Thursday, March 31, 2011

An argument for the nanny state

Apparently, it took a government agency to clue people in to the fact that being locked into an airtight plastic ball is not exactly a smart idea.  I am not ordinarily a friend of the nanny state, but also being no fan of social Darwinism or the use of stupidity as a eugenic tool, I've got to admit that they did the right thing here.

The question I have, of course, is why safety officials and lawyers and the manufacturer and customers didn't figure this one out--never mind customers.

Some random thoughts

Doug Wilson isn't perfect, but this little bit is one big reason that I've kept reading him over the years.  Either that, or I'm a perpilocutionist of the Dorothy Sayers cult. 

Yeah, that sounds about right.  In umbra, igitur, blogabimus!

And I know I'm late to the party, and am at risk of simply piling on, but I can't help but laugh at the fact that our President--famous for adding staff tasked with ignoring FOIA requests--has chosen to not only accept an award for openness in government, but has also done it in a meeting closed to the press. 

Worse yet, apart from Fox, the press doesn't appear to be all to find the abject hypocrisy of it all that news-worthy.  It's a strange world we live in today, but it's much like a world that existed in 1960, when the press knew that a Presidential candidate was avidly adulterous, but didn't deem that worthy of consideration.

Even though that candidate, who was elected, had nearly been court martialed for sleeping with a German spy during World War Two--his father negotiated for him to be transferred to the Pacific on a PT boat.   Let's not think that willful blinders are merely a reality of today.  It's been around for a while.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Government in the Torah very interesting.  Unlike the Constitution, it is the actual moral content of the law, not the structure of the lawgiver and enforcer, that is the primary emphasis.  That said, we can infer some things from what is said.  For example, take a look at Deuteronomy 16:18-17:20.  It is very interesting in what it does, and does not, do. 

First of all, Moses introduces us to the requirement that the Israelites appoint judges and officers "in all their gates," that is in all of their towns.  Notice that just like Genesis 9:6, Romans 13, and elsewhere, the primary concern with human government in this part of the Bible is that justice be administered correctly.  It continues to note that the next prohibition after perverting justice is a prohibition against....sacred groves and pillars as used in idolatrous worship.  How different from our day, when we tell jokes which presume that our lawyers are often the worst of people, confusing the bar of justice with the bar at which alcohol is served, to borrow one awful joke.  In that day, they were to be similar in character to the priests.

Next, in Chapter 17, Moses begins by prohibiting blemished offerings and idolatry--another implicit comparison of injustice to idolatry--and then proceeds to note that a death sentence may only be handed down with two or three witnesses--who must take part in the execution.  Notice as well that the priests and Levites were to get involved in difficult cases.  A lot of this parallels church governance and discipline in the New Testament, though for obvious reasons (Rome as pagan) Romans 13 does not suggest that Rome use the apostles in judgment.

Most interesting to me are verses 14-20; the king was to be chosen long after Moses, and he was to be an Israelite himself, not a foreigner.  Moreover, he was to write out a copy of the Torah for himself, and he is not to collect gold, women, or horses--especially horses from Egypt.  At this point, kings used gold for two purposes; getting palaces and harems, and to wage war.  Horses, in turn, were primarily used by kings for waging war.  In other words, this passage is concerned with preventing the kings of Israel from engaging in the practices of empires like Egypt.

Going further, Deut. 19: 15-21 prescribes very harsh penalties for perjury, and Deut. 20 specifies certain practices and limitations on war--limitations that, if followed, would make the Israelite practice of war far more humane than that of her neighbors--or at least far less monstrous.  In other words, not like the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Rome, and Greece.

It is worth noting that in the Torah, as in the New Testament, the responsibility of charity falls on the people, and upon the church, not the government.

The summary here is that government was to be primarily concerned with justice, and that the kings were to cling to the law and avoid the practices of empire.  If you're thinking about Solomon right now, so am I.  We'll get around to him soon, Lord willing.

It's worth noting here, by the way, that groups who seek to pull our government away from practices of empire, and toward real justice, are on the right track--the question is not generally motivations, but whether they get it right.

Interesting fruit of repentance

Yesterday, I killed a post discussing the travails of a too-famous family in favor of....well...sending a note regarding some of those travails to a member of that family directly (thank you, google).  Today, I received a note back saying that at least one of the reports was not true. 

