Tuesday, August 20, 2013

M*A*S*H Season 3 Ramblings

The third season of M*A*S*H is generally considered the “apex” by quite a few fans of the series, especially the ones who only like the original cast and faded during all the changes (between Seasons Four and Six). I acknowledge that it is an apex of the series, at least, in the sense of the various eras of the series, because one (that one being me) could argue that the entire eleven year run of the series is really at least four different incarnations.

I argue that the apex of that era came in Season Two, mostly because the writing was much tighter in nature than in Season Three; it is very good in Season Three, but there were many more head-scratchers present. Consider some of the lines emanating from Hawkeye:

It’s inhuman to serve the same food day after day. Fish, liver, day after day! I’ve eaten a river of liver and an ocean of fish! I’ve eaten so much fish I’m ready to grow gills. I’ve eaten so much liver I can only make love if I’m smothered in bacon and onions.” – “Adam’s Ribs”

I will not carry a gun, Frank. When I got thrown into this war I had a clear understanding with the Pentagon: no guns. I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I'll even 'hari-kari' if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!” – “Officer of the Day”

There is nothing organic about these words; it sounds like a TV show, and that’s one of the key differences between Season Two and Season Three.

Before anyone gets on me for being too critical, let me remind you that I enjoy this season very much. As an entire season, it is very strong. While I do prefer Season Two, Season Three really is the “coming out party” for the series, and also denotes the first attempts at experimentation in the writing and direction of the series.

The only episode I really didn’t care for in the entire season was “The Consultant”, when Robert Alda (Alan’s father) plays an older doctor who comes to the 4077th and he cracks under the stress of having been in his third different war zone. It’s not a bad episode (as I maintain there are no bad episodes from a production standpoint), but I just don’t like it a whole lot.

When I speak of Season Three as a “coming out party”, take a look at some of the episodes that are stepping out of the comfort zone.

1) “O.R.” – the first episode of the series to go without a laugh track, and every single scene centers in the hospital area; there is nothing in the Swamp or the Mess Tent. It also has the origin of Sidney Freedman’s signature quote: “Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice: pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

2) “Rainbow Bridge” and “Aid Station” – both of these involve great personal danger to the doctors and other personnel to help wounded in need, whether in a Chinese hospital or at an army aid station. I consider these to be developmental in the character of Klinger and the latter to be the first major defrosting in the Hawkeye-Margaret relationship.

3) “Abyssinia, Henry” – Of the first three seasons, this was probably the most shocking. Henry is going home, but his plane is shot down over the Sea of Japan and he is presumably killed. While the series had done death before “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet” (Season One), it had not dealt with a main character being killed previously, and the final O.R. scene is about as genuine a shock as you will ever see (the actors did not know it was coming until just before).

One final point to end these ramblings, this season is the one (in my opinion) where Radar truly becomes Radar – that sweet, naïve farm boy. This actually takes place over two episodes in the middle of the season: “Mad Dogs and Servicemen” and “Private Charles Lamb” – the former has Radar being bitten by a dog which they think has rabies. It is also the first time we see the true extent of Radar’s menagerie of various animals and rodents.

The latter has Radar saving a lamb that was meant to be eaten for Orthodox (or Greek) Easter by forging travel orders and an identity for the lamb. In the first two seasons, we see Radar being a shyster and a meat-eating glutton on occasion. By this point, he is innocent, vegetarian, and more of (as my mom calls him) “the Radar we came to know and love.”

Instant Replay...Again...

Is this coming to MLB?
Yes, I am completely aware that it has been over four months since I last blogged.  It's funny - I actually do most of my blogging while I am in school; there's just something about being busy that allows me to concentrate and fire these things off, even in long form.  -- J.L.

Instant replay in a large form is coming to Major League Baseball, and I don't like it one bit.  I am but one man, and I plan to stand athwart history, yelling "stop!" (ok, so I probably butchered that William F. Buckley quote).

I actually covered most of my issues regarding full fledged replay over three years ago after a particularly controversial call in Miami allowed the Phillies to eventually escape and win a game against the Marlins.  The hooting and hollering for replay was very loud then, but Bud Selig wisely (how often does that word get applied to him?) avoided putting it in baseball at the time.  

Such wisdom went out the window last week, however, and while some or even many are applauding this "evolution" (although I know of at least one guy who isn't), it is going to be a system that will spectacularly and disastrously fail.  Consider the following:

1) Managers will get three "challenges" per game, but the first one can only take place between innings one and six.  The other two will be from the seventh inning until the conclusion of the game (how delightfully vague!).  I swear the NFL planted advisers to Bud, because this is the height of asininity.  No manager is able to see the play up close, nor are there any "eyes" up in the booth to talk to the manager over his headset to say "hey, challenging is a good (or bad) idea".  It will rely completely upon the emotion of the player who thinks (rightly or wrongly) that he got screwed on the call.  In other words, the players will call the shots. Baseball is a different game, and the NFL-ization of replay is a horrendous attempt at superimposition of another model.

2) Balls and strikes and traps are NOT subject to review.  That means no foul tips either.  The fact that there is selective review makes this a lukewarm system and will satisfy no one, except Bud, who fell for the Politician's Fallacy like an anvil.  I want a laser system for balls and strikes.  Keep the home plate umpire for calls at the plate and foul tips and the like, but if programming for a strike zone can be done in MLB: The Show, then it can be done in life too.  

