Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gas drops to near May 2004 prices.

Gas dipped again in the last couple of days. My favorite station now selling for $2.41. The cart generated from SeattleGasPrices.com shows a three year range. Blue line is U.S. Average compared to Seattle price chart.

Chart courtesy SeattleGasPrices.com

When you don't speak a word of the language...

You can be truly lost.
The ordeal of grandfather who speaks only Russian and his two grandsons — who spent at least 12 hours Monday lost and driving from Everett to the Tacoma area — is finally over.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Oh my God, what have we come to?

An official press release[pdf link] urges residents of Omaha to dial 911 to report violations of a public smoking ban[ordinance pdf link] recently passed in the city. From the actual press release:
Citizens or business owners that observe a violation to this smoking ban are urged to call 911 and report the violation. Officers will respond to the radio call and take appropriate action. Those found in violation to the smoking ban would be given a criminal citation. Any business owners or employee that knowingly allow smoking in their establishment will also be given a criminal citation with the first offense that will be considered a warning.
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that the foundations are cracked. This problem has infected the very fabric of our nation, leading any local official to raise petty offenses to the level of a 911 emergency. The issue is no longer just the Federal Government's overt tramping of the liberties we hold dear, but local officials, largely unaccountable which are now proposing draconian rules and regulations upon the citizens they serve. It's always tempting to place this as a Republican vs. Democrat issue, but it's not. This is a disease which is non-partisan. It affects any official, no matter how petty or insignificant. Small administrative clerks at the municipal level have discovered a certain power they can grasp, and are now taking it to new heights I never imagined.

The people of this country must start to act in direct defiance of these small, petty tyrants, even at the smallest level. I argue that because we have allowed such insignificant government managers to get away so comfortably with such a capacious number of interferences in our lives, it only seems reasonable that we allow the larger bodies of government to get away with the more egregious violations of liberty. This was admittedly a slow creep, which seems to be picking up pace at an alarming rate. There has come a time to defy the law. I will attempt to do my part.

I can only hope (and suggest) that residents of Omaha will flood the city's 911 system with smoking 'sightings'-- desperate pleas for help as they percieve (correctly or incorrectly) people lighting up in public.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dog Bites Man, Gas At $2.45 (and 2.01 in Tucson)

Another price drop leaves gas at my favorite station in Seattle at $2.45 per gallon. Family members, recently in Tucson, AZ, reported gas being sold for $2.01. These price drops are suspicious and rapid, and as such, I strongly think that a senate investigation is warranted considering that Exxon reports record profits at around $10 billion. It's one thing to post record profits while gas prices are at record highs, but to post profits while gas prices drop? That's just sinister. It suggests to me that oil companies might really be making their money selling rock cocaine, meth or even heroin on the black market.

In an unscientific poll done by USA Today, a whopping 82% of respondents believe that oil company profits should be "regulated". No definition of how, or to what extent this should occur. I've said it before, I'll say it again: The more I know of my fellow man, the less I trust him to vote.

Update 10/27/06: Gas selling for $2.43 at the aforementioned station.

Gas prices in the Seattle area have dropped to a one year low:

Chart courtesy of SeattleGasPrices.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's just that thing they do...

Another rock climber gets it.
[Todd Skinner, a] renowned rock climber and author who made a name for himself scaling peaks around the world was killed when he fell 500 feet while attempting a first ascent near Bridalveil Fall, a park spokeswoman said Tuesday.

So, how did the car get there?

I'm not sayin' nothin' about this. Not one thing.

Nobody was hurt this morning when a woman apparently drove down a stairway near the Seattle Athletic Club. How the car ended up on the stairs wasn't immediately known.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Good riddance.

Skilling goes down for 24 years. Twenty four years seems a little light for any corporate officer that lobbies for Kyoto and inspired the abortion known as Sarbanes-Oxley, but at least it's a start. Speaking of which, I'm still stunned that people are stunned that Enron was a Kyoto cheerleader. If you don't get it by now, your voter registration card should be revoked.


I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, when a high ranking official or corporate officer quites to "spend more time with family" you know his ass is in a sling:
He took over as chief executive from Lay in February 2001 but abruptly quit six months later, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. Prosecutors said he left Enron because he knew the company was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Manhas calls it quits

And really, who can blame him? The Seattle School District is (and has been) hovering on the same bleak edge that so many other urban school districts do: financial ruin. Manhas, in an attempt to control costs has put forward several plans to close schools as Seattle's number of children has dropped precipitously leading to the smallest class sizes one could imagine.

