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Monday, March 31, 2014


Man, I cannot figure out this new housing director we have in town.  He called a meeting of the town council and got his proposal rammed through late at night and the next morning we woke up to it.  It is supposed to get rid of a few homeless people roaming our streets.  What it says is that it has now become mandatory for anyone found after sundown who doesn’t own a home in our city to rent a house.  Well, at first that sounded good to me, since I am a landlord and it sure looked like things would be rented up more.  But then he kept delaying the definition of sundown so that now it is 3 am.  And he has granted 27,000 exemptions for homeless people he liked and drinking buddies who frequent bars until the wee hours. 

     Then he was going to double the number of poor who get Housing Assistance.  But the state doesn’t know anything about this and they refuse to go along with the scheme.  So a lot of people are required to get housing but can’t afford it.  And they get fined $95 if they have no house. Then he issued a decree that people could “speak for” my properties but pay nothing if they found a house on his website.  So about half my houses have received no payment but are sitting empty and locked up.  He told the renters if they liked their house they could keep it but then mysteriously gave eviction notices to half the renters in town.

    And then we find out that each home must have certain amenities.  Every house must have a TV.  An Amish family objected.  The Little Sisters of the Poor had to subscribe to the Playboy channel.  Every fridge had to have a meat dish and the vegans filed suit. 

    Meanwhile all the other landlords are retiring, closing their practices, or boarding up their properties.  If you aren’t part of a large landlord consortium, you can’t get paid rents.  But if you join, you may never see your own houses.  Everybody is put in a pool.  You get calls to fix a roof or plunge a toilet in another landlord’s rental. Last week I had to go feed a pit bull 3 times daily while a family was on vacation. 

   And meanwhile we got more homeless people milling around the streets than ever before.

    The other day someone lamented, “What can we do? What would the founders of our town do?”  I just nodded and said we could storm city hall, demand an impeachment.  The Founders would be shooting by now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Random Stuff

     Sometimes I don’t understand.  We had a Ukrainian Criminia Surprise.  Just fix it.  Have the Ukes insert a Second Amendment and then every adult male between 18 and 45 get a gun.  We can supply ‘em. The United States has 89 guns for every 100 citizens, double the number of the number two country and about 10 times as many as Europeans.  Hitler told Albert Speer (“Inside the Third Reich”) that he won’t invade USA and wanted a truce after he had cleaned up on Europe because the Americans were armed to the teeth and independently minded, a horrid country to try to occupy or invade. Just have Homeland Security send Ukraine a billion dollars worth of rifles like the ones they have been buying in inexplicable numbers.  Forget Obama’s billion dollar loan guarantee.  Then send the NRA.  Classes start tomorrow morning.  Did you know 23% of Poles and Ukrainians live in an urban area compared to 55% of Americans.  They’re rednecks!  “Dudes! Have you seen Duck Dynasty?”

     Then a geologist friend tells me there is a massive gas shale beneath the Bohemian plateau.  Send a bunch of Okies over there.  “We are going to teach you guys how to frack.”

     And Putin can just deal with it.  By the way, if you know Soviet history, they often massacred hordes of natives in the surrounding states and moved squatter Russians into the homes and businesses.  That is what happened in Latvia and Estonia where half the population was either killed or displaced to Siberia.  Now Vlad the Impaler cries crocodile tears over these poor Russians left behind in border countries. Do not trust this guy one inch!

     Some things I don’t understand.  After 9-11 I figured that there would be a big public outcry about illegal immigration if some illegals were caught being terrorists.  The borders would surely be closed in panic, the student visas would be tracked, and we’d all be required ID cards.  Boy was I wrong!  We had the Boston Bombing by two Chechen illegals which killed 4 people and America yawned.  Well, I guess the Dozer-car guy goes on trial this week, but no one seems to notice.

