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Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Lint Lizard! The perfect gift for Yom Kippur.

In Reviews, Shameless plug on May 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

It’s been a few months since Phyne Dyning gave its less than favorable review of Eggies and I’ve been hankering for another household labor-saving device from the genre of As Seen on TV.

This time, I chose…

The Lint Lizard.

It’s another one of those late-night temptations for insomniacs who are just sleep-deprived enough to believe an Eggies pitch.

For the record, I like fire. I like fire in the fireplace, in my furnace, in the barbeque grill, and atop candles. Fire, in a clothes dryer vent? Not so much.

Okay, I don’t obsess about vent fires and I really hadn’t given them much thought until after watching a Lint Lizard pitch at 3am. But, I have to admit that I began to contemplate how long it had been since I cleaned out our dryer vent.

Never.

The job always seemed a bit daunting. You have to take down the pipe and run a long brush on a stiff wire through it. There are bends and other obstacles to make the job even less pleasant. Life as a low-altitude chimney sweep held no appeal for me.

The Lint Lizard had a manly appeal.

You hook it up to your vacuum and poke a tube around in the dryer and suck up satisfying clumps of lint.

The device now made the chore appealing to most men. It now had 1) motorized equipment and 2) a phallic substitute.

I just had to try the Lint Lizard.  It was conveniently priced identically to the ill-fated Eggies. I snatched one up.

At home, I opened up the box to see if the product looked as promised.

It did!

No small parts. The instructions were quick and easy to follow. The Lint Lizard itself looked like something a small boy would put together if he were left unsupervised in the plumbing department of Home Depot.

I assembled my Lint Lizard without referring to the instructions. C’mon, it’s a tube. What could be so hard about it?

I spent the next half-hour chasing the dog with it, hooting into it like a cut-rate shofar.

TERUAH! (That’s Jewish Insider-Speak for one of the series of tones blown on Yom Kippur…sort of Biblical Hebrew Morse Code.)

No, my little greyhound gal was not amused.

I restrained myself sufficiently so not to embarrass myself by actually taking the thing outside and blowing into it. It does have a wonderfully annoying pitch when properly blown, just like a shofar. But, I gave up on the idea of a Jewish bagpipe ensemble and took the Lint Lizard into the basement for its intended purpose.

It hooked up to my vacuum in seconds. In less than a minute, I pulled out the dryer lint trap and started sucking lint.

Thup! Thup! Thup!

The Lint Lizard gave a satisfying recoil each time it met with a clump of dangerously flammable dryer lint. I pulled down the vent pipe and snaked the lizard into it.

The job was done in minutes.

Always one to use tools for their intended purposes, I retrieved my $250 rifle bore scope and peered around in the pipe and in the dryer.

No lint.

Hey! It works!

I opened the vacuum and found the bag packed with dryer lint.

The verdict?

The Lint Lizard is a fun and practical way to keep dryer vents clear of potentially flammable lint

I like it.

At $10, the price is reasonable and low enough to keep folks in Arkansas from trying to build copycat lizards from discarded still parts.

For 20-bucks, you could also amuse yourself for several hours by buying one of these and a sixer of Red Bull for the neighbor kid.

Memorial Day: 2012

In Editorial on May 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Do we find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground;
Mother Earth will swallow you;
Lay your body down.
Steven Stills

It’s the American Memorial Day weekend.

There will be parades, speeches, prayer vigils, tire sales, and barbeques. Much of the holiday will be spent giving honor to those who served in America’s armed forces.

That’s just wrong.

Memorial Day is not set aside to honor living veterans or men and women currently serving in the empire’s legions. The holiday has morphed into an orgy of patriotism celebrating firemen, police officers, prison guards, and other non-soldier types.

I suffered the last tolerable straw last year when, on Memorial Day, a news story commemorated a veteran who had survived her time in the military, but died as a civilian “dedicated to providing books to schools in the inner city”.

And, although my father (z”l) and my father-in-law (z”l) were both combat veterans of the war in the Pacific nearly seventy years ago, I do not spend the day honoring them.

They came home. They raised families. They ate barbeque on Memorial Day, but always spent a few quiet moments remembering shipmates who, having eaten their final barbeque, left for war and eternity.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said in the introduction of his book Night:

“There are those who tell me that I survived in order to write this text. I am not convinced. I don’t know how I survived: I was weak, rather shy; I did nothing to save myself. A miracle? Certainly not. If Heaven could or would perform a miracle for me, why not for others more deserving than myself? It was nothing more than chance.”

 I’ve heard, at least, a variation of those words from countless war veterans.

It has to be chance when someone survives the chaos of war.

In the mid-1980s, PBS ran a program where actors read letters home from military personnel who did not survive America’s wars, from the Revolutionary War to (then) Vietnam. It was a must see.

I made it through less than forty minutes of the program and could not take any more. It was emotionally devastating.

I realized that those who die in wars are not “extras”. They are not like the crewmembers offered up in the first half of a Star Trek episode, whose red uniform tunics give their fates away.

It is not only the “good”, the “worthy”, or those with “futures” who survive a war. Those whose lives were cut short by the mischance of war had so much to offer and there was so much of life they should have savored.

Memorial Day is for them.

We’re enjoying their barbeque, cheering the parade they never got to see, and smiling at children they never parented.

Whether or not the war in which they perished was justified should not be our concern on Memorial Day. Whether they volunteered or were conscripted to service is not important.

