Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Ever tried an Airbnb stay?  I haven’t, even in all my travels, but I’ve considered it, and would avail myself if the housing matched the site where I was working.  But around the country, the hotel industry is engaging in the Aristocracy of Pull to shut Airbnb down.  Excerpt:

New York officials are on the job, protecting the world from the likes of Hank Freid and Tatiana Cames by slapping the two with a combined total of $17,000 in fines.

What threat to life, liberty, and property did this dastardly duo pose?

They were renting rooms to willing customers, the bastards. Fried and Cames were slapped for violating laws prohibiting apartment owners from renting rooms for less than 30 days if they’re not living on the premises, and a further law passed last year that banned advertising such rentals. It’s a direct strike at innovative home-sharing services like Airbnb and the people who use them that parallels similar attacks around the country.

“The law signed today will provide vital protections for New York tenants and help prevent the continued proliferation of illegal, unregulated hotels, and we will defend it,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) trumpeted last October.

Maybe I’m the suspicious type, but I think those “vital protections” Schneiderman refers to are against competition to the established old-school hotel industry. Just last summer, the Office of the New York State Comptroller fretted that the hotel business in New York City wasn’t doing as well as hoped. “Despite impressive gains, the average room rate (i.e., the average cost of renting a hotel room) has not yet reached its prerecession level” and, in fact, “room rates declined slightly in 2015.” This bums officials out, because “New York City collected a record $1.8 billion in tax revenue from the hotel industry in fiscal year 2015” and officials want to keep scooping up that revenue and maintain close, personal friendships with the people who generate that kind of cash.

Look carefully, True Believers, at that last bit.  New York City wants to prevent homeowners from voluntarily leasing a portion of their home to willing short-term renters, in a purely voluntary transaction in which both parties realize a gain.  Why?

Tax dollars.  The City of New York, it seems, is of the opinion that those tax dollars are theirs by right, and that the Airbnb renters are defrauding them of their due.  Why, it’s damned near medieval.

Incidentally, the same thing happens with the taxicab companies when they campaign against ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.  They can’t compete in the open market, so they enlist government cronies to shut their competitors down with excessive regulations.

The only open and fair competition is in the open market, where business models succeed or fail for the only reason tolerable in a free society – because they succeeded or failed in attracting customers.  President Trump has vowed to reduce business-killing regulations that add no value.  He should look into this.

Worth Watching!

I never do this, but admirers of the Feminine Aesthetic should check out Charissa Littlejohn.  She is an Air Force veteran, enthusiastic shooter, and absolute knockout.

She is addictive because she possesses a pure heart and a dirty mind ♥️ #happyvalentinesday

A post shared by Charissa Littlejohn 💕 (@charissa_littlejohn) on

Check out her Instagram here.

(Oh, if I was thirty years younger!)

Animal’s Daily Air Traffic News

Who wouldn’t like to make air travel easier, cheaper and more efficient?  If you travel a lot, like yr. obdt., then y ou’d probably like to see that happen.  If you work for the Federal Aviation Administration, apparently the answer is “probably not.”  Excerpt:

In an era of smartwatches and driverless cars, Americans traveling by air sit in planes guided by World War II-era technology, while the Federal Aviation Administration spends billions on its never-ending “NextGen” upgrade.

Started in 2004, NextGen was supposed to replace the outdated radar, radio communications, and strips of paper still used by air traffic controllers. Once in place, this satellite-based system would let planes travel more direct routes, improve safety margins, and save travelers billions of dollars a year.

But NextGen has been fraught with delays and cost overruns and, despite having spent $7.4 billion over the past 12 years, is still 13 years away from being finished.

Up north, meanwhile, the Canadian air traffic control system — which is the second busiest after the U.S. — has already deployed truly state-of-the-art technology throughout its system, letting it handle 50% more traffic while trimming its work force by 30%.

What’s the difference? In 1996 Canada sold its government-run air traffic control to a nonprofit corporation called Nav Canada. User fees finance its operations and pay for upgrades, and Nav Canada is free of the suffocating bureaucracy and endless budget battles that plague the U.S. system. The Canadian government’s role is limited to regulating Nav Canada for safety.

Other industrialized nations have taken similar steps. But in the U.S., any such talk has been blocked by Democrats, for whom privatization is a dirty word.

There’s nothing that motivates people, whether they be individuals or joined together in a corporation, like the profit motive.

It shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a system to privatize the air-traffic control system.  Set up a system of standards – on time departures and arrivals (barring those that are the airline’s fault) certain budget and personnel requirements.  If the first contractor can’t do it, find another that can.  The precedent is just over the border in the Great White North.

What the article here misses is the reason the Democratic party so ardently opposes such a measure; the public-sector unions, who are deep in the Democrats’ pockets – and vice versa.

That shouldn’t be enough reason to put up with a broken system.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Sub-Saharan Africa is pretty much synonymous with hunger and poverty.  Ever wondered why?  The Dark Continent is rich in resources; plenty of mineral wealth, timber, beautiful country attractive to tourism, and some of the world’s richest farmlands.  So why are the African nations poor and starving?  Here’s a possible explanation.  Excerpt:

With every last bit of fertile land spoken for, Uganda’s only path out of mass hunger is intensification—getting more food out of the same amount of ground. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, high-yield varieties of wheat and rice revolutionized agriculture in Asia and Latin America, freeing up to a billion people from chronic hunger. But the Green Revolution skipped Africa. I had come to Uganda to try to figure out why.

Nakkede’s laboratory gives me my first clue. Ensuring that farmers have access to good seed should be at the forefront of Uganda’s fight against hunger, and a sample of each lot of agricultural seed produced in the country is supposed to be tested here. But the lab barely functions at all.

Is insufficient funding the problem? Not quite. Expensive-looking machinery is all around us. Yet none of it, I slowly realize, is plugged into the wall.

“Oh, yeah,” an aid official tells me days later. “All the equipment at the Kawanda lab is fried.”

Between 2003 and 2008, a $1.9 million project by the Danish International Development Agency fully equipped this lab and trained staff to work here. But blackouts are frequent in Uganda. When the power comes back it often returns with a surge, and the Danes apparently forgot to put surge protectors in the budget. As a result, Danish taxpayers have paid top dollar for a collection of finely engineered paperweights.

The Danes were just one of a string of donors to come in, commission an assessment of Uganda’s food security problems, zero in on seed quality, and spend a lot of money on “technical assistance,” only to see virtually no bang for the development buck. Writing for the World Bank, the agricultural economist James Joughin reviewed 20 substantive studies of the Ugandan seed industry conducted between 2003 and 2013. Everybody who is anybody in African development has done one: the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the African Development Bank, the European Union, the United Nations, and various NGOs and academics.

“The reports invariably recommend how to repair these problems,” Joughin concludes. “Rarely do they ask why earlier recommendations have not been acted upon.”

The problem here is threefold:

  1. Agribusiness.

    No security in private property rights.  Farmers can grow crops, but there is no guarantee they will be able to sell them.

  2. Rampant corruption due to a failure of rule of law.  The kind of fraud described in the story is a long-standing legacy of Africa, but there’s no reason that should be the case.
  3. Extensive subsidies for agriculture in the Western nations, which artificially depresses crop prices and denies African farmers access to world markets.

Western-style republican government with robust rule of law and free, unfettered markets can fix Africa.  Probably nothing else can.

Rule Five Tax Reform Friday

There’s been a lot of talk lately about what the GOP will do in the way of tax reform.  Speaking as a pretty hardcore libertarian, I’m guessing (in fact, I’m pretty damn certain) it won’t go far enough to suit me.

Let me tell you why.

Barry Goldwater once said “I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”  I agree wholeheartedly; but there’s an important distinction to point out.

There are basically two types of libertarians.  There are anarcho-libertarians, who hope for a society with no government at all, where all government functions are fully privatized and all interactions are voluntary.  I don’t think this is a realistic viewpoint.  An anarcho-libertarian system is dependent on a perfect society, and relies on perfect (or at least pretty damned good) people.  The other type, of which I am a member, are the minimum-government or ‘small-statist’ libertarians, who seek (as Goldwater did) to reduce government to the minimum possible.  I see government as an evil, but a necessary evil, one that needs to be chained in place and confined to a few narrow purposes – otherwise liberty is forever endangered.

So, how does that relate to taxation?  The key word is voluntary.  Now, no system of taxation is ever completely voluntary.  Look at the structure of taxation as it exists today; if I were to start a charity, no matter how worthy, I couldn’t come take you and lock you in a cage for not contributing to my charity.  But we allow government to do what private citizens cannot do.  In this case, we allow government to initiate the use of force to obtain compliance.

