Ending the inflationary cycle

I have been so engaged in the move (truly the most harrowing one of my life) that I have barely been able to keep abreast of news developments, much less blog about them.

But that did not mean that I missed Barack Obama's fascinating assertion about tire inflation.

Via Ace, the exact quote:

"we could save all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling if everybody was just inflating their tires."
While it's being ignored by the MSM, I'm not ignoring it here -- despite the pressures of the most difficult move in the history of this blog!

As it happens, I care very much about inflation. Especially tire inflation. My 1964 Ranchero (which I have taken back from aggressive WASPS) has had a serious inflation problem, and I have had to repeatedly put air in the tires to prevent the recurrence of slow leaks:


But that compressor draws plenty of juice, and it seemed to me that if I kept filling my tires that way, the electricity required to pump the air into them might cut into whatever offset the country would get from having them properly inflated, and it might not make up for the oil the Republicans are talking about drilling.

So, based on the principle of THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY, I finally decided to do something to really address the problem. My tires are old, and suffer from slow leaks which aren't readily fixed. And with all the talk about inflation, I figured that replacing the bad tires might do more to save the planet from Republican drilling than would my continued (ultimately Sisyphean) cycles of inflation, and reinflation.

So it was off to the Hub Tire Center for new tires.

In this video I explain in full:

As you can see, it is not cheap to buy tires. I don't mean to nit-pick, but I wonder whether anyone has worked out the economics of whether it would have been cheaper to just keep putting air into them.

I don't know how much oil drilling I offset today, but I think I can truthfully state that I have slowed the inflation rate.

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

posted by Eric at 11:56 PM | Comments (14)

Sgt. Mom Has A New Book

Sgt. Mom says the book is part of "...a trilogy, about the German settlements in the Texas Hill Country in the 19th century. Did you know that in Gillespie County became almost solidly German between one decade and the next, and that German was the common language up until the 1920's?".

Here is an excerpt.

A dazzle in his eyes and a roar of noise in his ears: Carl Becker swam up to consciousness and a rough hand shaking his shoulder... the uninjured one. Even at that, pain stabbed up unto his skull, harsh as the Mexican lancer's blade striking him down in a cavalry skirmish outside of Monterray... how many days ago?

"Rudi... is it the soldiers coming for us?" he mumbled in German, and the hand shook him again, commanding

"Speak English, you blockheaded Dutchman... Are you fit enough to walk out of here?"
Carl squinted against the light of a lantern held above his head, and focused against a blur on the face of the man holding it. Ford... Jack's adjutant.

"I feel like dogshit, Rip." He mumbled in reply, and coughed painfully. Rip Ford set down the lantern carefully, and checked the blood-caked bandages on Carl's left shoulder.

"There ain't no bubbling coming out of the deepest cut," he remarked, with professional assurance, and Carl remembered how was said around the campfire that Rip Ford had once trained as a doctor, long before coming to Texas. "So that bastard of a lancer missed your lung by a squeak, but I think you got the lung-fever or the ague sure enough, and a busted collar-bone to boot. You ain't gonna get any better in this-here cesspit. We got some of the boys heading home, now that their enlistments are up, and a courier going with them. There's a place in an empty supply wagon for you, if you can walk to it. You got a home, they can take you to?"

There is more at the link. More excerpts from the Adelsverein Trilogy here and here and here and here.

Use the following links to order To Truckee's Trail and pre-order the Adelsverein Trilogy. Especially have a look at the To Truckee's Trail link. Sgt. Mom is looking good.

Eric of Classical Values reviewed Truckee's Trail and liked it. Here is a bit of what Eric said:

It is a riveting read. Close calls with Indian war parties, political treachery, near starvation and freezing to death, and inevitable illnesses and deaths. It's truly amazing that they made it.
Sgt. Mom sent me this note by e-mail: "I need all the links and interest that I can [get] otherwise I will have to go and get a real job, soon." Help her keep writing. Buy a case of her books and send them to friends.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:55 AM | Comments (1)

Hope Head

John Kass in the Chicago Tribune comments on the latest Obama video by MoveOn.org. It is a hoot. Also target rich.

Obama hopium was so powerful, that that first rush of it, well, it sent a tingle up my leg. Or down my leg. Then up. So now, when I read newspaper stories about Obama's political history, like a recent gooey, puffy profile in the Washington Post and it didn't mention Obama as a willing member of Chicago's Daley machine, well, I didn't get angry.

Not anymore.

Why? Because I'm a hope-head.

Now, I don't get upset when foreign and national journalists fail to mention Tony Rezko, or the Daley boys, or how the Chicago machine plans to staff the Department of Justice, and the new Department of Homeland Casinos.

Go read the whole thing.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

Political Commentary

posted by Simon at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

Keep The Money In America

This is a McCain ad which echoes my latest post on why drilling for oil is a good thing and will have good effects almost immediately: It's A Zero Sum Game. The idea is to zero out the Saudis and other malefactors besides keeping the money in America. If sending our money to China for goods weakens the American economy, why don't you here from the same folks about sending our money out of the country for oil? (My position on economics/free trade is that as long as the money isn't used to send aircraft controlled by fanatics into American buildings and similar acts - free trade is good for all involved.)

You also might like a bumper sticker about the issue Congress Gives It To You Without Lubrication.

posted by Simon at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

It's A Zero Sum Game

I just came across an interesting thread on some kind of strange Google blog that talks about the Democrat's anti-oil position. One commenter says this about oil drilling (edited slightly for typos and clarity)

The 10 year timeframe that everyone keeps repeating is not a very realistic one. It takes less than a year to construct and get a standard land based 20,000 foot drilling platform producing oil. Offshore jack up rigs can take two to three years and a semi up to 4. The ten year figure got started because that is the estimimate by some so called experts for drilling in ANWR and establishing the infrastructure needed to support it. Mostly due to the fact that the heavy equipment needed to excavate the site can only operate on the tundra during the winter months. Once they have found the right spots and oil starts flowing the permanent platforms and roads would then be constructed.

The no drilling folks have simply adopted the ten year number across the board regardless of where. And they have modified it from "it could take up to 10 years" to "It's just going to take 10 years". as it suits their agenda better.

The Discovery channel had a short series this spring entitled "Oil Strike". It followed several different Wildcatters in their quest for oil. In one episode there were a couple of crews that were each given 10 days to construct a well drill and strike oil. One of them did just that. They won a bet with one of the other crews as a result.

It is extremely unlikely that it will take another 10 years to start pumping oil from that well.

How long it would take is determined more by how many dry holes get drilled before finding oil than it is by the more simple logistics of transportation and delivery.

I never knew that. You learn something every day.

Then another commenter said that drilling for oil is a zero sum game. I hope he is right because if it is and we start drilling we will get the sums and the Saudis will get the zeros.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:12 PM | Comments (9)

Stupidity Begins At The Water's Edge

I'm reading the comment section at Reason Magazine and as per usual losing in Iraq is at the top of their agenda. They have much good to say about the Democrats who want to end the Iraq War with an American defeat.

So I'm proposing a new motto to replace "Politics ends at the water's edge." I like:

Stupidity Begins At The Water's Edge

Not even the Libertarian's Saint Jefferson (he was actually a Democrat - see Jefferson Jackson Day Dinners done annually by the Democrats) was that lame (see pirates, Barbary). Did you know the war on the Barbary pirates was not declared? All Jefferson got from Congress was the authorization to build some ships and an AUMF which reads like the AUMF against Iraq almost word for word. Plus the war went on for over a decade and extended into Madison's term.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:08 PM | Comments (1)

Reanimation Of Corpses

In the comments at Confederate Yankee I came across this bit:

Just like a liberal who accuses conservative of being "mindless zombies" isn't actually advocating cranial removal and mass reanimation of Republican corpses.
I believe the reanimation of corpses for political purposes is a Chicago specialty. They have a Democratic machine designed especially for the purpose.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

Fresh Kills

Green is not selling the way it used to. This is old news and it is the Onion. But it marks the start of a trend.

STATEN ISLAND, NY-An estimated 450,000 unsold copies of Time's special April 22 Earth Day issue were trucked Monday from the magazine's New Jersey distribution center to the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island.

The discarded copies of the issue-which features articles about conservation, biodiversity, and recycling, as well as guest editorials by President Clinton and Leonardo DiCaprio-are expected to decompose slowly over the next 175 years.

"Unfortunately, 'Earth Day 2000' wasn't as successful as we had hoped," Time managing editor Walter Isaacson said. "After selling out of such special issues as 'The Future Of Medicine,' 'Baseball At 100,' 'The Kennedys: An American Dynasty,' and 'Celebrating The American Automobile,' we thought we had another winner with this one. But of a press run of 485,000, only 35,000 sold. I guess we overestimated the demand for a full-color, 98-page Earth Day issue printed on glossy, high-pulp paper."

How about some more recent evidence from a more reputable source?

Green issues don't sell say a number of publishers.

As global warming was first becoming a cause célèbre a few years ago, many serious environmentalists worried that green was in danger of becoming a fad -- something that would inevitably recede from consciousness after overtaxing our limited pop-cultural attention span.

Sad to say, that prediction shows signs of coming true. Last week, The New York Times noted that the advertising industry is pulling back from green-themed marketing, having "grasped the public's growing skepticism over ads with environmental messages.

And advertisers' concerns are buttressed by the recent sales figures for magazines that have published a "Green Issue" this year. Time's Earth Day issue was the newsweekly's third-lowest-selling issue of 2008 so far, according to ABC Rapid Report. A typical issue of Time sells 93,000 or so copies on the newsstand; the April 28 installment, which substituted green for red in the magazine's trademarked cover design, sold only 72,000.

Enviro hysteria does not sell the way it once did.

The New York Times says ad agencies are starting to get it.

At an annual gathering of the advertising industry a year ago in Cannes, the environment was the topic du jour. "Be seen, be green," one agency urged on the invitation to its party at a hillside villa.

Al Gore, invited by another agency, delivered a message linked to "An Inconvenient Truth," his book and film about climate change: That the ad industry could play an influential role in encouraging businesses and consumers to change their ways and slow global warming.

The sun was still beating down on the Côte d'Azur last month as advertising executives from around the world returned for this year's festival. But Mr. Gore was nowhere to be found, and the party buzz was about the American presidential election, the Euro 2008 soccer tournament and even the business of advertising itself. Green marketing, while booming, had lost some of its cachet.

So let me give you an anecdote of my own. Instapundit linked to a piece I did on the decline of carbon hysteria, The Globe Reverberates With Laughter, and the comment section just went nuts. As one commenter noted: politicians ought to be careful. Elections get lost big time when public opinion changes and politicians don't. Take the question of drilling for more oil in the USA. I made a bumper sticker about it that is rather cute: Without Lubrication, which looks at the change in attitudes about drilling for oil in America and off its shores. A nominally green issue. About 60% of the American public thinks more oil is of greater importance than reducing the risk of oil spills to zero. The reason? Green is fine as long as the pocket book effects are small or well hidden. That is no longer the case.

Democrats may be in for a rougher time this year than they expect. I have some advice for them: "It's the price of gasoline, stupid."

H/T Counting Cats in Zanzibar

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 01:58 PM | Comments (16)

War Stories - 2

Wretchard of the Belmont Club links to some war stories. One of the commenters also gives a link. If you like to read about courage under fire may I suggest that you read them all. This is why we are still in Iraq and the insurgents (for the most part) are not. Sen. Obama - take note.

To my brothers in arms. Get some.

Night Stalkers
Saving Germans
Guitar Heros

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

Another day, another hitch

Still moving, and things are crazier than even I could have imagined.

While I would have paid professional movers, the only company I fould find in the area with high recommendations was booked up for the entire period, so I decided to go with YouPack.com. For less than a third of what a regular moving outfit charges, they'll drop off a large (28') trailer, and as the name says, you pack it.

Easier said than done.

Anyway, I don't have time to prattle on , but yesterday a friend who used to work as a mover showed me an ingenious way of tying things down, which is so simple and so strong that I wondered how I ever got along without it.

It's known colloquially as the Trucker's Hitch, and because I had a little trouble remembering what my friend showed me, I was forced to resort to Google.

I found a diagram online, and I am presenting it as a public service:


"Once you learn it, you wonder how you got along without it."

That would be a nice ad slogan. The trouble is, there's no money to be made in ideas, especially if they're tied up in knots.

posted by Eric at 08:53 AM | Comments (6)

Faith Is A Wonderful Thing

But it is wise to check it against reality from time to time. You know: by their fruits you will know them and all that.

H/T Lubos Motl's Reference Frame post about Cargo Cult Science.

posted by Simon at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)

Check Bounce

Adam Nagourney at The New York Times asks with reference to the Obama campaign, "Where's the Bounce?" It may be in his step but it is not showing up in the polls.

WASHINGTON -- It is a question that has hovered over Senator Barack Obama even as he has passed milestone after milestone in his race for the White House: Why is he not doing better?

It shadowed him as he struggled against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in many states through the primaries, results that sometimes stood at odds with the huge, enthusiastic crowds that turned out to see him. It was there in the exit polls that suggested that many Democrats were uncomfortable with Mr. Obama, putting an asterisk next to some of his biggest primary victories.

And it is back again as he returns from an overseas trip that even Republicans have described as politically triumphant. In this case, the question is why -- given how sour Americans feel about President Bush and the Republican party, and the perception that Mr. Obama is running a better campaign than Senator John McCain -- the senator from Illinois is not scoring even higher in national opinion polls.

Most surveys now show Mr. Obama with a lead of about 6 or 7 percentage points over Mr. McCain nationally, and Mr. Obama rarely breaks the 50 percent threshold. Those are statistics that have given Republicans, who are not exactly feeling joyful these days, a line to grab, and they have fed some underlying anxiety among some Democrats.

"They've known John McCain for years," Bill McInturff, a pollster for Mr. McCain, said of survey participants. "But people say in focus groups, 'Who the heck is Barack Obama? Had you heard of him before six months ago?' And he's 46 years old. He's somebody nobody knows about."

Wretchard at the Belmont Club is looking at the Intrade prices for Obama and if you look at the charts it looks like Obama is past his peak. The Intrade numbers still favor Obama but it looks like he may be headed for a spin, crash, and burn.

Here is what one commenter there sees:


A pattern that I use in stock index trading is what I call a 1-2-3, wherein a trend has three successively steeper subunits. In the Intrade graph that would be 1=subunit from Nov07-Feb08, 2=subunit from Feb08-May08, and 3=subunit from May08-July08. A break of the last subunit probably signals a decline. Then very often there is a rapid retest of the high of subunit 3, followed by a more prolonged decline. The Obama graph is not as vertical as I would like for one to be be before making a sizeable bet but it has the look of a crest.

As has been stated so many times before - prediction is very hard, especially about the future.

In any case, may I suggest reading Wretchard's post and the checking out the wisdom of many of the commenters.

As to predictions - here is what I have to say: "Prediction is a lot of fun, especially about the future." Make of it what you will.

PUMA PAC an anti-Obama/pro-Hillary Dem organization takes a look at the bounce question. Here is a bit of what they say:

So if you fancy yourself the Democrats' Karl Rove -- an unbeatable master of politics and strategy, how come the Grand Tour was such a flop for your guy? Sinking in blue swing states, tanking in red states. . . Most Americans believe the Ego Trip, I mean World Tour, hurts or doesn't help his chances in November. Your guy can't even make a dent against an old guy who hasn't even begun to campaign against you in earnest. You're losing during the warm-up? Oops. Groan.
Check their site for links.

I also liked this piece they did: Walking Eagle. Very funny.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:47 AM | Comments (2)

For The Troops

posted by Simon at 07:13 PM | Comments (0)

Patio Heaters

A blog claiming to represent Bioethics International suggests that having a baby is equivalent to buying and running a patio heater.

A pair of doctors have said that British parents should have fewer children, because kids cause carbon emissions and climate change. The two medics suggest that choosing to have a third child is the same as buying a patio heater or driving a gas-guzzling car, and that GPs should advise their patients against it.
Solar scientists think we are headed for a little ice age. And how many solar scientists are on the IPCC? Clue: The number is a non-negative integer less than one.

Will the people who came up with this idea suggest that families start turning out more patio heaters if the solar guys are right?

In any case I always distrust these kinds of folks. It is just a short ways from declaring that there are too many people to industrial solutions to the problem. The question then becomes which people will get the industrial treatment?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:32 PM | Comments (7)

The Globe Reverberates With Laughter

Peter Huber in Forbes takes a look at the reality of carbon hysteria.

A number of influential people in Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam say the planet is now entering a 30-year cooling period, the second half of a normal cycle driven by cyclical changes in the sun's output and currents in the Pacific Ocean. Their theory leaves true believers in carbon catastrophe livid.

To judge by actions, not words, the carbon-warming view hasn't come close to persuading a political majority even in nations considered far more environmentally enlightened than China and India. Europe's coal consumption is rising, not falling, and the Continent won't come close to meeting the Kyoto targets for carbon reduction. Australia is selling coal to all comers.

We used to have a saying in my day: "actions speak louder than words". Today it is "Pay no attention to the fat man, who used to be Vice President, behind the curtain."
No serious student of global politics can accept the notion that the world will soon join ranks behind Brussels, Washington and the gloomy computer and its minders. Dar is surely right when he says, "The U.S. and Japan will not tell Asia and Africa to choose poverty, disease, hunger and illiteracy over electricity." Europe might, but nobody will listen. It won't have moral authority until its own citizens are emitting less carbon than Bangladeshis. That won't happen soon.
What is happening all over Europe? They have plans to build a lot of coal fired power plants. Yep. Coal fired power plants. That would be plants that use (for practical purposes) 100% carbon. Not oil. Not natural gas. Both of which are a lot more expensive than coal. So they are buying based on price not catastrophe.
So does the climate computer have a real audience, or is it really just another bag lady muttering away to herself in a lonely corner of the intellectual park? That the computer is heard in Hollywood, Stockholm, Brussels and even some parts of Washington is quite beside the point--they have far less global power and influence than they vainly imagine. Vinod Dar is right: "Contingency planning should entail strategic responses to a warming globe, a cooling globe and a globe whose climate reverberates with laughter at human hubris."
Freeman Dyson says the cheapest way to deal with our carbon "problem" is plant trees. If we are in a hurry we should genetically modify the trees to absorb the carbon faster than our current stock of trees does. We do need to be careful. Below 200 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere some types of plants do not do well. So we might want to set the minimum of CO2 in the atmosphere at 300 ppm to give us a margin for error.

Of course if CO2 is not really a problem, the cheapest thing to do and the best for plants is to do nothing. Plants just love CO2 and for most of them the optimum CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is around 5,000 ppm. We have a long way to go to get there. Many centuries worth of burning carbon based fuels. In any case we are not going to be burning much fossil fuel in 2100 due to the advance of solar and wind technologies, not to mention the definite possibility of fusion power.

What do I think? The era of carbon craziness is almost over.

H/T Insty

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. May I suggest a look at Patio Heaters which covers the "we must reduce population" faction.

I just did a post about this post and the decline of the enviro movement Fresh Kills. Congress should take note before the Critters there start losing elections.

posted by Simon at 08:49 AM | Comments (46)

The joys of hell

They say that war is hell, and while I think that's true, moving comes a pretty close second.


That's why I haven't been blogging these past few days, and only now have the briefest amount of time for a teensy post.

posted by Eric at 11:13 PM | Comments (3)

Third Week In Chealsea

posted by Simon at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

The New Alternative

This is a response to a post and the subsequent comments about AL Gore's plan for powering America with alternative energy in ten years.


Al Gore is an idiot.


He is a promoter. He stands to get very rich if he can persuade Congress to implement his schemes.


Solar scientists are predicting a little ice age. How many solar scientists are on the IPCC? Hint: less than one.


Al is totally ignorant of logistics. Just making all the solar cells required in 10 years is not possible. The best place to put them is the desert. Not many power lines in the desert. What is the total world solar cell production capacity? We can make maybe 100 MW (peak electrical output) per year. We need to make 500 GW or so just for America (and that just covers the power when the sun is shining). Wind power is more promising and the upper Mid West is the best place. Problem? Power lines.


The longer we put off going solar the better the technology will be. So what should be done now is what is economically feasible. No subsidies or mandates. Same for wind.


The #1 problem with alternative energy is storage. Al says nothing about that.


To make all this come together we will need 2 MV DC power lines. How many 2 MV DC power lines are there any where in the world? Zero. Who is currently planning on building any? No one.

Did I mention Al Gore is an idiot?

Well maybe not so much. He has conned a lot of rubes after all.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:51 AM | Comments (6)

Not Born Yet

An old cowboy responded to an Englishman who asked, "Is your master about?"

"That sombitch ain't been born yet", the cowboy replied.

From the comments at American Thinker.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:08 PM | Comments (3)


Samizdata has a bit up on flying in old aircraft. War birds and commercial jobs. Here is a bit I added to the discussion:

Way back in the dark ages (early 60s) I got to fly in a DC-3 that was carrying passengers. It was an experience.

Conversation in the cabin was hopeless in flight.

The only reason screaming kids are a problem these days is that aircraft are so quiet. We didn't know how good we had it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:12 PM | Comments (4)

A League Of Its Own

The New Republic has a pretty good article up explaining European misconceptions of America. The article especially looks at Obama's recent German rallies and how those rallies feed European misconceptions.

Europe's favorite dream: a post-Bush America cut down to size and chastened, a meeker and more modest America, a more "European" (that is, a more social-democratic) America, which at last casts off some of its nastier capitalist habits. An America that is a lot more like us Europeans who have forgone power politics and sovereignty in favor of communitarian politics and integration.

This is the canvas Europeans have been painting with wildly enthusiastic brush strokes. If Obama wins, the reality will be different. Sure, President Obama would speak more softly than did Mr. Bush in his first term, but he would still be carrying the biggest stick on earth. He will preside over an America that is still No. 1 and not part of a multipolar chorus populated by Russia, China, India, and the E.U.

Germans should have read the foreign-policy chapter in Obama's The Audacity of Hope. There are passages in there which read like pure Bush--on unilateralist action, on the right of pre-emption, on playing the world's "sheriff." Obama's upshot: "This will not change--nor should it." This doesn't mean more Bushism if Obama is elected. But it is a useful reminder that the U.S. plays in a league of its own--with global interest, with global military means, and with the willingness to use them.

In Berlin, hundreds of thousands will cheer a projection rather than a flesh-and-blood Obama on Thursday. After Inauguration Day, alas, Europe and the world will not face a Dreamworks president, but the leader of a superpower. Whether McCain or Obama, the 44th president will speak more nicely than did W. in his first term. He will also pay more attention to the "decent opinions of mankind." But he will still preside over the world's largest military, economic, and cultural power.

This vast power differential is what Germans and Europeans don't quite fathom in their infatuation with Obama. Their problem was not Mr. Bush, but Mr. Big--America as Behemoth Among the Nations, unwilling to succumb to the dictates of goodness that animate post-heroic, post-imperial, and post-sovereign Europe.

Josef Joffe (the author of the TNR piece - ed.) is publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit, as well as a fellow of the Institute for International Studies and the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford.

The fact that the Germans rallied for Obama is not a big selling point in these United States. In fact it could be a a negative point. Note to Obama - large French rallies are a less threatening image than huge rallies in Berlin. You would think Mr. Image would be able to get this. If not him, his staff. He seems to have a really tin ear for this stuff. It didn't help Kerry any to be identified with Europe. Well France any way - Kerry was ridiculed for aligning himself with "surrender monkeys". Obama will be ridiculed for aligning himself with a nation we had to beat into a bloody pulp to get them to behave. Of course that is all history now. Except for the funny guy with a mustache who, even now, gets a lot of unwanted press. Europe is a no win situation for any American politician stumping for President. Did Obama think that by giving a speech in Germany he could do a Kerry without getting all stigmatized by it? Some one needs to explain that it is not any particular country, but Europe itself that is the problem. Being President insulates you from all that (its just business). Being a candidate does not.

So how could he have gotten away with it? Go to Britain. Except that the Labor Government there is falling apart. That is not a good image to project for a person who is on the far left of practical American politics (i.e. not on the lunatic fringe - but close).

In any case the differential between American growth rates and European growth rates is going to widen the divide. What can the Europeans do? Become more like Americans. In that sense his speech shows that Obama is going in the wrong direction. Americans do not want to join the European league (the phrase in America is bush league - har). He should at the very least be thinking of dragging Europe our way, rather than making efforts to drag America to theirs. That might have mitigated what will, I predict, be the downfall of the Obama campaign.

I'm told Obama has rented a stadium for his Convention acceptance speech. Wrong direction Barry. We are going to see more of those pictures juxtaposing him with that German guy with the funny mustache. Barry, what are you thinking? For a man whose campaign is image over substance, he has to be very careful not to tarnish his image, because once that his gone he has nothing.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:23 AM | Comments (5)

Edge Of Seventeen

My Daughter turned seventeen yesterday (25 July). This is in honor of her. Interestingly my father's birthday was the same date. When she was born on that day it made him very happy.

posted by Simon at 12:31 AM | Comments (3)

Democrats Against Some Entitlements

Eric in a post on the Obama birth certificate controversy asks a question of the utmost importance in this campaign.

Aren't Americans entitled to know the Truth?
I believe it is the one entitlement program the Obama Democrats are totally against.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)

It Didn't Work Out

Well isn't this special. Obama says a visit to wounded troops would be inappropriate.

BERLIN (AP) - Sen. Barack Obama scrapped plans to visit wounded members of the armed forces in Germany as part of his overseas trip, a decision his spokesman said was made because the Democratic presidential candidate thought it would be inappropriate on a campaign-funded journey.
Well isn't that interesting.

So what would be more appropriate? Putting On The Ritz.

