Thursday, March 30, 2006

Just surfing IV

What is The Gematriculator? It's a text analyzer that determines percentage of good or evil. I found it on an unusual web site that has the tag line: "Now waste your time by Killing Everyone!"

I submitted the text of the letter I sent to my Congresscritters on the "Let the People Decide Clean Campaign Act". The Gematriculator gave it a 50% Evil rating!

You've been warned.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lie equivalency

Very interesting article in the New York Times about Zacarias Moussaoui and his testimony before the Federal District Court in Virginia. A very, um, poignant moment came at the end of the article:
Asked by the prosecutor whether he kept quiet in jail to protect "operational secrecy," he replied, "You're free to use any term you want."

Mr. Moussaoui said there were times when a Muslim can lie without being immoral: to reconcile Muslims, to answer "yes" when a wife asks, "Am I beautiful?" and to carry out jihad.

"Yes, you're beautiful and, no, I do not wish to carry out jihad!" Those sound like similar sentiments to me.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My wife had a good question...

...regarding this story about Sean Penn having in his possession an Ann Coulter voodoo doll:

Hollywood activist SEAN PENN has a plastic doll of conservative US columnist ANN COULTER that he likes to abuse when angry. The Oscar-winner actor has hated Coulter ever since she blacklisted his director father LEO PENN in her book TREASON. And he takes out his frustrations with Coulter, who is a best-selling author, lawyer and television pundit, on the Barble-like doll. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, Penn reveals, "We violate her. There are cigarette burns in some funny places. She's a pure snake-oil salesman. She doesn't believe a word she says."

My wife asked if Ann Coulter has a Sean Penn doll in diapers.

Thought-provoking hyperbole

Rush Limbaugh was making a point yesterday about the proposed immigration reform in Congress: that the reform is just a load of "jabberwocky" that is "designed to placate you and pander to you to make you think that they reeeeeally mean it this time."

He said that the rationale for the "reform" is that there are too many illegal immigrants already in this country to round up and deport, so now we're going to crack down and turn off the illegal immigrant spigot.

Limbaugh wondered what kind of legislation would be passed in Congress if 40 to 50 million of us simply stopped paying taxes. Since nothing is going to be done about the millions of illegals already in this country, it would seem that passive resistance is a proven tactic to induce "reform". God knows that the income tax system needs to be simplified. How quickly do you think Congress would act to reform the system if, say, 15% of the population simply didn't pay taxes?

A good old-fashioned tax protest should do the trick...but only if a number of taxpayers greater than the number of IRS agents or the number of available jail cells were to stop paying taxes. Limbaugh posited that it would fall on the self-employed to stage this sort of protest since we aren't subject to withholding. If it's good enough for illegal immigrants, it's good enough for us taxpayers, don't you think?

I got an excellent response from 2privatus@comcast.net:
Granted, Limbaugh's "tax strike" idea wasn't intended to be taken seriously. But his notion -- reminiscent of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged -- does serve as an interesting thought experiment.

Of course, this experiment ultimately fails. But why it fails -- and how it could succeed if the right political leadership were present -- are of some interest (at least to me, and, perhaps, to others).

If taken on its merits, Limbaugh's notion of a tax strike is not merely some anarcho-capitalist wet dream or tax protester fantasy about an apocalyptic coup that will liberate everyone from having to pay taxes forever. Instead, it has the virtue of being a somewhat coherent strategy: It seeks to use a practical instrumentality to achieve a limited aim -- pressuring to the Federal Government, were it hurts them most (their tax collections), in order to obtain substantive tax reform (Like, say, a National Sales Tax accompanied by a repeal of the 16th Amendment).