3) As I said in the post from three years ago, I don't like using the "human element" defense, but the "human element" will show up no matter what happens.  Humans are designing the technology, humans are reviewing the plays and making the calls.  So there is no perfect system, and even Candide would have to admit that replay is not "the best of all possible worlds."  The way to solve it is to hold umpires accountable for crappy calls, especially those who are consistently bad.  If players get demoted and managers get fired, then the same should happen for MLB umpires.  It's only fair, and "fairness" is the big buzzword of the past few years, after all.

4) What to do about base placement on fair/foul calls.  This is the real issue.  And a Pandora's Box.  No assumptions can be made.  Ever.  Why?  Because it is a judgment call.  And replay is supposed to relieve judgment calls.  All this does is bring us back around to the problem that prompted the calls for replay in the first place.  

Down with replay in MLB!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

President Crybaby and Gun Control...

Petulance and foot stomping are the order of the day from Mr. Obama as the various gun-control (or "anti-gun", according to Senator Harry Reid) legislation pieces were defeated:
The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Mr. Obama said in the White House rose garden about 90 minutes after the vote. “It came down to politics.”
As always, projection is part of the game...as we read on:
As he spoke, Mr. Obama was surrounded by family members of victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. Also with him was former Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, wounded in an assassination attempt.
Senator Rand Paul is right, no matter what Greg Sargent says, that the President IS using the victims' families as political props. Sargent tries to argue that the families can think for themselves, and while I don't doubt that, the fact they appear with Obama at times like these suggests to me that they are willing to be manipulated and act props to "the cause". So who exactly is the one that is making things about politics?

"Expanded background checks" sounds nice in theory, but it does, despite Presidential demagoguery to the contrary, lay the groundwork for what amounts to a national registry. How?  In requiring a check to every possible purchase, even private person-to-person sales, it creates a paper trail that can be used to justify such a database.

It may not be today, and may not be tomorrow, but the next time a mass murder occurs and emotions are running high, all they would have to do is introduce a simple one page bill that would repeal the line in the alleged "commonsense" Manchin-Toomey bill forbidding a national registry.  You can call me paranoid and conspiratorial, but confiscation is the end game.  It has to be, logically.  Obviously, the bill was defeated, but Harry Reid, as the Majority Leader, changed his vote to a "Nay" in a procedural fashion in order to bring up the bill at a later time.

The blindingly obvious point, which many miss (or willfully ignore) is that none of these amendments or bills would have stopped the shootings at Newtown, Aurora, or Tuscon, as Senator Dianne Feinstein (the author of the ban on so-called "assault weapons") admits:

One would think that if these people had good intentions about trying to prevent these events from occurring, they would go about doing so in ways that, you know, actually could do so. Instead, we have wholesale attempts to deprive citizens of rights.

I had thus avoided writing about the issue, but with the Presidential temper-tantrum, his narcissistic preening, and his condescending moral superiority, it was time to address it.  I figured most of you could figure out where I stand on this issue, but this provided a good time to flesh out some thoughts.  So here we go...

I find most gun-control advocacy to be ill-informed, emotivistic, demagogic, and at worst, morally infantile.  Most who advocate such a position are authoritarian at heart who have little or no understanding of guns, how they work, or even basic knowledge of parts.  People who don't know the difference between automatic and semi-automatic, or the difference between a magazine and a clip.  People who make cosmetic features of a gun the basis on whether it ought to be banned or not.  That last point is the entire premise of the ban on so-called "assault weapons".  In other words, it looks scary and thus should not be permitted. This is not a premise on which serious thought and policy ought to be based.

I get why a government would want to restrict gun ownership; an armed populace is the ultimate check on unfettered government power.  It's a form of the old Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The Second Amendment is not primarily about sport, hunting, or even protecting oneself from criminals.  It is about the tyranny of the overbearing State - as all the amendments in the Bill of Rights are, which is why gun-control advocates that says the Second Amendment being either a) a collective right or b) outdated are being disingenuous at best, and outright liars at worst.

Gun-control is about people control, because even the most irrational gun-grabber (like Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Cuomo, and Martin O'Malley) understands (or maybe he doesn't), that a gun is an inanimate object that can't load, cock, and fire itself.  It's a tool (like all objects) that is useful in the hands of one who understands its purpose, and is harmful in the hands of someone with bad intentions or no knowledge of its use. No law is going to change that latter fact.  

It's clichéd to say it, but it bears repeating: criminals inherently do not follow the law.  So all that is left is to punish the law-abiding citizens.  The advocates say this isn't going to be the case, but all it takes is to look at numbers where there is strict regulations regarding ownership of firearms - criminals still have them, and the law-abiding can't protect themselves.  

But that's what the police are for! The police are a reactionary force; they respond after the crime has been committed and they investigate and apprehend post-facto.  There is no help in responding to the commission of a crime.  So all I can conclude is that the advocates for gun-control are soft on crime, logically speaking.  No amount of wishing it away and depriving the law-abiding will change that.

One last thing, tying all of this together with the emotivism stemming from the Sandy Hook mass-murder has been the notion that at least on the background checks, "ninety percent" of Americans favored expanding them.  But if we are going to use polls to indicate the winds, we should probably also look at the latest Gallup survey that has only 4% of the population making guns the most pressing issue facing the country.  So for all the hot air and "political capital" used on the issue, it has barely moved the needle.

