THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
Friday, June 03, 2011
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May 30, 2011
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|This week:||Tuesday, May
It has not been a high production month. I have been laid out by something vicious. I think I am recovering.
On my walk this morning I gave some thought to the immigration problem. The topic was inspired by a letter from a reader who persists in trying to convince me that there is something morally wrong with Newt Gingrich's observation that at some point we are going to have to think of ways to legalize some of the illegals currently here.
I understand what is upsetting about this. Any hint that there can be some form of amnesty enormously increases the incentives for others to come here illegally. Even discussing the subject can produce an increase in the flood of undocumented migrants aka illegal immigrants. The system is already saturated, and we should do nothing to worsen the situation.
It has always been the position of Republican -- and some, although lately fewer, Democratic -- politicians that amnesty cannot be seriously proposed or debated until the borders are closed. The problem is that even talking about it can worsen the problem.
Perhaps that should be the position to take: we won't talk about this until the borders are under control. It is the position that politicians ought to take, and Newt's speculations, while reasonable from a political philosopher, are improper for a candidate for office. Of course any move to close the borders will do the same -- get in now, they're cracking down -- but there's not much help for that. A comprehensive immigration policy must be implemented quickly and effectively, with crackdowns on employment and employers as well as illegal workers, along with effective control of the borders.
There are still problems. One is that it often costs more to punish criminals than to deport them. The high cost of imprisonment is very much part of the immigration problem. There is little incentive for the recently deported not to try again, and again, and again --- they know we don't want to jail them. It costs too much.
Maybe what we really need to work on is a means for punishment that is not cruel and unusual, but which isn't so expensive. There was a time when prisoners contributed to the economy and some prison systems made money, but labor unions -- naturally and in most cases rightly -- protested that taking jobs from free workers by giving those jobs to prisoners was unfair competition. That argument can and usually is carried way too far -- to the point of replacing prison maintenance with overpriced unionized civilian workers -- but it will be made and often made effectively.
I haven't any glib answers to this, but until we can find ways to punish without bankrupting ourselves, we will always have immigration problems -- as well as increasing crime problems. Criminal activity responds often to economic considerations. Criminals are not bright, but they can make elementary economic decisions. If you can do the crime you can do the time, and if it ain't a lot of time -- if you're going to be let out early because the prisons cost too much -- the incentives are headed in the wrong direction,
And I have to go write. But it's something to think on.
I saw this while reading the paper this morning. I refer readers to my Voodoo Sciences lecture.
June 1, 2011
.The debate over the budget continues, with the House voting not to raise the debt ceiling until there are cuts in spending. The Democrats argue that cutting spending will destroy the poor, throw grandma in her wheelchair over the cliff, and generally wreak havoc; the government is too important to be cut.
Eventually some solution will come, the President will promise "cuts" which will turn out to be slower rates of acceleration in spending with most of those being accelerated again as soon as attention is removed from them. The problem is that the spending cuts won't be real cuts and won't matter a lot anyway. David Malpass explains this tolerably well in today's article A Smarter Debt Limit Strategy.
What's needed is real cuts. Elimination of entire sections and departments. We should maintain a list of Federal departments that we can't afford even if what they do might in theory be desirable. Even more important is to make a list of Federal activities that we'd be better off without even if we could afford them.
I have a candidate for that latter list. A man in Missouri sold about 600 rabbits for ten to twelve bucks each in 2008 and 2009. He made about 200 bucks profit. The United States Department of Agriculture discovered that he did this without a Federal License. Apparently you can't sell bunny rabbits in rural Missouri without the permission and license of the government in Washington. The United States Department of Agriculture is on this case: they have assessed a fine of Ninety Thousand Dollars ($90,000.00). If he doesn't agree to pay this fair and reasonable assessment, he will be subject to a fine of $10,000 for each rabbit sold, although they might be willing to round this down to half a million dollars.
I don't know what else this branch of the United States Department of Agriculture does, but given this example of their work I am pretty sure we could do without it. I suspect the entire Department could be eliminated, but perhaps that's a bit drastic: but surely the Republic need not borrow money to pay people whose work is to assess a $90,000 fine for selling six hundred bunny rabbits.
