Friday, January 21, 2005

Think about this the next time you call in sick...



It was freezing in Washington yesterday, and he hadn't been out in public in months. He had a job to do, the most important job in the world at that time, and he got out of bed to do it. He probably felt terrible, he didn't look like the proud statesman from the Clinton impeachment, he looked like a tired old man before a viewing audience of the world, but he put his pride aside and did his job. Probably for the last time ever.

The man is a WWII veteran, and he's been on the Supreme Court longer than I've been alive. If he couldn't make it yesterday, no one for fault him for it. He's earned a retirement, but unfortunately, his time off won't be spent on the golf course.

Agree with him or not, this is the kind of thing that gets me fired up - watching a great American in the twilight of his life do his job one last time because it's the right thing to do. There are men like him you've never heard of, people like your father or grandfather, at the end of their lives, trying to be the stoic figure they've been since they spent their teenage years in the Great Depression, only to graduate from HS into a brutal global conflict - old before they were even 20. These are the people that built the America we live in today and soon they'll be gone.

It's a important job, but he's dying and he still got up to do it. Even though your job isn't that important, you won't be that sick the next time you have to go to work.

You want a flip-flop...

From the Heritage Foundation, Feb. 27, 1991
Political Errors at the End of the 20th Century:

"Yet presidents of the United States must not be encouraged to make Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, nor to fancy that they can establish a New World Order through eliminating dissenters. In the second century before Christ, the Romans generously liberated the Greek city-states from the yoke of Macedonia. But it was not long before the Romans felt it necessary to impose upon those quarrelsome Greeks a domination more stifling to Hellenic freedom and culture than ever Macedon had been. It is a duty of the Congress of the United States to see that great American Caesars do not act likewise. "


Today, almost 14 years later, "conservatives" lick up the "bold vision of advancing democracy" like a bunch of salivating dogs.

Edmund Burke wrote, "The blood of a man should never be shed but to redeem the blood of man. It is well shed for our family, for our friends, for our God, for our country, for our kind. The rest is vanity; the rest is crime."

Advancing an ideal, however noble, is not a foundation for war.

Krauthammer in today's WP

"It is no accident that Russia has begun hinting at making common cause with China. This is potentially ominous because of China's rising power and its status as the leading have-not nation on the planet, the Germany of the 21st century. In December, during the week of the rerun Ukrainian election that finally brought the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko to power, Russia made two significant moves toward China. First was the announcement of intensified economic cooperation in developing Russia's vast energy resources. More ominous was the Russian defense minister's Dec. 27 announcement of, 'for the first time in history,' large joint military exercises on Chinese territory.

China in turn is developing relationships with such virulently anti-American rogue states as Iran. Add such various self-styled, anti-imperialist flotsam as Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, and you have the beginnings of a significant 'anti-hegemonic' bloc -- aimed at us. "


Yet we continue to look at China with a blind eye - that "industrious nation", the "World's Shop floor", the "Asian miracle". The naysayers repeat the mantra - "it was the same thing with the Japanese in the 1980s"...

Wrong. The Japanese had no military ambitions or force of which to speak. They were broken by American colonization in the post-WWII era by some kind of national "Stockholm Syndrome". They loved America, and they were our strategic ally while being our economic competitor.

Not so for China. They oppose us on the issue of Taiwan. They have tension with China. They are setting up an oil pipeline with Russia for the sole purpose of insuring supply in the event of a conflict with the U.S., marginalizing the role of the U.S. Navy as a blockade force. They are heavily invested in Sudan oil resources.

Who financed this? We did with our Wal-Mart economy. They hold more and more U.S. debt, and based on President's bold agenda yesterday, this isn't going to stop. Everyday, the U.S. gets weaker and weaker while China consolidates it's position. It played nice to get where they are, but make no mistake about it, communist nations don't like the march of democracy any more than Baathist dictators.