     The other thing I don’t understand why we don’t fix/repeal affirmative action.  We had a mentor kid (from our local group home—system kid) who was of African extraction who confessed one day his friends had been making fun of him because his parents were ‘white’, meaning us.  At that point Marcus and I decided to stop using words like black and white and make note that all humans are some shade of brown.  With the rise of so many who are mixed race today, why don’t we dispense with Affirmative Action as a noble but useless and now irrelevant exercise.  If someone like Marco Rubio were to champion this, I believe he would strike a chord with voters.  Aff. Act.  only divides us by races.  Its help is dubious to the people it was supposed to help.  It stigmatizes them to boot.  Moreover, results of similar programs the world over have been bad. See S. Africa and India and Malaysia.

     Malaysia resembles a Jimmy Carter Malaisia economically.  Malays, the native population are known as bumiputra and they are a majority.  When the British empire ruled, the Brits let Indians and Chinese immigrate in large numbers and that is why Singapore is today a Chinese city-state.  Foreigners were enterprising and grew rich.  So when independence came, the wealthy foreigners were a sore point. Thus the state adopted a New Economic Policy or NEP which gave the native Malays preferences in university admissions, civil service jobs, and hiring in general (such as airline pilots).  Corporate Boards even had quotas for Malays.  What happened? Brain drain of Chinese and Indian populations citing ‘social injustice’.  Political parties are fearful of touching this Third Rail lest the bumiputras get mad.  The country has not grown  economically due to all the regulation of manpower.  Now the country is being skewered by the world news media for being lax or decietful with Flight 370.  But the real problem is Aff. Act. Malays talk about Ali-Baba companies.  That’s where a Malay lends his name (Ali) to a Chinese guy (Baba) to get an advantage in starting a company.

     Affirmative Action started out in USA to protect Afro-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, but everybody wants to be a privileged character and so it now includes people who descend from 33 different nationalities. But while college undergraduate enrollment of privileged minorities has doubled since the eighties, academic performance and number of graduates has not done much.  Maybe it is time we concentrate on the content of character rather than color of skin.  And judging by the 2012 election, where Barack Obama used vast scare tactics against Romney’s ‘whiteness’ to herd minorities to the polls, I don’t think it has helped us become a post-racial society at all.

    And then the latest insult people are feeling is “microagression” which is like when someone doesn’t understand your culture.  Man, if I had a dollar every time some urban kid called me “farm boy” when I attended St. John’s College, I’d be rich.  Half of ‘em thought brown cows give chocolate milk and cowboys were “mean” to carry a rope.  One guy was stunned to learn that a Big Mac cost half as much in Kansas as in New York City.  A friend of mine told about his Massachusetts relatives getting scared of an Indian attack when they drove across the Flint/Osage hills and maybe they would have a flat tire.  Get over it! Don’t let it affect you! Educate them!

     The NCAA will receive $800 million this year for March Madness.  Most major colleges make more money off sports and sports attire than they do off tuition.  So if Truth in Advertizing Law requires Sausage and Gravy to change the name to ‘Gravy With Sausage’ when the amount of Gravy is in the majority—then should colleges have to rename themselves Athletic Program with Auxillary School of Learning?  At least they ought to pay athletes a small stipend like they do graduate students who teach a lab class.  Say, $500 a month for a wrestler and $1000 for a football player.  If you don’t get paid and you make a fortune for your master and are required to participate in order to later earn your freedom—isn’t that the definition of slavery? 

     You know all that talk of Minimum Wage?  The way they usually rank Min Wage around the world is as a percent of the country’s median wage. USA doesn’t even rank in the top half.  Turkey, France and Slovenia are the highest with minimum wages around 60-70% of their median.  So would you rather be Turkey/France/Slovenia or USA?  Rather have a high minimum wage or a high median wage?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Income inequality

     This guy told me about how he hated the rich.  Since we went to the same church, I just nodded and said that my parents always taught me not to worry about what someone else made.  It is counterproductive to your own focus and goals in life.  It is a violation of the last commandment about jealousy and envy.  And the rich often get burdened with their riches and forget God, so envy them?  Moreover, Jesus taught that life is about other things than money.  Money just counts successes in your walk and stewardship God wants you to have. Having money should be a celebration of your own freedom and a stewardship. And we should be eager to personally share our wealth, not take it from the rich.  On the other hand, to serve money and be its slave is spiritual disaster.  So, I don’t hate the rich.  I shrug them off, wish them well and wish them the freedom which benefits us all.  You know, that guy just harrumphed and walked off on me.