Despite this virtue, you still have to respond to Rush's speculation in the same way that Steve Martin's comic persona does to some breathtaking proposal for achieving rapid historical progress: Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

The problem with the tax strike idea is that no taxstriker interested in participating could ever be sure that a sufficiently large number of his fellow taxpayers would join with him in refusing payment to the government. Distrust acts to deter most taxpayers from becoming taxstrikers. Consequently, the kind of mass movement that would be both large enough to fiscally wound the Feds and too large to be effectively coerced by them would never coalesce. Those brave -- or foolish -- enough to participate in a tax strike would be too few in number, and would inevitably suffer loss of both property and liberty as the IRS retaliates against them. In Game Theory, ideas involving the defeat of potentially advantageous collective acts of defiance by such distrust are labeled The Prisoner's Dilemma:

But there could be a way out of this dilemma.

If the taxstrikers could be sure that they would escape punishment, then the game changes, and the calculus of defiance turns out in favor of the taxstrikers. Even if -- as is quite likely -- most taxpayers would initially fail to join a tax strike, and those few who refused to pay could be easily targeted for punishment, if they were were not punished, then the costs of defiance would be reduced, and the tax strike could then grow.

How could such a thing happen? It would all depend upon the character of the head of state: The President.

A President who was serious about seeking tax reform -- and despairing of the prospects of achieving in the face of partisan gridlock in Congress -- could make use of a tax strike seeking the limited goal of bringing pressure upon the Federal Government to enact meaningful tax reform. All he would have to do is use his constitutional power to grant pardons to excuse such taxstrikers from punishment, and allow the tax strike to grow. Once it became clear that taxstrikers would not be punished, it would reach a level at which Congress would be compelled to enact tax reforms in order to restore the Federal Government's capacity to raise revenues.

Can such a thing happen now? In other words, is the current President, George W. Bush, the kind of man who could support such a tax strike on behalf of substantive tax reform? Could he be trusted to use his pardon powers in support of taxstrikers in pursuit of such reforms?

Naaaaaaaaaaaaa! Naaaaaaaaaaaaa! Naaaaaaaaaaaaa!

While President Bush did back a series of modest temporary tax cuts early in his administration, he has shown little genuine enthusiasm for more substantive tax reforms. He lacks both the time and the will, preoccupied as he is by the War on Terror and the one in Iraq (both now grouped together under the current moniker "The Long War"), and given to supporting a series of domestic enactment (such as his No Child Left Behind Educational Reforms and the Medicare prescription drug benefit) that seem aimed more at placating Democrats than advancing a limited government fiscal agenda. Given his manifest inability to even veto legislation, Bush also seems to lack the guts required to use his pardon power to offer protection for a tax strike movement on behalf of real tax reform.

Who is George Bush? One things for sure, he certainly isn't John Galt.

But what if there were ever elected a President who was really interested in real tax reform? What if he were also willing to undertake the political risks of tolerating a tax strike as a tool for achieving that goal?

Yeeeeeeeeeah!

Monday, March 27, 2006

This is my brother Ptolemy and this is my other brother Ptolemy

Remember the Newhart TV series with the characters of Larry, Darryl and Darryl? Larry would always do the introductions (since the two Darryls never spoke): "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl."

I bring this up because today is the date, according to the Encylopaedia Britannica web site, that
The legendary Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, aided by her Roman lover Julius Caesar, was reinstated as coruler of Egypt (with her brother Ptolemy XIV) this day in 47 BC following a civil war with her brother Ptolemy XIII.

I wonder if Bob Newhart got the idea from history?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

For math lovers

The coolest PC utility I've seen in ages is a replacement for the wimpy Windows Calculator. It's called Virtual Calc 2000 and it's pretty amazing. From the author's web site:
It supports "infinite" (2,147,483,645) digits (at arbitrary precision). To give you an example of how BIG 102147483645 is...
  • Number of books in Library of Congress: 108
  • Number of people in the world: 109
  • Number of particles (smaller than atoms) in universe: 1079
It also supports unconstrained bases. YES! UNCONSTRAINED. That means you are no longer limited by the common bases (binary, octal, decimal, and hexadecimal). Virtual Calc supports ANY base from 2 on up. Try base 3, 4, 5, 20, 30, 40, 50, or ANY base you desire! No limits!!

