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This is the archive for July 2006

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Virginia judge has decided that Accomack County, VA is Starchild Abraham Cherrix's daddy. Literally.
Jay and Rose Cherrix of Chincoteague on Virginia's Eastern Shore must continue to share custody of their son with the Accomack County Department of Social Services, as the judge had previously ordered, Stepanovich said.

It is reasonable to think that the standard treatments for his disease have proven to be the most likely course for cure, or, if that is not possible, for the best possible quality of life for whatever time he has left. On the other hand, I've heard this kid on the radio, and he sounds intelligent, thoughtful, and aware of the risks of both his choice of treatment and those involved in the standard treatments, and he makes compelling arguments about the problems he's encountered with the standard treatment, and the quality of life he enjoys with his chosen course.

That would leave a seemingly unsolvable dilemma if it was any of our business. It is not. This is not child abuse, it is not a case of parents exploiting a child for their own gain at the expense of his interests, and Starchild is not incompetent to judge his own interests.

He may indeed die from his disease. It may even be true that he is more likely to die with his chosen course of treatement than with the standard course. But it is his right to weigh the risks and to determine his own standard for quality of life in the meantime. He said on Sean Hannity's show that he will defy the court if they order him to seek standard treatement, so lets hope that he and his family are able to make good on that vow. I hope that his family is now packing their bags for Mexico, with plans for an extended stay so that he can devote his time and energy to fighting his cancer instead of fighting an overreaching court system that has proven itself a threat to each and every one of us.


Addendum: Here's a pretty decent counter argument, based on the premise that the alternative treatment is quackery. I don't argue that it isn't, only that it is completely irrelevant to the argument. The other premise cited is
We as a society expect that the state will step in when parents fail in their duty to act in the best interests of the child.
I've addressed that argument above, though my criteria are slightly different, and, of course, the state should not even exist in such a form where it has the capability, let alone the authority, to so intervene.

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's a shame this had to come about because of a pair of serial killers terrorizing the city, but the fact that gun sales in Phoenix are skyrocketing is a very positive development. Lets hope the trend continues even after the scumbags are stopped.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The rumors are flying, but they're only rumors. Still, it's worth reading about how the reaction to the news might go in the exile community in Miami. It's a moving scene even if it is fantasy for now.

Keep your fingers crossed.

P.S Yes, I am hoping for and celebrating the possibility of another human being's (sic) death. I'm even tempted to pray.

P.P.S Allah, glad to see you back in action.

UPDATE: A healthy dose of wishful thinking, but Babalu feels change in the air. The general feeling seems to be that, whenever he goes, he'll be on ice a while till anybody admits it, till the new boss consolidates his position. July 26 is a key date, he can't not appear in public if he's alive.

UPDATE 7/15: There's still hope. Babalu points to some Nostradamus-esque evidence (evidence that is fully supported by the conclusion), of his impending or actual doom.

UPDATE 7/21: It was fun while it lasted...

Monday, July 10, 2006

I wonder if Billy has pondered the connection? He writes today about the unprecedented appearance of vulpes vulpes in his upstate New York front yard. Last month he wrote about the unprecedented disappearance of homo sapiens from the same general vicinity.

It's likely that the upright (as in bipedal) flight from the vicinity is an unintended, though not remotely unforseen, consequence of the loony tunes policies being evacuated from the assholes in Albany and Washington. But is it unintended? The more conspiratorally minded might ask: whose interests do those consequences serve?

Unintended or not, the replacement of human beings with red fox in Billy's front yard is exactly what some people have devoted their lives to accomplishing. In light of the metastasizing cancer that is the human race, the Wildlands project, with some help from or dear friends at the UN, has been kind enough to divide up the entire United States into cozy little people reserves on which we can live in peace and harmony with the environment.

As a side note, check out this map, and tell me, can you find the designated human reservations in Arizona? I wonder if there's a Trail of Tears in my future?

NOTE: The maps are not official maps put out by the Wildlands Project nor the UN, (they're from another site called propertyrights.org), so they have plausible deniability on the subject. You can read the articles at the linked TWP site for yourself and see how much you think the maps are exaggerated.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Isn't it nice to see that America is setting an example for the rest of the world?

