A dishonest debate over a misleading narrative

Speaking of principles, I loved Jacob Sullum's vintage 1992 Reason piece in opposition to all -- and I stress all -- hate crimes. What bothers me about the current debate is that it is being spun -- by various people on the left and the right -- as a debate over homosexuality.

Naturally (and doubtless to maintain this misleading narrative), the bill has been misleadingly titled "The Matthew Shepherd Act" even though -- by federalizing non-federal crimes -- it goes much further than adding sexual orientation to the list of protected categories.

The new federal nexus requirement is so laughably accommodating that it might as well have been left out. A violent crime against a victim selected for one of the mentioned reasons can be federalized if it "occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim...across a State line or national border"; if the defendant "uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce"; if "the defendant employs a firearm, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce"; if the crime "interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct"; or if the crime "otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce."
(Link via Glenn Reynolds.)

The horrendous expansion of federal power in the "Matthew Shepard Act" serves as proof of how wrong it was to have hate crime legislation in the first place. Adding new categories only compounds the error.

Of course, few people will take the time to analyze these things. They just hear the sound bytes about how it's "doing something about gay bashing" on the one hand, or "attacking Christian free speech" on the other.

In the past, I wrote a number of posts opposing hate crime laws, and I was severely taken to task by commenters who not only disagreed, but who seemed to think it's my responsibility to run a debating club. (No it isn't; I try to say what I think, when I feel like saying it. And if people don't like it, they can say what they think, but that does not create any obligation on my part.)

Right now, I'm sure they'd say that "the debate is over." No it isn't. The political war may have been lost, but this is not a debate. It's a discussion of principles. Not only do principles survive debates, they even survive wars.

No matter who "wins."

UPDATE: In a great post, Sean Kinsell raises an excellent point:

if you give into the (thoroughly understandable) temptation to administer a good, sound beating-up to Barney Frank, the hate-crimes bill that just passed the House says...uh...you'd better not be thinking about his homosexuality while you're doing it....
My thanks to Sean for the link!

posted by Eric at 09:47 AM | Comments (2)



Principles can get in the way of enthusiasm...

While I'm not especially comfortable with the topic, I thought I should amplify the discussion of the litmus test for Republican principles in my previous post about Arlen Specter.

Glenn Reynolds linked this discussion of whether the NRSC is about to abandon Toomey, and within that, I found the following statement from Senator Jim DeMint:

Yesterday, Jim DeMint, South Carolina's conservative Senator, said, "I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don't have a set of beliefs."
While that has an emotionally appealing sound (especially to those who are fed up with the business-as-usual sellout GOP), is that really the choice that's facing the GOP?

Presumably DeMint would include himself within the 30 who believe in freedom (if we overlook his previous statements that pregnant women and gays should not be allowed to teach), and presumably he thinks there are a number of others who share these principles already there in the Senate. So in logic, the choice is not between them and 60 unprincipled RINOs. I suspect that his argument is more along the lines of "let's get rid of the 30 RINOs, and leave only those with 'principles'."

The appeal of this argument is obvious, as many would agree with DeMint. But is purging the party of deviationists the way to build a majority coalition?

I suspect that DeMint is concealing an argument against the Big Tent coalition with a false dichotomy.

There's also a big debate now over whether the Republican Party has moved to the right. I don't think it has; especially at the rank and file level, things are pretty evenly divided. The people I'd call the WorldNetDaily right, though, are louder than ever, and if you talk to them, they'll tell you that they and only they are "the base." Naturally, the left is delighted to echo their claim, which is endlessly re-echoed by academia and media. And they can be depended upon to scream, loudly -- well into the next election -- about how the "new" "far right" Republican Party ran Specter out.

Public perceptions being what they are, I think it would be a mistake for the GOP to deliberately whittle itself down to a small minority and abandon the coalition approach.

But my bias may be showing. I am, after all, just a Goldwater liberal who thinks it would have been a good idea if Reagan had followed Barry's advice and given Jerry Falwell that good proverbial kick in the ass. (He could have gotten away with it then, but it's too late now.)

On social issues, Toomey is less of a libertarian than Bush was, and he might be to the right of Santorum. Whether that means the party is shifting rightward, who knows? It's too early to say.

I held my nose and voted for Bush, and if I still lived in Pennsylvania I suppose I could in theory even hold my nose and vote for Toomey.

But must I also show enthusiasm?

posted by Eric at 08:57 AM | Comments (4)



LANL Helps Polywell

Los Alamos National Laboratory gave the Polywell Fusion Experimenters some critical help when they needed it.

It all started out with this program.

Northern New Mexico businesses are getting financial help from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and there are plenty of ways LANL can help boost local economies, according to LANL Director Michael Anastasio.

"There are plenty of challenges the country faces, and the lab has a lot to offer in that regard," Anastasio told guests at a recent breakfast meeting where lab personnel and prominent northern New Mexicans, including Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, met to discuss LANL's role in economic development around the region.

And the help the Polywell folks got was not a grant. It was a loan of some equipment.
Richard Nebel's Santa Fe company EMC (which stands for Energy/Matter Conversion Corp.) has much grander designs. Like saving the world.

"If this works, we can end dependence on oil, end global warming," Nebel said of a radiation-free nuclear fusion technology he's developing called "polywell," which "is clean, inexpensive and has enormous potential."

