Some Want Full Irresponsibility For Their Actions

Headline in St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Some want unwed dads to pick up Medicaid’s birth costs:

Some Republican legislators want to charge unwed fathers thousands of dollars for hospital birth costs incurred by low-income mothers on Medicaid.

The twin goals: making fathers shoulder more responsibility and reducing taxpayers’ costs.

“I don’t intend for anything to be punitive at all for mom and baby,” Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields said at a recent meeting of the Missouri Medicaid Reform Commission, which he co-chairs.

“But the last time I checked, it takes two people to make a baby. And there is some responsibility, not just for child support, but for the cost of bringing that child successfully into the world,” said Shields, R-St. Joseph.

A capital idea, I say. But the Post-Dispatch can find some to say otherwise:

Critics say mother and baby would suffer under Shields’ proposal because some women would give up Medicaid and forgo prenatal care rather than cooperate in efforts to bill the father for hospital costs.

Some women would give up Medicaid because they didn’t want to give up the father. The Post-Dispatch summons forth an anecdote about an unwed couple begatting their third child. Father’s working sixty hours a week to support the family and thumps his chest in the article about taking on responsibility.

But his “responsibility” includes not paying for the actual babies prenatal care and by not marrying the mother because it would reduce her Medicaid eligibility. Also, his responsibility includes having a large family in his early twenties that he cannot support with a retail career.

I’d grade his responsibility at “incomplete” at best.

But I came not to judge this fellow; instead, I came to judge those critics who say that any state-based assumption of personal responsibility–personal fiscal responsibility–must be exposed as ill-advised and cold-hearted.

Climactic Cognitive Dissonance

Ice ages linked to galactic position: Study finds Earth may be cooled by movement through Milky Way’s stellar clouds:

It might sound preposterous, like astrology, to suggest that galactic events help determine when North America is or isn’t buried under immense sheets of ice taller than skyscrapers. But new research suggests the coming and going of major ice ages might result partly from our solar system’s passage through immense, snakelike clouds of exploding stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

Resembling the curved contrails of a whirling Fourth of July pinwheel, the Milky Way’s spiral arms are clouds of stars rich in supernovas, or exploding stars. Supernovas emit showers of charged particles called cosmic rays.

Theorists have proposed that when our solar system passes through a spiral arm, the cosmic rays fall to Earth and knock electrons off atoms in the atmosphere, making them electrically charged, or ionized. Since opposite electrical charges attract each other, the positively charged ionized particles attract the negatively charged portion of water vapor, thus forming large droplets in the form of low-lying clouds.

In turn, the clouds cool the climate and trigger an ice age — or so theorists suggest.

And yet global warming is caused by man.

Historical Perspective

The last time someone other than Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France:

  • Companies were using Windows NT, and home users were buying Packard Bells pre-installed with the new Windows 98. First Edition.
  • Ken Starr was preparing a report that would lead to impeachment of President Clinton.
  • Bill Clinton had not given the televised speech saying he might have inappropriate contact with an intern.
  • NATO was threatening air strikes against Serbia for its continuing slaughter of Albanians.
  • NASDAQ was almost to 2000, less than half of its peak in the dot-com bubble.
  • Matthew Shepherd was an anonymous student in Wyoming.
  • The Truman Show really creeped me out, so I saw it three times in theatres.
  • I was four months into my first job in IT, and four months out of my last blue collar position. I had just moved out of my mother’s basement, rock on!, and was about five months ahead of my first IT layoff.
  • I was a mere days away from proposing to my girlfriend, whom I had tricked into moving to St. Louis from Columbia by pretending I was pregnant.
  • John Grisham had dominated the bestseller lists.
  • When you said “Potter,” people thought of Sherman T., but that was about to change.
  • More people still used Netscape Navigator than Internet Explorer.
  • Feminism was in an uproar when Ally MacBeal appeared on Time as an icon of feminism.

Quick Hits

Some quick hits from my browsing at iWon, where I still hope I will win the million bucks or whatever they have left to award:

  • With Bush’s help, GE courts Indian PM, nuke sector:

    Just over an hour after the White House’s surprise pledge to help India develop its civilian nuclear power sector, the head of General Electric, the American company that could benefit most from the policy change, sat down for a celebratory dinner.

