50 Rules

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Posted on : 11/27/2013 10:52:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

As Facebook lacks a good way of viewing images at their original size, I am posting this here.  That way I can permalink the image to a readable size.

And for the record, correct attribution does indeed matter.

View the image full size if there are legibility issues.

Sacrilege

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Posted on : 7/22/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

What better way to start a Monday.



I came across this short film because I watched "Memphis Belle" over the weekend.  The stars of that film included Eric Stoltz and Tate Donavan.  "Jesus" and "Hutch" respectively.

Voter Fraud: Blue On Blue Edition

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Posted on : 6/26/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

Had this been properly investigated at the time, Hillary Clinton would have won Indiana in the Democrat primary.  How that might have altered the 2008 election is anyone's guess.

But make no mistake about it, voter fraud is real and it does affect our current elections.

Proper Method For Beating Your Wife...Explained!

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Posted on : 5/31/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :



So how many times have you ever wanted to beat your wife, but just didn't know how to go about such a task?  Courtesy of this fine individual from 2010 comes all the proper rules of etiquette that go with the responsibility of disciplining your wife!

Links to the video...and the transcript, in case your eyes want to make sure that your ears were not lying.

Similar....stuff....can be found here as well.


Dear Death, From An Admirer

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Posted on : 5/27/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

There is a perception in the popular culture that those serving in the military are little more than unimaginative and uninformed automatons.  For [those] that know us best, they know that we can be some of the most engaged, engaging, and creative people around.

My example for today was discovered a couple months ago.


Dear Death

Dread not the one conceived to come for you
But I, and the forefathers of the wings upon which I stand.
I too shall cast with my brothers
That beautiful and far-reaching shadow of freedom across the lands
So that the young, the old, and the innocent may escape your burning clinch,
Your wretched breath, and your sickening belch.
You will, fall to your demise.
And from one humongo-ginormous deafening echo of thunder
Across the blue skies of our great nation,
I will have rudely intruded, eaten the scraps from your table, slept in your bed,
And hand delivered the confiscation of your last breath.
…Your secret admirer,
United States Marine.
Written by Jerry Collins, a fellow No-LOAD Marine.

Offered to you as a reminder of the day, and of those that shielded us and continue to shield us from feeling the premature chill of Death's cold grip.  In liberty, there is life.

Can You Pick One Please?

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Posted on : 5/10/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

I had a little media frustration the other day.

As some will recall, Congress decided to get the U.S. Federal government out of the helium business back in the late 1990s.  We got into the helium business during WWI when helium filled dirigibles were considered pivotal to our national defenses.

We stayed in the helium business after the rise of the aircraft carrier and other airborne platforms because national defense policy has a lot of inertia.  Also businesses liked having cheap helium.

During the early 1990s, most media outlets were complaining that our national strategic helium reserve was no longer required for military preparedness.  They claimed that the program was nothing more than a grand subsidy to private businesses.  There were lots of stories about places that sold helium filled balloons with the context of "why should the taxpayer subsidize this?"

A couple days ago, I heard a report on NPR about the imminent closure of the reserve.  Here we are over 15 years later and the market has yet to spool up the production capacity to meet current demand.

So businesses are running out of helium.  The story began with the ubiquitous balloon store owner talking about how she cannot get enough helium to run her business.  It moved on from there to detail how helium is used in a lot of different industrial processes.  It included a report from an electronics manufacturer in the U.S. that had opted to use other inert gasses where it could, and to turn off the helium when it was not in use for production.

The context of the story was to promote a bill currently before Congress that would extend the federal government's involvement in helium production until the free market can catch up.

The frustration isn't so much about the media pushing for the end to this program and then pushing to extend it when the logical results of that policy come to fruition.

The frustration is with a media, in this specific instance NPR, that simply has no real understanding of free market economics.  Our existing helium supply is quite large.  Even though the market price for helium is increasing, it hasn't gotten to the point where private business owners can justify the expense of building new production facilities to compete with the helium that still is in the reserve.

The price of helium will eventually increase to that point as the volume in the reserve is slowly depleted.  There will be some volatility in the price of helium as production, storage, and use reach new balance points.  There will be some short term economic pain.  But eventually, production will increase to meet demand, albeit with less storage capacity.

And if Congress acts to keep the feds in the helium business, that painful period will last for years and perhaps decades as private businesses discover that they cannot compete with a government subsidized product.

Could someone assign these folks to read a little more Thomas Sowell and a little less Paul Krugman?

Gate Keeper

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Posted on : 5/09/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I hope to ride this new Cedar Point 'coaster very soon!




Wow. I can't believe that I forgot the f/u report.

The long and short of it was that this is an OK rollercoaster. The most frustrating thing is that it is nearly impossible to ride both sides if you do not pay for the premium park pass at Cedar Point. The non-premium guests all go to one side and the premium guests go to the other.

Quite frankly, the premium side gets a slightly better ride due to the beginning drop.

The speed aspect was OK. Not the fastest ride I have experienced. Lots of curves and swooping about. My all means, take a shot at this one if the line is under an hour (or if you pay for the premium pass).

But then you need to go ride the Raptor for a real kick ass ride.

Spock Vs. Spock

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Posted on : 5/08/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Better than Spy vs. Spy!




Look At Me Now!

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Posted on : 5/03/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

I have a longer post...or an extensive series of shorter posts...in mind to talk about some recent health issues that I have been dealing with.  I hope it turns out well.

In the meantime, this is me from the fall of 2010.  A group of friends went camping.  We also did a kayak run down the Muskegon River.


You will notice the dapper manner in which I was wearing my life preserver.  I usually have it cinched at all times, but I loosened it up for a few minutes on a calmer stretch of the river.

Now check me out from a paddle on my birthday this year.  (4/20/2013)  It was cold at the start; like 28 deg F cold.  It didn't get much warmer by the time we finished.  So I was wearing a few extra layers.

In Laos

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Posted on : 5/01/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The United States government left our military members in southeast Asia after the Vietnam war.

The validity of that statement has been frequently debated, proven, debunked, held near and dear, and held in contempt.  It has spawned an entire industry.

The POW/MIA bracelet I wear bears the name of one Marine that very well could have been alive at the end of the war.  Although the odds of finding him alive today seem remote at best.

The Laotian government claimed to have had hundreds of US military members held as POWs at the end of the Vietnam war.  The US government declined to include Laos in the talks that concluded that conflict.  What happened to those men?

At least one of them remains alive today.

John Hartley Robertson is in his early 70s.  He has a wife and four children.  He no longer speaks English.

And he is the subject of a documentary by Michael Jorgensen.

After Toronto, the documentary moves to Washington for a highly anticipated screening May 12 at the seventh annual GI Film Festival. Jorgensen acknowledges his film has many unanswered questions: Why didn’t the military contact Robertson’s family since it’s now known reports of his survival were circulating as early as 1982? And if Robertson was known to be alive in Vietnam, “Why did the Americans leave him there for all those years?” Are there other John Hartley Robertsons in Vietnam? (Jorgensen says “a highly placed source” has told him there are and it’s not because the Vietnamese won’t let them go; “it’s like [the U.S. military] doesn’t want them to come home.”) But there’s hope the Washington showcase can build some momentum for answers.
Why indeed does the US government not want these surviving POWs to return home?

Or at least those that still want to come home.  Perhaps after being coldly abandoned to the whims of their captors, they, like John Hartley Robertson, are home.  They and their remaining families deserve to have a choice.

A Fine Cut

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Posted on : 4/24/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

Paper cut with a laser.  Lots of paper.  No idea how many lasers.


That Guy Is Goofy

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Posted on : 4/23/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Well, it is Goofy from a little different perspective.

Found via Reddit.

Surely He Is Innocent!

