Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Cancer vs. abortion

From the Vatican, an amazing story about a courageous Italian woman who died this week. Rita Fedrizzi found out she had cancer around the same time she found out she was pregnant. She was told repeatedly that to survive the cancer she needed treatment, and the treatment would have killed the baby, so an abortion to facilitate treatment was needed (I couldn't find any mention whether the treatment was chemo, radiation, or what - either of those I can definitely imagine would be injurious to the baby). She refused both the treatment and the abortion, dedicating her remaining life to make sure her baby would survive. He was born slightly early but healthy three months ago, and apparently the cancer had advanced far enough to be untreatable.

Wow. I'm blown away at her selflessness, but as a soon-to-be father, I can definitely empathize.

Trippet on Google

Don't look now, but is the #1 returned result on Google for a search of "trippet"!

The first attempt at this blog (located here and pointing to this new location) is seventh. I wonder why this one doesn't show up - it's got "trippet" in all the same places. Hmmm.....

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Debate on the Constitution

Here's a few interesting tidbits I read today - these are the kinds of things that make me sad that so few people really understand the aims of the Federalists vs. the concerns and worries of the Anti-Federalists. The quoted sections below are from an essay written in October 1787 by Noah Webster (yes, THAT Webster) attempting to rebut published objections to the proposed Constitution.
A third insinuation, is that the proposed federal government will annihilate the several legislatures. this is extremely disingenuous. Every person, capable of reading, must discover, that the convention have labored to draw the line between the federal and provincial powers - to define the powers of Congress, and limit them to those general concerns which must come under federal jurisdiction, and which cannot be managed in the separate legislatures - that in all internal regulations, whether of civil or criminal nature, the states retain their sovereignty, and have it guaranteed to them by this very constitution. Such a groundless insinuation, or rather mere surmise, must proceed from dark designs or extreme ignorance, and deserves the severest reprobation.
Interesting - very strong words indeed, but I truly wonder what Mr. Webster's reaction would be to seeing some of the federal laws that are on the books these days, like outlawing the private, non-commercial, medical use of doctor-prescribed marijuana, regardless of what state laws have to say on the matter.

It is alleged that the liberty of the press is not guaranteed by the new constitution [keep in mind that this is before the Bill of Rights was ratified and that "the press" meant more than just journalists, but anyone who wanted to write a letter or an article or print and distribute his own pamphlet or book - think bloggers]. But this objection is wholly unfounded. The liberty of the press does not come within the jurisdiction of federal government. It is firmly established in all the states either by law, or by positive declarations in bills of right; and not being mentioned in the federal constitution, is not - and cannot be abridged by Congress. It stands on the basis of the respective state-constitutions. ... All objections therefore on this score are "baseless visions"
Once again, I'd be willing to bet that Mr. Webster would pale in the face of the McCain-Feingold law and the "free speech zones" of which the Bush administration is fond.

Arguments of Social Security reform opponents

Just a quick thought: let's analyze what people mean when they say that instituting private accounts is "robbing Peter to pay Paul". According to my thinking, they can only mean one thing - that diverting part of a worker's payroll tax to his own personal account rather than putting it in the general SS fund is robbing the person to whom the "contributions" would normally go in order to set them aside for another person. The "Peter" they're talking about is of course a current retiree in the pay-as-you-go current program, and the "Paul" is the owner of the personal account. But keep in mind that you're robbing Peter of Paul's money to pay Paul with his own money (sounds like the state of nature to me).

So what's interesting is that if a private accounts proposal is robbing Peter to pay Paul, then the current system is robbing Paul to pay Peter, then robbing John later to pay Paul, ad infinitum. All personal accounts do is stop robbing Paul by half (or less, depending on the proposal) and allowing him to keep that portion of his own money, while still using the other portion to continue to pay Peter, in an effort to have to rob John less later for Paul's benefit.

LOST - the Law of the Sea Treaty re-rears its ugly head

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is calling for its ratification by the U.S. Anyone who values U.S. sovereignty over U.N. control needs to fight this travesty of legislation. Background here. Take action here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Our beloved Feinstein just hates freedom

Leave it to Dear Old Dianne to introduce legislation that would regulate a pefectly legal and useful product that just happens to be able to be used as an ingredient for methamphetamine.
A group of senators led by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jim Talent, R-Mo., announced legislation Wednesday that would put nonprescription cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient used to make meth, behind the counter. Consumers would have to talk to a pharmacy worker and show photo ID before purchasing Sudafed, Tylenol flu medicine or other popular remedies.
This is great too:
Feinstein introduced legislation in 2003 to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine products people can buy, but the drug industry opposed the bill and it never got a vote in the Senate.
Many thanks to the Associated Press for pointing out that it was the "drug industry" that prevented the bill from being voted on. Maybe the Senate just decided it was a ridiculous bill to begin with. After all, it's just freaking SUDAFED, people! What's next? Create a new bureaucracy to regulate and license people to buy scissors and kitchen knives because you can kill people with them? Require fingerprints and registration to buy fertilizer for lawns because you can use it to make explosives? I hope this gets shot down by the lovers of liberty in the House and Senate - if there any left among them.

More on the President's press conference

In holding with the principled outlook I espoused in my last post, more quotes from G.W. Bush, these a little more questionable:
I also happen to believe immigration reform is necessary to help make it easier to protect our borders. The system right now spawns coyotes and smugglers and people willing to break the law to get people in our country. There is a vast network of kind of shadowy traffickers. And I believe by making a -- by advancing a program that enables people to come into our country in a legal way to work for a period of time, for jobs that Americans won't do, will help make it easier for us to secure our borders.
Does that description sound like it might also apply to situations other than immigration? The vaunted (and completely ineffectual) War on Drugs, perhaps? The minute he said this, someone should have asked him if the smugglers, lawbreakers, and shadowy traffickers involved in the illicit drug trade were as great a threat to national security as migrant workers (or possibly greater), and that if removing the immigrant black market by legalizing these migrant workers made the borders easier to secure against terrorists, was it his view that removing the drug black market by legalizing those drugs make the same borders also easier to secure.
I want to remind people that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming to our country to do jobs that Americans won't do, to be able to feed their families.
As I've said before in this space, this whole "let them do the jobs Americans won't do" argument is completely fallacious and breaks down when you make the obvious realization that you can't have open immigration in conjunction with a welfare state. Anyone who thinks Mexicans are coming here for the work alone, and not for the work plus free school plus free health care plus yadda yadda yadda are simply fooling themselves. Libertarians and conservatives will likely support a more open immigration policy (even Bush's "amnesty that's not amnesty" plan) after steps are taken to reduce the incentives and ability for illegals to mooch off welfare (less welfare payments, require proof of citizenship or legal residency for schooling and health care, more privatized schools, etc.) - and not before. I'm sure someone must have told Bush this very thing at some point. I just wish I knew why he's so adamant about this without any popular or legislative support from any quarter.

