Random Pop Culture Thought

I’m looking at movie listings for the weekend. The new XXX movie starring Ice Cube is out now. This brings up a thought I had earlier about Ice Cube. He’s done a great job at slowly moving towards mainstream acceptance, hasn’t he? The career arc is definitely a little odd, though. From NWA to Are We There Yet?.

I’m just amused that the guy I saw at Lollapalooza in 1992 performing Givin’ Up the Nappy Dug Out and The Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit is starring in PG-13 comedies with children. There’s a lot of truth to the idea that America has a short attention span.


I see from various sources that the military is releasing some photos of the operations at Dover AFB.

I am reminded of a story I heard years ago about a guy who had been in the Air Force. He was trying to get the VA to accept a diagnosis of PTSD. The VA did not want to give him treatment and/or disability payments. The VA took the view that he could not conceivably have PTSD, since he had never even left CONUS during his two years in service. He had spent two years at the height of the Viet Nam War unloading caskets at Dover. I don’t recall how the case turned out. I have no problems believing that two years of that might do some damage.


Geek Much?

Eugene Volokh is a really smart guy. However, I’m inclined to the view that he’s probably the living, breathing example of a law geek. For evidence, I present this passage from a recent post:
I was just rereading one of my favorite court opinions — Justice Jackson’s dissent in United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944) — and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d blog it.
Rereading a favorite court opinion? Damn. I have my particular obsessions, but that’s pretty hardcore. Not only does he have favorite court opinions, but he rereads them, and enjoys them so much he wants to share. Wow. I’m way outclassed.

Update: I was browsing around at The Smallest Minority and found a post that referenced an old court decision. I don't think the whole decision qualifies, but Judge Kozinski's dissent is definitely one of my favorite judicial opinions. Seeing as how I just reread and enjoyed it, maybe I'm not outclassed. I'll even share it with you, since it's rather short and not, as far as I know, protected by copyright:

Judges know very well how to read the Constitution broadly when they are sympathetic to the right being asserted. We have held, without much ado, that “speech, or . . . the press” also means the Internet, see Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997), and that “persons, houses, papers, and effects” also means public telephone booths, see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). When a particular right comports especially well with our notions of good social policy, we build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases —or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text. See, e.g., Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 79 F.3d 790 (9th Cir. 1996) (en banc), rev’d sub nom. Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997). But, as the panel amply demonstrates, when we’re none too keen on a particular constitutional guarantee, we can be equally ingenious in burying language that is incontrovertibly there.

It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. As guardians of the Constitution, we must be consistent in interpreting its provisions. If we adopt a jurisprudence sympathetic to individual rights, we must give broad compass to all constitutional provisions that protect individuals from tyranny. If we take a more statist approach, we must give all such provisions narrow scope. Expanding some to gargantuan proportions while discarding others like a crumpled gum wrapper is not faithfully applying the Constitution; it’s using our power as federal judges to constitutionalize our personal preferences.

The able judges of the panel majority are usually very sympathetic to individual rights, but they have succumbed to the temptation to pick and choose. Had they brought the same generous approach to the Second Amendment that they routinely bring to the First, Fourth and selected portions of the Fifth, they would have had no trouble finding an individual right to bear arms. Indeed, to conclude otherwise, they had to ignore binding precedent. United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), did not hold that the defendants lacked standing to raise a Second Amendment defense, even though the government argued the collective rights theory in its brief. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 6011-12; see also Brannon P. Denning & Glenn H. Reynolds, Telling Miller’s Tale: A Reply to David Yassky, 65 Law & Contemp. Probs. 113, 117-18 (2002). The Supreme Court reached the Second Amendment claim and rejected it on the merits after finding no evidence that Miller’s weapon—a sawed-off shotgun—was reasonably susceptible to militia use. See Miller, 307 U.S. at 178. We are bound not only by the outcome of Miller but also by its rationale. If Miller’s claim was dead on arrival because it was raised by a person rather than a state, why would the Court have bothered discussing whether a sawed-off shotgun was suitable for militia use? The panel majority not only ignores Miller’s test; it renders most of the opinion wholly superfluous. As an inferior court, we may not tell the Supreme Court it was out to lunch when it last visited a constitutional provision.

