2009-10-30

FAS: Andrew Greer

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Continuing my "Best of Affiliates" series, which is featuring a few of the amazing musicians I have had the pleasure to play with that have recently released albums, including MK & The Gentlemen, Amy Stroup, Katie Warren, Manic Bloom, Andrew Greer, and Paul Banks & The Carousels, we hit upon the Nashville super-one-man-group Andrew Greer.

ANDREW GREER

Nashville artist Andrew Greer will make you think. Nashville artist Andrew Greer will also make you forget.

With his most recent release, Open Book, this Azle, TX native brings in a feeling of nostalgic wonder and has really come into a great sound all his own. Andrew finds the perfect balance with hints of country, pop, contemporary and indie stylings that keeps you on your toes and provides a thoroughly enjoyable music listening experience.

Teaming with such heralded artists as Ginny Owens and a plethora of successful Nashville musicians backing him, Andrew's natural composing talents really shine. He seems to always find the common thread that ties all people together, be it through his writing, composing, producing, or interviewing. No matter what the medium, Andrew's true talent is making people feel comfortable and at peace. He comes from a place of selflessness, servitude, creativity and confidence, all of which are shown throughout the album.

I first crossed paths with Andrew after my sophomore year of college when a good friend (and former band-mate) (and crazy talented person), Julee Duwe - who produced Andrew's GREAT music video, which you can see below - called me up asking if I wanted to do a small summer tour playing bass with some classmates of hers from Nashville. I jumped at the opportunity and soon found myself cramped in a silver Durango pulling a U-Haul across 5 states, practicing every morning and playing most nights. It was a great time in my life and one that I am very thankful for having. It was the only time that I have been what would be considered a "full-time musician" on the road.

The next summer I landed an internship up in Nashville at EMI records and Andrew and I shared an apartment. He almost killed me one time. And I introduced him to tequilla shots. We were bosom buddies.

He frequents Texas and Nashville concert halls and if you have a chance definitely look him up.


"Learning To Live" by Andrew Greer


"Emmylou" by Andrew Greer


"Gone Are The Days" by Andrew Greer - Music video produced by Julee Duwe



GONE ARE THE DAYS Official Music Video from Andrew Greer on Vimeo.

Cheers,

2009-10-26

What Will It Take for Senator Cornyn to Support Reform?

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{{w|John Cornyn}}, member of the United States...Image via Wikipedi)((a

Here is the Senator in a recent Op-Ed in the Dallas Morning News explaining why he voted against the Baucus Bill:
The nonpartisan Congressional_Budget_Office said the bill will cost $829 billion, but when it's fully implemented, the Senate Budget Committee estimates the real cost to be $1.8 trillion. Either way, it would still leave 25 million Americans uninsured, impose billions of dollars in new taxes and mandates, and cut more than $400 billion from Medicare. It would take away Medicare Advantage benefits from seniors, and make Medicaid the only option for 14 million Americans.
Or in other words, he's against the whole thing. You should really read the whole thing before jumping to any conclusions (click here for the full article), but let's take these one at a time shall we?

(Feel free to disagree with me in the comments)

1. "The bill will cost $829 billion, but when it's fully implemented, the Senate Budget Committee estimates the real cost to be $1.8 trillion."

That sounds like a lot of money doesn't it? The problem with this figure is that it is highly misleading:
The bill received an important boost last week when the Congressional Budget Office estimated that it would cost $829 billion over the next 10 years — well under the $900 billion President Obama had suggested — and would reduce the deficit by $81 billion over that period.

Senator Cornyn and I have similar concerns in that many of the cost saving mechanisms seem like pipe-dreams, but there are some actual revenue generators (see below).


2. "Either way, it would still leave 25 million Americans uninsured..."

