Human Resources Award Winner

As if I needed another reason to hate the Party Before Principle mentality that pollutes politics, this:

Former Justice Department counselor Monica M. Goodling and former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson routinely broke the law by conducting political litmus tests on candidates for jobs as immigration judges and line prosecutors, according to an inspector general’s report released today.

Goodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.

Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: “What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?” the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.

A novelist wouldn’t write something so ridiculous because no reader would believe it, yet this too-stupid-for-make-believe mindset is how the Bush Administration tried to rebuild our justice system. Permanent majority and all that. I’ll pass.

Not that I think Democrats will not be ridiculous in their own way when they regain control in November. Hopefully they won’t appoint a new Monica Goodling. But if they do, no doubt he or she will be an economist. “What is it about the profit motive that you most distrust?”

Returning to blogging…

… with a review.

Apart from an incorrectly attached F8 key, my new laptop – a Dell Studio 15 – arrived in pristine condition, no emergency calls to Dell customer “service” required. This is obviously good. Also good is the improvement over my four-year-old laptop It’s nice to have shiny new toys, but functionality is more important. The previous laptop could probably be made better with a clean restore of the operating system. Breaking out a credit card is easier.

A detailed review would probably be boring, and my blogging muscles are slightly flabby. So, a list ignoring the obvious advantages of a faster computer with more memory.


  • Sleek design – very cool
  • No modem, leaving room for useful features
  • Vibrant glossy screen without an excessive mirror effect.
  • Fingerprint reader – Is it reasonable for a libertarian to love swiping a fingerprint as much as I do? It works, so no typing necessary.
  • HDMI port – Connecting the Blu-ray player to my television involved plugging the cable in and nothing more.
  • Backlit keyboard – When I remembered to turn this on while typing in the dark for the first time, I wanted to write poetry – Ode to the Backlit Keyboard.
  • Dell Dock – This is basically Dell’s effort to make Windows Vista into Mac OS X. I like it, although this criticism has merit.


  • Sleek design – in every aspect beyond the backlit keyboard, Dell chose form over function to the detriment of the computing experience. It’s nice marketing to chase Apple, but they should’ve thought about their copying.
  • The power cord protrudes from the right side, interfering with using a mouse. Apple’s power cord offers little interference and it’s on the left side.
  • The 9-cell battery extends down, raising the laptop and making it awkward in a backpack, rather than extending out of the back. Stupid.
  • The screen hinge attaching to the side rather than the top. Cool effect, distracting shift of the screen down. And it limits the range of motion for the screen to angle back. This can be bothersome if the laptop is on a surface significantly lower than my eyes.
  • The keyboard layout is awful. Delete, Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down should be in a horizontal cluster, not a vertical row. And why is the right Ctrl key not next to the arrows? Who uses the keyboard to bring up the right-click menu, anyway?
  • Dell Media Direct – This is garbage. It constantly determines that a Blu-ray update is missing and then finds nothing to update. And using it when the computer is off caused my computer to freeze. As soon as I find reliable Blu-ray software, I’m uninstalling Media Direct.
  • Water Stain – the palm rest has a design that looks like a water stain. I tried to wipe it off when I opened the box. It’s inconsequential but it’s a poor aesthetic.

For my personal configuration, the only real mistake seems to be the screen resolution. I opted for the basic 1280×800. It’s nice, but everything on the screen feels too big. It’s a significant improvement over my old laptop’s 1920×1200, but 1440×900 is probably the sweet spot on a 15.4″ screen.

From this, it might appear that I’m arguing against the Studio more than I am. I probably should be. Instead, and it’s probably just rationalizing that I have this for the next few years, I place most of my quibbles into just a need to adapt. Maybe I just need to break my habits of the last four years.

Dell Heaven?

Based on prior experience, as well as an additional recent incident of poor customer service, I’m probably going to feel stupid in praising Dell prematurely, but allow me to do so. I ordered a new laptop last Friday morning. I received an e-mail this afternoon informing me that it shipped this morning. Dell gave me an estimated delivery date of August 4th when I ordered, so cutting the production time by more than two-thirds of that estimate is impressive.

I have now jinxed myself. The laptop will no doubt arrive without RAM or a screen.


For those who believe only one story, I’m happy to let you take this as another example of American corporations lying to customers. I know I’ll never depend on an estimate again. So, so unreliable. A central planner would’ve done much better, holding the laptop in a warehouse until August 4th to avoid failing to meet my expectations.

Of course the laptop would’ve been ready on August 4th under government production. That’s a given.

Life Lesson of the Day

I thought everyone knew this by now, but microwave ovens and metal containers do not mix. I’ve known this for twenty-five years. I also have second-hand experience proving this. I witnessed a beef sandwich quickly appear as its flaming foil wrapper melted away one evening while working fast food as a teenager. Yet, there I stood today in my office pantry, smelling the remnants of some food item burning inside an aluminum foil bowl inside the microwave. The fun was over before I arrived, but I established a mental note in the front of my mind to always know my location with respect to the nearest fire exits in my building. It appears I will need them at some future date.

As you were.

At least the stock is up today.

The latest news in the proposed Sirius-XM merger is too similar to recent demands to be anything other than caving to someone’s rent-seeking, so only a quick summary is necessary:

FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, wants the companies to cap prices for six years and make one-quarter of their satellite capacity available for public interest and minority programming, among other conditions.

If the companies agree, Adelstein told the AP that he will support the deal.

Let’s ignore the death reality the merged company would face if it agrees to cap prices for six years and the government continues to contribute mightily to inflation. Why bother with concerns that expenses for the company could increase substantially in six years? Forget¹ that. And let’s also ignore how the influence is being peddled here to benefit Adelstein. It’s offensive, but I do not care more now than my already high libertarian frustration with our unnecessary, unwise regulatory scheme. Hopefully his vote won’t be necessary because two commissioners have already announced support, with a third, Deborah Taylor Tate, expected to support the merger. (She, like the commissioners who’ve decided to vote “Yes”, is a Republican.) Instead, I’m more cynically amused by Adelstein’s concern:

“It’s critical that if we’re going to allow a monopoly, that we put in adequate consumer protections and make sure they’re enforced,” Adelstein said.

The government dictated the existing market when it determined exactly two companies would offer satellite radio services. It is irrational to now complain about unacceptable market conditions. If we humor Adelstein’s fears, a duopoly is hardly better than a monopoly, yet years of experience have shown that satellite radio is not able to price itself as it pleases, or offer limited entertainment choices as a cost-saving measure. Customers began flocking to Sirius when Howard Stern joined the company. I suspect they will flee when he retires. The range of entertainment choices is too large. The executives of Sirius and XM know this, so they seek to stay competitive with a merger. The members of Congress and the FCC are the only people under the delusion that the merged company will gain monopoly power.

Adelstein has an interesting, if unsurprising, solution:

Adelstein also wants to set up an enforcement regime to make sure the companies adhere to the conditions, something that was not outlined in the previous voluntary offer.

So it’s not okay for a merged Sirius-XM to have (the perception of) monopoly power, but it’s necessary for a new regime to have monopoly power to enforce the FCC’s limitations. A government enforcement regime would be benevolent in ways that Sirius-XM would be inherently incapable of acting. Obviously. Would a central planner mislead you?

When the companies announced their proposed merger in February 2007, I’d hoped they could complete the merger in time for me to receive part of the 2008 baseball season on Sirius. I’m now doubting I’ll experience any of the 2009 season on Sirius. I will not thank the FCC for its awful effort at looking after my interests as a consumer.

¹ <cynicism>Obama won’t let that happen!</cynicism>

The leftists can defend themselves.

Via a friend’s tip, a few anti-gay bigots are protesting McDonald’s for some reason or other. Sometimes the idiocy – something about exposing McDonald’s sinful bowing before the Homosexual Agenda&#153, I think – is so ridiculous that it just isn’t worth my time to investigate closely. As evidence, consider the statement by the protest’s organizer, Peter LaBarbera, as reported by Good As You:

“The people involved in this boycott of McDonald’s are good family people — not vegans, America-hating leftists, or some other fringe group.”

Wow. I see that LaBarbera has been so busy investigating the Homosexual Agenda&#153 that he doesn’t understand a few things about vegans. One, I have a family, although I’m about as indifferent as I can be to any concern over whether Peter LaBarbera thinks I’m a good family person. Especially if being good means hating people for who they are, as opposed to liking a person who chooses to be an ass.

