In a recent press release, http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/libertarian-chair-time-to-re-legalize-immigration, Wes Benedict demolishes many myths about immigration. He also points out some unintended consequences of making it more difficult for people to come to this country legally. One point caught my eye, partly because I’m jealous I didn’t think of it, but mostly because, well, I didn’t think of it. And, I bet, neither has anyone else: Pushing immigration underground makes it easier for terrorists to enter this country.

Bet you haven’t considered that, tea partiers.

Cool to be dumb

October 25, 2010

I had an odd little flashback today. As a guest in a training class where the icebreaker was to share a fun fact about yourself, I mentioned that I had been in the National Spelling Bee in
197[CENSORED] and got to meet the First Lady at the time. About a year ago,  I shared that same fact as a comment on John McIntyre’s delicious blog, You Don’t Say (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/, and if you don’t peek in on that blog regularly, you should), and was obliquely ridiculed by another commenter, who seemed to feel that memorizing arbitrary lists of useless words was a waste of time for a preadolescent.

One thing that the National Spelling Bee does today which it did not in my day is televise nationally, usually on ESPN. Anyone with basic cable, therefore, can witness the contestants querying the judges about word origins, parts of speech, and usage. If you’ve ever watched this event, on TV or in person, you know that the children, ferociously competitive without exception, do this extensively. I can affirm from experience that many years from now, these techniques help not only communication skills but analytical skills in general, specifically left-brain skills. Moreover, I can also affirm from experience that the words themselves are far from useless. Words such as stochastic, risible, supercilious and internecine occur and have recently occurred in my work life and Internet reading. Heck, even Frank Costanza referred to Elaine once as supercilious. (http://www.seinology.com/scripts/script-90.shtml) So why does the commenter on McIntyre’s blog think this is a waste of time?

Assuming that commenter is American, he is a symptom of a peculiar and, I hope, momentary trend in American societal development. Some time in the recent past, perhaps in the past sixteen years, Americans seem to have lost respect for being smart. Put another way, it’s really obvious we’re more dumbed down than ever.

This Sunday’s Washington Post carried an article and, in the print edition, a catchy pop quiz entitled, “The tea party warns of a New Elite. They’re right.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/22/AR2010102202873.html) The New Elite is deliberately anti-intellectual. They’ve lost curiosity toward many subjects. They ridicule true intellectuals as if “elite” were something to be avoided. An Ivy League degree is something to be scorned; Christine O’Donnell is proud of not having gone to Yale, and her supporters are proud of her for not having gone to Yale. (My guess is, so is Yale.)  Newt Gingrich used the term “elite” a lot in 1994 to deride those opposite him on the political spectrum. (He, having a Ph.D in history himself, is a clearcut case of the pot calling the kettle rusted. But I digress.) This is well-documented: http://thinkprogress.org/2007/04/22/gingrich-liberalism-vatech/; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/minitext/int_newtgingrich.html, especially risible because of his use of the oxymoron “elite mainstream;” see also http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1994-11-12/news/1994316001_1_newt-gingrich-washington-elite-programs We can hardly swing an Internet cat without hitting some frothy-mouthed anonymous bloviator grousing that the President or some other commentator is an elite. He’s too intellectual. They want a President who’s ‘a regular guy! Someone they can have a beer with! Here’s a terrific example of just that from a comment today, reproduced verbatim, to an opinion column written by Yale grad Anne Applebaum:

We have had it with all of you ignorant elites, get out of our way already! All we have to do is cut and past from Wikipedia and we can all see what the delusional fantasists from Yale still are on the WaPo’s payroll to brainwash into us their sense of inbred superiority based on hedonistic, secular, and Satanic wicked and sinful blindness:
Her parents are Harvey M. Applebaum, a Covington and Burling partner, and Elizabeth Applebaum of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She graduated from the Sidwell Friends School (1982). She earned a B.A. (summa cum laude) at Yale University (1986), where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. As a Marshall Scholar at the London School of Economics she earned a master’s degree in international relations (1987).[4] She studied at St Antony’s College, Oxford before moving to Warsaw, Poland in 1988 as a correspondent for The Economist

My word. I had no idea being smart and well-educated was a detriment.

Look, I don’t want someone in the White House who’s a regular guy, or gal. I want and need someone who’s way smarter than I am. Someone who’s dumber than I can get us all killed. (I’m looking right atcha, Dubya.)

