Monday, April 30, 2007

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Every so often I like to go to townhall *dot* com to laugh at certain conservative writers. They say the darnedest things! This article by John Hawkins was just too much to pass up:

Conservatives believe that judges should act like umpires instead of legislating from the bench. That means that judges should determine whether laws are permissible under the Constitution and settle debates about the meaning of laws, not impose their will based on their ideological leanings. Liberals view judges as a backdoor method of getting unpopular left-leaning legislation passed. They don't want umpires, they want political partisans in black robes who will side with them first and then come up with a rationale to explain it.

To be clear here. What John Hawkins means by "legislating from the bench" is any decision the Supreme Court makes with which he doesn't happen to agree. If the court happens to make a decision with which he does agree such as the recent decision to uphold a law banning a particular abortion procedure, that is settling a debate about the meaning of a law. Had it gone the other way, it would have been "legislating from the bench." Believe me, no one, not even the most pinko commie liberal, actually views the Supreme Court as a legislative body. They don't even expect the judges to strong arm congress into passing laws.

Conservatives believe that individual Americans have a right to defend themselves and their families with guns and that right cannot be taken away by any method short of a Constitutional Amendment, which conservatives would oppose. Liberals believe by taking arms away from law abiding citizens, they can prevent criminals, who aren't going to abide by gun control laws, from using guns in the commission of crimes.

I am sure that whenever the Supreme Court ever chooses to interpret the second amendment in any way that restricts or regulates arms, they will be "legislating from the bench." But seriously, what Mr Hawkins doesn't seem to understand is that when there is some form of gun control in place, it reduces the overall supply of guns in the community which in turn makes guns more expensive and more difficult to get. In other words, gun control limits the supply of guns on the black market which is generally where the criminals get them. What some liberals understand and what Mr Hawkins apparently doesn't understand is that if the supply of illegal guns is reduced, there were be fewer guns in the hands of criminals. If it actually will reduce the number of guns in the hands of criminals enough to justify the legislation is a matter of debate to be sure. But clearly, there are people who support gun control laws who have a better understanding of why those laws might work than Mr Hawkins does.

Conservatives believe that we should live in a color blind society where every individual is judged on the content of his character and the merits of his actions. On the other hand, liberals believe that it's ok to discriminate based on race as long as it primarily benefits minority groups.

Without getting into some of my own ambivalent feelings about affirmative action, I will just say that it is very easy to say that we should live in a color blind society when one is a member of the class of people who just happens to get the most privilege because of their race. While I don't know of John Hawkins's reactions to specific situations I cant say for sure, but again, it has been my experience that when certain white people ever find themselves in a situation where things actually are color blind and they are treated like everyone else, they don't generally like it. For instance, some of the people who are against affirmative action at the college level have no problems with programs that tend to benefit white people like legacy admissions or UofM's policy of giving preference to residents of the U.P. I suspect that if universities here in Michigan were to ever give geographical preference to students from predominately black communities, the same people who call for "color blind" policies will again complain that some other group other than them is getting preferential treatment.

Conservatives are capitalists and believe that entrepreneurs who amass great wealth through their own efforts are good for the country and shouldn't be punished for being successful. Liberals are socialists who view successful business owners as people who cheated the system somehow or got lucky. That's why they don't respect high achievers and see them as little more than piggy banks for their programs.

Ah yes…the old 'liberals hate rich people' argument. As it happens, a lot of entrepreneurs *did* get lucky in addition to working hard. Working hard alone does not necessarily lead to economic success in the USA. But that isn't why I think that we should have progressive taxation. Progressive taxation is, I assume, what Mr Hawkins is talking about when he says that liberals view rich folk as "piggy banks". You see, entrepreneurs benefit more from those liberal programs than everyone else so it only makes sense that they should pay more in taxes. For example, all that money we spend on defense benefits everyone but it really benefits the rich who get to have their businesses in a country that isn't being attacked on a regular basis. Education spending provides those entrepreneurs with a reasonably educated work force. Roads allow both workers and customers to get to the businesses these entrepreneurs are building as well as giving them something for their trucks to drive on assuming their businesses ever have to ship anything. The internet was originally a liberal government funded program which then spawned hundreds of dot com millionaires. So it isn't that liberals hate entrepreneurs. It is just that many liberals recognize that since they benefit the most from government programs, they should be the ones who pay the most for them. Oh and as it happens, a lot of those entrepreneurs who have amassed great wealth are liberals themselves. Somehow I doubt they are filled with the self loathing Mr Hawkins logic would have them feel.

