Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homeland Security

Business Trip
Originally uploaded by christophercraig
I had my bags searched in New York's La Guardia Airport yesterday and I must say it was on the whole a fairly decent experience. The TSA employees I have dealt with in Atlanta have all been jerks who act like a playground bully that just had the teacher put them in charge. This agent told me he needed to search my bag and asked if I wanted to have a seat and put my shoes and belt back on before he started. He then, extremely politely pulled everything out of my camera bag (body, two lenses, remote triggers, optical slave, two strobes, roll of gaff, mini-tripod, two umbrella swivels, CPL filter, rosco sample pack) scanned it for explosives, and carefully put all of it back exactly how he got it out, including facing the same direction. (It ends up the problem was my too-big-for-the-current-regulations toothpaste tube was under the camera bag and the camera had nothing to do with it).

I still oppose the very existence of a TSA and think most of their regulations are inane (particularly searching pilots. What are they going to do, take over the plane?) But this particular member of their staff was extremely professional and I'm appreciative.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hollywood types pledging

I don't know how many of you have seen the pointless ad with various hollywood types, many of whom have been a thorn in the side of the previous administration, pledging to do something under Obama (most of which they could just as easily have done under Bush). If you haven't, don't bother.

It isn't the point of this post to bring up the fact that, unlike those featured in the ad, conservatives will do their best to support an administration they disagree with in keeping us safe from terrorism and succeeding in bringing back the economy (though certainly they will vocally oppose many of his policies, especially domestically), but I have to point it out. My point is in a particular pledge (voiced in several ways): Someone I don't know pledges to "work to make good the 200 year old promise to end slavery", Demi Moore pledges to "free one million people from slavery", and Ashton Kutcher pledges to "the abolition of 21st century slavery".

Are they going to personally take up arms against nations (including China) that have never attacked us so that they can end slavery? Or do they think they can make a movie that will finally (after not 200, but thousands, of years) bring an end to slavery in the world (and if so, why didn't they do it decades ago)? This strikes me a bit like the stupid "Free Tibet" bumper stickers progressives like to sport. I've frequently wondered what would happen if an administration casually announced "We've decided the Free Tibet people are right, and we're mobilizing our armed forces to start a war with China in order to free Tibet."

First Thoughts on President Obama

Like every President (I think), Obama's first official act was a speech. So far that's all I have to go on, and I have to say that if I believed his rhetoric I would have voted for him over McCain.
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.
If he's serious about this he would be the first President since Reagan to attempt to end programs. For all the complaining about Bush cutting schooling, the budget of the Department of Education has grown from 38 million in 2000 to 68 million in 2008. I'm not aware of any major program that was even requested to be cut under Bush. McCain was good on earmarks, but he has never been a strong fiscal conservative so I imagine he also would not have significantly cut established programs.

This is not to say Obama is Coolidge, Reagan, or even JFK:

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
The crisis has not reminded me, at least, that economic freedom without the watchful eye of government can spin out of control. Certainly quasi-governmental agencies underwriting housing over whom Congress refuses to exercise proper oversight, mostly at the steadfast objections of Barney Frank, are problematic, but that's a problem with fascism not freedom. The biggest problem in this collapse was a corporation entirely controlled by the government. There's a name for an economic system where the government controls corporations, and it's not "capitalism".

Having said that, though, I wish Obama luck. If he really wants to implement much of what he talked about in his speech he has a big fight coming and I'll happily side with him against Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank.