Posts tagged ‘Memorial Day’

Where's Coyote?

As most of you may know, our company privately operates public parks.  Just before Memorial Day, our largest contract (which covers a lot of our overhead) was shut down by a fire in the Sedona area.  Since that time, our landlord the US Forest Service has announced it is going to keep all of these locations closed indefinitely out of fear of flash flooding (fire-damaged hillsides create a lot more runoff in eve light rain due to loss of ground cover and chemical changes in the soil that make it less permeable).  I think they are over-reacting, but it is not my decision to make.

The result of this is I have been in total operational scrambling mode and may remain so for a while, reducing the amount of blogging I do.

Memorial Day Icebergs

Taken from a campground we operate in the UP of Michigan on Lake Superior, the white stuff is ice on the lake on May 28

click to enlarge

Gee, I Wonder Why Teen Unemployment Is So High?

I just opened a summer-seasonal camping business in Washington state.  Given that I mainly need relatively unskilled help landscaping and cleaning up from Memorial Day to Labor Day, one would think that this would be a natural place for high school kids to look for work.

Well, check out my new Washington business license.   This is not something unusual for me, it's the standard form issued to all businesses.  Check out the last line.

You can do anything you want, but for God sakes don't employ any high school kids over the summer.

Sorry teens.  I don't know what kind of special application is required to get the state's permission to employ you, and I don't have time to find out -- particularly since whatever additional license to hire teenagers that I need to obtain is likely to entail all kinds of onerous special rules and reporting requirements.

Update:  I get asked this a lot when I post such business licenses.  "Foreign Profit Corporation" does not mean that I am based in Sri Lanka, "foreign" in this context means that my original corporate registration is in another state.

I will give kudos to WA state on one dimension -- most states will issue me separate numbers for my withholding account, my sales tax account, my workers comp account, my unemployment account, my secretary of state registration, etc.  WA issues a single number for everything.

First Flight of the Summer

Well, it's my first airline flight of the summer, and, as usual, I have forgotten how awful it is to fly between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  And it is not just the crowds.  I hate to sound overly misanthropic, but summer is when all the folks who have never been on an airplane show up at the security station right in front of me.  It is amazing how long a family of four who has no clue how airport security works can hold up an X-ray line.  Of course, this being the vacation season government employees, capacity actually was lower today (fewer X-ray lines open) to meet the higher demand.

Update: Perfect weather in Phoenix and at my destination in Denver.  So of course we have a 2-hour air traffic hold.

Thoughts on the Fourth of July

I was going to write a Fourth of July post, but it kept looking like my past Memorial Day effort, so, since I am in France and ready to go consume more food, I will take a shortcut this holiday:

Every Memorial Day, I am assaulted with various quotes from people
thanking the military for fighting and dying for our right to vote.  I
would bet that a depressing number of people in this country, when
asked what their most important freedom was, or what made America
great, would answer "the right to vote."

Now, don't get me wrong, the right to vote in a representative
democracy is great and has proven a moderately effective (but not
perfect) check on creeping statism.  A democracy, however, in and of
itself can still be tyrannical.  After all, Hitler was voted into power
in Germany, and without checks, majorities in a democracy would be free
to vote away anything it wanted from the minority - their property,
their liberty, even their life.   Even in the US, majorities vote to curtail the rights of minorities all the time, even when those minorities are not impinging on anyone else.  In the US today, 51% of the population have voted to take money and property of the other 49%.

In my mind, there are at least three founding principles of the
United States that are far more important than the right to vote:

  • The Rule of Law.  For about 99% of human
    history, political power has been exercised at the unchecked capricious
    whim of a few individuals.  The great innovation of western countries
    like the US, and before it England and the Netherlands, has been to
    subjugate the power of individuals to the rule of law.  Criminal
    justice, adjudication of disputes, contracts, etc. all operate based on
    a set of laws known to all in advance.

Today the rule of law actually faces a number of threats in this
country.  One of the most important aspects of the rule of law is that
legality (and illegality) can be objectively determined in a repeatable
manner from written and well-understood rules.  Unfortunately, the
massive regulatory and tax code structure in this country have created
a set of rules that are subject to change and interpretation constantly at
the whim of the regulatory body.  Every day, hundreds of people and
companies find themselves facing penalties due to an arbitrary
interpretation of obscure regulations (examples I have seen personally here).

  • Sanctity and Protection of Individual Rights.
    Laws, though, can be changed.  In a democracy, with a strong rule of
    law, we could still legally pass a law that said, say, that no one is
    allowed to criticize or hurt the feelings of a white person.  What
    prevents such laws from getting passed (except at major universities)
    is a protection of freedom of speech, or, more broadly, a recognition
    that individuals have certain rights that no law or vote may take
    away.  These rights are typically outlined in a Constitution, but are
    not worth the paper they are written on unless a society has the desire
    and will, not to mention the political processes in place, to protect
    these rights and make the Constitution real.   

even in the US, we do a pretty mixed job of protecting individual
rights, strongly protecting some (like free speech) while letting
others, such as property rights or freedom of association, slide. 

