Saturday, January 11, 2003

I just ran across another of my favorite mis-quotes. "Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely."

I'm not saying that the quote is inaccurate, just that the whole concept is invalid. The whole reason that power corrupts is that the person or group holding and using the power has something to fear from another person or group with as much (or more) power, whether that something to fear is physical pain, psychological humiliation, or something similar. The whole idea about having absolute power is that you would have nothing to fear, because you would have nothing to lose.

It's not that absolute power corrupts, it is the imperfect perception of absolute power that corrupts absolutely. One of my favorite authors (Spider Robinson) phrased it best in his book The Callahan Touch, "Over the long term, moral and ethical behavior is the correct rational choice, every time - unless you have reason to suspect that someone immoral, unethical, and just as powerful as you exists somewhere, and you fear pain or death at their hands." For someone who truly has absolute power, there exists no such entity, so they would have nothing to fear, and, thus, they would have every reason to be moral and ethical.

One of the great philosophers of the past (I can't remember which one) said something to the effect that if Satan were to ever manage to defeat God, He would find it necessary to take on some of the Divine Attributes. I would be willing to go further and say that He literally could not help doing so.

A columnist for the National Post, Hugo Gurdon, manages to put together a fantastic explanation of exactly why the Democrats are wrong about the tax cuts, and why they want to fight this but do not want the facts put this way... It's a great read.

Briefly...

"Indulge a wild fantasy and imagine that in his Chicago speech on Tuesday George W. Bush had proposed income tax rises rather than cuts. Imagine that his plan would force a husband and wife with two children and an annual income of $40,000 to pay 96% more in 2003 than they did in 2002. Add insult to financial injury, and imagine that Mr. Bush only intended to take 8% more from a family of four on $500,000 a year.

Naturally, ... Democrats ... would accuse Mr. Bush of shielding his fat-cat frat pals while hammering "ordinary" families. Which, not by coincidence, is exactly what they are saying anyway.

For the truth is that with income taxes, any change, up or down, produces dollar or percentage figures that can be demagogued to make conservatives look heartless. If taxes were rising the critics would glom on to percentages, as above. But if taxes fall, the laser beam of caviling complaint turns to dollar totals. {emphasis mine}

Which brings us back to those figures. The percentages quoted are the amounts by which families will see their income taxes fall not rise under Mr. Bush's plan. The family on $40,000 a year will end up paying only $45 of income tax, 96.18% less than its current burden of $1,133, according to accountants.... The family on $500,000 will pay $122,492, which is $10,244 or 7.72% less than at present.

But let's set aside invidious national comparisons and make a routinely ignored point: Income taxes, particularly progressive income tax rates, mean the rich and upper middle classes pay much more tax than others do. If the government cuts taxes, it is taxpayers who gain.

...."

I may not necessarily agree with everything that the National Rifle Association has to say, or espouse, but I feel REALLY sorry for anyone who tries to come take away my gun. I think that limits should be placed on the kind of weaponry (for instance, I see no reason why some survivalist whacko should have unfettered access to anti-tank weapons or fully automatic weaponry), but I also think that if some jerk shows up asking for my gun under the "new rules", he'd better be faster than I am, and better armed, or at least a better shot. And I've had military training.

A great cartoon can be found here.
You'd be amazed about the stuff you can find on the web...

For instance, I found the World's Smallest Political Quiz, which asks you a few questions, then tells you where you would rank on the political spectrum, using two different standards of ranking - how much you want the government involved in your personal life, and how much you think the government should be involved in political issues. It's kind of interesting, although more than 1/3 of the people that have taken this quiz are ranked as Libertarian. It tends to make you wonder who is actually sponsoring this "quiz". My guess is the Libertarian Party.

