Archive for the 'Downsize' Category

What the heck is this thing?

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Limits of government power:

No town or person shall be forced to build bridges over rivers except those with an ancient obligation to do so. No sheriff, constable, coroners, or other royal officials are to hold lawsuits that should be held by the royal justices.

If at the death of a man who holds a lay ‘fee’ of the Crown, a sheriff or royal official produces royal letters patent of summons for a debt due to the Crown, it shall be lawful for them to seize and list movable goods found in the lay ‘fee’ of the dead man to the value of the debt, as assessed by worthy men. Nothing shall be removed until the whole debt is paid, when the residue shall be given over to the executors to carry out the dead man’s will.

If a free man dies intestate, his movable goods are to be distributed by his next-of-kin and friends, under the supervision of the Church. The rights of his debtors are to be preserved.

No constable or other royal official shall take corn or other movable goods from any man without immediate payment, unless the seller voluntarily offers postponement of this.

No constable may compel a knight to pay money for castle-guard if the knight is willing to undertake the guard in person, or with reasonable excuse to supply some other fit man to do it. A knight taken or sent on military service shall be excused from castle-guard for the period of this service.

No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent. Neither we nor any royal official will take wood for our castle, or for any other purpose, without the consent of the owner.

We will not keep the lands of people convicted of felony in our hand for longer than a year and a day, after which they shall be returned to the lords of the ‘fees’ concerned.

The writ called precipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in respect of any holding of land, if a free man could thereby be deprived of the right of trial in his own lord’s court.

There shall be standard measures of wine, ale, and corn (the London quarter), throughout the kingdom. There shall also be a standard width of dyed cloth, russet, and haberject, namely two ells within the selvedges. Weights are to be standardised similarly.

In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs. It shall be given gratis, and not refused.

In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

Freedom is in the details. Cookies. Frisbees. Saving a poor animal. A cup of lemonade. Etc. HT: PL

First Prize awarded

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

Here’s a candidate. Here are a couple more. Here’s a particularly outstanding candidate. Hey, here’s not one candidate but a whole self-aggrandizing bureaucracy. Fabulous! And expensive too! (Wonder who’s paying for all that.) Or how about the blatherer about Lucky 7? Or the cartoonist of college newspaper Bull Tales? Well, these are all outstanding candidates. Anyway, here’s today’s award winner, combining many of the best elements of all of the above.

Your government at work

Friday, April 10th, 2015

“For more than a decade, the Smelt Working Group has been regularly meeting to make key recommendations to help the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus).” Response: “these policies have resulted in the diversion of more than 300 billion gallons of water away from farmers in the Central Valley and into the San Francisco Bay in order to protect the Delta smelt, an endangered fish that environmentalists have continued to champion at the expense of Californians. This water is simply being washed out to sea.” But it’s really a very cute, fish, about the width of 4 fingers, as the first link demonstrates. Utopia, there’s nothing like it!

For future reference

Friday, December 5th, 2014

The New New Republic announces a restructuring and, without apparent irony, calls the departing editor “the beating heart of this brand”:

we are re-imagining The New Republic as a vertically integrated digital media company. Gabriel is ideally suited to bridge traditional journalism and digital media. He is committed – as am I – to The New Republic’s mission of impact, influence and persuasion, but understands that fulfilling that mission in today’s media landscape requires new forms.

He truly reflects the “straddle generation” of journalists and editors who remain deeply rooted in the qualities of traditional journalism – having worked with brands such as the New York Observer and The Atlantic – but also understands what it takes to create content that will travel across all platforms. We believe he is the right person to help us to maintain the core DNA of The New Republic, while propelling us forward…

we will be making significant investments in creating a more effective and efficient newsroom as well as improved products across all platforms. This will require a recalibration of our resources in order to deliver the best product possible. In order to do so, we’ve made the decision to reduce the frequency of our print publication from 20 to 10 issues a year and will be making improvements to the magazine itself. Given the frequency reduction, we will also be making some changes to staff structure.

