Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Government Wealth Redistribution
Story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Critics say that Jim Brown isn't worth millions:
The Federal government makes its sweeping national mandates that it wants states and communities to implement. To help the smaller government units handle the demands from above, the federal government passes on grants and whatnot.
So the Federal government collects the taxes, takes its percentage from the top, and hands the money to lower governments. The lower governments spend money from their general funds to employ grant writers and lobbyists to get the diminished revenue pool passed on by the Federal government. Meanwhile, government departments, advisors, and lobbyists get their points from the money passing through their hands from the citizen to the highest level of organization and then back down to the local governments who actually do the work.
So does the Post-Dispatch point out the inherent inefficiencies of the system and argue that the Federal government could scale back its centralization and allow local communities to use local tax revenue for local projects directly and that local communities wouldn't have to waste existing tax revenue pursuing other tax revenue?
Of course not. They're upset that the lobbyist isn't efficient bringing the slop from the Federal trough:
Book Report: Savage Love by Dan Savage (1998)
I bought this knob-licker's book from the three-for-a-dollar rack outside the Hooked on Books in Springfield. The book's cover and pages are kinda wavy and the book has a sort of sweet odor to it. I don't know if some Southwest Missouri State student, steeped in openmindedness and something sweet and smoky, dumped the book before moving from the stifling confines of the Bible Belt for a big city or if someone received the book as a gift and ran it through the dishwasher because it's dirty. I can only speculate, but I didn't practice safe reading and read this book without protective latex.
I've read Dan Savage in the local tabloid and on Salon in the middle-to-late 1990s. His columns tend to have the message that if it doesn't hurt anyone (unless they want it), sexual practices are okay. He's right, of course, but focus on the physical pleasure disservices participants who don't know or expect anything more thank a hook-up.
Savage writes as a know-it-all, slightly an ass, and it's hard for me to take any more than a couple of pages or letters in any one sitting. Because it will undoubtedly offend Mr. Savage, I'd like to point out that his voice reminds me a little of Rush Limbaugh. There's a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek in the voice, as though Savage is playing the part of being more ass than he really is. It's that quality that makes Rush Limbaugh amusing, but Savage is more, well, savage in his assishness. He calls names, casts aspersions, and belittles those whose sexual aesthetics differ from his rather expansive set. So he's like Rush Limbaugh, but not as good or humorous. Maybe Dan's more like Michael Savage, who an Internet rumor I'm starting right here indicates is Dan Savage's estranged older brother.
So I'd recommend sticking to the columns and not investing any more than thirty-three cents on the book, and I don't imagine I'll buy any of Savage's other books of commentary.
From the LA Times story about a man in last week's train crash in LA who
The Myth of Conservative America ca. 1949
Okay, so some twenty-five or more years after I spent Sunday mornings watching the Lone Ranger scattered among old episodes of Sgt. Preston and his dog King of the Yukon, Hopalong Cassidy, and the Bowery Boys, I bought a DVD containing the "pilot" episode of the Lone Ranger from 1949. To you damn kids who attend public schools, I will helpfully calculate that it was 55 years before the cheap DVD was released and by now about 56 years ago that network television presented a hero that:
This is the shared herotage that some people would deny America. I'd like to think that perhaps we could share these ideals, but then some schmuck starts thinking that perhaps since my house is so nice I should give more than what I can spare beyond it that I start casting my own bullets out of whatever the heck they make nickels out of these days.
Book Review: Voodoo River by Robert Crais (1995)
This book features Elvis Cole working for an adopted starlet who's interested in finding her natural parents in Louisiana. When Cole travels to Louisiana, he discovers that her past is shrouded in mystery, mayhem, and the secrets of a small town.
Enough of the back of the book stuff. Another good Elvis Cole book, but one that again makes me think of the work of Robert B. Parker--the end reminds me a lot of Early Autumn, but with a twist. Of course, these novels make me feel like pre-Spenser:For Hire Spenser novels, when I could wonder what was going to happen before I was caught up in the dialog-driven post-Spenser: For Hire Parker novels, when the dialog just carries you from page 1 to page 300 without allowing the reader to wonder what's going to happen.
On the other hand, this novel represents the first time Crais deploys the old "first person narrator discloses to other characters, but not to the readers, the plans" trick, which is second in cheap tricks only to the "first person narrator dies at the freaking end" device in absolute author naughtiness. Poor form, Peter, especially when you're just throwing it in on page 200 to create suspense. Stephen King would thrash you, and rightfully so. That doesn't count as proper foreshadowing.
