Archive for month: July, 2012

Why I Love My Niece, Part 1

31 Jul
July 31, 2012

So we took my niece for Indian. More appropriately, we took her Mom for Indian because it was her birthday. After being seated, my niece grabs the laminated single sheet, thinking it’s the children’s menu.

Niece: “Uncle Fish, what’s this?”

Me (After perusing the sheet): “It’s the drinks menu.”

Niece (Looking confused): “Where’s the eats menu?”

I couldn’t answer her question due to uncontainable laughter.

What Needs To Be Done To Shrink The Size & Role of the Federal Government

31 Jul
July 31, 2012

One of the podcasts I regularly listen to is the Economist’s Audio Highlights. (Free iTunes version here.)The most recent Editor’s Highlights (July 28) starts off with a discussion of how Obama and Romney are starting to touch on what should be the central issue of this campaign – what should be the size and role of government in America. The Economist makes the good point that currently the American government taxes like a small government nation and spends like a large government nation. I know, we feel we have an incredibly high tax burden, and in some cases we do (e.g., corporate taxes). The Economist rightly points out that some of the gap between what the government collects and it spends has to come from increased revenues.

I strongly disagree that increased revenue means higher taxes. The Laffer Curve explains that increased tax rates will lead to decreased revenue. If we must raise revenues, then it should be by reforming the tax code. The current tax system is no longer geared to accomplishing its primary objective – raising funds for the operation of the government. Instead, it’s more geared to social engineering of the populace and rent-seeking by special interests. Personally, I would really like to see the income tax replaced with a consumption tax, kind of like the FairTax. The only people who have a right to know my income is my employer and me, not the government. (Although in my case, the government does have a right to know because they employ me.) My issue with the FairTax proponents is that they are so ready to replace the income tax, they aren’t focusing on the necessary groundwork to do it. Before we can replace the income tax, the Sixteenth Amendment must be repealed. Otherwise, we will end up like Great Britain with an income tax and a consumption tax. With that limitation, a flat tax with no exceptions would be the most preferable.

For all of you who are screaming at your monitor that we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem – YES I KNOW THAT! The question becomes are we willing to tackle the big four drivers of government spending: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense? Usually the same people who scream for limited government or reforming the taxation methodology are afraid to touch one of these four drivers. Yet, if we are ever going to get to a smaller government, all four must be addressed.

  1. Social Security – Why are we asking our young and poor to subsidize our old and rich? Don’t tell me that you believe that you’ve been saving into a special account that’s due to you upon retirement. I have one of those too, and it’s called an IRA. My retirement planning does not take any “Social Security” income into account, because I can’t expect it by the time I retire. The “Social Security” system is broken and broke. It’s currently paying out more in benefits than it’s receiving in taxes. If we want a social safety net for elderly and disabled persons, then we can implement means testing and treat them like any other social welfare program. Quit making it a separate payroll tax and just roll it into the regular taxes. If nothing else, that should make it easier on employers.

  2. Medicare – If you want to know why healthcare is so damn expensive in America, this is a big reason. Medicare pumped out $523 billion in 2012, and it accounts for approximately 20% of all healthcare spending. Anytime the government subsidizes a product, prices go up. The more subsidies, the higher the price. (Go look at college tuitions since the introduction of government-backed grants and student loans.) Medicare’s dollar cost and portion of healthcare spending can only go up as the Baby Boomers start enrolling into the program in droves. The CBO and GAO both have stated that the program is unsustainable in its current form. If we want to provide some sort of help to seniors for their medical costs, it would be better to pay a sliding voucher (higher for low income, lower for higher income) to pay for a private health insurance plan.

  3. Medicaid – As Medicare forces healthcare prices up, Medicaid will continue to explode. Worse, because Medicaid’s price structure makes it unprofitable for a private practitioner to take on those patients, more and more private doctors are refusing to see Medicaid patients. This forces Medicaid patients to rely on the more expensive hospital emergency rooms as their primary healthcare providers. Call it a death spiral of costs. Personally, I’m more in favor of reforming Medicare and making the healthcare more market driven (letting insurance companies sell across state lines, make high-deductible plans more favorable, etc.) and using block grants to the states to handle Medicare spending. Each state faces different Medicaid challenges. Let them solve it as they see fit.

