Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Decentralizing Power is the Essence of the American Ideal

It is probably accurate to say that America was founded upon the colonists’ desperate desire for decentralization of power.

During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the British Parliament passed a law in 1582 that made it treason, punishable by death, to worship in any way other than that permitted by the Church of England which, of course, was controlled by the queen.

When King James took the throne upon Queen Elizabeth’s death, one thousand hopeful clergyman signed the Millenary Petition in January of 1604 asking for greater freedom and purer worship within the state-governed Church of England.

King James scorned their request, declaring “I will make them conform themselves or I will harry them out of the land.” The king correctly recognized that a free church was inherently a threat to the centrality of his power. “I will have one doctrine,” he said, “one religion in substance and ceremony.”

The merchants, yeomen, farmers and tradesmen who came to America for financial reasons were desperate for a home where they would be free to prosper or fail in a system of meritocracy without the central government dictating to them the terms of their labor.

The world’s people had never been free before America was colonized.

The tribal chiefs and kings of the Guinea Coast of Africa had been practicing slavery for hundreds of years before they began trading captured slaves for European trade goods in the 16th century.

American Indians also captured and traded slaves. The Native American tribe known as the Illinois had an extensive trade network in which they would trade captured Pawnees and other Great Plains tribes as slaves. In the East, the Eno were a slave-trading tribe of the Virginia and North Carolina Piedmont who used Occaneechi Island as a trading mart to distribute slaves captured from enemy tribes. (One historian even theorizes that Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony got lost by dispersion through the Eno slave market.)

In China in the 1600s, under the Ming Dynasty, the hereditary chieftains and “manorial lords” kept taxes and tribute flowing to the Ming royal court, often through the use of slavery, but always with the use of forced labor.

In Europe, people lived under the feudal or “tied labor” system as bondmen, villains, and serfs. It is estimated that a quarter to half the population of 17th century England could not make enough money in one day to buy a loaf of bread. They had no rights to own land or property, but were paid with shares of the produce they labored for, and received only the few privileges which the lords who held the land chose to grant to them. The lords themselves also had no true freedom, but were under a strict and often arbitrary system of submission to their king.

Before the colonists landed at Jamestown and Plymouth, no person on earth had any real freedom, nor any hope of obtaining it. They could only wish for whatever prerogatives might be granted to them by their king, emperor, master, chief, or warlord. Before that day, nowhere on earth did a person have the full collection of rights that we do: to own our own land; to choose our occupation; to select our leaders; to worship as we wish; or, simply, to be free.

The rights to life, liberty, and happiness are, and have always been, inextricably intertwined with individual freedom which can only exist where religious, financial and political powers are decentralized. That was, and should continue to be, the essence of the American Ideal.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Time For Overhauling Our Ship of State

A ship’s most important component is its keel. It is the structural member to which all the other parts of the ship are directly or indirectly attached.

When a ship has a broken keel, it is said to have “broken its back” and salvage companies declare it to be a total loss. Only a total overhaul can then rebuild the ship, which must be done literally from the ground up.

Our ship of state was built with such a well-designed and well-built keel that she has sailed longer, straighter and truer than any other ship of state ever built.

Our keel is the Declaration of Independence. All of the other parts of our national structure and existence flow from it, and specifically from the first phrases of its second paragraph:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”[1]
A ship’s keel won’t break except under severe structural stress such as by being run aground, or in the case of Captain Ahab’s longboat, being struck by the monster white whale, Moby Dick. [2]

Undeterred by cares for his crew or his ship, Ahab simply had the ship’s carpenter carve a new wooden leg for him out of his longboat’s broken keel and continued on the obsessive chase that ended only with his own death.[3]

We need to seriously ask ourselves whether we have allowed our ship of state to be run aground or smashed by a force of fabled proportions, and whether we, like Capt. Ahab, are simply using its broken pieces to hobble toward our eventual destruction.

Do we still believe that the “truths” in our Declaration to be so obvious that they are self-evident? If God’s existence is so obvious it needs no other evidence, why do we shape our public policy as though there is no provable evidence of His existence?

