The conflation of corruption

While I'm very tired of reading about it, I'm nonetheless having a lot of trouble trying to sort out the bitter and protracted alimony battle between former Governor Jim McGreevey and his wife Dina Matos.

Matos has calculated the value of taxpayer-funded perks that are no longer there, and seeks a "cost of replicating her gubernatorial lifestyle" award:

ELIZABETH, N.J. - The estranged wife of former Gov. Jim McGreevey tried to convince a divorce judge yesterday that she is entitled to alimony, saying her mortgage, legal bills and a $100,000 loan from a friend have left her deeply in debt.

Dina Matos said she had no savings despite having received $110,000 in tax-free support from McGreevey.

The couple wed in 2000. In 2004 he proclaimed himself "a gay American," claimed he had had an affair with a male staffer, and resigned as governor. The employee denies the affair.

Matos wrapped up her testimony yesterday as the final witness in the money phase of her divorce. A judge will rule on alimony and support after lawyers make their final arguments next week.

A final issue in the bitter breakup - her claim that she was duped into marrying a gay man - has not been scheduled to be heard. That phase could include testimony from an ex-aide who claims he had sexual trysts with the couple.

Matos, 41, has asked the judge to base alimony payments on the lifestyle she enjoyed as wife of the governor.

She paid an expert $20,000 to compile a lifestyle report for the judge estimating the cost of replicating her gubernatorial lifestyle at $51,000 a month. McGreevey's expert put the gubernatorial lifestyle around $16,000 a month.

I did not take Family Law in law school, and it was never my area of practice in California, so I'm a babe in the woods where it comes to alimony law -- especially New Jersey family law.

However, a New Jersey Family Law firm provides this summary of relevant principles:

Alimony, as opposed to child support calculated pursuant to the Guidelines, is not as definitive and is based on a number of statutory factors.

In N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b), New Jersey's alimony Statute provides:

In all actions brought far divorce, divorce from bed and board, or nullity the, court may award one or more of the following types of alimony: permanent alimony; rehabilitative alimony; limited duration alimony or reimbursement alimony to either party. In doing so, the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following factors:

1. The actual need and ability of the parties to pay.
2. The duration of the marriage.
3. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
4. The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living.
5. The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties.
6. The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance.
7. The parental responsibilities for the children.
8. The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets and income.
9. The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities.
10. The equitable distribution of property ordered and any pay-outs on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair.
11. The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party.
12. The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment.
13. Any other factors which the Court may deem relevant.

The New Jersey Supreme Court in Crews v. Crews, 164 N.J. 11, 26 (2000), held that "[a]n alimony award that lacks consideration of the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) is inadequate, and one finding that must be made, is the standard of living established in the marriage." The Court found that "[i]n all divorce proceedings, trial courts must "consider and make specific findings' under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b)" Id. at 25.

The Appellate Division in Boardman v. Boardman, 314 N.J. Super. 340 (1998) reiterated the application of the principles for determining alimony as set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, noting that the principles apply whether the spouse seeking alimony is the husband or wife.

"Ability to pay" reminds me of an ancient principle, often summarized as "You can't get blood from a stone."

While I have zero sympathy for McGreevey (whose aides went to jail in the corruption scandal that engulfed him), I'm having a conceptual problem with the idea that incidental taxpayer-provided perks are income for alimony purposes. A politician's career can rise or fall depending on a lot of factors, and typically depends on the whims of the voters. The theory is that these people are "public servants," and that the perks which flow to them are supposed to be tools that go with the job, not financial benefits.

Try as I might, I'm having trouble seeing McGreevey's wife as a victim of anything more than the change in political fate brought on by her husband's corruption. But others see her as a victim of more than that:

The press has had a field day with Matos, painting a very one-sided picture of her as an unintelligent money-grubbing gold-digger who hasn't yet realized that she is no longer first lady of New Jersey. But I think the media has distorted her claims and I don't think she is claiming that she is entitled to continue to live the lifestyle to which she became accustomed, as if she is "to the manner born."

She was born in Portugal and came to this country with her parents. According to her testimony, she did not finish college because she had to help her family when her younger brother became ill. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese because her parents were not fluent in English. Matos even lived at home and worked until she met Jim McGreevey, a handsome, ambitious, Ivy League educated lawyer, who was mayor running for governor. She paid for their wedding and worked to support them.

Matos is rightfully upset. When McGreevey wanted a first lady, he got one. Now that he no longer needs one, he laughs at her because she prides herself on being a former first lady.

When McGreevey left his post as governor prematurely after he disclosed his affair with a male state employee, his choices erased her chances, not his. He now lives in a $1.4 million mansion with his wealthy partner, who supports him. He is not working, but is attending seminary school full time to become an Episcopal priest. While he made her a princess, he has also made her a pauper, yet he still lives like a king.

He may be living like a king, but because it's in his lover's house, to the extent he is living like a king it's on someone else's money.

Is she is entitled to McGreevey's lover's money? I don't know any legal theory which would go quite that far. Barring the possibility of same sex marriage or a legal partnership agreement, McGreevey is legally a tenant at will, and his lover can kick him out any time he feels like it. That's much too shaky of an arrangement to be called "income" for alimony purposes

Few articles point out that when Matos met McGreevey in 1996, he was still married to another woman with whom he'd had a child, and divorced in 1997.

I think the claim that McGreevey "left his post as governor prematurely after he disclosed his affair with a male state employee" is disingenuous and tends to mislead readers. I keep seeing it in print, though, and it's as if the goal is to conflate corruption and homosexuality. Why more gay activists don't object to this, I have no idea. Career-wise, McGreevey is best be described as a career politician, whose eventual fall was occasioned not by his homosexuality, but by one of the worst corruption scandals in New Jersey history. I addressed this in two posts, quoting Inquirer columnist Monica Yant Kinney (a New Jerseyan), who said that McGreevey "forever shall be one of the worst governors in modern Jersey history."

But the public wants to think he resigned for being gay, and the press seems to enjoy stoking popular mythology.

And Matos, of course, is painting herself as an innocent victim -- not of her husband's corruption, but of his homosexuality.

Matos testified yesterday that her lifestyle plummeted when she left the governor's mansion four years ago.

"I don't have a state police vehicle, no driver, no security, no housekeeping manager or other staff, chefs and groundskeepers, that were available. I also pay the mortgage, all the utilities and other expenses," she testified.

McGreevey contends that the governor's office perks are not a marital asset.

Matos said she can no longer shop for her daughter's clothes at high-end boutiques, has taken only one vacation and borrowed $100,000 from a friend to make a down payment on her $430,000 Union County house. She said she has $250,000 in outstanding legal bills, excluding the costs of the divorce trial.

She also said she cannot offer her daughter the things the child enjoys when she stays with her father at his boyfriend's house in Plainfield. There, she has her own bathroom and playroom and plays on grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park.

As might be expected, they're saving best of the courtroom drama juice (Matos's claim she was duped) for last.
A final issue in the bitter breakup - her claim that she was duped into marrying a gay man - has not been scheduled to be heard. That phase could include testimony from an ex-aide who claims he had sexual trysts with the couple.
This will come down to whether the aide -- a former limo driver named Teddy Pedersen -- is lying. The New York Post explores Pedersen's account in detail, and it strikes me as unlikely that Pedersen would be lying, especially because Matos complained about him in her book. He says that he was involved in numerous three-ways with the couple; she says that she didn't know her husband was gay until an hour before his official announcement. Obviously, either Matos or Pedersen is lying. If Pedersen is telling the truth about sexual three-ways, though, Matos's claim to victimhood will be demolished, and her place as a laughingstock assured.

While a lot of people have written about the case, overall I think James Kirchick's analysis is the best I've seen:

No doubt the world is unfair to gay people and the higher rates of suicide, depression and personally destructive behavior amongst gay men finds some proximate cause in societal homophobia. But Jim McGreevey was forced to resign for no other reason than that he was a corrupt politician. He's more Mark Foley than Harvey Milk. That he was sleeping with a male aide is incidental to his downfall. By conflating his political demise and his struggle to cope with homosexuality, McGreevey inadvertently hurt the cause of gay civil rights as much as any crusading, socially conservative political activist could have hoped to do. He fed the stereotype that gays are untrustworthy and self-absorbed, and that homosexuality is a personal weakness.

One gets the sense that the McGreeveys' long, drawn-out divorce proceedings (which have now lasted longer than their marriage) is the couple's sick attempt to keep their names in the papers (Matos, remember, published her own memoir, Silent Partner, last year, and told ABC News that McGreevey "enlisted" Pedersone, one his "cronies," to make the threesome accusations because McGreevey "cannot stand it when I am receiving attention in the media rather than him.") In a poll released by Monmouth University just a few weeks before The Confession hit bookstores, 77% of New Jersey residents said that they believed McGreevey resigned due to "his personal sexuality." It seemed that McGreevey's mission had been accomplished: he convinced the voters that it was his homosexuality, not corrupt behavior, which led to his ouster. The prurient disclosures of Theodore Pederson only fortify this harmful, and mistaken, impression.

Had the same thing happened to a heterosexual politician, I think we'd be spared much of what is an appallingly dishonest drama.

I can't help notice that McGreevey is studying to become an Episcopal priest. I'll leave it to others to decide whether that's what the scandal, plagued, schism-ridden church needs.

But hey, maybe they can conflate McGreevey's newfound Episcopalianism into the scandal, and say that he resigned as governor because he wanted to become a gay priest....

I mean, why should corrupt sexual hypocrisy be limited to the Republican Party and religious conservatives?

UPDATE: Incorrect link removed. (I thought this was another post, and I'm probably getting senile....)

posted by Eric at 01:32 PM | Comments (2)

And you thought the safety Nazis were bad....

Yesterday I wrote a post titled "How do I tell Coco they want to kill her?"

I am writing this one lest anyone think I was engaged in hyperbole. While I admitted that I was being emotional, the fact is that people who love their dogs do consider them members of their families, and when the government proposes taking them away and killing them, the effect on the emotions really isn't that different than if the government literally proposed killing human family members.

Losing a dog is a very traumatic event. I grieved as much for Puff as I have for a number of people, and by saying this, I in no way diminish the people I loved or the love I felt for them. Animals are animals, and they are not human, but grief is still grief.

Anyway, I did not exaggerate when I said that they want to kill Coco.

When I wrote yesterday's post, I was unaware of a proposed law in Ohio which would do just that:

"Pit bulls seem to be the dog of choice on the streets," said state Representative Tyrone Yates, D-53rd district, explaining his motive for House Bill 568, a proposal to ban pit bulls in Ohio.

Yates' bill would give pit bull owners 90 days to get the dogs out of Ohio before ordering county dog wardens to seize and destroy the dogs.

"I think eliminating vicious dogs is as important to reclaiming our cities as controlling gun violence and making sure our young people are going to school," says Yates.

And more from the Baltimore Sun Weblog:
While numerous local governments have adopted pit bull bans -- like the two towns in the Dakotas we referred to earlier this week -- this is the first proposed statewide ban with which I'm familiar. It's a highly revolting development, and one that -- though, granted, it pertains to exterminating breeds of dogs instead of races of people -- is reminiscent of some shameful times in world history.

I'm hoping this can't happen in 21st Century America, but then again, on a local level, it already has.

Even the American Kennel Club -- normally focused on purebred breeds, of which the pit bull is not one -- is urging citizens to voice their opposition to it, as you can see here.

We often hear talk about "safety Nazis" and the like, but these people really do want to conduct door to door searches to find and kill dogs.
(C)(1) Beginning ninety days after the effective date of this section, if an officer has probable cause to believe that a dog is a pit bull dog, the officer may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for a search warrant. The court shall issue a search warrant for the purposes requested if there is probable cause to believe that a dog is a pit bull dog.

(2) After obtaining a search warrant, an officer shall seize the pit bull dog and surrender the dog to the dog warden. Not later than ten days after receiving the dog, the dog warden shall euthanize the dog.

It's easy to say that I don't live in Ohio, but they're trying to allow municipalities to do it here in Pennsylvania, and while I can move, do I have to spend my life hiding and running? Must I live in fear of neighborhood informants telling the government that I have a pit bull hidden in my attic, and worry that eventually they will find Coco and drag her away to be killed while I scream and cry helplessly, wailing away like some poor babushka in Stalinist Russia who just lost her husband to the NKVD?

Yes, I know Coco is just a dog.

But I also thought I was living in the land of the free.

posted by Eric at 04:19 PM | Comments (21)

Straight talk? In Beverly Hills?

No, that is not a joke about heteronormativism. Or even homonormativism.

I just didn't know what else to call a post linking B. Daniel Blatt's "McCain's Straight Talk Express Stops in Beverly Hills." And while the subject of gay marriage did come up, that's not the point; I just got a kick out of the title.

If you've heard the claims that McCain is arrogant, aloof and won't listen to people, be sure to read Blatt's account:

Yesterday, while in Los Angeles, his campaign also reached out to bloggers, inviting a number -- including yours truly -- to attend a "press availability" in Beverly Hills. Along with the local media there, we felt a bit out of place, given the camaraderie of the press corps which travels with the campaign. But the candidate treated us no differently.

Indeed, the Arizona senator seemed to relish the exchange. At one point when a staffer said they had time for just one more question, he overruled her, saying he'd take a few more. He responded quickly and deftly to all but one question, only occasionally failing to provide a direct answer. He stammered a bit when replying to a question about cluster bombs, stating that he hadn't looked into the issue, but his decision on whether or not to ban them would "depend on the circumstances."

The Republican candidate wanted to focus on the Iraq war and national security, distinguishing his positions and record from those of his likely Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama. The press, however, seemed more interested in the revelations from former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and the Arizona senator's relationship to the incumbent president.

Concludes Blatt,
As a blogger who, unlike the reporters there, acknowledges his bias, I guess it's fair for me to say that I came away impressed with the senator's performance. He was quick on his feet and responded to all but one question promptly, confidently, and very often with good humor. However, the press seems reluctant to give him credit for making himself so readily available, even as he took far more questions than his staff thought he had time to address.
I also see myself as a blogger who, unlike the reporters there, acknowledges his bias. But I guess if reporters did that, there wouldn't be any need for bloggers.

I know he continues to get it from both sides, and I don't agree with him on a lot of things. But John McCain just keeps looking better.

To second what M. Simon said earlier,

You know, I could get to like McCain.

posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (4)

Vets For Freedom Has Some Questions

1. Senator Obama, when will you finally decide to go back to Iraq, to see the progress first hand?

2. And when will you finally decide to meet one-on-one, unconditionally, with General Petraeus?

Sergeant Anderson was one of the 12 veterans denied a meeting with Senator Obama. And like his fellow veterans, Sergeant Anderson would like to ask Senator Obama a few questions: Why hasn't he met with General Petraeus? And why won't he visit Iraq? And why would Senator Obama rather talk about meeting--unconditionally--with Iran, instead of meeting with veterans and commanders? America deserves to know.

OK. You are fed up with McCain and the Republican Party and don't want them to have a dime of your money. They are not the only game in town. If you think Civilization Is Worth Saving why not donate to help get these ads on the air? You can visit the Vets For Freedom home page to learn more. Or go directly to make a donation.

Via Instapundit - HILLARY GETS A DIG IN: "I have the highest respect and regard for Sen. McCain, he and I have actually gone to Iraq and Afghanistan together."

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 11:35 AM | Comments (8)

when earned is unfair, unearned is fair!

Today's WSJ Science Journal has a piece by Robert Lee Hotz called "Revenge of the Freeloaders -- Study Finds Culture Influences Reaction To Reward, Rebuke." Naturally, I was fascinated, and I was even more fascinated by some of the unexamined premises raised in both the study and the piece.

We all bristle at people who put themselves ahead of the common good, whether it is by evading taxes, shirking military service, cheating on bus fares or littering. Many of us will go out of our way to shame, shun or otherwise punish them, researchers have shown. That's how we foster a community that benefits everyone, even at some cost to ourselves.
Sorry, but that first sentence contains too many premises for comfort. While most fair-minded people bristle at tax evaders, I'm not entirely sure it's because they're placing themselves ahead of the common good, because increasing numbers of people are inclined to see the government as wasteful, and see those who'd fall into the category of "undeserving tax eaters" as at least as morally egregious as those who evade taxes. Thus, the objection to tax evaders is often more rooted in the fact that the tax evader got an unfair advantage (and broke the law) than in the quaint and antiquated idea that tax revenues necessarily go to the common good. In fact the more the government is seen as a freeloader (if not a thief), the less immoral the tax evader becomes. However, his evasion remains fundamentally unfair, especially to the rest of us who complied with the law, so we resent him. What is being forgotten is that in many parts of the world, governments are seen as little more than robber barons, and tax evasion is considered about as immoral as going in excess of a posted 55 MPH speed limit would be on a eight lane superhighway.

As to shirking military service, what about so many of the Vietnam generation draft evaders who spent years in college avoid military service by way of student deferments and the like? We elected one president, and Bill Clinton was followed by George W. Bush, who did reserve duty. It strikes me that while there are many people who bristle at those who avoided service in Vietnam, their reasons differ. For those on the left, draft evasion in the form of deferments was the right and moral thing to do only if you were opposed to the war; if you supported the war, you became a hypocrite for not serving. If we apply this standard to taxation, "principled" tax evasion by those who oppose taxation would be justified, while those who believe in the system but evade for selfish reasons would be immoral.

But how is anyone supposed to ascertain whether both claims of principle might not be driven by selfishness? It is not just as selfish to not want to risk dying in a war as it is to not want to hand over your money to the government? I honestly don't know, but I don't think we all feel the same way about these things.

As to cheating on bus fares and littering (assuming the fare cheater can afford the fare), it's very tough to come up with any moral justification at all for such sleazy behaviors, so the vast majority of us would properly bristle at such behavior, and for the same reasons. To my mind, littering is especially animalistic behavior, and I suspect most litterers would benefit from being imprisoned in dumpsters for a weekend or forced to scrub sidewalks with toothbrushes, except that would violate the 8th Amendment. I saw a guy throw a coffee cup on the ground over the weekend, and as he glanced glaringly at the people around him it occurred to me that he might consider putting the cup in a nearby trashcan to be beneath his "dignity" -- or even "sissy" behavior. (An unfortunate truth is that society once had the whipping post precisely to deal with miscreants like that.)

But I'm afraid I've strayed dramatically from the scientific study of freeloaders, retaliation, and cooperation. Not surprisingly, results varied by countries.

To explore cooperation across cultures, Dr. Herrmann and his colleagues recruited 1,120 college students in 16 cities around the globe for a public-good game. The exercise is one of several devised by economists in recent years to distill the complex variables of human behavior into transactions simple enough to be studied under controlled laboratory conditions.

The volunteers played in anonymous groups of four. Each player started with 20 tokens that could be redeemed for cash after 10 rounds. Players could contribute tokens to a common account or keep them all to themselves.

After each round, the pooled funds paid a dividend shared equally by all, even those who didn't contribute. Previous research shows that a single selfish individual riding on the generosity of others can so irritate other players that contributions soon drop to nothing.

That changes when players can identify and punish those who don't contribute (in this case, by deducting points that can quickly add up to serious money). Once such peer pressure comes into play, everyone -- including the shamed freeloader -- starts to chip in.

"Freeloaders are disliked everywhere," said study co-author Simon Gachter, who studies economic decision-making at Nottingham. "Cooperation always breaks down if people can't punish."

The students behaved the same way in all 16 cities until given the chance to punish those taking a free ride on the shared investment. Punishment was done anonymously, and it cost one token to discipline another player.

Among those punished, differences emerged immediately. Students in Seoul, Istanbul, Minsk in Belarus, Samara in Russia, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Athens, and Muscat in Oman were most likely to take revenge by deducting points from other players -- and to give up a token themselves to do it.

"They didn't believe they did anything wrong," said economist Herbert Gintis at New Mexico's Santa Fe Institute. And because the spiteful freeloaders had no way of knowing who had punished them, they often took out their ire on those who helped others most, suspecting they must be to blame.

Such a readiness to retaliate, researchers said, reflected relatively lower levels of trust, civic cooperation and the rule of law as measured by social scientists in the World Values Survey, which periodically assesses basic values and beliefs in more than 80 societies. In countries with democratic market economies, peer pressure goaded people to cooperate. Among authoritarian societies or those dominated more by ties of kinship, freeloaders instead lashed out at those who censured them, the researchers found.

"The question is why?" said Harvard political economist Richard Zeckhauser.

No one is sure. The freeloaders might be angry at being trumped by strangers, or be unwilling to share with people they don't know. They also might believe they are being treated unfairly.

Well, that last realization is nothing new. Mark Twain noticed it over a century ago, when he famously observed,
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
If we put aside the issue of why some cultures are more retaliatory than others, the biggest problem I see with the above experiment is that it relies on "free" money as opposed to earned money.

Naturally, this distorts a very primal question: whose money is whose? It's a lot easier to consider unearned money to be other than your own, and thus, to give an extreme example, a lottery winner is less likely to feel resentful about forking over his winnings than the owner of a store who has built it from scratch.

And an independent contractor who builds fences for a living is likely to be far more resentful about writing the government a check out of his earnings than the same man would if he worked as an hourly employees for a large fence company and had the taxes deducted -- even if the work was identical, and even if the net after-tax income was the same. The question of whose money is it? so strikes at the core of what motivates people that if the tax withholding laws were abolished, the income tax system would become unsustainable.

Several years ago, I looked at a work situation a left-wing writer saw as an experiment in socialism -- by waiters at a New York restaurant who shared their tips. Like the experiment Hotz describes in today's journal, there was also a common pot. Unlike that experiment, the money that went into the common pot was not exactly "free" but was earned. Waiters who worked harder earned larger tips, and, as the author admitted, these harder workers tended to resent the waiters who didn't:

....which means that tips--no matter how much an individual brings in individually--were split equally. On nights that I sold our most expensive wines and entrees to the best Big Apple tippers, I divided what I've earned with the rest of the house.

Needless to say, this is an experiment in the successes and pitfalls of a socialist society. The good parts are plentiful; when a server gets weeded (waitspeak for "too busy to function"), it is the responsibility of the entire house to pick up the slack. The house does this out of respect for the concept of teamwork and, more importantly, out of a selfish desire to protect the common monetary interest.

Conceptually, this inspires in my coworkers different reactions. One particularly obnoxious workmate of mine constantly complained that some servers didn't hold up their end of the bargain. They're lazy, he says, or they don't sell the same amount of food as he does. (Emphasis added.)

Right there, the author touches on an fascinating resentment -- not of the harder workers for working harder and having more money to contribute, but a resentment of their resentment. There is a war with the idea that there should be any more entitlement to earned money than to unearned money.

And it needs to be resolved by getting rid of that typically American mindset of ownership -- and above all, of responsibility.

.... that's an American mindset. We are possessionists, obsessed with belongings and ownership. We are a nation of deeds and titles, a nation mired in proving what we have. In the end, if we have shelter and freedom and family, that should be enough to sate any of us.

The fact that the fulfillment of these needs isn't enough is disconcerting, because if a pooled house is a microcosm of that elusive Communist society that has never entirely worked, the one truth is that success is a (distant?) possibility. But we need to divorce ourselves from the idea that each of us is directly responsible for certain things and take a more proactive role in living life. As the environment, economy, and government continue to suffer varying degrees of trauma, it feels increasingly important that we leave our individual bubbles and join a community. Call it a manifesto, or call it a practical approach to changing the world, but it seems to me that we could all be better people if we learned what our teachers tried to impart in kindergarten: sharing is good.

In a kindergarten setting, such lessons in altruism are much easier to impart, and easier to justify, because after all, whatever possessions or money children have is generally given to them by adult authority figures, and is thus "free."

The bottom line is that it's not only a lot easier to share free money, it's a lot easier to become morally indignant with those who don't. But those who didn't earn their fair share are much more likely to be "generous" with what they didn't earn, and less tolerant of the reluctance of those who earned their money to share it.

Carried to an extreme, this leads the freeloading classes to paradoxically accuse those on whose hard work they depend -- their benefactors -- of being greedy. Of being "freeloaders" for not wanting to pay "their fair share."

Which makes about as much sense as parasites accusing their host of parasitism.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm thinking that there may be a direct relationship between resentment and greed. Think about it this way: if the more productive classes are resented for having more, and if they are also resented even if they pay more, it begs the question of whether the resentment of them stems from a poorly understood aspect of human nature which touches on the Twain distinction between man and dog. Suppose for the sake of argument that there is some natural, biologically based resentment of the "helping" classes by the classes who are "helped." (Hence the quotes.) The result is that the productive are in a no-win situation; they are resented for having earned more, and also resented for helping the non-productive classes. OK, it being a given that humans dislike being resented, if they're going to be resented either way, what's in it for them by being helpers? Other than not wanting to go to prison, I don't know.

But I strongly suspect that the more the productive classes are resented for being "greedy," the greedier they'll actually become.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all!

Comments appreciated.

posted by Eric at 10:09 AM | Comments (28)

Second City Cop

A very interesting blog by some one who purports to be a Chicago police officer.

Second City Cop

The comments are especially good.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:05 AM | Comments (3)

Just don't question their patriotism....

I don't know what it is about me and emails I don't agree with, but earlier today I received an impassioned plea from the "Lighted Candle Society" informing me that my tax dollars are "subsidizing pornography."

Naturally, that got my attention, for the word "subsidize" means "finance, support, promote, sponsor, underwrite, put up the money for," and I honestly didn't know the government was paying for porn with my dollars.

But that's what the email said:

My tax dollars are
paying for what?!

With scientific research demonstrating the serious social and psychological harm that pornography causes, can you stand still while your tax dollars subsidize the most explicit sexual material?

This last week, the Lighted Candle Society met with Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia's 10th district. Dr. Broun has introduced a bill in Congress that would prohibit military PX stores from selling pornographic films and magazines. The families of our military, the honor of our servicemen and the dignity of their service to our country deserve more than this.

Currently, PX stores (military base convenient stores) sell explicit materials such as Penthouse, Hustler and Playboy. Representative Broun's bill (the Military Honor and Decency Act) would remove this material from the shelves.

Please contact your representative and ask them to co-sponsor HR 5821. Click on the box below to get started! It only takes 2 minutes.

First of all, since when is allowing a store to sell something a subsidy? To my mind, subsidizing pornography means buying it for someone else. If the government letting a vendor sell something is a subsidy, by that standard almost anything which is sold can be said to be subsidized.

And it came as quite a shock to me that anyone in this day and age would consider Playboy to be pornography.

Apparently the problem is that under existing law, it isn't pornography. Thus, the goal of the bill is to have the government declare it to be pornography. I read the bill (HR 5821), and it broadens the existing definition of "sexually explicit material" to include nudity.

I guess that means not only no more Playboy, but no more art magazines featuring Renoir!

It's easy to be flippant and say something like "I wish these people would get a life!" The problem is, I'm afraid they have a life, and this is it.


Without getting into the pros and cons of either real pornography or Playboy, I do have a philosophical question.

Shouldn't it be up to the military to decide what is and what is and what is not allowed to be sold to soldiers without congressional meddling? It's not as if we're talking about children here. They are soldiers, and they are risking their lives in the defense of their country.

Where do people get off trying to censor their reading material? Isn't there still a war on?

(Well, if the bill passes, I guess concerned citizens could always start a compaign along the lines of "Send a copy of Playboy to a soldier!" Yeah, I know that would be a subsidy, but at least it would be private. Hey, whatever it takes to help win the war!)

MORE: Dean Esmay must be on the same mailing list I'm on, for he got the email too. He doesn't think this stunt will help the congressman much:

Congressman Broun, if he is successful, will soon become the most hated man in Congress among those serving.
Maybe he doesn't realize there's an election in November.

posted by Eric at 06:19 PM | Comments (8)

How do I tell Coco they want to kill her?
...when pit bulls are criminalized, only criminals will own pit bulls.

-- Radley Balko

In an ominous Pennsylvania development, a group of legislators want to do away with Pennsylvania's ban on breed specific legislation:
State Rep. John Galloway (D., Bucks) will announce legislation today that would allow municipalities to pass ordinances restricting dangerous dogs.

ADBA's position and analysis continues below.

Galloway, who will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. at the Bristol Borough Hall, said he was inspired to draft the bill after a large dog attacked a beagle being walked by a little girl in his district.

Luna, the beagle, was being walked by a 5-year-old girl and her uncle in Bristol when it was attacked by a pit bull that had wandered out of its yard. Luna and the little girl, along with local officials, will attend the event.

It's terrible that this little girl's beagle was attacked. Had I been there, I would have done anything in my power to stop the attack. Whatever jerk allowed his dog loose (whether it was a pit bull or not) should have his dog taken away from him, and the owner of the beagle would have been fully justified in shooting the other dog.

What is not justified is the attempt by grandstanding politicians to make me into a criminal, simply because Coco (whose best friend is a little Shih Tzu named Tristan and who is also in love with a beagle named Bailey) happens to share the same collective breed name which is being applied to the dog which attacked Luna the beagle.

I deeply and bitterly resent this profound abuse of logic. Dog A is not controlled by his owner and attacks Dog B, so they want to punish owners of Dog C, because Dog C allegedly resembles Dog A. By definition, this is bigotry. Every dog is different, just as every person is different. There are good dogs with good owners and there are bad dogs with bad owners. People should be making up their minds about individual dogs and individual owners based on the conduct of the individual dogs and individual owners. There are leash laws, and laws against allowing dogs to run loose. If violators of these laws own ill-behaved pit bulls which are allowed to run around and wreak havoc, they're like criminal gun owners who engage in drive-by shootings. Show me a bad pit bull that attacks innocent dogs or people, and I'll show you a bad dog owner. (IMO, the popularity of strong dogs with criminals is a result of the drug war, which is another topic.....)

But Breed Specific Legislation disregards the fact that just as not all dogs are the same, not all humans are the same.

This is another example of nanny state social engineering at its worst. Anyone who thinks it will stop at "pit bulls," think again. Like so-called "assault weapons" they're another foot in the door -- based more on an appearance than anything else. (And if you think a pit bull is easy to spot by its appearance, just take this test.)

But dogs looking like pit bulls are only a first step. All large and powerful dogs will ultimately be on the "dog control" list. Nanny statists simply do not want citizens owning dogs which are capable of defending themselves and their familes.

Parenthetically, Clayton Cramer has documented that dog control laws share a racist history along with gun control laws:

In Maryland, these prohibitions went so far as to prohibit free blacks from owning dogs without a license, and authorizing any white to kill an unlicensed dog owned by a free black, for fear that blacks would use dogs as weapons. Mississippi went further, and prohibited any ownership of a dog by a black person.[5]
Whether Breed Specific Legislation might be rooted in similar impulses is in my view a legitimate topic. While it might not be consciously racist, the communitarian impulse nonetheless lumps people together, lumps dogs together, and enact "preemptive" legislation.

Sponsor Galloway is a Democrat, which doesn't surprise me, but I see there are Republicans listed among the bill's sponsors. (GALLOWAY, MELIO, RAMALEY, JAMES, SAYLOR, MAHONEY, PARKER, GOODMAN, PASHINSKI, SIPTROTH, MOYER, BISHOP, REICHLEY, SWANGER, MURT AND GERBER -- of whom Saylor, Moyer, Reichley, Swanger, and Murt are Republicans.)

This stuff really fries me, and I don't know what to say, other than I hope that this law is defeated.

I might as well repeat myself:

I don't know if there is any way to put this more simply, but Coco is my dog, and that's all there is to it. I am loyal to her, and in being loyal to her, I am being loyal to myself. The people who want to make me cut out her ovaries and the people who want to kill her I must oppose resolutely, lest I cease to be a free citizen.

I find it depressing to live in a country which would invade my home and kill my dog, and despite my use of satire, ridicule and sarcasm as weapons, I don't think their movement is funny at all. It is sinister. I do not think it is hyperbole to call it Orwellian, and yes, even totalitarian.

I think any government that would take away dogs that have done no harm which are owned by law-abiding citizens is by definition a tyrannical government. If they can do this, they can do nearly anything.

I know I am repeating myself, but stuff like this calls for repetition. So I'll also repeat what I said when I repeated myself in a post titled "As the noose tightens, the hangman becomes respectable": I am, minding my own business and not so much as inconveniencing anyone, while an ever-growing number of people want to make me into a criminal. As it is, I'm forced to live as an exile from California, where my dog and my guns would be criminal activities.

So, should I just sit around in Pennsylvania and imagine it could never happen here? Or should I move South and hope it doesn't happen there?

Wherever I go, it seems that it's easier and easier to become a criminal by doing nothing.

While I try to defend my right to keep and bear arms as often as I can, there's something about this that rankles me in a way that the gun control debate does not. That's because a gun is a tool, and not a member of the family, and people who want to take them away are not threatening to take away and kill a member of the family.

My dog Coco is not a gun.


She is a member of my family. Fortunately, she is a dog, so she cannot realize that there are well-organized people in the government who want to kill her. But how am I supposed to feel about people who propose killing a member of my family?

Like I say, this is a more emotional issue than the gun issue. It's hard to look at a member of your family and not feel.

MORE: A friend just emailed me what I think is a perfect example of a killer pit bull in action:

Notice that not only are all of these dogs extremely dangerous, they're diabolically clever at luring their victims into a false sense of security.

MORE: Commenter Oregon Guy asks,

Where is the Kennel Club? Are there no advocates for dogs?
All major kennel organizations oppose BSL, including the PA bill. The AKC's position on the PA bill is here, and here's the UKC on BSL.

And here's a statement from the ADBA:

The ADBA, AKC and UKC believes that strong enforcement of leash laws, as well as clear guidelines for identifying and managing dangerous dogs, will promote responsible dog ownership and prevent tragedies from occurring. Simply placing restrictions on certain breeds will not improve public safety - it will only punish responsible dog owners.

We strongly support sound, enforceable, non-discriminatory legislation to govern dog ownership, and we appreciate legislators' desire to keep communities safe for both people and dogs. However, BSL will not address the root cause of dangerous dogs - irresponsible ownership!

Click here to continue reading.

UPDATE: Here's more from the ADBA:

If you believe that it does not affect you because you don't own a "pit bull," it may shock you to know that ALL of the following breeds have been targeted; Akita, Alaskan Malamute, American Bull Dog, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Belgian Malinois, Boerboel, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Chow Chow, Doberman Pincher, Dogo Argentino, English Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, German Shepard, Great Dane, Irish Wolf Hound, Mastiff, Presa Mallorquin, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Scottish Deerhound, Shar Pei, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the Tosa Inu.

Continue reading "How do I tell Coco they want to kill her?"

posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (8)

Obama vs McCain On Economics

Thorley Winston at The Volokh Conspiracy has this to say about Obama vs McCain on economic policy:

On Health Care - Obama favors creating a new federal entitlement and a new federal bureaucracy to force every private health plan to conform to the "genero[sity]" of the new entitlement. McCain opposes both mandates and entitlements and favors letting consumers buy their own health insurance policies across State lines and restoring market competition to the health insurance market.

On entitlements - Obama favors raising Social Security taxes (again), thinks that Medicare Part D wasn't generous enough, and thinks that comparatively poorer young people were put on this Earth to pay for the benefits promised to the comparatively wealthier retirees who voted them into existence in the first place. McCain opposes expanding existing entitlements, wants to means-test Medicare, and has consistently supported letting younger workers opt at least partially out of Social Security.

On farm subsidies - Obama favors farm subsidies including ethanol. McCain has consistently opposed farm subsidies even to the point of going into Iowa to denouncer ethanol subsidies.

On free trade - Obama favors backing out of our existing trade treaties unless they include more trade restrictions to benefit various special interest groups that support his campaign (read: unions). McCain has been one of the most ardent supporters of free trade to the point of talking to voters among whom it might be unpopular to convince them that they should support it.

On taxes, spending and earmarks - Obama favors not only repealing the Bush tax cuts but higher levels of taxation on top of that, favors even higher levels of spending, and supports earmarks (ask his wife's employer). McCain has never voted for a tax increase and generally favors lower taxes, has bucked his own party on spending (particularly for popular programs) and doesn't do earmarks.


You know, I could get to like McCain.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:04 PM | Comments (2)

What really happened? (I'll never have time to know....)
"The only news is that somebody within the administration has confirmed what a lot of us have thought for some time."
That's Barack Obama's take on a "tell all" book by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

Having not read the book and being without plans to do so, I'd be shooting in the dark if I reviewed it, but I find myself wondering what juicy scandals it contains, since it's occupying a huge amount of print, talk show, and blog space. I mean, after all, since Bush is the target of McClellan's wrath, and Bush is a lame duck whose only political relevance is the extent to which John McCain can be tied to him, the book would have to be a real eye-opener to merit all this attention.

So what happened? Did McCain throw a tantrum in the White House and punch Bush in the face? Is McCain rumored to have had late night romantic meetings with sexy lobbyists in the White House while Bush snorted coke?

Being a complete ignoramus about these things, I figured I'd start from scratch, so, I Googled Scott McClellan. Quite predictably, the Wiki entry came right up.

The guy seems to have been a natural born and bred politician:

Born in Austin, Texas, McClellan is the youngest son of Carole Keeton Strayhorn, former Texas State Comptroller and former 2006 independent Texas gubernatorial candidate, and attorney Barr McClellan. McClellan's brother Mark McClellan headed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and formerly was Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration. McClellan is the grandson of the late W. Page Keeton, longtime Dean of the University of Texas School of Law and renowned expert in tort law.


After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin, where he was president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Texas Alpha Chapter, McClellan was the three-time campaign manager for his mother. In addition, he worked on political grassroots efforts and was the Chief of Staff to a Texas State Senator.

That someone with this background would become a career politician is not surprising. Considering the unpopularity of Bush right now (and the desire of the Democrats to run against Bush), a "tell-all" book is probably an excellent career move, regardless of how much it actually tells.

The Wiki review of "What Happened" does not point out what's making leading leftists like the gleefully gloating Gleen Grenwald find most damning -- the "deferential" remark:

"[T]he national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq," he writes.

McClellan also writes that "the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."

On this point, White House reporters bristle. "When people say White House reporters weren't asking the tough questions, that's false," said Mason, who contended that White House aides such as McClellan kept reiterating talking points and that reporters "weren't getting any usable responses." When asked about McClellan's criticism, NBC's David Gregory responded in an e-mail to Politico: "I think my work speaks for itself and is the clearest refutation of Scott's claim."

McClellan wasn't press secretary during the invasion but took over as the case for war began crumbling.... (Emphasis added.)

Hmmm... Who's the target? Bush? Or the "deferential" press?

During the critical time period in which he claims reporters were said to be too deferential -- when "the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq" was under debate -- McClellan was not Press Secretary, but Ari Fleischer was. However, McClellan nonetheless appeared (as Deputy Press Secretary) at some White House press conferences before he took over from Fleischer. (Full list of White House briefings here.)

I don't know what he was doing in 2002 (he has a long history of working for his mother), but perhaps McClellan missed the "deferential" behavior of most Democrats and nearly everyone else during that period. (See my compilation of "Quotes from war-mongering Democrats.")

There's talk of McClellan's alleged Soros connections, as well as possible Obama connections, but what most fascinates me is McClellans conspiracy theory connection by way of his father, Barr McClellan.

Seriously, I'd rather read his father's book than his son's. His theory is that LBJ killed JFK:

Disallowed from practicing law, McClellan published Blood, Money & Power: How LBJ Killed JFK*[3], in 2003 which became a best-seller in November of that year. In the book McClellan presents a theory that Lyndon B. Johnson and Edward Clark were involved in the planning and cover-up of the Kennedy assassination. McClellan also named Malcolm Wallace as one of the assassins. The killing of Kennedy, he alleged, was paid for by oil millionaires such as Clint Murchison, Sr. and Haroldson L. Hunt. McClellan purports that Clark got $6 million for this work. French journalist William Reymond published a book the same year in which he claims that Cliff Carter and Malcolm "Mac" Wallace were key to helping plot the murder of JFK. McClellan's book has been translated into Japanese. He is presently completing a sequel to his book.

McClellan states, the assassination of Kennedy allowed the oil depletion allowance to be kept at 27.5 percent. It remained unchanged during the Johnson presidency. According to McClellan this resulted in a saving of over 100 million dollars to the American oil industry. During President Richard M. Nixon term, in 1970, it dropped to 15 percent.

McClellan and his wife Cecile live in Gulfport, Mississippi. He is rewriting a novel on the death penalty that was recognized in international competition in 1982 and is producing a play first presented in Houston in 1992.

Now that's what I call a cool theory.

And hey, "Blood, Money & Power: How LBJ Killed JFK" is available at Amazon! I'll bet the son's new book ought to help dad's sales. As one reviewer said, "McClellan sacrificed a brilliant legal career for this case." Maybe such self-sacrificing behavior runs in the family.

But alas! There's so little time. I don't think I'll be able to read either book.

MORE: Don't miss Rick Moran's "White House Backstabbing for Fun and Profit," which looks at a long history of such "tell-all" books. Most of them, notes Moran, were written by prominent big shots "fairly substantial men who built solid reputations outside of government" -- like Regan, Haig, and Stephanopoulos:

Not so Mr. McClellan. He was far from being an administration big shot. He had no reputation to rescue nor did he necessarily have a political axe to grind. He wrote his vicious little pamphlet and nailed it to the wall because his publisher recognized a market for his scribblings, nothing more. There is doubtless some historical value in what we are told is a book all of 321 pages, although I doubt whether it would be anything much beyond footnote worthy. In essence, Mr. McClellan sold his memories -- faulty or otherwise -- for no other reason than he could.
I think he probably saw this as a career enhancer, and wanted to get in on what's left of the anti-Bush feeding frenzy.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Clayton Cramer asks:

if [..] he could see that Bush was intentionally misleading the nation into war back then, why didn't McClellan say anything? Why didn't he quit his job and blow the whistle? . . . It makes me wonder how much of this is that McClellan is trying to sell a book."

And Ann Althouse expressed wonder over the discovery of McClellan's sudden wisdom:

"It's not the disloyalty that bothers me. It's the press suddenly finding wisdom in a guy they previously disregarded as stupid and unreliable. It's inevitable that critical Bush-era memoirs will come out, but written by smarter people. I'll read those."
Maybe so, but my inner paranoid conspiracy theorist will still want to read the senior McClellan's JFK theory.

MORE: It appears that McClellan is a likely Obama supporter:

Scott McClellan, making the media rounds to promote his book and push back against the ferocious counter-attack by Bush loyalists, declined to come out tonight for John McCain and said he liked what he had heard from Barack Obama.

"I haven't made a decision," McClellan told Katie Couric on CBS's "Evening News," when asked if he was backing the Arizona senator. McClellan paid homage to McCain, saying that the Republican nominee had "governed from the center, and that's where I am."

But without prompting, he said he was "intrigued by Sen. Obama's message."

"It's a message that is very similar to the one that Gov. Bush ran on in 2000," McClellan said.

He offered similar comments about Obama on ABC's "World News Tonight."


If McClellan says Obama is very similar to Bush, then shouldn't McCain say he's running to prevent Bush from having a third term?

posted by Eric at 09:16 AM | Comments (3)

Clayton Cramer Is Running For Idaho State Senate

Back in late March Clayton sent me an e-mail saying that he was running for the Idaho State Senate. He and I have had our agreements and disagreements. He has always been respectful of my arguments and discussed them with wit and intelligence. The people of Idaho would be well served by electing him to office. He is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and he is vitally interested in science and technology. He practices the manual arts (machine shop work) as well. He is my ideal of the citizen politician.

He has my endorsement.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

This was prompted by his blog comment to my post Civilization Comes First. It reminded me I had promised to support him and had fallen down on the job.

I should have looked more closely at his www site. He lost. A shame. We could use more like him in government. Clayton: don't give up. Try again until you succeed.

posted by Simon at 12:28 AM | Comments (0)

Who says eagles don't carry off kids?

Watch and believe!

(Link here.)

(HT Justin, who told me that naturalists used to tell people that the above could never happen.)

posted by Eric at 06:26 PM | Comments (2)

Some pain is immoral

Not long ago, Eric Wilson discussed something I've often wondered about:

I do wonder, however, if normal sadness -- typical melancholy -- is increasingly being viewed as a sickness, a state to be treated with medication. Of course, there is a fine line between normal melancholy and clinical depression. What separates the two, as far as I can tell, is degree of activity. Both are forms of sadness that lead to ongoing unease with how things are -- persistent feelings that the world as it is, is not quite right. Depression (as I see it, at least) causes apathy in the face of this unease, lethargy approaching total paralysis, an inability to feel much of anything, one way or another. In contrast, melancholia (in my eyes) generates a deep feeling in regard to this same anxiety, a turbulence of heart that results in an active questioning of the status quo, a perpetual longing to create new ways of being and seeing.

Our culture seems to confuse these two and thus treat melancholia as an aberrant state. This could be terribly dangerous. To treat normal sadness as a disease is to degrade an essential part of the human experience.

If your family and/or friends are dying, melancholia is normal. I would worry more about the mental health of someone who didn't feel depressed under these circumstances than someone who did.

That does not mean depression should not be treated, any more than it means pain shouldn't be treated.

But just as there is no moral opprobrium attached to pain from a broken leg, nor should there be to pain from a broken "heart." They can't do things like ruin your career and take away your Second Amendment rights because you're in normal physical pain, so by what standard should they be able to do these things because of mental pain?

Little wonder that people medicate themselves rather than seek help.

Of course, according to the prevailing logic of the world, that's immoral too...

posted by Eric at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

Tiny laptop with a "real" keyboard?

"What I'd really like is something with the price of the Asus, the keyboard of the HP, and Windows XP for speed and broad software compatibility."

So says Glenn Reynolds, in his review of the Asus 900 mini notebook (which he generally likes).

When I'm on the road or when the power's out, I use a Dell 700M (a machine Glenn recommended, BTW) which is a lot smaller than most laptops. I still use it and love it .However, these new mini laptops are even smaller; the size and weight of a slim book. The biggest problem I'd have using one is that I can't stand having to use the tiny keyboards that seem an inextricable part of these machines.

How might they get around the keyboard problem? There are several portable keyboards which fold in half:


Or even into "fourths":


I don't think it would be an impossible engineering feat to design a mini laptop with a keyboard that folds out, perhaps on each side. That way, the thing would still be as small and as convenient to carry as a book, yet capable of delivering the type of performance we've come to expect of "real" laptops.

posted by Eric at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

"the scrutiny her piece received from professional bloggers"

I guess that doesn't mean yours truly, because not only do I not make a living from blogging, but I never read, linked to, or knew who the complainant ("ex blogger" Emily Gould) was. At least, not until I saw the link from Ann Althouse, and read more:

"They want me to be punished for having left that world, and for having criticized it," Gould wrote to me in an e-mail. "It's important to them that it be understood that my article, which on the surface might seem like an accomplishment, is actually a fluke, a mistake on the Times' part, attributable to pretty much anything besides relevance or skill."

That may sound a little defensive (and even a touch paranoid?), but it's not far off to say that the demographic that cared about this story most was the New York new media crowd. That group's open access to megaphones and soapboxes belies its exceedingly small and unrepresentative nature -- so much so that with a collective eye blink it can light up the blogosphere with vituperative chatter about what's, after all, just a story about the by now unsurprising pitfalls of playing with the Web's peephole-filled boundaries between public and private.

Hey wait a second! I never heard of her, but I don't want to punish her for leaving "that world" she left. I really and truly don't.

Gould's shocking "expose" of "their" world of blogging is here, and it's a classic example of someone who wanted attention, got it, and now complains about the attention she got.

More out of idle curiosity than anything else, I forced myself to slog through through her incredibly long and tedious screed, and while I'm at a loss to understand why she deserved the attention she got, that's just me. Perhaps if I were young and sexy and of the opposite sex I'd understand better. But I'm not and I don't.

Still, I recognize that under the First Amendment, people are entitled to say anything or express themselves in any legal manner they want in order to get attention. If she makes money doing what constitutes entertainment, she has just as much right as Ann Coulter or Amanda Marcotte.

Being paid lots of money for public assholeism is the American way.

I don't mean to complain, though, because it appears that by complaining I might stand accused of "scrutinizing" Ms. Gould, who is apparently someone who wants unwanted attention so much she'll do anything to get it in order to complain.

So I'm writing this post to say simply that I paid just enough attention to ascertain that this whole "flap" (if that's what it is) wasn't worthy of the attention I gave it.

posted by Eric at 03:03 PM | Comments (2)

Moving Electrons Not People

I just got an interesting report on a technical conference that is to be held by moving electrons not people.

CISSE 2008 provides a virtual forum for presentation and discussion of the state-of the-art research on computers, information and systems sciences and engineering. CISSE 2008 is the fourth conference of the CISSE series of e-conferences. CISSE is the World's first Engineering/Computing and Systems Research E-Conference. CISSE 2005 was the first high-caliber Research Conference in the world to be completely conducted online in real-time via the internet.
As the cost of energy goes up modems are replacing travel. I expect to see more of this as time goes on. It is not just the cost of energy. Travel time goes to zero. More bang for the buck all the way around.

Eric's post The little firehouse that couldn't beat the convention racket prompted me to cross post this from Power and Control.

posted by Simon at 10:28 AM | Comments (1)

Steal The Rich

How to get more taxes out of high earners:

May I suggest lowering the rate on top earners to a rate below that of other civilized countries and attracting them to the USA?

I call my plan: Steal The Rich.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

the little firehouse that couldn't beat the convention racket

A "little thing" pissed me off earlier. The City of Philadelphia is demolishing an architectural gem known as the Race Street Firehouse. Constructed in 1926, it's one of those whimsically functional buildings no one would design today, and it was adorned with what are probably the world's only "firemen gargoyles" -- an architectural detail I've blogged about before with pictures.

Here's a front view of the building:


And a side view -- showing what a charming and dignified little castle it is -- defying its executioners to the last.


I know I'm being anthropogenic, but it's as if the castle is saying,"Modern barbarians may be able to tear me down, but their vandal culture will never be able to build another one like me!"

It's true. The type of masons capable of such intricate brickwork, and kind of craftsmen capable of carving stone gargoyles, are beyond the practical capabilities of today. I think it's a tragedy, and I'm sure Mayor Nutter cares about as much about the Race Street Firehouse as he does the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

What makes this post especially hard to write is that I'm being emotional about a building, which may seem trivial, because it is not a living, breathing, suffering human being. Well, nor were the Bamyan statues in Afghanistan, but people still cared about their demise, even though they did not suffer as the Afghan people suffered. Of course, the Race Street Firehouse does not compare to ancient statues, so the comparison is inapt in that regard. However, they make the point that culturally significant things do not have to be living to merit at least a modicum of respect. All I can do here is speak up for them on their passing, and reflect on the whys.

Had the firehouse been purchased by a private developer who wanted to tear it down, I would be willing to bet that there'd have been a lot more trouble. The building is on the list of the National Register, and many people love it. As it is a valiant and enlightened campaign was mounted to save it, but to no avail. That's because there was no private developer to be pressured, no way to launch an effort to raise money to buy it.

It is being torn by the state to make way for a vastly expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center. Governor Rendell bulldozed aside the preservationists' concerns, because this is said to mean progress, and money for Philadelphia. Governor Rendell and future Mayor Nutter (who chaired the Pennsylvania Convention Center) positively gloated over the demolitions, which they said would bring jobs and development:

"This demolition is one of the most exciting events in this city's history," said Michael Nutter, former chairman of the PCC and democratic nominee for Mayor of Philadelphia. "The expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center will provide jobs, economic development, and cultural enrichment for the entire region. But most importantly, this expansion will catapult Philadelphia into the highest leadership ranks of convention centers in the world. I am very proud of our collective accomplishment."
I'd be more inclined to just heave a big sigh and say "That's progress!" if I believed it really was.

As a libertarian and a realist, I recognize that old buildings often do stand in the way of progress, and have to come down. In real estate, there's the principle of the "highest and best use" of land, and let's face it, a charming 1920s firehouse in the middle of downtown Philadelphia is not what most reasonable people would believe to be the highest and best use.

But the highest and best use principle assumes a normal operation of the free market system. What is happening here is that the state has decided to go into the convention center business, and it has made the decision to raze an entire area and radically change its character based on the notion that a bigger convention center will necessarily bring more conventions.

So, while my regret over the loss of the charming firehouse is a "little thing," it's one of those little things that has heightened my awareness of a much bigger thing -- government going into huge business ventures with taxpayer money.

A link from Glenn Reynolds to Nick Gillespie's video at touched on a question which is very closely related to the convention center business:

Are publicly financed stadiums and other sports subsidies really worth the cost to taxpayers?
No they're not. Despite the usual contentions of "$600 million worth of economic development" Dennis Coates (professor of economics at the University of Maryland) says that overall impact is negative:
"They don't make any money; they just generate new spending in one location by taking it from another. That's no benefit to the society; that's just a benefit to people who got the money given to them at a cost of the money taken from someone else."
Professor Coates has an article here exploring the issue in more depth.

And if government involvement in the stadium business is bad, government involvement in the convention center business appears to be worse. Until the doomed firehouse forced me to take a look, I had no idea what an massive boondoggle it is. Far from being limited to Philadelphia, it's become a city government bandwagon, with virtually every large city locked into an imaginary game of "competition" with every other large city. I placed competition in quotes to stress the artificiality.

Steven Malanga looked at the phenomenon in detail in The Convention Center Shell Game.

What is happening in Boston and Baltimore is not an anomaly but merely the latest chapter in what is turning out to be one of America's biggest civic boondoggles. For more than a decade now, cities and counties have been rushing, at enormous public cost, to build new convention centers or add space to old ones, including a $191 million expansion of San Francisco's Moscone Center, a $291 million new facility in Omaha, and a $354 million center in Pittsburgh. The increase in space has vastly outpaced the growth of the convention industry and often failed to generate the kind of economic activity predicted by boosters. Rather than energizing local economies, in fact, some convention centers are emerging as a drag on civic finances, requiring taxpayer operating subsidies on top of their huge, publicly financed construction costs. What's more, the situation is only likely to get worse. Another eight to ten million square feet of exhibition space is scheduled to come on line within five years, an increase of about 15 percent in an industry where demand is barely growing.

Although those numbers should be sobering to any city contemplating building yet more space, in New York officials are plunging ahead with plans for the most costly convention project to date--proposing to spend a staggering $1.5 billion nearly to double the size of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The proposal comes despite the chronic fiscal problems of both the state and the city and the absolute lack of any credible evidence that the expanded center would pay back such a colossal public investment.

Indeed, to finance the expansion, the state and the city, both already heavily indebted, will likely have to float huge debt offerings and may even increase some taxes.

New York's headlong plunge into this new project is evidence that local officials rarely let the facts get in the way of their love of big projects....

Malanga does not mention Philadelphia's boondoggle, but obviously, they're trying to keep up with the other, bigger boondoggles.

Like Baltimore.

Despite a publicly financed Hilton convention hotel set to open next year, Baltimore's major convention business appears to be declining, prompting concern among officials for the city's investment.
Critics say inflated costs and the failure to produce more shows drawing more patrons make the $373 million complex overlooking the Allegheny River a bad investment. A $150 million state subsidy and bonds financed by Allegheny County's hotel/motel room tax paid for the center..
Los Angeles.
Don't feed downtown L.A.'s white elephant

Convention Center giveaways line developers' pockets at the expense of the rest of the city.

And let's not forget that flagship city of urban boondoggles, our nation's capital:
Nearly four years ago, city officials opened the $850 million Washington Convention Center with a string of superlatives. The largest publicly financed project ever built in the city, they said, would attract more than a million visitors a year, fill hotels and set off an economic boom.

Instead, convention attendance is dropping, the surrounding neighborhood is yet to be transformed by the promised new development, and conventioneers are filling fewer hotel rooms than expected.

The number of large conventions and trade shows booked at the Washington Convention Center has declined since its first full year of operations, 2004, and, on average, those events have been smaller. Hotel bookings, a key measure of a convention center's performance, have failed to meet projections in all but one year.

The number of hotel rooms booked is especially significant because it is the most accurate measure of performance, and last year hotel convention bookings missed projections by 13 percent. Bookings are likely to fall short of projections by 24 percent this year and 29 percent next year.

To pay for the center, the city raised its tax rate for all hotel rooms and restaurant meals.

Ditto the Syracuse, New York area, and Lancaster, PA.

It's not as if they weren't warned.

A major Brookings Institute study by Heywood Sanders pointed out that the convention business has been in decline:

* The overall convention marketplace is declining in a manner that suggests that a recovery or turnaround is unlikely to yield much increased business for any given community, contrary to repeated industry projections. Moreover this decline began prior to the disruptions of 9-11 and is exacerbated by advances in communications technology. Currently, overall attendance at the 200 largest tradeshow events languishes at 1993 levels.

* Nonetheless, localities, sometimes with state assistance, have continued a type of arms race with competing cities to host these events, investing massive amounts of capital in new convention center construction and expansion of existing facilities. Over the past decade alone, public capital spending on convention centers has doubled to $2.4 billion annually, increasing convention space by over 50 percent since 1990. Nationwide, 44 new or expanded convention centers are now in planning or construction.

* Faced with increased competition, many cities spend more money on additional convention amenities, like publicly-financed hotels to serve as convention "headquarters." Another competitive response has been to offer deep discounts to tradeshow groups. Despite dedicated taxes to pay off the public bonds issued to build convention centers, many--including Washington, D.C and St. Louis--operate at a loss.

And that's not even taking into account today's fuel prices, or concerns about the carbon footprints of the conventioneers. (The full Brookings study is here in PDF.)

Needless to say, Philadelphia's convention industry is also declining, and while you might not read that in the Philadelphia Inquirer, some brave souls were at least concerned enough to allow that the enormous expansion just might entail risk.

Still, the convention advocates advance the view that Philadelphia has not kept pace with other cities, and "needs" a larger convention center, and I guess they're content to ignore evidence to the contrary.

While it wasn't easy to find hard statistics for Philadelphia, Professor Sanders supplied some during House testimony last March:

Philadelphia presents a similar case of overly optimistic consultant forecasts and lagging convention center performance. The new Pennsylvania Convention Center opened in July 1993, supplanting the Civic Center as the city's prime convention venue. The penultimate market and feasibility analysis for the center was completed in May 1988. That analysis stressed the capacity of the planned center to bring new convention and tradeshow events and attendees to Philadelphia. It projected that the center would be an economic boon to the city, generating a total of 4,252 new jobs and yielding 664,800 hotel room nights to the city by 2001.

The new jobs are difficult to find, but the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority has reported on the hotel room nights associated with center events. They hit a peak of 519,793 in fiscal year 2001, boosted by the Republican National Convention. By fiscal 2004 the room night total had fallen to 363,954. For fiscal 2005 it hit 297,180. The center is thus currently generating less than half the forecast hotel demand. At the same time, the 1998 consultant study predicted that the center would incur an annual operating loss of about $2.2 million. The center's actual operating loss for fiscal 2005 came to $14.8 million,

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Philadephia are now undertaking a $700 million expansion of the center that will add 260,000 square feet of exhibit space. Consultant studies project that the expansion will add more than $140 million in spending impact, by filling a total of 650,000 hotel room nights each year. That figure, post-expansion, is less than the 664,000 room nights promised in 1988 and never achieved.

Of course, if the gigantic new convention center fails to live up to the government's rosy predictions, guess who will have their hand out? The government! The way they act, you'd almost think they believe it's their money.

That's the whole problem, and it's why I don't like government going into the convention business. Like any business owner, the government can fail. However, when a private business entity fails, the consequences take the form of investors and stockholders losing money or becoming bankrupt.

But what happens when government business ventures fail?

MORE: While Nikolai Ceausescu didn't call them "convention centers" he razed huge portions of Bucharest in order to build gigantic government buildings:

Beginning in 1972, Ceausescu instituted a program of systematisation. Promoted as a way to build a "multilaterally developed socialist society", the program of demolition, resettlement, and construction began in the countryside, but culminated with an attempt to reshape the country's capital completely. Over one fifth of central Bucharest, including churches and historic buildings, was demolished in the 1980s, in order to rebuild the city in his own style. The People's House ("Casa Poporului") in Bucharest, now the Palace of the Parliament, is the world's second largest administrative building, after The Pentagon. Ceausescu also planned to bulldoze many villages in order to move the peasants into blocks of flats in the cities, as part of his "urbanisation" and "industrialisation" programs. An NGO project called "Sister Villages" that created bonds between European and Romanian communities may have played a role in thwarting these plans.
This modernization was entirely in accordance with Leninist principles:
Ceausescu considered it necessary to his program of systematization to demolish vast portions of the historic and central parts of Bucharest and replace them with giant representation buildings and high-density standardized apartment blocks. The latter rooted in the ideology of "edifying the multilaterally developed socialist society" and it was considered an epitome of the Leninist formula of the "fight between old and new" (see Historical materialism).

Started in 1974, but implemented some six years later, the program implied a comprehensive nationwide campaign of demolitions, resettlements and reconstruction.

Fortunately, we live in a democracy and aren't ruled by the likes of Nikolai Ceausescu, so in theory there's a limit on urban demolitions.

Still, I find myself wondering...

These ever-more-gigantic and ugly convention centers have all the charm of airports, and this one is destroying much of downtown Philadelphia's charm.

From where came the rule that all cities must have them?

UPDATE: My thanks to Clayton Cramer for the link. Notes Cramer,

Special interests in the area of the proposed development make out like bandits on these projects, while taxpayers as a whole get looted--and business in other parts of the city are the usual losers.
I like the title too. ("Really Bad Ideas Spread, Like Herpes")

posted by Eric at 10:21 AM | Comments (2)

Conservative Funk

Conservatives are pining for a candidate they can vote for. What they really need is an electorate that will vote for their candidates.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:19 AM | Comments (3)

Civilization Comes First
F^*k It - McCain '08

Commenter Mike at my post Republicans Need A Hawaiian On The Ticket said:
It seems everyone wants to essentially surrender and put a RINO (or in Jonah Goldberg's case, an actual Democrat) on the ticket with McCain.

Wouldn't it be better to have a VP who actually brings people to the ticket, instead of pushing away the voters we actually have?

Here's a brazen idea: let's put a real conservative on the ticket with McCain (someone who could be a great President in 2012) and start a GOP renewal by refocusing the party on conservative prinicples.

I believe in conservative principles. Before the end of the first trimester abortion is none of the governments damn business.

And I'm a Real Conservative™. Tobacco and pot are none of the governments damn business.

I've studied the global warming science very carefully and from this engineer's perspective it is a total crock.

None the less I'm a strong supporter of MCain. Despite my very Libertarianish tendencies.

Make it harder for you to vote for McCain? You have no idea how hard it is for me to vote for the crap the GOP serves up to me. But you know there is a fookin' war on and my pet issues can wait until our civilization is properly secured.

In any case the VP has absolutely nothing to do with making or signing abortion laws. If it can give us a win in any of the states I mentioned I'm for her.

The election is going to be a dog fight and the MSM is white hot for Obama in a way they were not for Kerry (he did have their wind at his back). I want every stinking advantage I can get in the coming election. Even if it means giving up many of my most cherished positions and principles.

Civilization depends on it.

Rachel Lucas has it right:

F^*k It - McCain '08
The least Repulsive Democrat Running



Because Civilization Comes First

BTW Click on the Bumper Sticker to find out how to order some.

H/T Instapundit

Clayton E. Cramer has linked. Clayton is running for the Idaho Senate. If you are from Idaho give him your support.

Welcome Instapundit readers. You might like to also read Vets For Freedom.

posted by Simon at 12:53 AM | Comments (22)

Another tail-wagging "tantrum"

Take a look at this video of John McCain being heckled by anti-war protesters.

As I've discussed before, McCain has this calm, unflappable quality, and when he's under pressure, all that seems to happen is that he looks mildly amused. I'd be willing to bet that if his blood pressure were monitored during these incidents, it wouldn't rise at all; it might even go down.

So what's with the accusation that he can't control his temper?

My guess would be that it's probably projection.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds linking this post, and a warm welcome to all!

posted by Eric at 09:59 PM | Comments (15)

Republicans Need A Hawaiian On The Ticket

May I suggest Linda Lingle a two term Republican Governor of Hawaii. She won her last election in a Democrat state by 62.5% to 35.4%. She is Jewish, which might help peel NY-31, NJ-15, and FL-27 from the Democrat column. That is 73 Electoral College votes. I think the help in those states would be especially strong if Obama knocks Hillary out of the race.

Linda Lingle On The Issues. Be sure to scroll all the way down to see how she rates on the World's Smallest Political Quiz.

Note: I decided to cross post this here (from Power and Control) in response to Eric's recent post suggesting (as an aside) a McCain/Lieberman ticket. At least Lingle is a Republican (by Party affiliation if not by positions).

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 12:44 PM | Comments (24)

Highway 61 Revisited

This is an interesting version. Just a little different from the album version. The illustrations are by Giovanni Rabuffetti of Italy. Harvey Brooks (the bass player on the album version) talks about the album session from his point of view. Part two of his remembrances are here.

posted by Simon at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

save the Rhinos!

No, I don't mean the Republicans In Name Only. I mean real rhinoceroses. According to Michael Miersch (one of Germany's most prominent writers on ecological matters), efforts to stop "Global Warming" are endangering not only Rhinos, but many other forms of wildlife living in rain forest areas being burned down and replanted for biodiesel production:

In order to meet the European demand for biofuels, companies in Indonesia and Malaysia are burning down rain forests and planting oil palms in the enormous spaces thus cleared for cultivation. As a consequence, hundreds of rare species -- among them, the Sumatran tiger, the orangutan, and the Sumatran rhino -- are losing their habitats. European hysteria about the climate is having the paradoxical effect of destroying a treasure trove of biodiversity.
Read it all. Naturally, the burning emits "huge amounts of carbon dioxide," and I'm sure it won't take long for biodiesel to be condemned by environmentalists as worse than fossil fuels.

Time and time again I have seen environmentalists demand that society implement "solutions" only to later discover they are worse than the problem. Remember the inane 1970s "Split wood, not atoms" slogan? It's becoming a crime to burn wood, because of the emissions.

Windmills, anyone? Not only do they chop up endangered raptors, but -- get this --

more climate-warming carbon dioxide is produced in the manufacture, installation and maintenance of the turbines than they save by generating "green" power over their expected lifetime.
Nice environmental planning, eh?

Im similar fashion, MTBE gasoline additives turned out to cause cancer, and CFLs emit mercury.

I'm sure there are many other examples of environmentalist "cures" which turned out to be worse than the disease.

Wasn't it bad enough when we had to save the endangered rhinos from the Asian aphrodisiac industry and Yemeni dagger merchants?

Well, now it's time to save the rhinos from the environmental wackos!

It's just a small part of their master plan to destroy the planet in order to save it.

posted by Eric at 10:28 AM | Comments (4)

Unoriginal non-endorsements cheerfully issued here!

In a comment to the last post, longtime commenter Rhodium Heart argues very convincingly for a McCain/Hillary Unity Ticket:

Please please please be the first one in the blog-o-sphere to suggest that John McCain form what other presidents have done in times of war: a national unity ticket. Just like Abraham Lincoln (R) chose Andrew Johnson (D) as his vice president, McCain should pick bring the divided nation together in time of war. McCain must bring us together:

McCain / Hillary '08.

She's earned the vice president slot. No one said it had to be on the D-ticket.

Please please please be the first to suggest this. You'll be Insta-lanched. You'll be the bane of the Kos Kids. You might even be Olbermann's Worst Person Ever. Please. For America.


I'm wondering. When someone dangles before me the prospect of being Insta-lanched while simultaneously being the bane of the Kos Kids, and Olbermann's Worst Person Ever, how could I resist the temptation? I'm only human, and even Jesus was tempted by the devil's offer of power and riches.

However, I don't think I can get away with being the first to suggest a McCain Hillary Unity Ticket, because Kathryn Jean Lopez suggested the idea months ago, as did others. Red State's Moe Lane emphatically stated, "You heard it here first," and while it's not easy to verify such firstness, it's quite clear that I would not be the first if I suggested the idea today.

Considering the number of blogs out there, I'd be maybe the 127th or something! [Um, sorry, but I'd be more like the 751st!]

I think it's worth noting that the idea is not limited to Republicans; over on the left, Buzzflash's Mark Karlin did more than float the idea; he designed a button to go with it:


The button indicates that such a move would provoke immense anger on the left, and I'm sure the same could be said about many on the right.

But the bottom line is that it's hardly an original idea, so I can't be the first to suggest it.

Moreover, regular readers know that I don't like Hillary Clinton, and I have been issuing warnings against a Hillary Clinton presidency since the earliest days of this blog. While it's true that I never inveighed against her being Vice President, I'd be a bit lacking in credibility if I suddenly advocated her being McCain's running mate.

I will say this:

A McCain-Clinton Unity ticket would win.

That's a simple statement of fact.

Not an original idea, and certainly not an endorsement.

UPDATE: According to Dick Morris, Hillary is not likely to be Obama's vice presidential pick, nor does Morris think he would help her.

All the more reason for her to offer to switch parties -- or at least become an Independent like Joe Lieberman.

(This all begs the question of a McCain Lieberman ticket, of course. Not a new issue here.....)

posted by Eric at 08:56 AM | Comments (6)

Stop the numbers already! Prevent buyers' remorse!

I wish I could prevent the Democrats from seeing these numbers, but I can't. So I might as well speak my mind. As I had expected would happen eventually, McCain is pulling ahead of Obama, yet Hillary still beats McCain:

Tracking Polls (General)

* Gallup: McCain 47, Obama 45
* Gallup: Clinton 49, McCain 44
* Rasmussen: McCain 45, Obama 45
* Rasmussen: Clinton 47, McCain 45

If only McCain could somehow keep his numbers down or Obama could keep his up a while longer! Then Obama could finally cinch this damned thing, and be the nominee before buyers' remorse sets in. (Sorry, but I will not link the post Glenn Reynolds linked about buyers' remorse, as I don't want to encourage such thinking among Democrats. So that "passive-aggressive link" will have to do -- with my most passive-aggressive possible apologies to the author of the terminology.)

Damn. I hate it when people I want kept in the dark see the light!

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and while I'm glad he agrees that "it's harder to keep people in the dark."

But wait! Isn't Glenn making it harder to keep people in the dark by linking this post?

The complexities are overwhelming.....

(And that's without even factoring in passive aggressive linking.)

posted by Eric at 11:42 PM | Comments (8)

Peace Through War

Jefferson to Adams in a July 11, 1786, letter: "I acknolege I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace thro' the medium of war."

Jefferson was speaking about the jihadis of his day.

A sobering thought for this Memorial Day.

posted by Simon at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)


It's Memorial Day and most people are out and about, as I will be too. (I'm planning to attend a Memorial Day event at Laurel Hill Cemetery.)

While it doesn't apply to the kind of people capable of reading blogs, I was taken aback to read that according to a recent Gallup poll, 28% of the American public do not even know what Memorial Day is:

a recent Gallup poll found that only 28 percent of Americans know the reason for Memorial Day. Many youngsters know it only as the day their local swimming pools open.

Memorial Day originated in 1868 as a day of remembrance for Union soldiers. Today, it honors all uniformed armed-forces personnel killed during war.

We take these people for granted, but they should never be forgotten.

Well informed as I try to be, even I was startled to read that there is only one World War I veteran still alive:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last known living American-born veteran of World War I, was honored Sunday at the Liberty Memorial during Memorial Day weekend celebrations.

"I had a feeling of longevity and that I might be among those who survived, but I didn't know I'd be the No. 1," the 107-year-old veteran said at a ceremony to unveil his portrait.

His photograph was hung in the main hallway of the National World War I Museum, which he toured for the first time, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States presented him with a gold medal of merit.

On Monday, he will be presented the American flag flying outside the memorial.

Buckles, who now lives in Charles Town, W.Va., has been an invited guest at the Pentagon, met with President Bush in Washington, D.C., and rode in the annual Armed Forces Day Parade in his home state since his status as one of the last living from the "Great War" was discovered nearly two years ago.

Federal officials have also arranged for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States entered the "war to end all wars" in April 1917.

He had to fib to get in; today many parents and teachers would encourage young people to fib to stay out:
He was rejected by the Marines and the Navy, but eventually persuaded an Army captain he was 18 and enlisted, convincing him Missouri didn't keep public records of birth.

Buckles sailed for England in 1917 on the Carpathia, which is known for its rescue of Titanic survivors, and spent his tour of duty working mainly as a driver and a warehouse clerk in Germany and France. He rose to the rank of corporal and after Armistice Day he helped return prisoners of war to Germany.

Buckles later traveled the world working for the shipping company White Star Line and was in the Philippines in 1940 when the Japanese invaded. He became a prisoner of war for nearly three years.

So he was a veteran of two wars, plus a POW, and he made it to 107. That's one of the most inspiring life stories I've seen, and I think it's entirely fitting that this man would be the last surviving representative of the World War I generation. I used to take them for granted, as did most people. My grandfather fought in that war, and when I was a kid that was "the War" we associated with men of his generation. The term "Greatest Generation" hadn't been invented yet, as the World War II generation was then best known (not necessarily in the most respectful manner) as "our parents' generation."

It's a nice piece, but I'm afraid that in discussing his attendance at the grave of General Pershing, the AP used the wrong word:

Buckles gained notoriety when he attended a Veteran's Day ceremony at the Arlington grave of Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, who led U.S. forces in World War I, said his daughter, Susannah Flanagan.

He ended up on the podium and became a featured guest at the event, and the VIP invites and media interview requests came rolling in shortly afterward.

Well that is fame, but notoriety means ill fame, and as the piece is otherwise favorable I cannot understand their use of this word. Maybe they're changing the definition to reflect an older, British definition ("a prominent or well-known person"), but it was still startling. (Normally, I'd expect to see the word "notorious" in association with World War One's most decorated dog -- a pit bull named "Stubby," shown here being honored by General Pershing:


Things change, of course, and what was once honored can find itself being shunned, even prohibited.

Back to World War I's only surviving veteran:

"This has been such a great surprise," Flanagan said. "You wouldn't think there would be this much interest in World War I. But the timing in history has been such and it's been unreal."

Buckles spent much of his museum tour Sunday looking at mementos of Pershing, whom he admired. He posed for pictures in front of a flag that used to be in Pershing's office and retold stories about meeting the famous general.

While Pershing claims most of the fame, Buckles now has a featured place at the museum.

As he should.

Because the purpose of Memorial Day is to remember casualties of all American wars, there's no better way to remember than by hearing from those who were there. World War II veterans are fading away, and by 2020 they're nearly all expected to be gone. A local VFW post says that today may be its "final Memorial Day commemoration."

"There are only three or four of us in the area," said Christy, a retired hospital food-service director who worked at Aramark for 38 years and who now lives in Clifton Heights. "It's a shame, but it's the way life goes. You can't stick around forever."

The club's demise reflects the shrinking population of World War II veterans nationwide. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that of the 16 million men and women who served in the war, 2.8 million were alive in September, including 160,953 in Pennsylvania and 82,566 in New Jersey.

By this September, the department projects the number of veterans will have dropped to 141,265 in Pennsylvania and 72,065 in New Jersey.

But they won't be forgotten -- not, at least, in the minds of the 78% 28% of Americans who remember. (My father was one of them, and he died in 1990.)

It's a holiday, but it's more than a holiday; it's a time to remember.

And while I'm remembering, my special thanks to co-blogger M. Simon, who is a Vietnam veteran.


UPDATE: Commenter Jay points out I had my math backwards -- which means 72% don't know the meaning of Memorial Day.

I stand corrected. But ugh! That is a very unpleasant statistic, and when I misread it in a hurry this morning I thought it was bad that 28% did not know.

That it's 72% is horrible.

MORE: For those wanting to understand the real meaning of Memorial Day, don't miss this post by Donald Sensing. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (5)

SoHo in perspective

This pair of discarded television sets in SoHo looked so forlorn that I felt obligated to take a picture of them:


Not sure whether the graffiti beautifies them or makes them uglier, but it seemed to add to their pathos.

Near the TV sets, a colonial soldier looked almost as forlorn, especially because he had been plastered over with female stooges:


And right around the corner from that was a mailbox on which someone had placed an uneaten ice-cream cone upside down:


Coco, of course, sits around waiting.


I'm sure she'd rather have had me bring the yummy ice cream home than take pictures of it.

posted by Eric at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

Why the lesser of two evils is more evil than the greater

While I've long been an advocate of a conservative/libertarian political alliance, electing someone like Barack Obama was not exactly what I had in mind:

The only thing Senator McCain and his consultants can say to conservatives and libertarians is
* The Democrat boogieman is going to get you if you don't vote Republican


* I'm the lesser of two evils


* I may not be what you want, but the other fellow is worse

Fear of the other guy is not a governing philosophy, Senator McCain.

The lesser of two evils.... is evil, Senator McCain.

Naturally, the author (Richard Viguerie) believes that electing McCain is somehow worse than electing Barack Obama. So do a lot of conservatives (and I'm sure, a growing number of libertarians).

Which leads me to a nagging question I've had lately. There's been a lot of talk on the right about how Hillary Clinton (long a favorite demon among conservatives) would be a much better president than Barack Obama. I agree. However, I still think that McCain has a better chance of beating Obama, for the very reason that conservatives favor Hillary -- not only because Obama is simply less experienced and less qualified than Hillary, but because Hillary is better on foreign policy issues.

None of this ought to erase any of Hillary's well-known baggage, though. And the mere fact Obama is worse than Hillary does not transform Hillary into a good, much less wonderful candidate. She is only "good" in contrast to Obama. It is not logical to say that because Obama is bad (or Hillary is better), Hillary is therefore good. While few conservatives who favor Hillary argue that she has actually become good, they tend not to talk much about her negatives.

John McCain also has known negatives, and I have discussed them repeatedly. There is no question that conservatives and libertarians can find much to dislike about McCain.

But right now I want to stick to logic to the extent I can. From a conservative standpoint, let's assume that Hillary Clinton, because she is more experienced, and her positions are more to the liking of conservatives, is better than Obama.

Doesn't it necessarily follow (in logic, at least) that McCain is better than both Hillary and Obama, because he is more conservative than either? And if McCain is more experienced and more conservative than Hillary, then logic dictates that he is far more experienced and far more conservative than Obama.

So my question is a simple one:

How is it that anyone who thinks Hillary would be better than Obama can maintain that Obama would be better than McCain?

Try as I might, I cannot make sense of this.

Since so many conservatives and a growing number of libertarians clearly want the Democrats elected, I'm thinking the only way for McCain to get their support would be to switch parties and just declare himself a Democrat.

Then maybe Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could become Republicans, to make sure they lose the loyal conservative vote.

posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (10)

What Is Wrong With Republicans?

In the primaries the Republican base did what has fractured the Democrat base. They voted for a candidate "who looks like me" (socialist Huckabee) instead of voting for the Reagan Republican (Thompson). With the conservative vote split we wind up with McCain.

The liberal wing of the party has to be satisfied (we need their votes) just as the conservative wing must be satisfied. No way in heck would Huckabee have satisfied the liberal wing. We need to give a thought to the libertarian wing as well. RR ran on a libertarian platform - lower taxes smaller government. It is something all the party can agree on. You will remember RR was a pro-abortion Governor of California.

So the "just like me" litmus tests have to be abandoned.

It is OK. Once we get totally socialized medicine and a general war in the ME Republicans will come together to save what is left. It won't be much.

Way to go guys.

The key is: every faction was looking out for itself. None was looking out for the coalition (Party). Republicans can't do coalition warfare any more. Sad.

Prompted by: Republicans: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:33 AM | Comments (8)

Well, neurosis is a disease, isn't it?

I love thinking about the psychiatric underpinnings of the "Wi-Fi allergy" meme that's been floating around like an Internet virus:

A group in Santa Fe says the city is discriminating against them because they say that they're allergic to the wireless Internet signal. And now they want Wi-Fi banned from public buildings.

Arthur Firstenberg says he is highly sensitive to certain types of electric fields, including wireless Internet and cell phones.

"I get chest pain and it doesn't go away right away," he said.

Firstenberg and dozens of other electro-sensitive people in Santa Fe claim that putting up Wi-Fi in public places is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city attorney is now checking to see if putting up Wi-Fi could be considered discrimination.

I think these people are victims of psychosomatic group hysteria -- something I have discussed before in general. This post by Dr. Helen touched on similar disease symptoms in the context of Wi-Fi. (At the time, the medical community did not accept the existence of the condition.)

What's interesting is that such mental states are known to be able to bring on actual physical symptoms. I do not doubt for a moment that Mr. Firstenberg (an activist with a Wiki entry, BTW) does in fact get chest pains, and that they are real. But a lot of pain and a lot of disease symptoms have strong mind body connections. Books like this have been written on the subject. That the mind can cause or aggravate physical symptoms of disease does not diminish their reality to the patient, nor does it in any way diminish their suffering.

That emotional distress can make you sick is not a terribly profound nor terribly new idea. Why, even this blog post might upset people -- especially those who believe the Wi-Fi signals are the direct cause of their symptoms, rather than a trigger of a mental process which causes them. It is not unreasonable to assume that in such cases, mere disagreement with the diagnosis of such a suggestible person might cause more symptoms to erupt.

Even political disagreements can cause physical symptoms of illness. At the height of the Bush Derangement Hysteria era, I heard about a woman who fulminations against Bush caused her to literally erupt in hives -- something that shocked my friend whose disagreement with her had set it off.

This all raises an interesting point, though, because if we assume for the sake of argument that certain suggestible people like this will get chest pains in the presence of Wi-Fi, and that these symptoms can be documented, under the law it really doesn't matter how they originate, because it is the Wi-Fi signal (or, at least the awareness of the WiFi signal) that triggered them. Whether the signals cause the disease symptoms directly or indirectly via a psychogenic component, they still could be considered a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

All symptoms and diseases are created equal.

And after all, isn't that what lawyers are for?

If racism can cause symptoms, why not Wi-Fi?

And while we're at it, why not a lot of other things? (Global Warming, for starters....)

Hey, I'm not being judgmental here. I'm just as sick as anyone else.

Isn't my neurosis just as valid as anyone else's?

MORE: Despite my satirical tone, this is no joke to activists like Mr. Firstenberg, whose group advocates getting rid of a lot of things many people take for granted:

Electric floor or ceiling heaters, fluorescent lights, dimmer switches, and electronic security systems can all produce problematic electromagnetic fields. Finding all the sources and eliminating or avoiding them requires patience and may be time-consuming but is not necessarily difficult or expensive.

Your basic measuring tools are a $40 magnetic field meter, or "gaussmeter," and a cheap (poorer quality is better for this purpose) battery-operated AM radio. When the gaussmeter reads 0.2 milligauss or less, and the radio, when tuned between stations, remains silent (does not buzz or give loud static), you have a relatively calm environment--especially important in the sleeping area. These two measuring devices will not detect the very high frequency radiation produced by cordless phones, wireless computers, baby monitors, remote controls for appliances, radio-controlled toys, and other wireless equipment. We recommend eliminating wireless technology from the environment altogether.

While I remain skeptical, anyone has the right not to use electronic equipment, and to shun all such technology.

However (and perhaps this comes from living for decades in Berkeley), the worry wart inside me causes me to wonder whether this could lead to a busybody movement against "second hand electronic emissions" -- in a manner similar to the movement against smoking.

Back in the early 70s, I laughed at Berkeley's GASPers. No one laughs at them now.

But suppose someone said this:

"Please turn off your laptop. You're emissions are hurting my health!"
That's still funny, isn't it?

But how long will it be funny? I'd appreciate having some sort of time frame, because after all, satire can be ruined by too much reality.

posted by Eric at 10:35 AM | Comments (5)

No Blood For Oil Or No Drilling For Oil?

Some one should start asking the leftys what they really want.

It is my opinion that if America started drilling for oil now as the price starts going through the roof we could bring the Middle East to its knees by bringing a lot of oil on line in the next few years.

Where would be a good place to start? Look at this map that shows where Cuba and China are drilling:

The Cubans have already found oil near our economic zone. We should get some of it too. To start. Then we could start looking at the no zones for oil:

Building a few more refineries wouldn't hurt either.

You might want to contact your government and give them an ear full:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

HT Gateway Pundit for the maps.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 08:30 PM | Comments (9)

Fandom -- a choice or an illness?

Roger L. Simon is wondering whether his own Lakers fandom (and perhaps fandom generally) is a form of mental illness:

Sometimes fandom almost feels like a mental illness. During the playoffs, I can spend more time thinking about my team than my work, family, or anything else. Part of the reason I am writing this article is that it, at least, combines thinking about the team with work. And I have checked LakersGround and ESPN twice while writing it, even though the article, no magnum opus, is at this point barely seven short paragraphs long. Surely there is something wrong with me.

But what is it? Am I just some aging white guy anxious to identify with six-seven black dudes who can slam-dunk backwards? I hope it's not that pathetic. But even so, I worshiped Mickey Mantle when I was a kid and he was shorter, white, a bit pudgy and, apparently, something of a drunk. (Parenthetically, I am much more willing to excuse athletes their personal foibles than any other public figures -- as in the Mr. Bryant mentioned above.)

So what is it? Arrested development? Testosterone poisoning? So far I have no full explanation for this insanity...

I can't speak for anyone's experiences with fandom except my own, and while I can hardly be called a Lakers fan in the truest and purest sense, I did live in California for 28 years, and felt enough kinship with the Lakers that it lingered on after I moved here to the East Coast. Being a naturally contrarian sort who does not take kindly to being told who to like, I was not about to abandon the Lakers simply because of an unfortunate happenstance involving the geographical location of my personal living space. So during a historic showdown between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Lakers, I tried in my own rather lame way to be a loyal Lakers fan.

The way people reacted, you'd have thought this was an act of treason. No seriously. My memory of what happened was vivid enough that I blogged about this near-fatal act of would-be Lakers fandom a couple of years ago:

In the Philadelphia area, there are sports fans who do not take kindly to criticism of their opinions or teams. I remember that not long after I moved back to Philadelphia from California, there was huge local hysteria over a showdown between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. While riding through Philly in a friend's car and thinking it was funny to hear people cheering in the streets for the Lakers, I thought it would be equally funny to evoke (in an imitative if insincere manner) a little pro-California cheering. I opened the window and yelled "GO LAKERS!"

According to my friend who was driving, this was not a good idea at all! He yelled at me to shut up, and said he was worried for our safety, and about his car getting damaged...

That is no exaggeration. As the Sixers had not been in the NBA Finals since 1983, there was near-hysteria in the streets, what with the flags and everything, and I think waving a Lakers pennant in the Philadelphia streets at the time would have been a bit like waving a Danish flag in Karachi during the Muhammad cartoon controversy.

Whether any of this is mental illness, who knows? At the time I was merely exercising my First Amendment right to self-expression, brought on by being homesick for California. The question of mental illness could be argued both ways. Who was crazier? The fanatic 76ers fans in their own city streets, or a displaced Californian who dared to defy them?

Not being a sports psychiatrist, I won't hazard a guess. Besides, even if I were a sports psychiatrist, wouldn't I be in a conflict of interest?

Of course, now that I've been in the Philadelphia area for eight years, I take a broader view of these things. So even though I am a loyal person I have to say that if the incident repeated itself today, I'm not sure I'd feel the emotional need to yell "GO LAKERS!" (It is possible that living in Philadelphia has caused my testosterone levels to change and I've become more submissive to alien fandom influences, but I haven't had that confirmed medically.)

But what if I move back to California? Is fandom permanent condition? Is it portable? Or is it changeable? Not to get heavy or political, but doesn't this beg the question of whether fandom is chosen? So, if I move back would I then become an ex-Sixers fan? What is a former-Lakers fan returning from Philly to the old fold? An ex-ex-Sixers fan?

Right now I'm feeling like a lapsed Lakers fan.

Maybe I'd be ex-lapsed.

posted by Eric at 08:37 AM | Comments (2)

Republicans are less sexist than Democrats!

Who knew?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Donald J. Boudreaux figured it out, simply by applying logic to Hillary Clinton's contention that she is a victim of sexism:

This fact (if it be a fact) reveals a hitherto unknown, ugly truth about the Democratic Party. The alleged bastion of modern liberalism, toleration and diversity is full of (to use Mrs. Clinton's own phrase) "people who are nothing but misogynists." Large numbers of Democratic voters are sexists. Who knew?

But here's another revelation. If Mrs. Clinton is correct that she is more likely than Barack Obama to defeat John McCain in November, that implies Republicans and independents are less sexist than Democrats.

It must be so. If American voters of all parties are as sexist as the Democrats, Mr. Obama would have a better chance than Mrs. Clinton of defeating Mr. McCain. The same misogyny that thwarted her in the Democratic primaries would thwart her in the general election.

It's nice to see Republicans and independents finally getting the recognition they deserve.

And it's nice to see that the truth is finally coming out about far left elitists who conceal their sexism while accusing others of being bitter religious gun-clingers!

posted by Eric at 07:34 AM | Comments (0)

One unintentional conspiracy insinuation deserves another!

Barack Obama can be such a wimp.

I mean, he had a perfect opportunity earlier when Hillary made what this unintentional assassination insinuation:

"We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."
That just cried out for another bumbling unintentional remark. Something cute like this, perhaps.
"We all remember Vincent Foster was found dead in July in Fort Marcy Park."
Instead, we get this totally lame statement from an "Obama campaign spokesman":
"Sen. Clinton's statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign."
I guess he's not as quick on his feet as we thought.

Nor is Hillary's campaign. First they defended the unintentional insinuation:

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson defended the comments to The Post, "She was talking about the length of the race and using the '68 election as an example of how long the races in the past have gone -- she used her husband's race in the same vein."
And now Hillary is backing away, explaining that she's had Kennedys on her mind:
"The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive," she said.
Just like Hillary apologized for mentioning Kennedy, Barack Obama could have quickly apologized for mentioning Foster:
"Vincent Foster has been much on my mind the last days because of Camille Paglia's recent column and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Foster family was in any way offensive."
Or, if they wanted to go on the defensive, the Obama campaign could always blame Hillary for bringing up the issue of conspiracy theories:
"He was talking about conspiracy theories in the context of the politics of the past and using the '93 Foster death as a random example of how how once these conspiracy theories get started, they just never seem to end -- the Robert Kennedy assassination (which he didn't raise but which his opponent did) being a perfect example."
No better example than the latest Robert Kennedy conspiracy theory, recently peddled by NBC:

Or for those want to drag in the old vast right wing conspiracy, there's this vintage Vincent Foster theorizing from Fox News:

Hey don't look at me! It's all just litigation.

UPDATE: On a more serious note, don't miss Rick Moran's PJM analysis of what he calls the gaffe of gaffes:

This is the gaffe of gaffes, the Mother of all campaign faux pas. There's no taking it back at this point. The statement is out there, hanging like a rapidly decomposing side of beef in the hot sun. To suggest that you should hang around and stay in the campaign "just in case" the unthinkable occurs is beyond anything yet seen in this campaign. And considering all the race and gender cards that have been flying around, the assassination card tops them all.
Read it all.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of other reactions, although he doesn't think she meant to do any more than point out that the race was alive when Kennedy was shot:

I think she was just pointing out that when Bobby Kennedy was shot the race was still alive, and that was June. Still, it's a pretty impressive gaffe.
Of course, back in those days, the primary system was very different than it is now (for one thing, the California primary took place in June), so as historical analogies go, it was a poor one.

I think it was just another in a long line of Hillary gaffes. Were she really thinking along sinister lines, she'd have kept her trap shut.

A gaffe like this, though, makes humor irresistible:

...even Senator Obama must know at this point that, even if he somehow pulls off a miracle by sweeping the remaining primaries and locking up all the contested superdelegates, he simply cannot escape the inevitable mysterious accident that will clear the Democratic nomination for Yours Truly.
I'm just trying to, um, foster a little more conspiracy dialogue.

MORE: "There is something deeply wrong with the Clintons," says NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez.

If my memory serves me right, there was a time when lots of conservatives would have agreed.....

AND MORE: You think any of this was bad, check out Michael Goodwin at the New York Daily News:

Her shocking comment to a South Dakota newspaper might qualify as the dumbest thing ever said in American politics.

Her lame explanation that she brought up the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy because his brother Ted's illness was on her mind doesn't cut it. Not even close.

We have seen an X-ray of a very dark soul. One consumed by raw ambition to where the possible assassination of an opponent is something to ponder in a strategic way. Otherwise, why is murder on her mind?

It's like Tanya Harding's kneecapping has come to politics. Only the senator from New York has more lethal fantasies than that nutty skater.

We could have seen it coming, if only we had realized Clinton's thinking could be so cold.

I remember when conservatives used to talk that way. (And I also remember when bloggers who did would be accused of hyperbole by responsible MSM journalists....)

MORE: Ann Althouse's analysis of Hillary's gaffe led her to apologize for criticizing an earlier outburst from Andrew Sullivan:

....I would like to apologize to Andrew Sullivan. On Thursday, I took him to task for calling Hillary Clinton a sociopath.
Sullivan's "sociopath" outburst occurred before the assassination gaffe, and while I was also a bit annoyed, I found myself more annoyed by the notion that his opinions about Obama are driven by his (alleged) sexual attraction to the man. (Obama is Sullivan's "Great Black Hope" and gives him "wood". Seriously, I think that considerations surrounding who gives or gets "wood" are gratuitous, and irrelevant to the complexities of Michigan's delegate rules.) However, I think Andrew Sullivan's more recent claim -- that Ann Althouse was being "seconded by the Passive-Aggressive one" -- is at least as gratuitous and at least as annoying, and I agree with Glenn's assessment:
ONE WOULD EXPECT ANDREW SULLIVAN, OF ALL PEOPLE, to have a less-stringent attitude toward political inconsistency . . . .
I notice that the phrase "seconded by the Passive-Aggressive one" contains no link to the alleged passive-aggressive seconding -- something I find to be a pain in the ass, because it makes me have to play the passive-aggressive game of going back to Instapundit and scrolling way down to find the "passive-aggressive" link, which says this:
ANN ALTHOUSE on the difference between sociopathy and litigation: "It's litigation. Quite normal. If the rules help you, you insist on the importance of rules. If the rules hurt you, they are mere guidelines that must bend flexibly for the sake of justice." It's a distinction that non-lawyers sometimes miss!
What was passive-aggressive about that? Is it passive-aggressive to fail to link Andrew Sullivan when linking to a post by someone else discussing what he said?

If so, then isn't it even more passive-aggressive to hurl an accusation by name without supplying a link?

So what is this? A game of retaliatory passive-aggressiveness? Links alleged to be passive-aggressive are to be countered by even harsher passive-aggressive reprisals with linkless allegations of passive-aggressiveness?

No, that can't be right, because such retaliatory passive-aggressive reprisals would have to be called litigation-style behavior -- of the sort we're not supposed to confuse with sociopathy.

Now I'm really confused. One of these days I'll get all this passive-aggressive stuff figured out.

posted by Eric at 06:18 PM | Comments (2)

VooDoo Child

posted by Simon at 12:58 PM | Comments (1)

Nationalize The Oil Companies

Maxine Water's wants to socialize the oil companies if gas prices don't come down. Yep. Drilling for American oil off America's coasts and in Alaska is off limits. Socializing the oil companies is not. And yet the American electorate looks to give the Democrats a landslide in November. In the main because Real Republicans™ are not happy with McCain over their pet issues and plan to do what they did in 2006. Sit this one out. Truly we get the government we deserve.

posted by Simon at 12:32 PM | Comments (8)

My guess is anyone's guess

Who will John McCain pick as his running mate?

In the last post, I suggested Lieberman (for the second time, BTW...) but good arguments can be made against him -- just as good arguments can be made for or against most of the possible choices.

Writing for Pajamas Media, John Hawkins takes a look at the leading contenders (including Lieberman), and asks,

Will he choose a vice president who can help him patch things up with conservatives or will he go the other way and choose someone who would broaden his appeal to independents? Will McCain pick a veep who will add strength to the ticket as a whole or will he narrow his focus and take someone who can help in a particular state or demographic group?
There's no way for me to even hazard a guess at this point. McCain has a certain inscrutability to him. I've studied him and I can't read him; he just doesn't give himself away. Whether he was born that way, whether it comes from his military background, or whether it's a survival trait he picked up during his years as a POW, I don't know. I do know that his inscrutability (which probably goes hand in hand with his calmness under fire) is one of the things I most like about him.

And it might not be a bad trait to have in a wartime leader.

MORE: Jonah Goldberg is taking heat from Rush Limbaugh for daring to suggest Lieberman as a running mate, and I'm sure countless other conservatives would agree with Limbaugh.

(Only because they want nothing more than for McCain to win, of course....)

posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (2)

Rules are rules. But fair is fair!

We all agree that rules are not fair, right?

So, when the rules don't apply because they are not fair, what rules apply?

Because of the close race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, this is the hottest question in politics right now, and it is generating fierce debates, like the one between Andrew Sullivan and No Quarter USA.

Obama is the one that violated the rules Andrew. I realize he is your Great Black Hope. And I get that he gives you wood. More power to ya bucko. But he is the one that violated the rules he agreed to abide by. Not Hillary. Get a frickin grip.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Now that's what I call passion. While I'm not sure who violated the rules more (and I haven't checked to see whether Sullivan accuses his accuser of wanting to have sex with Hillary Clinton; as it is I can barely keep track of the sexual interests of the candidates, much less their supporters), according to what I've generally read, Edwards, Obama, Richardson Biden withdrew their names from the ballot, while Hillary, Kucinich, Dodd, and Gravel didn't. This was because of a decision by the DNC Rules Committee to punish Michigan for an early primary. Bear in mind that Rules Committee members include:

"a dozen [who] endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, [and] eight [who] endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. Two members work for the Clinton campaign, including strategist Harold Ickes. The two chairmen--Alexis Herman and James Roosevelt Jr.-are neutral, but Herman served in the Clinton White House.
As to what they'll do in the future, who knows? (It may very well depend on which candidate is considered more sexually attractive by whom....)

One thing is clear. The closer the race, the more ferocious the debate gets, and the louder people scream about fairness, the wider the range of answers. The idea surrounding most of these popular vote count debates is that because the Democratic Party is supposed to be as inclusive and democratic as possible, it isn't fair to simply count the delegates as the rules require. Rather it is the popular vote which should "count." In "moral" terms of course. (Echoes of Al Gore in 2000 not being coincidental....)

The problem with this moral analysis is that it is not crystal clear who wins the popular vote count, because there are so many counting methods available. Veteran Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Larry Eichel identifies four methods and concludes that Clinton only wins in one of them. It all boils down to whether Hillary should be given all of her votes in the disqualified Michigan election, and whether Obama should be given zero:

So the question is whether Obama should get credit in the popular-vote calculation for the 238,168 uncommitted votes cast in Michigan.

If you give those votes to Obama - and the DNC appears likely to use them as a basis for awarding him some delegates when it considers the Michigan/Florida mess on May 31 - then you have Method No. 3, in which Obama leads by 64,121.

But if you credit him with no votes at all in Michigan, then Clinton leads by 174,047. This is Method No. 4, which, understandably, is the one favored by the Clinton campaign. It is the source of her oft-repeated claim that she is outpolling Obama.

That was yesterday.

In today's Inquirer, Jonathan Last argues that there are six counting methods, and Hillary wins in two of them:

Real Clear Politics keeps track of six versions of the popular-vote total. They are, in ascending order of inclusivity: (1) the popular vote of sanctioned contests; (2) the total of sanctioned contests, plus estimated votes from the Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington caucuses; (3) the popular vote plus Florida; (4) popular vote plus Florida and the caucuses; (5) the popular vote plus Florida and Michigan; (6) popular vote plus Florida, Michigan, and the caucus estimates. After Tuesday, Clinton now leads in two of these six counts.
Last argues that because Hillary might very well rack up enough popular votes in Puerto Rico and South Dakota to put her over the top by any popular vote counting method, this accounts for much of the pressure on her to get out of the race:
It is this looming prospect which explains the tremendous pressure Obama partisans and the media are putting on Clinton to drop out of the race. They want her gone now because they understand that she has an excellent chance of finishing as the undisputed people's choice.

Would it matter if Clinton were the undisputed (or even disputed) popular-vote winner? That's hard to say. The question is, matter to whom? The superdelegates will determine the nominee and there's no telling what will sway them. They have no objective criteria from which to make their decisions. But if they were to deny the popular-vote champ the nomination, there is a real question of whether Democratic voters would reconcile themselves to the decision. As it is, much of the talk about Democratic defections in November has been overstated.

If that happens, whatever decision the delegates make will be perceived by supporters as a betrayal. The question will become, simply, whose betrayal would be a bigger minus for the party. Would more of Obama's voters stay away, or would more of Hillary's?

That question is more important than "fairness." Why, at times like this, the very concept of "fairness" becomes an excuse for genuine underlying rage. Like this gem:

We won't vote for her. The reality on the ground for us is that we do pretty well for ourselves under a Republican administration and I would be willing to take my chances with a solidly Democratic congress, but without her. Sorry folks, but there are a lot of people like us. I know that we're all supposed to join hands and pull together for a greater more progressive tomorrow and yadda yadda yadda.... but when it comes to Hillary Clinton, fuck that noise. My contempt for her has reached the Lieberman line.
The Lieberman line? That'll win over middle America. (And just between you and me, that's the best argument I've seen in favor of McCain picking Lieberman as his running mate, and letting the "Lieberman line" work its magic.....)

Anyway, left right or center, nearly every political junkie under the sun is sounding off about fairness. Rules are fair to those who win by the rules, and unfair to those who don't.

One of the things that tends to be forgotten is that people want to win, and politics is like litigation. I enjoyed Ann Althouse's take yesterday:

This isn't insanity. It's litigation. Quite normal. If the rules help you, you insist on the importance of rules. If the rules hurt you, they are mere guidelines that must bend flexibly for the sake of justice.
Back in the days when I was even more misunderstood than I am now, I was called a "born litigator" by a leading litigator. Yet because I loathe, hate, abhor, and despise litigation, I resented the idea that I could be "born" to "be" something I hated. However, I have noted that politics is like litigation, and the similarity might explain why I regard it as a pathological process worthy of detailed dissection.

Yet as I say that, I must recognize that there is something about politics that I despise more than its similarity to litigation. Litigation is like a chess game, and it is inherently Machiavellian. (How litigators fit into the Guardian Class/Commercial Class spectrum discussed by M. Simon earlier is a question for the experts, and beyond this topic, but I'm very curious...) Anyway, while I didn't get much emotional satisfaction from litigation, I recognize that it is a necessary evil, and while it may be the nuts and bolts of how justice (or a theoretical chance of justice) is sometimes obtained, I have no more illusion than Oliver Wendell Holmes that "justice" is a thing to be expected.

Ugh. Justice in the same sentence as litigation? Drat! Fairness raises its ugly Machiavellian head again, as if litigators care about fairness any more than reptiles care about the feelings of their food.

In the context of politics, it isn't litigation that bothers me, or even litigiousness. Nor is it the pretense of principle, because litigators always claim to be principled. And fair. No, what bothers me about politics is when people expect me to go along with their claim that a particular argument involves great questions of morality and fairness, when in truth they're just litigators, for whom winning takes the form of getting elected.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are involved in lengthy, drawn-out litigation, and I think they know it, even if they can't acknowledge it. Unfortunately, many of their followers don't know it, so they not only think that great matters of ultimate fairness and truth are involved, but they're encouraged to do just that.

In the context of the endless debate over the Michigan primary, I find this to be incredibly tedious, but I really can't complain that it's unfair, lest I buy into the fairness game.

Politics is about winning and fairness is a tactic, as well as an appearance.

If we keep in mind the fact that the country is still at war, and the maxim that nothing is fair in war, I'd say fairness is going to be a secondary consideration for quite some time. But that doesn't mean it won't still be masquerading as a primary consideration.....

No wonder people turn to sex issues. There's nothing fair there either.

But then, at least there isn't supposed to be!

BOTTOM LINE: Whether things are fair depend on what people want.

posted by Eric at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

Peak sun? Peak sugar?

It strikes me as common sense that if you need nothing more than a magnifying glass to start a fire, there's free solar power anywhere. Yet concentrating solar power in such a manner is not what ordinary solar collectors do. Until recently, that is. IBM seems to have figured out how to use the magnifying glass principle to dramatically shrink the amount of space and number of components needed to build a solar farm:

By mimicking the antics of a child using a magnifying glass to burn a leaf or a camper to start a fire, IBM scientists are using a large lens to concentrate the Sun's power, capturing a record 230 watts onto a centimeter square solar cell, in a technology known as concentrator photovoltaics, or CPV. That energy is then converted into 70 watts of usable electrical power, about five times the electrical power density generated by typical cells using CPV technology in solar farms.

If it can overcome additional challenges to move this project from the lab to the fab, IBM believes it can significantly reduce the cost of a typical CPV based system. By using a much lower number of photovoltaic cells in a solar farm and concentrating more light onto each cell using larger lenses, IBM's system enables a significant cost advantage in terms of a lesser number of total components.

For instance, by moving from a 200 sun system ("one sun" is a measurement equal to the solar power incident at noon on a clear summer day), where about 20 watts per square centimeter of power is concentrated onto the cell, to the IBM Lab results of a 2300 sun system, where approximately 230 watts per square centimeter are concentrated onto the cell system, the IBM system cuts the number of photovoltaic cells and other components by a factor of 10.

While this seems like a no-brainer, the reason it hadn't been done before was because only recently did they realize that computer chip technology could be used for cooling solar collectors:
The trick lies in IBM's ability to cool the tiny solar cell. Concentrating the equivalent of 2000 suns on such a small area generates enough heat to melt stainless steel, something the researchers experienced first hand in their experiments. But by borrowing innovations from its own R&D in cooling computer chips, the team was able to cool the solar cell from greater than 1600 degrees Celsius to just 85 degrees Celsius.

The initial results of this project will be presented at the 33rd IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists conference today, where the IBM researchers will detail how their liquid metal cooling interface is able to transfer heat from the solar cell to a copper cooling plate much more efficiently than anything else available today.

Yahoo article here. I hope this pans out. As to why it would take so long for someone to put two and two together and figure out how to harness solar magnification in a practical way, I'm not sure. (According to this article the technology is being described as "cheap and efficient," and already in use in Australia.)

While using this techology to build solar farms is commendable, I wonder how soon it will be before they start selling home units.

(And speaking of energy, with the price of gasoline continuing to escalate, I wonder how long it will be before people resort to home distillation or ethanol. Sugar is still cheap, and this unit will produce 35 gallons of car fuel per week, at $1.00 a gallon. More here, and remember, "home ethanol production was advocated and used by Henry Ford when he created the Model T.")

posted by Eric at 05:16 PM | Comments (7)

Declaring war on silly?

In today's Inquirer, Rick Santorum characterizes the California Supreme Court's legalization of same sex marriage as a "wake up call":

The latest distressing news came last week in California. The state Supreme Court there ruled, 4-3, that same-sex couples can marry.

In doing so, four judges rejected a statute that passed in a referendum with 61 percent of the vote that defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

It's merely the latest in a string of court decisions that have overturned the overwhelming will of the people.

OK, if you're not inclined to hurl epithets, you might ask: Don't we have more to worry about than some court redefining marriage? After all, gas prices are soaring, health-care costs are rising, and our nation is at war. Why should we care what a few activist judges in California say?

I didn't like the decision either, and I suggested that ordinary voters might be more alarmed by a radical new bipartisan plan (known as "cap and trade") which would transform the economy and double gasoline prices, except that's being downplayed, while gay marriage (which affects far fewer people) gets the lion's share of the ink.

I can't help wonder how many of the conservatives who are so upset by the Supreme Court's legislating from the bench would feel the same way had this been a conservative court with an opposite result. Suppose Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed the same sex marriage bill the legislature passed instead of vetoing it, and suppose the court had intervened and thrown it out. Wouldn't that also be legislating from the bench? Isn't it legislating from the bench if a court throws out gun laws as unconstitutional? The reason I'm posing these questions is not to be argumentative, but simply to remind conservatives that not only are the courts a two-edged sword, but that people who are happy with court decisions throwing out or reinterpreting laws tend not to complain about legislating from the bench.

If what I hear on talk radio is any indication, Santorum is not alone in characterizing opposition to gay marriage as the "overwhelming will of the people." That was the case in California when voters approved Proposition 22 (which defined marriage as between a man and a woman) by a margin of 61.4% to 38.6%. (Map here.)

Considering that this matter will again be before the voters in the fall, this time in the form of a constitutional amendment, it will be interesting to see how people vote.

What is the overwhelming will of the people on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage? If the most recent Gallup polls are any indication, there is no overwhelming majority either way.

The Massachusetts gay marriage law was met by a call for a constitutional amendment in that state to define marriage as between a man and woman -- something President Bush has advocated at the national level as well. There is already an initiative underway in California to put such an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot this fall.

The effort to constitutionally limit marriage to heterosexual couples failed in the Massachusetts legislature last June, but on a national basis, Gallup finds Americans evenly divided. About half (49%) favor a constitutional amendment to prevent gay marriage, while 48% are opposed.

That's national.

By region, though, opposition to a gay marriage ban now appears to be in a clear minority position in the West:


I don't know what accounts for the apparent shift in California demographics since 2000, but if the polls are correct, this is a loser for the GOP in California -- and not a clear winner of an issue for either side in a national election. In some states, it might help the Republicans, while in others it might hurt them. It's unpredictable.

As is the case with most issues, the people who feel strongly yell the loudest, and there has been a lot of yelling about gay marriage since 2000. Naturally, as a longtime advocate of compromise in the Culture War, I find myself wondering just how that yelling influences ordinary people. By ordinary, I mean the non-activists who don't yell, 98% of whom will never marry a person of the same sex, and many of whom don't know anyone who will. Do they get tired of these debates? Do they worry more about things like crime, taxes, or the price of gasoline? Do they get tired of being yelled at?

Which side is yelling at them more? The reason I think this is relevant involves the principle of backlash. Have gay activists and their supporters on the left learned to shut up, and let the other side do the yelling? Who is more likely to confront an ordinary voter trying to wheel a shopping cart into a supermarket? An angry gay marriage activist, or an angry anti-gay marriage activist? Who is going to be perceived as more shrill? It should not be forgotten that Anita Bryant did more to promote acceptance of gays by yelling about them than the tiny gay movement at the time ever could have done. She put the modern gay movement on the map, and I remember it vividly. Ordinary people -- the kind of people who had avoided the subject -- now found themselves now talking about gays at the dinner table, and few agreed with Bryant. People react to scolds that way.

Is it possible that the California Supreme Court -- by seeming to scold the voters -- may have helped the constitutional amendment's chances in the fall? Normally I'd say yes, but in light of the poll numbers, I think the answer will depend on who yells the loudest.

If the level of agitation against gay marriage becomes too loud and too angry, people might get so sick of hearing about an issue peripheral to them that they might decide to vote the issue away. Similarly, if gay marriage advocates are seen as yelling at voters, they might decide to vote the issue away in another manner.

This is not to say that voting makes issues go away. Voting will not make war go away, for example, despite the best efforts of the anti-war left to convince people that it will. But to the extent that the war over same sex marriage is a war, it's limited to the "combatants" who feel strongly about it, and its application will be limited to gay couples. Whether the voters can be convinced that they are "invaders" is doubtful.

Considering the onerous obligations that attach to marriage, they might even see them as silly people who ought to be careful what they ask for. ("You want your silly right to marry? Here! And good luck!") To the extent voters see it that way, then the opponents (with the battle cry of "DON'T LET THESE PEOPLE MARRY!") might look even sillier. Their demand that voters amend the Constitution to stop silly people from marrying each other might very well be seen as more silly than the silly marriages themselves.

Louder and sillier is not a winning strategy.

posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (9)

A Movie You Don't Want To See

H/T Juanita Gonzales at Stop Obama

posted by Simon at 09:16 AM | Comments (4)

A Fusion President?

What Presidential candidate is most up on fusion and specifically the Bussard Fusion Reactor Program. Interesting question. Which candidate was interested enough to have his staffers look deeper into it in August of 2007? The answer? John McCain.

A week ago I attended a lecture given by Sen John McCain given to the Economic Club of South West Michigan.

In the question and answer session following the lecture I asked about resuming funding for Robert Bussard's project. Sen McCain said that he was unaware of the project but would like to talk to me about it.

Afterwards a aid of his spoke with me and I emailed a summary to them.

The packet I forwarded to the aid had most of what is on the Mr. Strout's web site, except the youtube vids.

I tried to insert some summaries, such as excerpts from the "Fighting for fusion"[pdf] article, rather than simply links.

Since then of course the project has been funded and experiments are ongoing. None of the other candidates that I am aware of have evidenced any similar interest in any kind of fusion let alone the Bussard Fusion Reactor. BTW the funding resumed in late August of 2007. I wonder if John McCain had anything to do with it? Did he go to the Navy and ask what's up? Interesting speculation. Maybe we will find out some day.

Just another reason I'm going to vote for John McCain in November.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 08:39 AM | Comments (10)

Nothing Bad Happened

See what Senator Tom Harkin had to say about Vietnam about 5:55 into the video. Then listen to John McCain's response. And the video that goes with it? Harrowing. Not for those faint of heart. There is no blood. No bodies. But you can imagine and that is the worst. BTW the Democrats revisionism re: war service vs. their stance in 2004 will take your breath away. What do Democrats stand for? Opportunism pure and simple. Except it is not pure. It is dirty filthy ugly. And simple? As convoluted an Byzantine as you can get. I would say shame on them except they haven't got any.

H/T Instapundit

posted by Simon at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

Can't happen here?

I'll be gone most of the day, but I highly recommend reading Kathy Shaidle's excellent PJM post, "Mark Steyn vs. the 'Sock Puppets'."

In Canada, where there's no First Amendment, writers can be hauled before kangaroo courts and so-called "human rights commissions," (Newspeak for what are censorship boards, and abused by activists who claim to have been "offended."

What is going on in Canada is an outrage, and I've blogged about it before. I like to think that it can't happen here, but I worry. Because a local college president assisted in a Canadian "hate speech" prosecution, and already there are "human rights commissions" springing up. So far, they're only investigating things like skinhead posters. (And, of course, "discriminatory" cheesesteak signs.)

So when I read about events in Canada, I worry that we're headed in that direction.

posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (4)

Justice is blind, while activists remain visually impaired

While I have nothing but sympathy for blind people, I think the recent decision by the D.C. Court of Appeal that U.S. currency discriminates against the blind sets common sense on its head. Jonathan Adler quotes from the opinion:

The current design of paper money springs from the world of the sighted. Upon casual inspection, anyone with good vision can readily discern the value of U.S. currency; yet even the most searching tactile examination will reveal no difference between a $100 bill and a $1 bill.
Howard Bashman notes, however, that the decision itself discriminates against the blind:
Unfortunately, today's ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit likewise discriminates against the blind, who must depend on others to learn what it says. And the online version of the ruling discriminates against those without internet access.
How true.

WIthout electronic readers, blind people cannot read currency. But neither can they read anything that isn't in Braille. This includes daily newspapers, most books, packages of food in stores (as well as shelf labels, scales used to weigh produce) and even prices at the fuel pump. Nor can they read speedometers or odometers, taxi fare meters, and highway signs. Virtually everything related to shopping and driving (including all stores and highways) discriminate against the blind. For that matter, so do cars. And so do blogs, theaters, television sets, video games, and art museums. On Saturday I went to the Philadelphia Art Museum to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit, and I can assure readers (at least those of them who can read or audially scan these words), that no blind person could have seen it.

And what about pornography? To the blind, it's even more useless than currency, because unlike currency, there are no electronic readers to read it. And in view of the recent Supreme Court decision, I'm also wondering what's to put the blind on notice that they might be downloading kiddie porn (much less imaginary or virtual kiddie porn)?


How blind can naked power be?

And what about guns? In light of a very clever Op-Ed by Michael Bloomberg in today's Inquirer (attempting to link the "virtue of independence" to gun control), I'm also thinking about whether blind people are being effectively denied their Second Amendment rights by the evil gun industry. Think about it. Suppose you are a blind gun owner, and you want to engage in target practice in furtherance of your right to keep and bear arms in self defense. The way most guns are designed and the way most ranges are set up, how in the hell are you supposed to hit the target? I realize that there are probably electronic pointing and aiming systems which might emit audio signals (like a beep tone when you're on target), but how many guns have them? How many ranges are set up to accommodate them?

Does Mayor Bloomberg know that the blind are being effectively disarmed by the gun industry? And suppose a burglar breaks into your house? Even if your gun were equipped with an audio-signaled siting device, what about the burglar?

And suppose the burglar was also blind. What would put him (or any other blind person) on notice that a gun was being pointed at him? Seen this way, blind people are being discriminated against whether they're pro-gun or anti-gun. They are being effectively deprived of their Second Amendment rights by not being able to use firearms, and from an anti-gun perspective, virtually all guns are unsafe in that they cannot be seen, and give no warning to the blind that they're being pointed at.

Surely, if money discriminates against the blind, so do guns.

So why isn't Bloomberg sounding the alarm? It seems to me that he's overlooking another brilliant tactic which might be used against the firearms industry.

And a lot of activists are overlooking this tactic. If the goal is to shut things down and cripple the economy (whoops, I just said a bad word), the opportunities abound. You'd think the activists have blinders on. (Whoops again.)

Come on, get with the program! Do the blind always have to lead the visually impaired?

posted by Eric at 09:04 AM | Comments (3)

Black Box Voting

I'm reprinting in its entirety a post from Black Box Voting. Because as Joseph Stalin was once reputed to have said:

"It's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes."


In this article you will find tools to help you analyze the numbers as they come in from Kentucky and Oregon's May 20 primary elections. New info: 2008

Tool Kit: Tool Kit.

You can find more Oregon & Kentucky tools, and discuss here:

Oregon & Kentucky tools

Kentucky is a big problem, Oregon is just plain strange. I'll start with Oregon's all mail-in voting system before I tell you the news about Kentucky. In Oregon, 100 percent of votes are absentee, or mail-in, although citizens do have the option to take their mailed ballot to an elections office to drop it off.



xls spreadsheet (Excel spreadsheet, huge mamajama, allow time to download. And see end of this article for tips on how to use.)

1. EVER WONDER ABOUT SIGNATURE VERIFICATION? Here's a little pop quiz: Out of 1.4 million Oregon votes in 2006, and knowing how people's signatures change over the years, how many signatures would you expect to mismatch?

ANSWER: Out of 1.4 million, the state of Oregon claims that 29 counties had ZERO mismatched signatures, and in the 10 remaining counties that reported mismatches, the grand total was (drum roll please)..... 34 ballots.

Yes, out of 1.4 million, just 34 signatures did not match. With those figures, it seems equally plausible that the dog's pawprint that made it through a couple election cycles in Washington State as would have fared just as well in Oregon. Heck, a scribble drawing or a blob of spaghetti might work fine too, we just don't know.

But what we do know is that according to data submitted by the state of Oregon to the EAC, Clackamas County had 146,968 ballots cast and not a single signature was too squiggly, scrawly or tilted to mismatch, and that Oregon has one of the lowest signature mismatch rates in America.

We're not wanting to disenfranchise people, but accepting every signature that floats in the door may not be a good thing. It puts extra pressure on the validity of the voter registration database and the postal delivery system, that's for sure.

2. FALSE: Oregon's claim that forced mail-in voting gives them higher turnout figures is simply not true. Oregon is squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to voter turnout, when compared to the other 50 states in the same election.

3. MIRACLE POST OFFICE: Oregon also has a remarkably, some would say impossibly effective postal service. Here's what I know: Black Box Voting does periodic mailings, and we consider a mailing of 8,000 pieces to be spectacularly large, for us. Thirty-one of Oregon's counties mail more ballots in every election than we ever do, yet they never seem to have ballots arrive late or flop around battered and bruised, to be returned months later.

That's not our experience. Some of our mailers arrive late, some probably not at all, and a few look like they've taken a bruising trip to Mongolia before they belatedly return to us.

Yet out of 2.5 million ballots mailed out in the 2006 general election, Oregon reports ZERO ballots returned undeliverable, and only 54 reportedly came in after the deadline. Oddly, 44 of those were in one county. (Not Mulnomah, the biggest county, where Portland sits. It was Washington County).

4. VOTING MACHINES: Contrary to many citizens' beliefs, Oregon uses computerized voting machines statewide, almost all ES&S scanners, and if you'd like more information on the hackability of those, check out the EVEREST Report, choose the 334-page Academic Report and look up Election Systems & Software. Every component of the ES&S machines were found to be tamperable.


Kentucky never has accounted for its 2006 election math, as can be seen by examining the data reports published by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in the above link.*

Continue reading "Black Box Voting"

posted by Simon at 06:34 AM | Comments (1)

Nuclear War In Three Easy Lessons

There is a wonderful (if it can be called that) discussion of nuclear war going on at Talk Polywell.

I'm not going to reprise the discussion. However, I'd like to give you some educational resources. First Wretchard's Three Conjectures. Which discusses what a rogue attack (terrorist) with a nuclear weapon would mean in terms of response.

Second are three very interesting articles by a gentleman who seems to know the inside of planning for nuclear war and its aftermath.

Nuclear Warfare 101
Nuclear Warfare 102
Nuclear Warfare 103

So actually we have two lessons of threes. Why didn't I just say four or six? I like three.

What is the worst thing I learned? It would take the world 200 years to recover from all out nuclear war. And which society would be best positioned to recover? The USA. Why? The Right To Keep and Bear Arms. I must say that the society that we would have after such a war would be very, very, ugly for at least the first 50 years, and not so pretty for 150 years. And the first year or two after? Look at the triage performed in Nuclear Warfare 103. Old women would be the least valuable members of society and young women (the most valuable) would be dedicated to breeding.

And if the attack was one sided? Kiss Islam good by. As Wretchard says in his Three Conjectures it wouldn't even take an attack on the USA. Here is a discussion of what almost happened after 9/11 and the follow on policy that evolved.

The threshold had almost been crossed. However that may be, we now know from National Security Presidential Directive 17 that a terrorist WMD attack, including biologicals and chemicals, will go over the line:
"terrorist groups are seeking to acquire WMD with the stated purpose of killing large numbers of our people and those of friends and allies -- without compunction and without warning. ... The United States ... reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force -- including through resort to all of our options -- to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."
Some reports have suggested that the US would preemptively use tactical nuclear weapons -- bunker busters -- to destroy terrorist WMDs. We're no longer in Kansas. In the halcyon days of the Cold War Soviet boomers would cruise the American coast with hundreds of nuclear weapons unmolested by the US Navy. Now a single Al Qaeda tramp freighter bound for New York carrying a uranium fission weapon would be ruthlessly attacked. The taboo which held back generations from mass murder has been mentally crossed by radical Islam and their hand gropes uncertainly for the dagger.
The upshot of all this? An Iranian nuclear weapon is more dangerous to Iran than it is to the rest of the world. They are much safer without one. Much safer. One can only assume that their desire to nuclearize is a death wish. The jihadis keep saying that they love death more than life so it figures. They may get their wish to die for Allah. En mass.

Here are some other good resources that will help in figuring the aftermath:

Makers vs Takers
Decline and Fall
Desolation Row

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:47 AM | Comments (3)


I watched Obama's Iowa speech earlier. Nothing new. Crowd chanted "Yes we can." I tried not to fall asleep.

Finally, I see that Obama won Oregon, which isn't any more surprising than the fact that Hillary won Kentucky (although Hillary won by a much higher margin).

I'm not sure, but I guess the speech in Iowa is his way of returning to his roots to celebrate.

And so the election drags on.

posted by Eric at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)


While it wasn't much of a surprise to see Hillary Clinton win Kentucky, the fact that she won by more than a 2-1 margin (65%-30%, with 91% of the vote in) ought to send a shiver down whatever spine the Democrats have. It's not a pretty picture for them, because the sharp, deep division means that neither Obama nor Hillary (both of whom have high negatives with certain groups of voters) can really run with any confidence of having the whole party behind them.

For the time being, Republicans ought to be happy that this fighting is keeping McCain in a competitive position.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

Comments welcome.

posted by Eric at 08:53 PM | Comments (10)

Gay, against gay marriage, and in a major Op-Ed!

An Op-Ed in today's Inquirer really caught my attention today, because the author (David Benkof, of is a gay man with a contrarian view of same sex marriage.

...the gay community shouldn't be celebrating.

This decision [legalizing same sex marriage] does next to nothing for California gays and lesbians, and causes real harm to people who believe in the "old" definition of marriage.

It's nothing to be proud of.

I call upon my fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual people to vote in favor of this November's California Marriage Protection Act, which is the only way to reverse the unfortunate decision.

The June weddings that can now be expected for same-sex couples all over California will actually provide little tangible advantage to anyone.

California already has a domestic-partnership law providing all the state benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents all the federal benefits.

Sure, gays and lesbians may get a lift in self-esteem from having their relationships declared "equal" by four jurists, but does an ego boost really outweigh the real harms caused by last week's decision?

He gives examples, and quotes gay activists who "support limitations on the freedom of speech, the press, and religious expression for anyone who disagrees with them." That's a predictable result of making something a right; those involved in any facet of the wedding industry -- facilities, catering, travel, attire, etc. -- would have to provide equal accomodations or services. Saying, "we aren't comfortable with gay marriages" or "marriage is between a man and a woman" would cease to be a free speech issue, and would become discriminatory conduct.

Whether you agree with Benkof or not, viewpoints like his rarely make it into major newspapers. The Inquirer should be commended.

posted by Eric at 04:27 PM | Comments (3)

Turning down the volume?

I hate race.

No really. I wish such things didn't matter. I've often said that I think the sexuality of other people ought not to matter to anyone (except potential partners of a given individual). So, if the sexual interests of others ought not to matter, then why should race matter?

Unfortunately for me, that's a hollow rhetorical question, because even though these things make no sense to me and I'll never understand the need people have to make them matter, to many people they do matter, and they matter dramatically.

Attempting to come to terms with this argument is like trying to mix tar and water.
My argument that sexuality and race do not matter is grounded in individualism (tar) and the argument that they do matter is grounded in communitarianism (water).

My genitals and my skin color are seen as not my own business, but as the collective business of other people in various identity groups.

As is the case with many communitarian arguments, religion often factors in, and the latest race argument is that "we" need to have a "sacred conversation" about race. To do that, we must turn down the volume:

If America is ever going to have a healthy conversation on race, it must first turn down the volume, a black Philadelphia preacher told a largely white congregation in Wayne yesterday.

The Rev. Derick B. Wilson, pastor of a poor, multiracial Kensington congregation, told several dozen congregants of United Church of Christ at Valley Forge in Wayne that empathy for the struggles of others would help to dismantle distrust.

Well, I'm all for turning down the volume. When I read that, I was initially inclined to think that the guy might be criticizing high-volume racial polemicists like Jeremiah Wright.

Far from it. Rev. Wilson is a devotee of Wright who adheres to the same religious philosophy, and he is outspoken in the man's defense.

Wilson, pastor of Healing Stream United Church of Christ in Kensington, staunchly defended Wright in a May 6 Philadelphia Daily News column, and he offered a similar justification with the Wayne congregation during coffee hour yesterday.
Staunchly defended? I'll say. He famously called Barack Obama a "house Negro."

But in yesterday's Inquirer, he stays with an apparently safer talking point -- government-sponsored AIDS, which is really about slavery:

He asserted that, like Wright, some African Americans believe the U.S. government is responsible for instigating the AIDS epidemic, even though there is no evidence to support that view. He said many blacks feel that way because of the nation's history of slavery and oppression of minorities.

"For 400 years, we were slaves in this country, we were ripped from our homeland," Wilson said. "So as black people we have lived in situations where you might well say, 'Well, that never happened.'

Let me interrupt the sacred dialogue for a moment and say that that never happened.

First of all, the term "we" is inappropriate in the context of long deceased people. But tar and water, there I go. To communitarians "we" means all members of a group at all points in time. Well, at selected points in time. The "we" doesn't include the conquering African tribes who sold their captives, and how could it? No one wants to say that "we" played a role in doing something to our own selves.

And of course, there's an awfully big stretch included within the "400 years" of slavery "in this country." I have to assume that by "this country," Rev. Wilson means the United States of America, for what else could he mean? The United States was founded in 1776, and the Thirteenth Amendment formally abolished all slavery in 1865.

Subtracting 1776 from 1865, I get 89 years. What happened to the other 311 years? I'm not sure, but subtracting 311 from 1776, I got 1465.

[Just corrected my math there; I was off by two years.]

Now that made me feel like a real ignoramus, because even though I consider myself familiar with history, for the life of me, I cannot figure out -- even hypothetically -- what the year 1465 might have to do with the United States. Or England. Or even Spanish colonialism in the New World.

Can someone enlighten me about the 309 year gap in this country's history? I can't figure it out.

Returning to the sacred dialogue, as presented in the Inquirer, Rev. Wilson continues with the AIDS theory:

"Do I believe that the U.S. government put AIDS in our communities? I don't know," Wilson went on. "I wish that I could say no, but I know the government has done other things in the past."

Some members of the congregation gently pushed back.

Phil Clark, a scientist who works in the pharmaceutical industry, said that there was no evidence that the government had anything to do with starting the AIDS epidemic and that it did not have the technology at the onset of AIDS to create the virus.

Another member asked Wilson how whites and blacks could move beyond feelings of distrust if Wright's views held such wide currency.

For Wilson, the best approach is to recognize that each person suffers, and that empathy can bridge wide gaps.

"All of us in this room have been in situations where we have been counted out," he said. "If we can get in touch with that sameness" there would be more of a basis for understanding.

Wilson is known as an eloquent preacher among United Church of Christ leaders in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and it was on that basis that he was invited to give Sunday's sermon, said the Rev. Frank Pennington, pastor of United Church of Christ at Valley Forge.

"We are trying to create a safe environment for people to disagree agreeably," Pennington said. "That is the kind of discourse that is lacking in our culture."

OK, I guess it's a good idea for to have a safe environment for people to disagree agreeably.

Let me start by saying that I disagree agreeably with the idea that the U.S. government spread AIDS in the black community. I suppose "disagreeing agreeably" over such things is a nice thing to do, but I just have a little bit of trouble following why debating a fringe theory like that constitutes having a "sacred conversation about race."

What is sacred about it?

And is it really a "conversation"?


I'd hate to think that by posing such questions I might be seen as a race-hating atheist.

I still agree that we should all try to turn down the volume. I try to be tolerant of the views of others, but if someone opines that 400 years of slavery in this country validates the view that the government spread AIDS in the black community, I don't really know what to say. Is this a conversation, or am I just supposed to shut up and take my scolding from someone's pulpit?

If so, then monologue is being confused with dialogue.

UPDATE: Math error corrected.

posted by Eric at 11:45 AM | Comments (4)

A Little Music To Go With Your Art

From the YouTube notes: The song Desolation Row by Bob Dylan, accompanied by a slideshow. Due to the 10-minute limit I wasn't able to place the complete video, which is 11:28. But I still think it's worth watching...

posted by Simon at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

The House Of The Rising Sun - Part II

Just in case you didn't get the allusion in the title of this post, and should you be unfamiliar with what kind of house it was or what kind of politician I think Obama is you can get the details from the wiki in the section titled The real house.

posted by Simon at 10:07 AM | Comments (1)

Makers vs Takers

I just learned from Duane J. Oldsen about a book by Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politicswhich was published in 1992. It is a fascinating look at the two major systems of morality that we find in the world. Commercial Morality and Guardian (Political) Morality. Or what I like to call Makers vs Takers. The two are complimentary (neither does well without the other) and yet stand in opposition to each other. Things get really nasty when the spheres of influence are mixed without consideration for consequences.

Let me start with a couple of references. First The Wiki which provides a short look at the major points. Second is this pdf which is much more detailed with many excerpts from the book. However, I must caution that it is somewhat hard to read due to the many typos.

I want to start first with a table of contrasting moral precepts. Which I have modified slightly from the wiki to make the contrasts a little clearer.

Moral Precepts for Systems of Survival

Guardian SystemCommercial System
Shun tradingShun force
Be obedient and disciplinedBe efficient
Adhere to traditionBe open to inventiveness and novelty
Respect hierarchyUse initiative and enterprise
Be loyalCome to voluntary agreements
Take vengeanceRespect contracts
Deceive for the sake of the taskDissent for the sake of the task
Make rich use of leisureBe industrious
Be ostentatiousBe thrifty
Dispense largessInvest for productive purposes
Be exclusiveCollaborate easily with strangers and aliens
Show fortitudePromote comfort and convenience
Be fatalisticBe optimistic
Treasure honorBe honest

I think the commercial class is rather self explanatory but the political/guardian class needs some explanation. In the American system the political class is supposed to provide oversight to the warrior class in order that those in the warrior class are kept within their proper bounds and operate with the maximum of efficiency and the minimum of corruption in their own sphere. This is their prime function. Their motives are most closely aligned with the warrior class since the political class are by definition takers. However, they are also entrusted with seeing that the commercial class is kept honest as well. This explains why we have two systems of courts. The check on the political class is that they are watched by the civilian courts and civilian prosecutors. They are also checked by being elected by the civilian population.

Science and its handmaiden engineering are inherently a commercial endeavors only more so. They depend on a level of honesty not often found in ordinary commerce. They must not be just accommodating of truth but ruthless about it. The check on science and engineering is replication of the work. It is not true science until some one can repeat the experiment and get the same result within the margin of error. Of course there is continuous effort to reduce the margin of error. That leads to economy both in engineering and science.

Well that is a nice short over view. Let's look at how the systems can fail. The number one failure within the warrior class is a failure of loyalty. In the true warrior loyalty is bidirectional. It comprises loyalty to subordinates, equals, and superiors. The reason loyalty is so important is that all warfare is based on deception. Commerce is dependent on honesty above all. Honest measures, truth in advertising, and the fitness of the goods for the purposes contracted. The good working of both systems is most ensured by promoting excellence, in people, in goods, and in services. And to make it all work the two systems must be kept as separate as possible. The peace keepers (soldiers, police) will demand loyalty from the political class and the businessmen will demand honesty from the political class and each must be satisfied in its own sphere.

I have been going on and on and you can probably see for yourself many avenues for corruption and the misuse of one system by the other and most easily the misuse of both systems by the political class who are in charge of keeping both honest. So let me end with a number of quotes from the Jacobs book extracted from the above pdf.

On Agriculture

...agriculture can be operated under either guardian or commercial ways. Wherever in the world a clamor arises for land to be divided and given to its workers, the system being attacked is the guardian type of agriculture. {But}'s basically a commercial activity.... ...when agriculture is operated in accordance with commercial precepts, placing value on voluntary agreement, thrift, productive investment, efficiency, and openness to innovations, it is much more productive than guardian-run agriculture. worker for worker, it supports its people better. Guardian ways are a drag on agriculture. ...the work's natural demands..for commercial morality. It innately requires thrift: the farmer must deliberately set seeds and breeding stock aside, even if it means going on short rations. It also requires industriousness, much unremitting drudgery day after day after day, especially before machines lightened the work. or bartering is almost invariably associated with agriculture and animal breeding. Farm households everywhere struggle to get something to market if they possibly can. This is true even when members of the household spin, weave, and practice other crafts. For a household to produce food and fibers for itself and for nobody else, and therefore by definition also supply itself with all its other needs, too -- since it isn't buying or bartering -- is so impractical it's uncommon. So impractical it's a guaranteed recipe for poverty. [Agriculture is] economic activity that is functionally and morally commercial [and] has historically been skewed to conform to the contradictory values and morals of guardian landowners. Rulers long ago became preoccupied with agriculture because it meshed with their preoccupations with territory. Tradition has perpetuated the fixation. Any ostensible reason for maintaining the tradition will do. ...once guardian largesse and controls are in place, any attempt to abandon them becomes disruptive.... ...nobody knows what agriculture would be like if it were restored fully and truly to the commercial syndrome and its workings, and everybody is afraid to find out.

Casts of Mind
...we're qualitatively different from other animals as ecological presences. But why? ... Trade! Trade pays no attention to ecosystem unit boundaries. It skips over them as it pleases, transferring surplus energy from this and that ecosystem unit into other ecosystem units.'s logical for guardian-minded people to identify a given territorial unit by the range of its top predator -- its prince. However, in the real ecosystems of the real world, obscure creatures can identify ecological units more tellingly than animals at the top of the food chain. ... If you care about putting scientific learning to constructive use...then you need guardian-minded ecologists.... And you have to take them with their habits -- fixation on territories and territorial princes, bureaucratic ways of bringing order to reality, and all. ... If something is a large, important truth, many entirely different avenues should lead to it.... Education does not guarantee a cast of mind appropriate to the training. [Referring to a team of researchers] At the institute, [they] doubt sincerely thought they were engaging in free intellectual inquiry. Yet their guardian assumptions, their guardian cast of mind, governed the root questions they were putting to themselves.

Military Engineers vs Civilian Engineers
Engineers working in the military-industrial complex are skillful at designing ingenious products but...they fail to combine this skill with thrift of means. ...trained has corrupted the abilities of most of the country's best and brightest engineers over the span of the past forty years. ...lack of cost discipline...has side effects outside the military-industrial complex. ...between 1980 and 1988, our share of machine tool markets dropped from eighteen percent to seven percent. ... American engineers have...remained marvelous at inventing in fields that can afford to support such work. ...the trouble comes from inability to produce the inventions at affordable costs and with competitive efficiency. then, even though invention has given us a head start, we lose out to Italians, Germans, Japanese, and others.... ... Pentagon contracts in the aggregate are enormous. ...engineers laid off from military work will have a 'lethal effect' in civilian production because of their lopsided experience in disregarding costs.

Mixing Guardian Work and Work for Commerce
Plato said mingling kinds of work or meddling with other people's tasks was 'the greatest wickedness,' did the ,most harm' to the community, and was the very incarnation of injustice.

Fair Competition
Fair and square competition is moral in the commercial syndrome. Not in the guardian syndrome, where largesse and loyalty take priority.

The Great Misunderstanding
Francis Bacon: The increase of any state must be upon the foreigner (for whatever is somewhere gained is somewhere lost). ... People with guardian casts of mind tend to carry zero-sum thinking with them into their attempts to understand all kinds of gains and losses.
Kind of opens the mind and shakes out the cobwebs don't it?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:43 AM | Comments (2)

A tiny grave issue

In a piece with the irresistible title of "What Me Mullah?", Roger L. Simon looks at Barack Obama's wild inconsistencies on Iran, and foreign policy in general.

On Sunday, Obama told the throng at Pendleton, Oregon: "Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, 'We're going to wipe you off the planet.'"

On Monday, after the McCain people rushed to distribute the video of Obama's pronouncement, the Illinois Senator quickly revised his statement somewhat:

"Iran is a grave threat. It has an illicit nuclear program. It supports terrorism across the region and militias in Iraq. It threatens Israel's existence. It denies the Holocaust," he said. "The reason Iran is so much more powerful than it was a few years ago is because of the Bush-McCain policy of fighting in Iraq and refusing to pursue direct diplomacy with Iran. They're the ones who have not dealt with Iran wisely."
Oh, really?
In just a day, Iran went from being a "tiny" threat to a "grave" one (only because John McCain spoke up, of course), but in a leap of logic worthy of Alice in Wonderland, the only reason the situation was grave was because it of Republican policies.

I used to do litigation, and while I hated it, this type of thinking is typical, and it is called arguing in the alternative. Behind the "tiny threat" argument is the idea that Republicans are dishonest in describing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran as grave. But on the other hand, if the threat is indeed grave, then it is the Republicans who are responsible for having done nothing -- despite the fact that the Democrats have demanded toughness! (Either way, the Republicans are wrong.)

In litigation, it typically is not supposed to matter that positions are legally or logically inconsistent, because they are played like chess moves.

What I like about McCain is that he's not arguing like a litigator (nor is he a lawyer), but as a man with common sense military experience who knows a threat when he sees one and cares more about the country than winning an argument.

Obama, as Roger points out, sees this as a debating game. Yet even according to game theory, he loses the debate:

To accept Obama's (wavering) position, you must assume that Ahmadinejad and the others are lying about their deeply held religious beliefs. That's difficult to do, since they have been so consistent in their statements and their actions for decades now. Time, to them, is on their side. Furthermore, Obama's contention that because the Iranians are not as technically advanced as the Soviets they are not as dangerous would be almost silly were it not so potentially catastrophic. It is more likely the reverse. Nuclear weapons in the hands of religious fanatics with a divine impetus to spread them is terrifying because it is unrestrained by rationality.
Calling such a thing a "tiny" threat reminds me of Michael Moore's denial-based argument that we don't have to worry about terrorism.

Michael Moore, BTW, has been acting out lately, and I think he must be one of those people who can't stand being ignored. His most recent venture has involved the illegal use of Michael Yon's pictures for his own propaganda purposes.

And, joining like-minded luminaries like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Moore has now endorsed Barack Obama for president.

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds used the phrase "JAMES EARL OBAMA" in a different context, but for me, it brought to mind Moore's place of honor next to the original James Earl.

The name goes quite well with Moore and Hamas that "James Earl Obama" is not a bad all-around fit.

If I were working for the Hillary campaign, I'd circulate the hell out of this video:

As to McCain, he can always use it later.

(There's more than one way to play "Ayatollah you so.")

posted by Eric at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

House Of The Rising Sun
House Of The Rising Sun

Obama has allied himself with the Axis Powers.

Suggested by dre in a comment to Classical Values post Heroes locked under Plexiglas. Picture originally hosted by Power Line. Power Line suggests you look at this image in case the association is not clear.

posted by Simon at 04:09 AM | Comments (1)

Heroes locked under Plexiglas

As I mentioned in an earlier post, on Saturday I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Now, while I happen to think Frida Kahlo's art is overrated as art and I abhor her and her husband's Stalinist politics, I still find her art interesting. While she is not (despite what anyone says) one of the leading artists of all time, her morbidly personal style and imaginatively warped sense of self-absorbed surrealism intrigue me. There are a couple of reviews here and here and it isn't the purpose of this post to get into detailed discussion of her art.

Besides, there's a well established Frida Kahlo cult, and you're either a Kahlo cultist or you're not. (Excellent reappraisal of Kahlo here.) I can take Kahlo or leave her, so I'm hardly a cultist. However, I do find her work far superior to that of her blowhard abusive husband Diego Rivera, whose crassly political Stalinistic murals I have always found dull and dreary.

Of all the Kahlo paintings, there was one that particularly drew my attention -- not merely because of the subject material but because of the way it was on display.

While the rest of the paintings were simply hanging on the walls with guards watching as you'd expect in a normal museum exhibit, one was encased in a heavy-duty plexiglas box which was bolted around it and firmly affixed to the wall. I don't think the primary concern was theft either. I think the curator feared vandalism.

To this painting:


(If interested, you can click to see a larger version.)

The painting (from 1945) is titled "Moses," and here's a brief description:

In the extraordinarily detailed painting Moses, 1945, the sun is presented as 'the centre of all religions'. The composition is divided into three registers, which consist of images of gods in the upper section and portraits of 'heroes' below, including Alexander the Great, Martin Luther, Napoleon and Hitler, whom she called 'the lost child'. At the bottom are the masses, and scenes relating to the process of evolution. The painting was inspired by an essay by Sigmund Freud that made a link between Ancient Egyptian beliefs, Moses and the origins of monotheistic religion. The infant Moses has been given the third eye of wisdom, a device Kahlo sometimes used in her portraits of Rivera.
In the painting, both ancient and modern deities are depicted alongside those humans Kahlo considered to be the greatest heroes of mankind.

From her own description of the painting:

On the same earth, but painting their heads larger, to distinguish them from the "mass," the heroes are pictured (very few of them, but well chosen), the transformers of religions, the inventors and creators of these, the conquerors, the rebels.... To the right, and this figure I should have painted with much more importance than any other, Ahmenhotep IV can be seen, who was later called Akhenaten... Later Moses, who according to Freud's analysis, gave his adopted people the same religion as that of Akhenaten, a little altered according to the interests and circumstances of his time. After Christ, follow Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, Luther, Napoleon and ... "the lost infant", Hitler. To the left, marvelous Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaten, I imagine that besides having been extraordinarily beuatiful, she must have been " a wild one" and a most intelligent collaborator to her husband. Buddha, Marx, Freud, Paracelsus, Epicure [sic]. Genghis Khan, Gandhi, Lenin and Stalin.
Here's a closeup of Kahlo's greatest heroes on the left.

(Top row, left to right: Epicurus, Freud, Paracelsus, Marx, Nefertiti; Bottom row, left to right: Stalin, Lenin, Ghandi, Genghis Khan, Buddha).


And the greatest heroes on the right.

(Top row, left to right: Akhenaten, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Zoroaster; Bottom row, left to right: Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, Luther, Napoleon, and Hitler).


Of all the subjects in the painting, which one would so worry the curator that he felt the need to put it behind a protective encasement?

I don't think that takes much imagination. All of these subjects have been painted in many times and places by many artists, but the only one I can think of who would generate such paranoia on the part of a museum curator is Muhammad. Frankly, I don't blame the curator. Nuts do vandalize paintings from time to time, but the kind of people who would want to erase the image of Muhammad are not your garden variety schizophrenics. They're more likely to be serious and determined people who believe they are on the side of God.

Perhaps it isn't accurate to be lumping them in with nuts. Perhaps it is. Some might consider it a form of denial to dismiss violently determined religious people as "crazy." (Certainly the violent and determined people themselves wouldn't want to be called crazy.)

But whatever they are, the problem is not one that's going away. No avant-garde artist today would dare include an image of Muhammad in any painting. No museum would show it, and few galleries would display it. I realize that many, many artists, in both the Western as well as Eastern traditions (including my favorite, Salvador Dali) have portrayed Muhammad, and I know that a bas relief sculpture of him is still on the Supreme Court building (although Muslim activists want it sandblasted off). But would any museum dare to do an exhibition of Muhammad images in the history of art? Would any gallery display a Muhammad collection? I think not, and I don't think calling them "cowards" ends the inquiry.

For starters, they wouldn't be able to get insurance for the event. Police departments would warn them of violence, and would suggest the events not be held. Various bureaucracies would chime in, and demands would be issued by activist organizations.

In this context, exhibiting the Kahlo painting behind plexiglas has to be seen as an act of courage.

UPDATE: I appreciate the comments! Little did the pain-wracked Frida Kahlo know that what she was painting in 1945 would become such a masterpiece of moral equivalency.

posted by Eric at 06:00 PM | Comments (12)

Heroically chewing on the CFL issue

"Why don't you care about the mercury?"

So asks Ann Althouse in a post about CFL mercury dangers.

I can't resist why questions. Basically, my answer is the same that it has been to "Why don't you care about the lead?"

Because the dangers are overstated.

But speaking of overstated dangers, I cannot help noticing that when Glenn Reynolds linked the Ann Althouse post, he quipped that he mails his CFLs to Al Gore. I'm wondering about something. Did Glenn know about Al Gore's Carnegie University commencement speech about the "third hero generation" yesterday? It was relegated to page B-11 of today's Philadelphia Inquirer, and I cannot find the story at the Inquirer web site (why such shabby treatment of the Goreacle?), so I'll just use the AP version:

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Former Vice President Al Gore on Sunday told graduates of Carnegie Mellon University they could become part of the next "hero generation" in American history by solving environmental problems.

In a commencement address before a record crowd of about 10,000 people, the Nobel laureate said there had already been two "special generations" of Americans: the one that founded the country and the one that defeated fascism during World War II.

"You, I hope and expect, will be called upon to be part of the third hero generation in American history," by countering the threat of global warming, he said.

Never mind the Civil War, or any of the other wars in our history. The importance of today's environmentalists exceeds them, and ranks just below that of the World War II generation. I guess overstated dangers need overstated heroes. Because the planet is at stake:
"We face a planetary emergency," Gore said. "The concentrations of global warming pollution have been rising at an unprecedented pace and have now given the planet a fever."

Carnegie Mellon had provided "great leadership in confronting what I regard as the most serious crisis our civilization has ever confronted," partly by becoming a major buyer of retail wind power, he said.

Alternative energy sources such as the sun and wind can replace fossil fuels, Gore said, but "we need one ingredient that you represent. We need political will; we need your dedication; we need your hearts."

But if CFLs are laden with mercury, isn't it a heroic act of derring-do to screw them in? Why didn't Gore say anything about needing your lightbulbs or your mercury? And in light of this earlier report that Al Gore would be "flying in on a big fat jet to speak at Carnegie Mellon's graduation," I think the mercury being leached by lightbulbs is a small price to pay. Surely Al Gore knows that in war, it is often necessary to destroy things in order to save them. Seen this way, his jetting around and other acts of conspicuous consumption, while clearly destructive of the earth, are nonetheless forms of wartime heroism, as is the CFL mercury pollution. Thus, while Glenn may have been joking, I think a good argument can be made that sending CFLs to Al Gore can be seen as recontextualized Goreian heroism -- a right and bright idea for the rightest and the brightest of the Special Generation.

Because the fact is that CFLs -- and the people who want to save the world with them -- are under increasing assault. And I don't just mean from the right wing anti-environmentalist agenda. In very green-conscious England, there is a serious move to preserve incandescents -- for health reasons:

Conventional or "incandescent" bulbs are being phased out in a voluntary agreement with retailers and will no longer be on sale from December 2011.

Campaigners want people who have light sensitive conditions to be able to continue to buy conventional bulbs for their homes.

They warned that employers must also be able to purchase incandescent lighting as employees have a right to such adjustments under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Andrew Langford, chief executive officer of the Skin Care Campaign, one of the charities involved, said: "Incandescent light bulbs are the only source of electric light for many thousands of people with light sensitive conditions.

"Add to this the thousands of people whose conditions or treatments may secondarily cause them to be light sensitive, and you have a large number of people potentially being isolated in the dark....

I'm no environmentalist, but the anti-CFL talk brings out the mercury apologist in me.

When I was a kid, we used to play with the stuff. I mean both mercury and lead, and not only did no one care, but nothing terrible ever happened. Why am I still alive?

As I've pointed out repeatedly, my mouth is loaded with mercury, and in some places, I'm considered too toxic to be cremated. The anti-mercury activists want mercury amalgam banned, not because it's dangerous, but in order to bolster their credibility (and that of the anti-fishing movement, which which loves to scream about mercury).

I'm not buying into it. This doesn't mean I'm going to break open a thermometer and drink a shot of mercury (or even break one of my CFLs and eat the contents) but there is such a thing as common sense.

The following chart compares "the EPA value to mothers breast milk, bottled water, canned tuna fish and amalgam dental fillings":


As you can see, my mouth is far, far more dangerous than anyone's CFL. Or even the salmon on your plate!


I guess that means if you sprinkle the contents of a CFL on your tuna sandwich and eat it, you'd still be getting 10 times the amount of mercury from the fish.

Unless you chew too hard....

UPDATE: From commenter dre, a reminder of the Gore Effect:

The Gore Effect works. Pittsburgh weather yesterday 5/18/08:

Normal (KPIT) 72 ?F / 22 ?C 50 ?F / 10 ?C
Yesterday 64 ?F / 17 ?C 44 ?F / 6 ?C
Yesterday's Heating Degree Days: 11

Hmmm... I guess the headline should have been, Al Gore speaks in late May, while students students shiver.

AFTERTHOUGHT: While it's probably obvious from the tone of this post, I should probably emphasize that I consider the environmentalist double standards to be deliciously laughable -- the disconnect between the zero-tolerance-for-mercury scare campaign and the fanatic embrace of mercury laden CFLs being a perfect example.

Anyway, here's the deliciously laughable rule on mercury:

All mercury is dangerous and evil -- except the mercury that is wonderful and mandatory.

posted by Eric at 10:48 AM | Comments (4)

Romantic Intellectualism

The New Criterion has an article on romaticism in the public schools. It is not about the study of a literary genre but a look at how bad ideas coupled with good intentions are ruining our schools for all children. The children with limited abilities. Those in the middle and those at the top. It is a very long piece (well worth reading in its entirety) so I'm going to pick out some high points that illustrate where we are, why we are where we are, and where we should go from here.

Educational romanticism characterizes reformers of both Left and Right, though in different ways. Educational romantics of the Left focus on race, class, and gender. It is children of color, children of poor parents, and girls whose performance is artificially depressed, and their academic achievement will blossom as soon as they are liberated from the racism, classism, and sexism embedded in American education. Those of the Right see public education as an ineffectual monopoly, and think that educational achievement will blossom when school choice liberates children from politically correct curricula and obdurate teachers' unions.

In public discourse, the leading symptom of educational romanticism is silence on the role of intellectual limits even when the topic screams for their discussion. Try to think of the last time you encountered a news story that mentioned low intellectual ability as the reason why some students do not perform at grade level. I doubt if you can. Whether analyzed by the news media, school superintendents, or politicians, the problems facing low-performing students are always that they have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or have gone to bad schools, or grown up in peer cultures that do not value educational achievement. The problem is never that they just aren't smart enough.

Then comes a discussion of No Child Left Behind where by the government intends to make us all above average. Or at least 70% of us. You can pass a law and do that? Who knew?
No one disputes the empirical predictiveness of tests of intellectual ability--IQ tests--for large groups. If a classroom of first-graders is given a full-scale IQ test that requires no literacy and no mathematics, the correlation of those scores with scores on reading and math tests at age seventeen is going to be high. Such correlations will be equally high whether the class consists of rich children or poor, black or white, male or female. They will be high no matter how hard the teachers have worked. Scores on tests of reading and math track with intellectual ability, no matter what.

That brings us to an indispensable tenet of educational romanticism: The public schools are so bad that large gains in student performance are possible even within the constraints of intellectual ability. A large and unrefuted body of evidence says that this indispensable tenet is incorrect. Differences among schools do not have much effect on test scores in reading and mathematics.

Pretty much true. Smart kids want to learn and you can't stop them. Kids who aren't smart don't want to learn (it is very hard for them) and you can't make them.
Excellent schools with excellent teachers will augment their learning, and are a better experience for children in many other ways as well. But an excellent school's effects on mean test scores for the student body as a whole will not be dramatic. Readers who attended normally bad K-12 schools and then went to selective colleges are likely to understand why: Your classmates who had gone to Phillips Exeter had taken much better courses than your school offered, and you may have envied their good luck, but you had read a lot on your own, you weren't that far behind, and you caught up quickly.

To sum up, a massive body of evidence says that reading and mathematics achievement have strong ties to underlying intellectual ability, that we do not know how to change intellectual ability after children reach school, and that the quality of schooling within the normal range of schools does not have much effect on student achievement. To put it another way, we have every reason to think--and already did when the No Child Left Behind Act was passed--that the notion of making all children proficient in math and reading is ridiculous. Such a feat is not possible even for an experimental school with unlimited funding, let alone for public schools operating in the real world. By NAEP's (National Assessment of Educational Progress) definition of proficiency, we probably cannot make even half of the students proficient.

After a bit more discussion of what the various tests and studies show we come to how we got here. It deals with the Progressive Movement (are you listening Obama?) and how it ruined education. In other words a short history lesson.
The first strand in explaining educational romanticism is a mythic image of the good old days when teachers brooked no nonsense and all the children learned their three R's. You have probably run across tokens of it in occasional editorials that quote examination questions once asked of public schools students. Here is an example that The Wall Street Journal gave from the admissions test to Jersey City High School in 1885: "Write a sentence containing a noun as an attribute, a verb in the perfect tense potential mood, and a proper adjective." Or consider the McGuffey Readers that were standard textbooks in the nineteenth century, filled with literary selections far more difficult than the ones given to today's students at equivalent ages. That's the kind of material all children routinely learned, right?

Wrong. American schools have never been able to teach everyone how to read, write, and do arithmetic. The myth that they could has arisen because schools a hundred years ago did not have to educate the least able. When the twentieth century began, about a quarter of all adults had not reached fifth grade and half had not reached eighth grade. The relationship between school dropout and intellectual ability was not perfect, but it was strong. Today's elementary and middle schools are dealing with 99 percent of all children in the eligible age groups. Let today's schools not report the test results for the children that schools in 1900 did not have to teach, and NAEP scores would go through the roof.

The author goes on to give a short history of fads in education and how their effect - if any - is small or very often zero.
The roots of educational romanticism go back to the beginnings of the Progressive Education movement early in the twentieth century. Its flowering in the 1960s and 1970s coincided with a zeitgeist that nurtured wishful thinking of all sorts. But I think we need to come to grips with another important historical force that made educational romanticism dominant. The effects of the triumphant Civil Rights Movement gave a special reason for white elites in the 1960s to start ignoring the implications of intellectual limitations.

It is difficult to convey to readers who came of age in the 1970s or thereafter the emotional power of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. The ambiguities associated with affirmative action and the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws were still in the future. The Civil Rights Movement prior to 1964 created a change in the consciousness of white elites that was felt viscerally, and it included an embarrassing awareness of just how unremittingly whites had violated every American ideal when it came to blacks. With that awareness came elite white guilt --honest, deeply felt, and warranted.

Elite white guilt explains much about all kinds of social policy from the last half of the 1960s onward, but especially about education. Until the 1960s, white educators and politicians could look at a class of white children in which a number of students were doing poorly and shrug. The schools try to teach everyone, but some kids can't handle the material. That's just the way the things are; it is not a problem that can be fixed. But when the class consisted of black students who were doing poorly, that reaction was not acceptable. These were children growing up in a society where all the odds had been stacked against them, and their failings couldn't be passed off as "just the way things are." Elite white guilt made it impossible to say that a lot of black children were going to continue to fail in school and there's nothing anybody could do about it. Once it could not be said of black children, neither could it be said of white children. In that context, educational romanticism did not just become fashionable during the 1960s. It became emotionally mandatory.

So we are now paying for our evil with overcompensation. We want to believe that our evil if only expunged can make very thing right. Only it can't. It can only make some things right. And those things are severely limited. In fact they are limited to the evil itself. But we want expatiation. So we overcompensate. And with that overcompensation comes the creation of new evils. We don't know how to make oaks grow in a desert. We can't feed men with sand. And yet our guilt makes us try and try harder when we fail.
And so, beginning with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the federal government embarked on a series of major efforts to improve education for disadvantaged children that culminated in 2002 with the No Child Left Behind Act. Surveying that history, an analogy occurred to me that I offer as a speculative proposition: America's federal education policy as of 2008 is at about the same place that the Soviet Union's economic policy was in 1990.

The parallels between the trajectory of the Soviet Union's attempt to reform its economy and the trajectory of the federal government's attempts to reform the public education system are striking. By the mid-1980s, Soviet leaders knew that they had to introduce supply and demand into the economy, but they couldn't bring themselves to try honest-to-God capitalism, so they tried to decentralize decision-making and permit some elements of a market economy while retaining central price controls and government ownership of the means of production. The reforms were based on premises about human nature that were patently wrong. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the educational romantics--and George W. Bush is the Percy Bysshe Shelley of educational romantics--knew that public school systems everywhere had become bureaucratically top-heavy and that many inner-city schools were no longer functional. They knew that the billions of federal money spent on upgrading education for disadvantaged children had produced no demonstrable improvements. But they thought they could fix the system. Bush's glasnost was to implement accountability through measurement of results by test scores. Bush's perestroika was a mishmash of performance standards and fragments of a market economy in schools, while retaining public funding of the schools and government control over the enforcement of the new standards. The reforms were based on premises about intellectual ability that were patently wrong.

Unlike the Soviet economy, American public schools are still in business, but scholarly analyses of the administration of No Child Left Behind are documenting a monumental mess.

We are now coming to an end of an era. The results are in and denial is not working. Every one know that the crap is backed up in the pipes and is overflowing on the floor and it stinks. To high heaven.
Contemplate these results for a moment. A law is passed that, at least in the first few years, convulses educational practice throughout the nation. It is a law explicitly designed to raise test scores, if only because it produces intense drilling on how to take tests. And it produces trivial increases in NAEP's math scores and no increases in its reading scores. No Child Left Behind has been not just a failure for educational romanticism, but its repudiation.

The good news is that educational romanticism is surely teetering on the edge of collapse. I am optimistic for three reasons. First, the data keep piling up. It takes a while for empiricism to discredit cherished beliefs, but No Child Left Behind may prove to have done us a favor by putting so much emphasis on test scores and thereby focusing attention on how hard it is to budge those scores. Second, we no longer live in a romantic age. Educational romanticism was born of forces that have lost most of their power, and façades collapse when the motives for maintaining those façades weaken. Third, hardly anybody really believes in educational romanticism even now. No one but the most starry-eyed denies in private the reality of differences in intellectual ability that we are powerless to change with K-12 education. People are unwilling to talk about those differences in public, but it is a classic emperor's-clothes scenario waiting for someone to point out the obvious.

So what do we need to do?
For the good of our children, educational romanticism needs to collapse, and quickly. Its effects play out in the lives of young people in devastating ways. The fourth-grader who has trouble sounding out simple words and his classmate who is reading A Tale of Two Cities for fun sit in the same classroom day after miserable day, the one so frustrated by tasks he cannot do and the other so bored that both are near tears. The eighth-grader who cannot make sense of algebra but has an almost mystical knack with machines is told to stick with the college prep track, because to be a success in life he must go to college and get a B.A. The senior with terrific SAT scores gets away with turning in rubbish on his term papers because to make special demands on the gifted would be elitist. They are all products of an educational system that cannot make itself talk openly about the implications of diverse educational limits.

There is much more to be said about these harms (and I have said it, in a book that will appear in a few months). For now, it is enough to recognize that educational romanticism asks too much from students at the bottom of the intellectual pile, asks the wrong things from those in the middle, and asks too little from those at the top. It short-changes all of them.

Here is a bit I really liked out of the above paragraphs: The eighth-grader who cannot make sense of algebra but has an almost mystical knack with machines is told to stick with the college prep track, because to be a success in life he must go to college and get a B.A. And yet plumbers can make more money than most liberal arts graduates and their jobs can't be outsourced.

I have said this often but it bears repeating:

"The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water." -- John W. Gardner, Saturday Evening Post, December 1, 1962

In other words not every man has equal intelligence. All have equal dignity if they comport themselves in a dignified manner. We owe the maintenance of our civilization (and it takes a lot of maintaining) to our plumbers and garbage men. We owe the advances to our scientists and engineers. What we must never forget is that we are all in this together. The man/woman who is respectful and contributes deserves our respect without qualification. The financial trader or the clerk at the grocery store.

Let me add one final point that the article didn't make that I think is vitally important and not well addressed in many communities. Hard work can make up to a 15 IQ point difference in outcomes (sorry no link). That is one standard deviation. It is not a lot. It is however significant. You can make up for some lack of anything with extra effort. How many times do we hear of the ball player with less than stellar abilities make up for his lack by devoting more time to practice than his team mates? What works in baseball also works in school. You can punch above your weight if you work at it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:22 AM | Comments (11)

Commuters and cellmongers repent!

I hate the way Sunday has become official morality day.

I say this not in criticism of organized religion or morality in general, but because I don't like trickery, and I don't like the way Sundays have become the official day for media to play preacher and promote morality -- especially the newly manufactured morality which appeals to the non-churchgoers with unacknowledged spiritual needs.

In today's Inquirer, "our" car culture and our cell phone culture are subjected to good sound scoldings. So, after the poor sinful readers spend their weekdays indulging their decadent lifestyles by commuting to work in their greenhouse-gas-emitting cars and facilitating their needless and wasteful lives by using culturally-destructive cell phones, they need to be shamed on Sunday.

If it weren't so predictable and so tired, this would call for a long essay.

But I have to go out and commit sins -- of the automotive and telephonic variety -- so I don't have time for a long essay.

Forget about atonement. As it is, I never had time to atone for my more pleasurable sins.

Atoning for driving and communicating is impossible.

(In a way, I don't envy today's preachers, so maybe I shouldn't be too hard on them. It is easier to induce guilt over pleasurable things like recreational sex and drugs. Scolding people who have to do things like commute and communicate simply to make a living must be an uphill battle, as well as a thankless task.)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for the quote. A warm welcome to all.

Comments appreciated, even from anti-media Sabbath-breakers!

UPDATE: My thanks to Sean Kinsell for linking this post. Don't miss Sean's devastating critique of the anti-cell phone culture screed.

In terms of finger-wagging social commentary, it has everything: a crack analogy, an appeal to some think-tank expert whose qualifications aren't at all established, and compulsive genuflection to a supercilious Brit decrying the decline of civilization. Since I've been making the transition from the cell-phone culture in to that here in the States, I've actually been thinking about these things quite a bit....
He has, and it shows. I'm glad Sean took the time to rebut what was a very lame argument.

posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (10)

Recovering from Stalinist surrealism at the Baltimore Blogger Meetup

Gone all day yesterday, but blogging was not forgotten. Far from it. After a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum where I immersed myself in the morbidly self absorbed art of the unabashedly Stalinist surrealist Frida Kahlo, I got in my car and hightailed it to Baltimore for a very different event, and a more appetizing one -- both in the political and literal sense.

So I spent a very enjoyable afternoon at the Baltimore Blogger Meetup, which was held at Mama's on a Half Shell -- a restaurant I highly recommend, especially for seafood lovers.

Longtime blogfriend Rachel Sawyer of Tinkerty Tonk was there, was were David Foster of Photon Courier, who also posts at Chicago Boyz, and Jonathan of Chicago Boyz. (I guess you could say Chicago invaded Baltimore.)

I never know how pictures are going to turn out, and we were sitting outside in the afternoon sunlight, which makes them even more unpredictable. While it isn't one of the predictable photos of people looking and squinting at the camera, the best photo I have shows Rachel and I looking at Jonathan's camera, instead of my camera (which was in the hands of David). So it's a picture of us looking at someone else's camera.


If there's any truth to the old superstition that cameras capture souls, it shows our souls being captured by Jonathan! (Speaking of "souls," Jonathan also took a photograph of everyone's feet, and I don't have it, or I'd feed it up and readers could make judgments about whether the attendees and their soles were well heeled or something....)

We had a wide-ranging conversation about everything from popular culture to economics to the election and even the highly politicized weather.

And finally there was the check!


As you can see, the generosity and munificence of bloggers who subscribe to the theories of Milton Friedman know no bounds! *

It was a lot of fun, and I wish such events happened more often.

*Should I feel obligated to point out that the $2.00 was not really the tip?

(People have been known to take me too literally, so maybe.)

UPDATE: Saying "if I revealed anymore, I'd have to kill you," Rachel posts a highly classified picture of the footwork that went into the meeting.

posted by Eric at 09:31 AM | Comments (4)

Is Jamie Rubin Really A Sales Man?

If you look at these two videos I'd have to say it is hard to tell the two comedians apart. Why do I say two comedians? Well there seems to be a little stretching of the truth going on here. Here is what John McCain said:
"I think the United States should take a step back, see what they do when they form their government, see what their policies are, and see the ways that we can engage with them, and if there aren't any, there may be a hiatus."
And here is how Jamie Rubin presets what McCain said.
"I think the United States should take a step back, see what they do when they form their government, see what their policies are, and see the ways that we can engage with them,
Now we can see that Soupy Sales is obviously the better comedian because he gets his jokes across live and unedited. Or perhaps I'm being too harsh. Perhaps Jamie Rubin is really Soupy Sales in drag. They sure look a lot alike.

And Obama? Well he is just a liar. Or perhaps I'm being too harsh. Perhaps Barack Hussein Obama is just a failed comedy act. Maybe that is why he isn't getting any laughs. Tell us another joke Barry. Maybe the next one will go over better.

H/T Gateway Pundit via Instapundit

Got 'lanched. Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 02:10 AM | Comments (15)

Unchained Melody

posted by Simon at 07:26 PM | Comments (0)

You Talkin' 'Bout Me?

President Bush gave a speech at the Israeli Parliament.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
And right away Obama jumps up and said Bush accused him of appeasement.
WASHINGTON - Barack Obama accused President Bush of "a false political attack" Thursday after Bush warned in Israel against appeasing terrorists -- early salvos in a general election campaign that's already blazing even as the Democratic front-runner tries to sew up his party's nomination.

The White House denied Bush had targeted Obama, who said the Republican commander in chief's intent was obvious.

And you know, Bush never mentioned Obama. Now why would he chime in unless he felt guilty about his appeasement policies? You know the guy who wants to bomb our weak friend Pakistan and talk to our enemies in Iran.

I think he done slipped in some Shinola.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:18 PM | Comments (1)

We Owe It To Our Military

McCain made a great point at the NRA convention and he changed my mind about my on again off again support for him. We owe it to those who have fought and died in Iraq.

Senator Obama has said, if elected, he will withdraw Americans from Iraq quickly no matter what the situation on the ground is and no matter what U.S. military commanders advise. But if we withdraw prematurely from Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq will survive, proclaim victory and continue to provoke sectarian tensions that, while they have been subdued by the success of the surge, still exist, and are ripe for provocation by al Qaeda. Civil war in Iraq could easily descend into genocide, and destabilize the entire region as neighboring powers come to the aid of their favored factions. A reckless and premature withdrawal would be a terrible defeat for our security interests and our values. Iran will view it as a victory, and the biggest state supporter of terrorists, a country with nuclear ambitions and a stated desire to destroy the Sta te of Israel, will see its influence in the Middle East grow significantly.

The consequences of our defeat would threaten us for years, and those who argue for premature withdrawal, as both Senators Obama and Clinton do, are arguing for a course that would eventually draw us into a wider and more difficult war that would entail far greater dangers and sacrifices than we have suffered to date. Thanks to the counterinsurgency instigated by General Petreaus, after four years of terribly costly mistakes, we have a realistic chance to succeed in helping the forces of political reconciliation prevail in Iraq, and the democratically elected Iraqi Government, with a professional and competent Iraqi army, impose its authority throughout the country and defend its borders. We have a realistic chance of denying al Qaeda any sanctuary in Iraq. We have a realistic chance of leaving behind in Iraq a force for stability and peace in the region, and not a cause for a wider and far more dangerous war. I do not argue against withdrawal because I am indifferent to war and the suffering it inflicts on too many American families. I hold my position because I hate war, and I know very well and very personally how grievous its wages are. But I know, too, that we must sometimes pay those wages to avoid paying even higher ones later. I want our soldiers home, too, just as quickly as we can bring them back without risking everything they suffered for, and burdening them with greater sacrifices in the years ahead. That I will not do. I have spent my life in service to my country, and I will never, never, never risk her security for the sake of my own ambitions. I will defend her, and all her freedoms, so help me God. And I ask you to help me in that good cause. Thank you, and God bless you.

I think in these dangerous times McCain is the only competent war leader on the ballot. Thank you for reminding me John.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:54 PM | Comments (4)

Clutter leads to meltdown

Like a lot of people who have been using computers for over a decade, I have performed "upgrades" more times than I care to remember. Among the more mundane of these upgrades have been replacing hard drives -- sometimes because they failed, but mostly because they eventually were filled to capacity. I'm kind of a pack rat, and this leads to problems in real life spaces, because when paper, books, and magazines accumulate, they occupy space which ought to be available for humans -- a situation guaranteed to get worse over time. The only options are either throwing things away, or moving to a larger space. Both options are problematic, for obvious reasons.

However, thanks to the continuous evolution in computer technology, I've never had this pack rat problem with hard drive space. It has been expanding and expanding almost infinitely in a way that reminds me of the movement outward of the Universe since the Big Bang. Hard drives get bigger and cheaper, and by the time I've "outgrown" one, there will be one that holds five times as much on sale for a fraction of the price I paid for the filled-up drive.

Because hard drives are fairly small in terms of physical size, the old ones haven't been a big problem; they just sit around gathering dust. But I am stuck with them, and because they contain passwords, financial data, over a decade of old email, and a daily stream of personal consciousness more detailed than any diary could ever be, they're not things I'm willing to just pitch in the trash.

From an economic standpoint, even if I could scrub and reformat them safely (more on that in a second), I cannot sell or even give them away. Old hard drives of 10 Gigabytes or less are useless and worthless, because they're too small for modern purposes. I actually have a 750 Megabyte hard drive if you can believe they ever made such a thing, but physically, it's identical in size to my latest 320 Gigabyte drive.

A lot of people think you can just reformat these things and throw them away. Wrong, wrong, wrong. If you want to be really paranoid, even using the best DoD approved techniques which involve multiple random overwrites of 0s and 1s do not scrub the data sufficiently.

I was shocked to read that the government does not want you to know that:

The second problem with official data destruction standards is that the information in them may be partially inaccurate in an attempt to fool opposing intelligence agencies (which is probably why a great many guidelines on sanitizing media are classified). By deliberately under-stating the requirements for media sanitization in publicly-available guides, intelligence agencies can preserve their information-gathering capabilities while at the same time protecting their own data using classified techniques.
The author goes on to outline how data recovery specialists -- using scanning tunneling microscope recovery techniques -- can easily recover nearly anything, including "palimpsestuous images."

Sorry, but no one messes with my palimpsestuous images, pal.

The only genuinely secure, safe and foolproof way to delete data is by physical destruction of the drive itself. Not just putting it out of its misery with a sledge hammer, because the plates are still inside and some sneaky bastard could theoretically still come along, put them inside another drive, and scan them with his killer microscope. You have to destroy the platters.

If you go to all the trouble of taking one of the silly drives apart (careful, as they're vacuum-sealed and go POOF!), and dissecting the hell out of it, you'll find these:


(As you can see, I've got too much on my platter.)

I think dissolving them in strong acid or reducing them to powder with a bench grinder ought to satisfactorily take care of the problem. But let's face it, that's a hell of a lot of work. I poked around a little bit, and learned that degaussing is the next best thing, but hard drive degaussers are expensive.

What about powerful magnets? The military has developed a hand-crankable box (the "Guard Dog") containing neodymium iron-boron magnets which is supposed to render any hard drive totally useless in a matter of a few seconds.

While they don't sell these things, four inch neodynamium magnets with a 750 lb, pull are available for sale here, and they're described as dangerous:

They are incredibly powerful and should only be purchased by users familiar with the proper handling of large neodymium magnets. Two of these stuck together are virtually impossible to separate by hand. They can pinch and cause physical harm if they are not handled with extreme care and respect. You must read and understand our Neodymium Magnet Safety Page before ordering these magnets. You must also agree to our Terms and Conditions prior to purchasing. THESE ARE DANGEROUS!
Now that sounds cool! Buy two and build your own hard drive destroyer!

But would it work? Might the gummint geeks still be able to get at your palimpsestuous images with their scanning tunneling microscope recovery techniques? I don't know, but I still like the grinder.

I did find another enjoyable method which would appear to be foolproof, and that is called Drive Slagging:

We finally decided that the only sure way to thwart data recovery was to melt down all the aluminum contained in the platters. Slagging the drive would have two effects on the medium. First off it would convert it from a readable disk to any shape we decided to pour it into. Secondly it would nullify the magnetic properties of the coated aluminum.
You just put your drive into a steel crucible, set that in your backyard furnace, wait a few minutes for the meltdown, then pour the melted drive into ingots:


What's left is guaranteed unrecoverable.

And who said meltdowns can't be enjoyable?

posted by Eric at 09:02 AM | Comments (3)

On The Saudi Payroll?

The American Thinker asks: What do the Saudis want?

Slowly but surely it is beginning to dawn on a world mesmerized by the Democratic primary contest that an oil cartel has been picking our pocket with impunity by willfully failing to adjust its output to the additional needs of China and India. More specifically, Americans are beginning to wonder at the logic of continuing to keep Saudis safe. Hence, the US-Saudi oil axis faces a day of truth when president Bush will deliver diplomatically to his Saudi hosts the message NY senator Chuck Schumer delivered most undiplomatically:
We are saying to the Saudis that, if you don't help us, why should we be helping you?
Interesting that a Democrat would be asking that question. And asking it in relation to an American arms sale to the Saudis. We will have more on that question in a bit.

But first what do the Saudis want?

First, they want to see energy demands curtailed rather than supplies increased so that oil will continue to be able to meet that need.

Second, they want oil consumers to continue to promote investment in oil and to promise NOT to invest in or subsidize seriously the development of alternatives to oil.

Third, if alternative energy is to be developed, it should not substitute for oil, merely supplement it.

Fourth, they want "to smooth the recycling of billions of dollars in oil revenues from producers back into consuming countries." In other words, end the growing scrutiny of sovereign wealth funds.

Basically what they want is a guarantee that they can continue their leveraged buy out of the USA. I don't think that is a good idea.

Which fits in pretty well with keeping alcohol tariffs high and preventing the development of flex fuel vehicles, which I discuss at The Girls From Brazil Have A Question. They also have nice asses (and I don't mean donkeys) which you can see in the included video.

Which leads us to the final question which Instapundit asks: is Congress on the Saudi payroll? Rocky Mountain news has the details.

The Senate Appropriations Committee today narrowly defeated Sen. Wayne Allard's attempt to end a moratorium related to oil shale development in Colorado.

It was a big day for Colorado energy issues on Capitol Hill as Gov. Bill Ritter testified before a senate committee asking lawmakers to move cautiously on oil-shale development until more is known about the environmental impact and other issues.

Meanwhile downstairs, the appropriations committee was considering a massive Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill. Allard, a member of the committee, attempted to insert an amendment that would reverse the moratorium that lawmakers approved late last year.

The moratorium prevents the Department of Interior from issuing regulations so that oil companies can move forward on oil-shale projects in Colorado and Utah. Allard said the moratorium has left uncertainties at a time when companies need to move forward and in the long term make the United States more energy independent.

"If we are really serious about reducing pain at the pump, this is a vote that would make a difference in people's lives," Allard argued.

But in a 14-15 vote, the committee spilt strictly on party lines and rejected the amendment.

Don't forget that the Dems in the name of the enviro lobby have been blocking drilling in Alaska and drilling off our coasts. The funny thing is that the Cubans with the help of the Chinese don't see any problem with drilling off our coast, albeit just on their side of the economic zone demarcation line. If there is oil on their side of the line there is most probably oil on our side of the line.

So do the Saudis own the Democrats? It is as good a hypothesis as any. And what about Bush? I think he is a bad politician. He didn't stay bought. How about the Democrats? It looks like they are getting double crossed. Well crossings and double crossings are always the prelude to war. This one is going to be a real bitch.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 08:00 AM | Comments (16)

File A Complaint

Under the Endangered Species Act the polar bear is now listed as a threatened species.

After 18 years of a law practice devoted to counseling landowners, home builders and commercial interests affected by the long arm and severe penalties of the Endangered Species Act, I am used to incredulous looks and outraged oaths from clients coming to grips with the Act's incredible burdens on impacted private citizens.

"Are you telling me I can't build my Burger King because a Delhi Sands flower-loving fly that has never been seen and is above ground only a few days a year might be near-by?"

"I can't build a connector road because the noise from construction might damage the hearing of the Stephens' kangaroo rat thus impairing its reproduction?"

"All construction in San Diego involving impacts to road ruts which might contain Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp is enjoined? All construction?"

Yes, yes, and yes. The list of situations in which the ESA has stopped otherwise legal and fully permitted projects from proceeding is extraordinarily long and getting longer. With Wednesday's decision to list the polar bear as "threatened" the burden on the American economy brought about by the ESA grew exponentially.

How about that. It looks like the socialists and luddites have won the day.
I have written here and here on the polar bear controversy. Those columns delineated how the advocates of the polar bear listing planned on using the bear to impose vast new controls on the emissions of greenhouse gases across the United States. When Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced the listing, he also made a bold statement that the new status of the polar bear would not lead to such consequences.

To which the environmental activists replied immediately: "Says who?" The law is the law, they correctly noted, and it cannot be cabined by "guidance" issued by the executive branch.

I'm assuming that Bush is no dummy. So what can be done?
Because the polar bear has been listed as threatened due to alleged deterioration of its ice habitat, and because the alleged loss of the ice habitat has occurred because of global warming caused at least in part by the emission of greenhouse gases, environmental activists will argue that all emissions of greenhouse gases that flow as a consequence of the grant of a federal permit of any sort are now subject to review under the ESA and, crucially, that those permits cannot be issued unless and until the United States Fish & Wildlife Service reviews and approves of the requested permit under Section 7 of the ESA, a process which takes at a minimum months and which can cost millions of dollars even if it is successful.

Because of the generous "citizen standing" provisions of the ESA, expect dozens of "60-day" letters to begin to arrive in the offices of Secretary Kempthorne very soon, announcing that unless the Department and the Service act to invoke Section 7 vis-a-vis this or that federal permit, a lawsuit will be filed to force compliance. Expect most of those suits to be filed in the Ninth Circuit, where the appeals court has been very expansive in applying the ESA.

Well it is obvious what is to be done. Start filing those 60 day letters. As the article points out:
Swarming the courts has long been a tactic of the left, but private sector firms and sectors threatened by the threatened polar bears need to do more than sit back and wait for bills to come do and projects to be canceled.
Start a cottage industry with standard forms and get those letters out to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Don't like City Hall in your town? File a letter. Hate the Saudis? File a letter. Down on Cezar Chavez? File a letter. Don't like Chinese imports? File a letter. Don't like Al Gore's mansion? File a letter. In fact file letters even for industries you like. Bury this decision under a blizzard of paper.

Once this gets going if some one will direct me to the requirements for letter filing and standard forms or groups that will help I'll post them. The way to put an end to bad law is to get it strictly enforced. The stricter the better.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:04 AM | Comments (1)

McCain Mutiny


This one is the last straw for me. He wants to cripple the US economy over unproven theories when even the warmists say we have 10 years of cold coming.

All this will do is send jobs to China and India.

I used to be luke warm for McCain. Now I just don't care any more.

H/T linearthinker

Let me add that Eric covered this in from the Congressional/bureaucracy side at Same sex marriage and condoms on bananas.

posted by Simon at 11:21 PM | Comments (6)

Vacation? In Burma?

Be sure to check out my Pajamas Media post on the subject, and please feel free to leave a comment

The bottom line is that while travel to Burma is generally considered unethical (because tourist money supports the tyrannical regime financially), the situation is so awful there right now that travel could hardly make things any worse. I think that it might be an especially good time for bloggers to go there, and let the world know what's going on.

In any case, I'm not sure the ethical prohibition on travel to Burma before the cyclone still apply.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking the Pjamas Media post!

posted by Eric at 10:20 PM | Comments (1)

"Um, what I meant to say was..."

While I know Mike Huckabee was only kidding, remarks like this just don't don't work out too well in the world of politics.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Republican Mike Huckabee responded to an offstage noise during his speech to the National Rifle Association by suggesting it was Barack Obama diving to the floor because someone had aimed a gun at him.

Hearing a loud noise and interrupting his speech, Huckabee said: "That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He's getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he -- he dove for the floor."

Breitbart video here:

I think he may well have blown his chance at the vice presidency. In any case, he demonstrated his cluelessness to the world.

Moral lesson?

If you're going to crack jokes about politicians and guns, be sure the target is Dick Cheney.

MORE: The Breitbart video has been deleted. Here's a YouTube version (with a little Blitzer talk):

posted by Eric at 06:28 PM | Comments (3)

The overwhelming scientific consensus gets heavier

"We are all becoming heavier and it is a global responsibility."

So said Phil Edwards of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, quoted in a report linking obesity to global warming.

"Hands off my steak!" is more like it. That was Andrew Bolt's reaction.

Bolt also supplied graphic evidence of "an enviro-menace who endangers us all":


Like the scientist said, it's a global responsibility.

posted by Eric at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

accents are disappearing faster than I thought

I do not admire disloyalty, so I was perturbed to read about a supposedly conscience-stricken young man [Matthis Chiroux] who, after years of military service in Afghanistan and elsewhere, suddenly says he "failed to report" "war crimes" and refuses deployment to Iraq. From his statement:

This occupation is unconstitutional and illegal, and I hereby lawfully refuse to participate as I will surely be a party to war crimes. Furthermore, deployment and support of illegal war violates all of my core values as a human being. But in keeping with those values, I choose to remain in the United States to defend myself from charges brought by the Army, if they so wish to pursue them.

I refuse to participate in the Iraq occupation."

Watching the video of his announcement, though, my perturbation turned to a feeling of puzzlement.

[Yeah, I know he's being upstaged by that funny haircut on the guy on the right, and I know it's hard to be serious when you're looking at a haircut like that, but let me try to be serious, OK?]

The young man above describes himself as "from a poor, white family from the south," which made him "'filet mignon' for recruiters," and is said to have "graduated from Auburn High School in 2002."

He's shown as having played French Horn in the school band in 1999, so he was there for at least three years.

So why does this poor boy from Alabama not have even the slightest trace of a Southern accent?

It's probably nothing, and there has to be an explanation.

But what is it?

Auburn (Alabama) is a town located more than halfway between Montgomery and Columbus, Georgia. I knew a guy who lived in Phenix City (across the river from Columbus), and he had such a strong accent that I could barely understand him, and I kept having to ask him to repeat himself.

However, that was in the 1980s. I've read that Southern accents are disappearing, but still.... Seeing a "poor white" boy from Alabama talking like this was a bit of a shock.

But I guess it could have been worse.

At least he didn't denounce his fellow soldiers for behaving "in a manner reminiscent of Jenjis Khan" in an accent reminiscent of a Boston Brahmin....

That really would have been too much to bear.

posted by Eric at 12:53 PM | Comments (4)

"Nobody clapped"

Take a long, hard look at this video:

Barack Obama said that when he gave a speech in Detroit telling automakers that they had to build more energy efficient cars, nobody clapped.

The reaction of most people who look at the above would be to conclude that he's simply lying. Obviously (unless the video is doctored and the applause was pasted in), his recollection of what happened does not square with the facts.

But does this necessarily mean he was consciously lying? In linking the above, Glenn Reynolds compared it to the Hillary Bosnia sniper flap. During that controversy, many people (myself included), thought it was yet another example of Hillary Clinton's longstanding "congenital liar syndrome."

However, while almost no one swallowed Hillary's lame "sleep deprivation" excuse, some analysts noted that there might be another possibility beyond mere pathological lying:

There are two possibilities: Hillary may be a pathological liar. Or, more persuasive to me, Hillary believed what she was saying and her description of her Bosnia trip was a true representation of her psychic reality and not external reality. In her internal world, Hillary may feel as though she's always being shot at by sniper fire and that she's heroically managed to stay alive.

This theory makes sense of Hillary's recklessness. It didn't feel reckless to Hillary to repeat this lie over and over again, and she paid no heed to those who contradicted her, because in her mind, she was telling the truth. Only when confronted with undeniable evidence of external reality -- actual footage from her Bosnia trip - did she admit (possibly to herself as well as the public) that her version of events was not true.

The bottom line is that Hillary considered herself either a hero or a victim:
In the course of Hillary's campaign, a number of features have repeatedly emerged that are also elements of her Bosnia tale. 1) Hillary is both hero and victim; 2) facts are of no consequence; 3) And there are no witnesses or observers to the facts. This last point is always startling. For example, Hillary's explanation of her vote on the war made Nora Ephron wonder if Hillary thought we "weren't alive at the time."

On the tarmac in Bosnia, Hillary is the victim for being shot at and the hero for braving a war zone. And she's apparently having a negative hallucination that nobody else was there. The irony, of course, is that when the Bosnia story was discovered, it reinforced Hillary's psychic reality: Once again she felt she was being sniped at (this time by journalists). And that she had to heroically fight on and escape this near-death experience. Which it now seems she has.

Much as I dislike her, I'd almost prefer to think of Hillary as a liar than as a confabulating neurotic locked into a histrionic duality of hero-or-victim hallucinatory role playing.

But according to the experts, it doesn't much matter what I'd prefer to think about Hillary at this stage of the game, does it?

So, unsettling as it is to contemplate the possibility that Barack Obama might not be lying in his own mind, the simple fact is that either he was consciously lying, or else he was engaged in the same type of hero-or-victim self-delusion explored in the above theory about Hillary.

If this was not a conscious lie, the fact that he said "nobody clapped" when the crowd did in fact clap evinces a simultaneous desire to be both a hero and a victim. More worrisome to me is the possibility that he knew they clapped, but didn't think they clapped long enough or loud enough, because that might -- and I stress might -- indicate paranoid megalomania. Leaders whose egos demand prolonged and sustained applause (of the "better clap or else" variety) tend to have less than stellar historical track records, and I'd rather avoid giving examples.

So I just hope it was an ordinary lie.

MORE: While her analysis relates to the "now you see it now you don't" flag pin controversy, I find Ann Althouse's reaction reassuring:

Come on! He's lying! Don't lie! I mean, I know you've been having an unimaginably powerful experience with millions of people buying the things you say, but don't get cocky. We do still have our lie detectors, and we can reactivate them if we get in the mood to. Don't push us. Keep the magic alive.
Keep the magic alive, but remember that it's not really magic. Better an honest liar than someone who believes his own lies. Better an honest magician than one who believes his tricks are real.

posted by Eric at 10:21 AM | Comments (5)

Same sex marriage and condoms on bananas

If the massive outrage I overheard on talk radio yesterday is any indication, yesterday's California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage is the ultimate affront to democracy, and the final triumph of judicial tyranny run amok.

Daniel Blatt (a supporter of same sex marriage, btw) admits to being "troubled by the decision," as am I, and he explains why in an excellent PJM piece.

Not that I'm advocating rule by judicial fiat (or even same sex marriage), but it seems to me that much of popular reaction arises more from the culturally inflammatory, easily-understood nature of the issue than it is with judicial tyranny in general.

As issues of importance to the average person go, gay marriage strikes me as not terribly likely to reach out and touch most people. Unless you believe in the social contamination theory, which (correct me if I'm wrong) takes the communitarian view that marriage is much more than something for individual couples to contend with, as it is a social institution that can be "destroyed" once it allows itself to become "polluted" by gay couples. I've never been convinced that the average straight couple will be affected much, but I may be wrong.

While any reaction against judicial tyranny is generally a good thing from the perspective of those who fear out-of-control governments, I think this will be more likely to lead to the passage of a constitutional marriage amendment than to a serious drive to end judicial tyranny. In that respect, I am reminded of the way certain parent groups devote huge amounts of time attacking condoms on bananas instead of targeting the larger problem of the overall failure of schools fail to teach (of which the condom demonstrations are a symptom).

Much is said about unaccountable tyrants in judicial robes, and I don't like the idea of arbitrary rule by an unelected few any more than anyone else.

However, I will say this about tyranny by judges. At least the judiciary is in theory part of the constitutional system. (You know, one branch of the government and all that?) Judges have to at least operate publicly, and when they go too far, when their decisions are too notorious, the people who appointed them can ultimately fail to be reelected, and in California the judges themselves can be removed. So they're not completely unaccountable, nor are they completely unconstitutional.

What terrifies me much more than rule by an unaccountable, unelected judiciary is rule by an unaccountable, unelected bureaucracy.

Yes, there's that word again. Bureaucracy. For some reason it looks and sounds numbingly boring. When we think of bureaucracy and bureaucrats, our eyes glaze over. This faceless, largely invisible, almost eunuchoid ruling class just doesn't instill fear and loathing in people's hearts as it should. "Bureaucracy" is not a powerful word associated with tyranny, and it does not bring to mind the sinister men in black robes, even though the latter are in fact more publicly accountable.

Maybe I should have been worrying about gay marriage, but last night I tried to make sense of a bill called S.2191 -- America's Climate Security Act of 2007.

Trust me, it is a nightmare of government regulatory madness. Bipartisan sponsorship, naturally, so neither party has to face the wrath of ordinary little people when their gasoline prices double. Hopefully, they'll still be so busy duking it out over gay marriage that they won't notice the emergence of a new ruling class with far more power over their daily lives.

Even though it's a gruesomely cumbersome piece of legislation designed to regulate "greenhouse gases," S. 2191 does not specify what standards are to be set or what constitutes a violation of the law. This is all left up to "the Administrator."


(a) In General- Not later than 90 days after the end of a calendar year, the owner or operator of a covered facility shall submit to the Administrator an emission allowance, an offset allowance awarded pursuant to subtitle D of title II, or an international allowance or credit obtained in compliance with regulations promulgated under section 2502, for each carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gas that--

(1) was emitted by that facility during the preceding year;

(2) will, assuming no capture and permanent geological sequestration of that gas, be emitted from the use of any petroleum- or coal-based transportation fuel that was produced or imported at that facility during the preceding year; and

(3) will, assuming no capture and destruction or permanent geological sequestration of that gas, be emitted from any nonfuel chemical that was produced or imported at that facility during the preceding year.

(b) Retirement of Allowances- Immediately upon receipt of an emission allowance under subsection (a), the Administrator shall retire the emission allowance.

(c) Determination of Compliance- Not later than July 1 of each year, the Administrator shall determine whether the owners and operators of all covered facilities are in full compliance with subsection (a) for the preceding year.

In other words, regulating greenhouse gases is too complicated for the legislature, so they're just abrogating their legislative responsibilities and assigning them to a soon-to-be-vaster-than-ever bureaucracy, which is charged with being the lawmaker, the prosecutor, and not merely the judiciary, but judge, jury and executioner. (But isn't such tyranny unconstitutional? Hah! Don't expect the Supreme Court to ever dare abrogate rule by the bureaucratic class! Why, they'd immediately find themselves accused of "judicial tyranny," by the bureacratic classes who claim they're there to "save" us.)

Who elects these people? No one. They are nameless, faceless, and as replaceable as pistons. And the legislation empowering them is not only unreadable, it probably won't be read by the legislators who will pass it.

But two men on the altar? Marriage redefined? Anyone can understand that. It's as easy to conceptualize as a condom on a banana.

No wonder ordinary people react.

The cynic in me suspects that's the whole idea.

posted by Eric at 09:07 AM | Comments (6)

Getting divorced from a dated perspective

Where it comes to dating the divorced, I'm afraid I'm a bit out of my league, as well as out of touch with today's world. However, I nonetheless enjoyed Dr. Helen's PJM post on the subject, especially because double standards never fail to intrigue me. And boy, do the double standards ever abound!

...a divorced man has baggage and is a challenge. Dating a divorced woman is a special concern and leads to a fulfilling and wonderful relationship. Even the books mentioned are different. For divorced women, a book is cited with a nice title that is gender neutral; for divorced men, the title is more hostile and is geared towards what women can do to make sure this damaged man is right for her. Everything is about what women want in a relationship. The man just has to play along and conform to what women need.
There's a lot more, and it's enough makes my head spin. Moreover, in light of today's news from California, the ranks of the divorced will soon include same-sex divorcees, so maybe we should get ready for triple standards, even quadruple standards.

It's all too much for me, and I have nothing to offer by way of advice for anyone. On this issue, I'm a babe in the woods.

However, a super bloggerhelper did email me something today which might be helpful; not for people dating the divorced, but to people -- especially male people -- who just want to feel dated, period. (In the nostalgic sense.)

It's from the American Psychological Association and it's called the "Marital Rating Scale--Wife's Chart":

...a test developed in the late 1930s by George W. Crane, MD, PhD, (1901-95) of Northwestern University, who ran a counseling practice, wrote a syndicated national newspaper column called "The Worry Clinic" and started his own matchmaking service.

The test was designed to give couples feedback on their marriages. Either husbands or wives could take the test, which rated wives in a variety of areas. For instance, if your wife "uses slang or profanity," she would get a score of five demerits. On the other hand, if she "reacts with pleasure and delight to marital congress," she would receive 10 merits. The test taker would add up the total number of merits and demerits to receive a raw score, which would categorize the wife on a scale from "very poor" to "very superior."

The APA notes that while most people would laugh at the test today, it was intended to be scientific at the time.

Hmmm..... Some of these questions are really great! (And how forward-thinking they were to include "jolly and gay" on the "merit" side!)


Contrast the above with the modern rule that "if you're a woman, never give too much and don't try too hard to be understanding." In light of all the progress that's been made, it's hard to imagine that there ever was a time when men might have used such a guide in evaluating their wives.

However, I'm thinking that such a "dated" perspective might offer hope to at least some of the "damaged men" who have gone through divorces. Why, maybe they could even be allowed to get together in support groups, and retroactively evaluate their spouses as they share a warm nostalgic feeling of being dated.

(Don't expect me to say that being dated beats dating, though. As I say, I'm an out-of-my-league babe-in-the-woods....)

posted by Eric at 04:23 PM | Comments (1)

One man's disturbing mutant is another man's precious thing of Beauty!

Post-Nuclear War Mutant Salt Shakers, anyone?

Clayton Cramer said that a Thai restaurant was handing them to customers, but he found them "disturbing."

It's not the first time this has happened, but once again, I must regretfully disagree with Cramer.

I mean, just look at these!


I think they're incredibly cool and I want a set! In fact, I almost feel like flying to Boise, Idaho, renting a car and then driving to the Sad Wa Dee Restaurant in Meridian, to beg for a set.

BTW, the Sad Wa Dee has been favorably reviewed and rated four stars.

But the salt and pepper shakers are so beautifully disturbing I'd rate them a five!

UPDATE: Things are more disturbing than I thought. After exhaustively searching the Internet for mutant salt and pepper shakers, and "weird" salt and pepper shakers, I finally stumbled onto the mutants. Only they're not intended to be mutants; they're "huggies" -- and they're supposed to be placed together in a syrupy sickly-sweet display of saccharin schmaltziness....

Like this:



Reminds me of the expression "you can't hug your kid with nuclear mutants."

Or was that "nuclear mutants are for hugging"?

Maybe Clayton Cramer was right to find them disturbing....

posted by Eric at 12:33 PM | Comments (2)

The Girls From Brazil Have A Question

You can find out more about this at Set America Free.Org. If you want to learn more about why the auto companies should be making Flex Fuel Vehicles you can listen to this or visit Energy Victory. If you want to find out how cheap fusion energy can help (now in the early research stages of a revolution in fusion reactor design) visit Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion. If you would like to get your town or city involved in fusion research with small capital outlays visit Starting A Fusion Program In Your Home Town. You can read an Analog article published in January about this fusion reactor development at The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited. Let me give you the short version on fusion: cheap fusion energy would lower the cost of distillation of fermented sugar cane from equatorial countries like Brazil.

To contact your government about Brazil and/or fusion try one or all of these:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

HT Instapundit

posted by Simon at 12:15 PM | Comments (4)

Five years so far....

Hey, I almost forgot that this blog is five years old today.

Here's what it looked like in the early days on blogspot.


And here it is in July of 2003, right after I moved it to HostMatters with a cool redesign by Little Green Footballs:


And in June of 2004, the blog was redesigned again by Sekimori to its present form.

I'm not much on statistic-keeping, but according to the Site Meter, total hits are 2,839,355, with 3,837,105 page views. I tried to do a word count once last year, and it was difficult, but it appears that there are millions of words in the archives. There have been well over 6000 posts (many of which are essays), and while I've written most of them myself, there have been as many as four co-bloggers over the years:

  • Beck, who's written 8 posts;
  • Dennis, who's written 250;
  • Justin, who's written 322;
  • M. Simon (of Power and Control) who will probably be writing his 500th post today. (My congratulations!)
  • It's hard to know what to say, other than thanks, and keep coming!

    Considering that the goal of this blog is admittedly unachievable, I'd say the work is far from over.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (3)

    "Historically more polyglot Democrats" confront wedge issue!

    While I like to think that I pay attention to so-called "wedge issues," it appears that I missed one. According to WaPo's Harold Meyerson, John McCain is trying to make "America" itself a wedge issue, by means of identity politics:

    McCain's first post-primary ad proclaimed him "the American president Americans have been waiting for." Not the "strong" or "experienced" president, though those are contrasts he could seek to draw with Obama. The "American" president -- because that's the only contrast through which McCain has even a chance of prevailing.

    Now, I mean to take nothing away from McCain's Americanness by noting that it's Obama's story that represents a triumph of specifically American identity over racial and religious identity. It was the lure of America, the shining city on a hill, that brought his black Kenyan father here, where he met Obama's white Kansan mother. It is because America is uniquely the land of immigrants and has moved beyond a racial caste system that Obama exists, has thrived and stands a good chance of being our next president.

    That's not the America, though, that the Republicans refer to in proclaiming their own Americanness. For them, "American" is a term to be used as a wedge issue, a way to distinguish their more racially and religiously homogeneous party from the historically more polyglot Democrats. Such separation has a long pedigree....

    Yes, and we know what that "pedigree" involves, don't we?

    I hate to interrupt nostalgic waxing over the "historically more polyglot Democrats," but I must object to the implications of word "historically." Historically, the Democratic Party was home to the Ku Klux Klan, while the Republican Party was home to black voters in the South. In 2000, Condoleezza Rice spoke from experience:

    The first Republican that I knew was my father John Rice. And he is still the Republican that I admire most. My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did.
    For additional historical perspective, here's an excerpt from a lengthy piece by Larry Elder:
    Fugitive slave laws? In 1850, Democrats passed the Fugitive Slave Law. If merely accused of being a slave, even if the person enjoyed freedom all of his or her life (as approximately 11 percent of blacks did just before the Civil War), the person lost the right to representation by an attorney, the right to trial by jury, and the right to habeas corpus.

    Emancipation? Republican President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War. In 1865, the 13th Amendment emancipating the slaves was passed with 100 percent of Republicans (88 of 88 in the House, 30 of 30 in the Senate) voting for it. Only 23 percent of Democrats (16 of 66 in the House, 3 of 8 in the Senate) voted for it.

    Civil rights laws? In 1868, the 14th Amendment was passed giving the newly emancipated blacks full civil rights and federal guarantee of those rights, superseding any state laws. Every single voting Republican (128 of 134 -- with 6 not voting -- in the House, and 30 of 32 -- with 2 not voting -- in the Senate) voted for the 14th Amendment. Not a single Democrat (zero of 36 in the House, zero of 6 in the Senate) voted for it.

    Right to vote? When Southern states balked at implementing the 14th Amendment, Congress came back and passed the 15th Amendment in 1870, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote. Every single Republican voted for it, with every Democrat voting against it.

    Ku Klux Klan? In 1872 congressional investigations, Democrats admitted beginning the Klan as an effort to stop the spread of the Republican Party and to re-establish Democratic control in Southern states. As PBS' "American Experience" notes, "In outright defiance of the Republican-led federal government, Southern Democrats formed organizations that violently intimidated blacks and Republicans who tried to win political power. The most prominent of these, the Ku Klux Klan, was formed in Pulaski, Tenn., in 1865." Blacks, who were all Republican at that time, became the primary targets of violence.

    Jim Crow laws? Between 1870 and 1875, the Republican Congress passed many pro-black civil rights laws. But in 1876, Democrats took control of the House, and no further race-based civil rights laws passed until 1957. In 1892, Democrats gained control of the House, the Senate and the White House, and repealed all the Republican-passed civil rights laws. That enabled the Southern Democrats to pass the Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, and so on, in their individual states.

    Civil rights in the '60s? Only 64 percent of Democrats in Congress voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act (153 for, 91 against in the House; and 46 for, 21 against in the Senate). But 80 percent of Republicans (136 for, 35 against in the House; and 27 for, 6 against in the Senate) voted for the 1964 Act.

    There's a lot more. I can think of many ways to characterize the Democratic Party's regrettable history, but "historically more polyglot"? I think that's a shameless distortion of Orwellian proportions.

    Anyone who think the Democratic Party's racist history is limited to the distant historical past need look no further than the life story of the much-maligned (by Democrats) Condoleezza Rice:

    Condi, as friends call her, was born November 14, 1954, in what his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would call "probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States." During the Civil Rights struggle it came also to be called "Bombingham," with racist explosives killing not only Rice's friend and three other girls but also shattering the home of black civil rights lawyer Arthur Shores and terrifying the African-American community.

    "Rice's father went to police headquarters to demand an investigation," wrote Dale Russakoff in the Washington Post Magazine. "They didn't investigate," Condoleezza Rice has said. "They never investigated."

    The police commissioner in Birmingham who would not investigate was Bull Connor, a Democrat who perfectly embodies everything that political party has always stood for. When civil rights protesters arrived, Connor unleashed his dogs and fire hoses on them.

    "John Rice," writes Russakoff, "then did what black fathers all over Birmingham were doing - what Alma Powell remembers her own father doing then, when she happened to be home with her babies during her husband's [Colin Powell's] tour in Vietnam: They got out their shotguns and formed nightly patrols, guarding the streets themselves."

    One of the many dirty secrets of the Democratic Party is that its passion for gun control began, and continues to be, from a desire to disarm African-Americans and thereby make them powerless and dependent. Russian expert Michael McFaul, writes Russakoff, "remembers [Condoleezza] Rice telling him she opposed gun control and even gun registration because Bull Connor could have used it to disarm her father and others" in 1963.

    Condi Rice remembers many lessons of how her mother and father stood up to segregationists, refusing again and again to accept the inferior place into which the white Democratic bosses of Birmingham tried to push blacks. She remembers learning from her grandfather that "You have control, you're proud, you have integrity, nobody can take those things away from you."

    (For more on Bull Connor, Glenn Reynolds recently linked this post by Grand Old Partisan.)

    For those who enjoy historical quotes from Democrats, Bruce Bartlett, author of "Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past," shared some gems from his book in the Wall Street Journal:

    "Slavery among the whites was an improvement over independence in Africa. The very progress that the blacks have made, when--and only when--brought into contact with the whites, ought to be a sufficient argument in support of white supremacy--it ought to be sufficient to convince even the blacks themselves."

    --William Jennings Bryan, 1923
    Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, 1896, 1900 and 1908
    Appointed Secretary of State by Woodrow Wilson in 1913
    His statue stands in the U.S. Capitol.

    "Anyone who has traveled to the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results. . . . The argument works both ways. I know a great many cultivated, highly educated and delightful Japanese. They have all told me that they would feel the same repugnance and objection to have thousands of Americans settle in Japan and intermarry with the Japanese as I would feel in having large numbers of Japanese coming over here and intermarry with the American population. In this question, then, of Japanese exclusion from the United States it is necessary only to advance the true reason--the undesirability of mixing the blood of the two peoples. . . . The Japanese people and the American people are both opposed to intermarriage of the two races--there can be no quarrel there."

    --Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1925
    President, 1933-45

    This is by no means an exhaustive compendium; I only wanted to cite a few examples to rebut Meyerson's sanctimonious claim of historically more polyglot Democrats with superior pedigrees.

    However, while I'm at it I can't resist this vintage snippet from a New York Times editorial:

    "It has of late become the custom of the men of the South to speak with entire candor of the settled and deliberate policy of suppressing the negro vote. They have been forced to choose between a policy of manifest injustice toward the blacks and the horrors of negro rule. They chose to disfranchise the negroes. That was manifestly the lesser of two evils. . . . The Republican Party committed a great public crime when it gave the right of suffrage to the blacks. . . . So long as the Fifteenth Amendment stands, the menace of the rule of the blacks will impend, and the safeguards against it must be maintained."

    --Editorial, "The Political Future of the South," New York Times, May 10, 1900)

    But never mind any of that. To Harold Meyerson, the Republicans are the historic bigots, while the Democrats are the party of the multiculturally pure.

    And to his pure way of thinking the word "American" has become ugly code language for white Christian racist bigotry. And callused drowners of cities which probably weren't white enough:

    ....Their party leader, the incumbent president, let a great American city drown. They are the American party, and McCain the American nominee, that hasn't a clue about how to help America in its (prolonged, I fear) moment of need.

    What remains for the GOP is a campaign premised more on issues of national identity, aimed largely at that portion of our population for which "American" is synonymous with "white" and "Christian," than any national campaign has been since the American Party (also known as the Know Nothings) based its 1856 campaign chiefly on Protestant bigotry against Irish and German Catholic immigrants. In Appalachian America (the heart of which went to the polls yesterday in West Virginia), as Mark Schmitt notes in the forthcoming issue of the American Prospect (which I edit), a disproportionate number of people write "American" when answering the census question on ethnic origin. For some, "American" is a race -- white -- no less than a nationality, and it's on this equation that Republican prospects depend.

    (The Know Nothings were largely an offshoot of the Democratic Party which didn't last long.)

    But speaking of "American" as code language for white, I remember Whoopi Goldberg getting in trouble for describing herself as an American.

    "Most of all, I dislike this idea nowadays that if you're a black person in America, then you must be called African-American. Listen, I've visited Africa, and I've got news for everyone: I'm not an African. The Africans know I'm not an African. I'm an American. This is my country. My people helped to build it and we've been here for centuries. Just call me black, if you want to call me anything."
    I'm sure Condi Rice thinks along similar lines, but because she lacks leftist credentials, a remark like that from her would bring down the wrath of the mostly white gods of multiculturalism, who love abusing her with "House Negro" (or worse) and Aunt Jemima slurs, while they accuse the Republican Party of racism.

    But there's no winning this silly debate.

    What's important to remember is that Republicans are bigots, "America" is code language for white racism, and members of minorities who dare call themselves American are "acting white."

    posted by Eric at 09:50 AM | Comments (1)

    Fusion Report 15 May 008

    In Picture Of WB-7 Bussard Fusion Test Reactor Available I reported that there was a picture of the WB-7 Fusion Test Reactor available. (Well duh). I must sadly report that it is no longer available. Instead EMC2 Fusion has replaced it with a picture of a plasma test of the fusion reactor using Helium gas. Yeah! We are another small step on the way to fusion power. Or to proving you can't get there from here. Depending.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:35 AM | Comments (0)

    "Maybe the American people will wake up"

    Human Events and WorldNetDaily have teamed up in the form of this editorial from WND editor Joseph Farah:

    ...John McCain won't get any help from me. He won't get my vote. In fact, to be honest, if the Republican Party is ever going to recover itself and become the party it was under Ronald Reagan, it will happen faster if John McCain is beaten. It will happen faster if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton gets elected and implements the Big Brother, socialist agenda they both endorse.

    Bring it on. I'll do my best to expose it. Maybe the American people will wake up and rediscover the meaning of freedom after tasting elitist, top-down, command-and-control, centralized socialism.

    We all are going to experience it in the next four years. It's simply a question of who is going to be force-feeding it to us. I'd rather it come from the Democrats so the American people know who is to blame.

    Maybe the American people will wake up?

    Had they been given the chance, they would have gladly reelected Bill Clinton to a third term. As it was Al Gore nearly won in 2000.

    I don't know where these people get the idea that Americans will "wise up" if only they are punished enough.

    I have no illusions about McCain, but voting involves not merely whom you vote for, but whom you vote against. After reviewing Robert Bidinotto's thoughts on the subject, Kim du Toit concluded,

    "I'm voting against Socialism" should be our slogan in November.
    I also like Clayton Cramer's observation:
    Do you want someone is wrong half the time, or someone who is wrong all the time?
    Depends on whether you're one of those people who believes America has to become completely wrong in order to become completely right.

    This type of thinking is quite old, and it's popular among activists. I remember a similar argument back in the 1970s on the other side. I know I'm repeating myself, but here it is again:

    ...behind the thinking is the idea that if the country is ruined by intensifying the pace of socialism, open border policies, multiculturalist rot, draconian gun control, terrible schools, etc., that the voters will finally "wake up" and realize that the only answer is to be found in far-right conservatism. Left wing tyranny will bring about a backlash resulting in sudden majority support for far-right politics.

    This reminds me of a political debate on the left in the late 1960s -- a time when Weather Underground types and their supporters believed in radicalizing everyone -- and their violent tactics were intended to do just that. More mainstream leftists, while agreeing with the general Marxist philosophy, believed that such tactics might very well cause Richard Nixon to put America under martial law and bring about a fascist state. To this the far left replied that "If it takes fascism, then bring it on!" They believed that if America went fascist, the great middle would suddenly see the light and become Marxist. Now I am not comparing today's conservative right to the 1960s far left; for starters the right wing's tactics are not violent. I mean to highlight the logical fallacy involved in thinking that helping to bring about an abhorrent government will cause ordinary people to "see the light." Ordinary people not being activists, they don't see the light in this way; they hope only that they will be left alone. Thus, assuming the Clintons return to power, this does not mean voters would suddenly be more likely to vote for a far right conservative. To the contrary, they'd be more likely to vote Hillary into a second term. And, while the party purists in the GOP might wring their hands in despair of what has happened to this once wonderful country, they'll be stuck agreeing with each other, and blaming the RINOs for their loss.

    This brings to mind another reason for sitting it out and letting Hillary win. McCain -- and the "RINOs" -- can then be blamed for Republican defeat, and the right wing can then have their "turn" at running against Hillary. I'll vote for them, of course. And they'll probably say that the reason they didn't win is because of the RINOs. But winning isn't everything; it's about party principles.

    I have principles too, and I don't expect them to prevail.

    (I mean really. Stop socialism, legalize drugs, defeat Islamofascism? Come on! What's next? "End the Culture War"?)

    That was written back in January, when I still assumed the candidate would be Hillary Clinton, but the same applies to Obama.

    In terms of outcome, I don't think this conservative activist strategy of masochistically supporting the Democrats will do anything more than help the Democrats.

    Well, I suppose it might generate a little more conservative despair. Is that supposed to be a good thing?

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, an excellent analysis by Andrew Stuttaford, who calls this phenomenon "revolutionary defeatism":

    I'm struck by how, to use an old Marxist term, a variant of "revolutionary defeatism" appears to be emerging within some sectors of the right. Under some circumstances, Lenin was indeed correct, the worse was the better. Thus using this logic, an Obama presidency ("the worse") would be "the better" because it would both rally the conservative troops, and by reproducing the errors, say, of Clinton 1992-4 or the whole miserable Carter saga, create an opening for a revived conservatism. Sometimes, however, the worse is just worse. That, I think, is the danger here.That, I think, is the danger here. I would not be at all surprised if the Obama presidency proved to be a policy disaster, but a political success....
    Rallying the troops against a political success would take the form of "fighting the good fight." Maybe a sort of Long March.

    Assuming another Reagan comes along, I suppose it might lead to an election victory in a decade or two.

    posted by Eric at 12:02 AM | Comments (4)

    Amazing logic from one of the greatest minds in Hollywood

    In what may be the silliest post I've written in some time, I'm going to try to make sense of Sean Penn's recent political analysis, delivered at the Cannes Film Festival:

    At a press conference beforehand, the actor, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, offered his views on the Democratic nomination race.

    Asked if he would be joining other Hollywood A-listers in pledging support for Obama, Penn gave him a less than ringing endorsement and warned that he has an awful lot to live up to.

    "I don't have a candidate I'm supporting and I'm certainly interested and excited by the hope that Barack Obama is inspiring," he said, but went on to accuse him of a "phenomenally inhuman and unconstitutional" voting record.

    Oddly enough, I agree. Obama's gun control record is inhuman (for violating the natural right to self defense) as well as unconstitutional (for violating the Second Amendment).

    Except I'm having a little trouble with the rest:

    "I hope that he will understand, if he is the nominee, the degree of disillusionment that will happen if he doesn't become a greater man than he will ever be," Penn said. "This is the most important election, certainly in my lifetime, and maybe ever."
    if he doesn't become a greater man than he will ever be?

    Isn't that a logical impossibility?

    UPDATE: My thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link!

    posted by Eric at 09:04 PM | Comments (3)

    Gay Goose, Christian gander?

    Crystal Dixon, an associate vice president of human resources at the University of Toledo, has been essentially fired (she refused to accept a demotion with a pay cut) for writing in a newspaper that homosexuality is wrong, and not the equivalent of race:

    Dixon was placed on paid administrative leave after a column she wrote that appeared on the newspaper's Web site April 18 created controversy because of her views on homosexuality.

    "As a Black woman ... I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are 'civil rights victims.' Here's why," Dixon wrote. "I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a black woman ... Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle ... "

    According to a statement from UT spokesman Lawrence J. Burns, the university determined that there was "just cause" to fire Dixon.

    "The public position Ms. Dixon took in the Toledo Free Press is in direct contradiction to University policies and procedures, as well as the institutional core values as defined in our strategic plan, and called into question her continued ability to lead a critical function within the administration as personnel actions or decisions taken in her capacity as associate vice president for human resources could be challenged or placed at risk," Burn said in the statement.

    What happened strikes me as an example of viewpoint discrimination. I don't agree with Ms. Dixon's assessment of homosexuality, but she has as much right to her view as I do to mine.

    Predictably, the case is generating wide debate on the merits, with many social conservatives such as Matt Barber (who emailed me) saying she is right, and others arguing that she has a specially protected religious right to her opinion. It is true that the Bible says certain things about homosexuality, but I don't see how the question of whether sexual orientation is analogous to race constitutes a religious opinion. Nor am I comfortable with the argument that ideas grounded in religion are more constitutionally protected than ideas which are not. (This is not a new issue here.)

    The University of Toledo is a public institution, and they're not allowed to engage in viewpoint discrimination.

    How far that goes, I don't know. Would a university administrator be allowed to hold racist opinions as long as he didn't discriminate? Ms. Dixon has stated that she does not discriminate against gays:

    "I absolutely respect their right to disagree," Dixon told WTVG about people who have spoken out against her statements. "Again: They are citizens. They can voice their opinion. I'm a citizen as well, and I ought to be able to voice my opinion."

    "I've practiced human resources for 25+ years," she says when asked about any conflict her moral beliefs would have with her work at UT. "I have provided outstanding service to individuals regardless of of their sexual orientation. I have hired heterosexuals and homosexuals in my 25 years practicing as a human resources person, so I think it speaks for itself."

    Moreover, even Michael S. Miller (who wrote the column Dixon disagreed with) has stated that he "strongly disagreed with Dixon's comments, but defends her right to say them."

    Of course, having a right to an opinion and a right to state that opinion does not always translate into a right not to be fired for having that opinion.

    Should it?

    And should an opinion grounded in religion be more worthy of protection than the same opinion not based on religion?

    Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't understand why a Christian should have more of a right to criticize gays than an atheist.

    MORE: Suppose the situation were reversed, and Ms. Dixon wanted to fire someone who believed in views contrary to her own. Would that make any difference? I don't see why. Yet I suspect some of her supporters would like to have the right to fire those who disagree with them.

    If this were a private entity, it would be easy. In Boy Scouts v. Dale, the Supreme Court upheld the right of BSA to bar gays and atheists (and presumably, their supporters).

    MORE: More on viewpoint discrimination here and here. It also arises in the cases involving Intelligent Design. But once again, I have a problem that religious objections to evolution are more entitled to constitutional protection than non-religious objections.

    There's just something absurd about saying that those who deny that man evolved from Australopithecus can be fired, unless their opinions are based on religion.

    posted by Eric at 05:01 PM | Comments (6)

    Gaskin on Millan

    Here's a treat for all aging hippies, hippie lovers, hippie haters, culture war buffs, and dog lovers everywhere.

    Stephen Gaskin on Cesar Millan (aka the Dog Whisperer).

    posted by Eric at 04:28 PM | Comments (1)

    The numbers are threatening

    A tireless regular reader of this blog who will remain nameless has emailed me a link to the Oxford Reference Online's Fact of the Day which was headlined "How is the nine-banded armadillo able to traverse water?" The answer to the question is that it self-inflates, and holds its breath:

    The nine-banded armadillo, unlike the other species, is able to traverse water by inflating its stomach and intestine with air for buoyancy. Since it can hold its breath for several minutes, it can cross smaller streams underwater.
    It's an interesting article, especially for those who have wondered about such things. But my attention was drawn to an item which might be of more interest to political junkies:
    For centuries, armadillos have been exploited by humans for their meat, and they continue to be a favored food item in many areas of Latin America. In North America people partake of armadillo meat less frequently; however, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, destitute southern sharecroppers came to rely on armadillos for food, and the animals were nicknamed "Hoover hogs," a wry allusion to US President Herbert Hoover.
    Actually, it's been known as the "poor man's pig" for an even longer period of time.

    I suppose that today it might be called a "Bush hog." ("Bush meat" is taken; it refers to African game animals, which are expensive delicacies.) But by today's standards, that wouldn't do, because its status in America is listed as "threatened" -- despite the fact that its range is increasing:

    In the United States, the sole resident armadillo is the Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), which is most common in the central southernmost states, particularly Texas. Their range is as far east as Florida and as far north as Kansas, and while cold winters have slowed the expansion of their range (due to a lack of sufficient body fat), they have been consistently expanding their range over the last century due to a lack of natural predators and have been found as far as western Kentucky, and are expected to eventually reach Ohio before the cold winters inhibit their expansion.
    Their range is probably increasing only because of Global Warming -- which is itself threatening. And they are being run over by cars, and hunted because of poverty -- both of which are threats. And they aren't being protected because Bush refuses to expand the Endangered Species Act.

    I'm thinking that "threatened" is probably code language for having Bush as president. (The category can be flexibly "upgraded" in the event of "change," to demonstrate that we've made "progress.")

    But meanwhile, it's Bush's fault no matter what.

    posted by Eric at 10:01 AM | Comments (1)

    "Yes Thurston, those hillbillies are allowed to vote..."

    Aside from the fact that I'm not a Clinton supporter, two things bother me about the news of Hillary Clinton's 2-1 victory in West Virginia last night.

    One is the fact that while the story was reported, it was treated as a non-event, and buried on page A-4 of the Inquirer. This is part of the election, and while we're all sick of the election, it's an ongoing important national event, right? The margin is so close between these candidates that there's definitely still a race. Yet this huge victory by Hillary Clinton (second only to her Arkansas victory) is being treated as a trifling matter of political insignificance. It doesn't seem to matter that as Hillary warns, "no Democrat has won the White House since 1916 without winning West Virginia."

    The Inquirer did report this odd little detail:

    Obama also broke from his usual practice by wearing a flag pin on his suit jacket. He told several thousand people at the Charleston Civic Center that patriotism means more than saluting flags and holding parades.
    The way this is being relegated to political insignificance, you'd almost think Hillary Clinton was Mike Huckabee eking out a small victory over John McCain.

    Actually, I think I'm wrong with that comparison. Suppose that Huckabee won a state like West Virginia, even after McCain had clinched the nomination. I think it would be getting more ink than this. A lot more.

    The other problem I have with this news is that the whole thing gives me the impression that either Obama doesn't care anymore, or else he's been given powerful reassurances that he doesn't need to care. Bad move all around. The man is running for president, and a failure to campaign creates the appearance that he doesn't care. The implication of this is that either he's lazy (which I doubt), or else he just doesn't care about the "hillbilly vote."

    The conventional political wisdom right now is that McCain is poised to pick Mike Huckabee as his running mate. Perhaps an Obama deemed "out of touch with hillbilly voters" can be spun that way. I disagree with this approach, as I think McCain needs to reach deeper into that genuinely hurt and despairing group of Democratic voters who are sick of being spun as ignorant white rednecks and racists, and Huckabee is not the guy to do it. Psychologically, Huckabee will simply remind them that they really aren't ignorant rednecks, but still Democrats, and he will help them swallow their pride and vote for Obama after all.

    Few GOP loyalists will agree with me, but I think Lieberman ought to be McCain's Veep. He's the leading member of the scorned and rejected class of normal people who are held in contempt by far-left party elitists who see them as defective (or "bitter) for believing in "outmoded paradigms...."

    Like, say, the idea that an attack against your country deserves the strongest possible military response.


    Do you have to be a hillbilly to think stuff like that?

    UPDATE: Broken link fixed. And contrary to what I initially thought, the Inquirer did quote Hillary's statement about the importance of West Virginia:

    "Every nominee has carried the state's primary since 1976, and no Democrat has won the White House without winning West Virginia since 1916."

    UPDATE: I was out of commission last night so I wrote nothing about West Virginia. But for those who want more, Stephen Green drunkblogged the race (the word "race" is becoming a political pun), and Rick Moran analyzes the historical context in "Why Hillary Won't Give Up."

    UPDATE: Regarding the flag pin, Byron York notes it's an on-and-off issue. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who's questioning the sincerity of the timing, or maybe the timing of the "sincerity.")

    Hey, whatever. Married men have been known to remove their wedding rings under certain circumstances.

    MORE: I forgot to mention race, but Ann Althouse covers it:

    White. White. White. Race. Race. Race. Oh, you Democrats. You've really made a nice place for yourselves.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    One of these days maybe someone can explain why 67% is more racist than 91%, but never mind.... (It's probably racist to pose such questions.)

    posted by Eric at 08:17 AM | Comments (2)

    "unclean" thoughts

    Here's something Coco is not happy about.

    A student teacher in St. Cloud who had a service dog was harrassed by a Muslim student who threatened to kill his dog -- apparently because they thought the animal was "unclean." (According to the article, "the Muslim faith, which is the dominant faith of Somali immigrants, forbids the touching of dogs.")

    How being forbidden to touch translates into threatening to kill I'm not sure. At any rate, the school (naturally) failed to back the student teacher:

    ...They upheld the rights of the side that threatened capitulation or violence. Instead of expelling the student for his threat and making an example of him, they chose to coddle the student and chase the teacher out of his job. Afterwards, they issued the normal multi-culti mewlings of "misunderstanding", "growth process", and emphasizing respect for different cultures.

    I've got a suggestion: how about teaching that respect to the people who issue threats, instead of their victims? Which person needed an object lesson in respect more, the Somali student or [teacher] Tyler Hurd?

    I especially agree with the conclusion:
    We have laws in this country, decided on by democratically-elected representatives. If Muslims don't like these access [to service dog] laws, then let them elect representatives that will reverse them, or failing that, go back to Somalia where violence trumps the law and they would be more comfortable. Shame, shame on Technical High School for buckling under to thugs and abandoning their responsibilities in such a cowardly manner.
    Absolutely right.

    (The whole thing makes me wonder what will happen when Muslim students threaten to kill gay teachers....)

    posted by Eric at 04:48 PM | Comments (8)

    Standardizing Fusion Test Reactors

    In my recent post Starting A Fusion Program In Your Home Town I talked about expanding the fusion design and testing environment to increase the rate of progress in the development of a power producing reactor.

    The lead Bussard Fusion Reactor (BFR) experimenter, rnebel, has read that article and has chimed in here with his thoughts.

    One of the things we have been considering is selling a "turnkey" version of the WB-7. In this case we would design, build, license and deliver an operating Polywell, probably on the scale of the present machine. Operator training and tech support would also be part of the deal. The model is to use a plug and play concept where the user could substitute their own parts (electron sources, for instance) in an open architecture system. This is similar to what IBM did with the PC in the early 80s. It would give people who are interested in Polywells a chance to develop their own new patentable concepts and new companies without having to go through the entire learning curve that we have been on for the past several years. This struck us as a way to jumpstart the industry and get a lot of new ideas and people involved in Polywells. These devices could be funded through government grants (we have found a mechanism) or privately. I think we could do a turnkey machine for a ~ $500k-$1000k depending on how many people are interested. The idea would be for the government to make grants to institutions and then we would be able to competitively bid on providing the hardware. Ideally, I would like to see at least one Polywell in every Congressional district in the US. Since the cost is cheap, this is a tractable. Is this something you might be interested in?
    My reply went as follows:
    Sign me up.

    I think it might also be useful to do a $10K to $100K fusor type device for those on a more limited budget. Jr. Colleges etc. There is a lot that can be learned from such a device that would help with more efficient (Pollywell) devices.

    BTW in other places (fusor forum) I have made the evolution of the computer hobby argument.

    Great minds etc.

    Also a range of devices and power supplies. i.e. 25KV, 50KV and 100KV pulsed supplies. Then the same range of continuous operation supplies. Same for the reactors. Pulsed and continuous operation. The equipment should be standardized as much as possible - at least for the starter kits so we could get the efficiencies of mass production. Also standardized test equipment. Standardized control.

    If we had 435 tests going on at once in each district that would cause the Congress critters to all get behind the fusion push. Very astute. That was sort of my idea.

    Again - contact me and tell me how I can help. I'm rarin' to go.


    Any venture capital people who would like to start something - contact me.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:32 PM | Comments (2)

    Gay murder scandal fails Coco's smell test!

    I've been slow on the uptake lately. I try to follow alternative news sources, and so yesterday when I was at the supermarket I saw a tantalizing article in Globe -- headlined "Obama Caught Up in Gay Murder Scandal."


    So far, the Chicago cops' investigation into the murder of Trinity United Methodist Church's gay choir director has come up empty. But a top Chicago private detective tells GLOBE he believes the shooting death of 47-year-old Donald Young may be connected to Obama, who belonged to the church once headed by the scandal-scarred preacher the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    "Donald Young was silenced because of something he know about Obama," says the private investigator, who has connections to the police department's homicide unit.

    I was all set to blog about it, but time has been in short supply lately, so I didn't get around to weighing in on this pressing matter -- a story so hush-hush that even WorldNetDaily hasn't touched it -- as soon as I should have.

    However, I did enlist the help of the ever-loyal Coco, whose ceaseless evaluations of various media claims has been invaluable over the years.

    As you can see, she thought the story was at least worth a sniff:


    Overall, on a scale of 1-10 I'd rate Coco's reaction maybe a 2. (She did later walk on the story, though....)

    Anyway, Coco and I are a bit behind the learning curve, because John Hawkins has already been all over this story:

    ...I stepped up to the plate, bought the latest copy of the Globe, and perused the story so I could tell you what it was really all about -- because after all, if this man is going to be our next President and he's going to be getting involved in gay murder scandals, I think the American people have a right to know that.
    He concludes there's not much to it -- especially because the "source" is that notorious guy who earlier claimed that he'd shared sex and drugs with Obama:
    Now granted, this is the Globe and as such, I wouldn't give Larry Sinclair and their anonymous "private investigator" any more credence than I'd give say, the anonymous sources for a Seymour Hersh story, but still, I thought you should be aware of this story just in case you are ever discussing Barack Obama and the gay murder he isn't -- well probably isn't -- involved with.
    I'm reassured, and so is Coco.

    But why is Hillary being so uncharacteristically silent? Couldn't she at least do the charitable thing and state her belief that Barack Obama was not involved in the murder?

    posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (1)

    Riding The Tiger

    Barry Rubin has an article out at Gloria Center about the destruction of Lebanon. In it he says:

    The goal of Hizballah, and its Syrian and Iranian backers at present is not the full conquest of Lebanon--something beyond their means--but to control the government so it does nothing they dislike: no strong relations with the West, no ability to stop war against Israel, no disarming Hizballah's militias or countering that group's control over large parts of the country, and certainly no investigation of Syrian involvement in terrorism there.

    Why, three years after Damascus ordered the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri do investigators dawdle, having edited out the names of top Syrian officials they blamed for the killing in their initial report?

    Israel bombed a nuclear reactor being built in Syria. Rice reportedly opposed the action. The world yawned.

    Iran drives for nuclear weapons. There is some effort but too little, too slow. Whether or not the war in Iraq was a mistake, when terrorists murdered Iraqi civilians, much of the West blamed America; all too many Americans agreed.

    He goes on:
    These are the questions Obama isn't even pretending to try to answer: Are you willing to fight on this issue? To defy an "international community" that opposes action? To intimidate and defeat the radicals? Answer: No.

    But here's the worst part that few in America but everyone in Lebanon will understand all too well:

    "It's time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment."

    Here, make no mistake, Obama is endorsing the Hizballah program. It wants a new Lebanese consensus based on it having, along with its pro-Syrian allies, 51 percent of the power. What's needed is not consensus (the equivalent being getting Fatah and Hamas to bury their differences, or bringing in Iran and Syria to determine Iraq's future) but the willingness to fight a battle. In effect, Obama without realizing it, is arguing for a Syrian-, Iranian-, and Hizballah-dominated Lebanon. Such talk makes moderate Arabs despair.

    I sent him an email in which I said:

    The "moderate" Arabs have helped convince the American left that the Palestinians have just grievances. All the rest follows from that. They are reaping what they have sown.

    Most unfortunate.

    His reply was quite instructive:
    Yes, that is absolutely true and I have often used the example of "riding the tiger" and being unable to get off.
    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)

    There Is Nothing False About Hope

    Except If that hope is succeeding with the mission in Iraq.

    Althouse reads a letter from Obama. Very good. I ♥ Althouse.

    posted by Simon at 03:42 AM | Comments (0)

    Burn Clinic In Iraq Needs Help

    Medical supplies needed:

    Medihoney anti-bacterial cream from:

    Medihoney Pty. Ltd
    POB 66
    Richlands QLD
    1 -800-006-334
    Int tel +61 7 3712 820


    Xeroform Petroleum Dressing
    Non-adhesive dressing
    Tylenol/paracetamol (Clild Infant and Adult)
    Motrin/Ibuprofin (Clild Infant and Adult)
    IV Line Sets
    Benadryl (Clild and Adult)

    Non-medical supplies

    Stuffed Animals
    Crayons and Coloring Books

    Do not send cash or checks
    Just send the materials asked for to:

    Jimmy Compton
    CSC Scania
    APO AE 09331

    e-mail for more information
    jimmycompton --at-- gmail --dot-- com

    You can find out more about CSC (Convoy Supply Center) Scania at Global Security

    Camp Scania is home to a free clinic run by the 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, 48th Brigade Combat Team. The clinic, which operates three days a week, has become widely known as a premier location for the treatment of burn injuries, and some patients travel up to 75 miles to visit the small, trailer-housed aid center in southern Iraq. In many cases, Iraqi hospitals lack the supply of painkillers and antibiotics and other equipment that the clinic offers.
    The video link was sent to me by J. Ogershok. I posted something he wrote in December of 2006 at Free Will.

    posted by Simon at 07:32 PM | Comments (1)

    "one of the consequences that scientists have long predicted"

    Did you know that earthquakes can be caused by anthropogenic global warming? No, really. That's what a "number" of geologists have been saying:

    A number of geologists say glacial melting due to climate change will unleash pent-up pressures in the Earth's crust, causing extreme geological events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

    A cubic metre of ice weighs nearly a tonne and some glaciers are more than a kilometre thick. When the weight is removed through melting, the suppressed strains and stresses of the underlying rock come to life.

    University of Alberta geologist Patrick Wu compares the effect to that of a thumb pressed on a soccer ball - when the pressure of the thumb is removed, the ball springs back to its original shape.

    Because the earth is so viscous the rebound happens slowly, and the quakes that occasionally shake Eastern Canada are attributed to ongoing rebound from the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago.

    Yes, but it's now happening faster and faster! Because of humans!
    Melting of the ice that covers Antarctica or Greenland would have a similar impact, but the process would be accelerated due to the human-induced greenhouse effect.

    "What happens is the weight of this thick ice puts a lot of stress on the earth," says Wu. "The weight sort of suppresses the earthquakes but when you melt the ice the earthquakes get triggered."

    When a quake happens under water it can cause a tsunami. Wu said melting of the Antarctic ice is already causing earthquakes and underground landslides although they get little attention. He predicted climate warming will bring "lots of earthquakes."

    Well, if it will bring lots of earthquakes, then obviously it already is, because of the human-induced greenhouse acceleration!

    As we speak, glaciers are melting, and all that water is pressing on the tectonic plates! That's because the crust is sensitive:

    When the glaciers melt, the reliquified water causes sea levels to rise and increases the weight on the ocean floor, which could also have an effect on the grinding tectonic plates deep below the surface.

    The Earth's crust is more sensitive than some might think. There are well-documented cases of dams causing earthquakes when the weight of the water behind a dam fills a reservoir.

    Alan Glazner, a volcano specialist at the University of North Carolina, said he was initially incredulous when he found a link between climate and volcanic activity off the coast of California.

    "But then I went to the library and did some research and found that in many places around the world especially around the Mediterranean they see similar sorts of correlations."

    "When you melt glacial ice, several hundred metres to a kilometre thick . . . you've decreased the load on the crust and so you've decreased the pressure holding the volcanic conduits closed.

    "They're cracks, that's how magmas gets to the surface . . . and where they hit the surface, that's where you get a volcano."

    No one has claimed that the Christmas tsunami of 2004 was triggered by rising sea levels. But that event seems to have sparked new interest in the links between climate and geology.

    Actually, that's not quite right. Back in 2004, Dean Esmay quoted Greenpeace's Director who claimed just that. But the Wall Street Journal warned that such thinking was "unhinged":
    People prone to hysteria often become further unhinged in the face of a great disaster, and that may explain these remarkable comments on the tsunami disaster. Still, these comments by the movement's leadership may serve as a case study of how such imaginings work their way into public discussion of the environment. That is all the more reason to come to grips with the real causes of calamities such as this.

    Geologists say that groups of giant earthquakes hit Sumatra every 230 years or so. The last quakes there were in 1797 and 1833--and surely not even Greenpeace would blame those on greenhouse gases--and so Sunday's latest quake was more or less on schedule.


    How can the WSJ say such a thing when a "number" of scientists are claiming that the evidence is "stacking up":

    "All over the world evidence is stacking up that changes in global climate can and do affect the frequencies of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and catastrophic sea-floor landslides," says British geologist Bill McGuire, writing in New Scientist magazine.

    "Not only has this happened several times throughout Earth's history, (but) the evidence suggests it is happening again," says McGuire, professor of geological hazards at University College in London.

    Glazner said the main impact of glacial melting is due to reduced weight on the places losing glaciers rather than the increased weight on the ocean floor.

    "If you melt that glacier and the water runs into the oceans, that water is spread over the entire surface of the ocean and it might add a millimetre to the thickness of the oceans or something, but you've taken a kilometre off of that place where the glacier used to be."

    In light of the stacked up evidence, and the accelerating of the human-induced greenhouse gas acceleration, obviously, today's major earthquake in China might have been, and -- in light of the Precautionary Principle -- probably was, caused by global warming.

    So why aren't the numerous scientists saying it was?

    Don't they believe in their own theories?

    You'd think at least Al Gore could weigh in. After all, he did blame global warming for the cyclone in Burma, calling it "one of the consequences that scientists have long predicted might be associated with global warming."

    Considering that earthquakes are said by a number of scientists to be simply another one of these consequences, I find the continued silence baffling.

    posted by Eric at 04:14 PM | Comments (7)

    A Little Palate Cleansing

    After Erick's Post of the Austrian Corporal's ranting (funny) I thought it would be good to lighten the atmosphere with a different kind of military man. This is Lieutenant Kije by Prokofiev, Suite op. 60 mov. 4 done by the Robert's College Community Orchestra.

    posted by Simon at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

    Your favorite Downfall here! (Hitler and the End of whatever!)

    While I don't like (most) Hitler comparisons, I thought the "Hillary's Downfall" video was hilarious.

    By the way, this particular video (a clip from Der Untergang) has the uncanny ability to adapt itself to whatever downfall theme is plugged in; not long ago it was the downfall of the Cowboys, then later the the Patriots' devastating loss to the Giants at Superbowl XLII.

    I want more downfalls!

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds (who questions her "Southern Strategy") a glimpse of the real Hillary, from a report linked by Michael Silence and cached here:

    The year was 1993, and the focus was on comprehensive health care reform. The Clinton administration was mounting a full-court press in persuading congressional leaders to sign on to a health care bill championed by the White House.

    Cooper [U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN] had a health care bill of his own.

    "They turned up their nose at my bill, and that's fine. But then they constructed this secret 500-person task force to draft a whole new bill - and I knew it would go nowhere," Cooper said. "So I went privately to the White House to warn (Hillary Clinton). No publicity. No nothing.

    "She brought in a camera to record the meeting. And she has not released the memos on this meeting. She immediately declared war on me. I warned her we didn't even have the votes (for her bill) in our subcommittee. She said, 'We're going to (politically) cut your legs off.' I've never gotten such a cold reception as I got from her."

    Cooper said the first lady set up a war room to undercut Cooper, who was gearing up for a run at the U.S. Senate in 1994. And a former television news reporter from Nashville was tasked with leading that war room, he said.

    Either my health care plan or war!

    posted by Eric at 03:16 PM | Comments (2)

    I have not yet begun to repeat myself.....

    While writing a post this morning, the power failed and the battery backup unit didn't seem to work properly, so I lost a post. But then when I tried to power up the computer after the electricity returned on, nada. My main computer failed to power on. I suspect I fried the mother board, because the power supply tests out fine and the green "flea" light on the board comes on.

    So it's a major computer crash, and I'm going to have to run around fixing it.

    The blog will have to wait.

    Fortunately, the disappeared post I was working on was neither new nor original. A legislator who ought to know better argues in today's Inquirer that laws criminalizing the failure to report the theft or loss of guns would somehow prevent criminal straw purchases.

    As I've previously blogged about this at lenth, I was basically complaining about how I hate to repeat myself -- and all while repeating myself.....

    (Just what the world absolutely needs, right?)

    MORE: When I said "the power supply tests out fine," I spoke too soon. It turned out that it was the power supply unit after all. The fan started and it gave me the correct voltages on a multitester, but apparently there's more to power supplies than that, because the computer repair guy got it going with another power supply.

    posted by Eric at 12:25 PM | Comments (1)

    Happy Mothers Day

    Today is Mother's Day, and as my mother died in 1999, all I can really do is remember her, and miss her.

    Of course, if your mother is alive, you can do more.

    While Mothers Day kind of artificially forces the issue (and it is commercialized), it's nonetheless a reminder not to take mothers for granted.

    There wouldn't be an us without them.

    posted by Eric at 01:50 PM | Comments (3)

    Holding things accountable for what men do with them

    In a great Pajamas Media piece, Andrew Ian Dodge takes a look at the mentality of the people who are going after video games:

    Politicians are always looking for an edge to be seen to be doing something; especially if it involves children. Never is it more likely that during an election year or the lead up to a general election. Politicians all over the Anglosphere are eyeing the video game industry with ill intent.

    US government leaders examining slapping extra taxes on game transactions, justified by the supposed link between video games with violent behavior - which also bolsters the cries for censorship. The latter is occuring despite the fact there is evidence that video games do not lend themselves to encouraging bad behavior. There is a recent study shows that video game paranoids are completely off base.

    Surprisingly, for some, it seems that its not violent games that make children violent, but the dysfunctional family they live in. Just like with the recent spate of college shootings; it seems that sick violent people when allowed to roam free act out on their proclivities.

    Similarly, when career criminals are allowed to roam free, they commit crimes -- the most recent of which was the killing of Philadelphia police sergeant Stephen Liczbinski during an armed bank robbery. Naturally, the gun was blamed for the actions of the robbers who weren't allowed to possess it, and I'm sure that someone would advance the claim that violent video games are also responsible.

    I have noticed that the mentality which wants to go after physical things (whether video games or guns) seems to overlap with a mindset which is very much against holding criminals accountable for their actions. In fact, I have yet to meet someone who is soft on criminals who isn't also ferociously anti-gun.

    Philadelphia Mayor Nutter, for example, not only blamed the gun the criminals used to shoot Sgt. Liczbinski, he blamed the NRA, claiming that "they" (not the judges and parole board members who let these dangerous criminals loose) owed the officer's family an apology. And when police captured the fugitive shooting suspect Eric DeShawn Floyd, Mayor Nutter (who called the NRA "insane") said he was "disappointed" in him.

    Nutter had just left dinner at a Center City restaurant with city Commerce Director Andrew Altman when he learned of Floyd's arrest.

    He stopped briefly at City Hall, then went to Police Headquarters, where the police van carrying Floyd had arrived.

    "I looked him dead in his eye," Nutter said later, "and said, 'I'm disappointed in you.'

    "I had to look in the face of a guy who would do something like that, and, quite frankly, as one African American male to another, just tell him how disappointed I was in what he had done."

    I've long wanted to tell Charles Manson how disappointed I am in him. (You know, as one white male to another.)

    But if we look at root causes, wasn't Manson driven to do what he did by the Beatles White Album? Had that record not been irresponsibly turned loose on the market, Sharon Tate, her friends, and the LaBiancas would all be alive today.

    And aren't the same companies which made millions off the vinyl records which drove the Manson murders now making millions off violent video games?

    Something has to be done.

    About things, not criminals.

    posted by Eric at 09:50 AM | Comments (3)

    "a wonderful new voice selling old, discredited ideas"

    That's what the McCain campaign is saying about Barack Obama, and it seems to be paying off.

    Defining one's opponent is a key task of any campaign, and simply put, McCain has had a long head start. As early as Feb. 12--the day McCain and Obama each won primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. -- McCain suggested Obama was guilty of hollow promises and a messianic self-image.

    "To encourage a country with only rhetoric, rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people, is not a promise of hope," McCain said, alluding to Obama's speaking skills and campaign theme. And in another jab he added, "I do not seek the presidency on the presumption that I am blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save my country in its hour of need."

    I like that last line. I'm sure the McCain campaign enjoys the irony of knowing that the Hillary campaign has already laid much of the groundwork for them. The 3:00 a.m. phone call, Hillary's arm-waving "messianic" video -- these could almost be recycled.

    So can the "inexperience" message:

    On Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" on Thursday, McCain was asked what Obama's main weakness is as a candidate. "Inexperience," he replied. "I think inexperience and lack of judgment, and a record that shows that--whether it be showing a desire to sit down with the president of Iran, who has articulated his country's commitment to the extinction of the state of Israel, [or] wanting to raise people's taxes."
    And then there's Obama's puzzling and self-contradicting call for limited strike forces in Iraq:
    On "Morning Joe" on MSNBC in April, McCain, a former Navy fighter pilot, responded with derision to Obama's call for leaving a limited strike force in Iraq. "I think somebody ought to ask what in the world he's talking about, especially since he has no experience or background at all in national security affairs," McCain told host Joe Scarborough.
    McCain is in the position of being able to recycle Hillary's old attacks, but in a more credible manner:
    Some of McCain's arguments about Obama have already been tried by Clinton, who has portrayed Obama as inexperienced and unlikely to get big things done.

    "Just because it didn't work so well for Hillary Clinton doesn't mean it's not going to work for John McCain," said Amy Walter, editor of the non-partisan political guide The Hotline. "What you're talking about are two different audiences."

    And different audiences are impressed by different things. John McCain and Hillary Clinton had very different military experiences.

    While McCain didn't share Hillary's combat experience in Bosnia, I think it's fair to say that being shot down and tortured for years as a POW in Vietnam beats merely knowing someone who bombed the Pentagon during that same period.

    Right now, there's a lot of doom and gloom in conservative GOP circles. Newt Gingrich was particularly pessimistic last week, and Fred Barnes has more today.

    But can McCain somehow remain the underdog?

    America loves an underdog. Also, as M. Simon noted, the vast American middle is "RINO turf." Factor in McCain's heroic service to his country, and add the anticipated vicious attacks from the left, and he might be able to defy the conservative doomsayers.


    I'm thinking that if the right wing MDS machine would be cooperative enough to turn up the volume and step up their attacks on McCain, that might be enough to clinch his victory.

    posted by Eric at 09:02 AM | Comments (4)

    Tracking Solar

    I was looking at a site touting solar energy and remembered an outfit from my hippie days. Zome Works. They have a solar tracker that uses no moving parts. Just liquid in pipes. The liquid is moved by solar energy and because the solar cell holders are balanced it follows the sun. They claim that cell output can increase up to 25% over the course of a day by using their tracking mechanism. Neat stuff.

    Steve Baer was the inventor of the Zome Works tracker. He also invented something called Zome Geometry based on the Fibonacci series. Also called the Golden Mean or phi. Its value is equal to the square root of five plus one divided by two. (√5+1)/2 or approximately 1.61803398875. The cute thing about buildings built with parts made in that ratio is that any errors in construction (if they are not too great) tend to cancel out in structures made of many parts. All that happens because the Fibonacci series is self healing. You can learn more about this amazing construction method and Zome construction "toys" at Zome Tool.

    Right now the only embodiment of the Zome construction concept is the the Zome Tool "toys". It is too bad the construction industry is so right angle oriented. With a standard set of Zome Panels housing could be much more modular and creative. There is a nice picture of one of Steve Baer's housing constructs at Zome Tool History. Have a look.

    I have created a Fibonacci Spread Sheet for those who want to play around. A friend sent a link to The Fibonacci Series which is full of a lot of simple math and interesting observations.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:41 AM | Comments (3)

    The sublime charm of subliminal marketing

    I don't know why Barack Obama is getting so much grief for saying that there are 57 states. It's quite obvious to me what was going on, and if you think about it, what he's doing is a rather ingenious form of subliminal guerilla marketing.

    I mean, first there was the Abercrombie and Fitch product placement. A&F denied there was anything going on, of course, as did the Obama campaign, but come on!

    Some things are too obvious.


    As FDR used to say, there are no coincidences in politics. Especially when there's money involved. And there's big money in product placement.

    Seen in this context, the 57 "flub" was not a flub at all nor a reference to the states, but a clear reference to the varieties!

    Lest anyone think there's the slightest doubt about the forces behind it, take a look at this:


    It's a no brainer.

    Best of all, it probably doesn't violate McCain Feingold!

    posted by Eric at 08:11 PM | Comments (3)

    Start A Fusion Program In Your Kitchen!

    I don't know how practical this is, but it sure looks like fun!

    There are also some interesting plasma/fusion experiments discussed here, but I'm not recommending that readers conduct such experiments.

    The above video is presented for entertainment value only!

    (Title inspired by M. Simon's earlier post.)

    Remember kids....


    (You might end up ruining your mom's microwave, upsetting people, or even getting hurt!)

    posted by Eric at 04:49 PM | Comments (3)


    posted by Simon at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

    Harvard, Hamas, and elitist odds

    In a piece called "Poison Ivy," Burt Prelutsky notes a correlation between bad American politicians and Ivy League Schools:

    ...much of what I don't like about American politics -- namely, American politicians -- can be traced back to Ivy League schools. It can't just be a coincidence that four or five universities keep spitting out presidential candidates and their spouses with the sort of regularity that Notre Dame used to turn out All American football players.

    What's more, it's not a sudden development and it's not limited to just one party. William Howard Taft, for crying out loud, went to Yale. Theodore Roosevelt went to Harvard, and so did his fifth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson graduated from Princeton.

    George Herbert Walker Bush went to Yale. His son, not willing to leave bad enough alone, went to both Yale and Harvard. Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, all went to Yale. Al Gore and Michael Dukakis went to Harvard. Ted Kennedy went to Harvard. Twice. The first time, they booted him out for cheating on a Spanish exam.

    Barack Obama went to Columbia and his wife, Michelle, went to Princeton. With such a terrible football team it's really no wonder she was never proud to be an American.

    Considering the politicians the schools have let loose on us, perhaps they should rename it the Poison Ivy League.

    I've never been convinced that a degree from Harvard constitutes some sort of entitlement to rule the world. They're just people, like everyone else, right? So where do so many of them get this entitlement idea? I'm not just talking about presidential candidates, either. They exude a real attitude -- almost as if they think they're the intellectual equivalent of "made" mob men, and automatically entitled to respect regardless of whether they know what they're talking about. There's no use getting into arguments with people like that, as not only do they take themselves way too seriously, but they think you're beneath them if you didn't go to Harvard. The only ones I can tolerate are the ones I knew in high school. (I guess if you knew 'em before they were "made," you have something on 'em.) Of course, if someone thinks he's my intellectual superior, that's OK with me, because either he is or he isn't. So, either way, it's worth my just shutting up and either accepting my inferior status or pretending to. These people are proud, frail creatures, and such pride and frailty should be encouraged.

    Pride goeth before the fall, and besides, someone has to run the world, right?

    Anyway, as I was reading the piece I got to thinking that hey, at least McCain isn't another Harvard grad. He went to the Naval Academy. That's good, right?

    Well, noit exactly. As Prelutsky just had to point out, so did James Earl "Hamas" Carter:

    Dwight Eisenhower attended West Point and John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy. So it's no surprise that Ike was able to lead the fight against Nazi barbarians and that McCain was able to stand up to Viet Cong sadism for five long years. Which, come to think of it, is longer than Barack Obama has spent garnering leadership experience listening to the likes of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd spewing forth on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

    The only thing that prevents me from giving whole-hearted endorsement to a military education is that one of our former presidents also graduated from the Naval Academy: Jimmy Carter.


    Well, to be fair to the Naval Academy, Carter also attended Georgia Southwestern College, Georgia Tech, and Union College. Moreover, Carter graduated near the top of his class, while McCain graduated at the very bottom! This difference was considered significant enough to be noted in a contrast between Carter and McCain in Haaretz recently:

    Carter came to teach Israel how to bargain with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit. And while he was meeting with the father of the bride, Khaled Meshal - without the agreement of the Israeli groom - Hamas attacked in Kerem Shalom. Whether the attack was carried out with Meshal's knowledge and approval or not, this was a stinging humiliation for Carter. And if Ahmad Jabari and Muhamad Deif, of the Hamas military wing in Gaza, carried out the attack without Meshal's approval, then in any event the latter is not the address for a deal.

    On a personal level, Carter has nothing left to lose; but his visit to Meshal certainly hurt his preferred presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Maybe not today, in Obama's fight against Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, but certainly in the future, in his battle against John McCain, if Obama wins the Democratic nomination.

    McCain's campaign struck at Obama on the even of the Hamas attack. In his debate with Clinton last week, Obama refused - as is his custom - to condemn Carter for meeting with "the Hamas terror group, a group is supported financially, politically and militarily by Iran." The same Iran whose president is calling for the destruction of Israel, accused McCain, and stole the headline from Hamas political leader Ahmed Yousef, who had said of his organization: "We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election."

    The difference is clear, McCain said. He wanted to say, here is an evil square: Iran-Hamas-Carter-Obama. He also meant: If Obama is like Carter, the weak loser, then McCain is like Reagan, his idol, and all that is left is to rerun the election results from 1980.

    If McCain wins, he will be the first former regular military officer elected since Carter. Both graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Carter excelled and finished in the top 10 percent of his class. McCain goofed off and finished at the bottom of his class.

    The author thinks Hamas is unwittingly helping McCain.

    Maybe Carter is too. I used to wish there was some way to just shut Jimmy Carter up, but right now I'm thinking that what he's doing might be in the best possible interests of the GOP. If he keeps it up, he might be responsible for two Republican victories. (Perhaps two and a half, if you consider the closeness of the last election, and the spectacle of Carter going out of his way to kiss Michael Moore's ample posterior at the Democratic convention.)

    I'm not sure how accurate or serious this endorsement is, but it wouldn't surprise me if many Naval Academy alumni want to see their alma mater vindicated:

    Annapolis, MD (WTF). The Naval Academy Alumni Association (NAAA) has a long history of remaining nonpartisan and above the fray in elections. However, this week its leadership announced that "for the love of all things Holy, we want Senator McCain to win. We just cannot stomach having Jimmy Carter as our only President."
    That sentiment is understandable that it might as well be true.

    But can a Naval Academy grad can beat a Harvard grad? If history is any guide, the Naval Academy (in the form of Carter) won against Gerald Ford, but lost against Ronald Reagan. Ford was a University of Michigan grad, while Reagan graduated from Eureka College.

    It's tough to conclude much just from looking at wins, though. I'd also want to see losses. How many losing presidential candidates went to Harvard? Al Gore comes to mind, as does Michael Dukakis. But so did Rufus King, who lost in 1816.

    Reagan's Eureka College, however, has a 100% win record.

    You'd have to be a statistician to calculate the odds.

    posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

    How Many States?

    Assume you have 6 coins and flip them randomly (and landing on an edge doesn't count). How may possible states are there if each coin is identifiable? That would be 64 States. I don't think that a similar question is what the gentleman in the video has in mind.

    Notice that he really has to think about the answer. You have to wonder where he got his education. Newly minted citizens do better. He probably stayed up late because of some 3 AM call. Probably another adviser screwing up the narrative. This guy is going to be a disaster as a President. If he ever gets that far.

    H/T Mark Ambinder via Just One Minute

    posted by Simon at 09:37 PM | Comments (12)

    Starting A Fusion Program In Your Home Town

    It is getting to the point that to make advances in the field of IEC Fusion collaborative efforts will be required due to the range of knowledge required and the cost. The individual with the home built fusor is not a thing of the past by any means, but it is not the wave of the future. I have been contacted by people from Jr. Colleges who are interested in doing fusion research so that is probably the place to go. Get your local Jr. College or College interested.

    Here is one College doing work in the field that I have provided some advice and direction to: Peninsula College Fusion experiments. Here is another link with more details to the Peninsula College Fusor Project.

    In that vein I have contacted Rock Valley College and Rockford College (in Rockford, Illinois) to see if I couldn't get something started. We shall see if anything comes of it.

    Here are some links to get those interested started:

    IEC Fusion Technology blog
    Open Source Fusor Research Consortium II
    The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited
    Disciplines and areas touched upon in fusor construction

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:16 PM | Comments (0)

    Mothers against the virtual, the sweet, the hard (and more...)

    MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a classic example of an organization which has departed so far from its original purpose that it ought to be renamed. Whether this is because of success in the war against drunk driving, or whether MADD has simply succumbed to ideologically driven activists with a neo-prohibitionist agenda I do not know, but the MADD outfit is getting so ridiculous that at the rate they're going they should just drop one of the Ds and hire Alfred E. Newman as their publicist. (Needless to say, such meandering by MADD is not a new topic here.)

    This latest stuff is almost that funny. I stumbled onto something a few days ago to which I'll return, but I'll start with the MADD's campaign against virtual drunken driving. Hmmm... Maybe that's drunken virtual driving?

    Anyway, Glenn Reynolds linked this post by "Simon Scowl" about MADD's campaign against "Grand Theft Auto IV" -- a video game in which players can virtually drive virtually drunk (and of course virtually steal, virtually rob, virtually commit murder, etc.). It's the virtual drunken driving that bothers MADD; apparently they're not only against the real thing; they don't want pretending:

    In the critically acclaimed open-world game, players have the choice of patronizing a bar and then attempting to drive drunk. While virtually under the influence, the screen becomes blurred and the controls are more difficult to use. Players also have the option of hailing a taxi or walking. The intoxication effects wear off after a few minutes in the game.
    Wow, that sounds at least as dangerous as imagining your brain to be a fried egg in a cast iron skillet. I think it's high time for a crackdown on imaginary dangers. Because, next thing you know, players might be imagining that they have assault weapons or something, and what if they're imagining they're drunk, plus imagining they have assault weapons? Imaginary people could die imaginary deaths! And we can't have that can we?

    Retorts Simon Scowl,

    Er... when you're sitting at home pretending to drive drunk in a video game, you're not out driving drunk. You probably haven't even left the house for days. You are a menace to nobody but yourself.
    You're guilty of nothing more than wasting time, and perhaps being what the shrinks call a "dry drunk."


    Maybe instead of subtracting the D, MADD could add a D. MADDD. "Mothers Against Dry Drunken Driving." (I kind of like the 3D effect.)

    Except they're against much more than that. The latest thing I stumbled onto was their campaign against alcoholic beverages which have the same alcohol content as beer, but which taste sweet. Like many bloggers, I was simply outraged by the story of the father whose son was taken away from him because he mistook Mike's Hard Lemonade for ordinary Lemonade at a baseball game and bought one for his boy. For that mistake, his child was taken to an emergency room (nothing was wrong with him, of course) and the predictable forces of bureaucracy did their damnedest to mess up the family. Opined Amy Alkon, who blogged about the incident:

    ...the CPS nitwits actually put the kid in foster care. Meanwhile, there are probably hundreds of kids in Detroit, in foster care and out, direly in need of assistance.

    My big wish? That there were a TV show to replicate the role of the town stocks in the Middle Ages, where "public servants" shown to have their heads planted halfway up their small intestine will not simply be rewarded with pay raises, pensions, and vacation time, but with the kind of reception they actually deserve.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who calls the child seizure "a choice bit of idiocy.")

    At the time, I didn't feel motivated to write a post because I didn't have anything to say beyond my usual "yet another typical example of bureaucratic tyranny..."

    But I know I've expressed that sentiment before. So maybe I could have said, "this is the worst bureaucratic outage I've seen since the last bureaucratic outrage!" But that would have been so typical of me, and I didn't say anything because I really didn't have anything to add.

    However, I pondered what might explain the bizarre nature of the bureaucratic overreaction, so I decided to research the product itself -- Mike's Hard Lemonade. It has a bad rep, not because it's inherently bad, for it has the same percentage of alcohol as beer. Rather, the problem is that it's sweet, and the anti-alcohol bureaucratic community doesn't like that. It's in a group of beverages they refer to collectively as "alcopops." These are said to be "gateway drugs" (no, really) simply because they taste good, and because they taste good, they appeal to young people, especially girls. (Who are for reasons unclear to me deemed more in need of protection than boys.) Seriously, they're being called "girlie drinks" and "kiddie booze."

    More at Slashfood; Wiki entry here.

    Whether bureaucratic antipathy to "kiddie booze" was a factor in snatching the man's son away from him I don't know. But I hadn't known about the major campaign against these beverages nor had I known that one of the sponsors is MADD. Not because "alcopops" are any more likely to cause auto accidents than beer or wine (like beer, they're around 5% alcohol, which is why they're classified as beers for tax purposes), but because they are said to "target" the young.

    Exciting developments are under way across the nation to reclassify sugary, sweet alcopops, or flavored malt beverages, from their current beer tax classification to a more appropriate distilled spirit tax classification. Success in this reclassification effort will help prevent youth access to these soda-pop tasting, alcohol-laden beverages is because taxing them at a higher rate will make them less affordable to youth. Success will also result in removing them from shelves of thousands of retail outlets.

    In California alone, alcopops are available in an almost 15,000 additional outlets due to its beer misclassification. And the state is losing an estimated $40 million in tax revenue that would be gained from proper classification. So the California Coalition on Alcopops and Youth, which includes groups such as MADD-California, the Girl Scout Councils of California, and Friday Night Live Partnership, took action. With a major campaign reaching every branch of government, this Coalition has enjoyed great recent success. Leading the way, four young people from California Friday Night Live Partnership and California Youth Council filed a petition with the State taxing agency, the Board of Equalization, requesting reclassification. After the testimony of youth leaders at a hearing this past December, the Board of Equalization voted 3-2 to reconsider the current classification. This decision generated statewide media coverage and led to an interview with Elliana Yanger and Jimmy Jordan on NPR's All Things Considered.

    Another development is under way in the California courts. On Nov. 15, 2006, Santa Clara County filed a lawsuit against the Board of Equalization for the misclassification of alcopops as beer instead of distilled spirits. In support of the Coalition's efforts, the case was taken on a pro-bono basis by the San Francisco law firm of Renne, Sloan, Holtzman & Sakai.

    Great. That probably means the taxpayers have to pay for the cost of the litigation. What if you're a taxpayer and you don't want to fund neo-Prohibitionist activism?

    The anti-alcopop crusaders make the "public policy" argument that the sweet beverages should be taxed at the same rate as distilled spirits:

    By classifying alcopops as beer rather than distilled spirits, marketers can make the products cheaper and more available, critical factors in marketing to young people. In California, beer is taxed at much lower rates than distilled spirits - 20 cents a gallon for beer compared to $3.30 a gallon for distilled spirits. Experts believe that imposing the proper tax rate would raise the price substantially and, thereby, reduce alcopops' appeal to young people. This beer classification is also costing California tax payers an estimated $40 million in state taxes each year.[3]
    But the reason for the tax differential is based on the proportion of alcohol. To tax a beverage with 5% alcohol at the same rate as a beverage with 50% alcohol simply means that it would no longer be profitable to make them. Why can't they just admit that's the goal, and not hide behind a bogus "fairness" argument?

    Obviously, nothing would stop anyone from buying vodka and lemonade or tequila and Margarita Mix, putting the two together, and ending up with the same thing as "alcopop." The campaign accomplishes nothing. What's the next step, once the dimwits realize this? Preventing distilled spirits and mixers from being sold in the same stores? Or maybe ban alcohol altogether?

    The reason there's a war against these beverages because they have sugar, and they're supposed to taste good. Sweetness has evolved from being an issue of taste into an issue of morality.

    I should point out that I prefer bitter to sweet, and thus beer to "alcopops." Does that make me a more moral person? Or is sweetness more immoral because girls like sweet things? Can someone maybe explain? Because, the more I look at this the more confused I become.

    Some time ago, Reason's Jacob Sullum analyzed the "alcopops" issue, and pointed out the illogic of the taxation argument:

    ...the rationale for taxing liquor at a higher rate than fermented beverages such as beer and wine is that liquor has a higher alcohol content, usually around 40 percent. The "alcopops," by contrast, generally have an alcohol content of around 5 percent. So if the Board of Equalization's tax hike plan is implemented as advertised (i.e., limited to "alcopops"), California will be taxing drinks with a 5 percent alcohol content at a much higher rate than beer, which can have an alcohol content twice as high, or wine, with an alcohol content up to three times as high. Putting aside the question of whether this is good public policy, it is clearly contrary to the legislature's intent in distinguishing between fermented and distilled alcoholic beverages. If critics of "alcopops" want to tax the hell out of sweet, flavored malt beverages, they should ask the legislature to do so, instead of reinterpreting the law to fit their agenda.
    What fascinates me about the anti-sweetness fixation is not only that it assumes beer will only be consumed by adults (riiiight....) but that it overlooks the fact that Americans once preferred "alcopops" to beer:
    Beer is without question, like Pizza, Madonna, and fast cars, an icon of modern American culture. That the white working class American male is stereotypically referred to as "Joe Six-pack" is but one example of the dominance of beer as lower and middle-class America's preferred alcoholic beverage. But this was not always the case. 150 years ago, in the 1840s, hard cider held the position now held by beer as the preferred alcoholic beverage of the working class.

    But somehow, by the end of the 19th century and well before Prohibition, Cider all but disappeared in the United States. That hard cider remains popular in all the other outposts of British culture, that apples are still a major American crop, and that every other alcoholic drink once popular in America came back after prohibition make the question of cider's disappearance all the more perplexing.

    Order a glass of hard cider in an American bar today, and the bartender might look at you strangely. The only hard ciders to be found are relatively expensive English imports like Bulmer's and Woodpecker's. So foreign has this drink become that most Americans have never even tasted it. While hard cider remains a favorite draught beverage at most British pubs and is still consumed in large quantities in Canada, Australia, and its country of origin, France, descendants of anglo-culture in the United States, and only in the United States, no longer know what hard cider is.

    Had hard cider never been produced in the U.S., for whatever reason, then this might not seem such an oddity. But what makes this particularly problematic is that hard cider was not only widely produced and consumed in the U.S. but held a place of high esteem on American tables and in American taverns well into the
    19th century. Perhaps the height of cider's popularity came in the election campaign of 1840 when the conservative Whig candidate, William Harrison, managed to convince a majority of working class Americans that he was one of them by associating himself with the symbols of "log cabin and hard cider."

    OK, I better stop the quote there, because "log cabin" and hard anything has a slightly risqué ring to it and I want to keep this blog clean, if not completely sober.

    However, it's worth noting that cider was very popular among the founding fathers ("In the early days of our nation, the founding fathers and mothers and their kids consumed hard cider by the gallon," and"to the end of John Adams's life, a large tankard of hard cider was his morning draught before breakfast"). Thomas Jefferson is said to have written much of the Declaration of Independence in a tavern.

    Apple cider was so American that it really was more American than apple pie, as well as in the classical tradition (something I cannot ignore -- hence the longish quote):

    ....Thanks to the Romans, and all of their conquering, apples were spread around the world - leaving not only a tasty little fruit, but yet another convenient way to produce alcohol. Orchards really began to flourish in Europe during the Medieval Days, when those keen little monks added this to their long list of resources for food and alcohol production. The same could be said for the early European settlers. When they first came to North America, apples seemed a better use for alcohol production than anything else. So, "as American as apple pie" should read more like "as American as hard cider". The colonials also embraced hard cider, as not only was it easier to produce than beer or wine, but it was quite the cost effective way to make their hooch.

    Back around 1625, William Blackstone sowed the seeds for what was perhaps the very first American orchard, placed close to Beacon Hill. William Endicott, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, was a distinguished orchardist as was George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. As far as Johnny Appleseed goes, he was probably partaking of the hard cider rather than thinking of people baking apple pies. Cider was held in high regard right up to the end of the 1800's, but its appeal soon fluttered. Maybe it was the Industrial revolution giving the working class the thirst for light lagers? Prohibition? Or could it have been an aggressive attack from the budding soft drink industry and the likes of Coca-Cola? Hey add a little cocaine to soda and voila! ... a nice refreshing beverage without the alcohol, but still packing a kick.

    So where has this pride and history of hard cider gone after Prohibition? Where's cider now? Most ciders produced today have an addition of sulfites and perhaps other preservatives. Sugar and apple juice concentrate are often used as well as natural or artificial colourings. Most are far from being what they used to be, traditionally. And, it seems like the cider industry has become more of a rat race rather than a craft niche market and one of quality. In the 1980's imported English and French cider made their way to America to appease the changing tastes, spawned by the beginning of the micro-beer revolution. By the 1990's racy marketing and gimmick on top of gimmick showed that the cider industry could get as shallow as the macro-beer industry. Of course it does not help when you have the hard lemon, hard tea, alcoholic water, and now hard cola side of the beverage industry chipping away at your sales. But still, cider's stem remains attached ... waiting to ripen and hit the industry on the head.

    Domestic Brands

    Cider Jack Hard Cider, this whole entire brand of syrupy sweet hard ciders has a tap handle everywhere. Racy marketing and an aim towards drinkers with a sweet tooth have done well for them. Brands include Hard Cider (5.5% alcohol by volume), Raspberry Hard Cider and Cranberry Hard Cider (both 5.0% alcohol by volume).

    Hardcore Hard Cider is the Boston Beer Company's venture called Hardcore Cider Company that is based in Ohio. Hardcore Crisp Hard Cider is oak aged to add at little depth and character to be closer to traditional ciders, their Hardcore Golden Hard Cider is lighter and more on the lines of a present day cider.

    The Woodchuck Cider brand has been around since the 1980's as The Joseph Cerniglia Winery.

    OK, the Woodchuck brand is something I am familiar with, as I bought a case not long ago. To the crackpots at MADD, it's in the "alcopop" category, and thus bad. (Actually it is contemptuously referred to her as an alcopop here.)

    I don't know what's egregious; the fact that the favorite drink of the founding fathers was alcopop, or that imaginary drinkers can get behind imaginary wheels.

    Or maybe they're real wheels?

    I visited a friend the other day who has the Wii game, and his latest accessory is -- I kid you not -- a steering wheel!


    I looked carefully, but I saw no warning label against drinking (either real or imaginary) behind that wheel. Anyone could drink and drive -- especially children! Factor in alcopops, and you've got children -- especially helpless girls -- drinking and driving! They could even take turns engaging in contests to see who's the best drunken driver.

    It's terrible.

    Why, it's almost as bad as Thomas Jefferson's drinking and writing...

    posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (4)

    Is The US Tooling Up For War With Iran?

    There is a whole lot to cover on this subject so I'm going to give mostly links and let you make up your own mind. Be sure to read the comments at the links provided as they tend to add information or present countervailing views.

    Fleet Positions for War.

    We believe the only successful exit strategy from Iraq travels a road through Iran. In general we subscribe to a theory put forth by Stratfor that events will build up towards the brink of war before a peaceful resolution is possible. We don't necessarily believe that is how it has to be, rather we believe that is how our current leadership believes it has to be. Part of that strategy includes the buildup of rhetoric, the shuffling of resources, and the preparation in Iraq for a military action against Iran. We observe these events taking place. Much thanks to Yankee Sailor for his collections regarding the developing time line.

    Think Long and Hard as You Contemplate What This Means

    There has been a political split in the Pentagon since 2005, when those who wanted to move forward under the cooperative model as opposed to the unilateral model for military action were able to shift the Pentagon position through the release of official strategic papers. Under Gates, the Pentagon has tried to shift to a cooperative phase from what has been a unilateral phase of military action. The cooperative approach is championed by Rice, Gates, and people like Adm. Fallon. Many neo-conservatives, which unfortunately includes a bunch of big blue Navy folks I won't name specifically, form up the unilateral military action side.
    Money quote from the piece:
    Admiral William Fallon shakes his head slowly, and his eyes say, These guys [Iran] have no idea how much worse it could get for them. I am the reasonable one.

    Building a Case for War in Iran - Part 2

    News continues to roll in that the United States may be nearing a decision to strike Iran. In my previous installment, I discussed the storm of tough talk currently unleashed from Washington. In this installment I'll lay out some of the other events in the region in recent weeks.

    First, an intriguing report was published alleging that Washington authorized the execution and funding of a covert offensive against Iran in recent weeks.

    Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, "unprecedented in its scope."
    Key graph:
    All this costs money, which in turn must be authorized by Congress, or at least a by few witting members of the intelligence committees. That has not proved a problem. An initial outlay of $300 million to finance implementation of the finding has been swiftly approved with bipartisan support, apparently regardless of the unpopularity of the current war and the perilous condition of the U.S. economy.

    Lee Smith at Michael Totten's writes: Hezbollah's Endgame? Pt. 2

    David Wurmser, formerly Vice President Cheney's Middle East adviser, writes in to comment on Iran's role in the Beirut crisis.

    "Iran has suffered some pretty serious defeats in Iraq, foremost is that the Shiites there kind of turned on Iran. May they not need to pull back and focus on their role as the champion of the Shiites right now, even at the cost of compromising their efforts to jump the Sunni-Shiite divide? They may actually be in no better a shape among Lebanon's Shiites as they are among Iraq's. Second, there were these really odd nasty exchanges between Zawahiri and Iran, which may have been born of Iran's desire right now to solidify its own role as Shiite champion."

    Omar Fadhil of Iraq the Model comments at Pajamas Media. Iranian-Made Rocket Discovered Near Basra Alarms Iraqis

    The Iraqi minister of defense pushed the debate with the Iranians over their provision of weapons to Shia militias one more step on Monday. Minister Abdul Qadir Obeidi indirectly confronted the Iranians, without naming them, with new findings that prove their involvement in the arming of Shia militias.

    On Monday, state-owned al-Sabah published a statement by the minister in which he spoke of the capture of a certain type of rocket that was never found in militia-held caches until now:

    Defense minister Abdul Qadir Mohammed Obeidi revealed that army troops found a 200-mm ground-to-ground rocket manufactured in 2007 during a search operation by the troops north of Basra. Obeidi told al-Sabah in an exclusive interview that, under international laws and norms, this kind of rocket can be traded only with the approval of parliaments and is used only at times of extreme necessity during wars ... and wondered how this rocket entered the country. Obeidi added that this rocket can be launched only from a special platform and by specialized crews.
    From what I read in Iraq's two biggest newspapers, it seems that the government is trying to step up the rhetoric against Iranian interference in Iraq and to induce uproar among the Iraqi public.

    Noah Pollak.

    Hezbollah's thug-in-chief, Hassan Nasrallah, addressed Lebanon today. What he said is not promising. You can read the entire transcript here, but it's not necessary. The following snippet tells you everything you need to know:
    I said . . . that any hand that reaches for the resistance [i.e., Hezbollah] and its arms will be cut off. Israel tried that in the July War, and we cut its hand off. We do not advise you to try us. Whoever is going to target us will be targeted by us. Whoever is going to shoot at us will be shot by us.

    Captain Ed.

    Iraqi soldiers have begun evacuating families from portions of Sadr City, a sign that a large offensive will start shortly against the Mahdi Army militia that have long controlled the sector of Baghdad. Two stadiums have been secured for sheltering the evacuees as the government of Nouri al-Maliki attempts to break Moqtada al-Sadr's last stronghold and end mortar attacks on the Green Zone. Maliki also wants to end Iran's influence in Iraq, which caused Iran to cut off security talks with Maliki and the US:

    Gateway Pundit has: A Gift From Tehran-- ARMED HEZBOLLAH THUGS Roam Beirut ...Update: 1 Dead- Saudis Warn Hezbollah

    Beirut Spring posted this photo of a bridge banner in Beirut that reads: "A gift from the municipality of Tehran to the righteous, resisting Lebanese people."
    Yup. That sums it up.

    All in all I'd say something was up. Namely a show down with Iran. I'd take the movement of the fleet as a sign of readiness for contingencies as opposed to the US initiating an attack. The question is: what will the Iranian response be to the dismantling of their proxies?

    Update 09 May 008 1217z

    Hezbollah's Subtle Takeover

    Hezbollah has taken control of the media in Lebanon, and their propaganda campaign has already begun. They are currently presenting themselves as liberators of Lebanon, and allies of the Lebanese Army against a corrupt government supported by pro-government snipers and brigrands.

    Hezbollah's militant takeover of Beirut and its systematic destruction of the authority of the state and freedom of the press suggests a sophisticated and planned campaign to take power. There is no hiding the violence Hezbollah used to seize Beirut and cut it off from the rest of the country. But as their media campaign is already showing, Hezbollah is employing subtle and sophisticated mechanisms to take over the rest of Lebanon. All news which could be construed as negative behaviors, such as the blatant destruction and corruption of Lebanese institutions, is hidden beneath a Hezbollah-dominated media blackout.

    No one knows if Hezbollah is currently occupying government building, re-routing the telecommunications networks, placing weapons in areas they could not gain access to before, and more. If Hezbollah wins this battle, this information will never be made public.

    Instapundit says:

    I GET AN EMAIL NEWSLETTER from an oil trader and today it includes this tidbit: "In an interesting twist of OPEC news - in the folder titled 'Adequate Supply' - Iran has chartered an armada of supertankers to act as floating storage for as many as 28 million barrels of crude oil that is backing up on them. Analysts are blaming worldwide refineries yet to recover from maintenance programs. It's not the first time that Iran has had trouble finding buyers; they temporarily floated 20 million barrels in 2006. No, I can't explain this in light of record oil prices and continual cries for more release of OPEC crude oil. "

    U.S. crude stocks are up, too. This is unlikely to be the case, but here's a thought: If I were, say, the United States government, and I anticipated military action in the mideast that might interrupt oil supplies, I wouldn't want to stockpile directly because that would be a tipoff. But if I manipulated markets into running up stocks, I wouldn't have to. . . . Nah. They're not that smart.

    Note that 28 million barrels of oil is $3 bn dollars worth at current prices give or take. I wonder if Iran is expecting a strike on their refineries or oil fields?

    Many links from Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:56 AM | Comments (5)

    Where Is Obama?

    Physics World reports that 20 Nobel laureates are asking Bush to work with Congress to restore funding for science that that was cut in the 2008 budget.

    Two fields financed by the Department of Energy have been particularly badly hit, with funding for high-energy physics falling to $688m -- some 12% less than Bush had requested -- and support for fusion falling by a third. The cuts led to Fermilab, for example, announcing plans earlier this year to lay-off 200 of the lab's 1900 staff.
    Fermilab is in Illinois. In theory such cuts should be of prime interest to Obama and the Democrat Party. So where is my Senator? Why isn't he speaking out on the matter (heh) and making the cuts an issue in his campaign? I was under the impression that the Democrats were supposed to be the party of science and technology. Is it just talk?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:34 PM | Comments (14)

    Condensed Hillary Obama Rush post (rant-free version)

    I'll be out until late tonight, so I thought I'd write an uncharacteristically short post consisting mainly of links, with few comments. (It kills me, because I always want to say more. But OTOH, blogging is supposed to be done like this, isn't it?)

    Glenn Reynolds links John McWhorter's discussion of Hillary Clinton which reaches the startling conclusion that she may be a monster after all. (An excellent read.)

    Robert Novak asks whether Obama is flawed or fantastic. (He thinks the next test will be how Obama handles Bill Ayers.)

    Jerry Seper has scooped an incredible treasure trove of documents from the late Sam Dash's estate, which details how close Hillary came to being indicted back in the 1990s.

    And Rush Limbaugh seems to be calling off "Operation Chaos":

    ...Limbaugh called off the operation yesterday, saying he wants Obama to be the party's pick, because "I now believe he would be the weakest of the Democrat nominees."
    Hey Rush, I've been saying that for months. What took you so long to catch up?

    As I say, it kills me not to have time for a good rant.

    posted by Eric at 03:22 PM | Comments (3)

    World domination and other Vices

    George Stephanopoulos says Hillary is negotiating the Vice Presidential spot:

    ABC's chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos told Charles Gibson on "World News" that Clinton is staying in the race to negotiate a spot on the Democratic ticket in November.
    If he is right, this changes the conventional wisdom a bit.

    What I'm wondering is why she would want the job that Vice President Garner famously said isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.

    And why would Bubba be content to accept being the first second laddie?

    Well, for starters, the famed Garner quote is wrong. He actually called it a bucket of warm piss. And in terms of prestige and publicity, the job is more important than it was in Garner's days.

    Plus it's more, um, lucrative:

    It took the invention of television for politicians to realize that the Vice-Presidency was worth a great deal more than what John Nance Garner, the first of F.D.R.'s three No. 2s, is famously said to have compared it to, "a bucket of warm spit." (Famously but incorrectly: Garner said a bucket of warm piss, which, though unquotable in the family newspapers of his day, makes more sense from the heat-retention angle.) The Vice-Presidency is a much, much better job than it was in the old days. Back then, you drowsed through endless sessions of the Senate, lived in a flyspecked boarding house on a muddy street, and nursed your resentments. Now you get a mansion, a staff, and a plane worthy of a Saudi arms merchant. And, if you like undisclosed locations, no longer have detectable Presidential ambitions of your own, and serve a callow President so in thrall to you that when you headed his Vice-Presidential search committee you felt free to find yourself, you can end up achieving total world domination.
    Was that written with Dick Cheney in mind? I'm thinking just maybe.

    Did Dick Cheney expand the role of the vice presidency to include world domination?

    Whether he did or not, I'm wondering whether the Clintons might see it as a precedent for further, um, expansionism?

    Sounds like a job for two.

    MORE: I'm not sure how this will affect Hillary's plan to put Rush Limbaugh on the ticket out of gratitude for Operation Chaos.

    They might make him Secretary of State, I suppose.

    UPDATE: Steve Kornacki argues that Obama does not need Hillary on the ticket, and analogizes to Reagan (among others):

    Reagan was 65 in 1976, and he knew that he'd get one final shot at the presidency in 1980, whether Ford won or lost (the 22nd Amendment would have kept Ford from running again). But Reagan also knew that causing any trouble for Ford in the fall of '76, and thus being blamed for electing Carter, would do his long-term ambition no good.

    For his own good, Ronald Reagan didn't make a fuss about not being on the ticket. For her own good, Hillary Clinton probably won't either.

    Read it all.

    posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (3)

    Violating Victorian morality

    Yesterday, I was rendered unconscious by intravenous administration of a drug called Propofol. The oddest thing about it is that I can remember every detail except the moment it was administered. No memory of what it felt like, no "drifting off," nothing like that. The IV line had been set up and was flowing, and I remember the anesthetist telling me they were going to give it to me, but then it's just a big blank until I woke up (a little less than an hour later). So it's more than just an anesthetic; it seems to either prevent or wipe out the laying down of any memory relating to the way it feels. So, not only did I feel no pain, I did not feel the effect of the drug which blocked it. When I woke up, there I was, apparently clear-headed, but with no memory beyond lying down with the IV in me.

    There was a time -- not all that long ago -- when not feeling pain was considered immoral. But anesthesia, by introducing the concept of not having to feel pain, changed the concept.

    Some argue that it went from being a spiritual to a political issue. From an abstract of a article titled "The Secularization of Pain":

    The rapid acceptance of anesthesia in 1846 appears to have had a political and social basis as well as medical. Two factors are particularly important. First was a change in the perception of disease and pain; both lost religious connotations and became biologic phenomena as part of a process of secularization that affected all aspects of Western society. Second was the growth of a sense of well-being and progress, which imbued patients and physicians alike with confidence in their ability to control natural processes. During the last half century, pain has remained secular, but the confidence in both progress and the ability to control nature may have diminished.
    Diminished, but still there. The reason it's still there is that we all must die. It is part of our nature to die.

    Conquering pain is one thing, but conquering death -- in many ways the ultimate reach in our ability to control nature -- still eludes science.

    Of course, when nature can be controlled, a debate ensues over who gets to be in control of the controllers.

    Why would the ability to avoid pain have been seen as immoral by Victorian moralists? Were they simply wrong? Or were the pain avoiders wrong according to the morality of the times? It's easy for us to dismiss out of hand the argument that short-circuiting pain constitutes "playing God," but in religious terms, isn't that precisely what is going on? Pain is as much a part of nature as death, and the human ability to eliminate it takes nature out of the equation, and puts man in charge. For those who believe nature is God, anesthesia gets between the individual and what God would seem to have ordained.

    Little wonder that the power to control pain would be so strictly controlled. The word "secularization" is a bit misleading in this context.

    "State takeover" is more like it, for it's as if taking God out of pain meant putting the state in control.

    Or is "secular" coming to mean statism?

    posted by Eric at 08:44 AM | Comments (4)

    Where The Voters Are
    Where The Voters Are

    The above image is from a Pew Research Center Report on where the voters are vs where the candidates are. What surprised me most was that the center of gravity in America was Center Right (RINO territory) according to Pew.

    Althouse of Althouse and Jeralyn Meritt of TalkLeft had a dust up and Jeralyn thinks Obama is too far to the center to win in November. Althouse being the more sensible of the pair and better in touch with the electorate (lots of righties like to comment at her blog, Jeralyn excises them) gets the better of the argument. At least if Pew is correct.

    The Futurist (where I stole the graph) makes some very good arguments. He lists them as numbered points so go there if you want to see the rest.

    3) The Democratic Party has been enslaved by fringe leftists. Obama and Clinton are nearly identical in ideology, yet very far to the left of the center of gravity. The purple oval I have inserted, along with the question mark, represents a vacuum in the moderate left. A large number of voters clearly reside there, but the Democratic party of today will not nominate someone who resides in the purple zone, leaving these voters as ideological orphans. Thus, Clinton and Obama have to lie (assisted by a complicit leftist media) to appear more moderate than they are, and hope that the public doesn't figure that out.

    Joe Lieberman, the VP candidate against Bush/Cheney just seven years ago, was run out of the Democratic Party simply for not being opposed to bringing democracy to Iraq. Bill Clinton's actions of supporting free trade agreements like NAFTA, cutting taxes on capital gains in 1997, attacking Saddam Hussein to remove his WMD programs in 1998, etc. are all actions that the modern Democratic party would not take.

    The moderate left died in 1968, when two of their most promising young leaders were assassinated. Since then, Democrats have only won three of the last ten elections. After the disaster of Jimmy Carter, Democrats never again won 50% of the popular vote in SEVEN attempts, while Republicans achieved that feat 4 times over that period (1980, 84, 88, 2004). This is a truly shambolic performance from the Democrats of the modern era. Jimmy Carter did more to ensure a generation of GOP dominance than Reagan, Gingrich, Limbaugh, or Rove ever could.

    Furthermore, Democrats are not capable of getting a majority of voters who earn over $30,000 a year. The middle class earning between $50,000 and $75,000 voted just 44% for Democrats. A party that is soundly rejected by the middle class and upper class is not positioned for long-term success.

    Let me see if I can explain this a little. American retirement programs are tied up with 401k plans, which are in the main stock ownership plans. Over half of all Americans own stock. How do you think the Democrat plans to punish companies and the economy are going to go over with such people?

    I think a little history is in order.

    In 1978, Congress amended the Internal Revenue Code, later called section 401(k), whereby employees are not taxed on income they choose to receive as deferred compensation rather than direct compensation.[2] The law went into effect on January 1, 1980,[2] and by 1983 almost half of large firms were either offering a 401(k) plan or considering doing so.[2] By 1984 there were 17,303 companies offering 401(k) plans.[2] Also in 1984, Congress passed legislation requiring nondiscrimination testing, to make sure that the plans did not discriminate in favor of highly paid employees more than a certain allowable amount.[2] In 1998, Congress passed legislation that allowed employers to have all employees contribute a certain amount into a 401(k) plan unless the employee expressly elects not to contribute.[2] By 2003, there were 438,000 companies with 401(k) plans.[2]

    Originally intended for executives, section 401(k) plans proved popular with workers at all levels because it had higher yearly contribution limits than the Individual Retirement Account (IRA); it usually came with a company match, and in some ways provided greater flexibility than the IRA, often providing loans and, if applicable, offered the employer's stock as an investment choice. Several major corporations amended existing defined contribution plans immediately following the publication of IRS proposed regulations in 1981.

    Hmmm. 1978. That would have been under Jimmy Carter with the Senate and House Democrat controlled. And 1984? Ronald Reagan. With the Senate Republican and the House Democrat. Under Carter the plans were for the elite. Under Reagan they got expanded to the masses. Interesting. Verrrrry interesting.

    So the question is. Despite the economic bump we are hitting will the electorate wish to punish business and raise taxes? I don't think so. So what should the Republicans promise? I think cutting taxes and cutting spending (including ending earmarks permanently) might work. So where do the candidates for President actually stand on earmarks based on their behavior as opposed to their promises? Well in the current Congress Hillary Clinton is a Champion among the Presidential Candidates at $340 million, Obama is in second place with $91 million, and poor old John McCain brings up the rear with $0. That is right a big fat zero. Way to go John.

    I know who I'm voting for. Even RINOs have some Republican principles.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:28 AM | Comments (2)

    Polywell Fusion Pr0n

    Click on the image for an explanation and more hot images.
    For a more in depth explanation see World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited.
    The image was created by Torulf Greek a biologist from Sweden.

    posted by Simon at 04:04 PM | Comments (2)

    No, this is not a hunger strike....

    But Glenn Reynolds did pick an extremely bad day to tantalize me with food.

    Normally I wouldn't have whined about hunger, but it just so happens that I've been starving for over 30 hours, and I won't be allowed to eat until tonight.

    Not that it's all that big of a deal; it's that I have to do it (plus drink gallons of Gatorade along with a nauseating 64 ounce drink which tasted like seawater sweetened with antifreeze) in preparation for a medical procedure I'd rather not discuss. Nothing serious; just a routine screening for men over 50.

    So, if I sound goofier than usual, it's because my electrolytes have been messed with, and on top of that I'll be getting sedated in a couple of hours.

    I will return this evening, and I do have access to this blog. Whether I'll be in an appropriate state of mind to blog, who knows?

    (Readers would be well advised to take into account that I might not be responsible for my contents.)

    posted by Eric at 11:42 AM | Comments (7)

    Bitter better strategy?

    I like to joke about Bill Clinton when he gets into his "Angry Satyr" mode, and the picture of him in the Globe article I discussed yesterday is one of the best illustrations I've seen of that.


    It is funny, and it isn't. There's something a bit sad about seeing him this way, and I say this because, even though I don't like him, I do remember the irresistible Bill Clinton charm and his very agile wit.

    What happened?

    By any standard, the man is clearly a liability to his wife's campaign. He is just not the same Bill Clinton that America loved (and loved to hate) back in the 90s.

    The lopsided North Carolina results indicate that despite hopeful predictions about the "Bubba Tour", his campaigning did Hillary no favors.

    I don't know what the analysts say, but I'm wondering whether it actually hurt her. If he was running around preaching to the coverted (people who would have voted for her anyway), might this have had the unintended effect of galvanizing Obama voters?

    Just a few days ago, polls were showing Hillary with 17% of the black vote, in a state where blacks comprise 35% of the vote. She could conceivably have won, and was certainly expected to do far better than she did. I'm wondering whether having her volatile, former president husband running around down there might have created a sort of black backlash against Hillary. Was he speaking mainly to white crowds?

    A couple of days ago, Glenn Reynolds linked NRO's Byron York, who said he was:

    Clinton's crowds are mostly white, just like they've been in Pennsylvania and Ohio and nearly everywhere else. In the south, they remind you of how many whites didn't migrate to the Republican party, and of how popular Clinton remains here. (In his two national election victories, Clinton managed to win Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Florida -- and lost North Carolina by about 0.7 percent in 1992.) "Been a Democrat all my life -- born and bred," an older man named Cecil tells me. "I know they say he's done this, he's done that, but he was no worse than all the rest," adds his wife, Nettie.
    It's fine to go after the small town white vote in Bubba's "front porch" campaign tours, but might Bubba have created the impression that he didn't much care about the black vote? Hillary's performance among black voters was the worst I've seen so far; Obama took a whopping 92% of the black vote.

    Did Bill Clinton inadvertently help get out the black vote?

    MORE: Post Politics (in a post titled "Angry White Female") links this discussion of a notable observation by Clinton surrogate Lisa Caputo:

    Right now on Hardball they have on a Clinton surrogate, former Clinton press secretary Lisa Caputo, just said that it's all about "white middle class voters" and in particular, that the "white middle class has been hurt the most by the economic downturn."

    Yeah, way to cast aside millions of voters. Black people don't matter because they vote for Obama. They're just like the "elites who swill white wine", they haven't been hurt by the economic downturn at all. Not like those hardworking whites.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Maybe Hillary thought that the best way to court the "Angry White Female" vote was to send in her "Angry White Satyr."

    It makes sense satyrically.

    MORE: In addition to the role of Bill Clinton, I think the attacks against Obama have in general helped boost his numbers with black voters -- not because the attackers have played the race card, but because of the principle of blowback, which I discussed earlier in the context of Philadelphia Mayor Street. The discovery of an FBI bug (normally a major scandal), generated great sympathy for Mayor Street, and enabled him to win when he should have lost.

    posted by Eric at 09:41 AM | Comments (2)

    Projecting defeatist strategy into the future

    Some major doom-and-gloom for Republicans, from Newt Gingrich:

    Senator McCain is currently running ahead of the Republican congressional ballot by about 16 percentage points. But there are two reasons that this extraordinary personal achievement should not comfort congressional Republicans.

    First, McCain's lead is a sign of the gap between the McCain brand of independence and the GOP brand. No regular Republican would be tying or slightly beating the Democratic candidates in this atmosphere. It is a sign of how much McCain is a non-traditional Republican that he is sustaining his personal popularity despite his party's collapse.

    Second, there is a grave danger for the McCain campaign that if the generic ballot stays at only 32 % for the GOP it will ultimately outweigh McCain's personal appeal and drag his candidacy into defeat.
    The Anti-Obama, Anti-Wright, and Anti-Clinton GOP Model Has Been Tested -- And It Failed

    The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti- Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail.

    This model has already been tested with disastrous results.

    In 2006, there were six incumbent Republican Senators who had plenty of money, the advantage of incumbency, and traditionally successful consultants.

    But the voters in all six states had adopted a simple position: "Not you." No matter what the GOP Senators attacked their opponents with, the voters shrugged off the attacks and returned to, "Not you."

    The danger for House and Senate Republicans in 2008 is that the voters will say, "Not the Republicans."
    Republicans Have Lost the Advantage on Every Single-Issue Poll

    A February Washington Post poll shows that Republicans have lost the advantage to the Democrats on which party can handle an issue better -- on every single topic.

    Americans now believe that Democrats can handle the deficit better (52 to 31), taxes better (48 to 40) and even terrorism better (44 to 37).

    This is a catastrophic collapse of trust in Republicans built up over three generations on the deficit, two generations on taxes, and two generations on national security.

    (Bold in original.)

    If the above is right, then Republican defeat is inevitable no matter who the Democratic nominee turns out to be. And the strategy of voting for Obama in order to supply McCain with an easier opponent (which I have championed repeatedly) becomes unavailing.

    So, assuming the certainty of Republican defeat, Newt Gingrich -- much as I hate to say it -- makes a compelling case for Hillary Clinton as the nominee.

    The problem with that is that I think it's a very poor political tactic to go into an election assuming your side is going to lose. Additionally, Hillary Clinton supplies the anti-McCain right with more of an excuse to sit the election out, while Obama forces them to vote for McCain. Obama is thus the one guy who can unite the Republicans.

    But let's assume McCain loses. While Hillary might be a better president from the standpoint of national defense (and thus the country), would she necessarily be the best president from the standpoint of the Republican Party? Who would be more likely to have a second term -- Hillary or Obama? Who would inspire more people to vote Republican? Who would be more likely to foster a continuation of the current malaise?

    I just don't know the answers.

    I'm not that great at futuristic defeatism.

    (Or is that defeatist futurism?)

    posted by Eric at 09:29 AM | Comments (2)

    Indiana, North Carolina

    It looks like Hillary won Indiana, and the polls have not yet closed in North Carolina. I won't be live blogging the results, but Pajamas Media has great coverage, including Stephen Green's Drunkblogging and Bill Bradley's Special Coverage.

    And constantly updated coverage here.

    I'd be very surprised if Hillary didn't hold her lead in Indiana, so I'll stick my neck out and predict a win for her there.

    As of 7:37 p.m., Fox has called North Carolina for Obama.

    posted by Eric at 07:38 PM | Comments (0)

    Doggedly pursuing the "Humasexual" double standard

    Coco is sleek and svelte, and has been compared to both Audrey Hepburn and Kim Novak. She's wonderful dog, but my only disagreement with her is that she's a Hillary supporter. That's not surprising, though. Because, being a pit bull, Coco admires grit and stamina, and Hillary Clinton has that. Moreover, Hillary is a female, and Coco prefers women to men. The combination of being tough like a pit bull, plus female, is enough to win Coco over completely. That Hillary has even been compared to a pit bull makes this whole thing a no-brainer, actually. And, far from being a no-brainer, Coco has the brain the size of your average lime.

    I don't spend much time discussing politics with Coco, but occasionally when the occasion arises, I'll run things past her. During the hubbub over the Hillary cackle laugh, I thought I'd let Coco weigh in on the laugh, and when I set it as my telephone ring tone and played it for her, she was curious and attentive, and listened carefully. (Not bad for a dog; many a politician would give their eye teeth to get a similar reaction from humans.)

    Today, when I learned that the Hillary/Huma sex scandal had heated up again, I thought I'd gauge Coco's reaction to the story.

    As you can see, she is not very happy.


    She doesn't even want to look at it. Perhaps she's in denial. Then again, she might be jealous of Huma. (Coco is very possessive.)

    And according to the article, so is Bill.


    Anonymous political insiders have told the Globe that there's been a major showdown, between Bill and Hill over Huma:

    Humiliated Bill Clinton went berserk and angrily ordered Hillary to ditch the sexy beauty who has dragged her into a lesbian love scandal that's spreading shock waves around the world, political insiders say.

    In a screaming showdown shortly after Hillary's stunning victory in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary, sources say jealous Clinton confronted his wife about her sultry aide Huma Abedin and laid down the law, saying "It's HER or ME!"

    No, I am not making this up; it's a direct quote from the Globe, which also cites their previous reporting, as well as London's Sunday Times:
    As GLOBE reported in our May 5 issue, an avalanche of published reports are now linking Hillary, 60, and Huma as gay lovers. Rumors about a lesbian romance between HIllary and the aide who is with her day and night have also scorched the Internet -- and even popped up in the respected Sunday Times in London.
    There's more, of course.

    I'm not trying to pick on Hillary here, but the fact is that I have already posted -- repeatedly -- about the gay scandal allegations involving Barack Obama, and I'm trying to be fair.

    Whether there's any actual proof, who knows? Coco clearly thinks this "Humasexual" stuff is beneath her dignity, and even though I suspect that she might be jealous of Huma, none of it has changed her opinion about Hillary. Coco is family to me, so I respect that.

    However, there's a double standard which I think may be a bit over Coco's head.

    Suppose that Barack Obama was always in the company of a sexy male model who was with him night and day, 24/7.

    Wouldn't that be an even bigger deal than this?

    Would it remain in the tabloids?

    posted by Eric at 05:00 PM | Comments (2)

    Fusion Report 06 May 008

    Richard Nebel tells about plans for commercializing the Bussard Fusion Reactor (BFR) at Talk Polywell. Richard starts off discussing who owns the BFR technology and patents. DOD is The Department of Defense. Currently the US Navy is funding the research.

    ...EMC2 owns the patents and the commercialization rights. DOD retains the right to use the technology free of charge. That's a pretty standard arrangement.

    As for DOD taking control of the technology, I think that's pretty unlikely. The most similar parallel to this that I can think of was the development of fission power. Both nuclear fission propulsion and commercial power were developed in parallel. It isn't a coincidence that both systems are LWRs. I expect a similar situation here. Everyone that I have talked to at the DOD understands that energy supply is a major national security issue. It's not in the national interest of the US to keep this technology from going commercial. Furthermore, this project has never been classified. Fusion research world-wide was declassified in 1958 by international treaty.

    Finally, I appreciate your concern about research being slowed down by the lack of dialogue. My previous research at LANL (POPS for instance) was always public domain. The reason we did it that way is because we figured that the patents would run out before we could commercialize it and the benefits of having it critiqued outweighed the drawbacks of getting "scooped". I still feel that way, but I have a little different responsibilities at EMC2. We have a responsibility to get this technology developed in a timely manner and I also have a responsibility to look after the interests of our employees and the corporation.

    From the way he is talking he seems pretty confidant of success. I sure hope he is right. Dr. Nebel also reports that the EMC2 contract with the Navy runs through August. So that gives some idea of when we might know the answer.

    To get an idea of what success would mean check out:

    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion also check out the IEC Fusion Technology blog.

    The side bar at IEC Fusion Technology blog has links to various discussion groups. They can be found under the heading Working Groups.

    A good tutorial and a history of the project before the US Navy resumed funding can be found at: World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

    Prostitution is not racketeering!

    While suicide is a very poor way of coping with federal racketeering charges, I have to say that I'm somewhat sympathetic to Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who left a suicide note explaining that she couldn't face spending 6-8 years in prison:

    "However, I cannot live the next 6-8 years behind bars for what both you and I have come to regard as this 'modern day lynching,' only to come out of prison in my late 50s a broken, penniless and very much alone woman," she wrote.

    Palfrey had been staying with her mother in Florida since a jury convicted her last month of running a prostitution ring that masqueraded as a high-end erotic fantasy service. Palfrey argued that for 13 years she had no idea that the call girls working for her were getting paid $250 an hour for sex.

    Palfrey, who did not testify during her trial, had said she insisted that her employees -- socially polished, college-educated women -- engage in only legal, "quasi-sexual" fantasies. Her case drew national attention when, shortly after her indictment last year, Palfrey provided volumes of phone records to ABC News. ABC posted them on the Internet, resulting in public identification of some prominent clients.

    Palfrey's notes to her family said that she couldn't bear to go to prison. She served an 18-month term in California in the early 1990s for running a prostitution service.

    (Link via Ann Althouse.)

    While we can debate the pros and cons of prostitution, it offends both common sense as well conventional jurisprudence to treat it as a major violent crime like armed robbery. But politicians need to get elected, so they keep passing more and more draconian laws, and the mischief-making RICO statute is a perfect example. Originally intended to go after the mob, the RICO laws have been used to go after poker games. Money laundering laws are another example. It defies common sense to suggest that ordinary drug users who buy drugs are "money launderers," any more than are customers of prostitutes. Yet as Eliot Spitzer and Rush Limbaugh learned, common sense has nothing to do with it.

    At the rate things are going, pretty soon hiring the wrong guy to cut your lawn could land you in the federal slammer.

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (1)

    How many times can the shock wear off?

    In a piece titled "Obama Rebounds From the Wright Stuff," Bill Bradley said something that worried me:

    Yesterday's CBS poll has even better news for Obama, showing him opening up a lead on Clinton again and also leading John McCain. This is a pattern we saw a while back when Wright's sometimes incendiary sermonizing became a round-the-clock staple of cable TV, talk radio, and the blogosphere. As the shock wore off - in part due to its constant repetition - Obama rose up again. The same pattern happened again with Bittergate.
    I keep seeing this too, and not just in the Obamahillarython.

    I don't mean to sound like a scold or a moralist here, as I want to make a simple observation about what I think is an unconscious (and illogical) mechanism, and what might arise out of a perfectly natural human reaction to shock inundation.

    The schock factor -- and things that shock -- drive the news cycle, the talk radio cycle, the blog cycle, and even the fashion cycle. When elections are factored in, timing becomes critical, because there's an initial shock, then a wave of repetition, and than finally (when enough people tire of it), it tends to fizzle. Jeremiah Wright keeps coming back, and generating new shock waves, but there's only so much to be said, and only so many people who want to dwell on it 24/7. Most people -- no matter how informed they are -- do not belong to the Jeremiah Wright junkie subset of political junkiedom. Not even your ordinary political junkie can keep it up on the level of all Wright shock, all the time. (Thank God for Bill Ayers; at least there's shock rotation!)

    None of this is said to minimize Wright or Ayers -- as I've said I think the latter is far more egregious than the former, and justifies not supporting Obama. I am just saying that the ordinary citizen cannot be expected to be shocked all the time by the same thing, simply because of a steady diet of shock.

    But would anyone expect him to? Well, yes. Every time I turn on the radio, there's a steady diet of "new" shock -- most of which is not really new, but just being turned over. You could turn over a rotting carcass you'd seen before in order to express horror over "new" maggots crawling, but would it really be horror?

    My worry here is that while news, talk radio and even blogs are often driven by a desire to compete for the shock factor, what is the effect over time with ordinary people? Do they become harder to shock? If so, might that account for the erratically cyclical nature of the shock waves?

    More ominously, what are the longterm effects in terms of voting patterns? We've all heard about the backlash, or blowback principle; how might this work with ordinary voters? Clearly, this is why last-minute shockers are the most effective; hence every negative campaign that wants to be effective should always aspire to the perfectly timed so-called "October surprise."

    But what would happen if people were tired of surprises in advance?

    I'm still thinking of Mayor Street's bug! For those who've forgotten, the FBI planted a bug in his office during a corruption probe. Normally, the discovery of such a bug shortly before an election would doom a candidate -- especially a candidate behind in the polls as Street was. But in Street's case, race and BDS were brought into play, and the FBI bug scandal was transformed into a major advantage, with Street seen as a victim.

    Sympathy blowback is neither predictable nor rational, but in the right hands, it works. Are some partisans better at playing this game than others?

    Nor have I forgotten the way the Monica Lewinsky scandal created sympathy for Bill Clinton in such a way that ultimately, the crime of perjury was subsumed into his sex life. While some Americans sympathized with Clinton, many more came to sympathize with him by way of reaction against the people who screamed about the immorality, and who demanded that everyone else be as shocked as they were.

    Of course, the Lewinsky scandal occurred before blogs, and before the Internet was as influential as it is now. That phenomenon we once called "the news cycle" is now aggravated by so many things that it's unpredictable. Millions of people are shocked, millions publicly weigh in, millions tune out, and millions react against the shock.

    What happens to the issues over time? How are normal people to determine to what extent they are issues, and to what extent they are fuel for cycles?

    Honestly, I don't know anymore. While I know what I think about any given issue, I'm don't like repeating myself, and I'm beyond cynical.

    It would be unreasonable of me to expect people to be shocked if I am not.

    The more shocked people want me to be, the less shocked I am, and the more annoyed I become by those I perceive to be demanding that I be shocked.

    Is there such a thing as shock burnout?

    (Maybe that'll wear off too, so I can focus on "issues.")

    BOTTOM LINE: Wanting to shock people is natural enough, but scolding them into being shocked can backfire if they become annoyed.

    posted by Eric at 09:10 AM | Comments (3)

    "pushed, not chosen"

    Confused by the interpretation of unemployment statistics? Then b y all means don't miss Tim Worstall's Pajama Media piece on the subject.

    Worstall wonders whether some unemployment can be a good thing, and points out (gasp!) that some people actually choose not to work!

    ....places where people have looked at the employment to population ratio and declared that the jobs market is in fact worse than the straight unemployment rate would lead us to believe. For those who are economically inactive, the percentage of the adult population that not only doesn't have a job but isn't looking for one has risen. And, of course, the assumption is that they've been pushed, not chosen, and that this is thus a bad thing.

    But perhaps it is in fact a good thing? Perhaps this change in the size of the labor force is a result of individual choices rather than people being pushed?

    More than perhaps. Maybe absolutely. (I'm reminded of friends who make a good living buying at thrift stores and selling on Ebay.)

    Anyway, if you enjoy such heresy, read the whole thing.

    posted by Eric at 09:35 AM | Comments (1)

    Conflating the crush of Rush
    (while avoiding the decontextualization of power imbalances...)

    Yesterday (while contemplating a new Hillary Clinton comedy book that Dr. Helen linked), I opined that maybe there was a "bright side":

    Maybe Clinton II will conflate the annals of history into the annals of comedy.
    Today I see evidence of what can only be called a rush to conflation, headlined, "Hillary Laughs at Limbaugh Endorsement":
    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew a big laugh Sunday by saying on national TV that radio host Rush Limbaugh has "always had a crush" on her.

    Clinton was appearing on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Stephanopoulos pointed out that Limbaugh has encouraged Republicans to vote for Clinton in state primaries, in an effort to divide and weaken the Democratic Party before the general election.

    "He's always had a crush on me," Clinton said jokingly, prompting the audience of about 200 people to erupt into laughter.

    A Rush crush? Come on!

    Is this really comedy, or do they secretly love each other?

    I'll say this for Hillary; she may be hedging her bets with the gag routine, but the first step in dealing with an issue is talking about it.

    I think they need each other more than either of them realize.

    For once I agree with Hillary. Rush has always had a crush on her.

    The only question remaining is what Hillary is being too coy to voice.

    Is it mutual? Has Hillary always had a crush on Rush?

    Or is this one of those relationships where there might be a power imbalance?

    If so, then which of the two has the greater power, and which one is in the subordinate, um, position? Hmm... I mean, who's the, um, heavy in this?

    Now come on. Really! I'm trying to be serious here!

    Any ideas?

    posted by Eric at 09:14 AM | Comments (2)

    Obama Has A Friend That Can't Dance
    Bill Ayers Can't Dance

    This is a picture of Obama's close associate Bill "Bomber" Ayers. He looks so wimpy for a bomber.

    Let me see if I can decipher the captions. Let me start with the top one.

    The group was dealing with the past with a kind of amnesia about violent actions. Bill Ayers recollected his adventurous violence with practical jokes. "Guilty as hell, free as a bird, it's a great country", he said. He also said his three sons were incredulous to hear that Bill had burned his draft card to protest the Vietnam War. "Burned your credit card"? asked one little boy. "Man, I'm not that stupid", Bill said.
    Next the bottom caption.
    Bill Ayers, August 2001, former Weatherman, stomps on U.S. flag. As a result of their friendship with Kathy Boudin and Dave Gilbert, Bill and Bernadine Dhorn raised Chesa Boudin.
    Here is a little background on the lovelies.
    Kathy Boudin's former "Weatherbureau" colleagues, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, now luminaries of Chicago's academic life, have been responsible for little Chesa since his mummy and daddy were locked up. Ayers, an admitted bomber, now is a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago's School of Education; and Dohrn is director of the Legal Clinic's Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University. This select Weather family lives in Chicago's comfortable Hyde Park section and has every reason to be proud of Chesa Boudin.

    Chesa's grandfather was a secret Communist Party strategist. Leonard Boudin masqueraded as a civil rights lawyer during the years the Weathermen killed, robbed and bombed, but really was a contact man for such hostile foreign powers as the Soviet Union and Cuba. Daughter Katherine was one of New York's elite, attending good schools such as Bryn Mawr, enjoying a year in Moscow and developing a social conscience that allowed her to plan the killing and maiming of her fellow Americans.

    Chesa receiving the Rhodes Scholarship is worth a closer look. British ultra-conservative statesman Cecil Rhodes created the scholarships in 1902. Winners are selected, so it is said, on the basis of academic achievement, integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor. Out of 981 applicants from some 341 colleges, 32 Americans were named as Rhodes Scholars. Chesa adds injury to the insult left by William Jefferson Clinton to this once-respected institution and to the United States.

    Selection was through a committee chaired by Dennis Hutchinson, an academic at the University of Chicago who teaches constitutional law. A Rhodes scholar in the 1970s himself, Hutchinson's resume ends with a statement, "professional scholars (must) ... do more than simply talk to one another."

    Interestingly, no one has asked about any connection between Chesa's adoptive parents and Hutchinson, though there certainly must be one. Chicago is a large city, but not that large, especially in the realm of academia, where, it is surmised, they "do more than simply talk to one another."

    No mention of an Obama connection. But the article was from Dec. 2002 before Obama became a star. (Leave a comment if you have something interesting on an Obama connection).

    H/T Backyard Conservative via Marathon Pundit via Insty

    posted by Simon at 08:29 AM | Comments (4)

    "Exhibit No. 1"

    The murder of a Philadelphia police officer during a bank robbery continues to dominate the front page of the Inquirer. As it turns out, all three of the robber/murderers are convicted robbers who have served time. From today's account:

    Police charged a journeyman boxer with murder and issued a warrant yesterday for an alleged accomplice in connection with the "assassination" of Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski on Saturday after a bank heist by three ex-cons.

    "I'm going to let him have it," Howard Cain, 33, allegedly said as he turned his high-powered rifle on Liczbinski Saturday afternoon. Police shot Cain dead minutes later.

    Cain's words were recalled in a confession by Levon T. Warner, 39, the local boxer and the only one of the three suspects in custody, according to a police source.

    Warner, of the 5400 block of Westminster Street in West Philadelphia, was arraigned last night on charges of murder, robbery and conspiracy. He provided a detailed account of his part in Liczbinski's death, according to the source.

    Police and the FBI expanded their search yesterday for the fugitive suspect, Eric DeShann Floyd, 33, from Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pa., where Floyd once lived. Floyd should be considered armed and extremely dangerous, police said.

    Floyd escaped from a Reading halfway house recently, police said. He knew Cain from prison, and the two shared a rundown, corner apartment in Fairhill that neighbors described as a haven for transients.

    Court records show that all three men have been convicted of robbery, and Cain and Warner were friends, according to the police source. The three allegedly devised an elaborate plan, complete with disguises and military-style weaponry, to rob the Bank of America branch in the ShopRite supermarket on Aramingo Avenue in Port Richmond on Saturday.

    Convicted robbers who had all served time? Shouldn't there be a law prohibiting such people from having guns?

    Yeah, there is. Merely by having the guns, the trio committed a serious gun crime which would have sent them all back to the slammer.

    I'm wondering, is it possible that armed robbers don't follow gun control laws?

    While I'm glad to see the criminal histories of these killers reported, as might be expected, its the Gun That Did It which really gets top billing.

    Here's today's front page:


    Since I posted about this yesterday, the perps have been identified and several details have changed, but the gun is obviously the most important aspect of the case, it's picture dominating the page.

    But it is no longer an "AK-47." Now it's described as "a Chinese SKS assault rifle," which "assassinated" the officer because it penetrates vehicles:

    "That officer was assassinated on the streets of Philadelphia," Mayor Nutter said in an interview yesterday. "There was nothing that could have protected him - that weapon penetrates vehicles."

    Deputy Police Commissioner William Blackburn said Liczbinski's patrol car was found with a single bullet hole in the door. It was unclear yesterday exactly where Liczbinski was when he was struck, though he appeared to have been getting out of the car at the time.

    The three suspects ditched the Jeep in the 3400 block of North Miller Street, four blocks from where the officer lay dying. Cain hopped into Warner's Chrysler Town and Country minivan but was cornered by police in the 500 block of East Louden Street, near Roosevelt Boulevard.

    Cain got out of the van with the SKS rifle and police shot him dead. His gun apparently jammed with 25 of 30 rounds unspent. Five spent shell casings were found at the scene of the officer's slaying.

    Police recovered the rifle outside the van. Inside was a .44-caliber revolver loaded with five rounds, two sets of Muslim clothing, $38,000 in cash taken from the bank, and two GPS "bloodhound" units, used by banks to track stolen cash. Blackburn said police used the GPS signal to track the suspects.

    In a nearby alley, police found a loaded .22-caliber revolver and other clothing. Also recovered during the investigation were another set of Muslim clothing, a dreadlocks wig, and a dust mask, all believed worn as disguises.

    I don't know whether the revolver was a .44 magnum but those rounds also penetrate car doors. Many bullets do.

    Interestingly, yesterday Mayor Nutter called the killing "senseless," while today it's an "assassination."

    Are assassinations senseless?

    Whatever. The most important aspect of the case, according to the Inquirer, will be the gun, which would have been banned under Mayor Nutter's illegal and unconstitutional gun laws:

    The slaying also is likely to become Exhibit No. 1 in the city's effort to adopt stricter gun laws. One of several laws that Nutter signed last month in defiance of the state legislature bans the kind of weapon used to kill Liczbinski. The city's ability to enact its own gun laws is the subject of a lawsuit against the state.
    How does this SKS rifle make the case for stricter gun laws? Did Mayor Nutter's ban work? Or, to be fair to him (because his laws are illegal) lets assume that the state legislature had done what he wanted, and amended state law to allow Mayor Nutter's ban on "assault weapons." Would these three career criminals have given it even the slightest passing thought?

    If someone can explain to me how that law would in any way have deterred these career criminals from getting this gun (or any other gun capable of killing a police officer) I'm all ears.

    MORE: Not that anyone in the gun-banning community would care, but the SKS is not an assault weapon, nor was it designed as one. From the Wiki entry:

    The SKS has a conventional carbine layout, with a wooden stock and no pistol grip. Most versions are fitted with an integral folding bayonet which hinges down from the end of the barrel, and some versions, such as the Yugoslavian-made M59/66 variant, are equipped with a grenade launching attachment. As with the American M1 Carbine, the SKS is shorter and less powerful than the semi-automatic rifles which preceded it -- most notably, the Soviet SVT series and the American M1 Garand. Contrary to popular belief it is not a modern assault rifle. This is because it does not meet all of the criteria of a true assault rifle, though there are some variants that fall closer to the definition. It does not possess the capability for selective fire, and the basic design does not possess a removable magazine. Some selective-fire variants were produced in the PRC; however, the basic design of the SKS is semi-automatic in nature. The carbine's ten-round box magazine is fed from a stripper clip (see below), and rounds stored in the magazine can be removed by depressing a magazine catch (thus opening the "floor" of the magazine and allowing the rounds to fall out) located forward of the trigger guard.
    Assuming the SKS used in the murder looks like the one in the picture displayed by Commissioner Ramsey (described as having "apparently jammed with 25 of 30 rounds unspent"), that would mean that it was converted to accept a larger, after-market magazine.

    Such conversions (whether legal or not) tend not to work out, as the gun was not designed that way. Hence, they have a propensity to jam. From an SKS FAQ site:

    Myth #8 -- "The SKS uses high capacity magazines."

    There is actually some truth to this -- but only some. As noted above, some Chinese SKS Carbines were sold with detachable high-capacity magazines. However the vast majority of SKS Carbines were sold with non-detachable ten-round magazines. Magazine capacities of ten-rounds or less are not typically considered high capacity.

    In addition, since 1998 it has been illegal to convert standard SKS Carbines to use aftermarket detachable high-capacity magazines. Such aftermarket magazines are prone to jamming and are often difficult to use, thus owners usually become disillusioned and revert to the original fixed magazine.

    Note that while it is still legal under certain restrictive circumstances to convert an SKS Carbine to utilize detachable high-capacity magazines, reliability and usability problems persist. And doing such a conversion legally often involves more cost than simply purchasing a different rifle that already uses high-capacity magazines. Hence, while a large number of SKS owners have toyed with these magazines, most do not continue to use them.

    (Italics in original.)

    In other words, adding the high-capacity magazine was a tactically stupid thing for these criminals to do.

    Which confirms the suspicion voiced by commenter dr kill yesterday:

    Could'nt be an AK. They never jam.
    But we need to ban them all anyway. That way, criminals won't have them. Besides, it might just as well have been an AK.


    MORE: Astoundingly, Mayor Nutter stated that the NRA should apologize for the murder!

    "I think it's insane," Nutter said. "The fact that we put forward a piece of legislation to prevent the sale and use and transfer of assault weapons and have a Philadelphia police officer assaulted on the streets with one, I think makes it pretty clear to anyone who is confused about this issue that there's no reason for any citizen, any person other than in law enforcement or in the military to have such a weapon."

    He added: "There's no legitimate argument by the NRA, they need to get in the real world where the rest of us live and come to grips with these kinds of issues. They owe an apology to the family for their staunch opposition over many, many years blocking legislative support for these kinds of matters."

    (Via Scott Kirwin.)

    According to Nutter's logic, because an officer was shot by career criminals with an "assault weapon" the criminals already weren't allowed to have, that means law-abiding citizens should not be allowed have them either (even though the weapon used was not an "assault weapon").

    (In his mind, if criminals shoot cops, that means citizens shouldn't have guns.)

    And if you don't agree with Nutter, you're "confused."

    posted by Eric at 08:13 AM | Comments (6)

    Real Class Warfare

    Real class warfare has always been the upper classes against the masses. Charles Whitebread, Professor of Law, USC Law School in a speech to the California Judges Association 1995 annual conference lays it out:

    And so, yeah, we will continue the War on Drugs for a while until everybody sees its patent bankruptcy. But, let me say that I am not confident that good sense will prevail. Why? Because we love this idea of prohibition. We really do. We love it in this country. And so I will tell you what I predict. You will always know which ones are going out and which ones are coming in. And, can't you see the one coming right over the hill? Well, folks, we are going to have a new prohibition because we love this idea that we can solve difficult medical, economic, and social problems by the simple enactment of a criminal law. We adore this, and of course, you judges work it out, we have solved our problem. Do you have it? Our problem is over with the enactment of the law. You and the cops work it out, but we have solved our problem.

    Here comes the new one? What's it going to be? No, it won't be guns, this one starts easy. This one is the Surgeon General has what? --Determined -- not "we want a little more checking it out", not "we need a few more studies", not "reasonable people disagree" -- "The Surgeon General has determined that the smoking of cigarettes will kill you."

    Now, all you need, and here is my formula, for a new prohibition every time is what? We need an intractable, difficult, social, economic, or medical problem. But that is not enough. There has to be another thing. It has to divide by class --- by social or economic class, between US and THEM.

    And so, here it comes. '

    You know the Federal Government has been spending a lot of money since 1968 trying to persuade us not to smoke. And, indeed, the absolute numbers on smoking have declined very little. But, you know who has quit smoking, don't you? In gigantic numbers? The college-educated, that's who. The college-educated, that's who doesn't smoke. Who are they? Tomorrow's what? Movers and kickers, that's who. Tomorrow's movers and kickers don't smoke. Who does smoke? Oh, you know who smokes out of all proportion to their numbers in the society -- it is the people standing in your criminal courtrooms, that's who. Who are they? Tomorrow's moved and kicked, that's who.

    And, there it is friends, once it divides between the movers and kickers and the moved and kicked it is all over and it will be all over very shortly.

    It doesn't get much more classy than that.

    What else do we know about the drug war? Again according to the linked speech it is a form of covert racism.

    The first group of states to have marijuana laws in that part of the century were Rocky Mountain and southwestern states. By that, I mean Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana. You didn't have to go anywhere but to the legislative records to find out what had motivated those marijuana laws. The only thing you need to know to understand the early marijuana laws in the southwest and Rocky Mountain areas of this country is to know, that in the period just after 1914, into all of those areas was a substantial migration of Mexicans. They had come across the border in search of better economic conditions, they worked heavily as rural laborers, beet field workers, cotton pickers, things of that sort. And with them, they had brought marijuana.

    Basically, none of the white people in these states knew anything about marijuana, and I make a distinction between white people and Mexicans to reflect a distinction that any legislator in one of these states at the time would have made. And all you had to do to find out what motivated the marijuana laws in the Rocky mountain and southwestern states was to go to the legislative records themselves. Probably the best single statement was the statement of a proponent of Texas first marijuana law. He said on the floor of the Texas Senate, and I quote, "All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff (referring to marijuana) is what makes them crazy." Or, as the proponent of Montana's first marijuana law said, (and imagine this on the floor of the state legislature) and I quote, "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona."

    Well, there it was, you didn't have to look another foot as you went from state to state right on the floor of the state legislature. And so what was the genesis for the early state marijuana laws in the Rocky Mountain and southwestern areas of this country? It wasn't hostility to the drug, it was hostility to the newly arrived Mexican community that used it.

    We know something else about drug prohibition. It is a price support mechanism for criminals. Or as Nobel winning economist Milton Friedman put it: The Drug War as a Socialist Enterprise

    We actually know quite a bit about the nature of addiction too. According to the NIDA Addiction Is A Genetic Disease.


    So let me see if I can encapsulate what we know from history, economics, and science:

    The Drug War is a socialist enterprise, founded on covert racism and class warfare, that punishes a genetic minority and those who serve them.

    How many proud supporters do we have here? Raise you hands.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:02 PM | Comments (9)

    Yes you can walk through a card!

    Can you cut a hole through a 3x5 index card large enough to walk through?

    I hate to say this, because it sounds so trite, but yes you can!

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people don't know the "trick" (which isn't a trick at all), and I was going to make a YouTube video showing how.

    But someone has already beaten me to it

    That's the trouble with the Internet these days. Almost anything you can think of doing or saying, someone has done or said.

    posted by Eric at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

    McCain: gaining on Obama, slipping against Hillary

    Not that this should suprise anyone, but here's the latest polling data from RealClearPolitics:

    General Election: McCain vs. Obama
    RCP Average
    McCain +0.7

    General Election: McCain vs. Clinton
    RCP Average
    Clinton +2.1

    As I keep saying, if there is a Republican argument for Hillary based on strategy, I'm all ears.

    UPDATE: Dr. Helen quotes conservative comedian Julie Gorin who says (in part):

    "...we are faced with the real possibility of a second Clinton presidency."
    Hey, I'm not laughing!

    Adds Dr. Helen,

    The jokes are also humorous but honestly, I would rather just avoid another Clinton presidency altogether and let Clintonisms recede into the annals of history....
    I make no secret of my antipathy to the Clintons and the idea of returning them to the White House fills me with horror, fear, and loathing.

    But maybe I should look on the bright side. Maybe Clinton II will conflate the annals of history into the annals of comedy.

    posted by Eric at 03:23 PM | Comments (3)

    Obama Strategist - We Want To Get Stuck

    I think what we have here is a telling slip of the tongue.

    A senior Democrat strategist privy to Obama's campaign said: "He's sick of the battle against Clinton. He wants to get stuck into McCain. His people have had to remind him that this thing isn't over yet and he needs to focus and put her away."
    And that is not all. Mr Obama appears to be a miracle worker. His very campaign for Presidency can change lives. We have the words of a man who can testify.
    James Pickens is typical of those who have been inspired by the black senator from Illinois. A reformed crack cocaine dealer, he is now peddling Obama T-shirts.

    Mr Pickens, 50, has served three prison terms totalling 13 years, but vowed to change his ways after hearing Mr Obama speak.

    He said: "I never voted for a president before. He's for change, which is something I need in my life. Until recently I was selling drugs, and now I'm selling T-shirts."

    I wonder what State he lives in? In a lot of them felons can't vote. It would be truly unfortunate if Mr. Obama inspired Mr. Pickens so much that he returned to a life of crime. Even if only for one day to commit vote fraud.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:55 PM | Comments (2)

    It doesn't matter who did it, because crime is senseless!
    (Therefore, the focus should be on guns!)

    If someone murdered one of your loved ones, would you be more concerned with who did it and why, or the make and model of the weapon used?

    Would these concerns change if the murderer killed a police officer, or if the murder occurred during a bank robbery?

    When we think of famous bank robbers like John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde, do we think primarily about what guns they used?

    The reason I'm asking these admittedly argumentative questions is because today's Inquirer has a huge front page story about the murder of a Philadelphia police officer during a bank robbery, and you'd almost think the gun was the primary suspect:

    A Philadelphia police officer was shot and killed with a military-style assault rifle late yesterday morning when he confronted a band of robbers who had held up a Bank of America branch at a ShopRite in Port Richmond.
    That's the very first paragraph. Now, from what limited experience I've had studying journalism, news reports are supposed to be written in the "pyramid style" of journalism, with the most important details appearing first. If that is still the rule, apparently the most important detail is that an officer was shot and killed (I agree) and the second most important detail is that the murder weapon was "a military-style assault weapon." I disagree that this is the second most important detail, and I suspect that the intent is to attach primary blame to the robbers' choice of weaponry -- the implication being that the officer would be alive today if "assault weapons" were outlawed.

    You have to read the details to see that the "assault weapon" was only one of the weapons involved. Note that it is identified as an "AK-47." (I doubt very much that it was in fact an AK-47, as these fully automatic weapons are quite rare, very expensive, and extremely difficult to obtain. More here on AK-47 misinformation.)

    The van stopped at Loudon Street near Roosevelt Boulevard with a patrol car behind it. Earlier, in the attack on Liczbinski, at least one robber apparently had gotten out of the Jeep and shot the officer as he left his vehicle.

    The same thing appeared to be happening again.

    But this time, two officers - one from the K-9 unit - got the drop on the one robber still in the vehicle at that time. They shot him dead.

    Police said they had recovered an AK-47 assault rifle that they believed had been used to kill Liczbinski. The AK-47 had jammed and couldn't be fired, a police source said.

    Last night, as police continued piecing together details of the day's events, officials could give only sketchy details of the heist that had begun it all. They could not even say how many robbers there were.

    At 11:26 a.m., police radio received a report of a robbery at the Bank of America branch in a nook near the produce section of the ShopRite in the 3700 block of Aramingo Avenue.

    No one was reported hurt in the robbery, and police gave no information on how much money might have been taken.

    A ShopRite official, not in the branch at the time, noticed the robbers as they moved away from the counter. They were masked and wore draped, neck-to-foot clothing, he said. He could not tell if they were men or women. He saw no weapon.

    Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, gave a slightly different description of the robbers.

    He described one as a man wearing "Muslim garb" and carrying a shoulder bag.

    He said a second robber, apparently a woman, was wearing full-length, "light-brown Muslim garb."

    A third possible robber, a man well over 6 feet tall, was described as wearing a "dreadlock wig" and a construction dust mask. He had on blue jeans and a flannel shirt.

    Police found discarded clothing in an alley near one of the shootings. A pistol also was found.

    Anyway, the police shot one of the robbers to death (which is a blessing), and another one is pictured on the front page, sitting in the police car with a very angry grimace on his face:


    Perhaps I'm a very abnormal person, but my immediate feeling about this was first, outrage that another police officer had been killed, and second, outrage towards the murderers -- whoever they are. My immediate suspicion was that these were career criminals who never should have been running around loose in the first place. The problem is that there are no details in the Inquirer, so I had to search elsewhere.

    Penn Live reports the name of one of the suspects:

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- One suspect was charged and a second was being sought Sunday in the killing of a Philadelphia police officer who was shot with an assault rifle while responding to a bank robbery, police said.

    Philadelphia police Lt. Mel Williams declined to release the name of the suspect, who was charged with homicide. A second man, Eric Floyd, 33, of Berks County, is also wanted on a homicide charge, Williams said Sunday morning. A third suspect was fatally shot by police.

    This ABC News report includes the detail that he escaped from a "halfway house in Reading":
    Police are trying to find 34-year-old Eric DeShawn Floyd. Investigators say he recently escaped from a halfway house in Reading, Pa.
    Halfway house? There are more and more of these places springing up, and they're theoretically supposed to be used for inmates who are transitioning to the outside world. However, more and more they are being used to relieve prison overcrowding. I can't find out much about escapee Eric Floyd, nor is the name of the Reading halfway house given, so it's pure speculation as to where he was sent or why he was sent there.

    However, at the PA Department of Corrections website, there's only one halfway house listed in Reading, a place named ADAPPT.

    If that's where Eric Floyd lived, escape from it would appear to be quite easy. Numerous rules for residents are detailed in this "RESIDENT HANDBOOK," and "escape" is listed as a violation, with "residents" (they're no longer inmates, I guess) being required to sign in and out. There's a huge amount of detail over correspondence, what to wear, and even where to put religious books and prayer rugs, but there's no rule against filing frivolous litigation like this which IMO wastes time, but I guess no person ever gives up his right to pursue frivolous claims.

    Anyway, the issue is not what gun these people used, but who they are, and why they did it. I don't think it's helpful to simply label what happened "senseless" as Mayor Nutter has done, but that label is trotted out all the time. What is known is that at least one of the suspects is a career criminal; otherwise what would he be doing in a transitional halfway house?

    Of course, career criminals are not allowed to have guns, but that tends to deflate the argument that more gun control would stop murderous robbers from having guns. Their actions are not proof that "assault weapons" are bad, but simply another example of how gun control fails utterly to deter members of a severely prohibited group of people that no one wants to have guns.

    Therefore, the narrative must be that the gun did it.

    And of course that the crime was senseless. As Mayor Nutter put it, the killing of Sgt Liczbinski was "just one more example of the senseless violence that takes place here in our city."

    I'm wondering about something. Is it only the violence (in this case, the murder) which was senseless? What about all that led up to it? Was the escape from the Reading halfway house also "senseless"? How do we know that it didn't seem like a very sensible thing for the escapee to do? And the selection of the bank inside a ShopRite supermarket, the theft of a car, the illegal obtaining of guns, the selection of a team of associates, the wearing of "Muslim garb" -- were all of these things also "senseless"?

    Is it reasonable to conflate a series of deliberate and planned acts which culminated in the (predictable IMO) shooting of an officer in this way?

    Certainly the crime plan made sense to these career criminals. I for one would like to see them all executed for it. But regardless of what happens, I'll give them credit for committing atrocious and evil acts. I think it minimizes evil and tortures reality to call a bank robbery and murder by career criminals "senseless."

    Frankly, it strikes me as "senseless" to blame the guns used in the crime, because I don't think it makes logical sense.

    But logic is not the goal; the goal is gun control. Labeling gun crimes "senseless" makes a lot of sense in that context, as it's part of a deliberate plan to get rid of guns.


    If only they wanted to do to criminals what they want to do to guns.

    posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (6)

    I Always Loved The Morse Code Opening

    I alway loved the Morse Code opening to news reports. Reminds me of Walter Winchell.

    In this video clip I believe we have a new parliamentary rule (not found in Roberts Rules of Order). That would be the Respect Rule. Women take precedence over men. Blacks have precedence over whites. And the universal unwritten rule. Eighth graders are smarter than any politician.

    H/T Reason Magazine via Insty. Walter Winchell Audio clip from Old Time Radio.

    posted by Simon at 10:50 AM | Comments (7)

    the self-produced hate that self-hating hate produced

    Regarding the Jeremiah Wright affair.....



    Really, I am as bored with Wright as I am sick of him, sick of elections, and sick of politics. As "issues" go, that man is one of the most tedious and tawdry I have ever seen. The more he fails to just shut the eff up, the more tedious he is. The more people write about Wright, the worse it becomes. After you've read a certain number of blog posts and Op-Eds (whether condemning or defending him) you begin to recognize the same old numbingly familiar patterns and arguments, and if you're as old as I am, you start to get that Spiro Agnew-type feeling along the lines of "When you've seen one Jeremiah Wright piece, you've seen them all."

    Even Peggy Noonan, certainly no friend or ally of Wright, is now hinting that it may be time to just move on:

    I am out of step. There is something that is upsetting others whom I care about and whose thoughts are often not unlike my own. And it's not hitting me the same way.

    I am referring to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I disagree with and disapprove of the things he says. The U.S. government did not spread AIDS among the black community, 9/11 was not the chickens coming home to roost, etc. He seems like a bright man, warm, humorous and compelling, but also needful and demanding of the spotlight, a showman prone to crackpottery, and I have to wonder how much respect he has for his congregation. He shows a lot of fury and does a lot of yelling for a leader of the followers of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

    When he is discussed on news shows, pundits are asked what they think Mr. Wright's political impact will be, which is another way of saying: What will people think of this?

    I always wish they'd say what they themselves think. I think what Mr. Wright has been saying is extreme and radical, and people don't like extreme and radical when they're pondering who their next leader will be, and as Mr. Wright has been Barack Obama's friend and mentor for 20 years, this will hurt Mr. Obama. This is borne out in the week's polls. From the New York Times: 48% of Democrats say he can best beat McCain, down eight points since April. The proportion of Democrats who say Mr. Obama is their choice for the nomination is now 46%, down six.

    I also think that if Hillary Clinton wins because of the Wright scandal, it will leave a sad taste in the mouths of many. Mr. Obama reveals many things in his books, speeches and interviews but polarity and a tropism toward the extreme are not among them. What happened with Mr. Wright should not determine the race. Mr. Obama's stands, his ability to convince us he can make good change, his ability to be "one of us," that great challenge for a national politician in a varied nation, should determine the race.

    But I am finding it hard to feel truly upset about what Mr. Wright has said. This is the out-of-stepness I referred to. So here I will talk not about how people will respond to him but how I do.

    It's a good read; among other things, she compares Wright's nonsense to the way Irish Americans carry on with 18th Century hatred towards the British. She doesn't like it, but she sees nothing new. Whether she's "out of step" as she says, or whether she is sick and tired of the Wright affair and cannot find it within herself to write one more tedentious column saying the same thing every other conservative has been saying -- these are things known only to her. All I know is I'm out of step too -- and I like seeing someone of Peggy Noonan's caliber and stature admit it.

    Speaking for myself, I'd like to think that I should never have to listen to Wright again, and would never have to read another Op-Ed or blog post on his malevolently clownish conspiracy chatter.

    With all of that in mind, please remember that for a number of reasons, I have mixed feelings about writing this post.

    My problem is that in the more recent posts I wrote about Wright (including my Pajamas Media piece), I left something undone, and it will not leave me alone. Just a minor detail, and it probably has little or nothing to do with Barack Obama. Because -- and I am deadly serious here -- I don't think it applies to him. If anything, it goes to a major difference between Obama and Wright.

    Yesterday, I linked Daniel Blatt's PJM piece about so-called "gay self-hatred." As the term is used, it does not refer to self-hatred in the conventional sense, but in its political dimensions. Gays who vote Republican hate themselves, while gays who vote Democrat love themselves. The same rule probably applies to blacks, and even women, who are seen as Uncle Toms, and as loving their oppressor if they do not do as they are told. OK, the logic is absurd, and I have discussed it before. In fact, I have discussed it ad nauseam. But you know what? I have learned in these five years of blogging that discussing things does not make them go away. There is no such thing as settling an argument. So, don't expect that here. All I can do is attempt in my usual way to spot issues, and leave it to others to agree or disagree with me, or come up with additional ideas of their own.

    And the issue this time is race. A particularly ugly, particularly Wrightian manifestation of race, which has been largely missed (ignored may be more accurate) -- probably because it is a very uncomfortable topic.

    In his discussion of Louis Farrakhan at the National Press Club, Wright said this:

    Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn't make me this color.
    I discussed the chains and the slavery, but I put "this color" on the back burner. Letting it simmer did not make it go away. While I doubt this blog post will either, I have to ask.....

    What color?

    What color does he mean? Wright brought it up, and most people assume reflexively that he meant black.

    Did he?

    If so, then what's with the accusatory tone? Does that evince pride? Or might it evince a bit of self hatred?

    But surely, Jeremiah Wright cannot hate himself for being black, can he? I mean, that would totally undercut not only his personal ethos, but his entire ideology.

    So I wondered, and I wondered, and an ugly little nagging thought kept creeping into my mind, and I kept asking naughty questions I'm not supposed to ask....

    How black is Wright?

    And, from a purely logical standpoint, is Wright really black?

    I realize that people have asked these questions about Barack Obama, because after all, he is known to be half white. But what about Wright? Unless I am wrong, he appears to have at least as much of a Caucasian-like skin tone as Obama, and I think many fair-minded observers would venture that both of these men are in truth of mixed race.

    Are there rules here?

    I mean, Tiger Woods is half black, but he famously stated that he does not consider himself to be black.

    Obama, with the same amount of Caucasian genetic material as Woods, calls himself black, as does Wright.

    Now, they can certainly call themselves whatever they want. People are free to identify themselves as they see fit, as long as they're not lying, and I don't think either man is lying. Rather, I think the rules of society are unfair. For reasons deriving from the horrid Jim Crow period, a single black great-grandmother renders a white-looking person black, and that "rule" has been embraced by activists. Especially liberationists.

    (Parenthetically, there's a similar "rule" at play in determining human sexuality. A single homosexual act is said to make one "gay," -- a lifetime of heterosexual acts notwithstanding. Vice versa means nothing; a gay man having sex with a woman is a gay man having sex with a woman. As a practical matter, this means that while straight men are not allowed to have sex with men and still be straight, gay men are allowed to have sex with women and still be gay. Is that clear now? Oh, and there are no bisexuals, because if there were, activists would never be able to decide which "side" was to be accused of the self hatred that dictates political, um, "preference." Is that clearer?)

    Back to the interpretation of Wright's "he didn't make me this color" remark. Considering that he is biracial, is it possible that he was not referring to his black color, but his mixed race color?

    Is it possible that he hates his whiteness?

    The man is known to be an apostle of Malcolm X, and Malcolm X was certainly no stranger to internalized self hatred. From his Autobiography:

    ...when we say 'black,' we mean everything not white, brothers and sisters! Because look at your skins! We're all black to the white man, but we're a thousand and one different colors. Turn around, look at each other! What shade of black African polluted by devil white man are you? You see me -- well, in the streets they used to call me Detroit Red. Yes! Yes, that raping, red-headed devil was my grandfather! That close, yes! My mother's father! She didn't like to speak of it, can you blame her? She said she never laid eyes on him! She was glad for that! I'm glad for her! If I could drain away his blood that pollutes my body, and pollutes my complexion, I'd do it! Because I hate every drop of the rapist's blood that's in me!

    "And it's not just me, it's all of us! During slavery, think of it, it was a rare one of our black grandmothers, our great-grandmothers and our great-great grandmothers who escaped the white rapist slavemaster. That rapist slavemaster who emasculated the black man . . . with threats, with fear . . . until even today the black man lives with fear of the white man in his heart! Lives even today still under the heel of the white man!

