Archive for July, 2011

Analysis of a Conversation With a Liberal

July 23, 2011

My wonderful wife recently goaded me into getting an intensedebate account so I could respond to a bit of flagrant idiocy over at one of the Breitbart.com sites.  Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to comment on other stories, and generally have a lot of fun.  One of the more interesting things that happened was I had the chance to engage in a bit of debate with a liberal.

I was reading about whether or not John Steward is a liar, when I saw a comment suggesting that Fox News Lies.  As a point of interest, Fox News is about the only news channel I voluntarily watch, so I went to the referenced site and found that their front page was citing less than one “lie” per week.  Given that BigJournalism and Breitbart TV are citing factual errors and misrepresentations on a daily basis, the “lie” rate was pretty laughable, and I said as much.

Rockerouter did have the decency to admit that all media outlets have an agenda, but then turned around and claimed Fox News has the worst record, which his own site puts the lie to.  He further suggested that we need a pure democracy to fix the system.  Now, he’s done two things, doubled down on stupid, and added another discussion point.

I responded to both discussion points, citing the numbers as rebuttal to FN being the worst outlet, and noting that to switch from a representative republic to a pure democracy would require a significant change to our current form of government and modifications or abandonment of our constitution.  I further rephrased “pure democracy” as “mob rule”.  It’s worth realizing that this is my first conversation with a Liberal in a forum like this.  I was expecting a response to both items.  I didn’t get that, however.

The response completely abandoned any attempt to further defend the “Fox News Lies” line, and respond only to my characterization of “pure democracy” as “mob rule”.  He(?) rephrased it as “majority rule” and implied that we need to get rid of the legislators.  He did claim he supports the Constitution, but feels it’s been misused by semantics.

I have to admit, I should have called him out on abandoning the “Fox News Lies” and offering up an inconsistent position.  Instead, I attempted to educate him on how the majority will vote for self interest, which would be economically suicidal given that more than half of all people pay no taxes in the US.  Finally, I pointed out that when the economic suicide manifests, the people turn into a mob, as seen in France, Greece, and Britain in recent years.

At this point, Rockerouter has dropped the FN lies point, and he now drops any discussion of changing our form of government in favor of debating WHY people pay no taxes… namely that they don’t make enough and live paycheck to paycheck.  He wants improved wages to precede that, and suggests the Bush tax cuts are the cause of that.  He further suggests that I’d be crazy to continue the debate unless I’m a millionaire.

Turns out I live paycheck to paycheck as well, yet I also pay taxes.  I instead argue that I want my boss’s taxes to go down so he can pay me more.  I also suggest that I would like to become a millionaire, and would appreciate lower taxes to facilitate that.  I also state I would prefer to pay people for WORK than for POVERTY.  I finished with a quick recap, noting that he had abandoned at least 2 threads (implicitly conceding them to me).

He then brings up GE’s failure to pay taxes last year, and mocks my recap.  From what I’ve seen of debates, this screams of desperation.  He still didn’t rebut any of my points, just violated his own argument that those who pay no taxes are too poor to pay taxes.

I pointed out that GE’s 0 tax rate was a favor from the Democrats, and that it’s really millions of shareholders.  Finally, anyone with a 401k probably has stock in GE, and benefited accordingly, likely including him.

At this point, he reveals that he’s independently wealthy, lives a life of leisure now, and has no skin in the game of the economy (other than the success of his patents).  He did offer me a compliment, in that he thinks I could do well in politics.  This was his last post.

My final constructive point was that he could do more to help the poor directly than by funneling his money through the government.

In reviewing what happened, something interesting comes out: Liberals do not have defensible points.  The points they bring up sound good, but when pressed on the details of how they play out, or what has happened historically, they consistently abandon the point for a new one.  I encourage you to read through the back and forth, and find out how many points each side left unrebutted.  I attempted to respond to every factual point, while Rockerouter consistently failed to offer more than a token or tangential rebuttal.

I wonder what would have happened if I had not rebutted every point.  I suspect that he would have concluded he had won, even if it had only been on 1 out of 5 or 6 points.  What would have happened if I’d gotten tired of the back and forth?  Probably the same thing.  I felt like he was trying to wear me down, by just slinging one idea after another.

