2008-10-31

The Tradegy of Unintended Consequences


Has our country's welfare system done more harm than good over the past 40 years? Watch the video below from the Acton Institute which focuses on Christian stewardship and effectively reaching the poor. It lays out the argument that government intervention has devastated our inner cities, and makes the point that the government is no substitute for family. What it does not say however is that the poor should be left to their own devices, so before nodding your head in agreement ask yourself what you're doing to help the situation.

(Brought to in part by The Daily Dish)



If you're mind works like mine, the question you're asking yourself right now is, "What caused this to happen?" (Before you jump to any partisan conclusions however keep in mind that the Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC, is one of the primary tax drivers to spur work productivity amongst the poor. It is highly redistributive and has been expanded by every President since it was originally enacted.) In searching for a reasonable answer to this question, I came across the following white paper from the Tax Policy Center entitled "Encouraging Work and Family Formation among Low-Income Men." It concludes:

Low-income men without children, and especially those who are African American, have left the workforce in great numbers in recent years, for a variety of reasons—especially their poor earnings opportunities. Current tax and welfare law discourages them from work by penalizing work, savings, and marriage—making government resources available more through unemployment or incarceration than through work or family involvement.
The paper focuses on data for low-income single men with no children dating back to the early 1990's, but the pattern in fact began in the 1960's. It seems that the tragedy of the liberal movement is to simply throw money at a deeply flawed problem, and therefore it should come as no surprise that the maximum tax benefits for the working poor come for a Head of Household (i.e. single mother) with two or more kids making $10 - 20k. However, the tragedy of the conservative movement is to build a platform around tax breaks for the wealthy.

The job creation argument that is derived from the trickle down theory is not the answer to a problem that discourages work for the poor however. Until the tax incentives are altered to encourage work for low wage earners and further strengthen the family unit by removing marriage tax penalties, the status quo is here to stay.

2008-10-30

Just Another Day on Wall Street


A day in the life of a stock trader brought to you by The Economist:

2008-10-28

Everytime Kat Perry Sings, Another Untalented Hack Thinks They Can Make It in the Music Industry


Starting in high school I all but gave up on the radio as primary source for music. Why did this happen you might be wondering? Well it's pretty simple; Creed happened.

More specifically though, it was thanks to the likes of pandora.com, emusic.com, Last.fm, SPIN/Rolling Stone, the iPod, and pitchfork.com (for when I want to sound particulary snooty) that radio became all but irrelevant. Also, in college I was lucky enough to leverage my years in the high-school band (insert nerd joke here) / marginal skills on the drum set to help start a moderately successful alt-rock band and a pretty successful cover band. Being surrounded by people who were actually passionate about music apparently makes you care about music as well (mob mentality is sometimes a good thing). And when you care about music it becomes easy to spot the frauds... Kat Perry is a fraud.

I am not saying that she's a bad singer (she isn't) or that her beats aren't catchy (I'll dance to them if our wedding band decides to play that sort of thing), it's her lyrics. I'm sure you've all heard the following poetic masterpiece from the song "Hot N Cold" currently playing incessantly on Clear Channel's radio waves:

"You... change your mind, like a girl... changes clothes."

By this one can only assume that she's accusing the antagonist in the song of changing their mind only after looking at themselves in the mirror and asking whoever is in earshot whether they look fat, but we'll just call that an educated guess. What I am sure about is that this is perhaps the worst simile ever uttered by someone that isn't named Chad Koeger.

So to help Kat Perry improve her song writing abilities, I strongly urge any and all OSS readers to contribute a phrase in the comments section below. Keep in mind that the original verse rhymes "clothes" with "know", so something like "You... write a song, like a child... writes a joke" would work.


UPDATE: Kristi brought to my attention the fact that Kat Perry also blantantly ripped off Jill Sobule's "I kissed a girl" from 1995.


UPDATE II: It may be worth mentioning here that sarcasm (to steal a line from Matt Chandler) is my love language.

2008-10-24

"...and I don't wear jerseys, I'm 30+. Give me a crisp pair of jeans and a button up."


This line from the timeless Jay-Z track “What More Can I Say” brings up a question that spreads to far more topics than just jerseys. When do you get too old to do certain things? What is the official age when a grown man wearing a jersey becomes unacceptable? Consider this the official age limitation on jerseys and other things….