The majority falls prey to the delusion—popular in some circles—that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth—born of experience—is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people. Our own sorry history bears this out: Disarmament was the tool of choice for subjugating both slaves and free blacks in the South. In Florida, patrols searched blacks’ homes for weapons, confiscated those found and punished their owners without judicial process. See Robert J. Cottrol & Raymond T. Diamond, The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration, 80 Geo. L.J. 309, 338 (1991). In the North, by contrast, blacks exercised their right to bear arms to defend against racial mob violence. Id. at 341- 42. As Chief Justice Taney well appreciated, the institution of slavery required a class of people who lacked the means to resist. See Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 417 (1857) (finding black citizenship unthinkable because it would give blacks the right to “keep and carry arms wherever they went”). A revolt by Nat Turner and a few dozen other armed blacks could be put down without much difficulty; one by four million armed blacks would have meant big trouble.

All too many of the other great tragedies of history— Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few—were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 5997-99. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed—where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten. Despite the panel’s mighty struggle to erase these words, they remain, and the people themselves can read what they say plainly enough:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The sheer ponderousness of the panel’s opinion—the mountain of verbiage it must deploy to explain away these fourteen short words of constitutional text—refutes its thesis far more convincingly than anything I might say. The panel’s labored effort to smother the Second Amendment by sheer body weight has all the grace of a sumo wrestler trying to kill a rattlesnake by sitting on it—and is just as likely to succeed.
Of course, the really tragic aspect of this opinion is that it is a dissenting opinion. The majority did not hold with Judge Kozinski. Too damn bad for anybody under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit, I guess.


It Seems The Problem Is Very Deep

Ever have days like this? No reason, I'm just wondering...


The Buck Stops Where?

One of the more lasting effects of spending almost 6 years on active duty is a deep and abiding cynicism about human behavior in organizations. It’s served me much better than the crap dished out in grad school about the same topic. Today, I find news that the Army, the organization that helped me become the bitter cynical person I am today, is behaving true to type. It’s business as usual for the officer corps.

Phil Carter has an excellent post up on the whole sorry mess. He is, however, a former officer and so does not view the affair with quite the degree of bitterness a former enlisted soldier can muster up. Honestly, did anybody think the IG was going to take down a 3 star general for anything less than bloodstained hands and a smoking gun? If you thought that was even a remote possibility, you need to pull your head out of your fourth point of contact. That just wasn’t gonna happen. LTG Sanchez is a team player and a member in good standing of the club. Who’s getting hung out to dry? The NoGo bitch and a bunch of peons. BG Karpinski was wearing a big fat target from the word go. In addition to being in the Guard, she’s also female. Anybody that doesn’t think that matters, go to the back of the class and try again. The officer corps of the US Army, once again, has decided to protect careers instead of facing the hard facts and laying blame.

You really should go read Phil Carter’s whole post. Mr. Carter’s analysis is spot on and includes this devastating critique:
I dare say that this story sends a staggeringly bad message to the soldiers and junior leaders now on the front lines: we will hold you, your sergeants and your lieutenants responsible for their actions, but we will not hold your colonels and generals responsible for theirs. It is hard to see how that message can possibly support the "good order and discipline" which is so essential for maintaining an effective fighting force.
The only flaw is his analysis comes from making the unjustified assumption that command responsibility means anything anymore. Apparently it doesn’t.


Sweet Idea

Okay, more gun blogging. Can you tell what I’ve been thinking about the past couple of days? I found a great post on how to make wax or rubber bullets for practice. What makes this even cooler is that I just went and bought a reloading press and supplies from a gentleman I met at the NRA convention. He sold me a turnkey operation. I now have a RCBS Rock Chucker press, four sets of dies, a powder measure, scales and everything else. I do mean everything. I have gunpowder, primers, cases, bullets, reloading manuals, and instructions. All I need now is a centerfire pistol other than the scary old .38.

Gun Laws

I am sometimes amazed by the vast amount of people that completely, totally, and thoroughly do not understand gun laws. I don’t expect everyone to have a minute knowledge of every section of the law that relates to firearms. There’s a lot of laws, both federal and state, and few people are motivated to keep up with the changes in all of them. Having said that, there are two cases in which you should familiarize yourself with gun laws. The first is if you own or plan on owning guns. It’s always good to keep abreast of what laws will affect you. Most firearms laws, especially on the federal level, carry the possibility of some serious jail time. It would suck to go to jail by accident, I think. The second is if you’re going to bloviate about gun laws and what changes in gun laws are necessary. You should probably have some understanding of what those laws are before you go flapping your gums.

A handy reference for gun laws is, not surprisingly, provided by the ATF. (Incidentally, I note the ATF is now in charge of Explosives as well.) They publish a guide to state laws every so often that can be downloaded here. This is pretty much the canonical reference work, aside from digging through the statutes on your own. They also publish a guide to federal laws and regulations here. They even publish a quick reference guide to the federal stuff found here.

