Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'm a member of Team Bonzai to run for cancer

I'm member of Team Bonzai for the Relay for Life event, looking to raise funds for cancer awareness and a search for a cure.

If you think you can help or want to donate, please join up. Or, if you just want to watch me run in my jogging shorts - well, I can't help your strange perversions, but knock yourself out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jindal as Bizarro Obama

Did anyone else watching Jindal speak feel like they were watching Bizarro after Superman? I watched the speech in first bemusement, then growing shock at the level of stupid.

Hi, I'm Bobby Jindal. My parents are immigrants, like President Obama. My skin is brown - but not as brown as President Obama. But otherwise, we're the same, and clearly that's what the people want - more brown people!

I'm the governor of Louisiana. And let me tell you - government doesn't work! Here's an example: Katrina. Remember when a Republican president who was pretty incompetent was told by his former Arabian horse breeder turned disaster recovery head of FEMA that "Mr. President, there's a big storm heading to New Orleans" - and then Bush went to San Diego and played guitar? Yup - proof right there that government doesn't work! At least when it's headed by Republicans.

I probably shouldn't have reminded you about that.

In fact, it works so badly that the only person that was helping people was a sheriff getting out boats. Yes, a government official performing his duties in an emergency - that proves that government just doesn't work when you elect people of competence!

Now, let's talk about this "stimulus" plan. You may remember that 9 years ago, we had a surplus in the deficit, we were paying down the debt, and we were doing that with a combination of a reasonable tax rate and drawing down spending. Then Republicans got into office, and we cut taxes and spent the money on two wars and on piling up security for places like a Kentucky Fried Chicken center. And look how well the economy did!

Now that we're in bad economic straits (only because Democrats were in office for 2 years, so it's all their fault), we Republicans have the solution: tax cuts and deregulation! Because it worked so well over the last 8 years!

Look at Louisiana - while I've been governor, we've cut taxes all over the place - and our growing unemployment (funds for which I just denied, because poor people just need motivation to work), firing schoolteachers (because we don't have enough money to pay them because we cut all of those taxes - kids can education themselves about things like Intelligent Design!), and having to take in the other upteen billions from the federal government to meet our budget deficits - so my governorship for my state has been awesome!

Of course, we also want to reduce spending. Like on things like volcano monitoring. You may think that because my state was all but destroyed by a natural disaster because people weren't heeding the warning signs, I'd be more interested in monitoring that. Hell, no! See, if you know its coming, that just encourages government to respond badly. Instead, if it's God will to wipe out a bunch of people and towns, it should happen.

Now, I know President Obama just said he wants to cut wasteful spending in the Pentagon, and give troops a pay raise and increase spending on veterans. But I'm going to ignore that, and say that Obama wants to cut our military so we're more likely to be attacked. If I close my eyes real tight, then reality can't see me!

So, remember folks:

1. I'm just like Obama!
2. Tax cuts cure everything from having a stimulus, to funding two wars, to fixing our economic woes!
3. Spending money monitoring possible natural disasters is a waste of money. Tax cuts and prayers are far more effective!
4. If you didn't know, me and Sarah Palin are going to run for President in 2012 along with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Republicans rock!

Or, was I the only person who felt this way when I saw this?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

OMG! Socialism! Or, so say those who don't know what words mean.

With the recent passing of the federal stimulus bill, I've been seeing people going "OMG! Socialism!"

According to these people, when the government gives money to industry, or with the intentions of specifically employing people - that's socialism.

The only thing that I can think of is that these people have no idea what "socialism" actually is.

Let's get this part of out of the way: socialism is where no individual owns - anything. Everything is owned by the government. Every business, every bank, every factory - owned by the government, and it's operation is decided by the government.

What socialism is *not*: building roads. Employing cops and firemen. Encouraging specific businesses. If you really think that when government lays a tax on, say, cigarettes, it's not because OMG SOCIALISM!

