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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, November 30, 2007

CHEESECAKE TRAGEDY

"NEWSFLASH: It’s 2007. Every white girl is naked on the internet."

Tiffany Teen
One of the more unfortunate effects of the internet is the unbelievable availability of pornography. In years past you had to make a deliberate effort to go get porn from specific places, places you didn't care to be seen most of the time. Even milder forms of porn like Playboy would be behind the counter and covered up in stores, you had to request them. Now you run into porn without even trying to on the internet. Even going to sites otherwise tame enough you see banner ads with explicit sexual content on them.

There's a whole industry of teenage girls posing for pictures and videos on the internet, from the relatively mild cheesecake variety to the hardcore sexual acts kind. Last year, one of the more successful girls who went by the name Tiffany Teen quit when her identity was published on the internet, along with High School photos. More tragic and recent is the case of Zoey Zane.
A missing Kansas college student believed to be the victim of foul play apparently led a double life as an Internet porn star by the name of Zoey Zane.

Nude photos of 18-year-old Emily Sander appeared on a Zoey Zane Web site before she vanished, and investigators are looking into whether her modeling had anything to do with her disappearance last Friday.

"She enjoyed it. She is a young teenage girl and she wanted to be in the movies and enjoyed movies. She needed the extra money," Nikki Watson, a close friend of Sander's at Butler Community College, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "Nobody in El Dorado knew besides her close friends."
Her boyfriend vanished at about the same time, and blood was found in her apartment. Things do not look promising for the young miss Sander. At Protein Wisdom, Dan Collins points out that she apparently had not been at this very long, and commenters discussed the apparent death of both the girl and of modesty in society:
Just saw this and was looking for news. While it’s a shock to her family and friends to have her underground life pop up like that - you can’t say she may not have been savvy and in control of what she was doing. And I’ll bet it paid better than waitressing…
-by james


I doubt that she was as savvy or in-control as she felt, James.
-by Dan Collins


I just read a story that said her website had 30,000 subscribers at $40 a month. That’s $1.2 million a month. It said her contract was for 45%, but that she got 5% with the rest put in escrow at first until she met terms (not specified) of he contract. 45% of $1.2 million is $540,000. A month. Even 5% is $60,000/month - $720,000/year (if the person quoted in the article is correct.) I guess porn pays better than waitressing.
-by stovetop


You may be right, stovetop, but something tells me this naive little girl was not getting anything like that much money, certainly not from the vultures who run these sites. I think Lee is right; this whole thing is very sad.
-by Cave Bear


As a former waitress, I say the “price” you pay waitressing is less than doing porn. I once heard a stat for how long most “exotic” dancers lasted dancing only, before they turned into prostitutes. It was like, three months or something shocking.

not to go all “narrative” on you, but I would say the “pornification” of our society is what has lead young girls to doing such a thing as “Zoey Zane”. And, I would think most of us would agree that putting beaver shots up on the web isn’t something we’d want our daughter’s to do (someone else’s daughter - well I guess that is all right?)

Used to be, the women who chose to do such a thing were a specific margin of society. The margin is getting bigger, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. These porn “clearinghouses” feed off of these women. It makes me sick. I don’t know who I blame - or who it is helpful to blame. But, I think it’s time parents seriously started watching what their kids watch, wear, listen to, etc … so that their little Emily doesn’t become the next star on porn-web.
-by Carin


Carin, don’t infer from what I said that I disagree with you. I shudder at the thought of what I’m going to have to do to keep my future daughters safe and upright.

In fact, the only codicil I would add is that the old double standard ought to bear its part. Hate to come one like a feminist, but it’s easy to get to say “Oh, what was that sweet young thing doing in that horrible business” and ignore the millions of drooling idiots slapping cash down like descalped rats hitting the pleasure button to see her jubblies. As long as that opening’s around, someone’s gonna fill it, so to speak (I got a great corkscrew…hey, this is a hip crowd…)

...the media (old and new) circus would hit all the same notes, make all the same animals to all the same things, and then fold up tents and get out of town. It’s getting to the point where I can set my watch to what happens whenever there’s a school shooting.

So if we really want to end the exploitation, we have to make it not okay to enjoy, not just not okay to do. If we raise our sons to read Hustler, can’t blame our daughters for wanting to be on the cover.
-by Andrew
As of yesterday, it appears that the body of this poor young lady has been found. The scenario I fear is most likely is a jealous boyfriend who couldn't deal with his sweetie showing off her naughty bits to the world and a fight that went very badly. Personally I can't blame the guy for not wanting his sweetheart to be every middle aged sweaty subscriber's late night download, but this appears to have gone beyond an argument.

While the commenter I picked my tagline for exaggerates, one does wonder just how many young ladies of every part of society have not shown off themselves on the internet. I wrote a few months back about the college cheerleader who took all those shots of herself for a guy and saw them all end up online. At some point you have to move past whatever flaws their parents may have had and the inundation of sex in society and ask a few questions.

Is there just a power and temptation in the internet and technology we have now that young people just aren't ready to face that kind of power and choices?

Is there room for state and local regulation and limitation on internet access or at least certain kinds of technology?

Are we past the point where we can make anything new restricted or illegal any more? What I mean is this: if the car was invented tomorrow, would it be possible for anyone to pass any laws requiring licenses to drive one? Or have we gotten to the point of license and rejection of limitations in society that we would reject it on libertarian principles?

Is it wrong to have such laws, or are they a proper limitation on liberty to protect us and others?

And are we at a place in our society where we can even begin to have that kind of debate any more?
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DELUSIONS IN THE HOUSE

"They don't need to do the things — you're missing the point — because the Pentagon says it, you believe it?"

you kids get off my lawn!
Representative John Murtha (D-PA) has been one of the most outspoken and consistent voices of opposition to the Iraq war, occupation, and rebuilding process. He's attacked soldiers as murderers, he's characterized the entire effort by Abu Ghraib, he's called the war a failure, and more. Although the man is called the most corrupt man in congress by even those on the left, he's at least been consistent. Except when he voted in 2003 to grant President Bush authorization to invade Iraq. And most recently.

The Politico explains, first with what Congressman Murtha said about the surge and reports of progress and success:
"Well it's delusional to say the least," Murtha told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "As I said earlier, and you heard me say it, it's a failed policy wrapped in illusion. Nothing's gotten better. Incidents have increased. We have had more Americans killed in the last four months than any other period during the war."

Murtha added: "I don't acknowledge there has been any progress made. Maybe in Baghdad. But it just breaks out someplace else. We called for extra troops two years ago. We put money in for 30,000 troops. They haven't even been able to raise the 30,000 troops they have. So they have to break all their guidelines. But there's no progress being made."
Except now he's changed his mind, he's admitting that Iraq does, in fact, appear to be stabilizing and turning out like many of us have hoped and expected it would if only given a chance:
Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), one of the leading anti-war voices in the House Democratic Caucus, is back from a trip to Iraq and he now says the "surge is working." This could be a huge problem for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders, who are blocking approval of the full $200 billion being sought by President Bush for combat operations in Iraq in 2008.
...
To be fair, Murtha has pointed out that there has been a lack of poltical progress within Iraq to bring about permanent reconciliation between competing Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions, despite the decreased violence within the country following Bush's decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. Even vocal war supporters like Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who is just back from a trip from Iraq himself, has complained about that situation as well, and Graham warned this week that unless there is tangible political progress within Iraq within the next two months, the United States may be forced to withdraw its support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
...
"This could be a real headache for us," said one top House Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Pelosi is going to be furious."
Readers at the Politico responded:
Wait... you mean we didn't lose the war Mr. Reid? Wait... our soldiers aren't murderers Mr. Murtha? Wait... the surge is working? They should all resign in shame. But they won't... they have no shame.
-by LogicalSolutions


