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June 24, 2010

Update 1: Brief Summer Book Hiatus

Progress at start of Brief Summer Book Hiatus:

  1.  First 13 chapters written.
  2. Rough outline for remaining sections completed.

 Progress at Day 3 of Brief Summer Book Hiatus:

  1. First 13 chapters written.
  2. Rough outline for remaining sections completed.
  3. All caught up with Hell’s Kitchen on the DVR.

In other words, I’m doing pretty much as well as you probably expected. 

I should also add that I have thus far successfully resisted writing posts on educators’ attempts to ban “best friends,” a law school’s decision to increase all their graduates’ grades by .333 points in order to make them seem better to employers, and an editorial completely rejecting the notion that private property owners shouldn’t have to bear all the costs under judicial takings.

I have GOT to stop reading the New York Times.

J.

June 24, 2010 at 03:25 PM in Books | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 21, 2010

Brief Summer Book Hiatus

Writing, not reading.

Long-time readers know I’ve been threatening promising to write a Planet Moron book for some time now.  Long time readers also know that I’m a filthy liar.

However, I actually managed to write the first thirteen chapters over the past few months despite my many other obligations including my day job, my drinking, my blogging, my drinking, taking care of baby moron, and my drinking.

Clearly there was only one thing that I could do without for a few weeks to make room for the book.

And yes, I know I listed drinking three times but that’s only because I was afraid if I listed it four times people would start to think I drink too much.

There is a decent chance that, unlike previous hiatuses, I might actually get something done on the book, if only because I already gave the vanity publisher all my money and now they’re just waiting on the manuscript.

I am going the self-publishing route since my experience over the past 17 years strongly suggests that Planet Moron, no matter what its form or iteration, has limited niche appeal (a phrasing I prefer to the more descriptive, "actively repels most readers"). Besides, I’m hoping that what I lose in credibility, I’ll more than make up in desperate futility.

As for the content of the book, it is a philosophical manifesto of sorts, at least in the Planet Moron style. Think “On Liberty,” only not as well written.  Or clever. Or interesting, original, or important.

Okay, I need to work on my marketing approach. 

Working title:

PLANET MORON

How Faux Intellectuals, Hubris, and A Fetish For Democracy Threaten Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Martini

Since site traffic is like crack for bloggers, I would appreciate it if you’d provide me a fix from time to time and continue to check back.  Although I won’t be blogging in my traditional manner (well, mostly, as long-time readers, knowing that I’m a filthy liar, also know I’ll probably still blog a bit not to mention the Twitter updates that you can read in the sidebar), I do hope to put up some posts on my progress and perhaps include some excerpts from the book.  These will be limited as I’m intent on ensuring that the book will contain at least 85% original material and by “original material” I mean "my typical offerings of hackneyed, derivative, and juvenile musings only in a slightly different word order."

Hey, you dance with the girl that brung ya.

J.

June 21, 2010 at 05:43 PM in Books | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 18, 2010

The DISCLOSE Act: “Defending Incumbents So as to Carefully Limit Opponents’ Speech Efforts”

As it turns out, stifling free speech is a lot harder than it looks.

House Democrats had originally hoped to put the DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections), a law intended torein in the increased influence of special interest money” from corporations following the Supreme Court decision earlier this year negating many restrictions on political speech by incorporated entities, up for a vote today.

Whose corporate special interest money were they trying to rein in?  Well, that depends.  If you are a union member, it would be yours.  Or an environmentalist, a gun rights supporter, a member of the Humane Society or the AARP.  Or a stockholder.  Or a purchaser of mutual funds.  Or a member of the NAACP, the Chamber of Commerce, and other advocacy groups.  Or a small business owner or worker or teacher or blogger or…

Well, you know, “special interests.”

That handful of Americans that Congress does not consider a special interest appears to number approximately 535.  And they all work at the Capitol.

After all, isn't it the highest purpose of government to protect those individuals most vulnerable among us.

Unfortunately, when you start cutting deals on who gets to express political opinions and who doesn’t, things can get complicated, as Nancy Pelosi was forced to pull the bill from the floor while various congressional constituencies protested that the political speech of their critics would not be adequately suppressed given all the compromises that were made.

And so a bill designed to limit free speech died not because it defied the basic principles on which this country was founded and was designed as an end run around the Supreme Court, but rather because it didn’t limit free speech enough.

