Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Ick" and other nastys

A guest column from someone almost as smart as me. My older brother. Mike is a school teacher, a coach and a father of two of the most precious girls.


In the last six months I have heard otherwise reasonable adults argue that no one should make two hundred million dollars a year but then complain they are not given enough opportunity to expand their personal profit margins. I have been asked countless times to explain what a toxic mortgage is to be told the answer just can not be correct. I listen to people complain about two dollar ATM fees and five dollar bank fees who do not realize a third or more of their income goes to taxes. Do you know the capital gains tax rate? Who makes more money on tobacco and gas sales, the government or the private sector? Who owns Exxon, who owns Wall Mart and is there a difference?

In Principles of Business we call it “Ick.” Ick refers to a manifestation of socially evolved correctness. In psychology ick is called cognitive dissonance. It exists regardless of the terminology, and most people don’t like to acknowledge it. For example, how do you save the giant panda? You eat it. When was the last time we had a shortage of chickens, cows or pigs?

Cognition is an idea. Dissonance is a conflict between two ideas. Therefore, cognitive dissonance occurs when the reality of the truth or facts gets in the way of what we want or hope to be true. Humans are the ruling species of the plant. To sacrifice a human for a panda is absurd. All the preservationists and animal rights people can lament the facts, but given the death of a family member or a panda, they should choose the panda. If not, the rest of us are dealing with a person who is rationalizing and showing confirmation bias and plain denial.

We the people, to steal a phrase from one of my favorite bits of writing, hold certain truths about our representative democracy and free market economy cognitions. These lofty ideas recognize that equality exists before the race starts, not in the results. Equal results are equal misery. Need more proof? Ask an athlete or scholar if he would take a tie game or the same grade as the rest of the class before the competition starts.

That warm tingly feeling you have right now is ick. If you can not move past the ick to the reality and truth above, I encourage you to stay away from cults and politics. None the less, our free market economy is under assault. Our global economy discussions without the realization that main street is Wall Street is fraught with peril, and there are perilous days ahead.

Ahead of us lie days filled with ick. I have confidence in the market over government. I have confidence in market corrections, small or drastic, over redistributions small or drastic. I have confidence in the power of income staying home over not being distributed via taxes. I have confidence that capitalism breeds philanthropy and that a rising tide raises all boats. I have confidence that some will achieve excellence and some will not. I have confidence that the struggle of each is equally honorable.

Ahead of me lie days filled with ick. I have ick in the realization that my wife and girls are not football players and that dinner and a bath does not need a practice schedule and a walk through. Also, I now know I will not get a delay of game penalty if bedtime runs past 7:30 p.m. I have confidence that those who make it past the ick are the cornerstone of life, liberty and happiness but may still struggle with dinner, baths and bed times for five and two year olds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Will the Real Carnegie Please Stand UP!

Mr. Brack in his last offering (March 24th) titled our Governor the "anti-Dale Carnegie." Not being a student of Mr. Carnegie and only knowing the hall and do-it-yourself audio tapes that bare the same name I had to do a bit of research. Seems Dale changed his name as a marketing ploy fromCarnagey to Carnegie to take advantage of the name recognition he would receive by grouping himself with Andrew Carnegie of which Carnegie hall is named. Andrew Carnegie was an industrialist, a self made businessman. An insanely rich man. Not Oprah money. NO. Bill Gates' kind of money. Mr. Carnegie made the majority of his money in the steel industry. What he is known for is his philanthropy. Rather, not how much money he made, but how much he GAVE away. It is this Carnegie I think our Governor should be compared to.

What? How is this? "Our Governor doesn't want to give away money!" one might say. True. But to be exact. Governor Mark Sanford doesn't want to give away YOUR money for YOU. What is more, as a conservative, he wants you to be able to amass as much wealth as you can with as little government interference as can be limited. That is why our Governor is much like the great Andrew Carnegie. He wants you to have the opportunity to follow Carnegie's Dictum on wealth: A) To spend the first third of one's life getting all the education one can.

B) To spend the next third making all the money one can. C) To spend the last third giving it all away for worthwhile causes.

I don't see the part where Carnegie suggests having your wealth arrested from you and given away to whom ever without your input or consent! Or having your business enterprise taxed into forfeiture. An especially cynical liberal might point out that it is corporate greed that has us in this fix. Not true. When companies and men have a personally satisfactory amount of wealth and a reasonable expectation that their ventures are safe, they will free up that wealth for philanthropic reasons. But, when markets are uneasy and capital is tight, expect that philanthropic spending to shrink. Not out of greed, but out of fiscal responsibility to one's own self and business ventures. In other words, if you are the decision maker for a company you have a fiscal responsibility to protect your company's assets first. Not feed the hungry. Or, teach the children. Your first duty is to the company. By being so dogged towards that company you ensure that those in the company's employ have jobs and job security. So that they may feed themselves and provide for their own children.

What a novel concept. Paying one's own way!