Fantastic Bush quote from today's press conference

Transcript here:
Q - Mr. President, on Social Security, you say the math clearly shows -- as you know, most of us became reporters because of our deep affection for math -- if the math clearly shows it, why are you having so much trouble on the Hill getting some to share your urgency? Do you think they're looking at the numbers differently, honestly, or are they running from the third rail?

THE PRESIDENT: Glad to have you here. (Laughter.) I am going to continue to speak directly to the American people about this issue and remind them about the math; and remind them that if you're a senior, nothing changes; and speak to the younger folks coming up about the forecasts. I mean, if you're a 20-year-old person and you look at the math, you realize that you will inherit a bankrupt system, which means either there will be significant benefit cuts or significant payroll tax increases in order to fund that which the government has laid out for you as a part of your retirement.

And the Congress tends to listen to the people. And so I will continue to speak to the people and at the same time, reach out to members of both parties. We have been through these kinds of questions before in my early press conferences. I can remember -- I can't remember exactly the questions, but I do remember the tone, about people saying, how can you possibly get tax cuts through the Congress when so-and-so said that they shouldn't be done, or such and such said this, or this report said that, or the American people didn't want this. And so I am heartened by past experiences to believe that it is possible to do big things in Washington, D.C. And I look forward to working with members of the Congress to achieve big, notable reform.
One of the greatest benefits of holding a principled outlook and perspective on the political issues of today is that you're only ever tied to what is right and what is best - and the possibility of a change of opinion is always there as new data discovery and discussion continue to take place - and you're never tied to the positions of a single person or a single party. I've had my doubts about Bush and there have been positions and actions of his that I've agreed with and others that I've disagreed with. This answer to the tough Social Security questions he's facing and his (so far) rigid steadfastness in taking on the proverbial "third rail" and not backing down earn him my respect and support.

Walter Williams on the outsourcing myth

Fantastic article about outsourcing (or, more accurately, the lack thereof):
The number of U.S. manufacturing jobs has fallen, but it has little to do with outsourcing and a lot to do with technological innovation – and it's a worldwide phenomenon. During the seven years from 1995 through 2002, Drezner notes, U.S. manufacturing employment fell by 11 percent. Globally, manufacturing jobs fell by 11 percent. China lost 15 percent of its manufacturing jobs, and Brazil lost 20 percent. But guess what. Globally, manufacturing output rose by 30 percent during the same period. Technological progress is the primary cause for the decrease in manufacturing jobs.
So next time someone rails against the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., ask them if they know how many net manufacturing jobs were lost worldwide. Dollars to doughnuts they don't know it's the same percentage.

More spin on Social Security personal accounts

It's amazing the lengths to which the opponents of reform will go to cast a negative light on Social Security privatization:
A less-noticed element in most major Social Security proposals, including all three recommended by Bush's study commission in 2001, would impose another reduction for those who choose investment accounts. Retirees would not be allowed to receive both their full Social Security benefit and the entire proceeds of their private accounts.

Instead, at retirement, guaranteed benefits for workers with investment accounts would be reduced based on the amount of taxes used to set up the private accounts. The deduction would be made regardless of how a retiree's investments had fared.
Well, duh! No one anywhere has even hinted at the suggestion that people should be able to divert some of their contributions to a private account, to be owned outright, and then still receive the full Social Security benefit, financed by taxing future generations. Not to mention the continued use of the term "guaranteed benefits" when they are anything but guaranteed, being at all times subject to change at the whim of the legislature (this has been ruled on by a couple different Supreme Court decisions). This is blatant spin-doctoring and hopefully those of us who know better can overcome the attempt to influence those who don't.

From the same article, this is even scarier:
Some proposals take a bigger and more direct bite. Under a proposal by Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., 95% of the accumulated balance in each worker's private account would be transferred at retirement to the Social Security Trust Fund, where it would fund traditional benefits. The retiree would keep only 5% of his account.
Holy cow. So now we have a proposal - by a Republican, no less - to allow people to divert some of their taxes to what he calls "private accounts", to be invested in a choice of a few mutual funds approved by the government, the bulk value of which upon retirement would just go back into the SS Trust Fund. Oh, he'd throw the investor a bone of 5% - for his trouble. Give me a break. I'm shocked that this Republican hasn't yet "gotten" the fact that Social Security reform and private accounts aren't primarily about how much money is in the trust fund - it's about theivery vs. ownership, and about giving people who want nothing to do with Social Security the chance to opt out. In 1999 Rasmussen Research found that over a third of the younger workers it polled would opt completely out of SS, given the chance - even if they didn't get back a cent of the payroll taxes they'd already contributed. They didn't ask me, but you know by now what answer I would have given.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What to do with extra time while on business travel?

Read, of course! Here are a few notable articles from yesterday and today:

Tech Central Station makes a great distinction between fools and idiots in the debate over Social Security reform and the so-called "riskiness" of personal accounts:
But notice the distinction: these people are fools, not idiots. An idiot wants to invest sensibly, but can't decipher the hard words and long numbers in the investment brochure. A fool wants to get rich quick, and fully intends to suspend his common sense while doing so. A compassionate society protects its idiots. But a prudent society poses no obstacle between fools and the cruel Darwinian realities that pursue them. Consider, too, that even if you prevent the fool from investing stupidly now, the fool will simply squander his money down the road. Foolishness is an aggressively retroactive tax.

In a free society, risk = the potential for wealth. If you seriously believe that some people are too stupid to be trusted with any risk, then you've effectively excluded those people from any significant form of wealth accrual. And while some people might indeed be that foolish, why should the remaining 99% of us be held hostage to their incompetence?

Speaking of Social Security, NRO's Donald Luskin continues to show why he is one of the best explainers of the case for reform, and for private accounts:
The deficit amount of $10.4 trillion was given as 3.5 percent of payroll and compared with $295.5 trillion of total payroll.

Doing this may have toned down that big, bad $10.4 trillion number by setting it against a big, good $295.5 trillion number. But this is misleading, too, in its own way. If payrolls are $295.5 trillion and the deficit is $10.4 trillion, that means Social Security’s anticipated payments to the infinite-horizon must, by definition, be $305.9 trillion — which is a really big, bad number. But we didn’t hear any panels or committees or demanding that number be shown. No, the public must only be shown good numbers.