Nebel emphasizes polywell is "risky, because the physics may not work. It could be great or it could be a bust."

When EMC hit technological roadblocks, it got an assist from Northern New Mexico Connect's New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program. The whole experiment, Nebel said, had cost EMC about $200,000 when the company realized it needed the assistance of highspeed cameras -- which run more than $200,000 apiece. The program enabled EMC to use LANL's cameras.

"The stuff we do operates at hundredths of a second," Nebel said. "The cameras were critical."

"Northern New Mexico has tremendous resources of people," he said. "We're a hightech company, and I can find experts around here to help with anything."

I'm glad to get some more of the details of the Polywell Fusion Experiments.

As you can see the experimenters are starved for funds. So far the US Navy and the DoD are very interested in the experiments but the funding has been sparse. Upping it from its current rate to about $40 million a year would get us answers (like can it work) a lot faster. Now does this mean that the efficiency per dollar put into the work will decline? Of course. However, sometimes it is worth trading money for speed. I think this is one of them. If it can work it will change everything in America and the world. You can find out more by reading:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

50 Years of Stories: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

and if you want to read about Los Alamos:

Secret Mesa: Inside Los Alamos National Laboratory

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

H/T an e-mail from reader LCO

Welcome Instapundit readers. And thanks to Instapundit for the correction. LANL is Los Alamos National Laboratories. Corrected above.

posted by Simon at 04:05 AM | Comments (12)




"I don't know how they're getting away with this."

Every time I think I'm getting too cynical, some asshole or another will come along and remind me that I'm not cynical enough.

A recent example is the horrific car warranty "telemarketing" which has plagued my cell phone in the past few weeks.

My cell phone, get it?

I've had it for years, and like many clueless Americans, I always kind of assumed that cell phones were sacrosanct, and that no one could call them unless you were dumb enough to give out your number. No more. The latest generation of criminal spammers uses robocall technology to randomly generate numbers in the hope of targeting any that ring.

And on top of that, they use Caller ID spoofing (available here to anyone) to completely conceal their location and identity.

Mind you, although I'm sophisticated enough to Google a number that appears to be the source of a harassing phone call, at first I was foolish enough to believe that someone named "Angie Xxxxxx" in Chewelah, Washington was behind the suspicious car warranty scam. But then I also saw that another woman named "Euralee Xxxxxx" in New Bern, North Carolina was also involved. (I tried calling both of "them" back, but naturally, "their" numbers have been disconnected.)

I learned that these same two "people" (who probably once had listed phone numbers) had been irritating thousands of clueless citizens just like me, who dutifully checked them out, and warned others:

thor
Why can't the federal government get their s@$t together, crack down on this crap and figure out how to protect their citizens. We are paying billions to companies with outstretched hands and this is what we get. Now the FCC is trying to ditch analog TV signals to sell to cell phone companies and for what so we can have more of this crap? I have had it. I want my money back! These people won't stop calling even after being on the national do not call list!
2009-04-29 02:32:47 UTCkegler280
Received call on my business cell today. Didn't even bother answering. I knew that this was the same a@#holes that called the other week from 262-513-8290. This is clearly a scam. I don't know how they're getting away with this. These people have no conscience. They should be strung up!!!
Well, in all probablity, they are not even telemarketers, but criminal phishers, and they might not even be in the United States.

It's easy to say that this should be made illegal, but it already is. The best analogy is to Nigerian spammers. What bothers me is that there is nothing to stop them from calling your cell phone, and in what seems like a cruel joke, impersonating ordinary people, who then find themselves hated by thousands and getting death threats:

An anonymous reader writes

"A nice little old lady I know has had her number spoofed by some car warranty scammers. They're calling hundreds of potential victims per day pretending to use her phone number, and the angry ones call her back; some of them have even left death threats. She's terrified. Some well-intending anti-telemarketing folks have posted her address on the 'net as well. How can we figure out where these scammer bastards are, and what's the state of the current legislation to prevent caller ID spoofing? I called the FBI in Boston (near where she lives) and they said they can't help. She's called her phone company, but they said they can't help either. She's had the same number for over 50 years and doesn't want to change it."

If the Feds can't or won't handle it, what's the best approach here?

I feel very sorry for this woman (like the two who appeared on my Caller ID, her mistake appears to be that of having a listed phone number), but I don't know what the Feds can do. Technology is outpacing the ability to police it.

As to the "DO NOT CALL" registry, forget it. It's useless against criminals, and besides, many of these people are beyond the reach of the United States.

It's easy to say, "just change your number!" but I don't want to do that. What would be really nice would be to track some of these people down, and see to it that they are severely punished.

Hmmmm....

Maybe I should update the Classical Values Torture Poll, and ask readers which punishment should be applied to spoofed Caller ID telemarketing spammers.

posted by Eric at 12:07 PM | Comments (13)



Obama butches it up. (No more Mr. Nice Guy!)

A friend's email directed my attention to this movie poster design, which I think is hilarious:

airforce-one-2.jpg

Via Michelle Malkin.

For those who missed the movie, Ace posted the YouTube version:


Can anyone imagine the outcry had Bush's Air Force One done the same thing?

posted by Eric at 11:23 AM | Comments (1)



Well, at least Specter is no longer a RINO!