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Shut Your Everloving Piehole rant without a jab at the radical right. Their collective lack of intellectual curiosity is summed up in that bumper sticker you’ve no doubt seen on the road: “God Said It/I Believe It/That Ends It.” OK, I get it: Some people believe the Old Testament + New Testament = the complete, inerrant word of the Almighty, and no other faith’s holy books need apply. Go ahead and believe that G-d created the heavens and earth. …Don’t you want to know how? Don’t you even care? (I’m still looking at you, George.)

Now, I know that bumper sticker’s been around a long time. And there will always be a few folks who sincerely believe it. But it’s dangerous to put such people in charge of determining our children’s science curricula (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/31/national/31religion.html and many others) and textbook content (http://tfninsider.org/2008/10/15/creationists-launch-first-strike-against-evolution-in-texas-science-standards/) at a time when those children will grow up to compete with kids in other countries who received a much more solid science and math education. We need teachers and parents who cherish and honor intellectual curiosity, more than ever. We need people who are not willing to be intellectually lazy. We need elites.

Elite. Teach your children it’s not a dirty word.

Last chance

October 21, 2010

…before the US turns into Denmark or Sweden.  Last chance to tell Nancy Pelosi to go eat a hodgy. A news post from one of the directors of NCPA:

Dear Policy Patriots –

Election Day is Just Two Weeks Away! If ObamaCare is not repealed, you will face lower quality, higher cost health insurance. Your access to care will suffer. The time to act is NOW!

Top 4 Reasons to Repeal ObamaCare. There are dozens of good reasons to repeal ObamaCare but here are the top four:

  • Americans Don’t Want It. People will be required to buy a product whose price will be rising at twice the rate of growth of their incomes and they will be barred from doing many of the things needed to control these costs.
  • Businesses Can’t Afford It. ObamaCare imposes a bizarre system of subsidies which will disrupt the entire labor market – causing massive layoffs and, ultimately, a complete restructuring of industrial organization.
  • Patients Don’t Need It. The health insurance exchange will give health plans perverse incentives to attract the healthy and avoid the sick; and after enrollment, to overprovide to the healthy and underprovide to the sick.
  • The Health Care System Can’t Support It. As is the case in Massachusetts, people will have perverse incentives to game the system – remaining uninsured while healthy and obtaining insurance only after they get sick; choosing limited-benefit plans while healthy and scaling up to richer plans after they get sick.

Change You Can Believe In! The American people deserve better than ObamaCare. You should expect more. Health reform should include higher quality, lower cost and strong protections for the care of senior citizens. Repealing ObamaCare is step one in achieving these important, attainable outcomes.

Walk Your Block This Week! Policy Patriots just like you have distributed more than 350,000 copies of the NCPA’s What Does Health Reform Mean for You? This week, many have committed to walking their neighborhoods, distributing this important educational guide. Do your part today by order 100 pamphlets from http://www.policypatriots.org and committing to walk your block this week.

———–

Okay, it’s a little hysterical-sounding, but he’s on the right track. I’ve been harping on that fourth point for many moons now. The health care system won’t be able to stand the strain. http://wp.me/pzqik-2R, https://shutyoureverlovingpiehole.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/stop-single-payer-health-care-now/

I’m happy that my representative, Frank Kratovil, voted against the thing, mainly on point #2; and dismayed that one of my senators, Ben Cardin, has stated in his publicity literature that he sincerely believes that health care is a right. He’s wrong, of course. If you have to pay for it, it’s a commodity, not a right.

…but at the same time, I would be unwise to put on my car, lest it be vandalized by rightwingnuts.

The Washington Post ran this article a couple of weeks ago:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/13/AR2010041302365.html

(If the above link doesn’t work, try this one:
http://cbs3.com/topstories/Mike.Huckabee.gays.2.1630642.html)

Now, I’m sure Mike Huckabee believes everything he said. And he certainly has the right to say what’s on his mind. But in this event, he manages to piss off a variety of groups whose vote he could certainly use. He must not really want to be President. Or, at least he hasn’t yet learned that you can attract a whole lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Many people have deconstructed what he had to say. But I can’t resist throwing in my opinion.