If you want context — so that the public is sure not to be misled — then how about this? That $10.4 trillion number represents the value of economic assets today that would have to be contributed to the Social Security system to assure its perpetual sustainability based on the best estimates we can make at this time. To set things right, then, we would have to contribute today virtually the entire market value of the S&P 500. We would have to throw down the gaping maw of Social Security almost every share of every major company in America today in order to satisfy the hungry beast.

Townhall's Phyllis Schlafly gives us another reason to avoid the public schools:
On Jan. 3. the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the Kansas legislature to appropriate more money for public schools. According to the National Center for Education statistics, Kansas spends $8,206 per pupil per year, but the judges said the state must spend much more to give schoolchildren the "suitable" education guaranteed by the state constitution.

The Montoy v. Kansas decision implied that the state must spend an additional $850 million or more annually on public schools. The court then suspended its final order to goad the legislature to raise taxes by a court-imposed deadline of April 12.

Since when do judges tell legislatures what laws to pass and what taxes to levy? If any governmental function is (or should be) a legislative function, it is imposing taxes and spending citizen money.

No Oscar for Fahrenheit 9/11

So much for Michael Moore going for a "Best Picture" Oscar - he was shut out!
Michael Moore's gamble to hold his hit film "Fahrenheit 9/11" out of the documentary category — to boost its best-picture prospects — backfired. The movie was shut out across the board.
No mention of it yet on - I guess he's satisfied with his People's Choice Award for Best Picture. After his extensive plugging and getting fans to vote online - I wonder how many of them voted multiple times?

Supreme Court OKs use of drug-sniffing dogs in traffic stops

Not sure how unhappy I am about this ruling:
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can have dogs check out motorists' vehicles for drugs even if officers have no particular reason to suspect illegal activity.

The 6-2 opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, stipulates police dogs may sniff only the outside of a car after a motorist is lawfully stopped for a traffic violation, such as speeding or failing to stop at a stop sign.

But privacy rights advocates said the ruling would lead to far more traffic stops as a way to find drugs. They also warned that the decision could open the door to more expansive searches, from sniffs inside the vehicle to checks of cars parked along sidewalks and pedestrians on the street.
These are the kinds of gray areas where privacy is in danger, like the use by police of infrared scanners to "see through" the walls of a house without a search warrant, and the practice by federal agents to sniff internet traffic. What constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment in these cases is debatable and very tough to define. The War on Drugs crowd will say, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" but the trust we place in public officials to only use the power responsibly (which is far from guaranteed) as well as the danger is in the slippery slope that such justifications engender.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Weekend Update

On Friday the OC Register printed my letter about the Airbus A380 and the EU's ultimatum to Thailand.

Kristi and I - with help from our friend Jean - are working on painting Riley's room (we're going for an aquarium look), so look here and for pictures soon.

The Embry-Riddle Eagles are playing Florida Memorial College in Daytona right now, and I love that I get to listen to it through the magic of the Internet! With some high-ranked teams losing this week, the Eagles are looking to have a nice jump in next week's rankings.

I'm heading to Washington, D.C. for work next week, so I'm not sure how that will affect my blogging - stay tuned!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

LttE - EU Strongarms for Airbus

Submitted 1/20/2005 to the OC Register:
Letter-writer Tony Massengill is right on the money about the passenger jet market playing field being anything but level. But it’s not just the obvious monetary subsidy that Airbus is getting from the EU: they’re also leaning on potential customers.

Scotland’s national newspaper The Scotsman reported Wednesday that there is more going on behind the scenes. No sooner had Airbus rolled out their new A380 than the European Commission issued an ultimatum to Thailand: buy six A380s or face more tariffs on your exports – above and beyond the new tariff on a plant extract called cumarin the EC enacted December 31st (five days after the tsunami hit).

All this while EU nations and the U.N. call the U.S. “stingy” in its aid efforts to tsunami victims. All a free-market advocate can do is ruefully shake his head.

LttE - The Real Goal of Privatization

Submitted 1/20/2005 to the LA Times:
Letter-writer John J. Posta, Jr. asserts that the main goal of the Bush Administration plan to reform Social Security via privatization is to gain a better rate of return. While this could be one of the effects of the establishment of private accounts, it is far from the underlying reason.

The overarching goal is to increase freedom of choice and independence. It is to allow people of all income levels to – if they choose - build wealth for retirement that belongs to them rather than the government; from which they can draw interest income in retirement rather than depending on a payment from the government; and bequeath to their heirs when they pass away.

Even if the government invested all of Social Security’s revenues in stocks (which was a plan floated by President Clinton’s Social Security Advisory Board), gained fantastic returns and reduced FICA taxes by 80%, this goal of moving away from government dependency and towards responsible ownership would not be met.

Jonah Goldberg's wishlist for Bush's 2nd term

National Review's Jonah Goldberg is fast becoming one of my favorite columnists - he's never shy about stepping on toes and says what he believes and doesn't sugarcoat it, nor allow it to be swayed by the winds of public opinion. That, and he's one of the few on the Right to draw the obvious distinction between "conservative" and "Republican" and repeatedly point out that the terms are far from being inseparable. In describing his wishes for Bush's 2nd term, he says that instead of repeating what we'll hear from all over (SS reform, tax reform, abolishment of Title IX [one of my favorites]), he suggest something different:
Instead I'd like to suggest an ideological/political priority. I would like it if Bush could return to the notion that political conservatism is first and foremost about limited government — not "better" government, more compassionate government, more efficient government, more business-friendly government or even just plain nicer government.
Well said, Jonah. That's what I wish for as well.

But at the same time this sort of goes against the grain of what I've been thinking about off and on since long before the 2004 election, and that is the unfortunate reality of "parties" and why they are so integral to the political process. So many people don't rigorously consider issues on a case by case basis (the merits and the intended and unintended consequences), but only agree with party-line positions wholesale. Party identification and groupthink is (IMNSO) what's gotten us as far off-track as we are in the first place, and (again IMHO) only individual commitment to issues and policies rather than to parties or candidates will bring us back from the big-government (scratch that, make that huge-government) abyss into which we've been staring since the New Deal/Great Society/passage of the 17th Amendment. As always, I remain open to later being convinced that this position is faulty, but that's what's going through my head at the moment.