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Posted on : 4/18/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The NYTimes predictably presents a fabulist interpretation of the detention of a terrorist at Gitmo.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial. 

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either. 

When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try. 

I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.
No one thinks he is guilty!  Why surely his interpretation of the events that led him to Gitmo must be 100% accurate.

Not quite.  Via the NYTimes' own website comes this information:
b. (S//NF) Recruitment and Travel: In the summer of 2000, Marwan Jawan (detainee's associate since the age of 8 or 10) 3 recruited detainee to travel to Afghanistan. Jawan prepared detainee for Afghanistan by providing him with training on the AK-47 assault rifle in al-Dahna, located approximately 30 minutes outside of Taiz. Based on these lessons, which occurred every Friday for four weeks preceding his travel to Afghanistan, detainee felt fully competent to go to the front-lines in Afghanistan. In late-2000, detainee traveled to Afghanistan via Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AE), and Karachi, Pakistan (PK). 4 The Pakistani travel visa in detainee's passport was obtained by Marwan. 5 c. (S//NF) Training and Activities: Detainee traveled to Afghanistan, and stayed at a house in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul. Detainee left his passport at the house in Kabul before going to the frontlines to fight the Northern Alliance. He fought at the front lines north of Kabul as a fighter in the Sadiq Combat Unit, which consisted of approximately 15 or 16 fighters. Detainee received some pay as a fighter which enabled him to purchase needed items such as food and clothing. Detainee denied knowing UBL. 6 After the US and Coalition bombing campaign initiated in Afghanistan, detainee believed it was too dangerous to be an Arab in Afghanistan; therefore he fled the front-lines in December 2001 and stopped in Kabul. Detainee continued on to Khowst, AF, where he stayed for two weeks while he attempted to flee from Afghanistan.

...

Capture Information: a. (S//NF) Detainee was captured by Pakistani forces on 15 December while attempting to cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border near Parachinar, PK, after fleeing to the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan. Detainee was captured with a group of 31 other Arab al-Qaida fighters referred to by US intelligence reporting as the Dirty 30, most of whom are assessed to be UBL bodyguards and other members of UBL's security detail. 8 Pakistani authorities transferred the group to a prison facility in Peshawar, PK, where they were held for 15 days. 9 On 26 December 2001, Pakistani authorities transferred detainee from Peshawar to US custody at the Kandahar Detention Facility.

....

Detainee Threat: a. (S) Assessment: Detainee is assessed to be a HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies. b. (S//NF) Reasons for Continued Detention: Detainee is a member of al-Qaida. Detainee served as a security guard for UBL and is listed on al-Qaida affiliated documents. Detainee is assessed to have participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Tora Bora and was a fighter in UBL's 55th Arab Brigade. Detainee was captured with a group referred to as the Dirty 30, which included known UBL bodyguards. Detainee received basic and advanced militant training at the al-Qaida al-Faruq Training Camp, and was an al-Qaida guesthouse staff member. Detainee was recruited by known al-Qaida recruiter Marwan Jawan, who also facilitated detainee's travel to Afghanistan. o (S//NF) Detainee is a member of al-Qaida and a former UBL security guard. Detainee's name and alias were found on al-Qaida affiliated documents.
The phenomenon of the NYTimes editorial page staff not reading their own newspaper [is not exactly new].  Clearly this individual is not what his "editorial" suggests he is.

There are elements of the media that are not simply striving to be independent.  They are clearly on the other side.  Far too frequently, the NYTimes editorial page staff strives to be included in that category.

Explosions

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Posted on : 4/16/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

As of this moment (not when this entry is published) we have had a number of explosions in downtown Boston.  People are dead.  People are injured.

Speculation and prurient fascination are running amok.

Someone is supposedly being held in connection with this tragedy.

I have two immediate responses:

1) Wait for a while before assessing who is responsible for this attack.  It probably will not be the subject of immediate speculation.  We will probably hear an unfounded rumor or two before this is done.

2) Will we next be subjected to months of emotional appeals to ban bombs?  Or will we correctly focus on the individuals (and perhaps the inspiration if one exists) behind this awful attack?

Government Picking Losers

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Posted on : 4/06/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

One local downtown eatery closed recently.  The owner had not been paying all of the taxes that he should have paid.  But there was more to the story.

Darryl Hoskins is an Army veteran that refined his culinary skills to the point that he was running one of the best restaurants in a nearby town.  So he decided to take a shot at owning and running his own restaurant.  Until this recent demise, I considered Darryl's Downtown to be one of the two best places to eat in the county.

Not that we are a center for culinary excellence, but that ain't exactly a bad rating given the competition.

Darryl prepared a selection of tasty dishes and presented them in a tasteful environment.  I had a chance to meet him a couple times.  He is a genuinely nice guy and a talented chef.  I hope he comes back from this setback with further culinary success.

But there is more to the story.

As a part of setting up shop, he took out a loan to by the building.  He didn't have enough money to cover the rest of the purchase, so the guy that owned the building gave him a small-ish loan to cover the gap.  Then the city of Jackson gave him an US$80,000 loan for renovations.

They have decided to forgive that loan.  The justification for that action is two fold.  First, the money actually came from the US government as part of a HUD block grant.  So the city didn't lose anything.  HUD has indicated that they do not care if the money is ever recovered.  If HUD ever recovered the money, they would simply recycle it back to Jackson as part of a future grant anyways.  The second reason is that the city is third in line to be repaid and thus it is highly unlikely that they will ever see a dime.  So why should they spend money on lawyers when they never expect to see any money back?

The loan from the city was contingent upon a couple of conditions.  One was that it be used for renovations.  Darryl was required to spend US$600,000 of his own money with the HUD funding covering the gap.  We have no idea if that condition was met, but a lot of renovation work was done with someone's money.  Also, he was supposed to create 16 low-to-medium income positions.  At the peak, he had 14 such positions.

He never re-paid a single dime of the money.


So the city of Jackson ended up spending money that was collected from other area restaurants (and other taxpayers) to subsidize their competition.  It is precisely this sort of government created market distortion that we really need to avoid.  But it is the sort of distortion that government excels at creating precisely because government agents are not impacted by the success or failure of their decisions. 

They will not have their pay cut as a result of their poor decision.  They will not lose their jobs.  They will go on blithely moving other people's money around.

Just one more area where we could cut spending and improve our economy by not burdening successful businesses with the responsibility of subsidizing their competitors.

The Throne

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Posted on : 4/02/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Comcast hosted their "Watchathon" last week where viewers could stream almost their entire catalog of TV shows for free.  The general idea is that customers would get hooked on those shows and pay to continue their viewing experience.

Not a bad idea unless you run into a cheapskate like me.  Their price per episode ($3 to $6 per) is way too high.  Particularly when I can use my Netflix account to get the DVDs.

However, it was a great opportunity to start watching the HBO series "A Game Of Thrones".  I made it through season 1 and had a couple of thoughts to offer.

One of the current trends in fiction is for authors to create some sort of mega-world where they can create a series of books.  While this is not exactly a new phenomenon, it does seem to be a bit more in favor these days.

Unfortunately, many of those series do not produce the level of narrative and character development to justify a multi-part story.  It appears from this consumer's perspective that many of these series exist only because the first one or two books were sufficiently promoted to create a sort of reader inertia that carries sales down the line.

Thankfully, George R.R. Martin's "The Game of Thrones" series does not fall into this category.  I have read the first four books.  I will read the fifth after I place an order for the physical paperback or the Kindle version price comes back to earth.

If find it particularly galling to pay more for an e-book than I would pay for a physical paperback.

In watching the HBO series, I was reminded of how much I have missed these characters.  In particular, I am curious about Arya as well as about John Snow dealing with the coming winter.  Well written characters and plots create an almost effortless invitation to return to the next installment of a series.

As I have previously observed, Hollywood has undergone a significant change over the last 40 years.  This change was immediately apparent in the HBO series.  Each episode included at least one or two images of full frontal nudity.  Sometimes it was to depict sexual liaisons.  At other times it was associated with some sort of punishment.  Almost every time, I was struck by the fact that recent films shown in a real theater almost never contain that level of nudity.

Blood?  Sure.

Gore?  Of course.

Explosions, bullets, rockets?  By the traincar load.

Deaths?  They stack up the bodies like firewood!

Cursing?  Hell yeah.

Nudity?  By comparison, it is a sidelight at best.

Far more eloquent observers have pointed out the apparent hypocrisy of Hollywood showing people killing one another with reckless abandon while simultaneously being unwilling to show people loving one another. 

Skirting The Comments

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Posted on : 3/30/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,


I found this the other day over on the XKCD forum and thought it to be most apropos.  Not that I every followed such sage advice, but I do think the analogy is most apt.

Sublime

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Posted on : 3/29/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Being oriented more towards the science end the world, I am more familiar with the use of the term "sublimation" than with the term "sublime".

Sublimation is the process of a material transitioning from being a solid to being a gas.  Gasses are considered to be a higher state relative to solids.  Liquids fall in between.

The descriptive use of sublime later became associated with a peak condition or experience.  The pretentious will routinely use the term "sublime" thus rendering it less than sublime.  The redundant will use the term "most sublime".

As with many superlatives, we may be better served by reserving the descriptive use of "sublime" for those occasions that more accurately reflect its meaning.  From a non-scientific perspective, such occasions might be those where an event transends from the base process or elements to become something truly unique.

Consider for a moment the lowly comic strip.  In particular, consider strip number 1190 from Randall Munroe of XKCD fame.

XKCD #1190


The strip began in the wee hours of March 26th using the alternate (mouse over) text "Wait for it".  The image changed ever so slightly every half hour or so.  Over the course of the day (now 12 hours in as of this writing), the image has changed so that it appears as a sort of stop action film when viewed sequentially.  I have no idea how the images will unfold or when they will cease.  Randall's history suggests that this could be a massive undertaking that may last for days.  It might also be a huge April Fool's Day joke for all we know.

Only time will tell.

The art of XKCD is almost uniformly simplistic.  Yet it is through these simple images that Randall communicates thoughts ranging from base puns and geeky legerdermain to observations that come dazzlingly close to sublime.

As the successive images have unfolded thus far, a couple has been seen sitting on a beach.  They give the impression of being together, talking, walking a short distance, and building a sand castle.  One of the couple left the scene at one point and seemingly returned later on.  The other person continued to work on the castle throughout the elapsed time.

The reaction to this strip suggests that it is transcending the initial impression of simple stick figures in motion into being a larger commentary on human perceptions.  Within twelve brief hours, XKCD forum posts on this cartoon had jumped up to near 800.  Those comments ranged from very technical discussions regarding the computer code required to pull off this digital feat to broader discussions about perceptions of time and the relevance of this piece of art.

One comment that I enjoyed a great deal was by Clavuluza:
Is anyone else concerned at the fact that half-hours go by so quickly? I mean, I can measure my life in half-hours and they seem so ephimeral; reminds me of the Fight Club quote, "this is your life and it's ending one minute at a time". Also, this comic is making us wait to see developments, which is awfully close to real life interactions with stuff (which is kinda cool and very very meta). Furthermore, I am quite amazed at how everyone is trying to figure out some meaning behind it all when maybe, and quite possibly, it's just a pretty comic (much like real life, again), (though by being art it carries meaning just for existing).

Am I making any sense? Whatever, I'm really enjoying this experience.

(And to the people making unhappy predictions, if/when the comic ends and if/when it does it terribly, you can rightly say "I told you so" all you want; but for now, shut up! you're depressing everyone).

Whether or not these images are intended to have Deep Philosophic Significance, they have inspired a great deal of introspection.  Obviously, these images invite recursive analysis regarding the comments they inspire.

There are times in life when one should exist within the moment rather than being focused on deconstructing and analyzing the world around them.  In such times, it is as important to see and experience as it is to process and comment.  These are rare occasions.  And in this case, it is sublime.

Enjoy.

The Art Of Compromise

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Posted on : 3/28/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Courtesy of John Cox.

Can't Get No Respect

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Posted on : 3/27/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I got the following via email.  Despite my professed religious skepticism, I thought it was pretty funny.  The ending was a nice twist and represented some serious irony as well.

There were 3 good arguments that Jesus was Black:

1. He called everyone Brother.
2. He liked Gospel.
3. He couldn't get a fair trial.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

1. He went into His Fathers business.
2. He lived at home until he was 33.
3. He was sure his Mother was a virgin and his mother was sure he was God.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

1. He talked with his hands.
2. He had wine with every meal.
3. He used olive oil.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

1. He never cut his hair.
2. He walked around barefoot all the time.
3. He started a new religion.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:

1. He never got married.
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all - 3 proofs that Jesus was a woman:

1. He had to feed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was no food.
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it.
3. Even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was more work for Him to do.

Amen!!!


The above was as I received it.  I did adjust the line spacing a bit.  It had been forwarded several times.

Just in case you didn't catch the irony, check the capitalization for all of the options; Black, Jewish, Italian, Californian, Irish, woman.

Four of the five capitalized categories are properly capitalized.  One is not.  We do not refer to Caucasians.  We refer to caucasions..or whites...or honkys...or crackers...or whatever.  The same holds true....or should...for "blacks".

The only category not capitalized was "woman".  So even in a joke where women are singled out as being God-like, or god-like as the case may be, then apparently can't get the same respect as the other categories with respect to capitalization.

An America Doomed To Decadance

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Posted on : 3/26/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

How else to describe the relative "necessity" for a tool to make doggie treats at home.  Ladies and gentlemen, Bake A Bone.


You Dipped What In Bronze??

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Posted on : 3/17/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

Over at the Atlantic, they have a brief story about a short documentary that features Stu Larkin.  Mr. Larkin travels the country selling bronze baby shoes.  More accurately, he sells a service that bronzes your baby's shoes after your baby is done wearing them.  The company he represents bronzes other things as well.



Based on the links in the story, I think the Atlantic was far more interested in promoting the film's director; Peyton Wilson.  At least, I didn't see any links to Stu Larkin or The Bronze Baby Shoe Company that he represents.

I thought the film was fascinating not only because of Mr. Larkin's product/service, but because of the waning profession of the traveling salesman.  My great uncle was in that business for a very long time and was very successful at selling commemorative knives for Case cutlery.  The attitude that one must possess to be successful in that field is quite interesting.

Scaring Women...

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Posted on : 3/16/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

...and men.

Former First Lady Laura Bush has acknowledged that during the 2012 election cycle, there were a few Republican candidates that scared women.

I have some bad news for Mrs. Bush, the scary behavior isn't limited to a few candidates.

It’s not the contraception, everybody thinks it’s about contraception, but what this court case said was young people have the right to engage in sex outside of marriage. Society never gave young people that right, functioning societies don’t do that, they stop it, they punish it, they corral people, they shame people, they do whatever. The institution for the expression of sexuality is marriage and all societies always shepherded young people there, what the Supreme Court said was forget that shepherding, you can’t block that, that’s not to be done.
Folks seeking to ban sex outside of marriage are pretty scary too.  It's a pity that the GOP embraces such idiocy rather than expelling it.  Having one viable political party would really be nice for a change.

The Local School Superintendent

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Posted on : 3/15/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

There are two types of school administrators.

There is the type that plans for the future and controls costs.  This is the person that sets money aside for major renovations like a new roof.  They plan for growth by saving money for the new school that will be needed in 10 years.  They control costs by negotiating aggressively with every vendor and every labor resource.

