The Mr. and the Mrs. will both be Missed!

I knew this was coming, but I hated to see it just the same. Kim du Toit and his wife Connie (aka The Mrs.) have stopped blogging. Both are friends, and Connie has been a regular commenter here for years.

Glenn Reynolds says, simply (about Kim),

He'll be missed.
He sure will. And I'll miss Connie, whose wisdom and insights made her blog one of my regular reads.

They say all good things must come to an end, and I know that is true...

But hell, that doesn't make it fair!

posted by Eric at 08:54 PM | Comments (2)

Love and Truth

I'm neglecting everything right now, simply because of the things I'm neglecting!

Tough to explain, but I haven't had much time. However, I wanted to thank the commenters to this post for offering advice on how to salvage old VHS tapes -- expecially "guy on internet" who advised me not to screw around with dedicated conversion units, but to capture the analog video to a computer, and save it in digital form on my hard drive. After many hours researching this, I discovered that by downloading the appropriate drivers and software, I could get the built in ATI card to work as a video capture card with a VCR (which it never had before; I tried in the past, but it adamantly refused to capture anything from DirecTV).

The next problem was my VCR. It had been sitting unused for over three years in a damp location, and it would only play audio with an unrecognizable zig-zaggy pattern in lieu of a picture. I didn't know whether it was broken or the head needed cleaning, but I put in a tape I was pretty sure was good, and let it play. At first I could only hear the sound, but eventually, the picture came through, and it kept getting better.

Finally, I grabbed a piece of the video at random, and I converted the huge file to the smaller mpeg-4.

This morning I uploaded it to YouTube. It's Idi Amin delivering a stern lecture about Truth and Love to his cowering ministers. Always tell the truth (because he'll find out anyway), and be sure to educate the people that they should love their leader, and everyone in the government!

"Everybody must be loved!"

In addition to the lecture from Idi Amin, I also captured and saved a vintage interview with Eric. Yes, embarrassing as it looks today, it's me in 1991, in which (following Idi's advice) I tell the truth about an accident in which a driver backed into a pole in a city-owned parking lot and then tried to involve me, because he wanted to blame someone, and I happened to drive along and park in the lot after his accident.

I didn't tell the driver I was an attorney, but he didn't ask, and I don't think he suspected anything.

posted by Eric at 04:51 PM | Comments (2)

War On The Border

The Drug War in Mexico as chronicled by Newsweek is starting to cross the US border.

Late one night in January, an ambulance escorted by five unmarked squad cars pulled up to Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Texas. Out leaped more than a dozen armed federal agents to protect the patient--Fernando Lozano Sandoval, a commander with the Chihuahua State Investigations Agency. He'd been pumped full of bullets just across the Mexican border in Ciudad Juarez by gunmen believed to have been hired by a drug cartel. Lozano Sandoval's sole hope of survival was the medical team at Thomason, the only level-one trauma center for nearly 300 miles. U.S. authorities took no chances; in Mexico, assassins regularly raid hospitals to finish off their prey. Throughout Lozano Sandoval's three-week treatment at Thomason (which proved successful), the Americans funneled visitors through metal detectors, posted guards outside the commander's room and deployed SWAT teams armed with assault rifles around the hospital's perimeter. Officers "were ready for war if it should go that route," says El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen.
Well isn't that something. US paramilitary police are having to guard Mexican nationals in America. Some one should call Houston and tell them we have a problem. In fact if some one would carry the message to DC it might be even more helpful.
Beyond those cases, 43 additional patients wounded in Juarez have been treated at Thomason this year, including a 1-year-old girl who was pinned against a wall by a truck involved in a drug-related shooting. All the patients have been dual citizens of Mexico and the United States or have had the proper documentation to enter the country, says a Thomason spokeswoman. Yet legal issues are beside the point for many El Pasoans. A recent posting in an online forum on border violence summed up the fear of many: "It is only a matter of time before the Mexican drug dealers send assassination squads over to Thomason hospital." The traffickers already occasionally kidnap Mexicans who have fled north to escape threats of violence in Juarez.
So the drug war violence in Northern Mexico is already crossing the border into the US and the people living along that border expect things to get worse. It is no surprise to me. I was predicting it 20 years ago.

Mr. Obama has promised to take on the Taliban in Afghanistan. I don't think he was expecting to handle a similar situation just a few feet across our southern border. Is he in for a shock.

"It's almost beyond belief." Juarez looks a lot like a failed state, with no government entity capable of imposing order and a profusion of powerful organizations that kill and plunder at will. It's as if the United States faced another lawless Waziristan--except this one happens to be right at the nation's doorstep.
In the past months I was predicting that it might take as long as five years for the Drug Cartel Wars to cross over into the US of A. Obviously I was misinformed. It is happening already.
The cartels operate largely with impunity. Police who defy them are eliminated, as in the case of Oscar Campoya, a municipal cop who was shot dead by assassins in March as he left a local precinct. Despite the presence of several witnesses, including fellow officers, there have been no arrests (only 2 percent of violent murders in Mexico are solved, according to government figures). Mario Campoya, the victim's brother, says Oscar had been pressured relentlessly by other members of the force to cooperate with the drug gangs, but had refused.
There is a saying in those parts plata o plomo - silver or lead. Roughly translated it means take our money and follow our orders or we will kill you. Of course one has to be careful. Cooperate with the wrong gang and a rival gang will kill you. Pretty soon no one wants to be a policeman. Even with pay enhancements from one gang or another it is not enough. In fact that is already happening. Mexico has had to move its army into some Northern Mexico border towns to keep law and order because the police forces were to all intents and purposes non-existent. Of course this has had the usual results. The army is now being corrupted.
Going back to Prohibition, Juarez has helped sate the ravenous American appetite for contraband. These days, the West Texas corridor is a key shipping and distribution center for drugs destined for various markets across the United States. According to a recent report by the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), 6 cartels, 129 midlevel organizations and 606 local groups engage in drug-trafficking activities in the binational region. As part of an elaborate, highly compartmentalized operation, some outfits specialize in transportation, others in enforcement and still others in retail sales. Guided by spotters on the Mexican side equipped with binoculars and cell phones, many shipments cross the bridges into El Paso alongside legitimate commerce. Once in the city, the goods are deposited in stash houses before being sent elsewhere.

Given the permeability of the border, it's not hard to imagine violence seeping over as well. American officials insist that's highly unlikely. The cartels "cannot operate here with impunity," says ICE's Kozak. "One reason we don't see that type of violence here is that it would never be tolerated." El Paso is crawling with federal law-enforcement agents--including representatives of ICE, the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration--and all are monitoring events to the south like hawks.

Ah. The infamous: "it can't happen here".

Except it looks like it has already happened here in Las Vegas.

In an early morning news conference Police captain Vince Cannito said, "Cole (Puffinburger) has been found, he is safe and in our custody," he continued "It's just a blessing that this child has been found and he's in extremely good condition."

The six year old boy was abducted by alleged drug dealers posing as police officers on October 15, 2008. Three armed men tied up Cole's mother and her fiancee, ransacked their home and then took Cole after they didn't find money in the home.

Fortunately the outcome in that case was a good one. We may not always be so fortunate.

Now it is the so called social conservatives in cahoots with "progressives" who have pushed this drug war on us. But really they are not conservatives at all. They are radicals. Before 1914 and the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act there were no national laws against drugs in America. And of course in 1937 we got the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Well back to the Newsweek article.

...the United States is less insulated than some might think. According to the NDIC report, the increased bloodshed in Juarez "could spill into the [West Texas] region," since it raises the threat that drug-trafficking organizations will "confront law-enforcement officers in the United States who seek to disrupt these DTOs' smuggling operations." (The report cites several armed encounters that took place on the American side in 2006.) The cartels' tentacles already reach deep into El Paso. Local banks are full of drug money, says Claudio Morales, who heads special operations at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. "We're one of the poorest regions along the border, yet El Paso has some of the largest cash transactions" in the country. Many cartel henchmen are known to have moved their families to the Texas city to insulate them from the carnage back home--though that still leaves the families vulnerable to kidnappers. Kids whose relatives have been killed in the violence are showing up at the Children's Grief Center of El Paso. "We have a lot of kids that are really traumatized," says executive director Laura Olague. "There's a lot of secrecy, or fear, that whoever killed their parents or loved ones would come look for them."
It does seem like law and order is working in America to keep the violence down. And the gangs have an incentive to minimize the violence in America unless it is home grown. But the Mexican gangs do have their methods.
For now, drug organizations prefer to abduct their quarry in the United States and spirit them across the border before harming or killing them. Kozak says that in the past year, a half-dozen kidnappings tied to narcotraffickers have taken place in El Paso. One of them involved Miguel Rueda, a convicted smuggler who failed to pay a drug debt. According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. district court, Rueda was told to meet a former accomplice, Ricardo Calleros-Godinez, at a gas station in El Paso in February. After picking up Rueda, Calleros-Godinez allegedly pulled a gun on him, duct-taped his eyes, mouth, hands and legs, and drove him to a house in Juarez. Four or five days later, Rueda reportedly settled the debt through a transfer of family land and was freed. (He's now in Texas state prison serving a sentence on cocaine charges.)

The criminal group that perhaps best illustrates the porousness of the border is the Barrio Azteca gang. Founded in the 1980s in state prison in El Paso, the organization now counts thousands of members in Mexico and the United States and is believed to be affiliated with the Juarez cartel. Authorities say the gang has a penchant for brutality and engages in everything from extortion to trafficking to assassination. The Barrio Aztecas are "the wild card in all this," says Samuel Camargo, a supervisory special agent with the FBI in El Paso. "That probably has the most potential for violence here"--and it's an American creation. In January, the U.S. Attorney's Office brought racketeering charges against more than a dozen of the gang's members, and a trial began in early November.

So for all you who are in favor of keeping drugs illegal (they didn't used to be), how is it working out for you? We could end all this in short order by passing a few Federal Laws and letting States go their own way with respect to dealing with drugs. One only need consider that before the radicals got hold of the US Government in 1914 there were no national anti-drug laws.
"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995
Do you suppose Colby was trying to tell us something?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:29 PM | Comments (1)

Let Us Try The Conservative Solution

I have pretty much shown in a number of posts that government involvement in marriage, in making drugs illegal, and in running schools were the innovations of radicals. Those solutions to the problems they addressed don't seem to be working well.

So why don't we do the conservative thing and go back to the old ways? And if those don't work we can always try something radical again.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:43 PM

Getting A Daily Dose

The Swiss are giving in to the junkies.

GENEVA (AP) - Dr. Daniele Zullino keeps glass bottles full of white powder in a safe in a locked room of his office.

Patients show up each day to receive their treatment in small doses handed through a small window.

Then they gather around a table to shoot up, part of a pioneering Swiss program to curb drug abuse by providing addicts a clean, safe place to take heroin produced by a government-approved laboratory.

The program has been criticized by the United States and the U.N. narcotics board, which said it would fuel drug abuse. But governments as far away as Australia are beginning or considering their own programs modeled on the system, which is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.

Swiss voters are expected to make the system permanent Sunday in a referendum prompted by a challenge from conservatives.

The heroin program has won wide support within Switzerland since it was begun 14 years ago to eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks that marred Swiss cities in the 1980s and 1990s.

Zullino's office, part of the Geneva University Hospitals, is one of 23 such centers in Switzerland.

Patients among the nearly 1,300 addicts whom other therapies have failed to help take doses carefully measured to satisfy their cravings but not enough to cause a big high. Four at a time inject themselves as a nurse watches.

In a few minutes most get up and leave. Those who have jobs go back to work.

Junkies with jobs? What is the world coming to? Or rather what is the world going back to? The Swiss program is very much like one in effect in the US from 1914 when the Harrison Act was passed until about 1923 with the closure of last clinic in Baton Rouge.

It worked then, and it still works. Which is why we can no longer do that sort of thing in America. Which is rather fortunate. After all those drug cartels need to make a profit too. And think of all the street dealers such a system would put out of business. We certainly don't want to be putting retailers and wholesalers out of business in a down economy do we?

There is one small problem with the program. Crimes committed by heroin addicts have dropped 60 percent since the program began in 1994. Now think of all the police, prosecutors, lawyers, prison guards, etc. out of jobs because of that. Every junkie in America has a huge burden to bear keeping all those people working. If it were not for junkies taxpayers might not willingly pony up the dough to support all those folks. Another economic disaster in the making during hard times if this clinic idea ever caught on. As long as Americans keep hating junkies the jobs that depend on them are safe. So do your part. Hate a junkie today. A big part of the economy depends on it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:04 AM | Comments (10)

Success In Mexico

Mexico is having some success in fighting the drug traffickers that are causing so much trouble for Mexicans and their government.

President Felipe Calderon and his government defended their fight against public corruption and drug trafficking Friday, asking for greater powers to go after organized crime. They conceded that most Mexicans feel unsafe and that many police are unqualified to do their jobs.

One hundred days after calling for a sweeping overhaul of security forces, including a reorganization of the federal police into a single agency, Calderon and his cabinet cited some successes, such as the recent arrest of several drug captains and corrupt officials. But they acknowledged that the extreme violence unleashed in Mexico was daunting.

"We know the challenges are many and that the road that we have to travel is long and difficult. But we cannot and will not back down," said Calderon, who appeared with his government ministers at a day-long National Security Council meeting in which they reported on their fight against organized crime and the drug cartels.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderon declared war against the cartels in early 2007. The campaign has transformed border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez into war zones, complete with 20,000 occupying troops.

Calderon touted the recent arrest of Noe Ramírez Mandujano, a former chief of the anti-organized-crime unit at Mexico's attorney general's office, who is accused of taking at least $450,000 from drug traffickers in exchange for information about police investigations.

And that is what success looks like. It is rather fortunate that the Mexican government is not failing.

One point of success is that kidnappings are down 18% after the government broke up 53 kidnapping gangs. A rough extrapolation tells us that there were something like 250 gangs of kidnappers before the crackdown. Now down to around 200.

And here is another huge success. They are testing the qualifications of police officers already on the force.

In written answers to questions put to him by the National Congress, Calderon reported Thursday that half of the 56,000 police officers evaluated in a federal review failed to reach minimum standards. The examinations included drug and lie detector tests, psychological profiling and reviews of personal wealth.

Almost 50 percent of the officers tested, who work at the municipal, state and federal levels, received a "not recommended" rating. In states where violence and drug trafficking are greatest, the police fared the worst.

In the state of Baja California, where Tijuana is located, almost 90 percent of the officers received failing grades. It is not known how many will be fired or retrained. There are more than 375,000 police officers in Mexico.

The revelation that so many rank-and-file police officers fail to pass scrutiny is likely to come as no surprise to most Mexicans, who harbor deep distrust of law enforcement officers. A poll released Friday by a Mexican research group found that 60 percent of Mexicans do not feel safe and that the great majority do not report crimes because they distrust the police.

Well isn't that something. Only half are failing on average. Fortunately the failure rate along the border is not 100%. That would be a real disaster.

It could be worse. And I'm betting that before long it will be.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:14 AM | Comments (1)

The Racial Fear Card

Fifty Percent of the violent crimes committed in the districts occupied by Mexicans, Greeks, Turks, Phillipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marijuana. - Harry Anslinger head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

And that is just one thing you can learn from watching this video.

Part 2
Part 3

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:29 PM | Comments (2)

Drunken sex, and imbalanced power imbalances

In light of yesterday's post about drunken sex being treated as rape, I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see that the woman charged with having sex in a Minnesota men's room is now turning up the volume on the victim claim:

MINNEAPOLIS - While police say a high-profile indecent conduct case in the Minneapolis Metrodome Saturday is closed, a Carroll woman involved in it told the Daily Times Herald she believes she was a victim of foul play rather than a willing collaborator.

Lois K. Feldman, 38, of Carroll, and Ross M. Walsh, 26, of Linden, were ticketed for indecent conduct after they were reportedly caught engaging in sexual activity in a Metrodome men's restroom handicapped stall during the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers game with the Iowa Hawkeyes. More than a dozen people in the restroom were cheering Feldman and Walsh by the time authorities arrived, a University of Minnesota Police report says.

Feldman acknowledged drinking heavily before the game and says she doesn't remember being in the bathroom.

"I would never ever do that," Feldman said. "My kids are my life. I go to church every Sunday."

A lot of people go to church every Sunday, but they still commit sins. (Even preachers have been known to sin.) Not to knock religion, but I don't see what church attendance has to do with this analysis.
Information obtained in police reports and during an interview with University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness revealed no suggestion or evidence that the incident was anything but consensual on the part of both Walsh and Feldman.

But Feldman tells the Daily Times Herald she may have been drugged or otherwise victimized.

"Everybody thinks something got put in my drink," Feldman said.

She offers no further details as to how that might have happened or who may have been involved.

"Right, and that's what my attorney and I are working on," Feldman said.

Contacted this morning and asked if Feldman was planning to file a complaint or seek a reopening of the investigation in Minneapolis, Jeff Minnich of Carroll, Feldman's attorney, said he had no comment.

I think they may be trying to get the DA to file a rape charge, as the woman is now suggesting she is a victim of crime:
The Daily Times Herald sought to contact Walsh, but there is no phone listing with the address he gave police. An Avalon Security officer, Craig Andrashko, who was listed in the police report as the first witness to the incident, did not return a phone call.

But in the police report, Andrashko described what he observed as "sexual intercourse."

Hestness said the case is closed by citation.

When asked to respond to Feldman's suggestion that she is a victim of a crime, Hestness said: "All I can say is the actions went on for some period of time with many witnesses on hand and no one reported either party was objecting."

Hestness said Feldman made no allegations to the officers at the scene about the incident being non-consensual.

"If the implication is lack of consent due to intoxication, I guess that could be true for either party, however, they declined the officer's request to submit to an (alcohol test) so the extent of intoxication cannot be demonstrated," Hestness said.

I'm glad to see an official treat "lack of consent due to intoxication" in a non-sexist manner, because many people -- and many government organizations -- don't. Suppose the man had claimed he went to church, and said this was something he'd never otherwise do. Would anyone care? The usual rule is that if a man gets drunk to the point where he is unable to say no to his normal inhibitions, he's considered doubly guilty, and blamed not only for his conduct, but for the intoxication which led up to it. He's not seen as a victim of his intoxication, but as a perpetrator of it. The idea of "consent to sex" is seen as laughable in a man. (Even a gay man taking the passive role would have a tough time claiming the next day that because he was drunk, he did not consent.) As to being drugged, I think most men would have a tougher time making that claim than women would. Again, because of sexist assumptions. The idea of a man becoming intoxicated against his will is considered so unusual that it is traditionally the stuff of Alfred Hitchcock films. (And of course, in North by Northwest, Cary Grant's claim that this happened to him was laughed at.)

Once again, I think the idea that women are less capable of consent than men is irredeemably sexist -- and degrading to women.

Philosophically, there are serious problems with the idea that one sex is more capable of saying no than the other. And saying no to what? One's own impulses? One's natural inhibitions? The other person's entreaties and advances? The effects of alcohol?

I'm just thinking out loud here, and since this might as well be satire, let me ask... Why is no one speaking up on behalf of this man as a victim of intoxication or as a possible rape victim? I notice that the woman at 38 is twelve years older than the man, who was only 26. Doesn't this indicate what is often called a "power imbalance"? (Anyone remember Mrs. Robinson? How about Dean Wormer's wife?)

But suppose the man had been 38 and the woman 26. Would the situation be viewed differently? I think it would. Why?

In terms of power imbalances, is there a difference between an older man with a younger woman, and an older woman with a younger man?

If there is, can someone please offer a non-sexist explanation?

I'm concerned that there might be an imbalance of power imbalances, and that would be unfair.

MORE: If alcohol lowers inhibitions, and if inhibitions are what normally prevent us from giving way to our sexual urges, then it would seem to follow that the presence of alcohol intoxication would make consent to sex (and therefore sexual intercourse) more likely. Yet these laws are saying that alcohol intoxication renders consent to sex legally impossible, and thus intoxicated sex equals rape. But if consent derives from lowered inhibitions, and inhibitions are lowered in both sexes, I am unable to understand -- either from a legal or scientific perspective -- how alcohol would eliminate the ability to consent in women but not men.

The rule has to stem from some strange (and IMO sexist) presupposition that men are deemed incapable of consenting to sex in the first place. Whether a man consents to sex is seen as superfluous, because he is seen as always "in charge" of the act. By committing the physical act of penetration, he is seen as inherently having consented to doing it. And alcohol, far from diminishing his ability to consent, is seen as increasing it. Under this sexist view, the drunken penetrator is analogous to a drunk driver, who cannot be heard to complain that alcohol made him unable to "consent" to drive. The woman is not seen as a participant in the driving, but as a passive victim along for the "ride."

Therefore, drunk or not, sex is always the man's "fault."

posted by Eric at 02:30 PM | Comments (3)

A Mutiny At Cawnpore

Sgt. Mom writes about some history she learned in her travels in the English countryside and its implications for the current troubles in Mumbai.

Not for the faint of heart or those with delicate sensibilities. But not much that has gone on in India the last few days is.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:20 AM | Comments (1)

Archaeologists Find Old Pot

Well this is a very different kind of pot for archaeologists. What they found was a marijuana stash.

OTTAWA - Researchers say they have located the world's oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China.

The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.

The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.

"To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent," says the newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.

Remnants of cannabis have been found in ancient Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties.

Now there was one dedicated pot head. Not even death was going to separate him from his stash. No wonder it is so hard to keep the weed out of America if that kind of dedication is any indication of the mind set of current users.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:17 AM

The Immoral Nation

There has been a lot of back and forth at the places I post (Classical Values and Power and Control) about America becoming an immoral nation. So I have to asks a question of my readers and especially those commenting on my various posts. What can make America the moral nation that so many seem to crave?

Can government make people moral?

If so why did we give up on all the goodness that alcohol prohibition was responsible for?

OK. Scratch that. It seems that when government gets involved in the morality business it only makes things worse.

America is a mainly Christian church going nation - so can churches make people moral?

If so why are so many people who have had church weddings divorced? Why are there so many children of divorce from parents married in church?


OK. Government can't make people moral and churches are failing at the job as well.

Any one care to suggest fall back position?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:13 AM | Comments (18)

Sex in the men's room -- it isn't just for gays anymore!
(And drunken sex is mutual rape!)

A few days ago I wrote a post about sex in men's rooms, and among the issues I discussed were whether or not some of the men who have sex in restrooms are "straight." (I don't think they are entirely straight, although I do think many of them are bisexuals who lead heterosexual lives but who nonetheless want to enjoy homosexual sex without having to acknowledge it, which the anonymity of the restrooms facilitates.)

However, when I wrote the post I was I was presupposing that when sex occurs in mens' rooms, it occurs between men. Perhaps I shouldn't have made that assumption, for I now see that a heterosexual couple (consisting of one man and one woman) were arrested for having sex in a men's room. The woman says that the incident has ruined her life:

A Carroll woman who was caught having sex in the men's room at an Iowa Hawkeye football game in Minneapolis last weekend says she'd had so much wine before kickoff that she doesn't remember walking into the restroom, the man she had sex with in a stall, or when the police opened the door.

What Lois Feldman, 38, will remember is the humiliation afterward.

"It's ruined my life," she said through tears today. "Not just the incident but the press."

I wonder whether an alcohol blackout defense or tears would have worked for Larry Craig. Somehow, I doubt it. Interestingly, the police never tested the couple's blood/alcohol levels, because it was irrelevant to the charges.
Feldman, a married mother of three, has been the target of Internet jokes and prank telephone calls today. She was fired this morning from an assisted living center, where she had been an administrator.

Feldman said her husband, Kelly, has been supportive. She said he faults himself for not going with her when she left her seat to use the restroom before halftime.

"I don't know what happened," Lois Feldman said. "But I don't deny that it did happen because obviously there are police reports."

Police ticketed Feldman, 38, and Ross Walsh, 26, of Linden for indecent conduct Saturday night.

A security guard who said he saw the two having sex through a gap in a men's restroom stall flagged down campus police, according to the police report.

By the time an officer arrived, about a dozen people were cheering and laughing in the bathroom while Feldman and Walsh were inside the stall, the report said.

The officer pushed his way through the crowd, opened the door and separated Feldman and Walsh, the report said.

Police described both Feldman and Walsh as upset, drunk and uncooperative.

Chuck Miner, deputy chief of the University of Minnesota police department, said officers tracked down Feldman's husband.

"I'm not sure how they made contact with her husband, but they needed her husband to help identify her" because she'd given the wrong middle name.

Miner said police didn't measure the blood-alcohol level of Feldman or Walsh. Asked to respond to Feldman's claim that she was too drunk to recall the incident, Miner said: "That's probably an accurate statement."

Feldman said she'd never met Walsh.

"I don't know who this man is," she said today. "I just found out his name in the paper last night."

Walsh wasn't immediately available for comment.

What's fascinating about this is that in many jurisdictions, a man who has sex with an intoxicated woman can be charged with rape, and in California, sentenced to 8 years in prison. In effect, drunken sex is illegal if the woman complains later:
Bottom line, if a girl is intoxicated she cannot consent to sex and you could be charged with rape. It does not matter whether you knew she was intoxicated, it doesn't matter if you were intoxicated too, all that matters is that she was not in a state of mind to consent and therefore it is rape. If you get a girl drunk or high and then "get together" with her you have committed a sexual assault. Again, it doesn't matter if you are drunk or high as well. Your diminished abilities do not negate your responsibilities. A good rule to follow; if you are under the influence do not have sex.
What I've never been able to understand is why a woman who has sex with a drunken man can't be charged with rape. Are the laws sexist? Or only their enforcement?

Here's what the San Diego District Attorney's Office says:

* Face the facts: If she's wasted, intoxicated, asleep, or unconscious, she cannot give legal consent, even if she said "yes"
* Face the law: Rape by intoxication is a serious felony that can carry 8 years in state prison
Why doesn't it say "if he or she's wasted"?

Obviously, if a drunken man forces himself on a woman, that's rape, right? But if a drunken woman forces herself on a man, and can later demonstrate she was drunk, he'd be chargeable with rape, under the theory that because she was drunk, she could not "consent." Well, why is it that a drunken man can consent, but a drunken woman can't?

Can a man consent to sex if he is drunk, but not a woman?

Is this fair?

Isn't it sexism?

(An attorney writing in Mens News Daily about these disturbing new rape laws thinks it is, and he looks at several outrageous scenarios.)

This Los Angeles Sex Crime Defense Lawyer take a broader look at the law, and says:

"Having sexual intercourse with a person who is intoxicated, unconscious or asleep, and therefore unable to resist, is also rape."
I guess that means man or woman.

Should I be reassured?

Let's try these, um accusations out and see how they look, his-and-hers style.


"Your honor, I was so drunk I was unable to resist her. Therefore, I was raped!"
"Your honor, I was so drunk I was unable to resist him. Therefore, I was raped!"
For the life of me, I can't see these accusations being treated equally.

Certainly not in light of this FAQ propounded by a public interest organization consisting of "the San Diego County District Attorney, San Diego Police Department, Sheriff, colleges, universities, the military, the Center for Community Solutions / Rape Crisis Center, and the Sexual Assault Response Team":

5. What do I risk if I have sex with a woman who is intoxicated or "wasted"?

The penalties are severe. Rape by intoxication is a serious felony that can carry up to 8 years in state prison. In California, convicted felons are not able to vote, own firearms, or even sit on a jury. Plus, your job prospects quickly evaporate once your potential employer finds out that you're a felon. Don't forget that perpetrators of rape by intoxication, like other sex crimes, are required to register as sex offenders.

6. What does the law say about legal consent to sex?

There's a big difference between consensual sex and rape by intoxication. The California penal code clearly indicates that if a woman is wasted, intoxicated, asleep, or unconscious, she cannot give legal consent to sex. This is true even if she said "yes" to sex earlier.

Whether the man says "yes" is of course laughably irrelevant. The rule is that men are considered to be inherently more capable of consent than women. (Similarly, men are considered to be inherently more capable of sexism than women, if indeed women are capable of sexism at all. That's because men are strong and women are victims, and if you don't agree, you're a bigot! Forgive the irony.)

To return to the men's room, while both parties committed a crime by having sex in public, given the California law, I don't think the fact that the woman committed that crime would have much bearing on whether she was raped (at least in California). There's just a kneejerk tendency (reflected in the summaries of the law) to see women who have sex with men as victims of the men who have sex with them -- especially if the woman is drunk or intoxicated. Yet men -- no matter how intoxicated -- are never seen as victims of women who have sex with them, nor would an intoxicated gay man be seen as a victim of another intoxicated gay man.

I don't know what the law is in Minnesota, but in California, it's pretty clear that the man could be charged with rape. (With the woman seen as the victim.)

Beyond the sexism, what do you do if you're one of those nervous, timid and neurotic types (man or woman) who can only have sex when you're drunk? Is it fair for the law to declare you legally incapable of consent?

What worries me is that if they wrote and enforced the law in a fair and non-sexist manner, all drunken sex would become a criminal offense. So, if you're a timid person who needs to get drunk in order to have sex, and you found another similarly oriented person, you wouldn't even be able to protect yourselves by having drunken sex together. It wouldn't be drunken sex. It would be mutual rape.

And it would not matter whether you were doing it in a public men's room, or at home in your bedroom, or whether you're man and woman, or husband and wife. In theory, even the husband and wife who have drunken sex with each other could be sent to prison for eight years.

I guess the Minnesota men's room couple should consider themselves lucky.

posted by Eric at 08:22 PM | Comments (6)

Four prongs?

As the Mumbai attacks have made crystal clear, the situation in Pakistan sucks. Big Time.

If you have the slightest doubt about this, Bridget Johnson details why in a must-read piece that Glenn Reynolds linked earlier:

As the smoke clears and the body count grows in Mumbai, in one of the most brazen and chilling terrorist attacks we've seen in a long time, the truth about the region becomes crystal clear: Pakistan is a cancer on its neighbors. And the narrow focus of the attacks has also made it clear that Pakistan, allowing its extremists to operate unchecked, is also emerging as a greater threat to us.

It pains me to say that. I've been fortunate to know good men in the Pakistani government who seemed to seriously give a damn about their country, forced to constantly fight the negative headlines in an attempt to lure industry to the country and show the side of the nation that embraces Western ideals. But those guys were in Pervez Musharraf's crew, and now there's a new sheriff in town.

Barack Obama recognizes that the situation sucks, and while he didn't use such crude language, he nonetheless made it an integral part of his campaign. Oh, and by the way, the new sheriff sucks:
Not implying, of course, in the traditional Western sense that this new sheriff has brought law and order. The ouster of Musharraf, which became a hot topic in our presidential campaign season, was supposed to enthrall lovers of democracy everywhere. But what has Asif Ali Zardari done since coming to power? Those are questions best answered by India and Afghanistan.

Even Pakistani media were acknowledging that the highly orchestrated, well-armed and well-trained attacks, with fighters coming across the sea from Karachi, indicated the involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose mouthpiece denied involvement in the attacks and amusingly went so far as to "demand an international inquiry" to clear their, ahem, good name. The group is branded as a terrorist organization by Pakistan, yet operates out of Lahore and trains fighters in Pakistan's share of Kashmir. And anyone who thinks that this week's carnage is another plug for Kashmiri independence needs to remember that the targets were Americans, Britons, and Jews. That's good ol' fashioned Islamic terrorism. That's an act of war.

Even if we were to put aside the attacks on Americans, Britons, and Jews (which no one in his right mind would do), this is a dire, dire situation. India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter enmity, and they are both nuclear powers. What bothers me the most about this is that I suspect a double pronged strategy: kill as many Americans and our allies as possible, and manipulate a historic grievance in the hope of jump-starting a war between India and Pakistan. Whether war between these two countries is inevitable or not, it should not be up to Al Qaeda to decide whether they go to war against each other.


Actually, I should have called it a triple-pronged strategy, because the enemy is taking advantage of the fact that we have a new president, whom they regard with undisguised contempt (they were quick to insult him with the racial epithet), and they're probably hoping he's so green and weak that he won't stand up to them.

The strategy is despicably brilliant, which is why (despite much speculation) I'm sure Al Qaeda is behind it.

And what the hell, there might even be four prongs in their damned fork. With any luck, Pakistan will degenerate into complete chaos, and Al Qaeda's operatives will make off with one of their nukes.

Again, despicably brilliant.

And again, we're all in this together.

posted by Eric at 10:53 AM | Comments (5)

A Positronic Brain?

Researchers at a Hewlet Packard Laboratory have combined computer logic with at type of controllable variable resistor into a neural network that may in time be dense enough to mimic a human brain.

Also at the symposium, Snider unveiled a design that used memristors in their analog mode as synapses in a neural computing architecture. Memristor crossbars are the only technology that is dense enough to simulate the human brain, Snider claimed, adding that the HP Labs crossbars are ten times denser than synapses in the human cortex. By stacking crossbars on a CMOS logic chip, variable resistance could mimic the learning functions of synapses in neural networks.

HP Labs and Boston University were recently awarded a contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build the first artificial neural network based on memristors.

Also at the conference, Massimiliano Di Ventra of the University of California at San Diego described how memristors can explain biological learning in amoebas.

Isaac Asimov the inventor (in fiction) of the Positronic Brain would be so proud. And of course there is the possibility that one day a human brain could be downloaded into a positronic brain leading to a type of human immortality. Or at least a C3PO type cyborg.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:20 AM

Not So Long Ago

Time Magazine chronicles the anti-gay movement in Florida led by Anita Briant. The year is 1977.

In the heat of the campaign, emotions have got out of hand. A gay worker was hospitalized after a beating; others have received crank calls. Urges a bumper sticker: KILL A QUEER FOR CHRIST. After receiving many telephone threats, Jack Campbell, a gay-rights leader, has installed guards around his house. Bryant has also hired security men because of phone warnings.

Meantime, Bryant has stepped up her rhetoric, telling one interviewer that God does not like homosexuality because "the male homosexual eats another man's sperm. Sperm is the most concentrated form of blood. The homosexual is eating life." During a debate with Gay Rights Activist Bob Kunst, she startled the audience by breaking into a stirring rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Many Miami homosexuals think that they will be the ultimate winners this week, even if they lose what is expected to be a close vote. Their reasoning: Bryant's spirited attack has encouraged homosexuals all over the country to come out of their closets. Already, gay groups from Boston to San Francisco are organizing as never before. Says Kunst: "We have created a national issue, and we intend to stay with it."

I think the gay marriage movement represents the revenge of the gays.

You spew hatred - you get hatred back. Proof that God is just. You have to wonder though. Bryant was the leader of an ostensibly Christian movement. Why did/do so many Christians have hate in their hearts? Such attitudes are hobbling the Republican Party considerably because some how the party got identified with the haters.

Of course the foundation for the hate is fear. But isn't living in fear the antithesis of having God in your heart?

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Strange times.

Inspired? by this William Burroughs Thanksgiving Prayer.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:05 PM | Comments (14)

Saving found art

I'll be gone most of the day, so I thought I'd leave a little more "natural" art.

First, another photograph of the purely natural art that's been staring at me:


And here's some rodent art, which was carefully preserved inside a pet hobbyist book.


Finally, some VHS tapes from the late 80s and early 90s.


Most of them are unlabeled, and some have never been watched -- which makes them like newly discovered time capsules. Some of them I'm really glad to have found -- especially a bizarre 1991 interview of me during the construction of the nightclub I ran in those days, along with incredible footage of the artists at work painting the Neo-Impressionist paintings and building the gargoyles that adorned the interior. I'd share it, but it's in analog format, and I don't have the technology to convert it to DVD.

These tapes will not last forever, and they include lots of footage of people who are now dead which I recorded, so I'd like to save them. The problem is, there's a ton of stuff for sale out there, and I don't like reinventing the wheel. I was thinking of buying something which would convert VHS to DVD, and I've been looking at reasonably priced machines like this "Panasonic DMR-EZ47V Up-Converting 1080p DVD-Recorder/VCR Combo." Unfortunately, I'm not up on the technology (I don't know upconverting from downconverting, for example), and there are so many of these things with so many conflicting reviews that I don't know what to buy.

Any readers who have advice based on experience, I'm all ears. Bear in mind that some of these tapes are in bad, bad shape, and I simply want something that will save them -- in the best and hopefully simplest way possible.

If I wait too long, not only might the tapes bite the dust, but so will the VHS itself. (Once it goes the way of the Beta, it may be too late.)

For now, the best I can offer by way of "digital conversion" is the digital photograph of the analog tapes!

posted by Eric at 02:58 PM | Comments (7)

Yes, Happy Thanksgiving!

In light of my earlier post about terrorist attacks on Westerners in Mumbai, the idea of wishing people a Happy Thanksgiving feels a bit surreal.

However (via Glenn Reynolds), as Roger L. Simon explains, even in light of these horrific events, there is a way to say "Happy Thanksgiving" in an appropriate context:

The brutal events in Mumbai remind us all that the War on Terror is the real deal - not a police action, as the aforementioned Mr. Kerry once said - that will doubtless be with us for the rest of our lives. And that may include the young children at the table.


...It has long been my contention that the War on Terror (War on Islamofascism) will only be won if the Democratic Party owns it as well as the Republicans. Now that can happen, for better or worse. So, dear readers of this blog, when you gather around your tables today, love that family member who voted for the other side. You're going to need him or her and he or she is going to need you. We're all in this together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

No way could I have put it better. We all own it now, and we all have to deal with it.

So Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

posted by Eric at 02:31 PM | Comments (1)

Don't renege. Reframe!

I keep reading and hearing that Barack Obama is thinking of reneging on his campaign pledge to close Gitmo, and the issue came up in this often wry PJTV discussion between Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin.

In light of the horrific events still unfolding in Mumbai, coupled with recently discovered plans to launch a terrorist attack against New York's Penn Station, I think shutting down Gitmo would be a distinct no-no, and is not likely to be in the offing.

For readers who want to catch up on the Mumbai attacks, José Guardia has a veritable ton of links, and I highly recommend going to his post (which Glenn Reynolds linked earlier), and checking them out.

It's a real horror show, and I hate to sound like a scold and say that America needed another wakeup call, but human nature is to forget what is unpleasant, and many Americans seem to have an emotional need to deny the war on terror out of existence the way they might use a remote to change an unappreciated TV channel. Big mistake.

Anyway, this report makes it 100% clear who it is the terrorists want dead. You and me, that's who!

The Associated Press reports one of the rescued hostages told reporters he had seen many bodies inside the hotel. He did not give his name.

Indian TV, meanwhile, reports government officials fear the death toll at the Taj Mahal hotel could be high, with as many as 80-90 bodies inside. Some of the dead appear to have been killed by the gunmen, while others may have died in subsequent explosions and fires.

Among the bodies removed are those of Australian, Japanese and British nationals.

A senior U.S. State Department official told FOX News that it could not yet confirm whether any Americans are among the casualties.

Meanwhile, Indian police reportedly are negotiating with gunmen holding hostages at the ultra-orthodox Jewish Chabad Lubavitch Center.

There were unconfirmed reports that some of the hostages at the Oberoi hotel are Israeli nationals.

Bottom line:
The attackers specifically targeted Britons, Americans and Israelis at the hotels and restaurant, witnesses said.
Did we really need this reminder that we are still at war, and the enemy wants us dead?

On Thanksgiving?

According to this gruesome report, a lot of chef trainees were massacred:

Earlier, explosions rattled the nearby Taj Hotel, a 105-year-old city landmark on the waterfront, as the troops flushed out the last of the militants there. Fire and smoke plumed from an open window.

"The commandos are in control," Dipak Dutta told NDTV news after being rescued. As the troops escorted him through the corridors, they told him not to look down at any of the bodies.

"A lot of chef trainees were massacred in the kitchen."

At least six foreigners, including one Australian, a Briton, an Italian and a Japanese national were killed.

Those who survived told harrowing stories of close encounters.

At the risk of sounding like a fascist, my reaction is that Gitmo is too good for these murderers.

Anyway, despite his campaign pledge (made when it was forgotten by the voters that we are at war), I don't think shutting it down will be at the top of Barack Obama's priority list.

Of course, there's always the question of what to tell the delusional anti-war activists who constitute Obama's base. As José notes, 32% of the American voters favor closing Gitmo, and while that was before the Thanksgiving reminder, there always remains that stubbornly delusional hard core of true believers in what they want to believe without regard to truth. (What are they? The True WannaBelievers?)

They're so delusional that maybe they have an emotional need to have the issues reframed for them. In that respect, I rather enjoyed the link José provided to a CNN story describing the Iraq War as a "humanitarian mission!" Said José,

YOU were right, Glenn; as soon as Obama got elected, the media would change its tune on Iraq.
Not that I'd expect CNN to credit Glenn Reynolds with the idea, but hey, I guess whatever works, right?

My suggestion is that they do a similar reframing job with Gitmo. However, I don't think they should use the phrase "reeducation camp." That sounds too orthodox Maoist, and old-fashioned. Perhaps in line with the peace-and-love Kumbaya theme, it could be called the "Guantanamo Interfaith Outreach Center and Work Study Hostel."

Or if that's too much of a wishy-washy mouthful, maybe the "Guantanamo Sensitivity Training Center." By any standard, Islamist terrorists certainly have a lot to learn sensitivity-wise, and I think they need huge doses of um, therapy (possibly including "tough love" in recalcitrant cases). Not only are they are dreadfully sexist and ferociously anti-gay, but the number two man in Al Qaeda recently revealed deeply rooted racism when he hurled a racial insult at Barack Obama.

Furthermore, there's obviously a glut of sensitivity trainers, who are wasting valuable time forcing people into training who don't need it, like the college professor discussed here. How silly can we be, wasting such talent when the country needs them at Gitmo?

So let's get on with the reframing.

MORE: Phyllis Chesler has a comprehensive analysis of the Mumbai news so far, and asks a good question:

The West and non-Muslims around the world, have chosen to treat each attack separately, and not as part of a global war. What else will Islamic fundamentalists have to do to be dealt with as the enemy army they truly are?
I don't know, but it strikes me that sitting around waiting to find out what's on the next episode has not worked very well.

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

Your comments are appreciated.

For ongoing developments, don't miss José's latest roundup of innumerable news reports (which Glenn linked) -- including one about two Americans from Virginia being killed, as well as five hostages at the Jewish center.

posted by Eric at 11:43 AM | Comments (19)

Pedal To The Metal

Stagflation, Stagflation, my banker doesn't have near enough information.
The printing presses are running over time and yet folks don't want to spend one thin dime.
Stagflation, stagflation, I think it will wind up ruining the nation.
Pass the Bill will Ya Hill?

posted by Simon at 04:52 PM | Comments (2)

WorldNetDaily versus the State of Hawaii

Speaking of WorldNetDaily, the place has become almost a full time Birth Certificate Truther site. This morning I counted no less than eleven articles devoted to the subject at their front page.

The crux of the matter is the claim that the Hawaiian birth certificate -- which the state asserts is a legitimate record, and which states that Barack Obama was born in Honolulu -- is in fact fraudulent, and that Hawaii is lying.

The claim reveals such desperation that I'm beginning to feel sorry for the people who advance it, but once again (and I hope this is the last time), I feel obliged. After all, I'd hate to be lumped in with the cowardly sellouts condemned in this piece that WND prominently links:

Fox News: Total Silence. Did the healthy shares that Saudi Arabia bought of Fox influence the network's non-coverage of this story? After all, it's no secret which candidate the Saudis endorsed! We know that TV shows, including Fox, are on a seven-second delay, the better to bleep out offensive or inappropriate material. Doesn't it strike Fox viewers as strange that not one of their outspoken guests, even once, mentioned this story? Who warned them not to?

Rush Limbaugh: Total Silence. Why has the Excellence-in-Broadcasting's "Dr. of Democracy" - the man who eats sacred cows for breakfast - not touched this story?