We might even be better off without such people on our payroll, but I don't have to establish that: it's self evident that we can afford to dispense with their services in these hard economic times. Here is the Department of Agriculture on the subject:
This branch of the USDA may be doing something worthwhile in preparing this pamphlet and finding unlicensed rabbit sellers, closing them down, and assessing fines; it may be a Good Thing for the Federal government to prevent cruelty to bunny rabbits and Easter chicks and ducks; but do we need to go into debt to do this? Do we need to borrow money to pay USDA Spokesman Dave Sacks to do Public Relations for this department? In times of economic crisis do we need rabbit inspectors? Perhaps all this could be left to the States, as it was before the Great Society? And surely there are many other things done at a Federal level that might not be worth borrowing money to keep doing at this time? We ought to be looking for those.
The Office of Redundancy
Perhaps Congress should establish an Office of Redundancy. It need not be very large. Its task would be to assemble lists of people doing jobs the Republic does not need to pay for in hard economic times. If the Office looks to be overwhelmed with suggestions from the public -- if it appears that it might be overwhelmed by work -- that might be a significant development. I suspect the new Office of Redundancy could enlist the help of the public. We could have interns and volunteers, local volunteer offices manned by retired civil and military service officers looking for a way to continue to contribute to their country's welfare. The old Civil Defense organization could serve as a model.
After all, services that seemed like a good idea when the nation was rich and money was flowing into the Treasury and had to be spent, may not be so attractive now that we're broke. People are reluctant to lend us money. Even the Chinese are wary. We're now having to borrow money from the Federal Reserve to keep the government going and avoid the train wreck. We need to save money without throwing grandma over the cliff. I bet we could find a lot of people doing things that it's not worth borrowing money to have them do for us. We can start with the people who assess $90,000 fines for selling 600 bunny rabbits. Who knows what else we can find if we go looking?
June 2, 2011
This needs little comment. We can quibble about overloading the Melting Pot, but given energy and a low level of regulation, the Melting Pot can accommodate a lot of newcomers. Of course the trend is not toward a low level of regulation.
But there was a time when this would be the automatic thought of many of the American people. Of course that was before we handed over our school systems to unionized bureaucrats and multiculturists who hate and denounce American exceptionalism, so that the only route to a decent education for most Americans of any origin is to escape the public school system. There is more than one way to destroy a middle class.
Yesterday I noted that the Feds have inspectors looking for unlicensed rabbit sellers. It turns out that's not all of the story.
I find that the rabbit police has at least 64 employees we could get rid of without losing much. They are now harassing stage magicians who have rabbits in their act. It would be legal to buy a rabbit, take it home, and feed it to a rattlesnake without a Federal permit; but if you use the rabbit in a show, you must have a Federal license, and there are Federal inspectors who scour the newspapers hoping to find the names of stage magicians who don't have Federal rabbit licenses. I understand you probably think I am making this up.
My source is http://bobmccarty.com/2011/05/25/usda-rabbit-police-stalking-magicians/. The worst of it is that it no longer surprises me that there are grown people, holding Government Service ratings, who are willing and eager to do this sort of thing for a living. Tell me what you did for your country before you retired, grandma? Now I live on pension...
Sarah Palin seems to be taking Mitt Romney apart, but she has not announced that she is a candidate for President. It's going to be an interesting summer.
We can all be pleased to hear that
Magolon got her suit transferred from Florida to Pennsylvania
Terms of the settlement are sealed, but one may expect that they include payments for the lawyers, the clinical psychologists, and various other experts willing to testify to the terrible pains and damages suffered by April Magolon, who with her children and fiancé was visiting Epcot when a cast member in a Donald Duck costume (limited visibility; thick gloves with only three fingers and a thumb) fondled her breast. It's hard to assess how much money a terrible trauma like that to 27 year old unmarried mother might be worth, but it is safe to say that the entire cost of this matter to the tax payers is not trivial, and that perhaps this indicates some needless costs in the legal system? It may be true that "severe physical injury, emotional anguish and distress including, but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder, muscle contraction headaches, physical harm resulting from distress, including, but not limited to acute anxiety, headaches, nausea, cold sweats, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, digestive problems and exacerbation of the physical injuries and other severe emotional injuries." constitute a wrong that needs a'rightin', but given that the governments -- Federal, Florida, and Pennsylvania -- are nearly bankrupt, is this a high priority item? Has no one ever recovered from having a man in a duck costume pinch her mammary and then apologize? Or are headaches, nausea, cold sweats, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, etc.. etc., such terrible suffering that we should pay for a system to remedy this horror while cutting appropriations for science research, space, the military, prisons, health care...
