The fatman chronicles--all hope renounce, ye lost, who enter here

"If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules."--Patterico's Pledge

Friday, December 16, 2005

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

So I was listening to KDKA (AM 1020) in the 'burgh, trying to get a weather report ahead of yesterday's snow storm, and I happened to tune in near the beginning of Fred Honsberger's show.

Fred's a conservative, as am I. But he's also a smug, arrogant, self-satisfied...jerk. I almost never listen to him and usually end up regretting it when I do. But this time was different. This time, he actually said something that made sense.

Now property tax relief is a hot-button issue here in PA, and probably around the country. What Fred suggested was this: let's tax porn.

Now those who know me well will undoubtedly be surprised to hear me endorse this idea (don't bother asking why; I ain't talkin'). But aside from state sales taxes (if you buy it at a porn shop and a few on-line purveyors) and of course personal and corporate income taxes, the porn industry doesn't really pay taxes on its sales the way companies that sell, say, gasoline or cigarettes or alcoholic beverages do. So why not?

In fact, the only problem I had with the idea was that Honsberger didn't take it far enough. He proposed a twenty-five percent federal tax on porn sales which, according to Fred, amount to twelve billion dollars a year. That would bring in three billion a year, which the porn makers would simply pass on to the consumer. And of course the states could enact their own taxes as well. That's chicken feed. We need to go further. We need to legalize prostitution, gambling and most forms of recreational drugs as well, and tax them!

Think about it for a minute. We're already halfway there with gambling. Nearly every state has a lottery and lots of states allow horse racing, dog racing and off-track-betting. How difficult would it be to go the whole hog and legalize sports betting, full fledged casinos (instead of the slots parlors PA is legalizing) or anything else people might want to bet on? Why let Nevada and Atlantic City monopolize the market?

As for prostitution, the only difference between taking a woman (or a man, for that matter) out to dinner, buying them expensive gifts, taking them to movies, etc. and instead just handing them the money to do with as they please is that you cut out the middleman (or woman, as the case may be).

Now don't misunderstand me; I'm not equating what I've just described with trying to establish a long-term relationship. That's something entirely different. But how many of you have gone out with someone that you just knew wasn't Ms. (or Mr.) Right, but was Ms. (or Mr.; ain't political correctness a hoot?) Right now?

The most controversial proposal (and one I didn't get to talk about with Honsberger; the twit hung up on me) is drug legalization. Yes, I know what it's like to live with someone who abuses drugs or alcohol (both of my grandfathers and all three of my brothers) and I'm here to tell you that the fact that drugs are illegal didn't stop them, or even slow them down. All drug Prohibition does is make a pile of money for a lot of Black, Hispanic and Asian gang-bangers. Just as alcohol Prohibition made a lot of money for a lot of Italian, Jewish and Irish mobsters. Proof, I guess, that you can be a scumbag no matter what your religious, racial or ethnic background.

Now I'm not saying let's legalize all drugs. Hallucinogenics like LSD, PCP, methamphetamine and the like are too dangerous. And the date rape drugs (GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine) serve no useful purpose except to facilitate sexual assault. But marijuana, hashish, even heroin and cocaine (including crack)? Go for it. If someone wants to destroy their brains and bodies with that garbage, then who are we to say they can't? Hopefully, they'll be too busy getting stoned to procreate, which has got to be good for the gene pool.

Full disclosure: While I did occasionally drink before I was twenty-one, I've never had a drinking "problem". I didn't like getting drunk because I usually ended up saying or doing something stupid. After one such episode over the July 4th weekend in 1986, I said "to hell with this" and quit. I haven't had a drink since. And I've never even tried recreational drugs. Not so much as a hit off of a joint. As for pharmaceuticals, most of the "good stuff" like Vicodan, Percodin, morphine and Dilaudid (all of which I've used after various surgeries) either raised my blood pressure to unacceptable levels or made me toss my cookies. So I'm not interested in legalizing this crap for my own use.