And their districts have what they need.  They are trusted by the local community if a need for a additional funding comes along. 

And then there are the ones that spend it all.  These are the administrators that look at cutting school buses whenever local residents decline to support additional funding.  Their first tactic is to cut the things that inconvenience residents the most instead of economizing to minimize the impact of any cuts on the district.

Now those tactics are being writ large at the federal level due to the minimal reduction to the increase in federal spending by the "sequester".  As was reported elsewhere, the Department of Homeland Security released thousands of illegal immigrants and blamed the sequester.

Yet now we learn that the same agency is looking to hire close to 2,600 new federal employees.  Which leaves the reasonable suspicion that the release of illegal immigrants was more about political posturing than containing a bloated federal bureaucracy.


Quote Of The Day - Constitution Version

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Posted on : 3/14/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I'm totally ripping this off from Robb Allen of Sharp As A Marble.

Senator John McCain, not exactly my favorite Senator*, recently rebuffed Senator Rand Paul by stating:

"American citizens have nothing to fear from their government."
Which leads us to the Quote of the Day:

Wasn't (isn't) the entire point of the Constitution is that we do
I would include the Declaration of Independence as well.....



*Mr. McCain of the famed Keating Five.  Also, I once heard him refer to U.S. servicemembers who supported a literal reading of the Constitution as limiting federal power as being in need of "indoctrination".

Nothing like having a sitting U.S. Senator advocate for re-education camps to make your skin crawl.

Glowing In The Dark

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Posted on : 3/13/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

What has been the real fallout from the earthquake, tsunami and failure of Fukushima nuclear power plant?  Not nearly as bad as predicted.  Not nearly as bad as was originally feared.

Rather than stand as a warning of the radiation danger posed by nuclear power, in other words, Fukushima has become a reminder that uninformed fears aren’t the same as actual risks.
I should point out that the results indicated were mostly non-zero.  However, the impact of those results is so slight as to warrant comparisons with living in Denver or working as an airline attendant; not exactly the sort of radiation hazards that causes folks to run wildly in a panic.

A sane national energy policy includes nuclear power with as many safety precautions built in as is humanly possible.  It also involves a rational and calm review of the facts.

A Good President

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Posted on : 3/12/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Stolen from Facebook via the Sgt. Grit:

Today in Marine Corps history: 11 March 1778: Marines participated in action when the Continental Navy frigate BOSTON, en route to France, sighted, engaged, and captured the British merchant ship MARTHA. As the drum of the BOSTON beat to arms, John Adams seized a musket and joined the Marines on deck until the frigate's captain, Samuel Tucker, sent him below for safety.
 You have to love a President that not only puts skin in the game, he puts his skin in the game!  I read the biography of John Adams by David McCullough.  I don't recall the above being included.  But I was certainly impressed by John Adams' life and commitment to our American ideals.

Bad Gun Advice Courtesy Of...

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Posted on : 3/09/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

...Joe Biden.

For folks that wonder why pro-civil rights folks do not trust Democrats, Joe Biden is a near perfect case study.  He knows next to nothing about guns, but feels qualified to propose legislation for the entire country.

He recently suggested that a shotgun is as good as an AR-15 for self defense purposes.  He went so far as to suggest that you shoot a shotgun through a door at suspected assailants.

Aside from the fact that shotguns kick far more than an AR, the primary problem in the above is that it will buy you a ticket to court for reckless handling of a firearm.

Another problem with the above is....surprise....shotguns are used far more often to commit crimes than assault rifles.  The only weapon class used more often is an ordinary revolver.

These folks know nothing about guns yet feel qualified to legislate our lives.  Incredible.

Asset Forfeiture Gone Wild

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Posted on : 3/08/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

So you own a building.  You rent office space to businesses.

One of those businesses makes a $37 pot sale to an undercover state trooper.

And the DEA decides to seize your building.

Tar and feather were invented for such moments.

Violence Against Women - Media Bias Edition

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Posted on : 3/08/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I was listening to an NPR report on John Boehner a couple days ago.  The reporter was insinuating that Mr. Boehner's leadership was lacking because he could not compel the GOP caucus in the House to support bills that his office was bringing to the House floor.  The example used was the recent continuation of the Violence Against Women Act.

The final bill passed in the House by a vote of 286 - 138.  Only 87 Republicans voted for this version of the bill.  Other Republicans had issues with the bill that ranged from questions of Constitutionality with regards to expanding tribal law enforcement authority beyond tribal members to ideological issues with providing abortion services to rape victims.

For the record, I think the Constitution matters.  Questions regarding Constitutionality matter.  I do not know if their concerns were fully legitimate as I have not studied the issue with any depth.

Also for the record, the GOP needs to get off the anti-abortion wagon.

Back to the issue of Mr. Boehner's leadership, I find it curious that he is being criticized for bringing a bill to the floor that passed the House and was signed into law as this is being typed.  He is the Speaker of the House.  He is not the Speaker of the GOP in the House.  Mr. Boehner's position exists to serve every American. 

So he brought a bill with bi-partisan support to the floor for a vote.  That is is job.

Isn't bi-partisanship something we want?  Or does bi-partisanship only count when the GOP is caving to a Democratic initiative?

The Holocaust

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Posted on : 3/07/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

In case you missed it, researchers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum recently released updated information on the Holocaust.

Everyone....at least those in the reality based community...agrees that the Holocaust was massive tragedy.  What they don't know, is that was worse than anyone realized.

Go and read.  I can't do it justice.

Those Little Cuts

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Posted on : 3/06/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

I've observed this elsewhere, so it may as well go here, too.

When we had the so-called "fiscal cliff", we had roughly US$85billion in tax increases.  With the "sequester", we have had roughly US$85billion in spending cuts.  To be sure, those cuts are poorly focused.  If only we could get the Democrats to be responsible partners in passing a federal budget.

While I support an 80/20 ratio of cuts to tax increases, I also think that the above is "balanced".  Or at least, the perception of "balance" is a good test between a reasonable observer and a ideologue or a partisan.

It is hard to know exactly what the problem is with the Democrats in the Congress as well as our President.  I suspect that they see government spending as a means of power and control.  Anything that diminishes that power is something they oppose.

I also suspect that they may also suffer from a sense of denial.  Like every other person that has taken a real world look at our budgetary problems, they understand that the driving force behind our out of control spending is the unrestrained and unsustainable growth in social programs.  But because their "base" has been sold on the relative merit of those programs, they do not dare act as responsible legislators and begin limiting spending in that area.

Instead, we continue on an inexorable course towards national fiscal insolvency with plenty of pain for people that will find themselves dependent on government programs.

One disappointment is the lack of Presidential leadership on the issue.  Mr. Obama has said that we need to cut wasteful spending.  I have heard him issue such pronouncements in the past.

Yet he has not seen fit to demonstrate any leadership on the issue.  The White House has yet to issue a detailed list of programs to be cut.  Rather than work face to face with the Republicans to develop cuts that make sense, Mr. Obama has returned....again, and again...to the campaign trail.

The Democrats in the Senate are worse.  They haven't passed a budget for almost four years.  They won't pass their own budget.  They voted against Mr. Obama's budget in significant numbers.  And they refuse to bring any budget passed by the House to the floor of the Senate.

They are doing little more than closing their eyes and hoping that are nation's fiscal issues will somehow disappear.

Their eyes are closed. 

Ours are not.

Oh Mighty Passion

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Posted on : 3/05/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

From John Cox....


I suspect engineering a few other fields of endeavor would suffer as well.

Plenty of other great art to see while you are visiting his site.

The Songstress

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Posted on : 3/03/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

Carole King is one of America's musical treasures.  Here are ten songs that you might know were written by this talented woman.