China isn't some backwards nation, starved for a decade and run by a senile old man and two brutal sons. One billion people - even if they can only get 1 out of every 5 men to fight, it would be an army equal to over 1/3 of the U.S. population. Worse yet, they have more manufacturing capability than the U.S. at the start of WWII, combined with nuclear capabilities.

People disrespect "Old Europe", but who's going to help us? The U.K., definitely. Australia, maybe. Brazil and India, potentially. Who of any consequence is left?

"You Forgot Poland!" - you will too when they're wiped off the map by a Sino-Russian military force.

Wake up! The enemy isn't terrorism, it isn't Iran or Syria, it isn't even Islamic fundamentalists. These are distractions, flies in the room that draw our attention from the lion ready to pounce and eat us. The worst part is, we created this situation with corporate greed and an excess of personal consumerism.

When I talk about economic isolationism, people say, "Do you want to go back to paying high prices for everything, just so someone can have a job?" I ask you this - do you want to pay more for things to secure your freedom?

FOX News always has that slogan - "Freedom isn't Free" - damn right, but that applies to tax cuts and consumer goods too.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Libertarian Hack celebrates Bush Inauguration

L-Hack, seen here in this photo, is excited about four more years.



"I love America...George Bush #1...Allah Akbar...Please don't detain me - I just live in New Jersey"

Now we know why he's a Republican...I mean "Libertarian". Fear of being named a "person of interest".

Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge

From the The New York Times > Washington > NY Times:

"On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants."


Listen Kim Jong-Il, Bashar al-Assad, and other lunatics...we'll deal with you after we eliminate the true enemies of freedom in the world : SpongeBob and Patrick.

Gripe Session about Yesterday

This is an online gripe session about assigning blame for yesterday's snow problems in Raleigh.

The abridged version...

  • The Yankees blame the Southerners, the Southerners are telling the Yankees to go home...
  • Everyone but a few people think the NCDOT did a lousy job...
  • There's some blame being cast on the meteorologists ?!?!
  • Mixed bag on Wake County Schools keeping kids over night, not cancelling school yesterday, not releasing little kids first, busing...


Bottom line, everyone's angry with someone...

As for myself, I hold two institutions responsible:

Wake County Gov't : county roads were awful. There was no treatment, no police presence, all around poor performance.

Wake County School Administrators: If you bus kids all over the gosh darn county, this is what happens. Let kids go to the schools closest to their house. If you insist on busing kids - two words - TIRE CHAINS. Put tire chains on the buses - if they tear up the roads, then maybe someone will realize it's time to invest in an extra salt spreader. Pickup the little kids first - why you let high school kids go and leave elementary kids at school until after dark when the roads freeze over is an exercise in monumental stupidity.

Kudos to Wake County teachers for doing a great job in the face of incompetent boobery on the part of their bosses. Kudos to the City of Raleigh - RPD, the City Engineer, the Street Superintendent, the Mayor...great work.

Darth Tater: The dark side of Mr. Potato Head

Raleigh Storm Observations

Some Raleigh storm observations here, here, and here.

It took me about an hour to get to work this morning, a little longer than usual, but I took it easy and drove through the city rather than try my luck with the Beltline, especially after a tractor-trailer wrecked into a mini-van near my neighborhood this morning.

There were cars ditched all along Western Blvd. and New Bern Ave. I can imagine a lot of people just gave up with Western and decided to walk yesterday. The Neuse River bridge in Knightdale is a little slippery this morning, but the on/off-ramps from I-64 are atrocious.

I was listening to WPTF this morning and a couple things came to mind.


  1. People that grew up in the North or Midwest, stop talking about how you "know how to drive in this stuff". No one ever has to drive on ice in the Northeast. I have lived and worked in a couple different places, and while most places didn't get a tremendous amount of snow, my hometown of Pittsburgh has more hills than anywhere (except maybe Cincinnati), which dramatically complicated snow and ice. I never had to drive on ice, ever...not in Pittsburgh, not in Washington D.C., not in Baltimore, not in Philadelphia, not even in Annapolis. The roads were heavily salted and the only thing I ever had to contend with was thick powder or slush.