Now I don't know whether it was, or wasn't, true.  If it was, something awful is off the table, probably thanks in small part to people who wrote the would-be offender.  If it was not, the reporter who wrote the original story gets some well deserved rebuke.  It's a good thing.

In other world news, apparently the killer whale that killed his trainer will be performing shows once again.   What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Government and the Patriarchs

Yes, the Old Testament is way too big and deep to confront the whole thing in a blog post--probably way too big and deep for a thousand of them, but let's get a taste of the experience of the Patriarchs.

To start, God tells Noah (Genesis 9:6) that if a man sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.  This is widely viewed as the first charter of government, since vengeance on the murderer presupposes one authorized to carry out that vengeance equitably.  Let's see how it worked out for the patriarchs.

In Genesis 19, we find the men of Sodom using political unity to attempt to gang-rape visiting angels, a move we ought to characterize as "the King of Sodom not exactly doing what God told Noah."  Later on, both Abraham and Isaac came to believe that their lives would be forfeit because kings of Egypt and Philistia would murder them for their wives.  This turned out to be an overstatement, but reality is that these kings did seem to view any pretty young thing that came their way as a possible addition to their harems.  Government wasn't exactly working out well for many, to put it mildly.

Most intriguing to me is a scenario that plays out starting in Genesis 41, when Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream and becomes, in effect, prime minister of Egypt.  Put mildly, it's the closest thing we have to the modern welfare state in the Bible; for seven years, 20% of the grain harvest (Egypt's major source of wealth) was stored up against a coming famine.  It's not clear how it was done; Matthew Henry suggests Pharaoh bought it out of his own money, suggesting monstrous wealth for the time to buy all that grain and build granaries where the wetness of the Nile could not corrupt it. 

If Henry is right, it still suggests about a 10-15% effective tax on the people of Egypt in supporting Pharaoh's wealth--again, it was an agrarian nation, and it wasn't Pharaoh working all those grain fields.  Otherwise, it was at least a 20% levy on agriculture, possibly on top of other taxes Pharaoh levied.  There is no comment about popular response to the taxation, or what austerity measures Pharaoh and Joseph may have implemented to fund these programs.  I can personally imagine Joseph telling his boss "hey, lay off the wars for a time while we make sure we can feed our people, OK?"

Whatever the implementation and the popular response, it achieved two things.  First of all, Egypt and her neighbors didn't starve.  Second, a temporary 20% tax became a permanent 20% tax (chapter 47), and the people became more or less slaves (at least servants) of Pharaoh--which explains both the Pyramids and many events in Exodus.  It also explains Egypt's persistent wars of conquest--there's that empire thing again!

Hayek would, of course, call this "The Road to Serfdom," and there is a very interesting question about how someone who knows God would do this.  Why was it that Joseph did not simply warn the people that seven years of famine were coming, and let them take precautions and avoid the loss of their wealth?  The only way I can reconcile this is to posit that Joseph knew that Egyptian society was debauched, and that this was the only course of action that would save their lives and perhaps bring them to repentance.

In other words, Joseph's story is evidence that big government is intended for people incapable of self-government--exactly what Hayek and our own Founding Fathers would have told us from their understanding of the classics.  We could find out that the welfare state is exactly what our nation needs at this time, but in light of this story, we probably ought not be proud of it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Bible on taxes and government; the New Testament.

In a comment on this post, my dear brother Joe suggested I take a look at what the Scripture really says about taxation and government.  It's a good suggestion, so let's have at it.

First of all, you've got the fact that at least one tax collector promised to repay the money he'd stolen when he came to Christ.  This is unremarkable until one considers that the major part of the compensation of tax collectors was whatever they could gouge out of the taxpayers; in other words, if tax collectors in Rome were to be honest, there would be a lot less demand for that job--and most likely far fewer taxes collected due to a different kind of person collecting them.

Along the same lines, John the Baptist told Roman soldiers to be content with their pay.  Just as tax collectors got rich by theft, so did soldiers become wealthy by pillage--the "salarius" they were ordinarily paid was a ration of bread and salt, so being content with their pay more or less meant they would no longer be about the business of pillage.  Obviously, this also would have huge implications for Roman government, which lived on the fruits of pillage.  When expansion stopped as the Visigoths and Huns were able to stop Roman legions, the flow of money, food and goods upon which Roman society relied stopped as well.

