The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012


August 31, 2005


CAFE standards and gas taxes

I’ve been watching the lefty blogs over the last few days, and there seems to be disagreement. They all, of course, agree that reduced oil consumption is a positive thing, and that it is the job of the government to solve it. We’ve already moved far away from my position, but I’m sure that’s no shock to you.

It starts with Bradford Plumer. Brad brings up a scenario where high gas taxes would be a better punishment for undesirable behavior. Matt Yglesias concurs.

Brad:

Say you have two families, the Smiths and the Browns. The Browns own a big honking SUV, but drive it rarely, and usually bike to work or take the public transit. The Smiths drive a little wiener of a car, but take it everywhere—the supermarket, the neighbors, down the driveway to the mailbox. Obviously you want to penalize the Smiths’ behavior, not the Browns. Stricter CAFE standards for big vehicles wouldn’t do that. We want to decrease total oil consumption, right? So just tax that. Yeah it would be regressive, but means-tested rebates could ease the pain.

Matthew:

If you want to reduce gasoline consumption, what you want to do is tax gasoline consumption, not inefficient engines. CAFE is appealing because the tax it imposes is “invisible,” and legislators can pretend they’re voting to encourage the production of more efficient cars. In the real world, however, it doesn’t work that way, and someone needs to pay the piper either way. A much better way of reducing consumption would just be to tax it straightforwardly with higher gasoline taxes. The revenue could then be used for a progressive tax cut. Most crudely, the government could simply add up all the revenue from the higher tax, divide by the American population, and then mail a check to everyone at the end of the year, giving each family that share. That would be a net transfer of wealth away from families that use more gas than average to families that use less — a clear and simple way of creating an incentive for people to use less fuel.

So the solution to the problem is punitive tax rates, that strangle the economy and create a whole new government bureaucracy to administer these “rebates”. Like the Guinness commercial says, brilliant!

Read more of this entry… »

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And so it begins…

On the way to work this morning, regular (87 octane) gas prices I saw:
Low price: $2.43
High price: $2.69

On the way home from work?
Low price: $2.69
High price: $3.49

And lines at every station.

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Instapundit v. StoptheACLU

It seems that Glenn has really stepped in it this time. Apparently, if you say that “demonization of the ACLU” is “a little silly”, you’re a leftist moonbat who hates all that is good and holy in the world. Specifically, the conservatives are calling for a major de-linking of Instapundit.

As one of the commenters puts it:

Glenn is anything but a Conservative. He is definitely Liberal-leaning while claiming to be a “moderate.” He wistfully offers endless advice to Democrats when they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot and never offers similar advice to Republicans, instead offering endless criticisms of their political platform, personal beliefs and attempts to redirect this country back towards its core values embodied in that silly Constitution thing.

It’s no wonder Glenn *loves* the ACLU, he is a fellow Lawyer and as with Clinton they all stick together no matter what.

That’s funny, I’ve always heard he’s considered a libertarian. And I hate to be the one to point out that the core values embodied in the Constitution are personal freedom and individual liberty, not forcing everyone to lay prostrate before your supreme being (or the government), but perhaps it needs to be said. Not that it necessarily takes a lawyer to understand that, so perhaps that commenter should take the time and actually READ IT?

Yes, the ACLU has done some very damaging things. And they’ve done some very good things as well. The difference is that to a libertarian, they’re half good. To a “conservative”, they’re all bad.

So what does StoptheACLU suggest?

Of course I have to delink him. I’m anti-ACLU, and I must stand by principle.

If you agree, and delink Glenn let us know and we will add you to the list. If you have never linked to Glenn for whatever reason, we will add you to the list as well. If you have a post about this, send us a trackback and it will appear as a link below. If it gets big enough I’ll start a blogroll.

It’s always nice when you start off by ruining your statistical analysis by including people who don’t link Glenn for “whatever reason”. I’m sure you could find a bunch of left-wing blogs that don’t link him as well! So how many names are on the list? About 20. Considering Glenn currently shows about 3500 links, that loss (not really a loss, as some of them didn’t link him before) must really sting!

