Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Heartfelt Wedding Thanks

We're back! The new wife and I had a wonderful wedding over Memorial Day weekend. I want to thank all of my good friends for attending. Each of you supplied a piece of what makes me who I am today. To my family for being there to support me, and my mom and sisters for putting on a fun-filled dinner on wedding-eve. A big thanks to you all! I also want to extend a special "shout out" to my new family, particularly my mother-in-law who was instrumental in fashioning for us a wedding beyond our wildest dreams. Thanks to all who came and all who contributed. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! Posted by Hello

Monday, May 23, 2005

I Do

This Saturday, May 28 will mark the culmination of nearly a year of planning, praying, frustrating times, but a lot of excitement. It all started here, overlooking the Carribean, on June 27, 2004.

This coming weekend, my life will change forever. I was strangely not nervous the night I asked my fiance to marry me. I am not nervous now. Nothing has ever seemed so right. We have been looking forward to this date for nearly a year. It is a date with implications for a lifetime. That is what we will commit to each other for, and that is what we will achieve, through patience, respect, hard work, and love.

Here's to you, babe! I will love you forever! Posted by Hello

Indy Five-Hunnert

Wedding Weekend is Indy 500 weekend as well. This is a scene from last year's stunted race. I'm not sure what was more fun, watching cars fly around the track at 200 mph or dodging the tornadoes on the way home! Like last year, my money is on Helio Castroneves...only because I don't know any other racers' names. Posted by Hello

Another Brief Hiatus

Tomorrow night begins the long journey to Indiana for my wedding this weekend. After work, it's off to a couple hours of bar review class before I hop in the car and make the 2+ hour drive to Silver Spring, MD, the staging point for my 6:30am flight out of Dulles to Indianapolis Wednesday morning.

This being the case, don't expect any posts after this evening until next week. I don't think the future wife would be too happy if I frittered the last moments before the wedding away in front of a glowing computer screen when so much remains to be done.

As you may have also gathered, bar review starts tomorrow night. This means blogging will be at a bare minimum for the next two months. But that's just blogging by me. I will have a very special guest blogger posting in my near absence, so keep checking us out.

Next time I post, I'll be a married man. Wow.

Box Of Books

Just returned from picking up my bar review books. What a flood of memories it brought back!

Anyone who has gone through bar review knows about that 200 lb. box of books they hand you as part of your "Convisor Multi-State" review, plus additional state review materials. As they handed me my box I remembered my first experience with this unweildy behemoth.

In 2003, I flew out to Chicago from Baltimore to 1) look for apartments, and 2) pick up my bar review materials. Unfortunately, I didn't proceed in this order. Upon arriving in Chicago, I headed straight for the local BarBri office to pick up my books. Little did I know, I would be handed a 200 lb. box of books. As I lugged the box outside and dropped it heavily on top of a corner trash can, I realized, this box is my ball and chain for the rest of the day. I was in for a workout.

While waiting for the hour of my interview with the apartment hunter to arrive I lugged my books from the Chicago Board of Trade building down to the art museum, stopping often to rest my arms. The box and I sat in the shade for a bit, eyeing each other with derision. Curious, I picked out a book and looked through it. Ugh. I put it back, and pulled out a book I was carrying for pleasure. It was a relationship built on mutual hatred from the start.

Eventually, the time arrived to move on. Up to Southport and School. I staggered from the museum to closest El station. After sitting on the box for a few minutes, the train arrived. Pick up box, again, get on train. Plop box on seat next to me. Observe weirdos.

Upon arriving at the Southport stop, I still had several blocks to walk. By this time, my arms were numb. Walk a block. Put down box. Pick up box. Walk a block or two. Put down box. Repeat.

I eventually made it to my interview. As my agent stood up to show me a few properties, I sheepishly said, what about the box? Toss it in the trunk, he said. So the box came with.

A few moments later, just behind Wrigley Field, I found what would later be home of 1 1/2 years. Mission accomplished. We checked out a few more properties for fun, then returned to the office. The agent opened the trunk, and, with great effort, I lifted out the box. We signed some more papers, and I had an apartment...but not for another couple of weeks. I was stuck with the box, for now. There was no escaping that day.


The box and I got up to leave. It was off to Elgin, a long El and Metra ride away. So it started again. Pick up box. Walk a couple blocks. Put down box. Repeat...

Message From HAL: Your Kid's Missing

I get home tonight and noticed there is a message on my answering machine. I push play. It's a computerized voice telling me my kid was missing from not one, but TWO periods at school today. Why that little runt!!! If he so much as misses one MORE...

