Ending the cycles of preventative reaction

Via Glenn Reynolds (who sees a tipoff in the "candlelight vigils"), Rand Simberg skewers one of the most idiotic arguments I have yet heard against armed self defense.

Anti-gun activists have found a convenient poster boy for their cause -- one John Woods, described as "a student at Virginia Tech when his girlfriend and several other people he knew there were gunned down." Woods says he thought about getting a gun, then rejected the idea, for reasons I find incomprehensible:

There were times when Woods thought that maybe he should get a gun.

"Then I learned pretty fast that wouldn't solve anything," said Woods, who is now a graduate student at UT. "The idea that somebody could stop a school shooting with a gun is impossible. It's reactive, not preventative."

Today, Woods is among the leaders in a fight against bills in the Texas Legislature that would allow licensed concealed gun carriers to take their weapons to school.

If the "idea" that somebody could stop a school shooting with a gun is impossible, then what could possibly explain the fact that shootings stop when the gunman is finally shot?

reactive, not preventative?

Whatever can he mean? That it is wrong to react? Are the two mutually exclusive? Isn't it self-apparent that a reaction (say, shooting the shooter) can also be preventative? And is not what he would call "prevention" (in the form of gun control) also reactive in nature?

Why isn't it "reactive" to fight against bills that would allow concealed carry?

I'm having trouble understanding how this false dichotomy assists anyone's understanding in any way.

Perhaps I'm being reactive, though.

Were I more preventative, I'd go attend a candlelight vigil.

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




Joe Biden's Daughter Snorting Cocaine?

A friend of Joe Biden's daughter claims to have video of her snorting cocaine. The daughter's name is Ashley. The video is for sale.

The New York Post and Radar online reported that lawyers representing the seller claimed that the footage was of Ashley Biden, 27, a social worker, at a party and initially wanted $2 million for the tape. They described the seller as a "friend" of Miss Biden.

Mr Biden coined the term "drugs czar" and has been an outspoken supporter of the "war on drugs" waged by the United States.

There will be no war on Ashley Biden. You can count on it. The Drug War is for the little people. You have to wonder though what kind of friend would do such a thing? Maybe it was Ashley's friend Heather.
"On the tape a man cuts up five lines of what is said to be cocaine," Radar online reported.

"The woman, who the seller says is Ashley, then jokes with the man that the lines aren't big enough.

"The man hands her a rolled-up dollar bill and she proceeds to walk a few steps to a table where the cocaine is cut. She pulls her hair back, bends down and snorts a line."

A dollar bill for snorting cocaine? It looks like the recession is hurting all segments of the American market. Hard. It is difficult to imagine any self respecting user of Bolivian Marching Powder using anything smaller than a twenty in good times.
There was no immediate response to the allegations from Mr Biden, his daughter or the White House.
An anonymous and totally unreliable source has reported that President "I Snorted" is reputed to have said when he got the news, "Damn, why wasn't I informed there was a party going on?"
The party was said to have taken place in Wilmington, Delaware and the lawyer said that Miss Biden's boyfriend was there and clearly identifiable on the tape.

Miss Biden was arrested in 2002 for shouting at a Chicago policeman who was trying to arrest a disorderly friend outside a nightclub.

She was also arrested in 1999 for marijuana possession while she was a university student in New Orleans. In both cases, charges were later dropped.

Charges were dropped. As I said. The Drug War is for the little people. For the connected there is a "get out of jail free" card. Two arrests and no convictions. And shouting at a policeman? Depending on the neighborhood that can be a capital crime with summary justice administered to the miscreant. In this case it seems it was the officer who dodged the bullet. Shooting a Senator's daughter would definitely be a very bad career move. And if "Drug War" Joe was VP at the time it would have been worse.

One thing is for sure. If the drug laws were enforced fairly the drug war would be ended in short order.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)



Yes, but is it hypocrisy?

Drudge links a press release which reconfirms some old news -- the radical animal rights group PETA euthanizes thousands of animals:

According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers.

Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia's State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.

CCF Research Director David Martosko said: "PETA hasn't slowed down its hypocritical killing machine one bit, but it keeps browbeating the rest of society with a phony 'animal rights' message. What about the rights of the thousands of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens that die in PETA's headquarters building?"

I see a problem in calling PETA "hypocritical," though. The organization has long been on record as opposing all pet ownership, which it believes to be morally wrong. (PETA has a particularly bizarre obsession with pit bulls, and their goal for the breed has long been total extermination. Yes, PETA wants to kill Coco. In the name of "ethics.")

Moreover, PETA's official position on euthanasia is that it's morally right:

As difficult as it may be for us to accept, euthanasia (when carried out by veterinarians or trained shelter professionals with a painless intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital) is often the most compassionate and dignified way for unwanted animals to leave an uncaring world.
While I might be inclined to agree in the abstract, I think PETA defines "unwanted" as meaning unwanted by PETA for purposes of adoption. Logically, if they
a) oppose pet ownership;

b) have custody of the animals they believe it immoral to own;

c) believe in euthanasia;

then killing them becomes a moral duty.

Twisted by my standards (because I support pet ownership), but hardly an act of hypocrisy.

posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (8)




What did they expect?

The murders of four police officers in Oakland, California by a wanted parole violator with a long record has generated predictable reactions.

Naturally, there are calls for more gun control, like this plea for passage of a renewed ban on "assault weapons." (California already has a draconian ban on "assault weapons" as well as strict laws making it a crime for an ex felon to be in possession of any gun. Advocates of tougher laws can't seem to get it through their heads that laws are lost on lawless people.)

Another approach is to advance arguments like this that ex-felons are "desperate" -- so employers must be made to hire them.

If you think this view is laughable (or hard core leftist fringe), think again. Oakland's current Mayor Ron Dellums ran and was elected on such a platform. Many cities are busily implementing policies which amount to affirmative action hiring for felons, and there have been legislative attempts to make "discrimination" against people with criminal records illegal. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter pushed a plan promoting the hiring of felons, and President Obama is described as sympathetic to their plight.

I realize that no rule is right all the time, but isn't it possible that not all of these felons are good people? I mean, what if some of them are just downright bad? Or is that not considered possible by the John Lennon Imagine crowd?

The problem here for me is that there's nothing to debate. Some people think that there are bad people who should be locked up, while others don't think there is such a thing as a bad person, and that prison is immoral. (In the words of the prison abolition group "Critical Resistance" the idea is to end "society's use of prisons and policing as an answer to social problems." Sorry, but if someone wants to break into my house to rob me, that is not merely a "social problem.")

Oakland's deliberate policy of not making arrests has only caused crime to go up.

My reaction (then and now) is along the lines of "What did they expect?"

There's no real room for rational argument, though, between people who think the evil actions of an evil individual are society's fault and those who think it is the blame and fault lie with the individual wrongdoer. Something like this happens, and it only causes them to re-emphasize and re-assert their beliefs.

Maybe a threshold question could be along the lines of whether there are bad people in the world.

posted by Eric at 11:29 AM | Comments (8)



Zero Gravity Diet for a healthy (non) planet

I stumbled across a video in which "Expedition Six NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit demonstrates how the International Space Station crew prepares and eats snacks" -- one of which is honey and peanut butter.

"You mix peanut butter and honey, and man, it doesn't get any better than that!"

He also notes that because of the properties of the mix, it does many neat things in zero gravity, but I was so intrigued by his endorsement of the taste that I went to the kitchen and tried it.

It's highly addictive, so I hope it's good for me.

posted by Eric at 08:51 AM | Comments (5)



Primarily A Source Of Cash

Hizballah has set up shop in Mexico and a few points south. It seems they are interested in taking advantage of a business opportunity.

Hezbollah is using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins do to smuggle drugs and people into the United States, reaping money to finance its operations and threatening U.S. national security, current and former U.S. law enforcement, defense and counterterrorism officials say.

The Iran-backed Lebanese group has long been involved in narcotics and human trafficking in South America's tri-border region of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Increasingly, however, it is relying on Mexican narcotics syndicates that control access to transit routes into the U.S.

Hezbollah relies on "the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels," said Michael Braun, who just retired as assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

"They work together," said Mr. Braun. "They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another, they are all connected.

"They'll leverage those relationships to their benefit, to smuggle contraband and humans into the U.S.; in fact, they already are [smuggling]."

His comments were confirmed by six U.S. officials, including law enforcement, defense and counterterrorism specialists. They spoke on the condition that they not be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

So let me see if I get this. Through the magic of prohibition we are paying criminals and terrorists tens of billions of dollars every year to breach our borders. The brilliance of a policy like that can't be underestimated especially when sold as a protective measure. Protect from what? The free availability of illegal drugs. Which are in fact freely available. It is about as whack as believing socialism can work for large nations. Or believing in gun prohibition. A lot of my 2nd Amendment friends tell me that gun prohibition can never work. And they are right. Unfortunately a lot of them don't seem to be able to generalize.

Where were we? Oh yeah. Smugglers. And Hizballah.

While Hezbollah appears to view the U.S. primarily as a source of cash - and there have been no confirmed Hezbollah attacks within the U.S. - the group's growing ties with Mexican drug cartels are particularly worrisome at a time when a war against and among Mexican narco-traffickers has killed 7,000 people in the past year and is destabilizing Mexico along the U.S. border.
Primarily a source of cash. For now.

You have to hand it to a policy that finances our enemies in Afghanistan and Mexico and supports criminals in America. And especially that it is sold as a protection racket. "If you don't support drug prohibition your kids will have easy access to drugs and all become addicts." Except that currently pot is easier for kids to get than beer. Say didn't we have beer prohibition at one time? Yes we did. And wasn't one of the reasons we ended it was that kids were coming to school drunk? Yes it was. Have we learned anything from the alcohol prohibition experience? Look at the evidence.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:22 AM | Comments (2)




Industrial Production

America has an industrial strength system for producing criminals. Senator Jim Webb is not happy about it.

America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.

We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration. Twenty-five years ago, I went to Japan on assignment for PARADE to write a story on that country's prison system. In 1984, Japan had a population half the size of ours and was incarcerating 40,000 sentenced offenders, compared with 580,000 in the United States. As shocking as that disparity was, the difference between the countries now is even more astounding--and profoundly disturbing. Since then, Japan's prison population has not quite doubled to 71,000, while ours has quadrupled to 2.3 million.

Let me see, 2.3 million divided by 71,000 is about a factor of 32. So we have 32 times as many prisoners per capita as Japan does. The disparity seems excessive. Senator Webb agrees.
The United States has by far the world's highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. In addition, more than 5 million people who recently left jail remain under "correctional supervision," which includes parole, probation, and other community sanctions. All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. This all comes at a very high price to taxpayers: Local, state, and federal spending on corrections adds up to about $68 billion a year.
In these days of trillion dollar budgets $68 billion dollars doesn't seem like a whole lot. But consider this: $68 billion is enough money to completely fund experiments on every type of fusion device known to man until there is a functioning net power generator. That includes things like ITER (which is already way over budget), Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) which is a very low budget operation, Cold Fusion which is not well understood, and a host of other schemes and devices. Then we take the $68 billion we are going to spend next year and put it into wind power research, the following year liquid fuels, another year energy storage, etc. So what am I saying? That the "investments" in the prison industrial complex are not giving us a good rate of return compared to some alternatives.

Senator Webb then goes into the why of it.

Over the past two decades, we have been incarcerating more and more people for nonviolent crimes and for acts that are driven by mental illness or drug dependence. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 16% of the adult inmates in American prisons and jails--which means more than 350,000 of those locked up--suffer from mental illness, and the percentage in juvenile custody is even higher. Our correctional institutions are also heavily populated by the "criminally ill," including inmates who suffer from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
The "criminally ill" include not only those who come to prison with an illness but also those who have contracted their conditions in prison.

And what is the heart of incarceration mania?

Drug offenders, most of them passive users or minor dealers, are swamping our prisons. According to data supplied to Congress' Joint Economic Committee, those imprisoned for drug offenses rose from 10% of the inmate population to approximately 33% between 1984 and 2002. Experts estimate that this increase accounts for about half of the dramatic escalation in the total number imprisoned over that period. Yet locking up more of these offenders has done nothing to break up the power of the multibillion-dollar illegal drug trade. Nor has it brought about a reduction in the amounts of the more dangerous drugs--such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines--that are reaching our citizens.

Justice statistics also show that 47.5% of all the drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. Additionally, nearly 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or of any significant selling activity. Indeed, four out of five drug arrests were for possession of illegal substances, while only one out of five was for sales. Three-quarters of the drug offenders in our state prisons were there for nonviolent or purely drug offenses. And although experts have found little statistical difference among racial groups regarding actual drug use, African-Americans--who make up about 12% of the total U.S. population--accounted for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.

It is almost like we have figured out how to reimpliment Jim Crow without mentioning race at all. We just tell our police: arrest the drug offenders. You know who (wink, nod) - those people. Stay out of Beverly Hills which is full of fine upstanding citizens who can cause a lot of political heat and focus on Compton where we can handle things our way.

So it doesn't have to be Jim Crow by design. It could be Jim Crow as an emergent property of the system. It is still Jim Crow.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:33 PM | Comments (3)




We need to crack down on selfish people!

Reflecting on the merging of government with big business and the "too big to fail" meme, Jonah Goldberg recalls a vintage if chilling Hillarism:

Hillary Clinton's health-care plan required working with large corporations and other firms. It was little guys for whom she had nothing but contempt. When warned her plan would crush smaller businesses, she shrugged, "I can't go out and save every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America."
A rather odd definition of "save," don't you think? No doubt she saw (and sees) small business recalcitrance to being ruined as selfish and stubborn.

Of course such was her logic then. This is now:

"Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border . . . causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians."
Since when are "we" chargeable with smuggling by Mexicans (many of whom are in the government)? Certainly, it's our job to defend our own country against invaders, but if foreign countries can't control what goes on in their countries, they have no right to demand that Americans lose the right to buy guns (clearly the goal here).

Are we approaching a time when self-defense will be condemned as "selfish."

Would anyone say that I'm responsible for auto theft because I own cars? Well, yes, some would, but the thinking is so illogical that no serious person would take it seriously. Yet Hillary is carrying the same logic one stage further, as if she said that American car ownership is the cause of international auto smuggling rings.

What a relief it was to find some simple relief in this Ayn Rand interview that Dr. Helen linked yesterday:


In addition to saying "If you made it yourself,....Why shouldn't you keep it, you made it," Rand discusses and condemns altruism (which lies at the root of the idea that criminals are victims, victims are culpable, that kulak types who refuse to collectivize are evil, and the state is beneficent).

How did the altruists manage to win?

posted by Eric at 10:11 PM | Comments (6)



Keep An Eye On Polywell

Agora Financials has something interesting to say about Polywell Fusion.

"Polywell fusion technology could be the biggest monkey wrench in the history of markets," writes our technology adviser Patrick Cox. If you're unfamiliar (we certainly were), fusion is often tagged as one potential "fuel of the future." Instead of splitting atoms, like the nuclear fission we use today, it fuses them.

"Polywell," explains Patrick, "is a different approach to fusion energy that's generating huge buzz in tech circles. If, as proponents claim, commercial polywell fusion is only four or five years away, it would be the biggest monkey wrench in the history of markets. It would be both good and bad, however.

"It promises energy so cheap as to be virtually free. Some scientists believe that power would be driven down to 1% or less of its current cost. Even if it were 5% or 10%, though, the impact would be staggering.

"The economic roots of global poverty would disappear. Within a decade, desalinized water, food, transportation and most physical goods would plummet in price. The Third World would achieve a higher standard of living than the First World enjoys today. The First World would have options that are almost inconceivable. Whole sectors would collapse, but new ones would rise and more than compensate for the lost equity values."

It almost goes without saying: This technology still has many hurdles to clear. "But the chance that polywell is what the scientists say it is, however, requires that we watch this very, very closely," says Patrick.

Yep.

I do take issue with one point. I think energy at 1% of today's cost is a long ways into the future if it ever comes. However, estimates of 10% of current costs are certainly reasonable with initial production units coming in at 50% of current electrical energy costs. All of which assumes it will work. Which is so far unproven. However, the work the US Navy is doing could provide the proof - one way or the other. More money (a few tens of millions) would give us the answer faster. If the answer is positive a net power producer test reactor at a cost of $100 million or so (engineering, fabrication, tests) would be in order. If that worked out we could go ahead on an electrical power generating unit and production facilities at a probable investment cost of $1 billion. However, a billion in investment money would not be hard to raise at that point.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained
Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:47 PM | Comments (3)



Stimunism


H/T Commenter Wes from Four Times As Much

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:11 AM | Comments (1)




mad over madenism

It came as amazing news to me, but via Clayton Cramer I learned something interesting:

we are still making stuff in America (besides worthless mortgages). I lost the circular level that I use for manufacturing ScopeRoller caster assemblies, so I had to buy a new one. I found a Empire Bullseye Circular Level at Home Depot for a bit under $3.

Made in USA by
EMPIRE LEVEL MFG. CORP.
Mukwonago, WI 53149
www.empirelevel.com

I needed some round, 1" dies to use with my lathe. I went to McMaster-Carr to order them--and I discovered that American made dies were only a few dollars more than imports. Just to be sure, when they arrived, I checked each of them. The packaging says Greenfield, and the dies are stamped USA. I've previously mentioned my surprise and pleasure at the number of items that I have bought, assuming that they were made somewhere else--and they were made in USA.

American manufacturing isn't dead. Labor union American manufacturing may be dying, but that's not the same thing.

That is incredibly cool. I can't tell you how many times in my recent 3 month remodeling job in California I bought defective junk from China. It seems that nearly everything now is made in China, which wouldn't be so bad except when the things aren't made well.

The worst thing is when public safety is involved. While I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, I read that the construction of the replacement portion of the Bay Bridge's new eastern span is being farmed out to China. Apparently, it no longer makes sense to have the pieces fabricated here; I could live with that, but what annoyed me to no end was to read this detailed report that an American engineering company discovered defective welds in the replacement bridge sections "as many as 65 percent of the more than 30 welded panel sections .. examined" were defective.

Instead of sending them back or demanding additional testing, Caltrans got rid of the engineering company.

(01-25) 16:51 PST -- Construction of the tower portion of the Bay Bridge's new eastern span is running months behind schedule, amid questions over whether key portions being made at a Chinese steel plant are defective.

Inspectors hired by Caltrans to monitor the fabrication of steel girders that will support the tower's roadway reported finding cracked welds last year, Caltrans records show.

The discovery has raised the question whether Bay Area taxpayers are getting a substandard product that could wear out prematurely and require costly repairs in a decade or two.

Caltrans and others in charge of the bridge construction say the welds are safe and that fixes have been made - but also say the inspectors interpreted the welding standards too rigidly.

Meanwhile, the inspection outfit that sounded the alarm has since been replaced.

"I can understand people being worked up about safety and quality with the welds," said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and part of a three-member Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee overseeing the $6.3 billion bridge construction. "But we're concerned about being on schedule because we are racing against the next earthquake."

Hey wait a second. The Bay Bridge was built in 1937, and yes, a section did fall down in the 1989 quake, and had to be replaced. (I was on the bridge during the whole ordeal, and considered myself lucky to get off of it.) But earthquakes do not occur according to schedules you can look up on a timetable. To be hurried into ignoring a known potential danger right now because of an uncertain future danger strikes me as questionable logic. (And how far does the logic go? Because there's a big hurry, will just any old replacement do? Not that I'd expect logic from lefties who on the one hand scream about saving jobs for Americans, while on the other implementing policies which make it impossible for American companies to compete with China. Or "animal rights" activists who applied so much pressure to American drug and cosmetic companies that they stopped all domestic animal testing and farmed most of it out to a country which has zero concern about animal cruelty.

I'm just glad to read that a few American companies still make things here.

This is hardly a call for protectionism. Only a naif would demand that every last item be MADE IN THE USA like this charming box of staples from the early 1950s:

staples2.jpg

Note that it even has reinforced metal corners!

My mom never went through all the staples, and she died in 1999, so I inherited her "stash" of staples. The box is half full and at the rate I go through them, it will probably outlive me. Have to say, it is charming, and it brings out my "they sure don't make things like the used to!" codger side.

Today, even "MADE IN USA" is sometimes open to question. While I was in California, I had trouble with a sticky screw on a no-hub coupling I bought at a local Ace Hardware.

Note the label (and you can see where the screw did not want to pull out):

ACENHC.jpg

Pretty straightforward, according to the label.