Another (slightly longer) can be found here. It asks several dozen questions and then asks you to either "Strongly Disagree", "Disagree", "Agree", or "Strongly Agree". I haven't gone through it completely yet, but I usually go through these things twice, once to see what I would be "ranked" as, and another time to answer positively to see who would rank me as "good". It usually gives you the basic policies and implied beliefs behind whoever sponsors these things, no matter how "neutrally" they try to phrase the questions.

I also find it amusing that you can get completely different results from the same question, by choosing to phrase it in different ways, and emphasizing different points. An example: "Do you think it's fair for the Federal Government to give an average of more than $1,000 to people who are already making more than $92,000 per year, while people who make less than $12,000 get nothing?"

Most people would scream about the inequity, and say, "No."

However, if you phrased it, "The top 10% of wage earners pay 59% of all personal income taxes collected, while those in the bottom 10% pay no income taxes at all, so shouldn't those who pay the vast majority of personal income taxes be more entitled to partake in the President's $92 billion tax rebate rather than the socialistic plan of 'rob the rich and give to the poor' offered by the tax-and-spend liberals?", you'd get a vastly different result. The two questions offer roughly the same information, but phrase it differently.

God, I love statistics...
I just ran across a web page that says that 71% of over 280,000 European respondents feel that the United States is the greatest threat to world peace. Another 12% feel that Israel is.

That's just ridiculous. Israel is considered a greater threat to world peace than the "People's Republic" of Communist China, Who's-Sane's Iraq (which is currently involved in a frantic cover-up and decade-long refusal to obey international law), the theocratic Ayatollah in Iran, and Moammar Gaddafi's Libya, combined. Even if you throw in the 5% who voted for North Korea (who has refused to obey its own treaties, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, stated that economic sanctions would be equivalent to a declaration of war, and then declared that it was the U.S. who was acting in a hostile manner), that's only 1 out of 6 people who don't think that we and Israel are the greatest hazards to keeping the peace.

Of course I shouldn't be surprised. We are talking about Europe, after all. They have completely forgotten why we left there in the first place, more than 200 years ago, and why people have been flocking here in droves ever since. We have given the common man a greater chance at success than any other nation on the planet. It doesn't matter whether your families were descended from farmers or royalty, doctors or steel workers, you have the same chances as everyone else.

Yeah, having a good family will help, but think about how many rich people you know who have had their lives screwed up because they took it all for granted. An example is the grandson and heir of Hollywood makeup mogul Max Factor. With all that money and fame, he still had to drug women to find a bed partner. Some sympathetic judge reduced his bail to just (JUST) $1,000,000 (which is more money than I'm likely to EVER see), and he has now skipped the country. With his dog.

Another is Michael Skakel, who is a relation to the Kennedy family, and got rejected by a girl at the tender age of 15, and so he KILLED HER. He f*cking BRAGGED ABOUT IT, and how he was going to get away with it "because he's a Kennedy." Write him and tell him how much you agree with him. You can reach him at the State Prison, where he will probably spend the rest of his life being some bruiser's boy-toy.

But we're talking about the continent who still doesn't understand why we won't stop and think about why we were attacked, and start with the cycle of self-recrimination we've been splurging on for the past decade. They haven't yet realized that when we say "Politics stops at the water's edge", we mean it. We were attacked 4 different times in four widely separate locations, and the coward in the Oval Office at the time didn't want to ruffle any feathers, so he sent a few missiles to blow up a few tents and a couple of camels.

However, when the Al Qaeda operatives took over those two planes and drove them into the WTC buildings, and then a third one into the Pentagon (funny how it was the French who immediately thought it was faked for political reasons), the passengers on Flight 93 got that news and decided that they weren't going to just sit back and meekly accept that result. The rest of the country got over the shock and said, "Alright, goddamit, that did it!"

I know that Michael "Dumbass" Moore has recently claimed that if the first three planes had been carrying a few black people (instead of the presumably cowardly white people - like Todd Beamer, huh, Mike?), they would have taken care of the terrorists. That's a racist comment, but I haven't heard a word about this in the regular media. They're too busy praising him for his book, "Stupid White Men", which is racist in itself, but in a PC sort of way.