That’s a terrible, dangerous power, and must be tightly restricted.  Right now, it’s not.  The Imperial Leviathan grows more powerful with each passing year, and on tax policy, President Trump is proposing to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Here is his tax reform plan; the four primary points are:

  1. Tax relief for middle class Americans: In order to achieve the American dream, let people keep more money in their pockets and increase after-tax wages.
  2. Simplify the tax code to reduce the headaches Americans face in preparing their taxes and  let everyone keep more of their money.
  3. Grow the American economy by discouraging corporate inversions, adding a huge number of new jobs, and making America globally competitive again.
  4. Doesn’t add to our debt and deficit, which are already too large.

Don’t get me wrong; as proposed Imperial reforms go it’s one of the better of a bad lot, except for that last bit, which strains credulity just a tad.  But it’s just a reform of the existing system.  That, in my considered opinion, doesn’t go far enough.  It still depends on an involuntary surrender of the citizens’ productivity, a requirement backed up (maybe indirectly, but even so) by men with guns.

I’d rather junk the whole corrupt, overly complicated system.

Instead of taxing production, let’s tax consumption.  There’s already one such proposed system in the pipeline, where it has been sitting for quite a while with no progress; that would be the FairTax.  A consumption-based tax system, like the FairTax, would increase the tax base enormously, from maybe 155 million taxpayers to over 300 million – including tourists, temporary residents, and even illegal aliens.  It would tax the underground economy (drug dealers and con men buy cars, houses, and computers, among other things, and would pay the tax on those items.)

But most importantly of all, it would make the tax system as voluntary as a tax system would be; every consumer has to consume a certain amount (some proposals exclude essentials like groceries, rent/mortgage, and tuition) but one can pick and choose.  Another advantage, and this is a big advantage where privacy is concerned, is that the free citizens won’t be required to disclose all of their financial affairs to the Imperial and various State governments.

I’d like to see more talk about this, but I’m resigned to it not happening.  In the meantime, I’ll settle for the new arrangement of deck chairs.  I guess.

Animal’s Daily Hagfish Slime News

This is a hagfish. Yes, really.

The U.S. Navy may be considering a new kind of body armor.  Made from hagfish slime.  No shit.  I can only add:  Eww.  Excerpt:

It looks and feels a lot like snot, but Navy researchers believe slime produced by the primitive hagfish could help save lives.

The bottom-dwelling hagfish is commonly referred to as a slime eel because it looks like an eel and produces a slimy substance that quickly expands in water to enable it to escape from predators by clogging up an attacker’s gills.

That unique capability is what has captured the Navy’s imagination .

Its researchers believe that, by reproducing the slime, they one day could replace synthetic products derived from petroleum, such as Kevlar that’s used in bulletproof vests. It’s not just science fiction, either.

The Navy says one of its research teams in Panama City, Fla., has already re-created the material. Now it’s beginning to work on how best to turn the synthetic slime into something useful.

“From a tactical standpoint, it would be interesting to have a material that can change the properties of the water at dilute concentrations in a matter of seconds,” Ryan Kincer, a materials engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, said in a statement.

Here’s what’s interesting about biology; the 4-billion year drunkard’s walk that has been evolution on the Earth has produced some pretty bizarre critters, but also some pretty useful stuff.  One of the reasons medical research depends on animal models for a lot of work is that we can’t simulate a full organism with any kind of simulation; the best computer technology we have today is laughably crude when compared to a biological organism, even one as primitive as the jawless hagfish.

This is also a good illustration of the value of pure research.  Most folks never would have thought that hagfish slime would be good for anything.  But someone got curious, took a good hard look at the substance, figured out how to synthesize it – and now, maybe we’ll have a host of interesting and useful products from that research.

I call that a win.

Valentine’s Day, Early

In 1947, a young man brought flowers to a young woman, for their first Valentine’s Day as a couple.  A month later, they were married.

Today, 70 years later, that man has not missed a Valentine’s Day.  Today, that man – the Old Man, my Dad – brought my Mom her 70th bunch of Valentine’s Day flowers.  He’s 93, she’s 88, five kids, twelve grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, and they still hold hands.

This, True Believers, is what love looks like; yes, this is what love looks like.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Since I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Japan, I found this interesting but not surprising; Japan Refuses Refugees, Will ‘Prioritize Its Citizens First.’  Excerpt:

Yes, leftists are still recoiling from the Donald’s “Muslim ban.” Which isn’t a Muslim ban, by the way. Read more about it here. Since news of it broke, there’s been a lot of silly talk about violating human rights and such. You know, typical leftist claptrap. But as it turns out, not everyone hates the “ban.” Apparently the Japanese drew some inspiration from Trump. Their Prime Minister laid down the law on refugees, Samurai-style…

Japan’s prime minister said Tuesday that his nation needs to attend to its own demographic challenges posed by falling birth rates and an aging population before opening its doors to refugees.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced at the U.N. General Assembly that Japan… will provide $1.5 billion in emergency aid for refugees and for stabilization of communities facing upheaval. But speaking to reporters later Tuesday he poured cold water on the idea of Japan opening its doors to those fleeing.

