Honoring Abraham Lincoln on His Birthday

In honor of our sixteenth president’s birthday, February 12, 1809, I thought I would share some inspirational quotes from this great man. All quotes are taken from David Herbert Donald’s book “Lincoln”, which I recently read.

Lincoln on the Bible
Lincoln was not a member of any specific Christian church, though he often found comfort and reassurance in the Bible. To a friend who was skeptical of the Bible’s veracity, Lincoln said, “take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”

To a group of African-Americans who presented him with a magnificently bound Bible in appreciation for his work for the Negro, Lincoln said, “this Great Book…is the best gift God has given to man.”

Trusting the Almighty
Often Lincoln reverted to the idea that behind the struggles and loses of the Civil War, a Divine purpose was at work. “The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise…we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains.”

Better to let them think you are foolish
Than to open your mouth and prove it

Never happy at extemporaneous speaking, the President once apologized to a group of people that wanted him to make a speech on the spot. “In my position,” he said, “it is somewhat important that I should not say any foolish things.” A voice from the crowed then said, “If you can help it.” To which Lincoln replied, “It very often happens that the only way to help it is to say nothing at all.”

Adopting True Views
In response to critics accusing him of a political flip-flop, Lincoln said that he would always “adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.”

The Incredibly Short but Amazingly Powerful Gettysburg Address
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Why I Oppose Gambling/Lotteries?

Standing in shawdows of the thrid largest gambling destination in the US, Tunica, MS, I tackle today’s topic: why I oppose gambling? I could spend hours giving you anecdotal evidence of the negative consequences of gambling (stories of poverty sticken adults buying lottery tickets instead of family necessities or college students flunking out of school due to an online poker addiction). But this blog is about the facts, so lets take a look at them.

This Country has a Gambling Problem
According to the American Psychiatric Association some signs of problem gambling may include (http://www.masscompulsivegambling.org/paths/help_signs.php):

Sign Evidence of it Happening
Increasing the frequency and the amount of money gambled As you can see in the chart above, casino gambling is skyrocketing in America. Also, 38 of the 50 states now have a lottery.
Secretive behavior such as hiding betting slips or lottery receipts What better example of promoting secretive behavior than the “What happens here, stays here” ad campaign for Las Vegas.
Losing time from school due to betting or gambling College males gambling online weekly has quadrupled in the past year, leading to neglect of school work. See “Poker: Online and Obsessed”, Sports Illustrated, 05.25.2005 or this article
Jeopardizing or losing a career opportunity because of gambling The Financial Times reports that gambling at work costs UK employers £300 million (that’s about $600 million) a year. With the majority of online gambling website users coming from the US, there is no doubt that similar trends exist in America.

Negative Social Impact
My opposition to gambling is a matter of principle as I feel that this practice has a negative impact on the society. Take for example, Neveda, home of the top gambling destination in the US, Las Vegas. It also ranks very high in some other categories of interest:

  • Most dangerous state in the nation
  • Most suicides
  • Most divorces
  • Third most high school dropouts
  • Third most alcohol related deaths
  • Fourth most bankruptcies
  • Fourth lowest voter participation
    (source = http://www.ncalg.org/Library/Facts%20and%20Answers/Nevada%20rankings%20Chart%20revised.mht)

    Gambling/Lotteries Prey on the Poor and Less Educated

  • The Associated Press recently reported that many (particularly the less educated) see the lottery, not saving, as way to wealth (http://angkor.com/cityrain/AntiLottery.shtml)
  • Evidence exists in major media plans of the lotteries target the poor. The advertising plan for Ohio’s Super Lotto game stated that lottery promotions should be timed to coincide with the receipt of Government benefits, payroll and Social Security payments. (http://www.family.org/socialissues/A000000620.cfm)
  • Clotfelter and Cook recently reported that the top 5 percent of players accounted for 54% of total lottery sales. The top 20 percent accounted for 82% of sales. Clearly, this small group of heavy players are the life blood of the lottery; the average player provides little from a lottery revenue perspective. http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ngisc/reports/lotfinal.pdf
  • Proponents of state lotteries justify their existence because money raised is used to fund education. But that is like selling one’s soul to the devil. The social degradation this practice brings is a heavy price to pay and definitely not worth it. I echo Gordon B. Hinckley’s sentiments on the subject of gambling, “There are better ways to spend one’s time. There are better pursuits to occupy one’s interest and energy… please do not fritter away your time or your talents in an aimless pursuit. If you do so, it will lessen your capacity to do worthwhile things.” (source)

    Whose Money is it Anyway?

    Exxon Mobil Corporation recently reported record profits of $39 billion (that’s $39,000 million). The following day, Hillary Clinton was quoted saying, “I want to take those profits and put them into an alternative energy fund.” (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,250060,00.html) This leads us to today’s topic: Whose money is it? From my perspective (in which I value hard work, capitalism and private property rights), the money belongs to the shareholders (i.e. the owners) of Exxon Mobil. From Hillary Clinton’s apparent perspective, she thinks the money belongs to her (or, if speaking from her official capacity, she thinks the money belongs to the government).