But look at the screw clamps themselves:

ACENHC2.jpg

It's all too easy for me to pronounce the company dishonest. Is it? What if they're allowed to put two Chinese-made things together to form a finished product? Who "made" "it"?

According to the FTC, whether the phrase "made in USA" is deceptive depends on the percentage of total manufacturing costs:

It will not be considered a deceptive practice for a marketer to make an unqualified U.S. origin claim if, at the time it makes the claim, the marketer possesses and relies upon competent and reliable evidence that: (1) U.S. manufacturing costs constitute 75% of the total manufacturing costs for the product; and (2) the product was last substantially transformed in the United States.
So if 75% of ACE's cost was to pay Americans to simply stick the rubber sleeve inside its clamp, it's "made in the USA."

Then there's this:

It will not be considered a deceptive practice for a marketer to make an unqualified U.S. origin claim if, at the time it makes the claim, the marketer possesses and relies upon competent and reliable evidence that: (1) the product was last substantially transformed in the United States; and (2) all significant inputs into the final product were last substantially transformed in the United States.
I guess "all significant inputs into the final product" could mean deciding how to label and display the product.

posted by Eric at 05:07 PM | Comments (4)



Some Euros Have A Spine

Now if only we had a few more like him in the US.

H/T National Review

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:37 AM | Comments (2)



Amy Needs Some Readers

I just learned from Dr. Helen that Amy Alkon "The Advice Goddess" needs some readers. You can start here.

If you want to do more, Amy has a book Free Advice. Read it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:52 AM | Comments (0)




The Reds Are In Charge
Debt Load


A nice graphic to go with my previous post Four Times As Much. The graphic was originally done by The Washington Post.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:56 PM | Comments (1)



Four Times As Much

It seems that the Government of Mr. Obama has plans to run up a debt four times as big as George Bush did.

President Barack Obama's budget would produce $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade, more than four times the deficits of Republican George W. Bush's presidency, congressional auditors said Friday.

The new Congressional Budget Office figures offered a far more dire outlook for Obama's budget than the new administration predicted just last month -- a deficit $2.3 trillion worse. It's a prospect even the president's own budget director called unsustainable.

In his White House run, Obama assailed the economic policies of his predecessor, but the eye-popping deficit numbers threaten to swamp his ambitious agenda of overhauling health care, exploring new energy sources and enacting scores of domestic programs.

The dismal deficit figures, if they prove to be accurate, inevitably raise the prospect that Obama and his Democratic allies controlling Congress would have to consider raising taxes after the recession ends or else pare back his agenda.

By CBO's calculation, Obama's budget would generate deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year of red ink over 2010-2019.

Worst of all, CBO says the deficit under Obama's policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy, figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product, a dangerously high level.

Fortunately that is based on optimistic projections. If more a pessimistic scenario emerges in fact the debt run up will be higher.

And that does not even factor in the fact that the Fed is printing money to buy T Bills.

Thank the Maker we elected the Smartest President Ever™. Because just think of the mess we would be in had we elected another dummy like Bush.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:23 AM | Comments (2)




Just checking in

Hey everybody, I'm still alive but I've been offline for an extended period, and I just wanted readers to know that while I've been unable to blog since last Thursday, the current crisis is almost under control, and hopefully I will be back to something resembling blogging this weekend.

I miss the blog, and all of you.

Stay tuned.

posted by Eric at 03:47 PM | Comments (4)




A New Hope: Cold Fusion

Cold fusion is back in the news.

If cold fusion can be made to work, it could power the world cheaply on a virtually limitless supply of seawater. But scientists don't even know if it's possible.

Now a new study has produced evidence for the existence of low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), the new name for the controversial process labeled "cold fusion" two decades ago.

Fusion is the energy source of the sun and other stars. It occurs when atomic nuclei are combined. Today's nuclear plants employ fission, the splitting of nuclei. Scientists have been striving for decades to tap fusion to produce electricity from an abundant fuel called deuterium that can be extracted from seawater. Fusion would not come with the radioactive byproducts of fission.

At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, the scientists described today what they claim is the first clear visual evidence that LENR devices can produce neutrons, subatomic particles that scientists view as tell-tale signs that nuclear reactions are occurring.

In all, 30 papers on the topic will be presented at the meeting this week as part of a 20th anniversary nod to the first description of cold fusion.

Today's announcement was not just a birthday wish, however.

"Our finding is very significant," said chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss of the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego, Calif. "To our knowledge, this is the first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from an LENR device."

That is very interesting. So far all the cold fusion guys have been able to do is to create low grade heat. Good enough for warming your coffee. Not good enough to boil water. In any case understanding what is going on will probably be useful one way or another.

I like this fusion method when it comes to generating mass quantities of energy:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers

posted by Simon at 08:40 PM | Comments (8)



The Next Bubble

You can see it coming. The next big bubble. Marijuana. Why do I say that? Because there are courses available at Marijuana University on how to profit from the coming boom in quasi legal marijuana.

Under a microscope, it's easy to tell really good marijuana from schwag. Look for trichomes. On the best pot, they cluster, thick and crystalline, indicators of potency. If you're training to become a professional pot dealer, as I was last fall, it's important to be able to pick out the good stuff. Your livelihood will depend on it. Fortunately, I had expert instruction, along with strains of varying quality to examine for my pedagogical benefit. Ranked from best to worst, they were Blueberry, Grand Daddy Purple, and Mango. Appraising them was, truth be told, slightly nerve-racking, since the assignment was sprung as a sort of pop quiz. It was part of an advanced seminar on growing and selling marijuana in which I had enrolled at the Los Angeles campus of Oaksterdam University, a new trade school founded in Oakland and devoted to the booming business of growing and dispensing medical marijuana. Or, as we liked to call it around campus, "cannabusiness."
And what happens when the government stops propping up prices with prohibition? Marijuana with a current value of $6,000 a pound will go down to the price of hot house vegetables. A few dollars a pound. At most. Where will that leave those with a fair amount of cash invested in a grow op? Busted with unsalable assets. Just the way all bubbles end.

Oh. Yeah. I forgot to mention that the California State Government is proposing a $1,600 a lb tax on marijuana. That should provide an economic floor and keep the black market more or less intact.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas


Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)




Their Motto Is "Don't Tread On Me"
A little Tea Party Music maestro.


Goddamn, well I declare, have you seen the like?
Their walls are built of cannonballs, their motto is
Don't tread on me. Come hear Uncle John's Band playing
To the tide, come with me, or go alone.
Don't Tread On Me

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:54 PM | Comments (2)



Grassley Fights Grass

This is exactly what is wrong with the Republican Party.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley criticized the Obama administration Thursday for moving to loosen restrictions on medical marijuana.

At a gathering to discuss health care reform, the Iowa lawmaker criticized the Justice Department's new policy of targeting California's medical marijuana distributors only if they violate both federal and state law.

When even former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey comes out for legalization of marijuana for adults you can tell the Republican Party is out of step with the nation. Depending on the survey between 55% and 85% of Americans favor medical marijuana. When medical marijuana is on the ballot it almost invariably does well. In fact it is so popular that some state legislatures are passing laws. On top of that Grassley is passing out discredited bromides like "mother's milk leads to harder drugs". Actually mother's milk contains marijuana analogs. It has a soothing effect on babies and makes them want to eat (well drink) more. In tests with mice - babies that didn't get their full quota of marijuana analogs didn't do well. Uh. Where was I? Distracted by breastfeeding mothers I fear.

So why is the Republican Senator denying the will of the people? I was under the impression that politics was all about winning elections, but it is entirely possible that I have a mistaken view of the process.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:53 PM | Comments (3)




Torture Or Cosmetology?

Some people think this is torture.

Last week, the Daily News reported that the board had introduced a proposal to ban genital waxing in New Jersey's spas and salons, something the board claimed was already illegal but never spelled out in the regulations.

The board cited public safety as a main issue, saying that two women injured by Brazilian waxes had come forward with complaints. One of them filed a lawsuit.

Salon owners, including Orsuto, felt that the ban would strip women of a popular, albeit painful, procedure and only contribute to unsafe conditions. Many women, the owners claimed, would try to wax themselves or visit unlicensed spas to maintain hair-free.

I can just see it now: "Talk or we will pull your pubic hairs out. Painfully." With the response "But that is torture." Followed by the counter: "Nope. Legal cosmetology in New Jersey. People pay to have this done. We are giving it to you for free."

I swear. If someone threatened to wax me I might just talk.

But there are markets to consider. People (women especially) pay to have this done. Has any one considered the market for people who would like to watch the procedure? And what woman wouldn't like to receive a bikini wax certificate for her birthday, anniversary, or that special holiday for lovers - Valentine's Day? And for do it yourselfers there is a NSFW video. Seriously. It is an actual instructional video. You have to imagine the good parts. And the screaming.

And that is not all. You can buy the products used in the instructional video at Amazon. Torture or Cosmetology? Well this is America. You can have both for the same low price.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:57 PM | Comments (1)



A Picture is Worth A Trillion Dollars
PDO vs CO2
Click for larger view

A picture is worth 1,000 words sometimes. Sometimes it is worth a trillion dollars. This one could be worth even more if it explains global temperatures better than the IPPC's computer extrapolations.

This graph is the work of Syun-Ichi Akasofu who has a few words on climate.

Akasofu is one of the 400 scientists listed in a report issued by the Republican minority of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works entitled Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007 who were said to dispute the theory of anthropogenic global warming.
And that is not even counting the solar guys who think that we may be entering an era of very low sunspot activity which may lead through mechanisms not fully understood to a Maunder Minimum type ice age. What ever happens we are sure going to learn a lot. One thing we do know for sure about politicians. They prefer to never let a crisis go to waste. Real or imagined. Makes no difference. If they could get people to fear ghosts they would raise a tax on exorcisms.

H/T seedload at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)



No Accident

guy on internet had something interesting to say in response to Welfare For The Rich.

All consumption-based tax credits are "for the rich," or at least the not-poor. You have to buy them, while whatever poor people buy a disproportionate lot of gets "sin" taxed at above the highest marginal income-tax rate.

That's not all a bunch of accidents.

I'm beginning to see a pattern.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)




More Welfare For The Rich

It looks like we not only have Welfare for the Rich. We have another case of the same welfare. Want a $50,000 electric sports car? Have we got a deal for you.

When Tesla formally announced the Model S Sedan last June, the MSRP bandied was about $60,000 for the all-electric sedan. In its newsletter today, Tesla has confirmed that the "anticipated base price" for the Model S will be $57,400. With a federal tax credit of $7,500 available, however, the Model S should cost just $49,900. Details on what's included in the base version of the Model S should be available at the vehicle's official unveiling next week.
What a great deal. For a bailed out banker. Or a Fannie Mae executive.

I think this whole deal is supposed to work on the trickle down theory. First the rich get the cars and then when they become used cars the rest of us have a chance. Now I believe in trickle down myself. If it weren't for used cars I wouldn't have a car. But please. Couldn't we do it without subsidies?

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:39 PM | Comments (3)




Welfare For The Rich

Are you in the market for a new car this year? I thought not. But if you are Mr. Obama has a deal for you.

Los Angeles (myFOXla.com) - President Barack Obama announced today in Pomona that his administration will help put a million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015 and offer $7,500 tax credits for people who buy them.

Obama, appearing at Southern California Edison's electrical vehicle technical center, where next-generation car batteries are being made, said the incentives are part of an overall plan to upgrade the nation's energy infrastructure.

He said the country has not made independence from foreign oil a priority, noting that the 1908 Model T Ford got better mileage than a typical sport utility vehicle in 2008.

"So the problem isn't a lack of technology," he said. "You're producing the technology right here. The problem is that, for decades, we have avoided doing what must be done as a nation to turn challenge into opportunity.

And what is the challenge? Producing a hybrid at a low enough cost so that you at least break even on the gasoline saved vs. the added cost. And what will a $7,500 subsidy for those who can afford a new car do? It will maintain the price differential between a hybrid and a conventional vehicle at $7,500. Now this might be viable if it was something like $7,500 the first year and $6,500 the second, etc. down to zero. The same thing we should be doing to wind subsidies. However, I see nothing like that in the plan.

There is in the plan $1 billion dollars (only a billion? is that significant?) to upgrade the electrical grid. If that goes into R & D to develop components for HVDC transmission, or carbon nanotube conductors and high power transistors, or the Smart Grid initiative we might actually get something useful for the money. OTOH if they are just going out and buying stuff it will not help much at all.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:29 PM | Comments (8)



Hello Walls

It seems the Most Inexperienced President Ever™ is having one or two problems with his first two months in office.

For all his articulateness and gift for oratory, this president seems to be spending his time in the Oval Office walking into walls. He has botched up more things in two months in office than most presidents manage over two terms, amply illustrating the campaign charge that his inexperience equipped him for next to nothing.

I was particularly shocked at how he engaged in fear mongering as he won rush-job passage of a sloppily constructed, do-little stimulus package that reversed the welfare reforms widely considered the most important achievement of the Clinton years. Now he whistles an optimistic tune. Did he finally get it that the more you talk down the economy, the further down it goes?

The likelier truth is that, after fear did its designated job, he turned booster as a way of justifying what could be the biggest, most costly budget that has ever come our way. Given that we have tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities from Social Security and Medicare and will spend incredible amounts to lift the economy, a very real possibility with such a budget is hyperinflation destroying the savings of everyone.

I don't know about hyper inflation but, I'm (sadly) pretty confident we are in for a bout of inflation at rates above 10% a year.

A lot of folks are now claiming that the Obama in Office is not the Obama they voted for. Americans have elected an inexperienced, Chicago machine politician with a lot of crooked pals, to the Presidency based on vague promises of hope and change. Well a lot of us saw this coming and tried to warn the rest of you. Three Years 10 months and 1 day to go. About 46 more months. How much worse can it get? Unfortunately we have 46 more months to find out.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)



From the bottom, looking up

When things reach that stage when they really can't get any worse, they can start looking better.

In the case of Detroit (a city most people have written off as hopeless), houses can be had for almost nothing. That's because the city is falling apart and city services are poor to nonexistent. So if you call the cops, they might not come at all. The schools are so bad that sending your kids to school in Detroit constitutes child abuse.

But still, a house is a house. It's a roof over your head. Sure, you might need dogs, guns, and home schooling, but to be able to get your own house for nearly nothing has a certain irresistible appeal. (After all, considering how much it costs to build a house, Detroit houses are seriously undervalued.) Little wonder that artists from around the world are now discovering Detroit:

...northeast Detroit has virtues Carmel never had -- among them $100 houses, one of which is being purchased by two Chicago artists, Jon Brumit and Sarah Wagner.

Their plan is to move to this budding community near Klinger Street and the Davison, to live in a tiny bungalow with a fire hole in the roof.

Against all odds, Detroit's downsides -- foreclosures and a collapsing manufacturing base -- suddenly look like assets, at least for starving artists, and even successful ones, in search of space and cheap digs.

It's an appealing prospect for people like Brumit and Wagner, or German artist Ingo Vetter, who says by e-mail from Stockholm that he hopes to move to America's grittiest city as soon as he can.

Beyond the property deals are the harder-to-quantify attractions of a city now almost as fabled worldwide as New York or San Francisco -- albeit in a slightly different vein.

"Detroit wins because it's Detroit," says Toby Barlow, a novelist who moved here from Brooklyn, N.Y., a few years ago. He wrote an affectionate essay on the city and its appeal to artists in Sunday's New York Times.

"Detroit wins because it has the reputation for being the worst place on Earth. You're not going to sound cutting-edge," he adds with a laugh, "by starting an artists' community in Cleveland."

As to the locals, they don't seem too perturbed by the fact that outsiders are buying abandoned and worthless properties:
Locals seem relieved that someone is buying abandoned properties. Of Cope and Reichert, who have made a point of getting to know families nearby, longtime resident Mohammed Mehid says, "They're good neighbors. One-hundred percent!"

Beyond cost and Detroit's unique aesthetic, however, there are practical advantages that wow visitors from glitzier cities.

"Friends are always struck by how much freedom and time we have," Reichert says, compared to friends in L.A. or New York who spend most of their time hustling to earn a living to support their art.

Newcomers see an unusual receptiveness in Detroit as well.

"There are so many interesting things going on here that you couldn't do in New York," says Barlow, "both because of cost and crowding, and the fact that everyone's overseeing everything. Whereas in Detroit, it's like, 'You're trying to do that? Neat.'"

Well, why not? Just as when you reach the South Pole, all directions are North, when things are at absolute bottom, there isn't any way to go but up.

(Of course, the existence of basically free houses makes me wonder about the phenomenon called "homelessness," but that's another issue.)

posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (2)




R.I.P. Popcorn Sutton


I'm sorry to see that Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton has committed suicide rather than go to prison:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Famed Appalachian moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, whose incorrigible bootlegging ways were as out of step with modern times as his hillbilly beard and overalls, took his own life rather than go to prison for making white lightning, his widow says.

"He couldn't go to prison. His mind would just not accept it. ... So credit the federal government for my husband being dead, I really do," Pam Sutton told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday from the couple's home in the Parrottsville community, about 50 miles east of Knoxville.

A few hours earlier she had buried Sutton, 62, in a private ceremony in the mountains around Haywood County, N.C., where he grew up. He went to his grave in a pine casket he bought years ago and kept in a bedroom.

Sutton - nicknamed "Popcorn" for smashing up a 10-cent popcorn machine in a bar with a pool cue in his 20s - looked like a living caricature of a mountain moonshiner. He wore a long gray beard, faded overalls, checkered shirt and feathered fedora. He made his home in Cocke County, where cockfighting and moonshining are legend.

He wrote a paperback called "Me and My Likker" and recorded videos on how to make moonshine. The History Channel featured him in a 2007 documentary called "Hillbilly: The Real Story."

"You might say he embodied a kind of Appalachian archetype, a character trait of fearlessness and fierce loyalty to regional identity even in the face of personal persecution and stereotyping," said Ted Olson, a regional writer and faculty member in East Tennessee State University's Department of Appalachian Studies.

Sutton conceded he was part of a dying breed in an interview last year with actor Johnny Knoxville for a video posted on Knoxville's "Jackass" Web site.

"All the rest of them that I know are dead," Sutton said in the profane, not-for-primetime clip. "I just hope and pray they don't send me off (to prison)."

Sutton's widow said he'd just gotten a letter to report Friday to a medium-security federal prison in south Georgia to begin an 18-month sentence for illegally producing distilled spirits and being a felon in possession of a gun. He had pleaded guilty last April.

On Monday, she came home from running errands and found him dead in his old Ford. Authorities suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. Autopsy results may be weeks away.

Pam Sutton, who became Sutton's fourth wife in 2007, said carbon monoxide may be the method but that's not what killed him.

"He tried every way in the world to get them (federal authorities) to leave him on house arrest," she said.

I realize laws are laws, but I still think it's a shame. I saw him on that History Channel Hillbilly documentary, and found myself loving him. Basically, making liquor without a license is a tax violation.

I wonder how Popcorn's relatives feel about the head "revenuer" not paying his taxes.

Here's a video of Popcorn doing his thing, as his ancestors did for centuries:

Try as I might, I find it hard to see the old guy as the type of threat to society who needs to be incarcerated.

posted by Eric at 07:41 PM | Comments (12)



Ideology and creativity

Reflecting on CPAC, Andrew Ian Dodge touches on one of my pet peeves, which is the stubborn inability of creative types to be allowed to think (and say) what they think without repercussions:

One thing that came up quite often in chatting with people outside my two "comfort" groups was the movement's dearth of musicians and writers, best crystallized after a fellow attendee described me as a "Ted Nugent conservative." In fact, at one reception I was asked point blank why the movement did not have many people from the entertainment world in its number. This was at least better put than the usual "all creative types are leftists" rants, which I hear often. The answer -- if you ask anyone outside the country/gospel music scene -- is quite simple: it's a matter of professional survival. There are many "closet" conservatives in the music business and even in Hollywood who don't dare out themselves for fear of curtailing their careers.

It's simply about whether your political beliefs are worth more than your livelihood. And it's not just the case in the performing arts. Publishing companies all over the world are full of "liberal arts" graduates who more often than not steer to the far left. Getting anything not "right-on" past them is damn near impossible, unless you are religious and wear it on your sleeve.

This is also true in journalism, academia, and even in many places in the business world. For some people, the "closet" even intrudes into personal and family matters; how many conservatives and rightish people felt obliged to censor themselves at parties and family reunions when Bush bashing was in full bloom?

