Death Becomes A Senator

So, Robert Byrd (D-ead) has shuffled off this mortal choir to join the choir invisible. This means we have to put up with an endless series of political hacks praising his sainted memory, just like we did when old Spongeted Drunkpants finally kicked it.

Pardon me while I vomit profusely. Just because the addled old donk managed to bring home enough pork to keep getting reelected doesn't make him anyone we should celebrate. Robert Byrd was an appalling example of a legislator. Somebody should be going around West Virginia with a chisel and taking his name off all the crap he got built.



Ineffective Website Is Ineffective

So, in keeping with all the usual stereotypes of the libertarian gun-nut, it should surprise none of you that I am a fan of conspiracy theories. Not a believer, mind you, but a fan. I've spent long enough out in the weeds with the crazies and the paranoids to have a fairly exhaustive grasp of the subject. For me, it's amateur cultural anthropology to watch the ideas mutate and recombine with new names slotted into the same old ideas.

As I think I've mentioned before, The Con is really a religious belief for the people who truly believe. Conspiracy theories are a way of making sense out of what is an essentially senseless and uncaring universe. Like all religious beliefs, they're hard to argue against. If you present the theorist with the conventional wisdom, they're likely to reply with "that's what they want you to think".

Having said that, I can now present to you a website which authoritatively states what they want you to think. The official US government debunking of various conspiracy theories! Yay!

After all, when you suspect an organization of killing 3,000 people and lying about it to start a war, you're certainly going to believe them when they tell you they didn't. Right?

I'm sure the government wastes more time and money on dumber things, but I'm equally sure very little the government does has a lower probability of success.

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Metric Football Finale

You may have noticed a distinct lack of World Cup blogging around here. That's because no one at YPS can be bothered to pay any attention to metric football. Neither can LabRat, but she's funnier than us on the subject:
World Cup: world’s most boring sport being totally ruined by world’s most irritating local tradition. World’s tallest midget protests.
We also give big props to anyone who uses the phrase "world's tallest midget", a frequently used idiom around the Manor. Let this be the final word on the subject until the World Cup rolls around again.

Unless, of course, the US manages to win the damn thing, in which case we will feel obligated to post something about Team America in between paroxysms of laughter.

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Location, Location, Dislocation

So the .gov has been running ads about flood insurance. Perhaps you've seen them? Some guy stands there with a roof floating over his head and explains how he's a home, and homes need flood insurance, and you should buy some flood insurance.

I'll be honest. Flood insurance infuriates me. Well, flood insurance in the abstract doesn't bother me a bit. The National Flood Insurance Program disturbs me greatly. Here's how it works. You pay a pittance to the feds to insure your house. When your house floods, the feds write you a check. This would be all well and good except the premiums the fed takes in don't cover the checks the feds have to write. The advertisements are so the feds can drum up new revenue sources to help cover the losses instead of robbing the general revenue.

I'd be in favor of the program if it were actuarially sound. It's not. Insurance rates aren't based on risk, they're based on politics. Flood insurance rates are set artificially low. Apparently, pricing the insurance accurately would lead to people moving or not getting flood insurance. Either one works for me if we don't bail people out when bad shit happens. Unfortunately, we do.

Any insurance that is subsidized by the government leads people to make stupid choices. In this case, building houses in floodplains. If Joe and Jane Homeowner had to bear the real cost of their flood insurance themselves, we wouldn't see many houses built below sea level in a swamp.

So what do we get instead? We subsidize flood insurance to make it cheaper to build houses on floodplains. So more people build houses on floodplains, thus ensuring more losses when the inevitable flood happens. We've created a lovely feedback loop of bad decisions. When the program blows up fiscally, do we ever start to rethink the initial bad decision of subsidizing insurance? Nope. Our legislators and bureaucrats tweak the margins in a perpetual attempt to keep the game going. Revisiting the initial assumption of providing subsidized insurance never enters the debate.

If you look around, you can see plenty of examples of similar dynamics at work in a lot of federal programs. So we keep throwing money down ratholes, and we're rapidly going broke. I wonder why?

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You First, Skippy

So, the somewhat less than lustrous Senator from the great state of Deseret Utah, Orrin Hatch (R-Cupholder) has proposed a law. If you receive any form of government assistance, he wants you to pee in a cup. Orrin is apparently offended by the thought of you low-lifes getting high with tax money.

There are some arguments against this that flow from first principles, but since we've rendered the 4th Amendment into a sad, pathetic joke, I won't go into them. I'll start by pointing out a fact of my misspent youth. During my tenure in the Army, we were regularly asked to take tests to tell if we were on drugs. Tellingly, the people who control the military are not asked to do any such thing. Us guys with the boots on the ground might do something wrong if we were high. The folks deciding where we should go kill people and break things are apparently immune from poor decisions while stoned, since they don't take whiz quizzes.

Additionally, I note Orrin's salary and bennies are paid by the federal government. He's taking taxpayer money, too. It strikes me that to be philosophically consistent, Orrin should pass a bill requiring him and 534 of his closest fellow legislators to take random drug tests. When he steps up and does that, maybe I'll think about supporting drug tests for welfare recipients. In the meantime, if he's not going to require Congress to take a drug test he needs to have a nice hot cup of STFU.

