Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Gifts

In recent years, I have not been a happy recipient when opening gifts because the economics of gift giving saddens me. My main opposition is that there is no so-called “efficient gift” in the any exchange. Never will there be a gain in utility from a gift exchange. There can only be “0” or no gain in utility and this exchange is often in the form of money. With money, the recipient can use the gift in the most efficient manner to serve their needs. Whereas with gift certificates, the recipient is constrained to a particular store/set of stores and does not allow the recipient to serve their core interests. Other possibilities where utility may not be lost are when an individual finds an extreme deal and due to imperfect information an individual may not have made a transaction. Another possibility is when a long-distance relative or friend sends or brings a regional item or a gift not available in your area. An example is a friend brings you a Dave Matthew’s Band t-shirt (that they got at a concert) or my grandma bringing Seroogee chocolates from eastern Wisconsin. These gifts are efficient in the sense that the recipient may not have access or strong access to a particular gift.

Given that gifts in most cases bring a loss in utility for individuals across the US, I have a tough time sitting around the Christmas tree opening presents. So instead of thinking about the loss in utility in the micro-level (my family) and the macro-level (the United States and other nations that celebrate Christmas), I try to focus on God and his gift in his own son, Jesus. Ignoring economics, there are a number of things that makes God’s greatest gift to us so awesome. This gift and any gift have 5 main characteristics (props to Dad for the outline):

An Expression of Love

Romans 5:15 (NIV) ….how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

To a sinful world, God did not have to send his son. Yet, God did send his son to defeat sin and give everyone the freewill to accept the love of his son.

Meets a Need

Romans 5:16 (NIV) Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

God met the need through his son because of man’s “many trespasses” or sins commit throughout his/her lifetime. The fact is that an individual cannot earn salvation or a relationship to God by our own willpower, goodness or righteousness. We need God and the gift of his son Jesus met this need.

Lasting Value

Romans 5:21 (NIV) …so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The implications of accepting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ not only are of extreme importance in this world but the life to come in heaven. While gifts received this Christmas will only be last a limited time on this earth, the gift of Jesus is forever for those who believe (according to Revelations and the rest of the New Testament).

Costly Sacrifice

Romans 5:7-8 (NIV)

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus’ bore the ultimate price of a painful death and execution on the Christ. Obviously, other people on this earth have led painful deaths too. But, Jesus’ was truly not guilty and was never guilty of a sin in his lifetime even though a mortal human being. He also had the ability to avoid his death but clearly he knew that this was his ultimate mission, to be a human sacrifice for humanity.


Romans 5:1 (NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a]have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..

The relief and euphoria one feels when accepting Jesus into your life is not only life-shattering and mind-blowing but also a surprise. When an individual begins to trust in the God of Abraham and biblical values rather than on themselves and religious/secular values, he/she will be surprised on how their outlook and perspective on life changes.

*I hope that you can celebrate the gift of Jesus and all other minor gifts this Christmas and Holiday Season. The analysis is short (a much longer dialogue could have be added) and if anyone has any questions please comment.

**I am not criticizing gift giving as a whole and I still like to give/receive gifts. I think that there definitely is something besides the pure transaction of giving/receiving gifts. From a purely economic standpoint, it does bother me to a point.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Patriot Games: Libertarian Republicans Rising Up

The Patriot Act is currently blocked in the Senate with our friend from Janesville leading the charge. The real strength in the opposition is not from the Democrats on board but rather the Republicans who took a stand in the name of curtailing government intrusion and protecting civil liberties. These individuals are the minority libertarian Republicans in the Senate and include Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Sununu (NH), Larry Craig (ID). Some recent quotes:

"In my state, I think there's pretty strong support for protecting civil liberties during times of war and peace." --John Sununu

"Folks, when we're dealing with civil liberties, you don't compromise them," --Larry Craig

“With a few modest but critical improvements, like making sure that when the government seeks library records it has to show that those records have some connection to a suspected terrorist or spy, we can give the government the powers it needs while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.” --Russ Feingold

Looking at the bill, here are some controversial parts:

Information Sharing

Sec. 203(b) and (d): Allows information from criminal probes to be shared with intelligence agencies and other parts of the government.

Roving Wiretaps

Sec. 206: Allows one wiretap authorization to cover multiple devices, eliminating the need for separate court authorizations for a suspect's cell phone, PC and Blackberry, for example.

Access to Records

Sec. 215: Allows easier access to business records in foreign intelligence investigations.

Foreign Intelligence Wiretaps and Searches

Sec. 218: Lowers the bar for launching foreign intelligence wiretaps and searches.

