Redefining Supply and Demand

“Oil prices rose as traders bet U.S. crude supplies are near a peak.” What kind of reasoning is that?

Betting that near-record supplies won’t go higher, so prices go up? There’s so much crude people aren’t looking for more; just places to put what they’ve got. That causes prices to rise? Not that.

Iran pirating oil at Hormuz. Yeah, that.

Nepal Update

Destruction in some rural areas is even worse than in Kathmandu, report Ron and Jeanette Happ, who were medical and educational missionaries in Kathmandu for many years.

It’s raining but people are sleeping outside because of the aftershocks. No food, water, electricity, fuel, etc.

The first responders, some of whom lost homes and loved ones, are doing the best they can with almost no resources. Rescue Network Nepal has already exhausted its resources. International help is going, but there will be huge bottlenecks.

(Samaritan’s Purse reports sending a medical team specializing in crush and earthquake trauma.)

Pray for the people of Nepal, and be sure the charity you give to is legitimate.

Global Oversupply Is bad?

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the global oversupply of almost everything: commodities, capital, labor, finished goods. It’s not that simple, of course, but normally oversupply triggers in contraction, inflation or … deflation, or …. “The ‘science’ of economics is all based on shortages.”

Quotation marks added on the word science because economics is no more a science than psychology or cooking. All are closer to art than science … or maybe crystal ball gazing. Arguably cooking is closest of those three to being a science; it’s controlled and repeatable, usually.

Now that I’ve offended everyone …

Book Review: Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee (Five Stars)

Book Review: Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee

Five Stars out of Five.

“Too many Christians have all the doctrine but live lives that are a contradiction to it. The whole principle of Christian life is that we go beyond what is right to that which is well pleasing to him.”

A small, but well-presented book. Based on Paul’s letter to Ephesians, this book explores our position in Christ (sitting), our life in the world (walking), and our attitude toward the enemy (standing). This text is clear and easy to follow, yet profound. Far surpasses the wordy, self-referential works of later writers.

Interesting that a man who lived and worked in China seventy years ago is so popular today, but he was so effective there that he spent the last twenty years of his life in prison. Many of his works were published while he was in prison.

“[God] asks us to live a life we can never live and do a work we can never do. Self is the only obstacle to that life and that work. ‘O Lord, deal with me.’”

Bubbles Burst

Is the NASDAQ another bubble? (Want to ride the roller coaster? Clink here.)

Of course, it’s a bubble–even if it’s not ready to pop–but it’s not just the NASDAQ. There’s no fundamental reason for stocks to be breaking records. The economy at best stumbles along.

So why are all the indexs up? Supply and demand. (I aced college economics even if the Smart Guys in Washington didn’t.)

The Fed has been flooding the economy with new money for most of this decade. But it doesn’t come to you or me, it goes to the banks. Where are they putting it? In bonds underwritten by stocks, bonds and commodities.

China has a stock bubble going, too. When they both burst, each country will blame the other. Just as the democrats and Republicans blame each other for everything.

Everything on Wall Street is up (except oil because that supply is burgeoning), and precious little of it trickles down to Main Street

The Fed created this bubble. Bubbles eventually burst.

Book Review: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (Five stars)

Book Review: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien

Five stars out of five.

“It is a curse having an epic temperament in an overcrowded age [1944] devoted to sappy bits!”

A treasure trove of insightful material into the life and writings of Tolkien, but not for everyone. Readers uninterested in Tolkien’s writings need not waste their time.

Where to start? With the negatives, since they’re so few. J. R. R. Tolkien is opinionated, peevish and pedantic. He hated the appellation “professor.”

Among these letters covering most of his adult life, we learn how he viewed his world, his writings, his friends, his religion and his invented languages and history. That is how he saw Middle Earth as history he had discovered as much as created—or, as he would say, sub-created. The letters begin just after publication of The Hobbit and cover the production of Lord of the Rings and the aftermath of its unexpected popularity, and his futile struggle to complete and publish The Silmarillion, which his son Christopher succeeded in publishing five years after his father died.

For those, like myself, who count Tolkein’s works as the gold standard of epic fantasy, these letters give insights only alluded to elsewhere. It’s slow and difficult reading in some cases, partly because context is missing. But the payoff is deeper appreciation of Tolkien’s life and world (real and imagined). We learn the origin of the world, names and characters of the fantasy, and his struggle to keep others from reading alien ideas into the works. Though he admitted (in 1939), “The darkness of the present days has had some effect on it.”

“A most amusing and highly contentious evening, on which (had an outsider eavesdropped) he would have thought it (the Inklings) a meeting of fell enemies hurling deadly insults before drawing their guns.” Sounds like fun.

Now I’ll the only logical thing: re-read The Lord of the Rings. Again.

“No Deal”

People keep talking about the nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

There is no deal; there is just a “framework” for making a deal.

In the mind of the Iranians (and all Arabs) that is not a commitment, it’s an invitation to renegotiate the whole business … until they get what they want. That’s how business is done in the Middle East. No surprise or deception in their mind. Moslems are permitted–in certain circumstances required–to lie to non-believers. (It’s called al Taqiya. Look it up.)

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana

Book Review: God Less America by Todd Starnes (Three stars)

Book Review: God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the attack on Traditional Values by Todd Starnes

Three stars out of Five

What you’d expect of a professional journalist. Well-researched and written, in fact I think I heard some of these essays on Starnes’ nationally broadcast commentary. His style is easy to read; it communicates both his sincerity and dismay. But this is an odd book, mixing down-home reminisces with political satire, commentary and a call-to-arms, plus several chapters of fictional speculation. Might make better sense split into two or three different books.

Starnes expertly shares his concern over the downward drift of American cultural and the curtailment of traditional values and institutions, however there was so much that it seemed like so much piling on. The tenth or twentieth iteration of a particular concern does not make it any more real to the reader. Three or four instances sufficed to establish this is a trend, not isolated instances.

I don’t disagree with his interpretation, but his tone is defensive and defeatist. America’s short stint as a “hyperpower” may be behind us, but that’s not necessarily bad. We are becoming a mixed, pluralistic society. We need to deal with it.

America is down, but not out. We may pull the world’s fat out of the fire yet again.

Book Review: J.R.R. Tolkien by Wyatt North (Two Stars)

Book Review: J.R.R. Tolkien: A life Inspired by Wyatt North

Two stars out of five.

Modern authors have the idea that biographies must be at least seven hundred pages long, even if they don’t have seven hundred pages of material. often resulting in a bloated mess of myth and rumor.

Therefore, a tight, well-written biography of barely one hundred pages is refreshing. This work is the perfect companion to Tolkien’s works, especially The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

That said, there must be more fruitful information which modern readers would enjoy knowing about the professor who birthed modern epic fantasy. This volume only refers to fellow Inklings C. S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson in a literary context, while Tolkien and Dyson played decisive roles in the re-conversion of Lewis to Christianity.

Can you imagine, reader, having read the two mentioned volumes when the Professor still lived, and feel as I did the hope of more? It was not to be, but I have re-read those volumes once a decade since. They are the gold standard for all light and epic fantasy since.

North seems to specialize in hagiographies of Roman Catholic persons, of which this is definitely one.