Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, April 05, 2008
In the Pecking Order, Citizen, It's Government > You
Here in the great county of St. Louis (no relation any more to the city of St. Louis, ha ha!), the county council has determined that you, citizen, must not only pay for weekly trash removal under penalty of a fine, but you must now also have weekly recycling pickup, too, whether you want it or not. Oh, yeah, you have to pay for it, too, which makes it yet another unfunded mandate from your elected representatives.

One of the good councilmen, John Campisi, is trying to get an exemption for citizens who don't generate that much. But one of the whiny government officials is afraid of what that would cost the government:
    Garry Earls, the county's chief operating officer, said finding out who would be exempt would be an administrative nightmare. "Somebody would have to pay the cost" of such an effort, he said.

    Companies that add a charge for recyclable pickups "are challenging customers to shop around for another hauler," Earls said. The bidding by hauling companies for the trash collection districts should drive down prices, he said.
Hah, hah! One, Earls is pointing out that it's okay for the government to force citizens to pick up a tab based on its whims, but the government paying for administration of its own intrusive powers, whoa, Chester!

Also, the fair COO fails to note that in many municipalities and garbage collection districts, your government does not let you choose a waste hauler and/or subsidizes a particular hauler. Because that would distract the reporter and the paper readers with facts, when it's more important he get a self-serving snarky remark in.

Friday, April 04, 2008
Like Regular Citizens, But Better
Blanket immunity means cops in Missouri can brandish weapons in anger and not get charged for a felony.

This actually is a good intersection of bad laws with belligerent behavior of law enforcement, the two things that are working most quickly to sap the respect for the rule of law in this country.

Some people might point to rap music or movies, but I'll point to the ill-conceived institutional examples.

If the Headline Has A Question Mark, The Answer Is No
Funny how newspapers run stories that agree with their unmarked policy positions with headlines that assert truth, but stories that call into question their rah-rahing of government growth or crony capitalism merit question marks. Here's one in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the new ballpark, Miller Park: Miller Park: Economic promises got it built. Has it paid?

If the experts are questioning or debating, the answer is not an untrammeled "Yes," is it? It just means some experts could find some metric that was encouraging.

Maybe Milwaukee needs a new, public-funded archery arena in the same neighborhood to really turn on the destination venue tap.

Thursday, April 03, 2008
Crestwood Mall To Become Land Boondoggle To Benefit Private Developer At Expense Of Taxpayer Money
Well, the actual headline is Crestwood mall to become open-air lifestyle center, but it looks to be another case of a mechanism to support the risk-free lifestyle large land developers enjoy in the 21st century:
    Crestwood Plaza will be at least partially demolished and transformed into an open air lifestyle center, according to one of its new owners, Chicago-based Centrum Properties.

    Centrum along with New York investment advisor Angelo, Gordon & Co purchased the 48-acre mall from Australian shopping-mall giant Westfield Group for an undisclosed sum. Westfield bought the mall, built in 1957, for $106.4 million in 1998.

    The deal, reported first in the Post-Dispatch by columnist Joe Whittington two months ago, closed on March 26. The mall has been temporarily renamed Crestwood Court.

    "It had not been aggressively managed for years," said Sol Barket, Centrum's managing partner of retail development. "We saw it as a great opportunity to create an open air lifestyle center."
A great opportunity to soak the taxpayers of another state, you mean.
    "We will also require subsidies from the city of Crestwood," he said.
Of course.
    The sale came as the mall's future was hanging in doubt. A number of retailers have pulled out of the center, including anchor retailer Dillard's Inc., which closed in October. Crestwood has two other anchors, Sears and Macy's.
You know why the future was in the balance and why traffic dwindled and whatnot? Partly, because businesses couldn't prognosticate what sort of cockamamie plan the city would come up with and get suckered into. Well, there it is.

Money paid to developers, or money not collected from developers. Meanwhile, watch your ballots for incremental tax increases to fund basic services that will suffer from a mysterious problem in lack of funds from existing sources.