Jennifer Rubin looks at Arlen Specter's decision to switch parties, and sees an opportunity for Republicans, as well as a challenge:

...the challenge for Republicans: to find a message and candidates who sound broadly conservative themes but appeal to an audience beyond the base.

Frankly, that shouldn't be hard these days. With market capitalism under assault and polling showing voters quite concerned about spending, debt, and bailouts, you'd think Republicans could find a message which resonates with a wide audience. Although perhaps rank amateurs, the tea party protestors have found the message around which conservatives can unify and which might also bring in independents. Personal responsibility, ending corporate welfare and bailouts, reasonable budgets, and the rule of law might form the basis of a winning message.

But in an all-too-familar pattern, the Scylla of a broad-based theme runs right into the Charybdis of fussy litmus tests:
One man's diversity is another's heresy. And until Republicans and their loudest voices in the blogosphere drop the "check-the-box" litmus tests they will likely find themselves in the permanent minority.
Here the Democrats hold a distinct advantage. They can claim to have a broad mainstream theme (and they have the media to buttress this claim and make it look downright credible), and their diversity/coalition mentality means that all boxes are automatically checked on all liberal litmus tests, without regard to consistency, or verification. Inconsistency and even dishonesty are ignored, which means that Barack Obama is free to oppose gay marriage for religious reasons -- something no Republican could do without being forever consigned to the darkest realms of religious right Christianist theocracy. Democratic litmus tests mean nothing, while Republicans are subject to the strictest possible scrutiny.

Specter has of course been called a RINO for many, many years. As the Club for Growth puts it, such deviations epitomizes what the voters hate:

Arlen Specter is the epitome of everything voters have come to hate about the Republican Party--the desperate grasping for power and the complete rejection of the principles the Party claims to stand for.
The problem with that argument is that if the voters so hate Specter for that, then why has he won so overwhelmingly in every recent election? And why has Santorum lost?

David Frum has a different view:

For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren't real Republicans - that they don't belong in the party. Now he's gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.

For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?

I have no idea whether I'm happy about this. I've long since given up on a GOP which is ideologically pure according to my libertarian principles. I held my nose and voted for Specter because I thought he was better than the Democrats. Now that he is a Democrat, I still think he's better than most Democrats.

But is he better than Toomey? I didn't think so when I voted in the Republican Primary, because I thought winning against the Democrats was more important, and I didn't think Toomey could ever win. Not that either man would ever be a match with my litmus test, but I'm not the voting majority. What I think has happened is that Pennsylvania voters have moved to the left at the same time the Republican Party has moved to the right. If such a trend continues, it begs the question of whether the Republicans can win.

But maybe I should stop fretting like a RINO about whether the Republicans can win.

Isn't it better to lose an election than lose a litmus test?

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




If you disagree with me, you're Nazi pig scum!

Don't miss B. Daniel Blatt's "How Perez Hilton and Gang Hurt Gay Marriage Supporters."

Not only does he show how these shrill and idiotic activists have hurt their own cause, but the piece is yet another reminder of the shocking intolerance so many gay activists have for any form of disagreement. * (As I've pointed out many times, the same is true of animal rights activists, as well as global warming activists, but it's particularly ironic to see such severe intolerance coming from people whose political cause is based on a supposed demand for tolerance.)

The only remedy is to keep going back at them, no matter how many times it happens. Petty thugs like Perez Hilton get their way because most people are afraid to stand up to them, so it was refreshing to see Carrie Prejean dare to say what she thought -- even at the risk of her title.

So be sure to read it all.

* Unless, of course, it's coming from Barack Obama.

posted by Eric at 01:22 PM | Comments (2)



A hopeless debate?

Dr. Helen's discussion of suicide (especially the role of cognition in suicide prevention) reminded me of a vintage film I had the pleasure to watch recently. Charles Chaplin wrote and directed Limelight in 1952 (when his career was in tatters and he was about to be unceremoniously kicked out of the United States), and he plays an autobiographically based character who saves a beautiful young woman from suicide.

The problem is that saving her from physical suicide did not supply her with any will to go on living, so the two of them get into a philosophical debate. It's fascinating to see this washed-up, once-great comedian (reduced to being a Skid Row denizen) offer wonderful reasons for living, because she's the one who should be wanting to live, and he's the one who by all rights should have given up.

It's beautiful and compelling logic, and thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I found the dialogue here (the clown is Chaplin; the ballerina is the girl he saved):

Ballerina: I can't stay here, causing you all this trouble.

Clown: I'm not complaining.

Ballerina: You should, I'm such a bore.
But it's not my fault. You would save my life.

Clown: Well, we all make mistakes!

Ballerina: I'm sorry.

Clown: You should be. A young girl like you wanting to throw your life away.
When you're my age, you'll want to hang on to it.

Ballerina: Why?

Clown: Well, at this stage of the game life gets to be a habit.

Ballerina: A hopeless one.

Clown: Then live without hope. Live for the moment.
There are still, there are still... There are still wonderful moments.

Ballerina:But if you've lost your health!

Clown: My dear, I was given up for dead six months ago, but I fought back. That's what you must do.

Ballerina: I'm tired of fighting.