It also supports "decimal" point, "binary" point, "hexadecimal" point, "octal" point, and ANY floating point from base 2 and up. Did you know that all the calculators in the world support ONLY the decimal point? Virtual Calc FREES you from this constraint! Calculate floating point numbers in ANY base you choose! 2, 3, 4, 38, 64, etc. NO constraints!

It also supports infix expressions. Do you hate it when you are calculating a lot of numbers, and have to start over if you make a mistake? With Virtual Calc, you can type the whole expression (77.632 + (55/0.41) * 333 - 2222.3 + 888 - 12345.67 * (987 + 345)) BEFORE you calculate. You can then go back and modify a few numbers, punch calculate to see the results instantly! No retyping!

It also supports customizable symbols for ALL digits of ANY base, and ALL arithmitic operators!! Example, you can customize digits 1234567890 to abcdefghij, and + - * / to ! @ # $, or ANY symbols you desire. Afterwards, if you input abc!def, Virtual Calc will output egi. (123+456=579) Virtual Calc frees you from symbolic constraints!

Virtual Calc is FAST! So fast, it will shock you. Try Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying, Dividing 100,000+ digit numbers. No kidding. Compare it with others when calculating large numbers.

The author has also written a paper on encryption called "Base Encryption" featuring a very intriguing demonstration of encrypting messages using Virutal Calc.

Virtual Calc 2000 is free for the basic version (base conversion up to base 64). The full version is $20 and gives you unlimited base conversions and more math functions. Highly recommended.

Do you have dyscalculia?

Gezundheit, right? No, this a bona fide "psychological disorder that makes it nearly impossible to deal with numbers, not to mention complicated math." This story from Fox News just made me chuckle and thank my lucky stars. Yes, I know it's schadenfreude, but hey! My little sister loves math. I got my next oldest sister to overcome a distaste for it by patient tutoring some years ago. I tell my children that knowledge of and ability in math enables your mind to detect falsehood much more readily. Whenever you pick up the newspaper (if you even do that anymore) there's bound to be a story with bogus figures in it. Without a feel for numbers there's no way to tell if those figures are bogus or not.

I just saw an example today, though not from a newspaper. A friend sent a list of "true facts" that I hadn't seen before. They all looked pretty plausible. For example, "
butterflies taste with their feet". I knew that one. Another: "The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out to the body to squirt blood 30 feet." That sounds plausible, though I wonder if that's horizontally or vertically.

Anyway here was one that my, to coin a phrase, belcalculia rejected at once: "If you farted consistently for 6 years and 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb." This is what I wrote back to my friend:
Semi-amusing, though if these are all meant to be factual, then I have to take issue with the atomic bomb assertion. Complete and utter nonsense. Lets do the math:

Lets assume that during that period of 6 years and 9 months one were able to produce a steady quantity of methane equivalent to, say, a pound a day. That's being pretty generous, I'd say, since one's intestines would probably shred apart after the first week at that rate.

That quantity of methane, at standard temperature and pressure, is just under 23 cubic feet. All right, in 6 years and 9 months starting today, that would be Dec. 23, 2012...2467 days. Therefore 2467 lbs of methane...about a ton and a quarter of methane produced. Enough to completely fill a 6300 square foot mansion with 9-foot ceilings.

Now, even a very small atomic bomb is still measured in kilotons of TNT. Lets just assume that methane releases the same amount of energy as TNT (it certainly doesn't). Therefore 2467 lbs of methane is equivalent to a 0.0012335 kiloton atomic explosion. Certainly a large blast. But would you characterize it as in the same class as an atomic bomb? I didn't think so. Even if a person produced an order of magnitude more methane in that time frame, that's still only one-hundredth of a kiloton explosion.

Too anal-retentive you say? Maybe you should get checked for dyscalculia!

It's a federal law?

Believe it or not, there's a federal law that "prohibits the bird nests in Orlando from being disturbed." This came to light in a story about the bird dropping problem in Orlando. The story is interesting from an ecological standpoint because
The problem began when city workers removed cypress trees on "bird island" at Lake Eola in Orlando.The trees had to be removed because the bird droppings were polluting the water.