Mark Levin: Total Silence. Why has this popular radio host, commonly known as "the Great One," abandoned his well-deserved reputation as a Constitutional scholar to studiously not address this Constitutional issue?

Laura Ingraham: Total Silence. Here is another radio powerhouse and former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas taking pains not to mention this case...not a word!

Bill O'Reilly: Total Silence. Yes, the guy who claims he's "just looking out for the folks"...voiceless!

Sean Hannity: Total Silence. The iconic radio and TV host who tackles every controversial subject under the sun...missing in action!

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The very people - the so-called loyal opposition - who should have been shouting this story from the rooftops for months on end went mute.

My friends, let it not ever be said that Classical Values went mute! Unlike Limbaugh, Levin, Ingraham, O'Reilly, and Hannity, I have devoted many long hours to this issue.

My repeated conclusion was that all they have is rumor based on alleged hearsay. Not enough even to come close to rebutting the legal presumption of legitimacy of a sovereign state's records.

Hawaii has officially certified that Barack Obama was born there, in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961, at 7:24 p.m.

That's not good enough for WND founder, editor and CEO Joseph Farah, who sees (presumably in the emanations from the Constitution's penumbra) some sort of constitutional right to know the exact name of the hospital where a candidate was born:

...the location of the hospital in which Barack Obama was born is something of a state secret.

It is information the American people should know, because it would be revealed on his birth certificate - if only we could see it.

The story, as told in Obama's ghostwritten autobiography, "Dreams of My Father," is that he was born in Hawaii Aug. 4, 1961. Yet, the only alleged birth certificate released by the Obama campaign lacks the significant details normally associated with such a document - like specifically where he was born.

OK, let's assume for the sake of argument that it would be nice to know the name of the hospital. (And, presumably, the name of the doctor who delivered Barack Obama.) The problem is that it does not appear on the only official form the state issues for documentation purposes, and the "long form" WND demands (and that the Truthers make much of) is not offered by Hawaii, nor is it a legal requirement anywhere. Nor are hospital records. (Quite the contrary; for passport purposes they're deemed inadequate to prove birth.) People might not like it, but that doesn't make it a conspiracy. Come to think of it, I had to get a Pennsylvania birth certificate a few years ago in order to get one of the new social security cards, and like Hawaii's, it does not have the hospital information on it. According to WND's reasoning, it's not enough for Pennsylvania to say I was born there. I can't run for president unless I somehow provide hospital records, or else make the state provide them on a "long form." (A form which the state of Hawaii does not offer.)

A novel interpretation, but once again, it will never survive legal scrutiny. These people are whistling in the wind.

This is important constitutionally beyond proving mere citizenship. The Constitution requires presidents to be "natural born" Americans - meaning born within the United States. In Hawaii circa 1961, it was possible - even routine - to register foreign births.
He's fudging there, as the birth certificate clearly says on its face that Obama was born in Hawaii, and Department Of Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino provided additional verification by stating the certificate was accurate.

Not good enough for Farah, who says that Jerome Corsi says that Obama's relatives gave him "testimony":

If, as some evidence strongly suggests, including the testimony of two Obama relatives to WND senior staff writer Jerome Corsi who say they were present when he was born in Mombasa, Kenya, in 1961, he was born abroad and merely registered in Hawaii, that would slam-dunk disqualify him from serving - unless, like John McCain, both his parents were U.S. citizens. Since Obama's autobiography also states that his mother was a minor and his father a citizen of Kenya, only the production of actual hospital records on a long-form birth certificate can provide the necessary information.
Wrong. Unless, of course, we assume that the state of Hawaii is lying.

It all comes down to this: Hawaii says he was born there, and Corsi says that some relatives in Africa say he wasn't.

Where Corsi says that, I'm not sure; Farah does not provide a link.


The last time I looked at Corsi's claim, he cited an uncle who said he "was not sure... whether Barack Obama junior was born in Kenya or in Hawaii" along with a video of the step-grandmother which argues that when she said he was "a son of this village" she meant "a native of this village."

Anticipating the argument that he's wearing a tin-foil hat, Farah says he's only trying to dot every "i" and "t."

Does dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" when it comes to constitutional eligibility questions for the highest office in the land warrant being characterized as a "tin-foil hat conspiracist" as some of the self-proclaimed truth-detector sites on the Internet suggest?

I don't think so.

And I'm not afraid of being called derogatory names for defending the Constitution's literal meaning and clear standards for eligibility for office.

I know where George W. Bush was born - Grace-New Haven Community Hospital in Connecticut.

I know where Bill Clinton was born - the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, Ark.

I even know Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin.

Not to pick nits, but which log cabin was that? The one in Kentucky, or the one in Illinois? Aren't we entitled to know? Has every "i" been dotted and every "t" crossed?

I predict that this will never go away, even if Obama happened to have in his possession and did manage to produce his "original" "hospital" "records."

After all, if the state Hawaii is lying, well, wouldn't a Hawaiian hospital lie too?

So I'm probably wasting my time. But at least no one can accuse me of being a Fox News, Limbaugh, Levin, Ingraham, O'Reilly, and Hannity sellout!

Once again, Little Green Footballs got it right:

Will this put a stop to the idiotic rumors? Of course not!

MORE: In answer to those who think I am wasting my time, I thought I should demonstrate how deadly seriously this argument is being taken at respected web sites. Just today, blogger "Joe the Farmer" at American Thinker devoted a great deal of time to the proposition "Why the Barack Obama Birth Certificate Issue Is Legitimate." Why this blogger is hesitant to put his own name on what he writes, I do not know. But he or she makes several points:

1. Under Hawaiian law, it is possible (both legally and illegally) for a person to have been born out of state, yet have a birth certificate on file in the Department of Health.
Yes, but Barack Obama's birth certificate states on its face that he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
2. Contrary to what you may have read, no document made available to the public, nor any statement by Hawaiian officials, evidences conclusively that Obama was born in Hawaii.
I guess the argument there is that the Certification of Live Birth is not conclusive evidence of what it says on its face that it is. Again, the argument is with the state of Hawaii.

The text that follows provides a link to an AP story headlined "State declares Obama birth certificate genuine" which says this:

HONOLULU (AP) -- State officials say there's no doubt Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

Health Department Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said Friday she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama's original birth certificate.

"Joe" complains that the statement did not verify Obama's birth in Hawaii.
That statement does not, however, verify that Obama was born in Hawaii, and as explained above, under Hawaiian policies and procedures it is quite possible that Hawaii may have a birth record of a person not born in Hawaii. Unlikely, but possible.
For that argument to be correct, the actual document which was examined by would have to be a lie or a forgery, as it states Obama was born in Honolulu. If Hawaii in fact has a birth record of a person not born in Hawaii, then the state officials are lying.
C. The document that the Obama campaign released to the public is a certified copy of Obama's birth record, which is not the best evidence since, even under Hawaiian law, the original vault copy is the better evidence. Presumably, the vault record would show whether his birth was registered by a hospital in Hawaii.
Yes, it would be better. But the problem these people face is that legally, it is not required.

Moreover, according to Hawaiian officials, it cannot be released by the state -- even with Obama's permission:

In Hawai'i, birth, death, marriage and certain divorce documents can only be released to people with a "tangible interest," such as the people themselves, their parents, spouses, grandparents or other relatives.

As a result, Fukino said she does not believe Health Department officials could release Obama's birth certificate to the public even with his permission, although she would need to get a legal ruling to be certain.

Now there's a Catch-22. If there's no way for Obama to request the "long form" that the Truthers demand, and the state cannot release it with his permission, then unless he has kept an original somewhere among his personal papers, it might be that the document is off limits to everyone -- including Barack Obama. (Nothing would surprise me.)

Under this possibly erroneous assumption that all Obama needs to do is sign a release, "Joe" looks at Obama's possible reasons for refusing to provide the "long form" birth certificate:

4. Obama has refused to disclose the vault copy of his Hawaiian birth certificate. This raises the question whether he himself has established that he is eligible to be President. To date, no state or federal election official, nor any government authority, has verified that he ever established conclusively that he meets the eligibility standard under the Constitution. If the burden of proof were on him, perhaps as it should be for the highest office of any individual in America, the more-than-dozen lawsuits challenging his eligibility would be unnecessary.
"Refused to disclose" implies that he has the "vault copy" to disclose, and that he can disclose it. If the Hawaiian officials are correct, he might be unable to "disclose" it even if he wanted to. I'd like to know how many presidents have ever provided "vault copies" of their birth certificates. Again, I don't have mine, and if someone demanded I produce it, would that obligate me legally?
...Strategically from a legal standpoint, therefore, his refusal to disclose doesn't make sense. Weighing factors such as costs, resources and complexity of disclosing versus not disclosing, he must have reason of considerable downside in disclosing, or upside in not disclosing. There may be other reasons, but one could speculate that he hasn't disclosed because:

1. He was not born in Hawaii, and may not be eligible to be President;

As even "Joe" admits, it is unlikely that he wasn't born in Hawaii. So I think it's likely that the reason (assuming he has access to the "vault copy" his critics demand) is probably one of those that follow:
2. He was born in Hawaii, but facts that may be derived from his vault copy birth certificate are inconsistent with the life story he has told (and sold);

3. He was born in Hawaii, and his refusal to provide the best evidence that he is a natural born citizen is a means by which to draw criticism of him in order to make him appear to be a "victim." This would energize his supporters. This would also make other charges about him seem suspect, including his concealment about ties to Bill Ayers and others of some infamy. Such a clever yet distasteful tactic would seem to be a Machiavelli- and Saul-Alinsky-style way to manipulate public opinion. But while this tactic may energize his supporters, it would convince those who believe him to be a manipulator that he's not only just that, but a real pro at it. This would indeed be the basest reason of all, and would have repercussions about his trustworthiness (both here and abroad), which Americans know, is a characteristic sorely lacking in its leaders.

As to reason 2, yes, it is possible the exact circumstances of Obama's birth might show that he or his mother lied about something -- perhaps his parentage. But that is not a bar to his election to office. It is simply a political matter, and no court is going to order Hawaii to release records in order to satisfy critics for that purpose.

As to reason 3, I have long thought the reason was along such lines. Whether it's a "clever yet distasteful tactic" and "basest reason of all" with "repercussions about his trustworthiness," I don't know. Barack Obama might consider the behavior of the Truthers to be beneath contempt. Considering that most of them feel the same way about him and the complete absence of any substantiation of a birth in Kenya, it strikes me as more along the lines of typical political hardball on both sides than a distasteful Machiavellian ploy. As I said back in July,

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.

Of course, that was before all these lawsuits were filed.

Sooner or later, Obama may decide to get a court to order the State of Hawaii to release whatever they have in that vault. If he does, and if it simply proves what the short form certifies, the Truthers are going to look ridiculous.

Naturally, they'll blame Barack Obama for making them look ridiculous, and they'll say "Why did he make this hard? He could have made this easy!"

Again, the whole thing reminds me of Andrew Sullivan demanding Sarah Palin's records.

They have stated on the record that Sarah Palin is Trig's biological mother. But they refuse to provide one iota of confirming evidence.

I mean: what's the problem here? Why is this so hard?

Why is this so hard?

Because Obama is making it hard!

UPDATE: Intellectual Conservative takes a common sense look at the possibility of Obama's birth in Kenya:

For Obama to have been born in Kenya, Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr. would have had to fly from Honolulu to Mombasa, give birth in a substandard third world hospital, fly back and then somehow arrange for a fraudulent birth certificate to be entered by the State of Hawai`i on August 8, 1961 (at the time governed by Republican William Quinn). They would have also somehow planted the phony birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser (at the time edited by Republican Thurston Twigg-Smith) and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Hawai`i's current Republican Governor Linda Lingle would also have to be complicit in the cover-up as would all of the leftist 1960s University of Hawaii friends of Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr - among them US Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

In 1961, the roundtrip flight to Kenya would have been a very expensive, pointless, and time consuming epic journey for two starving students. Barack Obama Sr. had only been able to come study at UH Manoa with a free ticket on a donated charter flight with other Kenyan students.

Interesting. And considering that jet travel was in its infancy in those days, I doubt there would have been any direct flights.

I think the whole operation (international travel, plus pointlessly sophisticated fraud) would have been pretty tough for a pregnant teenage mom to pull off.

posted by Eric at 03:00 PM | Comments (15)

Stimulus Package

H/T Helius

posted by Simon at 01:47 PM

Keep the majority off the playing field.

Reflecting on Glenn Reynolds' happy reaction to the news of the Robert Gates appointment, ("I'm beginning to feel like I won this election!"), John Hawkins takes issue with the emergent view of Barack Obama as a centrist:

Obama is not a centrist and he's not filling his cabinet up with them either. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and the overwhelming majority of staffers Obama is bringing on are hard core liberals. The Kos crowd may not always look at it like that, but the netroots think anyone who doesn't want to prosecute Bush for war crimes or deliberately lose the war in Iraq is practically a Republican.
How unfortunately true that last observation is. It reflects a phenomenon I've seen for years in Berkeley.

Activists on the far left (who call themselves "progressives) are not "liberal" by any stretch of the imagination, although they get lumped together with liberals by simplistic phraseology. The Berkeley political "spectrum" is so skewed to the left that city elections pit McGovern Democrats ("the right") against Marxist activists ("the left"). McGovern Democrats in Berkeley are so used to being seen as "conservatives," or "the right" that they just take it in stride, and this leads the Marxists to imagine that they really are doing battle with right wing reactionaries.

A similar process occurs on the right -- and as I've often pointed out, to many rightists today, Barry Goldwater would a liberal. (Similarly, I've asked whether not agreeing with the Family Research Council is the new definition of RINO....)

The far reaches of the left and the right are so much louder than everyone else that the debate becomes distorted, leading many to believe that the "choice" is between the far left and the far right.

Activists on both sides like it that way, because they want the playing field to themselves.

MORE: I'm wondering what sort of outcry there might have been had McCain been elected and started behaving in a similar manner (by, say, appointing country club Republican centrists and Lieberman liberals).

Sure, he'd be getting a fierce scolding from the WorldNetDaily right.

But would he be getting any credit from the left?

Obviously, what he'd get from the "progressive" left would be the usual cries for impeachment and war crimes tribunals. As to the mainstream media left, I wonder. I think the only credit he'd be likely to get would be from an occasional liberal blogger with integrity.

(Fortunately, there's no way to keep bloggers off the playing field....)

posted by Eric at 01:08 PM | Comments (4)


There is a rather long discussion going on at the post The Government IS The Devil. In that post I suggested that the government was limited to protecting public order and that its intrusion into the business of schools (currently a socialist enterprise called the Public School System) and the socialization of morality through ventures such as alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition was wrong headed and that the championing of all three by Cultural Conservatives in an attempt to bring True Morality to the American Public through the use of government guns was at minimum misguided and at worst a consorting with evil in the hopes of doing good. And we all know how bargains with the Devil usually work out. Everything is going swimmingly and then the balloon payment becomes due.

Now a commenter brought up this point.

By advocating absolute liberty as an end to itself, devoid of any contextual reality such as the role of virtue, you're asking people to ask their government to stand for...nothing.
Well except in the craziness of my youth I never have stood for absolute Liberty. What ever the hell that is. Well maybe I do know what that is: "It is good to be King". Yes. It is. If you are the King. The kind of Liberty I have in mind is better expressed by Thomas Jefferson:
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
But you know. That Liberty thing. Scary stuff. Who knows what people might do if the government isn't watching. They might be having fun in unapproved ways. Why they could be harming their eternal souls. Or piercing their eye brows. I think the eye brow piercing probably hurts more. But that is just me.

In any case I'm not asking the government to stand for nothing. I'm asking it to stand for Liberty.

Probably the scariest substance on earth. Also the costliest.

What a weak lot so many Americans have become to be so afraid of Liberty. Men died to give it to you and you treat it like a toxic substance. I laugh at your wretched condition. Groveling before government to protect you from Liberty. Not a man among you - those who fear Freedom.

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom -- go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!" Samuel Adams
Craven cowards the lot of you.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:01 AM | Comments (20)

Activists win, because bureaucracy rules!

In what's becoming increasingly common, traditional children's Thanksgiving Day costumes have been banned by a school board because activists have complained:

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won't be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child's depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

"It's demeaning," Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter's teacher. "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."

Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.

Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without "dehumanizing" her daughter's ancestry.

"There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype," she said.

I think that calling the parents "sharply divided" is a bit of a stretch, as the entire "controversy" appears to be the creation of UCR professor Michelle Raheja.

She gets her way because she is an activist, and she knows how to intimidate people. As I've observed innumerable times, intimidation works, and it is why activists win.

Ordinary people (like the parents, whose kids just want to have fun) get sucked into these debates and naturally tend to focus on the issue at hand, as if that's all there is to it. Like the cowardly bureaucrats who cave to the activists, they often fail to see that activists have a much bigger picture. The goal here is not merely to prevent kids from having fun, or even to ruin Thanksgiving permanently.

Rather, it's just one small step.

These activists are relentless, and seek nothing less than the complete destruction of the enemy, which is of course white American racist imperialism. Professor Raheja's department, for example, wants Andrew Jackson taken off the 20 dollar bill.

The children's costumes are just one issue, not the issue.

Unfortunately, the only way to stop activists is to refuse to give one inch. Let them scream and yell and have their tantrums. Let them hurl insults and call people racists, call the cops if they resort to attacks on people or property, and eventually, they might give up. The problem is that politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate executives all subscribe to the philosophy of appeasement. Give them what they demand in order to make the present controversy go away. While this only emboldens them, and they'll be back later with more and more of their endless demands, it solves the apparent problem right now, so it is very appealing "solution" to those who want to avoid embarrassing confrontations.

Fortunately, parents and this local blog are fighting back at the bureaucratic appeasers:

One aspect of this affair that is entirely despicable is the cowardly cowering by Superintendent David Cash and principals Tim Northrop and Clara Arocha. According to the Times article, "Cash and the principals of Condit and Mountain View did not respond to interview requests." What's the matter? Cat got their tongues? These are public employees, and they ought to be willing and able to defend and explain their decisions.

The action starts tomorrow morning at 8 when the parents send their kids to school. At 9, the kids are scheduled to head up to Condit. We'll see if the teachers have confiscated the contraband construction-paper costumes.

The blog also posts this flyer:


A poll shows 99% support for the children's costumes.

Yet even though we think that "democracy rules," it only takes a single activist to defeat an overwhelming majority.

That's because in the real world, bureaucracy rules.

The bright side is that the bureaucrats are also intimidated by an angry majority -- even an angry majority of non-activists.

UPDATE: My thanks to Fausta for the link, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all!

posted by Eric at 12:36 PM | Comments (21)

Heaven-sent images

Watching the sunset from this house is always a treat, and much better than television. Today was especially spectacular, because, while it was overcast all day, the sun broke through at the last minute in a most peculiar, other-worldly manner. Here's a view from inside the house.


To give an idea of how the window glass filters out the color when the camera is used, here's a view from outside the window, as the sun got lower.


And speaking of heavenly images, here's something else I found:


Yeah, I know, modern art sucks and all that. But I can't bear to throw it away.

(Hmmm.. Maybe now that it's online, it doesn't matter what happens to the original.)

MORE: By way of comparison, here's Salvador Dalí's "News of the
Lower Depths of Hell" from the Divine Comedy series.


Why the elephant-like figure is eating the woman on the right, I don't know.

posted by Eric at 11:46 PM | Comments (8)

Face the music

I'm not sure about whether making convicted noisemakers listen to music they don't like isn't carrying "an eye for an eye" too far:

FORT LUPTON -- Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs" may begin with the line, "I've been alive forever,'" but for noise ordinance violators, listening to Manilow may feel like forever.

Fort Lupton Municipal Judge Paul Sacco says his novel punishment of forcing noise violators to listen to music they don't like for one hour has cut down on the number of repeat offenders in this northwestern Colorado prairie town.

About four times a year, those guilty of noise ordinance violations are required to sit in a room and listen to music from the likes of Manilow, Barney the Dinosaur, and The Platters' crooning "Only You"

"These people should have to listen to music they don't like," said Judge Paul Sacco for a segment about the program that aired Friday on Denver's KUSA-TV.

Sacco began the program years ago when he noticed that many of the repeat offenders simply showed up at his courtroom to pay their fine with cash.

When US special forces invaded Panama, one of the methods used to force Manuel Noriega to give up was by blasting him with loud and obnoxious music. The Vatican objected.

And might this technique backfire? I mean, suppose some of these miscreants are psychopaths, and they hate Barry Manilow so much that they get even with society by driving around blasting peaceful neighborhoods with "I write the songs"?

The problem with these things is that one man's torment is another man's joy. My favorite awful song of torment happens to be "Hamburger Lady" by Throbbing Gristle.

Seriously, it gives me the creeps to listen to it, even though I think it evokes a pretty accurate musical picture of the charbroiled woman the song is about.

The lyrics:

Hamburger Lady
Hamburger Lady

She's dying,
She is burned from the waist up,
On her arm,
Her ear is burned,
Her eyelashes are burned,
She can't hold things up,
And even with medical advances,
There's no end in sight,
For hamburger lady,
She wants me to tell you of her claim mind,
From which the double play laying,
The proping chair,
Leave her,
She's Burned from the waist down,
Has to eat her life through tubes,


I think that if you played that at concert hall pitch for a manacled and hooded prisoner, it would be pretty upsetting.

Whether it would cure him of his exhibitionistic need to blast strangers, I don't know.

I'm wondering whether a more fitting punishment might be to make them develop new and negative associations with the music they do like. You know, the way they wrecked Beethoven for Alex in "A Clockwork Orange"?

Judicially, I can't tell whether the idea of forcing Manilow on the noisemakers is along the lines of an eye for an eye or a form of aversive therapy. It reminds me of the way parents in the old days would punish a kid they caught smoking by forcing him to smoke an entire cigar -- a technique which apparently worked with golfing coach George Pinnell.

What about Barry Manilow? Has he any right to not have his music used as aversive therapy? Or does he only have a right to get the money from ASCAP from whoever plays it?

Years ago, some people who worked in a restaurant I frequented complained to me about gangster rap kids who would come in late at night and hang out at the bar without drinking and without ordering food, and who would blast the patrons with their music in the parking lot. They wondered what might discourage them, and they debated playing country music, but worried that the regulars they wanted to keep wouldn't like it. I suggested playing the Grateful Dead, and to my amazement, they tried it and later told me it worked like a charm. The gangster rap kids looked more and more bored and eventually stopped hanging out there.

But these people were free to leave. I'm partial to the Dead and I'd never want anyone to be forced to listen to it as punishment.

As to John Lennon's "Imagine," that's another matter.

posted by Eric at 07:39 PM | Comments (5)

The day the irony died

Yes, in what comes as very sad news to me, apparently irony died on the day Barack Obama was elected president. So stated the now-disgruntled Joan Didion (who didn't say whether she voted for or against irony):

The week after the election, in a talk at the New York Public Library, Ms. Didion lamented that the United States in the era of Barack Obama had become an "irony-free zone," a vast Kool-Aid tank where "naïveté, translated into 'hope,' was now in" and where "innocence, even when it looked like ignorance, was now prized."

Who'd want to live in a world like that?

Uh, not me. But do I have any choice?

Can I just say "Gag me with a spoon"?

The Times goes on to point out that "no self-respecting ironist actually uses the word "ironic," except, perhaps, ironically."

What about self-dissing ironists? I don't know what the permissible categories are for anything anymore, and I'm just baffled. I wish I had not seen this piece, which I saw not because I read the Times, but only because the fearless Ann Althouse linked it. She also offers some constructive criticism of both the Times and its one-way source:

The Times -- struggling mightily to develop its theme -- tried to get Didion to explain herself:
"Basically," she said on the phone Tuesday, "I don't like to talk about anything I've written or that I'm writing. What you write down, there it is and you've done it."
Which means: Fuck you, I'm a wordsmith.
I have to say, I like Didion's policy. Just put the stuff out there and go on to something else. Reminds me of Salvador Dalí, who took no responsibility for his art, and who claimed that it meant nothing. Of course, if you're a blogger who allows comments, that poses problems, because there is an implied obligation of accountability. You can say you're "done with it" but the commenters won't agree. And as long as the comments work, they can always have the last word. (Really? Yeah! Says who? I do? You and who else?) Perhaps Didion should try being publicly unaccountable in the face of being held publicly accountable. It's good for the soul.

The problem with Didion's remark is that she's being disingenuous. What the Times said she said was that she was "not... willing to elaborate on her talk." And this was a talk she gave -- specifically "a talk at the New York Public Library." Am I confused, or does "a talk" now mean "something I write down"? (The article does not say that she read from a prepared text, and there's no mention of a teleprompter.)

As the Times notes, there's a piece that P.J. O'Rourke has not finished yet, with the irresistible title of "Is It Too Soon to Start Talking About the Failed Obama Presidency Just Because He Isn't President Yet?" I'd read it, but it's nowhere to be found. However, it's never too soon to start blogging about the unfinished "too soon to talk about" piece. (Many already have, so I'm just a Johnny-come-lately.) Truly, it's one of the most timely pieces I've never read.

Of course, if Joan Didion had commenters, she would soon learn that not only can you face criticism for what you have written down, but for what you haven't! Nothing could be more unfair.

If there's one thing I love to hate, it's when people criticize me for stuff I have not written about.

I mean, what you have not written down, there it isn't and you haven't done it.

MORE: Speaking of things I don't write about, I'd like to lodge a complaint here about the annoying and tyrannical umlaut the Times places over the "i" in "naïveté." I realize that it might be grammatically correct, but sheesh. I can't copy and paste an umlautted "i"; instead I have to laboriously write out "ampersand i uml" plus a semicolon, or else just scratch the umlaut and substitute an ordinary "i" -- which would constitute misquoting, wouldn't it?

Damn. Them.

MORE: While not mentioning irony by name, Glenn Reynolds links the Althouse post and quotes the O'Rourke title, while allowing that he's willing to wait:

...I'm waiting until at least February, I think. Just to be sporting. Besides, he's looking ever more hawkish and tax-cutting, so who knows -- things may work out . . . .
I, too, hope things work out.

Especially the future of irony.

Seriously, Obama the tax-cutting hawk?

Or Obama the hawkish tax-cutter. Whatever.

Let's keep hope alive!

posted by Eric at 11:39 AM | Comments (12)

Some Really Slick S****

Scientist at DOE's Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, have found a material that is very hard and slicker than teflon by a factor of 2.5X.

A superhard substance that is more slippery than Teflon could protect mechanical parts from wear and tear, and boost energy efficiency by reducing friction.

The "ceramic alloy" is created by combining a metal alloy of boron, aluminium and magnesium (AlMgB14) with titanium boride (TiB2). It is the hardest material after diamond and cubic boron nitride.

BAM, as the material is called, was discovered at the US Department of Energy Ames Laboratory in Iowa in 199, during attempts to develop a substance to generate electricity when heated.

I think they mean 1999.
Those chance findings have now developed into a $3-million programme at the Ames Lab to develop the BAM into a kind of eternal lubricant, a coating for moving parts to boost energy efficiency and longevity by reducing friction.

BAM is much slipperier than Teflon, with a coefficient of friction of .02 compared to .05. Lubricated steel has a friction coefficient of 0.16.

One way to exploit this slipperiness is to coat the rotor blades in everyday pumps used in everything from heating systems to aircraft, says Russel. A slick BAM coating of just 2 microns could reduce friction between the blades and their housing, meaning less power is needed to produce the same pumping power.

Bruce Cook, lead investigator on the Ames Lab project, estimates that merely coating rotors with the material could save US industry alone 330 trillion kilojoules (9 billion kilowatt hours) every year by 2030 - about $179 million a year.

BAM is also potentially attractive as a hard coating for drill bits and other cutting tools. Diamond is commonly used for this, and is harder, but it reacts chemically with steel and so degrades relatively quickly when used to cut the metal.

Ultimately it would mean multi-billion dollar savings per year. Think of what it would mean to reduce friction in automotive bearings by a factor of 8 and in addition eliminate the need for oil changes. Obviously there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get us from here to there.

One of the things this article points out is that you never know what you will find when you start looking - if you are paying attention.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:05 AM | Comments (4)

The Government IS The Devil

I'm having a conversation with one of my social conservative friends about marriage and child welfare. This is what I had to say:

The government IS the Devil. Not metaphorically. Really.

Everything you get from government will have a price much larger than the value of the object gained. Some times the price will not be extracted from you. Sometimes it will be from your children, your grand children, or ten generations hence. But the full price the government wants will be extracted at compound interest.

We are still paying the price for trying to be a free people while holding slaves. My great great grand parents lived on another continent when all that went on. And yet the price is being extracted from me.

What I'm trying to teach you is that the only way out is Liberty. You put the government in charge of other people's children for their own good and some day the government will come after yours. Either intervene in a bad situation personally or leave it alone. There is no other way to save your Liberty.

A commenter who read this post said it was good but that he would have liked a longer exposition. So here goes:

Government IS the devil. Social conservatives of a different era got government into the marriage business to prevent race mixing. Cultural conservatives are now paying the price for their error.

The only answer that is equitable to all is to get government out of marriage: the libertarian solution. You really do not want government protecting your culture. Because some day in a way you can't imagine the protections sought will be used against your culture.

As I have been harping on since the election. The libertarian view (small limited government) is your best protection. You are now coming against Cultural Socialism. It is just as bad, maybe worse, than Economic Socialism. The answer is not more law to fix the law that created the mess. It is less law.

Government out of marriage.

How about a different example. Cultural conservatives of a different era were one of the forces behind the public school movement. They were intent on indoctrinating Catholic and Jewish immigrants into Real Americanism. Cultural Socialism at its finest. So laws were passed and now government controls the schools and you know social conservatives lost control. They instituted Cultural Socialism by passing laws and control got away from them.

Government out of the school business.

Some people wanted to use the law as a bludgeon. And now that bludgeon is being used against their offspring a number of generations down the road. The Devil will always get his due.

Government IS the Devil.

In any area that you chose to get government to do something for you it will ultimately be allowed to do something against you.

Which is why cultural conservatives have more to gain from libertarians than just their votes.

Down with Cultural Socialism.

"Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away." And that is not just true about economics. It is true about culture as well. Take it to heart.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:30 AM | Comments (43)

Up with maleness?

Via Glenn Reynolds, I read about the Gender Analyzer War. (Just plug in any blog URL at the Gender Analyzer, and it will tell you how male the blogger is.)

While the ostensible blog manliness showdown initially arose between Jules Crittenden and Gateway Pundit (the former being a whopping 95% male in contrast to the latter's "girly" 53%), they're also snarking at Glenn's 64% manliness factor. To which Glenn replies,

Personally, I'm quite comfortable with my feminine side.
Being someone who is quite uncomfortable with all of my "sides," naturally, this all made me wonder about myself. So, I plugged in Classical Values' URL, and saw this:
We think is written by a man (72%).
Eeek! This places me between Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan. Odd, because Glenn strikes me as more butch (a lot more butch) than Andrew.


Of course, Sullivan devotes a huge amount of time (more than almost any major blogger) to obsessing about homosexuality. So I wondered.... might homosexuality increase the maleness factor?

While I don't think this blog is obsessed with homosexuality, it just so happens that yesterday I wrote a long and detailed post about sordid homosexual sex in restrooms.

So I entered the post URL in the Gender Analyzer, and sure enough, the maleness went up dramatically:

We think is written by a man (81%).
It's tough to draw definitive conclusions, but I guess the lesson here is that when I write about homosexuality, my manhood increases -- to a point beyond that of Andrew Sullivan.

Except somehow, I don't like the way that looks.

posted by Eric at 12:36 PM | Comments (6)

A Really Interesting Discussion

There is a really interesting discussion going on between Kelly and Edgar in the comments at the Power and Control post Sanctification. May I suggest a read?

posted by Simon at 09:42 PM

part of the culture

Clayton Cramer is irritated by the loss of privacy in men's rooms, caused by the removal of doors to toilet stall doors. Apparently the door removal is being mandated by governments which want to prevent homosexual conduct.

...Ladies, you may not be aware of this, but in many public men's rooms, especially in roadside rest areas, there are no doors on the stalls. Women's restrooms don't have this indignity--and for a reason.

This is a sore subject to me today. I was driving back from Bend to Boise, and nature didn't just call--but screamed--on a lonely stretch of U.S. 20 between Bend and Burns. I pulled into a roadside rest area to use the men's room.

Having to do your business sitting down in a public restroom is stressful enough already, but without even the modicum of privacy of a door that closes makes the situation even more unpleasant. And seeing the general filth of the toilet made me just endure the scream of nature until I got to Ontario. (Yes, there's not much on that road.)

And why do men's public restrooms get this additional degradation--but not women's public restrooms? Because some gay men use public restroom stalls for casual, completely anonymous sexual assignations. Senator Larry "Wide Stance" Craig (R-ID) briefly brought this whole sordid behavior to the attention of the public, but because it didn't fit the popular culture's image of homosexuality as an enlightened alternative lifestyle, the popular media did their best to spin the story as "hypocritical conservative Republican" rather than asking why this is a depressingly common part of the culture of gay men.

Sex in restrooms happens. Whether it's "part of the culture of gay men" is open to debate. There are plenty of gay men who are as turned off by the idea of having sex in a public toilet as most straight men would be. Moreover, most gay men don't need to have sex in toilets. They'll generally pick up a partner in a bar and take him home. While there are gay men who are into the illicit exhibitionistic thrill of a restroom sex encounter, I suspect they are a fairly small minority, although I don't know if studies have been done which would bear that out. The thing is, there are straight men who have sex in quasi-public places like peep shows and adult bookstores, and I have seen obvious prostitutes climbing into truck cabs at rest stops (presumably to do something other than admire the guy's rig). While women don't often enter mens rooms, the fact is that heterosexual men do sometimes enjoy illicit sex wherever they can get it. In terms of numbers, I suspect that illicit heterosexual sex is nowhere near as common among straight guys as is illicit homosexual sex is among gay guys, even if the numbers were the same, I don't think it would be fair to call it a "common part of the culture of straight men," because there is no "culture" of straight men.

Now, while there is a very vocal group of activists who lay claim to "gay culture," that does not legitimize any claim by such activists that all people of a homosexual nature belong to it. Nor does it legitimize claims by the activists' opponents that a given homosexual person belongs to any such alleged culture.

But for the umpteenth time, let me admit my bias: I abhor identity politics, and think it's unreasonable to define people by their genital conduct, much less build a culture around it.

Cramer also suspects that it isn't the majority of gay men who have sex in restrooms:

...I suspect that a majority of gay men don't have sex in public toilets. But the ones that do aren't exactly rare, and because they can't exercise enough self-control to go somewhere else for sex, they have caused this degrading loss of privacy in public restrooms--and force the rest of us exercise enormous self-control all the way from the Burns, Oregon, to Ontario, Oregon.
Have they caused the loss of privacy? Or has the government simply decided to take away privacy along the usual "prevention" lines? This reminds me of cell phones. Because some people use them in an inappropriate manner, there are laws and rules interefering with the rights of people who don't. Or pit bulls; because some people don't control theirs, the government wants to take away mine. I realize it's philosophical hair-splitting, but I think when the government resorts to preventive enforcement and treats the majority of people like children in a kindergarten (all of whom are punished for the misbehavior of one), it might be a mistake to focus on the miscreant as the "cause." Instead, I think the miscreant provides an opportunity, which the government uses to its advantage.

The next logical step, of course, would be to shut down all public restrooms. Because some people have sex in them. Does this make sense? If you're a government bureaucrat, yes. Maintenance costs go down, and revenues increase when police issue the inevitable citations for public urination. (Which can always be charged as "indecent exposure" in order to force a "deal.")

Cramer also looks at the intriguing question of what constitutes being "gay":

Over the years, I have been repeatedly told by gay activists that men who have sex with other men in public restrooms aren't necessarily gay--that they are overwhelmingly straight men. If that makes you brain start to catch fire and explode--let me explain that gay activists insist that a person's sexuality isn't defined by who they have sex with, or even who they want to have sex with--but with which sexual orientation they publicly identify themselves. So a man who is married to a woman, but cruises public restrooms for anonymous sex with another man--why, he's straight! Someone who makes an argument like that is obviously confused about more than just their sexual identity.
Well, I would never say that a man who is married to a woman who has sex with men in restrooms is straight. He would be at least bisexual, scientifically speaking. He has undeniably homosexual needs which cannot be met by his wife. The Andrew Sullivans would say that he is a closeted gay who should "come out," divorce his wife, and leave his family. Only then could he really find happiness. The rule I've never been able to understand is that people have to be either gay or straight. Perhaps that's because the gay identity politics movement has a hegemonic need to define and identify people, in order to lay claim to "a people." But people on the other side go along with it too.

Is there a gay counterpart to the "man who is married to a woman, but cruises public restrooms for anonymous sex with another man"? Actually, I have known bisexual men who would have preferred women who nonetheless have functioned as lovers to gay men. I once employed an openly gay man whose lover did prefer women and who found gratification in heterosexual pornography. It was a constant struggle for the gay guy to cope with this and he was constantly worried that his lover would leave him for a woman. This is not common, but it does happen, and the otherwise "straight" guys who do this are referred to as "trade." Some gay men are immensely turned on by the whole phenomenon, and while it isn't discussed much (and is fraught with obvious contradictions) it does exist. These men are clearly not "straight" though, and they would have to be called bisexual. The relationships tend not to work out very well, and the guys I've known who have been into that run through one "straight" lover after another, usually because the initial turn-on was occasioned by the partner being "straight" -- and obviously, the more it continues, the less "straight" he becomes. (Either that or the guy finds a woman.) So the built-in half life is very short.

The reason I raised this point about "trade" was not merely to posit a counterpart to Cramer's hypothetical, but because I have noticed over the years that these "straight" men willing to have sex with gays are precisely what many of the gay men who are into restroom sex are looking for. Whether they're straight or not, the fact is that restrooms by their nature enable these men to have a furtive type of contact that they would never otherwise allow themselves to have. These types won't dare go to a gay bars and look openly for sex because that would be like admitting they're gay, and they don't want to do that. So they sit there passively in the stalls, waiting and hoping for attention. Whether they're closeted gays, occasional dabblers in bisexuality, or some strange unidentified new sexual minority is an interesting topic for debate.

Cramer wonders why this sort of conduct is still going on:

Idaho Democratic bloggers like to claim that there's something unhealthy or weird about "obssessing" about homosexuality. I'm actually obssessing about the loss of privacy. If gay men want to signal to other gay men (excuse me, "straight men who like to have random, anonymous sex with other straight men") to go somewhere in private for their actions, we wouldn't have lost the bathroom stall doors!

In 1960, or 1970, or even 1980, when homosexuality was illegal in most states, or even socially octracized in the other states, I could somewhat see the argument for why this behavior was being done in this anonymous and degrading way. But today? Or, for that matter, any time in the last ten years?

Do what you want in private. But do it in private. I want the bathroom stall doors back.

Good point, and fascinating analysis.

I don't think talking about this constitutes "obsessing about homosexuality," because the subject received national attention with the Larry Craig case. Craig is still married and still denies being gay. As to what he is, far be it from me to say.

However, I don't think public restrooms have much appeal to your garden variety gay man who wants to pick up another garden variety gay man. While there's probably a small amount of that, I think much of the appeal exists among those we would call "in the closet" and among those into both sides of what has long been called "trade." The fact that homosexuality is legal and there are openly gay pickup places is completely lost on such people.

As to "privacy," in what I think is an ironic twist, many of those who seek sex in restrooms do so precisely because see the restrooms as offering privacy. By privacy, I mean privacy of the mind -- the sort that is not offered by gay bars, and which is lost when a man becomes openly identified as gay. Restrooms offer anonymity, and anonymity is seen as privacy.

Like it or not, there are men who have sex with men who do not want the "gay" label, because penalties attach.

Don't blame me; I don't make these "rules."

I can't even make sense out of them.

posted by Eric at 02:36 PM | Comments (11)

The Republican Party's New Platform

I just got a comment at one of my blog posts on the attitude Real Republicans™ should take towards homosexuals. I ain't naming names or quoting the rest of the text but here is the gist of it:

Leviticus 18:22

[22] You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

Romans 1:25-28

[25] For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

[26] For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, [27] and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

[28] And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

[9] Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals , nor sodomites, [10] nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.


Well you get the idea.

Not only will them homos not get the Kingdom of God, they are to be persecuted here on earth by a True Christian Government™ which the True Christians™ of the Real Republican Party™ will bring us any day now. As soon as they get elected.

Alan Keyes For President!

Sounds like a winner to me.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:13 PM | Comments (15)

Candy-ass goes mainstream

Perhaps I'm a callused and insensitive bastard, but I'm well aware that unless they are eaten alive (which happens only in certain other countries it is racist to criticize), animals have to be killed before being eaten. While animal rights activists and radical vegans do not like this, people who eat meat obviously accept the inevitable killing which is a precursor to their meal.

If they don't, well, then there's something seriously wrong with the way they think. I like to assume that normal people think in a normal manner, and that people who eat meat have to know that it came from an animal which was slaughtered.

So yesterday when I read that Governor Sarah Palin held a press conference after her annual "turkey pardon" at a turkey farm while turkeys were being slaughtered in the background, I assumed that this Huffington Post reaction (calling the turkey killings "surreal" and "gruesome") that Ann Althouse blogged about was just an example of animal rights activist fare. Anyway, I agreed with her reaction:

Deal with it, you candy-asses. If you eat meat, something like that is going on in the background for you too.
I agree, but it didn't seem worth a blog post yesterday. Writing about painfully obvious things is sometimes, well, painful, especially when I'm busy, as I have been lately.

Until this morning, when Glenn Reynolds linked the Althouse post again along with this gem from Tim Blair, I had not realized that the "candy-ass" commotion was not limited to animal rights activists.

It's now mainstream.

These are some of the headlines:

  • Quips Blair,
    What did they expect her to do? Intervene?
    Blair notes countless hand-wringing reactions to the turkey slaughter -- including the New York Times, NBC, Wonkette, MSNBC, and the Washington Post, and I was just blown away to read them.

    No way could all of these people be vegans or animal rights activists. Surely, the movement hasn't infiltrated that far, that fast. Have they? Or are these people living in denial, imagining that their food is manufactured in factories somewhere?

    Beats me.

    Here's the video that's caused all the commotion:

    Under the circumstances, I find myself wondering why there was no similar outrage over this gruesome scene:


    Imagine. Not only was that animal slaughtered while still alive, but its dead body was then severed into pieces, with the flesh on one of its legs finally torn apart by the teeth of a man who then swallowed it -- the latter in full view of reporters and photographers. And after all of that, he was elected president.

    So where's the outrage from mainstream candy-assdom?

    UPDATE: In a post three years ago, I noticed that "tasteless beheading videos used to be shown on television" (in children's cartoons made in the 1940s and recycled over the years for Thanksgiving) and I found this animated gif:


    As I noted,

    The country was more rural in the 40s, and rural people tend not to have as much of a problem knowing where their food comes from.
    Beheading video? Geez. Maybe I shouldn't use or regurgitate such strong language.

    I'd hate to give Sarah Palin's candy-ass critics ideas.

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

    As to the gruesome Obama poultry photo which shocked Glenn, it was M. Simon who found it. (It's so damning that it might have been suppressed permanently had he not.)

    All comments appreciated!

    posted by Eric at 12:11 PM | Comments (56)


    I have always wondered why Christian social conservatives have trouble with gay marriage. Most Christian social conservatives have no problem with domestic partnerships. So it can't be legal rights.

    So I'm guessing here that since they are always going on about the sacredness of marriage it must be something else. Holy matrimony. And what are the words of the ceremony? "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." "What God has joined together." So the unions are considered unholy by God's laws. OK. That makes sense. At least in their eyes. But look at the contradiction. It is no longer God who decides. It is not even the Church. After all there are many things holy in one church or religion that are unholy in others and yet those things do not seem to matter in a pluralistic America. For instance communion wafers if blessed by the Catholic Church are holy in that church and in other churches they are just crackers. There is no outcry about that. So I'm trying to see what it is. It can't be the sanctification by the Church or a church.

