People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Governor Applauds Himself for Raising Taxes

In bizarro world (otherwise known as state government), a massive budget surplus is known as "putting the state's fiscal house in order" while experiencing a budget shortfall is "a crisis beyond the imagination of mankind; a disaster of Biblical proportion." Our governor is proud of himself for having saved us from ... himself.
In a 40-minute speech to the [Virginia] General Assembly's money committees, [Gov. Mark] Warner generously applauded himself and tax-raising lawmakers for putting the state's fiscal house in order after years of what he characterized as fiscal trickery and out-of-control spending. [my emphasis] (link)
Like state spending is no longer out of control. Oh, and he's so proud of himself for having taken more of the taxpayers' money than state lawmakers can spend (the definition of sorts for a surplus), he thinks we should do it every year.
"Having restored Virginia's fiscal stability, we now face the challenge of maintaining it over the long term," Warner argued.
We don't want our politicians to run out of cash, you see. The fact that it may mean there are fewer gifts under the Christmas tree for the children, well, suck it up, civilian scum. In listening to Warner, you come to an understanding as to what his problem is; he doesn't know anything about basic accounting.
"We need to remain steadfast in the fiscally conservative, careful approach that we have followed" during his governorship, which ends in mid-January 2006.

"Together, we have worked for three years to reshape Virginia government, balance our books fairly and create new opportunities for our people."

The books are not balanced if you have a massive overage, you moron. And you will never "create opportunities for our people" by confiscating their earnings.

This is so depressing. In part because there are several Republicans and every Democrat in the state that consider this kind of nonsense to make perfect sense. Why don't you all just contact my employer and have the company deposit my paycheck in the state government's bank account. Then you can simply write a check for the occasional bike path and crafts museum (and for food giveaway programs for the taxpayers) to keep us all happy.

You would then be able to celebrate yourself every year, forever.

James Taranto Reminds Me of Me

James Taranto writes the Best of the Web Today column for the Wall Street Journal. He is a big reason why I subscribe to the paper each year. His talent is in being able to express his opinions with wry humor and the occasional biting sarcasm. He reminds me of me.

Here is a sampling of his work, taken from yesterday's column. It has to do with Rachel Corrie, a terrorist wannabe who traveled to the middle east to take up the cause of the Palestinians (and to denounce the USA in the process), only to be killed when she laid down in front of an Israeli bulldozer, the driver of which didn't see her until it was too late:

Friends of Rachel Corrie

Speaking of Reuters' gullibility, here's a passage from a dispatch on the collapse of a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and Gaza, which killed five Palestinian Arabs:

Militants have dug many tunnels from Egypt into Gaza to slip in arms but other tunnels have been used solely to smuggle contraband like cigarettes. It was unclear whether the tunnel that caved in had been burrowed by militants or traders.

Maybe all those Rachel Corrie defenders were right when they said it was unfair of us to call her a terror advocate. She might have just been a pawn of Big Tobacco.

He's always good for a chuckle early in the morning.

Time For A Cost-Benefit Analysis

We think a lot of ourselves. And we have good reason to. But in some ways, the image we try to maintain of our country - lifting up the downtrodden, bringing food and hope to the less fortunate around the globe, being the repository of liberty, crushing tyrants when no other country can or would - sometimes works against us. And can get very costly.

Take NASA for instance. Please.
NASA caught hold of the American heart with a space race. When President Kennedy called for Americans to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s — before the Soviets — he appealed equally to our patriotic passions and individualistic virtues. The moon race was the perfect cross between a war and an Olympic competition. Men competed peacefully for their country. But they didn't compete for little medals. They competed for great national interests. The Stars and Stripes of a free republic was planted on the moon, not the hammer and sickle of an extinct, totalitarian empire. (link)
We enjoy cultivating this Gene Roddenberry image of ourselves exploring new universes, conquering Klingons, and reaching out to alien civilizations. We do this by sending shuttles into space whose mission it is to ... test the viability of tomato seeds in space. Or to analyze the mating habits of mice during prolonged periods in an environment of weightlessness.

Doctor Spock rescuing Captain Kirk from the Morlocks it ain't.

And we don't have the money to keep this silliness up.
NASA will cost taxpayers $16.2 billion in fiscal 2005, up $822 million from 2004. That is an astronomical sum, considering not only the less-than-stellar returns NASA has yielded Americans recently, but also this year's projected deficit of $348 billion (to be piled atop a $7.4 trillion national debt).
Unfortunately President Bush has given every indication that he is willing to continue spending money we don't have and to raise the bar. We're going to put a man (and woman, I'd bet; It'll boost the image) on Mars.

In January, President Bush announced a bold plan to build a permanent base on the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars. But he didn't pitch it like Kennedy's moon shot. "The vision I outlined today is a journey, not a race," said Mr. Bush, "and I call on other nations to join us on this journey in a spirit of cooperation and friendship.

"It cost $100 billion in today's dollars to put an American on the moon in 1969. How many U.S. tax dollars will it take to put a Russian on a moon base?

Beam me up, Scotty.

ACLU Takes Liberties

The American Civil Liberties Union prides itself on being the preeminent defender of the Bill of Rights. I often argue that there are only certain rights that they are willing to fight for (1st, 4th, 5th), others that they completely and intentionally misconstrue (1st), and some they wouldn't defend if their lives were dependent upon it (2nd, 10th).

One thing, though, they're not usually accused of is that they're violating someone's civil rights. Well, today is one of those unusual days:

A.C.L.U.'s Search for Data on Donors Stirs Privacy Fears

By STEPHANIE STROM Published: December 18, 2004 ;[New York Times]

The American Civil Liberties Union is using sophisticated technology to collect a wide variety of information about its members and donors in a fund-raising effort that has ignited a bitter debate over its leaders' commitment to privacy rights.

Some board members say the extensive data collection makes a mockery of the organization's frequent criticism of banks, corporations and government agencies for their practice of accumulating data on people for marketing and other purposes.

And to give the story a little added zest, the New York attorney general is looking into the matter.
The issue has attracted the attention of the New York attorney general, who is looking into whether the group violated its promises to protect the privacy of its donors and members.
Who knows. These people may be going to jail. I can't tell you how much I'm going to enjoy watching this story unfold.