Of course, people have so many misconceptions about guns in general that it’s almost not worth discussing the issue. I can’t even think about how many times I’ve had the discussion about assault weapons vs. automatic weapons vs. semi-automatic with clueless gits. Of course, I'm pretty rabid on the subject. I seriously considered a number of years ago getting a FFL. Of course, I mainly wanted it to be able to play with interesting things without going to jail. The possibilty of making money with it was a distant second consideration.

Anyhow, knowledge is power, or in this case, a preventative measure. Plus, it really annoys people arguing for gun control when you can make it clear to them that they don't know what they're talking about.


More on Cafeteria Catholics

Well, despite my previous disagreement with Joanna, she’s dead on target today.
I don’t care if you’re a liberal American Catholic. Good for you. But don’t expect a Pope, whose job is preserve the institution, to accept your unwillingness to truly live by your faith. Use contraception, or be pro-choice to your heart’s content, but realize that you’re living a pick-and-choose version of the religion that you claim. Don’t expect it to conform to you just because you can’t hack it.
I don’t think I can add much.

Update: Here's a classic whiny example of the kind of behavior Joanna references. (It also defines cafeteria Catholics, for the uninitiated.) The line that really kills me is this one:
The church is clearly moving away from progressive Catholics. How long will progressive Catholics stick with the church?
Sure, that's what's happening. By staying exactly where it has been for hundreds of years, the church is moving away from progressive Catholics. Someone is obviously more than a little unclear as to who is moving.

Odd Feeling

So today I attended the first Mass of my adult life where I did not hear the words, "John Paul, our Pope". I have to admit, it hurt a little.


Bad Advertising

Max Sparber over at Metroblogging New Orleans has a complaint about local commercials. I’d like to second his observation. I see a lot of low-rent commercials for local businesses. Right up there with children is the lame humor delivered as woodenly as humanly possible. A local appliance place does one commercial that has J about ready to walk in and tell them she’s never buying anything from them, ever, because their commercial is so horrible.

Another bad advertising tactic I see, mainly from realtors, is the incessant plastering of the face all over business cards and billboards. Most of these people are not attractive and didn’t get good photos done. It’s a little unnerving to see a crappy 20 foot tall picture of someone next to the road. It doesn’t inspire confidence in their judgement, either. At some point, you should have looked at this critically and asked if it was a good idea. It generally isn’t.

Uninformed Opinions Run Wild

So there’s a new pope. Long live Benedict XVI, even though actuarially speaking, he’s due any minute now. I don’t have a whole lot to say on the subject of the new pope. Aside from the fact that he’s been head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith approximately forever, I know next to nothing about the guy. Of course, that fact alone is enough to give a lot of people the creepy-crawlies. For the uninitiated, the old name of the Congregation was the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. That changed in 1908, but memory in this case is longer than truth. The idea that the guy who heads the organization that almost a hundred years ago was called the Inquisition is enough to disturb some people’s equilibrium.

I really find it funny that everybody and their dog is crawling out of the wood work with opinions on what this means for the Catholic Church and railing against and/or praising the Conclave’s choice for the papacy. Honestly, did any of these people know who the hell Cardinal Ratzinger was a month ago? I knew vaguely who he was. I didn’t much care. I have some idea what the Congregation does these days. (Hint: it doesn’t involve torturing heretics or burning witches, despite what you might be led to believe) Seeing as how I’m not going around promulgating my opinions as to what Catholic doctrine is, the odds of the Congregation ever having anything to do with me are zero.

Now, it seems like every dweeb with an Internet connection that can run a Google search has decided what this means for the church. Most of these opinions seem to be based on little more than the one fact I mentioned above. He’s German! He headed the Congregation! He’s 'God’s Rottweiler'! He’s going to burn heretics! The end of the church as we know it is coming! I’m betting most of the people spouting opinions now knew less about him than I did when this started. I also don’t think there’s been enough time for anybody who wasn’t already deeply immersed in the issue to have read enough to be able to form anything more than a half-baked assessment. I mean, seriously, people, he was head of the Congregation for 24 years. That portion of his career alone would take some time to get up to speed on. You’re going to form a coherent opinion of the guy based on 20 minutes research?

Whatever. Given how quickly he was elected, I don’t think there’s any great disagreements in the College of Cardinals about the guy. Most actual practicing Catholics, as opposed to the A&Ps or the cafeteria Catholics, think he’s a great choice. You know what else? Nobody in the Catholic Church really gives a damn what anybody outside of it thinks about the new pope. All the bloviating is especially pointless, since there’s nothing anybody can do to change it now. The only way to figure out what he’ll do is to sit back and watch.


Pay Attention, Retard

Well, my local fishwrap has an editorial up about the NRA convention. I always like it when the Chronicle goes anywhere near anything I’ve attended. It proves to me, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the Chronicle is full of crap. Our particular idiot this morning is one James Howard Gibbons. He purports to edit the opinion pages.

The Lone Star Times does a pretty good job of taking him to task for general tone and snottiness. However, since I was there and the LST crew apparently wasn’t, I’ll correct one glaring inaccuracy.
A hand-tooled, over-under shotgun fetched more than $3,000.
Well, no, actually, it didn’t. Seeing as how no guns were for sale at the convention, I’m willing to bet that nobody got any money for any guns. Somehow, our fearless intrepid reporter spent all his time at the convention and didn’t manage to notice that no guns were being sold. Good job, slick. I’m wondering how much of an editor you can be when you miss the blindingly obvious. Of course, you work for the Chron on the opinion pages. It doesn't take much of an editor when you haven't got much of a paper, I guess.

Habemus Papam!

Wow, how exciting was that? I am kind of surprised it came so soon. I had commented to T prior to Conclave that if the election concluded quickly, Cardinal Ratzinger was the man. If it took time, the new Pope would probably be Italian.

During the funeral services for the Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger looked bleary eyed and tired. I watched Benedict XVI come through the balcony doors a renewed and refreshed man. He looks amazing.


Guns, Guns, Guns

Well, the NRA convention was in Houston this past weekend. I didn’t have enough money for Buy a Gun Day because I’m paying contractors. So I did the next best thing. I went and looked at them all, and I do mean all. The big difference between the NRA convention exhibit hall and the gun shows I’m used to attending is the exhibitor list. Instead of the local gun dealers, it was the big names in gun manufacture. You got to see a much more complete assortment of merchandise from each manufacturer than you usually do. Let’s face it, no dealer carries the complete line from any manufacturer. However, when it’s the manufacturer’s booth at the NRA convention? They bring out at least one of every model they make available for civilian sale.

So I got to see lots of neat toys I can’t buy until we sell YPS Manor. Whee! Highlights for me included the Springfield Armory booth. I long for one of their M1 rifles and a mil-spec 1911A1. I also enjoyed the Barret booth, in part because they put up big signs saying “Screw California”. Well, the signs actually were a bit wordier, but that was the gist. They also had one of these bad boys there. I want one. I have absolutely no practical use for one, but I want one. Para Ordnance also had some nice pistols, but I'm going to have to wait for one of those.

Other cool stuff was a late 1800s Gatling gun in 45-70 Government that was still in working condition, no less. The guy attending it was having much fun discussing the firing of such a beast with the attendees. They are apparently quite accurate out to several hundred yards.

They also had a big Beretta booth, which I ignored completely. I got to explain to J why I am never buying anything made by that particular company. I was in the Army when the M9s were first issued. I was also around when they came through and “fixed” all the M9 pistols. They had to be fixed because after a firing a certain number of rounds, the gun breaks. Upon firing the next round, the slide comes back off the gun and hits you in the face. Any company that ships a gun so fundamentally flawed is not a company I’m supporting.

They also had a variety of spotting scopes around from various manufacturers. The primary use for those on Saturday was finding out just how poorly the George R. Brown convention staff dusts the higher corners. There was things growing up in some of the corners that have obviously been there for a looong time.

I also got some guns after the show by the simple expedient of showing up at my mother-in-law's house. She has been keeping a bunch of guns garnered from various and sundry deceased relatives. She offered them up, and J and I said “Sure!” So we now have two .22 pistols, a .38 Special revolver, and a 20 gauge shotgun. I'll have to do some work to clean them up. I will take them to a gunsmith and get them checked out to make sure they're safe to fire. All in all, a fun firearms weekend.


Nuclear Chickens and Nonexistence

So over at Defense Tech is a lovely post about a bizarre scheme the Brits cooked up during the Cold War to use chickens to keep nuclear landmines warm. I am constantly amazed by the vast variety of weird ideas the military has seriously considered over the years.

This also reminds me of a story from my misspent youth. There is a field manual about the use of certain devices. It explicitly states that such devices are not in the US inventory because of treaty obligations, &c, &c. Then it provides a table giving weights, dimensions and yields of a series of hypothetical devices. The dimensions are given to the millimeter and the weights to nearest hundred grams. I always had a sneaking suspicion that there might just be one or two lying around somewhere that they measured to get the dimensions and everything.



I haven't been feeling well and have been dealing with contractors in the attempt to make YPS Manor salable. It's not what I would call a fun process. I'm feeling fresh out of insight or energy today, so instead I'm just linking.

Radley Balko discusses the problems with drunk driving tests and refusing to take them.

Dale Franks at Q&O goes into some of the reasons folks use for denying judges an up-or-down floor vote.

Laurence Simon has some words of wisdom for the airline industry and their enablers in Congress.

Phil Carter, my go-to guy for legal analysis of military affairs, has a post on the prisoner treatment standards between WWII and now. I don't agree with Mr. Carter on some issues, but his posts on the ongoing prisoner abuse scandals have done a lot to help clarify my thinking on the matter. I'll post more on that when I get some time.

So there's some stuff to read. I'm going to go back to feeling like crap.


Minor Annoyances

I really dislike the people who think the web page I am viewing is so important that I could never possibly want to navigate away. They set up their pages in such a fashion that when I click on a link, it brings up a new browser window. I realize many people out there think so highly of their deathless prose that they want to spare me the effort of clicking the back button to view it again, but it’s an inconvenience I’m prepared to accept. Given that I use Firefox for most of my web browsing, this really annoys me. One of the reason I switched to Firefox was tabbed browsing. I want 20 web pages open at once in the same browser window. I don’t want twenty browser windows open. One window, all my pages tabbed in it. Is it so much to ask?

On a similar note, because my employer does not like me using Yahoo Messenger, I use Internet Explorer to listen to Launchcast. About 3-5 times a day, Launchcast just crashes any open IE windows I might have. I have no ideas as to why. It always happens at the end of a song, though. Every advance brings with it a host of new annoyances, I s’pose.

Schooling the Chillens

Part of my weekend was spent helping the daughter of a friend build a kite. This had absolutely no relation to a fun-filled weekend helping the youth accumulate happy memories of her childhood. She is a high school freshman and was building a kite for geometry class. My friend is a sales manager at a car dealership. In addition to working long hours, he doesn’t possess a garage full of tools or much design sense. I have an engineering degree and a garage full of power tools, hand tools, and miscellaneous bits of hardware. For some reason, people think of me when things like this come up. Anyhow, we spent Saturday building and destroying one kite and building another kite so she can prove something or other to her geometry teacher. (Useful link for kite-building here.) I’m not exactly sure what the point of the whole exercise is as regards learning geometry.

This is not the first time the awareness of her school projects has impinged upon my consciousness. The first one was a diorama involving a shoebox, a He-Man action figure, and various brightly colored bits of construction paper and foil. The assemblage was supposed to say something about Beowulf for her English class. At the time I thought it was silly. By the time I was (not) reading Beowulf in high school, we were writing papers on various aspects of epic poetry, not building shoebox dioramas of Beowulf vs. Grendel Cage Match XXIV.

She did another one recently involving apples for heads of figurines. I found out about that one when my friend put the dogs (three greyhounds) in her room when contractors showed up. The dogs promptly ate the figurines and he had to call the school. I think that’s probably the first time a parent called to say “the dogs ate the homework”.

I found out through discussion that she does, on average, one project per class per six-week grading period. She has a stockpile of craft materials in her closet for building the stupid things. Am I the only one thinking building craft projects has very little to do with actually learning academic material? I might be willing to cut some more slack if this was a kid just going through the motions, but she’s not. She’s taking every AP or Honors class she can to prepare for her eventual goal of vet school. The public schools here are, frankly, wasting her time by having her do this bullshit. What worries me is that she is, in terms of the local schools, one of the best and the brightest. What the hell are they teaching the average kids?

Not surprisingly, my friend is contemplating homeschooling his youngest daughter. Coincedentally, Reason has a couple of articles on homeschooling up here and here. The more I learn about the state of the public schools today, the more I’m inclined to not ever put any children we might have into them. For a more frightening discussion of how schools work these days, get a group of schoolteachers together and get ‘em drunk. The stories you hear will remove any last doubts you might have about the institutional failures of the public school system. I think it’s well past time to reconsider the current system of primary education in this country. It doesn’t appear to be working.


Regulatory Fun

Anyone who lives and drinks for long enough in the state of Texas becomes aware of TABC. TABC has absolute power over the sale of alcoholic beverages in Texas. It’s also an incredibly bizarre and dysfunctional agency with a set of regulations that are only barely comprehensible. Anyhow, here’s a lovely article from the local weekly about TABC and the Sunset Commission.

