The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort. -- Robert A. Heinlein
Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
Reason has a couple of good articles up about Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans rebuilding "effort". The first takes issue with Senator Clinton's "national pride" crapola (and the crapola of others like her) on the rebuilding effort:
Theoretically, it's possible to keep New Orleans dry. All you have to do is surround it with levees designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. That's what Hillary Clinton urges.
As she said in New Orleans, "Other countries have figured out how to protect their low-lying cities. Japan has done it. Europe has done it." Shirking that obligation, she insisted, reflects a "fatalistic attitude" that suggests "we can't do the things that great countries should do."
Of course, that's easy to say, but are there other ways to respond? There's opportunity cost to consider, even though Congress-critters like Clinton never seem to understand what that means:
The cost of the levee system envisioned by Sen. Clinton is tabbed at $40 billion. Restoring other infrastructure would increase the cost. The question is whether that's the best use of our resources. For $40 billion, you could give more than $61,000 to every Louisianan displaced by Katrina -- nearly a quarter of a million dollars for a family of four.
...the new levee system can't be completed before 2015...
Let me ponder for a nanosecond here... if I'm a person who's lost everything, have basically resettled somewhere else already anyway, and the government offers my wife and I the option of A) a check for $120,000, or B) moving back into the "newly rebuilt" cesspool of a city I've left 8 years from now, which would I choose?
Seems like a no-brainer to me. Of course, it doesn't to the likes of Clinton, because cash handouts supposedly don't generate votes and prestige the way that long drawn-out rebuilding projects and their attendant graft systems do. Then again, maybe recipients of Bush's early-term tax rebate checks might beg to differ.
The second article works on the myth going around that New Orleans is still a complete sewer because there's supposedly no federal dollars coming in to help cleanup:
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as of July 2007 the federal government had appropriated $94.8 billion for Katrina recovery. Congress has allowed the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow another $17 billion from the government to cover the deficit it racked up paying out Katrina claims. The federal government has also created $16 billion in targeted tax breaks through Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone credits and other programs.
So it's not a lack of funding that's the problem. It's spending the money. Under existing laws, FEMA can't simply write checks to Katrina victims. Some recipients would undoubtedly squander their funds, and there would be widespread fraud. This isn't idle speculation. According to the Government Accountability Office, immediately after Katrina hit, about a billion dollars of emergency aid—16 percent of the total—was lost to fraudulent claims. Even legitimately obtained pre-paid debit cards given to aid Katrina's victims were used to buy champagne, guns, tattoos, and porn.
Unfortunately, the other option—the one currently in place—isn't any better: government micromanagement of payouts. This is where you get the Road Home program's Byzantine policies, which includes dozens of dizzying, intermediate steps between filing a claim and the receipt of funds and, consequently, the plodding pace of recovery we've seen over the last two years. Because of legitimate fears that money will be squandered, mismanaged, or lost to fraud, the money sits unused.
It always amazes me how good government is at complicating everything -- especially situations that don't need more complicating. It's what government does best -- create "justifications" for its own existence. The people say "we don't really need you" and government says "abracadabra! allakazaam!" POOF!!! "Now ya do! By hook or by crook, you'll play the game according to our rules!"
I say, if we're already spending the money (which I wish we weren't), write the checks and collect signed waivers stating "I agree that if I waste all this money on hookers and blow, it's my own damn fault and I'm cut off from further benefits including Social Security and Medicare in my old age". Seems simple enough to me, and I didn't even have to hold a press conference with a bunch of photo-op hurricane victims as a backdrop. Then again, I'm not running for president.
Gun Owners Without Borders supports an inalienable right of people to resist any attempts to exterminate them, regardless of the source or justification for the attempted extermination.
Current United Nations policies do not prevent genocide and democide, because a nation's sovereignty logically comes first. Internal policies are a nation's own business. This holds true whether the rulers are elected, appointed, inherited or in charge through force of arms.
Gun Owners Without Borders recognizes that this is perfectly understandable and a normal state of affairs under the nation-state system.
Gun Owners Without Borders therefore understands it falls only to individual persons to defend their own right to their own lives if they can, even if such defense would be viewed as illegal or criminal acts by the ruling parties. Under the doctrine of state sovereignty, anyone who shoots back at an agent of the government is by definition typically an "outlaw."
