Fun with the boss

Just when you thought your boss was a definite impediment to progress, here's one that will make you say, "yep...I work for that guy". Let me preface this miscellaneous rant by stating that in addition to all the other headaches I have at my job, I'm also the safety officer, which among other things means I have to administer our general office safety training. Those sessions, I scheduled, company-wide, for today and tomorrow.

Well the first part of the fun is a video. Problem is that my boss took the VCR a few weeks ago for some totally unknown personal reason and just never bothered to return it. I found this convenient little bit out about 20 minutes before training. I am so pleased.

I love doing this crap anyway, so please make it more difficult, I beg of you. I just copied him on the e-mail that I sent out informing everybody that since the VCR was "not on site", training would be rescheduled for Monday, the 7th. I get a ha ha mea cupla in return. Thanks.

Think he can manage to get it here by tomorrow? Probably not.

The Texas Lege & The Texas Lobby

For those of you who don't reside in Texas, consider this your crash course in Texas Government. Our legislature, operates under the "biennial system", convening its regular session beginning at noon on the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years. A regular session may not exceed 140 days, but for specific unfinished issues, the Governor has the authority, under the state constitution, to convene the legislature at other times during the biennium. These Special Sessions are limited to a period of 30 days each, during which the legislature is permitted to pass laws only on subjects submitted by the Governor in calling for the session. Our folks aren't up there long enough to do too much damage in any given session.

In short: the Federal Government could learn a lot from this model.

What it appears that Texas has learned from the guys in DC, unfortunately, is the art of the lobby. I came across some interesting facts regarding lobbyists in the 2003 Texas Legislative Session, and the numbers are pretty astounding. There were 1,621 registered lobbyists representing 2,187 interests. Given that there are only 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives and 31 members of the Texas Senate, that figures to roughly 9 lobbyists per legislator. Sound absurd? Check out the dollars. Total lobbyist compensation came out to about $185 million, equaling $1,021,644 per legislator.

Oh, I forgot to add that members of the Texas Legislature, all the way up to the Lieutenant Governor, make $7,200 per year. No that isn't' a typo, that is seven thousand two hundred dollars. They receive per diem and mileage while in session, but $600 per month is the rate of pay.

If money is power folks, if there was ever any doubt, now you know who has the power.

Karma Lesson

Today’s story demonstrating the age-old concept of "you get what you give" comes to us from Iraq. I’ll summarize for those of you who don’t click links. A Marine convoy came upon a little girl in the middle of the road holding a teddy bear. She wouldn’t move for them. The Marines started to go around her. One of the Marines recognized the girl, because he had given her the bear. He stopped the convoy and got out to talk to her. She then showed the Marine what she had been blocking: a mine that had been placed in the roadway. Payback isn’t always a bitch, despite what some of us have learned.

There’s a lot of blather about how we’re creating the next generation of terrorists by being in Iraq. Looks to me like we’re also helping create the next generation of heroes.

H/t Blackfive.


Friday’s Free Form Hostility

I’m really spectacularly sick of loser liberals saying anybody who wants their taxes cut is just greedy and selfish. After all, government is necessary and someone has to pay for it and you shouldn’t object to paying your fair share and blah, blah, blah, blah. I got one simple answer for this line of thinking: Shut the fuck up.

Why? Because all of you people have your collective head up your fat flabby ass. The government we have is not worth what we’re paying for it.

You’re goddamned right I’m tired of paying taxes. I’ve been paying taxes all my fucking life and what has it gotten me? Not a whole fucking hell of a lot. Let’s run down the list, shall we? I pay for dumb-ass cops that think filling out an accident report is a waste of their fucking time. I pay for school systems that can’t even teach kids to speak fucking English, much less read or write it. I pay for city governments that are so goddamned incompetent they can’t even implement a traffic program without the state banning it or somebody suing the crap out of the city. I pay taxes to a state that can’t seem to figure out how to pay for schools but has no problem running a lottery. I pay taxes so state workers can opt out of Social Security and get better pensions than I can. I pay my property taxes so elected officials can collude with appraisal districts to get sweetheart deals on property appraisals. I pay money so school districts can admit they raise taxes instead of trying to find efficiencies and eliminate waste. And the feds? I can pay somebody a decent salary for a year with what we pay in federal taxes. What did that get me? It got me and all the rest of you fuckers Leviathan. It got me a system where people have to go to court so states won’t condemn their homes to build a business park. It got me a government that is the largest employer in the country. It got me a system where half the fucking people in this country don’t pay for the government. It got me a handful of promises to old people that will bankrupt the country. It got me a bunch of unelected dimwits that sit in office buildings in DC that think they know how everybody else should be living their life. It got me a government that can’t even manage to secure the borders, then gives me cops that won’t enforce the immigration laws. It got me a class of professional parasites who exist to make sure that somebody gets more of the money getting handing out. It got me a legal system so arcanely complex that nobody can say with certainty at any time if they are or are not violating the law. It got me a justice system that would rather put people in jail for selling bongs than try to catch violent criminals.

What did I get for my money? I got a system that functions poorly when it functions at all. I’m supposed to want to pay for it? Guess again, Sparky. Yeah, I want my taxes cut. Hell, I want a refund.

Suburban What?

Before I light things up and launch into today’s tirade, I’m going to digress a little bit and try to whack some sense into someone. Susan at Suburban Guerrilla claims to be doing “something a little like journalism.” Well, if you consider finding a bunch of poorly sourced and unverifiable statements and linking then with half-assed speculation journalism, you’re doing journalism all right. What the hell, it works for CBS, right? Oh, yeah, you link to a reprint of their story with a new headline. So you must think CBS is journalism.

Susan’s main point seems to be that more people are coming back from Iraq injured or killed than the “official” casualty statistics show. It’s obviously a huge cover-up or conspiracy and the military is lying to us all! Having read her post and the comments, I can without exception say that none of these people have a fucking clue what they’re talking about.

Here’s a little lesson on how the military looks at things. There are four relevant categories involved in this discussion: Killed In Action, Wounded In Action, Missing In Action, and all others. The first three categories are what the military considers combat casualties. The key there is the phrase “In Action”. This is generally interpreted to mean “in conflict with an armed enemy”. In other words, if people weren’t shooting at you when the bad thing happened, you are not a combat casualty. The numbers for combat casualties are going to be much lower than the overall numbers for casualties in Iraq. This is not a conspiracy. It’s just the way the statistics are defined. You can argue about the way the statistics are reported and what the important numbers are, but it’s not a conspiracy to underreport casualties. Are the overall casualty numbers the important ones? I dunno. Some of the wider casualty numbers undoubtedly are relevant to the larger discussion. Some undoubtedly aren’t. Short of parsing through every single casualty report that comes out of Iraq, it’s impossible to tell. So what happens? The military reports the rough cut by using the combat casualty numbers. Not perfect, but arguably a worthwhile system given the constraints we all operate under.

Susan also seems to think that the military is relatively risk-free aside from people shooting at you. This is most emphatically not the case. As anecdotal evidence, I offer my experience from the 82d Airborne Division in the early 90s. We were promised a 3-day weekend if the division went 82 days without a casualty. We never got one. In peacetime, the 82d cannot go 3 months without someone dying. Think about that for a second. An organization of 15,000 people can’t make it throughout a year without a minimum of 4 deaths. The training tempo was not absolutely furious back then, either. Similarly, does anybody remember the first guy that died during Operation Desert Shield? I do. He was an Air Force Staff Sergeant who got crushed when they were unloading planes. This was about 36 hours into Desert Shield, if my memory serves. This does not count the vast array of injuries short of death that occur on a frighteningly regular basis. The military is a dangerous job and people get killed. Is the fact that a soldier died in Iraq something that matters if he wasn’t shot? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe he would have been in a similar situation in training and died back in the world.

Part of the problem is the nature of the beast. The vast majority of the military is males under the age of 25. This is not a demographic known for sober considered reflection of the risks of undertaking a particular course of action. Add to the already sketchy judgment of young males the indisputable fact that the military is selecting for the more aggressive and adventurous members of the demographic and you begin to grasp the larger problem faced by the military. The military has one of the largest pools of accident-prone young men in the world. They will do stupid shit that gets them injured or killed on a regular basis, no matter where they are. In a situation like Iraq, there are more opportunities for poor judgement from the youths. Should an episode of fatal stupidity be counted as a cost of Iraq? I don’t think so.

