EppsNet Archive: Government

I Pledge Allegiance to [Omitted]

20 Jun 2016 /

House Speaker Paul Ryan called on the Obama administration Monday to “release the full, unredacted transcript” of the Orlando massacre gunman’s 911 calls, slamming the Justice Department’s censoring of all references to Islam as “preposterous.”

Here’s what Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, sounds like in the redacted transcript:

I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].

No references to Islam, ISIS or Allah, who becomes “God [in Arabic].”

In other news, 911 calls from the Disney World alligator attack are being released after redacting all references to alligators.

It’s similar to 2012, when a terror attack (in Benghazi) was whitewashed in the months leading up to a presidential election, the thinking being that vulnerability to terrorism reflects poorly on the incumbent administration. This time they’re is not even bothering to lie about it (the Benghazi attack was supposedly a spontaneous response to an internet video), just “we’re taking out all references to Islam.”

Update: The DOJ has now reversed course and released a full transcript of at least one of the 911 calls. Allah is still “God [in Arabic]” but nothing else is omitted.


The Job Is Only Half Done

28 Mar 2016 /


The Most Transparent Liar in Modern Times?

8 Mar 2016 /

I’m the most transparent public official in modern times. — Hillary Clinton

“That’s why as Secretary of State I ran a shadow government from a private email server, sending and receiving communications regarding secret programs, anti-terrorist activities, drone strikes, etc., so that there would be no public record of my activities.

“I also give paid speeches to Wall Street firms under a contract that prohibits anyone from releasing a transcript of what I said.”

What a scream! Maybe she means she’s the most transparent liar in modern times . . .

Hillary Clinton


Prominent Republicans Re: Donald Trump

3 Mar 2016 /
Alex Castellanos

If our self-indulgent Republican party establishment had really wanted to prevent a takeover of the GOP, they should not have gorged on political power while they failed to do anything to prevent the decline of the country. Our leaders could have led. They could have done more than say ‘no’ to Democrats while offering no alternative.

They should have stood up for the change Donald Trump is bringing now but they didn’t.

Now, Trump has earned the nomination. He won it, fair and square and we should respect that. Donald Trump whipped the establishment and it is too late for the limp GOP establishment to ask their mommy to step in and rewrite the rules because they were humiliated for their impotence.

If Trump is going to be our nominee, as I believe he is, it is our mission to support Trump and make him the best nominee and president possible.

Alex Castellanos, Republican media strategist
 
William J. Bennett

I’m used to being the moral scold, but Trump is winning fair and square, so why should the nomination be grabbed from him? We’ve been trying to get white working-class people into the party for a long time. Now they’re here in huge numbers because of Trump and we’re going to alienate them? I don’t get it. Too many people are on their high horse.

William J. Bennett, a former Reagan education secretary

The 30 Most Anticipated TV Shows

19 Jan 2016 /
Thomas Jefferson

My fellow Americans —

I just saw a link to The 30 Most Anticipated TV Shows of 2016. How many TV shows do you people have if thirty of them are the most anticipated?!

Some despotic regimes around the world rely on starvation and threats of violence to keep the people in a state of submissive compliance. Here in America, the same collective stupor is effected via mindless entertainments and gadgetry.

I’d like to see my countrymen raise themselves out of depression, paralysis and failure and resist this massive government/corporate dystopia — But I might miss my TV programs, said the serfs and lackeys.

Thomas Jefferson


Another Thing I Like About Donald Trump

15 Jan 2016 /

Democrats don’t like him and Republicans don’t like him either.

The overarching theme of American politics is Democrats vs. Republicans, Team Blue vs. Team Red. It’s a freakishly expensive clown show for which we pay trillions of dollars a year to watch the Red clowns and the Blue clowns throw pies in each other’s faces.

Nobody really cares about truth, substance or common sense, only whether their team is winning.

When Obama replaced Bush, Democrats didn’t care that Obama kept all the same wars going and started a few new ones, kept the torture programs going, kept Guantanamo open, ramped up drone warfare, cozied up to Wall Street, etc., etc., etc. All the things they hated when Bush was doing them were okay now because their team was winning.

