Athletes Refuse Autographs in Rhode Island

After all, Rhode Island is legislating away fees for autographs:

The state Senate has approved a bill that would impose a $100 fine on professional athletes and entertainers who charge anyone under 16 for an autograph.

Dear friends, readers, and people who have come to this site for pictures of Samus Aran naked that I don’t have, what will the result of this law?

Same amount of autograph opportunity availability, but no charge, or Fewer autographing opportunities?

Furthermore, let’s get to the incident that instigated the something-doing by the legislator:

Bill sponsor, Sen. Roger Badeau, said he was appalled when Boston Red Sox players participated in an autograph signing event in Providence after their World Series win last fall, and parents had to shell out nearly $200 so their children could get an autograph.

Fining someone $100 for doing something for $200 is not a deterrent. It’s a tax.

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Great Minds Think Alike

But that won’t necessarily explain why I said something with which Professor Bainbridge might agree.

In a recent book review, I said:

These three novels are short; the whole book runs under 500 pages. But that’s something else I remember: novels running under 200 pages each. Now, the publishers think you’ll wilt if you spend $30 on fewer than 350 pages. Come to think of it, I would, too. Perhaps hardback publishers are pricing themselves out of the entertainment marketplace by keeping their book prices in line with that of video games.

In a post entitled Bloated Fantasy, the professor links to a piece that notes how fantasy has gotten bloated into long books and series:

Hear, hear! (Candidly, I even got bogged down for a while about midway through the widely – and appropriately – praised Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I’m very glad I eventually finished it, but a good editor could have lopped a few hundred pages off it without hurting the book one bit.)

I think what we see represents more the drive of the publishing industry, which needs longer books to justify hardcover prices and it needs long series to like readers into purchasing those expensive hardcovers than an inexplicable decline in good, terse writing.

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Simple Solution Continues to Evade Authorities

Loss of Amtrak would derail some travelers’ only ride:


One of 170,000 passengers who use the Missouri Amtrak run each year, Breese may have to find another way if Blunt and the Legislature go forward with plans to cut the state’s $6.4 million Amtrak subsidy.
“It would really be inconvenient if Amtrak wasn’t here,” Breese said Monday afternoon as he and his wife, Clarita, rode the train from St. Louis to Jefferson City. Breese was returning home after a five-month stint in Kuwait.


Ticket revenue is not enough to support Amtrak. The state kicks in $6.4 million to support two daily trains crossing Missouri, one from Kansas City to St. Louis and another in the opposite direction. They stop at eight cities along the way: Kirkwood, Washington, Hermann, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Warrensburg, Lee’s Summit and Independence.

Without the state’s support, the trains would cease to run, according to Jeff Briggs, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Wouldn’t this problem resolve itself if only Amtrak raised ticket prices?

Oh, bite my tongue and perhaps my nose as well; Amtrak isn’t a service, it’s trainfare, and any increase in ticket rates would adversely impact the poorest among us. Like the poverty-stricken anecdote that kicks off the Post-Dispatch story who works as an IT contractor in Kuwait and earns substinence wages doing so.

By raising the ticket prices and covering its costs, Amtrak would ensure that some people could still ride the trains, but Amtrak is a government entity. Its goal is not to cover its costs. Its goal is to exist. Also, to get bigger and get more tax money budget if possible.

Also, kudos to the Post-Dispatch reporter for leading with the story of someone returning from the Middle East to parallel the contractor with military men and women serving in the area.

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It’s About Our Fair Share, Not Yours

Court rules telecommuter must pay taxes:

A telecommuter who lives out of state while working by computer for a New York employer must pay New York tax on his full income, the state’s highest court ruled Tuesday in a case that could have wide implications in the growing practice.

The Court of Appeals said that computer programmer Thomas Huckaby who lives in Nashville, Tenn., owed New York income tax for his full salary, not just the time he spent working at his employer’s New York offices.

