"Race is what defines us" (Especially if you dig holy dirt...)

Can dirt be holy?

Is there such a thing as "sacred soil"?

If you're religious about physical things, I guess dirt as well as locations can be considered sacred. Certainly, a good argument can be made that important graveyards, or places where large numbers of people died -- such as Auschwitz or Gettysburg -- are worthy of a certain kind of reverence. Whether that makes the dirt itself holy is another question.

When I was on the Berkeley Police Review Commission, People's Park activists used to scream that the park was "sacred ground," and they meant it.

Here in Philadelphia, local activists (in an ongoing effort I have blogged about repeatedly) have pressured officials from the notoriously guilty Bush regime into creating a holy place out of the buried ruins of the first presidential mansion. Not because George Washington lived there, but because he kept his slaves there. It is believed that slavery needs to move from being an unfortunate reality at the time of the founding to being a central feature.

My own view of this is that the most important feature was the development of the idea of freedom itself, manifested in the break with England, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. That many of the founders were themselves flawed, that they did not live up to the principles they enshrined, well, that is certainly an important part of history, as well as a feature of man. One of the founding's contradictions is that the founders' ideas were incompatible with slavery, even though slavery -- and slaves -- accompanied many (not all) of the founders.

However, to say that the country was "founded on slavery" because there were slaveholding founders is at least as much a mistake as saying that the country was "founded on Christianity" or "founded on the Ten Commandments" because many of the founders were devoutly religious. George Washington used to have insubordinate soldiers flogged; does that mean the country was founded on flogging?

But logic be damned; according to the law of identity politics, it is very important that people have "their own narrative," so slavery has to become a central feature of the founding. The first thing Philadelphia tourists ought to see is the sacred soil where slaves once walked.

...black enslavement at the nation's birth and in its birthplace has taken its place as a painful, essential topic of discussion and commemoration. In 2010, a memorial to the President's House and its enslaved occupants is to open right outside the front door of the Liberty Bell Center.

This change is a monumental revision of America's founding mythology, historians argue - one that has not diminished the sanctity of sacred ground but magnified it.

"The whole concept of sacred ground and the creation of sacred space has been extended by what's happened," said Randall Miller, a professor of American history at St. Joseph's University, who has pressed Independence Park officials to address the issues raised by the site.

"We're not just looking for history. We're not just looking for information on free blacks or slavery. We're going deep into discovering ourselves as a nation."

In this case, going deep means peering into a sacred hole:
In the spring and summer of 2007, Philadelphia witnessed something unprecedented, as hundreds of thousands of people streamed across the city to look at a hole - an archaeological exploration of the house site at Sixth and Market Streets.

Washington's slaves lived there when he was president and Philadelphia was the nation's temporary capital in the 1790s. Though John Adams, his successor as president and occupant, opposed slavery and held no human property, the hole kept its redolence of the unspeakable, for some a wound exposing a painful past, for others a scooped-out vessel holding a culture's complex secret self.

Such carefully chosen words. The hole kept its redolence of the unspeakable. Never mind that no one really knows who used the hole; it could have been traversed by everyone who occupied the place. It has earned a permanent stench of slavery, and for that it is sacred.

What's in this hole? Foundations of a house which belonged to Robert Morris, and which was temporarily donated by him for the residential use of the first two presidents. Washington had slaves there, Adams did not. The house was eventually torn down. Hardly magical or mystical, unless you believe that the foundations of the house have deep and hidden meaning, and that the soil is "sacred":

The excavation, done under the auspices of the National Park Service and the city, ignited imaginations and intense conversations as more than 300,000 visitors watched archaeologists expose the symbolic foundations of black slavery and governing white power in the literal foundations of the first U.S. executive mansion.

"Here, the powerful," said one man, pointing to the uncovered granite footings of a great bow window designed by Washington and said to be the precursor of the oval rooms of the White House.

"Here, the powerless," he continued, pointing to kitchen foundations a few feet away, all that remained of the world where Hercules, Washington's chef, worked his culinary magic before escaping to freedom. Nearby the outlines of an underground passage linked the world of kitchen and the world of bow windows; those who passed between them did so invisibly.

From spring till August, when the foundations were temporarily re-covered to preserve them, visitors who crowded the viewing platform stood transfixed, looking down on America's intertwined, parallel history of slavery and freedom.

Sorry, but I think they're reading a bit much into the foundations of a house.

But the word "sacred" is used seven times, and the Inquirer is so caught up with the magical powers of the narrative that it is reported that when the archaeologists "exposed this sacred ground," they were "releasing its power." I kid you not:

When the excavation was completely open and the worlds of George and Martha Washington were revealed, so intimately interlaced with the worlds of Hercules and Oney Judge, Michael Coard ventured down, 15 feet below street level, to the area that had once been the kitchen.

He says he felt a power and a connection unlike any he had felt before in America.

"I'm down in the pit at Sixth and Market feeling the same physical, cultural and spiritual sensation standing there on that ground, where Hercules stood in the kitchen, that I felt when I touched the ground in Africa in 1996," Coard said.

Archaeology exposed this sacred ground, releasing its power. And while the President's House site has been the most dramatic example at Independence Park of archaeology's potency, it is not the only one. Perhaps more than any other single activity undertaken at the park, archaeology has triggered the greatest change and precipitated the greatest renewed interest in America's civic origins.

What amazed me was to read that in addition to the slaves, the house was actually occupied by Martha Washington and Abigail Adams! Something which park superintendent Cynthia MacLeod hopes might be worthy of historical notation.
"We are pleased now also to have the tangible connections to relate the stories of many individuals previously not as well represented, such as James Dexter, all the free and enslaved Africans at the President's House including Oney Judge and Hercules, and, I hope, Martha Washington and Abigail Adams who also occupied the President's House," she said.
Well, I'd hate to be in Ms. MacLeod's position, as her predecessors stand accused of resisting and balking in the face of something called the "power of the real." Yes, holes are powerful -- especially when they invoke racial narratives:
Nevertheless, more than once in recent years, the park and its partners resisted archaeological efforts, balking at the pursuit of what local historian Ed Lawler has called "the power of the real."

Yet each time an excavation has been performed, it has uncovered something extraordinary - significant forgotten or unknown characters, the complexities of 18th-century life and previously hidden connections to 21st-century America, new history, new facts, all leading to heightened public interest.

It is not an exaggeration to call archaeology a key driver of the transformation of Independence Park, carrying it from the received traditional history of Founding Fathers and 20th-century veneration of their unassailability, to the complexities of the 21st century, where greatness is not denied but made more human.

"What we are looking at [through archaeology] are people telling their own story," said St. Joseph's historian Miller. "They're not writing it down, but they're doing it their own way and we have to go down and discover it.

"It's not just sacred ground - it's the realness of it that's so powerful. It's not reproduced. The African American story is there staring us in the face. Race is what defines us. There it is."

That's the real lesson.

It's all about race.

Isn't it nice to know that modern America can finally agree on something?

This is all so nonsensical to me that it's hard to know what to say, and I'm barely resisting the temptation to violate Godwin's Law. (But I do feel obliged to observe that the notion that defining people by race has a poor historical track record.)

Of course, if you're one of those recalcitrant reactionaries who don't believe race should define us, there's a term for you. You're guilty of "color-blind racism."

In other words, if you don't think race should define us, you're a racist.

As to unbelievers in sacred ground, they're probably guilty of an emergent form of blasphemy.

posted by Eric at 10:10 AM | Comments (14)

The American University of Iraq needs your books!

My favorite writer on everything has some words on "how you can do your bit to build democracy":

In the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniya, the American University of Iraq has just opened its doors. And it is appealing for people to donate books. ... As anyone who has read the Arab Human Development Reports will know, the Arab region--which at the time of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad was one of the world centers of humanistic learning and philosophy--is in a profound crisis of intellectual unfreedom. It boasts of no great centers of study; it translates pathetically few books from other languages and cultures; it is prone to waves of intolerance and fanaticism under which books are actually burned. Thus the attempt to reverse this trend and to lay the foundation of a liberal and cosmopolitan education for the next generation of educated Iraqis is of the highest importance from every conceivable point of view.

And last but not least, how:

So here's what to do. Have a look at the university's Web site. Get some decent volumes together, pass the word to your friends and co-workers to do the same, and send them off to:

Nathan Musselman
The American University of Iraq--Sulaimani
Building No. 7, Street 10
Quarter 410
Ablakh Area
Sulaimani, Iraq
(+964) (0)770-461-5099

It's important to include the number at the end.

We've been going through our 2,500 books over the last few days, sorting out doubles and the like, and should have a nice package to send soon.

posted by Dennis at 08:00 AM | Comments (1)

"inherently more offensive to women"
A simple cup of joe not always so simple

The days of women fetching coffee for the boss still linger in some workplaces

That was the headline on a story on the front page of the Business section of today's Inquirer. A perfectly good headline -- if disapproving in a feminist sort of way. But I couldn't find it online.

While the same article (by Jane M. Von Bergen) appears at the website, it has a different and more subdued headline "Hot controversy: Fetching coffee for the boss." A female receptionist was asked to get coffee for her boss. She refused, and was fired. So she brought suit in federal court alleging a "hostile and discriminatory work environment":

Nine minutes after receptionist Tamara Klopfenstein complained - for the second time - about getting her bosses coffee, she was fired.

"I don't expect to serve and wait on you by making and serving you coffee every day," Klopfenstein e-mailed to her boss at National Sales & Supply L.L.C., of Bensalem.

Manager Jason Shrager told her the issue wasn't "open for debate."

Instead, the issue caused a brouhaha in federal court.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller couldn't resist punning his way through a decision on the deeper issue - whether Klopfenstein's managers had created a hostile and discriminatory work environment by requiring the receptionist to fetch them coffee.

He wrote that she had no grounds for her complaints of sexual discrimination.

Please pour Judge Schiller decaf before he puns again.

"The act of getting coffee is not, by itself, a gender-specific act," Schiller wrote. The fact that a vice president wrote "looks nice, dresses well," on notes when she was hired also doesn't add up to discrimination, the judge wrote.

"While the behavior of plaintiff's supervisors may have been rude, gauche, or undesirable, their actions do not violate federal or state antidiscrimination laws," Schiller wrote.

Klopfenstein, who worked at the company for six weeks in 2006, plans to appeal, said her attorney, Timothy M. Kolman, of Langhorne.

While I'm glad the judge threw out this legalistic exercise in frivolity (opinion here in pdf), I had a feeling that the author of the piece might have been leaving some of the details out, so I looked elsewhere. Sure enough, the most interesting stuff was not reported. Either that or whoever edits the business section (which is where the article was) thought that details like these shouldn't be read by sensitive Philadelphians:
Plaintiffs attorneys Timothy M. Kolman and Rufus A. Jennings of Timothy M. Kolman & Associates in Langhorne, Pa., said in an interview that they intend to appeal the ruling, and that Schiller erred by failing to recognize that some tasks are "inherently more offensive to women."

Schiller also erred, they said, by dismissing a retaliation claim in which Klopfenstein complained that she was fired immediately after she complained that she should not be expected to get coffee when it was not one of her listed job duties.

According to court papers, Klopfenstein worked for six weeks as a part-time receptionist and data entry clerk. In her suit, she claims that the office environment was tinged with sexism from the very beginning when a vice president of the company made a note after her initial interview that she "looks nice, dresses well." After just a few weeks on the job, Klopfenstein claims that a male co-worker invited her to lunch in an e-mail that said "I feel bad you have been working here for a couple of weeks and we haven't gotten to know each other yet."

In her deposition, Klopfenstein testified that she found the invitation "very offensive" because "there is no reason why a man and a woman should go out to lunch together without any other party around. To me that's a date." (Emphases added.)

Via Crime & Federalism.

The things that pass for sexism these days!


I can remember when workplace sexual harassment meant, you know, sexual harassment. I have a serious problem with the idea that the task of getting someone a cup of coffee is "inherently more offensive to women" -- even if we put aside whether it constitutes sexual harassment. Logically, that would mean that getting a cup of coffee is inherently less offensive to men, right? Otherwise, how could it possibly more more offensive to women?

To see this out, let's assume getting coffee is less offensive to men than women. Does that mean it should become "men's work," and that only men should be asked to fetch coffee, lest women be offended by being asked? Can anyone tell me how that wouldn't be sexist? If a man worked somewhere and could show that only men were tasked with getting coffee, couldn't he sue?

And why couldn't women also sue? If we adopt the plaintiff's position, and the company were to show more sensitivity by defering to women, what would stop a woman from turning around and claiming that the company was preventing her from doing what had become "men's work"?

It also bothers me that it's considered "sexist" to tell a woman she looks good or "dresses well." If someone (including me) tries to look nice and dresses well, compliments are always appreciated. So once again, if we assume it's OK to say that a man dresses well, but sexist to say that about a woman, then what would stop women from suing for not being told they dressed well while men were being told they were? And what about telling an employee he or she dresses poorly? Seriously, suppose the boss wants men and women dressed for success. Does he get in more trouble for telling a man to dress nicer than if he tells a woman to dress nicer? As to the idea that a man can eat lunch with a man but not with a woman, please! If that isn't sexist, what is?

Pretty soon, employers will not be in charge of their workplaces. The courts will.

I'm glad at least one court drew the line.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Comments appreciated.

(But who's going to get me a cup of coffee?)

posted by Eric at 04:35 PM | Comments (60)

There really is a hockey stick!
(And it's very alarming)

I keep hearing and reading that the average world temperatures reached their peak in 1998, and leveled off since. This article -- titled "There IS a problem with global warming... it stopped in 1998" is typical:

For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).

Yes, you did read that right. And also, yes, this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In response to these facts, a global warming devotee will chuckle and say "how silly to judge climate change over such a short period". Yet in the next breath, the same person will assure you that the 28-year-long period of warming which occurred between 1970 and 1998 constitutes a dangerous (and man-made) warming. Tosh. Our devotee will also pass by the curious additional facts that a period of similar warming occurred between 1918 and 1940, well prior to the greatest phase of world industrialisation, and that cooling occurred between 1940 and 1965, at precisely the time that human emissions were increasing at their greatest rate.

Why wasn't there a much huger volume of hysteria back in 1998, when temperatures were supposedly at their peak, than there is now?

Other than the fact that Bill Clinton was president then, and George Bush is president now, I am at a loss to explain this phenomenon.

Anyway, look at the graph:


(CO2 is in pink, while temperatures are in red and blue.)

You can click on the above to see a larger version, and the URLs given are the following:

UAH NCDC LT: http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/public/msu/t2lt/uahncdc.lt

Hadley CRUT: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/te...hadcrut3gl.txt

So why is it that every time I read about Global Warming, it is taken as a given that increased CO2 levels correlate with higher temperatures?

The only correlation I can see is a political one.

So, if we superimpose a line representing global warming alarmist rhetoric (measured in parts per million, naturally) over the same period, that proverbial "hockey stick" we so often hear about immediately becomes visible.

Very alarming, I'd say. Why, the alarmism is off the chart!

How much more can we endure before the global economy is ruined?

(Actually, the chart might be understating the case if we consider the escalating nature of radical alarmist rhetoric.)

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, a link to what's best described as "Ye Olde Hockey Sticke." Plus, an upside down hockey stick from the colden days of present and future past!

No seriously!

MORE: This dire warning from Salon.com (in an article titled "Anti-science conservatives must be stopped") reminded me that not everyone is on the same page:

If conservatives block serious action until the 2020s, then the nation and the world will begin a desperate race to avert catastrophe. By then, the world's carbon dioxide emissions and concentrations will be so high that the relatively easy market-based technology strategy will not be able to stop us from crossing the point of no return, when major amplifying feedbacks kick in and undermine all efforts to avert catastrophe. The most important feedback is probably the melting of the permafrost and tundra, which could release 1,000 billion tons of carbon -- more than the entire atmosphere contains today -- much of it in the form of methane, which is 20 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

I call the period from 2025 to 2050 "Planetary Purgatory." Assuming conservatives block a major reversal in U.S. policies in the next decade, by the 2020s, everyone will know the grim fate that awaits the next 50 generations, including widespread desertification, the loss of the inland glaciers that provide water to a billion people, sea level rise of 80 feet or more at a rate that might hit 6 inches a decade and extinction of most species on land and sea. Maybe then, as the miseries of global warming overtake everyday life, a backlash against conservatives will begin to rise, one that will ultimately relegate that political movement to the dustbin of history

But what if conservatives block serious action to stop warming, and the planet cools? Who will be given credit for it?

posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (5)

Neither sense, nor reason, nor customer complaint ...

This is just to say that despite calls by others in years and decades past, now really is the time to privatize the postal service.

My girlfriend and I returned home tonight after a lovely evening with friends to find everything as we had left it. We'd already received our daily ration of junk mail and bank statements by late morning. But she'd been waiting for a few packages, and decided to check "Track and Confirm" online. Imagine our surprise to find that one package had supposedly been delivered at 4:00 PM, and a notice of attempted delivery had been left at the same time.

There was no notice. There was no package.

What there was, however, was a sneaking suspicion that the carrier had left these across town with the people whose mail we always end up with. See, we have the same apartment number. Different complex. Different street. Different plus-4 codes (which we've begun using to help the Postal Service keep things straight).

But hey, I'm a reasonable guy. I know that these things happen. It's just that they'd a hell of a lot easier to fix or prevent in the real world. You know the real world? Where customers can actually complain, or find a phone number or an e-mail address? The real world where competition means those who fail to satisfy their customers make way for the rest?

Can't I send off an e-mail to customer service, leave a message for my local agent, or log in to my account? No? Doesn't that seem odd in 2008? Can't I even find the phone number for my local branch? (800) ASK-USPS? Are you sure that's local?

posted by Dennis at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

Shred your burdens

Like many people, I have paper problems. Paper that I do not want but cannot throw away for security reasons accumulates to the point where there's too much to easily shred, and on top of that Coco hates my shredder. I kid you not:


So, my default pattern has been to simply fill boxes and empty dog food bags with the unwanted, unshredded paper and let it accumulate. Silly me; I figured I'd "get around to shredding it one of these days."


Not surprisingly, in the past eight years, "one of these days" just never seemed to come around. The accumulation of unwanted paper had become unbearable, just in my way. Paper has a way of making you feel trapped. Cornered.

A lot of it is simply junk mail. I get a lot of junk mail -- especially the kind I don't feel comfortable throwing in the trash.

I'm not alone. Junk mail is a national problem of vast proportions:

The amount of paper junk mail sent each year in the USA is staggering -- some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened. Even if you recycle there are still enormous environmental costs in terms of ink, energy to produce deliver and recycle the paper, recycling inefficiencies and loss of virgin forest to create the high quality glossy paper much junk mail uses.
I haven't fact-checked these claims, here's one that's even scarier:
You'd think the junk mailers would compensate people for their time, wouldn't you?

Aside from the human inconvenience angle, from an environmental standpoint junk mail just plain sucks. I'm no greenie weenie (and I'm against the government getting involved), but is this really necessary?

More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail....

...Creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 2.8 million cars.....

...About 28 billion gallons of water are wasted to produce and recycle junk each year....

...You waste about 70 hours a year dealing with junk mail.

So what are you supposed to do?

One rather bizarre project I don't quite understand transforms junk mail into spam. Or if you're like this enterprising young Scotsman, you can enjoy countless hours plotting retaliatory schemes against the junk mailers (link):

There's also "How To Stop Junk Mail And Get Revenge" (link):

Fun! He argues that the more people do this, the more likely they are to stop sending unsolicited junk. Actually, I think the more people do this, the more likely the direct marketers will be to persuade Congress to make it illegal to engage in retaliatory or vexatious mailings (if they haven't already).

Really, though. Sometimes it's as if your mailbox has become a free-for-all commercial littering zone at your expense.

One thing that seems clear is that the Postal System isn't about to do anything to stop it:

According to the USPS and other organizations, the Post Office receives anywhere between 50 to 80 percent of its revenue from junk mail.
So maybe it's good for the national economy or something. I don't know. What I do know is that it's incredibly inconvenient.

Fortunately, today I was lucky enough to learn about NBC10's Great Shredder Event, which was held today at Rose Tree Park in Media, PA.

I drove right in, and there they were -- waiting to help:


The shredding was done absolutely free by Iron Mountain Secure Shredding, in trucks like this one, which shredded mine:


An Iron Mountain staffer came to my car and dumped my boxes and bags of paper into bins which were wheeled to the truck, then hoisted inside and dumped into the hopper.


A TV monitor lets you watch the entire process:


I had two bins full of paper, which had weighed the car down on the drive to the event. Not only did the car feel lighter, but I felt incredibly liberated on the drive back.

Just think. In the old days people got to use fire!

posted by Eric at 02:15 PM | Comments (6)

Two (or more) can play?

Will the decadent West be conquered by decadent Islamic sexual tolerance?

If that sounds like too much of a mouthful, read "Converting the West to Islam Through ... Sex?" by Timothy R. Furnish, whose Ph.D. is in Islamic History, and who is a former U.S. Army Arabic interrogator and college professor.

Furnish recently learned of a Yahoo group MahdiUniteMuslims which is propounding the idea that promulgating Shia-approved multiple, "temporary" serial marriages will so popularize Islam that the West will be unable to resist:

For the past few weeks MUM -- which is dedicated to uniting the Islamic world through belief in the Mahdi, the "rightly-guided one" of Islamic traditions who will create a global caliphate -- has hosted a discussion about mut`ah, Shi`i temporary marriage, the "secret weapon that will convert the West to Islam in the later days before the advent of Imam al Mahdi" according to the ingenious Muslim who first advanced the idea (and is there any doubt it was a guy?). His starting point is the Islamic tradition that in the last days before the Mahdi returns, women will greatly outnumber men worldwide. This Muslim Hugh Hefner opines that "the West will not consider mut`ah as marriage but more at par [sic] with mistress or girlfriend though we consider it a valid form of marriage."
The MUMs (what is this? MUM's the word?) point out that as a practical matter, no one goes to jail for polygamy in the United States. (Well, unless you're a fundamentalist Mormon, or a member of a group that isn't feared by the people who run our lives.... Yes, it is a double standard.)

I'm not sure most American men are quite so weak as to flock towards Islam simply because of the promise of a sexual loophole. It's like, who needs a piece of paper purporting to "allow" what the West doesn't consider legitimate anyway, but which you can already do? But I suppose there are some who would join a religion to get approval of what they want. As a practical matter, how many men manage having multiple women they actually provide for, married or not?

What intrigues me about this movement, though, is the offer to bestow religious "legality" on that which is illegal. Polygamy. Yet there's nothing to stop men from screwing as many women as they want, and taking care of the kids who result, and (I suppose) executing partnership agreements. They just can't marry legally. In that respect, it's a bit analogous to same sex marriage. And while there are already plenty of religious groups and churches that will perform the latter, does that really cause people to join them? Why would a different result obtain in the case of heterosexual polygamy temptation?

Still, it's a fascinating read, and the author contends this movement is more dangerous than WMDs:

I fear that our mut`ah advocate may have hit upon a policy more dangerous to American civilization than WMDs or even the intellectual appeal of Islam purely as a religion: the siren song of sex. Men are notoriously weak in this regard, and if mut`ah is allowed to exist, even sub rosa, how long will it be before irreligious, or even lapsed Christian, American males begin to see the sexual advantages of Shi`i Islam? Some would certainly argue that mut`ah is a more realistic marriage institution for the male of the species than that rather more demanding serial monogamy which Christianity has mandated. And even in these days of rising ethanol demand, a handful of corn is not that hard to come by.
Not to sound like a theological Machiavellian, but why can't the Christian churches offer a little competition? The Episcopal Church, for example, has shown itself to be theologically and liturgically creative, right?

A little more revisionism might be called for. Why, the foot in the door might be bisexual couples in need of, um, "relationship expansionism." Clearly, Islam has nothing to offer them. Not now, nor in the immediate future.

That's just off the top of my head, and please bear in mind that this is just a quick blog post and I have not yet begun to seriously theorize* about other possibilities for religious/sexual hedonism competition.

However, I think it's safe to say that if these desperate "MahdiUniteMuslims" imagine that they can beat the West at the hedonism game, they've got something else coming....

* Muslim competitors be warned! I was theorizing about certain "religious rites" during the first week of this blog!

posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (1)

Ira B. Tucker Sr., 1925-2008

I was very sorry to read that the lead singer of the Dixie Hummingbirds, Ira B. Tucker Sr. has died -- right here in Philadelphia:

Ira B. Tucker Sr., 83, of North Philadelphia, one of gospel's most celebrated voices and lead singer of the venerable Dixie Hummingbirds, died of heart failure Tuesday at Kindred Hospital in the Northeast.

Mr. Tucker joined the Dixie Hummingbirds in 1938 in Greenville, S.C., when he was 13, 10 years after James B. Davis gathered a group of friends to sing a cappella. Mr. Tucker brought his style of gospel and blues to the group and the 'Birds soared in worldwide performances for the next 70 years.

The Hummingbirds spent their first decade together "wildcatting" and establishing their reputation in one small town after another. They recorded their debut record on the Decca label in 1939.

Davis, who died last year, ruled his gospel singers with an unforgiving, steady hand. No women could ride in their 1940 DeSoto while they toured and no drinking was allowed.

The Hummingbirds - named for the only bird that can fly forward and backward when that was an apt metaphor for the group's fortunes - had some tough times. They were stopped for a bad headlight, speeding, or simply because they were black and riding in a fancy car. One night after playing in Spartanburg, S.C., they were hauled into jail. An inmate who recognized them said, "Man, you got the Dixie Hummingbirds."

The officers let them sing behind bars. "We had some kind of program that night," Davis said in a 1998 Inquirer story. "You would have thought we were in church. We made the news the next day. They said if everyone were like the Dixie Hummingbirds, this would be a great world to live in."

They've played with and inspired some of the best, including Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, and others:
Stevie Wonder said in 1998, "No other group has been more important in the history of African American music." The 'Birds were credited with inspiring singers as disparate as B.B. King, James Brown, the Temptations, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin and Bobby Bland.

In 1973, Paul Simon picked the Hummingbirds to sing "Loves Me Like a Rock" with him on his second solo album. The 'Birds then cut their own version of the song and won a Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance.

The NY Times also has a nice obituary with more. I've been a fan of their music for years, own a couple of their CDs, and figured the least I could do is a tribute to Mr. Tucker in this blog.

I looked around on YouTube, and I'm embedding the one I liked best (despite the fact that it has "AL-19" emblazoned on it annoyingly).

Here's "I Got So Much To Shout About" -- performed in 1966.

Incredible music.

I guess separation between gospel and doowop never occurred to anyone in those days....

posted by Eric at 11:34 PM | Comments (3)

Without Lubrication

Yes it is true. America's need for more oil refining capacity is bringing a new refinery on line. In India. Shouting Into The Void tells the tale.

Here's some news that should make all the energy independence buffs throw their hats to the floor and shout "Tarnashion!" India's Reliance Industries is building the world's largest oil refinery. This refinery, scheduled for completion this December, is planned for refined fuel export to Europe and the US exclusively. So by the end of the year we can be dependent on India for gasoline shipments. Gas prices could drop by 60 cents a gallon from this.

How can this lower prices when we're being told we live in a world of tight oil supplies? It's actually quite simple. This enormous refinery will process sour crude oil. Sour refers to the sulfur content of the petroleum. Sour crude has lots of sulfur. Sweet crude has little. Removing sulfur from oil is an expensive process, so in the past oil refiners have chosen to favor sweet crude. I was surprised to learn there is actually a glut of sour oil. The extra 200,000 daily barrels Saudi Arabia pledged this weekend to pump is all sour crude. That's why the announcement did nothing to lower prices. The Saudis will pump more unwanted oil. Iraq has 30 million barrels in tankers floating at sea. They have no destination because no one wants to buy sour crude.

Interesting. We are not suffering from an oil shortage. We are suffering from a refinery shortage.

So maybe we need to refine our peak oil theories. Maybe we have not reached peak oil. Maybe we have reached peak refinery. And who benefits the most from peak refinery? The people who already own a refinery. Why it is like a license to print money. I wouldn't be surprised if I found that oil companies were in cahoots with enviros on this.

Fortunately there appear to be some real hicks in flyover country who are trying to profit from the current situation.

ELK POINT, S.D. - A Texas-based energy firm planning to build the first U.S. oil refinery in more than 30 years said today that Union County is a finalist for the $8 billion project.

The refinery, which Hyperion Resources Inc. described as a "green energy technology center,'' would create as many 10,000 construction jobs and employ 1,800 after its completion in four years.

Hyperion also is considering "alternative sites'' in at least two other Midwest states, project executive Preston Phillips said at a late afternoon news conference at the county courthouse. A final decision should come by the first half of 2008, he said.

The announcement ended months of intense speculation over the so-called Project Gorilla. Until Wednesday, only a few local and state leaders knew the identify of the firm that has been optioning thousands of acres of farmland northwest of Elk Point, a city of about 1,800.

Texans? And folks from South Dakota? How crude and unsophisticated. However, look at the time line on that sucker. Four years.

You have to ask yourself what is the point of even starting a project like that if it will have no effect on the supply situation for at least four years. Why bother? It is all so hopeless. Just ask our Democrat Congress. They will tell you. There is no point in drilling now in the hopes of having oil for delivery in the future. And what is that "future delivery" stuff? Sounds like speculation. I think an investigation is required.

If the American people re-elect the current controlling Party to majority status in Congress, they will deserve what they get and if past history is any guarantee of future performance we are going to get what we deserve hard. Very hard. Or as they say in some circles, "without lubrication".

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:45 PM | Comments (2)

Looming, unpredictable issue?

Yesterday M. Simon opined that because the Heller decision was only 5-4, the gun issue might very well become important in the fall election.

While I can't predict that far in the future, what prompted this post is that I'm still not certain which candidate will benefit more in the long run from the Heller decision.

Eric S. Raymond gives some excellent reasons why McCain will benefit from the Heller decision:

...I'm certain that right now he's [Obama's] wishing the Heller ruling had come down 7-2 or better and he didn't have to deal with what McCain is going to do to him over this issue.

I'll finish by re-quoting McCain's delicious, deadly zinger:

"Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today's ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right -- sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly,"

The sting here isn't just McCain's "sacred right" appeal to gun owners, it's the way he links Obama's anti-firearms record to the sense of elitism, entitlement and disdain for traditional American values that radiate from the man. These traits play well in Berkeley and on the Upper West Side, but they lose national elections.

Like John Kerry in the last election cycle, Obama increasingly looks like a man who knows the price of arugula but the value of nothing. And if John McCain can convince voters of that, he'll not just win the general election -- he'll actually deserve to.

On the other hand, George F. Will thinks Obama benefits.
Obama benefits from this decision. Although he formerly supported groups promoting a collectivist interpretation -- nullification, really -- of the Second Amendment, as a presidential candidate he has prudently endorsed the "individual right" interpretation. Had the court held otherwise, emboldened gun-control enthusiasts would have thrust this issue, with its myriad cultural overtones, into the campaign, forcing Obama either to irritate his liberal base or alienate many socially conservative Democratic men.
If they're both right (and depending on how things play out, they could both be right), that would make this issue unpredictable, which might take it off the table after all -- if for different reasons than the ones given by Taegan Goddard yesterday:
By re-affirming that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the court effectively takes the gun issue out of the fall campaign. Republicans will now have a very hard time arguing that if you elect Democrats they will take away your guns.
Via Glenn Reynolds, who added that "Obama's record of strong support for sweeping gun control would hurt him a lot more in a climate where gun owners felt more threatened."

While McCain might not be able to argue that "if you elect Democrats they will take away your guns," everyone knows this was a 5-4 decision, and that three of the justices are due for replacement. What that means is that whoever is elected will be tasked with creating the new, post-Heller majority. Thus, while the gun issue might not be a direct campaign issue, it's a heck of an indirect campaign issue. Most likely the issue will be subsumed in a discussion of judicial philosophy, but those who care about the Second Amendment won't forget what's at stake.

posted by Eric at 05:21 PM | Comments (3)

Actually, guns are a feminist issue
(which is why "feminists" oppose guns)

I very much enjoyed "Guns Are a Feminist Issue" (which Glenn Reynolds linked earlier). Megan McArdle observes that guns level the playing field between men and women, and wonders why more feminists don't push for gun ownership:

...guns are the only weapon that equalizes strength between attacker and attacked. It's the only time when men's greater speed, strength, and longer reach make no difference; if you pull the trigger first, you win.

This is an enormous social advance. I am all for strengthening the social contract (and law enforcement) so that fewer men commit rape, assault, or robbery. But until human nature has improved so radically that grievous bodily harm has passed from living memory, I don't understand why more feminists don't push for widespread gun ownership.

She's absolutely right, and I thought I'd make a stab at answering that last question.

I think the problem is that most feminists really aren't feminists. Not in the sense of believing that women should be equal and independent. Guns are the ultimate tool for enabling true independence, in the form of self-sufficiency. "Feminists" (in quotes because I don't think they are that) overwhelmingly believe in having the government take care of everyone, which of course is socialism -- the opposite of independence. I've long believed that feminism boils down to replacing male supremacy with government supremacy. Instead of women being equal, the role once occupied with the male husband/father as provider is replaced with the state as provider. You have a problem? Don't ask a man for help, ask the government. But do it yourself? No way. That threatens to erode the whole "feminist" concept that women are in need of outside help.

MORE: Not only are most conventional "feminists" opposed to guns, so are conventional gay activists. From Gay Patriot:

With these ruling, gay people will have greater and more ready access to handguns and so be better able to defend ourselves against gay-bashers. With such a victory for gay rights, I thought I'd check the sites of the various gay organizations to see how they're celebrating, acknowledging how the constitutional freedom enshrined in the Second Amendment benefits us. Nothing on the websites of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) or the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Silence on such an important victory for gay rights?!?!?

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Like feminists, gay activists tend to be socialists who oppose self-sufficiency while claiming to be for it.

There are exceptions, of course, and Gay Patriot cites Tammy Bruce, Log Cabin, and Volokh's Dale Carpenter.

By and large, though, the mainstream gay activist reaction is extremely anti-gun. Sometimes rabidly so.

posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (6)

The experts are warning! The experts are warning!

Well, they are. Because, they warn, the poles are melting! Only this time, they're serious. Even if it seems "unthinkable":

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic - and worrying - examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

See? It may well have! Which means it may as well have, even if it doesn't.