(Update: Glenn provided this link which is the brief he worked on for the ACLU. Essentially, he said that people who put on concerts (raves, specifically) shouldn’t be charged under Federal Crack House Statutes. Sounds pretty reasonable.)


Eric's Grumbles Before The Grave linked with Look Out Glenn!
Real Teen linked with Cross-Post: Glenn Reynolds and The ACLU
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Gas, oil, and conservation

Over the next few days and weeks, we are going to see some things happen in gas and oil that are unprecedented in my adult life. We’re going to see shortages. We’re likely to see many politicians calling for price-fixing. If they’re successful, we’ll have gas lines all over the country. If they’re not, we’ll have average prices across the country of well over $3/gallon. We’ve already had word from Bush that he’s going to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) for more oil. Our airlines are going to cancel flights, lose money, or drastically increase prices in order to be able to survive the spike in jet fuel prices.

Read more of this entry… »


The AnarchAngel linked with A New Hostage Crisis
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Got gas?

Gas prices keep going up.
Looks like they may top $3/gallon by this weekend.

If that means that less over-sized SUVs with piss-poor gas mileage will be sold, I am ALL FOR IT.
If that means the people driving these gas-guzzling death traps are going to stay home more often, I hope gas prices rise to $5/gallon. Whatever price it takes for them not to be able to afford to drive them.

In Britain, the average vehicle gets 26 MPG and is much smaller than most cars driven by americans. Large SUVs are frowned upon.

In the US, the average vehicle gets 17 MPG. You see people driving things like Lincoln Navigators – dangerous to their own drivers and more importantly, to others on the road.

So if $5 gas will keep them off the road, I will gladly accept it.

Posted By: Wilson @ 10:31 am || Permalink || Comments (3) || Trackback URL || Categories: Uncategorized



Bogie…

Humphrey Bogart
You scored 52% Tough, 9% Roguish, 33% Friendly, and 4% Charming!
You’re the original man of honor, rough and tough but willing to stick your neck out when you need to, despite what you might say to the contrary. You’re a complex character full of spit and vinegar, but with a soft heart and a tender streak that you try to hide. There’s usually a complicated dame in the picture, someone who sees the real you behind all the tough talk and can dish it out as well as you can. You’re not easy to get next to, but when you find the right partner, you’re caring and loyal to a fault. A big fault. But you take it on the chin and move on, nursing your pain inside and maintaining your armor…until the next dame walks in. Or possibly the same dame, and of all the gin joints in all the world, it had to be yours. Co-stars include Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, hot chicks with problems.

Find out what kind of classic dame you’d make by taking the Classic Dames Test.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 95% on Tough
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 20% on Roguish
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 57% on Friendly
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Charming

Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Hat Tip: TexasBestGrok

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August 30, 2005


How does this sound any different from today?

As we of the Life, Liberty, and Property Community are quick to point out, our enemies are not stumbling along the path to the death of individual rights. I believe that there is a concerted effort among elected and appointed officials to grow their own power, and the power of the state. It is very rarely admitted to, but easy to spot. The Left politicians believe that individuals should be subservient to the “common good”, and Right politicians believe that individuals should be subservient to the “moral good”. While they squabble amongst themselves for the reins of power, individuals know that their goals are increasing their power, not our rights.

Reading The Idealogical Origins of the American Revolution, I came across the following passage (p. 94-95, beginning of Ch. 4). Were I not sitting in my big comfy chair, with tall armrests, I probably would have fallen out of my chair.

It is the meaning imparted to the events after 1763 by this integrated group of attitudes and ideas that lies behind the colonists’ rebellion. In the context of these ideas, the controversial issues centering on the question of Parliament’s jurisdiction in America acquired as a group new and overwhelming significance. The colonists believed they saw emerging from the welter of events during the decade after the Stamp Act a pattern whose meaning was unmistakable. They saw in the measures taken by the British government and in the actions of officials in the colonies something for which their peculiar inheritance of thought had prepared them only too well, something they had long conceived to be a possibility in view of the known tendencies of history and of the present state of affairs in England. They saw about them, with increasing clarity, not merely mistaken, or even evil, policies violating the principles upon which freedom rested, but what appeared to be evidence of nothing less than a deliberate assault launched surreptitiously by plotters against liberty both in Eingland and in America. The danger to America, it was believed, was in fact only the small, immediately visible part of the greater whole whose ultimiate manifestation would be the destruction of the English constitution, with all the rights and privileges embedded in it.

