The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

May 25, 2005

It’s just too easy…

Britain suffers sense of humour failure

Britain is suffering a sense of humour failure, with laughter levels three times lower now than 50 years ago and nearly half of all adults unable to enjoy at least one big guffaw a day, research showed.

“The findings of this study show a worrying trend towards glumness. In the 1950s we laughed for an average of 18 minutes daily but this has dropped to just six minutes per day,” she said.

Morning misery is rife, with almost half of Britons — some 45 percent — admitting they frequently wallowed in gloom until lunchtime.

If you had to look forward to a lunch of British food, you’d have trouble laughing too.

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May 24, 2005

Taxes as behavior modification

Much was made when Bush was reelected of his desire to simplify the tax code. I’m not sure where that went, but maybe sometime by 2008 he might give another speech supporting it. And one of the most common rationales for simplifying the tax code is that it is such a maze of unintelligible, frequently contradictory, and counter-productive cut-outs to satisfy one special interest or another. Simplification reduces compliance costs that burden our economy, and reduces economic distortion caused by unproductive uses of money designed to reduce tax burden rather than improve the economy. But that’s only half of it.

It popped to mind with this:

Bar Tabs Going Up As States Tax Alcohol

More and more states are considering higher alcohol taxes after years of raising cigarette rates.

This year, Kentucky and Washington state hiked their liquor tariffs. Montana, Indiana and North Dakota rejected higher beer taxes.

Texas is still considering an increase, which would go to help pay for public schools. And Ohio lawmakers must decide what they’re going to do before the new fiscal year starts July 1.

Yep. The demonization of smokers has been so successful that fewer and fewer people smoke. You’d think that was a good thing, but now fewer and fewer people are paying cigarette taxes, leading to less revenue in government coffers. Likewise, those nasty buyers of hybrid vehicles, with their care for the environment and desire for high fuel efficiency, are forcing lawmakers to consider taxing by the mile to offset the reduction in gasoline taxes. Faced with the success of their policies, now they want to go after alcohol, or I should say, further after alcohol, because it is typically already given its own excise and “sin” taxes.

But is this the right thing to do? Is it legitimate, in the spirit of America’s founding, for the majority to decide that certain activities are “bad” or “good”, and thus should be taxed at higher or different rates than others? Is it legitimate, in a country where we supposedly have “equal protection under the law”, that some people and activities are just more “equal” than others?

I think we can look at some things, and most people will agree that some of these cutouts are a good idea. Like, for example, the mortgage interest deduction. Unless you’re a renter, of course, which probably means you can’t itemize and you get slammed. Or that mileage and car leases are deductible if you’re in sales as a business expense. Unless, of course you live in LA, an hour away from your work, but can’t deduct a dime because getting to an office is not actually a business expense, and you get slammed. Even the well-meaning exemptions and deductions are unfair to those who can’t claim them. But the little exemptions for special interest groups, that may impact 1% or less of the population, are unconscionable windfalls to them, paid for by the rest of us.

Taxes are one of those things in life that nobody likes. But it’s absolutely wrong that your tax burden should be based upon your ability to get elected officials to write special exemptions into the law for you. And it’s absolutely wrong that your tax burden should be based on whether you’re engaging in perfectly legal activities that are a “sin”, like smoking, or a “luxury”, like buying a Lexus. The tax burden should be equally painful to all.

Taxes as behavior modification :: The Fair Tax Blog linked with Taxes as behavior modification :: The Fair Tax Blog
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Ben Stein, eat your heart out

‘Jeopardy!’ Ace Ken Jennings to Get Show

More than pride, a cottage industry may be at stake when “Jeopardy!” ace Ken Jennings takes on two challengers in the game show’s $2 million challenge that airs this week.

Comedy Central said Monday it has signed Jennings to be the central figure in a new game show the channel is developing with Michael Davies, the producer behind “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

That goes along with the upcoming board game “Can You Beat Ken?” and the “Quizzology” CD trivia game that he’s behind. Oh, and the book Jennings is writing that’s due out next year.

This man gives hope to software engineering dweebs and trivia nerds everywhere. Good for him, I say. Any time where our society can actually reward someone for class and intelligence, instead of being a worthless (can’t use the word I want) like Paris Hilton, it’s a good day.