What a second, I don't have any kids. When I get my hands on that computerized voice...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Wedding Countdown

Only eight days to go. Still working on the rehearsal and wedding details, attendees lists, etc. Lots to worry about. But still looking forward to it!

Your Friday Moment of Zen

Plate Creek Chickee, Everglades, FL. January 1, 2003. Posted by Hello

Socialism Continues Its Silent Quest To Eradicate Capitalism

One of the most basic principles of international trade is that all things being equal, the business with the cheapest means of production has the advantage over the business who must charge a higher price in order to recoup its higher costs. This principle underlies the outsourcing phenomenon: business are moving manufacturing and some services to countries offering lower taxes, wages, and transportation costs. Corporations want to attract buyers with lower prices for goods and services, and by locating certain facilities overseas, these corporations can offer the lower prices they desire.

The flip-side to this is the "unfair" advantage of government subsidization. Rather than submitting to whims of the market, governments subsidize certain "favored" industries, often those that are politically popular (university research), or ones that provide a degree of self-sufficiency (farming, steel) to the state. But what happens when a government in a competitive market subsidizes ALL businesses through its social welfare programs?

Unfortunately, sometimes the call is for more socialism!!

It had to happen. Some American business executives struggling to compete in the new global markets have come to the conclusion that the United States government should provide pensions and health care for their workers.

Read the whole thing.


Powerline posts about the most absurd and confusing reason to keep the filibuster:

But the ultimate folly, pointed out by Dafydd ab Hugh, was committed by the Congressional Black Caucus, which engaged in one of the weirdest bits of logical jujitsu I've seen in a long time:

Restricting the ability of Democrats to block final votes on several of
Bush's most controversial nominees "would be particularly offensive to people of
color," members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote Majority Leader Bill
Frist during the day. "All of the major legislation that today bars racial
discrimination in voting, employment and housing was passed after filibusters"
were broken, it said.

Dafydd writes:

Work with me on this... it would be "offensive to people of color" to break
the filibuster -- because "all of the major legislation that today bars racial
discrimination" was filibustered?
Did I miss a class?

It would be hard to think of a public issue that has caused as many bad arguments to be made as the debate over the filibuster, but this one is in a class by itself.

Another Tax Increase

I buy a house in Wilmington, and immediately the city increases property taxes by 6.9% (only after being negotiated down from a proposed 9.8% increase). Water and sewer rates will rise 15%. And I wonder, for what? How is this tax increase going to improve my life here in Wilmington, a city that appears to be having trouble attracting small businesses and that certain something that makes successful cities a fun place to live?

After reading that the Mayor of Wilmington, James Baker, advocated the higher end tax increase, I decided to check out his resume. You can find it here.

If you read this career summary without knowing who it belonged to, you might conclude that Mr. Baker is an official with the NAACP, rather than the mayor of a small city.

Reflecting Mr. Baker's belief in the value of history and culture, he has played a key role in a number of projects to preserve and promote the City's heritage. They include the restoration of the historic Mt. Olive and Mt. Zion Cemeteries, establishing the Heritage Gallery and Pauline Young Historical Collection at Howard High School, and the Historical Society of Delaware's "Opening the Door To Freedom" exhibition, which chronicled the sacrifices and contributions of Delaware's African-American Community. In 1989, he was responsible for creating the Civil Rights Commemorative Commission to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The permanent legacy of that Commission includes an extensive video and music collection at the Wilmington Institute Free Library.

Under his leadership, City memorials to Americans killed during World War II and the Korean War were erected. Also through Mr. Baker’s efforts, the City/County Government building was named in honor of Delaware's nationally renowned civil rights attorney, the late Louis L. Redding, with an inspiring statue of Mr. Redding commissioned to adorn the building. Mr. Baker’s initiatives also include the naming of the Peter Spencer Plaza and The Freedom Plaza, site of the City’s Holocaust Memorial and the commemorative naming of the Helen Chambers Park, Clifford Brown Walk, John Babiarz Park, Harriet Tubman/Thomas Garrett Riverfront Park, and the Brown-Burton-Winchester Park. Mayor Baker is also the author of “The Genuine American Music,” a two-volume encyclopedia of black musicians, which tells the story of black music in America through text, rare photos, and original illustrations.

So I ask again, regarding this tax increase: what benefit will I receive from it? Will it be name more parts of the city for members of certain ethnic groups? Will it be to restore more black churches around town? Will it be to promote more educational programs on black history?