  4. Defense – There’s a difference between defense spending and military spending. I’m all for having a strong military to protect the United States. I’ll admit to having a fondness for all toys military, from small arms to aircraft carriers. Here’s the problem, we are spending too much on non-mission essential and non-working equipment, personnel, and real property. We have too many bases that are open because of politics rather than mission need. The procurement system practically begs for corruption and graft. Like all government agencies, DOD has too many empire builders that hold on to their little fiefdoms despite whether those personnel could be re-purposed or released. Unless these are remedied, defense spending will continue spiraling out of control, just like the other big drivers.

Reforming the tax system and controlling the big drivers of federal spending are the two big steps that must be accomplished before we can even hope to shrink the size and role of government.

Zombie Strike Part 1 Chapter 2

30 Jul
July 30, 2012

In Chapter 2, the team is gathered, but they need to learn how to work together. As the team trains against the zombies of Skull Island, Jack Winchester has a hard time working in a team again. Then, he has a chance to fight on his own again.

Narrator: Kenn Blanchard

Story: Derek Ward

This episode was originally broadcast on the Urban Shooter podcast.

Note: In the early episodes, I hadn’t figured out the numbering scheme. So the part/chapter numbers on the audio may not match the post title.

Play

There’s a Reason She’s Known as The Queen of Snark…

28 Jul
July 28, 2012

Tam once again brings the funny. Thinking about this when reading through the MSM will probably keep my outrage to containable levels.

Friday Quote – 7/27/12

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

“The difference between a man of sense and a fop is that the fop values himself upon his dress; and the man of sense laughs at it, at the same time he knows he must not neglect it.”

Lord Chesterfield

h/t Put This On

I could go to work in a polo and jeans everyday, but I make sure to wear shirt and tie. I find that the people I need to influence listen more closely when I’m professionally attired. I will occasionally joke that my foppish side comes out, but this quote comes closer to my true nature.

Zombie Strike Part 1 Chapter 1

23 Jul
July 23, 2012

In Chapter 1, Mateo Cortez, a past winner of Zombie Strike!, is whisked back to Skull Island where he meets up with other past winners. Why are all of them back on Skull Island? More importantly, what is Mateo doing back with the super-stars of Zombie Strike!?

Narrator: Kenn Blanchard

Story: Derek Ward

This episode was originally broadcast on the Urban Shooter podcast.

Note: In the early episodes, I hadn’t figured out the numbering scheme. So the part/chapter numbers on the audio may not match the post title.

Play

Coming Soon – Episodes of Zombie Strike!

23 Jul
July 23, 2012

Thanks to a “future Zombie Strike fan,” I discovered that the Zombie Strike audio files are no longer available through iTunes. So, after discussing it with Kenn Blanchard, all of the episodes of Zombie Strike will be posted here. Right now I’m working with the Derek-Ward.com webmaster, “The Mighty D”, as to how to get them up. The goal is that you should be able to either download the episodes or stream them directly on the website. Once we figure out the how, I should be posting three episodes a week. Just like Badmoon Rising, Zombie Strike will have its own page with links to the individual episodes.

For those who don’t know about Zombie Strike, it was an on-going, old-time radio style serial that originally debuted on Kenn Blanchard’s Urban Shooter podcast. The original premise was comedy skits provided by fans (including me and my friends) of people participating in a reality game show where they would compete on a zombie-infested island. The goal was to go from bunker to bunker with a $1 million cash prize if the contestant survived. Where the serial came in was that the reality game was really a way to find those who could fight zombies (i.e. The Last Starfighter). The story follows a group of elite zombie killers go out to fight an outbreak and stumble into the plots of an evil cult bent on resurrecting their god and taking over the world.

Right now, the first twenty chapters are available on Kindle, here. I am in the process of cleaning up the story and adding some bonus content for a full e-book. I am aiming for the beginning of next year (2013) to get that out. I’m hoping to have some print on demand capability for those of you who need a tattooed dead tree version, but I’m not sure when that would be available.

Thanks again to Erica for letting us know about the iTunes issue and prompting the launch of Zombie Strike on the blog!

Thoughts On the Aurora, CO, Mass Murder – 7/21/12

21 Jul
July 21, 2012

Like the rest of our nation, and probably most of the world, my heart and my condolences go out to the injured, their families, and the families of the slain. For them, this isn’t a spectacular news event that will keep the public’s attention for a few days or a couple of weeks. This is a personal tragedy that many will spend years, if not lifetimes, dealing with. They have my sympathies.

