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Saturday, May 05, 2012

David Frum Is Mostly Useful

For cutting through the nonsense that his fellow conservatives peddle with aplomb.  Here he is paraphrasing a friend on the risk-taking, job creators in the 1%:
Risk-taking? These guys aren't risk-takers. Think of the founders of Google. They came from middle-class families and went to Stanford. Short of inheriting the crown of England, there's nobody in this life less exposed to risk than a Stanford Ph.D. in computer science. They had a business idea. They didn't put up their own money. They used other people's money—venture capital. And the venture capital company wasn't using its own money either. They were investing other people's money too—and taking fees of 2% on principal and 20% of profits for their trouble. You know the only people at risk in this deal? The teachers and university professors whose pension money would have been lost if the business had failed. Pension funds and insurance companies: they're the source of almost all our domestic investible funds. It's the middle-class and working-class people whose wages go into those funds who are at risk, not the rich—and especially not a chop shop like Bain, where they buy a company, lever it up, charge huge fees, and then sell the parts.
For years, I've heard free-market types explain to me how they think markets should work...and then I look at the market and see how the reality lines up with the rhetoric.

It's not even close.

The Rip-Off

Last week the pump on my swamp cooler went out.  The fan was blowing, but it wasn't cooling.  In a moment of financial panic, I called a heating and plumbing company to come out the next day to check it out.

In the interim, I had the bright idea of getting on the roof and checking things out.  Turns out, swapping out the pump was not only doable, but it was easy and cheap.  It took me less than five minutes to get back up and running again.

But I didn't cancel the plumber.  I figured, if nothing else, I could get them to replace the pads and clean it out, maybe even take a look at my drains (more on that in a second).

The guy comes out.  I explain that I fixed the pump, that I'm looking for a cleaning and service type deal.  The guy gives me his spiel.  The company's been in business since Cortes conquered the Aztecs.  When the Romans invented indoor plumbing, this is the kind of company they had in mind.  They never have creeping prices.  They do everything by the book.

And they'd clean my swamp cooler and change out the pads for the paltry sum of...

Five hundred dollars?

It was a little more than $500, but the sum blew me away.  All I could think was, Damn, how much would they have charged me for the pump?  My guess?  Probably about ten times the $30 I paid at Home Depot.

Now this concerns me for a number of reasons.  I have a problem with my drains.  Not sure what it is, exactly  --roots in the sewer, a broken pipe, a persistent clog-- but I know two things:  To fix it, I'm going to need a plumber and possibly a second job.

If changing out the pads on a swamp cooler runs $500, then how much are they going to ask to repair my sewer line?  A year's salary?

Stay tuned, faithful readers.  Faced with the option of living in a house with a broken sewer line, going further into debt to fix a house worth less than what I owe, or foreclosing on the fucking thing.....I might just go with the least bad option:  Door #3.

Civil Unions

Here in Colorado, gay marriages are unconstitutional.  Back in the heady days of George W. Bush, conservatives pushed through an amendment saying marriage is between one man and one woman, you know, just in case some lower court tried to say that shit is discriminatory.  Having failed to amend the U.S. Constitution, Republicans in state houses across the country rushed to accomplish the same thing on the local level.

But it looks like we may be joining the states that allows civil unions, which....don't care....I'm going to call "marriages."

Thanks to Republican assholes, though, the margin is incredibly close:

The bill passed out of the House Finance Committee in a 7-6 vote. All Democrats on the committee voted for it and one Republican, Rep. Don Beezley (R-Broomfield), also voted to approve it.
Sad that on that committee, there's only one decent Republican.  Thanks, Rep. Beezley!  Rep Nikkel, a Republican from Loveland, also deserves some praise:
Gay rights groups applauded Rep. B.J. Nikkel (R-Loveland) for voting in favor of the bill.

Nikkel told 9NEWS it's not an issue she is passionate about, but she doesn't like the argument offered by some of her fellow Republicans that civil unions are a threat to marriage as an institution.
"I don't believe that that's really true," Nikkel said. "I think that's a fear-based argument and it's not based in logic or on the facts."
 No shit...

I don't even think the people who make that argument genuinely believe it.  They just believe that gay people are second class citizens and should be treated as such, which is really hard to justify once the state recognizes the legitimacy of homosexual relationships.

Still, it's somewhat amusing to watch "small government" Republicans indulge in some "big government" gay-hating.  I'd say it's reason #289475 why I'm not a Republican.