Elect Hillary Clinton and we’ll get four to eight years of trench warfare against Republicans. Elect a Republican candidate (other than Trump) and we’ll get four to eight years of trench warfare against Democrats. At a cost of trillions of dollars per year.

This election offers a unique choice — Trump — the best chance we may ever have to blow up the system and start over, which is long overdue.


Occupational Certification a Guarantee of Quality?

4 Nov 2015 /

Fingerprint

I had fingerprints taken this morning, not the old-fashioned way with an inkpad but with a biometric device that required a certified technician to roll each of my fingers back and forth on a scanner.

I emphasize certified technician because California law requires any individual who rolls fingerprints manually or electronically for licensure, certification and/or employment purposes to be certified by the state Department of Justice. You can’t just put any person off the street in charge of advanced optical technology.

Thanks to the use of an expensive machine vs. an inkpad and the certification requirements, the cost to me of having my fingerprints taken was about $70.

California is big on occupational certification. More than 200 professions from doctor to tree trimmer require certification from one of 42 government bureaus and boards. Does this elaborate and costly web of regulation assure the highest quality of professional service?

Each fingerprint took at least three attempts . . . the machine kept rejecting them due to poor quality and the technician had to re-roll them. One finger I believe required 10 repetitions.

God only knows how many tries it would have taken a non-certified person to complete the job.


A Shortage of Sand

13 Aug 2015 /

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.

— Milton Friedman

There Are Four Ways You Can Spend Money

10 Aug 2015 /
English: Portrait of Milton Friedman

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.

— Milton Friedman

Still Right on the Black Family After All These Years

12 Feb 2015 /

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report on the black family, the controversial document issued while he served as an assistant secretary in President Lyndon Johnson’s Labor Department. Moynihan highlighted troubling cultural trends among inner-city blacks, with a special focus on the increasing number of fatherless homes.

For his troubles, Moynihan was denounced as a victim-blaming racist bent on undermining the civil-rights movement. . . .

Later this year the nation also will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which some consider the most significant achievement of the modern-day civil-rights movement. . . .

Since 1970 the number of black elected officials in the U.S. has grown to more than 9,000 from fewer than 1,500 and has included big-city mayors, governors, senators and of course a president.

But even as we note this progress, the political gains have not redounded to the black underclass, which by several important measures—including income, academic achievement and employment—has stagnated or lost ground over the past half-century. And while the civil-rights establishment and black political leaders continue to deny it, family structure offers a much more plausible explanation of these outcomes than does residual white racism.

In 2012 the poverty rate for all blacks was more than 28%, but for married black couples it was 8.4% and has been in the single digits for two decades. Just 8% of children raised by married couples live in poverty, compared with 40% of children raised by single mothers.

One important lesson of the past half-century is that counterproductive cultural traits can hurt a group more than political clout can help it.


The Public School Monopoly Provides Little Incentive to Supply Good Education

31 Dec 2014 /

[The public-school monopoly] is yet another scam that inflicts disproportionately great damage on people who are the poorest and least advantaged. How could it not? Those who run K-12 government schools aren’t paid by customers who voluntarily send their children to those schools and who could easily choose to send their children elsewhere. Instead, these teachers and officials are paid by governments that tax citizens regardless of how many children those citizens have in schools and regardless of how well the schools perform. Therefore, with funding that is independent of customer choice — and with each child assigned to a particular public school — public-school officials have little incentive to supply good education.


Proud to Be a Coal Miner’s Daughter

7 Nov 2014 /

Loretta Lynch

If she is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first coal miner’s daughter to hold the job . . .


Darth Vader for President

28 Jul 2014 /
Darth Vader

People are so fed up with the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Congress is unfortunately unable to even agree on the most obvious kinds of things. I think Darth Vader looks pretty good to a lot of people.

— Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, on CNN, responding to poll results showing voters say they prefer Darth Vader, the fictional villain in the Star Wars films, for president over her and several other potential candidates.
  1. Are people fed up with gridlock? I’m not. I love gridlock. It’s when those meddling idiots actually do something that life gets worse for everyone.
  2. Jokes aside, I think Darth Vader would be an exceptionally good president in some respects. Imagine him, for example, in an Israel-Hamas negotiating session: “Whose trachea do I have to crush with my mind to get some peace around here?”

People Who Don’t Want Me to Know Things

12 Jul 2014 /

What I want to know is why there are so many people who don’t want me to know things . . .

Trudeau's book Natural Cures Updated Edition

And that doesn’t even include all the things that people “won’t tell me.”


The War on Poverty is 50 Years Old

6 May 2014 /
(Old) War Police Department & Jail

The New York Times has an update from McDowell County, West Virginia, on how the War on Poverty is going after 50 years . . .

Of West Virginia’s 55 counties, McDowell has the lowest median household income, $22,000; the worst childhood obesity rate; and the highest teenage birthrate.

It is also reeling from prescription drug abuse. The death rate from overdoses is more than eight times the national average. Of the 115 babies born in 2011 at Welch Community Hospital, over 40 had been exposed to drugs. . . .

Many in McDowell County acknowledge that depending on government benefits has become a way of life, passed from generation to generation. Nearly 47 percent of personal income in the county is from Social Security, disability insurance, food stamps and other federal programs. . . .

The poverty rate, 50 percent in 1960, declined – partly as a result of federal benefits – to 36 percent in 1970 and to 23.5 percent in 1980. But it soared to nearly 38 percent in 1990. For families with children, it now nears 41 percent.

“Worst childhood obesity rate.” Poverty is different in America. In most countries, poor people aren’t fat.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are 9,176 households in McDowell County and the mean (not median) household income is $33,506. Multiply the two together and we get a total annual income for the county of $206 million.

If 47 percent of that income, as the Times article states, comes from federal programs, that’s almost $100 million per year. Since the War on Poverty has been waged for 50 years now, a crude approximation of the total amount of taxpayer money sent to McDowell County would be 50 times $100 million = $5 billion.

Possibly the annual federal contribution was less 50 years ago, even adjusted to 2014 dollars, but we’d also need to account for the fact that the county population at that time was five times higher than it is today. Taking even a small fraction — say, 20 percent — of $5 billion as our approximation, we can say that the War on Poverty has cost at least a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) just for one small county in West Virginia.

Oh, and the people are still living in poverty. Evidently you can’t eliminate poverty just by giving people money.

As David Mamet pointed out in The Secret Knowledge:

There’s a cost for everything. And the ultimate payer of every cost imposed by government is not only the individual member of the mass of taxpayers who does not benefit from the scheme; but likely, also, its intended beneficiaries.

In the case of McDowell County, the intended beneficiaries are being paid to continue making bad decisions with their lives, most notably to continue living in a place where there’s no work and no hope for improvement.


Get Rich Making Dumb Decisions

31 Mar 2014 /

The people on the short side of the subprime mortgage market had gambled with the odds in their favor. The people on the other side — the entire financial system, essentially — had gambled with the odds against them. Up to this point, the story of the big short could not be simpler. What’s strange and complicated about it, however, is that pretty much all the important people on both sides of the gamble left the table rich. . . . The CEOs of every major Wall Street firm were also on the wrong end of the gamble. All of them, without exception, either ran their public corporations into bankruptcy or were saved from bankruptcy by the United States government. They all got rich, too.

What are the odds that people will make smart decisions about money if they don’t need to make smart decisions — if they can get rich making dumb decisions?

— Michael Lewis, The Big Short

The kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic. — H. L. Mencken


Regulating Markets

13 Feb 2014 /
Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebrat...

The arguments for regulation of the market for goods and the regulation of the market for ideas are essentially the same, except that they’re perhaps stronger in the area of ideas if you assume consumer ignorance. It’s easier for people to discover that they have a bad can of peaches than it is for them to discover that they have a bad idea.


