Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fashion Statement

I got one of these wristbands in the mail yesterday from the Adam Smith Institute. It says "I buy goods from poorer countries." I'm pro free trade. You can get one for FREE at this website.

In other news, I wasn't the only blogger to notice the contrast between the WSJ article and NY Times article on Monday. Funny thing is that new data came out on Wednesday that proved the NY Times article wrong, and countered what they'd printed on Monday

"Perhaps the biggest surprise in today’s report was a surge in wage-and-salary income during the first half of this year. Between the fourth quarter of last year and the second quarter of 2006, it grew at an annual rate of about 7 percent, after adjusting for inflation, up from an earlier estimate of 4 percent...compensation makes up a larger share of the economy than it did throughout the 1950’s and early 60’s, as well as during parts of the mid-1990’s and the last couple of years."

So, wages and benefits are growing faster than inflation... hmm... sorry about your luck NY Times.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Waco Poverty Data

The Census Dept. released part of its 2005 ACS today, which is a household survey of information. Unadjusted 2005 information for Waco is out too.
There's a high margin of error in their stats, and some of them appear to contain typos. That's bothersome.

Following up on my previous post about Waco and poverty, this is how things have changed since 2000:

The population of Waco city has fallen. From 113,726 to 107,146.

Per-capita income has risen from $14,584 to $17,344. That's an 18.9% increase.
The increase in prices (according to the CPI) for the U.S. was about 23.1%. So, by this consumption deflator you'd say real income has fallen by 4.2%. That doesn't include total compensation, however.

The poverty rate (% of people below the poverty line) is unchanged, just like the nation's poverty rate. 26.3% of people are poor, 16.9% of all Waco families.

The unemployment rate has risen from 11.6 to 12.1%. I'm now questioning this unemployment rate. I think it's misreported. I'm going to get to the bottom of it. The survey doesn't include those living in the dorms or other group homes. Maybe it does include Baylor students in surrounding apartments and that skews the data somehow...?

So, overall, Waco remains in the same state as it was in 2000. Population is actually declining, while the population and overall wealth of the suburbs is growing.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Battle of Ideas

(Aside: I was actually saddened to see my hometown all over the national news yesterday).

Note: This blog will probably be heavy on the economics this week. I'll try to make it interesting.

The Federal Reserve put on its annual Economic Symposium at Jackson Hole, WY this weekend. The Wall Street Journal reports that out of the weekend came a paper by 2 economists who offer evidence that offshoring has actually been good for wages of unskilled U.S. workers.
By outsourcing by offshoring, a firm increases its productivity and the productivity of the workers who work in the remaining jobs of the firm . The firm is then able to expand and hire more workers (maybe those who lost their jobs due to the outsourcing) and it can pay some of those workers more than it could previously.

The Wall Street Journal is a conservative newspaper.

The more left-leaning New York Times, however, countered with its own headline: "Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity." It points out that real wages have gone down 2% since 2003. While wages have gone down, other benefits have increased (stock options, insurance, etc.) But, according to the Times, in the last year total compensation hasn't been keeping up with inflation. The Times says it may partially be due to offshoring.

So, we have 2 competing ideas/outlooks. Where do we meet in the middle? The first article argues that without offshoring the wages of workers would be lower than what they are now. The 2nd says that factors like immigration, technology increases, offshoring, etc. have led to a decrease in "bargaining power" by unions & workers.

So, let's meet in the middle:
  1. The recent rise in oil prices has helped erode "real" income, since prices are higher and the $ buys less than it did a year ago. That's been the case in the past year, which is what the NY Times's article is really about.
  2. Increases in technology have boosted productivity, but wages haven't matched it in part due to the increases in immigration.
  3. Without the offshoring of jobs overseas and the increases in productivity leading to expansion of firms, the income situation for workers would be even worse in 2006 than it actually is.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Facing the Giants

"Football is just one of the tools we use to glorify God... We'll praise Him when we win, and we'll praise Him when we lose." - Coach Grant Taylor

Facing the Giants is a new football movie coming out on September 29. It was written and produced by a church in Georgia. It's a very, very good movie.

If you want a movie that has real people with real problems dealing with a real faith, then this movie is for you. Check out the website.

Joni and I got to see a sneak preview of it last night. We laughed, we cried, we cheered. It's not a cheezy Christian film. It does a good job of presenting the Gospel by demonstrating the power of Christ in real circumstances.

