Thursday, August 25, 2005

CAFE, Hybrids & Gas: Economic Sins Against the Poor always suffer most?

Sum: Minimum "efficiency" regulations act like a minimum wage and hurt those that are the most vulnerable in our society. Efficiency regulations should be abandoned, letting those that care and can afford higher efficiency to pay for such on the market without government interference.

No, CAFE is not a new hip type of Coffee; nor place to imbibe such. However, it is an acronym for the gas mileage regulations car makers must abide by. Given RTs recent post, along with the recent spike in gas costs, and a recent NYT article about the increasing role economists play amongst environmental groups, I thought a short article was in order. Disclaimer: I'm not an economist and I'm sure my reasoning has been written about, with better evidence and detail, in other places.

CAFE requires cars and "light trucks" (i.e. vans, SUVs, non-18 wheeler trucks) to meet certain minimum mile per gallon gas requirements. Great idea, right? Save the environment, right? Well...maybe, although it certainly doesn't help the poor. Why?

Rich folks can afford more expensive gas and/or more expensive vehicles that get better gas mileage much more effectively than poor people can. CAFE standards effectively increase the overall price of a given vehicle by a set amount [Note: following numbers are representative only, not meant to be realistic]. This is an upfront cost that most poor folks are least well equipped to deal with. If Car A would cost 10k w/o CAFE regulations, and get 25mpg, it would cost (for example) 12k in order to meet the 30mpg cost. Poor man Joe will find it much easier to pay the extra cost for gas on a monthly basis than paying an increased amount to buy outright, or borrow, for the car upfront. In an unregulated world, those that care about MPG can also choose to buy Car B, which costs 25k and gets 50mpg (my Toyota Prius).

Theoretically, the government could set a car CAFE level of 50mpg. This would effectively force all car makers to license Toyota hybrid technology and force all car buyers to pay 25k (instead of 10-12k, for example) for vehicles. Again, the poor get the short end of a very heavy stick.

This was recently highlight by the NYT, where they talk of how a "green" group convinced Congress to require higher energy efficiency standards in air conditioners. The increased cost per unit? $300. However, consumers would save slightly over $300 over the life of the air conditioner (at current prices). Congress of course bought it. Sad. Frankly, the folks in my congregation who are poor would probably much rather pay a few extra dollars a month in air conditioning costs in the summer than pay $300 extra up front.

When will Congress learn to let the market make these decisions rather than imposing harsh de jure taxes on the poor?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Whose Killing Whom?: Rejoinding Gilliam

Mssr. Gilliam wrote:

"Who's life and liberty are we protecting? The Iraqiis who we are taking over and killing? That's
an interesting perspective."

The answer to his question is found in today's NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/international/AP-Iraq.html

1. We aren't taking over anything. These folks are creating their own constitution and government.
2. We aren't killing Iraqi civilians. Most of the killing going on is that of those who have chosen to be terrorists, killing their own countrymen and innocent civilians, in order to make a power grab.

The U.S. is abdicating power. Terrorists seek for it. Interesting Perspective indeed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Soldiers are the last line of Liberty's defense: Defending Cpt. Moroni

Recently, Ronan has questioned Cpt. Moroni's righteousness and propensity towards anger, violence and capital punishment.

While the debate is fairly well hashed out, today's WSJ and the anti-troops behavior of Ms. Sheehan have brought new insight to the discussion I believe.

In today's world, U.S. soldiers function as "the last line of defense for the rights of life and liberty" who are "morally obliged" to use lethal force to defend the innocent.

While anachronistic, I don't have a problem projecting this description of our troops onto Cpt. Moroni, his "troops" and the actions he took in putting down the Kingman revolt.

Killing another (is/should be) the most shocking act that one member of God's family can do to another. When it isn't justified, God calls it murder; an unforgivable sin. Since God condones killing, apparently there are some situations (but haven't we been warned against situational ethics? Hm...) where justified. Nephi carried out a justified killing, obeying a 'lawful order' from God.

What about Cpt. Moroni? He has the death of 4,000 Kingman dissenters to answer for. Was he justified? Absolutely, because "killing is morally acceptable when the enemy poses a threat to values worth fighting for, such as life or liberty, and there are no nonlethal options to avoid the threat." We can kibbutz about whether there were nonlethal options available to Cpt. Moroni, but given that _the_ Prophet that God choose to edit the BoM records, Mormon, named his son after the man/general/inspired leader and possibly prophet, I give him the benefit of any doubt that might exist.

Viva Cpt. Moroni. Viva the U.S. Soldiers, fighting for liberty. Shame on those that would seek to throw guilt upon them by claiming their actions were wrong or unjustified.

How Anti-War Protestors (Mothers or Not) Harm Soldiers: The "BS" behind "supporting the troops"

Part I: Anti-War Protestors Harm Soldiers

Ms. Sheehan: Go home. Your grief is causing grief and harm to your son's battle buddies. You are failing them when your son didn't. Don't dishonor his memory.

Recently, there has been a public discussion about the Iraqi war due to the actions of a mother of a soldier who died. Today, I saw a sign by a soldier's brother asking Pres. Bush to bring his brother back home. Anti-war activists are strident in stating that they "support the troops." However, the evidence is clear that they actually harm the troops. What evidence?

Namely, a nice story in todays WSJ; along with several pieces in the MSM that talk about how so many soldiers coming home are having trouble adjusting/need mental health counseling.

Why do they need counseling? Why do they have post-traumatic stress syndrome?