Regardless of what it does to the DNC, at least Murtha is being honest. We may not like what we hear from him, but at least he is not being afraid of being accurate. As for the political goals, anyone who has studied international affairs knows that estabilishing political structures takes years and years to complete. Additionally, security is the first step to any reconstruction; whether it be economic, political, or infrastructure. Why do you think most of Africa continues to lag behind in development? It is because of a lack of security first and foremost. On the other hand, Botswana figured out how to secure their country, they did so, and they are now the shining star of Africa. So this whole we are back to square notion in Iraq is utterly ridiculous. As security takes hold and economic development continues, the political side will follow suit; they just need to smooth out A LOT of wrinkles. Remember, people who have warred against each other...traditionally nomadic tribes..are attempting this reconciliation. Not an easy task.
-by Wint


If the US pulled his troops when Murtha first pushed for retreat-cut-n-run-surrender, Zarqawi would still be chopping heads, al Qaeda would be growing in Iraq instead of on the run and the surge would never have been put in place helping the cause of victory.
-by Kinetic


Some amusing bafflegab above from the usual menagerie of tendentious lefty buffoons. Well, here?s something even worse for you to choke on. George W. Bush?s America has freed 50 million people from two of the most murderous governments on earth. It has given those people two U.N.-approved, constitutional democracies instead of pro-American dictatorships. And it is protecting them from even worse butchers until their own governments can grow up enough to do it alone. When the process is complete George Bush will be one of the greatest liberators in human history. And there?s no one on ?the left? who would have done it better, as well, or At All. So unless you can come up with a credible argument for why 50 million people should not be freed from filthy dictators, don?t waste the adults? time. Just sling your snot, sneers, and snark. Then go back to mewling and puking in the sandbox with all the other ?special? kids. World progress needs adults to manage it. Lefty lightweights don't qualify.
-by Tom Paine
Of course, the spin is still out there, the left is working on talking points to cry failure and loss in the face of victory, to whit:

Well, the surge may be working, but none of the political goals have been met, so we're back to square one. Our men and women die, and the Iraqi Congress does absolutely nothing. Great. You have to be a serious simpleton to call that victory.
-by Lekkekerk


Sure, after 4 years they are finally using proven counter insurgency tactics, which has reduced violence from 100 times acceptable, to 50 times acceptable. It is still totally unacceptable, and still a war. The real goal of taking the violence heat off, so that political progress could be made was a total failure. That is the part that really counts. We lost close to another 1000 American lives, and many times that Iraqi, and remain no closer to a solution than a year ago. The can was simply kicked down the road.
-by billbill


is it really so surprising that violent deaths are finally decreasing after so many years of bloodshed? not to take anything away from our troops or generals, but many cities in iraq have already been de facto segregated. More than 2 million iraqis are displaced within the country, and another million have left iraq altogether. let's not forget the hundreds of thousands already killed. so, let's not judge success by the number of deaths per week, four years after the invasion. the question is--what are americans paying for(close to 1 trillion USD) and dying for now?
-by Markgrein
There's nothing so good that someone who is sufficiently politically motivated cannot find fault and attack it. In a way it's inevitable, when people have so much of their ideology tied up in to failure and misery in Iraq, they can't admit success without losing personally. It would require them to reverse years of passion and personal identification. If Iraq turns out like President Bush planned and many of us hope, then the left has to, if honest, stop and reexamine why they held their positions and whether they are valid or not.

It's just easier to deny any success, change the goalposts of what success looks like, and claim that anything bad whatsoever negates all good and anything accomplished. Easier, and more cowardly.

It's a fact, success and peace in Iraq is bad news for the Democratic Party. Democratic Party members ought to take a long look at their leadership and ask why they put it into this position. Ask if they really want to be associated with such a political movement that puts power over peace and democracy. Ask why it is that Europeans deserved the treasury and blood of Americans to protect, but not Arabs. Ask why it is that our soldiers deserve to have their funding cut and to be called murderers by congressmen.
"I didn't want (the public) to think this was a Democrat position plotted from the left wing"
-Murtha, The Guardian, Nov. 21, 2005
Except it was, Congressman Murtha. That's exactly what it was. And now when the facts are son undeniable that even the Washington Post and New York Times are reporting on it (true, burying it deep in section A, but covering), he can't keep up the pretense any longer.

In a just world, the virulent opposition to the rebuilding of Iraq, the repeated attempts to pull funding out from under the feet of soldiers, the present blocking of military funds by congress, and the constant refrain of defeat, failure, quagmire, and worse by the Democrats would haunt them in the next election and many to come. In a fair world, the voters would remember this attitude and this approach, and the press being so very desperate to assist them, and hold it against them.

I fear we don't live in such a world.
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REASON AND FAITH

"Jesus is a man of tremendous credibility"

You Tube is generally used for goofy little videos of people dancing or little kids being cute or clips from TV shows and movies, but there is a resource out there that's useful and serious. The website Stand to Reason is an apologetics group, led by Greg Koukl. He tries to tackle the toughest questions about faith, the world, evil, and the Bible and answer them for anyone who wants to listen. The website has various files and a catalog of videos and books, but there's now also a You Tube channel with these videos on it.

For example, here is Koukl dealing with the idea of God being fair in saving only some:

Like I do, Greg Koukl believes that Christianity is rational and intellectually defensible, that it makes sense. He explains why in these videos. Some of his positions I don't agree with but on the whole he does a good job dealing with common questions and objections.

Quote of the Day

"On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."
-George Orwell
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

GEEK PICKUP LINES

"At this time, I think you should purchase me an alcoholic beverage and engage in diminutive conversation with me in hopes of establishing a rapport."
-gnome female /flirt emote, World of Warcraft

Geek Love
I've written about lousy pickup lines in the past, and these mighty qualify, but here are some geek pickup lines courtesy Bloggasm:
I wish I was your derivative so I could lie tangent to your curves.
Baby, you overclock my processor.
You defragment my life.
I think my heart just lagged.
Baby, if you were words on a page, you’d be what they call FINE PRINT!
I less than three you….. (type it out)
Readers had their own suggestions:
Baby, if we form a singularity it could lead to a big bang.
-by BlogDog


b4 αq (RU)/18 qtπ ?
-by Dr. Kenneth Noisewater


Engineers do it with sly drools.
-by Elisson


I’ve been sent from the future to get you pregnant so our son can save the world.

(And by the way, the history books didn’t say anything about me sticking around afterwards).
-by Robert R


I may try these because for some reason, “Let me tell you about my rotisserie league baseball team” doesn’t seem to work.
-by Alex Bensky
And no, I don't understand Dr. Noisewater's line, either, I was hoping some reader might. Along the same lines, some Online Gamer pickup lines occurred to me:
Baby, you strafed right into my heart.
I want to be your epic mount.
Your eyes are like the lakes in Nagrand, you know with the floating islands that have waterfalls, but without the elementals in them.
I'd solo the Plane of Hate to win your heart.
Baby, you dance better than a Night Elf.
When I first saw you, my heart took a critical hit.
I'd give up my Lionheart Executioner for you.
How about you and I form a chat channel of our own?
I'm higher level than he is.
I'd empty my guild bank for you.
I have a huge stamina and specc'ed in two-handers.
You spawned in my heart, baby.
If I were a bard, I'd play you a song, but then my carpal tunnel would ruin the rest of the evening.
I keep typing /flirt when I see you.
Let's go cyber.
On second thought, I'd better stop while I'm ahead.

*UPDATE: Ace of Spades HQ links 100 bad pickup lines
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CNN Debates

"It’s a shame we didn’t have this level of citizen participation in the Carter years; people could have asked the candidates questions over CB radio."
-James Lileks

CNN had another debate and like the previous Democratic party debate, the questions were not exactly what they were presented as. In the Democratic debate, Senator Clinton managed to slip several supporters and prepared questions as if they were spontaneously asked by concerned citizens. In this debate, the You Tube questions were asked by a host of Democratic Party workers and members - including people working for Democratic presidential candidates. The former I think is just inexcusable and proof that CNN is in it for Senator Clinton to win. Their bias is rather striking.