Huckaby paid tax on about 25 percent of his income over two years for the time he spent working in New York state. But the court upheld a state tax department ruling that all his income should be taxed. That amounts to $4,387 plus interest. However, the ruling could lead to much greater income for the state as it is applied to the growing field of telecommuting.

I would expect cities used to justify income taxes their non-resident commuters by saying that those people used city services and should pay their share for them, as though public goods were private services. The population accepted that.

Now, though, New York tips its hand. It’s not about commuters paying for their share of services that they use; it’s about New York getting what it thinks is its fair share of your income.

I truly look forward to the day that some innovative, unelected regulator determines that my telecommuting is taxable in his jurisdiction because my Internet communication hops through a server in his city or state.

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Malkin Favors Disbanding Internet

After all, that’s what one could extrapolate from her For the Children rant attacking P2P networks:

I am all for protecting those “really excellent uses.” And I am all for protecting software entrepreneurs and their right to create new products. This blog wouldn’t exist without them. But there’s a cloud of unreality hanging over the P2P debate. It’s not just high-minded geek revolutionaries against Big Media/RIAA/MPAA who are benefiting from P2P. And P2P ain’t just about trading your favorite tunes.

It’s also about sickos and smut purveyors who have unprecedented access to an unimaginable volume of child porn–not to mention photos of children made available to child sex predators through indavertent file-sharing.

So technologies and protocols that allow workstations to network in a peer to peer fashion, that is client-to-client are bad and perhaps should be banned? What about server-to-server networks where clients can connect to servers to retrieve information? People who distribute questionable content can use those networks, too, and have for years. Should we ban those technologies and protocols? Well, no, because they’re widely used and not under suspicion.

Perhaps the paradigm and the workings of the Internet are too advanced and too much a part of society to start burning now. But since we’re in a pitchfork and torch mood, maybe we shoul ban other peer-to-peer communication systems that allow users to disseminate illegal content. Like the United States Post Office. Anyone, for the cost of a stamp, can mail child pornography to someone else!!!! Or the phone system–anyone with a phone can dial another user and can tell them a social security number or plot a crime!

Come to think of it, Malkin’s not the first to want to prohibit P2P protocols and technologies. There’s a very basic movement afoot to ban another personal communications device used occasionally for illicit means. The gun, and its transmission the bullet, are frequent targets for prohibition because some individuals use them with ill intent. Remove the tool, and you’ll remove exercise of the ill intent, right?

I’m all for prosecuting people who commit crimes, but I draw the line at banning multiple use technologies that some individuals will use for ill because human nature leads someone to try to use everything for bad purposes.

Once you start, you have to draw an arbitrary and ever-more-constricting line at how much ill-intention use demands prohibition. Easy identity theft and copyright infringement don’t make Malkin demand prohibition of P2P software, but alleged child pornography does. That’s a couple people among millions of users, a rather small percentage indeed. What percentage of bar stools and pool sticks must be broken over malcreants in brawls before we ban them?

Ad absurdum or slippery slope? Slippery slope, I fear.

Update: Malkin responds to critics in an update to her post:

    First, nowhere do I call for outlawing P2P or shutting down the Internet. Crikey. Reread what I wrote. It’s in plain English: “I don’t know what the legislative or regulatory solution is, or whether there is one.” What I’m calling for is for users of this technology–especially parents–to take personal responsibility for knowing what they’re sharing and what others are sharing on these networks. I also would like to see the P2P Pollyanas acknowledge that this crap is out there and take increased corporate responsibility for doing something about it.

Unfortunately, when concerned citizens sound the alarum and the klaxon blares, those elected officials in the legislature or those unelected regulators will react unpredictably, and often in the most simplistic manner possible so they can get back to the power lunches.

I guess one could find some call for parental responsibility in her original post, but in plain English, it looks more like a call for agitation and political action than a call for private citizens to monitor their childrens’ computer use.

