Thursday, January 29, 2009
Lessons in Economic Pragmatism
I would, indeed, like to buy the world a Coke and teach the world to sing. Sounds nice.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the wherewithal to support that goal since it would take more money and more professional singing coaches than I have on hand and resources are, indeed, limited. And while I considered, for a time, levying a new fee on singers worldwide in support of vocal equity, but decided that the bureaucracy and the inherent inefficiency in the collection and redistribution process of that scale would leave me far from my stated goal unless my “Sing Tax” was onerous enough that it might have an overall detrimental effect on the industry of singing--which seems contrary to my overall goal.
Besides, I couldn’t come to a place where teaching the world to sing lent itself to easily measurable results and the distribution of Coca Cola seemed likely to invite corruption and misuse on the part of intermediaries in some of the more difficult parts of the world. The last thing I wanted was the hear stories of charitable shipments of Coca Cola being re-sold by crime bosses in Kenya.
So, no, I’ll have to take a pass on that bit of kindness--which is fine since who the hell am I to decide that everyone in the world wants a Coke? Maybe they would prefer Dr. Pepper.
Doing good deeds on a global scale is such a pain in the ass.
Currency? We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Currency.
Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed a long time ago and all that’s left is people sifting through the rubble. With every rational person understanding that the Zim dollar is worthless (and worth less by the day), the government has lifted the ban on using foreign currency.
Mugabe soldiers on as elected dictator for life, playing games with the MDC, and I can’t help but wonder: even if the MDC “wins’ and Mugabe were to retire to his squirreled away bank accounts overseas, what would they have won? Is there anything left to rebuild? Or is the ruin so complete that the entire nation, its infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and social structures will all need to be completely rebuilt?
My gut, sick and sad and angry, says that’s exactly what will need to happen. Mugabe, whenever he is finally gone, will leave only wreckage behind him and the Herculean task of rebuilding a nation from nearly nothing.
What He Said and What He Meant
Frankly, I’m just happy he’s jumping on the global warming bandwagon. We could use a little bump in temperatures around these parts; it’s been cold as hell lately.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Indeed. Heh. Other Such Bloggy Touchstones.
Shawn Macomber, who is now writing for and the reason I’ll be subscribing to Decibel, forwarded a little something from CATO--which, in sharply rebuking the President for the stimulus bill being debated right now, kindly reminds me that there are a few sane folks left in the country.
The new stimulus bill has me terrified. Not just that it will buy us more debt than I ever imagined our country could possibly see within my lifetime (actually, we passed that particular milestone when the first half of the last bailout bill went out the door), but my fear is that all of the non-freakin’-stimulus spending in the package will set a new baseline for government expenditures in the future. Not only will we have bloated budgets to deal with, but the billions in new money sent to welfare and social programs by this particular stimulus package will be seen as part of what is expected in future budgets.
Any attempt to return to previous spending levels will be met with cries of outrage as the evil conservatives try to slash important programs.
It’s amazing how the idea of spending cuts has grown from, well, actual spending cuts to cuts in the proposed increases in spending.
Colorado has been blessed with TABOR, which has forced our state government to make hefty cuts in services when downturns come along instead of raising taxes or going deeper in debt. If California had seen a similar law on its books over the last few decades, I wonder how much better their financial situation would be now?
Some of those cuts are to popular programs and some of them are pretty painful to watch. But no government has unlimited resources at its disposal. No government can continue to spend in the red forever. Colorado ensures that its government can’t spend itself to death; our Federal government seems to have no such limitation.
So, this stimulus bill, which wouldn’t do much in the way of actually stimulating the economy (especially in the short term), would succeed in making our government even bigger. It would succeed in growing social and welfare programs. It would succeed in saddling future generations with even more boomer debt.
But don’t expect it to stimulate the economy, create many new jobs, or make our nation any safer or better. From the Wall Street Journal:
And do read the rest. It’s almost painful, but important, to helping understand what the end effect of this stimulus bill might be.
What do you expect for more than a trillion dollars? Miracles?
At Least They Have a Sense of Humor…
It’s good to know that Colorado, unlike the rest of the nation, has no big issues left to address. As my very religious grandpa might have said, “Thank goodness we have arrived.”