Hence, we can infer from the historical context that as people followed our Lord, critical parts of Roman society would have quickly collapsed.  Now this is, to be sure, descriptive--the only prescriptive passages for government in the New Testament I'm aware of are Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, along with Christ's command to pay Caesar his due (there's that tax collection question again). 

It's worth noting, of course, that the primary justification Paul and Peter give for obeying government is that the government is responsible for punishing the wicked and commending the just.  Understanding the limitations of arguing from what a text doesn't say, it's worth noting that the Scriptures neither commend nor condemn the Roman welfare state.  That said, it's also worth noting that the welfare state of Rome more or less ended with the city limits of the capital, and that Paul told the Thesssalonians that if a man would not work, neither should he eat.

From the New Testament, then, we can conclude that public safety is a Biblical purpose of government, and also that the practice of empire--especially paying soldiers by plunder--does not appear to be consistent with the Gospel.  We might also infer that any welfare for able-bodied people is contrary to what Paul told the church.

Friday, March 18, 2011

News of the new NIV

Here.  Apparently, the new revision of the NIV (the one they promised not to do back in 1997 with "gender neutral language", yes) renders "I will make you fishers of men" in Matthew 4:19 as "I will send you out to fish for people."

Let's leave behind for a minute the debate over gender neutral language, and just ask; should someone whose sense of style is that stilted be allowed anywhere near Bible translation, or should they be locked up in a room with a fresh copy of Strunk & White, a volume of Shakespeare and a 1611 KJV for a few months as penance?

No, I don't seriously propose the incarceration of Douglas Moo and others involved, but I do plead that those who would be craftsmen working with God's Word understand the vital importance of style.

(translating pronouns and nouns accurately doesn't hurt, either, of course)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hope and Change comes to School!

Barack Obama elementary school of Asbury Park, New Jersey,  has been closed for failure to achieve and gross managerial incompetence, all while the school district was apparently spending $36,000 per student annually.

Well, one thing you've got to give the school district; they named the school well.  Hopefully another Barack Obama can be closed for failure to achieve and gross managerial incompetence.

Thoughts on Purim and the Gospel

 Take a look at one rabbi's take on the events described in the book of Esther; if you know the Biblical story, you will see a number of things in his rendition which simply do not appear in the Biblical account; drunken arguments over whether Median or Persian women are more beautiful, details on the winestewardship of the Medeo-Persians, a gruesome fate for Vashti, suspicion of his regent Haman, and the claim that Esther's defense of her people was aided by wine as well.

Now I don't know how true any of this is, though I can imagine a lot of it being true without doing undue violence to the Biblical account.  What is interesting to me--as I read through the New Testament--is the fact that the "Oral Torah" does a lot of expansion on the Tanach, or Old Testament.  This "Oral Torah" is, with some modifications, what Jesus and the Pharisees are talking about when they are talking about the traditions of their fathers.

It's worth a read, and a celebration--as the good rabbi says, with a glass of wine perhaps, but not to the point where we would emulate the decision-making process of Ahasuerus.  More importantly, and deliciously, here's a recipe for Hamantaschen, a Purim cookie somewhat similar to kolacky--at least the cream cheese variant, if not the bread variant.

Why celebrate?  Simple; it is of course the way that our Lord preserved His Word against the depradations of the Agagites.   If that's not worth celebrating, I don't know what is.

A modest proposal

I realize that the Circus Maximus and gladiatorial games were part of the dark side of the Pax Romana, but somehow Vox Day's headline seems to indicate that this would, indeed, be a good solution to the problems of both pedophile priests and abusive social workers. 

That said, the pedophile priests would apparently be far outnumbered.  Allegations of abuse by priests currently stand at about 11,000 over the past 60 years, while allegations of abuse by social workers in New York alone were 13,000 in 2009.  If you want to be seriously disgusted, try to read the New York Times article Mr. Day links to.  I couldn't read the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What is going on?