Conservatives believe that abortion ends the life of an innocent child and since we believe that infanticide is wrong, we oppose abortion. Most liberals, despite what they'll tell you, believe that abortion ends the life of an innocent child, but they prefer killing the baby to inconveniencing the mother.

I am not going to get too deep into this one. I will just say that most liberals know the difference between a fetus and an infant. An abortion isn't infanticide and a fetus is not a baby. Even the IRS agrees. If you don't believe me, try to deduct a fetus on your next tax return.

Conservatives believe in confronting and defeating enemies of the United States before they can harm American citizens. Liberals believe in using law enforcement measures to deal with terrorism, which means that they feel we should allow terrorists to train, plan, and actually attempt to kill Americans before we try to arrest them -- as if you can just send the police around to pick up a terrorist mastermind hiding in Iran or the wilds of Pakistan.

I am not even sure what Hawkins is getting at here. My best guess is that he means that conservatives believe it is ok to invade countries at a huge cost to our own both financially and in human lives because people in those countries share a religion with some other people who committed a terrorist act which makes them our enemies. Well, I guess I cant argue with him. There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq because we confronted and defeated them before they had a chance to get them. Um. Yeah. Ok. It is just like Lisa Simpson's Tiger Repellant Rock!!!

Well, I'm half way through his article and I think I just need to give it a rest. It is too easy and probably isn't fair to pick on one of those conservatives who clearly isn't much of a thinker. And fwiw, I have come across conservatives who probably hold many of the same opinions as Hawkins but who tend to have more intelligent reasons why. And I probably should spend some time critiquing their writing but it isn't as easy and it isn't as fun so I probably wont.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Grass is Always Greener

I went back to work today where I found out that I will most likely be disqualified from the short term disability benefit because I went into work last friday which means that the one week waiting period reset. As it happens, I would have only been entitled to 80% of 24 hours of pay. I've missed 64 hours of work and would be required to use personal/vacation days for the first forty hours anyways. Still it is frustrating because I went into work last Friday mostly because I felt guilty about staying home even when I was sick. And maybe I didnt really want to admit that I was as sick as I was. Oh well.

This whole sickness has really brought up a lot of feelings of frustration. This business of missing out on some money reminds me that I have allowed myself to be in a financial situation that I dont like. It also reminds me yet again of how fragile a body can be. One good flu virus and you're out for a couple of weeks! And it can be worse too. Arent we all just one good car accident away from being laid up for weeks and weeks... or worse?

And of course, there is that feeling I get once in a while that it just really sucks being single. And I know that is a complete example of The-Grass-Is-Greener thinking as a good friend reminded me when I was whining about it on the phone earlier this week. She reminded me that spouses can be a lot of work and that when one in a twosome gets some highly contagious illness, it is very likely that the other one will too and then you're not only sick but you have to put up with someone else's hacking cough in the middle of the night. But of course in my mind, I would be married to someone immune to all illnesses ;)

Seriously though. It is one of the weird parts of my personality that I could probably spend a fortune on therapy figuring out. On the one hand, I have a real desire to have someone take care of me and I mean totally. Financially, emotionally, make me chicken soup, etc. And on the other hand, I *hate* letting my friends help me. I turned down a lot of offers of help this past week. So I long for something that I hate getting. How fucked up is that?

Oh well. I am better now. My health has returned. My tax refund will spare me any serious financial issues. My good humor will be back before too long and things will seem rosy again. I mean it is almost summer time and even if I cant afford to go on some special vacation, I can spend a lot of days swimming under blue skies and that is something.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Still Sick!!