++ Obama Takes Time to Work Out ++

4:49 p.m.: Obama enters the luxury Ritz Carlton hotel wearing a T-shirt, black sweatpants and white trainers -- apparantly to work out in the hotel's gym. He kept up the campaigning on the way there, smiling and waving at tourists and other onlookers.

What a guy. Lifting weights is more important to him than lifting the spirits of wounded troops. Sounds like a different kind of politics all right. I'm not sure I like it. It is not the kind of change I was hoping for.

Atlas Shrugs may have some insight about what was behind the change in plans.

A very interesting email from a source I must protect suggests that Obama's visit to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center had the green light until a campaign staffer raised a stink about going with Obama. (There are rules meant to ensure candidates do not use soldiers or military bases for campaign purposes, and they state that personal and committee staff may accompany a sitting senator on a visit but campaign staff may not.) I am told that when one of Obama's campaign staff was told he or she would be denied access, the visit was canceled.

The last-minute cancellation speaks more poorly of this unidentified staffer than of Obama himself. But in the end, shouldn't Obama have been able to say, "fine, the staffer stays in Berlin (or where-ever) and I'm going to Landstuhl? Can he still say so?

I'm sceptical of unnamed sources. However, the military rule is that he could visit the military as long as he brought only his personal staff and not his campaign staff with him. After all he visited the military in Afghanistan without a problem.

In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if it was part of an evolution in his campaign tactics to prevent gaffs. Keeping Obama from making public appearances without his paid minders is something I can understand. How will he know what to say without some one whispering in his ear? Which probably says something unflattering about Obama's (57) states of mind.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:11 PM | Comments (3)

Today, Germany! Tomorrow, the World?

The Inquirer has done it again.

Their front page article about Obama's Ich bin ein Obamanburg Gater! speech is not available at the Inquirer web site, which has this AP writetup. On today's front page, though, is an earlier (apparently last night's) version of this New York Times writeup, and all I wanted to do was quote this paragraph, which appears in a (strategically?) different place in Times edition than in the Inquirer edition:

Manfred Krause, 65, a retired citizen of the former East Germany, said Mr. Obama's address brought back memories of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s quieter visit to East Berlin in 1964, when he was a student. As Mr. Krause waited for Mr. Obama's arrival on Thursday, he said, "I thought, here is someone coming from the same place."
I'm not so sure about the validity of Comrade Krause's Martin Luther King comparison....

However, it does appear that Obama has the East German vote wrapped up! Oh, and also the German press:

The address received overwhelmingly positive attention from the German news media, which has frequently gushed over Mr. Obama for his aura, or as the large-circulation Bild daily put it on Wednesday, the "political pop star."
Does this mean Obama will win Germany? Hmmm...

And what about this?

Campaign volunteers holding clipboards shouted to passers-by, "Stop here, registering American citizens to vote!" Bratwurst-and-beer stands shared space with vendors who were selling an array of Obama products, including a T-shirt that declared, "The World For Obama '08."
Tragically, though, The World can't vote for the one man who can save it.

That's because we greedy Americans have disenfranchised the World.

posted by Eric at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

Without Lubrication

In honor of Congressional restrictions on drilling for oil in America we have a new bumper sticker:

Without Lubrication

Click on the image to order one or more bumper stickers.

If you want to add the above image to a post, I explain how here.

Thanks to Karl Egenberger of Envision Design/ Plum Creative Associates who did the artwork.

posted by Simon at 04:17 AM | Comments (0)

Streaming High Def Video

I just came across a site with streaming High Definition Videos. Vreel. It looks very good with my 720p monitor. It must be awesome at 1080. Of course besides the high def monitor you will need a broadband connection.

H/T zbarlici

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

What are they really hiding?

The Obama birth certificate truthers (discussed in these posts) have suffered a setback in light of the discovery of a birth notice in the August 1961 Honululu Advertiser.


However, they're apparently gearing up with new questions, like "Have you noticed that there are no photos of Obama as an infant?"

Actually, I don't usually spend much time with baby pictures, although I've recently been forced to go through my own as I consolidate things in preparation for moving. However, I remembered that I did see a picture of Obama as a baby, shown here with his mother:

baby Barack Obama.jpg

What this proves is absolutely amazing. Barack Obama was once a baby! And his mother seems actually to have held him!

What will the Truthers say?

Hot Air concludes that the Advertiser notice ought to end the nonsense:

Unless someone wants to argue that the Advertiser decided to participate in a conspiracy at Obama's birth in 1961 to provide false citizenship on the off-chance that an infant from a union of a Kenyan father and a teenage mother would run for President, then I'd say the "mystery" is over.
Well, not only might the Advertiser story be a forgery, but the baby pictures might be forged!

What proof do we have that Barack Obama was ever born at all?

I mean, the Truthers are spinning their wheels trying to show he's an alien, right?

What if he's this kind of alien?


I see a striking resemblance.

And I'm not the first to notice:


It's waaay too early to say "case closed."

Aren't Americans entitled to know the Truth?

posted by Eric at 11:08 AM | Comments (11)

Customer "support"

One of the worst aspects of moving has been the inordinate amount of time I have spent on hold.

Seriously. Precious hours have been wasted. For whatever reason, the large telephone and Internet companies hire either incompetent Americans or people in foreign countries to supply "customer support."

Things have reached the point where I am relieved if I get a foreigner, and I never thought I'd think that.

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

The Birth Certificate

I haven't been following the Obama birth certificate kerfluffle, but other people have been. Including a guy who who claims to be a forensic document examiner. Let me start with a little background:

Barack Obama may be on a world tour surrounded by a fawning media, but Sunday an expert in electronic document forensics released a detailed report on the purported birth certificate -- actually a "Certification of Live Birth" or COLB -- claimed as genuine by his campaign. The expert concludes with 100% certainty that it is a crudely forged fake: "a horribly forgery," according to the analysis published on the popular right-wing Atlas Shrugs blog.
So there is a question about Obama's birth certificate and whether he is actually a US Citizen.

The analysis was done by a person who calls himself Techdude.

Techdude's detailed report, which runs more than 3000 words and 20 pages with extensive magnified illustrations and comparisons, reaches the following conclusion about the documented that was first published on the Daily Kos extreme left-wing blog and subsequently publicly endorsed by the Obama campaign, both in statements by official spokesmen, and featured on its "Fight the Smears" website. Here are some of conclusions:

"The (Daily) KOS image security border pattern does not match any known specimen from any known year. It does not match the pre-2006 nor does it match the post-2006 certificate patterns. The placement of the text in all of the pre-2006 and post-2006 certificates are almost identical pixel location matches while the image?s text placement does not match any known specimen from any known year. The shape and kerning of the fonts used in the 2006 through 2008 certificates are identical while the shape and kerning of the fonts used in the image does not match any known specimen. The KOS image shows clear signs of tampering such as the mismatch in RGB and error levels, visible indications of the previous location of the erased security border, easily detectable patterns of repeating flaws around the new security border, EXIF data that says the image was last saved with Photoshop CS3 for Macintosh, and finally a technician from Hawaii who confirms it just looks wrong."

There are images on the first linked site and many more at Atlas Shrugs.

So what does this tell us about Obama? Nothing. If the document is a forgery it may be a red herring: something done to generate controversy so that the real document can later be produced to discredit those who bought into the "not a citizen" riff.

Or it may be Obama is not a citizen of these 57 (or is it 59?) States.

Keep your eye on this one. How ever it turns out it will be interesting.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:23 AM | Comments (6)

Yes, it is socialism, and yes, it is happening here

Simon's post about forced change being wasteful was so good that I'm glad I haven't had time to blog.

However, the whole issue of the government forcing change on people is a pet peeve, and I recently read a horror story about New Jersey (where else?) legislation forcing local governments to provide "affordable housing":

Actually, the landmark bill Corzine signed last week reformed the state's affordable-housing policy by doing two things. One, it requires every municipality in New Jersey to provide for poor, as well as moderate-income, families. (Before, towns got around the requirement by building only for moderate-income residents and seniors.)
My initial reaction was that this makes no sense. It is not the government's function to build housing, and local governments are supposed to be run by the people who live in the communities which elect them. The state has no business telling municipalities to build housing at all, much less "affordable" or "low income" housing.

I found more details here. Apparently, local governments have been evading their "responsibility" to provide the housing by entering into regional contribution agreements. No more!

...[local governments] have a constitutional responsibility to provide the opportunity for low- and moderate-income housing

The new measure signed by the governor closes a loophole in those laws that allowed suburban and rural towns to enter into regional contribution agreements with cities and poor towns to accept part of their required share of affordable housing in return for funds to rehabilitate existing low-income housing.

Since 1990, Burlington County towns have paid other towns a total of $19.3 million to rehabilitate 953 units of affordable housing, according to statistics from the state Department of Community Affairs.

Advocates for the poor say these agreements enabled rich suburbs to circumvent their court-ordered obligation to provide affordable housing.

But officials in suburban towns worry this new law -- as well as new administrative rules that increase the number of affordable housing units they are required to provide -- will allow developers to build large housing developments that could be burdensome for existing taxpayers.

Corzine and other supporters, however, contend that existing land-use laws still would be enforceable and that towns would be free to negotiate with the state Council on Affordable Housing to devise acceptable plans for reaching their fair share of affordable housing.

He noted the new law creates a fee on new commercial development that will provide $20 million annually for grants for building new affordable units or rehabilitating existing affordable homes and apartments. The law also requires that towns provide housing for the very poor -- including some earning less than 30 percent of the area's median income.

This is government at its worst. Central planning from the state commissars.

It is nothing less than unadulterated socialism.

A brave few are calling it just that:

According to the latest affordable housing guidelines no longer can towns pay to have their affordable housing mandate shifted to another community that wants or needs housing. That means that Bergen County will have to add 4,689 more affordable housing units and 554 rehabilitated housing units to meet the state mandate. Those figures do not include the thousand or more housing units that would have to be built in East Rutherford to accommodate housing mandates for the 2.2 million square-feet Xanadu mega-mall.

At a 5 to 1 ratio of market rate housing to affordable units granted to builders by the state, Bergen County could end up hosting more than 23,000 new units of housing. Additionally the new rules require one affordable unit be built for every 16 new jobs created in a town and levy a 2.5 percent tax on new non-residential development.

The new eligibility income limits for those eligible for affordable housing, said Calabrese, are more than the median income in most South Bergen Municipalities. Now families of four with incomes exceeding $77,000, and families of five with incomes topping $83,238 will get subsidized housing.

"If this isn't Socialism, then I don't know what is," said Calabrese, a real estate executive.

Welcome to the Land of Opportunity!

Now go back to China, you fools who thought you could come here and enjoy economic freedom. The text of the legislation is summarized here with links to the bill's language.

It's a disgrace, seeing such top-down tyranny in a supposedly free country. If they keep this stuff up, I wouldn't be surprised to see an exodus of the productive classes from New Jersey. They better leave now, before the state planners decide that people should be told where they can and cannot live subject to government approval, and restrictions are placed on selling or moving.

Think this is paranoia? Think they wouldn't do it if they could?

Already, big lefties like former California Governor Jerry Brown (who's gearing up to run again) promote deadly serious dreams of creating a Better World in which people are told where to live:

Today he is mulling a run for governor in 2010, when he will be 72.

In the meantime, Mr. Brown is taking aim at the suburbs, concerned about the alleged environmental damage they cause. He sees suburban houses as inefficient users of energy. He sees suburban commuters clogging the roads as wasting precious fossil fuel. And, mostly, he sees wisdom in an intricately thought-out plan to compel residents to move to city centers or, at least, to high-density developments clustered near mass transit lines.

Mr. Brown is not above using coercion to create the demographic patterns he wants. In recent months, he has threatened to file suit against municipalities that shun high-density housing in favor of building new suburban singe-family homes, on the grounds that they will pollute the environment. He is also backing controversial legislation -- Senate bill 375 -- moving through the state legislature that would restrict state highway funds to communities that refuse to adopt "smart growth" development plans. "We have to get the people from the suburbs to start coming back" to the cities, Mr. Brown told planning experts in March.

The problem is, that's not what Californians want. For two generations, residents have been moving to the suburbs. They are attracted to the prospect, although not always the reality, of good schools, low crime rates and the chance to buy a home. A 2002 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 80% of Californians prefer single-family homes over apartment living....

As if they care what the people want.

I've been complaining about socialism, and I realize that it's a politically unacceptable term to use. But the forces of socialism are closing in for the kill. With socialized health care, the government confiscating an ever greater share of your money, restrictions on where to live, and the clamor for restrictions on the ability to travel, the noose is tightening.

Socialism can still be stopped, but if it isn't stopped soon by the people who have the majority to stop it, it may be too late.

posted by Eric at 06:30 PM | Comments (6)

What Is The Rush?

Commenter Pastorius commenting on my article on Moore's Law suggested I have a look at this article by Ray Kurzweil on the accelerating rate of the rate of change.

...a serious assessment of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential. In exponential growth, we find that a key measurement such as computational power is multiplied by a constant factor for each unit of time (e.g., doubling every year) rather than just being added to incrementally. Exponential growth is a feature of any evolutionary process, of which technology is a primary example.

One can examine the data in different ways, on different time scales, and for a wide variety of technologies ranging from electronic to biological, and the acceleration of progress and growth applies. Indeed, we find not just simple exponential growth, but "double" exponential growth, meaning that the rate of exponential growth is itself growing exponentially. These observations do not rely merely on an assumption of the continuation of Moore's law (i.e., the exponential shrinking of transistor sizes on an integrated circuit), but is based on a rich model of diverse technological processes. What it clearly shows is that technology, particularly the pace of technological change, advances (at least) exponentially, not linearly, and has been doing so since the advent of technology, indeed since the advent of evolution on Earth.
Yep. Change is happening much faster than when I was a kid (50s). We have so much more capable technology than we had then and so many more capable technologies.

What does this mean in terms of solving humanity's technical problems? Say energy for instance. It says we should put off implementing a solution for as long as possible because better solutions are just around the corner. Al Gore's idea that we need to rush to fix our reliance on fossil fuels chop, chop, double quick, is flat out wrong. It would be much better for us to rely on current technologies for as long as possible (at least until the alternatives become economically competitive) because the solutions we will have available in five or ten years will be so much better than the ones available today. The important thing is to avoid, thorough any kind of government program, getting locked in or promoting any given technology.

In the home computer market that is pretty much what we do. If we assume a doubling of capability every two years replacing your home computer every four to six years makes a lot of sense. In four years your "old" machine will have 25% of the power of what is currently on the market. In six years the "old" machine will have 12.5% of the capacity of the latest and greatest. Its economic value at that time (six years after purchase) will be around zero. Which is why if you go out on garbage day looking for a computer you will generally find machines about five to eight years old. Business is a little different. They can't afford to get too far behind in technology. Which is why they get new computers on a three year schedule. They can't afford to give up more than a factor of three to their competition.

Here is another example (based on hypotheticals). Suppose we do a big push on solar and then some kind of nuclear fusion "magic" comes along reducing the price of electricity by a factor of 10X? Under those circumstances the less we spend on alternative energy at today's prices the better off we will be. Given the accelerating rate of change we are bound to come up with some new kind of "magic" of one sort or the other.

It all depends on the learning curve of a particular technology. I'm not sure what the learning curve for solar is but I can guarantee that what we can do in five years will be much better and more cost effective than what we can do today. Kurzweil estimates that the rate of technological change in 2100 will be around 20,000 times the rate of today. That is pretty damn fast. How fast? Changes that we would see in five years at todays accelerating rate will happen in a day around 2100. (I haven't done the math so that number is just an estimated representation to give a feel for what is happening).

What does this tell us in general? Forcing change is wasteful. Real environmentalists (who inherently are conservative) will resist change until the market provides economic solutions, because forcing change increases waste. We saw this in the solar boom in the Carter era. It didn't work out. Because of government subsidies there was a huge amount of waste. Or as that most wise of sages once said:

Patience grasshopper.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:30 AM | Comments (6)

No Moore?

We are about to come to the end of an era. Moore's law is coming up against fundamental limits. Right now the smallest transistors require hundreds to thousands of atoms. It will hard to get transistors much smaller than that. In addition as transistors get smaller than that, overall circuits actually get slower and require more power.

Chip and IC equipment makers are at a crossroads as they enter an era that might be called "More than Moore."

The relentless pursuit of scaling over the last 40 years, in accordance with the famed postulate known as Moore's Law, continues to be an aggressive goal.

However, the buzz at the Semicon West equipment show last week suggests the time has come to rethink what is scalable and examine other ways of adding value to semiconductor devices.

Although leading IC makers Intel and IBM remain committed to Moore's Law (Intel in part out of respect for founder Gordon Moore's scaling formula), both are starting to address its limits. In addition, those limits are not just technical; they are economic as well.

Is it still practical?
At Semicon West, where the relentless market pressures facing chipmakers are measured in the progress of tools able to refine physical transistor gate lengths down to 22nm, the Greek chorus of industry gurus sounded a warning: In chasing after ever smaller and denser devices, it might just not be practical to go on scaling for the sake of scaling.

"It's been an economic issue all along," said keynoter Bernie Meyerson, an IBM fellow and CTO of the IBM Systems and Technology Group.

"Moore's Law stipulates that you need to double the density of chips every 12 to 18 months [for scaling purposes]; that's an economic, not a technical issue."

The recipe for scaling is expensive and geometries are approaching single atoms, which won't scale. Those facts are forcing the industry to look "beyond CMOS," simply because "the result of further scaling is more power consumption, more costly [devices] and slower operation," said Meyerson.

Currently chips are being made with photo lithography using ultraviolet light that has a wave length of 193 nm. So how do you make transistors with feature sizes of 22 nm using 193 nm light? With great difficulty.

So what are some possible answers? Stacking chips is one answer. That assumes that you can get the power out of a 3D structure without raising temperatures excessively. Another possibility is more efficient computer languages that get more done with fewer instruction cycles. As many of you know I like FORTH for that purpose. It is a language that lends itself well to mechanization in silicon. Our premier language today, C and its variants - not so much. Another thing FORTH has going for it is that the number of transistors for a given processor (8 bit, 16 bit, 32 bit etc.) is much smaller than the number required for current designs. Fewer transistors means that the transistors will be closer together (that will speed things up because the speed of light is now a fundamental limitation) and fewer transistors also means less heat production. Heat slows down the kind of transistors used in computers (MOSFETs) and it also causes problems because that heat must be dissipated.

Quantum computing might also help. Except for a couple of things. The number of bits (Q bits) is currently small and quantum computing requires temperatures near absolute zero.

One thing to keep in mind is that we have at least another 10 years to go with what we currently know. We may find an answer in that time. Another thing that will help is that every 10 years we double the area that is produced per batch (wafer). That means that cost reductions will slow down if that is the best we can do. However, we still have a ways to go before cost reductions stop all together.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:26 PM | Comments (8)

This Is Going To Hurt

H/T Instapundit

posted by Simon at 12:58 PM | Comments (2)

Only right wing nuts believe in socialism

I'm thinking that yesterday's post on the use of the phrase "the elite" omitted an important word from the discussion. A word that for the most part we are not allowed to use in polite political discussions.

The S word.

Via Glenn Reynolds I saw a very telling graph showing who pays the taxes -- related to data in this WSJ article:

The top 10% in income, those earning more than $108,904, paid 71%. Barack Obama says he's going to cut taxes for those at the bottom, but that's also going to be a challenge because Americans with an income below the median paid a record low 2.9% of all income taxes, while the top 50% paid 97.1%. Perhaps he thinks half the country should pay all the taxes to support the other half.
That is exactly what the problem is. The redistributionists who want to take away this money are the ones often derided as "the elite."

Whether the label is completely accurate or not, it's based on the fundamental unfairness involved in robbing the productive to pay the unproductive.

Actually, it could be argued that calling the redistrubutionists "the elite" is too mild of a term. The proper term might be, simply, "socialists." But because socialists almost never admit to being socialists, using an accurate term like that will usually result in that rolled eyeball look that suggests, "Oh, God, he's a right wing crank!"

That's because socialism does not and cannot exist in America, the Land of Opportunity. Only a right wing nut would say that it does.

And of course not only don't I want to look like a crank, I try to be polite. So rather than call people socialists or elitists I'll just pose a polite question.

At what point is socialism to be called socialism?

Seriously, does the word mean anything? Is there a percentage scale? Or has the word become meaningless jargon? If it has, what are the consequences for those (like me) who oppose socialism?

I worry that it might be a waste of time to oppose something that does not exist.

posted by Eric at 09:06 AM | Comments (8)

Yael Naim

An interview with Yael Naim.

The Macbook Air ad which sparked my interest in Yael.

And this little bit which got me looking into all the above: She doesn't look Jewish.

posted by Simon at 02:19 AM | Comments (1)

If we can put a drill in the earth....

If (like me) you find the cliché "If we can put a man on the moon..." annoying, don't miss Rand Simberg's "Energy Independence: Shooting for the Moon":

The problem was that, as already noted, Apollo cost a lot of money. So much so that after landing only six crews, we flew the last mission thirty-six years ago, and shelved the technology that enabled us to achieve it, because it wasn't providing an economic return commensurate with the cost to the taxpayer. In fact, it spurred a new use of the phrase among frustrated space enthusiasts. Since 1972, they've been able to ask "If we can send a man to the moon, why can't we send a man to the moon?" The answer is that we couldn't afford to continue to do so, at least not the way we'd been doing it (which is a reason why NASA's plan to redo Apollo, pretty much the same way, will likely not be sustainable, either). To use Apollo as a model for the provision of our most vital commodity-energy-would be economically ruinous.

But if the goal is to build an affordable in-space transportation infrastructure, again, like the energy problem, that is an economic problem, not a purely technological one, and simply throwing money at it, Apollo style, won't necessarily get the job done. In both cases, the goal will require not a massive centralized federal technology effort, but policies that free up the market, and allow the technologies to be properly deployed as they are developed. We don't need technocrats (and particularly we don't need divinity school dropouts and "D" science students) picking energy technology winners and predetermining the outcome of the research. For either space transportation or energy production, the focus should be on the goal, not the means to achieve it.

Although Bush is supposed to be the moron, Gore's academic record reveals that his grades were "lower than any semester recorded on Bush's transcript from Yale."

Simberg concludes with a good question:

If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we get people to stop making bad analogies with putting a man on the moon?
Call me an optimist, but I say that if we can put Al Gore's name on a Harvard diploma and a Nobel prize, anything is possible.

I should admit that not only do I love bad analogies, but if we consider the clear evidence that the moon landing was an elaborate fake, why, that makes it an even greater victory than it would have been had it actually happened!

And if we can fake a moon landing, and if we can fake An Inconvenient Truth, I see no reason why we can't fake achieving complete energy independence.

posted by Eric at 11:02 AM | Comments (4)

Who are they? Part IV

In a column titled "Hard to define, harder to shake," Inquirer columnist Karen Heller slams the blogosphere as a "courtesy free sewer," while taking issue with the word "elite":

Connecticut is elite. New Jersey, with the highest median income in the country, is not.

All these designations change when viewed from a national perspective. Then the entire East Coast is elite, although not the South, including Hilton Head.

Everything west of Chester County is not elite - except Minnesota and every Chicago ward Obama ever visited - until you get to the mighty arugula-and-latte states of California, Oregon and Washington.

Then you might as well be in France.

Republicans, defying their long history, are not elite, voters and politicians alike. Blue-collar, working-class, union-member Democrats are not elite either. Except, improbably, Michael Moore.

However, every Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton is elite, except for his wife - but only when Hillary is compared to Obama and only when it became clear she couldn't win.

Today, there are only two parties: Republican and elitecrat.

Smarty pants

Throughout time, elitism has been associated with birthright, breeding and wealth. Now it refers to education.

Scratch that. Bush the Sequel turns the notion on its head. He went to elite schools. He just chose to ignore what they offered.

Now, it's being smart or, heaven forbid, appearing smart that's elite.

Reading challenging books, even ones borrowed from the library, is elite, as is watching PBS's NewsHour, though both cost nothing. Improving the mind, instead of the biceps or the property (by clearing brush), is elite.

Any challenge to bad policy, poor governance or faulty reasoning is now dismissed with charges of elitism. People don't want to debate intelligently, consider divergent opinions and experiences, or listen and learn. Instead, they respond with closed ears and name-calling. Being labeled elite is akin to being told to shut up. How can you respond to that?

First of all, I doubt any response from me would be taken seriously by Ms. Heller, because I am part of what she calls "the courtesy-free sewer that passes for the blogosphere."

Forgive me for not liking generalizations, but just as I have a problem being dismissed as a courtesy-free sewer dweller, I also have a problem with the use of the word "elite" as a label -- especially to castigate people. That's because it is not easy to pin down what it means. Bush and Kerry came from similar educational backgrounds, and while Bush was not seen as "elite," Kerry was. Similarly, (as Ms. Heller reminds in no uncertain terms), Obama is being seen as the elitist, while McCain is not. McCain hailed from the most militarily elite background possible, and Obama's roots were for the most part middle class. One thing becomes clear: money alone does not an elitist make. It's a state of mind. Guys who worked their asses off and built small businesses into thriving mini-empires would not be called "elite," but the people who want to take away their money and give it to the non-productive classes would be -- even if they draw only modest government, academic or non-profit salaries.

Perhaps this explains the Republican preference for the term "elite" and the Democrat preference for the more generic term "the rich."

But I don't like inaccurate terms, nor do I like generalizations. (Hence my need to float long-winded blog posts in the courtesy-free sewer.) I don't need the term "elite" any more than I need "the rich" -- because I try to keep an open mind so I can better navigate the sewers of the elite and the rich. (But hey, I can remember that back in the old days, "sewer" was used in a sexual, often anti-gay context. Times change and so do words. Go figure.)