    What seems to be the problem is the not the authority of the Church. The problem is the authority of the State to confer the status of marriage. So churches are no longer the arbiter between God and man. The state is the arbiter. So let me ask my Christian social conservative friends. Isn't making the state the arbiter between God and man a Christian heresy?

    Which leads me to believe that it all went wrong with the Emperor Constantine who joined Christianity with the power of the State. It has been 1,700 years and despite that passage of time Christians still have not recovered. Jefferson with his "wall of separation" is derided by most Christian social conservatives. And yet in a way not recognized he was attempting to return Christians to their roots. And their roots were definitely not in the power of the state. In fact the state was originally considered the source of much wickedness. But now the State is considered the source of holiness. Well people can believe what they want to believe. I consider it passing strange though. Secular authorities confer holiness. That would make the State a religion. Well the worship of temporal power has always had quite a following. The The Egyptians had their god king or pharaoh. The later Romans were big on that sort of thing. The Middle Ages in Europe had it in a somewhat attenuated form. The Divine Right of Kings. So there is considerable historical precedent. Why not America? Why not the Church of America which confers holiness on a given marriage? Even stranger is that America has just elected The One. Well his divinity is tethered by a rather fragile thread. He will be Holy and Righteous only so long as he does what his followers want him to do. A complete inversion of what Modern religions believe. You are supposed to get holy by following religion not by religion following you. Some one is in for a rude awakening. Either That One or his followers.

    The State is my shepherd. I shall not want. The cry of Socialists from the days of Karl Marx. "A Republic if you can keep it." Of course the State as a religion was the downfall of the Roman Republic. So it looks like we can't keep it. After a 1,700 year fight get get back to republican government it took only another 200 years or so to lose it. And why is that? Because the State as a religion is always tugging at humans. They like it. They have liked it for as long as there have been States. Well most of them like it. Me? Not so much. The Emperor is naked. He is also stark raving mad. But don't tell him that. It upsets the Emperor and enrages his followers.

    So now maybe some of you can get a glimmer of why I have an antipathy to the State as arbiter of economics or culture. Those are both faces of the State as religion. Worship the one true god or face punishment. And with the state having the guns the punishment need not wait until the hereafter. Of course it is no longer a matter of the State just punishing the wicked which is probably a lawful job. Now a days the State can punish the merely sinful. That will keep folks on the straight and narrow. Or else cause a rebellion. Depending.

    It is rather obvious that humans are more than passing strange. Interesting to watch though. Very interesting.

    Naturally, not being well versed in Christian doctrine I'm sure my social conservative friends will show me the error of my ways. Have at it guys.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:06 AM | Comments (37)

    Help For Aging Brains

    Scientists are finding surpising value in the daily use of small amounts of marijuana.

    Ohio State University scientists are finding that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells.

    Their research suggests that the development of a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer's remains unknown, chronic inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to memory impairment.

    Any new drug's properties would resemble those of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, but would not share its high-producing effects. THC joins nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as agents that, in moderation, have shown some protection against inflammation in the brain that might translate to better memory late in life.

    "It's not that everything immoral is good for the brain. It's just that there are some substances that millions of people for thousands of years have used in billions of doses, and we're noticing there's a little signal above all the noise," said Gary Wenk, professor of psychology at Ohio State and principal investigator on the research.

    The scientists are now looking for a chemical that fills the appropriate receptors in the brain that do not cause a high. The difficulty is that if you find a chemical that fills a receptor you get all the effects of filling that receptor. Not just the effect you want. I think their search will be futile.

    In any case to prevent memory loss - if you got 'em smoke 'em. In moderation.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:14 PM | Comments (2)

    Looking At The Future

    Some times you can tell a lot about the future by looking at the past. The past I want to look at was the Bush/Kerry, Keyes/Obama election results in Illinois from 2004.

    I'm going to repost a bit I did then in its entirety. Jack Ryan was the Republican who Obama's confederates got kicked off the ballot. I'm not going to go into the details of that - you can look it up. Any way Alan Keyes was Ryan's replacement.

    So here it is: Jack Ryan Republicans.

    Here is a comment I made to one of my cultural conservative friends who said cultural conservative were the new American center:

    Main Stream Media think they are the middle too.

    They are no more correct than you are.

    Think of how the Senate/Presidential race went in Illinois. Bush got 45% of the vote - 2,313,415 votes. Keyes got 27% - 1,371,882 votes. If you parse the numbers about 130,000 voted in the Presidential race that did not vote in the Senate race (more unhappy Republicans?).

    Keyes didn't get the votes of the Jack Ryan Republicans. It shows.

    So my Cultural Conservative friends - think of it. Bush would have won Illinois by picking up 6% of the votes (giving 51%). Alan Keyes would have needed to pick up 24% of the votes to get a similar result. What are the odds? I said in 2004 that the writing was on the wall for Cultural Conservatives as a political movement.

    Have have words on the wall been written in big enough letters so you can see yet?

    Well. We shall see won't we?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:53 PM | Comments (6)

    Ask not (and tell not) what you can do for your country...

    In a move sure to piss off gay activists (who are already seething over the passage of Prop 8 with heavy black support), Barack Obama has decided to delay the implementation of his campaign promise to jettison the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy:

    President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

    Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.

    Obviously, Obama remembers how much trouble this caused Bill Clinton in the very first year of his administration:
    The incoming administration is well aware of how President Clinton botched the same issue 15 years ago. Shortly after taking office in 1993, the president ordered the Pentagon to rescind the regulation that excluded gays.

    On Capitol Hill, Republicans, and some leading Democrats, including then-Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn of Georgia, objected. Retired military officers and a number of pro-military conservative activist groups joined the fight.

    Nunn of course is a friend and advisor of Barack Obama.

    I think gays should be allowed to serve in the military and over the years I have known a number who did. Most were closeted, but not all. Few people like to talk about it, but as a practical matter (and because of the stereotypes in which many people believe), the situation is not the same for gay men as it is for lesbians. The former have a much tougher time, because homosexuality among men is seen as a threat to manhood, and the military is seen as being about manhood. Lesbianism, OTOH, is not a threat to manhood, and if anything, butch lesbians are seen as even preferable to feminine women in a military setting. These are not rules and they'd never be countenanced in terms of official policy, but they are simply observations based on realities as I have seen them over the years.

    I am well aware of how sensitive this issue can be, and I realize it is not easily settled with edicts and directives. Many young men (especially those who did not grow up knowing gays) have a strong aversion to any hint of homosexuality in an all male setting, and they become extremely uncomfortable when it arises. In the military, this is exacerbated, and this means that inevitably, gay men who want to serve openly have a tough time and an uphill battle. The military is not about handholding and group sessions dedicated to eradicating "climates of homophobia"; it is about bonding in such a way as to become efficient at killing the enemy. It is the antithesis of political correctness. Barack Obama obviously understands this, and he does not want to look foolish or reckless.

    It is not easy to generalize about groups of people who share little in common, but the gay men I have known who served included one gay who ended up as a drill sergeant in the Marine Corps. He was so crazy before he entered the Corps that I doubt it ever occurred to anyone that he was gay. A scary sort of person, and not the type anyone would "ask." At the opposite end of the spectrum of "obviousness" I knew a man who was such a queen that when he told me he was enlisting in the Navy, I suppressed a laugh, then gently asked him whether the fact that he was so obviously gay might become an issue. He said he assumed they knew, but this was the post-draft, post-Vietnam, mid 1970s, and even though homosexuality was verboten, things were lax because they had a tough time getting recruits, so while the policy might not have been "Don't Ask Don't Tell," there was probably a lot of looking the other way. (To not notice that this guy was gay, you'd have to be blind and deaf, though.) About a year in, he grew so bored with life in the Navy that he wanted out, so he decided to make his homosexuality an issue by announcing it. His commanding officer took him aside and told him that he was real obvious and they knew all along, and that they thought he was using his homosexuality to get out in a dishonest manner. They were pissed off at having wasted valuable training on him but had no choice other than to give him a discharge. I'll never forget it, because I didn't think a guy like that could ever make it through basic training, yet he did. I'm not quite sure why no one cared, but I suspect that in the field they placed him in (geeky electronic stuff I didn't understand), no one cared.

    An incident which I witnessed in a martial arts school in San Francisco years ago might shed some light on the complexities involved in these interactions. There was a grand master, and his second in charge was a black belt who was gay, but unless you had finely attuned "gaydar," you wouldn't know it. I had known him from years before, so I knew and couldn't have cared less as I was there for physical fitness purposes (not that learning ways to disarm people and break arms and snap necks wasn't fun, but you learn these things so you won't need to do them). However, there were working class San Francisco guys there who definitely did not know, including a young black man who was an Army sergeant, and a Hispanic guy in the Navy. What I will never forget is the afternoon that an obviously gay San Francisco couple came in to inquire about training and prices. The black belt instructor told us all to practice forms while he showed them around, and the reaction of the two military guys was one of immediate outrage. The black sergeant announced to everyone, "Man, if they join, I'm outa here! I'm not changing my clothes in front of them!" The Hispanic man agreed, and grimaced. Then, when the instructor returned, the black guy asked him pointedly whether the couple had signed up. They hadn't, and he expressed great relief, while still muttering outrage. In what I considered supreme irony at the time, while the black guy wasn't looking, the instructor gave me a knowing look while rolling his eyes. Had the poor man any idea that his instructor was gay, I don't know what he would have done.

    Doubtless activists like Andrew Sullivan would say that ths black belt missed his real teaching moment there, and that he should have confronted the man's homophobia.

    Would that have really solved the problem?

    I'm not so sure it would have. I don't think there are magical "one size fits all" solutions to these problems.

    But that does not stop activists from activizing, and there are activists on both sides. Returning to Barack Obama and "Don't Ask Don't Tell," anti-gay actvist Robert Knight sees a coming "Pearl Harbor moment":

    "Homosexual activists are overconfident because they have not yet seen a counterforce emerge as occurred in 1993," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute at the Media Research Center, an organization that seeks to balance perceived liberal bias in mainstream news coverage.

    "But as the threat grows stronger, we will see groups forming and the resistance building," he said. "Americans go about their business and are not activists until they have a Pearl Harbor moment. That has yet to happen, but it will."

    I'm not quite sure what he means by that. If the United States is attacked again, we may need every last recruit possible.

    OTOH, he might see allowing openly gay service members as the equivalent of a Pearl Harbor attack on the United States.

    Are gays really that dangerous?

    Not all of the answers are clear, but I'm thinking that maybe it would be better to harness such power.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds thinks this may bode poorly for a repeal of the Defense Of Marriage Act, and he links Brian Doherty (who criticizes Obama's unwillingness to be bold), and Gay Patriot, who asks,

    Just HOW many issues does the Hypocrite Rights Campaign and their fellow gay comrades have to lose before they are just laughed at and completely ignored??
    Well, they're Democratic toadies, which means that being ignored is their purpose.

    posted by Eric at 01:02 PM | Comments (11)

    A Servant's Heart

    I ♥ Sarah'cudda

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:44 AM | Comments (2)

    carrion scavenging too far...

    Speaking of shameful things that ought to be kept in the closet, here's another oldie but a goodie...

    "Distinguishing Vultures from Lawyers"


    Useful to know how, isn't it?

    While that print hangs proudly on my wall, it wasn't appreciated by a humor-free law firm I worked for years ago.....

    posted by Eric at 01:15 AM

    "a priestly elite of cultural directors"

    During the past year, everyone saw what happened when garbage loans on overvalued real estate were misrepresented and sold as triple-A-rated securities. The bubble eventually burst.

    But not quite as many people are aware that the bubble has also burst in the art world -- to the point where a series of the most important recent art auctions were dubbed "New York's 'half-price art sale'."

    The biggest loser? Contemporary art:

    It's post-mortem time for contemporary art, the highest flying area of the art market. After several years of unprecedented growth, which have seen prices at auction increase by an average 25 per cent each year since 2002, it experienced a definitive setback in New York last week.

    In spite of spirited bidding by some of America's top collectors, the keynote auctions at Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury & Co drummed up just $331 million (£224.6 million), far short of the low estimate of $608 million that had been set in the months before the collapse of the banking system.

    The total was almost one third of that mustered in the last New York auctions in May, and we have to go back to 2005 to find comparable sales figures. The clock for contemporary art has turned back further than for Impressionist and modern art, which has fallen back to 2006 levels, because its growth curve was much steeper.

    The top end of the market looked particularly vulnerable as several of the highest-valued lots by Roy Lichtenstein ($15 million to $20 million) and Francis Bacon ($40 million to $60 million) failed to attract bids.

    This does not surprise me. David Geffen must be especially delighted to have unloaded his Jackson Pollock dripping for $140 million in 2006. At the time I wasn't impressed. While I'm 100% in favor of freedom for people to buy whatever they like, I'm hardly in tears for the buyers of overpriced paintings with the aesthetic appeal of a spattered dropcloth, and I doubt very many people are. (Even if the banks which financed the sales had to take possession of the art to cover defaults, I don't think the buyers would be pitied in quite the same way we might feel sorry for a family which lost their house.)

    What is not being reported much is that some art still sells. That's because what sells is art that real people like, and not art that the critics say people should like.

    According to artist Robert Williams (a personal favorite whose art is selling like hotcakes), the bottom line is that:

    ...we're manipulated by a priestly elite of cultural directors in the art world, that's telling us what is and isn't art.

    This would have probably held up into the next century, except for the fact that the economy collapsed. So these incredible pieces of artwork that these people have made-- like two railroad ties chained together, named "Untitled #14", that were going for a quarter of a million dollars-- can't even get pennies on the dollar. They can't give some of this shit away that they paid a quarter of a million dollars for. This is what's happening. New York is almost completely collapsed on the art market. They're approaching losing half of their galleries now, the big ones. Okay, so I come to New York with thirty oil paintings for a sold out show. Do you understand what kind of an effect this would have on the art community in New York? Do you comprehend that?

    David: No, I'm not quite sure what you are getting at.

    Robert: The very stanch and conservative and entrenched art world has collapsed, financially on its ass. It's on its knees, waiting for the storm to blow by, so it can try to crawl back up. It's lost half it's galleries. So, I come in there, and sell out a show of thirty oil paintings, before the doors even open. The opening night there's 2000 people in there. The police had barricades on the street. I had a lot of very important gallery people from around SoHo at my opening, telling me, "you're only one of ten people in all of New York that's selling." One of ten, out of 100,000 people that call themselves fine artists, in the art capital of this planet. But I'm doing ugly cartoons with naked ladies with big titties. The feminists were throwing rocks at me. (laughter ) I'm doing everything wrong, but here I am with a sold out show, and standing room only crowds, continually coming in. The first Saturday there was a thousand people in attendance, and the show was held over.

    David: And this isn't because somebody with a row of fancy prestigious degrees after their name is praising it. People just look at it and really enjoy it.

    Robert: That's right. Because it's a basic language of things that you're interested in. But it's not because I am so brilliant that I create it, it's just that I am a symptom of the situation. I came up with the rest of my underground buddies, reading underground comics, Hot Rod magazine, surfing, and all this stuff that people are really interested in. We've cooked it like soup, brewed it into an essence, and made art out of the things you want to fucking see-- not what's intellectually proper.

    It's fascinating to see how the market gets the last word.

    I mean, imagine for a moment a system where the people with the money to buy something get to decide what it is worth -- not based on what "experts" say, but based on whether they like it, and whether they are willing to buy it.

    I'm surprised the government doesn't intervene and put a stop to such rampant freedom heresy.

    posted by Eric at 04:36 PM | Comments (10)

    From closet to closet

    My earlier post about fear of religious conservatives does not discuss something which I think is related to this fear, and that is closeted conservatism.

    I've been thinking about this a lot since the drive from Ann Arbor to Berkeley. In either place, having a McCain sign in your front yard is an invitation to disastrous confrontations, if not outright vandalism. (In either place, McCain supporters would be more likely to be the ones with no signs; a Berkeley neighbor who once dared to put a Bush sign in his front yard found his house on the front page of the Berkeley Voice. It was so unusual as to be a news event.)

    As I said here,

    The bottom line is that intelligent, thoughtful conservatives and libertarians are in the closet.
    Numerous commentators (see this great discussion between Dr. Helen and Bill Whittle) have observed that many conservatives and libertarians are closeted for a similar reason that gays are.

    Above all, I think it is fear.

    I don't mean fear of being physically attacked, although that certainly has been known to happen. Rather, it's fear of social ostracism, fear of making waves, fear of being the subject of gossip, and ultimately, that bottom line fear of consequences in the workplace. There are no laws protecting conservatives against discrimination. The right to think what you think is something we just take for granted as a society, except that as a practical matter we're in danger of losing the right to say what we think in a public manner because people don't exercise it.

    Maybe living in both Berkeley and Ann Arbor (both very closeted places for conservatives) heightens my sensitivity to these things, but I do empathize, and in much the same way that gays have this psychic thing going called "gaydar," I like to think that I can recognize people who are to the right of center. Sometimes, though, I'll be completely fooled, as I was in Ann Arbor by a trendy guy who cut my hair. Earrings, goatee, etc. But when the election came up for discussion and he sensed I was less than thrilled with Barack Obama, he looked around to see that no one was around, lowered his voice and said he was voting for McCain.

    "That's not something I'd ever admit around here," were his words.

    Unfortunately, one of the factors that keeps right-of-center people in the closet is that some of the people out of the closet are fiercely, defensively outspoken, and many of them are outraged social conservatives. What this means is that all too often, libertarian-minded conservatives (especially those who are friends with and work for liberals) feel a need to distance themselves from the social conservatives, and I think this might aggravate the split, and make their differences look more profound than they are.

    I don't know whether anyone has done a poll on this, but I suspect that in general, religious conservatives are more likely to be "out" than are libertarian conservatives.

    Of course, living in places like Berkeley and Ann Arbor, I may be getting an unbalanced view.

    Any opinions?

    UPDATE: Readers might be interested in my discussion of the problem of closeted conservatism on Pajamas Media TV.

    The comments below were very helpful.

    posted by Eric at 02:01 PM | Comments (18)

    Right Wing Progressives

    Jonah Goldberg is discussing his book Liberal Fascism at Salon.

    I don't have any problem with liberals or conservatives criticizing stuff that goes on in the popular culture ... [I]t's when you want to dragoon the state into these things, everything from hate crimes to these early interventions in childhood. You read "It Takes a Village" and Hillary [Clinton] declares that basically we're in a crisis from the moment we're born and that justifies the helping professions from breaking into the nuclear family at the earliest possible age.

    You have a lot of this stuff on the right, I agree. [George W.] Bush had his marriage counseling stuff that he wanted to propose, I didn't like that. I think Ashcroft gets a very bad rap, but one of the things I did not like was him basically having this philosophy that since the federal government was an agent for a left-wing agenda that therefore it should be an agent for a right-wing agenda. I agree with you to that extent, that that stuff is bad, and it constitutes a kind of right-wing progressivism that I really do not like....

    Well I don't like it either. But the progressives and the social conservatives had a long history together. Public schools, alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition. A history of failure. You know maybe the state is no better at solving social problems than it is at solving economic problems. Ya think?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:05 PM | Comments (8)

    Against The Nanny State

    We have a contingent in America that wants to treat us all like children when it comes to economics and another contingent that wants to treat us like children when it comes to culture.

    Two different kinds of nanny state. I'm against the nanny state.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:58 AM

    What Is A Fetus Worth?

    I came across an interesting discussion of abortion at Admiral Quixote's Round Table. This is from the comments.

    I spoke with my dh who did receive smicha (Orthodox) though he is not a practicing Rabbi; he learned the law as I have earlier stated; that if any harm came it was referring to the woman and her life, not to the fetus.

    I also think the concept that a woman who had been judged guilty of a capital crime was executed even if she were pregnant, The life of the fetus was secondary to the pain and suffering of the woman forced to wait for her execution. That a woman condemned to death would be given more consideration for her emotional state than a fetus where there is no issue of guilt states a lot, imho, about the rights they would enjoy in terms of abortion.

    Commenter Rachel Ann goes on to say that she would be willing to pay to save the life of a child who might be aborted if that is what it took. I think that is a much better answer than passing laws.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:30 AM | Comments (4)

    The Jews And Partial Birth Abortion

    Here is a bit of text that I think many of you will find very interesting.

    The Jewish distinction (rooted in the original Hebrew text) between the life of the mother and the life of the child is emphasized in a striking text of the Mishnah (Ohalot 7:6):

    "If a woman has difficulty in childbirth, the embryo within her should be dismembered limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over its life. Once its head or its greater part has emerged, it may not be touched, for we do not set aside one life for another."

    This text seems especially remarkable because it refers to a procedure quite like what today is called "partial-birth abortion," and which is viewed with especial horror by abortion opponents. Even if one could be sympathetic about a first-trimester abortion when the embryo is still barely formed, the killing of a full-term fetus shortly before its birth seems abominable. And yet this is precisely the gory example which the Mishnah uses to clarify its position. As long as the fetus is still enclosed within the mother, it is in some sense a "limb" of the mother, and if the hard choice must be made between the life of the mother and the life of the fetus, the life of the mother takes precedence. However highly the fetus is regarded and however fully it has formed, it does not pass the threshold where it can be regarded as a "person" with equal legal standing to the mother until its head or the greater part of its body has emerged from her womb.

    This Mishnah text makes a strong argument for the legal acceptability of abortion when it is necessary for the life of the mother, but the circumstances that will actually justify an abortion are not so clear. What is a "difficulty" in childbirth, and how great must the threat to the mother's life be? What if the mother faces some serious physical injury because of the pregnancy or the childbirth, but her life itself is not in danger?

    Maimonides (12th century) seemed to strictly limit the cause for abortion to a case where the mother's life itself was threatened, likening the fetus to a "pursuer," one whom we are justified in killing because it is actively seeking to kill someone else. But most rabbis since Maimonides have not interpreted so narrowly. Most have agreed that serious physical injury to the mother is also grounds for abortion.

    In fact, the prevailing position in halacha (Jewish law) today, though restrictive, is rather lenient. It is the position argued by former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel. He declared that abortion is permissible even for what he calls "a very thin reason," meaning that one should give broad latitude to how a woman interprets "difficulty" or "injury," or "life-threatening," and even allowing an abortion in certain circumstances of great emotional anguish where there is no physical danger to the mother. But how thin is "thin"? What about the case where the child is known to be physically or mentally defective? What about the regrets after consensual adultery? Does a woman's shame or embarrassment at the consequences of her own actions justify the termination of a pregnancy? What about the woman whose education or career will be made difficult if she has a child to look after? Is the Jewish position simply abortion on demand?

    Certainly Judaism never allows abortion for birth control purposes when having a child would be simply an inconvenience or embarrassment. But in practice there remains considerable disagreement among halachic authorities and among the various streams of Judaism concerning specific cases. For example, most Orthodox authorities do not permit abortion on the grounds that a fetus is severely defective. Conservative and Reform authorities would permit aborting a physically or mentally defective fetus.

    Of course with the Jews, having no central authority since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, there are many contending schools of thought. In addition even when the Temple was in existence there was the oral or common law which modified the law handed down in the Torah. In fact the law was highly developed and it is where our common phrase "it depends on whose ox was gored" comes from.

    What do I get from all this? That the various positions on abortion come out of religion and not some absolute rule that can be unequivocally applied and that the best thing the government can do is to stay out of the question and let the individual decide what is best.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:59 AM | Comments (4)

    The Jewish Position On Abortion

    I just found a most interesting document giving in layman's terms the Jewish position on abortion [pdf]. The document is authored by Rabbi Raymond A Zwerin and Rabbi Richard A. Shapiro. It is a very interesting document and only four pages long so it is well worth a read. It also provides a basis for deeper research. However, let me quote you the conclusion.

    Due to the general leniency in matters of abortion, as well as a long standing Jewish insistence of the separation of religion and government in American life all four non-Orthodox Jewish movements - Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Humanist - are on record as opposing any governmental regulation of abortion. Moreover, many Orthodox authorities take the same position. What ever their opinion of abortion in any given situation, a vast majority of Jewish thinkers agree that decision making with respect to abortion must be left in the hands of the woman involved, her husband, her physician, and her rabbi. Out of this context in consonance with her Jewish heritage she can make a decision as she is permitted to do by the US Constitution.
    Let me add that there is no definitive rule in Jewish law and decisions are made on a case by case basis taking into consideration the people involved, their personalities, their mental and physical health and other considerations (even the standing in the community i.e. such as serious loss of face that might imperil a woman's mental health in a case of adultery) according to the judgment of those involved. In all cases the fetus is considered the property of the woman and not an independent human being until it has at least partially exited the woman. Let me add that if the life of the woman is imperiled in the judgment of those involved abortion is mandatory. Such cases can include thoughts of suicide by the woman.

    Now I understand my mothers insistence that I resist the abortion absolutists in the Republican Party.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

    A few household sights

    This lovely item got water-damaged, but its supreme commie kitsch shlockiness seems unaffected.


    It's a combination thermometer and inexplicable calendar, plus a faux "TV screen" in the middle showing Chairman Mao being given a floral bouquet by Chou En Lai, while Comrades Chu De and Lin Piao beam radiantly. I picked it up at a souvenir stand in China for pennies back in the days before the Tiananmen Square uprising. I doubt you could find one today. The green plastic temple is unsurpassed in terms of pure shlocky loveliness.

    And here's a ceramic neoclassical figurine pulling a rope in front of a grimacing devil clown.


    Don't ask me why; they just gather dust in the kitchen.

    Finally, the ghost of the house:

    No, not the girl in front; the El Greco print in back. It's a strange story (and I am of course highly skeptical about these things) but the previous owner of the house told me that the previous owner told him that "it" was or somehow contained "the ghost," and to simply leave it alone. I didn't pay much attention until one day (in the late 1980s) I raised my hand as I cursed an irritating item in the paper, when just at that moment the print flew out of the frame and hit the floor towards the middle of the room, leaving the frame still hanging (empty) on the wall. Figuring the nails had come loose, I picked up the print (which is on a stiff board) and got up on a ladder to put it back in. No way would it go back in! The nails were not loose at all, and I had to pry it apart to get the print to go back in. Ever since, I have left it alone, and treated it with respect.

    I hope that picturing it in the blog is not considered a violation. No disrespect intended. This house was built by a reclusive writer in 1919, and it is my hope that the ghost (whoever or whatever it might be or represent) will understand that the idea is to keep the spirit alive.

    posted by Eric at 10:47 PM

    Bailing Out Mr. Potatoe Head

    Yeah. That is a funny spelling of potato. It is former Vice President Dan Quayle's trademark. Well Mr. Quayle is at it again. He is global investing chief of Cerberus Capital Management which owns Chrysler. And of course Chrysler wants in on the proposed auto bail out.

    Let's assume that the powers in Washington -- the Bush team now, the Obama team soon -- deem GM too big to let fail. If so, it's also too big to be entrusted to the same people who have led it to its current, perilous state, and who are too tied to the past to create a different future.

    In return for any direct government aid, the board and the management should go. Shareholders should lose their paltry remaining equity. And a government-appointed receiver -- someone hard-nosed and nonpolitical -- should have broad power to revamp GM with a viable business plan and return it to a private operation as soon as possible.

    That will mean tearing up existing contracts with unions, dealers and suppliers, closing some operations and selling others, and downsizing the company. After all that, the company can float new shares, with taxpayers getting some of the benefits. The same basic rules should apply to Ford and Chrysler.

    These are radical steps, and they wouldn't avoid significant job losses. But there isn't much alternative besides simply letting GM collapse, which isn't politically viable. At least a government-appointed receiver would help assure car buyers that GM will be around, in some form, to honor warranties on its vehicles. It would help minimize losses to the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

    And what is one of GM's very big problems? Their Union.
    The current economic crisis didn't cause the meltdown in Detroit. The car companies started losing billions of dollars several years ago when the economy was healthy and car sales stood at near-record levels. They complained that they were unfairly stuck with enormous "legacy costs," but those didn't just happen. For decades, the United Auto Workers union stoutly defended gold-plated medical benefits that virtually no one else had. UAW workers and retirees had no deductibles, copays or other facts of life in these United States.
    Well the unions have a lot of clout with the incoming administration. Which may not be a good thing.

    And too big to fail? Hmmm. Too politically connected to fail. And since we are speaking of politics Chrysler is in the thick of it.

    As for Ford and Chrysler, if they want similar public assistance they should pay the same price. Wiping out existing shareholders would end the Ford family's control of Ford Motor. But keeping the family in the driver's seat wouldn't be an appropriate use of tax dollars. Nor is bailing out the principals of Cerberus, who include CEO Stephen Feinberg, Chairman John Snow, the former Treasury secretary, and global investing chief Dan Quayle, former vice president.

    Government loan guarantees, with stringent strings attached and new management at the helm, helped save Chrysler in 1980. But it's now 2008, 35 years since the first oil shock put Japanese cars on the map in America. "Since the mid-Seventies," one Detroit manager recently told me, "I have sat through umpteen meetings describing how we had to beat the Japanese to survive. Thirty-five years later we are still trying to figure it out."

    So the owners of Chrysler are loaded up with paid for political connections. You know this whole deal from top to bottom looks like Chicago politics and real estate deals with Tony Rezko. I think I detect a pattern here. And it is not one that gives any comfort. The money goes to the auto companies just like it went to Tony Rezko's housing rehab company and after a while the properties rehabbed fail any way. With the owners walking off with some very handsome fees. Well like they say in Chicago ubi est?

    H/T Design News

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:33 PM | Comments (4)

    Clergy Against The Drug War

    Part Two of the video is here.

    Reform Jews speak out in favor of Medical Marijuana.

    The Union Of American Hebrew Congregations favors Medical Marijuana.

    Here is a short bio of one of the participants in the video.

    William Martin, Ph.D. taught criminology for 35 years. He has chaired the Department of Sociology and at Rice University and is a Senior Fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. Bill has written six books, including A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story. He is writing a book on drug policy for religious and social conservatives. Bill has given hundreds of talks about public policy issues, including drug abuse and drug policy.
    H/T commenter Deep Thought on the post Side Effects

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:28 PM

    Uh Oh

    The Dow closed below 8,000 today and Nymex Crude Oil Futures below $53. And the outlook for the semiconductor industry is not so hot either.

    "In discussions with semiconductor suppliers, equipment OEMs, and contract manufacturers, a story of fear and great uncertainty has emerged," iSuppli's Ford said. "As dramatic declines in consumer and industrial confidence began developing in late summer, order cancellations began to grow and in many cases, slowing orders degenerated into a complete stop in orders as players across the supply chain moved to extremely cautious positions in the face of increasingly negative economic news."

    The psychology of many industry players now has shifted to a "survival mentality," iSuppli said, with cost-control and cash-conservation considerations driving decisions.

    According to iSuppli, "it is now clear that the semiconductor industry is already in decline and the remaining questions are how deep and how long this decline will extend in 2009 and possibly 2010."

    Since most recoveries start out as "jobless" recoveries and that "jobless" phase lasts from 2 to 6 years depending on the severity of the downturn it is more than likely that we will not see unemployment decline until 2012 at the earliest.

    The one bright spot for consumers and manufacturing is the decline in the price of oil. For oil producers? Well they are going to be hurting.

    I have a friend who cashed out of the market when the Dow was 14,000. He told his broker SELL. His broker said, "Are you nuts?" Evidently not.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:18 PM | Comments (2)

    Killing The Republican Party

    A comment piece (I'm not going to get the hackles up before the discussion starts by giving the name of the author) in The Washington Post talks about long term Republican prospects. It is not pretty.

    To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.

    Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

    The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it.

    But they need those votes!

    So it has been for the Grand Old Party since the 1980s or so, as it has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners.

    Well that is incendiary. Or inartfully phrased as I would put it but, it is true.
    Here's the deal, 'pubbies: Howard Dean was right.

    It isn't that culture doesn't matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party -- and conservatism with it -- eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one's heart where it belongs.

    Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they've had something to do with the GOP's erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identified by Emory University's Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.

    Suffice it to say, the Republican Party is largely comprised of white, married Christians. Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can't have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.

    With the exception of Miss Alaska, of course.

    From LGF comes an excerpt from the above Washington Post piece that shows the hand writing on the wall: it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.

    Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly.

    The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won't get whiter. And the nonreligious won't get religion through external conversion. It doesn't work that way.

    Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base -- or the nation may need a new party.

    I keep telling my socon friends that Palin didn't even mention any of the issues dear to the hearts of social conservatives as Governor of Alaska and she is as socially conservative as they come. No one knew her position until she got the VP nod. Hence her 80% approval rating.

    That is the way forward.

    Let me add a couple of other points. Spending like fools. Corruption. And an inability to articulate sound economics or any thing else for that matter are killers as well. We need sound positions and some one who can give the message. And we need to distance ourselves as a party from issues that are cringe making among those not in the base. Because the base is shrinking. And even if it wasn't you can't win elections with the base alone.

    I ♥ Sarah'cudda

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:16 PM | Comments (18)

    The House Negro

    It seems like Mr. Obama can't buy a friend.

    The No. 2 leader in Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is dishing out criticism and offering a warning to United States President-Elect, Barack Obama. A new audio message has surfaced online where Al-Zawahiri calls Obama a dishonorable man.

    According to the SITE Institute, a U.S. organization that monitors Islamic militant groups, Al-Zawahiri said Obama is "the direct opposite of honorable black Americans" like Malcolm X. He also called the President-Elect a "house negro," a degrading term meaning he serves White people.

    Wait a minute. Didn't he attend for 20 years a Black Liberation Church that was very friendly with the Nation of Islam? Yes he did. The guy just can't get a break. No matter what he does it is wrong. I guess he is already in the running for Worst President Ever™ and his term hasn't even started. Me? I hope he is ready to have his supporters turn on him. Because no one can possibly meet the expectations he has raised.

    I support him. Why you ask? He hasn't done anything yet. Lucky for him.

    H/T LGF

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

    A New T Shirt

    Get ready for the new administration. Click on the link and see what I'm talking about.

    It is not only good advice. It is funny.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:09 PM

    But will it cure politics?

    OK, this is going to sound crazy, and I know I should be writing about Barack Obama's insane plan to lay further waste to the economy with a useless "Global Warming" scheme.... Not that I'd add anything useful to that debate anyway. However, this morning I saw that Al-Qaida is insulting the president elect with the the sort of racial epithet the left normally reserves for Condoleezza Rice, so maybe that inclines me sympathetically towards him. Perhaps the Global Warming nonsense is a bone to throw at the Chavista (a Chavista who claims to have Goldwater tendencies, btw) whom Obama is said to be planning to put in charge of the EPA.

    But so much for politics. I wanted to write something personal which I suspected was either a psychosomatic or downright superstitious manifestation, but now I'm not so sure. For the past week (and shortly before that in Michigan), I was fighting off what felt like the beginning of a cold. Finally, after the long drive, I arrived here, and one of the problems I need to address is water damage from a plumbing leak which in turn caused some serious mold. Sleeping two nights breathing moldy air was enough to make me lose my battle against the wannabe cold, and as of the day before yesterday, the cold had won. But none of the work I had to do would go away simply because I developed a cold, and there's a ton of yard work. In particular, extremely aggressive English Ivy has taken over much of the yard, and is killing off trees right and left. The only way to save the trees that have not yet been strangled is to do battle with the ivy. Some of the "stalks" are six inches in diameter, and have to be sawed loose, then pried, pulled and it's a huge amount of work. As anyone who has worked with ivy will confirm, when this evil plant is molested it puts out toxic ivy dust, which can make most people sneeze and cough, and really susceptible people can develop the same sort of skin eruptions that characterize poison ivy. Fortunately I'm not in that category, but what did happen was that the sort throat I already had became strangely aggravated, and I was coughing like hell. An awful scratchiness in my throat developed (something like a painful dryness), and I figured I was probably being a damned fool and asking for an even worse cold than I already had, but what the hell. For two days, I did battle with the ivy, and braved the dust.

    I went to bed last night completely exhausted, and feeling ill.

    To my utter amazement, this morning I woke up and the cold symptoms have vanished. The sore throat went away without following the usual pattern of rhinitis. (Sniffling, congestion, coughing, pouring out mucus, etc.) For me, this abrupt turnaround is very, very abnormal, and because the only change in my pattern was the work with ivy, naturally it occurred to me to wonder whether ivy might have curative properties. Totally unscientific, and it sounds like nonsense, but what the hell....

    I Googled and lo and behold, I found a medical study from 2005 which shows that English ivy has potent anti-mold properties:

    Nov. 7, 2005 -- English ivy may help you breathe easier, especially if you have allergies, new research shows.

    The research shows that the plant helps clean air of allergens such as mold and animal feces.

    That could make English ivy an inexpensive alternative to commercial air-cleaning devices, researchers told participants of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology's annual meeting.

    If you've got kids or pets, take care about where you place English ivy. The plant is toxic, so keep it away from animals or young children who might consume it.
    Cleaner Air

    English ivy's air-cleaning abilities were recently tested.

    First, researchers put moldy bread and dog feces in containers. Then, they checked how much mold and feces were in the containers' air at the start of the study. Next, English ivy was added to each container and repeat measurements were taken at baseline, then six and 12 hours later.

    Six hours later, 60% of the airborne-mold had vanished from the air around the ivy. Almost as much of the airborne feces were also gone from the air (58%).

    After six more hours the air was even cleaner. More than three-quarters of the airborne mold was gone (78%). So were nearly all of the airborne feces (94%), the study shows.

    The above is not conclusive proof that ivy cured me, but it's certainly interesting enough for a blog post.

    Also, it just so happens that as an herb, ivy and its preparations are used in Europe as cold and cough remedies.

    The European indications that are currently in favor are primarily for the respiratory tract. In Germany, ivy is recommended for its expectorant effect in dry cough, common cold, and chronic respiratory tract disorders. Extracts have been used as antispasmodics and as topical treatments of dermal infections and itching, as well as for weight loss. Common ivy also has been traditionally used for arthritis, scrofula, fevers, skin parasites, burns, and infections.
    There's also a discussion of its pharmacological properties:
    The main components of interest are saponins (3-6% content, including hederin and hederacosides), flavonol glycosides (including rutin and kaempferol), sterols (including stigmasterol and sitosterol), sesquiterpenes, and polyalkanes (including falcarinol). The constituents in ivy are considered to have a mucokinetic effect, and they are reported to help loosen abnormal mucus in the respiratory tree. There is some evidence from animal experiments that ivy's saponins can increase respiratory tract secretions and can prevent acetylcholine-induced bronchospasm in guinea pigs. A product containing its chief constituent, hederasaponin C (hederacoside C), has been shown to have antifungal properties and to be toxic to some parasites and bacteria.
    Had I not fortuitously done battle with this invasive and otherwise horrible plant while running a cold, I never would have imagined that it might have medicinal properties, but here I was, all set to blog about my superstitious suspicions before I saw any of that, and now I'm really intrigued. There's no possibility of a placebo effect either, because not only had I not read about its medicinal properties, I hate ivy and always dread working with it -- because of that irritating dust. I expectey my cold to get worse, so if there was a placebo effect, it would have been in reverse. I did have a strange feeling that by making the sore throat worse in a different way I might be making it better, which I thought was irrational. But what if I was right? We'll probably never know.

    One thing I can predict is that whether ivy is a good remedy or not, it will never be bottled and sold, because there's no money to be made mass marketing a common plant that can't be patented.

    My cold issue aside, I've decided to bring some ivy inside and place it in the water damaged area.

    Politics will have to wait.

    posted by Eric at 11:04 AM | Comments (3)

    Side Effects

    Why are so many blacks aborting in comparison to the rest of the population? It is due to a lack of fathers. And why is there a lack of fathers? Well black men have been disproportionately swept up in the criminal justice system due to the drug war.


    If socons were really serious about reducing the abortion rate significantly they would be out front in calling for an end to the drug war. Crickets.

    The disasters pile up and yet the faith in government solutions persists. And of course because of unintended consequences more government is required.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:06 PM | Comments (30)

    A Government So Inept It Couldn't Make A Profit On A Whorehouse

    It seems our government has a problem running businesses. Even businesses that should be a guaranteed profit without significant expertise required. Like selling liquor and sex.

    Back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now we are trusting the entire economy of our country to same guys who couldn't make money running a whore house and selling booze?
    So now the government is going to run car companies? My bet? There will soon be cars, some without tires, some without steering wheels, and others without engines piled up in warehouses awaiting buyers who are sure to come. Some day.

    They will get sold as government surplus and some one will make a profit getting them in running order and selling them to customers who want to buy them at a price they can afford. So let me ask you, if the people in the auto business in Detroit are so smart, workers and management, why can't they do it without government help? After all they have only had 30 years since the last bail out to figure it out.

    Well OK. Cars are hard and whorehouses are unusual. Maybe the government would be better with medical services.

    H/T Roger Kimball

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:00 PM | Comments (4)

    The most solemnist pledge I'll ever make

    Regular readers know that I don't make too many pledges. Circumstances have a way of changing, and if you've taken a "pledge" or a vow or a resolution about something (like the "I will never vote for McCain" pledge that was going around a year ago), you've cemented yourself into something and you'll look like a flake without integrity if you break it. Moreover, many of these "pledges" are promoted by peer pressure, which always raises my hackles.

    But, does that mean I have taken a pledge against ever taking a pledge? Hardly. As it happens, I have found a political pledge I'm almost 100% certain I can follow.

    It's Kyle-Ann Shiver's national unity pledge! the interest of national unity, I hereby resolve that I will not travel to Washington, D.C., dress up in tacky pink lingerie, and storm the halls of Congress, yelling "War criminal!" at the top of my lungs at President Obama. Even if I find every single one of his policy decisions absolutely reprehensible, I will refrain from this particular type of disunity.
    Hear hear!

    (And read it all.)

    I solemnly pledge that you will not see me dressed in pink lingerie screaming "War criminal" at President Obama at the top of my lungs.

    As Jimmy Carter used to say, "You can depend on it!"

    posted by Eric at 12:37 PM | Comments (3)

    Imbalanced fear

    Fear of "The Other" is always a driving force in politics, and as it is emotional, it operates independently of positions on issues. If you can get people to fear someone or some group, what they actually say or do won't matter.

    Years ago, I remember reading a long article about a lesbian mother who lived with her partner in the Bay Area (I think it was in the San Jose vicinity), who was quoted as saying she feared Newt Gingrich more than almost anyone in the world. This really got my attention, and I wondered, just what the hell kind of Svengali she thought Newt Gingrich was, that he could reach out and mess with her private life in San Jose. But I realized it was just pure fear. To her, Gingrich was a religious homophobic boogeyman with plans to take away her children, and probably force her at gunpoint to marry a sexist, Superbowl-watching, wife-beating man.

    Never mind that these fears were groundless, and that Gingrich could not touch her. Nor would he dare. The point is that fear works. It's a much more powerful motivator than having someone sit down and read through Gingrich's books. Fear goes beyond disagreements, political positions, or practicality.

    I recalled this woman's irrational fear of Gingrich when I saw Glenn Reynolds' link to Rand Simberg's post about "Republican religiophobia." Fear of the religious right isn't just for Bay Area lesbians anymore. Republicans now fear them too.

    Fear is a weird thing, because it tends to prevent thought, and therefore make everything else irrelevant. In his post about the GOP fear of Sarah Palin, Simberg says he does not understand fear of religious conservatives:

    ...I really don't understand this fear of the religious right, though I am neither religious, or "right" (in the social conservative sense). I explained why in a post about six and a half years ago. I think that it's relevant today, and in fact wish that I'd reposted it before the election (not that the fate of the nation hinges in any way on my posts).
    Instantman, in reference to an article about women and the sexual revolution, says:

    This kind of stuff, by the way, is the reason why a lot of Democrats who are basically in agreement with the Republican party are still afraid to vote for Republicans.

