Friday, February 25, 2005

Policy vs. Law 

Pet peeve alert. I can't stand it when the press uses language like this:

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers called Thursday for an end to the Pentagon's ban on gays in the military, citing findings in a government report that the prohibition hurts recruiting and retention even as the war in Iraq strains the military's ability to maintain its troop strength.
(Emphasis mine.) I highlighted the phrase "Pentagon's ban" because that's the part the writer got wrong. It's the part the press always gets wrong.

It's not the Pentagon's ban on gays in the military. It's not "the military's policy" as it is often called. It is THE LAW. If lawmakers want the ban to end, all they have to do is make a new law to replace the current one.

Until then, the military is going to obey whatever law is on the books.

And until then, the press needs to stop pinning the ban on the military. Bill Clinton is the one who proposed, and then signed into law, the current incarnation of the gay ban.
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"Revenge of the Blog People" 

"This ad hominem attack has all the charm and flair of a college student engaging in his first Usenet flame war in 1983."


(Hat tip: FrazzleDad, or Rob's comment on FrazzleDad's post, via Instapundit.)

The ad hominem attack in question can be found here, in a piece by Michael Gorman, President of the American Library Association.

I'll just make one comment here, if I may. Echoing others, it's clear that Gorman is a very poor Google user.

My piece had the temerity to question the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine. The Google phenomenon is a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality. Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of "hits" (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order.
Well now. "Notoriously inefficient?" Raise your hand if you've ever heard a living soul (besides your parents and grandparents) complain about having a hard time locating something on Google.

Just yesterday, I answered a question for someone that would have been virtually impossible pre-Google. I certainly wouldn't have found the answer at a library without spending many hours digging through books and stumbling upon it by chance. It took me a couple minutes to Google it, since I had to refine my search a couple of times. In fact, in light of Gorman's piece, I'm tempted to ask that question at a library to see what happens.

The question: "This African-American was the first to fight in the civil war (1861) whose true racial identity was not known until his death nearly a year later (1862)."

Answer here if you're curious.

Beyond quick access to facts like that one, I would have given my right arm to have had Google when I was in college, researching political science papers. Lexis was useful, but when it comes to academic papers, I can often find their pdf versions instantly through Google. In a traditional library setting, I would be lucky to ever learn of their existence, let alone obtain a copy to read in under a minute.

And getting back to Gorman's assault on bloggers, I wonder if he realizes that they are the ultimate primary source, available to anyone with a web browser. You don't need a reporter to interview the man on the street any more. From Baghdad to Tehran to Kiev, the man on the street is publishing directly.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I'm a CINO 

According to Ed Mick, I'm a Conservative In Name Only.

I score myself a 5 on this scale. I display 4 of the 15 signs of being a CINO, and 1/2 of two others. That's "borderline" on Ed's CINO scale.

And that's fine with me. I've never considered ideological rigidity and strict conformity to be a good thing. Nor is it good for any political party. Taken a look at the Democrats lately?
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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

You're stupid - LAT 

The Los Angeles Times makes the case (unsurprising for the source) that you're too stupid to handle your own retirement. Like it or not, this is the main reason why liberals and the MSM oppose private accounts to supplement Social Security. They believe that you, your friends, your family, and your neighbors are all just too damn ignorant to take care of yourselves.

The article hammers the point home repeatedly:

Joseph Jankowski, executive director of the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, said: "The vast majority of people don't have the inclination or comfort level to be responsible for their own retirements." ...

"Generally, people don't like risk," O'Connor said of the poor showing in Montana.
People may not like risk, but they also probably don't know that the market as a whole has experienced average annual growth of around 8% since the 1929 crash. Social Security gives you between 1-2% on the dollar, averaged. Why isn't the MSM telling us that? And why is the Democrat party opposed to people retiring with more money?

And when it comes to people's investment abilities, state retirement officials have plenty of stories about how ill-prepared most workers are to handle the financing of their own futures.

"We get individuals into our training sessions and ask them about basic investment terms — What is a stock? What is a bond? — and they rate themselves as practically unknowledgeable," said Washington state retirement director John F. Charles.
In case you haven't gotten the point yet, you're TOO STUPID to handle your own finances. More importantly, the government can't be bothered to educate you.

But you know what? The choice isn't simply between the government giving you a paltry 1-2% return or being hung out to dry on your unknowledgeable own. There's a third way.

Federal employees (myself included, as a Naval Reservist) can put a portion of their pay into the Thrift Savings Plan. The money can be allocated to any mix of 5 funds, which range from Treasury securities, bonds, common stock, small caps, and international stocks.

Here's the important thing about the TSP: The lowest 10-year compound return is 5.45%, from the International Stocks fund.

Even a complete moron using the TSP would have, at a minimum, earned an average of 2 or 3 times the return Social Security provides, compounded over 10 years. Possibly quite a bit more. The common stock and small cap funds returned nearly 12% compounded annually, as you can see from the chart linked above.

12% compounded 10 times TRIPLES your initial contribution. Try finding that with Social Security.

And try finding that out from the media or Democrats in Congress.

There's no reason why the Thrift Savings Plan or something very similar can't be extended to the general public. It provides a much greater return than Social Security, and it requires only very basic investment decisions. What's not to like about that?
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