We appear to have also ceased to believe that all men are created equal. No longer do we ask to be judged solely by the content of our character and to be allowed to rise or fall on our own merits.

Look further down the length of our keel – if we believe that the entire purpose of government is to secure the self-evident rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, then why do we constantly legislate against life? Why do we increasingly indenture ourselves and our children with each subsequent piece of expensive legislation?

Ahab refused to listen to the good advice of his first mate, Starbuck, who cried out to the obsessed captain: “In Jesus' name no more of this, that's worse than devil's madness. Two days chased; twice stove to splinters; thy very leg once more snatched from under thee; thy evil shadow gone - all good angels mobbing thee with warnings: - what more wouldst thou have?”[4]

Rather than ignore the clear warnings we’ve been given and perversely maintain a course toward our own destruction, there is yet time for us to return to the safe harbor established by our Declaration and begin, with integrity, the steady and sure process of rebuilding our ship from the ground up.

[1] “The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription”, The National Archives, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
[2] Melville, Herman Moby Dick Or the Whale, p.474, Kessinger Publishing, 2004
[3] Melville, Herman Moby Dick Or the Whale, p.474, Kessinger Publishing, 2004
[4] Melville, Herman Moby Dick Or the Whale, “Chapter cxxxiv - THE CHASE - SECOND DAY” p. 553,

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The 2012 Election Day Lesson for Oil and Gas Economics 101

Welcome to the 2012 lesson on Oil and Gas Economics 101 in preparation for Election Day, November 6th, 2012. Please use this material when making your selections for local, state, and federal candidates. Your final price at the pump will be affected by a right or wrong answer for any of the candidates in those categories.

Consumer Reports says the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States was $1.85 when President Obama took office on January 20, 2009.[i]

The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report says that the cost of a gallon of gas on April 22, 2012 was $3.86.[ii]

On January 23, 2009, the price of a barrel of crude oil was $46.47. By April 20, 2012, the price per barrel had climbed to $103.88.[iii]

So, from Inaugural Day 2009 to April, 2012, the price of a gallon of gasoline increased 209%, but the price of a barrel of oil actually had a significantly higher increase of 223%.

Thus, the price of a barrel of oil bears no direct economic relationship to the price of a gallon of gasoline.

But have our gas costs increased because of increases in the costs of producing a barrel of oil?

The Department of Energy says the average global production cost for a barrel of crude in 2003 was $17.45. In 2009, (the most recent year that the figures are available) the average worldwide production cost was estimated at $28.35 per barrel.[iv] Assuming the cost of production increased from January 2009 to April 2012 by the same amount as our Consumer Price Index, a 7.4% increase, the total production cost is now around $30.44 per barrel.

Therefore, the $17.45 cost of producing a $27.69 barrel of oil was 63% of its sale price in 2003, but by April 2012 the $30.44 cost of producing its $103.88 barrel of oil was proportionately much less, only 29.3% of its sale price.

So, we see that the cost of producing oil has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the increasing price of oil.

Perhaps a scarcity of the future supply of the raw materials of production, the proven oil reserves, is a likely speculative cause for the gasoline price increase?

Worldwide, in 1973 there were just over 600 billion barrels of petroleum proven reserves[v] known to exist. Today, that number has doubled to 1,317 billion barrels[vi].

Here in the United States, in 1944, we had 20,064 million barrels of known reserves, and we now still have 20,972 million barrels of known reserves.[vii] Despite the United States producing 167 billion barrels of oil between 1945 and 2010, our exploration and development has kept pace with our consumption.[viii] The “proven reserves” number, therefore, has nothing to do with the actual amount of commercially viable U.S. petroleum reserves.

And, since we see that in the past 65 years we have actually produced 8 times our proven reserves and our proven U.S. reserves number has remained unchanged, we have also learned that the apparent present availability of the proven oil reserves has no connection whatsoever to the increasing price of oil.

For the multiple choice final exam coming up on Election Day, here is the key to selecting the correct answer: If a candidate for any office suggests that the reason for our high cost at the pump is a) because it costs too much to produce the fuel, or b) because we are running out of fuel, that candidate would be the WRONG answer.