I mean....The Monkees....really??

Economics, Like Gravity

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Posted on : 3/02/2013 01:19:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

What do you do when the price of gasoline rises?  Do you adjust your driving habits?  Do you consider purchasing a more fuel efficient vehicle?

If you are a normal person with a normal budget, then you do some combination of the above.

Why should we expect normal people running normal businesses to behave any differently?

If government regulations impose additional costs for people that work more than twenty nine hours a week, then normal people will limit employees to twenty nine hours.  If government regulations impose additional costs if you have fifty employees or more, then normal people will limit their number of employees to forty nine.

These are the normal, predictable consequences of poorly developed government policies.  Courtesy of Mr. Obama and the Democrats, a whole lot of people who are already struggling to survive will find themselves less able to find full time employment at wages that will allow them to live something close to a normal life.

DUI With Zero Evidence

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Posted on : 3/01/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

How would you like to be found guilty of driving under the influence even if there is no proof that you were in fact driving under the influence.  Perhaps you were under the influence at some point in the past few days...or perhaps weeks.  Perhaps you were under the influence in a time and place where it was legal for you to be in that condition.

Then you get pulled over days...or perhaps weeks....later while you are quite sober.  And based on residual chemicals in your blood stream due to past events, you end up convicted of a DUI.

And the courts endorse this conviction due to the twisted idea that actually conducting an accurate test for whether or not you are under the influence would "unduly restrict law enforcement."

That's right.  Our right to a trial based on fact is less important that the convenience of law enforcement.

So What Happens When...

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Posted on : 2/28/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

...you are a clown who exists to create laughter in the world when your daughter is dying and you cannot imagine a reason to laugh ever again.

The story was shared with The Moth Radio Hour by Anthony Griffith.  Stories presented by The Moth are more typically humorous.  This one is not.

However, it is a singular act of bravery as Mr. Griffith opens the deepest wound in his life for our inspection.  And, one hopes, our empathy.

I Love Libraries

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Posted on : 2/27/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

As does John Scalzi.  Have a read.  Then visit your local library to see what you have been missing.

A Breakdown Of Sorts

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Posted on : 2/26/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I am getting to the end of a little "break" from participating on Facebook.  Quite frankly, the whole gun debate was getting to me in unhealthy ways.

A big part of the problem is that there is no firm basis for a reasoned discussion of the subject.  The "facts" have been polluted by liars to the extent that rational people are no longer able to express an argument that is based in reality.

Robb Allen of Sharp As A Marble links to an article penned by a doctor that is filled with factual errors.  Somewhere, someone with a lack of knowledge about guns and who is trusting of medical professionals will read that story and become committed to banning or severely restricting gun rights.

And it will be impossible to have a rational discussion with that person until you first go through the laborious effort of emptying out the lies and replacing them with facts.

A short list of the lies involved include:

  • Including 24 year old adults as "children".
  • Using heart disease as a comparative with gun deaths.  Heart disease is the result of decades of low exercise, poor food choices, and smoking.  Children don't get heart disease because they haven't lived long enough.
  • Not using drownings as a comparative with gun deaths.  Because kids (the real kind) die from drowning at a much higher rate than they do from guns.  Yet the movement to ban backyard pools is pretty ineffective.
  • Talks about rates of fire as if it makes a difference in the number of deaths.  The issue is not the gun.  It is the intent/purpose of the person holding it.
  • Calls our rights "privileges" and states that they were "granted" by the Constitution.  Our rights, including the right to self defense, existed before the Constitution was written.  It only acknowledged what already existed.
The list continues in the comments.  Having a rational discussion on gun issues is impossible because of the rhetorical filth such as the above that have contaminated public discourse.  Perhaps irreparably so.

Book Recommendation: Flowers For Algernon

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Posted on : 2/25/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

Charlie Gordon.  Mentally handicapped.  Then a genius.

In "Flowers For Algernon", author Daniel Keyes presents a first person view of the life of someone who is marginalized by society due to his lack of mental ability.  He cannot remember without years of repetition.  And if he cannot remember, then he cannot repeat.  Nor can he consider his actions to see if they could be changed for the better.

Such are the challenges of some of our most marginalized citizens.

The book is Charlie's story told from his perspective.  It is written as a kind of journal that Charlie is keeping at the request of his doctor.  The spelling and grammar reflect that of a person who barely possesses the ability to write.  Charlie is an open, honest, trusting, and caring individual.  He wants to do well.

And he is treated by those around him with just about as much compassion and love as you might expect.

Until the surgery.  A team of doctors believes they have developed a means for improving intelligence.  They have tried it out on mice.  It seems to work quite well.

Charlie agrees to undergo the procedure.  And in the days and weeks to follow, he gets smarter.  He learns.

He learns how much he has been missing.  He reads voraciously.  Knowledge is assimilated at an astounding rated.

He also learns how poorly his "friends" have been treating him.

"Flowers For Algernon" was one of those books that you heard about when I was in school.  Being an avid science fiction fan, I saw the title several times and had always intended to read it.  Chance and happenstance had other ideas on the matter.

Fortunately, used book stores are a treasure trove of books that people have always been meaning to read.

"Flowers For Algernon" is one of those rare modern books that really should be more prominent in our school curriculum.  It is at turns an instruction on the importance of treating people properly regardless of their abilities, or lack thereof, as well as a thought provoking journey that should cause us to envision a wider world of "what if".

It is impossible to create that world of "what if" without first seeing it in our minds.

Spoilers after the break.





A Cake No One Should...

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Posted on : 2/24/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

eat.  Or perhaps one that everyone should eat.

As friends on Facebook should have discerned by now, I've been working on my general health for about 18 months now.  I have a longer post on the subject on which I have been working for some time.  Perhaps you should be grateful that it is not yet complete!

Part of that work involved making better choices in my diet.  Those choices are complicated by the fact that I love food and I love to eat good food.  It is safe to say that my indulgences have been few and measured.

A couple weeks ago, the guys at work came across a recipe for bacon jam.

Mmmmm.....bacon.

It involves bacon, maple syrup, brown sugar, and a bunch of other things that are not really good for you when consumed in large quantities.

We have a wonderful young lady at work that loves to cook.  She has made goat cheese in the past.  She also makes the best cakes.

I do not want to give the impression that she had no choice in the matter, but the guys did leave an unsubtle hint that she should give this bacon jam thing a try.  It took her five hours on a Sunday night to complete a triple batch of the stuff.  The fruits of her labors were in our break area for public consumption Monday morning.

As it turns out, she didn't like the bacon jam.  All the guys loved it.  Someone bought English muffins and we imbibed throughout the day. The jam had more of a savory taste that was reminiscent of baked beans, sans beans. 

I was very good that day.  I had half of a half of a muffin with the bacon jam.  And while it was most delicious, I was able to refrain from eating any more of it.

Our talented young cook/baker had a surprise for us on Tuesday morning.  She had been looking at a recipe for a dark chocolate cake that used dark chocolate frosting.  Both components used Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate.

There are few things better in the world than dark chocolate.

I behaved myself and only took half of a piece of cake.  It was great.

But then I got to talking with my friend Eric as we all were gathered around the cake in the break area.

Eric and I share some common background.  I am a former Marine.  He is former Army.  We both were in Desert Storm, although he actually was up front doing the dirty work while I was in the rear with the gear.  These experiences have mentally twisted us in ways that some people find utterly baffling.  Fortunately, our friends are more amused than mortified.

Eric has had the further experience of being a paramedic for close to 10 years.  The stories he tells ought to make most folks question whether humanity will survive the next 15 seconds, much less the next 15 years.

Which is why when we got to talking about this very delicious cake, it was not terribly surprising when we thought that the only way to make it better was to put a little bacon jam on it.  Fortunately, there was a small amount left over from the previous day.