Wherever people are oppressed or their lives placed in danger from government, powerful economic interests, criminals, zealots, tyrants, the criminally insane or others, Gun Owners Without Borders recognizes the right such people have to live, regardless of the U.N. or any other authority's failure to act, refusal to act, or inability to act.
Gun Owners Without Borders calls upon Amnesty International, Journalists Without Borders, Doctors Without Borders and all borderless groups to recognize individual people's right to live, despite government edicts to the contrary.
Arming people under such circumstances is seen by Gun Owners Without Borders as moral and just, even though the rulers taking such people's lives would view it as criminal activity.
What can be done, when governments undertake to exterminate their own citizenry? When the "social contract" turns cannibalistic? When government ceases to pretend at protecting people from existential threats, and instead becomes one? Is there a way to productively deal with such threats without needing to resort to violence, and without having thousands or even millions of people simply become victims of the predatory State?
If martial law were enacted here at home, like depicted in the movie "The Siege", easing public fears and quelling dissent would be critical. And that's exactly what the 'Clergy Response Team' helped accomplish in the wake of Katrina.
The excuse being used is the instruction from Romans 13 to submit ourselves to civil authorities:
For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, "because the government's established by the Lord, you know. And, that's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."
It seems therefore that every Christian ought to be reading this article, which discusses Romans 13 in detail, and specifically challenges the implied doctrine equating "submission to authority" with "blind obedience":
Did Moses violate God's principle of submission to authority when he killed the Egyptian taskmaster in defense of his fellow Hebrew? Did Elijah violate God's principle of submission to authority when he openly challenged Ahab and Jezebel? Did David violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to surrender to Saul's troops? Did Daniel violate God's principle of submission to authority when he disobeyed the king's law to not pray audibly to God? Did the three Hebrew children violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to bow to the image of the state? Did John the Baptist violate God's principle of submission to authority when he publicly scolded King Herod for his infidelity? Did Simon Peter and the other Apostles violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem? Did Paul violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to obey those authorities who demanded that he abandon his missionary work? In fact, Paul spent almost as much time in jail as he did out of jail.
Now of course, with all the hubbub surround the subprime mortgage market, some uber-statist feels a need to rush to the rescue. In this case, it's New York Senator Chuck Schumer, whose latest plan is discussed at Reason. Embedded in the article is this statement:
In the old days, financial institutions that refused to lend to people with low incomes or imperfect credit were accused of victimizing the needy. Today, financial institutions that make many loans to those same people are found guilty of the same crime.
To me, this epitomizes what's wrong with the statist worldview: there is nothing that the market does which does not need to be fixed by government. No matter which way the various businesses attempt to serve their customers, someone in Congress (or a lobbyist of some stripe) will decide that it's wrong and evil and needs to be "corrected" by applying the force of government. Don't sell debt to people who can't afford to buy it? You're evil! Start selling debt to people who can't afford to buy it? Evil! Evil I say!
In both cases, the "solution" is to throw government power and tax money at the problem. Schumer, who has apparently never seen a program or handout that he didn't like, wants to:
...avert future foreclosures by insisting that homeowners demonstrate they have the income to afford not merely the initial payment, but the highest one they will eventually face. He also plans to spare current borrowers by spending tax revenues for their benefit -- as well as vigorously pressuring private financial institutions to "direct resources" to this worthy end. The money would go to nonprofit entities, so they can help debtors and creditors reach terms to prevent foreclosure.
And of course, this comes with the central conceit that government knows best:
But lenders already have good reason to work out bad loans, so they don't get left holding a property that, in today's market, may be worth less than the mortgage. If it's true, as Schumer claims, that many borrowers could qualify for cheaper loans, they are free to go get them -- and mortgage brokers have ample incentive to seek those customers out. The senator's bizarre assumption is that absent federal intervention, all these parties will blunder around without a clue.
The essence of trade is that both parties gain. If they did not gain, they would not trade. Yet this simple concept somehow seems to escape Schumer's grasp. For the life of me, I can't figure out why.
Ordinarily, I'm not a fan. However, in the spirit of joining the Ron Paul Revolution, and with my buddy's stellar performance previously blogged, I went on a hunt for something I could live with.
My main issue with bumper stickers is being able to take them off without screwing up the paint on my car. After a bit of searching, I found this cool product: a magnetic bumper sticker holder. Just slap your sticker on the magnet, slap the magnet on your car, and you're good to go. Time to shop up some pro-Paul, pro-libertarian bumper stickers, and order me about half a dozen of these magnets.
