Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Wednesday, April 27, 2005

    Bush's Top 10 Economic Blunders

    And boy, are they doozies.

    What Made the Next Depression Worse

    10: Martha Stewart Jailing.
    9: Unrelenting Protectionism.
    8: The Social Security Reform Hoax.
    7: Government Spending.
    6: Failure To Repeal the AMT.
    5: Prescription Drug Benefit.
    4: Failure to Rein in Fannie/Freddie.
    3: Signing and Enforcing SOX.
    2: Markets By Force.
    1: the Appointment of Ben S. Bernanke

    Don't worry, Democrats. There's enough smackdown in that article to go around. But for you Republicans, number 7 is one I found particularly pointed:

    You will notice that Bush has lately been talking like a budget cutter. He is going to rein in government spending, he says. Well, I suppose everyone has known about the great uncle who swears he is going to cut back on his drinking but somehow keeps ending up at the dry-out farm. He is the first president since John Quincy Adams not to veto a single bill during his first term in office. Total federal government spending is up by 30% in his first term, which is three times the rate of growth wrought by that bad old big spender Bill Clinton.

    Small government and free markets, my butt. Republicans need to stop selling that line of crap, because it's losing marketshare.

    And then there's this little gem:

    Bush Gives Energy Plan Amid High Prices

    "See, we've got a fundamental question we got to face here in America," Bush said. "Do we want to continue to grow more dependent on other nations to meet our energy needs? Or, do we need to do what is necessary to achieve greater control of our economic destiny?"

    And the Democratic response:

    Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called Bush's initiatives "little more than half measures and wrongheaded policies that will do nothing to address the current energy crisis or break the stranglehold that foreign oil has on our nation."

    In other words, it's become a contest to see which party can be more nationalistic than the other, and we've got a game of political one-upsmanship over who can make the country more economically independent. I wonder where that leads...

    But then there were some rays of light. Henry Hazlitt, then an editor at the New York Times, had contacts at Yale University Press, where Mises found a sympathetic ear. Yale published his first book in English, which was an account of the causes of World War II. He showed that the seeds of German totalitarianism grew from unlikely soil: the policy goal of Hitler to achieve national economic self-sufficiency. This is what led to imperialism, national planning, socialism, and finally war. Mises emphasized in this volume that a policy of protectionism is not only cruel to domestic consumers and international producers but also leads to violence at home and abroad. Then as now, protectionism and mercantilism is a disastrous path that can only end in wrecking prosperity and peace.

    [Ludwig von Mises:] The Heart of a Fighter

    Energy is a commodity. The only peaceful way to produce a commodity locally is to do it cheaper than anyone else can do it. If that cannot be done economically, without the aggression of protectionism and all that it implies, we're either eventually going to war or we're going to buy it from the people who can produce it more cheaply.

    Posted by Tom, 4/27/2005 6:09:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, April 26, 2005


    Firefly is now a feature film! Screw Star Wars: Episode III. Serenity is the must-see sci-fi film of the year!!!

    Posted by Tom, 4/26/2005 7:36:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, April 21, 2005

    Yapping Dogs

    The ankle-biters are at it again, whining about Wal-Mart and its supposed "killing small town America" problem. It's the usual crap about workers and wages and driving competitors out of business and hurting the community and yap yap yap yap yap.

    It's interesting to note though, that some new information is coming out about the "Wal-Mart effect". It turns out that Wal-Mart frees up disposable income for its customers, and refocuses its competitors into more specialized businesses where it cannot compete. This gives the customers a chance to purchase their commodified necessities at the market's lowest price AND have extra money to spend at the new boutique-style shops popping up to replace the former competitor stores and revitalizing downtown areas.

    Of course, the type of people who attack Wal-Mart have never really been any good at connecting with reality or understanding the economic benefits that a place like Wal-Mart brings to the table. Some people, it's sad to say, would probably be easier to shoot than educate.

    Posted by Tom, 4/21/2005 7:14:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    Microsoft to Apple:

    "Me too!"

    There's nothing original coming out of Redmond these days. My conversion is almost complete. And please, don't bother me with this Linux nonsense. I'd look into it if it was an actual product, as opposed to a toolkit for building your own product.

    Posted by Tom, 4/20/2005 6:49:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    As if we needed another reason...

