Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ban recounts

I think we should ban recounts. Hold an election. Count the votes. Declare a winner. The end. You lost by one vote out 20,000,000 cast? Sucks to be you.

I came to this conclusion the other day as I was reading a book on probability ("The Drunkard's Walk" by Leonard Mlodinow). In it he discusses briefly the 2005 governor's election in Washington. After 2 recounts the Democrat was declared the winner. The first count had the Republican up by 261 votes out of 3,000,000 cast. The second had the Republican up by 41. The third had the Democrat up by 10. Then 700 "lost votes" were found which brought the Democrat up by 129 votes.

In reality, a swing of 399 votes out of three million is little more than statistical noise. Assuming that the first count and all of the recounts are done scrupulously and impartially, then there is no reason to think that any of the recounts is more accurate than the first count. All counts of large numbers are approximate.

In the modern world, however, there is actually reason to think that recounts may be less accurate than the original count. Since 2000, at least, both sides "lawyer up" for recounts. Ballots are found, ballots are disqualified. Local and state elected officials must make decisions, giving rise to the real threat of partisan tampering. lawyers for a campaign will argue with a straight face that certain ballots from areas dominated by the opposing party should not be counted while identical ballots from their strongholds should be. Tempers rise and accusations come from both parties that the other party is trying to steal the election. The final result may well be governed by which side had the better lawyers and the partisan sympathies of state and local officials (including judges.) One thing is certain though, bitterness will ensue.

I see two alternate possibilities. The first is to call any contest within certain statistical parameters a tie and settle the election by random means. (Preferably Bear, Ninja, Cowboy). The downside here, is that the party that had the "most" votes will feel cheated. The second is just accept the result. Since in very close elections who actually has the most votes is a random matter, there really is no need to add another random test. Just declare the person who had the most votes the winner and move on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indivdual Mandates

Some, though not all, of the health plans floating around Washington feature what is called an "individual mandate". The basic idea is to require every person to carry some form of health insurance. Without an individual mandate, some of the other "reforms" being proposed such as requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions simply won't work. (If no one was required to carry insurance, and insurers had to cover preexisting conditions, why would any one have insurance coverage before they got sick?) Individual mandates were a big issue in the early stages of the Democratic presidential primaries last year. Strangely, Hillary was for them and the President was against them. Things have changed.

One question that isn't asked much, is this "Would an individual mandate be constitutional?" So far as I know, this idea is actually completely unprecedented. Never in the history of this country, has the government required, by law, that every citizen buy a particular type of product. Auto insurance comes closest, but I have two adult siblings who don't have auto insurance. One is a life-long pedestrian and the other lives in New York City and doesn't have a car.

The only possible place in the Constitution that would give Congress this authority is the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. Now, the Supreme Court has stretched to Commerce Clause so much that growing wheat or marijuana for your own personal use constitutes engaging in interstate commerce and therefore subject to regulation by Congress. The Court, however, has also ruled that the Commerce Clause is not infinitely elastic, ruling that a federal law mandating gun-free zones around schools could not come under the Commerce Clause. So the question is, Does refusing to engage in an economic activity - that is, refusing to buy health insurance - constitute engaging in interstate commerce?. I would argue that, quite obviously, it doesn't, and that Congress does not have the authority to order me to do so.

It is also obvious that if this is found to be constitutional, it will not be the last "individual mandate" to come out of Washington.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel

Trivia question: Who has won the most Nobel Peace
Prizes?

Answer: Iam Notbush.

Carter was faintly plausible, Gore was an obvious slap, Obama was just silly.

It seems that nominations for the Nobel close on Feb 1. 10 days after THE ONE was inaugurated. I don't know when final voting was.

I predict an Emmy for his role as himself at one his many press conferences.

Nobel Effort?

I’m not going to make any long rants about the Nobel committee being taken over by the far left loons. Too easy. Nor will I comment on how the Nobel committee is more committed to influencing the simple minded rather than honoring achievement. After Carter I thought the Nobel committee had fallen a step or two. Honoring a noble (pardon the pun), yet failed effort. There is no doubt they had definitely over reached in the Gore episode.

But Obama? What has this man done? What has he achieved other than not being named Bush or Clinton? This is like giving out the Heisman Trophy at the end of August workouts. The promise is there, but promise is what gets you beat in November.

How do I view this “award”? This is the Nobel version on the NOW / Paula Corbin Jones affair. A group that started with high ideals and genuine purpose has descended into parody and any destroyed their own credibility. So bent on political ideology they have completely lost sight of the founding mission. In three years the Nobel committee will wonder why their prestige is down and people are ignoring them. I just wonder how they are going to blame it all on Bush.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Acorn, Peanuts, and Pecans

I have heard on at least two TV shows, three radio programs, and numerous blogs that Acorn is dead. That the undercover reporting and evidence of corruption and malfeasance have finally force Congress to move and funding will be cut. Conservatives are jumping with joy, laughing, and back-slapping; reveling in the failure of Acorn and acting as if a major victory has been achieved.

