The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

January 31, 2006

Shadegg for Majority Leader

Fellow 6th District blogger Matt Duffy called our Representative, Tom Price, to urge him to support John Shadegg in the House Majority Leader election:

As promised, I called Georgia Rep. Tom Price’s Washington office (202-225-4501) and spoke to a staffer named Brendon. I told him I supported John Shadegg to replace Delay as Majority Leader. He said the Congressman hadn’t yet made up his mind regarding the election.

I asked if he’d gotten a lot of calls — not really. He said he received five calls last week — two for Shadegg, two for Blunt and one for Boehner. Brendon said he thought the vote would be held on Thursday.

I got the same response, that Price hadn’t yet made a choice. I left my contact info/etc with the staffer who I spoke with (unfortunately, I didn’t remember the name), and expressed my support for Shadegg.

I’m not sure whether the Republicans will publish the results of the vote. Apparently (from what I’ve read, anyway) it’s done by secret ballot. So I’m not certain whether I’ll ever know who Price votes for. From past experience, however, he’s a freshman in the House, and appears to be moderately libertarian, so I can hope he’ll vote for the Shadegg, who appears to be the most reform-oriented candidate in the field.

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Carnival of Liberty XXX

Carnival of Liberty 30

I wonder what sort of search engine hits that title will bring up!

Check out the carnival when you get a chance. Considering the busy life I’ve had of late, you’re bound to find some better posts there than you will here.

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January 30, 2006

Another God Complex

Does this mean God votes Republican?

Man Signs Voter Registration As ‘God’

One registered Republican won’t be able to vote in the next election unless he appears at a Berks County Elections Board to explain the signature on his registration form.

The man is registered as Paul S. Sewell, but his form is signed “God.”

County Solicitor Alan S. Miller said Sewell claims his “God” signature is merely a legal mark like the “X” used by people who are illiterate.

I wonder if this defense will hold up. After all, my signature is so incomprehensible that it bears absolutely no relation to my name, except for a “B” and a “W” that are sometimes legible. What are the requirements of a legal signature, because I’d bet that if “God” violates those requirements, mine probably does also!

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January 29, 2006

Frist: Government Should Butt Out

Frist: Gov’t Unwanted in End-of-Life Cases

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who took a leading role in the Terry Schiavo case, said Sunday it taught him that Americans do not want the government involved in such end-of-life decisions.

Frist, considered a presidential hopeful for 2008, defended his call for further examinations of the brain-damaged Florida woman during the last days of a bitter family feud over her treatment. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state.

Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if he had any regrets regarding the Schiavo case, Frist said: “Well, I’ll tell you what I learned from it, which is obvious. The American people don’t want you involved in these decisions.”

What’s odd is that I think many Congresscritters would be genuinely surprised to find that the American people prefer to make their own decisions. They’ve got this inherent god complex as legislators, and they actually think we turn to them for guidance on this.

Earth to Frist: we don’t want you making most of our other decisions either. National policies are one thing. Stepping into the most personal bits and pieces of our lives is an unwelcome intrusion.

And while you’re at it, you can leave Major League Baseball alone too.

Below The Beltway linked with A Politician Admits The Truth
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January 28, 2006

The Future of Liberty

Since the American Revolution, and particularly in the past 100 years, we’ve seen a ceaseless growth of the scope and size of government. In discussions with other LLP’ers, I often find that there is a latent air of futility. Many of my fellow libertarian bloggers see our role as a brake on that growth, rather than see the possibility of reversing it.

To some extent, I understand where they’re coming from. To affect a change that will reduce the scope of government will demand the support of a large swath of the voting public. This is a tall order, as much of the public has become hooked on the bread and circuses doled out by our federal government. In addition, it will require convincing legislators that bold action is required to keep their power. Our current system rewards politicians who spout meaningless platitudes, while actively punishing those who pursue bold action. In short, it will require that all of our culture as has been developed over the last hundred years be completely upended.

Those who feel they’re fighting a rear-guard action, I understand. But I don’t think it’s a futile endeavor. Perhaps I’m still young, dumb, and full of– bravado, but I think real change is possible. I see a fundamental change already occurring in our culture. This fundamental change is one that will wholly transform culture in this country in a way more widely felt than the invention of the television. In addition, it will be a change which empowers individuals, rather than turns them into mindless drones, as the television accomplished. The internet, my friends, is the answer.