This belief transformed the meaning of the colonists’ struggle, and it added an inner accelerator to the movement of opposition. For, once assumed, it could not be easily dispelled: denial only confirmed it, since what conspirators profess is not what they believe; the ostensible is not the real; and the real is deliberately malign.

It was this — the overwhelming evidence, as they saw it, that they were faced with conspirators against liberty determined at all costs to gain ends which their words dissembled — that was signaled to the colonists after 1763, and it was this above all else that in the end propelled them into Revolution.

Look at Kelo. Look at McCain-Feingold. Look at certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act. And the underpinnings of all of these, look at the living constitution.

Is it not obvious that the actions of our current government are far more oppressive than anything the British Crown was able to do to the colonists? Is it not obvious that the rule of law is under deliberate attack, and the powers that be want to be relieved of having constraints placed upon their power? Is it not obvious that we are increasingly coming under the ruling of arbitrary reasoning by our Supreme Court, subject to regulations created by government agencies instead of elected officials? The powers trying to destroy our rights have been working in concert for the last 100 years. If we do not act soon to oppose them, we may find our backs against the wall.


Mover Mike linked with Carnival of Liberty X
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Whose interests are served?

Frequently, my main problem with unions is that unions tend to protect the slothful and incompetent, and at the same time hamper the efficient and enterprising. Specifically, that it is a one-size-fits-all sort of bargaining. Now, in most very-low-skill jobs, I really don’t dislike unions. In those sorts of jobs, having union protection really can do quite a bit to help the workers they serve. By utilizing collective bargaining, they can stop an employer from practices that discriminate against individual workers. I, of course, don’t think that every worker has a right to unionize. And when unions strike, bringing in scabs is management’s way to curb union power. In the end, it’s just another wrinkle in a market, and it finds an efficient level.

What I do mind, however, is when high-skill jobs unionize. Particularly when that unionization is not between an employer and a union, but between government and a union, because political forces, not market forces, are at work. Especially when the customer of the service performed is not actually the employer. When you look at our educational system and the teacher unions, you see that particular perfect storm.

Teacher unions are not in any way interested in helping the students. As was recently shown by their yearly meeting agenda, which had far more to do with political wrangling than educating. That, coupled with their continued opposition to home schooling, despite its actual success. They also push the requirement that all teachers earn a teaching certification, even though it becomes much harder to find teachers who have actually studied their subject. Paul Jacob of Common Sense brings us a story about a music teacher who taught well, loved his work, but had to move out of public schooling due to not holding a “certification”:

Take credentialism. Most public schools are required to hire only “properly credentialed” teachers. We are told this ensures good teachers, but what it really does is distract administrators and school boards from actual teacher performance, and feeds the spectacularly ineffective teacher-school industry. For the good of our schools, we should stop thinking about credentials and demand knowledge, skills, talents, and training — wherever they come from.

But that’s not what I expect. I expect the kind of thing that’s happened to Mr. Thara Memory.

A few months ago I reported on this jazz trumpeter. He had established an award-winning jazz band in a state-supported charter school. He had no credentials, just an international reputation and an amazing ability to teach jazz. He would never have been allowed to teach in a public school, but in a charter school he was given some temporary leeway. But that ran out last spring, and he was forced out.

Thankfully, he’s teaching again. No need for three guesses. He ain’t teachin’ in public schools, that’s for sure. And why would he teach in another charter school, only to be kicked out again? You guessed it: Thara Memory is leading the band like gangbusters in a private school.

You see, the teacher unions don’t care about the interests of the students. They care about the interests of the teachers. The more teacher certification requirements they require, the worse the “shortage” of teachers will become. And the power of their union will increase. This is why they fight privatization of the schools, and why they fight vouchers. It will weaken their power and their control on schools. This is why they deride home-schoolers, who seem to be educating their kids just fine, because they’re not “accredited teachers”.