Bill of Rights Technicality

J.

June 18, 2010 at 06:12 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 17, 2010

These New Rights We’ve Been Granted Are Starting To Look Expensive

Consumers will soon be seeing the benefits of the “Credit Card Bill of Rights,” passed by Congress and signed into law last month by President Obama who said it would give Americans “the strong and reliable protections they deserve.”

Such as the strong and reliable protection they deserve from being able to keep their free checking accounts.

 So, it’s really more “bill” and less “rights.”

Prior to the law, banks had used the funds they collected from customers who had overdrawn their accounts, exceeded their credit limits, or missed payments on their credit cards to subsidize free checking accounts for their customers who did not overdraw their accounts, exceed their credit limits, or miss payments on their credit cards.

This, of course, was terribly unfair in that it penalized the irresponsible and rewarded the responsible.

Is that really the America you want to live in? Don't we have an obligation to protect consumers from overdraft and late payment fees? You know, other than having them not make overdrafts or late payments?

Facing the loss or curtailment of many of these penalties, banks have begun charging customers for previously free checking accounts, over half of which are otherwise unprofitable on a stand-alone basis.

The notion that banks, deprived of their old fee structure, would attempt to add new fees or require minimum balances and other restrictions so they would not lose money on these checking accounts has many upset.  Ed Mierzwinski, director of the consumer program for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and apparently unfamiliar with the concepts of competition and expected market rates of return on invested capital, observed that:

"Just because you made a lot of money on overdraft fees doesn't mean you deserve the income and doesn't mean you need the income."

Mr. Mierzwinski had probably assumed these losses would have been absorbed by “fat cats,” “the greedy,” and basically anybody who wasn't him.

So, later this year, should you find yourself hit with new monthly checking fees, the better that your careless neighbors be spared the consequences of their actions, be sure to remember to thank our leaders here in Washington for making it all possible!

Remember, they're working for you.  Or possibly the guy down the street.

J.

June 17, 2010 at 05:11 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 16, 2010

Imagine What You Could Do With An Oscar

President Obama has come under widespread criticism for his and his administration’s repeated citations of Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s Nobel Prize whenever BP’s leaking Gulf oil well comes up, doing it again during last night’s Oval Office Address:

“I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge -- a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy.”

As The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson observes:

“We can all applaud Chu’s accomplishment. But here’s the thing: Chu is a physicist, not an engineer or a biologist… He’s absurdly smart. But there’s nothing in his background to suggest he knows any more about capping an out-of-control deep-sea well, or containing a gargantuan oil spill, than, say, columnist Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel in economics. Or novelist Toni Morrison, who won the Nobel in literature.”

Clearly the President’s master plan is not fully appreciated:

BP’s Oil Well As It is Today

BP Oil Leak

BP’s Oil Well After Steven Chu Has Applied His Nobel Prize To The Problem

Nobel Prize Caps The Well

Never underestimate the power of the Nobel.

J.

June 16, 2010 at 04:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 15, 2010

Barack Obama’s Debt Counseling Hotline

In these troubled times, with pocketbooks stretched thin and more and more people finding themselves unable to meet their obligations as they suffer under crushing debt loads, President Barack Obama takes time away from addressing the growing catastrophe in the Gulf not to mention work on his short game to apply his unique talents to help citizens deal with their financial questions:

Chad From Cleveland: I’m in a real bind.  I’m way over-extended, deeply in debt, I’ve made all kinds of promises to my parents that I’d take care of them now that they’re getting older and now I’m having trouble paying my personal trainer. What should I do?
President Barack Obama: Do you have any room left on your credit cards?
Chad: Um, yeah, I think a few grand on a MasterCard.
Obama: Okay, just use that to pay your personal trainer.
Chad: Won’t that just send me deeper into debt?
Obama: Chad, you have a responsibility to continue paying people you can’t afford with money you don't have.  Or do you want to be responsible for sending the economy into a double dip recession?
Chad: Well, okay.
Obama: Then just pile on more debt.  It will probably work out later. Who’s our next caller?

