Friday, December 23, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 23, 2011

Does anyone else find it ironic that anti-Christmas atheists are making a protest in Santa Monica--you know a town named for Saint Monica.

What is it about Christmas that inspires massive baked good preparation?  Why don't we make a lot of cookies for say Easter or July 4th?  It is not like the three wise men brought gold, sugar cookies and pie.

Saw this today and smiled a little:
To our Republican friends: Merry Christmas! To our Democratic friends: please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, out best wishes for and environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religiuos or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. This wish is made without regard to the race, color, age, physical ability, religion, or sexual preference of the wishee.

Courtesy of ChangeMaryland.

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An Undeniable Asymmetry

The inestimable Don Boudreaux had this piece An Undeniable Asymmetry, the substance of which is this:

But let’s be clear about one indisputable fact: capitalism vigorously pursued has never produced the atrocities – starvation, tyranny, and genocide – that are produced by statism vigorously pursued. Nothing remotely close.

Capitalism vigorously pursued might produce trade cycles and long periods of high unemployment; it might produce anxiety in yesterday’s successful entrepreneurs who now face competition from today’s upstart entrepreneurs; it might cause too many people to become obese; it might kill off animal species in unusually high numbers; it might cause the earth’s climate to change; it might create asset bubbles; it might spark envy and over-work in the Smiths who are trying to keep up with their neighbors, the Joneses. It might do these things and others that reasonable people might regard as unfortunate in comparison with some imaginable paradise.

But we must never lose sight of this important asymmetry: complete or near-complete state control of the economy has proven to be a sure recipe for deep impoverishment and brutal tyranny, while historical periods that have been close to laissez faire – that is, much closer to laissez faire than is America at the dawn of 2012 – have produced nothing remotely of the sort. Indeed, whatever problems might be caused by more and more reliance upon laissez faire capitalism are always accompanied by – and are at least partially (and arguably more than completely) off-set by – unambiguous benefits of capitalism such as the elimination of starvation, more abundant supplies of clothing, and better housing.

Any problems promoted by greater and greater reliance upon capitalism, in short, are first-world problems (which isn’t to say that these problems should be tolerated); they are problems incomparably more tolerable than are the horrors promoted by the elimination of capitalism.

In the United States we have a group of well-fed, generally well-educated people, faux representatives of the mythical 99%, who took up residence in various public parks in high quality gore-tex tents, sleeping bags and possessed other high-quality and in some cases high cost, equipment like iPads, smart phones and laptops served by Wi-fi to protest one perceived excess of capitalism--income inequality. In short the children and grandchildren of capitalism railed against capitalism because they envied successful people.

Yet at no time did they see the irony of their position. Through the capitalism of Steve Jobs (a very rich man at his death) and Bill Gates (a phenomenally rich man) and thousands of others who have brought, health, security, comfort, cheap useful technology and, yes, that dreaded wealth, to America, these protesters were able to attempt to affect change though a Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, assembly and to petition for redress of grievances to the government. The change they wanted to affect was, in essence, give us more. What more do they want?

Time Magazine has named The Protestor as the Time Person of the Year. Make no mistake, the Protesters in Egypt, Syria and other of the Middle East risked far more that some Occupy Wall Street Protestor. Middle East protestors risked life, liberty and limb to affect change. A Occupy protester risked possible arrest (not not likely prosecution), maybe some pepper spray by overzealous police officers, and maybe some discomfort if the local Starbucks's Wi-fi went down or ran out of vanilla syrup for their lattes. A protester in Syria could get arrested an indefinitely detained without due process of the law, or worse yet, shot and possibly killed. You don't hear of protests in North Korea do you--because of the aforementioned arrest without due process and summary execution.

The fact of the matter is, discomfort and displacement is a part of the capitalist system. That same system that produced Chelsea Elliot (a 2008 college graduate who grew up, literally, in the womb-like embrace of one of the greatest economic booms in history), also produces the unemployment and disenchantment we see today. The difference is, in a capitalist society, a disenchanted protestor is well-clothed, well-fed, protected by due process of the law and afforded the Constitutional right to act as they do.

So while the protesters have a right to assemble and turn places like Zucotti Park into a human garbage dump without consequence---we should take with a huge grain of salt their protest of capitalism. In fact, the Occupy Wall Street movement should have a tag line associated with it:

The Protest Made Possible by Capitalism.

How's that for asymmetry.

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Mark Steyn on The Gingrich Gestalt

All I can say is Wow! I have a new mission in life to be able to write something like this bit in the National Review Online

To be honest as a registered Republican, I don't know who I am planning to vote for. The list of candidates is hardly inspiring. But I will say this about Newt Gingrich:

Yes, he has baggage (but it is a mostly known baggage). Yes, he has some positions that I find distasteful and alarmingly big government in nature. Yes, he is not nearly as right wing as he appears to try and paint himself as in the primary process.

But I will say this about Newt Gingrich--he has a lot of ideas. Some of them are dumb, some of them are no practical, and some of them are best left unsaid. But he seems to be the only guy (besides Herman Cain) who has ideas and is not afraid to say them.

Ideas built this nation--indeed, the ideas of our Founding Fathers were at once conservative and radical. Maybe it is ideas that we need to break out of this funk that we are in.

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Congratulations Taxpayers, Chevy Volt is the Most Government-Supported Car at Up To $250k in Subsidies Per Vehicle Sold - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

Remember folks, the people paying those subsidies are the same ones who want to run your healthcare. They can't even pick a winner of a car, how the heck do you think they are going to do with say, your own body?

Just a thought.

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The 50 Best Political Quotes For 2011

As compiled by John Hawkins of Right Wing News. There are lots of really, really good one. To be fair though, I don't like the #1 quote. It smacks to me of opportunism since the quote was not made by a political person or a person saying what he said for a political reason. But I won't spoil the surprise since I can't quibble with any of the other selections. Although it is not the "best" political quote, I think the lack of eloquence of this quote summarizes how I feel, and I think how many Americans feel, about that state of affairs.

21) My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you. — Ronnie Bryant

(link in original) It is not that businessmen don't want to be in business or hire people or get the economy moving again--it is that they are afraid to so do, they are afraid that they will be regulated out of business, that the government will make it very difficult, very costly to engage in the kind of business they want. Government, and in particular the federal government, has now put up so many barriers, so many obstacles to the efficient flow of business and commerce that you can almost envision bureaucrats and politicians sitting in their nice comfy office thinking of ways to keep themselves in that nice comfy office by regulating and passing legislation.

If that seems like a scene from Atlas Shrugged, you might be right. And that is a problem.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 22, 2011

I love it when I get word that my work day will be shorter than anticiapted--even if I have to wait 24 hours for the short day.

Saw this today:  Is Marriage the New Status Symbol?  Interesting thought, a marriage will be like a luxury car.  Gives new meaning to the term "trophy wife" or "boy toy" doesn't it?

Bwahahahahaha----an unmarked police car was stolen in Denver on the same day that Denver police announced an education effort to warn motorists not to leave their car running unattended.  Ironic isn't it?  Newer cars have push button start and a separate device to unlock the doors.  Use them in conjunction and you might prevent theft.  Of course, the old fashioned method of not leaving you running car unattended is just as effective.

I bought picture frames today for some gifts.  One of the frames I bought boasted that it came with art already included in the frame.  I was wondering if I was paying more for the frame.  I also wondered if they lost sales because their art in the frame sucked.

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Disconnect Between High School and College

The San Jose (Ca.) Mercury News has a report that California State college campuses are overwhelmed by students needing remedial education classes before staring their course of study. 

The remedial numbers are staggering, given that the Cal State system admits only freshmen who graduated in the top one-third of their high-school class. About 27,300 freshmen in the 2010 entering class of about 42,700 needed remedial work in math, English or both.

That is 63.9% of students, nearly two out of three entering freshman need some sort of remedial classes.  And these are students are in the top thrid of their high school class.  That is staggering.

So the statistic begs the question:  What is the disconnect between a high school education and preparation in English and Math and the level of acumen required in college?  Presumably the top 1/3 of a high school class is generally groomed to attend college, so what are they NOT learning in high school that they need in freshman English and math?  If the goal of college preparatory programs in high is to actually, you know, prepare students for a college education, then how does the secondary education system explain this massive disconnect?