The reason this intrigues me is that I have devoted several posts to grappling with the definition of what many regular sewer bloggers would call "the elite" -- and frankly I'm a little jealous that they can get away with using one word as code language for what I've been unable to pin down despite so many posts. Might it be easier to just say "elite" and accept my assigned role in the courtesy-free sewer?

I don't know. But as I pondered Karen Heller's thoughts, I recalled Glenn Reynolds' recent quote from Jerry Pournelle which "EXPLAINS THE WORLD." I liked it so much that I'm tempted to substitute "word" for "world" and offer it as as definition of "the elite" but I won't. I'll just quote it to supplement my ongoing effort at defining the elusive "they" who believe they have a right to rule:

The purpose of modern government is to take money from the folks who save and pay their bills and live within their means, and use that to hire government workers; and to keep their power by using the money to buy votes from those who do not save and pay their bills and live within their means. And of course the money comes from those who work and save and pay their bills and live within their means -- who else will have any money for the government to take?

Or am I unduly cynical? But you ain't seen nothing yet.

That covers a lot of ground, and I think that in general, embattled taxpayers, free market believers, fed-up libertarians and conservatives, as well as a whole host of outraged sewer-bloggers would tend to characterize true believers and advocates of the above system as the backbone of what they mean when they use the expression "the elite."

Without advocating the expression, I decided to revisit my ongoing struggle to come up with a definition of whatever this difficult to define group is to be called.

The following were compiled from three ponderous posts.

Here's Herman Kahn:

In becoming a mass profession, they open themselves to sharper criticism as a group because their average standards necessarily decline, their contacts with outsiders wither, they become less self-conscious as a stratum but more actively self-serving, and they make clear their belief that they should wield social power.
And my personal observation:
They are everywhere, and you really don't want to get in trouble with them. Not if you want to avoid being hassled at your job, go about unmolested, not get targeted or audited by bureaucrats, or scolded at the local church groups, PTA meetings, or (for the wealthier and snobbier) even humiliation at smug cocktail parties and country clubs.

The social people take note of deviations, and even silence at the wrong time. You can get on their shit list by saying that there are still glaciers in Alaska after returning from a trip there and seeing them.

The social people want endless government reaching everywhere. Anything that is good for government (meaning anything that generates the need for more government bureaucracy) is considered good -- regardless of whether it solves the underlying problems. In fact, if it aggravates the problem, so much the better, as aggravating the problems leads to cycles of government-grown, government-aggravated growth!

Not one to mince words, British blogger Sean Gabb used another "e word" for them -- "the Enemy Class":
What I will call the Enemy Class exists in and around the public sector. It comprises the great majority of those administrators, lawyers, experts, educators and media people whose living is connected with the State. Its leading members are people like Anthony Giddens, Greg Dyke, Elspeth Howe, Mary Warnock, Polly Toynbee, Peter Mandelson, and others. They articulate and advance the interests of perhaps a million other people--from television producers and heads of executive agencies, down through the university lecturers and social workers and white collar bureaucrats, to the lowest grades of civil servant and local government officer. Add to the list all the racism awareness and anti-aids consultants and the workers in those non-government organisations that receive money and status from or via the State.

These are the people who really govern the country. They are the ones who decide what statistics to gather and how and when to publish them. They decide what problems can be identified and what solutions can be discussed. They advise on policy and implement policy. Because of their numbers and education and beliefs, and the formal and informal bonds that hold them to each other, and because of their ability and willingness to give and withhold benefits, they set the tone of society. They can require not only external conformity to their will, but can even to some extent shape the public mind so that conformity seems right and natural. They provide the boundaries and language of debate. They define the heretics and schismatics, and arrange for them to be persecuted. They are the modern equivalent of an established church. More precisely, they are what Coleridge called the Clerisy.

I also think they are part of what Robert James Bidinotto called "the Excuse Making Industry":
....consists primarily of intellectuals in the social science establishment: the philosophers, psychological theorists, political scientists, legal scholars, sociologists, criminologists, economists and historians whose theories have shaped our modern legal system. It also consists of an activist wing of fellow-travelers: social workers, counselors, therapists, legal-aid and civilliberties lawyers, "inmate rights" advocates, "progressive" politicians and activists, and so on...

It's a sprawling intellectual consensus...united in a single premise: that the criminal isn't responsible for his behavior... Forces and circumstances outside his control "cause" him to behave as he does. He should be forgiven, or treated therapeutically, or placed in a better environment, or counseled to "cope" with his uncontrollable inner demons. But he must not be held accountable for his actions-- and, under no circumstances, punished for what he "couldn't help."

Above all, money has to be spent on him. Lots of money, which generally comes from the embattled work-your-ass-off types who use words like "elitist" because they don't have the time it takes to thresh these things out in laborious blog posts which ferment in the courtesy-free sewer. It's one of the reasons the public schools have failed so badly. The lion's share of the money goes to the least gifted, least deserving, most violent, most disruptive students, who predictably hold the rest back. Any guy who's made a small business work can see the problem, but those with the Ph.D.s who advocate the policies that cause and/or aggravate the problem can't.

Dr. Helen, went so far as to suggest that the latter class might learn something from the former:

...rather than a bunch of "fat cats," most millionaires are just the opposite: people who worked, lived below their means and saved a lot of money. Or as one politician put it, people who "worked hard and played by the rules." All of us could learn from them. Jealous that they have not achieved this level of wealth, now many controlling types of people are scheming to take money from others through high tax rates that penalize the "shy millionaire" as much as the real "fat cats," whatever that means. Instead of scheming like a bunch of thugs, perhaps the government and those that approve of their thuggery should learn to be more like the shy millionaires by spending below their means, saving, and showing some class.
As to why I spend so much time on this, who knows? It might it be guilt.

After all, I was once on the fast track to being one of them:

...it helps to know who they are.

There but for the grace of the unknown went I.

So, I mean it when I say that I don't want to castigate people with generalizations or simplistic labels. However, I don't like being ruled by this unelected class of people who are possessed with a belief that they have a right to run people's lives -- as if by divine right.

I'm not saying they believe in rule by divine right, mind you.

That anachronistic mindset countenanced a certain form of accountability....

posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (10)

The digital birth certificate truthers

I just received an email claiming that there is now "irrefutable, empirical evidence" that "Obama's birth certificate is a forgery."

Please. Spare me. I know I've said it before, but this crap is playing right into Obama's hands, and I think it's exactly what he wants. (Like the "Obama is a secret Muslim" routine....)

I'm glad to see that AJ Strata (who debunked this nonsense before) has now debunked it again:

Techdude has given his groupies more false positives to run around and play their games with. He also showed, unintentionally, why the BHO COLB image could be real. He confirmed the paper upgrade and showed empirically that all the new COLBs, post 2006, shared the same traits regarding the impression of the seal.

Now what are the odds someone who screwed up the borders so badly also caught the paper quality detail? Basically they are - zero! No one who did enough investigating to make sure the seal imprint was light due to new, thicker paper would miss the borders. What are the odds a person who screwed up the borders so badly was able to know to put the date field anomaly in? Zero as well. Thanks Techdude, but as usual you proved my point. When you claim such an obvious and glaring disconnect is the work of a forger who was able to get the other mountain of hidden details right - you have debunked yourself.

Myth busted - again.

What makes this so incredibly tedious is that it's obvious Obama was born in Hawaii, and that there is a legitimate birth certificate somewhere. These arguments over digital images posted online are beside the point.

What I'm trying to figure out is the exact goal of this particular conspiracy theory. If Obama was born in Hawaii (and I think it's quite obvious to any reasonable person that he was), then all they're doing is wasting time getting people who ought to know better all stirred up. And for what? Does anyone imagine that this will cause a single soul to not vote for Obama who had otherwise been planning to? Does anyone think it will somehow help McCain? Under what possible theory?

Sorry to ask, but are the birth certificate truthers even McCain supporters?

Not that a little thing like that would matter, but I have to say, much as their motivation puzzles me, I do admire persistence. Who knows? If they keep the birth certificate theory afloat, it might earn a place alongside the North American Union/Amero stuff, or maybe even the claim that the 16th Amendment was never ratified, so none of us have to pay taxes.

MORE: Thinking things over, maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. In fact, the more I think it over, I'd actually enjoy living in a dollarless country which no longer exists, where I don't have to pay taxes, and which is presided over by a man legally barred from holding office!

There's a lot of goof room there.

posted by Eric at 10:09 PM | Comments (8)

At a turtle's pace

I know I haven't posted today but I'm trying to get caught up.



Just a little slow, that's all...

Working in this heat has a way of slowing me down.

posted by Eric at 09:43 PM | Comments (0)

We Can't Drill Our Way Out

A blog about US politics has this comment:

The time for talk is over. We can't drill our way out of this and both his and Gore's plan point us in the right direction. We need to just do it.
I got news for him. If we can't drill our way out of our immediate problems, there is no immediate solution. Why? It is a matter of logistics and infrastructure. Our experience with the transition from wood to coal and coal to oil is instructive. Those transitions took about 75 to 100 years. Why? Whole new methods of production and infrastructure had to be developed. It is a problem of capital and logistics. Take our automotive fleet. It turns over at the rate of about 6% a year. That means a 15 or so year transition period if ALL the new vehicles embody the new energy technology. Add in another 4 to 10 years for the design of the new vehicles and the development of the support infrastructure. Say the new technology is electric of some sort. We need to be able to produce 15 million automotive qualified electric motors a year. So before we can even get up to full scale production of the transition vehicle we need quite a few new electric motor factories. How about power electronics to control the motors? Say the typical motor had a peak rating of 50 KW. That would require 750 megawatts of control electronics a year. Which is no small amount. We don't have the capacity for it. It takes 3 to 5 years to raise the capital and build a new semiconductor plant. Just to get a 15 year transition we would have to build all the support industry all at once. That will take around 5 years provided we know exactly what we want.

Which just goes to show that nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it.

And this all assumes we know what supporting industries we should invest in. Now what happens if during this all out production effort some one comes up with something new that completely changes the direction we ought to head in? A lot of the capital invested in the ramp up will have been wasted.

Sadly we have gone from Scientific Socialism to Hope and Change Socialism. The original Scientific Socialism was bad enough. Hope and Change Socialism is definitely not an improvement.

There is no magic bullet. We are going to have to muddle our way through. Slowly. For as long as it takes.

There are a couple of things to do while working towards change:

1. Do not panic
2. Drill for more oil

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:11 AM | Comments (9)

An Explication; Sanely.

Welcome to the latest meeting of the Scions of Entropy. Membership is not Optional. Fortunately, Awareness is. Participation is Not. Consciousness is Both. Amusement is Involuntary. No Options are Necessary in an Open Ended System.

What's in a word or three? The simple fact of the matter is that truths are oft revealed in the maddened tip tap tappings of misinformed monkeys. That's what happens when you hand out typewriters for free.

I delve into the undeftly mundane. As the author says, appy-poly-logies.

There. Is. A. Projection. Serenity.

Feline references obscured unintenionalibertly.

All you have to do is yank your head and the new discipline is absolved as he is absorbed. It's that easy because it's that hard. Shame isn't isn't is? (sic[sic{sic}]) . Punctuated accordingly. By satellite. I hacked my first program by satellite. Two 'l's. Two 'l's. Page. Manually. Turn. It's all as orderly as orderlies. Unforgivable. Sorry. Not that there's any crying in poker.


You start at childhood. No overhead meteorite explosions sans metaphor yo. They end emphasis with yo. yo. Editing regrettabliscious. Assure you me it was all better prior to veins popping out deradicalradicalization. You regrettably have to regrettably trust me on this--the most impossible thing since Soren regretted himself.


Let's delve to the mundane...

On other wor(l)ds, an explication was offered.

The perfect song.

It begins with immaturity. A stunt was offered. The desire, merely attention. Immature adulation.

Then young adulthood. Ambition creeps into it. A steady transition. What difference really?

Bounds are knocked down. Rather, bounds are found to not have existed. Mythological. Regardless, admirable. Admirable!? (?) Goals. The things consistent with the consistent things. Yeah. Like that. So obvious. So easy.

With a microphone. With a microphone. (With it (a microphone),).

Eventually you realize that the flaws are a function of a need for tri-syllabic terms. Of a molecule. Of a molecule. Not Split the bonds off--, not --of Uranium, --of Uranium. Of a molecule. Gotta have three syllables, but couldn't you have momentarily been a bit more creative in an obvious, non-physics defying manner? Of course not. With no handle bars.

Adulthood. Nothing has changed, everything has become obvious. Just because I don't like 'em. Died or healed. The perfect sontera. Perfect. Perfect. Bring it around. The torque should hurt. With no handle bars. No handle bars. Back to--

Childhood. And nothing has changed. Attention is merely a youthful manifestation of an unchanged need satisfied via, repeat it, extra times for emphaiss, repeat it, in a holocaust, in a holocaust, in a holo--, --it's all imaginary, --of a molecule, --it's all meaningless because it's childish, --pay. --no-- .attention:

There are no options. Everything is optional. There is no youth. There is no original sin. There is only original man. Efficiency. No matter. Efficiency. Entropy still reigns. Welcome to the scions of entropy. Your welcome is irrelevant. This is my testament.


No handle bars.
No handle bars.
No handle bars.

posted by Cosmic Drunk at 09:08 PM | Comments (4)

Con Law

Senator/Presidential Candidate Barack Hussein Obama wants to create a civilian National Security force. I'm not sure the Senator, who is a constitutional law scholar, understands the US Constitution. We already have a civilian National Security force. He can read all about it in the amendments to the US Constitution. Specifically the Second Amendment.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Militia is the US National Security force and it consists of all the able bodied persons who are armed and of a certain age group (I think it is all those people between the ages of 18 to 45 - but I need to look it up) by act of Congress. The people of the US are already empowered to defend their country. All that is required is that they visit their local gun store (except in Washington DC and a few other major cities - Chicago, the Senator's home town comes to mind) and get armed.

Don't get me wrong. I think this is a good idea. It is just that the Senator is 200+ years late to the party. I wonder if he slept through his Constitutional Law classes.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. May I suggest for more fun a look at We Can't Drill Our Way Out.

posted by Simon at 07:52 PM | Comments (29)

Nature gives hot rod hives

The simple digital camera has made it a lot easier to work on cars. I have a 1964 Ford Falcon Ranchero that has been sitting for years, and as part of my ongoing pre-move cleanout, I've been attempting to get it running. One of the problems is that it was once a 1970s hot rod, and has many non-conforming parts. The vintage "Mallory Voltmaster" coil does not seem to be working efficiently, and the distributor does not supply spark to the plugs, so I thought I'd R&R everything. (Easier said than done.) I took the rotor to a parts store, and I also thought to take a picture of the distributor, because it didn't look quote right. Sure enough, the cap and rotor were completely different from mine, and the guy said there was no way to simply match them up by appearance. I bought a new set or wires, but at least I didn't waste my money on a cap and rotor. The problem was that I had no idea what sort of distributor might have been put in there back in the 70s, and although the Mallory coil supplied a clue, Googling images of Mallory distributors did not supply me with a match for the rotor. I looked at the distributor closely for a tag, and while I couldn't see anything, I reached around and explore with my fingers. Sure enough, I felt a metal tag, but it was waaay in the back, on the bottom, where there is absolutely no way to see it.

So I took my camera, turned it around to position it in there as close as I could (where my head could not go), and took a picture:


While that's not good enough, you can see the tag. A close up, though, clearly revealed the tag's Mallory part number "2555101":


In the old days, I'd have had to pull the distributor for that information. Amazingly, parts can still be gotten for it, although they have to be ordered online.

Working on that car has been severely complicated by the worst infestation of yellow jackets I have seen to date. They act as if they "own" the car, and I'm an evil alien invader. It took me some time to find and spray down all of the nests, but they were on and inside the doors, like this:


There were four of those around the two doors. Needless to say, it made opening them a challenge.

The next one I call "HIVES IN THE HOOD," as they were literally inside the hood's hollow spaces:


But the worst of all -- the Mother Of All Wasp Nests -- was the one under a spare which was sitting in the back.

I was afraid to touch the tire even two days after spraying the hell out of it, but this morning I finally got the courage to tilt it back and take a peek.


Here's a closeup:


I'm glad I looked, because the spray did not fully destroy the nest. Numerous pupae had survived, and they were crawling all around with new wings, grooming themselves like newly minted Luftwaffe pilots as if in preparation for what I do not doubt would have been terrible retribution. (Trust me, these wasps were incredibly mean, even before my incomplete destruction of their hive.)

I used to be a mechanic, but I was never scared of a car. Until now.


Maybe I should say I'm scared of nature getting in the way of progress.

(Of course, whether fighting nature constitutes progress is always a hot topic. Especially among WASPS....)

posted by Eric at 10:17 AM | Comments (5)


I used to know Ted Aliotta when I lived in Carbondale, Illinois from 1972 to 1975. Interesting fellow. He had a very unusual beetle he kept wrapped in cotton he would show to special friends.

May I add that there is nothing quite like driving LSD when listening to LSD.

posted by Simon at 01:38 PM | Comments (6)

Art to die for?

While he claims to be seeking world peace, Waafa Bilal (creator of the Bush assassination video game that's generated controversy) strikes me as a seeker of pseudo-martyrdom for profit.

In this interview, he claims that the Americans killed his brother and his father died from the grief, and that he's letting himself be shot with thousands of paintballs:

WB: The idea here is to move (*bang*) my living room into the gallery space and to set up a system where you have a paintball gun pointed at me 24 hours, seven days a week, for an entire month. The entire mechanism (*bang*) is hooked up by the Internet, where people can log in from anywhere and shoot.

This is the 13th day, and so far, 6,500 shots were taken at me.

Could you tell me about yourself?

WB: I was born and raised in Iraq, and I worked against Saddam Hussein's regime in a passive resistance movement through artwork. I was arrested by his regime a few times. In 1990, I refused to go to war in his army to invade Kuwait. As a consequence, I was blacklisted and I had to flee Iraq, so in 1991, after the uprising, I had a chance to escape and ended up in (*bang*) Saudi Arabia for two years (*bang*) until I had the chance to come to the United States and study for my BFA as the University of Delphi, New Mexico, I got my MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and now I teach there. (*bang*)

What inspired this particular project?

WB: I think it's a combination of things. (*bang*) One, it is understanding the culture and how people interact with each other in this digital age. But, the trigger of this project was that I was watching (*bang*) the news - in fact, ABC news, when they had an interview with an American soldier sitting in a base in Colorado, and she was firing missiles into Iraq (*bang*) after being given information by American soldiers on the ground (*bang*) in Iraq, and when asked if she had any regard of human life, she said "No, these people are bad, and I'm getting very good intelligence from people on the ground."

Also, I just wanted to bring this closer to myself. I left Iraq in 1991, and I wasn't able to see my family, and we had some losses in 2005. I lost my brother and he was killed by American soldiers in Najaf, and I lost my father two months after that. Now my family is confined to their own homes, and they cannot even leave, and I ask them sometimes "What do you do?"

They said: "We are at home, and the only time we leave is when one of us risks his or her life going to the market to get food and come back."

I wanted to put myself in the same physical way they are so that I could feel closer to them and to support them.

Can you tell me more about the technical aspects of the project?

WB: The technology is extremely simple and available to anyone. I worked with a very good crew though - Ben Chang, Dan Miller, and Dimitris Michalaros, my colleagues at the Art Institute of Chicago.

There are a couple of components to it. The hardware is a small-motor connected to a card. That's the pan mechanism behind the movement of the gun and the camera. The trigger on the camera is connected to a solenoid. Everything is driven by software and connected on a web page (*bang*) and so when you go to the Web page, you (*bang*) press left or right, the gun will move five degrees each time, and when you shoot the gun, the signal goes from your browser to the card, then to the solenoid, which pulls the trigger, and simply fires.

How many times have you been hit?

I lost count how many times I've been hit, but, as I said, today the count is up to 6,500 shots. I think day 13 - today - I entered kind of a survival mode, trying to protect myself by barricading myself and navigating through the room so that I'm not in the direct line of fire. But that does not mean I don't forget that I am facing the gun 24 hours a day, and it happens so many times I forget for a second, and get hit.

Yesterday I got two of them really close to my head, and I do not wear any head protection except goggles, just because I wanted to feel that danger from the gun that's pointed at me.

These paintballs hurt and I think it's obvious that paintballs hurt. There were 6,500 pulls of the trigger - I don't think that's all one guy doing it, so what have you learned about the human condition?

(*bang, bang*) I mean, I'm trying to (*bang*) see where these shooters are coming from, and what's behind it, and there's really not one thing that you can say about them. The project attracted so many different people with different points of view. It varies from guys in their office having fun, to someone bored somewhere and shooting all day and all night, to some other people trying to engage in a political dialogue.

That's at least part of the intention of this project - to attract people who may never want to engage in a political dialogue about the war, or violence, or civilians, or lack of privacy, and it's working in that sense.

I always said that I wanted to play with the idea of aesthetic pleasure versus aesthetic pain, to the point that it becomes an encounter, instead of a didactic art. When you encounter it, you are drawn to it because of aesthetics on the surface and the appealing quality, but then, that encounter leads you to something else entirely.

Do you think the pseudo-anonymity of the internet and the distance has a lot to do with how this project is turning out?

No doubt about it. I mean, (*bang*) it is an internet base, and it is using the latest way of communication, but by design (*bang*), I wanted to remove the viewer from any physical impact. You log on the set, and you don't even have sound (*bang,bang*) I mean, you're hearing it right now, because we're on the phone, but when you're on the site, you never hear it. That's speaks of the virtual war that's being conducted against Iraq and other nations as well.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

At this point, I look forward to when this gun is silent and when all the guns are silent.

I submit that rigging up a web interface which solicits strangers to anonymously "fire" away, and filling and restocking a magazine with paintballs is in no way analogous to war. Even in what the artist describes as "the virtual war that's being conducted against Iraq and other nations as well," the whole idea is that there are enemies. He is going out of his way to do all of this to himself, and his claim that he is a victim of the people who "fired" at him, that they have any share in the responsibility (or that they are behaving as soldiers in war) is ludicrous. Anyone familiar with the Internet knows that if you rig up something like this, people will respond in a predictable manner. If I set up a cigarette lighter to set fire to the American flag, the Koran, a hapless animal, or even an entire forest at the touch of any anonymous button anywhere in the world, I would know to a certainty that the lighter would be activated. The responsibility would be mine because I set it up. In an online setting, there is no way for people who push the buttons to truly know what happens as it is under my control, not theirs. Moreover, I can stop it at any time.

Despite his claims, I suspect Bilal enjoyed the project, or at least receives some sort of gratification by placing himself in an imaginary "martyr" role.

Here's the video:

Repeatedly he "protests" that "I don't know why this much hate in them!" "this is non stop!" and "this is very disturbing!" but "I cannot give up right now!"

"Very disturbing, very disturbing!"

What's with the keffiyeh, anyway?

From the text above:

Wafaa is visibly shaken, and things have quickly become "insane." If Wafaa's intention was to create a microcosm of conditions in Iraq - a model, in effect, of what it is like to live in the combat zone, then what have I, and Network Performance Daily, become in this model? Certainly, Wafaa wanted attention for the project - and I don't doubt that's ultimately what he believes will do the most good - but through this exposure, I have to ask myself whether or not I'm acting in a manner consistent with journalistic ethics (Yes, this is a company blog, but we don't hide that, and I do take ethics very seriously). Ultimately, I must report the truth while seeking to minimize harm. Instead, through our promotion of the project, Wafaa Bilal was hurt physically and harmed emotionally - possibly endangering his mental health as well.
Journalistic ethics? Oh the humanity!

Oh, yes.

And in Wafaa's model of a war-torn country inside four walls, I've become part of the war. I've become the media hawks who overtly or tacitly call for the war, by promoting the site and giving people access to that virtual battlefield.

So yes, even I fit into this model that Wafaa has cooked up... and ultimately, the experiment is not occurring inside those four walls. Like Douglas Adams' penned fictional character "Wonko the Sane," Wafaa has locked himself "outside" of the real world where the insane people who cause people lasting pain for a few brief moments of pleasure. The experiment is truly not in the Chicago Art Institute, but everywhere but there. After all, it is not Wafaa who pulls the trigger on that gun. It is us, outside of the "asylum."

Little wonder he wants people to play an "ASSASSINATE BUSH" video game.

Not being content to attract attention by having himself shot with paintballs or promoting assassination games, Bilal also decided to drag (or pretend to drag) a hapless dog into his antics:

Wafaa still has one project going on. Online! Run to Dog or Iraqi and cast your vote to decide which one -- a dog named "Buddy," or an Iraqi, himself -- will be waterboarded at an "undisclosed location" in upstate New York. Waterboarding is a form of torture which dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. The person is immobilized on their back with the head inclined downward,, and water is poured over the face and into the breathing passages. Through forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences the process of drowning and is made to believe that death is imminent. The person would (usually) be "resuscitated" at the last moment.

A doctor and a vet will be on hand to minimize the risk of death to the dog or the human being. At the time i spoke with Wafaa, the dog was the clear winner of the contest!

The threat to waterboard the dog is a cheapshot, and shows how dishonest the man is. He's savvy enough to realize that it is illegal to waterboard a dog, and he wouldn't have dared torture an animal because he'd discredit himself by being arrested for animal cruelty. So regardless of the vote, that "outcome" would never have happened, and I think he damn well knew it.

But even assume that he was willing to waterboard the dog, the logical flaw with the "Dog or Iraqi project," is that a dog can't consent to be waterboarded, but Bilal can. Moreover, the purpose and theory behind waterboarding is its use in interrogation. Even in theory, a dog cannot be interrogated, and cannot comprehend what is being done or why.