Apparently, a number of entertainers have gotten into trouble for making jokes about the recent tragedies in Japan--many of them being fired as a result.  The bright side to this is that we know that even in Hollywood, there are some things that are unacceptable.  Sadly, this kind of moral discernment is not always apparent there!

Obviously, this kind of thing is nothing new--I remember jokes about Waco and Jeffrey Dahmer, and I once met a former U-boat sailor who heard Holocaust jokes in New York.  Going deeper, though, I think sometimes our video entertainment and lack of education may be partially responsible.

Put simply, when you put the news stories in the hands of someone who grew up watching Godzilla movies and never learned logarithms, they are going to have difficulty cluing in to the extent of the carnage.  9.0 sounds like "not much worse" than 7.0 until you understand a logarithmic scale, right?

Which leads me to a well-worn soapbox of mine; if one desires one's children to be truly educated, one cannot stop with the Trivium of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, but must also go to the Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.  Anything less can lead to your children making Godzilla jokes when tens of thousands are dead and reactors are starting to melt down.

Some thoughts on our racial tensions....

First of all, Thomas Sowell points out something that we don't like to hear; one of the biggest enemies blacks have is well-meaning liberals who prevent housing from being built in economically booming areas like the San Francisco area.  Due to building bans in these areas, a once significantly black city is being drained of black people--really of the middle class in general.  Obviously, there are other factors at work, but Sowell points out that if you want to see the races mixing, you generally go to where the major is likely to be a Republican.

Here's one that is a little bit more challenging.  John Stossel makes the claim that the war on drugs is a chief reason for the myriad disasters which afflict blacks specifically, and I'd wonder if he'd claim the poor in general.  More or less, the argument is that as drug prohibition drove prices up, luring poor men into the trade, resulting in their imprisonment and the disintegration of the black (poor) family.

I'm torn on this one; having read Walter Williams for many years, I've become aware of many other things afflicting the poor in general and poor blacks in particular, starting with Moynihan's observation that AFDC's "father out of the house" rule was resulting in fatherless families. 

And so I wonder if Stossel's source--a Berkeley professor named John McWhorter--is inverting the actual process by which poor blacks (and poor people in general) had their families obliterated.  That is, welfare decimated the families, and that led to a culture where dealing drugs became seen as acceptable--and hence the drug trade and war on drugs are not the initial cause, but rather a contributor to what has become a vicious cycle of illegitimacy, poverty, and crime.

There may be--despite the reality of addiction--a legitimate reason to end the war on drugs.  I'm just not convinced that McWhorter and Stossel have hit on an adequate one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ViQueens stadium thoughts.....

One "reason" given by advocates of a new stadium for the ViQueens is that if we lose them, we'd be nothing more than a cold Omaha.

On the bright side, if the Twin Cities became a "Cold Omaha," wouldn't we have a lot of good steakhouses within a ten minute drive, and wouldn't we have the five time national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers just an hour away? Sign me up! We'd finally have a decent football team in the state--and it wouldn't depend on the Packers or Bears coming to town!

Now there's a nasty fly in the ointment.....

....apparently, the EPA is pushing plans that would spend seven trillion dollars to reduce global warming by .006 to .015 degrees celsius in a century.  If, of course, the theory holds up, and that leads to a very unpleasant reality; current models don't match historic data, nor do they predict where our planet is seeing warming.

It also illustrates the mypopia of goverment types, as there are easy things that can be done to reduce our impact on the environment that do not require massive government spending.  First, replace a large portion of income taxes with a revenue tariff of 10%-15%--all those goods don't come halfway around the world without burning a lot of fuel, and shouldn't we be funding the Navy that keeps the sea lanes open with revenues from that trade?  Next, stop subsidizing daycare, and see how many mothers decide to quit commuting.  Finally, let's stop subsidizing ethanol and agriculture--a move that just might preserve a larger portion of the Ogalalla aquifer for future generations.  The ugly reality is that plowing soil releases billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere; allowing it to be used as pasture allows the plants to put carbon back into the soil.

Now that we can believe for a moment that Congress will do things that will reduce the scope and power of government, but I can dream, can't I?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Check it out

For those out there interested in the direction church music is taking, Les Freres Bayly have put up a link to an EP that their worship band has put together. More or less, it is traditional lyrics set to modern instrumentation and with some of the musical cues used by modern pop musicians.

