persons, and it cannot, without duplicity, be overlooked or interpreted into meaninglessness.
We need your help. If you believe in full and fair discourse on the Bill of Rights, A2A should receive your support. A2A is open to all. You don’t have to be “academic” in order to join. Your contributions are tax deductible. Please don’t ignore this request --- copy this post for a friend, forward it on, and send in your check.
Very truly yours,
Joseph Olson
Professor of LawPresidentAcademics for the Second Amendment
Post Office Box 131254St. Paul, Minn.
You can also visit the Academics for the Second Amendment blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Guns on the Supreme Court

So the Supreme Court is finally after all these years going to treat the second amendment. Wow, are the Democrats in trouble now. I can hardly think of any issue that is more likely to hurt and less likely to help them in the coming election season.

Any way this goes they are going to hurt. Suppose the court rules that there is no individual right to arms, something leading Dems have been fighting for for many years. The uproar among average citizens across the political spectrum would sweep Republicans into power in almost every state, and in national elections it would lock up both houses of Congress and the presidency for cycles to come.

The only places Democrats would maintain power would be the big urban hell-holes they have already banned most arms in. Chicago, New York, Detroit, DC, LA and so on. The nation would look like a nice red delicious with a few purple pimples on it.

Even if the favored Democrat position goes down in defeat, and individual rights are upheld, the slap in the face, loss of face would have the whole left wing of the party so demoralized they are unlikely to gain anything from it.

Simply put, guns are a big big deal to the pro-gun side, and a side show for the anti-gun side. Democrats have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Odd though, that a 'win' for their side in the courts means a serious loss of political power. Dem leaders have to be praying that their side loses!

Why on Earth the Democrats allowed the anti-gunners to take over the party I have no idea. I always thought the Democrats were in favor of individual rights and 'people power'. Guess I was wrong.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Careers in Real Estate

Or, the most expensive hobby I ever had.

Ever thought Real Estate might be a good career for you? I have to admit this is the most interesting job I have ever done. So much to know. So much to learn. And you can really help people, really make a positive difference. A home is such an important thing and helping people get just the right one is so satisfying.

It has all the addictive aspects of a combination of hunting, fishing and gambling. The thrill of the big deal that goes right. The pain of the big client who wastes your time, spends your money and then simply disappears, never to be heard from again. (Lots of those) The careful preparation for something that you never know, until the actual moment the check changes hands, will result in a commission.

A lot like deer hunting. Sometimes the deer just stumbles out in front of you the first day, sometimes you sit in a cold tree weekend after weekend all season long and never see doe, let alone a buck.

I love it. But can you do it? Ask yourself a few questions. Do you like joining groups and being involved in planning events? Do you meet a lot of new people every day? Do you have lots of friends, relatives, co-workers, who will be happy to pass your name on to others, who trust and love you?

Answer yes to all of these and maybe you can make it in Real Estate. No to all? Oh well.

And maybe most important, can you afford to go six months without a pay check? I did, my first six months. Then things got OK for a while. Then they didn't. Etc.

Guns Minorities Racial Profiling

From the Boston Post. Now Boston wants its cops to ask parents for permission to search teens' rooms for guns. Uhhhh. I must be dumb or something, but, why don't the parents just do that themselves? If they really care that is.

How many poor residents of Boston are afraid enough of the police that they feel they can not turn down these 'requests' without that becoming probable cause in itself?

Now don't quote the law at me. I know that you can turn down a request by the police for a search. But I am a nice, educated middle class White living in a small town with no crime. Cops don't bother people like me much beyond the occasional ticket.

For the neighborhoods targeted in this effort the people may justifiably have very different feelings about the police. Somehow I doubt that it is Boston's upper class homes that will be searched. Do I sniff racial profiling here? No? Big policeman shows up and says 'can we search for illegal guns in your kid's room?' Poor mom with a nice tan looks at big cop and thinks 'I don't want trouble with the man.'