Has a major blow been dealt? The Acorn is dead, long live the oak. How many people are part of the Acorn structure? 1000? 5000? 10,000? Doesn’t matter. The entire downfall will affect only about 15-25 people. All these people were hired and given titular titles, chosen for their loyalty and dedication to the cause. The intelligence and power of the organization do not appear on org charts or show up at the offices. The rest of the group, the rank and file worker bees, will remain anonymous and unindicted.

What will happen in the end? Simple, the power will start Seeding, Pecan, or Hopychange; complete with a title to fit the acronym, and the rank worker bees will be hired and resume the same duties in roughly the same buildings and all will continue as it always has.
This is a pyrrhic victory for conservatives.

There is one way to change this nothing into a small win. Snatch a tie from the jaws of stupidity. The only way is to leverage all the current public sentiment into stopping Federal funding of ALL these type of sham do-gooder groups. No Federal money, no corruption. The people who will then actually have to work to raise the funds will make practical and reasonable efforts to ensure that it goes to the purported ends. The true believers: left, right, and center, will still work to achieve their political ends. That is fine with me. I just don’t see why it is up to Congress to continue funding these types of organizations.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Holy Crap!



This has been identified as this is B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington Township, NJ by Michelle Malkin. This is a public school.

Note the lyrics:

"He said "Red, yellow, black, or white, all are equal in his sight"
Mm mm mm...Barack Hussein Obama!"

Now note the lyrics to "Jesus Loves the Little Children":

"Black and yellow, red and white, They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world"

I am so glad we homeschool.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Modern Men.

Real men take swords into battle. And longbows. And bagpipes. Even during World War II.

We are wimps. Every damn one of us.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Human?

Although I despise the fact some less-then-esteemed members of the fourth estate violated the conditions of "off-the-record", I have to admit I enjoyed the Presidents off the cuff remark about Kanye West. Calling Mr. West a "Jackass" is both accurate and appropriate.

As for Mr. West, his force field (to protect from criticism) defense of "I'm upset at my mothers death" given new meaning to the term lame-excuse.

As a populace we have spent so much time being politically correct, we have forgotten how to criticize and condemn. As a society we are needy of being non-judgemental and being quick to forgive. We are petrified that our condemnation will offend.

So, lets get the party started: Kanye West is a jackass! (Oh how offensive)!. I"m sorry (apology), but my Grandmother's husband is very sick and not expected to make it. (Force field).

To paraphrase the First Lady: For the first time I'm proud of President Obama.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Will He or Won't He

Just wondering; if health care reform, aka Obamacare, fails, will the President still attempt to realize the $500 million in saving due to graft, fraud, waste, and corruption in Medicare?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Health Care and Rights

A key component to the ongoing debate on health care is the claim by some proponents that all people have or should have a right to health care. I do not believe that this is so. My belief comes from under my understanding of the nature of rights and of the right to property in particular.

Many philosophers draw a distinction between two types of rights, negative and positive rights. A negative right does not require anyone to do anything, merely refrain from acting in a way that would violate that right. My right to life does not require you to do anything, it merely requires you to refrain from killing me. All basic rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to free speech and press, the right to bear arms, the right to free exercise of religion, the right to assembly, the right to property, and others, are negative rights. Negative rights, in and of themselves, do not, however, require action on the part of others. I can watch you be murdered, and not lift a hand to defend you, without violating your rights.

Positive rights require others to do things. My right to vote requires that the government and its representatives hold elections. It is difficult for me to hold a positive right without infringing on the negative rights of others. Many libertarian thinkers hold that positive rights can only be acquired through contract. In this view, only those people with whom you have contracted have a positive duty to provide the services needed for you exercise your positive rights. I, for the most part, agree with this, with the important caveat that some contracts are not explicit, but rather implicit. Some implicit contracts are woven into the fabric of society and by participating in society you are agreeing to these implicit contrracts. Although these societal contracts can create duties, since these duties will, by their nature, impinge on the rights of the members of society, societal contracts should be no more extensive than absolutely necessary.

The right to property is, as I see it, a basic right. I am entitled to the fruits of my labor, and no one else is. Since I own the fruits of my labor, I may do with it what I will. I may choose give others the fruits of my labor either out of the goodness of my heart, or in as part of a contract into which I have freely entered. To deprive me of the fruits of my labor against my consent is tyranny. The right to property can actually be seen as one of the most fundamental of rights. The right to a free press is nothing more than the right to do whatever I want with my printing press. The rights of assembly, of free exercise, to bear arms, and other rights are, in a similar way, derived from the right to property. Even the rights to life and liberty are in way property rights. I own my self, and to deprive me of my life or freedom is deprive me of the enjoyment of my property.

