Sunday, November 22, 2015

Campus Carry

The big issue on Florida college campuses these days is the impending possibility that people who can lawfully carry a concealed firearm elsewhere in Florida may soon be permitted** to do so at Florida colleges.   Horrors!

That is: those who are 21 or over (we're talking seniors or grad students, generally), who have had an extensive background check both by FDLE and FBI, whose fingerprints are on file in Tallahassee, and who have demonstrated reasonable proficiency with a firearm, may do on a college campus that which they can do almost everywhere else in the state, viz.: be inconspicuously armed.   Students, faculty, and administrators are suffering a case of the vapours at the mere thought that, should a Virginia Tech incident or a Strozier Library incident occur in their school, there will be even more guns making loud noises.   At least, that's what I believe they're thinking##.

Now, it turns out that only two states, Texas and Florida, compile statistics on "how many crimes are committed by people who have concealed weapons permits (CWPs)".   The numbers are truly puzzling if one accepts the dominant meme that all CWP-holders are Dirty Harry wannabees looking for any excuse to whip out their penis-substitute and start rendering swift justice — you know, like George Zimmerman.   The numbers Texas and Florida supply suggest that CWP-holders are more law-abiding than the police as a class.   Not only that, it appears they are less likely to shoot the wrong person than the police are — by a factor of five (5).

On net, then, for those really worried about their safety, the most logical course of action is to hope that they're seated next to one of those...  those... people (ugh!) with their nasty guns (shiver!) because — oddly enough — that's likely the safest place in the room or the building or (perhaps) the school.   Far from making the college a riskier place, those CWP-holders will actually make it a safer place.



(**:)   By 'permitted', I mean that they will no longer be under threat of felony prosecution for the action.

(##:)   ...if, in fact, thinking has actually occurred, something for which there appears to be little or no evidence.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

First, Charlie Hebdo, now...

Well, it's been a few days since the terrorist attacks in Paris.   The dust has mostly settled and speculation has tapered off.   We're pretty sure what we know or suspect is, in fact, true:   ISIS has claimed responsibility and there is little reason to doubt their veracity, in this case at any rate.

The French — indeed, all of Western Europe — are shocked — shocked, I tell you — that terrorists can so easily obtain better, more deadly, weapons than the Paris gendarmerie typically tote.   The ordinary Jacques-sur-la-Rue, I might add, is a criminal for carrying almost anything that might be called 'a weapon'.

I could rant on and on for paragraphs about how important it is for ordinary people to be able to be their own first responders and how that requires that they be able to act — forcefully — in their own defense.   You've just heard all the ranting I'm going to do, except...  

I do wish to point out something L. Neil Smith has already expounded:   'terrorism' is a diffuse problem and it will not succumb to a targeted solution;   only a diffuse solution will fit a diffuse problem.   What this means, on net, is that we cannot expect the police, the FBI (or, in France, DCPJ), or the NSA to always be on top of the situation.   Yes, they will thwart the occasional plot, but not every one.   The only thing that will put a bullet into the nefarious plans of terrorists is the thought that Jacques Bonhomme will put a bullet into one or more terrorists.

I am pretty sure France will not take my advice.   Too bad, but I've done my part.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?

The greatest of the 'all-time great' first-person stories have to be those told by people who were involved in The Great Northeast Power Blackout of 1965.   I'm impelled to add mine for no reason than to add luster to the others.

I, fortunately or unfortunately, slept through the entire thing.

The GNPB struck New York City...  struck the whole Northeast...  at about 5:15pm on November 9th 1965.  At the time I was a student at Pace College, 41 Park Row in lower Manhattan.   My mother and her second husband, Eddie, were on a cruise to Bermuda at the time and I was left to my own devices.

The afternoon of November 9th I had two things I didn't really want:  a developing cold and a Biology Lab final exam.  When we started the Lab final the instructor told us that as soon as we were finished we could leave, and as soon as I was finished I did.

I recall swapping material at my locker in the basement then heading straight for the subway.  I felt terrible;  my head was pounding and my nose was stuffy and I was developing a fever and...  I caught a train headed into Brooklyn, a 4th Avenue Local most likely, and got to the 45th Street station very close to 5:15.  I have always suspected that the train I was on might not have made it to 53rd Street, the next stop.

Oddly, the section of Brooklyn that I called 'home' was served in an electrical sense by a small independent generating company on Staten Island, probably under contract to Con Ed, and they never got hit by the blackout.  Consequently, I had power all night long if I had wanted or needed it.

