Archive for September, 2010

Revisiting the Declaration of Independence

Friday, September 24th, 2010

 I have the bulk of my retirement egg invested following Sound Mind Investing’s monthly newsletter.  I heartily recommend their book, their mutual fund, and their advice.

The editorial in this month’s newsletter regarding the state of our nation’s government and the upcoming election really resonated with me.  Please vote.


Revisiting the Declaration of Independence

 “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:16

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…

I have always been awed by the courage required of the Founding Fathers. Signing the Declaration of Independence was an act of treason against the king’s government. They risked everything in their desire for freedom.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

When I was growing up, these men, as well as their successors down through our history, appeared to be heroic, larger-than-life figures. They secured our freedoms, and then protected them from tyranny.

All experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer,
while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the
forms to which they are accustomed…

As I moved into adulthood, my youthful awe of our political leaders changed as I saw how decisions are made in “real world” politics. I was disappointed to see that our leaders weren’t always capable or principled or courageous. But because I still felt that our system of government, based on a three-fold separation of powers, worked more often than it failed, I was complacent.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably
the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism,
it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…

The last 30 years have gradually changed all of that. No matter how many Congressional candidates promised “change,” or which party controlled the White House, or who the new Supreme Court justices were, our national life has accelerated its decline. Our leaders became part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

The history of the present King is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…

What are we to do when our federal “servants” arrogantly rule with almost absolute powers? Although the Bill of Rights says the federal government has only those powers specifically granted to it in the Constitution (all others being held by the states or the people), the federal government behaves as if it were just the opposite.

He has imposed taxes on us without our Consent…

It’s immoral to seize our earnings with burdensome taxes. Studies indicate that federal, state, and local governments combined demand anywhere from 36¢ to 40¢ out of every $1 we earn[1], yet they still refuse to live within their means, piling an ever-growing mountain of debt on our children. Some might argue that we give our consent to these taxes through our elected representatives, but the evidence is that candidates are routinely elected who say they favor lower taxes (or at a minimum, promise not to raise them). Once they become part of the ruling elite, however, they betray us.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance…

The federal government depletes our productive energies through administrative strangulation and intimidation. Congress passes laws that impose tens of thousands of pages of regulations on us, and then turns their interpretation and enforcement over to millions of faceless bureaucrats who exercise almost dictatorial powers. They decide the rules by which we are permitted to live, work, play, and manage our own property and businesses.

[He has suspended] our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever…

State and local laws are routinely set aside by Congressional mandate or the federal courts. When we try to reclaim control of our local laws through the ballot box, they abolish referenda that have been approved by a majority of an entire voting population.

A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people…

Like the writers of the Declaration of Independence, we too are faced with the need to free ourselves from such a Tyrant. Next month’s elections give us an opportunity to elevate those with integrity and courage to fight a revolution. Let us look diligently for those among us who, like the Founding Fathers, are willing to say: That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

AUSTIN PRYOR
FOUNDER/PUBLISHER

Excerpted from Sound Mind Investing, America’s best selling financial newsletter written from a biblical perspective. Copyright 2010.
Reprinted by permission. For subscription information, call toll-free 1-877-736-3764 or visit their website at www.soundmindinvesting.com.

Do What You Love (it pays better)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Pop Economics is the blog I would write if I wrote only about economics, and if I were a little more thoughtful.

Some call the last 10 years the “lost decade” because stock growth has been flat as measured by the S&P 500 (though it didn’t have to be that way).  Pop points out that you can lose a decade for reasons other than investment:

After 10 years, our incomes have gone nowhere.

Much has been written about the lost decade for stocks. Right now, the S&P 500 is at 1,125. Its high in September 2000 was 1520. That’s a sad stretch.

But there’s another lost decade that was even more painful. And for those of you who are just starting out your careers, this one was a hell of a lot more important than the S&P 500′s storm. According to a recent Census report, between 2000 and 2009, the inflation-adjusted median income of American households dropped 4.8%. (Hat tip to the WSJ.)

Furthermore, the income of employees starting in a down economy can be negatively affected for many years to come.  So, what can we do about it?

Above all else, be good at what you do.  It is easier to be good at what you do when your work and your passions align.  Fortuitously, you’ll also be happier doing something you love – and that seems like an important factor in spending the majority of your waking hours.  Better yet, most of us don’t have an only thing that we enjoy.   That brings us to the line that pushed me to post:

 “Do what you love” is smart advice. But, if you’re a normal human, you probably have many interests. Pick the interest that offers the brightest future.

