Monday, November 15, 2010

Dumbass Alert: Strangle That Entrepreneurial Spirit In The Cradle

This is the gift that keeps on giving.

My very first post here was about a seven-year-old girl whose lemonade stand was shut down by county inspectors because she didn't have a license to sell food at the county fair where she'd set up her little business.

Now we get a couple of 13-year old boys selling cupcakes. Their local councilman spots them, and calls the police to complain.
When Andrew DeMarchis and Kevin Graff, two 13-year-olds from Chappaqua's Seven Bridges Middle School, set up shop at Gedney Park on a fall weekend last month, they were expecting a tidy profit.

Instead, the two wannabe entrepreneurs selling cupcakes, cookies, brownies and Rice Krispie treats baked by them for $1 apiece got a taste of cold, hard bureaucracy.
New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn came upon the sale and called the cops on the kids for operating without a license.
The boys' parents are incensed and can't believe a Town Board member would handle the situation that way.
"I am shocked and sad for the boys. It was such a great idea, and they worked hard at it," said Laura Graff, Kevin's mother. "But then some Town Board member decided to get on his high horse and wreck their dreams."
DeMarchis and Graff, along with two other classmates, Zachary Bass and Daniel Katz, had a simple, if half-baked, business plan: sell their treats at Gedney Park for a couple of years and save up enough to open a restaurant.
Their first day was wildly successful, the boys said. They netted $120, of which they invested $60 to buy a cart from Target and added water and Gatorade to their offerings on their second day, the next Saturday, Oct. 9.
After about an hour of brisk business , during which DeMarchis and Graff — Bass and Katz were not with them — said they made $30, police arrived at their stand and asked them to shut it down.
"The police officer was extremely pleasant. He said he was sorry to have to do this, but that he was following up on a report filed over the phone by a Town Board member," said Suzanne DeMarchis, Andrew's mother, who was called to the scene. "Kevin was so upset, he was crying all the whole way home. He was worried if he was going to get arrested or have a criminal record."

This is what happens to entrepreneurs in America. Kids selling lemonade and cupcakes get busted by dumbass officials for not having spent a day at the local zoning and licensing office getting a $150 temporary permit. If this is what they do to kids, imagine the hoops you have to jump through to open a factory. BOHICA.

And you wonder why it's cheaper to have your computer built in China and shipped halfway around the world than it is to have it built in the U.S. Just multiply what these kids went through by a factor of about a thousand and you'll have an idea what it's like to start a business in America.

President Obama promises we're going to have lots of green manufacturing jobs. Really, dude? Factories are going to be able to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines cheaper in the U.S. than in China, where they don't have an EPA, OSHA, suffocating union contracts, Greenpeace, EEO, and "If you have a phone, you have a lawyer"? Really?

Congratulations, Councilman Wolfensohn (at left); you've just given a couple of boys their first lesson in strangling the American dream.
You stupid dumbass.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Henryk Górecki

Polish composer Henryk Górecki died this past week. His third symphony, "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" is possibly the most heartbreakingly beautiful music you will ever hear. Listen to the last movement; words will fail you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Was Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity Racist?

Jay Nordlinger observes that the Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall was whiter than a meeting of the Utah GOP.

I hadn't noticed, frankly, so I did some googling. Poster "Security_In_Anonymity," at was there. "My photos came out poorly, but here are some gathered from the web," she says.

Here they are.

See any black faces anywhere?

Remember that next time someone tries to tell you the people at a Tea Party rally are a bunch of white racists.

Y'know, maybe black folks just don't like crowds.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Easier-For-Them Association

John Derbyshire is one of my favorite writers over at National Review. He's observant and curmudgeonly, and bears an unusual resemblance to John Cleese.