Two, some vegans might hate America, but those vegans do not hate America because of veganism. But if LaBarbera took a quick (non-gay) stroll around Rolling Doughnut, he’d figure out have all the information necessary to know that I love America and its ideals. Not enough to endorse everything America does, which naturally makes me a pinko, I know. Still, I love it enough that it’s hardly plausible to lump me in with people who hate America. If I want to be embarrassingly stupid, I might suggest that LaBarbera is an America-hating terrorist because his dietary choices match those of Osama bin Laden. But I won’t because I’m not a complete moron.

Three, “fringe” is a very subjective term. I would think that, of course, since if I thought veganism was wrong, I’d change. I don’t because I think I’m right. Many fringe opinions in American history have become the norm. So, fringe doesn’t mean bad. Also, forgive me if I don’t take my ideas from the popularity contest view of what is acceptable rather than a reasoned consideration of principles.

Four, McDonald’s is not exactly vegan-friendly. The french fries aren’t even vegetarian. The key difference, though, is that McDonald’s ignores me because I am not in it’s large, core market. I am on its fringe, but it doesn’t feel compelled to express complete contempt for me. I didn’t think that was noble, but LaBarbera makes me wonder if I set the bar too high.

Post Script: I suspect I belong to at least one other group LaBarbera despises as part of the “anti-American fringe”.

Overheard in the Supermarket

Standing in the express aisle at the supermarket buying my lunch today, the gentleman two customers in front of me purchased a bottle of wine. The cashier confused him when she asked for identification. Understandably, since he appeared to be pushing fifty. To help him the customer between us helped him by telling him “it’s a new state law” that everyone must be asked to verify his or her age when buying alcohol. His response? “Oh, that’s a good thing. That way kids can’t buy alcohol.”

Ehhhhhhhh. A small child could figure out that this gentleman was old enough to buy alcohol. It is objectively stupid to require the cashier to verify the obvious. It wasted the customer’s time. It wasted the cashier’s time. The customer between us? Wasted time. Me? Wasted time. All of this theater for no improvement in alcohol safety, even if we grant that as a legitimate government function. We have the appearance of responsibility to remind us that we’re good and nothing else.

The worst part of this is that this requirement is not state law (yet), at least as far as I’m aware. I believe it is only a policy of the grocery store. This says only that “No person shall … sell any alcoholic beverages to any person when at the time of such sale he knows or has reason to believe that the person to whom the sale is made is (i) less than twenty-one years of age…”. Anyone staffed in a position to operate a cash register is probably intelligent enough to understand that she has no reason to believe that a man who looks fifty is not less than twenty-one years of age. No matter. We’re now trained to assume that everything the government does is correct and good. Think of the children, except don’t actually think. You might figure out that you can function without a firm hand forcing you.


In case parents are too stupid to understand how to teach their children alcohol responsibility, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control offers an insulting guide to Virginia Alcohol Laws and Parental Responsibility. It includes 10 tips for hosting an alcohol-free party because there’s no way you could responsibly include alcohol in a setting with children because they are incapable of learning responsibility through modeling responsible behavior. You must treat your 10-year-old son and your 20-year-old daughter the same.

Headline of the Day

Yesterday, actually, but I’ve been busy.

Democrats See a Need for Further Economic Stimulus

This should probably be filed under “Duh”, if I had such a category. I’ll assign “Propaganda”. But let’s consider the idea.

“We ought to see how the first one works,” Mr. Bush said. “Let it run its course. I’m an optimist.”

Oh, wait, that’s considering the issue. That’s not how politicians work. (That President Bush was complicit in the first round of Free Money and will inevitably sign the second round is noted and irrelevant for my purpose here.) Instead, they seem to believe they can do nothing wrong. Forget that some checks from the first round of Free Money haven’t been mailed. It’s not working. It’s not not working because it’s a stupid idea. Of course. No, it’s not working because it’s not enough. So, Free Money is good. More Free Money is better. Who doesn’t realize that $1,200 (or whatever figure the Congress invents as necessary) is better than $600? I’d raise my hand, but my opinion doesn’t count. I was ineligible for the first $600 of Free Money that I will nevertheless have to repay.

I’m realistic without being cynical about the value of our currency. That position is getting harder to maintain. For example, I’d love to have a contract to supply the paper the government uses to print all the new money it keeps imagining. And I’m honestly thinking of how fascinating the loop will be when the Fed has to raise interest rates to pay for the money Congress prints. At least the worthless paper will earn high returns!