When I arrived home, I made something simple and small to eat for dinner and turned on the TV to catch the news.  There was nothing but snow on the TV and none of the radio stations were broadcasting either.  For some reason I didn't find this odd; it was just another reason not to stay up.  I had a quick bite to eat and went upstairs to bed, fell asleep, and awoke the next morning to a perfectly normal world.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oh, Crap!

Norene and I always watch Rick Steves' travel programs on Tampa's WUSF-TV and tonight's (19OCT15) program has re-infected our love for Paris.   It has been eight years since we were last in Paris, fifteen since we saw the Musee de Cluny du Moyen Age, and we have never been to L'Orangerie with its outstanding display of early-20th-century art.

At the first opportunity — as soon as travel dates open up accompanied by the cash to support a trip — we're outahere for France.   Having now crossed the Atlantic on a ship, we're comfortable with the idea of spending a week or two getting to Europe, and you don't have to overcome jet-lag when you get there.

Who wants to go?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

There Ought (Not) To Be A Law

I've noticed recently that each new President we get seems to be worse than the one before.   How can that be?   After all, each one of them begs for our vote because they want to fix what their predecessor screwed up.   How is it that fixing a prior screw-up winds up being a bigger screw-up?   Congress follows the same pattern, more or less.

I write this because I think I may have discovered the key to understanding what's happening.

We toss the ball back and forth between Republicans and Democrats on the rebuttable presumption that they are different.   That may be the source of the problem.

The great conflict, here at the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st, is not 'right-vs-left', but rather 'collectivist-vs-individualist'.   Put another way:  does the citizen exist so that government may exist or does government exist so that the citizenry can exist?   My answer is the same as Thomas Jefferson's, he who wrote in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.   That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...

That is:  our happiness, our rights, are the reason we created this government, and its only job is to make sure we keep our rights and (thusly) our happiness.   That's an individualist position, and not enough Americans subscribe to it.   Certainly, neither the Republican party nor the Democratic party subscribe to it.   Their goal is to remain in power and to grow that power.   Growing that power means, necessarily, growing government.   That means, in the normal course of things, more laws (for you to obey), more cost (for businesses to pay), another bureaucracy employing more civil servants who will be paid by either

  • higher taxes,
  • inflation, or
  • more debt
all of which will eventually come out of taxpayers' pockets; that is, your pockets.   You're paying the bill for making government bigger if not better because both of the major parties are 'pro-government' as opposed to 'pro-people'.   They're both collectivist organizations.

And in four years we will complain about how much worse this President is than the last one.

What's the solution?   I think we need to get over the provably false notion that the solution to all our problems is 'more government'.   We need to stop electing people whose real goal is to amass ever more power to themselves by being part of an ever more massive government bureaucracy.   We need to elect people who are philosophically committed to reducing the size of government (as opposed to saying they're in favor of small government).   That disqualifies Democrats, who are traditionally the 'bigger government party'.   It also disqualifies Republicans, who talk a good 'small government' game, but who act as if they are really Democrats.

What's left?   Is anybody really a proponent of 'smaller government than we have now'?   There may be.  

The Libertarian Party is roundly criticized for holding that there ought to be fewer laws for we the people to obey and fewer regulations for businesses to follow.   'Anarchy!' their detractors shout, but here's the 'rub':   It's all those regulations that force businesses to employ armies of lobbyists to grease the palms of Congressmen so that the next set of regulations doesn't hurt them.   Hell, the lobbyists often write the regulations that Congressmen then pass off as their own crusading work.   Does anyone think a lobbyist would write a regulation that would damage their employer and leave the competition unfettered?   Does anyone think a lobbyist might write a regulation which would hobble the competition and leave their employer in a position to pillage the public treasury?   As long as you think There Oughta Be A Law, the latter is far more likely than the former.   And the Congress loves it.   Why do you think there are more millionaires per capita in Congress than in the general population?

Certainly, having to choose between the two major parties and picking, every four years, the lesser of two evils has not, historically, been a good choice on our part.   Maybe it's time for something entirely different.

Friday, September 18, 2015

There are no terrorists

There are no terrorists. At least, there are no organized terrorists.   Attempts to thwart attacks by organized terrorist cells are a waste of effort, because there are no such cells plotting any such attacks.   To say that TSA, as one example, protects us from terrorists is demonstrably untrue.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that there are terrorists just itching to blow up another plane.   Thank goodness for TSA, you say; they prevent that by searching everyone at the airport.