I think it's better than Remember the Titans. It's being released through Sony Pictures at theaters nationwide on 9/29. It was actually given its PG rating because of its "explicit Christian content." Soundtrack includes Bebo Norman, Third Day, Mercy Me, and others.

They didn't use professional actors for the film. The high school players you see are actually high school players, some of them small, scrawny, and clumsy. The plays they run are real plays. So, it has a very real-life feel to it.

For you Lexingtonians, it'll be in 2 theaters there. Show up and bring everyone you know with you.

The "giants" in my life are calculus and matrix algebra. I'll be working problems all weekend with the help of God. So, I'm just going to leave this post up until Monday.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Let's Move On

The long political nightmare for Kentucky is over. The Governor is cleared of all charges, while accepting responsibility for those in his administration who took "inappropriate" actions and "made mistakes."

After a judge ruled 2 weeks ago that Fletcher couldn't be prosecuted the AG finally realized he had no case. He wants to run for Governor himself and can't do that while his office is running a politically motivated prosecution. So, his wrecking ball did its political damage and he can turn the machine off now.

So, everyone shakes hands and walks away.

(Longer Herald-Leader version).

I don't like Greg Stumbo (if you've read this blog at all you'll know that). I also don't like self-righteous political partisans, no matter what party they are with. I've read too many articles about too many of those folks in the past several months.

Fletcher is a man of many hats: Air Force fighter pilot, engineer, medical doctor, lay pastor (with some seminary training if memory serves), state senator, U.S. Congressman, Governor.

The election of a man of his intelligence and integrity is the best and most hopeful thing to happen to Kentucky in a century. The Republican campaign apparatus he had to ride to get there and the idiot "crusaders" who violated the hiring laws is the sad price that was paid.

Sadly, due to personal illness and this vindictive investigation led by a Democrat, many of his initiatives have gotten bogged down or thrown away.

But, at least the ordeal is over for Fletcher's family and friends. Maybe now they can all get back to work making Kentucky a better place.

For readers who are in-the-know: You'll not find any discussion of Trey Graves here for a reason.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?


Billy Donovan looks like Eddie Munster. So, who’s afraid of him?

Kentucky fans, that’s who.

Proof? ESPN.com is running a poll today: “Which coach or GM is most likely to repeat as champion?”
a) Mack Brown
b) Bill Cowher
c) Billy Donovan
d) Ozzie Guillen
e) Pat Riley

Billy Donovan got 20% of the votes. The state of Florida (where he coaches) voted 30% for Donovan. The state of Kentucky voted 32% for Donovan. Kentucky’s votes for Donovan were the most of ANY state.

Pat Riley has the most votes, 43%. Kentucky gave him 39%, which is fewer votes than many states despite the fact that Riley is a UK alum. (88,000 votes cast so far).

We fear Billy Donovan. I voted for him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Reviews

On our trip to Gulf Shores my wife and I listened to 3 books:

This book is on the bestsellers list. It's a great look into the methods that the U.S. used to snag terrorists and get information from them to catch more. You may remember various terror alerts throughout the years, like the one issued for the New York subway system. This book gives you the behind-the-scenes of why those alerts were issued and what information they were based on.

The "one percent doctrine" was crafted by Dick Cheney. Essentially, if there's a 1% chance that something will happen then the White House treats it as an absolute certainty. This has led the U.S. on many wild goose chases, and a 1% chance that maybe someone in Iraq met with someone in Al Qaeda helped lead us into our Iraq war.

This book is definitely to be watched with The Dark Side. That show gives you names and faces of the CIA operatives in this book who have since left the agency disgruntled. It also shows you how Cheney and others really beat the drum of Iraq long before 9/11. I also recommend reading it with Bush at War by Bob Woodward. Suskind leaves out much of the details of war in Afghanistan since Woodward had already covered them so well.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 4).


We drove on the Terry Bradshaw Passway through Shreveport, so it was only fitting that we listen to Terry's book. He reads the book himself, so it's filled with his own excitement and laughing at his own stories and jokes. That's what makes it fun.