For non-Texans, the Sunset Commission reviews state agencies every 12 years to see if the agency is still needed or needed in the current form. I am encouraged that the commission has made some pretty on-target recommendations in the Staff Report. The chapter headings alone should give you a clue:
TABC Lacks the Clear Focus and Strategic Direction Needed in Today’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Environment

TABC Does Not Manage Its Enforcement Activities to Best Protect the Public’s Safety

Over-Regulation of Certain Business Practices Serves No Consumer Interest, Imposes Unnecessary Costs on the Industry, and Creates Excessive Burdens for the Agency

TABC Lacks an Effective Approach for Resolving Key Marketing Practices Regulatory Issues, Resulting in Inconsistent Enforcement and Unnecessary Costs to the Industry

TABC Lacks a Consistent and Formal Approach to Investigating and Resolving Complaints Against Its Employees

Texas Has a Continuing Need for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
I think I disagree with that last one, but the rest seem like accurate criticsims to me. Of course, as the article points out, the way the system is currently structured makes certain parties a bunch of money. So the chances of the system changing anytime soon are pretty slim. I can dream, however.

Of course, Texas also has a weird patchwork of “wet” and “dry” areas due to the vagaries of local regulation. As an example, in the “front” half of my town you can’t sell alcoholic beverages at all. You can sell package only in the “back” half. Nowhere in town can you buy a drink. All the bars are in the next town. Given that the entire town consists of a single zip code, it’s not like the next town is very far. This is distinct from the approach taken by Angelina County and other locales, where package sales are illegal, and drink service is only available to members of a “private” club. Alcohol laws are insane in most states, but Texas takes it to absurdity some days.

I like the Louisiana model much better. Any state that has drive-through daiquiri shops and Jack Daniels at the gas stations has the right idea.


Blatant Double Standards

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to set me off. Today’s flare-up was sparked by Joanna's post over at Fey Accompli. She’s making some otherwise unexceptional point that I’ve heard way too many times before. Beauty is feminine power, blah, blah, blah. What irritated me was two of the casual throwaway lines she uses to make her points:
most men are pretty simple. they’re good at one or two things, and they like a nice pair of breasts. that’s about it.

we feed men and babies at our breasts. they are helpless without us.
I’m really goddamned tired of this worn-out bullshit. I’m really tired of the idea that it’s somehow acceptable to deride and mock men as a gender. What’s the functional difference between Joanna’s comments and these two?
Women are only good for one thing, and if they can cook, that’s a bonus.

Women are useless except as decoration.
Both are comments I have heard from other men when women aren’t around. The only difference is that it is socially acceptable for Joanna to make her comments. Women will sit there and make admiring sympathetic noises while guys get that blank face we all get when people start insulting us. Joanna is being as blatantly misandrist as it’s possible to be. I’m sure she’ll make the claim that she’s either joking or just being honest. Both of these are copouts to cover the fact that she’s being a obnoxious twit.

I’m really tired of this crap because it’s everywhere. Look at just about every sitcom going. Men are portrayed in a fashion that would cause an uproar if it were any other identifiable subgroup. I get to hear it in my personal life as well. How many times does some married woman refer to her husband in dismissive tones? It happens around me constantly. If the guy says anything back, for some reason that’s considered rude. I don’t get it. Maybe at some point it was a funny joke, but the joke’s gotten old.

One of Joanna’s statements also runs directly counter to my personal experience. Most men are only good at one or two things? How about most women? What the hell are they good at doing? In my experience, they’re not good at much of anything. Most people in this day and age have a real limited skill set, be they male or female. However, when you start getting into useful skills, the wider and deeper skill sets all belong to men.

I wouldn’t get so fired up about this, but I see some effects that bother me. Male academic performance has been stagnating or dropping relative to female performance for some time now. The male suicide rate is about 4 times as high as the female rate. Do you think that a constant barrage of negativity and disparagement just might have some connection? Other people will rant more about the perceived culture war on men, but I’m just tired of the double standards. If it’s unacceptable for me to say or imply that most women are useless bitches, why is it okay to make similar statements about men?

Oh, yeah. One last thing. Capitalization is your friend. It really can be used for something other than emphasis, like denoting the start of a new sentence. Joanna might want to give it a try sometime.


Jump On Jimmuh!

Well, I see that Captain Ed is pointing out how Jimmy Carter got snubbed for the Pope’s funeral. I’m sure we’re all shocked that a guy who’s acted like an asshat to the sitting President at every opportunity didn’t get invited. We here at YPS will take the opportunity to bash Jimmy Carter again. It’s simple, much like he is, and affords us great pleasure.