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Some new features, and new blogroll spots

I’m working on implementing the show/hide more content, and show/hide comments features. I’ve wanted to do this for a LONG time, which is one of the main reasons I was moving away from Blogger in the first place. It might take some time to get everything looking exactly how I’d like, but the basic functions are at least working now.

Also, during some of the Technorati searching I did before my last post, I came upon a couple of blogs. None that had quite the content I was looking for, but interesting nonetheless. They’re now on the blogroll (and I suggest taking another look over there, because I periodically add new blogs without fanfare).

Wirkman Netizen: A libertarian blog who covers all sorts of topics. Good read, but watch out if you’re using Microsoft Internet Explorer. The site made my browser choke until I started reading it in Firefox.

Blogmess – Tracy Green: Another libertarian blog. Definitely newer to the ’sphere, but seems interesting.

Death of the lesser mind: A raging moonbat. I add him because I can’t quite figure out what the hell he’s talking about, but he seems somewhat intelligent, and I have been lax to add anyone to the leftist area of the blogroll for some time.

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May 23, 2005

Libertarianism: The problem of children

My adherence to libertarianism, as much as an “Unrepentant Individual” adheres to any set political party or philosophy, is based upon my belief that libertarianism is a fully consistent, logical, and moral form of government. The reason for this is that I don’t accept that other people should be able to make choices for me, a rational adult, and thus I cannot see that I should find myself so egotistical that I should be making choices for them, so long as we do not violate each other’s rights and liberty.

However, in any discussion of libertarianism that I have come across, one issue is typically not handled very well: the issue of children. Libertarianism presupposes that the actors in society are rationally self-interested individuals, and that these people should be given as much leeway to act as possible, so long as they are not infringing on others. Our discussion of rules, morality, governance, all assumes that we treat humans like adults.

But children aren’t adults. What, then, do we do with them? What rules, what guidelines, should we use to protect their rights? What guidelines should be used to protect them from themselves, as they have not gained the maturity to act rationally? And what should be done to protect them from neglectful parents, who do not take the steps necessary to ensure that they grow up to become rational adults? Socialists, fascists, communists, and even nanny-state Republicans don’t have this problem, because they treat everyone like children, under the mismanaged care and semi-watchful eye of an incompetent government. Since they never really expect or desire us to exercise independent, rational thought, they don’t need to be worried about leaving us unprepared to do so. But for us libertarians, we cannot abdicate this responsibility, or our society will cease to be the moral form of government that we believe.

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Parasitizing the Public

Five things my peer group enjoys, yet I don’t understand? Only five?

I’ll try and limit my responses to topics not covered on the other lists.

So in no particular order, here goes:

1) The Contender. When was the last time anyone watched a boxing match that even remotely qualified as relevent to the sporting world? Tyson a few years ago, Lewis vs ?, it has been a while and I don’t see any fights coming up to reverse this trend. So what makes NBC, and a bevy of my local friends think anyone cares about 20 boxers NOBODY has ever heard of. What’s worse is NBC has Sylvester Stallone as one of the, uh… counselors (I don’t know how else to describe his role). This makes as much sense as the old joke; “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” I am literally more qualified to be NBC’s Olympic Rowing Correspondant than Sly is to talk real-life boxing.

2)The Mars Volta. For those of you unaware, Mars Volta is a band. I have yet to come up with a satisfactory description of their music. While I will say that it is original and even likable, there is nothing life altering about them. But don’t tell that to the folks I know who watch recorded Mars Volta concerts over and over again, then spend a Sunday night in the Detroit ghetto for a concert, ensuring themselves of almost no sleep before the workweek begins Monday morning.

3) Anything related to Maurice Clarett. This is reserved primarily to Columbus area hot heads, sports writers and talking heads who continue to bring him up every time Buckeye sports are mentioned (and if you are familiar with Columbus, OSU sports come up EVERY. DAMN. DAY.). Get a grip, he said his bit, ESPN printed it, he left school, he got drafted by Denver, he didn’t talk to the NCAA during their investigation (although there should probably be a investigation into why not) and now it is over. The next time I should hear his name should be when Denver makes him a 1500+ yard running back, or when he takes the field at the Horseshoe in 2027 as part of the 25 year anniversary of OSU’s 2002 National Championship.

4) Collar popping. This is mainly a college thing, meaning I don’t see it as much as I did a mere 6 months ago but it must stop. It is assuring to know that the backlash has started and Purdue is leading the way .