Japan, Day 3: Atami, Lake Ashi, Owakudani, Mount Fuji, Shinjuku

24 Dec 2013 /

Atami

Our hotel in Atami was on the eastern coast. Where we live in California, you can watch the sun set over the ocean every day if you want to, but here the sun rises over the ocean, which is a little bit different.

These photos are from the balcony of our room. If you look closely, you can see the United States in the background. It looks very small from this far away.

Japanese Sunrise

Japanese Sunrise

Japanese Dawn

Japanese Dawn

Lake Ashi

We started the day on a sightseeing boat at Lake Ashi:

Lake Ashi (Shinto shrine in foreground, Mount Fuji in background)

Lake Ashi (Shinto shrine in foreground, Mount Fuji in background)

Owakudani

Owakudani (lit. “Great Boiling Valley”) is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is a popular tourist site for its scenic views, volcanic activity, and especially, Kuro-tamago (lit. “black egg”) — a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; consuming the eggs is said to increase longevity. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. You may eat up to two and a half for up to seventeen and a half years, but eating a whole third is said to be highly unadvised.

Owakudani is accessible via the Hakone Ropeway. In the States, we’d call this a tramway. I swear to god when I heard “ropeway” I thought we were going to have to pull ourselves up the mountain with a rope.

Hakone Ropeway

Hakone Ropeway

Our guide is on the right:

Hakone Ropeway

Hakone Ropeway

Owakudani

Owakudani

See the large buildings at the bottom of the photo below? Look up a bit from the one on the right and you’ll see the stand where the black eggs are cooked up and sold. It’s a short hike up the mountain.

Owakudani

Owakudani

Owakudani

Owakudani

We ate some black eggs:

Owakudani: Black Egg

Owakudani: Black Egg

They also have black ice cream:

Owakudani: Black Ice Cream

Owakudani: Black Ice Cream

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji (Fujisan), located on Honshu Island, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft). An active stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707–08, Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres (60 mi) south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers. It is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” (Sanreizan) along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku; it is a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, a Historic Site, and was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site on June 22nd, 2013.

As per UNESCO, Mount Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries.”

Mount Fuji as seen from Owakudani

Mount Fuji as seen from Owakudani

 

Mount Fuji from Visitor Center

Mount Fuji from Visitor Center

 

Mount Fuji from Visitor Center

Mount Fuji from Visitor Center

 

Mount Fuji from Visitor Center

Mount Fuji from Visitor Center

At the Mount Fuji Visitor Center, you can fold an origami Mount Fuji to commemorate your visit:

Origami Mount Fujis

Origami Mount Fujis

The yellow one is mine:

Origami Mount Fujis

Origami Mount Fujis

Shinjuku

Shinjuku (Shinjuku-ku, “New Lodge”) is a special ward located in Tokyo Metropolis, Japan. It is a major commercial and administrative centre, housing the busiest train station in the world (Shinjuku Station) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the administration centre for the government of Tokyo. As of 2008, the ward has an estimated population of 312,418 and a population density of 17,140 people per km2. The total area is 18.23 km2.

Wikipedia

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is 48 stories tall, and splits into two sections at the 33rd floor.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The 45th floor of each tower has a panoramic observation deck. It was late afternoon when we got up there.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Dusk

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Dusk


Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Sunset

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Sunset


Unconstrained Thinkers

10 Dec 2013 /

Unconstrained thinkers either do not recognize, or refuse to come to grips with, the fact that not everything that is good is worth the cost of its achievement — and that not everything that is bad is worth the cost of its obliteration. Unconstrained thinkers are also typically gripped by romantically unrealistic notions of the abilities of people wielding power, as well as of the trustworthiness of such people. Unconstrained thinkers, because they can imagine people with power exercising that power for the greater good and only for the greater good, are unwilling to suffer any imperfections in reality –- for why suffer such imperfections if a Great and Good Leader (or Great and Good Council) can possibly make the world a better place?


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