So what can we learn from this?  First of all, being a conservative requires that you know WHY you believe what you believe, and be able to articulate it.  Second, liberals can’t do that.  Ann Coulter writes numerous articles and books about this point, but engaging in a debate with a liberal will reinforce that view.  Finally, being a conservative requires a lot of determination when faced by liberals.  They will try to wear you down with question after question, point after point, idea after idea.

Be smart and determined.

Why people don’t buy the fuel-efficient cars.

July 18, 2011

Gas in my area is around $3.50 per gallon.  Given that it was $2.00 per gallon a few years ago, why don’t more people buy the super efficient cars?  Let’s think about a few things.  First of all, it’s important to understand what fuel efficiency saves you.  Assume you drive the 12,000 per year that most warranties reflect.  Let’s look at the annual fuel costs for various mileages.

20mpg: 12,000 miles per year / 20mpg = 600 gallons per year.  At $3.50, that’s $2100 per year.

25pmg: 12,000 miles per year / 25 mpg = 480 gallons per year.  At $3.50, that’s $1680 per year.

30mpg: 12,000 miles per year / 30mpg = 400 gallons per year.  At $3.50, that’s $1400 per year.

35mpg: 12,000 miles per year / 35 mpg = 343 gallons per year.  At $3.50, that’s $1200 per year.

40mpg: 12,000 miles per year / 40mpg = 300 gallons per year.  At $3.50, that’s $1050 per year.

Notice something important: for every gain of 5mpg, you have a diminishing return in gas savings.  Going from 20 to 25 mpg saves you $420.  Going from 35 to 40 mpg saves you $150.  If you extend that over the course of five years, that’s a decrease in savings from $2100 down to $750.

Now, the actual mileage you’ll get also depends on where you drive.  I drive mainly on the highway.  As a result, I get the higher end of my car’s potential mileage.  If you drive on the city streets, you can lose over 10 mpg in mileage.  You can’t just shop based on the “ideal” condition.  Speaking of “ideal”, don’t forget the electricity for a Chevy Volt costs money, too.

So, what are the trade-offs to get a more fuel-efficient car?  You can pay for a more expensive power-train; you can get a smaller, lighter, and probably less safe car; or you can accept a combination of the two.  More expensive can blow somebody’s budget, making the more fuel-efficient car unobtainable.  By the same token, nobody can build a car with a cardboard body and get it approved, even though you could get 60 mpg out of it.

So the result is this: you deal with perceived safety and up-front price against diminishing long-term savings.  In addition, if you need storage for a work vehicle or large family, that will force your vehicle to be larger and, as a result, less fuel-efficient.  In the end, we are approaching the limits of the process of converting potential energy to kinetic energy.  Gas simply has a limited amount of energy in it, and it is not possible to convert 100% of that to motion.  Electricity is still potential energy, and don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s free.

We are at the point of diminishing returns, and everyone knows it.

Why Some People Refuse To Be Saved

July 14, 2011

One of the things that confuses many Christians, especially those who were raised as Christians and saved as children, is why someone would choose not to be saved.  We see variations on this ranging from atheists like Christopher Hitchens, who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence, to people who were raised in church, but refuse to submit their lives to Christ.

I think it’s instructive to read Moses’ interactions with Pharaoh to gain insight into what’s happening.  Throughout the series of plagues, I get the sense that Pharaoh isn’t concerned with Moses’ God, just with the state of his slaves.  Think about this: Pharaoh is being asked to give up a significant part of his personal wealth, or at least risk it.  If all those slaves wander off into the desert (all that was asked for), what’s to stop them from walking away completely?  Further, it’s important to understand that Pharaoh was revered as a God by the Egyptians.  So the Israelites had a “perfectly good god to worship” right there.

