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.

In this article in today’s The Washington Post regarding students who pay more attention to various electronic devices in class than to the class itself,  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/24/AR2010042402830.html, Rutgers accounting lecturer J.P. Krahel states that he considers himself responsible for his students’ grades:

“The thing is, I’m responsible for these kids’ grades,” he said. “So it reflects badly on me if they fail. And I’m not going to pull punches; I’m not going to deliberately inflate their grades. But I’m not going to give them the opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot.”

How charming. A professor who ostensibly cares about his students. No, really. It is very nice. Presumably a good quality to have when Krahel finishes his doctorate and enters the tenure track somewhere. I have a better idea: How about teaching them a little personal responsibility?

I had a colleague at one of the universities at which I worked whose favorite shibboleth was, “If the student fails to learn, it’s because the teacher failed to teach.” I always respectfully disagreed with him, and I still do. The degree the student earns stands for knowledge the student possesses. The diploma goes to the student, not to the professor (and also not, parenthetically, to the parents who paid the tuition, which the article implies are also stakeholders in the student’s education). If I go into a, say, tax office and I see the accountant I’m working with has a B.S. or B.B.A. in accounting from Rutgers, I expect the accountant to possess a certain amount of knowledge, not the teacher who taught him. The student is the one who must take responsibility for the task of learning, analyzing, and, ultimately, knowing.

So, to Mr. Krahel, soon to be Dr. Krahel: Go ahead and give your kids a few Fs. They’ll get the idea—quick.

I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Piscataway, NJ, with Phils/Braves on in the background on ESPN, where Chipper Jones just broke up Roy Halladay’s no-hitter. Admittedly, it was early—bottom 4th. But even at that stage, the announcers, Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe, were showing the required amount of respect for Halladay’s performance up to that point by not uttering the word “no-hitter.” In fact, Halladay had a perfect game going, and they even respected that and used locutions such as “no hitter has even made it to first as of yet” rather than saying “perfect game” or even “Halladay’s been perfect through….”

This has been my second taste of almost this week, as Doug Fister took a no-no into the 7th against my former hometown team, the woeful Orioles (I moved in October). And all I could think of through both games was how incredibly rude Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling were in a similar situation on Yankees radio about two years ago. As I recall, the Yankees were facing the Rays, I was listening to the game in my car through the miracle of satellite radio, and Waldman managed to say at the beginning of every inning, “{Rays pitcher} has a no-hitter through x innings.” I don’t remember who was pitching; maybe you do. All I remember is Waldman blatantly violating no-hitter announcer etiquette every chance she got. Sterling, I don’t remember what he said, if anything. Waldman was not lying; the guy really did have a no-hitter going. She was just being evil. You don’t say “no-hitter” on the air. She knows that. Perhaps she forgot that, as Thoreau once said, that just because you have the right to say something does not mean that saying it is right.

I also distinctly remember both of them insulting, on the air, the park they were in (“a truly ugly ball park, no question”) and the then Devil Rays’ prior attempts to find a closer—”Why do you need a closer when you lose every game”? Waldman asked rhetorically. Besides the fact that no one loses every game, and every team needs a closer, the sarcasm was in my opinion uncalled for and unprofessional. Apparently the Rays, who won the pennant that year, lost a few less than every game, and more importantly, more—way more—than her beloved Yankees.

In my opinion, Waldman was being mean-spirited, evil, and above all, highly unprofessional by deliberately violating announcer etiquette. She’s a bitch, and she deserves to be called out. She has ruined every potential no-hitter I’ll ever hear or see, because I’ll always hear her annoying voice in my head. Suzyn, if you’re reading this, fuck you. 

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.

Consider the following opinion column run last week in The Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/06/AR2010040601010.html

It’s too bad comments are closed for this item, because I have one other thing to say to those statist who applauded the efforts of Big Government to stifle marketing and advertising aimed at children. There was a lot of discussion noise revolving around whether Froot Loops and Twinkies are bad for you. Well, no shit, Sherlock. That’s not the point. The point is: Just because something is bad for you does not mean it’s good for Big Government to prevent you from doing it. This is the flaw of a statist’s thinking.

The same thing is true in reverse. Just because something is good for you does not mean it’s a good idea for Big Government to coerce or force you to do it. As I posted back in the fall, what if the government had declared it mandatory to consume heroin, based on the glowing declarations of physicians of 100 years ago?