[i] “Average Gas Prices, January 19, 2009”, Consumer News, Consumer Reports, January 21, 2009. http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/01/gas-prices-2.html
[ii] http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/?redirectto=http://fuelgaugereport.opisnet.com/index.asp
[iii] http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/Inflation_Rate/Historical_Oil_Prices_Table.asp
[iv] “ Oil and Natural Gas Production” http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/06_production.pdf
[v] http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/envronmt/general/2007/10oilstudylong.pdf, Figure 12: Development of proved reserves of oil worldwide according to public domain statistics
[vi] http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/reserves.html
[vii] http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/hist/mcrfpus1M.htm Table, U.S. Crude Oil Proved Reserves (Million Barrels)
[viii] “Exposing the 2 Percent Oil Myth”, March 13, 2012, http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2012/03/13/exposing-the-2-percent-oil-reserves-myth/

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eight Tuition-Free Colleges Help Make College Dreams Come True

Getting a college education is still a wise choice. On average, college graduates make 41% more money than high school grads and the unemployment rate for those with a college degree is exactly half the rate for high school graduates.

The bad news is that CNN Money reports the average 2011 college graduate finished undergraduate school carrying $25,250 in student loan debt.

To help make college dreams come true for students who otherwise could not afford it, free college is available from eight very unique colleges.

Deep Springs College, http://www.deepsprings.edu/home, is a two-year liberal arts college located on a cattle ranch in California’s high desert. An alumnus quoted in The New Yorker said: “Deep Springs does its own thing in its own time even when it not politically expedient or even relevant.” Founded in 1917 on the three pillars of academics, labor, and self-governance, it will open enrollment to women for the first time in 2012.

Deep Springs’ students work each day on the college’s ranch and help administer the college as a self-governing student body. All students receive a full scholarship, but only 10 to 15 students are admitted each year.

Despite its extreme small size (a student body of 26 and a faculty of 20), its alumni have gone on to Congress, become ambassadors and Deep Springs even boasts two winners of MacArthur “Genius” Grants.

The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, http://www.williamson.edu/, in Media, Pennsylvania has Associate Degree courses of study in carpentry, masonry, horticulture, machine technology, and power plant operation. The Williamson student-athletes compete within the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Williamson provides all of its 250 students with complete “full-ride” scholarships, with an education described on its website as “based on the Judeo-Christian perspective that fosters the values of faith, integrity, diligence, excellence, and service.”

The 1500 students who attend the College of the Ozarks, http://www.cofo.edu/, at its 1000-acre campus in Branson, Missouri, get an entirely free education with a mandatory work-study program at the college’s hotel, restaurant, dairy, crafts center, gift shops, greenhouses, newspaper, theatre, and radio and television stations.

Two other colleges were founded with a mission of providing mountain folks with a tuition-free higher education: Alice Lloyd College (http://www.alc.edu/) and Berea College (http://www.berea.edu/), both of which are in the Appalachian areas of Kentucky. These schools do charge for room and board, but 68% of the students from Alice Lloyd College owe nothing upon graduation. The remaining 32% had an average debt of $3,108. The average student debt at Berea College is only $5,836.

The big city has free colleges, too.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, http://www.cooper.edu/, is the only full-scholarship college in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to preparing students for the professions of art, architecture and engineering.

Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, http://www.curtis.edu/ , is the only major music conservatory to provide merit-based full-tuition scholarships to all students regardless of their financial situation. Admission is by live audition but only 5% of applicants are admitted. Enrollment is limited to about 160 musicians-in-training.

The students at the tuition-free Webb Institute on Long Island Sound, http://www.webb-institute.edu/, are all studying the college’s only major: Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

Webb Institute students take fall and spring academic courses, but every January and February they have a paid internship experience in the marine industry.

Regardless of a student’s financial situation, one of these eight schools can help transform their college dreams into reality.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lives Being Changed by a Bible College Behind Prison Walls

About 2.3 million people are locked up in America’s jails or prisons. After they finish their time, 73% of those released prisoners will wind up committing another crime and getting re-incarcerated.