Maybe things will work out for the 30 year old who bought the magazine 2 years ago. Stranger things have happened we suppose. Certainly the writing style and word selection of the “straddle generation” make a strong impact.

All of this reminds us of the so-called Twitter Revolution, which worked out so well as you recall. We’ll watch and see what happens in this case. Tick. Tick. Tick.

UPDATE: Tock. Well, that didn’t take long!


Saturday, September 6th, 2014


Common core and other absurdities

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

A professor at Cal of all places:

when teaching fractions, the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything: of 6 divided by 8, of 4 divided by 2/7, of 0.8 x 0.4, and so forth. In doing so, the teacher followed the instructions: “Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient.” Who would draw a picture to divide 2/3 by 3/4?

This requirement of visual models and creating stories is all over the Common Core. The students were constantly told to draw models to answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn’t draw anything loses points.

Here are some more examples of the Common Core’s convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: “draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression”…

the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked.” They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.

For California, the adoption of the Common Core standards represents a huge step backward which puts an end to its hard-won standing as having the top math standards in the nation. The Common Core standards will move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking.

We grew up in an unenlightened time when the nuns gave us all addition and subtraction speed tests in first grade, multiplication and division speed tests to follow shortly. If we had to do the things above, we might have reduced our math SAT score by 800 points or so. In another example of government insanity, Michael Barone laments the acceleration of the regulatory state when Moore’s Law, twitter, yelp and uber all point in precisely the opposite direction.

Final Jeopardy

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

The answer the other night on final jeopardy was North Dakota. Of course the insane fiscal and regulatory policies of our current government, fueled by fantasies only the very young, the terminally hollywoodian, and the faculty lounge could find plausible, are putting the entire nation in final jeopardy. Rick Perry was wrong BTW. There needs to be a new cabinet-level agency in the federal government; its job would be to audit all regulations promulgated by the other federal agencies and, while allowing 1% of new ones to go forward, shrink the total of all prior and existing regulations by 10% per year. (Lest you think that is a lot, at the end of a ten year period, total regulations would be only cut by a little over half.)

Of cowboys and cow dung

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Peter Bogdanovich has a delightful piece on Scott Eyman’s new book about Duke Morrison, the American screen cowboy. One of the roles that transformed his career was about a tough cattle drive. Gotta get those cows to move their hind quarters quickly to their last roundup. That was then.

Sadly, this is now: Mark Steyn has a mooving commentary on America’s (and the West’s) current take on the bovine posterior. (BTW, if you’re interested in cutting government waste, every one of these horses’s patoots could be downsized.)

That’s Entertainment

Friday, January 17th, 2014

The budget bill costs $3 million per word. There are apparently 11.5 million words of ACA regulations. Jay Cost has a good piece on Arkansas, where they don’t like such things.

It’s theater, so create some scenes

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Normally you’d think a furlough of some government employees would result in open spaces that are owned by citizens being less supervised than usual. Not today. Today’s inverted priorities give new meaning to the term rude bridge. Oddly, park rangers are working harder than ever, with the mission of annoying as many Americans as possible. Indeed, private businesses are being blockaded by rangers in full thug mode. All of which raises a question. Since this is theater, why not get in and enjoy it? Why doesn’t, for example, the governor of South Dakota send in the state police to remove the cones blocking Mount Rushmore? Or get a group of citizens to march in and do it? We understand of course that legally that may not be possible, but that’s entirely beside the point. The point is to create good theater on the nightly news. What is better theater on the evening news than showing an elderly couple being evicted from a home that they have owned for 40 years by federal goons? An amazing and unprecedented opportunity has been given to the GOP if they are clever enough to exploit it.