Bernanke is paid to read the tea leaves. Can he not see that the subprime debacle is only the tip of the iceberg?
Trillions of dollars worth of adjustable-rate mortgages will reset in the next few years (see chart). Falling home prices across the country will make it harder for borrowers to refinance. Foreclosures surged 93% in June from a year earlier, hitting a record high.
The wave of resets could kill consumer spending -- and economic growth -- if the Fed doesn't pre-empt the looming disaster with a 50-basis-point cut in the fed funds rate.
It should act now and not wait until next month's meeting.
I don't know if the Mises Institute will have any articles on this present activity at the Fed, but I'm willing to bet they'd advise holding interest rates stable (or possibly even raising them) and riding out the storm. Making easy credit easier for bad credit risks seems like it would only be stacking the house of cards even higher, making the inevitable collapse that much more catastrophic.
Fortunately, this time the newly paved driveway survived. Unfortunately, we still had water coming into the garage. I woke up at 3 AM and went outside to build a makeshift dam/diverter on the pad, to try and get the water shunted off into the grass. It worked, but not before half the garage floor was covered in water.
To make matters more interesting, our "inland hurricane" (the remnants of tropical storm Erin)...
...somehow knocked out our HVAC unit.
In our 5-year-old house.
So now I have the joy of waiting for the repair guy to come out and do whatever he does so I can write him a giant check that feels like passing a kidney stone.
Apparently someone's preparing a TV special about how the Muslims see Jesus:
There was no manger, Christ is not the Messiah, and the crucifixion never happened. A forthcoming ITV documentary will portray Jesus as Muslims see him.
With the Koran as a main source and drawing on interviews with scholars and historians, the Muslim Jesus explores how Islam honours Christ as a prophet but not as the son of God. According to the Koran the crucifixion was a divine illusion. Instead of dying on the cross, Jesus was rescued by angels and raised to heaven.
OK, I've got no problem with showing perspectives. However, this guy makes a good point:
Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican canon and spokesman for the Barnabas Fund, which works with persecuted Christians, accused broadcasters of double standards. Mr Sookhdeo, who was born a Muslim and converted to Christianity in 1969, said: "How would the Muslim community respond if ITV made a programme challenging Muhammad as the last prophet?"
Considering the Muslim community's track record with editorial cartoons, I'm thinking there's a bit of a double standard. I'm also thinking the networks are too chicken to put Muslim tolerance to the test.
The Mises Institute has a good article up about the State's perverse incentives in the wake of the Minnesota bridge collapse. Among the more astute observatons:
Neither the US government nor the State of Minnesota, which jointly "own" the bridge that collapsed, received "profits" from that bridge. Once it was built, it represented pure cost to these governments.
Thus, we then see the sets of incentives of which both Edmonds and Sowell spoke now making more sense. The owners of a privately owned bridge would have the incentive to keep it in repair because the bridge is bringing them income; loss of that piece of capital is the loss of the income that flows from it. Therefore, we see the economic calculation for privately owned capital at work.
Governments, on the other hand, operate according to a very different economic calculus. Since the bridge does not bring an income to the state, at least directly, it is much easier for politicians to want to spend on those things that provide fame, glory, and votes. In fact, in a perverse way, the bridge collapse in Minnesota provides a benefit to politicians, since they now have an excuse to confiscate even more taxes from individuals, thus expanding the power of the state.
Indeed, the vast majority of responses I've seen have been calling for higher gas taxes to pay for something that was already supposed to be paid for. As mentioned at Reason, the lion's share of the highway dollars in this country go to building new highways and bridges, especially those named after the "heroic" congresscritters that brought home the bacon, rather than maintaining that which we've already got:
But just two years ago, Congress and the president agreed on a federal highway bill with a six-year price tag of $286 billion. Nationally, all bodies of government spend in the neighborhood of $150 billion a year on roads. Somewhere in that mountain of cash, you might think, there must be funds that could be spared to keep bridges from rotting and falling down.
You would be right. When the 2005 package passed, it included 6,736 special projects inserted by members for the benefit of their home districts, which had a total price tag of $24 billion—helping to make it what the organization Taxpayers for Common Sense called "by far the most expensive, wasteful highway bill in the nation's history."
Among the worst federal road projects identified by the group in a 2004 report was $121 million to add new ramps to, yes, Interstate Highway 35W in Minneapolis. It's just a hunch, but maybe those funds would have been more wisely spent on maintenance than expansion.