So, I have now been sick for nine straight days. NINE DAYS! And it is making me crazy. In fact, I think one of the worst things about this is the death of a favorite lotto fantasy of mine where I win the lotto and then hole up in my house for months. Yeah, not going to happen. It is just like how my fantasy of being a long distance truck driver was ruined by one single solo road trip to California.

I will say this though. I have been clued in to one of the great inventions of the modern world. As previously reported, I lost my voice over the weekend. It started to come back on Monday but at a cost: extreme pain whenever I tried to talk. So, I actually went to see the doctor which anyone who knows me knows is not something I ever do lightly.

I had to see a new doctor because the one I liked has finished her residency and moved on. But the new one made up for it with one simple thing: a potion she calls "magic mouthwash" It is something mixed up at the pharmacy and it contains Viscous Lidocaine (1 part) Maalox (1 part) Benadryl (1 part). It totally and completely numbs the whole mouth for at least an hour with another hour of partial numbness. So that means that half the time, I have no throat pain since I get to use this stuff every four hours.

On a more serious note, my lungs are in bad shape. Apparently, I have symptoms of asthma. I dont have asthma and these symptoms are totally related to this sickness I have but the doctor seems to feel that I might need to have some kind of steroid treatment if the rattling and wheezing in my lungs doesnt go away by friday. I hope I dont need steroids though because she started listing the negative side effects of that particular treatment and it didnt sound too good. There is nothing like hearing that you might have to be put on a medication that can cause psychosis, irritability, some kind of hip disorder that leaves one immobile and WEIGHT GAIN. Ok, I'll admit it . I got a little annoyed when the doctor seemed to have an attitude that the weight gain might be the worst outcome of taking steroids. Cos I guess it is ok to become a raving psychotic bitch with bad hips as long as one doesnt GAIN WEIGHT!! Oh well, I mean it isnt like I want to gain weight or anything but on the list of side effects, that one was really the least scary for me.

Oh well, what can I say. This "magic mouthwash" of hers can make me forgive her anything.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I am Dumb

I cannot speak. Whatever this sickness is that I have, I have completely lost my voice. What is funny is that I dont usually realize how often I talk to the animals who live in my house with me. Cos, you know, *that* is what crazy people do. Well, color me crazy. I keep going to talk to the little furry beasts but all that comes out is a throaty whisper

It is funny because I received an invitation to my cousin's graduation party next Saturday. I was supposed to have RSVP'd by yesterday but, since I couldnt talk, I couldnt call my aunt to tell her I would be there. I really spent most of yesterday in a thought process that went something like: If only there were some way I could communicate with my aunt that doesnt require using one's voice. If only there was a way... It really took me until this morning before I remembered that DUH! I could send an email. *slaps forehead*.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It Hurts to Laugh

I am still sick but I finally dont have a fever anymore. Whew.

I have been coughing a lot and now it hurts to cough and it hurts to laugh. But, dear readers, since I assume that it doesnt hurt YOU to laugh, I will share a little internet funny with you.

Go to Google Maps and then ask for driving directions from New York City to Rome. Such a silly!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I have some kind of sickness. The timing is awful as I have a couple of big tests on Thursday. I am not sure I will be well by then. There are no makeups. So sick or not, I have to go. I always hate policies like that because I generally dont think people should be encouraged to go out in public when they sick. Anyways, I have had a severe cough and a fever that ranges between 100-102.

But I gotta admit that when I heard about all that business at Virginia Tech yesterday, it helped me put my misery into perspective. I am uncomfortable and will have to use some of my precious vacation time to pay for not going to work. But I am safe and all of my loved ones are safe too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

All is well

I know that I have not written much here lately. Mostly it is because I have gotten very busy at work. It turns out that being busy at work even effects my blogging from home. I often find that I am pretty spent at the end of the day. So I come home and just veg. I think things will get worse at work too in the near future. But that is ok, being busy at work makes the days there seem shorter. And once I am done with the school thing, I’ll have extra leisure time.