    Downshifting doesn't work on ice - only one thing does - chains. Given my experience here over the last couple years with the total lack of any road preparation that occurs, I'm going to get me a set of emergency road chains.

  2. A caller this morning talked about the Governor's request that "everyone stay off the roads". He said this was unacceptable for businesses in the area, and business needs to drive change here. He couldn't be more right. There are over 1.4 million people in the Raleigh-Durham metro area - this is a big city now, and it's going to have big city problems. Kids stranded at school, major roads turned into parking lots...Wake County needs to improve its preventative capacity, even if a storm like this only happens once a year.

    The thing is, it doesn't happen just once a year. It happens almost three times a year, and for about 12 days, the area is under a sheet of ice. I did a cost-benefit analysis on the City of Raleigh's winter road maintenance program, and I found it was sufficient. It showed when I hit Poole Road in the city yesterday, it was like night vs. day from Poole Road in the county.

    This summer, I'm going to take my methodology and apply it to Wake County. I believe I'm going to find a much different story.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Icy Roads, Gridlock Strand Students At Wake Schools

From WRAL:

"Area school officials said staff will remain at school until every child is on the school bus or parents have picked up their child. However, about 200 kids will be spending the night at Wakefield Elementary School. School officials said they have fed the kids already, but they want to get the word out to parents.


This is absolutely ridiculous. It only snowed 2 inches, and the entire area is shut down.

WRAL.com - Visitor Reports About Traffic, Roads and Schools

I finally made it home from work - it only took me 3.5 hours to get from Zebulon to Raleigh. I-64 was a mess, so I took Poole Road home. It wasn't bad, except at the hill near Hodge Road. My nerves are fried...

This is pretty interesting - complaints on WRAL.com.

I will say this - I commend the City of Raleigh - the city streets were excellent, including Poole, Avent Ferry and Western.

I can't give high marks to Wake County. Poole Road in the county was a damn mess, as well as every other main drag in the eastern part of the county. I imagine there's a lot more important things to cover, so I can't be too critical...I'll just be happy when the 64 bypass is done.

Surprise Snow Hits Triangle; Wrecks, Closings Reported

Well, it snowed in Raleigh, and the Triangle is all in a panic. NC State has cancelled classed tonight, so there'll be no Management Seminar this evening for me. It looks like I'll get some time to finish Mancur Olsen's Logic of Collective Action.

I just finished Mayhew's Congress: The Electoral Connection and I while some of the theories are dated, the underlying principle is still true.

Based on Mayhew's theories, it's hard to believe that SS Privatization is going to happen (and one can see why the Medicare drug package passed). I'll probably discuss that more tonight.

For now, I have head home. I work at the far end of Wake County, about 30 miles from Raleigh, and I can't imagine they've plowed out here.

I was looking at some webcams of WRAL at the intersection of Avent Ferry Road and Western Blvd., very close to NC State, and there were cars all over the roadway. Even if I survive a roadway mess in Zebulon, I have that to look forward to in the city. Big fun - can't wait.

Monday, January 17, 2005

For the record, I'm not really opposed to Mandatory Retirement Savings

Over the last couple weeks, I may have given the impression that I'm opposed to Social Security Privatization, or more appropriately, mandatory retirement savings. (Privatization implies moving the trust fund into the private equities market.)

I see a lot of benefit to a program like this, but, what I am opposed to is offering this as a solution to Social Security solvency issues and exaggerating the "crisis" element of Social Security to quell debate.

I have one more complaint - privatization can't be done now. The transition costs are much too high and the government is too far in debt to try this right now. If Republicans really want this to happen, they should get their financial house in order first - curb spending, roll back tax cuts to finance war efforts, and wait four years. If they do it right, it can be the first major initiative of the [Jeb] Bush administration.