Kill the Bears

A black bear in Boulder was tranquilized last week and fell out of a tree.  His photo went viral. The bear, unhurt by the incident, went for a long car ride and was dumped somewhere near the Continental Divide.

On Thursday, he was back in the Boulder area, killed by a car when trying to cross the Boulder Turnpike.


And hey, I can't really fault the Parks and Wildlife Department for trying to be humane about the whole thing, but maybe they could also be smart about it too?  I mean, we're getting into dicey territory when the "humane" option is tranking a bear, making him fall out of tree, dropping him in hostile territory way out of his range, and hoping for the best.

The last week of that bear's life must have been terrifying.  "Man, I don't get it.  First these people are leaving out food and the next thing they're shooting me with darts.  Then they kidnap me and drag me out into the middle of nowhere."  I can picture the bear clambering through the valleys in a panic.  "Gotta get home, gotta get home."


I mean, he is just a dumb bear.  He doesn't know he's supposed to live in the wilderness.  He thought he just had to live where there were no other bears and a plentiful food supply.  It's not his fault he found that in an urban area.  How was he supposed to know?


I do applaud Parks and Wildlife for this:
"We try to do everything we can to give the bears a chance and we really need citizens to step up and give these bears a chance as well. We need them to remove food attractants such as trash, bird feeders and fruit and berries falling off of trees."
But.....but one third of that is "duh!" (trash removal), another third is just impractical (what, we're going to have foraging teams denuding all berry and fruit bearing trees?), and the remaining third won't have much impact.

What we need, I think, is some courageous person to make the case for culling these bears.  In other words, this should be part of the Parks and Wildlife statement:
"And we really need citizens to give us the flexibility and understanding that allows us to cull some of these urban bears.  They cannot be effectively relocated, nor can they be trained to avoid potential confrontations.  For the safety of the public and the health of the species, we'll be euthanizing any habituated bears we catch in an urban area."

That won't happen in our current intellectual climate, where well-meaning folks don't seem to get that nature is much, much crueler than man ever could be.  Don't eat meat.  Don't wear leather or fur.  I don't care.


But for God's sake, cull the urbanized bears.

Good News and Bad News

And unfortunately the "good" news isn't that good and the "bad" news is quite bad.

First, the good:

The Nuggets beat the Lakers tonight, making it a 2-1 series and forgoing the possibility of a sweep. 

And now the bad:

Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, aka MCA, has died.  He's been sick with cancer for years, and I didn't think prospects were good when I heard he was fighting it with some ultra-Buddhist macrobiotic diet or something.  When he didn't show at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame for the Beasties' induction, I figured he was in bad shape so I can't say I'm surprised that he's now dead.  Just sad.

It was over ten years ago now, but I saw the Beastie Boys play at McNichols Arena (Denver's pre-Pepsi Center arena) with A Tribe Called Quest.  It was MCA's birthday and Q-Tip and the other Beasties chased him around stage trying to slam a birthday cake in his face.  Good times.

(Junior Seau died, too, and while also tragic, I just can't mourn him appropriately.  Interesting player, dynamic dude....but he played for the Chargers.  Which is almost as bad as playing for the Raiders --not quite, but almost.  Screw the Raiders and the Chargers.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Geronimo

Some idiot on CNN just asked, "Who remembers who was president when Geronimo was killed?"

Um...Geronimo died at the age of 79 from pneumonia. Taft had been president for less than two months.

God Bless Stephen King

Stephen King, in a righteous rant worth reading in full, writes:

 Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-f--king-American, is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Gov. Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.
Run for office, Steve! I'd vote for you, and not because I liked The Shining.

Mike Rosen Can't Be Trusted

Mike Rosen shouldn't have any credibility after getting sucked into that Ponzi scheme he advertised to listeners of his radio show, but the Denver Post is still publishing him.

Here he is diagnosing the state's education ills. Problem is, he's like a cutrate exorcist rather than a credentialed medical doc.

 Let me just quote him:
Now, it's unfortunate that there's not enough money in the public till to pay these government workers what they were expecting, but why give them the day off?

When private-sector workers whose employers come up short on revenues have to take pay cuts, they don't get extra days off. If you're self-employed and business is slow, not only won't you take the day off, you'll work longer to make up for the revenue loss. If we regard the services of government workers as essential — whether they're teachers or the folks who man the counters at the Department of Motor Vehicles — why should the public be denied those services? Sorry about the pay cut, but they should still show up for work.
Let that soak in for a minute.