So, you mess with the birds' nesting places and they retaliate:
Now, the birds have moved into the city and are covering anything and anyone between Lake Eola and Central Avenue with droppings.

"You have to brace yourself for the smell," downtown resident James Taylor said. "It is a really bad stench. It is disgusting, absolutely disgusting."

"I was walking the other day and got pooed on walking under these trees," Orlando resident Lisa Valentine said. "Somebody told me it was good luck."

Officials said Orlando city workers pressure wash a stretch of the sidewalk at least twice a week.

Signs with the warning, "Caution -- Entering Bird Dropping Area" were posted Tuesday."

Don't sit on the benches, unless you are very brave," resident Jeff Miller said.

Some people don't let the bird droppings bother them and continue to eat lunch around the droppings."Based on what I saw on that car, I got to believe there is no (expletive) left in them," resident Alex Hartley said.

But the note about the federal law prohibiting the disturbance of the nests comes at the very end of the article. I choked. I mean, I can understand federal laws covering, say, taxation and immigration and such. But birds' nests? Do you see now why "Big Government" is on my list of things I'm against?

My friend, Susan, from Kentucky wrote:
I'm pretty sure it's a federal crime to disturb the nest of any migratory bird, anywhere. In fact, I think this is one of those global things by treaty -- there are probably many countries that protect nests. I think it's rather extreme. Downtown Louisville had a serious problem years ago with black herons. The small country town where I lived for 10 years had a problem with nesting turkey vultures. Locally, an historical church was destroyed by bats in the attic. The church wasn't allowed to displace them.

Susan H.

To which I replied:
Susan,

I would guess that if this story were written from a protected-species angle then the headline would have been much different. Insted of "Bird Droppings Prompt Orlando Warning Signs" we would have seen "Entire Orlando Maintenance Dept. Under Threat of Federal Indictment".

This is of a piece with all sorts of federal laws – and state laws and local laws – protecting wildlife or natural habitats or wetlands or ecosystems, etc., etc. Sooner or later people are going to rub up against the boundaries of those habitats and when they discover that the laws are rigged to let the animals win, there's going to be trouble.

Steve Erbach
The Town Crank

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I love stories like this XLVI

Fer cry-yi, hey! We read Arthur Miller's, The Crucible, when I was a junior in high school. What are these people all in an uproar about?
[Fulton, MO, High School teacher Wendy] DeVore's students were to perform Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," a drama set during the 17th Century Salem witch trials.

But after a handful of Callaway Christian Church members complained about scenes in the fall musical "Grease" that showed teens smoking, drinking and kissing, Superintendent Mark Enderle told DeVore to find a more family-friendly substitute.

DeVore chose Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a classic romantic comedy with its own dicey subject matter, including suicide, rape and losing one's virginity.

DeVore, 31, a six-year veteran teacher, said administrators told her that her annual contract might not be renewed.

"Maybe I need to find a school that's a better match," she said.

...and we performed Midsummer Night's Dream and read The Scarlet Stinking Letter when I was a junior or senior in little old Appleton, WI, fer cry yi! Granted, this was back in the late 60's, when teenagers were different, somehow. That is, they weren't always on the verge of mental breakdowns from the insane over-protectiveness they're smothered with at the government-funded compulsory-attendance schools today. Oh, my goodness! How can we even think about putting on a play that intimates that girls lose their virginity?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Recent commentary: Transparent guvmint

How good is the government at being as open and transparent to the public as possible?

(published 20-Mar-2006, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Terrible, but then it’s really goodies we want, not transparency. I find that others have ferreted out government’s true role much better than I could. For instance, Ambrose Bierce defined politics as “Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” Paul Valery said, "Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them." Larry Hardiman had this to say: "The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'." And Will Rogers was always trenchant on the topic of government: 1) “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer." 2) "There ought to be one day -- just one -- when there is open season on senators.” and 3) "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."