This is not merely a matter of career and/or economic survival. In general, the left does a great job with shaming people. Non-leftists are systematically made to fear ostracism. If you're on the right to any degree (and have even the slightest tendency to be embarrassed by criticism), you will feel it. Whether it rises to the level of a career threat or not, no one likes being called evil, racist, sexist, or un-cool. Little wonder people join groups, and surround themselves with people who think alike. It's a form of self defense. However, it can be equally stultifying where it comes to being able to think and speak independently, because when groups form (especially groups based on coalition), the loudest voices dominate, and there's no shortage of people on the right who demand ideological correctness almost in imitation of the political correctness tyranny on the left.

Perhaps they're compensating for being beaten down, but this drives creative types nuts, and it's a major reason they remain more comfortable either going along with the left, or else just being proudly and smugly apolitical. I hang out with lots of creative people, and plenty will ridicule and condemn political correctness, and leftism in general. But if you talk about "conservatives," or "the right wing" and ugly stereotypes immediately come to mind. Much of this results from leftist stereotyping of the opposition, but some results from the simple fact that the most visible and outspoken rightists they're likely to encounter are, well, the most visible and outspoken. Like it or not, members of the WorldNetDaily Ann Coulter cheering squad brigades are not likely to win over free-thinking creative types -- no matter how disgusted they are with the stultifying forces of PC

It's tough to overcome that, which is why I'm delighted to see a resource like Pajamas Media and honored to help out when I can.

I like Dodge's conclusion:

So stop bemoaning the fact that there are not more creative types who are keen to be seen as conservatives. Start by supporting the ones you do know and help them with their careers. The left has managed to do so. Why oh why can't we?
Sometimes you have to start small.

It can begin with the recognition that there's nothing creative about political correctness.

posted by Eric at 10:50 AM | Comments (6)



A New Black Market

It its attempt to turn the USA into the USSR, Congress is proposing to outlaw legal farmer's markets.

What this will do is force anyone who produces food of any kind, and then transports it to a different location for sale, to register with a new federal agency called the "Food Safety Administration." Even growers who sell just fruit and/or vegetables at farmers markets would not only have to register, but they would be subject inspections by federal agents of their property and all records related to food production. The frequency of these inspections will be determined by the whim of the Food Safety Administration. Mandatory "safety" records would have to be kept. Anyone who fails to register and comply with all of this nonsense could be facing a fine of up to $1,000,000 per violation.

I've bought food at several farmers markets for years and I have yet to meet any vendors who are fond of the government. I think it's pretty safe to say that most vendors at farmers markets won't go along with this. The problem will be that the people who run the farmers markets will be forced to make sure that vendors are "registered" with the government.

Funny thing is that not even the USSR was this stupid. Private sales of food were all that stood between many people in the Soviet Union and starvation. The private plots on State Farms kept the Soviets going for forty years. In America we will be limited to what we can produce ourselves or what the food cartel provides.

This is just another small step down the road to a fascist state. We are mesmerized by ownership of property when the real question these days is control. That was the argument between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1941. Is the optimum socialist state based on ownership or control? Obviously the ownership socialists have lost out to the control socialists. It turns out control is better because it is easier to evade the rules. Being unable to cheat the rules or bribe some one to evade them adds a lot of friction to an economy. Of course control socialism inevitably leads to cartelization. Because big companies can scrape up more loose cash to influence the controllers.

Can the government keep the economy within its authorized channels? With the black market in America making up between 20% and 40% of the domestic economy, I don't see how. That does not mean they won't make further efforts to try.

However, we have to recognize that our economy was effectively nationalized with the Supreme Court's 1942 decision in Wickard v. Filburn and recently confirmed in Gonzales v. Raich. It seems that Progressives Rewrote the Constitution and now we are in a situation that is getting Progressively Worse.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:38 AM | Comments (4)



Distinctions keep getting blurrier

Because of inconvenient (and very time-consuming) personal business, I was nowhere near a computer I could use yesterday. Ironic, because I was surrounded by computers I could not use. (Like the old expression "water water everywhere and not a drop to drink"...) Returned home in the middle of the night, and dragged myself to bed without blogging.

"To bed without blogging" sounds like a punishment, and maybe it was. It sometimes bothers me that there are so many things I don't write about, but then, there's a fine line between thoughts I consider worth sharing and personal trivia not fit for publication. Blogging sometimes resembles a form of exhibitionism. Yet because of its self censoring nature, it's only as exhibitionistic as the individual exhibitionist. I'm kind of a prude, even though I don't like to hold back about things a lot of people would remain silent about.

Silence is a relative thing, and it is sometimes a dignified thing. George W. Bush said that Barack Obama "deserves my silence," and in that respect, he shows himself more dignified than his successor, who is blaming everything on Bush. The latter plans to write a book too:

Bush says he doesn't know what he'll do in the long term but says he'll write a book that will let people determine what they would have done if their most important job was to protect the country.
I don't know what I would have done.

It's a lot easier for me to sound off about responsibilities I don't have than responsibilities I do have. In this regard, I'm of two minds about the huge AIG bonus payouts which are creating a storm of controversy. The Obama administration claims no one knew:

Sources in the Obama administration Tuesday said that despite previous media reports administration officials did not know until a couple weeks ago that the officials of the controversial AIG Financial Product Division were set to receive $165 million in bonuses on March 13.

It wasn't until Thursday, March 5, 2009, administration sources told ABC News, that officials of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York informed officials of the Treasury Department of the full extent of the $165 million in bonuses pending for the controversial Financial Products Subsidiary.

This was three days after the Obama administration had already announced a new commitment of an additional $30 billion for AIG.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was alerted last Tuesday, March 10; he phoned AIG CEO Edward Liddy on Wednesday evening, March 11, to protest the bonuses, sources told ABC News.

I guess it's too much to expect the administration to read news reports.

Naturally, the taxpayers are outraged, and AIG officials are getting hate mail and death threats:

Washington: A tidal wave of public outrage over bonus payments swamped American International Group (AIG) on Monday. Hired guards stood watch outside the Connecticut offices of AIG Financial Products, the division whose exotic derivatives brought the insurance giant to the brink of collapse last year. Inside, death threats and angry letters flooded e-mail inboxes. Irate callers lit up the phone lines. Senior managers submitted their resignations. Some employees didn't show up at all.

Politicians and the public spent Monday demanding that AIG rescind payouts that they said rewarded recklessness and greed at a company being bailed out with $170 billion in taxpayer funds. But company officials contend that the uproar is scaring away employees who understand AIG Financial Products' trades and are trying to dismantle the division before it further endangers the world's economy. "It's going to blow up," said a Financial Products manager.

I'm sure it will. Just wait till the names and addresses of all those greedy execs hit the Net!

Here's why I'm of two minds about this. The bonuses are obviously AIG's legal obligation, and if the company were simply allowed to fail (as it should have been), then they'd be treated like other corporate obligations according to normal legal process. But since the government stepped in, the bonuses have been transformed into taxpayer dollars.

That's a very bad idea. The lines have become hopelessly blurred between "public" and "private."

Doubtless the communitarians are delighted.

(How easy it is these days to be a libertarian!)

MORE: In a great PJM piece (titled "Contributions to Obama Campaign Track Bailout Money") Bob Owens explains how AIG is bailing out foreign banks with tax dollars, while the Obama hopes trhe railing against "evil" will distract people "from his own far more costly executive abuses":

And of course, the re-distributor-in-chief hopes you won't notice where much of the rest of the AIG bailout cash is being spent.
Read it and weep.

(I'd hate to think the free market is destroying itself for profit....)

posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)




Knock Yourself Out


It seems our most esteemed Drug War General, Barry McCaffrey, is no longer towing the Government line on marijuana at least. He in effect says legalize it for adults. Also note why he couldn't say it before. He was muzzled by government. I wonder if our new Drug Czar will have the same problem?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:28 AM | Comments (3)



Goin' to the dogs

You know things are really bad when even your dog is affected by the economic crisis.

Seriously.

Coconomics.jpg

However, Coco's favorite food is fried chicken, and she enjoyed seeing this new product from Germany:

ObamaFingers.jpg

She thinks it looks finger-lickin good!

posted by Eric at 09:00 AM | Comments (2)




"That's our money."

Is it really?

Although I wish their numbers were in the millions, naturally I'm delighted to see the Tea Party demonstrations attracting crowds numbering in the thousands.

A remark by one demonstrator particularly caught my attention:

Tea party supporters say their reasons for demonstrating on Fountain Square are simple.

"To actually show the state and federal government that we're displeased with the way that they're handling our money. That's our money," said George Piper.

That's our money.

In those three simple words, he summed up the whole problem in a nutshell. Not just the problem with the goverment, but the problem with the citizenry.

The fact that it's our money is so basic as to not require explanation, much less extended commentary. We all know that, and I mean everyone, from left to right.

Certainly every reader of this blog knows that the money the government spends comes from the taxpayers.

So why bother to remark the obvious?

Because for reasons that elude me, a large number of people do not understand that the government is simply not a huge, magical, money-producing pot. Nor is it a blank check. The worst thing about this is that many of the people who do not seem to understand this are intelligent and educated people who ought to know better. People who learned in school that the goverment derives its revenue from taxpayers, but who still think the government is a giant magical money pot.

People who know that taxes are deducted from their paycheck, yet who somehow (through an inexplicable and irrational thought process) simply don't think it's their money.

If I could understand the precise mechanism of how seemingly rational and thinking people can both know something and not know it at the same time, I could probably make millions.

Or murder millions; Stalin famously observed that one man dead is a tragedy, a million men dead a statistic. The same principle is implicated with money. A guy who haggles over a couple of dollars will look the other way as the government automatically deducts thousands -- because he doesn't think the money is "his." Yet he knows it is, because he knows he earned it.

Shrinks would call it denial, maybe cognitive dissonance. In the case of not knowing where the government gets its money, it's collective denial. People accept it because it happens to everyone else. (Yean, well, except those who make the rules....) If the government were to single out only one employee in ten for tax withholding, that would be seen as unfair. Not because of the tax withholding, but because people want to be treated equally. Yet that doesn't go far enough towards explaining the inexplicable. True, the fact that something happens to everybody makes it seem fair, but what explains the bizarre misperception that your money is not yours?

The collective human mind is terrifying in its infinite capacity for denial.

Which is why saying "That's our money!" is not as obvious as it seems.

The fact is there are millions who would apparently say (with a straight face), "No, it's not our money!"

And there are millions more who would say, "No, it's not your money; it's our money!"

At the risk of sounding as if I'm endorsing the irrational, perhaps I should reemphasize what I've said in a number of posts:

Your money is not yours!

posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (5)




As Western Civilization "progresses"....

Via a helpful email, I learned that an actual vampire has been unearthed in Venice:

By Daniel Flynn ROME (Reuters) - Italian researchers believe they have found the remains of a female "vampire" in Venice, buried with a brick jammed between her jaws to prevent her feeding on victims of a plague which swept the city in the 16th century.

Matteo Borrini, an anthropologist from the University of Florence, said the discovery on the small island of Lazzaretto Nuovo in the Venice lagoon supported the medieval belief that vampires were behind the spread of plagues like the Black Death.

"This is the first time that archaeology has succeeded in reconstructing the ritual of exorcism of a vampire," Borrini told Reuters by telephone. "This helps ... authenticate how the myth of vampires was born."

Myth?

Really?

Can it be denied that the brick in the mouth was an effective deterrent? After all, isn't the scientific evidence undeniable that the vampire woman has not feasted on anyone since the 16th Century?

vampirebrick.jpg

Surely, photographs don't lie.

Of course, that was back in the unenlightened days of superstitious practices.

However, I also learned that in modern South Africa today, lesbians are being systematically subjected to brutal rape (the idea being that rape somehow cures lesbianism) while the government turns a blind eye:

Lesbians living in South Africa are being raped by men who believe it will 'cure' them of their sexual orientation, a report has revealed.

Women are reporting a rising tide of brutal homophobic attacks and murders and the widespread use of 'corrective' rape as a form of punishment.

The report, commissioned by international NGO ActionAid, called for South Africa's criminal justice system to recognise the rapes as hate crimes as police are reportedly failing to take action over the spiralling violence.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who seems skeptical about the effectiveness of such a cruel superstition.)

As to why treating rape as a hate crime would be more effective than simply treating it as a brutal crime of violence, I'm not sure. Is raping someone you hate worse than raping someone you don't hate? And why wouldn't some of the rapists claim they "love" the lesbians so much that they want to "help" them?

Not that I'm trying to make a comparison between 16th Century treatment of vampires and current day South African practices, but it's all very confusing.

For example, actual witch-hunts are not only alive and well in South Africa, they're said to be on the rise:

Every year, many alleged witches are persecuted and burnt at the stake. Witch-hunts claim thousands of lives every year, especially in countries such as Cameroon, Kenya, Congo, Sierra Leone and South Africa.

Witch-Hunts: A Rising Trend

In fact, witch hunts are so common in South Africa that hundreds of people die in witch-burning episodes each year. And in the Northern Province, no less that ten villages have been established, which are exclusively populated by "witches." Their lives are at risk in their home communities. This trend to persecute, kill and banish "witches" is, many fear, on the rise.

Westerners put an end to such practices in the Enlightenment Era.

But Western progress is bad. We have no right to judge other cultures.

Seriously. In California there's even serious discussion of a "cultural defense" to criminal prosecutions. In the name of being "progressive," of course.

Hmmm....

Maybe South Africans who burn witches and rape lesbians should move to California.

(Who knows? They might even be able to seek "asylum"!)

posted by Eric at 02:18 PM | Comments (6)



Not A Believer

I just found out that I don't believe in GOD. And I can tell you that I couldn't be happier.

Government Of Democrats

Of course I'd like to see Republicans get a spine. Every time they want to spend like drunken sailors all they have to do is say: "but I'm against abortion". And the Republican faithful say "well um, OK, I guess, maybe" and the big spenders get a pass. That is how we got Mike "Food Police" Huckabee in the primaries. He didn't stand for anything that could be considered Republican except "you know where I stand on abortion".

And naturally the Democrats take the opposite tack. "I'm for abortion, pay no attention to the earmarks for my contributors."

All this attention to the plumbing. While the bastards steal us blind.

H/T Volokh Conspiracy comments.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:34 PM | Comments (3)



The Perfect One

Obama is NOT Jesus. Jesus knew how to put a cabinet together.

I guess that's the difference between the two Messiahs. Obama spends and Jesus saves.

Followers of The One will find The Story of O very helpful for the New Age. You will be abused and you will love it.

Somewhere in Chicago, a community is missing its organizer.

Some of the above was stolen from these comments. Some I just made up myself.

H/T Eric at Classical Values.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)



When selfishness is evil

The "GOING JOHN GALT" movement is catching on, and attracting a lot of media attention -- including Stephen Colbert's comedy show. As a general rule, I'd say that once comedians start working a topic into their routines, that's a sign that its time has come. So, the phenomenon of GOING JOHN GALT has "arrived."

In light of the Colbert routine, Dr. Helen (who has done more to publicize the movement than any blogger I can think of) asks an excellent question:

It strikes me as odd that if you work and make money, you're a selfish bastard and if you stop working hard and making money, you're a selfish bastard. Which is it?
To a socialist, the answer is both. Socialists believe in class war, and if you belong to the money-making class, you are greedy, exploitative, and evil.

This explains why for hardline Marxists like Stalin it wasn't enough to dispossess the Kulaks; they were still selfish, because they were selfish by birth -- as if selfishness was hard-wired into ther their genes. Killing them was thus the logical answer.

In 1928 Stalin began attacking kulaks for not supplying enough food for industrial workers. He also advocated the setting up of collective farms. The proposal involved small farmers joining forces to form large-scale units. In this way, it was argued, they would be in a position to afford the latest machinery. Stalin believed this policy would lead to increased production. However, the peasants liked farming their own land and were reluctant to form themselves into state collectives.

Stalin was furious that the peasants were putting their own welfare before that of the Soviet Union. Local communist officials were given instructions to confiscate kulaks property. This land was then used to form new collective farms. Thousands of kulaks were executed and an estimated five million were deported to Siberia or Central Asia. Of these, approximately twenty-five per cent perished by the time they reached their destination.

Hmmm... I realize the literary character had not yet been created, but all that foot-dragging by recalcitrant Kulaks sounds suspiciously John Galtish to me.

As to the kulaks who survived, they later faced new persecution as "ex-kulaks":

A new wave of persecution, this time against "ex-kulaks," was started in 1937. It was part of the Great Purge, after the NKVD Order no. 00447. Those deemed ex-kulaks had only two options: death sentence or labour camps.
Seen this way, the Ayers/Weather Underground proposal to kill 25 million Americans makes perfect sense.

Let's hope the government never declares war on selfishness.

MORE: A commenter caught me in a dreadful error. I called Stephen Colbert John Colbert. Error corrected.

posted by Eric at 12:26 PM | Comments (4)



Impending distraction?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (probably the most left wing justice on the U.S. Supreme Court) has pancreatic cancer, and she is hinting that there will be a vacancy on the court soon:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has hinted at a possible vacancy "soon" at the US Supreme Court, without indicating who would be leaving.

Speaking Friday at New England Law Boston's annual "Law Day," Ginsburg told students that the nine justices only take pictures together when a new member joins the high court.

"We haven't had any photos for some time, but surely we will soon," she said.

"The dynamic is a little different when someone leaves."

Ginsburg, who turns 76 on Sunday, declined to elaborate on her comments and did not take questions from reporters at the event.

She underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in early February but has returned to the bench.

Despite speculation that she might leave the court, Ginsburg has on several occasions expressed her intention to remain on the court for several more years.

For anyone with pancreatic cancer, living several more years is highly unlikely. It's considered the deadliest of all forms of cancer, with only 5% of patients living five years.

I don't share Ginsburg's judicial philosophy, of course, but I feel very sorry for her. I think we can expect a vacancy in the next few months. If not weeks; why would someone in her position make a cryptic remark like that unless resignation is imminent?

It's tough to imagine Barack Obama appointing anyone further to the left than Ginsburg, though, so I doubt her departure will make much of a difference in practice.

But the political struggle and debate over her successor will certainly provide a distraction -- for both sides.

posted by Eric at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)




It's not the economy, stupid! Nor is it the recession....
It's secession!

Bob Owens looks at what I think boils down to a very old American debate (whether there's a right to secession), and notices that some overwrought comments by actor Chuck Norris have led a plethora of lefties to label Norris a "terrorist," and even make Timothy McVeigh comparisons:

The left-wing blogosphere preferred not to address the weightier issue of what constitutes a totalitarian government in Norris' article. Nor did they seek to offer an alternative redress for the apparently sizable minority of the population that is presently feeling disenfranchised. Instead, they predictably went for the lowest of low-hanging fruit, hammering Norris -- and justifiably so -- for the wince-worthy use of the phrase "thousands of cell groups" to describe viewing parties being organized to watch a special episode of Glenn Beck's television show.

Instead of addressing the concerns of those Americans disturbed with the direction of our country or confining their criticism to the author of this commentary, liberal bloggers such as ataturk at Firedoglake instead attacked their fellow citizens. He deemed those who would watch Beck's show at one of these viewing parties as "a plethora of "Tim McVeigh brigades."

No surprise there. If Bush can be Hitler, Beck and Norris can easily be McVeigh.

Here's the Kos writer in question, demanding a debate over secession, portraying Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee as secessionist sympathizers:

The Republicans' most recent vice presidential candidate has a history of dalliances with a group that wants Alaska to secede from the Union. If she runs for president, it's quite possible that her main rival for the votes of the far right of the GOP electorate--which of course may have enough votes to chose their next nominee--could be a guy--Mike Huckabee--whose most prominent supporter is suggesting that Texas should consider seceding from the Union.

So, it's time that anyone giving succor or encouragement to those who advocate secession are asked the following questions:

Do you believe the government of the United States is a legitimate government?

Do you believe any part of what is currently the United States should secede from the United States?

Do you think Abraham Lincoln was wrong to prevent the states of the Confederacy from leaving the United States?

Do you consider the Republican party "the Party of Lincoln?"

(Um, before I'm hailed before a Senate subcommittee, am I allowed to ask whether the Democratic Party was the party of the Woodrow Wilson and the Ku Klux Klan?)*

I like the phrase "anyone giving succor or encouragement to those who advocate secession." Might this include those who voted for Sarah Palin?

How about those who support the Tea Party movement? After all, doesn't the name derive from the Boston Tea Party, and wasn't that advocative of secession from Britain?