With that framework, watch what happens.  Moses asks to go worship in the desert, and Pharaoh says no.  Kinda makes sense, given that Pharaoh thought they should worship him.  For the first few plagues, all Moses did was prove himself to be a more talented “magician” than Pharaoh’s.  I suspect Moses made Pharaoh nervous, but once the crisis was past, Pharaoh always regained his composure.  Later, as Moses did what Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t, Pharaoh began to negotiate the details of this worship.  Notice, it starts with “no”, then becomes “only your men”, then “not your animals”, then ends with “get out!”.  Pharaoh wants to maintain leverage over the Israelites so they will have to return.

So, what does that have to do with us?  Think about it.  We, especially in America, like to rule our own lives.  If some Christians only seek God in emergencies, should we surprised if non-Christians resist seeking God at all?  Further, when God starts to place pressure on a person to come to him, is it surprising that someone would say, in effect, “I don’t want you in charge of my life!  Go away and let me run things.  I’ll figure it out!”?

It’s only as things get worse that people, Christian and non-Christian, tend to start negotiating with God.  We try to get God to let us have the following areas of our lives as our own if we’ll surrender those areas of our lives to Him.  We try to get God to agree to leave our pet sins, foibles, etc off the table.  “I’ll come to you if I can still watch porn/play football/sleep around/keep all my money/be foosball champion/gossip/whatever.”

We all know, instinctively, that God wants us to risk everything.  Are you rich?  God might tell you to give it all away.  Are you successful?  God might tell you to quit and become a missionary.  Are you chatty?  God might tell you to talk less and listen more.  Like Pharaoh, we all secretly want to rule our own lives, or at least 5-10% of our lives.  God asks for 100%.  That’s why people don’t want to be saved.

How to balance the U.S. budget in 3 easy steps.

July 12, 2011

OK, we have to balance the budget.  Got it.  How?

1) Start by estimating how much money will come into the US Treasury this year.  Don’t raise taxes, hope for a strong recovery out of nowhere, etc.  Just make a simple estimate.  That’s how much money you have to work with.

2) Look at all the existing programs.  Anything that is not BLATANTLY constitutional gets set an initial value of $0.  Notice: that means you actually have to read the constitution.  If you haven’t looked at it recently, you can look at it here: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html.  That means the IRS is legit, the military is legit, the US Department of Education, Social Security, and Obamacare are a bit sketchier.

3) At this point, if there’s money left over, other programs can be looked at.  If you ran out of money, then you have to cut money out of the blatantly constitutional programs/departments.

As a side note, you could look at historical data about tax rates and revenue rates to try to pick a more optimal tax rate (it would be lower) for getting more revenue.  However, you have to work with what’s realistic.

Understanding why we CANNOT raise the debt limit.

July 10, 2011

Currently, the debt limit is $14.2 trillion for a population that was 307 million people in 2009.  That’s about $46254 per person in the United States.  Now, this isn’t like a mortgage, this is like a credit card.  It is unsecured debt.  That’s like saying that each person in the US has a credit card with a limit of $46,254 dollars on it, that you gave to your crazy uncle (Sammy).  Now Sammy is coming to you and asking you to increase the limit on “your” credit card.

Does that sound crazy?  Try this for size, a large number of people in the US don’t make that much per year.  Most kids are doing well if they get $1000 in allowance and presents.  A teenager who manages to get a part-time job at McDonald’s might make as much as $7.25*30 hours*52 weeks = $11,310.  If you were a bank, would you give those kids a LARGER credit limit?  Heck, if I were a bank, I wouldn’t give MYSELF more than $1000-$2000 of unsecured debt.

So, how should we rationalize this?  Well, the 2009 GDP was $14.12 trillion, so that would mean every person has an unsecured credit limit equal to their annual income.  So, every child deserves a credit card equivalent to their allowance?  Oh, and this isn’t a credit card with a 0 balance, this is a MAXED OUT credit card.  So, if you feel like the “rich” should take on more of the debt, you’re still in hock at the rate of your annual gross income.  That’s in addition to any credit cards you may already have.

So, how would you react to a tight budget when you don’t have enough income to cover your bills?  I would start finding things to cut.  I can get rid of my internet access and use the library’s.  I can live without cable.  I will even eat out less and cook more.  Ultimately, some people even accept that they can’t afford their own home, and move into a smaller, and cheaper, apartment.  In other words, most people do NOT go to their credit card banks and ask for a higher limit.  They figure out how to live in their means.

