Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The War is the Cause of our Budget Deficit and Other Myths

Do you ever get tired of hearing how the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan are bankrupting our country? I sure do. I'm not saying the wars have absolutely nothing to do with the deficit, nor am I saying either or both of them are just, but the idea that they are primarily responsible for the economic state of this country is based on myth and Democrat party propaganda, more than anything else.

In particular, I would like to point to Figure 4-1 in the Congressional Budget Office Long Term Forecast, which shows that compared to historical levels, current defense spending is much, much less than during the mid 80's and a little more than half of what we spent throughout much of the 60's as a percentage of GDP, which is the real measure of government spending.

The real question is then, obviously, why is our budget deficit so high? The answer to that question requires far more time than I have right now, so the CBO LTBO link is my teaser. Ross Perot also has some charts that can serve the purpose of a teaser to stimulate thought on the real causes of our federal budget deficit.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hypocrisy in Politics? No....

I hesitate to post this, because I'm a Republican, and this example reflects negatively on the Democrats. But, I'll do it anyway, with the caveat that I expect nothing less (or more?) from the RNC. It's much more surprising, these days, to find a politican or political group that isn't hypocritical... and I've become jaded enough that I just figure we haven't discovered their hypocrisy yet.


A Swastika--call CPS!

Here's an article about a mother whose children were removed because she helped her daughter draw a swastika on her arm and had white pride symbols in the home.

To me, this seems like a dangerous abuse of CFS authority. Although I disagree with the family's beliefs, I think they should be allowed to teach them to their children. As long as they are not abusing their children or causing them to participate in a crime, they have every right to teach their children whatever they believe.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Title IX for Science and Engineering Departments

"Instead, they complained of being pushed so hard to be scientists and engineers that they ended up in jobs they didn’t enjoy. “The irony was that talent in a male-typical pursuit limited their choices,” Ms. Pinker says. “Once they showed aptitude for math or physical science, there was an assumption that they’d pursue it as a career even if they had other interests or aspirations. And because these women went along with the program and were perceived by parents and teachers as torch bearers, it was so much more difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that the work made them unhappy.”"

This paragraph resonated with my own personal experience. My wife would seem to be a poster child for women in engineering. In fact she was. She was featured in an article for a university publication. She was good at math and science in high school and got funneled down the engineering path by various advisers. She had great internships, great science, math and engineering grades throughout high school and college, and got a good job after college making good money. The only problem was she never liked school or her jobs, and eventually she quit engineering to work in health care. What a waste of 6 years of her life. I tried to convince her otherwise, even getting her an offer for a research position in the engineering department where I was getting my own master's degree. It sure would have been nice if she had remained an engineer, from our pocketbooks perspective, but perpetuating a career where one is miserable is a ludicrous waste of potential.

Applying Title IX to engineering and the sciences worries me. College sports are over-rated, and ancillary the fundamental mission of a university to educate young adults. But science is right in the heart of a universities educational mission. Are we going to drop programs that have difficulty attracting females in order to keep the ratio of women to men in science programs the same? Honestly, I don't think it will ever be implemented on the same scale as in sports. People will talk about changing things. Studies will be done. Recruitment efforts will be launched. Minor changes will be made here and there. Tons of money will be spent. Heads will roll if they question the prevailing feminist doctrine. More women like my wife will end up with miserable careers, but in the end all the efforts won't actually change much and programs won't get cut. 20 years from now, there will still be large imbalances in gender ratios for nursing and engineering careers. Despite (what I hope are) sensationalist claims otherwise, I believe the costs are too great and too many women see through the bullshit to foist Title IX off on engineering/science departments in a form anywhere near what has prevailed in sports.


Opposition to Outlawing Sex Selective Abortion or Why Killing Females Because They are Females is Acceptable Collateral Damage to Some Feminist Groups

My favorite website this week is If you haven't seen it yet, it's well worth a perusal.

I found this quote which struck me for both its frankness, the despicableness of the faulty moral reasoning, and the source. The author was the former director of the UN Population Fund, and Yale isn't exactly a bastion of pro-life thought.
"Others, however, while acknowledging that sex-selective abortion is a morally reprehensible practice, stress a woman’s right to choose her reproductive outcomes as paramount. Many pro-choice and feminist groups are convinced that outlawing sex-selective abortion will undermine the reproductive rights of women."

