Archive for September, 2007

Rosh Hoshana Linkorama!

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

I’m not supposed to think today (not that I do anyway), so I’ll just link to those who do:

  • Radley Balko points out that the Democrats seems to have a better notion of federalism than the GOP. I disagree slightly. Federalism was always a ploy by the Republicans to appeal to strates’ rights conservatives like me. What they really supported was the right of the states . . . to be conservative. And I’m sure the Dems will supports states’ rights . . . as long as the states are liberal. Watch how fast their federalism vanishes when the abortion issue comes up.
  • This story makes you wonder how many of those poor assholes with their pictures on the internet are really innocent. Prostitution is an issue where my views have shifted quite a bit. A few years ago, I was in favor of keeping it illegal. I’ve become convinced that criminalization is a disaster for law enforcement, for the public and especially for women.
  • LA wants to limit fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods. First of all, I’m sure the rich fast food chains will love the ban on new competitition. And the locked-off market will certainly improve the food choices, since we all know effective monopolies best serve the consumer. Second, is it just me or is there something weird about a city council literally trying to take food out of the mouths of poor people?
  • On the video tape I made for my daughter when she was born, I told her that the world is getting to be a better place all the time. Here’s proof. (HT, Sully). Remember, child mortality is not a product of modern life — it is natural. It was the way things were for millions of years. All your Rousseau-wannabee environmentalist luddite shitheads can stick it. This is the result of rich people doing good things with technology and industry.
    There’s a related link from Sully about how geeks have a better perspective on tragedy. Just wait until the Gates money starts pouring into these efforts.
  • Also via Sully, we find a critique of terrorist logos. Personally, I think the IJMP logo looks it’s having a really bad period.
  • Finally, remember how wire-tapping blew up the terrorist plot in Germany? Um, no. I’m getting sick of this spin from the Bushies. They do this constantly. Make some grand claim to grab headlines, then quietly admit it’s a crock.
  • Thoughts on the surge later tonight.

    You Don’t Say!

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    The OECD has apparently discovered that biofuels are garbage, something the Libertarians (and the free market) have been saying for years.

    Let’s Hope

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

    A fascinating profile of the new mayor of DC. The DC schools get $20,000 per student per year, which is 2-4 times what private schools charge. Yet:

    In June, he seized control of the schools from the Board of Education and hired a new chancellor. With $1 million in donated goods and services from local contractors, he initiated an uncommon “buff and scrub” blitz, fixing buildings and clearing a decades-old backlog of code violations at 54 of 141 schools. Last week, for the first time in years, all schools opened on time and more than 90 percent had all the books they ordered.

    Invited by school officials to see how the system works for processing book orders, Mr. Fenty found a cavernous storeroom with shrink-wrapped books stacked to the ceiling and supplies that had been gathering dust for years as orders were lost. One auditorium had been neglected so long that volunteers renovating it discovered that students had been pledging allegiance to a tattered American flag with just 49 stars, dating to 1959.

    He sounds like a good man. Time will tell. Let’s hope he’s smart enough to give school choice a try.

    9/11

    Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

    I suppose I’m supposed to say something about 9/11. But everything that needs to be said has been said better elsewhere. I refuse to use the occasion to either a) write a self-important “reflective” piece; b) use the occasion to bash Democrats for wanting to “surrender” in Iraq; c) use the occasion to bash Bush for not killing Osama yet. Every other day of the year is fine for that.

    Today, I honored the dead by working, spending time with friends and playing with my daughter, the kind of things the victims would still be doing if they hadn’t been murdered. I spent some time remembering on my long drive to and from Austin and would have put my flag up if it hadn’t been pouring rain. I think that’s a more appropriate remembrance than playing politics with the dead.

    Rominator

    Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

    I’m really beginning to dislike the oily Mitt Romney.

    In Which I Disagree with Sully

    Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

    Sullivan criticizes Petraeus for not having an answer to the question of if Iraq is making us safer.