One conclusion I'm completely confident making here is that Republicans do not believe that 46 million people are currently uninsured because they are too poor. Senator Cornyn admittedly might, but here's the standard talking point from Philip Klein in the American Spectator who claims, "the ubiquitous figure is highly misleading":
When all of these factors are put together, the 2003 BlueCross BlueShield study determined that 8.2 million Americans are actually without coverage for the long haul, because they are too poor to purchase health care but earn too much to qualify for government assistance.
Some are arguing that the Baucus bill doesn't go far enough to expand coverage, but that is primarily the result of lowering subsides to low income Americans in order to reduce the price tag. Here's a helpful breakdown of the two bill's in Congress:
Under the HELP Committee bill, 27 million people would buy insurance through an exchange, using subsidies that would cost the government $723 billion over 10 years. The Finance Committee bill would spend $461 billion for the 23 million people who would enroll in insurance through an exchange.

3. "...impose billions of dollars in new taxes and mandates"

One of the aforementioned revenue generators is the "excise tax" on Cadillac plans which would begin in 2013. Republicans oppose this measure, yet it is judged by some to be one of the best cost containment measures in the bill.

As for the mandates, it seem like a logical component when you consider the bill will also bar insurers from cherry-picking only the healthiest customers. Wouldn't a sensible compromise then be to require everyone to buy into the pool thereby lowering the overall risk, and provide subsidies to poor people to follow suit? Yes:
The HELP Committee bill includes an individual mandate that requires nearly everyone to obtain some form of health coverage or pay a $750 penalty, with a maximum of $3,000 for a family. The principles behind this policy are simple: Only by getting everyone covered can the cost of healthcare be spread more equitably and the health of Americans improved.

The Finance Committee started out with a very similar proposal, but it was watered down because of worries that people would be punished if they simply could not afford insurance. More people were exempted and penalties scaled back.

[UPDATE]

Or no, as Tyler Cowen explains in today's NY Times, "Why an insurance mandate could leave many worse off".


4. "and cut more than $400 billion from Medicare."

Looks like he's right on this one:
The Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and other health programs, identified $404 billion in spending cuts. Republicans have attacked those cuts as harmful to seniors, which could make them tough to keep.
I'll only add that the recent news that Democrats lost the fight to raise Medicare reimbursement rates I think proves our government's bipartisan appreciation for budget gimmickry. Passing temporary fixes to the Medicare growth rate formula (which is what this was) began some time ago and is now a time honored tradition that serves one purpose; the deficit looks smaller by implicitly assuming that Congress will one day cut Medicare by ~30%. They won't.

I don't know who has less credibility here, Dems claiming the bill is paid for with magical cuts or Republicans obstructing the bill over the proposed magical cuts. It does beg the question though, what's the deal with Medicare reimbursement rates?





5. "It would take away Medicare Advantage benefits from seniors..."

I don't know about you but when I read reports indicating that for every dollar spent on the program, $.14 cents is returned in value while the remaining $.86 goes straight to the bottom line of an insurance company, I get suspicious.


6. "...and make Medicaid the only option for 14 million Americans."

Senator Cornyn is perhaps correct here, but that's because the bill will expand the Medicaid to include households up to 133% of the poverty line. Which is great news for the working poor who previously couldn't afford insurance. This will impose a larger burden on the states however, but that might be a reason to nationalize Medicaid rather than to deny poor people access to insurance.

Then again I'm not running for office in Texas.

The full 1500 page bill is here.
------------------------------------------------

Bonus:

Kevin Drum passes along a helpful chart which explains why we spend $650 Billion more per year on health care than expected:

2009-10-23

FAS: MK & The Gentlemen

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MK & The GentlemenAfter a few week hiatus, the Friday Afternoon Song is back in full force.

In the past few weeks there has been an onslaught of great music coming out from some incredible musicians. And while they are all very different in style, they have one very important thread tying them together - me.

It was the plan to have a "Best of Affiliations" post, due to the massive amount of previous bandmates that are putting out records right now. MK & The Gentlemen, Amy Stroup, Katie Warren, Manic Bloom, Andrew Greer, and Paul Banks & The Carousels are all stellar, STELLAR, S-T-E-L-L-A-R musicians whom I have been lucky enough to play with at one time or another. But unfortunately all their albums aren't out yet for purchase, so instead I will push one a week.