Is this what passes for accomplishments of a city's mayor these days? What about crime reduction? Attraction of businesses? Improved economic opportunity? Cleaner streets?

Taxing the owners of land in the city (a practice as whole that I believe counter to the principle of ownership: aren't I just paying RENT to city?) is not the solution to building 1) a better city, or 2) better public relations. Wilmington has a huge problem with crime and drug abuse for such a small place. How about the mayor start taking his job seriously and protecting his citizens, rather than just throwing them the occasional race-based bone?

Tell us, what are your economic and crime-fighting accomplishments? Or is what your resume proclaims the best you can offer Wilmington? If so, you're better suited for a non-profit than leadership of a city that needs some serious work.

We Think Alike

The good Professor Bainbridge and I are in agreement regarding the motivations of states to control the distribution and importation of alcoholic beverages. Governments may talk about protecting minors (whatever happened to mom and dad?), but it's really about tax receipts and revenues. Like usual.

A recent empirical study by Gina Riekhof and Mike Sykuta finds that state direct shipping laws in fact are adopted mainly because of economic interests rather than public welfare factors like protecting minors.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Baseball's Best Voice

A guy named Curt Smith has apparently written a book listing his top 101 all-time best baseball announcers. Here is his top 10:

1. Vin Scully
2. Mel Allen
3. Ernie Harwell
4. Jack Buck
5. Red Barber
6. HarryCaray
7. Bob Prince
8. Jack Brickhouse
9. Dizzy Dean
10. Lindsay Nelson

Of the announcers on this list, I have heard Scully, Allen, Harwell, and Caray call games. There is no doubt that on voice alone, Scully and Allen deserve their spots. When I think of baseball announcers, they definitely spring to mind. Harry Carey will always be one of my favorites. I used to watch WGN a lot in college for Cubs games just to hear him. What would the seventh inning stretch be without "Uh one, Uh two, Uh three!"? Hey Hey and Holy Cow! (If only they could have made a less frightening memorial for him.)

For me, the all time favorite will always be Jon Miller. Miller used to broadcast Orioles games before Peter Angelos ran him out of town (NEVER to be forgotten!). As a kid, I used to sneak my radio into bed and listen to O's games, so I grew up with Mr. Miller and he taught me baseball. As a kid in a family with no history of baseball fandom, I relied on Mr. Miller to describe the game, my team, and old Memorial Stadium (I rarely made it up to Baltimore as kid). And nobody, I believe it to this day, could make baseball more exciting. Even foul balls seem like an event when Miller is at the mic. ("It's a FOUUUUL BAAALLL!!")

One season, the Orioles allowed a writer for Cheers, Ken Levine, to broadcast games with Miller. It was then that the Miller genius really appeared in stark relief. Ken Levine was awful. Though good natured and quick with a joke, Levine admittedly sat in the booth because the O's decided to give him a shot at a childhood dream of his. Even though Levine didn't have the chops to call a Major League game, Miller and he always had great rapport. And you could tell that even though Levine's talent was nowhere near Miller's level, Miller genuinely did not mind, and still seemed to enjoy calling games with his lesser partner.

For my money, nothing beats Miller's voice and ability to entertain. Unlike some announcers who seem to think they are why the fans listen, Miller comes across as a guy who is channelling the game for the listeners' pleasure and making the game visual for those who are not there. He is not in the booth to entertain the fans while a game takes place on the field, he is there to speak baseball on behalf of the game itself.

With Miller now on the West Coast with the Giants, every baseball season it feels like something is missing. I hardly listen to baseball on the radio anymore (though I did enjoy the highly partisan Ron Santo in Chicago).

For my money, baseball isn't baseball without my favorite announcer. That will always be Jon Miller.

Wedding Countdown

As of today, 10 days to go!

A Walk in the Park

I went for a walk today in the park at the end of my street. It's is a nice, though buggy, stroll alongside the Brandywine River and an old canal.

This house was apparently built in 1740 as a Presbyterian meeting house. It long resided in the middle of downtown until they moved it to this location in the early 1900's. Query: does it still count as having been built in 1740?

Scroll down for more photos.

Presbyterian Meeting House. May 18, 2005. Posted by Hello

Sunset over one of Wilmington's many spans over the Brandywine River. May 18, 2005. Posted by Hello

I-95 Bridge over the Brandywine River. May 18, 2005. Posted by Hello

Tunnel. May 18, 2005.Posted by Hello

And finally, I'm not so certain I would be comforted getting medical care at a hospital this close to a large cemetary. I guess there are some things to be said for convenience should circumstances take a turn for the worse, however.

