Jeff Ward Out at KLBJ

“I’m honored to have given every ounce of intellectual honesty I’ve had for the past 20 years. To anyone who appreciates that, I appreciate you.

“Whether I made you laugh or scream, every day I thought about how to make that barstool the most entertaining place you could be. It’s all I ever wanted to do. That part of the job was fun. Thank you for letting me in. I admire you, and I hope you admire me.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play with my kids.”

Austin American-Statesman

Sinclair media has claimed another victim. I stopped listening to Jeff Ward ages ago. I stopped having enough in common with his brand of political and economic thought to be able to find him amusing anymore. That is not his fault, it is the fault of disability. The fault of poverty. But mutual success is how we all survive and thrive, and there is precious little success these days out here in radioland if you aren’t willing to fuck over your clients, your competitors and/or your funders.

This is the age of Trump, and that is how Trump does business. That is also how Sinclair media does business. If you want to know what is going on in the world, don’t get your news from a Sinclair source, because they will lead you astray everytime.

Sorry you lost your job Jeff. I’m sure you’ll find something else to do.

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008,

The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

 Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I’m ready.

No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked in a program as complex as Social Security is and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint. The program could be made solvent, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I’ve said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I’ve expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it’s people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal. Socialist mechanisms exist within the system as it currently stands, have existed within the system since the first time shipping firms and international traders pooled their collective resources and insured themselves against losses, allowing them to venture out on the high seas without worrying about the loss of one ship bankrupting any one particular firm.

State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.

In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.

The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.

…and Now for the Rest of the Story, the 9-11 Version

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon’s Razor

Paul Harvey dominated the radio waves when I was growing up.  It seems fitting to title a corrections post after his iconic radio narration; the hallmark of which was telling you teasing parts of the story in advance, then pitching you on whatever his advertisers told him to pitch that week, and finally getting to the truth of the story in the final segment.  Well, I don’t know that this is the final segment of the story or not, but I do have some corrections to offer on a particular subject which is bugging me at the moment, and it has something to do with truth.

Steven Novella is currently in a debate on his blog NeuroLogica with a 9-11 truther; and while I am unable to even read the articles from the 9-11 truth side of the argument, I felt the desire to offer a comment for Dr. Novella’s excellent rebuttal of the truther argument.  So I wandered back over here to my blog, looking for the well-reasoned arguments that I’ve presented in the past, only to find that none of the reasoned arguments I remember on the subject have ever been posted to this blog. Every Single Thing I’ve EVER written on the subject of 9-11 on this blog is bullshit, up to this point.  No seriously, go look, I’ll wait. See what I mean?  I was (I might still be) completely clueless on the subject, far too gullible even still.  The entries are a blatant example of the malleability of the moment and one’s experiences in it.  When I wrote that crap, I believed it (well, the plagiarism-level cut and paste on the subject of the 9-11 mosque isn’t too bad, but then I didn’t write 9/10’s of that) and it’s only been my experience online in various threads and sites that have refined my thinking on the subject of conspiracy theories in general and the attacks on 9-11 in particular.  

If I had to point to a specific moment in time or a piece of literature in particular that affected my thinking on this subject, it was Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War a book suggested by Buck Field just as a passing side-comment while we were discussing the failings of the first Abramanation.  I’ve often marveled at how the apparently insignificant contents of conversational banter can have immense ramifications on the thinking of an individual (probably why I’m so fond of Connections and other works by James Burke) reading Deadly Decisions did that for me.  Suddenly all the conspiratorial thinking that fogged up my reason lifted, and I could just glimpse the million monkeys banging on keyboards producing, if not Shakespeare, then at least all the catastrophes of history that seemed to defy explanation. Humans as a group are not too bright and are prone to make decisions that lead to very, very bad outcomes.

Case in point, the attacks on 9-11.  Paraphrasing the chapters in the book detailing the failings that lead up to the attacks, the attacks were ultimately successful because that is how human systems fail.  The CIA was tracking the terrorists until they arrived in the US.  Once they were on US soil, the FBI claimed jurisdiction and promptly flushed the investigation. Not once but three times President Bush and his cabinet were advised that attacks on targets in the US using commercial airliners were being planned. None of the signals were acted upon, and nothing more is needed to explain the inaction beyond the observation that human systems fail in this fashion.  The only way to end these kinds of failures is to alter the way we think about the systems we create.

