This has to stop.

28 08 2009

I don’t know how many times I’ve bellowed, enraged, “this has to stop” in my lifetime; no matter the number, it seems like the frequency has been increasing in the past year or two.  The latest trigger?  News that, within three years, the FDA is expected to require graphic warning labels on cigarette packages.

Like this.

Disgusted?  Good.  You should be.  Insulted?  No?  You should be.

Disgusted? Good. You should be. Insulted? No? You should be.

That’s a Canadian label.  Many countries, from Australia to Brazil to the UK, require a similar graphic warning.  Others require large text warnings instead. Decaying teeth aren’t the only images proposed or present on packs around the world;

I know defending smoking is tantamount to defending the Holocaust (hey!  Why not just put pictures of concentration camp victims on cigarette packs while we’re at it?), and I don’t even know why tobacco regulation sends me into such a righteous fury.  Maybe it’s the rank hypocrisy of the whole thing.  Jesus hated hypocrites too, after all, so it’s cool.  You see, the government is more addicted to nicotine than any four-pack-a-day smoker is:

This is way outdated; with the massive federal tobacco tax hike from earlier this year, the government profit section has swelled while all other areas remainded (relatively) constant.

This is way outdated; with the massive federal tobacco tax hike from earlier this year, the government profit section has swelled while all other areas remainded (relatively) constant.

If cigarettes were sooo terrible for the “public health,” the infallibly benevolent government could have simply banned them.  But like a strung-out junkie, government depends on people’s addiction to nicotine for its next fix.

But politicians like to have their cake and eat it too.  Flavors (other than menthol, thanks to the Congressional Black Caucus) are soon to be banned; nicotine levels will be regulated (oddly, nicotine, the addictive substance, not tar, the harmful substance, will be controlled); packs will be so repulsive looking that most smokers will probably begin mentally blocking all warning labels out of revuslsion.  Big tobacco companines, realizing that their market share is not threatened by regulations, will gladly co-author ever more restrive legislation.  And polticians’ wallets will get fat by extorting ever-larger sums of money from smokers while paying lip service to an anti-smoking agenda.

There’s something deeply wrong with all of this, though, and it’s not just government hipocrisy.  It’s the fact that the government is treating all of us like a bunch of children.  Perhaps that’s why I get royally steamed every time the government enacts some niggling little regulation like graphic cigarette warning lables, and merely righteously indignant when the same government nationalizes two automakers or loses track of billions of tax dollars given to banks.

When some idiot bureaucrat at the FDA uses some study conducted by some self-important morons with P.h.D.s to determine that it’s okay to demand private companies comply with arbitrary rules and regulations for my own safety, I feel truly insulted.  Smokers and non-smokers alike should see this blatant patronization for what it is, and realize that by mandating labels like the one pictured above, the government is effectively telling you that you are too damn stupid to make wise decisions on your own.

No, I’m not being hyperbolic.  That’s exactly what those bureaucratic slugs believe; they really think they know what’s best for you.  It you’re such a dunce that you feel safer with the FDA regulating tobacco, then that’s too bad, but don’t make me deal with your problems via government intervention.  If you think that you’re wise enough to make good decisions, but believe that the masses are too dumb to do so, then I think you have some projection issues that you’d best examine.

Incidentally, I’ve got an image that would be more effective than blackened lungs at deterring tobacco use.  And with the passing of the last of the Kennedy boys, I feel it would be a fitting tribute:

Nothing to do with smoking?  So what?  Regulation of tobacco doesn't seem to have much to do with smoking cessation either.

Nothing to do with smoking? So what? Regulation of tobacco doesn't seem to have much to do with smoking cessation either.

Teddy would rest sound in the knowledge that his image was advancing the public good, or something.

And since fast food is next after tobacco, we could put this image on every Big Mac and Whopper wrapper:


"Thanks, I think I'll just have some carrots"

Surely the government won’t let beer and liquor slip under the suffocating security blankie of protective regulation, so I propose that this image be affixed to every alcoholic beverage:

No rest for the wicked.

No rest for the wicked.

You wouldn’t even have to put a text warning lable on the pack/wrapper/bottle if those images were to be used; such a warning would only detract from the horrifying image of the old Lion’s man boobs.

Come to think of it, those labels would probably be too effective.  Those sin tax dollars aren’t going to extort themselves, after all.

Trip to Hillsdale, Part 1

27 08 2009

With the carburetor debacle close to resolution, I actually feel like writing something again.  Maybe I’ll get around to documenting what exactly happened with that, but I’d really like to get the new-old carburetor in place and I just secured the correct base gasket.  Work on that will begin later today…after I get this post up.

My switch from from the University of Michigan College of Engineering to LS&A and, eventually, the Department of Economics was the right thing to do, but it came at the cost of a great deal of existential angst, hair pulling, loss of sleep, etc.  All right, it wasn’t really that bad, but I have been asking myself whether I’m at the right school for undergraduate economics and, if not, what my other options are.

So yesterday, instead of sitting around moping about Ted Kennedy’s passing, I finally got around to visiting Hillsdale College with my mom and sister.  It’s a decision I’m glad I made—though it further muddles my future plans.

I didn’t really sit down with an admissions adviser, instead opting to set up an appointment with an economics professor to discuss that program…which was more or less everything I was looking for in an undergraduate econ program and everything that I wasn’t going to get exposed to at U of M.  For example, each student is required to take two semesters on the history of economic thought; the only similar course offered at U of M is taught by a professor who, though I’m sure is probably intelligent, has only a picture of himself standing in front of a monument to Karl Marx, beaming, on his faculty web page.  I’ve scanned his published works; the picture was not for ironic impact.

I was told that if were to transfer after this semester at U of M, I would have to be at Hillsdale for four more semesters because of certain prerequisites I couldn’t avoid.  Like the class on the Constitution—the kind of class that I searched the course catalogs at U of M for and couldn’t find.

Moreover, if a class on the Constitution was to be taught at U of M, it would probably be called something like “Documents from Dead White Men: a Marxist-Feminist Analysis of the Most Oppressive System of Government, Ever.”  I did not disagree with the professor I talked to when he told me that I would enjoy the academic environment at Hillsdale more than that of Ann Arbor.  An example: the library at U of M has a handful of works by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, who (along with the existence of the entire Austrian school of economics) is never once mentioned in my last econ textbook.  The library at Hillsdale, on the other hand, was chosen by Mises himself to receive his personal collection after his death.

What really made the biggest impression on me, though, was the professor’s deft analysis of the issues with undergraduate education at large public universities—issues which U of M cannot escape.  I’m sure I’ve heard this explained somewhere before, but the reminder comes at what is a crucial juncture for me.  One often hears about how well-respected the University of Michigan Department of Economics is, and articles and scholarly works from around the world cite research that the Department produces.  What one often doesn’t realize is that graduate economics program is the well respected side of the Department; the undergraduate side is merely adequate.  This is equally applicable for the well-respected Political Science Department, etc.  I didn’t notice this while I was in engineering, because most engineering departments do not have prominent graduate studies departments.  How many civil engineers work to get their PhDs?

The reasoning behind this focus on graduates is easily explained in economic turns.  The opportunity cost of catering to undergraduates is much higher that the cost of devoting time and resources to graduate students, since graduate students produce the research and win the department acclaim (and grants?).  So it’s understandable, but unhelpful to me as an undergraduate.

This is getting long, so I’ll break it up into a second post.  Hillsdale certainly has it’s advantages, but it has numerous downsides as well.  I’ll get around to those after I get this carburetor installed…

Yesterday was not the best day

21 08 2009

I destroyed a carburetor, failed to get a parking spot, etc…I know this will all be insignificant with perspective, but at the moment I’m not feeling all that philosophical.

In fact…



…sums it up pretty nicely.

I think I might take a picture of the carburetor and post it later, since unless you know what exactly broke (one of the fuel ports) you can’t fully appreciate my fury.

For future reference:

19 08 2009

If you’re going to rip out your carburetor and tear it completely apart, you should probably wait until you already have the rebuild kit on hand.

The Wagoneer has a Motorcraft two-barrel carb that I decided to tear down yesterday. I’m not really sure why I thought I could put it back together without buying a rebuild kit, but hey, I tend to learn things the hard way. Fortunately, I’ll have one by 9:30 tomorrow morning; it turns out that Motorcraft built carbs for both Ford and AMC, and the particular model I’m dealing with was used, in one form or another, since 1957. Yeah, I’m using the same carburetor as the Edsel, for what that’s worth.

Anyhow, this gives me some time to do general engine maintenance. The Dream Cruise run was a success, with no overheating, but I’d like to get the heat problem (I guess AMC engines, though considered “bulletproof,” are known for this) under control. Novak sells some pretty cool radiators designed specifically for Jeeps:



Of course, I can’t find an official published price, but indications point to such things being pretty affordable.  I also want to get some real, metal gas cans (a.k.a. “Jerry Cans”) to keep around in case of emergency or if I want to go off roading.  They also look cool.

Maybe something like this, but with less Toyota FJ?

Maybe something like this, but with less Toyota FJ?

I’ve got some (actually, a lot) of pictures to post, but my camera is temporarily out of my possession. Long story. In the meantime I’m going to tinker around with the Jeep; I figure that since I don’t have a working carburetor, I can’t do any real damage until I try to start it back up tomorrow.

Back downstate, for a while at least

15 08 2009

It’s been quite a while since I’ve bothered to post anything.  That’s largely because it’s been quite while since I’ve been home.  I’d probably still be on the lake, relaxing and not writing blog posts but for the siren song of irresponsibly large engines, dual exhausts (both real and fake), screeching tires, and police cars pulling over and ticketing anyone who so much as thought about making their tires screech;  I enjoyed my time at the cottage, but Dream Cruise attendance is paramount to working on my tan.

I never did get around to posting anything from the internet cafe in Naubinway.  That’s largely because nothing much happened.  In fact, in recounting the past few weeks is more of an exercise in describing what didn’t transpire than anything else.

For example:

•I didn’t get the Cato internship I’d been hoping for.  I’ll be applying again for next year (quitters never win &c.).  In the mean time, it’s back to Ann Arbor.

•I didn’t have enough beer or liquor on hand to drown my crushing disappointment in, so I instead starting reading voraciously.

•My outboard motor didn’t run reliably.  It did, however, run just long enough to get me stuck in the middle of a lake as the sun was going down.  More on that to follow.

•I didn’t start reading Human Action.  I’m a bit afraid to pick it up and crack it open, to be perfectly honest; it’s pretty daunting.   But I did read The Great Austrian Economists, which explained the evolution of the free-market Austrian School from the 16th century onward.

•I didn’t know the Wagoneer could go that fast.

•I didn’t get pulled over by the State Trooper hiding in the bushes on southbound I-75 yesterday.  Maybe my speedometer is just really optimistic.

•Many other things simply didn’t happen, leaving me a good deal of time to cook, shoot the rifles, and relax.

But today is the Dream Cruise.  Last night I rode in the newly splatter-painted Wrangler, and I’ll be going back again this afternoon.  I’m about to head out and wash the Wagoneer—it’s not muddy enough for the “my truck is so raw, I drive on gravel roads sometimes and rarely go to the carwash” look, but it’s too dusty to be presentable in my mind.

Fittingly, it’s about four hundred degrees here, and will probably be about five hundred on Woodward.  That’s why I’m waiting to go until later, in contrast with every other year where I’ve fried my brain walking around at the hottest possible part of the day.  Also I don’t want the Wagoneer to catch fire.  The temperature gauge is broken, which is probably for the best.  I need not know that the engine compartment  has reached shuttle reentry heat levels.

Finally, when I went to check the weather for Royal Oak to see what to expect at the cruise, I got an “Air Quality Alert for Oakland County.”  Basically, since it’s hot or something, you’re supposed to:


…and presumably idling your catalytic converter-less cars for hours on end on a glorious ten-mile-long parking lot.  I think I speak for all of the Cruise attendees when I say bite me, National Weather Service.