Seriously, why does anybody pay attention to him anymore? The Carter Center has managed to become more of an irrelevant joke than the old peanut-grubber himself. Oops, can’t go certify an election because that might be dangerous. We’ll stick to sucking up to dictators in this hemisphere! Yeah, Habitat for Humanity is a good thing and all, but so what? Why does some retired guy building houses for poor people rate news coverage? If my dad signs up for Habitat for Humanity and starts spouting his donk nonsense, nobody will care. The major difference between my dad and Jimmy Carter is that my dad was actually competent in his chosen career field. Jimmy Carter was possibly the worst President of the 20th century and in the running for most incompetent of all time. Why does he think he’s relevant anymore? He’s become a bitter old man ever since every policy he ever had has been discredited by the passage of time. It’s well past time for Jimmuh to sit down and have a nice hot cup of STFU.

Update: It appears that he was invited to go and declined. I guess you can ignore that first paragraph. The second one remains perfectly valid, though.

New TV Channel

So Al Gore is popping up in the news making himself look like an asshat yet again. He finally managed to buy that weird cable channel I flip past where foreigners read the news in other languages.

There’s a couple of things I find amusing about this, not the least of which is the former Veep’s insistence that the channel will have “no political agenda”. Yeah, right. The headquarters is in San Francisco, the president of programming used to work at CNN, and Al Gore is the chairman of the board. Yeah, I can see how there’s no chance of an agenda-driven network happening. Rock the Vote is non-partisan, too, right?

I also like how Al Gore thinks television is “the dominant media of our time”. Hmm. I’m going to hazard a guess that the Internet is the dominant media of our time, but that may well hinge on how you define “dominant”. In any event, a network that reaches 19 million homes doesn’t strike me as dominant no matter how you define the word. Given the variety of cable channels I already have and don’t watch, they’re going to have to provide some compelling reason to watch.

The proposed programming doesn’t strike me as all that compelling. The strategy is to make half of the station’s programming viewer-submitted video. On the surface, this might seem like a good idea. After all, reality TV is popular and cheap, right? However, speaking as someone who’s watched a lot of late-night television, this is bound to fail. This is an expensive commercial version of public-access programming. That ain’t gonna get them enough market share to make it worthwhile. Sturgeon’s Law is the issue here. They have to hope that the viewer submitted video is worth watching. Most of it won’t be.

However, as a firm supporter of free markets and free speech, I applaud the concept. More voices means more noise, or more cacophony, or something. Why is it that more voices is good, again? I forget. However, I'm assuming it is. So yay! More poorly-shot crappily-produced video that pushes somebody's worldview with no fact-checking or editing! You'd think CBS had the market locked up, but what do I know?

I also like Mr. Gore desperately pandering to the youths of America again. After all, that worked so well for his campaign, didn't it? Too bad the youths turned out to not care a whole lot. We'll see if they care anymore this time around. I know I won't.


More on the Pope

Fantastic article on Pope John Paul II. This is my favorite bit...

We don't expect the secularalists who dominate our intelligentsia ever to understand how a man rooted in orthodox Christianity could ever reconcile himself with modernity, much less establish himself on the vanguard of world history. But many years ago, when the same question was put to France's Cardinal Lustiger by a reporter, he gave the answer. "You're confusing a modern man with an American liberal," the cardinal replied. It was a confusion that Pope John Paul II, may he rest in peace, never made.



I’d comment on the recent passing of the Pope, but I was thrown out of the room for laughing inappropriately during the televised coverage on Saturday. I’m not the go-to guy for commentary on solemn and dignified occasions.

Instead, I’ll talk about motorcycles. Steve at Hog On Ice has tried to explain why he feels that getting suckered for a lot of chrome makes him somehow superior. I am, of course, referring to his ownership of a Harley. Steve displays all the traits of the classic Harley owner. Monumental ego? Check. Snotty disdain for motorcycles that actually work? Check. A slavish belief in H-D hype? Check. Undersized genitalia? I have no idea, nor do I really want to find out. However, all the other attributes are present. The logical conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader.

Let’s get one thing straight: Harley-Davidson is at this late date only peripherally a motorcycle manufacturer. H-D is a marketing organization that happens to make motorcycles. The making of the motorcycles enables their marketing success, so they continue to do it (poorly). H-D is primarily in the business of licensing the brand for placement on a vast array of consumer items. They’re really good at the marketing part of the business equation. Evidence for this comes from the fact that someone like Steve, who appears to be intelligent, has bought into the bullshit.