Of course, the problem is not limited to California.  One need only look at the course offerings and schedule of any public university in the United States and see the sheer number of remedial classes being offered. So the fundamental question is how much do high school curricula match the fundamental college curricula?  Clearly they do not meet so the next logical question is why?  Why aren't the people who write high school curricula studying college requirements to make sure that student graduating from high school have the basic English and math skills to begin college without the need for remedial education?

 As I have said on multiple occasions, while colleges like to bemoan the need for their students to take remedial classes, they have a perverse incentive to keep providing the classes on a wide basis--they make money.  I proposed a solution:

[S]tart billing that student's K-12 school system for indemnificaion for failing to do their job. That would be a big financial incentive for K-12 schools to do a better job. Can you imagine that annual bill?

So if the student graduates in say, the top third of their high school class, and they require remedial classes upon entering college, the college or the student should submit a bill to the school system to cover the cost of remedial classes for which the student receives no credit.  If there is a financial incentive in place, you can bet that curriculum specialists will be under intense pressure to actually make sure that high school students are prepared to enter college without needing remedial education.

Of course to do so would admit that the sacred cow of public education does not actually prepare our best students for a college education.  As Glenn Reynolds put it:   "California spends a fortune on schools and pays its (unionized) teachers very well."  And we can't have an education system in which our teachers feel bad about their performance.  That would be just as bad as students feeling bad about their performance--at least until they are no longer the responsibility of our public high schools.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 21, 2011

Well, it looks like it won't be a White Christmas here in Maryland this year.  With my luck a massive snowstorm will hit on January 4, the day after we return from vacation in Florida.  It won't happen while we are in Florida since that will extend my vacation to "inability to travel."

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 20, 2011

Heard in court today from a judge that it is advisable to get a lawyer for allegations of driving while on a suspended license since the potential punishment is $1,000 or a year in jail.  Judge offers a postponement for people to seek the advice of a lawyer, including the public defender.  Heard six defendants waive their right to counsel AND their right to a jury trial.  Really?  Don't you want to at least think about that one?

Major League Soccer training camps begin in 4 weeks.  I am stoked---I think I maybe I have a problem.  Admitting your problem is the first step to recovery right?

I have been reading case law at work about lawyers behaving badly---there are times when I am amazed that more judges don't just say "Really?  You  are bringing a lawsuit based on that?  Seriously?  Get the f--- out of my courtroom."  It certainly would make court watching more entertaining.

Is it just me, or does the National Christmas Tree  like a breast in the cold with a nipple ring?  Or am I just imagining things?

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Monday, December 19, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 19, 2011

Some random thoughts that have occurred to me today:

1).  The federal government wants automakers to build cars that are more fuel efficient, which often means lighter cars.  If the government is serious about fuel efficiency, how about sponsoring an X-Prize competition to radically improve the internal combustion engine--which is largely unchanged over several decades?

2).  A man whom I respect a great deal as a soccer commentator and with whom I probably disagree with politically wonders: "Is it that civil discourse is simply an antiquity in our modern blogging, social media world. We write what WE think and have no patience or tolerance for what anyone else has to say."  We live in a world dominated by confirmation bias--and in a world where most people don't know what "confirmation bias" means.

3).  What is it about the Star Spangled Banner that inspires children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the National Anthem, yet adults are rarely inspired to do so?

4).  If soccer is not a "big time" sport in America, why did I see two pickup soccer games on the National Mall yesterday, but only one pickup football game?

5).  Did the man who invented the Smurfs' song (you know that annoying la, la, la, la song) know that he was dooming millions of fathers to hours of insufferable repetition by children?  It a brain worm worse the "It's A Small World After All."
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Take 15 Minutes and Listen

Just listen to Senator Marco Rubio.

Are we are the verge of a nation so beset by class warfare that we have made it impossible for a person to become rich through hard work?  Have we destroyed the American dream?

Just listen and let me know what you think?

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Huh...Not Surprised

Althouse: 1% of the population of Wisconsin applies for a concealed carry permit.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Federal Government Needs to Pick a Position

Earlier this week, the National Transportation Safety Board, proposed a total cell phone ban which has led to some groups worrying about a federal overreach

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a complete ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.