Wilmington Hospital. May 18, 2005.Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Whine About Wine

Maybe it's because I read too many books about American history. Maybe it's because I am a small government conservative. Maybe I have an unhealthy desire to drink alcohol (um...not true). But darned if I'm not steamed about the outcome of the Supreme Court's "wine" decision from yesterday!

But alcohol lovers should be enthused, you say.

First, read about the case here. A nice summary by wine aficionado, Prof. Bainbridge, of the finer legal points.

OK. Now you have some background. So why am I angry? Because I live in the USSR, apparently. The first thing I noticed about the decision (proof that my law school training works) is that it affects only states meeting two conditions. The first, obviously, that the home state bans direct interstate shipment of wine from out-of-state vinters into the home state. The second is the clincher though: the home state must also allow intrastate wine shipments from local vinters. #1 is only relevant if #2 is also present. The warning bells went off. Betcha my state doesn't allow intrastate shipment of wine, making this decision on interstate shipment moot, I thought.

Guess what?

Because Delaware does not discriminate between out-of-state and in-state wineries, the Supreme Court's ruling would not force legislators to change the law.

Delaware has one winery, Nassau Valley Vineyards & Winery in Lewes. Co-owner Bob Raley said he would like to see Delaware change its laws.

"We have lots of people who have been here on vacation and want wine sent to them wherever they live, and, legally, most of the places we can't send it to," Raley said.

Nassau Valley winery has a six-acre vineyard and sells about 30,000 bottles of wine a year. About 98 percent of its customers go there to buy wine.

"It's not possible to sell it to out-of-state people legally, but I can sell it your cousin and he can mail it to you," Raley said.

Some Delaware consumers are unhappy with state laws that prohibit them from receiving shipments of wine, both from outside the state or in the state.

"If there is a particular wine that I would really want to try, I don't want the government interceding to either protect their tax base or my morality," said Ted Horst-mann, a professed wine lover from Wilmington.

Of course! The other thing that struck me upon researching this last night is that there is only one winery in the entire state of Delaware! And according their website, they had to change Delaware law just to get approval to make wine! Excuse me, but what exactly did our Founding Fathers fight for in 1776? Freedom from government encroachment, I thought. Certainly this is not freedom in the Revolutionary sense.

The future wife and I were hoping this decision would come down before we went on our honeymoon to Napa next month. We have no recourse, however. I can't even have wine shipped to my parents in Maryland.

Maryland also does not discriminate between out-of-state and in-state wineries. Neither type can ship directly to consumers; they must go through wholesalers.

"There is no discriminatory practice in Maryland, therefore, we don't think the ruling applies to us," said Michael Golden, deputy director of the Comptroller of Maryland.

I was probably least surprised by this, particularly knowing what I know about Montgomery "no smoking in restaurants, no smoking on public street corners" County where they live. Nearby Takoma Park even tried to ban smoking in private homes! I don't even like smoking and that idea...ahem...burned me up.

It all comes down to the usual suspects. In Maryland, and elsewhere, it's about tax receipts and the state/country control of liquor distribution (big, state-controlled bucks). Read here, for more on Montgomery County, MD:

Probably the most egregious government encroachment on America's drinking habits is the controlled state. In 18 states, plus Montgomery County, Md., sales of wine and spirits are controlled by a state-run monopoly.

Most egregious? Montgomery County? No! I don't know what Delaware's motivations are for basically banning wine production, but distribution is explained by the state's control of it. More $$$ for the government's coffers.

Just take a second to think about this situation. When it really gets down to it, is it right for any government to ban the production of a widely accepted consumer good? Is it right for the government to decide what means, if any, are available for the distribution of a widely accepted consumer good, outside of absolute government control?

Even humoring the idea that governments impose these restrictions to protect minors (not tax receipts from sales or local businesses (i.e. read local business taxes)), there have to be methods of limiting distribution that do not engender outright bans on what would otherwise be acceptable means of commerce. Distribution licenses and rigorous ID verification come to mind.

I expect little to improve in either Delaware or Maryland on this score, given that both states are solidly Democratic and the citizens, by virtue of their continued voting for low-grade socialists who pass laws like this, seem to like entrenched, out-of-touch politicians telling them what's good for them.

I was hoping to enjoy a reprieve from the iron fist of political control by leaving Mayor Daley's Chicago. Here we go again, unfortunately.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Good Point

Maybe this is also why a good number of Hollywood Democrats wished Al Gore had run again in 2004. Kerry in 2008 anyone? Or how about another Frankenstein remake? Same difference.

