Saturday Linkfest

I’ve got another episode from the Homeschool Photo Contest to post, but am waiting for just the right time.  Ha.  Meanwhile, here’s how you should goof on instead:

1.  Read this article from the Apparent Project on Why You Should Not Mail Peanut Butter to Haiti.  No, really, take it out of the bubble-wrapped package and eat it yourself.  Haiti thanks you.  Because it turns out that shipping bunches of free stuff to impoverished countries undermines local businesses.  That make peanut butter.  Or would, if only Haitians weren’t getting boxes of the stuff from other countries.  Go read.

2. A longtime friend, engineer, amateur gunsmith, and EMT, sent us this YouTube video on Gun Safety.  PG WARNING: If your head is screwed on straight, there’s at least one scene that is objectionable even for comedy noir. It also means you aren’t the target audience.  [Hint: If you have given up watching action-adventure shows because all the egregious gun safety violations– by law enforcement good guy characters no less!!– have caused you to throw your tv out the window, you aren’t actually the target audience for this clip.]  But it is funny. With proper parental guidance as required.

3.  Look, Sarah Reinhard one of my favorite writing friends, has a new book out:

She let me look at one of the later drafts, and it is a really nice little book.  If you are looking for a family-friendly Advent Book, I’d give it a recommend.  From what I recall, it is protestant-friendly.  But just e-mail her and ask if you have any questions or concerns, she is one of those extroverted writers who likes to talk to readers. Or leave a comment in her blog combox.  She’s totally chatty.  Super Nice Person.  Happy to talk about her books any day.

4.  And is just me, or does it look like the new John McNichol book is now out on Amazon?

Serious coolness.

Not for people who don’t read genre fiction.  But highly recommended if you are looking for fun, readable Catholic GKC Sci-Fi Alternate History goodness in a package your boy will enjoy.  Do you know of a different book that will cause an 11-year-old boy to beg to read Huck Finn?  Maybe you do.  Or maybe you think that no day is complete without the threat of an alien attack.  In which case, McNichol is your man.

Wolves, Economists

I saw this post from Darwin in my feed reader, but I didn’t read it for the longest time, because the title made it sound too smart for me.  But look at this:

As soon as people starting thinking of the economy as some great machine with levers just waiting to be pulled (whether it’s liberals convinced that if only we could put through a couple more trillion dollars worth of stimulus everything would be fine or conservatives convinced that we can always raise tax revenues by lowing tax rates) they set themselves up to cause more harm than good.

Yes.  Yes yes yes.


In White Fang  news . . .

I finished the book.  It got so much better after it started to be about a dog and not about some whiny guy being chased by wolves.*  Here’s what I’ve concluded is necessary in order to enjoy White Fang:

1) A dog of your own.  Because it’s a novel about the psychological development of a dog.

2) A good sturdy head cold.  Because, well, it’s a novel about the psychological development of a dog.

Once I had both of those conditions in place, I totally enjoyed the book.  And all the doggy procreation is firmly offstage, so now I don’t feel so nervous about having sent our other copy to camp with my 6th grader.  I was nervous there for a few minutes.



* I myself would be very whiny if wolves were trying to eat me.  For your own sakes, hope I never get to write any autobiography about such things.

Under Water

Submersion continues.  But look, Brandon at Siris is writing about Usury!  Yes!  Oh I love it! And there’s more here, that I haven’t had time to read yet, but I know you will, since you are so desperately bored without me.

And many smart people (including Siris) have already posted the famous First World Problems music video, but if you resisted watching, no really, it actually is pretty funny.  A tad heavy-handed at the end, but probably if you watch TV normally you won’t notice so much.

To finish the theme, here’s a day in the life at a third-world small business.

Enjoy.  Have I mentioned I have an inordinate passion for air-conditioning this time of year?


Higher Ed

Darwin writes here about how everyone’s getting a college degree these days, and the economic consequences.  I was going to leave a comment, but I finally just decided to hit the ‘like’ button and be done with it.