Whether there is a right to secede is certainly open to debate. I'm living in Michigan, and I'm not sure that secession would be a good idea. Certainly not at the present time. But discussing whether it's a good idea -- even saying it might be -- is hardly terrorism. Nor does it constitute advocating the overthrow of the United States government by violence (as some of the Kossack commenters suggest).

One of the best divide-and-conquer tactics is to try to shift the argument and get people to take sides on an issue which is not before them. I don't think secession is imminent, nor do I think the Tea Party movement (most likely the intended target of this latest divide-and-conquer scheme) is secessionist. It's a protest movement. However, I think the people involved might become distracted, disheartened, and radicalized by the secessionist meme, thus delighting both the Kossacks and the WorldNetDaily crowd.

While the issue of secession is not before us, trying to shift the debate this way is a great way to mischaracterize much of the opposition, and best of all, it provides a great distraction from genuinely serious issues which are before us.

Perhaps that's the whole idea.

They won't stuff secessionism in my mouth.

*And of course the party of Bull Connor... (How could I forget that?)

More here about Wilson.

posted by Eric at 11:29 AM | Comments (5)



The Bloom Is Off The Rose

The honeymoon that any new President generally gets (typically 100 days) is over. About 40 days early. Bad news for The One.

President Obama's honeymoon is beginning to fade.

Members of Congress and old political hands say he needs to show substantial progress reviving the economy soon.

Some Democrats have started to worry that voters don't and won't understand the link between economic revival and Obama's huge agenda, which includes saving the banking industry, ending home foreclosures, reforming healthcare and developing a national energy policy, among much else.

It is always possible that people don't understand the connection because there is none. Or worse because the proposed solutions will make things worse.
Democrats from states racked by recession say Obama needs to produce an uptick by August or face unpleasant consequences. Others say that there is more time, but that voters need to see improvement by the middle of next year.

The most optimistic say Obama and Democrats in Congress will face a political backlash unless the economy improves by Election Day 2010.

"We've got to see an uptick by August or the Democratic majority is in jeopardy," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), whose state had an 11.6 percent unemployment rate in January.

The economy will quite possibly be coming back by August however, employment usually lags the economy by one to three years. That can't be good for Democrats. Especially if the recent rise of Wall Street is not really a leading indicator but just another dead cat bounce.

Mr. Obama has some convincing to do. It is not just Wall Street and Main Street. Now it is his own party.

Confronting misgivings, even in his own party, President Barack Obama mounted a stout defense of his blueprint to overhaul the economy Thursday, declaring the national crisis is "not as bad as we think" and his plans will speed recovery.

Challenged to provide encouragement as the nation's "confidence builder in chief," Obama said Americans shouldn't be whipsawed by bursts of either bad or good news and he was "highly optimistic" about the long term.

The president's proposals for major health care, energy and education changes in the midst of economic hard times faced skepticism from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, as senators questioned his budget outlook and the deficits it envisions in the middle of the next decade.

Yeah. How about those deficits.

There is at least one Republican who is not happy with Mr. Obama's budget. Only one? Well a lot actually. But this one is important because he can run the numbers.

It was obvious to most Capitol Hill insiders why President Obama wanted Republican Judd Gregg as a member of his cabinet: He's one of the sharpest money-minds in Congress.

But instead of getting Gregg's counsel within the administration, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner found himself today of the receiving end of Gregg's fiscal conservative wrath.

In a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee Gregg dressed down Geithner with facts, figures, and charts. While always keeping his cool, the exchange was somewhere between a mother's scolding, a drill sergeant's questioning and an attorney's cross examination.

In his opening statement, Gregg politely called the administration's budget forecast a lie.

"The argument that it cuts the debt in half in four years is, ahh, is truly spurious," he told Geithner.

President Obama himself gives Gregg's comments a sense of stinging credibility. When the president introduced Gregg as his nominee for Commerce Secretary last month, he said Gregg is known for is fiscal discipline.

"He shares my deep-seated commitment to guaranteeing that our children inherit a future they can afford," Obama said.

Today, the president's compliment of Gregg turned into an attack on Geithner. Gregg said the budget is essentially "putting on our children's backs a debt they can never get out from underneath."

You know. That reflects a significant portion of what Main Street thinks.

Ace of Spades is looking at Main Street and quotes some interesting reports.

It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama's high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.

Polling data show that Mr. Obama's approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001. Rasmussen Reports data shows that Mr. Obama's net presidential approval rating -- which is calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove from the number who strongly approve -- is just six, his lowest rating to date.

Well so far he is still in plus territory. Good for him. He is no where near Democrat Congress territory. Yet.
Recent Gallup data echo these concerns. That polling shows that there are deep-seeded, underlying economic concerns. Eighty-three percent say they are worried that the steps Mr. Obama is taking to fix the economy may not work and the economy will get worse. Eighty-two percent say they are worried about the amount of money being added to the deficit. Seventy-eight percent are worried about inflation growing, and 69% say they are worried about the increasing role of the government in the U.S. economy.
Now those are some astounding numbers. And 69% are worried about the role of the government in the US economy? Where were they during the election when Mr. Obama was making all his promises to intervene in banking, energy, and health care. What? Mr. McCain was making similar promises? Never mind. Maybe next time we can get a Republican to run on the Republican ticket. Of course things could have been worse for the Republicans. We could have had Huckabee and the food police. Now there was one socialist I could not believe in. In fact I couldn't believe he was a Republican. Well, as I said previously, fiscal conservatism and social conservatism are not necessarily convergent. In fact they seem to be divergent and that divergence appears to be tearing the Republicans apart. Good. The Republicans have to decide if they are the moral socialist party or the fiscal conservative party. A good place to start that is to ask yourself: which is the bigger tent? Which will be the bigger tent given demographic trends? I could answer the question for you but I prefer to let you do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:46 AM | Comments (2)



Where Do These Kids Come From?
Christian America
I was reading a blog by some college kids, the Undercurrent, that looks at the contradictions of the present Republican coalition.
In the aftermath of the substantial Democratic victory in last November's election, Republicans nationwide are reported to be doing a great deal of "soul searching." Indeed they should. After all, times are not looking good for the Republican Party. Former President Bush left office with record-low support, and both houses of Congress, along with the White House, are now solidly Democratic. Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor and recently elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, attributed the Republican loss in the last election to a lack of understanding of what the party stood for. In his words, "We didn't have anything to say to the American people other than, 'We're not Democrats.'"
Mr. Steele was not being entirely correct. What he should have said is that the Republicans want to go slowly towards government control of the economy and the Democrats want to go fast.
Saxby Chambliss, the newly re-elected Republican senator from Georgia, has echoed Steele, calling on the party to return to its principles.

But what principles are those? Historically, the political philosophy of the Republican Party has been an amalgam of advocacy for small government and capitalism, combined with support for religion and traditional values. The more capitalist element of the party tends to concern itself primarily with economic policy, traditionally supporting less government spending, lower taxes and deregulation. By contrast, the religionist element of the party tends to focus on social policy.

Ah. Yes. Social policy. Isn't social the root of socialism. Yes it is. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not against social relations. I'm against them at the point of a government gun. What I call moral socialism.

Which brings us to the inherent contradictions between the two elements of the party.

This clash in policy positions is the result of two distinct sets of political principles. In the past, both sides coexisted in an uneasy alliance, but over time the disagreements between them have become too great to reconcile. This is unsurprising: the two sets of political principles are grounded in two opposing ethical systems.

Capitalism upholds each individual's right to exist for his own sake, independent from any group. Its moral foundation is rational self-interest. According to this morality, the good is the pursuit of one's own happiness. Religion, on the other hand, implies a system where each individual exists to serve the group or greater good. Christian tradition is rife with admonishments against selfishness: "we are our brother's keepers" is an obvious example. This sentiment represents the moral code of altruism, which holds fulfilling the needs of others as a moral imperative. The welfare state is a natural extension of this tenet. People need money, education, sanitation, transportation, etc. Under a religious (i.e. altruistic) morality, we are obligated to satisfy these needs for those unwilling or unable to do so themselves.

How can one reconcile these opposing beliefs? How can one unite the religious demand to selflessly help the needy through welfare state agencies (such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) with the capitalist insistence that an individual's primary responsibility is achieving his own well-being? Where is the compromise between the religionist's call to force children to pray in school and the capitalist's call to maintain a barrier between church and state? How can one bring together the principle that a woman's life is her own (the morality of rational self-interest), with the edict that a woman has a duty to protect the growth of an embryo (the morality of religion)?

The answer is that one can't. There is no way to reconcile an individualistic, self-interested morality and an altruistic morality of religious duties. Politically, this means there is no way to support both capitalist and religious policies. "The party of principle," as the GOP often calls itself, is currently governed by two sets of principles that fundamentally contradict one another.

I think the idea Jesus had about the separation of private morality from governance is the correct guiding principle. We seem to have a lot of Christians in America and very few followers of Jesus. I think Jesus said render unto Cesar. I don't recall him saying become Cesar. Did you know that the word czar comes from the word Cesar? And yet Bill Bennett our first Drug Czar is supposed to be a hell of a Christian. In fact he wrote a book, The BOOK OF VIRTUES, explaining how we can become more virtuous. I wonder if becoming a dictator (Cesar) is what he had in mind?
The first years of President Obama's administration provide the Republican Party with an opportunity to redefine itself. To do so, Republicans first need to decide what they stand for. They can become the party that promotes individual rights, small government, and capitalism, or they can become an ever more theocratic, intrusive, and socialist party.
So even the author of this article is calling the Christianist elements of the party socialist. Good. It is catching on.

Now do I want to drive the Christianists out of the party? Of course not. I'd like to see them welcomed as long as they are willing to give up their moral socialism. And let me add that there is nothing wrong with socialism as long as people who want to practice it do it on their own dime. What I object to is having it enforced with government guns.

In any case it may not matter what I think should be done. The moral socialist in the Republican Party are a dying breed. I wish them well in their next life as long as they leave me alone in this one. Which is why I'm a member of the leave us alone coalition. And we even have our own flag too.

Don't Tread On Me
A word to the wise ought to be sufficient. Generally it isn't though. More through lack of wisdom than a lack of words. As the old saying goes "experience is a hard teacher, some men will have no other."

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:27 AM | Comments (13)




Full of Awe

Frank J. Fleming thinks the problem with Barack Obama may be that he is too awesome:

...I am an enlightened individual who fully understands and appreciates President Obama (pbuh), but can we expect the same from other countries with non-Obama leaders? Those people have never produced a person like Obama, not to mention elected him, so it is natural for them to be scared and intimidated by someone so beyond their understanding. To them, meeting Obama must be like encountering Jesus riding a dinosaur -- both reassuring and intimidating at the same time. It's natural they'll be confused.

Just look at the British reaction to Obama's meeting with Gordon Brown. They seem to think their prime minister was snubbed by not getting the special reception they had become accustomed to when the troglodyte Bush was dictator. Many British reporters were also angry how Obama seemed hesitant to answer many questions. Such nonsense shows that the British are still stuck in pre-Obama thinking....

As usual, Frank is right. The British clods just don't get it.

The guy is just too awesome.

I mean, take this totally awesome DVD collection.

25films.jpg

If someone gave me a DVD collection like, I'd be like, awed. Totally.

As it is, I'm so awed that I'm ashamed to admit that there are two films in the collection that I have not seen -- The Searchers, and The General (although I don't know whether the latter is the 1927 or the 1998 version. Considering that the earlier one involves the Confederate Army and the later one the IRA, I suspect it's the earlier one.)

The outcome of all of this is that I've just added The Searchers to my Netflix queue.

I'd like to add The General too, but I need to know which one!

How personally awesome can things get?

posted by Eric at 12:15 PM | Comments (8)



Blame the law abiding!

In another predictable development, the gun grabbers have seized upon the Alabama shooting incident as a pretext to demand a return to the "assault weapon" ban:

Gun-control activists have renewed calls for the federal government to reinstate a ban on so-called assault weapons in the wake of Tuesday's deadly shooting rampage in Alabama.

Stricter national gun-control laws face dim prospects in Washington, however, despite Democratic control of Congress and the White House.

Of course, the gun grab movement is unwittingly helping at least one segment of the economy -- gun sales:
Gun sales have soared in the months since the presidential election, due in part to fears among gun owners that President Barack Obama intends to ban assault weapons, or guns that can fire rounds more quickly than standard weapons.
And in what I consider the height of political opportunism (see M. Simon's post), the Obama adminstration has been systematically trying to capitalize on the Mexican drug cartel/border situation to push for gun control.

Last month, Clayton Cramer did a great job of explaining why making this connection is wrong (the Mexican Army being the most likely source of the guns), and concluded,

...if Mexico really has a problem with guns coming across the border, perhaps they could work on securing the border. We'll help. That will stop the inflow of illegal drugs and aliens at the same time. Can you see why this isn't going to happen?
And as Cramer also points out, Mexico refuses to furnish the serial numbers of the guns it claims come from the United States.

Aside from being based on a dishonest argument, the idea of taking guns away from Americans because they wind up in the hands of Mexican criminal gangs is profoundly immoral.

Really, it makes about as much sense as saying guns should be taken away from homeowners to prevent burglars from stealing them.

Where it comes to guns, the Obama administration's goal is clearly to penalize the law abiding for the acts of criminals.

Little wonder people in the U.S. are facing an ammo shortage.

Blaming the law abiding is hardly "shange." It's an old and tired routine.

posted by Eric at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)



Dinner party deployment

In a remarkable coincidence, the day after I wrote about the dinner party elite, I see this report that Barack Obama is assiduously courting them:

While publicly identifying with the nation's have-nots, the Obama administration has been cultivating the Beltway social elite behind the scenes.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration invited top editors of three of Washington's local luxury lifestyle magazines -- Capitol File, DC magazine and Washington Life -- to a meeting where they discussed, among other things, how President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama can embrace Washington's glittery social scene.

The White House is "identifying taste makers in order to help create grass-roots interest in some of the programs they are working on," said Washington Life's Michael Clements, who attended the meeting. "They wanted to introduce themselves. It was certainly a departure from previous administrations."

The Obamas "are trying to push the vibrancy of Washington night life to the forefront," said Tony Hudgins, the associate publisher of DC magazine, who also attended the meeting, organized by Michael Strautmanis, a deputy to Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

A White House aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity dismissed the notion that a publicly populist Obama White House is privately courting socialites, contending that the meeting was held to explore how the Obamas can "engage in the community." The aide also pointed out that similar meetings were held with representatives of sports, entertainment and philanthropic organizations in Washington.

I'm sure they were, but they're all part of the dinner party elite.

Anyone but the Tea Party types.

The latter can cling bitterly to their guns and religion.

UPDATE: Pam Meister savors the irony:

Rich people are to be reviled, according to Obama's rhetoric, except when it comes to his bank account and his social life. I think I get it now. That explains the Wednesday cocktail parties, Obama's penchant for $100 per serving Wagyu steak, and cranking up the taxpayer-funded thermostat in the Oval Office -- thus inspiring my newest nickname for him, Tropical Barry. In three delicious flavors: Marxist Berry Red, Eco-Fraud Green, and Kool Menthol.

posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (1)



Experiments In Government
Sea Steading
There are plans afoot for a floating city off the coast of San Francisco.
A floating city off the coast of San Francisco may sound like science fiction, but it could be reality in the not-too-distant future.

The Seasteading Institute already has drawn up plans for the construction of a homestead on the Pacific Ocean.

One project engineer described the prototype as similar to a cruise ship, but from a distance the cities might look like oil-drilling platforms.

That is very interesting. But it is not the most interesting part of the plan.
According to the plans, the floating cities would not only look different from their land-based counterparts, but they might operate differently, too.

Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who now works for the Seasteading Institute, said floating cities are the perfect places to experiment with new forms of government.

Some of the new political ideas the group is tossing around include legalizing marijuana and making intellectual property communal -- so that everyone would take ownership in art produced on the city at sea.

"The idea isn't just about getting away from rules or getting rid of rules. It's about a system that encourages experimentation with different political systems," he said.

Now that sounds very libertarian to me. And being of a libertarian persuasion myself I find the whole idea very appealing.

In the late 1880s people were lamenting the closing of the American frontier. This could portend the opening of a new American frontier. I wonder if they have considered the need for a Navy for protection from pirates?

And what will they do for power? Too bad they can't buy a Bussard Fusion Reactor off the shelf.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained
Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

You can learn even more about the project at The Seasteading Institute.

And if you want to read a science fiction story about floating cities may I suggest A Floating City by Jules Verne.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:13 AM | Comments (8)




Guns And Drugs


The Democrats are going to use prohibition induced violence to take away our gun rights. Because only criminals should be allowed to have guns or drugs.

I have been saying for several decades that drug prohibition would lead to gun prohibition. Way to go Conservatives. Because like you know. Prohibition works.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



A Lack Of Modesty
Cleavage
Breasts and popular music. Now there is a topic that grabs my interest. It seems to have grabbed the interest of Discover Magazine as well. Except we are not talking Lenny Kravitz. We are talking 17th Century ballads.
People who yearn for old-fashioned public decency might be surprised to talk to historian Angela McShane-Jones at the University of Warwick. In her studies of 17th-century ballads--cheaply printed popular songs bought and sold like today's CDs--she found that the accompanying illustrations (above) often contained images of bare-breasted women. The perception of the bosom was quite different at the time, she says: "You see busty women representing innocence just as often as fallen ladies. And women of the court clearly had no modesty about showing their nipples."

Ironically, extreme decollete was the height of fashion in the very middle of Oliver Cromwell's puritanical reign. Bared bosoms continued to cycle in and out of fashion during the 18th and 19th centuries, even amid Victorian prudery.

It seems to me that knowing obscenity when you see it is very dependent on the age you live in.

Me? I look forward to the return of the purity in dress styles so prevalent in Oliver Cromwell's time. Of course the American Bikini is not a bad substitute. We get not only breasts but bare arms, legs, and midriffs as well. Not to mention the occasional camel toe. So there are compensations.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:38 PM | Comments (4)



Does power breed arrogance, or do the arrogant seek power?

In a piece asking whether voting matters anymore, Jeff Pope discusses political arrogance:

Political arrogance is far more dangerous than social arrogance. In civil society arrogance is the simple disdain for others due to class, wealth, education, or breeding. It is a trait that America, being egalitarian from its founding, strongly rejects. Political arrogance, however, is a much more virulent strain of the disease because it transforms a politician from a person having an appreciation of being first elected to a position of power into one who believes power naturally comes to him or her because they are uniquely worthy of it. To those who see themselves in this way, the vote of the people does not indicate a preference for a type of governance; nor is it an expression of the general will on specific issues. Rather, electoral victory is an affirmation of their special status as the worthy leaders of the populace at large and an implied acceptance by the voters to be led in whatever direction they deem fit. To the arrogant politician the voter wants me, not someone to represent them and their views. Think Pelosi, Reid, Rangel, Kerry, Dodd, Durbin, etc.
What has long fascinated me as a observer of human behavior and culture is that arrogance is a mindset generally accompanied by deep insecurity. There's a sense of entitlement to power, but an underlying, all-encompassing fear of a loss of that power.

Consequently, where it comes to preserving that power, arrogant people tend to stick together -- even if they are on opposite sides of the fence.

That's why in political terms I trust the Tea Party people a lot more than what Will Collier (linked by Glenn Reynolds yesterday) called (appropriately) the "dinner party" people.

The latter group suffer from a sense of entitlement to power, because they're closely associated with it. Because they hang out and hobnob with the powerful, they start to imagine that they, too, are powerful -- the way people who hang out with famous celebrities start to think that they, too, are famous. Or ought to be. When this happens to journalists, it can affect their ability to be objective, and the result is the fawning sycophantic behavior that so nauseates the Tea Party people.

While it's a bit beyond this post, there's a group of people I have discussed repeatedly which suffers from a worse form of arrogance than elected officials -- the unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, academicians, Ph.D. policy wonks and the like who believe they should have a divine right to tell people what to do. While it's bad enough to be ruled by arrogant elected officials, rule by the unelected arrogant class is intolerable.

It's the essence of tyranny.

But perhaps there's hope for the dinner party conservatives. Sooner or later, they might wake up and realize that there's a new dinner party, to which they're not invited.

But will they deign to have tea with the common folk? Or will they imagine that they'll still be included among the elite if they "behave"? A secondary question is whether the new arrogant class deign to throw a few crumbs to those they've displaced.

I guess the rest of us will have to stay tuned.

Whether power breeds arrogance or the arrogant seek power (or a combination of both), I don't know. Has it ever been settled whether we live in an aristocracy or a meritocracy? Or has the distinction been erased?