The government is no different.  It has to live within its means.  Raising the debt limit is not doing that.  Now, does it suck to give up things you really like, such as cable and cell phones?  Of course it does.  Does it suck to not eat out as much?  Of course.  So will it suck for the government to stop providing certain services?  Of course it will.  On the other hand, if the government stops providing certain services, it will result in private enterprise having the chance to provide those services instead.  That might help reduce unemployment!  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Pascal’s Wager

July 7, 2011

I enjoy reading apologetics books. I truly believe that Peter was correct when he said we should “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Pet 3:15).

It is unfortunate, then, that one of the best known arguments for being a Christian is Pascal’s Wager. The short version of this is basically, “God is either real, or He isn’t. You have nothing to lose by believing in Him, and everything to lose if you don’t believe in Him and are wrong. Therefor, it is best to believe in Him.”

The problem is that I can make the exact same argument in favor of constantly fighting in hopes of achieving Valhalla, the land of the dead for fallen warriors in Norse mythology. Worse, even if you accept Pascal’s argument, you still don’t know whether you should believe in God as described by Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.

To be fair, Blaise Pascal was writing to a Christian audience that considered Christianity the only reasonable theistic belief system. Despite that, it is not a strong argument today. It also misses the point of Christianity, that we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Suppose I tell you that I have a powerful buddy named Guido, and that you better live your life based on the assumption that if you hurt me, he’s going to come pound you. If you get into trouble a year later, having accepted the existence of Guido, he won’t come to court as a character witness for you. When asked about you, he’ll just say, “Who? Don’t know him.”

Accepting God as an operating principle is completely different from knowing Jesus. Being accepted as a child of God, adopted into his family, is completely different from saying, “Sure, God’s real.”

The value of Pascal’s wager is as a call to investigate the claims of Christ. It does nothing to convince a reasonable person that they are true.

Book Series Review: Daughters of the Moon

July 4, 2011

I recently picked up the two volume collected series of Daughters of the Moon at Sam’s Club.  It includes the first six books from the series, and was a delightful read.  With that said, it also illustrates the need for caution when parents buy teen fiction books for their children.

Ever since the Harry Potter series was published, the monster-fiction genre aimed at teens has exploded.  This has included series that I have thoroughly enjoyed, such as Harry Potter and Twilight, as well as numerous stories that are less interesting or downright boring.  With Daughters of the Moon, we have a series of books that do a wonderful job of capturing the pressure that teen girls experience in dating, relationships with girls, etc.  It also has a fun story of supernatural conflict between girls blessed with supernatural powers and the far more numerous forces of evil.

That is where the problem comes in.  The basis of the stories is four girls are daughters of various incarnations of the moon goddess.  Demeter, Selene, Hecate, Diana, all are used as incarnations of the Moon.  This is very, very close to being moon worship, as sometimes seen in wicca and neo-paganism.  In addition, one of the protagonists reads Tarot cards, and they are always right.  Again, various flavors of neo-paganism promote this practice.

The result is that you have a series of books that features strong female protagonists that teen girls will be able to identify with, but that also makes non-Christian beliefs seem very attractive.  When I was a teen, I started exploring the occult, including Tarot cards and numerology.  This came, in part, from reading about Tarot cards that “worked” in science fiction stories.  Reading about occult working can plant the seeds of curiosity in those who read the stories.

So, should  you let your child read these books?  Maybe.  You need to evaluate your teen’s faith, and would probably need to discuss the books with him/her while reading it.  Can it be a good series?  Yes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the books.  Can it lead someone astray?  Yes.  I’ve had a similar experience in my own life.  Planting the seeds of curiosity can be deadlier than explicit proselytizing.

Ultimately, what I hope you’ll realize, is that there are a lot of books out there that may be fun to read, but may not be good to read.  Be involved in your child’s reading habits as much as in their TV viewing habits, gaming habits, dating habits, etc.