We have already seen that this tragedy is being picked up by the politicians and the “chattering class” of commentators and anti-rights activists as the latest example of the need to restrict firearms. Why is it that firearms imbue the public with collective guilt? One of the reasons that I became an atheist was because I refused to believe that I was guilty of some crime that was committed by a fictional character and had to atone for it. I have enough mistakes of my own, I don’t need to feel guilty about the actions of others I had no control over. In regards to this shooting, I didn’t murder anyone. I have not used my firearms in an irresponsible manner. Why should I be punished for the actions of someone I wasn’t even aware of, much less controlled?

The answer might be that guns are specifically designed to kill and therefore must be treated with different rules. This is a fallacy. First, guns are inanimate objects. Despite urban legends, firearms can’t discharge on unless a human being loads a bullet into the firing chamber and engages the trigger. That being said, guns are potentially dangerous items. This is why we teach children to respect them, just like we do with other potentially dangerous items like lawn mowers, gasoline, and household chemicals. Firearms can’t kill a human being unless the operator is careless or malicious, just as gasoline can’t burn down a house unless the user is careless or malicious. If we don’t punish the general populace when an arsonist uses a Molotov cocktail to burn down a house by taking away their access to gasoline, then why should we restrict access to firearms because one individual commits a heinous act?

Could this particular incident been avoided? Perhaps, but trying to ascertain that less than 36 hours after the incident is premature. The perpetrator probably is mentally ill, but that may or may not have been an indicator that he was planning this type of crime. We Don’t Know. This kind of event is something that we ultimately can’t prevent, anymore than we can prevent a hurricane or tornado. There will always be someone out there who will slip through any preventive measure, exploit the weaknesses in our culture and institutions, and wreak unimaginable carnage. It Will Happen. Unlike natural disasters, society may be able to limit the frequency of these events, but we will not be able to eliminate them.

I’ve seen a few blogs that have made the point that this crime is an example of why the authors carry a gun. I agree with Linoge from Walls of the City that this isn’t a very strong argument. From the preliminary reports, the murderer was wearing some sort of body armor. I very much doubt that the 9 mm I regularly carry would penetrate. We could speculate on the use of a head-shot, but I don’t think the run-of-the-mill concealed carrier would be able to make such a shot under the conditions (darkened theater, panicking people, some sort of gas canister going off, being fired at by a murderer). Fighting at that point means either getting a rifle (probably not realistic) or closing with the murderer and physically removing him as a threat (e.g., Tuscon shooting). Could I do it? I would hope I have enough courage and ability, but I honestly don’t know. I know when I go into a place, including a movie theater, I try to know my environment. Now, I have one more thing to add to my threat assessment. I will let those more knowledgeable then me do the full analysis, and I will try to incorporate the lessons learned.

Friday Quote – 7/20/12

20 Jul
July 20, 2012

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.

Thomas Sowell, Ph.D. Economics

Whether you agree or disagree about how the current military conflicts protect our freedom, there have been times when our nation has been forced to sacrifice its young men and women in order to protect its existence. There have been times when the local populace has been forced to take up arms against corrupt governments and organizations to protect their rights from those that should have been protecting them. Yet people are willing to forget those sacrifices – those dead and wounded – and hand over the rights won by others on the promises of politicians and technocrats.

Right now, I’m listening to the audiobook version of Dr. Sowell’s Basic Economics. It is an excellent primer on what is economics and how it explains events we see in the marketplace. If you’re homeschooling your children, this should be one of the texts you use. Probably junior high to high school level.

Badmoon Rising – Chapter 8 – Be Careful of What You Wish For

14 Jul
July 14, 2012

One of the things that took me a long time to get through my skull as I was coming up as a hunter was that not all of the jobs were difficult or required an inordinate amount of firepower. Some were very simple. Even important jobs could be very simple and accomplished with minimal equipment. As I grew in experience, I also came to the realization that those jobs – important and simple – were the ones that hunters wanted the most. Granted, dramatic and harrowing adventures made great stories for the packs, but the as professionals we knew better. The simpler, the better. This was why I was happy when the Guildmaster assigned me to take out the Bleeders’ armorer. Read more →