All of this is pretty theoretical, and none of it is original with me, but they really are the views that my political decisions are rise from. Now to apply them to the health care debate. A right to health care, if such a thing were to exist, would obviously be a positive right. It would impose on medical providers on obligation to treat without payment or an obligation for others to pay for the services. This is an impingement on basic rights, which should only be done with great fear and trepidation. Even if I were happy to provide free health care or pay so that others could get health care, I do not have the right to impose that on others. I may do what I want with my property, but not with yours. (As it happens, I have provided health care for free, and payed for other's health care outside of the usual taxes and cost shifting by which every paying patient pays for other's health care.)

In addition to the theoretical reasons to oppose the establishment of health care as a right, there are practical ones, which I will discuss later.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care Notes

Some random thoughts on health care, and the reform there of.

This is an old story but it bears some examination. In October, 2008, then-Senator Obama's grandmother was reported as having broken her hip. She had "hip replacement" surgery. She died about a week later.

On April 14 of this year, President Obama gave an interview about health care reform to the New York Times, in which he said:

"THE PRESIDENT: I don't know how much that hip replacement cost. I would have paid out of pocket for that hip replacement just because she's my grandmother. Whether, sort of in the aggregate, society making those decisions to give my grandmother, or everybody else's aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they're terminally ill is a sustainable model, is a very difficult question. If somebody told me that my grandmother couldn't have a hip replacement and she had to lie there in misery in the waning days of her life -- that would be pretty upsetting.

NYT: And it's going to be hard for people who don't have the option of paying for it.

THE PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

NYT: So how do you -- how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now." [The New York Times Magazine, 4/28/09]


There's a lot here that needs to be unpacked. Let's start with the term "hip replacement". First some anatomy. The hip is basically a ball and socket joint. The ball is the end of the femur (the large bone between the hip and knee). The ball is known as the "head of the femur". The head of the femur is joined the the rest of the femur by a column of bone known as "the neck". The socket of the joint is in the pelvis and is known as the "acetabulum". Normally bone gets its blood supply from the tissue surrounding it know as "periosteum". However, because the head of the femur rotates within the acetabulum blood can not get to it from surrounding tissues. So the head gets its blood supply from the periosteum of the neck of the femur. Without blood supply a bone will die.

When most people hear the term "hip replacement" what comes to mind is what is known as a "total hip arthroplasty", or simply "total hip". Total hips are usually done for patients with hip pain from arthritis. In it the head of the femur is replaced, and the a new socket lining is placed in the acetabulum. It is essentially an elective, quality of life surgery.

This is not what was done for the President's grandmother. She broke her hip. What is done for a broken hip depends on the nature on location of the break. If the break is below the neck, then a variety of plates, screws and other hardware can be used to hold the bone in place until it heals naturally. If the break is across the neck and the head has not moved in relation to the neck, then some screws can be placed across the break, and the bone will usually heal naturally. If, however, the head has moved in relation to the neck, then the blood supply through the neck to the head has been disrupted. The head is going to die, so it must be replaced. Until it is, the patient must be kept in traction to reduce the movement of the joint, because every time the joint moves the ends of the broken bone will grind together, which is very painful. Traction reduces, but does not eliminate movement of the joint.

This, then, is the surgery that the President's grandmother received. She did not receive the hip replacement that the nice old man down the block got so that he could continue to play golf. She got the hip replacement that people get to relieve the constant pain from a broken bone. Unless a patient is within hours of death, it is cruel to not perform this procedure. This is the procedure that the President feels that society should consider denying to the terminally ill.

Let's talk about the other issues. The President clearly sees a two-tier system here. HE would pay for the procedure out of pocket, because he loves his grandmother, and he is rich. My grandmother? Sucks to be me.

Now let's talk about the last paragraph. "Not determinative", but "guidance". Congress did not act in a determinative manner when it wanted a 55 mph speed limit. The states were free to choose any speed limit they wanted, but Congress offered "guidance", along with consequences for not following that guidance. Guidance from the body that holds the purse strings is determinative.

Let's also discuss the term "terminally ill". Ted Kennedy was terminally ill for over a year. If he had broken his hip on the same day as the President's grandmother, should he have been denied treatment?

Here's another interesting tidbit. "the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here." Oh, he means sick people. Turns out that sick people use most of the health care resources. Who would have thought that? If we could just keep from spending health care resources on sick people, the health care crisis would be over.

In short, what the President seems to be saying is that there should be some sort of "independent group" that operates outside of the normal political process, that offers guidance. This group would consider whether, in the aggregate, certain treatments are appropriate in certain circumstances. These guidelines will not be "determinative", but they will be guidelines and they will be pushed by those with the purse strings. Part of the goal will be to reduce the cost of sick people to the health care system. But there will be no Death Panels.