However, while I take every chance to bash the legacy media, and the right wing blogosphere is alive with mockery and attack on CNN for their sloppy work and incompetence if not deliberate bias for the you tube bits, I disagree. I have no problem with opponents presenting questions - if they're good questions. I don't care if CNN didn't bother to check on who these people were, as long as the questions were valid and interesting. What difference does it make who asks a question as long as it's one that the candidates should answer? I want to see the presidential candidates on both sides sweat and forced to answer questions they'd rather avoid.

The only problem I have with this event is that I doubt Democrats will be graced with the same sorts of questions or opportunities to face what their opponents want them to deal with. And that's too bad for Democratic voters and the US in general.

Just so you know: I almost never watch debates, they are boring and long and virtually meaningless. Who wins a debate or who does well with questions thrown at them does not necessarily equal the best president.

*UPDATE: A commenter at Ace of Spades HQ points out something very true about this whole debacle:
It will be fun at the conventions, when the Rep candidates laugh at the Dem candidates for being terrified of FOX News debates, after having taken questions from these Dem campaign shills directly.
-by Roy
Hard to argue with that, really.

TIS THE SEASON

"My God ain't short on cash, brother"
-U2, Bullet in the Blue Sky live

Give til it hurts
The ASPCA has an ad on television right now that shows a montage of cute animals in the local animal shelter with soft, emotional music. A pretty girl begs you to give money to them so they can keep these creatures alive longer, and maybe find them a home. It's all very heart-tugging and deliberately manipulative to try to get people to say "awww, where's my wallet." But why this time of year, didn't the animals need this help earlier?

This is the time of year that charities get the most money from people. Around Christmas, it is traditional to give to the needy, particularly as winter is especially hard on the poor and disabled. It's one thing to be homeless or not to be able to afford utilities in the summer, it is another entirely when it's snowing outside.

Plus, the Christmas and Thanksgiving season tends to be more spiritual for three of the major religions of the world. Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Christmas all fall in roughly the same time period. With such a time of spiritual examination (I predict an atheist version by Christmas 2008 - Festivus, perhaps?), people tend to consider other aspects of their life, like how they are helping others, how well they are doing and what they owe their fellow man, or their faith.

As a result, charities tend to make a lot of effort this time of year to be the ones that you give to, with phone calls, television ads, emails, snail mail, and so on. They know that this is their best shot at getting the money they use to help others (at least we hope they do) so they make a big push.

Yet with all those options, all the charities and organizations after your money, which do you choose? Even if you give money to Santa at the shopping mall door he won't stop ringing that damn bell. Consumerism Commentary has some advice on how to choose charities, when you are feeling generous. Steve has three rules he suggests you follow for charitable giving:
  1. Is it a “good” charity?
  2. How will you contribute?
  3. Will you receive a tax deduction?
He examines each one of these, with tips on how to decide, particularly the first part. Steve closes with this thought:
While there are a lot of rules surrounding the deductibility of donations and a lot of suspicion over some recent charity scandals, it is important to remember that the great majority of charitable organizations exist for one reason: to help.
My advice in brief is this: if you read about a charity donating or assisting causes you don't care for, or if you've seen them in the news with a scandal because the person in charge makes seven figures and owns three houses, it's time to find another charity. Readers had their own advice:
I think even you don’t have enough money to donate, but still can be a better person by visit their center like orphanage. Which can be an amazing experience for your life too.
-by V Sio


This is some Grade A advice. I have a very hard time giving money to an organization and saying do what you want with it, because there’s no accountability with how the money’s spent, so I’ve found that giving money to specific individuals for specific causes has been a lot better way to be generous.
-by FinancelsPersonal.com


I find that there is a lot of pressure at work this time of year to give to charities. There are company drives and goals of “100% participation” for charity giving and even matching company gifts. People can sometimes get down right nasty if you don’t participate.

Me, we have our charities we dontate too annually and those that work often offers are the large national type that we don’t support. We will stick with our local free zoo and our local Humane Society thank you very much!
-by Curtis


My organization has a document title “How to Read the Form 990 and Understand What it Means” which may be a good addition to your resources.
-by Craig Weinrich
Something that comes up here in the comments and the original article is a common theme in terms of charity. Do this because you'll feel better about yourself, you'll be a better person. In theological terms, this is called "works righteousness," and it stands opposed to the concepts of virtue and altruism.

UNCHARITABLE
The reason you should help people is because they are in need and it's the right thing to do. Not because you gain something from this act or benefit somehow spiritually or emotionally, but because the act in and of its self is proper. Charity, by definition, is an act of love and not an act of self-interest. Love is entirely outward looking, it cares about the target and object of love not one's self. Charity cannot be an act that is about personal benefit, or you're not being charitable at all in the purest sense. You might look charitable, but you're simply being selfish in a manner that makes other people think highly of you.

This brings us to the second problem, brought up by commenter Curtis. Companies will often have these kind of drives, give and we'll match the amount you give, doubling the donation. Give or we'll frown on you - this won't go on your permanent record, mind, but it will linger in my perception and impression of you when it comes time for review or promotion. Not only is this a blatant violation of the entire concept of charity (it ceases to be charitable by any definition if you're forced into an act) it actually reverses the idea to extortion.

UNDESERVING
One of the problems with giving money to a charity is that these days it's hard to know who to trust. Some organizations are a bit easier to identify by their actions and leanings, MoveOn.org or the Heritgage foundation make no secret of their purpose and political intent. They exist in order to promote and encourage a certain viewpoint, you know what you're getting when you donate to them. Others are a bit more obscure, such as the ACLU whose stated goals are noble, but whose actions often are quite grating and frustrating to more conservative people.

Many charitable organizations start with noble intentions, but are led astray by the more radical members and eventually become a parody of their original intent. Greenpeace is a classic example of this, but so are groups like Sierra Club and Amnesty International. For someone considering a donation, these groups can represent an ethical dilemma. They still stand for and do good work, but also stand for and do whacky things.

Other organizations misuse funds or fund things that some just will not care to assist. United Way is a huge supporter of abortions, particularly worldwide. This makes the organization difficult to donate to for many, because that money might help murder an unborn child. AARP is a very helpful organization for the elderly, but is one of the most blatantly left leaning political donators and lobbyists in Washington. Money given to them and paid them by members is used for causes and efforts not even tangentially related to the elderly.

Scandals in the past have wracked organizations like Unicef and others, with their leadership making seven-figure incomes and living in multi-million dollar homes in three or more different parts of the world. It's hard to justify donating money to a charity that spends its money so unwisely.

Unworthy CharitySome organizations are actively pernicious, they are simply covers for raising money to help people that ought not be helped. The Irish Repulican Army was great at this kind of thing, raising money to help poor Irish kids or fund schools and such, which went primarily to keeping the IRA active and buying weapons. Palestinian groups such as Hamas have followed in their footsteps. Watch out for that kind of charity, they may do some good with the money, but they build bombs and buy guns to kill their enemies with most of it - or it goes in the pockets of men like Yasser Arafat who died a millionaire surrounded by unspeakable poverty.

One way to keep an eye out and try to find groups of this sort is the website Discover the Networks, which looks at how left-leaning groups are tied together and who they are related to monetarily. Activist Cash is a similar site that can be helpful. The Consumerism Commentary article has several sites that can be useful for research as well.

Just turning on the Trinity Broadcasting Network means being bombarded with requests for cash and donations, yet the screen is filled with golden thrones and thousand dollar suits, which makes you wonder if God really needs the cash, or that guy with the bouffant hairdo is the one asking for it.

You worked hard for your money, don't throw it away on people who are undeserving or wasteful.