    ...the IRS is now making it easy to steal the identities of taxpayers. How much longer before we as a people get sick of this incompetent government and its wasteful, inept bureaucracies?

    Posted by Tom, 4/20/2005 6:44:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Andrea Dworkin: Dead

    While it is tempting to indulge in some schadenfreude over Dworkin's death, I'll limit myself to saying that she always came across as a severely disturbed woman. Hopefully her suffering is finally at an end. Cathy Young has a thoughtful eulogy about her life and crusade.

    Posted by Tom, 4/20/2005 6:40:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    Armor Piercing for the People!

    Here's a great article arguing for the sale of armor piercing ammunition to the general public.

    That said, why can’t civilians have access to armor-penetrating bullets? Don’t criminals, who are more apt to attack civilians than armed and trained police, sometimes wear body armor when committing crimes? Remember the North Hollywood, California, shootout in February 1997? Two heavily armed men wearing body armor shot 7 civilians and 11 policemen as they attempted to escape after robbing a Bank of America branch. Armor-piercing ammunition in the possession of either armed civilians or police would have ended their escape attempt much sooner and with less injury.

    More recently, last month David Hernandez Arroyo killed two people and wounded several police officers in Tyler, Texas, before police shot him dead. One of his victims was 50-year old Mark Wilson, a citizen licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Wilson, who came to the aid of others attacked by Arroyo, shot Arroyo several times in the chest. But Arroyo was wearing body armor so Wilson’s bullets didn’t incapacitate him. Although Wilson saved the lives of others by distracting Arroyo, he himself was killed. If he had been using armor-piercing ammunition, he would be alive today.

    Extreme? I don't think so. I would much rather Mark Wilson were alive today. The world needs more people like him.

    Posted by Tom, 4/19/2005 6:29:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Ted Nugent on the NRA

    Ted Nugent had some harsh words for lazy gun owners at the NRA convention. Ted's big on activism, and with good reason. However, I question the wisdom of sequestering ourselves from the rest of the world as Ted seems to suggest when he says "No one is allowed at our barbecues unless they are an NRA member."

    In usual Ted fashion, he also takes some shots at the "police will protect me" crowd:

    "Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em!" he screamed to applause. "To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em."

    Of course, the handwringers among us will display their illiteracy and complain that Ted is advocating vigilantism. They've missed the conditional statement of "when they attack you". Ted doesn't say what to do when they're not attacking you, which is to love them and try to show them a better way of living than terrorizing one's neighbors. Both sides are important. We need to try to reach out to the communities which normally produce criminals -- the poor ones -- and lift them out of poverty, while at the same time being prepared to enforce the negative consequences of being a detriment to society in the way that burglars and rapists and murderers are.

    Posted by Tom, 4/19/2005 6:20:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005


    The Mises Institute has a clearly written and easy to understand article today about the government's hand in exacerbating unemployment. Check out these figures:

    Whenever government forcibly raises employment costs it causes marginal labor, that is, labor that barely covers its costs, to become submarginal. It does not matter whether government orders wage rates to rise or benefits to be improved, the workday to be shortened, overtime pay to be raised, funds to be set aside for sickness and old age, or any other benefit to be granted. A small boost renders few workers submarginal, a large boost affects many. In matters of employment they now are “unproductive” and cannot be used economically.

    It is obvious to all but politicians that any worker, male or female, old or young, Yank or Chinaman, whose service is worth only $10 an hour but must be paid $20 or more cannot be employed profitably.


    The Bureau [of Labor Statistics] calculates total fringe costs of $5.80 an hour for service workers and $8.73 an hour for construction workers. Skilled and trained workers surely are able to cover their fringe costs by way of takehome-pay adjustment; instead of earning $18.73 an hour they receive only $10. But how can an unskilled service worker who is to earn $5.15 an hour to cover additional fringe costs of $5.80 an hour? He obviously must render services worth at least $10.95 an hour to cover his employment costs. Anyone unable to render $10.95-services cannot be employed productively.

    Posted by Tom, 4/13/2005 6:38:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    Must Read

    Hans-Hermann Hoppe gives us a blow-by-blow of his battle with politically-correct thought police at UNLV. If you want to know what a world run by leftists would be like, check out the kangaroo-court "trials" he had to go through. I just love his tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the execution of academic policy:

    Las Vegas prides itself for its tolerance and so does UNLV, its university. At the university, however, tolerance is selective. You may assert that white heterosexual males are responsible for all of mankind’s misery, that Castro’s Cuba is a great success story, that capitalism means exploitation, or that most university professors are liberals because conservatives are too stupid to teach. If anyone should complain about this, such complaint will be dismissed outright.

