Karl Gallagher's Political Journal|
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Karl Gallagher's LiveJournal:
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|Friday, June 24th, 2016|
|For Those New Here
A brief index to my major posts:War
I'm an advocate of taking the offensive in the Global War On Terror, the official name for our war against the Islamofascists. I've done a Venn Diagram showing how different current conflicts relate to the war as a whole
, and a state diagram showing the different strategies available to us and their possible outcomes
. I think there's a limited amount of time to win before a catastrophe is inevitable
Other war posts: Abu Ghraib
, putting the Army on a war footing
, mistakes made in Iraq
, Wars of Choice
, Law, Interrogation, and Torture
, Reforming the Defense Acquisition System
I've looked at better ways to categorize views than the "left-right" axis
, why our political system forces everyone into two parties
, and how we could modify the system to better express everyone's views
. I also discuss how our political divide comes from different visions of how families should be organized
and why the "War on Drugs" is the real threat to our freedoms
Other politics posts: Gay Marriage/Polygamy
, Global Warming
and who to believe about it
, War on Drugs
), Trinity River Vision
, civil war
, political quizzes
, Iron Man vs. ITAR
, Health Care Deformed
(other Obamacare links
and a follow-up
, the Tree Ring Circus
, The Bill of Federalism
, Gaiacrats versus Theocrats
, and How I pick presidential candidates
.My BeliefsThings I believe in
, and the books which most influenced me.
I want to lay out the assumptions behind my beliefs clearly. If one of those principles is disproved I'll have to rethink my stands.
Sometimes I'll toss out a wild idea to provoke debate: Anglosphere Civilization (and merging states)
, and An Exercise in Alternate History
My other writings can be found at my main livejournal page
. Current Mood: calm
|Friday, April 4th, 2014|
|Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013|
|Looking At the Numbers
The folks at FreedomWorks
created a lovely illustration of the USA's financial situation:
Perhaps I should've gone with "terrifying" instead of "lovely." But it does a wonderful job of showing where we are and how we got here. The president names mark the end of their terms in office.
Theoretically this chart could keep getting expanded forever--20 trillion, 30 trillion, 40 trillion--but there is a catch. Somebody has to keep loaning us the money to pay for the additional spending. Plus they need to keep loaning it as we roll over all the 3 month, 12 month, etc. bonds. We don't have a thirty-year mortgage on the federal government. So the moment the Treasury Department runs out of willing lenders for the next trillion of debt the interest rates go up--and they go up on *all* the debt as it gets rolled over. Next stop, hyperinflation and economic collapse.
Or we could get out act together, cut spending to match revenues, and start paying off that pile. There's an argument for keeping some debt as a reference "safe bond" in the financial markets--but I think one or two trillion of that should be sufficient. Current Mood: worried
|Saturday, September 14th, 2013|
|Why I Avoid Single Issue Voting
Because being a single issue voter leads to you taking stands like this
"We had two electoral cycles, 2004 and 2006, where we reelected every lawmaker who voted our way," [the issue fanatic] told me. "Some of these people were not easy to reelect -- alcoholism, ethics issues, bad votes. Some didn't collect enough signatures [to get on the ballot] and had to run write-in campaigns. We were determined to reelect every single one. Some of those people are now in prison, but we got them reelected."
Yeah. When you work to re-elect people who deserve to be in jail, your priorities are screwed up.
|Wednesday, September 11th, 2013|
I'm remembering the deaths of 9/11/01 today. And remembering those who died from other Islamofascist attacks since.
What we must remember most is that these were not random or insane attacks. The attackers were part of a movement, pursuing an objective, killing innocents as a means to their end. That end--a unified Caliphate run by a dictator enforcing Sharia law--is what drives them, not any complaints about what America has done in the world.
|Managing the Transition
is the book I wanted The End is Near and It's Going to be Awesome
to be. Bennett and Lotus take a hard look at the USA's current situation and propose a solid plan to get us out of the mess: the Big Haircut. In short, go through the whole list of the government's debts and programs and slash them down to something affordable, spreading the pain evenly. Defaulting on bonds, means-testing social security, reducing civil service pension, eliminating corporate subsidies and tariffs, ending tax deductions--do it all all. It'd take some brave politicians to push through but it beats the failure modes I discussed in the other book review.
Bennett and Lotus have an interesting take on American politics and culture. They trace our individualism back to the Saxon tribes that would invade Britain and their "Absolute Nuclear Family" structure. The concept that it was normal for children to marry someone of their own choosing and set up a new household of their own is radically different from many other cultures. They make a solid case that this drove the evolution of our society into its present form and explains the similarity of other Anglosphere nations to the USA.
They describe America as going through an agricultural (1.0) phase, then reorganizing as an industrial (2.0) society with the traumas of the Civil War, union struggles, and the Great Depression. Now America 2.0 needs to transition to 3.0, hopefully much less painfully than the last transition. They start out with a detailed scenario of how a 3.0 nation might look. I suspect we're unlikely to come close to that, mostly because there'll be some unexpected event or technology that sends us in another direction, but I think I'd be a lot happier living in their vision than our current set-up.
They make lots of practical suggestions for implementing the transition. I have a mixed response to them. The suggestions to reform defense procurement are solid--then again, almost anything would be an improvement over what we've got now. I was amused to see that some of their suggestions for domestic defense boiled down to the kind of state guard organization I'm a member of. I'd be all for expanding that into widespread militia training.
|Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013|
So the President is going to wage war on Syria. Or so it seems at this writing. I could support that under certain conditions:
- Congressional Support
- Decisive Force
- Commitment to force a good outcome
- A Connection to a Strategic Objective
For example, if we were pursuing a strategy of spreading democratization among Arab nations
to drain the swamp of potential terrorists, Syria would be a potential new test case. We could use our air bases in Iraq to support the attack, incorporate the more civilized parts of the rebel forces into a new government, and hunt the Al Qaeda forces in the country until we drive them out to the next target. Oh, wait, we've totally eliminated that possibility, haven't we?
Well, if we adopted a strategy of defeating Russia or Iran it would be worth knocking off Syria to weaken their support (even if it just left a power vacuum). But we don't seem to be doing that.
Instead the goal seems to be taking a moral stance that it's much, much worse for a civilian to be killed by chemical weapons instead of bullets. I don't really see the point to that. The point is the murders, not how efficiently they were carried out.
When I wrote the first draft of this (before going AFK for a week for Worldcon) it looked like this was going to happen without any attempt at getting Congressional authorization. Now, as I try to catch up on the news, the bombing of Syria has apparently been postponed to wait for Congress to return from vacation.
I am totally boggled by a mindset that places vacation schedules as higher priority than decisions over whether to kill people.
There's also statements that the President reserves the right to launch an attack even if Congress rejects authorization. That could give us a heck of a Constitutional crisis. I can't see an impeachment coming out of it (unless pushed by a lot of Democratic senators) but there's a very real question of whether ordering an attack would be a lawful order to the military in those circumstances. This could wind up being adjudicated in the court-martial of some field grade officer who refuses an order (generals do not climb the greasy pole so they can resign dramatically). Not the right way to make such momentous decisions.
|Friday, May 31st, 2013|
|This Is Not Awesome
is one of my favorite bloggers on the National Review Online site. He focuses on one of my main worries--the horrible expanding deficit--and provides useful facts and analysis. So when he came out with a book (The End Is Near And It's Going To Be Awesome
) I was immediately interested. I read the Kindle sample, liked it, and bought the whole thing.
Now I've finished it and I'm very disappointed. The book has three main points:
1. There's no way the US government can keep the promises it's made, even if taxes go up to 100%.
2. Political organizations screw up most of the tasks they try to perform.
3. Bottom-up groups can do almost all of what we've been depending on the central government to do.
Williamson does a great job of proving all three points. He did a good enough job to shock me on #2, not with the content but that this is being supported and promoted by National Review. Since when did WFBjr's heirs start putting out anarchist manifestos? I suppose Williamson might qualify it as minarchism, but I'm a minarchist and this was a big slug of 150-proof anarcho-capitalism. Not that polite Friedmanite stuff either. This was "politicians are crooks, taxation is theft, and the police are another gang." No ritual praise for "our heroes in uniform" in this book. In fact, the only allusion to uniformed heroes is in connection with NYPD cops convicted of rape. Did the NR suits read this before they did all those ads for it?