Headlines, Juxtaposed
I'm not saying there's a causal relationship here, but:

Insurer Anthem to no longer pay for medical errors

Study: Most doctors back national health insurance

Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Forgetting For Whom You Play
Blues defenseman Jay McKee dissembles about the latest Blues loss:
    "I feel bad for the teams that (Nashville) is battling with," McKee said. "Those teams were counting on us tonight."
Do you fellows have any more feel-bad in your tanks for the St. Louis Blues fans?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Book Report: Rambo: First Blood Part II by David Morrell (1985)
As you might remember, I just read First Blood recently and liked the first part of it, but didn't like the ending. I'd bought this book, but later bought that book and read it first so I could follow the story. Not that "the kid" from First Blood, who died at the end, and a character played by Sylvester Stallone would have much in common. This book follows the movie from First Blood.

Well, what can I say? It expands a bit on the movie, giving some interior world to the stock characters from the movie, but it also sexualizes the violence a bit, and Morrell must have worked from an incomplete script, because it doesn't follow the movie exactly. Still, it was 250 pages, and I read it in 3 hours, so it's not as though I spent weeks on it. It was a good break between outings in pre-Victorian English novels.

The author's forward provided a bit of a bright spot. In it, the author said, "Yeah, he died in the first book. But here's where you can buy the cool knife, bow, and arrows from the movie!" Also, another amusing bit occurred when I read about Rambo gearing up for his insertion into Vietnam. I misread a passage, and snorted. "He's putting .45 rounds into an AK-47," I told my beautiful wife. "Everyone knows AK-47s take 7.62mm rounds." "How do you know," she asked, almost like she challenged me when I mocked Spare Change. I mean, I'm a man, aren't I?

Books mentioned in this review:

Monday, March 31, 2008
Compare and Contrast: The Bush Years, In Two Cities
Aw, forget it. Just contrast 2001 New York and 2008 Washington, D.C.

New York:

Washington, D.C.:

Congratulations, D.C. You've got less class than New York.

(Link seen on Powerline.)

The Pot Calls The Kettle An Unimpressive Intellect
Here's a snippet from Al Gore's appearance on 60 Minutes talking about global warming skeptics:

Two things about this clip, particularly in naming the skeptics of global warming:
  • "You mean Dick Cheney?" he asks. Seriously, who's the vice president in his world? Al Gore throws this out just so that he can say the fighting words Dick Cheney and so the faithful can react appropriately to the invocation of the demon. Seriously. And then, "Mm-hm." Pompous (can't think of appropriate noun for Al Gore, sorry).

  • Secondly, who does this fellow think he is? Doctor Al Gore, credentialed climatologist? The only reason he's gotten the attention he's gotten for his position and the stepladder to the pedestal he's standing on come from having the titles Senator and Vice-President in front of his own name. So he's going to start demeaning them now?
Goofball. Pompous goofball. There, I have a noun for him.

Maybe he'll get pulled from the Democratic bench this year, and the Republicans can beat him again.

Government Takes Care Of Its Constituency
In a shocking turn of events, governments lack perspective and priorities when it comes to spending tax money. Cities pay huge salaries despite fiscal crises:
    In Vallejo, a midsize city of 121,000, there were 292 municipal employees who earned more than $100,000 last year. But in Oakland, with roughly three times more residents, 1,333 city workers were paid six figures in the same period. San Jose, a city of almost a million people, had 2,312. And San Francisco, which serves as a city and county government for its 809,000 residents, had more than 8,000.

    None of the region's largest cities faces the imminent threat of bankruptcy, but all are weathering their own financial crises - even as firefighters and police officers often earn more than City Hall department heads.
You think that institutions that think they can spend themselves out of bad times or can spur development by taking out risky mortgages instead of reducing barriers to entry and regulation would foolishly line the pockets of the participants even when financial times are tight?

If not, you're obviously not cynical enough or you're trying to save your phony baloney job by diverting the attention of the citizens. How about a sports team to distract them?

At Least They Didn't Make Up The Language, Like Tolkien
Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a cover story on Easter about how it symbolizes rebirth amongst Christians. You can read it via Google cache because it has disappeared from the paper's Web site. Why?

Well, it seems that the vivid, meaningful anecdote about a woman who symbolizes a modern rebirth--a Christlike figure that the paper could savor--was sort of completely made up. The Post-Dispatch offers a note to its readers:
    On the front page of last Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we published the story of a woman identified as Virginia Gillis. She was featured in an Easter story in which she described in detail a past of victimization, homelessness and despair followed by recovery and repair.