Mike Rosen wants people who aren't getting paid to show up for work. Not because he would do it, but because teacher's should. (He even has the rote right-wing response to what ails the education system: teacher's unions!)

And why the big budget shortfall? An inability to raise revenue with some decidedly stupid spending priorities, you know, like giving free land and millions of dollars to Cabela's or Gaylord Entertainment.

I guess the good news is that it doesn't require much education to change sheets or stock shelves.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Radley Balko Is Sometimes Useful Part I

I don't blog anonymously, but I do blog in obscurity. I don't hype the blog at all, don't even tell most people that it exists. I have no illusions about my blog skills or expectations that this will result in money, career, or happiness. It just is...

But today I had a reminder that sometimes obscurity doesn't amount to much. Not only did I get a few hits from Gaylord Entertainment, who I somewhat rudely claimed was "sucking on the government teat," but Radley Balko found my post where I somewhat rudely claimed he was "mostly useless" and then tweeted it out to the world.

Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I do think it's funny, especially considering the "Heavy: Lift With Caution" blog is a non-professional endeavor with no branding, no ads, no wider aspirations, and almost no audience. My biggest readers are random Googlers and a small handful of family/blog-friends.

In the big scheme of things, I'm a nobody. I'm a glorified internet commenter with a Blogger account.

You know, the kind of guy whose posts don't deserve links from respectable pros like Radley Balko or the hundreds of readers he sent my way. Makes me wonder if I should change up my blog strategy.

Forget obscurity. Throw up ads. Insult prominent bloggers. Wait for their tweets, wait for their readers, then go cash the check.

Nah......

Gaylord Entertainment: Sucking on the Government's Teat

I know, I know. I've cranked on about the giveaways that Gaylord Entertainment is lining up for their big DIA development. I often feel like I'm the only one.

I'm not.

Joel Judd gives it some perspective:

Gaylord will grab the property taxes a non-subsidized development would have paid to the School District -- $240 million over thirty years or $8 million per year.

If the legislature had the revenue, it could make up that $8 million to the schools. But it doesn't. Since the recession started in 2008, it has balanced the budget by cutting school funding every year. That's why we're now $1 billion under the level mandated by 2000's Amendment 23 and we've frozen funding from at $6 thousand per kid. Diverting another $8 million means all 178 districts suck it up and each of Colorado's 817,000 school kids kicks in $10 per year to subsidize Gaylord.

So this is the question you get to answer: Is Colorado better off using this money for the kids or giving it to Gaylord?
My bold. Cutting back on your kid's education to give a well-funded hotel chain a sweet deal? That's just stupid.

Radley Balko is Mostly Useless Part 2

After Ray Lahood mused about using technology to cut down on people using their cell phones while driving, I discovered the Libertarians consider distracted driving to be a birthright. In fact, this became the prime example in my "Why Libertarians Are Idiots" arguments.

Cell phone blocking technology is illegal in the United States. But if it were legal, we would see it deployed in many different ways. The government may require it in cars to cut down on distracted driving, yes, that's true. But many other private entities will deploy it for other reasons: restaurants to provide a nice dining atmosphere, movie theaters to ensure silence during the film, convention centers, sporting events, political events.

Indeed, if cell phone blocking technology were deployed, I suspect it would be deployed in these venues before the government starts demanding they're installed in cars.

What will the Libertarians say about the movie theater blocking your cell phone signal to ensure a quiet house? My guess is that they'll support it. We'll hear about property rights. We'll hear about rational choice. We'll hear about efficient markets and all the other hoodoo they believe.

But if the government blocks your cell phone signal to cut down on road deaths, then we'll hear nothing but crying over coercion and Big Brother is Watching You and all kinds of other nonsense. Not because they're against cell phone blockers in principal, just when the government does it.

If your philosophy allows private entities to infringe freedom to ensure silence, but does not allow public entities to infringe the very same freedom to avoid preventable deaths then I say your philosophy is "mostly useless." It provides no guide to life more complex than "government bad, private good," which sadly many Libertarians may feel is not an unfair distillation of their views.

All of this is a lengthy preamble to this bit on Radley Balko's blog:
The Obama administration is pushing a federal ban on any use of a cell phone while driving. So I’ll be unfolding a map over the steering wheel when I get lost instead of pulling up my phone’s GPS. Much safer.
Here's an idea: Figure out where you're going before you leave. Lost? Need to use your GPS? Pull over and use it. Get a passenger to do it. Do the smart thing. If you're behind the wheel, focus on driving. If everyone did that, we wouldn't need laws like this. Right?