MIchael Moore's bodyguard arrested on gun charge

This might be one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. Not "ha ha" funny, but like "Huh - well what do ya know?" Apparently Michael Moore thinks America is obsessed with guns and that all they're good for is promoting and prolonging the "culture of fear" (his words) that surrounds them and their use (or so he says). But I guess it's ok for his bodyguard to have one, you know, just in case one of those crazy conservatives takes "Fahrenheit 9/11" or "Bowling for Columbine" the wrong way and tries to put him on that controversial new "ventilation" diet. Two questions come to mind: 1) Do you think Moore will bail out his incarcerated employee and defend his actions (carrying a gun in NY while only being licensed to carry in CA and FL), and 2) Do you think Moore will take this opportunity to champion the cause of liberty and work to ensure that all Americans have freedom of self-defense?

Nah, I didn't think so either.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Remember the marine-cop shootout last week?

Michelle Malkin tells us that the whole reason he went after the cops is being completely fabricated. Most of what we're hearing is that he was "afraid to go back to Iraq" and he elected to "commit suicide by cop" to avoid it. According to this news story, police investigators have determined: 1) that the marine Raya had never been in combat (he was a driver in the 1st Intelligence Battalion's motor transport unit), 2) that he had been transferred, before he went AWOL from Camp Pendleton, to a unit with orders to be deployed to Okinawa instead of Iraq, and 3) that he was high on cocaine at the time of his death. The Modesto Bee has a minute-to-minute timeline of the shootout, which includes the fact that he evaded the cops searching for him for three hours before they caught up with him. Being high on cocaine doesn't exactly sound like he was thinking clearly, and killing a cop and then running doesn't sound much like he was planning on committing suicide, by cop or otherwise.

Men and women are different? Naaahhhhh....

If you haven't heard about the speech by Harvard president Larry Summers and biologist Nancy Hopkins' abrupt exit when he raised the mere possibility that innate differences between men and women might contribute to the disproportionality of males to females in the hard sciences, this column will tell you about it and has a great quote from Hopkins:
'When he started talking about innate differences in aptitude between men and women, I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill,' Hopkins told the New York Times.
It makes her physically ill to hear an opinion on a divisive and incendiary issue that differs from her own? How sad for her. How has she made it this far through life and her stellar career (she's a professor at MIT) without learning how to deal with controversy and differing opinions? It boggles the mind.

Here's another good quote from the author:
In fact, the scientific consensus is that there are innate cognitive differences between men and women — as groups. Individual men and women can be geniuses or morons (though the data suggest that men tend to produce more of both than women).
Hard to argue with that!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A new personal best 10k!!!

So I went to the gym this afternoon just like I do just about every day after work, just planning to run my 5k (3.1 miles), burn my 600 calories* and call it a day. After the first two miles, I was feeling really strong and realized I was running at a pace where I could take a legitimate shot at my personal best time for a 10k! So I kept going, powered through the tough spot (always happens about 4 miles in) and made it to 6.2 miles in 49:50! I obliterated my previous best by about 3 minutes (which is huge!) - averaging just a hair over an 8-minute mile the whole way. Pretty darn good for the basketball guy who used to absolutely detest running distance!

* For those who don't know, I've been on a workout regimen that uses my basal metabolic rate to calculate how many net calories I should consume per day in order to lose a pound a week (the widely-recognized safe rate). From April to September last year I lost 25 pounds, then I took football season "off" - that is, I worked out and watched what I ate closely enough to maintain my weight but wasn't really trying to lose any more. Now I'm back on the program and aiming to lose another 30 by November.

California Teachers' Association (AKA teachers' union) confronts Governator

This article foreshadows the fight Governor Schwarzenegger has on his hands this year with the teachers' union:
Also in the mix is Schwarzenegger's proposal to pay teachers based on merit instead of length of service - something vigorously opposed by the teachers union.
None of the members of the education coalition would comment on the idea, but several said they would not shy away from a direct confrontation.

'We can't afford to be intimidated,' Wells said. 'If we have to go to the public, we'll state our case, just as the governor will state his. I'm encouraged - voters have put their faith in us in the past; I don't think we will be viewed as a special interest.'
Interesting how the merit-pay proposal is termed as being "vigorously opposed by the teachers union" but they're confident that the voters will put their faith in them as they have in the past. It's obvious that the union opposes anything having to do with pay for performance - it's a union's purpose to protect their members (especially their poorly-performing ones) from things like accountability and responsibility. What I'd like to do is take each individual teacher aside and ask them, one at a time, "Do you think you're a good teacher? You realize that pay for performance means good teachers make more, bad teachers make less, right? As a self-described good teacher, why would you shy away from your performance being used as an indicator determining pay?" I seriously doubt that a majority of the state's teachers are in lockstep with the union on this one.

Outsourcing - East to West

This just in - companies in India are inking outsourcing deals with American and Swedish companies like IBM and Ericsson. Maybe this is what it will take to get people to realize that this myth of "outsourcing" is not what's killing the U.S., and that legislation blocking it is the wrong thing to do. update

So I was doing some tweaking to last night, adding Christmas photos, the little "T" favorites icon that you'll see in the address bar and, - even cooler - a little javascript that counts statistics like page loads and unique & returning visitors. I checked it this morning and was thrilled to find that someone from Temple University did a Yahoo search for "The Anti-Federalist Papers" and he found this page from the search results! Pretty exciting. One of these days I'll have to get around to finally publishing all the Letters to the Editor that I've written so far.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Joseph Farah on Armstrong Williams

Farah asks the question I keep wondering:
Where are the calls for punishment of the government officials who wrote the check?
I care so little about what happens to Armstrong Williams that I can hardly describe it. Whatever happens to him will be a result of the free market decisions of the media outlets who hire him. The same cannot be said of the government bureaucrats who use our tax money to do this kind of stuff. Where are the calls for accountability of the Bush administration and the Dept. of Education? Sheesh.

More on Social Security

Can you tell what issue is becoming more and more important to me?

This column (by a regular guest commentator at the OC Register) is, while not as wildly antagonistic as many others, nonetheless sympomatic of some of the arguments used by opponents of privatization:
Other 'experts' agree that the crisis is real but suggest that the required solution is far less draconian - just a little tinkering with the tax rates, benefits and retirement age. An additional few tenths of a percentage in the tax, an increase in the wage ceiling, a couple of years tacked on to the retirement age, and quick as you can say 'New Deal,' the fund is solvent through the end of the century.
Why just to the end of the century? And what happens then? A little more tinkering with the tax rates? Why don't we pursue a path that will either a) keep it solvent forever or b) eliminate the need for it completely?