Mr. Magundi laments the consequences of collegization for communities, but offers a hopeful solution:

We have raised the price of higher education to the point where it may simply be ruinous even for comfortably well-off families. And so we may end up abandoning the university system as we’ve built it up, in favor of a system where we stay home for most of our higher education, perhaps in community colleges, or in some similar institution we haven’t thought of yet. Educated people might get in the habit of thinking of the place where they grew up as home. And in spite of the disadvantages to Harvard and Cornell, I think that might be a very good thing.”

Am I the only one horrified that you can’t get a decent catholic college education without taking out a mortgage on your life?  Though I think charities such as Mater Ecclesiae Fund have their hearts (and wallets) in the right place, I find it frankly predatory that catholic colleges will load students up with such levels of debt to begin with.

Yes, I meant that.


Meanwhile, Public Discourse is running this essay.  The gist: the political science education offered in the Ivy League in the 1990’s let ideology get in the way of reliable scholarship — to the detriment of the State Department today.  Well, funny about that.  Because those of us getting our int’l poly-sci degrees from Backwater State U, we were studying under some of these guys.  Taking courses like “Islam, Politics and Revolution”.

–> And happily for the State Department, some our grads found their way to Washington.  So not all is lost.  Most of us local-U grads grow up to be, well, locals.  But we let loose a tithe of our debt-free adventurers, to go assist our better-indoctrinated educated brethren up north.

So if our government should get something right, you know who to thank.

Just kidding.  Sort of.

Dear Caesar,

Finally got the taxes in the mail.  Summary of my thoughts for the 2010 season:

  • Gee those forms are getting complicated.  I had all easy ones this year, so no big deal.  But wow, that’s a lot of laws.  I printed off a 1040EZ for my form-loving daughter to play with, remembering the nice simple document the EZ was last time I looked at one, over a decade ago.  Not so.  Even the EZ isn’t EZ anymore.
  • Making work pay?  Mmmn.  Well, I appreciated the discount.  But . . . a) What about our federal debt?  and b) See “complicated forms” above.  Always one more thing.  If we can afford to lower taxes, let’s just lower them, no Schedule M required.  If we can’t afford to, then what’s with the populist pandering?
  • (Yes, I know what’s with the populist pandering.  Yes I do.  Smart Alek.)
  • I kinda missed getting my packet of forms in the mail. I think the move to 100% digital was brilliant, and a necessary cost-saving measure.  In the end I printed out my 1040 instructions and stuck them in a 3-ring binder, which turned out to be much easier to work with then the old newsprint booklet.  But despite all that, I did whine a little . . .
  • Because I like getting stuff in the mail!  Plus that big envelope is handy when you have a lot of forms to send in!  I had to stuff everything into a little office envelope this year, ’cause it was all I had lying around.  Plus, I almost forgot to do my taxes — (I know!) — because there was no 1040 booklet sitting on my desk to remind me.
  • Still, I support the switch.  IRS gets a thumb’s up once again on a useful and well-run website.  Was able to find everything I needed easily.  Well done.  Yay IRS.
  • LOVED the fillable Adobe forms this year.  That was a highlight.
  • Count me in the six remaining people still mailing in paper forms. I was pleased to see there’s now  a free electronic filing option for those of us who do our taxes by hand.  But sorry, not enough info on which company is running the program, and what their reputation is, and all of that.  I would have used the electronic file if the IRS were running it themselves.  I’ll consider outsourced e-file in the future, once I get more info about how it worked this year on the guinea pigs.

In all it was  a pretty good tax year, probably my fastest one in the past ten years.  No weird stuff to monkey with, so the spreadsheet was ready to go as-was from 2009.  Our real federal income tax rate was about 4%.  That’s not counting self-employment taxes, medicare or social security.  Just the amount of income tax  as a percentage of gross income.

Sounds low, but I don’t think it is.  –> Taken as part of the larger tax picture, where you add in state income tax, the various social welfare taxes, property taxes, etc., that percentage seems okay to me.

Which tells me maybe the federal debt equation is better managed by spending less.  Hmmn?


If anyone is game for comparing real federal rates, I’m curious.  Please don’t post any income information! Just the ratio of the total federal income tax you owed (roughly, line 55, less any credits from lines 63-71) as compared to your gross income on line 22.

