Archive for the ‘Low Pain Threshold’ Category

They Were Right About MacKenzie

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Okay…I was wise to retain an element of doubt about whether this was real or not.

We’ll just take it from the top and follow all four installments all the way through, for the benefit of the uninitiated. I, II, III, IV.

Common sense says, obviously, fake. Okay. I still feel like throwing up a little…daddeeeeeeeeeee…

Whatever Happened To Dungeons? III

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

If it’s real, I’m undecided about the brother who is holding the camera. He’s a dick…or he deserves some kind of medal for keeping the camera on. I’m thinking both apply. Assuming this is real, I’d like everyone screaming at him to turn the camera off, to somehow suffer. Not sure how.

Apologies in advance for that whining that’s going to fill your head all day after watching this. You’ll understand that reference after you watch it. Just watch it. Go on.

Dungeons. Scaffolds and Stocks. Someone explain to me why those are gone now? Something to do with being “civilized”? Oh and come to think of it…dowries. Think of the dowries. Why would a prospective son-in-law not insist on an enormous one, like, something that could buy an entire air force? Wouldn’t it be in the family’s interest to offer one?

I Don’t Want To Be Them

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

I don’t want to be a liberal mover-and-shaker right now. Someone in charge of deciding where we go from here. What would that be like? Before the very first burps and farts from the champagne-and-scrambled-egg breakfast morning after election day, the headaches start — what did we just get voted in to do? Who voted for us?

They’d probably agree with me that this poor deranged fellow is a better amalgamation of their constituents than most folks, although perhaps they’d argue about the problem this creates. Just look at the poor sap. He has the big brass ones to lecture Cindy Sheehan and tell her to “put a sock in it” so that the “Democrats [can] demonstrate they can govern and be a real counterweight to Bush” — and yet, who is he to say? Cindy Sheehan knows what she wants done. She’s said what she wants done. The guy telling her to cork it up, has no idea what he wants done…or if he does have an idea, he won’t say what it is. Probably because he can’t.

Democrats are just now assuming control in Congress, with a full plate of agenda items facing them, ranging from ethics and lobbying reform, reinstalling pay-as-you-go budget rules, changing our energy policy towards self-sufficient alternative sources, and fixing health care and taxes, holding hearings on Iraq, and making Congress more consumer friendly. And already Cindy Sheehan threatens to derail the Democrats before any of this can get started.

I know many of you support Sheehan and may want the Democrats to focus immediately on shutting down this war or impeaching Bush. Please, let the Democrats demonstrate they can govern and be a real counterweight to Bush, and let them fulfill the agenda they ran on, which has large public support before demanding they rush headlong into actions that will cripple the leadership before it can establish itself. Having Sheehan disrupt and shut down a House Democrats’ press conference doesn’t advance one damn thing, and does nothing to bring the war to a close any sooner. Let the hearings take place, let Bush walk the tightrope of justifying an escalation and let Henry Waxman, Joe Biden, Carl Levin, and Charles Rangel among others drag administration officials out in the open over the next 90 days to explain the last six years.

The agenda they ran on, has large public support, huh? Ethics and lobbying reform: How is it to be reformed? Before Al Gore’s first cherry-picked recount, Democrats have told me and told me and told me what they want. All I’ve heard in six years is that the public treasury should be paying for more advertising so no one is “beholden to the big corporations.” That’s not ethics or lobbying reform. Reinstalling pay-as-you-go rules? That’s just a cynical piece of political machinery designed to make it harder to keep tax cuts in place. I’ve heard a lot of that from left-wing leaders, most of them actually serving under the dome; not one word of it from the voters. Or bloggers. Or letter-to-editor writers. Or even television pundits for that matter.

Self-sufficient energy sources? Fixing healthcare? Making Congress more consumer-friendly? Now these, I’ve heard.

Was the election of 2006 was about these things? Really? Does anyone anywhere think so?

If I’m a Democratic senator and I do all three of these things singlehandedly…and then say one nice thing about George W. Bush, what happens to me? Let’s say, if I simply compliment him on his necktie? Do I get re-elected because of my wonderful accomplishments with energy independence and healthcare reform and putting a big happy-face on Congress?

I don’t think so. And that’s why I don’t want to be one of those guys right now. In fact, if I was one of them, I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in the public’s disaffection with Iraq. Changing the course, sure…the public is unhappy with the way things are going. But this giant change-the-course plateau is already splintering up, with a Grand-Canyon-sized fissure snaking its way between the “Let’s Get The Hell Out” folks and the Surge Brigade. It’s making for some pretty bad feeling out there.

