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Sunday, November 28, 2010

This math makes my head hurt

Can anyone please balance this equation for me?

From a job posting for a professorship at Loyola University Maryland (emphasis in the original)

We are seeking an enthusiastic individual committed to excellent teaching and a continuing, productive research program. A Ph.D. in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a closely related field is required. Candidates in all areas of specialization will be considered. The position is restricted to women who are U.S. citizens by the Clare Boothe Luce bequest to the Henry Luce Foundation.

Loyola is an EEO employer that seeks applications from women and members of minority groups.

Private institution with private funds – fine, do what you want. Just don’t stick the EEO claim on it when its clearly not an equal opportunity.

<HT: Voxday>

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Everybody just relax

Janet Napolitano tells us that the newly installed body scanners at JFK are nothing to worry about

"Those who read the images are not actually physically at the gate, so they cannot associate an image with an individual person at all," she said.

Translation: Its OK for government agents to see you naked as long as they don’t have to look you in the face afterwards.

Besides, there is no way anyone could possible correlate two different cel phone pictures taken by different TSA agents who can only communicate via walkie-talkie.

"And the machines are set so that no image is retained."

Translation: These machines can save the naked pictures of you but we won’t. Unless we change our minds. And we don’t plan on changing our minds until we decide we need to!

See? Its all gonna be just fine.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halting the foreclosure factory in TX

Greg Abbot has stepped up again to go after the big bad banks.

The Texas Attorney General's office called for a halt on all foreclosures today amid widespread scrutiny over the way foreclosures are processed nationwide

While my knee jerk reaction might likely be with the majority of the comments on this story claiming that the government needs to get out of the way and let business proceed, it gets a little more interesting when you get into the details which are not listed in the story.

A friend of mine works in real estate here and today he pretty much deals only with pending foreclosures (preventing them, that is). He has some pretty terrible stories about how people are being mislead during foreclosure proceedings (like the bank claiming to work with them to put a short sale in place while the bank is still foreclosing out from under them just depending on which paperwork gets done first). But the real kicker is just the sheer number of loans that are invalid on their face. From what I hear its almost a guarantee that a troubled loan has something wrong with the original agreement. Now if that is the case and the near totality of these loans are wrong from the get go, then the authorities do need to step in and stop the proceedings-as-usual in order to make sure that everyone is treated correctly under the law.

This is not about socialistic government stepping in and taking care of everyone who has a problem. This is about holding the banks accountable for improperly setting up loans and then taking the property which they may not have a legitimate claim on.

Indeed, as I understand it, its systemic. Some of the bank’s standard loan forms may have actually done things the wrong way. If that is actually the case, this is catastrophic for them as well as the home owners. There is purposeful and inadvertent fraud likely on both sides and clouded titles on the properties for the foreseeable future.

Further, if the banks reaaaaally screwed this up, there may be a whole class of folks still able to make their payments that might start to challenge their loans.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taking away my “Right to Work”

Congressman Sherman from California has submitted a bill to remove the ability for states to opt out of forced unionization of jobs in their states. The text of the bill isn’t available yet but the title is

H.R.6384 - To repeal a limitation in the Labor-Management Relations Act regarding requirements for labor organization membership as a condition of employment.

The Mr. Sherman wants to eliminate a 50 year old provision to the National Labor Relations Act which allows states to pass laws exempting their businesses from requiring all employees to join a union if the union has a presence there. He claims this “so-called right-to-work” force unions to represent non-union members. Not so, it just doesn’t allow you to force people into a union who don’t want to be members.

Mr.Sherman continues

Right-to-work laws have come to be known as right-to-work-for-less laws, because employees in states with these laws average about $5,333 a year less than workers in labor rights states.

Hmmm, he seems to be on to something. According to

Employers in Dallas, TX typically pay 9.6% less than employers in Los Angeles, CA.

But also that

The cost of living in Dallas, TX is 30.0% lower than in Los Angeles, CA.

So if you moved from LA to Big D, you would actually have more money. I wonder why that is? Surely we need to forcibly unionize the workers to fix this discrepancy. Or maybe just teach them some math.

Now I’m not a union guy. I have nothing against them either in theory. I just don’t think the government should be forcing me one way or the other to join a union. With all the problems California has right now, I think maybe Mr. Sherman ought to focus on helping out his state rather than adjusting the rules in mine to fit his failing agenda.

Friday, October 1, 2010

No pressure

While I see where they were going, trying to make an ironic situation where a character says “no pressure” and then does the opposite, the 10:10 guys really created a WTF moment with their mini-movie. The message comes out more like “Reduce your carbon emissions, or else we will kill you!”

Apparently having a teacher detonate her students because they decided not to participate in an optional exercise wasn’t funny? Whodathunkit?

To their credit, not only have they apologized without using the words “if” or “but”, they also stated that they will not be running around issuing take down notices for anyone who posts the video.

As a result of these concerns we've taken it off our website. We won't be making any attempt to censor or remove other versions currently in circulation on the internet.

Ouch, my ears!

The CALM act (HR 1084 && S 2847) will ensure that all of our sensitive ears will not be damaged or offended by that most serious of monsters that lurk in the night – loud commercials. Please Mr. Obama, I urge you to sign this bill as swiftly as possible in order to allow us all to sleep at night without fear.                Don’t worry about the debt or jobs or any of that other stuff that will work itself out on its own.

Seriously, I thought this one had died long ago. Its also something that has already been resolved technically by the market. Some TVs have a loudness function to prevent sudden large changes in volume.

Congratulations, assuming this gets signed (which I don’t see why it wouldn’t at this point) you just made the government a little bit bigger and TV a little more expensive to produce with no real appreciable positive result.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A seat at the table or two or four

Politico is reporting news on the Congressional reapportioning due to the new census data. It looks like Texas gets 4 more seats. in the House of Representatives. Woot! Which they are quick to point out may be trouble for Dems as Texas is a traditionally (but only recently) Republican state. What they don’t mention is that its not really that simple, as seen by the closeness of the Governor’s race. It depends on who draws the district boundaries. As it stands today, 12 of Texas’s 32 representatives are Democrats. That’s more than a third. If you look at the data, the country is much more purple than the media would have you believe that it is red vs blue.

Although the big story here really is presidential electoral votes because Texas like most states is all or nothing. And in that regard it is a very safe Republican state.

Bonus factoid: If you want to see gerrymandering in action, go check out the existing boundaries and zoom in on Austin which is in 5 different districts, the bizarre shapes of the districts around Dallas. I dare you to rationalize that to me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Move over Bill

Conjunction Junction and I’m Just a Bill are helpful to kids, but maybe we should start airing the Money Rock videos during the grown up programming in prime time.