The man makes a lot of sense

Justice Antonin Scalia, I mean. His speech to New England School of Law students highlighted his view that state legislatures should decide most controversial questions–such as the legality of abortion–not the judiciary. And he had a few zingers:
Noting that the Senate confirmed his high court nomination by a 98-0 vote, Scalia said, "You could not get a judge with my views confirmed to the Court of Appeals today."

He said code words such as "mainstream" and "moderate" are now used to describe liberal judicial nominees.

"What is a moderate interpretation of (the Constitution)? Halfway between what it says and halfway between what you want it to say?" he said.

I'm sorry but...

...all that springs to mind from this story is the image of a bunch of nancies dressed in co-ordinated soccer uniforms and low-heeled pumps chased by a band of suicidal Levantine maniacs wearing ski masks and dynamite waistcoats. Note the name of the outfit sponsoring this, um, event:
Muslim-gay tension is the theme of the soccer tournament organized by the Institute of Multicultural Development [in the Netherlands], to be held next week.

An organizer of the group, Suzanne Ijsselmuiden, said she hoped the competition will "help ease these tensions so that people can openly talk about homosexuality."

Gay Muslims can take their choice of teams, she said. "People can have many identities."

I am now marked for death.

I love stories like this XLV

Now, curriculum in the government-funded compulsory schools has to be planned and run through committees and materials have to be developed and reviewed and approved...all those things. So imagine the kind of New York Superintendent of Schools that led the charge to have an HIV/AIDS awareness curriculum taught to kindergarten children:
Beginning Monday, kindergartners in public schools will be told that HIV is a "germ" and "not easy to get."

The kids also will learn that HIV could lead to AIDS, which is hard to "get well" from, according to the city's new HIV/AIDS curriculum.

The changes are required by state law - but some parents and teachers fear kindergartners are too young to talk about the deadly disease.

The parents and teachers "fear" this? What's to fear? This had to have been in the works for months before now. Mind you this is a mandatory course. Here's more:
Teachers won't mention that HIV is transmitted through sexual contact until students reach the fourth grade. At that time, teachers will provide little specifics, telling kids, "When you are older you will learn more."

I can understand teaching kids about, say, George Washington in kindergarten and then telling them that they'll "learn more" when they're older. But why AIDS? Is this part of a larger "Don't Get AIDS From Strangers" initiative? This beats my pair of jacks.

Whatever next? I

Can someone explain to me, based on this news account, just how it was that two police cars wound up in flames after parking in "hot grass"? And what did a cow spilling out onto the highway have to do with the burning cars? This is modern news coverage, my friends. Get used to it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

WHAMCO and Mark Twain

I recently updated a couple of my web pages. One contains a list of links to Windows Media versions of the great WHAMCO ads of the early 80's. These ads were produced by the popular Denver radio morning team of Steven B. and The Hawk. Give them a listen. (Note: definitely best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or above. Uses IE-specific styles.):

http://www.swerbach.com/whamco/

The other page contains links to recordings I personally made at the end of 2002 at the WTDY-AM radio studios. There are four 15-minute Mark Twain sketches there as well as short samples. I say "short" because the full versions are from 19–34 megabytes in size.

These are some of my favorite Mark Twain pieces. Included is Twain's notorious "1601: Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors." An honest-to-goodness R-rated frolic from the 19th century. Absolutely unlike anything you've ever read by Twain. Enjoy! (Scroll down to the "Samples and Complete Tracks" section):

http://www.swerbach.com/twain/

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Drat!

I was so hoping this would pass!

First came the Supreme Court Kelo decision that allows municipalities to take private property through eminent domain and give it to commercial developers to increase the tax base.

Then in June last year a fellow named Logan Darrow Clements presented a plan to Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter's home town council in Weare, NH, to build the Liberty Hotel on Souter's property. Of course Souter's home would have to be torn down first:
"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."