Perhaps some drastic tort law reforms might be an appropriate part of any laws raising the debt ceiling?
As to why we might not want to cut our defense budget too much:
Of course the days when the US and Pakistan (and Iraq and Iran and UK and Turkey) were in a NATO-like formal alliance against both China and the USSR are long over (CENTO ended in about 1980); still, this is a warning. If China is looking for a causus belli (unlikely at the moment) there are junior officers at Nellis capable of providing one any day of the week...
June 3, 2011
Yesterday's MAIL had an item about the e. coli outbreak in Europe. A reader wondered
My reply was offhand and brief: "that's likely to be harder than you think; on the other hand, Mother Nature is pretty good at that sort of thing. MRSA anyone?" What I was thinking of was developing a new strain; clearly I didn't give this sufficient thought. One of the advantages of being me is that my readers don't let me get away with being that sloppy.
Bob Thompson is a long time friend and advisor, and author of The Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture, and definitely runs in different circles from mine. His Guide, incidentally, is something I can recommend to anyone who misses the old Gilbert Chemistry Sets that inquisitive kids of my generation grew up on (and for that matter for all those who never quite grew up but still miss them). But that's another story.
I got that this morning before breakfast, so I invited him to elaborate:
Guilty as charged.
Which tells me a lot. Greg Bear has been telling me for years that I spend too much time on physics and electronics, and I need to start from the beginning and learn modern biology since everything I learned in school is out of date. He's probably right. It's true enough that in the early days of my columns I had my mad friend, Dan Mac Lean, (his widow is a retired Professor of Medicine at USC) who used to muck about with biology experiments in his garage laboratory. Dan actually published some results under a house banner called E. Coli Press -- the press was a basement letter press on which he did quite professional if limited editions of things that interested him. We did some investigations of the USSR experiments in biological warfare, and the resulting disaster, and I did enough research to get an idea of some of the difficulties of biological warfare and weaponizations. I didn't put much attention into the matter of sheer malicious terrorism using biology. I should have. If you're going to pretend that you know everything, you have to keep up with a lot. But during the 80's I spent my time boning up on space, strategic defense, and other such stuff as well as making a living. See A Step Farther Out and Mutual Assured Survival, as well as revisions of Strategy of Technology. The goal in those days was to get out of the Cold War alive. All of which is an apology for not having kept up with what's going on in amateur biological capabilities.
Terrorists don't need the kind of precautions that weaponizers do. It's harder than most think to brew up nasties without doing yourself, your family, and some friends and neighbors in, but if you don't care... And perhaps that's easier now than it was last time I looked into the matter.
Anyway it's serious.
And Niven is here for lunch, so more later.
One of the things Niven and I discussed at lunch is the Federal Bunny Rabbit Inspectors and the Department of Redundancy. We agreed that we need some more examples as clear as the Rabbit Inspectors. We even have an idea for a scene involving rabbit inspectors. I doubt that they'll be gone before we finish the book... Of course if we can't manage to eliminate spending a million or two a year to pay Federal civil servants to chase down people owning pet (but not food stock) rabbits without a Federal permit, just what CAN we eliminate?
He was an old friend and one I relied on to give a sane and reasoned view of Israel that was different from mine. There are several of our discussions on this site, and I had been looking forward to more. Alas.
I haven't corresponded with him in several weeks, largely due to my being laid out by whatever has been hanging on since March. Joel went through some difficulties in the last quarter, but I hadn't heard that he was ill. I will miss him.
I know no more than this:
My sympathies to Felicia and the family.
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