More from the same:
The president's idea for privatized accounts is to provide an opportunity for taxpayers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in securities such as stocks. In so doing, the logic goes, the funds will earn a higher return providing more for a taxpayer's retirement, thereby relieving some of the future burden from the Social Security trust fund.
However, a basic tenet of investment theory is the higher the return, the higher the risk. Further, the theory holds that the closest investment to risk-free is U.S. Treasury securities. Shifting Social Security funds to higher-yielding equities, even in mutual funds, carries far greater risk than leaving the funds in government-backed securities. Remember, the "I" in F.I.C.A. stands for "insurance" and the purpose of insurance is protection from risk. It doesn't make sense to increase the risk of a program that is designed to do just the opposite.
It makes me wonder if this guy is aware that no existing proposal for privatization (and the official Bush administration proposal still hasn't been detailed and released) makes it mandatory that people divert some of their contributions, nor that they purchase stocks or even mutual funds with their accounts. If people don't like risk, they can use the funds in their own accounts to purchase T-bills, which is what their Social Security contributions already purchase, therefore avoiding any unwanted additional risk. Even those people would come out ahead because unlike the T-bills purchased by their SS contributions - which they may or may not ever get back, and may decidedly NOT bequeath to their heirs - these personal account T-bills will belong to them, so they (at no additional risk, remember) will receive back 100% of the value and 100% of the growth of those T-bills, and/or leave them to their children and grandchildren when they die.

Be on the lookout for another LttE to the Register on this one, or I might just try my hand at a full-length Reader Rebuttal.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cheney on Social Security

VP Cheney spoke at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. yesterday and outlined three main points of the administration's reform plan:
- No benefit reductions for current retirees or those close to retirement
- Payroll taxes must not increase
- Personal Retirement Accounts
He also addressed a few of the common arguments used against reform (most of which I'd heard before and agree with), including a really great nugget about the "transition" costs:
Again, the projected shortfall in Social Security exceeds $10 trillion. That figure is nearly twice the combined wages and salaries of every single working American last year. There will be costs, no matter what we decide, but if we neglect the responsibility to act, it will be all the more difficult to preserve Social Security for generations to come.

The latest Social Security trustees' report shows that each year that we wait will add roughly $600 billion to the cost of fixing Social Security for good. That cost is far in excess of any of the so-called transition costs that have been projected for any of the plans put forward by members of Congress. Clearly inaction imposes the greatest cost of all.
This is the first time I've heard what most pundits are calling the "transition" cost ($10 trillion) described as something else and that the trustees' report's mention of the $600 billion yearly increase is larger than any estimated "transition" costs. I'll look forward to some smart people breaking down his statements, especially this one, in the days ahead.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Heritage Foundation on Social Security

A massive collection of recent links to columns by Social Security proponents who say that nothing needs to change, and reasonable responses to them all.

LttE - Thanks for nothing

Submitted Thursday 1/13/2005 to the OC Register:
Last week the House Republican conference decided what procedural rules the House will use in the upcoming 109th Congress. The rules are voted on by the whole House, but the majority party can dictate the alterations they want because it’s almost always a straight party-line vote.

Fiscal conservatives must really be scratching their heads about some of the rules the GOP leadership voted down in the closed-door session before the House vote:
- a 3/5 majority requirement to increase existing mandatory entitlement spending or create a new entitlement program
- a requirement to trigger a stand-alone vote to increase the debt limit when proposing a budget that breaks the existing limit (seemingly every new budget these days)
- a similar proposal that would send budget-busting spending bills back to the Budget Committee
- a requirement for a roll-call vote (rather than a voice vote) on bills costing over $50 million

After a decade of Republican control of Congress and numerous assurances that at last, now, this year, federal spending will finally be reined in, we’re treated to another disappointment as these fiscally responsible and eminently sensible rules changes are voted down. And they weren’t killed by the GOP’s monster du jour of filibustering Democrats – but by the very ones promising to get spending under control.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Best synopsis of SS crisis I've yet found

This column contains the clearest chronological account of the future of Social Security that I've found. I didn't really understand all that stuff about "lockboxes" and "trust funds" and "IOUs" before reading this, but NRO's Donald Luskin describes in detail where all the incoming money goes, where all the outgoing money comes from, and when the inflection points (and there are several between now and 2042) in the program will occur. It's especially interesting to me (and it should be to all 30-year-olds) that the year that SS will officially go completely under (2042) is the same year I turn 65 and become eligible for benefits. Yay. Good thing my father warned me from when I was this high that Social Security won't be around when I retire so I'd better plan to do without it.

Supreme Court allows gun suit

Wonderful. The Supreme Court has allowed a suit to be brought against two firearm manufacturers because someone was killed with their product:
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for victims of the 1999 shooting rampage by white supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. to sue the companies that made his guns.

Without comment, the justices let stand a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that said the mother of a Los Angeles letter carrier killed by Furrow and the families of several children wounded by him could sue Glock Inc. and China North Industries, the gun manufacturers.

The companies — and eight dissenting judges of the 9th Circuit — had argued that the appeals court's decision would open the way for manufacturers, at least in California, to be hauled into court simply because their products had been used improperly.
This is just ridiculous. There are already laws on the books (too many, in this blogger's humble opinion) regulating the manufacture and sale of firearms. The suit doesn't even contend that Glock and CNI broke any of those laws, just that they appear to have manufactured and sold too many to be accounted for by law-abiding citizens! Are you kidding me? Who's thinking this stuff up?

Does the suit contend that they should be responsible for the actions Buford Furrow took using their products? No, because then you'd see a rash of suits against car makers - why didn't the parents of Steven Abrams' victims sue GM when in May 1999 he rammed his Cadillac into a Costa Mesa, CA playground, killing a 4- and a 3-year-old and injuring 5 more? Oh, it must have been because GM sold exactly the "right" amount of cars to driving-age customers. Keep in mind that Furrow injured 5 kids and killed 1 adult while Abrams and his Cadillac killed 2 kids and also injured 5.