This week's FAS comes from good friend, former band mate of Mick Kelleher and The Ray Smiff Project...


MK & The Gentlemen

That funky beard touting bard, Mick Kelleher, has done it again as he puts out his second EP, Mixed Tape EP.

Changing the moniker to "MK & The Gentlemen" (first coined on this poster), Mick's sophomore EP is a fantastic listen. The sound and writing have matured while still keeping the irreverant, tongue-in-cheek tales of bars, strippers and travels that promises a party where ever Mick plays. And the addition of horns and keys perfectly compliment the funky grooves and are reminiscent of Bob Schneider's early SCABS work (who he gives a subtle shout out to during "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang").

Mostly made of new work, he also brings back a remastered "Baby Come Back," a superbly remixed "Hollywood Hello," and redoes a WAAAAY early crowd favorite, "Go On." Those that have followed Mick from his beginnings opening up for College Station super-group Bobbing For Tucker will not be disappointed, while this album carries the momentum to pick up plenty of brand new listeners.

Also of important note, MK&G recently sold their souls to reality tv (we would all do the exact same thing if given the opportunity... but Kristi already shot down my goal of being of Real World/Road Rules Challenge). Be sure to catch Style Network's Dallas Divas and Daughters this week where the girls hit up a MK&G concert at the Dallas House of Blues. The song featured Mick and the song "Highland Park."

I had the pleasure to play with Mick during his start in College Station and travel back and forth to Los Angeles to record his first EP. I also got to work with him at Winter X Games, US Open of Surfing, and a few Dallas shows when he was still writing all the songs on the new release and he was just testing them out live.

There are too many to choose, and am tempted to put the whole album up, but I had to limit it. Take your pick below but be sure to pick up your own copy on iTunes.

"Tonight" by MK & The Gentlemen (explicit)

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" by MK & The Gentlemen

"Highland Park" by MK & The Gentlemen (featured this week on Dallas Divas & Daughters)

"Baby Come Back (Remastered)" by MK & The Gentlemen (featuring the bass stylings of yours truly)


** UPDATE - I just found out that AMY STROUP's song "Hold Onto Hope Love" will be featured this Sunday as well on ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" at 9PM CST. Man, two former band mates both on shows this Sunday... Be sure to check them both out.

Cheers,

Holy Traffic Jam Batman!

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Let me say two things about the new Woodall Rogers Park whose construction begins frustrating locals and tourists alike this weekend; first it's awesome, and second, Dallas Republicans now have two reasons to hibernate until 2012:

The Woodall Rodgers deck park may be beautiful when it opens in 2012, but for now it's going to mean traffic headaches in downtown Dallas.

This weekend, the Texas Department of Transportation will close the freeway in its entirety from 9 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday as work begins to prepare the corridor for the park, which will connect the Arts District to Uptown...

The park has sparked enthusiasm from nearby residents and downtown promoters alike.

In the meantime, however, Paul Dyer, director of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, said drivers should expect to be inconvenienced while the deck is under construction.

"I think the closure of Woodall Rodgers is going to be a pretty common thing for the coming year," he said.

Which helps explain our new motto, "Dallas, we'll see you in 2012."

Texas Lives Within Its Means

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At least that seems to be the implication in Lt. Governor David Dewhurst's Op-Ed yesterday in the Statesman entitled, How Texas Lives Within Its Means:

“Given recent comments about our state’s budget, I feel it is time to separate fact from political fiction. The fact is, in stark contrast to the U. S. Congress, the Texas Constitution requires the Legislature to balance the state budget every two years, and that would have happened with or without any federal stimulus dollars. In 2007, I led the effort to save $7 billion to balance the revenue shortfall we anticipated this year. So it’s simply political fiction that stimulus dollars were necessary to balance our budget.”

Three cheers for fiscal sanity!