And how.

It should make perfect sense to anyone now why the advocates for gun restrictions have to resort to emotivism, demagoguery, and good old fashioned manipulation to get what they want.  The facts just simply aren't on their side.  The only way to try and get it done is what Dr. K calls "emotional blackmail".  Eventually, people will see (and have seen) that they are being played and will turn against it.  It's just a repeated cry of wolf.

Monday, March 25, 2013

On Student Trolling (And Some Charts)...

The third quarter ended at school on Friday and as usual, some of the things I like to do is to analyze the numbers of my students.  Currently, there are 139 students across six sections of the course (all the same material), and the following shows the grade distribution (click to enlarge):

The A, B, and C ranges include the "minus" aspects as well.  Generally, you will find more A's and F's in any individual quarter; at the end of the year, there will be closer to five F's and twenty A's.  Individual quarters can be flukish, and it is actually hard to maintain an A average for an entire year.  Counter-intuitively, it is also actually difficult to maintain an F average for an entire year.  

The second chart are the section averages.  I intentionally mixed up the sections and did not put them in any order, to maintain the anonymity of the sections:

The overall average for the 139 students was 80.64, a B- average, which is pretty good, even as the final overall average at the end of the year will probably be a little closer to 77 or 78.

Now, if you are wondering why I entitled this "On Student Trolling", it goes to the practice of students bugging (and begging) me to "bump" them up to the next level.  I refer to this practice as trolling, because I find it annoying and it reminds me a lot of comment-box trolls who will deliberately stir things up to get a reaction.  

Most of the time it comes from kids have somewhere in the 78-79% range and want that 80%, because it looks better (and helps their GPA).  I will occasionally get the kid who has the 89% or even the 92%, but those guys understand that it just takes a little extra push on their part.  I also rarely get the 64% kids, because while they are understandably upset about getting an F, they are acutely aware that it is on them to improve.their grades.

There are two ironclad rules I follow when it comes to grades and assessments:

1) Students earn their grades - this is something taken for granted, or assumed, but it is amazing how much people think that I (or any teacher, for that matter) just give students their grades. But with that kind of thought, the logical consequence is that I can also just change them at will

2) I do not round quarter averages - let me clarify: I will round to the nearest tenth of a point. An 89.95% is an A- because it rounds to a 90%; 89.94% is a B, because it rounds down to 89.9%.  Harsh?  Maybe, but there is the possibility of it being rounded to the whole point at the end of the year, so there is some mitigation.  

When these two principles have to be applied at the same time, that's when the trolling begins. This usually then calls for the baseball lesson of losing the division in April and May.  What I mean is, when a student approaches me with a borderline grade and wants me to "bump him", I will pull out my gradebook and start reading him some of his grades (of which he should be aware).  

The point of this little exercise is to demonstrate that the quiz with an 8 out of 20 in the first week of the quarter, or the 65% on the first test midway through the quarter is just as much to blame for the lower grade, just as a baseball team can fall completely out of contention with a long losing streak right after the all-star break.  

The end result may not be pleasant, but there is little to be gained by simply giving the student that little bump.  He doesn't learn the lesson and will continue to think he can make up the ground with a furious last minute run.  Sometimes it works; often it falls short.  The C can be made in the first month of the quarter just as it can be in the final weeks.  So it isn't a question of whether I can just "give" points to "bump up" a student, it is a question of whether he understands that poor grades at the beginning can negatively affect the bottom line.

I don't mind the questions, the clarifications, but I draw the line at trolling, and as a result, I definitely need to say...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum...

...Habemus Papam!

With those words, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was introduced to the world as Pope Francis.  Since he is the first to choose that name (in honor of my Confirmation saint, of course!), he will not be known as Francis I until there is a successor who takes the name.

Anyway, I am writing this because I had about twenty people ask me last night about my thoughts and were peppering me with questions about the election and the process.  I figured I would organize them all here, so let us begin...

1) It is very interesting that they selected a Cardinal from South America.  While I do believe that they pick the one who is most fit and best to lead the Church, I am sure it doesn't hurt in any fashion to pick a man from the new frontier of evangelization.

2) Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope.  Granted, the Society of Jesus has been around for less than five-hundred years, but their influence has been felt during the time they have existed.  I thought it was unusual that since the Jesuits have the "fourth vow" of obedience to the Pope, Cardinal Bergoglio might be obligated to turn down the election, but I have been since corrected by others who know more and better than I.

3) A lot has been made of the Pope's dedication to the poor and less fortunate and his humble life - which is good, wonderful, and Godly.  However, as a Servant of God (now Servant of the Servants of God), it is part of his résumé, and it seems as if there is some media spin going on, as in they only want to focus on that particular aspect rather than parts that I am sure are going to disappoint them.  For example, he said this concerning pro-abortion Catholic politicians:
We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. The responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors and health professionals.
I haven't seen too many of the prelates in the United States who would have the courage to make this statement, since we are all busy "trying to get along".  How long will it be before the media begins to lament Francis' "conservative" positions?  Answer: not long at all.