“I had come to realize that criminals are very selfish people,” says prison Warden Burl Cain. “They take your money, your property, anything they want for themselves. They sneak around, lie, steal, kill and do whatever they want.”

Despite all that, Warden Cain says, “I truly believe these men can rebuild their lives -- lives that have been shattered by awful crimes -- if they embrace a genuine change of heart.”

Moral rehabilitation, claims Warden Cain, is the only real rehabilitation. “I can get you education. I can get you to read and write. But if I don’t change you morally, you don’t change morally; you’re still a criminal.”
Cain is not an academic theorist on prison reform: he’s the warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the bloodiest and biggest maximum-security prison in the country – 18,000 acres covering an area of 28-square-miles.

Out of Angola’s 5,108 inmates, 86% are there for violent crimes. The average sentence at Angola is 88 years and 3,712 of the prisoners are serving life sentences. Ninety-three percent of convicts who go to Angola will die at Angola.

They are hard men doing hard time with little to lose and no hope to hold onto.

Life in Angola is “dying by inches,” Warden Cain says. “I knew we had to do more.” And Cain knew one thing for certain: no one is beyond God’s love, no one -- not even the inmates of Angola.

At his urging, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary began operating a privately funded, nationally accredited four-year Bible college within Angola’s walls.

The Bible college has already had 200 inmates graduate. Many have become preachers inside the prison walls and churches -- “positive gangs” as Warden Burl Cain calls them -- have sprung up inside the facility.
Inmate violence has gone down 40 percent, and rapes, drug use and assaults on guards have also decreased.
Inmates run the prison’s radio station, JSLP at 91.7FM, the “incarceration station”, which now broadcasts Christian music and sermons 24 hours a day.

The Bible college’s graduates also operate the prison’s hospice program.

Jerome Derricks came to Angola as a convicted murderer. He is now a trained minister comforting men facing death. “They are very much aware of what I am in here for and how long I have been here. They identify with me because they look at me as one of them. They would be more receptive of me because I am in here with them than someone who has come off of the street and tried to minister to them.”
Daryl Waters is also a convicted murderer and a current student at the Bible College. He says, “I’ve been incarcerated now for almost 18 years. [Yet] I am so blessed and so thankful that, despite this life sentence I have, I am free.”

Aaron Neville sings the song “Angola Bound” which has these poignantly true lines in it:

I got lucky last summer when I got my time, Angola bound
Well my partner got a hundred, I got ninety-nine, Angola bound

The Bible college can’t change the time they will serve at Angola, but now inmates like Derricks and Waters know that they have been freed from their sins and they are Heaven-bound.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Democrats Exempt Conservative Christians From Mandatory Health Care

Did you ever think you would see the day this would happen?
Just before 11:00 p.m. this past Sunday night, the House passed the Senate amendments to the health care bill. 
The final recorded vote was 219 to 212, with 219 Democrats and zero Republicans voting for it, and 34 Democrats and 178 Republicans voting against.
The bill is an Internal Revenue Code bill. The core feature of the health care bill is that it forces people to have health care insurance and punishes offenders with a tax. Section 10106(a) of the bill says that: “In the absence of the requirement, some individuals would make an economic and financial decision to forego health insurance coverage and attempt to self-insure, which increases financial risks to households and medical providers.” 
Section 10106(b) then mandates, “If a taxpayer who is an applicable individual… fails to meet the requirement of subsection (a) for 1 or more months, then… there is hereby imposed on the taxpayer a penalty with respect to such failures”. The Senate voted on a tax penalty of 2% of the person’s annual income, and the House upped that to 2.5%. 
The New York Times has reported that the Attorneys general in at least three states — Virginia, Florida and South Carolina —will file legal challenges primarily on the grounds that forcing individuals to buy insurance is a violation of the Constitution. (The Christian Science Monitor says the Attorneys general from Alabama, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota will also challenge the law itself and the manner in which it was passed as being unconstitutional.
A Supreme Court case they are likely to cite is Clinton v. City of New York in which Justice Kennedy said: “Separation of powers was designed to implement a fundamental insight: Concentration of power in the hands of a single branch is a threat to liberty.
The Federalist [Paper No. 47] states the axiom in these explicit terms: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
It is all the more startling then, that in the midst of this sweeping new legislation is the “Religious Exemption”, Section 1501(b), which states: “The term ‘applicable individual’… shall not include any individual for any month if such individual is a member of a health care sharing ministry for the month.”
The bill then defines a “health care sharing ministry” to be any 501(c)(3) organization which has existed since at least 1999 whose members “share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and share medical expenses among members in accordance with those beliefs”.
A legislative white paper written by the Citizens Council on Health Care in January 2010 just after the Senate  inserted that exemption, noted that, “There are three medical sharing ministries in the United States: Medi-Share, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Samaritan Ministries International. They serve from 25,000 to 42,000 people. … Common membership requirements include an agreement not to smoke, drink heavily, or use illicit drugs. Members must attend church regularly, and agree not to have sex outside of marriage… monthly fees for a family of four are between $240 and $400.”
The Democrats passed their mandatory health care bill, yet all conservative Christians are exempt if they want to be -- and the only requirement is that they have to live a biblical lifestyle.
Did you ever think you would see the day this would happen?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Electoral College 101