Clown: Because you're fighting yourself. You won't give yourself a chance. But the fight for happiness is beautiful.

Sorry, but "live without hope" is just brilliant. I've often heard it said that hopelessness is a primary cause of suicide, yet I've rarely seen such a poignant refutation of the idea that hopelessness is a legitimate argument in favor of suicide. The "clown" is absolutely right of course. Even in the total absence of hope for the future, there can always be wonderful moments in the present. And if the future sucks (or seems to) such moments can also serve as wonderful distractions. (Needless to say, Chaplin's character has no money and cannot even pay his rent; but the idea of that as a reason for suicide is as comical as the tactics he uses to stall the ever-clueless landlady.)

With hopelessness thus rendered irrelevant as a justification for suicide, Chaplin then (without skipping a beat) moves directly to the concept of happiness. Rejecting the logic that the lack of happiness is grounds for suicide, he argues in favor of replacing it with the fight for happiness.

And if you think about it, happiness is worth fighting for whether you get there or not. Isn't there something in the Declaration of Independence to the effect that we all share a right to pursue happiness?

I don't think it's much of a stretch to say the fight for happiness is beautiful.

And hopelessness is a judgment

Back to Dr. Helen:

It is not your job to be the therapist of a depressed spouse or friend, but do some reality testing. If the depressed person says things are hopeless, counter with some evidence to the contrary. If other people are putting your loved one down at work, in the news, or in general, reassure them that you do not feel this way and let them know that they they are more than what other people think about them. What other people think changes with the culture. Today's scapegoat can be tomorrow's comeback kid. As one of my favorite bumper sticker says, "No condition is permanent."
Absolutely true. Anyone who's had so much as a bad acid trip knows that the awful stuff will wear off, but when you're in the middle of it, it can seem deceptively permanent.

While I love Chaplin's rejection of the hopelessness meme, I also think that considering the vastness of that mystery we call "life," hopelessness is a temporary state which passes itself off as a permanent state.

Don't fall for it.

And don't surrender your right to pursue happiness.

As it is, there are plenty of people who devote their lives to making others unhappy, and they take delight in undermining our natural right to pursue happiness. By any reasonable standard, that is simply unfair. I mean, I'm all for the right to pursue happiness, but people who find happiness by making others unhappy are really screwed up in the head, and it seems to me that fighting them whenever possible increases the overall happiness quotient.

Who knows? It might even induce occasional feelings of personal happiness.

posted by Eric at 10:42 AM | Comments (5)



It Is All About Being Green

It looks like GE is going to make a fortune when energy restrictions hit America. And they are working very hard with their government (they paid for it) to get what they want.

One last point, MSNBC is owned by General Electric. GE is already making money off the issue with their Carbon Credit Master Card (link from "Treehugger", no less).

Here's CNN's story on the new credit card. Interesting note: In the fourth quarter of 2008 as GE/NBC stock fell 30 percent, GE spent $4.26 million on lobbying -- that's $46,304 each day, including weekends, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2008, the company spent a grand total of $18.66 million on lobbying." Reviewing their lobbying filings, GE's specific lobbying issues included the "Climate Stewardship Act," "Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act," "Global Warming Reduction Act," "Federal Government Greenhouse Gas Registry Act," "Low Carbon Economy Act," and "Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act." Do you think this "big business" is just concerned about the environment?

Well, check out this column from the Politico, which says: "Several of the companies would gain a commercial advantage after a cap and trade was established. General Electric has an "ecoimagination" line of green appliances and equipment. Robert Stavins, a professor of business and government at Harvard University, said a cap and trade program would be fantastic for GE and other companies that sell products that consume power. He said that if energy costs go up as a result of the regulation -- something he believes is likely -- a wide array of products from appliances to power plants would become prematurely obsolete and need to be replaced with greener models." That would mean big money for GE (parent company of NBC and MSNBC). Take a moment and read my previous post on polar ice...check out the graphs and charts...they speak for themselves.

I especially like the misnamed "Climate Security Act". It should be the GE Security Act.

But you know. It was never about the trees. It was always about the Benjamins. There is green and then there is $Green. If you would like to contact your Congress Critter about this may I suggest:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

It never hurts to let them know you are keeping an eye on them. And while you are at it - it might not hurt to keep an eye on the enviros. This will help: Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Ruin Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:12 AM | Comments (2)




Protect me from the news I cannot handle!

Via Glenn Reynolds, Ryan Sager contrasts the New York Times' "responsible" non-reporting of the Swine Flu epidemic with Drudge's "sensationalist" approach. Sager wonders which one was actually doing the most social good, and makes a good case for panic:

The argument for the Times' approach, of course, is that it's best not to sow panic. What could be more sensible? Panic = bad.

But let me propose an alternative: When it comes to epidemics, panic is a rational and socially beneficial response.

I would agree with that. Especially for families with children and frail or ailing members, canceling travel plans and even staying indoor might make a lot of sense.

There's another important aspect of panic which also fails to take into account. My "panic" is my business. Whether or how I might panic is up to me, not the New York Times, or any other news source. Their job is to get me the effing news, and my job is to decide how to apply it to my life. The idea that I am not being told what happened because of the cringings of some self-appointed social planner fills me with a lot more horror than even a horrific news story.