    This seems to be a common attitude among many libertarians (and to the degree that labels apply, I think that one fits Glenn about as well as any), particularly the ones who approached that philosophy from the left (i.e., former Democrats). I once had an extended email discussion (back during the election) with another libertarian friend (who's also a blogger, but shall remain nameless) about how as much as he disliked the socialism of the Democrats, he felt more culturally comfortable with them. Again, this is a prevalent attitude of products of the sixties. You know, Republicans were uptight fascists, and Democrats were idealistic, free-living, and hip.

    That's the hook the Democrats use, and it is about as logical as voting for the candidate who has more sex appeal. But it works. That lesbian in San Jose may have had trouble sleeping as she thought about Newt Gingrich's plans to destroy her family. (And I hasten to add, there are probably heterosexual counterparts who believe the people on the other side are out to destroy their families, for reasons equally irrational.)

    Few people take the time to think about the reasons, but Republicans are much more feared than the Democrats. I've often thought about how ridiculous this is, because the main reason that Republicans are feared involves silly peripheral issues over which their hands are tied and they can do basically nothing. Assume all Republicans are a bunch of homophobic bigots who think a woman's place is in the home and that everyone should attend church on Sunday. I realize it's not the case, but assume it is. They can't do any of these things. They can't restrict homosexuality, they can't criminalize abortion, and they cannot pass sexist laws. So even if the religious right monolithically opposes sexual freedom, they can't do much more than join up with certain forces on the left to attempt to get the FCC to harass Howard Stern. (But they couldn't even do that, because Stern moved outside their jurisdiction to satellite radio.)

    The fear of the religious right is thus largely irrational -- even if you think they're loony tunes on some of these issues.

    The Democrats, on the other hand, can actually do a lot of the things they threaten to do, as Simberg notes:

    First, I've found many Republicans who are sympathetic to libertarian arguments, and in fact are often libertarians at heart, but see the Republican Party as the most practical means of achieving the goals. There may be some Democrats out there like that, but I've never run into them. That's the least important reason (partly because I may be mistaken, and have simply suffered from a limited sample space). But fundamentally, the Democratic Party, at least in its current form, seems to me to be utterly antithetical to free markets.

    But the most important reason is this--while I find the anti-freedom strains of both parties equally dismaying, the Democrats are a lot better at implementing their big-government intrusions, and there's good reason to think that this will be the case even if the Republicans get full control of the government.

    If we see the two anti-freedom strains as "your money or your sex," it becomes quite obvious that it's easier -- a hell of a lot easier -- for the government to grab your money than your genitalia.

    Yet even though the anti-sex people are by no means a majority in the GOP and cannot possibly implement their schemes, more people fear the Republicans.

    A great con job, if you ask me.

    Sometimes it helps for the hedonists, fellow travelers, and hedonist sympathizers to remember that what's mostly going on consists of little more than an occasional moralistic lecture. I liked the way this Volokh commenter (linked by Glenn not long ago) put it:

    They [libertarians] also need to practise a little strategic deafness. Conservatives like to talk about values and sin a lot, and it grates on the libertarian ear, because the libertarian fears such talk leads to oppressive action. But very often it's just talk, a form of mere community bonding -- ghost stories over the campfire -- that libertarians don't quite get, not being that fond of community bonding in the first place. Frequently enough, if you merely let conservatives have their talk, and nod appreciatively I see what you mean, yes, an interesting and valuable point then they're happy enough.
    The fear that such talk "leads to oppressive action" is largely groundless, because governments cannot impose the kind of "values" that social conservatives champion.

    But in the case of the left, their talk of values does in fact lead directly to oppressive action. They will take your money and they will give it to whoever they choose.

    All the more reason that economic conservatism (or economic freedom, whichever phrase you prefer) should be brought back as the glue which once held libertarians and social conservatives together.

    As Jon Henke put it,

    The ascendancy of Reagan and the Right was predicated on "a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom." Reagan called it "the basis of conservatism." That idea resonated with the American public in 1980.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) It would still resonate if it were still the basis of conservatism. Leaving people alone was a wonderful idea. Maybe Republicans have to be out of power to start believing in it again.

    The Democrats do not leave people alone. They want your money, your guns, and endless restrictions on personal freedom.

    Yet still, people fear the Republicans more.

    That may soon change.

    posted by Eric at 02:15 AM | Comments (17)

    What is a skeptic?

    Steven Novella, whose Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast is one I never miss (also check the brief companion 5x5 podcast), is trying out a new definition for a perfectly good word that others (for some reason) don't seem too keen on, namely "skeptic":

    A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.

    I jotted some notes that I reckoned others might find interesting or informative and thought it best to reprint my comment here:

    As a classicist I can tell you that the original meaning (Gk. skeptikos) was simply 'thoughtful, reflective.' It comes from a verb that describes a careful kind of looking. The idea of doubt came from a term also used to describe a certain kind of thinker: aporetikos. It isn't difficult to see how giving careful attention to philosophical questions (which in the ancient world also meant scientific questions) would lead one to be a doubter, in the same way that careful (i.e., critical) thought among modern skeptics leads us to doubt traditional explanations.

    This same type of thinker could also be called ephektikos, which is something like the modern coinage agnostic. This referred to someone as suspending judgment. What it really means is that you hold yourself back and look at things impartially. This is something else that we do, and it allows us to criticize the emotional responses of others.

    The three terms are closely associated, but one gave its name to a school. And as with many schools of thought through the ages, its opponents (like modern theists in the face of a resurgent atheism) took great pains to tar its practitioners.

    Far from being sub-optimal, I think skeptic is about as good a word as we're likely to find, and together with its companion adjectives (which have colored its reception) covers just about everything in your definition.

    posted by Dennis at 07:52 PM | Comments (5)

    Finally, a connection!

    Wow. Finally, after many hours of futzing around and being on hold, I got the DSL line working.

    This will be a test post of sorts, as I have nothing really to say. Other than thank God the thing finally works.

    The biggest problem was being asked for a user name and password in order to get signed on and get a user name and password. My DSL modem and router was getting me online, but as I'd never been online before, I couldn't get past the ATT login, which prevented me from creating the account I needed in order to login. After two hours of calling and holding (and being told that they "didn't have access" to a user name and password I didn't have) I was bumped to "Level 2" technical support, where the guy knew what to do. (He had to manually set up the account for me, and he understood the modem issue which the others hadn't.)

    The sunset here makes the long drive worth it.


    So does the 80 degree weather.

    (By contrast, it's been snowing in Ann Arbor....)

    posted by Eric at 06:54 PM | Comments (2)

    What Is Wrong With Detroit?

    Here is a look at why the Detroit auto industry is going down in flames.

    I'm a huge fan of the US auto industry. I'm one of the last people on my street who still buys American cars (Pontiac). But I'm extremely concerned. And given what's been going on, I am surprised at the engineering priorities in Detroit. I had the privilege last week of serving as a judge for the annual Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Innovation competition. Unlike some design competitions, this one is a very big deal, and has been around a long time. Top engineering managers (mostly from the Detroit area) show what they consider to be their most important plastic designs in new production models. Winners are announced at a huge banquet (Nov. 20 this year) and the top brass show up because of the high quality of the SPE competition. It's truly the Oscars for automotive plastics.

    I didn't get a sense of the urgency in Detroit as I listened to this year's presentations. It seemed like business as usual.

    For starters, there were only two finalists in the environmental category. In contrast, "body interior" had five. Ford has begun an impressive campaign to replace a small percentage (5 to 12) of oil-based polyols in foams with a soy-based alternate. GM is using recycled content in an air inlet panel in the Chevy Trailblazer, diverting 445,000 pounds of plastic from landfills. Is this all the better we can do? What about some efforts to use blends of bioplastics to reduce our carbon footprint? What about game-changing efforts to reduce weight?

    Let me see. 445,000 pounds is about 222 tons. That is not a very big deal. And of course that amount assumes a certain sales number for the vehicles the plastic parts will be used in. So given the huge sales drop Detroit is currently experiencing the number is no doubt optimistic.

    One thing Detroit is pretty good at developing concept cars. Research vehicles full of innovations. What they are not good at is turning those ideas into products.

    There is a lot of "we've always done it this way" in American auto manufacturing. And yet our government wants to dump $25 billion into this failed culture? I think a better idea is to let them fail. The resources could then be redeployed to companies that actually want to produce break through vehicles.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:27 AM | Comments (7)


    Design News reports on a new material now in the research phase that is 10 times lighter than steel and 500 times stronger.

    You've heard of airplanes made from carbon-fiber reinforced (CFRP) plastics. What's next? Well there's a sheet of carbon nanotubes--called "buckypaper"--that may create structures for another generation of airplanes. Carbon nanotubes are already being used as a filler in plastics, but only in loadings of 2 or 3 percent. Buckypaper would use significantly higher loadings. The idea of nanotube reinforced composites is not new. Nanotubes are notorious because they clump and tangle, and no one has been able to produce nanotube composites outside of a lab. Researchers hope that may be changing. Rice University in Houston, for example, has been awarded three patents that advance the technology. Lockheed Martin has been awarded another.

    Professor Ben Wang and other scientists at Florida State University say they may have the answer. Exposing the tubes to high magnetism lines up the nanotubes in the same direction. Another breakthrough: creating some roughness on the surface so the nanutubes can bond to a matrix material, such as epoxy. The nanotubes in effect take the place of carbon fiber in a composite construction.

    You can make extremely thin sheets with the nanotubes--thus use of the word paper. "Bucky" comes from Buckminster Fuller who envisioned shapes now called fullerenes. Stack up hundreds of sheets of the "paper" and you have a composite material that is 10 times lighter but 500 times stronger than a similar sized piece of carbon steel sheet. It's easy to see why Lockheed Martin is interested. Unlike CFRP, carbon nanotubes conduct electricity like copper or silicon and disperse heat like steel or brass.

    This may usher in an age of economical supersonic transports among other possibilities. Another possibility is that it could make low cost battery only cars feasible.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:22 AM | Comments (6)

    The Sordid History Of The Marriage License In America

    From the wiki:

    A marriage license (spelled licence in British English) is a document issued either by a church or state authority authorising a couple to marry. The procedure for obtaining a licence varies between countries and has changed over time. Marriage licences began to be issued in the Middle Ages to permit a marriage which would otherwise be illegal (for instance, if the necessary period of notice for the marriage had not been given).
    So the license was a way to regulate who could marry. How was that applied in America (until reform came)?
    In the early part of the twentieth century, the requirement for a marriage license was used as a mechanism to prohibit whites from marrying blacks, mulattos, Japanese, Chinese, Native Americans, Mongolians, Malays or Filipinos. By the 1920s 38 states used the mechanism. These laws have since been declared invalid by the Courts.
    So the idea was to maintain racial purity among whites. These days it is all about sexual purity. Thus the big broo ha ha about gays getting married.

    I take no position on the matter one way or the other. I just thought a little history was in order. Eric has also written on the subject here and here among other places.

    posted by Simon at 09:11 PM | Comments (6)

    Oye Como Va

    posted by Simon at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)

    Tom Ligon To Talk About IEC Fusion Developments

    Tom will be at the Philcon Science Fiction convention this coming Saturday, 22 Nov 2008. You can read what Tom has to say about his upcoming talk at Talk Polywell.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:54 PM

    Motel 6 beats Starbucks!

    I made it to Berkeley, but I have no Internet at home, so here I am in a Starbucks (where I don't have time to be, much less blog).

    Well, I have so-called "dialup Internet access" for traveling, but really! 21.6 kbps? That's the rate I get with every access number on their stupid list, and it isn't fast enough to check email, much less blog.

    If all goes well, I might get functional DSL service tomorrow, and I hope I do, because I'm just swamped with work, and cannot take time to get in the car, drive to Starbucks, and blog while I'm supposed to be doing countless other things. (At least on the road I had the convenience of waking up each day in a Motel 6, where you get Wifi plus privacy. For blogging, I recommend Motel 6 over Starbucks. It's hard to think in a Starbucks.)

    Bandwidth. Things are getting to the point where I (and I suspect a lot of other people) take it for granted.

    Lose bandwidth, and you lose the ability to communicate.

    posted by Eric at 09:01 AM | Comments (4)

    Why Is Mike Huckabee A Republican?

    The relevant bit is about 9 minutes into the video.

    You can see the rest of the videos at Jonah

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:23 AM

    Why Did Social Conservatives Ally With Progressives?

    Why Did Social Conservative Ally With Progressives?

    Please discuss in the comments.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:19 AM | Comments (21)

    posted by Simon at 04:21 AM

    Too late for stuffin'

    Well, I drove across the country from Michigan, and I am now in Barstow, California. (No view from the room today; my camera is in the car.) I don't especially recommend driving 850, mostly mountainous, miles on the third day of a long drive, as my head was spinning and things were still moving when I went to bed last night. Fortunately, today's drive will be the shortest. (A mere 400 miles to destination.)

    As it happens, I passed through only one state which had belonged to the Confederacy -- Texas. (Well, there is the complicated situation of Missouri, which was claimed by both sides and had two state governments. But it's hardly what we think of as a Confederate state.)

    I hadn't really thought about the historical status of the states I drove through until this morning, when I read this piece about the "GOP=Confederacy" meme:

    Win or lose, some liberal pundits seem constitutionally incapable of civility toward conservatives. Four years ago, the people and states that reelected George W. Bush were branded en masse as "dumb" and as ignorant denizens of "Jesusland" -- the kind of stereotyping supposedly only Republicans engage in. Bush won 31 states in that election, encompassing most of the interior of the continental U.S., over intense -- some might say deranged -- liberal opposition, and so perhaps their being sore losers was somewhat understandable. But even in victory liberal commentators can't seem to show any class; now the slander of the mean-spirited left is that the GOP has been relegated to the party of the Confederacy.

    This vilification preemptively appeared in an electoral prognostication by Scott Horton, in Harper's on Election Day. Horton haughtily predicted that "the Republican Party will have transformed itself from the Party of Lincoln into the Party of the Old Confederacy" and that McCain would win only the South plus "a sprinkling of thinly populated states of the Plains and Mountain West." Horton then went on to tar the South as "largely a backwater" wherein "the GOP is ... weakest among the best-educated and most prosperous populations."

    There's a lot more. The idea that the GOP has become "the Confederacy" is typical of the kind of shallow (and bigoted) tripe which is intended for mass consumption of shallow thinkers who want to think of themselves as "intellectuals" with "talking points." I think it's pseudo-intellectual form of populism, deliberately contrived to fuel the "IQ Wars" I complained of in a previous post, so that leftist "intellectuals" can look down smugly on their "stupid" opponents on the right and feel good about themselves without bothering to think. It of course aggravates the Culture War, and naturally, it's just another short and sloppy step from red states to white sheets, and the KKK Republicans.

    As the author Timothy Furnish makes clear, the Confederacy theory does not withstand either historical nor geographical analysis:

    Of the 22 states that went for Senator McCain -- I'm counting Missouri as one, since he's ahead 49.5% to 49.3% with 100% of the precincts counted -- only eight are old Confederate ones. Many Americans, even those who should know otherwise like Ivy League-educated journalists, seem to assume that Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, and Oklahoma followed Jefferson Davis -- but actually all were Union territory. Thus, two-thirds of the red states in this election were from the Mountain West/Southwest and Midwest -- so it would probably be a better argument to say that the GOP, at least in the 2008 election, has become the party of the Empty Quarter and Breadbasket. But of course neither of those labels fits the prejudice paradigm regnant in news rooms, which delights in portraying the GOP as coterminous with the Land of Cotton where, in journalists' opinions, the good old times of slavery are still not forgotten.
    Some "intellectuals," these people. What galls me is that they've been getting away with pretending to be intellectuals for so long that they might actually be believing they are.

    I think they should have thought twice before floating this meme. Because, if you look at the national election map by county, the "Confederacy" is bigger and stronger outside the old South than it is inside!



    Except for New England, the "Confederacy" shows strength all over the country. Why, it's broken away from the South.

    I can't blame them for trying, but it may be too late to stuff it back in.

    MORE: As I get ready to hit the road, I looked at the map and saw that I'll be driving through large portions of Confederate California.

    Hope I make it to Berkeley!

    posted by Eric at 11:41 AM | Comments (8)

    Articulating Economics

    It has come to my attention that Governor Palin needs to improve her economic education. Please use these Amazon links to send her Free to Choose and The Road to Serfdom to:

    Governor Sarah Palin
    550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1700
    Anchorage, AK 99501

    posted by Simon at 11:04 AM

    Big pictures of tiny things

    The latest entry on the Boston Globe's always fascinating picture blog, the Big Picture, ranges from portraits of Barack Obama drawn with nanotubes, to individual cancer cells, to pollen and bugs' eyes. My favorite is the picture of the squid suckers. Does that even look real?

    posted by Dennis at 10:53 AM

    Did Obama Register For Selective Service

    Read this and let me know what you think.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:37 PM | Comments (13)

    Hedonistic nostalgia

    I'm in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and the view from my room is little more than a view of a parking lot.


    However, this postcard gives a better feel for the place, which is steeped in vintage Route 66 nostalgia.


    That's what the strip looks like today. Fun and partying in kitschy little 1950s motels, restaurants, and bars, when America was too innocent to acknowledge its hedonism.

    As usual I have no time, but I had a very disturbing thought on the road yesterday about "economic hedonism," and rather than supplement yesterday's post I thought it belonged here.

    The current economic downturn really was spun as economic hedonism for the voters. While Obama didn't use those precise words, he made clear that the economy was ruined by greedy economic hedonists run amok. The clucking eerily resembled the puritanical shamings and scoldings of the sort that are routinely directed at sexual hedonists, and it would not surprise me at all if many puritan-minded folk think that the greedy Wall Street capitalists and all of "us" who went along with it were (to borrow the AIDS/venereal disease terminology) "were asking for it" and "had it coming."

    While McCain was at first only too glad to echo the theme, Barack Obama was able to better play the role of Mr. Clean -- the guy who would apply the brakes and put a stop to all the wild hedonism, and redeem this country.

    So naturally, I'm wondering about something. Slowing hedonism down, applying the brakes, restraints, even crackdowns -- what image might all of this have evoked among an electorate which is supposed to be centrist to conservative?

    Is it possible that (at least in economic terms) Obama was seen as the more conservative of the two candidates?

    I realize how awful that looks, because Obama is anything but conservative. Still,it gave me the willies on the road, because we're not talking about conventional political litmus tests here, but emotions of ordinary voters who are not political junkies.

    If Obama is a conservative, call me a hedonist.

    UPDATE: Thanks for the comments! After a very long drive I made it to Barstow, California, except I feel as if I'm still moving, and when I close my eyes I see cars....

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

    What I Like About Palin

    You know what I like about Sarah Palin? With respect to social conservatism she leads by example without any need for the heavy hand of government. And with respect to economic conservatism she puts her principles into action.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:38 AM | Comments (26)

    A Question For Christian Social Conservatives

    Did Jesus promote government solutions to moral problems?

    posted by Simon at 01:18 AM | Comments (28)

    Iran - The Melt Down

    Iran is in a world of hurt according to Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli in an article published by The Middle East Media Research Institute on October 30th.

    At its two-hour emergency meeting in Vienna on October 24, the Organization of Oil Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to lower crude production by 1.5 million barrels/day (b/d), effective next month.

    The reduction in production was OPEC's response to plummeting crude prices, which peaked at $147 a barrel last July but are now hovering in the mid-$60s a barrel, and appear to be trending downward.

    Trending lower is right. The current trading range is $55 a bbl. and I have seen it as low, in trading, as $50 a bbl. And this is just the beginning of the economic collapse. So I expect to see prices going even lower with further production cuts as well. OPEC has had problems in the past maintaining supply discipline when prices are low. The temptation to cheat and try to squeeze out some extra dollars at the expense of the other members is great. Generally the Saudis maintain discipline and the rest of OPEC not so much.

    So where is Iran in all this? They are definitely price hawks and here is why:

    A recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suggested that in order for Iran to balance its budget, the price of crude oil must not fall below $95 a barrel. The equivalent figure for Saudi Arabia is $50 per barrel and for the United Arab Emirates and Qatar even lower. One should keep in mind that Iranian oil sells at a discount compared with the higher quality benchmark West Texas Intermediate.

    Countries whose economies rely on the production of natural resources, such as oil, generally establish a stabilization fund for retaining windfall profits, such as when oil went over $140 a barrel, to be used in time of economic shocks, such as a sharp decline in the price of the commodity.

    Iran has established such a fund to be managed by its central bank. It would appear, however, that President Ahmadinejad has dipped into the till too often, causing the departure/resignation of two consecutive governors of Iran's central bank in a little over one year. The assets of the Iranian stabilization fund are kept secret; however, a member of the Majlis (parliament) recently revealed that it has a balance of $7 billion, which would just about cover the cost of imported gasoline for one year.

    And why is Iran importing gasoline? It lacks refining capacity for one. One reason for that is that it subsidies gasoline. Gasoline in Iran costs under 50¢ a gallon. Another reason it lacks refining capacity is that instead of spending on infrastructure, Iran prefers to spend its money on foreign adventures. Supporting Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and various insurgent groups in Iraq - among others. That is why Ahmadinejad has to dip into the till. Wars cost money. It appears that they may become more costly than Iran can afford at least long term.

    And how about Iran's economy? It is not doing well internally.

    Oil revenues comprise 80% of Iran's foreign exchange. If oil prices continue to plummet in the face of the world's worsening economic crisis - a crisis which may be just in its early stages - Iran, unlike the Arab oil-producers with hefty sovereign wealth funds to cushion their national economies, could face politically destabilizing events that could threaten the survival of the regime.

    On the economic front, Iran could resort to terminating oil subsidies and restricting the import of non-essential consumer goods to conserve foreign currency. In fact, news from Iran last week suggests that both steps are under consideration.

    Iran may also seek to reintroduce a 3% value-added tax (VAT) which it was forced to suspend after shopkeepers in the politically influential bazaars closed shops in protest, arguing that the VAT would further aggravate inflation which reached 29.6% in October.

    The inflation rate is a problem. It is about 2.2% a month, barely tolerable for those living from hand to mouth. However, rates like that discourage investment in production capacity which ultimately makes inflation rise all the faster. A business would have to have a 40% or 50% rate of return in a year to make investments worthwhile in that kind of climate. And even that is problematic if the government decides to run the printing presses faster. What does the money get invested in? Currencies that are inflating at a much lower rate for one. Tangible goods for another. One thing you do not do in a situation like that is park your money in a bank.

    What do countries which have a history of foreign adventures typically do in a situation like that? That is pretty obvious. They engage in foreign adventures. One foreign adventure they might try is cranking up their insurgent cadres in Iraq. However, they would face an ever strengthening American trained Iraqi Army. The army that cleaned the clock of Iran's cats paw, the Mahdi "Army", in Basra this past year. In addition Iran needs its Army to maintain internal order so using it for an attack on Iraq is probably not a good idea. Not to mention that such an attack would gather the wrath of the American Army.

    So really, they are stuck between a rock an a hard place. It will be interesting to watch while the rest of the world goes into an economic meltdown.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:33 AM | Comments (2)

    A Big Loss Of Power

    I'm not talking elections here. I'm talking about my internet service. My isp lost power at about 8 AM local time and it has just come back at about 11PM local time.

    I had a post ready to publish and a few more in mind that required some research.

    Sorry for the interruption.

    Oh yeah. This wasn't some small local provider. It was Comcast. They need to get some batteries and a backup generator for their plant. Like the telcos.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:06 AM | Comments (1)

    HYPOs, and RINOs, and bigots! Oh my!

    A recent commenter on my last post had this to say:

    I'm not so worried about the Dems handling science. But please, lets not waste any more GOP money trying to get prayer into school and evolution out.

    I'll disagree on the first count, but of course I agree on the second. The Republican party should not be a vehicle for the ideology of any group, particularly on religious grounds. The commenter was clearly interested in pointing out Republican hypocrisy, a tired and indefensible claim that often reveals the bigotry of the complainant.

    This may be a good time to talk about what I believe, and why I am not a hypocrite, because faith in Republican hypocrisy drives so many people, like that very commenter, who also snarked about there being a lot of "recovering homosexuals in the GOP," as though gays (like all minorities) have a moral obligation to support the democratic party.

    As an atheist, a skeptic, a Darwinist, a public school teacher, and a registered Republican, am I as odious as a gay or a black Republican? What is this hypocrisy that we all share?

    It's simply that we do not fit the stereotype. It's the same stereotype that had some Democrat supporters alternatively giddy and outraged at the news of Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy. How many times I heard it remarked that the situation didn't seem very Christian, or conservative, or even Republican! I heard it said that Christians would have to reject Palin, that Palin must be ashamed of her daughter. And then there was the disbelief that it never came to pass. How hypocritical of the evangelicals in this country to embrace a sinner!

    So much of this hypocrisy hysteria comes from people who think they've got the other side all figured out, like armchair anthropologists thumbing through archaic notes on the characteristics of the tribes of man. On this page there's a diagram of Republican Man, concise notes on his beliefs, his superstitions, his customs.

    But what happens when a specimen doesn't fit the diagram?

    When it's a small-minded Republican making the observation he sees not Republican Man, but RINO: another species altogether.

    When it's a leftist? The common hypocrite.

    I'm afraid your textbook has misled you.

    Neither party, Democrat or Republican, should be shackled to the ideologies of any of its constituencies. There are Christians in both parties. There are atheists in both parties.

    Believe it or not there are gays in both parties.

    And now we know convincingly, thanks to the passing of Prop 8 and the election of Barack Obama, that there are homophobes in both parties.

    A gay Republican does not match your definition of gay? It's time to revise the definition, not denounce the man.

    You will find hypocrisy everywhere, but my conscience is my own, not my party's. Consider this: what you call hypocrisy in a Republican may simply be the diversity you can not stand to part with as your party's exclusive purview.

    Let it go.

    posted by Dennis at 10:25 AM | Comments (14)

    Goldwater Republicans

    Can the Republican Party become the Party of Goldwater/Reagan again?

    posted by Simon at 09:14 AM | Comments (6)

    From my room, a view of the "IQ War"

    Damn I wish I had more time. I'm in the middle of Missouri (can't remember the town, but it's halfway between St. Louis and Springfield), with huge stretches of road in front of me, and I'm running late.

    About all I have time to do is show the "view from my room" (does that sound creepily familiar or what?)


    I'm thrilled that Dennis appeared yesterday, and his post about the new war on science got an Instalanche!

    That post and many others are reminding me that there's an IQ War going on, and Republicans are losing it. (The worst thing about it is that many of them don't realize that they're playing it.)

    It would take time -- a lot of time -- to fully explain this, but I think the Dems win by convincing voters that they (and those voting for them) are smarter than the other side, by doing their best to make conservative populism -- and thereby conservatives -- look moronic. P.J. O'Rourke is a damned genius, and as a thinking person he obviously cannot understand why any thinking person would be on the left:

    The South Side of Chicago is what everyplace in America will be once the Democratic administration and filibuster-resistant Democratic Congress have tackled global warming, sustainability, green alternatives to coal and oil, subprime mortgage foreclosures, consumer protection, business oversight, financial regulation, health care reform, taxes on the "rich," and urban sprawl. The Democrats will have plenty of time to do all this because conservatism, if it is ever reborn, will not come again in the lifetime of anyone old enough to be rounded up by ACORN and shipped to the polling booths.

    None of this is the fault of the left. After the events of the 20th century--national socialism, international socialism, inter-species socialism from Earth First--anyone who is still on the left is obviously insane and not responsible for his or her actions. No, we on the right did it. The financial crisis that is hoisting us on our own petard is only the latest (if the last) of the petard hoistings that have issued from the hindquarters of our movement. We've had nearly three decades to educate the electorate about freedom, responsibility, and the evils of collectivism, and we responded by creating a big-city-public-school-system of a learning environment.

    My own take on this is that the leaders of the left understand that the people they lead are not thinking. That's part of the plan, and it's the whole idea. Instead of actually thinking, these minions are told over and over again that they are smarter -- geniuses even -- and this appeal to the ego has irresistible consequences. Intelligent conservatives and libertarians remain silent, not only because they are very intimidated, but because they don't want to look condescending or childish by playing the IQ War game back at them. This leaves the conservative game in the hands of those who are either less intelligent, crassly populist, or deliberately obnoxious (Ann Coulter, etc.)

    (And now I'm getting on a tear and sounding like a bigot while I'm supposed to be driving.)

    The bottom line is that intelligent, thoughtful conservatives and libertarians are in the closet. The subject came up during this fascinating discussion between Bill Whittle and Dr. Helen, which the "Himbo" husband linked yesterday.

    Anyway, to return to O'Rourke, this has set up liberals to seize the reins, because conservatives are painted as dumbly appealing to faith (or magic), while liberals promise "smarter" people behind the controls. Never mind that the controls control nothing (but they do provide power for the "controllers"):

    What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That's not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. "Jeeze, 230 pounds!" But you can't pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters--all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs--think so too.
    Yes, socialism does not work, and they do not want it to work, because the less it works, the more government is needed.

    The O' Rourke piece (which Glenn linked yesterday, is titled "We Blew It" and it evokes the famous line from Easy Rider.

    Billy and Wyatt go on to a New Orleans whorehouse that Hanson had
    recommended. There, they celebrate Mardi Gras and go on an LSD trip in a
    cemetery with two young prostitutes. Then they are on the open road again,
    and Billy laughs triumphantly. "We've done it. We're rich, Wyatt. We did it,
    man." To which Wyatt answers cryptically, "We blew it."

    Critics have debated this meaning. To me, Wyatt seems to be commenting on the
    futility of their nomadic life -- a life that catches up much of the
    confused, aimless lives of the dissidents of their generation.

    But Hopper said he really had in mind the fact that they have lost their
    innocence because their wealth is corrupt. It has come from a dope sale.
    "When Peter says, 'We blew it', he's talking about easy money, that we should
    have used our energies to make it."

    No one wants to look like a moron. Especially a hedonistic moron.

    I sent an email to M. Simon in which I looked back on years of personal hedonism (which nearly killed me) and said,

    ...if there is one lesson I have learned from freedom, it's that there are risks and downsides, and you have to take the good and the bad.

    Economies do not always thrive. The American people are acting like a bunch of babies. (Or whiners as Phil Gramm said). Like gays clamoring to shut down the bathhouses once they got AIDS (which some did).

    Hedonism, the irresponsible fast lane of freedom, is a high risk activity -- whether economic, sexual, or chemical. You cannot have freedom without allowing it, and people are going to get hurt. Ditto, legal guns.

    The problem is, no one wants to hear this.

    Beyond that, the more the government intervenes (as they did in this economy), the greater the demand for more intervention when intervention fails, which it inevitably will.

    True conservatism (at least, the old fashioned kind) involved allowing freedom and encouraging -- not mandating -- responsibility. It's AYOR (at your own risk) stuff, and it's not for children.

    Failure in all these things has to be allowed, but the voters want safety nets and will not allow it.

    There's tragedy in this.

    Tragedy is a hard sell to voters who want easy solutions.

    Populism is a risky business.

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

    (I drove all day (I'm now in Tucumcari, New Mexico, on the old Route 66), and I'm delighted to see so many thoughtful comments. They're always appreciated -- agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 08:39 AM | Comments (124)


    Here is a funny bit I found in the comments at No Quarter.


    The Heaviest Element Known to Science

    Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

    The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neut rons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

    These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

    Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

    Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

    In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

    This characteristic of morons promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration.
    This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

    When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:26 AM | Comments (3)

    Leaving It To Obama

    Commenter Fritz in a reply to a comment by Edgar at Older Protestant White Guys had this to say about the "leave us alone" crowd in the last election.

    Edgar, you state that the "leave us alone" crowd are at fault for Obama's victory. OK. I'm one of the "leave us alone" crowd and, while I did not vote for Obama, I certainly was not going to vote for McCain. As far as I could see, he was much less in favor of leaving me alone than Obama.

    Social conservatives have to come up with compelling reasons for those of us who are not social conservatives to, well, put up with them anymore. And it will have to be a damn good reason because I for one am tired of them. I want a small and limited government. Social conservatives want a large and annoying one. And as long as that is true, we had might as well have socialists in charge because, for the most part (i.e. except for gun control), they are less obnoxious.

    While I did vote for McCain I can definitely understand the sentiment. In fact if National Defense had not been my prime issue I might have done exactly the same thing. The smugness of social conservatives is a huge turn off for me. As a member of the "leave us alone" crowd I'm tired of it. I'm tired of "we know what is right" as an answer to every challenge of their policies instead of reasoned discussion. And God forbid you hit one of their hot buttons like the Drug War or abortion. They go stark raving loony.

    Of course the crowd coming in is no better when it comes to their hot issues and I'm tired of them already. As a commenter pointed out in another post - the only people who generally want to get into government are people who want to do something. In fact they want to do a lot of somethings. All very expensive and producing results the opposite of those claimed. That fits in very well with the first rule of politics. Get elected and once elected betray those who elected you.

    You know maybe there is some truth to the old wisdom about the general crookedness of politicians and the low morals of actors. The nice thing about actors though is that you don't have to buy a ticket to the show. With politicians there is no way to opt out. They have a captive audience so to speak.

    I have a few words for their kind:

    Leave Us Alone

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:06 PM | Comments (48)

    Reality-Based Rule?

    Of course I'm playing on Valerie Jarrett's remark that President Obama will be "ready to rule." And of course I'm mocking the notion that Democrats have a monopoly on reality.

    But what is no laughing matter is the lack of reason and the total disregard for science in what may be the imminent appointment of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the EPA.

    I keep seeing his name bandied about among lists of potential cabinet members, but he must be barred in the name of science and reason.

    In short, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has proved himself little better than Jenny McCarthy, that detestable mouthpiece of the anti-vaccine crowd who has directly contributed to declining health among children, has deluded countless parents, and has supported dubious, unscientific methods. This would be a disaster and an appointment anything but reality-based.

    You can read much, much more from Steven Novella at NeuroLogica Blog or from David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine, or from the many, many science bloggers and skeptics who have blogged in opposition. Notable among these is Orac who goes into very great depth on Kennedy and why he's such a terrible choice, and also helps us to find out how to contact the president elect and to be heard.

    This is no direction for the Obama administration to go after the Bush administration was so reviled for hindering science. A Kennedy selection would have far less to do with reality than with expediency and personal relationships.

    MORE: And now by coincidence I find (via Drudge) that John Podesta seems to have a history of UFO quackery. Just what have we gotten ourselves into?

    posted by Dennis at 10:27 AM | Comments (50)

    On the road

    Yes, I'll be on the road for several days, so my blogging for the next four days will likely be nonexistent, or at best occasional and brief.

    With any luck, M. Simon will be blogging up a storm. (While I drive through them!)

    So keep checking in; you never know!

    posted by Eric at 09:31 AM | Comments (1)

    Twenty-Five Million

    What is twenty-five million all about? It is the number of people who have used marijuana in any given year.

    Since 1990 a reported 20.5 million people have used marijuana in an average year. From 1990 to 2005 annual usage was at its greatest reported level in 2002 at 25.9 million and its lowest level in 17.4 million in 1992. (See Table 1.)

    The National Survey on Drug Use and Health and its predecessor, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, are among the most professional, sophisticated, and reliable population surveys conducted. Nonetheless, for both practical and methodological reasons they do not provide a complete accounting of drug use in the United States. For example in 2002 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revised its data collection procedures and increased their estimate of annual marijuana users from 21.1 million (as reported in the 2001 survey results) to 25.7 million.(9) NSDUH is a very extensive survey, and in 2002 respondents were paid to complete the entire survey. While this improved data collection, it also calls attention to incomplete data collection in prior years. At best, NSDUH provides data on the minimum number of drug users in the country.

    A report by ONDCP on drug consumption in the United States includes this explanation why surveys likely underreport drug use:

    "These estimates may be low. Users are likely to under report socially disapproved behaviors, even when those behaviors are legal. They would seem to have even more incentive to under report illegal behaviors. Given under reporting rates for tobacco and alcohol use, it might be reasonable to inflate marijuana estimates by about one-third."(10)
    So let me see what that means for politics. The vote totals for this last Presidential election are 66,316,572 for Obama and 58,013,719 for McCain. A difference of 8,302,853. So let us be conservative about pot smokers and say there are 25 million of them. How many would be needed to tie the popular vote? About 1/3rd. If most of them vote Democrat (as popular perception would have it) even less - if they switch to the Republicans.

    My question is - why isn't any party actively courting their vote?

    Of course the Republicans can't do it. They have a Culture War to maintain. And the Democrats? It seems like a wink and a nod is good enough while they prosecute the Drug War even more fiercely than the Republicans.

    A party that went after that vote in the current climate need not go whole hog. It could make Medical Marijuana a states rights issue. It seems perfect for a Republican Party that stands for Cultural and Economic Liberty. Or heck even a Democrat Party that only stands for cultural Liberty.

    Of course such a move might not be enough to win Presidential elections, after all that depends on the votes in individual States. Still, if the Republicans adopted it it would prove their bonafides in moving to end the Culture War.

    And how about that map of the States just linked to above? Eleven States have decriminalized Marijuana use. One of them is Mississippi. Another is Alaska. Thirteen have medical marijuana laws. (I did a quick count so some one correct me if I made an error). The trends are obvious. And as they say in day trading - the trend is your friend.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    A Man At Ease

    A Man At Ease

    The man at ease? Bush. The man who looks totally afraid? Obama.

    It looks to me like he is going to have to make a lot of decisions he is not ready for. Not surprising for a man who voted "present" 130 times in the Illinois Senate.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:22 AM | Comments (23)

    Happy Veterans Day! And thank you, veterans!

    I stumbled across a piece of nostalgia last night in the form of this Veterans Day column by Herb Caen -- a guy I used to read daily who deserves the title of blogger, even if he never lived to see that. From The San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 9, 1986.

    TUESDAY IS another of those pesky half-holidays, with some things open, other things closed and everybody confused and/or uninterested. Now it's called Veterans Day, but when Nov. 11 was Armistice Day, it had meaning and poignancy - parades at slow time, muffled drums, black armbands, gold stars in the front windows of grieving mothers. The Civil War was a horror, but World War I was the real thing, dragging this coltish young nation into the international arena. It was all so innocent that those of our generation cannot hear "My Buddy" or "Over There" without a lump in the throat. I won't say "Happy Veterans Day" because the phrase makes no sense.
    Well, I will. (Bear in mind that Herb Caen was a San Francisco liberal's San Francisco liberal. And while he was reflecting on a typical trite 1980s liberal view of Veterans Day, he was himself World War II veteran.)

    I'm saying "Happy Veterans Day" because I think we should be happy to celebrate veterans who have given us our freedom. It ought to be more than a "pesky half holiday." (Which I think is what Herb Caen meant to say.)

    Glenn Reynolds linked this post from Armed Liberal, who sees a "need for a patriotic liberalism": my view, liberalism had become identified with a cosmopolitan view that denied the unique place that America has in the world and that wanted badly to reduce America to a country among others.

    Steve offered the notion that America is an idea, and that that idea is inherently welcoming, and I chimed in supporting him; we are not a nation of blood or land, we are a nation of an idea, and possibly the first great nation that can say that.

    We need - as liberals, as Americans - to embrace those ideas which are our patrimony, to accept their greatness and the imperfections of the realizations. Just as we recognize the greatness and flaws of our children.

    Mike Murburg's son Ehren was buried under an American flag, and like all of those who died and were buried under that flag wearing the uniform of our country, he died for a set of ideas. Those ideas are not liberal, not conservative - they contain American liberalism and conservatism and so are greater than either.

    I am an American liberal, and as such, I owe my first loyalty to my country.

    And because of that - like many modern liberals - I have no problem being grateful to those who died, were wounded, who simply or heroically served in defense of our flag and the ideals it represents.

    I join Armed Liberal in saying thanks to veterans.

    If you know any veterans, thank them.

    I'll start by saying thanks to my co-blogger M. Simon, who is a veteran.

    posted by Eric at 04:54 PM | Comments (2)

    How to stop gay marriage
    (and set back the cause of gay rights)

    While I couldn't find the latest horror story of radical gay anarchists invading a church in Lansing, Michigan in my daily paper, Glenn Reynolds linked it this morning (along with a more detailed account), and observed,

    This strategy seems quite unwise.
    I think the actions were evil and despicable.

    Whether they were unwise depends (unfortunately) on point of view. Certainly they were unwise if the goal was to advance gay rights -- in particular gay marriage.

    But was it?

    Clayton Cramer observes that the group consists of anarchists and appears to be confused -- very confused:

    Gay anarchism--there's a concept that someone hasn't thought through very carefully! Anarchism means the absence of government--so there's no one to call if gay bashers decide to beat up homosexuals, there's no one to punish employers that refuse to hire homosexuals, and there's no government to recognize your same-sex "marriage."

    It is true that if you are a large and powerful minority of the population you may not need government to protect you--you can protect yourself. The experience of the post-Reconstruction South, however, suggests that even if your minority group is almost half the population, you need government to protect some basic human rights (such as the right to not be lynched). Homosexuals are, at most, about 3% of the population, and outside of big cities, more like 1% of the population. If this is really the fiercely homophobic society that these activists believe, anarchism is the last thing that they would want.

    It is indeed confusing. People like this cannot be easily addressed in rational or logical terms.

    However, I think it might be informative to look at "Bash Back's," um, goals. Among other things (at least, according to this MySpace entry), the group opposes gay marriage, and anything that might resemble assimilation:

    We are fierce as fuck radical queers, transfolk, and feminists who are not concerned with gaining access to oppressive, state-run institutions such as marriage, the military, or obtaining upward economic mobility. We want liberation, nothing less.


    Members of Bash Back! must agree to:

    1. Fight for liberation. Nothing more, nothing less. State recognition in the form of oppressive institutions such as marriage and militarism are not steps toward liberation but rather towards heteronormative assimilation.

    2. A rejection of Capitalism, Imperialism, and all forms of State power.

    3. Actively oppose oppression both in and out of the "movement." All oppressive behavior is not to be tolerated.

    4. Respect a diversity of tactics in the struggle for liberation. Do not solely condemn an action on the grounds that the State deems it to be illegal.

    (Emphasis added.)

    In that context, by attacking churches (especially if they can foment violence), they are working for their goals. That such actions might cause repression or backlash against gays would be just fine with Bash Back. The idea is to foment hatred and class war, and above all, get more publicity for Bash Back.

    There's plenty of historical precedent. The Weather Underground and other radical left groups did their damnedest to alienate ordinary people, and the result was the landslide victory in 1972 of Richard Nixon. I well remember a slogan "If it takes fascism, then we'll have to have fascism!" and I think it is highly illustrative of this type of thinking. (Anarchists and fascists are closely related species, of course.)

    Repression is exactly what these seemingly confused people want.

    It's not a bug, but a feature.

    (If I were one of those rabid anti-gay activists, I might consider sending them some money...)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for quoting from this post.

    A warm welcome to all. Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

    I especially liked what Glenn said:

    Contrary to what the Sith lords say, releasing your anger isn't always the best tactic. Of course, it all depends on what you're after.
    I've noticed that what many anarchists are really after is infantilism.... Though I guess they call it "primitivism."

    AFTERTHOUGHT: The comments are great, and while I'm on the road, a thought occurred to me. What the "Bash Back" group is really working for is blowback, right? Should they consider changing their name to a more accurate one?

    Or are they too uptight and un-liberated?

    posted by Eric at 10:45 AM | Comments (29)

    From Drug War To Real War

    Yes. The War On Drugs has turned into a shooting war. In fact it has been a shooting war for quite some time in Afghanistan. So how is that working out? Not well. Here is a bit from 2007 explaining what the DEA is doing in Afghanistan.