Our United States Supreme Court has twice ruled during presidential election challenges, in the cases of Moore v. Ogilvie (1969) and Bush v. Gore (2000), that: “the idea that one group can be granted greater voting strength than another is hostile to the one man, one vote basis of our representative government.”

How does the Electoral College method for choosing our president fit into that “one man, one vote” concept?

When our founders wrote the United States Constitution, our nation had just finished wrestling our independence from Britain, which was then the most powerful nation on the face of the earth.

The men who wrote our Constitution knew that the greatest asset in gaining our freedom had been our unity, and they could see that our greatest future threat would be our own internal conflict. Accordingly, everything they wrote in the Constitution was specifically put there to keep us united as a nation.

Prior to America’s Independence, no nation in the world had ever chosen its leadership with a fully representative democracy. In Scottish clans or African tribes, Chinese dynasties or European kingdoms, new leaders had always been imposed upon the people by royal succession or military conquest.

Having Constitutional direction for choosing our congressmen and senators was important, of course, but we had been using the representative method and democratic process to elect our local leaders from our earliest colonial beginnings.

Creating, however, a peaceful process for the people to democratically select a representative leader to preside over the nation as a whole was entirely unique in global history.

Our founders knew that constant checks and balances would be needed to keep the future accretions of power and acids of personal prejudices from undermining the structural and moral integrity of our nation.

Their foresight and wisdom showed them that without checks and balances these United States would cease to exist. The Electoral College is perhaps the epitome of our check and balance process.

The writers of the Constitution were keenly aware that they were creating a political revolution every four years, but with the intent that the revolutionary tool for regular and sequential changes of power would be ballots, not bullets.

For the American experiment to work and remain true to its core values, the founders saw that each state and each voter must know they all have a full and proportionate say in the selection of the president as a national leader.

With all that in mind, the founders created a process in the Constitution at Section 1 of Article 2 that says: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…” This group of Electors has become known as the Electoral College.

Even though over 125 million individuals voted in the November 4, 2008 presidential election, they were actually selecting the 538 electoral votes which were then cast on December 15, 2008 by the Electoral College.

Because every state has two senators, each has two Electors regardless of the state’s size, but the Electoral College also gives proportionate weight according to population because it gives one Elector for each U.S Representative. Thus, the smallest population state, Wyoming, has three Electoral College votes, while California has 55 votes because it has two senators and 53 representatives.

In California, Barrack Obama got 7,342,729 individual votes which comprised almost all of his entire 8,481,030 national margin of victory over John McCain. For that, Obama got all of California’s 55 Electoral votes.

In Wyoming, McCain’s margin of 65% of the vote equaled only 160,639 votes but it still got him three Electoral votes.

The Electoral College is thus much more a quantification of the expression of our national consensus than it is a mere calculation to determine the majority of our individual votes.