This is not to say that I endorse sensationalism, or making people panic. Far from it; in the past week I've criticized hasty and sloppy reporting of an alleged "pit bull" attack in my area, but I don't suggest the story is not news. The idea that people should not be told about a "pit bull" killing a child because they might panic and kill all "pit bulls" (or demand the passage of bad laws, which they might) is elitist thinking, and if carried to extremes, could end up causing more panic than it would prevent. No, news is news. Simply put, it is what happened. It is the job of news outlets tell us what happened, and leave it to us to decide how we might want to react to it.

Besides, like Ryan Sager, I'm having trouble with the Times' logic. If the stock market crashes, the news might cause a panic. Does that mean we have no right to know? Or is there a double standard?

Is that it? Are we little folks only supposed to panic about some things, but not others? If so, then who gets to decide? (Sorry, but I don't like having to panic on demand, either.)

Naturally, this makes me wonder what else I'm not learning about because it's not being reported by the "responsible" non-reporters.

Or am I better off not knowing? Whose business should that be?

posted by Eric at 06:45 PM | Comments (2)



We don't like the way your dog looks!

One of the reasons I was so disturbed by news reports about the "pit bull" (apparently a pit bull mix) that fatally mauled an 11-month old child is that the incident will most likely fuel another push for a pit bull ban (Breed Specific Legislation) in this area. That's because human beings have only a limited capacity to endure reading horror stories about mauled children, and if there are, say, a half a dozen such stories a year, if each story is widely circulated, then a cumulative effect is created, and the reaction tends to be along the lines of "how much more of this must we as a society endure?" The ugly fact is, these stories are very hard to read; it makes me sick to read about a child being mauled to death. Add to this the fact that in many instances there are gruesome pictures of little girls who survived "pit bull" attacks, pictures showing awful disfigurement, details of the years of plastic surgery which will be needed, and all of these pictures and stories will remain online forever, and little wonder that people say, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" Never mind that banning a breed will no more prevent child maulings than banning a type of gun will prevent its misuse.

And how do you ban a breed, anyway? It sounds easy, but for the sake of argument, exactly what would you ban? What is a breed? It would be easy enough to write a law prohibiting the possession of the following three breeds:

American Pit Bull Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

And it would be easy enough to simply define them as any pure-bred, registered, pedigreed dog belonging to the above breeds. Obviously, a "breed" is not a species, but a dog bred and registered as a particular breed. So banning them is easy. Right?

Here's the problem with that: the people who own pure-bred, pedigreed, registered pit bulls -- and the pure-bred pedigreed dogs they own -- are for the most part not the ones causing the problems you read about in these articles. They are the responsible classes (the ones who do their paperwork properly) and of course it would be easy to take away their dogs and kill them. But it would not solve the problem of un-pedigreed, unregistered, and unregisterable dogs, which are only called "pit bulls" because they look enough like the pure-bred dogs that the people who own them can say they are, and when they breed them they can pass them off as "pit bulls" and get a few bucks. (Never mind that a pedigreed pit bull can easily cost over $1000.00; paperless "pit bulls" are commonly sold for $50.00 to $100.00, or even given away as canine junk.)

So obviously, if you're of a mind to ban "pit bulls," it would be ludicrously ineffective to stop with the pedigreed dogs.

Is anyone beginning to see the logical problem here?

That's right; from a serious canine breeding perspective, the "junk pit bulls" I just described are basically mutts. They cannot be shown in the ring, no serious breeder would breed them, they are of unknown lineage, and there's no guarantee they're even pit bulls.

So if you ban them, precisely what are you banning? That's right; pit bull lookalikes.

So, despite the fact that the pit bull ban rests on a genetic argument (if a highly questionable one), you would be banning dogs not based on genetics at all, but on an appearance. Fascinating.

The law would be banning all of the dogs pictured here, because they look like pit bulls. Opportuntities for mischief abound, because such a law invites arbitrary enforcement. (If a white guy wearing Brooks Brothers attire and a black guy wearing a T-shirt and sweat pants were each seen walking a Dogue De Bordeau, which one would be more likely to have his dog confiscated as a "pit bull"?)

Little wonder that courts have been striking some of these laws down. In Florida last month, a judge ruled the law was so vague as to be unenforceable:

A court ruled Miami-Dade's 20 year ban on pit bulls was too vague in defining "pit bull" and unfairly let animal control officers basically guess whether a dog is a pit bull. This lawsuit pertained to a dog named Apollo specifically, and opens the door to a broader lawsuit against the ban.

Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation (MCABSL) and Animal Law Coalition applaud a court ruling that the Miami Dade County Pit Bull ban is too vague, and the county cannot enforce the finding by animal control that a dog is a pit bull that must be euthanized or removed from the county.

The ruling came in a case challenging the finding by Miami Dade County Animal Control that a family pet named Apollo was a "pit bull" that must be removed from the county or euthanized.

The county bans all dogs that "substantially conform" to American Kennel Club standards for American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers or United Kennel Club standards for American Pit Bull Terriers.

To determine if a dog substantially conforms to these standards, animal control uses a chart that lists 15 body parts such as "head", "neck", "lips", "chest", "eyes", "tail", "hind legs", etc. The officer places a check mark to indicate whether each characteristic conforms or not to a pit bull. If 3 or more characteristics are checked "conform", the dog is declared a pit bull.