In doing this, they are overcoming one of the chief objections that I have to most modern music; lyrically, most CCM hardly ranks as any kind of equivalent to mediocre hymns, so a good starting point for including modern music in worship--especially in our literature-starved day--is to "recycle" the great works of the past.  This EP succeeds there.  As the Baylys noted in another post, there is a lot to be said for proceeding from the heights our fathers reached.

Musically, there are high points and low points.  Being a naturally pensive person, I particularly like track 5, "Jesus with thy Church."  It's a bit slower, meditative, sometimes even melancholy.  Overall, there is a much greater range of musical style than is typical in church services; it speaks to a level of musicality that can be attained in a church with a number of members employed by and studying at Indiana University's College of Music.

Perfect rendition?  Of course not.  That said, it's worth noting that Isaac Watts wrote something like 700 hymns, maybe 1% of which are reproduced in modern hymnals.  Similarly, the Wesley brothers wrote 7000 or so hymns, and even Methodists only keep about 10-20 hymns by Charles and John Wesley today.  So there were a lot of eminently forgettable things done 300 years ago, so we need to be patient here.

So what can we do in our own churches? My first thought is that we can do little better than to remember that music is part of the Quadrivium, and start learning our Bach, Wesley, Tehillim, along with learning a bit about poetry while picking up an instrument.

Even if it's the accordion.  Don't forget for a minute that the goal of good music is to communicate, and we can only learn by trying, even if we fail.

Now there's a monument to Ivy League educations

According to George Will, one of the chief arguments for the Constitutionality of the mandatory insurance clause of the health insurance deform law is that without the clause, the law would collapse.  The judge also argued that inactivity is in itself an activity.

In other words, the law's constitutionality, according to Judge Kessler and I would presume the Obama administration, including the President, depends on a tautology, assuming one's conclusion, and a contradiction in terms.  As Professor Digory Kirke asked the Pevensie children, what ARE they teaching in schools these days, and how is it that this many people are getting through Ivy League law schools without mastering basic informal logic?

Friday, March 11, 2011

If you've got a weak heart and smash watermelons for a living,'s a good idea to schedule your heart issues when you're performing in Rochester, MN.   Get better soon, Gallagher!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

That's how you do it

For the second time, a security team has repelled a pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama, which marks the third time this particular ship has been approached or attacked by Somali pirates.  Well done!

That said, ahem; this is the THIRD time this ship has been attacked, which suggests (as do the over 1000 people kidnapped last year by Somali pirates) that someone in the District of Columbia ought to read up on the career of Stephen Decatur

From the "not entirely surprising" files

As apparently more and more people eschew marriage for temporary relationships, studies are apparently finding that these temporary relationships are, well, temporary.  Evidently when people don't put the effort into making a relationship last, it doesn't.

Along the same lines, it's been found that military women have a much higher divorce rate than military men.  It's like you're begging for problems when you take a young woman away from her husband, and have her work long hours in an environment full of young, healthy, attractive, and most devastatingly, LONELY men.  What could possibly go wrong?  Even the best couple is going to have problems in that kind of scenario.

In related shocking news, it's been found that people who don't get their oil changed end up shopping for cars more often, and people who don't pay their rent get evicted.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A name I should have known

Mr. Dilettante posts on something very interesting to a quality engineer like myself; the apparent fact, according to Michael Barone, that union policies are largely designed to mitigate the work of one Frederick W. Taylor, who (along the lines of the Prussian schools so decried by John Taylor Gatto) worked to make production lines as "idiot proof" as possible, all while organizing the workplace around the assumption that workers are more or less dumb animals--incapable of initiative and inefficient unless driven.

In other words, apart from the fact that they can quit when they want to, Taylor's model seems to give the worker about the same respect as, or at times somewhat less than, a typical antebellum slave-owner might grant.  It's no wonder that the history of the labor movement is filled with strife with that kind of thinking!

But of course, we've come a long way since those dark days, and we obviously would never make such mistakes again, right?

OK, then, let's consider what most teachers are taught about classroom management, then, and let's ask whether most schools risk actually teaching students not just what to think, but rather how to think.  No, I'm not talking about "critical thinking" (which all too often simply means "doubt what the bad guys are saying"), but rather, "logic."

