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Archive for January, 2011

Four Quarters but NO Whole

Posted by heyrandy on January 27, 2011

America’s Four Gods Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, Oxford University Press, 2010. 258 p., index, end notes, bibliography.

Using the method so beloved by social scientists, the survey, the authors try to tell how Americans feel about God, or god. The feeling and beliefs are mixed. No surprise here. In fact, the book is predictable. I could have told the authors much of what they discovered in their survey.

The survey is the Baylor Religion Survey. (You can see it online at thearda.com.) The survey has 400 questions. One can wonder what kind of enthusiasm the respondents had by the end of the process. The authors do not say. The authors do reproduce some of the survey in an appendix. I found some of the questions questionable. “Even if you do not believe in God, based on your personal understanding, what do you think God is like? 6. Angered by human sin Strongly agree, Agree, Undecided, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. (p 162) This is absurd. Consider re-framing the question thusly: Even if you do not believe in unicorns, based upon your personal experience, how easy are they to ride?

The entire idea of four Gods is equally stupid. The survey almost necessitates the division of the respondents into these categories of the Authoritative God, the Benevolent God, the Critical God, and the Distant God. Atheists are the fifth category: the Non-God. Okay, I made up the fifth god. It escapes the authors’ understanding that God is all of these. The survey does not allow for any multifaceted view of God. As presented in the book, God is flat. There is no God outside of the authors’ boxes.

The end notes are the MLA style. Given the value of the book, the end note fit well.

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Cheaply Too

Posted by heyrandy on January 15, 2011

Bought and Paid For The Unholy Alliance Between Barak Obama and Wall Street, Charles Gasparino, Sentinel, 2010, 281 pg

In an interesting amalgam of gossip and expose, the author reveals the inner and largely secret connection of Wall Street bankers and American politicians. It is an old joke that American has the best government money can buy. Gasparino tells us how the deal is done.

In spite of all the campaign rhetoric about spreading the wealth, Barak Obama was elected in part through the large amount of money he received from men who are supposed to be the world’s greatest capitalists. They are if crony capitalism is considered legitimate. These men had an agenda. They paid to get it accomplished. It was a very good investment. It still is.

How did a radical left-wing politician get to be president of the United States? You don’t go from obscure senator to president without money, lots of it. It came from bankers, worried bankers. Worried bankers that are the major players on Wall Street did not want the likely alternative of John McCain as president. They took their chances with Obama. They have come to have a few regrets, but the deal has been good for them.

Gasparino is an insider. He has written about Wall Street for all of his career. He knows the players. He knows how business is done. Doing business involves money going to the right people. It did. The author names the names, quotes the players, and gives the details of the fights. We find that all these cool, calculating money men are largely a bunch of petty school children. The fights, insults, and invective are not what you expect from people in expensive suits. The personalities are on display.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in the book is the details of the mishandling of the public relation issues. Most of the big firms were bailed out by the American taxpayer. The public reacted in outrage. Politicians, many who voted in favor of the bailouts, reacted to the public outrage by bashing the bankers. Goldman Sachs the Devil incarnate because the leadership mishandled the controversy. Other firms missed the public’s wrath by keeping a low profile. The bankers tried to mitigate the hammering they were getting from the politicians by calling in their markers, but it did not do any good. While the politicians are afraid of losing the campaign contributions of the bankers, the politicians are terrified of losing votes. There are more voters than bankers.

In the end it did not matter. the politicians saw the light when the bankers began to shift their contributions toward the Republicans. The reform legislation passed into law was really an empty shell. The bankers won, ho-hum. In some sense it was a good thing. Some of the legislations proposes was just mindless political opportunism. Some would have actually done more harm. None ended the “too big to fail” idea that lead to the bailouts.

The book has end notes without a note reference on the page. Why this is acceptable is something that I do not understand. There are three appendices in the book listing the major Wall Street firms and their roles in the banking crisis, the major players, and a glossary of financial terms. The writing is all right, but there are lots of clichés.

While details presented are interesting because they give a look into the world that is alien to most Americans, the really fascinating part is just how cheaply the politicians were bought.


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Too Expensive

Posted by heyrandy on January 12, 2011

Trillion Dollar Conspiracy How the New World Order, Man-made Diseases, and Zombie Banks are Destroying America, Jim Marrs, WilliamMorrow, 2010.

In this wide-ranging book, the author attempts to reveal the inner workings of secret organizations that are the favorite subjects of conspiracy researchers. I did not find much new in this book. Marrs simply restates much of the material that is already well-known by his colleagues.

The book is organized into four sections: Zombie Nation, How to Create Zombies, How to Control Zombies, and How to Free Zombies. Marrs likes the word zombie. He also likes the words globalist and elitist and all the names of the usual suspects. Marrs’ freshest material is his treatment of the banker bailout. There is nothing new here to anyone that has followed the sorry story, but Marrs does make the point that the bailout was not an anomaly; it was merely a more publicly opposed business-as-usual political give away.

Marrs’ writing is alright, but his English is poor. He frequently uses forego instead of forgo, it begs the question instead of it raises the question, and there are many misplaced modifiers. He thanks the editors in his introduction, but the numerous language errors begs raises the question of editorial effectiveness.

Marrs completes his text by listing “Thirty-six Remedies for a Broken Society.” The first one is audit the Federal Reserve. I have no objection to this, but Marrs seems to be unaware that the Federal Reserved is audit annually. The public in not allowed to obtain copies of the audit. Marrs means a public audit. This would be a very good idea. But Marrs wants not just to audit the Federal Reserve; he wants to abolish it. But he does not say that. He says the Congress should have the power to print and spend all the money. Marrs is only opposed to the privately owned Federal Reserve Banks doing the money creation. “The printing of the dollar should be aproved through Congress and issued through the U.S. Treasury as U.S. Treasury notes.” pg. 368 This is called Greenbackism. It is really no different from having a private bank do the money creation. Greenbacks are still notes (debt instruments) backed by nothing. They are a fiat currency. It does no good to replace one fiat currency with another.

Marrs further demonstrates his ignorance by saying that these notes “should be distributed gradually so as not to significantly inflate [sic he means debase through inflation] the worth of the currency in circulation.” pg.368 How can printing more paper fiat notes do anything but debase the currency? What is gradually? When does inflation become significant? Marrs does not say. Marrs does not mention the recent catastrophic inflation in Zimbawe. This disaster was caused by a government own central bank printing massive amounts of fiat currency. Would it have helped if the government had more slowly spent the money? Does Marrs trust the U.S. congress to exercise prudence and restraint in the very easy task of printing more money?

In this same “remedy,” Marrs confuses fractional reserve banking with U.S. government debt. This, he says, “has been created by sleight of hand; it can be abolished by sleight-of-hand.” How?

The incompetence evident in the first “remedy” did not motivate me to give much attention to the rest. Most are platitudes: e.g., #9: “The Pledge of Allegiance should be said every day at school and every day in Congress to remind both young and old of the basic tenets of U.S. sovereign freedom and democracy.” pg. 369 Hey! The House of Representatives just read most of the Constitution. Do you feel the improvement?

The book has forty-two pages of sources and an index but not a single footnote. This omission makes the book less useful to researchers seeking to expand on Marrs’ work. It also makes it difficult for readers to check his facts.

If you are new to the matters discussed you may find Marrs’ work of value. If you are looking for new information and penetrating analysis you will find the Trillion Dollar Conspiracy too expensive.

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