30 January 2012

15. Downsizing the Federal Government

Downsizing the Federal Government - Chris Edwards

Here is a book full of awesome ideas to fix problems our country is having. I love most of them and have for quite some time. I have voted for people who promoted these ideas for decades now. The problem is that those people wither failed to follow through or were blocked in their efforts. That does not mean I will change. I still vote this way.

Chris Edwards is an economist who works with the Cato Institute. That is a Washington DC think tank along the lines of the Brookings Institute and Heritage Foundation. The big difference is that Cato is not liberal or conservative. They are a mixture of both. They are pro free markets and also anti war with liberty being a huge factor. They are libertarian if you had to put a label on them. You can keep your Democrats and Republican die hard garbage. Neither party is right or does what they say they will do. I will vote with the guy who is closest to doing what Cato stands for every time, and that has been from different parties all my life.

I have been reading articles and content on the website Downsizing the Federal Government for years. The site is an offshoot of the same ideas displayed in the book. You don't have to read the book if you don't want. You can go the website and see the same ideas in a different format. You won't see as much depth or explanation, but maybe it is enough to get you to want to learn more.

There is a free ebook version of this book on that site. I had downloaded it a long time ago. This is exactly why having that free kindle is awesome. I just loaded it on that little gadget and took it with me when I went places. I was never going to sit in front of a computer and read this and I would not spend the money to buy a new print version when I have a stack of other printed books sitting here waiting to be read. So, the kindle allowed me to read this book.

I think it is awesome! I love these ideas. I totally believe that most of what Mr. Edwards say is absolutely the best course of action.

I found it funny when he was busting chops of politicians in the book. He slammed Newt Gingrich and George Bush a few times because they were supposed to be budget watching smaller government proponents and both did exactly the opposite when they got into a position to make a difference. I liked that.

He didn't slam Democrats much. Why? He explains that it is because they don't say they are going to make government smaller and therefore can not fail to live up to that expectation. He just plain old disagrees with their philosophy of what government is and should be doing...just like I do. He did give a few Democrats some props though. He mentioned a few that actually did push a limited government agenda. He mentioned Paul Douglas, an Illinois Senator from 1949-1967, who was a harsh critic of government waste while also a champion for civil rights. Another guy was William Proxmire, Senator from Wisconsin from 1957-1989, the inventor of the "golden fleece" award for the biggest tax-payer ripoffs each month.

Anyway, promoting the ideas are what this book is really about. Stuff like cutting Defense, Education, Energy, HHS, HUD, Transportation, Labor and many other departments where there is wasteful, duplicated or obsolete programs. He is a proponent of privatization of much of what the federal government controls.

He suggests we sell assets; make discretionary spending cuts; make entitlement spending cuts (don't freak out, it is not what you are told by the fear-monger people); make 10 year budget plans; hammer waste and then hammer is some more; attack government fraud and abuse; erase duplicate programs across different agencies; eliminate obsolete, ineffective and chronically mismanaged programs; reform government bureaucracy; enact Congressional term limits; reign in the special interest spending and lobbying; eliminate corporate welfare; deal with economically damaging programs; freedom limiting programs; socially damaging programs; environmentally damaging programs; correct the size and scope of federal grants for all kinds of things; privatizing stand-alone businesses such as postal services and passenger rail services; privatizing infrastructure; tax reform!; budget process reforms; and so on and so on....

Mr. Edwards goes into specific examples of each category he brings up. He explains why he has his opinion and what he would do to fix a problem. If you want to see those details you will undoubtedly have to read the book, or at least the website.

I loved it.

28 January 2012

14. The Freakshow

The Freakshow - Bryan Smith

What possibilities this horror story would have...a bizarre freak show carnival from another dimension sets up shop near a different small town every few years. Everyone gets killed by the freaks and replaced by clones.

The potential is huge. Unfortunately it was not hit out of the park. Don't get me wrong, it was a good book full of horrible atrocities and nastiness, but it could have been much much more. I had such high hopes for this one. It was OK, but didn't go where I would have taken it if I was the author. It kept me interested. It was a real page turner. I just kept waiting for the huge "thing" that made me take a deep breath and say "Dude!" (or something like that.)

I am betting that the author actually wanted to write a lot more in this story but the editor and publisher told him to keep it around 300 pages (324). Many scenes could have been expanded and enhanced the story. To do that would have made the book into a 900 page Stephen Kingish sized horror novel. Is there a market for that these days? Probably not like there was in the 80's. That is a bummer because in my head there was so much more going on.

I hate to harp on that issue. I did have a blast reading this one. I will read more Bryan Smith.

27 January 2012

13. Helen's Babies: With Some Account of Their Ways Innocent, Crafty, Angelic, Impish, Witching, and Repulsive, Also, a Partial Record of Their Actions During Ten Days of Their Existence.