I'm all for closing poorly performing and attended schools, and I'm also all for laying off poorly performing and poorly attended teachers. I've yet to hear word one about laying off teachers.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

These are the so-called 'quality' teachers?

In an investigational series by the Seattle Times which uncovers improperly sealed court cases (and unseals them, natch) they detail a case where not only was a teacher molesting young girls, but the whole thing was pretty much covered up. Carl Leede, the molesting Northshore district teacher in question was quite a piece of work, and apparently quite a catch for the school district:

[Leede] applied to the district in 1976, after teaching for two years in Kitsap County. His letter [pdf link], peppered with typos and misspellings, said he wanted to reduce his "commutation time" and pursue his "educational asperarions." Northshore hired him the following year.
I don't even want to know what this guy's salary was. That's a can of whoop-ass you don't even want me to open.
He called boys "jerkballs." One wrote Leede a letter, saying: "Why do you treat the boys like crud?" He hugged the girls, beckoning with "Come here, gorgeous." He'd remark to other adults about the girls' developing bodies and predict who'd get pregnant first.
I'd like to remind the literally tens of readers I get per month that these were elementary school kids fer chrissakes.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

North Korea: A quiet neighborhood.

I've been doing a lot of spying on North Korea via Google Earth the last few days. It was interesting to discover obvious military installations, especially submarines docked at various ports around the country. However, what was more interesting was what wasn't obvious. There were areas that were 'tagged' as being concentration camps complete with guard towers and the like. While from a critical standpoint, I'm not sure if these identifications are accurate. I was able to identify what looked like some large coal mine operations.

What I did note after a while was the complete lack of traffic. Admittedly, it's difficult to judge these details when viewing satellite images, but after spending quite a bit of time comparing Pyongyang with Seoul, the very first thing that you're struck with when viewing Pyongyang is, where the hell are the cars? Even via satellite, car traffic is immediately apparent when viewing Seoul. But when scanning Pyongyang, the streets are quite literally empty. I did a quick search on Pyongyang, looking for insights into what kind of traffic they had: very little, apparently. This video is an anecdotal confirmation of my observations. Other Google Earth place markers also made comment, one marked "Roads with no one to drive on them"

My interest in North Korea has been piqued by recent events there. While I knew in general the the country was a truly old style Stalinist Regime, I'm beginning to really appreciate the extent of this. I guess I placed it on par with China. China, in my estimation is nothing like North Korea.

During my Google Earth tour, I found many city names on which I searched for information. Any information. I was stunned to find out just how little information there is on North Korean cities and towns. Some information so scant you begin to wonder if they officially exist.

This country appears to be a dark place. I can only wonder how truly desperate its people are.

As of a few minutes ago, MSNBC reports that Kim Jong Il is "sorry" for his nuclear test.

This country needs to be liberated. Communism is evil.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I'd love to marry you, babe, it's just not legal!

I wonder if there will ever be a day when gay people will lament legalized gay marriage if or when it ever comes to pass. While amittedly it doesn't look good for gay couples to legally tie the knot, especially in Southern states, it's looking pretty messy in places that at least recognize so-called domestic partnerships. Like any other officially recognized institution, regulations and then shortly thereafter, lawyers get involved and then everyone has that kind of "morning after a big party" look when the legal notices start arriving in the mail. To wit:

Something like that came up in a nasty divorce filed in Alameda County Superior Court earlier this year involving an Oakland lesbian couple — one woman was a real-estate agent, the other an animal-control officer. Things got so contentious that the warring couple, who lived as domestic partners for less than three years, even fought over who had the right to attend a specific twelve-step meeting they both cherished.

Anyway, the real-estate agent, the couple's breadwinner who pulled in $265,000 in commissions last year, flipped when her ex demanded spousal support. In court papers, she claimed her partner had assured her before they registered that she would never come after her for money if they broke up. "So I felt betrayed by her retaining a lawyer and asserting that she was going to take half of everything I have," she wrote in a sworn declaration.

It's worth noting that the article is about a messy new law which requires that all domestic partnership file legal 'dissolution' paperwork. This, of course was done with the perfectly reasonable and always welcome progressive idea that the 'less fortunate' members of the partnerships get their fair due. However, the real mess was caused when the law was applied retroactively, leading to situations like this:
Out of the blue one day in May 2005, the East Bay woman wrote to her ex saying that they'd never terminated their domestic partnership and now would have to do it in court. The Oklahoma woman had never received notice from the secretary of state. In fact, she didn't even remember they'd registered as domestic partners, court papers say.