    Working first with the D.E.A. and then with the State Department, Wankel helped create the Afghan Eradication Force, with troops of the Afghan National Police drawn from the Ministry of the Interior. Last year, an estimated four hundred thousand acres of opium poppies were planted in Afghanistan, a fifty-nine-per-cent increase over the previous year. Afghanistan now supplies more than ninety-two per cent of the world's opium, the raw ingredient of heroin. More than half the country's annual G.D.P., some $3.1 billion, is believed to come from the drug trade, and narcotics officials believe that part of the money is funding the Taliban insurgency.

    Wankel was in Uruzgan to oversee a poppy-eradication campaign--the first major effort to disrupt the harvest in the province. He had brought with him a two-hundred-and-fifty-man A.E.F. contingent, including forty-odd contractors supplied by DynCorp, a Virginia-based private military company, which has a number of large U.S. government contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world. In Colombia, DynCorp helps implement the multibillion-dollar Plan Colombia, to eradicate coca. The A.E.F.'s armed convoy had taken three days to drive from Kabul, and had set up a base on a plateau above a deep wadi. With open land all around, it was a good spot to ward off attacks.

    Much of Uruzgan is classified by the United Nations as "Extreme Risk / Hostile Environment." The Taliban effectively controls four-fifths of the province, which, like the movement, is primarily Pashtun. Mullah Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader, was born and raised here, as were three other founders of the movement. The Taliban's seizure of Tirin Kot, in the mid-nineties, was a key stepping stone in their march to Kabul, and their loss of the town in 2001 was a decisive moment in their fall. The Taliban have made a concerted comeback in the past two years; they are the de-facto authority in much of the Pashtun south and east, and have recently spread their violence to parts of the north as well. The debilitating and corrupting effects of the opium trade on the government of President Hamid Karzai is a significant factor in the Taliban's revival.

    A fifty nine per cent increase? I'd say the drug warriors were making their usual progress. Backwards. The more they fight the stronger their enemies become. Say, haven't I heard something like that before? I'm sure I have.

    Let us get a slightly less pro DEA look at what is going on. Here is something from The Guardian in 2001. It is the story of a smuggler.

    "The cars come back and forth. I just take it to Mazar and sell it on to the guys who come in cars from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. I do it twice a month," Zafir explains.

    From there the contraband wends its way up into the Urals in Russia, takes a left turn, heads for Moscow and St Petersburg before being smuggled onward to western Europe - 90% of the heroin injected in Frankfurt, Barcelona or Edinburgh originates in Taliban Afghanistan.

    "Our dear friends, the Taliban commanders, they take the stuff from Kandahar and Jalalabad to Kabul," says Zafir, an alias agreed to protect his identity. "We take it on to Mazar and to Kunduz."

    For the past five years Zafir has been a bit-player in the lucrative rackets that make millionaires of Afghan warlords and keep the Taliban fighters in guns, food, and fuel. "I've been working in the heroin business since the Taliban seized Kabul [in 1996]."

    Brown-haired, blue-eyed in a turban, pale pink tunic, and black trainers, Zafir sweats anxiously as he discloses the details of the Taliban's heroin trafficking after agreeing to meet at a quiet spot in the mountains north-west of Kabul.

    So there it is. Opium growing and heroin smuggling are financing the Taliban. So what makes a pile of vegetables worth its weight in gold? Prohibition. Those DEA guys are economic and military geniuses. Did I mention that they managed to increase the area of poppy growth in Afghanistan by 59%? Yes I did.

    OK it is not just America and the DEA. NATO is in on the act.

    NATO is fighting a war to eradicate opium from Afghanistan. Allegedly, the goals this time around are different. According to the British government, Afghanistan's illicit drug trade poses the "gravest threat to the long term security, development, and effective governance of Afghanistan," particularly since the Taliban is believed to be the biggest beneficiary of drug sales. Convinced that this time they are doing the morally right thing, Western governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars bulldozing poppy fields, building up counternarcotics squads and financing alternative crops in Afghanistan. Chemical spraying may begin as early as this spring. But in retrospect, might history not judge this war to be every bit as destructive and wasteful as the original Opium Wars?

    Of course it isn't fashionable right now to argue for any legal form of opiate cultivation. But look at the evidence. At the moment, Afghanistan's opium exports account for somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of the country's gross domestic product, depending on whose statistics you believe. The biggest producers are in the southern provinces where the Taliban is at its strongest, and no wonder: Every time a poppy field is destroyed, a poor person becomes poorer -- and more likely to support the Taliban against the Western forces who wrecked his crops. Yet little changes: The amount of land dedicated to poppy production grew last year by more than 60 percent, as The Post reported last month.
    So by being a direct instrument of the destruction of people's livelihoods we are making enemies? Who would have guessed that? Why it goes completely counter to DEA logic. Keeping people from feeding their families is supposed to make friends. And they should be eternally grateful. What is wrong with those people? Don't they know Americans and Europeans are their friends? The ingrates.

    It seems as if all this effort to recruit people for the Taliban has put the war in Afghanistan in dire straights. (cue up Money For Nothing)

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- A classified United States' review of its Afghanistan policies is likely to conclude the violence-torn country is in a dire situation, sources say.

    With violence up 543 percent, opium poppy cultivation soaring and public support for U.S. intervention dwindling, unnamed sources told CNN Saturday the report's assessment of Afghanistan's future prospects will be grim.

    The report, led by Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute of the U.S. National Security Council and including input from 24 government agencies, is expected conclude that even if U.S. President-elect Barack Obama follows through immediately on his campaign pledge to beef up American forces in Afghanistan, the moves will likely come too late to fight an expected spring offensive by Taliban insurgents, CNN said.

    Well that is optimistic.

    So does any one have any idea about what to do? Yes. Soldiers. British soldiers.

    British military commanders in Afghanistan have privately condemned plans to use Helmand as the launch pad for Nato's controversial new anti-narcotics policy, The Independent has been told.

    British forces have avoided getting involved in anti-drugs operations until now. They fear the new operation will create another tier of enemies, alongside the Taliban, among traffickers and poppy farmers. However, the recent Nato summit in Budapest agreed, on US insistence, to extend the Afghan mission to include attacking the narcotics trade.

    Them Americans are brilliant. I'll bet they get their advice from the DEA. Did I mention that DEA efforts increased the acreage devoted to poppies by 59%?

    So how about some more details about how things are going in Afghanistan.

    The US and NATO military commanders who till recent were riding on a high horse have suddenly become pessimistic and some have given demoralising statements. It seems that they have begun to see the obtaining ground realities more objectively and have realised that victory through use of force is not possible. They have appreciated that the Afghan Taliban have become too formidable a force and cannot be defeated militarily.
    And the spring offensive will start up soon after Obama takes office. And what was the one war Obama promised to win? Afghanistan. Heh. Heh. Heh. He picked the wrong war.

    And what is one of the key elements in the failure? I'm sure you have heard this before. But just for the sake of repetition here goes.

    Afghanistan has turned into a narcotics state, which is now producing about 90% of the world opium; besides others the Taliban are making good use of opium money to fund their insurgency.
    How unexpected.

    That is Afghanistan. How about a little closer to home? Mexico. It seems that Mexico is having a few drug problems too.

    Mexico in some ways is the most worrying place in the Western hemisphere. A low-level civil war between the drug cartels and the federal government has been fought over the past two years, and the cartels are winning. Senior Mexican officials charged with suppression of the cartels have been moving their families quietly out of the country.
    Wow. A narco state on our very own border. I wonder how the DEA never anticipated that. No doubt a failure of intelligence. Of the brains kind.

    So what is the internal state of Mexico? It looks like there will soon be a civil war too keep the Mexicans occupied. That should be some fun.

    More than 1,100 people have been slaughtered in a blood bath of drug-related violence in one city just south of the U.S.-Mexico border this year - that's nearly four victims each day - and some say it is just part of a large crisis that is will soon spill over the border.

    "The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Americans who visit Mexico, citing Ciudad Juarez as a hotbed of criminal activity. A large Mexican metropolis in Chihuahua State bordering Texas, Juarez is Mexico's deadliest narcotics-war zone with two criminal gangs fighting for power - over city streets and drug-smuggling routes into the United States.

    "The State Department is warning U.S. citizens of escalating crime along the border, stating that 1,600 cars were stolen in Juarez in July alone. Public shootouts, muggings, murders and bank robberies are rampant, and Mexican criminals harass U.S. travelers along border regions."

    Cold blooded murder, public shoot outs, bank robberies, muggings, drug trafficking, and car thefts are common place in this cesspool.

    Cue up Bob Dylan.

    So how about a look at some of the recent violence? It is not pretty.

    MEXICO CITY (AFP) -- Twenty three died in attacks in northern Mexico in the past two days, officials said, as the United States warned its citizens to increase vigilance when traveling south of the border.

    Twelve died in northwestern Baja California State, mostly in the volatile border city of Tijuana, and 11 were killed in Chihuahua, further east.

    Border areas where rival drug cartels are battling over key routes into the United States are among the worst hit in escalating violence across Mexico this year in which almost 3,500 have died, including civilians.

    And it only gets uglier.
    CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- A beheaded man was hung from an overpass Thursday, a gruesome display even for this northern border city long used to drug-related violence.

    Shortly after the grisly sighting about 5 a.m., police found the victim's head in a black bag in a nearby plaza, said state police spokesman Alejandro Pariente.

    Pariente said the body was wearing black jeans, a red T-shirt and white sneakers, and was handcuffed. A banner apparently directed at rival drug-gang members was hung next to the corpse.

    The victim's father identified the 23-year-old man.

    Elsewhere, masked men gunned down two police officers in a convenience store in Chihuahua City, the capital of Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, said Eduardo Esparza, spokesman for the state attorney general's office. After the killing Wednesday evening, assailants left a toy pig next to the bodies. Two shoppers also were wounded.

    On Tuesday, a man wearing a pig mask was found hung in a residence in Ciudad Juarez. Near the body was a message threatening to do the same to others. Police believe the message was from drug gangs.

    Swell. Just swell.

    There is only one way to win this. Surrender you fools. The Drug War is going to destroy America if you don't. End Drug Prohibition Now. Any chance of that? No. Obama used cocaine and pot as a youth. Who would listen to an ex-druggie? The only way he could do anything is if the call to end it was bipartisan. I rate the odds of that as slim and none. Or maybe slimmer than none. We love our prohibitions in America. Besides don't criminals deserve to earn a living too? According to current policy: Yes They Do.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:28 AM | Comments (53)

    A war over a right?

    In a piece titled "Minorities at war on Obamaland's Western shore," distinguished Canadian journalist Colby Cosh looks at the Proposition 8 conflict (including the latest nonsensical meme that gays who voted for McCain did so out of racism) and concludes,

    It's enough to make you glad you live in a country where such matters are handled entirely undemocratically! Like it or not, we do avoid a certain amount of genuine unpleasantness that way.
    Via Glenn Reynolds, who says,
    Personally, I'd like to see the separation of marriage and state, taking this stuff out of the political realm entirely.
    Well, licensing is, after all, a government restriction. When people speak of marriage as a "right," they really are not speaking of a right to marriage, but a "right" to a marriage license. Yet true rights (such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion) are not -- and by their nature cannot be -- subject to licensing.

    If marriage were treated as a right, it would not be subject to licensing.

    In the normal scope of things, activities that are licensed -- cutting hair, flying planes, driving 18 wheelers, practicing law, medicine, etc. -- are not rights at all, but occupational choices that require training, which are regulated by the state.

    I don't know much about the history of marriage licensing, but this minister claims that it's a recent (and racist) development, and that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had no marriage licenses:

    George Washington was married without a marriage license. Abraham Lincoln was married without a marriage license. So, how did we come to this place in America where marriage licenses are issued?

    Historically, all the states in America had laws outlawing the marriage of blacks and whites. In the mid-1800's, certain states began allowing interracial marriages or miscegenation as long as those marrying received a license from the state. In other words they had to receive permission to do an act which without such permission would be illegal.

    Blacks Law Dictionary points to this historical fact when it defines "marriage license" as, "A license or permission granted by public authority to persons who intend to intermarry." "Intermarry" is defined in Black's Law Dictionary as, "Miscegenation; mixed or interracial marriages."

    Give the State an inch and they'll take a 100 miles (or as one elderly woman once said to me "10,000 miles.") Not long after these licenses were issued, some states began requiring all people who marry to obtain a marriage license. In 1923, the Federal Government established the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act (they later established the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act). By 1929, every state in the Union had adopted marriage license laws.

    Perhaps the current turmoil stems from a confusion between licensing and rights.

    I'd hate to think all this fuss is over a desire for official state imprimatur, but I worry that it is. Like almost everything else (soon including the auto industry), marriage is seen as something you get from the government. Maybe it would be better to see it as something that the government cannot interfere with, the way genuine rights are.

    (On the other hand, if you can't be born without a birth certificate and can't die without a death certificate, maybe all things -- including life itself -- do come from the government.)

    Nah, scratch that. A birth certificate is not a license to be born, nor is a death certificate a license to die.

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

    Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (29)

    Crushing the hope of change?
    Please don't crush my hope so early, Mr. Obama.
    So pleads Ann Althouse, reflecting on a truly dreadful idea -- that Barack Obama might appoint Jamie Gorelick as Attorney General.

    While I didn't vote for Obama, I'm not the type to say inane things like "DON'T BLAME ME! I VOTED FOR MCCAIN!"

    Slogans like that annoy me. Barack Obama is my president just as much as anyone else's, and I have just as much of a right and a duty to opine on matters of national importance.

    So, what I will say is, simply, "Please, Mr. President Elect. Say it's not true!"

    Gorelick is a bad choice. By any reasonable standard, she simply has too much baggage.

    I've criticized Gorelick for this in the past, and in a further walk down Memory Lane I see that in another post, I defended Ann Althouse against the charge that she and Glenn Reynolds were part of a "RADICAL RIGHT-WING AGENDA," simply for raising questions about Jamie Gorelick's conflict of interest.

    Bear in mind that the above concerns are old, but since then Gorelick's baggage has only grown heavier. To the existing list, The New York Times adds that she left Fannie Mae "just as it was coming under attack for huge accounting failures."

    Hardly ordinary baggage, says Althouse:

    Unbelievably ponderous baggage! Oh, but conservatives have attacked her. Does that somehow cancel the baggage? A better question: Why haven't liberals attacked her?
    Unfortunately, the rule seems to be that if conservatives attack her, then anyone attacking her must be a conservative (presumably including people who voted for Obama.)

    While this is a bit tedious (and I realize that I'm a hopeless pawn of the "radical right wing agenda" for saying it), here's hoping against hope that Obama won't crush the hopes of people who may have thought they were voting for change, while confirming the suspicions of those who didn't.

    To be fair, Jamie Gorelick does represents change, of a sort. From the tired politics of the Bush past right back to the tired politics of the Clinton past.

    But you don't have to be an Obama voter to know that this is not the sort of change Barack Obama was talking about, and hardly what his supporters voted for.

    (This is the kind of the change I should be ashamed of not voting for?)

    MORE: Dean Esmay suggests John McCain for Secretary of State:

    You know, that would be an awfully bold move, but it would certainly signal to a lot of people that "change" and "bipartisanship" really mean things to the new President, and it would certainly be the buzz everywhere. He'd probably be awfully good at the job.
    Excellent idea, and certainly bold. But I think it's too bold for Obama. It would take real statesmanship to do something like that, and (so far, at least) the signs point to an administration of recycled Clinton people.

    AND MORE: This better be on the level:

    Obama has asked Dick Lugar to serve as SoS and he has agreed.
    What a scoop!

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who says,

    I don't know if it's true. But hey, he'd be better than John Kerry . . . .
    I don't either, but yes he would.

    posted by Eric at 12:16 PM | Comments (25)

    A bad trend

    Considering the nature of the debate in my previous post about gay bigotry, I'm glad we're not living in Germany. No, this is not another Nazi comparison; I'm talking about modern Germany, where it has apparently become illegal to accuse someone of anti-Semitism:

    In a tortuous ruling that threatens to have a chilling effect on discussions of "new" German anti-Semitism, the District Court of Cologne recently upheld a restraining order that forbids author Henryk Broder from describing the discourse of a virulent critic of Israel as "anti-Semitic" in a post on a popular German blog.
    While both parties are Jewish (and the writer accused of anti-Semitism had analogized the Israeli government to Nazism), according to the court's convoluted reasoning, accusing someone of anti-Semitism is defamatory:
    From the perspective of the average reader, the application of the concept "anti-Semitic" is especially grave and like hardly any other well suited to depreciate [the person] connected to it in the eyes of the public. This has to do with the terrible consequences that anti-Semitism has brought about precisely in Germany.
    But as the post's author John Rosenthal notes, the court held that even a truthful accusation could be defamatory. And of course, there are the usual double standards:
    According to the Cologne court's ruling, however, even a true statement can represent defamatory "abusive criticism," provided it is not accompanied by "sufficient" grounds. This obviously implies a sort of hyper-regulation of speech on the part of the German courts. Given, moreover, that the court has done nothing to specify the threshold for "sufficiency," the potential for arbitrariness in the application of this power is virtually unlimited. Broder himself, for example, has been accused by some of "Islamophobia." Will he now be able to obtain restraining orders against the authors of such charges?
    Of course not. That's because restrictions on speech are inherently political, and in politics the squeakiest wheels -- meaning the whiniest activists -- get the grease.

    Fortunately in the US, such political characterizations are not (not yet, at least) a suitable matter for the courts:

    Of course, it could be argued that what constitutes anti-Semitism is more a matter of interpretation or opinion than what constitutes child molestation or, say, plagiarism or other more typical subjects of personal defamation suits. But this is all the more reason why in a liberal democratic society it is not a suitable matter for the courts. In any case, if there is such a thing as "anti-Zionist anti-Semitism," then there is little room for doubt that the fulminations of Evelyn Hecht-Galinski on the "Jewish-Israeli lobby" constitute an example. The similarities between the latter and the morbid phantasms of the Nazis on the power of "international Jewry" are obvious for even just a minimally historically informed observer.
    It often bothers me that as censorship efforts tighten around the world, this country is becoming the last bastion of free speech. Yet at the same time this is happening, ever-larger numbers of citizens, indoctrinated as they are to think in terms of "hate speech" and group grievances, are clamoring for restrictions here. In 2002, a poll showed that nearly half of the American public believed the First Amendment "goes too far."

    Since then, the trend has not been good -- especially with younger people. While you might think that college students would be more supportive of the First Amendment than any other group, a 2006 study revealed that the number of college students who think the First Amendment goes too far has increased dramatically:

    ...students say they feel the First Amendment as a whole goes too far. In 2006, 45 percent said the First Amendment goes too far, versus 35 percent two years ago.
    That ought to worry everyone, because if young people don't appreciate the freedom they have, it doesn't bode well for the future.

    This is not to say that it's an easy thing to be accused of bigotry. I don't like it any more than anyone else, and just last night I spent quite a bit of time defending myself against a charge that I was anti-Christian, and anti-Mormon. This went back and forth, and that's the way free speech is supposed to work. Over the years I have developed a tough skin over these things, but this only makes me worry that part of the problem might be with young people who have been raised on a diet of "self esteem" -- to whom the slightest criticism gives rise to a sense of aggrieved entitlement. (Factor in identity politics, and a disagreement with an individual can become an attack on a group to which he belongs. Sorry, but ridiculing Jeremiah Wright or Pat Robertson is not ridicule of Christianity itself.)

    No one enjoys being called a bigot. But the idea that calling me a bigot should be illegal -- or that I should be able to file a complaint against the accuser -- fills me with horror.

    I hope it is not the way of the future.

    posted by Eric at 09:16 AM | Comments (7)

    Older Protestant White Guys

    Norman Ornstein discusses the hill Republicans have to climb to get back into power.

    In so many respects -- culturally, ethnically, sociologically, internationally -- the election of Barack Obama has altered the landscape. It also has changed the political terrain, making the path for Republicans to return to majority status in the electorate daunting -- an uphill climb akin to scaling Mt. Everest. Without pitons.
    The party certainly has come a long way since Ronald Reagan's landslide in 1980. So what does the party have left in terms of voters?
    Most ominous for the GOP is what has been happening with younger voters. As a share of the electorate, 18- to 29-year-olds grew only slightly, from 17% to 18%. But they grew in terms of numbers of voters by more than 2.2 million (perhaps up to 4.5 million) and gave 66% of their votes to Obama. Partisan identity tends to crystallize in this age range. If Obama succeeds over the next four or eight years, these voters may carry their Democratic identity through their lifetimes. For Republicans, the danger is that their only reliable voting bloc may remain older white guys. Make that older Protestant white guys. Ouch.
    Well that does not look very promising. So who has the party lost? It lost the fiscal conservatives due to profligate spending. It has also lost the socially liberal due to the pandering to the concerns of the Protestant white guys.
    Republicans need to be more than just the only other option on the ballot in four years. They must find a message -- be it a more refined compassionate conservativism, the folksy populism of Mike Huckabee or even a fiscally conservative/environmentally conservationist fusion -- that speaks to the segments of the electorate that are growing. And then they need a leader to deliver it. At this early date after a dramatic election, there is no sign they have either.
    I don't know that an environmentalism that is determined to wreck the economy is a sound move.

    So lets look at the Democrat's coalition and see if we can figure out the problem. Who are they? Blacks, Gays, Jews, Catholics, pro-abortion folks, illegal drug users. There are more but there are enough there to make my point. It seems like a very disparate group with nothing in common. I mean what do pro abortion people have in common with Catholics? It is pretty simple really. These groups have all, in the last 100 years or so been victims of those Protestant white guys. All you have to do is to look at the electoral map of 2008. What does the Republican Party have left? Basically they have the Old South. Home of those Older Protestant white guys. And if you look at the map closely the Democrats have even been making inroads into the home territory of the older Protestant white guys. Not a happy prospect for the future.

    Here is what one academic author has to say about authoritarianism in the South.

    White Southerners, always hegemonic in defining the region's history, politics and culture, frequently demonstrate, and have demonstrated, strikingly strong resistance to diversity. While Southern white party loyalties have switched from majority Democratic to majority Republican, intolerance of difference appears woven into the region's political and social fabric, more so than in other regions. This observation draws substantial support from historical studies (Goldfield 2002), and other research examining specific elements of Southern culture, i.e. the Southern culture of honor (Nisbett and Cohen 1996), Southern Baptist and other evangelical Protestant religious traditions (Rosenberg 1989; Smith 1997; Green et al. 2003)
    And as that resistance to diversity finally declines so does party loyalty.

    So what is the way forward? Sarah Palin. Why her? She represents a new strain of deeply devout Protestant evangelical. The people of Alaska didn't even know her religious affiliation until this election. She did not practice the intolerance of those old Protestant white guys. No one had a clue about her stance on abortion. And that is a big clue. Basically she was fiscally conservative and socially moderate. In other words a libertarian. No surprise there. She comes from Alaska, the most libertarian state in the nation.

    She represents a rebirth of the Leave Us Alone Coalition. About time.

    H/T Hot Air

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:14 AM | Comments (22)

    What Is The Democrat Party?

    The Democrat Party is a coalition of the oppressed and formerly oppressed Americans.

    And who was doing the oppressing? Social conservatives of the Protestant variety.

    Here is one example dealing with the public schools.

    Separate Roman Catholic and Jewish schools were established in the mid-nineteenth century, first in New York City, and later across the country. This was in response to the overly anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish positions presented by most textbooks used in public schools throughout the nation, in the interest of promoting Protestant homogamy throughout the United States.
    Until the Republican Party does something about being identified with oppressors it will be in a world of hurt.

    My suggestion? Champion marijuana legalization. It would show that the party stands not only for Economic Liberty but also Cultural Liberty.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:47 PM | Comments (8)

    Philosophy of error

    I like technological breakthroughs, and the announcement in this article struck me as good news:

    Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.

    The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.

    Cool. However, reading on, the more I stared at the cost figures provided by the CEO of Hyperion (the company licensed to sell these things in the US), the more confused I became:
    The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. 'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. 'They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.'
    That just didn't look right, but there are a lot of, you know, digits. So I opened the calculator program on this computer, divided 25 million by 10,000, and got a figure of $2500.

    It hardly inspires confidence that the CEO of a company which makes nukes would make such a blatant error in math.

    I guess it's possible that the error wasn't his, but was instead that of the writer. You know, a zero got dropped. Does this indicate an "error"? I'm very forgiving of obvious errors, especially typos, but the problem with numerical errors is that the intended meanings aren't always clear the way they are when, say, the word "the" appears as "teh."

    The question of whether a number is an error is compounded if we look at the possible biases that might be behind it. In that context, what is an "error"? That a number is simply wrong does not end the inquiry. If I am "just a digit off" when I tell the IRS that I made $25,000 when the number is really $250,000, it is certainly relevant whether I deliberately gave them an incorrect number as opposed to having made a mistake in math or in transcription. Yet the number is "wrong," and in that sense an "error" regardless of my intent. At that point, though, the question of "what is an error" becomes a philosophical one. In the moral and legal sense, if I deliberately gave the IRS an incorrect number, I made no error, for my act was deliberate. Lies are not errors. Yet in math, an error is an error is an error. Suppose that for some pathological reason you take a math exam, and you deliberately gave the wrong answer knowing it was wrong. It is still wrong, and good or bad faith do not affect its inherent wrongness. A wrong answer is no more wrong because it was sincerely believed to be right either. Interestingly, if by your calculations you got the wrong answer, then made a transcription error which made it right, it would still be right. Morality and intent are irrelevant.

    Notice that from the facts given in the current example, it is not clear which number is in error. There are three figures:

  • $25 million cost per plan
  • 10,000 customers
  • $250 cost per customer.
  • Because the last number is wrong, we tend to focus on the bad math that must have "led" to it. But if the problem is an error in transcription, if we assume the CEO provided the guardian with correct figures, the 10,000 customers might have been 100,000. But I doubt it, because the use of the word "community" implies smaller, and 100,000 is not a community but a city. So maybe the $25 million is wrong. Maybe it's $2.5 million. Possible, but that seems pretty cheap -- even for a small nuclear plant.

    I can't be sure, but I think the $250 should be $2500. Still affordable. Anyway, the lower the price, the better the news, right?

    It's a minor point, but the philosophical aspects of errors fascinate me, and in an amazing coincidence, earlier this morning I read an article dealing with precisely that subject, titled "Math students find success with philosophical route to the right answers":

    It seems weird at first: Math teachers who don't care if the answer is correct.
    OK, that was the first paragraph. It is supposed to be startling to the readers. However, it didn't startle me because it isn't the first time I've read about these new methods of teaching math. I've blogged about them before, and I'm skeptical.

    However, it is claimed (by the proponents) that these methods work better to improve test scores:

    But Wayne State University professors who teach college math at Detroit Public Schools believe that triumph is not in the answer, it's in the struggle to get there.

    Now, their philosophy -- one that test scores suggest works with surprising success -- has found a bigger and more efficient home on WSU's main campus.

    The Center for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics is about "creating an environment in which kids are intellectually fearless, where they're not so worried that their answers are incorrect or correct," said math Professor Leonard Boehm.

    Boehm is a man in constant motion -- pacing and punching the air in the classroom, shaking students' hands and cracking really bad jokes. Four times a week, he brings college math to fifth-graders at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, just one of the programs now served by CEEM.

    On a recent morning, the wooden floor boards creaked beneath his stride and 26 students were rapt.

    The lesson: If 2 raised to the second power is 4, and 2 raised to the third power is 8, what is 2 raised to the zero power?

    Hands shot in the air. "My esteemed colleagues," each respondent began their answer. (The answers in Boehm's class always start this way as a sign of respect.)

    The students agreed: The answer must be zero, right?

    No, wait. 1? Their certainty wavered. 2?

    Boehm grinned and stopped. His voice dropped.

    "How come a mathematician," he asked, "might say the answer doesn't exist?"

    It was Desean Washington-Jones, 11, who eventually raised his hand through the quiet.

    The students began gesturing -- like a basketball referee motions for a traveling offense -- to show their support as Desean worked through the answer.

    "My esteemed colleagues," he began. "The answer might not exist because there is no factor form."

    Hands flew in the air and began to shake -- the sign they agreed.

    "Can something come from nothing?" Boehm asked. "If a factor form doesn't exist, can the answer come from something that doesn't exist?"

    And so it went -- onto existential quantifiers, the fallacy of induction, and lessons that will lead to the concepts of a limit as well as infinite geometric and harmonic series.

    It's the kind of college-prep training not always available to or expected of inner-city kids, said Steve Kahn, WSU professor and director of CEEM.

    "The kids in Detroit are getting screwed," said Kahn, who began his career teaching Detroit's high school dropouts.

    I don't doubt they're getting screwed, and it is to be sincerely hoped that the philosophical approach to math will cause them to be proficient in basic everyday survival type math skills.

    The numbers cited are impressive:

    The CEEM approach seems to be working. Before Math Corps, students answered about 30% of the answers correctly on grade-appropriate tests. By the end of the camp, they were averaging 90%, according to CEEM stats.

    "The math is good and simple. ... But the real key is changing a kid's attitude about her or his expectations," said Robert Thomas, dean of WSU's College of Science.

    That, and matching students with peer mentors "turns out to be magical," he said.

    A jump in scores from 30% to 90% really does seem magical to me.

    Assuming that the numbers are correct, I wondered if anything might explain this other than magic, so I went to the Math Corps web site, and saw this:

    In reviewing applications, staff seeks indications of a serious desire to succeed in mathematics as well as evidence that the student is willing to work hard to achieve that success.
    That means they've pre-selected for motivation. That may be more important than magic. Also, I notice that there's little information provided about CEEM's tests. CEEM stands for the Wayne State University Center for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics, which has no website, and appears to be the creation of one professor. Thus, there is no way to know exactly what is on the test that CEEM appears to have designed it. However, since it teaches only motivated students and uses its own test for the before and after, I am not surprised that there would be marked improvement.

    Of course, if the goal is "math equity" (a complex issue described here) what might be the implications for the test? If the goal is to improve scores to promote equity, that might not translate into real world proficiency. What I'd like to know is how they would do on a standardized test, and whether they end up being able to do things like long division. It's one thing to teach that correct math answers don't matter as an initial stage, but I'd hate to think that they never really matter. Otherwise, how is anyone supposed to make sense out of anything numerical?

    But once again, maybe my hangup about accuracy reveals my own educational deficiencies. I was bad at math, and one of the reasons was that there might have been too much emphasis on finding accurate numbers. Here's how I put it before:

    ...appreciating how many dead bodies there might [as in victims of Hurricane Katrina] be is a highly personal process. To one person, there might be hundreds. To others, there might be thousands, and depending on social skills and psychological considerations, still others might see the answer as millions.

    Aren't higher numbers more relevant to what's going on in the world? If the goal of math is to make things relevant, then the numbers have to be higher, because otherwise, people might not care as much.

    What this means is that the hangup that bloggers like me have with finding accurate numbers reveals an educational deficiency which is being remedied.

    I should be glad. Because it means my being bad at math really wasn't any shortcoming on my part. And my hangup about it only reflects the wrong social attitudes of the times in which I grew up.

    This is all changing.

    We should be glad.

    There's still a lingering question, though. If numerical unaccountability is more fair and equitable than numerical accountability, then what does that suggest about the basis for fairness?

    If there is no accountability, then why are only some are off the hook?

    posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (10)

    The Leave Us Alone Coalition

    Foobarista of foobarista left a comment at my post Republicans Stayed Home. This is what foo had to say:

    The reason McCain lost is the Republicans lost the "Leave Me Aloners".

    The problem was that small-government Republicans got swept aside by those who got used to the comforts of Washington. "Compassionate Conservatism" didn't help. Even people like me, who thought the WoT - including Iraq - were necessary had a hard time dealing with Bush's general incompetence in all things domestic.

    He kept Congress funding Iraq by rolling over on everything else, which will likely end up being far more expensive to the country than the war itself, both in terms of government size and helping get Obama elected.

    Now, given the choice between social-con big government and live & let live big government, any who isn't a bible-thumper chose the latter. (although I personally voted for McCain since WoT is a "voting issue" for me)

    Now, the biggest danger for Republicans is to go for the Mike Huckabee "God, Guns & Butter" strategy, which will leave the large Leave-Me-Alone coalition in the Democrat camp for lack of anywhere else to go.

    Obama may still overreach with his "communitarian" stuff like mandatory "volunteerism", etc and drive the Leave-Me-Aloners away, but I suspect he's smarter than that.

    That describes my relationship to the Republicans to a T. It is really sad that there is no Leave Me Alone Party in America. I think it might get a few votes.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:41 PM | Comments (15)

    Republicans Stayed Home

    So I'm trying to figure out why the Republicans lost. And I go back to one of the stats guys who misinformed me. Yeah I know. But he is an honest guy and is trying to figure out what his error was. Here is what Paul Marston has to say:

    As usual, the media has missed the huge story of this election. Their story is that Obama registered huge masses of new supporters and got them to the polls. At first, that was what I thought, but that is not the key factor. I was expecting the highest percentage turnout in 100 years amounting to 130,000,000 voters, but instead as of 5:00 PM EDT, 121,146,964 people voted for Obama or McCain. In 2004, 121,069,054 people voted for Bush or Kerry. Hence in a hotly contested election in which a fortune was spent on the race, there was no big surge in voter turnout. The population is bigger and the number of registered voters is larger than in 2004, yet just about the same number of people voted. What are we to make of this? We know that a higher than normal percentage of minorities and under 30 youths turned out pushing up the Democratic votes. We know that about 15% of Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton voted for McCain-Palin (the PUMA voters). So how are we to explain the results? The conclusion is inescapable. The Republicans stayed home in droves. Obama did not win the election, the Republicans gave it to him by not getting out and voting.
    Remember when, before the election, I used to say:

    Don't give it to him. Make him steal it.

    I guess the Republicans weren't listening. Pity.

    Paul goes on to say:

    It goes without saying that when the results were widely different from what I predicted, I wanted to know how I could be so wrong. At first I thought it was because the PUMA voters did not turn out and vote for McCain-Palin but they clearly did. Then I thought that it was because Obama got millions of new voters to the polls and simply swamped the PUMA factor.

    It was only when the turnout figures became available that I had to discard that theory. If the usual number of people voted yet more Democrats than normal turned out and there a sizable number of PUMA voters voting Republican, how could McCain-Palin have lost? When the results were staring me in the face, I was totally shocked. The smaller turnout meant that even fewer PUMA voters were required in the key states than I had calculated so McCain-Palin should have done even better than I predicted. Naturally my predictions were based on a normal Republican turnout. Who would have ever thought that the Republicans would fail to turn out in this election? While I am still busy trying to wipe the egg of my face, I am also extremely curious as to why so many Republicans stayed home. I imagine that I am not alone in wondering that at this point.

    So lets look at some percentages.
    "A downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls seemed to be the primary explanation for the lower than predicted turnout. The percentage of eligible citizens voting Republican declined to 28.7 percent down 1.3 percentage points from 2004. Democratic turnout increased by 2.6 percentage points from 28.7 percent of eligibles to 31.3 percent. It was the seventh straight increase in the Democratic share of the eligible vote since the party's share dropped to 22.7 percent of eligibles in 1980."
    There is a rumor going around that it was the Romney Republicans who stayed home. Is there any evidence of that? Yes there is.
    WASHINGTON - For four years, Utah conservatives have proudly proclaimed they lived in the reddest state in the nation.

    But no longer.

    That mantle now belongs to Oklahoma and Wyoming, where Republican John McCain scored bigger victories in Tuesday's historic election of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.

    For those of you not keeping up - Utah is a predominately Mormon State and Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

    There is even anecdotal evidence relating to the recent attacks on Sarah Palin by former campaign staffers.

    There was speculation that the culprits may be former aides to Mitt Romney, positioning their hero for a future presidential run.
    I'm sure the Republicans will remember Romney's loyalty when 2012 comes around and respond in kind.

    And how about Romney himself? Was he for McCain all the way or did he have reservations?

    "And as we face the very real possibility of an Obama presidency, that's the last thing we need," writes Romney. "It's more critical than ever that we have a strong Republican leader to act as a "firewall" against bad legislation, tax increases, and increased spending. And Mitch McConnell has proven he will stand up for us."
    You know, that doesn't sound like the position of some one who wanted a McCain win with all his heart.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:55 PM | Comments (2)

    Inner bigots come out of the closet and into the streets

    When I wrote yesterday's post about the overwhelming black support for Prop 8, I had not read about the vile and sickening displays of racism displayed by gay demonstrators in Los Angeles.

    So, when I clicked this morning on Glenn Reynolds' link from last night to Pam Spaulding's post -- "The N-bomb is dropped on black passersby at Prop 8 protests," I was shocked. I won't quote the epithets, but to see such awful hatred directed by people who obsessively claim to be against "hate" -- against members of a minority which has suffered more hate than any other group in American history -- forces me to ask some basic questions about tolerance, diversity, and humanity.

    Sometimes I wonder whether the dirty little secret is that we all hate each other, and that what is often derided as "civilization" is the only thing that keeps us in line.

    (Glenn has more today, including a link to this controversial statement by Dan Savage which Pam Spaulding condemns.)

    By any standard, the conduct displayed by the bigoted gay demonstrators is outrageous, inexcusable, and indefensible. However, speaking as an individualist, I don't think it any more reflects on gays as a whole than it would reflect on blacks as a whole if some angry black demonstrators hurled epithets at gays or Jews. The people who do these things are the ones who do them. That they are in a crowd of demonstrators might reflect poorly on the other demonstrators, but the problem with extrapolating from angry demonstrators to the group they claim to "represent" is that they are rarely more than a small percentage of that population. So, if a half a dozen gay bigots use the N-word at a demonstration, it no more reflects on all gays than something shouted from a crowd at a McCain rally would reflect on all Republicans.

    Where I must disagree with Pam Spaulding is with her view that these awful incidents somehow constitute an "escalation of the 'blame the blacks' meme that has been swirling about the blogosphere and the MSM." She also refers to "the desire to scapegoat blacks for Prop 8's defeat" as "not-so-latent racism in our movement." Well, at least she said "in our movement." Because, at least in my case, I don't see how observations based on a statistic can constitute a "blame the blacks meme."

    Statistics are not memes. Saying that 70% of blacks voted for Prop 8 is no more a meme than saying that 30% of gays voted Republican. As far as blaming or scapegoating goes, while I'm against Prop 8, I'm more or less neutral where it comes to gay marriage, because I'm highly distrustful of government involvement in a minority lifestyle which, like it or not, goes to the heart of human privacy. Gay marriage advocacy is inextricably intertwined with forcing people out of what is called "the closet." The closet (as any regular reader of Andrew Sullivan knows) is said to be at the root of much evil. Therefore, closeted gays need to be liberated -- for their own good and for the good of society. Because of the nature of the hegemonic bureaucracy which surrounds family law, family courts, family services, once gay marriage is established it will inevitably have a spillover effect, and gays who want to live their lives in privacy will be unable to do so. Sure, there will continue to be sexual flings, but once lovers move in together, there will be no way to guarantee privacy, because the state will have created not merely a sense of entitlement, but legal rights of the same sort which customarily flow to heterosexuals thanks to the evolution of family law. There are many gays who want privacy and who live in the closet. While I realize that this is immoral to Andrew Sullivan's way of thinking, I think it's fair to ask, how would they opt out?

    What are the implications to the right to simply to be left alone?

    The closet being what it is, though, I don't think this concern is likely to be voiced. I mean, who's going to voice it other than a kooky libertarian theoretician? Angry, in-your-face, "in-the-closet-and-proud" activists. (What this means, of course, is that whatever the extent of the right to be "in the closet," it will remain largely undefended, no matter how many of its immorally discreet members are taking advantage of it. This leaves Andrew Sullivan and other activists are free to blame people who are in "the closet" for almost anything they can think of -- the latest being Prop 8.)

    To return to the idea of the "blame the blacks" meme, I'm not sure blame is the right word to describe their numerical support of Prop 8. I doubt very much that supporters of the initiative would "blame the blacks"; more likely they'd say "credit the blacks." (The point of my post was not to blame or credit, but to highlight the anamoly and note that politics is all about strange bedfellows.)

    But speaking of blame (and scapegoating), I noticed that in other posts, Pam Spaulding looks at Mormon and Catholic churches and sees them (unlike blacks or black churches) as proper targets of Prop 8 protests. While I don't know what she thinks of angry gay demonstrators chanting "Mormon scum!" (and I do not suggest that this compares to the use of the N-word), she does not hesitate to condemn the Mormons as bigoted:

    The amount of hot air and vapid defensiveness from an institution that has a history of bigotry and oppression against black people has earned every second of this bad press brought on by this media exposure and demonstrations. That the Mormons have trained that bigotry onto gays and lesbians families only confirms that the LDS is what is erroneous and it is repeating that sorry history.
    Both Catholics and Mormons are accused of calling for theocracy:
    These extremist statements and positions are nothing less than a call to establish a theocracy. Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be moved to name this behavior of these institutions for what it is -- and question the tax-exempt status of these institutions.
    By that logic, taking a religious position against abortion is also a call to establish theocracy. That is not what the word "theocracy" means.

    And if it is "theocracy" to invoke a religious argument against gay marriage, then why isn't Barack Obama a theocrat, as Glenn Reynolds suggested? [In ironic imitation of the left's standard.] I don't think Barack Obama is a theocrat, any more than the Mormons or the Catholics are theocrats. But you can't just draw a line and say that Mormons and Catholics who voice religious objections to gay marriage are theocrats, but Democratic United Church of Christ members who voice the same objections are not.

    There's altogether too much bigotry for comfort and too many double standards for comfort.

    I can't help notice that completely left out of this debate are Muslims. While an LA Times article in April noted that "U.S. Muslims share friendship, similar values with Mormons" and that "the connection is based not on theology but on shared values and a sense of isolation from mainstream America." Can there be any doubt about the Muslim position on gay marriage? While there are no statistics on the Muslim vote, I would be flabbergasted if support for gay marriage mustered more than the single digits.

    Yet Mormons have been singled out as bigots.

    I'm wondering whether some bigots are more equal....

    MORE: There's something else worth keeping in mind that some people are forgetting. Prop 8 was not a referendum on gay marriage, but on amending the California Constitution to prohibit it. Thus, it is entirely possible that there are people (I have no way of knowing how many) who might have reservations about gay marriage -- along with some who even oppose it -- but who nonetheless do not support the Constitution being amended over it.

    What that means is that voting "NO" on 8 was not necessarily a vote in favor of gay marriage.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds links some words of wisdom from Joy McCann:

    There will be equality between gays and straights; let's try not to burn too many bridges on our way there.
    And there's a lot more in this must-read post:
    Peace between the LGBT community and people of faith is on the way--but it requires each group to respect the other's right to exist, and a commitment to try to stay out of the other's face. Neither group has an exclusive claim upon the public square, and we are all Americans, with the right to live our own lives, free from harassment. I'm not making an argument for living in the closet, or straightening one's hair for reasons other than personal preference: just that we all calm down a bit and stop trying to force others to live according to our own moral codes.
    It's kind of hard to argue credibly for "tolerance" if you cannot tolerate disagreements. Or "closets."

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for quoting from this post.

    Comments are always appreciated, agree or disagree.

    MORE: Fascinatingly, I am being taken to task in the comments for (among other things) not condemning a threat to burn down churches by "the gay community."

    Eric's "outrage" at gay racism is merely self-serving. That's why we didn't see any calls for tolerance when the gay community first called for the burning of Christian and Mormon buildings.
    I replied that I condemn whoever said that, and I cited Michelle Malkin's post.

    It turns out to have been an anonymous commenter at the JoeMyGod blog.

    So, yes, of course I condemn the JoeMyGod commenter. But is he the "gay community"? He could be anyone.

    This is a bit ridiculous. Like trying to identify a voice yelling in a crowd.

    AND MORE: If I didn't know any better, I'd swear a lot of people don't want an alliance between libertarians and social conservatives.

    MORE: Please bear in mind that there are plenty of statements floating around that I have not condemned. But my failure to condemn them does not mean I approve of them. This is a blog, and I write about things that occur to me, and occasional posts and news items of interest.

    I can't believe I'm having to say this, but what I do not write about does not indicate anything about what I think about what I don't write about.

    MORE: Via Glenn, Dale Carpenter notices the tendency of some religious people to confuse criticism with bigotry, which it is not:

    Religious leaders and their adherents are of course free to oppose gay marriage. But when you enter the political fray, you are not exempt from public criticism and protest just because you are a religion or have religious reasons for your advocacy. It's not anti-religious bigotry to call attention, loudly and angrily, to what you have done.
    He notes that while the protests have been mostly peaceful, targeting Mormons should stop:
    Moreover, despite the focus on a few extremists whose words have indeed crossed the line into religious (and racist) bigotry over the past few days, the anti-Prop 8 rallies have been peaceful and mostly respectful. Frankly, if marriage had been denied to blacks, Mormons, Catholics, or almost any other group, it's hard to imagine the reaction would have been as mild as it's been.

    Nevertheless, I am uncomfortable with pickets directed at specific places of worship like the Mormon church in Los Angeles. It's too easy for such protests to degenerate into the kinds of ugly religious intolerance this country has long endured. Mormons, in particular, have historically suffered rank prejudice and even violence.


    Here's my advice to righteously furious gay-marriage supporters: Stop the focus on the Mormon Church. Stop it now. We just lost a ballot fight in which we were falsely but effectively portrayed as attacking religion. So now some of us attack a religion?

    I couldn't agree more. If you are falsely accused of attacking religion, I can't think of anything more stupid to do than actually attack religion.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes that protestors are marching against Rick Warren's church, which they wouldn't do if it were a mosque. No, they wouldn't. The double standards are appalling.)

    MORE: Speaking of the double standard, check out the horrendous tactics displayed in these pictures. And the question. "How come no one is marching on this place?" (There's a picture of the King Fahd Mosque, and no one is marching, of course. For obvious reasons.)

    Via Glenn Reynolds.

    MORE: It seems obvious, but I think one last observation is in order. I think that the demonstrators who are abusing their First Amendment rights (as they damage their own cause) would do well to think about what would happen to angry gay demonstrators in Muslim countries. I mean, here we are, in a country where nearly half the voting public is cool with gay marriage, while in many Muslim countries, gays are routinely executed.

    To say that these two cultures are not on the same page of history is an understatement.

    Not even the same century.

    posted by Eric at 12:43 PM | Comments (63)

    The Real Stealth Candidate

    Commenter Sue at Just One Minute had this to say:

    I was reading something today that had quotes from the people of Alaska about Palin. One was a democrat who had liked her before she ran for VP. He didn't realize her religious beliefs, her abortion beliefs, her belief that marriage was between a man and a woman. She has been governor of his state for 2 years and he didn't know those things about her. And now he has doubts about her. Seems to me if she had been intent on pushing her personal beliefs on anyone, the people of Alaska would have known those things about her. Her popularity in Alaska will take a hit over things that she had no intention of pushing on them.
    I think this tells us everything we need to know about the way forward for Republicans. Social conservative views scare Democrats. So how did Palin get around that to win an 80% approval rating as Governor of Alaska? She did not make social conservatism in any way shape or form part of her campaigning or governing policy.

    She was not about the social conservative agenda. She was about fiscal responsibility and sound governance. I think if the Republican Party takes that approach they can start winning National elections again.

    Scaring people about your politicians and your policies is no way to win an election. And the worst part of the scaring is that the national media scares the easiest on these issues.

    The Republicans are going to have to decide: are they the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage party or are they the sound governance/low taxes party.

    Note: the anti gay marriage deal in California was pushed over the top by Democrat cultural conservatives. The Republicans no longer have a lock on cultural conservatives.

    BTW how long do I think it will take the Republicans to get it? If history is any guide about twenty to forty more years. Why? For one thing preaching to America is more important to them than winning elections i.e. they are not a serious political party.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:31 AM | Comments (13)

    First sunset after the election

    While I don't know whether Michigan is more beautiful as an overall state than Pennsylvania, the Ann Arbor area is really nice, and unlike the Philadelphia area, you don't have to drive far to see nice countryside.

    The view from my driveway isn't so bad either.


    That was taken as I got in my car to drive to the Huron River on Wednesday at sunset.

    The first thing I saw was a forlorn-looking Halloween pumpkin that someone had thrown in the water:


    A hawk (not quite certain of the species) flew low overhead, and I watched it alight on the top of a tree, where it stayed just long enough for me to get a picture before it took off.


    A view along the river.


    Plenty of good size fish were jumping, and these two swans were swimming along and occasionally diving in the water in hope of catching the fish.


    The "swan song," by the way, is an ancient myth -- as the swan is neither mute nor does it sing one last song before dying.

    No political connotation intended.

    Some things are prettier than politics.

    MORE: Based on this picture I'm thinking the hawk above might be a young peregrine falcon. Any raptor lovers, feel free to chime in.

    posted by Eric at 05:01 PM | Comments (5)

    Freedomism is disgusting

    Not to be a nag, but I updated my previous "building not a tent" post to include a link to Ilya Somin's discussion of a (Social) Conservative-Libertarian alliance. Also I added a link to Jonah Goldberg's post on the peripherally-related subject of conservative theory to my Prop 8 discussion.

    I want to return to the general concept of economic conservatism, because I think it's quite obvious that the loss of economic conservatism is what drove these two camps apart. Once they lost the one thing that they could agree was worth fighting for, they naturally had nothing else to do than fight each other.

    A pity, really. I am convinced that the a socon-libertarian alliance is the only hope of saving economic conservatism. And I wish libertarians would read between the lines and realize why I am trying to avoid the term "economic freedom."

    Like it or not, "freedom" has become an inflammatory code word for hedonism. It might as well be called "freedomism." For that we have, well, certain ideologically driven social conservatives to thank.

    But my purpose right now is not to scold anyone. In order to build such an alliance, I think freedom fetishists (and I'm the first to admit that I suffer from this fetish) will have to admit that some people find their fetish disgusting.

    Keeping economic hedonism in the closet is a small price to pay.

    Lord I can't publish this. It's FILTHY!


    No, I'm running late, so I don't have time to alter the above to depict Marxist archaeologists discovering lost tracts of Hayek and Friedman.

    My advice for now is just to keep the word "freedom" in the closet.

    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (9)

    Where Is The Faith?

    From the comments at Honest Government And Fiscal Responsibility by commenter auh2ogirl:

    The fact that prop 8 was voted through, as prop 2 was here in FL, was in large part due to the black and latino vote, yet Obama won FL and CA tells me that the time for candidates to be elected on socially conservative platforms is over.

    The GOP is going to get votes because they have convinced people that the R platform is better on reform, liberty, and economics. People can take care of their own souls without the help of government.

    Of course Republican Cultural Socialists don't believe that people can take care of their own souls without the help of government.

    Oh ye of little faith.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:46 AM | Comments (22)

    A Move In The Right Direction

    I was having an ongoing discussion with a social conservative, Rick, at Just One Minute about the place for libertarians in the Republican Party. He doesn't think there should be any place for them. So I said:

    And Rick,

    Goldwater was quite a libertarian. We need to put him down the memory hole. Yes? No sound Republican Party would countenance a guy like that. Why he is held up as an ideal is beyond me. You don't like his policies do you? I hope not. It would ruin my faith in your bonafides.

    If you like Goldwater who can I trust to tell me what Real Republican™ should believe? And you know I'm told Reagan was a follower of Goldwater. You don't think he was good for the Republican Party do you?

    BTW black conservative Democrats in CA put the anti-gay marriage measure over the top. So I guess when I'm in my real conservative mode I can be a Democrat now. That is good to know.

    I think Huckabee is in the wrong party - The Democrats now are the party of economic liberals and social conservatives.

    So Rick,

    If you just gave up your silly ideas about economics and patriotism you would probably be much happier with the Democrat Party.

    Think of how lucky we are. Economics has no voice at the table but social conservatism will be well represented. Is this a great country or what?

    Change we already believe in. Well some of us anyway. Real conservatives should be ecstatic Obama has won. And you know those ministers just love the War On Drugs. Why? Well it brings government contracts to their churches for drug user rehabilitation. Thank the Maker Bush supported his church/government partnership or that financing might have been avoided. However, thanks to the social conservative policies of Bush the Democrat Churches now have a steady supply of funds.

    I'm always surprised at how well the social conservatives policies work out in practice.

    What a roaring success alcohol prohibition was. In effect a partnership between progressives and social conservatives. And now that partnership is back in action. We will all be morally up lifted.

    "I tell you that the curse of God Almighty is on the saloon." -Billy Sunday
    And another oldie but goodie.
    "The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and the children will laugh. Hell will forever be rent." -Billy Sunday
    Social conservatives and progressives - together again at last.

    Is this a great country or what?

    I believe if we can get the Cultural Socialists and the Economic Socialists all together in one party they will be easier to defeat. So this past election is a move in the right direction.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:27 AM | Comments (21)

    Choosing The Robber Barons

    Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. - Clive Staples "CS" Lewis

    America chose the robber barons.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:45 AM | Comments (7)

    Keeping the news in the closet

    Out Magazine editor Aaron Hicklin has a piece in the Guardian titled "The success of Proposition 8 in California was one negative consequence of Obama's victory" and he goes into some detail discussing something that isn't getting much play in the American press -- that black voters (many of whom were voting in unprecedently large numbers thanks to Barack Obama) voted overwhelmingly (70% to 30%) in favor of Proposition 8. (To ban gay marriage in California.)

    The Prop 8 vote was 52% to 48% , and considering that blacks were 10% of the voters (yet 6.7% of the electorate), and far more in favor of the initiative than whites or Asians, it's quite likely that had Hillary Clinton been the nominee, Prop 8 would have been defeated. (A number crunching analysis linked by Andrew Sullivan spells out why.)

    Once again, it's a lesson in the old adage that politics is all about strange bedfellows.

    The Prop 8 victory led Glenn Reynolds to remind readers that "Obama himself opposes gay marriage on religious grounds," and speculate that Prop 8 might have ridden to victory on Obama's social issue coattails. Glenn also notes that "now they're even chasing the gay characters off of Grey's Anatomy!" And an Instapundit reader named Kevin Maguire suggested that "Obama's coattails are what passed those measures":

    I've seen many other bloggers wondering how it could be that Obama won, but these propositions failed; it doesn't seem to occur to them that there are plenty of people voting for Obama who don't buy into the entire liberal basket of goods.

    Myself, I'm wiith you - happily married gay couples with full gun safes IS the American dream. Instead, we're headed for both parts of that idea being illegal.

    To which Glenn replied,
    Well, there's a cheery take.
    As to Andrew Sullivan, he's not sounding like a kneejerk Obama sycophant on this one:
    It cannot be denied that this feels like a punch in the gut. It is. I'm not going to pretend that the wound isn't deep and personal, like an attack on my own family. It was meant to be. Many Obama supporters voted against our rights, and Obama himself opposes our full civil equality. The religious folk who believe that Jesus stood for the marginalization of minorities, and who believe that my equality somehow threatens their children, will, I pray, see how misguided they have become. And make no mistake: they won this by playing on very deep fears of gay people around kids. They knew the levers to pull.
    A day later, however, Sullivan is blaming the "closeted campaign." Whether this means that an out-of-the-closet and in-your-face approach would have swayed socially conservative black voters, I don't know. (Personally, I think knocking on the doors of strangers is best done wearing coats and ties while leaving the Folsom Street attire in the closet, but maybe that thinking is passé these days.)

    What's pretty clear is that had Hillary Clinton been the nominee, disappointed black voters would have sat it out, instead of voting in the disproportionately large numbers that they did.

    And Prop 8 would have been defeated.


    As a libertarian I have had reservations from the start about the wisdom of bringing the state into the bedroom where I never thought it belonged, and I also think a good privacy argument can be made against gay marriage from a libertarian standpoint. To focus on it as a "right" overlooks its misuse as an arduous bludgeon, which could be deployed by vengeful lovers and blackmailers against partners who never sought to be married, just the way marriage laws can be for straight unmarried couples. But my position is a fringe one, as I freely admit. Soon we will all be wedded by and to the state, and all bedrooms will be subject to examination and scrutiny.

    But regardless of my quirky position, it was inevitable that no matter who won this election, we would have had a president who did not believe in gay marriage.

    Back to Glenn's famous remark about happily married gay couples with closets full of assault weapons. Here it is:

    It's often struck me that opposition to gay rights, and opposition to gun ownership, have a lot in common. Most people opposed to each are concerned as much with symbolism as with practical effects (you often hear comments prefaced with "I don't want to live in a country where people are allowed to do that") and it seems more an aspect of culture war than anything else.

    Personally, I'd be delighted to live in a country where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons.

    Under that formulation I think McCain was more gay friendly than Obama, because at least the former didn't advocate taking away their guns.

    What good is a right to share a life in marriage if you can't defend the life you share?

    UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg offers a fascinating analysis of the Prop 8 victory, which he sees as exposing the Achilles Heel of "progressivism":

    The cushion came from blacks, who voted 71 percent in favor, and Latinos, who voted 64 percent in favor.

    In other words, Obama had some major un-progressive coattails. The tidal wave of black and Hispanic voters who came out to support Obama voted in enormous numbers against what most white liberals consider to be the foremost civil rights issue of the day.

    Put aside the substance of the gay marriage debate; what's fascinating is how these returns expose the underlying weakness, or at least vulnerability, of progressivism.

    As a matter of practical politics, contemporary liberalism amounts to a coalitional ideology, while conservatism remains an ideological coalition. The Democratic Party is the party of various groups promising to scratch each other's backs. Gay rights activists and longshoreman coexist in the same party because they promise support on each other's issues.

    The Republican Party is different. It says to voters, if you believe seven, eight or even 10 out of the 10 things we believe, you should be a Republican. Obviously, there are coalitions on the right and ideologues on the left, but I think the generalization remains valid.

    (Via an email from M. Simon.)

    The only thing I'd add to Goldberg's excellent analysis of coalitional ideology is that some numbers in the 7 out of 10 formulation carry more weight than others, and I would venture that the bottom line -- economic conservatism -- has always been the heaviest number.

    As I tried to explain in "A Building, Not a Tent," I think economic conservatism has long provided the glue -- the cement that held together the bricks in the GOP building. Remove the cement, and the bricks get loose -- guaranteeing the building's collapse.

    (I realize that "economic freedom" might be better phraseology than "economic conservatism," but the word "freedom" is so culturally loaded that it tends to evoke images of economic hedonism, which is why libertarians might want to consider keeping it in the closet.)

    Actually, strike that last paragraph. The jury will please disregard it.


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

    Your comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Roger L. Simon observes that the longterm trend is on the side of gay marriage:

    Ironically assisted by the large African American turnout for Obama-African Americans oppose gay marriage far more than other ethnic and racial groups-the proposition passed by about 5%. The trend looks bad for gay marriage adherents.

    But wait. Only eight years ago, the similar Proposition 22 passed by a whopping 23%. There's a trend here alright - and it is in favor of gay marriage. In California at least, with young people increasingly accepting of their gay peers, in a very few years same sex marriage should be a done deal. And by popular vote, not court fiat.

    That's the way it should happen.

    UPDATE: I have a new post on the related issue of gay bigotry directed against blacks.

    posted by Eric at 05:35 PM | Comments (61)

    "Will this put a stop to the idiotic rumors? Of course not!"

    I have one of the most liberal comment policies in the blogosphere. No authentication or sign-in is required, and I almost never delete comments for offensiveness. (See these gems if you doubt me.) I have on rare occasions edited a comment when people have asked me to.

    But as I've said many times, this is not a debating forum, and comments do not create an obligation on my part to do anything. I don't even have to read them, nor am I obligated in the slightest to reply to comments, especially when they might distract me or interfere with my posting. It's one of the ways I've been able to keep blogging on a daily basis.

    The only exception to my liberal comments policy, of course, is spam. Spam can take many forms, but what it all has in common is that it's canned, unoriginal, and spit out in quantity order to use the host to call attention to something that is usually of a commercial nature. I said "usually" for two reasons. Some spam is incomprehensible garbled text, with no apparent or discernible meaning, and no identifiable URLs or email addresses going anywhere. I don't know what it is, but I have to assume that someone must have intended something, for why would anyone expend time posting gibberish like this?

    mxive sdhg gaxr rowhsupmb ixfrza vofwix ucfopbnk
    There's a "URL" but it also consists of random characters. I delete them, but I always wonder why. Is it really commercial spam? Is it pure mindlessness, generated for the sole purpose of entertaining the spammer? Is it necessarily generated by humans? I don't know.

    Another category of non-commercial spam (at least, I think it's non-commercial) falls into canned political advocacy. People will cut and paste stuff they've seen somewhere, or possibly created themselves, in the hope of calling attention to a point. Not that it really matters, but on occasion I have been fooled into thinking that comments were original and later learned that they were simply cut and paste jobs. If I see this repeatedly, I might be tempted to delete it, especially if the comment was really long and monotonous and interfered with the normal flow of genuine comments.

    Last night, the same comment -- a long cut and paste from Philip Berg's site which I appended to this post -- was pasted into two different posts which had nothing to do with the issue advanced in the comment, which was the unending Obama birth certificate nonsense.

    I have to say that at this point, the Birth Certificate Truthers are starting to resemble Ron Paul spammers. The State of Hawaii certifed that Obama was born there (in Honolulu), and there's a presumption of legitimacy of state records which cannot be overcome by Internet rumor. There's simply no case.

    While a Certificate of Live Birth is precisely such a legal certification, recently, the State of Hawaii went further with this additional verification by Department Of Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino:

    "Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawai'i, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai'i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama's original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures. No state official, including Governor Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the State of Hawai'i," Fukino said.
    Via Little Green Footballs, whose comment I enjoyed,
    Will this put a stop to the idiotic rumors? Of course not!
    It's not my business if people want to waste their time. After all, plenty of people claim the 16th Amendment was never ratified, especially as April rolls around. But it gets a little tedious, and my worry with the Birth Certificate Truther campaign (yes, it is a campaign if the comment below is any indication) is that intelligent people might actually believe in it.

    That's why I spent most of a day trying to track down the Internet "report" which lies at the heart of Philip Berg's case. There is no report; it is simply a rumor which Berg either started or repeated.

    In part at least, I blame the mainstream media for fueling this conspiracy theory.
    I'm still sore over the way I spent most of a day laboriously checking out Berg's allegation only to be told that I was wasting time.

    With all apologies to those who think I wasted time, there was a reason I devoted so much time to this. A number of major bloggers (including four sites I respect, but will not name only out of respect for them) not only put time into this, but they took it seriously. That's why it so annoyed me to be derided for trying to do what I consider basic honest blogging -- looking for the source of an allegation, and finding none, then debunking it as a rumor, in the hope that others might not waste time. (It goes to blogger integrity -- something that still exists, but which I worry might be fading as an operating principle.)

    What never seems to have occured the wildly partisan Birth Certificate Truthers was that as an opponent of Obama, I'd love nothing more than for it to have been true. But a fraudulent claim won't cut it. In fact, it only makes things worse and wastes the time of sincere people who could be doing other things.

    One of my pet peeves is when people like stories and then cite them as true just because they're what they want to hear. It's a disease, one which feeds on human temptation to take the easy and low road. I know; I've been guilty of it too. Over the years I've learned that the more I like something, the more suspicious I should be. Here's what I said almost five years ago:

    In attempting to analyze unsettled and vexing stories, I try to avoid the following common pitfalls:

  • the temptation of believing what I want to believe
  • the temptation of disbelieving (denying) what I don't want to believe
  • the temptation of clinging too tenaciously to my own conclusions (if any)
  • the temptation of being adversely influenced by emotions instead of logic (loud and ugly tones, or harsh rhetoric make me distrustful; reasonable tones engender trust and can create illusions of truth)
  • Anyway, my biggest Berg v. Obama gripe is with the MSM. They should have done their damn job, reported the Berg story, looked into it with a proper investigation, and let the world know that the story about Obama being born in Kenya appeared bogus. Instead, they played a hide and seek game of non-reporting which stirred (and, obviously, stirs) the right wing fringe into a rage, and now these crazy lawsuits are springing up all over the place, and I get spam comments like the ones I got last night. If there was responsible journalism, we wouldn't have so many crackpot conspiracy theories.

    One of the principles that attracted me to blogging when I started was the emphasis on factual accuracy. Unfortunately, as the blogosphere has gotten bigger, this has given way in some circles to competing narratives, left and right. Or get the traffic.

    WorldNetDaily is of course continuing to provide fuel for the Birth Certificate Truthers. A few days ago, Jerome Corsi (who continually plugs his book) made it clear that the answer to the LGF question of whether the Hawaiian statement would ever put a stop to the idiotic rumors is an unequivocal NO!

    ...there is considerable evidence that Obama was born in Kenya, not in Hawaii as the candidate and his campaign have maintained.
    As "evidence," Corsi cites the following:
    [Barack Obama's uncle] acknowledged he was not sure whether his brother, Barack Obama senior, practiced Islam or whether Barack Obama junior was born in Kenya or in Hawaii.
    An African relative is not sure? How is that proof of anything?

    And this:

    The issue of the authenticity of Obama's original birth certificate is further muddied by communications from Sen. Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro, who has claimed Obama was born in two different Hawaii hospitals.
    By Corsi's reasoning, if some relative of mine cannot recall the hospital in which I was born, my officially issued birth certificate is open to question. How? Under what logical or legal theory? It's about as reasonable to argue that because a relative cannot recall which funeral home handled a body, that the death certificate is open to question.

    I don't know whether he's imagining that he's thrown the ball back in Little Green Footballs' court, but Corsi then goes on to attack the official certification of the certificate, because (he claims) the original circumstances of the birth are insufficiently described:

    On Thursday, KGMB9 News reported that Hawaii's top health official, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, was trying to defuse rumors that Barack Obama was born in Kenya by saying she had seen the birth certificate herself, but said Hawaii laws aimed at stopping identity theft prevented her from releasing the document despite multiple requests to do so.

    Fukino failed to resolve the controversy by disclosing whether the "official document" she saw had been generated in a Kenyan hospital or in a Hawaiian hospital.

    That is a ridiculous assertion on its face. Had the official document been generated in a Kenyan hospital, Hawaii would not have issued a certification that says on its face that the birth took place in Hawaii. The certificate (which has been seen and examined in detail, by a number of parties) states that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. (Something which even WorldNetDaily has acknowledged.)

    But now, claims Corsi, there's a new video proving Obama's birth in Hawaii:

    The controversy is further fueled by a video posted on YouTube in which Obama's Kenyan grandmother Sarah claims to have witnessed personally Obama's birth in Kenya. The video tape also features Sayid Obama who was interviewed by WND.

    To date, Obama and his campaign have refused to disclose the name of the doctor delivering the candidate or the precise hospital where he was born.

    The main reason doubts persist regarding Obama's birth certificate is this question: If an original Hawaii-doctor-generated and Hawaii-hospital-released Obama birth certificate exists, why wouldn't the senator and his campaign simply order the document released and end the controversy?

    That Obama has not ordered Hawaii officials to release the document leaves doubts as to whether an authentic Hawaii birth certificate exists for Obama.

    Rather, the failure to release the document fuels the theory - true or not - that the Obama family, shortly after Obama's birth overseas, returned to Hawaii and registered at the Hawaii Department of Health the original Obama birth certificate that had been issued by the doctor and hospital that delivered Obama in Kenya.

    No, it doesn't, because the State of Hawaii has officially certified that the place of birth was in the city of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, in the state of Hawaii on August 4, 1961, at 7:24 p.m.

    Now, it might be nice to know the name of the doctor and the hospital, and maybe the Obama campaign (if that is what it is now) should be more forthcoming in the hope of calming down the Truthers. But these details are not supplied on Hawaii's official form, nor are they required, so their absence proves absolutely nothing that would shed light on whether Obama was born in Hawaii.

    Then there's the video that Corsi and WorldNetDaily keep plugging. They say that

    ...a video posted on YouTube features Obama's Kenyan grandmother Sarah claiming to have witnessed Obama's birth in Kenya.
    And here it is:

    There is nothing but the woman's statement that,

    Barack Obama is a son of this village.
    Massaging the translation, the video producers turn it into "Barack Obama is a native of this village" and then, to "Barack Obama was born in this village," following which the video then segues right back into Berg's naked allegation (confirmed nowhere) that this same woman said she was present in the hospital where Obama was born.

    A massaged translation of a YouTube video will not overcome the presumption of validity of official state records.

    As I explained previously, the issue is no longer forgery.

    They are saying that the State of Hawaii is lying.

    It's a waste of time, and I wish I didn't have to debunk it further. But one thing I have learned is that no matter how many times things are debunked, people will still believe them.

    My problem is this. People say I am wasting my time, but the reason I'm doing this that is because reliable bloggers and web sites commonly believed to be responsible continue to advance this theory.

    Perhaps I should stop considering them responsible and move on to real things.

    But as is the case in any conspiracy theory, there is always the lingering question of why. Corsi keeps asking why Obama and his campaign "have refused to disclose the name of the doctor delivering the candidate or the precise hospital where he was born."

    From what I've seen of conspiracy theory proponents, I'll hazard a guess as to why. Because conspiracy theories operate in a closed loop format. If answers to the questions are not forthcoming, that proves the conspiracy. But if there are answers, well, all answers to questions propounded by conspiracy theorists simply lead to additional questions, because the answers are assumed to be lies. First the birth certificate was said to have been forged, but once it became clear that the official document existed, the Truthers switched to a claim that it was obtained by fraud, and is an official government lie. People who think that way will never be satisfied by explanations.

    Suppose Obama were to come up with some hospital birth certificate. (Never mind that these are not accepted for official purposes and will not satisfy the requirements for passport applications.) The hospital would be accused of lying, and so would the doctor who claimed he delivered the infant Barack Obama. That's assuming the doctor is still alive. If he's deceased, then his death can be thrown into the conspiracy brew. And why did the hospital officials "hide" this information for so long? To come up with another very clever forgery? We can't be too careful, folks.

    "The released 'records' raise more questions than they answer."

    And of course, by disputing the Truthers, I'm part of the coverup. Obviously, I want to help the Obamanation machine achieve world dominance as part of my plot to destroy American sovereignty.

    You know what? The doctor who delivered me is dead!

    Connect the dots....

    Continue reading ""Will this put a stop to the idiotic rumors? Of course not!""

    posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (16)

    Soothe The Monkeys

    The problem with social conservatism with respect to candidates winning elections is that it gets the monkeys screaming. That does not help win elections. Soothe the monkeys.

    Tell what you want to accomplish.

    1. Clean out the corrupt - Start with our own house.
    2. Fiscal responsibility
    3. We don't want to change your life - we want to get government out of it. Think RR (Except for his drug war BS - maybe we can correct that flaw. We are in effect financing a war against ourselves on our Southern border. This is at minimum considered militarily inept.)
    4. Get the economy moving again.

    Core message?

    Leave Us Alone

    Is our rallying cry.

    You know why I just love Palin to death? I think she can convince socons to do the right thing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:52 AM | Comments (2)

    McCain Is Against Coal

    You know. That looks to me like a McCain dirty trick. Bringing out the charge with barely enough time for Obama to respond.

    posted by Simon at 04:49 AM

    All speech is like pornography!
    And libertarians don't exist!
    The very same people who don't want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to limit pornography on the air.
    So said Chuck Schumer, in remarks widely interpreted as a comparison between talk radio and pornography.

    While talk radio and pornography have little in common, that's not the point. What's being concealed by the comparison is that if talk radio is like pornography, then so are blogs and the mainstream media. All speech can be regulated under the logic of Schumer's porn analogy.

    But what offends me as a libertarian is that Schumer is putting words in my mouth. I am against government regulation of the airwaves, period. I don't want the Fairness Doctrine, nor do I want the FCC regulating pornography on the air. This is not to say that I want to hear or see it; only that I don't think the government should have anything to do with it.

    I suspect I am not alone and that many libertarians feel the same way. But apparently, Schumer wants to live in a comfy world in which libertarians don't exist at all, and do not have to be acknowledged.

    Look, I realize that many people don't agree with the libertarian view of government regulation, or with me. But what's wrong with saying so? Is there something about libertarianism that is so obnoxious that it can't even be recognized as a point of view?

    Schumer continuess by saying because he is for regulation of pornography, that means everything else is fair game:

    I am for that... But you can't say government hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise but you are allowed to intervene in another. That's not consistent."
    To Schumer, who wants to regulate everything, it's not consistent. And to libertarians, who generally want to regulate nothing, it's not consistent. Perhaps he feels threatened by any consistency that isn't consistent with his consistency, but he's also overlooking the fact that pornography has a long history of being treated differently than traditional free speech (especially political speech). So has commercial speech; hence the near total ban on cigarette advertising. To bootstrap the pornography exception into a case against political speech is to torture reality, as well as the history of First Amendment law.

    It's one of the more demagogic statements I have seen from a public official in some time, and that's saying a lot.

    Is it possible that Schumer harbors hostility towards the First Amendment?

    posted by Eric at 11:06 PM | Comments (5)

    The election is over, but the geographical literacy campaign continues

    I'm a bit skeptical about the claim by Fox News that Sarah Palin "didn't understand that Africa was a continent."

    Actually, Fox's Carl Cameron doesn't accuse her of that directly; he claims he was told. By, uh, "folks."

    His exact words:

    "Well I wish I could have told you back at the time, but all of it was put off the record until after the election. There was great concern in the McCain campaign that Sarah Palin lacked a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate a vice president and a heartbeat away from the presidency.

    "Uh we are told by folks, uh, that that she didn't know what countries were in NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), that being Canada, the US, and Mexico. We are told that she didn't understand that Africa was a continent rather than uh, a series, than a country just in and of itself.

    I realize the election is over, but something about this offends my common sense instincts, and it does not pass my smell test. And because I'm still blogging (between drinks right now) I have to say that I just don't think Sarah Palin is that ignorant. At the risk of sounding hopelessly partisan, I think she does know that there is an African continent.

    I think someone is lying (or at least exaggerating). Either Cameron, or the "folks" who allegedly, uh, told him.

    In fact, the whole thing reminds me of the "I can see Russia" meme. Snarked the LA Times blog about Palin being "unaware that Africa is a continent,"

    Perhaps she was hamstrung by the fact that no part of that land mass can be viewed from her homestate.
    Sarah Palin was widely ridiculed because (so it is claimed) she said "I can see Russia from my house," or "I can see Russia from Alaska," or just "I can see Russia."

    She never said any of those things; she merely pointed out in an interview with Charlie Gibson that Alaska is close enough to Russian territory that it can be seen:

    They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
    That was transformed into Tina Fey's "I can see Russia" comedy skit.

    Amazingly, that "statement" she never made was "debunked" in such a way as to make it look as if she was not only a moron who didn't understand geography, but was also "lying" about having personally looked across the water to Russia.

    There are numerous blog posts; this one -- CNN: Sarah Palin Has Never Seen Russia From Alaska -- is typical. And it links a CNN "investigation" which revealed that sure enough, on the Alaska island of Little Diomede, anyone can look across the water and see Russia.

    The race is over, right?

    So what's with the ongoing Sarah Palin smear campaign?

    I don't know. But I've said this before, and I'll say it again:

    I have long believed that what "they" most fear is an alliance between libertarians and social conservatives.
    We libertarians are far too sophisticated to ally ourselves with someone who can't find Africa on a map, aren't we?

    I can't stake my life on it, but I think Sarah Palin knows that Africa is a continent. But then, I am also convinced that the president elect knows that there are only 50 states.

    But then, I might be a stupid and trusting moron. Just the other day, a commenter was kind enough to point out that I said "new" when I meant "knew."

    I don't no how he new I didn't mean no.

    MORE: Is this all part of a new Rovian plot? Jennifer Rubin wonders:

    ...if you had to come up with a plot to endear her to the base, increase anger against the McCain bumblers and lift the fighting spirits of conservatives you couldn't come up with a better idea than continuing to trash Palin in the media. Is it a Rovian plot?
    Via Glenn Reynolds, who calls them a bunch of losers.

    Ah, but what if it's a deliberate Rovian Long March strategy?

    MORE: Michelle Malkin has more on the anonymous Palin trashers:

    The anonymous trashing of Sarah Palin by blabbermouth McCain aides who are leaking to Fox News is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

    Allah's got the vid clip of a report citing unnamed McCain staffers accusing Palin of lacking, in Carl Cameron's words, "knowledgeability." More slime here. And here.

    While I've long been tired of anonymous sources being cited as newsworthy, what raises my antennae here is that the allegations don't pass the smell test. I think Fox has a duty to do something more than "report."

    MORE: Ace has a ton of links and discussion> Just go there and keep scrolling.

    posted by Eric at 10:31 PM | Comments (22)

    The Obama Economy - An Anecdote

    Commenter Sara at Just One Minute gives us this little gem.

    Well, the owner of the dry cleaners my d-i-l manages came in this morning and informed 3 of the workers that because of Obama's election and the higher taxes he is facing as a result, 3 employees would be eliminated. He then let them go on the spot.

    Penny says every one that got fired today voted for O and they don't understand why. One girl as she was leaving told Penny, "this isn't the way I was told it would work."

    But it is the way things do work. What a lesson in economics we are about to get.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:37 PM | Comments (21)

    cynically naive?

    A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

    America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

    -- John McCain
    Truer words were never spoken.

    And in what I consider the best "I told you so" of the election (which Glenn Reynolds linked earlier), John McWhorter looked back on his prediction that Barack Obama's election was inevitable in a piece fittingtily titled "The End of Racism":

    I lost the ability to even conceive of Barack Obama not becoming president two Aprils ago.


    ...maybe Obama in the White House can help open up an honest discussion about the role racism does not play in black communities' problems.


    America has problems and our new president knows it. However, is America's main problem still "the color line" as W.E.B. DuBois put it 105 years ago? The very fact that the president is now black is a clear sign that it is no longer our main problem, and that we can, even as morally informed and socially concerned citizens, admit it.

    Two Aprils ago?

    Wow. He really did say that two Aprils ago. I linked and remember it well, but I'd lost track of how much time had elapsed in what has been, after all, an endless election.

    The link still works, and here's what McWhorter said:

    It is reasonable to surmise that Barack Obama will be the next President.

    Mr Obama has a once-in-a-lifetime charisma that Hillary Clinton could never approximate, and she also suffers from the handicap of not being black. For all of his other plusses, part of Mr Obama's appeal lies in the fact that many whites feel that voting for a black presidential candidate would be Doing the Right Thing. Leon Wieseltier has been explicit about this; he is not unique.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds, whose original April 2007 link also still works.)

    Cynic that I thought I was, I opined that Obama could win if people saw their votes as offsets against racism:

    If a vote for Obama can be translated into a vote against racism -- a vote to end racism -- he'll be president.
    How naive I was! Little did I imagine that an army of demagogic racializers would emerge, and that they would label all criticism of Obama racist -- even to the point of claiming that "socialist" was code language for black.

    Is it possible to be cynically naive? If so, that's what I was being when I said that.

    Clearly, the American people would like to end racism.

    What remains to be seen is whether that will be allowed. I worry that there's a huge lobby with an enormous vested interest in keeping racism alive whether it wants to die or not.

    I'm naive enough to hope they might leave us alone, but cynical enough to suspect they won't.

    posted by Eric at 12:16 PM | Comments (2)

    Criticism is not hatred

    Rather than start the day by criticizing the president elect, I thought I'd start by criticizing the criticism of the criticism. From Mitch Albom's page 2 editorial in today's Detroit Free Press:

    For nearly eight years, anyone who dared to criticize President George W. Bush risked being called unpatriotic. The people doing this name calling are mourning John McCain's loss today.

    We'll soon see if it's about country or party. Remember, if you need to support the president to be a "great American," critics must get behind Barack Obama or risk total hypocrisy.

    In truth, all of us need to get behind him. What lies before us is bigger than any party. We need to climb out of a huge hole -- together. If Bush supporters now sign on as full-time critics of Obama, all we have done is flip the pancake of hatred onto its other side.

    While I'm a member of the "they" who are mourning McCain's loss, I have a different take on "name calling." For starters, I never thought that "anyone who dared to criticize" Bush was unpatriotic. As someone who dared to criticized him myself when I thought he was wrong, how could I? What I objected to was not criticism, but something known as Bush Derangement Syndrome, and I think we all know what that is. (Nazi comparisons, shrill calls for war crimes trials, vicious personal attacks comparing Bush to a chimpanzee, these things and more come to mind. People who did these things are hardly in a position to complain about "name calling.")

    It is normal for people to criticize politicians they did not support, and there is no magic exception in the case of Barack Obama. In fact, I suspect that a number of the people who voted for him will criticize him when he does not do what they want him to do.

    But notice the false dichotomy Albom creates between support and criticism -- if you need to support the president to be a "great American," critics must get behind Barack Obama or risk total hypocrisy. "Support the president" in the context he summons (the Bush presidency) does not mean blind obedience or agreement with all of a president's policies. What it does mean is supporting him in his constitutional role as Commander in Chief when the country decides to go to war, for the simple reason that the country's survival and the lives of its citizens are at risk. I think one of the biggest lies of the Iraq War was the notion that it was a unilateral war declared by Bush. He could not have -- and did not -- do it alone. A majority of Democrats voted for the war. But the way people talk, you'd almost think this was erased from history.

    Anyway, I may be wrong, but I suspect that the vast majority of Barack Obama's conservative critics would support him as CIC in the country's wars -- even if they didn't agree with the war.

    This statement, though, is the ultimate in conflation:

    If Bush supporters now sign on as full-time critics of Obama, all we have done is flip the pancake of hatred onto its other side.
    He's missing something. Criticism is not hatred, and there is a world of difference between criticism and Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    Calling criticism hatred is not a good thing, nor is it healthy from a First Amendment perspective.

    I mean, aren't there people who'd like to make hatred a criminal offense?

    posted by Eric at 08:36 AM | Comments (8)

    Marxing Off A Cliff

    Eric makes the point in his post A building, not a tent, that economic conservatism is the cement that held the Republican party together. Commenter Bob Smith made a very interesting point that confirms that view.

    Another commenter asks a question:

    I don't know exactly who is to blame for the disappeance of the cement
    Bob answers:
    Not, who, what. Specifically, the cement disappeared once Republicans started thinking that government was the way to get things done. Not only is that corrosive of the values you mention, but it makes them indistinguishable from Democrats. And since Democrats own the media and can therefore do a much better job pushing the idea that Republicans are racist, greedy, selfish jerks, the Democrats will always win the contest of "who can use the government to get things done". "Compassionate conservatism" is not only neither compassionate nor conservative, but the phrase itself betrays its flaw: it uses the language of the left in implying that conservatism is not compassionate unless it destroys itself and embraces Marxism. Many conservatives have lived for so long under liberal doublespeak that they cannot identify this problem. That's because they have been conditioned by our educational establishment and media to internalize the left's lingo, talking points, and frame of reference, so they frequently lack the language to rebut liberal political rhetoric.
    Let me repeat the key point:

    the cement disappeared once Republicans started thinking that government was the way to get things done

    And it doesn't matter what the project is. The economic projects of the left or the social projects of the right. So what exactly was our biggest failure in the last 8 years? No one stood up and said NO with a loud enough voice to make it stop. Certainly not Bush. And not McCain either.

    So what is left? Well McCain has given us Sarah. If she can expand her education and we can maintain her as a national figure for the next 4 years we may have a worthy candidate in the next Presidential Election. If she wants to do it.

    Why does she work for me? Because she comes from the most libertarian oriented State in the nation. And she has way more charisma than Andre Marrou.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:03 AM | Comments (7)

    A time for hope?

    In case there's anyone who's been asleep, Barack Obama has won the election. (At least, Fox has called it for him.)

    Now I can start hoping. (That he can turn out to be more moderate or even more libertarian than I thought.)

    At times like this, it's comforting to remember that anything is possible.

    The bottom line is that he won. (Which he has, absent a miracle.) That means he is entitled to be treated as the President, as the Constitution requires. He earned it. Will I criticize him? Sure; I just did, and that goes with the turf. But he was legitimately elected, and he is entitled to the same respect that goes with the office as Clinton and Bush were.

    Beyond that, until I've had a chance to see his performance in office, all I can do is hope.

    MORE: McCain is conceding right now.

    An excellent, inspiring speech, although I found myself wondering how different things might have been had the economy not tanked at precisely the right time.

    AND MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, the Corner is being conciliatory and congratulatory. Here's Jim Geraghty:

    I have many, many disagreements with Barack Obama. But tonight I congratulate him on his victory. I have seen a few critics say, "he won't be my president," but that is nonsense. He will be my president, and I will wish him well, particularly as he takes on the duty of protecting the American people in a dangerous world.

    And Jim Manzi posted a segregated lunch counter picture and says this:

    ...It is healthy that the American political system gathers the energies and talents of those who feel excluded into the nation to change it, rather than pushing them away from the nation to oppose it. I expect a lot of damage to be done to the nation's economy, politics, and social order due to the excesses of a government dominated by a combination of Barack Obama and a radicalized Democratic caucus in Congress, but as a wise man once put it, "there is a great deal of ruin in a nation."

    There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I'm spending today proud abut what my country has overcome.

    It's hard to disagree with either.

    My biggest concerns about Barack Obama have involved his radical ties and his socialist leanings. I'm hoping that he's statesman enough to realize he's president of of the entire country, and pragmatic enough to understand the consequences of pushing too far to the left. (I say that fully aware that if he isn't, the Republicans stand to gain.)

    MORE: Here's what Connie du Toit said to her disappointed children as they recognized reality:

    We are not democrats. We will not whine, cry, or moan about our losses. We will respect the outcome of a lawful election and the margin of victory was so vast that we cannot, for a moment, blame foul play.

    We respect the Office of the President of the United States, regardless of our respect (or lack thereof) of the man who holds that office. This is the person who was chosen by The People, and I will respect the outcome of their decision.

    And Dean Esmay:
    I did not vote for you, Mr. President, but you are my President, my Commander In Chief. If you f*ck up Iraq and Afghanistan, you can expect me to be your most passionate critic. You were wrong on Iraq from the beginning, and you will hear from me every day in that regard. But I otherwise must tell you: you are an inspiration. You have proven to the world that any child born in the United States can grow up to become President. You are, in many ways, proof positive that the American Dream is alive and well.

    Here's what you can expect from me: I am a principled, passionate critic. I have very strong opinions on many issues, some of which we disagree on. But you are my President, my leader. I will never forget that, and I will never forget that you are living proof that the American Dream is a very real thing.

    Hail to the Chief.

    I agree with Connie and Dean.

    MORE: Some common sense from Arthur Chrenkoff:

    Obama ran as a Messiah, but now he has to govern like a politician. He will disappoint, as all politicians invariably do over time.
    Excellent analysis. Read it all.

    posted by Eric at 11:18 PM | Comments (16)

    A building, not a tent.

    One of the points I tried to make earlier on PJTV was that I think it's a mistake to accelerate the dividing of the Republican Party into competing sides (or factions, wings, whatever you want to call them) by working towards a takeover of the party by one faction or another.

    I think it might be time to reexamine the "big tent" theory. It always sounded shaky and flappy (as if a good strong wind could blow it down), and too much like the Democrats' multi-culti coalition stuff. The Republicans are not all that great at beating the Democrats at their own coalition game.

    What I think made the Republicans crash -- twice now -- was not the betrayal of or triumph of any particular faction much less "the base," (which I think makes about as much analytical sense as "the tent") but the loss of the glue that once held these various factions together into a whole. I see the GOP not as a tent, but as a building, and it was built of bricks held together by some very strong cement --

    economic conservatism.