THOUGHTS
My advice is to find small and local organizations who need help. Food banks, batter womens' shelters, homeless shelters, orphanages, nursing homes, churches, the Salvation Army, that kind of thing. Find humble groups without a snazzy marketing and advertising campaign - that all costs money that is supposed to go to the needy. Find local groups that are in need of assistance. A good church will do more with that money in their community than Red Cross can ever do worldwide.

Another option is to buy gift cards to grocery stores, and some businesses even sell vouchers that can be redeemed only at that location and only for something people need. If you see someone in need, some bum on the street, someone begging for cash who seems truly needy, give them something like that, not cash. Buy a jacket from the thrift store and give it to a homeless person who looks cold. Help a neighbor pay for their heating bill on a cold month. Donate your time to clear the leaves out of a disabled person's gutter. Visit the elderly in the local nursing home. Go caroling on Christmas, bringing cheer and a break from loneliness to someone in a home.

There's a lot of ways to help, and while you may go home feeling better about yourself, what you've really done is something good and right for it's own reward.
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BORING BIBLE

"I have a message from God for you."

Prince Absolom
This blog post has adult themes, language, and concepts. Which is sort of the entire point of it.

Dorothy Sayers was a writer in the early twentieth century, she was a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and friends of both. In addition to mystery writing, she wrote essays, including one in which she pointed out that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most dramatic story in the history of the world, complaining that if anyone preaches a boring sermon, they must be doing it on purpose.

I have read the Bible many times through in my life, and there's never a time I read it when I don't find bits and stories and lines I missed before, somehow. The Bible comprises of sixty-six books, ranging from history to poetry to doctrine and even wild fantastical imagery of the "apocalyptic" books such as much of Daniel and Revelation. In this wide variety of material, there is some amazing stuff, more entertainment than a night of television, more exciting than a blockbuster movie, and sometimes racier than would be allowed on TV.

Cracked magazine online compiled some of the more amazing and rough stories from the Bible, and wrote with their usual wit in an article called The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses. I'm gonna warn you ahead of time that some of this material is pretty raw, the kind of thing grandma used to skip over when she read Bible stories to you. Some of it is the kind of stuff the pastor never preaches on. Examples:
Now Ehud made himself a dagger (it was double-edged and a cubit [18"] in length) and fastened it under his clothes on his right thigh. So he brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. (Now Eglon was a very fat man.) And when he had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who had carried the tribute.

But he himself turned back from the stone images that were at Gilgal, and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king." He said, "Keep silence!" And all who attended him went out from him.

And Ehud came to him (now he was sitting upstairs in his cool private chamber). Then Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you." So he arose from his seat.

Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. Even the hilt went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the dagger out of his belly; and his entrails came out. Then Ehud went out through the porch and shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. When he had gone out, Eglon's servants came to look, and to their surprise, the doors of the upper room were locked. So they said, "He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber." So they waited till they were embarrassed, and still he had not opened the doors of the upper room. Therefore they took the key and opened them. And there was their master, fallen dead on the floor.

But Ehud had escaped while they delayed, and passed beyond the stone images and escaped to Seirah.
-Judges 3:16-25
"Attending to his needs" is a gentle way of saying "taking a dump." Here's how Cracked interprets this story:
They say that history repeats itself, and this verse illustrates that clearly. Our hero Ehud came up with the idea of concealing a weapon by strapping it to his body several thousand years before John McClane did in Die Hard.

Instead of strapping it to his back, Ehud chose to tie it to his thigh. One wonders why the royal guards didn't comment when they frisked Elud and felt 18 inches of rigid steel in his pants. Maybe, they just assumed he was Egyptian.

After bypassing the tight security, Ehud continues to act like a Bruce Willis character by busting out a snappy one liner: "I have a message from God for you," he declares shortly before whipping out his blade and shanking the evil, grotesquely obese King Eglon in the belly.

Really, the only way to improve on this would be by shoehorning an awful pun into it, such as "You should really cut down on your fat intake!" or "Looks like being king takes guts!" As he leaves, Ehud shows he hasn't forgotten his good manners by considerately shutting the door behind him. It doesn't say if he went flying across rooftops Assassin's Creed-style, so we're forced to assume he did.
One of the more frustrating things for me as a Christian is how the faith is portrayed and taught by both Christians and non Christians. On one extreme you have foul, hateful, and anti-Christ example of Fred Phelps' cult, and on the other you have the hyperfeminine weak wristed image of the prim old lady who blushes and looks around for anyone who might be amused by this story.

The Bible contains and tells things that Christians seem ashamed to talk about or consider. The apostles used language and imagery that Christians tiptoe around. As a result the Bible is sanitized and cleansed of all possible offense to the most mild ears, resulting in a book that was once wild and powerful and exciting, dramatic and sexy and violent becoming... boring. Consider this verse, from the prophet condemning Israel using the metaphor of a wayward wife (the most common image of straying faithful in the Bible):
"Yet she multiplied her harlotry In calling to remembrance the days of her youth, When she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. For she lusted for her paramours, Whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys, And whose issue is like the issue of horses.
-Ezekiel 23:19 - 20
Yes, that means what you think it does. The Egyptians are described as being well hung, and the slut wife Israel ran to them for their physical qualities. Now, compare what I just wrote with the version from the Bible. Which one stands out in your mind better, which illustrates the point more powerfully and memorably?

Yet what I said is what you're more likely to hear - if you hear anything about this verse at all - than the actual text of what Christians claim is God's infallible word. We know better than God, do we? How great a witness is that? Well I believe God is all powerful and sovereign, but you know he was a little crude at times and we have to adjust his words to be more acceptable.

The Bible is a powerful book that has been read and studied and influential around the world for millennia, yet we're so weak in the knees we can't bring ourselves to even quote what it actually says.

The SarlaccOne last example. This time it's Moses and the exodus out of Egypt. As the Israelites were traveling to the promised land, a group of men led by Korah came to Moses and complained that the Levites and Moses were lording it over them. "You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?" Was their complaint, then they went on to claim that Egypt - where they were miserable, ill-treated slaves - was better than this trip to the promised land, and they ought to go back.
And Moses said: "By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord." Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.
Again, here's how Cracked puts it:
God listened carefully to their complaints, weighed their points, then made the earth eat them alive. The text does not make it clear whether or not the earth made that "OM NOM NOM" sound, so scholars are forced to speculate.

This really puts things in perspective for the anti-religion critics. They can complain all they want about religious "intolerance" and pushy evangelicals trying to censor TV and annoy people into conversion. But, that's a hell of an improvement over the situation during the Exodus, when God would feed nonbelievers to the mighty Sarlacc.

Two verses later, God sends down a ball of fire and incinerates the other 250 rebels. You have to imagine there was a moment of tentative relief when the 250 rebels saw that they had not been swallowed up along with Korah. "Yeah," they probably said. "Thank you! We were just about to bury that a**hole ourselves! Fortunately, we all have learned the error of our rebellious ways and--hey, what's that ... AAARRRGGGHHH! FIRE!!"
What frustrates me is that this secular magazine can see the humor, power, and drama in the Bible and can present it in a manner that captivates the audience and makes them want to know more, and men trained for over a decade at college and seminary, men who dedicate their lives to the preaching of God's word can make it so tedious so very often. There's a reason the churches are so empty around the western world.

There's a reason that Christianity has experienced little real growth in the United States, and experiences continual loss in Europe. It has nothing to do with the actual faith or the Bible, and everything to do with pastors and church leaders who are trying to fit the message to the culture rather than reach the culture with a radical, fascinating message of power and wonder that these days, few people have even heard.

Jesus kicked in the doors of the temple and threw people all over the place, knocking their wares around, whipping them, literally, for not respecting God's house and His word. Imagine how he'd react today.

Incidentally, for more examples of badass Bible verses, read the comments at the Cracked site. Some great suggestions there. Nobody f***s with the Jesus, to quote The Big Lebowski.
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Quote of the Day

"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet."
-James Oppenheim
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

LIVIN IN THE STICKS

"Living in the country is more than economical, it really gives you a sense of peace and well-being that I just don’t think you can find in the city."

