Night of the Living Transit Tax

The story is misheadlined: Missouri House votes to send $12 million in stimulus money to Metro because let’s just see what it is. Is it:

    The House voted Wednesday to use $12 million in federal stimulus funds to soften dramatic service cuts at Metro.

    The sponsor of the Metro funding amendment, Rep. Rachel Storch, D-St. Louis, said thousands of people can’t get to work since bus routes at the St. Louis-area transit agency were slashed. She also decried cuts in transportation services for the disabled.

I thought stimulus money couldn’t go to mass transit, but either I was misinformed or rules and promises out of the government are subject to change at the next member of government’s whim (logically, this is a false dilemma, as it could be both).

At least Representative Storch is clear about how unwise it is to use “one-time” stimulus payments to bridge budget deficits:

    Storch portrayed it as stopgap funding until Metro can persuade area voters to raise taxes for the system.

Ah, yes. Because the voters have spoken, but they spoke wrongly and must receive chance after chance to do what the leaders want.

So what the state legislature has approved is a $12 million marketing and lobbying budget. It won’t get old bus routes running again, but it will bridge a gap in the efforts to convince people to raise their taxes.

Kind of like those nice vinyl signs on the bus stops that are out of service. Metro did not remove the bus stop signs. No, they converted them all into free billboards to tell the electorate how it done Metro wrong.

Perhaps They Wrote The Article Too Soon

The New York Post compiled an article enumerating Obama’s mistakes in office: 100 DAYS, 100 MISTAKES.

Maybe they were premature:

After all, who knows what might be done today or tomorrow? I’d save a spot on the list to see how the president handles the 100 days of disaster protesters in Arnold, Missouri, tomorrow.

The president claimed ignorance of the Tea Parties, but these guys will be right there. Unless their freedom-to-protest zone is in Hillsboro.

If You Make Anorexia Illegal, You Will Stop It

Missouri Legislature tackles eating disorders.

It would be entirely consistent behavior for the legislature to merely make eating disorders against the law. That would curb the problem, much like it does with drugs, prostitution, and so on.

Maybe they’ll take the tack of smoking and merely ban purging in public places.

Instead, they’ll just compel insurance companies to cover them in a fashion the government dictates, which will cause higher insurance rates, which will then require more government intervention at the Federal level.

Note that there are Republicans co-sponsoring the bill. Funny how small government principles fail in lots of small ways. Like encouraging government intervention for just this one little problem.

Ballpark Village 2023

Kiel Opera House might be redeveloped sometime soon:


    A downtown landmark took one step closer to new life Tuesday, though it still has a long way to go.

    A city board declared the Kiel Opera House blighted, a key in making it eligible for redevelopment incentives that could eventually bring shows and concerts back to the grand but long-empty hall on Market Street.

Remember, citizens, the Blues organization was supposed to rehab this venue as part of the agreement when the city built them a new arena in 1995.

You think the local government will learn a lesson about public/private partnerships and how they are the “mark” in these deals? Who cares, so long as the elected officials and unelected commission or committee members get to sit in the boxes.

Police Chief: You Cannot Do Legal Things With Impunity

Wisconsin’s Attorney General has said open carry is legal in Wisconsin.

Milwaukee’s Police Chief says he will not abide by people doing this legal thing:

    “If my officers see someone walking around the City of Milwaukee with a firearm openly displayed, it borders on irresponsible if I were to communicate to members of my community that they can carry that firearm with impunity,” Flynn said.

Embrace the arbitrariness of law enforcement. If we don’t like what’s legal, we enforce our own standards.

Good for paperback fiction, bad for a civilized society.

State Treats Stimulus Like Taxpayers

Stimulus money paying Illinois bills:

    More than $1 billion in federal stimulus money is winding its way toward Illinois school districts. But don’t expect any major changes in local education efforts.

    Rather, the cash — approved by the U.S. Department of Education on Monday — will largely go toward paying bills the state already owes to school districts for items like transportation and special education services.

Isn’t that what taxpayers did with their stimulus checks? Instead of running out and buying consumer goods, they paid bills?

Unfortunately, at the state level, this is a real problem if states spend that one-time (hah!) windfall to pay ongoing expenses because those expenses will still be there when the funds are gone.

But it keeps state officials from having to make difficult decisions, hopefully until such time as the state officials become Federal officials, leaving a new crop of leaders to deal with the mess.

Homeowner Panic: Averted

So this afternoon, I went into my workroom, the utility room in the finished basement, to get some supplies for an outdoor project. And I heard this strange rattling coming from the water heater or the furnace.

So I got closer, and I isolated the rattle to the water heater. Crap, I thought, I don’t know who to call when I have problems with a water heater. It’s true, I have a furnace guy, an electrical guy, and a drain guy, and I know who to look for in the white pages if I need concrete work or plumbing. But water heaters? Crikey, I don’t know who to call.

The rattling was accompanied, sometimes, by a weird trill. Almost bird like. I assumed I was hearing something else.