    I don’t think it’s a fair question. Petraeus is a soldier. His job is not to set policy but to execute it. When he’s on the Joint Chiefs, then he can set policy.

    What Liberal Media?

    Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

    Imagine if Brit Hume said this:

    Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Ted Turner has hurt us, particularly in the case of CNN. CNN is worse than Al Qaeda — worse for our society. It’s as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was.

    The left would be screaming bloody murder. Of course, Hume didn’t say that about CNN. Keith Olberman said it about Fox News.

    Olberman is my standard fallback for people who claim Fox News is biased and all other news isn’t. Olberman is screaming blue-state liberal and a pompous idiotic one at that.

    Update: Now that I think about it, I have to admit that’s precisely the sort of thing Boortz, Limbaugh and Hannity have been saying. But those are opinion shows, not news.

    MNF

    Monday, September 10th, 2007

    Was it just me or did Monday Night Football not completely suck tonight? The minimalist effort where they focused on, you know, the fucking game was a pleasure.

    It won’t last.

    PS – In my football pool, I was in a tie-breaker for winning the week. The tie-breaker based on points scored (total, then home, then visitor). I almost always type in 20-17 for the points since that is the most common score in football (via TMQ). This week, I decided I’d be smart and go 20-13.

    Final score? 20-17.

    AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    PPS – I also lost in all three of my football fantasy leagues (despite projections of clear victories by Yahoo!). This happens to me every year. By the end of the year, I will be in the top three in total points and toward the bottom in W-L record.

    The football gods hate me.

    W and M

    Monday, September 10th, 2007

    From the “why do these people get grants when I can’t?” file we get this:

    Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

    Boy, those liberals sure have superior brains! Until you read about how the study was done.

    Participants were college students whose politics ranged from “very liberal” to “very conservative.” They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

    M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

    Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.

    Are you kidding me? We’re supposed to extrapolate from this to how people think about complex issues like taxes and welfare? Politics are not generally decided in a split second. (And to be fair, the authors caution against an overly, um, liberal interpretation of their results).

    I can think of an alternative explanation. Liberals have such tiny brains that they didn’t get terminally bored with the experiment.

    In seriousness, this brain flexibility could explain a lot of the “nuanced” views of liberals. Wealth is bad unless it’s mine; sexual harassment is evil unless it’s a Democrat; unilateral war is bad unless it’s Clinton. Do we finally have proof that ther liberal mind can hold completely opposite views at the same time? And I wonder what would happen if you plugged Mitt Romney into one of those things? it would probably explode.

    The Report

    Monday, September 10th, 2007

    Most of the pundits, I think, are missing the point on the upcoming Petraeus report. It doesn’t matter what he says. The only instance in which it would matter is if he either proclaimed Iraq to be a triumph or proclaimed it unwinnable. That’s not going to happen. Petraeus, being a smart man, is likely to admit that the truth is something in between — i.e., we’re making progress but there are many difficulties, some of which may be insurmountable.

    And let’s be honest. No matter what he says, Bush’s supporters — his few remaining supporters — will proclaim that this proves the surge is working and we need to keep going. And no matter what he says, Bush’s opponents — his ever-growing number of opponents — will proclaim the surge isn’t working and this prove we need to pull out now.

    I’m afraid that the horrible truth of the situation — that we can’t leave but we can’t stay — a truth Petraeus understands better than anyone — is too subtle for the roughly ground lens of our nation’s politics.

    To use my favorite turn of phrase, the politicians will use Petraeus’ report the way a drunk uses a lamp-post — for support not illumination. They’re not going to read it to learn anything. In fact, given their record on the Patriot Act, our politicians are unlikely to read it at all. They may not even bother to get their staffs to redact quotes out of context. They’ll just wave it in their hands and proclaim it supports their position.

    More Dumb Action

    Monday, September 10th, 2007

    You know what the biggest problem is with getting the public to accept global warming? It’s environmentalists being so incredibly stupid.

    Under the proposals, a cap could be set on the energy use of each electrical appliance, and those exceeding limits could be banned from sale in the UK.