Given that very few schools actually teach either informal or formal logic, it would seem that they're really being run along Taylor's model even today.  We then ought to expect fully that a large portion of adults would then be functioning not in a thinking way, but struggling to overcome basic, Pavlovian conditioned responses.

By design, and note that the teachers unions are asking us to pay for the privilege of having our children treated like Taylor's factory drones.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Just trying to help

According to SayAnythingBlog, the liberal Christian group Sojourners is working to protect government spending by asking the question of "what would Jesus cut"?

Now the question is interesting, as Roman government at Jesus' time did support some things that I don't believe have their roots in Romans 13, Genesis 9, and other passages discussing the rights and privileges of governmental leaders/kings.  We don't say "bread and circuses" for no reason, after all, and it's worth noting that many of the baths and other institutions were funded from tax money, too.

That said, I'm guessing that, if pressed, Jesus would have noted that the taxpayer-funded barbarity and murders of the Circus Maximus and other stadiums were an abomination before Him, even though the Roman leaders were, after all, pagans.  I'm guessing that the brothels which followed the legions around also would be seen as abominable.

Hence, it's pretty straightforward that Jesus would tell us that funding for organizations that kill children, and even run interference for child brothels (e.g. ACORN and Planned Parenthood), would be off the table.

Going further, knowing His tenderness towards the victims of high taxes, and the tax collector's promise to repay what had been overpaid, I'm guessing that He would be clearly in favor of cutting programs that duplicate spending--the $200 billion that I wrote about a few days ago.

Finally, I'm skeptical that He'd recommend large defense cuts, as He knew very well what the benefits of the Pax Romana were.

Sojourners, you're welcome.  I'm glad to help.

Friday, March 04, 2011

What do you get.....

OK, start with a few aging stage actors and actresses, and add four child actors.  Then, find the cast of a local renaissance fair, and give them plenty of ale, mead, and a truckload of dress up clothes from last Halloween.  Finally, hire a few cartoonists away from the old Hanna-Barbera "Scooby Doo" crew for special effects, and film the whole thing in rural Wales.  What do you get?

The BBC version (1990) of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."  From stilted overacting (especially on the part of Jadis) to amateurish special effects and the renaissance fair crew in high heels and fur pants, this movie cured me of any ideas I've had that a BBC production would actually feature people who knew how to act, a producer who understands the story, and might pretend to do justice to a wonderful story.

To be fair, it stays relatively close to the story (far closer than the 2005 version) in the script, and the first few scenes--from the train in London to the country manor of the professor--are actually quite good.  In fact, almost all of the manor scenes are quite good.  It might be stated that the producer and director understood English professors and country manors far better than he understood Jadis, Aslan, and Narnia.

One might guess that it has something to do with the recent state of C.S. Lewis' Anglican Church.  Hmmm....

Government thinking....and pure excellence in journalism

Apparently, ICE agents patrolling our border with Mexico--currently a virtual war zone due to armed coyotes and drug smugglers--are being issued bean bag guns as a defense against smugglers armed with Kalishnikovs.  For goodness' sake, can't we at least get them something better, like the 303 Enfield?

(which is actually a great gun vs. the Kalishnikov--its effective range exceeds the AK's by over 150 meters)

In other news of appalling illogic, Dan Rather is apparently still of the notion that his dismissal from C-BS was the result of "telling an uncomfortable truth."  We could get all hung up about the fact that Rather is ignoring the fact that he was dismissed for presenting obviously forged documents as genuine, or we could....

....contemplate the fact that this is the sort of thing which ought to allow thinking newspaper readers to insist that poor journalists be reprimanded or replaced.  Yes, it is difficult to isolate pure bias in a reporter.  However, it's not quite so difficult to demonstrate that someone didn't ask his six friends--who, what, where, why, how, and when--what they thought of the story they were being told.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Oh, the tangled webs we weave.....

One of the big "brouhahas" around my fair state of Minnesocold is a scuffle over something called "local government aid," which more or less takes money out of the general fund (income taxes) to "help" poorer communuities, especially those outstate, meet basic needs.  My current town is actually a recipient of this aid, and all in all, about $1.7 billion is spent annually for this.