For your viewing pleasure - Tyrannosaurus Debt

We've got to keep on servicing
Our trillion dollar pet
It's got a monster appetite
Tyrannosaurus Debt

Not quite as catchy, but ever more important today.

Try and stop me!

Today’s Libertarian Mind Wanderings of the Day is on stop signs.

First, why is my neighborhood filled with stop signs? I live in a typical low volume traffic neighborhood with a number of streets and intersections but many of them only adjoin each other or only touch a major thoroughfare at one end. The traffic is so low that the vast majority of my trips in and out of the neighborhood, I see no other cars until I get to the major streets. There is absolutely no reason to have stop signs impeding me all around. If you must, you can put up a yield sign in order to recognize the need for caution and reflect the actual behavior of everyone today. What I don’t need is to be looking over my shoulder just in case law enforcement happens to wander down my street and see me all by myself rolling through a stop sign.

In fact I’m beginning to wonder what the justification really is here because the statute regarding putting stop signs up is actually pretty limiting. It states


     (a)     The traffic engineer shall conduct studies and investigations of the public streets and highways within the city and shall determine those places on public streets and highways where a particular danger or hazard exists to motor vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic and shall place and maintain traffic control signs, signals, and devices in accordance with these studies and determinations as required under this chapter and other traffic laws.

I’m curious if there was ever a study on my neighborhood that determined there was a particular danger or hazard that warranted me to stop at these internal intersections. No, have you ever seen a neighborhood get built? The first thing in is the roads and the signs. Before anyone even lives there (when you can actually see everything around you because its not built up yet) the flow of traffic is already constricted.

I can even be persuaded that where the residential streets hit the boulevard you might want a stop sign. Although its pretty obvious that the larger busier street has has the right of way and you don’t actually change any of the behavior by putting up a stop sign. The only thing you get is a mediocre increase in local ticket revenue and a small subsidy to the sign making business.

I’m thinking that if I stood up at the city council meeting and asked for their removal I’d get a stunned look of disbelief “But….um…. you have to have them. Why? Because!”

Second, I do not (necessarily) stop for private stop signs. They have no legal basis and I treat them as an appropriate warning that I need to be aware and yield in order to allow traffic to flow as necessary within the parking lot. Wal-Mart is an excellent example of this. So please don’t get all worked up if I blow through a stop sign at the back of the lot 100 yards from the nearest car or pedestrian.

Third, stopping behind the stop sign. The traditional lore is that when there is no marking or crosswalk, you must stop behind the stop sign. I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen a stop seen near enough to the actual corner to be useful. This requires all cars to make two full stops, one at the sign and another at the street when you can see. While looking up #1 above I came across this in the TX statutes regarding stop sign use. [my emphasis]


(c)  An operator required to stop by this section shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. In the absence of a crosswalk, the operator shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop at the place nearest the intersecting roadway where the operator has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway.

IANAL but as far as I can find, the local city codes don’t adjust or override this, which means as long as you stop (which most people do at a busy street) you are good to go.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How much is pot going to cost?

Wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony if Proposition 19 in California is passed and the cost of pot goes up?

I see several reasons this could actually happen

  1. Increased in-state demand. Once legal, there is a set of the population who will begin to partake that wouldn’t risk it otherwise – this one is iffy since we presumably would have an increase in supply as well.
  2. Taxation – they are looking at a 10% tax on the stuff. Just to maintain the current price, the retail value has to go down at least 9% to allow for a 10% tax not affecting the final price.
  3. The unions are licking their chops here. Anyone every see a unionized labor force lower the price of the goods they are involved in?

    “The marriage of the cannabis-hemp industry and UFCW is a natural one,” said [UFCW local 5 president] Rush. “We are an agriculture, food-processing and retail union, as is this industry.”

  4. Increased out-of-state demand. I’ve yet to see any good discussion on how the economics of a product that is easily shipped across state lines but is black market in one state and publicly available in another will work. I could even foresee a serious pot draught in CA due to the growers wanting the best price for their product (out of state) until the CA price comes up to match it. Money follows the contours of its environment, just like water.
  5. California could impose tariffs on foreign (i.e. Mexican) pot to protect their market and subsequent revenues.
  6. The typical elevated cost due to the risk of incarceration will not go away. The DEA is still raiding medical marijuana establishments  even though Obama said they wouldn’t.

Assuming all these factors come into play, it is conceivable that the ultimate retail price of pot in the state of California after legalization could be higher than the black market out of state price just to maintain the same margins for the growers.

Get off my lawn! err.. air!

Texans tend to take their private property seriously. That also goes to someone imposing rules on us which are based on, well, nothing. Add one more bit of animosity between the Great State of Texas and the Feds to the list.

The state of Texas today sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a federal appeals court in Washington DC, claiming four new regulations imposed by the EPA are based on the 'thoroughly discredited' findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and are 'factually flawed,' 1200 WOAI news reports.

If you want more details on the whole ‘factually flawed’ part, check out Borepatch’s links to his series of analysis of the IPCC ridiculousness.

I’ve got to remember to vote for Greg Abbott next time his seat is up for election as Texas Attorney General.

Texas – you may not agree with us, but it sure makes for a good show.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

But can they actually do it?

The GOP’s Pledge to America. Some good stuff, some fluffy get-me-elected stuff, some impossible stuff.


PostRacialBSers say what?

Just… wow. So this is the post racial world? A congresswomen telling Latinos that “the Vietnamese and the Republicans are … trying to take away this seat.” Identity politics at its best.

Nothing helps your chances to get elected like stirring up your constituency's racial animosity. I guess whatever gets out the vote <sigh>

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I hate Pizza Hut

I like to order things online if given the chance because I get a clear receipt showing what I ordered. “Hi Mr. Delivery Man, you can see clearly here I ordered this and not that and for this price.”

Quality of their product aside (there is a local pizzeria that I far prefer), I hate Pizza Hut’s website. I usually get pressured by the rest of the crew here to order from Pizza Hut and always end up saying things aloud in frustration that would make my mother deny our relationship. Usually its just about usability and speed but last night it was about borderline fraud.

I choose this deal. Clearly marked as $23.99. The primary items being 2 medium pizzas.


The next step is to customize your pizzas. Notice the price still says $23.99 in the top, but the pizza selection for both pizzas has defaulted to “Large.” Large costs extra according to the above coupon.


Now you walk all the way through each of the four items. (for this example I chose nothing and just clicked Next Item) And check out the price. Its $27.99.


