Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Predicting the NCAA Tournament Champion: Butler Bulldogs! Without Their Mascot!!

I don't like the NCAA, at all.  As Spike Lee said, they are the biggest pimps on the block.  They work with already tax subsidized universities and administrations to make billions of dollars off of the talent of athletes.  Not to worry though!  They spend it on scholarships for students.... which go directly back into their pockets.  Athletes get paid nothing (other than an education that is becoming more and more worthless).

So as the tournament begins the NCAA rules on another ridiculous item.  The Butler Bulldogs are unable to bring their mascot.  The NCAA pimps want the money and the fun.  So, I am rooting more strongly for the Butler Bulldogs during this tournament.  In fact, they are my pick to win it all.

Watch the video below.  It'll help you understand the intensity of how close Butler was.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My First Ever Book Review (from 2006): Sex, Lies, and the Bible by Frank Ritter

This was published in the IU Kokomo Correspondent.  I have not edited it.  Enjoy!

When I first received the book “Sex, Lies, and the Bible; How Human Sexual Behavior is Controlled Through the Corruption of the Bible” I sort of scoffed.  I am an atheist and I do not need the sanction of God for any sexual activities I desire.  However, this is a very important book for Christians.  Francis D. “Frank” Ritter, CLI, does a very good job explaining some truths many people avoid.  As a forewarning, I do not agree with what Ritter says about sexuality, but for you who need the sanction of God to act this book is a great liberator. 

Ritter claims throughout the book that our sex drive is our third strongest drive; the first two strongest drives are for food and water.  He constantly refers to the antagonist of liberal sex to be “controllers” and their vehicle of corruption as the bible.  Frank Ritter is a Christian that views incest, masturbation, bestiality, sex outside of marriage, prostitution, and homosexuality all as perfectly acceptable.  He legitimately explains each one in accordance with the gospel and Jesus while rejecting the “fanaticism” of St. Paul and the Tempering of St. Jerome with the words of Jesus. 

This book leads people to question the very foundation of the bible, the canonization.  Why do people so blindly believe that the bible as a whole is a God breathed article of literature?  People accept the Godly nature of scripture similarly to the way college students accept that big business is evil, blindly and without question.  How does a Christian come to the realization that activities like incest, prostitution, and sex outside of marriage are ok.  Let me summarize some of his main points.

Incest would probably be the most controversial topic in this book.  Does the bible, or rather does God ban incest?  First we must do away with the idea that sex is for procreational purposes only.  Ritter does this in chapter 10 when talking about why Moses made the laws he did.  Before the nation of Israel reached the Promised Land for the first time Ritter said, “The Israelites still masturbated, and they still engaged in incest.  They were still having sexual relations not only with people other than their spouses, but with prostitutes and harlots, and animals too.”  If people aren’t procreating while having sex then incest, according to the God, is ok.  Anyone who says it is not has a lot research to do.  To reiterate, rape not incest.

This is all fact.  Lot had sex with his daughter’s creating two highly favored nations, Abraham’s wife Sarah got it on with Pharaoh.  According to Ritter all these activities and the many other that were occurring before Mosaic Law was set in place were acceptable to God and there is absolutely no reason to believe otherwise.  Ritter explained that Mosaic Law was meant to encourage procreation but has been twisted by people to mean that sex should be done only for procreational purposes. 

In Chapter 12 Ritter shows how the Sermon on the Mount is not acceptance of Mosaic Law because Jesus directly contradicts it.  Ritter points out that Matt. 5: 38-39 contradict Ex. 21:24-25.  For space purposes look those versus up and read them for yourself. 

Ritter defines adultery as Moses would define it and as he claims Christ would define it.  On page 251 he said, “Moses’s definition of ADULTERY was: One spouse having carnal knowledge of another outside of the marriage without the knowledge and consent of the spouse.”  In other words group orgies and gangbangs are ok as long as you have permission!