4) I am glad the Conclave is over, so now we don't have to worry about insipid media coverage that either was a) agenda driven (zOMG, WE HOPE THE POPE WILL ALLOW FEMALE PRIESTS!!!), b) factually wrong (i.e getting basic principles of the Church incorrect), or c) using tired buzzwords like scandal, intrigue, or insiders.  Note to the media, especially on Point B:


5) As I stated on Facebook earlier today, I wonder when the Usual Suspects (looking at you, New York Times, NatCat Reporter, and MSNBC) will begin noticing "hey, we have a Pope from Latin America, but he is still white!!"  The horror that a white guy with an Italian surname from Argentina isn't going to change any liberal hobby horse might be too much for some of the journalists and talking heads at the aforementioned media outlets.  Oh well.  That is not my problem.  I look forward to his leadership.

Viva Papa!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Reaping What We Sow IX - Fast Food Edition

Of course it will.  Only the economically illiterate will not understand this.  Nor will the ideologically blind (like Donna Brazile, but that's a whole 'nother story) - but those two things tend to be combined quite often.  

I just had lunch at our local Five Guys franchise on Saturday.  Each Bacon Cheeseburger cost $7.29, and we shared a regular fries ($2.99) and a soda ($2.19).  With the tax, it came out to almost $21.  It's very good food, but that's too much to just pop in and grab a burger, given that McDonald's is across the street and we can eat for $8 or so.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reaping What We Sow VIII - Maryland Edition

Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them. -- Margaret Thatcher
I wrote about this at the end of January and one of the things that I mentioned is that O'Malley and his chums moved a lot of money out of the Transportation Fund into whatever pet projects they had. The story does nothing to mention that particular aspect until a roundabout mention in the final sentence:
The new proposal would also make it more difficult for lawmakers to slate transportation money for anything but transportation projects.
And all it takes is to strip $3.4 billion from the taxpayers of Maryland.  Why did we elect this guy again?

Oh right, he has a D next to his name "fights for the little guy", and by "little guy" he means public sector unions and casino executives.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reaping What We Sow VII

Jeez, who would have thought?  And as gas averages $3.78 a gallon, maybe...just maybe it would be a good idea to drill for more oil.  Here on American lands!!  Or approve the Keystone XL pipeline.  Or open ANWR.  Or open up continental shelf drilling.  Or allow for more fracking.  The possibilities are endless...

Please, do not tell me the lie that the President peddles every chance he gets about oil production increasing. That is a private sector thing.  The federal government does more to restrict access to our own resources, thanks to enslaving itself to radical environmentalism.

Congratulations.  Enjoy the $4 and $5 gasoline.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Sequester...

Mr. President, stop lying about the nature of sequestration and its effects.  Ladies and gentlemen, if I may, I wish to present a graphic that will show the nature of the "drastic cuts" that are allegedly coming on March 1:

The circle represents the federal budget.  The sequester is the little red dot in the middle.  If my household can make the requisite cuts to get under budget with a baby, I think the United States government can manage to lower its FY2013 deficit from $1.2 trillion to $1.156 trillion.  Bring on the sequester. And then let the real meat cleaving begin (et tu, Mr. President?).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Viva Papa!

When I got into my car at 5:50 this morning, the last thing I was expecting to hear when the hourly ABC News report came on (I listen to WMAL many mornings) was that Pope Benedict XVI will be "resigning", effective at the end of the month.  These are the best of thoughts I could organize regarding this somewhat unexpected move...

- I hate the word "resignation" in this context.  As if he could just hand a letter to God saying "I quit".  The proper word is "abdication", which brings me to the point that the Church ought to reinstate all the royal terminology regarding the pomp and ceremony of a new Pope, such as "coronation" and "abdication".  "Installation" and "resignation" sound too corporate for my taste; football coaches and CEOs are installed and resign.  Popes are crowned.

- I cheered loudly when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected to the Papacy in April, 2005.  I even belonged to the "Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club", owning a t-shirt and enjoying his theological and liturgical works such as The Spirit of the Liturgy and Jesus of Nazareth.  The Conclave that elected him had my utmost attention as I had never witnessed the proceedings before (previous Conclave being 1978, four years before my birth).

- No, I don't engage in speculation as to who is going to be the next Pope.  I don't treat this as a horse race and quite honestly, media figures and publications that engage in such thinking are completely wasting their time.  Only Americans (and some Western Europeans) actually spend any time considering whether or not there should be a black (or fill in the blank ethnicity, for that matter) Pope.  I know I am in the minority here, but I actually do believe that the Bishop of Rome ought to be someone who is relatively local.  For all the talk about the Pope being the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, he is also the local ordinary for a very specific group of Catholics, and thus needs to be in tune with their needs as well.  I am not sure that having a Pope from South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, or North America will be the right call.

- The burning question to all of this is...what shall I do with my Benedict XVI bobblehead?  Is it now a priceless collector's item?  You tell me...

- I am a bit amused by some of the reaction from certain anti-Catholic media sources about how much the next Pope might "change" the teaching on [fill in the blank hobby horse]. Nowhere better are my feelings summed up by Robert George. A small taste:
Although I ought to be used to it by now, I still find the parochialism of liberal secular elites stunning. Their small-minded preoccupation with sex and gender is, in its way, amusing. A pope abdicates for the first time in centuries, and what immediately pops into the mind of Nicholas Kristof and his ilk? Contraception, women’s ordination, and celibacy. Oy vey.
As they say, read the whole thing.