After receiving the letter from her ex, the Oklahoma woman promptly filed for divorce to comply with the new rules. Once she did, the local woman demanded spousal support and a share of the proceeds from the sale of their million-dollar Piedmont home years earlier. The financial adviser had purchased the house using a generous bonus from her employer as a $460,000 down payment. In the end, the Oklahoma woman settled out of court and picked up her ex-girlfriend's $7,500 legal tab.
Whole thing here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another shot fired

Michael Strong weighs in over at Cato Unbound with good piece on why Democrats should get their libertarian on, not the other way around. It provides a nice contrast to the calls for libertarians to vote Democrat first, then hope for a donkey party policy shift later. Here's a snippet:

The Democratic Strategist recently printed an essay titled “Message of Misery,” on how the Democrat’s litany of economic catastrophe is not resonating with voters:
$23,700. That is the household income level at which a white person became more likely to vote for a Republican over a Democrat in congressional races in 2004.
The authors of this article point out that the reason that Democrats have been losing is not because Democrats have been framing the issues poorly (Lakoff), nor is it because voters have been deceived by Republicans into voting against their economic interests (the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” thesis). Their research shows that voters simply don’t buy the anti-capitalist doom and gloom rhetoric put out by Democrats. Their research shows that 80% of Americans think it is “still possible to start out poor in this country, work hard, and become rich,” and when asked to identify the biggest threat to America’s future 61% chose “big government” compared to 27% who chose “big business.” That 61% is the foundation of a libertarian majority.
Regarding the latest from Moulitsas, I don't vote Democrat first and hope they move in my direction. Sorry, that dog don't hunt.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This libertarian is setting the conditions for a swing to the Dems

I've read all I can read, and said all I can say about the Cato Unbound forum on the Libertarian Democrat. Anyone who has read my posts (here, here and here) knows I'm very skeptical about the so-called Libertarian Democrat.

Democrats can get my vote. But my demands for any Democrat (for which I am able to vote-- and a national politician of course) are as thus:

You must take an unequivocal and unambiguous promise to overturn the Patriot Act, the torture bill and aim for a full reversal of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform laws.

Not one or two of the three, but all three. In addition, this will be seen only as a first step, further judgments will follow-- at my discretion. It is, however a simple platform that you can use as the bedrock of your campaign.

Politics being what they are, I don't expect that you'll be completely successful, but your efforts must be unambiguous, clear, and completely devoid of political compromises of convenience.

I will not accept any excuses regarding 'earmarks' or other addenda to the goal uness there are significant extenuating circumstances- to be judged by me and me alone.

You want my libertarian vote? Those are my demands. Elections are predicted to be close. Think long and hard when you merely offer more of the same.

A Bit of Advice for Wesley Snipes

Dear Mr. Snipes,

As a celebrity, you may be under the impression that you can get away with anything. I'm here to tell you, that even as a celebrity you can't. Celebrities can get away with many things the rest of us can't. As a celebrity, you can often get away with one or more of the following:
  • Beating your wife
  • Consuming large amounts of illegal substances
  • Committing assault
  • Murder-- especially if it's your wife

But the one thing that you won't get away with, Mr. Snipes, is tax evasion. If there's one thing the United States Government a-la the justice department can't abide, it's a tax cheat. It is under these circumstances that all are equal under the law.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rush A Gun...

Once in a while, I read a story that just warms my heart. This story is one:

Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth, Texas, school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they've got -- books, pencils, legs and arms.

"Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success," said Robin Browne, a major in the British Army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.
I've long held that the concept of allowing the criminal to continue his course of action until law-enforcement arrives is utter B.S., and I strongly believe that this is the correct approach. I've certainly thought(especially after 9/11) that assuming if you comply utterly with an attacker's demand you won't get hurt is bunk.
The fight-back training parallels the change in thinking that has occurred since September 11, 2001, when United Flight 93 made it clear that the usual advice during a hijacking -- Don't try to be a hero, and no one will get hurt -- no longer holds.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Safety Equipment Fails to Engage After Plane Explodes in Fiery Blast

I'm no expert on aviation safety systems but I find this statement interesting:

The Cirrus SR20 was manufactured in 2002 and purchased earlier this year, Hersman said. The small aircraft has four seats and is equipped with a parachute designed to let it float to earth in case of a mishap. The parachute apparently did not engage after the crash.[emphasis mine]
My first question is, why would it?

Those parachutes are generally designed to deploy in the event of an airborne situation, such as engine failure during flight, or inability to control the plane. But if your plane slams into a building and explodes into a fiery ball of wreckage, what advantage would a post-crash chute deployment get anyone?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm Channeling My Inner Jack Black...