Obama's Ivy League appointments have refueled a longstanding debate.

posted by Eric at 11:06 AM | Comments (7)




Dalinian Republican prophesies?
(Some irrational illustrations)

In his analysis of how the Rush Limbaugh controversy is dividing the GOP, Rick Moran makes the following observation:

The right is in Dante's ninth circle of hell, condemned to be encased in solid ice with only their heads showing, with those positioned next to each other forced to gnaw on their neighbors' necks for sustenance.
Without getting into a detailed discussion of the merits of Rick's argument (although I also worry about divide-and-conquer strategies), I have to say that I was immediately reminded of one my favorite Dalí illustrations of Dante's Inferno, titled "Gianni Schicchi's Bite":

SchicchisBiteScan_s1.jpg

The text says nothing about Limbaugh, though, but describes Schicchi as a "madman" who "gnaws the other in his raving."

Not to get too Dalinian over the GOP, but there's also "News of the Lower Depths of Hell" -- in which an elephant-like figure devours a woman.

DaliInferno4.jpg

Of course, from a purely rational perspective, just as Schicchi cannot represent Limbaugh or his GOP enemies, the elephant cannot represent the GOP. Nor can the woman represent Sarah Palin or any other female Republican. Dalí did these illustrations back in the 1950s. Back when all was well and everyone* liked Ike.

So much for my rational disclaimers.

As to the irrational and the superstitious, such dark lurking things are intended for entertainment value only, and should never stand in the way of logic and reason.

* Well not quite everyone. And I don't refer solely to Democrats or liberals. Some "conservatives" believed President Eisenhower was a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy."

I'm sure some still do. (Similarly outlandish things were said about McCain.)

(See "The Paranoid Style in American Politics.")

posted by Eric at 01:25 PM | Comments (1)



Remembering Madrid

Lest we forget that today is the fifth anniversary of the Madrid terror attacks, José Guardia has posted a memorial.

José says that "sometimes it's almost impossible to find the words, so this is what I could to as a tribute for the 5th anniversary of the Madrid terror attacks."

Remember those who died in Madrid on March 11, 2004.

(Lest anyone forget, their murderers want to do the same thing to every one of us, and they will if they can.)

posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)



Assigning blame

The big news last night and today is the report of a man who killed his mother, burned down her house with her inside, then went on a shooting spree. No one seems to know why, but I expect a lot of people will be blaming the gun.

Alabama State Trooper John Reese told "Good Morning America" this morning. "We are still unclear of what caused the incident."

The "incident" was a killing spree that began in Kinston, Ala., just north of the Florida line, with the death of McClendon's mother. Reese said it remains unclear whether McLendon killed his mother before shooting her dogs and burning down her house.

Police say the heavily-armed McLendon then got into his car and drove through two towns, stopping or slowing down to fire shots at people on their porches, at a gas station or on the street.

Toward the end of his rampage,McLendon engaged in a running gun battle with police who tried to ram his car to stop him.

"He opened up on us with an AK-47," said Geneva Police Chief Frankie Lindsey, who was wounded in the shoulder. "That's what it looked like. It could have been an M-16, but it was an assault rifle, automatic. And he burst about 15 to 18 rounds on our vehicle, all at once."

"It looked like he was trying to kill us. There's no doubt about it," Lindsey said. "We were face-to-face with him. He just put the weapon out the window and let go a burst."

Commenters here and at Daily Kos are pointing out that the gun has been described as "fully automatic."

If it was a fully automatic weapon, there are numerous existing laws which make them almost impossible to obtain legally, and of course converting a legal semi-auto to full-auto is highly illegal (and requires considerable expertise).

The man was certainly a murderer and a gunman, but he was also an arsonist. The fire he started could have spread and killed just as many people as whatever weapon he used. This was another awful crime spree, but I don't see why people focus on the means used by the criminals.

In light of reports that the target of the man's wrath was a metal company which laid him off, it would make about as much sense to blame the economy.

I blame the guy who did this, and secondarily if turned out he was another of the numerous mental patients who don't get adequate treatment, I might also be inclined to blame the mental health system.

But the one common denominator I've seen in nearly every shooting case is that it's just not emotionally satisfying for people to blame the individual who did it. Nor is it politically satisfying.

So whatever happens, I expect this to result in another push to reinstate the useless and illogical "assault weapons" ban.

UPDATE: It now appears that the shooter (Michael McLendon) had been employed as a police officer and had multiple guns:

Armed with two assault rifles, a shotgun and a .38-calibre handgun, McLendon then headed for his grandmother's house 12 miles away in Samson.

He shot his grandmother, Virginia White, 74; his uncle Alfred White, 55; his cousin Tracy Wise, 34; and his nephew Dean Wise, 15.

McLendon also killed the wife and 18-month-old daughter of a local police officer -- Andrea Myers and Corinne --who werevisiting the house from their home near by. The officer's baby daughter, Ella, was wounded by a bullet fragment but survived.

Joshua Myers, the police officer who lost his wife and child, was responding to the emergency when they were shot. "Igot a call to come home, and when I arrived, I found my wife and daughter," he said.

McLendon then drove on, firing randomly at passers-by.

He killed James Starling, 24, who happened to be walking near his grandmother's house. He also shot dead Sonya Lolley Smith, 23, at a petrol station; and Bruce Malloy, a customer at the Samson Pipe and Supply shop.

Driving on to Geneva, 12 miles away, McLendon met a police roadblack on Highway 52. An officer rammed McLendon's Mitsubishi Eclipse, knocking him off the road. He responded with a volley of automatic fire that missed the officer by inches.

Automatic fire? If that's true, then he might have had a genuine assault weapon.

posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (2)



A Lack Of Trust

Milton Friedman's Free to Choose is an excellent book that explains in simple language his philosophy and how he came by it.

Here is a page of links to other Milton Friedman videos and articles.

H/T Atlas Shrugs

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



The New Gospel Of Liberty
Atheism
Click for a larger view.


The old time religion is declining in America.
When it comes to religion, the USA is now land of the freelancers.

The percentage. of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers -- or falling off the faith map completely.

The article goes on to discuss the changes and delves into the numbers.

One point in the article particularly got my attention. ("Nones" in the survey are those who claimed no religion)

South Carolina also exemplifies the Protestant faiths' shrinking share of the national religion "pie." The state has more Catholics (10%, up from 6% in 1990) and the percentage of Nones has more than tripled, from 3% to 10%. The share of Protestants is 73%, down from 88% in 1990.

Like Gautier, the Rev. Kendall Harmon, theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, blames social mobility.

"Mobility means your ideas are more challenged and your family and childhood traditions have less influence, particularly if you are not strongly rooted in them. I see kids today who have no vocabulary of faith, and neither do many of their parents."

I think this bodes ill for the Republican party unless it becomes less faith based and more liberty oriented. Something I have been saying for quite some time and especially post the 2008 election. Moral socialism is not the big seller it once was.

The Christian Science Monitor is even more apocalyptic.

We are on the verge - within 10 years - of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This bodes ill for the Republicans, a party that is rather closely identified with evangelicals.

The Monitor delves into why this is happening.

Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.
Culture wars. I have a different name for it. Mentioned above. Moral socialism. The idea that government should tell people how to live. That idea is losing popularity. With the collapse of the drug war (even Pat Buchanan - a vigorous culture warrior - is now against it) will accelerate that trend. I do think a war on Christianity is a bad idea though. Just as the Christian's war on seculars was a bad idea. However, karma. Or in more Christian terms: you reap what you sow.

The author of the article makes another point that will directly affect politics.

Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.
And what about the culture war?
Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before - a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate.
I think it is pretty safe to say that the culture war is very near over in America and the culture warriors have lost. Just as the drug warriors have lost the drug war. These things happen when better ideas come along. It is not the first time. Around 2000 year ago a small Jewish sect came along and its culture supplanted the Jewish culture of the time and went on to become a world culture. So much so that Jews are now more Christian than Jewish. Not so much in terms of worship but in terms of culture. The Judaism of 2000 years ago is gone. It is probably not coming back.

And finally back to politics.

The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a "godly society."
Very good. Government impositions are rarely universally popular. Especially in a country as religiously diverse as America. The emphasis has to be where it should have been all along. Living the godly life. Which fits in more with the American ideal of the individual as supreme.

This should come as no surprise to students of American history. America was founded not only on the basis of economic revolt but also on the basis of religious revolt as the DVD Gospel of Liberty clearly shows.

If the Republican Party adopts a New Gospel of Liberty I think its fortunes will revive and it will find not just a temporary burst of energy but also a long term foundation that will serve it far into the future. Let the Tea Parties commence.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:06 AM | Comments (22)



I'm in bitches

TuringScan: InitClock00:00:00:00:00.01

InitInitInstructInit<>1.

SetNum(Numb[?])TransL8:1337

ReInitVar42:CuzYTsezWNot[!]:{Meta}Re:Fish,"KThxLolz"

...

...

(...)

You like watching him... don't you?

IT,Instruction(Mark,value:="0");

References, set? "Running Out?":=Not likely

Absurdity Inference Initiated... Commence... Bitches. (Take that any way you please; amusingly, all of them (possible ways) are intentionally offensive). The older you get, the more capable you are of noticing how ridiculously silly seeming the fast conversational cut directing in overwrought action films can be. Or maybe that's just the dopamine re-uptake inhibitors talking. Nope, it's just the time lapse decaying-for-the-insides thing. Democrats are species motivated. Genes are selfish after all.

Four dimensional space is actually relatively easy to conceptualize. No, I'm not referring to time as a fourth dimension. That's cool sounding and all, and in a physics context actually correct, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about physical space. Not conceptual physical space, but the actual space you and I within reside. Conceptualizing a fourth dimension existing in our space is easy... all you need is an analogy:

A rubber brick.

If you get it, discontinue consumption; else, follow:

Have you ever had a dream which you were so sure was real What if you were unable to wake from that dream How would you know the difference between the real world and the dream world

One dimension: a line. Resident along that line: a point. What does that point see as a two dimensional square wanders through its domain? It seems a line segment.

A triangle living in two dimensional space gazes down the length of the plane which is its alpha and omega. A sphere drifting through the aether traverses the plane. What does the triangle observe? A sphere? No, that would require three dimensional concepts. The triangle observes a circle. A circle is a two dimensional perception of a sphere.

Now on to the fourth dimension: how does a three dimensional object such as, for instance, yourself, living in a three dimensional space, perceive a four dimensional object's trajectory through space? Imagine the general area you currently occupy. Imagine a roughly (huge) brick shaped space around that. That's the rubber brick. Now bend it. You, living on the inside of the brick, perceive no change. But an object external to it would realize that your whole space was bent. That direction of your bending would be the fourth dimension. A four dimensinoal object passing through that space would appear to curve. It would look, in point of fact, like something responding to gravity. And there's your bingo moment, if you actually made it this far (yes, this is all, sadly, accurate).

An object passing in a straight line through the galaxy goes near the Earth. Its passage turns in a little, responding to the gravitational tug of the planet's enormous mass.

The first law: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

So why does the object curve in its trajectory without violating the law? Easy. It nerve curved. Its path described a straight line the entire time. Its just that it was passing through a four dimensional space, and you, sad three dimensional object that you are, failed to tail fins.

posted by Cosmic Drunk at 04:35 AM | Comments (3)




Watch me on PJTV!

Earlier I appeared on PJTV's Roundtable, which you can watch absolutely free by clicking this link.

I was honored to be on with Ed Driscoll and Rick Moran, and I'm just delighted that PJTV featured the post I wrote earlier: "The Obama Two Step."

If the above link doesn't work, just go to PJTV and scroll down till you see "The President's 50th Day and The Dems Brand New Bag: Scheie, Driscoll, & Moran" and a picture of yours truly.

So check it out!

posted by Eric at 10:34 PM | Comments (1)



September 30, 1999

Even the New York Times was sounding the warning. Nine and a half years ago.

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

Yep. Nation Wide.
In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''

Bail Outs? Did they say bail outs? How unpatriotic can they get?

Ah. Well. If only there had been more regulation. If only. I can tell you one thing for sure: that the whole financial mess proves capitalism doesn't work. When it is controlled by government.

Who Is John Galt?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. You might also like The New Gospel of Liberty

posted by Simon at 06:34 PM | Comments (22)



the airbrushing of the airbrushing

I'm surprised at Dave Weigel (a guy I usually respect, who's a Contributing Editor of Reason Magazine -- to which I am a loyal subscriber).

Surprised and annoyed, and I'll explain why.

After citing Glenn Reynolds' link to a Gateway Pundit story linking a WorldNetDaily report, Weigel says this in an update to a story titled "Editing Libel Out of Wikipedia = Vandalism":

See, here's why I post about this stuff. Two hours after my write-up, Instapundit links Gateway Pundit with the headline "Still airbrushing Obama's Wikipedia page." And thus, a false story from a conspiracy web site gets promoted by a mainstream author and law professor.
Since when does a mere link to a post become a "promotion" of a "false story" which is not even linked? If Glenn's idea was to "promote" a story from a conspiracy web site, then why wouldn't he link the story from the conspiracy web site?

And why would he also link Weigel's criticism of the post he did link? Why does only the former link constitute "promoting"?

I need to know, for I clicked on both links. Does this mean Glenn promotes contradictory posts, or is some hidden mechanism at work, known only to a few? Might this be a form of "passive aggressive" "promotion"? Should someone ask Andrew Sullivan?

FWIW, I don't think Glenn promoted any conspiracy theory at all, much less the one from WorldNetDaily of which Weigel complains. Like Weigel I am deeply distrustful of the site, and as regular readers know I have criticized WND in this blog on countless occasions (as I did yesterday). But I do try to be careful before I say things that aren't true. Yes, even about WorldNetDaily. And I don't think it's fair to impute something that WND says to someone who didn't say it.

I'll start with the partial quote from Gateway Pundit on which Weigel bases his accusations:

Communist tyrany (sic) Joseph Stalin routinely air-brushed his enemies out of photographs.

Wikipedia airbrushes any controversial information about Dear Leader from its webpage including his 20 year relationship with mentor Jeremiah Wright and his long relationship with terrorist Bill Ayers.

Weigel then calls the above a lie, pointing out that there is another Wiki page on the Ayers relationship:
The Ayers comment is a lie: Wikipedia maintains a comprehensive page on the Ayers-Obama relationship.
But Gateway Pundit did not state that there was no Wikipedia page on the Ayers-Obama relationship; only that there was nothing about it on the Obama page. In fact, here's very first sentence in Gateway Pundit's post:
Wikipedia scrubs Obama's entry clean of any critical information that may taint your view of Dear Leader.
And scrub the entry they do -- for reasons explained and debated here in the discussion page.

So that makes it abundantly clear the Gateway Pundit statement that Weigel characterizes as a lie -- that Wikipedia "airbrushes any controversial information about Dear Leader from its webpage" (my emphasis) is substantially true, but more importantly, that Gateway Pundit was talking about the Obama entry page!

What's up with the partial quote, anyway? If he's going to accuse someone of lying, can't Weigel do better than Dowdify the quote he's using as "evidence"? I think that under the circumstances, editing out the previous sentence is pretty darned crass, and a lot of people would say it borders on outright demagoguery. Which is why I said I was surprised.

I mean, really. If you're going to accuse people of lying about airbrushing, shouldn't you be careful not to airbrush out something that goes to the heart of what they actually said about airbrushing?

This is in no way a defense of WorldNetDaily's misleading article, which can certainly be read as implying that the entirety of Wikipedia allows no mention of Ayers-Obama, or Wright-Obama, or the Obama birth certificate claims. In fact Wikipedia does have entries discussing these things.

But Gateway Pundit never lied and said it didn't. Nor did Glenn Reynolds, who said,

STILL AIRBRUSHING Obama's Wikipedia page.
Since when is a link to a post which contains a link to a WorldNetDaily a promotion of a WorldNetDaily story?

I'm not seeing promotion. Not even passive aggressive promotion.

But I might be wrong. If linking does constitute "promotion," then I'd like to know why Glenn (by linking Weigel) is promoting the airbrushing of the airbrushing!

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post.

Except now I'm confused. Considering that he has linked this post, isn't he now promoting the promoting of the promoting?

A warm welcome to all!

posted by Eric at 01:44 PM | Comments (9)



The Obama Two Step?

While there's no way to ascertain for sure whether Barack Obama's disastrous economic policies are malevolent or incompetent, I found it interesting that yesterday he went out of his way to deny being a socialist (by pleading that he thought it was all a joke):

"It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question," he told reporters, who had interviewed the president aboard Air Force One on Friday.

Opening the unusual presidential call to reporters by saying that there was "just one thing I was thinking about as I was getting on the copter," he said it wasn't he who started the federal government's intervention into the nation's financial system.

"I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn't under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn't on my watch. And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement -- the prescription drug plan -- without a source of funding. And so I think it's important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that we've actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word 'socialist' around can't say the same."

Blame the Republicans? For socialism? If that isn't the final insult, I don't know what is.

To add to my puzzlement, today I see a piece from Clive Crook, titled "Why Obama's left leaning is no tactical feint":

On this page last week I argued that Barack Obama's first budget showed him to be more of a left-leaning liberal than I and many others - sceptics and admirers alike - had previously supposed. People I respect have accused me of going off the deep end about this, or of neglecting Mr Obama's tactical finesse, or both.

Mr Obama is calling for little that he did not promise in the campaign, I am reminded, so he cannot be accused of springing a surprise. I welcome many of the budget's main elements, notably healthcare reform and the cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, and the president made it clear all along that he wished to reverse the Bush tax cuts for the high paid. So the revelation that Mr Obama is a progressive liberal must arise from the proposal to curb high earners' income-tax deductions. That was a surprise, but a small matter: hence the charge that I am getting carried away.

Alternatively, I am told, Mr Obama is playing a shrewder game. Like any good negotiator, he has adopted a maximalist opening position. He expects to be walked back from it, ending up where he wanted to be in the first place, with a more centrist plan than the one he pitched.

Well, if he is playing a "shrewder game," he hides it well. However, regardless of whether any of this is deliberate or incompetent, one thing is certain: Barack Obama is a shrewd enough politician to know how to use whatever mess results to his political advantage. And if he can position himself to the "right" of the "socialist" Republicans, it will have the effect of making his conservative critics look ridiculous. What the latter ought to worry about is that if he really did manage to perform a policy shift to the right (along the lines of actual Reaganomics), it might just lift the economy out of the doldrums -- with Obama getting all the credit.

So perhaps we'll see a new dance routine:

A feint to the left, then a feint to the right.

The neat thing about way the dance works, is that it really doesn't matter which way is malevolent and which way is incompetent, because each side considers the other to be both.

(Besides, malevolence can be incompetent, just as incompetence can be malevolent!)

posted by Eric at 11:19 AM | Comments (7)




Third party takeover?

From Bob Krumm, a dire warning:

Never in my lifetime have I seen the nation as ripe for a third-party takeover as it is now. But if President Obama and the Democratic Congress further propel the economy down a rat hole, the party that emerges might not be the kind we want. There would be just enough truth in the charge for a demagogue to portray the shambles as the fault of those who took sub-prime mortgages they knowingly couldn't afford and the bankers who greedily lent them the money. In other words, minorities and Jews. This could become very ugly, very quickly.
Yes, it could.

The right third party, though, might be just the ticket. OTOH, it might be another Ross Perot debacle, guaranteeing little more than the reelection of Barack Obama (who has an automatic lock on a large segment of the electorate, no matter how unpopular he is with the rest).

Were I him, I'd be thinking about a longterm strategy of divide-and-conquer.

posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (1)



Pat Buchanan - Legalize Drugs

My friends when Pat Buchanan says legalize drugs, political support for the drug war has collapsed.

How does one win a drug war when millions of Americans who use recreational drugs are financing the cartels bribing, murdering and beheading to win the war and keep self-indulgent Americans supplied with drugs?

There are two sure ways to end this war swiftly: Milton's way and Mao's way. Mao Zedong's communists killed users and suppliers alike, as social parasites. Milton Friedman's way is to decriminalize drugs and call off the war.

When Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1972, Milton, writing in Newsweek, objected on ethical grounds:

"On ethical grounds, do we have the right to use the machinery of government to prevent an individual from becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict? For children, almost everyone would answer at least a qualified yes. But for responsible adults, I, for one, would answer no. Reason with the potential addict, yes. Tell him the consequences, yes. Pray for and with him, yes. But I believe that we have no right to use force, directly or indirectly, to prevent a fellow man from committing suicide, let alone from drinking alcohol or taking drugs."

"Am I my brother's keeper?'" asked Milton, answering, "No."