Once you add on the delivery charge, tax, and door bell ringing fees its more than that. If you weren't paying attention you could easily lose those extra couple of dollars in the total price of the delivery. I wonder how many people end up with large pizzas, and think “Hey I just got one over on the man. He sent me larges by mistake for free!”

On top of this, walking through this multiple times trying to figure out the problems and the UI (there was another problem that involved cheese selection) took me 30 minutes until I finally broke down and called the place. Of course the girl on the other end of the phone didn’t know what the deal was and just took my word for it.

Forget the delivery, I want it ordered in under 30 minutes or its free!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Corn vs Cane

Just as the White House wants to rename global warming... er, climate change for better PR, the Corn Refiner’s Association is lobbying the FDA to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar. apparently Mrs. Obama’s notion not to feed her kids any HFCS is having an effect on the market even as

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Washington-based Centre for Science in the Public Interest, said that the fundamental issue was that people needed to consume less sugar: "Soda pop sweetened with sugar is every bit as conducive to obesity as soda pop sweetened with high fructose corn syrup."

Now I’ve seen claims from both sides and haven’t dug into the actual science of this but I tend to land in the anti-HFCS camp for two reasons

1) The only reason we get corn syrup today instead of cane sugar is because the corn industry has the clout to maintain their cheap price through federal farming subsidies and maintain the case sugar import tariffs. Drop the tariffs/subsidies and let the corn farmers compete.


UPDATE: The Atlantic has an excellent article on the science and pedigree of the reporting of HFCS

Friday, September 17, 2010

Set climate phasers to disrupt!

Originally they said there was Global Cooling – Quick, cover the ice caps with black soot!

OK, I better get my earmuffs out.

Then the said there was Global Warming – Quick, stop using aerosol cans!

But, uh, you just said cooling…

Then they said there was Climate Change – Now stop using cars, Now!

Isn’t that what climates do?

Now they say there is Climate Disruption (see slide 5)

Oh crap! Are there aliens shooting Climate Disrupter Phasers ???

This is not about facts or even weather. Its about owning the conversation.Its about owning the language. There are two facets here. The first is their failure to convince everyone to go along with their policies (of course, not being able to reproduce original data sets doesn’t help their science any). So they change the language to cover a larger set of outcomes – and by a larger set of outcomes I mean all outcomes.

(Global climate disruption is) more of a sort of generic blanket term, I guess, that can apply in all weather conditions.

The second is their contempt for everyone else’s intelligence. When the argument fails to incite the proper amount of panic and urgency, they change the language to something that sounds more terrible so that we will get scared and do what they want because they are the big smart guys in suits. Sometimes you just need a serious crisis.

<HT: GorTechie>

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burn, baby, burn

I continue to be amazed that people believe they can prevent failure. In today’s fluffy “you’re all equally amazing people” world, the powers that be have struggled to prevent anyone from failing and in doing so drag us all down together. (Maybe we are not failures as long as we are all equally pitiful).

Looks like even the New York Times is starting to come around to realizing that you cannot prop up the housing market indefinitely.

Some economists and analysts are now urging a dose of shock therapy that would greatly shift the benefits to future homeowners: Let the housing market crash.

When prices are lower, these experts argue, buyers will pour in, creating the elusive stability the government has spent billions upon billions trying to achieve.

Now urging? I’m sure I’ve heard that before now. But in any event it definitely would shift the benefit to future homeowners. That’s what happens in a correction. All the existing owners realize they have made a poor investment and try to sell. In doing so, it creates opportunity for new investors to bail them out. Although, in this case “bail out” does not mean totally relieve them of their suffering. It means partially relieve them by offering them more than zero which is better than nothing. The stability comes, but at the new price level.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Run on the banks in Afghanistan

Karzai urges Afghans not to panic as bank withdrawals accelerate

Earlier in the day, Mahmoud Karzai voiced concern over Kabul Bank's ability to withstand an onslaught of depositors demanding their money back. "America should do something," he said in a telephone interview. He suggested that the Treasury Department guarantee the funds of Kabul Bank's clients, who number about 1 million and have more than $1 billion on deposit with the bank.

Umm, how about – “No.”

First we’ll worry about the bullets, then we’ll think about worrying about your bank (maybe).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Forget the black helicopters

Beware the innocuous white van! And I mean vans equipped with a mobile version of the airport backscatter scanner. According to Forbes

Law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.

But they will only be used for bombs right? Riiiiiigght…. Given the power, its nearly impossible for a government not to use it.

This looks like a joke, but its from an article in Forbes and I also found an older article from Defense Industry Daily

I need to go get my tin foil hat ready!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bernanke has the tools, except they don’t work right.

From this mornings speech

"The issue at this stage is not whether we have the tools to help support economic activity and guard against disinflation. We do," Bernanke said. "The issue is instead whether, at any given juncture, the benefits of each tool, in terms of additional stimulus, outweigh the associated costs or risks of using each tool."

So he has the tools except they cause other problems. That is a bit like saying “yeah I can fix your brain cancer with this here chainsaw. It will cut it right out.” I don’t think that makes it the right tool.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Recycle! because we’ll be watching…

High-tech carts will tell on Cleveland residents who don't recycle ... and they face $100 fine

The move is part of a high-tech collection system the city will roll out next year with new trash and recycling carts embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes.

The chips will allow city workers to monitor how often residents roll carts to the curb for collection. If a chip shows a recyclable cart hasn't been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables.

And then he will cite them for not recycling enough.

Remembering this refresher on what really happens to your curbside recycling the Cleveland plan (and others e.g. in Alexandria, VA and in the UK) strike me as technology for technology’s sake. Which means spending money and making the policy makers sound like they are making improvements while in fact just creating more busy work and bothering their constituents with more nonsense.

<HT: The Volokh Conspiracy>

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First it’s a receiver…

Why does the RIAA and the National Association of Broadcasters want to require an FM radio in your cell phone and other portable electronics? Its not because they could then argue a larger potential audience should require larger license fees for their content. Its for the children! So says NAB's Dennis Wharton

"We would argue that having radio capability on cell phones and other mobile devices would be a great thing, particularly from a public safety perspective. There are few if any technologies that match the reliability of broadcast radio in terms of getting lifeline information to the masses."

[full story at Ars Technica]

Its hot cuz it ain’t windy! And it ain’t windy cuz its hot!

As I mentioned last week, we had record energy consumption here in Texas. How do you think all that wonderful wind energy investment is working out for us? Not so well as that darned physics just keeps getting in the way.

When I got extra hot and needed extra juice to cool off, why did the wind not blow? Because it was hot. Hot everywhere.

only about 5 percent of the state's installed wind capacity was available when Texans needed it most. Texans may brag about the size of their wind sector, but for all of that hot air, the wind business could only provide about 0.8 percent of the state's electricity needs when demand was peaking.