I want our teachers to be highly qualified. And I’d rather have an engineer who worked in the private sector come in and teach high school math or physics than a social sciences teacher who has volunteered for the extra class based on a primer class they took at their local community college. I’d rather that our schools have the opportunity to reward excellent teachers and fire incompetent ones, than a seniority-based system that demoralizes those who are effective. As long as our schools are dominated by politicians and the NEA, and competition and results are secondary concerns, nothing will change.

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Online poker bots – right or wrong?

The online poker bot world has now grown a little more active. Revolutionary Paradigm points out this story in Wired. It seems that we now have a commercially-available poker bot called WinHoldEm.

For years, there has been chatter among online players about the coming poker bot infestation. WinHoldEm is turning those rumors into reality, and that is a serious problem for the online gambling business. Players come online seeking a “fair” shot – a contest against other humans, not robots. But an invasion of bots implies a fixed game (even though, like their mortal counterparts, they can and do lose if their hands are bad enough or opponents good enough). So the poker sites loudly proclaim that automated play is no big deal. At the same time, they are fighting back by quietly scanning for and eliminating suspicious accounts. “We’re making sure we never have bots on our site,” says PartyPoker marketing director Vikrant Bhargava.

That’s an impossible promise to keep, says Ray E. Bornert II, WinHoldEm’s elusive creator. He’s trying to flood the online world with his bot – and make a killing in the process. Bornert offers an elaborate justification for what many view as outright cheating: Online poker is already rife with computer-assisted card sharks and – thanks to him – a growing number of outright bots. Players should get wise and arm themselves with the best bot available, which is, of course, WinHoldEm.

So far, I fail to see a problem. Poker is a game not only of mathematics, and thus cannot truly be relegated to a set of simple rules. Against poor competition at low limits, a simple mathematical system can win money. But at higher limits, certain problems become more apparent.

Poker is a game of mathematics and of feel. For example, in Hold’Em, if you’re holding a king and a 5 suited, and two cards of that suit come up on the flop. You know that you have about 4:1 odds (20% chance) of catching your flush on the next card, and about 2:1 odds (33% chance) of catching your flush by the river. This gives you simple ways to determine whether you should call, IF MAKING YOUR FLUSH WILL BE THE BEST HAND. You may be up against a player with an ace and 3 of that same suit, and if you make your flush, he will make a bigger flush and beat you. You may be up against a player with a pocket pair that flopped his set, and your flush might pair the board, giving him a full house. You may not have the odds to call an opponent (more common in no-limit games), but he may be bluffing at the pot, and your K-5 might stand up on its own. A computer cannot make these decisions, and thus a computer will be unable to beat an expert poker player.

Thus, for now, I don’t see any reason to oppose this. It may mean that suckers in low-limit games are going to get creamed. That’s certainly possible, but if you can get beat that easily by a computer running a mathematical system, I’d have to say you deserve to.

But there is something sinister at work here, and it is truly nasty.

Set it to run on autopilot and it wins real money while you sleep. Flick on Team mode and you can collude with other humans running WinHoldEm at the table.

For $200, you can buy the full package: a one-year subscription to the team edition, which includes the autoplaying bot and a card-sharing module that allows multiple players to communicate during a game.

Here’s the problem. It’s obvious that in online poker, collusion is an issue that needs to be watched for and sorted out. Collusion between players goes beyond any semblance of fairness, whether you’re in a casino, home game, or online. It allows players, as a group, to have a big edge over players not part of the “group”, and an expert player cannot beat a table full of others working together to scam him.

In the online poker world, collusion can only be done as a hit-and-run operation. Software tracking allows the major poker sites to analyze the play of their members. If you’re constantly playing with the same friends online, it triggers one red flag. Then, the play is analyzed for patterns consistent with collusion. If you’re found out, you’ll get yourself banned from the site and your winnings will be taken away. With WinHoldEm, you can collude with players you’ve never met and will never play alongside again. This makes it nearly impossible for the online sites to detect the collusion, and destroys their credibility at keeping their sites free of cheating.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going away anytime soon. And if this sort of behavior really takes off, it will destroy online poker completely. Either the online poker sites need to get serious and start finding better ways to fight this, or their days are numbered. For now, if I’m going to play at all anymore, I will stick to no-limit tournaments. Mathematical systems are most advantageous in limit poker, and particularly cash games. Any advantage I have can be easily erased at a table where 2-3 players are playing perfect mathematical poker while colluding with each other. No-limit is much more based on human evaluation of events, and tournament strategy is much more psychological than mathematical.