Actually, this is nothing new. Back in August of 2000 the experts were claiming the pole had melted, but apparently not enough people were paying attention to the unthinkable (at least not in Florida where they failed to push their chads all the way through for Gore).

Another scientist on the cruise, palaeontologist Dr Malcolm C McKenna, said the ship was able to sail all the way to the North Pole through only a thin crust of ice, and arrived on the spot to discover no ice at all.

"I don't know if anybody in history ever got to 90 degrees north to be greeted by water, not ice," Dr McKenna was quoted as saying.

"Some folks who pooh-pooh global warming might wake up if shown that even the pole is beginning to melt at least sometimes."

I might wake up if they could get the story straight about how many times the "unthinkable" might as well have already happened.

Actually, the experts started their latest round of unthinkable warnings last year when large amounts of ice descended on the North Pole. The problem, they claimed, was that it was not the right kind of ice:

Last year as arctic sea ice melted to record levels, panic set in for many. But then, as the sea ice rebounded and froze again quickly in the 2007/2008 winter, making up for that record loss and reaching heights not seen for several years, many exclaimed that even though the ice areal extent had recovered, this new ice was "thin" and would likely melt again quickly. There were also many news stories about how the Northwest Passage was ice free for the first time "ever". For example, Backpacker Magazine ran a story saying "The ice is so low that the photos clearly show a viable northwest passage sea route along the coasts of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska." (Icecap Note: See Dr. Gary Sharp's view on that here)
People who want to see the ice before it disappears completely have been booking special tours on icebreakers. Problem is, they get trapped in the ice that isn't there:
Cashing in on the panic that has set in with the help of some climate alarmists, tour operators like Quark Expeditions of Norwalk Connecticut are offering polar expeditions catering to that "see it before it's gone" travel worry. One of them is in fact a trip though the Northwest Passage on a former Soviet Icebreaker called the Kapitan Khlebnikov which is a massive 24,000 horsepower Polar Class icebreaker capable of carrying 108 passengers in relative luxury through the arctic wilderness.

Walt from Canada, pointed out this story in the Globe and Mail on may 24th in the travel section. It seems the irony of a polar expedition to see such things as record sea ice loss being stopped cold by the very ice that doesn't exist was not lost on the editors.

You can read an alarming account of how it feels to be trapped in ice that doesn't exist here:
....What irony. I am a passenger on one of the most powerful icebreakers in the world, travelling through the Northwest Passage - which is supposed to become almost ice-free in a time of global warming, the next shipping route across the top of the world - and here we are, stuck in the ice, engines shut down, bridge deserted. Only time and tide can free us.
What a cruel fate.

Well, at least they were warned.

MORE: American Thinker's Thomas Lifson has even more alarming news -- that the "Arctic ice melt may be due to undersea volcanoes." Moreover, the volcanoes have been erupting since 1999 -- when the melting began:...is it not possible that these volcanic eruptions - going back to at least 1999 - may have played a part in whatever melting there has been of the Greenland and Arctic ice sheets? Absolutely not! Nor is it possible that the volcanoes release vast amounts of CO2.

More here:

Yes, neither this volcanic activity under the North Pole, nor the huge star in the middle of our solar system could possibly cause temperature changes on the earth.
It's the oil company executives, dammit!

posted by Eric at 09:42 AM | Comments (6)

The American lust for entertainment
By the time he's finished, Obama will have made the Clintons look scrupulous.
So says Charles Krauthammer in a scathing takedown of Barack Obama's amazing ability to flip-flop with impunity. Obama needs to move to the center, and there is absolutely no downside:
Obama's long march to the center has begun.

And why not? What's the downside? He won't lose the left, or even mainstream Democrats. They won't stay home on Nov. 4. The anti-Bush, anti-Republican sentiment is simply too strong. Election Day is their day of revenge -- for the Florida recount, for Swift-boating, for all the injuries, real and imagined, dealt out by Republicans over the past eight years.

Normally, flip-flopping presidential candidates have to worry about the press. Not Obama....

His ability to sit calmly and reverse himself with a straight face -- yesterday's dismissal of a previous position as "inartful" being a perfect example (anyone still remember the "mangled" bitter gun clingers remark?) -- is truly remarkable. Shameless doesn't begin to describe it. Krauthammer says he does it "lustily":
The truth about Obama is uncomplicated. He is just a politician (though of unusual skill and ambition). The man who dared say it plainly is the man who knows Obama all too well. "He does what politicians do," explained Jeremiah Wright.

When it's time to throw campaign finance reform, telecom accountability, NAFTA renegotiation or Jeremiah Wright overboard, Obama is not sentimental. He does not hesitate. He tosses lustily.

Fortunately, the voters still have a few months to catch on.

Easy for me to say. But maybe the voters won't care. They have a long history of enjoying hucksterism. That's because bamboozling is an art form, and Americans are connoisseurs. Here's critically acclaimed rerun:

AFTERTHOUGHT: The problem for me is that all these criticisms seemed repetitive in March and April. The problem for the country is that most of the voters haven't even heard them. So, impatient bloggers like me will have moved on -- largely out of boredom and tedium -- from what most people will never have heard.

So what am I supposed to do? Repeat myself in the hope of "reaching people" who don't even read blogs? That would be more than just boring and tedious; it would be idle and self-important.

posted by Eric at 07:39 AM | Comments (2)

Heller And The Election

Some commenters out there, among them Instapundit, say that the decision in Heller today takes gun rights off the table as an election issue. I beg to differ.

The decision was 5-4. That means that everything could change if a Justice is confirmed whose views are more in line with Obama's views (which appear to have changed) of a while back. Don't forget that he lives in a state that is one of two that are totally out of touch on this issue. The two? Illinois and Wisconsin. The only two states in the nation that do not have some form of concealed carry laws.

Of course what are the odds of getting another Justice Thomas? Higher with McCain than Obama. FWIW.

For some background on the case visit Clayton Cramer.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:33 PM | Comments (6)

Second Amendment victory

What a relief!

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment says what it says:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court says Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.

The court's 5-4 ruling strikes down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. The decision goes further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms laws intact.

I haven't read it, so I don't know how true that last sentence is.

Volokh's server seems overwhelmed, but so far, Orin Kerr has this to say:

The opinion should be available shortly. In a case like this, the details of the opinion are critical; it will take a bit of time to read the decision to get a sense of what it means. SCOTUSblog is reporting that the vote was 5-4, with Scalia writing and the four liberal Justices dissenting.
Glenn Reynolds is teaching a class, but remarks,
Did the Supreme Court get things right? We'll know soon enough! Er, well, you'll probably know a bit before I do, today. . . .
I hope they got it right, but throwing the DC law out was at least a step in the right direction.

The Supreme Court blog has some selected quotes from the opinion, including this:

"Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command."

"We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans."

"the most natural reading of 'keep Arms' in the Second Amendment is to "have weapons."

"The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity."

"Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

"Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose."

"The prefatory clause does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting."

"It was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense."

MORE: Here's an interesting headline:

Supreme Court Decision Hits Bull's Eye Against Obama Anti-Gun Agenda, says John Snyder of Telum Associates, LL.C.

MORE: Real Clear Politics reports that John McCain is praising the decision:

"Today's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller makes clear that other municipalities like Chicago that have banned handguns have infringed on the constitutional rights of Americans," McCain said in a statement.

The GOP nominee couldn't resist the opportunity to take a shot at rival Barack Obama: "Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today's ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right -- sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly."

Barack Obama, meanwhile, is remaining silent:
Obama's campaign has not yet released a statement on the opinion.
I guess he can claim that he hasn't had time to read it for the next few months.

UPDATE: The text of the opinion in PDF is here.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Bob Owen notes a comment (apparently from liberal blogger named David Ehrenstein) to the effect that Justice Scalia should be shot.

While I don't think Ehrenstein's remark typifies liberal thinking, I nonetheless find myself wondering whether people who react to disagreements by wanting to shoot people might be likely to project their lack of self control onto others, and thus be very fearful of allowing anyone to own a gun.

MORE: I am delighted to see the blogosphere was a factor in the decision. Not only did the majority cite Eugene Volokh, Randy Barnett, and Erik Jaffe, but they also cited Clayton Cramer.

At p. 15, they cite our paper! Yahoo!
While I don't expect to read about it in most newspapers, the Supreme Court's relying on bloggers is big news in itself.

MORE: Orin Kerr comments on the narrow scope of the ruling, and its limitations:

My basic thought after reading Justice Scalia's majority opinion is that it is relatively narrow -- in the sense that it leaves a lot for another day. It recognizes the individual right (citing, by my count, 3 articles by Eugene and one by Randy, not that we academics count such things), but does not resolve the degrees of scrutiny, does not address incorporation, and indicates (without establishing) that traditional gun restriction laws are valid.
The Volokh site is back, so keep going there for more.

MORE: Barack Obama now says that it the Second Amendment is an individual right, and that it has been his position all along.


posted by Eric at 10:42 AM | Comments (4)

Race Card Politics

I'm really concerned about the half time at a Globe Trotter game. Is it safe for children with Chinese acrobats checking for cellulite?

Besides his potential to make a really bad President, I think Obama's constant return to the theme of racial intolerance in America puts him outside the mainstream. Which will make it hard for him to get elected and if elected to govern. In America criticizing politicians is a national sport. So much so that politicians never miss a chance to join in. I think Obama is wilting in such an environment. It will only get worse. America is not Chicago.

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

Awesomely artful dodger

With a decision on the Heller case imminent, the Barack Obama campaign is flip-flopping backtracking away from an earlier statement that the DC statute in question is constitutional:

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Alexa Ainsworth Report: With the Supreme Court poised to rule on Washington, D.C.'s, gun ban, the Obama campaign is disavowing what it calls an "inartful" statement to the Chicago Tribune last year in which an unnamed aide characterized Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as believing that the DC ban was constitutional.

"That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator's consistent position," Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News.

The statement which Burton describes as an inaccurate representation of the senator's views was made to the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 20, 2007.

In a story entitled, "Court to Hear Gun Case," the Chicago Tribune's James Oliphant and Michael J. Higgins wrote ". . . the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he '...believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.'"


Well, it's certainly a relief to hear that his earlier belief was an inaccurate representation!

As to why it's inaccurate now, they're not saying it has anything to do with the pending Heller decision. Rather it's inaccurate because Obama has "refrained from developing a position."

No really.

The Chicago Tribune clip from Nov. 20, 2007, is an inaccurate representation of Obama's views, according to Burton, because the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has refrained from developing a position on whether the D.C. gun law runs afoul of the Second Amendment.

When Obama has been asked on multiple occasions to weigh in on the D.C. gun case he has regularly maintained that the Second Amendment provides an individual right while at the same time saying that right is not absolute and that the Constitution does not prevent local governments from enacting what Obama calls "common sense laws."

Although he has been willing to describe his general views on this topic, Obama has sidestepped the question of whether the ban in the nation's capital runs afoul of the Second Amendment.

I'd say that unless "sidestepping" now includes backtracking, he's doing more than sidestepping.

He is disavowing his previous position as "inartful."

OK, so what does that make his current, um, position?


I think so. I also suspect there will be a lot more artfulness before this campaign is over. But what should we call this process, this artful spinning of the previously inartful?


Why not? While there seems to be no such word as "artfulizing," it's logically consistent with "awfulizing."

And if Obama isn't an awfully awesome artfulizer, then who is?

MORE: Hot Air questions the timing of Obama's artfulizing of the inartful:

Suddenly, with the general election looming, Obama discovers that his campaign's statement was inartful. This seems rather puzzling, because before he ran for public office, Barack Obama was supposed to be a Constitutional law expert. One might expect the "inartful" excuse on wetlands reclamation or some other esoteric matter of public policy, but the Constitution is what he supposedly studied at Columbia and Harvard. One has to wonder whether Obama has any competence even in his own chosen field to have seven months go by before realizing that he got the Constitutional question wrong.


We used to call John Kerry a flip-flopper for his enbarrassing quote on his opposition to Iraq war funding. Obama has now changed position on almost every key position in this election, and exposed himself as incompetent as a Constitutional law analyst as well. Democratic superdelegates may want to rethink their position on this nomination before Obama changes his party registration, too.

Artfulizing his party registration too?

That would be waaay awesome!

Via Glenn Reynolds, who gives Obama the benefit of the doubt and blames the (presumably inartful) staff.

posted by Eric at 08:53 AM | Comments (4)

Queen One, UN Zero

God bless Queen Elizabeth for being one of the few people on the planet actually capable of doing something about Robert Mugabe: she stripped the bloodthirsty tyrant of his knighthood:

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "This action has been taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided."

Mr Mugabe is the first foreigner to be stripped of an honorary knighthood since the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, shortly before his execution.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

I'd like to think that as went Ceausescu, so will go Mugabe. The man is a savage.

I hate to sound intolerant, but burning people alive after chopping off their feet just plain sucks.

Richard Fernandez thinks Mugabe is playing a game:

....Mugabe's basis for legitimacy -- and today his sole basis for legitimacy -- is the Colonialism card. On the day the West sticks this card where the sun doesn't shine in Robert Mugabe's anatomy, the way will be open to the obvious: a Zimbabwe free of his tyranny.
As playing this version of the Colonialism card game goes, Idi Amin wrote the script. He even created an award -- the Conquerer of the British Empire -- and bestowed it on himself (as if his equally fraudulent Victoria Cross wasn't enough). Finally, neighboring Tanzania had had enough of Amin, and invaded. Unfortunately, Amin escaped (pausing only to massacre the wildlife in Uganda's Ruwenzori National Park) and was cosseted for the rest of his life by our "friends," the Saudis. Tyrants are assist each other in a sort of mutual admiration society, which is why the UN does nothing about Mugabe.

Yanking Mugabe's knighthood is of course a symbolic gesture. But at least there's some reality (and history) behind the symbolism.

The Queen's symbolism carries more weight than the UN's empty gestures.

posted by Eric at 12:08 AM | Comments (4)

Naturally Gay

William Saletan discusses a theory of homosexuality that I have seen before. That homosexuality in some men is compensated for by the increased fertility of their female relatives.

Gay couples can't have biological kids together. So if homosexuality is genetic, why hasn't it died out?

A study published last week in PLoS One tackles the question. It starts with four curious patterns. First, male homosexuality occurs at a low but stable frequency in a wide range of societies. Second, the female relatives of gay men produce children at a higher rate than other women do. Third, among these female relatives, those related to the gay man's mother produce children at a higher rate than do those related to his father. Fourth, among the man's male relatives, homosexuality is more common in those related to his mother than in those related to his father.

Can genes account for these patterns? To find out, the authors posit several possible mechanisms and compute their effects over time. They conclude that only one theory fits the data. The theory is called "sexually antagonistic selection." It holds that a gene can be reproductively harmful to one sex as long as it's helpful to the other. The gene for male homosexuality persists because it promotes--and is passed down through--high rates of procreation among gay men's mothers, sisters, and aunts.

The article is a very good in depth look at the question and its implications.

The article does not discuss a point that no one seems to have paid any attention to (What a surprise - no one is discussing what they haven't paid attention to - what will they avoid thinking of next? Elephants?). Is there a genetic basis for some male's antagonism to male homosexuality? If so then what?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:28 PM | Comments (9)

Untied and Inflated

They're not making currency like they used to! Earlier I was at a store, and the guy gave me this worn out bill along with the rest of my change:


I hope it's not where we're headed. The great seal on the right looks pretty flimsy -- even flimsier than the Obama redesign.

Back in the old days, they knew how to design currency. Here's a Czarist era 100 Ruble note from 1910, showing Catherine the Great striking a classical pose:


Empires rise and fall like money.

Easy come, easy go.

posted by Eric at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

Getting there in spite of them

Charlie Martin (who lives in Colorado) looks at why passenger trains can't compete with airlines as they do in Europe. The answer is simple arithmetic -- long distance trains take much too long:

I can imagine taking the train to New York on vacation, because I am a train nut and the trip would be fun in itself. But let's think about this as a business trip: taking the train would not only cost about 1.5 times as much -- or four times as much with a compartment, and I'm just sure I'd be all set to go right to work in New York after two full days in a coach seat -- but it consumes four working days in travel time. I can manage a one-day business trip by plane, but a one-day trip to New York by train is a five-day trip. Subsidies won't help: counting in the lost time, Amtrak would have to pay me $4,000 to make up for the time difference. The travel time difference is so large that Amtrak couldn't compete if train tickets were free.

So why are trains so popular in Europe? Simple: Europe is smaller. My Basel to Paris trip is 250 miles; Denver to New York is 1,625 miles. Why is Amtrak popular in the Northeast? Because, here we go, the distances are comparable to Europe: Washington, DC, to New York is 203 miles.

I can certainly understand why it would be ridiculous for anyone but a sentimentalist (or a couple on a honeymoon) to take the train from Denver to New York. Even with all the glitches and hassles, flying is so far superior that it's almost a no-brainer.

But to fly from Philadelphia to New York (something that was once routine) would be an act of insanity these days. Because of runway congestion and bureaucratic inefficiency, planes rarely take off on time from Philadelphia. As to landing on time in New York, you might have better luck winning at the Atlantic City crap tables. And that doesn't include the hour and a half you have to set aside to get past security and onto the plane. Or the often-impossible airport parking. To call it "insanity" is no exaggeration.

Even flying to Chicago is so iffy that depending on the circumstances, you'd often be better off driving. When I drove to the Midwest during the recent series of thunderstorms, I remember thinking how impossible it would have been to fly. On several occasions when I have tried to fly from Philadelphia to Chicago, I have ended up having to drive home because of weather-related flight cancellations and try the next day. I always end up thinking that had I known in advance about the cancellations, I could have gotten there faster by driving.

Taking the train to Chicago, though, is not as reasonable an option as driving. If you look at these Amtrak schedules, the listed time durations range from 17 to 27 hours, but each listed time period has an asterisk with this ominous message:

Approximate duration does not include layovers.
Who wants layovers? Not I.

Even considering all the grim options, flying to Chicago still seems like the best of the worst.

But for the shorter Northeast corridor routes, not surprisingly, buses are emerging to fill the void between trains, planes, and driving. And I don't mean Greyhound, where passengers are treated like criminals by local narcs acting under authority of "Homeland Security."

The last time I went to New York, I tried a newer line called Megabus.Com. Despite having to go through New York's rush hour, they got us there nearly ontime, and the late night return trip was a snap -- even in pouring rain. These are slick new buses equipped with WiFi, and they even showed a DVD of one of the Narnia Chronicles (I was a bit too tired to watch fantasy, but I'm sure it helped my dreams while I slept....)

Best of all the Megabus costs $12.00 round trip. That's much, much cheaper than Amtrak's prices for the same trip, which range from $86.00 to $278.00.

It's even cheaper (and faster) than driving, because not only do you have the fuel costs, but there are whopping bridge tolls with long waits, and have you ever tried parking? In New York? Hah! You could sleep overnight in the average Motel 6 for less. The fastest way for me to drive to New York is to drive to Newark, park there, and take a local train across the bridge to New York Penn Station. But even then, the parking is $11.00, then the train fare is another $8.00. So the bus saves $7.00, and spares you the aggravation of two long and aggravating drives on the New Jersey Turnpike (something best used only by seasoned portal-travelers in Being John Malkovich).

In any case, getting from point A to point B is no fun unless you make it fun, and the best way to do that is by attempting to beat the system through economic navigation. Thank God we still have the free market system, which still allows (for now, at least) new companies like Megabus to appear out of nowhere and offer genuine services to human beings.

But if you think things are bad now, just wait till the carbon footprint people (a subdivision of the infernal "they" class that wants to run our lives) get their dirty mitts on every last aspect of what remains of our ability to simply get from point A to point B.

Our cherished constitutional right to travel will become infinitely more challenging.

posted by Eric at 10:12 AM | Comments (9)


I don't know whether there is such a thing as vicarious hedonism or whether I have what has been called a "freedom fetish," but something happened earlier which has been happening to me more and more. When I saw a pedestrian walking down the street smoking a cigarette, it made me very happy, and cheered me immensely. I swear it renews my faith in humanity to see people -- shrinking in numbers though they may be -- not doing as they are told.

This is not to say that I'm unaware of the possible health consequences of smoking, and I derive no pleasure from the idea that he might get cancer and die. However, the fact that he's willing to run such a risk while he defies a society dominated more and more by anti-cigarette bigotry -- well, I can only take comfort and solace in that as a form of inspiration.

When I say "THANK YOU FOR SMOKING," I mean it. I felt like pulling over and actually thanking the smoker, but most likely he would have thought I was a loony tune (or some asshole activist trying to upset him deliberately), so I didn't.

Because of the persecution, cigarettes have become a symbol of freedom.

A reminder of freedom that was.

As I say this, I am well aware that the "other side" would accuse me of a lack of "compassion." They'd probably think the smoker suffers from an addiction, and needs help, whether he wants it or not. (That's compassion for you; they used to put homos in mental hospitals for similar reasons.) Oddly, my lack of compassion is grounded in what I see as compassion. If they can regulate the smoker out of compassion, I can oppose the same regulations out of compassion. Compassion is seen by individualists as leaving people alone, and by communitarians as not leaving people alone.

You think this is bad, just wait till the compassionistas start helping people by forcing them to stop driving.

posted by Eric at 04:46 PM | Comments (8)

Double secret hedonism

As part of my ongoing search for the musical roots of modern American hedonism (a search in which I take no pleasure,* mind you), with a start I suddenly remembered "Keep On Dancing" -- a 1965 song by a group named The Gentrys, of all things.

As you can see, this was no grungy looking rock group; they wore coats and ties.

It's a great song, but do not be deceived. "Gentrified" hedonism is probably one of the most dangerous threats of all.

* Ah, but I should be careful, lest I fall into the trap known as the "paradox of hedonism"!

...the 'paradox of hedonism' is, roughly, the claim that those motivated in favour of pleasure get less of it, and those motivated against pain get more of it.
Which means that if you're really into hedonism, you should seek pain and shun pleasure. (A no-win thus becomes a no-lose.)

posted by Eric at 03:37 PM | Comments (2)

George Carlin, 1937-2008

George Carlin was one of my favorite comedians, and I'm sorry to see him go.

Ann Althouse loved Carlin, and pays tribute to him with a collection of YouTube videos -- "decades-old routines that spring to mind immediately as the most brilliant comic riffs I've ever heard."

If you enjoyed Carlin, check out Ann Althouse's post.

posted by Eric at 01:21 PM | Comments (1)

Why you should apologize -- ineffectively and dishonestly -- for what you didn't do

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall argues that because slavery's legacy affects us all (like it or not, it does), it shouldn't be taboo to discuss it, which she claims it is.

...for some, the subject is inexplicably taboo. Verboten. Don't ask, don't tell.

Get over it, they say. It's in the past. Talking about it won't move us forward. Plus, we had nothing to do with it.

Ignore it or not, we all are affected by its cloudy residue.

But the good news is that with race in the open and conversations not just one-sided, more whites are choosing not to turn away and are honestly sharing their own history.

I don't mind talking about slavery at all, whether it moves "us" "forward" or not. My father's ancestors were Norwegian immigrants who came to this country after slavery was abolished, so there's no possible genetic taint on that side. However, while my mom's paternal ancestor was a German immigrant, he married a descendant of a traitorous colonial official who had been deported and banished for being a Loyalist during the Revolution. According to genealogical research, it appears that the traitor/Loyalist may have owned slaves (and possibly had indentured servants; such "white slavery" was widespread at the time), but he fled from the United States and lost his property because of his opposition to the American Revolution. So, I may be descended from a slave-owning traitor. Other than that, I can't find ancestral guilt. Even though I have not conducted a thorough investigation of my mom's pedigree for slave-holding impurities, I think it's reasonable to suppose that because her ancestors lived in Pennsylvania, which abolished slavery early on, there probably weren't any slaves owned -- with the possible exception of the colonial Loyalist traitor. (Fortunately, the Founders saw fit to insert language in the Constitution which prohibits the inheritance of guilt, so I can't be charged with hereditary treason.)

Aside from the deported traitor, it appears that none of my ancestors owned slaves in the United States. Yet that might not completely extinguish their (and thus my) hereditary guilt, because they might have invested in companies and stocks which profited from the slave trade. There's no way of knowing that without doing detailed investigations into every ancestor's financial investments.

But even if I could do that (highly doubtful), is this a moral question or a financial question? If it is the latter, family guilt is erased, for whatever money there might have been was gone by the time my mom was born in the 1920s, and her parents were nearly broke.

I do think it is possible to call inherited money made from immoral activity to be ill-gotten gain. For example, if the son of an extortionist loan shark or Mob hit man inherited the millions his dad made by killing people and breaking their legs, a good argument can be made that it should not be his money.

But tainted money aside, does the father's career make the hit man's son immoral? I think it would be atrocious moral logic to say it would.

That has not stopped some people from feeling very guilty -- not merely about careers of their parents, but careers of very distant ancestors. The meme of guilt proposed by Annette John-Hall is called "family complicity":

Many, like Philadelphia first-time filmmaker Katrina Browne, 40, are doing some hard self-examination of their own family complicity in the business of chattel slavery.

In an effort to explore and reconcile her own ancestors' involvement in the slave trade, Browne made the illuminating documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North, which airs tonight at 10 on PBS.

To say Browne's family was "involved" in the slave trade is like saying Hitler was "involved" in the Holocaust. The DeWolf family - Browne's maternal descendants - was the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history.

The discovery left Browne mortified. For a while, she couldn't talk about it, even though in the back of her mind, she knew.

Browne, a graduate of Princeton and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., had heard family stories of seafaring pirates and rapscallions. But it wasn't until she read the chilling account of the family's history written by her grandmother that her worst fears were confirmed: "The first DeWolfs that came to Bristol [Rhode Island] were slave traders," it read. "I haven't the stomach to describe the ensuing slave trade."

Worst of the worst
"In my mind, it was the worst thing you could do," Browne says. "Being a slave owner was horrible, but being a slave trader meant you were going to Africa and putting people in chains. . . . It ranked right up there with concentration camps."

I have to interrupt right there, because bad as slavery was (and is), it simply does not rank with Nazi concentration camps. The purpose of the Nazi Jew killing machine was just that: to murder every last Jew on the face of the earth. Horrible as slavery was, the goal was never extermination -- any more than the goal of puppy mill operators is extinction of dogs. Slavery was horrible, brutal exploitation, but exploitation is not extermination, so I don't think the concentration camp analogy holds.

But even if we assume it does, does anyone argue that the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of the SS killers are guilty of any moral offenses themselves? Again, I'm not talking about inheriting ill-gotten gain. If it could be shown that the grandson of some obergruppenfuhrer has a safe deposit box full of stolen Jewish diamonds or priceless paintings looted from Jews hanging on the walls of his home, I'm all for making him give it back to its rightful owners -- or at least calling it what it is. Even if the statute of limitations has run, it's still ill-gotten gain.

Perhaps, I thought, Katrina Browne is concerned not so much with her inherited guilt for the offenses themselves, but with the money she might have inherited from the slave trade:

A dubious legacy from which she reaps benefits, even today. And not just because Browne - the daughter of lawyer Stanhope Browne and civic historian Libby Browne - was raised privileged in a restored rowhouse in Society Hill.

"People are further along now as white Americans in ways that [they] take for granted," Browne says. "The government handouts that built up the white middle class - the GI bill, the redlining by banks that helped whites gain home ownership and denied blacks over and over again. . . . I hope this film helps people talk about this stuff."

I don't know what role her family played in the GI bill or redlining, but if this account of the DeWolfs is correct, it's doubtful that she inherited any ill-gotten gain from the slave trade:
Abigail Potter and Mark Antony DeWolf were married in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1744. Over the next twenty-three years they gave birth to fifteen children. The DeWolf offspring grew to be the largest slave-running family in America. They worked what is known as the "Triangle Trade." Taking rum that was distilled in Bristol, they sailed to the western coast of Africa. There they traded their rum for people: men, women and children. The enslaved Africans were brought to Caribbean Islands where they worked, growing and harvesting sugar cane; turning it into molasses. The ships then brought the molasses back to Bristol where it was distilled into rum, and the cycle began once more.

I said the DeWolf's were the largest American slave-running family. During the height of the slave trade, the 1760s to the 1820s, eleven million women, men and children were taken from the shores of Africa. Nine point two million are recorded as at least having reached a destination. All but the 400,000 who were brought to the Continental United States were sold in the Caribbean. I do not know how many of these the DeWolf's were responsible for. They captained the ships, founded and owned the insurance company to protect their investment, secured needed political favors, owned and operated the plantations in Cuba; they worked the whole deal from beginning to end, very effective.

Some DeWolf's were lost at sea; another committed suicide on the African coast; others built and lived in luxurious mansions in Bristol. When the War of 1812 broke out, they had more and better-equipped ships than the U.S. Navy. Captain James DeWolf, a U.S. Senator who used his influence to continue slaving long after it was a criminal offense, was said to be the second wealthiest man in the nation when he died in 1837. (His wealth was completely gone within two generations). At times when they weren't running slaves, the DeWolf's were privateers; legalized pirates.

I am descended from this family. Several years ago Katrina arranged for about 40 of us distant cousins to gather in Bristol. We visited one of the spectacular mansions, now a museum. At the Historical Society, I read letters sent from brother to brother, father to son, Cuba to Bristol. I read letters reporting the capture of other ships, and of slaves bound and thrown overboard. I held steel manacles, used to chain a person's ankles; I held a rope whip. All of it, much, much too real.

(Emphasis added.)

If the slave wealth was gone in two generations, I'm not seeing any inherited guilt. I think these people are just feeling bad for what their ancestors did. The problem is, they have made it their mission in life to make a lot of other people feel bad whose ancestors had no remote connection to slavery. Eastern Europeans who fled from Hitler and Stalin, for example. They immigrated here, only to see their children being taught that they have inherited something called "white privilege."

Above all, these collectively guilty people need to apologize:

Nine years in the making, Traces of the Trade chronicles Browne and eight relatives as they retrace the Triangle Trade, from the DeWolfs' hometown in Rhode Island to the slave forts in Ghana and sugar plantations in Cuba.

Every step of the way affirmed the vast extent of the family business.

"The biggest surprise was the degree to which the town was involved," she says. "Like people buying shares in the slave ships like they were buying shares in the stock market. It was horrifying to think of my ancestors talking themselves into this kind of inhumanity, but to see this interconnected web of complicity, the kind of mundane complicity that we do today . . ."

In this year, the bicentennial of the federal abolishment of the slave trade, all Browne is asking is for people to think, talk and, perhaps, even acknowledge.

And then, once its people acknowledge their history, maybe the government will have the will to extend the long-elusive apology - as England already has done.

"White Americans see apologizing for slavery as something they didn't do," Browne says. "You don't have to say you're personally responsible. But you can acknowledge and show some human compassion."

I understand why people are emotional about slavery, especially if they read the chilling details of what their ancestors actually did. But -- notwithstanding the incessant demands of the guilt machine -- I see a major problem with any of them apologizing, for the simple reason that they can't apologize.

An apology is personal in nature. I cannot apologize for the actions of someone else -- not even my father or my mother. If they were to have hurt people, sure, I could acknowledge what they did and feel compassion for their victims, but I cannot apologize. This is further compounded when there are no living malfeasors, and no living victims. Suppose my great-great grandfather had murdered someone. I can't think of anything more absurd than hunting down the murder victim's descendants and telling them that I "apologize" for the crime of my great-great grandfather. Moreover, they'd be in no position to accept my meaningless apology. Any such apology by me would thus be an idle act, and a phony, disingenuous one, with a goal of alleviating nonexistent guilt.

Apologizing for what was not done by the apologist is thus an extreme form of dishonesty, because it is an admission of guilt that is not there, by people who did not do it, to people who are not their victims.

It makes about as much sense as demanding that "the Jews" apologize for killing Christ.

Such apologies are logically impossible and cannot erase guilt -- neither the original guilt attributable to the guilty parties, nor the phony guilt their descendants do not share. But because they don't work, a single apology would be one too many, while a million apologies would never be enough.

Once started, these apologies might become self-perpetuating, though.

Perhaps that's the whole idea.

UPDATE: My thanks to Watchers of Weasels for honoring this post as this week's Watcher's Council winning entry. Seriously, I'm honored.

(H/T The Glittering Eye.)

posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (21)

A good move for the Belmont Club

I'm delighted to see that one of the most astute bloggers in the sphere -- Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club fame -- is now the author of a Pajamas Media Xpress Blog. In his first post, he looks at disappearing coverage of the Iraq War (I like the Cheshire Cat analogy), including a tantalizing glimpse at the political context:

The Asia Times argues that with Bush left with only six more months in the White House "and given domestic opposition in Iraq to the deal, Iraqi leaders appear to want to pressure the US to make as many concessions as possible. " On the other hand Iraqis dare not push George W. Bush too hard. If Maliki cannot nail down a long-term security agreement with the Bush Administration, he will be vulnerable to abandonment by Barack Obama, something he could hardly look forward to. But ironically, Obama's hostility to Iraq may push Maliki into getting what he can while he can from George Bush, rather than waiting to face the Man of Change.

Although Iraq has been steadily vanishing from the American front pages like the Cheshire Cat, it may reappear again, on another branch, when we least expect it to, as Iran and Syria must fear.

Read it all.

Especially if you're curious about the disappearing Iraq War coverage.

This whole topic makes me want to ask a theoretical question. Suppose -- just suppose -- that the U.S. were to win a war. Does things have to be reported in order to be said to have happened?

What I'd like to know is if the U.S. won a war, and it wasn't reported, would we have really won?

Might the answer depend on who writes history?

Or does it depend on who defines history?

posted by Eric at 08:29 AM | Comments (1)

Students Achieve Fusion

Students at Penninsula College have achieved fusion. I am more than a little proud to say I had a little to do with it. At least in so far as getting them on the right track.

Penninsula College Fusioneers
From left to right: Devon, Ivan, Sarah, Chris, Aaron, and Derek.
The Reactor
The Reactor
Peninsula College Glows
It glows

Which just goes to show that fusion research need not take big labs and big budgets. There is a lot that can be done in small labs to advance the state of the art. So let me encourage the rest of you: Start A Fusion Program In Your Own Home Town. America needs your help. The world needs your help.

Let me add that the genesis of this report was a bit done by ClassicPenny at Talk Polywell.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:16 AM | Comments (4)

horse's ass emissions -- at taxpayers' expense

If James Hansen isn't the horse's ass of the year, I don't know who is:

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

I'm not sure "disinformation" is the right word. Might he mean heresy?
In an interview with the Guardian he said: "When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime."
Well, I think it's a crime to have illiterates teaching kids gobbledygook. But who cares what I think?

Who in the hell does this James Hansen think he is, anyway?

He is also considering personally targeting members of Congress who have a poor track record on climate change in the coming November elections. He will campaign to have several of them unseated. Hansen's speech to Congress on June 23 1988 is seen as a seminal moment in bringing the threat of global warming to the public's attention. At a time when most scientists were still hesitant to speak out, he said the evidence of the greenhouse gas effect was 99% certain, adding "it is time to stop waffling".
Via Glenn Reynolds who thinks the "trials" should wait until "after we try all the apologists for communism." (Yes indeedy. I'll wait.)

Frankly, I think James Hansen is not only a fraud, he's an advocate of the worst sort of political and personal tyranny, and I resent the fact that he's getting taxpayer's money. That's my money, to spread his evangelical nonsense.

Whatever happened to separation of church and state?

UPDATE: Lest anyone think this is the first time James Hansen has acted like a horse's ass, it should be remembered that when he was caught promulgating bad data last year, instead of admitting his mistake, he lashed out at those who discovered his error, ultimately calling them "court jesters":

"The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point to joust with court jesters. They will always be present. They will continue to entertain even if the Titanic begins to take on water. Their role and consequence is only as a diversion from what is important.

The real deal is this: the 'royalty' controlling the court, the ones with the power, the ones with the ability to make a difference, with the ability to change our course, the ones who will live in infamy if we pass the tipping points, are the captains of industry, CEOs in fossil fuel companies such as EXXON/Mobil, automobile manufacturers, utilities, all of the leaders who have placed short-term profit above the fate of the planet and the well-being of our children."

Well, that's a relief!

I should probably be glad I won't have to face the Nuremberg tribunals....

MORE: In addition to the rest of his bewildering nonsense, Hansen lays claim to being a conservative.

If he is, that's another reason I'm not!

AND MORE: Clayton Cramer asks a good question about Hansen:

...why does a guy who is proposing trying people for something that is not just legal, but protected by the First Amendment still have a job?
Probably because he likes to scream about how the government is "censoring" him.

Doubtless he believes that his pronouncements constitute "science."

posted by Eric at 08:02 PM | Comments (1)

Blackness Wins

I think this election is going to turn on the economy. Oil prices in particular. The Democrat resistance to drilling, mining, and converting is going to bite them hard.

This campaign will turn on blackness. The blackness of oil. The blacker candidate will win.

posted by Simon at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

Fusion Pioneer Says: Drill Now

Fusion energy pioneer Robert Hirsch says in a CNBC interview that the US must drill for oil. And use all its available resources to help us get over the current liquid fuels hump. I'm inclined to agree. No Blood For Oil or No Drilling For Oil? Good question.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:40 PM | Comments (3)

Tired of gaffes yet?

Jennifer Rubin looks at Barack Obama's recent trifecta of gaffes (the dishonest flipflop on public campaign financing, the recklessly hubristic "Great Seal" nonsense, and finally the blatant playing of the race card), and sees a genuine opportunity for McCain:

Will these incidents have a lasting impact on the race? That depends on how effectively McCain's team can make the point that these incidents relate to a larger picture - a candidate falsely wearing the clothes of a game-changing reformer who is merely a bare-knuckle pol, and a not very experienced or knowledgeable one at that.

If McCain can do that, and more importantly, if the media re-adjusts their outlook to cover Obama as they would any ordinary politician, the result may be significant and the race more competitive than only the most optimistic Republicans thought possible.

Read it all.

Timing is everything, though. McCain can exploit the hell out of these issues right now, but a lift in the polls right now (no matter how dramatic) won't matter in November. Things change quickly, and while Obama is still very green (and his ineptitude is very apparent right now), he has shown that he's a very fast study.

The question becomes who will remember in November? And what will they remember? Obama's gaffes?

Or "issues" like the "right wing" persecution of his wife?

No, seriously. From an Op-Ed from today's Inquirer:

The attacks on Michelle Obama are reminiscent of the assaults that a lot of black women face at some point in their lives.

This case is worse than usual because it is a direct statement that no matter what we do - graduate from good colleges, give of ourselves to the community, work hard for professional accomplishment, raise our children to be good people, support our husbands in running for high office - it doesn't matter to some people.

The message these attacks send is this: You are not fit to be a lady, much less the first lady; we will not acknowledge your marriage, your family or your culture. We can "joke" about lynching you and then turn around and accuse you of being racist against us. We will condemn you for everything - and nothing at all.

The Obama campaign is counting on the principle of backlash against "right wing" attacks. I think it might turn out to be so important that it will be the backbone of the campaign.

Whatever gaffes Obama and his wife commit (and there will be many more), these will generate criticism. While some of the criticism will be fully justified and coming from the MSM (as Jennifer Rubin demonstrates), it is inevitable that some of it will be over-the-top, and in any event it will be spun that way. Thus, Obama's gaffes, by opening him to criticism, also are opportunities for his campaign to skillfully play the victim/backlash game.

All he needs to do is trot out his well-worn line that "Americans are tired of this kind of politics."

As to what will resonate most when tired voters become exhausted, I can't predict that far ahead.

MORE: Speaking of tired, I know I'm tired of spending a small fortune on gas just so I can drive to New Jersey, but that's what I'm doing for the rest of the day.

posted by Eric at 10:24 AM | Comments (2)

Regular junkies sometimes have more sense than political junkies

Front page stories like this showing American officials on their knees to the Saudis annoy the hell out of me.

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Facing strong U.S. pressure and global dismay over oil prices, Saudi Arabia said yesterday that it would produce more crude this year if the market needed it. But the vague pledge fell far short of U.S. hopes for a specific increase and may do little to lower prices immediately.

For now, the current "oil shock" leaves Western countries with little choice but to move toward nuclear power and change their energy-consumption habits, Britain's prime minister warned at a rare meeting of oil-producing and consuming nations.

Saudi Arabia - the world's top crude exporter - called the emergency gathering yesterday to send a message that it, too, is concerned by high oil prices inflicting economic pain worldwide.

Instead, the meeting highlighted the sharp disagreement between producers such as Saudi Arabia and consuming countries such as Britain and the United States over the core factors driving steep price hikes. Oil closed near $135 a barrel on Friday - almost double the price a year ago.

The cost of gasoline also has become a sore point in the U.S. presidential race, with President Bush and Republican candidate John McCain calling on Congress to lift its long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, has said such moves would do nothing to ease American consumers' pain short-term.

The United States and other nations argue that oil production has not kept up with increasing demand, especially from China, India and the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries say there is no shortage of oil and instead blame financial speculation and the falling U.S. dollar.

Well, what about U.S. domestic oil production?

You know, drilling? The "D" word?

It's more than just an election issue; it's a scandal. There is something galling (to the point of being sickening, IMO) about a country with plenty of oil reserves it refuses to drill being in a position of dependence on countries like Saudi Arabia.

Why people put up with this, I don't know. At least McCain does not hesitate to support drilling (even if he has reservations about ANWR). Obama and his inane "plan" to provide "consumer relief" by taxing the oil companies at the same time he opposes drilling -- all while we're on our knees to the Saudis -- is so laughable that I can't believe it's being reported with a straight face.

But it is. And McCain's common-sense advocacy of offshore drilling is spun as a savage attack -- by McCain the "Drill Seeker" -- on the pristine marine environment. Never mind that with today's technology, not even Hurricane Katrina caused a single spill by any of the rigs it damaged in the Gulf:

Advances in oil technology--which Obama either doesn't know about or chooses to ignore--allow drilling to go far deeper beneath the sea and thus farther from the coast. Some oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are nearly 200 miles from land. Serious spills from drilling offshore have become practically non-existent. More than 100 rigs in the Gulf were damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita without a single spill.
Call them greedy gas guzzlers if you will, but the voters get it:
So Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, was wrong. Now, like other Democrats, he's in a politically awkward position. He opposes new drilling for oil and natural gas at a time when drilling in areas currently off limits has become popular. Three-fourths of likely voters in a new Zogby poll said they favor it, and Republicans have made it their top issue against Democrats.
Well, it would be a top issue, but the issue is being underreported.

But whether it's reported as a campaign issue or not, voters can see the prices at the pumps. And as it slowly seeps in that we have plenty of oil, but the Democrats and Obama oppose drilling for it, vestiges of that once fierce American spirit of independence may be triggered.

So maybe I shouldn't be complaining. Perhaps I should be glad to see headlines showing us on our knees before the Saudis. (Speaking of keeping a straight face, I don't know how the Saudis resist the temptation to burst out laughing at the incredible American inability to simply drill their own.)

To understand how basic this, it really doesn't matter what anyone's stand is on oil conservation or the environment. In fact, those who believe in the "addiction" model ought to be able to easily understand the dynamics. Politicians and pundits can pontificate all they want about how Americans are "addicted" to oil, but what the political junkies sometimes forget is something so elemental that even the lowest street junkie would immediately get it.

I'll put it in language that anyone familiar with the American street ought to be able understand.

What self-respecting junkie would grovel before his dealer while he still had his own stash?

posted by Eric at 09:17 AM | Comments (1)

bad methodology or home cooking?

Why is the Newsweek poll showing Barack Obama with a 15 point lead getting so much attention? And why is it being accepted so uncritically? Might it be what people want to hear?

According to Backcountry Notes something looks funny about Newsweek's numbers, especially when they are compared to the other numbers. He has a point; take a look.

Looking at the polls tracked on RealClearPolitics, I note the following: 

DATE          POLL                            OBAMA       MCCAIN     OBAMA LEAD

June 18    Reuters/Zogby            47                        42                   +5 

June 19    IPSOS                          50                        43                   +7

June 19    FOX News                  45                        41                   +4 

June 21   USA Today/Gallup      50                        44                    +6

June 21    Newsweek                  51                        36                   +15

June 22    Rasmussen Tracking    49                        42                   +7

June 22    Gallup Tracking              46                        44                   +2

I don't know how Newsweek managed to get results so far from the rest of the spread ("with six other polling organizations reporting an Obama lead in the range of +2 to +7, averaging +5, Newsweek comes out with a fifteen-point Obama lead"), but it appears even if the Newsweek number is is legitimate, it's an outlier.

Based on the post author's experiencing in polling, he's smelling a rat:

I majored in political science, studied polling techniques, and took part in taking opinion-poll surveys, so I know something about this; and I am puzzled, to say the least, that the Newsweek numbers are so far out of the range of random error that something seems to be wrong.

If anyone has a better explanation, I'd be glad to hear it; but it looks to me like this is bad methodology or home cooking.

Remember this?


Perhaps the poll belongs where Newsweek put the flag.

UPDATE: Commenter Physics Geek asks a good question:

Wasn't it Newsweek that reported back in the fall of 2000 "GORE BY 10%" on its cover?
Yes. Here's what Newsweek said:
Just before the Labor Day kick-off of the fall presidential campaign, Al Gore has surged to his largest lead yet--ten points--over Texas governor George W. Bush. In in a new Newsweek poll, conducted Aug. 30 and 31, Gore lead Bush 49 percent to 39 percent in a four-way race. Ralph Nader of the Green Party draws three percent and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, one percent. In a two-way race, Gore leads Bush by 12 points, 53 to 41 percent.
And of course it was the same Newsweek that reported the phony Koran desecration story in 2005.

I'd say the former is at least bad methodology, but the latter is definitely home cooking.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Newsweek says that Clarence Thomas is white.

Does that mean he's an outlier too?

posted by Eric at 12:11 AM | Comments (5)

Two more 60s love songs

From 1967 (the same year as the Troggs' "Love is all around" love song linked in the earlier post), here's one that reminded me of it; Brenton Woods' "Oogum Boogum Song":

Unfortunately, there is no contemporaneous video to go with it, but the display of the lyrics is better than some of those videos which show a spinning record.

Who got the blues now?

And from a few years earlier (1964), The Reflections in a contemporaneous video of their timeless classic, "Just Like Romeo And Juliet":

I love some of these old 1960s love songs.

Despite the period's reputation, the music doesn't lend itself to easy stereotypes.

MORE: From the ever-knowledgeable Charles G. Hill, an interesting historical comment:

One of the neater facts about the Reflections was that despite being white guys, they recorded for Detroit's Golden World label, owned by Eddie Wingate, who was to Motown's Berry Gordy what Chrysler was to GM: a crosstown rival and an occasional pain, if never a serious threat for market share. Edwin Starr started at Wingate's Ric-Tic label, waxing tracks which turned out to have included Gordy's own Funk Brothers. Gordy, peeved, eventually bought out Wingate and, tellingly, put Starr, not on Motown or Tamla, but on the Gordy label.

UPDATE: Speaking of Romeo and Juliet in a 60s retro context, Zombietime features pictures of "a pro-America Romeo, and an anti-America Juliet."

They seem like a perfect match -- but alas, 'tis not to be! Politics has quashed this potential romance before it even had a chance to start.

For love's sake: Can't we all just get along?

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Only if Romeo and Juliet teach their parents well....

posted by Eric at 10:21 PM | Comments (1)

My ongoing inability to explain the difference between zero intolerance and zero tolerance

There's an extended and intriguing discussion by several bloggers at Volokh (including Eugene Volokh) about a recent study showing that 53% of academics have a negative view of evangelical Christians. Ilya Somin thinks that the negative view is grounded in opposition to the evangelicals' political conservatism, while others see personal prejudice, or even an anti-Christian (or anti-religious) animus.

Glenn Reynolds linked the Volokh discussion, as well as this very thoughtful response response from a Penn Law professor who happens to also be an Evangelical Christian.

I don't know how helpful it will be, but I thought I would weigh in based on my own life experience in academia and with Evangelical Christians.

I'm not trying to be profound or settle anything, but I want to look at what I think may be at least a partial force behind this clearly identified anti-Evangelical bigotry in academia.

Yes, bigotry. Let me get that out of the way. We are all bigoted to one degree or another, yet none of us wants to admit it, because "bigot" is such a loaded word.
The devil is to be found in the details of what being a bigot means, though. This has caused me to vacillate somewhat on the definition, and in my admittedly contradictory way I have condemned bigotry while admitting that I suffer from it. On one occasion, I took issue with the idea that opposition to gay marriage is necessarily bigotry, and I cited the Merriam Webster definition of "bigot":

a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.
I concluded that opposing same sex marriage is not bigotry unless it is grounded in hatred or intolerance of homosexuals.

But even that begs discussion of what may be an unacknowledged elephant in the room: the seemingly intractable conflict between Christian Evangelicals and gay activists. Each side sees the other as bigoted, and each side is fueled by this mutual bigotry from the other side. To anti-gay fundamentalists, bigotry or prejudice against homosexuality reflects God's ultimate truth, but does that mean it is not bigotry? I realize that many of those who condemn homosexuality claim they love homosexuals but "hate the sin" of homosexuality, but this distinction is lost on homosexuals, who see condemnation of their form of love as the most profound form of bigotry imaginable, and who then reflexively invoke the principle of "the best defense is a good offense" and endorse unhinged bigotry against those they see as bigoted.

I've looked at this phenomenon in a number of posts, and it isn't easy to settle. Bigotry never is; I've also looked at bigotry against pit bulls,
bigotry against Hindus, evangelical bigotry against non-evangelical Christians, including "apostate" Episcopalians and Mormons -- the latter being reflected in the Huckabee campaign. (Some evangelicals went so far as to advance the claim that Romney was "Satanic." I think most people would agree that such a claim is bigoted. But those making it might see themselves as merely advancing one of those self-apparent truths which aren't as apparent to others.)

Whether it is fair to say that academics do not generally know evangelical Christians, I'm not sure. They would have most likely seen the television variety, and I suspect that many would be able to quote or paraphrase Jerry Falwell on the cause of 9/11 being gays and abortionists. (But was that religion? Or was it political conservatism? Does it matter?)

Not that it's fair to lump all evangelicals in with guys like Falwell. Or Robert Knight (who blamed Howard Stern and homosexuality for abu Ghraib.) Or Dinesh D'Souza. Or my emailer Matt Barber. But let's suppose you disagree with people like that the way you might disagree with, say Cindy Sheehan. Is that bigotry? If so, then where is the line to be drawn between disagreement and bigotry?

Is there a different definition of bigotry where it comes to political as opposed to religious disagreements?

Should there be?

If I disagree with Falwell, Knight, D'Souza, and Barber, does it matter whether I am I having a political disagreement, or a religious disagreement?

Let me go back to my early college experiences with evangelicals. (I'd rather not, but I think I should, because it may shed light on what drives academic bigotry.)

Back when I was a kid, the word "Christian" was generic, and did not contain negative connotation it has picked up in the past couple of decades. There were all sorts of Christians, just as there were atheists, but it hadn't yet occurred to the proselytizing atheists to use the term "Christian" to link "regular" Christians with the in-your-face, proselytizing variety. The latter group seemed to spring into life in the late 60s and early 70s, almost with a vengeance. There was a vocal group at UC Berkeley called "Campus Crusade for Christ" along with a plethora of confrontational street preachers, known in those days as "Jesus freaks." They would heckle people, and people would heckle them. After all, they were standing there in the middle of the most radical place in the United States preaching fire and brimstone. Yet there was something cute and innocent about it, and most people went about their business. Still....

Whether you believe in God or not, there is something annoying about having a stranger come up to you and attempt to convert you to a religious viewpoint you do not share. Many but not all people who experience this could be expected to develop a negative view of the proselytizers. Others might laugh them off. I used to ridicule them, because I thought they were ridiculous. I had friends, though, who considered them extremely dangerous, and even regarded them as "the enemy." This was especially true of those who had grown up in evangelical families; one friend hated "the fundies" with a passion because his fundamentalist Texas parents tried to beat the demonic sissiness out of him when he was an adolescent, and he made it his personal mission in life to confront and hurl the worst possible insults at the street preachers.

Even in those days, I liked to see myself as taking a broader view of things, and I actually developed a friendship with the local leader of the "Jesus freaks" -- a man named "Holy Hubert Lindsey." [Quite a fascinating character; he's probably deceased but he seems to be enjoying a new life on the Internet. Bio with photo here.] On his way to the campus, he would sometimes stop by my house and we'd chat in the yard about stuff like the weather and cars, and while he'd usually lay off on the personal stuff, one time he did take me aside and whisper in my ear that if I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, that he would accept.... Eh, never mind what he'd "accept." How would anyone know? (Even Hubert, bless his heart. It's been many years.)

The reason for recalling this is that I suspect antipathy towards evangelicals might be rooted in something more than their tendency towards political conservatism. Unlike non-evangelical Christians, unlike Jews, Mormons, Hindus, or Buddhists, evangelical Christians are sometimes seen as being unable to leave people alone. Whether this is true about all evangelicals, the fact is that many people do not like the feeling that they're being preached at. I don't especially like being preached at either, unless I put myself in the position of "preachee" by going to church. But suppose someone feels a compulsion to preach at me. Is my not liking it bigotry? If I take a dim view of gratuitous preaching, am I bigoted against those who preach gratuitously? I like to think that I apply the same standard to, say, gratuitous preaching against sexual sins that I'd apply to gratuitous preaching against Global Warming sins and I tend to regard both with derision. But if that is bigoted, am I not just as much an anti-environmentalist bigot as anti-sex-warrior bigot?

Saying that I "try to be fair" is not enough, and does not settle this. Nor does pleading guilty to my own bigotry while calling nearly everyone a bigot in the general sense.

Clearly, there's a right to disagree, and that carries with it a right to be intolerant of opinions, persons, and conduct we don't like, and to say so. But if intolerance is bigotry, what are the implications?

Does that mean we have to tolerate everything?

What a hellishly bigoted world that would be!

posted by Eric at 10:41 AM | Comments (9)

And if you like hedonism?
If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.
So "said" Otto von Bismarck, in what I always considered a statement meant more as irony than serious advice.

Unless I'm reading him wrong, Roger Kimball seems to be taking the above very seriously -- to the point where he posits it in a philosophical dichotomy against Immanual Kant on the other side:

Immanuel Kant, a great hero of the Enlightenment, summed up the alternative to Bismarck's counsel when, in an essay called "What is Enlightenment?," he offered as its motto the imperative "Sapere Aude": "Dare to know!" Enlightened man, Kant thought, was the first real adult: the first to realize his potential as an autonomous being--a being, as the etymology of the word implies, who "gives the law to himself." As Kant stressed, this was a moral as well as an intellectual achievement, since it involved courage as much as insight: courage to put aside convention, tradition, and superstition (how the three tended to coalesce for Enlightened thinkers!) in order to rely for guidance on the dictates of reason alone.

Bismarck's observation cautions reticence about certain matters; it implies that about some things it is better not to inquire too closely. What Walter Bagehot said about the British monarchy--"We must not let in daylight upon magic"--has, from this point of view, a more general application. The legend "Here be monsters" that one sees on certain antique maps applies also to certain precincts of the map of our moral universe.

Enlightened man, by contrast, is above all a creature who looks into things: he wants to "get to the bottom" of controversies, to dispel mysteries, to see what makes things "tick," to understand the mechanics of everything from law to sausages, from love to society. Who has the better advice, Bismarck or Kant?

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Much as I like to get to the bottom of things, I'm not sure I can answer that question, because I don't think the two are necessarily in opposition. What goes into sausage is gross, as is what goes into legislation. You might not want to know, but does that mean there shouldn't be truth in labeling? Was Bismarck seriously arguing against inquiry, or was he merely offering an ironic warning that if you look too closely into things, you might not like what you find? Might Kant have even agreed?

On a more personal level, what are the implications vis-a-vis Plato's advice that an unexamined life is not worth living?

Kimball's essay is long, and contains much deserved criticism of what he rightly calls "criticismism" -- chiefly grounded as it is in mindless Post Modernist nihilism and deconstructionism. But many of today's Post-Modernist "critical thinkers" have most likely not read Kant, much less are they steeped in him. So I don't think it's quite fair to blame Kant or the Enlightenment for Post Modernist nihilism -- any more than it's fair to blame Darwin for Auschwitz. Nor are Freud and Nietzsche responsible for what others did with their ideas. Nor is John Stuart Mill to be blamed for the fact that some people experiment with drugs:

It seems obvious that criticismism is a descendant or re-enactment of the Enlightenment imperative "Dare to Know!" In this sense, it is a precursor or adjunct of that "hermeneutics of suspicion" that the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur invoked when discussing the intellectual and moral demolition carried out by thinkers like Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche. It would be hard to exaggerate the corrosive nature of these assaults. Often, indeed, what we encounter is less a hermeneutics of suspicion than a hermeneutics of contempt. The contempt expresses itself partly in a repudiation of the customary, the conventional, the habitual, partly in the cult of innovation and originality. Think, for example, of John Stuart Mill's famous plea on behalf of moral, social, and intellectual "experiments in living." Part of what makes that phrase so obnoxious is Mill's effort to dignify his project of moral revolution with the prestige of science--as if, for example, his creepy relationship with the married Harriet Taylor was somehow equivalent to Michael Faraday's experiments with electro-magnetisim. You see the same thing at work today when young hedonists in search of oblivion explain that they are "experimenting" with drugs.
Call me a hedonist (lots of people have, even though I'm a square), but I just don't see the thoughts of Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche as "demolition," nor as "corrosive," nor as assaults. I can't stand Marx, but I love Mill, and I got a lot out of the others, and yet I don't think any of them are completely right. However, I don't see people -- or society -- as in need of protection against ideas, whether good, bad or mediocre.

Of course, this is starting to sound serious, and regular readers know how I abhor being serious about anything! Why, I've spent five years writing this silly blog, and whatever serious thoughts I've expressed I've tried to carefully stuff within sausage casings of satire, irony and humor.

Best of all, anything I write will quickly expire. No sooner do I hit "publish" and "save" than it starts to get stale. And after the passage of little more than a week, it disappears from public view, lying forever in silly and ironic archives. Which means that even if an occasional serious thought slips through, few will notice.

Anyway, over the years I've been a fan of a number "hedonists in search of oblivion," and no, I won't bore readers with another Grateful Dead video, because I realize not everyone likes the Dead as much as I do. But earlier I found a YouTube video of a wonderful old song by the Troggs -- "Love Is All Around" -- which took ten minutes to write in 1967! (Damn, that makes me jealous; it took me more than a half an hour to write this blog post.....)


It's probably not a good idea to watch hedonism being made, though.

It can get boring.

MORE: Speaking of laws and sausages, I'm thinking that Bismarck's analogy might be outdated by today's standards. That's because while sausage manufacturers might still know what goes into their products, as this post by Arthur Silber reminded me, today's legislators often have no idea what they're putting into theirs:

With regard to FISA and issues of liberty and privacy in general, let me now ask you a few questions. How long do you think it would take you to identify, read, and understand every provision in every statute, regulation and other authorization that gives surveillance powers to the government? Furthermore: Would you know each and every place to look, or how to determine what those places were? Additionally: With a staff of 20, or 50, could it be done, even if you were provided with limitless time and limitless funds?

I submit to you, without qualification or reservation, that you could not do it. No one could. Consider that most legislators in Washington aren't even aware of much of what's in the bills they so eagerly vote on. Consider the prohibitive length and complexity of legislation that comes before Congress. That's true of what is going on now. If you tried to track down every piece of legislation, every regulation, every administrative agency ruling, and every other pronouncement still in effect that allows the government to surveil and otherwise keep track of you, me, the guy down the street, the woman next door and the man in the moon, based on alleged concern with and the need to protect us all from the ravages of drugs, "illicit" sex, any and all other suspected criminal activity and, natch, terrorism, how on God's green earth would you do it? You couldn't.....

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Worst of all, they're not even disclosing the language of the legislation they're passing without reading:

What's a little odd is the lack of public discussion about this new fingerprint database. No mention of it appears in the official summary of the revised Senate bill. No fingerprint database requirement is in the House version of the legislation approved earlier this month. No copy of the revised Senate legislation is posted on the Library of Congress' Thomas Web site, which would be the usual procedure.
So the new rule of law making is "we won't disclose the text of the legislation we'll pass without bothering to read."

I have to say, I never thought I'd advocate bringing back the quaint old days of yesteryear when laws were made like sausages, but I think truth in labeling is called for. Manufacturers who won't say and don't know what they're putting into their products should be sued and put out of business instead of hiding behind official immunity.

In theory, there is accountability because law makers still have to be elected. But when they close ranks and pass these things in a bipartisan manner, what need is there to worry about elections?

MORE: A commenter directed my attention to this newer version of "Love Is All Around" by Wet Wet Wet. It's very nice, and as the commenter (Sheryl) observed,

...The whole performance stabs me in that place you get stabbed by music that touches joy. Gah! Hard to talk about it without sounding like an idiot....
I agree, and I felt that way about the 1967 version too. Still do.

posted by Eric at 01:32 AM | Comments (6)

Go Your Own Way

In keeping with the theme of Do Your Own Thing. The guitar work on this is something else.

posted by Simon at 01:18 AM | Comments (1)

How green was my car!

This one's for the books.

I'm getting ready to sell a car that's been sitting in my yard and has not run for years. Even though I'm selling it "AS-IS," I thought that if I could get it running it would be easier to sell, so a few days ago I began by charging up the battery. The battery is too old and run down to hold a charge for long, but charging it enables the car to start, which it did, with a huge cloud of smoke. After letting things warm up, I decided to turn on the various accessories, including the air conditioner and heater. These are driven by the same blower fan, which is underneath the dash/glove compartment area, and when I first turned it on I heard some horrendous noises I can't begin to describe, but they sounded like squeals, chirps, and some thunking thudding sounds -- as if I had chopped up a colony of mice. Following this, the fan motor slowed down and started moaning and groaning (as if encountering heavy resistence), and it occurred to me that if I allowed it to keep doing that I'd burn it out, so I shut it off.

Today (three days later) I tried it again, and this time the motor would barely turn. Not only that, there was a strange, rotten smell coming out -- but not exactly the characteristic smell of dead mice. I thought it might just be burned out from sitting all that time, but as I didn't know, I figured that if I took it apart I might be able to fix it.

Dissecting the underside of the dashboard, I located the bolts that held the fan motor in place, and when I finally got it free, I saw that it was packed with the kind of stuffing that typifies rodent nests. Here's the fan with some of the stuffing I took out:


Not quite convinced that mouse nesting material alone would account for all that noise and thunking, I craned my neck underneath the dash, and was astonished to see that the front portion of a recently mutilated, decomposing snake had fallen down as a result of removing the fan and was now dangling from inside of the fan blower compartment!

I've worked on a lot of cars, but I've never seen anything like this before, so I just had to take a picture:


Apparently, the mice were living there first, and eventually the predatory snake had found its way in -- obviously to feast on the mice. And then when I turned on the fan, I literally cuisinarted the poor snake to death. I fished around in there and pulled out five pieces of the snake's body, as well as some mummified mouse remains, and as I did that, all kinds of mouse and snake droppings literally rained down all over my face.

Naturally, I feel very guilty, for I had let the car sit so long that it had ceased to be a car, and become an ecosystem.

And by cuisinarting the snake, I wreaked havoc with the ecosystem in my car, messed with the food chain, and disrupted the very balance of nature!

Please don't sic the enviro wackos on me!

posted by Eric at 08:02 PM | Comments (4)

We See Nothing

The Atlantic has an interesting article on how moving people out of crime ridden neighborhoods has moved the crime with them as well. In the whole piece, not one single commentator mentioned the rhinoceros in the room. Drug prohibition. The American price support system for criminals. Oh it gets mentioned in passing. The usual "drug addicts are bad" kind of stuff is in there. No policy prescriptions however.

The answer the policy people prescribe is more police. That is the ticket. Subsidies for the gangs on one hand. More police to fight them on the other.

I guess things have not gotten bad enough in the good neighborhoods for the policy elites to notice. Give it time.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. May I suggest a look at why people take drugs. The short answer? Because they need them.

posted by Simon at 02:54 PM | Comments (35)

Feeling empathy for Genghis Khan


That's normally thought of as the ability to put oneself in another person's position. It's part skill and part common sense, although I am not 100% certain that understanding the emotions of others necessarily requires an ability to feel them as that person might. Try as I might to understand why Hitler hated Jews, I cannot vicariously "feel" hatred towards Jews, because it just isn't there.

Empathy is a big topic. Just today, an Inquirer Op-Ed titled "Try listening - you may hear something surprising" challenged readers to empathize with people from other races and classes:

I've wondered what the owners of million-dollar homes would lose if they spoke without condescension to their flooring contractor. I wonder whether they realize that, when disdaining to acknowledge this "other" person,

At one time, my own reaction to prejudice was angry disdain. There was a time when I would proclaim, "There are days when I hate white people." Some people I know dislike rich people just on principle.

But that, too, is a kind of prejudice, a refusal to be open. So my final question (and in part, I'm asking it of myself) is: With what attitude could we replace the at-arm's-length treatment and the angry disdain?

Good questions. It's always a good idea to get as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions. (What, for example, should our attitude be towards flooring contractors who happen to own million-dollar homes?)

Some academics -- like this law professor -- consider empathy a "value" that should be taught.

Anyway, what prompted this topic was an epic foreign film I saw last night -- "Mongol," which painted an unconventional portrait of Genghis Khan. As I watched the story of how a wretchedly abused child grew into a loving, misunderstood family man who tried to unite his messed up people, I found myself empathizing with "Temudjin." Or would that be Genghis? How about Mr. Khan? Really, I did. Perhaps Senator Kerry's remark about his fellow soldiers behaving in a manner reminiscent of the man should be viewed through the new lens of empathy.

But was I really feeling empathy towards Genghis Khan? Or was it the actor's portrayal?

The problem is that not only are historical details murky, but let's face it, Genghis Khan is the kind of guy Americans normally think of as something other than nice. Not only was he a ruthless conquerer, but his personal touches included doing things like pouring molten silver into the ears and eyes to execute a prisoner, slaughtering entire villages, and you know, laying waste and committing genocide.

It challenges and broadens the mind to make an attempt at empathy with such a guy. I've even tried empathizing with Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot, but always with mixed results. One of the problems with empathy is that too many people confuse understanding with forgiving and forgetting. Another stubborn issue is that most of these awful tyrants were not only profoundly evil, they had psychopathic personalities, which means that they were incapable of empathy.

But empathy is not supposed to be a two way street. Maybe the real test of empathy is the ability to empathize with people wholly lacking in the ability to empathize.

(On the other hand, it might be a bit like trying to empathize with a Great White Shark. It's always good to understand. But how far does it go?)

posted by Eric at 09:44 AM | Comments (5)

Please Yourself

I listened to a number of versions of this and I found myself preferring the studio version.

posted by Simon at 02:15 AM | Comments (2)

Better Than Printing Money?

EDN Magazine reports on a new technology for making solar cells. Printing them.
This week, Nanosolar put up a video of its 1GW (in annual production) solar ink coating machine, which the company says costs $1.65M. The coater, which works in a normal factory environment, and coats metal film with a proprietary ink based on a Copper-Indium-Gallium-Diselenide (CIGS) compound, is just a continuous-process printing machine, and is inherently cheaper and simpler than traditional silicon wafer deposition processes used in today's photovoltaic cells. True, the efficiency of the Nanosolar technology is less: 14% compared to ~25% silicon wafer efficiency. But 14% is still very practical.

So, in essence you have a machine you pay $1.65M for and feed in CIGS ink and metal foil, and at the end of the year you have produced 1GW worth of thin-film solar cells which you sell for about $1/W, or about $1B worth of product. Yeah, I'm beginning to see Nanosolar's business model.

Here's another interesting energy number from the Nanosolar site: Energy payback time is the time that a solar panel has to be used in order to generate the amount of energy required to produce it. The energy payback time for a Nanosolar panel is less than two months. A typical silicon wafer solar panel has an energy payback time of around three years, and a typical vacuum-deposited thin-film cell has one of 1-2 years.

I'm wondering if this might not be a Pony Express situation. Where the solar guys have figured out how to start getting into the market in a big way and then are derailed by something like this: World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited. Just as the Pony Express was derailed by copper wires. At least the solar stuff is a sure thing. Even at my most optimistic I still have to say that fusion as of now is not a proven technology. It is still just promise. In any case the choices are widening. Now if we could just get the NIMBYs and their politician enablers out of the way.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:23 PM | Comments (1)

"you can't have him!" (unless.....)

Analyzing bigotry can be more fun than satire.

This antiwar ad from Moveon.org is one of the most stunningly illogical pieces of propaganda I've seen in a long time.