Depending on the mood of the officer, a boxer could be declared a pit bull.

I would also argue that the law is unconstitutional for failing to spell out to a reasonable person exactly what conduct is prohibited. If I go out and adopt a puppy of unknown ancestry, how am I to know what it will look like when it grows up? If "looking like a pit bull" is against the law, then how am I supposed to know when and under what circumstances I am guilty?

Interestingly, if you were to breed a standard English bulldog with a Jack Russell Terrier, you'd have a litter of mutts. Yet it's more than likely that most of the litter would look so much like pit bulls that even breed experts would be hard pressed to tell the difference. So, would they be pit bulls? Not by any rational or normal standard. But under the law, they would.

If we analgize to drug prohibition, this isn't like laws banning drugs (which can spell out the chemical compounds to be prohibited). It would be like laws banning all substances which looked like marijuana (or look like heroin), without regard to whether they have dangerous or psychoactive properties.

But let's for the sake of argument suppose that all dogs which look like pit bulls are banned, and eventually hunted down and destroyed as they do in China. Does anyone think that the people whose dogs are causing the problem won't go out and find another breed -- like the Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherd, or Rhodesian Ridgeback (if the latter isn't already banned for looking "pitbullish")? What then? Simply declare all dogs which "look like" those breeds illegal, until eventually no one will be allowed to own any dog capable of defending his home.

I suspect a lot of people would think that would make for a much safer society.

("If we could save just one child....")

posted by Eric at 02:23 PM | Comments (12)



"enamored with attaining and remaining in power"

Ed Florack has a brilliant essay at PJM, which goes a long way towards explaining what's wrong with the Republican Party:

While conservatives and libertarians make up the majority of the GOP, they don't make up even half of the leadership. The rank and file are interested in principles of conservatism and libertarianism. They want to see those principles applied to governing. The GOP leadership has no interest anymore in such matters, being more enamored with attaining and remaining in power. Those principles are just standing in their way.
And this (from William F. Buckley):
The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side.
Read it all.

It is interesting how much conservatives and libertarians happen to agree with each other on the problem with the GOP.

Now if they could just agree to disagree on the rest, some progress might be made towards something resembling unity. It never ceases to amaze me how much strife there is over social issues which aren't within the federal purview anyway.

Were I in the so-called "GOP leadership," I'd do everything in my power to keep these disagreements festering, and if they'll never be solved by the federal government, so much the better!

posted by Eric at 12:14 PM | Comments (2)




Vicious attack involving a pitbull!

"Another savage attack involving a pitbull, resulting in a close call with death! Story at 11:00!"

Considering the bias in the news lately, that's about how I'd expect to hear the plug for this report -- Rattlesnake Attacks Pitbull Near Bronx Zoo:

"Stone" is a 3-year-old Pit Bull with a swollen jowl and in very bad health. He was brought to a nearby hospital for emergency care after being bitten by a rattlesnake while out for a walk near the Bronx Zoo with his owner, Miguel Mota.

"He started going like this to his face," Mota said demonstrating. "That's when I knew it was something bad."

Stone was sniffing around some brush in a park when he was bitten by the snake, putting the canine in immense pain.

"When I touched his face he cried," Mota said. "I never heard him cry like this before."

Mota walks Stone in the park every day and never saw a snake. And when Stone was bitten on Tuesday he never heard the rattling of his tail.

"I ran over to see what it was and I saw it slithering up this way to the bushes," Mota said.

Mota went to three different veterinarian's offices before he found Dr. Benjamin Davidson, and the anti-venom he desperately needed.

"He was displaying all the signs of rattlesnake toxicity," Davidson said.

Stone was given several doses of the same medicine humans are given and that's what kept him alive.

"Overall, the prognosis is probably good," Davidson said. "The fact that he got the anti-venom so quickly is good."

Mota was thankful for Dr. Davidson.

"The only hospital that had it," Mota said. "Thank God or he would have been dead by now and I would have lost my baby."

Some zoo visitors were surprised to hear of the attack.

"I can't believe that can happen here, but we are near the zoo and animals sometimes escape," Tenisha Gram of Queens said.

Stone will have to remain at the clinic for the next few days and be monitored in case of any complications.

Being bitten by a rattlesnake is rare, but the snakes are indigenous to the tri-state area.

I would think that if a rattlesnake had escaped from the zoo, the zoo would at least have known about it. Perhaps rattlesnakes are re-establishing their presence in the Bronx now that humans have stopped hunting them. (Rattlesnake hunts in New York probably went out of style in the 1890s...)

I think the most likely explanation is that this rattler was someone's pet, and it got loose. Being indigenous to the area, it wouldn't have had too much of a problem adapting, and there's no shortage of rats, birds, and squirrels in local parks.

However, the incident reminds me of the Copperhead I found on a walk in Valley Forge National Park. Snakes are so well camouflaged that they're all but invisible; even experienced snake hunters have a great deal of trouble finding them.

Unlike dogs, wild animals can't be banned by bureaucrats. Nor do they respect city limits.

posted by Eric at 07:42 PM | Comments (3)



New Deal Or Raw Deal?

I was noodling around the net looking for a good book on FDR and the Depression Economy and came across New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America. Philosophically I agree with that. So let's see what some reviewers think.