So I grabbed my supplies and did my outdoor chore. While outside, I heard the bird trilling that I’d heard in the basement. I didn’t hear the rattling.

When I got downstairs, I put away my gear and heard the rattling again. I moved close to the water heater to listen closely. Then, I heard the rattling and the trilling with the same locus. Essentially, the duct leading to the chimney.

Why….

I went outside and moved until I was in front of the neighbor’s house. There, upon my roof, upon my chimney, sat the neighborhood woodpecker, a recent immigrant whose better-thought-out knocking I’d heard upon trees in mornings and early afternoons for recent days. He trilled, and then he drummed upon the metal cover on my chimney, as though to challenge the other birds in the area.

Or perhaps just to make me wonder and to fret just a bit.

Book Report: Warriors of the Way by Harry Harrison and John Holm (1995)

This book collects the first two books in the trilogy, natch. A featured selection in the Science Fiction Book Club, too, I learned from the ephemera that came with the book–namely, the flyer for the month where the book was featured.

I like Harry Harrison. I read his Planet of No Return in middle school, and I’ve dabbled with the Stainless Steel Rat series (see also The Stainless Steel Rat for President). I’ve even discovered that I read another alt history book of his recentlyish (Stars and Stripes Triumphant, July 2006). I characterized this as an alt history book as well when I bought it, but it’s more fantasy than straight ahead alt history.

The books center on Shef, a thrall raised by the local karl (minor royalty figure) who kept Shef’s mother. As a bastard, he’s mistreated of course, but he learns some smithing. When a band of Vikings invade to avenge their father, Shef becomes part of their army to rescue his captured stepsister. Then he rises in the ranks and becomes a lord in his own right, guided by a mysterious god-figure who thwarts even Othin.

It’s a fantasy book because it does feature Norse gods as real people, includes a lot of visions and stuff. The two books clock in at 800 pages, so I felt my bottom in the chair, so to speak, although the books were good enough reading as I went along. Although the battle scenes are more Patick O’Brian than Bernard Cornwell in that they’re rather anti-climactic and a bit of an afterthought, with much of the book coming in the in-between things going on. A bit of a knock, but I guess I did end the reading experience with the end of the middle part of the trilogy. If I stopped watching the first Star Wars trilogy after A Empire Strikes Back, I’d been left a little hanging.

Of course, if that’s the metaphor that holds, I’d better not read the third in this series, or I’ll find that the Ewoks keep the Norse gods from winning at Ragnarok.

Books mentioned in this review:

If The Packers Complain About The Tax Burden, Perhaps Wisconsin Will Fix It

Forget the tea parties: if there’s one thing that will galvanize the drive for tax reform in Wisconsin, it will be complaining Packers:

    The states without income tax, I felt, always had an advantage in recruiting free agent players. Teams in Florida, Tennessee and Texas used the fact that their states had no income tax to show players how much more they would take home than teams in high income tax states (like Wisconsin). In some cases, agents actually showed me data from other teams showing how much more the player would make over the life of the same contract in one of those states. In recruiting players for Green Bay, I would always hear from agents how much more a player would make from, say, the Buccaneers or Texans compared to the 6.6-percent state income tax that Wisconsin would take from Packer players.

If taxes are keeping the Packers from the Super Bowl, the people will rise against Jim Doyle and the Wisconsin Legislature faster than you can say “Rick Santelli.”

Media Lauds Intrusive Police Action

You know, the media tends to really get down on surveillance in pursuit of terrorism. However, have you noticed how any intrusive police actions that infringe upon private citizens are okay if it falls under behavior that the media dislikes, such as driving after a couple beers?

Here’s the story:

    Police in St. Charles County are drawing a new weapon in their fight to stop drunk drivers — blood testing.

    On Thursday night, about two dozen officers from several area police departments are holding what they’re calling a “no refusal” checkpoint to catch impaired drivers.

    From 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., police will stop all drivers at a busy intersection near Interstate 70, the city’s Main Street corridor and the Ameristar Casino. If those arrested on suspicion of driving drunk refuse an officer’s request for a breath test, police plan to get on-the-spot court orders for blood tests from a nearby on-call prosecutor and circuit judge.

    Though the approach has already been tested in at least three other states, police say this style of checkpoint combining the “no refusal” element may be the first of its kind in Missouri. Police and advocates for tougher enforcement hope the effort adds muscle to a criminal justice system that often fails to keep drunk drivers off the roads.

Checkpoints, prosecutors and judges waiting on speed dial to issue warrants based only on refusal to submit to search, what isn’t to like if you’re pro-statist in pursuit of trivial goals or a pro-statist eager to just erode civil liberties because you can?

Book Report: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

If you take the classic British totalitarian works like 1984 and A Brave New World with the Existentialist preoccupation with unsavory protagonists, you have A Clockwork Orange. In a future England whose government and language appear heavily influenced by the Soviets, a young malcreant and his mates (droogs in the cant) spend their evenings committing crimes and ultra-violence for fun and for money. When Alex, the self-styled leader and your humble narrator is caught, he serves time in an overcrowded prison until he is offered an opportunity for early release through a program that brainwashes criminals into avoiding violent acts. When he’s returned to the street, he is at the mercy of those he victimized and his former droogs until some of the opposition party want to use him for their purposes of bringing down the totalitarian government.