A short book, filled mostly with off-the-field stories. Bradshaw opens with a very honest look at the broken marriages in his life and the things he's ashamed of. But, his faith is important to him as a sinner saved only by grace. Some of his stories are boneheaded, others are kind of interesting, most are humorous. The story of how he almost came to Baylor was one I didn't know. He came here thinking it was a place where everyone was God-fearing. Then, one of the members of the football team offered him a beer from a six-pack he kept under his bed. That turned Bradshaw off.

Rating: 1.5 stars


I love Bob Schieffer and the CBS Evening News. I've never watched Face the Nation on Sundays because I'm always at church. This book gave a good look at both television history, and political history through the lens of the Sunday morning interview shows.

Some great stories in here about Ed Sullivan and Fidel Castro, about Reagan and Iran-Contra and more. Good history. One of the most fascinating tidbits was a story about when the Pentagon Papers were released by Daniel Ellsburg during the Nixon years. Schieffer and co. didn't ask one of Nixon's top men about it when he came on the show the following day. If he had, it may have changed the course of the Nixon administration's actions against Ellsberg, which would have perhaps prevented them from breaking in at the Watergate, which would have changed history.

I enjoyed this book. Bob rules.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

Day 1 and I'm sitting in my office during my "office hours" wishing I'd brought some of my textbooks to read. I've got last week's Economist though, so that will have to suffice.

Today was Day 1 of teaching. I went through the syllabus in 15 minutes. I had the major points highlighted on powerpoint and just went through them hopefully covering everything. They were shocked to be let out so early but left the room quickly before I could change my mind. We're going to fly through the next few chapters.

I'm not just going to teach my students, I'm going to indoctrinate them with a healthy dose of the free market.

Other news of note: As previously mentioned, former UK quarterback Shane Boyd is trying to get on with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He went 6 of 17 for 83 yards on Saturday. He also had 1 run of 17 yards. He's trying to be the 3rd stringer.
Jared Lorenzen is also trying to maintain his backup position on the Giants. He's not been so impressive, though. Guess he doesn't need to. But, now he's competing with Rob Johnson.
You're still huge, Jared.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Our 1st Anniversary

Very long-time readers will recall that it was 1 year ago today that Joni and I got married.
Here's a post from my archives to remind you. And another post about our honeymoon.
We're proving to be a good team. Marriage has a lot of ups and downs but it's worth it. Luv u very much babe!

So, on this 1 year anniversary I'd like to make an announcement:

For the upcoming football season I'm going to track how the Sagarin ratings fare versus the Vegas point spread. I'll pick probably 8 college teams to track, and probably track every NFL game. At the end of the season I'll write an article about which had the smallest margin of error, was most reliable as far as W/L, etc.

I'm also going to look at these NFL Fantasy Football magazines' and websites' predictions for player perfomance (yards, receptions, etc.) and compare them to the real totals at the end of the season. I'll write an article detailing which magazine had the lowest margin of error, and my own thoughts on whether some actual statistical forecasting models are more appropriate.
If anyone has any magazines that have these cheat sheets and predictions, please don't throw them away but rather save them for me to use for research.

I'm so romantic.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Vacation Update

Good weather, surf, fishing, and fun times here in Gulf Shores. Very pretty water. We saw a huge manatee the other day right off the beach.
So far I've caught mackerel, catfish, mullet or whiting, and a lizard fish. That's right: A lizard fish. It's the ugliest most frightening thing I've ever caught. Filled with teeth.

My father-in-law caught a shark, and my wife's brother-in-law helped a 90-year old man haul one in too. Fun times on the pier at Ft. Morgan.

Last night we had a huge NFL Fantasy Football draft. It was simulcasted with the McKee family in Ohio. I got some solid picks and some highly questionable ones. I got Phillip Rivers in the 2nd round, baby.

In the Did You Know? category: Shane Boyd is playing with Pittsburgh in the preseason. He'll play on Saturday night. Former Henry Clay High School star and UK quarterback (who sat most of his career on the bench behind Jared Lorenzen). Now he can sit the bench behind Big Ben.

Also, the CPI came in lower than expected, with core inflation only 0.2%. That's much better than it was last report. Looks like the Fed was right at holding off on a rate hike after all, the previous hikes must be doing their job...?

So, good news and good times. Tonight I'm looking to get some good seafood.

Back in Waco on Saturday.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"They call me Thomas, last name Crown

Recognize game, I'm gonna lay mine's down..."