That did not stop the artist from promoting an "event" with pictures of himself and the dog (a pug named "Buddy"):

"This is a high-stakes democratic election between dog and man in which the winner will be publicly waterboarded. On the evening of April 21st, 2008 the creature with the most votes will be subjected to the popular interrogation technique in front of a live audience at an undisclosed New York location.Tune in here to find out where, and don't forget to vote!"
It was a foregone conclusion that the artist wanted to be waterboarded, and knew he would be, so he was. That, he would have us believe, is somehow the fault of the "voters."

I think the man is a dishonest and cowardly enemy propagandist who is taking advantage of the First Amendment. Like Fred Phelps, he's also an agent provocateur.

Naturally, I find myself wondering about the accuracy of his claims.

I'm not alone in wondering.

Question - Who was Wafaa Bilal's brother affiliated with in Iraq before his death? Is there any information regarding whether his brother was fighting against American and/or coalition forces? Was he possibly a member of Saddam's Bathist party? Was he assisting the insurgency? Bilal needs to answer these questions and give an account of his brother before I'll have any sympathy regarding his brother's death.
Interestingly, the "verification" in the Wiki entry consists of defunct links to the artist's own biographical statement (now here) which is taken at face value. He claims he was interned at a Kuwaiti refugee camp:
...Because a member of his family had been accused of disloyalty to his country, Wafaa was denied the opportunity to pursue his dream of being an artist. Instead, he was to attend college to major in geography. While in college, he continued to pursue his art and was arrested and tortured for his political art work against Sadaam Hussein. Shortly after the Gulf War, Wafaa was inspired by President Bush's message to the Iraqi citizens that if they attempted to overthrow Sadaam, the US would stand behind them. He became involved in organizing opposition to the government and was scheduled for arrest and execution when he escaped into Kuwait. There he was accused of being a spy and was close to being shot when his student ID convinced them he told the truth. Wafaa was sent to a refugee camp on the Kuwaiti border.

In the camp, people laughed when rather than accept life in a tent he began forming brick that he dried in the sun and fashioned into a home. The adobe served a practical purpose, for it provided relative safety from abduction by Kuwaiti soldiers who sneaked into tents in the middle of the night to kidnap young people for sale to Iraqi soldiers who tortured, raped and executed them or the Turkish soldiers themselves would rape and kill them. For two years, Wafaa lived in limbo not knowing if each day would be his last. Still Wafaa worked to improve his art, cleaning toilets in the camp to earn the money for art supplies, buying supplies for children for art therapy to help them to work through the horrors witnessed. His experiences developed within him an abhorrence of violence and oppression and strengthened his inner resolve.

In 1992, Wafaa came to the United States and took classes to learn English. Then, he began art studies at the University of New Mexico where he excelled. His art is of a political nature that speaks to oppression of the human spirit, including that of women who are bound by the rules of culture. He has won many awards for his art as well as a scholarship to the Chicago Institute of Art for post graduate study. He is now teaching at that institution.

The Kuwaitis "sneaked into tents in the middle of the night to kidnap young people for sale to Iraqi soldiers who tortured, raped and executed them or the Turkish soldiers themselves would rape and kill them"? I never read any news reports that the Iraqis or the Turks were doing that, and it strikes me as a bit unlikely that the Kuwaitis would be pimping refugee prisoners to their erstwhile occupiers, but I guess anything is possible. Especially in the virtual world of a performance artist. Can any of this be verified?

And who ran the camp where young men were sold, anway? Elsewhere, he claims repeatedly that it was Saudi. Recall this:

I was born and raised in Iraq, and I worked against Saddam Hussein's regime in a passive resistance movement through artwork. I was arrested by his regime a few times. In 1990, I refused to go to war in his army to invade Kuwait. As a consequence, I was blacklisted and I had to flee Iraq, so in 1991, after the uprising, I had a chance to escape and ended up in (*bang*) Saudi Arabia for two years (*bang*) until I had the chance to come to the United States and study for my BFA as the University of Delphi, New Mexico, I got my MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and now I teach there.
Again here:
Bilal fled Iraq in 1991 and spent two years in a Saudi refugee camp. There, he scrapped together supplies to paint and teach children art in a studio he built out of adobe with a plastic-sheeting window.

"We realized we weren't going to leave any time soon," he says. "We were given tents to live in, and the desert has no mercy when storms come."

The desert has no mercy? What happened to the Kuwaiti death squad pimps? The narrative continues without a mention:
In late 1992, Bilal came to the United States and studied art at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he lived until moving to Chicago. In 2005, his 21-year-old brother, whom Bilal describes as "apolitical," was killed by shrapnel as he stepped outside the family's home in Najaf. Soon after, Bilal's father died. It was then the idea for "Domestic Tension," which he originally considered calling "Shoot an Iraqi," began to brew.
Killed by shrapnel? But I thought he was killed by American soldiers.

In another account, the brother was described as having been "killed by shrapnel of occupying forces." If they were the Americans, why not say so? This account does call it "American shrapnel," but does anyone know? Has anyone verified this death?

At the time in Najaf, there was fighting between Moqtada al Sadr's militia and the militia of Iraq's ruling party SCIRI, so I don't doubt that there would have been shrapnel. But how could anyone know whether it was American?

Or is the whole point that they might just as well have been American, because it was as American as anonymous Internet users, and therefore Bush should be shot?

The things that pass for art!

Is it too much to hope that a few art critics might engage in "critical thinking"?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link! A warm welcome to all.

Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (11)

Even halos have to be earned!

I have been extremely distracted by reality recently, as I am in the process of moving. The only good thing about this horribly unpleasant process is that it will all be over in a few weeks. But meanwhile, this is eating up an incredible amount of time and blogging will be erratic until things settle down.

However, my rebellious side can't resist weighing in on the latest taboo -- disagreeing with Obama:

You had better mind your manners with regard to Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

You can't disagree with him. You can't question the legitimacy of his many platitudes and promises. And you had better watch it when you offer a litany of his flip-flops or point out his crass opportunism.

Be forewarned: If you say, sing, write, draw, paint or sculpt anything unflattering about Obama, expect the Spanish Inquisition. The salvational fervor and unfiltered euphoria surrounding the man have cast a halo around his head. A halo, as you know, suggests something otherworldly.

Um, are we electing a president, or a saint? The reason I'm asking is that even if we were electing a saint, there's still supposed to be an adversary process.

Anyone heard of the Devil's Advocate?

The Devil's Advocate is the popular term given to the Promoter of the Faith, an official of the Congregation of Rites, whose business it is to scrupulously examine all evidence, both of miracles and virtue, in the processes of beatification and canonization, so that no person may, through human enthusiasm or error, receive the highest honors of the Church unless in every way worthy of them. Every objection must be answered satisfactorily before the case is allowed to proceed.
If every real saint has had to go through this process, why not Obama?

Just as saints can't have their cake and eat it too, neither should Obama.

Bill Maxwell ends his editorial with a warning

If Obama's swooning, humorless supporters continue to force critics to whisper, to shut up or to explain their artistic renderings, our precious gift and right of free expression will diminish if Obama is elected in November.

These people need to know that some of us cherish free expression. They also need to know that if Obama needs to be protected from the satirist's rapier, he doesn't deserve to be the president of the United States of America.

While I haven't had time for a long post on the subject, I was more than a little annoyed over the incredible argument (triggered by the New Yorker cover) that Barack Obama should be off limits as a target for humor. In a post titled "Why can't we joke about Obama?," Ann Althouse argues that cowardly comedians should be fired

Any decent political satirist should have an instinct to go after the most powerful individuals. I don't believe Sweeney and Stewart for one minute. The real explanation for the lack of jokes is some combination of the desire for Obama to win and the fear of seeming racist.
"The thing is, he's not buffoonish in any way," said Mike Barry, who started writing political jokes for Johnny Carson's monologues in the waning days of the Johnson administration and has lambasted every presidential candidate since, most recently for Mr. Letterman. "He's not a comical figure," Mr. Barry said.
Fire every comic writer who says that and bring in some people with brains and nerve.
I completely agree.

Halos are especially laughable, and legitimate targets for derision -- even when they are earned. The idea of an unearned, political halo which is above criticism is simply too much.

It crosses the line, and it does more than invite comedy.

It demands it.



I think the best way to determine the icon's authenticity is to test his metal.

MORE: If Obama's "metal" is unsound, I think the coverup is worse than the comedy.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds (who calls it "mocking the unmockable"), I found even more halo talk from Greg Gutfeld:

...speaking of those angels, they must have been proud, when their father spoke to La Raza last Sunday. There he boldly said how disappointed he is in McCain's new stance on immigration. You could hear a pinata drop it was so quiet, and the silence seemed to illuminate his hair, like a halo.

His sensibly styled mane seems to have been graced with a touch of grey, not unlike a younger Morgan Freeman, giving him an air of wisdom extremely rare for a man of such a young age. It's like he has all the experience of a John McCain, without the nasal hair.

This is a guy you could definitely have a beer with or marry or cohabitate with, if you're gay.

And if you disagree with me, you're probably a racist.

Hey wait a second! Does he mean that if I don't want to marry or cohabitate with Obama, I'm a racist?

Nah, that can't be right. I think I'm just a plain old halophobe.

(I'm still allowed to ridicule my fearmongering, right?)

MORE: Via Dennis the Disrespectful, it's "What Me Barry?"


UPDATE: Speaking of comedy, don't miss "Canada Charges Comedian with Not Being Funny" by Kathy Shaidle. Seriously, when Canadian comedians heckle their hecklers, they can be charged with "human rights" violations.

By the hecklers.

I'd complain that the government should stay out of comedy, but that's a little like complaining that the church should stay out of religion.

After all, what are government clowns for?

posted by Eric at 11:29 AM | Comments (4)

Yes, but what is disruptive?

The fine line between the right to speak in public and the right to disrupt the speech of others in public has long fascinated me. That's because I've seen so many examples over the years of people being unable to control themselves when they hear things they disagree with. And while we all agree that free speech is protected, and that every citizen should have the right to say what he thinks, the fact is that some forms of speech are inherently more disruptive than others -- simply because of content. I am not exclusively referring to so called "fighting words" or the legal doctrine of that name.

While speech and expression are protected, the fact is that some speech is inherently disruptive. Ask the cops whose job it is to maintain order. A Berkeley event featuring a bombed Israeli school bus drew pro-PLO counterprotestors, who seemed convinced that they had a moral duty to shout down the pro-Israeli demonstrators, and it was all the cops could do to attempt to keep the PLO protestors on one side of the street, and the Israelis on the other. I felt sorry for the cops, because they only want to prevent violence, yet they also must protect the First Amendment rights of people whose belief in free speech is marginal at best, and who mainly want to use their First Amendment rights to silence others. It's a mess. Similar results obtain when pro-life and pro-choice people go at each other. Uniformed Nazis and Klansmen are even more of a headache. Need I mention the Fred Phelps crackpots whose goal is to use disruption to get attention? The protected First Amendment antics of these people cost a lot of police time (and overtime) -- all of which is paid for by the taxpayers.

The antics of Philadelphia-based activist Michael Marcavage have long intrigued me, because he is not content to merely stand around and spout his message. He specializes in getting arrested (whether at gay events, baseball games, or simply by waving bloody fetus pictures at highway drivers), and he's very good at it.

Today's Inquirer reported a decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeal (that's one below the Supremes) which recognized that Marcavage has a right to speak, but not disrupt:

The activists were arrested after disobeying police orders to move as they proclaimed their message, with one member chastising a transgender person as a "she-man."

All charges were dropped, and the activists sued, contending that police and the city violated their First Amendment rights and that police silenced them because of their message.

But the Third Circuit said Philadelphia police "had ample justification" in directing the protesters to move when they "interfered" with event activities.

"The police action was not based on the content of [the activists'] message but on their conduct," wrote Judge Dolores K. Sloviter, who said a video showed the Repent America group had tried to "drown out" platform speakers and congregated in the middle of the walkway.

Philly Pride Presents Inc. organized OutFest to celebrate National Coming Out Day, which is held every October.

Philly Pride had a permit for the event, and contended that it had a right to exclude the antigay activists.

The court said that the anti-homosexual group had a First Amendment right to communicate its message - but that those rights "are not superior" to the rights of Philly Pride, as the permit holder, to effectively convey its message "that we're out and proud of who we are" and the public's ability to hear that message.

"The right of free speech does not encompass the right to cause disruption, and that is particularly true when those claiming protection of the First Amendment cause actual disruption of an event covered by a permit," Sloviter wrote.

When protesters "move from distributing literature and wearing signs to disruption of the permitted activities," she went on, "the existence of a permit tilts the balance in favor of the permit-holders."

This strikes me as a classic time, place, and manner decision.

Still, the line is very fuzzy, and I wonder whether it is possible to judge just how "disruptive" speech is without reference to its content. Telling a gay crowd that they are sinful and should be punished as "sodomites," for example, is in practice probably less inflammatory than telling a black crowd they are racially inferior and should be sent back to Africa, or telling a Hispanic crowd that they are racially inferior should be rounded up and deported. That's mainly because gays are more accustomed to being told these things, and it's more predictable that this will occur. How about telling a crowd of Jews that Hitler was right? Morally, that's considered by most people to be beyond the pale. But isn't it just as much free speech as any of the other claims? How are these statements to be adjudged legally other than by reference to their content? What worries me is that the idea of what is and what is not disruptive is based on the content of the speech as much as its time, place and manner, yet this is not acknowledged. Had Marcavage been promoting an anti-war, anti-Bush message, I doubt he would have been arrested or asked to leave -- even if his decibel levels had been the same.

It's easy to say, "speech yes, disruption no," but when the speech is inherently disruptive I'm still not seeing a clear rule. Not in the public square setting.

Is the best way to deal with counter-demonstrators to simply keep them a safe distance away? Or should emotional people who hate each other be allowed to comingle and shout at each other freely?

If the latter is to be allowed, I think maybe the police and cities need to be immunized against lawsuits for failing to keep the peace when trouble erupts.

MORE: Speaking of inflammatory things, the other day I saw this poster outside a bar in New Jersey:


Nothing inflammatory there, right? Never mind the tens of millions murdered in the name of that symbol. It's just ordinary "commercial speech" of the sort used in advertising these days.

And because Communism fell, the symbol is now cute and harmless, right?

Well, suppose we redesign it using the same words, but substituting another "outmoded" symbol:


Most people would consider the swastika far more inflammatory than the hammer and sickle, and any such commercial use in a brand name would generate nearly universal outrage. Why? Because tens of millions were murdered. Never mind that Nazism fell and the symbol is as much of (if not more of) an anachronism as the hammer and sickle.

So I'm confused.

Can anyone explain this double standard in logical terms?

MORE: I'd hate to think that the rule might be based on morality, because that might mean Communism is well, sort of OK, but Nazism is absolutely evil.

Whatever happened to left-wing moral relativism?

posted by Eric at 08:03 AM | Comments (10)

Spreading oil over government ripples

In today's Wall Street Journal, Gerald F. Seib observes that bad news for the economy is good news for Democrats:

...the collapse of a big bank and the scare over the viability of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- seem likely to reinforce the basic dynamic of the campaign year: Voters think the country is in a mess, and they are more inclined to trust Democrats to clean things up.

To make matters worse for Republicans, the financial scares have reinforced the specific argument that government intervention in the economy, a natural inclination for Democrats, sometimes may be necessary. Even the Bush administration, resistant to intervene in markets, and reluctant to ride to the rescue of investors in the specific case of the housing mess, stepped up over the weekend to offer a virtual government guarantee that Fannie and Freddie would stay solvent.

It grows ever harder for Republicans to campaign against government intrusion in the marketplace the more Republicans themselves appear to be losing faith in letting markets work. And if voters want intervention in the economy, why not get the real deal with Democrats? In sum, it is hard to imagine new economic scares represent anything but more bad news for Republicans, who tend to get the blame for things that go wrong simply because they have controlled the White House for the past seven years.

To add irony to insult, the current Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac crisis is the predictable result of government involvement in the business sector in the first place. As I've argued more times than I can remember, government involvement with business creates problems -- and invites more "solutions" in the form of ever more government involvement in business. In this case, an outright government takeover.

I'm not an economist. But Greg Mankiw is one of the country's leading economists, and right now he is saying I told you so!

This was his warning in 2003 when he was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers:

WASHINGTON (CBS.MW) - The notion that the U.S. government would bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if they ran into financial trouble "creates a source of systemic risk for our financial system," a top White House economic adviser warned Thursday.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored enterprises created by Congress to help fund home mortgages, enjoy special privileges, such as lines of credit with the Treasury Department.

Those special privileges "feed market perceptions that GSE debt has the backing of the U.S. government," said Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the administration's Council of Economic Advisers. "This notion is inaccurate." Read Mankiw's remarks.

Mankiw's view was, of course, pooh-poohed at the time. But his warning was as ominous as it was accurate:
Due to the enormous size of the mortgage-backed securities market, any problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have a ripple effect, Mankiw said.

"This risk is a systemic issue also because the debt obligations of the housing GSEs are widely held by other financial institutions," he said.

When ripple effects are caused by government, people naturally demand government solutions. Naturally, the Democrats benefit. That's because they're perceived as being "better qualified" to spread government miracle oil on the government-troubled waters. It's a classic conflict of interest.

This is not to let the Republicans off the hook. I'm sick of having to vote for people whose promise is essentially that they'll try to make socialism work even though they know philosophically that it does not. Still, they're better than people who not only know socialism doesn't work, but believe that's the whole idea. (Not a bug, but a feature.)

(And I'm glad to see evidence that McCain is taking economics lessons, of the free market variety....)

MORE: Don't miss Arnold Kling's analysis -- "Bailing Out Fannie and Freddie." Here's his conclusion:

The Treasury plan shows that the response to a failure of central planning is likely to be more central planning. Intellectually, those of us who prefer markets have a good case. Politically, we are in the process of getting steamrollered. The Treasury plan is being attached to a housing bill that was rife with corporate welfare and unsound subsidies. It ought to be vetoed, but instead it will be fast-tracked.

As a homeowner and a taxpayer, what you should want to see is a sensible housing finance system, without excessive regulation and without expensive subsidies. Instead, what we are likely to see is much more regulation. To offset the costs of these controls, we also can expect an even more Byzantine structure of government subsidies.


Government creates a need for more government.

posted by Eric at 09:24 AM | Comments (3)

It's Cheaper To Buy Than Steal

Thought Mesh takes a look at why the left does not get the New American Empire.

In my view, what most of the declinists miss is that the American Hegemony is unlike any previous empire in its structure and means. The former British Empire is the closest, but it still depended on far more direct control than the American Hegemony. The USA has little need of directly dominating its client states, as empires have done in the past. The essential point is that liberal democracies empower the USA regardless of the actual attitude of the government. Even Old Europe is of net benefit to the USA, despite the overt hostility of its two largest states, France and Germany. This creates a dynamic of low effort, high reward that eliminates the problem of imperial overstretch.
The American Empire is specifically based on shared values (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) not on control. The idea being that if the members of the Empire each act in their own self interest it will produce the best possible outcome by reconciling those interests. Kind of like that Adam Smith invisible hand thingy.
Why do the declinists miss this? We could point out their fundamental hostility to the USA, but that's not an interesting avenue to explore. While certainly part of the reason, it's not the entire reason.

We can begin to see the root of it if we notice that the American Hegemony is local Anglosphere politics writ large. The Hegemony is much more like a village of free but cooperating people in the Anglospheric tradition than the various forms of despotism that formed the structure of previous empires. I think most of the declinists can't see this because they come from a Leftist tradition that cannot envision a society of freely cooperating individuals and so have no model for the same thing among nations. As Adam Smith pointed out, a collection of free invididuals naturally benefit each other, via trade and other interactions. In the same way, a community of free nations (externally and internally) benefit each other without any need for explicit control. That is the missing concept that informs the declinists' world view.

If you don't believe in a free market for individuals, it is kind of hard to envision a free market of states. Each acting in its own interest making the whole greater than the sum of its individual parts.

BTW the headline was stolen from the comments at Thought Mesh. Read 'em. There are some good points there.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:19 PM | Comments (5)

McCain can't even log on to nick.com!

Who do you want in the White House when an urgent e-mail arrives at 3AM?

"It's just amazing," he told The Daily Telegraph. "It's very hard to even think about someone who doesn't know how to use the internet. It's like, 'Really?' My five-year-old niece can use the internet. She knows how to go to nickelodeon.com [sic] and play her games."

The interview could be politically damaging, he added. "The tough part is that if one of the concerns voters have is that you are out of touch with how they live, what they want, the problems they face, then this only reinforces that notion.

"He's a hero for what he did 35 years ago, but that doesn't necessarily make him the kind of president we want today. Here's somebody who is in many ways very disconnected from where people are."

I don't know about you, but what I really want in a president is a man who knows how to waste as much time as I do playing games on the internet. Or at least who know the price of a loaf of bread (even though I couldn't tell you, and I buy it all the time).

This also reminded me of the claim that Calvin Coolidge refused to use a telephone while in the White House. Is there any truth to that? I wonder if it isn't just an apocryphal leap from the story of how Coolidge learned he'd become president: he could not be reached by phone during a visit to his family home in rural Vermont.

But at least there's a thread of consistency here: Republicans are out of touch!

posted by Dennis at 02:07 PM | Comments (4)

Huge news -- and strange silence....

Via a hot tip from Justin, I learned that the Green Party has nominated famed 9/11 Truther Cynthia McKinney to be their presidential candidate.

For those voters who think Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are too conventional, the Green Party this weekend named former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, its 2008 presidential nominee.

At the Green Party's nominating convention Saturday in at the Chicago Symphony Center, McKinney received 313 out of 532 votes cast in the first round of balloting.

"I am asking you to vote your conscience, vote your dreams, vote your future, vote Green," McKinney told the convention's 800 or so attendees. "A vote for the Green Party is a vote for the movement that will turn this country right-side-up again."

McKinney, a former six-term congresswoman and the first African-American woman elected to represent Georgia in Congress, might be best known for asking "What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of September 11th?"

Be the first on your block to find out (and vote for) the Truth!

As to why this huge event is not more widely commented on in the blogosphere, who knows? Not only has Glenn Reynolds remained silent, but even Andrew Sullivan has remained uncharacteristically silent about Glenn's silence about this earthshaking news.

Geez, I can't even find anything about it at DailyKos!

But far be it from me to allege a conspiracy.

(I might have easily been too busy to write this post.)

posted by Eric at 09:44 AM | Comments (3)

Free speech -- a dying American quirk?

An article in Saturday's Wall Street Journal is a reminder of the endangered nature of free speech. What we Americans take for granted does not exist in most of the world -- including supposedly enlightened Western Europe. The apartment of Dutch cartoonist (with a "rude sense of humor) was raided by "six plainclothes police officers, two uniformed policemen and a trio of functionaries from the state prosecutor's office," because his cartoons were considered offensive to Muslims. In PC parlance, "offensive" translates into "discrimination." (The illegality of the latter means that there is no right to free speech.)

Mr. Nekschot, whose cartoons had appeared mainly on his own Web site, spent the night in a jail cell. Police grabbed his computer, a hard drive and sketch pads. He's been summoned for further questioning later this month by prosecutors. He hasn't been charged with a crime, but the prosecutor's office says he's been under investigation for three years on suspicion that he violated a Dutch law that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.

The cartoon affair has come as a shock to a country that sees itself as a bastion of tolerance, a tradition forged by grim memories of bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The Netherlands sheltered Jews and other refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, and Calvinists fleeing persecution in France. Its thinkers helped nurture the 18th-century Enlightenment. Prostitutes, marijuana and pornography have been legal for decades.

"This is serious. It is about freedom of speech," says Mark Rutte, the leader of a center-right opposition party. Some of Mr. Nekschot's oeuvre is "really disgusting," he says, "but that is free speech."

Unlike the tiny, shrinking number of countries like Denmark (and the U.S., still....), there is no right to engage in offensive speech in Holland.

Or England:

The contrasting Danish and Dutch responses "show that there is a serious struggle of ideas going on for the future of Europe," says Flemming Rose, a Danish newspaper editor who commissioned the drawings of Muhammad in Jyllands-Posten. At stake, he says, is whether democracy protects the right to offend or embraces religious taboos so that "citizens have a right not to be offended."

In Britain, a local police force got caught up recently in a flap over its use of a German shepherd puppy to promote an emergency hotline. A Muslim councilor, noting that dogs are viewed as unclean in Islam, complained that the puppy could turn off believers. The police force apologized and regretted not consulting its diversity officer.

Diversity officer.

That's how the bureaucratic enemies of free speech (assisted by other bureaucracies like "human resources" and paranoid insurance underwriters) get their foot in the door. Your right to free speech ends when "diversity" or "multiculturalism" is threatened. (A large and growing number of people believe that right here, in a country with a supposedly impregnable First Amendment. They're working to make the U.S. the non-free country that they have made Canada.)

The cartoonist who was raided calls them the "political correctness industry."

The cartoonist blames his woes on what he calls Holland's "political correctness industry," a network of often state-funded organizations set up to protect Muslims and other minority groups. One of these, an Internet monitoring group known as MDI, says it received dozens of complaints about the cartoonist's mockery of Islam and first reported him to the prosecutor's office in 2005.

"We're not sure what he does is illegal, but there is a possibility that it is not legal," says the group's head, Niels van Tamelen. Many of the complaints, he says, came from followers of a controversial Muslim convert called Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven.

Mr. Van de Ven caused an uproar after the 2004 murder of Mr. Van Gogh, when he seemed to welcome the killing on national TV. He said Mr. Wilders, the anti-immigrant legislator, also deserved to die, preferably from cancer. Mr. Nekschot, appalled by the outburst, caricatured the convert as a fatwa-spewing fanatic.

Mr. Van de Ven says he's glad to see Mr. Nekschot in trouble. The cartoonist deserves prosecution, he says, for "disgusting cartoons about our beloved prophet Muhammad, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him." Politicians who cry about free speech, he says, "shouldn't stick their noses into judicial matters."