So far it sounds like something I'd enjoy, and I did like each chapter. Nothing particularly new in the philosophy for me or any regular reader of Reason mag but he wrote it well. It's probably a great introduction to libertarian philosophy for the National Review crowd.
So here's the book: "The current situation is totally unsustainable and will collapse. When we have a decentralized system letting people set up their own arrangements it's going to be awesome."
Notice the lack of anything describing how we get from point A to point B? Apparently Williamson is assuming that the collapse of the central-planning state will make the majority of the population realize that they shouldn't have been depending on the government so much. I find this . . . let's be polite . . . excessively optimistic.
Eventually the US government is going to hit the fiscal wall. There might not be lenders willing to offer up an eighteenth trillion dollars for the next year's debt. Or states unable to finance their pension systems may collapse without a federal bailout. Or rising interest rates might squeeze the rest of the budget. Or the taxpayers might actually go Galt, halving revenues. In any of those cases there will be tens of millions of people expecting to get a check from the government to keep them fed and healthy . . . and it won't arrive. Those people will be unhappy, justifiably so. They'll also be surprised, with less justification. In any case they will be very angry.
So what happens when a government unable to carry out its functions is confronted by a large chunk of the population waving torches and pitchforks? History shows there's several possibilities:
A. Private Enterprise: The people decide to do without the government and start solving problems on their own. Arguably the American Revolution is a precedent for this to some degree, if not a bloodless one. Pulling it off would require leadership to provide examples and innovators coming up with some practical options for them to implement. I'd really hoped to see a chapter or ten on this in the book.
B. The Man on Horseback. Turn to a Great Leader to solve the problem, and sweep all legal obstacles out of his way. The first half the 20th century saw a bunch of that. There's clearly support for that in the country today. Obama's most extreme fans are one example. The Republicans who seized on Herman Cain or another outside figure until they saw the feet of clay are another. Even the individualist Libertarians formed a cult of personality for Ron Paul and are letting his son Rand inherit it.
C. Civil War, aka Fighting Over the Scraps. There'll still be some money coming from the Feds and it'll go to those with the most clout. There's enough people in this country who've been declaring the other side to be the epitome of evil that there's ready recruits for anyone wanting to make it a shooting match. This is my worst nightmare. There's a lot of mechanisms that reward politicians and activists for increasing the tension between the sides, none that reward them for creating cross-party ties. That's something that could push us toward drawing blood before there's a collapse.
D. Anarchy, the very brief interlude before Feudalism or Warlordism. If the collapse is bad enough there may be no institutions left to fight over. Then we'd be pulling together localized groups under leaders who push for survival rules. It seems to be the human default. It also means starving in poverty because we don't have enough interconnection to maintain modern technology, or even steam-era technology . . . which is also the human default.
E. Singularity. If we have enough technological breakthroughs before the collapse comes we can support pensioners for pennies a month, including their body-repair nanobots, and revenue will keep increasing from the new yet-unimagined industries. My preferred solution, since it's a lot easier to pull off than A. (Yes: I consider inventing universal assemblers easier than persuading the majority of the US population to not suck on the Federal tit)
When I saw the title of Williamson's book I expected it to have some ideas on achieving option A, or at least ones for avoiding B, C, or D. Instead there's praise of how wonderful things can be once politics is out of the way. I feel like a Roman worried about the approaching Visigoths getting a speech about the glories of the Renaissance. Yes, it'll be beautiful. I'll care once we're past the Dark Ages.
|Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013|
|Friday, January 25th, 2013|
|Looking for the Median Texan Voter
I just saw an interesting article on a Democratic Party plan to make Texas a swing state
. I'm all for having competitive elections here. Right now my only chance to have a significant impact is by voting in the Republican primary for both state and local elections. There are "blue" areas in Texas, but Tarrant county is not one of them.
The plan the Dems are raising money for doesn't thrill me. Apparently they've written off everyone in Texas who currently votes Republican and want to change the electorate by bringing new voters to the polls. It's not a terrible idea in practical terms, blacks and Hispanics have low turnout (even aside from citizenship issues) and there's a lot of people newly arrived from more liberal states. So they might be able to shift the balance with new voters. Overcoming a 13% deficit is a tough hurdle though.
I want Texas to have competitive elections. One-party states become corrupt. California is well on the way to a economic collapse because the lack of constraint on their dominant party has led to excessive spending on favored constituencies and driving out the productive businesses with taxes and regulations. Texas is in good shape economically for now. So far our troubles tend to be abuse of law enforcement authority and bureaucrats not performing their jobs. The less the politicians fear losing their power the more they'll abuse it.In theory our two-party system should have each one pulling in close to 50% of the vote
. Each party would be chasing the "median Texan voter" by staking out a set of policy positions that appeal to the voters in the center who can tip the balance. Instead the Texas Democrats have aligned themselves with the national median voter by sticking with the policy positions of the national party. So in the 2010 governor's race the Dem got about the same percentage of the vote as Obama did in Texas in 2012.
To be truly competitive the Texas Democrats should appeal to voters on Texan issues. The Texas Youth Commission scandal
should've been an election issue. Eminent domain, forced annexation (cities forcing rural areas to pay taxes to them), prosecutorial abuse, drug war false arrests--there isn't a shortage of things to talk about. The hard part would be abandoning issues that the national party is wedded to so they can appeal to Texans. Not nominating a gubernatorial candidate who joined a gun control group would be a start.
It'd be easier if the national government didn't control so much of our lives. The more power the federal government takes on the more voters will focus on that when casting their ballots. So Californians automatically vote Democratic even as the state goes deeper into debt and Texans vote Republican regardless of how many screw-ups there are. If we reduced the power Washington DC holds voters could relax and focus more on concerns closer to them.
|Saturday, December 29th, 2012|
|The Righteous Mind
For those who don't read my other journal, I posted a review of The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt analyzes morality as breaking down into several factors and shows that liberals and conservatives differ in their moral codes. So there are political implications to this bit of science.(I strongly recommend the book to everyone)
|Monday, November 19th, 2012|
|Hope on Copyright
The House Republicans released a fascinating paper on possible copyright reforms
and then panicked and yanked it. It's still good to see someone raising the subject. I wrote my Congresswoman to ask her to take a closer look at it:
Dear Ms. Granger, Current Mood: hopeful
The Republican Study Committee has produced a draft report "Three Myths of Copyright Law." I think the proposals in this report are very valuable and should be a central part of the Republican platform.
Excessive restrictions on copyright and patent law are damaging attempts to start new creative enterprises while providing unearned income to the inheritors of artists. Penalizing the future to reward the past reduces the growth of our economy and culture. As a part-time professional writer I've often found myself limited by old copyrights more than I've benefited from the protections on my own works.
Taking the lead on this issue would bring many influential people in the Republican fold. I urge you to study the copyright report.
|Wednesday, October 31st, 2012|
|On Not Trying to Change Minds
I haven't posted much on this election, largely because I've given up trying to persuade other people to change their political stands. As the old saying goes, "Don't try to argue someone out of a position he wasn't argued into." Most people cast their vote according to their sense of group identity (call it "team" or "tribe" depending on which psychological theories you prefer)*. So facts, character, records, issues, policies, plans . . . all irrelevant. Voters go with what their friends and neighbors decide. So most of the groups in the population have been sorted into the red or blue categories.
Which, for a hunter-gather, is a sensible way to do things. The people in your "monkeysphere" are the ones you depend on to survive. So do things their way, stick with them, and chant the chants they're chanting.
It doesn't seem like a sensible way to run an industrialized nation-state . . . but we're healthier, longer-living, and having more surviving offspring than our ancestors so we must be doing something right.
There are, of course, undecided voters. They're people whose identity isn't connected to one of the political factions and haven't been drawn into the debate. So they're going to go with whichever candidate manages to get to their group first. Then you have the "preference cascade" as a few members of the group take a stand and the rest align with them. Sometimes a loosely-committed group will have a few influential members decide to switch to the other side and trigger a cascade to take the whole group with them. Hence the frantic efforts by the presidential campaigns to identify key ("swing") demographics and carpet-bomb their members with propaganda.
But that's a small fraction of the population. So why are Facebook and other social media (such as the Livejournal of 2004) wallpapered with political memery? Well, that's not trying to persuade anyone on the other side, or even the uncommitteds. That's internal propaganda. People trying to convince their own tribe "I'm a good member" or "I should be one of the elders of the tribe" or "Trust me to fight against that evil other tribe!" I suspect some of the most frantic efforts come from people worried about being expelled from their chosen group for some heresy or just so low-status they'll do anything to cement their group membership.