Anti-Surge Protests Against McCain, Lieberman
By Sarah Wheaton

Don’t expect Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and anti-war activists to be kissing and making up anytime soon. Demonstrators were out in full force, despite the light sprinkle of rain, to protest his appearance at the American Enterprise Institute here in the nation’s capital. The self-styled Democrat-Independent joined Senator John McCain to speak about Iraq at the conservative think tank, and their call for more troops in Iraq was a foregone conclusion.

“Hey John, hey Joe, escalation has got to go!” and “John McCain, John McCain, escalation is insane!” were chanted pretty much constantly for about an hour by sign-waving activists with, a grassroots group that leans left and generally aligns with Democrats, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group. On top of that, a choir of the Lyndon LaRouche Youth Movement was singing satires about their arch villain, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other hymns.

Yeah, we hate Dick Cheney. Somehow, I doubt that sentiment does much to heal the divide.

I have to seriously question whether the public wants out of Iraq. Unhappiness with our being in there — sure. How can you not be unhappy, when the situation is by nature unhappy? Hell, I’m unhappy about it, as much as anyone…but I’m for it. I would have voted to go in, and I’d do it again.

I guess it has to do with upbringing. I was raised to think whether something is pleasant or not, has little bearing on whether it has to be done. Maybe this is a piece of maturity that a lot of people never learned.

I think most people are on my side of this one. Most people were brought up to understand that while life is better when it’s entertaining, nobody ever promised anybody that it would be. But George Bush lost a big chunk of this crowd for a good reason: Since his re-election, the situation has been mostly unchanged. We’re still there. We still have control of the place. Terrorists don’t want us to have control of it, and they’re making public-relations moves the way terrorists do that…with things that go boom. The body-count is infinitesimal by the standards of previous engagements…but it’s still trickling upwards, past multiples of a thousand, past the official body-count from the September 11 attacks, which I was previously told were entirely unrelated to Iraq. And the media is taking advantage of this to do public-relations the way they do public-relations.

I hate to seem cynical, but none of this really means as much as a lot of people would like it to mean. That we’re occupying a place, means our country has taken control of it. I think if you could travel back in time to, say, somewhere around 1995 to 1998, most reasonable people from there would say this is a good thing. That our troops continue to be blown up by IED’s, simply means that this piece of turf is strategically important. There are arguments to the contrary; some of them are highly creative; but none of them hold much water. Placing bombs by the roadside and blowing up American troops, entertaining as this may be to an unsettled mind, is hardly something one would consider just for the sake of sport. Besides, it costs money. Someone in a position of power, someone with interests contrary to ours, is none to fond of the status quo. Once you acknowledge that, you have to acknowledge our country has accomplished something important.

And yet the Americans are unhappy. Is the status quo equally disaffecting to them? Is it really because of the situation itself, or is it with uncertainty about it?

Well, Americans don’t trust the media, according to the latest Gallup poll.

A new Gallup poll released today reveals that most Americans — some 56% — believe that the news media’s coverage of the war in Iraq is generally “inaccurate.”

But in what way? Of those who feel that coverage has been inaccurate, 61% feel it has painted too negative a picture there, while 36% say it has pictured it as too positive.

That means that overall, about one-third of Americans believe that the news media present too negative a picture of what is happening in Iraq; one out of five believe that the news media present too positive a picture, and the rest say that news media coverage is about right or have no opinion.

Looking at the partisan divide, Gallup explains: “Two-thirds of Republicans believe that the news media’s coverage of Iraq is both inaccurate and makes the situation there appear worse. Only one-quarter say that news media coverage is accurate. [emphasis mine]

I think this is pretty important. How could it not be? Twenty-five percent of us trust the media coverage of what’s going on over there. This is even more confounding when you realize there’s a certain bedrock, and it isn’t too far below twenty-five. Under the worst possible scenario, a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” type of moment…how many of us would still trust the media, after it had been proven according to empirical evidence that we should not? Five percent? Ten? Fifteen?

So it all comes down to this: We don’t know what’s going on, we aren’t in a good position to find out, and we understand this to be a problem. This isn’t the kind of thing that makes people happy. Now, no matter what your party affiliation, it makes good sense that you’re going to gather more useful information about what’s going on if a different party takes over Congress, than if things stay as they are — especially if the President’s party remains in control of Congress. With that in mind, it makes good sense that a different party should be put in charge.

So I have no beef with the folks who voted for the baby-killing soldier-slandering tax-the-rich party. I don’t even have a beef with the folks who run it…nothing that rises to any level of significance next to the pity I have for them. The only beef I really have, is with the propaganda artists who work at misconstruing this as some kind of mandate, consciously or otherwise.