    The arrogance and audacity (and potentially disasterous economic reprecussions) of Mrs. Clinton’s statement blows me away. Even before Exxon comes to their profit figure, the government has already had its hand in the company’s wallet. About a third of Exxon’s income is taken through taxes ($27 out of $67 billion), and that percentage holds true for all large corporations. And don’t think the government hasn’t had their hands in the consumers’ wallet either; 45 cents on every gallon of gas you buy is “taken” by the government in the form tax revenue (whereas oil companies only earn only about 10 cents of profit on a gallon of gas). So who is gauging who? If oil companies earned no profit, gas would be 10 cents less per gallon; if government “took” no taxes, gas would be 45 cents less per gallon.

    My goal here is not to defend big oil companies, my goal is to defend capitalism and private property rights from greedy politicians. Today Mrs. Clinton is trying to “take” more of Exxon’s profit, tomorrow she will be after more of yours and mine. The more the government “takes” (taxes), the less incentive there is for businesses and individuals to produce. And when less is produced, the economy, and everyone’s pocketbook, is negatively impacted.

    Taking Back the Minimum Wage Debate

    Rush Limbaugh stated on his radio show recently that we Conservatives have lost the debate with the American people on the issue of rasing the federal minimum wage (http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_010807/content/see_i_told_you_so.member.html). That may be so, but here is my attempt to take the argument back.

    Here are the top three reasons why I am opposed to raising the federally mandated minimum wage:
    1. It doesn’t work–it does not raise the income of average Americans.
    2. It causes unemployment to rise, thus hurting the very people its proponents claim to want to help.
    3. It attempts to buck the laws of free market economics.

    1. It does not raise the income of average Americans.
    In the chart to the right, you can see the average income of Americans over the last 75 years (the blue line is actual data points, the green line is the linear trend). With the exception of a few dips and spikes, the income of the average American has risen steadily, about 2% a year, for the past 75 years, regardless of the minimum wage. The minimum wage has not been increased in nearly 10 years, yet average American incomes continue to rise. Proponents of a minimum wage increase say it’s part of the broader war on poverty. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between raising the minimum wage and raising people’s income so they can emerge from poverty. I wish that were the case, but it does nothing to fight poverty, in fact, if anything, raising the minimum wage puts more families in poverty through unemployment. (data taken from http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/chart.htm and http://www.economagic.com/em-cgi/data.exe/var/inflation-cpiu-dec2dec)

    2. It causes unemployment to rise.
    Take a look at the chart to the left and you will see the correlation between raising the minimum wage and increases in the unemployment level. 4 out of the past 5 major increases in the minimum wage have resulted in unemployment skyrocketing. (data taken from http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?series_id=LNU04000000)

    3. It attempts to buck the laws of free market economics.
    Regulating the price of labor (i.e. wages), like any other price control, is an ineffective and crude way to micro-manage a free market; it takes supply and demand out of equilibrium. I like this quote from Tim Kane, Ph.D., “The goal of price controls like the minimum wage is essentially to repeal the law of supply and demand, but senators might as well try to repeal the law of gravity” (Minimizing Economic Opportunity by Raising the Minimum Wage). Raising the minimum wage will hinder the growth of our economy. The market needs to be set free to maximize growth and bring increased prosperity to all.

    Many things on the surface appear appear to do good, but when analyzed we find they actually harm. Such is the case with chocloate ice cream (I love it, but it goes right to the waist line) and such is the case with the minimum wage. I hope, for the sake of all Americans who wish for increased economic prosperity in the future, that Conservatives in our governament stand strong against this errant policy of increasing the federal minimum wage.

    Who is to Blame for Global Warming?

    So as California and Florida are facing unseasonably low temperatures that have threatened our country’s citrus crop, we tackle the issue of global warming. It’s a frequent topic in the news, in politics and even our school children are inundated with alarming information (and often mis-information) on global warming. So once again, let’s look at the facts in the case to see if we can determine to what extent the earth’s climate is changing and who could be the culprit.

    The following charts plot the yearly average global temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, over the past 140 years (data taken from http://www.nepa.gov/nepa/reports/statistics/global.html). Both charts plot the exact same data; I just present the same data from two different views. From the first chart, it would appear the earth’s climate is remarkably stable, not appearing to vary much at all over the past 140 years.

    The second chart tells a different story; it shows how the earth’s temperature has risen about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 140 years. But more than that, it shows some interesting trends, telling us where temperatures might have been prior to the collection of data and perhaps where we will see temperatures go in the future.

    In the third chart, I have three different types of trends the temperature changes could be following.
    The blue, polinomial trend seems to be the best fit for the data and does a good job showing the cyclical nature of the data. Such tempurate cycles have been a part of this earth since its creation. Some geologists believe the earth experience global warming during the early Jurassic period, with temperatures rising nine degrees Fahrenheit. A thousand years ago, the Vikings settled a new land and for its lush environment called it Greenland. They later were forced to leave Greenland, though, due to falling temperatures killing crops and expanding ice sheets. In the 16th century, Europe expeienced what historians call the Little Ice Age.