  • “Marriage has historically never meant anything other than a man and a woman. It has never meant two men,…” Gee, for an ordained minister, Huckabee sure doesn’t know his Bible very well. “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1Kings 11:2-4, all quotes NIV) I am not even gonna get into the Mormons here. Nor current-day Arab royalty. There are plenty of counterexamples to Huckabee’s claim, and he no doubt knows it.
  • “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle….” And yet, there it is in, yup, you guessed it, the Good Book itself: “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (1Sam 18:1)…I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. (2Sam 1:26)”
  • “That would be like saying, well there’s there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs.  There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.” On the first point, the official LP view point is basically, yes, let’s. Using drugs (presumably illegal drugs, not the okay ones like tobacco and alcohol) should be an individual choice, as long as no one else is harmed in the process. On the third point, there are people who do “believe in” polygamy, all over this world. See the first paragraph.
  • “There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them….[Marriage has never meant] a man and his pet, or a man and a whole herd of pets.”These arguments are such huge red herrings, you could cater a whole bar mitzvah with them. The reason you can’t marry your dog, or your preteen daughter or whatever, is that there is a lack of consent involved. Two people—any two people—who consent to the sacraments of marriage should be able to do so. (This, by the way, is also why NAMBLA doesn’t get a pass—boys by definition in our society cannot give consent. Even my gay male friends think NAMBLA is creepy.)
  • He also advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, saying it was necessary to confine “carriers of this plague.” Apparently Huckabee hasn’t kept up with the news. It is true that throughout the lifespan of the epidemic, the plurality of those infected with HIV have been men who contracted the virus through sex with another man. However, if Maryland is any representative, the largest group now is intravenous drug users:
    (http://dhmh.state.md.us/AIDS/Data&Statistics/NewMDQtrEpi.pdf ) and has been for some time now. When I worked at HERO, eleven years ago, about 80% of its clients had gotten the virus from shooting up. Sadly, one big reason gay men aren’t the largest group of carriers any more is that most of them died before effective treatments were developed.

    As you’ll note from the graph in the PDF document referenced above, drug shooters and good old heteros now far surpass gay men as “carriers of this plague.” If we were to actually do what Huckabee suggests and quarantine carriers of HIV, look whom we’d be quarantining (from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/basic.htm#hivest, about the only time you’ll catch me quoting the government on something):

Transmission Category Estimated # of AIDS Cases, Through 2007*
Adult
and Adolescent Male
Adult
and Adolescent Female
Total
Male-to-male
sexual contact
487,695 487,695
Injection drug use 175,704 80,155 255,859
Male-to-male
sexual contact and injection drug use
71,242 71,242
High-risk heterosexual contact** 63,927 112,230 176,157
Other*** 12,108 6,158 18,266

That’s over a million people, folks. Where, exactly, does he propose quarantining them to?

So in just a few well-placed sound bites, Huckabee manages to piss off a lot of gays, many of whom are Republican; nearly a million HIV-positive voters; as well as a lot of us gay-friendly types who just want to see our friends/parents/siblings/children/coworkers treated fairly. Oh, well—guess he’s not interested in our votes. And without the votes of open-minded, fair, tolerant adults, he’s got no chance to be President.

One of the great things about our rights is that, coming from G-d as they do, they’re free. Life? Liberty? Pursuit of happiness? All free. The stuff in the Bill of Rights? Free. You don’t have to pay for the right to free speech. (Please don’t confuse this with the need to pay for devices, such as a printing press or a personal computer, that facilitate your rights. That’s not a need. You can go down to the corner, stand there and yell, “The President is a fink!” without any purchased tools. That’s not only free, but very satisfying.)

The flip side of all this is that if you do have to pay for something, it’s not a right, it’s a good, a commodity. Which is why I’m disappointed, but not one bit surprised, that one of my senators, Ben Cardin, declares access to affordable health care to be a right: http://cardin.senate.gov/news/enews/nov23.cfm

As I’ve said in a prior post, I think Ben Cardin is a pretty smart guy. I know he had a class in Constitutional law as part of his J.D. degree and he knows quite well that health care is not a right, at least not in our Constitution. It’s too bad that he makes it sound like it is. It’s not. Health care is a commodity. In this country, one must pay for it.

It seems that too many people, politicians and others, on the pro-government health care side of the debate are getting two rights confused: the “right” to affordable health care, which is not a right, with the right to not be denied access to a commodity because of intangibles such as the color of your skin, your sex, your native language, or even to which deity you pray. As human beings, we are all equal in human dignity and those G-d-given rights enumerated in the Constitution. That doesn’t mean we are all equally entitled to equal access to the same commodities. If that were the case, I have just as much right to drive a Bentley as Kobe Bryant or Paris Hilton does, and therefore I demand that a Bentley be delivered to my house, tout suite. Can I get it in burgundy?