We're off to Gulf Shores tonight to rendevous with the Strimple/McKee families. So, next week I'll be wasting away, but maybe not looking for my lost shaker of salt.
Rumor has it that an X-Box is coming with NCAA Football, so I may never even see the beach!


School starts up the following week. I just moved into my new office today. It needs to be decorated.

It helps to go out on vacation to the tune of some good news: Judge blocks prosecution of Fletcher.

If you see me blogging again it'll be from the seaside. Until then, adios!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I don’t know how I missed this one:
From the New York Times: Detroit’s Answer to $3-$4 Gas: New Muscle Cars

So, gas prices are going up, fuel efficient hybrids and compact cars are selling like hotcakes, and GM is struggling to compete with Japan, having suffered massive losses last year.

Their answer? “Let’s build muscle cars!” A 325 horsepower version of the Ford Shelby GT, a new big Lincoln luxury car, and a new Camaro.

Funny thing is how they tout how these cars as being really fuel efficient. Well, compared to a Hummer, maybe. But, compared to a Japanese car? Not so much.


This is apparently the president of the Ford Division of GM. Is that a mullet?? That explains so much.

"By contrast, Toyota, Honda and Nissan have all introduced small cars in the last few months, all of them sold overseas.
“'It is a mistake and it’s very disappointing,' said John Casesa, managing partner of Casesa Strategic Advisers in New York. 'I just think it shows that Detroit still has a business model predicated on low energy prices.'”

If you own stock in GM then you probably wish you sold it all yesterday.

On Learning Lessons the Hard Way

This is a sad story, but was too true to pass up posting. Tom Friend of ESPN has written a story for ABC News.com about Maurice Clarett's last night of freedom and a phone call that Friend received from him shortly before being arrested (just click the link if you want the full story).


Clarett was a star running back for the Ohio State University, who basically learned he could take short-cuts in life and get payed for playing football. He was suspended from OSU before his sophomore season and dropped out, trying to enter the NFL Draft in 2004. He sued the NFL to allow him to be let in at such a young age, and lost.

He accused Ohio State of paying him, and said that they suspended him only when he threatened to blow the whistle. Apparently, he has since made amends with his former coaches who were trying to reach out to help him before his arrest.

While awaiting the 2005 draft, everyone expected Clarett to get a trainer and work hard. Instead, he moved to L.A., befriended rappers and gangsters who sponsored him with mansions, cars, and cash. They thought they'd be rewarded with millions once he became an NFL star.

He quit on his trainer because he was too insecure to be seen working out in public. He was overweight and out of shape. He wanted any gym he was working in cleared out so people couldn't see him. He didn't want to run on a track at a high school in front of a bunch of high school kids who might know who he was. So, he chose simply not to work out. He found another trainer who has been accused of supplying steroids to his clients.

Mike Shanahan of the Denver Broncos took a chance on him because he has made a career out of developing running backs. Clarett clearly had a substance abuse problem of some sort. He refused to show up for weight training, and asked that the weight trainer be fired. There were allegations of other inappropriate behavior. Clarett even demanded to be traded, even though he didn't have a contract.

The Broncos offered him a standard contract with a $400,000 signing bonus. Clarett ignored the advice of his agents and refused. He negotiated a contract that was filled with incentive-based clauses. He'd only get paid if he performed and went to the Pro-Bowl. He dictated the terms himself, as if he'd dominate the game that he was now too overweight and out of shape to play.

He then suffered a groin injury and sat out for 18 days, refusing to play. The Broncos cut him as a useless cancer on the team. He earned nothing.

Then, while Clarett was thinking about playing overseas, he was charged with burglary and assault in Ohio. His career was over. He was now deeply in debt to his L.A. "friends," with no way out. He was stopped on Tuesday for a traffic violation, and the police had to tazer him to subdue him. They found several loaded guns in the car, and he was driving nearby the house of one of the witnesses scheduled to testify against him. He was paranoid and desperate.

Now he's in jail, and likely to stay there for a long time. His last phone calls that night were to tell friends that he was now the proud father of a daughter, and to thank them for their support of him.

This story is worthy of Tapp University curriculum. I take 3 things from this story:

1). Everything worth having in life has to be worked hard for. There are no short-cuts.
2). We all have to swallow our pride and ignore our insecurities if we want to achieve goals.
3). None of us can dictate the terms of our lives. We all are handed certain disadvantages. It's how we deal with those disadvantages and adversities that seperate us from being champions instead of being "what ifs?" or has-beens.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Reason #448...