Helen's Babies: With Some Account of Their Ways Innocent, Crafty, Angelic, Impish, Witching, and Repulsive, Also, a Partial Record of Their Actions During Ten Days of Their Existence. - John Habberton

This is a humorous novel published originally in 1876. I like old books sometimes.

It is considered a children's book, but it along the lines of The Jungle Book, Peter Pan or Narnia. Definitely not a child's book as far as reading, but probably pretty entertaining for a child if it is read to them.

This one is about a man who lives in the city who gets a letter from his sister asking if he will spend a few weeks at their country home with her children while she goes on vacation with her husband.

He agrees. The children are five and three year old boys. They are feisty little buggers and get into a bunch of boy trouble. It is quite funny.

Oh, and the uncle falls in love with a country girl and moves to his own little plot and starts a whole new kind of life. Whatever.

It was fun reading this book and living in a different era for a while. The kids had a cart pulled by a goat. What fun that would have been growing up. Darn.

26 January 2012

12. Monstrosity

Monstrosity - Edward Lee

This book was a let down for me. I was hoping for the suspense of Flesh Gothic. I never got it. The ending was a dud. It had some cool parts, but when I read a horror novel I want to feel that spine chilling thing. It was nowhere near that.

I will read more Edward Lee, but I am left feeling short changed by this book.

(I went back and read my review of Flesh Gothic. I didn't like that book either. For the same reason. For some reason I remembered it differently. I guess I will not read more Edward Lee.)

21 January 2012

11. Dubliners

Dubliners - James Joyce

This is some awesome writing. It must be. The stories sure didn't keep me captivated. It was all about making the scene come to life reading this book. That is what kept me interested.

10. Constitutionalism And The Rule Of Law In America

Constitutionalism And The Rule Of Law In America - Herman Belz

Probably the dryest read I have ever finished.

17 January 2012

9. Orange Crush

Orange Crush - Tim Dorsey

This book has been on the active reading pile for about a month. I think I started it about that long ago anyway. It is finally finished. I am finally done wrapping up the unfinished business from 2011. :-)

This is a funny book full of humor and satire concerning politics in Florida. The Lt Gov of the state is a shoe in to become the next governor because he tows the party line. In fact...he IS the party line. he has lived it so long that he can't think any other way.

Then, by a fluke, he is sent with the Florida Army Guard to Bosnia. He gets involved in events that change his perspective. Well, it is more like it actually changes who the man is.

When he returns he is suddenly concerned about issues and justice and reform and all that stuff. Not just yakking, but actually doing it.

During the course of his campaign there are many hilarious events and numerous outstanding characters. It is a raucous good time and full of stereotypical political joking.

If I didn't have a to be read pile as high as my house I might go look for more from this author. I do have that pile, so, sorry Mr. Dorsey. Maybe some time in the future if I live a long time.

8. Play Ball: A Tribute to Our National Pastime

Play Ball: A Tribute to Our National Pastime

This time of year is hard for me. I am a huge baseball fan and I really miss it in January. Football is OK, but it is winding down as the playoffs proceed. Hockey is ongoing, but it is not a huge deal in the south and is tough to follow here. Basketball, well, I don't like it or care about it at all. NASCAR is just beginning to show signs of life with the very first runs at Daytona. Even that is way too early to give it more than a passing glance.

So, I start looking toward baseball and hope that teams will start talking about the upcoming spring training. Who will be playing where? What are the expectations? But, alas, it is still too early. I miss my game.

I tried to give myself a baseball booster shot by listening to this audio book. Maybe it would help me get through these winter baseball doldrums. It failed to do what I hoped it would. I miss the game even more now that I ended up teasing myself. Can you say "backfire"?

The audio book was cool though. Some pretty famous voices read some of the classic baseball writings. Baseball is dramatic to begin with. These guys made it even more so.

Casey at the Bat was written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer and read by Len Cariou.
Jinxes and What They Mean to a Ball-Player was written by Christy Matthewson and read by Charley Steiner.
Shoeless Joe was written by W. P. Kinsella and read by Grover Gardner.
An excerpt from If I Had a Hammer was written and read by Hank Aaron.

These were just a couple of the classics on these discs. They stirred my emotions with stories of the game I love about the legends of that game.

Damn, I miss baseball.

16 January 2012

7. The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything

The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything - Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir

This book shows me the most awesome idea I have seen in a long time. What is your favorite movie? What is your favorite restaurant? What is your favorite anything? This book shows a way to reach a definitive, once-and-for-all answer to all of those questions.

"What is enlightenment?

Better question: What is Bracketology?