    We have since learned that a number of the details in that story were inaccurate. Further, our verification procedures were not followed during the reporting and editing process. In short, this story did not meet our standards for publication.

    We apologize for this journalistic breakdown. We value the trust you place in us every time you pick up the Post-Dispatch or log onto, and we understand that incidents such as this put that trust at risk.

    Last Monday morning, we were contacted by someone who told us that information provided by the woman in the story was inaccurate.
The note goes on to identify all of the facts that were wrong in the anecdote, including the woman's name and everything she told an enraptured journalist.

Of course, the paper doesn't really explain missing the theological explanation of Easter, choosing instead to cast Christ and the meaning of Easter as an Adonis figure, ignoring the interpretation that Christ died to cleanse the world of sin, and that Christ's death means capital punishment is wrong.

Perhaps newspapers should learn to avoid the common template, particularly in policy pieces but also used in this case, that requires a human interest anecdote in the lead position to humanize the sweeping pronouncements and paper-based interpretations that follow and should instead focus on actual reporting. They could shunt these pieces off to the human interest pages or editorial pages where they belong instead of casting them as news. However, that would probably require more effort and less creative writing on the parts of newspaper staffs.

So I don't expect it. But at least the Post Dispatch acknowledged this systemic failure on its part.

But they're the ones who will frame the elections this year for a good portion of the St. Louis area, and I don't look forward to a number of pieces in the middle of April and November saying, "Whoops! Our story presented our agenda, but might have been inaccurate."

Sunday, March 30, 2008
Book Hunting: March 29, 2008
I wouldn't call it good book hunting. It was nominally the first garage sale weekend, so we hit a couple advertised in the Old Trees local papers. Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago when the people decided to throw their sales, it was 70 degrees on the weekend. Yesterday morning, it was 38 with a wind. So not many people were out, and nobody was happy about it.

Here's our take:

March 29 book
Click for full size

I got:
  • Space Wars Worlds and Weapons, a book of space weapons art from 1979. No doubt designed to tap into Star Wars's new popularity.

  • THX 1138, George Lucas dystopian first film on videocassette.

  • Two Garth Brooks CDs, Garth Brooks and The Chase.

  • The soundtrack for Dazed and Confused. Soundtracks for period nostalgia movies are better for collecting a number of period hits at cheap prices at garage sales. They're often better than hit compilations, since so many hit compilations get "hits" you've never heard of because they're cheaper than real hits. The movie guys, though, they spent the money and got the A-list stuff.

  • Adore by Blind Melon because I have only heard one Blind Melon song, and $1 for the whole album is cheap.
The son(s) got a stack of Dr. Seuss big boy books. My beautiful wife came away empty, figuratively of course because she's literally quite full these days.

I Can Follow Directions, Dammit
So I acceded to the query by the disembodied drive thru voice and partook of the two hot apple pies for a dollar, but not without difficulty. For you see, the instructions are to open the box containing the pastry on the left side of the box:

Open the box here.

Oh, but no; if I opened the box on the left side, that would violate the instructions on the right side of the box:
No, open the box here.

I am not a dumb man; I understand that opening the box on one side would violate the instructions, because that would open the box in such a fashion that I was not opening the box properly. That is, if I were to open the box on the right side of the box, the box would be open by the time I got to the instruction on the left side; therefore, I would not correctly open the box on the left side, as the box would already be open.

No, verily, I could infer without any further written instruction that, to satisfy this short end user license on the box and to not violate the warranty of my apple pie, I must open both sides of the box simultaneously; that is, I would open both flaps marked Open here at once so that I would not merely break down an already open box by one of the motions. Fortunately, it was a small box, and I could break the structural integrity of the box on each side with only one hand, and it was thus that I enjoyed my nice cold apple pie knowing that I had correctly interpreted the directions and acted according to the box designers written and explicit intent.

Sometimes, my wife says I overthink things, to which I reply, "You certainly think that, and perhaps I am a bit deliberate in my actions at times; however, I do think that by taking a more reflective approach, I can suss out things and correct interpretations of disconnected and often unintended meanings to ensure that I do not have to learn by trial and error or failure, but rather by rational application of what Hercule Poirot called the little grey cells."

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."