Why does Texas get so little juice from the wind when it really needs it? Well, one of the reasons Texas gets so hot in the summer is that the wind isn't blowing. Pressure gradients—differences in air pressure between two locations in the atmosphere—are largely responsible for the speed of the wind near the Earth's surface. The greater the differences in pressure, the harder the wind blows. During times of extreme heat these pressure gradients often are minimal. The result: wind turbines that don't turn.

One of my friend’s electric company is one of these wind outfits. I think I’ll ask him to pay my bill next month.

full article at Slate

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome to the Republic of Bananas!

In the past we’ve seen that many congressmen don’t bother to read the bills. Now with all the bait and switch action they do to wholly substitute one bill’s text with another, it seems they aren't even taking the time to write the whole bill.

This is an excerpt from HR 1586.



  1. The description is “to modernize the air traffic control system”
  2. The official title of the act is the “______ Act of _____”
  3. And the first section allocates funds to the Department of Education for disbursement to state education agencies (not aviation related).

This makes absolutely no sense at all. At least in the past they were at least pretending to do their jobs but this is serious misconduct. Every single person who voted for this bill needs to be removed from office for incompetence.

I don’t care how *important* something is. You cannot record sloppy laws. Its hard enough to get the ones right that you actually pay attention to.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Real debate hard to come by

I recently saw a debate between Radley Balko and Wendy Murphy on the Stossel show. Radley challenged her claim that only 2 percent of sex offenders are actually on sex offender registries and she had no real response to back it up nor did she really have a point that the statistic was supporting. She merely was trying to state a statistic purely for its own sake.

Today Radley eviscerates her on this as the latest in a long string of nothing arguments, but the real shocking thing is that she is apparently is a pundit for hire with no real agenda other than to appear on television.In a prior interview she said

You have to appreciate my role as a pundit is to draw inferences and make arguments on behalf of the side which I’m assigned

I know that the cable news forums are profitable entertainment enterprises but I’d at least expect the people arguing a point at least to believe the point and not just be assigned a role and accept it. If I wanted that I’d go find the local high school debate team.

A gun for higher who is neutral or ambivalent with respect to the topic at hand will be a less useful debater, which ultimately lessens the impact of the debate as a whole. It also makes it less entertaining which I would assume would make the networks sit up and pay attention.

Close, but no cigar

I want to know what these are made of so I can get some in letter shapes. Then I can live the dream.

Someone is selling little cover ups for the new airport “naked view” scanners at On the site they have images of a regular scanner image but (a) don’t have any with the pasties on so you can’t see how well they work and (b) there aren't any testimonials of how the TSA actually reacts to these. I’m guessing if you went through a scanner with a large area blocked by an amorphous blob you are gonna get patted down anyway. If that is the case, just ask for the pat down in the first place.

oh, and I *am* jealous that I didn’t get in on this myself.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great Scott!

from the Energy Blog

Texas electricity demand set another record on Tuesday, breaking the all-time record set last week.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the Texas grid, said Tuesday demand hit 63,830 megawatts between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

We could power nearly 53 flux capacitors for that!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blogger = Council = Big fine

In the category of Never let them get away with saying “yes, but the law will never be applied in that way.” 

From Thurber's Thoughts, a blogger critical of the local county board of elections who uses only his own funds to run his blog has caught up in campaign finance transparency laws. It is intended to provide information on backers of election campaigns, not to silence independent individual political speech.

In an apparent retaliatory action against an outspoken critic, the Geauga County Board of Elections charged independent blogger Ed Corsi with violating campaign finance laws. The elections board forwarded a complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), where Corsi faces fines of up to $1,000 a day.

From the filing it sounds as if they think he is an organizationimage

Law of Legislation #1: Given the power, someone will use it.

Law of Legislation #2: Regulation of this sort is impossible to get right

Yeah it should be illegal…but we need the dough!

More local governments bend over for cash as the economy slows.

Alcohol has rarely been in short supply at airports, but some cash-strapped local governments are taking steps to open the taps further.

Along with Prop 19 in California, prostitution taxes in Nevada, and legalizing online gambling by Congress, its just more evidence that the vast majority of government moral grandstanding is so much fluff to pander to the voters. When the rubber meets the road and they need money, they would rather find new taxation by legalizing previously unthinkable activities instead of taking a good hard look at existing spending outlays.

Legal or illegal has NOTHING to do with taxation (or shouldn’t). Its about what needs to be agreed upon in the social contract of the community in order to coexist peacefully with one another.

I guess you really should never let a good crisis go to waste.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Get flashed, go to jail

What would you do if you were driving down the road and there were two girls standing on the side of the road flashing their breasts at every car that went by? Would you pop out your cel phone and snap a pic? “Hey guys, you are not gonna believe what just happened!”

The next thing you know, you might end up on the registered sex offender list and never be able to attend your own child’s school play again.

That’s exactly what is happening to a man who was subsequently charged with

felony possession of photos of sexual performance by a child and a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

because the local sheriff happened by as this guy was snapping his photo. The girls turned out to be 15 and were charged with indecent exposure.

But how many other illegal photos are out there from this incident? Is it creepy? Maybe, but only after you learn the girls legal age. Before that its just ridiculous and somewhat expected in the world of hand held cameras. And it certainly doesn’t justify the draconian penalty that is the list. There are too many innocent (or at least harmless) people who get caught up in sex offender list. In some states, public urination can land you a scarlet letter. Just try to explain to the nice mother next door that you really aren’t a creepy predator in danger of molesting and killing her five year old child when she see’s your name on the published list.

At least in this case the girls weren’t charged with something that would put them on the list.

In TX it wouldn’t even have to be an underage issue, if he emails it to his friends it may violate Sec. 21.15.  “Improper photography or visual recording” which states that a person commits a felony if they

(1)  photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of another at a location that is not a bathroom or private dressing room:

(A)  without the other person's consent; and

(B)  with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person;

which doesn’t require registration as far as I can tell but is still ridiculous as a crime for someone who puts it out there.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Well played ma’am

In response to a well thought out and politely delivered question regarding the potential limits of the federal government’s power (especially in light of the health care bill passed earlier this year), the congressman’s answer is

The federal government, yes, can do most anything in this country

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How does a lawyer hide the bad stuff?

In a mountain of paperwork.

As near as I can tell, over the last few years Congress has churned out roughly the same number of laws each session. (Each Congressional session is a 2 year period). We are actually looking at that trending down this session.image

But the total words signed into law each year has steadily increased.