Ultimately no one is to blame for the attacks on 9-11 beyond the 11 men who successfully hijacked the planes and flew them into the buildings, because they were the ones who took those actions.


Some of the content I’ve posted other places follows, starting with proper reference links;

The first debunking site I remember going to;
http://www.debunking911.com/firsttime.htm

There were a lot of firsts for the WTC. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been hit with a plane traveling 500 miles an hour and had its fire proofing removed from its trusses. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever had its steel columns which hold lateral load sheared off by a 767. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been a building which had its vertical load bearing columns in its core removed by an airliner. For Building 7, in all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been left for 6-7 hours with its bottom floors on fire with structural damage from another building collapse. Not the Madrid/Windsor tower did not have almost 40 stories of load on its supports after being hit by another building which left a 20 story gash. The Madrid tower lost portions of its steel frame from the fire. Windsor’s central core was steel reinforced concrete. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been without some fire fighters fighting the fires.

I find it amusing, reading the thread I pulled this reference quote from. So much crap in my head at that time; but I was starting to work through it, call it into question, laugh at it, then discard it. I wish there was something worthy of posting from that period that I wrote. There isn’t. Just more of what is already on the blog that I don’t need more of.  Well, maybe this bit;


I love the way they say “collapsed in their footprint” as if that’s even the case. Watch the full video of the collapse, and you will see the outside skin peeling away OUTWARD as the upper floors collapse through them. One can duplicate this effect with a couple of cardboard paper towel rolls. The upper floors landed in the footprint, because the perimeter structure guided those floors down onto it, as it sheared away and impacted the structures around it. Those ‘explosive’ puffs of smoke? Smoke and Air escaping through the fracture points as the upper floor forced the compressed air beneath them out (also replicatable with some basic home items) This is a pretty straightforward structural failure, and the engineer who designed it was devastated by it. Watch the video of him discussing it, if you don’t believe me. 

When the US shot down a civilian airliner, back around gulf war one, I first noticed this unwillingness of Americans to accept facts related to tragedies. There were all these theories about the plane being loaded with corpses and flown into restricted airspace, that it wasn’t the US that fired on it, etc. Silly complexifying theories that just got in the way of understanding what really happened. This 9/11 truth stuff is nothing but more of the same. Got no time for it.


That bit and the bit where I laugh at Alex Jones for claiming that he predicted 9-11.


Alex Jones lives in Austin. The syndicated radio show comes from the local AM station that I listened to (3 to 6 pm weekdays. Jeff Ward, best radio show in Austin) A couple of my friends from my time at the local LP were part of his blue windbreaker truth squad (or whatever they called themselves) They all believed what he said implicitly, but to me it’s a lot like professional wrestling. It’s real to them, but that doesn’t make it true. Has anything that he’s promoted breathlessly in the last 20 years come true? The secret prisons? Any of it? He’s playing to his market, and he’s pretty good at it. Like Coast to Coast, there’s just enough truth buried in the exaggerations to make you pause. But in the end it’s entertainment, not science. If he predicted 9/11, then I predicted 9/11. 

It was a common argument in LP circles that an attack on the US was inevitable, because of our military adventurism. Hell, it was a rare day that went by where we DIDN’T talk about what form of attack might occur, and how that would be the end of freedom in this country, because the average American was completely unprepared to understand the costs of our military adventurism, and wouldn’t realize that our foreign policy lead us to this place.


The last debunking article I’d read was this one.

At a certain point, though, debating science and theory and ideas is an exercise in futility, because the hypotheses of conspiracy theorists are not grounded in any kind of a larger understanding of the real world. “This sounds really mean,” says Erik Sofge, a reporter on the original Popular Mechanics piece and an occasional contributor to Slate. “But really, it’s like arguing over the marching speed of hobbits.”

Slate: The Rise and Fall of the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory.

Here is a link to the NIST reports;
http://www.nist.gov/el/disasterstudies/wtc/wtc_finalreports.cfm 

Here is a link to the Commission report;
http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf

The final report from the NIST concerning building 7 including the modeling parameters (something I’ve been wanting to see)
http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=861612

Here’s the article where the AIA signs off on the NIST reports and distances itself from Richard Gage, the man behind AE911Truth.