I’ve made the point before, but since the time radio and television took over American media dominance from the newspaper, we have seen a slow– but steady– consolidation of media power. This consolidation has ensured that to have a voice in the national political debate, you needed money. Lots and lots of money. Large amounts of money have their own way of accumulating, whether it be in corporations, special-interest groups, or political parties. But when the only voices in the debate are those of the powerful, citizens have only one recourse– our votes. Despite what you might hear from P. Diddy, your vote doesn’t carry as much weight as the voices of the powerful.

The powerful care about only one thing: continuing their power. When Eric and I both discussed Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, we discussed the idea that inducing fear is a very simple way to control the populace, and that control perpetuates the powerful’s grasp on society. Fear can only be defeated by information. In a world where media and the control of information is dominated by the powerful, the foxes guards the henhouse. The powerful are the ones perpetuating a state of fear, and have no desire to allow the spread of information that may damage their position.

But the consolidation of the media has been breached. The playing field has been leveled. No longer does it take millions of dollars to get a message out to the public. The internet in general, and blogging in particular, will restore the flow of information that the current media inhibits. It has created a whole new forum, and widely expanded the popular media. At the same time, it has already had some effect on the legacy media, as we’ve seen in the Rathergate mess. The effect of the internet on our culture has barely been felt. But the internet has barely seen 10 years as a mainstream communications medium, and is still in a stage of infancy. Yet, we are already seeing its power. Blogs, also still in their infancy, have acheived enough prominence that the major media are paying attention, and in several cases, blogs have changed the debate. Some have claimed, and a case can be made, that George W. Bush would not have been reelected without bloggers shaping the debate.

The internet is a medium with little or no cost of entry. It requires nothing more than a will and a message to get your voice out there. Of course, unlike the current television media, finding people to listen to that voice is not easy. On the bright side, however, compelling information has a way of ensuring that it is heard. The terms “meme” and “blog-swarm” express just how quickly and widely information can stretch their legs. Last year, when I was (I still am, of course!) a small-time blogger, I started a meme, and checked back on it every month or so using technorati. The meme was going strong for months, finding its way to corners of the blogosphere that I would never have known to exist. And blog-swarms are feared by those in power. A couple of bloggers uncovering problems with documents ignited a blog-swarm which destroyed the credibility of Dan Rather and seriously injured that of CBS. It eventually grew large enough to force the major media outlets to cover the story.

Heretofore unexplored, of course, is how the growth of the internet and blogs as a medium will affect liberty. Here, it comes down to a matter of core beliefs. I’ve always believed that those who are conditioned to follow, will follow. Those who are conditioned to make up their own mind, will make up their own mind. This is all about changing people’s conditioning. As I said initially, this is a tall order, because years of television have given our nation the wrong conditioning. But the internet empowers people. Those of us who are trying to make our voices heard can do so. Those in the world who are looking for information outside that provided by the major media outlets can find it. When individuals become empowered, it is contagious.

What do we need to do to restore lost liberty and return to smaller government? We need to empower people and let them see– for themselves– that they don’t need government to provide for them. They need to see that by controlling the reality of the world around them, that they can do so much more efficiently than the government. They’re already getting this on their own; all they need are guides to find their way. In the run-up to the American Revolution, people weren’t striking out against England because they “all of a sudden” started believing in independence. The world was changing, and the old power structures were no longer viable. Our Founding Fathers were guides along the path, setting up a nation which they believed was suited to the new environment.

Our world is changing, and the old power structures are no longer viable. Whether or not your or my view of how the new structures should fit are correct, what we are doing is not futile. I honestly believe that liberty is not dead, and that big government can be defeated, and will do all that is in my power to achieve that end.

INCITE linked with The 4,897th Carnival of the Vanities
The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive linked with Looking Around the Blogosphere
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January 27, 2006

For the Fans

Found a new college football blog out there…

Every Day Should Be Saturday

Damn right!

Read more of this entry… »

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January 26, 2006

Big Brother vs. Speeding

American Spectator: Make Speeding Impossible?

Like tearing off that sticker on mattresses that warns us not to “under penalty of law,” most of us don’t pay much attention to speed limits. Five to ten over is the rule, not the exception — as any survey of average traffic speeds will confirm. We vote with our right foot every time we get behind the wheel, countermanding the diktats of the local bureaucrats who erect limits well below what large majorities (better than 85 percent, if you want an actual figure based upon actual traffic surveys) of us consider reasonable rates of travel.