When the Left loses an election, it is proof enough that the election was flawed. After all, everybody wants a leftist government, so if the election results do not express that, then it only follows that the election results are wrong.

Let's be clear about one thing. Nobody has any right to rule any country. And in fact, every Mexican - every human being in the world - has the absolute right to not be governed by the likes of Mr. Obrador. Of course, that also goes for his "conservative" opponent, unless he turns out to be a closet libertarian or something.

Except for those that voted - they have no right to complain either way.

It is only the law that grants, in direct opposition to all pre-existing natural rights, the authority for some people to run for office, and for one of them to win and thus to rule over everyone else, including the majority, who in any election, did not cast a vote for the winner.

The left, however, is never satisfied. Give them an inch, they want two; give them two, they want four. And so on, like rice grains on a checkerboard. When the law only grants the right to try to win, they want the right to just win. It's only fair, right?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, July 03, 2006

If you have any doubt that the industry of Politics attracts to it those of the least moral character and lowest intellectual capacity, I give you Senator Ted Stevens, Republican from Alaska:
I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.
A man can be forgiven for not understanding the basics of the internet and e-mail, let alone the technical minutia, but the same cannot be said for his failure to either educate or recuse himself. The attempt to cast his purely political decision as a reasoned conclusion by attempting to explain it to the rest of us only further diminishes his standing.

He's not qualified to participate in this decision, and I'd venture a guess that not more congresmen than can be counted on one hand are even remotely so. It is guaranteed that whatever the result of the net neutrality congressional meddling is, it will not be rationally arrived at, and will approximate any objectively correct result only through merest coincidence.

The same is true of any "debate" in congress - it is taken up by those in our society least capable of it. The dynamics of natural selection in the political process favor those least likely to think before acting, those most concerned about their personal ambition and immediate gain to the detriment of all else when they do think, and those least hampered by moral restraint on their actions. I've asked it before, and still cannot fathom the answer: Why would any rational person leave important decisions about their own well-being in the hands of such people?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I just saw a History Channel show on the history of pizza. I was part of that later history, at a time when the form of the industry was taking on the characteristics we know today. I was a driver and briefly a shift manager for Domino's through most of the 80's, their golden age of growth, and off-and-on into the early 90's.

There's an often unrecognized benefit to working for a very rapidly growing company: a company focused on growth is not focused on costs. That's not to say that they weren't cost conscious, it's still one of the most anal cost control companies I've ever worked for. What it means is that they were willing to pay for that growth, and as a recent high-school graduate with no college education, it brought me an income that I've only recently surpassed - and that's not even adjusted for inflation.

Anyway, the 30-Minute guarantee was the core of Domino's business. All of their technology and training, ruthlessly pursued at grandiose expense, was aimed at shaving a minute here, a few seconds there off of the process of producing a universally consistent product in the minimum possible time. As a manager, I had to compete in what were called "Two-Tray Times", a competition to see how fast we could produce 18 pizza "skins": slap out the dough and sauce it, 6 large and 12 small. The record time was a little over 4 minutes, and the guy who set it was a celebrity in the company. They had custom-designed or at least cutting edge equipment at every stage of the process. From the then newfangled conveyor ovens to a specially designed and produced sauce ladle, they spared no expense in shaving that time.

They could not compete on quality or price. Neiether was unusually bad, but it was never, and is still not, good enough to differentiate them from the competition. In the early days, ca. 1984, when I started, they rarely had specials, and then never advertised how good their pizza tasted. In fact, it was commonly derided as substandard cardboard, even by employees. They had two sizes, one choice of crust, no side dishes, and the only beveridge available was Coke - not even Diet Coke (umm, I think it was called "Tab" then...) or Sprite, just Coke. They simply told everyone who called: "It'll be there in 30 minutes or less". That was all it took.

Then, sometime around the late 80's, there was a slew of successful lawsuits from people who had been injured in accidents caused by Domino's drivers claiming that the 30-minute guarantee was causing reckless driving in order to meet it. It destroyed Domino's core business, and left it just another producer of a commoditized product that can only be differentiated through slick advertising, gimmiky specials, and schizophrenic product additions.