I plopped the container down in front of Eric as I had already had my quota of cake for the day.  He applied an appropriate portion of bacon jam and took a bite.

Sadly, his eyes rolled back in his head shortly thereafter.  I say "sadly" as his reaction was good enough that I just had to go back for the other half of my half a piece of cake that was still sitting in the pan.  I plopped on a dollop of bacon jam and then headed for the nuke-o-lator to warm it up.

OH

EM

GEE

This was the reason those letters were strung together in the first place.

I can't tell you how awful I felt later that afternoon when I found that there were a couple of pieces of cake left in the tray.  I didn't even bother with the whole "half a piece" nonsense.  Some bacon jam, a round in the nuke-o-lator and I was back in Nga-atua.

Tax Policy Matters

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Posted on : 2/23/2013 07:06:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Via the TaxProf comes the story of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao declining to have his next fight be in the United States.

Manny Pacquiao's chief adviser insisted Monday that the Filipino superstar's preference is for his next bout – a fifth fight against Juan Manuel Marquez – to take place away from Las Vegas, with the off-shore Chinese gambling resort of Macau emerging as the "favorite."

Michael Koncz told Yahoo! Sports that the 39.6 percent tax rate Pacquiao would face if he were to fight again in the U.S. makes a fall bout in Las Vegas "a no go."
On a related note, State Farm Insurance may be getting ready to leave uber-taxing Illinois for the comparatively lower taxing Texas.
Insurance chain State Farm is reportedly buying up substantial workspace in Texas, which may signal a coming exodus from the company's home state of Illinois. ...

At the end of 2010, in a special session, the Illinois Legislature passed a 67% hike in its corporate and personal income tax. The state is struggling with a structural deficit and its credit rating was recently lowered. The state now has the worst credit rating in the country. A number of businesses have floated the idea of leaving the state. A move by State Farm, however, would devastate the downstate economy.
California is suffering from a similar trend...for similar reasons.

Tax policies do matter.  Higher tax rates will drive the wealthy into different areas.  They....like most of us....don't mind paying their fair share to support legitimate government activities.  But an unfair share will cause them to react accordingly.

Over The Falls In A Barrel

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Posted on : 2/22/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Daredevils have been going over the Niagara Falls for over a century.  Sometimes in a barrel.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes they survive.  Sometimes not.  Curiously, the results of the plunge rarely live up to expectations.

Despite the risks, and the known history of this stunt, people continue to try it to this day.

Which brings us to the fiscal waterfall that is Obamacare.

The Washington Post has a story on the impending massive rate hikes that young people are about to experience.

The result: Older, sicker people will pay lower premiums. Younger, healthier people will pay higher ones to make up the difference. The price of a policy for a young, healthy man in, for instance, Milwaukee, could triple from $58 per month to $175, according to a survey of insurers released by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank, and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Curiously, the above is not precisely news to those that were paying attention when Obamacare was first passed into law.  It has been clear from the beginning that the intent of this nationalized health care system was to take money from the young and the healthy only to give it to the poor and the less well.

But we were promised that we could keep our current doctor and current insurance plan if we were happy with them.  Of course that promise did not stop my physician from buckling under the new federal regulatory burdens to end up selling his practice to our local mega-hospital.  The story above is really focused on people that have to buy individual health insurance.  It doesn't really apply to those that obtain insurance via our employers.

Right?

It has become very clear to everyone involved who is analytical and not ideological that the rational strategy, for both large and small firms, is to cease providing health care insurance to employees.

No company wants to admit that they are considering eliminating health insurance as an option, or be the first one to drop their health insurance plan, but once a competitor does so, the preference cascade will begin. The clear sentiment is “We will not be the first one to drop our health insurance plan, but we would be a close second.”

The coming preference cascade for employer group health plans is what the Democrats fear the most, because Obamacare was sold to the masses as “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”

The people who really know the law, and who have been following the avalanche of regulations, have already figured this out. It will take a while for this specialized knowledge to seep downward, because right now only $800+ an hour ERISA attorneys and the most sophisticated HR people understand how Obamacare really works.
The fruits of government action have long been known by anyone with the least interest in history.  Those fruits inevitably cause costs to rise and access/quality to fall.  Government will...once again...break our rhetorical legs and then expect gratitude for the crutches it offers.

The result of socialism is as predictable as the seasons.  It is to create an equality of poverty by destroying the means of producing wealth.

When the current scheme fails...a result of which I have no doubt...will the government advocate a return to free(er) markets?  Or will they say that he problem is that we did not cede enough power over our private lives to the federal nanny?


Sophisticates And Intellectuals

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Posted on : 2/21/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The following was written a while back in the wake of the allegations that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had raped a hotel maid during a visit to New York City.  I let it sit for a while thinking that it might be good to let the story develop a bit.

It turns out that waiting was a good idea.  Prosecutors declined to prosecute Mr. Strauss-Kahn due to issues regarding evidence and witnesses.  Of course, that doesn't mean that he is a pillar of moral rectitude.

In any case, I think the larger point as to the moral basis for what is presented as "sophistication" and "intellectualism" is worthy of your consideration.  My belatedly offered thoughts continue after the jump.


Can You Hear The Hate?

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Posted on : 2/20/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Probably not.

During a recent interview on NPR, ESPN's Howard Bryant made an analogy between the remorseful cyclist Lance Armstrong and a theoretic spokesman for the NRA.

I mean, I think the big problem that I had with listening to Lance over the last couple of days was how controlled – how much he was trying to control this confession. That someone had put out a very funny tweet in my timeline that other day that said, "With this much remorse he could be the next spokesperson for the NRA." I mean, it was really that controlling. And I'm listening to this, and I'm thinking, he's not sorry at all about this.
But when a listener later went to the NPR website to get the transcript, the offensive remark had been scrubbed.....er...edited.

Just imagine if this had been Fox News instead.....

Getting The Attention I Deserve

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Posted on : 2/19/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Well I have finally hit the big time.  Big Brother...or the Fatherland...or the Motherland....someone...cares enough to stop by.  But they couldn't bother to leave a comment!

We welcome our visitors from DHS with open arms, but not open legs!


My traffic sucks, but it is mine!

Global Warming And Asteroids

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Posted on : 2/17/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Via Newsbusters comes the story about a CNN anchor that asked Bill Nye (the theoretically "science" guy) if the recent near visit by an asteroid was the result of "global warming".

And folks wonder why I don't trust the media when it comes to the science of climate change.

For the record, Mr. Nye avoided addressing the obvious error in the young lady's question.

The Brats

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Posted on : 2/16/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

It appears that is at least one restaurant that rewards the parents of well behaved youngsters by taking a little off their dining bill.  It is more than a little sad to think that we have come to the point where a positive reward is required to encourage good parenting.

And of course there is the obvious problem of some lawyer waiting for an opportunity to sue the restaurant for failing to give the parents who disagree with the restaurant regarding the relative behavior of their children.

*sigh*

Right Around Your Neck

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Posted on : 2/15/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I have been kayaking for a couple years now.  I enjoy it a lot.

A while back, I discovered a nifty necklace.  In theory, the guy selling them (at the time) was just out of college and looking for ways to make money without getting a real job.  'Cause real jobs cut into your kayaking time.  I have no idea if he is still dodging a responsible life, but I sure hope he is.

He was selling Hei Matau pendants.  In theory, they are Maori tribal symbols that represent good luck for those that travel over water.

I just thought the kid told a good story.  I am certainly grateful for any good luck that might come my way as well.

Wanderer Imports, the young man's company, is offering free shipping to former customers and our friends.  Just put the phrase "friendofwandererimports" in the discount box.

The one I wear is the last one on this page.  But I'm thinking about buying a couple more.  Perhaps you will find one that catches your eye as well.