    And rightly so. After all, the university is committed to academic freedom. Its faculty has the "freedom and an obligation … (to) discuss and pursue the faculty member’s subject with candor and integrity, even when the subject requires consideration of topics which may be politically, socially or scientifically controversial. … (a) faculty member…shall not be subjected to censorship or discipline by the University ... on grounds that the faculty member has expressed opinions or views which are controversial, unpopular or contrary to the attitudes of the University…or the community."

    Posted by Tom, 4/12/2005 6:55:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    Why Dogs are Better than Cats

    Rachel Lucas tells it like it is:

    Dogface can be trained to call medics on a freaking telephone. Which he can be trained to do in response to realizing his owner is getting ready to have a seizure. Which he can detect in some way that humans can't even determine.

    Catface, on the other hand, can detect his fellow cats' fresh vomit, which he'll have as a snack. And that's about it.

    Posted by Tom, 4/11/2005 6:53:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, April 8, 2005

    Discovery goes to launch pad

    Space shuttle Discovery, despite "hairline cracks" on the external tank's foam, is preparing for launch and has made it to the pad.

    In other news, the government has urged all astronauts to check and make sure their life insurance is paid up...

    Posted by Tom, 4/8/2005 7:13:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Must... have... it...

    Powered exoskeletons are going into production. I'll have to agree with the Engadget editors on this one:

    We just want one so we can be the next great crime-fighting cyborg superhero...

    Then they complain about the $19,000 price tag. Come on, guys! Dave Ramsey would just say start saving up for it and you'll have it in no time. Besides, which would you rather have, a car, or something as wickedly cool as that exoskeleton?

    Posted by Tom, 4/8/2005 7:08:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, April 6, 2005

    So simple, even children get it

    The Mises Institute has a great article about taxation, and how children understand instinctively that it is theft.

    My six year-old daughter, Mary, asked me what I was writing about. I explained the concept: “I just filled out our tax forms and I learned that the federal government will be giving us money that doesn’t belong to us. They will be taking it from other people and giving it to us.”

    “That’s not right!” said my first-grader.

    Eight year-old daughter Sarah was listening. “I don’t like that. I mean, I don’t like that the government is going to take money from other people and give it to us,” she said sadly.

    Gosh, that’s clear thinking. But the tax system blurs clear thinking.

    It sure does. Just talk to any supporter of taxation.

    Posted by Tom, 4/6/2005 6:43:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Burt vs Bureaucracy

    Burt Rutan did an interview recently with Reason. In it, he talks about the types of changes he wants to see in regulatory practices as commercial space flight takes off. Basically, it's a long-overdue slap in the face to the bureaucratic mindset. Here, he lays out the pitfalls in the way things are currently done:

    We always want them in a mode in which they question the safety. If you're always questioning it, you can turn around and find something better and immediately incorporate it. For example, if you had turned in last week a report to a government agency in which you've told them the product, as it is, is safe, if you discover something better next week, you have two choices.

    One, you can go an write an addendum to that report and essentially tell the government, that, gee, I was wrong last week, it wasn't the safest that it can be, and now it is because I've discovered this new thing. And then you'll find yourself debating that with them and losing your credibility with them. We make changes almost every day when we're in a research mode. So you can see you get into this big back and forth in which they see you making changes after you defend the safety to them. Now the solution there is to never tell anybody that it's safe, but always question it, which then allows you to immediately incorporate safety features and go on. And, instead of firing somebody who designed something unsafe, you reward whoever found a better way and congratulate him.

    The other choice that people have is they'll see something safer and they'll realize they just told the government that it was safe last week. And then they make the decision that, well, you know, last week's configuration—it's safe enough. Another thing too is that we're a small company. We don't have a big safety department that works with the government regulators. We have the people that are there testing the product and we can only afford to have the team that's there. And now we get our team, instead of focusing on the job of making it as safe as possible, they're distracted to write reports and provide data for the government.

    He also smacks around Sean O'Keefe (head cheese at NASA) a little bit for his dismissive attitude towards private space flight. It's worth the read.

    Posted by Tom, 4/6/2005 6:42:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...