5) Smoking Bans. It’s not that I don’t recognize the health risks smoking presents to both smokers and secondary smokers as well. It’s that the idea of restricting what a business owner can and cannot allow in his or her own place of business is absurd. This seems to be a case of the majority deciding to stick it to the minority just to prove a point. Being in the majority should mean an upper hand, not absolute power (note: this message could be forwarded to George W. Bush and the GOP re: Judical Nominations). If you don’t want to be around smoke, than only frequent those establishments which don’t allow smoking. I’m guessing if a large percentage of non-smoking patrons boycotted smoking establishments, we’d see plenty of places voluntarily ban smoking.

I looked up “meme” to find out exactly what it means, and one of the definitions compared a meme to a virus-like parasite which people replicate. With this in mind, I choose NOT to extend this challenge to anyone.

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Great debate going on elsewhere

As much as I hate pointing anyone away from my own blog, I recommend you check out a recent debate over in Dada’s land, (now spilling over to Eric’s).

The debate is whether property rights are truly inherent rights. Dada and a poster named Alice are arguing that property rights either do not exist as inherent rights (Dada), or if they do exist, they’re meaningless without the sanction of government (Alice). Eric and I, of course, are arguing the view that they’re inherent rights (with Eric doing most of the arguing, I think I’m simply a diversion).

So I recommend heading over and taking a look. You might learn something. I know I have.

The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive linked with Natural Rights doctrine - the missing piece
The Unrepentant Individual linked with The end of private property
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May 21, 2005

Why TV started to die

I’m sitting here watching reruns of Full House (don’t ask). More specifically, I’m sitting here trying to occupy time on the PC while my wife is watching said reruns. It quickly reminded me of something I’ve thought for a long time. The network sitcom, and the nightly news, are pretty well dead.

Back in the olden days (well before my time, anyway), you would hear something at the start of each sitcom. For example: “This episode of Happy Days was filmed before a live studio audience.” That meant something. Writers were forced to actually create funny dialogue. If the studio audience didn’t laugh, it probably wasn’t funny enough to be broadcast.

All that changed with the invention of the laugh track. Now, a writer didn’t have to worry whether something was funny, they would simply have the production team insert canned laughter at predetermined points. Ever since, we’ve been subjected to crap like Full House. And people wonder why I don’t like TV. At least the West Wing doesn’t have a laugh track.

For network news, the death knell came when they started tabulating Nielsen ratings on news programs. The news used to be something that people would watch to learn about the day’s events. It could be boring at times, but at times, the news isn’t exciting. But once they started to count ratings, ratings influenced advertising. And suddenly, news programs wanted to attract viewers with emotional appeal, “human interest” stories, and sensationalism. You can’t get someone to watch the 11:00 news by putting out a soundbite at 7:30 stating “Tune in at 11 to hear about Senator Bill Frist’s decision on the filibuster.” But leading in with “Tune it at 11 to hear about how eggs will kill your children” does. Of course, then they’ll tease with that for a story about how doubling egg intake increased odds by 0.05% that your kids could contract a deadly salmonella case. Up from 0.02%.

Why are nightly cable news programs full of talking heads yelling at each other? Because people like excitement and drama, and that’s excitement and drama. Sure, it doesn’t actually inform anyone of anything, but it sure is appealing!

They say that the internet is starting to make TV watchers more sophisticated and more demanding than they once were. Maybe 5 or 10 years more of that, and I’ll start watching again. But the current rise in Fear Factor, American Idol, and the Real World don’t give me that much hope.

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What did I do to deserve this?

Well, it appears that I owe Eric a swift kick in the nads. He has called me out to complete a meme, even though I rarely do so. Since I hate backing down from a challenge, I’ll have to give it a try.

The meme is:

List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over.

Eric’s 5:

1. American Idol
2. Basketball
3. Modern first person shooter video games
4. Anime
5. Barry Bonds

You’ll have to visit his site for his rationale.

So here goes:

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News, the Universe, and Everything linked with Nailed by the Unrepentant Individual
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May 20, 2005

Voting with our pocketbook

US Congress bill to withhold dues from UN unless it reforms

A United States congressional committee drafted a bill that might withhold millions of dollars in dues from the United Nations unless the world body launches wide-ranging reforms.

One of the bill’s most controversial proposals will be linking dues to the reforms it spells out. The document stipulates that if the reforms are not carried out, Congress would withhold 50 percent of US dues to the UN general budget, taking the money from programmes it deems inefficient and wasteful.

“No observer, be they passionate supporter or dismissive critic, can pretend that the UN’s current structure and operations represent an acceptable standard,” said Hyde in a hearing on UN reform.

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A small step on the road to peace

China to allow mainlanders to visit Taiwan

China is to lift a decades-old ban on mainland tourists visiting political rival Taiwan, state media reported on Friday, a move that could further ease tension after visits to China by two of the island’s opposition leaders.

China has restricted visits by its citizens to Taiwan ever since 1949 when the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war. A limited number of mainlanders have been able to travel there on business.

Ultimately, however, it is up to the Taiwan government under independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian to decide whether the floodgates should be opened. Taiwan has its own tough rules restricting mainland visitors.

“Basically we welcome the announcement by the mainland, but it involves many issues and the scope is broad,” said Taiwan transport minister Lin Ling-san, whose ministry oversees tourism.

I’ve said before that the game being played between these two countries is predicatable, and meaningless, sabre-rattling. This sort of thing goes on in the world of international power politics all the time, much like the US threatening to withhold funds from the UN, which is something I plan to talk about later.

China and Taiwan are two nations with a very close cultural and historical relationship. The dominant people in Taiwanese culture either lived in China before the revolution (if they’re old enough), or descended from Chinese mainlanders who fled during the revolution. While the economic differences between the Taiwanese and mainland Chinese are large, due to the 55-year stagnation that Communism wrought, those are slowly diminishing. And in the grand scheme of things, their situation is much like that between the US and Britian. Sure, we fought them to win our independence, but the cultural similarities are so broad that one little revolution couldn’t keep us apart long.

For this reason, I’ve been saying for a long time that China and Taiwan are going to slowly make amends. I don’t know whether reunification will ever occur. But much like reunification of Germany was a result of the Soviet Union collapsing, the possibility of reunification between China and Taiwan will be due to changes in China, not Taiwan. China is on the rise in the world, as you might expect from any large country with 1.2 billion citizens, as they start to liberalize their economic policies.

Further, I don’t see an inevitable shooting war coming from this situation, either between China and Taiwan, or China and us. I think the slow fall of communism in China has forced the lesson on them that they can gain much more from Taiwan or the USA as trading partners than by attempted conquest. China needs Taiwan, and as the relationship builds, Taiwan will only further increase their investment in the mainland. Likewise, China needs us, and our investment in their manufacturing enriches both us and them.

So I applaud the inroads that we are seeing. They have recently opened commercial flights between Taiwan and the mainland, and now they are working to allow tourism. A friendship developing between China and Taiwan will only improve both nations, and be one step closer to a friendship between China and the USA. And striking that friendship will be very important for world stability, because China might soon return us to a dual-superpower world. Perhaps it’s simply my optimism speaking, but I think we’re well on our way to forging that friendship.

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The End of Two Eras in Indiana

Last night marked the end of an 18 year NBA career for Indiana Pacer Reggie Miller as the Detroit Pistons eliminated the Pacers in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Although I do not consider myself a big NBA fan, I will miss watching Reggie. His play and on court demeanor are from a throwback era of the NBA that placed an added emphasis on class and shooting and less upon demonstrative celebration. He will be remembered as one of the best (if not THE best) clutch shooter of all time. His shooting percentage with the game on the line is better than a certain well known player who wore #23 in Chicago. Sure, in his later years he became a bit of a cagey veteran, and learned how to get fouls called as well as anyone in the game, but that was part of his “do anything it takes attitude”. Anyhow, here’s some of what he had to say after the game.

“It’s somewhat bittersweet,” Miller said. “I thought we competed hard tonight. Every time we got a lead, Chauncey and Rip hit big shots to keep them within distance. That’s what championship teams do.”

He said that to lead off an on-court postgame interview. That’s a virtual lock for the NBA Hall of Fame player complimenting the team that just ended his career, nothing but class.

But I promised news of two era’s. And the second refers to something Brad mentioned last month. Indiana’s lack of observing day-light savings time will come to an end.

On Thursday, April 28, 2005, The Indiana Legislature voted to approve Daylight Saving Time for Indiana and to petition the US Department of Transporation to hold hearings to determine the location of the dividing line between the Eastern and Central time zones, relative to Indiana.