Holding a rented baby she calls "Alex," the actress in the video denounces McCain based on the bogus "hundred years war" meme, and then makes an additional claim:

"When you say you would stay in Iraq for a hundred years were you counting on Alex? Because, if you were you can't have him!"
Even if the baby were her own, she would have absolutely no right to decide whether he can enlist in the military, which is of course a purely voluntary decision made by adults, not by their parents. (And of course, certainly not by McCain, who cannot force anyone into military service, even if elected president.)

The actress's reaction reminds me of the Code Pink activists in Berkeley, who consider adult soldiers who want to serve their country to be children in need of reeducation.

It's not just illogical. I think it evinces clear anti-military bigotry.

Anyone who enlists in the military is inherently in a suspect category, whose morally wrong decisions are said not to have been his own.


Maybe I should look on the bright side. It just so happens that most of the anti-war ideologues who think that way are also very much in favor of forcing the military to allow -- and most importantly, recruit -- gay soldiers. Which means that the anti-war leftists who shout at the recruiters and claim they're stealing their children are at least supportive of some people serving in the military.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't that mean that if "Alex" turned out to be gay, then McCain could have him?

MORE: The inanity is worse than I thought. There's now a blog called "You Can't have Him (Or Her)," which encourages people to send in the pictures of their babies that McCain can't "have."

I really hope they keep this up.

MORE: Commenter Steve Skubinna points out that "the military does not enlist children, so even if McCain does want Alex the kid is not eligible."

This must mean that according to MoveOn.org, McCain plans not only to reinstate the draft, but also one of the following:

-- extend the draft to include children; or

-- (probably by a military coup) suspend the Constitution and stay in office for four terms.

At least they waited until Bush was in office before making similar claims about him.

posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (7)

No free speech for assholes!

For some time now, I have noticed that defenders of free speech are more concerned with whether they agree with the speaker than with the principle of free speech itself. For leftists, free speech is fine for Bush-hating antiwar activists, disruptive demonstrators, artists who ridicule Christianity by putting crucifixes in urine or throwing dung at the Madonna. But where it comes to the free speech rights of rabid anti-abortion protesters, anti-gay demonstrators, or those who ridicule or insult Islam, leftists tend towards either silence or open hostility. (The latter often takes the form of calling it "hate speech," which is increasingly being conflated with "hate crime" legislation).

While I'd like to believe that conservatives (especially libertarians) are more principled, the reality is that in practice, most people tend to defend the rights of speakers they agree with, while ignoring the rights of speakers they disagree with. (An S&M takeoff on a religious painting drew a very strong reaction from anti-gay activists, who called it "blasphemous" -- and they think society has a right to censor blasphemy.) I worry that this is human nature. The principle of "free speech for me, but not for thee" is an old one, and it cuts across the spectrum.

An article linked by Glenn Reynolds this morning made me wonder whether the key inquiry is now simply whether the speaker is an "asshole," and whether the principle can be restated as "free speech for assholes, but only for our assholes!"

No seriously. In "The elephant in the room" -- a writer who describes himself as "a member of Canada's expansive arts scene" looks into the deafening silence by the left over the censorship of conservative speech by Canada's "Human Rights Commission":

The state will order Maclean's to publish something it does not want to publish. Isn't that what China does? So why don't ear-to-the-ground, free speech-loving Canadian artists denounce it?
Good questions. But whether Steyn should have free speech seems to revolve around whether he's an "asshole":
At a trendy Toronto Annex watering hole, I recently posed this question to a lead scion of the left. Without hesitation he said, "Because Mark Steyn's an ---hole." "That may be," I responded. "He may also be right-wing, and you may be left-wing. But those are very poor reasons to deny a person or group their Charter rights." The fellow conceded my point, but I could sense he didn't understand how easily he could come to find himself in the same position in the near future.

Normally it makes sense to put one's political clout behind knocking down such an ambiguous bill as C-10. But when artists and supposed advocates of free speech denounce Bill C-10, but not the Maclean's tribunal, they are not only turning their backs on a fellow creator but also setting themselves up for future persecution by these same tribunals. What if celebrated Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar had made Labyrinth of Passion, a film about a gay Islamic terrorist, here in our free country? His film would likely "subject Muslims to hate" in the same way that Mark Steyn's writing does. A fat lot of good secured tax credits would do you when you're barred from making your film on "moral" grounds.

Well, the problem is that "morality" is reflexively seen as superseding free speech rights. That's why attacks on free speech are couched in moralistic terms. To prevent "hate." To protect "the children." Or even to maintain "fairness" or uphold some vague notion called "neutrality."

Hey, I just caught myself repeating myself, so I might as well repeat myself:

It doesn't seem that they'll ever stop. If it isn't one pretext, it will be another. If not "fairness," then "hate speech." If not "hate," then "the children."

The optimist in my likes to think that eventually the people they want to regulate will catch on.

Will the leftists who believe in free speech be coming to the defense of Mark Steyn against the "Human Rights Commission"?

I haven't checked the blogs in detail, but my worry is that Steyn will be defended only by his fellow "assholes."

I guess defending his rights would make me an asshole too, but that's not the way free speech is supposed to work.

What's more shocking is the lack of media coverage over something that is happening next door. Bookworm looked at American journalists' "stunning lack of curiosity, let alone outrage, about the Mark Steyn persecution taking place in Canada:

....As a matter of principle, American newspapers should be howling at the thought that the Canadian government is stifling free speech. The most that's happened in the MSM, though, is a single New York Times article that presents the whole thing as an interesting relativistic question between old fashioned American values (free speech) and sophisticated European norms.

The problem, of course, is that members of the American media don't like Mark Steyn's speech, which recognizes factual truths that the American media refuses to acknowledge. They're therefore very happy for the Canadian government to do their dirty work and shut Mark Steyn down. The fact that a greater principle is involved than their personal prejudices -- and it's a principle that affects them, the media, more than any single job demographic in America -- does not seem to occur to them....

It's nice that Times readers can learn about Canadian censorship and the Steyn case -- even if under the rubric of "culture clash." But far from the expressions of outrage you might expect, there's been little to no reporting of this case in most newspapers. I've seen nothing in the Inquirer about the case, even though Mark Steyn is a journalist who is facing censorship.

Is that because he's an "asshole"?

posted by Eric at 10:18 AM | Comments (2)

It Is A World Market

Demand down, prices up. How can that be?

posted by Simon at 05:23 AM | Comments (0)

Real "change" I'd like to see...

Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that John McCain is getting what I consider a little help from Donald Rumsfeld, who (so far) has repaid McCain by declining to back his candidacy.

I say this not to attack Rumsfeld, but McCain needs to distance himself from the Bush administration in order to win. Not only that, his very political ethos right now is built on having been right about Iraq, when Rumsfeld was wrong. If Rumsfeld were to actually endorse McCain, it would tend to minimize these differences in the minds of the voters, so I think the continued animosity is probably in the best interests of the McCain campaign, as well as Rumsfeld's personal pride.

But the piece says Rumsfeld may eventually support McCain anyway:

Some of McCain's colleagues in the Senate said they believe Rumsfeld will eventually support the GOP candidate.

"He will be for him in due time," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said. Based on his long experience with national security, Rumsfeld will see "a clear contrast between" McCain and Obama, Thune said.

Rumsfeld's vote will be for McCain, Thune surmised, because "he cares about the country's national security."

Chambliss, who is McCain's and Thune's colleague on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "McCain would like to have every vote he can get." Whatever differences the two had should not matter when it comes down to support on Election Day, Chambliss added.

The Rumsfelds live in the blue state of Maryland, which Obama is heavily favored to win.

Well, Rumsfeld could hardly be expected to ever support Barack Obama. Unless, of course, he had a Robert McNamara-style "epiphany," regretted his "war crimes," and agreed (perhaps with "real tears") to face the people's tribunals.

Maybe Obama could promise him a pardon, and they could work together.

For change!

And "reconcilation."

(Phew. I'm glad this is satire. Otherwise, we might be looking at an Obama Rumsfeld ticket! Ugh.)

MORE: Putting aside the pressing issue of Rumsfeld's vice presidential chances, what about Obama's LUST FOR BACON?

No, I don't mean Kevin! Come on, I'm trying to be serious, because this is a serious bacon issue. And via Glenn Reynolds, I see Ann Althouse is wondering whether the Obamas' lust for bacon is a bit overwrought, and reflects something else:

...such a huge deal was made out of the Obamas' lust for bacon, that I've started wondering if it was intended as a denial of the rumor that Obama is a Muslim.

Is the Obama campaign in danger of overdoing the I-am-not-a-Muslim routine? After all, it's not bad to be Muslim.

Nor is it bad to lust for bacon. (Unless you're a Muslim, of course.)

Might this also be a clever way of insinuating a libertarianish element into the campaign? In another post, Ann Althouse declares that because of the Obama pork passion,

The health nannying is shot to hell.
I agree.

Maybe Obama could wear this T-shirt.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Karl Rove is also being mean to John McCain, accusing him of spouting "economic nonsense."

Politically, what matters most is not whether McCain spouted nonsense, but that he's getting it from such quintessential Bushian stalwarts as Rumsfeld and Rove.

However, considering Rove's legendary Satan status, I don't expect him to make Obama's VP short list.

(I might be wrong, of course....)

posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (1)

Can "pit bull politics" be carried too far?

I know I complain a lot about the way almost everything gets politicized, although I try not to do it too often lest I get tired of listening to my own complaints. However, considering this blog's longtime focus on cultural issues, I often feel duty bound to complain -- all the more so when an issue personal to me is politicized. It grieves me that dogs have been as politicized as they have, and I find the campaign against pit bulls (with all the stereotyping that goes with that) especially infuriating.

While I've written about that theme many times, a YouTube video I saw last night takes "pit bull politics" way too far. I realize that Bush is extremely unpopular (and I understand the reasons), but how is it helpful to anyone to train pit bulls to attack him?

You think I'm kidding? Watch this!

Does the above dog really have to be named Coco?

It's not that I don't have a sense of humor; I did play the Hillary Clinton ring tone for Coco and filmed her reaction. But even though Hillary masks are available, I'd never encourage her to attack a Hillary lookalike. Besides, I think Coco would like Hillary more than any of the other candidates -- if for no other reason than Coco prefers women to men.

FWIW, I did think the above video was very funny, and I think most people would realize that the dog is not really snarling because he thinks the visitor is George W. Bush; he's simply reacting to the goofy rubber mask, and weird jerky movements as most dogs would. But I'm wondering about something....

Is it only funny because Bush is an unpopular, religious, white, male, heterosexual Republican? Would it be as funny if the pit bull was snarling at an intruder who was wearing an Obama mask?


I'd hate to think the country has a double standard where it comes to "pit bull politics," but hey, all I can do is spot the important issues of the day.

MORE: Maybe I'm getting senile, but somehow that mask resembles Jimmy Carter.

posted by Eric at 09:07 AM | Comments (2)

Spending My Time

And for those of you wondering where I have been lately? Busy learning the ARM instruction set. Preparatory to writing a simple FORTH for the ARM. The whole concept is supported by a number of companies so code written for one companies chips should with modification work on another company's chips.

Right now I like the TI, ATMEL, and ST Microelectronics chips. For the time being I've settled on the IAR Toolset. If any one has any suggestions, I'm open.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:40 AM | Comments (3)

The Amazing Edison

Innovate Like Edison is a book about how to use Edison's system of innovation to improve business practices. Control Engineering discusses the book based on a talk given at the recent Society for Manufacturing Engineers Convention in Detroit, MI.

Detroit, MI - Understanding Thomas Edison's patterns of thinking can help us be more like the guy who has 1,093 U.S. patents to his name, says co-author of the book, "Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America's Greatest Inventor." Sarah Miller Caldicott, also Edison's great grandniece, helped a packed room of engineers at the SME Annual Meeting gain insights into Edison's thought patterns, to improve U.S. competitiveness.

Bearing a family resemblance to her great great Aunt Mina Miller - who married Edison in 1886 - and telling stories of growing up with Edison phonographs in her bedroom, Caldicott offered exercises which seemed to win over SME attendees... along with a promise of an autographed book.

Caldicott, also founder of The Power Patterns of Innovation, noted five best practices based on her 3-year study of Edison: a solution-centered mindset; kaleidoscopic thinking; full-spectrum engagement; master-mind collaboration; and super value creation.

All the points are covered in the review, but I'd like to take up this one:
-Cultivate a solution-centered mindset. Do not seize an answer at the beginning of an initiative. A framework of options and pathways can lead to solutions. Look outward and scan the environment. Lean ahead and hunt for a solution. Combine factual information with what-if or if-then thinking. Envision the solution and "emotionalize" the state that will be experienced upon getting there.
Which could be translated into be patiently crazy. Also note that emotion is considered an important part of rational thinking. In fact emotion may be one of the most critical feedback mechanisms. We have a very good pattern recognition system in our brains. If you train your brain with good patterns, after a while you get a "feel" about the right way and the wrong way to do things. Caldicott also goes into the need for thinking before acting. She even calls it contemplation. Be quiet. Sit Still. Shut up. And good preparation for that contemplation time is to get on the www and start looking around. Go deep. Some times the good stuff is on the 30th page of a search.

I always had a standard which I tried to stick to when it came to development: Five days of planning, two days of work. That is both imperative and descriptive. You must recognize that this method is scary for most management. The typical exhortation is: put in all the time you need to, but meet the schedule. My answer was: I'm not putting in any extra time. I will meet your schedule. In two days I will have a plan. How did that work out? Three months were alloted to get the project on track. I did it in five weeks. Without raising a sweat. Of course once you have proven yourself it is easier the next time.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:33 AM | Comments (0)

No time for catching up yet

I'm back from the Midwest, but I've had zero time to blog. Sold a very used car which had been sitting in the yard for three years today, which entailed getting it running, putting air in the tires, and tearing the house apart looking for the silly lost paperwork.

I'll try to find some time to post but for now, the best I can do is a picture of my attic victory dance. (Don't ask what victory; it's probably premature!)


posted by Eric at 07:33 PM | Comments (4)

McCain Gets It

At last John McCain is getting towards an energy policy I can back. Drill for oil.

Most voters favor the resumption of offshore drilling in the United States and expect it to lower prices at the pump, even as John McCain has announced his support for states that want to explore for oil and gas off their coasts.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey--conducted before McCain announced his intentions on the issue--finds that 67% of voters believe that drilling should be allowed off the coasts of California, Florida and other states. Only 18% disagree and 15% are undecided. Conservative and moderate voters strongly support this approach, while liberals are more evenly divided (46% of liberals favor drilling, 37% oppose).

Maybe McCain finally gets that it is not only a political strategy, and an economic strategy, but also a war fighting strategy:

No Blood For Oil
You know, the more I hear about John McCain the more I like him.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:01 PM | Comments (10)

Antsy in Ann Arbor

Not me, but the wall....


Actually, I'll be hitting the road soon, so I need to get into full robot mode. Maybe this store will help.


Here I am, trying to get with the program:


Why aren't there more stores like that?

posted by Eric at 08:41 AM | Comments (2)

Michigan Students Heckle Creationist Speaker

The year was 1900.

The speaker was William Jennings Bryan.

From a sign I saw in Ann Arbor the other night reminding student activists of their long and glorious, um, tradition:


posted by Eric at 08:37 AM | Comments (1)

Make Your Very Own

I did a bit last night about a site with a bunch of Obama posters. It turns out you can make your very own. To prove it I made one of my own:

Not A Pin Head

To make one of your own just click on the picture. I had some trouble loading the site. It works. Just try again.

posted by Simon at 01:55 PM | Comments (5)

Driving rain

After an all-day drive through several of the worst downpours I've ever driven through, here I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While the flooding is further south, the ferocity of the rain I drove through (it could not possibly come down harder or faster) gave me a glimpse of what people are experiencing in Iowa and Missouri.

Right now, though, there's no rain and the sun is shining. (I'll enjoy it while I can, and I won't bother looking at the extended weather forecast....)

Limited connectivity here, and even more limited time, so that's it for now!

MORE: One last thing. I briefly turned on the hotel television, and what movie do you think they're showing?

Hard Rain (starring Christian Slater, Betty White, and Morgan Freeman) a thriller set during heavy rain which triggered "a massive flood started by a dam accident in a small town." Naturally, the town is underwater, people can only get around by boats, etc.

Quite enjoyable. Rather like a cruise ship screening "Titanic" during a crisis, doncha think?

Should I have brought a boat?

posted by Eric at 09:14 AM | Comments (3)

Obama Posters

Hard to Swallow has some very nice Obama posters for your viewing pleasure. I especially like this one:

Befriend A Bomber
posted by Simon at 02:22 AM | Comments (2)

A Bucky Fuller Retrospective

In Dymaxion Man Elizabeth Kolbert discusses the life of Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller. Prompted by a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art which opens later this month.

One of Buckminster Fuller's earliest inventions was a car shaped like a blimp. The car had three wheels--two up front, one in the back--and a periscope instead of a rear window. Owing to its unusual design, it could be maneuvered into a parking space nose first and could execute a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn so tightly that it would end up practically where it had started, facing the opposite direction. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the car was introduced in the summer of 1933, it caused such a sensation that gridlock followed, and anxious drivers implored Fuller to keep it off the streets at rush hour.

Fuller called his invention the Dymaxion Vehicle. He believed that it would not just revolutionize automaking but help bring about a wholesale reordering of modern life. Soon, Fuller thought, people would be living in standardized, prefabricated dwellings, and this, in turn, would allow them to occupy regions previously considered uninhabitable--the Arctic, the Sahara, the tops of mountains. The Dymaxion Vehicle would carry them to their new homes; it would be capable of travelling on the roughest roads and--once the technology for the requisite engines had been worked out--it would also (somehow) be able to fly. Fuller envisioned the Dymaxion taking off almost vertically, like a duck.

Fuller's schemes often had the hallucinatory quality associated with science fiction (or mental hospitals). It concerned him not in the least that things had always been done a certain way in the past. In addition to flying cars, he imagined mass-produced bathrooms that could be installed like refrigerators; underwater settlements that would be restocked by submarine; and floating communities that, along with all their inhabitants, would hover among the clouds. Most famously, he dreamed up the geodesic dome.

I have been a big fan of Bucky's ever since my geodesic dome days. I think I built my first one in 1969. It was a great party.

Bucky was famous for being able to tell the future by looking at a graph of trends. A kind of Moore's Law guy before Moore's Law. In many ways he was a Leonardo DaVinci with a shorter time lag.

Have a read.

H/T Alan Boyle

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

A Man Must Know His Limitations

posted by Simon at 11:59 AM | Comments (4)


Yes, I'm leaving this morning for another long road trip to the Midwest.

My blogging output will necessarily be light to nonexistent, but with any luck M. Simon will keep people entertained and enlightened. (Don't miss his latest fusion report.)

I'll try to check in when I can, time and weather permitting.

Ugh, weather! People in Philadelphia are dying. Ever since Katrina, weather has gotten to be almost as bad as politics. No; it is politics. The subtext is that people are victims of right wing weather caused by Bush's stubborn recalcitrance. But what will happen when they can't spin the weather as Republican? And if the weather improves, who will take the credit?

Hmmmm... Maybe I should confront the weather god while I'm in the Midwest, and ask him to stop all this tornado hypocrisy. And Stop the Warming Now!

wind god.jpg

Looks like a friendly and approachable enough god to me.

I'll let you know whether my weather manipulation works.

posted by Eric at 07:43 AM | Comments (0)

Left of McGovern versus right of Nixon?

I just read a report that not all Democrats are endorsing Barack Obama, and I was reminded of an interesting topic I heard discussed on Hugh Hewitt's radio show -- is Obama to the left of McGovern? The consensus was that he is, and by any objective standard I think that is so, as Obama is more of a socialist (and more of a pacifist) than McGovern.

Now, you could say that times have changed, and I'm sure a lot of people think the entire spectrum has shifted leftward -- especially considering that some conservative Republicans are refusing to endorse McCain.

Still, the Obama-McGovern contrast forced me to ask an analogous question -- is McCain to the right of Nixon?

Anyone remember Richard Nixon's wage and price controls?

Of Richard Nixon's vast repertoire of domestic assaults on liberty and the free market, price controls on oil were among his most evil and destructive. In the midst of economic stagnation surely related to his guns and butter, inflationism, devaluation of the dollar and his closing of the gold window, the Republican called down from on high and decreed that the laws of supply and demand be repealed. The feds were unleashed to regiment prices and wages throughout the land, with no more respect for economic freedom and reality than was displayed by FDR's National Recovery Administrators. Most of Tricky Dick's price and wage controls were scrapped within a few years, after the shortages and other chaos they caused became too obvious to ignore, but central planning of oil and natural gas prices continued, failing to solve the problem and even inspiring schemes for rationing, until 1981 when President Reagan, in an act of sensibility anomalous for his administration, expedited the decontrol of oil prices as planned by President Carter. Prices fell dramatically for several years, and the economy boomed accordingly.

Nixon had spoken as though he understood the nonsense and evil of price controls, up until the point he imposed them. For years conservatives have distanced themselves from much of Nixon's economic policy, which in retrospect appears more collectivist than any Democratic president's since. That the right is seriously considering government-administered controls as a solution to rising gas prices should help to make a few things perfectly clear.

I'd say McCain is to the right of Nixon economically.

As to the environment, Nixon started the EPA (long hated by many libertarians and conservatives).

While a supporter of the "war on drugs," he nonetheless instituted a legal Methadone program:

whatever his other faults, Nixon put the drug money he got for his war in the right places: treatment and methadone maintenance. Addicts who had been unable to secure treatment started having their needs met. Heroin was decoupled from crime by methadone, which doesn't get you high but keeps you from needing heroin. Suddenly the drug problem was going into remission.
And while he said he was against "abortion on demand," he appointed Harry Blackmun (the author of Roe v. Wade) to the Supreme Court, along with Lewis Powell (a moderate).

As to race relations, Nixon won 32% of the black vote in 1960, and while the numbers went down because of the Southern strategy, he still did better than any Republican since. Pat Buchanan reflects:

Nixon led America out of a dismal decade and was rewarded with a 49-state landslide. By one estimate, he carried 18 percent of the black vote in 1972 and 25 percent in the South. No Republican has since matched that. To see Kristol colluding with the Times to rewrite that history to make liberals heroes and Republicans villains tells us more about him than about the era.
In office, Nixon also championed "black capitalism," and he was probably the most popular Republican president with the black community that I have seen in my lifetime.

Oh, and of course he ended the draft (which caused attendance at demonstrations to dry up to nearly nothing), started the all-volunteer Army, ended the hated Vietnam War, and made overtures to Red China which led directly to our huge current relationship.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive political essay; just a few irony-based observations that people who think the entire country has necessarily shifted leftward might want to ponder....

posted by Eric at 07:19 AM | Comments (5)

Fusion Report 13 June 008

Polywell Plasma 10 June 008 Alan Boyle has a new report on the goings on in New Mexico at EMC2 Fusion Labs.

Emc2 Fusion's Richard Nebel can't say yet whether his team's garage-shop plasma experiment will lead to cheap, abundant fusion power. But he can say that after months of tweaking, the WB-7 device "runs like a top" - and he's hoping to get definitive answers about a technology that has tantalized grass-roots fusion fans for years.
Dr Nebel has been rather quiet lately in the usual forum he frequents, so this update is very welcome to all us grass-roots fusion fans.
"We're kind of a combination of high tech and Home Depot, because a lot of this stuff we make ourselves," Nebel told me today. "We're operating out of a glorified garage, but it's appropriate for what we're doing."

The Emc2 team has been ramping up its tests over the past few months, with the aim of using WB-7 to verify Bussard's WB-6 results. Today, Nebel said he's confident that the answers will be forthcoming, one way or the other.

"We're fully operational and we're getting data," Nebel said. "The machine runs like a top. You can just sit there and take data all afternoon."

Now compare "We're operating out of a glorified garage... with ITER's 30 % cost over run so far.
an independent panel of experts will be coming to Santa Fe this summer to review the WB-7 experiment, Nebel said.

"We're going to show them the whole thing, warts and all," he said.

Because of the complexity, it will take some interpretation to determine exactly how the experiment is turning out. "The answers are going to be kind of nuanced," Nebel said.

The experts' assessment will feed into the decision on whether to move forward with larger-scale tests. Nebel said he won't discuss the data publicly until his funders have made that decision.

"Warts and all now isn't that refreshing.
Nebel may be low-key about the experiment, but he has high hopes for Bussard's Polywell fusion concept. If it works the way Nebel hopes, the system could open the way for larger-scale, commercially viable fusion reactors and even new types of space propulsion systems.

"We're looking at power generation with this machine," Nebel said. "This machine is so inexpensive going into the 100-megawatt range that there's no compelling reason for not just doing it. We're trying to take bigger steps than you would with a conventional fusion machine."

With my typical engineering sensibilities I still think some intermediate steps would be required. Like a continuously operating experiment. It need not be a very big machine but it will require a big power supply. It might need to draw 4 to 6 MW on start up. In fact it might need that for the whole duration of operation. The machine scales in a funny way. Coil power (for a copper coil demo) goes up as the reactor gets large but the accelerator power goes down.
Over the next decade, billions of dollars are due to be spent on the most conventional approach to nuclear fusion, which is based on a magnetic confinement device known as a tokamak. The $13 billion ITER experimental plasma project is just starting to take shape in France, and there's already talk that bigger budgets and longer timetables will be required.

If the Polywell system's worth is proven, that could provide a cheaper, faster route to the same goal - and that's why there's a groundswell of grass-roots interest in Nebel's progress. What's more, a large-scale Polywell device could use cleaner fusion fuels - for example, lunar helium-3, or hydrogen and boron ions. Nebel eventually hopes to make use of the hydrogen-boron combination, known as pB11 fusion.

"The reason that advanced fuels are so hard for conventional fusion machines is that you have to go to high temperatures," Nebel explained. "High temperatures are difficult on a conventional fusion machine. ... If you look at electrostatics, high temperatures aren't hard. High temperatures are high voltage."

Most researchers would see conventional tokamak machines as the safer route to commercial fusion power. There's a chance that Bussard's Polywell dream will prove illusory, due to scientific or engineering bugaboos yet to be revealed. But even though Nebel can't yet talk about the data, he's proud that he and his colleagues at Emc2 have gotten so far so quickly.

"By God, we built a laboratory and an experiment in nine months," he said, "and we're getting data out of it."

By God I hope it works out.

If you want to know what you can do to help have a look at Starting A Fusion Program In Your Home Town.

To get the technical details and some history read World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited

Previous Fusion Reports:
A Fusion President?
Fusion Report 15 May 008
Fusion Report 06 May 008
Fusion Report 05 May 008
Fusion Report 02 May 008
Fusion Report - April '08
WB-7 First Plasma
Bussard Fusion Update
Bussard Reactor Funded

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Updated 13 June 008 to add reference materials.

posted by Simon at 09:46 PM | Comments (1)

This used to be a wonderful country
"This country is starting to feel second-rate to me, and it's not a pleasant feeling."

So says David Post, a Philadelphian who (like me) is horrified by the state of public transportation. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

The worst part of this entire experience was that nobody really seems to give a damn, or be in the least surprised, about complete breakdowns like these.
Well, what about the complete breakdown that would be suffered by giving a damn? If you give a damn, it will only lead to a hopeless temper tantrum, and feelings of impotent rage. * Getting all bent out of shape about problems which cannot be solved is a good way to die young.

Today I was stuck in awful traffic because I couldn't take public transportation, and the reason I couldn't take public transportation is that the SEPTA parking lot was full. The only highway that connects the area where I live to Philadelphia is the notorious Schuylkill "Expressway" and it was obsolete when built in the 1950s, and too small for traffic ever since.

Constructed over a period of ten years from 1949 to 1959, a large portion of the expressway predates the 1956 introduction of Interstate Highway System; many of these portions were not built to contemporary standards.[3] The rugged terrain and limited riverfront space covered by the route has largely stymied later attempts to upgrade or widen the highway, despite the road being highly over-capacity; it has become notorious for its chronic congestion.[4] It is the busiest road in Philadelphia, as well as in the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania.[5]
Add to that the maddeningly usual road work (it is ALWAYS under construction) and traffic slows to a crawl if you're lucky.

I'd complain more often, but again, that would mean I'd give a damn, and where do you go with that? Widening highways like the Schuykill has gone from nearly impossible to completely out of the question. Thanks to global warming, and growing bureaucratic hostility to cars, there's now a sanctimonious, quasi-religious reason to say no, and they can almost feel smug about the deterioration. It is, after all, the fault of all those greedy people in their cars!

Post continues:

Really, our public infrastructure - our public life - is in the process of deteriorating, and we don't seem to be able to summon up the energy required to do anything about it. Maybe I'm wrong about that. I work in Philadelphia, probably the world capital of "what can you do? it's just the way it is" - the public transportation system in Philadelphia is a grotesque monstrosity, filthy, noisy, and monumentally unpleasant, and the general feeling seems to be that it would be a miracle if we could find some way just to keep it from getting any worse - so maybe I'm oversensitive to the problem. But if I had had a guest with me from overseas on this trip, I would have been appalled and embarrassed by the state of decay into which we, collectively, have allowed things to fall.
What shocks me is to go to other countries like Japan and Mexico and see functional public transportation systems. (You don't have to go that far, really; California, where I lived for 28 years, makes the East Coast look broken-down and medieval.)

It would be one thing for the transportation system to be a "grotesque monstrosity, filthy, noisy, and monumentally unpleasant" if they just left it at that. But what really ticks me off is to be constantly hounded about how I should use public transportation! Today I couldn't use it, as there was nowhere to park, and if you can't park, you can't use it. Naturally, more and more people are trying to park because more and more people are trying to use it to avoid using gas. Naturally, this will cause more and more breakdowns in the chronically broken system. But that won't stop the local moralists from sounding their endless whine about how "not enough people use public transportation," and how "we need to keep all these cars out of Philadelphia."

Grrrrrr..... (Nah, I should shut up. What good does it do to growl at those who hound you?)

There's some comfort for guys my age in at least being able to remember when things sort of worked.

* Giving a damn can also lead to gratuitous scoldings like this comment:

"This country is starting to feel second-rate to me, and it's not a pleasant feeling"

With all due respect - if you don't have anything worthwhile to blof about in this forum, then restrain yourself until you do.

Your post on this topic is a complete waste of time and space, inappropriate, and not worthy of the forum. Eugene should remove it, and give you guidlines as to what to blog about here.


Personally, I don't think that Post's post violated Eugene's guidlines.

But in any case, I can blof about anything I want, because I set my own guidlines!

UPDATE (from the road): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

Glenn also links this discussion of the deteriorating public transportation system, and I agree that the issue is not money; it's priorities.

posted by Eric at 09:09 PM | Comments (11)

Inspiring Town Hall meeting at the birthplace of the Constitution

Philadelphia is one of the most heavily Democrat cities there is. So, when I read that John McCain's Straight Talk America was coming to Philadelphia for a Town Hall, I just had to go. That required standing in a long line in front of the Constitution Center, and waiting another two hours, but it was worth it to see McCain in person, get a feel for his supporters, and watch him work the crowd.

The Philadelphia Inquirer sent veteran reporter Larry Eichel to cover the event, and his report is on today's front page.

At a town-hall meeting in Philadelphia yesterday, Sen. John McCain promised a vigorous campaign to carry Pennsylvania in November.

Even as he spoke, he was drawing criticism from Democrats for his comments in a morning television interview that he wanted to reduce U.S. casualties in Iraq but that exactly when all the troops come home was "not too important."

During the town-hall meeting, at the National Constitution Center, McCain assured a crowd of 600 that he would "compete and win" in the state.

"We're going to go to the small towns in Pennsylvania," McCain said, "and I'm going to tell them I don't agree with Sen. Obama that they cling to their religion and the Constitution because they're bitter."

Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, famously damaged his own prospects in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary - which he lost to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by more than 200,000 votes - by saying that the bitterness of small-town residents over their economic circumstances explained their devotion to religion and their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

I find it noteworthy that Larry Eichel did not accuse McCain of "mangling" his remarks as did the Boston Globe:
the presumptive Republican nominee seemed to mangle the controversial quote from Obama, who told a private fund-raiser in San Francisco in April that he was having trouble reaching "bitter" small-town voters who "cling to guns or religion."

McCain said Obama, who later conceded he chose his words poorly, belittled small-town residents who cling to religion or "the Constitution."

"We're going to go to the small towns in Pennsylvania and I'm gonna to tell them I don't agree with Senator Obama that they cling to their religion and the Constitution because they're bitter," said McCain, who might have been referring to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. "I'm gonna tell them they have faith and they have trust and support the Constitution of the United States because they have optimism and hope... That's what America's all about."

He made the remarks at the start of a town hall meeting at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the same venue where Obama gave his widely praised speech in March on race and politics.

It is McCain's second slip of the tongue in two days.

Not so fast. I might be wrong, but I listened to the remarks carefully, and I think McCain used the word "Constitution" quite deliberately. I think he intended to make a calculated, politically provocative reminder -- at the Constitution Center, in Philadelphia -- that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is an inseparable part of the Constitution. To illustrate my point, imagine if Barack Obama had accused bitter Pennsylvanians of clinging "to free speech or religion." While the outrage would have been fatal to his campaign, the word "Constitution" would have immediately have legitimately been read in by implication, and it would have been entirely proper to accuse Obama of saying they "cling to their religion and the Constitution because they're bitter."

I think the Globe's criticism highlights a double standard. The right to free speech is considered an inseparable part of the Constitution, while the right to keep and bear arms is considered not a right at all.

Thus, McCain's political characterization of the right to keep and bear arms with the word "Constitution" becomes a "slip of the tongue" in Boston. As to why that argument wasn't advanced by Larry Eichel, I'm not sure; perhaps he's a seasoned enough reporter to sense that it was deliberate.

Similarly, the very anti-gun Philadelphia Daily News not only didn't accuse McCain of a flub, but reported that

"He seemed relaxed and sure-footed, offering questioners a microphone for follow-up questions if they wanted."
In a Fox News writeup, I found a video of the remark. Watch for yourself.

I don't know whether the embed will work, but here it is.

[For me, it works in Mozilla, but not IE... Typical.]

Even though I was sitting in the back row, I managed to get a few fairly decent pictures.