They're doing what every government does, especially one like the Unites States, which could be labeled a "republic based government with representation by democratically elected leaders, which uses a blend of controls on business to both promote market forces and individual freedom/wealth and citizen freedoms and safety".

When the government uses the power of the FDA to shut down a peanut butter plant that makes peanut butter that kills people, that is not socialism.

When government decides to build roads to promote business, it's not socialism - last time I checked, the government didn't own the businesses it was trying to promote, just the roads.

Yes, sometimes that government "winners and losers". Even when it nationalized banks during the Savings and Loan scandals during the 80's - this is where it went into banks, determined if they were liquid (aka - did they have enough assets to meet their liabilities), they didn't just "own" everything. They would shut down the bank, sell all of the assets to meet the banks liabilities (aka - people's checking/savings accounts), use government funds to fill in the gaps, and send the original investors packing to form a new bank if they so desired.

Did the government take control of "all banks"? Nope. They just shut down the ones that were failing to meet their legal obligations.

Call it government intervention, call it wasteful - but please, people, can we stop with the OMG! SOCIALISM! charges? Because every time you make it, all that it shows it just how ignorant you are.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Stupid, It Burns: Republicans Praising Spending in the Stimulus Bill they Oppose

How on Earth do people get to be so jaded, so hypocritical. How can you stand and take credit for the spending in the stimulus bill that will bring jobs and useful infrastructure to your district, when you voted against the stimulus bill.

Is this how Republicans are going to play this? "Oh, we are taking a principled, measured stand. Yes, we lowered taxes during a war, because it was more important that the richest people in the country get even *more* money. And yes, the surplus in the budget of 2000 was eaten up borrowing to pay for the War in Iraq, a war that helped the United States in no way at all. Sure, we allowed no-big contracts for billions to go to companies like KBR and Halliburton. But now - now - we have principles! *Now* that people want to spend money on the stuff we really need - like more schools, fix crumbling roads, invest in green energy so we stop giving money to oil countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, we keep the money here - well, now we have principles, and we won't stand for taking out loans to buy stuff!"

And then, after making that stupid ass statement, they turn and *claim credit for having gotten in the stimulus bill provisions that are putting the people elected them to work*, then turn right back around again and talk smack about the stimulus bill because - it's full of "pork" and "big government spending."

Is this how it's going to be played? Oppose everything that will try and make President Obama and the Democratic Party look good, and when it passes anyway talk about how *your* efforts were good for your constituents while you vote against the bill?

How do you do this? How do you have so much hypocrisy to thank God for the money coming to your district while pissing on the people who worked to make it happen against all of your efforts? It's like being a pastor and speaking against being unfaithful, while your mistress is giving you a blowjob in front of the entire congregation and your wife.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Problem with Private Prisons

Right now in the United States of America, there are over 2.2 million people incarcerated.

And prisons are a huge business. You have the prison guard's union which is enjoying huge political clout in states such as California. Building prisons and incarcerating people is one of the fastest growing industries in California. Locking people up is a business - and right now, business is good.

The problem is - is this really the most effective thing? Look at the incentives:

More people into prisons means more money for the prison industry. Which means that the *incentive* is to get more people into the prison system, instead of out of it being productive citizens.

If you're the prison industry, why put money into schools? That would cut down on the number of people in prisons, which means less money for the prison industry. Why spend money on reforming people when that will get them out of the prison system faster?

Remember: incentives. Prisons - both private and government run - have an incentive to have more people inside their prisons because it makes the private industry more money, the prison worker's unions have an incentive because more prisoners means you need more guards which means you have more union members with clout.

So: change the incentive. My proposal:

The prison industry gets paid a rate per prisoner actively incarcerated, but the prison industry gets a higher rate for those out of prison on probation - as long as they haven't committed a crime.
This does two things. One, it reduces the incentive to simply have more prisons and prisoners. It encourages the prison system to do more than just lock people up - but to make them part of society. When the person is *out* of prison, the prison system actually makes *more* money.
Of course, there's a catch: they only make more money as long as the person is out of prison without committing a crime. So it's not just "throw them out", but "make sure they have the support and jobs and whatever else they need to stay out."