Another quote that I found scary was this one: "Higher (male-to-famale sex) ratios are observed in urban areas, 111, and in the wealthier Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, 126 and 122, respectively." I've been told by Indian friends in the past that sex preferences are mostly limited to the backwoods provinces in the NE. This seems to directly contradict such claims and does not bode well. If the wealthier (presumably better educated states) have the highest sex ratio imbalances, that implies to me that rooting out such deep seated prejudice is going to be very difficult and won't occur automatically with development and a better educated female populace. Indeed, even immigrant communities in the US have measureable sex ratio imbalances. "Increasing evidence suggests that the practice of sex-selective abortions is occurring among Chinese and Indian immigrant communities living abroad. In the US, for example, figures from the 2000 census indicate US-born children of Chinese, Indian and Korean parents tended to be male."

The article on this "dilemna" underscores for me the logic behind denying US funding to the UNFPA which helps to administer China's draconian one-child policy (including forced sterilization and forced abortion) and which leads to terrible consequences such as the kidnapping and sale of children. Organizations which have lost their moral bearings to the point that outlawing sex-selective abortion is considered to be a "dilemna" don't deserve taxpayer dollars.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Sponsoring the Elderly through CFCA

Today, July 5th, is my day for the 40 Day Fast. Please, check out Andira's blog about clean water as well. Without further ado...

Emy has been staying with my family for the last week. She will be with us for two weeks while her family is in Chicago vacationing and wrapping up the affairs of a deceased family member. Emy is a wonderful Filipino grandmother in her 70’s. She is also very lucky in that she has a daughter and son-in-law who can take her into their home and take care of her in her old age. Watching her shuffle around our house reminds me of all the people in the developing world who don’t have children who can take care of them.

In the US, we have Social Security and Medicare to provide income and health care for the elderly. As a society, we take pretty good care of them materially, and children are much more likely than the elderly to go hungry and live in extreme poverty. In the developing world, though, there are no governmental safety nets. The elderly must rely entirely on their families or community organizations. While this works out well for many people, since they have children who can take care of them, some elderly people fall through the cracks. Perhaps their children have emigrated to look for work and are unable to do more than send an irregular check. Perhaps their child died. Perhaps they never had children. There are a myriad of reasons why people end up in extreme poverty in their old age. Probably the most terrible thing about material poverty among the elderly is that it is often the result of a lack of social connections. Because of this, it can be accompanied by great loneliness. As Mother Teresa said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”

The Christian Foundation for Children and Aging provides an opportunity for people in the first world to connect with an elderly person in the developing world to provide them with food, clothes, medical care, the opportunity to be involved in social programs and (most importantly) to provide them with the knowledge that they are loved and valued.

Sponsoring elderly people isn’t sexy. I sponsor several kids through various aid organizations. The kids draw pictures and write letters telling us about their plans for the future. One gal who has been sponsored by my wife since before we were married is nearly grown and wrote last month asking for advice on career and college choices that she’s been pondering. It’s a pretty awesome experience. You know you are making a difference and that someone’s life will be changed for many years to come. You can see their handwriting and social abilities improve as they get older. You can see their dreams come to fruition. The elderly are different. Many are losing their eyesight and are unable to write letters for themselves. They soil themselves. Their goals are modest: they have no plans for college, marriage and family. They have trouble getting around. They are set in their ways: if your primary purpose in sponsoring somebody is to convert them to your religion, you’re probably wasting your money. Yet, none of that matters to God. He loves them no less than any child, and if we are to imitate His love, we cannot overlook them in our efforts to combat poverty and spread His love around.

Today, I would ask that you read the stories of these people and consider sponsoring an aging person through CFCA. It costs just $30/month and provides so much more than food, clothes and medical care. It provides someone with hope and love. It also reminds your kids that the elderly are important and that they had better make darn sure to take care of you in your doddering years. 

As for myself, I think I’m gonna go sit down next to Emy and chat for a spell. I enjoy hearing her stories about her years as a singer, about growing up as a musician’s kid at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong before and after the Japanese invasion of WWII, and about the farm back in the Philippines.

The obligatory financial stuff
CFCA is a fantastic organization: 93.8% of donations go to program support. CFCA has received seven consecutive 4 star ratings from Charity Navigator (less than 1% of charities make this cut) and is the ONLY child/aging sponsorship organization to receive the A+ rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Poverty among the elderly is not an issue that is going to go away. The UN Population Division projects that by 2050 the proportion of elderly people to working people in the developing world is set to rise by over 250%. As of 2005, the dependency ratio was 8.7%. By 2050, the UN projects that the dependency ratio will climb to 22.6%*. The world is set for an unprecedented growth in the percentage of elderly people, and it is very unlikely that social structures and services are going to keep pace with this change.
* Statistics taken from TABLE II.1. AGE COMPOSITION AND DEPENDENCY RATIO, BY DEVELOPMENT GROUP AND MAJOR AREA, ESTIMATES AND MEDIUM VARIANT, 2005 AND 2050 in World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, Volume III: Analytical Report