Immediately following his statement, the Statesman thought Mr. Dewhurst's claim seemed a little too convenient and embarked on some fact-checking:
“In order to balance the budget this biennium, which is $182 billion, we used $14 billion in federal stimulus money to balance it. We’re not expecting a similar amount of similar money to be available in the next two years because the federal government just doesn’t have it. So, assuming that’s true, you go into the next session with a $14 billion hole.”

That was Texas Republican Sen. Steve Ogden, or as you and I have come to know him Dewhurst’s chairman of the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee. It's refreshing to see that the gears of government are turning so efficiently down in Austin.

2009-10-22

Vietnam Lesson One

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George Packer received a letter from Rufus Phillips, the author of Why Vietnam Matters, Afghanistan expert, and former CIA officer who passes along the following sobering analysis:

I’m afraid the President, who seems like a supremely rational being, is trying to find the most rational policy option on Afghanistan, without thinking about whether it is feasible given political conditions on the ground, as well as who is going to implement it and how. What seems the most rational option here could be likely unworkable over there.

This is part of what happened to President Johnson during Vietnam. He relied exclusively on policy ‘experts’ who understood military and geopolitical strategy in the light of World War II and Korea, but who had no direct experience combating a ‘people’s war,’ while underestimating the North Vietnamese and misunderstanding the importance of the South Vietnamese, who were treated as bystanders....

The outcome of the Afghan struggle is ultimately going to be determined not by our unilateral actions or geopolitical moves, but by whom the Afghan people wind up supporting, even reluctantly. Vietnam—Lesson One.

Needless to say, I'll be picking up a copy of "Why Vietnam Matters" in the very near future. In the meantime, all of you should check out this past week's Frontline special entitled Obama's War. For those of you who lack a proper understanding of the facts on the ground, like me, it does a great job of explaining both the counterinsurgency argument (spoiler alert: apparently a proper counterinsurgency would take ~600,000 troops) and why that approach may not make any sense in Afghanistan.

Full video embedded below.

2009-10-21

Ask and You Shall Receive

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Remember when I made the comment that I didn't understand why politicians obsess over job creation? If not, it's all here (plus some great reader comments thrown in as an added bonus).

Well almost as if answering my question directly, Ezra Klein recently posted Bill Clinton's disapproval rating vs. unemployment:



Based on this chart I think you could make the conclusion that the old adage of "people vote with their pocketbook" should really be changed to "people vote with their W-2 forms". Or in other words, job creation matters.

Not surprisingly then comes the realization that most of the stimulus package will not be spent until 2010 or later*, which will surely have an impact on employment going into the mid-terms in 2010 and the Presidential election in 2012. Some may say that well that doesn't really sound like much of a stimulus plan then does it? And they'd be correct, but then we're back to square one about politicians and job creation.

For what it's worth, the view I'm hearing from M&A / Private Equity professionals is that with consumers continuing to unwind and the expectation of uncertain revenues into the foreseeable future, businesses will continue to focus on cost containment. The unfortunate side effect of this is that unemployment will likely remain high in the near term.



*

2009-10-13

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Curtain

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(From the Chattanooga Times via Barry Ritholtz)

2009-10-12

What Do You Think About When You Think About Tort Reform?

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Four Trials by John EdwardsImage via Wikipedia

Medical malpractice reform is now synonymous with the conservative party. Unfortunately, Democrats now oppose tort reform almost entirely, claiming that it will have little to no effect on "bending the curve." The traditional line of thinking on why liberals oppose this type of reform is that they are in bed with trial lawyers who would stand to lose the most money. (One of the many derivations of this belief can be found in the urban legend that John Edwards is to blame for the yearly influenza vaccine shortage, thanks to a successful lawsuit against a vaccine manufacturer. A story which is patently false.)

However, med-mal reform in Texas has resulted in capping economic damages at $250,000, yet multiple cities are still > 2 x's the national average on a medicare spending / patient basis (click here for a helpful refresher).


So What Are We Really Talking About Here?