    How do you measure energy use? It’s been amply demonstrated that environmentalists have no clue when it comes to measuring carbon footprint. Is making people go with TVs that use less energy going to end up using more energy for production and transportation? Is it going to cause more pollution? You know what’s really good at figuring out that complex math? The free market.

    And there could be a ban on electrical goods with stand-by lights which can stay on indefinitely. Some 2 per cent of Britain’s total electricity use is currently taken up by appliances left on stand-by rather than being switched off.

    Talk about your law of unintended consequences. Most of these are almost certaintly computers. All three of mine run on standby. You know what’s going to happen if you ban standby mode?

    People will just leave their computers on all the time. And it will burn up far more energy, do more damage to the machines (requiring more resource us to fix/replace them) and set the environment backward.

    Jesus Christ, enviros. Do you guys ever think?

    The Prebate Problem

    Sunday, September 9th, 2007

    Maybe I’ll post this over one at of the Neal Boortz boards just to see the fur fly. Like the supporters of any sweeping policy — socialism, neoconservatism or liberalism — Fair Tax supporters can’t admit that anything might be wrong with their ideas. The commenter on this post is smart, polite and makes some good point. But he still can’t resist telling me I’ll get a bigger paycheck or getting more focused on what the Fair Tax does right (“eliminate” the IRS and give you your “full” paycheck”) than what it does wrong.

    My biggest problem with the Fair Tax is the prebate. For those of you who don’t know, this is the check the government writes to every family that “prebates” the tax they are being charged for the basic necessities of life. It’s what supposedly makes the Fair Tax fair.

    But as far as I can tell, there are several massive problems with this:

  • The prebate puts the lie to the idea that the Fair Tax will eliminate the IRS. Who is going to make sure that people aren’t claiming a bigger househould than they have? If I’m going to claim a prebate for a family of four, I will have to give the IRS the identities of all four family members and they will have to check to make sure none of them are being claimed elsewhere (Imagine the nightmares for divorced parents. Do they each claim a Solomon-esque half a child?). I’m sure that will never go wrong. I’m sure no parent will ever get arrested for claiming a household member with a social security number that an illegal alien is also using.

    Granted, this is a massive improvement on the current situation in which the IRS can arrest you for incorrectly filing out a form based on their instructions. But it doesn’t “eliminate” the IRS; it merely reduces it.

  • If that were the only problem, I’d support the Fair Tax. But the prebate is also massively unfair. It prebates the amount of tax a family will pay on a certaining spending allowance that is set by the government. It is a uniform amount for the entire nation. This is ridiculous. A family of four in NYC might pay $30k for the cost of living but get prebates based on $25k. A family of four in New Braunfels might pay $20 for the cost of living but get a prebate based on . . . $25k. By my reckoning, that means the family in NYC just paid $1150 to the family in New Braunfels.
  • The prebate will become the most massive middle-class subsidy in American history. There will suddenly be 200 million people clamoring for the amounts to be raised. Do you not think the first Presidential campaign after the Fair Tax will have the Dems promising to raise the tax rate, while raising the spending allowance to $50k? After all, that’s just above the median family income.
  • Some Fair Taxers want the spending allowance tied to the poverty rate to prevent just this thing. But that only makes the problem worse. Now instead of poverty advocates clamoring to raise the povery rate, everyone will be — which mean an explosion in anti-poverty spending.
  • Do we really want a generation of Americans growing up who expect a monthly check from their wonderful government? Every April 15, Boortz clamors against those who say, “I didn’t pay any tax today! I got some back!” Well now, 300 million Americans will be saying that every month.
  • Ask the nearest Social Security recipient if they have ever had any problems getting their check. You might hear a colorful answer. Do we really think the federal government, whose computers are older than I am, is going to pass out nearly two billion checks a year without a hitch? That we won’t have some family missing a mortgage payment because they didn’t get their prebate? That they won’t accidently put $2 billion into some old lady’s account? Dream on.
  • There are other criticisms of the Fair Tax, but the prebate is the deal-breaker for me. It has always sounded odd to me and the more I think about it, the dumber the idea seems.