I said it once and I'll say it again. This is ridiculous. I hold out hope that the suit will be defeated and Glock and CNI will recoup their legal expenses. Why should everyone care about frivolous lawsuits like this? Because the way things currently work, in the absence of a countersuit by Glock and CNI, if the court decides to recompense the defendants for their legal expenses, it comes out right out of the taxpayers' pockets. That's right, you and I personally pay the price for lawsuits like this, and I can honestly say, I'm getting really tired of it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Heritage Foundation Social Security calculator

Speaking of the Heritage Foundation, everyone who's at all curious about Social Security and where it's headed should avail themselves of the Foundation's calculator. Enter your age, gender, zip code, and income, and it will tell you how much you'll contribute to the system over the course of your career, and your expected benefits when you retire. It will also compare those results to the contents of a hypothetical private retirement account should passage of Social Security privatization come to pass. My results looked like this:

Taxes paid in to SS: $517,907
Monthly benefits: $2,939
Which, given retirement at 67 and, um, expiration at 80, would yield a -0.39% return on my "investment". You read that right: negative point-three-nine percent. I'm one of those lucky individuals who would pay in more than I would get back out.

Compare that to the hypothetical personal retirement account:
Contributions made (assuming all 6.2% of my SS payroll tax) are the same at $517,907
Total Value at retirement (assuming 50% holdings of stocks at 7% return, 50% holdings of T-bills at 3% return): $1,471,597
Monthly benefits (assuming I convert the total value into a 4.83% return annuity): $11,987

But what about my kids and grandkids? Social Security's death benefit is something like $500 these days. Nice. Or if I went with the personal retirement account I could halve the value of the annuity, cut my monthly benefits to $5,994 and leave the rest invested, to grow from $735,798 back to $1,369,528 by the time I'm 80 and leave it to my heirs.

So lemme sum up, I can:
A) go with Social Security and (assuming it's still solvent in 2042) live on $3K, leaving $500 to my heirs when I breathe my last, or
B) take control of my own destiny and live on $6K, leaving $1.3M to my heirs.

Gotta think about that one for just a -- thought's over! I'll take Door #2, Pat.

House Republicans ignore small-government conservatives

The Heritage Foundation issued a scathing report about the failure of the House Republican conference in which they rejected eight newly proposed rule changes that would certainly help limit out-of-control spending:
In a closed meeting early last week, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives quietly kicked off the new legislative session by making it more likely that government will continue to grow rapidly. Despite promises to control the growth in federal spending and to fix the budget process, the newly strengthened House Republican conference soundly rejected a series of proposed procedural rules, sponsored largely by conservatives, that would have made it more difficult for spending increases to pass the House. The full House passed its new rules—absent additional spending controls—the next day in a party-line vote.
Details on five of the rejected rules an be found later in the column. Hmmm, I smell a letter to the Register brewing...

Fielding is loved by OC Weekly Music section

OC Weekly had this to say about friends of mine Fielding in their Aloud and Alive in 2005 column:
Having outgrown their local gigs at Detroit and your neighborhood ice rink, Fielding spent 2004 playing weekly shows at LA hipster nightspots such as Tangier and Spaceland and recording a new demo with Nada Surf studio man Chris Fudurich. No surprise, then, their audience exploded and currently boasts all of Silver Lake and pretty much every A&R kid who’s looking to score the next big indie-band-gone-gold. Look for their 2005 release—which will undoubtedly feature front couple Beth and Eric’s cotton-ball vocals and more than a few of the band’s trademark cry-in-your-pillow soaring ballads; that is, when they actually record it—to be everywhere. But mainly, just make sure it’s in your CD player.
Way to go guys, keep up the stellar work! I haven't made it to many shows, but I eagerly await their new CD!

Tom McClintock for Lt. Gov. - good or bad for small-government conservatives?

An excellent column about Tom McClintock, who looks to be running for Lt. Gov.:
Then, Wednesday night, suddenly everything changed. It was if the flashy governor were channeling his straight-laced colleague. Schwarzenegger's speech sounded almost as if McClintock had written it.
Now Schwarzenegger was saying that pension bloat, the guards union and other ills McClintock has spotlighted over the years were the heart of the state's problems. And with no apparent bitterness, McClintock endorsed the Schwarzenegger agenda.

Merit pay for excellent teachers? "I've always maintained that the public schools would work a lot better if we paid the best and the brightest more than the dullest and the laziest."

Pension reform? "It has to be done." McClintock voted for a similar plan almost 15 years ago that was undone by the 1999 bill he opposed. "Had it been left alone I doubt we would be facing the spiraling costs we are now."

Removing from legislators the power to draw their own political boundaries? "People with a direct stake in a decision should not be the ones making that decision. It's not fair to them, and they make lousy decisions."

Budget reform? McClintock might go further than the standby, across-the-board cuts Schwarzenegger has proposed, but he says the governor's plan will do the job. "It's a helluva lot better than what we have now," he said.

McClintock predicts that Schwarzenegger, if he stays the course, will prevail. But it won't be easy.
I supported Tom McClintock in the recall election in 2003, and an electable majority of the state agreed with me even though they fell prey to the "but only Arnold has a chance to win" hyperbole and sacrificed their principled votes to be able to be on the side of the winner. So now that he's running for Lt. Gov., I'm wondering if it's a good idea, from a small-government perspective. Where would his principles do the most good for California, in the Lt. Gov.'s office as a supporter of the Gov.'s proposals (and perhaps a principled enough supporter to keep the Governator on track and keep him from kowtowing too easily to Democrat compromises), or remaining in the state senate where he is a strong force for limited government, efficiency, and accountability?

One thing that has me worried is the fate of his senate seat if he's elected Lt. Gov. and the legislative districts are redrawn (which would be a manifestly good thing). I don't doubt in the slightest that McClintock would win re-election in a redrawn district (and bring on the competition in all the districts, I say), and the respect he recieves in that area would most likely transfer to a successor he would promote should the district not be redrawn. What worries me is the possibility that his favor wouldn't carry to a named successor quite broadly enough in a redrawn district, and that we might lose not only McClintock to the senate, but a like-minded successor to a Democrat at the same time.

The Corner talks Inauguration

A quick email to NRO's blog chief regarding this little snippet from today's The Corner:
The inaugural celebration is about more than who won and who lost (though, yes, I’d be increasingly bitter if Bush lost as Jan 20 approached), it’s about the peaceful transfer of power here. It’s about celebrating the system even more than the win.
Not having put much thought into it, I'm not sure I agree with you here, at least as it applies to second-term presidents. There's no transfer of power (peaceful or otherwise) happening this month - we're not going to call GWB the 43rd and 44th presidents after all, any more than we gave Reagan or Clinton two places in the count. When it comes down to it, it's just a continuation of the same administration - though hopefully small-government conservatives will find more to cheer about during GWB's second term (SS privatization, tax reform) than we did during the first (Medicare, NCLBA). Is all the money that pays for the festivities taxpayer money, or does it come out of Bush campaign funds (oh wait, much of that is taxpayer money too)? If it's the president's money, go for it; if it's the taxpayers' money, does the federal government really need to throw a party to celebrate a continuation of the administration? I'd be very willing to bet that GWB would win a lot more hearts and minds by publicly refusing to spend $40M on the party and instead return it to another budget line-item that needs it that has taken a hit of late (if he can find one) - perhaps enhanced border security along the Mexican border? $40M would go a long way toward shoring up that porous non-barrier.