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Biased Source Issues Report

Apparently, the IRS thinks people aren’t paying their fair share:

Most Americans pay their federal taxes by their due dates, but there’s still a yawning gap between what taxpayers owe and what they pay, according to the IRS.

That gap — known as the net tax gap — is between $257 billion and $298 billion, according to preliminary findings from a three-year study on taxpayer compliance released Tuesday.

“Even after IRS enforcement efforts and late payments, the government is being shortchanged by over a quarter-trillion dollars by those who pay less than their fair share,” said IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson in a statement.

The IRS discovers the more people it audits, the more it can shake out of them. But only to get its their fair shares.

I am uncomfortable when the head of the IRS is determining what each person’s fair share of tax burden is. I thought we had elected officials to do that, but what we really have is unelected enforcement agents who want more budget and more power.

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Australian Public Doesn’t Favor Protecting but Does Favor Protection

Poll: Australia against Taiwan war:

Australians are against following the United States into a war with China over Taiwan, according to a new poll on Australian attitudes.

But the same number who oppose involvement in such a war — 72 percent — think Australia’s alliance with the United States is important for Australia’s security.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I am against a war over Taiwan, too. Ideally, this situation will be resolved peacefully as mainland China allows Taiwanese independence or Taiwan elects to rejoin a free mainland China.

I find it shortsighted and self-serving that the Australian public won’t protect a free people from an aggressive and militaristic foe, but that the Australians would certainly expect us to jump in to save them from the same aggressive and militaristic foe. But that’s modern Western thought for you.

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But It’s For Homeland Security. And the Children.

Gettysburg College President Katherine Haley Will doesn’t care for the Department of Education’s new spending program:

A proposal by the Education Department would force every college and university in America to report all their students’ Social Security numbers and other information about each individual — including credits earned, degree plan, race and ethnicity, and grants and loans received — to a national databank. The government will record every student, regardless of whether he or she receives federal aid, in the databank.

The government’s plan is to track students individually and in full detail as they complete their post-secondary education. The threat to our students’ privacy is of grave concern, and the government has not satisfactorily explained why it wants to collect individual information.

She’s rightly concerned about the privacy implications, but I’m also concerned about the government overreach. Why, oh why, does the Department of Education feel the need to track every student in the country to the microlevel?

So it can perform its job more efficiently, of course. That job? To spend vast sums of tax money and acquire more power and budget for itself.

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Timely Insight

Gun scare closes part of Cincinnati airport:

Part of Cincinnati’s main airport was temporarily shut down Sunday after a passenger passed through a security checkpoint with what appeared to be a gun in a carryon bag, authorities said.

Baggage screeners noticed an X-ray image that resembled a gun after the passenger had picked up the bag and left the checkpoint, said Christopher White, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman in Atlanta.

To rectify the situation, the TSA closed the airport and searched everyone beyond the checkpoint again.

Were this a novel, movie, or an actual plot, the bad guy would have stashed the gun somewhere beyond the checkpoint for an accomplice to retrieve later. Instead, it’s an example of befuddled TSA grunts closing down an airport because they couldn’t watch the X-rays in real time.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin comments and suspects it was a real gun.

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David Nicklaus Promotes Crony Capitalism

I’ve often said that David Nicklaus is the best columnist in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which doesn’t mean I cannot disagree with him, especially when he embraces crony capitalism, like in the column today entitled “Missouri seems too stingy to be slick on luring jobs“. Here’s the lead:

The great economic war between the states has two kinds of combatants – the stingy and the slick.

Missouri has always been among the stingy. It tries to lure employers with its low-tax environment, and it might sweeten the pot with a few tax credits.

With that table-setting, he proceeds to explain why Missouri is lacking because it doesn’t dangle large incentives before companies to make them relocate here or to keep from relocating elsewhere.