Debbie from Denver: Hi, I really want to buy a new car, maybe a Lexus, but things have been really tight lately and my husband is concerned about our finances.  How can I persuade him that we should buy the car?
Obama: Debbie, first, you have to convince him that you are serious about getting your household expenses under control. Tell him that you would like him to really look into ways to trim your budget and get back to you with his recommendations so you both can get to work on this serious issue.
Debbie: Okay, that sounds good.  But how do I still get the new car?
Obama: Make sure you buy the car first and THEN  ask for his recommendations. Next caller.

Gregory from Spokane: Hi, I’m in a real jam.  I’ve maxed out all my credit cards, I’m barely meeting my mortgage as it is and now the kids need braces.  But I still really want to buy a bass boat.  What can I do?
Obama:  You’re just going to have to make some painful cuts.  There’s no other way around it.  You can’t afford everything, so it’s time to get serious about your household budget. 
Gregory: What do you suggest I cut? Sell my third car?  Put off the addition to the house?  Stop eating out five times a week?
Obama: Cancel Showtime.
Gregory: That’s like ten bucks a month.  My cable bill alone is over ten times that.
Obama: I know it’s difficult, but you have to start making these hard choices.
Gregory: Oh, okay.  You know, this financial discipline thing is a lot easier than I thought it would be!
Obama: Glad I could help.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some oil to suck up.

J.

June 15, 2010 at 02:22 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2010

Be Street Smart: Avoid Committing Vehicular Manslaughter.

Police Are Enforcing Traffic Laws

We don’t know about where you live, but here in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, police are enforcing traffic laws.  We know this because of this helpful public service announcement displayed at an area bus stop:

Street Smart 1

Apparently, among the traffic laws police are enforcing is a strict prohibition against running down women and sending their screaming babies flying across the street.

We would like to be on the record as supporting this important law.

Street Smart 5

No doubt, but for this campaign, many motorists would be unaware that running down women and sending their screaming babies flying across the street is illegal, believing perhaps, that a la Death Race 2000, you get extra points for the stroller.

Be Street Smart Dont Spill Your Coffee Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are many serious ramifications involved in running down pedestrians in cold blood one of which appears to be the very real possibility that your passenger will spill coffee all over himself.

So remember, unless you want to find yourself making an extra trip to the dry cleaner, DO NOT run down women and send their screaming babies flying across the street.

And keep an eye out for what we can only assume will be further prominent and graphic displays of tragic encounters meant to instill in young children a steady stream of recurring nightmares sure to stay with them for years.

That’s “Street Smart!”

J.

June 14, 2010 at 03:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 11, 2010

FCC Knows Best

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was shocked to learn the results of a national survey this past week that found that as many as 4 out of 5 home broadband customers DON’T KNOW WHAT SPEED THEY’RE GETTING!

(In a totally unrelated survey, it was found that as many as 4 out of 5 home broadband customers are not geeks.  Also, 4 out of 5 have kissed a girl. And 4 out of 5 have never engaged in a heated chat room discussion over the origin of the term “wOOt.”)

Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau for the FCC, found this disturbing, believing that:

Consumers first need to understand what broadband speed they need for the applications they want to run.”

Of course, one way for consumers to understand what broadband speed they need for the applications they want to run is to use an analytical tool known as “their own eyes.”  However, the FCC apparently finds this inadequate, concerned that absent their interventions, the mouth breathers who pay their salaries would just sit at home, gape-jawed as YouTube videos stutter and buffer, theorizing that the elves inside the magic box have fallen ill, or perhaps that the internet tubes have become clogged with “bits” resulting in attempts to poor Drano down the cable modem.

While we here at Planet Moron, being geeks ourselves, know our cable broadband speed (and for the record, Kirk would beat Picard in a Bat’leth fight), this got us to thinking.  How many other consumer services and appliances do we use, wholly ignorant of their technical specifications?  How are we really supposed to know whether our vacuum cleaner just picked up that pile of dirt absent data on its suction rate?  Not only that, but we have no idea what the compression ratio is for our Jeep, what the air flow rate is for our table fan, or what the luminosity is of our overhead lights, relying instead on “judgment,” “observations,” and “personal satisfaction” to measure performance as opposed to the far more preferable federally approved spec sheet.

Where has the government been while we stumbled about, blind and desperate for data tables? 

It’s like Katrina, only more boring.

Making this widespread ignorance even more disturbing is the fact that only 91% of fixed broadband customers are satisfied with their service. That’s an approval rating that’s barely double that of both political parties or the President.