By any objective standard, Harleys are mediocre motorcycles at best. The only thing they do that other motorcycles don’t do better is wear the H-D nameplate. They are also absurdly priced for what you get. You get a slow-ass loud bike with lots of chrome that says H-D on it everywhere. For this, you’ll pay upwards of 20 grand. All that money and you can say, “I own a Harley.” Neat. Any Japanese motorcycle that sells for 1/3 the cost can out-perform a Harley in every category except the somewhat specialized one of “proving the owner paid too much.”

Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you’re paying for quality, either. You’re paying all that money because Harley can sell the bikes for that much. Harley intentionally restricts the supply in order to maximize the per-unit sales price. Since they’re not really all that interested in making bikes, this lets H-D concentrate on their vast and lucrative co-branding empire. You’re riding a “true American icon” that is relentlessly marketed as such by the company that wanted you to buy the thing. Give me a break, okay? You got taken hook, line and sinker by the marketing machine. Don’t repeat the ads to me, because I don’t care.

That’s another problem I have with Harley people: the endless yammering about style and class. Style? Yeah, if your definition of style includes “way too much chrome”. If your definition of style includes “frozen in time since the late 50s”, get a Harley. Class? I’m always puzzled by this assertion. It’s still a motorcycle. You still get smacked in the chest and head by bugs when you ride the thing. How showing up somewhere covered in dead bugs is classy is beyond me, but then I don’t own a Harley. Maybe the bikes don’t go fast enough to kill the bugs, so they just bounce off the fat rolls of the typical rider.

I don’t really have a problem with the bikes themselves. They are what they are. Some people like them, some people don’t. I think they’re over-priced. My big problem is the sanctimonious twits that own Harleys. I get tired of the Harley cultists like I get tired of the BMW cultists. You made a personal decision that price was irrelevant and the logo on the front of your machine was the overriding factor in your vehicle purchase. Great. This doesn’t make you or your machine superior. In fact, it makes you a bit of a jackass. Shut up about how wonderful your mediocre machine is, okay? Nobody but the other cultists believes you.


Do not be afraid...

Farewell humble servant. We love you and miss you already. If ever a Saint walked the Earth in our time, Ioannes Paulus II, you are the man.


Neat Interview

Reason has an interview with Burt Rutan posted online. Good stuff, go read.

Incomprehension Rules My Life

I looked at the referral logs last night. A lot of people are coming here searching for “Michael Schiavo sucks”. Why would people search for this? Are you so in need of validation for your opinion of the man that you search the web seeing how many other people agree with you? I don’t get it, but I don’t get a lot of things.

We actually get a lot of these kind of referrals. Anything with “sucks” in the search string eventually ends up here for obvious reasons. People like to have their distaste confirmed, I suppose. I’m sure if we posted more about objectionable celebrities (i.e. most of them) we would get a lot more hits from people searching for them, as well.

I also see that many people are looking for Kees Moeliker. I guess people really are interested in homosexual necrophiliac duck porn. The smart, if somewhat twisted, entrepreneur would snap up a domain and start taking some duck pictures. I dunno how you get ducks to pose, but I’m sure that’s a minor detail. Maybe you could get an endorsement from Mr. Moeliker, too.

Socky Berger

I eagerly note that Sandy Berger has finally ‘fessed up to his criminal behavior. Instapundit nails him to the wall:
So Berger stole, and destroyed, classified documents as part of a politically motivated coverup. Let's just be clear about that. Criminal penalties, aside, the man's career in public life should be over, and he certainly should never have access to classified documents again.
I can only add that the rest of us would not have walked away so cavalierly after what he did. Jail time would have resulted. I also am baffled that his clearance was only suspended for 3 years. What do you have to do to get it revoked permanently? I would think stealing and shredding documents would prove that you are not capable of being trusted with classified material. We’re supposed to wait three years and he’ll be all better? Uh, no. This begs the question of why a guy who no longer works for the government has a clearance in any fashion, but I’ll let that slide.

I still maintain he hid the documents in his socks, by the way. He’s lied about everything else up until now, why wouldn’t he lie about that?

Week Off

Well, I see that we have taken a week off here at YPS. Odd how time slips away. Work has, yet again, interfered with things.

Anyhow, some news of the past week. Terry Schiavo and Mitch Hedberg both died. All in all, Mitch was much funnier. I think Terri Schiavo's passing will mean more in the long run. InstaPunk has some thoughts on Terri Schiavo’s passing. I’m not qualified to comment intelligently on theology, Christian or otherwise, so you’ll have to make your own determination as to how valid the points are.