This is extremely disturbing. As we have had cries of “Did you read the bill?” recently, it becomes more and more difficult for them to read *any* of it because of the sheer volume. The average number of words per bill in the bills that have passed have steadily increased.

The trend has to build fewer but larger bills. Just look at the number of MASSIVE bills that have been passed over the past few years. The recent health care act being the largest so far at around 370,000 words.


Passing large bills has a number of effects.

  1. It makes reading, understanding and debating them in their entirety impossible. Yes, I said impossible. No single person can pull all this together in their head and understand the complete implementation or ramifications of any of these bills.
  2. It makes it very easy to slip things in that are difficult or otherwise impossible to pass on their own. This subsequently causes misuse of the rules processes to create unusual situations in order for the bill to get passed.
  3. It causes an all or nothing approach to legislation which traditionally would have passed in pieces. It further encourages the us vs them mentality because no one can be for part A and against part B with their single vote.
  4. It completely distorts the public’s view of their representatives’ votes. The record only reflects the final vote on the whole. Many of these votes are only made because of certain tweaks or they are made under threat of censure from the larger party system or are “allowed” by the larger party system because the individual vote is not needed for passage. All of this makes reviewing the record of the congressman worthless
  5. In the end it becomes so difficult that the law makers will either start asking for broader and broader powers just so they don’t have to go through the process because its become too cumbersome or they will just start rubberstamping everything.

We all know from our Law & Order School of Courtroom Tactics that when someone sends you a mountain of paperwork there is something very important buried in it that they don’t want you to see.

Now imagine all the stuff they also have to read that doesn’t even get turned into law!

I’d love to see a rule limiting the size of any one bill but as we saw with pay-go legislation, they would just pass another rule allowing them to ignore the size whenever it was convenient.

On methodology

All my data is culled from where I simply pulled the list of all the bills that were listed as “enacted” and then pulled the text for each bill and did a word count on them. Of course counting words is a tricky thing and I’m sure anyone replicating my work will find different absolute numbers depending on what counts as a “word” but the important idea is that a consistent method looking over time should produce the same trends.

Also note that while some of the graphs look like they are trending down in the current session, we are only 3/4 done with it so the data needs to be extrapolated upwards by ~25%.

To Protest Hiring of Nonunion Help, Union Hires Nonunion Pickets

I thought of attempting to add some wit to that title but I can’t. Its complete as is.

The cognitive dissonance continues

"For a lot of our members, it's really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So the issue is sooo important that a little parking problem prevents you from showing up yourselves? The issue must be reeeaaally important.

The union's Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.

Well, how about he pay the union members to do the picketing? You know, keep it in the family? Why isn’t there a National Picketers Union to pull labor from?

Of course, the real problem here is that its completely disingenuous. When you see people picketing on the street – especially for a union cause – you naturally assume they are there because they are either directly affected or they care about the cause. If you believe that then you are more likely to sympathize with them and support them. If they are getting paid, they are just lobbyists.

To put it another way, do you sympathize with the poor lobbyists in DC? I didn’t think so.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The ray gun arrives

Imagine taking off-the-shelf lasers and mounting them on a floating ship, tying in some wicked guidance control and a radar system, locating a flying vehicle two miles away which is moving at 300 mph and holding the laser steady enough on the target to engulf it in flames and bring it down. Why imagine when you can watch the video?

Have you ever use a laser pointer and try to hold it still at just 10-15 feet away? And I was impressed with the US navy snipers shots at the pirates last year.

Now imagine that again but place yourself on the battlefield with this thing aiming at the mortars that are attempting to come down on your head.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Releasing music like its 1999!

So a today a break from from celebrity political weirdness to just plain celebrity technology weirdness. The artist formerly known as “the artist formerly known as Prince” is going to release his upcoming album on CD only with no digital distribution because the internet is over.

"The internets completely over. I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They wont pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they cant get it."

He further popped: "The internets like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that cant be good for you."

Although this kind of reality-challenged statement doesn’t surprise me. Especially after hearing Kevin Smith’s story of his involvement with shooting a documentary for the old has been artist. (btw – the Smith video is highly recommended. He is an excellent story teller and very entertaining)

Now where did I put my raspberry beret?

<HT: Borepatch>

Monday, June 28, 2010

Not so surprising surprises

A NY Times story discusses the “surprising” drop in home sales in May (down 33%) after the home buyer credit disappeared in April. Is anyone really shocked this happened? You stopped handing out money for a behavior and that behavior immediately slowed down.

They are still trying to paint a rosy picture on this

In a recent interview, [FHA commisioner] Mr. Stevens said his point was misconstrued. “The system is showing signs of stabilizing,” he said. “We’re vastly improved over where we were a year ago.”

To underline that notion, the Obama administration released this week its first monthly “housing scorecard.” It presents an optimistic picture of a housing market saved from the abyss by extensive government intervention.

Some of its good news, however, was distinctly relative. “Home equity up more than $1 trillion since first quarter 2009,” said one headline in the report. But, as the chart clearly indicated, in the three years before that, equity had fallen $6 trillion.

Even in Dallas where we didn’t get hit as hard as the rest of the country the prices are still skewed. The prices are wrong when some houses on my street sit on the market for over a year while my house continues to get marked up in value each year by the county tax assessor.

In order to support this inflated pricing scheme Terence Edwards, Fannie Mae’s executive vice president for credit portfolio management said in a statement

Walking away from a mortgage is bad for borrowers and bad for communities and our approach is meant to deter the disturbing trend toward strategic defaulting.

Still not surprising. Walking away from a mortgage is bad for other borrowers and bad for the bank. It is not bad (or as bad) for the guy walking away. Everyone has to realize the market was over built and over priced and someone has to take the loss. This rhetoric about “don’t walk away” is just intended to force the home owner to take the loss for everyone. Walking away spreads that loss around and seems perfectly rational to me in some cases.

In addition

Fannie Mae said it would take legal action to recoup outstanding mortgage debt from borrowers who walk away.

but I’m not really sure what legal action you can take. Your action is to take ownership of the collateral. That is the contract. Its kinda your fault you if you mispriced the collateral.

The system is not going to stabilize until we get prices back to the old levels (which the Feds are adamantly opposed to) and we stop building new properties that even now dilute the value of the old ones.

Regulating over spilled milk

In the same tradition of what really happens when you provide the government with power – it will use it = The EPA now wants to regulate milk like petroleum.

New Environmental Protection Agency regulations treat spilled milk like oil, requiring farmers to build extra storage tanks and form emergency spill plans.

Local farming advocates says it’s ridiculous to regulate a liquid with a small percentage of butter fat the same way as the now-infamous BP oil spill.