One of the best things he's written - at least, of those things I've read - is an expose of the Easier-For-The-Association. What on earth is the Easier-For-Them Association? Derbyshire explains:
The aim of this secret brotherhood is to infiltrate all organizations whose chartered purpose is to serve the public in some way. Once they have taken up key positions in such an organization, the EFTA moles then set about subverting all its processes and procedures — enlisting the aid of corrupt or unsuspecting legislators when necessary — so that the work of the organization, instead of being oriented towards true public service, is redirected towards the ease and comfort of the organization's employees.
In particular, public employees.  If you've ever been tempted to throw a brick through the window of your local motor vehicles office, if you wonder why getting a permit to build a deck on the back of your house is a Kafka-esque affair, if you fume to your neighbors because your local animal control people refused to track down the fox that attacked your two cats but instead fined you fifty bucks per cat because you neglected to buy cat licenses for them,* then you have been the victim of the work of the EFTA.

More here.

* Yes, that last actually happened, here in the Democratic People's Republic of Alexandria, Virginia. But that's the subject of another post.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow - In China

President Obama keeps promising us that our hopey-changey future is bright because we're going to create billions of green jobs.
"If we harness ingenuity, take the talent of our workers and innovators, and we invest in it, we'll forge a future where life is better in our country over the long run," Obama said.
So how's that working? Not so well.
Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar-panel maker that won half a billion dollars in federal aid to build a state-of-the-art robotic factory, plans to announce on Wednesday that it will shut down an older plant and lay off workers.
The cost-cutting move, which will reduce the company’s previously announced production capacity, is a sign of the notable shift in the prospects for cutting-edge American solar companies, which now face intense price competition from Chinese manufacturers that use more established photovoltaic technologies.
Just seven weeks ago, Solyndra opened Fab 2, a $733 million factory in Fremont, Calif., to make its high-tech solar panels. The new plant was supposed to be the first phase of a rapid expansion of the company.
Instead, Solyndra has decided to shutter the old plant and postpone plans to expand Fab 2, which was built with a $535 million federal loan guarantee...
...the market had undergone a significant shift since Solyndra filed for the stock offering, with solar module prices plummeting as low-cost Chinese manufacturers like Suntech and Yingli ramped up production.
Emphasis mine. I wonder if a lack of red tape might explain why Chinese photovoltaic cells are less expensive than American ones.

Oh, and that $535 million federal loan guarantee? Any time you see the words, "federal loan guarantee," it means, "if and when the company can't pay the bank the money it owes, you'll need to reach for your wallet."

Brother, can you spare $535 million?

How Can You Tell She's a Witch? Build a Bridge Out of Her!

British police now have a three hundred page book on diversity that tells them, among other things, how to deal with witches:
The online handbook also advises officers not to jump to conclusions if they encounter a situation where a blindfolded, naked person is tied by their hands – they could merely have stumbled upon a pagan ritual, where such activities are normal practice...
The guide, drawn up by the Metropolitan Police, Britain's largest police force, warns against interrupting a pagan ceremony.
It adds: "Some ceremonies include a blindfolded, naked participant, whose hands may be bound. This is in accordance with ritual and has the full consent of the participant."
Bobbie: "What's all this, then?"
Knife-Wielding Guy: "Just a little pagan ceremony, officer. Isn't that right, my dear?"
Naked Bound and Gagged Woman: "Mffftt!!! Mfffttt!!! Mfffttt!!!"
Bobbie: "Oh, all right then. I was concerned you might be raping her. Carry on."

Three hundred page manual. I've had shorter college textbooks. Are Britain's bobbies expected to read through this on their off-duty hours? Or are they ordered to stay in the station house and read and master the material (examination at 4:00...) before they can go out again and protect the public? How many man-hours are spent reading this manual instead of patrolling the streets?

Oh, and regarding the post title...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Do You REALLY Want to Know How the Stimulus Works? REALLY?

This is the clearest explanation I've ever seen. It shouldn't take you more than 30 seconds to read, but once you do, you'll totally grok the so-called stimulus.

And you'll laugh out loud.

Mommy State, Can I Get Fries With That? NO!