    The host was President Bush; a few feet away was India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and his top aides. GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, a contributor to Bush’s presidential campaigns, had a coveted seat at the president’s table.

    Bush’s announcement on nuclear trade with India — followed by a formal dinner in the State dining room — was not just a victory for Singh. For GE, the only U.S.-owned company still in the nuclear business, it marked a possible turning point in a years-long push to re-enter the Indian nuclear power market, which it was forced to leave in 1974 when India conducted its first nuclear test.

    I’m not sure how this conspiracy fits into the whole Bush Works For Big Oil thing, but if our country’s nuclear industry has fallen to only a single company continuing to work on nuclear industry, I blame the same groups who banged the trash can lids of China syndrome and called them symbols in the 1980s. They drove the other corporate entities out of nuclear energy. If freaking PETA made nuclear power plants, green and with no harm to animals, it would benefit them, too, but PETA just plays dress up and engages in useless theatrics. So who do you think would benefit from a compact designed to get real work done? Oh, yeah, companies that do real work.

  • LAPD Recruits Computer to Stop Rogue Cops:

    Dogged by scandal, the Los Angeles Police Department is looking beyond human judgment to technology to identify bad cops.

    This month, the agency began using a $35 million computer system that tracks complaints and other telling data about officers – then alerts top supervisors to possible signs of misconduct.

    Let’s watch libertarians and civil rights zealots experience the Kirk-driven conundrum in this one. One on hand, it’s a potentially-problematic invasion of privacy, but on the other hand, it’s pigs, man!

    Personally, I am ambivalent on this one. It’s an employer tracking employee behaviour. LAPD cops, if you have a problem, you have a right to become SFPD or security guards. I don’t think that it’s inappropriate to track efficiency and productivity or other performance on the job, even for police. However, I would like to see the program extended to the other, more dead, weight of the government. Track the behavior, complaints, and productivity of every state employee, and bring down the wrath of firing and embarrassment upon anyone who’s not carrying their share of the taxpayer-funded load.

  • Pressure on U.S. to Use More Surveillance:

    Pressure is building for greater use of video cameras to keep watch over the nation’s cities – particularly in transportation systems and other spots vulnerable to terrorism – after the bombings in London.

    The calls have come over the last few weeks as British investigators released surveillance footage of the bombers in the deadly July 7 attacks and then put out frames of suspects in Thursday’s failed attacks.

    “I do not think that cameras are the big mortal threat to civil liberties that people are painting them to be,” Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony A. Williams said Friday.

    Civil liberties matter less than actual safety, dear Mayor-Who-Hasn’t-Been-Caught-Smoking-Crack-Yet. Note that the cameras in the July 7 blasts, which killed a pile of people, did nothing to stop the killing. They only provided handy images with which to assign blame.

    But that’s what contemporary government is all about, ainna? Letting things happen, and then assigning blame. Assuming one survives to spectate the whole thing, of course.

  • Spoof of Bush Wins Faux Faulkner Contest:

    A scathing parody that likens President Bush to the “idiot” in William Faulkner’s novel “The Sound and the Fury” has won this year’s Faulkner write-alike contest – and touched off a literary spat.

    Organizers of the Faux Faulkner competition are accusing Hemispheres, the United Airlines magazine that has sponsored the contest for six years, of playing politics by not putting Sam Apple’s “The Administration and the Fury” in its print edition – only on its Web site.

    “One of the things they asked was that we didn’t have profanity or any obvious sexual content. We watch for that. But anything else, like a political subject, was funny, it was parody. … We felt that that shouldn’t be censored,” said Larry Wells, who organizes the contest with his wife, Dean Faulkner Wells, Faulkner’s niece.

    I agree. Let’s prevent censorship. Allow me to stand in front of the jack-booted Bureau of Proper Bush Worship thugs preventing Hemispheres from printing its views. But pardon me if I recognize that Hemispheres understands that blatantly anti-Bush twaddle could offend over 50% of its clientele and decides not to print it, or that Faulknerian anti-Bush twaddle appeals to less than 10% of its clientele who both hate Bush and have actually made it through The Sound and The Fury.