Hand Dancers

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Hmm.   This is different.

Holy Bat-geeks, Batman!

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I only thought I was a geek.

Someone made sorting algorithms audible – so you can listen to them:

And this guy might be worse – he wrote a song about sorting!
Sung to the tune of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler:

With all those random pivots, you’re gonna need to be quite lucky.
He said, “You might call it gamblin’, but to me it’s n-log-n”

Dishonesty and the Misuse of Language

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

OK, that title is a little misleading, but that is what the post is about.

I got two phone calls in as many days from telemarketers using words, shall we say, loosely.

I’m writing because

  • These conversations amused me enough to share
  • I searched for information without a lot of luck and this will provide a resource for the next guy
  • It’s easier to write about this than some of the other topics in my queue

Conversation #2 – today, 9:00AM

I answer the phone.  They are already talking, sounds like I missed a couple of words…
“… courtesy call from The Rate Center … the letter you received or will be receiving … your rates have increased or will be increasing … we might be able to help with the rates.

Press 9 if you want to speak to a representative …”

What the heck.  I press 9 to see what it’s about.

“Would you like to talk to someone …”

me: “Who is this?”

“This is The Rate Center.” (the tone of voice says ‘Duh’)

me: “The ‘Rate Center’ for whom?”

<click>

Additional research says these folks are using a spoofed number in caller id and they won’t give out contact info.

“Do you have caller ID?”  “Then you should already have the number.”

http://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/7780006544

I received a call this afternoon (8/20/2010, 4:50 p.m.) that not only was in violation of do-not-call regulations but was also misleading and dishonest. A recorded message was worded to sound as if it was from a credit card company we do business with and said that we would be receiving a letter about a rate increase, and if we wanted to negotiate a lower rate to press 9. When I pressed 9 (so I could get the name of the company and make a complaint) I was connected to a woman who wanted to sell me a new credit card at a purportedly lower rate of interest than my current card(s)?  The number showing on caller ID, 778-000-6544, is a sham. I asked what the name of the company was and she replied, “The Rate Center”.  When I repeated the company name back to her she became rude and raised her voice and hung up.
Caller: The Rate Center
Call Type: Telemarketer

We are supposed to assume that this is a call from someone with whom we have an account, and this is their ‘rate center.’

Conversation #1, earlier this week

I answer the phone

“May I speak with Elijah’s mom or dad?”

me: “This is his dad.”  I already smell a fish, but decide to play with him.

“… I’ve been assigned to Elijah … Your son checked off a box saying he was interested in <something about preparing for the SAT or improving his scores>”

“Has your son told you about the changes to the SAT format?”

No, he doesn’t typically talk about stuff like that, though we know all about them., “Why, no.  He hasn’t.”

I can tell he’s excited.

He tells me all about the new essay portion and how that makes it harder and increases the need for preparation.

“blah blah blah … self paced lessons on CD … twenty minutes two days a week … they will arrive in about 10 days … when you get them … if you decide to keep them …. just need to confirm your mailing address …”

Waitaminnit

me: “Hold on.  I never said I wanted these.  I have a few questions.”

me: “Where would he have ‘checked’ this ‘box’?”

“Perhaps at a career day at school, or after a practice test, or perhaps in the counselor’s office …”

We homeschool, and are pretty sure our son is not hanging out with any counselors or taking practice test behind our backs.

 ”Hmm.  That sounds pretty vague, and none of those apply to my son.”  I wish I hadn’t said that – it put him on guard.

me: “So, you are ‘assigned to’ Elijah – by whom?”

he sounds a bit off guard

“Um ‘Student Services’ ” (duh.  and a good parent wouldn’t ask)

me: “‘Student Services of what?

<click>

This one really ticked me off.  They are preying on parents who want to believe their kids are striving to improve, and taking advantage of the fact that most of them don’t know exactly what is going on at school.  They are using words that imply association with the school without really saying so.

Again, further research shows that they don’t give out contact information, the return phone number does not work.  The cost (“$50″ or so) turns into a monthly cost, and it’s near impossible to stop the recurring charges.  If your son or daughter is around to answer questions (such as where this ‘box’ might have been checked) they will hang up.

I’d kind of like to know the law on this one – if I can get them to send me something on trial without asking for it or saying I want it, and without giving out a credit card number (duh), can I keep it?