But what if driving faster than our masters want us to became an impossibility?

For years, this has been The Dream of safety-badger types, who equate any deviance from often arbitrarily set posted speed limits with mowing down small children in a gigantic SUV with really loud mufflers, one hand on the wheel, the other clutching a half-empty fifth of Jack Daniel’s. They pushed for mechanical governors (which never flew) and even managed, briefly, to get a law passed that required all new cars to be fitted with speedometers that read no faster than 85 mph (really).

Now, however, the technology exists for a great leap forward — or backward, depending on your point of view.

The Canadians are testing out a system that pairs onboard Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology with a digital speed limit map. It works very much like the in-car GPS navigation systems that have become so common on late model cars — but with a twist. Instead of helping you find a destination, the system prevents you from driving any faster than the posted speed limit of the road you happen to be on.

And I’m sure this technology will never be used for tracking individual Americans, right? When the majority of Americans completely ignore a law, shouldn’t it be a signal that it’s a bad law?

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January 25, 2006

This Is a Bad Sign

When you walk in to your hotel, and behind the bulletproof glass in the check-in area, you see this sign, it’s a signal you’re not in a very nice neighborhood…


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January 24, 2006

Into the Belly of the Beast

On travel the next two days, up around the Washington DC area.

If I’m lucky, I’ll make it back with my integrity intact!

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January 23, 2006

Social Security Part D

For those of you of a conservative/libertarian slant, a serious question. We all know that Social Security is a flawed system that currently pays very little, and without reforms to either decrease benefits or increase taxes, is doomed to bankrupt our country.

So the question: Do you trust President Bush to “privatize” the system?

If so, I’ve got a few words for you. Medicare Part D. It’s quite possibly the most flawed model of an entitlement program that our government has ever created. At the very least, I can say it’s probably the worst of my lifetime. It is confusing, and while complex programs probably are, it’s at the same time nonsensical. It fails to take advantage of the possible cost savings of bulk purchasing, and may end up costing $1 TRILLION over the next ten years, with prices slated to increase quickly as the baby boomers retire.

This is what the President with a “business background” has brought us. A giveaway of our tax dollars to the major pharmaceutical companies. Looking at Medicare Part D, I can’t even think of worse ways to set up this program. It’s so poorly designed that individual states are having to pony up large sums of money to prop it up in the transition period, because nobody has a clue what’s going on.

So I don’t trust Bush one bit to “privatize” Social Security. Notice the use of quotes, as it is deliberate. President Bush doesn’t intend to allow the private sector to take over the process, he intends to federalize a portion of the private sector to administer his new bureaucracy. “Privatizing” something should mean the Federal employees become unemployed, and we all know Bush hasn’t been advocating that.

So let’s take a quick look at what Social Security Part D would look like.

First things first. You’ll never lose your benefit. No matter how badly your investments do, you’ll get a check. All it will take is for the first person to “lose” under this system and you’ll see an immediate “floor” of benefits. That floor will probably be in the range of the lower payments our current system pays out: sparse, but better than nothing. For those of you who think that if people’s investments fail they should pay the price for that, I’m sorry to say that politicians will never let that be true.

But that brings me to the second point. You won’t have freedom to invest as you see fit. It may be an account with your Social Security number on the file folder, but it’s not your property. The government isn’t going to let you day-trade it. The government probably won’t even let you pick individual stocks to invest in. At best, you’ll have your choice of certain “approved” mutual funds. If the Medicare program is any indicator, these funds will be cherry-picked by the mutual fund companies themselves, not by intelligent people based on what they believe will give them the best returns.

We can already see that government involvement will have some sort of distorting effect on the market. But how far down will this go? Well, at the beginning, companies will be clamoring to meet the requirements of the Social Security program to become an “approved” fund. After all, you’re getting a quick crack at tens of millions of investors, sure to impress your bosses (and shareholders). So what do you do to get on the “approved” list? Anything the government asks. You think the Vice Fund will be on that list? I don’t think so. But it only starts there. You can bet that the requirements the government places on funds to be on that approved list will be lengthy and will further distort the market.