I'm cranky (and autistic) enough to not be a true member of any tribe but I still feel the reflexes. I picked my presidential vote and am emotionally part of that "team", enough to be annoyed by attacks on Romney & Ryan. So I'm avoiding Joss Whedon's anti-Romney video until the election's well past. Then, like decade-old Doonesbury cartoons, I can enjoy it just for the humor without needing to care about any impact it has. But since I'm not trying to impress any fellow tribe-members I'm not posting any elaborate rationales for why my guy's so good you must vote for him or that the other one is so evil you can't possibly vote for him and remain my friend.
I suspect the vitriol of the arguments is worsened by the mechanics of our system. When only two parties have a chance at winning
nasty behavior driving someone out of the opposition party is a net gain. If we had a system that allowed more than one party to hold real power
the activists would be forced to play nice(r) or see a third party benefit at the expense of themselves and their targets.
*For anyone interested in the actual science behind this I strongly recommend Haidt's The Righteous Mind
. It's a fascinating book. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Thursday, October 25th, 2012|
Just took advantage of Texas' early voting window. My votes:
Pres/VP/US Senator: Republican
Uncontested races: Skip. Those dozens of judges can get 100% wins w/o me clicking on them.
Most contested races: Libertarian. Many of those only offered a choice between the Rep and Lib. Guess the Dems are just sticking to their strongholds (other than a few sacrificial lambs for high-level races).
Sheriff: Rep incumbent. No Lib candidate (understandable, really) and the Dems tend to push more power for the unions (such as exempting police from normal disciplinary measures
City Council: Saginaw has non-partisan elections (saving us from being run by friends of the Tarrant County Republican chairman). Three candidates were running. Gary Barber wants to build a bunch of projects. Jackie Nethery was immune to my Google-fu. Chris Barngrover promptly answered my questions on his priorities and background.
So Barngrover got my vote. Current Mood: calm
|Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012|
|The Value of a Vote
Reason Mag posted an essay
arguing that a vote isn't worth anything at all, buttressed by an economic calculation putting the "expected economic value" of a vote far below the utility of sleeping in for an hour. The assumption this was based on was that the only vote that matters is the one that takes the winner to the 50%+1 theshold so the chance of your vote mattering is the probability that it happens to be that one magic vote. But this assumption assumes that there's zero value to votes over the threshold. Reality is different.
Let's take a Congressional election for an open seat as our example. No third party candidates are contesting it so only the Yellow and Purple party candidates are dividing the vote. Let's look at how the rest of Congress will look at the winning candidate based on his/her vote percentage:
50%+1 to 50%+500: Ignore. There'll be a long, nasty recount and by the time the new Congressman is seated the committee assignments will have been handed out. And the recount has a good chance of seating the other guy instead.
50.4% to 51%: Support/oppose re-election. Clearly this winner is vulnerable, so he'll be focused on trying to keep his seat. All votes will be aimed at his district's attitudes. Not available for making deals.
52% to 55%: Work with. This is a solid incumbent who can participate in deal-making as an equal.
55% plus: Respect. This Congressman could be re-elected forever. Don't piss him off, he'll have plenty of chances for payback. He'll have superior leverage in deals.
(75% or more usually means there wasn't a real opponent)
Given those levels an additional vote always has value until the election becomes a total blow-out. If your candidate is leading, vote to elevate him to the next level of clout in Congress. If not, vote to keep the opponent from becoming stronger.
The same logic works for state and local legislatures. Executives also benefit from larger victory margins. A mayor with 58% of the vote can cow the city council into going his way lest he ask his supporters to turn against them.
So vote. Totals matter. Current Mood: calm
|Tuesday, September 11th, 2012|
What I have to say about 9/11 I've already said. My journal homepage has links to all that. Sarah Hoyt has some good comments on the day
And as an author to an Author I have to admire the plotting touch, where the three burly and brave guys who spearheaded the fight back in flight 93 were a born again man, a Jewish man, and a gay man. Can you imagine any group designed to give more heart burn to the enemies that brought down the towers and who tried to use flight 93 as a weapon? Current Mood: melancholy
I can’t either. But, more importantly, I can’t imagine any other culture, any other country, any other place where those three would have banded together, immediately – instinctively – putting aside any perceived differences, thinking only of trying to save the defenseless, laying down their lives for others.