...many of FDR's programs were struck down as unconstitutional. These include the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) and the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). The NIRA imposed economy-wide price controls and production regulations on domestic manufacturing. The AAA was similar in spirit, except it focused on price and production controls on agriculture. The extent of the controls evidently became so detailed where, for example, the purchasers of a live chicken were required by law to blindly reach into the coop to randomly choose a chicken. Customers were not free to choose whichever chicken they fancied. Recognizing the absurdity of this, one of the Supreme Court justices quipped "what if the chickens are all on the other side?" before the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the NIRA unconstitutional.

Folsom also emphasizes the crushing tax burdens imposed by the New Deal. Under FDR, the highest income tax rate was 79%, meaning that four out of five earned dollars was confiscated by the government! According to Folsom, FDR also seriously entertained the idea of imposing a 99.5% income tax rate on all who earned over $100,000 in income. Flippantly justifying this, FDR joked that nobody in his administration would ever make that kind of money. Under FDR, the national debt grew more in the 1930s than it grew in the previous 150 years of the existence of the United States. Putting it in other words, Folsom indicates that if $100/minute was deposited into an account the day Columbus discovered North America up until FDR took office, there would not be enough money in this account to fully defray the costs of the New Deal.

The last major point that I will reiterate is the extensive level of corruption of the FDR administration. According to Folsom's research, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) offered large government handouts to whichever lobbyists ingratiated themselves most with the administration. FDR used the WPA to make or break the careers of public officials, depending on whether they supported him. This corruption rose to such an overt and perverse level that officials at the WPA used to cheerfully greet callers with "Democratic headquarters!"

I'm starting to see some parallels here between FDR and that new guy. What's his name?

Another reviewer had this to say:

I'll confess to not being a fan of big government so I was prepared to be receptive to a harsh assessment of the New Deal. However, I was not prepared for the scathing indictment armed with facts, logic, primary source quotes and data that constitute this powerful book.

The book is hard to put down even as you recoil in horror at the lunatic economic policies of the era and the blatant turn to fascism. If you tried to design a program to extend the Great Depression indefinitely, you could have done little better than FDR did. The economic incompetence and unintended consequences which are detailed in all their frightening glory is mind boggling, but it is only part of the story.

The book also demonstrates the endemic political patronage and vote buying that resulted from the concentration of money and power in the hands of the federal government. State and local politicians who supported Roosevelt were rewarded with a cascade of federal dollars, those who opposed him were frozen out and inevitably lost subsequent elections.

Citizens who opposed FDR were set upon by the IRS or the NRA. The use of government power to persecute and intimidate dissension is chilling. There are several quotes or diary entries from even Roosevelt's supporters and cabinet members that point out both the insanity of the policies and the dangers of FDR's abuse of power.

With our government setting out on what's been called the "New New Deal", this book should be required reading for every citizen so they can understand both the failure of the New Deal as an economic cure and the abuse of power and vote buying that the huge transfer of money and independence from the private sector to the public sector caused and will undoubtedly cause again.

Those reviewers both gave the book five stars.

Here is an interesting three star review.

As a staunch supporter of FDR and his New Deal policy I found this book difficult to read, not because it was intellectually challenging but because it was 300 pages attacking FDR and the New Deal. Despite this I must applaud Mr. Folsom's argument. Not through his own ideological beliefs does Folsom attempt to prove the New Deal actually made the Depression worse, but his use of quantitative research gives merit to his theory.

As I have already stated, Folsom argues that FDR's New Deal policy actually worsened and lengthened the Great Depression of the 1930s. To prove this, Folsom evaluates the impact each major New Deal legislation had on the economy. In short, Folsom concludes that since unemployment stayed approximately the same throughout the '30s and into the '40s the New Deal was a failure. No piece of the New Deal is safe. Folsom attacks Social Security, minimum wage, the FDIC, the WPA, the AAA, and he even argues the 1936 election was a fraud.

Although I understand Folsom's argument, he does not convince me that the entirety of the New Deal was a sham. With the help of hindsight I feel that any past president's policy can be evaluated in a harsh manner, especially FDR. Of course we evaluate the New Deal now and criticize it, but I truly believe FDR's intentions were good with each New Deal reform signed into law.

Ah. Yes. Good intentions are enough. Results don't matter. Did he say he was a staunch supporter of FDR? Yes he did.

Well it looks like a very good read. And when the new guy's policies work no better than FDR's the book will provide good ammunition for the "I told you so" crowd. I hope to be a member in good standing. Of course there is always the possibility that this time it will be different and I will have to eat a couple of plates of crow. I think history and the odds are on my side.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:15 PM | Comments (4)



Rule by the freest

Barney Frank is someone I don't respect, and not merely because of his role in deconstructing the banking system while denying any responsibility.

This unaccountable man's logic is terrible, and what he said here reminds me of the social conservatives he so loudly condemns.

"I would let people gamble on the Internet," Frank said. "I would let adults smoke marijuana; I would let adults do a lot of things, if they choose."

He added: "But allowing them total freedom to take on economic obligations that spill over into the broader society? The individual is not the only one impacted here, when bad decisions get made in the economic sphere, it causes problems."
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

And there's more:

CNSNews.com asked Frank ... whether Frank's proposal might undercut personal responsibility and the freedom of individuals to make decisions.