But I thought natural and organic was good! (Of course petroleum is organic too.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If only Arizona was a border state…

You know, its not that this is a Democrat. Its that the Democratic/Progressive model (and a good deal of the Republican model as well) encourages more and more government involvement to in order to fix and run things better. It is all predicated on the assumption that you can actually run things better if you get the really smart people in charge. What do you think? Are these the really smart people?

Or maybe she is just really worried that, since Arizona is of course a Pacific coast state, when all those Mexicans cross New Hampshire to get into Arizona the US is going to tip over.

<HT: Gormogons>

Thursday, June 24, 2010

WARNING: Advertising tobacco will make you boring

On the anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act yesterday, new provisions went into effect from the FDA.

Some of the more “fun” bits of restriction on this legal product include

  • no branded clothing
  • no sponsorship of sports or cultural events
  • audio ads must be words only (no music or sound effects)
  • all labeling and ads must be in black and white (unless in an adult publication)

I can’t wait to see the creative ways the tobacco companies deal with this. They are trying to make cigarettes as boring as possible. At least the Canadian warnings are in full color and entertaining.tab4a_e

I’m not a smoker. I don’t suggest anyone take up the habit, but come on! If this is really that bad for everyone involved then just do away with it. If not, get out of the way.

BONUS BIT: Looking at the legislation, I wonder if anyone else thought “subtle racism” when they read this phrase

the issue of the impact of the use of menthol in cigarettes on the public health, including such use among children, African-Americans, Hispanics, and other racial and ethnic minorities.

Which basically says “we are worried about the white children but for non whites we need to be worried about all of them.”

See? We agree.

This is a complaint about TV executives who hire the news staff

You often have a certain degree of sameness that exists at the top—and sometimes they don’t make that effort to actually dig up talent. I often feel like certain executives look around in their own circles and then say they couldn’t find anyone.

Except in this case they are not complaining about diversity of viewpoints – its complaining about diversity of skin color. Skin color does not determine identity; behavior does. If it did I would be perfectly happy with the current yahoos in Congress right now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Texas sized crazy

How do you even attempt to have a discussion when you can’t understand what the politician is saying or why?

Kesha Rogers won the Democratic nomination in Texas’s 22nd district with 53% of the vote against two other opponents. Now consider this statement from her web site.

Since the 1776 American Revolution, there has never been a stronger mass movement of growing opposition, and hatred, in the population against our British Imperial foe as we are witnessing today among American Patriots. The mass strike building up in the population against the atrocious policies of the London and Wall Street backed puppet, President Obama, and so called “leading political figures” alike, is a clear sign that Wall Street and the British Empire should beware. The American people are in a fighting mood.

Apparently there is some Limey secretly controlling the POTUS (which also explains why he is going easy on British Petroleum)

This reminds me of Alvin Greene in South Carolina. Are these people getting nominated because of the left’s sheer frustration with Obama’s failure to fix their Bush hatred that they just thrash around in the voting booth and hit the ballot randomly? Or have they been angry for so long that now its overflowing and is an unstoppable.

Or has the machinations of electoral politics become so focused on working the edge cases (can you say Ohio?) that some of these districts get ignored by their parties and end up getting smacked by the results. Nature always forces a balance.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

But it was free yesterday!

U.S. banks may end free checking accounts according to Reuters

The move is expected to hurt retail clients who could be asked to pay new monthly maintenance fees on the most basic accounts that do not generate a lot of activity, the paper said.

To avoid a fee, customers will have to maintain certain account balances or frequently use other banking services, such as credit and debit cards, automated teller machines and online accounts, the Journal said.

I’m not sure which is more ridiculous – that anyone is surprised by this or by the illogical “gimme free stuff!” reaction in the comments to the article.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More than my fair share?

I’m really tired of the line

We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves.

used by many (most recently in last night’s Presidential address) to indicate that we have an unhealthy appetite for oil. Yes we use a lot of oil, but I use a lot of food and I’m not a farmer.

I consume some of the world’s food but I produce exactly 0% of that food. Does that mean I need to stop eating?

A market economy is defined by different groups who have different resources. If we all had what we needed we would just sit around in our underwear watching TV forever.

We may have valid reasons to reduce our dependency on oil but its not because we are hogging it all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

As if it wasn’t hard enough to get Americans to watch soccer already

The vuvuzelas stay… for now.

Banning the trumpets, though, would undoubtedly unleash a fierce response from South Africans, who see the vuvuzelas as an indispensable part of their soccer culture. Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has supported the trumpets, saying Europeans must adjust to African traditions.

I’ve never been a big sports-on-tv fan but I do enjoy playing and occasionally watching soccer (but mainly just because I’m one of the few Americans who’ve played it and understand the game). I’m not surprised to see the European culture of inclusiveness-to-a-fault winning the day with these most irritating noise makers, but I’d be surprised if South Africa gets another chance at the World Cup anytime soon if this isn’t dealt with in some way. It is border line offensive to many of the fans not sitting in the stands as well as broadcasters and even the players on the field.

If the world cup was held in England do you think they’d let the hooligans reign free just because its part of their soccer culture?

and a bonus Kumbaya quote from the the chief World Cup organizer Danny Jordan who told the BBC

he would prefer singing and chanting instead of the vuvuzelas, saying that in the days of struggle against apartheid “we were singing all through our history.”

because everything always comes back to race

Congressman Bob Etheridge’s apology

and its actually a good one. No “if I hurt..” or “I apologize but…” He just flat out says that he screwed up, it was not justified. and he is sorry.

I have seen the video posted on several blogs.  I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved.  Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response.  I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.

So kudos to the Congressman for taking it like a man! I really hate the whiny dodging apologies that get made so often by public figures so I like to call out the good ones that actually take responsibility instead of just claiming to do it.

That being said, I hope it is given appropriate weight at his sentencing.

Got paranoia?

This is insane! I’d still love to see the full unedited video but in the first 20 seconds I don’t see where any time lapsed between their cuts.

What do you think makes a congressman immediately act this way? Maybe it’s in anticipation to the visceral reaction he usually gets from how the Congress has been behaving as of late.

Video Tip: When putting up captions, just pause the underlying video and overlay the captions instead of cutting back and forth.

[HT: The Agitator]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No phone for you!

Big old Texas FAIL! I’m gonna have to make a few calls while I still can

Alarmed by the use of hard-to-track prepaid cell phones by terror suspects, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Texas Sen. John Cornyn have introduced legislation requiring consumers to produce identification before buying such phones.

Its because of Terrorism! Oh No!

I went to England a few years ago and bought a cheap phone to use while I was there. They charged me 10 extra pounds because I used cash – because terrorists use cash! But at least they let me have the phone.

So far, no major phone company has objected to the legislation and some say they fully embrace it.

No kidding? The phone companies don’t object to making all of their customers give them marketable information in order to upsell them to use an ongoing payment plan instead of a one shot cash transaction? You don’t say!

It never ceases to amaze me that people point out that large corporations are always endorsing big laws that ultimately help fill their own pockets.

We are living in a time when unfortunately our public safety requires small gives by everyone," Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said.

Yeah “small gives” in the cash donations.

And from Cornyn’s press release

Although there are many legitimate users of prepaid cell phones, they have also become the communication device of choice for terrorists, drug lords and gang members interested in masking their identities. Since they can purchased and activated without signing a contract or undergoing a credit check, prepaid cell phones provide virtual anonymity.

I guess the next time I get on the freeway he will want my license photographed to make sure they can potentially catch and drug lords smuggling narcotics anonymously along the national highway system.

English only? By circumstance, not by design.

Why is English the unofficial language of the US? Is that a problem? No it’s not. Although it is often seen as a sign of being unsophisticated or ignorant that most American’s can only speak English. Speaking more than one language doesn’t make you smarter. It makes you more agile – especially in an environment where multiple languages are used. In the US, the various spheres of language all converged on English.

As I see it there are a few different places languages are spoken.

  • Natural language – the language spoken by your parents and in the home.
  • Communal language – the language spoken in your community
  • Government language – the language used to interact with everyone in the country and make decisions as a whole
  • Media language – the primary language used to broadcast or disseminate information (TV, newspapers, etc)
  • Commercial language – the language required to perform business transactions

Each language area covers a different (and larger) set of people so that you can interact with all of the people in those areas successfully.

In many countries these various sphere’s have their own distinct language. Consider this scenario - maybe you live in a small village in Italy so you speak a certain Italian dialect in the house and to the local community. But being in such a diverse country the various dialects don’t work well so the media and government are in a more standardized Italian. Being in business that does trade around the world all your commercial transactions are done in English which is the de facto standard. Even if you only do business locally you likely know enough “business English” to deal with tourists (counting to 10, yes/no, etc).

This is the diversity that forces people to know multiple languages. In the United States all of these various areas happen to use English. We don’t even have significant dialects from one coast to another. I imagine that is mostly due to the swiftness that the culture engulfed the continent (200 years) as opposed to European countries which have thousands of years of distinct history within isolated pockets. It also has to do with the age in which we came about, mass media came onto the scene in the early 1900s which helped cement the language nationwide and keep it from fragmenting.

It just really irks me when I come across someone who disdains you for only being fluent in one language because where they come from its really a necessity. They didn’t learn English because it was interesting. They learned English because they had to in order to function in the world. Think about that the next time someone says “Well in Germany, we learn English in grade school” Of course you do! But its not my fault that I don’t have to learn your language.

So, for living in the US:
Speaking only English in the US isn’t unsophisticated. Its just practical.
Speaking multiple languages in the US isn’t sophisticated. Its superfluous.

(I actually have studied a foreign language but since I don’t ever use it, I am back to being a mono-linguist.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hayek springs eternal

From Amazon: this morning’s best seller was originally published in 1944. Its an analysis of the potential for “big government” policies(e.g. British Labour party of the time) to travel down the road the totalitarianism (as the Nazis had recently done).image

Now I don’t take any comparison to Nazi’s lightly and Hayek apparently fought the impression that he was saying that socialistic tendencies inevitably led to totalitarian regimes for the next 40 years. He wasn’t. He was trying to show how the socialist idealists’ end goals often required them to violate their ideals in order to get them enforced.

I’m actually part of this surge to #1 as I received my book from Amazon last week and have been pouring through it. So far so good.

Its always reassuring to see people reading substantive works instead of just fluff (not that fluff isn't important either – I also have other stuff in the reading pile as well)

[HT: The Volokh Conspiracy]

Monday, June 7, 2010

I got scanned and I didn’t even get a lousy t-shirt

I recently went through one of those full body scanners at the Salt Lake City airport and did take longer than going through a normal metal detector. Now the AP timed the scanner at about 25 seconds but the process is much more than being scanned.

I had to emptied my pockets more thoroughly because as the TSA agent kept stating

You must take everything out of your pockets. If anything is still in there I’m gonna have to scan you by hand anyway.

So I’m obliged to take stuff out of my pockets that I wouldn’t have otherwise which again slows me down because I have to put that on the belt to be x-rayed and then pick it up again. (I thought this thing was supposed to be able to see stuff better!)

Then I have to figure out (even after being told) where to put my feet, how to stand, how to put my arms up.

Then even after getting out of the scanner, I step to the next stage which involves waiting next to another TSA agent on a walkie until the walkie squaks “clear!” and I am permitted to pick up my things and move on.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know this was going to happen so I couldn’t prepare a special message for them.

To make it more fun they should put one of those booths at the end of the process like Disneyland has where you can check out your picture and pay $6 for a crappy printout of it!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The nuclear option… literally

You have got to love the idea of solving an environmental catastrophe by detonating a nuclear weapon. But that is exactly what the Russians did back in the 60’s. As BP and the Obama administration have moved through Plans A through F, its at least worth consideration to see if it actually would be worth it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

“Yes, he was speeding. I could just tell”

Not sure if there is more to this because all the papers are just reprinting the same AP story but unless there is something more here, its pretty disturbing.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's highest court has ruled that a person may be convicted of speeding purely if it looked to a police officer that the motorist was going too fast.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that an officer's visual estimation of speed is enough to support a conviction if the officer is trained, certified by a training academy, and experienced in watching for speeders. The court's 5-1 decision says independent verification of a driver's speed is not necessary.

The court upheld a lower court's ruling against a driver who challenged a speeding conviction that had been based on testimony from police officer in Copley, 25 miles south of Cleveland. The officer said it appeared to him that the man was driving too fast.

Next up “Yes your honor, I arrested him because he was thinking about robbing that store. I could tell by lookin’ at him.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Remember to shut your pie hole!

But before you decide to exercise that right to remain silent you better tell the police that that is exactly what you are doing.

The Supreme Court ruled today in Berghuis v. Thompkins that a criminal suspect must specifically invoke the right against self-incrimination in order for constitutional protections to apply.

From SCOTUSblog’s analysis of the decision

if a suspect does not want to talk to police — that is, to invoke a right to silence — he must say so, with a clear statement because it is not enough to sit silently or to remain uncooperative, even through a long session; and, second, if the suspect finally answers a suggestive question with a one-word response that amounts to a confession, that, by itself, will be understood as a waiver of the right to silence and the statement can be used as evidence.  Police need not obtain an explicit waiver of that right.

In this case, that one word, after several hours of questioning met with silence, was enough to sentence the defendant to life.

If you are arrested now, your silence while being questioned by police does not amount to an invocation of his Miranda right to remain silent. Previously (and until many PDs update their interrogation policies) the police were generally required to get you to explicitly waive your right (usually by signing a document to that effect). Now they get to assume you waived it unless you explicitly invoke it.

Home Depot no habla US futbol?

Home depot has is sponsoring a team for the World Cup in South Africa this year. Who are they sponsoring? The Mexican team!

In a local Home Depot here in north Texas this sign was spotted. Its almost entirely in Spanish and reads

Support Mexico on the journey to South Africa: Free gift with purchase!

home depot spanish sign

So a US company, is advertising in its US stores, with signs primarily in Spanish, to sponsor not just a foreign country’s sports team but a competitor as well. Its not like there isn't a US team in the tournament. [insert joke about how lame American soccer teams are here]

The kicker is that, on top of all of that, the promotion, according to the home depot rules, is only available to legal US residents.

Now I’m not saying that Home Depot isn’t allowed to do this. They are a private business and are as free to offend their customer base as anyone else. But I do know some locals here who are pretty upset, making some noise about this and will only be dealing with Lowes from now on, so it seems a really poor business decision to me. I’d really like to hear their rationale on this one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's scary?

Coming home from a trip to find out that just a very short distance (~6 km) from the hotel you stayed in an urban war is breaking out! And had you been there now, there would be a real possibility of being trapped in a hostile environment in a foreign country.

Sometimes we need to stop and take stock of the relative civility and order that we enjoy compared to some places in the world. Things here in the US could be better but they could definitely be much worse.

Where credit is due

I had forgotten about this but when Stossel leads a blog entry with “Go Barney Frank!” it makes you sit up and listen. What I forgot was that Barney Frank is currently pushing legislation that would in effect revoke existing law, giving every American citizen the right to gamble online.

The illegality of doing something online that is actually legal in some states and has even caused the WTO to rule against the US because our gambling ban actually causes damages to Antigua and Barbuda and others.

So in the same spirit, I must repeat "Go Barney Frank!”

Friday, May 7, 2010

When cops don’t shoot the dog

They call this guy. The Reluctant Paladin demonstrates how a total stranger can walk into an angry pit bull’s own yard and immediately get him to back down without touching him. Its an excellent lesson in the behavior of pack animals. It should also shake up all of you who think you have a big mean attack dog protecting your home.

Unless your dog has had specific, guard/attack dog training at the hands of a professional - I can neutralize him as a deterrent with nothing more than a stick in a matter of minutes and get to you in your house. No matter how bad ass you might think he is.

Its also interesting to note (as he does) how the same dominant behavior happens between him and the cops who are afraid of the dog and had already made things worse by pepper spraying it.

It’s all about attitude.

<HT: Borepatch>

LOL is the canned laughter of the internet

(Warning: Internet Curmudgeon mode is enabled)

Everyone please stop LOLing at yourself. If you post something funny or giggly on facebook, twitter or thenextsocialnetworkoftheweek, do not put “lol” at the end of your update/tweet.

e.g. “I did [this really stupid thing] last night! LOL!”

Its either funny or its not. Your friends will let you know if its funny by responding “lol”. More than likely they will be laughing at you and not with you. When you do it on your own its like canned laughter and just as appealing. Yeah we get it. You want me laugh with you here. Thanks for the hint.

OK – now back to your regularly scheduled internet.

The impossibility of immigration papers

All of the discussion on illegal immigration and whether the new Arizona law is good or even constitutional is missing a huge point.

It is impossible to determine quickly and easily whether someone is here legally.

Most people seem to assume that there is a giant list of immigrants. As if the local police officer can call an 800 number and verify the green card number he has been presented with. There is not. There is a bureaucracy instead.

There are actually legal ways to be in this country without being able to prove it.

Most people also assume that since the law requires legal immigrants to carry their papers with them that they will have proof on them at all times.

Even if an immigrant is here legally there are issues with the current federal processes which can create edge cases. I recently watched a friend of mine achieve his citizen status and just coming from Canada it’s a bizarre narrative which would be unbelievable in a movie script.

Your legal documentation can expire without being replaced while you are waiting for some INS process to move forward. In that case you are not an illegal immigrant. You’ve been given an implicit extension, but if asked to provide the documentation (which you are legally required to carry at all times) you can’t because the documentation you have shows an expired date. What do you think an AZ police officer is going to do with that?

God help you if the Feds just sort of forget about you and accidently just lose your file (as I saw it happen).

How the hell do you tell an immigrant from a citizen?

Yes they are actually discussing this one but it bears repeating because it is extremely important. A citizen carries no papers. An illegal carries no papers. The only people you actually can identify are immigrants who are here legally who are trying to comply with the law because they have papers (which as mentioned before may not be proper). As I see it the only thing asking for papers will do is

  1. Violate my right of free movement without the need to carry identification
  2. Falsely accuse legal immigrants of illegality when they are caught in a screwed up process
  3. Assume everyone with a foreign accent and no papers is an illegal alien

None of those is particularly appealing and are generally downright offensive.

If someone can come up with a law that enables you to really identify illegal aliens without having to require me carry around identification I’ll listen. But until then the real issue is fixing the immigration process, because you cannot enforce laws surrounding status without being able to identify that status in the first place.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Amtrak needs money. Surprise!

Amtrak has a press release stating

“Long-term, sustainable funding is the key and without it Amtrak and the whole system will continue to limp along failing to live up to the promise of what we know rail can do for the nation,” said Joe McHugh, Vice President, Government Affairs and Corporate Communications.

I could do with some “long-term, sustainable funding” myself. Then I wouldn’t have to go work for it either! McHugh’s congressional testimony amounts to “We need more money from you because we can’t make it on our own.” Really? Then maybe you need to shut it down.

I was watching Bill Maher last night and he and his guests were bemoaning the fact that we just won’t give Amtrak a chance. Its stunning to see them beat this dead horse in the face of the real fact that even on of Amtrak’s own VPs admits they can’t succeed on their own.

I also love their little company bio at the end of the release

Last fiscal year (FY 2009), the railroad carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second-best year in the company’s history. With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day—at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph)—to more than 500 destinations.

Its all about how great it is that they move people around. That assumption being that their transportation volume, not the economical efficiency of transporting those people, is the ultimate goal. I see lots of numbers there but no dollar signs. The also conveniently leave out the fact that they only carry about 0.1 percent of passenger travel in the U.S. That 27 million doesn’t look so big anymore, does it?

<HT: The Antiplanner>