It is technically against federal law to have different parts of one state observe different times. Of course IN has been thumbing its nose at this for years, as the northwest portion of the state has stayed on central time while most of the rest of the state holds steady at eastern standard. Prepare now for the battle to determine whether they will become fully eastern, or fully central.

It really boils down to whether they want New York time or Chicago time. Personally I hope they go with Chicago time, which may surprise those of you who know I reside in the eastern time zone. But it is not without reason, if Indiana is an hour behind my home time, it “costs” me less than 3 hours to get to my sweet Alma Mater. Therefore I will have an easier time driving over for football game Saturdays.

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May 19, 2005

No need to pay the honest folks…

In From the Cold, to a Cold Shoulder

Last month, surgeons at the University of Virginia hospital dragged a scalpel along a thick, pink scar that stretched across the right side of Howard Hart’s rib cage.

The doctors set about repairing his damaged chest wall, affixing a layer of mesh across an opening that was allowing Hart’s organs to bulge out into a purple bubble over his ribs.

It was his third such operation in about two years. The first time doctors cut Hart open, in February 2003, they were perplexed by what they saw: intestines pushed up around his right lung, extensive damage to the diaphragm, which is supposed to separate the abdomen from the chest, and ribs splayed out like they had been pried apart with a crowbar.

“I’d never seen a case like this,” said Dr. Richard J. Brewer, who performed the first operation. The damage was similar to that seen in pedestrians hit by cars, he said, except those cases tended to have accompanying organ injuries that were often fatal. In the middle of the operation, Brewer said a colleague looked up from the patient and asked: “How does that happen and you don’t get killed in the process?”

In Hart’s case, the answer may have something to do with the fact that he managed to kill the other guys first.

Hart, 64, was among the most storied CIA case officers of his generation, handling a series of sensitive overseas posts and high-ranking positions at headquarters. When he retired in 1991, he put all that behind him and set up a consulting business that he could operate from his home atop the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

But health problems in recent years have reopened a long-forgotten chapter in his life. When doctors asked him how he had sustained such injuries, he realized that there was only one possible cause — a severe beating he took after a clandestine midnight meeting in Iran in 1979.

He took a string of demanding assignments afterward, but the surgeries have waylaid him in a way the beating did not. Often unable to work, his well-paying consulting business shriveled. To cover the loss in income, he did what any ordinary employee might do: He filed for worker’s compensation coverage.

But Hart was no ordinary worker, and his was no run-of-the-mill claim. His injury wasn’t diagnosed until years into his retirement — despite numerous medical checkups during his career. The CIA had no record of the incident that caused the injuries because Hart, fearful that he would be pulled out of his assignment, never reported it. So far, the government has refused to pay.

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Never saw this coming

Final ‘Star Wars’ film leaked to the Internet

The final chapter of the Star Wars saga has gone over to the Internet’s dark side.

“Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” has been leaked onto a major file-sharing network just hours after opening in theaters, at a time when Hollywood is increasingly concerned about online piracy.

At least two copies of the film, which was first shown in theaters in the early hours of Thursday, have been posted to the BitTorrent file-sharing network — a new and increasingly popular technology that allows users to download large video files much more quickly than in the past.

[deadpan]Wow. I’m shocked. Who would have thought that somebody would steal the Star Wars movie?[/deadpan]

I mean really, they could have written this story 3 weeks ago and had it ready “in the can”, so to speak.

Firefox linked with May The Torrent Be With You
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May 18, 2005

Ending Sports’ Most Fun Argument.

It seems every year, and this year was no different, college football fans from across the country engage in a great debate over who should be the National Champion. For most of college football history, the champ was crowned at the end of the regular season by sportswriters’ and/or coaches’ polls. This paved the way for arguments when the newly crowned National Champion lost their bowl game. Later, the final polls were moved to after the bowl season. While this ended the chances of a championship season ending in defeat, it unfortunately did little to quell the great debate of whom, between the two or three best teams of practically any particular season, would have won a championship in a head to head meeting. Because the original bowl system was set up as individual postseason exhibitions between conference champions and the elite independent schools of college football yesteryear, it rarely produced a definitive #1 vs. #2 showdown, leading the way for split national champions when the various polls did not agree on which team was the best. Thank God we don’t have that problem anymore.

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