Bracketology is a way of seeing the world so that we can become more enlightened- about what we like, favor, prefer, abhor, or abjure. It is a system that helps us make clearer and cleaner decisions about what is good, better, best in our world."

"Bracketology- the practice of parsing people, places and things into discrete one-on-one match ups to determine which of the two is superior or preferable- works because it is simple."

I had this book on the counter when friends came over this weekend. We made some brackets to figure out "what sucks the most" just for fun. It really was fun going match up for match up and figuring out why a hangnail sucks more than running out of gas, or vice-versa. Between the tree of us we came up with different answers to what sucks the most. There winners were terrorists, cancer and the IRS freezing your bank accounts. The process of reaching those conclusions from the beginning 32 sucky things was a lot of fun.

Later I took that a step further knowing I was going to be blogging about this book. I created a single elimination bracket of 128 books I liked. What would be my favorite book when they are all pitted in head-to-head?

There were some very tough decisions along the way. There were also some no brainers. It is easy to say "Slaughterhouse 5" beats "Logan's Run". It is not so easy when "The Great Gatsby" and "Into The Wild" meet in the sweet 16. That was one of the hardest decisions. I went with "Into The Wild" after much thought. I still wrestle with that one.

"Darkness At Noon" beat out "Shutter Island" then lost the next round to "The Kite Runner", which in turn lost in the following round to "Lolita". Any one of those four is an outstanding book. It stinks to have to eliminate any of them at all, but something had to win.

I had fun doing this bracket. The overall winner? For me, at this time, it was "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I have no regrets in that book winning. It was great. Along the way it took down two outstanding books about Vietnam. "The Short-Timers" and "The Things They Carried". Both amazing books in themselves.

I am including a copy of this bracket below for your perusal. I am sure yours would be different. Go for it. I would love to see what happens with others doing the same.
You can get your own brackets here? http://www.printyourbrackets.com/

6. The Claims Of Christ

The Claims Of Christ - Chuck Smith

This was a little book about what Jesus Christ actually claimed to be in the pages of the bible. It eliminates all the extra stuff that people say and just used the words Jesus spoke. "I am....." That kind of thing.

Then Pastor Chuck explains how those claims affect our world and how we live.

Awesomeness in a little tiny package.

10 January 2012

5. The Idiot

The Idiot - John Kendrick Bangs

This was first published in 1895 and was the first in a series of "Idiot" books.

This entire book was conversations between a group of friends who lived in a boarding house and would have discussions over breakfast. The dialog was captivating and fun. I loved the way the book flowed despite jumping around.

The characters included a lawyer, a doctor, a priest, a teacher, a librarian, and a man who worked as a clerk that later became business partners with the owner...that they called "the idiot". I am unsure why they called him the idiot. The man definitely was not ignorant or stupid. Maybe unorthodox or unconventional, but not dumb. Maybe he was an idiot because he did not have a title to identify himself with?

Anyway, I found the conversations fascinating. I also found it interesting that the men would enjoy these conversations so much despite all the disagreement and verbal abuse they heaped upon each other. It kept me engaged, and that is all I ask from a book most of the time.

08 January 2012

4. Liberty And Property

Liberty And Property - Ludwig von Mises

Austrian economics and capitalism duke it out with socialism and statism. I loved this book! This was originally a lecture given by von Mises in October 1958 at Princeton University. Some adjustments of thought must be made in that socialism has progressed far beyond the Soviet model, but it is essentially the same principles as far as economics are concerned.

Some parts I found very interesting:

"...the liquidation of all dissenters is the condition that will bring us what the communists call freedom."

"The admirers of the Soviet system tell us again and again that freedom is not the supreme good. It is "not worth having," if it implies poverty. To sacrifice it in order to attain wealth for the masses, is in their eyes fully justified. But for a few unruly individualsists who cannot adjust themselves to the ways of regular fellows, all people in Russia are perfectly happy. We may leave it undecided whether this happiness was also shared by the millions of Ukrainian peasants who died from starvation, by the inmates of the forced labor camps, and by the Marxian leaders who were purged. But we cannot pass over the fact that the standard of living was incomparably higher in the free countries of the West than the communist East.. In giving away liberty as the price to be paid for the acquisition of prosperity, the Russians made a poor bargain. They now have neither the one nor the other."

"As far as individuals have the opportunity to choose, they are free; if they are forced by violence or threat of violence to surrender to the terms of an exchange, no matter how they feel about it, they lack freedom."