Now that I’ve disposed of the substantive issue, let’s talk about sources. It helps to bolster your argument by not citing people that swipe stories from other websites and change the headlines for greater impact. Susan links here for one of her supporting links. It’s a damn shame CBS News didn’t run it like that. The original story is here. I’ll even cut you some slack for citing the “fake but accurate” news team. The credibility of her other sources is even less. Postings on discussion boards? Not buying it as primary source material, sorry. Speculation by advocacy groups that have no hard numbers to back them up isn’t very useful, nor are op-ed pieces exactly what I’m looking for in that regard. If you want to say the numbers are wrong, get some sources that are credible. Don't sit there and whine that you don't like the way the numbers are reported unless you have a clue what the numbers really are and how they should be reported.

I have a few other issues. The CNN story? Doesn’t buttress your argument. In fact, it works against it by showing that DOD is trying to get the numbers right and is checking them to make sure they are. The whole section about journalists? Not relevant to the discussion, sorry.

At this rate, you're not even qualifying as a Suburban Nuisance, much less Guerrilla. You might want to start reading Che, Mao and Kwame instead of the sources you're currently reading. They'll at least give you some insight into "Guerrilla" since you don't have any insight into anything else.

Romance Novels I Might Actually Read...

This will make you laugh. OK, maybe not. It made me laugh.

Survey Says…

I participate in an email survey from Zogby on politics. They just sent me the latest one. In amongst the questions was this zinger. Which of the following would you vote for in a Republican primary for President?

Bill Frist
George Allen
Mitt Romney
John McCain
Rudy Giuliani
George Pataki
Chuck Hagel
Rick Santorum

Of course, our old friends “Other/Not sure” and “None” were included. Man, put me down for one of those two. I’d just like to say that if this is the early handicapping, the efenants need to get busy grooming some candidates. What an uninspiring list of choices that is.


Libertarians, Republicans, and Effectiveness

Well, CPAC just happened, and Ryan Sager and Ramesh Ponnuru are going back and forth about the extent to which libertarians are welcome in the new, improved, dominant GOP. (Instapundit has a nice round-up here.) This prompted some thoughts by Randy Barnett on the problems engendered by the rise of the Libertarian Party. This is an external version of an internal dialogue that I have been having for some time.

First off, the Libertarian Party is politically functionally irrelevant. Yes, the LP is the longest going third party that actually puts candidates on ballots, &c, &c. I know all the talking points, okay? However, the candidates come off as lunatics to most people and nobody ever gets elected. The Cato Institute does more for libertarians than the party because people actually pay attention to Cato. The LP is dismissed out of hand as a collection of freaks. Like it or not, that’s just how it is.

This leads to the next problem. To be politically effective in this country, you are going to be a Democrat or a Republican. Yes, third party candidates occasionally win locally. They are not significant on a national level, and please don’t throw up the example of Ross Perot. Perot’s success, in terms of spoiling the election, came about because he spent a gizbillion dollars of his own money. (see also: Corzine, Jon) Any candidate lacking those financial resources (read: every LP candidate that’s ever run) is not significant. Because of the nature of the American electoral system, broad-based coalitions are the only real way to win.

Having said that, to be politically effective as a libertarian, you have to join up with one of the two big parties. What’s the problem? Well, the donks and the efenants give a lot of us wacko libertarian types the heebie-jeebies. Bluntly put, libertarians are either too idealistic or too politically naïve to compromise enough to join the major parties. Here, by join, I don’t mean vote. I mean actively participate in the organizations and attempt to influence policy from within. Aside from the anomalies like the Republican Liberty Caucus, libertarians simply don’t do this. It becomes a question of holding your nose (and tongue) long enough to do some good. It seems that most libertarians would rather remain ideologically pure and argue amongst themselves about who is really libertarian and who isn’t than actually accomplish anything.

Now, Jon Henke over at Q&O has the idea that libertarians have to make common cause with moderates to save the GOP from the social conservatives or else it’s “the end of libertarianism as an important constituency in US politics”. First off, you have to convince enough libertarians to join the party and barring some great advance in the art of cat herding, I just don't see that happening. However, his statement begs the question as to whether or not libertarianism is an important constituency. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. I think it is an important strain of political thought, but simply doesn’t appeal to enough people to be important at election time. I also don’t think his analysis includes the possibility that the donks will refashion their party into something acceptable to libertarians. Seeing as how the donks are currently headed for a meltdown of epic proportions, what will come after the crash has to be considered, even if we can’t accurately predict what it will be yet.

This is essentially the same debate I’ve been having with myself for years. Do I just suck it up and deal with the efenants? Or resign myself to having my political positions marginalized? Lately, though, the efenants have been behaving distastefully since they have completely forgotten the concept of limited government and fiscal discipline. Ick. It’s enough to drive one to drink, not like that it's ever a long drive for me. So I’m going to go home and do just that.

Update: Randy Barnett continues his thinking here. It seems that he and the person he quotes favor the approach taken by the Republican Liberty Caucus. I dimly recall that such an organization exists for donks as well, but have no clue what it might be called.

Quiz Time!

I like quizzes! Frank J. has one. Even though it's sadly not multiple choice, I think I can do well, so here goes.

1. Who the hell do you think you are?
What’s it to you, bitch?

2. So, other than blogging, what's your job? Do you work at some fast food joint, dumbass?
No, I design equipment to get the petroleum that goes in the fast food. It’s all about the OOOIIL, bay-bee!

3. Do you have like any experience in journalism, idiot?
No, I went and got real degrees that require me to have actual skills besides making shit up.

4. Do you even read newspapers?
Sure. How else do I know who I should be mocking?

5. Do you watch any other news than FOX News propaganda, you ignorant fool?
Does X-Play count?

6. I bet you're some moron talk radio listener too, huh?
Well, I listen to Pacifica occasionally, which pretty much defines “moron talk radio” around here.

7. So, do you get a fax from the GOP each day for what to say, you @#$% Republican parrot?
No, but I think J does and just whispers the talking points to me while I sleep.

8. Why do you and your blogger friends want to silence and fire everyone who disagrees with you, fascist?
I don’t have any friends. Seeing as how I think I should run the world, silencing and firing everyone who disagrees with me (which on this topic is everyone, even J) will move me that much closer to my goal. Then all y’all will really be screwed.

9. Are you completely ignorant of other countries, or do you actually own a passport?
Other countries suck. Why would I want to visit them when I can buy all of their worthwhile products here? Besides, passports are just another tool of the one-world government types to track your movements and enable surveillance from the UN.

10. Have you even been to another country, you dumb hick?
Only Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Mexico. They’re all pretty much the same: dirty, smelly, and filled with short black-haired people whom only occasionally consent to speak English at me.

11. If you're so keen on the war, why haven't you signed up, chickenhawk?
Because I went to the Gulf the last time. Why hog all the fun? Let somebody else have a try.

12. Do you have any idea of the horrors of war? Have you ever reached into a pile of goo that was your best friend's face?
Yes. No.

13. Have you ever reached into any pile of goo?
I have a dog, a hedgehog, a turtle and three fish. Goo pretty much comes with the territory.

14. Once again, who the hell do you think you are?!
An attitude problem with access to the Internet. Again, what’s it to you?


Interesting Wonk Reading

I realize that someone has to keep track of the vast array of treaties and obligations the United States has entered into with other nations. What I did not realize was the listing of the agreements was available online. The State Department keeps track of all the crap we agreed to at some point. It's a phenomenal amount of stuff. Just the listing of bilateral treaties with the UK alone takes up 11 pages. On the plus side, treaties with UN itself only take up about a page. We have more agreements with Uruguay than with the UN. (Can you tell I was looking at the 'U' section?) Personally, I think that's a good thing.

Thanks to CoolGov for the link.

Random Book Related Babbling

Substantive commentary? Nope, none for me today, thanks. I’m just going to natter randomly about some odds and ends.