One would hope that not too many readers identify closely with the narrator, a thief, thug, rapist, and murderer; however, Burgess uses the language of the narrator to lure the reader in. When you first start, the nadsat lingo one out of the book, but after a while, the reader understands the argot and this understanding has to act as the only bridge, one hopes, between the reader and the sociopathic I speaking.

It’s a short book–180 pages, like they used to write paperback fiction–and a decent enough read that really does carry the flavor of 1960s science fiction, perhaps even British science fiction. Its intersection of Orwell and Sartre, though, have given it its classic status.

Books mentioned in this review:


 

 

 

Dueling Precocities

VodkaPundit tries to start something:

    After strapping the boy into his car seat, I got in myself and checked to see if the next song on the iPod was inappropriate. “Son, would you like to hear a really good song?”

    “Yeah!”

    “It’s Earth, Wind & Fire, and it’s really funky.”

    Pressed play and watched his face as “Shining Star” started to play way too loud.

    Preston sat, listened, judged, pronounced: “It’s not funky enough.”

Last night, I offered to sing “You Are My Sunshine” (first verse only) to our two-year-old, and he declined. He wanted to hear the “Hi, Hi, Hi” song.

“I don’t know that song,” I said.

“‘Minne the Moocher’,” he said clearly.

Top that, Martini Boy.

An Easter Message

You want to get men into church? This ain’t the way:

    On the Sunday before Easter, the Rev. Tom Skiles bounded onto a stage in the gym of Simpson Elementary School here.

    Spirit of St. Louis Church’s praise band had just finished four chest-thumping Christian rock tunes, complete with light show, and Skiles’ flock of about 100 was settling into the metal folding chairs lined up in front of the stage.

    “This is an awesome time of year, and I’m really pumped about what’s about to happen,” Skiles said. The pastor, 36, his head shaved, was dressed in jeans and blazer over a red T-shirt and spoke into his headset microphone.

    What’s about to happen at SOS Church is a connection between the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the spinal cranks, head butts and anaconda chokes of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As Skiles spoke, a large screen behind him projected the red UFC logo on a chain-link background, a reference to the cage in which UFC fighters do battle.

    The church rents space each Sunday from the school, and on Easter the gym will be outfitted with an octagonal ring where Skiles will begin a four-week preaching theme based on the hugely popular sport of extreme fighting, or mixed martial arts. MMA, as fans know it, combines a variety of fighting techniques, from punching to kicking to elbowing to choking.

This is:

    The Barna Group, a Christian research organization, has shown in surveys over the last decade that women attend church in much greater numbers than men.

Call it the “Surf City” strategy: tell the guys that there are two girls for every boy, and you’ll find a lot more boys interested in going. Why churches and universities don’t play this up, I don’t understand.

Well, except for the universities. That would be objectivating the girls.

First, They Came For Incandescent Bulbs, But I Wasn’t Paying Attention

Then they came for big screen televisions, and no doubt they’ll notice:

    The California proposal—which could be adopted this summer—would forbid retailers from selling TVs that require what state officials think is too much power. Proponents claim they are mandating energy efficiency, and who could object to that? The practical effect, however, would be to remove TVs with screens 40 inches or bigger from the market.

Why not let the controlled markets work, and just let the sales fall as part of a depression caused by other leaders of that mindset?

Because that’s not ruling the peasants, baby.

Joe Williams Catches The Essence Of A Republican Party Meeting

In his review for the film Observe and Report:

    History will attest that the most frequently occurring character in the comedies of this decade has been the self-inflated blowhard who is actually a pinhead, but in the hands of man-child Rogen, Ronnie is several degrees to the right of a blustering Ben Stiller or Will Ferrell.

    We watch in shock as this wannabe cop engages in date rape, hard-drug abuse and vigilante mayhem that seems derived from repeated viewings of “Taxi Driver.” Some of the slapstick is brutally funny, but the laughs are like involuntary confessions elicited by a taser.

Date rape, hard drug abuse, and vigilante mayhem. That pretty much identifies what conservative thought is. If you’re an unthoughtful film critic.

It Could Have Been A Tragedy

Semitrailer truck carrying kegs of beer rolls over near Miller Park on I-94:

    Crews will have to unload kegs of beer from a semitrailer that rolled over near Miller Park and they will have to close all westbound lanes of I-94 some time this afternoon when they’re ready to remove the truck from the freeway.

Except for some minor bruising, the kegs seem to be okay.

You know what would really suck? Getting hit by a keg truck and having the accident rupture some kegs which leak into your car and into your mouth and and you get a DUI for it. Now that would suck.

That’s what makes me exceptional at software QA. A good imagination for how it could be worse.