    Another guy said that he didn’t know anything about economics but he always did better when the Democrats were in there.  I paused and told him, You know, the last 5 years under Obama have been the best ones financially of my life.  Aha! He countered.  You should tell that to your lousy Republican friends!  Okay then let me tell you how it worked out for me.  Here’s how I find myself with newfound resources for retirement.  In every recession, there is a bubble that bursts and sends us into recession.  In 2007 it was housing.  In 2000 it was dot coms and  phone stocks.  In 1973 it was too much inventory.  But in the aftermath of this recession, Obama decided not to let the bubble just sell itself off.  If that would have happened, housing would been cheap for a year or two and then recovered smartly.  Instead, Obama bailed out the bankers and they didn’t have to come to terms with their mortgages.  Housing went through a dull 5-year depression.  Money wasn’t being lent.  Housing has finally come back this last year.  Those 5 long, ugly years gave me time to buy a bunch of houses at half price or even better.  Now they provide huge income for my retirement.  It’s strange, I told him, why Obama bailed out the bankers and not the homeowners. 

     And then he and the Fed agreed to buy bonds and put money in the hands of Wall Street.  Stocks went up and we have had an enormous ride.  Why they would stimulate Wall Street rather than Main Street, I do not know.  But I was pretty well invested for the simple reason that once something has been down for a while, it usually comes back up.  So now instead of worrying myself to death over my savings, I’m stunned at the nice nest egg. 

    But who can celebrate?  I look around at a lot of people who lost jobs and are struggling.  There are fewer people working full time now than in 2009.  Less freedom for businesses.  More healthcare uncertainties.  Christians being persecuted for their beliefs.  IRS targeting conservatives. Putin taking what he wants. It’s weird to me.  If Obama had an R behind his name and did this same stuff, he’d be much-hated, but with a D he is popular at least among the Dems.  So have you done well, yourself?  I looked around and that guy had left.

     Finally another guy said, The Rich don’t pay their fair share.  I certainly agree, I responded.  The upper 1% pay 40% of all taxes and that’s certainly not a fair share.  You know it is funny when a country has just a few wealthy people like Russia’s oligarchs, and the government gets all their revenue from those people, then the government really depends on those guys.  If the oligarchs do well, so does government.  If not, government starves.  It then becomes  the goal of government to do all they can to support these robber barons.  The rest of the people don’t count, bunch of serfs, just give ‘em food stamps. But big government and the big rich are in cahoots.  So what I’d like to see is we go back to the days of JFK when the richest 1% pay about 15% of all taxes and everyone else pays something, pays more, so that we all have some skin in the game.  And get the poor people back to work rather than on entitlements.  That’s how folks get to be proud of what they do. That was Camelot.    I looked at the guy and he was staring at me as if I was from Mars.  Then he changed the subject.  I just don’t understand why these guys don’t want to talk about the subject of income inequality with me.  Do you understand it?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Patrick of Ireland

     I taught Confirmation Class of 7th and 8th graders yesterday and asked if they had ever read about St. Patrick.  Nobody had.  So I gave an off the cuff 5 minute story which I tell here.  If you are interested in further reading, there are numerous biographies and Cahill’s “How the Irish Saved Civilization”.