All of Gage’s so-called evidence has been rebutted in peer-reviewed papers, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, by the 9/11 Commission Report, and, perhaps most memorably, by the 110-year-old engineering journal Popular Mechanics.

What is more interesting than these bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories is the way that Gage places his AIA membership front and center in his presentations. He seems to be attempting to cloak his organization in the officialdom of the venerable 155-year-old professional institution, even as AIA wants nothing to do with his organization.

Architects Shy From Trutherism July 19, 2012

Chris Mohr (this guy) is convinced that he has rebutted (not debunked but rebutted as in disproven, shown to be invalid, answered satisfactorily, etc.) Richard Gage, and was even featured onstage in a video with Gage that Gage’s own people refused to release, as he details in the opening seconds of the video playlist here.  The videos are as riveting as watching paint dry.  I don’t recommend them.

The Popular Mechanics article on the subject;

Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States.

To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military.

In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history.

Debunking the 9/11 Myths: Special Report

…and I need to mention Skeptoid.com, which started the last conversation I had on the subject of 9-11 truth with the episode The Pentagon and the Missle.

The rabbit hole of 9-11 conspiracies these days begins and ends with Building 7.   Because of the positioning of the building on the site, it’s odd construction, et cetera, proponents of conspiracy theories always seem to point to building 7 as the most inexplicable part of the catastrophe.

However, it really is explainable, and the explanation isn’t implosion; the buildings didn’t disintegrate into dust, nor did they fall completely in their own footprints. Building 7 did not collapse at free fall velocities. 18 seconds per seismic monitoring; twice as long in duration than ‘free fall’.  I’ve toured ground zero, more than once. As a former architect I’ve studied the damage around that area numerous times. If you understand the structures, then you will understand why they failed the way they did. There’s nothing mysterious or inexplicable about that day and it’s events, not even the fact that W. ignored warnings in advance of the attacks. That is also completely normal human behavior.

Thirteen years and still no defectors from the group that set the bombs? Not one shred of documentation from the (and as a former architect, I know what documentation is required) thousands of pages of diagrams necessary to pull off a job of this magnitude? No significant amount of explosive residue (I have to say significant, because there was all kinds of materials in the buildings including trace amounts of explosives. Not enough to bring down the buildings) that leads to the culprits who made it? Nothing? Whereas (in that book I’ve already linked) you can find references to the CIA program that tracked the hijackers. Documentation for the meetings at which W. was warned of plans to attack with planes. In the NIST reports you can find explanations of how the structures failed the way they did. Etc. Etc. Etc. Mountains of evidence that support the explanation that planes struck the buildings just like we all saw, and the resultant damage and fires caused them to collapse, and to bring other buildings down with them. And against that mountain of evidence you have…?

The NIST report has been altered! It is full of errors

Anomaly hunting does not prove a counter argument; it simply points out anomalies in the data presented. In other words, because the government falsifies data, it doesn’t prove that the buildings were imploded, or the planes remote controlled, or whatever fanciful tale you prefer over the hard reality that occurred that day. In order for the data to be ‘falsified’ you have to prove intent to deceive, rather than simple error involved in a complex determination of structural failure.  Discounting all of the documentation accumulated on this subject because of errors in certain parts of the data is engaging in fallacious reasoning.

Anomalies in the data occur. That is reality not human nature. Building seven fell the way it did because that’s the way it’s particular frame failed with the damage it received. The side facing the twin towers fell first because of the damage it sustained, and it pulled the visible portions of the building back and down with it, making the collapse look “odd” from the perspective of the street (the only perspectives available) but is quite well explained by the NIST reports if you care to actually read them.

We knew about Watergate within the year that it occurred. MKultra within a decade of it’s ending. The NSA programs currently running stayed secret for less than a few years. The timeframes whereby secret operations remain unknown is getting shorter and shorter, and the more complex the operation, the less likely it will be able to remain secret for any amount of time.

The Manhattan project is another example of open secrets, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in it’s own way. Anyone involved could have (and did) relate the incident when they felt they were clear of reprisal. Where are the confessions for the people involved in the implosion of building 7?

There is no magical waiver for illegal operations documentation, coordination and manpower. No way that planning materials can be made to disappear in a flash of smoke, rendering any copy of the record of the intense planning required to bring down structures the size of the World Trade Center incapable of being found and used to expose the conspiracy. Complex operations must be documented and coordinated. The more complex, the more documentation and manpower. People talk, and documents will be found. That is what happens. The claim that this doesn’t happen in this special instance is completely irrational.

