Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Day attack

1. The passengers and crew of a plane bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety of an aircraft. When you are in a sealed container miles above the ground, and somebody is trying to blow up the plane or stab the pilot to death, don't sit around and wait for help to arrive.
2. You have to give the current system at least partial credit for saving the lives of the people on the plane. The use of metal detectors at airports means that would be bombers are prevented from using bombs with metallic content. That means that they can't use switches, wires, shrapnel, or blasting caps. Which in turn means they are forced to awkwardly light a fuse while surround by nosy passengers.
3. Al Qaeda appears to be playing a game in which each attack means that passengers must endure more indignity. After 9/11, you had to throw out your nail clippers. After the Shoe Bomber, you had to start taking off your shoes. Now they are talking about using body scanners. How long before passengers are required to undergo a colonoscopy?
4. I propose an experiment. Let's have a experimental group of flights in which security procedures are changed with every new attack, and a control group of flights in which procedures stay the same. My hypothesis is that the control group will be more popular for passengers, and that the experimental group would have more terrorist incidents. Terrorists like it when their $50 bomb causes us to spend $10 million more on equipment. Also, I'm guessing that squeamish people make more attractive targets.
5. It's important to keep the hazard in perspective. The reason why terrorists attack airplanes is because it gets more headlines than other forms of carnage. People will remember a failed airplane bombing longer than a successful mass shooting.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The state sales tax

This time of year, people are shopping gifts both online and in brick and mortar stores. Both have their own appeals. Some people seem to like the crowds or at least tolerate them well. Cell phones certainly make waiting in line more bearable, and I would guess that some people multitask their Christmas shopping while stuck in a slow-moving queue.

Online retailers do have one highly unfair advantage. Indiana's 7% sales tax applies to purchases made in stores, so the tax is automatically added to the price you pay at the cash register. When you buy something online while in Indiana, you are supposed to report that on your IT-40. Human nature being what it is, you can bet that many people either forget or refuse to add up everything they bought online in a year. But order to ensure compliance with this law, the state would have to subpoena financial records such as your credit card statement.

So retailers who choose to locate in our great state are at a 7% disadvantage to retailers who locate elsewhere. The state would be wise to find other sources of revenue.

Yes, I report my online purchases and pay the tax. I pretty much have to, since blogging about this matter might put me on the Indiana Department of Revenue's radar. I don't want to be the test case, nor do I think any judge is going to allow the "everybody does it" defense for tax evasion.

Monday, December 21, 2009

When the shoe is on the other foot

Conventional wisdom says that a future GOP president and/or Congress would not dare repeal any healthcare reform that is passed this year. Conventional wisdom is probably right, assuming that there will be another Republican POTUS.

A skilled politician uses the status quo to his advantage. Any new law that increases government healthcare costs would create what could be considered by some to be a compelling state interest in anything that affects our health. That's already the case with tobacco; the taxes you pay on cigarettes at age 20 are supposed to pay for the oxygen tank that you'll need at age 70, when you're covered by Medicare.

Hypothetically, what if everyone were covered by Medicare? The federal government would have to provide Zithromax for everyone who needed it for an infection related to nocturnal activities. An outbreak of infections could give an GOP-controlled CDC the pretext to close nightclubs. Lawrence v. Texas could be overturned.

You want funding for abortion? You'll be lucky if it's allowed at all. Experts might disagree on whether or not abortion causes breast cancer, but don't doubt the potential for someone to manufacture the evidence. They'll say "If you're not allowed to smoke in a hospital, why should you be allowed to have an abortion in a hospital that gets federal funding?"

Ever hear a parent say "You have to follow my rules until you can pay your own bills"? Imagine what it will be like when you are prohibited from paying your bills.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Hypothetical "Tea Party" leads GOP in new poll

According to a new poll, a hypothetical Tea Party candidate would receive more support than a GOP candidate. Who's the third party now?

It would take too long a new political party from scratch by the next election. I don't think that the GOP can be reformed in time if at all. Those options would be like choosing between a old, rat-infested mansion that has seen better days and a vacant lot. Fiscal conservatives should choose the Libertarian Party as their new home. At least we have the framework up.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

An disturbing quote

I hope that there aren't very many people who share this woman's attitude:

"Had Barack had a white wife, I would have thought twice about voting for him," Johnson Cooper said.


I found it in this article. Frankly, I'm curious about her voting habits. Does she abstain from voting in races in which all the candidates have Caucasian spouses?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Afghanistan and Iraq: An observation

In 2001, the US demanded that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden. Had they complied, we would not be at war with them and they would be in control of Afghanistan.

In 2003, the US demanded that Saddam Hussein allow UN weapons inspectors to search for WMD's. If he had complied, he would still be alive and in power.

Both the Taliban and the late Saddam Hussein are worse off as a result of their defiance. A skilled politician could argue that our military has succeeded in dealing out retribution to our enemies and it is time to bring our boys and girls home.