    "Think of it -- think of that black slave man filled with fear and dread, hearing the screams of his wife, his mother, his daughter being taken -- in the barn, the kitchen, in the bushes! Think of it, my dear brothers and sisters! Think of hearing wives, mothers, daughters, being raped! And you were too filled with fear of the rapist to do anything about it! And his vicious, animal attacks' offspring, this white man named things like `mulatto' and `quadroon' and `octoroon' and all those other things that he has called us -- you and me -- when he is not calling us 'nigger'!

    "Turn around and look at each other, brothers and sisters, and think of this! You and me, polluted all these colors -- and this devil has the arrogance and the gall to think we, his victims, should love him!"

    I would become so choked up that sometimes I would walk in the streets until late into the night. Sometimes I would speak to no one for hours, thinking to myself about what the white man had done to our poor people here in America.

    I don't doubt for an instant that Malcolm X hated his whiteness, and it's hard not to empathize a little, especially considering the passionate way he expressed himself.

    Whether Jeremiah Wright thinks along similar lines about his whiteness -- whether harbors that form of self hatred that drove Malcolm X -- this is pure speculation.

    But the topic is not new, and the hatred is nor merely internal. Books and plays like this have been devoted to the subject of "skin color prejudice that pits members of one race against others in the same group":

    ...."Yellowman," which opens today at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is both a lyrical and brutal examination of the complexities of internalized prejudice and its centuries-old roots in slavery.

    "I wanted to look at the ramifications of race," said the 44-year-old playwright from her East Village home in New York. And when it comes to skin tone prejudice, "everybody does it," she said. "White people do it. The rift between blondes and brunettes has nothing to do with hair color. It has to do with racial purity. So I don't let anybody off the hook."

    The title of her play, "Yellowman," refers to one of several derogatory childhood labels that have been hurled at lighter-skinned blacks by darker- skinned blacks, such as "high yella," "school bus," "zebra," "redbone," and, perhaps more benign, "light" and "bright." Then there are the hurtful insults used by lighter-skinned blacks against their darker-hued brethren: "tar baby," "ink spot," "shine" and "chocolate."

    Uttered in the South Carolina Gullah/Geechie accents of the play, the epithets serve as a visceral portal into Orlandersmith's unblinking examination of prejudice, self-loathing and the ghosts of childhood. In "Yellowman," Alma, a dark-skinned woman, and her childhood friend, Eugene, a light-skinned black man, fall in love. But they face insurmountable conflicts over their skin color because their families and community have been deeply splintered by colorism -- skin color prejudice that pits members of one race against others in the same group.

    It's easy to say that I just wish people would get over this, and that if only everyone of mixed race would be more like Tiger Woods the world would be a better place, but wishing doesn't reality make.

    Interestingly, not only was Malcolm X angry about being of mixed race, but so was his mentor Elijah Muhammad, and in turn so was his mentor, a man named Wallace Fard Muhammad:

    Master W. D. Fard was half black and half white. He was made in this way to enable him to be accepted by the black people in America, and to lead them, while at the same time he was enabled to move undiscovered among the white people, so that he could understand and judge the enemy of the blacks.
    It's all too easy for reasonable and logical people to reflexively dismiss this stuff as crackpot nonsense, just as it's easy to embrace the Tiger Woods style of moving on. But those who dismiss it out of hand -- especially those who demand that others move on -- ought to ask themselves how they would have felt growing up under Jim Crow and being of obviously mixed race, or even growing up listening to horror stories from light-skinned black grandparents who did. (Explanations are not justifications, of course.)

    With all of this in mind, I don't think it is at all clear what color (or colors) Jeremiah Wright meant when he said that Louis Farrakhan "didn't make me this color." (What color is Farrakhan, by the way?) I also think it is possible that Wright harbors more than a little self hatred.

    That may be a crucial difference between Wright and Obama. Regardless of what anyone thinks of his politics, Obama strikes me as someone who really isn't losing much sleep hating his own color. I think he accepts himself as he is, half white and half black, and I don't think he suffers from self hatred because of it.

    That others do hate themselves and will not or cannot move on from it -- that can hardly be said to be the fault of Barack Obama. For all I know, he might want to heal them.

    Then again, what he cannot heal, he might also want to use.

    posted by Eric at 09:37 AM | Comments (5)

    The Empire Strikes Barack

    H/T Curmudgeons Corner

    posted by Simon at 02:12 AM | Comments (3)

    Fusion Report 02 May 008

    Here is a progress report from MSNBC's Cosmic Log about the status of the Bussard Fusion Experiment, WB-7.

    Currently, the most promising path toward electrostatic fusion runs through Santa Fe, N.M., where a team at EMC2 Fusion Development Corp. is currently trying to validate Bussard's results. The team's leader, Richard Nebel, told me this week that it's still too early to gauge how promising the Bussard fusion device could be.

    "We're getting high-power plasma," he said. "We don't have answers ... [but] we're far enough along that we know we're going to get answers."

    If you want to learn more about Bussard's IEC Fusion here are some good places to go:

    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

    IEC Fusion Technology blog

    The side bar at IEC Fusion Technology blog has links to various discussion groups. They can be found under the heading Working Groups. You might be especially interested in the Talk Polywell discussion group where Richard Nebel can often be found commenting and answering questions.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Update 03 May 008 02146z

    Welcome Instapundit readers.

    For those interested in the history of the Bussard Project along with a smattering of technology and a look at space applications may I suggest World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited by Tom Ligon.

    posted by Simon at 01:31 AM | Comments (0)

    Obama Identifies The Problem
    Our next stop was the local Chamber of Commerce, located on the second floor of what looked like a pawnshop.

    Inside, we found a plump black man who was busy packing boxes.

    "We're looking for Mr. Foster," I said to the man.

    "I'm Foster," he said, not looking up.

    "We were told that you were the president of the Chamber-"

    "Well, you right about that. I was the president. Just resigned last week."

    He offered us three chairs and talked as he worked. He explained that he had owned the stationery store down the street for fifteen years now, had been the president of the Chamber for the last five. He had done his best to organize the local merchants, but lack of support had finally left him discouraged.

    "You won't hear me complaining about the Koreans," he said, stacking a few boxes by the door. "They're the only ones that pay their dues into the Chamber. They understand business, what it means to cooperate. They pool their money. Make each other loans. We don't do that, see. The black merchants around here, we're all like crabs in a bucket." He straightened up and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. "I don't know. Maybe you can't blame us for being the way we are. All those years without opportunity, you have to figure it took something out of us. And it's tougher now than it was for the Italian or the Jew thirty years ago. These days, a small store like mine has to compete against the big chains. It's a losing battle unless you do like these Koreans-work your family sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. As a people, we're not willing to do that anymore. I guess we worked so long for nothing, we feel like we shouldn't have to break our backs just to survive. That's what we tell our children anyway. I can't say I'm any different. I tell my sons I don't want them taking over the business. I want them to go work for some big company where they can be comfortable...." [130]

    From Obama's Book Dreams From My Father [pdf].

    So there you have it. - Because my ancestors were slaves I'm not going to do what it takes to get ahead. Because we were slaves you owe me. - Of course with an attitude like that no matter how much is given nothing will get accomplished, the resents will fester forever. There will never be enough. Such an attitude is what the Buddhist call Pretas or Hungry Demons.

    I think Obama has bought into the resenters. His 20 years with the irreverend Wright and Black Enslavement Theology are a very good indication of that. If he was into true Liberation he would understand that only the fruits of your own labor can liberate you and you must work as hard as required to get those fruits. Even 16 hours a day seven days a week. My father was one of those Jewish merchants. He owned a small grocery store at the edge of the black ghetto in Omaha at 33rd and Lake St. He worked those 16 hour days. Until I was about 10 we lived behind the store so we could save money and be near the work. We were slaves. My mom was telling me the other day that she figured out that she and my dad worked for twenty-five cents an hour. Money was worth more then. But still the minimum wage was something like $1.50 or $2.00 an hour. The help earned more than the owners did.

    So does Obama preach that kind of self reliance? I have never heard it from him.

    H/T Gregory Chang

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:46 PM | Comments (3)

    WorldNetLefty says "source" said McCain said "c" word

    I'm familiar with the so-called "allegations" about McCain calling his wife the "c" word in 1992, and although I hadn't checked with WorldNetDaily to see if they're repeated there, I'm not sure they're even up to that level of "journalism."

    But today I saw (on a FireDogLake YouTube video linked by Gateway Pundit) that a professional operative posing as a minister managed to work the "c" word into a question for McCain at a town hall meeting. (Link via Glenn Reynolds.)

    It would be one thing if this were a legitimate issue. But this is pure nonsense, and I found myself wondering what the reaction would have been had a right wing operative asked Barack Obama about the ridiculous sex-and-drugs-with-the-gay-prostitute "story."

    The McCain campaign has already done what I don't think they needed to do, and denied the allegations:

    Campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker told U.S. News that both stories are "untrue and driven by partisan interests and blind sources."

    But the liberal blogosphere--if not mainstream media publications--has been abuzz with the allegations, particularly after they were picked up yesterday by the popular Huffington Post, to which Schecter is an occasional contributor. Nico Pitney, a Huffington Post editor, told U.S. News that "we noted in our report on the book that the story was anonymously sourced; we wanted our readers to be aware of that."

    "As with any such reporting--whether it's in the New York Times, a Bob Woodward book, or an account from Cliff Schecter--people have to consider the information critically and make up their own minds," he said.

    Schecter, for his part, says he hopes that the bulk of his book, which details McCain's evolving positions over the years on issues ranging from military interventionist policy to tax cuts, doesn't get lost in the hubbub over temper allegations. And he adamantly defends his sourcing: "I'm as comfortable with those facts as with any other fact in my book," he told U.S. News. An effort to arrange to speak with Schecter's sources was unsuccessful, though the author described in some detail the positions held by the sources at the time of the alleged incidents and their whereabouts today.

    "I'm an unknown quantity, and the sources in the two stories are unnamed," said Schecter, a senior fellow at Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. "But they are true." Says Hazelbaker, McCain's spokesperson: "I hope that the Democrats follow the blueprint laid out by Mr. Schecter, as it will almost certainly guarantee John McCain's victory in November. One thing that is absolutely clear is that Americans are sick and tired of this type of gutter politics."

    I'm sorry, but this is not a story. I'm sick and tired of so-called "unnamed" or "anonymous" sources, because they are not sources at all. They do not rise to the level of an accusation that merits being denied.

    Once again, let me point out what shouldn't need pointing out at all: anyone can make anything up about anyone.

    I've complained repeatedly about WorldNetDaily reporting paranoid conspiracy claims as news, but Cliff Schecter's standards do not even rise to the level of WorldNetDaily. At least when WND reported the ridiculous story of a man who claimed to have shared sex and cocaine with Barack Obama, they gave the name of the "witness." And it was up to people to decide whether to believe him. (He eventually failed a lie detector test and was discredited.) But here there isn't even an accuser whose credibility can be evaluated and tested; just an ardent left wing writer who claims there is, and who plugs his book as "proof" each time.

    Schecter, the accuser (a guy who snarks that Republicans can't read) sloppily recites conspiracy theories based on things on the radio he is unable to recall:

    If I remember correctly, the host went on to say that -- especially based on recent reports of news outlet complicity in the military analyst scandal -- they are feeling a potential threat should Obama get elected. If he goes after BushCo, the media would be implicated, too.

    To avoid that possibility, they have to eliminate Obama.

    The media want to "eliminate" Obama because he might "go after" Bush if elected (criminal prosecutions for war crimes) and this might spill over to a media scandal?


    In a post titled "Group that wants Bush to be "President-for-Life" linked to Bush Administration itself," Schecter promoted the paranoid conspiracy claim that a right wing clique linked to Dick Cheney (who else?) wanted Bush to kill all Arabs in Iraq, populate it with Americans, so that the military would love Bush, who would then become president -- forever and ever! Here's a partial quote in italics (with Schecter's reactions in plain text):

    That valuable historic example? Julius Caesar.

    If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results...

    Eyebrows raised yet?

    He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.

    Mine are. Raised, that is.

    President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming "ex-president" Bush or he can become "President-for-Life" Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.

    Putting the rather strange Caesar analogies aside, the author of the above (soon pulled from the FSM site) was not only an embarrassment to FSM, but he's clearly a crackpot. The point it, it isn't hard to find nuts (whether of the left wing or the right wing variety) writing nutty things in places that shouldn't have let them, but does Schecter seriously believe there ever was any such a plot by Dick Cheney, Laura Ingraham, and Frank Gaffney? He either does (in which case he's an unreliable paranoid conspiracy theorist) or he does not (in which case he's dishonest). Either way, I don't trust him.

    Once again, this guy strikes me as a loopy WorldNetDaily-of-the-left type. Such people are certainly free to speculate about whatever nonsense they want, but to take someone like that at his word that McCain talked dirty to his wife because "sources" he won't name said so is very foolish.

    People are gullible, though, and they have a way of falling for what they want to believe.

    That's what made P.T. Barnum and Ann Coulter rich.

    posted by Eric at 07:56 PM | Comments (1)

    Banal treason make me sick! (Homesick!)

    WARNING TO ALL ASSHOLE PROPAGANDIST TRAITORS: Be careful about proselytizing in coffee houses. You never know when a blogger might be listening!

    Rand Simberg links a wonderful essay by Gerard van der Leun titled "The Banality of Sedition" -- prompted by the latter overhearing the sort of thing I used to overhear in Berkeley before I was blogging:

    ...I'm stepping out of your "one-every-block" Seattle espresso slop shop with my machiatto when I notice the odd couple at the table just outside the door. That's not too odd since odd couples, like spiked bright blue hair, are pretty much the norm on Capitol Hill. I notice them at first because the youngest is wearing a Motorhead t-shirt with the mantra "Everything Louder Than Everything Else" on it in that faux German Black gothic font that got old when Auschwitz was in flower, and so had to be made new again back when heavy-metal was a fresh idea.

    Glancing over Motorhead's shoulder I note that the man across from him is giving him an ideological lap-dance complete with a whole raft of tracts, papers and books being brought out and waved about and placed, with a muffled thwang, one after the other on the thin black metal of the table: Trotsky's "Marxism and Terrorism," (thwang!); the ever-popular Marx and Engels "Communist Manifesto," (thwang!); Lenin's greatest hit "What Is To Be Done?," (thwang!), Gramsci's "Prison Notebooks," (thunk!), Zinn's "People's History of the United States,"(clunk!).

    One by one, they come out of the worn back pack and pile up on the table. All in all, a larger pile of ideological dung would be hard to imagine, and harder to handle even with meat hooks and thick rubber gloves.

    The man making his pile of "roadmaps to a more perfect world" is quite a bit older than Motorhead with a slim, somewhat furtive look to him. There's the vibe coming off him that you sometimes sense when someone old is trying to pick up somebody far too young for him.

    Pretty strong stuff, although it's delicious if you have a strong stomach and a morbid sense of humor.

    I won't spoil it by quoting too much, but I thoroughly enjoyed Gerard's reaction to this, um, pair, and their, um, conversation. It's treason season year round in Seattle, I guess:

    The conversation bothers me at the same time it fascinates me. It strikes me that what I am auditing is not so much "the banality of evil," but "the banality of sedition;" a banality we see acted out daily on our television screens and on the op-ed pages of our newspapers.

    The banality of sedition is now so well established that it is, well, banal and goes forward without a great deal of remark or trouble. In the last few years, the phrase that has arisen to describe this phenomenon is "The Culture of Treason." I'm not sure who originated the phrase, but its use is proliferating across the Internet for the reason that all such phrases proliferate when the time is ripe; it somehow rings true.

    Read it all. Makes me morbidly nostalgic for Berkeley, almost homesick in a perverse sort of way.

    Despite the Culture of Treason, Berkeley has nice weather, and great coffee houses!

    And that reminds me of what Group Captain Lionel Mandrake said about being tortured by the Japanese:

    It was just their way of having a bit of fun, the swines. Strange thing is they make such bloody good cameras.

    posted by Eric at 04:05 PM | Comments (4)

    Gay Republicans hate themselves.
    (But socialism offers a cure!)

    GayPatriot's B. Daniel Blatt has a great PJM piece about gay Republicans -- "Washington's One-Sided Gay War":

    We gay conservatives face similar name-calling from our liberal peers, even those in the gay media.

    Our gay peers, however, don't limit themselves to calling us fascists. They also call us the equivalent of African-American Klansmen or Jewish Nazis (and think themselves original when they use those tired and inaccurate analogies). The adjective they use most frequently to describe us is "self-hating" and the most used noun is "hypocrite."

    Yes, and I can recall when no less than Bill Clinton said that opposing his wife's candidacy by a gay person constituted gay "self loathing."

    Is it self loathing to loathe hypocrisy?

    I don't think so, but if you're as intrigued by these nuances as I am, don't miss Daniel Blatt's thought-provoking essay.

    posted by Eric at 10:24 AM | Comments (2)

    Had enough of the sewer culture?

    We've all heard of the Safety Nazis, and I've complained about an emerging group some people are calling the Gonad Nazis.

    And I'm fond of complaining that I hate to violate Godwin's Law -- usually just before I violate it. So this time -- just for now -- I have decided that I will not refer to the building and plumbing code enforcement bureaucrats as "Sewer Nazis." (Does my warm and fuzzy kindness know no bounds?)

    The hard-working Code People are after all only trying to do their job of making sure that each and every dwelling in the United States is hooked up to a city sewer, and has indoor plumbing, with approved plumbing fixtures, lest we revert to the Dark Ages and civilization collapse. That would seem a worthy goal.

    There's a certain irony though. For what we take for granted as the absolute minimum (almost a sine qua non) standard of civilized living is very recent, and a book I've been reading -- The Vanishing American Outhouse -- drives the point home. The outhouse -- part of the American way of life from the inception of this country -- has nearly vanished, and the book attempts to document them before they disappear altogether.

    The great disappearance began with the advent of indoor plumbing, and by the outbreak of World War II, plumbing had been installed in nearly 60% of American dwellings. During that period, installing running water and toilets had become a huge national fad. My father (whose career had taken him from humble rural roots to the big city of Philadelphia) felt morally obligated to hire a contractor and install a sink and a toilet in his parents' farm house. "You didn't need to do that!" was my grandfather's response. I can't imagine having to go outside in the winter cold simply to do my business. But of course, people used chamber pots, which were simply emptied into the outhouse each morning. Another chore I could do without.

    Considering the health risks, it's a wonder that the people in those days survived. Now we freak out because a baby might theoretically eat underlying lead paint off the side of an older house. (Why a mommy would let her baby do that has always escaped me.) Yet not only did the people in those days survive, they went on to conquer Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. We call them "the Greatest Generation."

    They may well have also been the last outhouse generation. This is not to say that outhouses build character, or that assigning the kids the unpleasant chore of venturing out into blizzards carrying buckets of excrement (probably child abuse today) builds virtue. But it is undeniable that on average, they were tougher people than we are today, and outhouses were an undeniable part of their cultural existence. These buildings were even part of urban living; I remember seeing outhouses still standing behind Philadelphia row houses when I was a kid.

    Here's a World War II photograph of an outhouse in a New York war bond drive event -- marked "Hitler's Headquarters":


    The crowd obviously thought that was hilarious; a lot of high school kids today wouldn't even get it.

    Times change, and from a modern public health standpoint, this is all to the good.


    Well, what if you are a crank who just doesn't feel like using water every time you take a leak? Or suppose you don't think that the government has a right to compel you to share your excrement, urine, and wash water with everyone else in a vast communal treatment facility. If you own your property, is it not your business how you deal with your waste, so long as you're not harming other people in the process?

    This is not to say that anyone has a right to contaminate the groundwater, and I am not advocating a return to outhouses. But I have some experience with living in rural areas, and I know that sewer hookup rules can make it extremely difficult to legally live on land you own. You'd almost think people were using sewer hookup rules as an anti-development (or even pro-plumbers union) racket. It is not as if there are not safe alternatives.

    There are, for example, waterless urinals, but even in environmentally green cities (such as Philadelphia would consider itself to be), they run into trouble with the unions. Oh yes they did; the union via the plumbing department managed to force the new "green" building to have water pipes going all the way to each waterless fixtures, only to be capped off. That way, plumbers lost no work. At the time (in view of my longstanding complaint about disappearing urinals) I issued a satire-based reminder of the "potty parity" issue:'s what I'd do were I running the plumber's union. I'd contact the local chapter of NOW, remind them of the union's "commitment" to "gender equality," and ask their opinion of the Liberty's building's stated plan to "install no-flush, water-saving urinals in the men's rooms at the Comcast Center."

    I'd ask the feminists, why only the men's rooms?

    Potty parity is not a new idea of course, and I've discussed it repeatedly. But this is a bit different, and from a feminist perspective, I think it's far worse.

    Does this not send a clear message to society that men are more environmentally friendly than women? Doesn't that create and enable a brand new and totally unfair stereotype? Isn't it bad enough that women face discrimination everywhere without granting men another patriarchal advantage to hold over women? Rather than be seen as lagging behind New York, shouldn't Philadelphia be seen as leading the way towards environmental gender equality?

    Those who think this is an exercise in frivolity should bear in mind that some of the most invidious forms of sexist discrimination arise from unnoticed subtleties of precisely this sort. Every time men take a leak in the environmentally friendly urinals, they'll be likely to harbor hidden thoughts that they've done a better job of saving the environment than women. Pretty soon, they'll be emerging from the men's rooms with barely perceptible, knowing sneers. A nod here, a wink there.

    The old boys network is at it again.

    (They always find a way to get a leg up on women.)

    Of course, the entire issue of gender environmental potty disparity could be avoided entirely with dry composting toilets.

    They are safe, relatively maintenance free, and what I like about them is that they allow people to live independently, without another damned government foot in the door. No sewer line repair issues, no bureaucrats demanding increased monthly fees and assessments, no "crises" caused by broken sewer lines, and one less excuse for the government to declare it has a right to "help" you by "emergency evacuations" for "public health reasons." Perhaps the idea of individual autonomy is intolerable to some, but I like it. Additionally, there's the water saving aspect of dry toilets; some people might enjoy the feeling that by never wasting water in their elimination process, they're helping to save the environment. Personally, I think the water I "waste" that way is insignificant, but OTOH if I had some land which relied on water from a well of borderline capabilities, I might have a legitimate interest in not flushing it away.

    But like the decision to use CFL light bulbs or neuter your pet, these things ought to be individual choices. The crazy thing about codes and rules is that bureaucrats and environmentalists are not the type of people who like to offer alternatives; they want to tell you what to do, by means of government edicts and rules. To their way of thinking, it's either one or the other. So, if composting toilets or waterless urinals are a good option for some people, instead of being allowed, they become something to mandate.

    Where it comes to progress, change and choice are seen as mutually incompatible.

    An interesting piece with the ironic title of "Composting toilets bring the outhouse indoors" takes a close look at these devices, notably the Clivus Multrum. People like them, and they don't realize the obvious advantages until they see them:

    "A lot of young students are thrilled about the composting toilets," said Ileana Costrut, a student who conducts tours of the building. "And when I take them downstairs and open the tanks, they are all shocked that it doesn't smell at all. They wonder why composting toilets aren't in other buildings."

    The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, Md., also uses composting toilets to symbolize their commitment to water conservation. The building, which the American Institute of Architects' Committee on the Environment labeled a "Top Ten Green Project" in 2001, also reuses rainwater for its sinks and consumes 90 percent less water than a conventional office building.

    In suburban markets from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, private-use toilets are now being installed in the cabanas of backyard swimming pools. "All of the sudden, people can quickly install a toilet that produces something they can actually use," said Chris Muir, an international accounts manager at Sun-Mar composting toilet systems. "It keeps accidents out of the pool and wet feet out of the house."

    Sounds OK to me. But beware the mighty bureaucrats!
    One challenge to placing the toilets in urban venues is height; so far composting toilets have worked in buildings no higher than three stories. But perhaps the greatest barrier composting toilets face in suburban and urban areas is strict regulations. Most municipalities require green buildings to have a conventional sewage hookup even if they use a composting system.

    "The irony is the health department requires you to be able to pollute before they'll allow you not to pollute," said John Hanson, owner of NutriCycle Systems, who installed Judith Lennox's toilet in Baltimore.

    (Emphasis supplied.)

    This is not by any means a neat and tidy left versus right issue (any more than issue of collective guilt). Lest anyone think all opposition to composting toilets is coming from the left, think again. Conservative activist Marc Morano ("previously known as Rush Limbaugh's 'Man in Washington'"), whose anti-AGW activity I admire, seems outspokenly opposed to composting toilets, and is quoted here making what I think is a very misleading argument against them:
    According to Marc Morano, of, taking us back to the outhouse is precisely where the environmentalists are leading us.

    "A growing number of environmentalists are now advocating the expanded use of compost or dry toilets worldwide to combat what they see as an international water crisis," says Morano.

    As far as H20 is concerned, the flush toilet cannot even be blamed for significant water usage, and factually accounts for only five to 10 percent of total usage. Agricultural use of water accounts for about 70 percent of worldwide water usage, while industry accounts for about 23 percent.

    But you can't expect today's environmentalists to go after agricultural use. Water is needed there to irrigate their lucrative organic gardens and fields.

    Do organic gardens and fields use more water than conventionally fertilized fields? The implication is that they do; otherwise why throw it in? Is the goal is to gratuitously stoke culture war fires? This might be a little nitpicky point, and I don't eat organic foods. But I'd almost swear I detect an antipathy towards those who do. Some of my best friends eat organic foods, and if they are to be ridiculed, I'd like it to be for a valid reason.

    A questionable analogy follows:

    The struggling poor in developing nations look to the flush toilet in much the way some North Americans look through telescopes at the stars.
    Is there any evidence to support that assertion? I've known plenty of stargazers, and that type of person is usually of a scientific bent, if not a little nerdy in a pleasant way. Stargazing tends to capture their imagination, often in a profound way. Is the implication that "the struggling poor" are in awe of flush toilets, and see them as profound? My grandparents didn't; why would they?

    Morano is right, though, to attack scary environmentalist hyperbole:

    "Proponents of dry toilets, set to convene at the first annual international Dry Toilet 2003 conference in Tampere, Finland, August 20-23, warn of "environmental disaster" if developing nations aspire to flush toilets so prevalent in the industrialized world," Morano warns us.

    Notice how environmentalists with big issues never meet in the Bronx? Travelling from village to village is beyond the means of many in developing nations. The price of an airline ticket and jetting off on environmental-friendly jumbo jets is well within the means of latter-day save-the-world environmentalists.

    Oh well, when United Nations delegates traveled to last summer's Johannesburg summit, they dined on pails of caviar, lobster, and sirloin steak smack in the middle of starving Africa.

    Shame on them for doing that. I hate the UN, and I hate busybodies. But the issue here is composting toilets, and I'd rather enjoy having one. What does their hypocritical conspicuous consumption have to do with it?

    As I wondered about that, the next thing I knew, I was suddenly accused of celebrating "primitivism":

    Says Morano: "Critics of the upcoming conference say the widespread use of dry toilets in the developing world is nothing more than a "celebration of primitivism," and call the flush toilet the "greatest public health advance in the modern era."
    Frankly, I resent the hell out of the charge of celebrating primitivism. I have been an outspoken opponent of primitivism in a number of posts like this, and I called it "anticivilizationism."

    How does the development of safe and efficient technology represent primitivism? Here we come to the disingenuous argument that it's dangerous:

    A waterless dry toilet, which generally costs about $2,000, collects human urine and feces and requires emptying by humans on a regular basis. Advocates claim the resulting matter can then be composted and used as fertilizer for food crops.

    Last winter, some 75,000 tonnes of sewer solids from the Greater Toronto Area were trucked to a landfill in Michigan. With the winter freeze long over, spraying of the sewage on farm fields in the Province of Ontario has begun.

    The practice of fertilizing farmers' fields with "biosolids" (human sludge) is legal and has been going on in Ontario and elsewhere for a number of years.

    Last summer, a medical officer of health signed papers indicating that the illness of a baby he was treating was due to living within close range of a field that had been fertilized with biosolids.

    That was before the outbreak of SARS.

    The clear implication there is that composting toilets were the culprit. But "biosolids" do not come from composting toilets; they're the byproduct from conventional sewage treatment:
    Biosolids is a term used by the water treatment industry that refers to treated sludge. Sludge, or "biosolids," are the byproduct of the treatment of domestic wastewater in a wastewater treatment plant. To create biosolids, these residuals are further treated to reduce pathogens and vector attraction by any of a number of approved methods. Nevertheless, toxic chemicals, such as PCBs, dioxin, and brominated flame retardants, remain in the "treated" sludge, as there is no technology available to remove these and tens of thousands of other chemicals from sewage sludge, the byproduct of wastewater treatment. Depending on their level of treatment and resultant pollutant content, biosolids can be used in regulated applications ranging from soil conditioning to fertilizer for food or non-food agriculture to distribution for unlimited use.
    So what's with the resort to insults and scare tactics? The danger posed by "biosolids" does not lie with the composting toilets, but with "traditional" communitarian sewage treatment facilities. Which means that the composting toilets would be decreasing, not increasing, the problem of biosolids. But most readers would not know it from reading the piece. (Well, at least he doesn't call the Greatest Generation the "Primitivist Generation.")

    Why these things have to be ideological and political, I don't know.

    Does the culture war have to intrude into my bathroom?

    Wasn't the bedroom enough?

    posted by Eric at 09:38 AM | Comments (2)

    Tom Ligon's Latest Fusion Article

    Tom has graciously provided a pdf of his most recent Analog article The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited for your edification and enjoyment. Please read the following and then follow the link provided for your own copy. Tom sends his regards to all. Enjoy!

    Copyright 2007, 2008, by Tom Ligon. This article was first published in the January-February 2008 edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Special edition with postscript for and This document may be downloaded, printed out, or linked from other sites, but please do not re-post it on other websites, or re-publish it, without the author's permission. If corrections or updates are needed, I'd like a limited number of copies to track down.

    The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited


    The experiment is underway with results expected some time this year: WB-7 First Plasma.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

    Hillary Needs Some Military Schooling

    Eric in some private e-mails thinks I have been too soft on Hillary lately. He is probably right. With Hillary rising in the polls again I think it is time to give her a few whacks.

    She says there is no military solution to what we face in Iraq. How does she explain that the surge of our military combined with a political offensive has actually strengthened the Iraqi government and started us down the road to stability. In addition our presence has bought time for the Iraqi Army to become a competent fighting force. They still have a ways to go. Which says that a premature withdrawal would leave Iraq vulnerable to the various terrorist groups and Iran. She also fails to mention that Iraq is a sovereign country and we are there at their request.

    She also thinks that Iran wants us to stay in Iraq. Sure it is a possibility. The question is: are we more dangerous to Iran when we can attack them on a broad front from Iraq if they cause trouble or if we can only maneuver from Kuwait on a narrow front. A military genius Hillary is not. She hasn't even gotten as far as map reading let alone logistics.

    She thinks that Iran wants us to stay in Iraq so they can keep whacking our troops with the various insurgent groups and all that would end if we left. She is correct on that point. She fails to take it one step further though. If we left Iran would be free to apply the tactics it has used against us with little ultimate success against the Iraqi government. I don't see the good in that. Neither does Bill O'Rielly.

    Remaining in Iraq undermines our ability to deal with other problems says Hillary. Like Iran's cats paw in Iraq - the Mahdi Army, which is getting murdered in Iraq.

    We and the Iraqi government have turned Iraq into the roach motel for for all the various terrorist groups including Al Queda in Iraq, JAM, and others. Other wise referred to as the flypaper strategy. Long derided by our lefty friends. Despite the evidence that it is working after a long and difficult period when the outcome was in doubt.

    A very wise military expert once put it this way:

    It will matter to us if Iraq totally collapses into civil war, if it becomes a failed state the way Afghanistan was, where terrorists are free to basically set up camp and launch attacks against us.
    Who was that expert? Hillary Clinton

    I do think Hillary would be a strong Commander in Chief. I also think she would be a stupid Commander in Chief if her current pronouncements reflect what she currently believes. Strong and stupid is not a good combination.

    H/T Gateway Pundit says Hillary was schooled by O'Rielly. Abe Greenwald provided the Hillary quote. All via Instapundit

    posted by Simon at 10:38 PM | Comments (4)

    How To Beat Anti-Evolutionists In 15 Seconds

    Eric has a bit up on how the anti-Evolutionists can beat the arguments for evolution in 5 minutes or less.

    Here is how to beat their argument in less than 15 seconds. It's the Internet Age - why waste time?

    My god is more powerful than yours. He set the Universe in motion billions of years ago and without further intervention here we are. Your god set the Universe in motion a short time ago and has to go around always trying to fix his screw ups. Second rate for an omnipotent omniscient being.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:30 PM | Comments (13)

    Romance from The Gadfly - Shostakovich

    We have been a little light on classical music lately. So here is a bit.

    Ruslan-yn-Fryslan, that is: Russia in the Dutch Friesland province. Violonist Galina Rezaeipour from Minsk and the Fries orchestra. Arnaud Oosterbaan conducting.

    posted by Simon at 04:21 PM | Comments (3)

    Tell me this isn't satire. Please!

    I just got a long email from Human Events which is marketing (in the manner of a self-improvement program) a how-to course which promises to turn 97 pound intellectual weaklings into Charles Atlases ready to do battle against the Great Satan Charles Darwin, by discrediting and debunking evolution.

    While I get a lot of annoying email, I ignore most of it, and normally I wouldn't have bothered blogging about this one, but the timing -- right after the controversy over Ben Stein's Darwin-inspired-the Holocaust thesis -- made me wonder about something, and I don't know quite how to put it.

    It's one thing to believe in Intelligent Design, and I certainly think it's fair to take issue with elitists who think they're entitled to stifle skepticism and dissent. But mass marketing a systematic attack on Darwin during political campaign season? Whatever can these people be thinking?

    Is it possible that the conservative movement really does want to self-destruct?

    Anyway, the anti-evolution self-improvement program Human Events is pitching is called "Tear Apart the "Theory" of Evolution -- And Win Every Debate, Every Time," and here's the introductory description:

    Show any Skeptic that Evolution is Based on Myths,
    Falsehoods and Outrageous Lies - In 5 Minutes or Less!

    Dear Friend,

    I'm fed up with Darwin...

    When evolution supporters tried to make me feel foolish for believing in God, I decided to do something about it.

    Evolution is not proven fact. Every one of their claims can be torn to shreds. All you need are the missing pieces. Today, I'll show you what they are.

    Within minutes, you'll:

    • Quickly take down self-righteous atheists...

    • Easily and accurately defend God's role as our Creator...

    • Send hardened skeptics into a state of confusion...

    • Expose the "theory" of evolution and leave scientists with their mouths hanging open...
    My name is Jeffrey Howard. If you ever challenged someone on evolution, I have great news.

    By the time you read to the end of this letter, you'll have everything you need to take on the skeptics and win. You'll never be at a loss for words. The whole evolution debate will be right in your pocket.

    Use it anytime, anywhere... It's much easier than you think. Once you get the real story, it takes less than 5 minutes!

    Got the general idea? I copied and pasted the html of the email below for anyone who wants to learn more.

    [NOTE: All hot links and payment links have been removed or modified.]

    While I have no problem defending this nonsense on the basis of free speech, I'm not sure that encouraging the growth of an organized movement against evolution is in the best interest of the fractured conservative movement.

    I'm worried not only that no good will come of this, but that if it really spreads, it could cause a great deal of harm to the Republican Party. Not only will it cause incredible fractiousness, but I can think of no better way for the Democrats to whip up support and rally the troops than to have a colorable claim that the GOP is "against evolution." I realize that many on the left already think the Republicans are a bunch of morons but is it really necessary for a leading conservative journal to go out of its way to supply then with apparent proof?

    Were I a Democratic activist, I'd be absolutely delighted.

    Continue reading "Tell me this isn't satire. Please!"

    posted by Eric at 03:53 PM | Comments (18)

    Psychedelic Therapy
    Part 1

    Part 2

    The 60s represented a period of unregulated therapy. However, not all of those participating were uninformed. A lot of the misfortune of that era was due to government hysteria. Had the government actually provided true and useful information much of the damage would have been mitigated.

    "Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize an undercover dictatorship. To restrict the art of healing to one class of men, and deny equal privilege to others, will be to constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic, and have no place in a Republic. The Constitution of this Republic should make special privilege for medical freedom as well as religious freedom." abridged quote --Benjamin Rush, M.D., a signer of the Declaration of Independence

    Eric has more on Psychedelics and the Death of Albert Hoffman.

    posted by Simon at 12:39 PM | Comments (3)

    Why they like them

    In an earlier post discussing Barack Obama's political "friendship" with Bill Ayers, I maintained that people are missing a larger point.

    Wright may have talked the talk, but Ayers walks the walk. This, IMO, makes it necessary for Obama to address the issue head-on, instead of issuing evasive statements about how Ayers is a neighborhood English teacher who did bad stuff in the past, but who's now become "respectable."

    Unfortunately, the latter happens to be very true. I think it's a major reason Obama wants to duck the issue. Ayers and his evil wife should never have been allowed to become respectable. That they did is not an indictment of Obama, but an indictment of the left -- especially the academic, America-hating, left. These people are deeply embedded in the highest echelons of the Democratic intelligentsia, and Obama does not want to offend them.

    In the post I also noted the systematic way that unrepetent terrorists are hired and promoted (provided that they never repent of their leftism; repentent radicals become Great Satans like David Horowitz), and gave other examples.

    My point is not to shock anyone, but to shed a bit of light on the nature of power. I think these unrepentant murderers in our midst are rendered respectable not in spite of their murderous actions, but because of them.

    Anthropologically, the willingness to kill people is a valuable asset. Hmmm... Maybe "anthropologically" is a bad word choice. I think this is more on a gut instinct, animal level, perhaps touching on that reptilian brain which lies within each of us. Killers who get away with killing are respected as powerful people, and as sources of power.

    Now, right there I've touched on another definitional issue. What is respect? What is respectable? We all respect a mob hit man, but it would hardly do to call him respectable. Yet made mobsters who have gotten away with murder are called "men of respect" are they not? But to be deemed truly respectable in the social sense, they have to legitimize their money, by making huge donations to the right politicians, and the right charities.

    The unrepentant former Weather Underground, OTOH, need not go to so much trouble. They are considered inherently worthy of respect, as they are seen as having the moral authority that many people attach to the willingness to kill for a cause.

    But that bothers me. Why should mob bosses (generally not traitors to their country) have to do it the hard way? Why do they have to work so hard to become legitimate, while Weather Underground terrorists are considered already legitimate? Is that fair?

    (There I go, talking about fairness in the context of legitimizing murderers. You'd almost think I was on LSD....)

    It's not so much the legitimizing of murderers that bothers me, it's the denial involved. If you want to respect a killer, that's one thing, but why not just come out and admit it?

    Why launder the respect in layers of John Lennon "Imagine" bullshit?


    It's as if they're arguing that these people so loved peace that they were willing to kill for it.

    Spare me.

    posted by Eric at 11:55 AM | Comments (2)

    You can brake for hallucinations, but there's no breaking with death.

    In the wake of Albert Hofmann's death, I thought a few words would be in order.

    The guy was a chemist who inadvertently stumbled onto LSD during World War II. And people have been stumbling over it ever since. No, I don't mean stumbling in the sense of being intoxicated, but in the sense of really not knowing what to do or how to deal with LSD -- either as a substance or as a political issue.

    Yes, it is political. No, it should not be. (There I go, making my usual pompous judgments about what should be political -- as if I have or should have any control. It's just my way of stating my opinion.)

    It's more than politics. LSD goes to the heart of the culture war. Take the first paragraph of today's Inquirer obituary:

    GENEVA, Switzerland - Albert Hofmann, 102, the father of the mind-altering drug LSD whose medical discovery inspired - and arguably corrupted - millions in the 1960s hippie generation, died Tuesday at his home in Burg im Leimental, Switzerland.
    "Arguably" "corrupted." There is no agreement over what constitutes corruption. LSD is a drug, and the effects of drugs wear off. You take it, and the effects last maybe eight hours. Whether that experience is a form of corruption is a subject beyond a blog post, maybe beyond a Ph.D. thesis. Some people believe passionately that LSD corrupted anyone who took it, while others believe passionately that it gave them spiritual insights. Arguments between these two camps are about as likely to be resolved as arguments between devout atheists and devout believers. Each of whom tend to believe the other side is "corrupt."

    There is little question, though, that the LSD experience activates neural pathways which are not normally activated, and that it causes people to experience what we call "hallucinations." Now, from a logical standpoint, hallucinations are real because they are there at the time they occur. As far as what to make of them, discussion of that tends to degenerate to an argument over "shoulds." Are they insights? Are they valuable? Or are they delusions? Are they evil? Should they be medicated out of existence, and the user punished for having had them? There's another approach, which is to remain as neutral and objective in analysis as possible. From the point of a user or a nonuser, who gets to decide whether a "good trip" is good? And by what standard is a "bad trip" actually bad? I don't mean to sound like a moral relativist (although I don't understand why morality is implicated in evaluating the actions of brain chemistry), but considering the nature of the hallucinatory experience, wouldn't the maintenance of skepticism be in order?

    If we can't be skeptical about our hallucinations, then what can we be skeptical about? This strikes me as common sense, and actually, the inculcation of healthy skepticism has "saved" many a "victim" of we'd call a "bad acid trip." The Merry Pranksters were an early group of acid heads who threw a series of parties called the Acid Tests, and in Tom Wolfe's book on the subject (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), he quotes this bit of advice the Pranksters used to give inexperienced users who got freaked out:

    Neither accept nor deny.
    They found that supplying that sort of perspective could alter the nature of the trip. It's probably good advice even in a non-LSD setting, and it really isn't much different from the "Look before you leap" maxim. That does not mean I would advocate putting this bumpersticker on your car:


    There are such things as police, and some of them might not appreciate the philosophical nuances, or the humor.

    Hallucinations pass, like most things in life, just as life itself eventually passes. (Eventually, and much to my unending horror, I was to learn firsthand that while hallucinations may be temporary, death is permanent.) I've never seen the point of debating what hallucinations mean, might mean, or might have meant. But I want to try to be fair to those who charge that LSD "corrupts" users, because I think an argument can be made that seeing too much can be a bad thing, in some cases. Not only is there a potential for delusions, but maintaining the kind of skepticism it takes to see past hallucinations might cause a certain "so what" attitude to develop, which could lead to forms of relativism inappropriate to dealing with ordinary day to day realities. While I'd be hesitant to call it "corruption," the realist in me recognizes that the argument can be made that it isn't "good for society" to have millions of tax paying citizens realizing that their jobs and careers mean little to nothing in terms of the big picture, and that they might be happier carving wood, raising goats and living in teepees.

    But as culture war issues go, people deciding to pull up stakes and move is a minor issue. Like it or not, LSD generated a multifaceted culture war -- both for it and against it, and IMO the worst move was making it illegal. That's because LSD is in a world apart from ordinary drugs that people take to get high. Aside from the fact that it is not addictive and does not produce a high in the ordinary sense of the word, because it goes to the essence of the thought processes that make up the human brain, every experience is extremely personal in nature. The idea of the government intruding into something like that is analogous to the government getting into sexuality, and thus culture war fallout from criminalized LSD became inevitable.

    LSD being a brain drug, the imprisonment of people for LSD thus approached (or at least so many users believed) Orwellian imprisonment of people for thought crimes. Culture war issues involving lifestyles (like hair, tattoos, etc.) are one thing, but when you start putting people in jail, that's when things begin to be seen along the lines of "war."

    It has long struck me that what people do with their brains is analogous to what they do with "their" bodies. The reason "their" is in quotes is because women are said to have the right to abort fetuses because it's "their" body, while the other side claims the body of a fetus is not theirs, but the fetus's. However, society made a determination that because of the right to privacy in "their" bodies, women have a right to cut out those fetuses. Under what moral basis of rights does a right allow that, but not allow the same woman to ingest chemicals? I've never been able to understand it, and it all strikes me as quite arbitrary. (Not a new argument, of course.)

    The Albert Hofmann Foundation recognizes the inherent culture war aspects posed LSD, and analogizes to the practice of Zapotec Indians who ingested a potent hallucinogen -- and the prejudices of the Conquistadors who wanted to stamp it out:

    Conquistador Catholics, already sensitized to heresy by the blows of Protestant reformers, arrived in the New World predisposed to find the devil's work in the practices of yet un-Christianized natives. The devil was God's alter ego in the black-and-white schema of their faith. The new Administration had no choice but to root out devilish practices where they found them, and turn native ways to those of the "true" religion.
    Examples of resistance are given.
    "These seeds ... are held in great veneration ... They place offerings to the seeds ... in secret places so that the offerings cannot be found if a search is made. They also place these seeds among the idols of their ancestors .... The natives do these things with so much respect that when some transgressor of the law who has the seeds in his possession is arrested and is asked for the paraphernalia which are used in taking ololiuqui ... or for the seeds themselves, he denies vehemently that he knows anything about the practices. The natives do this not so much because of fear of the law as because of the veneration in which they hold the seed ololiuqui. They do not wish to offend ololiuqui with demonstrations before the judges of the use of the seeds and with public destruction of the seed by burning."
    Cultural tension is understandable, but is waging war against people who alter their brain chemistry the best way to stop them?

    I wonder.

    Ann Althouse wondered too as she pondered this quote from Albert Hofmann:

    "Under LSD, however, I entered into realities which were as real and even more real than the one of everyday." He also "became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the plant and animal kingdom. I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us."
    Asks Althouse,
    Reading those lines, does it not make you sad that LSD is illegal?
    Sad, but like a bad acid trip, the sadness is relative.

    posted by Eric at 10:43 AM | Comments (5)

    "Where were they?"

    Wall Street Journal Editor Daniel Henninger wants to know:

    Barack Obama was bleeding by Monday and needed cover. Where, when he could have used them, were Obama's oh-so-famous endorsers: Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, Oprah, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Tom Daschle, Amy Klobuchar, Claire McCaskill, Jay Rockefeller, John Lewis, Toni Morrison, Roger Wilkins, Eric Holder, Robert Reich, Ted Sorenson, Alice Walker, David Wilhelm, Cornel West, Clifford Alexander, Donald McHenry, Patricia Wald, Newton Minow?

    Where were all the big-city mayors who went over to the Obama camp: Chicago's Richard Daley, Cleveland's Frank Jackson, Atlanta's Shirley Franklin, Washington's Adrian Fenty, Newark's Cory Booker, Baltimore's Sheila Dixon?

    Via Ann Althouse, who asks,
    So why did they hang Obama out to dry?
    I think the answer is that these people are for the most part politicians, who by their nature think only of themselves, and place their political survival above and ahead of all other considerations. First, they're for the most part not real friends of Obama; it is axiomatic that if you want a friend in politics, get a dog. (Harry Truman said that, or might as well have.)

    There's also that old saying that everybody wants to be with a winner. But this race is so close that the slightest ripple can be disruptive, and Jeremiah Wright can hardly be described as a ripple. He's more like a train wreck, but even that doesn't quite describe him, because he just keeps on wrecking the train. He's more on the level of a psychotic railroad engineer from Hell. Because he is forever linked with Obama, he has the ability to damage him as often as he (or whoever hires him) desires.

    Now, without getting into paranoid conspiracy speculation about whether Team Hillary was behind the latest smash-up, once the trainwreck occurred, another political principle kicked in beyond mere survival. That's damage control, which is driven by fear. The Clintons are known to be mean, vindictive, vengeful people. This is so well known that it's a major factor in the wholesale desertions of the former Clintonistas. They don't merely dislike them, but they fear them. So naturally, when it looks like Hillary might be the nominee again, it's time to play political CYA. Lie low for awhile, and wait till the coast is clear.

    After all, who wants to get on one of Hillary's enemy's lists?

    If Hillary had any sense (and I think she has a lot of sense), she'd be running the equivalent of a political amnesty right now.

    All is forgiven, and welcome back!

    But it's a limited time offer so you better hurry!

    Or you'll be sorry.

    posted by Eric at 08:25 AM | Comments (1)

    Obama's Books Free For Download

    I wonder if these are the originals or the expurgated versions?

    Here is the link: Obama's books.

    Obama's Books another link.

    Direct links:

    Audacity of Hope [pdf] inspired by the Great Jeremiah Wright.
    Dreams From My Father [pdf] inspired by his socialist father.

    And an essay by his socialist father Problems Facing Our Socialism [pdf]

    Some commentary on Problems Facing Our Socialism can be found at Presto Pundit. Ben Smith and Jeffrey Ressner comment at Politico.

    H/T Stop Obama

    Hillary has some pretty socialist ideas herself.

    "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
    Hillary Clinton
    June 29, 2004
    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:00 AM | Comments (1)

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