Anyway, just a random thought from a relatively new Corner reader. In the interest of disclosure, I'm not denigrating the festivities because I'm upset Bush won - I voted Libertarian but would be much more scared if Kerry was being sworn in next week. GWB, my GOP congressman (Orange County, CA - don't get me started about Boxer/Feinstein) and any small-government believers have my full support in bringing real change to SS and taxation.

Monday, January 10, 2005

DNA databases and "volunteers"

"To Try to Net Killer, Police Ask a Small Town's Men for DNA":
Sgt. David Perry of the Truro Police Department and other law enforcement authorities here say that the program is voluntary but that they will pay close attention to those who refuse to provide DNA.

'We're trying to find that person who has something to hide,' Sergeant Perry said.
Interesting. So all police need to do these days to establish probable cause is a refusal to give bodily fluids? Can't wait until the first time this happens here in CA after last year's passage of Prop. 69. You can bet that even though I won't have committed whatever crime they're investigating, I'll be the loudest dissenter to the "If you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything to fear" hogwash.

Michael Moore wins People's Choice Award

And has this to say:
I love making movies and I'll take this as an invitation to make more 'Fahrenheit 9/11s,'
Wonderful. Fantastic.




Sunday, January 09, 2005

MacGyver on DVD 25 January

All I have to say is, It's About Time. Now all we need is Witchblade seasons 1 and 2 to come out on DVD, and all will be well with the world.

Executive branch legacies

These are the kind of stats that should be absolutely permeating all forms of communication between now and Congress' vote on Social Security reform:
In no 15-year period in the last eight decades has the growth of stocks ever been negative; in no 20-year period has the average growth been less than 3 percent, which is better than the rate of return on Social Security assets.
The main point of this article though, brought back to my mind something I'd been thinking about over the last week or so. I may not agree with everything Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush have done, will do, or trying to do, and I'll defend to the death my right to disagree with the sometimes unprinciples programs they propose and promote, but I really have to give them both credit for aggressively seeking genuine positive reform in issues that likely wouldn't be a problem until after their respective administrations have already ended. California's public employee pension problem and the accompanying deficit crisis (not to mention poor teacher/school performance) will likely only come to a serious head after he's long gone from office, but in his recent State of the State speech the Governator has forcefully come out and said, I don't care how hard the fight is, our state is messed up and we need to fix it. GWB has thrown down the same gauntlet (although with perhaps less force, without the ability to "take it to the voters" if the legislature doesn't perform) about Social Security and tax reform.

I give them my kudos for speaking out so aggressively about these issues when they don't necessarily need to, and they'll certainly have my support along the way, but I still wait with arms mentally crossed over my chest to see if they actually come through and make something happen.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Faithless elector in MN

Looks like somebody did a little something funky, and gave an electoral vote for president to John Edwards when the other nine went to John Kerry. I love how this article specifies that the way they vote is to handwrite the candidate's name on an 8.5x11-inch sheet of paper (no checkboxes, hanging chads or touchscreens here, folks), and then speculates that it was an honest mistake. But one would think, if it was a mix-up "between the Johns on the ticket" as the writer says, wouldn't Kerry have gotten a vote for VP? Makes me want to just bust out laughing, actually.

GAO watchdogs Armstrong Williams

So apparently the Bush administration is so completely sure of the efficacy of its programs and the likelihood that the nation as a whole is accepting of them that they've taken to paying pundits to promote them. In this case it's Armstrong Williams, a conservative nationally-syndicated TV and radio personality. He was paid $240,000 (!) to repeatedly mention the horrendous No Child Left Behind on the TV and radio shows he already hosts. Then he has the audacity to mention that he wanted to promote NCLB "because it's something he believes in". Hey Armstrong, if you believed in it, and you already had your TV and radio shows, why not just talk about it rather than taking gobs of taxpayer money to do so? This is absolutely ridiculous and someone should be held accountable.

LttE - Vouchers vs. School-to-Work is the wrong question

Submitted Thursday 1/6/2005 to the Orange County Register:
Dr. Ken Williams’ commentary on some of Governor Schwarzenegger’s education proposals made interesting reading. He rightly criticizes the governor and the California Performance Review for not even considering school vouchers. But then he defends the status quo against the CPR’s “School-to-Work” program.

Some parents, students, educators, and employers might agree with his conclusion – others will surely disagree. What this dichotomy makes obvious is that a one-size-fits-all education solution is neither the most effective, nor the most efficient. This is just one more reason to get the state (and the federal) government out of the business of education.

One set of private schools can cater to those “customers of the education industry” who are vocationally-minded, and compete with one another to be the best, while another set of customers, who seek a different kind of knowledge, can be served best by private college preparatory schools, which strive to be the best at preparing tomorrow’s graduate students. The free market’s division of labor is what drives innovation and productivity improvement in all sectors of the economy – it’s no less true of the education industry.

The draft that's not a draft?

Townhall's Ross Mackenzie has this to say regarding the possibility of a draft:
A standard line says, I told you so, and the force augmentation takes us another step toward the inevitable resumption of a draft. There can be no doubt the nation requires a larger military cohort and greater appreciation of what the military does. But a draft is not the way to go. Reason: Because some serve and some do not, a draft is inherently unfair.
Ok, I'm not so sure about the "no doubt the nation requires a larger military cohort" part, but I'm with you on draft=bad.

Then he does a 180:
A fundamental lesson of the 1960s was that in a modern liberal democracy, the fairness issue renders politically unsustainable any draft that is substantially less than universal. What the nation needs is a one-year civilian-based program of universal service for all men and women 18-23, no exceptions, with a front-end military component - the equivalent of boot camp. The nation would receive one year of give-back from the young, with the added benefit that the military would win (a) greater appreciation and (b) a partly trained manpower pool from which it could draw in times of a stressed and stretched military - such as now.
Huh? So a draft is bad not because it's involuntary servitude, but because it's applied randomly rather than on everyone equally? So much for logic in the defense of freedom.