I finally got finished with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell last week. I highly recommend it. However, the book is very English and very long. It’s a book I would consider previewing. Read a bit and see if the style is something that you can read for 800 pages. It does get a bit thick at times, and the extensive footnotes add a bizarre air of verisimilitude to the proceedings. Fun stuff, though. Furthermore, the book is entirely self-contained. While Ms. Clarke may write a sequel at some point, the story certainly does not demand one. A stand-alone novel of such complexity is rare in the fantasy genre and should be rewarded.

Reading Strange & Norrell also reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I have only the haziest sense of the minor geography of Great Britain. I know roughly where London is and the larger, older subdivisions like Wales, Scotland and Cornwall are. However, Ms. Clarke’s novel deals with many specific aspects of British geography that baffled me entirely. I need to get a better idea of the geography. It comes up often in my readings and I just don’t have a clue.

I also have somewhere a history of London I haven’t finished reading. I think it’s packed away now, so I’ll have to wait. I need to work on the books that are on the shelf currently. I have a backlog now which I will never get finished if I keep playing Halo 2.

Speaking of the backlog, here’s what’s I’m actively reading as opposed to piling on my night stand:

Saying Yes: while interesting for the history of drug prohibition, I’m having problems staying interested. I think this is mainly because I was already convinced.

How to Talk to a Liberal: Typical Ann Coulter. Outrageous, irreverent, deliberately incendiary. She has a talent for vicious pithy comments that are pretty damn funny.

Hard America, Soft America: Any model that breaks something as complex as society down into one dimension is going to have problems. Having said that, it is useful as an explanatory tool and an additional way of looking at organizations and the thinking they shape.

Deadhouse Gates: Just started this one. I have high hopes. The first book was excellent, so I’m hoping this lives up to the hype.

And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the book that makes me giggle every time I look at the back cover: Nigger. The back of the dust jacket has the usual celebratory quotes with a heading at the top reading “Praise For Nigger”. I freely admit this strikes me as comical.

Soon I will finish one of these and be able to start something else. I'm thinking either Nigger or Hard America, Soft America. They're both fairly short.


Belated Epiphany

So someone writing for the American Prospect has finally found a clue. How nice. Too bad other people aren'’t quite paying attention. Mr. Tomasky thinks one of the issues facing the donks is lack of any coherent philosophy.

Gee, did you come up with this all by yourself? It'’s hard to form a coherent philosophy around “"government should give you stuff"”. I have remarked to J on occasion that the only ideas being generated come out of the conservative and libertarian sides of American politics. Liberals in general and donks in particular have nothing to offer except the tired failures of socialism and the endless tweaking of poorly thought out programs in a desire to achieve some utopian end state. Instead, donks have an endless debate about which segment of the population they’'re going to put the screws to in order to pay off some other segment. There is never an underlying idea on the order of “"government is a necessary evil that should be tightly constrained and carefully monitored"”. The failures of big government are always in the execution of what is a noble idea. It’'s never the underlying premise that'’s flawed, always the manner in which the idea was expressed. The donks and the left have yet to examine any of the philosophical underpinnings for any of their pet programs, like "“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs!”" Or is there some other philosophical basis for the vast array of federal entitlements and transfer mechanisms? Somebody please explain it to me if there is.

So, yes, donks are pretty much reduced to talking about tactics and strategy. How else do they convince people that the same stupid ideas that have failed miserably everywhere they'’ve been tried will work here? You'’re not going to have a real philosophy until you come up with some real ideas.

Of course, the piece has prompted some other commentary and rebuttal. Yet in all the blather, I have yet to hear a clear statement of philosophy or even a core belief from a donk. It's all crap about health care and social security and program-based nonsense. There's still no coherent end for all of the means being tossed around.

Happy Fun Link

From the nice people at NRO's Corner comes this link. I have no idea what this is about, but you can bounce the poor schmuck you hit quite far. I got him up to 939.48 meters. The trick is to land him on more little girls who will then kick him further along.

Have I mentioned lately that I find Japanese pop culture oddly fascinating? With emphasis on the odd?

Free Mojtaba, Free Arash, Free them all!

Today is "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day" on behalf of Arash Sigarchi (yes I know the link is broken) and Mojtaba Saminejad, who were arrested by the Iranian authorities for...well...blogging. Yes, they were arrested for blogging, and, sadly, today, Arash Sigarchi has been "convicted" and sentenced to 14 years in prison...for blogging. Yep...just blogging.

It seems like a coin toss may be the easiest means to decide who we hit next, Iran or Syria...both have it coming. Events like this further exemplify to me the lack of credibility of idiots like Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand, and Susan Sarandon who constantly whine (on TV, the internet, and in newspapers) about the suppression of free speech in America. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the true, ugly, face of oppression.

Snake Noises

Well, as it’'s a hot topic currently, expect to hear more hissing as we continue to discuss Social Security. Today’'s link is to an article by Gary Becker.

His point is privatizing retirement accounts reduces the amount of fiscal chicanery the government can engage in with the funds. This is a strong case for privatization in and of itself, absent any other reasons. The financial picture of the federal government is deliberately distorted by the effects of the additional income from SS taxes. Removing the money from the general ledger will lead to a more accurate picture of the budget. Surely that’'s a good thing, right? I would think everyone wants the budget numbers to be as accurate as possible.

Of course, the ugly truth is that nobody wants to fix SS because they don'’t have to fix it yet. The system can limp along for a few more years before it becomes too critical to ignore. Then, it will simply cost more money to fix the failing vestiges of socialism. After all, it'’s federal money, not real money. So what if it costs a few more billion to fix? It's not like anybody in Congress is covering the checks. They're relying on all of us to pay up to fix the failures of the past 60 years.

On a related note, this is why certain Senators piss me off when they start talking about long-term problems like SS. In particular, Robert Byrd (D-KKK), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Ted Kennedy (D-runk), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Joe Biden (D-DE), Pete Domenici (R-NM), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) all need to have a nice hot cup of STFU on the issue. They've all been in the Senate for better than 30 years. Hell, crazy old Robert Byrd has been in the Senate since before my father could vote. They've had ample opportunity to bring up fixing long-term structural problems in entitlement programs. At this point, they are most emphatically part of the fucking problem, in addition to being walking arguments for term limits.


Support the Troops: Send 'em hate mail

Alas, we have another fine example of the complete dreck that is coming out of our public schools system. Hate like this is learned, apparently in the public schools, and I would be interested to hear more about the teachers.

Meanwhile, KipEsquire sums it up nicely.


Friday Musical Commentary

I am desperately trying to avoid work for the last hour. My head hurts and I find it hard to think coherently about engineering. When you check the same drawing three times and keep finding mistakes you'’ve missed, it'’s time to give it up for the day. So I’'m going to blog about recent CDs, instead.

I just picked up Massive Attack Blue Lines off Amazon. I already had Mezzanine and 100th Window, so I thought I would go backwards. It'’s an interesting listen. I don'’t like it as much as I like the other two, but the roots of the later albums are definitely present. If you really like Massive Attack, it’'s worth a listen. It’'s also interesting because Tricky is on the album and some of what will become his style (especially on Maxinquaye) is apparent on Blue Lines.

I got Lords of Acid Farstucker when J and I were out for our Valentine’s dinner. Eh. They peaked on Voodoo-U and Our Little Secret. Farstucker has some good tracks, some junk, but overall not a particularly strong album. I think the songwriting was better when Jade4U was more involved. Oh well. I don’'t expect to see another album from them, so I guess I don'’t have to worry about ignoring it.

I got Papa Roach Getting Away With Murder a few weeks ago at Best Buy. It’'s like the vast majority of albums released these days. Three decent songs and filler tracks that should have been left on the cutting room floor. I’'d recommend downloading the wheat and skipping the chaff. Overall, not worth the 12 bucks. Definitely an argument for track purchase off Napster or iTunes if ever there was one.

On that note, I am leaving my job to go home and sit on the couch with J. She's better company than any of these losers will ever be.

Statist Propaganda

We’re getting a lot more movie watching done lately. The television consumption has dropped somewhat in favor of DVDs from Netflix. Last night’s film was Hero with Jet Li. Overall, a pretty good flick. The cinematography was simply stunning. I would have liked to have seen it on the big screen. It has some shots that would be impressive as hell on something larger than a 27-inch. Lots of good martial arts, an interesting plot, and great visuals. I suppose if it was in English instead of subtitled that would be better.