The Left, the CIA, and the DMV

The last few weeks have had several breaking news stories about how the CIA poorly handled the entire process of recruiting and training ‘interrogators’. (Ok, everyone knows that they were really torturers, but that pesky liability law keeps getting in the way). These stories also appeared to magically precede the Obama administration announcement for more oversight on the issue but I’m sure that is a coincidence and good journalism, not collusion. (We all know the national media is simply a detached arbiter and treats the Obama administration with the same professional reserve with which it treated the Bush administration).

The basic premise of these articles was the CIA was unorganized and inept in their attempts to train interrogators (torturers) for Gitmo and other dens of inequity during the misguided attempt to thwart international terrorism. What was found is the CIA had no real training program and very little idea as to what it was doing. The media (I would say leftist media, but is there another kind?) appear to think this is a huge story. But, hey, anyone who has ever been to the DMV would be shocked if it were any other way. All government agencies eventually descend to befuddled incompetence over time.

The real issue is the lefts perception of the CIA. The left has spent years and dedicated millions to portraying the CIA as this huge spy machine, capable of chasing Jason Bourne across the world from a lap-top in New York. Equipment so sophisticate it can hack into and use an image from a surveillance camera three blocks away and, in seconds, come up with 3D images and assign motivations to continue to track its prey. When, in fact, they are just another group of people hamstrung by too much regulation, petty bureaucrats, and budget constraints. Every real world example of the CIA shows a group of people with no more skills or power to read minds then the people at GM, Proctor and Gamble or IBM. These real world examples also show a group that has the additions burdens of Congressional oversight and government red tape that ends up making them look like the Marx Brothers instead of the Tom Clancy warriors they are so often feared to be.

The articles also said a whole lot more then they intended. Between the lines, if the vaulted CIA, terrors of the world and, according to people who also support Nancy Pelosi, the only true and viable threat to world peace are truly befuddled incompetents what does that say about the ability of a government bureaucracy to run anything effectively and efficiently? Ok, I actually believer the CIA are hard working people who make do with what they have, and more importantly the bureaucratic constraints the must operate within.

The real problems within the CIA, the DMV, the IRS, the Post Office, or any other government agency are the very nature of governments. In non-governmental organizations rules are advisable set of conditions that are altered when needed or broken when necessary. Rules within these organizations are more like guidelines. Discretion and performance can lead to a rule breaker being celebrated for a great idea or exceptional service. Within government organizations rules are laws and any rule violation, no matter how necessary or practical, are dealt with harshly (up to and including jail time) and subject to oversight. Once Congress gets involved it is the end of progress.

Why do I discuss this small news event in such detail? One simple question: do we really want the same people applying the same rules to our health care system?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Un-American or Patriot?

Why was it an act of Patriotism under the Bush administration to protest the Iraq war; yet under the Obama administration it is un-American, according to Nancy Pelosi, to question anything Obama proposes?

This of course pertains to the hotly debated Obamacare Plan.

How much more spending can we as Americans tolerate?!?

Why is Obamacare acceptable for the Plebians; yet, Congress maintains a separate plan?!?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some day no one will march there at all.

The last World War I veteran in Britain, and the last man to have fought in the trenches, was laid to rest today. Harry Patch was a private in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He arrived in France in June of 1917, and was wounded on September 22 by an artillery shell, which killed three of his comrades. His funeral was in Wells Cathedral in front of a crowd of 14oo, including the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Gloucester. Thousands more watched on big screens on the cathedral green. His pallbearers were, at his request, privates from the The Rifles, the successor unit to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. The pallbearers were all about 19 years old, the age Patch was when he was wounded. His coffin was followed by soldiers from the armies of France, Belgium and Germany. A lesson was read by Dr Eckhard Lubkemeier, charge d'affaires at the German Embassy. An extract from Patch's biography, was read by the Belgian charge d'affaires, Marie-France Andre.

As the coffin left the cathedral, it paused and Last Post was played. An old friend of Patch read from the Ode of Remembrance: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: / Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. and then read three names "Jack, Jill and Maudy." These were the nicknames of the three comrades killed by the shell that wounded Patch.

Patch selected the music for his funeral. In addition to his favorite hymns, the congregation sang "Where have all the flowers gone."

"Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards every one.

Harry Patch Requiescat in Pace

Saturday, June 6, 2009

65 Years ago today

D-day.

It's some how troubling to me to realize that some one born on D-day can retire.

It's due, I'm sure, to my age, but WWII Vets are supposed to be the grown ups in charge. I'm not supposed to be the oldest person in my office.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Twenty years ago today

Twenty years ago the Goddess of Democracy fell, run over by a tank. Claudia Rosett has an editorial in the WSJ on what she saw at Tianamen square that day.