  • Government is our servant.
    The central, really very new concept on which this country was founded
    is that an individual's rights do not flow from government, but are
    inherent to man.  That government in fact only makes sense to the
    extent that it is our servant in the defense of our rights, rather than
    as the vessel from which these rights grudgingly flow.

of all stripes have tried to challenge this assumption over the last
100 years.   While their exact details have varied, every statist has
tried to create some larger entity to which the individual should be
subjugated:  the Proletariat, the common good, God, the master race.
They all hold in common that the government's job is to sacrifice one
group to another.  A common approach among modern statists is to create
a myriad of new non-rights to dilute and replace our fundamental rights
as individuals.  These new non-rights, such as the "right" to health
care, a job, education, or even recreation, for god sakes, are
meaningless in a free society, as they can't exist unless one
person is harnessed involuntarily to provide them to another person.
These non-rights are the exact opposite of freedom, and in fact require
enslavement and sacrifice of one group to another.

Don't believe that this is what statists are working for? The other day I saw this quote from the increasingly insane Lou Dobbs (Did you ever suspect that Lou got pulled into a room a while back by some strange power broker as did Howard Beale in Network?):

Our population explosion not only detracts from our quality of life but
threatens our liberties and freedom as well. As Cornell's Pimentel puts
it, "Back when we had, say, 100 million people in the U.S., when I
voted, I was one of 100 million people. Today, I am one of 285 million
people, so my vote and impact decreases with the increase in the
population." Pimentel adds, "So our freedoms also go down the drain."

In a society with a rule of law protecting individual rights, how does
having a diluted vote reduce your freedom?  The only way it does, and therefore what must be in the author's head, is if
one looks at government as a statist tug of war, with various parties
jockeying for a majority so they can plunder the minority.  But in this
case, freedom and rule of law are already dead, so what does a
dilution of vote matter?  He is arguing that dilution of political
power reduces freedom -- this country was rightly founded on just the
opposite notion, that freedom requires a dilution of political power.

At the end of the day, our freedoms in this country will only last
so long as we as a nation continue to hold to the principle that our
rights as individuals are our own, and the government's job is to
protect them, not to ration them.  Without this common belief, all the
other institutions we have discussed, from voting to the rule of law to
the Constitution, can be subverted in time.

So to America's soldiers, thank you.  Thank you for protecting this
fragile and historically unique notion that men and women own
themselves and their lives.

Best of Coyote VI

Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me?  Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging.  Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught.  Instead, though, I will share them as my best of

Enough!  This series has slid well past the point of narcisism.   It has been fun setting this up, much like setting the light timers before I go away on a trip (for those that don't know, Typepad allows one to cue up posts with a series of future dates on which these posts appear.  I am actually typing this on Wednesday night.  The thought of light timers gets me thinking of home improvement, so in that spirit I will end with "Pocket Doors and My Manhood"

Our bathroom has a pocket door to save space - that's one of those doors that slide on a hidden rail in and out of the wall.
From time to time, usually because my kids go slamming into it, the
door comes off its rails and gets jammed, which is a problem as it can
bottleneck some very critical facilities.

The first time this happened, I tried to get it back on its track,
but I just could not.  The track is up in the wall and it is almost
impossible due to the lack of clearance to do anything with it.  I
checked in the Yellow Pages and saw there was actually a company that
specialized in pocket door repairs, so I called them out.  Well, Joe
(or whoever) shows up with his little tool kit, looks at the door for a
second, grabbed it in a certain way, and then gave it a quick jerk -
kabam - and it was back in its tracks.  It took him like 5 seconds. 

Well, there I stood, completely unmanned, right in front of my
laughing wife and family, by Joe the visible butt-crack guy.  Bummer.

Since that time, I have had the door come untracked two or three
times.  Thinking to save me further embarrassment, my wife tends to ask
any passing stranger to come in and fix it.  I can sit there for hours
fighting the thing, and then my wife brings in the guy painting the
house - kabam - fixed.  Next time she brought in the 60+ year old sales
guy who happened to be there - kabam - fixed.  I swear, if Paris Hilton
was dropping by for a visit she could probably fix that damn door.  It
is humiliating.

Well, this time I would not allow my wife get someone else to fix
it.  Every night, for about 10 minutes, I would take my innings with
the door, struggling to do what everyone else seemed to have learned at
birth.  I actually suggested to my wife that we should call out a
contractor and tear the thing out and install a real door.  She
suggested instead that she could have our 13-year-old baby sitter come
in from the other room to fix it.  Finally, tonight, when I was about
to give up, I tried holding it in a slightly different way and - Kabam
- fixed.  God I feel great.  My manhood is restored and I am at the top
of the world.

In case my plane is late and I can't blog on Monday - happy Memorial Day and many thanks to all those who have served in our country's military.