Ritter does a well enough job tearing apart certain sexual restrictions we have today but is incest really ok?  His philosophy seems to be “as long as God says it’s ok than it goes.”  First of all, however, the belief in God is ridiculous let alone interpreting what may or may not be his word.  What is sex anyways?  It is a celebration of ones body.  How can we to this with an animal or a child?  Ayn Rand had a much better view of sex, the only truly free way of having sex.  By needing a God Ritter needs permission.  Acting by permission is not an act of freedom or even freethinking.  Any religious sanction on an action requires an individual to give up his individuality, not to mention that God does not exist and therefore religious sanction is a human and often fouled construct. 

Overall this is a great book for those who need sanction to live.  For others it may tear them from overbearing Christian mores.  For atheist it should mean very little except that “God’s” word can really mean anything you want depending on your view of the canonization.   

After Writing a Novel... A look at Self-Marketing

Dani Kollin, co-author of "The Unincorporated Man," has a livejournal blog that he maintained during the writing process of his book.  His blog inspired me to keep one of my own during my writing process so I can discover and write down all that I need to in order to become successful with or without a publisher.  In the case of Dani Kollin, he submitted his work to a publisher, Tor, and made a success of his writing that way.  However, having a publisher doesn't mean you don't have to do any personal marketing on your own.  Guest blogging on other authors pages is also important.  One example of a guest blogger on Dani Kollin's page is author Kirsten Imani Kasai, link here, who wrote about the anticipation she felt when receiving her first royalty check.

I wrote earlier about Amanda Hockings earning over a million dollars self-publishing her own novels.  She maintains a blog here.  The key to her success seems to be the physical books she submitted to book bloggers (combined with many other things I'm sure).  Here is an excerpt from a news article covering her precipitous rise:

Sure, she talked up her books on her blog, Facebook and Twitter account — but she credits the big burst to submitting her work to book bloggers — many of whom, ironically, don't like reading e-books. She would send them a print copy from her online "print-on-demand" service.
Following the word of mouth generated from 20 to 30 blog reviews, the next month, she sold 4,258 copies, and made $3,180.
So blogs don't like e-books.  Why should they?  They have to spend time reading a novel.  It is really easy for a blogger to get hundreds of free e-books, but a physical novel sends a signal to them that the author is serious.  It may not even matter what type of book it is.  In college I wrote a review for an author who sent in the book "Sex, Lies, and the Bible" to the college newspaper.  My article started a theological war (not because of what the author said but because I wore my Atheism on my sleeve in those days).  Basically, I was sickened that the author could use God to justify all kinds of sexual depravity.  The author got his book noticed.

As I continue to write what I hope to be a great novel I will keep these methods in mind.  Also, continuing to build a following online is probably a must nowadays.  In any case, I will definitely do that.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"The Unincorporated Man" Book Review: Incorporating the Human Soul

I have always been into reading a lot of fiction growing up.  I could never get into Isaac Asimov and the detailed wonders of the universe he created but I really enjoyed books such as "Legend of the Duelist" by Rutledge Etheridge.  I was really young when I read this book though at the time I considered it the best story I had ever read.  Since then I have read much more and have probably become more discriminating.. but we'll see.  Maybe I'll try one of the sequels.  Basically, I have always considered myself a lover of fantasy books and dystopia novels but never really sci-fi.So when someone from Liberty Fund recommended "The Unincorporated Man" to me, after saying "Atlas Shrugged" was unreadable to them (PhD in Literature may do that to you), I had it in the back of my mind when getting free audio books from amazon.  Having a Business Finance B.S. made my mind run with possibilities.  What follows contains no spoilers but discusses the concept of human incorporation.  