So much remains to be learned

Thursday, August 8th, 2013


During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed…

Most people who retain the ability to digest milk can trace their ancestry to Europe, where the trait seems to be linked to a single nucleotide in which the DNA base cytosine changed to thymine in a genomic region not far from the lactase gene. There are other pockets of lactase persistence in West Africa, the Middle East and south Asia that seem to be linked to separate mutations. The single-nucleotide switch in Europe happened relatively recently. Thomas and his colleagues estimated the timing by looking at genetic variations in modern populations and running computer simulations of how the related genetic mutation might have spread through ancient populations. They proposed that the trait of lactase persistence, dubbed the LP allele, emerged about 7,500 years ago in the broad, fertile plains of Hungary…

Looking back through the archaeological literature, Bogucki found other examples of ancient perforated pottery. “They were so unusual — people would almost always include them in publications,” says Bogucki, now at Princeton…The mystery potsherds sat in storage until 2011, when Mélanie Roffet-Salque pulled them out and analysed fatty residues preserved in the clay. Roffet-Salque, a geochemist at the University of Bristol, UK, found signatures of abundant milk fats — evidence that the early farmers had used the pottery as sieves to separate fatty milk solids from liquid whey. That makes the Polish relics the oldest known evidence of cheese-making in the world

Well, that’s an upbeat tale, as opposed to this scary one.

This and that

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

It’s cold in the arctic. Don’t name your deer Giggles. Don’t brown bag your lunch. Pay no attention to Walter Williams because he’s obviously a very bad man. Here’s a discussion that makes more sense than anything coming out of DC. BTW, we could be wrong, but we don’t believe that Ted Cruz really believes the things he is saying that Charles Krauthammer is complaining about; it seems likelier that he’s positioning himself for 2016.

18 different passing grades for math and reading

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Via WSJ:

“Beginning this fall, Alabama public schools will be under a new state-created academic accountability system that sets different goals for students in math and reading based on their race, economic status, ability to speak English and disabilities.” Alabama’s Plan 2020 “sets a different standard for students in each of several subgroups — American Indian, Asian/Pacific islander, black, English language learners, Hispanic, multirace, poverty, special education and white.”


This practice is not new. In an effort to escape the No Child Left Behind Act’s stringent standards for schools, a number of states applied for a waiver, which would allow states to keep federal funding if their schools met a limited number of benchmarks. Of the 33 states granted a waiver last year, 27 now have different achievement goals for different groups of students.

So there are now 18 different passing grades for math and English, depending on who you are? The record-keeping alone makes this insane. (Thomas Sowell has some related thoughts.) From this to healthcare to banking to immigration, we see crazy, top-down, centralized, frozen-in-amber micromanagement at the exact moment when that model has been blown away by the radical decentralization of knowledge and swiftly evolving technology of our information age. Maybe Daniel Henninger is correct and big government is imploding. If so, it can’t happen fast enough.

Pointless, self-inflicted waste and suffering

Thursday, June 27th, 2013


Coal companies are expected to continue shutting higher-cost mines, bringing more economic pain to states like West Virginia and Kentucky. In the first quarter of this year there were 900 active coal mines, down 17% from a year earlier. The top 100 producing mines account for 80% of the U.S. coal supply…Last year, U.S. utilities burned 825 million tons of coal, down from 1.045 billion tons in 2007. Meanwhile, coal companies exported 126 million tons last year, up from 59 million tons in 2007. At the same time, China’s coal consumption soared to 4.33 billion tons last year, up from 2.97 billion tons in 2007. Global demand for coal is currently about eight billion tons a year. Officials in India, which uses coal to produce more than half its electricity, recently said they intend to boost coal imports

So let’s get this straight. US utilities burn 800 million tpy of coal. China was 3 billion and now is 4 billion tpy and soaring. So these new restrictions accomplish nothing except pointless, self-inflicted pain. Forget the flat earth society. Somebody is living in Fantasyland.

