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Strange Ideas of Fiscal Responsibility July 5, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Economics, Employment, Government.
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The good folks at Calculated Risk provide some information concerning why it’s really a bad idea to play games with unemployment benefits.

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Hard Core Libertarians – Ignorant or Delusional? April 19, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Government.
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I had to really think on that title. Sir Charles at Cogitamus writes about what he describes as The Libertarian Pathology. Reading the article and following the links to the actual articles written by libertarians definitely illustrates why I find Libertarianism to be as realistic as Communism when it comes to looking at the actual human condition and how people think of things. If you don’t necessarily want to follow every link I did here is some of what I found, directly referenced by Sir Charles and not.

In “How Free Were American Women in the Gilded Age?” Bryan Caplan attempts to make a case that women were, as libertarians ought to see it, freer in 1880 than they are now. The freedom to vote is dismissed as not proving that women were denied their freedoms just because they couldn’t vote in defense of them. He actually writes this little gem.

In what ways, then, were American women in 1880 less free than men?  Most non-libertarians will naturally answer that women couldn’t vote.  But from a libertarian point of view, voting is at most instrumentally valuable.

Does anyone else think that if true, this says something not all that good about the libertarian point of view as applied to the real world? And when criticized for the many weaknesses in his article his defense just wasn’t any better than the original article.

The first article referred to by the Cogitamus article is this one by Jacob Hornberger. But…that one is actually a defense of this article from this criticism by David Boaz. Got that all straight now? But what’s interesting is that apparently the section of the first article where he posits a tortuous defense of those who compare Obama’s economic philosophy to that of Hitler wasn’t deserving of hardly any criticism. If you want an idea of the strength of this argument consider that almost the first thing in it is a link to a part of the Social Security Administration web site that has an engraving of Otto Von Bismarck. Hornberger finds this absolutely shocking. How dare a website of the United States government have an image of a 19th Century chancellor of Germany? Why, so that it can glorify him as the creator of the first social security system, of course. Glorify a European socialist? What part of the SSA website has committed this heinous crime? That would be the section on the history of the concept of social security.  You know, history, that thing that apparently shouldn’t include anything other than Americans if it is on a United States government website?

So, after considering those articles and others that I didn’t take the time to link to, do you understand why I came up with the title for this post?

Prove me right, shame on you April 18, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Politics, Space Program.
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Look I know that I’ve criticized Republicans for living in the past, but really, this guy is at least in the 20th Century with his misconceptions.

Laws? We don’t follow no steenking laws! August 9, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Terrorism, The Bush Administration, What is Justice?, WoT.
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So the Bush Administration and the Pentagon got what they wanted in the arrangements for the “trial” of Salim Hamdan. They just didn’t get the verdicts they wanted. And now, like a version of the child who decides to change the rules when they lose but with far greater stakes they are debating completely ignoring the results of what they expected to be a show trial and keep Hamdan in detention indefinitely after his sentence is up.

Apparently some people realize there just might be a problem with that idea.

Defense Department officials said there are concerns about the public perception of holding Hamdan after his prison term runs out, because it could label the military commissions a “show process” with no meaning to its sentences.

Gee, ya think?

Yes, the War on Drugs is Insane August 1, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Barbarity, Corruption, Does Not Compute, The War on Drugs, Too Stupid to Live, What is Justice?.
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The Washington Post reports on how Prince George’s County police and Sheriff’s officers, including a full SWAT team, broke into the home of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, shot his two dogs and handcuffed he and his mother-in-law and interrogated them. Why? In Arizona a drug sniffing dog identified a package addressed to Calvo’s wife as containing marijuana. The Prince George authorities disguised themselves as delivery people and with SWAT team and other officers in place delivered the package. Wasn’t the fact that an older woman (the mother-in-law) told them to just leave it on the porch a good first clue that something was a bit odd? So the mayor comes home from walking the dogs, sees the package addressed to his wife and takes it in and puts it on the table, just as most of us would do.