This will be actually *more* expensive than what we have now. The whole idea of the prison system being turned over to private industry was that it was going to cost less - you know, the market doing its magic and finding the best performance at the lowest cost.

Instead, we have overcrowding in the California prisons, to the point that the CA Supreme Court has ordered non-violent prisoners released to solve the problem.

Change the incentives, and you can change the results. Yes, it will mean more money, but right now, the current system isn't working. And, over time, as we work more in reforming and reintegrating people back into society, those costs will go down.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A plane crashes. Move on already.

This is going to be possibly a heartless and cruel sounding post, and I'm sorry.

This morning, a plane crashed in Buffalo, killing 49. I feel very, very bad for the passengers, their families, their loved ones. It's too bad.

But I don't need 24x7 coverage of the crash. Do you have any new information? No? Then *cover something else for a bit*.

I'm much more worried about what's in the 400 page stimulus bill and whether it'll really help. I'm worried about the the "zombie banks" which have no way of returning to liquidity, but will continue to take tax dollars. Are we going to have a decade long recession like Japan from 1990-1999 which kept pumping money into their banks, or a short recession like Sweden who's recession went from 1992-1994 because they went out and killed the "bad banks" and sold off their assets - something the US did in 1987-1989 with the Savings and Loans scandal.

I'm more concerned with the layoffs, with the *thousands* suffering. I know - we need our distractions. How about every 30 minutes on the news channels, we dedicate it to updates about the crash - and then every other minute we look at the stuff that's going to effect *millions* of people? Just to balance it out a bit, please?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Things that should be Private Industry, Things that should be Public

Incentives. Everything is all about incentives. Why you wind up doing what you do.

For most of us, we work. Why? To get money. Why? To pay for lower base needs (house, food, health), and higher needs (education, entertainment, Twinkies - which really aren't food).

The incentive behinds things drives our behavior around it. Take energy. If I'm an energy plant, I have an incentive to get people to use as much energy as possible, because I make more money. That means the more energy saving appliances out there, the worse my business gets. Of course, as a consumer, I have an incentive to buy energy saving appliances - unless, of course, the cost of those appliances is more than what I'd save on electricity. Unless my incentive was to save the planet -

OK - we can go around like this forever. You get the point. So, the incentive behind something can drive behavior. Let's go back to our energy company. In California, they passed a law saying that energy companies not only get money for how much electricity they *sell*, but also how much energy their customers *conserve*. If they get customers to use less electricity, they get even *more* money then they would have from people using energy alone.

Now, the energy company has the same incentive (get more money), but there's a path to get even *more* money by encouraging good energy policy with its customers. Perhaps using the power of bulk buying to purchase efficient light bulbs for its customers and giving them out to their customers, or helping customers insulate their homes, and so on.

There are some people who would argue that *everything* should be private industry, because "that works best!" Sure - tell that to the banking, real estate, auto industry, and a few others. But the point isn't "some businesses have good managers and ideas, some don't", it's the *incentive* behind their drive.

Let's take the courts. If the incentive of the court is to make money - then they're going to seek things out that make more money. Imagine if you were arrested for a crime, and the judge sent you to jail. Not because you were guilty, but because "This trial is brought to you by Johnson Prisons - and they just paid me a great kickback to slap your ass in the pokey!"

I know - never going to happen. Until you read about a case where judges were getting kickbacks from "youth detention centers" in areas where teens were getting trials without lawyers and amazingly high incarceration rates.

There are reasons why we have laws against bribing, and why we have a government that provides services that provides those services regardless of your ability to pay them.

So just for fun, I've got a list of jobs that work best as a public service (aka - paid for by taxpayer dollars and run by neutral government agencies), and things that should be private.