Jerseys
Nothing looks more absurd than your local business man hopping on the 4 train to the Bronx, while pulling out his crisp #2 Yankees jersey and putting it on over his Brooks Brothers Oxford. This should never be allowed. However, all jerseys are not created equal.

Basketball- - 21. This one is unallowable pretty early, as the amount of skin shown and fitness level needed to correctly wear a basketball jersey has long passed most grown males. If you are old enough to order a tall frosty beer, you are old enough to fold up that old ugly Juwan Howard jersey and throw it in the trash

Hockey/ Football- 28 – The problem with most jerseys of this nature is that they are meant to be worn underneath pads. Unless you are at the gym every morning doing nothing but shoulder shrugs for a few hours each time, chances are you don’t fill this out. Also, a nylon jersey over jeans looks absurd.

Baseball- 40*- This can be worn much longer under the right circumstances. Don’t tuck it into your jeans. Don’t get your name on the back. Don’t wear it over a dress shirt. If you are to wear a baseball jersey, wear it to a weekend game, and nowhere else. It is completely unacceptable as a grown man to wear your old Astros Carlos Beltran jersey around town to shop for groceries.

Backwards Hats- 33
Many girls have told me that a man in his mid-twenties is too old to wear a backwards hat, which is complete garbage. You say immature, I say skin cancer on the neck prevention. The age at which backwards hats no longer are allowed should come at a point when you are at a level of responsibility at work, which would deem a backwards hat ridiculous

Going to your college town for a football game, followed by closing the college bars down after- 27
Have you gone back and done this three years post graduation? It’s getting a bit weird. It is perfectly acceptable to go back for a game, but pack up midway through the 4th quarter, hop in your car, and enjoy sleeping in your own bed instead of passing out outside your old dorm.

Watching MTV Shows (The Hills, Real World/Road Rules Challenge, etc..)- 30
You show me a man who claims to not enjoy watching Derrick fly off the handle on his 5th season on the challenge, and I’ll show you a liar. There is nothing more fulfilling than coming home from a long day at work, only to watch these reality tv veterans get too drunk, sleep with each other, and then get sent home by TJ Lavin at the end of the show. If you have arrived at the point where all of the challenge characters are people who were on the Real World after you were in college, it is time to let it go.

2008-10-22

BTHO Obama / McCain

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UPDATE: Welcome all Digg/Google users! I've recently noticed that this post has been getting a decent amount of traffic from these sites, so I thought I'd say thanks for stopping by.






A&M was recently ranked by the Princeton Review as having the "Most Conservative Students" in the country, so it should come as no surprise that the shirt on the left was the first to appear on campus. Recently however, local bookstores added the shirt on the right to appease angry Aggie Democrats (all 5 of them).


If you are a current or former A&M student (as I am) and are looking for a way to explain the emotions that this image stirs inside of you, the following clip from SNL's Weekend Update should do the trick (skip to the 39 second mark and replace AIG with A&M):


2008-10-20

How to Properly Argue About A&M Football


We aren't bad at football, we're a basketball program!

2008-10-15

"Show me a Man's Budget..."






…and I'll show you his priorities”

Joe Biden said that during one of the Democratic Primary Debates last year, and as a result I immediately knew I liked the guy. His point (if I remember correctly) related to the federal budget, but I believe that it more appropriately applies to each of us individually. What is it that we care most about?

To illustrate this point, just take a minute and examine how much you spend on the following items each month:

  1. Rent / mortgage payments
  2. Food / Bills
  3. Entertainment (alcohol, nice dinners, movie/concert tickets, etc…)
  4. High-end electronics
  5. A new car
  6. Home renovations
  7. Clothes / Jewelry
  8. Hair, Make-up
  9. Credit card interest
  10. Retirement Savings
  11. Education
  12. Charitable Gifts

I don’t know which is worse; that my money is usually gone before I reach #12, or that my priorities are ordered like this.

Blog Action Day seeks to raise awareness about the issue of Poverty, and the various ways in which we personally can take a stand against it. We are all called to do contribute in some ways, it's just a matter of what are all doing about it. Here's just a few ideas, but please leave any further ideas below in the comments section.