And here are the media, who (much to my envy) had the advantage of being on higher ground:


My videos were only of fair quality, but the acoustics were terrible, so I think this YouTube video (showing his discussion of Iran in reply to a question) will give a better idea of the event:

Via PolitickerPA who also comments on the seemingly odd choice of Philadelphia:

Philadelphia was a curious choice for McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, to open his general election campaign in Pennsylvania. Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 5-1 in this liberal hotbed, and even urban Republicans often tend to lean Democratic. He will almost certainly lose the city by huge margins, with some pollsters analysts telling PolitickerPA.com that his opponent, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) could rack up as much as a whopping 85 percent of the city's votes.

But from the moment he took the stage to raucous applause from his supporters, McCain made it clear he wouldn't be ceding ground in the city or the state.

"Let me assure you, we will compete and win in the state of Pennsylvania," he said.

McCain spoke for about 25 minutes and answered questions for another 25, with topics running the gamut of policy issues from foreign policy and health care to the economy and crime. He reiterated his challenge to Obama to join him in 10 town hall meetings throughout the summer, and even revived the primary season controversy over remarks Obama made about rural Pennsylvanias.

Yes, and I think he revived the controversy by adding some deliberate sting. Will Obama take the bait as the Globe did, and accuse McCain of mangling his earlier mangling of the Constitution? I think McCain would relish the fight.

Anyway, I have to say, the man really connects with his audience and knows how to work a Town Hall crowd. Perhaps that's why Obama doesn't want to meet him in that type of arena.

McCain spoke very politely and respectfully of Obama, praising his campaign. (He also welcomed Hillary Clinton's supporters, which drew cheers.) However he stressed that there are "fundamental, deep-seated disagreements" between him and Barack Obama -- particularly the following:

  • Health care "I want Americans to make their own choices for health care. Sen. Obama wants the government to make the choices for you."
  • Taxation He spoke strongly against tax increases, mentioned the devastation caused by Smoot Hawley, stated his opposition to raising the capital gains tax, and pointed out that a corporate tax increase would be a disaster, as companies are already relocating to countries like Ireland which have lower corporate taxes. Music to the ears of most libertarians.
  • National defense and the war in Iraq From Politicker
    "I don't have to tell you what tough times we're in, and we need to keep taxes low," he said. "Why on earth would anyone consider raising taxes in such trying times?"

    He insisted that Iraq remains the central front in the war on terrorism, and chastised Obama for wanting to withdraw troops.

    "We face the threat of Islamic extremism," he said. "It is a transcendent evil. ... It's hard to encompass how evil this radical extremism is. Have no doubt that they want to destroy everything we have and believe in.

    "Every casualty is something that pains us and grieves us," he added. "But the consequences of failure would be genocide and chaos in the region."

    A nuclear armed Iran would be intolerable, and McCain criticized Obama's offer to have unconditional talks with a man dedicated to the destruction of Israel (a second Holocaust), and a state which is a leading sponsor terrorism.
  • He repeatedly slammed pork spending and, noting how legislating becomes laden with cumbersome earmarks, and I enjoyed his sarcastic rhetorical charactization of the Farm Bill:

    Who could vote against the Farm Bill?
    "Well I did!" he exclaimed, to much applause.

    Obviously, energy was much on the mind of the crowd, and McCain is unabashedly, outspokenly in favor of developing nuclear power and alternative forms of energy. He is, however, taking heat for his stand against oil exploration in the ANWR:

    Larry, I'm with McCain at a town hall meeting in Philadelphia today where the senator was asked for his position on drilling in ANWR and elsewhere. He wasn't happy the subject came up. "I knew I should have ended this [before that question]," he said.

    He said that he opposed drilling in ANWR for the same reason that he "would not drill in the Grand Canyon... I believe this area should be kept pristine." (Proposed oil and gas exploration in ANWR would only affect 2,000 of its 19 million acres, or 0.01 percent.)

    On off-shore drilling, McCain said, "I respect the rights of the states to control the waters off their coasts, but I think we should tell states like California and Florida that we will drastically increase the revenues they would receive [if they opened up those waters for exploration]."

    FWIW, McCain had a wry grin when he said he "should have ended this," and the audience laughed.

    I disagree with McCain on ANWR, but to say his energy policies are the same as Barack Obama's (as some have) is simply not the case.

    In light of the strong interest he expressed in nuclear power and alternatives to fossil fuel, what about fusion power?

    M. Simon has discussed fusion extensively, and has gone so far as to call McCain a possible "Fusion President."

    Unfortunately, as is the case with conventional nuclear power, the French are ahead of the U.S. in terms of development with their ITER fusion project.

    But the groundbreaking research has been done for a system that shows every indication of being more promising than the French -- the Bussard fusion project. This might be an ideal issue for McCain to jump on, assuming he's willing to stick his neck out and be the fusion candidate.

    Considering that Bussard was an old Navy guy (and McCain is an old Navy guy) why not?

    Just thought I'd offer a suggestion instead of some of the usual criticism McCain gets from the left as well as the right.

    Speaking of criticism, there were leftist demonstrators, and I wouldn't want to be accused of leaving them out of my writeup. When I arrived, activists wearing red "Working America" shirts were greeting people and encouraging cars to war if they loved honk or something.

    This young woman clearly saw me coming, and I suspect that because I was wearing a suit, she assumed I was in league with Big Oil. So she really stood up to me!


    In my usual callused fashion, I walked past her, unreformed and unconverted to her cause. But as I walked past the group, I drew another stare, from a youth with a sign that said "BUSH & MCCAIN HEART BIG OIL."


    It just warmed my heart to see the devotion of these kids -- taking off from either valuable school time or their even more valuable summer vacation time (I don't know which) just so they could take a stand against the Bush-McCain War for Big Oil.

    As I exited, there were more demonstrators, this time with woman from Code Pink. As you can see, she also wanted to confront me with her eloquent sign proclaiming that "McCain Hearts War":


    The sign on the right says "More War Less Jobs Vote McCain." While it really should say "fewer" and not less, I don't think it's especially productive to argue with demonstrators.

    Others did, however. A spontaneous group of young McCain supporters countered the tri-syllabic chant of "O-BAM-A" with one of their own: ''GET-A-JOB!" (Of course, the t-shirts worn by some of the activists said "Working America," which is the name of a union outfit, which made me suspect that these demonstrators might be anything but employed, although I can't prove my suspicions.)

    All in all, it was a lot of fun, and like many in the crowd, I was left feeling more enthusiastic about McCain and his chances than ever before.

    UPDATE: Rick Moran looks at McCain's chances, and thinks they're not good -- especially because of the attempt to tie him to Bush:

    I'm sure if McCain had his druthers, he would answer any question about Bush by saying "George who?" Even if it were possible, the Democrats will not let him get away with it. They will tie McCain to Bush using a political Gordian Knot that will make it very difficult for McCain to emerge as his own candidate. "New politics" aside, they will use the oldest tricks in the book to make people think "Bush" whenever they see or hear "McCain.

    Yes, I feel sorry for John McCain. He doesn't deserve the shellacking he is in for unless several unlikely scenarios unfold. Obama could be severely damaged by some rookie mistake or misstep. This is not likely to turn things around for McCain if only because the press seems to be in a very protective mood when it comes to Obama.

    I think McCain has done much to distinguish himself from Bush. Not only is he a veteran of the bruising 2000 campaign (which involved nasty dirty tricks), but as he reminded yesterday's audience, he was an early critic of Bush's conduct of the Iraq War, who turned out to be right.

    I think the Bush=McCain meme not only gives McCain an opening to exploit, it makes him the underdog.

    But can McCain come up from underdog status to win?

    As he demonstrated before, yes he can.

    MORE: Speaking of fusion, Glenn Reynolds links this post about ongoing progress with the research started by Bussard (the WB-7 device "runs like a top"):

    If the Polywell system's worth is proven, that could provide a cheaper, faster route to the same goal - and that's why there's a groundswell of grass-roots interest in Nebel's progress. What's more, a large-scale Polywell device could use cleaner fusion fuels - for example, lunar helium-3, or hydrogen and boron ions. Nebel eventually hopes to make use of the hydrogen-boron combination, known as pB11 fusion.

    "The reason that advanced fuels are so hard for conventional fusion machines is that you have to go to high temperatures," Nebel explained. "High temperatures are difficult on a conventional fusion machine. ... If you look at electrostatics, high temperatures aren't hard. High temperatures are high voltage."

    Most researchers would see conventional tokamak machines as the safer route to commercial fusion power. There's a chance that Bussard's Polywell dream will prove illusory, due to scientific or engineering bugaboos yet to be revealed. But even though Nebel can't yet talk about the data, he's proud that he and his colleagues at Emc2 have gotten so far so quickly.

    "By God, we built a laboratory and an experiment in nine months," he said, "and we're getting data out of it."

    It looks very encouraging to me.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds says,

    "If he actually visits ANWR, he'll see that it's hardly comparable to the Grand Canyon."
    I didn't know people even visited ANWR, but I guess they can. This guy did:
    Getting to where you can get there from there

    Getting to the Arctic Refuge, located in the extreme northeastern corner of the state of Alaska is not simple. From Oregon, you have to fly to Seattle, transfer to a flight to Fairbanks, then take a charter air service to a village where a bush pilot will then take you the remainder of the way. We flew from Fairbanks to Arctic Village, a small native Gwich'in town, then were flown in a small 3-seater to our put-in point. Sometimes there is a story in just getting there so here's where the journal begins...

    That's in the middle of summer, of course. In the winter, it's dark all day.

    UPDATE (from the road): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

    posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (6)

    Big Solar Cells

    Abu Dhabi is buying solar cell manufacturing plants from the US in order to make solar cells 2.2 meters by 2.6 meters (7 ft 2 1/2in by 8ft 6 3/8 in).

    As part of its drive to become a world leader in alternative energy, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-based Masdar PV announced this week it will invest more than $2 billion in thin-film photovoltaic solar technology in a three-phased strategy to produce thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules.

    Masdar's phase one includes a $600 million investment for manufacturing facilities in Erfurt, Germany and Abu Dhabi. The Erfurt facility is expected to be operational by Q3 2009, and the one in Abu Dhabi will begin initial production by Q2 2010, for combined annual production capacity of 210 megawatts.

    Concurrently, as part of the Masdar Initiative, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co has placed an order with Applied Materials Inc for three of its SunFab thin film lines for manufacturing solar modules, which are expected to annually produce modules with a targeted capacity of up to 210 megawatts (MW) - sufficient energy to power approximately 70,000 homes.

    While Applied declined to confirm the size of the deal with Masdar, it appears that the deal could be for $600 million, given Masdar's earlier announcement.

    The equipment is of course huge. As you can see by the picture in the article. And what about Applied Materials a leader in nanomanufacturing and nanomaterials? They are a Silicon Valley Company. That should help our balance of payments. Not to mention that Abu Dhabi is doing something useful with its oil money. I think the Emirates were always smarter than the Saudis. This is further proof.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:29 AM | Comments (4)

    Global bloggers invade peaceful village

    Yesterday I went to New York for an exciting evening with three favorite bloggers -- Sean Kinsell, Connie du Toit (best known to bloggers as Mrs. du Toit), and her husband, the one and only Kim du Toit. Sean (who has recently moved back from Japan) and Connie (visiting from Texas on a business trip) are old friends, but this was the first time I'd met Kim. While anyone who has read his blog knows Kim as an excellent and witty writer, he is also a charming conversationalist with such an incredible collection of life experiences that he is a raconteur's raconteur. When I say the evening was exciting, that is no exaggeration. Considering the sheer philosophical and geographical range of this group of people, had I been there all night it wouldn't have been long enough.

    We started with a delightful dinner at the "Cafeteria" Restaurant in the area of Chelsea and Greenwich Village, then found a nearby bar which was more appropriate for talking and drinking. Sean found both places, and I was so caught up in the conversation that I never thought to ask the bar's name, but it was a comfortable little place to hang out, with excellent draft beer. Fortunately for me, I was not driving, so I indulged freely. (We also traded some very funny jokes, which I am not about to share here lest the net nannies block me again.)

    Anway, here's what an uncontrollable group of international troublemakers looks like after several hours of eating and drinking:

    (Left to right: Eric, Connie, Kim, Sean.)

    I don't know whether poor defenseless Greenwich Village has recovered but I had an absolutely wonderful time.

    posted by Eric at 04:24 PM | Comments (6)

    The Discomfort Of Ignorance

    Professor X has written a wonderful piece on his troubles in a very low level English 101 class. He has studied the matter up close and personal and has some wise words on the subject.

    For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.
    He has other indications. The look of pain on some people's faces when they get confronted with something new and difficult to learn. I think that is the missing level zero class for every student above a certain age. Learning is painful if it is really going on. The truth is that most people can't stand the pain. What students need to know is that the pain is inevitable and must be endured for however long it takes. If learning is to become life long the pain is essentially forever. With the occasional breaks allowed for rearming for the fight.

    The key to learning is to be comfortable with the discomfort of ignorance. That should be lesson zero.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:55 AM | Comments (6)

    The commissariat of inclusion

    If you've been wondering what's behind the scenes in the ridiculous fight that Spike Lee started with Clint Eastwood, don't miss Roger L. Simon's analysis. He thinks the motivation is simple jealousy, cloaked in the form of Lee's bitter identity politics:

    ....for more than a decade Spike has barely made a film any of us can remember. Compare that to Eastwood, who, although some twenty-seven years Lee's senior, is at the top of his career, having scored big in 2003-2004 with Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby.

    No wonder Spike's jealous. So what does he do? He reaches back to an era when he was more successful. He plays the old identity/race card. Now we could all laugh and say this is just another case of an (prematurely) aging artist grasping for attention, but these times are more complex than that. We don't know which way we are going - toward a post-racial future or back to a racist past.

    I have been rooting very hard for the former so it was with some wistfulness I read that Barack and Michelle Obama's first date was to see Lee's Do the Right Thing. I very much liked the film at the time (1989), but somehow I wish the Obamas had gotten together over, say, a college production of Aeschylus or perhaps a reading of Pushkin. I don't want to think of their marriage emanating from the stew pot of American racial despair.

    We have to get over all that and the time for getting over it is now.

    I couldn't agree more.

    Bearing in mind that the black Marines at Iwo Jima served in segregated units, from a purely artistic standpoint, including them in a film about the raising of the flag would have been a distraction, as it introduces a very different, although otherwise legitimate theme. Films like this -- like any form of art -- simply cannot depict everything, and I dislike demands that art be altered for "inclusionary" political purposes.

    And how far does this go? Who else might have been excluded? What if there were closeted gay soldiers oppressed by the then-universal climate of civilian and military homophobia? Do they too have to be in every war film? Why? Because the Spike Lees of the world want to be unelected Commissars of Identity Politics?

    Let me admit my personal bias. I like Clint Eastwood's films, and I don't like Spike Lee's films. But films should stand or fall on their own merit, based on their popularity with the public, not based on politicized demands of competing directors.

    (Fortunately, the government is not producing these films and no one is forced to watch them.)

    posted by Eric at 08:39 AM | Comments (1)

    VooDoo Child

    In honor of this election season's very own VooDoo child. Hendrix live at Berkeley (how appropriate) 30 May 1970.

    posted by Simon at 01:17 AM | Comments (2)

    running to beat all records!

    I went for my usual three-mile-run yesterday.

    Normally, such an observation would not qualify for the blog, as I try to avoid blogging about mundane personal activities. Really, do people want to hear about what I eat, what I wear, what time I go to bed, and how thoroughly I brush and/or floss my teeth? I certainly hope not, and in any event my dignity deters me from routine discussions of the mundane.

    But if recent news headlines are to be a guideline, my ordinary run has become anything but mundane. It might even be considered death-defying behavior, because temperatures have been in the high 90s.

    Today's front page has a huge headline -- Just a Little Warm-up -- This early heat wave may serve to toughen us for what's to come.

    It almost set a record.

    Yesterday's official high in Philadelphia was 97, just one degree shy of the record set in 1933. Unofficially, it was certifiably hot, a day for slurred thoughts and slow movements, a day to seek air-conditioning and serious hydrotherapy.

    "I don't want to leave," said Monique Benitez, 23, of Northeast Philadelphia, her clothing pleasantly dampened from the spray of the fountain in Logan Square, where she had brought her 2-year-old daughter yesterday.

    And while I (fool that I am) may have made it home alive from my run, people are showing up at hospitals.
    Sunday and yesterday, about 10 patients showed up at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital emergency room in Camden with heat-related problems.

    "Today we saw two very ill young people because they were exercising outside without proper hydration," said Russell Harris, an emergency physician at Lourdes. "So, no, the word hasn't gotten out. What surprises me is that we're seeing people who should know better."

    Should I take that personally? I mean, did I deliberately and irresponsibly risk my life by my three-mile-run? And like, just because I have insurance, is that really any excuse for my high risk behavior which might as well have been at potential taxpayer?

    Besides, don't "we" all pay? I'm thinking maybe that assholes like me shouldn't be allowed to run around risking their lives, and if we all have to pay (as we soon will once medical care is fully socialized), then maybe there should be laws, and people caught running around in the heat should be treated as akin to drivers without seatbelts or cell phone drivers, and ticketed for their anti-social behavior.

    (Perhaps that's a good argument against blogging about high-risk activities like jogging.)

    The thing is, I'm old enough to remember when not everyone had air conditioning. It was a luxury, not a necessity. The only other people who seem to remember that live in nursing homes:

    At the Upper Darby Community Complex and Senior Center, Al Brooks, 81, of Essington, and his friend Wayne Smith, 79, were reminiscing about life before air-conditioning. And not liking it.

    "I don't know how we even did it, really," Brooks said during a game of pinochle with a few other card sharks from the center. "We didn't know it was hot," said Smith. "We didn't even think about it, we really didn't."

    I didn't either. But at the rate things are going, not having an air conditioner will be like not having a toilet -- an offense against society's living standards, and perhaps grounds for a visit from the social workers who might take away the elderly and the children for their own good.

    What intrigued me the most about the story was the subtext of the subheadline: "This early heat wave may serve to toughen us for what's to come."

    What's to come?

    Now, we all know that weather is not climate (at least, the scientists still allow us to believe that), and there's no mention of global warming in the piece. But at the Inquirer's web site, comments to the piece are solicited -- with the question, Do you believe: In global warming?


    In the comments, "Bender" complains that "sloppy reporting" "allows" people to think skeptically:

    asking "do you believe in global warming?" is like asking "do you believe in gravity?" its scientific fact that the average temperature across the globe is getting warmer every year. Its sloppy reporting like that that allows people to still think it isn't real.
    Hey, maybe the idea that weather is not climate is a result of sloppy reporting too. If people were being scolded as they should be, they wouldn't think that!

    I enjoyed these responses from "Simon":

    ....Sometimes it just gets hot on a day that it doesn't usually get so hot. I think the weather has been doing this for about 2 billion years.


    There's no "global warming". Take off the tin-foil hats people and calm down. I went skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this past winter and they had 600 inches of snowfall this season which broke the previous record from 1996. I didn't see any moose or caribou sweating in the 11 degree temperature either. So...to recap: there's no "god", there's no "tooth fairy", the U.S. government didn't blow up WTC 7, and there's no "global warming".

    And I did not die.

    I still have a right to run, and to discuss my survival against all odds.

    Speaking of odds, I've long wondered about "records." If records of high and low temperatures have only been kept since the Victorian period, considering that there are 365 days per year, isn't it mathematically very likely that in every year, new records will be set on one day or another?

    But alas! Because of the sloppy reporting which results when journalists are intimidated I keep asking such questions. And now, all I can do is repeat myself:

    How long have these "records" been kept, and what is the reference point for determining normal? Suppose no one had ever kept records until today. Wouldn't that mean that on every day forward for the first year, each day's temperature would set a new record for that day?

    In year two, each day would have either a higher or a lower temperature, right? So, on any given day, there would either be a record low temperature or a record high temperature. As time went by, there would necessarily be fewer and fewer record temperatures, and an "average" would emerge.

    How long have these records been kept? What are the mathematical odds of a record high temperature in the next five years? For all we know, it might be abnormal not to have a record in five years.

    I'm not a statistician, but I smell something odd going on.

    Has anyone run the numbers?

    Don't expect me to run the numbers. As it is, I risk my life when I run at all.

    posted by Eric at 10:14 AM | Comments (10)

    Hell hath no fury like an independent male sexist pig scorned?

    After lamenting Jon Stewart's "sexist riffs against Hillary Clinton" and a "compilation of venomous idiocies, most but not all from Fox News" the Inquirer's Chris Satullo opines that sexism alone was not what defeated Hillary Clinton:

    ...though Clinton was targeted by sexists, she didn't lose because of that. She lost because Obama was a candidate of equal appeal who ran a better race, with fewer errors and less arrogance. The engines of his victory were well-educated liberals and the idealistic young. Is either group a bastion of sexism?
    This almost invites a similar quip about the other side ("Hillary's core supporters were less-educated white working class voters and older women. Is either group a bastion of racism?" But the "r" word appears nowhere in Satullo's analysis.)

    I'm having a bit of trouble with what comes next. Satullo believes Hillary should not be Obama's running mate because Hillary is "anathema" to the independents, and besides, Hillary fans are like "Eagles fans" who always get over their silly quintessential male behavior:

    Second, she should not be Obama's running mate. Some think picking her is the only way he can win. I think it's the only way he can lose. She is anathema to many of the independents whom Obama can pull into his column, particularly if John McCain continues the painful ineptitude of his last TV speech.

    That group of swing voters will prove far larger than the number of Clintonistas who will follow through on current vows to snub Obama.

    That prediction, to some, smacks of sexism: Oh, those emotional women, they'll come to their senses.

    Actually, we're talking quintessential male behavior here: overreaction to painful defeat, producing fierce vows of renunciation that evaporate over time. Think: Eagles fan.

    In case there are any out-of-town sports-hating readers, he's not talking about fans of the rock group, but fans of Philadelphia's football team.

    I'm not as much of an Eagles fan as I perhaps should be, and I've tried to explain the complex personal dynamics involved in deciding which athletic teams I should support, as well as what degree of enthusiasm is permissible. So I'm probably not qualified to make pronouncements about their behavior. Still, I think it's worth examining whether "overreaction to painful defeat, producing fierce vows of renunciation that evaporate over time" is "quintessentially male."

    Is it?

    According to a recent study, "Men Have A Harder Time Forgiving Than Women Do":

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2008) -- Forgiveness can be a powerful means to healing, but it does not come naturally for both sexes. Men have a harder time forgiving than women do, according to Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Juola Exline. But that can change if men develop empathy toward an offender by seeing they may also be capable of similar actions. Then the gender gap closes, and men become less vengeful.

    In seven forgiveness-related studies Exline conducted between 1998 through 2005 with more than 1,400 college students, gender differences between men and women consistently emerged. When asked to recall offenses they had committed personally, men became less vengeful toward people who had offended them. Women reflecting on personal offenses, and beginning at a lower baseline for vengeance, exhibited no differences in levels of unforgiving. When women had to recall a similar offense in relation to the other's offense, women felt guilty and tended to magnify the other's offense.

    "The gender difference is not anything that we predicted. We actually got aggravated, because we kept getting it over and over again in our studies," said Exline. "We kept trying to explain it away, but it kept repeating in the experiments."

    While that study would seem to at least partially confirm Satullo's view that men "blow up and get over it," doesn't this beg the question of whether men are the group under discussion? Aren't the people screaming the loudest about sexism predominantly women? What justifies the assumption that their anger will dissipate in a quintessentially male way, like Eagles fans?

    Or does Satullo have in mind these guys?


    (Not the first time I've asked....)

    But they're supposed to be Obama's quintessentially male supporters, right? If their anger dissipates like that of an Eagles fan, then why couldn't they be expected to easily get over having Hillary on the number two spot?

    Obviously, I'm not getting something. If men are more likely to blow up, but more likely to forgive, that would seem to be an argument for putting Hillary on the ticket, and not keeping her off.

    Or is the argument that today's feminist Democrats are like Eagles fans, but independent voters (presumably men) hold a grudge?

    I really want to understand this, but I'm more confused than ever.

    posted by Eric at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)


    I was reading something Wretchard wrote at The Belmont Club and came across this comment:

    Inasmuch as the economy is in the toilet and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are unwon, all the math is pointing toward the Democrat winning.
    Obama has one little problem. He doesn't do unscripted.

    He also has a little problem of saying things and then retracting them. Or his advisers say things and get thrown under the bus. Or he needs a tool and throws granny under the bus.

    After a while people begin to notice.

    A lot of Clintonites find McCain acceptable. Iraq is certainly a problem, but maybe the Democrats have misdiagnosed it. Maybe the problem was not the war, but that at one time there seemed to be no prospect to establish a self governing Iraq. With at least the prospect in hand Americans might be willing to see it through if the costs don't rise too much.

    And the economy? Definitely on shaky ground. What does Obama promise? To raise taxes. I don't see how that helps.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:38 AM | Comments (2)

    ITER Is The Fusion Reactor Of The Future

    In fact from the look of things it may always be the Fusion Reactor of The Future.

    A massive international nuclear fusion experiment planned for Cadarache, France, is set to cost up to 30% more than anticipated and be delayed by as much as three years, governments will learn next week.

    Construction has not even begun on the ITER fusion reactor, which has been beset by political wrangling since its inception. Now its seven international backers are to be told they will have to come up with an extra €1.2 billion-1.6 billion (US$1.9 billion-2.5 billion) on top of its current € 5-billion construction budget if the project is to be realized.

    A report from a group of scientific advisers says the additional money is needed for critical design changes and for coordinating between the participant nations. And the experiment, already delayed, will not be completed until anywhere from one to three years after its current 2018 due date.

    Critics expect more cost hikes. "Personally, I think the price will double before it's done," says Stephen Dean, president of Fusion Power Associates, a research and educational foundation based in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

    Let me see if I can guess a little about the problems. This phrase "coordinating between the participant nations" particularly stood out. Usually what that means in government speak is lavish parties disguised as conferences at exotic destinations.

    And the redesign? Some of the problems were known for twenty years. They were only addressed after the initial design was completed. First you sell the sizzle. Then, when the customer has bought in, you advise that the steak will cost extra.

    I hinted at this in my piece The Secret Of The Tokamak.

    Here is the dirty little tokamak secret - "The last one didn't work, shows no promise of working, and new difficulties have been encountered. I have a plan. We will make the next one 3X bigger." For 40 years.

    Eventually the marks wise up.

    The US cut ITER out of the Federal Budget earlier this year. Maybe it was not just a move by Congress to PO Bush. Maybe it had something to do with Congress actually paying attention to the real experts.
    I have heard rumors that Congress is interested in the Bussard Fusion Reactor. If it works out (Bussard Fusion Reactor Funded) ITER (a tokamak design) would be a waste. Or as Plasma Physicist Dr. Nicholas Krall said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good."
    I think the problem with the Euros is that they are slow learners. Stephen Dean nails it at the end of the piece quoted above:
    Dean anticipates that the new budget will ultimately be approved. "This thing has gotten a life of its own -- it's almost irrelevant how much it costs or what it's for."
    At least it is on their dime. Mostly.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit readers.

    posted by Simon at 06:28 AM | Comments (10)

    Deviation Isn't What It Used To Be

    Here is a very funny audio clip if you have a bent mind.

    Thanks to RJ40.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:20 AM | Comments (1)

    Bring back "fairness"! Stop the hate! And save the children!

    While it always sounds cliché-ish to say it, what needs to be said more often is that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

    Steve Boriss (who blogs at the Future of News) looks at the history of free speech, noting that with every technological advance in communication came another heavy-handed attempt by government to restrict free speech. First it was the printing press:

    While the printing press may have been a great leap forward for the spread of information, it also represented two steps backwards for free speech. First, these large, hard-to-conceal machines now allowed governments to stifle criticism, by identifying those responsible for spreading information to the masses, and subjecting them to prior restraint, licensing, censorship, and punishment.
    Next came broadcast media:
    The introduction of broadcasting not only eroded the number of voices, it actually reversed free speech, placing government back in control of news. European governments co-opted television and ran their own government-friendly broadcasts. In the U.S., government control of news became just as real, but it happened differently. Our government seized control of the broadcast spectrum, declaring frequencies a precious resource that must only be used by responsible corporate citizens. Accordingly, networks were required to reapply for licenses every few years, with renewals contingent upon satisfied politicians and their appointees.
    And now it's the government's turn to take a crack at the Internet. Once again, under the false pretense of "fairness":
    In a recent editorial, the NY Times welcomed federal regulation of the Internet under the benign-sounding cause "net neutrality," warning us that Internet service providers might suppress ideas they do not like. The Times ignores the fact that the First Amendment is designed to protect us against suppression of ideas by the government, not the private sector, which has neither the power nor the motive to suppress ideas.

    Moreover, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal tells us, "Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem." It has not been given a chance to surface, much less an opportunity for the marketplace to fix this hypothetical problem. It is a weak reason to allow the irreversible step of government regulation.

    Another party that is uncomfortable with free speech on the Internet is the Orwellianly-named group "Free Press." They are pushing for the FCC to regulate the Internet similar to the way it regulates broadcast TV, calling for a national (read "government") broadband policy to regulate price, speed, and availability. They also want the government to provide municipal broadband service to everybody, even though this model has already collapsed in the marketplace.

    And of course, the U.N. and its many dictatorships is no fan of free speech on the Internet. Last November, the United Nations' Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held its second annual meeting with a not-so-hidden agenda for a U.N. takeover of the U.S.' private sector control of core Internet systems.

    It doesn't seem that they'll ever stop. If it isn't one pretext, it will be another. If not "fairness," then "hate speech." If not "hate," then "the children."

    The optimist in my likes to think that eventually the people they want to regulate will catch on.

    UPDATE: M. Simon sent me a link to this post from
    about a delay in the FCC plan to "filter" Internet Wi-Fi:

    An FCC plan to provide free, nationwide wireless Internet has faltered on concerns about possible network inference and a stipulation that would require filtering of offensive content. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin reportedly said the commission will not vote on the proposal June 12 as originally planned, but that he still hopes to present the full plan to the commission in July.

    The proposal involves the commission's auctioning 25 MHz of spectrum, the winner of which would be required to use a portion to build a national wireless broadband network and offer free service to 95% of the nation's population in 10 years. The plan also would require the network operator to filter content inappropriate for children.

    Martin reportedly said the proposal would not be presented next week in order to allow fellow commissioners more time to consider the plan.

    This should be watched carefully.

    Especially if they delay it until after the election.

    posted by Eric at 04:07 PM | Comments (4)

    A movement, not a typo

    When I read about the principal who got in trouble with mean-spirited radio talk shows for issuing diplomas referencing the word "educaiton," I initially laughed.

    Principal Timothy Freeman fell on his red pen, shouldering responsibility for the diplomas issued to 330 Westlake graduates at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland on Saturday that read board of "educaiton," not "education."

    "I was sick to my stomach," said Freeman, who said the documents had been proofread once and sent back for corrections because of problems with the signatures. The new version fixed that, but inserted the typo.

    "We just cracked open the box and all of the signatures were fixed. We never even thought to go back and read the small print because we already had," Freeman said.

    Jostens reprinted and mailed new diplomas free of charge, but Freeman still called it "the bane of my existence" Thursday after the morning show on WQAL FM/104.1 made fun of the school.

    "Our girls softball team had the highest GPA in the state, out of more than 700 teams," said Freeman. "That's not news, but a typographical error by Jostens gets two hours on the radio?"

    Well, in fairness, the girls softball team probably contributes more to society than the Board of Educaiton.

    And really, why shouldn't they be allowed to call themselves the Board of Educaiton? Does anyone really think they are in the business of Education?

    I Googled the word "Educaiton," and I discovered that Cleveland's Wolstein Center is not alone. There is, it seems, a genuine Educaiton movement, and the following examples, while far from comprehensive, at least show how unfair it was to single out a principal in Cleveland.

    There are 2890 hits for "Board of Educaiton." 2990 for "Department of Educaiton," and I even found a reference to an "imoprtant law case" called "Brown vresus Board of".... of.... of.... Whatever it is:

    Brown vresus Board of Educatoin (full name Brown v. Board of Eductaion of Toepka, Kasnas) was an imoprtant law case in the Untied Staets. This was a case that was decdied by the Superme Court of the United Sttaes which is the highset court in the US.
    I always suspected the Superme Court was highset.

    In California, there's The Edward Teller Educaiton Center, with the following directions posted:

    Directions to ETEC:

    The Edward Teller Educaiton Center is located just adjacent to the Lab on Greenville Road near the Laboratory's Eastgate entrance in Livermore, CA.

    From I-580:
    Exit Vasco Road.
    Go south on Vasco and turn left at Patterson Pass Road.
    Turn right at Greenville Road.
    Turn right at Eastgate Drive, at the Laboratory's east entrance.
    Turn right into the parking lot, before the guard gate.

    Lodging Options for Workshops:

    A number of hotels are located within a short drive to the Edward Teller Educaiton Center and nearby the college campuses of the regional workshops. Click here for more information on hotels in the region.

    Hey, that's nice to know. Might check it out the next time I'm in California.

    In New York, there's a thing called Educaiton Equity:

    Career and Technical Educaiton EQUITY


    It looked so nice next to the state seal that I couldn't resist a screen shot:


    According to another website, Colorado has its own Department of Educaiton:

    The leadership for the High Plains Learning Organization is committed to activating a visonary, multi-state learning community that builds regional, state, and local capacity to improve learning. Eleven agencies make up the core learning organization and serve as members of the executive board.

    Core Learning Organization Members include:

    Eric Feder, Colorado Department of Educaiton

    At various local levels there are exciting developments in Educaiton. In Illinois, the Evergreen Park Board of Educaiton includes

    Kathleen Rohan:

    Mrs. Rohan has been a Member of the Board of Educaiton since 2007. Her current term will expire in 2011. She is currently the Co-chairperson of the Facilities Committee and is serving on the Negotiations Committee. Mrs. Rohan works in Labor & Delivery at Little Company of Mary Hospital.

    In Ruston, Lousiania, the Cedar Creek School has an "ongoing tradition of excellence in educaiton." And in Denver, a hero teacher received the Boettcher Foundation's "Excellence in Educaiton Award."

    California not only has a Department of Educaiton, but they profile Teachers of the Year:

    Teacher of the Year

    Beginning this month, each issue of California Department of Educaiton CDE Highlights will profile a state or county Teacher of the Year, spotlighting the diverse talent and inspiring stories of some of California's best and brightest teachers. To begin this series, March Highlights focuses on Stanley W. Murphy, California's nominee and one of four finalists for the 2005 National Teacher of the Year.