There is no solid plan beyond pronouncements about privatization, but it's interesting and worth discussion. If all citizens are actively involved in managing their own retirement, maybe they'll be more apt to do real private savings programs like IRAs.

Stock ownership, if people have real choice and control, also can provide a tool for collective action. When Henry Ford had to pay people a wage that allowed them to buy his cars, U.S. companies will have to adopt practices that encourage people to buy their stock. If you're really concerned about the environment, offshoring of labour, or just corporate governance in general, you can punish and reward companies for behavior. When 280 million people own stock in GM, if they anger enough of them to move their money to Ford, they'll feel it.

Bond ownership, in addition to stocks, is a great way for citizens to take back the country. Rather than relying on China to finance our government, they just borrow the money from U.S. citizens.

I'll be honest, I'm intrigued to see what a final proposal looks like and I'll listen to something like this with an open mind. I just don't like the timing or the duplicity in the message.

How I saved Social Security

Well, I finally got to play the Social Security Reform Game I mentioned earlier today. It kept throwing database errors; it must have been getting some heavy use.

I used two strategies to make Social Security solvent:

Strategy One

  • Accelerate increase in retirement age to 67 and index thereafter.
  • Reduce cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by 1/2 percentage points.
  • Increase wages subject to Social Security tax.


This involved an increase in the wage cap by $8,000, and a decrease due to a change in benefit formulation.

Strategy 2

  • Raise the retirement age to 70 by 2030 and keep adjusting the age as people live longer.
  • Increase wages subject to Social Security tax.
  • Include new state and local government workers.


This bumps the retirement age up 5 years, with the same cap increase, but I avoided a benefit reduction by making state and local government employees subject to Social Security tax.

Interesting thing is the simulation warns you about a tax increase because of potential Medicare problems. I'd like to see a simulation for that. By the way, private accounts alone do nothing - but that's no great surprise.


SI.com - Gotta Know How to Hold 'em

Interesting article on SI.com about the often overlooked placekick holder in football. The author received a tutorial from the Cleveland Browns on the art of the fieldgoal.

"Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg tells me how much time he allows for the ball to be snapped and kicked. 'We have a slot from 1.28 seconds to 1.32 seconds,' he says. 'Anything more, and we're risking the danger of edge pressure [defenders coming through the line on the ends] reaching the ball.' "


How do you get a kick off that fast? The snap "whistles".

Social Security Reform - the Home Version

The American Academy of Actuaries has posted an online "game" to correct Social Security solvency issues.

You can adopt a variety of different policies - adjusting COLA index, raising retirement age, eliminating the wage cap, tax increases, and private accounts.

The goal - get to 100% solvency.

I like actuarial science because, well, it's science. The organization is non-partisan - more a professional organization than anything else. Their findings - the Social Security Trust Fund must be invested in private market equities using an index fund to achieve solvency.

They also have an interesting issue paper on tort reform and medical malpractice here.
Their position is fairly close to the President's, and has been shown effective in California.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Championship Game Picks

Three-for-four this week, missed the Eagles game. Picks for next week.



AFC

Patriots at Steelers

This is a tough one...the Steelers wrecked the Patriots on Halloween, but the 4 NE turnovers contributed to that victory. Pittsburgh played a close game against the Jets in December, and they played a close game against last night. Drawing on past history to make this pick...

Winner: Pittsburgh

NFC

Atlanta at Philadelphia

Philly played strong defense today, and got the monkey off their back - winning without T.O. Atlanta rolled over the Rams, but they're just not a very good team. Next week, they're in for a struggle; however, I think they might just be too much for the Eagles.

Winner: Atlanta





There it is, Pittsburgh/Atlanta in the Super Bowl. I'm looking forward to Troy Polamalu shadowing Michael Vick...it should be an interesting matchup.

New England D is doing its thing

Right now, I'm 2-3 for this weekend. The Philadelphia victory was a surprise, especially how convincing it was. The defense was tough today, but they'll be in for a much bigger challenge against Atlanta.