I know this because our legislature is more concerned with carbon monoxide poisoning, bad ideas from local children, and how fast you might be driving in the slow lane (unless it’s the other way around). The state senate GOP seems to be keeping a sense of humor, though.
This just came in from the Secret Operative Inside the Colorado Government Machine (hence known by the catchy acronym, “SOICGM” (which is pronounced “SOICGM")):
Some joking aside, I should probably be thankful that the state congressmen are focused on solving these big problems of the day instead of DOING SOMETHING to solve the problems I actually care about. Given the political lean of the state right now, I probably wouldn’t like the solutions.
Aside: Apparently one of the folks in my office decided that there needed to be a “replacement Dave” in my absence. So, at lunch, he sat in my usual seat and opened lunch by announcing that he was going to “ask very obscure questions and then be quite critical of your answers.”
I’ve been told that the giggling could be heard from a few office buildings away.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
And Some Folks Wonder Why Gun Owners Don’t Trust Democrats
From Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy comes this little Twitter tidbit:
Senator Brophy’s Twitter account can be found here.
Extra fees and taxes on guns will probably be an easy sell in Boulder and through much of Denver, but the more rural parts of the state won’t like it one bit--and folks on a more limited budget won’t enjoy being told that they have to pay even more to protect themselves. I have no idea where Ritter stands ideologically on gun ownership, but I do know that it sounds like another transparent effort to raise state revenue without having to ask the citizens of the state for a tax increase.
This is the first that I’ve heard of this new fee, so I’m just speculating, but I imagine it’s being sold as part of a package meant to meet Colorado’s budgetary shortfall. If Ritter and the Democrats really wanted to find a way to close the shortfall in the long run--not necessarily saving this year’s budget, but giving us a stronger tax base going forward--they would be more concerned with making Colorado attractive for businesses. Allowing businesses to create jobs and expand in Colorado would do far more to pay the bills than a thinly disguised sin tax on gun owners.
For example, Senator Brophy had co-sponsored a bill that would have postponed new oil and tax exploration rules until next year (hear what he has to say on the subject here). The pause would have given lawmakers a chance to understand what the potential adverse effects of the rules--adverse effects on one of the few Colorado industries that has remained healthy. Advocates of the rules have said that with the global contraction in oil and gas industry, companies that would be affected by the rules may well have been cooling on Colorado anyway. If that is the case--and it may be the case--then the pause wouldn’t have hurt anything at all.
If, on the other hand, they are wrong, then the pause will hurt jobs and potential job growth in the state when we’re deep in a recession and jobs are going to be hard to come by.
But state Democrats killed that bill today.
Paying the bills by letting businesses do business is so pedestrian when you can slyly raise a few bucks with new fees on gun owners.
Monday, January 26, 2009
For Zimbabwe: Something Better Than a Hunger Strike
I don’t mean to cruelly diminish Desmond Tutu’s hunger strike, but Zimbabwe’s problems are hardly going to be muted by his dietary choices. Admittedly, Jenny Des-Fountain’s food drive won’t make a dent in the Zimbabwe’s problems, but it might actually save a few lives.
Zimbabwe needs more than a few truckloads of food--and even boatloads of food won’t solve the political and economic problems, either. But though she can’t save the nation nor all of its citizens, though she can’t remove Mugabe nor force recognition of the democratically elected government, she can help some people make it a few more days.
And while South Africa’s government has made a habit of giving Mugabe cover when criticism grows too loud, it’s good to see that some of South Africa’s citizens can still muster a little neighborly care for the citizens across the border.
On a completely different subject, can the Beeb’s web site ever run with normal-length sentences? Nearly every sentence on most of these stories is treated as a new paragraph and it drives me absolutely mad. I realize that typical journalist sentences aren’t measured in the same way as your typical essayist sentence, but it bugs me to see the way the Beeb site handles their copy.
Tidbits About Matt Damon and Me (Although Not in Any Way You Might Imagine)
I like Matt Damon; he’s a charismatic li’l fellow and a decent actor. I generally like his movies and happily ignore his politics.