All I can say is Goddamn, this guy kicks total ass:

Progressives—a good many of them—will readily answer the call for the defense of art and artistic freedom. This, for them, is the easy call, one they have made time and again, in the face of demands of censorship. Limits on political speech are another matter and on these, liberals—Beinart included—display markedly less commitment.
A concise rebuttal by Micky Kaus exposes the multiple problems with Beinart's argument. The question remains, however, why progressives will rise up in defense of opera or James Joyce or controversial grant-making by the National Endowment of the Arts but then rally behind pervasive limits on political speech. Why is a cancelled performance of Mozart in Berlin suddenly "the last straw?"
Progressives can’t quite shake off a preference for elegant over inelegant speech, the beautiful over the vulgar. Idomeneo causes shudders of delight, whereas there is no frisson on the viewing of a 30-second commercial. It may be unkind or too much to say of this view that it is elitist. Yet it is obvious that there is, in the difference of responses, a perceived difference of quality of speech.
A more profound difference is that of the relationship of politics to the speech at issue. Art, understood as an autonomous sphere of speech, is seen as requiring protection from politics. Expressly political speech is politics and instantly becomes fair game for manipulation as political objectives and biases dictate. Progressives are all too tolerant of speech restrictions where there is a choice of speech to be restricted and reliable political criteria for making that choice.

No One Supports Free Speech More Than The ACLU, But..

It seems that ACLU big-wigs can't just get along when it comes to pesky political speech. Here's the core tidbit:

"While I am proud of my ACLU service and continue to support the ACLU's matchless efforts to preserve the Bill of Rights, I believe the national ACLU's position on campaign finance reform is wrong on constitutional and policy grounds," stated Burt Neuborne, currently the legal director of the Brennan Center and formerly the national legal director of the ACLU. "Opponents of reform should no longer be permitted to hide behind a constitutional smokescreen."
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Dude, this article is like, so old... and these are former members." Yeah well, I was doing a little light research on the ACLU's position on the First Amendment because despite what the ACLU faithful will tell you, it's not always a slam dunk. I was inspired into this research because of a blog I've found utterly fascinating which deals primarily with campaign finance issues vis-a-vis free speech.

The blog eventually linked to an article where local Connecticut ACLU officials took issue with a campaign "issue advocacy" ad placed by the ACLU national office. This ad, according to the local office may have crossed the line regarding the ACLU's self-styled position on non-partisanship.

If you actually RTFA, any thinking person who actually supports unfettered free speech can't help but be struck by the fact that the ACLU had to be very cautious about what and how their ad was presented lest it violate CFR laws. Let me be more clear: The ACLU is acutely aware that they can't just go and say anything they want in the arena of politics. Which amendment were we talking about again?

Anyhoo, the FEC isn't particularly concerned that the ad violated CFR laws because FEC officials have a "gut feeling" that it doesn't. I know I feel better. A few officials at the FEC can determine whether your political speech stands based on a "gut feeling".

A former member of the Federal Election Commission, Scott Thomas, said the ads would not meet the standard to be considered an improper donation to a federal campaign. "My gut feeling is that that probably would not be deemed express advocacy," Mr. Thomas said. "It does seem to be done in the context of a legislative battle."

Asked about the reference to the November election, Mr. Thomas said,"Obviously, that is a veiled public threat, if you will, that does tie into the election, but I have a feeling you wouldn't get four votes at the FEC for saying that's express advocacy."
Going back to the blog that led me here, it's a must-follow blog for anyone concerned about campaign finance reform laws and their overt tramping of the Amendment that is First.

Harold Meyerson: Economic Freedom Is Nuts!

In "The Libertarian Democrat, part XVIII", Harold Meyerson weighs in with this one:

[Democrats] may be civil libertarians and to some degree social libertarians, but they’re not economic libertarians. And for good reason: Economic libertarianism has never been more preposterous.

Effing blinders. It's funny how a completely discredited philosophy is still hip and groovy in Meyerson's world.

In short, as the balance of forces in capitalism shifts entirely towards investors and executives and away from employees, the need for a state that takes the burden of economic and health security off employers who won’t pick it up and employees who can’t pick it up is increasingly urgent.
The good news for Meyerson is that this country will get some sort of socialized healthcare and the irony which will be missed entirely by Democrats is that the corporations will be the primary movers of such a scheme. Corporations are getting tired of providing healthcare benefits for employees when governments in other countries provide the healthcare, taking their own corporations off the hook.