    Because, brother, the fact that you can villify Bush and write like William Faulkner might make you a genius in literary circles, but that doesn’t make you salable. As you probably already know.

Geez, acting as a one man sanity patrol can be tiring. I think I need another beer.

Irony Alert

A murder victim and DNA evidence on the scene, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on a lack of progress with unintentional irony:

But investigators have a growing list of people who did not kill Angela Lee.

That list has been compiled with the help of DNA evidence, found at the scene, that has been compared with voluntary DNA submissions from “people of interest,” said Mike Sheeley, a master sergeant with the Illinois State Police.

About 30 people have been cleared after giving DNA samples at the request of authorities, he said.

It’s one example of how the science of DNA is helping to solve crimes that aren’t easily solved – including crimes in a village surrounded by corn fields.

No, dear Post-Dispatch reporter, this is not an example of how DNA is solving crimes. As a matter of fact, it illustrates the opposite, perhaps: DNA evidence alone will not solve a crime.

Now, 30 “persons of interest”–that is, suspects without the presumption of innocence–have now logged their most personal essence permanently within the law enforcement machine for nothing but for the right to be not suspected of a crime they didn’t commit. And the killer remains at large.

Perhaps if we had a nationwide database of all DNA, excised from birth. But we’d also have the same, or better, crime closure rate if the state merely implanted us with chips at birth. Somewhere where we can’t pull them out before committing crimes, like in the brain.

A matter of degree, not kind, my friends. And we’re giving up the kind rather easily.

Book Report: Borderline by Gerry Boyle (1998)

I picked up this book from my to-read shelves for two reasons:

  • I just read a book based on a movie starring Madonna, and this book shares the title with one of her early hits.
  • The Robert B. Parker endorsement on the front cover: “Gerry Boyle is the genuine article.”

Man, I hope I get a book published before Robert B. Parker dies so I can get a quote. That would be the highlight of my life, werd. (Except for you, honey, but fortunately you’re not entirely consistent in reading this far into book reports, so I might be safe.)

The book chronicles a freelance writer, former New York Times reporter (not that there’s anything wrong with that), who is working on a travel story following Benedict Arnold’s march and assault on Quebec when he finds a mystery. A man has stepped off of a bus at a rest stop in a small Maine town and didn’t get back on. Jack McMorrow’s curiosity is piqued, and when he finds the man was travelling under a false name and paid for his ticket with a bad check, his big city reporter instincts take over.

So McMorrow investigates this possible crime amid his paying job, an article that follows the path of Arnold’s march on Quebec and ultimate rebuff at the hands of the English at Quebec. As he meanders through his investigation, the police don’t believe him, and actually offer to set him up for a crime to get him out of their small town.

As such, this book has a very Existential subcurrent running through it; McMorrow’s connection to history, personal life, and alienation from the professional law enforcement led me to think of it in those terms before the author/main character invoked the names of Camus and Sartre. So I related to the character in a way I hadn’t before, and I didn’t mind so much the slow pace of the book or the ultimately less-than-climactic resolution.

I won’t dodge Boyle’s work in the future, and I might even spend a couple bucks on further hardbacks in this series. I’m wonder, though, whether prolonged exposure to the book’s pacing and its ultimately only slightly heroic main character might wear upon me.

More Fun With Juxtaposition, Courtesy AP

AP illustrates the fun one can have with juxtaposition, especially when it’s a non sequitur:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to volatile Lebanon on Friday to encourage a new democratic government outside Syrian control and better relations between the two Mideast countries.

Hours after Rice left the city, witnesses said an explosion rocked a busy street of restaurants and bars in a Christian neighborhood of Beirut.

“We would like to see the day when there are good neighborly relations between Syria and Lebanon based on mutual respect and equality,” Rice said at a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Foud Saniora earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the city where this asinine story was written, someone was undoubtedly murdered. Please, gentle reader, infer what you will that I included the two things in the same sentence.

That Will Play Well In The Middle East

Here’s an AP account of this morning’s shooting in the London underground:

Plainclothes police chased a man in a thick coat through a subway station, wrestled him to the floor of a train car and shot him to death in front of stunned commuters Friday, witnesses said. Police said the shooting was “directly linked” to the investigations of the bomb attacks on London’s transit system.