    This was something all Republicans could unite behind, and it tied them together as no other bottom line possibly could. When the GOP lost that, they lost everything, and doomed themselves. It wasn't until McCain finally got it and started talking about Joe the Plumber and condemning socialism that the cement started to congeal, and work its magic again.

    Ronald Reagan intimately and intuitively understood that cement. The bricks held together, the building was strong, and yet the disagreements between libertarians and social conservatives were just as profound -- yet if you factor in federalism, just as ultimately moot -- as now. Economic conservatism allowed people to get along by agreeing on something important -- the bottom line of the pocketbook.

    And that explains why the cement is like magic. Not only does it hold the bricks together into an impressive edifice, but it's what a majority of ordinary people want. They want to keep their money, and they don't want the government throwing it away. This is so painfully obvious that I don't even understand why I have to explain it, but it has apparently been forgotten by the party leadership.

    I don't know exactly who is to blame for the disappeance of the cement, and while it isn't my purpose to blame here, I will say that I don't think libertarians or social conservatives are the primary culprits. Perhaps it was 9/11 and the war in combination with the kind of contented corruption that comes from years in power; perhaps "national greatness" theory played a role.

    What I do know is this. Once economic conservatism was gone, the walls came tumbling down.

    I realize that people who claim to speak the loudest for the bricks which constituted the various factions will claim that Obama's win means it should now be "their turn." Their turn to do what? Lose?

    I would respectfully submit that it makes more sense to get back the glue that once held them together.

    The bad news is that the glue is gone.

    The good news is that the bricks are still there. And the Democratic Party has taken a sharp turn to the left. How far remains to be seen, but economic conservatism will look more and more attractive in the next few years.

    Will the Republican Party take back what was once theirs?

    MORE: I had to run out and this post was somehow published in unedited form, before I read it. So I did some editing when I got back. My basic point is the same.

    UPDATE (11/06/08): In a fascinating post, Ilya Somin discusses the return of the Conservative-Libertarian Coalition. He sees economic conservatism as key:

    ...I highly doubt that Obama and the Democrats will actually take the relatively moderate, budget-cutting path. It would go against both their own instincts and historical precedent from previous periods of united government and economic crisis. If I am right about that, we will need a revamped conservative-libertarian alliance to oppose the vast expansion of government that looms around the corner.

    Reforging the conservative-libertarian coalition will be very hard. Relations between the two groups have always been tense, and the last eight years have undeniably drawn down the stock of goodwill. But if we can't find a new way to hang together, we are all too likely to hang separately.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who also links this comment about a standing army of libertarian militias who spend most of their time being left alone. (Sounds like a good deal to me!)

    If I'm right about economics providing the cement to unite the libertarian and social conservative "bricks," and if Somin is right about Obama's intentions, the vast expansion of government might provide us with the cement factory we need.

    posted by Eric at 10:41 PM | Comments (13)

    This election is threatening my sobriety!

    Let's see. I've been watching early returns trickle in slowly, and I feel like drinking (regardless of who wins).

    It doesn't help my sobriety to see that Stephen Green is drunkblogging the results, but the final blow was what Glenn Reynolds said here:

    AFTER YOU'VE VOTED, knock back an Obama Mama or a Maverick Martini. Or three. I plan to drink heavily tonight, whatever transpires. And, possibly, for the next four years.
    The problem is, I voted from 8:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. this morning. I always try to follow Glenn's health tips, but I'm glad he waited till 7:00 p.m. to tell me this, or I'd be blotto by now.

    Moreover, I'll be making an appearance on PJTV's election coverage in an hour or so. Readers who are curious to see what I look and sound like might want to tune in. Whether you miss me or not, it's free all evening and there will be plenty of superstar bloggers.

    As of right now (according to Fox News, with ), McCain is ahead, but will it last?

    Here are the latest Drudge figures:


    MCCAIN 512,172
    OBAMA 486,922

    It's way to early to tell anything.

    I'm a nervous wreck, but I'm trying to stay sober as long as I can.

    Again, I predict predictions.

    MORE: and now Obama is ahead.


    OBAMA 1,220,130
    MCCAIN 1,171,030

    I'm not going to be posting blow by blow.

    Drink by drink sounds more like it.

    MORE: Fox projected SC, WV, TN, for McCain, and projects MA, ME, NH, CT, DC, NJ, and DE for Obama (at least, the boards show him winning, which is no surprise).

    I'm noticing that Pennsylvania and Ohio are too close to call -- which is not what the polls have been suggesting.

    New Hampshire is called for Obama.

    MORE: The overall picture -- especially the popular vote -- is looking closer than the polls predicted.

    Considering the apparent poll discrepancies, if Obama wins by a close margin, I hope the Democrats don't act like "sore winners"....

    UPDATE (the next morning): Drinking heavily is winning in Glenn Reynolds' poll.

    posted by Eric at 07:48 PM | Comments (4)

    Fox fear factor

    Flipping through the channels, I just saw this Fox News exit poll report:

    30% will be scared if McCain wins

    23% will be scared if Obama wins

    They didn't disclose the percentage of people who were scared to answer the poll.

    MORE: Here's the excitement factor:

    32% will be excited if Obama wins

    12% will be excited if McCain wins

    And the experience factor:
    50% think Obama has the experience to be president

    60% think McCain has the experience to be president

    Based on the above, I predict predictions!

    posted by Eric at 05:10 PM

    Chilling heat

    Having complained that I am tired of the "endless cycles of presumptive illegitimacy," which "means staying in the kitchen and complaining about the heat," perhaps I should explain what I meant by "the kitchen."

    What I mean is that assuming someone has a clear win tonight, beginning tomorrow, I am going to be treated to endless shrill lectures about how the election was not won by whoever won it.

    If Obama wins, not only will he have not only not won legitimately, but he is ineligible to serve, because he wasn't born in Hawaii. (Even though Hawaii state records show he was born there, various cranks have decided that completely unverifiable Internet rumors dictate that the state records must be lying.)

    And of course, if McCain wins, such a "victory" will be said to have been impossible, and the election will have been obviously stolen by Republican racists.

    It is so predictable that I am sick of having to write it. But write it I must, because I'll be unable to ignore it, and I do have this blog.

    That's what I mean by the kitchen. Whether I can stand the heat or not, there's no escaping the kitchen.

    But what is meant by the phrase standing the heat? That complaining is not allowed? Says who? Those who are responsible for creating the heat? It strikes me that the levels of heat are constantly rising. Not only too high for comfort, but maybe to the point where they're a tad high for democracy to flourish.

    What the hell do they want, anyway? Where does it end? Another Civil War? At the rate the heat keeps getting ratcheted up, I must ask whether that is what some people want. As we all know, Obama supporters have promised rioting in the streets if McCain is elected. And just today, there was this:

    But I don't mean to leave out certain elements on the right. While the author does not threaten violence or advocate intimidating voters, here's an example I found completely by accident while looking for something else:

    Christians founded this nation, and they will either save it or let fall into the hands of a Socialist-Marxist and his minions. By refusing to vote for Sen. John McCain, Christians will bear a huge portion of responsibility for abandoning their nation in its time of greatest need.

    Only a massive turnout of every devout believer in Christ can turn this election around. We most certainly have the numbers to do the job. God fearing Christians who are willing to vote their faith can overturn the attempted theft of this election by the enemy.

    The Democrats have let it be known that if and when they gain control of all three branches of government, they will do so for generations to come, by force if necessary.

    Unless I am reading her wrong, "attempted theft of this election by the enemy" means running for office. (The piece details no allegations of election theft; only a harangue about the "compromise of Christian beliefs.")

    I can stand the heat, or I wouldn't be writing about it. But that doesn't mean I have to remain silent and watch the kitchen catch fire.

    It might be time to change the slogan to "If you can't stand the heat, use a fire extinguisher."

    With a culture war fire extinguisher like this, you can chill out and be hot at the same time!


    posted by Eric at 03:11 PM | Comments (6)

    "Government can't create wealth"
    And "it is not the function of the state to impose one person's moral code on another"

    In one of the most cogent explanations I've seen of the phenomenon, Evan Coyne Maloney explains why he's a small "L" libertarian:

    I consider myself a libertarian for two reasons.

    First and foremost: for the betterment of the human race. True, these aren't easy days to proclaim oneself an unashamed capitalist. But whatever governmental market distortions led to the current financial crisis, the simple fact remains that no single system has brought more material comfort to more people worldwide than capitalism.

    In America today, people we consider poor have a standard of living that would've been thought of as middle-class a century ago. Sure, we can to do better for more people, but there's only one historically proven way to do it: capitalism. By definition, government can't create wealth. Only private economic activity can. The more economic activity, the faster the growth, and the richer even the poor become. The larger the share of the economy that flows through the government, the longer it'll take for the engine of capitalism to grow poverty into extinction.

    The second reason I'm a libertarian is because I believe that the individual should be afforded the maximum personal liberty in cases where no other individual's rights are being abridged. In their private lives, people should be allowed to set whatever personal boundaries their consciences allow and require. And while I believe that people should abide by some form of moral code, it is not the function of the state to impose one person's moral code on another. If you want to convince someone else to live by your rules, you're free to do so in the private sphere. But government is too big a bludgeon to be used for such a function.

    So, in a nutshell, that's why I'm a ("small-L") libertarian.

    Via Glenn Reynolds.

    That's just about the best encapsulation of small L libertarianism I've ever seen -- even though my vote will not be the same as Maloney's.

    While Maloney is holding his nose and voting the Libertarian ticket (because Obama will win his state anyway, and it's a protest vote), I don't even have to hold my nose -- even though I've been accustomed to doing that for many years.

    This is not to say that I don't have my differences with McCain (I do, and I have discussed them repeatedly), but Obama is so far to the left that my customary senses have become obliterated. Thus, any stench that a Republican like McCain might otherwise have is imperceptible.

    Of course, if McCain wins, I'd welcome the opportunity to complain!

    MORE: Regardless of my views or anyone else's, damn but I think this analysis by Glenn Reynolds (Whoever Wins, Chill A Bit") is good:

    I'm not an Obama fan, particularly, but a lot of people I like and respect are. To treat Obama as something evil or subhuman would not only be disrespectful toward Obama, but toward them. Instead, I hope that if Obama is elected, their assessment of his strengths will turn out to be right, and mine will turn out to be wrong. Likewise, those who don't like John McCain or Sarah Palin might reflect that by treating Palin and McCain as obviously evil and stupid, they're disrespecting tens of millions of their fellow Americans who feel otherwise. And treating a presidency held by a guy you don't like as presumptively illegitimate suggests that presidents rule not by election, but by divine right, so that whenever the "other guy" wins, he's automatically a usurper.
    As a veteran of the Vince Foster conspiracies and more, as well as the consequent retaliation by BDS people, I am tired of the endless cycles of presumptive illegitimacy.

    Not only do I wish there were more small "L" libertarians, but I'd like to see more small C conservatives, and small L liberals. Maybe even small R republicans and small D democrats.

    I guess that means staying in the kitchen and complaining about the heat.

    MORE: Here's Sean Kinsell, after voting:

    Polls are often wrong, but if they're right, I won't be happy with the results today. That's the way these things go. Both viable presidential tickets well and truly bit this year, but fortunately, Washington is not largely controlled by the president alone, and the states are not largely controlled by Washington alone. Whoever wins is unlikely to wreck the republic. It just remains to see who it is.

    MORE: In an election day note of thanks, Andrew Breitbart confesses that he likes Bush (so do I) and says the undeclared civil war should stop:

    If Barack Obama is elected the next president of the United States on Tuesday, I hope the Republican Party and conservatives take the higher road. The republic cannot handle another four years of undeclared civil war while we have real enemies out there to fight.

    posted by Eric at 01:34 PM | Comments (6)

    Don't forget to vote! It only takes a couple of hours!
    (And your vote might not be counted....)

    What a coincidence that I titled that last post "Never has arrived," because I just expended nearly two hours voting.

    The actual time from arriving at my polling place to finally voting was one hour and ten minutes. Huge lines were compounded by incredible pollworker ineptitude, but the biggest problem was that each voter of all of the hundreds there was forced to stand in a long line after marking the ballot and had to wait to feed the ballot into a single "Accu-Vote" machine. (Yes, that's all there was. One machine.)

    If you think having one machine for hundreds of people standing in line is bad enough, think again.

    The machine did not work.

    After repeared complaints, the pollworkers discovered that the machine was not counting all the ballots. Naturally, the people in charge were elderly volunteers who appeared to have no idea what they were doing, and I watched them stand there and argue with each other for about a half an hour while one of them was on a cell phone explaining to someone that votes weren't being counted, and asking over and over again what to do. Meanwhile, the line just got longer and longer, because no one could feed a ballot through the dysfunctional machine. I don't know whether the glitch was ever resolved or whether they decided to just let people feed their ballots through and hope for the best, but after marking my ballot (which took a couple of minutes) I stood in the line and was finally able to feed mine through. I watched the electronic counter before and after I inserted my ballot, and the display readout did move by one number. I won't disclose what number it was in this blog, but I can assure you that the total number displayed seemed considerably smaller than the number of people in line ahead of me, and I got there at 8:14.

    It's simply an outrage. I've been voting since 1972, and I lived for decades in Berkeley (a larger student town than Ann Arbor). Not once has voting taken this long.

    This problem would have been easy to avoid too. It's obvious that this is a huge precinct, and they knew that, which is why the voting place was located in a large gymnasium at the University, and why there were plenty of booths. So what's with one lousy machine? There should have been three. Also, there should be at least one professional person in charge who knows how the machines work. It was painful to watch the clueless elderly volunteer fumbling around, and the kids in line were making snarky remarks and laughing at her. One young smartass (in obvious derision of McCain) loudly said "She looks like she's too old to know how to check email!" to much laughter. Yet amazingly, there were student-age volunteers who were equally clueless. (I know how it is to be old and out of touch, though. Me, I'm so old that had trouble figuring out that the massive recent slowdown and inability to scroll properly in my Internet Explorer was being caused by "add-ons" installed automatically by my new Skype software, and they had to be disabled through complex procedures known only to young people, and which I had to teach my ancient self by Googling.)

    A problem with volunteers (elderly or otherwise) is that they don't always know what they're doing. Of course, some of them might be partisan activists who know damned well what they're doing.

    I guess I should be glad I live in the most modern and technologically advanced country in the world, where voting has been made fast and easy.

    It would have been quicker to board a plane.

    MORE: From today's Detroit Free Press:

    Then there's a site called It is used to report voting and polling place problems. As of this morning, Michigan was one of the leading states in the nation reporting delays and mistakes.
    Looking on the bright side, I should probably consider myself lucky to live in a leading state!

    MORE: I called the county to report this problem, and I was referred to the City of Ann Arbor, which put me on hold with recorded message suggesting that I leave a message and that

    We will return your call on wednesday.
    So I held instead. Eventually, someone from the City Clerk's office got on and explained to me that they "used to have different machines" but the previous City Clerk (not the current one) acquired these machines and that "we had to go wth these machines" because state law required it. "We don't have any more money," he said, and told me that I might take the issue up with the Bureau of Elections at the State Capitol in Lansing.

    "We were given this machinery," he said, and "they can't fix it," but the pollworkers "will have to do a reconciliation" and if that can be reviewed by the Board of Canvassers."

    Three times I was told that the problem is money, that these machines cost thousands of dollars, and that to fix the problem they would have to (guess what?) "raise taxes."

    (I kept my mouth shut, but I suspect that they'll do that anyway, but when they do, voting machines will not be at the top of spending priorities.)

    MORE: The more I think of long lines, the more I'm reminded of remarks made by Philadelphia City Commission Chair Marge Tartaglione:

    "long lines are not a problem...Long lines are no justification for any thing but waiting...people wait in long lines overnight for baseball tickets...people wait in line all night for a new Ipod."
    The video is great, BTW.


    I doubt Ms. Tartaglione has power outside of Philadelphia, but might there be such a thing as the Tartaglione Effect?

    MORE: People have suggested that voting by absentee ballot would avoid problems such as the one I encounted, and the Detroit Free Press advised just that last week. The problem with that is that your reason for requesting the absentee ballot must fall within one of the statutory grounds listed on the application form:

  • I am physically unable to attend the polls without the assistance of another.
  • I cannot attend the polls because of the tenets of my religion.
  • I have been appointed an election precinct inspector in a precinct other than the precinct where I reside.
  • I am 60 years of age or older.
  • I cannot attend the polls because I am confined to jail awaiting arraignment or trial.
  • And further down, the form states,
    A person making a false statement in this absent voter ballot application is guilty of a misdemeanor.
    Not one of the statutory grounds applies to me. Had I said I would be out of town, I'd be committing a crime.

    But maybe I could say that the Detroit Free Press told me to do it!

    A "media entrapment" defense? Hey, why not?

    MORE: Scratch the media entrapment defense. While the Freep said yesterday that "People still can vote today by absentee ballot," and that "If you do not have one, go to your clerk's office to get one," they did list the statutory requirements.

    But elsewhere, they point out that "Local clerks said they don't have the staff to check whether an absentee voter is truthful."

    "I always tell people, I'm not going to be coming to your door to check to see if you're there on Election Day," said Ulrich, the president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. "We're working on the legislation, so you don't have to lie or come up with a story."
    I'm sure there are arguments on both sides of changing the law, but I think that "not having two hours to spare" ought to be a legitimate reason.

    AND MORE: Unless my powers of simple observation are way off, the Ann Arbor vote (especially in student precincts like mine) will be overwhelmingly pro-Obama. Which means that I should be rejoicing that the election machinery is making it so difficult to vote, right?

    No, I don't care if I am inadvertently helping Barack Obama (who will probably win Michigan anyway). It's a question of electoral integrity, and I believe that this sort of thing tends to discourage voter participation. So I think it matters. (Besides, the votes not being counted might include my own!)

    posted by Eric at 10:31 AM | Comments (4)

    "Never has arrived"

    Speaking of nostalgia, gas can now be found in the Detroit area for under $2.00 a gallon!

    Just a few months ago, most experts said Americans would never see gas prices anywhere close to $2 a gallon again.

    Never has arrived.

    According to, prices at nine gas stations in metro Detroit were below $2 a gallon Monday, with many others just a bit higher.

    Those stations were the lowest in the area, but the statewide average has also plummeted in recent weeks.

    The interesting thing is that if you Google "gas under 2.00" you get a lot of hits, but a lot of them go to pieces over two years old, like this one.

    Because it's an affluent college town, Ann Arbor prices are higher than surrounding communities, but driving around yesterday I saw prices lower than the state average of 2.26 even here, and I'm sure if I drove to Ypsilanti it would be lower.

    These things only get written up in the business section, though. If the situation were reversed, and prices had spiked up, I think it would fit the "crisis" meme and make the front page.

    Falling prices are about as interesting as victory in war.

    And with that I'm going to go out and vote!

    Which calls for a public service announcement. Don't you forget to vote.

    Remember, no matter who you are or where you are, your vote is secret.

    Never say never.

    posted by Eric at 07:48 AM | Comments (1)

    Pollsters Need The Anecdote Factor

    Sean Malestrom is looking at one of the things the pollsters are missing. The anecdote factor. Why is it important? Because polling is an atr not a science. First how about leading indicators. Actual facts on the ground that can be checked.

    In my second post about the election, I told you to keep an eye on Iowa for if Obama comes back here, a state he should have locked at this time, he is toast. Well, Obama is back in Iowa which means he is toast. If it is competitive in Iowa (it was very competitive in 2004), that means that McCain is running as well as Bush or better and has FL, CO, IN, NC, OH, NH, and VA all comfortable. McCain going to Maine suggests Obama is performing worse than Kerry or, rather, Obama's support is 'soft' among Democrats.
    No surprise there. Except to the fans of Obama.

    Sean discusses the nature of insanity in the Shrinking Media™.

    From my perspective, it has been sheer comedy watching pundits and observers attempt to 'rationalize' the candidates' visits to states the public polls say are not in play. When McCain and Palin hip hop across Pennslyvania, is it because the public polls are wrong? NO! It is because McCain is doing a 'hail mary' strategy to launch all efforts on Pennslyvania in order to win it as a last ditch effort to save his campaign. What about Obama visiting Pennslyvania, is it a suggestion the public polls are wrong? NO! It is because Obama is only going there to respond to McCain and clean up whatever mess he makes. What about when McCain went to New Hampshire? Could it be the polls were not the reality on the ground? NO! It is because McCain is senile. So how does this explain Palin going to Iowa which is considered a 'lock' to Obama by polling? Could the polls be wrong and that it may be more competitive than we thought? NO! The only possible answer is that Palin had gone completly rouge and is going to Iowa to jumpstart here 2012 presidential campaign (this 'rationale' was so hysterical I actually spit coffee on my monitor. The idea of the VP candidate deciding to run off to Iowa to start his/her own presidential campaign is hilarious in itself). But why is Obama going to Iowa then? Could it, possibly, be the polls in that state are more competitive than we think? NOOOO. The reason why Obama is going to Iowa is to make up for his trip to grandma, and as a pitstop before he goes trick-or-treating with his kid (I kid you not! People actually think this). When McCain goes off to Maine, they are going to run out of excuses as they have already used the 'insane candidate' one.
    Well, it is a little late for Maine. Iowa is good enough for me. More Electoral Votes too.

    So what are the analysts missing in the electorate that is making their numbers so crazy? People.

    Real political analysts (meaning not hacks or unprofessional pundits), use historical trends, demagraphical data, and other 'truths' of past elections. Much of this cannot be translated into a chart or graph. It is a myth that analysis is done via math or graphs or computer models. The original economists, for example, used only words and essays. Political analysis is not about math. Political analysis is about people. To analyze politics, you must be able to analyze people. In other words, the poet and novelist becomes the political analyst, not the mathematician and software engineer. Politics is all about people.

    It seems no one is interested in studying 'people' anymore. Look at the political analysis currently. There is very little analysis of the current 'liberal' or 'conservative', for example, or the person from Pennslyvania or person from Iowa. In fact, there are no people. There are only numbers. Stark, lifeless, numbers. The problem with leveling political analysis to nothing more than a soup of numbers is that it cannot measure intensity. What does intensity have to do with politics? Well, everything. Intense people are those who vote.

    OK. We will come back to that subject in a minute (Sean wanders).

    How about a look at a poll aggregator that I have on my sidebar at Power and Control. What are they all about? Sean says: "FiveThirtyEight Is Propaganda Site Masquerading as a 'Calculation' Site". And then he backs up his pronouncement with some observations.

    And, for another 'neutral' media entity that is actually a player in the Obama campaign strategy of 'inevitable victory narrative', is Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.

    I was first made aware of FiveThirtyEight when, after explaining to a friend why the probability of Obama losing Pennslyvania is very high, he laughed and said McCain's chances of winning the election was 5%. I went, "What!? Whoever told you that?" "This website..." I went to the website and, instantly, I could tell it was a hack. Political campaigns are a very uncertain business which can change overnight for one candidate or another. No political scientist would seriously say a candidate has 5% chance to win the election. Maybe if the candidate was a social conservative running in San Francisco or a communist running in Kansas, this might be true. But for a presidential election? No. Not even Mondale was given that percentage. The 'interviews' with Dan Rather are raised flags because after 2004, Dan Rather lost all 'neutral' status after the forged memo scenario (in 2004, the retiring Dan Rather put up memos from early seventies whose fonts count only have been done in a modern word processor, an obvious forgery). I've met Dan Rather personally as he was raised in my area. He is a nice guy. But no network will hire him for news now for the reason of partisanship.

    Here are some of the (many) problems with FiveThirtyEight:

    -Nate Silver's 'news stories' carefully follow Obama Campaign's strategy, used both in the primary and now in the general campaign, of inevitable Obama victory (which no political analyst, worth their salt, believes as no election is inevitable), showing pictures of a closed McCain Campaign office and declare "It is all falling apart", etc. etc.

    -Nate Silver says he is busy with real life job and life but when the Zogby poll, that had McCain +1, came out, he responded to it ASAP (and on Halloween night of all times!). Now, I don't trust Zogby because he was off in 2004. I also know, for a fact, Zogby is contractually obligated to weight more Democrats in his polling (and weeks ago, when the AP showed a close poll, Zogby got 'angry' at them). However, Zogby also publicly declared Obama's declaration of 'inevitable victory' ismore about strategy. Nate Silver doesn't bother to tell his readers why Zogby became famous in the first place. It was because Zogby was the only pollster who picked up on the Gore surge in the 2000 election. This, alone, is why people are listening to Zogby closely now. (I still don't trust him as he has been all over the place. However, that might had been intentional). The 'rapidity' to deconstruct a positive McCain poll obviously should be a flag raiser. Real political scientists never rush to deconstruct or denounce anything.

    -There is absolutely no questioning as to why the candidates are going to solid blue areas. In fact, there is strangely no questioning to the polls at all.

    -Nate Silver, on his FAQ page, says he incorporates 2000, 2004, and 2006 election returns. What about 2002? In 2002, in a historical upset (President's party loses seats in the off year election), Republicans performed well and made gains in both the House and Senate. In fact, exit polls were seen as 'unreliable' and thrown out that year with only 'votes' counted (which is how it should be done anyway). Only after the election did we realize the exit polls were thrown out because the analysts/media couldn't believe the results.

    -Nate Silver bans all internal polling by the reason that internal polls are used to manipulate opinion while public polls are 'scientific'. He has it totally backwards.

    OK. There is more. But you get the picture.

    OK. Let us get back to the people question.

    One of the reasons why Democrats lost the elections of 2002, 2004, and won in 2006 so handily is the appearance (and disappearance) of the phenomenon I refer to as 'Broken Glass Conservatives'. Conservatives are generally apathetic and have been lately about their candidates. While Bush was a Republican, he was not a conservative. He was conservative on a few things, the things that mattered most to conservatives (foreign policy, judges, taxes), but Bush has no interest in the conservative movement and doesn't want to 'lead' it unlike Reagan. So conservative support for Republican candidates have been very soft (as illustrated in 2006). But if a Democrat or the legacy media (who conservatives believe are the same) insult or attack conservatives or what they believe, the result is 'broken glass conservatives' meaning the apathetic, soft Republican (or Democrat) conservative suddenly turns enraged and will literally walk over 'broken glass', if need be, to vote. 'Broken glass conservatives' phenomenons are all easily prevented if someone had some sense. An example of a 'broken class conservative' scenario would be Congressman Murtha (twice) declaring western Pennslyvania as 'racists'. Remember, Murth's district is mostly Democrat, and they know about Murtha's shenanigans (the idea of 'he's a crook, but he is OUR crook'). But conservative Democrats took the insult personally and, out of the blue, Murtha's safe seat suddenly becomes competitive . In 2004, the 'broken glass conservatives' were generated by, what conservatives felt, media bias in that veterans who served with Kerry were never had the spotlight shown (which they resorted to their own ads which became the 'SwiftBoat Ads') as well as Dan Rather and the forged memos.

    In 2008, there are more phenomenons of the 'Broken Glass Conservatives' than I have ever seen...

    -Conservatives believe the media has been outrageously fawning over Obama and doing everything it can to protect him. This has enraged them even more than in 2004.

    -Obama's comment of people in rural areas were nothing more than 'bitter clingers' who cling to guns and religion have caused lingering outrage at him. This comment, alone, is one reason why Pennslyvania turned on him.

    -The Bail-Out Bill enraged many and was when conservatives finally abandoned Bush. But Bush is not on the ticket anymore so that doesn't matter. Rather, the enragement is aimed at Pelosi and Reid, the leaders of the House and Senate.

    -Media treatment of Sarah Palin generated many 'Broken Glass Conservatives' and even overlapped to the Hillary Clinton supporters.

    Of course Sean being thorough has more points. One of them is that Nate has undecideds splitting 50/50. What are the odds of that?

    And then comes the Palin factor. The Palin factor is cultural and if you understood America (which the elites currently do not) you would instantly get this.

    Palin is representative of something within the American mythos that many outside America may not get. There is a mythos of America of the frontiersmen and women, living in log cabins, going through harsh winters, hunting, surviving through the elements. When Palin was introduced, the photos and her history left many jaws dropped. She grew up in a log cabin, hunted, survived the harsh Alaskan winters, had a large family, and generally appear as if she walked out of a history book on America's frontier. Palin's life history matches many American's grandmothers and great grandmothers. (Camille Paglia, ardent feminist and Obama supporter, admitted as much). Much of the appeal Palin holds is that she is representative of the mythos of the American frontierswoman. I think this is why she keeps being compared to Reagan because Reagan draped his speeches and actions in the American mythos. But she has more in common with the mannerisms and personality of Truman than Reagan.

    Anyone who knows anything about analyzing this election knows the reports of Palin 'dragging down' the McCain ticket are laughable. It is pretty clear she saved the ticket. The base would not be mobilized or passionate if Palin was not there. When Palin was announced, McCain Campaign could not keep up with the donations coming in. McCain knows he needs her in order for his ticket to win. He knows she pulls largers crowds than he does.

    Sean then goes on to discuss the civil war in the Republican Party and what the election of McCain/Palin will mean in terms of winners and losers in that war.

    And now let me close with one of the most under reported factors in the race. The PUMA factor.

    This election has been the strangest one I have ever seen. It started off with conservatives fearing and despising Hillary Clinton (they've always hated her) as she made her climb for the White House. Yet, now, conservatives and Hillary Clinton voters are campaigning side by side. Gay activists for Clinton are campaigning side by side with fundamentalist conservatives against Obama. In Pennslyvania, as I've said before, the phone banks and people in McCain offices are democrats. While it is usual to hear the fringe of one party to describe the opposing candidate as evil incarnate, the PUMAs have the strongest language for Obama beyond the most right wing conservative. "He is a proto-nazi!" they say. "Do you really believe that?" I ask them. "Yes. We do."

    There are some new political symbols appearing. The PUMAs have adopted the cougar or bobcat as their symbol. The Palin conservatives have adopted the moose (could this eventually replace the elephant?)

    Election night will be very long because pundits will be stunned at what is going on. They think this is already over and election night is just a coronation. All these electoral map projections and polls, yet votes weren't cast yet.

    Consider Obama toast, guys. He will join Dukakis, Dole, Gore, and Kerry in the ashbin of history.

    Did you get that? Gay activists for Clinton are campaigning side by side with fundamentalist conservatives against Obama. That is not supposed to be possible. It is like the lion lying down with the lamb. Historical. A change of Biblical proportions even.

    You know, this may be the beginning of a political re-alignment. Or at least the beginning of respect.

    In any case there is much more I haven't covered. You should read it all.

    And for those of you who want to follow along here are some interactive electoral maps:

    CNN electoral map

    Not a CNN electoral map

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:19 AM | Comments (1)

    Don't Give It To Him - Make Him Steal It

    I had twenty topics ready for blog posts today, but I'm just not into it: maybe later.

    No retreat - get out and vote. And bring a friend. Every vote counts - if even just a as show of support. If McCain wins this - and I'm optimistic - the popular vote totals will be just as important to grant him legitimacy over and above an Electoral College win. Vote. Every bit of support counts.

    Don't give it to him. Make him steal it.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:11 AM | Comments (1)

    November nostalgia

    I realize Halloween, the Day of the Dead, and All Saints Day have come and gone, but this time of year always makes me think of death and nostalgia.

    From 1989, here's a song that most epitomizes the two (for me at least) -- the Pet Shop Boys' video version of "Always On My Mind."

    First recorded by Brenda Lee in 1972, there have been over 300 releases of the song.

    Some trivia. If the lecherous old perv in the back seat looks familiar, that's because he's a distinguished British actor named Joss Acklund, who among many other roles, played Russian ambassador Andrei Lysenko in "The Hunt For Red October." (Which I guess is Cold War nostalgia.)

    The longer you live, the more there is to be nostalgic about.

    (And look forward to.)

    posted by Eric at 11:30 PM | Comments (1)

    Late breaking news that few will hear about

    While I don't like to question the timing of every last thing that happens, I find it interesting that Sarah Palin's exoneration in the so-called "Troopergate" affair didn't become public until too late in the election for any voters to have time to process it.

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A report has cleared Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of ethics violations in the firing of her public safety commissioner.

    Released Monday, the report says there is no probable cause to believe Palin or any other state official violated the Alaska Executive Ethics Act in connection with the firing. The report was prepared by Timothy Petumenos, an independent counsel for the Alaska Personnel Board.

    A separate legislative investigation recently concluded that Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, abused her office by allowing her husband and staffers to pressure the public safety commissioner to fire a state trooper who went through a nasty divorce from Palin's sister.

    Palin says the firing had nothing to do with the trooper.

    All the voters heard about was the highly political legislative investigation report, of course.

    Typical politics.

    posted by Eric at 10:58 PM | Comments (1)

    That gnawing, raving feeling which eats at me....

    Of all the woodblock prints Salvador Dalí did to illustrate Dante's Divine Comedy, my favorite is "Schicchi's Bite." I finally got one, which I scanned before matting and framing.

    As you can see, it's not signed by Dalí, but if it was, it would have cost thousands of dollars. Even then, the man's signatures are problematic and with rare exceptions, it's impossible to have a 100% assurance that a Dalí signature is authentic. The unsigned prints are really just as nice, and they're surprisingly affordable.

    The fiercely competitive theme almost reminds me of the election.


    From Dante's text (which loosely supplied the idea for a Puccini opera):

    "That madman is Gianni Schicchi,
    who gnaws the other in his raving."
    Gnaws the other in his raving?

    I guess you could say that about certain types of blogging.

    posted by Eric at 09:51 PM | Comments (2)

    Change is hard, and hard is fair!

    The "lost" (and recently discovered) video that M. Simon linked earlier in which Barack Obama outlines his plan to bankrupt the coal industry has naturally raised many hackles.

    Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of links; Ed Driscoll has lots of details and Don Surber provides context.

    Here is what Barack Obama actually said:

    "I was the first to call for a 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter," Obama continued. "That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.

    "So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

    Calls and e-mails to West Virginia Obama campaign officials seeking comment for this story were not returned as of Sunday evening.

    I'm sure they'll howl over the context, but as Glenn did with the birth certificate matter, I'd like to step up to the plate here and, um, "provid[e] the defense of Obama that his own side won't do."

    Bankrupting Big Coal has nothing to do with context. Rather, it's about change.

    Remember, Obama has repeatedly said, "change is hard."

    Bankrupting the coal industry will be hard on everybody -- producers and the consumers alike.

    It's meant to be.

    But remember, being unfair to everybody is fair.

    Here's David Harsanyi:

    I'm suggesting Obama is praising and mainstreaming an economic philosophy that has failed to produce a scintilla of fairness or prosperity anywhere on Earth. Ever.
    What could be more fair than that?

    posted by Eric at 03:16 PM | Comments (1)

    Obama represents hope!

    At least, he's causing Victor Davis Hanson to have hope:

    Obama himself at various times in his memoirs--never have presidential autobiographies sold so many copies, and yet have been so little read by the press--talked about people seeing in him what they wished. And now on the eve of the election, I confess I have no idea about who he is or what he stands for. If he is elected, I can only hope for the best, and pray a few sober old Clintonites like Paul Volcker or Robert Rubin will step forward.
    I can hope too.

    There's a lot of hope going around right now in the conservative -- and libertarian -- camps.

    While it's arguably a form of denial, it's probably a good coping mechanism to cling to hopes about what a candidate might do.

    But I don't see how it's a reason to vote for him.

    posted by Eric at 02:09 PM | Comments (1)

    Can I be a "poll" bearer at the funeral?

    Considering that dead people are voting in unprecedentedly high numbers, I'm wondering about something.

    Who polls the dead? How are we supposed to know how a dead person might vote.

    And since I'm on the subject of death, I'd like to predict something.

    If McCain somehow wins tomorrow, I predict the death of polling as we know it.

    MORE: Jim Geraghty thinks that "the real drama to this election is being provided not by the candidates but the polling community." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I predict that if the polls turn out to have been wrong, the pollsters will blame the voters.

    posted by Eric at 01:41 PM | Comments (1)

    A secret masquerade

    I almost forgot about Halloween. I don't know how many readers would care, but I went to a party dressed as Hannibal Lecter. In a last minute idea, I wore a tuxedo with a goalie mask -- and while it wasn't quite as accurate as this mask, I drove the point home by bringing a bottle of wine while apologizing profusely for not bringing Liver of Bureaucrat with Fava Beans, which I'd had no time to prepare. It seemed fitting, somehow, because in my darkest of hearts I secretly admire the man. While I don't approve of his methods, he did target rude people, so I have a soft spot for his ideological convictions. (Even if I'm too cowardly to put a census taker's liver in my mouth.)

    I was reminded of my Halloween costume by Glenn Reynolds' link (indirect as it was) to a post about a costume that never would have occured to me, but which was worn by Mickey Kaus, who went to a party dressed as the Bradley Effect.

    Went to a Halloween party dressed as The Bradley Effect. The elemental conceptual simplicity of my costume somehow failed to terrify, even in a Dem heavy Hollywood crowd. ... This may be the first election where average Web-surfing, procrastinating liberal comedy writers know more about the last Insider Advantage poll in Pennsylvania than Howard Fineman does.... Unfortunately, they thought the photo of George Deukmejian on my costume** was Robert Rubin.

    **--Pinned to the red half of the costume under a blue flap that--easier to show than tell--flopped over to obscure a photo of long-serving L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley, whom they mistook for an Asian man. They had been drinking. ...[Had you worn the White Liberal Guilt Effect costume, I would have been impressed.--emailer DM It was at the cleaners.]

    That really is hilarious.

    And it made me think that while I might not have been consciously aware of the political implications, perhaps my Hannibal Lecter costume was a subconscious act of passive-aggressive protest. Not so much against The Bradley Effect itself, but the underlying rudeness involved.

    I do see a problem with the discussion of the Bradley Effect, which is almost always described or analyzed as some form of dissembled racism.

    Some analysts say the race could be much closer or even tied if the Bradley effect is factored in. iReporter pleads with voters to 'stop the racism'
    Yet what it really is (or at least was in the race involved) has to do with the fear of being called racist. That's a very different thing.

    I realize a lot of people have been trying to make this election about race, but I think most of that is bullshit. I don't think race is anywhere near as large a factor as the Obama advocates claim it is.

    Or am I being accurate there? Don't false accusations of racism make race a factor? In this election, a pervasive attempts have been made to label virtually all criticism of Barack Obama as racist -- even objections to socialism.

    If objecting to socialism is racist, then I'm one of the biggest racists around, and my blog has been spouting racism from the beginning.

    I'm being sarcastic, but my point is that if you're accused of racism, then the debate is about race. What that means is that the extent to which Obama opponents are accused of racism, then in logic, the election is about race.

    Unfair, perhaps, but since when does fairness have anything to do with anything? Remember, to Obama and his supporters, redistribution of wealth is carried out in the name of being "fair." (This fairness theory is also known as "social justice.") If I have 200,000, and my neighbor has 100,000, then it is "fair" to take 50,000 from me and give it to him. My unfairly lost 50,000 and his unfairly gained 50,000 are considered fair. And if creating two unfairnesses is what fair means, then there is no fairness. Besides, it's racist to complain!

    To be fair to the Obama camp, this is not the first time that such dissent has been labeled racist. Anyone remember the Seattle Public School definition?

    Cultural Racism:
    Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers. (Emphasis added.)
    So, if opposition to collectivism is considered "racist," then it's a waste of time to argue (at least, with people who think that way) that this election can possibly be about anything but race.

    A shame, really. And it does not bode well for the ability of black candidates to be judged on their own merit.

    Does anyone think this would be different if the GOP had a black candidate on the ticket? Imagine that they had. Suppose Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice had been running in place of John McCain or Sarah Palin. Would criticism of them by Democrats be called "racist"? Maybe by a few conservative or libertarian cranks like me, but it would not stick. That's because the left has a near-total monopoly on the use of the term "racist." It is theirs alone to use, abuse, redefine at will, and deploy in whatever way they see fit, and it is meant to terrify, and yes, terrorize (if the colloquial use of that word is still allowed).

    I believe the very use of the term "Bradley Effect" is another instance of misused terminology. The way it is being used, it magically tranforms people who fear being labeled racist as racist. Yet ironically, the only people who don't mind being called racist are -- surprise -- genuine unapologetic racists.

    A pity, really, because I think there might be something going on besides race. I think there are a lot of people who think Barack Obama is too far to the left, and have misgivings about him because he's new and they don't know enough about him. This is not racism. I also think that there are a lot of people voting for Obama because he is black. While that would be considered racism if the term were used in a logical manner, forget logic. The "R" word is simply a political weapon, and one which unlicensed people have no right to use.

    Now, I know this will sound racist, but sometimes I wish Barack Obama were white, like John Kerry. He would lose decisively because he's so far to the left (certainly to the left of Kerry) and that leftism would be a legitimate area for discussion. I don't like the baggage that goes with his skin color, because it makes legitimate discussion of his politics problematic. It doesn't stop me, because I'm a blogger and bloggers are supposed to be outspoken, but it's an annoyance.

    For many non-political, non-blogging people, it's more than an annoyance; it's a reason for extreme self-censorship. I said "extreme," because I think it goes beyond the ordinary self censorship that occurs at election time.

    To illustrate, let's deracialize this election by going back in time. Not that far, just to 2004. Here's what I wrote on Monday, November 3, 2004:

    ...ordinary people tend to be private people. They don't want to talk about private matters to people they don't know -- especially those they might perceive as activists who'd pigeonhole them as being on the "problem" side of the (activist) equation that "you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem."

    This whole thing reminds me a bit of workplace partisans who ask their co-workers who they're going to vote for. (Co-workers who don't want to talk about it can be hounded mercilessly.) Thinking back to the 2004 election, I recall that it was more often the Bush voters who were the evasive ones. They just plain didn't want to talk about it, because if they did, they'd have trouble with the Kerry voters. Depending on the workplace, I'm sure this happened on the other side too, but I think that in general, the silent, non-activist types tended to favor Bush. (No doubt the activists would equate their silence with mindlessness, sneakiness, or cowardliness, but that's another topic.)

    Voting is of course still conducted in secret. ("Your vote is secret!" was a winning slogan in Nicaragua when the Sandinistas were turned out of office, and while I'm not comparing American activists to Sandinistas, I don't doubt that had the Sandinistas conducted exit polls, they'd have been happy with the results.)

    What I can't figure out is why the activists are already worrying about a possible conflict between the exit polls and the election results in advance of the election itself.

    You'd think the masses were refusing to tell them how they're going to vote.

    (How "undemocratic" those masses can be!)


    I'd hate to think American democracy is degenerating into a form of "don't ask, don't tell," but there are distinct similarities between voting booths and closets.

    OK, I realize there are differences between Obama and Kerry. (Obama is more to the left, and has darker pigmentation.)

    My point is, if voting preferences were being kept in the "closet" in 2004 out of fear, imagine what has happened to that closet now that the element of race has been added. Not just added, but deployed in a huge way.

    I think characterizing this phenomenon as "the Bradley Effect" is misleading in the extreme, but I think that is in line with the twofold goal:

  • pronouncing all opposition to Obama as racist regardless of who wins; and
  • making it impossible to acknowledge a McCain victory as anything but a victory of "racism."
  • I realize there's no way to stop lefties from scolding people with the Bradley Effect, but I do think that considering Obama's leftism, it's more legitimate to talk of in terms of an anti-Sandinista, secret voting, "UNO effect." Frankly, I think there is a major UNO Effect, and I think it is being forced into a dishonest masquerade by being rebadged as the Bradley Effect.

    What if the masquerade backfires, and the UNO Effect is exacerbated?

    (If only the pollsters could ask Hannibal Lecter who he plans to vote for...)

    MORE: Zombietime thinks that the bias of the people who conduct polls might influence the results:

    ...I posit that the vast majority of people actually doing the polling are themselves Obama supporters. Not necessarily the CEOs who own the polling companies, but the people actually picking up the phone and making the calls, or walking door-to-door.