But Thermite!

The possibility of using thermite to cut steel does not equate to thermite being used to cut steel in this instance. I can cut steel with a cutting torch, it does not mean they used a cutting torch to bring down the WTC. Even if it were possible, there has not been enough residue found on the debris to conclude that it was used in this fashion. Once again, anomaly hunting is not evidence. To paraphrase another skeptic, making selective choices amongst competing evidence, so as to emphasize the results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it, is a practice known as “cherry picking” and is a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.

PurgatoryIronworks, Dec 15, 2015 For the undying 9/11 MORONIC JET FUEL ARGUMENT (YouTube)

I love this wikipedia page. It is a page heavily edited by 9-11 truthers and it brings up and then dismisses with evidence every objection to the NIST report.  It is an excellent illustration of how all of these arguments have been had before, by people more informed than either side of an imaginary argument between me and whoever is reading this.

The desperation in truther mentality is quite amusing. Conspiracy theorists in general go through the years convinced that there is some nefarious plot afoot that will destroy civilization as we know it if it isn’t revealed to the world.

…however, these same conspiracies have been floated for decades. The bilderbergers, the Rothschilds, The JFK assassination, 911 truth, etc, etc, etc. Weirdly, the world just keeps on turning, never noticing that the plots go unchallenged by the vast majority of the population. How is it that these conspiracies have failed to take over the world? When these groups have been actively conspiring now since before the First World War?

Column 79 held up the building?

Column 79 in WTC7 being the first to fail,as suggested by the NIST report, makes perfect sense. The penthouse which is seen to drop before the facade of the building does has a corner on column 79. Had any other column been suggested to fail first, you would have to explain the kink in the facade which is visible when the building starts to collapse, and the disappearance of roof structures in that area before the rest of building collapses.

Anyone who thinks that therefore only colum 79 held up the building doesn’t understand structure or the phrase progressive failure which, contrary to the internet meme, has nothing to do with Obama. Progressive failure describes how the tall buildings we occupy are carefully crafted latticeworks of interlocking support members, the loss of any one of which can lead to the entire structure collapsing. Any first year engineering student understands this theory and works to avoid a circumstance where progressive failure would bring an entire building down.

…and if you have other questions, you might want to peruse this link for answers before postulating anything else that makes you look like an idiot.

Progressive Failure is the exact mechanism of crafted structures that implosion methods exploit in order to bring down buildings. All of the building collapses on 9-11 represented sobering problems for future engineers, because engineers specifically attempt to design buildings to not do what those buildings did anyway.

Anyone in the AEC community who clings to the implosion theory for the WTC structures is engaging in a well known psychological evasion technique, probably due to an emotional need to prove someone else is to blame aside from the engineering community. Consequently it’s actually surprising that so few architects and engineers are truthers. This speaks to the strength of the evidence, rather than the weakness of the individuals involved.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Conspiracy theorists rely on this while spinning their theories. There’s no room for the knowledge that things were different and seen differently before the incident; so the idea that you might not conclude that what we after the fact would see as a threat, would not be seen as a threat at the time. That there were vested interests denying that America could be attacked directly, and that attempts to investigate the conspirators before the attack were actively discouraged by these interests. That the government was warned multiple times prior to the attack, but then modified the narrative to remove these references after the fact, and that this is simply the way human systems have been shown to operate.

Third times a charm for this link; Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War I cannot recommend the book highly enough for sorting through the noise related to the 9-11 attacks. It is not an either/or question concerning the attacks. It is a question of just how severely our government failed us.

What brought down the buildings? Waiting for proof that it wasn’t planes, fire and construction techniques that lead to their collapse is waiting on someone to manufacture evidence. Because nothing of any credible significance has ever been found that says otherwise.

99% Invisible

Upgrading The Electorate

Dan Carlin’s latest Common Sense (of the same title) inspired a bit of nostalgia on the part of yours truly. That wasn’t his goal, but his unreserved backing for a change in how we elect our public officials (one that doesn’t involve corruption at the outset) combined with his wistful thoughts on whether or not it was possible to get a better class of voter in the US (5 defining characteristics of stupidity was cited, if not directly endorsed) brought back to mind the long held belief of mine that most Americans (possibly most humans) are impenetrably stupid. When I mention this belief in a group setting, I’m generally guaranteed to get an earful, so I’ve learned over time to keep that opinion to myself. But nothing in my nearly 50 years of experience has ever come close to convincing me that this belief is not based on fact.

