The “People United” Go Down In Flames

Very good article by Walter Russell Mead from “The American Interest”

Few interesting quotes:

  • “For the unions who represent its employees, the bureaucratic, civil service state is a solution permanently in search of new problems to solve and new worlds to conquer.”
  • “The power of the public unions within the party pulls Democrats much farther to the left than they would otherwise go.”
  • “To the extent that these unions shape the Democratic agenda, Democrats aren’t just the party of government; they are the party of inefficient, expensive, unresponsive, bureaucratic government.”
  • “The left lost this election because it failed to persuade the people that its analysis was correct. The people weren’t a herd of sheep dazzled by big money campaign ads on TV; the Wisconsin electorate chewed over the issues at leisure, debated them extensively, considered both points of view — and then handed the left a humiliating, stinging and strategic defeat.”

Obesity in America

Very good video produced by Reason.tv regarding the fight against obesity.  In general, the ‘good intentions’ of creating laws to control behavior is pretty useless and gives government the green light to find other ways to restrict freedom.

There are all sort of examples of laws created to ‘help’, the most controversial of late is New York’s Mayor Bloomberg banning sodas larger than16 oz.  If the people really wanted this, then wouldn’t they just stop buying the smaller soda?  There is, of course, some pricing strategy that promotes buying a larger soda (price per oz is a little less if you buy the larger drink) and then once you buy the larger drink, you may fee obligated to drink the whole thing.

Still, it doesn’t seem at all appropriate for a city to ban a particular size of product.  Maybe, for his next law, he’ll ban larger clothing with the idea that if you can’t buy extra large sized clothing, you’ll be forced to loose weight.  A part of me is thinking I shouldn’t write things like that lest it comes true.

An even more surprising ban comes from Reason’s Nanny of the month.  A federal prosecutor filed to ban raw milk, making the statement that citizens don’t have the freedom to eat what they want. Link to Nanny of the Month

How Airlines Spend Your Airfare

Airfare expenses

Wall Street Journal columnist Scott McCartney reports on the cost breakdown of a hypothetical 100 seat flight.  Assuming the flight was full, how much is spent to cover expenses and how huge of a profit margin is the airline collecting.  Turns out the profit margin is an enormous 1%.  The biggest expense is file, taking 29%.  This despite airlines becoming more fuel efficient – the cost of fuel, as we all can attest to, has gone up considerably in the last 10 years.

Link to the article:

How Airlines Spend Your Airfare – WSJ.com

Offroading in the Freelander

My first Landrover was a 2005 Freelander SE3. This was a great little vehicle. Not quite the truck like the Discovery and the Range Rover, but still very capable.

The SE3 is a two door convertible. You could remove the cover that is over the trunk and it had a very large glass moonroof that could also be removed for a great open air experience. On the road it was very quick and sporty.

Once it was time to replace the tires, I did put on some larger all terrains, but until then I hit the trails with the stock tires which were really much more suited to street use.

It was pretty challenging out on the trails with the street tires but with the SE3 being a very light vehicle, it managed to do quite well. The big issue was overall ground clearance being lower than the other rovers.

The lower clearance did make the trails a little more exciting. A part of me regrets selling the freelander, but I did want something that was a little more heavy duty… better suited for more serious trails.

Journaling Apps

Since the iPad is so convenient, I’ve decided that I should use it to keep a journal. This journal would be mostly for work, but I think I would be inclined to use it for personal journalling as well. I’m trying out a couple of programs, both of which are highly rated and both have a desktop version. The first is Day One by Bloom and the other is MacJournal by Mariner Software.

Both are very good and very simple pieces of software. Simple is very important to me especially for journalling. If there are too many bells and whistles I’m likely to get distracted. Both are simple text editors with mostly plain text.

Day One is the simpler and cheaper of the two. The interface is very clean. It will automatically use the fist line of your entry as a title, but seems to requires you to press enter twice to create paragraphs. apart from that but a very good and promising program. It will also let you star articles as favorites.

Day One

 

Day One is definately a program I would recommend , especially as it is only $3.

I decided to go with MacJournal as my software of choice. This program is $6 but has a few more features that I really liked:

  • It does lists. I really like lists and found this to be a very cool feature.
  • The desktop client is very good and includes a timeline view which I happen to like as well.
  • Allows for tagging entries (I think Day One will get this feature soon)
  • Multiple journals
  • Search
  • publish to blogs (I don’t really need this feature as I’m using Blogsy for that)

May 24 Update: Couple of new observations on both programs. Day One has the ability to sync with dropbox or with icloud. This can be quite handy. MacJournal does not currently have this. It does let you sync with the desktop version when both are on the same network, but the program has to be running on the desktop for this to work.

 

Highway Bill

Congress and the Senate are currently working on a new highway bill.  An article from April 15 2012 in the Wall Street Journal described some of the nonsense in the Boxer version of the bill.  Highlights:

  • Approximately 10% of the total goes to nonessential and what looks like non-highwayrelated funds, such as the Land & Water Conservation Fund and the National Endowment for the Oceans.
  • Transit programs are the biggest “waste of money” (my words) due to the enormous amounts of capital expenses and the very low utilization by citizens.  It would seem more people walk to work than take transit.  I don’t blame them, either.  I’m not a big fan of transit programs.
  • The distribution of money is such that larger cities get a larger chuck of money, resulting in other communities paying for projects instead of being able to take care of their own highways.
  • The Boxer version appears to prohibit public-private partnerships – the states would be prohibited from leveraging private money to build toll roads or bridges.

Link to original article.

WSJ: Why Your Highway Has Potholes (pdf of article with my highlights)

Smashwords vs PayPal

From Fast Company, an interview with Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords.

Smashwords is an independent e-book publisher, popular with authors that don’t have mainstream contracts.  Basically, anyone can write a book, upload it to Smashwords, who will then distribute it.  Most of the revenue goes back to the author.  Great model for aspiring authors.

This is a very odd conflict, in that PayPal, at the prompting of credit card companies, threatened Smashwords with canceling their PayPal service if they did not remove titles that were considered “smutty.”  The reason I find this odd because I wonder if credit card companies have the same problem with online pornography.  Also, I’m not quite sure how the title of the book is attached to the credit card companies – if I buy something at a store, it’s usually the store’s name that I see on the  credit card statement.  Very odd situation, but glad Smashwords prevailed.

Regardless on your position on erotica, this is one of those slippery slope issues.  Once you start down it, where is the line drawn?

Volunteer Police Departments

Reason.TV video about volunteer police departments.  This video focuses on Redlands, CA, but there are similar programs around the nation.

Important points about the way the Redlands program works:

  • All volunteers go through the same police training program that regular police do.
  • All volunteers provide their own equipment, including cars.  They usually fundraise to pay for everything.  No money comes from the general fund.
  • The Redlands program includes a new aviation program, also funded through donations.
  • More information at: www.policevolunteers.org

 

How to Fix California

Very interesting and good interview with Art Laffer on how to fix California by Reason.tv.

“right to work states far out perform non-right to work states”

California State teachers are the highest paid in the nation, but second lowest in testing for 4th and 8th grade math and english.  But it’s not the teachers fault specifically – it’s the system that causes the problem.

“It’s not liberal, it’ not conservative… it’s economics.”

Laffer had praise for the economic policy of politicians on both sides as well as criticism for some on both sides.

He’s published a book called “Eureka! How to Fix California” which I’ll have to read… Sounds like it will have some great insight.