This will be a very individualized number, so kindly refrain from explaining it, since you may end up sharing more personal details than are seemly, even for the internet.  Just the percentage.  That’s what financial policy geeks care about most.

Wake up! Hey, Wake up!

That’s what my then two-year-old used to shout at his baby sister in the next seat when we arrived at our destination.  The parents were not amused.

These two articles might not amuse you, either.  But if you need to be really grumpy, these’ll do it.

–> I’m continuing with the regular-life-requires-my-attention-theme, so outsourcing my invective to ‘things that showed up in my inbox’.

From Christian LeBlanc, interesting link to an essay on contraception and the fall of the west.

The West lasted from AD 732, when Charles Martel defeated the Muslims at Tours, until 1960, where it fell without a battle. In 1960, the birth control pill became widely available. Many think of it as heaven, sexual nirvana, the route to self-expression, wish fulfillment, and liberation for millions of women. I think of it as Auschwitz in a bottle. It was and is genocide, as, using it, the women of my generation happily traded off 1,200 years of unparalleled growth, wealth, security, stability, scientific and ethical progress for a second BMW in the garage.

I’m not persuaded of author’s provocative conclusion (“Islam is the only way”), but the irony is there.  In the 19th century the French quit reproducing — yes, before effective contraception became widely available — and by the late 20th were wringing their hands over the cultural impact of all the muslims they’d imported to do the labor of the children they’d never had.  Germany has followed suit, and the US isn’t far behind.

(Though, luckily for our culture, we are importing truckloads of macho catholics with their awesome mariachi masses.  Maybe God does love us more?  Kidding.  Really.  The French have Brie — if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.  But yes, I do like a rousing Spanish mass now and again.  Perks up the excessively-somber soul.   And as much as I am moved by the beauty and devotion of faithful muslims at worship, no, I can’t slip down to the corner mosque for a mini-revival.)

Anyhow, key point of link for me is this:  You can’t refuse to bear children, then get all shocked and horrified at the presence of the people you imported to do the work of the offspring you never had.  You want someone t0 mow your lawn and do your dishes?  Either rear yourself a pair of middle-schoolers, or hire someone else’s.

[Teenagers everywhere are now saying aha!  You really did raise me to be a slave! The mother points out that she does a thing or two for her own children that she doesn’t do for the random low-wage stranger.  Indeed, here may lie a bit of the problem: rather than a steady flow of youngsters who do the grunt work for a decade and then move on to greater work, we attempt to create a society divided between perpetual overlords and perpetual economic-teenagers.  And then are shocked, just shocked, when the daring, hard-working, self-sacrificing immigrants turn out to be just like our own children — ready to move up in the world after a spell.]


Your other link is this article from the HSLDA, from Swedish parents who moved to Finland in order to homeschool.  I will use this as my cue to get off the internet educate a few fresh faces of my own.


PS, castle news: We got a new roof.  Looks a lot like the old one, only much, much younger.






Fr. L. on the gambling industry.

More yes.  This is all true.   Over the past dozen years I’ve spent a lot of time in Vegas.  I’m familiar with the city, inside and out.  (Surprise: I prefer “out”.  Red Rocks, to be precise.)

To Fr. Longenecker’s comments I’ll add that gambling generates no wealth.  It doesn’t feed, clothe or shelter any better than my sitting on the porch playing 3-men’s morris does so.  (Except, in that case, I get to spend time with my child, teach some strategy, get my rear whipped by a 4-year-old . . . yes, there is all that.  The bulk of casino gambling doesn’t even pretend to give us that much.)

Gambling does redistribute wealth.  If you need a method to get cash from the hands of wealthy private-jet owners into the hands of waitresses, well, yes, that is one way.  But what Fr. L says about the industry is absolutely true, including the addiction and family-destroying and saving-depleting bits.

He didn’t mention the associated crime, but you can count on that too.  When you take a whole bunch of people who want something for nothing and stick them all together in one place, it’s not exactly a surprise that greed crosses legal lines here and there.

–> This isn’t some fundamentalist getting his rear in a wad because you like to play poker with your friends.  It’s not about whether games of chance are somehow evil.