I will have more thoughts as we get closer to D-Day and the new Conclave.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Observations - Super Bowl Edition

It has been a long time since I have done a Sunday Observations post (last May was the most recent one), and figured since it is the day of the Super Bowl Big Game, it would be a good time to make a few quick hits about this day.  They are all football related, so if you got tired of all the political stuff, this is for you!

- The NFL has gotten really lazy about the logos for the Super Bowl.  It used to be that every year had a nice, new, and original logo.  The past three years (beginning with 45), it has devolved into a repeat scheme, with only the number and the stadium changing slightly and the Lombardi Trophy rising from it like a large phallus.  Judge for yourself.

- The two stories that have been beaten into the ground so hard these past two weeks are the Harbaugh brothers and Ray Lewis' final game.  One reason I have been waiting for the actual game to begin is so people can shut up about the puff pieces regarding the two stories.  No, I don't give a damn about what Mr. and Mrs. Harbaugh are thinking or for whom they are rooting.  No, I don't care about the alleged redemption of Ray Lewis.  I want to watch the game.  The game.  Remember the game?  I blame Monday Night Football and ABC Sports (1970, no less!) for this kind of nonsensical proliferation of puff pieces and four-hour long pre-game shows.

- Rooting interests in this game are very interesting.  However, there are two types of fans that are driving me nearly bat-guano insane.  The first are the local Redskin fans who are rooting for the Ravens in the name of "locality". I hope those people know that the Raven fans would never repay that favor.  The second fans (and even more annoying) are Steeler fans who are rooting for the Ravens in the name of, get this, ensuring that the 49ers don't win their sixth title and thus "tie" the Steelers for the most.  What garbage!  First of all, you never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever root for your divisional rival in the Super Bowl.  EVER!!  Secondly, while the Steelers have won six, they have also lost two.  This is an apples to oranges comparison, and any Steeler fan who is rooting for the Ravens ought to have their fan card ripped up and burned.  Yesterday.

- This is going to raise the ire of a few people - but I am going to say it anyway.  If you watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials, do not advertise this fact.  What happens then is that these people tend to betray their complete and total ignorance of what the event actually is. It's a football game!  Try to remember that and remember the proverb "tis better to remain silent and be thought the fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

- So the question is, for whom am I pulling?  Technically speaking, I don't have a horse in the race.  However, I don't care for the Ravens.  I don't like the Ravens, or their fanbase.  The same fanbase who will hypocritically pine for the Colts yet root for another stolen team.  Nowhere was this worse than during the wild-card round when the Colts came to Baltimore.  Every sign that mentioned the Colts leaving should have caused a puppy to be tortured (Michael Vick, call your office).

- Otherwise, I am hoping for the 49ers to win the game.  I think Colin Kaepernick and company will run the old and rickety Ravens defense (who live on reputation at this point, and PEDs).  I am going with 49ers 27, Ravens 20.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reaping What We Sow VI

Who couldn't have seen this coming?  Actually, I can think of quite a few people...
In a final regulation issued Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assumed that under Obamacare the cheapest health insurance plan available in 2016 for a family will cost $20,000 for the year.
After being told by some of our brightest minds and talking heads that Obamacare would lower the cost of medical care for people, I bet a lot of people are surprised by the constant rising of costs.  I, for one, was shocked, shocked to discover the increases.  As I wrote about two weeks before the election:
Before anyone accuses me of raging paranoia, just keep in mind that no one who actually has business experience (unlike a certain occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) would be dumb enough to increase demand while stagnating or even decreasing supply and expect to lower costs. And yet, that's precisely what the ACA does. And since we have the smartest man who has ever occupied the White House in office, he would never stoop to such an incompetent practice, right?
I go on to say that the only explanation then is a malicious intent on the part of the advocates and authors of the bill. Anyway, the original article continues on:
“The annual national average bronze plan premium for a family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children) is $20,000,” the regulation says.

Bronze will be the lowest tier health-insurance plan available under Obamacare--after Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Under the law, the penalty for not buying health insurance is supposed to be capped at either the annual average Bronze premium, 2.5 percent of taxable income, or $2,085.00 per family in 2016.
Even at present, it would be cheaper to just pay the fine and go see a for-cash doctor (called "concierge medicine" -- which I wrote about in piecemeal fashion) rather than pay for medical insurance. 

Remember, these people have our best interests at heart!

Reaping What We Sow V

If you are still having a hard time figuring out why I entitle these posts as I do - how about continuing to elect people who are in favor of government intrusion into every aspect of our lives:
The Obama administration proposed regulations Friday that would prohibit U.S. schools from selling unhealthy snacks.

The 160-page regulation from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would enact nutrition standards for "competitive" foods not included in the official school meal.

In practice, the proposed rules would replace traditional potato chips with baked versions and candy with granola. Regular soda is out, though high-schoolers may have access to diet versions.
Oy vey...
"Although nutrition standards for foods sold at school alone may not be a determining factor in children's overall diets, they are critical to providing children with healthy food options throughout the entire school day," the proposed rule states.
Really.  Options, eh?  If you are replacing candy with granola and regular chips with baked ones (which are disgusting, in my opinion), then what "options" are you granting them?
"Thus, these standards will help to ensure that the school nutrition environment does all that it can to promote healthy choice, and help to prevent diet-related health problems."
Translation - we are going to steer you to the options we believe are best for you, because we are the all-knowing government of the United States, and we know what's best for you more than you or your parents.