Here's an idea that will allow the military to augment the force in Iraq without instituting any kind of draft, gussied-up or otherwise: pull the needed troops from the 100 countries where they're stationed and not fighting a war (read: where U.S. military presence is not required). The length and breadth of the U.S. armed influence is staggering - there are American troops stationed in 135 countries (!), or 70% of the 192 countries in the world. Here is a DoD source in case that number is doubted. Like I said, staggering. I just don't understand how conservative hawks can suggest with a straight face that they need more personnel to fight the insurgents in Iraq, and that they'll take them from anywhere they can get them, provided it's not from anywhere else we've already got troops stationed. Can anyone tell me why we need to maintain a troop presence in any of the European countries - especially England - or in out-of-the-way who-cares places like Cote D'Ivoire, Malawi, and Trinidad & Tobago (though I do envy any servicemen and women stationed anywhere in the Caribbean)?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Einstein on the order of the universe

George Will quotes Einstein, and it's an incredibly accurate distillation of the wondrous possibility of faith and science co-existing in the same person:
Einstein's theism, such as it was, was his faith that God does not play dice with the universe -- that there are elegant, eventually discoverable laws, not randomness, at work. Saying "I'm not an atheist," he explained: "We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is."
An engineer by education, an IT guy by trade, and a Christian by faith and grace, this is exactly how I feel. Reading this quote, which I hadn't ever heard before, has made me think about trying to learn more about Einstein, his theories, and his views.

The Biggest Loser

A comment of mine on Vox Popoli:
While I certainly detest most of what has become known as reality TV (never watched a second of Survivor, and my wife had a brief interest in Joe Millionaire - thankfully short-lived), my wife and I absolutely love The Biggest Loser. Here is a reality show that instead of showing the lowest of the low in people's characters, is teaching them how to turn their lives around from being unhealthy, inactive, and in most other ways apathetic about improvement to getting in shape, eating right, and losing huge amounts of weight (in one guy's case, 90 lbs.) all the while doing it safely, being under the supervision and direction of doctors, nutritionists, and professional trainers. Seeing these people change (not just their appearances but their lifestyles and attitudes) and watching the interactions between each other and the trainers would make the hardest of hearts shed a tear and motivate the most dedicated of couch potatoes to get up and get moving. If you haven't seen any of The Biggest Loser, you've missed out on some fantastic TV. The live (you read right, live) finale is on NBC next Tuesday when we see the three finalists come back to the studio after spending three months "back in the real world" putting all they had learned into practice. I'm sure they'll recap and show highlights of the 12 episodes for those who missed the season. Can't wait!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

NRO's Goldberg on the U.N.'s odiousness

Jonah Goldberg hits the nail on the head:
As for the other argument - that America needs the United Nations to check and thwart its ambitions - I have even less patience. Usually such arguments are made by non-Americans who fear or hate the United States (France, call your office). Right or wrong, it's perfectly legitimate for foreigners to make this case. Germany defines its interests differently than America does. But when Americans make this argument, my eyes roll.
Absolutely - Americans need to realize that the ultimate check on the ambitions of the US government is not (nor should it ever be) some organization outside of itself, but is instead the citizens themselves. We have a government of the people, and it is the citizens' responsibility to ensure their own elected officials act in accordance with our Constitution first, our laws second, and the citizens' will third. Any abdication of that responsibility to those outside the citizenry of the United States is unacceptable. Those who advocate such abdication I would call feckless and lazy in the extreme.

Doctors Without Borders: "Thank you all, but we've got enough"

Doctors Without Borders has issued a statement asking people to stop sending them donations for the aid of the Asian tsunami victims - they've got enough money to accomplish what their staff and resources can realistically accomplish. This is a very welcome sign of honesty and integrity in a sometimes very greedy and bureaucratically wasteful private charity industry. Interesting that other NGOs are protesting this stance (oh, and the humanitarian aid director of the UN also). Read here for more.

New Gallup poll about gun ownership

According to this release:
But do guns make you safer? “Americans are divided on the topic,” Gallup reports, with 46% saying that having a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be, and 42% saying guns make households safer.
I just can't help but wonder if the people Gallup asked about this had read any statistics on crime rates in homes of gun owners vs. those of non-gun owners, or gun vs. non-gun suicide rates, rates of gun owners being shot by their own guns, or anything even remotely related to "Does having a gun in your home make you safer?" I'm betting not.

One of the most telling statistics is one that compares violent burglary ("hot", or home invasion, where the house is robbed with the residents at home) in England and the U.S. In England, where all private firearm ownership is illegal, the percentage of burglaries that are residents-present home invasions is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50%, where in the US, the percentage is just over 10%. Obviously we can't reasonably conclude that only one factor (possible presence of firearms) is the sole reason for the difference, but it should certainly make people think. It seems that common sense alone dictates that the mere possibility of the presence of firearms in any given house in any given neighborhood would at least contribute to a lower crime rate. If two identical adjoining neighborhoods are across a city border from each other, and City A outlaws firearms completely while City B allows anyone to own any firearm they desire, which neighborhood do you think will get robbed more often?

My view is that the availability and legality of guns contributes to making every house safer - even the ones with no guns in them - simply because criminals don't know which houses have armed residents and which don't.

USC shows why it's the undisputed champ

'Nuff said. Fight On Trojans, way to make us proud!

And for those who may not know me, I am no fair-weather bandwagon USC fan. Besides getting my Master's there (my father as well), I went to my first football game in 1998 and was hooked from the pre-game tailgate party. I suffered through Hackett-coached 6-6 and 5-6 seasons and the first last-place PAC-10 finish in USC history, wearing my Cardinal and Gold all the while. Reminds me of that commercial: "Why do we do it? Why do we suffer the disappointments and the dismal seasons? So that when it comes back around, and your team's on top of the world, we can say with truth and pride, We've been here the whole time."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

ESPN on Coach Carroll

and the people who watch USC see a coach having more fun than anyone else in his profession. Everything about him on game day says, 'Wow, this is great!' Everything about him the other six days of the week suggests that he can allow a little levity into the deadly serious business of coaching football.

'He's a great coach to be around,' defensive tackle Shaun Cody said. 'When it's time to work, he's going to work. And when it's time to have fun, he'll have fun.'
and this one:
"In every game, he's always out there jumping around, coaching his heart out, really enthusiastic," said defensive tackle Mike Patterson. "We love him as players because he's the type of coach you want to play hard for every time. You'd hate to let him down."
Sounds like my college basketball coach and mentor, Coach Steve Ridder at Embry-Riddle - just the guy you want to play for, or have your son play for (hint hint Riley Dane!).