Cost of healthcare is therefore, indisputably transferred back to the individual citizen through increased taxation. This, despite the fact that the poster child of Democratic nationalized systems is in deep kimchee. But this never quite sinks in.

In an increasingly competitive world where corporations in the U.S. have to compete with business in Europe where corporate welfare and subsidies[pdf link] are a way of life, U.S. businesses are getting more and more cranky and hoping for a shift away from employer provided healthcare to government provided healthcare. That way, the cost is picked up by everyone, especially wage earning employees, as opposed to the individual contracts negotiated between employer and employee.

Meyerson, despite clear and compelling evidence has made the classic Democrat blunder: Confusing corporations and big business with Capitalism. Corporations don't want economic liberty from their governments, they want economic protection from their government. And once one sees this Truth, you can see why it's only a very short step between what we have now and the ensconced public/private partnerships so evident in places like Europe. I personally guarantee that the U.S. answer to subsidized industries in Europe will not be for Europe to drop or lessen its subsidies of European industry, but for the U.S. provide its own subsidies for industries deemed "too big to fail".

And I also want to go on record by saying I'm very, very tired of Democrats whining about corporate welfare. I agree already, so stop providing it to them with your creepy schemes!

Libertarian Democrats: Bruce Reed Replies (or Retorts)

In continuing the minor kaffufle regarding Markos Moulitsas' ideas on the Libertarian Democrat, I was moved to read Bruce Reed's "reaction essay", "Governing Well is the Best Revenge". I'm pretty disappointed with what I read, and frankly, I found Markos Moulitsas highly flawed essay at least somewhat thoughtful and redeeming of at least several good points. But after getting just a short way in to Reed's piece, I kept wondering if I had been redirected to the DNC webpage, and were reading a 'Clinton in '08' campaign flyer.

Bruce Reed almost immediately confirms rumors of a government draft with this line:

These beliefs lead us to take stands that many libertarians will not agree with. For example, I believe that every American owes our country a debt of service. I believe that government is bound to fail any time it values responsibilities less than rights.
Well, how very George Orwell of him. Another word for what Mr. Reed suggests is “conscription”. Hey Bruce, try lying next time, you'd have a better shot of swinging my vote Democratic. Anyway, read the whole thing here. However, Nick Gillespie gives the old-school smackdown to the Libertarian Democrat and Bruce Reed here.

Gillespie points out that a Libertarian/Democrat date always starts on a good note, but ends on a very bad one... for the Libertarian:

It's true that there was a bracing moment during the first 15 minutes or so of Howard Dean's presidential run where he looked to be the candidate of "gays and guns," a fiscal conservative, a social liberal, and, perhaps most daringly, a forthright opponent of the Iraq war. In short, he might have been mistaken for some sort of libertarian. Yet he almost immediately started talking about "reregulating" whole swaths of the economy, even the media which had given his candidacy such a boost. And what are we to make of Ned Lamont, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, who is one of Moulitsas's pet projects and arguably his greatest success as a Donkey Party political operative? As Reason's David Weigel has written, Lamont has at least two stances that are attractive to most libertarians: He thought the intervention by congressional Republicans into the Terri Schiavo case was objectionable and he's openly opposed to the Iraq War. Beyond that, though, is a litany of proposals that hardly sing to the "Free Minds and Free Markets" crowd: universal health care, increased federal spending on schools, and rolling back tax cuts "on the richest 1 percent."

Dog Bites Man, Price of Gas $2.53

Six month chart courtesy of Seattle Gas Prices.

Drove by the Safeway in West Seattle today and saw regular unleaded for $2.53. The prices, they are a droppin'. How low will they go?

Any time I think about gas prices, my mind always turns to people who go to great lengths to save a couple of pennies per gallon. The irony in all this is that the worse your gas mileage, and the higher the prices, the less it makes sense to drive any distances to save a few pennies.

Unless the savings per gallon is significant it may be costing you money to drive any distance to root out the cheapest gas. If you have a 20 gallon tank and you fill up all 20 gallons, a six cent price differential will net you $1.20 savings. Assuming you won't always have an absolutely empty tank, that savings drops per gallon already in the tank. Given the meager savings, the station sporting the .6 per gallon savings had better be very, very close.

My vehicle (an SUV) is only averaging about 15-18 miles per gallon. If I have to drive more than a couple of miles out of my way (doubling that in a round trip situation) I can quickly eat up $1.20 in savings at the current price of gas.