In other words, it's not your business that we're framing this guy. Nor is it your business if we decide to do to him what we did to Theo van Gogh!

This is diversity, so butt out!

The artist's web site is here, and I don't care what he draws or how offensive it is. That would only be relevant factor in determining whether to hang his art in my home.

I kind of like this Osama Award cartoon, though....


I think the PC bureaucrats deserve an Osama award. They are sworn enemies of freedom, and they start small, with "Human Rights Commissions" which work to declare speech offensive, then towards outright censorship of the sort that's happening in Canada. The next step would be police raids on those who create or publish offensive speech.

Those who think "it can't happen here" (or that it can only happen in Canada or Europe) need to remember that there's a whole network of people devoted to making it happen here.

posted by Eric at 08:51 AM | Comments (6)

Masters At Work

posted by Simon at 09:01 PM | Comments (1)

fact versus opinion -- a distinction without a difference?

Speaking of "meaning" in the political context, a recent email exchange with a friend reminded me of one of my pet peeves: the inability to intelligently discuss issues when the underlying facts -- and I mean basic data -- are hopelessly politicized. This isn't the first time I've written about the problem. In an earlier post I noted the difficulty of a seemingly simple question: How many illegal aliens are there?

Well, this time it's How much oil do we have?

This is no idle question, for it influences policy positions, and it is dictated not by facts, but by political dogma.

How much oil do we have? lies at the heart of the political war between those concerned that we don't have enough, and those who think we shouldn't have any. Barack Obama, for example, finds himself in the position of being unable to advocate drilling for more oil, as Roger L. Simon explained:

He's not even able to advocate something as apparent to the American public as the necessity of off-shore oil drilling, when the Chinese and the Cubans are about to drill in those same waters off America's shores.
For whatever reason, the left does not want us to produce our own oil. Period. So, because "how much oil do we have" is subordinate to the argument against drilling for more, they want a very small number. That way, they can claim that "drilling wouldn't make any difference anyway."

What I don't hear discussed very often is the steep drop in domestic oil production over the years:

"U.S. oil output, which peaked at 9.6 million barrels a day in 1970, dropped to 5.4 million barrels a day in 2004--a fall of 44 percent."
When this is discussed at all, the assumption is made that this decline in production was a result of running out of oil. That the U.S. only has 21 Billion barrels (called "proven reserves") left, which would run out quickly. Actually, the U.S. has huge undeveloped potential reserves:

  • 800 billion at the Green River.
  • 200-500 billion at the Bakken formation. (More here.)
  • For some reason, the debate nearly always centers on the "pristine" ANWR and on offshore drilling. I get the impression that politicians on both sides don't want ordinary citizens to know that this country has more untapped oil than the Saudis.

    A lot more:

    The largest known oil shale deposits in the world are in the Green River Formation, which covers portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Estimates of the oil resource in place within the Green River Formation range from 1.5 to 1.8 trillion barrels. Not all resources in place are recoverable. For potentially recoverable oil shale resources, we roughly derive an upper bound of 1.1 trillion barrels of oil and a lower bound of about 500 billion barrels. For policy planning purposes, it is enough to know that any amount in this range is very high. For example, the midpoint in our estimate range, 800 billion barrels, is more than triple the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Present U.S. demand for petroleum products is about 20 million barrels per day. If oil shale could be used to meet a quarter of that demand, 800 billion barrels of recoverable resources would last for more than 400 years.
    Very convenient for maintaining the scam. The future is of course nuclear power -- both conventional and fusion. But there's a lot more oil than people realize. I think that much of the current crisis is a result of a bad habit -- relying on foreign oil because it was easier and cheaper to take out of the ground than our own, so American companies geared up the production in those countries and settled into easy, cushy relationships.

    I don't like dependence on oil, but I also don't the fact that people are being lied to, and right now, your average idiot thinks American oil is insignificant, and about to run out.

    This is not to say that it won't run out. With 1.1 trillion barrels, even assuming our current consumption rate of 20 million barrels a day were to remain completely unchanged (with zero technological improvements), I would not live to see it run out. Nor would any of this blog's readers. At a rate of 7.3 billion barrels a year, it would run out in 150 years, though. People that far in future will probably look at petroleum the way we look at whale oil.

    Anyway, in answer to the question "how much oil do we have?" I'm afraid the answer is that there is no answer.

    There are no facts on which to rely. Only opinions. What matters is not so much how much oil we have, so much as how much oil we "should" have. And how much we should be allowed to have.

    Facts are subordinated to shoulds.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

    Winning the war against nature?

    The other day I saw a Japanese beetle whooping it up on a magnolia blossom in my yard. Well, at least it was up to something; as you can see its hind legs were spread:


    I didn't give it much thought. But last night, a large, strikingly atttractive beetle was firmly attached to the screen on my front door.


    I'd never seen one like that before, so I looked for pictures of Pennsylvania beetles until I found an exact match here. According to the picture, Japanese beetles love to perform unnatural acts on them:



    Apparently, six male japanese beetles are absolutely sure she's a really big female japanese beetle. I think they are sadly mistaken (doesn't seem to be slowing them down any).
    The male Japanese beetles certainly seem to be into something they like. Would be anthropomorphic to call it an "orgy"? Is it unnatural?

    It might be "unnatural" in the sense that different species are not supposed to be mating with each other! Not only is transspecies intercourse immoral, but no baby grubs will result!

    So why would they behave that way? I suspect an immoral climate -- brought on by the immoral anthropogenic activities of humans. What could be more unnatural than human activities? Aren't we by definition the antithesis of nature?

    (Parenthetically, homosexual behavior has been documented in Japanese beetles, and it is linked to "environmental and social conditions," especially size. Female Japanese beetles are larger, and apparently size is the only way males can recognize another beetle as female, so larger males are targeted by smaller males for sexual intercourse. Might this size factor explain the sexual fascination displayed for the larger beetle?)

    It turns out that the beetle on my door is a Grapevine beetle -- Pelidnota punctata -- a member of the Scarab beetle clan. Also known as the shining leaf chafer and the copper June beetle, they like lights at night, which explains why it was clinging to the screen door.

    Clinging for hours, I might add. It was there when I went to bed, and yet it was all alone. On a Saturday night!

    Considering that my yard has both Japanese beetles and at least one Grapevine beetle, why was there no trans-species beetle orgy?

    Such things only seem to happen in other peoples' yards.

    Should I be jealous? Or might the beetle on my door have been seeking refuge after being unnaturally victimized by the Japanese beetle hordes?

    Whatever was happening, I suspect an immoral climate!

    posted by Eric at 10:30 AM | Comments (9)

    The al-Ameriki Tribe

    So I'm reading the comments at Gateway Pundit and I come across a commenter who says I should do a bit of research on the al-Ameriki tribe. Interesting. So I did a search. And what did I come up with? A wiky entry to start. It is short. So here it is:

    The Al-Ameriki tribe is a name (properly, a nickname) given by native Iraqis to United States soldiers and other American personnel occupying Iraq.
    That is a start. Perhaps we can find out more.

    The wiki suggests this Phil Carter article in Slate. It was written in Nov. of 2007 when things were still looking grim in Iraq. The situation was improving but there was no certainty that a corner had been turned. So lets have a look.

    Political reconciliation efforts have produced qualified successes in Anbar, Baghdad, and Diyala. Our security work complemented these political deals by rewarding the sheiks who worked with us, inducing many to stop actively or passively supporting the insurgency. These deals represent the increasing pragmatism of Sunni leaders who realize that the Shiite state is a fait accompli, and they must therefore do what they can to reconcile with each other and with the Americans (who they call the "al-Ameriki tribe") in order to survive.
    We have tribal status in Iraq. Interesting.

    Michael Yon has more from July of 2007.

    The big news on the streets today is that the people of Baqubah are generally ecstatic, although many hold in reserve a serious concern that we will abandon them again. For many Iraqis, we have morphed from being invaders to occupiers to members of a tribe. I call it the "al Ameriki tribe," or "tribe America."

    I've seen this kind of progression in Mosul, out in Anbar and other places, and when I ask our military leaders if they have sensed any shift, many have said, yes, they too sense that Iraqis view us differently. In the context of sectarian and tribal strife, we are the tribe that people can--more or less and with giant caveats--rely on.

    Most Iraqis I talk with acknowledge that if it was ever about the oil, it's not now. Not mostly anyway. It clearly would have been cheaper just to buy the oil or invade somewhere easier that has more. Similarly, most Iraqis seem now to realize that we really don't want to stay here, and that many of us can't wait to get back home. They realize that we are not resolved to stay, but are impatient to drive down to Kuwait and sail away. And when they consider the Americans who actually deal with Iraqis every day, the Iraqis can no longer deny that we really do want them to succeed. But we want them to succeed without us. We want to see their streets are clean and safe, their grass is green, and their birds are singing. We want to see that on television. Not in person. We don't want to be here. We tell them that every day. It finally has settled in that we are telling the truth.

    Now that all those realizations and more have settled in, the dynamics here are changing in palpable ways.

    There is more in his report about how the "insurgency" essentially defeated itself. Insurgencies typically spout high ideals while recruiting criminals. They have to. Criminals are used to evading the government. The question always is: can the criminals be disciplined? Will they follow orders? Will the criminals who have advanced in the organization give good orders? Will they follow the plan? Or will they revert to criminal depredations with the increased power that being part of a shadow government gives them?

    In the Iraq insurgency the criminals got the upper hand. It has been their downfall.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:18 AM | Comments (8)

    A place called Audacity

    Ralph Peters takes on a popular but empty slogan:

    ...Nor can all of the hipster slogans used to avoid debates be blamed on the ancients. The latest example of utter nonsense is Obama's contribution, "The Audacity of Hope."

    My fellow Americans, there is nothing audacious about hope. Hope is what makes people buy lottery tickets instead of paying the bills. Hope is for the old gals feeding the slots in Atlantic City. It destroys the inner-city kid who quits school because he hopes he'll be a world-famous recording artist.

    Yes, hope can work to positive effect, sustaining us in the face of grave misfortunes. But there's nothing audacious about it. "The audacity of hope" is blubbering gobbledy-gook.

    Audacity is for innovators, risk-takers and crusaders - for those willing to stand in the fire of public opinion and tell a million people they're wrong and here's why. Audacity's not for the passive mob hoping government will fix everything (while blaming government for everything).

    Hope is the opposite of audacity. It's passive, an excuse for inaction.

    Medicating ourselves with fuzzy hopes, instead of rolling up our sleeves and fixing things, has wasted countless lives and entire cultures. As Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff, used to put it, "Hope is not a method."

    What on earth does the "audacity of hope" mean? Nothing. It just sounds good.

    Anyone remember "Keep Hope Alive"? (I guess audacity has cut the nuts off that slogan.)

    Or how about America, A Place Called Hope? -- "the inside story of Clinton's America." Surely, hope can't get more audacious than that.

    So, while I agree that "the audacity of hope" is blubbering gobbledy-gook, I also think it's unoriginal, and I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

    Audacity began in a place called Hope.

    Peters conclused by saying,

    If we want a "politics of meaning," the words we use in politics have to mean something.
    I agree. But "hope" now seems to mean whatever the Democrats say they're for, and whatever they say the Republicans are against.

    I'm thinking that the meaning of politicized "hope" began in a place called hype.

    How audacious it is should be left to the proper authorities.

    LINGERING QUESTION: But what if the goal is to make us sick of hope?

    MORE: An illustration:


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

    Comments welcome.

    And don't miss Roger L. Simon's post about Obama's Catch-22:

    Barack's deep in the old Catch-22, not able to look like the candidate of change or "new" politics as he slips-slides to the center.
    There's certainly nothing new about the Democratic "hope" meme. (It's been a trademark since the 1980s.)

    posted by Eric at 03:12 PM | Comments (4)

    Please! Don't do something!

    While I don't want to get hysterical about hysteria, I do find hysteria very tedious.

    Especially the high-decibel hysteria over the economy like that detailed here (quoting E.J. Dionne):

    This is the third time in 100 years that support for taken-for-granted economic ideas has crumbled. The Great Depression discredited the radical laissez-faire doctrines of the Coolidge era. Stagflation in the 1970s and early '80s undermined New Deal ideas and called forth a rebirth of radical free market notions. What's becoming the Panic of 2008 will mean an end to the latest Capital Rules era.... In the campaign so far, John McCain has been clinging to the old economic orthodoxy while Barack Obama has proposed a modestly more active role for government.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The economy has its own life cycles, and the less role the government plays, the better. Hysteria fuels cycles of political hyperventilation, which generate ever-shriller calls for the government to "do something!" Never mind that the Great Depression was triggered and prolonged by the government doing something, or that the subprime scandal would never have happened had the government not done something (encouraging bad loans guaranteed by the taxpayers).

    If only hysteria resulted in demands that the government stop doing something.

    posted by Eric at 12:32 PM | Comments (3)

    My own private Kilimanjaro, Part II.
    (Coco saves the ice shelf!)

    Ever heard of a thing called an "ice shelf"? Well, I have! Despite Global Warming, I have been plagued by a persistent ice shelf, which I decided to call the "GE Ice Shelf" because of its location in the freezer compartment of my General Electric refrigerator. Unlike some of the world's ice shelves, it has been advancing, not retreating. I know we usually hear that ice is melting everywhere, but that has not been the case with my ice shelf. If I left it alone it would only get bigger and bigger, and eventually there'd be no room in the fridge.

    Things reached the point where yesterday, I decided to take action -- of the anthropogenic variety. After a little human-induced melting, a fissure near the shelf's edge was exploited, and finally, with a large creak followed by a crash, the now precarious GE Ice Shelf broke free!

    My initial unthinking reaction was to gather the pieces, and pile them in the sink.


    This did not please Coco, whose reproachful gaze reminded me of the importance of my role as environmental steward.

    In a world that is heating, what right have I to waste ice?

    And although she has on occasion been guilty of denialist thinking, Coco nonetheless dearly loves ice and snow. So I thought it over, and I realized that this presented an opportunity for Coco to play an important role in planetary cooling. That's because, even though Coco cannot stop the inevitable melting, the net effect of her frenzied ice appreciation activities will play a small role in cooling that portion of the planet which is located in my yard! While it might be argued that this is insignificant, in a world which stresses the importance of thinking globally and acting locally, every little bit helps.

    So, whether she realizes it or not, by trying to save the endangered "freezer layer ice shelf" which upset her, Coco made a valiant, very empowering effort to cool down the yard, thus doing her part to fight Global Warming!

    I kid you not!

    MORE: I posted the YouTube video last night, but already I see that it is generating debate, in the form of this exciting video response.

    Wow. I've praised Coco's political skills before, but who'd have ever thought she'd be engaged in a debate over nuclear fusion?

    posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (1)

    there's no such thing as too early

    Children in Albany, New York are unhappy that even though summer has barely started, it's already "back to school" time. That's because the advertisers want parents spending money now:

    Kids may hate the timing, but parents like the pricing.

    "People are becoming wiser consumers, looking for deals whenever and wherever they can," said Howard Schaffer, of Howard Shaffer Media Marketing in Albany. "(They) are planning ahead. So much of the corporate culture is leading in that direction."

    Retailers know it pays to be the first to offer seasonal specials, Schaffer said. As a result, they start the season earlier -- much to the chagrin of children.

    Hey, if we want to play the "jump the gun" game ,why not get a jump on Christmas while you're at it?

    Save now on our July Christmas Sale!

    And considering that a brand new impeachment season is right around the corner, I'm thinking that this is a good time for the people who sell impeachment stickers to gear up. Some of them already are; I found an "IMPEACH OBAMA" bumpersticker at Cafe Press:


    I couldn't find an "IMPEACH MCCAIN" bumpersticker for sale, but one has been designed.


    There's even an explanation:

    I call it righteous indignation because if he is elected president, he will probably did something wrong and he will need to be impeach.
    Well, for that matter, I will probably did too.

    (No editorial bias is intended by the difference in sizes of the above images. I downloaded them as they were.)

    Both ImpeachObama.com and ImpeachMcCain.com are taken. The former redirects to a Google search for the word "Obama", while the latter is a real site.

    The incontestable message is that the early bird gets the worm.

    So Back To School, Merry Christmas, and Impeach the President!

    (Maybe not in that order. But I don't see how an early back to school Christmas impeachment sale would hurt the economy....)

    posted by Eric at 04:14 PM | Comments (2)

    My ongoing refusal to grow up...

    Much of what I write consists of me talking to myself, but in a manner which allows anyone to listen. Normally, we think of people who talk to themselves as a bit weird, if not mentally ill, and this is especially true if they do so in public. I'd like to be able to say that I don't talk to myself in public, because I really don't -- not in the conventional sense. (Yeah, I was once angrily accused of talking to myself in public because I was talking, to Justin, about this blog, on a cell phone at a mall, but I think my accuser was a busybody who overheard and disliked the conversation.)

    The problem is, I consider blogging to be a form of talking to myself in public, as I just admitted. So am I crazier than I think? Should I care?

    Maybe not.

    Dean Esmay linked an article in Science Daily offering scientific support for the position that talking to yourself is good -- at least, if you're a child:

    Parents should not worry when their pre-schoolers talk to themselves; in fact, they should encourage it, says Adam Winsler, an associate professor of psychology at George Mason University. His recent study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly showed that 5-year-olds do better on motor tasks when they talk to themselves out loud (either spontaneously or when told to do so by an adult) than when they are silent.

    "Young children often talk to themselves as they go about their daily activities, and parents and teachers shouldn't think of this as weird or bad," says Winsler. "On the contrary, they should listen to the private speech of kids. It's a fantastic window into the minds of children."

    In the study, "'Should I let them talk?': Private speech and task performance among preschool children with and without behavior problems," 78 percent of the children performed either the same or better on the performance task when speaking to themselves than when they were silent.

    Well, that's a relief. Instead of being insane, I'm merely refusing to grow up!

    The news also came as a relief to Dean, who said,

    That's a relief. I talk to myself, and answer myself, all the frickin' time.
    Same here. Every damn day!

    (In an incredible coincidence, just yesterday I was told to grow up and start acting like a "good little citizen." Ouch.)

    posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (8)

    McCain Is Taking Economics Lessons

    The Presidential candidate who recently said economics is not one of his strong points appears to be taking lessons.

    ...on deep background, this senior McCain advisor told me I was correct: no cap-and-trade. In other words, this central-planning, regulatory, tax-and-spend disaster, which did not appear in Mac's two recent speeches, has been eradicated entirely -- even from the detailed policy document that hardly anybody will ever read.

    So then I asked this senior official if the campaign has taken cap-and-trade out behind the barn and shot it dead once and for all -- buried it in history's dustbin of bad ideas. The answer came back that they are interested in jobs right now -- jobs for new energy production and jobs from lower taxes. At that point I became satisfied. Even though a McCain presidency might resurrect cap-and-trade, it will be a much different format. More important, the campaign is cognizant of the conservative rebellion against it.

    Good for McCain for working to fill the gaps in his knowledge base and adjusting his policies accordingly.

    The fact that cap and trade is a dead horse is especially good. We are going to need abundant energy supplies to develop new ones.

    H/T linearthinker

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:30 PM | Comments (3)

    It can't happen here, part VII
    (As if I needed a reminder not to move to England...)

    England really has become a foul place in which to live.

    I felt that way the other day when I read Rachel Lucas's reaction (to the prosecution of a man who defended his family against rock throwing thugs -- with a board!):

    ....what the fuck is WRONG with these people?

    I know there's not much more to say than hasn't already been said in the last few comment threads about our emasculated former stalwart ally. They're gone. It's over. America is the last thing standing between humanity's intact testicles and the quivering blade of liberalism.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    As if that wasn't bad enough, today I see another sickening example of the British legal system at work. A blogger criticized a rabidly anti-Semitic remark by anti-Semitic Hamas terrorist supporter, and he's now being sued. What irritated me even more was to read that British government officials are very cozy with the Hamas supporter.

    Mr Sawalha has been the prime mover in a number of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood associated projects. He is President of the British Muslim Initiative. He is the past President of the Muslim Association of Britain. He was the founder of IslamExpo, and is registered as the holder of the IslamExpo domain name. He is also a trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque.

    The British Muslim Initiative has co-organised with Liberty, Britain's most prominent civil liberties campaigning group, a National Rally to Defend Freedom of Religion, Conscience and Thought. Speakers included Ken Livingstone, the Tory Party Vice Chair, Sayeeda Warsi, and the shadow Tory Attorney General, Dominic Grieve MP, and Andrew Stunell MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Community and Local Government.

    All these people spoke on the platform of a group founded by a man who has been identified as a senior Hamas activist.

    IslamExpo is also organised by the British Muslim Initiative, and was founded by Mr Sawalha. In past years, various government ministers, including Tessa Jowell, have spoken at IslamExpo. This year, a government minister, Stephen Timms, will be taking part in this event.

    Stephen Timms will be speaking on the platform of a group founded by a man who has been identified as a senior Hamas activist.

    They're going to need help:
    If Mr Sawalha persists in attempting to silence us with this desperate legal suit, we will need your help.

    We won't be able to stand up to them alone.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I didn't see a tip jar, or I'd have hit it. They need to be supported.

    Especially by those of us fortunate enough to have a First Amendment. Even though it is under assault by those who want to criminalize "hate speech," lawsuits like the one above would get thrown out of court if filed here.

    A recent example of a case that will never make it is a lawsuit filed in pro per (meaning no lawyer would take the case) by a man named Bradley Fowler. He claims that a Bible publisher caused him emotional distress because the translation of Saint Paul offended him by slandering homosexuals.

    This lawsuit is frivolous, and I'm sure it will be thrown out. Anyone can sue anyone for anything, but we still have the First Amendment, and claims like this do not get past the pleading stage (assuming they're defended, of course). Not surprisingly, the plaintiff is the author of two books himself, and calls himself "Bradley Almighty."

    Michigan author Bradley-Almighty has compiled astounding research from within the pages of the bible, that will change the face of religion across the globe. So much, on Monday, July 7, 2008, Bradley marched into the Eastern District Court house of Ann Arbor, MI. and filed a Federal Law suit on the grounds of malicious negligence, strict liability, malice, libel, and violating his rights under the 14th Amendment.

    "Lack of sincerity from bible readers has helped this conspiracy go on this long." Bradley comments during a brief interview with Michigan Front Page Newspaper, Executive Editor Janaya Black.

    In his debut book, 365 Reason's to Study the Bible, Bradley takes you on a journey through time, as he shifts swiftly, yet gracefully, through the pages of religious history, slowly exposing hidden secrets bible publishers have fought- feverishly to keep hidden from the general public for centuries. An avalanche of secrets that are keeping millions around the world enslaved today. Read more down below....
    All quite interesting, but he's up against the First Amendment, and I predict this will be thrown out. Incredibly, he has demanded a court-appointed attorney -- something no one is entitled to in a defamation case, and which the judge refused.
    Fowler filed the suit against Zondervan on Monday, the same day U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr. refused to appoint an attorney to represent him in his case against Thomas Nelson, a Tennessee publisher. Fowler filed a suit against Thomas Nelson in June. He is representing himself in both claims.

    "The Court has some very genuine concerns about the nature and efficacy of these claims," the judge wrote.

    Fowler alleges Zondervan's Bibles referring to homosexuality as a sin have made him an outcast from his family and contributed to physical discomfort and periods of "demoralization, chaos and bewilderment."

    The intent of the publisher was to design a religious, sacred document to reflect an individual opinion or a group's conclusion to cause "me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence ... including murder," Fowler wrote.

    Fowler's suit claims Zondervan's text revisions include and then delete the reference to homosexuality without informing the public of the changes.

    The other suit, against Thomas Nelson and its New King James Bible, mirrors the allegations made against Zondervan for "manipulating" Scripture.

    In this country (as the judge no doubt realizes), anyone is free to manipulate scripture (or even make it up entirely), including Mr. Bradley.

    Not suprisingly, WorldNetDaily (which notes he's an Obama blogger) spins this as an anti-religious threat from the homosexual agenda. They put the word "gay" in quotes, so maybe Bradley should sue them too. (And while I'm offering free legal advice, I'm wondering why the publishers of the very anti-gay Koran got a pass....)

    In any event, Mr. Bradley's legal efforts are doomed to fail here. Perhaps he should move to England where he doesn't need to worry about free speech. (Needless to say, there's plenty of anti-gay hate speech coming from Hamas. And they practice what they preach.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Assistant Village Idiot for the link.

    UPDATE: To support Harry's place against the Hamas lawsuit, be sure to read and link this post. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    MORE: The following blogs have all indicated their support for Harry's Place (and I'm delighted to be included):

    posted by Eric at 11:07 AM | Comments (3)

    "I think my place in history as defined by the PC people would be pretty radically wrong"

    While I liked the movie Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, I did not like the way Thompson -- an iconoclast who never hesitated to criticize anyone he thought deserved criticism -- was re-spun and reduced to a sort of a hack leftist caricature.

    Sure, the fact that he hated Nixon with a particular venom, opposed the Vietnam War and voted for McGovern -- these are all beyond dispute, as is the fact that he was a Carter supporter. Conveniently overlooked, though, was his outspoken criticism of Bill Clinton, whom he saw as destined to become "one of the great fascists of our time," and as not much better than Nixon:

    Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson tells the New York Post that supporting President Clinton was "one of my greatest tactical errors in politics."
    . . . . "I don't want to go down in history or have my son read that his father endorsed Clinton two times," Mr. Thompson said.
    . . . . "I had no idea what a treacherous bastard he really is. I'm shocked he went so low. You'd think after grappling with Richard Nixon that you would know where the low road is, ... but Clinton's treachery is really sleazy. It's his character defects. I think Clinton will prove to be one of the great fascists of our time."
    Interestingly, the above quote seems to be disappearing, as the link I cited no longer works, and if you Google the phrase, five out of the seven hits point to my blog post.