In my opinion, the best commentators on the monstrosity knows as health-care reform are those elected representatives who also happen to be health care providers. You guessed it, no one “gets” the issue better than Ron Paul:

http://www.house.gov/htbin/blog_inc?BLOG,tx14_paul,blog,999,All,Item not found,ID=100322_3678,TEMPLATE=postingdetail.shtml

Ben Cardin is one of my senators. He’s been one of my elected representatives for fifteen years, either as my U.S. representative or my senator, and been in federal office and state office much longer than that. He’s a smart guy, a nice guy, and has a career of dedication to public service. In other words, he’s pretty much everything that’s wrong with Maryland politics.

I’m not sure how that “red state–blue state” thing got started, unless is was Dr. Seuss’s contribution to the political discourse. But we have it now, so believe me when I tell you Maryland is one of the deepest blue states in the nation. We have a few Repubs in the public eye—Ellen Sauerbrey, Andy Harris, Michael Steele. But as long as I’ve lived in Maryland, we’ve had public officials who’ve made careers out of sincerely believing that government is here to help people. Some of them, like John Sarbanes, are personal acquaintances; others, like Martin O’Malley, Cardin, and Sarbanes’ father, I’ve only had the opportunity to meet and say hello. But they all approach government the same way: the bigger, the better.

In response to an announcement by Spirit Airlines, a mid-range regional carrier, that they would begin charging passengers $45 for each piece of carry-on luggage, Cardin is one of the cosponsors of a particularly meddlesome piece of legislation, S.3195, the Free of Fees for Carry-On Act, which he claims will preserve airline rights but also prevent travelers from being abused with fees. This bill is the essence of government micromanaging our lives.

In my current job, I bet I travel way more often by plane than Cardin does (though he probably travels longer distances). I also bet he doesn’t fly coach, where the overhead bins are a pandemonium dominated by preschool children with their very own wheeled luggage (why? why do four-year-olds need a bag as big as mine?), inconsiderate adults putting their bags in the wrong way and thereby taking up too much space, and still other adults thinking it’s okay for them to put their jackets in the overhead bin so other passengers have no room to put their bags up there. On Southwest, if you don’t have an “A” boarding pass, woe is you; I bet my paycheck there won’t be any room for your bags by the time you board.

Some larger airlines, such as United, are charging for checked luggage. I totally understand the desire to not check luggage, since it may get lost.  However, in this day and age, of overhead bins crammed to the gills, I think it should be the other way around. Make checked luggage free, and pay for carry-ons. I suggest that Spirit has the right idea. Don’t want to pay the $45? Check your bag, and leave room for the rest of us who don’t mind paying. Or, I have an even better idea: Don’t want to pay the $45? Don’t fly on Spirit. No one is forcing you to, after all. An added side benefit of this would be that fewer bags to process would mean fewer tie-ups in the TSA lines. (Now, granted, I do think the best solution for tie-ups at TSA lines is to abolish TSA. But I digress.)

S.3195 could come from no other legislator other than a nanny state type. For a bright guy, Mr. Cardin certainly has lost sight of how much easier and, ultimately, better a free-market solution could be.

A final thought: Would a terrorist pay $45 for the privilege of bringing bomb components onboard? I doubt it.

Like many of you, I had not seen even a preview of the much-discussed Pam Tebow/Focus on the Family spot. And honestly, by the time it rolled around I didn’t much care. In fact, I cared so little I missed the thing and didn’t even care that I missed it. I missed it because I was over at the neighbors’ house, and to my perplexment discovered they don’t own a television. Just my luck. I went back to my house and tuned in to the Super Bowl with eight minutes and change left in the first quarter, and Indy up 3-0.

I did manage to see the Tebow spot later, as there were myriad links on various web sites pointing thereto. However, even though I disagree with just about everything Focus on the Family stands for, I have to admit that when Dr. Dobson said it was a big nothing, and people were making a big deal about it, he was right. Here’s the commercial you should be concerned about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq58zS4_jvM

For those who don’t feel like clicking the link, this is the “Green Police” spot created for the Audi A3 TDI, putatively an environment-preserving vehicle. The part that set me off, if you’ve been following my posts, is the scene where the homeowner is carted off in handcuffs for the unforgiveable sin against humanity, the horror, of installing incandescent light bulbs in his home’s light fixtures.