Here's a series of comments from the Conservative Tymes blog on this story. And here's the story in the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Next, on January 26th of this year, Clements' group submitted a petition to the Weare, NH, town council to place a voter initiative on the March ballot to evict Souter from his home and build the Liberty Hotel:
"All we're trying to do is put an end to eminent domain abuse," Clements said, by having those who advocate or facilitate it "live under it, so they understand why it needs to end."

But today came the dispiriting news that the good people of Weare, NH, have spared Souter's home:
In a largely symbolic gesture, voters in Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s hometown on Tuesday rejected a proposal to seize his 200-year-old farmhouse as payback for a ruling that expanded government’s authority to take property.

Voters decided 1,167 to 493 in favor of the reworded measure that asked the Board of Selectmen not to use their power of eminent domain to take the farmhouse, and instead urged New Hampshire to adopt a law that forbids seizures of the sort sanctioned by the Supreme Court.

“It makes Souter the only person in the United States that would be given special protection against his own ruling,” said Logan Darrow Clements of Los Angeles, a businessman who led the campaign to evict Souter.

At least the voters urged the state of New Hampshire to revise its eminent domain laws to forbid this kind of taking.

I wonder if Justice Souter was worried or embarrassed?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Recent reading on the GoreNet

These are the kinds of things that have interested me lately. First an essay on The American Thinker on moral equivalence that is the clearest exposition I think I have ever read.

Next a column by Lee Harris on TechCentralStation.com about the likelihood of Iraq descending into what he calls "tribal anarchy" instead of merely a civil war.


From John Derbyshire at National Review Online an essay about how being on-the-scene doesn't necessarily grant one a better grasp of a country's essence.

And something off-the-wall: a story from the Guardian on possible plagiarism in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

Finally, something from the Neo-NeoCon blog. A look at chaos in Iraq.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The more I thought about it the madder I got

H.R. 4694, the so-called "Let the People Decide Clean Campaign Act", is pitiful. Have we, the voters, really been dumbed down so far that as transparent, as naked a power grab as this will slide past us into law?

You've seen what DownSizeDC.org had to say in my earlier post. Well, here's what I had to say to Representative Tom Petri and Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold:
This is what will be said of you if this bill passes: My Congressman is so enamored of his position, so wedded to power, so contemptuous of the voters that he voted himself a permanent job. He has created a union just for Congressmen.

I don't know whether you support this bill or not, but don't mistake me: if you do, then there is absolutely nothing you can ever say about your public service, your stand on any issue, or your belief in the American system of government that any of us will ever accept. Your most sincere sentiments, your high-sounding phrases, and your promises will be nothing but ashes because you will have proven that the thing you care about most is your own job.

Nothing you do after supporting this bill will matter. We, the voters, may as well don our straitjackets and learn to smile whenever you wave at us during the Independence Day parade. Oh, I'm sure that you'll do your best to make us comfortable. You wouldn't want to be seen as uncaring, would you?

Could you, please, for the Constitution's sake, just once make a law that makes it easier for someone to challenge you for your job? I know that it must be annoying to have to re-apply every two years for the same position; but do you have any idea how monstrous it is to have the power to throw more and more roadblocks in the way of those who think you should be replaced?

Of course, an Amendment to limit your term in office is out of the question: it would never get enough votes to get out of Congress to the States. A companion to the 22nd Amendment, the 28th Amendment, limiting the terms of Representatives and Senators is what will be badly needed, but will be impossible to enact once you have solidified your grasp on your position by "taking the money out of politics", a grotesque and self-serving distortion if ever there was one.

And to think it's a Wisconsin Congressman that introduced this travesty of a bill. "Progressive" Wisconsin has produced Feingold and Obey, the two that have done the most to make your jobs permanent.

I am not sorry that the tone of this letter is angry. I despised the provisions of McCain-Feingold...but what could I do? I despise the provisions of Obey...and what can I do? I can make you absolutely certain of my distaste for it and for the equivocations and the disingenuous justifications for its adoption.