In the libertarian community there is a somewhat esoteric debate about the ability to sell ones self into slavery.  Economist Murray Rothbard, in "The Ethics of Liberty" claimed that the core principle of his brand of libertarianism, non-aggression (non-initiation of the use of violence) is antithetical to the ability to contractually arrange a slavery agreement.  Dr. Williamson Evers explicated the view Rothbard would later take up here.  The argument is that if people need free-will to sell themselves into slavery, and slavery removes free-will, the contract becomes void because it is no longer the result of free-will.

Dr. Walter Block of Loyola New Orleans has what I believe to be a more consistent view on this issue.  People CAN sell themselves into slavery.  Signing a slave contract gives someone the moral right to enforce specific agreements in the contract with the use of violence.  Dr. Stephen Kinsella points out that this would not be a useful thing to do and that such contracts as a contract with a soldier to fight in a war are null and void.  Contrary to Block's view, Rothbard and Kinsella would claim that a person has an inalienable right to quit a job even if they agree in an explicit written statement that they would not (click on Dr. Block's link above for a better summary of the debate).

The Kollin's are libertarian, or so it would appear form the fact that they won the 2010 Prometheus award and their book has libertarian themes.  It is seems apparent that they are against the idea of incorporation, an idea that may have been inspired by a Milton Friedman quote they reproduce in the beginning of their book:

The counterpart for education (financing) would be to "buy" a share in an individual's earnings prospects; to advance him the funds necessary to finance his training on condition that he agree to pay the lender a specified fraction of his future earnings.  There seems to be no legal obstacle to private contracts of this kind, even though they are economically equivalent to the purchase of a share of an individual's earning capacity and thus to partial slavery.  
In the Kollin's book this form of slavery is ultimately viewed as a bad thing by the hero.  The concept is quite thrilling though.  I would predict that libertarians would be split on this issue, most coming down against incorporation, but a few of the really consistent ones coming down in favor of it.  I myself would be in favor of contracts such as the one described by Milton Friedman.

Incorporating voluntarily and mandatory incorporation at birth (the latter method used in the book) are on two different levels according to libertarian theory.  The latter would never be acceptable while the former would be hard to argue against (for non-libertarian readers, sorry, I'm sure there are plenty of other arguments out there against both... but read on to hear the utilitarianism of incorporation).  Even if the likes of Rothbard and Kinsella could argue against selling ones entire self into slavery, voluntary incorporation throws a wrench into their theorizing.

A company can gain capital in multiple ways, all of them relate to savings.  First, a sole-proprietor could invest his own cash into the company for any capital goods, buildings, etc. that he needs.  A partnership does the same thing except with multiple people and a revenue sharing agreement.   Both of these entities also have the ability to go into debt (as do consumers seeking non-productive ends).  However, a third method of gaining capital is to incorporate and allow many people to have equity streams coming in from the revenue the company earns.  During an initial public offering a company gains capital on initial sales (not in the secondary markets like a stock exchange.. as people mistakenly believe.. which adds to their belief that policies propping up stock prices help companies keep going.. which is not nearly as true as people think).  This is where things get interesting.

Individuals are unable to incorporate themselves (in real life today, they are forced to in this book).  They miss out on an opportunity that is exclusively delegated to corporations by the will of the state.  I submit that this is an injustice that should be remedied!

In "The Unincorporated Man" the government owns a 5% share of everyone and does not tax.  The government is somehow constitutionally bound to this 5% fraction of ownership (suspension of disbelief! a limited government!).  Immediate family is given a total of 20% percent ownership of a new baby on top of the 5% government takes.  The consequences of this incorporation turn out to be really positive.  The government has a monetary incentive to have people prosper (apparently they forgo pure power for revenue that they can never really directly control... being limited and all).  Parents have a major incentive to have their children build the skills necessary to be big earners as they grow older.