We realized that we had suffered through this generation's "Pearl Harbor" attack, and we have closed ranks. Just as we did to the League of Nations (which failed to keep the peace more than half a century ago), we have let the UN know that we're not going to be bound by their cowardice and vacillations any more. We gave Who's-Sane one last chance. He has apparently gotten the impression that this UNSC resolution means business. But what he doesn't realize is that the usual BS, evasions, and deceptive tactics aren't going to work anymore. He must give up his power or we will take it away from him. He knows that once he loses that power of life and death over people, he will survive only as long as he is not recognized. Or, alternatively, being locked up in solitary confinement where other prisoners can't get at him.

This war is avoidable, and Saddam knows it, but he is not willing to walk away with nothing after all those years of being the one in charge. There are lots of other blog sites that explain in greater detail exactly why we're going to have to attack Iraq, and why we're going to win.

Those in Europe will then decide that we did the right thing after all. Except for the French, because they won't have anyone to surrender to...

Friday, January 10, 2003

I'm sitting here in my living room in my little home town, and I'm on the phone with the Social Security Administration offices (well, I'm actually on hold, but I have high hopes that there will be someone there soon). I'm looking out my front door, which is next to my desk, and I see some dumb kid from the school a few blocks away walking down the sidewalk, cutting up with his fellow dumb kid, using language that would have shocked my boot camp Company Commanders.

He and his fellow moron happen to spot a shopping cart that one of the senior citizens (who live in the 65-and-older apartment complex next door) has brought with them from the nearby grocery store. They aren't allowed to bring them inside the complex (technically, they're not supposed to leave the parking lot with them, but there's a guy who comes around twice a week in a little pick-up truck to collect them and return them to the grocery store), so they leave them on the sidewalk. I live with it, because they're not hurting anyone, and the shopping carts are innocent pieces of equipment who make it easier for these little old ladies to get their groceries the two blocks from the store to their homes.

Anyhow, this young gangsta-wannabe decides that he's gonna show off, so he pushes the cart over. His friend, rather than being shocked at the total lack of respect for the property of others, laughs. The g-w feels emboldened by the laughter, and kicks it (like that really taught the offending cart a lesson) before they meander down the sidewalk. I know if I had been standing there, he probably wouldn't have done it, but yelling at him after the fact would only work long enough for him to get out of earshot, and he would have started yelling the most horrific insults he could think of. Kids being what they are, they would probably have been something along the lines of calling me a homosexual, in whatever terminology they can think of, with a few four-letter words thrown in. (The fact that I'm not would never have entered his mind, because I have called what little manhood he is displaying into question, so he must do the same to me.)

He and his friends would probably then tried to come back after dark and toss a rock through a window, or some eggs at the car, or something else equally inane and vandalistic. The local dumbasses-in-uniform (the cops) would have shook their heads and said, "Tsk, tsk" while trying to come up with ways to avoid the extra paperwork. All because of a shopping cart. It's just not worth it.

I hate this world.
I just read here that the United Nations is saying that a war on Iraq will cause an end to economic growth around the world. Just who in hell do they think they're kidding? I guess they think that letting Who's-Sane keep his chemical and biological weapons, and develop nuclear weapons (or buy them from that bastion of peace, North Korea), and then let them be "stolen" (providing at least some level of deniability to muddy the waters) would make the economy grow.

Let's not kid ourselves... The fact that the US is going to eliminate a major source of funding for terrorist groups, and help to establish a more secure government in a region filled with despots, will make the average free citizen (in whatever country) more secure, thus, more likely to go out and expand their local economies. I mean, if I knew that it were safer to go to work or to the mall, I would be more likely to go. (I guess that kind of logic is too advanced for the diplocrats in the General Assembly.) That was what Usama bin Hidin wanted to have happen to us by attacking the most visible symbol of our economy, the World Trade Center. He wanted people to think twice before going out and spending money, which would cripple our economy. The additional fact that we had been under a recession for the preceding 18 months wouldn't hurt his efforts, either. Thanks, Billy Jeff...