Happily, there were many rejoinders from the flip side which basically said: do some parenting. I know my mother certainly did when we were children. To all the moaners and hand-wringers who curse Kellogg’s, Post Cereals, Hostess, Skittles, etc. for daring to advertise on Saturday morning TV, or place their product on the lower shelves of the grocery store, I suggest using some of my mother’s techniques for deflating our hopes. Mom, if you’re reading this, thank you.

“We’re not getting that.”

“You don’t need that.”

“We don’t need that.”

“Forget it, we’re not buying it.”

And my personal favorite: “You got money?”

I admit it: I occasionally read USA Today. They have a stronghold on hotel distribution. And I don’t read the whole thing. Usually I look at the sports section first, especially during college basketball season; and I look at the news section and the opinion pages. Their editorials often display a surprisingly libertarian slant on current events. During the Bush regime administration, their “opposing view” opinion often came from an apparatchik such as Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Ari Fleischer, Douglas Kmiec, or Herr Karl Rove himself.

But I digress. A headline in today’s print edition caught my eye: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/internetlife/2010-02-10-1Asocialbacklash10_CV_N.htm As I read the article, all I could think of was: At last, someone agrees with me.

I don’t need to try something in order to know it’s not for me. The whole premise of Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace bothers me: that I need to have my whole life on display for the whole world to peruse. Twitter is especially annoying. What am I doing right now? Well, I don’t care what you’re doing right now. Why should I expect you to care what I’m doing right now? What incredible hubris one must have to make that assumption.

Every person should be able to decide what the appropriate level of public exposure is for them. And make no mistake, it’s public. One should always assume that if it’s on the public Internet, someone can find it. A couple of years ago, a client showed me some drunken party pics of a coworker of mine on MySpace. The client and the drunken coworker had a mutual acquaintance who was also a colleague of mine.

Consider the following:

  • If the info is on the Web, someone could use it to fashion a persona patterned after me. They don’t need my national identification number Social Security number to use my identity.
  • Throughout my life, I’ve never been the one to do something because “everyone is doing it.” In fact, “everyone is doing it” is the best way to dissuade me from doing pretty much anything.
  • I’m already on Yammer, a secure intranet version of Twitter, and hardly ever use it. What makes me think I would use Twitter? Besides, 140 characters is not enough for me to say what I have to say.
  • My friends, both personal and professional, know where to look for me. They have my e-mail, some of them are linked to me professionally on LinkedIn, and some of them even come here. Hell, some of them even have…dare I say it?…my phone number.
  • The article tells the story of several people who say they simply don’t have the time any more. In addition to all the necessary computer interaction one has in a day, the social networking sites take up even more of your time, time that could be considered discretionary time just as the money you have left over after paying bills is your discretionary income.  Unlike money, though, everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day, and no one can create more time where none exists.
  • If a person can find info on me, so can the government.

So all in all, I think that between this blog, my e-mail addresses, and Yammer, I have just the right amount of public exposure for me. Love Facebook? Fine. Just don’t castigate me because I don’t.

I decided to put this in a separate post because my war story was getting too complicated.

Men, what makes you think that if a doctor sticks a single finger up your ass, attempting to perform procedures that might save your life, you’re being violated…but we women, who have no prostate, should want something much bigger up our asses?

I’m tired of hearing you guys whine about colonoscopies. Boo fucking hoo. The instrument that goes in your rectum is smaller than a finger. So don’t you dare ask for anal sex from me unless and until you can say and prove you are not afraid of a prostate exam or a colonoscopy.

By the way, in my last post I mention an ultrasound on my left ovary. You know how they do that? With a vaginal probe. Basically, it’s a big vibrator attached to the ultrasound machine. Now, that’s entertainment! This thing is slightly bigger than a Hitachi Magic Wand (http://www.hitachi-magic-wand.com/shop/HitachiMagicWand/, widely considered to be the Rolls-Royce of vibrators), and the technician lubes it up and lets the patient put it in. After you insert it, she grabs the things and shifts it like the gearshift on a Porsche Boxster. You think that’s comfortable? Guys, trust me, it’s not. If she hits the ovary the wrong way, or if there’s an ovarian cyst, one of the reasons you might need this procedure, it can be anywhere from uncomfortable to downright excruciating. So I don’t want to hear about the doctor’s finger. Boo fucking hoo.