There is one major reason why incorporation would or could never happen for individuals today.  First, people view democracy as sacred.  In the Kollin's book politicians sent their shares to potential voters to give them a monetary incentive to vote for someone they had a stake in, an egregious violation of democratic principles by itself, but the sole fact that someone was incorporated means that they lose control over themselves.  An incorporated person, especially one with only a minority stake in him or herself, would have influence exerted on him or herself that would make democracy as we know it unworkable.  I am of the opinion that democracy IS unworkable anyways, but this would be an ostentatious violation of the feigned sanctity of the voter.

"The Unincorporated War" seems to be exploring this idea further.  I will save further comments on the subject for a review of the book but I will say that I don't think the idea of incorporation is a bad thing.  It is not antithetical to freedom.  The way it is being done in "The Unincorporated Man" is certainly antithetical to freedom but that is only because it is forced.  I think as I read more of this series the ideas of Eytan and Dani will become more clear to me.  I look forward to it.

This book review has no real plot details but I want to assure anyone interested in the book that there is a vibrant plot.. a good story to go along with the interesting ideas presented in the book.  I really enjoyed listening to it and would suggest to anyone who likes the ideas of liberty or sci-fi to check it out.  You can get the audio-book for free if you do not already have an audible subscription an Amazon (I'm sure the author's still get royalties for this).  So far the second book is a bit different but just as enjoyable (don't listen to the negative reviews, not sure what their deal is).

Good readings!

Writing for a Living? Cutting Out the Middlemen

Making money while doing what you love is sometimes difficult.  If you love doing something it is not a stretch of the imagination to think that other people love it as well.  I love to read and write.  Making a living reading and writing, however, looks like a minefield to navigate.

What is the price of content, and can it be sold for enough to make a living?  Reading this quote from Mayhill Fowler, who wrote for the Huffington Post, makes it seem hopeless:

“I really don’t care that Arianna made all that money,” said Mayhill Fowler. “More power to her. The original premise was not that we would get paid, so I didn’t expect to. But after the election and the fact that they nominated my work for a Pulitzer, I thought that might change. I talked to Arianna about getting paid for my work, and she strung me along for two years and then it never happened.”
So Arianna Huffington made a lot of money off the content given to her by others.  Not a crime but certainly not honorable.  Her Wikipedia article makes it seem like a theme of hers.   How can someone beat a greedy middleman?  Don't get me wrong, I think there is always a function for some middlemen, but thankfully there are clever people out there who can overcome the market power of these people.

I have recently stumbled across an article about a girl who is making a lot of money publishing.  In fact, this girl has netted more than a million dollars doing what she loves.  Her writing appeals to a lot of stay-at-home mothers and teenagers.  I must admit that I do not enjoy her writing at all but how can you argue with such success?  Here is a link to her book "Switched."

Is there a silver bullet?  She claims there is not.  Her pricing scheme, her self-publishing status combined with the fact that e-books are getting popular, together with her strategic decision to choose the genre she did, makes her both lucky and very strategic.  However, there could be hundreds of thousands of authors who have not succeeded but have tried identical strategies.

Amanda had quite a few novels already written when she started selling them on Amazon.  She has written quite a few trilogies (at least two that I know of), pricing the first book in the series at 99 cents and the others and 2.99.  According to this detailed article on Amanda, she makes about 70% of everything she sells.  According to the same article she has netted over a million dollars, very successful for even the best of authors.

So, I don't think all hope is lost for those who want to make a living writing.  The best advice seems to be to work hard, be strategic, and get lucky.... and maybe write in popular genre's, strategically price your books, and network with other authors.  It's not the end of the world if your books get rejected by the middle.

What if you don't want to write novels?  What e-readers and computers have done for self-publishers, google and amazon have done for blogs.  It is still really difficult to gain a following and revenue with a blog but if you have a lot of hard work and consistency you can cut out the middle-men.  I have no examples of bloggers who have become millionaires with their own content.  If any of you guys do I would love for a link in the comments.  Things like this are really interesting to me... hence the title of this new blog and the reason I need a new blog (my other being www.indianaeconomics.com which has too specific of a mission to have content like this).