I knew the Pittsburgh/New York game was going to be close, given their regular season matchup. I like Pittsburgh's chances against Indianapolis if they someone pull this out against NE, but the way things are headed, I suspect the Patriots will be coming to Heinz Field next week (look at that snow!). I thought New York was a threat to Pittsburgh because they play good defense, and the same holds true for NE.

Championship games picks following the NE/Indy game.

Like I didn't see this one coming...

First, biologically speaking, there is no such thing as "race". Race is purely a social construct and it's derivations have as much to do with ethnicity as physical appearance, so it's quite acceptable to use the word "race" to describe people of Arabian descent when compared to people of European descent.

According to the ADL, a group that represents a race of people that know a little something about "racism", they define "racism" as:

"prejudice or discrimination based on the belief that race is the primary factor determining human traits and abilities.


With "race" as a social construct based on ethnicity, the automatic attribution of traits due to membership in the social construct is "racism".

Did I throw the word out too soon? Perhaps, because in the original post, the authors didn't draw any inferences from the graph, although I was responding more to commenters than the authors.

If that graph was about "European Muslims educated in radical Pakistani madrasas" or "European Muslims trained in Palestinian terrorist camps" and you were to draw inferences from that about expected outcomes, that's one thing. Drawing inferences about behavioral traits solely based on being Muslim, especially when supported by generalizations drawn by non-representative instances of activity from members of the social construct is real "racism".

For now, let's talk about assimilation:

Hartford Bids a Bilingual Goodbye to a White-Collar Past, New York Times, May 5, 2003

According to the 2000 Census, almost half (46.3 percent) of the city’s Hispanic population speaks English “less than very well.” Almost a quarter speak English “not very well” or “not at all.” As the city moves its essential services to Spanish, there will soon be no necessity to learn English. Even Mayor Perez notes that, “We’ve become a Latin city, so to speak. It’s a sign of things to come.”


USA Today

Si usted no habla español, puede quedarse rezagado If you don't speak Spanish, you might be left behind

¿Entiende Ud. español?

If your answer to, ''Do you understand Spanish?'' is ''no,'' get ready to be left behind.

With the surge over the past decade in the Hispanic population in the United States, speaking Spanish is becoming more of a necessity than a choice in many parts of the country. From feedlot managers in Nebraska to New York City stockbrokers, Americans are scrambling to learn a language that is now spoken by many of the 35.3 million Hispanics in the United States.


Based on 1980 and 1990 Census data on the increase in the population of those whose English-speaking ability was classified "not well" or "not at all," if the current trend continues, by the year 2050 there will be over 21 million people unable to speak English in the United States, making up 5.75 percent of the entire population.

Language is a principle component of cultural identity. How does this country respond to the "erosion" of American cultural identity? With this:

Buenos Días. Esta semana me reuní con algunos conciudadanos en distintas partes del país para discutir una de las grandes responsabilidades de nuestra Nación: la de fortalecer el Seguro Social para nuestros hijos y nietos.


Why is this OK, but the erosion of European culture due to Muslim influx is not? Could it be that Hispanics are traditionally Catholic and not those awful Muslims?

Of course, we're just talking about language here - according to your premise, cultural assimilation (outside of language) will occur due to home ownership and suburbs, two phenomena of post-WWII America?

You're going to have come up with a better explanation than that - U.S. assimilation is a 19th century concept - the term "melting pot" was coined in 1908 to describe events that had been underway in America years before suburbs or a high degree of home ownership. Just because Europe doesn't have suburbs isn't a obstacle to cultural assimilation. By the way, owning a home doesn't make someone "become American" - land ownership as condition of full citizenship when out with powered wigs.

Third, condemning all European Muslims for the murder of Theo Van Gogh is ludicrous. By that logic, I'm going to be very nervous when Texans move into my neighborhood because of the murder of James Byrd - all those animals from down South that can't get along with black folks...goodness knows, they have such a history of violence that should be held against them under all conditions for all time.