Along comes a terrorist suicide bomber ready to cause death and destruction.   She arrives at the airport fully-wired.   She buys a ticket, then gets on line for her TSA pat down.   She's 200th in line.   The line moves and more people join the end.   She's 100th in line.   In the middle of the pack, she blows herself up, along with 200 random passengers waiting to be searched, 8 TSA agents doing the searching, and $4 million worth of expensive electronic gear.   The police rope off the area.   The FBI starts examining evidence, bagging body parts, and collecting DNA samples.   This TSA inspection area, possibly the entire airport if it's small enough, is closed until the FBI is through with it and airport maintenance workers have cleaned up all the blood and gore and repainted the walls and ceilings.

Okay, no airplanes were harmed in the making of this terrorist incident, but several hundred people are dead and lots more are now afraid to be anywhere near the airport.   TSA agents are rethinking their choice of careers.   They got blind-sided by someone who hadn't yet been searched.

Why hasn't such an incident happened in the more than a dozen years since 9-11?   There are a few possible explanations.   One, there may be a critical shortage of dedicated suicide bombers; that would do it.   Two, planning an operation that actually brings down an airplane takes years of work and lots of money; maybe they're broke.   Third, the terrorists (we're assuming that such people still exist) don't need to do anything more because we're already terrorized; they have us where they want us; this is far more likely.   This third possibility is actually the scariest of all.   If true, the terrorists can simply disband and assimilate back into the population — mission accomplished, let's go home.   I believe this is what has actually happened: they've lost their raison d'ĂȘtre.

If that's true, then TSA has no raison d'ĂȘtre either, except that they get regular paychecks.   That's actually the only real accomplishment of TSA: they get paid for making us think they're accomplishing something.   Protecting us from terrorists?   Highly unlikely verging on 'don't make me laugh'.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Corporate Taxes

A few days ago I was commenting on the Chattanooga shootings of recruiters and supported arming them.   Another commenter raised the issue of Posse Comitatus and...

Frank Clarke: I hadn't considered Posse Comitatus (which, oddly, is also "PC").   I guess the government will just have to allow EVERYONE to go armed to act as a deterrent to a military takeover
· July 18 at 1:06pm

Wendy Anderson: I don't have a problem with that, Frank.   I would like to see tax rates on corporations go back to pre-Reagan so we can pay for more State Police...   we can assign them to guard those military offices without getting into the who (sic) "marital (sic) law" issue.
· 23 hours ago

Frank Clarke: Why?   Does it cost more to have law-abiding citizens armed?


I got to thinking about this (increasing corporate taxes) and had a revelation.   Allow me to share.

We say that corporations don't actually pay any taxes; they just collect them.   The basis for this is that by the workings of "generally accepted accounting principles", taxes are a cost of doing business.   As such, these costs work their way down through the cost-of-goods-sold into the wholesale price and the ultimate buyer pays it.   Either that or they reduce the firm's retained earnings and the shareholders pay it.

"Nothing wrong with that," I hear you say,   "Those capitalists can afford to make less."

So, the firm eats the tax increase and Retained Earnings falls off.   So does the Dividends per Share.

Preston and Diana Gotbux have 40,000 shares of ACME Tool in their investment portfolio, and they notice the drop in their dividend income.   Investigating, they realize that the corporate tax rate went from 38% to 44%.   The portion of dividend income they didn't get was taxed at 44% instead of the 53% they would have paid at their upper tax bracket.   They actually got a small discount on their taxes although it would be tough to calculate exactly how much.

Pete and Dede Sixpack have 40 shares of ACME Tool in their portfolio and they barely noticed a blip in their annual dividend check, so they didn't even bother to ask why.   Too bad.   It turns out that the few cents they didn't get from ACME because of the corporate tax bump was taxed at 44% instead of the 23% Pete and Dede would have paid if the dividends had been paid to them.   Pete and Dede didn't actually pay any more taxes -- less in fact, because their gross was less -- but ACME paid more on their behalf and at nearly double the rate they would have paid.

Preston and Diana are one of 30,000 couples in similar circumstances.   Pete and Dede are one of 36 million couples in similar circumstances.   Pete and Dede paid a penalty; Preston and Diana got the benefit.   Way to go, babe.   Stick it to the poor and pay it to the rich.   Ain't Unintended Consequences a bitch?

It gets worse.

ACME is big enough and has been in business long enough that they can absorb the higher taxes.   JONES Tool is a startup from last year and operates on a shoestring.   They don't have a spare 6% to cover the higher taxes.   They are now forced to make a cruel choice: either off-shore some of its employees as a cost-cutting measure or close their doors.   Either way, the twelve JONES Tool employees are goners.   If JONES shuts down, ACME has less competition and has more freedom to manipulate the market.   A bright ACME lobbyist would have asked his Senator to jack up the corporate tax rate.   Maybe he did.   And the Unintended Consequences keep on rollin' in.