...why I hate Major League Baseball:

MLB went to COURT today to say that they OWN baseball players' statistics and people like you and I can't use them freely to publish newspapers and run fantasy leagues without paying THEM for publishing players' stats! Think about this: In Bud Selig's world, newspapers and magazines can't print a box score or a batting average without paying MLB first.

"Major League Baseball claimed that intellectual property laws and so-called 'right of publicity' make it illegal for fantasy leagues to make money off the identities and statistical numbers produces by professional players."


The judge disagreed: MLB players' stats are clearly public domain.

"U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Medler ruled in the 49-page summary judgment that baseball and its players had no right of publicity to their names and playing records, as they had claimed."

How desperate can Bud Selig be for money? How unconnected to the fans can this man be? What a jerk. RESIGN, RESIGN, RESIGN!!!

A Letdown

Apparently, I was among the minority of economists who were betting on the 21% chance that the Fed would raise rates today. I was wrong, but I was in good company. Some of the most respected economists in the industry worry that the Fed should have raised rates today. Jeffery M. Lacker, Fed Governor, was one of those.

Bernanke's previous statements have made him look weak on inflation. Many felt like he needed this meeting to establish a strong anti-inflation reputation and then he could back off the rates.

Instead, we got a "wait and see" answer. Judging from a compilation of quotes by Fed Governors, ""Inflation should perhaps remain at these higher levels for the next few months and then we expect ... the inflation outlook will then taper off in the more long-term horizon."

What is the evidence that inflation will go away? That energy prices will eventually plateau? That labor costs will remain steady?
I was hoping Bernanke was listening to the same news reports I was this morning:
Wal-Mart is raising wages.
Airfares are going up.
and this, prices are going up for household items.

They also are banking that their previous decisions will be enough to stem inflation. You have to factor in the lag of when previous interest rate hikes finally have an effect.

"We are at a delicate point for policy. We are close to the end of the road (but) exactly where is the end of the road is really hard to say. We need to watch the data and keep our minds open. The policy calls at this point are quite tricky and data dependent.
"We don't know what the lags are with precision, but we still need to do the best we can to take take them into account. The path for the economy looks quite desirable; the (policy) lags are working out OK. "


Now the market will again be on edge waiting for new CPI data to come out. Then, we'll wait on pins and needles again to see if the Fed has ascertained its job to be complete or not. I gather that's partly why the market has not responded with great enthusiasm. Maybe the market finds today's decision as unsatisfying as I do.

Monday, August 07, 2006

When the Whole World is Watching

So, i wrote in my article yesterday about September gas prices, and then this happens. Crude shoots up $1, and gasoline futures prices start going nuts. It appears to have calmed down back to $2.23, however with the gov't saying we'll tap our emergency reserves to offset the supply shock.

I'm glad I'm teaching introductory macro in the fall. There's not been a more tense and interesting time for the U.S. economy since 9/11 than there is today. Everyone is watching what Ben Bernanke and the Fed Open Market Committee is going to do tomorrow at about 2:15 EST.

Economist Brad Delong has written a good article about what risks the Fed has to consider in making its interest rate decisions. So has Martin Feldstein, who thinks the Fed will raise rates tomorrow (both are quoted today on Delong's blog). Delong's take:


Make no mistake about it: The U.S. economy is close to the edge. Retail sales in the second quarter were rising at only a 2.1 percent annual pace. Business investment in equipment and software was falling. Residential construction was falling. Either households will continue spending beyond all reason, or businesses will start boosting investment, or exports will start booming, or there will be a recession sometime in the next year. Figure the odds at 3 out of 10.
What can be done to head off the danger? Unfortunately, very little. The bag of macroeconomic tricks is empty.

I agree with Feldstein that:

The Federal Reserve has a difficult task ahead. It is understandable that it would like to achieve the soft landing of low inflation with continued solid growth. But that may not be possible. And if the Fed wants to convince the markets that inflation will be contained in the future, it must show that it is willing to take the risk of tightening too much.

Gas prices and "price gouging."

Gasoline prices, at a very local level, are always amusing to me. Why is gas at the RaceTrac on Valley Mills Dr. at $2.80, but the Shell around the corner is at $2.95? The Diamond Shamrock is currently at $2.89 after holding at $2.81 earlier in the week. Why is that?

In Lexington, KY and some bordering states, gas prices often jump by 30 cents at a time. Economists are studying this phenomenon. Gas stations appear to be undercutting each other until they’re losing money, then they adjust and raise prices to a normal profit-making amount. That’s an extremely competitive market. Consumers benefit on days when their gas is $2.74, far below the national average.

Greg Stumbo, Kentucky’s idiot of an Attorney General, is actually going to take some of these gas stations to court for these wars. His office is still fighting its war to bring down the governor while the AG himself has been indicted for not paying child support. He won’t say he’s running for governor, but then shows up at KY’s official election kickoff and starts stumping for legislation. I loathe you Greg Stumbo, I wish you'd resign, and I hope you’re listening.

More extreme cases of price wars have been seen locally (but I was too late to grab an article). Here’s one in New Mexico that got down to 49 cents a gallon. What always gets me is the man on the street who says “Gas prices should always be this low. Why can’t gas stations charge low prices all the time?”

I don’t have a complete answer about differences in prices on the same street, but this is what I can say:

1. Gas stations pay a price for a shipment of gasoline, and factor what the expected cost of the next shipment of gasoline is going to be into their current price.

2. Gas stations compete in pricing. They’re always on the lookout for what their competitors are doing, knowing roughly what their competitor paid for a given shipment of gas. The RaceTrac knows the Diamond Shamrock is making 5 cents profit on the gallon, so they lower their own price to earn 2 cents, and then DS does the same. Competition.

The Department of Energy posts fuel prices every week. They take a survey of what it costs at the pump, and you can easily track what the price of refined gasoline is.

Companies like Shell buy crude oil, then refine it (adding to the value), then distribute it. They have other overhead costs for their gas stations, and the TV ads you see that also have to be paid for. Each state adds a gasoline tax, the % of which varies among states. Here’s a breakdown of the average makeup of the price of your gasoline:

One can surmise that the more marketing behind a product, the more they’ll have to charge for gas to cover their costs. RaceTrac is pretty low-maint.; their card readers don’t always work right, and you don’t see any advertisements for their stuff. Thus, they can charge less for their gas than Shell or Exxon. You also have to add in the new ethanol additive. That’s selling for about $2.56 a gallon, pretty expensive itself.

Here’s how the price of refined gasoline tracks the price of oil:
Gasoline prices rise when refineries get shut down due to hurricanes. That usually creates a glut of oil waiting to be refined (thus lowering oil prices) and increases gasoline prices as there is less gasoline to go around.
The price you hear most often on the evening news is from the “futures” market. It tells you the price of the contract of having a shipment of gas delivered to you in the future (September). The price for a gallon of gasoline shipment in September is $2.23 (as of Friday).

Let’s put the above pictures together. If the price of gas is $2.23, and on average we know that represents 76% of the price, that means on average, gas will be somewhere around P*0.76 = $2.23
P = $2.934 on average in the U.S. in September.

So, if you go to your particular gas station in September and it’s less than that you can surmise that:
a) the gas tax is lower in your state.

b) your gas station doesn’t have as many other overhead costs.

If it’s significantly less than that, however, you can determine that a temporary price is in play and that you’d better buy gas fast before it goes back up.

If the price is much more than that:

a) The gas tax in your state is higher than average.

b) There’s some other costly issue at the gas station (installing filters for the new ethanol additive).

c) There's some added cost to transportation where you live (like out in the boondocks).

d) The station is trying to recoup its losses in a price war. Other stations follow suit with similar high prices.


e) There is "price-gouging" or collusion among the gas stations. Highly unlikely and extremely rare.

So, next time you complain about the price of your gasoline check what you're paying against what others in the U.S. are paying. Then, compare that to the price of what oil costs, and refined unleaded costs. Then, remind yourself what the rest of the world is paying.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Weekly Kids in the Hall Clip- Business Suit Trappers

This is great!

Friday, August 04, 2006

eBible

Recently, I received an email asking me to evaluate eBible.com. eBible is a Bible study website, similar to http://www.biblegateway.com/ and http://www.bibletools.org/. As part of their beta promotion, they are enlisting bloggers to evaluate the site and invite other interested parties to join.