Downtown
As opposed to the article I wrote about yesterday, there's a bit in The Simple Dollar about living cheaply in the country. Trent writes about how life in rural Iowa saves him a bundle of money, at the expense of harder access to cultural events (opera, museums, plays, etc). Yet rural areas have their own cultural events, and while they aren't high culture, they are yet culture - and folk culture often has a power and significance that high culture cannot approach.

Most of the advantages Trent lists are economic (it's just flat cheaper) but he also notes the schools tend to be better, and there are other advantages:
As a final note, although many view it as a disadvantage, I believe there are some cultural advantages to rural Iowa. I have a deep understanding of many aspects of America (agriculture, outdoorsmanship, etc.) that many Americans don’t have the opportunity to experience. Also, the solitude can be amazing - I can go for long country walks for hours without seeing another soul.
Sure, you can't go into town and watch Respighi or see the Impressionist display at the museum. But you can catch a parade, go hunting, sleep outside under the stars, leave your doors unlocked and open at night for the cool air, and get your food fresh straight off a farm.

Readers responded, starting with one of the strangest perspectives I've ever read:
As a city-slicker all my life I’m one of those who can’t conceive of living somewhere like Iowa. What’s the diversity like down there, do you have many immigrants?
-by guinness416


I to live in Iowa and work at a decently sized financial services company… surrounded by corn fields on 3 sides.

I’ve been told it’s kind of a surreal experience from some of the visitors we get coming from the “big city”.
-by Jesse


Bingo, Trent! I live in Boise, ID (the most remote metropolitan area in the U.S.), and when I moved here a little over a year ago from the DC area, my friends looked at me like I was nuts. My family and I love it here; wouldn’t go back to a big city for anything. Among all the other pros you listed to rural (or, non-urban) living is I find that I can entertain myself with low- or no-cost alternatives much easier than I could back east. It only costs me gas to drive twenty minutes to a hiking trailhead and spend the day exploring the outdoors with my wife, son, and dogs. You can’t do something like that in urban areas.
-by Jason


Shhhh! You trying to ruin it for us? =)
When I was a kid I p!$$ed and moaned about how boring it was here, and now, being a ridiculously frugal adult, you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to any state with the exception of some more southern states that have similar characteristics but no bitter winters.

I bought a 3 bed, 1.5 bath, 2 car gar house 5 years ago on a $26k salary and not for one minute was I worried.

And I don’t care about the school issue, but it is true that outside of DSM (and literally, right outside, the suburbs are fine) schools are good.

Oh, and to answer the first comment: We do get a disproportionate amount of immigrants considering how far away we are from Mexico. We’ve got factory/meat-packing jobs galore in the smaller towns. Around the capital city there’s also a fair size Bosnian contingent (not sure how that works out). Sometimes though a non-AngloSaxan can cause one to do a double-take.
-by Madd Hatter


Oh man.. the $220k house sounds AMAZING. But I have to say, it’d be way too difficult for me to live in such a rural area… I need coffee shops and museums and good restaurants with food from all parts of the world. I think it’s more difficult to keep the 20/30-something professional set in more rural areas, despite the lower cost of living.

I’ve read several articles about Iowa’s “brain drain”… it seems that many of those National Merit scholars are leaving the state for busier pastures.
-by Wanda


Do you think you spend more on gas? Because I live in an area that’s only semi-rural and you can’t get anywhere to shop, see a movie, etc. without a car, whereas in a city they could be walking distance. Not enough to offset your other lower costs, though, I’d imagine.
-by Kimberley


I’m sure Iowa has it’s attractions but you couldn’t pay me to live in a rural area. I grew up in a small town and hated it - I couldn’t wait to move to the city. I live about 10-15 minutes from downtown now and would love to get even closer. If I want peace and quiet, I’ll head for the countryside on the weekend, but give me the shimmer and excitement and culture of the city any day!

And no offense, but you can keep your 2200 square foot house with four bedrooms. I think Americans in general use too much space for their homes - which is not only inefficient but more costly to heat and cool.
-by Mardee


In 1992 my wife and I lived in state-tax free southern Florida. We had been married 5 years and were ready to have kids…but didn’t want to raise them in the social environment around us. She had lived there ~17 years and I had been there 5. We saw far too many circumstances of parents basically throwing money at their kids and leaving them to raise themselves. We moved to SE Minnesota (just north of Trent :-) to a small town of about 1500. I continue to work for a large corporation about 17 miles away in a city of ~100,000, passing more cornfields than cars on my daily 20 minute commute. In my little town we’ve had 2 school bond issues pass in the past 4 months - including one this week to build a new middle school. Downtown Minneapolis/St. Paul is about 70 minutes from my house with all of the metropolitan stuff I can stand. I’ve seen traveling Broadway productions of Les Mis, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Showboat, South Pacific (my wife and I are fans of more classic musicals), been to Twins games, museums, etc.. It’s more of a day trip than an afternoon, but afternoons are reserved for local team baseball, walking our beagles along country roads, and going trout fishing. DSL keeps me connected to the office in the evenings. Going from state-tax free to state tax was well worth it. I’d never go back.
-by Tubaman-Z


The commenters who discussed moving to rural areas really hit it on the head for me. I was a suburban boy growing up, but of many suburbias. By the time I graduated college I had lived in 4 countries and seven states. Out of school I was looking for a job and flying all over the country - DC, Seattle, Cedar Rapids, IA, etc. I got an offer from a company in Iowa and, in a decision I sometimes regret, I turned the company down. I took a job in Seattle instead. I sure do like city life, but a little bit of me would love to be in a rural area like the suburbs or farther out of Cedar Rapids, IA. The key point is I’d like to move there once I have kids. As a singe twenty-one year old IA is just not that appealing - it doesn’t have the range of cultures within arms reach that Seattle does. However, I also like the simpler things in life, like growing my own plants (Come on bell peppers grow!), and sitting down for an evening with friends - these things would be just as easy (and in the case of growing food easier!) as they are in Seattle.

What I’ve learned is that I have some friends, and we go to the same places and often do the same things night after night, week after week. Humans are creatures of habit and I go to the same restaurant every Tuesday and Thursday and have the same drink with the same people, even though I have all these other opportunities in front of me. I think that we need to be more careful before dismissing areas as “too boring” or having “no culture” - there will always be the normal haunts and the group of friends.
-by Matt Kurjanowicz
I want anyone reading to stop here and think about this one. He's got a great point here: how much "culture" are you really taking in where you live? How many new places do you go, how many plays do you really take in? How much would really change if you didn't have 120381 options? Consider those thoughts and in the context of conformity and fitting in when you read this comment:
AS a confirmed city girl and a Brit I actually can’t contemplate what living somewhere like Iowa would mean. I don’t think I’d like to do without good public transport and I couldn’t be miles from decent clothes shops.

I often think that living in a smaller population centre would mean that there was more pressure to fit in, as everyone else is quite similar and I’m not exactly the stereotypical rural/suburban person. I wonder if this is really true.
-by Plonkee


Where you live is all relative - relative to what you want in your financial life, personal life, recreational life, on and on. Everyone has different goals and perspectives on what they want in their lives and where they live should not be the only determining factor. Since I graduated college, I live in 4 places, all across the country. The semi-rural life in Wisconsin, the big city life in Chicago, the beach life on Florida’s gulf coast, and the typical midwest life in Ohio. From seeing all these perspectives, I’ve really discovered that my life is not determined by where I live, but what I make of it. Each place I lived had its own fun and differences, but there is only one thing in my life that is important - family and friends. As long as I have those things, I get by great wherever I live.
-by Tyler


See, living in a rural area is bad because you’re forced to own a car. Nothing is walkable. Unless you happen to live close to a strip mall. (And why would you want to walk to a strip mall?)

I actually get irritated when I think about stuff like this, because what you’re doing contributes to sprawl. I appreciate the need for solitude and blah blah blah, but what about the impact on the environment?

And don’t even get me started on the lack of divesity, both cultural and ethnic. Sure, your houses are cheaper, but that’s because there’s NOTHING there.

I’d rather buy a one-bedroom condo for $500k and be blocks from the lake and surrounded by amazing architecture, spitting distance from world-class museums and some of the best restaurants in the world, and best of all, not have to drive to any of it.

I think the saying “you get what you pay for” would apply here.
-by Christiana


Some of the comments in this article crack me up. I’m a big city girl (Phoenix…population, too damn many, go home already, please!!!), currently living in a small city on the Florida Atlantic coast. We are getting ready to move to Cedar Rapids.

I thought I was gonna go nuts living in a small city. True, you can’t run out and go to the theater any time you want, but hell…haven’t any of you people heard of Netflix? They’ve got lots of performances and foreign films, and you can watch them on *your* schedule. You can even sit around in your undies and eat Cheetos if you want while you do it. I don’t care how “liberal” NYC is….I don’t suggest you try that on Broadway.

And don’t get me started on shopping. I can find virtually anything I want online. A few clicks, and it’s on its way to me….without me burning up fossil fuels to get to the mall, wasting my time dealing with some weird, snooty salespeople, and then finding out they don’t have my size/color that I want.

I just love how some of the commenters are dogging on Iowa without ever having been there. Let me fill you in on it a bit. Yep, there’s cornfields. Lots of ‘em. But the people are genuinely friendly…even if you talk English funny like my sweetie does (he’s Russian). It’s not all flat. As far as I could tell, the people were just as sophisticated as anywhere else. There were even a couple of shops in Iowa City that would have fit in perfectly in Snottsdale, AZ….without the attitude from the clerks.

Now if I could just get over having to deal with that white crap they call snow, and find a decent sushi joint, I’d be ecstatic. Got any info on that, Trent? ;)
-by KoryO
Imagine going outside at night and seeing not just stars but the entire milky way. Imagine not knowing exactly where your child is, and not caring because you know they'll be home by dinner time.

What strikes me as fascinating is that almost every single one of the commenters who said "rural sucks, I couldn't survive" was either self-identified or went by a female name. I can guarantee you that the most of the ones who deprecated rural life were younger and most of the ones who embraced it were older. Rush said it in their song Subdivisions:

Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth
...
Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights...

Here's the thing: in 1940, you couldn't get Chinese Food in Scio, Oregon or Ames, Iowa. Everyone was white, you were isolated. This is 2007, and that simply isn't the case any more. Cable or DSL modem and dish television bring the entire world to your doorstep, there are immigrants everywhere, and they've brought their culture with them. You really don't miss out on as much as you'd think... and what's more you probably aren't taking advantage of the things you claim you'd miss anyway.

As for diversity, just how diverse are your friends and people in cities in any case? Sure, you will see more really bizarre people in cities, but do you hang out with these folks? Is there really all that much of a spread of people and ideology in the city, seriously?

It's a fact that cities, for their own economic benefit, market themselves as this wonderland of opportunities, excitement, and cultural diversity. By contrast, they portray rural areas as hicks, idiots, cretins, sister-marrying knuckle draggers caught in the early 20th century. They show the broken down gas station with the basset hound and a three toothed idiot in a rocking chair, they show small towns as filled with bigots and fundamentalist freaks. It's a question of marketing: if they showed things as they really are, cities wouldn't be such an obvious choice in which to spend your money.

Just something to consider about wealth: money does not equal the sum total of wealth. Oh, and country grown girls are cuter. So are the guys, I'm told.
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THE HARDER A WIFE WORKS, THE CUTER SHE LOOKS!

Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again...

I've several times in the past groused about how men are portrayed in media and entertainment today. We all know the ads and the TV shows, men are buffoons, grown up children, mental midgets. The long-suffering and omni-competent wife has to fix everything and keep the barely-sentient man in her life from doing stupid stuff.

In the past it was different. Women were treated as beautiful but dim twits, children who needed protection and for their own good stayed home while the man faced the world. They might break a nail. There's a Lileks-style book out called You Mean A Woman Can Open It?: The Woman's Place In The Classic Age Of Advertising which looks at old ads and how women were portrayed in them. Here are a few samples:



This comes from a Daily Mail story, which has several more ads. The thing is, some of the ads aren't all that offensive but are being promoted as such. For example the one making fun of how women shop is... well it's not exactly false really. Most women I know do tend to shop that way, anyone who's worked in retail can vouch for that. And the name of the book comes from a Catsup ad for Del Monte promoting a new lid. The old lid was probably so stiff and hard to open that this was considered a feature: your wife can get this without you breaking out the wrench.

Marry you again?I'm reminded by this ad of a song by Jack Jones whose heart is in the right place, but ends up being demeaning. It's a warning to wives that they can't give up trying to seduce and impress their husband simply because they're married, which is true (for both sides of the coin):

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger
You needn't try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I'm warning you...

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
He's almost here...

Hey! Little girl
Better wear something pretty
Something you'd wear to go to the city and
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music
Time to get ready for love
Time to get ready
Time to get ready for love
-Wives and Lovers (Burt Bacharach/Hal David)

And, as many commenters pointed out: this hasn't really changed. They've just swapped genders, with the "empowered" woman being the one who's right and smart and the stupid, bumbling man needing her genius simply to exist. For advertisers this is a smart move: women are more likely to see ads and do the shopping - and further, men tend to ignore ads and target only what they want in a store rather than browse, so it makes sense to appeal to women's ego.

But at the same time, why is it politically incorrect to make women look stupid, but perfectly fine to do it to men? All things being equal it ought not be, but then, PC isn't about equality, it's about using shame and public pressure to enforce a certain viewpoint where the white male european is the oppressor and thus wrong, while the woman is the oppressed, and thus right. It's about reversing centuries of oppression, fight the power!

It's about doing the same thing that was done wrong before, but with the people you prefer in power.
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EURO AND THE FUTURE

"As long a Euro member economies drift apart in productivities, there will be a tension pulling the Euro to pieces."

1 Euro = 1.4846 U.S. dollars

That's what you get when you type in "Euro" in Google. They give an instant exchange rate to US Dollars, with the presumption being you use dollars as your default economic unit. Even when the British pound was worth two dollars, people still used dollars, because the most powerful and richest economy in the world is the standard, even when it's struggling or it currency is weak.

For the rest of the world, such as Canada, having a strong currency against the dollar can be a mixed blessing. Canadians are traveling across the border to shop because their loon will buy more in the US right now than it does at home. And in Europe, while having the Euro worth so much more than the dollar seems like a status and esteem builder, economists are concerned:
The die is now cast. As the euro brushes $1.50 against the dollar, it is already too late to stop the eurozone hurtling into a full-fledged economic and political crisis. We now have to start asking whether the EU itself will survive in its current form.

As Airbus chief Thomas Enders warned in a speech to the Hamburg workers last night, Europe's champion plane-maker - the symbol of European unification, in the words or ex-French president Jacques Chirac -- is now facing a "life-threatening" crisis.

Mr Enders said the company's business model is "no longer viable", and "massive losses" are on the horizon. So much for all those currency hedges that analysts like to cite. Have they ever tried to buy a currency hedge? They would discover how expensive these instruments are. Hedges cannot protect a company with $220bn in delivery contracts priced in dollars, when the euro/sterling cost-base is leaping into the stratosphere.
What has them so concerned? Well, here are what readers said about the topic first:
The likelihood of such a currency surviving in the complexities of world markets was always debatable. It seems to be about to be tested beyond its limits. Thank goodness we have retained our own currency, taxes and national bank. Hopefully we can soon also recover our sovereignty when the pack of Euro cards comes crashing down, sooner rather than later.
-by camma


I have always thought that the EU & its 'euro' were a poor idea.
The fact that EU state economies have different farming cycles, ie, harvest times - some have two a year others only one a year cannot be overlooked and dismissed as it has been.The same goes for cultural & legal differences.If the market had been only a trading bloc amongst European members then this would have been good.It has gone way too far now, let us pray that the fallout won't pauper the UK, because I doubt that the government will defend us very well.
-by Bob Watkins


I spend a lot of time on the Continent, especially in Spain and in Italy. I also travel frequently to and through France. I am a Europhile and speak Spanish and Italian.

In all three countries, the original currency still appears on most bills together with the Euro total. This is because many citizens continue to think in Lire, in Pesetas and in Francs. Most of the people that I come across lament the passing of their traditional monetary units and long for their return.

It is my opinion that, had the people been given the choice, the Euro, rightly, would never have come into existence. It has had no practical use at all!
-by DavidG


exchange controls are indeed possible, but will ensure an economic depression. None of the European powers is in a good position, due to adverse demographics and heavy debt burdens. You might care to look at how risk-free UK government bonds are in view of the government's off balance sheet activities and the underwriting of banking sctor liabilities.
-by pamery


It is strange that Mr. Evans Pritchard feels moved to write much the same philippic - and with such frequency - against his usual bete noirs. Fortunately, few of his previous pieces on the same subject have quite matched the apocalyptic tone of today's piece. Could it be that his emotions are now overtaking his powers of analysis?
It may well come to pass that the roof will fall in on both the world economy and on the Euro though Mr. Evans Pritchard would do better if he were to address these very serious matters in a cooler manner and, in passing, restrain his all too obvious desire to see such an outcome fulfilled now (or, anytime soon).
In the specific matter of his latest forecast for the Eurozone, his review lacks any pretence at rigour. For example, the circumstances of the different countries in the Eurozone are quite different: Greece, Belgium, Italy and Portugal are generally believed to be structurally much weaker than most other members. Accordingly don't lump them together! Spain, undoubetdly, has looming problems, mostly because of massive overseas borrowings to finance its domestic bank lending. It also the highest trade deficit in the world (10% of GNP) whereas Ireland is probably a good deal less vulnerable as it has a long standing Public account and trade surplus.
-by F Killoran


Well, we've heard a chorus of EU bashers of late, and mr. Evans seems keen to join the party. I'm surprised that someone who displays such technical knowledge about currency trading seems so prone to panic, but heartened to learn that mr. Evans himself admits that his words are no more than idle speculation.

As for mr. Evans speculation: "Will the EU disintegrate because of the high exchange rate of the Euro?", one or two previous posters raised the question of whether the low exchange rate of the Euro versus the dollar of a few years ago wouldn't have had mr. Evans crying "wolf" in much the same fashion as he does now.

True, Airbus is taking a shellacking due to the plunge of the dollar, and something has to be done. Possible options include moving part of the assembly work to countries in the dollar zone, e.g. the US, or even to China. Painful, but perhaps unavoidable.

Besides, as mr. Evans notes in passing, the dollar drops relative to the sterling almost as quickly as it does against the Euro. Does that make the Sterling a failed currency? Well? I don't think so.

And unless mr. Evans also wishes to argue that the UK will soon disintegrate because of the high pound I see no reason why that should hold for the EU. In fact, considering the Scottish and Welsh nationalist sentiments I can't help wondering if the UK isn't developing a mild case of Belgiumitis.

Imposing currency flow restrictions just seem a particularly brutish and inept way of affecting exchange rates. There are more efficient ways of doing that.

If the worst comes to the worst, the EU can always cheat (the "dirty float" that mr. Evans refers to) ... by printing a few trillion Euros and throwing them onto the capital market. Sure, it will set off inflation within the Eurozone, but it's guaranteed to bring the exchange rate down. Both with respect to the yuan and the dollar.

Mr. Evans calls his blog "idle speculation", but we can join him in speculation: why not loan a few trillion newly minted Euros to newly created state-owned investment banks and have them buy large tracts of US blue-chip stock? That works three ways: the dollar will get a boost, the Euro will land in the cellar, and we get to own major parts of the primary source of wealth in the US. Perhaps we might even use the dividends to control our inflation.

I'm afraid it looks as if mr. Evans was just looking for an excuse to raise a few spectres about the Euro and the EU. Nothing if not fitting for the time of the year, but with a sensible disclaimer that he's just engaging in idle speculation.
-by Golodh

"...would he agree that it would be a good opportunity to have a single currency for the whole world?"
No sensible person argues that this would be a good idea. The short answer why is to read about optimal currency zones.

If you don't want to do the work of reading, it boils down to productivity being different between different economies, leading to them having a tendency to have labour costs, and thus currencies, that drift apart. this is already happening in the Euro area.

Some people have the illusion that two economies sharing a currency will lead to their productivities converging, but that doesn't happen because there is no mechanism to make it happen.

If you want a real-life example, consider places like Mississippi. It has shared a currency with the rest of the US since the end of the civil war, and yet it is still very poor and its productivity is still very low.

A world currency isn't a good idea, even in principle. It's only a "good idea" in the "this doesn't work but it sounds like it should, and it makes me feel warm" sense.
"Greece, Belgium, Italy and Portugal are generally believed to be structurally much weaker than most other members. Accordingly don't lump them together!"
But that's the whole point. Because they are weaker, they are where the cracks will start to show up when the Euro is priced out of competition.

Germany can stand a strong Euro, Sarkozy is complaining about it, Italy has been complaining for years, and the Bond market is beginning to price sovereign bond spreads as though Greece might leave altogether.

Nuanced enough for you?
-by Jon Livesey


There is a world currency – it's called “Gold”, it takes an average man in Britain a week to earn enough to buy an ounce – it would take a man in India more like a year – that's the reality behind a common currency. Goods that are affordable in one country are too expensive in another. Even the US really needs two currencies as earning $10 in the South is a lot harder than earning $10 in the North – goods cost the same – hence the local taxes which are really a way of distorting the value of a earned dollar.

Several countries in Europe are struggling because they cannot change their interest rates or print more money, the standard techniques to control their economy – this is why the Euro will fail. I can't believe people think it's anything other than a dumb idea to saddle every country with the same economic straight jacket, given that each country will have its own individual economic needs – unless the EU break all their rules and start shovelling “free” Euros into the Italian economy the country will soon grind to a halt. I wouldn't be surprised if that's going on already to keep the whole shoddy USSE behemoth on the road.
-by Steve lee London


The EU might be able to impose capital inflows limits on the € but I doubt that they could do the same on sterling, at least not without UK agreement.
I very much doubt that the EU will let the Club med countries out of the €, because the competitive advantage that the Spanish & Italians could gain by devaluing would sink the remaining € economies especially the French.
The most likely result an economic crisis would be a call for greater EU integration so that “Policies could be better coordinated to protect EU citizens from economic ((terrorism)) war” ( Sarcasm)
At present I think that the USA is doing the right thing, for their economy, their industries are becoming more competitive because of the falling $ & their housing bubble is letting the air out. The biggest favor the world could do the USA is to turn the € into the worlds reserve currency, it would stop the $ rising & falling depending on the latest crisis in the world that pushed mind boggling sums into their currency & also force economic orthodoxy onto its spend free politicians.