Another reason for private or homeschooling, indeed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The State Of Maryland's Drug Habit...

What gasoline will cost
with the anticipated "revenue" plan
The beloved home state that contains the Lattanzi Land base of operation is moving further down the path to fiscal insolvency.  However, instead of placing responsibility where it ought to go, the fools in charge of the state legislature respond like Pavlovian dogs by insisting that raising taxes generating new revenue is the only possible solution to any kind of budget deficit and financial shortfall Maryland happens to face.

At issue is the the state gasoline tax.  Senate President For Life Mike Miller has proposed a so-called "two-pronged" approach in how to raise the tax.  Currently, the Maryland gasoline tax is a flat rate of 23.5 cents per gallon.  Allegedly, this is to fund transportation projects throughout the state, such as highways and bridge repairs. What never seems to get mentioned is how the legislature has raided transferred close to a billion dollars from the transportation fund over the past ten years.

The first part of Miller's proposal is to raise the flat rate by five cents to 28.5 cents a gallon, with the catch being that the five cents would be imposed by the individual counties.  The second part of the proposal is to impose a three percent sales tax on gasoline as well.

I could see the flat rate being passed, but the sales tax is a double-edged sword.  It presumes that gas prices will stay at or about three dollars per gallon.  If prices ever fall to under two bucks a gallon, the tax receipts will simply be slashed and then they'll have to go through all this crap again to make up the lost receipts.

I do have one simple question, though.  Why does Mike Miller hate the poor and the working class of Maryland?

This is not a flippant question; it is obvious that any kind of tax increase, er, excuse me, "newly generated revenue" on consumption is by nature regressive.  So obviously what Mike Miller and Martin O'Malley are trying to do is punish the working poor in the state by making it more expensive for them to get to their place of employment.

Getting back to the point of the double-edged sword of attaching taxes (sales and flat) to gasoline - this is identical to the issue of cigarette taxes.  The state determines that the taxes, er, "revenues" derived from the consumption of the product are going to fund some public good (health care by cigarette taxes and transportation by gasoline).  However, at the same time, we are being told by the same people (who overwhelmingly tend to be liberal Democrats) that a) smoking is bad for us and b) we need to drive more fuel-efficient cars.  

Well, guess what?  People smoke less and there are more fuel-efficient cars on the road now. What does it mean?  Budget shortfalls on both ends.  Thus beginning the vicious cycle of wanting to raise taxes on those things which then discourages further use of the product.  It can't be both ways.

What bugs me the most about this, ultimately, is the gross irresponsibility of the budgeting process that a) raids from the transportation fund to pay for whatever voter bribery social program instead of, you know, transportation stuff and b) the premise that the only solution is the hiking of taxes.  Eight months ago in this space, I said that Maryland needed to reduce spending to get its shortfalls under control.  There will soon not be any millionaires left to tax.  I even gave some suggestions:
Eliminate several administrative positions in our University system.  Make professors earn their money by, you know, teaching, instead of getting tenured research positions that require just one class and several research junkets.  Cut back on the staffing in the bureaucracy that is starting to make Annapolis look like Whitehall. Legislators should only get stipends rather than salaries.  Get the unions out of state employment and switch all pensions for those under 55 to 401k/403b plans.  Simple, isn't it?
But, hey, Maryland is getting some cool casinos and Martin O'Malley has an Irish rock band, so it can't be all bad, right?


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reaping What We Sow IV - Literal Edition...

Oh my God, the Super Bowl Big Game will be short of...CHICKEN WINGS!!!
For many, chicken wings are a necessary staple of a Super Bowl Sunday diet. But getting one’s hands on the bite-sized bits may be easier said than done thanks to a spike in corn prices.

According to a press release posted Tuesday on the official website of the National Chicken Council in Washington, D.C., the increase in the cost of corn, in tandem with other factors, has resulted in fewer birds produced overall.
The real question is, why have corn prices spiked?  We read further...
“Chicken companies produced about one percent fewer birds last year, due in large part to record high corn and feed prices,” Bill Roenigk, chief economist and market analyst, was quoted as saying. “Corn makes up more than two-thirds of chicken feed and corn prices hit an all-time high in 2012, due to two reasons: last summer’s drought and pressure from a federal government requirement that mandates 40 percent of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol.”
Ah, the real reason: the altar of environmentalism.  For an administration who claimed the mantle of practicality, they could have done the right thing and eliminated the subsidies and the regulations for ethanol.  However, them's votes in there, even though no less an authority than Mother Jones has indicated than ethanol simply isn't a solution.  In 2007, no less!  And yes, I link to Mother Jones for those of you who only read official ideologically-approved ritually clean publications.  Had I linked to, say, Breitbart, making the exact same claim, well, gee, I would be denounced as a rigid ideologue!  We can't have that, can we?  Oh, you need another ritually pure source?  How about the Huffington Post?

And just for good measure, the original article concludes thusly:
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released earlier this month on the 2012 growing season showed farmers harvested 10.78 billion bushels of corn, less than three-fourths of what the agency predicted last spring.
There you have it - we literally reap what we sow (yes, I know how to use the word "literally").  Except it is all going toward smog-inducing fossil fuels.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reaping What We Sow III

"I can't believe we wanted
more of this pessimism!"
Can the Misery Index be far behind?
Fewer than four-in-10 Americans (39 percent) rate the US in a positive manner – the most negative feedback the country has produced since 1979.