Still, I recommend the book, particularly if you can, as I did, get it as a Christmas gift from a beautiful wife who gives up her collection because she knows I won't read books that are not on my To-Read Shelves unless they're my books. Otherwise, they're worth your paperback or second-hand dollar.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Sharon Stone Puts Down Payment on Land Rover
Story: Sharon Stone steals charity limelight at poverty debate:
Seizing her chance during a heavyweight debate on how to tackle poverty in Africa, Stone stood up in the middle of the crowded hall to offer an immediate personal pledge of 10,000 dollars -- then challenged others to follow suit.
It rather undercut the big-name panelists, who included Britain's finance minister Gordon Brown, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the billionaire Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.
It's also disingenuous of this journalist to say Sharon Stone upstaged Bill Gates. Let's write it out with zeros:
But Bill Gates is an evil capitalist, and Sharon Stone is a feeling artist out of Hollywood with a good pair of legs and, as some lizards would atest, tasty feet, so of course she upstaged Bill Gates by promising an amount equal to 1% of what Sandra Bullock gave to tsunami relief.
But at least Sharon Stone was dressed appropriately, eh, Robin Givhen?
Dress for the Occasion
Virginia Postrel, who lives in Texas, concurs with a Washington Post fashionista who dings Vice President Cheney for dressing warmly for an outdoor ceremony in January:
Listen to this Wisconsin boy: if you're going to be outside for a long period of time, you dress warmly and let the other people keep themselves warm giggling at your attire or expressing their outrage. That way everyone is comfortable.
Update: James Joyner agrees.
Gall as Big as Church Bells
I haven't awarded the award in a while, but I will present it deservedly so to Missouri Governor Matt Blunt who is seeking to actually cut a government benefits program:
Blunt said Medicaid's price tag has doubled in six years, making the program unaffordable for taxpayers. Even with his proposed cuts, it will cost $5.3 billion, or more than one-fourth of the total state budget.
In addition to curtailing eligibility, the governor would ax some services. For example, the state would no longer pay for physical therapy, occupational therapy, ambulances and hospice services. Also gone would be money for dental care, hearing aids, prostheses and wheelchairs.
Children, pregnant women and the visually impaired would be exempted from the cuts.
Social service advocates were dismayed at the scope of the proposed reductions.
"In my district, going door to door, I'd come across widows who clearly needed assistance," recalls Steelman, a Republican from Rolla who is now state treasurer.
The more treasure to spend, the more powerful the treasurer, I guess.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Argument for Term Limits
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the best argument I can think of for term limits:
Kennedy Calls for Troop Withdrawal in Iraq:
Just three days before the Iraqi people go to the polls to elect a new government, the Massachusetts Democrat said America must give Iraq back to its people rather than continue an occupation that parallels the failed politics of the Vietnam war.
Also, Teddy Kennedy would have just been another quiet lush in an expansive family compound after losing a presidential election in 1976.
Moving in the Right Direction
Developers scale back plans for PabstCity complex: New proposal for entertainment center seeks smaller city subsidy:
The proposed downtown development, known as PabstCity, is now expected to cost $317 million, with $39 million sought from the city, the project's developers said Wednesday. Their estimate last summer of a $395 million development included $75 million in financial assistance from City Hall. Mayor Tom Barrett and other city officials said that earlier request was too high.
Richard Roeper Embraces Slavery (for Others)
Roeper weighs in on the Maggie Galagher microbrouhaha:
That's the second time in recent weeks that we've heard about a columnist taking money to push a political agenda. When radio disc jockeys took money to play certain records, the name for it was "payola." Isn't this the same thing?
Kurtz also reported that Gallagher received $20,000 from the Bush administration to write a report titled "Can Government Strengthen Marriage?" I wonder what conclusions she drew.
Yet Gallagher told Kurtz: "Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it? You tell me."
You also violated journalistic ethics by taking the money in the first place, dear.
Perhaps the government needs someone to comment on its training films....I nominate Roeper. For free!
I took Pell Grant money from the Federal Government as part of my college financing package.
You, gentle reader, should then assume that all words on this blog and all independent thoughts and ideas I have are duly vetted and approved by the administration of President George H.W. Bush, by whose largesse I could afford a private university.
Update: Read my longer take on the Maggie Gallagher artifiscandal here.
I have, from time to time, also received a FEDERAL INCOME TAX REFUND, which is a greyer area. Depending upon your point of view, it's either my money or money from the government, either an increase or decrease or I have somehow precipitated a cut in federal revenue.
Regardless, you should assume then, gentle reader, that I am withholding too much from my paychecks every week, and I think you would be right.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Challenge for Pro-Business Governor
Some people have called Missouri's new governor Matt Blunt "pro-business." At least one legislator is ready to test that: Senator wants to show exit to Missouri's adult businesses:
First, Missouri banished sexy billboards and young strip dancers. Now, Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Kansas City, wants to force adult entertainment businesses out of the state by stripping them of their profits.