Add in the mystery that there are literally hundreds of free tools to measure broadband speeds readily available to Internet users and you leave the FCC with only one choice:

Embark on an expensive survey so as to provide broadband consumers with information they don’t want, don’t need, didn’t ask for, aren’t interested in paying for and don’t care about.

Or, to paraphrase an old quote:

“Those who would give up essential broadband speed measurements to purchase a little temporary liberty deserve neither broadband speed measurements nor liberty.”

J.

June 11, 2010 at 04:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 10, 2010

Warning! Constitution Ahead! Proceed With Extreme Caution!

Warning Constitution
Wilder Publications received some unwanted notoriety this week when it was discovered that the company placed the following warning in copies of its reprinted collection of the Constitution of the United States of America, The Declaration of Independence and The Articles of Confederation:

 “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today.  Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”

If you are like most Planet Moron readers, you are outraged that anyone would have chosen Quisp over Quake.  

Also, that a publisher would feel compelled to warn parents against allowing their children to read our nation’s founding documents absent a suitable chaperone.

Sure, views on race, gender and ethnicity have certainly evolved, but those have been addressed though amendments and thus are now considered every bit as much a part of the Constitution as the original document.  Sexuality didn’t earn a topic heading and “interpersonal relations” aren’t even addressed, beyond perhaps the obvious relation between the American colonies and Great Britain (“we’re just not that into you").

Having momentarily misplaced the bottle opener and so experiencing a period of uncommon clarity, we decided to look into this further and found that Wilder Publications places this warning on all the classic books it publishes including:

The Prince

The Iliad and The Odyssey

The Book of Tea

The Book of Tea
The latter no doubt offensive for its alarming ignorance regarding issues of fair wages and sustainable agricultural.

Wilder is so manic not to inadvertently offend potential readers, even the Communist Manifesto fails to escape its lawyers’ inoculation:

Communist Warning

You know you live in strange times when not even Karl Marx is politically correct enough.

Although that does kind of explain why progressives are so upset with President Obama.

J.

June 10, 2010 at 05:03 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 08, 2010

The New Child Abuse: Having A Child

Just in time for Father’s Day, Princeton bioethics professor Peter Singer, writes a piece for the New York Times titled “Should This Be The Last Generation?” in which he questions whether or not it is moral to have children.

In particular, the professor notes with some surprise that among the concerns prospective parents contemplate when considering having a child:

“Very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself.”

That is due at least partly to the fact that very few prospective parents are bioethics professors at Princeton.

But the central question remains: Is your existence a good thing for you?  Do you find satisfaction in your work?  Do you enjoy spending time with your family?  Is your life rich, fulfilling, and populated with close friends?

If you answered, “yes,” you are sadly mistaken. You are actually miserable and would have been better off had you never been born.

Oh, and you’re going to die.

If you are like most Planet Morons readers, you are probably saying to yourself, “Wait, these aren’t my pants.“

Also, “Hey, I’m pretty happy and am thankful my parents chose to bring me into this world.”

That’s because you are not a deep thinker.

Such as 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who according to Singer believed that:

“Even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggles and the cycle repeats itself.”

Apparently, Schopenhauer played golf.

Singer brings the concept that you lead a wretched existence into the 21st century, citing the work of South African philosopher David Benatar, author of the uplifting:

(Remember, Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping so dad will get it in plenty of time!)

As Singer puts it, Benatar believes that:

“Human lives are, in general, much less good than we think they are. We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states. If we think that this is a tolerable state of affairs it is because we are, in Benatar’s view, victims of the illusion of pollyannaism. This illusion may have evolved because it helped our ancestors survive, but it is an illusion nonetheless. If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.”

In other words, if you were as smart and deep-thinking as David Benatar you’d be as miserable as he is.

But then, Peter Singer is also a deep thinker, for example, going to great pains to passionately defend the complex reasoning behind why he would save the life of a human over that of a mouse. 

And no, “because it’s a mouse” is not a satisfactory answer, at least not if you want to be a respected ethics professor at Princeton.

In the end, however, Singer concedes that maybe life is worth living, or at least will be eventually.

Well, maybe after Father’s Day, which could be a little awkward this year.

Happy Fathers Day I Hate You
J.

June 8, 2010 at 05:48 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack