Only Congress

It’s budget time in Washington. According to the Washinton Post, “President Bush will send Congress a $2.39 trillion budget on Monday that cuts environment, agriculture and energy programs while giving large increases to military and homeland security spending.” The President reminded Congress that “we’re at war” – hence the priorities in his new budget.

I tried to remember if the President had ever issued formal declaration of war in the “only Congress can declare war” grade school civics way. Naturally I turned to Google, typing in “President Bush declares war.” Here are just a few of the resulting headlines:

President Bush Declares War on the Environment
President Bush Declares War on Math
President Bush Declares War On Whales and Dolphins
President Bush declares war on fat America
President Bush declares war on UN weapons inspectors
President Bush Declares War on Hollywood
President Bush Declares War on Dock Workers
President Bush Declares War on Gays
President Bush declares war on immigrant cleaning ladies
President Bush Declares War on Ohio
President Bush Declares War On Terrorism
President Bush Declares “War Against Nerds”
President Bush declares war on English language
President Bush declares war on Fresh Veggies

Regulation Sucks

An interesting item on NPR’s All Things Considered today about the regulation of the florist industry in Louisiana. As it turns out, in Louisiana (and no other state) you need a permit to sell flowers. In order to obtain that permit, you need to pass an exam. The exam involves practical tests of techniques that are no longer relevant in the modern florist industry and is therefore extremely difficult to pass. What’s more, the test is judged by existing licensed florists who have no reason to welcome more competition in the industry. A legal activist group is now seeking to overturn this regulatory requirement. Only in Louisiana could it happen that you need to pass a test to sell a flower, but not to buy a gun.

I offer this tidbit as a counterpoint to my article from a while back: Deregulation Sucks. Perhaps in the interest of not seeming totally self-contradictory I should modify that statement a bit. The purpose of government, and therefore the purpose of governmental regulation, is to serve the public good. In the flower-arranging case, what possible public good is served by requiring licenses of florists? No-one is going to be damaged by getting a dud bunch of dahlias and even if they were, market forces are going to fix that problem pretty quick. Floristry isn’t a wide-scale public need, like electricity or transport. So maybe I ought to say that regulation, or the lack of it as the case may be, sucks whenever the public good isn’t being served.

Race: Not a Black and White Issue

Interesting story about a man who refused to answer the “What is your Race” question on a form when applying for security clearance. It raises some interesting questions about what race is, and equally important, why people want an answer to the question.

Read on for Kick the Mongrel, by Les Earnest. (It’s also in the comp.risks archive, but doesn’t appear to be archived anywhere else, so I duplicate it here, formatted for HTML.) He describes this in 1988 as “a trilogy of true short stories that I posted on the Stanford bboards two years ago. The incidents described span a period of twenty years ending 25 years ago.”

Continue reading “Race: Not a Black and White Issue”

Adrià’s Doritos

OK, Paulette, I know you love those crazy Catalan chefs, so read the whole article before uh, foaming at the mouth… but I have to say that Sara Dickerman’s article on Slate on the new El Bulli cookbook made me think. It mixes effusive praise with dark foreboding about what Ferran Adrià’s innovative cooking might yield in the hands of lesser chefs–and more importantly, where his foams and gelees intersect with the worst innovations of the processed food industry. Dickerman makes a great point at the end of the article:

By feeding the hunger for novel, bigger-than-life flavors, he’s encouraging a kind of Technicolor food spectrum far beyond nature’s scope. No cooking is “natural,” but as trend-setting chefs and the food industry keep widening the gap between raw ingredients and finished food, the consumer’s ability and desire to create tempting, nourishing food at home continues to atrophy.

Happy Australia Day

Happy Australia Day! Well, it was Australia Day two days ago, the 26th. I’m ashamed to admit that I forgot — Jay reminded me. It’s been 13 years since I left there now. I still try to think of myself as a true-blue Aussie, but I’ve got to be honest: the ocker in me is fading fast. Like Bill Bryson who commented his accent was found drifting somewhere over the Atlantic, I think mine can be found somewhere near the Earth’s core these days.

Anyway, it was nice to read this amusing little Australia Day story which is apparently doing the rounds, unattributed (thanks for forwarding it, Jerry!) to remind me of my ancestral home.
Continue reading “Happy Australia Day”

48 Disenfranchised Hours

“King County has received notification that you no longer live at the address indicated on your voter registration. We have placed your name in our inactive voter file until we hear from you.”

Because it’s long and full of bureaucracy, I’ve posted the true story of my brief but harrowing stint as a ‘disenfranchised’ voter here. The short – but as of yet unconfirmed – story is that if you are going to insist on spending an extended time abroad, you should try to avoid being called for jury duty.

Also, here’s a handy link to online voter registration. Just in case.

A Hamster Dance For Our Times

A Hamster Dance For Our Times.

If you’ve been working long hours and your only diversion is checking the “Placing Things On Top of Other Things” tribe on for new insights and checking Google News to see if your country is going to hell (yes, a futile obsession), you might find Badger Badger Badger levitating (and perhaps hallucinogenic). I just know that I feel better having it on.

If you need a little more intellectual stimulation—but not much more—try some of the “toons” and stuff on weeble-stuff.