No, You Can't Watch

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Posted on : 2/14/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

In the news recently comes a story about the latest technological revolution in the service of individual liberty.  A cryptographic dream...or nightmare...depending on your perspective.

Back in October, the startup tech firm Silent Circle ruffled governments’ feathers with a “surveillance-proof” smartphone app to allow people to make secure phone calls and send texts easily. Now, the company is pushing things even further—with a groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app that will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button. (For now, it’s just being released for iPhones and iPads, though Android versions should come soon.) That means photographs, videos, spreadsheets, you name it—sent scrambled from one person to another in a matter of seconds.

...

If governments don’t come round, though, Silent Circle’s solution is simple: The team will close up shop and move to a jurisdiction that won’t try to force them to comply with surveillance.

“We feel that every citizen has a right to communicate,” Janke says, “the right to send data without the fear of it being grabbed out of the air and used by criminals, stored by governments, and aggregated by companies that sell it.”
 How cool is that?  Very cool!  Anything that limits the intrusion of government in our private lives should be considered a step forward for everyone.

A Great Place For A Gun Free Zone

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Posted on : 2/13/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Around any politician.

If gun free zones are really such a great idea, then shouldn't we demand that every politician eschew any sort of armed security? 

Before the government subjects the rest of us to any regulation, tax, or other legal intrusion, shouldn't they all apply to our government employees first and foremost?

85% Tax Rate On The Poor?

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Posted on : 2/12/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I read an awful lot of things while putting together the recent post about Phil Mickelson and tax rates, I came across this specious bit of reasoning that attempts to argue that people making US$18,000 per year end up paying an 85% tax rate.

Yes: On net, average federal income tax rates are negative -- post-tax income exceeds pretax income -- for the two lowest income quintiles. But that's not the same as marginal tax rates, which measure the amount of money taken out of each additional dollar earned. It's the marginal rate, most importantly, that creates the disincentive to work.
So how does they come up with that astronomical value?  They include social program benefits as "income" and calculate an effective "next dollar" rate based on lost social spending benefits due to increasing incomes.

The argument is that as income earned via legitimate employment increases, social program benefits decrease.  This decrease is then considered....by some...to be an effective "tax".

While I have long been aware of this sort of "welfare trap", I think it is fundamentally dishonest to suggest that the proper reduction of benefits to be anything like a tax.

The Straw

0

Posted on : 2/10/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

...that broke the camel's back.

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson has recently taken a little flak for indicating that he plans on leaving California in the wake of his announced plans to relocate to a state with lower tax rates.  Specifically, California has recently increased their income tax rates by roughly 3 percent for the next seven years.  The sales tax was also increased.  These changes were made in an attempt to close the current sizable annual budget deficit being run by the state of California.

My sympathies lie primarily with Phil.  We aren't even close to being in the same income range, but as a matter of principle, I believe that a person has a right to the income they earn that should not be cavalierly set aside.  However, there are a couple of issues that have been studiously ignored in this discussion.

The first is the matter of comparing apples to apples.

According to Mr. Mickelson, his future total tax rate will be a little north of 60% of his income.  This includes federal income taxes, federal FICA taxes, federal Medicare taxes, state income taxes, and one presumes that local income taxes are included if appropriate.  Some of his critics have compared that tax rate with the 14% income tax rate paid by Mitt Romney and his wife.  That is an incomplete comparison designed to confuse the issue.

The Romney's most certainly paid payroll and appropriate income taxes for any wages they may have received.  Of course, if they did not receive any wages, then they didn't pay payroll or income taxes at those rates.

Under the area of comparable tax rates, the double taxation of dividends is also studiously ignored in these discussions.  Dividends are paid out of after tax profits by corporations.  When a further tax is then levied on the individual receiving those dividends, then the money is effectively taxed at the cumulative rate of the corporate income tax and the individual investment tax.

It is partially due to this double taxation that we have elected to charge a lower tax rate on investment income.  Good, bad, or indifferent; I make no assertion as to whether or not this is good public policy.

The second issue is the relative need for government to consume Mr. Mickelson's wealth.  Back in 2009 when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California, Robb Allen of Sharp as a Marble had a partial list of agencies, commissions, boards, and other state government organizations.  At the time, the suggestion was that prisons would have to close and state police would have to be laid off to balance the budget.  The point at the time is that there were a great many other state agencies that could have been down sized or perhaps even eliminated in order to minimize cuts to critical prison and law enforcement budgets.

A similar case can be made with respect to federal government spending as well.

As a former resident of California, it truly pains me to watch the current fiscal debacle unfold.  The roots of that debacle can be found in the lack of government fiscal restraint.  Poor spending priorities can never be solved by increasing taxation.

When taxation levels are high enough to represent injustice to the people earning that money, precautions to limit exposure to confiscatory taxation are more than justified.  The camel has no obligation to stand still as the last straw is dropped in place.

An Opinion Withheld

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Posted on : 2/09/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Some time ago, John Scalzi recommended an opinion poll being gathered by the good folks at Locus Magazine concerning the subjective "best" works of science fiction and fantasy from the 20th and 21st centuries.  I had intended to post a link back then, but I had not intended to vote.

The criteria for inclusion in the balloting was that the book/novella/story should have been recognized at some point in the past as being exemplary.  Unfortunately, I cannot locate the original ballot and the results do not provide a more precise definition for inclusion on the ballot.  Further checking suggests that they have pulled the ballot criteria from their website.

However, the results are out.  I may make a project out of listing the results and then indicating how many I have already read.  It might also be useful to begin reading everything on the list that I have not read thus far.

It should be noted that Mr. Scalzi has forthrightly indicated that the results of the poll may be skewed by the fact that he had promoted the poll on his blog in the last few days available for voting.  Apparently, the publishing house Tor promoted that poll as well.  Mr. Scalzi's "Old Mans War" won the 21st century science fiction novels poll.

The reason for my reticence regarding participation in the poll is that there were far too many books that I had not read on the respective lists.  While I have read a fair number of them, it seemed ill advised to offer an opinion when so many were beyond my reading experience.  As an example, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Michael Moorcock's "Elric" books that were not on the list, but I had not read any of his other works that were included.

Perhaps I should have participated.  Some of the results are most curious from my perspective.  The Dragonlance series did very poorly despite being first class writing.  Philip K. Dick's "Do Android's Dream Of Electric Sheep" did quite a bit better though to my eyes it was a laborious and confusing read.

Stephen King did poorly as well given his commercial success.  The man most certainly can write convincingly about the goblins that inhabit the darker corners of our minds.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. also did poorly given his prowess with the written word.  "The Fires of Paratime" is one of my favorite books.

Another favorite is Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" which came in at the 21st position for 20 century science fiction.  It is modestly satisfying that it came in ahead of "Do Android's Dream Of Electric Sheep".  Barely.  Mr. Heinlein's works did quite well collectively.

In any case, I do not see how I might have avoided this sense of regret.  Either I could have participated and regretted being unable to vote for works with which I was unfamiliar, or I could have declined to participate and end up grousing about the many works that should have done far better than was the case.

Such is the hazard of withholding one's opinion.

Fooling Yourself

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Posted on : 2/08/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

What do Todd Akin and Chicago Tribune have in common?  They both tell themselves lovely lies so they can sleep at night.

Was Akin engaged in "an intentional deception"? That seems highly implausible, as it implies both that he knew that what he was saying was false and that he expected others to believe it was true. It's much likelier that, like Knowles and his staff at the Tribune, Akin was misinformed and made "a careless mistake."

It would be preposterous, however, to deny that Akin was biased. Indeed it seems obvious that he believed the falsehood in question because that falsehood made it easier to justify his ideological position to himself (and, he mistakenly believed, to others).
The falsehood from the Chicago Tribune had to do with a blatantly misleading graphic and story about "assault weapons".  