But hey, they’ll always be around.

This is no mandate for “fixing” healthcare or taxes, solar power, lobbying reform or +++snort+++ pay-as-you-go budget rules. But really, nobody needs me to point that out. Certainly not loyal Democrats. They said exactly this thing after the elections of 1994, when Newt Gingrich’s party won twice as many seats in the House as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s party just won. Except this time, we have a war; wars have a saddening, fatiguing effect on people, and what a wretched lot of nasty people we would be if this were not the case. And sad, fatigued people simply don’t vote for the status quo.

Because of that — and some guy named Mark Foley, remember him? — Madame Speaker enjoys a majority of sixteen seats out of 435. Enjoy ’em while you can, Nan.

Memo For File XXXVI

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

Blogger friend James Bostwick over at Newsblog Central has performed an excellent fisking job on some silly blow-dried airhead piece in SFGate about the minimum wage. He gets two shiny gold stars for this one. It’s not for the great smart-alecky job of fisking, since I’m not a big fan of fisking anyway. It’s for 1) correctly pointing out that the minimum wage is all about outlawing jobs, rather than about giving people money; and 2) linking to an insightful and well-written column over at the Mises Institute explaining in detail, for those who need to have it explained, Point 1). And as far as the fisking goes, it does have a place — and this is one of those places. Example:

Alice Laguerre is among the millions of workers now earning less than $7.25 an hour. She makes $6.55 an hour driving cars headed for the auction blocks in Orlando, Fla., and says a boost in the federal minimum wage would help her build a nest egg for emergencies.

Really? ‘Cause somehow that just doesn’t mesh numbers-wise with this passage:

That can be tough these days, acknowledges Laguerre, 53, after paying the monthly rent and utilities on her two-bedroom apartment and after recently buying a car — a blue 1994 Buick Century.

Check out monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments in Orlando, Florida–you’d be lucky to find something under $800. And the Blue Book value on a 1994 Buick Century is between $2000 and $2500, depending on four or six cylinder models (maybe blue ones are cheaper.) With a typical 40-hour work week, Laguerre makes $1,048 gross a month. And she still has to pay food, utilities, etc. Even if she has another job as the breadwinner, it doesn’t compute.

Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner. A problem is identified, and a solution is proposed — yet the solution is ineffectual against the stated problem, and no one with a reputation worth defending seeks to assert anything different. Not only do we go ahead and implement the ineffectual solution once, we do it many times, over several generations — and act surprised when the problem remains.

You know what is unique about the issue of the minimum wage, is it reveals the failure of the liberal mindset to adhere to the plane of reality, like no other issue before us. You go down through the list, there’s a conservative outlook on the effect of a given proposed policy, and then there’s a liberal outlook. Conservatives think wars may be necessary some of the time, to keep larger wars from happening later — liberals think war can be avoided forever, when one interested side has decided to simply stop fighting them. Conservatives think global warming is part of a natural cycle, liberals think it’s an extinction-level event. Conservatives think the death tax is double-taxation, liberals figure that just because the taxed party is seeing the loot for the first time, this is somehow not the case. The same goes for gun control. Conservatives say if guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns. Liberals say if we don’t (in the words of Michael Moore) “have all these guns lying around,” there won’t be any gun violence because it won’t be possible. Like Obi-Wan said, you come to find out a great many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point-of-view…

…but in the case of the minimum wage, it’s different. It’s much simpler. Conservatives say it’s all about outlawing jobs. This is not a point-of-view. It’s simply what the policy does. To extrapolate any more complicated mission from a minimum wage law, is to indulge in fantasy.

And yet, from sea to shining sea, untold millions of people so indulge. And they think they’re commenting intelligently on the policy. Nobody seeks to assert any minimum wage law, federal or state, anywhere, engages in an effort to collect revenues to supplement these wages. That would probably be shot down as “corporate welfare” if it were ever proposed. So lacking that, we borrow from Bostwick’s terminology to illustrate what the law really does: make “free and voluntary wage contracts illegal.”

There really isn’t any disagreement about the minimum wage as a job killer. Not among those who make the policy. It’s like arguing over whether a higher prime interest rate has a retarding effect on the economy. There’s a reason why the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in a decade, and there’s a reason why the amount of the proposed increase is proportional to the number of years since the last increase. The minimum wage is already indexed to inflation, for all practical purposes; we just have this ceremonial knock-down-drag-out, just before the increase kicks in. When Congress increases it, it increases it as much as can be afforded. Over the long haul, adjusted for inflation, it doesn’t increase. Not really.

And that is why we’re allowed to argue over the job-killing effect. It’s made into a matter of individual perspective, artficially.