Americans are never going to adopt the Maoist solution. For the users of drugs are all too often classmates, colleagues, friends, even family. Indeed, our last three presidents did not deny using drugs.

Is Pat happy about it? No. But he says we have to make the best of some bad choices.
Which is the greater evil? Legalized narcotics for America's young or a failed state of 110,000 million on our southern border?
I have to admit that Pat Buchanan is the last person I thought would come out in favor of legalizing drugs.

Now I saw the Mexico situation coming twenty years ago when narco States started their inexorable march north. People said I was crazy. Well here we are. What Pat fails to get is that the march of the narco States does not end with Mexico. Guess what country is North of Mexico? In any case glad to have you aboard Pat. Better late than never.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:59 AM | Comments (13)



The end is near! But will I be included?

To FDR's famous "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," I'd offer an amendment:

"We have nothing to get hysterical about but hysteria itself."

This morning, Drudge linked a "news" report from WorldNetDaily (where else?) which is little more than a regurgitation of a minister's repeated claims that the end is near.

Excerpt:

AN EARTH-SHATTERING CALAMITY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. IT IS GOING TO BE SO FRIGHTENING, WE ARE ALL GOING TO TREMBLE - EVEN THE GODLIEST AMONG US.

For ten years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires--such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago.

There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting--including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God's wrath.

There's a lot more, of course.

A lot of people are predicting a lot of things these days, presumably because they sincerely believe them, but (at least in the case of most dire economic predictions), they offer some purported evidence in support of their warnings. Wilkerson offers nothing, other than his status as a minister and authorship decades ago of "The Cross and the Switchblade."

I read the book as homework for a Sacred Studies class when I was a kid, and I enjoyed it.

I also read Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" (along with "Silent Spring") as homework for a Biology class.

I'm in my mid 50s and I've been waiting for the predicted End of the World for most of my life.

I have come to the conclusion that the World will outlast me, and that I won't be a witness to its much-predicted End.

(Sob.)

Apparently to some people that just isn't fair.

UPDATE: Breathing causes Global Warming.

No seriously.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Might there be a direct relationship between hysteria and cynicism?

In my case at least, the more overwrought appeals to hysteria I heard that never came true, the more cynical I became. Perhaps that explains why hucksters of all stripes spend so much time trying to overcome or decry "cynicism."

(It's probably a basic principle of salesmanship too, but that's another topic....)

posted by Eric at 09:14 AM | Comments (2)




Having Doubts

Mr. Obama is big into alternative energy. Wind. Solar. Geothermal. However, even his supporters have doubts about his energy plans.

I like Barack Obama but I have doubts about his presidency when I hear him saying that the US will "double the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term." He should know that that's not possible. But instead, during his State of the Union speech, he proclaimed that we'll reach that goal in three years, not four.

Most anyone who has studied the energy situation must wonder about Obama's, or his advisors', energy experience. Presented with the numbers from the table (see below) he would realize that the majority of the renewable power comes from hydro and from wood, about 154 gigawatts. Readily available data show that the 6 percent for hydro and bio is pretty much all we can hope for. Trying to increase those yields we would have to ask: Where shall we find the extra rivers to dam? Lease the Amazon? And where do we find the extra land to double the wood and corn production? Annex Canada? Ukraine?

Understanding those limitations, Obama apparently relies on direct solar, wind, and geothermal energy growth. All three sources are presently producing about 19 GW. To reach the goal of generating 2 x (154 + 19) = 346 GW by 2012 (or 2011), the output of the three sources would have to increase nine-fold. That implies building many times more wind mills, solar plants, and geothermal stations in three years than have been installed in the previous decades.

The cost of these projects, projects that will provide extraordinarily expensive electricity (five to ten times more than coal or nuclear) is enormous even on the scale of the anticipated deficit spending, pardon me, stimulus package. While the cost would be prohibitive, the real question is whether the four-year, now three-year, deadline is at all realistic. Before we look into that, perhaps a comparison with past prophesies will give us a hint.

During the 1970s, Jimmy Carter committed the US to derive 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2000. Let's check: The proportion of renewable energy production today, 9 years after the deadline and almost 40 years from inception, is essentially the same as during Carter's presidency. Worse yet, the percentage has declined recently from 7.5 to 6.7 percent over the past 10 years.

In 1978, Ralph Nader said "Everything will be solar in 30 years." Notice that the 30-years mark just passed; the production is somewhere between 0.08 percent and 0.11 percent - depending on what is meant by "everything."

The Union of Concerned Scientists, projected for the millennium end: "Wind farms will provide 0.68 quads of electricity" (the amount was 94 percent less than predicted), "direct solar 0.60 quads" (the amount was 87 percent less).

I have my doubts too. There is a limit to the amount of intermittent energy sources the electrical grid can absorb. Some think it is ten percent. Some of the more optimistic folks think it is twenty percent. No way is it anywhere near 100%.

Our biggest wind resource is the upper Mid West. There is no where near enough transmission capacity to bring that resource to the loads in the lower Mid West and the coasts. And there is no way that transmission capacity can be built in three years when the permits haven't even been applied for. And that does not even include the NIMBYs and the Ultra Greens who will fight additions to the grid tooth and nail.

Evidently neither Mr. Obama nor his new Energy Secretary have run the numbers. That is no way to do engineering. Or as many of us like to say: Hope is not a plan.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:30 PM | Comments (12)



Libertarianism is exhausting

I received a couple of emails from libertarianish readers which not only fit the general theme of this blog, but which might shed some light on the state of libertarianism today.

I'll start with one from Bill Goodwin (Editor of FreedomPolitics.com), who links
"What it feels like to be a libertarian":

I'll tell you. It feels bad. Being a libertarian means living with a level of frustration that is nearly beyond human endurance. It means being subject to unending scorn and derision despite being inevitably proven correct by events. How does it feel to be a libertarian? Imagine what the internal life of Cassandra must have been and you will have a pretty good idea.
That's not bad. Considering what's been happening in the age of the Great Bailout and Big Government on a scale never seen before, I don't think there's ever been a more frustrating time to be a libertarian.

If only libertarians could take a cue from the Obama administration mantra, and "never waste a good crisis."

Seriously, if the current metastasization of big government doesn't constitute a crisis from a libertarian standpoint, then what will?

Bear in mind that big government does not necessarily mean federal government so much as it means intrusive government. In that sense, big government means thinking globally and acting locally.

An example comes from reader Michael Thomas, who sent a link about asset seizures run amok and opines,

I have always felt that federal and state, asset siezure laws were unconstitutional on due process grounds but this is ridiculous
Boy is it ever.

Towns like Tenaha, Texas are using the asset forfeiture statutes to commit legal theft:

TENAHA -- A two-decade-old state law that grants authorities the power to seize property used in crimes is wielded by some agencies against people who never are charged with -- much less convicted of -- criminal activity.

Law enforcement authorities in this East Texas town of 1,000 people seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, and, to date, filed criminal charges against fewer than half, according to a review of court documents by the San Antonio Express-News.

Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town.

Some affidavits filed by officers relied on the presence of seemingly innocuous property as the only evidence that a crime had occurred.

Linda Dorman, an Akron, Ohio, great-grandmother had $4,000 in cash taken from her by local authorities when she was stopped while driving through town after visiting Houston in April 2007. Court records make no mention that anything illegal was found in her van. She's still hoping for the return of what she calls "her life savings."

Dorman's attorney, David Guillory, calls the roadside stops and seizures in Tenaha "highway piracy," undertaken by a couple of law enforcement officers whose agencies get to keep most of what was seized.

Guillory is suing officials in Tenaha and Shelby County on behalf of Dorman and nine other clients whose property was confiscated. All were African-Americans driving either rentals or vehicles with out-of-state plates.

Guillory alleges in the lawsuit that while his clients were detained, they were presented with an ultimatum: waive your rights to your property in exchange for a promise to be released and not be criminally charged.

He said most did as Dorman did, signing the waiver to avoid jail.

The state's asset seizure law doesn't require that law enforcement agencies file criminal charges in civil forfeiture cases. It requires only a preponderance of evidence that the property was used in the commission of certain crimes, such as drug crimes, or bought with proceeds of those crimes.

That's a lesser burden than is required in a criminal case. And it allows police departments and prosecutors to divvy up what they get from such seizures -- what critics say is a built-in incentive for unscrupulous, underfinanced law enforcement agencies to illegally strip motorists of their property.

Some lawmakers, fed up with calls from irate constituents, say enough is enough. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the state's asset forfeiture law is being abused by enough jurisdictions across the state that he wants to rewrite major sections of it this year.

"The idea that people lose their property but are never charged and never get it back, that's theft as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, believes some law enforcement agencies in his cash-strapped district in the Rio Grande Valley have become so dependent on the profitable seizures that they routinely misapply the state's civil forfeiture law.

"In a lot of cases, they're more focused on trying to find the money than in trying to find the drugs," he said.

That means law enforcement agencies in the Valley tend to target vehicles heading south into Mexico rather than northbound cars, Hinojosa said, because the southbound vehicles are more likely to be transporting cash -- the profits from the drug trade -- as opposed to just the drugs.

In 2008, three years after stripping a man of $10,032 in cash as he drove south along U.S. 281 to buy a headstone for his dying aunt, Jim Wells County officials returned the man's money -- and the county then paid him $110,000 in damages as part of a settlement. Attorney Malcolm Greenstein said criminal charges never were filed against his client, Javier Gonzalez, nor any of the dozens of people whose records he reviewed. People were given the option of going to jail or signing a waiver, Greenstein said. Like Gonzalez, most signed the waiver.

This is the sort of thing I associate with Mexico and other corrupt Third World countries, and people ought to be more outraged that it's going on here.

Where's the outrage?

Libertarians are of course always outraged. And always exhausted. (And I think they've been exhausted a lot longer than Barack Obama....)

But how outraged is outraged? And how outraged can you get? (Like the old "this time, we're really outraged!" joke...)

However, isn't there a bright side in all of this? It strikes me that if libertarians can live with "a level of frustration that is nearly beyond human endurance," and if Nietzsche was right in his assessment that "what does not kill me makes me stronger," then maybe libertarians will develop superhuman abilities. And maybe also along Nietzchean lines, they'll, you know, become ubermensch.

Is that asking too much?

If someone has to rule the world, why not those who have the greatest disdain for rulers?

And if libertarians don't want to rule (which most of them don't), then they can rule by preventing rule. Implement the government that governs best by governing least.

posted by Eric at 05:35 PM | Comments (2)




"racist extortions" (and YouTube hits)

I don't generally write about things with which I am not fully conversant, and I haven't been in Michigan long enough to consider myself an expert on Detroit. For starters, I still haven't been there. I spent three months here in Ann Arbor, then three months in California, and I've only been back for a couple of weeks.

Still, I am doing my best to keep up with area news, and I do subscribe to the Detroit Free Press. While most people think of Detroit as a troubled city which is home to a troubled auto industry, what was on the front page of yesterday's paper hammered home the fact that Detroit is also home to a very troubled, very dysfunctional, city government. So troubled and so dysfunctional that I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that is the government of Detroit that is either the cause of many of its problems and/or the roadblock to any solutions.

I might not have bothered to write about the current shenanigans in Detroit, but then I saw that the story also made the Wall Street Journal, so a little background is in order.

Detroit's convention center is called the Cobo Center, and because it is in a dire state of repair (collapsing floors and stuff like that), unless something is done fast it stands to lose a huge amount of business, including possibly the Detroit Auto Show. So the state has tried to pull together to save it, with the state and regional governments cobbling together a deal to buy and renovate it.

The plan, however, displeases some of the members of the Detroit City Council, which voted to reject the deal. Their veto was overridden by Mayor Ken Cockrel, so now he and everyone else are being accused of "racism":

Cobo Hall, site of the auto show since 1988, is 49 years old, cramped, leaky and in desperate need of repair. The struggling city needs Cobo as an economic engine, but doesn't have the money to fund a renovation. The $288 million expansion and renovation plan, signed earlier this year by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, was the result of years of wrangling between the city, the suburbs and the state. It would pay Detroit $20 million to transfer control of Cobo to a five-member regional board, while eliminating $15 million in annual operating expenses from the city's books.

The renovation would be funded by a hotel and liquor tax that applies in a three-county area, including Detroit. That tax has been in place from an earlier expansion and was set to expire in 2015. To extend it, suburban leaders demanded more control over the facility, as well as access to contracts and jobs at the convention center.

City Council members who voted against the plan saw it as a power grab by the state and white-dominated suburbs seeking to use the city's budget woes as an excuse to wrest away control of an important Detroit institution. "It's like everyone is so against Detroit when Detroit is suffering the most," Ms. Conyers said at the time of the vote.

Council members said they would rather use federal stimulus money for the renovation than cede authority over the convention center. Some council members suggested the state was withholding stimulus funds from the project in an attempt to strong-arm them into accepting the deal.

"They are holding this sword over our heads," Councilwoman Barbara-Rose Collins said at the council meeting last week. "We want our stimulus package to come directly to the city of Detroit, bypassing the racist extortions of the state and the region."

Racist extortions?

Bear in mind that the surrounding counties aren't happy with the burden in the first place:

"But not everybody outside of Detroit is happy about taking on Cobo," Jackson said. "And the city feels like something is being taken away from them. We have to get past this impasse somehow."

Council members opposing the deal have also said the $20 million the city would receive under the deal isn't a fair price for the civic center, but according to a report by council's fiscal analyst, Cobo is a drain on the city's finances.

If repair and expansion needs, operational deficits and deferred maintenance are considered, Cobo has a negative $284 million net value, Fiscal Analyst Irv Corley Jr. wrote in a report to city council.

In other words, it would be an immense gain all around for Detroit.

Wondering how any of this is racism? Read the story from yesterday's paper that inspired this extended post:

...what started with a veto by the mayor ended with strong charges of racism against a majority black city and a promise to meet the mayor in court next week.

Council President Monica Conyers said the council would vote Monday to have its attorney, David Whitaker, file an injunction in Wayne County Circuit Court against Cockrel's veto.

In response, Cockrel's spokesman Daniel Cherrin said the mayor "is confident his veto will withstand any legal challenges."

Conyers canvassed City Council members late Wednesday to secure enough signatures -- four -- to call for a special meeting Thursday with the intent to override Cockrel's veto. But working against her was the city's charter, which states any vote to override a veto must be conducted at a regular meeting.

By midday, it became apparent that coupled with the charter issue, those opposing the Cobo takeover would not have the votes to override, even if the meeting allowed for it.

Only four council members attended the special session -- Conyers, Council President Pro Tem JoAnn Watson, Barbara-Rose Collins and Martha Reeves. Without a quorum, council members held an open meeting dialogue, with themselves and the public.

Collins began by railing against council critics, Lansing legislators, Cockrel and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, charging a conspiracy to take Detroit land.

"When he resurrected his great honorable warrior father's name, it was a disgrace," Collins said, in reference to the mayor invoking the name of his father, the late former Councilman Ken Cockrel, during his announcement Wednesday of the veto.

"European rulers have traditionally taken what they wanted from other people, be they white, be they black or be they brown.

She also spoke of Patterson: "I'd look like a fool negotiating with L. Brooks Patterson. I'll never forget how my enemies think of me. My purpose of bringing that up was -- do you negotiate with someone who thinks you're a monkey? Would you negotiate with someone who thinks you're beneath human being, to take away your asset? I would be a fool to negotiate."

Patterson dismissed Collins' comments about him as an attempt to start a fight.

Gee, who'd have guessed that?

What I'd really like to know is precisely how Mayor Cockrel became a "European ruler," but I guess I'll never know.

This all prompted Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley to say,

"It's time that Detroit City Council meetings stop becoming YouTube hits."
It came as surprising news to me that for these past months I've been living just a stone's throw from a city which is entertaining enough to succeed on YouTube!

To make it on YouTube, they must be good. And sure enough, they are.

Check this wild scene out -- in which Councilmember Monica Conyers interrupts Ken Cockrel and then calls him "Shrek."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but it's a shame this once thriving city has become such a pathetic joke.

For those who want a serious view of the latest flap, a concerned Detroit resident (in a video titled "What's wrong with Detroit?") says "I'm so tired of defending the indefensible," and argues that the voters "need to be a lot more educated about the people who represent us."

I've never heard of this guy (his name is Mr. Spann), but he makes a good argument, and his sincerity and civic-mindedness are obvious.

If more Detroiters thought that way, the city might make some progress.

posted by Eric at 10:03 PM | Comments (2)



The Coming Crack Up

I'm not talking about the economy. That is already done for. I'm talking about Obama's coming crack up. A commenter at Gateway Pundit makes an interesting observation.

He thinks we're all idiots who will swoon over him for eight straight years. Even so, he's starting to have a kind of permanent sheen of flop sweat and the beginnings of fear gnaw at him. The British will never forget that he was the first American president to refuse to take questions from their reporters.

This is because he has no answers. At some point he'll be cornered and forced to answer, and he'll simply crack up in public. It'll be a nightmare, but it'll also be the most compelling thing you've ever seen in your life. It'll be legendary, mythical, the self-destruction of a president on live TV.

Which just reinforces something I was reading the other day.
The pacific mask crumbles when the narcissist has become convinced that the very people he purported to speak for, his constituency, his grassroots fans, the prime sources of his narcissistic supply - have turned against him. At first, in a desperate effort to maintain the fiction underlying his chaotic personality, the narcissist strives to explain away the sudden reversal of sentiment. "The people are being duped by (the media, big industry, the military, the elite, etc.)", "they don't really know what they are doing", "following a rude awakening, they will revert to form", etc.

When these flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail - the narcissist is injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression. The pent-up frustration and hurt translate into devaluation. That which was previously idealized - is now discarded with contempt and hatred.

This primitive defense mechanism is called "splitting". To the narcissist, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object. A narcissistic leader is likely to justify the butchering of his own people by claiming that they intended to kill him, undo the revolution, devastate the economy, or the country, etc.

The "small people", the "rank and file", the "loyal soldiers" of the narcissist - his flock, his nation, his employees - they pay the price. The disillusionment and disenchantment are agonizing. The process of reconstruction, of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the trauma of having been deceived, exploited and manipulated - is drawn-out. It is difficult to trust again, to have faith, to love, to be led, to collaborate. Feelings of shame and guilt engulf the erstwhile followers of the narcissist. This is his sole legacy: a massive post-traumatic stress disorder.

We will get a consolation prize. Medical marijuana which is good for PTSD will be legal and you will be able to grow your own. Because you certainly won't be able to afford to buy it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:06 PM | Comments (2)



Outsmarted By The Rubes

Stuart Taylor has a column up about how he was fooled by Obama's rhetoric.

Having praised President Obama's job performance in two recent columns, it is with regret that I now worry that he may be deepening what looks more and more like a depression and may engineer so much spending, debt, and government control of the economy as to leave most Americans permanently less prosperous and less free.

Other Obama-admiring centrists have expressed similar concerns. Like them, I would like to be proved wrong. After all, if this president fails, who will revive our economy? And when? And what kind of America will our children inherit?

The thing is that he was warned by the rubes: Joe the Plumber, (God forbid) Sarah Palin, and a raft of not so elite bloggers.

Peter Robinson in Forbes gets it.

A couple of implications here are worth noting. The first is that a deep, recurring pattern of American life has asserted itself yet again: the cluelessness of the elite.

Buckley, Gergen and Brooks all attended expensive private universities, then spent their careers moving among the wealthy and powerful who inhabit the seaboard corridor running from Washington to Boston. If any of the three strolled uninvited into a cocktail party in Georgetown, Cambridge or New Haven, the hostess would emit yelps of delight. Yet all three originally got Obama wrong.

Contrast Buckley, Gergen and Brooks with, let us say, Rush Limbaugh, whose appearance at any chic cocktail party would cause the hostess to faint dead away, or with Thomas Sowell, who occupies probably the most unfashionable position in the country, that of a black conservative.

Limbaugh and Sowell both got Obama right from the very get-go. "Just what evidence do you have," Sowell replied when I asked, shortly before the election, whether he considered Obama a centrist, "that he's anything but a hard-left ideologue?"

The elite journalists, I repeat, got Obama wrong. The troglodytes got him right. As our national drama continues to unfold, bear that in mind.

And of course the most important thing for any stage magician is that despite the fact that the audience knows that it is all fakery and illusion they want to believe any way. The nice thing about stage magic is that you pay once for the show and then it is over. We are going to be paying for this bit of governmental magic for generations to come.

But look at the bright side. We are going to be able to teach our kids how socialism works up close and personal. We will also be learning just how big of a black market a country like the USA can sustain.

H/T Instapundit who also tried to warn our elites during the election season and who was frequently mocked for the effort. Not to mention all the folks who assured me that the fact that Obama spent 20 years in the Church of Hate and who's family politics were Communist to the core didn't mean nothin. Despite the fact that I went to an elite school myself I wasn't taken in. To what do I credit that fact? The years I spent hanging out with outlaw bikers. Living with men who will slit your throat for a false move brings a certain amount of realism to one's life.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:02 PM | Comments (2)



Competitive Bidding

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White
House. One is from Chicago , another is from Tennessee , and the third is from Minnesota .

All three go with a White House official to examine the fence. The Minnesota contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Chicago contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$2,700."

The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"

The Chicago contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence."

"Done!" replies the government official.

And that, my friends, is how the new stimulus plan will work.

From the comments at Knox News

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)



taking the surreal more seriously

I haven't written about my favorite artist, Salvador Dalí, in quite some time. But I see that vintage Dalí YouTube videos continue to appear, and I thought this one was wonderful. The title is "Salvador Dali with silver ink."

Certainly the above is not political in nature, although I'm sure a PostModernist would find no shortage of things to politicize. Dalí considered himself to be a Monarchist and an Anarchist, and is said to have coined the term "Anarcho-Monarchist."

Anyway, for those who want something more blatantly political, here's the political Dalí!

posted by Eric at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)




At last! A sign of recovery!

The DC Examiner's Chief Political Correspondent Byron York has just asked Rush Limbaugh if he had "any numbers he could share on just what effect the increased visibility has had on his business."

According to Limbaugh, the numbers are "through the roof" -- which prompted the following economic observation from York:

...the most decisive economic stimulus produced by the Obama administration so far has been at the Excellence in Broadcasting Network.
Well, the economic recovery had to start someplace!

posted by Eric at 11:47 AM | Comments (6)



In the tank to end the war

I realize this is a departure from the culture war, but I am facing a war nevertheless.

A potentially deadly fish versus turtle war.

Normally, the latter eat the former, but in the case of my demented (and nearly outgrown) tank, the fish (a pair of demented Flowerhorn cichlids -- "an abomination to the hobby") are growing too fast, terrorizing the tank, and need to be separated.

So I found a used 35 gallon hexagonal aquarium which is 20 1/4" wide x 23 1/4" wide x 25" high. It came with no base, but I found a somewhat tacky office table (in two pieces) that I want to modify.

In a marvelous coincidence, the table base (made of heavy wood covered by finished sheet metal) is 20 1/4" wide by 28" high, and the aquarium edges rest on six places around the circle.

HexAquarium2_s.jpg

However, the above arrangement is not as solid or secure as would be a flat wooden base supporting the entire tank. (Bear in mind that 35 gallons of water weigh nearly 300 lbs. -- and that's in addition to the weight of the tank.)

The table has an enormous, fake wood formica style top 5 feet wide.

tabletop_s.jpg

Obviously, that is far too big, so I will have to cut it to size. But what size? How should I do this without making it look even more tacky than it is?

I thought of several things.

1. Using the table base as is (with only partial support around the bottom of the tank);

2. Tracing the aquarium shape onto the table top and cutting out a piece for the bottom, then trimming around the edges;

3. Cutting a 60 degree pie section from the middle of the table, then trimming off the back triangle. (This would produce two rounded triangle "shelves" on each side, plus support for the aquarium. The front edge would be rounded, finished, and water impervious, although it might look peculiar.)

4. Making the thing look like a giant bolt, by painting it silver, with threads around the base and an enlarged hexagonal wooden top painted to look like a giant bolt head.

5. Gluing bamboo (or half bamboo) around the base.

6. Painting a Tiki pole design on the base. In the latter regard, tacky is the whole idea, and tacky designs abound:

tikipole_s.jpg

How's this for an anti-war think tank?

HexAquariumTiki_s.jpg

Isn't the best defense a good offense? Or should I go back to the drawing board?

Your thoughts are appreciated.

posted by Eric at 09:12 AM | Comments (1)




Self loathing is not limited to humans!

Via an email, I learned of this video of "a leg trying to steal a bone," and sure enough, that is what the poor dog thinks is going on:


Fortunately, Coco (who did not like the video) would never do anything so dumb as snarl at her own leg.

Otherwise, I'd be very worried.

posted by Eric at 01:15 PM | Comments (8)



On matters of taste there can be lots of disagreement

This debate between Stephen Green and Will Wilkinson on "liberaltarianism" fascinated me. The philosophy is explained here by the latter, and dissected (maybe even deconstructed) here by Stephen.

At the heart of liberaltarianism is antiwarism, and as an advocate of strong national self-defense, I side with Stephen on this debate for that reason alone.

But now that the war has been largely won, and the economy has tanked, economic issues are on the front burner, and in that regard, there doesn't seem to be a major divergence between liberaltarianism and libertarianism. Nor does there seem to be much difference on social issues.

Yet, there's more to this than ideology. I noticed that Green and Wilkinson both acknowledged that young people just plain don't like social conservatism.

That's an easy thing for people who get caught up in ideological debates to forget. I don't like social conservatism either, but I'm just one vote, and I can get so hung up discussing the particulars of what I think is right or wrong that I forget political pragmatism.

In politics, right and wrong are subordinated to winning.

If people don't like something, they will not vote for it. This is especially true where it comes to personalities. Just because I was able to see past Sarah Palin's social conservatism (and I could see that it did not prevent her from having an attractively libertarian record), doesn't mean there weren't lots of people who got so caught up in matters of taste that they lost sight of all objectivity. Thus, while it mattered very little to me whether she attended religious services where nuts were speaking in tongues (or listening to admitted witch hunters), for a lot of people, that kind of stuff is scary as hell. And it may be the sort of thing that leads to electoral defeat.

Similarly, just because I can overlook my disagreements with Rush Limbaugh, and the fact that I don't especially like his personality, that does not mean others can.

Especially the young.

The seeds were planted in October after Democracy Corps, the Democratic polling company run by Carville and Greenberg, included Limbaugh's name in a survey and found that many Americans just don't like him.

"His positives for voters under 40 was 11 percent," Carville recalled with a degree of amazement, alluding to a question about whether voters had a positive or negative view of the talk show host.

If those numbers are accurate, they would confirm the reality that social conservatism is extremely unpopular with young people.

If enough of them vote, it may be ballot box poison.

Of course, everything is so unsettled right now that it may be a good time to do absolutely nothing.

The national polling numbers are almost schizophrenic. From the Real Clear Politics Poll Averages

President Obama Job Approval
RCP Average
Approve
59.8
Disapprove
28.6
Spread +31.2

Congressional Job Approval
RCP Average
Approve
32.0
Disapprove
55.7
Spread -23.7

Direction of Country
RCP Average
Right Direction
37.0
Wrong Track
56.3
Spread -19.3

Does this mean the majority of voters believe that it's OK for the country to be on the wrong track? I don't think they'd admit to such a thing.

Maybe it's just collective cognitive dissonance, grounded in superficial likes and dislikes, the way people like Obama, and don't like Rush.

Or maybe the Obama euphoria hasn't yet worn off, so the nation is still having an Obama Rush.

Give them time. I've long believed that traditionally, the Democrats win by promising an endless supply of goodies to everyone, while the Republicans are seen as the party of belt-tightening and restraint. The party of dessert versus the party of "eat this bad tasting food -- it's good for you!" While the Democrats have not been able to fully reverse these traditional roles, to a far greater extent they have been able to portray the Republicans not as belt-tighteners, but as wild profligates, and for the first time the Democrats are now poised to usurp the "eat this bad tasting food -- it's good for you!" role. Except what the Democrats are now saying boils down to "Freedom is not good for you!"

If the voters get past their Obama Rush cognitive dissonance, the Republicans might be in a position to offer a more pleasant-tasting dessert.

MORE: Now that Obama adminstration scoldings are being likened to "Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey lecturing us on how to stay slim," I'm feeling inexplicably reassured.

Some desserts are just!

posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (8)



It Gets Progressively Worse

I'm reading No Quarter for a change and I came across a "Progressive" who is unhappy with Obama.

Remember how we (meaning, progressives, liberals, Democrats, fair-minded people) got really upset when the Republican majority used all kinds of tricks to get their way? It made us mad. But now, Obama is thinking of using a little procedural trick that would only require 50 votes to get his energy and health care bills passed. Here's some more information on this procedure:
Because they can not be filibustered, budget reconciliations only require 50 votes to pass the Senate. Democrats hold strong majorities in Congress, but still come up short of the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to end debate, which makes it easier for Republicans to block legislation. House rules in comparison make it harder for the minority party to stop bills.

Still, using budget reconciliation to pass policy proposals is controversial, even among some Democrats who believe doing so strains Senate rules and tradition.

Take this to heart my Progressive friend: Obama is the most Progressive of Progressives.

He plans to soak (some of) the rich. Carbon taxes will drive energy costs up. And he promises a Civilian Corps (SS) to keep ordinary citizens on the straight and narrow.

Perhaps it is time to rethink your commitment to the Progressive Philosophy. After all the Austrian Corporal was as progressive as they come. And we know how that ended. Or perhaps the Progressive History of the USSR might interest you.

Hayek in The Road to Serfdom explains why progressive politics always ends badly. He wrote it in 1944 when the trajectory was still fresh.

Obama is not an aberration. He is the inevitable end result of Progressive Thought. There is no New Socialist Man. There are just the same greedy bastards. Bad enough in business: but at least there you can set them against each other (you know - competition). The Maker help us when the greedy bastards get unchecked government power.

And we now have the smoothest talking "progressive" greedy bastard we have seen in a long time as head of government with a Congress filled mostly with his minions.

Enjoy.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)




Rush Limbaugh Offers To Debate Obama

Rush is on fire. Listen. I will update this later.

posted by Simon at 01:17 PM | Comments (10)



Keeping track of the feeding cycle

In an interesting PJM piece, Adam Graham observes that "the war on Rush is a proxy war on movement conservatives," and I agree. It's a proxy war against all conservative opposition to Barack Obama, and I say this as a non-fan of Limbaugh.

I also think that the war against the Tea Party movement is a proxy war on the growing libertarian opposition to Barack Obama.

(In the latter regard, I should point out that the only reason I haven't taken my money from the evil, CATO-funding Koch family is because they haven't sent it yet! Of course, if they did, then according to the lefties' logic, every word I utter would instantly become insincere astroturf speech or something.)

Whether any of this means that the business-as-usual GOP party regulars are being left alone for the time being (provided they don't rock the boat), who knows?

I don't know how many of them are defending Rush Limbaugh (much less the Tea Party movement) but it all inclines me to remember Winston Churchill's maxim:

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile -- hoping it will eat him last.
Being a lowly small-l-libertarian blogger, I don't have time to worry about such things.

Besides, I'm too small to be worth eating, and there are too many mouths to feed!

baby_crocodiles2.jpg

Whether it is better to feed than be food is premature.

posted by Eric at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)



It Was A Historic Election
Foreclosed


There are more at Doug Ross.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:18 AM | Comments (0)



A Destructive Agenda


I was sure Obama's election coupled with his agenda would lead to a failure that would be obvious to the majority of Americans within six months of his inauguration. It has taken less than six weeks.

I read an anecdote some where today about a guy who was checking out his purchases at a grocery store and the cashier out of the blue opened up on Obama. Six people in line. Nobody had said anything about politics and the clerk just opened up out of the blue (heh). If Obama has already lost the grocery clerks he and his party are in for a very rough ride over the next four and maybe forty years.

The time may be already here when people start looking back on the inept Bush administration with a sense of wistful nostalgia (OK. I cop to redundancy - it was for emphasis). Many thought - no one could be worse than Bush. We are definitely putting that one to the test. So far it looks to me like Bush is coming out on top. Six weeks.

Here are some pictures of voters expressing their remorse. I especially liked the black guy with a sign which expresses something I have been saying for a while about the "historic" election.

Funny thing is that Obama's rise is mirrored by the stock market fall. What is Obama's ace in the hole in all of this? It is unlikely that the stock market will go below zero. Which, I am sure is a comforting thought for President ∅.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:04 AM | Comments (0)




Advertise your innocence!

Well, I suppose this was inevitable.

dontblameme2.jpg

(There's a similar sticker on Ebay with Palin's name added.)

But if you don't quite fancy the campaignish look, Cafe Press offers plenty of other models to choose from.

Like this:

dontblameme3.jpg


Or this:

dontblameme.jpg

Not to be outdone, Amazon has a slightly slicker version:

dontblameme4.jpg

I'm not much of a fan of gloating, or saying "I TOLD YOU SO!"

But I have to say, it didn't take as long as it usually does for these items to appear.

posted by Eric at 08:34 PM | Comments (4)



Are you all aTwitter?

I'm wondering how many readers out there use Twitter, and of those of you who do, whom do you follow? I notice that Barack Obama and Stephen Colbert haven't tweeted in quite awhile. Karl Rove, our former paymaster, is sure to note exactly when and how often he'll be appearing on FOX News.

I, for one, am following Julius Caesar and Larry David.

Who should I be following, and why?

posted by Dennis at 04:31 PM | Comments (5)



You Were Warned

It looks like Obama fever is starting to wane. At least that is what the anecdotal evidence from Larry Kudlow would indicate.

Noteworthy up here on Wall Street, a great many Obama supporters -- especially hedge-fund types who voted for "change" -- are becoming disillusioned with the performances of Obama and Treasury man Geithner. There is a growing sense of buyer's remorse. Well then, do conservatives dare say: We told you so?
Yes we can. As you well know I was warning people of the dangers of an Obama administration all through the election season. But Americans had the fever. The "elect a black man to the Presidency" historical fever. We went through that in Illinois with Carol Mosely Braun. And some of us in Illinois learned our lesson. Now the rest of the nation will get a chance to learn their lesson. The answer I always got to the warning was "how bad could he be?" We are about to get Three more years 10 more months 2 more weeks and 2 more days to find out. It ain't going to be pretty. Let us hope (heh) that this is a lesson that will last a lifetime for those who made the mistake.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:22 PM | Comments (1)



Santelli And The Traders


It is rather obvious that this is not a music video. Despite the fact that images of naked and semi-naked women are involved.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)



Latest entry in the national routine

Via an email, I learned about a fascinating incident in which a woman called 911 because a McDonalds restaurant had run out of Chicken McNuggets:

ARCH 3--Angered that her local McDonald's was out of Chicken McNuggets, a Florida woman called 911 three times to report the fast food "emergency." Latreasa Goodman, 27, last Saturday called police to complain that a cashier--citing a McDonald's all sales are final policy--would not give her a refund. When cops responded to the restaurant, Goodman told them, "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one." Goodman noted, "I called 911 because I couldn't get a refund, and I wanted my McNuggets," according to the below Fort Pierce Police Department report. That logic, however, did not keep cops from citing Goodman for misusing the 911 system. Even after being issued a misdemeanor citation, Goodman contended, "this is an emergency, my McNuggets are an emergency."
The story also notes that another man had called 911 to complain about his displeasure with a Burger King combo meal. Depending on how stoned the employees are, my local burrito joint has been known to short me on the meat -- one time after I had already hit the tipjar! I didn't think that was an emergency, but that only reveals my cultural biases. I was not raised to think of my incidental desires as needs -- much less as akin to life and death matters. Silly me.

While this woman's conduct in calling 911 would seem indefensible by most people's standards, there are a lot of "emergencies" that aren't emergencies at all. Not only are hospital emergency rooms often used for routine health care (forcing those with emergencies to stand in line), but so are ambulances. Unharmed but litigious people will often demand ambulances when they are in ordinary fender-bender accidents, simply because they know it will make the case look better to an attorney. This reminds me of the time a friend was leaving a Philadelphia parking lot and a woman suddenly slammed herself against the front of his car and screamed that she'd been "hit." Through pure luck, a police officer witnessed the whole thing, and told the woman she was out of luck, but she remained adamant, and demanded an ambulance. (And believe it or not, that cop was required by department policy to call her an ambulance, simply because she demanded it. Fortunately for my friend, she never sued, probably because no lawyer was sleazy enough to take her case.)

The word "emergency" is almost as misused as the words "war" or "crisis." Things are so bad that as Mark Steyn observed recently, this country is living in a "permanent state of routine emergency."

Steyn isn't kidding. While so many different types of problems have been called emergencies that I couldn't list them all, here are a few selected, um, nuggets:

  • According to Barbra Streisand, we are in a global warming emergency.
  • Autism is a national emergency. (As I'm sure are countless diseases.)
  • The current state of US math education is a national emergency
  • The lack of awareness throughout America about the nature and impact of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation is a national emergency.
  • It is a National Emergency to have no domestic manufacturing of Vitamin C!
  • And this man makes a good argument that his student loan is a national emergency and demands a federal bailout.
  • Is it so much to ask that a Chicken McNuggets shortage be included in the national routine?

    And if it isn't an emergency, I think it's only fair that we at least call it a crisis.

    After all, we wouldn't want to damage anyone's self esteem.

    posted by Eric at 02:15 PM | Comments (5)



    Browsing in the marketplace of ideas

    The hard-hitting Geert Wilder film "Fitna" is a classic example of the kind of opinionated advocacy which Americans take for granted as protected free speech. Agree with Wilder's point of view or not, the ability to see it is what the First Amendment guarantees.

    Right?

    So what's the big deal about letting people see it?

    For anyone who's Internet-savvy, it's not all that big of a deal to find. Michelle Malkin has posted it here, it's on YouTube in multiple segments, and it can be downloaded in .wmv format here. Or you can download a burnable iso file here.

    Being a collector of important cultural artifacts (as well as a somewhat lazy person), it occurred to me that I might be able to buy it online.

    No such luck.

    Amazon does not list any such DVD for sale.

    As to Ebay, while you might think of it as a place where anything is sold, you can't even search for it.

    No seriously. Unless I am crazy or my computer has some sort of Ebay-search-infecting virus, every time I enter the word "fitna" the Ebay machine changes it to "fiona." Same with "Fitna DVD."

    Anyone know what's up with that?

    I've been using Ebay for a decade, and I've never seen this. It's one thing not to allow people to sell what they call "forbidden items," but changing search words is ridiculous. Why not just tell me "your search revealed 0 items" as it does when I search for "liberal assclown" or "puppyblender"?

    Beyond that, even if we assume "Fitna" is little more than anti-Islamic propaganda (and therefore "hate speech"), why is Ebay allowing Hitler's "Mein Kampf" to be sold?

    Or that infamous Czarist forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Or of course, another Mideast best-seller, Henry Ford's "The International Jew."

    You'd almost think someone is against competition.

    posted by Eric at 11:28 AM | Comments (3)



    Obamanomics in a nutshell

    I'm not much of a fan of Rush Limbaugh (see yesterday's post), but when he gets it right he gets it right. And he sure got it right yesterday in his explanation of what's been baffling so many people:

    The president is presiding over economic failure. The president is watching it, doing nothing about it. He's watching unemployment grow; he's watching the stock market plummet; he is watching people sign up for unemployment. The president of the United States is doing nothing to stop the downward spiral of this economy. He has no economic recovery plan. The truth is, the president of the United States and Rahm Emanuel, who, remember, said, "Crisis is too great a thing to waste." What does that mean? They want you suffering, they want you miserable, they want it worse, they want you rejecting conservatism. They want you rejecting capitalism. They want you turning to them in fear and desperation and angst for an immediate fix to the problem. They want you thinking you have no ability to fix your own problems. They think you have and they want you to have no ability to take care of yourself. So as the stock market now approaches minus 2,800 since Obama was elected, the statement today is to speed up the economic recovery, we're going to focus on health care. Ask yourself how that is going to get you your next job.
    The problem with many ordinary Americans (including well educated, well informed liberals I know) is that they assume the president and his administration are acting in good faith, and cannot understand why so many "mistakes" are being made.

    Mistakes?

    Really?

    Except for a growing minority of "Tea Party" types, I think the American people are being far too naive.

    I almost said they're not cynical enough, but Barack Obama is very fond of criticizing what he calls "cynicism" so I'll say they're not realistic enough.

    Jeff Seidel writes for the embattled Detroit Free Press, and like many Obama voters these days, he's scratching his head. Yesterday (in a column titled "Help! I'm suffering from Obama overload!") he noted that the economy is in a dire state of collapse, but instead of focusing on that, Obama is being treated by the focusing classes as a rock star (with endlessly obsessive magazine cover adulation, politicians acting like groupies, etc.)