For instance, I usually grab a bite (purchase lunch) during my day at work. Some days when I'm trying to save money, I'll take my lunch. But if I forget my lunch and decide to drive home to eat it, the round trip from work to the house will cost me approximately $5 at the current price of gas considering my current gas mileage.

It's funny how people perceive the cost of things-- especially gas prices. It seems to me that most people don't think long and hard about the cost of trying to save a very small amount of money.

Conversely, the only time it makes sense to seek out a few pennies difference in gas prices is when you get very, very good mileage on your vehicle. If you drive a total of 6 miles out of your way, and you're getting 35 miles per gallon, then very little gas will be used to cover that six miles. At the current price of gas (stated above), if I drive 6 miles out of my way, I spend .92 cents getting to the cheaper station. Assuming a .6 differential, I'll save a total of .28 cents.

Basically, using very round numbers and assuming the current price of gas, it costs me about .15+ cents per mile to drive, period. That does not take any wear and tear, insurance or any other things that are usually factored into 'cost per mile'.

So you guys with big pickups, and poor mileage, fill up down the street, even if it's .10 higher than the station across town.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Government Hospital Calls 911 for Help

If you're dying, drive past the VA hospital in Spokane.

A Spokane veteran of three wars died after collapsing in the parking lot of a veterans hospital where staffers called 911 instead of helping the man.
"This man who fought three wars was dying in front of the VA Hospital, and no one inside would help," said the Rev. Eugene Singleton, who drove Fuller. "I thought a professional person, no matter who you are, who has taken an oath to save lives, would help."

I'm sorry, but I don't fully buy the excuses. It's a hospital, it should be able to handle heart attacks. No, they may not be able to handle amputees or gunshots, but any hospital should have the ability to stablize a victim, and then send him on.

"Calling the fire department was quicker than getting equipment and bringing it back out or finding someone who could offer the medical assistance," he said.

Well, yes, in the case of the VA hospital, calling the fire department probably was the best course of action.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Things Are Back on Track

Now that we've prevailed with cooler heads and passed the torture bill our government can finally get on with the pressing task of scrutinizing its own citizens. I feel that it may be time to start re-doubling our efforts to pass meaningful and sensible gun control. After all, it's the next logical step, isn't it?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Terrorist, extremist Pope be hanged!

Or so say Muslims who are annoyed at the assertion that the spread of Islam might occur under less than peaceful means. A good deconstruction of Peaceful Islam can be found here. A choice section:

In Mogadishu, not to be outdone, Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin, a leader of the Islamic Courts Union which recently seized power in what was the capital of the former Somali state, told worshippers at Friday prayers that "whoever offends our Prophet Muhammad should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim." Members of his congregation, not having ready access to the pontiff, did what they evidently regarded as the next best thing: they hunted down and killed a 66-year-old Italian nun, Sister Leonella Sgorbati, who had devoted her life to training nurses at a children's hospital in this wretched city.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So Kos is a Libertarian Democrat, Is He?

Kos wrote an essay which I initially saw pointed out on Reasons H&R. Initially, I hadn't read the entire thing and was taken to task for pre-judging what I didn't know. Now I've read it, and I see his whole essay deserves a complete and utter smackdown, old school libertarian style.

The most obvious thing I can point out is that he refutes his own argument while trying to make it:

As hekebolos further noted, defense contractors now have greater say in what weapons systems get built (via their lobbyists, blackmailing elected officials by claiming that jobs will be lost in their states and districts if weapons system X gets axed). The energy industry dominates the executive branch and has reaped record windfall profits. Our public debt is now held increasingly by private hedge funds.

Exactly, corporations have this ever increasing power with the direct help and support of government. When a corporation only has the simple tool which attempts to appeal to the self interest of potential customers, the above can't happen. But, as P.J. O'Rourke once brilliantly noted, when politicians control buying and selling, politicians are the first thing to be bought and sold.

More precisely, when government creates and controls the onerous and heavily regulated environment for business to navigate, the first target of corporate largesse becomes the branches of government. One of the greatest blunders of his article is this:

In the non-virtual sphere, cities use eminent domain to strip property owners of their rights on behalf of private developers.

Damn those private developers! Except once again, it's not the private developer I fear, it's the government which has the vested power to strip property rights. The corporation and profit is the motive, government the tool, increased tax revenue the excuse.

Safeway may be eyeing my property for an expansion, but without the runaway powers of government eminent domain, Safeway has no other option to gain my property beyond that of appealing to my self-interest. When a private developer yearns for my property, it's not the developer I fear, it's the institution with legislative and police powers that I fear. I wonder who that might be? Hmmm?