Which brings me to the conversation on the Dan Carlin forums that brought up a second point of nostalgia. Invariably new podcasts bring out new listeners, most of them with ideas that they think are fresh and unheard of viewpoints; and they’re certain we’ll understand just how great they are once they tell us. This podcast, since it was about campaigns and the budget, brought out the usual chirpy optimistic observation from a new poster, “You wanna take money out of politics? Take the power out of Washington“.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard “take the power out of Washington” back in my Libertarian Party days, I’d have a lot of devalued coinage on hand. This was a mainstay of a good portion of simplistic libertarian thought. It’s as ridiculous a proposal as saying that laws cause crimes, so if we had no laws we’d have no crimes. While it is true that there would be no crime if there was no law, people would still die at the hands of other people, and value would still be taken from people without compensation. Consequently the injustices would still occur, we’d just call them something else.

Government is power, so you will never remove power from government. Corruption and government have walked hand in hand since the first politician agreed to do a favor in exchange for support. The question is how to reduce the obvious corruption in the current system. I don’t see any way out of this that doesn’t include a completely public election process, including financing. This is a new opinion of mine, at variance with pretty much all of the regular LP types. The concept of buying my politicians never did sit well with me, even when I was one of the rank and file. I understand the concept of money is speech in the current system, and I even agree with the recent Supreme Court Citizen’s United ruling as far as it applies to the current system;

Money is only ‘speech’ if money is allowed to be contributed to candidates. If money is not allowed to be contributed; if in fact, money changing hands means jail sentences for both parties (and it should. Bribery is a violation of current law) and all elections are publicly funded, then money is no longer a speech issue at all.

Either we can bribe to hearts content, or no bribery should be allowed. Laws attempting to control who bribes and who doesn’t should be struck down.

(My comment on TexasLP Chair Pat Dixon’s article on the subject)

But the current system is at the heart of the problem of an uninformed electorate, and any effective solution is going to have to modify that system.

I’m becoming convinced the only solution that will fix the problem is public funding of elections with some real vicious teeth on laws against gift giving. Basically, they get their wages, they get their office, and if anyone gives them money for any reason, they (and the giver) get jail-time. Don’t know how else to fix this problem. No money changes hands. No money, for any reason, at any time, or off to jail with the both of them. I have not one problem with locking up every industry exec and every congressman for illegal activities, when it comes right down to it. Every. Last. One.
There’s a local radio host (Jeff Ward, 3pm KLBJ AM. Best radio show in Austin) who has a lunar mantra that runs along the lines of I want serving in office to be the most unpleasant job you can imagine. I want people to hate serving in office so much that they can’t wait to leave the job when their time is up. That’s where I’ve been for years. I want them to hate it. I want to have to draft people to serve as congressman, and have them cry as we stuff them on the bus to go to DC. I want them to do the jobs we send them for, and then leave as soon as they get it done because it’s that unpleasant to be doing that job.

We hound their families and their friends to make sure they aren’t serving as blind trusts for officeholders. The most unpleasant job, for all concerned. People beg, BEG to be allowed to not do the job. We’ll have to publicly finance those campaigns, because there won’t be any other money to be had.

That’s what wielding the kind of power an officeholder has should feel like. A 2 year (or 4, or 6 year) long colonoscopy, while we are lodged up their collective asses watching every transaction that occurs.

What about the nostalgia? You said there’d be nostalgia! Got ahead of myself there, sorry. The nostalgia came in the form of the following libertarian pipe dream (and I’m dizzy enough already without pipe dreams) But it does bring back memories of a simpler time;

My contention is that you get back to first principals of liberty first. If the courts do not allow Washington to affect to such large degree the private affairs of individuals, especially in their means of business, you reduce the stakes. If you reduce the stakes then both the impact of corruption as well as the cost of corruption goes down.

I see Freedom and Liberty as the road back to equality and prosperity. I think with each passing day, more and more Americans are coming to believe that. I hope that within my kids lifetimes they will see a reversal of the current trend.