But the UN saying that increasing stability in an unstable region would cause a world-wide recession is nothing more than fear-mongering. It's like the Chicken Littles who run around and wring their hands about the collapsing economy, because it only expanded by a measly 2%. Huh? Doesn't that fact that it expanded means that it's growing? "But it didn't expand as fast as it should have! Oh, woe is us!"

I think we ought to just let the terrorists come in and bomb a few more buildings. Maybe the ones located in New York City between, say, First Avenue and Roosevelt Drive, and between E. 42nd St. and E. 48th St. would be good. Nothing outside that area, mind you, but there's still quite a bit to choose from... (That's where the United Nations Headquarters is located, for those of you unfamiliar with the area.)

Of course, we could just turn the whole complex into homeless shelters, but the liberals would be torn apart by the conflict between wanting the UN to run our nation (because they are obviously more qualified to do it) and providing free housing for people too stupid or lazy to pay for their own.

As Dennis Miller would say, "Of course, that's just my opinion... I could be wrong."
I have written several rants in the last 24 hours about some severely stupid things that have happened around the globe. I've gone off on tangents, gotten pissed about things I have no control over, and shouted at the idiocies of the people in charge. Let's take them one at a time.

1) A woman by the name of Susie Orbach (a U.K. psychoanalyst) is planning on suing Weight Watchers because she claims that she gained back all the weight she lost. Well, duh! Here's a hint, Suze, if you can't skip the extra helpings and want to sit back and watch "Vs. Graham Norton" or "Wheel of Fortune" instead of taking that walk around the block, then of course you're going to gain back that weight. Try a simple exercise called "Push-backs" - when you have eaten, and before seconds or dessert is served, you Push yourself Back from the table. Another suggestion: Just Say No!

2) A related issue is some pond-scum ambulance chaser suing McDonald's for making kids fat. I must have missed the massive arrests at these fast food restaurants, where the kids were kidnapped from their parents supervision, sedated, strapped to gurneys, and forced to gorge themselves on french fries, Big Macs, caramel sundaes, and hot apple pies. I'll say it again: Just Say No!

3) North Korea, who managed to bamboozle that adulterous philanderer and admitted perjurer (I'm sorry, I meant to say "President Clinton") and his idiot lackeys (Sorry, I meant to say "Madeleine Albright") into paying off the DPRK government into hiding its nuclear weapons development programs more thoroughly (sorry, I meant to say "to stop development of WMDs") by giving them half a million tons of fuel oil and the same amount of food every year. Now they have admitted that they have been violating that agreement from the very start, and are saying that if we don't start sending the payoffs again that they will consider it an act of war.

Fine. I think a surprise strike by a few nuclear-tipped Tomahawks into Pyongyang, followed by a quick MLRS strike across the DMZ (which North Korea has repeatedly violated, while claiming saying that any responses by South Korea or the US is a cause for war), and a carrier air strike against what's left of the command-and-control facilities of the "People's Army" would pretty much settle matters. I know that it's just a reactionary fantasy by a guy who is sick and tired of nations who feel free to violate every agreement they've freely signed, and threatening the other nations into further extortions, but I also think that the President is taking just the right line on this by being "willing to talk, but not to negotiate" with North Korea. Throwing a tantrum didn't work for me when I was growing up, because my mother just refused to hear it. I learned to use logic and facts to support my position, and got very good at it. I just wish that nation-states would earn that lesson.

4) The recent disclosure that Iraq has purchased equipment that is (at least theoretically) capable of jamming GPS-guided munitions, such as the JDAM (Joint Directed Attack Munitions, which means that the bombs guidance system is guided by the GPS satellites to be accurate within less than 10 feet). Iraq must not realize that the JDAMs have alternate means of guidance, such as inertial systems that are still accurate enough to take out a building, and Tomahawks (which use TERCOM) can pick which window they want to hit.