Do you love the idea of micro-lending directly to a person in a developing nation so that you can reuse this gift over and over again? Then consider joining a Kiva team, or picking a project on your own at kiva.org:


Or as wrote about last week, if you consider our government’s approach to funding our public school system to be a travesty, then consider giving money directly to teachers who know how best to use the money:





Do you love to shop online? Well try this company out, and let your consumer spending reward those in need:


Or maybe you lack the financial resources, but have a heart for those less fortunate? Consider joining Big Brothers / Big Sister and make a direct impact on the life of a child:








2008-10-14

Calculate Your Obama Tax Cut

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The Election has Officially Jumped the Shark


Yes We Carve!



Brought to you in part by the Daily Dish.

2008-10-13

Blog Action Day is Wednesday


This is a worthy endeavor and I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in addressing the issue of poverty to send me your thoughts via email or via the comments section. Due to work constraints my time will be limited to before and after hours, but I will try and re-post any worthy comments onto the main page as time allows.

Essentially what this event does is focus the blogging world (typically a selfish bunch) and their respective readers for one day to raise awareness about the crisis of poverty. Theday is about discussion, idea generation, and education, so ake a look and consider sharing your thoughts.



Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

What is the aim of Blog Action Day?

Blog Action Day is a nonprofit, grassroots movement of thousands of individual bloggers coming together for one cause.

Global issues like poverty are extremely complex. There is no simple, clear answer. By asking thousands of different people to give their viewpoints and opinions, Blog Action Day creates an extraordinary lens through which to view these issues. Each blogger brings their own perspective and ideas. Each blogger posts relating to their own blog topic. And each blogger engages their audience differently.

The purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

…the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

Out of this discussion naturally flow actions, advice, ideas, plans, and empowerment. In 2007 on the theme of the Environment, we saw bloggers running environmental experiments, detailing innovative ideas on creating sustainable practices and focusing audience’s attentions on organizations and companies promoting green agendas. In 2008 we aim to again focus the blogging community’s energies and passions, this time on the mammoth issue of global poverty.


2008-10-11

UPDATE: McCain, Is that You?


After reading my blog post yesterday (I'm assuming) the old McCain, the 2000 version of the man that is, made a showing this morning at a rally in Minnesota and finally set the record straight against the notion that Obama is an "Arab". McCain's comments from Fox News:

"No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

He had drawn boos with his comment: "I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."


He didn't go as far as I would've liked by making this declaration via a press conference so that everyone would pay attention, but my hats off to the man. 1 down, 9 to go.

2008-10-08

Vote For Sale!

4 comments

Ok not exactly but it is at least open for negotiation, so long as McCain can demonstrate the following 10 things before election day (with a few provisos for Obama):

1. McCain & Palin must hold a press conference on the issues of race and religion immediately. McCain must publicly state that Obama is not a Muslim, discourage anyone from using Obama’s middle name to infer that he’s a terrorist, and that race should no longer be an issue in this country. They should then both (along with Obama) state publicly that they will not support anyone who votes simply because of race. This is an example of why a speech is necessary, and this is an example of how effective a speech could be.


2. Sarah Palin must hold a press conference before election day. She is the least qualified VP candidate in our nation’s history, so until she holds a formal press conference with the ENTIRE mainstream media explaining why this shouldn’t matter, I can’t vote for McCain.

3. Stop the campaign ads (this goes for both candidates). We all have access to Google, 24 news channels, factcheck.org, etc… so we can tell that they're lying, and what’s worse is that whenever one side lies the other side gets to claim the moral high ground (as long as they can ignore the lies of their own candidate). Here’s a taste of just where the “post-partisan” politics we were promised have brought us, as well as the fact-checker:




4. Stop talking about tax cuts. The debt has increased by ~$5 trillion dollars in the past 8 years, we’ve seen one of the largest redistributions of wealth in a century (which for everyone claiming the regressiveness of Bush's tax cuts note that this is the reason why the top 1% now pays more as a percentage of total receipts than they did under Clinton), and we are currently fighting a war on two fronts. So until either candidate states emphatically that no one will receive an additional tax break until we can draw down our troop presence abroad, this point is moot.


5. Start talking about entitlement reform; with specifics. Something must be done regarding Social Security and Medicare before we reach the point of no return that Naomi Klein refers to in the Shock Doctrine.