Since the Tiananmen uprising of 1989, China's rulers have loosened the economic strictures enough to allow remarkable growth -- testament to the vibrancy of the Chinese people given even half a chance. Out of this, China's rulers have devoted enormous resources to projects meant to suggest they run a modern nation -- sending astronauts into space, convening conferences on the climate, and hosting the 2008 Olympics.

Count me unimpressed. The real sign of modernity will come when China opens up its political system enough so that the country's leaders no longer fear June 4 but treat the Tiananmen uprising with the honor it deserves.


Four pictures to remember:



This image haunts me. They are so young, they may well guess what lies in store for them, yet they dance. I often wonder what became of them.



The Goddess and Mao.





All of this makes me want to go through my house and throw everything made in China.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Welcome to Bizarro World

For non-comic book geeks, Bizarro World is a planet in the Superman universe, where all things are opposite of Earth. We live there now.

Pravda has run an editorial lamenting America's slow fall into Marxism.

"The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

I did some driving today and listened to some NPR. Sigh. Like many Americans today (including, evidently, our President) there is some confusion as to the purpose of Memorial Day. All of the shows had Veteran oriented themes, but that would more appropriate to Veteran's Day, which we don't celebrate much anymore. Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring the dead. (I can understand NPR's dilemma. Dead people make for poor radio.)

Any way no one has ever said it better;

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Stupid now and then

Stupid now and then, 2nd in a series of rants

Consider this person: Graduate of Oxford, quotes classics in day to day conversations, has an extensive written and spoken vocabulary, speaks 2 languages, seeks and takes the advise of experts on subjects that he is lacking in. Can do complex probability calculations in his head.

Sounds like a pretty bright guy right?

I, of course mean Bertie Wooster, the touchstone of "stupid" of a bygone era. Yes, lacking in common sense and needs that first cup of tea in the morning, but all in all, a bright fellow, by modern standards.

When I had my moment of clarity it also came to me that Bertie, despite what Jeeves and his Aunts say, isn't dumb, he's just not devious and, to be truthful, missing a bit of common sense.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Westside Story and the fall of American Cities

A random rant, first in a series.

Arthur Laurents,Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim are responsible for the crack drug disaster of the late 20th century. László Benedek and Stanley Kramer also have a lot to answer for.

At a critical point in American recent history, when drug gangs were starting to make their selves felt on the inner cities of the both the rust belt and SoCal, a large part of White Bread America heard the term "Youth Gangs" and instead of thinking "this is some thing that needs to be done about RIGHT FREAKING NOW" thought "Westside Story" and blew it off. At worst they though "The Wild One", regardless, they didn't take it seriously. The result? Millions of lives destroyed, large parts of American cities made "No Go Zones", not to mention rap music and the whole hip/hop culture, a target of a future rant.

In real life the cycle of violence was not broken, in real life Maria would have pulled the trigger over Tony's body and the two gangs would not have ended their blood feud because of one crying woman. In real life their would have been a major gun battle. In real life Lt. Schrank and Sgt. Krupke are, or should be, the heroes, not a bunch of murdering thugs. As much as I would like to blame this one on boomers, I can't. They weren't quite in charge when the youth gang crises started. This, like a lot of other things, can be laid squarely in June Cleaver's lap. Why I said June, not June and Ward is also the subject of another rant.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Ding"

I guess Air Force One has never heard of Photoshop?!?

Instead let's waste $328,000, and counting, of the tax payers dollars to update the portfolio of an arrogant President.

When will the madness end?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's in an Acronym?

Does anyone else find it ironic that the acronym for Pelosi, Michelle, Barak, and Reid is POOR?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A random thought

In past wars of the US (and pseudo US) the rallying cry of the troops tended to be "Remember " where blank expands to The Maine, Pearl Harbor, The Lusitania, The Chosin, or The Alamo.

Of wars of any duration (there by ruling out Grenada, Panama and Desert Storm) we find the following exceptions

The Revolution. "Don't tread on me", "Live free or Die" "Liberty or Death"

The Civil War. "The Union Forever" or random screams AKA the "Rebel Yell".

Viet Nam "N days and a wake up" (where N equals number of days left in country, normally under 335 (one year, less one year's worth of leave == 335 days 'in country'))

The Long War AKA Global War on Terror, AKA Enduring Freedom. "Let's Roll". (see footnote)


This says something about both what the war is about, and what the troops are thinking. Of these, only one, that for The Long War is a take action sort of thing. I'll grant it's also a memorial quote as well.

I'll also grant I don't have a clue about the War of 1812 and the Mexican American war.

Like I said, random thought.

Footnote. For a while I was following Mr. Pournell's lead and was calling the war between the US and the USSR (1917-1989) "The Long War", but the US Military is now calling the GWoT "The Long War" now. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I strongly suspect my preferred choice "The Final Crusade" would not be taken. Still does my heart good to know that one of the men calling in air strikes on Taliban positions is, in his heart of hearts a Paladin, a follower of the Lion Hearted King and a Crusader for Good.