Suppose we had some genuine curiosity about whether the minimum wage is deleterious to the job situation, and were willing to make some real changes to policy in order to settle the matter. There’s almost no limit to what we could do, save for our imagination. We could, just for starters, increase it after inflation. We could index it to the inflation rate over a period of several years — doubled. Or tripled. Inflation for Fiscal Year 1 is 3.5%, minimum wage automatically goes up by 10.5%. Do that for a decade. Or, we could go the other way. Rather than freezing it over a period of several years, thereby asking for sob-story articles like this one — “imagine what it would be like to work without a pay raise for nearly 10 years” — we could cut the dollar amount. We could even sunset that measure. For the next thirty-six months, the federal minimum wage nosedives by a buck fifty an hour, just so we can see what happens. That would effectively legalize the “free and voluntary wage contracts” that were, up until then, illegal. Maybe more people would then be hired. Perhaps not? At the end of the three years, we wouldn’t have to argue about it. We’d know.

In my lifetime, and beyond, we haven’t done any of those things. We just keep it at a posted dollar amount across several years, which is silly because inflation is always around and never goes away. And at the end of some period of time, we have our predictable Republican/Democrat knockem-sockem routines, and of course the Democrats always win. They must. The debate is about the theory, only on the surface, only cosmetically. In substance, the debate always turns to what a rotten time Alice Laguerre is having of things, and whether she could use a few more dollars in her purse.

That’s just stupid. Of course she can use them.

What is to be gleaned from the data, if we were to sit down with our state governments, our fifty-one social laboratories, to figure out what the minimum wage does? Not much. Conservatives theorize this would prove the minimum wage kills jobs, liberals say it would exonerate the minimum wage. Some hard-core leftists will insist the minimum wage reduces the unemployment rate, and they’re all too willing to offer cherry-picked examples to support what they want supported. Never, in my experience, has anyone sat down with all of the data at a given time, and presented it in a simplified way so cause-and-effect could be examined with some intellectual sincerity. Well, a few months ago I actually did this. I went through 51 states and I plotted it. Not that hard. Turns out conservatives and liberals are both wrong. What one gleans from the data, is that different parts of the country have different economies. The scatter diagram that results, presents no correlation whatsoever between the state’s effective minimum wage, and the unemployment rate of that region:

You can review my data for the effective minimum wage levels here and you can check my data on the unemployment figures here. The chart was last refreshed back in July, so admittedly there’s an issue of currency. But nothing that would impact the cause-and-effect between wage controls and unemployment figures; and anyone who doesn’t trust the scatter, in an hour or two could repeat the exercise entirely. The data is all there and it can be accessed by anyone who wants to.

You see over on the left side, we have several states with no minimum wage. In the eyes of the law, the effective minimum there reverts to the federal rate of $5.15. The latest reported unemployment rates from these localities is between 3½ and just over 8 percent, which is roughly on par with the other states that yank it between one and two dollars over the federal minimum. THERE…IS…NO…CORRELATION. None. What you’re seeing here, is a disparity amongst the states as far as how draconian of a minimum wage you can afford to have — based on what’s going on there.

I would expect “most” Americans, if they were to explore this honestly, would opt for a “moderate” approach to the minimum wage. If such an argument were then to be pursued honestly, we would then see those Americans would end up supporting a full repeal of the federal minimum wage. That would be moderate, would it not? In twenty-five states, this would have no effect whatsoever. Among the states that remain, doubtlessly most of them would pass state-level measures to re-institute the federal minimum that had just been nullified. The states that would seize the opportunity and ratchet the effective minimum downward, I expect, would be down in the single digits. The states leaving the minimum-wage concept non-existent, leaving everything up to the employer and the employee, I would probably be able to count on the fingers of one hand.

Let us then plot those on a scatter diagram like the one above, with some contrails to show how things are moving around. Who knows what would be revealed two or three years afterward? Truth be told, I think I’ve got an idea. Deep down, I don’t think anyone disagrees with my idea. Not if they were to bet some real money on it, they wouldn’t.

Once again…if we did that, we would know.

But decade after decade after decade…we do none of these things. We just let conservatives and liberals argue over what the minimum wage does to the job market. We all know the conservatives are right — all they’re saying, is when you make a commodity more expensive it’s less likely to be consumed. That’s Econ 101 stuff. And yet…we also know whenever the argument comes up, the liberals will win. So it’s known, the way we engage the argument, the wrong side will win. It isn’t just conservatives who know this. Everybody knows it. We just don’t want to admit it.

This is an issue that is supposed to be really, really, breathtakingly, important. We don’t act like it is.