Health Care (sorry, but if my leg stays broken because I don't have the funds to fix it, that's screwed up)
Energy (yes, energy. The incentive for energy companies is to sell more energy, regardless of whether it hurts the environment or the public or not.)


Grocery stores
Electronic gadget makers
Automobile manufacturers
You know what, probably everything I didn't list under "Public".

I'm pretty sure I missed some things. This is just a short list. I guess this is a backlash from me for all of the "Private industry is the best at *everything*!" Because there are some things I just don't find it so.

And privatized prison systems are probably #1 on the list. I can imagine few things more evil than people having a business to keep people locked up - when that provides every incentive in the world to lock up more people, rather than rehabilitating them. It creates incentives for trying to get more laws on the books to put people in jail, rather than fixing the ills of society.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fearing by their relatives

I ran across this article about Wafah Dufour making her musical debut in the United Kingdom.

Who the heck is Ms. Dufour? Well, as the article mentioned, she is the niece of Osama bin Laden.

The rest of the article feels - kind of weird to me. It seems to indicate that 1. That Ms. Dufour has more links to her uncle than she has claimed (though the article provides no evidence to this), and 2. that somehow, Ms. Dufour is linked to terrorism, and that her coming out party is a terrible thing that indicates that the terrorists are winning.

The end of the article I thought was most surprising:
It takes major big ones to have an affiliation to such a notorious man, and publicly perform in a country directly affected by his terrorist actions. Let’s hope she keeps it on that side of the pond.



According to my mother, her side of the family is full of criminals and malcontents. And from one family reunion I went to, I wasn't exactly discouraged from that idea. My father has told me stories of criminal family members in my own family tree, including my Great Uncle Jesse James.

I wonder what it must be like to be, say, the niece of Charles Manson. You know - the guy who carved a swastika into his forehead and lead his followers into mass murder. Do you go about your entire life denying you ever met your uncle? What if you were the son of Lee Harvey Oswald? Do you spend your life because of your "affiliation" to a notorous man?

At what point do you cease to be judged based on your blood and family, and on your own deeds? I don't know Ms. Dufour from a hole in the ground (other than she looks a lot cuter). Heck, the fact she's showing her hair seems to indicate she's a different kind of person than her infamous uncle. All I know about her is what's on her wikipedia link, and that she doesn't even speak Arabic.

But why fear a person, or ridicule an entire nation because the relative of a horrible person does - anything? If Ms. Dufour had been a terrorist, I'd call for her to be arrested, charged, and either jailed and executed for her crimes.

So far, though, her only crime seems to be trying to launch a music career. Ooo - break out the fainting couch.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I don't get the union hate

Right now, there are people who are actively fighting against the nomination of potential labor-secretary Hilda Solis because she is pro-union.

Why do people hate unions?

Do you have the right to quit your job when you want? I'm pretty sure most of us would say yes.

Do a group of people have the right to all quit their job at once? Again, most people would say yes.

Do a group of people have the right to say "Unless we get X, Y, Z we're all going to quit, oh and Bob here who's a lawyer is going to work on the contracts"? Again, most people would say yes.

Does their employer have the right to say "Screw you all, you're all fired! I'll take the financial risk because I'm not giving in to your demands."? I'm pretty sure people would say "yes".

Sure - unions can ask for to much. Employers can demand to much. You know what that's called?


People negotiating for their contracts to maximize their income while companies negotiate to give them the least? Last time I checked, that's the law of supply and demand at work. If a company makes a stupid ass contract that costs them money (as some would argue GM did with the unions), that's their own fault. They should have negotiated better. If a union doesn't get everything they want - again, they should have negotiated better. If the company up and moves overseas, well, again, that's capitalism - but then again, the company better be willing to pay the other prices (language barrier, etc, etc, etc).

So again, what's wrong with people banding together in having their say? I just don't get the "OMG UNIONS EVIL" mantra I see from some corners.