Just another internal contradiction of liberal thought. Guns = bad. Minorities = good. Minorities with guns = bad. Racial profiling = bad. Liberal Bostonian White folks never get searched = ?

Head explodes.

Found on:

Bush and the media

Some useful commentary on how the media thinks. Found on

Root Causes

I heard an advertisement on the radio for a charity that claimed to be fighting the root causes of third world poverty. That's nice.

There wasn't any information in the ad for just how they were helping poor folks in Africa throw off their dictatorial governments and establish a free market and civil rights.

Oh, that wasn't the root cause they are treating? Sorry. It must be some other root cause.

I don't mean to be too negative. Fighting illiteracy, disease and all that is important, but the only true root cause of poverty is oppression.

This is a topic I can claim some knowledge of. I worked 2 years in Central America in the Peace Corps, and studied some of this later in grad school. I have maintained an interest in development. I am actually very encouraged at the gains many countries have made.

Countries where people are free to own land and businesses, and to live without fear of violent oppression can advance. Those places that don't guarantee these things don't advance. Freedom is the key. Following basic freedom are things like low taxes, low regulatory burden, and open access to international markets. And then literacy, access to health care and so on.

Free people become literate and buy health care and insist on other political rights. These things are important but secondary.

Mortgage crisis

A few comments on the mortgage 'crisis'.

I asked a mortgage loan officer today his opinion on what the government should do about the recent increase in foreclosures. He basically wants to keep regulation of actual lending standards fairly relaxed. Not surprising for someone in his business. (We were doing an open house together, and I may actually have found a hot buyer for the house! Yeah!)

I think Congress is in a world of trouble here. Anything they do is going to be wrong. In particular the Democrats are seriously over a barrel on this one.

Now, normally, this sounds like the kind of issue that Democrats can really get behind. Big business screwing the little guy, big business being blind to the obvious errors of their ways, all that populist blow.

But think about this. Democrats are proposing standards on who can be approved for a loan. Uh oh. Who, specifically what kinds of people, are likely to be turned down? Lower income. Which means of course that recent immigrants, Blacks, Latinos and other 'disadvantaged' groups are going to be hit disproportionately. Any group whose members have on average lower incomes, higher income to debt ratios, or lower savings is going to be turned down for loans more than are lily Whites, certain Asian groups etc. We all know who is where on this curve.

Now the Democrats have spent a lot of political capital championing the rights of the disadvantaged to get loans for homes. Banks are under tremendous legal pressure to give out enough loans to members of these groups so as not to appear to be discriminating unfairly for reasons of race, sex or whatever.

But Democrats want to solve this economic problem. But the only way to solve it is to injure their pets. And these pets can bite back at the ballot box.

Republicans have no fears on this issue. Everyone knows that Republicans are cold-hearted bastards who don't care if minorities starve under the bridges of our great country. None of these people vote in large enough numbers for Republicans anyway for any individual Republican pol to worry much.

I figure there will be sound and fury, and nothing more. Democrats will blow hot for a few months, then produce some weak weasely bill that promises glorious futures and delivers nothing but paperwork.

Republicans will oppose the bill for stupid reasons that have little to do with the facts, then vote for it anyway, hoping to get credit from people who will never consider voting for them anyway.

My own opinion? Congress should do nothing at all. Lots of formerly high paid execs will get the ax, lending will briefly be more intelligently done, then a new cycle will start. And in another ten years or so another bubble will burst. It is gonna happen anyway, why not let the market punish the companies stupid or venal enough to get in that business? At least give the poor and ignorant a CHANCE to get in. Some will do it right and get ahead. Some will fail and have a foreclosure on their credit records for a few years. This ain't the 1930s. A foreclosure is not the killer it once was.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday School

Just got home from my night job. Real estate doesn't pay enough in these tough times for a new Realtor like me to survive on it alone. Now I have my other responsibilities to take care of. In a few hours I have the adult Sunday School lesson to teach. We have been working slowly through the book of Acts. Today we are in Acts 18. This is where Apollos is first introduced, and I need to do some background reading before the class.