All of a sudden, fund managers are no longer looking to earn the largest return, they’re looking to attract the most customers by attracting the new Social Security participants. Will getting the highest return and keeping expense ratios low drive the market? Nope, increasing expense ratios brought on by increasing costs to comply with ever-more-demanding federal regulations will be driving the market. And real rates of return “within the system” will fall.

Now fast forward 20-30 years. How much money is now invested in accounts “within the system” compared to those outside the system? When the feds change a regulation, or change their list of approved funds, how much money moves all at once? When the feds all of a sudden decide that too many Americans are overweight and certain fast food companies can’t be invested in, how quickly do you see McDonald’s posting record losses and Subway posting record gains?

The Bush plan to “privatize” Social Security won’t get the government out of our retirement planning, it will push them deeper and deeper into it. Considering how well they’ve done with most of their other programs, I don’t want that to happen.

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity linked with Carnival of the Vanities - Jan 25th 2006 Edition
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Absolut Kurant Prevents Alzheimer’s!

Absolut Kurant
First it was wine, which is good for your heart. Then they found out beer was good for your heart. Now, it appears that vodka (at least the one pictured at right) is good for your brain! Helps you remember who you are (although it may make you forget what you’ve done!).

Black Currants May Help Thwart Alzheimer’s

Compounds in black currants may help protect against
Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study in the current issue of Chemistry & Industry magazine.

Researchers found that these compounds — anthocyanins and polyphenolics — had a strong protective effect in cultured neuronal cells. Darker black currants contain more anthocyanins and are likely to be more potent.

“These compounds also work in hippocampal cells taken straight from the brain,” researcher James Joseph of Tufts University said in a prepared statement. He said these protective effects will likely be reproduced in the human body and that these compounds may prevent or significantly delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

I know a couple of serious vodka drinkers who might be interested in participating in a research study…

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January 22, 2006

Too Much?


Would it be too much if I built my own personal pub in the backyard? Like these guys?

backyard pub

I think for now, I’ll stick with building a bar in the basement… But this might be in the future plans. My wife and I joked about her sending me out to the doghouse when I’ve done something bad, and I told her that since I’m an electrical engineer, I’d make sure that doghouse was decked out! I think if I created my own backyard pub, I might never come back in the house!

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Steps Towards Home-Built DVR

When I was in California, I managed to come across a free ATI Radeon 7500 graphics card, so now I’m that much closer to building my DVR. I already had my PC downstairs by the TV for my wife to use while I was out of town, and I got that configured and ready to go today.

And then I decided to check out Eric’s blog… He’s dragging me toward geekdom with his post on linux. My company wants our tech folks to become more familiar with Linux, and I’ve wanted to play with it for personal reasons, but needed a decent project to push me down that path. So I think my PVR is now going to be a linux PVR, killing two birds with one stone.

Now I just have to figure out how to get my boss to pay for this card as a “training aid”… :-)

The Unrepentant Individual linked with Playing with Linux
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Has it come to this?

Do we really need this?

ESPN 2 announced on Tuesday it is getting into the game of celebrity gossip with the May 9* premiere of a news series, ESPN Hollywood, which covers the latest indulges, pursuits and romances of today’s hottest sports icons and the musicians and movie stars who love to watch them.

Because I really need Thea Andrews and Mario Lopez to tell me who my favorite sports figures are dating. I remember when MTV actually showed music videos. Are we going to someday look back fondly on the days when ESPN actually had sports?

Read more of this entry… »

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Alabama Outlaws Kegs

I’m getting a bit worried about one of our manufacturer’s reps who lives in Birmingham, after I saw this story:

Keg parties at fraternities and many other places would be outlawed under a bill passed 30-0 Tuesday by the state Senate.

If the bill becomes law, people could drink draft beer only at a bar, restaurant, private club or other retail establishment licensed for beer sales by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, the bill’s sponsor. People could not buy a keg and take it elsewhere to drink.

Singleton said he proposed the bill in an effort to stop teenagers from drinking beer.

That rep has a kegerator at home. This bill, if it becomes law, would force him to drive across state lines for kegs if he were to get them. Thankfully, being here in Georgia (the “liberal” southern state), I don’t think this will spread my way, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

And of course, they trotted out the usual tired old canard, “it’s for the children”… After all, when it’s against the law to buy kegs, only us outlaws will have kegs.

Hat Tip: McQ at QandO

The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive linked with Thinking About Teen Drinking
The Liberty Papers linked with Thinking About Teen Drinking
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