The answer is also fairly simple: Killing or witnessing killing is _the_ most traumatic event that can occur during life. There is a reason that _murder_ is the unforgivable sin after all. Murder consists of taking away the agency of another of God's children from them.

Soldiers kill. But do they murder? Absolutely not. However, anti-war protestors, such as Ms. Sheehan, et al., claim to support the troops while simulataneously undermining the reasons why the Iraqi War is just.

Bush lied people died. Ok, maybe so. However, when you say that, you need to accept responsibility for creating a climate of guilt for returning soldiers who have killed and witnessed killings. While we lack "scientific" studies to this effect, returning troops from Iraq verify that it is very troubling, psychologically, to see holes in bodies and body parts blown off of bodies.

Soldiers who have witnessed deaths, or killed, are more prone to develop Post-traumatic stress syndrome than those that did not while in a "war zone". To paraphrase Maj. Kilner, who is the subject of the WSJ story:

[We, society, the media, the American people] need to help soldiers who are carrying otu lawful orders know that feelings of guilt after combat are natural, are not "a sign of moral culpability or mental weakness" and that there actions were justified.

Sum: Soldiers aren't murderers, and telling them that the war isn't justified only increases their latent guilt for having to take human life in order to: obey orders, save their own, save the lives of Iraqi civilians, and protect the fragile Iraqi democracy.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I'm a Poser, Not a Skater

Which puts me in good company, aka Tony Hawk. Ok, even that doesn't 'fly' becuase he would drop in from 65'. The largest I've ever done was 18' (I think, although to a teen, it might have appeared larger and only been 12'). Personally, I don't understand 65', let along 80'.

When I was a kid, I enjoyed skating; except for the fact that my younger brother was 10x better than me; and was actually sponsored at one time. I often wonder how good I would have become if sibling envy hadn't sidelined me. I'll let my bro speak for himself.

http://www.slate.com/id/2124309/

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Open Discussion: Are U.S. Politics Becoming More Russian?

Today on NPR, several Russian (Russian) political analyists insisted that "the core" of Russian politics now centers around who will succeed Putin when his term expires in 2008.

This really gave me pause. Russia has basically ceased to be a democratic country under Putin's leadership. His recent steps to create a youth corp (loyal to him & his party) and establish dominance in the media, investigage and charge potential political rivals, etc., have all the hallmarks of classic Soviet dictatorship.

Yet, it also made me wonder if the U.S. is becoming more "Russian," i.e. dictatorial and a weakened democracy, given the hype over who will run for President in 2008. It seems that the 2008 election, still 3 years away, is becoming "the core" of U.S. politics as well. Media reports are all keen on reporting on which politician's actions are likely to help/hurt their 2008 prospects, i.e. Frist on Stem Cells, Pataki & Romney on the Abortion Pill, etc.

Should we be concerned about the increasing politization of "who" is the President? Granted, we still have separation of powers, politically and civilly, that Russia has lost. However...IMO, very disturbing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Are the Home & Visiting Teaching Programs Failures? Candid &/or Anonymous Answers Requested

Ok, I'll admit it. I'm sick and tired of hearing the weekly exhortation to do your home teaching. I'm sick of the reminders, I'm sick of "people" not doing it.

WAIT!!!

"People" don't do home & visiting teaching...do they?

Individual saints do, Jane and John Doe Saints around the world.

So, why...why...why...don't Jane and John just DO IT!?!?!?!?!

If individual's aren't doing it...doesn't that make the program a failure. Given currently membership retention rates...it certainly seems like it.

Here is my answer. Will you please provide yours? Anonymously or not, Please answer. My only requirement is that you don't parrot the Ensign on the importance of home teaching.

Answers:

1. Lyle Stamps: [Start excuse] I'm quasi-exempt, because my ward hasn't assigned me yet. However, this doesn't excuse me from getting to know and visiting people on my own initiative. [End excuse]. Except while at BYU, where I had more than 100% home teaching (at least two visits a month w/assigned companions), I generally have had to do home teaching on my own. I suspect that I'm either a hard person to get along with and/or don't like to coordinate with others and tend to do visit people (in general) on short notice, w/o alot of planning. So, my solution is probably to learn to love my HT companion first and show more respect for those that are allowing me into their home to visit them.

If I was answering for others, I suspect [please disabuse me of this notion], that most individual Saints harbor a deep dislike for the program and find that it is largely useless. Hence, they don't do it because they don't believe in in. I'm not sure I believe in it either...I just do it...kinda.
2...
3...
4...
5...

Mormons in the WSJ: What is up?

Is it just me, or are Mormons overrepresented in the pages of the WSJ?

Today's story is about John & Laurel Larsen. John is a 30 year old Jr. Ford Exec working in China. His wife and three young children also live with him. They live in a big, yet less developed city, ChongQuing, of 32 million people. He served a Mandarin speaking mission in Taiwan.

Mostly, the story focuses on how MNCs are sending expats overseas, esp. China, to expand their businesses and the culture shock that families have when adjusting to life overseas.

Say, how would you feel if you were the only English speaker for every 400,000 people?
If you couldn't speak the language?
Lived in a hotel?
Had a chauffer and a company car?
Had a child who couldn't tolerate wheat glutten or other dietary restrictions?

In the end...they say that it has brought them closer together as a family. What better payoff can there be?

Link below, subscription required.
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112293595169501981,00.html?mod=home%5Fpage%5Fone%5Fus