A few minutes later the door bursts open as the SWAT team invades and they immediately shoot one dog and then kill the other when it comes running into the room. Why would they do this? Why were there no Federal officials there when this shipment made in a crime crossing multiple state lines? Why didn’t the county cops contact the local police? Simple. Money. I have no doubt the county officials will deny it but anyone familiar with what goes on with drug busts now knows that whatever agency makes the arrest can take any money and property the drug dealer has. Even if the suspect is found innocent the property is often never returned. If you involve the Feds or any other law enforcement agency you have to split the money with them. Apparently in their rush to bust the wealthy drug dealer receiving 32 pounds of pot and seize their property it never occurred to them to investigate who lived at the house and consider that just maybe a violent assault on the part time mayor whose day job is running a national non-profit organization called SEED wasn’t the brightest move they could make.

Yes, They Think We’re Stupid December 12, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Corruption, Does Not Compute, Politics.
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MSNBC reports on the last Republican candidate debate before Iowa’s caucuses. It is noted that they all basically agreed on at least one big lie.

Republican presidential rivals called for deep cuts in federal spending Wednesday in a debate remarkably free of acrimony and agreed the reductions they seek need not require painful sacrifice by millions of Americans who rely on government services.

“The sacrifice we need from the American people is saying, ‘Let the programs go that don’t work. Don’t lobby for them forever,’ ” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of nine GOP presidential hopefuls sharing an Iowa stage little more than three weeks before the state’s caucuses provide the first test of the campaign.

Anyone who looks at where the government spends its money and what other promises the Republicans are making knows that this is a lie so big that it might well collapse into a black hole at any moment. Not one of the leading contenders is about to cut military spending and even the anti-war Ron Paul is unlikely to do that, he just doesn’t want our soldiers in Iraq. After all, while they all speak of cutting programs that don’t work have the words V-22 Osprey passed their lips as an example? Of course not.

At least Ron Paul admits that he believes in eliminating every social program and every regulatory agency. The others won’t admit it, but the numbers would only work out if that’s what they did. The tax cuts they want and the military spending they want pretty much leave no alternative but to make up the difference by taking it out of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and every other department that isn’t run by the Pentagon. Does anyone think that this truth will pass the lips of Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Thompson or Paul? I don’t.

Who Should Get the Dishonorable Discharge? December 2, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Politics, The War in Iraq.
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The Washington Post tells us about a truly tragic situation where a soldier in Iraq broke down, threatened fellow soldiers and then attempted suicide. The professional consensus is that she was truly insane at the time of the incident and should receive the treatment she needs. The Army’s response? Court-martial her. Threaten her. Bully her. This drove her to seek an alternative to court martial, offering to resign her commission even though this would result in the loss of her veteran’s benefits. Of three recommendations, the only one from a physician said that this shouldn’t happen because there was no doubt that she had

But…

But then, from her battalion commander in Iraq, Whiteside learned that an investigation there had concluded that there was “insufficient evidence for any criminal action to be taken against” her. Furthermore, it had found a hostile command climate and recommended that the officer who had been her nemesis be removed from his position and “given a letter of reprimand for gender bias in assignments and use of intimidation, manipulation and hostility towards soldiers.”

With this news, Whiteside asked that her letter of resignation be withdrawn. She would fight the charges.

In an e-mail exchange, the prosecutor, Wolfe, told MacLean that even if Whiteside won in court she would probably end up stigmatized and in a mental institution, just like John Hinckley, the man who shot President Ronald Reagan.

Wolfe suggested that the military court might not buy the mental illness defense. “Who doesn’t find psycho-babble unclear . . . how many people out there believe that insanity should never be a defense, that it is just, as he said, an ‘excuse.’ “

 What kind of incompetent physician do the Army personnel who want to prosecute her seek to override? The man who is now the Army’s surgeon general, Major General Eric B. Schoomaker.

To answer the question in the title I propose that the prosecutor and every single officer involved in deciding to bring this prosecution are the ones who deserve dishonorable discharges for failing in their duties to their fellow soldiers in the most callous and incompetent way possible. Failing that, some long and intense courses in the real world of psychiatric medicine before they are ever put near a situation like this one again is certainly called for.