But if he takes up Bill Kristol on his generous offer, I think that he’ll find himself far out of his intellectual depth. Not to say that I think he’s an idiot, I simply think that he will find that his Hollywood view of the world is remarkably limited when faced with someone who has devoted his life to intellectual pursuits. You may disagree with Kristol, but he actually knows the reasons for his beliefs and backs them up daily with his well-considered writing; Damon, on the other hand, has spent a good chunk of his life reading other peoples’ words for a living and spouting a bit of political nonsense here and there on talk shows.
Which is to say that Kristol will clean his clock.
And speaking of fish out of water…
I will be on a panel of bloggers at a new media/blogger caucus lunch for the Colorado state GOP senators tomorrow, which is less a testament to my brilliance than it is a testament to how many truly brilliant people I am lucky to consider friends. Hopefully I will have some pictures and an after-action report when I get home tomorrow afternoon.
Thanks to Darren Copeland and Lori Brown for helping to pull together this diverse group of bloggers and including me in the mix. I hope that we’ll actually be able to bring something useful to our state GOP senators and help them better represent the needs of Colorado’s citizens.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Appalled, Disappointed, Sad, and Proud (And Proud Some More)
Firstly, I am appalled. Whatever message was intended, whatever he wanted to say with the “drunken negro cookies” in honor (?!) of our President, it not only defies sense, but it is in hideously bad taste. He deserves the boycott that is sure to come.
Secondly, I am disappointed. Not gravely, but enough that it brought to mind one of those bits of Kipling that springs up in my mind from time to time:
You can read the rest here, if so inclined. I read it first, if memory serves, in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers--a love letter to the bloody infantry--and it’s always stuck with me.
I am saddened by the death of Shane Dronett. It’s hard to say precisely why because I never knew him, don’t know if he was a great guy or not, and know nothing about him other than the fact that he left behind a wife and two children, that he was a pretty good player, and that his teammates seemed to like him quite a bit. Maybe it’s just because I know that a guy has to be feeling pretty low to want to kill himself--and, yes, I know and even agree with the idea that it’s a selfish act especially in light of the family that he left behind. But it’s still sad.
Thank goodness there’s a little happiness on this list, too.
I’m ridiculously proud of Mr. Lady’s nomination for the 2009 Bloggies as Best Candadian Blogger. You’ll have to scroll sideways to get to her category, though, which annoys the living hell out of me. Anyway, she may be a freakin’ lefty, but she’s our freakin’ lefty and I hope you’ll all help me stuff the ballot box on this one. The fact that she’s not actually a Canuckistanian by birth, on the other hand, I can’t help with.
I’m just as proud of my friend, Diane, for her cool elephant. No, really, check it out. She’s wonderfully talented and about as nice a woman as you’re ever likely to meet.
Colonoscopies Are a Pain in the Ass
This falls squarely into the “Too Freakin’ Much Information” category, and for that I offer an apology. But it’s my site and I’ll write about what I want to write.
For reasons best left undiscussed in a family forum, but directly related to my trip to India, and at the relatively tender age of 38, I had to undergo a colonoscopy about a month ago. Anyone with an overdeveloped worry reflex can put their mind at ease because everything came out alright. In the end. I didn’t want to write that last part, but there’s a Federal law covering jokes in this situation and I would have been in violation without that bit of boilerplate colonoscopy humor.
Anyway, while there is much hilarity to be found in the actual procedure and in watching a video of a camera marching its way through your tender, pink innards, grabbing bits and pieces of your intestine for later testing, this isn’t actually about the procedure. In fact, I didn’t actually have a colonoscopy, so I didn’t get the good drugs; I had something with a much longer name that is ridiculously harder to type, that still involves cameras being shoved up your butt, that comes without the good drugs but with all of the bad, stomach nuking drugs that make the day and night before a near-colonoscopy such a treat for everyone involved.
From what I’ve heard, I’d actually have enjoyed a real colonoscopy a bit more than its supposedly easier-going little brother. My advice to everyone is this: always go for the procedure that gets you the best drugs. I digress: this post is actually about the aftermath. The financial aftermath.
My insurance has a regular office visit co-pay of $30 and a specialist co-pay of $50. Cynic that I am, I expected the higher co-pay.
Which is why I was shocked (shocked) to get the bill from the service provider (rhymes, in part, with “miser,” if you catch my drift) for $200.