    For those interested in the Family-School Partnership Act, see "Questions and answers from the California Department of Educaiton. Sacramento 2004."

    In New Jersey "participation" in a "Discrete Math" program

    ...is funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Educaiton.

    More on Discrete Math "here." I'd never heard of "Discrete Math" before, but the idea seems to be to show children how to do all kinds of things by the time they're in the eighth grade:
    By grade 8, they can apply such coloring techniques to solve problems which involve avoiding conflicts, such as scheduling committees or final exams, devising zoo habitats, and assigning channels to radio stations.
    I never learned any of that, and it shows in the fact that I have never designed a single zoo habitat, nor have I assigned any channels to radio stations. (As it is I can't even seem to find the time to compile and catalog all the state Educaiton Departments in a single blog post.)

    But if we move up to the federal govenment, the Department of Educaiton seems pretty busy. There's a Paul Kesner,

    Drug-Violence Prevention State Programs
    OSDFS/US Department of Educaiton
    If you need federal grant money to prepare for tomorrow, this web site tells you to contact the Department of Educaiton Headquarters:
    Headquarters Office

    U.S. Department of Educaiton, 400 Maryland Ave., SW., Washington, DC, 20202. Contact: Brenda Shade E-mail Address brenda.shade@ed.gov. Telephone: (202) 502-7773.

    The Department certainly seems to have plenty of money for grants like this:
    From the U.S. Department of Educaiton to Melissa Engelman, David Powers and Sandra Warren (Education), $299,050 for "Preparation of Special Education, Related Services, and Early Intervention Personnel to Serve Infants, Toddlers and Children with Low Incidence Disabilities."
    Or this:
    Sonya Lopez
    Role Lead PI
    Department Multicultural Student Affairs
    Funder U.S. Department of Educaiton
    Title Upward Bound
    Amount $342,886.00
    A lot of people probably remember Ronald Reagan's insensitive promise to abolish the "Department of Education" (sic) which (so it has been frequently pointed out) has never educated anyone. But in light of their proven track record of disbursing money, might Reagan have been talking about the Department of Educaiton?

    Don't laugh. According to a commenter here, he was!

    The Reagan Administration was a State Rights advocate, and they tried to disband the U.S. Department of Educaiton during the budget crunch of 1983, and outing Secretary Bell, in the process. Remember all those disabled people fending for themselves when the government needed their allotment from the federal government. Please can't we all agree that the very rich have money to burn and their tax cuts during bad times just doesn't make sense, at least to me.
    The State of Nevada offers a reminder that these are in fact two distinct entities, and that we shouldn't assume anything about the role of the federal government:
    This site is sponsored by the State of Nevada
    The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Educaiton, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government
    Reading the subtext carefully, it becomes clear that there's a vast hidden bureaucratic movement at work, and it hides behind what most people assume are typos.

    What cannot be spelled cannot be killed. No wonder Reagan couldn't abolish it.

    Can thousands of "typos" be wrong? I don't think so.

    Calling them typos is merely Educaiton Denial.

    posted by Eric at 10:05 AM | Comments (5)

    "No wonder those YouTube women are so mad."

    I enjoyed Katherine Scalia's look at Barack Obama as the new trophy wife of the Democratic Party:

    As a trophy wife, Obama would be content to let the Democrats pull out of Iraq; Hillary might actually suggest they stay. Obama would be able to sell the socialized health care Hillary couldn't pull off. Most importantly, Obama would schmooze and photo-op with the elites for whose approval the Democrats so desperately yearned; Hillary was untrustworthy, there. She might snub Ahmadinejad and, like Bill Clinton before her, pledge to jump into a trench with a rifle to defend Israel. Obama would smile and look good while doing neither.

    Putting both to the scales, light Obama rose in the balance; Hillary was judged too heavy. The Democrats threw over the tried and true to go with the trophy wife. The one they could train and show off to the world as "theirs," who was the very image of everything they hope to project about themselves, regardless of the realities.

    If Obama is the trophy wife, little wonder he doesn't want to share the stage with the old wife he replaced.

    But will John McCain be able to successfully court those who collectively represent the spurned old wife?

    That depends on how mad they really are, and long they stay mad.

    Check out this video.

    (I couldn't get it to embed, so the embed was deleted.)

    MORE: Speaking of "those YouTube women" and whether McCain can court them, here's an interesting poll result which hasn't gotten much play:

    This resentment is reflected in a private nationwide poll conducted this month by McLaughlin and Associates, which usually works for Republicans but is not connected with the McCain campaign. Poll-taker John McLaughlin found that John McCain had a 49 percent to 38 percent edge over Obama among all women. That is an extraordinary result, running counter to a longtime Democratic advantage.
    It certainly is an extraordinary result.

    Maybe that's why it's not getting much play.

    MORE: Jim Geraghty says the above poll is "likely to be widely overlooked."

    Well, I'm sure the specialists in widely overlooking would like it to be.

    But what happens when the widely overlooked becomes widely linked?

    posted by Eric at 02:32 PM | Comments (3)

    What Counts?

    This is a roundup on what is wrong with our voting system. Brad Friedman tries to vote. He had a lot of problems. Fortunately he was wired with the California Secretary of State's office. This was not his first problem with voting irregularities. It was his first personal experience. The comment section (from which I have cribbed some urls) is good too. Brad also discusses Why 'Vote-by-Mail' Elections are a Terrible Idea for Democracy. Thanks to Instapundit for that first link.

    Juris-imprudence is very interesting in showing how to take back control of government by ordinary citizens. This bit on Grand Juries [opens a doc] was especially interesting.

    I really like Black Box Voting for their coverage of the issues. I did a bit on them (basically a reprint of one of their www pages) at Black Box Voting.

    Vote Fraud And Election Issues is maintained by The Equal Justice Foundation. They seem to be libertarian oriented. Their page on the Drug War proves it (as far as proof is possible without a direct statement). They have an article by Harry Browne.

    Bill Hobbs talks about election irregularities in 2004. This site looks at the Presidential Election of 2004.

    Prison Planet says that there is Clear Evidence Of Widespread Vote Fraud In New Hampshire. They have another report Vote Fraud Expert Warns Of New Hampshire Chicanery. They mention Black Box Voting, which is a good thing.

    There is even a book out by John Fund Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. He says it is not a party specific problem.

    Here is a very nice history lesson: Origins of American Vote Fraud. He says it is the Republicans. I think he is probably right. At least about what went on during and after the Civil War. Which may explain the rise of the KKK.

    In February 1867 Tennessee enfranchised freedmen, and Republicans established local chapters of the Union League, a political arm of the party, to mobilize the new black voters. In some respects the KKK became the conservative ex-Confederates' answer to the Union League, a rallying point for white Democrats determined to drive freedmen, Republicans, and their allies from the polls. During the spring of 1867 the KKK's innocent beginnings began to give way to intimidation and violence as some of its members sought to keep freedmen in their traditional place.

    The official reorganization of the Klan into a political and terrorist movement began in April 1867, when the state's Democratic Party leadership met in Nashville. An invitation sent by the Pulaski den to others in the state called for a gathering of members at the Maxwell House hotel, where Tennessee's conservative Democrats provided for greater control of an expanding KKK. A prescript established administrative protocols and emphasized the need for secrecy. Subsequently, former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was elected the first and only Grand Wizard. In 1868 a revised prescript declared the Klan the defender of the Constitution of the United States and the protector of the orphans and widows of Confederate dead. Klansmen were required to swear that they had never been members of the Union army, the Union League, or the Republican Party, and they supported re-enfranchising ex-Rebels and upholding the South's constitutional rights.

    Now isn't that interesting. The Klan was a response to Republican depredations. Something you don't hear much about in most history books. I think that may provide some good background for my 2005 article Dems revert to Klan roots.

    Well, that was an interesting digression. Now back to vote fraud.

    I think all this points to an essential feature of the internet age. Distance is no longer a barrier to the transport of information. Small groups of interested parties can band together exchange useful information and then get things done. Some one wrote a book about it.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:59 AM | Comments (5)

    Where Will Learning Take Place?

    It seems as if the schools in America are not producing the quality of output many Americans desire. There is a lot of "woe is me" out there. However, it does not reflect in any way what is really going on.

    Let us take my case, an impecunious student with a lot of time on my hands. I want to learn something useful. What do I do? I get on the internet and start studying. What else do I know? I know a high school drop out who is studying Fortran to improve his mental skills. What else? I saw a community develop over the last year and three-quarters to learn plasma physics, electrodynamics, vacuum tube design principles, high voltage construction and laboratory safety, and a whole host of other disciplines and sub disciplines all with the idea of furthering the study of the Bussard Fusion Reactor. What are its strengths? Where will it need improvement? Where are the "and then you do the Magic" steps? All done to the point where the old hands can teach the newbies. At this point I'd say we have 50 to 200 people well enough trained to form design teams to build and install test reactors and power reactors (if and when they become available). And how did that all evolve? About 5 or 10 people started discussing the idea at the NASA Spaceflight blog and then all of a sudden there was a critical mass. A news group formed, a discussion group, and a number of blogs were created. All through the magic of the Internet.

    So yeah. The motivated can get an education that is down right amazing. So how do we get them all motivated? I don't know. Bright kids always seem to find a way. That is very encouraging. It means our knowledge capital will be expanded. The not so bright watch American idol. There may be something you can do about it. I don't know what it is.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:55 AM | Comments (5)

    The complex design of charitable incompetence

    Yesterday I visited the famed Barnes Foundation (noted for its huge Impressionist collection) but no photography is allowed.

    Well, unless you're writing about the museum's controversial history for the New York Times. Then you're allowed to take photographs like this:


    And then you can yell at bloggers like me who utilize them to depict That Which May Not Be Depicted.

    (Actually, for those who are interested, high quality pictures of many of the Foundation's most famous paintings can be found at the Wiki entry.)

    Of course, the Barnes is doomed. This "small, idiosyncratic museum" (built by an idealistic millionaire specifically to display his art collection forever) is being moved to Philadelphia. To say that it will lose its character is understatement in the extreme. This was Barnes original intent:

    In order to preserve the institution's identity, Barnes set out detailed terms of its operation in an indenture of trust to be honored in perpetuity after his death. These included limiting public admission to two days a week so the school could use the art collection for student study, and prohibitions against lending works in the collection, touring the collection, and presenting touring exhibitions. Matisse is said to have hailed the school as the only sane place in America to view art.
    People who have known and loved the place over the years are appalled:
    David Nash, a Manhattan dealer who appraised the Barnes collection many times when he was director of Impressionist and modern paintings at Sotheby's, said of the ruling: "It's a terrible shame. The whole concept of the Barnes will be ruined. The installation, the building itself, was like seeing something under a glass dome. It would be as though the Frick were dismantled and put back together at the Met."
    Of course, the dismantling is making the movers and shakers in Philadelphia very happy, as they've been coveting the collection for years.

    No one but an emotional blogger would dare call it looting, but that's exactly what I think it is.

    According to the director of the Pew Foundation (itself long departed from its original purpose), though, the dismantling and the moving is just fine.

    Ms. Rimel [Rebecca Rimel, president and chief executive of the Pew Charitable Trusts] said that "Dr. Barnes would never have imagined the constraints the foundation is currently facing." Barnes described the foundation as a place for "plain people, that is men and women who gain their livelihood by daily toil," she said. By moving the collection from an affluent suburb to downtown Philadelphia, she said, more of those "plain people" will be able to enjoy the art.
    Never mind the fact that the place is situated just on the other side of Philadelphia's City Line Avenue, and a short walk from the R-5 SEPTA line. And never mind the fact that admission prices will double.

    The sad and squalid story of what happened to the Barnes is detailed in a book called "Art Held Hostage" which Amazon calls a "truly American tale of power, litigiousness, and boardroom antics," and "a book for those interested in the dark underbelly of the business side of the art world." From Publisher's World: "

    Anyone interested in the intersection of art, race and power politics will find this tale engrossing-and depressing.
    From the New York Times' review:
    In 1951, the endowment of the Barnes Foundation was $9 million, equivalent to about $62 million today. Corruption, bungling, greed and changing financial standards have depleted it; now, there is no endowment left. ''Art Held Hostage'' -- a morality play masquerading as a legal thriller -- tells us what went wrong. Part of the problem was Barnes's indenture, which mandated investment only in government securities; its terms were responsible for the endowment's contraction by about 80 percent (in inflation-adjusted terms). But the total depletion of the museum's coffers owes much to the interplay of racial, local and personal politics.
    This has been largely glossed over, and many observers agree that the local Philadelphia press (with a couple of exceptions) has behaved as if they're in cahoots with Philadelphia's powerful insiders to downplay the tale of unbelievable shenagigans that led to the Foundation's economic demise and spin the move as a win-win.

    Not that I blame them. Were I a prominent Philadelphia booster, I'd want the art too. Years ago, he collection was conservatively estimated as being worth $6 billion (today it's more like $20 billion), and it includes 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 46 Picassos, and 59 Matisses.

    The real tragedy is that Barnes himself saw the possibility of something like this happening -- and tried to avoid it:

    Barnes spent virtually his whole life at war with the Philadelphia cultural establishment, believing its members more interested in money and influence than art. He'd also seen the collection of his friend and lawyer, John G. Johnson, posthumously hijacked in the 1930s when the Philadelphia Museum of Art went to court to break Johnson's will so the art could be transferred to the museum.

    Thus Barnes had his lawyers draw up an airtight trust indenture to allow the Barnes to continue after his death as it had in his life: The paintings would not be lent, sold or rearranged. In addition, nearby Lincoln University, a historically black college, would gradually assume control as the original trustees died or retired.
    Dr. Barnes, though, reckoned wrong. His indenture has been under legal assault for the past decade by the Barnes's own board. Alas, by 1999 legal fees for these and related battles had bankrupted the Barnes, and the newly appointed director, Kimberly Camp, found herself publicly begging for money.

    You'd think the city's philanthropic and cultural elite would have been eager to help an internationally renowned institution in its own backyard. But things weren't that simple. When Ms. Camp went begging for financial support, its members said no--or gave a dribble here and a drab there. On one occasion, says Ms. Camp, she approached Raymond Perelman, the multimillionaire father of billionaire Ron Perelman, who was then board chairman of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He "stuck out his hand, and he said he'd be happy to give money, 'as soon as you give me this.' And I said: 'Give you what?' And he said: 'The keys--the keys to the Barnes.'

    Once again, powerful forces within the Philadelphia art community were conspiring to take over a priceless collection.

    What fascinates me the most about the tale is how the director (Richard Glanton, "a lawyer in a prestigious Philadelphia firm") whose villainy led to the financial ruin cleverly avoided the scrutiny he deserved by playing what is naively called the "race card":
    In Anderson's account, Glanton swept onto the Barnes board like Genghis Khan, throwing out the established procedures of the institution and setting up a new order that served his interests entirely. Some of what he did was overt: in 1995, for example, he was accused of running up personal expenses on the Barnes account of ''almost $57,000.'' Other activities were not so open. He fired the long-term security provider for the Barnes and hired another, without telling his board, allowing his enemies to accuse him of doing it to strengthen his hand in local politics. He chose a lawyer for one of the Barnes's legal actions (to the tune of $448,127.01) who would later become one of his major supporters at his law firm. He regularly acted without board approval and failed to heed the letter of Alfred Barnes's indenture. When asked, later on, about his methods, he said, ''I was the Barnes Foundation.''

    To counter arguments, Glanton played the race card. When he had transferred bank funds without board approval and was challenged in writing by a board member, he wrote back, ''This acknowledges your memorandum objecting to the Foundation's funds being deposited in the United Bank, the only African-American bank in Philadelphia.'' When opposition to the diversion of money from the Barnes to Lincoln University mounted, Glanton replied, ''They are saying black institutions shouldn't be allowed to benefit from relationships which exist.'' When a board member questioned the financing of a newsletter, Glanton accused him of ''acting in a racist manner.''

    He pushed the tactic to its limit in a fight over a parking lot for the Barnes Collection. Glanton wanted to make the Barnes a more profitable institution, which meant he had to accommodate more visitors' cars. Neighbors in the residential suburb where the Barnes is located did not relish having their roads crowded, and invoked a zoning ordinance to block the construction of the parking lot. In turn, Glanton slapped them with a lawsuit under the Ku Klux Klan Act, claiming that the whole dispute erupted because the Barnes board was predominately black and the museum was associated with Lincoln -- a claim, the court found, that was clearly without basis.

    The enormously expensive legal actions Glanton initiated are dizzying. Between 1990 and 1995, the Barnes spent more than $2 million in legal fees....

    Normally there's a rule along the lines of "never attribute to design that which can be explained by simple incompetence," but what happened was so fiendishly systematized that I think it goes way beyond incompetence -- especially if we look at the end result. Even the Times review dangles a hint that something does not make sense:
    This is a bonfire of second-rate vanities, which reads best as a portrait of a man pathetic not only for his aspirations, but also because he is clearly smart enough to have done something better.
    Something better? Look at the result! The Barnes is moving to Philadelphia -- something all the power and money in Philadelphia agree is better. So maybe he was not only smart enough to do something better, but maybe he did.

    Another book ("Barnescam: Or How to Steal $20 Billion" by history profssor Robert Zaller) takes a more scathing view:

    The last ten years have seen that strategy played out to near-perfection. The prevarication and legal trumpery involved would have shamed most cities, but not Philadelphia.

    Richard Glanton, who was forced out as board president in 1997, is on record as opposing a move of the Barnes collection. It was he, however, who made it possible, and he should certainly be willing to take the credit.

    The proceeds of the world tour were supposed to pay for renovation of the elegant mansion that housed the Barnes collection. No accounting was given of its disbursement, but large sums seem to have been spent frivolously, and much of the Barnes's financial assets were wasted on suits against the Barnes's neighbors, who, suddenly confronted with the consequences of Glanton's Barnumesque marketing (noisy bus tours that backed into their driveways, etc.), sought relief to protect their privacy and property. By the time the dust had settled, the foundation was genuinely in debt, with legal judgments hanging over its head.

    At this point, Glanton was dismissed, and, seeing opportunity strike, a consortium of Philadelphia-based philanthropies--the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Annenberg and Lenfest Foundations--took financial and, finally, executive control of the Barnes.

    The last act of the charade was to appear once again in Orphans Court before the ever-obliging Judge Ott, when the Barnes trustees requested permission to move the Barnes collection lock, stock and barrel to an unascertained location on the Ben Franklin Parkway, there to become part of a new Miracle Mile of the arts...

    As one of the Inquirer's own critics commented privately, the Pew Foundation had acquired a $20 billion asset for an outlay of $150 million--a steal, one might add, by any definition of the word.
    Whether this was design or by incompetence (or by a design that deliberately embraced and encouraged, or certainly ignored incompetence) may never be known.

    I think it's sad, though. It's just another example of the way things happen in the shady and unaccountable world of "Non-profit."

    But what will probably be my last visit to the Barnes made me remember some photo impressionism. I use the "impressionism" reservedly, as that wasn't the goal of the distorted photos which follow, which are probably a result of deliberate incompetence by design (although I can't be sure).

    Here's a view under glass out my window:


    On the road, from the car, and through the windshield, minus flash:




    In the yard at night minus flash:


    I wish I could paint like that.

    posted by Eric at 11:52 AM | Comments (1)

    shell shock

    An incident in which a 10 year old boy was suspended from school for having an empty shell casing given to him by a veteran at a Memorial Day celebration has rightfully stirred the wrath of the pro-Second Amendment community.

    According to a May 29, Telegram.com article, a uniformed veteran gave the 10-year-old two empty rifle shell casings from blanks used during the town's Memorial Day celebration Monday morning. Bradley gave one of the empty casings to his grandfather and kept the other as a souvenir. The trouble began when he took his souvenir to school the next day.

    "He was just playing with it at lunch," explained Crystal Geslak, Bradley's mother. "He wasn't showing it to anyone; he had it in his hand and was playing with it."

    A teacher saw him with the harmless piece of brass and confiscated it. Ms. Geslak was then called at work and told to come and pick up her son, who had been suspended for five days!

    Yes, and they're talking about assigning the tyke a probation officer.

    My initial reaction was that this was another typical example of insane anti-gunners in the school bureaucracy running amok. Which I'm sure it is. But behind every bureaucrat there's usually a law or a statute or a regulation, and when Sebastian of Snowflakes in Hell looked into the story he learned that because of the law, the situation is worse than people realize.

    the problem is, if you don't have a license to have a firearm in Massachuetts, you can't even possess ammunition or ammunition components. The truth is, this kid and everyone involved in this situation is lucky that it's only resulting in a five day suspension. Under Massachusetts law, both the kid, the veteran who gave the kid the empty shell casing, and the teacher to took if from the kid could be looking at two years in prison for having ammunition components without a license.

    These are the "reasonable restrictions" that the Brady Campaign wants to impose on the rest of the country. And they call us "nuts" and "paranoid" for arguing that these regulations are anything but reasonable. Yet in this case, the following people could be looking at two years in jail:

    1. A 10 year old kid.
    2. One of our nation's veterans
    3. An elementary school teacher

    Sound reasonable to you? Me neither.

    An empty shell casing is now a crime. This in a country with the right to keep and bear arms.

    While this is an outrage, it's the type of outrage that, if reported widely enough, can provoke precisely the type of backlash I've described in several posts.

    As a Second Amendment supporter, of course, I welcome the backlash, and I'd say "Bring it on!"

    People do not like being messed with, and they sympathize with people who are messed with. Incidents like the one above can cause laws to be changed. (Or at least, not enforced out of bureaucratic fear.)

    While the shell casing story involved official state action, a story in this morning's Inquirer illustrates how even private activism can produce a backlash. When a struggling adult boutique found itself under attack by a local church, the opposition created a backlash of sympathy that was like manna from heaven:

    A week after opposing the permit for a downtown West Chester adult boutique, a nearby Catholic church has withdrawn its appeal and the store owner has learned that while sex sells, opposition makes it sell even better.

    Jill McDevitt, 22, owner of Feminique Boutique, said business had doubled since St. Agnes Church filed an appeal on May 29 to revoke her permit, issued March 31.

    Even a politician who had campaigned against the store was forced to utter some kind words, and admit the campaign had backfired:
    Shannon Royer, a GOP candidate for the state House's 156th District who has opposed the store, said he heard McDevitt on Michael Smerconish's radio show.

    "She seems like a great person; hats off to anyone who's opening a small business in this economy," Royer said. "I just have a problem with the location so close to a school."

    The school is located on the 200 block of West Gay Street and the store is on the 100 block of North Church Street, perpendicular to Gay Street.

    Royer, who said he has heard dozens of complaints about the shop's location while campaigning, labeled the subsequent publicity "unintended consequences."

    "She is possibly the luckiest small-business owner in West Chester," he said.

    A woman who answered the church phone yesterday said the pastor was not available and not commenting.

    I suspect it occurred to Royer that there's an election in the fall, and that fueling a backlash is a risky strategy.

    So, I would submit, is the war on sex. As with the war on guns, anti-sex activists tend to forget that ordinary people get pissed when activists mess with them. In fact, they even get tired of being yelled at, or even scolded.

    Somewhat related to the war on sex is the war between the sexes. I in a post yesterday, I mentioned a fantastic post by Cassandra which Glenn Reynolds had linked. Because I'm intrigued by the phenomenon of backlash, I think it's worth a closer look. Cassandra observes how the two sides find each other repulsive:

    ....the discourse on gender is heavily influenced by political orientation. The Left, taken as a whole, seems repulsed by traditional masculinity. A series of posts by Ezra Klein brought this into particularly stark relief. His analysis of Obama's candidacy is revealing


    what the battle of the sexes comes down to, in the end: the maintenance of power. The Left hates the very idea of it and is seen as weak and femininized. The Right wants to preserve it and is seen as controlling and masculine. The fight, like many domestic battles, gets pretty nasty at times. And just as the Left can't seem to get past bashing men every chance they get, the Right seems to be on a never ending tear against women. Everything, it seems, is the fault of feminists. Even the most paradoxical and nonsensical arguments are laid at our door, even when men engage in (ostensibly) laudable activities for the distaff side, it is all our fault, our fault, our most grievous fault. Mea, mea culpa...

    Whativer you call this phenomenon, it's clear that Cassandra is sick of both sides, just as both sides are sick of each other. And unless I'm reading her wrong, the fact that each side is sick of the other only fuels the ongoing mutual reaction. Cassandra rejects the process:
    In short, I don't believe in the whole "real man/real woman" paradigm.
    I'd call the paradigm mutual backlash.

    Interestingly, many activists are sick and tired of each other, and if you read their screeds, they almost seem to make each other ill. A driving force, perhaps? (Instead of the 70s shlocko slogan "I'm OK, You're OK," it's now "I Make You Sick, You Make Me Sick!")

    Furthermore, while it is true that most ordinary people are sick and tired of the activists, if they get irritated enough or provoked enough by a perceived slight coming from one side or another, this can incline even an ordinary person to join a cause, even if that cause is against that person's (or society's) interest.

    It's another illustration of Why Activists Win.

    But I say all of these things as a life member in the NRA. Isn't that activism, so doesn't that make me guilty of hypocrisy? Well, it's certainly one of my numerous contradictions (of the sort I grapple with regularly in this blog). I would say that sometimes in life, you have to bite the bullet and be an activist. Even if you hate activists. Even when activists and activism have reduced you to a state of shell shock. (In this case, empty shell shock.)

    Perhaps the activist-induced shell shock ought to serve as a reminder that the smart activists are the ones who don't mess with people, and let the opposition do the messin'.

    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (12)

    Remember D-Day

    The Philadelphia Inquirer's Art Carey remembers by talking to some of the veterans. Excerpt:

    A Girard College alumnus whose father died in a coal-mine accident when he was 3, Barletta enlisted in the Navy in January 1944 when he was 17. At 5-foot-2 and 120 pounds, he barely met the physical standards.

    But Barletta was determined. "I watched the newsreels and saw how the Nazis were treating prisoners," says Barletta, who lives in Middletown, near Harrisburg. "That made me angry."

    There were other motivations.

    "I felt like I was doing something my father wanted me to do. When he came here from Italy in 1913, he was 16. When World War I began, he wanted to enlist in the Army. He wanted to fight for his country. But he couldn't because he wasn't a citizen."

    After basic training, Barletta shipped out to England, where on June 1 he was assigned to the Tide, a minesweeper.

    On D-Day, the Tide headed for a spot between Omaha and Utah Beaches, clearing the way for the invading troops. The ship spent the day escorting each successive wave of infantry to shore.

    The next day, the Tide was pulled off the line. The crew was exhausted. The sailors had had little time to eat or sleep. The captain ordered his men to grab some grub and some shuteye.

    Barletta, more weary than hungry, found a spot on deck and threw down a mattress.

    The next thing he knew he was airborne, propelled halfway up the mast by the force of an explosion. The Tide itself had hit one or more mines. The blast literally blew the ship out of the water and broke the hull in two places. Of the 112 men on board, 26 were killed instantly, including the captain. Had Barletta chosen to eat instead of sleep, he would have perished as well; the mess hall was destroyed.

    The remaining 86 sailors were all injured, including Barletta. He hit the deck hard, on his right side, and was knocked unconscious. When he came to his senses, he was on a PT boat. Quickly recovering, he returned to the sinking Tide to search for survivors.

    Below deck, he heard someone calling for help. He found an officer lying on a depth-charge rack.

    "Hold me," the officer pleaded.

    The officer's head was creased. Shrapnel had virtually scalped him.

    Barletta held and comforted the man. The officer died in his arms.

    There's a lot more.

    Michelle Malkin recommends reading Ronald Reagan's 1984 Pointe du Hoc speech. I did, and I especially liked this:

    We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.
    Glenn Reynolds had no less than three D-Day posts; one linking some great pictures of Normandy today by Nina Camic, another about how D-Day would be reported todayand a third one linking this post by Jennifer Rubin:
    One wonders if today the event would be characterized in the same way and whether over 10,000 Allied casualties in a single day would be reported as a great tragedy, a sign our military planners had failed us in some way.


    Some basic historical literacy might provide Americans with some perspective on our current war and some understanding that even in the greatest triumph, mistakes, horrid mistakes, are made and yet through enormous bravery and determination we can persevere. At the very least we might have an appreciation for the enormity of the sacrifices needed to destroy fascism in the 20th century.

    All of the above (and numerous other posts and articles) are worth reading in full, as it is a day we should all remember.

    One lingering question, though....

    Why does Google consider the birthday of Diego Velázquez so much more important?

    (Um, not to knock the importance of Velázquez, but more people have heard of Bobby Kennedy, and today is the anniversary of his death. But I still think D-Day is more important. This in addition to Google's ongoing refusal to honor Memorial Day seems like a pattern.)

    posted by Eric at 09:48 PM | Comments (3)

    unmanly times call for "unmanly" balls
    I want to live together with the Muslim people, but it takes two to tango.

    -- Pim Fortuyn

    Incidents like this (and it was by no means the first one) demonstrate to me how right Pim Fortuyn was.
    At a fashion show to promote tolerance of gay people on April 30, a national holiday in Holland, celebrating the birthday of the late Queen Juliana, a group of ten Muslim youths dragged gay model Mike Du Pree down from the catwalk, beating him up and breaking his nose. A second model who tried to help out was also attacked.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    This was all in broad daylight, in downtown Amsterdam. Ten thugs rampaged, and no one seems to have done anything.

    In all probability, the good Netherlanders were too frightened.

    What I want to know is, considering all the people in Europe, why does it take a fed-up gay Dutchman like Pim Fortuyn to show some balls? (His balls got him killed, of course. That's their nature sometimes.) And where are the gay Americans? So far, only a few gay European press sites like this have even covered the incident. The American gay leftie press shows zero spine, although the Blade has at least linked Gay Patriot's post.

    There's probably some irony in the fact of a lone gay man being the only Netherlander with balls, but I'm getting almost as fed up as Cassandra over the manliness issue. (Glenn linked her essay yesterday, and I must say, it's a tour de force.) At any rate, considering that European heterosexuals no longer have balls, I suppose someone has to supply them, so maybe Europeans will have to look to non-traditional sources.


    Remember the ridiculous stereotype that all the good-looking men are gay?

    Wasn't that bad enough?

    MORE: A bravely anonymous commenter thinks I should consider that "real men agree, at least to some extent, with what the Muslim youths did to the gay model."

    If an unprovoked 10-on-1 attack constitutes the sort of manly model with which real men agree, then surely, so must honor killings, beheading captives in Iraq, and blowing up women and children.

    posted by Eric at 03:55 PM | Comments (17)

    from backlash to baracklash

    Is there a fine line between "rallying the troops" and creating (or stoking) a political backlash?

    The reason I'm asking this question is that I've seen many an issue advanced not by its proponents, but by popular backlash against the tactics used by its opponents -- especially personal attacks and emotional, overwrought hyperbole. I discussed this recently in the context of the California same sex marriage debate.

    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.
    Were I working against the Marriage Amendment, I would try to depict the opposition not as concerned citizens who think marriage should be limited to a man and a woman, but as deranged, teeth-gnashing anti-gay bigots. Similarly, were I working for the amendment, I'd try to portray the opposition as sadomasochistic cross-dressers -- life-style extremists hell-bent on turning society upside down.

    If you get to define the opposition, you can win. Provided, of course, that the opposition cooperates. One of the things that won the 2004 election for Bush was the over-the-top behavior of the usual activists in the streets of New York at the Republican convention. (That the likes of Michael Moore sat in a place of honor next to Jimmy Carter added credibility to the view that extreme leftism had become mainstream Democratic thinking, and it was a brilliant strategic move to hold the GOP convention in New York.)

    But relying on the opposition to create a backlash has to be done carefully, lest they or the ordinary voters catch on. Sophistication grows. I suspect that California voters, for example, might not be so dumb as to fall for an attempt to spin Fred Phelps and the GodHatesFags.com clique as typical of the marriage amendment supporters.

    A more credible approach (especially for the Big Media types who hide their bias) would be to feature a guy like my frequent emailer Matt Barber of the Concerned Women for America. In his latest WorldNet Daily piece, he doesn't merely advocate one man one woman and take issue with the California Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, but he takes aim at "gay sex" itself (in quotes, because he believes it is neither):

    When same-sex friendships are twisted and sexualized, practitioners of "the sin that dare not speak its name" are forced, at every level, to merely mimic the genuine article. They jump through a series of inelegant hoops to create a fantasy world wherein two people of the same gender clumsily imitate natural heterosexual pairings properly designed for procreation and the healthy rearing of children.

    Even "gay sex" (male-male anal sodomy) is a crude, man-made imitation of the natural heterosexual reproductive process. Sadly, as millions of homosexuals have had to learn the hard way, this disordered, makeshift simulation of a natural biological process is coldly rejected by the very human biology it mocks.

    OK, I realize like many other people, Matt Barber doesn't like the idea of anal sex and believes it is sinful, but I think it's only fair to point out that for the people who are into that activity, it is not done in imitation of heterosexual behavior, nor is it done in a clumsy manner. I think that's wishful thinking. I also think his use of the term "sodomy" is Biblically inaccurate, as well as inflammatory by modern standards. Perfect for televising the opposition, though (and probably good for generating traffic). There's more. It's perverted, immoral, unnatural, and by God, Ellen Degeneres is playing with fire by asking John McCain to approve of it!
    As the CDC has illustrated time and again, unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences. Homosexual conduct - especially among males - creates an environment ripe for infectious disease and emotional and spiritual injury. This, by definition, is perversion. ("Perversion: Pathology. A change to what is unnatural or abnormal: a perversion of function or structure." - Dictionary.com)

    Homosexuality is a dead end. It's emotionally, spiritually and physically sterile. But it's not surprising that, as with most sins, those trapped in the aptly named "queer" lifestyle desperately seek affirmation of their behavioral choices. Most of us know when we're doing something immoral, let alone unnatural and unhealthy, and so we want others to convince us otherwise.

    Consider comedian and talk-show host Ellen Degeneres. After recently announcing that she intended to "marry" her friend, Portia DeRossi (a woman), Ellen sought approval from presidential candidate John McCain, whom she had as a guest on her show.

    I'll admit it: Ellen is a sympathetic figure with a quick wit. I'm sure she's a very nice person, and I don't dislike her at all. But she's playing with fire. Ellen compounds the sin of homosexuality by using the platform she's been given to lead others astray. She guides her many adoring housewife fans into rebellion against God's divine and explicit natural order by suggesting they celebrate sin and entertain, along with her, the "gay marriage" delusion.