Things That Shouldn’t Go Away October 6, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Education, Geek Stuff, Government, Science, Science & Society, Technology.
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The basis of this blog is in part the idea that things change and in many cases we’re better off adapting than trying to remain stuck in the past. Or to put it in another way if you base your plans and beliefs on the way things were instead of the way things are, odds are the plans aren’t going to work out very well.

But some things really shouldn’t go away completely and instead should at least exist even if some change is necessary. A new show on PBS, Wired Science, did a segment entitled Dangerous Science about how the ability for youngsters and adult amateurs to do hands on science is almost extinct. There’s no longer any such thing as a real chemistry set, many chemicals and materials that amateur scientists and tinkerers need will set off alarms in Homeland Security and even school labs are hesitant to let their students do real hands-on experiments that some timid administrators apparently feel might get them sued if anything goes wrong. Haven’t these people ever heard of a release form?

But if you’re one of those who occasionally feel the stirrings of a desire to find out things for yourself there does exist at least one resource, United Nuclear. Believe me, you owe it to yourself to at least browse around their site.

Compare and Contrast August 5, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Politics, The War in Iraq, Uncategorized.
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I don’t think I really need to say a whole lot about this one. Just read this article from Newsweek entitled “Surge of Suicide Bombers” and then follow it with the one from the New York Times entitled “Top G.O.P. Candidates See Signs of Progress in Iraq”. I just have to say I wonder about some people’s ideas of progress and their definition of victory.

A Slice of American Insanity August 5, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Does Not Compute.
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No, this is not some evil socialist, pinko, “I hate America.” screed. It’s not about the Bush Administration, Iraq or any of those subjects.

It’s about a New York Times article about how it is entirely possible for a millionaire, someone who is making enough money to propel themselves into the top 2% of American families so far as wealth is concerned, to not even consider themselves as being rich. I know some people who live in the San Francisco area. Frankly, I don’t ask them how much they make but it is always a source of amazement to me that they can make it given the cost of living there. But the article points out that there is more at work in the social dynamics of Silicon Valley. There is not so much a “keeping up with the Joneses” issue as knowing what the Joneses have. This psychological factor in an area of so much wealth makes some feel like they aren’t all that high up the economic food chain even if the raw numbers say different.

One of the people interviewed for this article puts it into perspective this way

David Koblas, a computer programmer with a net worth of $5 million to $10 million, imagines what his life would be like if he left Silicon Valley. He could move to a small town like Elko, Nev., he says, and be a ski bum. Or he could move his family to the middle of the country and live like a prince in a spacious McMansion in the nicest neighborhood in town.

But Mr. Koblas, 39, lives with his wife, Michelle, and their two children in Los Altos, south of Palo Alto, where the schools are highly regarded and the housing prices are inflated accordingly. So instead of a luxury home, the family lives in a relatively modest 2,000-square-foot house — not much bigger than the average American home — and he puts in long hours at Wink, a search engine start-up founded in 2005.

“I’d be rich in Kansas City,” he said. “People would seek me out for boards. But here I’m a dime a dozen.”

And he’s right. When Sprint was a rapidly growing concern and was consolidating operations in the Kansas City metro area they were shutting down IT operations in California and trying to lure their people to Kansas City. They would bring them here and show them what their housing budget could buy. They could purchase a house twice the size with a backyard facing a lake and the development had a golf course as part of the deal for less than they were spending in California. It was a persuasive argument to many.

Why do I title this post “A Slice of American Insanity”? First, what kind of technology company can be taken seriously as doing the best they can for their stockholders when they stay someplace that drives their costs for real estate and employee compensation to these kinds of levels? The standard excuses are that this is where everyone is and that this produces advantages and the educational system producing good tech workers is also here and it just can’t be reproduced anywhere else. Isn’t it nice to have arguments that your board and shareholders buy into that just can’t be quantified? And these folks are some of the staunchest defenders of the free market system and existing structures for all things economic. Also, why do companies whose life blood is technology feel so strongly that e-mail, phone calls and video conferencing just aren’t good enough? They don’t seem to mind it when they outsource jobs to India and China? That distance doesn’t seem to matter but the idea of just maybe placing their company or at least some major components of it somewhere in the United States that could save many millions of dollars terrifies them. Yep, they’re irrational and just maybe certifiable.