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Conference Chaos

So, anybody know what conference the Longhorns will be part of when football season rolls around this fall? If you do know, clue me in. I just want us to continue to play A&M on Thanksgiving and Oklahoma sometime in October. I don't think that's too much to ask.

I have a sneaking suspicion the rest of my fellow exes may agree with me.

I also have a sneaking suspicion we're not nearly done with all the conference hopping. I guess we'll all have to wait and see.

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Annual POA Meeting 2010

So, the prettier, politer half of YPS and I went to the annual POA Board meeting last night. Really, the Board should sell drinks at these things. It would be a way to help out the budget and make the meetings more bearable. The Board should also see about holding the meetings in a place with some lights, too. People were, no joke, using flashlights to read the programs. Whoever designed the auditorium at Oak Ridge High apparently felt lights weren't necessary.

Anyhow, the usual suspects were in attendance. Brandi Leal, some other PCMI minion, the social planner (Jennifer?), Linda Houston, Rick Gadd, Greg Grant, and Roy Hailey. I guess Bliss Roberts resigned from the board, since she wasn't there. As always, our fearless leader Al Brende didn't show up. They also had the new MoCo deputy who is our contracted patrol leader.
The big news: meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Greg Grant got booted off the board. Sebastien Moulin and Kenneth Brown are now our resident board members. Kenneth has been involved in the community as Traffic Safety Chair ever since we moved here. Now that I can associate a face to a name, I've seen Sebastien at just about every meeting I've attended, so he's obviously involved as well. Whether or not they'll do a good job is the next question. If not, we can boot them next year.

Of course, given the Board is still controlled by Land Tejas, I'm quite sure there's a hard limit to what Sebastien and Kenneth can accomplish if Al and his minions are against it. In any event, I wish them well, right up until they try to do something I don't like. Then I will call for their removal from the Board, banishment from polite society, and ostracization from the community. If it comes to that, any of you who might be members of polite society or the community shall have to let me know how that works out.

Greg gave a lovely little speech about everything he had done for the community, and it may all be true. I dunno. Given the crappy summary notes the Board puts out for meeting minutes, you'd never be able to tell. However, he flat out admitted he doesn't answer emails. I think his lack of response may have killed his reelection. People may accept that nothing can be done about a situation, but they don't like feeling their concerns are ignored. I get a sense a lot of residents don't feel anybody listens to them. Perhaps our new resident members will do a better job at communicating with the rest of us. Again, we shall see.

What was more interesting to me was the budget numbers presented. The subdivision has run in the red every single year since the community was built. Maybe I'm dumb, but this indicates a problem to me. You can't run any organization over the long term with continual deficits unless you're the federal government. Last time I checked, we weren't. We're also supposed to be maintaining a reserve fund to pay for the expenses we're bound to face in the future for things like road maintenance and clubhouse maintenance. I asked about it. We have nothing in our reserve fund, we owe our builder 200 large, and the Board is out spending money on speed bumps. This makes no sense to me, and the snide dismissal by Brandi does absolutely nothing to endear her to me.

Our budget is the biggest problem we, as a community, face and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Instead, everybody demands funding of their little pet issue and stubbornly resists any cuts to the pet while insisting everything else be discarded. It doesn't help that we're still $500K short from all the dues we should be collecting. Something has to give, and sooner rather than later. I don't want my assessments to be raised every single year because the Board is incapable of managing our money responsibly. Since Al and his employees run the Board, I'm pretty much blaming Al and Land Tejas for this one. They built a bunch of amenities that are expensive to maintain, and then set the assessments too low to adequately cover them and a reserve fund. I guess it's easier to pitch your nice, shiny community if it has low assessments.

I also blame Al for the people who won't stop bitching about the golf course. Yeah, Al gave himself a revenue stream for his golf course out of our POA dues. Yes, it was sleazy and unethical, but we got it stopped and it's over. Unless you can figure out a way to make Houston National Golf Club give us our money back, have a cup of STFU and let it go.

We also spent a whole bunch of time listening to people nattering about speed bumps. People are for them, people are against them, they're too high, they're effective, they're not effective. Whatever. Somebody explain to me how an organization that can't adequately fund ongoing operations can find the money to install speed bumps. I'm not seeing it. You can desire speed bumps all you want, but you need to figure out how to pay for them. I don't see where the POA has the money.

I'd comment on what Officer Friendly had to say, but he rambled so much I'm not entirely sure. Something about double edged swords, and gangs, and how he drives his own truck around to be super-ninja cop or something. He was marginally more coherent than a head trauma patient, but only just.

I'm beginning to feel these meetings are more or less political theatre to keep the residents partially mollified. Al and his cronies are going to do the minimum possible to keep the subdivision an attractive marketing opportunity until they can close it out. Once they hand over the POA, we'll still have the same budget problems, but it'll be our problem and we'll have to raise assessments or slash services. The future looks pretty bleak from where I'm sitting.

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