Just when you think the "progressive" stupid can't get any deeper, you get this:

San Francisco's board of supervisors has voted, by a veto-proof margin, to ban most of McDonald's Happy Meals as they are now served in the restaurants. 

The measure will make San Francisco the first major city in the country to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat.

 The ordinance also would require restaurants to provide fruits and vegetables with all meals for children that come with toys. 

"We're part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice," said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure. "From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It's a survival issue and a day-to-day issue."

So much stupid packed into such a short statement:

An agenda of food justice. The "progressives" came up with the term "social justice" some time back, because it sounds nicer than, "taking your property and giving it to someone else." Now we have "food justice," which apparently means, "taking your power to decide what your kids eat and giving it to the government."

Epidemic of childhood obesity. Whenever a politician uses the word "epidemic," he's lying. That's important, so I'll say it again: Whenever a politician uses the word "epidemic," he's lying.

Politicians say "epidemic" when they want to spend your money and take away your rights. Because an epidemic is a disease, dontchknow, and if you have a disease, we have to take away some of your money and your rights, which is really all the "progressives" want to do. How else are we going to cure your disease epidemic, without getting more money from you?

We don't have epidemics in America. We certainly have health problems. Third-world countries have epidemics. Haiti has epidemics - cholera, at the moment. The last time the U.S. had an epidemic was over 50 years ago - polio.

Particularly kids from low income neighborhoods... Reminds one of the New York Times headline satire, "World Ends Tomorrow; Poor, Minorities Hardest Hit."

It's a survival issue... Sure. It's right up there with polio, smallpox, bubonic plague, and al Qaeda. Ban Happy Meals or we'll all die.

The hypocrisy here is delightful. By all accounts, the good people of San Francisco think it's perfectly okay to smoke marijuana in public places, but giving your kid a Chicken McNugget is child abuse.

And I'll wager that the majority of this board of supervisors that is taking away a woman's right to choose what food she feeds her children would be apoplectic if someone were to try to take away her right to choose to abort a child before it's born.

Mark Twain wrote:
There are some things which cannot be burlesqued, for the simple reason that in themselves they are so extravagant and grotesque that nothing is left for burlesque to take hold of.
This is one of those things.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hero of the Day

Next time someone tells you some actor or athlete or (shudder) politician is his hero, tell him about this:
A swimmer saved a young woman who was attacked by a shark, off the coast of western Australia, by grabbing it by the tail, rescuers have said...

...The shark attacked on Saturday as Ms Frankcom led a group of tourists on a swim with dolphins from a boat sailing off Garden Island, about 50km (30 miles) from Perth.
The 3m-long shark, which has not been definitively identified but is believed to be a Great White, came up from the bottom of the water and bit her.
Mr Pisani said: "As the shark bit her, it brushed aside a fairly large male who grabbed hold of the tail of the shark, which then made it let go.
"The girl then started to sink to the bottom and he grabbed her and brought her to the surface and got her back on board the boat."...
...The man, who was taking part in the swim, refused to speak to journalists when the tour boat returned to dock, other than to say: "No comment, thank you. It's cool. All I want is the girl to be OK."
The guy is willing to tangle with a ten-foot long shark, but doesn't want his name publicized. Wonder if he thinks he might get hit with a government lawsuit for intentionally causing distress to the native wildlife.

Scene's We'd Like to See

I don't normally watch MSNBC.

But I'm tuning in tonight. I want to see if Keith Olbermann goes Howard Beale on us. You doubtless remember Mr. Beale from the movie, Network:
I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks' time because of poor ratings. Since this show is the only thing I had going for me in my life, I've decided to kill myself. I'm going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today. So tune in next Tuesday. That should give the public relations people a week to promote the show. You ought to get a hell of a rating out of that. Fifty share, easy.
I suppose I don't want to see Keith Olbermann actually blow his brains out. But is it churlish of me to relish the thought that he might attempt to chew his own head off his shoulders?

I'll Take That Campaign Donation In Quatloos, Thank You Very Much

On this Election Day, it seems particularly apt to reflect on "the corrupting influence of money" (click to see what a cliche that phrase has become) on politics.