    Once again, some people agree with Barber. Many don't. But I think he's stretching things when he attributes shame to total strangers by claiming that "those trapped in the aptly named "queer" lifestyle desperately seek affirmation of their behavioral choices." There are a number of homosexuals who couldn't care less about approval, and consider their sexuality to be as incidental to their lives as most heterosexuals do. They don't feel trapped, nor do they feel ashamed. Consequently, they are less likely to make a political issue of their sexuality. Imputing shame to them that they do not have, however, only encourages them to get outraged, and involved. For this reason alone I think Matt Barber if of immense benefit to the cause he opposes.

    Then there's the outburst against the sins of Ellen. The Bible condemns "lying with a man as with a woman," but unless you're into textual gender revisionism (which I suspect few fundamentalists are), the silence about lesbians is remarkable. The only reference to lesbianism is arguably St. Paul's utterance (in Romans 1:26) that:

    For this cause [worshiping images of pagan deities] God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.
    That could mean lesbianism, but because of the phrase "their women" might it also mean that the women were behaving in an unapproved sexual manner with their men? If we assume that there is such a thing as sex against nature, what could be more against nature than a woman having sex with a man the way a man is supposed to have sex with her?

    And while I'm on this irritating topic, let's play fundamentalist gender revisionism, and rework the Leviticus prohibition to include lesbians.

    Thou shalt not lie with womankind, as with mankind: it is abomination.
    I'm not so sure about that, as it could be interpreted as a command that gay men not have sex with women.

    So let's try,

    Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind, or with womankind as with mankind: it is abomination.
    Depending on the nature of your sexual desires, might that be seen as prohibiting all sex? For a bisexual, it certainly would. And from the perspective of a strictly gay man, that would present a seemingly impossible logical dilemma, for it would be impossible to lie with mankind as with womankind, for the simple reason that if he lied with womankind, nothing would happen. So if we word it that way, he really wouldn't be violating God's intent unless he were to lie with womankind as he would with mankind. While that might be an impossible sin for a truly gay man to commit, I hardly think the fundamentalists would want Leviticus reinterpreted in such a way as to forbid gay men to have sex with women. As it stands, because they're only forbidden to lie with mankind as they would with womankind, their inability to have sex with woman would seem to make them logically incapable of violating the prohibition. Would it really be fair to have God forbid them to have sex with women as they would with a man? (This all assumes, of course, that "lie with" means "have sex with." If it doesn't mean that, then why the fuss about abominations and Ellen and stuff?) Bear in mind that some translators believe the original Leviticus language refers to preserving the sanctity of a wife's bed, but this is really not about the meaning or the merits of Leviticus. People are not only free to believe it says what they think it says, they're even free to believe that it does not obligate all American citizens.

    ACK! I hate it when I get distracted, because here I am arguing the fine points of fundamentalist textual revisionism when what I should be doing is getting to my point about the backlash principle.

    Notwithstanding any of the above, my biggest worry politically is not gay marriage, or the gay issue, but whether the fall election will be determined by backlash. Will the Democrats be perceived as more over the top than the Republicans? Who will be seen by the voters as more prone to using personal attacks and emotional, overwrought hyperbole?

    Frankly, it worries me that the election is already being framed as whether America is "ready to have a black man as president." That's because I think the question is disingenuous. America is perfectly ready to have a black president. What is being missed is that the vast majority of voters are no more interested in Obama's race than they would be in the race of Colin Powell, or Condoleezza Rice were they on the Republican ticket.

    The vast majority of Americans don't like ad hominem attacks and personal invective either. John McCain knows this, and he's tried to put the brakes on excessively personal Obama-bashing, because I think he knows that he doesn't need to do it to win, and that if he is perceived as doing it, he may lose. He wants the Hillary vote, which is today's equivalent of the Reagan Democrat vote, and let's face it, Hillary voters, while they may be leery of McCain, they are not leery of him in the WorldNetDaily conservative sense. They don't get outraged over his hobnobbing with Ellen Degeneres, nor would they especially care that his daughter was seen wearing an Arab keffiyeh. [AKA "shemagh."]

    While McCain can rely on the anti-Obama groundwork already done by Hillary supporters, he has to be careful to avoid the extreme Obama bashers like the plague, and he has to purge any hint of it from his campaign. The goal of McCain's opponents, naturally, will be to tar McCain with the tactics of his supporters, in the hope that he can be made to look like them, and that they can be made to look like bigots.

    Whether it works will depend on McCain's credibility in distancing himself from them, and in the intelligence of the voters in being able to make the distinction. I fear that it will be a very tricky business, and I don't envy John McCain.

    For, while Hillary's supporters can find common cause with McCain, they have little or nothing in common with the WorldNetDaily crowd, and to the extent that the latter engage in extreme Obama bashing, they might be successful in driving these timid new GOP arrivals away.

    Do far right Republicans (I don't mean to single out WND Republicans, but those in the far right camp generally) care? It's a question the more thoughtful people in their ranks might want to ponder -- especially those who don't want Obama to be president.

    As to those in the less thoughtful camp, the more irrational and extreme their attacks on Obama, the more Obama will benefit. Were I working for Obama, I would consider the far right critics to be the best possible allies, for not only can they be relied on to frighten the grudgeholding Hillaryites back into the fold, but the more extreme among them can be put in the media spotlight to advance the proposition that Obama's enemies on the right are a bunch of racist cranks.

    What are the implications for those conservatives who so despise McCain that they want him to lose? In my darker moments, I put myself in their place, and I realize that the best strategy is not to attack McCain (for this only makes McCain look good to the moderates and independents), but to launch the dirtiest, sleaziest, most dishonest, and most over-the-top attacks possible against Obama, in the hope of creating a backlash in Obama's favor.

    Few people, I admit, are cynical enough to behave that way deliberately, but think of the benefits to those who are. Their hands will be completely clean, and they can even claim that they were only trying to "help" McCain (who was of course too much of a wimp to tell the truth). That's a win-win. And if the ferocity of their attacks force McCain to denounce them, why, in their minds, their hands (and consciences) will be even cleaner. That's a win-win-win. And if McCain loses despite all their "help," it will be a win-win-win-win.

    For them, and Barack Obama.

    MORE: Please bear in mind that while I try to admit my biases, my primary argument here involves strategy, and not the merits of the various positions. Thus, if the goal is to defeat same sex marriage, denouncing "sodomites" is probably not the best way to go about it -- no matter how evil the opponents of gay marriage might believe homosexuality is. Similarly, if the goal is stopping Barack Obama, denouncing him as a secret Communist or Muslim is not the best strategy -- and the question of whether he really is and whether the denouncers believe he is becomes largely irrelevant. (Likewise, if those on the other side think their opponents are fascistic Christianist bigots and deranged racist loons respectively, they'd be best advised not to say so.)

    Nothing fair about any of it.

    MORE: Via Ann Althouse I just learned that al Qaeda terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad is hopping mad over gay marriage:

    He particularly took issue with a society that allows "same-sexual marriage" and other things that "are very bad." He said he could not accept a U.S. lawyer because the nation is "still in Iraq and Afghanistan and waging their crusade."...
    Hey, when I wrote about defining the opposition, I never meant that!

    MORE: A Drudge headline today reads "Tom Delay calls Barack Obama a Marxist."

    But does that mean he doesn't want Obama to be president? The reason I can't decide is that he's on record as saying this:

    Hillary Clinton as president may be the best thing that ever happened to the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

    posted by Eric at 12:06 PM | Comments (4)

    Gratuitous grammatical and stylistic advice for talking heads

    Adjust your tinfoil hats, and heed the words of an electronic-emission-plagued Frenchman quoted here:

    With the good sleep results obtained out of my home, I decided to built a FARADAY cage around my bed. During day time I wore a special shielded cap. That special shielded cap has an incredible history; one day when I felt dizzy with very strong headache I cover my head with aluminium paper and placed a cap on top; the results were quite incredible. Then I ordered a special cap on INTERNET, since then I keep that cap on my head as long as I can. I even dare to wear my special cap on my job site.

    With my FARADAY cage and my special shielded cap slowly I was able to overcome my electro-sensitiveness to electromagnetic waves.

    It makes now more than two years that I am obliged to flee my workplace. I am most of the times working from home. It makes more than three years I sleep in a Faraday cage. I avoid all chemicals products from food and cosmetics. I take no more antioxidant or any other potion.

    (Via Justin, who told me about this because he knows how fond I am of that emerging nexus between neurotic diseases and politics.)

    French drives me crazy, because I never learned it, cannot speak it, don't like the sound of it, and what limited knowledge I have is a result of having soaked up bits and pieces as a result of traveling and patronizing the arts. My Spanish is good, but if I want that Ph.D. in Art History that I've been urged to get, I'd have to learn French. My lesson for today arises from worrying whether I was correct in titling the picture that follows "La Cage du Faraday" -- or whether it should be "La Cage de Faraday." (My guess is that because it pertains to Faraday yet didn't belong to him, "du" would be correct.)

    Anyway, here's the cage in question which allows the electronically threatened Frenchman to sleep in safety:


    Concludes Depleted Cranium,

    The picture above is of the Faraday cage this individual built. Too bad there were no pictures of the aluminum foil hat!
    Yes, it really is. Because the French have a flair for style, and, well, much as I hate to say this, your typical American tin foil hat-wearer looks like a clod.

    Seriously, if you're going to wear one of those things, don't you want to look your best?

    Not that a tin foil hat would shield you from the guillotine, but even there, the French had style. Louis XVI faced his death with such dignity and class that it (along with the courage of his wife) may have contributed to the eventual backlash which developed.

    I'm not about to attempt a translation of this engraving, which shows the French fascination with the severed head of Louis XVI -- but I just had to torture the language roots a little by titling it "Caput de Capet." (The man went to the guillotine as "Louis Capet" and the name was derived from the Latin word for head.)



    But if you lose your head, don't try to be a talking head. Contrary to urban legend, there's no evidence that it ever happened. However, there's this intriguing eyewitness account from a physician who witnessed a 1905 guillotining, and was allowed the privilege of interacting with a freshly and cleanly severed head.

    "I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjunctiva visible, exactly as in the dying whom we have occasion to see every day in the exercise of our profession, or as in those just dead. It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: "Languille!" I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions - I insist advisedly on this peculiarity - but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.
    Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. "After several seconds, the eyelids closed again, slowly and evenly, and the head took on the same appearance as it had had before I called out.

    "It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. The there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement - and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead.

    "I have just recounted to you with rigorous exactness what I was able to observe. The whole thing had lasted twenty-five to thirty seconds.

    That's a bit on the creepy side, and it's a good argument for lethal injection -- or maybe for the use of a duller blade, which would be more likely to cause immediate unconsciousness from blunt trauma. [Not to worry about a failure of decapitation, though; the blades weigh 88 lbs, and drop from a 14 foot height.] Ironically, the sharper the blade, the cleaner the cut, and the more likely the suffering -- although I do think that the huge sudden drop in blood pressure would in most cases cause an immediate loss of all consciousness, so while I'm skeptical of the physician's claims, what he describes might be theoretically possible in rare cases.

    While I'd rather be a dead head than a talking head (groan!), fortunately, this is all theory.

    In today's civilized world, we should be more worried about protection against electronic emissions.

    Phew. (I didn't feel safe publishing this until 9:12.... And don't blame me for this post. Justin made me do it!)

    posted by Eric at 09:12 AM | Comments (3)

    A sinful and tyrannical system

    Dr. Helen has an excellent piece about a systematic practice -- in which professional organizations force their members to fund politically correct causes by way of required dues:

    Are you a doctor, lawyer, or other professional who belongs to an organization that you resent sending money to every year? I was until this year, when I decided it was better to quit the organization than spend money (hundreds of dollars at that) on one that promoted knee-jerk politically correct activity that I did not believe in.

    I had belonged to the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1994 but did not rejoin this year. Why? Because their pet political projects are nothing I wish to fund.

    The projects are standard leftist fare -- ''with resolutions ranging from defending abortion (I am not necessarily anti-abortion, but the APA should respect psychologists who are) to equating Zionism with racism" -- and I think it's wrong to force professional people to fund political activities with which they disagree. I'd feel this way even if I agreed with the particular cause which was being funded.

    Back in 1990, this issue was litigated in a case called Keller v. State Bar of California, in which the State Bar extracted "mandatory dues payments to advance political and ideological causes to which [plaintiffs] do not subscribe, in violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association." (The causes included blatantly partisan positions on gun control, a victim's bill of rights, a nuclear weapons freeze initiative, federal-court jurisdiction over abortions, public school prayer, and busing.)

    While the California Supreme Court had upheld the right of the California bar to force attorneys (including yours truly) to fund these things, fortunately the U.S. Supreme Court reversed:

    Petitioners' complaint also alleges that the conference of delegates funded and sponsored by the State Bar endorsed a gun control initiative, disapproved statements of a United States senatorial candidate regarding court review of a victim's bill of rights, endorsed a nuclear weapons freeze initiative, and opposed federal legislation limiting federal-court jurisdiction over abortions, public school prayer, and busing. See n. 2, supra.

    Precisely where the line falls between those State Bar activities in which the officials and members of the Bar are acting essentially as professional advisers to those ultimately charged with the regulation of the legal profession, on the one hand, and those activities having political or ideological coloration which are not reasonably related to the advancement of such goals, on the other, will not always be easy to discern. But the extreme ends of the spectrum are clear: [496 U.S. 1, 16] Compulsory dues may not be expended to endorse or advance a gun control or nuclear weapons freeze initiative; at the other end of the spectrum petitioners have no valid constitutional objection to their compulsory dues being spent for activities connected with disciplining members of the Bar or proposing ethical codes for the profession. (Emphasis added.)

    That's because it offends the human conscience to force a person to fund something he disagrees with. In this regard, the court cited its recognition of Thomas Jefferson's view --
    that "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.'" (Emphasis added.)
    I think Jefferson put it quite well.

    But I'm thinking that the APA would most likely consider his words to be little more than the rantings of a dead white male slaveholder...

    posted by Eric at 04:33 PM | Comments (2)

    Feel Free To Speak

    Blogger Diana West at PoliticalMavens.com discusses Obama's ties to The Nation of Islam. Very interesting. But that is not what caught my eye.

    "Another Obama connection to supporters of Farrakhan comes from Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod.

    "WND reported this week Axelrod sits on the finance committee of St. Sabina, the Chicago Catholic parish that was led by controversial pastor Michael Pfleger, an outspoken Farrakhan supporter who hosted the Nation of Islam chief at his parish several times.

    "The Archdiocese of Chicago yesterday removed Pfleger from his duties at St. Sabina for an unspecified time following a well-publicized sermon at Trinity church two weeks ago in which Pfleger claimed Sen. Hillary Clinton cried in public because she thought being white entitled her to the Democratic presidential nomination.

    "Pfleger told the Chicago Sun-Times he felt free to speak about Clinton because he believed his sermon was not being recorded. He said he thought the live Internet link that normally broadcasts Trinity sermons was not running.

    Now isn't that interesting. Two (at least) different messages depending on who he is speaking to. Isn't that special. And to think the Rev. Pfleger was once one of Obama's close advisers. I sure hope Obama wasn't getting any bad advice.

    The Church has been looking for a way to remove the Rev. from St. Sabina for a long time. He gave them one. So far that makes the Rev. the first person in the Obama Campaign to get thrown under the bus twice. Good work Rev. If you can get it.

    H/T linearthinker

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:39 AM | Comments (2)

    The invisible exception to the 4th Amendment?

    One of the things that has long appalled me about Child Protective Services (CPS), as well as the various agencies charged with enforcing animal welfare laws, is that unlike normal police, neither the child cops nor the animal cops seem to believe the Constitution applies to them. It's as if they think the founders of this country must have inserted invisible asterisks in the 4th and 5th Amendments going to invisible footnotes which say "except in cases involving crimes against children or animals."

    Don't get me wrong. Not only do I oppose crimes against children or animals, I can be just as emotional as some of the enforcement people under the right set of facts. But that does not mean I'm willing to allow my emotions to strike the Fourth and Fifth Amendments from the Constitution.

    Darleen Click writes about an all-too-typical case -- Michael C. v. Gresbach "in which a social worker entered a private school, without warrant and demanded to see two children she suspected had been spanked by their parents." She routinely strip-searched children, which was such a standard agency practice that it was deemed not even worthy of telling her supervisor, much less bothering with legal process:

    "The social worker performed these strip searches as a matter of routine, estimating that in perhaps one-half of the 300 or so cases she handled every year she subjected kids to a partial disrobing," he said. "In fact, she testified that she considered it so routine that she did not bother to discuss her intentions with her supervisor, even though she spoke to her on her way to the school."

    The state had several social workers file affidavits saying they would have followed the same procedure. Crampton said, "That is an alarming admission, and we suspect you would find a similar pattern in social service offices all over America."

    If it's a similar pattern in social service offices all over America, and the courts defer to them, what does this suggest about who is in charge of America?

    Astoundingly (and quite bravely, IMO), the federal appellate court for the 7th Circuit held that the Constitution actually applies to the child cops:

    Gresbach claimed she was entitled to qualified immunity because her actions were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment; however, the court disagreed.

    "We do not exempt child welfare workers from adhering to basic Fourth Amendment principles under non-exigent circumstances - to do so would be imprudent," the court stated. "... we do not believe that requiring a child welfare caseworker to act in accordance with basic Fourth Amendment principles is an undue burden on the child welfare system, particularly when it is necessary to conduct an examination of a child's body, which is undoubtedly 'frightening, humiliating and intrusive' to the child."

    (Via Tim Sandefur.)

    This is an excellent argument for not electing federal judges, because few judges at the local level would be willing to uphold the Constitution in cases involving child cops or animal cops. They defer to the bureaucratic classes out of fear, because the people who run these agencies are generally allowed to write the laws they enforce (they have huge lobbies and own many state and local legislators who create statutory schemes which enable "regulatory" bureaucratic law-writing), and in terms of sheer, raw power, their media operations are second to none. Well-funded propaganda and "public relations" machines are able to commandeer newspaper columnists at a moment's notice, either at a local or a national level. Hollywood is in their hip pocket; I cannot count the number of television shows glorifying child cops or animal cops I've seen as I've flipped through the channels (and those are only dedicated series, which don't include child-cop or animal-cop friendly episodes on other programs). With so-called media "ride-alongs" being common, and private entities being given full police powers, there's a growing convergence between bureaucrats, activists, and media -- the only feature they share being that they're unelected.

    Any judge or politician who gets out of line and defies them better be sure that he's squeaky clean, lest he find himself on the receiving end of a targeted media campaign. None of this should surprise any serious student of tyranny. People accustomed to operating outside the rules and who write their own laws are by definition tyrants, and it would be wholly unreasonable to expect them to play by the same rules as everyone else.

    Anyway, were I the 7th Circuit judge who wrote that decision, I'd be awfully careful to make sure I had no loose ends in my personal life. No financial or family embarrassments, etc. Because I'd know my name was on a permanent enemies list compiled by whoever holds power at the top of the very powerful child cops bureaucracy. And I do mean "whoever" -- because it really isn't personal. They're faceless and anonymous, and as replaceable as rechargeable batteries.

    Unfortunately, it's the nature of bureaucratic power, and only occasionally does a truly famous tyrant emerge from the ranks of the bureaucrats who silently run our lives. For the most part, they're anonymous and impersonal.

    I remember an incident in Berkeley when a building inspector showed up at a friend's house, unannounced and without a warrant. He claimed that he wanted to search the house because they were investigating a report of code violations, and when my friend asked him if he had a search warrant, he was genuinely surprised, and said, "We're building inspectors! We don't need search warrants!" and simply demanded entry. This prompted a call to the police. Naturally, the poor officer had to explain patiently that because of the 4th Amendment, there was no way he could force the man to admit him without a search warrant, and he said "If I can't go in without a search warrant, neither can you!"

    This is something only a real cop would understand.

    That's because ordinary police tend to be held accountable by other cops and by society, and they can even lose their jobs for violating the Constitution.

    Bureaucrats who think the Constitution doesn't apply to them get promoted.

    posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (6)

    Wealth Without Money

    A self replicating Rapid Prototyping machine has just been developed.

    A universal constructor is a machine that can replicate itself and - in addition - make other industrial products. Such a machine would have a number of interesting characteristics, such as being subject to Darwinian evolution, increasing in number exponentially, and being extremely low-cost.

    A rapid prototyper is a machine that can manufacture objects directly (usually, though not necessarily, in plastic) under the control of a computer.

    The RepRap project is working towards creating a universal constructor by using rapid prototyping, and then giving the results away free under the GNU General Public Licence to allow other investigators to work on the same idea. We are trying to prove the hypothesis: Rapid prototyping and direct writing technologies are sufficiently versatile to allow them to be used to make a von Neumann Universal Constructor.

    All good projects have a slogan, and the best have a slogan that reeks of hubris. RepRap is no exception. Our slogan is:

    "Wealth without money..."

    A. Jacksonian and I have discussed in months past what such devices would mean in various e-mails. Basically it would mean the end of scarcity. Sociologically we thought it would mean that the poor would be the mass consumers and the rich would flaunt how little they consume. At least obviously. The poor would get lots of meat and potatoes. The rich would eat half a peach on a lettuce leaf.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:59 AM | Comments (8)

    Contentedly contextualizing the contours of content

    Via Ann Althouse, Chris Matthews is behaving in a clearly, um, contumacious manner.

    I watched the video, and Matthews didn't seem contrite!

    posted by Eric at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

    History - The Prequel

    I just came across a most interesting bit of information. Despite a whole host of folks, including Andrew Sullivan, coming out with the idea that if Iraq is not yet won, a win is likely, a book has recently come out which says all is lost. Defeat is at hand, and well deserved. One must remember, however, that book publishers operate on a longer schedule than journalists and bloggers. And the book, written by a senior correspondent for the Guardian, which is just a few months old, Defeat: Why America and Britain Lost Iraq,is already 40% off at Amazon.

    Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. And not just because I get a cut from every one sold through here. I have other better reasons. Now I have to tell you that I have not read the book. So how is a reasonable recommendation even possible? Well the reviews were all gushingly positive so there is that. But that is not it. The real reason I suggest this book is the same reason I have a copy of The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age. It will be good to refer to when people start trying to overdose you with conventional wisdom. Sometimes the odds makers don't even know what the real odds are. Which brings up another point. Has any one noticed a change yet in editorial policy or reporting policy re: Iraq from the Guardian? What are the odds?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:38 PM | Comments (1)

    "serious doubts about his potency"?
    "Obama can win without her, but he can't lose with her."
    So says veteran Clinton lawyer and troubleshooter Lanny Davis (who has started a petition drive aimed at getting Hillary on the ticket as the vice presidential nominee).

    I think Obama can't win without her, and I think Hillary knows it.

    Unfortunately, I think Lanny Davis may be right to say that he can't lose with her.

    Which means it would be stupid of me to publish this post were I a serious partisan blogger who took myself so seriously as to imagine that the presidential race would be affected by anything I say here (as if thousands of other bloggers aren't making similar observations). These campaigns are run by big boys, people unlikely to decide anything of strategic importance based on the half-informed opinions of a blogger.

    So having decided it's safe to shoot off my mouth, I think it's fair to point out that Lanny Davis has been close to the Clintons for a long time, he was Hillary's classmate at Yale, and he's been going to bat for her campaign on a regular basis. So, I doubt he would be doing this without her approval.

    But just because she might have approved of the Davis petition, does that mean she actually wants to campaign for, and become, Vice President Clinton?

    This brings me to Maureen Dowd's column.

    Barry has been trying to shake off Hillary and pivot for quite a long time now, but she has managed to keep her teeth in his ankle and raise serious doubts about his potency.
    Well they've come a long way from the way the Germans portrayed them, when Barack was the dog, and he was biting on something else:


    Dowd has two theories as to what's going on:

    As he was reaching the magic number of delegates, she was devilishly stealing the spotlight. First, her camp vociferously denied an Associated Press report that she would concede and then, in a conference call with the New York delegation, she gave a green light to supporters to push for her to be on the ticket.

    Clintonologists know that Hillary is up to something, but they aren't sure what. Theory No. 1 is that it's the Cassandra "I told you so" gambit: She believes intensely that he's too black, too weak and too elitist -- with all his salmon and organic tea and steamed broccoli -- to beat her pal John McCain. But she has to pretend she'll do "whatever it takes," even accept the vice presidency, a job she's already had and doesn't want again, so that nobody will blame her when he loses on Nov. 4. Then she can power on to 2012.

    Theory No. 2 is that it's a "Bad stuff happens" maneuver, exemplified in her gaffe about the R.F.K. assassination, that she figures that at least if she moves a few blocks from Embassy Row to the Naval Observatory, she'll be a heartbeat away from the job she's always wanted.

    Either way, by broadcasting that she's open to being Obama's running mate, she puts public pressure on him similar to the sort of pressure Walter Mondale was under from rampaging feminists when he put Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket. Mondale ended up seeming henpecked, as Obama would seem if he caved to the women who say they will write in Hillary's name or vote for anti-choice McCain before they'd vote for Obama.

    For months, Hillary has been trying to emasculate Obama with the sort of words and themes she has chosen, stirring up feminist anger by promoting the idea that the men were unfairly taking it away from the women, and covering up her own campaign mistakes with cries of sexism. Even his ability to finally clinch the historic nomination did not stop her in that pursuit. She did not bat her eyelashes at him and proclaim him Rhett Butler instead of Ashley Wilkes.

    Interesting, although I think floating Theory No. 2 ought to be reserved for conservative talk show hosts and irresponsible bloggers. Hell, it makes me feel like an irresponsible "transmitter" blogger even to be quoting it! I mean, wasn't the old leftie rule that the irresponsible bloggers would peddle these things, which would then be picked by by "transmitters" like Rush Limbaugh, until finally they were considered sufficiently laundered to be repeated by respectable Big Media pundits?

    But I think Dowd may be onto something with the "emasculated Obama" meme. He's already vulnerable to that criticism, and if Hillary the Ball Buster can be seen as trying to force her way onto the ticket by bullying tactics, he might be left with no choice but to show a little spine and stand up to her. And for the next four years she'll be able to credibly say that she "tried." To "help."

    If that's what she's up to, I'd expect the volume of bitchiness to increase.

    MORE: Reading Dick Morris's scathing analysis makes me think that maybe putting Hillary on the ticket wouldn't be as bad for Republicans as I think.

    Bill's relationships with billionaires, his pursuit of financial gain, his alliance with the emir of Dubai, and his acceptance of speaking fees and income from some of the least savory of types is not what you need to carry around with you in a presidential race. To put Hillary on the ticket is to confront nagging questions about donors to the Clinton Library and Bill's refusal to release them. It would be to inherit a load of baggage that Obama does not need as he tries to position himself as the candidate of change, antithetical to the corrupt and corrupting ways of Washington.

    posted by Eric at 03:44 PM | Comments (3)

    If you print this post, is it more logical?

    What is reading?

    Don't laugh, because the question is not as simple as it might appear. If you've read the last two sentences, did you actually "read" in the traditional sense of the word? The reason I ask is that I've heard talk radio debates pitting "the Internet" against "reading" -- the argument being that you should get your kid offline and force him to read books.

    Naturally, the logician in me screamed silently (but fiercely enough to get it past my memory-erasing editor) that "there is no logical difference between text online and the same text in a book!"


    While it might be true in the technical and logical sense that there is no difference in the meaning of the words, I found myself playing Devil's advocate and wondering whether there might be something more than logic going on. Maybe even something more than the question of whether the words are true.

    But right there, as I realized yesterday, evaluating the logic or truthfulness of words means nothing to a blogger unless the words can be cited accurately and sourced online. So, when I wanted to quote from Herb Cohen's Negotiate This!, I was forced to locate a link to the very page I was quoting. Otherwise, readers would have to take it on faith that the author said what he said about de Tocqueville, and that would be less persuasive.

    But suppose the same author had written the same thing about de Tocqueville online. Isn't the insight just as valuable whether it is in electronic form or on a page in a book? For my purposes, obviously it is more valuable online; otherwise I cannot cite or quote it. In blogging, the unfortunate rule tends to be that if it can't be found on the Internet, it doesn't exist. Anyway, I put the words in my blog, with a link to the page, and there they are.

    To continue playing Devil's Advocate, what about the effect on the brain? Nowadays when I find myself reading a book late at night, a strange thing happens as I drift off to sleep. The text starts to come to life electronically, and sometimes I find myself attempting to scroll here, to highlight a passage there, and once I even decided that I wanted to copy a couple of paragraphs of text, and lift it out... This means it's time to put the book down and turn off the light.

    After all, it's only a book, and books don't come to life as electronic text does.

    Might this appearance of life -- this animation, if you will -- be the crucial difference? Does being steeped in that quasi-living variety of text do anything to the brain that might cause the text to be processed differently?

    Considering that many billions of dollars are involved, I'm sure studies have been done. It would be an easy thing to determine whether different areas of the brain would be activated by reading a passage online or reading it in a book.

    Without having researched any such scientific findings, I will say this:if people react differently to the same the same words, facts, ideas, and arguments, they are not being logical! (I don't want yet another reason to be frustrated by the animalistic human brain, but if this scenario is possible, I'd be dishonest not to face it.)

    At the Marshall McCluhan Studies Advisory Board's web site, I was a bit disturbed to read this:

    1.Radiant light and reading are mutually exclusive: As the Emerys and other investigators have shown, the neurophysiological evidence is overwhelmingly clear that VDT use for extensive reading carries the virtual certainty of deleterious health effects. Simply put: radiant light (as contrasted with reflected light, that is, cathode ray technology CRT) draws energy away from the verbal centre and sets up strong stress patterns for anyone trying to use a VDT for literate purposes. Print is going to have to stay on the printed page where it can best enhance our re-entry into the acoutic space of electromagnetic wave resonance. It is easy to see that as movies become enslaved to moronic visual production values,sound track technology has grown impressively.
    McCluhan (known for the maxim that "the medium is the message") made several important predictions, including these:
    ...[I]f a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture. It is comparable to what happens when a new note is added to a melody. And when the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent.
    Yeah, well fortunately for me, this is only a blog post. So what might appear lucid may suddenly become opaque today, only to become translucent tomorrow, but the post will gradually fade into opacity as the blog's front page disappears from ordinary view. (Phew!) And from the same McCluhan book, there's this:
    Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. [...] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. [...] In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture.
    OK, that was the Wiki quote. What Wiki omitted was to my mind significant -- and the omission is presented here in bold:
    So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. It is easy to perceive signs of such panic in Jacques Barzun who manifests himself as a fearless and ferocious Luddite in his The House of the Intellect. Sensing that all he holds dear stems from the operation of the alphabet on and through our minds, he proposes the abolition of all modern art, science, and philanthropy. This trio extirpated, he feels we can slap down the lid on Pandora's box. At least Barzun localizes his problem even if he has no clue as to the kind of agency exerted by these forms. Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time.
    Why edit out Barzun's dark thoughts?

    I'm even more fascinated by the second omission, from the paragraph directly following "Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time" :

    Reverting to the earlier theme of conformity, Carothers continues (pp. 315-316): "Thought and behavior are not seen as separate; they are both seen as behavioral. Evil-willing is, after all the most fearful type of "behavior" known in many of these societies, and a dormant or awakening fear of it lies ever in the minds of their members." In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture.
    prepared to accept the tribal consequences?

    Hate speech laws, anyone? (No wonder that was scrubbed. Wouldn't want people to worry that electronic words might trigger a resurgence of primitivism, would we?)

    I find all of this very disturbing, because the optimist in me likes to think that people will at least try to be logical and rational, and that the written word -- which has for better or for worse now come to life online -- will continue to be an invaluable tool. The idea that some people can't handle it is bad enough, but that they might use violent force to turn it off is really scary.

    Anyway, there are still books, and they still contain words which (so I stubbornly insist) ought to be the same whether they are printed and bound, viewed online, or viewed in one of those new fangled devices I don't yet have.

    Oh, yes, the Kindle! Ann Althouse described it as "shockingly cool," but when she got one she didn't like it. Didn't smell right, didn't feel right, and above all,

    I want contrast: black letters on a white background. I want that in a book, and I want that in a computer screen, and of course, I want that in an electronic book. I want easy to read. I don't want to read ugly gray-on-gray print. Get it?

    (Boldness in original, with uncharacteristically large letters.)

    Via Glenn Reynolds.

    While I'd get a kick out of evaluating one, I really don't need a Kindle. But I guess when the power fails, the Kindle probably beats having to use a candle. (Until the battery runs out, that is.)

    What I want to know is whether electronic words have a different effect on a different part of the brain, and whether this in turn affects or alters the human logical process.

    I do not doubt that there are highly interested people with a lot of money and power behind them who know. Or think they know.

    But can I trust them?

    MORE: A recent book -- "The Dumbest Generation" by Mark Bauerlein -- is reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. Excerpt:

    What frustrates Mr. Bauerlein is not these deficits themselves - it's the way a blind celebration of youth, and an ill-informed optimism about technology, have led the public to ignore them. "Over and over," he writes, "commentators stress the mental advance, the learning side over the fun and fantasy side." Steven Johnson, in his best-selling "Everything Bad Is Good for You," describes videogames as "a kind of cognitive workout." Jonathan Fanton of the MacArthur Foundation writes that children have created "communities the size of nations" where they explore "new techniques for personal expression." Such assessments, Mr. Bauerlein argues, are far too charitable.

    Mr. Bauerlein contrasts such "evidence-lite enthusiasm" for digital technologies with a weightier learning tradition. He eulogizes New York's City College in the mid-20th century, a book-centered, debate-fostering place where a generation of intellectuals rejected the "sovereignty of youth" in favor of the concerted study of canonical texts and big ideas.

    Is there any way of recovering this lost world? Probably not. But the future may be brighter than Mr. Bauerlein allows....

    Bauerlein's criticism seems to be based more on the fact that kids are not reading than a contention that one form of text is "better" than another. His message is being distilled to mean that the kids aren't reading, but that's not the same issue.

    posted by Eric at 09:44 AM | Comments (8)

    2012 hindsight?

    Ann Althouse notices that whether she realized it or not, Hillary Clinton was making what amount to de facto McCain commercials.

    Like this:

    "Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign. I will bring a lifetime of experience, and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002."
    (An antiwar speech, of course.)

    Would it be conspiracy-mongering to wonder whether this was deep strategy?