It is enough that they died.

And for that, we owe them a day of memorial.

Part Seven: “Taxation” and “theft” are synonyms

In Intro to Libertarianism on May 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

[NOTE: Due to an error in the automated publishing schedule, this planned fifth part of the series “Introduction to Libertarianism” did not get published.]

Franz Oppenheimer discussed the history of taxation in his book The State. Taxation evolved from tribute paid to a conquering people by those whom the conquerors vanquished. The tribute was typically paid in the form of crops, women, or natural resources. In return, the conquerors gave their former foes protection from brigands and other, rogue tribes. And, if the tribute was not paid, the conquerors employed the use of force and coercion to achieve payment.

Today, the American state functions in the same manner.

If an American fails to render his “share” of tribute to the American state, the state may fine or jail the tax resister and even holds the power to use lethal force to enforce bringing the resister to a “court” where he will, with almost 100% certainty, be found liable for the delinquent tax and the fine or prison term.

Size matters!

If a lone gunman appeared at your doorstep and demanded that you hand over a percentage of your weekly earnings, on his stated penalty that your failure to do so may get you shot, you would properly label his conduct as “armed robbery”.

Theft, whether committed by 1, 10, 250, 10,000, or 300,000,000 robbers remains theft.

Theft is wrong.

In the case of the American state, the lone gunman is not a single criminal. He is the (un)lawful representative of a mob, clamoring for a part of his ill-gained loot.

The mob rationalizes its illegal theft of property by saying they promise to do “good” things with the money they stole from the rightful owner. They will build roads, schools, and hospitals. They will pay teachers, soldiers, and firemen.

The taxpayer is expected to validate the state’s rationalization of its theft, despite the state’s insistence that such rationalization for the benefit of the privately motivated robber is “wrong”.

Even if the lone robber promises to give your stolen money to the poor, the state would insist that the robber be punished for his thievery.

As usual, the state exempts itself from its own definition of criminal conduct.

“Without taxes, there would be no public works or societal benefits!”

That is simply not true.

If hospitals, schools, and public roads are “good things”, people will be willing to contribute to the building of those things. Coercion by the state is only necessary because people fail to see the benefit of a public project, most often because the project is either unnecessary…or perceived as wasteful.

Under the current system, the political representatives of the people exchange confiscated wealth for votes. They simply calculate for a majority to support a public work, support it, and then go about confiscating wealth to achieve that work.

Imagine if a representative were stripped of all coercive power to tax.

A senator or congressman would be forced to appeal to the people that a public project was needed, and then, gain promises from individuals or financial institutions to fund the project.

Citizens who do not contribute to the work, would derive no benefit from it.

Consequently, if you wanted to use a public road, you would have to prove that you made a contribution to its construction and maintenance. No proof of contribution? You can’t use the road.

Government role is currently too broad.

A key point of libertarianism holds that the only legitimate functions of government are:  1) national defense, and, 2) protection of individual constitutional rights.

Prior to the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment that gave rise to the federal income tax, America was a prosperous nation. In 1900, Americans enjoyed world status with regard to standard of living and per capita wealth. Americans were educated, there were private hospitals (funded by local doctors), and there was public sanitation and roadways.

Upon the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, the only thing that grew…

…was the size of the federal government.

Today, there is no aspect of private life that is untouched by the federal state.

When the state is expected (by the mob) to influence every aspect of private life, the cost of maintaining that influence is magnified.

Myth: “Without taxation we would have no national defense.”

Libertarians assert that a national defense endowment fund would adequately finance a military needed solely for national defense.

How would a national defense endowment fund work?

The United States would sell its current assets in land, resources, and infrastructure to private buyers. The proceeds of these sales would establish the core of the national endowment fund. The federal government could then sell bonds to individuals based on borrowing from private institutions. Individuals would be encouraged to make voluntary contributions to the national defense fund.

Would it work?

Yes. But the military would be greatly restricted to a self-defense role only. There would be no use of the military for “nation building” or for imperialistic adventures and conquest.

The United States would be forced to live peacefully with other nations and the peace would rely on diplomacy, instead of military coercion.

Presidents would no longer be enthroned as “the most powerful warlords in history”.

Libertarian goals for the future.

Libertarians realize that taxation is a coercive and violent system. Coercion and violence are immoral acts. Immoral acts do not become moral acts simply because the majority approves of the immorality.

If democracy is a good thing, it would not be viewed necessary to spread it at the tip of a bayonet.

America would become a peaceful citizen of the world and a towering example to other nations of what can be accomplished when government respects the rights of its citizens and disdains the use of coercion and violence to achieve “good” goals.

Under such a system, Americans would jealously guard their nation from attack by predatory nations. There would be no need for a military draft, as citizens would understand the need for military service without threat of fines or imprisonment. Conscription, in times of national emergency, would be unnecessary.

Instead of coercive taxation, citizens would pay use fees to the owners of public roads in order to travel on them. The owners of public infrastructure would have an inviolable duty to maintain their infrastructure as a condition of being able to charge use fees to citizens. Those who trespass on privately owned roads without paying the owner his due use fee would find themselves subject to civil law as trespassers. The civil penalties paid by trespassers would benefit the owner of public infrastructure, and not the state.

In short, for nearly forty years, Libertarians have struggled to eliminate coercion and violence from American government.

It is long past time to eliminate the coercive, American taxation system.