I'm not going to pretend to know how much money in taxes we'd bring in under my plan. It would, I suspect, run into the billions. Maybe tens of billions. More importantly, it would give us control over these so-called "victim-less crimes" that we just don't have now. It would also save us the cost of trying to enforce unenforcable laws and running these losers through the criminal justice system. And if you don't believe that, just ask yourself this: which worked better, the Prohibition of alcohol, or the legalization and regulation of alcohol?

Calling David Letterman

Mark at Decision '08 has come up with a list of the Top Ten reactions to the Iraqi elections by commenters at the Daily Kos. And the funniest (or maybe saddest) part is, they're all real. Check it out.

Monday, December 12, 2005

What's Dave Littlefield Up To?

(Ed. note--This is the first in an occasional series about my hometown baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you don't like baseball and/or the Pirates, you'll want to skip this one.)

The Pirates' general manager, Dave Littlefield, was fairly busy during the recent Winter Meetings in Dallas, either making, or laying the groundwork for the following deals:

He traded disappointing LHP Mark Redman (and all of his 4.5 million dollar salary) to Kansas City for two minor league pitching prospects, RHPs Jonah Bayliss and Chad Blackwell.

He traded INF/OF Rob Mackowiak to Chicago for LHP Damaso Marte, one of the better setup men in the majors.

He released disappointing Ty Wigginton, his Opening Day starter at 3B, to make room for Victor Santos, a journeyman RHP taken in the Rule 5 Draft.

He appears to have agreed to a one year deal with 41 year-old RHP Roberto Hernandez, who's coming off a pretty good season with the Mets.

But the deal that has everyone talking was the one announced Thursday, when the Bucs made it official: they had traded LHP Dave Williams, who battled back from shoulder surgery in 2002 to post the best record of any member of the Bucs' Opening Day starting rotation, for Cincinnati Reds 1B Sean Casey, a Pittsburgh native.

Now Sean Casey is, by all accounts, a genuinely nice guy, a team leader and a great clubhouse presence. Being a hometown boy, he's the perfect goodwill ambassador for the team. On the field, he's a lifetime .305 hitter and the best defensive first baseman the Pirates have had since Kevin Young still had knees. And yet...

He'll also be thirty-two by the end of the '06 season, and a free agent. While he does hit for average, in eight full seasons in the majors, he's only hit twenty or more HRs three times, never more than twenty-five, and he hit nine last year (playing with a shoulder injury that Littlefield had better pray has healed). He's never had one hundred RBI in a single year (he has had ninety-nine a couple of times). And he'll be payed eight-and-one-half million dollars in '06 (the Reds are picking up some of that). And it isn't as if the Pirates didn't have other options at first base.

There's hot prospect Brad Eldred, who hit twelve HRs and had twenty-seven RBI in one-hundred-ninety at bats last year. Of course he also hit just .221 and struck out seventy-seven times, so maybe he's not quite ready yet. But what about Craig Wilson?

Last year was a lost year for Craig. He got off to a slow start, then tore a muscle in his left hand and ended up on the disabled list. Less than a week after he was re-activated from the DL. he was hit by a pitch in the same hand, suffered a broken finger and it was back on the DL. Still, some comparisons are possible:

In one-hundred-ninety-seven at bats last year Craig had five HR, twenty-two RBI and a .264 BA. And he strikes out a lot: sixty-nine times compared to forty-eight times in five-hundred-twenty-nine AB for Casey. But his slugging percentage (.421) was about the same as Casey's (.423), while his on-base-percentage (.387) was higher than Casey's (.371). And while Casey is easily the better of the two defensively, it would be interesting to see what Craig could do if he were allowed to concentrate on one position instead of having to check the lineup card to see which glove he needs that day. And he did hit twenty-nine HRs and had eighty-two RBI in '04.

Now I'm not suggesting that Craig Wilson is the long-term answer for the Pirates at first base; Brad Eldred is (we hope). But neither is Sean Casey. Which is why I can't figure out why Littlefield, whose Grail is pitching, would trade his most successful starter (even if he was the fifth starter) for a player who (hopefully, if Eldred develops as planned) will be a one year rental. Especially given the Pirates' desperation at third base and in right field.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ruffled Feathers

Over at Random Numbers, bullwinkle is having more fun with PhotoShop.