Most sincerely,

Steve Erbach

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The most underwhelming expression of committment I've ever read

Marriages between heterosexual women and homosexual men was the topic in a story that appeared in the New York Times. The Times article ended with a vignette of a couple married for 34 years. The husband is homosexual though he loves his wife and they have a 25-year-old son.

What made me almost choke with ... I don't want to say laughter ... yeah, it was laughter. The husband had cared for his wife during her four-month bout with cancer from which she fully recovered. She said, "It's not easy, but I truly do love him." The Times apparently wanted to close its feature story with an example of the level of committment this man feels for this woman even though he's really homosexual. But the denoument instead wins the prize for Most Underwhelming Expression of Committment I've Ever Read:
"I am totally committed on all levels to Paulette. I felt so intimate with her when I was caring for her during her cancer treatments — to me, that's a stronger expression of love than whether I'm having anonymous sex with a man."

Yes, there are more important things to worry about in the world. But we human beings still compare ourselves to others and derive, maybe not pleasure, but schadenfreude from reading things like this.

Can you imagine this guy's expression of intimacy appearing on his wife's tombstone?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Our own Rep. David Obey wrote this one

Have you heard of the "Let the People Decide Clean Campaign Act"? It's bill number H.R. 4694 introduced by Wisconsin Rep. David R. Obey. DownSizeDC.org had this to say about this unbelievable bill:

If General Motors set the rules by which Ford could do business, Ford would soon be bankrupt. Sadly, the incumbents in Congress can do to their competitors what General Motors cannot. If H.R. 4694 passes into law . . .

  • You will no longer be able to use your own money to support or oppose any candidate for federal office.

  • All campaign funding will come from the government, with winners getting more money in the next election, and losers less.

  • The only way third parties and independents can get full funding from the government will be to collect petition signatures equal to 20% of the votes cast in the last election. This is a huge barrier. And it is made even worse by the fact that paid signatures will not be accepted.

  • It is a well-established fact that challengers must spend more than incumbents in order to unseat them, but under this law there is no way any challenger could ever outspend an incumbent.

  • Your tax money would be used to fund candidates you oppose.

  • Candidates unwilling to take government funds would be prohbited from raising any money at all.

  • Citizens groups would also be prohibited from spending money to fund communications that discuss electoral campaigns.

Please send a message to Congress opposing H.R. 4694 by clicking here.

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

It's comin', I'm tellin' ya!

A "Twinkie Sin Tax" is what I'm talking about. An article on TechCentralStation.com explains it this way:
The activist David Ludwig has argued that one way for governments to fight obesity is to tax fast food and soft drinks. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has proposed an eight-cent-per-pound tax on all meat and fish and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has suggested sin taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses and meat. The WHO has called for implementation of fat taxes as part of a comprehensive strategy to fight childhood and adult obesity. Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick proposed a two percent tax on fast food and New York state Senator Felix Ortiz has gone so far as to suggest extending the fat tax to "movie tickets, video games and DVD rentals."

Eighteen states now have some version of a "fat tax" (seven states have tried and then repealed such taxes) usually on what are called HFSS foods — high fat, salt and sugar.

The article goes on to point out that the revenue generated by those states that have "fat taxes" doesn't go towards raising consumer awareness about the hazards of eating junk foods. I think it would be a repeat of the windfall to the states from the tobacco settlement, don't you think? The funds from the tobacco companies were supposed to go to improve public health and increase education and those sorts of morally empty goals. Where did the money go? Right down the rat hole.

Of course, our elected encumbrances will pass "Twinkie Tax" laws because it looks good on their resum├ęs. Bah!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Global warming responsible for something else!

When, o! when will we be rid of this terrible scourge that exorbitantly exacerbates the plight of mankind? Global warming has now reached out across the millions of miles of empty space to claim its latest victim: the Sun!
Sun-spawned cosmic storms that can play havoc with earthly power grids and orbiting satellites could be 50 percent stronger in the next 11-year solar cycle than in the last one.

Where, o! where is the political leader with a backbone of steel to lead us to the promised land of regulated solar output?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Q: Why do they hate us so?