Congress has been trying to choke off political spending for over thirty years. Each new law or regulation is touted as the one we need to finally stop the corrupting influence of money. "This time fer shoooor," as Bullwinkle used to say.

The result is that today, we're looking at an off-year election where the campaign costs will end up being north of a billion dollars.

Why? Well, if you have two brain cells to rub together, the answer is obvious. Advertising costs money. Driving or flying around your state costs money. Do you think those TV and radio commercials are free? Is gasoline for your car or campaign bus cheaper now than it was ten years ago?

And since there has been a flood of campaign finance laws and regulations since 1974, candidates now have to hire people who fill out reports for the Federal Election Commission, and lawyers to make sure they don't run afoul of financing regulations. Do you think those lawyers and accountants work pro bono? Campaign finance reform actually makes campaigning more expensive, meaning you need to rake in more money just to tread water (mixing metaphors there). Isn't the irony delicious?

So we're told we need more laws to choke off all this supposedly corrupting money. Incumbents - mostly Democratic incumbents - love this idea, because they can send out all the "letters to my district" they want at taxpayer expense, touting all the wonderful ways in which they've earmarked legislation to bring more money back to their district. Meanwhile, if the Democrats had their way, their opponents would be reduced to raiding their own bank accounts if they wanted to mount a challenge. Choke off the flow of money, and you've choked off your opponent's ability to get his message out. Free speech is great - if you can get the taxpayers to fund yours and stifle your opponents' at the same time.

Money will find a way to candidates' pockets, no matter what you do. Pass more laws to close supposed loopholes, and they'll find more and better loopholes. And if you do somehow, miraculously close all the loopholes, candidates will start getting nothing but completely untraceable cash donations.

And if you don't think that is a corrupting influence...

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Easier to Say "Stop" Than "Go Ahead"

Question: If you have a gigantic oil slick sitting in the Gulf of Mexico, is it better to:

a) Skim it off the water, remove almost all the oil, and return the much cleaner water to the Gulf, or,

b) Leave the oil slick there because the water you'd be returning is not quite 100% pure?

If you are a normal human being, you answer a) because even the average moron knows that "pretty clean" is better than "disgustingly filthy."

The problem is, they don't have average morons working at the Environmental Protection Agency, whose mission, by the way, is " protect human health and the environment." The EPA employs a special class of morons. So, two months after the Gulf oil spill,

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.
So the filthy oil sits in the Gulf, and the EPA's special class of morons congratulate each other on having prevented a catastrophic violation of agency regulations.

Here's another question: If the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't protect the environment, if, in fact, it actually gets in the way of protecting the environment, then why are we paying for it?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

County Inspectors Shut Down Public Health Menace

Making sure you don't get ptomaine at the county fair:

Jeff Cogen, the top elected official in Multnomah County, Ore. tried to turn lemons into lemonade, by apologizing Thursday for the shutting down of a lemonade stand by county health inspectors at a Portland arts fair last week.

"A lemonade stand is a classic iconic American kid thing to do," the county Chairman said. "I don't want to be in the business of shutting that down."

Cogen told CBS affiliate KOIN that he called Julie Murphy's mom and "shared with her my feeling that it really wasn't the county's business to be stopping 7-year-olds from selling lemonade."

...Maria Fife, Julie's mom, said her daughter wanted to open a lemonade stand after seeing a cartoon character open one. She was selling Kool-Aid lemonade for 50 cents a cup when an inspector approached and asked for her license - which costs $120 - at the fair. The other vendors reportedly rallied around Julie, and her "business" started booming.

According to KOIN, two inspectors then threatened Julie with a $500 fine, and she left in tears.

While the county inspectors were doing their job, Cogen said, the rules are meant for professional food service operators.

"This isn't something we need to be using our limited resources to crack down on," he said.

Hey, rules are rules, and you gotta follow them even if it means giving a little girl a lesson in what happens when you try to start your own business.