He said Japan first needed to attend to domestic challenges which he proposes to tackle under a revamped economic policy that aims to boost GDP to a post-war record level, while bolstering the social security system to support families.

Good job, Japan. You said something that doesn’t suck. Keeping your people safe and secure should always be priority number one. You know, because the open-borders way? Doesn’t work out too hot. Just ask Europe (see Dear France: How’s That ‘Multiculturalism’ Working Out For You?). If they have a moment to spare between bombings, that is. It appears Japan got wind of all the terrorism and would rather focus on one of its many other problems before adding to their plate. Can’t say I blame them.

Now, folks that are more familiar with Japan and its unique culture won’t be surprised by this.  Japan, open and friendly as I’ve always found the place, is still a rather insular society.  They welcome visitors, but immigrants, not so much.  Obtaining permanent residency is Japan is difficult, and citizenship is extremely difficult.  Japan is still mostly a racially and culturally homogenous society (one of the requirements of gaining citizenship is taking a Japanese name; just for fun Mrs. Animal and I figured ours out.  Our family name would be 廷吏, or Takasato, my given name 神将  [Kotaka], hers 朝日[Asahi}.)

More to the point, Japan has much the same attitude President Trump has been voicing since the primaries in the summer of 2015.  They put Japan’s interests ahead of those of other countries; and Team Crowder is right when they point out that the American Left has been silent on that score.  To be fair, they think they can influence American policy, but there’s no chance they can influence Japan’s.

Still.  Sauce for the goose, eh?

Animal’s Daily 2nd Amendment News

Well, whattya know; the second guy from the top at BATFE wants to roll back some gun restrictions.  Excerpt:

The second-highest ranking official at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recently authored a proposal to modify and reduce gun regulations in the United States.

The 11-page “white paper,” obtained by the Washington Post and drafted by the ATF’s associate deputy director and chief operating officer Ronald B. Turk, includes but is not limited to the following proposals: removing restrictions on the sale of suppressors; conducting a study concerned with lifting the ban on imported assault weapons; and requiring a higher amount of crime guns to be traced back to specific dealers before the federal government asks for additional information from those dealers.

Turk writes in the introduction to the paper, entitled “Options to Reduce or Modify Firearms Regulations,” that “these general thoughts provide potential ways to reduce or modify regulations, or suggest changes that promote commerce and defend the Second Amendment without significant negative impact on ATF’s mission to fight violent firearms crime and regulate the firearms industry.”

“This white paper is intended to provide ideas and provoke conversation,” Turk continues, “it is not guidance or policy of any kind.”

Turk also reminds that while his paper does not focus on enforcement or regulation, those are still “extremely important” parts of the ATF’s mission.

The Washington Post reports that ATF spokeswoman Jan Kemp said Turk’s proposals do not represent the views of the agency.

“It’s simply his opinion,” said Kemp, “and it’s to generate dialogue.”

Well, it would seem to have succeeded in generating dialogue – I mean, here we are, dialoguing.   So while we’re here, let’s look at the proposals.

  1. Removing restrictions on the sale of suppressors.  Hell yeah – we just discussed this recently, so I won’t repeat the arguments, but this is a good idea.
  2. Conducting a study concerned with lifting the ban on imported assault weapons.  Also a good idea – the fact is that crimes are almost never committed with rifles of any kind, and isn’t ‘crime’ always the argument of anti-gunners?  Except, of course, when it’s ‘need,’ as in “nobody needs an assault rifle!”  That last is an argument (whether it be made about guns, SUVs or steaks) that is antithetical to liberty, and should be rejected out of hand.
  3. Requiring a higher amount of crime guns to be traced back to specific dealers before the federal government asks for additional information from those dealers.  Again, a good idea; gun dealers are already the subject of an extensive background check before becoming gun dealers and periodically again while gun dealers.

Of course, this is just one BATFE guy’s personal opinion, and will likely come to nothing.  Still – it’s nice to see some common sense coming out of the massive Imperial bureaucracy for a change.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.