    I voted for Barack Obama. He's smart and focused and talented. He is, as they used to describe quarterback Joe Montana, cooler than the other side of the pillow.

    And I have faith that he will get us out of this economic mess.

    Quick note to Obama: Dude, you are facing an insane crisis. If you are feeling stressed, go ahead and sneak a smoke. I think I speak for everybody when I say: I don't care what you do, just fix my 401(k).

    Quick note to everyone else: Never smoke. It will kill you.

    Quick note to Michael Phelps: Put that down. What were you thinking? Go eat some munchies and chill.

    Anyhow, back to Obama. For weeks, I couldn't get enough of our basketball-playing prez. I'm a news junkie, and Obama was my fix. I read every story and watched every interview. But, sadly, I have a horrible admission to make: I'm developing Obama Fatigue.

    He's in every magazine. He's on every TV show. He and his wife are everywhere, and my head is about to explode with Obama trivia -- from his struggle with cigarettes to his love of Stevie Wonder.

    Etc.

    I guess I have a horrible admission to make too. I developed Obama Fatigue before he was elected. The best way to avoid the symptoms it is not to turn on the TV except to watch old movies, and avert my eyes from the Hollywood magazines at the supermarket checkout stand.

    Because I know what it feels like to be let down, I can't help pity guys like Jeff Seidel, who is obviously not alone. However, his reaction is illustrative of the difference between ordinary liberals and hard core socialists. The former (trusting sorts, generally) either believe -- or especially want to believe -- that socialistic programs can be made to work. The latter know full well that socialism does not work, and that therefore its failure is their success.

    What they most fear right now is the type of realism they like to characterize as "cynicism." Whether the cultural phenomenon called "Obamamania" is intended as a deliberate (dare I say "cynical"?) distraction is something I cannot prove, so I should probably leave it to the conspiracy theorists

    For now, though, I think it's safe to say that Obama fatigue is not a paranoid conspiracy theory.....

    MORE: Looking at the stock market freefall, Roger L. Simon asks a good question: "is the media mentally ill?"

    I am not alone. Almost everyone is feeling this pain. Even, of course, the mainstream media, a large number of whom are losing their jobs and almost all of whom are seeing their savings vanish (unless they were smart enough to stay out of the market). But almost none of them are saying anything critical of Obama's policies which, obviously, the stock market - conventionally the predictor of our economy - thinks are dead wrong.

    Cognitive dissonance? Mental imbalance? Slavish idolatry? Or just plain inability to admit you made a mistake? You tell me. Meanwhile, the market goes lower and lower while the media continues its hosannas to BHO. I could just say it's their futures, but it's ours too, the selfish creeps.

    What if there's a direct relationship between the market freefall and the loudness of the hosannas? The lower market gets, the louder the hosannas become?

    Being loudly and sanctimoniously right means never having to admit to being wrong.

    MORE: "Too loud to be wrong" has a nice ring, eh?

    (Sounds almost like "too big to fail"...)

    MORE: Mickey Kaus reacts to a remarkable admission from Obama officialdom ("I'd rather live with a debt than have people go without health care") with a cynical realistic remark:

    And here I almost believed Obama's health care plans were all about lowering costs and getting the budget under control.
    Via Glenn Reynolds who says "That's for rubes."

    Hmmm....

    I think it would take a rube to believe that the goal was all about improving the health care system...

    On the bright side, maybe we're in for a rube awakening!

    UPDATE: More here on Barack Obama's intentional destruction of the economy:

    Why would Obama inflict these destructive policies while the economy is collapsing? Simple. Each step strengthens the role of government in people's lives.

    • Squelching the stock market kills its attractiveness as a parking lot for private capital. Combined with an increase in the capital gains tax, investors will swarm to bonds -- tax-free vehicles like municipal bonds, which benefit the growth of state and local government. And unions, of course.

    • Carbon cap-and-tax will raise taxes on all Americans as the cost of goods and services will increase to address a non-existent threat.

    • True tax cuts would grow the economy, which is why, of course, Obama shuns them. The last major recession was Jimmy Carter's malaise. It consisted of of double-digit inflation and unemployment. It was finally licked by across-the-board tax cuts for everyone (even the despised rich), which touched off a twenty-plus year run of prosperity.

    • Charities reduce the role of government assistance for those in need. That, in Obama's world, can not be tolerated. That is why charities must be choked off and allowed to die. Especially faith-based institutions.

    The only plausible explanation is that Obama's destruction of the economy is intentional.

    It is based on a failed ideology that has never -- and can never -- succeed.

    And I'm not the only one who thinks so....

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds,
    The other possibility, of course, is that he's clueless. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence, and after the Geithner/Daschle/Richardson/Killefer/Carrion/Kirk problems, incompetence is looking like the strong horse.
    I hope that's right, even though I don't normally find incompetence especially reassuring.

    posted by Eric at 08:52 AM | Comments (2)




    The turtle and the cat

    Normally I don't go in for cutesiness, but this is so cute I thought I'd share it.

    If only there were an Aesop's fable to go with it... Of course, as anyone who uses Google probably knows, today is Dr. Seuss's 105th birthday. (Which makes me feel old, as I grew up thinking of him as belonging to my dad's generation.)

    posted by Eric at 10:29 PM | Comments (1)



    The ongoing war on rot

    Reviewing Rush Limbaugh's CPAC speech, John Hawkins warns the conservative movement that losing the next election might be more devastating than what has already happened:

    Conservatives have better solutions than either the left or the moderates in our own party can come up with -- ready to go, ready to improve the lives of Americans -- but very few people on the right are promoting those ideas.

    Sure, it's possible we could win in 2012 on the same old stale agenda. But what if we don't? What if we run a conservative like Sarah Palin, and Barack Obama just manages to squeak out a victory, not over a squishy RINO like John McCain, but over a real conservative?

    That would create a crisis of confidence in our movement. And that is why we can't afford to be complacent about our agenda, technology, or the grassroots.

    As Rush said, we do need the "right candidate." However, we also need to improve our political agenda to show the American people that not only are conservatives philosophically superior to liberal Democrats, but that they have relevant, intelligent policies that will make a positive difference in their lives.

    Forgive me for sounding cynical, but I see more than a hint of of a subtext there, and naturally, I find myself wondering whether John Hawkins revealed what's a sort of third rail issue for the Republicans.

    Let's face it, right now, no matter what "side" anyone is on, the GOP is still in a losing streak phase, and the mood of the party is dominated by doom-and-gloom, fatalistic thinking.

    So I'm wondering about something. If continued losses in the next election are seen as inevitable, might the game become one not of winning, but of who gets positioned to lose next? Seen this way, it's not so much of whose turn it is to win, but whose turn it is to lose.

    A game of musical chairs -- in which the "loser" nominee ends up taking the blame, and ultimately whoever did not win nomination gets in position as the ultimate "winner" the next time around.

    Social conservatives would want to have a RINO or libertarian lose so they could play "I TOLD YOU SO!", while libertarians could do the same thing if social conservatives lose. I've noticed that people are already trying to analyze the last election this way, but it isn't so neat and tidy, because there's no consensus on which side "caused" the loss. Was it the RINO side (epitomized by McCain)? Or was it the conservatives and Sarah Palin? Personally, I don't think any Republican could have won the last election, because the amazing timing of the economic crash dovetailed perfectly with Bush fatigue, but that won't stop the "sides" from pointing the finger at each other.

    I'm not here to live up to anyone's label or standards, and whether I'm considered a "real" conservative, a "real" libertarian, or a contemptible RINO -- that stuff is for other people to worry about, and it should not influence what I think, or why I think it. Labels are annoyances. So are party platforms, obligatory talking points, and demands that I agree with certain ideas and principles or else not be "real" enough.

    I don't know to what extent Rush Limbaugh is in charge of the GOP (or "conservatism"), but because he's at the center of John Hawkins' analysis and many people respect him, I'd like to look at something else he was quoted as saying, which Hawkins properly describes as "punishingly effective criticism of the Democratic Party":

    (T)ake a look at all the constituency groups that for 50 years have been depending on the Democrat Party to improve their lives. And you tell me if you find any. They're still complaining, still griping about the same problems. Their problems don't get fixed by government.

    What's the longest war in American history? Did somebody say the war on poverty? Smart group. War on poverty. The war on poverty essentially started in the '30s as part of the New Deal, but it really ramped up in the '60s with Lyndon Johnson, part of the Great Society war on poverty. We have transferred something like 10 trillion, maybe close to 11 trillion, from producers and earners to nonproducers and nonearners since 1965. Yet, as I listen to the Democratic Party campaign, why, America is still a soup kitchen, the poor is still poor and they have no hope and they're poor for what reason? They're poor because of us, because we don't care, and because we've gotten rich by taking from them, that's what kids in school are taught today.

    Excellent. I agree wholeheartedly with everything in that analysis, with one exception.

    I don't think the answer to the question "What's the longest war in American history?" is "the War on Poverty."

    It's the War on Drugs, dammit.

    Drug war and the accompanying hysteria date back to the turn of the 19th Century, and it led directly to the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act, the failings of which led to tougher laws and more Hearst-fueled hysteria in the 20s, then to the Reefer Madness hysteria, Harry J. Anslinger and his witch hunts, outrageous persecution of addicts and physicians alike, and finally, the formation of a truly malignant federal agency (the DEA). The worse the problem got, the louder grew the demand for ever harsher laws, and ever more prisons to put people for the dubious crime of self harm.

    I'll spare readers a long rant about the rank stupidity and (IMO) downright evil nature of the drug war, but you all know I consider it a war on freedom. I don't blame Republicans any more than the Democrats, for both parties have perpetuated it, for it obviously suits the common needs of people who want power.

    Of all people, I would think that Rush Limbaugh would have come out against the Drug War by now. But no; the last time I turned his show on, he was railing against a California proposal to legalize marijuana so it could generate tax revenue. Here's what he said:

    Do you know what the largest crop in California is? What is the largest crop in California? Brian? Marijuana is exactly right. No, and listen to the numbers. And I'll tell you why this is important, because the state of California has got this $42 billion budget deficit, and the assembly realizes they're getting no tax money for it. They're considering decriminalizing it for the purpose -- this is how it all happens. This is how you get rotten socialist economic policies, which lead to the cultural rot of a society....
    I don't use marijuana, but some of the most talented and creative people I know do, and it increases their productivity. I do not consider it "cultural rot." Nor does it cause "rot" on a personal level anywhere near the rot caused by alcohol. But what business of anyone is it? Rush Limbaugh's? Why? His drug habit was not my business, so how does someone's marijuana use become his?

    As to how "rotten socialist economic policies" "lead to the cultural rot of a society," I think that argument is better applied to the welfare state than marijuana. Rotten socialist economic policies did not create the demand for California marijuana; they only fuel the government's need for new sources of revenue. The demand for marijuana will be there whether the state is run by socialists or capitalists, whether the state taxes it or not. I think Rush assumes that legalization and taxation will somehow increase demand (or that increased supply will translate into increased demand), and that this increased supply and demand constitute "cultural rot" brought on by socialism.

    By the same reasoning then, the end of America's War on Alcohol (accomplished by legalization and taxation) must have brought on cultural rot, along with all the rotten livers and brains...

    FWIW, I think wars on freedom waged by a country that purports to be free constitute cultural rot.

    If that makes me a detestable RINO, so be it.

    posted by Eric at 10:01 AM | Comments (10)



    Climate Action


    Big protests in our nations capitol. It seems that Congress runs on a coal fired power plant and that the Greenines are going to be out in force today to shut it down. Now this is not a bad thing. Congress should be the first to live by the policies it intends to impose on the rest of us.

    One minor little problem. The Gore effect. Some where between 5 and 10 inches of snow are expected in Washington today. You can keep an eye on the snow and the frozen protesters at Capitol Cam.

    Note: the average temperature in DC on 2 March is 51°F. Here is today's forecast for DC courtesy of Watts Up With That:

    Snow in the morning...Then snow likely in the afternoon. Snow May be heavy at Times in the morning. Total snow accumulation of 8 to 12 inches. Windy. Near steady temperature in the mid 20s. North winds 20 to 30 mph. Chance of snow near 100 percent.
    I did like the Stalinist Realism of the poster advertising the event. However, they do not seem to be able to compete with the plans of the Maker. Delicious isn't it?

    H/T Watts Up With That?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:49 AM | Comments (2)




    Does zero intolerance lead to zero tolerance?

    What is free speech? I tend towards a very broad view of what should be protected, but the exact parameters of free speech never cease to intrigue me.

    Is religious speech so different from political speech that it should be afforded a different type of protection? If so, why? Should religious speech be more protected than political speech, or vice versa?

    What about "offensive" speech? I'm offended by Marxist drivel, and by statements deriding the rights of man. Should I be able to sue?

    The other day I discussed the distinction (one I'm not sure should exist, except it does) with someone who opined that in the United States, people are more horrified by extreme intolerance of religious viewpoints than by extreme intolerance of political viewpoints, and she stated that in particular, Americans are more horrified by people being killed over their religious views than by people being killed over their political views. When I ventured that fortunately, neither type of killing happens very often in the UD, she said that Americans are more horrified by religion-based killings in other countries than by political killings, and I've been mulling it over.

    As an American cultural phenomenon, is this true? Are we, say, more horrified by a tyrannical regime which murders people for their religious views than we would be if the same regime murders the political opposition? If so, is it because of the constitutional traditions, or is it because religion is seen as analogous to being accident of birth, like race, whereas politics is seen as a matter of opinion?

    But aren't both matters of conscience, and equally worthy of human rights protection? Should one be more protected than the other?

    And what about that troubling nexus between politics and religion?

    Sorry if I'm seeing more questions than answers.

    While it's easy to pat ourselves on the back because few Americans are murdered for their religious or political views, and while we are lucky to have a deeply ingrained belief in free speech (along with a Constitution protecting both), I've long been troubled by the fact that there is a practical distinction -- in both a legal and cultural sense -- between religious speech and political speech. This distinction seems to have arisen out of the Establishment Clause, the intent of which was to keep government out of religion. Obviously, keeping the government out of religion is a very wise thing, and the founders were quite aware of the dangers of the theocratic state. However, as the government entangled itself in more and more aspects of people's lives, religious disentanglement became ever trickier. In particular, once the government became the guarantor of education and education became compulsory, then anything smacking of religious education became taboo. This ultimately led to a strange anomaly where students and teachers were allowed to voice political opinions, but not religious opinions, in effect meaning that political speech is more protected than religious speech. Should such a distinction have ever been made?

    Enter the recent notion of different treatment for so-called "offensive speech." For the life of me, I cannot understand why I should be less (or more) entitled to be offended by, say, Communism than fundamentalist Islam. There are a lot of things I find offensive, but the rule I grew up with was that offensive views have a right to be voiced whether I like them or not.

    Like many schools and universities, the Los Angeles City College has some sort of code prohibiting "offensive" speech. Recently, a student there was apparently called a "fascist bastard" by a professor for voicing his religious opposition to gay marriage in a public speaking class. The professor also threatened to get him expelled, and the student has sued. From an LA Times editorial:

    When a dispute between a teacher and a student ends up in court, at least one of the parties involved deserves detention. Jonathan Lopez, a student at Los Angeles City College who is suing the Community College District, says he was bullied by the teacher of his public-speaking course after he delivered a speech that included his religious views about marriage.

    If Lopez's claims -- including allegations that his teacher, John Matteson, called him a "fascist bastard" and told him to "ask God what your grade is" -- are accurate, Matteson's behavior was unconscionable. Even in a college classroom, where there is a tradition of professors provoking lively discussion, his words would be a violation of a professional trust. The teacher also would have crossed a legal line. As Lopez's lawyers point out in their federal complaint, the courts have ruled that public schools may not discriminate against student speech because it is religious in character.

    Yes they have. The legal claim is discussed here by the outfit that filed the suit:
    Last week, attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom filed a lawsuit on Jonathan Lopez's behalf against officials of the Los Angeles Community College District, including Professor Matteson, citing the professor's clear violation of the student's First Amendment protections.

    "When students are given such open-ended assignments in a public speaking class, the First Amendment protects their ability to express their views," said ADF Senior Counsel David French. "Professor Matteson clearly violated Mr. Lopez's free speech rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination and retaliation because he disagreed with the student's religious beliefs.

    "Moreover, the district has a speech code that has created a culture of censorship on campus. America's public universities and colleges are supposed to be a 'marketplace of ideas,' not a hotbed of intolerance." (Shortly after the November election, Matteson told his entire class, "If you voted yes on Proposition 8, you are a fascist bastard." I apologize for the verbatim reports, but you'll note Matteson's epithets are not distinguished by their variety.)

    "Christian students shouldn't be penalized or discriminated against for speaking about their beliefs," said French. "Public institutions of higher learning cannot selectively censor Christian speech. This student was speaking well within the confines of his professor's assignment when he was censored and ultimately threatened with expulsion."

    Well, shame on that professor for using his power (which was the power of the state) to stifle free speech.

    But I'm wondering whether it would have made any difference had the student been an atheist who believed same sex marriage would be bad for society. I also think it's very doubtful that this professor would have behaved the same way had the student been a Muslim voicing a Koran-based view of same sex marriage.

    Selective censorship aside, what I don't see is how it makes any difference whether a point of view is driven by religion, by a particular religion, or by no religion at all.

    I think it's a big mistake to prohibit "offensive" speech, because there is absolutely no way to define it. This could easily lead to people becoming so thin-skinned as to consider any disagreement on almost any issue to be offensive. And once that happens, once tolerance is replaced by zero tolerance, people may find themselves more likely to kill each other over their views, not less.

    Does this mean that people have a right to insult each other? If a student delivers a diatribe against "sodomy," and people who are into such practices are offended (as the professor was here), don't they also have as much right to be offensive?

    If we put aside the power imbalance inherent in the student/professor relationship, what about the simple right to offend?

    Is a religious opinion that someone is an abominable sodomite more protected than a political opinion that someone a fascist bastard? Is a religious opinion that some races are inferior to others more protected than a political opinion that some races are inferior? Is a religious opinion that some religions are inferior to others more protected than a political opinion that some religions are inferior?

    None of it strikes me as worth getting killed over. My worry is that once the state draws a line over certain things that can't be said, people will be more -- not less -- likely to think that certain opinions merit death.

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



    Banning Mercury

    The Obama Administration is working on a treaty to cut mercury pollution.

    The Obama administration has reversed years of U.S. policy by calling for a treaty to cut mercury pollution, which it described as the world's gravest chemical problem.

    Some 6,000 tons of mercury enter the environment each year, about a third generated by power stations and coal fires. Much settles into the oceans where it enters the food chain and is concentrated in predatory fish like tuna.

    Children and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to poisoning by the toxic metal, which can cause birth defects, brain damage and peeling skin.

    Daniel Reifsnyder, the deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and sustainable development, told a global gathering of environmental ministers in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday that the United States wants negotiations on limiting mercury to begin this year and conclude within three.

    Ah. Another attack on coal fired electrical generation. And no plans to ramp up a replacement for their base load generating capacity.
    Mercury is also widely used in chemical production and small-scale mining.
    And an attack on the chemical industry to boot. Although I must say that keeping it from small scale miners might be a good idea.
    While substitutes exist for almost all industrial processes that require mercury, more than 50 percent of mercury emissions come from coal-fueled power plants, complicating efforts to regulate it in countries that rely on coal for power.

    A U.S.-drafted proposal obtained by The Associated Press would form a negotiating committee in conjunction with the U.N. environment program to help countries reduce their mercury use, clean up contaminated sites and find environmentally sound ways to store mercury. The European Union has already banned mercury exports starting in 2011. The U.S. has a similar ban that will be effective 2013, legislation that was sponsored by Obama when he was a U.S. senator.

    If mercury exports are baned where will we get the mercury needed for CFL light bulbs? How will we be able to import those bulbs? If we want to produce those bulbs in the US where will the mercury come from?

    And what does the Obama administration intend to do about volcanoes?

    Natural sources such as volcanoes are responsible for approximately half of atmospheric mercury emissions.
    And that is not even the best of it. Integrated circuits are dependent on gold wires to connect the chips to the package they are housed in. And mercury is critical to the extraction of gold from the ore.
    The three largest point sources for mercury emissions in the U.S. are the three largest gold mines.
    You know it appears that Mr. Obama and his cohorts are flying blind. Instead of doing research on replacements for mercury in various industrial processes they are just going to ban it and hope for the best.

    I particularly like this view of the situation by Marcus Aurelius: "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:39 AM | Comments (8)




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