Another feature of our tax code is a credit for property taxes paid, scaled by income.  And yet another is the fact that a large portion of transportation taxes are diverted towards mass transit--in 2006, evidently about a quarter of the total MN transportation budget was spent on light rail in the Twin Cities.

In my town, there are--thank God--no city buses to harass bicyclists and other innocent parties (for some reason, the worst problems I've had riding are with city buses) while making the environment worse with their F250-like 25 passenger-miles per gallon of diesel.  That said, it illustrates what's really at stake.

Specifically, the registration and gas taxes we pay here are being diverted to light rail in the Twin Cities.  So is the solution to "keep local government aid as is," or is it to cut LGA entirely and keep gas and car registration tax revenues for maintaining roads here? 

I think the answer is simple; if the Twin Cities want their trolley, let them pay for it, and let our cities keep revenue that rightly belongs to them.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Feminism update

In today's Mankato Free Press, a local (Minnesota State U.) professor of "women's studies" womyn's studies proudly told us that while sexual morality was the measure of a woman's  womyn's morality, it wasn't so for men.  Somehow, in her "logic," that meant that all sexual mores must be abandoned, no matter what the cost for womyn.  Moreover, that was not only an argument for the abandonment of sexual mores, but also for killing one's own children via prenatal infanticide.

Yes, I'm afraid this "professor's" picture is beside the definition of non sequitur, to put it mildly.   A double standard means that we ought to have no morals, and that we ought to take out our lack of morals on our own children?  Say what?

But let's take a look at her first idea; that men are not held to account for their sexual peccadilloes.  Quite frankly, I think that this would come as something of a surprise to Gary Hart, Teddy Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Garry Studds, Barney Frank, Newt Gingrich, Eldrick Woods, Charlie Sheen, Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, and a bunch of other men whose ambitions have been damaged or destroyed by sexual infidelity.   While certain men, and women, will cover for the "indiscretions" of their friends, I'm not convinced that this "double standard" really exists.

If you're going to fly soon......

Apparently, a man got past TSA security with not one, but three boxcutters.   Not terribly surprising, as in the right orientation, the blade will look no more menacing than a straight pin. In related news, only 10% of pilots were allowed to be armed in 2008, and only 16.5% are projected to be allowed to be armed this year.

This tells us some things.  First of all, the TSA's sandbagging on allowing pilots to fly armed has worked--the program for training is filled for the next five years.  One can only imagine what percentage would be armed without this sandbagging by the TSA--keep in mind here that a most airline pilots are former military, and hardly need to be trained at all to carry a pistol safely.

Second of all, the odds are apparently no better than 30% today that your next flight has an armed pilot, and as few as 1% of flights have an air marshal.  Odds are that your best defence against those who would wreak mayhem sits in your seat, and in those of your neighbors. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The GAO confirms my suspicions

A few Christmasses ago, my family was gathered at this restaurant, and we got to talking about government programs to help feed children--something near and dear to the heart of my late mother, who worked in school food service.  As she mentioned that this program was supposed to provide 35% of calories in a day, that program another 35%, and so on, I had the gall to ask, more or less, what the total calories provided in these programs might be, and whether it might have something to do with both the cost of government and the problem of obesity among low income families.  If you're taught "clean your plate" by your parents (who don't want to waste anything), and then given about twice the calories you need, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you're most likely to become overweight.

Which leads, indirectly, to this recent study by the GAO; evidently, duplicated services account for about $200 billion in needless expenditures at the federal level.  Put differently, my hunch about duplicated services is sadly entirely correct, and we could cut $200 billion without even really cutting into the fat of the federal budget--about $660 in spending for every man, woman, and child in the country.

I don't know about all of you out there, but I dare suggest that I could find a better use for my family's $4700 share of this boondoggle than 82 different teacher training programs (that aspire to do as well as my untrained family does at homeschooling) and dozens of programs to "feed poor kids". 

Going back to the original thought, perhaps by limiting food aid to, say, 100% of daily calories, we could also save a little bit of money on Medicaid from all the obesity-related disease we wouldn't need to treat anymore. 

Step up to the plate (pun intended), Congress.  Cut the extra programs, cut the personnel, and maybe tourists will finally be able to get around the Beltway without waiting so much in traffic, too.