That consensus has helped keep us the United States even after the grueling battles of selecting forty-four different presidents.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Exodus 20 Candidate Selection Tool

The polls say that many of the likely voters in the presidential race are even today still not firmly settled on a candidate, and there are probably many more undecideds in the congressional and senatorial races.

The Bible has provided us with a simple 10-step Exodus 20 checklist to determine which candidate would really be best for us over the long haul.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Which candidates are more likely to help us as a nation adhere to the idea that there is only one God and He is the God of the Bible?

“You shall not make for yourself an idol.” Which candidates will help us remember that God is a vastly superior provider, protector, and great physician than any bank, battalion, or health care plan could possibly be?

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” Our national motto is “In God We Trust”. All global political atlases and directories identify the United States as a predominantly Christian nation. Which candidates will conduct our national policies (and their own personal life) so that they are not an insult to God’s name?

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” In the Bible at Malachi 3:13-15, God said, “You have said harsh things against Me. You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?’ ”

Which candidates will encourage us to remember that the death of our honoring the things of God is the death of our honoring God?

“Honor your father and mother.” It is so much easier to keep this commandment if we actually have a father and mother rather than two mommies or two daddies, and if we keep the same father/mother set all through our life. Which candidates will help us to remain faithful to God’s models for marriage and family?

“You shall not murder.” Every day of the year, 3,287 babies are aborted. Sixty-seven percent are black, Hispanic, and other minority babies.

Yet for those innocent 3,287 babies, the laws on our books permit them to be killed at any time during the 9-month pregnancy.

Which candidates would affirm that we are all created in His image and that “We are all endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”? Which candidates recognize the simple truth that if a baby doesn’t have the right to life, the other two rights don’t matter?

“You shall not commit adultery.” Passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment and preservation of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are important, but they actually only touch on the extremes. Which candidates will take an integrated family-oriented approach to all the legislation which comes their way?

“You shall not steal.” Which candidate recognizes that it is as equally wrong to steal from the middle class to bail out rich corporations as it is to steal from the rich to give to the middle class and poor?

Which ones know that we all should pay our proportionate share so that we all share in our equal rights and responsibilities?

“You shall not give false testimony.” Which candidates have most often told the truth about him or her self and have also told the truth about their opponent, while avoiding lies and exaggerations?

“You shall not covet.” Which of the candidates actually believe “with contentment comes great gain” and will not try to drum up dissatisfactions in order to garner support?

When you’ve honestly looked at the candidates with this Exodus 20 candidate selection checklist in mind, previously difficult decisions become easy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Campaign Slogan for the Voters

We are in a monster financial mess and most people are wondering: how did we get in this mess and whose fault is it, anyway?

Well, it’s not a Republican red mess or a Democratic blue mess, it’s more like a bipartisan purple bruise inflicted on us, the body politic.

It wasn’t George Bush that got us into this, but rather it was former President Clinton who signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (P.L. 106-102). Title I of that bill states that its main purpose was for “Facilitating Affiliation Among Banks, Securities Firms, and Insurance Companies”. The text of the bill explains that it repeals the 1930s protection legislation known as the Glatt-Spiegel Act.

The problem with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, as Lauren Stefen of the Houston Chronicle explained, was that: “The new law blurred the lines among financial institutions, allowing them to dabble in home lending, stockbrokering, wealth management, investment banking, commodities trading, insurance and a slew of other activities that swirled into the miasma from which the current crisis grew.”

Bill Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin approved it (Rubin later became chairman of the executive committee of Citigroup), and three Republicans (Phil Gramm, James Leach, and Tom Bliley) wrote it.

Ninety senators voted for it, only eight against it. John McCain didn’t vote for it because he was absent for the vote, but he was known to support it.

Look at it however you want, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is a poster child for bipartisan blame-sharing.