Their lives were forfeit, but they died free men. They died heroes. More importantly, they died Americans.
Surely a nation that produces such men will not perish from this Earth.
We will not go quietly into that good night.
We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave. And we will stand.
|Sunday, August 5th, 2012|
|Another Science Fiction Prediction
I attended the local SF club's movie marathon yesterday. One of the shows was Real Genius
, which I remember very fondly from when I attended something similar to "Pacific Tech."
The big plot driver was a Pentagon plan to create an EVIL weapon that could be used to assassinate individuals. How evil? Well, one Pentagon guy opposes it and another orders him murdered. To rub it in the planned test of the weapon is on a copy of JFK's Dallas motorcade.
Of course, if you replace the laser invented by our unwitting heroes with a Hellfire missile, and the B-1 platform with a Predator drone, you have the main instrument of our current defense policy. Yet no one's trying to fill the White House with popcorn. Current Mood: contemplative
|Wednesday, August 1st, 2012|
Something totally unexpected happened in the presidential race: Romney actually gave me a reason to vote for him.
Up to now I'd been expecting to vote for him by process of elimination. Actually taking a stand for the importance of a culture of freedom is something that earns my vote.
In other news, Texas just finished its protracted primaries. I actually voted for some winners this time, most notably Cruz. Which is a shock considering the 0% I racked up two years ago.* The establishment politicians have to be pretty shocked. I suspect they'll react by pulling a Senator Hatch and tacking sharply to the Tea Party side of the issues. Thus keeping the opportunity to stick their hands in the till. We'll see how it works for them.
* I have a guilty feeling that I may have some blame for Victor Carrillo's unexpected loss, though others have blamed it on him being too ill to campaign. Current Mood: surprised
|Thursday, May 24th, 2012|
|Texas Primary Election
It's voting time here in Texas. I just cast an early vote for the primary. The Republican primary, as there's not much point in choosing among competing Democrats hoping to be the sacrificial lamb in a state-wide race. Or local race. I'd have to move to another city if I wanted to see a Dem with a chance of winning. On to the choices:
President: Newt Gingrich. A prize for a lunar base is exactly the space program I'd like to see. It's the first time I've ever been pandered to and I want to reward that behavior. Fortunately I don't need to factor the actual possibility of Newt being president into this decision.
Senator: Cruz. Dewhurst wimped out rather than confront the TSA, blowing the best chance for real push-back on an out of control federal agency. Leppert has no history to convince me he means what he's saying now. Cruz looks like the best shot at getting a senator who'll try to get the Federal government under some sort of control.
Representative: Granger. I'd love to have a candidate less free-spending than Granger. Lawrence says the right words about that--but he's also calling Granger "pro-abortion" which convinces me that he's lost touch with reality. So a vote for the incumbent this time.
Railroad Commissioner 1: Becky Berger. Adding a scientist to the panel could be a good thing.
Railroad Commissioner 2: Greg Parker. I haven't read his book but if he's written one he's thought more about the issues than the others.
Supreme Court Judges: Don Willett and David Medina. Voting for the incumbents because the challengers aren't impressing me. The lack of information on judicial races always frustrates me.
District Judge 153: Susan McCoy. As above.
County Chair: Jennifer Hall. Internal Republican party politics don't interest me much but I'll vote for the outsider.
We also had a general election for Saginaw. The mayor was uncontested . . . and in fairness things are in good shape here so there's not much demand for a replacement. The challenger for city council had a nice resume but was going on about the changes he wanted to make. I voted for the incumbent because he had the shorter to-do list.
Saginaw also had a couple of referendums on changing the city alcohol laws. I voted yes to loosen up the restrictions on restaurants. This is most notable for the postcard mailed out ahead of the election by the sponsor of the referendums. This is the first time I've ever been asked for my vote in a municipal race. Current Mood: calm
|Tuesday, February 28th, 2012|
Not being happy with either party I'm proud to use this shiny image I found floating about the 'net.