It was a crime. It reduced one of the most innovative, rapidly growing, and employment generating companies to an also-ran corporate leviathan, going through the motions of competing at the margins. And it completely eliminated the opportunities Domino's had provided for high-school graduates to make a "living wage", or much, much better.

It was all based on a myth. It might sound superficially logical to assume that the 30-minute guarantee made the drivers rush through traffic to make the deadline, but it was simply not true.

All of that technology was aimed at the part of the process that happened inside the store. At the end of my time there, the process was such that your pizza could be in the box and on the way out the door 5-1/2 minutes after you hung up the phone. It didn't always happen, the whole assembly line would gradually get further and further behind once it got busy enough, but even at the peak of business 10-15 minutes was still very typical.

If a pizza left the store 20 minutes old or more, the manager in charge already had written it off as being late. The money didn't matter, it was typically 1-2% of the day's take, and was budgeted for. But the poor service did matter, and in that respect, the difference between 29 minutes and 31 minutes was all but completely irrelevant. So much so that a manager would frequently tell the driver "This one is free", regardless of what time it was actually delivered.

This wasn't an issue of safety consciousness, it was an issue of not pissing off a customer who might be worth $500 or more in sales for the year.

And that was true of the whole process - it was a process that discouraged unsafe situations not because they were unsafe, but did so almost accidentally because potentially unsafe situations were only a symptom of poor service.

The fact is that the driver rarely was the deciding factor in whether a pizza was delivered on time or not. There were circumstances where an incompetent driver would simply get lost, or bite off more than he could chew - taking three or four orders out together, with only 15 minutes to complete the whole route. Those drivers wouldn't last long anyway.

There were also situations where a driver would, as a matter of pride, try to save a delivery that left the store too late. But the hero aspect of this was always played down, again, not because it was unsafe, but because that heroism really just resulted in a customer getting charged full price for a 29.9 minute delivery. It was a service failure with or without the heroics.

The one thing that does make drivers want to rush around like madmen is their own bottom line. Deliver this one faster, get back sooner for more, repeat for an eight or ten hour shift, and it might mean an extra 20 or even 50 bucks in his pocket at the end of the night. And that didn't change when the guarantee was removed.

Even in that, it was the smarter drivers who succeeded, not the more reckless. First, there was the issue of tickets. The local cops knew all the Domino's drivers' cars on sight. They were watching, and once the evening got late, we were sometimes the only cars on the streets. Even before the days of the cartop signs, we drove around with giant bullseyes on our cars for the sharks manning the mobile tollboths. Afterall, they had a bottom line to meet, too.

More importantly was the fact that all the speeding in the world couldn't make up for not knowing where you were going: things like knowing that if you took Elm street instead of Main street, the lights were timed better; like the fact that a certain side street goes all the way through to the subdivision you want without any traffic or stoplights; like the fact that the 400 block of Oak street has the odd numbers on the wrong side of the street, or that the 1200 building of that apartment complex can be accessed more easily from the back parking lot instead of the front - and that it's rear security door was usually left propped open by the kids who lived there.

A driver could make up 30 seconds or maybe a minute speeding for the 3 miles that was by Domino's rules the furthest away any part of the delievery areas could be. But then he'd lose it waiting at a light that he could have avoided, or searching in vain for an address that was not where he thought it was supposed to be.

I drove at over 30 different Domino's locations, and delivered more than 10,000 pizzas with only one accident - when a less-experienced driver (we were all very experienced drivers after a few months on the job) crossed the center line and hit me head-on. I've worked for probably more than 50 store managers, area supervisors, and regional directors. In all that, I rarely if ever found a situation where there was any significant pressure or incentives for reckless driving. There was no reason to, no money in it, the guarantee was made or broken in the store before the driver ever entered the picture.

But the judges and juries couldn't or wouldn't see past their first impressions, their superficial out of context logic, and so they all but ruined one of the great American companies, and one of the best jobs I've ever had.