A new Gallup poll finds that Americans are as negative about the country’s prospects as they have been in more than three decades. Americans are more upbeat in their predictions of where the U.S. will be in five years (48 percent positive), but this is the lowest rating since an August 1979 Gallup poll was conducted.
Actually, since most of the media has abdicated their position as the watchdog of people in power (there are a few noble exceptions), don't count on the Misery Index being brought back, at least not while Barack Obama is the president.  But don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!
The 39 percent of Americans who give a six to 10 rating when asked to evaluate the nation’s current status is similar to the 37 percent who said the same three years ago. These ratings of current conditions coincide with Americans’ assessment of satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S., which is only at 25 percent in the same poll and below the historical average satisfaction rating.
And yet, even though 39% of the country believe we are heading in the right direction, more than 50% voted for a continuation of said direction!

And you want to know why I entitle these posts as I do...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reaping What We Sow II

The State Department has refused to cancel or delay the delivery of several American-made F-16 fighter jets to Egypt, claiming that the arms deal serves America’s “regional security interests,” according to an official State Department document obtained by the Free Beacon.

The news that the Obama administration would uphold an aid package to Egypt that included the military hardware prompted concern on Capitol Hill from lawmakers who said the deal was not prudent given the political situation in Egypt, where Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi has clashed with democratic protestors.
Hmmm...giving weapons to a government that has known connections to a group that is on the official list of terrorist organizations.   

Nope, nothing to see here.  Nothing at all...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want To Know...

Just a few questions for those who are inclined to have that little statist tyrant inside try to crawl out on occasion...

1) What is one's "fair share" of taxes?

2) What is the purpose of government?

3) What is the purpose of the 2nd Amendment?

4) Can you define an "assault weapon"?

5) Why won't you be intellectually honest and just admit that you want a disarmed populace?

6) Who are you to demand state intrusion into my food and my relationship with my doctor?

7) Why do you insist that what goes on in the bedroom is not my business but make it my responsibility to pay for devices and means to foster what goes on in said bedroom?

8) Can you promise me that when the inevitable swing comes and we have a real Right-Winger™ (No, George W. Bush was not one, you will never convince me of it) in the White House, you will not complain when he starts bypassing his Constitutional authority through executive orders, agencies, and czar posts and continues to infinitely detain American citizens without cause and authorizes drone strikes against Enemies of the People™ without Congressional consent?

On second thought, don't answer that - I already know what it is to that last one...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Brilliant Ad...

I am not an NRA member, nor am I planning on joining, but this ad released lands a body blow...

"Insightful" are the comments below the video page on Youtube, as this video has all the gun-grabbers' panties in a bunch, and most telling are the people who actually say that the President's kids are more important that the children of the 'little people'. Like Matt Yglesias:

Nice to know that my kid doesn't matter.  Thanks.  Appreciate that.  I bet Matt Yglesias and his ilk would piss their pants and hope the police would save him if he was the victim of a home invasion. What this attitude reminds me of is the immortal "edited" commandment in chapter ten of Animal Farm:

All Animals Are Equal, But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

"Gun protection for me and mine, but not for thee and thine" is what our Political Masters and their morally infantile amen corner constantly preache.  It's easy for politicians to be protected by Secret Service, state troopers, and the like when the rest of us have to fend for ourselves, and then they want to take away that ability.  

No thank you.  You support gun control - you support tyranny.  Plain and simple.

Reaping What We Sow...

I am starting a new blog feature - entitled Reaping What We Sow.  Elections have consequences, and so everything that happens in our society and political world will be chronicled here as a result.

A southwestern Pennsylvania hospital will stop delivering babies after March 31 because its obstetricians are either leaving or refocusing their practices, and because hospital officials believe they can't afford it based on projected reimbursements under looming federal health care reforms.

The Windber Medical Center, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, is losing two obstetricians and two others are shifting their focus more to gynecology.

Hospital officials say the population of women of child-bearing age is dropping and that the number of births the hospital would be called upon to perform isn't enough for it to provide the service in the face of lower reimbursements under the federal Affordable Care Act.
We can talk about being altruistic and how doctors should be in the business for the good of mankind, but the fact remains that with so much in medical school costs and malpractice insurance, it doesn't do any good if they can't make money to pay down loans and insurance costs.  The ACA does more to interfere in the relationship between patient and doctor and drives up costs while consequently lessening wages. That's not a good combination in any profession, much less the medical profession.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

On Robert Griffin III And The Redskins...

Keep this logo!
I know I am not a Redskins fan, and I have displayed my dislike of them in many ways, but this here is ultimately a modest defense of the franchise.  This is also not really about Robert Griffin.

I am not completely heartless; when Robert Griffin went down late in the game on Sunday, I cringed mightily.  I had been wondering when his knee would finally give out, especially after the earlier buckle prior to the Redskins' second touchdown of the game.  There is much blame to go around as to why this happened - the field conditions were conducive to this sort of injury happening; coaching malpractice can be blamed; Griffin himself is partially culpable also.  Reasonable people can debate these issues, and I will continue to be entertained by people skewering One Away's Kevin Sheehan's Defend-Shanahan-At-All-Costs-Logic-Be-Damned position.