The problems associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seem to be tinged more with blue than red, but, hey, there’s certainly enough blame to go around.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the two governmentally-created lending entities whose sub-prime mortgage purchases, Bloomberg news reports, “helped fuel the boom in lending that led to frozen credit markets, more than $514 billion in bank losses and the collapse of two of the country's biggest securities firms.” Fannie Mae bought $185 Billion in sub-prime and “Alt-A” securities, and Freddie Mac bought $158 Billion.

In addition to their purchases of “securitized” sub-prime mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also guaranteed $470 billion to $873 billion of debt to borrowers who had either had sub-prime credit scores below 700, or who didn’t have 20% equity in the loan, or both.

Following the money trail gives us the biggest clue as to who Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac viewed as their most important political allies.

They gave political contributions to just about everybody, but the top four on their 1989 to 2008 contribution lists were all Democrats: #1, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) $133,900; #2, Sen. John Kerry, (D-MA) $111,000; #3, Sen. Barack Obama, $105,849; and, of course, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) at #4 with $75,550.

Teddy Roosevelt was an energetic Republican, but a populist one who viewed big government, big business and big unions as detrimental to the nation’s health and the people’s protection. He fought to invigorate the American dream, and to do that he was often in knock-down, drag-out battles with Standard Oil and the railroad cartels.

At a speech he gave in Abilene, Kansas, on May 2, 1903, he issued a warning to the American people that we should memorize and keep repeating to ourselves as we study through the current bail-out debate and choose which candidates to vote for this November:

“There is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility.”

That will do as a great campaign slogan – for the voters.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Who is the First, Best, and Greatest Laborer?

Labor Day has come and gone, with all of its sales, barbeques, political rallies, and vacations. We get so busy that we often don’t take time to consider why we have it as a national holiday.

The Department of Labor credits a number of union organizers as the likely founders of Labor Day, and states it “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

It is a good time to ask, Who has been the first, best and greatest laborer? What single worker has shown the greatest aptitude for excellence, enthusiasm, and ethics in their work?

Here’s a clue: “In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

That’s pretty good work.  The work is so excellent, with everything fitting together so perfectly, that we just don’t even think of how magnificent His work really is.

The Genesis account says: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Monkeys may not be our common ancestor, but dirt is: clay and earth contain every single element which is also found in the human body.

It takes 20 amino acids to make the proteins that exist in the smallest living cell, and the proteins in living beings are made of long chains of different amino acids that must be knit together precisely.

How did David, an ancient desert-dwelling king, know all that when he wrote in Psalms: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

God intentionally and perfectly knits together each aspect of a life and all aspects of all lives. It is not a random occurrence. The odds of even a single DNA gene being formed by chance are 1 in 10 followed by 155 zeros.

After a baby is conceived, the DNA code for the eye programs the baby’s body to begin growing 1,000,000 optic nerve endings to grow to the brain and 1,000,000 optic nerves to grow to the eye. Per eye.

All those optic nerves meet perfectly and allow the human eye to send 1.5 million messages to the brain.

Grant R. Jeffrey in his book “The Signature of God” uses the picture of a man watching a woodpecker to illustrate the elegant simplicity and perfection of God’s work.

You see a woodpecker flying. In much less than a second your brain figures out the trajectory of the woodpecker flying near you and sends to your arms and legs electronic messages at speeds of 300 miles per second telling them to run and get the camera because the woodpecker is such an amazing creature.

Like other birds, it has hollow bones to allow flight. But woodpeckers also have two clawed front toes and two clawed back toes so it can climb up and down trees and short, stiff tail feathers to brace it against the tree while it is working.

While other birds have their bills attached to their skulls, the woodpecker has a spongy tissue between its bill and its skull to act as a shock absorber.

Other birds have their tongues attached to the back of their mouths. The woodpecker, though, has its tongue attached to the “hydroid”, a bone and elastic tissue structure which loops around its skull.

When the woodpecker’s pecking hits an insect tunnel, it will send out its five-inch, sticky, barbed tongue to get its food.

Go ahead, try and evolve a man watching a woodpecker.

Very simply, God is the first, best and greatest laborer.

We can’t say it any better than He did Himself in the first chapter of John: “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of man.”

Now, “Consider the ravens [or the woodpeckers]: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (Luke 12:24)