Excellent Article On Voting Behavior

This is a fabulous piece on why "poor, working class" Red Staters often vote Republican, even though they are "voting against their economic self interest." I have long said that people in these states do vote in their best economic interests: they are self-made people who want the government not to give them more handouts, but the freedom to make a buck on their own, keep it, and use it for something that they know they need, rather than something the government thinks they need.

"Drive through any of these states, and there are a thousand little barber shops along any highway of any length. There are garages and auto body shops, landscapers, cabinet makers. These aren't fools who don't know how to synchronize their interests with their politics. They're people making a rational call on how to improve their lives. They don't want to be given a handout. They want you to get out of the way. "

Read the whole thing.

Finally, We Are Back!

Now that Verizon has seen it fit to return us to the worldwide web, the roommate and I have returned. We blog from a new location: Wilmington, Delaware.

This is not Chicago.

Over the past weekend, I attended a wedding in Chicago of an old friend of mine. Upon driving back into town, a few things struck me about Chicago as opposed to my new location:

1. The pretty people. Chicago is beautiful city, as much for its inhabitants, as for its architecture and lakeside location. I saw more attractive humans in a single Chicago city block than I have seen in three months working in Wilmington. I kid you not.

2. Conveniences. There had to be more restaurants two blocks in any direction from Wrigley Field than there are restaurants in all of Wilmington. When a new restaurant opens here, it's the talk of the town. If you went out every night for dinner in Chicago you could eat somewhere different every night...for LIFE. Again, I kid you not.

3. Traffic. Score one for Wilmington here. When I walked to the garage, across downtown Wilmington on Saturday morning (very early) to get my car, I saw ONE person and ONE car on the streets in a full ten minutes. In Chicago Saturday, being one of those rare, summer-like days during Chicago's Winter-Lite (they don't really have Spring), EVERYBODY in the city was driving, walking or riding a bike. The obstacle course otherwise known as Chicago city streets, was much more difficult to navigate than the deserted streets of Wilmington.

4. Safety. I hate to say it, but I do not feel safe in Wilmington. Maybe I'm spoiled after living worry free in Chicago, but it don't like the idea of being outside during the day, much less the night here. It's like a mini-Baltimore. Too many loiterers for my taste. In Chicago, I used to walk clear across the loop in the wee hours of the night without a second thought. Here, I think a lot walking home from work at 7pm.

5. Taxes. Tax free Delaware shopping beats 8.5% Chicago sales tax every single day of the week! It's still a novelty that I enjoy immensely.

6. Public Transportation. You wouldn't catch me dead on Wilmington's public transportation. The bus is all they have. I did my time in high school riding three DC Metrobuses to and from school every day. The bus is a haven for the scary mentally disturbed and assorted suspicious characters. Yes, Chicago's El smelled like urine, was a moving trash container (both in human and refuse terms), and seemed ready to tumble from the elevated tracks at any moment. But it also made it extremely easy to get around. I'll give Chicago the edge for ease of travel. Both systems are in budgetary disarray and promise hikes in fares. Both are frequented by riff raff and weirdos. In summary, does anyone really win who takes public transportation?

7. Baseball. Cubs and White Sox. Or Blue Rocks. No contest.

8. Waterfront. Wilmington has a nice waterfront area along a tributary of the Delaware River. The Delaware runs in all its glory just to the east of the city. Chicago has Lake Michigan. And beaches. Wilmington has a huge landfill on the banks of the river, and New Jersey on the other side. Advantage: Chicago.

9. Food. Deep dish pizza, polish sausages, alcohol sold even in furniture stores (it's true!). Versus hoagies and cheesesteaks, and highly restrictive alcohol sales. Though I am a HUGE fan of cheesesteaks, I gotta give it to Chicago. Why do you think everyone there is so fat?!

9a. Local Grocery Store. In Chicago, you have your pick of grocery chains. Dominicks, Jewel, SuperFresh, Whole Foods, etc. In Wilmington, there is ACME. I was sickened by the place. I don't like to be sickened at the place where I purchase food. Filthy facilities and obnoxious and lazy workers. And no beer. Horrible.

Well, maybe Wilmington will grow on me eventually. These are all first impressions, and my base of knowledge here is in the embryonic phase. Chicago blew me away immediately. Perhaps Wilmington takes a little longer to unlock its secrets. We'll see...Posted by Hello