Legislation pending in the Senate would impose a 20 percent tax on revenue of all "sexually oriented businesses," charge a $5 fee for each person entering their doors and prohibit them from staying open late at night.
"The goal of the bill is to make Missouri inhospitable for these businesses," said Bartle.
Bartle would like to drive this sort of business out of Missouri so that people who like to see boobies can do it untaxed on the Internet or in Illinois. Once the thousand or so adult entertainment businesses are closed, he can then cover the budgetary shortfall by taxing other sins--such as eating, drinking, driving, reading, ad absurdum.
A Mountain Out of a No Hill
Subtitle this piece "Is Magge Gallagher the Devil?" because that's how she'll be played by people who want to discredit the ideas she has expressed in her writing. So is she the devil? No, she's a writer, but let's get into the case as presented by the Washington Post's Howie Kurtz:
"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."
But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.
"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me." She said she would have "been happy to tell anyone who called me" about the contract but that "frankly, it never occurred to me" to disclose it.
I've worked as a technical writer, during which time I have:
So am I the devil, too? Guilty of payola, plugola, writola, or whateverola? A tool of the vast technology-embracing conspiracy, working at the beck and call of shadowy figures with their own agendum to sell the technology? No, I am a writer, maximizing my knowledge of a particular technology in as many formats and for as many markets as I can. The only difference between Maggie Gallagher and me is that I've done my work for technology companies, talking about technology, instead of writing about public policy for magazines and syndicates and for the big customer, The Federal Government.
Her contract price wasn't out of line for what she did for the government, and I assume that her syndicate and the National Review pays her a salary upon which she and they have agreed for her work. So all sides in this transaction are happy, and the consumers can read what she wrote and evaluate the information the same as anyone who's read one of my white papers can. Take the contents of the article or leave it.
But because she's written materials regarding public policy, the rules are different. Instead of making a case for an opposing policy, some people attack the person. Current writer ethics, used as a cudgel, demand a monastic existence from Writers in Papers or Magazines, where the writer cannot work outside the realm of the Reader's Interest or some other inchoate abstraction. Startled editors and other townspeople with pitchforks and torches want full disclosure, but any writer with any success or with any experience in contract business writing should overwhelm lists of customers, clients, and publications. Sometimes the details of the contracts aren't the writer's to disclose.
As I said, I'm fortunate to not have any technical writing contracts in public policy. The rules in technology are different. The technologies and their marketing fluff, white papers, and ideas contend in a marketplace, where the competition doesn't stoop to knocking the individual authors who write about technology. Instead, the competition develops their own technologies and hires people like me to write marketing fluff, white papers, and other materials for trade shows and for inclusion in trade magazines.
Maggie Gallagher is guilty of being an efficient and a smart writer who has successfully marketed her insight, gathered knowledge, and writing talent to a variety of customers. As a writer, I applaud her success and wish her continued success. I also wish her character assassins would fight ideas with ideas, but recognize that's unlikely.
(Rant inspired by this post on Outside the Beltway.)
Full disclosure: I have taken sums of money and favors for writing things, but neither from Maggie Gallagher.
Tripp Hardin Responds, Lauds Favre
Perhaps I was disingenuous (which depends on what that word means) when I posted this bit about an ill child who met Brett Favre. I explained who I thought was the real hero of the piece:
According to the account I read and remarked on, you took the initative and made it happen.
Congratulations Might Be Forthcoming
Johnny Carson has inspired John Kass to quit smoking.
Good luck, Kass.
Live Blogging the President's News Conference
These reporters don't want information. They want to catch the President.
I know, that's obvious, but I notice it most acutely when I actually listen to it.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Book Report: Free Fall by Robert Crais (1993)
I have this book in hardback, but that means instead of bending paperback covers, I got blue ink on my hands from the spine of the de-dustjacketed book. I guess it was worth it.
Elvis Cole receives a visit from a damsel in distress who thinks that her fiance, a cop with an elite undercover group, is in some sort of trouble. The cop visits Cole right after the woman leaves and explains that he's just cheating on her. Elvis follows up and finds that one of them is lying and one of them is not. It would be a much shorter book if only the woman had been lying.
The book returns to a better hard-boiled standard where the detective is looking for answers and not just solving a problem--even though there's some of that in this book. Still, I like the style of the plot better than Lullaby Town, and I'm even willing to overlook some questionable plot holes in the beginning--as long as I don't think about it too much.
Still, it's better than average detective fiction bordering on the exceptional.