The recommended ban includes hands free devices.

“No call, no text, no update is worth a human life,” Deborah A. P. Hersman, chairman of the N.T.S.B., said.

According to a CNN report, “The safety board also recommended the electronics industry develop phones that would discourage their use by drivers, but could identify a car occupant’s location so that passengers could use the devices.”

The federal agency insists the law, along with “strict enforcement” and “aggressive educational campaigns,” are all necessary to curb distracted driving.

Now, there are of course a whole host of reasons why this is a really bad, bad idea.  there are constitutional questions as well as propriety questions, as in whether this is a reasonable exercise of any police powers, let alone federal powers.  But I have a more fundmental, basic question.  How on earth does the NTSB propose to enforce this cell phone ban? 

The only possible way I can see enforcement of this proposed law is to have local law enforcement officers police and enforce the law.  Of course co-opting state and local law enforcement to police a federal law carries a whole host of federalsim concerns all of which have been explored on multiple occaisions by the courts and thus not particularly likely to pass unless the federal government provides for some sort of block grant or other appropriation to enforce the ban.

Now here is the question:  If local law enforcement is good enough to enforce a cell phone ban in cars, why is local law enforcement NOT good enough to enforce immigration laws?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

President "It's Not My Fault"

President Barack Obama Now Adds Bill Clinton To Blame List For Lousy Recovery

Really, three years into his term of office and the President will not own up to the fact that maybe, just maybe his policies suck.

Just a thought.

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Proposed Constitutional Amendments on Free Speech

I always thought of the First Amendment as pretty clear on the matter of free speech (accepting that there are limits) But Eugene Volokh questions a proposed Constitutional Amendment and wonders if anti-business non-profits (like maybe unions) would be exempt: Here is the proposed Amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and a group of Democratic representatives:
Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.

Section 2. Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.

Section 3. Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.

Section 4. Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, spend, and publicly disclose the sources of those contributions and expenditures.

Volokh talks about the rights of business oriented non-profits (read trade associations, chambers of commerce, etc.) which would seem to be barred from free speech rights, but anti-business non-profits (read unions and "public" interest groups) would not. Maybe.

But read that first sentence of Section 1. It goes beyond just the First Amendment, it speaks to all rights protected by the Constitution as the "rights of natural persons" AND do not extend. But what about the rights of the states? The 10th Amendment guarantees some rights (those not reserved to the people) although they are ill-defined. Would this Amendment alter that relationship? Reading the plain language, it would seem that way. Of course, a state is not organized for business purposes as we traditionally think of business, but many states are engaged in business which is not prohibited. Would those states no longer have an ability to speak on issues?

What about unincorporated associations? What about partnerships?

I don't think this proposed amendment will come anywhere close to ratification--but you can't help but wonder--why do people hate business so much?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

ATF and Obama Administration have used Fast & Furious to push gun control

We have stepped through the looking glass, Alice: New e-mails: ATF officials discussed using Fast & Furious to … push gun control.
Congressional Democrats and even Eric Holder himself have already used F&F as a pretext to call for more gun control. I thought the sleaziest bit of White House scandal spin we’d see this year was the Energy Department asking Solyndra to hold off on layoffs until after election day in 2010. Nope: Per the new F&F e-mails, they’re actually using their own scandals now as a pretext for greater regulation. Says Dan McLaughlin, “Obama Administration once again lives down to every paranoid caricature of itself.”

Seriously! At first, I thought John Hindraker's piece on this matter might have been a bridge too far:
If the Obama administration did arrange for the shipment of arms to Mexican drug gangs, not for any legitimate public purpose but in order to advance a left-wing political agenda, and those guns were used to murder hundreds of Mexicans and at least one American border agent–which they were–then we are looking at a scandal that dwarfs any in modern American history. I think one would have to go back to James Buchanan, who ordered the shipment of federal armaments to the South so that they could be commandeered by secessionists when disunion came, to find a worse scandal. And one could argue that even that act by Buchanan, generally considered the worst President in American history, was motivated by principle and not politics, and therefore was not as craven as Obama’s gun walker scandal. But such a judgment would be premature. A great deal more investigation needs to be done before we can conclude that Fast and Furious was the worst scandal since pre-Civil War days.

