Monday, August 16, 2010

Trent vs. Ken

Trent Kittleman's website has a pretty good message of smallish government and fiscal responsibility. I liked it so much I made another video. Yay for the interwebs!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fox vs. Beams

I was messing around on the interweb and made a parody video of an encounter between Greg Fox and Zaneb Beams. It's just propaganda, not serious argument. But I can see how videos like this could be powerful tools in local elections.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gov. Christie = awesome

Sunday, July 25, 2010

OMG look at all of this!

I do most of my grocery shopping at the Food Lion in Lisbon. Food Lion is an adequate grocery store with great service. No one will go hungry with Food Lion in the neighborhood. However, I visited the Safeway in Ellicott City today and when comparing the selection of products between the two stores, Safeway makes Food Lion look like it's run by the government.

For every one brand that Food Lion carries, Safeway seems to carry at least five if not ten. One of my complaints about Food Lion even prior to my visit to Safeway is that Food Lion's selection of Ben and Jerry's ice cream is extremely limited. Not so at Safeway. I was in heaven.

Food Lion is in a much smaller building, so naturally the selection is limited by available space. With Safeway to the east and the Mount Airy SuperFresh to the west, it could be that the market does not support a larger store in between. Or it could be that zoning regulations limit the size of the grocery store allowed in Lisbon. Whatever the reason, I probably looked like someone from a third world country marveling at the vast selection of products available at Safeway.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

fat and happy, anyway

Both Wordbones and HoCoRising are down on a TPI spokesperson (Ken Aldrich) for referring to voters as "fat, dumb and happy".

That is a common expression that was probably made off the cuff so I don't think it should be over analyzed, but I'll ignore my own advice and over analyze it anyway. I think this is just a crude way of saying that voters are rationally ignorant. Therefore, the "dumb" part is not applicable to voters, because the emphasis on "rationally ignorant" should be placed on the "rational". When you have a complex system in which it is costly to learn about the issues and your influence on those issues is so small, it does not make sense to pay attention. As a result, if you are a voter the smart thing to do is be uninformed because the costs of being informed exceeded the benefits. This is one of the well known problems of democracy (I know, we live in a republic. But it still has democratic elements.)

So while Mr. Aldrich fails in the marketing department, I think his statement is reflective of voting reality.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Public sector unions

The State of California must be in great fiscal condition. Firefighters there can make $200K a year, retire at age 50 and collect a pension of $180K. In Oakland recently there were 2,000 applicants for 23 firefighter positions. Here is a fascinating indictment of public sector labor unions. It's mostly focused on California, but obviously there are parallels with Howard County given the strength of local unions here. Oh, another parallel is that public pension plans are not fully funded, meaning there is a huge bill lying in wait for the next generation of taxpayers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We're from the government, and we will make you safe

Wordbones recently noted that he was interviewed by Dana Priest of the Washington Post for a piece called "Top Secret America".

I have not yet had a chance to check out the Washington Post piece, but the Atlantic Wire posted a summary of it and the some of the information is quite alarming if you are least bit concerned about your tax dollars being spent in a competent manner:

Why we should be concerned:
"When it comes to national security, all too often no expense is spared and few questions are asked - with the result an enterprise so massive that nobody in government has a full understanding of it. It is, as Dana Priest and William M. Arkin have found, ubiquitous, often inefficient and mostly invisible to the people it is meant to protect and who fund it. ... Within a responsible framework, our objective is to provide as much information as possible, so readers gain a real, granular understanding of the scale and breadth of the top-secret world we are describing."

This 'spy industry' is massive:
Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. (2) An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. (3) In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space. (4) Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks. (5) Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year - a volume so large that many are routinely ignored."

It is far from clear as to how much safer we are as a result of all of this:
Underscoring the seriousness of these issues are the conclusions of retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who was asked last year to review the method for tracking the Defense Department's most sensitive programs. Vines, who once commanded 145,000 troops in Iraq and is familiar with complex problems, was stunned by what he discovered.
"I'm not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities," he said in an interview. "The complexity of this system defies description."
The result, he added, is that it's impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities. "Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste," Vines said. "We consequently can't effectively assess whether it is making us more safe."

The economy in Howard County greatly benefits from all of this spending (and I am sure this redistribution to our region played no small part in why Columbia/Ellicott City is the #2 place to live in the country), but for the rest of the nation, this is a very large expense. It's far from clear how the rest of the nation will benefit from all of this.