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Archive for the ‘Human Action’ Category

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At least some people still understand the order of things…

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The American Spring!

Only it is almost Fall. Oh, and by the way, they are still not sure what they are asking for. You know, we already have Democracy… And the richest country in the planet.

Maybe we should go back to digging holes after all.

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Green (River?) Energy

Quick question (no googling people): where is the largest oil reserve in the world?

—x—

I am all for green energy. Can you imagine how nice it would be if the US didn’t have to deal with the crazies in the Middle East? How about clean, shinning solar panels giving us everything we need without all the dirt and risk of oil?

Did I mention that I’d love to have a tree that grows money too?

Back in the real world we keep pouring billions of dollars into companies that are simply not viable. How much will we keep looking for something that simply is not there yet?

The one argument that I respect about green energy is the fact that oil is finite and we eventually need a replacement. But the question is: how soon? That is not just an important question… That is THE question in this whole debate. Is the search for a replacement something we need to figure out now? In 50 years? or in 150 years?

—x—

So I took my family to Moab, to visit the Arches National Park. On our way there, we stopped by this ‘Prehistoric Museum’ which is maintained by the College of Eastern Utah. It is a small but tidy place, and the visit was surprisingly interesting. Lots of Dinos used to roam around here. And this big desert was not always so dry… Have you ever heard about the Mancos Sea? Me neither.

Have you ever heard about the Green River?

—x—

Now, if you did Google for ‘Oil reserves’ you probably got this. The so called ‘conventional’ reserves, which show all the usual players. But how about typing “Oil shale reserves”? Hmmm, quite a different picture isn’t it? The Green River Formation is by far the largest in the world. Even if only half of it can be extracted, that would amount to nearly triple the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

Of course, this type of oil is hard to extract. The latest figures I’ve seen show that it would only make sense after we get to a $200 a barrel. But the question is: so what? Are we going to be ready to switch to solar or wind once oil hits that price? Do we need to keep shoveling money into solar panel research or should we be looking into cheaper and better ways of getting that shale oil out of the ground?

Why we don’t have an open and honest debate about this? Is the global warming agenda that powerful? Why even Republicans only talk about Alaska when the real deal is not there?

Here are more pics from our visit.

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Column of the week

Are jobs obsolete?

This is really priceless. It is like the bizarro version of Krugman’s broken world. We don’t need to break stuff to create jobs people… Let’s just stop with this silly thing called jobs! We already have too much!!!! Let the stupid robots work and let’s focus on spending those trust funds!!!!!!

There are so many fallacies and misconceptions here that it would take me an hour to write a complete post – something I could only do if I had a ‘creative activity’ instead of a mean spirited, corporate controlled mindless job.

And this is linked in the front page of CNN! Really, this makes me miss the real commies who at least had an actual theory to propagandize!

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Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance from Kiva Microfunds on Vimeo.

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11

So it is time again to visit the old bananaland, I mean, motherland.

It is funny how it’s been 1 year and a half since I’ve been there. Time flies. And apparently I fly too much as well. My post back then was me complaining about all the air travel but since then I’ve been to Europe, Atlanta and Seattle a couple of times. Another 20 thousand miles to the total at least.

Did I mention that my great flight plan today is SLC->NYC->GRU? Not very efficient I must say. Damn you expedia and your great deals.

Am I complaining too much here?

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I was telling my wife the other day that if Michele Bachmann ended up being the Republican candidate I would consider voting for Obama. I think Bachmann (differently than most Republicans even in the House) was irresponsible for saying that we should default.

But then stupid Newsweek comes with this. This is the kind of stuff that, if you are fond of conspiracy theories, makes you think that they actually want Republicans to vote for Bachmann. They did the same thing for Palin, did a similar thing for Romney… It is not quite shooting themselves in the foot; it is more like shooting themselves in the head. Newsweek is a fountain of stupidity if you ask me.

This is so obvious that even Slate kind of calls it! (Even though they prefer to call them sexist… I thought wise lefty media was against that!)

Got to love these out-of-control lefties.

UPDATE
You know I am stating the obvious when even Jon Stewart agrees with me. In his own clowny way, of course.

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Michael Moore, the last bastion of the left, tells Obama what to do:

“Pres Obama, show some guts & arrest the CEO of Standard & Poors. These criminals brought down the economy in 2008& now they will do it again”.

Well, maybe you prefer to hear from the Super Golden Boy Oscar/Emmy/Nobel winner Krugman the great? How about this:

“If there’s a single word that best describes the rating agency’s decision to downgrade America, it’s chutzpah — traditionally defined by the example of the young man who kills his parents, then pleads for mercy because he’s an orphan.”

Maybe after all the messengers are killed (or arrested) these people would wake up. Maybe not.

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So long Welfare

I think it is amazing how clueless people are regarding the current debt crisis.

People look at the debt and think that it is something ‘new’. They think Reagan started it and every President ever since made it worse. That is of course, a half truth. What people need to understand is that before Reagan we already had the same overspending problem. The only difference is that the Democratic machine was taxing and printing money like crazy (which is nothing but ‘mini’ defaults by the way) and that caused the runaway inflation crisis in the 70s. Reagan did change a few things and indeed controlled inflation and taxes. But the overall spending was simply shifted to debt.

What we are having now is the second large adjustment to the welfare state. The first one was mostly an accounting trick that resulted in some relief. That will not work again. The real problem needs to be addressed, and that is spending.

Europe is in an even worst situation since they added even more debt and a stupid union on top of it. So you might see people (Krugman) in the US still pushing the inflation ‘solution’ while in Europe that is not even an option anymore. Both places were hoping growth was the solution to reckless spending and that is simply not happening.

Italy already passed a balanced budget ammendment to its constitution. Expect more political battles in Europe and the US resulting in the same thing. The 2008 crisis caused the ‘unwinding’ of consumer debt. The current crisis is the unwinding of government debt. Taxes will eventually be raised but it is mathematically impossible to solve the issue without MAJOR cuts (debt deal was not even a down payment – it was a tip).

FDR is finally coming back to bite. Historians will look at 2008 as the opposite side of 1932 – we made a huge mistake as an excuse to solve one recession and now we are paying the price for it.

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What are the lefties in Europe doing about this? How about asking women to wear less provocative chothing?!

(Both links from this interesting discussion at MR)

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So I am spending the week in Seattle attending a conference. It is funny how my daily routine completely changes when I am alone in a hotel like this. I can’t sleep at the right time; I watch TV channels I never do at home; I work at weird hours.

One of the shows I’ve watched (when I woke up at 4 am this morning for no apparent reason) was ‘Artic Dinosaurs’ and I got to tell you… it was fascinating. The work paleontologists do is amazing in so many ways; it is detective work at the Nth level where you are trying to infer how these huge animals lived 70 million years ago based on these little bones (that look like toothpicks to me) embedded in tons of rock and mud. Then you have all the other paleo-variant scientists who figure out the climate by looking at plant imprints in rock, the ones who look at little scratches in rock to figure out how birds and worms lived at the time… the most patient men in the planet. I could never do that work.

But the real interesting part to me about this show was to be reminded just how different the Earth was 70 million years ago. I mean, that is not even that long ago when you look at Earth’s history but you had continents in different places, a climate so different that makes the whole global warming debate kind of silly (the northern slope in Alaska they were filming was about 30 degrees warmer even though it was located hundreds of miles closer to the North pole compared to today!). And on top of all of that, we have no idea why the whole situation changed drastically in a mere 5 million years. Actually, we don’t know lots of even more basic things (were dinos already dying when the climate changed? were dinos cold or hot blooded? how much the big meteor hit influence all of that?)

I understand that this is nothing groundbreaking and that info has been out there for a while but watching this show still made me think… We spend so much time (at least I do) reading news about stupid politics (have you seen this funny one?), sports, work, traffic, the weather. All the little concerns that we face in your average 78.3 years of life that are almost incompatible with all these huge changes and movements that our planet goes through.

I think it was Francis Collins in the Language of God who said that you can see God when you look at very small things like our DNA or at very large things like the universe. I say you can also see God (or something like it) when you spend a week alone in a hotel room watching TV at weird hours.

Phew, I need to go home. Good Friday!

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The US vs Brazil game was a pretty interesting one. Not only because of all the soccer drama and PK decision but because of something I haven’t seen here in the US before: Americans got mad at the Brazilians for acting the ‘Brazilian way’.

This is something that has irritated me for a long time. For whatever reason, the American people have a pretty favorable view of Brazilians. Even though the Brazilian culture has pretty much all the problems that are so criticized in every other Latin culture (lack of seriousness, aversion to hard work, being too loud, apology of cheating, etc) Brazilians somehow got a pass and were usually considered a much more acceptable option to say, Mexicans or Argentinians.

My theory is that the issue here was soccer. Americans have (had?) no interest in it for a long time. It was always considered something too English, too boring, and too theatrical. At the same time, the business side of soccer has been trying to change that image here in the US for quite a while. So after many years and billions of dollars, your average American at least knows what soccer is and who is who. That means they started to learn about this incredible Brazilian team, with their yellow shirts and groovy game. It’s a team that rivals all the super powers in Europe (which Americans are not that in love with in the first place) so right away they grab the underdog badge. These strange foreigners play ‘the beautiful game’ type of soccer, and on top of that, they have Pele. A black demigod who conquers 3 world cups and decides to finish his career playing for Cosmos in NY.

Pele becomes the stereotype of Brazilians in the US.

Funny thing is that if you stop and look at it, Pele is not your typical Brazilian in many ways. First of all, he was a ruthless player. Think about Michael Jordan playing soccer. Soccer players are usually known for faking injuries but Pele was famous for not getting hurt and (in)famous for being very physical against defenders (he broke quite a few big guys even though he is only 5’7”). Maybe because of that nature, he also had an incredible work ethic. He only retired when he was 37 and even now at 70 years old he is in awesome shape. On the other hand, Pele was also a loveable guy. He was not brazen; he was a soft-spoken marketing genious who dedicated his 1000th goal to ‘the poor kids in Brazil’. He even went to become an Ambassador of United Nations Children’s Fund and an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire! That however didn’t stop him from being a very shrewd business man. He became one of the first truly globalized millionaire athletes and in many ways pushed soccer as a business to the next level like no other had ever done.

So there you have it. Americans were ‘tricked’ into thinking that Pele represented the Brazilians when in reality he was as much as a cultural freak as he was a freak as an athlete. One could make the case that Pele was truly the opposite of the Brazilian culture and that was a huge part of his success.

Now with him long gone and the Americans kind of getting back into the soccer affair, that image is eventually going to disappear. It is not a coincidence that Europeans have a much more reserved approach to Brazilians… They know better. Marta being booed by the German crowd was only a surprise because the other team was the US. Brazilian players have quite a bad reputation in European clubs with a few exceptions.

The US women’s game was not the first controversy that shows this new reality but it was probably the biggest one so far. It is only downhill from here.

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California companies fleeing the Golden State

This is only counting the big companies. Here in Utah the population of former California residents is huge… Can you imagine all the small businesses and overall spending that has left that state because of all the mayhem created by the left? Amazing stuff.

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It sounds funny if you never heard about it but here is the gist of it: Brazilians think that the main reason their products are so expensive is that big corporations are exploiting them.

Here is one example: autos sold in Brazil are among the most expensive in the world. You can compare them to similar cars sold in richer or poorer countries and the difference is shocking (for instance, the cheapest Civic made in Brazil costs R$ 86.750,00 – or more than US$ 55k).

You read their news and opinion columns and the idea is always that even though Brazil has ‘some inneficiences’ the bigger problem is just that those auto companies are ‘too greedy’. Even pieces that try to put things into perspective still miss very basic points on why this idea that greed is to blaime is absurd (even the title itself is silly: “price goes beyond profits”).

But let’s play along. Let’s imagine that yes, auto producers in Brazil are especially greedy and that all of them want to milk consumers to the last penny (wonder where in the world that is not true but let’s pretend this is somehow different in Brazil just for kicks). So let’s imagine a producer A, who discovers that he can charge X for the most basic car so his profit is maximized.

Later producer B joins that market (Brazil has no monopoly of autos in any way – companies from the US, italy, France and Japan are all present) and by definition that producer lags behind in market share. Like every other competition situation in the world, the way producer B becomes competitive is by lowering prices. That happens every time you add more and more producers and what you get in the end is the lowest possible price for each car – otherwise, your car just won’t sell.

Of course we could especulate about collusion and other similar schemes that try to workaround competition. But the question then is why that kind of illegal arrangement would be sustainable if that market is still open for new brands? It would also be very difficult to coordinate and execute (in secrecy) such a large conspiracy in such a huge and diverse marketplace.

Finally, the last end of the puzzle would be: even if these companies are so smart, deceitful and efficient in arranging this grand scheme of super maximization of profits, why is that only happening in Brazil? I mean, you go to any other country around Brazil and prices are much lower. It is very unlikely that this wonderful and lucrative conspiracy could not be replicated anywhere else by these same players, right?

At the end of the day, people in Brazil just don’t understand the cost of all their taxes and bureaucracy. It is not just a matter of adding up all the percentages and coming up to this magic number called ‘Cost Brazil’. You have to remember all the extra operational costs companies have to deal with in that country: all the stupid labor laws; the incredibly slow and costly legal system; high tarrifs; the insane regulations on land use; the always present political instability that keeps the country 2 steps behind turning into Venezuela, etc, etc.

So, even though it is not easy to calculate this magic multiplier it is very easy to understand why it exists and why greed is not the problem.

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!SPOILER ALERT!

Here is a surprise for you: I don’t like Woody Allen. I don’t like his whining, I don’t like the fact that he is a morally bankrupt pervert and for the most part, I don’t like his movies. However, I saw the preview for Midnight in Paris and it looked funny. I really like Owen Wilson so even though I felt bad about giving stupid perverts my money, I decided this was a valid exception. My wife refused to go, so I even had to go by myself.

And I was right. Midnight in Paris is a very good movie. Not laugh out loud funny, but quirky and witty kind of funny. You can see the details of the plot here. Hemingway (Corey Stoll) is just awesome (“who wants to fight!”) and the little scene with Adrien Brody was pure genius.

To be clear, this is no groundbreaking movie or even a classic of any sort; it’s just a pretty good and entertaining one. I think that having Owen Wilson playing the Woody character instead of the pervert himself kind of cleared the way for a lighter and much more enjoyable movie. The message of the movie is also a good one: how people can easily get absorbed by this silly fantasy about the past, and how that fantasy is nothing new to our time.

So there it goes, I recommend this one. Good job you stupid little man.

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Ah, the press… I love when the guy says “23 million homes already bought this. There is no market left!”

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I have no problem defining myself as a right winger. However, it is always good to be reminded that ignorance is not unique to the left.

For example, there is this self-described right winger that comments on MR (of all places!) that is nothing but a classic xenophobe (you can see his last display of stupidity here where he ironically calls himself ‘Gent’). That is the kind of guy who tries to hide his hatred for foreigners with faux economic issues. He could at least have some links in his sleeve and try some convoluted fallacy to justify his arguments but I think that is just above his pay grade.

No matter who that guys votes for, he is no ally. He is just an idiot.

—x—

Ignorance also knows no religious boundaries. Living here in Utah, I have a lot of Mormon friends and acquaintances. The large majority of Mormons are conservative and that is understandable: Mormon values are clearly associated with conservative principles.

However, there is a considerable minority of lefty Mormons as well. After talking about this with them in many occasions, I came to the conclusion that these people just don’t understand the real meaning of free will (refered as agency in the Mormon doctrine). They believe that helping the poor is a goal that is worth any means (i.e., pointing guns to people’s heads and forcing them to help).

Many religious people fall to this trap but to see Mormons doing it is particularly sad since one of their most important religious principles is that the difference between Jesus and Satan is that Jesus wanted to give us mortals the choice between good and evil, while Satan wanted to force his will upon all.

—x—

How could I not finish this with the way Obama handled Bin Laden’s killing?

This is somewhat of a flip side of the first two examples but it is valuable anyway. During the campaign one of the most concerning sides of Obama was his foreign policy: the good old internationalism that tries to make the US as inefficient as the UN. Not only that, his handling of the Libya situation was totally in tune with that philosophy (and you can see just how well it is working).

However, the big boss showed some big stones on the OBL operation. Not only he completely ignored the usual outside parties like UN, NATO, etc. (damn, he ignored Pakistan!), he decided to send troops to do the work the right way – no drones or rogue missiles. Obama was also clear and firm on dismissing any doubts about the ‘legality’ of killing OBL. To finish it up, he also made the right decision in not publishing the pictures of the corpse (too bad he didn’t have the same insight when the issue was Abu Ghraib…).

In any case, in this situation Obama basically did what any Republican would like him to do. Now, that is something to be appreciated.

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Are the unborn human?

That is the real question. Watch the whole thing.

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Atlas Shrugged Part 1

We just watched it and it is way, way better than what I expected!!! Not sure how it works for people who never read the book but for me it was actually better than the book in several parts. Ignore all the bad movie reviews, it is all politics. Can’t wait for part 2!

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About two months ago my wife and I decided to get our concealed firearm permit. Utah is one of the most ‘liberal’ states as far as getting these permits (you don’t need to be resident) but it still requires a 4h class on firearms safety and basics on the laws of self-defense and use of force (you can see the required curriculum here).

So we went to a range we know and sat through the class. It was actually a 6h class, which cost $40 each and covered everything from what type of guns there are, how to clean them, how to use them correctly and most importantly it covered many aspects of gun law in Utah and differences across several states. A lot of the lessons we learned there were quite surprising: Never brandish a gun; Only draw your weapon if you are willing to shoot to kill; You cannot use your gun to protect property, only to protect your life or someone else’s life in cases of imminent threat (Texas is the only State that allows use of a gun to protect property).

If I asked you to guess how the instructor looked like what would you say?

Well, she was a small blonde in her 30s. The fact that a woman was teaching this class didn’t surprise me that much. If you ever go to a range you will see a lot of women in there, all ages and sizes. Half of the people in our class were women. The real surprise came later on.

She was telling us that she has had her permit since she turned 21 and that she always carries a gun no matter where she goes. She made jokes about having different guns for different occasions and how hard it is to conceal when you wear a low cut dress or a bikini. But then she got serious and mentioned that her favorite gun was a small revolver that could fit in any of her purses. That was important to her because that was the gun she carried every day to work… at an elementary school (Even though 34 states have laws allowing members of the general public to carry concealed handguns if they have permits, only 12 states allow adults to carry concealed weapons on school property if they have a permit).

—x—

There are basically two types of people when the subject is guns. Type one thinks that guns are an aberration and that the only solution to violence is to prohibit guns in all places and situations. They think guns actually make people more violent since they can only be used to do evil. Only the police (in some cases, not all) should be allowed to use them.

Type two believes that it is impossible to control guns 100% of the time. They are just too cheap and easy to get and if you try to limit their use you will only get them out of the hands of the people who follow the law in the first place. People in this group also see guns as a tool capable of evil or good. Guns are the greatest ‘power equalizer’ – not only they allow you to protect yourself from other guns but they allow you to protect against people who are carrying other weapons (like knives) or that are simply a lot stronger than you are.

—x—

Today after hearing about the school shooting in Rio I thought about my gun safety instructor and her insurance policy, as she called her concealed revolver in her purse.

I wondered about how things would have turned out if something like that happened in a place where guns were not outlawed like in Brazil but instead, a place where all teachers were required to carry a weapon… Every single one of them, trained and ready to take action when needed.

Would that retarded son of a whore still had gone through his little coward act of violence?

Even if he did… How many of those 12 defenseless kids would still be alive tonight?

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