I think Iraq is hoping that they can jam the JDAMs and cause them to hit civilian targets instead. They can use the resultant casualties in the propaganda war against the US. A question: What makes them think that we're going to start off with those weapons? You see, they have to transmit at relatively high power to spoof the systems, and those high-power transmissions can be detected and traced. Hey, Saddam, can you pronounce HARM (High-explosive Anti-Radiation Missile)? They are designed to take out radar and radio transmitters, but they can be adjusted to detect and target any other kind of transmissions as well, and we won't have to worry about our satellite array, because they are located about 125 miles straight up, not inside some building in downtown Baghdad. Even if we don't get the controlling box, we get the antenna, and then have a free shot by following up the HARM strike with the JDAMs five minutes later. The US military invented the idea of sharpshooting, and perfected the concept of "Simultaneous Time on Target", where several different munitions (fired from widely separate locations) arrive on a target within a few seconds of each other. Maybe the North Koreans will see what kind of secret weapons we've developed over the last ten years and realize that they will be able to last about as long as a fart in a windstorm.

5) The Democrats who say that the tax cuts proposed by the White House are benefitting the "rich". I have yet to hear a single one of them define what "rich" means, nor how they would do things better than the "Robin Hood" technique they have always espoused, but I found a story at a conservative website that explains it fairly well. If I had been thinking, I would have just linked the URL, so the original site could get credit, but I did manage to copy it down, and I reproduce it here, just because I can:

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing;
The fifth would pay $1;
The sixth would pay $3;
The seventh $7;
The eighth $12;
The ninth $18.
and the tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement-until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20."
So now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.
The first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six - the paying customers?
How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?" The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being *paid* to eat their meal.

So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59.

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They were $52 short!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore."

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Every now and then I just want to reach out and slap this particular person across the back of the head, and explain exactly how he is screwing up. Unfortunately, even if it weren't for the fact that I never see this dingbat in person, I'd never get close enough to try. (The Secret Service would probably shoot me.) But since I can write whatever I want here, and he can't stop me, let me say this to him now:

Dear Mr. President, IT'S PRONOUNCED "NOO-KLEE-URR"!!!!!. You're obviously a very bright man, and you can afford to hire the smartest people on the planet. You have managed to convince some reporters, commentators and talking heads across the nation into agreeing with your mispronunciation, but you'll never get me to do it.

If I were a chef, and couldn't pronounce 'cinnamon', people wouldn't think very much of me as a chef, and I would (deservedly) be thought a fool. But you are supposed to have at least a rudimentary grasp of the subjects on which you expound, including the multi-lateral proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (a phrase I've seen you tackle without a single syllabobble). So why can't you get this single word right? It's "Noo-klee-urr", not "Noo-kyoo-lurr". Get it right.
Welcome to my world! I have recently discovered the world of blogging, and wanted to take part in the sharing of opinions and ranting about stupidity around the globe. From time to time I will run across some blowhard's distorted opinion of reality, and I will feel like taking his idiocies apart. I might also have real-life occurrances that might require a blowing off of steam. I might even have the need to vent at things I perceive as inequities. The VA springs to mind, but I'll get to them in due time ;-)

If others are given the chance to respond to my rants, I will feel just as free to comment, critique, criticize, or (for the most offensive) censor. I will tolerate any honestly held opinion, but ad hominem attacks will be dealt with as harshly as I know how (or can learn)!

I was going to spend a paragraph or two tring to explain me, but I realized that I have spent a very busy 3+ decades determining my various opinions about the world around me, and I won't burn out my mental fuses trying to distill me down to a few sentences for your amusement. You'll figure me out sooner or later. When you do, please let my wife know - she's been trying for a while now! ;-)