    I also found the quote here, but the link is no good. That's the problem with the Internet. Stuff can disappear. And if it's not on the Internet, it doesn't exist, right?

    The situation calls for resuscitation.

    So, using the dead link from my post, I went to the archives, where fortunately I found a discussion group posting dated 20 Mar 1997 showing the full quote (attributed to the New York Post) as appearing in "today's online issue of the Washington Times." Presumably, anyone with access to microfiche could get it and revive it; I just hate to become the only source to a quote without a source. Anyway, in light of the film, I thought I should supplement my post.

    Fortunately, there's more than that. Thompson was quite outspokenly anti-Clinton. In this interview, he trashes Clinton right after trashing Nixon:

    Clinton already stands accused formally of worse things than Nixon would have been impeached for. I think Clinton is every bit as. . . he's not as crude as Nixon. But maybe he is. I mean: Paula Jones? "Come over here, little girl, I've got something for you" !? It's almost embarrassing to talk about Clinton as if he were important.

    I'd almost prefer Nixon. I'd say Clinton is every bit as corrupt as Nixon, but a lot smoother.

    When the interviewer naively assumed he was a liberal, Thompson snapped right back that he wasn't:
    Question: How do you reconcile your liberal politics with gun ownership? Is that not a contradiction?

    Hunter Thompson: I think George Washington owned guns. I've never seen any contradiction with that. I'm not a liberal, by the way. I think that's what's wrong with liberals. I believe I have every right to have guns. I just bought another huge weapon. A lot of people shouldn't own guns. I should. I have a safety record. Guns are a lot of fun out here.

    In another similar interview, he repeats and embellishes the Clinton-Nixon comparison:
    ...the things that Clinton has been accused of are prima facie worse than what Nixon was run out of office for. Nixon was never even accused of things like Clinton is being accused of now. Bringing the Chinese into the political process, selling out to the Indonesians, selling the Lincoln bedroom at night, dropping his pants, trying to hustle little girls in Little Rock. God, what a degenerate town that is. Phew.
    If you think that's damning, later in the same interview Thompson says things about war which completely contradict the current film's central theme that he was a great giant of American antiwarism.

    Seriously, if they'd let anything like this leak into the left-oriented film, few would have understood, and many of the film's target audience would have been deeply offended.

    ....Maybe you need a war. Wars tend to bring out out the best in them. War was everywhere you looked in the sixties, extending into the seventies. Now there are no wars to fight. You know, it's the old argument about why doesn't the press report the good news? Well, now the press is reporting the good news, and it's not as much fun.

    The press has been taken in by Clinton. And by the amalgamation of politics. Nobody denies that the parties are more alike than they are different. No, the press has failed, failed utterly -- they've turned into slovenly rotters. Particularly The New York Times, which has come to be a bastion of political correctness. I think my place in history as defined by the PC people would be pretty radically wrong. Maybe I could be set up as a target at the other end of the spectrum. I feel more out of place now than I did under Nixon. Yeah, that's weird. There's something going on here, Mr. Jones, and you don't know what it is, do you?

    Yeah, Clinton has been a much more successfully deviant president than Nixon was. You can bet if the stock market fell to 4,000 and if four million people lost their jobs there'd be a lot of hell to pay, but so what? He's already re-elected. Democracy as a system has evolved into something that Thomas Jefferson didn't anticipate. Or maybe he did, at the end of his life. He got very bitter about the press. And what is it he said? "I tremble for my nation when I reflect that God is just"? That's a guy who's seen the darker side. Yeah, we've become a nation of swine.

    Well, at least he was wrong he said his "place in history as defined by the PC people would be pretty radically wrong," because in the film, they've made him radically right, meaning left. But isn't that radically wrong? Hmmm... Maybe he was predicting that he'd be remembered in a dishonest way.

    Anyway, I liked the film despite its evasions and obfuscations. I still think Thompson is impossible to quantify. He's simply being edited and manufactured to suit the political desires of the filmmakers (and probably his family).

    I'll repeat what I said when he died:

    "My dark side will really miss Hunter Thompson. Come to think of it, so will my light side...."

    posted by Eric at 09:06 AM | Comments (4)

    Why we have to have what will not work

    Elizabeth Scalia argues that socialized medicine looks inevitable:

    Some time after Labor Day, many Americans will start to focus on the November elections, and they'll be surprised to learn that while they were at the mall, government-run health care moved from being a vague idea to an essentially "done deal." In just eighteen weeks Americans will, with every vote, submit to the idea of the government -- that master of mismanagement -- having a formidable control over their health care. Logic dictates that the common realities of age and illness -- which come to us all -- will steadily endow the government with ever-increasing authority over life choices and inevitable intrusions into decisions that should be private.

    Once the thing is put into motion, there will be no pulling back. American presidents may peacefully surrender their power, but bureaucrats never do.

    That last sentence made me shudder, because I understand the phenomenon so well.

    Republicans have done little or nothing to stop the onslaught. They get my vote only because I prefer slowing the pace of socialism to speeding it up.

    As Scalia reminds, it's not as if we weren't warned:

    We cannot say we were not warned. For more than 15 years politicos and media folk have asserted the need for government-managed health care, until their drone became little more than background music to our daily waltzes. But knowing the government wanted to mandate health care coverage for every citizen, perhaps Americans should have taken some time to investigate exactly who the "millions of uninsured Americans" are; many of them are young adults choosing to opt out of coverage. Perhaps we should have attempted to first demonstrate that the government could successfully serve the uninsured minority, before subjecting the entire nation -- and a large chunk of the economy -- to an untried program.
    It's awful, and worst of all, socialized medicine has been shown not to work.

    Which is not surprising, because socialism does not work.

    As I keep saying, that might be the whole idea.

    (The fact that socialized medicine will not work is not a bug, but a feature.)

    posted by Eric at 12:23 PM | Comments (2)

    people who shouldn't own guns

    Clayton Cramer makes a good argument that Some People Shouldn't Have Guns:

    A point that I often make to reporters--and they are usually surprised to hear me say this--is that not everyone should have a gun. There are people who the law prohibits from having guns--and I agree, such as violent felons. There are also people who the law does not prohibit, but whom I discourage from owning guns.

    If you find yourself coming back to consciousness after a night of Jack Daniels wearing a leopard skin loincloth, holding a chicken, and a crowd of people around you is shouting, "Kill it! Kill it!" Well, maybe having a gun wouldn't be wise.

    What a coincidence. Last night I saw "Gonzo:The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" and he immediately came to mind as I contemplated the Jack Daniels (in his case Wild Turkey), the leopard skin loincloth, the chicken, and the crowd of people shouting, "Kill it! Kill it!"

    Of course, Thompson shot himself, so disarming him is a moot point. But Cramer is right, of course. The problem is, people who would be well advised not to have a gun are often incapable of being well advised, because they won't advise themselves, nor will they listen to advice from others.

    Cramer continues:

    If you are prone to severe depression, or you have a history of severe mental illness--even if you are doing okay now--having a gun might not be a good idea.

    If you are short-tempered, and prone to flying off the handle, having a gun might not be a good idea.

    If, like the person in the news report below, you lack anything approaching the common sense that an electric toaster has...

    Cramer quotes a July 8, 2008 Santa Rosa Press-Democrat news story about a woman who shot herself while attempted to kill mice with a .44-caliber Magnum revolver. (The mice had been scurrying across the floor of a small travel travel. The bullet went through her kneecap and grazed a man in the groin.)

    Warns Cramer, shooting mice with a .44 magnum is a bad idea -- in a moving trailer or not.

    For those of you not familiar with guns, shooting a mouse with a .44 Magnum, assuming that you actually hit the mouse, will create a large red splatter where the mouse was. This is the right caliber for black bear, PCP-crazed body builders, moose, and (in a pinch), grizzly bears. This is clearly a person with a serious judgment problem, and she would be well-advised to not have guns. Or power tools. Or cars. Or ladders. Or maybe anything but a pacifier and a blanket.
    I am reminded of the numerous statements made by Philadelphia Mayor Street and his anti-gun Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson about the root cause of "gun violence" being "arguments." The idea is that because impulsive people get into arguments, they shouldn't have guns.

    Trouble is, we all argue. Few of us would allow arguments to turn into fistfights. Fewer still would use a gun to settle an argument.

    But if we factor in UPenn professor Elijah Anderson's "Code of the Street" (and his related argument that opposition to gun control is "racist") and the unmistakable subtext of their message is that black people (at least, those who adhere to the "code of the street" -- whoever they are) should not be allowed to own guns.

    But because of the nature of identity politics, black leaders can make that argument, while claiming that any white person who disagrees is a racist.

    What has long fascinated me is that many the white people who most want gun control are often liberal racists of the dissembled condescending variety. Like my Berkeley neighbor who after a long argument finally admitted to me that she wanted to take guns away from black people, but couldn't admit it:

    Despairing of getting anywhere with me, my neighbor finally confessed that her problem really wasn't with educated middle class people owning guns; it was with "the poor." Urban minorities. People "on welfare." But she quickly admonished me that she was not talking about race, and that laws had to be fair. And the only way to be fair was to take away all guns, from everyone. The "educated classes," in her view, should "set an example."

    Sorry, but I consider that to be racist thinking, dissembled though it may be. It is based on the same statistics which gun control advocates want compiled so they can blame large urban gun dealers for the subsequent conduct of their guns.

    Actually, I'm willing to admit that maybe impulsive people should not own guns. But that's advice, and there's no way to enforce it. However, I'm going to repeat what I said in that post, because I think this goes to the heart of the gun control debate:
    What I think is being missed is the central moral aspect of the argument for gun control. A communitarian one, and an often unacknowledged one, but one which we disregard at our peril. I do not mean to make the case for gun control here, but I think there is something that no one wants to admit, and it is highlighted by the stark absurdity of Commissioner Johnson's sincere plea to go after the law abiding gun owners.

    Some people are, for lack of a better word, impulsive. Ruled by impulse. Whether you call it "victims of the emotions," whatever it is, they exist. In fact, they're all over the place, and their numbers are growing. Lest anyone think I'm referring to uneducated people or poor people, think again. For years I lived in Berkeley, one of the best-educated cities in the world, and never have I seen so many impulsive people. People I'd never trust anywhere near a gun.

    People who (ironically) wanted to take away my guns.

    Just as there are people who should never take a drink, there are people who should never own a gun. Yet we allow the sale of liquor, and we allow the sale of guns. Why? Because this is a free country, and one which believes in the right to keep and bear arms, the right to self defense, and whose founders once hinted that there might be such a thing as the right to pursue happiness.

    What that means is that people who can't control their impulses will buy guns, they will get into arguments, and they will then use the guns to settle these arguments.

    Communitarians argue that the presence of irresponsible people alongside responsible people means that we must take away all guns -- in a top-down manner -- from the most responsible first, and then work our way down. I think this is a dangerously irresponsible argument, but we can't begin to address it unless we recognize the problem.


    I hate to think that this country is on a collision course between the more-impulsive (the irresponsible) and the more controlled (the responsible), but I do think it lies at the center of the gun control debate.

    To not recognize it is to not recognize reality.

    This collision course between the responsible and the irresponsible lies at the center of a lot of debates.

    People who shouldn't own guns probably shouldn't talk on their cell phones while driving. Or drink while fornicating.

    Or do a lot of other things that they do....

    I'm afraid it's one of the many contradictions of life.

    posted by Eric at 11:22 AM | Comments (6)

    No news, so move on!

    Recent reports about Iraqi uranium have not received the wide circulation they should have:

    The victory is so complete that Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki said Saturday his government has defeated the terrorists in Iraq. Defeated. Past tense.

    Major General Mark Hertling, who commands U.S. troops in northern Iraq, wouldn't go that far. But he told Ms. Colvin: "I think we're at the irreversible point."

    Not a word about this "spectacular victory" appeared in the Washington Post or the New York Times Sunday, or on the evening network newscasts. The New York Times did run a story on the front page Monday about an "epic battle," but it was about a tennis match at Wimbledon.

    Few American newspaper readers learned that on Saturday the last of 550 metric tons of yellowcake was shipped from Iraq to a firm in Canada. Yellowcake is milled uranium oxide, the raw material from which nuclear bombs are made. According to Norman Dombey, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Sussex in England, the yellowcake shipped from Iraq was enough to make 142 nuclear bombs. Apparently, Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program was rather more than a figment of Dick Cheney's fevered imagination.

    "This is a big deal," the New York Sun said in an editorial Monday. "Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power. Saddam Hussein had already invaded Kuwait, launched missiles into Israeli cities, and harbored a terrorist group, the PKK, hostile to America's NATO ally, Turkey. To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam and the same corrupt United Nations that failed to stop the genocide in Darfur and was guilty of the oil-for-food scandal would have been too big a risk."

    But it wasn't a big enough deal to make it beyond the newsbriefs section of most of those few newspapers which chose to report it. Evidence Saddam possessed enough material to build more than a hundred nuclear bombs undermines the media meme that he had no WMD, so it's not a story many journalists wish to revisit, new evidence or no.

    I found an AP report posted at the Philadelphia Inquirer's web site, but it has hardly been front page news, and while I don't recall seeing it in the paper's hard copy, I might have missed it.

    From the AP report:

    And, in a symbolic way, the mission linked the current attempts to stabilize Iraq with some of the high-profile claims about Hussein's weapons capabilities in the buildup to the 2003 invasion.

    Accusations that Hussein had tried to purchase more yellowcake from the African nation of Niger - and an article by a former U.S. ambassador refuting the claims - led to a wide-ranging probe into Washington leaks that reached high into the Bush administration.

    Tuwaitha and an adjacent research facility were well-known for decades as the centerpiece of Hussein's nuclear efforts.

    Israeli warplanes bombed a reactor project at the site in 1981. Later, U.N. inspectors documented and safeguarded the yellowcake, which had been stored in aging drums and containers since before the 1991 Gulf War. There was no evidence of any yellowcake dating from after 1991, the official said.

    Well that's all good and fine. But what about the old news reports like this one (original news link expired) -- which was headlined "No uranium, no munitions, no missiles, no programmes"? The "no uranium" claim was central to the "Bush lied people died!" claim. How did Saddam Hussein obtain 550 the tons of uranium that wasn't there?

    Never mind?

    The Examiner calls the "Bush lied, people died" meme a useful fiction, does not think apologies will be forthcoming, but thinks Bush's assessment will be vindicated:

    The clear conclusion suggested by these facts is that Saddam was biding his time until United Nations sanctions against his nuclear program were either lifted or he felt sufficiently confident of deceiving U.N. inspectors to begin large-scale enrichment and ultimately nuke production.

    This page has been highly critical of Bush on many issues, foreign and domestic. The yellowcake shipment, however, is another reason why we remain convinced history will vindicate Bush's assessment of Saddam's intentions and capabilities. We doubt his critics will ever apologize for their extreme invective.

    Oddly enough, Bush's assessment of the Iraqi threat was once shared by most Democrats. (List of actual "Quotes from war-mongering Democrats" here for all WMD nostalgia buffs.)

    What this means, of course, is that the Democrats can truthfully state that none of this is news, because they knew all along.

    posted by Eric at 09:13 AM | Comments (3)

    She blinded them with science! Or maybe not.

    I've recently bought a portable media player* and begun downloading baudcasts**.

    So what prompted this post was the July 6th edition of PRI's To the Best of Our Knowledge: "How we remember." Specifically it was the segment on Jill Price, known previously only by the name "AJ". She has been studied by a team of university researchers who have given her supposed condition—the ability to recall every day of her life since the age of 14—the name hyperthymesia.

    This does not strike me as a condition at all, and certainly not something worthy of study. What are the conditions under which this condition presents itself?

    "1) the person spends an abnormally large amount of time thinking about his or her personal past, and 2) the person has an extraordinary capacity to recall specific events from their personal past"

    So "hyperthymesia" is nothing more than self-obsession tied to a calendar?

    Her party trick is the ability to describe the details of her personal life when given a specific date. And it might be impressive if it weren't for the fact that she has kept a journal since 1976, which she provided the researchers so that they could check the accuracy of her recollections.

    Given the powers of memory we've known about for millennia (consider the rhapsodes of ancient Greece, the Shakespearean actors of our own day, or the religious adherents who memorize their holy books, as in the Hindu or Muslim traditions), it is not remarkable that someone could memorize such a written record.

    Ms. Price was asked on the program about significant past events. Off the bat she was asked about the day Reagan was shot, which she recognized immediately. Who doesn't recall where they were during a major event? The near assassination of a president was a lob, and one she's doubtless been asked a hundred times. Another, the invasion of Grenada, she sidestepped, saying she wouldn't know anything about that as she was just wrapped up in herself at that time. (Perhaps it just didn't make it into her journal.) Asked about a specific day, she gave details of the following weekend, or noted that it was the anniversary of her mother's cancer diagnosis.

    Where is the real precision of memory?

    Is it a hoax? Perhaps. It brings to mind Project Alpha, in which two young magicians who contacted James Randi independently volunteering to pose as psychics, fooled a group of university researchers who believed they had found evidence of the supernatural. Despite their degrees and apparent scientific method, they were fooled by a couple of kids.

    And yet this need not be a hoax. Ms. Price needn't have actively deceived anyone, seeking out fame and fortune (though her book is doing well).

    No, it's possible she really believes that she has a special ability.*** She claims that she realized her ability at the age of 12, and can recall every detail of her life from the age of 14. If you had become obsessed with your own ability to recall the mundane details of your life, and had kept a daily journal, do you doubt that you could have the same recollection?

    It should actually be far easier to recall impressions of personal experiences, recorded and reread, than to recall fixed literary texts, so the objection of quantity of data is void.

    And why are the dates so significant? Is it because the journal entries are dated and help her to organize the data?

    The lead researcher, after 8 years, has given the so-called condition a name and believes it to be real, but has no idea how it works. He has used the journal to verify her memories. And yet this has not occurred to him?

    Continue reading "She blinded them with science! Or maybe not."

    posted by Dennis at 03:06 PM | Comments (6)

    Perpetuating -- and expanding -- the damage?
    (How about a simple solution?)

    Tom Anderson (who writes for the Inquirer's quirky little conservative competitor, The Bulletin) covered a talk by Charles Murray about his latest book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality. The four truths are these:

    The first of his four truths, likely to be unappealing across the political spectrum, is just two words: Abilities vary. Put another way, the great pipe-dream of contemporary academia, and of course politics as well, is that no child can be left behind. Mr. Murray proposes that many children - probably most - will always be left behind, not because of an uncaring citizenship or educational environment, but simply because they were not born with intelligence, cognitive abilities and IQs of a level sufficient to make them competitive in modern intelligence-driven societies.

    The second truth is that of those potential students whose abilities vary so much, the decided majority of them are not just average, but demonstrably below average. Mr. Murray pointed out that most college-educated folks, like his audience at I.S.I., have a practical unawareness of the size of the undergifted group because they have never meaningfully socialized with them, and tend to project their own relatively higher intelligence on the population in general. In addition, Mr. Murray argues that there is simply no evidence, scientific of otherwise, that low intelligence can be measurably heightened by any amount of education.

    The third truth, and an appropriate corollary of the first two, is that far too many youngsters are going to college, forced to do so by parents and a society which puts an inordinate value on a Bachelor of Arts degree, to the serious detriment of everyone, not excluding the students who do not belong in college. Mr. Murray takes as an example a youngster who has the natural gifts, imagination and curiosities, of an electrician, a carpenter or a musician. Their parents are very likely to discourage the fulfillment of such inclinations, and encourage on the contrary that increasingly universal BA degree on the totally misguided assumption that somehow ir is superior to being an auto mechanic. They argue that most college graduates make more money than most automobile mechanics, but what they fail to recognize is that the top 10 or 20 percent of trades folk earn as much or more than the bottom 20 percent of college-graduated corporate managers.

    The fourth truth is that as a result of profound social changes which occurred during the last century, our society is governed not just by an elite of the intellectually gifted, but by the top 10 percent of that group. Mr. Murray therefore argues that colleges have a radically moral responsibility to fashion their coursework with the unblinking purpose to present that elite with the most challenging and uncompromising curricula. Out should go flower-arranging, queer studies and "liberated women of the late middle ages," and back in should come the old core curricula of languages, mathematics, philosophy, literature and science.

    I agree that the nonsense courses in things like ethnic studies should be scrapped, but I'd note that "mick" courses are nothing new. The greater danger, IMO, comes from the radical assault on the old core from within. History and English are being undermined by post-modernist "theory," and even basic sciences are under assault.

    While these post-modernist assaults ensure that students learn less and less about the subjects, they are not really perceived as dumbing-down in the conventional sense. That's because they're packaged as highly sophisticated, intellectually-challenging, and are carefully designed to flatter mediocre but compliant students into believing they are now true intellectuals who have mastered what is erroneously called "critical thinking." (As Elizabeth Scalia demonstrated, it's quite the opposite.) So, while the net effect is a dumbing down, I think the process is so covert that it really ought to be called "dumbing down in drag."

    When this systematic attack on the university education is coupled with a climate where "everyone has to go to college" I find myself wondering whether in addition to massive dumbing-down, there's also a "dumbing-up." If primary and secondary schools are underperforming (which they are), then simple economics would dictate that colleges cater to what is, after all, their market. Unfortunately, the result is that uneducated kids can end up attending colleges which "teach" them that what they should have learned is worthless anyway, and that they're now incredibly cool -- intellectuals, even -- to reject it. This makes about as much sense as taking a talentless kid who can't paint, putting him in art school, then telling him his stick figures are just as valuable as the Dutch Masters. Sure, the art college could issue him a diploma, but would anyone buy his paintings?

    I don't know how well the art analogy holds educationally, but in economic terms, colleges don't seem to be doing much better. According to Arnold Kling, colleges are now graduating students who barely earn $25,000 a year:

    My wife's pet peeve is colleges that charge $50,000 a year and wind up graduating students who take jobs for $25,000 a year, if that much. My pet peeve is the nonprofit virus that college spreads.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Plumbers and electricians make far more than that; I've known auto mechanics who make $100,000 a year.

    More disturbing is Kling's argument that non-profits represent a growing business trend:

    I thought that their goal of working for non-profits reflected misplaced idealism. Instead, it apparently represents catching the wave of business trends.
    "Business for people and not for profit?"

    Ugh. I'd hate to think this represents a trend towards increased state control (via a merger of the public and private sectors through "non-profit" subsidization) over the business sector.

    I like Kling's conclusion about working for money:

    Generally speaking, it's morally safer to work for money than to work for a cause. People who are fanatical about causes do much more damage.
    Well, if they're a product of a very damaged educational system (a system that puts Oprah ahead of Milton), why should it surprise anyone if they're trained to work for causes that do more damage?

    They're the damage that damage produced.

    But rather than merely complain in a blog post, I thought I'd offer a solution. In lieu of devoting four years and over $100,000 to learn how to sound critical of what was never learned, I have a simple money-saving idea. The entire Great Books of the Western World series "retails for US$1,195" (Amazon offers the entire set for only $995.00 including shipping) and can be found used for much less. (It's the entire Western canon, which does not change, so used is just as useful as new.) If a student devoted a full four years to a serious reading and studying of the Great Books, I'd be willing to bet he'd end up being better educated than your typical liberal arts graduate.

    I realize that the self-discipline involved might be difficult for the average student. So why not form private "home colleges" with tests and even grades? Enterprising students could even organize online.

    Hey kids! Save money while saving Western Civilization!

    posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (7)

    There oughta have been a law!

    What is it about sex and guns?

    For reasons that are still unclear to me, Andrew Sullivan attempted to drag Glenn Reynolds into a debate over a Wisconsin law I consider silly and sexist. In a post titled "Attention Instapundit" Sullivan issues a direct challenge:

    This attack on the Second Amendment cannot stand:
    "In Connorsville, Wisconsin, it is illegal for a man to shoot off a gun when his female partner is having an orgasm."
    I read Glenn's response, and I understand his support for the Second Amendment, but I'm surprised that he didn't immediately spot the serious constitutional flaws in the law.

    First, the law discriminates because men and women are not treated equally. Women are freely allowed to shoot off their guns at all times during orgasms (regardless of which partner is having the orgasm), whereas men are restricted, but only during a female partner's orgasm. Note that the law may also be unconstitutionally overinclusive, for, by not requiring the man to be contemporaneously present during his partner's orgasm it would hold him to the impossible standard of being chargeable with a crime for shooting his gun while his partner is having sex with someone else. Or even while masturbating!


    Are there no limits to government intrusion?

    Quite inexplicably, this law also discriminates on its face in favor of gay couples, whether male or female. Why should gays get a pass? And why would Sullivan be going out of his way to seemingly attack a law that discriminates in favor of gays? In this regard, putting the onus on Glenn to respond is highly manipulative, because Glenn is in a classic no-win. (If he attacks the law, he can be tarred as "homophobic," whereas if he defends the law, he's liable to be castigated by the religious right as "pro-sodomy.")

    Anyway, Glenn defended the law as an exercise in gentlemanly anti-distractionism:

    CONTRA ANDREW SULLIVAN, I agree with this gun-control measure. A gentleman never distracts at such a moment.
    So where is Sullivan's angry response? I expected a post titled "GAYS NOT GENTLEMEN, REYNOLDS DECLARES!" or something along those lines, but there's nothing. (The absence of such a post is probably a good sign, considering some of the contentiousness of the past....)

    I should probably let well enough alone, and allow this dispute to die its passive aggressive death, except that I try to be thorough in my research, and because I have advanced arguments about the law's unconstitutionality I thought I should read it.

    Was I ever in for a shock. It appears there is no such law in Connorsville, Wisconisin.

    Connorsville is an unincorporated community in Dunn County, Wisconsin, located along the South Fork of the Hay River within the town of New Haven.