Nicklaus seems to argue that the Missouri state government should spend state tax money to buy businesses’ loyalty, or at least their location in Missouri. While having businesses and employers in the state does affect the citizens positively with jobs and tax revenue for the state which could provide benefits to the citizens, it’s rather circular to use the increased tax revenue to provide tax incentives to businesses.

Crony capitalism occurs when government officials favor certain businesses with sweetheart deals at the expense of others, and that’s what tax incentive packages do; they give certain large (and powerful) companies advantages over the rest of the field, especially the businesses too small or inconsequential to inspire the state government’s lust.

So pardon me if I disagree, Mr. Nicklaus. Although other states’ governments enjoy squandering their residents’ tax money to benefit the few (the employees who work for the company and the state’s employees who get more money to spend), I don’t think that the Missouri state government should competitively transgress against us taxpayers. Although Missouri might lose a couple big fish, ultimately it will benefit from a continued low-tax environment that encourages entrepreneurs to start their businesses here and to maintain their businesses here.

Even if our only benefit as citizens comes from the satisfaction in knowing that our state understands its limitations, almost.

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Go Phish

Some phish scammers really don’t put any effort into it. Check out this phish I received today and the domain that displays when I mouse over the “official” link provided:

Go Phish
Click for full size

I mean, come on, how about registering a second host name aside from your primary line of business, pornography, guys? Is a little effort too much to expect from confidence boys?

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Freedom of Speech Defense for Conspiracy

LaShawn Barber is on Hugh Hewitt’s side:

A man has been arrested for making threats against Michael Schiavo via the Internet. In that case, he shouldn’t be the only one. How many people have said or written such things about Schiavo in the past week out of emotion? Should they all be arrested?

What, this guy?

A man arrested in Buncombe County Friday was charged with threatening the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of the right-to-die case gripping the country.

Richard Alan Meywes was arrested in Fairview by the FBI and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI said in a prepared statement.

Meywes is accused of sending an e-mail putting a $250,000 bounty “on the head of Michael Schiavo” and another $50,000 to eliminate a judge who denied a request to intervene in the Schiavo case, the FBI said. The FBI did not immediately identify the judge.

“The e-mail also made reference to the recent death of a judge in Atlanta and the death of (a) judge’s family members in Illinois,” the FBI said.

Yeah, who has not threatened violence in anger regarding the Schiavo case? Well, for starters, I would guess those who don’t want the government to do extralegal things don’t talk about individuals doing extralegal things, but that consistency is our hobgoblin.

(Thanks to John Cole for the link to the news story.)

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Book Report: Three from the 87th by Ed McBain (1971)

I inherited this book from my Aunt Dale; I don’t know if this was her personal copy or if she bought it to sell on eBay, but I do know that she liked Ed McBain, or at least owned one or more of his books; I remember in particular that I read her copy of Lightning when I was young and impressionable.

This collection includes, oddly enough, three of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels: Fuzz (1968), Jigsaw (1970), and Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here (1971). That’s right, McBain (or Hunter, if you prefer) has been writing these books for fifty years now, and to a certain demographic, the books haven’t aged too badly.

I mean, of course, to people from Generation X and before, these books have aged well. We remember computers coming into the fore in our lifetimes; before that, typewriters. Criminey, I wrote my first couple of college papers on an old Smith Corona before I could spring the thousands of dollars (with a loan, no less) for the 286-10 running MS-DOS 5.0 and LotusWorks that would last the rest of my college career). So these stories, which feature cops handwriting forms and typing on typewriters, remain relevant and undated to me. I pity writers now (myself included) whose crime fiction will seemingly be ever dated from this point on–what, he was typing on a computer and not just intuiting through the Gibsonterface?

These three novels are short; the whole book runs under 500 pages. But that’s something else I remember: novels running under 200 pages each. Now, the publishers think you’ll wilt if you spend $30 on fewer than 350 pages. Come to think of it, I would, too. Perhaps hardback publishers are pricing themselves out of the entertainment marketplace by keeping their book prices in line with that of video games.