6. Stop demanding that Obama admit that the surge worked. Even General Patreus admits that the decrease in violence we have seen over the past year could have been achieved without the surge. This is political posturing over an issue that fails to provide a long term strategy in a war that is costing our country $10B per month. The surge "worked" in part because of the following (though I'm sure there are some things I've missed):


a. A cease fire orchestrated by Al Sadr & Iran


b. Payola offered to the Sunni Awakening groups


c. Years of ethnic cleansings


d. A stronger Iraqi force


e. 20% of the population displaced to other nations; and,


f. More troops resulting form the surge



7. Stop talking about William Ayers, the Keating 5 scandal, or any other past associations. The problem with this attack is that a) it doesn't work and b) politics seemingly requires that a Faustian bargain of sorts in order to achieve one's political aspirations. Also, neither of these issues will help me earn the 20+% of my net worth that I’ve lost over the past 6 months, so consider me uninterested. Or as Sean Hannity recently found out, the guilt by association game is not one that anyone enjoys.


8. Stop with the incessant talking points and catch phrases. I don’t vote out of fear that Obama may be a secret Muslim or believe that John McCain shouldn’t be president because he owns foreign cars or doesn’t know how to work a computer (both Obama ads).


9. Republicans must stop booing whenever a Republican mentions the NY Times.


10. Stop talking about which politician is to blame for our current crisis. Sure the government enabled our country to spend beyond its means, but they did not force Wall-Street to enter into off-balance sheet transactions in illiquid markets where there were no adequate pricing mechanisms or risk models. This was a concerted effort by Wall-Street to do what they do best; make money. As an aside, I can tell you that a great number of the deals I see in the M&A world are back and forth conversations with banks looking to legally avoid a) tax positions and b) on-balance sheet recognition. But more on that later…

2008-10-03

"A Spirit of Giving" - DonorsChoose.org

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In my short time as a "blogger", the importance of passion has become abundantly clear. Passion (as I've written about before) is the primary reason why anyone would want to come home after a full day at work and write to an audience that either may not exist or one that may not even be interested in what I'm saying. It is however the purity of the process that seemingly keeps the authors motivated and the audience captivated. We write, you respond; it's that simple. But as this blog is nothing more than an outward expression of what affects me throughout the day, week, or month, you may occasionally be surprised/confused by what you find here.

Where Passion Meets Compassion
As a member-elect of the Village Church, I get to hear the incredible preachings of Matt Chandler on an almost weekly basis. Matt is a man who is passionate in his quest to understand Biblical truth and the person of Christ as opposed to any modern day misconceptions about His teachings (granted through the lens of the Baptist church). He recently threw out a stat that there are over 2,000 passages regarding the poor and oppressed, and that we are all called to maintain a "spirit of giving." With the credit crisis threatening to pull our country either into a recession or further into one, and the current national charitable giving percentage only at 3.1%, I thought it might be worth highlighting a silent victim to our financial distress.

In my daily travails around the net I came across a post by Fred Wilson detailing a new approach to funding our public school system; donorschoose.org. As Fred explains:

Donor's Choose, which runs this whole thing, is a great organization. When you give to a classroom project via Donor's Choose, you are not giving your money to anyone. Donor's Choose actually purchases the items the classroom needs and sends it right to the teacher. So those Xilophones will get bought by Donor's Choose and sent to the classroom in Greensboro, NC. There's a ton of technology automation involved. This is a "fraud free" way to give to needy classrooms and I love that.

For anyone claimimg to be free-market purist, this is the type of charitable donation you should be focusing on. There is no bureaucracy and no red tape.

I've added a widget to the right side of the blog to remind anyone who finds their way here to consider giving to this worthy and innovative approach. To illustrate the power of the blogging world, last year Sarah Bunting over at Tomato Nation raised ~$100,000, and currently Fred Wilson has raised over $6k thus far.

I've picked projects that focus mainly on math and the performing arts, as these were probably the two main influences on my adolescence and teen years (apart from sports and girls), but feel free to recommend any project you find that should be highlighted. If you want to participate in the challenge, you have to click on the widget to the right and give to one of the projects listed on that page.

UPDATE: My sister rightly pointed out to me that if your passion is micro-lending overseas, then KIVA.org may be more your speed.

2008-10-01

McCain-Palin '08 or Nixon-Agnew '68

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Last Friday I got into a discussion about the potential outcome of the Obama-McCain debate, which I believed would change very little as most Americans seemed to be looking to the VP debate airing tonight (I was wrong, Obama increased his lead). I also made the comment that Sarah Palin is perhaps the least qualified Vice-Presidential nominee in our nation's history. An idea that brought strongly worded denials and reminders of Dan Quayle’s tenure (side note: Qualye had 12 years in Congressman prior to becoming the VP) and Joe Biden’s ubiquitous gaffes.