Execution style. That differs from other accounts, such as this one:

At Stockwell Station, armed officers opened fire on the suspect after he hurdled a ticket barrier and raced along a platform.

Police screamed at passengers to evacuate and are thought to have shot the suspect as he stumbled on to a train.

Alarmed onlookers said they saw up to 10 plain-clothed officers chasing an Asian-looking man before opening fire.

Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair said the shooting was “directly linked” to ongoing anti-terrorist invetigations in the capital.

He said the man had failed to comply with instructions from police before he was shot dead.

That sounds a little less Western police are gangstas shooting Muslims for sport, doesn’t it?

Property Rights Hit Again; "And Stay Down!" Citizens Cry

Pluck Big Bird from chimney, Greendale orders:

The Village Board has ordered a blue Big Bird sculpture down from its nest atop a chimney of a historical home, where neighbors want it removed.

Trustees voted unanimously this week to deny the special use permit application of artist Al Emmons, who with his family created the chimney ornamentation through their company, Creative Construction of Wisconsin Inc., for the home at 5595-97 Bluebird Court.

The opponents have interesting ideas of their rights:

“It’s changed our way of life. It has infringed on our privacy. It has caused a lot of heartache on the street,” said Ardith Weitkunat, a Bluebird Court resident. “This is totally inappropriate for the top of a house.”

Legislation of taste and the right to not see things one wants to otherwise it infringes on privacy. It’s right in the Constitution, somewhere; if we bothered to read it, we could tell you where.

Situations like this underline how few rights you have ceded as a property owner, citizen. If the neighbors don’t like what you want to do with your property, you cannot do it:

“That’s what upset me the most. He wasn’t given permission to do this,” he [another neighbor] said.

Of course, municipalities want to preserve property values or preserve heritage. You don’t want to have a junk yard next to your house!!! Well, most residential property, especially in municipalities that are zoning-happy, rapidly price themselves out of the junk yard market. Businesses in residential areas will serve residents. You’re not going to tear down a subdivision of $40,000 homes to put in an animal rendering plant.

But once again, when you begin ceding your rights about what you can and can’t do with your property, you won’t stop. You cannot decorate as you want, then you cannot smoke in your home or shop, and then you won’t be allowed to drink soda or eat fast food there (in case The Children would get fat because you do).

There’s no line that divides one prohibition from the next, no principle which would preclude the other, regardless of how one rationalizes.

Hence, we should Save Blue Bird!

(Submitted to Outside the Beltway’s Traffic Jam.)

MfBJN: Unrecognized Civil Liberties Chicken Little (CLCL), Squawking?

Michelle Malkin claims some exclusive insight, exclusively for the registration-only New York Post about New York’s random backpack searches in the subway system.

I squawk here about my concerns, gentle reader, because the searches will become ineffective as suicide bombers subject to search blow themselves up at the turnstiles instead of on trains.

Nah, the chicken little hawks (“I’m a chicken little hawk. Are you a chicken little?”) think, that won’t happen. Checkpoints are never targets in the Middle East, ainna?

The Wages of Campaign Finance Reform

Over at Draft Matt Blunt 2008, I take to task a Columbia Tribune columnist who defends state employees–in this case, Medicaid caseworkers–who tell recipients of state aid to call their legislators to demand more aid.

This is the face of the future with strict finance reform. “Merit”-based state employees with vested interest in expanding their budgets and power can speak to potential voters who have a specific interest in one set of public policies. And you, citizen, cannot.

Memo to Magazine Circulation Departments

To questions for you, largely rhetorical since you’re megalithic corporate entities swaddled in corporate procedure and disregard for individual customers:

  • Why is it that when I am not a subscriber, 12 issues of your magazine cost $10, but when I am a renewing “preferred customer,” 12 issues of your magazine cost $36?
  • Doesn’t it occur to you that this might explain why I don’t freaking renew?