I didnt get that job I mentioned in another post but I did get some good feedback from the person who interviewed me. I didnt interview quite as badly as I thought. She also gave me some really good suggestions for what I need to do if I want a similar position including telling me about a different job I might consider applying for (I applied for it).

I also had an interview today for a totally non-IT related job that sounds very fun. I have been scheduled for a second interview which seems promising. I think that interview went better than the other one. So we'll see. Wish me good luck!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I have been thinking about trains lately. That isn’t very unusual actually. I think about trains a lot. I think about trains partly because I live next to the train tracks so I see and hear trains several times a day. They come by at night and while they don’t wake me up, I suspect that I have more train dreams than your average person. I also think about trains because I like trains.

I happened to read on Mark Maynard’s blog the other day that Amtrak might consider a stop in Depot Town. I cant even begin to say how much I like that idea. There was also talk of adding a stop in Depot Town for some sort of Ann Arbor/Detroit commuter rail thing which might include a stop at the airport. Again I like that idea too. As it happens, I would use an Amtrak stop in Depot Town but probably not more than 2-3 times a year. I would use a train that goes to Detroit somewhat more frequently but even then, I wouldn’t be a regular user. Mark Maynard brought up some issues about the actual demand for a Depot Town train stop and I think, at least based on my own demand for either an Amtrak stop or a commuter train stop, that his concerns have some merit.

On the other hand, one thing people often forget is that the stop itself will create its own demand over time. For instance, if you put a stop for a commuter rail line in a nice walkable area like Depot Town and also provide parking and good connecting bus service, people will, over time, change where they live based on that stop being there. People who want to live walking distance from the stop for regular commuting will move into houses and apartments close to the stop. As housing prices rise around the stop because of that, people who don’t value the stop as much are more likely to move someplace else. Some people who want to use the train stop are willing to take a bus to the stop and those people will move to places walking distance from bus stops on routes that go to the train stop. And if there is parking, there will be some people who would be willing to drive from some location nearby and leave their cars at the stop. If a stop goes in, over a period of years, demand for the stop will increase.

A nice side benefit for folks like me who own houses near the stop, the real estate prices are likely to rise. I freely admit that is one reason I get giddy about the idea of a stop in Depot Town. NIMBY hardly ever applies to anything that raises property values. I guess one could call a train station stop, either for Amtrak or for some future commuter line as a PIIMBYP issue, ie “Put it in my backyard Puh-Leez!”

So, I have also been thinking a bit about Amtrak and long distance rail travel. I recently read an article in the paper about France’s high speed trains. I guess one of their trains broke some record by going faster than 350mph. And it got me thinking. In areas of this country like the NE corridor, high speed trains would be really neat. I know Amtrak has tried this with the Acela but that train isn’t really all that fast. But imagine a train that could go from Boston to Washington DC in three or four hours? It is the kind of thing that would be really neat and it is the kind of thing that would be very good for our country and the people in it. It would even be good for us in Michigan because trains produce less greenhouse gases than planes do. If there were a train that could get someone from Boston to Washington DC in three hours (and that is downtown Boston to downtown Washington DC), people would choose the train over the flying. All that train riding means cleaner air for the rest of us.

I was also thinking about how very cool a high speed cross country train could be. If one has a train with a top speed of 350mph, it would have an average speed that is pretty close to that over the plains states. I’ll bet a train like that could have an average speed of 200mph going from New York City to San Francisco which could mean a coast to coast train trip that takes around 15 hours. Oh I know it is a pipe dream and there are little things in the way (like the Rocky Mountains) that would make those kinds of speeds unlikely. It is just that there is more room on the train. And I really hate flying. I would rather spend 10 hours taking a train than 5 hours flying. But probably not enough people are with me on that which means that even if the technology were available for that sort of train, economic forces would keep it from happening. But what can I say, it is the sort of thing I daydream about.