What is not to be blamed for this is "bad karma" emanating from the fact that the Washington, DC NFL franchise's nickname is "Redskins".  However, this didn't stop Courtland Milloy from suggesting as such:
And when he’s felled during Sunday’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, bringing the postseason to an ugly and immensely unsatisfying end — torn ligaments no doubt shortening his own career as well — Washington gasps in horror.

Bad karma, I tell you, that team name.

Now don’t go trying to prove otherwise by digging up some ancient Washington victory from back in, say, Joe Gibbs’s early days. This is a new era. Attitudes are changing; progressive thinking is emerging on everything from guns, gays and gas guzzling to debt, deficits and doctor bills.

Besides, Washington’s professional football team has raked up one disappointing season after another since 1992 — the year D.C. resident Suzan Harjo became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to change the team’s disparaging name.
It is amazing that he is actually writing this kind of crap, but then again, it doesn't surprise me in the least.  I have been reading him for a long time, and this is actually par for the course - it's never about individual responsibility or causes.  He blames the Redskins sucking because of their name, rather than the fact that they scored less points than the other team, which is due to poor management, bad coaching, and less talent. I wish people would stop trying to find some overarching meaning to why things are the way they are and actually look at the principal actors to figure it out.

Milloy continues and he can't help himself here (emphasis mine):
Next month, on Feb. 7, the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall will hold a day-long symposium and “community conversation” about the use of racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation in American sports. In a recent news release about the event, museum Director Kevin Gover wrote: “What better place to address this issue. . . . The Smithsonian Institution is the ideal forum to bring people together to ask tough questions.”

I hope so, although I suspect that the most diehard football fans have only two ways of dealing with these kinds of disagreements: racist Internet comments — and fistfights in the stands.
Hahaha!! We get it - NFL fans are nothing but slobbering blubbering redneck yahoos.  And the Post wonders why people keep cancelling their subscriptions.  And how.  You don't need to pay people to publish pablum like this.  I guess it was too much for Milloy to focus on things like how Barack Obama talks a good game about diversity but then picks all old white men for his Cabinet.  I guess he needs the Rooney Rule for his Cabinet selections.1

Speaking of politicians, leave it to Washington Mayor Vincent Gray to stick his nose in a place where it doesn't belong:
The Redskins’ resurgence has District politicos once again talking about what it would take to relocate the team back inside the city limits. But Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) today suggested there would have to be a controversial prerequisite to any stadium deal: a name change, or at least discussion of one.
Keep the name.  It is tradition.  I think the constant yammering about changing the name is just that: yammering.  I am tired of politicians (and fans and sportswriters, for that matter) acting like professional sports franchises are public trusts.  The Washington Redskins are the property of Dan Snyder2 (and his partners), and so long as he owns the franchise, he can call it what he wants.  People have a right to boycott the team and not watch it and so forth, and so if anyone wants the name changed, they will have to hit him where it hurts.  And in this town, that is not going to happen.

Mayor Gray is playing with fire by suggesting that any potential relocation back into the city would depend on a discussion of a name change.3  I could see the Redskins getting a stadium in Virginia with lower taxes and such, and the District will lose out, yet again.  But those who yammer (there's that word again) on about this issue can't see the forest for the trees.  Stick to running the city and refrain from commenting about an organization that doesn't actually do business within it!


1 Yes, this was a gratuitous insertion of political commentary.  Get over it.

2 Don't get used to me and Dan Snyder being on the same side.  I also support the idea of him suing the NFL over the salary cap penalties and naming John Mara as a specific co-defendant.

3 The people supporting this will point to the Bullets changing their name to the Wizards.  This is a laughable and nonsensical comparison.  DC is a Redskins town.  There is a long tradition of the name, and whether anyone likes it or not, the name and logo are classics. No one cares about the NBA here.  College and H.S. basketball do better than the Wizards, and thus the general reaction was "meh" when they did so.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Obligatory College Football Post...

I don't care much for college football, although I do watch just enough to stay abreast of what's going on.  For example, I know that Alabama is the best team in the country after absolutely destroying Notre Dame last night.  And I was full of glee...

Why?  Because I loathe the Notre Dame football program.  It is probably the most overrated college football team in history.  Now, keep in mind, I don't dislike the University of Notre Dame; in fact, I regard it as a fine institution of higher learning and I root for its basketball team (lots of DeMatha connections).  

I can't stand the fan base of the team.  However, if you attended Notre Dame or had a close family member go, you are exempted from this criticism.  It reminds me way too much of fans of the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers, and Duke basketball.  Part of this is the shameless way they got their own television contract from NBC, thus giving them national exposure in a way that is for the most part unwarranted.  It's not an accident that they have not won anything of consequence since moving to NBC - sell your soul and not even the patronage of Our Lady will be enough!

The other reason I have never like the football team is the constant yabbering I get from people (including my own father) about how it's all about "Catholic pride" to root for Notre Dame.  I call BS, and thus from my young days, I have rooted for Notre Dame football to fail.  I don't premise my rooting for sports teams on some misguided religious basis, and I am certainly not Irish (although I married Irish), and the most important thing...I have no connection to the University of Notre Dame, other than having some friends who attended, which doesn't count.  

So with that being said.  Congratulations to Alabama for beating the crap out of the football team of the University of Notre Dame.