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

    Comments always appreciated.

    UPDATE: Glenn links Ann Althouse, who offers a number of compelling reasons for Obama to offer the vice presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton, and strategically, I think this one is especially important:

    McCain is ready to embrace and absorb her supporters. All those women. All those flyover state white men that you disrespected.
    But would she accept? According to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Hillary said this:
    I would be open to accepting the vice presidential slot, if that's what Sen. Obama wanted.
    Does she really mean that? Even though it would kill her chances in 2012?

    MORE: According to Rick Moran, there are differing interpretations of Hillary's "offer":

    Earlier in the day, she allowed her staff to mention that she would accept the Vice Presidential nomination if it was offered. But there is much more to that acknowledgment than meets the eye. One school of thought holds that she would not have put her name forward so aggressively if she thought it would be refused. Another side of the coin is that she allowed her name to be mentioned because she knew Obama would never choose her.

    She doesn't want to appear the supplicant begging for scraps from Obama's table. But at the same time, she doesn't want to be seen as thrusting herself forward either. It is a difficult position for her to be in, and over the next few days the two candidates and their staffs will probably feel each other out carefully, with Obama making the decision whether the "dream ticket" will become a reality.

    Added to that is the ever-lurking presence of Bubba...

    Read it all.

    posted by Eric at 10:40 PM | Comments (10)

    Clinging to the complexities of blindly pessimistic elitism

    I hate it when I forget my camera, and it happens too often. Anyway, yesterday I saw two bumperstickers on a car driven by a perfectly run-of-the-mill-looking Obama supporter, and unfortunately all I had was my cell phone's built-in camera. This is the result:


    Unfortunately, there's no way to read either bumpersticker, but here's the top one:


    It's a well-known MoveOn.org sticker, and if you're really into seeing them (which I doubt most readers are), there's a photo collage here.

    The one at the bottom is simply a standard Obama 08 bumpersticker:


    There is absolutely nothing special, radical, or unusual about the above. It is the standard, garden variety sort of mindset to be expected from Obama supporters. The man ran against Hillary Clinton by attaching himself to the most anti-war platform possible, and (according to nearly all pundits now) he has won.

    Barack Obama is the antiwar candidate's antiwar candidate. This is a position into which he hopelessly cemented himself -- early and often -- and there is no escaping it now.

    That is the main reason I think McCain will win. In this country, the warrior/hero mentality beats the anti-war/whiner mentality. (The martial virtues versus their cowardly pacifist antitheses.)

    I don't know why it took a simple bumpersticker to remind me of such a basic, yet compelling contrast in character.

    In addition to martial virtues, consider also the national character.

    In Negotiate This! (pp. 75-76), famed negotiator Herb Cohen summarizes Alexis de Tocqueville's view of what it is about the American character that made Americans different:

    There were three characteristics, he said, that he did not find prevalent in other peoples.

    Number 1, we prefer issues that are pure and simple--framed in black and white.

    Number 2, we are an almost blindly optimistic people, always upbeat and hopeful.

    Number 3, we relate to and respect regular and authentic guys, those who come across as fallible and human.

    Little wonder so many transnational progressives hate Americans.

    If we assume the American character is still like that (which I think it is, notwithstanding the sustained attack on it) I think McCain wins.

    Especially if his infallible opponents cling to the complexities of their blindly pessimistic elitist view, as they do battle with America's, um, " dominant paradigm."

    posted by Eric at 07:25 PM | Comments (10)

    Bigotry is destiny? (Why we cling to our guns....)

    Is there a "neurobiological antagonism to difference"?

    Mike Godwin explained the mechanism behind this theory:

    ....after we reach a certain age (12, about the age of sexual maturity), our brains look at the world for confirmations of their perceptual frameworks, and so cope less well with "difference" -- data that challenge our perceptions. In the comments period I said I thought this view was a little pessimistic -- after all, don't scientists, who learned all the old scientific theories first, come up with new and different theories? He allowed as how human beings probably have other means of adapting to new conditions. I think a complete theory would include an explanation of how it is, even though our brains lose the plasticity of early childhood, we can continue to learn new things and even adopt new world views into old age.
    I've lived long enough that I have seen many inflexible people become more flexible with age, and many flexible people become more rigid and more inflexible with age.

    But right there, I caught myself making what might be seen as an assumption -- that change or the resistance to change over time are in some way age-related phenomena. Perhaps it's more proper to say "over time" instead of "with age." Or is that a distinction without a difference? In view of our inherent mortality, is it possible to separate time from age? If I change my mind about something after many years of reflection, is it really fair to assert that I am a victim of a biological process, or that I am somehow an "exception" to some "norm" of built-in biological, um, "conservatism"? (Sorry, but I don't know what words to use here, and the quotes are my way of questioning my verbal ability to come up with viable premises.)

    I think we fear change, and this is as natural as fear of the unknown (which is what change is). Even animals fear the unknown; my dog will bark at the sound of an unfamiliar car engine in the neighbor's driveway, but she knows the "right" sounds.

    Looking to the past, and learning from experiences is thus a natural defense against this fear. Coco's memory of what a familiar car engine sounds like is, I admit, superior to mine, and it's not that I can't hear; I just don't tune in and listen carefully enough to sear it into my memory as she does. Perhaps who comes and goes next door is not as important to me as it is to her. She is a dog, with different instincts. OTOH, it is entirely possible that I am aware of the familiar sounds on a biological level (what I might call a "gut" level), and that I have uncanny feelings of which I am not fully conscious.

    Feelings? Is that the right word? If you hear something and are unfamiliar with the sound, is that really a feeling? Or is it just that an observation is being made, but the mind is not paying attention to it? A minor incident in a hospital drove home that this occurs, and that what we call "feelings" may be entirely rational thought processes that we are unable to articulate:

    Once I was in an elevator going up, and a group of people got on, with looks on their faces which suggested that they intended to go down. So sure was I that they wanted to go down (and were making a mistake) that I thought I should warn them, but I stopped myself, for I had no way to be sure that they wanted to go down and it wasn't my job to anticipate the needs of total strangers. Sure enough, as soon as the door closed and the elevator started going up, they groaned! So I was right, but I still can't describe precisely how people look when they get on an elevator expecting to go down. It was just something I could read on their faces, but I can't tell you how it looked.
    Well, what was that? I'd call it a "feeling," but did I really feel? Or did I spot certain behavioral clues based on observation and experience of the details normal humans tend not to discuss? "Normal"? There I go, implying that people who study call body language (and who could probably explain in numbing detail exactly how people look when they want to "go down") are not normal. I guess I should just say outside of my range of expertise, and probably on the outer edge of the human Bell Curve. But what is the study of body language other than to assign terminology to things we can all see, and probably already "know" -- but which we erroneously call "feelings," "hunches" and "gut reactions"?

    I guess I'm straying from the topic, which was "neurobiological antagonism to difference."

    The paper that Godwin mentioned is now published in the form of a book -- "Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change By Bruce E. Wexler. A book which Scientific American called "a fascinating step forward in deconstructing the seemingly universal us/them mentality."

    That's quite a scientific mouthful. I'm wondering whether it obfuscates the tension between biology and history, which some present as a dichotomy. In his review of the Wexler book, UCSD's Andrew Scull poked fun at this extreme view:

    Some foolish folks believe that history matters, that human societies and human behaviours have developed over thousands of years largely because of the elaboration of an increasing complex set of social, cultural and material phenomena that need to be examined on their own terms. The wiser among us, however, understand that we are only animals, and as such are ruled by our biology, just as ineluctably as the ant or the rhesus monkey, and that if we want to understand human action in general, or more specialized realms like the human institution of the law, it is to our biology that we must turn. More specifically, it is mostly our brains that matter, and therefore it is to the elucidation and illumination provided by evolutionary psychobiology and contemporary neuroscience that we need to look for answers. Science, HARD science, will uncover the secret wellsprings of all our actions, and we can then leave behind once and for all the soft speculations of the social sciences and gratefully set aside the empty verbiage of the philosophers. Or perhaps, if we are a bit more charitable and ecumenical, we can incorporate some bits of the harder social sciences, such as economics, game theory and cognitive psychology, while abandoning the fuzzy notions foisted on us by soft-hearted and soft-headed anthropologists, sociologists and historians.
    Very funny -- especially because if you disregard history, you lose the ability to examine what happened. And without knowing what happened, attributing "biology" to it becomes a pointless and superficial exercise. Fortunately, Scull is being sarcastic. Unfortunately, there are those who would see that passage as a dead-on analysis of what is wrong with the human condition.

    While acknowledging the validity of much of Wexler's analyis of the neurological evidence, Scull thinks he takes it too far:

    Wexler's claim that by early adulthood, the neuroplasticity of humans has sharply declined seems consonant with much of the available evidence. This remains true whether one focuses on such things as the increased difficulty in learning new languages or on the evidence about the growing stability of brain structure. But in his last chapters, the extrapolations that he makes from this state of affairs struck me as strained and selective. The greater rigidity of adult brains leads, he suggests, to such phenomena as a 'neurobiological antagonism to difference' (p. 212), a resistance to novelty and change, a state of misery and illness in the face of altered worlds, even a propensity 'to eliminate strange and foreign people' (p. 212). Where earlier in life, we changed our brains to match our circumstances, now we try to change the world to match our newly static internal dispositions.

    Significantly, these generalizations are supported, not by the sorts of evidence that are invoked earlier in the book, but by selective snippets from history and anthropology, allied to anecdotes about the effects of losing a spouse, the dread of seeing one's children marrying those from another ethnic group or culture, or the dislocations attendant upon immigration to another country as an adult. We are invited to view the conflicts between Hutu and Tutsi and the genocide in Rwanda, the Crusades against the Moslems and against the Albigensian heretics in Languedoc, the Inquisition and a variety of other lethal encounters between disparate people and cultures, as in substantial part the product of a biologically rooted conservatism and ethnocentrism. To be sure, Wexler acknowledges 'data to support [these] assertion[s] are not as clear-cut as the data ... that support the arguments for environmental shaping of brain development' (p. 212). But it does not stop him speculating along these lines, ignoring all the counter-examples that history and our own daily experience can just as easily offer: of adults embracing and seeking out novelty; of cultures comfortably co-existing; of delight in difference. The fact that even someone with generally so subtle a perspective on the interactions between brain and culture feels impelled to advance simplistic notions of this sort is a pity. It would seem that the siren song of biological reductionism is not easily resisted, even by those who ordinarily know better.

    The problem I have with seeing "conservatism and ethnocentrism" as "biologically rooted" is that words like "conservatism" have become meaningless buzzwords. I haven't read Wexler's book, but unless he is using conservatism in the strictly psychological sense, I see a problem. If by "conservatism" he means right-of-center politics, this weakens his appeal to biology. That's because a "neurobiological antagonism to difference" would necessarily be dictated to whatever "norms" and "antagonisms" were formed in early adulthood, and a tendency to stick with one's past, and to stick with what is known and to fear the unknown would vary according to individual experiences. Thus, consider a Berkeley anti-war veteran in his mid-60s, who came of age by burning his draft card, who believes war and heroism are immoral, and that cowardice is a virtue -- if there is a "neurobiological antagonism to difference" he could be expected to cling to his views just as obstinately as his political opposite could be expected to cling to his. If there is biological conservatism, if the narrowing of the mind is a product of aging, it would be illogical, unreasonable and disingenuous to conflate the process with political conservatism. I don't mean to single out right or left; even "middle-of-the-road" types should likely be expected to become more mired in moderation, and set in their middle-of-the-road ways.

    And jeez! I just thought of something truly horrible.

    What if libertarians also become old and stodgy ideological clingers?

    From the "Book Description -- Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2007":

    In Brain and Culture, Bruce Wexler explores the social implications of the close and changing neurobiological relationship between the individual and the environment, with particular attention to the difficulties individuals face in adulthood when the environment changes beyond their ability to maintain the fit between existing internal structure and external reality. These difficulties are evident in bereavement, the meeting of different cultures, the experience of immigrants (in which children of immigrant families are more successful than their parents at the necessary internal transformations), and the phenomenon of interethnic violence. Integrating recent neurobiological research with major experimental findings in cognitive and developmental psychology--with illuminating references to psychoanalysis, literature, anthropology, history, and politics--Wexler presents a wealth of detail to support his arguments. The groundbreaking connections he makes allow for reconceptualization of the effect of cultural change on the brain and provide a new biological base from which to consider such social issues as "culture wars" and ethnic violence.
    "Culture wars"? Egad!


    What am I supposed to read into that after so many years of culture war immersion? What role are my biological conservatism and my "neurobiological antagonism to difference" supposed to play?

    I worry that superficial analysts will read their own biases into Wexler's work, and miss the point that we all tend to grow more "conservative" as we age, simply because we fear change, and fear the unknown.

    I'm thinking that perhaps "narrow mindedness" might have a more neutral ring to it. Certainly it's less inflammatory than "biologically bigoted." I'd hate to think that bigotry is destiny, to be followed only by death.

    What about my inner child? Is there no way to escape his apparent neurobiological fate? Can neurobiological antagonism to difference be opposed through a conscious process, and defeated by appropriate exercises? Or would the brain eventually fall into a new rigidity, this time taking the form of mindlessly inflexible neurobiological opposition to mindless neurobiological opposition to change?

    I'd hate to fall victim to neurobiological antagonism to my own neurobiological antagonism to difference.

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

    I like Glenn's take on bigotry, and while I am glad he doesn't attribute it to "neurobiological antagonism to difference," I'm still curious about something.

    If bigotry is biology, then how can it be called "evil" by people who don't believe it evil?

    posted by Eric at 10:23 AM | Comments (13)

    I Link

    I haven't linked to Andew Sullivan in ages. Since after he lost his cahones about the War in Iraq. Well I'm linking today. And to what? This article on the changed situation in Iraq, suggested by Jennifer Rubin of Commentary. Via Instapundit. I'm sure this is white hot because in some respects it represents Andrew's return to sanity. We will see if I can shed some light on it from a different angle. Or from the same angle. Depending.

    Here is what Andrew Said that got him a link:

    Petraeus deserves the lion's share of the credit; luck and time and the self-defeating nihilism of the Jihadists have helped. But Bush and McCain equally merit points for pursuing the surge, even though the metrics pointed to failure. Obama needs to capitalize on these gains, not dismiss them.
    Props where they are due. That is an astounding turn around for Andrew. He finally gets it. Even if the War was a mistake a self governing, independent, prosperous Iraq is a good thing.

    Now what about Obama? Boy, is the Good Judgement Man™ ever in trouble. He has been talking defeat in Iraq since forever. Whoops. McCain on the other hand has the distinction that, despite the unpopularity of his position, he was right. I predict a pivot - "I never knew how really vile those jihadis were. And I repudiate them for their obvious misjudgment. I have always been in favor of good relations with the Government of Iraq and no Republican is going to stand in the way of my achieving that goal. There are a number of companies in Chicago that would be excellent help in the effort to rebuild Iraq and they will have all my support." Aside to staff: " &#(*^@!~& Axelrod, where are my G-d Damn Tickets to Iraq?"

    You know, I don't think Barry is going to have a cake walk.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit readers. You may also be amused by our Congress. I know I am.

    posted by Simon at 04:44 AM | Comments (31)

    An unlucky jackpot

    Citing a Rasmussen poll that John McCain is "Trusted More Than Obama on Economy, Iraq, National Security," Glenn Reynolds made the following observation:

    As I said before, a lot of Republicans don't like McCain, but it seems clear that the GOP primary process nominated the one candidate with a decent chance of winning in November. If Democrats respond to this year's primary debacle by revising their procedures, they should probably conside adoptingr a winner-take-all primary, too. Of course, that approach on the Dem side would have produced a Hillary nomination. . . .
    Which would have been good for Democrats, and bad for Republicans.

    The Republicans are lucky as hell to have McCain as the nominee, whether they know it or not, and whether they like him or not, for the simple reason that he's the only Republican who might retain the White House. This has been called "pure dumb luck" by Democrats. (Rather like going into a casino intent on throwing away a roll of quarters and then hitting the jackpot, if you ask me.)

    Unless something drastic happens very soon, the Republicans will also be lucky enough to have as their opponent the endlessly gaffing Barack Obama, who has already relegated half his party to hated Republican status by stereotyping them as bitter religious gun clingers. Plus he's still haunted by something worse than lions, tigers, and bears -- Rezko, Wright, and Ayers. Oh My!

    You'd think with all this wonderful luck, the Republicans would be at least grudgingly happy. But no! Instead of appreciating their good fortune, many of them want Obama to be replaced with Hillary, and they're taking solemn pledges to never, ever, vote for McCain.

    It's very strange behavior. But what if their good luck continues to hold out? What will they do then?

    I don't know. Most of us would laugh at the chronic loser who says "if I could just manage to win this time," while he goes on losing and losing. But is there a flip side? Is it possible to say "if we could just manage to lose this time" and go on winning and winning?

    Well, why not? If some people are absolutely determined to lose, if losing constitutes winning for them, then why wouldn't the well-known "loser" phenomenon kick in, thus causing them to win and win again.

    An endless streak of bad good luck.

    MORE: The attack on Matt Drudge as an "unreliable ally for the GOP" (via Glenn Reynolds, who notes that Drudge enjoys sensationalism, and "puncturing the pompous self-righteousness" of the MSM) makes me wonder something.

    Just what is a reliable ally of the GOP these days? McCain's attackers? Hell, they don't think McCain is a reliable ally of the GOP!

    And since when is the failure to favor Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama an indication of "disloyalty" to the GOP when the former does better against McCain than the latter?

    Moreover, Drudge has every reason to dislike the Clintons; he broke numerous Clinton scandals in the 90s and I'm sure they dislike him intensely.

    If being anti-Clinton now means disloyalty to the GOP, I'm returning my VRWC card!

    (I get annoyed with Drudge too, but I think people ought to remember that before there were blogs, there was Drudge.)

    posted by Eric at 06:22 PM | Comments (5)

    Quick! Raise energy prices! An election is coming!

    While I've complained about (and even tried to analyze -- ugh!) the Lieberman-Warner "cap and trade" bill, I worried that it might pass, because it was a bipartisan bill that most voters didn't even know about.

    So naturally was delighted today to see apparent evidence that the vast majority of voters oppose it:

    As the Senate is poised to vote on the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act, a new poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the higher energy costs the bill would impose.

    The poll, conducted by the National Center for Public Policy Research, found 65% of Americans reject spending even a penny more for gasoline in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The number rejecting raising gas prices to combat global warming has increased by 17 percentage points -- or 35% -- in just over two months. The National Center conducted a similar survey in late February.

    An additional 13% oppose spending more than 5% more for gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Lieberman-Warner would increase petroleum prices by 5.9% by 2015, according to Duke University. Other studies indicate the plan would push prices higher.

    The survey found 71% of Americans reject spending more for electricity, with 16% opposing spending any more than 12% extra for electricity.

    A study commissioned by the American Council for Capital Formation and the National Association of Manufacturers estimated Lieberman-Warner would increase electricity prices by 13%-14% by 2014. Other studies estimated higher increases.

    There are also profound philosophical objections.
    The Lieberman-Warner bill is a cap-and-tax energy scheme, a carbon-emissions rationing program, a new tax on businesses and consumers, a new big government central agency and new career opportunities for thousands of new lobbyists specializing in greenhouse gas regulations...

    ... The bill also establishes the Carbon Market Efficiency Board, which shall report on the national greenhouse gas emission market and provide cost relief measures if it determines significant harm to the U.S. economy.

    Give me a break!

    The people who conceived and wrote this crap are obviously descendants of the same people who wrote the original tax code in 1913, the Social Security legislation in 1935, the Medicare bill of 1965 and the out-of-control prescription drug legislation of 2004.

    Just look at how well all of these "the government knows best" programs are working today, and we have a good idea of where this latest giant leap for mankind will work for our grandchildren.

    And here's CATO's Patrick Michaels:
    It's going to cost trillions and do nothing measurable about climate change in the foreseeable future. Maybe it should be named the "Economic Insecurity Act" of the 21st Century.

    Lieberman-Warner mandates that we reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide--the major human "greenhouse" emission--to 2005 levels by the year 2012. They've risen an average of 1% per year since 1990, depending upon the weather (in cold years we use more energy to heat our homes) and our economy. Not surprisingly, the more it grows, the more carbon dioxide is emitted. That's a screaming red flag about what S. 2191 will do for our prosperity.

    The 2012 target is nothing compared to its long-term goals, which are a 15% reduction below 2005 levels in 2020, growing year-by-year to a 70% reduction in 2050.

    No one -- including Lieberman-Warner's proponents -- has a clue how to achieve such a change in our energy system. There simply is no known, workable suite of technologies available. But it could become law. Welcome to Washington.

    All of this means that they'd never dare pass it, right?

    Not in an election year?

    Or would they?

    posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

    Bring back the "traditional" Culture War!

    The Culture War is dead! Long live the Culture War!

    A few days ago, I scrupulously avoided an Australian Culture War debate over whether the Culture War was "over." This was despite the fact that Glenn Reynolds had gone out of his way to passively-aggressively link the debate, which made it much harder to get back to the original "OUCH."

    Perhaps "cowardly avoided" is more accurate than "scrupulously avoided." More likely is lazily; I get too damned burned out on Culture War stuff after five years of blogging about it (this in a blog I started only because I was already burned out on it, mind you), and sometimes I honestly don't know what to do.

    Because of my Culture War burnout, I genuinely would like to imagine that the Culture War is dead. Why, I even want the issue of whether the Culture War is dead to be dead. I've discussed the idea (of whether the Culture War is dead) before, of course. Long before. But then, there isn't much I haven't discussed before.

    Er, not so fast.

    Much as I'd like to tidy up the Culture War by limiting its scope to certain social issues of the kind commonly normally associated with the term, it's now become clear to me that because of the well-oiled discussion machine -- which finds its nexus in instant mass communication technology -- any cultural phenomenon (no matter how seemingly minor) can be lifted out of obscurity and be catapulted from some anonymous backyard or bedroom to the front page of a national newspaper.

    In this way, the Culture War is not limited to things like same sex marriage or abortion, or pornography, or pot smoking, or even slutty children's attire; it can be about things as seemingly mundane as cutting the grass and killing bugs in your backyard. Or even hanging laundry on a clothesline. Yes, I have blogged about that before, of course, and just this morning in the Inquirer, there was yet another piece fueling the clothesline war.

    Most Saturday mornings, Steve Oliver picks up a laundry basket and heads for the backyard, taking action for his planet and his wardrobe.

    No renegade, he's nevertheless flying in the face of convention and convenience.

    He's hanging out the laundry.

    Yes, Oliver has a dryer in his Berwyn home, "but I hate to use the damn thing," he says. "If you have a full sun, it's the most wonderful thing to take advantage of."

    Viewed by some as a remnant that went the way of Leave It to Beaver, the clothesline may nevertheless be poised for a resurgence. Earlier this year, AOL's money page listed clotheslines - along with silicone breast implants and Paula Abdul - as one of the 20 "comebacks" to watch for in 2008.

    Ugh. Can't they just please shut up about comebacks? Must the once-worthless old always be made cooler than emergently worthless new?

    Not that there's anything new about clotheslines; when I was a kid they were all over the place. Yet today they can be seen as an assault on traditional culture. (And I admit that I find something supremely annoying about people I suspect are doing it for the attention....)

    From traditional culture to cultural assault in just a couple of generations? Is that possible? But of course! As I tried to carefully document in another post, even toilets are becoming a culture war issue, with the new composting toilets annoyingly evoking shades of "traditional" outhouses once used by the Greatest Generation. There's a rule almost along the lines of when the traditional gives way to the modern, the modern becomes traditional, and the traditional becomes a cultural enemy. I don't say this to be inflammatory, or judgmental, or political; it could almost be reduced to mathematical formula.

    If history shows anything, it's that dead wars don't die. One war leads to another, in a sort of gruesome continuum. Despite the desire of people to declare it over history does not end. (I've been thinking about the rather silly contention that it did while reading Robert Kagan's book, which I learned about in this podcast.)

    Now, if war does not end and history does not end, it would be silly for me to expect the Culture War to end, and I'm not so naive as to expect it to end.

    I've recently written a couple more posts about pit bulls, and during the course of that I stumbled onto the factoid I decided to ignore (at least in this blog) -- that a leading anti-pit bull activist is also a Barack Obama committee activist. This surprised me, as to my bitter way of stereotypical thinking, the pit bull banners would be more likely associated with the Hillary voters, because the latter tend to be more conventional, while pit bull supporters tend to be more unconventional. (For a related cultural discussion, see "If pit bulls are lesbian lap dogs, Gavin Newsom has a problem!")

    Anyway, I decided to ignore this activist, and I emailed my thoughts to M. Simon:

    I don't want to criticize her, as I'd prefer to see her spin her wheels in leftyland. Better there than in the real world of Hillary supporters, who are (at least, so I worry) more likely to want to ban breeds in the interest of prevention and safety.

    One of these days I'd love to write an essay about the culture war aspects of pit bulls. White rednecks, urban blacks, libertarian cranks, and animal rescue lefties are their defender. Working class whites, drug war/police supporters, and blacks who left the ghetto want them banned. I've owned them since the mid 70s, and I have watched the breed's cultural seepage. From rednecks to blacks, then because of adoptions, to young hip whites and Hollywood trendies. Utterly fascinating to anyone who studies the dynamics of culture war -- which is largely based on manipulated hatreds and backlashes of one sort or another.

    Someone could get a Ph.D. in sociology or public policy if they did it right.

    Mind you, this was little more than a passing thought, and but for this morning, I might have forgotten all about it.

    Opening the Wall Street Journal, I had a genuine "Every time I try to get out, they draaaag me back in!" moment, because right there on the front page was a picture of something even more culturally inflammatory than laundry flapping on clothesline: a pit bull with a baby!

    I kid you not:



    While pregnant with her first child, Meridith Duffy cried nearly every day -- to her dog trainer.

    She feared she'd have to part with her pit bull, Haley, when her child was born. Haley "had never bitten anyone," says Ms. Duffy, who lives in Braintree, Mass. "But I knew she had that potential, and I was nervous."

    I guess that means the lowly pit bull -- a breed of dog I've owned for decades -- is now officially part of the Culture War.

    Why oh why can't the Culture War just stick with traditional Culture War issues?

    You know, like condoms on bananas?

    I wish I could just declare the war over, that the traditional has devoured the modern, that the enemies have won and they are us, so give me my damned Ph.D. and leave me alone.

    But that would be simplistic.

    Besides, it takes five years to get a Ph.D. in whatever despicable academic discipline(s) might be involved. It seems infinitely more worthwhile spend the time blogging....

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds yet another cultural tidbit confirming my awful thesis. Retrosexual is devouring Metrosexual. Get on with it. Draaaag me back in from where I never wanted to go to where I never wanted to be until now. Except if you want to avoid the Culture War, it's always too late.

    UPDATE: This morning I added a follow-up to my earlier email to M. Simon:

    I probably shouldn't have mentioned pit bulls as a culture war issue in my email to you. This morning's WSJ has a picture of a pit bull and a baby on the damned front page!

    Can't the Culture War stick with traditional issues?


    M. Simon replied:
    Once we lost our "shit happens" and "sometimes you get lucky" attitudes it was all downhill. Now a days so many have combined the two into a profit making venture. Now it is "shit happens and that is when you get lucky".

    I think we have one whole party that just feeds on that. And you can quote me.

    He's right. Luck should have nothing to do with making shit happen. In the old days, it was hard work.

    posted by Eric at 10:37 AM | Comments (3)

    It Is A Shame

    Some one in this thread said: "our products aren't competitive"

    I said:

    A real shame exports are growing at a rate of about 2.8% a year. It is a shame manufacturing is booming. It is a shame Germans are moving factories to America.

    It is a shame the Iraqis are getting a handle on Iraq. It is a shame they are holding national elections in October. It is a shame their economy is growing 5% a year.

    It is a shame oil prices are up giving a boost to the sale of hybrids and high mileage vehicles.

    It is a shame unemployment in the "worst economy since the depression" is only around 5%. It is a shame it only grew .9%. It is a shame that higher growth is expected in the coming quarters. Did I mention that Germans are building factories in America?

    Considering the doofus we have as President it is a shame things are going as well as they are.

    H/T Instapundit

    Commenter DKK at Power and Control adds: It's a shame we are exporting Buicks TO China and Toyota is going to start building cars here for export.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:54 AM | Comments (4)

    This Is A Stick Up
    Strangling Oil Supplies

    This cartoon was cribbed from Red State Cartoons. Their Cartoon use policy.

    If you liked my post No Blood For Oil Or No Drilling For Oil? then you will love (how is that for ad copy?) No Oil where you can get a bumper sticker that looks like this:

    No Blood For Oil

    You can also click on the sticker to get some. I will be adding more stickers as time goes on. Thanks to Karl Egenberger of Envision Design/ Plum Creative Associates who did the artwork.

    Fun and games aside - the Congress is strangling our oil supplies and then they want to blame the oil companies for high prices? It is almost like they think of everything they do as a political game. I think there are rules for this.

    1. Create a problem with bad policies.
    2. Find some one else to blame

    Rinse, repeat.

    posted by Simon at 05:06 AM | Comments (1)

    Pfalse pflag Pfizer spam? (Pfooey!)

    I'm getting a huge amount of blank spam purporting to be sent by "Pfizer" or "Pfizer & Lilly" with headings like "Reminder Notice, "Customer Notification: Re-Order," "Client Notice," "Confidential: Re-Order" and the like.

    The text contains nothing, and I doubt these are deliberately coming from Pfizer. Nor do I think they are "real" "spam" -- hence the quotes.

    Last fall, however, a Wired article discussed Pfizer spam, and claimed the company's computers were hacked. Except I don't think that's happening this time, because when I ran the IP numbers on Network Tools, it told me that they are "from United Arab Emirates(AE) in region Middle East."

    I think this might be a new form of guerilla anti-marketing, taking the form of "false flag spam." Most normal people would click on "delete as spam," except I think that is exactly the goal of whoever generated it. Is there a campaign to make company names like Pfizer and Lilly automatically trigger spam detection features of big service providers?

    I don't know who is mad at Pfizer or why, but it seems that whoever is doing this could do it to anyone.

    Am I alone in getting false flag Pfizer spam?

    posted by Eric at 11:27 AM | Comments (3)

    Vicious dog attacks everyone!
    (And yet, we laugh...)

    While you might not be able to watch it while keeping a straight face, take a look at this video:

    Clearly, the dog -- named "Happy" -- is out of control, and the owner is irresponsible (if not insane).

    I suspect most people would laugh at the above video (hence the 250,000 YouTube hits). I admit, I have a dark sense of humor and I was in near hysterics.

    But suddenly I realized something. What makes this whole thing comical is that the dog (misleadingly named "Happy") is a tiny yappy dog. Happy couldn't kill anyone if he or she tried. (Well, maybe Happy could successfully maul a tiny infant, but that's unlikely.)

    Once my laughter died down, I once again my I found myself wondering about the prevention-based campaigns to outlaw dogs by breed., typified by this statement from an anti-pit bull activist:

    "The real concept behind a fighting breed ban it to stop an attack before it happens."
    Various statistics are cited (which of course are contradicted by other statistics), and there are a lot of arguments presented that it isn't fair to discriminate against an entire breed because a small minority of them are involved in attacks on humans -- which I hasten again to point out is aberrational pit bull behavior. But is the real goal even to prevent attacks? Or is the goal to prevent dangerous attacks?

    If the goal really is prevention of all danger, instead of looking at attacks by breed, why don't these activists look at what I suspect is the real 100% correlation -- attacks by size? Common sense would suggest that tiny little yappers cannot kill human beings, no matter how frenzied or demented they might be in their efforts.

    While a brief look at fatal dog attack statistics like these shows that literally dozens (if not hundreds) of Americans have been killed by dogs over the decades, the numbers do not reveal what I suspect is a 100% correlation:

    Year Human Population Dog Population # Fatal Dog Attacks
    1950 - 151 million people - 20-22 million dogs - 10 fatal attacks
    1970 - 203 million people - 31 million dogs - 12 fatal attacks
    1980 - 226 million people - 40 million dogs - 15 fatal attacks
    2000 - 281 million people - 60+ million dogs - 19 fatal attacks
    I'd be willing to bet that not a single one of those fatal attacks was perpetrated by a dog the size of Happy.

    So if the goal is truly "prevention," why not ban all dogs except tiny little yappers?

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (9)

    Sun, Sun, Sun, Here It Comes
    Sun NASA 1 June 008

    Click on the picture for an explanation. The big deal is in the lower left.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:19 AM | Comments (3)

    Reagan Democrats

    Well my Conservative friends I think it is time we had a talk. About the Reagan Revolution. About the leftward drift of the Party. About Reagan Democrats. That's right. Reagan brought a lot of Democrats into the party. Remember the years of the Big Tent? You know the years when RINOs were welcomed, reluctantly, into the party for the sake of a governing majority?

    So let me ask a simple question. What is the function of a political party? Easy question. With an easy answer. Get elected. OK. So how does a candidate get elected in a particular district? In a particular State? In the nation. Another easy question. A candidate gets elected by getting a majority in a district, in a State, in the Nation. A candidate has to have views more acceptable than his opponent's to get the all important majority. If the electorate leans left the winning candidate will also lean left. If the electorate leans right so will the candidate.

    So why has the party drifted left? Pretty simple. That is how you win elections.

    Broad based Republican coalitions are libertarian in essence.

    I would have thought the Alan Keyes debacle in Illinois would have been a learning experience. Real Conservatives™ are not popular everywhere. So how do you get a governing majority if Real Conservatives™ are not universally popular? You are going to have to support the election of Conservatives who are less than pure. Sometimes much less. In fact in some places they may actually be more like Democrats. (does the current Mayor of New York ring a bell? - a Republican for gun control? The very idea....) The important thing is the R after the name. If philosophy was critically important then Rick Santorum could get elected anywhere. He can't. In fact he couldn't even get re-elected in Pennsylvania. 'Nother clue.

    So are there any principles that can unite Republicans? A minimum set that all Republicans can support at least 55% of the time? (you are expecting perfection? from politicians? you ask too much.) I think there are.

    0. Smaller government
    1. Lower spending
    2. Lower taxes
    3. Strong National defense

    That is it. Period. Every thing else can depend on the district you come from.

    If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals -- if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
    Who said that? Ronald Reagan.

    Prompted by events and Is Conservatism Dead?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:51 AM | Comments (2)

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