Greatest Foreign Policy Speech Ever.

Sorry for the delay. As much as I admire Churchill, this is the greatest foreign policy speech ever.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Young Lawyers in Love

I guess the high cost of law school and estimates that America may be producing more lawyers than the market needs has caught the eye of the President and Barak Obama is here to save these poor legal eagles. For young lawyers are going to be the only real beneficiaries of the stimulus bill. I predict, and I think I am conservative in this number, that 80% of the cost of all these “shovel-ready” infrastructure improvement projects will go to lawyers who litigate the wet-lands, dry-land, endangered species, minority quota-driven, law suits over the next decade. The government will be suing itself: Federal vs. Federal, State vs. State, local vs. local, and any other combination you can imagine. Yes, and there will be a needs for many more judges just to handle the workload, but the ACLU will gladly help with a list of “qualified” candidates. Fortunately Barak and Michelle were young lawyers who understood the need for young lawyers to find gainful employment.

A final thought, should my prediction be true, that is 80% of $787 billion is $630 billion to the legal profession. The one group that needs a bailout…NOT.

Sharks versus Jets

Congress, and an extremely compliant press, has been rallying the country against something once again, This time the Democrat party, self professed to be the party against hate in all forms, is worked up into a visceral rage and the bull’s-eye is on airplanes, corporate jets to be precise. On a side note, can you imagine what these people would do if they ever felt hate? It boggles the mind, but I digress.

I have two opinions about this anti-executive air crusade. The first is for companies that accepted government bailouts…GO FOR IT. In keeping with today’s theme of two, I will submit two reasons. First, limited executive perks by congressional fiat may actually have the benefit of preventing most executives from selling their public trust to the Capitol Hill Mob for a little of the easy life. While CEOs might actually have to do their jobs, it is a small price to pay for using the Gulf Stream or the Lear. Secondly, if we allow the logic that acceptance of public funds is sufficient cause to dictate terms-of-use to the receiver, this might give leverage over the NEA crowd. In other words, if we can tell executives at Citibank that if “you take our money you have to take our direction” the same will apply to Robert Mapplethorpe. Okay, I realize the latter requires consistency of message from a liberal, but I can dream that the left-wingers will grow up and realize that hypocrisy is not a virtue.

My second opinion deals with telling the CEOs of companies who manage to show some semblance of self restraint and don’t go hat-in-hand to the Potomac Raiders. To these men I say, fly to your hearts’ content. First, I think this is something the stockholders need to watch and, if they are happy, it really doesn’t hurt me. For that matter, it doesn’t hurt you either, so relax. My final reason is less personal: do you remember the American yacht industry? It was destroyed by the luxury tax. Did this do anything to the "soak-the-rich" Americans who wanted the 45-foot ocean going schooner? No, they just went to England or Jamaica to buy their toys. But boat builders and handlers were suddenly out-of-work. There are lots of small businesses employing many people in the private jet industry who would suddenly be closed due to lack of work. Those employees would be losing jobs they love, simply because of nothing more than petty jealousies.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The banning of Childhood. The burning of books.

OK, maybe banning of childhood is a bit of an overstatement. Instead what Congress has done is ban everything associated with childhood not made by large companies which specialize almost exclusively in children's products. Small companies, start-up companies, and large companies which have children's products as a side line have been pushed out of the market by act of Congress. Small companies, by the way include that nice old man at the farmer's market who makes wooden toys and that lady on the internet who makes those darling little girl dresses by hand. Why have all of these businesses been banned? To protect the children of course.

You may remember last year's scare about lead in paint used in some toys made in China. You may also remember that Congress responded with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which banned lead and phthalates in any product intended for use by children under the age of 12. Every component of every product must be tested for lead by independent testing agencies. (There is not, by the way, a large scale testing industry in existence, as there was no demand. Congress assumed that an industry that did not exist could be created within a few months) Every variation must be tested separately and every lot must be tested. So the old man making toys must test each component of the toy. If he comes up with a new design, all of the components must be tested, even if they were tested before for previous designs. Same thing for the lady making little girl dresses. (Different sizes count as different designs, by the way.) It is obvious that only the largest companies are going to be able to afford the testing required by these laws. Not only will the small craftsmen be put out of business, but also the many small companies. The type of specialty toy maker that does a few hundred thousand dollars in sales every year and employs a handful of people, you know, the makers of all of the really cool toys, is history. Companies that primarily make goods for adults will likely avoid the added costs by dropping their children's lines.