    All right, Fair Tax partisans. Fire away! Just keep in mind:

  • I’d love to “eliminate” the IRS too. The IRS was a constant foe of my grandfather and may have played a key role in my uncle’s fatal heart attack. I’m no fan of the current system at all.
  • I don’t care what, if anything, Scientology had to do with the Fair Tax. Hitler came up with the basic principles of mechanized warfare – ideas that we still use today. Good ideas can come from bad sources.
  • The statement that prices won’t go up but my take-home pay will is not true. And the man who has said so is Neal Boortz.
  • I realize the Fair Tax has advantages over the current system. I love that the Fair Tax people are stirring the debate. I’m on your side. I just think there are better ideas out there. The flat tax. A VAT. I don’t think this is the way to go.
  • The Price Of Inertia

    Sunday, September 9th, 2007

    I”m just too lazy to care. It’s just easier to go with the idiots.

    I had to renew my subscription to Norton Internet Security today. So far, I’ve been happy with it over three years. I haven’t had any virus or malware problems on my PC since a a few years ago when I erased the hard drive and reinstalled everything. I do wonder if it’s slowing down my machine, as many have alleged and the “will you allow this” pop-ups are annoying as hell. But I use my PC mostly for games anyway. Granted all my financial records are on there, but they are backed up on the mac (This is also intertia since I started keeping financial records on MS Money back in ’97 and am too lazy to move everything to Quicken). Most of my serious computing is reserved for the powerbook on which I am typing this.

    So I tried to renew today and the software key I was given when I subscribed two years ago doesn’t work. I have to go online and download new software. There I discover that once I purchase it, I will not be able to redownload after 60 says unless I pay an extra $9.

    I’d uninstall and go with something else … except that both Norton and McAfree install malware that prevents you from using a competitor’s product. I have neither the time nor the will to extract NAV from my system and find another product. So I’ll renew it for one more year. Next year, I’ll probably get a new PC anyway and not bother with these guys anymore.

    Saturday Linkorama

    Saturday, September 8th, 2007
  • I meant to comment on the Kennedy Brewer case when I saw it in the NYT as it seemed bizarre. Prosecturs continue to push a case despite exonerating DNA evidence? But then, Balko beat me to it with an even more alarming summary.

    It’s scary the lengths that some prosecutors will go to in order to be right.

  • I could never stand Robert Reich. His smary know-it-all way of uttering complete crap grated on my soul. Ronald Bailey now shows that, when it comes to economics, Reich has always been wrong. Always. Often spectacularly. But he’s revered by the Left.

    Incidentally, Reich wasn’t the only idiot telling us we needed to adopt Japan’s MITI model to get our economy working. A huge number of Democrats embraced the idea, including Algore. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for the economic policies of Bush Sr.

  • Jeff Taylor makes the case against a subprime bailout. There’s never a problem that government can’t step in and make worse. Did we not learn our lesson with S&Ls? Apparently not. Bailing out the borrowers now is only going to mean bailing them out again in the future.

    I guess now we can count a mortgage among people’s “rights”.

    I like the description of the Bushies as “uber-nannies”. I’ll have to steal that.

  • Good for the judge. The National Security Letters are abuse waiting to happen. Remember, this administration wants to crack down on perfectly legal internet porn. And what better way to start than to, without court review or public disclosure, get a record of everyone’s internet activity? I have no problem with the government reading the e-mail of terrorists. I have a problem with them going on fishing expeditions.

    You know, conservatives used to stand against things like Carnivore. Sigh. Those were the days.

    There’s something else disturbing here. This is another instance in which Congress has tried to pass a law forbidding judicial review of said law. This is absolutely unconstitutional. The Constitution authorizes Congress to determine the jurisdiction of the federal courts — but this is clearly to decide whether a case goes into state or federal court. It is not intended to allow Congress to create little sanctuaries within the law in which they can do whatever the hell they want.