Post-Dispatch Columnist: Keen Insight Into Own Stereotype of Opposition

Sylvester Brown digs shallowly into his knowledge of Bush supporters to explain why we’re delusional in his column today, “Isn’t it time we accepted the truth about Bush?“:

BACK IN THE EARLY 1980s, comedian Richard Pryor used to tell a story about a woman, so in love with her man, she tolerates his obvious indiscretions. Once, after catching her beloved in bed with another woman, Pryor told how the man persuaded the woman he did nothing wrong.

“Who you gonna believe — me or your lying eyes?” the man asked.

While listening to the comedy routine recently, I finally figured out why President George W. Bush has managed to deflect scrutiny and backlash for his actions. Most Americans, it seems, look upon Bush like starry-eyed lovers. No matter what he’s done or what’s happened on his watch, most refuse to see their “man’s” reckless behavior for what it is.

Who are you going to believe, me or this lying mistaken columnist, who faults Bush for:

  • Forget the flimflam, sleight-of-hand, word manipulation Bush used to justify invading Iraq — a country he claimed possessed a cache of nuclear and chemical weapons. It wasn’t about WMDs, he later told us with a straight face. We’re fighting for more democratic, nobler causes.

    Wow, Sylvester Brown got dinged for making that very same claim before. See also Instapundit posts here and here. Perhaps like me, Mr. Brown just wants the attention from Instapundit and the readership he brings.

  • And what about those “secret memos” that were all the buzz in Europe?

    That’s the discredited Downing Street Memo.

  • A news story about a politician who vengefully jeopardized the life of a government agent — now that’s juicy stuff. Surely such a story, even if remotely true, would signal the end of any political career.

    Gunning for Rove with BBs. Yawn.

So that’s what our lying eyes–the media–would tell us are important. Not elections in Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq. Not the recovery of the economy. Not the nomination of judges who are not voted on in the Senate. No, believe what columnists like Brown tell you, America, or you’re a fool in love.

(Submitted to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam.)

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Imaginate

DC officials have a rather silly idea about how to deal with potential suicide bombers in the Metro stations: random backpack searches:

Subway riders may face random police checks of their bags under a security measure being considered in the nation’s capital, the latest city to look for ways to deter terrorism on rail systems.

No decision has been made on the idea for the city’s 106-mile Metrorail system, and the logistics would be difficult. But “it would be another tool in our security toolbox,” says Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

All right, class, let’s hit the highlights of how this would not work:

  • If the random searches occur in crowded stations or, heaven forfend, crowded trains, what’s the difference of detonating the backpack on schedule or when the Metro cop says, “Hey, you!”? Not much to a suicide bomber.
  • Fine, you say, search all backpacks before people get into the system. Capital idea! As in waste of capital except for the new TSA hires for screening backpacks who will draw new salaries and government benefits.

    But when you look at an airport, a subway, or other mass transit system, you have two locations where passengers are grouped and vulnerable: In the little metal tubes, and in the queues. Adding a new queue checkpoint where everyone regardless of train, plane, or bus has to crowd together will give terrorists and malcontents a fatter opportunity to wreak their havoc and up their body counts with a bomb.

  • Searching backpacks won’t stop bombers wearing bomb belts. Or bomb shoes. Or whatever other nefarious creativities will arise to subvert the check and balance mechanisms put in place to deal with a very specific threat.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is on the cusp of creating yet another perpetual inconvenience for temporary appearance of security.

At worst, these measures will be ineffective or even more dangerous than the current situation, and at best will only send the bad guys to blow something else up.

But at least the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority will have done something!!!

UPDATE: As a story seen on Outside the Beltway indicates, New York will begin random searches. I hate to be the first cop to try to search a suicide bomber.

Mark Their Words

Cigarette tax just the start, some say:

The state’s pursuit of more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties from online cigarette customers could hint at the Department of Revenue’s plans to go after taxes on computers, books and other goods bought over the Internet, tax attorneys and analysts said Wednesday.

Department of Revenue officials disputed that speculation, saying they would pursue only online cigarette customers.

Sure, those particular officials say that now. But in a couple years, Wisconsin will have a different set of officials whose priorities will be to raise even more money, and the precedent–getting back taxes for Internet sales–will have been set by their predecessors.

So how much have you bought from Amazon in 10 years? Plus interest, thanks.