I rushed to find the hefty booklet that covered all the fees, limitations, services, and costs associated with my coverage and found that the bill wasn’t wrong. It was right. I owed $200 for the privilege of having someone shove a camera up my ass. Which made me feel cheap on the one hand and cranky about the unexpected expense on the other. Of course, to be fair, I really should consider the feelings of the nurse and the doctor who actually performed the procedure in the financial and emotional calculus of the event.
I know I should look at the bright side since the actual procedure cost was a bit under $400. I suppose that half off is actually quite a deal. The problem is that I’m not sure I should ever have to pay for the simple joys of having a complete stranger and his assistant shove a camera up my ass. I’m not sure who should pay, and a government bailout seems a little far-fetched, but it still seems a steep price for the indignity involved.*
What really gets me is that there were only a handful of procedures that had the extra-special cost associated. That got me wondering: why charge extra for something like this? Are they afraid of roaming hordes of folks who might go in for extra innings if the price was lowered? They want to discourage that sort of thing?
Because, trust me, I’m not going back for seconds if I don’t have to.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Out of Curiosity
Is the honeymoon over yet?
I mean, I’m pretty much ready to jump into the ”loyal opposition” role, you know?
Dissent can still be patriotic in my household, and, with Obama issuing new and exciting executive orders that seem ripe for scrutiny, I’m feeling eager for a little analysis and criticism.
Frankly, it’s a lot easier to be on the losing side, as I imagine the left will come to realize over the next few years. Solving the world’s problems is easy enough when you don’t actually have to do anything other than nitpick and snipe from the sidelines. It’s tough as hell when you have to come up with the right answers.
I think I might enjoy being in the easy chair for a bit…
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
All I can say is, “Man up, ladies.”
I suppose a hunger strike is nice, but I’m not sure what good it’s going to do for the poor people who are hungry by political design instead of ridiculous choice.
It’s an entirely ‘nother culture, so I’m probably not allowed to comment on it; that would just be too judgmental.
Speaking of something else entirely, if I traded all my money for Zim dollars, I would totally be a billionaire.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Good Morning, Mr. President. (Updated)
President Bush, a flawed man who will be judged by history far less harshly than he has been by contemporary media and by many of my fellow citizens, has left office. Today we celebrate the inauguration of Barrack Obama and, perhaps more significantly, we celebrate another peaceful passing of the power from one party to another.
There is no doubt that it is worth celebrating this proof of the continued gains of racial equality in the United States. That a black man could ascend to the seat of the presidency removes a significant barrier from the psyches of black men and women. No more is there a limit to how high that little black boy or girl can dream; from today, anything is possible. I truly believe that this is something worth celebrating.
So, yes, I celebrate the inauguration of Barrack Obama, President of the United States of America, and I hope and pray to the core of my being that his choices are wise, that his leadership matches his charisma, and that we are all better for his presidency. To hope for anything less than good for Obama would be an act of spite for my own country--not something I would be particularly proud of.
While I doubt that I will agree with all of his decisions, I will never treat the office or the president with anything less than the respect that he is due. I will voice my criticisms and disagreements with vigor but without rancor.
And today, like millions of other Americans, I will celebrate his election.
It isn’t just this election, though; it’s the continuation of the political system that has given us all a solid bedrock on which to build our futures. Every few years we hold elections in this country and some measure of power is passed from person to person and party to party. While our country isn’t at its healthiest right now, our unique government and culture still give us a potential future that most of the world still envies. The continuity of our system is a beautiful thing even when we don’t make the best decisions; if you doubt that, take a look at the joke that democracy became in Russia or the tragedy of faux-democracy through much of Africa. That’s hardly a reason to feel calm and complacent, but it’s a good reason to feel hopeful.
President Obama has a difficult road ahead, but he is bringing something to the citizens that has seemed in short supply of late: faith in our nation. With hard work, we, the people, can use that faith to make our nation strong again. That isn’t something that we have to ask the president to do for us, it’s something that we can and will do for ourselves.
Early in the morning of the first day of President Obama’s term in office, I am raising a glass to him, to my country, and to all of my fellow citizens.
Update: Bob had similar thoughts (although his linking this post was obviously a play for free shots at the next gathering of Rocky Mountain area bloggers).