I decided I’d use eBible to prepare this week’s Sunday school lesson on Colossians 2:13-14. Highland is doing a churchwide study on who we are as believers, and this lesson focuses on how forgiven we are in Christ.

The power of eBible is that it’s easy to multitask in studying. You type in the passage you want, or a topic you want to search and it brings it up on screen. You right click on a verse and it brings up the option of bookmarking it with a tag so you can look it up later.
You can also right-click a verse and choose a commentary you want to read from. It lets you use Nelson’s Illustrated Commentary for free. To access other commentaries, you must first make a purchase of them. You can organize all the commentaries you to look at on-screen while you study.

It has all of the major translations, including the ESV and NASB. You can also buy many books and commentaries from the site. It might become the premier Bible study site.

Advantages:
You don’t have to open up multiple windows on your desktop to multitask commentaries. It’s more interactive like desktop Bible software.

Disadvantages:
Still in beta test mode with all the kinks and foibles that go with it.
You have to pay to use some commentaries, such as Matthew Henry’s, which are free for use on other sites.
It’s still not as quick to use as regular Bible software. (I’m also not a big bookmarker or tagger, but if you are then it’s great for you).

If you’d like to have access to the eBible website just drop me an email, and I’ll email you an invitation. My only request is that you vote on the poll on the right hand side of my blog (if you’ve not done so already).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Props to Milton Friedman

Sorry for the lack of good posts lately, I've been finishing another huge term page paper. Muchos gracias to my wife who proofread it and made it better.

On Saturday, we went to Dallas to the giant Half Price Books store. I picked up a copy of Free to Choose by Milton Friedman. It's a classic, and I've been wanting it for a long time. I also am borrowing the PBS video series which was made soon after publication (1979-80) and presents the book to a wider audience.

Milton is one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. He forever altered how people view monetary policies ("Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon"), and has always been a strong proponent of less government and more free-market. His birthday was on Monday, he turned 94.

The Wall-Street Journal recently did an interview with Milton and his wife Rose, "The Romance of Economics." Milton and Rose published several books together as a team, and they're a cute old couple now.

I thought I'd post some quotes from Milton about current affairs.

Is immigration good or bad for the economy?
"Neither," says Friedman. "But it's good for freedom. In principle, you ought to have open immigration. But with the welfare state it's really not possible to do that."

Is Friedman disappointed with the Bush administration's spending policies? (Friedman has always been known to be a Republican)
"Yes." Friedman's ideal government: "A Democrat in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress." This, in the 1990's, led to good U.S. fiscal policies that gave us budget surpluses.

What are Friedman's views on Iraq?
"What's really killed the Republican Party isn't spending, it's Iraq. As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression."

His wife, Rose, thinks that the war wasn't a mistake and is not aggression. They agree to disagree. "This is the first thing...that we don't agree on. We have disagreed on little things, obviously -- such as, I don't want to go out to dinner, he wants to go out -- but big issues, this is the first one!"

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rambo vs. Castro


So, I'll join with Miami in rejoicing that perhaps Fidel Castro's reign will soon come to an end. The man has outlasted 10 U.S. Presidents. The U.S. has had a post-Castro contigency plan since JFK's administration.

The news seems like a great break from the Middle East. I guess because it's a throw-back to the Cold War, and the Cold War seemed more victorious for us on all fronts than the War on Terrorism. Agreed?

Speaking of resurrecting the Cold War, Sylvester Stallone is producing Rambo IV! Personally, I would have written a script that had Rambo going to Cuba to free some hostages and start a Democratic revolution. In the end, Rambo could smoke a Cuban cigar and say "You know, these things are really good," while children dance around him in jubilation.

But, no, Stallone apparently called Soldier of Fortune ** magazine and asked them where the worst man-on-man conflict was. They told him Burma (aka Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me). So, Rambo will go back to Southeast Asia and free some missionaries being held hostage there. I'll probably go see it in the theater.

So, here's my tribute to "throw-back week" in the national news.

**Tidbit you probably didn't know about Justin: He was an avid reader of Soldier of Fortune while in high school. It's probably second only to The Economist as far as covering obscure conflicts in obscure countries.
Another tidbit is that he owns a copy of Rambo III on DVD and really enjoys watching it.