Anti-Robot Bigotry on the Left
At the local recycling facility this afternoon, I say the following bumper sticker:
Support Organic Farmers
I assume that person will be one of the last to welcome our new robot farmer overlords.
Cue the Violins
Headline: Rural counties keep afloat with tape and bubble gum:
Trinity County, which gives out grants according to the directives of the its Trinity County Children and Families First Commission's Strategic Plan [to spend money]?
Which has its own Department of Tobacco Education?
Which has its own Department of Risk Management?
Which has a number of parks and its own Library System?
Although money might be scarce, I think that these municipalities, like most other governments, lack clear priorities. They run out of money before they run out of ideas, but they don't put the ideas on hold or examine their feasibility; instead, they get more money.
Razzies Clear Shark and a Couple of Whales
The annual Razzies awards have taken a political stand by nominating George W. Bush as worst actor:
St. Louis County Government Says, Nyah Nyah
After an embezzler with the county government pilfered funds and overbilled a title company to cover the shortcoming, the county government says, too bad, so sad, we're not recompensing the title company. Story:
But Investors Title had the paperwork it needed to discover the crime from the start, and thus should accept responsibility, a lawyer for the county countered in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
It's a good message. Thank you, St. Louis County, for stating it clearly and loudly.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Unleash the Dogs of Irony
Christian Slater explains why he loves London in a story in the Times of London, December 12, 2004:
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Nutria: Delicious and Nutritious
Nutria Recipes, courtesy of the United States Geological Survey. Yes, that is your government and your tax money at work.
Forget the Border, There's a Book to Seize
Here's the lead for the story "Germany demands return of rare book found here":
Just another day on the job for Shene, 46, who buys and sells rare books for a living out of his St. Louis apartment. Though $3,900 certainly represented a sizable investment, serious dealers such as Shene typically spend up to $15,000 for a collection.
But there is nothing typical about this book. In the past four years, it has thrust him into a heated dispute with the German government, threatened to damage his reputation and robbed him of his time when he needed it most. Yet the book is the find of his career.
First, the good news: Shene was right about the book’s quality. Last year, leading auction house Sotheby’s valued the book of drawings at $600,000.
But Shene’s good fortune came with some bad news: The book may have been stolen from an unlikely victim — the German government. The state-owned Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart claims a World War II U.S. Army captain took the book and others from a castle and eventually deposited them in his Richmond Heights home.
Governor Blunt Favors Hijacking, Theft, Robbery
Blunt wants tough curbs on cold pills used in meth:
Under Blunt's plan, consumers who want to buy cold pills containing pseudoephedrine could get them only at pharmacies, and purchasers would have agree to have their identities recorded in a police database.
Decongestant pills containing pseudoephedrine can be a cold sufferer's dream or a narcotics investigator's nightmare. The medications, which are available everywhere from service stations to hotel vending machines, are easy to convert to meth and in recent years have fueled an explosion in illegal drug manufacturing.
Of course, making it harder for criminals to get the legally-ownable things they need will not prevent the criminals from getting their Sudafed. It will mean that criminals will have to get their meth ingredients by illegal means, such as burglary, armed theft, and hijacking Walgreens trucks. Ergo, Governor Blunt is in favor of more violence in the war on drugs.
At the very least, the nonviolent meth cookers in Missouri will cross state borders to buy their gross cases of cold remedies, which means those other states will get the sales tax.
The proposition is lose/lose/lose/lose. The cold sufferer loses because it's harder to get legal remedies. The public, particularly pharmacies, loses as criminals resort to more violent means than commerce to acquire that which they will acquire anyway. Tax spenders, that is, the legislature loses the revenue of legitimate commerce. Finally, the taxpayers lose as they have to fund a new apparatus to support the initiative.
On the other hand, some do win from the proposition. A database provider will make some money. The governor will look tough. Small town pharmacies in border towns outside Missouri might prosper. There's your half full paragraph for the evening.
Governor Blunt Also Favors Voting Fraud
Gov. Blunt proposes making absentee voting easier:
Under current law, people must state under oath that they will be unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to absence from the area or another eligible reason. Sometimes, people may fib about their excuses because election authorities don't check.
Blunt would open up the process so that all registered voters could cast absentee ballots up to six weeks before the election, either at the election office or by mail. He would do away with the requirement that absentee ballots be notarized.
To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."
Heather L. Igert,
Kim du Toit,
on the Noggle Library.
"Brian J. Noggle apparently forgot that the proper design for a tin foil beanie calls for the shiny side out."
Sharp as a Marble.
"I'm weeping openly right now. Thanks for hurting my feelings, pinhead."
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