     Patrick was a teenager from Roman Briton swimming at the beach with his buddies one day in about the year 397.  Some fierce Irish Celts ambushed them and made them slaves and sold them to Irish Chieftains.  The Irish Celts had a system.  They gave slaves a gunny sack to wear and put them in charge of about a hundred head of cattle which were free-ranged on the Irish hills.  The slave had to herd the cows, day and night, winter snows, summer heat, rain, come what may.  If they lost too many calves, the Irish overlord beat them mercilessly.  This was Patrick’s fate for about 10 years.  He learned the land and his job, and fought loneliness by praying.  Patrick became in essence Irish. Not just a prayer a day but hundreds of prayers as he went about his work, talking to God incessantly.  And he had dreams.  Finally one day, a dream came with orders to leave, so Patrick, not knowing where he was, just walked off the plantation and eventually walked to the seashore.  It is amazing that no one bothered to stop this runaway slave.  Patrick saw a merchant ship and went to talk to the sailors, telling them plainly that he was from Breton and wanted to go home.  Sure, said the crafty sailors thinking they would sell him to another Irish tribe.  So they invited Patrick aboard and set sail first for the coast of Gaul (France), to trade a few things. 

     When they got to Gaul, it looked like all hell had broken loose.  The seaport had been burned to the ground and no longer existed. There were no inhabitants or animals.  It was the year 408 AD and the previous winter had been a record cold one.  The Rhine river rarely freezes but had frozen so solidly that the opportunistic barbarian Germans across the river could walk across.  Over a quarter million Germans swarmed over into Gaul pillaging villages which the Roman Empire, occupied with politics, could not defend.  This is what the stunned sailors confronted.  After futile searching for food, the starving sailors taunted Patrick about praying to his Christian God.  Patrick looked them squarely in the eye and said that if they would pray with him, then God would provide for them as He had done so many times for himself.  So the agnostic sailors tried a moment of faith, and in the midst of the prayer, a herd of hogs came running over the hill and down the road straight at the men.  A feast.  At which point the men began to say maybe they should take this slave kid home since he had some sort of power they dare not be against. 

    Home in Britain, Patrick struggled to catch up in school and muddled through.  He became a priest but wasn’t much good in robes.  But he still prayed tirelessly and had dreams.  One night a dream called him across to Ireland again.  And so, despite being a fugitive there, he obeyed.  He walked right into the head chief’s judgment hall and told his story boldly, bravely, passionately, and managed to share the gospel story with so many analogies from the Irish countryside, the chief was impressed.  In a warrior society, bravery, a good storyteller, passion, strength, and loyalty were the signs of a great fighter.  And the “king” decided that he wanted to be a Christian like Pat.  Patrick went out with the king’s blessing and laid the gospel on his former owner, who was moved to faith.  From top to bottom of the isle, he traveled preaching the message and converting the Irish.  But he also taught them how to read and farm as well.  For a generation, as Western Europe collapsed under the barbarian invasions, Ireland civilized. 

   Upon his death, the Irish, who now had monasteries around the country and were copying not only scriptures but also Virgil and Cato and Plato eagerly, decided that they could do no better than to become little Patricks and take the gospel message back to the continent and convert those bloodthirsty barbarians.  Over about 2 centuries this happened and much of the classic Greco-Roman literature we have today were books saved and carefully carried back to Ireland and recopied. 

     And so it is no surprise that the Irish are a bit put off by Americans who have made their patron saint’s day into a big beer bust.  Patrick of Ireland was a significant historic figure, the first Christian missionary after Paul, the guy who brought civilization and salvation to the Celts who in turn saved much of Christianity in the Dark Ages.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What guys realize

    If you grow up a guy, you soon learn stuff.  You learn that you are bound to be in a fight every once in awhile.  Sometimes the other kid swings at you or shoves you down.  At such times you had better be ready to defend yourself, even if it’s furtive and you run away after a defensive move.  And you learn that talk only goes so far with some others.  Talk all you want, but if that person thinks you have insulted their sister or threaten them, they are going to get physical.  At such times it is also possible to avoid violence by showing a strong readiness to fight.  Only then, do some opponents back down, having rethought the situation given that they might be in for some harm themselves.  This is about  the only way to dissuade a bully.