At the time I had no valid defense against these attacks, and all I could was speculate. After scouring through each Vice President's biography on Wikipedia however, I found that there was indeed a former VP with an almost identical background to Governor Palin’s. Apparently I was wrong...



The above chart was prepared by pulling data from Wikipedia for every Vice-President, and plotting their pre-VP experience alongside one another. What I discovered was that if John McCain were to win the White House, Sarah Palin would virtually tie with Richard Nixon's VP (Spiro T Agnew) as the least qualified VP ever. Joe Biden on the other hand, with his 35 years in Congress would become the 4th MOST experienced VP in our nation’s history. But does any of this matter?

To determine how Agnew and Palin's nomination compared, I uncovered the following insightful passages from Wikipedia (emphasis added):


Agnew's moderate image, immigrant background and success in a traditionally Democratic state made him an attractive running mate for Nixon in 1968. In line with what would later be called Nixon's "Southern Strategy,"

Agnew's nomination was supported by many conservatives within the Republican Party and by Nixon. But a small band of delegates started shouting "Spiro Who?" and tried to place George W. Romney's (I swear I didn’t make this up) name in nomination. Nixon's wishes prevailed, and Agnew went from his first election as County Executive to Vice President in six years — one of the fastest rises in U.S. political history.

Agnew was known for his tough criticisms of political opponents, especially journalists and anti-Vietnam War activists… In short, Agnew was Nixon's "hatchet man" (or pit-bull) when defending the administration on the Vietnam War.

And then we find this ominous nugget of truth:
By mid-1971, Nixon concluded that Spiro Agnew was not "broad-gauged" enough for the vice-presidency. He constructed a scenario by which Agnew would resign, enabling Nixon to appoint Treasury Secretary John Connally as vice president under the provisions of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Yet while Nixon excelled in daring, unexpected moves, he encountered some major obstacles to implementing this scheme.

Nixon viewed Agnew as a general liability, but backing him could mute criticism from "the extreme right." Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who was to head the reelection campaign, argued that Agnew had become "almost a folk hero" in the South, and warned that party workers might see his removal as a breach of loyalty.
And finally:
On October 10, 1973, Spiro Agnew became the second Vice President to resign the office... [after pleading] no contest to criminal charges of tax evasion and money laundering, as part of a negotiated resolution to a scheme wherein he accepted $29,500 in bribes during his tenure as governor of Maryland. The bribes were paid to Agnew by some members of the construction industry to get their projects approved.

So to summarize, in 1968 (exactly 40 years ago) we have Richard Nixon, a Washington insider who "excelled in unexpected moves", running a campaign based on restoring our nation to a sense of stability during intense unrest brought about in part because of a very unpopular war. A man whose decision to appoint a Washington outsider with only 2 years of experience as Governor simply to shore up his appeal with Southern conservatives (thanks to the man's pit-bullesque attacks against the anti-war liberals and an almost “folk-hero” like stature), would both bring him both praise from his base and derision from others who demanded that a Romney no less be given the title. And then we find out that this same man was in fact proven to be unfit for the Vice-Presidency and was ultimately forced to resign based upon questionable actions taken during his brief role as Governor.

And you want me to vote for this duo again in 2008?

UPDATE: A few friends inquired what my overall point was since Nixon won both the '68 and '72 elections. While that is true, I believe that if you're going to make comparisons between Nixon and McCain, the correct link would probably be the 1960 election, which Nixon lost thanks to an exciting yet inexperienced JFK. I should also point out that Nixon won in 1968 in part b/c of the following (all of which benefit Obama):

1. An unpopular war connected to the opposing party (at least that was the view at the time)
2. No incumbent president
3. An unpopular view of the residing party due
4. A very large expansion of government connected to the opposing party

Also my point wasn’t to debate that experience should be the only qualifier for the VP (Nancy Pelosi for example would be a terrible choice). I was merely pointing out that Palin's inexperience is virtually unprecedented, save for Agnew's nomination. A point that isn't all that interesting until you understand that Agnew, as a Washington outsider, carried a great deal of value in an election running on anti-Washington sentiments, and that once Nixon was elected Agnew became a liability very quickly. The parallels are undeniable.

UPDATE II: Digg this post!

UPDATE: III Saw this over the weekend, and thought it was worth posting

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