I really try to maintain an attitude that government is not malicious in its incompetence. It simply lacks incentive. As mentioned in the Mises article, not even liability lawsuits create incentive, because the cost of paying out to victims is borne by the taxpayers, not the politicians themselves. This systemic impunity is absolutely ridiculous, and should be an incentive for the rest of us to limit the damage government can do by limiting the power it has to do anything.
Do they even read their own crap? Check this article out, regarding the church shooting in Missouri:
Prosecutors on Monday filed three murder charges against a Micronesian man accused of opening fire inside of a church during a worship service of a mostly Micronesian congregation in this southwestern Missouri town.
Prosecutors also charged the man, Eiken Elam Saimon, 52, of Newton County with assault, felonious restraint for holding the congregation hostage, and armed criminal action. Another assault charge was pending, Newton County Prosecutor Scott Watson said.
So far, so good, right? Now look at this paragraph just a little while later, in the SAME ARTICLE:
The gunman, in his 40s, has not been identified pending the filing of charges. Watson said he expects to file charges later Monday, including three counts of first-degree murder.
What the heck? Is the guy unidentified, or is he Eiken Elam Saimon, 52, of Newton County? These reporters aren't even paying attention any more. It looks like they just grafted new information on top of the old story and re-printed it. And this isn't from some podunk small-town newspaper, it's from frickin' CNN, for God's sake. Here's a screen cap in case they decide to retro-edit it:
Is it any wonder so many people distrust the quality of reporting in the mainstream media?
The women, aged 56 to 76, did not resist but were beaten anyway, witnesses said. At least one required surgery.
Remember kids, just give them what they want and it'll be OK.
And monkeys might fly out of my butt.
Contrast this with the many stories of the elderly who have put a stop to similar assaults by producing and using a firearm. People who advise passivity are not your friends. They're siding with the bad guys.
Arrest warrants have been issued for two officials at a Christian boot camp accused of dragging a 15-year-old girl behind a van after she fell behind the group during a morning run, authorities said.
[Charles Eugene] Flowers, the camp's director, allegedly ordered [Stephanie] Bassitt to run alongside the girl after she fell behind, the affidavit said. When the girl stopped running, Bassitt allegedly yelled at her and pinned her to the ground while Flowers tied the rope to her, according to the affidavit.
The girl's mother gave investigators photos of her daughter's injuries that were taken at a hospital where the girl was treated and a sworn statement from a witness who claimed to see the girl being dragged on her stomach at least three times.
As if this weren't stomach-turning enough, the name of the camp is "Love Demonstrated Ministries". I have recently encountered some fellow "Christians" who would probably see this as a demonstration of love, sadly enough. Is it any wonder that Christianity receives such a bad rap, when people like these identify themselves and their methods as "Christian"?
after several years of tax shenanigans by the owner, the Mustang Ranch became the first (Official. Licensed.) brothel run by the United States Federal Government.
They lost money.
Let us allow that simple, yet profound, truth sink into our synapses, shall we?
The Federal Government of the United States can not run a bordello and make money.
So, the next time some bright-eyed little bit starts chanting about "Universal Health Care", I'm going to loudly and firmly opine that until the Federal Government is capable of running a profitable brothel ... they've got no business trying to run my health care.
Kinda calls into question the government's ability to manage anything, donchathink?
Scary thought #1: These are the people in charge of regulating business & commerce.
Scary thought #2: These are also the people in charge of our money supply.
That rushing sound is the blood draining from my face as I reel in abject horror.
Today, thanks to a fortuitous encounter at my favorite fitness equipment dealer, I got my squat cage early and at a price $120 cheaper than expected (he got a real deal on a demo model from a trade show).
This is the old setup:
And this is the new sweetness:
Unchanged is my assisted VKR dealie-bopper...
... which I am well on my way to using unassisted.
Now that I've got all my desired safety systems in place, there's nothin' to do but move some weight.
Finally, a good movie. OK, the Bourne Ultimatum was good, but the camera work makes me twitch. But Hairspray was just all-around fun. Yes, it's a musical. Get over it.
The main thing I loved about the movie is just how overwhelmingly positive it is. There's some off-color humor, most of it very mild, but the movie is just so gee-golly-willickers optimistic that I was in heaven. We get to see the almost annoyingly cute Nikki Blonsky pursue her dreams, fatherly encouragement from an incredibly uncreepy Christopher Walken, and a heartwearming performance by John Travolta as Nikki's mother. The movie would be an episode of Leave it to Beaver were it not for some of the racial and sexual undertones. I'm not saying I'd want it every day, but it's a refreshing lift from everything else I've seen this summer.