“Sneak & Peek” Warrants

Sec. 213: Allows "Sneak and peek" search warrants, which let authorities search a home or business without immediately notifying the target of a probe.

Material Support

Sec. 805: Expands the existing ban on giving "material support" to terrorists to include "expert advice or assistance."

I personally do not know where I stand on a number of these issues and do not know how much power the federal government should have in terms of surveillance and intelligence gathering? I do know though that Congress should be looking at this bill with a critical eye and should not pass it blindly or simply because the White House is pushing it. The country needs to continue to take precautionary measures in order to be safe but excessive and unwarranted surveillance and intrusion is not what our country is about. The bill hopefully will be amended so that FBI and CIA intelligence gathering is lawful and fair, keeping the civil liberties of this nation in mind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brief Foreshadowing

Busy, busy, busy. Finals are getting in the way of everything.

First, I will wait to blog on the CFACT decision because it's precedent that what you write on the blogsphere is fair game for judicial evidence. Pete McCabe's willing to get anything on his hands to incriminate me. I will wait to blog about the decision.

Second, in response to many of people in ASM, I will be commenting more on SSFC and specifically on my budget principles.

Third, I will also be putting out a post during break (so soon) titled: Objective Christianity: Defending the Resurrection. Particular bloggers like to criticize the religion and all religions for that matter. I feel I can make a strong case for why it is objective to think Jesus did rise from the dead (and therefore some may conclude he is the son of God). I can't wait for responses.

Anyways, good luck on finals to all!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Current State of ASM: Moving Student Government Right

Since last spring, conservatives have been winning major victories on campus. There have been several special triumphs to note.

One, we have one of the first conservative chairs in Eric Varney and the campus and conservatives have have benefited from having an objective mouthpiece and leader of the organization. Varney’s response to UW’s Party School Ranking:

“It just shows that we work hard, but we play hard also” Someone that is honest and not a tool for political correctness is someone I can definitely respect.”

Varney’s response to SSFC’s decision on SAFE:

University of Wisconsin Transportation blatantly failed to follow the proper procedures, resulting in the end of a valuable and popular service in SAFE Cab. Shame on them.”

“Last year, SAFE Cab provided 13,100 rides to students in need, while SAFE Walk only had 1,075 uses. At budget costs of roughly $194,000 and $116,000 respectively, it is apparent that SAFE Cab is a more cost effective and widely used service than its counterpart. SAFE Walk is an important program as well, but it puzzles me why UW Transportation would tout one service so highly over the other, especially with contradictory statistics.”

Instead of making an apology to the students about SAFE, he criticized UW Transportation. This was a great political move and one that garners my respect. Having someone at the top who knows what government should be about (providing essential services) and not about social activism has been great. While Varney has not been extraordinarily active this semester, he has been a good spokesperson, a fair chairman, spoke out in favor of SSFC’s decision on SAFE, and most importantly filed the lawsuit against SLAC.

Second, the Robin Hood Slate won a number of races in a convincing fashion that should not go unnoticed. In the spring, Ryan Scannell whooped up on the competition in the Agricultural Race (600 to 90) and sent Eyal packing (this had other implications also). Brandon Sivet led the way in the L&S with the most votes for the school, Jackie Goessl represented in Education, Ross Olson picked up the spot for the SON, I picked up over 1700 votes in the SSFC race, and others won in convincing fashion in their respective schools. The fall freshman race was even more exciting. Even though the CR’s decided to endorse one of the two conservative candidates, both won dominating other representatives who claimed their racial diversity made them “the” candidate for council. This huge win along with upcoming political star David Lapidus coming close against Kellie Sanders (a loss by only 60 votes) has also solidified the CR and Robin Hood presence on campus---(Kellie you are awesome too).

FUSE is worried and should be terrified about the 2006 spring elections because their support is dwindling and the conservative election machine is strong. The students are and should be coming to grips that GSSF groups are wasteful and that many people on council and SSFC are simply insiders for these organizations. Here’s a recent quote in the Madison Observer from former Diversity Chairman Ryan Sarafolean:

The thing that makes me nervous is that ASM, in general, is moving in a more conservative approach as we have seen lately and that scares me a bit. When the Student Service Finance Committee denies organizations funding that do benefit students here on campus, it makes me nervous about ASM’s direction. We have done a great job for the most part in our past at keeping it a democratic body, but right now I think students in general are taking these opportunities for granted and many do not get involved. (December Issue)

The far left is scared. Programs that aren’t cost effective might start to be cut. Big diversity which is built on large student salaries, huge corporate budgets, and programs that are only social in nature are already starting to be manipulated and sliced into. Radical campaigns such as Transgender Neutral Bathrooms and Worker’s Rights may not have votes or funding in the future. Essentially, there is the strong possibility that socialist activism may not be supported by the students through their tuition in the future.