(From the Dan Carlin forums)

It’s beautiful. He has a dream. I remember a young, inspired Libertarian, with dreams much like that. He thought that all we needed was freedom to make things better. Then he started studying recent history, and came to the realization that the jaded in Washington were using the calls to deregulate industries as excuses to line the pockets of themselves and their cronies. Watched in disbelief as a President elected on a conservative wave of sentiment for better, smaller government, spent more money than any President before him, got us into the longest war in US history (He started a land war in Asia! What a Moron! Or he would be, if the sentiment of the people could have been resisted. I don’t think it could. It was the genius of Bin Laden to get us into Afghanistan in force. He’d just watched it consume the USSR. Think we’ll fare better in the end? I don’t.) and did nothing while the largest economic crash in US history happened all around him.

This (no longer capitol L) libertarian had a brief glimmer of hope when Obama was elected. Not that he thought there was any real chance of anything vaguely Libertarian coming out of that administration, but there was Obama’s acknowledged history of drug use that made him think that hypocrisy on the drug war would come hard, and there were the limp-wristed promises of ending wars to inspire optimism. Which was promptly dashed when Obama simply maintained the status quo on all fronts, and even accelerated on others. Even took the time to pass a Republican piece of legislation with his name on it (Romneycare relabeled as Obamacare) just to prove where his heart was.

The final nail in the coffin (no longer libertarian, now just Objectivist) came when the idiots that cast ballots in the last election believed all the lies of the Republicans running for office. That they would reduce government, repeal that horrible health care act (that they would have voted for, had a Republican been in office) and release bunnies, kittens and doves on the capitol lawn, to go with the rainbow Jesus put there. People so stupid that, here in Texas where the government is still bad, they voted in even more Republicans than we had before and gave them a super majority.

These legislators, rather than do the jobs they had been sent there for, promptly passed social conservative laws against gays, muslims, etc. to please their bases, and have yet to do anything meaningful on the subject of fixing the economic system they were sent there to address. The next Presidential election is shaping up to be more of the same.

What I think is this country needs honest debate. The only way to get it is to take apart the current election system, top to bottom. No money changes hands. People who give money to politicians go to jail for treason. Politicians who take money from people go to jail for treason. A two year series of debates is established, which all candidates for office are required to attend. No barriers to entry. If you want to be candidate, you file and you are. You miss one (or two) of the mandated debates, you’re out.

We could even structure it like that great American pasttime, American Idol. Vote candidates off that we don’t like, preliminary to the final nominations and elections. All of it covered on broadcast television and streamed on the internet (on pain of revocation of transmission licenses if not) so that ‘the people’ will understand what is at stake, or at least have to work to avoid it.

Because much as it pains me, bursting bubbles that contain libertarian (or conservative, or liberal) pipe dreams is paramount to getting any real work done in political circles. The world just doesn’t work the way the ideologues think it does.

No-Billed Joe Horn says, “I’m No Hero”

After learning as many of the facts of the case as I could back in November, I came to the conclusion that a no-bill from the grand jury concerning Joe Horn was the only result that would make sense under current law. Justice being what it is these days, it took 6 months to get here.

As with most things, the proof is in what his neighbors are saying, and they are pretty supportive. Of course, that might have more to do with the more recent killings in the area, rather than a specific desire to vindicate Joe Horn.

The broader picture was always my perspective. In order to protect against home invasion, it’s important that a property owner be confident that they will not be prosecuted if they use lethal force against intruders. Even to the point of shooting home invaders who simply walk across your property after breaking into somebody else’s house.

Horn, in his interview with the Houston Chronicle said;

“I would never advocate anyone doing what I did”

Yes. I would not bother calling 911 next time. Not if you are determined to use lethal force. Clearly that evidence can be used against you. In hindsight, it’s regrettable that the undercover police officer did not inform the 911 operator that he had arrived on the scene until after Horn had already exited the house to confront the burglars. Had Horn been assured that there were police on the scene, I’m quite certain he would have stayed in the house, and the two men would be serving time in prison instead of being dead today. But that’s not how it worked out, and reality is a bitch when it comes to 20/20 hindsight.

I called in to the Jeff Ward show myself (Dirty Harry was a cop, Jeff. Just FYI) when the subject of the no-bill came up Monday. Here’s the clip. (editor’s note: I’ll try to find that audio again. It got lost in the shuffle when the site moved. FWIW, there is no archive for most radio programming that I’ve ever discovered. This is a serious oversight. We are losing precious detailed information about the state of human thought in this age at a staggering rate. Our descendents will look back on this time and curse us for our blindness to the need to preserve records.)