But I digress.

These three novels represent not only McBain’s deftness, but the power of the third person narrator. Because these books don’t rely on a single character’s viewpoint, McBain has more latitude to try different things than, say, a first person narrator writer like Robert Crais.

The novels appear in this book in reverse chronological order (hence, pardon me while I discuss them in the opposite order in which they appear in the book). Fuzz depicts a series of assassinations in the city perpetrated by the Deaf Man, who will become the 87th Precinct’s nemesis over the years. This is his second appearance (I believe, and textual evidence supports it). Jigsaw features a couple of detectives from the 87th Precinct, supported by others of course, investigating a particular crime. Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here depicts a 24-hour period in the 87th Precinct, with two shifts of detectives dealing with the crimes that occur on their shift. The third person narrator allows a lot of latitude of who the author can include and exclude and even who can die during the course of the book. Authors who use the first person narrator shortcut its immediacy by including third person sections (see also Robert Crais and, I daresay, Robert B. Parker). McBain p0wns you.

The novels within the book do present an interesting artifact, though, as they depict life in The City (a proxy for New York) in the 1960s and 1970s. Wow, it did seem like a dangerous place to live….until this fellow named Giuliani showed up. McBain found something to write about afterwards, as his books don’t stop with Giuliani’s election, but I cannot help but read them in that context.

So would I recommend the book? Unabashedly. Although my wonderful and well-read mother-in-law has, on occasion, condemned Ed McBain as smut, I still laud the poetry interspersed with the gritty. Also, she was a high school teacher who had the public’s morals to protect. Me? I am a poor boy from the ghetto who wanted to escape with his writing. I cannot think of a better example of the third person narrator in crime fiction series than Ed McBain. Any of them, or any three of them in one volume.

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Jack Cardetti Strikes Again

Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said Blunt’s budget cuts would hurt children, older adults and vulnerable people who lack lobbyists to protect their interests in the state capital.

“He’s especially ravaged the Missouri Division of Youth Services, a national model for how to take care of juvenile offenders and then turn them into productive citizens,” Cardetti said.

What’s he talking about? My governor, Matt Blunt, has apparently announced more cuts:

Gov. Matt Blunt has announced a second round of state budget cuts that will reduce state spending by $240 million and eliminate an additional 1,274 state jobs.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to say that Matt Blunt, boy wonder of Missouri, will be old enough to be president in 2008.

I don’t want to gloat to my friends in Illinois or Wisconsin, but Ha! In your face! A Republican governor with a Republican legislature!

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From the Bookmark Collection

Well, it’s Saturday, so I’ve got nothing better to do than to expose you to a representative of my well-used bookmark collection. It’s really only a collection because the bookmarks are accumulating in the nightstand drawer, not because I’m actively seeking new and exotic bookmarks. If I were, I’d undoubtedly have better items than the collection of Amazon, used book store, and “here’s a gift, send us money” unsolicited fundraiser bookmarks I’ve got. Still, some of the bookmarks merit comment, including this one:

This bookmark comes to us from 1985, and it’s geared to students. Check out the fellow depicted upon the front of
the bookmark. He’s got a flattop haircut undoubtedly helped out with a liberal dose of gel. By 1985, we were
moving out of the heavily-teased hair styles for the most part and into more natural looks. At least we were in
the middle of America; perhaps the Flock of Seagulls thing persisted in pockets on the coasts (although the
mullet has yet to go out of style in Jefferson County, Missouri). This kid’s wearing a t-shirt with his own
picture on it, the very latest thing available from the malls, and a pair of the oversized shorts they called
jams. Me, I never had a pair of jams, although I liked to call the patterned oversized swimming trunks I
acquired via hand-me-down-from-outside-the-family or parental garage sale purchase “jams” simply because they
had a design upon them. This kid’s also wearing a pair of untied Converse or some other non-Nike brand of
high-tops, all the rage amongst the rural toughies in the area in which I went to high school. Toughies whom
the urban toughs that I spent my early years would have eaten alive (and probably have in prison by now, or so
I hope in the remainder of my adolescent revenge fantasies).