Sunday, January 18, 2009
That’s One Small Step for Obama, One Giant Step for Obama-Kind
While I’m all for celebrating the historic nature of the upcoming inauguration (and, for a day, ignoring the fact that our country chose the wrong guy to be president--but that sounds a bit churlish, doesn’t it?), the width and breadth of the coverage of the celebration has been a bit overwhelming. I can’t wait for the moment to be over so we can get to seeing what happens next.
But I’m afraid that celebration won’t be over after the inauguration has ended because the true believers are living in a moment far beyond the reality of the thing. In fact, like supporters throughout the election cycle, it seems that some believers are pressing their own priorities onto the blank template of Obama’s unformed presidency.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe everyone will have their needs and expectations met by Obama. Maybe miracles happen.
And maybe Joaquin Phoenix will have a long and fulfilling career as a rap artist.
But I think that Victor Davis Hanson’s view is right (please read the whole thing):
I continue to wish President Elect Obama good luck in the presidency. I hope that he shows wisdom and good judgement in his decisions and that our country is better for his presidency. More than that, in an immediate sense, I just hope to catch a glimpse of what he truly intends to accomplish and how he intends to lead us there. The campaign is over and it’s time to get beyond the vague promises of the campaign speeches.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Some Weekends are Better Than Others
Darling girl had a bad weekend. A very bad weekend. While I don’t feel comfortable sharing her personal information--and won’t--with the class, I will say that I would appreciate it if those of you who are so inclined would keep her in your prayers and your thoughts.
Personally, I feel like I could use a drink. Which is usually a good sign that I shouldn’t have one.
And Wheels is in a tough spot, too. Keep him in your thoughts, too, and if you have any job leads that would suit him I’m sure that he would appreciate the leads.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Mmmm, Sea Kitten
PETA’s sea kitten ploy is making the rounds today, but nobody makes sea kitten look as tasty as Liberty Girl. In fact, I might have to see if darling girl (the former g-phrase and very nearly f-word) is up for sushi some time this weekend.
Mmmm, sea kitten.
Update: Or, given the financial fallout from another Christmas orgy of consumerism, maybe I should settle for some of Gorton’s Crunchy Golden Kitten of the Sea Sticks. Mmmm, Kitten of the Sea Sticks.
In naming themselves Naughty by Nature, were they merely riffing on the concept of original sin? Or were they referring to their own brand of deterministic rap music? Which would, of course, provide practical cover for all of the bad things that can happen when you try to rhyme body parts with the word “cleanest.”
This moment of religious and philosophical curiosity brought to you by an iTunes shuffling through a humorous ode to a catchy kind of naughtiness with Other People’s Property.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Worn Free: Unreally Cool
I kind of dig old t-shirts and don’t have a problem with replicas. Which is why I’m diggin’ on Worn Free, a site that sells a cool selection of old rock t-shirts. Fun stuff.
Favorites? Debbie Harry always had killer fashion sense. Lester Bangs is in a wonderful, special category of psychosis all his own--and his t-shirt here is wonderful And, c’mon, the idea of Joey Ramone in a screaming eagles t-shirt gets me all happy inside.
If their blog is to be believed, gazillions of celebrities have worn their shirts, too. Which makes them officially good enough for the Gilded Class, and, damnit, that makes them good enough for me.
Which, did anyone else watch the People’s Choice Awards last night? Artistically, mediocre choices for the most part with a couple of truly worthy awards thrown in. In terms of entertainment, it was a pretty dull affair. In terms of irritating elitism, I got a little annoyed by hearing celeb after celeb telling us how they really do it “for the people” and how it’s really special that “the people” recognized them. Nearly every time I heard it said, it sounded like the speaker was setting themselves not only apart from us regular folk, but above us as well.
So, celebrity class of ‘08, blow me; do your damned job for the same reason the rest of us do: for the paycheck and, hopefully, a measure of personal satisfaction. I don’t need your condescension.
None of which changes the fact that Worn Free has some freakin’ cool t-shirts.
I’m Sorry, What Was that, Mr. Beck?
Dog food stalls with the beefcake pantyhose? What?
This moment of confusion brought to you by an iPod shuffling through an overly maudlin musical library.
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