But then again, maybe not. Because as Ann Althouse pointed out quite logically:
If Hinderaker's conclusion seems extreme, consider that it could be easily refuted by a clear statement from the Obama administration disclosing the true and legitimate purpose. The absence of such a statement propels us toward the extreme conclusion.

But we don't have anything from the Obama administration on this matter and Eric Holder still has a job. I am still baffled by what was supposed to be accomplished by the Fast & Furious program. I am even more baffled by why we as a nation, who has a "war" on drugs would be in any kind of deal with Mexican drug cartels. If Hindraker is even partly right--this is ridiculous and borders on treason and certainly falls into the high crimes and misdemeanors territory.

Bill Clinton was a philanderer and the Congress impeached him for lying about his womanizing, but at least no one died because of what Bill Clinton did. This Obama Administration, certain agents and executives of the ATF and Eric Holder have the blood of an American border agent and doznes of Mexican civilians on their hands and for what--so that they can impose gun control?

If I lived on the Mexican Border and my government was giving guns to murders, thugs and hooligans, I would be buying every gun I could get my hands on---or moving to Montana.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sexting Among Minors Is Not As Bad As We Thought

So, not as many minors are sexting as was thought (or feared):

One in 10 children ages 10 to 17 has used a cellphone to send or receive sexually suggestive images, but only 1 in 100 has sent images considered graphic enough to violate child pornography laws, a new study found.


An earlier, often-cited study had estimated that as many as one in five teenagers engaged in sexting, but it included 18- and 19-year-olds, most likely increasing the overall prevalence.

In recent years, high-profile cases in which teenagers were arrested for forwarding nude pictures of other minors have attracted nationwide attention. Despite sexting’s reputation as a teenage pastime, surveys now suggest that it is actually more common among young adults than children.

So, we pushed the panic button for nothing? To the extent that people freaked out, yes there was far more smoke than fire since there was a problem with the previous study's sample construction. An 18 year old who texts a nude picture of themselves is not breaking any pornography standards. But including 18-19 year olds in a study about minors sexting was poor.

The study did note:

Over all, the new report found, 149 youths interviewed for the study, or 9.6 percent, said they had sent or received images that included full or partial nudity in the previous year. Just over 2 percent of those who engaged in sexting said they had appeared in the pictures or had taken them themselves, and 7.1 percent said they received sexual images from someone else.


About 31 percent who appeared in or took sexual images said that alcohol or drug use had been a factor. And despite public concerns about lewd photographs of minors that start out as private messages becoming widely distributed, only 3 percent of the minors in the study said they had forwarded sexual photographs that they had received.

The fact that about a third of sexual messages were created or sent when alcohol or drugs were involved suggests that the children who are doing the riskiest messaging are engaging in other risky behaviors as well, said Nancy Baym, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas and author of the book “Personal Connections in the Digital Age.”

But Dr. Baym, who was not involved in the study, said it was important that the research documented “that a considerable percentage of texting is not problematic, but an extension of the kinds of flirting and relationship-maintaining behavior that goes on in consensual teen relationships and stays within those relationships.”

The use of alcohol and drugs with their tendency to reduce inhibitions impacting on the sexting is not surprising. But what is surprising is that even among teenagers, the purpose appears to be an extension of behavior that is considered normal, if not healthy, in consensual relationships.

Of course, is it smart for teenagers to send nude photos of themselves or others around? No, clearly not. But then again, we say the same thing about teenagers having sex. We know that teenagers have sex. So we encourage abstinence but prepare for intercourse by teaching safe sex practices. I think we should consider the cyber world equivalent of discouraging sexting, but we should encourage safe practices (what ever they may be). Those "safe" sexting practices should be presented in an atmosphere that does not accuse and/or classify the activity as criminal.

Before some overzealous prosecutor gets a burr under their saddle and starts charging teenagers with possession and desemmination of child pornography, a close examination of who sent what to whom and for what purpose should be considered.

But of course, in the world of the Nanny State, commons sense will always take a back seat to irrational fear mongering.

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