California, as you know from hanging out at Shut Your Everloving Piehole Central, has already tried the stunt of banning incandescent lightbulbs, albeit with a five-year phase-in (https://shutyoureverlovingpiehole.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/just-because-its-good-for-you/). In 2012—not that far away—you could be looking at an extended stay in the Graybar Hotel, or at least being fined hundreds if not thousands, for simply lighting a room in your home with a good old Tom Edison light bulb. But that’s not the only place you can find incandescents. Christmas tree lights? Car headlamps and taillamps? Warming bulbs on a cafeteria steam table, for crap’s sake? All illegal.

The worst part, besides the possibility of such an Orwellian scenario being frightfully close to fruition, is that us changing lightbulbs isn’t going to make a shit bit of difference as long as other countries keep belching smoke into the air from their industrial output.

As well, the poetic justice of a German car company running an ad for such a pure expression of fascism is not lost on me. How about you?

Consider this story from http://www.baltimoresun.com:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-invention-20100416,0,3512549.story

One thing you can say about terrorists is that they’re attention whores and drama queens. They virtually never do the same terrorist act twice. This keeps the surprise level high. This is also why TSA in general, and the idiotic rituals we have to undergo at airports specifically, are not only a rape of our civil liberties, but also pretty much worthless. I would bet my paycheck an organized terrorist organization such as al-Qaeda, ETA, Hamas, or even the Hutaree is not planning to blow up a plane or fly it into a building. Yawn. Been there, done that. I figure the Muslim terrorists are laughing their asses off at us while watching al-Jazeera: “Oh, shit. They’re on to the shoe thing. We’ve gotta try something else.” The underpants bomber was pretty much acting alone, not on command from any of the major groups.

A much more effective way to kill thousands of people at once would be with NBC weapons—nuclear, biological, chemical. Someone who developed trust over a number of years working a menial civil servant job in, say, the water or sanitation department would be in a perfect position to dump a tumbler full of ricin or sarin into the water supply of a large city one day and not even be detected doing it. Or, more to the point of the story in The Sun, someone could do major damage with a crop duster and a payload of anthrax. Just fly it over a large sporting event such as a football game, preferably in the middle of the continent where the disease could spread exponentially. The annual Michigan-Ohio State matchup in Michigan Stadium (current capacity about 106,000) would be perfect. That game is always a sellout or oversellout. Infect all the fans, as well as players, coaches, staff, and stadium employees, and then send them home to major metropolitan centers to spread that shit.

So what’s the government doing? Making us take off our shoes and strip-searching elderly flyers (http://www.gadling.com/2008/07/27/tsa-pulls-pants-off-of-elderly-man-during-search/12, among others). Way to go, douchebags.

Wanna help? Leave my bags alone and support this initiative instead.

Personal responsibility

April 16, 2010

I’m sitting here in a Panera Bread near my home, working and playing a very important game of Freecell online, while observing two young families dining near me. That party consists of three adults and two cute little girls, probably each about four or five years old. The adults are discussing something, I’m not listening, while one of the little girls has apparently decided that there is no better jungle gym than the Panera furniture. I’m watching her use two chairs like parallel bars. Her athletic prowess aside, my main thought is: What if she falls and hurts herself? I cannot tell if that is the main thought of the adults, because they are largely ignoring her.

Parents, please take care of your children. I don’t believe in collective responsibility, as you may have figured by now. So I’m not going to interrupt the parents. This is exactly the kind of situation that spurs the current discussion revolving around tort reform: Cute little girl falls, breaks her neck, spends the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Parents sue Panera Bread, figuring it was Panera’s fault, not theirs, that their kid was grabassing all over the furniture. Jury delivers a $10 million or more verdict. Judge doesn’t have the balls to set aside the verdict and tell said plaintiff (parents) that if they’d been watching their child, this never would have happened, and it’s on them.  Said plaintiffs become rich precisely because they are lazy, and Panera goes out of business, costing hundreds of jobs and me a place to eat and get free Wi-Fi.

This is just wrong.

I’m all for children getting some exercise and blowing off steam…in the right venue. And supervised by the right people. Not in a restaurant.

It’s probably better I never went to law school. If had become a judge, I might have told those parents, “You weren’t paying attention to your kids, and this is the result. It was your fault. Deal with it.” And if I had become law school faculty, I might have tried to teach young lawyers that, if they become judges, they should grow a set and refuse to even hear cases like this, let alone permit lottery-like judgments, a reward for laziness and flat-out stupidity.