One of the biggest jokes regarding the above mention of Eminent Domain was that it was his own website which trumpeted success over the infamous Kelo decision where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the wanton abuse of Eminent Domain and property was subsequently handed over to... wait for it... private developers. Kos fans were delighted with the decision, even though it might *gasp* benefit WalMart:

Still, I'd have bet on it going the other way, given the way the Court has been ruling on takings in recent years. And while I hate the very idea of doing anything to improve Mall*Wart's position, I hate the idea of the conservatives' position on takings getting enshrined in our law any more than it already is.

The state must have the ability to take land for public goods (though I would be more inclined to say that such takings could only be used for construction of roads, parks, hospitals, and other public facilities, and not just for "economic development"). If they can afford to, let them buy the property outright. But if the owners won't sell, then they must be subject to eminent domain, always assuming they are given fair compensation for the property they lose.

Hooray for the Libertarian "Kos" Democrat! Let them work it out on their own, but if they can't, bring in da cavalry boys! The owners won't sell! Well, isn't that nice to know. You're free to work out your own deal, but if the deal's not sweet enough for the current owner, then fuck you, hand it over. After all, we're Democrats, and we're always for the little guy. If this is Kos' Libertarian Democrat, who needs Republicans to attack our freedoms?

I also believe that the term 'corporation' is often too broadly used. A corporation might consist of three people working in a garage, trying to scratch out a living on some idea in its infancy. Most never survive the first couple of years. Are these the people I fear? Are these the people that Kos and his fans fear? Hardly. They fear the biggest corporations-- the ones which have the pockets deep enough to affect and influence a willing and receptive government.

This is certainly no reason to love or defend those corporations who so cavalierly use government for their ends. However, it is only with a willing and receptive government that their ethical deficiencies can result in damage to the liberties and freedoms about which Markos writes.

A corporation, working on its own can not damage my liberties and freedoms, period. It can only do so when enjoined in the great institution revered by so many Democrats, and reviled by so many libertarians: A public/private partnership.

Markos eventually takes a complete about-face, and attacks the justice department for going after a corporation that receives much anti-corporate ire: Microsoft:

In the waning years of the Clinton Administration, the Justice Department waged a massive anti-trust battle against Microsoft. At the time, Microsoft seemed unstoppable, a monopolistic behemoth who would either swallow or crush anyone that posed even the most minute threat to its business. I cheered the Justice Department on, thinking its efforts would be the only thing to dent the prospects of a Microsoft-dominated world. I was despondent when Microsoft emerged victorious. Innovation seemed dead. But I was dead wrong.

Glad to hear the admission. Which in turn means that I was dead right. Being a Democrat, Markos is preturnaturally disposed to cheer on any ham-fisted government intrusion into a corporation- especially a successful one. Guess what, I'm the libertarian here, so if 'Kos' is joining my club, I'm going to have to lay down some ground rules.

I would like to first note, however that before the JD's assault, Microsoft was well known to have a hands off approach to D.C. politics. They preferred doing business, not hob-nobbing with politicians. Post Justice Department? They're now very involved in Beltway politics. Microsoft learned the hard way when it comes to doing business in America. You either pay your protection money, or something bad happens to you. Do you think any of this irony has really sunk in with Markos? I fear not.

Innovation always seems dead to the Democrat, because they see everything in a one dimensional world where the top company will always be the top company- they're seemingly incapable of seeing (or understanding) that without government interference (or support) the top company will never remain the top company forever. It may remain on top longer than a Democrat is comfortable with, but the top company will never innovate as quickly let alone even see where the next revolution will come from. A Democrat never seems to be able to conceive of change, and then when they do perceive it, they're predisposed to fight it. If it moves, tax it, if it keeps moving, regulate it, if it stops moving, subsidize it.

It's been said by a number of savvy observers that the biggest companies will hire people to tell them what the 'next big thing' is, and these same companies almost never believe or listen to those people. It's funny how libertarians knew that the justice department's efforts were not only a waste of time, but an incredibly dangerous application of force. At the behest of several other big companies, the justice department went after Microsoft, showing that as your success rises, so does your chance of an attack from the zillion-pound hammer of government. So the message is: Be successful, but not too successful. However, I must note that the good news for the biggest companies is that if your success begins to wane, Uncle Sam will be just as likely to prop you up through corporate welfare, especially once you've reached the "too big to fail" category. A concept which often counts on the direct support of Democrats.

Kos is absolutely flat wrong about a number of other things.