    It is known for having as many bars as churches, and for having more cows than people.

    According to urban legend, it is illegal for a man to shoot a gun in Connorsville while his female partner is having an orgasm.[1] This claim is dubious, however, since the area is not even incorporated.

    Nor does there appear to be any county law. Connorsville is part of Dunn County, and its ordinances are listed here. Nothing about guns, orgasms, or heteronormative distractions.

    So, my constitutional arguments may be moot.

    But what will happen when it is learned that there's a right to fire guns during orgasms in Connorsville?

    posted by Eric at 09:31 AM | Comments (3)

    yuckproof your children!

    While I don't know what the implications are for the so-called "wisdom of repugnance," I thought this news item was worth a yuck:

    LONDON, July 7 (UPI) -- Toddlers who say "yuck" when given flavorful foreign food may be exhibiting racist behavior, a British government-sponsored organization says.
    What, precisely, is a "flavorful foreign food"? Haggis? If they made me eat that, I'd do more than say "Yuck." I'd throw up. (May my Scottish grandmother forgive my wisdom.)

    This racially sensitive culinary advice is all in a 366 page guide I'd dearly love to read:

    The London-based National Children's Bureau released a 366-page guide counseling adults on recognizing racist behavior in young children, The Telegraph reported Monday.

    The guide, titled Young Children and Racial Justice, warns adults that babies must also be included in the effort to eliminate racism because they have the ability to "recognize different people in their lives."

    The bureau says to be aware of children who "react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying 'yuck'."

    "Racist incidents among children in early years settings tend to be around name-calling, casual thoughtless comments and peer group relationships," the guide says.

    Staff members are advised not to ignore racist actions and to condemn them when they occur.

    Wow. Does this mean that the next time a Muslim child says "yuck" to ham (or, say, to shrimp and shellfish) that he'll be condemned as "racist"?

    The times they must be changing. At least in Britain.

    Speaking of the racist wisdom of culinary repugnance, here's a video of a white man who has eliminated his, and made eating an unyucky experience.

    OTOH, here's a clearly racist video, titled "yukky chinese food."

    Skewered scorpions and insect pupae!

    Perhaps children could have their yuck levels tested by being made to watch these and other videos. If they don't immediately say "Yummy!" it's time for sensitivity training.

    Better start early, before they turn into gastrophobic bigots!

    MORE: Jonah Goldberg is struggling with his daughter's racism occasional dislike of spicy salsa.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who thinks tar and feathers are too good for these people.

    (But if they say "yuck," that's another matter.)

    posted by Eric at 09:58 PM | Comments (7)

    Intentionally "fake but real" fuel for paranoid conspiracy claims?

    I know this will sound like a paranoid conspiracy theory, but I really think the convoluted paranoid conspiracy claim about Obama not being a citizen may itself be the result of some sort of agent provocateurism originating with the Obama campaign -- the idea being to game the paranoid WND types by giving them plenty of meaningless "ammo." (A deliberately fabricated copy of an underlying valid document would be a perfect red flag to wave at unsuspecting red meat brigadistas.)

    I mean, really. They're arguing about digital images as if they're supposed to be official government documents!

    Utter nonsense. There are in fact real official government documents -- all of which can all be verified through public records. Whatever images are posted online are largely irrelevant. And as Glenn Reynolds notes, none of it matters anyway, because if Obama's mother was a U.S. citizen he's a citizen too.

    There are plenty of ways to beat Obama, but this is not one of them. I think it (and other similar claims) will help him tremendously.

    Incredibly, while the claim was debunked by Strata-Sphere, a commenter there maintained the story should be kept alive anyway -- despite its falsity:

    ...I would suggest all seek out the original birth certificate. But, of course, if there is one, then this is all for naught. But I believe keeping the story alive does serve to expose Obamessiah as an outsider, not because he was not born here, but because he is intellectually, emotionally, philosophically, and ideologically an outsider. He is a racist, anti-American radical, who hates whites, America, Christianity, free enterprise, and just about everything else about America. He loves the Muslim call to prayer, diversity, affirmative action, taxes, Islam, terrorists old and new, abortion, illegal immigration, etc. If not born an outsider like his father, he hates America like his father does.
    So it might as well be true.

    I'd say "Dan Rather call your office!" but this is a bit more complicated than that. There is a hard-core, gullible minority of people who believe things like Obama is a secret Muslim because they want to believe. The way some people want to cater to them reminds me of Jeremiah Wright and the AIDS conspiracy claims. Or promoting the legend that George W. Bush was responsible for dragging James Byrd to death. Or Katrina "genocide." 9/11 Trutherism.

    It's as if there are two tiers of people, the suppliers of demagoguery and the gullible consumers. While the former know better, they rationalize keeping the stories alive. Because the enemy is bad.

    But what if the enemy revels in these paranoid conspiracies in hope of building a better backlash?

    MORE: The nonsense will not stop. There's even a web site named BirthCertificateNow.com.

    Were I working for the Obama campaign, I'd be savoring this while doing absolutely nothing.

    Israel Insider asks some questions which come close:

    Why should the wannabe President play hide-and-seek with the prime Constitutional requirement for a US President?


    He prides himself on transparency, so why is he concealing and stonewalling legitimate demands for proof of?


    Why, indeed, does not Obama make this issue go away? At this point, there's no good reason -- unless he doesn't have a birth certificate, or has one he feels compelled to hide.

    These questions overlook the possibility that Obama is stalling because he knows he has absolutely nothing to hide. Either that or he's not stonewalling at all because he doesn't think the document is a forgery (see Strata-Sphere's detailed analysis concluding that the Kos version isn't).

    If by doing nothing Obama can engender this sort of paranoia, that's probably an excellent reason for him to continue to do nothing.

    Especially if he knows he's on safe ground.

    MORE: David Weigel has an answer to the question, "Why wouldn't Obama just end this quickly?"

    Jeez, probably the same reason Andy McCarthy won't respond to the allegations that he kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. Seriously, what is it about Obama that induces this Flowers for Algernon IQ dip on the right and in the Hillary Clinton insurgency?

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for thinking of the chaff analogy. ("Overloading the radar and rendering it untrustworthy.") A warm welcome to all.

    Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (43)

    Vindicating the Truman doctrine

    Scientific research reveals that not only does having a dog seem to be good for you, but people who develop attachments to their dogs might not be as neurotic as commonly believed:

    The field of psychotherapy has traditionally viewed those whose closest relationships are with animals as somehow lacking, their affections pathologically misplaced, their devotion a symptom of their inability to forge healthy connections with the humans around them.

    But in recent years, researchers have begun to take far more seriously the bonds between humans and animals and to evaluate those relationships in a more positive light.

    "There are whole segments of the population that prefer being in the company of dogs than people, and I'm not sure that's such a negative thing," said Joel Gavriele-Gold, a psychoanalyst in private practice in Manhattan and the author of "When Pets Come Between Partners."

    In a recent study, Lawrence Kurdek, a psychologist at Wright State University in Ohio, found that college students who had a high level of attachment to their dogs showed greater attachment to the pets than to their fathers. Their attachment to their mothers, siblings and best friends was just about the same as their attachment to their canine companions, Kurdek found.

    The study, reported in the April issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, found that the students who were most strongly attached to their dogs did not show high levels of anxiety or avoidance - characteristics that some therapists would expect to see in people with unusually fierce bonds to animals.

    The finding, Kurdek wrote, supports the idea that "people strongly attached to their pet dogs do not turn to pet dogs as substitutes for failed interactions with humans."

    To Gavriele-Gold, the intensity of the relationship between people and their pets is unsurprising.

    "Humans tend to be very disappointing - notice our divorce rate," Gavriele-Gold said. "Dogs are not hurtful and humans are. People are inconsistent and dogs are fairly consistent."

    Dogs are not hurtful and humans are?

    Who knew?

    It's amazing that it took peer-reviewed research to confirm what Harry Truman famously said:

    You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog!
    To Harry Truman, add Mark Twain:
    If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
    I guess those guys must have been ahead of their time.

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

    Happy Fifth!

    No, that's not a reference to the Fifth Amendment, but to celebrating the Fourth of July on the Fifth.

    Which is what I did last night, because the fireworks have all been screwed up by rainstorms. Even though I was on a ship on the Delaware River with a perfect view of last night's fireworks, it still rained, although I was able to take a few pictures.



    I love fireworks and it was a lot of fun, although some of the revelers were partying more heavily than others. One of them had to be removed on a stretcher at the end of the cruise. She looked liked she'd had at least a fifth, so I guess you could say that she celebrated the Fourth by drinking a Fifth. (And no doubt she'll be sick on the Sixth.)

    Amazingly, the Coast Guard and three Philadelphia police vehicles had to be involved in handling what was a simple incident of public intoxication, at great inconvenience to all the other passengers, who had to wait 45 minutes to disembark. The various cops made a huge deal out of it and I'm sure the woman was arrested (in much the same way disruptive airline passengers are).

    Contrast the heavy-handed nature of the response to disruptions on ships and planes with the way disruptions by political demonstrators are handled. Puzzling. Society has zero tolerance for drunken disruptions -- especially on planes and ships -- while endless political disruptions by repeat offenders are treated by simple removal and a slap on the wrist. (Hence Desiree Farooz returns again and again, while disruptive drunks face felony charges.)

    I realize that Bush rage is not the same as air rage, but maybe the solution is to get the activists drunk, so that their dysfunctional behavior will be taken more seriously.

    posted by Eric at 09:44 AM | Comments (3)

    Special Code Pink encore presentation

    When I saw the video of the Fourth of July disruption of Bush's speech which Drudge linked, something about the appearance and the voice of the howling Code Pink bashee seemed familiar.

    Here she is:


    (Notice the young man in the front row is laughing.)

    And here's the video:

    Sure enough, she was Desiree Farooz, the career demonstrator who waved bloody hands at Condoleezza Rice, and whose disruption at a Heritage foundation meeting entertained me enough that I featured it in this post.

    Hell, I'll feature it again. It's a classic.


    (Um, and what about her medication?)


    Is this woman contemplating a career as a comedian?

    There is a fine line between anger and outright buffoonery, and Desiree has clearly crossed it.

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


    posted by Simon at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

    Rush judgment of Swiftian panache?

    I don't know whether I questioned his patriotism or not, but when I wrote a post yesterday criticizing Chris Satullo for saying that "America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday" and the Fourth of July should be canceled, I had not known that Rush Limbaugh had launched a national attack on Satullo. While this does not change my opinion of his inappropriately-timed scolding, it does change the dynamics a little. For starters, I don't like writing out of ignorance, and not knowing about the Limbaugh attack is definitely ignorance.

    Standing alone, such ignorance might not be a big deal, but when I saw Satullo's defense of his column in a piece titled "Rush and backers have much to say about July 4th column," I worried that he might be of the belief that all of his critics are taking their marching orders from the likes of Rush. Satullo is no stranger to me; I have disagreed with him repeatedly but I still think he's generally a nice, even self-effacing sort of guy. In any case, I don't need Rush's help in analyzing Satullo, if anything, an attack by the former might incline me towards sympathy for the latter.

    But maybe Satullo doesn't need my sympathy. After all, Rush's national radio assault brought him so much attention that he's devoted today's column to it:

    Scanning my e-mail inbox Tuesday morning, I was pleased. Responses were running about 50-50. For every e-mail calling me commie scum, another endorsed the moral point, including a couple from Catholic priests.

    Then Rush gave my piece a dramatic reading on his Tuesday show. His intent was not to praise my Swiftian panache. He urged his listeners to let me know what a rotten person I am.

    Swiftian? Usually, that term denotes satire -- of the "modest proposal" variety. (Swift was such a noted satirist that his name is almost a synonym for satire.)

    Try as I might, I'm just not seeing satire in an emotion-wrought scolding like this:

    We took the coward's way.

    The world sees this, even if we are too dim to grasp it. We've lost respect. We've shamed the memory of Jefferson, Adams and Franklin.

    And all for a scam. The waterboarding, the snarling dogs, the theft of sleep - all the diabolical tricks haven't made us safer. They may have averted this plot or that. But they've spawned new enemies by the thousands, made the jihadist rants ring true to so many ears.

    So put out no flags.

    Sing no patriotic hymns.

    We deserve no Fourth this year.

    Let us atone, in quiet and humility. Let us spend the day truly studying the example of our Founders. May we earn a new birth of courage before our nation's birthday next rolls around.

    Sorry, but that reads like a heavy-handed moralistic scolding. If he had wanted to emulate Swift, perhaps he could have proposed adding child torture to the fireworks displays or something. I'd have still disagreed, but I'd have at least gotten the satire.

    Must he be so obtuse?

    Back to Satullo's Rush attack defense:

    My computer screen soon filled with missives with angry exclamation points in the subject line.

    I will say this: Rush's listeners have a zest for insult and invective. Correct spelling, not so much. Also, I'm unclear what my sexual orientation (hetero, by the way) has to do with this topic. Wishing death on someone you've never met is unkind, to a degree. And telling someone to move to another country stopped being a witty riposte somewhere around 1967.

    I don't doubt that among his emails, he got some gems. I have no idea what Satullo's ratio of reasonable to unreasonable was, but it's the nasty vituperation and death threats that always get the attention.


    Maybe he should give them the same benefit of the doubt that he have himself, and allow that some of these emailers were actually liberals engaged in Swiftian panache. (It wouldn't be the first time.)

    Satullo also argues that if he'd scolded America for abortion instead of torture, the Dittoheads wouldn't be in a dither:

    ...If I'd written the same column but substituted the word abortion in all the places where I wrote torture, would all those same people be calling me a hate-filled traitor? Why are some moral objections to national policy laudable, others contemptible?

    During the Clinton scandal, some wrote long screeds about how America had been shamed and humiliated. Were they unpatriotic?

    For the record, I love the United States of America. Always have, always will. I thank God for letting me be born here. I am a misty-eyed idealist about the Declaration, the Constitution and the Founders.

    That's why I wrote Tuesday's piece. I want us to defend with utmost bravery and purpose the legacy of liberty that has been vouchsafed to us. I want us to be all we should be, that shining city on the hill.

    So, go ahead, knock my logic or prose style. They're fair game. Scorn the shape of my nose, my manliness, and all the other stuff my kind correspondents attacked.

    But do not, do not, question my patriotism. Or that of any fellow citizen. Such words are unworthy of what we owe one another as Americans.

    OK, OK. I'm the first to agree that disagreements should be limited to disagreeing with what was said. The sexual preferences, religious preferences, and degrees of patriotism are usually irrelevant. The problem with what Satullo said lies not so much in his views on torture or his wanting to scold America for that, but the timing. He didn't just scold America over torture; he used the issue (opportunistically, IMO) to throw cold water on the country's Fourth of July celebration. While I didn't question his patriotism, I did opine that he (and the Inquirer) had an "anti-Fourth of July agenda."

    But let's suppose he had substituted the word "abortion" for "torture." Or, for that matter, homosexuality. Or guns. My disagreement would be the same. It's not the issue, it's the timing.

    Telling Americans they shouldn't celebrate a holiday like the Fourth of July is outrageous, and I don't care what the reason is. Satullo is probably right that Rush would have avoided slamming, say, James Dobson or Richard Viguerie had they suggested America should not celebrate the Fourth because of the stain of abortions and homosexuality. While they wouldn't get a pass from me, Chris Satullo has caused me to ask some hard questions, so I'm wondering about something.

    Would I question their patriotism? I don't honestly know. Is Fred Phelps engaging in "patriotic" acts when he pickets veterans' funerals? I'm sure he thinks he is, even if I think he's a cruel and vindictive loon. The thing is, common sense would suggest that people who bootstrap their agenda into attacks on patriotic themes and patriotic occasions should hardly be surprised when their patriotism is called into question. (A result I suspect some of them might even want.)

    As far as questioning the patriotism of those who do this is concerned, I try to avoid it. In fact, not long ago I got hot under the collar when a conservative group launched a legislative push to prohibit the sale of Playboy at military bases.

    I was furious, but did I question their patriotism? Hell no! I went out of my way not to question their patriotism, and I used a well-worn avoidance phrase in the title of the post:

    "Just don't question their patriotism...."

    Ha ha.

    Yeah, I know. It's neither original nor funny.

    But it was my lame attempt at Swiftian panache, dammit!

    And it's simply no fair that Rush and his dittoheads have not attacked me for it.

    posted by Eric at 10:31 AM | Comments (9)

    To bed without fireworks, you bad bad country!

    On the heels of a week-long "SACRED GROUND" series (discussed in two posts), this morning I was greeted by an Inquirer editorial about "Two stories, one nation" in which the Inquirer belabors the tedious canard that the world only "discovered" that George Washington owned slaves as a result of excavating the foundation of the house he lived in while he was in Philadelphia.

    Long slighted in the retelling of the nation's birth, the irony of a slave-holding president only became widely reported to historic-area visitors last summer. In what proved to be a genius stroke, then-Mayor John F. Street jump-started the first full-scale excavation of Washington's house. The dig unearthed artifacts the slaves likely touched, as well as exposing the ground they walked.

    With good reason, black-history activists such as attorney Michael Coard, head of the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, now commemorate the ground as sacred in ceremonies like the one held there yesterday. Among park visitors of all backgrounds, though, the dig triggered a sensation that bodes well for the so-called President's House memorial as a compelling tourist attraction.

    I learned that George Washington (and other presidents) owned slaves when I was in the fifth grade. In fact, the "irony of a slave-holding president" is one of the contradictions of this country's early history, and it is impossible to understand the "three-fifths compromise" without learning that many of the founders were slaveholders. Not only have the individual details about Washington's slaves -- including those kept in Philadelphia -- been in history books for at least 70 years, anyone who visits George Washington's home at Mount Vernon has been able to learn about his slaves; since 1962 the slave cabins have been there for generations to ponder. (Not to leave out Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello where tourists can learn about who the slaves were and where they lived, but everyone seems hell-bent on singling out Washington, who freed his slaves in his will. Most of Jefferson's slaves were resold on his death.) But the Inquirer's longstanding position is that there's been some kind of shameful historical coverup.

    I realize that this is said to be good for tourism, and that the editorial comes on the heels of the "SACRED GROUND" series, so my normal inclination would have been to dismiss today's scolding as not worthy of a blog post.

    It's just that there's something about the timing that smacks of a one-two punch. Today's Fourth of July slight on the founding (with its gratuitous praise for the bigoted Avenging the Ancestors group) comes right on the heels of former Editorial Page Editor Chris Satullo's atrocious smear, titled "A not-so-glorious Fourth -- U.S. atrocities are unworthy of our heritage".

    Put the fireworks in storage.

    Cancel the parade.

    Tuck the soaring speeches in a drawer for another time.

    This year, America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday.

    He carries on about waterboarding and the like, and concludes,
    The waterboarding, the snarling dogs, the theft of sleep - all the diabolical tricks haven't made us safer. They may have averted this plot or that. But they've spawned new enemies by the thousands, made the jihadist rants ring true to so many ears.

    So put out no flags.

    Sing no patriotic hymns.

    We deserve no Fourth this year.

    Shame on the Inquirer. While not doubting Satullo's sincerity, Newsbusters did a great job of taking issue with the editorial mindset he displayed, and concluded by urging people to celebrate anyway:
    I know that Satullo is quite sincere in his hatred of the United States. In fact, I'm sure he feels this low at every July Fourth celebration. July Fourth is probably a black day for him no matter who is president. I feel bad for his heartburn, but that he spews his bile for the rest of us to be bothered with is downright unneighborly.

    Happy July Fourth, folks. Be proud of this great nation, Satullo's nonsense aside. The U.S.A. is still the shining light on a hill shining the light of freedom on all the world. Anti-Americans like Satullo might have blinders on, but for those willing to see, we stand like a rock.

    Unfurl those flags and let freedom wave.

    The problem I'm having is I just don't think the blame lies entirely with Satullo. I think the overall picture is one of a distinct anti-Fourth of July agenda, and I must object.

    That this country is not perfect and has not lived up to its ideals is as plain as the fact that George Washington owned slaves. But I think today is a time to celebrate the founding, not denigrate it.

    For a more optimistic view of the country, I suggest reading "America's Days Aren't Numbered." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The way some people talk, you'd almost think they want America's days to be numbered.

    I realize it's an election year, so it's probably inevitable that we're in for a good scolding. But does it have to be on the Fourth of July?

    UPDATE: I'm going to be running around much of the day celebrating, so blogging may be limited. But I wanted to wish a happy Fourth of July to all!

    (Even if there are those who might wish it to be otherwise...)

    posted by Eric at 08:45 AM | Comments (8)

    Who are they? Part III

    Who are who?


    The people who run our lives.

    While "they" are hard to define, I've always thought of them as one of those "I know it when I see it" sort of phenomena, although I've searched for definitions, noting that Herman Kahn characterized them as "a vast group of intellectuals" said to "suffer from the most intense anomie of all social groups":

    In becoming a mass profession, they open themselves to sharper criticism as a group because their average standards necessarily decline, their contacts with outsiders wither, they become less self-conscious as a stratum but more actively self-serving, and they make clear their belief that they should wield social power.
    Recalling the wise characterization of an elderly San Franciscan, I ventured that they might be called "the social people":
    They are everywhere, and you really don't want to get in trouble with them. Not if you want to avoid being hassled at your job, go about unmolested, not get targeted or audited by bureaucrats, or scolded at the local church groups, PTA meetings, or (for the wealthier and snobbier) even humiliation at smug cocktail parties and country clubs.

    The social people take note of deviations, and even silence at the wrong time. You can get on their shit list by saying that there are still glaciers in Alaska after returning from a trip there and seeing them.

    The social people want endless government reaching everywhere. Anything that is good for government (meaning anything that generates the need for more government bureaucracy) is considered good -- regardless of whether it solves the underlying problems. In fact, if it aggravates the problem, so much the better, as aggravating the problems leads to cycles of government-grown, government-aggravated growth!

    That comes closer to defining them, but still...

    I'm always looking for more.

    So in another post ("But who are they? Part II"), I cited this observation of Dr. Helen that their behavior is so controlling as to be downright thuggish:

    ...rather than a bunch of "fat cats," most millionaires are just the opposite: people who worked, lived below their means and saved a lot of money. Or as one politician put it, people who "worked hard and played by the rules." All of us could learn from them. Jealous that they have not achieved this level of wealth, now many controlling types of people are scheming to take money from others through high tax rates that penalize the "shy millionaire" as much as the real "fat cats," whatever that means. Instead of scheming like a bunch of thugs, perhaps the government and those that approve of their thuggery should learn to be more like the shy millionaires by spending below their means, saving, and showing some class.
    I supplemented that with Robert James Bidinotto's view of "the Excuse-Making Industry"
    ....consists primarily of intellectuals in the social science establishment: the philosophers, psychological theorists, political scientists, legal scholars, sociologists, criminologists, economists and historians whose theories have shaped our modern legal system. It also consists of an activist wing of fellow-travelers: social workers, counselors, therapists, legal-aid and civilliberties lawyers, "inmate rights" advocates, "progressive" politicians and activists, and so on...

    It's a sprawling intellectual consensus...united in a single premise: that the criminal isn't responsible for his behavior... Forces and circumstances outside his control "cause" him to behave as he does. He should be forgiven, or treated therapeutically, or placed in a better environment, or counseled to "cope" with his uncontrollable inner demons. But he must not be held accountable for his actions-- and, under no circumstances, punished for what he "couldn't help."

    That was in October.

    Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds linked Eric S. Raymond's marvelous post about a child who died because of a bricklayer's fear that if he saved her he'd be accused of child molesting. Reading through the comments, I found a link to yet another marvelous post (from British libertarian Sean Gabb) which I think really hit the nail on the head. (Bear in mind that while Gabb calls them the "Enemy Class," I'm sticking to just plain old "them" -- not so much out of bleeding-heartedness, but because I think many of "them" can grow out of being "them" much in the way that I did.)

    What I will call the Enemy Class exists in and around the public sector. It comprises the great majority of those administrators, lawyers, experts, educators and media people whose living is connected with the State. Its leading members are people like Anthony Giddens, Greg Dyke, Elspeth Howe, Mary Warnock, Polly Toynbee, Peter Mandelson, and others. They articulate and advance the interests of perhaps a million other people--from television producers and heads of executive agencies, down through the university lecturers and social workers and white collar bureaucrats, to the lowest grades of civil servant and local government officer. Add to the list all the racism awareness and anti-aids consultants and the workers in those non-government organisations that receive money and status from or via the State.

    These are the people who really govern the country. They are the ones who decide what statistics to gather and how and when to publish them. They decide what problems can be identified and what solutions can be discussed. They advise on policy and implement policy. Because of their numbers and education and beliefs, and the formal and informal bonds that hold them to each other, and because of their ability and willingness to give and withhold benefits, they set the tone of society. They can require not only external conformity to their will, but can even to some extent shape the public mind so that conformity seems right and natural. They provide the boundaries and language of debate. They define the heretics and schismatics, and arrange for them to be persecuted. They are the modern equivalent of an established church. More precisely, they are what Coleridge called the Clerisy.

    Read it all.

    And weep.

    Once again, whatever happened to the separation of Church and State? Far from separating the two, these people have misused the concept by creating a monstrous hybrid -- in the form of state-sponsored faux spirituality with tentacles reaching into every last home. Enforced by priests who are not priests wielding a perverse sort of neotheocratic power, and by unelected bureaucrats wielding state power and quasi-state power.

    In terms of power and tyranny, the results are worse than anything which could be achieved by the power of either the church or the state standing alone.

    But it helps to know who they are.

    There but for the grace of the unknown went I.

    UPDATE: Link error corrected. (My thanks to Alan Kellogg for alerting me.)

    posted by Eric at 10:31 AM | Comments (6)

    I'm sure this won't be my first disappointment....