Just like that Spanish Muslim Cleric, you better watch out for white folks from Georgia. William Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries was from there, before he moved to West Virginia. There's another state - watch out for those Mountaineers with their embrace of white supremacy and violence against government.
I'm not sure we should ever trust a military guy either - after all, Timothy McVeigh was in the military...

Sacre Blue! Imams in France aren't French! Neither are Catholic priests in the land of Joan of Arc.

One out of every five people on the planet is a Muslim. The overwhelming majority of these people are not terrorists or suicide bombers, just like every Southern white isn't Klan, and every ex-military guy isn't a bomber, and every West Virginian isn't a white supremacist.

My story about my Indian friends was to illustrate the point that most people, regardless of religion, race, or national origin, want the same thing. They just want to get through the day, whatever that means wherever they live. For some people in the world, that's just getting enough food, for others, it's paying the mortgage and saving for college.

Lastly, the key to success in Iraq is based on the idea that a Muslim population can function as a democratic society. Turkey does, and Indonesia is trying. In Europe, Muslims are moving to or being born in countries with stable democratic political institutions, a much easier framework for democracy than building one from scratch in the wake of a military dictatorship. If it's unfathomable that Muslims will continue with established Western democracies in Europe as their population increases, then what you makes think they'll build one from scratch in Iraq? We might as well get out now and let them all kill each other.

There you go again.

So, liberal blowhard calls people "racist" if they show concern over rising Muslim immigration in Europe, no surprise, liberals use that word so often it has lost most of its meaning (which is unfortunate when real racism occurs). It’s strange, LB refers to someone as a parrot and then parrots the usual liberal race baiting line, you forgot to call him a Nazi, try and do better next time. Also, when did Arabs become a race? For someone who shows an almost hysterical fear of Christians in America you’re very tolerant of Muslims (known for their acceptance of all that is non-Muslim).

A few examples which should concern the EU.
In Spain, a Muslim cleric recently caused controversy when he published a book advising Islamic men on how to beat their wives and avoid prosecution—a classic example of how multiculturalism and tolerance are being taken advantage of. The same is true for France, for "... all of France's 1,200 mosques are funded by foreign governments, and out of the country's 230 major imams, none is French". The murder of Theo van Gogh by shooting, throat slitting and dagger plunging with a note in the Netherlands. He was killed because of his "racist" views toward the way Muslims treat their women.

The story about LB's immigrant friend is touching but that’s in the U.S. The problem in Europe is they don't assimilate. EU's high unemployment, generous welfare benefits, and socialized medicine don't encourage assimilation(see "another mugging" post in archives). In the U.S. we have better economic opportunities, much higher rates of home ownership, and suburbs. Much despised by the left, but when immigrants leave their ethnic ghettos to buy homes in the suburbs they own a piece of the country and tend to become Americans.

Old Europe is very arrogant toward Americans, even fellow eu's (like the Poles) who don’t conform to their ideas, imagine how poorly these Muslim immigrants are treated.

One last point, the left has been ridiculing and name calling conservatives for 25 years. At one time the left controlled everything, since 1980 you’ve lost 5 of 7 presidential elections, the senate, the house, most state houses and governorships. Maybe just maybe you should try a different tactic.

I must go now, put on my white sheet and join my fellow racists.

Don't blame me - You voted for me

From today's Washington Post:

"President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath. "


Is this a joke? How does winning the election absolve the President of blame for things that go wrong in Iraq, especially the ongoing "violent aftermath."

He was elected President, not God, and this was not a referendum on infallability. He is accountable every single day, for every single action, as long as he is in that job.

If he can't understand that...don't you see why he is so hated by half the country?

Steelers squeak by Jets in overtime, 20-17

From the Post-Gazette:

"The Steelers, good all season, got lucky last night."


Couldn't have said it better myself. Better to be lucky than good.

Steelers win! Steelers win! Steelers win!