The action focuses on Nikki's character Tracy Turnblad, but the star of the show has to be Travolta's Edna Turnblad. Watching her overcome her insecurities, weather the ridicule of others, and still be able to shine at the end was simply inspiring. Travolta plays her masterfully, and she lends a great air of almost-normal to a story otherwise filled with largely one-dimensional characters.
As for the supporting cast, James Marsden is awesomely cheesy as the dance show host, Amanda Bynes is a little ball of hot that kept making me think of Alicia Silverstone (only with a better personality), Queen Latifah basically plays the same character she always plays (wise matronly black woman), and Michelle Pfeiffer desperately needs a sammich.
Some local police officers have given us an object lesson in the importance of knowing the basic rules of gun safety (as laid down by the late, great Col. Cooper), in particular rule #4:
A stray bullet fired by a police officer trying to shoot a snake hit and killed a 5-year-old boy fishing at a nearby pond, officials said.
A Noble police officer who had responded to a report of a snake in a tree apparently fired the deadly shot while trying to kill the snake, according to City Manager Bob Wade.
Those rules again:
1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.
4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.
This is one reason why I get so irritated when people go about insisting that only cops are "highly trained" enough to be toting around guns in public. These rules are so basic, so simple, that 12-year-olds successfully learn and practice them with regularity. I'd prefer not to disparage police officers as a group, but the fact is that there are good gun handlers and bad ones in every demographic, and that includes police officers. It's high time we stopped pretending otherwise.
I just got home from watching The Bourne Ultimatum. As others have said, it's high-energy, non-stop action from start to finish. It's a great capper on the series, in terms of wrapping up loose ends and such. It has only one fatal flaw, and that is director Paul Greengrass.
For those who haven't seen this or the previous movie, Paul Greengrass is of the opinion that people with Parkinson's Disease make the best cameramen. There's no camera shot that couldn't be made more blurry, harder to follow, and in some cases nauseating. In Paul's words, "better". He appears to have studied at the Blair Witch School of Film. Every shot, with precious few exceptions, is involved in the action in such a way that you believe the cameraman is Bourne's secret backup.
A fan of fight scenes? Forget it. Unlike the crisp-but-exhilarating knife fights from movies like The Hunted and Under Siege, Greengrass prefers to induce epileptic seizures in the cameraman, then capture "blur, blur, quick shot of two blurry figures, *thump thump* blur, and fade out on unconscious/dead bad guy".
Others have hailed this camera work as "organic" and "intimate". I call it sucky and overdone. Shaky-cam is ruining the movies. Even Transformers used it unnecessarily, apparently to make the giant robot fight scenes more "action-packed". In truth, it completely ruined the film. The only scene in Transformers that was even remotely fun to watch was Starscream beating on all the fighter jets. Reason? The audience could see what was going on. Every other combat cut was "blurry metal, blurry something, explosion, blurry metal". It sucked.
In short, I'm really really beginning to hate shaky-cam, and because he loves it so much, I'm really hating Paul Greengrass. I'm about to the point where I'm going to refuse to spend theater money on any Greengrass film. I'll see them on DVD. And if someone were to take up a collection to permanently attach a steadicam to Paul Greengrass's forehead, I'd donate.
Saw Zodiac and The Number 23. Zodiac was... thorough. A bit too much so.
The Number 23 was a fun little psycho-thriller with a neat twist. I recommend it. Not enthusiastically, but it's a fun one to watch.
The Simpsons Movie was also longish. Had some good funny bits in it, not sure if they warranted a whole movie.
Haven't been reading anything, because mostly I'm dead tired. Wait -- I take that back. I picked up my copy of Burning Chrome for another read. I especially love the beginning of the title story...
It was hot, the night we burned Chrome.
Oddly enough, I find myself considering another read of Unintended Consequences. I haven't thought about that book in years.
I need something to re-energize my reading. William Gibson is a little ponderous at times. Maybe I'll look into David Weber's other books. Or maybe it's time for another run through Piers Anthony's Incarnation series. On a Pale Horse was excellent, as I recall, though the others seemed to drag a bit until For Love of Evil. Not particularly energizing, I suppose.
Dang, I have a lot of books. I should go through them and ditch some of the less-than-stellar ones.