But more than likely, there will be no online poker in my near future. This is a good time to sit and wait it out.

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Can’t watch Nightmare on Elm Street!

Bradford Plumer recently pointed out a story about Adolf Eichmann being given the book Lolita by an Israeli guard. It was a test, of sorts, to see if he was really a true monster, or had some humanity left within him. Plumer points out that it’s a silly “test”, as one can logically divorce the form of a work of art from its subject matter. Which, of course, he thinks is only true of liberals:

But the confusion between the quality of a work of art and its moral character certainly lives on. If film reviews over the past year or so are any indication, apparently no one can enjoy Fahrenheit 9/11 without also endorsing its political views wholesale, and a denunciation of Che Guevara the human being suffices for an appraisal of The Motorcycle Diaries. But that’s obviously wrong. Good books can be written about pedophiles. Good movies can be made that contain repugnant views on things.

Really. And The Passion of the Christ was well-received the world over by liberals. I never saw the movie, so I can’t accurately say whether it was good, as story-telling goes, but I do know a lot of people enjoyed it. Likewise, should all of humanity decry the “Chucky” series? After all, nobody supports homicidal dolls going on killing sprees, right?

It doesn’t take a nuanced-liberal to understand that the quality of a work and it’s moral character are two different things. As someone who absolutely hates Michael Moore, allow me to reproduce my comment to Bradford’s post:

Bradford,
I am one of the right-wingers who can appreciate Fahrenheit 9/11 for the piece of propaganda that it is. Michael Moore is a talented filmmaker, who can craft loosely-arranged snippets of video and completely unrelated facts into a piece of work that causes most lemmings to watch it to reflexively hate Bush. It wouldn’t have been such a popular film if Moore wasn’t so good at it.

That being said, I still think he’s completely wrong, his movie is full of deceptions and outright lies, and don’t think in any way that it proves what he wanted it to prove. But that was never his point. He made that movie to make himself rich and to cause people to hate Bush. It succeeded on both fronts, regardless of such things as “facts”.
Brad Warbiany

I’ve never called Fahrenheit 9/11 anything other than propaganda. As propaganda, it’s actually a very powerful film. I don’t swallow the Moore kool-aid, so I don’t particularly like the film for the conclusions it reach, or Moore for his politics. But I have never derided his filmmaking ability. Moore is not stupid, just an ass.


The AnarchAngel linked with Reaction, Appreciation, Construction, and Morali
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August 29, 2005


Please make John Madden go away…

I think JimmyJ and Wilson are with me on this one. John Madden needs to go away. He’s universally hated by every football fan with an IQ over 80. Tonight it went too far.

I was watching Monday Night Football, Rams vs. Lions. The QB for the Lions, Joey Harrington, drops back to pass. As his blocking was piss-poor all night, he pulls the ball back to pass and gets blind-sided by the defensive end, Anthony Hargrove. The ball flies forward 5-6 yards, bounces off an offensive lineman, and is picked up by the Rams as a fumble. Not surprisingly, this triggers a challenge by the Lions.

All this is normal. And then the commentary starts. Madden thinks it’s a fumble. Al Michaels isn’t so sure. So what does he do? He asks John Madden to explain how it happened in physics terms! Now, I don’t know as much about cross-country bus travel as John Madden does, but I guarantee I know far more about physics. And everything he said was wrong. He starts tossing out terms like inertia and momentum, not where they actually made any sense, but tried to sound like he had a clue. As usual, he didn’t. The ball was obviously an incomplete pass, and Madden’s analysis was all wrong. The call on field was overturned.

John Madden, although he might have a few catchphrases, has very little more. I don’t doubt that he occasionally says something that turns out to be correct, but you need to be better than 20% to warrant keeping a job. I find myself thinking back fondly of the days of Dennis Miller. Dennis may not have known all that much about football, but at least he could utter multi-syllable words.