Apollos is a fascinating person, and I just wish we knew more about him. I guess because he was not one of the original apostles his words were not recorded, unless the anonymous book of Hebrews was written by him, as some speculate.

'Teaching' Sunday School is humbling. First of all, most of the members are older folks, most of whom have been studying the Bible far longer than I have. So I have to really prepare. I have learned more this last year than in a long long time.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Turkey cutting

The church is having our Thanksgiving dinner tonight. My job is turkey cutter. I have the knife all sharpened up, can shave with it, and ready to go. Should be fun.

Hope someone brings home-made cranberry sauce!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Taken a look recently at mortgage interest rates? Pretty high, aren't they.

Well, no, not really. They seem high to us now because we can remember that they were a bit lower two years ago. But if you look at the longer term, back through the 1980s, interest rates are very near their historic lows. A graph shows rates falling and falling all through the '80s and '90s and just the slightest little up-tick this last year.

Now is the time to buy! Prices are falling in the big markets, and stable or drifting down in smaller markets while mortgages are cheap. BUY! This is the classic buyers' market that everyone always wants to get in at the beginning of.

Sure, prices may continue to fall all through next year. But will mortgages stay low? I doubt it, not with warning signs of inflation appearing. The FED can try, but they can not control the natural level of prices and interest forever. The dollar is getting cheaper, prices of goods are rising, and eventually interest rates must rise.

Met a client today who wanted a nice lot to build a house on. So we looked around on the MLS and found one that looked beautiful, large and green, nice rural character close to his work. But why is it so cheap? $11,000 for over half an acre!

I drove by and walked it. It is in the crease between two large hills. Every rain it would wash. Funny, it is listed as a buildable site. And the FEMA maps show it not to be in a flood plain. Oh well.

We will have to look further.

A poke in the eye for Republicans too

So I complained about culturally chauvinistic Democrats yesterday, I suppose I had better take a poke at Republicans too.

Ever notice how Democrats seem to get politicians that do what they like, but Republicans never do? The average Republican out there is just an average guy or gal. But Republican pols might as well be Democrats for all they do what Republican voters want.

Did voters beg their leaders to spend money like water over the last 7 years? But Republican pols stepped up to the plate to give us exactly what we didn't ask for.

I had low hopes for GWB, and had them fulfilled in spades. He and the whole crew of Republican leaders got what they deserved this last election season. Looking at the current crop of presidential candidates just makes me sigh.

Fred Thompson talks a good talk. I suppose that is all we can expect from our Republican presidents. Talk. The others don't even bother defending the broad range of Republican ideals.

Guiliani is a liberal. Huckabee a populist. McCain a sellout.

The only thing any of them has going for him is the amazingly low caliber of the Democratic field this year.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What works in New York

A thing that I don't like about some Democrats is that they seem to have no sensitivity to people who are different from themselves. As an example, take gun control. Democrats seem to want to put the types of controls common to large cities controlled by Democrats into place across the country.

Now, gun control may be fine for New York or Chicago, where the people average a standard deviation lower than rural folk on intelligence tests (I made that up, but I suspect it to be true) and where nearly half of high school students fail to graduate. But should the same laws be enforced against people from small town North Dakota, where nearly every kid succeeds in graduating, crime is practically non-existent, and the only cop may be a deputy sheriff stationed 40 miles away?

It may be that the citizens of Chicago are so badly self-controlled that the only option is to disarm them as completely as possible. But crime is so rare in the town I live in that a single assault last spring is still being discussed. All the guns around here don't seem to cause the trouble they do in Chicago.

But the Democrats of this state, year after year, come up with gun control bills that would replicate throughout the state the same laws that are in place in Chicago.

Well, we are not Chicago people. We don't live like that. We don't think like that. And we don't like it when people different from ourselves, with no empathy, ignorant of how we live, try to force us to be just like them.

Live and let live, eh? Be tolerant of those different from yourself. Pass all the laws you like in your own town, but keep your hands to yourself. Don't try to tell your neighbor how to live his life.

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