The only thing that creeped me out was the implicit message the film conveyed. The subtext I took away was that everything must be subordinated to the goal of a harmonious state. If that isn’t a classically Chinese cultural thought, I’m not sure what would be. However, coming out of a country with the socialist history of China, it gets exceptionally creepy. Everything must be subordinated to the needs of the state, the hungry ghosts be damned. Not surprising, but still off-putting. Nothing like beautifully presented propaganda to watch in the evening, I guess. Still, a fun flick and worth watching if you can handle the propaganda at the end.

Good Job

I will be among the first to bitch about the shortcomings of my elected officials when they do something I consider idiotic, malfeasant, or incompetent. I rarely, however, mention when they do things right. It’s a hard fact of life that every job comes with certain expectations. You rarely get praised for meeting the basic expectations of the job. I’m willing to make an exception today, simply because it’s so rare.

Sen. Cornyn, my better senator, has proposed, along with Sen. Leahy, an act to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and make the government more responsive and open to FOIA requests. This is a great idea. I don’t think much of what the Congress legislates about is necessary or proper, but this act is both. The oversight of the government is indisputably a subject for Congressional action. This act is moving the government in the right direction.

The older I get, the more I feel that transparency is the ideal for government bodies. Anything that promotes the maximum feasible amount of transparency is a good thing. Having said that, the actual text and provisions may not be as good as the press release makes it out to be. There is also the possibility that it will get horribly mutilated during the process. However, as described, it’s a good start. Sen. Cornyn has done a good job with this one.

Boomer Love

Well, somebody is feeling the love at tax time. To quote:
The baby boomers will suck every last dollar out of the entire system and leave the next generation JACK. Thanks, boomers! Fucking it up for everybody since the 1950s! Love ya!!
I've noticed that people in my generation have little or no love for the Baby Boomers. I think it'’s because we'’re the generation that got handed the broken pieces of everything the boomers managed to fuck up. Now that the boomers are actually running things, they'’re just making bigger messes to hand off.

Of course, since I just finished our taxes and mailed them out, I’'m a little bitter today, too. I try to cope by imagining our taxes paid the salary of some E-4 for the year. If I didn'’t think that, my head would probably explode.

Speaking of taxes and the boomers, here's a fun exercise from the Chain Gang at Instapunk. The only way to deal with some upcoming issues (i.e. Medicare and Social Security) is to start cutting now. P. J. O'Rourke made a rough cut at this a few years back in Parliament of Whores. I may dig it out and see if his suggestions still work.


Arizona proposes Imprisonment for Illegals...In Mexico

This is one of the more interesting proposals I have read lately. Admittedly, I have absolutely no idea how it would work, or even if the "Aztlan" hungry Mexican government would allow it. Of course we could sanction them for their failure to do so.

Hmmm...so many possibilities...

“Sod Off, Swampy.”

Well, I am back from my wonderful trip to the outer wilds of Texas. I hate business travel. It's among my least favorite things, in part because of the places I get to go. They're not generally very interesting.

What is interesting is a report from London. Greenpeace tried to interrupt the daily workings of the International Petroleum Exchange. In response, the traders at the IPE beat the crap out of the Greenpeace protesters. I have to laugh. Why do the Greenpeace idjits think people will respond nicely to an invasion of their workplace? Think about where you work. Would you have a problem if people came into the place and started blowing air horns and making as much noise as possible? Strangely, the Greenpeace folks didn't consider that issue. I'm guessing they also didn't consider the fact that traders work on commission. No trade, no paycheck. Somebody comes in and actively interferes with my paycheck, I'm liable to get a tad grumpy.

I'm also a little confused by most protests anymore. What exactly was the intended point of the exercise? To piss off the people at the IPE? I'm thinking that is the extent of Greenpeace's accomplishment. All things considered, pissing off the floor traders appears to have been a bad idea. Maybe reconsidering the goals and the possibility of achieving them should be in order over at Greenpeace before they try something like this again.


Assorted Stuff for the Day

Okay, I don’t have a whole lot of time today. I’m leaving on business trip to the middle of nowhere (Cleburne, Texas) so I’m just going to post a couple of quick links to interesting news items.

First up, via Blackfive, is the story of an Army Captain who had his foot blown off in Iraq. He’s going back with 3d ACR as Commander of RHHT. I have an enormous amount of respect for this man. He has taken what is arguably the path of most resistance moving forward from his injury. Brave rifles!

Next up is commentary on Ward Churchill form a professor at the same university. Gee, academia apparently is as bad as some of us suspect. There’s a shock.

Finally, an article on the weird social stigma that attaches to being unmarried past a certain point. The article thinks the cutoff point is the mid-30s for women and the early 40s for men. I call bullshit. By the time you hit thirty, if you’ve never been married and aren’t in a relationship, you’re a freak. People will assume you’re either gay or have some other personal problem.


From the "Duh" Files...

Orrin Judd linked to an article by some flip-top about the differences between the US and Canada. The headline gives his answer away: "U.S. is better than Canada".

Umm, yeah, and your point would be? I'm not slamming Canada here. (Well, not much anyway.) If Canada is so wonderful, why do so many Canadians end up here in the States looking for work? Most of them find it, too, at substantially higher wages. For as long as I can remember, Canadian national identity seems to have been subsumed into a sort of vague anti-Americanism along the lines of "We're Canadian because we're not American!" Which, while true, is not what I'd call informative. I lump Canadians into the vast majority of the rest of the world when it comes to this issue. Other countries have many desirable features and assets. However, taken in the aggregate, the US is the has the best combination of advantages and the least worst liabilities. Apparently, a whole bunch of other people seem to think so, since people keep coming here.

Oh, It’s Policy

I’ve always been confused as to why Palestinians are still living in refugee camps 50 years after the creation of Israel. It’s just me, but I would think at some point you would want to go find a job and a house and get on with your life. Instead, the Pals stick around in UN-administered camps for some unfathomable reason. Well, I guess it’s fathomable after all:
But press reports said Palestinians living in the Kingdom would be barred as the Arab League has instructed that Palestinians living in Arab countries should not be given citizenship to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.
So not only are they stuck in the camps, the other Arabs won’t let them leave. Sweet. I guess nobody likes a troublemaker, huh?

H/t to Laurence Simon.


Defining Torture Downwards

There is a problem going on with the ongoing investigations into the abuse of detainees being held by the US military. The problem is definitional and is being engaged in by people of all stripes. The definition of torture is a moving target. Bleeding heart human rights activists are trying to define torture downwards so that anything ruder than using a harsh tone of voice when speaking to detainees is forbidden. Power-mad jingoistic warmongers are trying to revise the definition upwards so that as long as you don’t kill the prisoner by accident, you’re okay. This is a very real problem and one that will be hashed out in a court of law at some point. We, as a culture and as the overseers of our government, need to be clear about what boundaries we’re willing to cross and to what lengths we are comfortable asking our soldiers to go in prosecuting the war on terrorism.

Having said that, this is one of the most sanctimonious pieces of dreck I’ve read in a long time. I respect Mr. Carter’s opinions on many matters, but on this particular situation, he’s got no case. To quote from the article he’s commenting on:
The prisoners have told their lawyers, who compiled the accounts, that female interrogators regularly violated Muslim taboos about sex and contact with women.
This is losing the moral high ground? Try again, please. I don’t really care what prisoners’ religious taboos are. These are men whose religious beliefs lead them to slaughter innocents in an attempt to impose Sharia law on the world and make us all second-class citizens. Walking around in front of them in a tight t-shirt is morally suspect? Are you even listening to yourself, Mr. Carter? This is, while of questionable utility, completely harmless. So is smearing dye on someone, no matter what the smearee thinks it might be. The only thing in this article that might (repeat, might) even rise to the level of possible misconduct is the “touching provocatively”. I need to have a little more detail before I’m going to rule on that one either way. You want to make the case that torture undermines our ability to successfully win the war on terror, I’m all for hearing that argument.

However, the described behavior is not torture. It doesn’t even come close. Close, hell, it’s not even in the same zip code as torture. Don’t let your indignation and outrage at real offenses lead you to condemn imaginary ones.

Why I Don’t Watch CNN

Blackfive asked for commentary about Eason Jordan standing up in Davos and making CNN look like a bigger propaganda mill than it already does. Well, the first comment I have is that it’s a pretty good trick. You have to hand him some kind of prize for making CNN even less credible. I mean, after “Nerve Gas in Vietnam” who didn’t know CNN was biased against the military?

Mr. Jordan has made statements indicating he believes the US military is targeting journalists. Or that journalists die in war zones, and somehow, it’s all the US military’s fault. Or the US military is to blame when he can’t find his socks, has bad breath, or shoots his mouth off and looks like an asshat. I’ve kind of lost track of what information or point he claims he was actually trying to convey, what with all the backing and filling. A tape or a transcript would be helpful, but strangely, CNN can’t seem to procure one because the nice people in Davos won’t release it. Wow. That’s a hell of a newsgathering organization you’ve got there, sparky. You can’t manage to drum up tapes or transcripts from an event your managing editor attended. Can you guys actually gather news, or do you have to rely on being fed propaganda by dictators to have things to broadcast?

I agree completely that Mr. Jordan should be fired, but I’ve thought that for several years. When the story came out that CNN sucked up to Saddam’s regime for access, he should have been fired. The pathetic and wormy excuses he made about needing access were a stunning display of the complete lack of integrity over at CNN. Why should we be surprised at anything that happens in Atlanta now? So Mr. Jordan got up on stage and lied about the military. What does that matter to CNN? A corporation that refused to report things to protect access is going to grow some ethics and standards all of a sudden? If I ran a news organization, I would sure as hell fire my people for making unsubstantiated accusations in a public forum while representing the company. I guess the standards CNN has for journalism these days are a little more lax than mine are.

Honestly, though, I can’t say whatever happens to Mr. Jordan will matter in the larger scheme of things. Should he be fired? Yes, for a variety of reasons. Will that make a difference in CNN’s coverage? No. He’s symptomatic of the larger issue. The problems with media bias are systemic. Firing him won’t change a journalism culture that feels social change, activism, and advocacy are at least as, if not more, important than accurate reporting. When the primary, secondary, and tertiary motivations of journalists return to reporting the best factual data available, maybe something will change. Until then, firing Eason Jordan will only make the other weasels slicker and harder to catch.


Dead = Irrelevant

So people have been digging in the archives of old FDR speeches to bolster their arguments on Social Security reform. Other people, like those here, are trying to parse the exact meaning of what FDR said in 1935 to prove their argument.How can I best put this?


Good God, people. I haven’t seen a worse example of an appeal to authority in a looong time. FDR’s opinions on what the proper form of social security should be are not germane to the ongoing policy discussion. I’ll blame everybody on both sides of the aisle who uses this to advocate any specific policy measure. FDR had a limited and mostly incorrect understanding of economics and the economic effects of government policy on the best of days. Why should anybody care what he thought about any economic issue? Even if by some legerdemain we assume he did understand economics, did he accurately predict the demographic trends currently unfolding? Maybe that was in another long-lost seventy year old speech somebody will unearth soon. I’m all for using something substantive as a basis for argument. However, political speeches from 70 years ago don’t exactly qualify.

Let’s think about this in the general sense. I favor some position on policy issue Squeeb. You favor a different position on Squeeb. So in an attempt to bolster my position, I go back and dig up a speech by J. Random Politician about Squeeb from 70 years ago. Old J. Random knew nothing about the various social, political, and economic changes that have come about in the intervening years that affect the Squeeb issue. You then decide to argue your case by saying that J. Random actually meant something else. At what point does the actual issue of Squeeb today enter into the futile parlor discussion we’re having? It doesn’t.

Any public policy proposal should be debated on the merits. Here’s a handy little guide for how to do this.

Step one: Is the problem something the government has a clear and specific Constitutional authority to address? If no, you’re done.

Step two: Is the problem something that can only be successfully addressed by the government? If no, you’re again done.

Step three: What can the government, subject to Constitutional limitations, do to address the problem? Draw up a list of alternatives, including the often-ignored option of doing nothing.

Step four: Evaluate the alternatives. What are the costs? What are the benefits? What possible effects will this alternative have on other things? This is the hard and boring part. Don’t forget to try and quantify things like death and suffering. How much is human life worth? These things have to be addressed, and now is the time.

Step five: Decide, based on your analysis, which option offers the most benefit at the least cost.

After this, you can then go around and present to people the results of your thinking and convince them it’s correct. Get enough of them to agree and you’re through. Did you see in there anywhere a suggestion to demagogue the issue by using dead politicians? No? I wonder why. Maybe because it’s not a good way to argue the case? What FDR or anyone else thought about Social Security in 1935 is completely irrelevant to what should be done today. Tell me what the effects of a particular proposal will be, not what some guy long gone thought about the issue.

Oh, yeah, h/t to Instapundit. Like he needs the traffic.

The Salami Sullying Song

Watch out boys, it could happen to you.

Technology is Your Friend

So for some reason, my PDA stopped synchronizing with my desktop here at work. Since the PDA is not company supplied and we are technically not supposed to use them, I have no support from our IT department. Whee. I guess I didn't need all those notes from yesterday's meeting after all, did I? I live for the day when plug-n-play becomes a reality instead of wishful thinking.

However, in other technology news, ThinkGeek has R/C tracked rovers for sale. They also sell the software so you can control them from the internet, and they sell an add-on camera. The possibilities are endlessly amusing. I need one of these, I think.


Fun Times

As hard of a time as I've been giving this poor lumpy sad wank, I figure the least I could do is hook her up with a link. She linked to us once, actually drove some traffic here, and was even kind enough to dub us with the most endearing term "fuckers". I thought I'd at least share the love.

I like her. She's stupid and easy to mock. It is all the fun of picking on the 'tarded kid, without any of the guilt. I am a little disappointed to find that she removed her picture. It was fun to visit there when I needed a quick little train wreck at which to stare.

More Middle East Madness

On the same day that Ariel Sharon and the newest Abu Radley shake hands and call a "cease fire", the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade fires a rocket into an Israeli settlement. At roughly the same time as this momentous declaration, Islamic leader Ibrahim Mudyris delivered an "official sermon" on one of the Arab television stations encouraging his followers to look forward to the complete occupation of Israel. Some translation of Mudyris' speech can be found here, but I'll reprint his "peaceful" commentary for your reading enjoyment.

"We do not love any land more than the land of Palestine. Had the Jews not expelled us from it with their planes, their tanks, their weapons, their treachery around us, we would never leave you, O Palestine. (Quotes Muhammad, who promised he would return to Mecca as a conqueror).

"We tell you Palestine, we shall return to you, by Allah’s will. We shall return to every village, every town, and every grain of earth which was quenched by the blood of our grandparents and the sweat of our fathers and mothers. We shall return, we shall return. Our willingness to return to the 1967 borders does not mean that we have given up on the land of Palestine. No!

"We ask you: Do we have the right to the 1967 borders? We have the right. Therefore, we shall realize this right with any mean it takes. We might be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1967 borders, but we shall not be able to use diplomacy in order to return to the 1948 borders.

"No one on this earth recognizes [our right to] the 1948 borders [before Israel’s existence]. Therefore, we shall return to the 1967 borders, but it does not mean that we have given up on Jerusalem and Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramla, Natanyah [Al-Zuhour] and Tel Aviv [Tel Al-Rabia]. Never.

"We shall return to every village we had been expelled from, by Allah’s will. Why? All the international laws deny the Palestinians their real borders. We might agree, but in the name of Allah, our grandfathers’ blood demands that we return to them [the borders]. Your fathers' blood was shed there, at the villages, at Ashqelon, at Ashdod, at Hirbia [a village between Gaza and Ashqelon, where Kibbutz Zikim is located today] and at others places, hundreds of villages and towns. [Their blood] demands it from us, and it shall curse anyone who will concede a grain of earth of those villages.

"Our approval to return to the 1967 borders is not a concession for our other rights. No!... this generation might not achieve this stage, but generations will come, and the land of Palestine... will demand that the Palestinians will return the way Muhammad returned there - as a conqueror."

I don't know about you, but I think Mr. Mudyris spells out a "road map to peace" loud and clear. So, why is anybody actually taking any of this cease-fire business seriously? Well because Israel fears for its existence. It seems that no government, ours included, has the balls to call out the rest of this backward section of world (as well as the anti-Semitic Europeans) on its outright hypocrisy.

Two pet peeves of mine regarding this middle east issue are; first, the term the "cycle of violence", and second, this myth of Israelis oppressing "Palestinians". The "cycle of violence" consists of Israelis defending themselves against terror attacks, so I guess the "cycle" ends and the terror attacks stop when there are no more Israelis left alive to defend against them. As for the oppression bit, I have no pity for those with self-inflicted problems. It seems absolutely simple to me that if the folks stop blowing themselves up in Israeli shopping districts, then Israelis won't have to search them at check points for bomber belts.

I personally have little for the plight of the "Palestinian" , and for that matter, refuse to refer to anybody as a "Palestinian". Anyone who knows the first thing about the history of this region knows this term is pure political trash applied to Arab refugees occupying Israel in the late 1960s. I say if they're shooting at civilians and blowing themselves up, they're terrorists. One man's Palestinian being another man's terrorist, if you will.

I did notice that today, more meetings are canceled following a Hamas mortar attack on Gaza. I also found this very relevant Serena Weil article that highlights some interesting items about the region. Perhaps when the time comes that we can really start scaling our troops back in Iraq, we should focus war on terror to those groups currently terrorizing Israel. Not that they need our help, because the truth is that little Israel has kicked the crap out of all who have come forward to attack her; leaving the attackers to resort to an obnoxious fable chock full really bad lies to cover for the fact that they can't actually fight and/or conquer anything.

I figure that as long as these terrorists can openly advocate the elimination of every non-Muslim in Israel, the least I can do is advocate this so called "right of return". Arabs currently occupying Israel should return to their home countries, of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan.


No Rights for You, Idiot Boy

Blackfive noted this story after I saw it on Intel Dump. Mr. Carter has all the whys and wherefores in terms of constitutional law. Blackfive has the right attitude. Personally, I'm always amazed at the fools who fail to grasp just how many of your rights you sign away when you join up. (Short answer: all of them, in some degree.) For some reason, dumb poorly-educated 17 year old me figured the deal out. An amazing number of people in the military never do grasp the fact. When you sign that contract and go on active duty, DOD owns your ass. All those nice guarantees of treatment that are contained in the Bill of Rights go right out the window. You chose to subject yourself to the jurisdiction of the UCMJ. All the rules you think apply, don't. I don't have a whole lot of sympathy. You get told to STFU and quit blogging? STFU most riki-fucking-tik, troop. You're done. Bitch about it all you want, but don't push the issue because you'll lose. It won't be pretty.

Similarly, Mr. Carter's post contains a link to some guy that has applied for CO status. I'm always highly skeptical of people that discover some deeply held objection to war on the eve of deployment. What the hell did you think you joined, the Job Corps where you get to wear funny clothes? Did it not occur to you that the military's entire reason for existence is the application of force? Or, in the vernacular, to kill people and break stuff? Somehow, this escaped your attention? There was a brief window in time where you could plausibly claim that you didn't understand what the military was really about. That window started in 1975 and ended with the invasion of Grenada. After Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I, Somalia, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and the return to Iraq, the idea you weren't going to be deployed isn't one you could plausibly claim to hold. It gets even better because this yotz decided after his first deployment and on the eve of his second that he had issues.

Were his expectations so completely unrealistic that his entire world view was shattered by his first deployment? What do you think happens in a combat zone? It's all sweetness and light? No, you dipshit, people die there. Are you so completely ignorant of human history that this escaped your notice? Wow, war is awful. Film at 11! Oh, wait, this is not news. How awful isn't something that can adequately be conveyed, but you should have had some expectation that it was going to suck. I mean, you do have a brain, right? Then when you showed up, you couldn't pretend that all your choices were pure and right. You didn't get to play Lone Ranger and only deal with the parts of war that weren't morally ambiguous. You got the whole fucking package, and some of the parts aren't real comfortable to face. It seems to me that maybe the time to think about this was before you signed up, not after. Oh, but his experience in the war changed him because it was so horrible. Yeah, well, join the fucking club. Been there, done that, got the scars. Whine to someone who gives a shit.

Really, what most CO applications come down to in my opinion is naked cowardice. You don't want to go face the unpleasant reality of war. You don't want to have see the horrible things that result. You don't want to risk your precious pink skin for the cause. I don't have a problem with cowardice. I have a problem with trying to dress cowardice up in fancy clothes and calling it a moral choice. You don't want to go? Do what one guy in my platoon did before we deployed to the Gulf: shoot yourself in the leg with a .38 pistol. He was a weaselly little dirtbag, but he was a lot more honest than most CO applications.


One of the unfortunate side effects of J being the precinct chair is that random people will occasionally call her about party business. Tonight's phone call is a local businessman who is contemplating a run for office. He is calling J because he called the local efenants and they gave him our number. He sounds like a very nice man, but he is trying to condense his entire life story and achievements into this phone call in addition to explaining why he wants to run for office and thinks he's qualified. All at the same time, I might add. He hasn't explained yet what office he wants. He's a little unsure and a tad bit confused. As a result, he sounds like a deranged whack-job.

I know all this because our cordless phones sound like crap if you actually hold them up to your ear, but are great speakerphones. So every conversation at YPS Manor is on a speakerphone.

Anyhow, most days I tend towards the idea that anybody that wants to run for office should be disqualified on that grounds alone. This conversation is doing nothing to dispel that belief.


Random Tool Thoughts

Recently, in an attempt to consolidate and organize, I got a big huge toolbox. It’s one of the gonzo things with 6 inch casters on the bottom, and is 40 inches wide and close to 6 feet tall. My old system of 2 metal hand toolboxes, a bucket organizer, 2 soft sided bags and a plastic wheeled tote was just getting unwieldy. Besides, I was never sure of which container had which tool. I have been spending spare moments trying to organize all of my tools into the new box in some coherent fashion. This has led to some unexpected discoveries, and some questions about my past tool-buying behavior. I understand some things, but not others.

For instance, why do I have three 1/2 inch drive socket wrenches and only one 3/8 inch drive? This seems especially odd when you consider that at some point, I must have bought two sets containing 3/8 inch drive socket wrenches and sockets, since I have four of almost every size of 3/8 inch drive socket in the toolbox (two 6 point and two 12 point). The ones I don’t have 4 of? I have 5 or in one case, 6. This strikes me as a bit strange.

Similarly, I only have one complete set of combination wrenches. Except for 8mm, because I have 3 of those. I also have one each of a variety of pliers. How many of each kind of pliers do you need? Apparently, I must have needed multiple channel-locks, since I have 3.

I realize part of my problem is the manner in which Sears sells tools. (I buy most of my hand tools from Sears, because I like using screwdrivers as prybars.) Anyone who has ever bought tools from Sears knows how this works. One tool costs $8.99. A set of 3 in various sizes costs $19.99. This pattern is repeated across all types of tools. If you buy the sets, everything is cheaper on a per-unit basis. Since you’re going to need the other pieces in the set someday, why not buy the whole set? It’s not like tools go bad or anything, right? So guys like me end up with overlapping sets of things and a certain amount of redundancy. That’s not the part I wonder about. It’s the strange redundancies that get me. 3 8mm wrenches? What the hell is that about? I have no other metric duplicates. Why were 8 mm wrenches so necessary at one point?

Of course, it’s also interesting what you find in the toolboxes besides tools. I have been hauling around some of my old toolboxes since I was in the Army. This explains why I found the instructions for a Claymore in one of them. Not particularly useful, but an interesting souvenir. Remember, front towards enemy.


I knew, from my online attempts to keep up with my former unit, that the Regiment is deploying back to Iraq sometime soon. Interesting news, if somewhat distant from my daily concerns. Friday night I was driving home from work on Beltway 8 and what do I see? A flatbed 18-wheeler loaded up with containers. I pull in behind the truck and facing out was a big red and white square with “E TRP 2/3 ACR” stenciled right in the middle. About a mile down the road I passed a truck with Fox Troop’s containers on the back. From my dim memories, that means in about 4 to 6 weeks 2d Squadron will be on the ground. Blood and steel, gents.



Over at SciFi Daily, one of the hosts is getting himself in a completely unjustifiable lather about the upcoming release of Episode III. People, I realize we all want to hold on to the dream, but let’s face facts. This movie is more than likely going to suck, and suck hard. I base this on two incontrovertible and irrefutable pieces of evidence: Episodes I and II. They pretty much blew chunks all over the screen. Why is Ep. III going to be different? Did Lucas magically make-up with his muse again after the savage beating he delivered to her in those two disasters?

I’ll be blunt: George has lost it and taken the franchise with him. I honestly don’t know if I’ll go see this in the theater. I’m not sure I’m motivated enough to get up early and hit the Sunday matinee. I’m sure as hell not paying full price, so a matinee is the only option. Maybe if George had been smart enough to hire someone as talented as Leigh Brackett to write the remaining screenplays, we wouldn’t have this problem. Too bad she died, huh? I won’t be the first nor last person to remind everyone, but the best of the Star Wars movies was neither written nor directed by Lucas. (That’s The Empire Strikes Back, for the slow.)

The franchise is dying. Let it go and wait for something new to come along. A plethora of innovative and interesting science fiction is coming out on a constant basis. Very little of it is big-budget visual extravaganzas like Ep. III. Look at it realistically, though. How much of the big budget extravaganzas are worth a crap? I would rather see a good story well told without 50 million dollars of special effects than a movie where the dominant thought I’m left with is “Nice costume and set design.” Hello, The Chronicles of Riddick. Great set design and costumes. Story? Barely coherent is being generous. Yet it got made because Pitch Black was a good film and made money. Ep. III will get made because everybody will go see it no matter how much it sucks. They’ll probably make yet another fucking Star Trek movie, and a whole bunch of lemmings will go see it. Demand accountability from your entertainment, people. If it sucks, don’t continue to patronize it. Right, Randy?


IP Ain't Stupid

I ran across this little nugget o' news via Dean Esmay and Instapundit. Professor Reynolds takes the more reasonable view of this issue, whereas Mr. Esmay just thinks it's stupid and unreasonable. Me? I have no problem with the lawsuits per se. I think someone is setting an unreasonable value on this particular use of the IP, but the lawsuits themselves aren't stupid.

Full disclosure time.: I am a product design engineer. Everything I deal with on a daily basis has some underlying IP. Part of my job is to generate new IP and to scrutinize the competition to figure out ways around their IP. It's a fun job, some days.

My company takes the protection of its intellectual property quite seriously, to the tune this year of just over 100 million dollars. We sue the living shit out of people that copy our designs and technology. We have to sue, because our corporate IP is one of our sustainable competitive advantages. In certain core areas, we have the best technology in the world. If we let people copy our IP, we would go out of business.

The point that Mr. Esmay misses is that you can't let anybody start copying your designs. If you let them copy the look of a particular item, the next thing they'll do is copy the product. I realize a 1/12th scale plastic model is not going to replace a fighter jet any time soon, but there is a slippery slope here. Once somebody starts copying the design in some aspect and you let it slide, you have that much less legal argument when someone else starts copying and you object. If you cede control of your IP in any fashion, it is that much harder to regain control later. The simple answer is to not let anybody do it without payment. This is the reason Disney is so absolutely rabid about the protection of their IP.

Having said that, model licensing is essentially a free revenue stream. If you can cover the marginal costs of the IP agreement, who cares how much money it brings in? Something like this is never going to be a major profit center for a defense contractor. License the IP for a penny a model (or something similar) and move on. This is where the stupidity comes into play. You can't reasonably expect to charge a $40 licensing fee per item on something that sells for $12.99 retail. You're a complete and total moron if you think that will work. However, defense contractors have demonstrated a questionable understanding of real business practices in the past, so maybe I'm expecting too much.

If you think that putting the model companies out of business serves some later long term goal, you're again wrong. The kids that build these models grow up to design, build and maintain vehicles. You're discouraging people from becoming interested in your products and your company. This is a long-term proposal for obsolescence.

This presumes, of course, that the company in question owns the IP to the design. If the vehicle or aircraft is produced under contract to the US government, the government may own the design, in which case all bets are off. I have no earthly idea how that would work.

More Rand!

In all my link hunting for Ayn Rand's birthday, I forgot to mention the best use of Ayn Rand as a fictional character: Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy. Anybody who uses a lantern occupied by an AI of Ayn Rand as a major character deserves some kind of recognition. I also love this book because of a great line from it:
It's easy to renounce physical violence if you aren't very good at it.
Which, in my opinion, explains a lot about the infatuation with pacifism you find in certain kinds of people.


Thin Skinned Whiny Bitches

I don’t have a whole lot of patience for most people who self-identify as liberals or leftists anymore. There are a few around who are articulate, thoughtful, and reasonable, but the number seems to be dwindling rapidly. As many other people have remarked, it’s rather pointless to try to debate with someone whose idea of reasoned debate is making some bizarre assertion and then engaging in ad hominem attacks.

What I really find funny is lefties who engage in name-calling and then get huffy when people return the favor. I guess that's because the hypocrisy of the left never ceases to amuse me. There’s a guy who lives near me. His blog consists mainly of reposting copyrighted material, pictures of cats, insulting Bush, and calling people dumbasses. Yet somehow, when someone insults him, he has the cast-iron gall to make comments like:
“if the only argument you can muster involves calling me names…well, ‘tis better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”
Keep in mind, this quote is from a guy who has a running list of people he thinks are dumbasses. Oh, pardon me. He‘s too much of a PC wank to actually use the word, preferring instead to use dumb@$$ as some half-assed euphemism. A guy who says the man taking over from the assassinated mayor of Baghdad has an “obvious case of political penis envy” doesn’t really have a leg to stand on when he complains about somebody calling him a worthless human being, now does he? Nice how he can dish it but gets huffy about taking it.

Where did people get the idea that you can insult people freely and constantly and no one will mind? Or in some cases, that it becomes bad form for the insulted party to fire back? I’ll be the first to admit I don’t much mind somebody calling me a motherfucker if I called them one first. Well, I might mind a little, but I’m sure not going to act surprised and indignant. I pretty much expect it, actually. Is anyone actually surprised when calling people names results in a return of the abuse? Only people that think they’re telling the truth as revealed by the blinding light of an epiphany, I guess. After all, it’s not mean if you’re just being honest, right? Too bad truth is a perception.

Moving on to another semi-related point, why is it that people find it so goddamned necessary to set up straw men in their arguments? Don’t ask me to defend an argument somebody else made. If I didn’t post it, I don’t have any obligation to defend it. I may or may not, depending on my mood, but it’s far from an automatic proposition and not something you should even expect. Closely linked is the automatic assumption by some idiots that because I voted for Bush, I’m a proud efenant and therefore can be called to task over every obnoxious thing ever done by some moron elected with an R after his name. It doesn’t work that way, people. I am partially responsible for putting Bush in office along with 52 million other people. What he does after the fact reflects on him. My voting for him makes me culpable for his actions only in the broadest possible sense. (Think 1 divided by 52 million as a rough guide.) You have a beef with the GOP, take it up with them. Guess what? They even have a website.

Terrorist, Democrats, Lose Again

I am captivated by this story. It helps to remind what the war is about.

As for Democrats, what more can be said? They were wrong about communism, wrong about socialism, and so wrong on the war on terrorism...yet again.

Ayn Rand Is Dead

So it’s 100th anniversary of the crazy old meth junkie’s birth. She’s still dead. Unfortunately, her books live on. If you want some great thoughts on her philosophy, try some these fine links:
Happy Rand Day
Join the Party
Ayn Rand Centenary

They’re having a Rand festival over at Reason:
Rand Redux
Ayn Rand at 100

Have no earthly idea who Ayn Rand is? Go here.

I’ll just say that Ayn Rand is good at inducing thought. However, I’m in the large group that thinks she can’t write worth a damn. If I never have to sit through a thinly fictionalized fifty page screed about the primacy of the individual or some such crap ever again, I won’t be upset. I can’t tell you about Atlas Shrugged because I quit after The Fountainhead. If you must read her fiction, read Anthem. It has a huge advantage over the other two in that it’s much, much shorter. I close with this thought from Officer Barbrady:
“Yes, at first I was happy to be learning how to read. It seemed exciting and magical, but then I read this: Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. I read every last word of this garbage, and because of this piece of shit, I am never reading again.”