The text of this bookmark reads, “It’s cool to be you!” The irony, of course, lies in that this self-esteem-boosting message
lies on a bookmark. Cool kids, or at least those of the soc or jock or hooter/stoner mentality would not be privy to
this particular boost. The very fact that this message appears on a bookmark implies that the adults-that-be, or
at least the adults-that-were expected that young people with books needed self-esteem boosts to make up for the slights
and the lacks of dates and for all the other various and sundry humiliations levied against those who preferred books
to television and the assorted social and physical vandalism that represents the high school experience…. well,
a simple I’m OK, You’re OK from a bookmark wouldn’t do a thing for a teenager, who would see through its
facetiousness and condescensious consolation. I wouldn’t have taken it seriously as encouragement had I owned
this bookmark in 1985; since I got it sometime as part of a yard sale book purchase, where it was wedged between the
incompletely-read pages of some adult book, it helped me even less than a “It’s cool to be a middle-aged suburban
subdivision dweller” bookmark more geared to my demographic.

Crikey, I hope no teenager has thrown a belt over a rafter as a result of the loss of this security blanket.

The back of this particular bookmark indicates that I’m not lying when I say it’s circa 1985; as a matter of fact,
the text indicates it’s copyright, which I am no doubt violating terribly since you gentle readers could blow up the pictures,
print them on the new-fangled photo-quality color ink jets whose abilities we could only see in movies in 1985 while we listened
to our dot-matrix printers chattering away or the daisy wheels pounding on paper. Please, do not send me a nickel when you do so,
for you’d just be an obvious plant from the copyright holder’s lawyers.

The brand name, Tab-Marks, would indicate that this bookmark was the product of one of the big three book clubs of the era. Come
on, Generation X, you know what I am talking about. The single sheet of full-color (not the Weekly Reader, you pre-addled
baby boomleters) front and back distributed in class that
allowed those of us who needed ego-booster bookmarks to choose from a menu of paperback books for a buck or two each. Arrow, Tab,
and Scholastic fliers made the rounds at my elementary and junior high (although in Missouri, they call them middle school) classes.
Kinda like Columbia House for kids, with nothing required to buy in the future.

It was always a big deal, as our family was rather, um, undercapitalized, to get to order books from these services. I did, on occasion;
after a couple of weeks, I got some books that were mine and not the library’s. Wholesome youth entertainment like Judy Blume and
Beverly Cleary (I consider it a testament to the power of these book clubs, and the library, that I still score 8 of 10 on the
Harry Huggins trivia quiz).

Do kids still get these circulars? We don’t have children yet, so I don’t know whether schools fit them in yet amongst the
year-round fundraisers to which those pimping schools subject their students. Perhaps children of the twenty-first century
don’t need pencils to make checkmarks and ticks on full-color order forms when they can use their cellular phones to order
the books directly from

I hope one or the other is the case; I’d hate to think that no children spend rainy afternoons in overstuffed recliners with
simple paperbacks extolling the adventures of anyone not named Potter. Mainly because my dream is to open a used book store, and
to be honest, the Greatest Generation, who stocked their post WWII homes with New American Library editions of the classics, the few
Baby Boomers not into free love and protests, and the few straggling, under-self-esteemed (apparently) Generation Xers are dying
off faster than I can accummulate the wealth and stock to start the money-losing dream-come-true.

Remarkable, ainna, that bookmarks can jog as many memories and reflections, sometimes, as the books into which we stick them? So many people just jam notes, slips of paper, and bank privacy notices (hem, well, perhaps only for technical, business-related books, you see) into books because reading doesn’t require the pomp and circumstance of true bookmarks.

Although, oddly, perhaps that would merit a better sign of books’ ubiquitousness….

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