Governor Sanford has done us a great service by exposing the sheer lunacy that is the "stimulus" package. Creating money out of thin air or borrowing against our grandchildren is not sound business. And no person today, no matter how unemployed, is entitled to encumber the unborn with massive government debt. Not even the great all knowing all changing all hoping Obama. Mark Sanford knows this. There is no amount of personal suffering today that excuses the excesses we are about to undertake today. No child uneducated enough, no person homeless enough, no medical bill expensive enough to tax your grandchildren into governmental servitude the day they are born!

Sanford is a moral man. He has a set of core principles. Conservative principles. These principles are guiding him while times are tough and "easy fixes" are tempting. It would be great to do the "popular" thing, take the money. Great for the poll numbers AndyBrack points out. But, lucky for us, Sanford has in mind what is great for us long term. Quick fixes that ignore unintended consequences are exactly what have us in the situation now. Washington got us into this problem. Washington's bi-partisan interference in private enterprise. Coaxing companies to lend money to those who could not or would not pay it back. Big government is the problem. Always has been. Always will be. So pardon me if I side with the one public official that has a clear andun-debatable record on trying to shrink government!!!! So, Mr. Brack, will the real Carnegie please stand up?

Benjamin Parrish Cook

Mr. Cook is a self avowed Right-Wing Propagandist and Local Arms Dealer in Pageland, SC. He has a MA in International Security and Conflict Studies. You can read more of his hubris at http://arenablog.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grand Pa's Smith & Wesson and Other Valuable Tid-Bits.

While the death of our economy has been greatly exaggerated, to the point of almost becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, there is no doubt that times are tough and investing for the future is scary. Well, let me remind you of what many of you already know. Guns are and always have been a good investment. Granddaddy's Smith and Wesson is no doubt worth triple what he paid for it and in some cases 100 times what he paid for it. Not a bad return. About the only thing selling like crazy these days are guns and SPAM!

Right now guns are scarce. If you happened to purchase a gun last year and wanted to sell it this year you would almost invariably make money on that deal. What else in this climate can claim that? This comes with a caveat. If you are the buyer, unless you REALLY want that firearm, I would suggest only paying blue book or slightly over. The reason being is that prices on some, not all, guns are artificially inflated by the phenomena know as Obama-mania or the Obama-effect. This "mania" is the panic some have shown faced with the fear that the new Administration will make good on their promises and historical precedents to do away with as many guns as they can. My opinion on the "mania" is simple. I don't participate in senseless fear based buying. I didn't do it during the gas shortage, I am not doing it now with Obama-mania.

My guidance for buying now during the "mania" or for an investment is also simple, buy as many QUALITY guns as you can find at a fair price. Two very important caveats there. Quality does not mean buying three inexpensive Hi-Point 9mm pistols at $150 each. Those guns will only go up in value 100 years from now when they reach relic status. Buy a Hi Point if you must for defense, but not as an investment. But a brand new Springfield Armory 1911 orXDM will no doubt increase in value in the near future. (If you have granddaddy's 1911 from the war, come see me. You might be sitting on a small gold mine.) Even the purchase of a Remington 870 pump shotgun will retain enough value after shooting it to make it a great trade in one day.

"Fair price" is very subjective. It is a function of condition and market saturation. If the gun is rare or very sought after and in good condition it will be worth a lot of money. Condition is condition is condition. It is either good, bad or like new. But market saturation is relative. Normally your gun market is the 50 miles around your home, but, with the advent of Gunbroker.com and other websites it is now the entire US. Again... the caveat. Shipping isn't free, you must purchase the gun online via a Federally Licensed Dealer in your state who will charge you to do the transfer, paperwork and background check and the negotiating deals online isn't everyone's forte. So, a $500 dollar shotgun in the hand is still worth two in the bush (Internet). If I can buy the same gun from my neighbor and it costs me $50 more I will do it rather than go through the stress and hassle of online purchasing. That being said, in the gun shop we consult two places when we value your gun. We consult the Blue Book of Gun Values and GunBroker.com. I suggest you do the same to arrive at a "fair price." Also, selling a dealer a gun is like selling a car. I will not give you what it is worth. I will give you less so I can make money selling it for what it is worth. (I can't keep the lights on and Beth's County Kitchen pork chops on my plate any other way.) Private sales always net more. You just have a better chance of selling it to me than to another person.

Most of us still visit a gun store to purchase a gun. Here are a few tid-bits to make your purchasing experience better. Nomenclature: It's a magazine not a "clip". Clips go in your hair. It's Smith and Wesson not Smith and Western. (Seriously, you sound silly... stop it.) It's pronounced St-ah-k (stock) not St-ah-lk (stalk). It's a hollow point, not a hollow tip. There are no Glock 40s. You mean a Glock 23 or 22 that is chambered in .40 caliber S&W.

Behaviour: Never walk into a gun store with your hands in your pockets. Never. Don't ask for a "cash deal" or ask for a "parking lot" price to have the gun off the books. It's offensive and illegal. Most gun stores don't mind if you legally carry a concealed weapon in the store, but do not show it to anyone. If you need to show the gun store employee your personal defense firearm go outside, unload it and return with it empty and the slide or action open. (Pulling a gun on me in my store could get you shot!!!) Best practice for bringing a firearm into a gun store is for it to be in a case. If you don't have a case, ask permission to bring the firearm into the store unloaded.