The few doctors that I personally know indicate that defensive medicine is the real culprit and is also perhaps the hardest to quantify. Thankfully, Philip Howard over at The Atlantic explains that this is also consistent with what the President has heard from medical practitioners, and then offers up a solution:
Creating special health courts is the proposal advanced by most serious observers to eliminate the incentives for defensive medicine--including by consumer groups such as AARP, patient safety groups, medical societies such as the AMA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and by such thought leaders as Bill Bradley, Mark McClellan, Newt Gingrich, and David Brooks.

Anyone care to venture a guess who opposes this idea? You guessed it:
But special health courts are vigorously opposed by trial lawyers.

So in other words, this unfortunately will not be a part of any bill coming out of Congress. If you would like to know the full list of tort reform proposals actually are, I've gone ahead and found those for you as well. You can thank me later (click here for the full article):


  1. Special health courts - Supporters believe that the system will compensate more patients at a dramatically lower overhead cost (in the current system, almost 60 cents on the dollar go to legal fees and administrative costs, with an average of 5 years to resolution). Most importantly, by providing a system of justice that aspires to make rulings based on accepted medical standards, special health courts should substantially eliminate the need for "defensive medicine."
  1. Caps on damages - Over half the states have enacted "tort reform" limiting non-economic damages, generally capping "pain and suffering" at $250,000. But doctors can still be liable, when they did nothing wrong, for millions of dollars of economic damages... and doctors in states with tort reform still say they practice defensive medicine. By way of comparison, other countries in the western world typically limit non-economic damages...
  1. Medical screening panels - About 20 states have a requirement that malpractice cases be submitted first to expert panels. The panels have decidedly mixed reviews. The AMA recently released an article surveying their effectiveness.
  1. Safe harbors for following practice guidelines - The idea here is to insulate doctors from liability if they conform to accepted guidelines. There are two significant issues here: Dr. Jerome Groopman recently wrote about this issue in a piece for the Wall Street Journal.
  1. Early offer programs - This idea, originated by Professor Jeffrey O'Connell, encourages defendants to make an early offer of compensation--and encourages plaintiffs to take it because it limits attorney fees to 10 percent.
  1. Apology statutes - Several states have enacted laws that encourage doctors who have made mistakes to be open with patients, with the inducement that the apology cannot be used as evidence. It does nothing to help the doctor who is wrongly accused of making a mistake, however, which is the fear that drives defensive medicine.

The article even provides a handy chart which breaks out of the merits of each proposal, and analysis indicates that the special courts seem to be the most effective. Anyone care to guess whether or not Congress will include any of these proposals?

"The Healing of America"

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On the eve of tomorrow’s Senate Finance committee vote, I thought I’d resume my former self-appointed role of unofficial health care linker/commenter. So if that sort of thing doesn’t tickle your fancy, you might want to avoid this site for the immediate future.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, a few weeks ago a friend sent along a NY Times review of T.R. Reid’s new book The Healing of America. In it, the author describes his adventures into 10 different country's health care systems all in an attempt to treat a stiff shoulder. A storyline that the NY Times refers to as a "gimmick", but admits that "what saves the book from slumping into a sack of anecdotes like Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary “Sicko” is a steel backbone of health policy analysis..." For example:

In Japan, and many European countries, private health insurers — all of them nonprofit — finance visits to private doctors and private hospitals through a system of payroll deductions.

In Canada, South Korea and Taiwan, the insurer is government-run and financed by universal premiums, but doctors and hospitals are private.

In Britain, Italy, Spain and most of Scandinavia, most hospitals are government-owned, and a tax-financed government agency pays doctors’ bills.

In poor countries around the world, private commerce rules: residents pay cash for all health care, which generally means no health care at all.

The book goes into much greater detail about the history of how each system was developed, and reveals that unsurprisingly, the differences in the underlying systems can produce vastly different treatments:
In France, a general practitioner sends him to an orthopedist (out-of-pocket consultation fee: $10) who recommends physical therapy, suggests an easily available second opinion if Mr. Reid really wants that surgery, and notes that the cost of the operation will be entirely covered by insurance (waiting time about a month).