    This fact has potentially significant implications for the outcomes of polls. Imagine, for a moment, that you were one of the rare McCain supporters in a polling call-center; wouldn't you be a little depressed if person after person you called stated that they were intending to vote for Obama? How could you not be? But what if you were an Obama supporter working in that same call center? Wouldn't you be elated or enthused to hear the votes for Obama piling up? Of course you would. Ah, but pollers are under strict instructions to not reveal their personal opinions to the people they're polling. And I'm sure that most try to follow the rules. But even if you grant that, say, 90% of them manage to maintain complete neutrality, and not let some kind of expectation creep into their voice or attitude, that still leaves 10% who might consciously or unconsciously be slanting the results. And that's all it would take to screw up a poll. Even a 95% honesty rate leaves room for 5% bias in the results, which can be very significant in a close race like this one.

    Zombietime discusses the "The Clever Hans Effect":
    the attitude of questioners can affect respondents' answers even if the questioner is trying to remain neutral.
    He also discusses Solomon Asch and the principle of normative conformity, and the Bradley Effest, then asks,
    So, when the phone rings and the pollster calls -- and your Clever Hans social antennae tell you the pollster is young and liberal and likely an Obama supporter -- would you have the nerve to tell the pollster the truth that you wouldn't vote for Obama in a million years? I mean, they called you; they know your number. They know who you are. Can you be absolutely sure they aren't putting a check mark in the "Racist" box next to your name in some mysterious database?
    I'd add another question: Would you even answer the phone?

    I also liked this

    In 2008 there is no silent majority: there is the silenced majority.
    Yet through a strange and persistent legal loophole, voting remains secret.

    Here's Zombietime's conclusion: may very well be that an army of glum, dispirited and pessimistic conservatives will reluctantly trudge to the polls on November 4, each one imagining they are the only remaining person in the entire country voting for McCain, and lo and behold -- they'll turn out to be a silent majority after all.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who opines that such a result would be suitably ironic.

    While it would be ironic if such a thing were to happen, I think the response (once the racist accusations wore thin) would be some sort of push to abolish the closet -- if not get rid of secret voting.

    And speaking of closets, what about all those people without lawn signs, who drive around in cars without bumperstickers?

    Might they be hiding something?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm thinking that maybe I should have titled this post "The Silence of the Voters."

    On second thought, that's no good. I wouldn't want readers to think I'm comparing American voters to sheep, because I don't think they are.

    UPDATE (11/04): Rick Moran thinks the above scenario is likely:

    Scenario #2: The "Dewey Wins" scenario

    This particular scenario is a favorite of Republican Kool-Aid drinkers and people who are paid to fantasize. We discover to our surprise that the polls are actually full of it and McCain wins every state listed above. [Colorado, Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Montana, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.]Result, a narrow win for the Republican.

    Odds: 1 in 50

    I'm a realist who is quite familiar with denial, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that some of the Republican optimism has the ring of denial to it.

    Still, I think there's a difference between hope and denial, and I'd like to think that if I'm wrong, my error is more on the side of hope.

    There's little else I can do, other than vote in the only poll that counts.

    posted by Eric at 09:48 AM | Comments (3)

    Window Stickers - Hippies For McCain Palin

    It is a little late in the election season for campaign material but I'd like to show you a very special set of window stickers for McCain/Palin made by Matthew Lopina from Prints Design. Here is what it looks like on the back of my mate's van. Obviously it is perfect for tinted windows.

    Hippies for McCain -1

    Here is another view.

    Hippies for McCain -2

    You can click on the pictures for a larger view.

    Needless to say those stickers are very pretty and Matthew has been just a prince to deal with. You need custom graphics? Prints Design is the place to go.

    Prints Design is dedicated to one thing... customer satisfaction. And at a price far less than franchise print shops can offer.
    Did I mention that the stickers are very pretty, easy to apply, and the execution first rate?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:36 AM | Comments (1)

    PUMA Power

    Paul Marston takes a look at how the PUMA factor is affecting the polling.

    The results of the polls for President are all over the map. If the polls are supposed to be correct to a 95% degree of certainly give or take 2 or 3 percent, how can the polls be that much different for the same candidates when taken at the same time? The simple answer is that they should not be that far apart. If you take a look at the polls making up the average at on October 23rd, you will see a range from Senator Obama being up over McCain from 1 to 14 percent. Now there is such a thing called an outlier poll. That is where that other 5% comes into play and statistics says that the result could be outside of that normal sampling error of 2 to 3 percent. So let's say that happened with both the 1% and 14% results and throw those away. That still leaves a range of 2 to 11% and that is way outside the margin of error on both polls. How come?

    Take a look at the polling results for the 2004 election. Here you do not see the wild differences between the various polling firms. In the same time period in October of 2004, the range was from a 1 to 6 point lead for Bush. That is a five point spread and within the margin of error. That is a big difference between the current 13 point spread that is way outside the margin of error. To have this kind of spread indicates that something unusual is happening that is causing problems with the adjustments polling companies have to make to get the sample of voters to properly represent all of the voters. No random sample of voters perfectly represents all voters and polling firms have to weight their results to force them into being representative of all voters.

    Of course they could reduce this adjustment by increasing the sample size by a factor of 10X. But then the polls start to cost real money. About 500 to 1,000 responses is considered a reasonable rate. Fairly good accuracy at a reasonable cost.
    If their weighting algorithms are not correct, this would skew the results. Still, major national polling firms have a lot of experience and they have learned how to fine tune these algorithms pretty well. What is far more likely is that the sample simply does not accurately represent the voters in the area being polled as a whole due to some new factor. Obviously, when the polling companies look at the results from other polling firms and they see results different from their own outside the margin of error; they know something is amiss just like I do. This has caused them to try and tweak their weighting algorithms during the election season. Departing from tried and true weighting algorithms is a risky thing to do, but what choice do they have?

    The fact of the matter is that instead of properly correcting for this unknown factor, they have only made things worse. I know of nothing else that could cause such wildly different results. This problem in turn has resulted in totally different headlines about what is happening in this election. Some say that the race is tightening considerably and others saying that the gap is widening to the point of being a landslide. The Drudge Report for October 22nd showed both of these claims. If you believe the Zogby results, then we are heading for a blowout. If you believe the Associated Press result, we are headed for another squeaker election. Obviously, they both cannot be right so which one is correct? That is precisely why the folks at prefer to average all the polls hoping that the various sampling errors will balance each other out.

    Well that was a real hoot. The race is tightening/widening depending on who you believe.

    What does McCain believe?

    Meantime, back at the McCain camp, their strategy makes no sense. They have practically conceded Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico and are still pursuing some blue states. They are not overly worried about Ohio and Virginia either. Neither do they seem very worried about all of those toss up states. So what is going on here? Clearly, the McCain campaign thinks the narrowing algorithms are correct, but isn't that just wishful thinking? They pulled out of Michigan when the Democratic Rossman Group/MIRS poll had them down by only 5 points. Yet they persist in Pennsylvania when the RCP average has them down by 10.5 points. No one has them closer than 8 points right now and no one has had them closer than a tie in the last six months. They sent Palin to New Hampshire where they are behind from 8 to 13 points. Why would they do this? They cannot be that stupid unless they think they are on to something.

    Remember that the McCain camp has their own polling firm and are running their own private polls. The only answer that makes sense is that the McCain folks are convinced that their own polling firm has figured out what factor is causing all those wildly differing results from the other polling firms. Whatever this factor is, it is something that the tried and true weighting algorithms are not handling properly. In a previous article, I speculated that it could be that the Bradley Factor is alive and well in this election. Since this is the first presidential election with a black candidate, the weighting algorithms are just not equipped to handle the race factor. The fact that the race card has been repeatedly played in this election could be causing the Bradley Factor to be much more prominent than it ordinarily would be.

    Yet Gallup Polling claims that the Bradley Factor is a wash at best and could actually be adding an extra 3 points to Obama's total in a kind of reverse Bradley Effect. Looking at where the McCain folks are competing when they would seem to have no chance, they all have one thing in common. They were carried by Hillary Clinton and in some cases even after it was obvious that Obama had it locked up. McCain was bound to pick up some of Hillary's supporters anyway after the way Hillary was treated by the Obama campaign. These are the so-called PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) folks. Clearly the McCain folks think that there is a P.U.M.A. Factor in play which is a variation of the Bradley Factor. The results that Hillary got simply cannot be explained by race alone. It was the positions that she took that were different than Obama's that resonated with these voters. Because Obama has such an extremely liberal voting record, there were some issues where even Hillary agreed with McCain more than she did with Obama.

    There is way more and you should read it all for it is good.

    And then you should read his quantification of the PUMA factor at The McCain-Palin Landslide and How Big is the P.U.M.A. Factor?.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:53 AM


    H/T Ace of Spades Hq. which has the usual moronic discussion in copious quantities.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:57 AM | Comments (2)

    The Real Margin Of Error

    I was over visiting The Volokh Conspiracy's discussion of the polls. And I Said something like:

    America is not a predominately socialist/communist country.

    As to why the polls are wrong: the pollsters are cooking the books. Operation Chaos screwed voter ID numbers. Republicans don't like being polled. PUMAs are being seriously under counted.

    Commenter LM came back at me and said that saying that America is not a socialist/communist country was a veiled smear. Well that set me off for another round. And this is what I said (revised and extended):


    Interesting - saying America is not a "share the wealth" country is a smear. OKy doake.


    How about all the predictions of Obama wins in the primaries that saw 10, 20, 30, and in some cases 40 point swings (polls vs reality) in Clinton vs Obama.

    Big Obama Win Predicted.

    Of course the pollsters have gotten all that fixed and now their predictions of a big Obama win are right on the mark. Why take Pennsylvania for instance. Despite a big Obama loss in the primaries, Obama has converted all those Clinton voters and Republicans and is now poised for a big win there.

    Sure it is possible. What are the odds?

    The polls this year are GARBAGE. Let me spell it out for you: G. A. R. B. A. G. E.

    Their connection to reality is tenuous at best. They called a bunch of people. They got answers to questions. They then adjusted the numbers to match their proposed model of reality. Which is all good if their model is correct.

    But suppose most of the D surge in registrations was Operation Chaos people? Those should be shifted from D to R. Or perhaps their view of defecting Democrats is about 20% of Hillary voters and it is actually 40%. Obviously if you get "too many" of them in a sample you have to scale it back 60% or 70% of that demographic.

    And how about the 80% that won't answer the pollsters. Does their demographics match the 20% that do answer?

    With those kind of response rates you have a self selecting sample. A no no in statistics. Not random. All opinions don't have an equal chance of being sampled. So what is the weighting for that? Well you sample the people that don't want to be sampled and adjust your samples to match the total pool. But how do you randomly sample people that don't want to be sampled to find out what the bias is?

    But it is worse. All these numbers are shifting all the time and from place to place. And sample demographics vary from day to day. How many church goers are you going to sample from 9AM to 1 PM on Sunday? How many employed people will you get from 8 AM to 5 PM on workdays? If you sample in the evenings how many 2nd shift workers do you get? How many long haul truckers do you get on any day?

    In Hillary vs Obama the polls at least about 1/2 the time weren't even close. No where near the "margin of error". All we know is the statistical margin of error given the sample size. We know nothing about the real margin of error.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:28 AM | Comments (2)

    Big Obama Win Predicted

    The pollsters at Gallup are predicting a 13 point win for Obama.

    Me? I've looked at their numbers (you should too) and I don't believe them. History will show that the pollsters have been consistently wrong all through the primaries and they will be no better in the general.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:23 PM | Comments (3)

    Those selfish libertarians!

    Sean Kinsell looks at this Reason round-up of libertarian reactions to Barack Obama, then adds his own analysis.

    Here's how Jonathan Rauch sees the upside and the downside:

    The upside: his subtle mind, silver tongue, moderate temperament, cool deftness, and magnetic charisma. The last time we saw those traits combined was in John F. Kennedy, who I think was a good president. Kennedy gets dinged by liberals for not doing much, but that was a feature, not a bug: He was personally charismatic enough to make the country feel ably led but politically shrewd enough to avoid overreaching. If I read Obama right, he may offer a similar blend of charisma and caution. The election of a black president, opening a new chapter in America's tormented racial history, only sweetens the deal.

    The downside: Obama belongs to the same party that controls Congress, and if the last 15 years have taught anything, it is to be wary of one-party government. Unified control nearly sank Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1994, and it pretty much did sink George W. Bush in 2003-2006. Obama might carry it off better in 2009-2010, but I'd be surprised. One-party rule would force the Democrats to govern from the center of their party instead of the center of the country. The natural upshot would be a leftward lurch, followed by public disgruntlement and political backlash, followed by sad talk of a second consecutive uniter who turned out to be a divider--followed, perhaps, by the realization that unifying the government divides the country.

    Apt observation. The last time the country gave the Democrats one party rule was with the election of Bill Clinton, and it ended with the Republican congressional takeover in his first term. (Bubba quickly turned around and became a triangulating moderate after that.)

    I'm especially fascinated by Virginia Postrel's analysis of Barack Obama as a symbol.

    Barack Obama has not run as the typical candidate, selling specific policies, a worldview, experience, or executive competence. He has instead sold himself, a glamorous icon onto whom supporters project their hopes and dreams and, in many cases, their own identities. If elected, he will have not a policy mandate but an emotional one: to make Americans feel proud of their country, optimistic about the future, and warmly included, regardless of background, in the American story.
    Yet she sees a lot of potential problems (especially internationally), and worries that the "Yes we can!" message might undermined by a lurking lack of optimism. She reaches a skeptical conclusion:
    The president's power has a face, and Obama's most fervent supporters believe he can repair the world with his face alone. Perhaps they're right, at least for the first month or two. We can only hope that he will respect the multiplicity of American dreams and the unpredictable ways in which their pursuit provides the basis for a better future.
    Yes we can. (Only hope, that is.)

    Sean worries about Obama's instincts, which go to the heart of what Obama believes:

    What I do think is that he believes, like a lot of liberals who approach things from an academic background, that human relations can be fixed in some ultimate way. We talk until we find common ground, we all make some compromises, and then we all go home partially happy and make the best of it. That means that those of us who believe that ideological conflict is inevitable, that in some conflicts there will inevitably be distinct winners and losers, and that competition among ideas is not only inevitable but frequently salutary, are spoiling the party. As Virginia implies, it's hard to champion both conflict-avoidance and "diversity."
    What I have never quite understood is how people who have managed to make more money are considered "selfish" by the people who want to take it away from them, while the latter are considered "unselfish."

    Assume that A has twenty dollars, and B has ten dollars. B might want to have as much as A, but unless A had taken his money from B, A is under no more duty to give money to B than B is to give money to A. Yet according to the redistributionist logic, not only should A give some of his money to B, but if A balks at doing so, he is said to be "selfish."

    But in logic, why wouldn't B be just as "selfish" if he refused to give money to A? The answer is that neither A nor B are being selfish by not wanting to give money to each other. But what has happened is that selfishness has been redefined as having to do with who has more money. It is not possible for B to be selfish with regard to A, because he has less money. Yet selfishness does not involve the state of being wealthier, any more than unselfishness involves the state of being poorer. A poor man could refuse to help a rich man (say, by blocking the road with his car and refusing to move even though the rich man needed to get to a hospital emergency room) and he would every bit as selfish as a rich man who did the same thing.

    Selfishness involves being thoughtless about others, and does not necessarily have anything to do with money. Giving away money is not necessarily unselfish, nor is refusing to give money away necessarily selfish. For example, if the goal is to feel better about yourself by giving money away, it is arguably more selfish to give a dollar bill to a derelict panhandling in front of a liquor store than to walk by, because by giving him the money, you're only accelerating his demise in order to make yourself feel better. Similarly, if a rich man pays a ne'er do well son to stay away from the family, he's not being unselfish, and he might be hurting the son.

    Seen this way, people who believe in the work ethic might believe it is immoral to give money to people who don't work for it, and directly damaging to the recipients. If they don't want to give money to people because of such considerations, their motives can hardly be called "selfish."

    I've often thought that classical Ayn Rand "virtue of selfishness" thinking can sometimes inflame discussions of things like the trickle-down theory. The idea is that because some people (Bill Gates being an extreme example) create wealth, and the creation of wealth is a good thing for society, this means that the "selfishness" is virtuous. The problem with that argument is the assumption that wealth creators are selfish. Are they?

    What is selfishness?

    And for that matter, what is unselfishness? Why isn't it considered unselfish to leave wealth creators alone to create wealth and not tax them?

    Why isn't taking away from people what they have earned considered the ultimate form of selfishness?

    My concern here is that the definitions of selfishness and unselfishness have been so contaminated by considerations of wealth that people have lost sight of what the words mean. Returning to Sean's point, when people like Barack Obama start talking about fixing human nature, do they even understand what is being fixed?

    My biggest worry is not Barack Obama, but the people he would place in charge of the innumerable federal agencies that increasingly run our lives with ever-vaster powers. We can argue over whether he is as important a symbol as he's said to be, and over whether he is in fact the socialist that he often appears to be. But there's little question that he has surrounded himself with people who are steeped in the ACORN/Alinsky community organizer/activist mindset, and that they're working their asses off for his campaign. If he wins, they'll be repaid with positions of power.

    I worry that many if not most of the Obama activists do believe passionately that wealth equals selfishness. Unless, of course, it's wealth that they've "unselfishly" taken from others.

    Such people find virtue in being "unselfish," yet it doesn't seem to have occurred to them that not taking from people is unselfish too.

    You don't need to see selfishness as a virtue to recognize that.

    UPDATE: In his discussion of the Obama plan to bankrupt the coal industry, Victor Davis Hanson notes the underlying claim that people who produce or consume heat are being "selfish," and asks a good question:

    Note again the boastful Obama's usage of "bankrupt" them--as if the destruction of an entire industry that currently warms the water, cooks the food, and keeps the lights on for 150 million Americans can simply fold, without consequences to the industry's workers and to us, the consumers of their electricity. Are we to use our stoves for five or six hours a day as the wind and sun allow, in order to prove that we are 'green" and no longer 'selfish'?
    So, are the selfish rich making $300,000, $250,000, $200,000, $150,000 or $120,000?
    It all comes from the twisted Marxist idea that all wealth is stolen, and therefore selfish. Once you accept the premise that wealth is selfish, then it follows that a higher quality of life is also selfish, and therefore that lowering the quality of people's lives is an unselfish thing to do.

    By that standard, then Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge was the most unselfish country that ever existed!

    MORE: Robert Samuelson has a great op-ed titled, simply, "Poor Aren't Poor Because Rich Are Rich."

    I often wish they did more teaching of these concepts in school.

    (Via Greg Mankiw, who does.)

    posted by Eric at 07:08 PM | Comments (3)

    Obama: We Will Bankrupt You

    He is talking about how he will bankrupt any investment in new coal power plants. I think that is just the start.

    BTW Obama's State, Illinois, has a significant coal mining industry.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:23 PM | Comments (1)

    Who's expanding the Culture War?

    I hate the culture war. Yet I have been writing about it for years, spilling tens if not hundreds of thousands of words in post after post. As to how many hundreds of hours of my life this has consumed, I'm probably better off not knowing, because if I did know, I might start wondering if I should seek therapy. (And if I did seek therapy, you can be damned sure that plenty of therapists would see the number of hours spent writing about the culture war issues to be a serious symptom. Of what, I don't want to know....)

    When I get really frustrated I'm tempted to scream something like

    "F*ck your damn culture war and stay the hell out of my life!"

    But instead, I calm down by writing blog posts, which are a probably a substitute for therapy.

    When I say "Culture War," I don't mean all arguments and disputes about everything in the culture. Because this is a free country, it's the kind of place where all sorts of people have all sorts of cultural quirks, personal issues, and ways of living which others find annoying, even threatening. Normally (I hesitate to use the word "traditionally" as it has become politicized), extreme animosity does not erupt over these things, because America is a country built on individualism and free spirit, not communitarianism and subordination to the common good. Add to this the ancient doctrine of "a man's home is his castle" and the general idea has long been that people should be left alone to live their lives as they see fit as long as they mind their own business and don't mess with others.

    Until the Culture War.

    The Culture War I complain of involves a wholesale assault -- waged by the left and the right -- on the dignity of the individual. There is no right to be left alone, and all facets of an individual's life are fair game for inquiry.

    Politicizing the personal was merely the foot in the door. This began in the 1960s and was modeled on Marxist "class consciousness" and class warfare doctrine. A huge imaginary line was drawn which found expression in the phrase "YOU ARE EITHER PART OF THE SOLUTION, OR YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!" This was an excuse to subject people's personal lives and tastes to personal scrutiny in a search for signs of bourgeois class tendencies. Those who exhibited such tendencies were deemed "not cool," with a deliberate attempt being made to attribute political views to things like personal appearance, and even sexual behavior. Never mind the fact that college age kids simply wanted to have fun (as they always have, and do now), and that most of them had little interest in political activism, much less Marxism. The idea was that they should be herded that way, by politicizing every last trapping of what might in any other era have been another passing fad, then by claiming them as proper citizens and subjects of the left. That identity politics was invented during this same period was no accident. Every effort was made to assign people to one group or another, with every single group being defined as somehow fitting into a giant coalition of groups -- all of them being lectured constantly about how they were victims of the white, male, patriarchal racist military industrial "system."

    What was missed is that a lot of people who were "claimed" by the left really weren't political, and hadn't the slightest idea that they were political fodder. One of the aggravating factors was of course the military draft. This made virtually every college age male who didn't want to serve in the military a potential victim, and every such victim had a ready and waiting place in the identity politics machine.

    For reasons I've tried to explain, the draft avoidance problem was aggravated by still-prevalent male pride, which had not yet been stamped out. Avoiding military service to one's country in time of war was widely seen as less than manly, and quite naturally, this generated tension -- even feelings of shame -- among young men who were affected. Because college age men were legally entitled to deferments, this was a perfect opportunity for the left to exploit. Through a psychological process I think is still largely unexamined, the deferment system allowed the left to offer them an opportunity to redeem their manhood. All they had to do was become active against the war, and their natural cowardliness was transformed into bravery. This had enormous appeal. And of course the more "manly" the individual, the more bravely he fought against the system! The self-delusional slogan "BRING THE WAR HOME!" carried this to its ultimate illogical (but psychologically very satisfying) conclusion -- that they were real men, every bit as manly as the other young men who were fighting and dying in their place.

    That this delusion was wrong -- monstrously wrong -- has never been examined or acknowledged by the young men who did this. Nothing surprising there. People don't like to admit they were wrong, and for a man from that generation to admit to dishonesty about something so profoundly self-defining as his sense of manhood, why, it really is asking too much. They're now a politically very powerful group, and I suspect they will go to their graves believing that they were the real men, and that the soldiers who served (or the apolitical draft avoiders who shut up and stayed in school without whining) were not.

    The crazy thing about this analysis is that I am a very forgiving person where it comes to the manhood issue, just as I am forgiving of cowards who wanted to avoid the draft. What I can't forgive is unrepentant lying about it. And the idea that whining about not wanting to serve is more manly than serving is just too much for me to stomach.

    Bear in mind, though, that the identity politics aspect of victimization-by-the-draft was temporary, and was not an issue for baby boomers born after 1953. Which is why it's so easy for me to shoot off my mouth; I was born in '54, so I never really had to "suffer." Sorry about that; it was just the system worked. However, I did notice a certain annoying sanctimoniousness about the draft which plagued the older but not the younger boomers. It was as if they were dishonestly repackaging the emotional sermons of their World War II dads. ("You're too young to understand what it was like to be on the front lines!") Even as a young Marxist, I just couldn't quite see facing the front lines of the Berkeley Police Department in riot gear as being quite the same thing as facing the front lines of the Waffen SS. But I mostly kept my mouth shut around the older boomers in those days, because they took themselves very, very seriously. The problem is, they still do.

    But because it had already become an established and growing meme, the culture war did not end with the draft. Quite ironically, what became of great assistance to the politicizers on the activist left was the fact that their opponents often bought into the leftist lie that longhaired men, pot smokers, rock music fans, women who wanted careers (or rejected bras), and various sexually non-conforming types were supposed to be on the left.

    What happened was that the activist right simply agreed with the activist left. (That this persists even now is, I think further proof that the more a lie is repeated, the more likely it is to be believed.) Behaviors and lifestyle traits which have nothing to do with politics are nevertheless called leftism, and those sharing the disliked traits -- now called "they" -- are reflexively consigned to the category of being against the candidacy of John McCain. From a post titled "The Culture War's Decisive Battle has Begun":

    On the other side of this culture war are the Left-Wing Liberals. They are uncomfortable with our traditions, with the inevitable inequalities of our free-market economy, and with our military power. They dislike our values, our morality, and our unabashed displays of patriotism. At first -- back in the 1960s -- they were content merely to develop and pursue their own radical culture within ours. They tuned out, turned to drugs, and pushed the level of sexual license to a point our country had never known. They were so distressed by our imperfections that they refused to recognize or celebrate our achievements.
    A lot of people got high and had sex in the 60s, and a lot of people didn't like what the writer defines as "our traditions." Many of them are ardent supporters of John McCain, too. I can't help wonder about the logic of calling them "Left-Wing Liberals."

    Because, by that logic I am a "Left-Wing Liberal." And if we continue with it, I later "tuned in," and developed an agenda to overthrow the American Revolution itself:

    Then they tuned in, and developed a political agenda whose logical outcome would be the overthrow of the American Revolution itself. While we believe that power flows from God to the people, they believe the supreme power is the State, which decides what rights, if any, should be allowed to the people. And because there is no God above the State, there also is no truth; no such thing as right or wrong, good or evil. Since they are working to do good -- by their definition of the word -- whatever crimes they commit along the way don't matter. But if we are bent on doing what they define as harm, they will use any legal trick in the book to stop us. In short, the rule of law means whatever they want it to mean at any given moment.

    They believe that rights are more important than responsibilities, that groups are more important than individuals, and that one's stand on public issues is more important than one's private actions or morality. And while they are careful never to condone the tactics of our country's foreign enemies, they always see some justification in our enemies' cause. They don't actually want us to be defeated by our foreign enemies; they wish merely to see us humbled and humiliated by them.

    Anyone who has read this blog with any regularity knows that I don't believe what the author asserts that I (as part of this Culture War "they") believe. I don't think I need to elaborate with examples.

    But before anyone jumps to conclusions, hold on! I do not mean to suggest for one second that the above typifies today's conservative thinking. It does not. Actually, I had to spend a lot of time finding it, and I only stumbled across it because I was wading through countless left-wing attacks on the McCain campaign as being engaged in a Culture War.

    One of the things which I have found most infuriating about this election is the constant refrain that it's all about the Culture War. This (from The Economist) is typical:

    Mr McCain and Mr Obama once sold themselves as politicians who could overcome the divisive politics of the likes of George Bush and Hillary Clinton. The sad truth is that they are now fighting a classic culture war that will leave the country more divided over "values" than ever.
    Single issue partisans like Andrew Sullivan have been a lot more shrill, repeatedly blaming the McCain camp for re-igniting the Culture War with the nomination of Sarah Palin, who was portrayed as a speaking-in-tongues, homophobic harpy. Yet when her turn came to do a Pat Buchanan and really stick it to the evil homos, she talked about one of her best friends being gay. You'd have never caught Pat Buchanan saying something like that -- not even about Justin Raimondo. And while I can't be certain, it would not surprise me if the author of the Culture War "Decisive Battle" piece felt personally betrayed by Sarah Palin's admission that she had a gay friend.

    But over and over, it is mainly the left that keeps repeating the Culture War mantra that John McCain has made this race all about the Culture War!

    True, there are vast differences between McCain and Obama over abortion, but how loudly has that been pushed? Are pro-choice Republicans being run out of the party or even insulted? Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice and he introduced Sarah Palin at the Convention. In every respect, the debate over abortion has been remarkable in its civility. Hardly the sort of venom I associate with the traditional Pat Buchanan-style Culture War. (The venom is coming from the other side. Yet in a remarkable twist, the people being targeted with this venom are being blamed for the very venom that's being spewed at them!)

    As to gay marriage, there is about a dime's worth of difference between McCain and Obama on that one. Both oppose same sex marriage, both said so, and even at the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden (where you'd expect culture war stuff), when the question came up, sparks failed to fly. The moderator concluded there wasn't much to debate, then moved on to the next question.

    Again, a hell of a way to run a Culture War.

    In their relentless search to declare the race a Culture War, there's been some real scraping by the left, with logic being tortured beyond all recognition.

    In the most egregious example I could find, tenured and respectable law professor Paul Campos has had the gall to maintain that raising questions about the despicable Bill Ayers constituted "culture war tactics":

    As the presidential race enters the final month, an increasingly desperate John McCain is turning to the same culture war tactics that have served the Republican Party so well for the past generation.

    McCain has attempted to link Barack Obama to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers, who as a member of the Weather Underground set off several bombs that did some serious property damage. None of the bombings Ayers was involved with killed anyone, but several years later other members of the group took part in an armed robbery in which two police officers and a guard were killed.

    Ayers has been characterized as an unrepentant terrorist by McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin. At a campaign rally last week Palin accused Obama of "launching his campaign inside the living room of a domestic terrorist."

    How attacking Bill Ayers is a culture war tactic, Campos does not say. Remember, Ayers is not about smoking pot, long hair, rock music; he's a guy with a murderous Communist ideology who literally declared war on America, worked with the enemy in North Vietnam, had plans to murder 25 million Americans, and whose only regret about is that he wasn't more successful.

    You can characterize such a mindset as many things. "Genocidal" might come to mind. But to call an attack on such a dreadful person a "culture war tactic," that's so mind-boggling in its manipulativeness and sheer dishonesty that I'm at a loss for words. (Regardless of anyone's position on abortion, gays, God, or guns, the fact is that support for hard core communists is hardly what ordinary people who are not on the outer fringes would regard as "culture war" in the regular and ordinary sense of the term.)

    But in his quest to expand the definition of culture war, Campos does not stop there. Nor was he content to make the moral equivalency comparison between Bill Ayers and G. Gordon Liddy that I've seen so many times. Instead, he expands the Ayers moral equivalency as now including Henry Kissinger.

    Oh yes. Kissinger, claims Campos, is a much worse terrorist than Bill Ayers, as he's no honored statesman, but a a war criminal who should be put on trial:

    Here's a name I'm sure Obama, McCain, Palin and everyone interested in politics is very familiar with: Henry Kissinger.

    Indeed, Kissinger is honorary co-chair of McCain's New York campaign, and a foreign policy adviser to McCain himself.

    Got that, folks? McCain's campaign is co-chaired by Kissinger the "war criminal." And in what must come as quite a surprise to people like Pat Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly, Kissinger now also belongs to the "radical right":
    And here's a very simple question that almost no one in the media seems to ask: if we're going to make the crimes of the radical left in the 1960s and 1970s a campaign issue - a time period much of which Barack Obama spent in elementary school - then how about the crimes of the radical right?

    And make no mistake: Henry Kissinger has done things that, morally speaking, make Ayers' actions, deplorable as some of them surely were, look like the equivalent of jaywalking.

    An abbreviated list of the events which have made it dangerous for Kissinger to travel overseas, because of the possibility he would be arrested as a war criminal, include: covertly sabotaging Vietnam peace talks in 1968 in order to help get Richard Nixon elected; playing a key role in convincing Nixon to launch illegal wars in Laos and Cambodia (the latter action helped create the conditions that led the Cambodian genocide); helping to plan the overthrow of Chile's democratically-elected government, which included numerous assassinations funded by the CIA (again, all this in direct violation of international law); and helping to facilitate the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which may have killed as many as 200,000 civilians.

    Kissinger appears to have had every bit as much contempt for the law as Ayers, with the difference being that his brand of contempt led to millions of deaths.

    Every bit as much contempt for the law as Ayers? If your jaw hasn't dropped all the way to your knees by now, remember that the author of this garbage teaches law at the University of Colorado.

    Campos has a problem with the fact that this Secretary of State for three administrations can be respectable.

    The other difference is that playing a key role in a radical political movement that manages to take over the United States government is much more likely to get you to continue to be invited to swank dinner parties on the Upper East Side of New York, no matter how much blood may be on your hands.

    That social fact doesn't make Henry Kissinger more respectable than Bill Ayers.

    Remember, the above is in a piece titled "Desperate McCain turns to culture war."

    ("Desperate law professor turns to justifying murderous ideology" is how I might title it, but then, I'm not a fan of the people who side with our enemies and who sympathize with people who would have created killing fields in America.)

    Of course, it should be remembered that Paul Campos has a long history as a professional clown, so maybe he'd say he was just joking, and that humorless bloggers like me just don't get his kind of satire. (Hey, I can hope, can't I?)

    And much as I tire of the culture war, with the way it's being expanded to include things that are not normally thought of as culture war issues, maybe I should see the existence of these overwrought and even nonsensical culture war arguments as a sign of hope.

    So, in that regard, and in the interest of keeping hopes alive for the death of the culture war, I thought I should also point out Thomas Friedman's fascinating attempt -- in a piece titled "McCain regresses to culture-war candidate" -- to call drilling for oil a "culture war" issue:

    Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology - fossil fuels - rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology - renewable energy? Of course, we're going to need oil for many years, but instead of exalting that - with "drill, baby, drill" - why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra "invent, baby, invent"?

    I dwell on this issue because it is symbolic of the campaign that John McCain has decided to run. It's a campaign now built on turning everything possible into a cultural wedge issue - including even energy policy, no matter how stupid it makes the voters look and no matter how much it might weaken America.

    I respected Mr. McCain's willingness to support the troop surge in Iraq, even if it was going to cost him the Republican nomination. Now the same guy, who would not sell his soul to win his party's nomination, is ready to sell every piece of his soul to win the presidency.

    Drilling? For oil? Excuse me?

    OK, I've heard of "NO BLOOD FOR OIL!" but Friedman's new quantum leap would make a culture warrior out of poor old Uncle Jed!


    And why not? (Uncle Jed's offenses against the bureaucracy would make Joe the Plumber's offenses look like chickenfeed. 'Bout time they sicced the bureaucrats on the guy!)

    Notice that in all of these instances, it isn't McCain who's expanded the definition of the Culture War; it's his critics. A rather neat trick, really. Calling oil drilling part of the Culture War is the rhetorical expansion, but that is accomplished under the cover of claiming it's McCain who's doing the expanding. Incredible. [Well, at least Friedman didn't say that advocacy of oil drilling is a form of racism.]

    What's next? Will they try to drag John McCain's pet ferret into this "war"?

    I have long considered the Culture War to be a dishonestly expanded political grab-bag. But the current redefined Culture War meme is merely a dishonest expansion of a dishonest expansion, in order to accuse the McCain camp of waging a "war" which is actually being waged against them by their critics.

    The only bright side is that at this rate, no one will know what the Culture War is.

    But might that make it even more impossible to "end"?

    posted by Eric at 02:22 PM | Comments (2)

    Racing Towards Riots

    Erica Jong predicts that if Obama loses there will be a second civil war in America. One wag at the site linked (Hot Air) had this to say:

    If Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets, believe me.
    The sad part is that this is starting to sound like a good idea.

    RedWinged Blackbird on November 1, 2008 at 10:53 AM

    Now let me see if I can figure out the order of battle. One side believes in gun control and the other side believes in the right to keep and bear arms. You know it is a tough call, but I'm betting on the side with more firearms training and firearms in their possession.

    My ugly prediction? About 22 cities with disturbances that last more than a day and 15 with major arson. About 27 dead unless the arsonists manage to torch buildings full of people. My number one city on the list is Chicago. Obama already has Grant Park staked out. Just like '68. Number two? Detroit. And you know what? For once I hope my prediction is totally over wrought. Here is one case where I would love to be proved wrong. Totally.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:05 AM | Comments (8)

    The Anecdotes Just Keep On Coming

    Via a comment at HillBuzz comes a link to audio of a Republican Operative who says some pretty outrageous things about the state of the election. Things like McCain is way ahead in Pennsylvania. And that McCain has a chance in California. Who could believe it? Here are the numbers the operative gives according to GOP internal polls.

    NJ McCain 48 Obama 43 Undecided 7
    MI McCain 44 Obama 42 Undecided 10
    CA McCain 43 Obama 44 Undecided 9 Barr 3
    PA McCain 55 Obama 33 Undecided 10

    Undecideds are going for McCain by 4 to 1 the operative says.

    If you want to listen to the audio you can click here.May I suggest that you do a save as - because the audio loads slow (even with broadband) and it might not complete if you open it in a tab or a window. Or you can listen to it at YouTube. The whole thing is a little under 6 minutes and really worth your time because it is very interesting.

    Of course the whole thing could be nuts and the national polls could be right. So may I suggest:

    Don't give it to him. Make him steal it.

    Because it is not over until it is over and that won't be until the morning of 5 November. Every vote counts. Not just in the win/loss column but also as a show of support.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:02 AM | Comments (3)

    You Betcha

    HillBuzz has this to say about their Halloween Report.

    Halloween costumes are a reflection of the zeitgeist in that moment -- Palin and McCain were the costumes on people's minds, because they are who are in the pop culture's imagination right now.

    The ticket that is best represented in Halloween costumes in an election year is the ticket that has won the White House since people first started paying attention to this anecdotal barometer.

    If that's true, then there's a chance this election could not even be close and McCain/Palin could absolutely TROUNCE the Democrats. We've never seen that many representations of a Republican ticket out at Halloween. Never.

    The report is from - you are not going to believe this - Chicago. And you know what else they report? Not one single Obama costume. None. ∅.

    Based on this obviously anecdotal report the HillBuzz guys expect a McCain/Palin blow out.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:07 AM | Comments (5)

    I hear you knockin! But you can't come in!

    So I'm reading this, because Justin told me to go to Protein Wisdom and find it. As it happened, just as I was right in the middle of it -- savoring every mean and vicious Rethuglican word -- a team of Obamacrat volunteers came knocking at my door.

    They were furiously barked at, and I merely waved through the window and yelled "I know!" (An acceptable answer to them, even if it says nothing.) Then I went back to my reading.

    ...It is no coincidence that formerly reliable conservative pundits are jumping the McCain ship like bilge rats in a galley fire. Most people attribute this craven capitulation to elitism. Noonan, Frum, Chris Buckley, that dithering Converse finishing school twit Kathleen Parker, they're elitists! No, they're not. Or that's not what is compelling them. They are fucking afraid. Afraid to be the last dissenting voice in the face of the Hope and Change juggernaut. The Chinese kid versus the tanks in Tiannamen they are not. They are elitists, but they are cowards first and foremost. We don't need them. And, unfortunately for them, Obama doesn't need them. Therefore I will speak their names no more.
    Read it all -- especially the many thoughtful and insightful comments from outraged fulminating lefties.

    I don't know whether Velociworld is right about the fear factor, but things done under duress are less culpable than things done in a deliberate and reflective manner. Besides, I have good friends who are voting for Obama, and if I can forgive them, what right have I to hold fearful Republicans to a different standard?

    It does not speak well of this country that anyone would cast a vote for or against anyone out of fear, though.

    Because, it's not as if someone is in the voting booth looking over anyone's shoulder.

    Which reminds me of a bumpersticker I'd like to see....


    MORE: Speaking of secret voting, Michele Catalano reflects on her father's advice -- "Don't ever tell anyone who you are voting for."

    She has repeatedly failed to heed that advice, and explains how you can lose friends that way.

    Of course, I think that begs the question of whether any "friend" you lose that way was a true friend in the first place.

    posted by Eric at 03:38 PM | Comments (10)

    Voter Intimidation from our friends in the Press

    Many of you, like me, may know Seattle's consciously lefty paper the Stranger through sex-columnist cum-editor Dan Savage. I occasionally read his column, Savage Love, and I listen to his podcast weekly. He's entertaining, informative, and like many people, a blind follower of the Democratic party with zero tolerance for Republicans of any stripe. I let that slide, as I do with my fellow teachers, my old professors in graduate school, and others who mistake faddish anti-republicanism for free thought.

    And it's in the pages of Savage's paper the Stranger that one finds the most objectionable, inflammatory bit of voter intimidation I've seen this season: a tour of "Hell Houses" of Seattle's Eastside. It's presented as a tour of Halloween sights, the sort of thing newspapers not uncommonly print to help people find well-decorated houses (especially popular at Christmastime).

    The twist here is that photographs of people's homes, along with their addresses, are posted with pseudo-humorous descriptions that sometimes read as thinly veiled requests to destroy private property:

    By day, it's a standard collection of yard signs on a well-manicured lawn. But at night, it's a GOP graveyard, where the yard-sign tombstones are unearthed by zombie candidates hungry for brains. Do you have what it takes to drive a stake through the heart of zombie Dino Rossi or blast a shotgun into the chest of zombie Dave Reichert or fight off the reanimated ashes of Steve Litzow, swirling out of that terrifying urn? Run.
    Do you have what it takes--what this paper lacks? Do you have what it takes to go to this house and shoot out the signs on this family's lawn?

    If these monsters want to make themselves known through such public displays as political signs, I suppose it's only natural that the villagers will come with their pitchforks, and their torches. Or in this case, perhaps, shotguns.


    posted by Dennis at 12:20 PM | Comments (3)

    Clinging to valium (and V is for what?)

    Feminist author and icon Erica Jong has stated that an Obama loss "Will Spark the Second American Civil War" and that "Blood Will Run in the Streets":

    Basically, Jong says her fear that Obama might lose the election has developed into an "obsession. A paralyzing terror. An anxious fever that keeps you awake at night." She also says that her friends Jane Fonda and Naomi Wolf are extremely worried that Obama will be sabotaged by Republican dirty tricks, and that if an Obama loss indeed comes to pass, the result will be a second American Civil War.
    Fitfully describing the back spasms she shares with Jane Fonda and her need for Valium (with a histrionic mention of the "Republican Mafia"), Jong elaborates on her paranoid theory:
    "If Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets, believe me. And it's not a coincidence that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets."

    "Bush has transformed America into a police state, from torture to the imprisonment of reporters, to the Patriot Act."

    Obviously, tempers would be running hot if McCain were to win, but that's only because people (especially Obama supporters and BDS sufferers) have been conditioned to believe that it would be impossible. I doubt blood would run in the streets if McCain were to win, but people would do well to remember that even according to the polls so many people have been claiming were biased in Obama's favor, McCain has been ahead five times in the past, and if he happens to pull ahead on Election Day, that would not indicate a plot.

    Again, depending on who you ask, just as Bush did not win in '04, McCain will not win in '08. Nor will Obama win in '08.

    I predict lots of anger all around, and the usual spasms of high-volume, fever-pitch lunacy.

    I guess I'll have to do without the valium.

    In the event danger threatens, I have other things to cling to....

    MORE: I'm wondering which side would be more likely to accept defeat graciously.

    So what the heck, here's another poll.

    Which side would be more gracious about losing the election?
    The McCain side
    The Obama side
  free polls

    And remember,


    (Perhaps McCain ought to consider that as a campaign slogan.)

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

    Fusion Report 31 Oct 008

    Rick Nebel of EMC2 explains what the recent flurry of contracts from the Navy (New IEC Fusion Experiment Contract) was all about.

    This isn't a big deal. This is small, interim funding. It's called staying alive until they make a decision.
    At least they are going to be able to keep the team together until a decision is made.

    This is not unusual in business. I was once hired for a contract by an aerospace company for some very special work and was paid (at a very good rate) for six months to surf the Internet. Just so I wouldn't take a contract elsewhere. When the project was finally authorized I did my job and the team I worked with got it done on time and under budget. Not the norm in aerospace.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:41 AM | Comments (1)

    September 2011
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
            1 2 3
    4 5 6 7 8 9 10
    11 12 13 14 15 16 17
    18 19 20 21 22 23 24
    25 26 27 28 29 30  


    Search the Site


    Classics To Go

    Classical Values PDA Link


    Recent Entries


    Site Credits