"As regards the social apparatus of repression and coercion, the government, there cannot be any question of freedom. Government is essentially the negation of liberty. It is the recourse to violence or threat of violence in order to make all people obey the orders of the government, whether they like it or not. As far as the government's jurisdiction extends, there is coercion, not freedom. Government is a necessary institution, the means to make a social system of cooperation work smoothly without being disturbed by violent acts on the part of gangsters whether of domestic or of foreign origin. Government is not, as some people say, a necessary evil; it is not an evil, but a means, the only means available to make peaceful human coexistance possible. But it is the opposite of liberty. It is beating, imprisoning, hanging. Whatever a government does it is ultimately supported by the actions of armed constables. If the government operates a school or a hospital, the funds required are collected as taxes, i.e., by payments exacted from the citizens...we may call government the most beneficial human institution. But the fact remains that government is repression not freedom."

"The socialists must admit there cannot be any freedom under a socialist system. But they try to obliterate the difference between the servile state and economic freedom by denying that there is any freedom in the mutual exchange of commodities and services on the market. Every market exchange is, in the words of a school of pro-socialist lawyers, “a coercion over other people’s liberty.” There is, in their eyes, no difference worth mentioning between a man’s paying a tax or a fine imposed by a magistrate, or his buying a newspaper or admission to a movie. In each of these cases the man is subject to governing power. He’s not free, for, as professor Hale says, a man’s freedom means “the absence of any obstacle to his use of material goods.” This means: I am not free, because a woman who has knitted a sweater, perhaps as a birthday present for her husband, puts an obstacle to my using it. I myself am restricting all other people’s freedom because I object to their using my toothbrush. In doing this I am, according to this doctrine, exercising private governing power, which is analogous to public government power, the powers that the government exercises in imprisoning a man in Sing Sing.

Those expounding this amazing doctrine consistently conclude that liberty is nowhere to be found. They assert that what they call economic pressures do not essentially differ from the pressures the masters practice with regard to their slaves. They reject what they call private governmental power, but they don’t object to the restriction of liberty by public government power. They want to concentrate all what they call restrictions of liberty in the hands of the government. They attack the institution of private property and the laws that, as they say, stand “ready to enforce property rights—that is, to deny liberty to anyone to act in a way which violates them.”"

"The self‑styled champions of the common man are still guided by the obsolete idea that a policy that favors the debtors at the expense of the creditors is very beneficial to the majority of the people. Their inability to comprehend the essential characteristics itself also in their failure to see the obvious fact that those whom they feign to aid are creditors in their capacity as savers, policy holders, and owners of bonds"

06 January 2012


A friend gave me a Kindle Keyboard with wifi. They got a new Kindle Fire. Now I have another way to read a bunch of stuff that I could not find in a print format. I had many on the computer, but there was never time to sit in front of a monitor and read...now I can carry the little thing with me sometimes.

NO...IT WILL NOT REPLACE PRINT!  I love the feel and smell or a real book.

Sometimes though, I can't find printed versions. So, now I can read them anyway. :-)

05 January 2012

3. How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must)

How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must): The World According To Ann Coulter - Ann Coulter

I started reading this book quite some time ago. I would read a chapter and do something else. I would pick it up again and read a little every few days. That means it took longer than normal to actually finish this book, but it is finally complete.

The book itself and the specific subjects discussed are dated. This book was published in 2004, before the second Bush election.

What I find with Ms. Coulter is that I agree with what she has to say, but I do not think her method of delivery is going to do anything but make liberals mad and get a select group of conservatives as cheerleaders. I am sure that is the purpose. Maybe she started out hoping to change some minds, but I don't see it working using the tactics she employs.

Who else is in this category? Limbaugh. Matthews. Hannity. Colbert. Beck. Maher. Krugman. Savage. Olbermann. There are so many. Yap yap yap...and the only people listening are the ones that already agree. Ya'll keep on yapping. At least you are worth a chuckle here and there.

04 January 2012

2. The Thing In The Attic

The Thing In The Attic - James Blish

Another 1950s science fiction novel. Here is the plot description I read about it:

"The Thing in the Attic depicts a very successful seeding project. It tells the story of a small group of intellectuals from a primitive culture of modified monkey-like humans living in the trees of their jungle world. Having openly voiced the opinion that the godly giants do not literally exist as put down in the book of laws, they are banished from the treetops for heresy. In their exile on the ground they have to adapt to vastly different circumstances, fight monsters resembling dinosaurs, and finally happen upon the godly giants — who turn out to be human scientists who have just arrived on the world to monitor the progress of the local adapted humans. The protagonists are told by the scientists that their whole race must eventually leave the treetops to conquer their world and that they have become pioneers of some sort for accomplishing survival."

That is exactly what happened. A quick little read that is full of adventure and danger. Fun again.

03 January 2012

1. Warlord Of Kor

Warlord Of Kor - Terry Carr

Humans travel to a distant planet and explore the primitive civilization. Interesting Sci-Fi published in 1963. Nothing special, but it was fun.

Welcome to 2012.