In Germany, the operation is his for the asking the following week, for an out-of-pocket cost of about $30.

In London, a cheerful general practitioner tells Mr. Reid to learn to live with his shoulder. No joint replacement is done in Britain without disability far more serious than his to justify the expense and the risks, and if his golf game is that important, he can go private and foot the bill himself.

In Japan, the foremost orthopedist in the country (waiting time for an appointment, less than a day) offers a range of possible treatments, from steroid injections to surgery, all covered by insurance. (“Think about it, and call me.”)

In an Ayurvedic hospital in India, a regimen of meditation, rice, lentils and massage paid for entirely out of pocket, $42.85 per night, led to “obvious improvement in my frozen joint,” Mr. Reid writes, adding, “To this day, I don’t know why it happened.”

Interesting stuff! And if you are the type of person, like me, who prefers informed opinions over knee-jerk populism, then this might just be the book for you.

Click here for the full review.

2009-10-09

Obama's Saving Private Ryan Moment

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When I read that Barack Obama was this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Price, I actually started laughing. Since I'm sure most of you either had a similar reaction or just rolled your eyes at the 's news, I thought I'd pass along the following roundup of what people who get paid for their opinions had to say (Peace Prize Reax I, II , and III).


Here's How I Score It:


- Most accurate, George Packer:

President Obama should thank the Nobel committee and ask them to hold on to the Peace Prize for a couple more years...This seems like a prize for Europeans, not Americans, and I worry that at home it will damage him politically by reinforcing the notion that he is—and will be—a world icon rather than a successful President. I don’t mind him being the former, but I most want him to be the latter. Not even a Rookie of the Year is ready to be elected to the Hall of Fame. I’m afraid this prize will be bad for Obama. For political reasons and on the merits, he should quote Shakespeare to the Nobel committee: “As you shall prove me, praise me.”


- Most dismissive of the Nobel Prize in general, The Corner:
Here is a list of Nobel Peace Prize winners since 1980. There are some worthy recipients — Lech Walesa, Shirin Ebadi, Mohammed Yunus. But most Nobel Peace Peace prizes go to conventional left-wing types popular with European elites — Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev. Before they break out the champagne at the White House, they may want to pause over the fact that Obama now shares this honor with Mohammed el-Baradei, Yasser Arafat, and flagrant liar Rigoberta Menchu Tum.

- Most partisan, the DNC
The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists - the Taliban and Hamas this morning - in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize.

- My personal favorite, TigerHawk:
“YO OBAMA, I’M GONNA LET YOU FINISH, BUT I JUST WANNA SAY THAT MARTIN LUTHER KING JR WAS THE BEST NOBEL PRIZE WINNER OF ALL TIME.”

And just in case you want my official reaction, here it is: "Earn it."

--------------------------------

UPDATE #1: In the comments, Clayton pointed out that my quote from the Corner wasn't "fair", and after going back and reading their post I actually agreed. So to keep things fair, I removed the original reference and quoted them in full.

UPDATE #2: Here's Obama's take:
"Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations," he said at the White House. "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize."

2009-10-06

Bible Translators: The Original Liberal Bias

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Though I have to believe this is nothing more than an elaborate joke, words still fail (via Beliefnet):

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias

2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity

3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level...

Now at this point you might be thinking to yourself, as I did, that they are referring to "liberal" in the religious sense of the word rather than the political ideology. Then we read the following:

6. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning...

And on and on they go. Now I am as fervent a believer as the next guy that we as Christians should actively seek to obtain as thorough an understanding of the text as humanly possible, but reading the Bible as innately supportive of any modern political ideology is idolatry. But maybe that's just me.

More Conservapedia Colbert-bait here.

On a related note, could someone tell me what the emotion is called when an event simultaneously triggers both laughter and sadness?

2009-10-03

A Billion Here A Billion There

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Personally, I enjoyed the breakout of the pharmaceutical industry, but feel free to click on the picture below for the giant version and decide which is your favorite (h/t The Big Picture):

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