    I am sorry to see that John McCain has denied roughing up the Sandinistas:

    CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) - John McCain denied a Republican colleague's claim that he roughed up an associate of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on a diplomatic mission in 1987, saying the allegation was "simply not true."

    Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., told a Mississippi newspaper that he saw McCain, during a trip to Nicaragua led by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., grab an Ortega associate by his shirt collar and lift him out of his chair.

    The Republican presidential contender, who is known for his hot temper, was questioned about the alleged incident at a news conference Wednesday here. He noted that at the time, he had been asked to co-chair a Central American working group in the Senate with Democrat Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and had made several trips to the region in that role.

    "I had many, many meetings with the Sandinistas," McCain said. "I must say, I did not admire the Sandinistas much. But there was never anything of that nature. It just didn't happen."

    Frankly, I'm a bit disappointed. I'd love to see a video of McCain grabbing an Ortega associate by his shirt collar and lifting him out of his chair.

    (Besides, the campaign could always issue a statement explaining that it was actually the Sandinista who was hot under the collar, and McCain was only trying to cool him off....)

    From a tactical standpoint, what's with this Thad Cochran, anyway? Is he trying to deny McCain the Communist vote? I realize the American Communists have already endorsed Obama, but they're very schismatic people, and in a close election every little splinter helps.

    Oh, well. Considering that the Sandinista chief Daniel Ortega has also endorsed Obama, none of this should be surprise anyone.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and for quoting from this post!

    Your comments welcome.

    (But please bear in mind that while I am a McCain supporter, none of this is intended as serious campaign advice....)

    posted by Eric at 09:28 AM | Comments (14)

    The gun nuts next door....

    I criticize the Philadelphia Inquirer a lot, especially on the gun control issue. But today I was delighted to see some favorable coverage, if not of guns, at least of some gun owners, in the form of Natalie Pompilio's review of photographer Kyle Cassidy's Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes. From the review:

    A lot can be learned by paging through photographer Kyle Cassidy's Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes.

    Gun owners are married or single. Some have children. Many have pets, usually cats.

    They have clean, almost sparse homes, or messy ones with unmade beds. The men are just as likely to wear camouflage - three - as they are to put on skirts or kilts - four. A few chose suits, one donned a Renaissance Faire costume, one wore his chef's whites.

    In short, gun owners can pretty much look like anyone.

    It's inaccurate to say the gun issue is hot right now, as it always seems to be. The difference is only in the intensity, and the fires are burning now.

    Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Americans have a constitutional right to have guns in their homes for self-defense, a decision that drew applause from the pro-gun people. Since taking office in January, Mayor Nutter has pushed gun-control laws that some say will fight crime in a city that averaged more than a murder a day in 2007. Others say they harm the law-abiding.

    The passionate on either side might enjoy Cassidy's book if only to see if it reinforces their stereotypes.

    Cassidy, 42, traveled 15,000 miles across the United States to shoot this collection. The West Philadelphia resident said he previously bought into the idea that a gun owner was "a guy in a dirty baseball cap with a pickup truck with a Bush/Cheney sticker on the back."

    "Ultimately, so much of it surprised me," he said. "It made me realize we put so many stereotypes on people based on how they look or what their favorite movies are or what they wear. I realize I'm doing it all the time. We're all doing it all the time."

    And, as most regular readers of this blog realize, I've been fighting the gun-owner stereotype for years. Interestingly, Pompilio claims that some gun rights advocates have complained about the book's cover, saying "We don't need the Addams Family representing gun owners."

    Well, I "represent" myself, but here's the cover, and it doesn't bother me in the least:


    And here's the book's web site.

    Read the whole review. Especially if you're tired of gun owners being demonized and stereotyped.

    I don't know what Natalie Pompilio's position is on gun control, and right now I don't care, because I am always delighted to see fair coverage of this issue -- especially the simple acknowledgement that gun owners can be regular human beings.

    Like, who knew?

    MORE: Via Snowflakes in Hell, a link to an interview with author Kyle Cassidy.

    By the way, don't confuse this book with Clayton Cramer's Armed America. To avoid confusion, I'd suggest buying both!

    posted by Eric at 08:49 AM | Comments (3)

    Doggies for demolition truth

    Much as I wish people wouldn't drag dogs into the 9/11 Truther business, I found this and thought I should share it so that readers whose compassion knows no bounds might be better able to understand the Truther mindset.


    The meaning of the above is explained here (although not quite to my satisfaction):

    Nathan Janes, who has become known for his fun and light-hearted renderings of man's best friend, has released his newest painting of a much more serious subject matter. The painting, titled "With Liberty and Justice for All," represents a movement within the United States and abroad that seeks answers to questions about the catastrophic events that occurred on September 11, 2001. Within the last two years a number of celebrities and public officials have come forward to support the growing movement including Charlie Sheen, Rosie O'Donnell, Mos Def, Gov. Jesse Ventura, Aaron Russo, and Raymond L. McGovern, and many more.

    Janes says that he was inspired to complete this painting in order to make more people aware of the questions that have remained unanswered by the 9/11 Commission Report and by officials within the federal government. "Once you look closely at the events that happened on September 11, a lot of holes appear in the story," Janes says. "So many people have died as a result of this event and we all deserve to know the truth about the events that led up to 9/11."

    The painting depicts a dog wearing a stars-and-stripes blindfold and surrounded by a ring of seven stars. Janes explains that, "The stars represent World Trade Center Building Seven, which mysteriously fell on September 11 even though it was not hit by an airplane nor sustained any major fires or damage from the collapse of WTC Buildings One and Two." The patriotic blindfold represents the apprehension that many Americans have in accepting that the government could be capable of intentionally harming its citizens. Also depicted in the painting is the 'All Seeing Eye' and stealth bombers, which Janes says represent the power that the government has seized over the American people in modern times.

    In hopes of increasing awareness, Janes has posted facts and resources about the 9/11 Truth Movement, which can be found in the link below.

    The link is here, but there's nothing about the dog.

    I realize the artist loves dogs (so do I), but still... Why the dog? What would any dog have to do with 9/11 Trutherism?

    The explanation comes not from the artist but from a man named Kevin Barrett (of the "Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, Mujca.com"):

    "Even a blindfolded dog can see that those Towers didn't collapse, they exploded -- unless the dog is hypnotized by His Master's Voice."
    Even a blindfolded dog can see that? How? This is supposed to persuade people of a theory?

    I knew Barrett's name looked familiar. He's the guy who they actually hired to teach at the University of Wisconsin.

    I wish they wouldn't give these people the cover of respectability.

    Well, I see that the Barack Obama is pulling many of the 9/11 Truther links listed here from the official campaign web site (although the Communists are still there), so perhaps that's progress.

    Not to nitpick unduly, but the idea that the fiendish masterminds who brought down the Twin Towers by controlled demolitions also brought down WTC-7 strikes me as extremely unlikely -- especially from a paranoid conspiracy perspective. If the whole idea was to have CIA stooges fly planes into the buildings to create a "cover" for the controlled demolitions which really brought them down, then why be so stupid as to blow up a building that wasn't hit? In fact, why the need to destroy WTC-7 at all? The idea that people who would carry off such a plan would make such a stupid mistake is in clear conflict with the basic theory which assumes they were diabolically clever.

    But then, it's never made much sense to me that the moron they all think Bush is could ever have pulled it off after only eight months in office.

    Just don't expect me to say that only a blind dog would believe the 9/11 Truthers.

    I like dogs too much.

    posted by Eric at 06:12 PM | Comments (10)

    Worthless Dotcomradery

    I have Communists for Hillary (what a dumb thing to buy; it's worthless), and I had Republicans for Obama (what a dumb thing to let go; it's probably worth a fortune).

    But Communists for Obama? That's taken and there's even a blog at Barack Obama's official web site.

    Damn. I never seem to get it right.

    UPDATE: In a comment below, Dennis just pointed out something very important that he gleaned from a simple reading of the Communists for Obama blog, that

    Communist Patty of America may have more Socialististic values....
    (Emphasis added, for emphasis!)

    Is that code language for some hidden agenda? What is really going on?

    I'm, like... totally confused.

    (I really ought to read the links I cite more carefully.....)

    MORE: Considering the similarity of Obama's taxation plans to European socialism, little wonder the Communists, Socialists, and even Socialistists like him. I mean, if you believe in confiscatory taxation, what's not to like about this?

    Obama proposes to let the Bush tax cuts expire, raise the top tax rate to 39.6 percent, remove the cap on income subject to Social Security levies, and set a top marginal rate of 55 percent on incomes of more than $250,000. Throw in state and local taxes for people living in high-tax states like Maryland, and the top marginal rate goes to 60 percent. Obama's objective is to make the tax system "fairer" by redistributing wealth from "the rich" to everybody else.

    Obama would move America into elite company. Only six of the top 30 industrial nations have marginal tax rates of 55 percent or more. Obama's proposal would thus make America's top rates higher than those in such socialist havens as Sweden and Denmark, according to Rea Hederman and Patrick Tyrell of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis.

    posted by Eric at 04:45 PM | Comments (5)

    sacred grounds and sacrilegious objections

    For the third day in a row, the Philadelphia Inquirer has been promoting a newly evolved "SACRED GROUND" meme -- the idea that soil once occupied by colonial slaves is sacred. Central to this belief (at least in Philadelphia) is the idea that slaves belonging to George Washington ought to be considered important historical characters deserving official commemoration as part of the country's founding.

    I understand the importance of every aspect of history, and while I wonder whether it is helpful that children be taught to rattle off the names of George Washington's Philadelphia slaves, I will name them here and link each name with a biography: Oney Judge, Moll, Austin, Hercules, Richmond, Giles, Paris, Christopher Sheels, and Joe (Richardson).

    The above nine are highlighted here in the "sacred ground" series, and when I discussed Part I ("Remaking History"), I quoted the park superintendent's gently provocative observation:

    "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.
    I find myself wondering something.

    How many of the kids who learn the names and stories of Washington's nine Philadelphia slaves will learn the names and stories of the first nine presidents? Or, say, the names of even as few as nine of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who convened here in 1776?

    I suspect that very few of them would. That's because there's a dominant new ideology the Inquirer proudly links and promotes in the hard copy and online editions which claims that black Americans are "descendants of the victims of the greatest holocaust in the history of humankind."

    This greatest holocaust is considered part and parcel of the American founding. That's what needs to be most remembered on July 4. (Is it a coincidence, or might this series be timed to coincide with that date?) I'm wondering also how many children will be taught that of the 9-12 million Africans transported to the New World as part of this greatest of all holocausts, only 3.3% (399,000) were brought to the British North American colonies (the vast majority going to the West Indies and Brazil).

    I'm not sure that it's entirely accurate to call this process "ideology" as I just did, because even though it's ideological, mythology also plays a strong role. There were slaves at the time of the founding, and there is no dispute that what was done to them was terrible. I was moved when I read the story of Oney Judge's escape and her later life, and the biographies of all nine of Washington's Philadelphia slaves are interesting to anyone who enjoys history.

    But with all respect to these slaves, how central are they to the country's founding? Isn't that what the 4th of July is about?

    I'm sure I sound like a crank prattling on about the importance of the actual founders and the names of early presidents. Doubtless those who think the founders perpetrated the "greatest holocaust in the history of humankind" would consider the country's founding to be an exercise in hypocrisy to be laid bare for the world to condemn. (Especially those lucky countries which largely escape blame for the fate of the other 96% of the transported Africans.) It's just that it bothers me to see a leading newspaper like the Inquirer handing itself over to what is at minimum questionable historical revisionism.

    Still, I realize that mythology has long occupied a major (and, I think, regrettable) role in this country's history. For example, I was shocked when I learned that the cherry tree story was made up, and it is no exaggeration to say that this was my earliest encounter with the deep and abiding cynicism which plagues me to this day.

    Think about it. The national "cherry tree" myth revolved around the importance of never telling a lie. ("I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.") And that story was a myth. A lie promulgated both as a moral lesson for children and to help enshrine what can only be called a personality cult.

    However, now that I am older and have been corrupted by the wisdom of experience, I take a more nuanced view of boy George and the cherry tree. Maybe I even have mixed feelings. But this is tired, and I know I'm repeating myself:

    When I learned that there had been no cherry tree, and that the whole story of George with his little hatchet and "I cannot tell a lie, father!" was made up, I became indignant. A hell of a way to teach honesty, I thought. It bothered the hell out of me, and did much to instill a certain contempt for "hypocrisy" which took years to go away (and which may haunt me for the rest of my life). I mean really! Put yourself in my position as a child: if (I reasoned childishly) our national morality tale about the value of always telling the truth turns out to be a lie, what does that suggest about other things that might be a lie?

    Hell, I'm lucky I didn't grow up to be a full-scale Deconstructionist!

    I hate to say this, but what saved me was the realization as I grew older that it is possible for a story to be "false but accurate." No one imagines that a race was ever run between Aesop's imaginary turtle and the hare, any more than the ant and grasshopper have widely divergent, um, "value systems." It might not have been a good idea to graft George Washington into a myth, but there is nothing wrong with a boy admitting to his father that he did wrong.

    I'm trying not to be a Deconstructionist here. Honest.

    But every time I try to get out, they draaaag me back in. And with the sacred ground/greatest-holocaust meme, the Inquirer is tempting my darker, Deconstructionist side.

    I don't want to sound arrogant, but I have to admit that for years I thought the cherry tree story was little more than schmaltzy drivel written for children (or maybe for childishly moronic adults). As Americans became more educated, they demythologized their history, and rejected such errant tales.

    My worry here is that elevating individual slaves to central national importance and promoting a greater holocaust theory is just more of the same. (Along the lines of "You had your mythology; now it's our turn!")

    Having said that, the hard-boiled small "l" libertarian realist in me has to recognize that from Philadelphia's economic standpoint, this revisionism is not necessarily a bad thing. If we put aside the issue of whether one form of ideologically-motivated mythology deserves another (and even whether there really is no such thing as historical truth), this stuff seems to be good for Philadelphia tourism. At least, so says the Inquirer:

    For decades Judge's story went untold at Independence National Historical Park, site of the President's House, where the Washingtons lived with Judge, eight other slaves, and a group of servants. But controversy fueled in 2002 by the park's silence revived the unspoken story of Judge and many others, giving voice to their narratives.

    Now a park memorial is planned for the house site at Sixth and Market. A sheaf of new stories, such as Judge's, will be told there, and are being woven into programs and talks throughout the park as officials seek to broaden the presentation of 18th-century life, revising and amplifying the story of the nation's founding in the process.

    "This is a marketing society and, in a cynical sense, black tourism is growing and there is a strong desire from black tourists for black history," said Sharon Ann Holt, program director for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers. "I don't think that's necessarily a negative. This story is hot.

    "But where that hotness is coming from is a new mobilization of black folk looking for history not just to worship, but history they can use. African American history retains its political core. They understand that knowing the past becomes important to shaping the present and the future. That's big. That's not cynical."

    Cynical or not, I recognize the value of the economic argument (and I'd note that there was a lot of money made from the "cherry tree" story.)

    Likewise, I'm hardly the first to acknowledge that the importance of "knowing the past" is not a cynical idea. However, while there's no denying that knowing about Washington's nine Philadelphia slaves is part of "knowing the past," the unfortunate reality is that some figures in history are more central than others.

    Notwithstanding the stated goal of avenging one's "ancestors," and the temptation to say that one cherry tree deserves another, the guy who cooked Washington's food is simply not as important as the first president. Nor is he as important as even the most obscure of the founders (take Button Gwinnett as an example).

    To suggest otherwise only encourages cynicism, and invites cycles of deconstruction.

    posted by Eric at 10:07 AM | Comments (7)

    Local News

    The Sterling, Illinois man who went on a murder spree has been captured.

    GRANITE CITY, Ill. - Police and FBI agents captured an ex-convict suspected of killing eight people in two states as he smoked a cigarette outside of a southwestern Illinois bar Tuesday night.

    Nicholas T. Sheley, who was the subject of a multistate manhunt after authorities linked him to the deaths of eight people in Illinois and Missouri, was arrested around 7 p.m. outside of Bindy's, a Granite City bar, said bartender Katie Ronk.

    Sheley ordered a glass of water and went to the bathroom before another bartender and customer recognized him, Ronk said. The customer, Gary Range, said he left the bar and notified a police officer parked in the lot outside,"I told (the police officer) the description and the officer said, 'That's him.' He got on the radio and eventually there were police all over the place," Range said.

    I think this points out a few of the most salient facts of life. If you are going to go on a murder spree don't hang out in bars, don't drink anything, don't go to the bathroom, and don't smoke cigarettes.

    Seriously though, I had read about this guy today and of course as irrational as it is you start worrying about your friends and family.

    We live about 50 miles from Sterling and have a close friend from that area (who lives in Rockford). So your mind starts going into those dark alleys. The vast majority of which are actually blind alleys. I think this points out the old military dictum made famous by Patton, "Never take council with your fears." The best thing to do is face them, realize most won't come to pass and if you are still worried, take what steps you can to strengthen your defenses. Even if it is only mental preparation. "What would I do if...."

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:54 AM | Comments (1)

    Culture War is Religious War, claims Buchanan

    Noting the hopeless religious divide between Barack Obama and James Dobson, Pat Buchanan (on Dobson's side, naturally) argues that peaceful coexistence is impossible:

    Can Americans ever come together if we are divided in our deepest beliefs about morality and truth, where one side believes gay marriage is moral progress, the other holds it a moral outrage; where one side views abortion to be a mighty advance for women's freedom, the other sees it as legalization of mass slaughter of unborn babies?

    There can be no peaceful coexistence in a cultural war because it is at root a religious war. Far into the future, Americans seem fated to face each other again and again "at some disputed barricade."

    Well, I've touched on this divide before, and while the disagreements are indeed hopeless, I'm not sure why that necessarily renders peaceful coexistence impossible.

    Is Buchanan using these terms rhetorically, or is he expecting a shooting war to start?

    Judging from the things Buchanan has been saying (whether "inartfully" or not) lately, he might simply mean that peaceful coexistence with Pat Buchanan is becoming impossible.

    MORE: I know it's old news, but since I touched on the subject earlier today, I guess it's fair to point out that Pat Buchanan has been fond of rhetorical "sodomite" bashing for years. (It hardly compares to the stuff he's saying about the Jews, though.)

    posted by Eric at 04:31 PM | Comments (8)

    Gone are the days when my heart was young and...

    This post by Ann Althouse cracked me up. To no end.

    Well, maybe to some end, because it made me think about the gay replacement issue. Not that I really knew or cared all that much. If people don't want to use the word "gay," it's a free country, and I'd never make them. As things stand, I use the words "gay" and "homosexual" more or less interchangeably. Usually, "gay" is more casual usage, like "straight" for heterosexual. Not a huge deal for me.

    But for some people, you'd think uttering the word "gay" is a sin and of itself. Presumably because Jesus never said gay. So, quite comically, they are not only editing out the word "gay," they are doing it in so systematically that they're using software which replaces the name "Gay" with "Homosexual." Poor Tyson Gay became Tyson Homosexual:

    "Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: 'A little fatigued.'"
    Ann Althouse calls this process "search-and-replace idiocy."

    But how far does it go? Suppose they're quoting the lyrics of the Flintstones TV theme song....

    Damned if someone hasn't beaten me to it!

    Have a Yabba Dabba Doo Time, We'll Have a Homosexual Old Time!
    The Internet these days! Sheesh. Can't I please be allowed to think of anything original without someone else already having thought of it? (I don't even want to look to see whether they've tinkered with "Mount Gay Rum," but I'm sure they have! *)

    The gay search-and-replace meme has even led to photoshopping famous "gay" theme pictures. Ann Althouse had this one:


    Very, very funny. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that searching and replacing "gay" with "homosexual might ultimately not be enough satisfy the real anti-gay activist hardliners. (You know, the kind of people who cling bitterly to their sodomy laws, if that's not too much of an Obamanation.....)

    And while I'd never say that Ann Althouse made me do it, the more I looked at the "Enola Homosexual" picture the more it occurred to me that it wouldn't take much photoshopping to make the job of hardliners like these a bit easier.


    Because extremism in pursuit of cleaning up the culture is no vice!

    UPDATE: While I realize there's no pleasing some people, here's another version that ought to satisfy the grammarians.


    * I'm afraid "Mount Sodomy Rum" will not work, though. "Sodomy" is already hopelessly linked to rum, and the lash.

    posted by Eric at 04:12 PM | Comments (3)

    Think it can't happen here?

    I was appalled to read that a small business owner in England (a woman who operates a "urban and edgy," and "funky" hair salon) was sued by a devoutly religious Muslim woman who refused to work without her head covered. Which means the owner has "had to shell out $8,000 for hurting a veiled Muslim job applicant's feelings":

    when Desrosiers advertised for a junior assistant, it was reasonable for her to exercise her judgment as to who would fit the image of her "funky" salon:
    "I sell image -- it's very important -- and I would expect a hair stylist to display her hair because I need people to be drawn in off the street," said Ms. Desrosiers. "If someone came in wearing a baseball hat or a cowboy hat I'd tell them to take it off while they're working. To me, it's absolutely basic that people should be able to see the stylist's hair."
    Muslim applicant Bushra Noah, pictured below, does not fit the image. She is pointedly, reproachfully un-funky, a silent admonition to those infidel women who dare to flaunt their hair and a deterrent to precisely the kind of customer Desrosiers wishes to attract.
    There's a picture of "Bushra" there, and a picture of the owner here, and the contrast couldn't be starker.

    Religious discrimination and hurt feelings my ass! This is a small business owner whose business reputation and success depend on her being able to project an image with which her customers can identify. As the author (Mary Jackson) points out, the owner took all the risks, and this litigant took none, which is the height of unfairness:

    Desrosiers railed against this injustice:
    I've worked hard all my life -- how can it be possible that someone can come into my shop, talk to me for ten minutes, and then sue me for £34,000? How is that possibly fair?
    It isn't fair. It isn't fair because the balance of risk and reward has been cruelly inverted. Desrosiers risked, sacrificed, and lost. Noah risked nothing, sacrificed nothing, and won.
    Reading between the lines, I get the clear impression that this case is another example of "legal jihad" (something with which I suspect was behind a post 9/11 lawsuit I got dragged into).
    Islam is doing what Islam has always done: taking territory by any means possible. For Muslims in the West, tears are more effective than guns. We cannot stop Muslims complaining, but can ensure that the squeaking gate does not always get the oil.
    The owner here was placed in a classic damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't position. Had she hired this whining, covered woman, and had her trendy urban hipster customers felt uncomfortable about having their hair cut by a self-proclaimed prude, they'd have most likely not have complained, because trendiness is infected with political correctness.

    But the thing is, a haircut is a personal service. A very personal service. If you're in the least bit uncomfortable (as I have been with several haircutters), you won't go back. No one wants a confrontation even under ordinary circumstances. But when you add PC to the mix, it becomes even less likely. So, had the owner hired her and watched her customer base dwindle, what then? Fire Bushra? She'd be sued for even more.

    What heightens my suspicion that this is nothing more than contrived legal jihad is that I suspect the vast majority of the haircuts at the salon are decidedly "un-Islamic." While I'm not versed enough in the religion to know what an "un-Islamic" haircut is, I do know that barbers in Iraq have been killed for giving them.

    Anyone remember the Iranian crackdown on "homosexual" haircuts?

    Here are two videos on the subject:



    Frankly, the haircuts didn't look especially gay to me, but I guess you have to be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to know what a gay haircut looks like.

    An Islamic advisory opinion states that among other things, women should:

    ...avoid "punk rock" hairstyles that mimic pagan tribal haircuts and avoid "lesbian" hairstyles....
    I don't know what a pagan lesbian tribal haircut is, as I'm not a lesbian tribalist. But whatever it is, I'd be willing to bet that Bushra's religion would frown on her giving them. So maybe she'd use her position to deliver lectures to customers on the importance of morally correct haircuts. (Oh, and couldn't she also refuse to cut men's hair, for religious reasons?)

    Sorry, but this all goes to precisely why she should not be hired for the job.

    I think she's insincere and I suspect she's some sort of a flack for an agenda.

    The whole lawsuit has a very suspicious smell. It strikes me as similar to a devout Muslim applying for a job in the alcoholic beverage or pork industry.

    Anyone who thinks such "religious discrimination" lawsuits couldn't happen here should think again, because they already are. I agree with this commenter:

    If they don't like the dress code, find a new job.
    Employers should have the right to set whatever dress, grooming, or hair style policies they deem appropriate to their workplace. Especially in places that cater to helping customers achieve a certain "look" (and I don't care what the look is), expecting employees to reflect that look is almost a no-brainer.

    But the discrimination bureaucracy is brainless.

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

    Comments appreciated.

    posted by Eric at 10:49 AM | Comments (10)

    Mamet Goes Conservative

    This is kind of old news, but I need a post today. So here goes. I used to know David Mamet from his time helping to get the St. Nicholas Theater on Halsted Street in Chicago going. I was actually living in the theater at the time and helped them set up their sound system. I got to watch the play "American Buffalo" from the windows in our 2nd floor "apartment". I have heard rumors that I was the inspiration for the radio engineer in his play "The Water Engine". I knew Bill Macy rather well at the time. In any case, back in the day he and I were liberals. However, it looks like his outlook has changed. As has mine. David is discussing a play he wrote, "November", where the two main characters in it are a conservative and a liberal:

    The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.

    I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

    As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

    These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. "?" she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been--rather charmingly, I thought--referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."

    Yes. We were all children of the 60s back then (1975). What changed my mind? I could see that liberalism (and its core socialism) didn't work. I'm not going to go into detail on all the events that shattered my illusions (the Vietnamese Boat People played a big part), but let me just say that my contact with the real world of business changed my mind about a lot of things. And, if you want to find out what changed Mamet's mind, read the whole thing.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:56 AM | Comments (3)

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