If you don't know much about guns ask questions. If you do not get good service because you are inexperienced with guns you should be offended. We pride ourselves at CMC on helping first time gun owners safely operate their new firearm. You deserve all the sales person's attention if this is your 1st gun or 50th. MOST IMPORTANT, do not attempt to sale your gun to another customer in the gunshop or in the parking lot. If you buy a gun on the premises of a licensed dealer you are required to fill out an ATF form 4733 and submit to an FBI background check. Other than being completely rude to the gun store owner, that has provided at great expense a place for you to discuss and purchase guns, it is illegal.

Finally, how do you protect your investment? Too many gunshop stories start with "I had a gun like that but it was stolen." If someone broke into your house and stole your gun from anywhere but a gun safe, I am sorry to inform you, but that is partly your fault. It is also your liability. We all know thieves live among us and we all know that failing to make reasonable accommodations for that puts us all in jeopardy. If I break into your house tonight and steal your gun and kill someone with it you could be held liable. Guns often require extra care in the eyes of the law. What may seem reasonable to us might not be enough. Please, protect your guns. Every gun stolen is ammunition for the anti-gun crowd. You make owning a fire arm harder when your guns are stolen. If you have any questions about firearms or firearms ownership just come by and see me at the gun store or visit any other reputable dealer.

Monday, March 2, 2009


In earlier postings to you I expressed my best wishes for our current President. That still holds true. But, I must also agree with Rush Limbaugh (Conservative Guru) that I hope the President FAILS in his "stimulus" and "bail out" initiatives. Nothing Obama has shown me so far passes the Economics 101 test. Meaning, even college sophomores capable of being intellectually honest would give Obama an "F" for his plans. Socialist European countries all over are even voting down programs and plans like Obama is touting for being too risky and too Socialist.

The intellectually dishonest fall right into Rush's obvious trap. "How can you hope your president fails? Isn't that un-patriotic?" Not if what is best for the country is the President's failure. The country is bigger than any one man or office. Including the highest office. Our country can't afford to look the other way just so half of us can feel good about voting for our country's first black president. We can't afford to look the other way just because we can't fathom this first black president being an utter failure in his first 6 weeks of office. We can't afford to look the other way because our personal narrative and bias will be crushed if we allow ourselves to even contemplate the consequences of Ben Cook being right (again!)... and you being wrong.

Obama's failures:


Obama is pushing his "plans" with mushroom cloud politics. When Chenney and Rice sold the Iraq war, they did so with "mushroom cloud" politics. Or, fear. Fear got us to rally behind a war. Rather than explaining that in order for us to get to work on Monday for the next few decades we need to bring order to Iraq, we were told of WMD. Obama, taking a page from Rove, is telling you the economic end is near unless you let him spend TRILLIONS of dollars. Dollars we don't have. If you don't the consequence will be soup lines and boy's homes. Mr. President, where is the "Hope" in that message? Not to beat a dead horse... but if you can't repay the loan... do you deserve it? How is borrowing going to fix the problems created by... wait for it... borrowing!?? Seriously, am I the only one who sees the IDIOCY at work here?


The "Stimulus" bill or "Pork-ulus" bill or "Spend-ulus" bill is laden with special interest spending. Where is the "Change" in that Mr. President? Politics as usual I say. Mr. President, You have had a particularly difficult time finding folks to fill important positions because they can't seem to pay their taxes or other ethics issues. How is that "Change" we can believe in? In fact, Mr. President, you broke your own rules in order to fill at least two positions. (Oh, and I am tired of the school yard logic of "Bush did it first" to explain, or more accurately change the subject, when pressed for an explanation of Obama's current plans and policies.)

The Troops

While campaigning the current president told us he would "bring an end to the war [combat] in Iraq and bring the troops home." Well, if by "troops home" you mean only 2/3rds then yes... troops home. It seems the devil is in the details and if you are part of the 50,000 troops that stay in Iraq... well what a devil that is. Those of us that can muster a little objectivity have been saying for over two years, it doesn't matter who the next president is, there is no way "the troops" will come home before the mission objective is accomplished. (my arm is a bit sore from patting myself on the back for getting this one right)


Look it up. That is where we are headed. You can polish this turd all you want Mr. President... but government take over of private institutions and infrastructure is Socialism. The New "New Deal" liberals are talking about for our country and the world is actually the same old deal, a raw deal. More government, more redistribution of wealth, and less of what actually makes this country great. Things like individualism, capitalism and free markets are the enemy in Obama's eyes.

I do hope for the best for my country, and in doing so I have to cheer for the complete and utter failure of President Obama's current plans. I want him to FAIL. For our country's sake, we all need him to fail. If the sound of my wanting our first black president to fail is too much for you, I suggest you reevaluate what is important in your life, being right about your presidential pick, or the economic survival of our country.