One might think, that at least I will be able to get some of these things through the used market, but no, Congress banned that as well. CPSIA applies to all goods made for children regardless of when they were made. This means that the resale market will have to remove or test all items made for children. The stores, of course, will remove them. So in a time of economic hardship, Congress has just made it impossible for parents to save on children's clothing costs by going to Goodwill. I know from experience that it is possible to keep a child in clothes that were initially quite expensive for less than Wal-Mart prices. Children outgrow clothing before they wear them out. They often outgrow them before they appear to have been worn at all. Good-bye to all of that.

One of the real tragedies is that this travesty of a law applies to everything sold for children, including books. The Consume Products Protection Agency has graciously exempted used books which were printed after 1985 from the testing requirements. The books must be of normal bindings and have no lead components. Prior to 1985 lead was used in some of the inks used in children's books. (That is, by the way, why the colors in the illustrations of old books are often so rich.) Of course for the ink to damage a child, the child must eat the book. Vintage books are excepted if by age or price it is likely that purchasers are going to be adult collectors rather than children. Some businesses will try this dodge to continue old children's books, but let's be real, a third printing of a kid's book from 1967 is just not collectible. What this means is that most out of print children's books are now illegal to sell. If you want older editions for you kids, tough luck. You can no longer search for that book with the pretty illustrations you loved as a child. If you are lucky, a new reprint might be available, but only if the book is famous, or won a major award like the Newbery or Caldecott. Even then it might only be available in paperback. There are some truly great books out there that have never been reprinted and this heritage will be lost forever.

Ah, but what about libraries, you ask. Surely libraries will preserve this heritage. First, most library books do not have a lifespan of more than twenty years. The books fall apart from being handled so much. Second, the law applies to libraries. Libraries can not loan out books printed prior to 1985 without having them tested. The testing required is wet testing. Wet and books do not mix. Old books can not be tested without destroying them. Besides, we already know that many of them will fail. An even more serious problem is that it is next to impossible for a library to tell when a book was printed. Printing date is not one of the pieces of bibliographic information that libraries routinely include in their records. Copyright date, and edition number, yes, printing date, no. In fact it is often impossible, even by examining the book itself, to determine the printing date. The only safe route would be to sequester all books with a pre-1985 copyright date until it can be determined when the book was printed. Of course books aren't shelved in order of copyright, so every book in the children's section would have to examined or moved. Most libraries do not have the manpower to do this. It will costs libraries millions of dollars to sort and replace books. This is money that does not exist.

This is not speculation. The law took effect on February 10. There have been reports of used bookstores pulling all pre-1985 children's books. Bookstores can not afford to store books they are not selling. These books are being discarded. The book burning has begun. For the children.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy Birthday

Ninety eight years ago today Ronald Wilson Reagan was born. I shudder to think what he would have made of this week's stimulus discussion.

And now an excerpt from the greatest foreign policy speech of the last half of the 20th century.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On the inauguration

I didn't watch. My family and I went birding. We had a great time. We went to a small local reservoir that we go to often. We saw some Common Mergansers, which I have never seen on that lake before. The highlight was chancing upon a flock of about 10,000 Red-winged Blackbirds. Overwhelming without being frightening. But enough about birds.

I've read the President's inaugural address and have a few comments. Many of these points have been noted elsewhere.

"Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. "

He flubbed one of my favourite trivia questions. Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. How many men have been President of the United States? Answer: 43. Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president, but only one man.

"we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

That's right McCain ran on a program of fear, conflict and discord.

"For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh."

And Iraq and Afghanistan. To ignore the battlefields of the wars in which are currently engaged is ungracious, at best. (The Argonne and Chosin could have been mentioned as well, but then those are forgotten men from forgotten wars.)

On a broader point those that traveled across oceans, toiled in sweatshops, and settled the West, didn't do it for us, they did it for themselves and their families. We reap the benefits of what they did, but that's not why they did it.

"But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

Unpleasant decisions, like committing troops to an unpopular war? Protecting narrow interests, like making it easier for union thugs to intimidate workers by denying them the right to a secret ballot?

"We will restore science to its rightful place."

Meaning we will keep it way from politics? Or use it as a hammer to beat on our opponents? Seriously, science is not equipped to make value judgements. You can use the scientific method to determine the effects of hypothermia by experimenting on humans, But it isn't science that will tell you that it is morally repugnant to do so.

"(We will) wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."

Aside from the weird use of wield here, technology raises health costs, not lowers it. 1960s health care was much cheaper. It also didn't have today's wonder drugs, MRI machines, robotic surgery, endoscopic surgery, CAT scans, advanced monitering like Oxygen saturation monitors, the list goes on and on. These are great things, but they are also expensive.

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works ... Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end."

I look forward to the list of programs that will end, or maybe this is just a rhetorical device to defend big government.

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. "

Not so subtle dig here at his predecessor, here.

Sigh, I can't dissect this any longer. A dominant theme was that America needs to change, and change everything. We need to start doing things, many of which we already doing, and many of which don't need to be done. The near past is to be rejected.