A: Because we humiliated them. John Derbyshire explains in an article with the title Hesperophobia (cont.), a reference to a neologism coined by Robert Conquest of the Hoover Institute.

Derbyshire opines that the West is hated in the Orient and the Middle East because
...we humiliated them, showed up the gross inferiority of their culture. To them … we are the other, detested and feared in a way we can barely understand. Things got really bad in the 19th century. When European society achieved industrial lift-off, Europeans were suddenly buzzing all over the world like a swarm of bees. They encountered these other cultures, that had been vegetating in a quiet conviction of their own superiority for centuries (or in the case of the Chinese, millennia). When these encounters occurred, the encountered culture collapsed in a cloud of dust.

Well worth reading.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Harry Browne, R.I.P.

Former Libertarian Presidential candidate, Harry Browne, died Wednesday at his home in Tennessee. He was 72.

Browne wrote a dozen books and was a well-known motivational speaker. His books included "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" and "Why Government Doesn't Work". He founded a number of Washington lobbying groups including DownsizeDC.org.

I received two tributes to Harry Browne from both DownSizeDC.org and the Center for Small Government, the outfit formed by Carla Howell and Michael Cloud. Howell was Libertarian candidate for governor of Massachussetts in 2000 and Cloud the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senator the same year.

From DownSizeDC:
The world has lost a wonderful human being. Harry Browne passed away last night after a long illness. Harry was a joy and inspiration to all who knew him. We offer our condolences to his family, and especially to his wife Pamela.

Words cannot express what Harry meant to us. But words are all we have. And so we will muster what meager inadequate words we can find to remember Harry Browne over the days ahead. You are invited to participate. This message will be posted at the top of the DownsizeDC.org blog. You can leave your thoughts and comments there. The blog can be reached by clicking here.

Rather than cards or flowers, Pamela Browne requests that donations be made in Harry's memory to this organization, or to a family foundation. Pamela Browne will be informed of all donations made in Harry's name. The details are below. But for now we merely want to remember and celebrate the life of a great man. Harry Browne was a co-founder of this organization. But he was so much more. So very much more.

Jim Babka & Perry Willis
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

Contrbutions to DownsizeDC.org in Harry's memory can be made by clicking here.

Contributions can also be made in Harry's memory to Korner's Folly Foundation, 413 South Main Street, Kernersville, NC 27284.

I campaigned for Harry Browne in 2000 and met him at one of his campaign stops in Milwaukee. It's hard not to like a political candidate who likes P. J. O'Rourke.

Rest in peace, Harry.

I love stories like this XLIV

Twenty TeWinkle Middle School students in Costa Mesa, CA, were suspended for reading, not posting, hate-filled comments on myspace.com. The student who made the comments is the target of expulsion efforts by the school administration.

Is anyone surprised that some very few teenagers will make disgusting comments about fellow students? I wonder if his parents will hire a lawyer and, like Jay Bennish's lawyer, file a federal free-speech lawsuit.

I love stories like this XLIII

President Bush is in the dock at a war crimes trial at Parsippany High School in Parsippany, NJ. A verdict may be handed down by the five-teacher panel as early as today.

Does it seem to you, too, that certain amongst the army of public school teachers in America are not acting like adults?

I love stories like this XLII

A 16-year-old student at Overland High School in Cherry Creek, CO, came forward with a recording of his geography teacher, Jay Bennish, delivering an anti-Bush rant to his students. You can listen to the whole 20-minute recording here. The Denver Post has the story.

I noted with interest the reaction of lots of the other students at Overland. Bennish's lawyer looks to file a federal lawsuit calling it a "freedom of speech" issue. Maybe even get a court order to get Bennish re-instated into his classroom.

Well, Bennish will get to write a book about his experience, get a half-million dollar advance for it, and get to appear on Oprah and Air America. He'll have a bit more than 15 minutes of fame. Maybe he'll be tabbed for vice president on a Cindy Sheehan for President ticket.