As an aside I think it is time that we had a full public discussion & referendum about the EU, & the UK relations to it.
-by Pat-Tern


I do agree with the Euro sceptisim of the article . Here a more simplistic way of explanation : the current attractiveness of the strong EURO (let’s be honest : formerly called German Mark) is rooted in the strength of the northern German oak-like financial discipline and realism .
The inflation “Angst” syndrome which is still deeply rooted in the minds of the German and which , is no other than the fear of another economic catastrophy which let to the rise of the Third Reich and is a very strong feeling . So above all , the Germans but also sensible Dutch , Austrians and Finns will try to keep growing and harmful inflation as controlled as possible .
The EURO might have a strong mature German oak trunk basis , but some branches , especially the southern branches which , thanks to the cheap money rain and fertilizer of the last 5 years , were growing happily at too good a speed over the years seem to have outgrown the trunk without control (Spaniards are now considered wealthier than Germans due to tripled property prices over the last decade - almost 90% of Spaniards have at least 1 property – 65% have at least 2 properties - while having received billions in aid from Europe ..in fact Germany – only about 50% of Germans own property !! ), run the risk of drying up . There are very dry times ahead and the storms we see at the horizon now will certainly do a lot of damage . The weight of these branches certainly will prove to be too much weigh for the trunk to support and branches rely on trunks as they have no own roots !!
Some strong winds will show if the sleeker and flexible American and British birches are better prepared for the storm than the unmovable oak .
For those who seek shelter from the storm beware : strong wind and lightning struck all trees alike and big falling debrit pose a danger of their own .
It is usually the big chunks without support who fall first .
-by A German In Spain


I live in the Eurozone, in the prosperous teutonic part of it in fact. Let me assure those fans of the Euro that it is anything but a success.

Prior to 2002 we had a hard currency, inflation was not a topic. Now we have an inflation crisis. To give two examples:

a) in 2003 our monthly family food shopping bill was 150 euros. In 2007 it is 300 euros. A bread role with mozarella at the local bakery cost 1,89 in June 2007, now it costs 2,19.

b) 2 years ago my gas and electricity bill was ca, 85 euros per month, now it is 140 epm.

If the ECB doesn't get this problem under control, people are going to start demanding a return to the mark / schilling etc.

This has massive political implications. The population was not only not asked if they wanted the Euro, they were lied to about the consequences of its adoption. Austrian Euro minister Ederer promised that Austrians would have the equivalent of 1000 Schillings more after adoption or the Euro. There are still millions of marks in existence, held by people who don't trust the Euro.

People here tolerate the euro, because it has obvious advantages. But I doubt it will inspire much loyalty if the ECD continues to expand the money supply by 11% per annum for much longer.
-by huw
OK here are the primary problems the Euro faces:
1) US Imports just became incredibly attractive as the dollar is cheap, so buying US products is cheaper.
2) There's no central plan or guidance for the Euro, each nation is trying to build their economy, at the expense of the others in some cases.
3) Old rivalries in Europe - the kind that routinely erupted into war before NATO - did not get erased by creating a common currency.
4) There's no central treasury, each nation has their own, which makes policy and monetary value vary widely.
5) Debt and weak economies in the most powerful nations pulls down the whole.
6) Each nation trades with the other nations and is looking for a trade advantage.
I have to admit right off the top that much of the article that I didn't understand, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard was, without explanation, throwing terms and concepts of money market trading around that I've no clue what they mean such as

In short, though, Europe is having problems because some of its nations are very weak financially, and others are stronger, but the single currency pretends that it's one single economic entity. That and the double digit unemployment and inflation that nations like France and Germany have struggled with recently are causing problems for the entire European union.

However, you might at this point bring up a question that commenter Golodh brought up:
The US e.g. manages just fine with one currency and various regions within the US with different strengths and their own boom-bust cycles.
and which commenter Jon Livesey answers this way:
That's because the US *does* match the definition of an optimal currency zone. In particular the US implements the third requirement of an optimal currency zone, which is to have a system by which the high productivity parts of the economy transfer wealth to poorer parts each year. The US call these "transfer payments". And they don't improve the productivity of place like Mississippi; they only keep the place above water. Mississippi is used to that.

The only way that the EU can match this is to introduce a similar system. And I don't mean the relatively minor payments we make to share the cost of that useless bunch in Brussels. It means all of the richer parts of the EU making pretty large payments to the poorer parts for *ever*. "For ever" because transfer payments are like charity; they keep you alive, but the remove the incentive to improve.

Look at the EU's own statistics. There are countries, like Portugal, which have been in the EU for a long time, and have received large subsidies every year, but have never budged in terms of GNP compared to the EU average.

The bottom line here is that if two countries' economies have already converged, then they can share a currency, but if they have not converged, then a common currency, plus subsidies, will just keep them in genteel poverty. Only their own currency, plus international competition, will definitively improve their economy.

Remember, Maggie reformed the British economy by keeping Sterling, reducing tariffs, reducing subsidies to industry, and throwing the country open to international competition. That's the reverse of the EU way.
Basically, the US is a single economy with various parts, like a nation having various cities or counties in it. Europe is a group of competing economies which have been artificially gathered under a single currency without a dominant economic plan or policy. It's an interesting experiment, but what the founding fathers warned could happen in the US is taking place in Europe, and it doesn't look good.

All this is not to say that a weak US dollar is good for the world or Americans, but that it has effects that are not being considered. For good or ill, the fate of the US economy is the fate of the entire world. If the US somehow plunged into depression, so would the rest of the world.

At present, the Euro is grossly overvalued in my limited opinion, and I have some theories why that might be so, in addition to the points Evans-Pritchard brings up. I suspect that Chinese and Russian money market manipulation (possibly with Iranian money) is working to weaken the US economy and power. I also suspect that individuals such as George Soros and others who have a vested interest in a poor economy in 2008 are working to manipulate the system. By themselves they couldn't do this much, but combined with the very high oil prices, you have a situation that could become serious.

Many people are looking at the world economy and seeing similarities to the era before the stock market crash and the depression, and certainly relying on skittish, idiotic stock market investors who tend to grossly overreact to the slightest stimulus is not very comforting. I can only hope that the influx of so many investors online will act as a dampening effect to the irrational extremes that big investors tend toward.
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Quote of the Day

"Just as houses are made of stones, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a collection of facts is not necessarily science."
-by Henri Poincare
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Songs I Like: Muddy Water (Johnny Rivers)

I washed my hands in muddy water
I washed my hands, but they didn't come clean

Johnny Rivers
Johnny Rivers is one of the best songwriters and singers you probably don't know. He wrote and sung many of the most well known hits from the 1960s and even into the 70s, but despite his popularity and success he's not very familiar to most people. You've probably hard him play Secret Agent Man without even knowing who it was. Rivers wrote 63 songs and recorded 18 albums, singing hits including Slow Dancin', Baby I Need Your Lovin', Mountain of Love, Parchman Farm, Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu, and many others.

One of these songs is a gem that I'd not heard until I got a compilation of Johnny Rivers hits, a blues song he did as a roadhouse rock and roll number called Muddy Water. Written about a life of crime, Rivers tells the tale of a young man who was told by his daddy to grow up better than he had. Wash your hands of crime, son, don't do what I did and end up in jail. Sadly, the young man didn't listen and the song is a metaphor of washing and the mud that doesn't come off.

Like a lot of old hits, I'd love to hear this one redone, I wish Johnny Cash had picked it up and I'd love a good blues musician to run it as a real blues song. There are so many old great songs that have been forgotten, someone bright and creative could make a terrific career of picking them up and redoing them as covers.

I was born in Macon, Georgia
They kept my Daddy in the Macon jail
He said, "Son, if you keep your hands clean, uh huh
You won't hear those bloodhounds on your trail"

I fell in with bad companions
I robbed a man up in Tennessee
And I got caught way up in Nashville, uh huh now
And they locked me up and threw away the key

I washed my hands in muddy water
I washed my hands, but they didn't come clean
I tried to do like my daddy told me, now
I must have washed my hands in a muddy stream

I asked the jailer, said "When's my time up?"
He said "Son, you know we won't forget
And if you try and just keep your hands clean, uh huh
Why we may just make a good man of you yet"

But I didn't wait to get my time in
I broke down, broke out the Nashville jail
I just crossed Atlanta, Georgia, oh now
And I can hear those bloodhounds on my trail

I washed my hands in muddy water
I washed my hands, but they didn't come clean
I tried to do like my daddy told me, now
I must have washed my hands in a muddy stream...
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