What fools these mortals be

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Hugh Hewitt:

Corker-Hoeven may have averted a train wreck, with Senators Schumer, McCain and Graham realizing that the only way to get the regularization they want is to build the fence the voters demand. Anti-regularization forces will automatically say the amendment is not enough and that it is window-dressing. I was prepared to do the same yesterday when early reports suggested it was merely a press release and not a fence guarantee. If the fence isn’t there or is ambiguous in its design or construction schedule, I’ll be back in the “kill the bill” camp. But for now it seems the Senate has successfully completed step one of immigration reform. It may be one step forward and two steps back when we see the actual language, but for the time being, I hope the GOP got one right. If it did, we can thank Marco Rubio. One last thought: If a commission is needed to certify anything, name the commissioners in the bill and spell out their duties. Pick people who bring credibility to the table, and avoid confirmation battles and gamesmanship down the road. Spell. It. Out. If the majority and minority in both houses get two each, fine; let’s have the eight names and their alternates as well. Nothing to chance, no chance for nothing. Trust but verify, as the Gipper used to say.

In case you haven’t noticed, there are no longer three co-equal branches of government. There’s Congress, the judiciary and a souped-up executive-media-academy-regulatory apparatus that does pretty much whatever it pleases. “Trust but verify?” Puh-leeze. Have the conservative pundits and GOP legislators learned nothing over the past five years? A thousand page bill here, 2000 page bills here and there, and enforcement that rewards friends and punishes enemies. What fools these mortals be.

Why most new laws should not be passed

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

In 2012 alone:

29 times more regulations were issued by agencies than there were laws passed by Congress.

Dodd-Frank is 2300 pages of mostly rubbish, and we wouldn’t be surprised if there are 29 regulations for each page of the law. It’s no accident that it takes 10x more time to build some skyscrapers today than it did a century ago. Centralization in finance as in health care is a disaster.

Bureaucracies continue to argue for their own destruction

Monday, May 20th, 2013


The small glass jugs filled with green or gold coloured extra virgin olive oil are familiar and traditional for restaurant goers across Europe but they will be banned from 1 January 2014…The use of classic, refillable glass jugs or glazed terracotta dipping bowls and the choice of a restaurateur to buy olive oil from a small artisan producer or family business will be outlawed…The European Commissions justification for the ban, under special Common Agriculture Policy regulations, is “hygiene” and to protect the “image of olive oil”…”It will seem bonkers that olive oil jugs must go while vinegar bottles or refillable wine jugs can stay.”

At least they’re fiddling with olive oil. It could be a lot worse.

The head of the FAA makes the case for privatizing airports

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013


There was a recent survey of the top airports in the country — in the world, and there was not a single U.S. airport that came in the top 25. Not one. Not one U.S. airport was considered by the experts and consumers who use these airports to be in the top 25 in the world. I think Cincinnati Airport came in around 30th. What does that say about our long-term competitiveness and future? And so when folks say, well, there was some money in the FAA to deal with these furloughs — well, yeah, the money is this pool of funds that are supposed to try to upgrade our airports so we don’t rank in the bottom of industrialized countries when it comes to our infrastructure. And that’s what we’re doing — we’re using our seed corn short term.

Actually the head of the FAA sounds like a fool. The sequester resulted in ATC’s having one furlough day every two weeks. He’s apparently claiming that that tiny amount of money is material to “upgrading our airports.” How ridiculous is that? But he inadvertently making a compelling case to privatize everything the government does that the private sector can do better — get all that out of government spending. Oh wait, that wasn’t the head of the FAA.

One night in London, one night in Paris, three weeks in Washington

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

To stay one night in London, the VP booked approximately 136 hotel rooms for 893 room nights at a hotel. The bill for the hotel alone was $459K (his hotel bill for one night in Paris was almost $600K):

Picture 1-1

When Winston Churchill came to America in late 1941, he stayed at the White House for three weeks and the bill was $0. What passes for normal today is surreal, bizarre, but no one seems to notice.

Apparently many senators aren’t too bright

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Two senators were “heartened” and “impressed” or “moved” by words spoken at a recent dinner. Words! After five years of ridiculous words, they still jump into the tank. We can only hope that these unattributed leaks to Peggy Noonan were cynical flattery (as if that had a prayer of accomplishing anything); otherwise, it’s clear some senators aren’t too bright.