There is also no individual freedom if corporations arenÂ’t forced to provide the kind of accountability necessary to ensure we make proper purchasing or investment decisions. For example, public corporations are regulated to ensure that investors have accurate data upon which to base their trading decisions. If investors canÂ’t trust the information given by corporations, the stock markets couldnÂ’t function. If the stock markets couldnÂ’t function, our current market system would collapse.
One minor point of economics that's been lost on Kos is that the stock markets are not the economy. Most libertarians don't have trouble with rules and laws which prevent fraud. Again, I might only find issues with the details of Kos' message. But he's taken the oft misunderstood notion that the stock markets are the economy and somehow vaguely suggests that more government involvement is good. What are the limits of that involvement? He doesn't really say.

Now, none of this is to suggest a defense (even partial ) of the GOP. Certainly not the current GOP. Markos notes early in his article that "Libertarians, while not exactly perfect allies of the GOP, were likely to get more of what they sought by making common cause with conservatives than liberals." I would say that this statement is largely correct. The primary reason for this lack of connection with liberals is that Democrats have refused to even pay lip service to smaller government where at least a libertarian could get the occasional Republican to sing the tune.

Alas, those days are over, and I think I can rightly agree with his larger point that Republicans have waged a war on freedom. Unfortunately, both Republicans and Democrats have, in their own unique ways waged wars on freedom, usually coinciding with a respective majority status. I'm not sure if 'Kos' is really trying to convince real libertarians to crossover to the Democrat camp. Given the fact that there are a lot of close races around the country as the Repubican support begins to erode, it's possible that Democrats see an opportunity in a new constituency.

What seems to be lost on "Kos" is that the problem is government power. The American people have repeatedly handed over a blank cheque of power to our leaders, hoping that they'll use it wisely and ethically. Basically, it'll all be ok as long as "our guy" is at the controls. Well surprise! "Your man" will not always be in control-- it's kind of a quirk of this here democracy. But luckily, Democrats have made big inroads into fixing that as well. Campaign finance reform is possibly one of the most onerous assaults on free speech. A system of 'reforms', largely led and supported by Democrats and progressives, it flys directly in the face of the first amendment, making a mockery of "congress shall make no law..." Guess what? Democratic congressmen "made a law" and it was signed by George W. Bush. A real bipartisan effort! Thanks!

Democrats have historically claimed ownership on first amendment protection issues. However, they seemed to be only indignant about protecting 'artistic' or 'entertainment based' speech being attacked by right-wing moralists. All fair and good. But then they go and directly tear down what is arguably the most important speech of all: political speech. So cool, I can now go watch a 2 Live Crew concert without fear of censors getting in the way, but I can't say anything about a political candidate within sixty days of a general election. What kind of shit is that, Democrats? As many critics have rightly noted, it all really comes down to protecting speech with which they agree.

Democrats rightly complain about GOP intrusions into the bedrooms or areas of sexual morality. Great, then stay the hell out my kitchen, my healthcare, my supermarket, my favorite fast-food joints, my choices of video games, television or fifteen dozen other areas which Democrats feel the need to address.

Finally, a few words of advice: You want my vote? Start talking about cutting budgets, cutting government, slowing down regulation, stopping real corporate welfare, come out against eminent domain transfers to private entities, cut spending, get out of my kitchen, simplify the tax code, slow down on the public/private partnership abberations, filibuster terrorism legislation such as the Patriot Act and repeal campaign finance reform. When I see real progress on these issues, then we'll talk. Until then, bugger off.

An Open Letter to Mark Foley

Dear mr. foley,

Being drunk doesn't make people send lurid text messages to sixteen year old boys. Being drunk makes it easier to send lurid text messages to sixteen year old boys.

Maf54 (7:39:32 PM): you need a massage
(7:41:57 PM): ugh tomorrow i have the first day of lacrosse
Maf54 (7:42:27 PM): love to watch that
Maf54 (7:42:33 PM): those great
legs running
Xxxxxxxxx (7:42:38 PM): haha.they arent great
(7:46:33 PM): did any girl give you a haand job this weekend
(7:46:38 PM): lol no
Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:40 PM): im single right now
Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:57 PM): my last gf and i broke up a few weeks agi
(7:47:11 PM): good so your getting horny
Xxxxxxxxx (7:47:29 PM): lol.a bit
Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself
(7:48:04 PM): no
Xxxxxxxxx (7:48:16 PM): been too tired and too busy
Maf54 (7:48:33 PM): wow.
Maf54 (7:48:34 PM): i am never to busy haha