At the same time, it is good to here a Democrat speak well of the founding fathers. The president did well to reach to the founders, and forgo anymore strained comparisons to Lincoln.

All in all it was not a bad speech, and he speaks well when he has a script, but, at least when read, it was not a stirring speech. It had some good moments, and it is good to here someone from the left embrace our history and patriotism, although those words might not mean what they think they mean. It had its downsides too. I was obviously a speech from the left, although that was to be expected. The greatest flaw was the inclusion of the ungracious, unsubtle snipes at President Bush. Perhaps he has moved for so long in circles where outright hatred of the right is the norm, he does not realize that oblique insults are still uncouth, given the occasion.

The address aside, I have said that the President deserves the respect due to his office. That does not necessarily apply to his jack-ass, moronic supporters. The left greeted the Bush presidency by throwing eggs at his motorcade after his inauguration, and ended it by booing and chanting na-na-na-na, hey, hey good-bye. In between there were comparisons to Hitler and chimps, ridicule and hatred. To steal a line, now I know what the left means by a classless society

Good Mourning

It is with a heavy heart that I wear black today in honor of lost freedoms to come in months ahead.

Goodbye to freedom of speech, national security and the right to bear arms.

Hello to increased crime rate, higher taxes, record unemployment rates and this is just the beginning.

But it's okay. . . because this is the 'change' that America needs!

Inauguration

As I write these words, we are in the last hours of the Bush presidency. In a little more than two hours Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the country's first black president. I've thought quite a bit in the last few days about what this means to me and to the country. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, as should be obvious, I am not a political supporter of Mr. Obama. Out of all the major candidates in both parties, he was, with the possible exception of John Edwards, the person I least wanted to win. But he did, so I must come to terms with it.
He, however, will hold the office of President of the United States. I will not indulge in the mindless hatred that the left engaged in for the last eight years. Barack Obama will be my president. If some prominent conservative goes to London and expresses shame that Mr. Obama is president, I will condemn him or her as much as I did the Dixie Chicks. Even though I disagree profoundly with the platform on which he ran, I can nonetheless support him as president because of the unique nature the office. Unlike many other democracies, the President of the United States combine in one person the dual offices of Head of State and Head of Government. As Head of State, Mr. Obama will embody the United Stated to the world. He is the a personal manifestation of American democracy, and as such he deserves respect. And as a loyal citizen of this nation, he will have my respect.

As Head of Government, however, his words and actions, deserve only the respect they earn. If he advocates something that I see as damaging or dangerous to the country, then I, as loyal citizen, have the right and even the responsibility to criticize and oppose him.

All of that could be said about any politician, however. It would be wrong-headed of me to pretend that Mr. Obama's election was only about differing policies. His election demonstrates in a fundamental way the distance that race relations in this country have come in the last sixty years. This a great and glorious thing. It, however, says something that the first black man with minimal qualifications (Jackson and Sharpton don't count) to run for president won. I think that race relations have been much better for much longer than has been commonly presented. I would have preferred to have this be proven by a conservative black, but the times are what they are.

So when after every thing is said, where do I come down on the Obama presidency. As a pollster might ask, do I hope he succeeds? It depends on what one means by succeeds. Do I hope that he will offer that leadership that protects America from its enemies, and that the economy will revive and become again a vibrant powerhouse. Of course I do. Do I hope that he will succeed in enacting his policies and reshaping the American economy on more liberal lines. Well, no I don't. Because I think that he will succeed in the latter, I fear that he will fail in the former.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Obama's speech

I caught the first two thirds of the president-elects speech to day. A few things popped out to me. Early in the speech he said "If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years.", later in the speech he said "It will take time — perhaps many years — but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence. We can restore opportunity and prosperity."

This strikes me as going to the doctor and being told, "You have a cold. If nothing is done, it could last a week. Spend $1000.00 dollars on this medication and you will get well. It mayt take some time, perhaps a week."

I also like the scare tactict "The unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four." Well, yeah it might average out to 12K per family, but the way it will actually happen is that the 80-90+% of the workers that don't loose their jobs will have no lost income, while those that do will loose much more income. The average is meaningless, but he makes it sound like everyone listening is going to loose thousands of dollars.

Later we get "It (digitizing medical records)will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system." I'm deeply skeptical about the benefits of digitizing medical records. I've seen nurses struggle for too long trying to extract information from poorly designed systems to give the idea much credit. I also have very real doubts about the ability of digital records to prevent medical errors. For example, I fail to see how having a digital record will prevent a nurse from picking up a sound alike or look alike medication bottle, which is one of the common caused of medical errors. But what do I know, I just hand things to doctors. I wont't even get into the word "pervades".

About this point in the speech, I felt the strong call of classic rock on another station.