Third, Nominations Board has been active in selecting not only strong candidates for SSFC and Council but conservative candidates. The first important candidate they selected was Chrissy Harbin who has been a key addition (as have David and Kellie) to restoring fiscal sanity to SSFC. She has brought strong economic arguments and a reliable fiscal conservative position to the table. The second and last main candidate was Leah Moe. A fairly stealth candidate who is not a well-known College Republican, was chosen by Nominations amongst numerous candidates including well known leftist Andy Gordon. Please thank Mary Hegi for heading the effort in bringing more conservative leaders to ASM.

Fourth, mentioned above several times in the article, SSFC has been tougher and brought the budget total to I believe 12% less than last year. Obviously voting “no” to CFACT was a major step and denying specific organizations eligibility (Legal Information Center, Polygon) helped bring the total down but SSFC was also tough on many of the other budgets. Specifically, the committee was harsh towards UWRCF, Student Leadership, JCC, SAFE, and others. Big diversity was essentially preserved for the most part but APAC took some heavy blows and MCSC was brought down significantly also. These particular groups and others like SOL, LBGTCC, Mecha, are still overfunded because insiders stifled real reform this year. We can always hope for next year. The group was brought further to the right during the second half of committee though because of the significant additions of Sanders, Lapidus, and Harbin. The spring is bright and the non-allocables might be actually be fun.

The future is bright for conservatives and particularly the Robin Hood Slate. The name will most likely change but the principles will not. Hopefully, conservatives students will continue to rise up and strong candidates will appear. If not, I’m going to recruit them. With a lead already present (2 to 0), conservatives will look towards winning the spring elections with the expectancy of putting in place real reform in 2006-2007.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Our Generation: Lazy and Apathetic?

Often I think about how our generation (the so-called Echo Boom) will be remembered in history and what type of impact we will have on America in the coming years? Already certain people are labeling our generation as lazy and apathetic, a product of the digital and video game age. I am not quite sure what to think or to believe but it’s interesting to hear what our elders are telling us.

For instance, my uncle has said told me in the past that our generation does not have the work ethic and stamina due to its reliance on video games and TV for recreation rather than outdoor games and other physical activities. This quite possibly is true in that many of my roommates and friends would probably be much more physically active and educationally productive if Halo was still code for a ring of light, the name Madden drew sighs of annoyance, and Mario was synonymous with “pathetic R&B
crooner”. Yet this is not the reality for much of our generation, specifically men and the hours of virtual fun continue to stack up. Maybe men and for that matter woman will step away from the controller once kids start popping out and quite possibly engage more in conversation, exercise, and print but somehow I think this will not happen. Also, do video games, DVD’s, and TV shows keep us from working, staying in touch with the outside world, and being physically active? Our generation has also labeled politically apathetic by writer Matt Towery of Townhall.com. One of his comments:

As a whole, I think younger Americans are less passionate and focused on issues related to government, policy and other "hard news." Studies show that younger people are shying away from newspapers. They are instead getting word of national and world news as it flashes by on the margins of their Internet providers' home page, or when by chance, they channel surf past a cable or broadcast television news show.

He also speaks much further on how our generation is historically illiterate (read the article The Dividing Line). Do his comments hold significant weight however? Obviously here in Madison many students stay up with the news, are watching CNN, and understand the issues fairly well. However, do students and others our age really participate
and understand what’s going on currently in the US and world? I don’t know exactly because I choose to surround myself often with politically read individuals. I do know that few students read the newspapers and many would opt to watch John Stewart over Wolf Blitzer or Brit Hume. This leads me to believe that “yes” our generation is staying up on certain current events but few really understand the true political
issues well.

Another interesting perspective comes from Steve S of Letters in Bottles once said to me that “there are the 10% on each side of the aisle that really know the issues and there’s the rest of the populace”. Do most individuals our age understand what the privatization of Social Security means? Do they have clear policy explanations on why they hate President Bush other than he pollutes “the environment”, is too "religious”, or doesn’t like black people? Can they name their Congress representatives?

This isn’t a statement piece I guess but I am curious of others opinions. Are we lazy and are we apathetic (in general and comparatively to other generations)?