I’ll freely admit to being wrong (or at least unable to verify the facts) concerning the neighbors and permission to protect their property. If I was away on vacation, I’d appreciate someone like Joe keeping an eye on the place.

A 911 operator is not an officer of the law. You are not required to follow their instructions (remember the strip search calls?) Nor do we want to be.

Mr. Horn was not informed of the officer’s presence in the area until after he had already fired the shots and was requesting assistance. The police are not required to protect you or your property; “protect and serve” is written on the vehicles, but they have no duty to protect you personally. Look it up. This is why the DC gun ban was overturned last week; the individual is ultimately responsible for protecting his or herself.

Finally, addressing the audio clip, Ed baited me several times trying to get me to go “Dirty Harry” and say killing someone over a property dispute is OK. His final scenario (the one before they cut me off. No hard feelings, it’s entertainment) was “what if you were a security guard patrolling the property of a convenience store, and happened across two men stealing beer and Cheetos from the store after it was closed.” I think it’s safe to say that shooting someone in that scenario isn’t problematic. It’s dark and you don’t know if the men are armed. You are armed, and they are criminals who have just destroyed property and are making off with their ill-gotten gains. I daresay that exact scenario has happened within the last 24 hours somewhere in the country. At most the last month.

One of the neighbors in Pasadena said it best. Hang up the phone. There wouldn’t have been a problem in that case.

Gas at the Price Advertised

I don’t know about North Carolina, but in Texas if you advertise a price, you have to sell for that price.

Drivers Flood Station for 35 Cent Gas

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Traffic was backed up and police were called to control the crowd after a Wilmington gas station accidentally set the pump price at 35 cents a gallon.

The Wilmington Star-News reported Friday that hundreds of drivers flooded a BP station for the cheap gas after the price dropped around 9 a.m. Thursday.

Station employee Shane Weller said the price for premium gasoline was supposed to be $3.35 a gallon. He complained that customers paid the cheaper price all day without saying a word.

It was all the extra traffic that led station employees to the mistake around 6 p.m. They found it after calling their district manager, looking for permission to changing the price as a way of stemming the flow of customers.

Information from: The Star-News, http://starnewsonline.com

Jeff Ward, Austin’s local talk show deity…

[Deity because he was credited with being omnipotent in the same hour this discussion took place; he apparently canceled the Olympics, tax day, and a number of other things just by saying it was so. I never knew he had that kind of power]

…took calls on the subject for most of this afternoon. I especially like the caller who said he would not only fill up his car, but come back with his RV and his cigarette boat and top them off as well.

Would I fill up the tank? Sure, if I didn’t have to wait in line. Seeing the line, I would have gone somewhere else. Unlike the customers of that store, however, I would have stuck my head in after filling up and let the clerks know that the price was probably wrong on the pump. There is no crime involved in paying the advertised price for something.

That they didn’t notice the error till the end of the day speaks more to the relative intelligence of the store operators than it does to the morals of their customers.

Contesting Control

Got back from the polls a few hours ago. I voted Democrat this primary season, and I probably will vote Democrat in the primary as long as I live in Travis County. Pretending that a Republican stands a chance here (unless the Democrat is a complete idiot and doesn’t pay off his supporters) is to engage in wishful thinking.

So I voted in the Democrat primary, in an attempt to unseat as many incumbents as I could (not that it was very effective, it turns out) and because I would really like to see Obama face off against McCain. I think that might be a debate (if they finally do a debate this season) that would be worth watching. Especially if Ron Paul shows up as a third party candidate.

But what about voting for Ron Paul, aren’t I a supporter? The way I see it, there was more to be gained in throwing a vote behind Obama in an effort to shut out Hillary, than there was in voting for Ron Paul (sorry Dr. Paul) The wife won’t vote Democrat, so she cast the Republican vote this time. But Ron Paul is never going to win. He’s never going to win because the average voter knows he’s never going to win, and the average voter only votes for winners (just ask them, they’ll tell you) It’s not because he’s too honest, which is an excuse I’ve heard a number of times. It’s not because he’s too much on the fringe (the opinion of Jeff Ward, and many, many others) aligned with anarchists, whatever. The majority of the American population votes for who they think will win. A self fulfilling prophecy if I’ve ever heard one.