Theft by Vote

BlogHOUSTON has a post up on the potential for eminent domain abuses by Houston’s favoritest incompetent bureaucracy, Metro. Frankly, the idea that anyone would let the addled liars that run Metro anywhere near eminent domain power is frightening. Of course, I think eminent domain is an archaic legal holdover from the divine rights of kings days and should be abolished.

The idea that your neighbors, through their friendly minions in the government, have some claim to your property for the greater good is fundamentally immoral. How anyone can defend the practice on any grounds but perceived necessity is beyond me. Yeah, it makes it easier to get major public works projects completed. So what? It’s easier to deal with homeless people by shooting them in the head, but it’s still morally repugnant. Why is theft somehow more acceptable if you dress it up with a fancy name like “eminent domain”? Eminent domain is the government taking your property for someone else’s benefit. Period. Dress it up all you want with pretty rhetoric and it still means theft. I realize you may not believe me, since I’m just some libertarian nut who rants on the Web. So go here and download the report about eminent domain abuses. Get back with me if you think eminent domain is still a peachy concept.

Even if you think it’s a good idea, don’t you think that perhaps any organization with eminent domain power ought to be directly accountable to voters? Unlike, say, Metro or the Harris County Sports Authority? I’ll even gloss over the mismanagement and lies that Metro engages in for the sake of argument. Why would you hand this power to an unelected body? Isn’t that kind of dumb? Don't you have a lot less recourse if something goes wrong?

Culture of Violence

Ahh, the joys of multiculturalism. One of the things I value the most about my college education is that very little of it was spent in the fuzzy studies departments. My undergraduate degree is in mechanical engineering and my graduate degree is in business administration. These are both fields that are firmly grounded in empirical reality. In engineering, if you ignore the real world, your designs fail. There’s no middle ground or room for subjectivity. The product either works or it doesn’t. Similarly, in business, if you decide against all available evidence to pursue some quixotic course of action, you will go broke. There’s more wiggle room in business, but not by a lot. A firm grounding in reality is unnecessary in many, if not most, liberal arts disciplines. I’m convinced that in some, it’s actually a handicap.

I bring this up because one of the more pernicious ideas to come out of the liberal arts departments is the wonderfully ill defined concept of multiculturalism. Apparently, I am supposed to give other cultures some sort of open-minded respect for their virtues and wisdom. I freely admit I’m unclear on the concept. I’ve been overseas and seen other cultures, albeit through the sights of an M-16. I can’t say that I was impressed. However, I’m aware that you get a limited view of the rest of the world when traveling with the military. Maybe I missed something.

Then I read articles like this one. Remind me again why I’m supposed to respect other cultures? I’m supposed to care about the opinions of people who think killing your daughter because she was raped is an acceptable form of behavior? Really, am I supposed to give a shit what these people think about anything? Try again. It ain’t gonna fly. Silvio Berlusconi was right: "We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation".

Here’s where the grounding in empirical reality comes into play: the Western world, as exemplified by the US, has more material wealth, individual wellbeing, and personal liberty than any other part of the world. By any objective standard you want to come up with, Western culture produces better results for more people. Yet somehow, the fucked-up parts of the world have a culture that should be respected. From what does this imaginary respect derive? Show me some sort of impressive cultural achievement and maybe we can talk. The idiotarians of the world think the West shouldn’t impose our cultural values on the rest of the world. What’s the alternative? Leaving the rest of humanity to stagnate in fundamentally flawed societies that excel at producing nothing but body counts and religious fanatics? Somehow, that doesn’t seem like a good idea from where I sit.


More Odd Music Choices

Why is Kentucky Fried Chicken, excuse me, KFC using Sweet Home Alabama to advertise family fast food dinners?

Everywhere? Like Under My House?

The Wall Street Journal has an article on the economics of oil. All true and very interesting, as far as it goes. If you have no exposure to the economics of oil, this gives you a few pointers and facts that will help your understanding.

What’s not in the article are some of the other issues. The authors make one statement:
By simply opening up its spigots for a few years, Saudi Arabia could, in short order, force a complete write-off of the huge capital investments in Athabasca and Orinoco.
Well, yes, in theory that’s absolutely true. In practice, it doesn’t work that way. Why? The Saudis and the rest of the oil-rich states are dependent on oil revenue. Let’s look back a few years for a cautionary tale. Houston, in the mid-80s, was dependent on oil for much of the local economy. The oil industry crashed and so did Houston’s economy. As a result, Houston’s economy diversified. There’s now much more going on in Houston than the oil and gas industry, so if that industry craters again, Houston won’t be hit as bad.

On the other hand, the Gulf states have never diversified. Take Saudi Arabia as an example. According to the CIA, the oil industry provides 75% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP and 90% of foreign exports. The Saudi economy is a one-trick pony, and the trick’s name is “pump oil”. Does anybody here honestly think the Saudis are going to drop oil prices far enough to jeopardize their own prosperity? More importantly, are they going to risk general unrest and Islamic revolution just to drive somebody else out of business? It’s not going to happen. The range of oil prices which the Saudis and Yemenis and Kuwaitis need to prop up their governments and economies is a range where other people can also make a profit. Admittedly, not as large a profit, but still a return on investment.

What this mean in a larger geo-political sense is that as companies drive down production costs for other parts of the world through improved technology, the Gulf states become less and less important. I’m thinking that’s a good thing for everyone, except a few fat old Arabs.

A tale of two immigration policies

My absolute and utter disdain for American policy on illegal immigration is no secret to the regular readers of YPS. And it seems like more and more information comes out everyday to prove me right, yet again. Look at the article, strip away the inherent bias of the author, and what you learn is that not only do these criminals break into our country, they steal our citizens' identities in the process.

I am well aware that those of us who are staunchly opposed to America's lax policy on illegals are often termed "racist" or "anti-immigration." This is the furthest thing from the truth. The fact is that people like me just want hard working, law abiding citizens in our country.

So, I present another, very ugly face of the immigration issue; the legal side.

An often ignored problem, is the effect that our horribly lenient policies on illegals harms those who are here legally. The same laws which are so terribly permissive for criminals, are unreasonably strict on honest, legal immigrants. I don't know if INS employees are frustrated or just power hungry bureaucrats, but they often wield these horribly restrictive laws to literally "take it out" on good people who really do just want to live and work here. And I don't mean these folks are polite, but bound by bad laws--think "going postal" meets department of public safety, without the armory.

I have a very close friend who I'll call "Tad". Tad's partner "Rudy" is in this country (legally) from South America. He first came to America on a tourist visa. His status went from tourist to student to H1B in a short time, with all of the appropriate, legal documentation filed with the INS. So, what is the problem? The problem is a glitch in the system.

Rudy's immigration status was altered (legally) while he remained in this country, rather than returning to his country of origin each time the next application was filed. This happened because returning each time would have delayed him from obtaining his certifications, or prevented him from commencing his job as a bilingual inner city school teacher. In Rudy's particular case, one life event almost seamlessly blended into another. So, now, if he leaves the US, he is not guaranteed to get back in at all; and if he is granted permission to return, it could take up to a month, which as you well know, would result in him losing his job.

A couple of years back, Rudy's parents attempted to obtain a tourist visa to visit their son. That story alone is a travesty. In order to secure an appointment with the appropriate official to file their request, they were required to pay a $200-350 bribe. That is completely exclusive of any other "fees and costs" associated with attempting to obtain permission. After spending over $1,000, Rudy's parents were denied. Because Rudy's dad was retired and his Mother did not work (outside the home), the bureaucrat on the case decided that the couple could not guarantee that they would return to their home country. I guess submitting themselves to the will of the bureaucracy, instead of trying to smuggle themselves in, was not proof enough that they were honest people who just wanted to visit their son. They made multiple attempts and were denied each time. Perhaps paying all those bribes, by definition, made them dishonest.

Well, Rudy's father died last week due to illness. So, thanks to American policy on legal immigrants, not only will Rudy never see his father again, he cannot even attend the funeral, for fear of not being able to return to his adopted home. He did speak with his mother who told him that his father had been so proud of his accomplishments in America that he cannot risk ruining that just to return.

So the next time you hear some apologist whine about the honestly of lying illegals, forget their posturing. This is what our immigration system really does to families. I see a lose-lose situation all the way around. The way we treat illegals is unfairly generous, and the way we treat legal immigrants is unconscionably criminal.