Anyone else have any good horrible stories about John Madden?

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Good news for the perpetually wired

Tweek

I may be constantly wired, and then chronically fatigued, but at least I’m getting plenty of antioxidants.

The evidence comes from the United States, where scientists measured the antioxidant content of more than 100 items, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, oils and beverages.

Coffee emerged as easily the biggest source of antioxidants, taking account of the amount per serving and level of consumption. Black tea came second, followed by bananas, dry beans and corn.

“Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source – nothing else comes close,” said the leader of the study, Professor Joe Vinson, of Scranton University, Pennsylvania. Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee appeared to provide similar antioxidant levels. The US findings probably reflect a similar trend in the UK, with 47 per cent of the population drinking about 70 million cups of coffee each day.

Antioxidants help to rid the body of harmful free radicals – destructive molecules that damage cells and DNA – and have been linked to a number of health benefits, including protection against heart disease and cancer.

Excellent. An excuse to drink coffee! Actually, it’s not like I need an excuse, as I drink a pot of coffee every day. It’s more of a rationalization. But I’ll take what I can get at this point.

Of course, a pot of coffee isn’t really extreme, according to the British Coffee Association:

A spokesman for the British Coffee Association said: “This study reconfirms the fact that moderate coffee consumption of four to five cups a day not only is perfectly safe but may confer health benefits.”

Who are you calling moderate?!

Hat Tip: Da Cheese

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Delete phone data before getting rid of cell

Privacy Risks of Used Cell Phones

Ignore the corporate sleaziness by Cingular for the moment — they sold used cell phones meant for charity — and focus on the privacy implications. Cingular didn’t erase any of the personal information on the used phones they sold.

This reminds me of Simson Garfinkel’s analysis of used hard drives. He found that 90% of them contained old data, some of it very private and interesting.

Erasing data is one of the big problems of the information age. We know how to do it, but it takes time and we mostly don’t bother. And sadly, these kinds of privacy violations are more the norm than the exception. I don’t think it will get better unless Cingular becomes liable for violating its customers’ privacy like that.

Now, I’m not really all that worried that someone will get the *sensitive data* off my cellphone. I don’t have hotline numbers to the President or anything like that. It won’t be the treasure-trove of info that you’d find if you hacked Paris Hilton’s Sidekick.

But it is an important point. It won’t cause a problem for 99.9% of people, but if someone with an eye for identity theft happens to get a hold of your phone after you get rid of it, just what data might they come up with? Do you text-message a lot? Do you browse the web from your phone? Could personal data provide a way for someone to steal your identity?

Even if you think it’s unlikely, it’s worth making sure you take care of it. If you are upgrading your phone, donating it to charity, or even throwing it in the trash, make sure you take some time to delete the data. Copy down all the phone numbers you have stored. (This is a good idea anyway, as many of us store these numbers only on our phones, and would not be able to call anyone if we lost our cellphone.) Delete all the personal data you can, especially important if you have a Treo, Blackberry, or other advanced phone. You may never get bit by the identity theft folks, but is it worth taking that chance?

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Kids on a short leash

Colleges Try to Deal With Hovering Parents

They’re called “helicopter parents,” for their habit of hovering — hyper-involved — over their children’s lives. Here at Colgate University, as elsewhere, they have become increasingly bold in recent years, telephoning administrators to complain about their children’s housing assignments, roommates and grades.

Recently, one parent demanded to know what Colgate planned to do about the sub-par plumbing her daughter encountered on a study-abroad trip to China.

Really. Her daughter is going to China, and Colgate is going to do something about it? These are the types of parents that make the Filthy Rich kids into such wussies.

I realize that for a lot of these parents, they feel very good to help their kids out. After all, nobody wants to see their kids having to struggle. Many of these baby boomers want nothing more than to see their kids happy and taken care of. But some day, those kids need to face reality. The later that day comes, the harder it is to accept.

Read more of this entry… »

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August 28, 2005


One of these things…

…is not like the others.

Can you guess which one?

DSC03297

No, before you ask, we didn’t get yet another dog. That one is our friends’ dog. And surprisingly, he hasn’t made a meal (ok, appetizer) out of our little ones! At least… not yet.

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