But when you pray that prayer about “lead me not into temptation”? It implies a responsibility to avoid leading your neighbor into temptation either.

You want investment?  Build a farm, or a factory.  A school even.  (Or, go crazy, send a guy to seminary.  That’s an investment.)  The gambling “industry” is not industry at all.  And you go there to spend your money, and end up spending yourself as well.

Sunday Thoughts

Three of them:

1)   Months on end spent vomiting really is excellent preparation for parenthood.   Allows you to stand calmly in the bathroom door at midnight and give your child practical tips for dealing with her stomach virus.  And you are thinking, “Ha.  Wish I couldda kept my popsicles down when I was pregnant with you.”  But you don’t say that.  You are tender and encouraging, and very pleased with the thought that the likely break is coming not at 14 weeks, or 24 weeks, or heaven forbid 40 weeks, but probably in just a few hours.  Still, you will be quite happy when it is all over.

2)  P.G. Wodehouse.  Our friend.  Just the companion for the restless mother, relaxing in the wee hours between pep-rallies in the bathroom.  Better on the second reading, I’ll add.

3) H/T to The Pulp.It for this article on why you should not shop on Sundays.  And since I am not afraid to be insufferable, let me just totally ruin your plans . . . Going out to brunch does more of the same.  Just say no.

Sunday:  Get up.  Get a shower.  Go to Mass.  Come home.  Rest.

Works great every time*.  Try it.


*Actual mileage may very, subject to some limitations due to VOMITING CHILDREN.  DID I MENTION VOMITING CHILDREN?!  Actually just one of them.  SuperHusband took the healthy people to the usual mass then penitentially kept them out on the playground awaaaay from the ill sibling.   I went to the Spanish mass after lunch.  Lovely Mass, need to go to it more often.  Note to self: Learn Spanish.  Worth the risk.

Hoodlum-Loving Pro-Life Ninjas

The reference to ninjas is tucked inside Simcha Fischer’s otherwise apolitical posting of a Loretta Lynn housewife song:

It seems like a pretty good follow-up to the March for Life, doesn’t it?  You know, that day when hundreds of thousands of ninjas march to show their support of women and babies.  I say “ninjas” because they somehow slip by the attention of the media — amazing!  It’s like they were never there.  And yet they get the job done.

Our local March for Life, however, was not entirely ignored by the media.  Our free entertainment weekly, which doubles as our incisive political reporting weekly*, made mention of the event:  Our intrepid reporter tells us that the March happened, and then utterly topples the foundations of the Pro-Life movement, by pointing out that all those aborted babies would have grown up to be criminals anyway.

Not his idea, he was citing Levitt & Dubner in the very famous Freakonomics.  (The hardcover was published William Morrow, 2005.  You can buy other versions now, of course.)  The book doesn’t make any moral prescriptions, by the way — economists general don’t.  But it really does set forth the theory that the drop in the crime rate that occurred in the 1990’s was the direct result of Roe v. Wade.  The idea being that the really bad mothers know they are really bad mothers, so they abort their children rather than raising them up to a life of crime.  And 18 years later, you and I reap the benefits of that instinctive act of preemptive genocide.

If only all those marching ninjas had known!

But all mockery aside, our reporter got to the bizarre heart of the Pro-Life movement: We actually believe that even the children of ne’er-do-wells should not be summarily executed.  We are willing to take the risk that you, child of poverty, decadence, and a very broken home, may or may not live out the hope embodied in your cute little baby smile.

Radical freedom.  The idea that the right to life belongs even the children of those other kinds of people.   The idea that having lousy parents is not, in itself, a capital crime.

And so I’m thankful to our reporter for giving us such a clear vision of the divide.  We see how those who want to apply the abortion chapter of Freakonomics to public policy feel about the human race:  What’s a few million dead bodies, if it lowers the crime rate?

Which explains why you would need thousands upon thousands of ninjas, if you wanted to go head-to-head with a regime like that.


*I am not kidding about the politics — in addition to vast coverage of bars, restaurants, and services with 1-900 phone numbers, it really is the only local paper that does investigative reporting.  And we wonder why the mainstream newspapers are failing.