If we want to see a change in this country stemming from the ballot box, we’re going to have to convince the majority of voters that change is possible. In the meantime, there’s always Downsize DC.

2008 Democratic Debates

I’d just like to point out that I didn’t blog on the subject of the Democratic debates, even though they were in Austin, and even though I watched some of the program, and I didn’t blog on it for several very good reasons.

First off, that wasn’t a debate. It was a town hall meeting. I’ll talk about these things when we actually see a debate again. Secondly, Barack Obama cleaned the floor with Hillary Clinton from my perspective, and there was little need to talk about it during the viewing. Third, I still don’t like Hillary Clinton as a politician. I don’t trust her after her husband’s presidency and I don’t like political dynasties of any stripe. The trend is downward when you get on that course. So it was just a chance to see Obama shine one more time, not that I’m planning on voting for him in the general, mind you.

The best coverage on the non-debate could be found on KLBJ AM; specifically the lampooning they got on Jeff Ward’s show. You can still get Thursday’s and Friday’s episodes on i-Tunes for a bit longer. Thursday’s show featured an interview with Kinky Friedman. Friday’s postmortem ended with an hour long tribute to this stunning endorsement of Obama:

Can we not all just agree that, not only were the wrong Kennedy’s assassinated, but that the wrong person climbed out of the Chappaquiddick that cold night in 1969? The video at least asks that question.


Mea culpa review 2017. I just experienced another moment of existential pain in leaving that joke on this post. Oh, My. God. I think to myself, and I’m not even religious to start with, how crass can I get? In addition to leaving that atrocious joke in the entry, I took out the thought bubble below and instead listed the beliefs I held at the time. Beliefs I had for my hatred of Hillary Clinton. It’s not that I thought about anything that deeply then other than World of Warcraft and finding a new purpose in life, but I did have my reasons and I still don’t like her.

However. I started to delete the following thought I had imposed in the middle of the article, but then I realized I needed to save this most of all. I needed to preserve it as an example of just how blind the average person can be to their own biases.

Hillary’s mouth opens, fast forward till it closes. Listen to Barack Obama talk. Repeat process. The ‘debate’ was a remarkably one sided victory for Obama when viewed that way

This. This is misogyny in a nutshell, and I would have told you at the time that I didn’t hate Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. That is how subtle this crap is in our heads. Just more food for thought and one more post in the errata label series.

Social Security the Ponzi Scheme, and the Duck Test

Arguing on a forum today, I was forced to defend my assessment of the Social Security system as a Ponzi Scheme.

It’s not like this is a novel concept. The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

A Ponzi scheme is a

fraudulent investment operation that involves paying abnormally high returns (“profits”) to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from net revenues generated by any real business.

I closed with the observation “Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck” which is an expression I’ve heard dozens of times. However, when I plugged it into Wikipedia, by accident, I came up with a bit of trivia that I didn’t know.

The Duck Test is an attributed quote, and it describes not just inductive logic, but is apparently highly useful in certain types of programming. Go figure.

The important point to remember about Ponzi schemes is, no matter who runs it, the Ponzi scheme eventually fails. It’s funny, Charles Ponzi’s investors were always certain that the schemes would work, if only the government wouldn’t get in the way and stop them. Now the government is running it’s own Ponzi scheme and insisting that it won’t fail.

Good luck with that.

Mayor Bloomberg rips George Bush’s rebates

As heard on Jeff Ward. Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, on the latest round of tax rebates:

“They want to send out a check to everybody to stimulate the economy,” Bloomberg said. “I suppose it won’t hurt the economy, but it’s in many senses like giving a drink to an alcoholic.

“This country has a balance sheet that’s starting to look more and more like a Third World country,” Bloomberg said.

read more | digg story

Is it a crime if I say “I agree with him completely?”

If you read the article at the Arizona Republic, you might notice that it will take from 3 to 10 months to get the dollars to the recipients. Recipients that are already on file with the IRS, in records that the IRS already maintains. It will take at least three months and 300 million dollars to get the job done.

Can you say bureaucracy? I knew that you could.

I just want to know how long this bubble will take to float downstream and further increase the inflation rate; or are they planning on subtracting this ‘rebate’ from next years taxes?