    USA faces a bully in Putin, who is taking what he wants at will and what he wills might include marionette strings for Europe.  Clearly, there are good suggestions for joining military maneuvers with Baltics all the way to Romania, threatening to send trainers to Ukraine if Vlady makes more moves on Eastern Ukraine.  Krauthammer has a dozen good suggestions.  Read them at  But will Obama?  I doubt he does anything much.  The reason is in his narcissism. Narcissists think they are the smartest guys in the room, that the world revolves around them, that they can talk and convince anyone of anything.  This explains why Obama knew beforehand about the fact that Obamacare would cost most people their doctors and policies, would cost at least $2500 more not less—yet he argued just the opposite.  No sane and cautious politician would do such a foolhardy stunt.  Likewise Obama thinks foolishly that he can simply scold Putin and make him stand down.  Not a chance, but only us humbler souls can see this. 

    And concerning our foreign policy, we need to project strength, lest we get beat up by every opportunist from the Ayatollahs to Kim Jung Un to Putin. Even the Dems now say that maybe Obama will be shocked into change.  I doubt it.  He will continue to think he can just persuade magically.  Meanwhile he wants to cut Defense from $678 B to $572 B.  Our only hope is to not succumb to this disarmament.

    Sarah Palin has more balls.  Obama just has golf balls.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ukraine--what you don't read.

I guess I get this yen to research foreign countries from our keeping of many exchange students in the 90's.  Much of what you read in US press about Ukraine cannot be correct.  This morning AP had a story about how the country was divided in two--Ukrainians and Russians.  But Economist published a map of the 30 or so 'regions' (we'd call them counties) in Ukraine.  In only one, Crimea, are the Russians in the majority.  In the eastern provinces they comprise 25-40%.  In the North and West it is more like 10%. The country has other minorities in abundance as well--Tartars, Moldovans, Poles, Germans. Moldovans are half-German and have asked for independence in the past.  
    Hence to conclude that the nation is simply two countries and must logically be split is about like saying that California needs to be given back to Mexico because it is 40% Mex.  Duh.  What I suspect is that the AP reporters are liberal Dems who want to have an excuse for Obama when he does absolutely nothing in response to Putin.  And so if Putin annexes part of Ukraine, the AP hopes we will all see that as sour grapes.  Russia deserves to get part of the country back. 
    Here's the second fallacy.  It is breathlessly reported that the Russians are all Orthodox and the Ukrainians are Catholic so there is an irreparable divide between them on religion.  If that is true, then why are half the Ukrainians Orthodox?  And why are so many that I have talked to who lived there telling me stories about how in the communist days they never asked whether you were Prostestant, Catholic or Orthodox when they met another closet Christian.  They were just so Glad to find another believer, they rejoiced.  I suspect that it is divided somewhat like Orthodox and Catholic are here.  The Orthodox Church has a dogma that other Christians aren't for real but in practice they love to compare ministries and jokes about 'church'. 
    Kiev is the ancient capital of Russia, so all Ukrainians swear that this is their true capital, both the Russian speakers and the Ukrainians.  But the eastern part of the country is full of coal mines and steel industry while the east is farming almost entirely.  This gives a cultural difference.
    The opposition parties have been led by mamby pamby populists who muffed their rule after the Orange Revolution in 2005.  The Regions party of Yanukovich and Russian interests was oppressive with kangaroo courts and KGB-like tactics.  Apparently a majority of the people want reform.  So the Regions party MPs voted to oust Yanky along with the opposition party folks a couple weeks ago.  This desire for modernism and not "Back to the Soviets" is evidently a strong desire.  If the Russians take over Crimea, they may have problems.  The minority Tartars are violent in culture and strongly opposed to being part of Russia, seeing Ukraine now as their best hope of their own country after centuries of Russian domination.  Look for guerilla warfare. 
   But I would also look for Putin to take what he wants, to try to extort Ukraine for a buffer state, and for Obama to not do jack spit.  Meanwhile the West is faced with  an enormous challenge of helping Ukraine put in place democratic institutions--fair and reliable courts, a somewhat balanced budget, IMF assistance, Western businesses.