While we can usually count on the media to point out when politicians are telling themselves and us fantastic fabrications, who can we count on to point out when the media is equally full of it?

Nothing Lasts Forever

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Posted on : 2/07/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

We are fans of the "Big Bang Theory" TV show.  Kaley Cuoco is one of the talented stars of the show.

In a recent interview, she offered an interesting and refreshing perspective on the current status of her career.

"This is not real life," she said. "This is a little weird world. It will never become my reality, ever. There's no way, because I'm not going to have this forever. I'm just going to enjoy it now, and the minute it's gone, I'll have other things to do."

You could have heard a pin drop. But surely being a star in this celebrity-obsessed world was what she'd always wanted?

"I've never been in an acting class in my life. I would rather kill myself. There's no way. I mean every word. That sounds awful."

Possibly, but it was also the most honest answer anyone had heard in years. And nobody was asleep.
A bonus reason to watch one of the more smartly written programs currently on broadcast television.

It Isn't The Markers

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Posted on : 2/06/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Reynolds' Law is named for the Blogfather; Glenn Reynolds.  His Law goes something like this:


The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
The creation and accumulation of wealth is not the result of college educations, home ownership, and similar trappings.  Those educations and pieces of property are the result of human behaviors that inexorably lead to the creation and accumulation of wealth.

Perhaps instead of subsidizing possessions, we ought to get back in the business of teaching successful human behaviors.

I once owned a car that had a bad starter for a couple days.  As it had a manual transmission, I started it a few times by pushing it down a modest incline and popping the clutch.

Rolling that car down hill did not guarantee that it would learn to run due to the rolling wheels.  Only the functioning engine and fuel in the tank could make that car move further than the bottom of that brief slope.

Giving out educations, homes, etc. is like pushing a car without an engine or fuel down a hill and expecting it to miraculously continue running down the road.

And They Care About MY Carbon Footprint??

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Posted on : 2/05/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

As Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, I don't want to hear one damned thing about my carbon footprint until those that complain about global climate change start behaving as if there really is a crisis.

The latest example being Derek Jeter of baseball fame.  I'm not bothered as much about his issue advocacy as I am by the ostentatious home that he lives in.  If carbon consumption really matters that much to him, then perhaps he ought to lead by example.

Sadly, hypocrites like Mr. Jeter do not lack for the company of like minded a similar acting individuals.  Before we pass anything like a carbon tax on fuel, these folks need to move into a 3 or 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom ranch in the suburbs and abandon their more tony confines.

Book Review - Darth Plagueis

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Posted on : 2/04/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

George Lucas has spawned many lifetimes worth of creative creations with his Star Wars movies.  By Internet count, there have been roughly 131 books written about the Star Wars universe.

My first encounter with those books a couple decades ago was with "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" written by Alan Dean Foster.  This was the first book produced for the expanded Star Wars universe.

Fans of the movies will recall then Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (aka Sith Lord, Darth Sideous) tempting young Anakin Skywalker with the power to save people from death.  This knowledge being originally derived by Darth Plagueis, the Wise.  Naturally, there isn't enough time in the movies to explore the story of Darth Plagueis...and his supposed wisdom.

And thus we explore this part of the larger story in a book written by James Luceno.

"Darth Plagueis" is really two stories.  The first story being that of Darth Plagueis and his twin life as galactic financier and Sith lord.  In public he is Hego Damask; an influential Muun among the International Banking Clans.  In private he is a Sith Lord who seeks to achieve the longstanding Sith plan to take control of the Republic.

The second story is that of young Palpatine; who adopted the mononym as a stylish reference to his influential family of Naboo.  It is quite a coincidence that the future Emperor Palpatine and mother of the future Darth Vader are from the same planet.  What else are books good for if not for the odd coincidence. 

Hego Damask recruits young Palpatine to become his Sith apprentice.  The two then work together to foment crisis after crisis to maneuver supporters and opponents each in the proper relative direction to place Palpatine first as an ambassador for Naboo, then a Senator, and then penultimately as the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic.

Along the way, Damask conducts all manner of dark research into the domination and use of the midi-chlorians to not only enhance life, but to fully resurrect the recently deceased with the dark side of the Force.  The results of these studies are eventually discovered by Palpatine as well.

The close of "Darth Plagueis" corresponds quite closely with the "Episode I: The Phantom Menace".  It fills in a great many lingering questions about the events that we have all come to know from Mr. Lucas' movies.

While I wasn't terribly taken with "Darth Plagueis" for the first few chapters, it eventually grew on me.  For a Star Wars fan, this book is an excellent read.  For those that are less inclined towards science fiction, perhaps not so much.

  

I Am Wrong. I Know It. And...

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Posted on : 2/03/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

...I don't care.

I use two spaces after every period.  That practice is not in compliance with the leading intellectual thoughts on style.  It bothers some folks.  Fortunately, they are few in number.

Working As Intended

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Posted on : 2/02/2013 07:00:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

Anyone with a modicum of American civics and history education knows that our President is selected via process that is known as the Electoral College.  Votes for President are in reality votes for electors that will represent a given state when the College meets in the weeks following the election.

But why use an intermediary organization?

At the time of our nation's founding, there was a concern that a candidate with regional appeal would be able to garner enough votes from a few populous states to win in a straight popularity election.  The use of the Electoral College was intended to cause candidates to campaign more broadly in order to demonstrate their appeal to a greater cross section of the electorate.

While there are those that suggest that the 2000 election was a fluke, I strongly contend that it was proof that the Electoral College system was functioning as intended.  While Mr. Gore did receive more popular votes, he failed to win enough electoral votes to win the presidency.  A look at the county-by-county map from that election clearly shows Mr. Gore as appealing almost uniformly to a select group of urban centers.

Of course, let's be honest with one another.  The closeness of that election clearly indicates that Mr. Bush could have done more to broaden his support among voters.  It was a close election after all.

In the wake of the 2000 election, we were treated to all manner of leftish initiatives to abolish the Electoral College in favor of using the popular vote.  Apparently, they could not conceive of a condition where a Democrat might beat a Republican in the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.

More recently, there has been the news of GOP initiatives in a few states to change the state election laws to split those electoral votes based on voting trends within the respective congressional districts.  The theory is that this change will make the GOP more competitive in future Presidential elections.  It is based on looking backwards at the 2012 election where Mr. Obama won a number of crucial "winner takes all" states by very narrow margins.

These current initiatives are as idiotic as the prior attempts to convert us to using the popular vote.  In fact, they are nothing more than an attempt to move us partially down the road to using the popular vote.  Apparently, today's GOP cannot conceive of a condition where a Republican could lose to a Democrat under their proposed distribution of electoral votes where they might win under the current "winner takes all" system used in most states.

That last item is pretty important.

There have been all manner of hyperbolic claims about the GOP "rigging" future elections or "stealing" future elections with these proposals to alter the distribution of electoral votes.

Bullshit.

Excuse the language, please.

Nebraska and Maine currently use a proportional distribution of their electoral votes and have done so for years.  The Constitution permits states to determine how their electoral votes will be distributed.  The current "winner takes all" approach that is used in most states is legitimate only because it represents the current election laws of those states.  Those state legislatures can legitimately decide to use some different system at any time.

Again, let's be honest with one another.  America is significantly divided.  Dense urban centers and many of the surrounding suburbs support Democrats almost exclusively.  Less dense urban centers, associated suburbs, and rural American support Republicans almost exclusively.  These two groups have decisively different views about the role of government in our lives.  Until that difference of opinion gets resolved, I do not see our political tensions as abating any time soon.

But as long as actions taken by either side are kept within the law, charges of "rigging" or "stealing" elections are entirely out of place.