    We now turn the discussion towards causes. We have seen the data and it is clear there is overall warming in recent years. This along with the historical perspective of climate change, we see that warming and cooling of the earth is cyclical. But is there more to it than natural cycles about which we can do nothing? Experts in the field also say solar activity, volcanic emissions, variations in the earth’s orbit, livestock flatulence and greenhouse gases from human activity are causing the earth’s temperature to rise. A recent article in the UK Telegraph outlines how scientists believe the sun is burning hotter than ever before and thus contributing to global warming.

    Now we have barely touched on man-made causes of global warming such as car emissions and pollution. Mankind and modern living may be a factor but how much of a factor is a matter of dispute in scientific and politcal circles. I do not see any data to suggest the sky is falling as so many environmentalist alarmists wish us to believe. Al Gore has stated that the automobile is the earth’s greatest enemy and he supports “completely eliminating the internal combustion engine” (Earth in the Balance, page 325). I believe this is an extreme view and such drastic steps are not necessary; in fact it is quite arrogant to think that man has this kind of power to raise the earth’s temperature by our life styles alone or to lower it by changing the way we live our lives.

    It is our responsibility, though, to take reasonable steps to keep the earth clean and safe. I see our responsibility to care for the environment as a God-given stewardship, rather than an effort to prevent some type of global climate catasphophe.

    Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them (Adam and Eve), and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

    Most Americas Reject Political Manipulation of Gasoline Prices

    Back in October 2006 I paid $2.01 for a gallon of gasoline and I thought to myself that I would never see the day when gas dropped below $2 a gallon. Well, today I paid $1.98 per gallon. I guess Democrats only thought they would see prices this low as we approached the 2008 elections. In the month prior to the November 2006 elections, as was in the elevator at work and heard a woman remark that the republicans were intentionally manipulating the price of gas down so as to win the elections. This ‘manipulation’ was widely reported in the drive by media, one example of which can be found on the USA Today website (http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2006-09-25-gas-poll_x.htm?csp=15). I don’t believe Bush or the republicans have that kind of power, nor could I believe that any rational person would believe such a conspiracy theory. But according to the USA Today “Many Americans look for political manipulation as gasoline prices plunge.”

    “According to a new Gallup poll, 42% of respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration “deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall’s elections.” Fifty-three percent of those surveyed did not believe the conspiracy theory; 5% said they had no opinion. Not surprising, almost two-thirds of those who suspect President Bush intervened to bring down energy prices before Election Day are registered Democrats, according to Gallup.”

    Even with the drive by media propagating this insane theory, 53% of Americans realize there is no basis for this line of thinking. To me, the headline should have been something to the effect of “Most Americas Reject Political Manipulation of Gasoline Prices.”

    Though I fall in with the majority not believing this conspiracy theory, I thought I would do some research into the facts of the case. If we look at retail gas prices since 1990, we do see some interesting trends, none of which, though, indicate a Bush/Republican manipulation.

    As you can see in the chart (data points taken from http://www.economagic.com/em-cgi/data.exe/doewkly/day-mg_rco_us), gas prices remained relatively flat during the 1990s, then began raising for the last two years of the Clinton administration, leading up to the Bush/Gore election of 2000. If Bush did have power to manipulate gas prices, he sure didn’t use it in 2000. Approaching the elections of 2002 and 2004, again prices were on the rise, but perhaps Bush was comfortable enough with his and the Republicans re-election chances that he didn’t feel the need to manipulate down the gas prices. Now it is nearly three months after those elections in which Bush deliberately decreased the price of gasoline and gas prices continue to fall. It’s a good thing Bush is such a benevolent dictator to continue to give us low gas prices, even after his party was defeated at the polls. Or perhaps he is already getting started on the price manipulation to help his GOP buddies win in 2008. (I’m sorry; I’ve been fighting the urge to be sarcastic, but I finally gave in.)

    So if it is not Bush affecting the price of gas, what is it? Could there are other factors at work here in our free market economy? I’m not an oil expert or an economist, but I am a thinker, and I think the price of crude oil could be a larger factor in the price of gasoline. Imported crude oil ranged between $10 and $20 a barrel during the 1990s (http://www.economagic.com/em-cgi/data.exe/doeme/raimuus). In 2000, prices spiked to $30 a barrel, roughly corresponding to the spike you see toward the end of the Clinton administration. In 2004, crude oil priced spiked again, this time to $40 a barrel, corresponding to the gas price increase you see as the 2004 elections approached. Throughout 2005 crude oil prices continued to climb until they peaked over $60 a barrel in the summer of 2006. Now, January 2007, crude oil prices have dropped back down to around $50 a barrel. All of these fluctuations in the gas price you pay at the pump are correlated with the ups and down of the crude oil market.

    No doubt gas prices will continue to raise in the future, whoever or whatever is the culprit. A gallon of gas soon may be even more expensive than a gallon of milk. Yep, milk has consistently cost more than gas, averaging over $3 a gallon for several years now (http://www.economagic.com/em-cgi/data.exe/blsap/apu0000709112). Forget ‘big oil’, I want to know how ‘big dairy’ is keeping the price of milk so high and what their political agenda is. (Sorry, that sarcasm is rearing it’s head again.)