"We're not just talking individual responsibility," Rep. Frank answered. "We have a world-wide economic crisis now, because of this. If it were purely individual responsibility, OK, that's why I disagree with the ranking member."

As Nick Gillespie points out, "that, of course, is an argument constantly thrown against drug-taking and gambling (what about the children of addicts, etc.)." It's communitarianism on steroids, and there is no way to logically reconcile Frank's antipathy to economic freedom with his broad support (at least so he says) for sexual and chemical freedom. Not that this would matter to Frank. The man is a highly partisan activist.

Still, I've always been puzzled by how antipathy to economic freedom (the right to do what you want with your money) is called economic liberalism, while antipathy to the right to do what you want with your body is called social conservatism. Not that my puzzlement would matter to an activist, because they are free from the burden of having to explain themselves, and even free from the burden of logic. On top of that, they are always right! (Just ask them!) Perhaps they are some of the freest people in the world.

Might that be related to why they so often get to rule the rest of us?

posted by Eric at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)




Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming

I just got an alert from commenter Neville at Watts Up With That about a book that is going great guns in New Zealand called Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming. I haven't read it. But here is what Neville has to say:

...a new book debunking global warming was released in NZ, "Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming", by an investigative journalist over here named Ian Wishart.

My copy arrived by courier Thursday morning, and a friend at Parliament tells me the Government received a number of copies as well.

Salinger is quoted in the book, quite usefully confirming the impact of the Little Ice Age on New Zealand's glaciation (the same LIA that Mann and others tried to argue didn't affect the southern hemisphere).

The number one talk radio network yesterday was starting to buzz about the book, and a reviewer for one of the major book chains was on the radio saying it'll be a number one bestseller - apparently books have been flying off the shelves.

I look forward to reading reviews (or the book for that matter - when I can afford it) in the coming days.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:48 PM | Comments (0)



Obama May Have Swine Flu

During Mr. Obama's recent trip to Mexico he was greeted by a man who may have subsequently died from the Swine Flu epidemic that is sweeping across Mexico.

At least 20 deaths in Mexico from the disease are confirmed, Health Minister Jose Cordova said yesterday. The strain is a variant of H1N1 swine influenza that has also sickened at least eight people in California and Texas. As many as 68 deaths may be attributed to the virus in Mexico, and about 1,000 people in the Mexico City area are showing symptoms of the illness, Cordoba said.

The first case was seen in Mexico on April 13. The outbreak coincided with the President Barack Obama's trip to Mexico City on April 16. Obama was received at Mexico's anthropology museum in Mexico City by Felipe Solis, a distinguished archeologist who died the following day from symptoms similar to flu, Reforma newspaper reported. The newspaper didn't confirm if Solis had swine flu or not.

The Mexican government is distributing breathing masks to curtail the disease's spread. There is no vaccine against the new strain of swine flu, health authorities said.

I hope Mr. Obama comes through this with minimal or no difficulties. I want to see him impeached. Besides. There is Joe Biden to think about.

Update: Here is an interesting read on the last swine flu debacle. The Swine Flu Affair: Decision-making on a Slippery Disease

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:01 PM | Comments (19)



The War On Capital Expands

The Obama Administration thinks that Venture Capital is under regulated.

President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner recently declared a need to regulate venture capital firms on the grounds they pose systemic risk to our economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Venture capital is focused almost entirely on new technologies of small startup companies, the failure of which assuredly has no effect on the larger economy.

Not only does venture capital in Silicon Valley and elsewhere pose no systemic risk, it provides an essential engine of value-added innovation, invention and job creation. Perhaps more than any other differentiating attribute of American capitalism, venture capital makes our model the envy of the world.

So why would the Obama administration say they want to regulate venture capital firms? Some suggest that it may be an end run in the undeclared war on wealth because venture capital can create enormous fortunes outside of taxable income. But there are several other plausible answers.

Read the whole thing to find out the other possible answers. My answer is Simon's Law:

It is unwise to attribute to malice alone that which can be attributed to malice and stupidity.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)



When are adults not adults?

Few things annoy me more than busybody bureaucratic attempts to interfere with people's privacy and tell adults what to do. Especially where it comes to personal matters like human sexuality. It amazes me that a society which is supposedly concerned with getting the government out of the bedroom would countenance (much less encourage) a system of telling mature adults when and with whom they can have sex, but more and more that is the pattern.

Perhaps neither doctors nor their adult patients are not considered mature adults; I don't know. What I do know is that this sort of condescending nonsense is further evidence that we are living in a national kindergarten:

When a Texas internal medicine physician began a consensual romantic relationship with one of his patients, the state medical board meted out a $10,000 fine and 10 hours of ethics education as a punishment for professional misconduct.
(Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes that the penalties for having sex with patients are more severe than those imposed for medical malpractice.)

The assumption seems to be that there is a "power imbalance" which overcomes the patient's ability to consent.

Relationships between patients and...physicians may also include considerable trust, intimacy, or emotional dependence. The length of the former relationship, the extent to which the patient has confided personal or private information to the physician, the nature of the patient's medical problem, and the degree of emotional dependence that the patient has on the physician, all may contribute to the intimacy of the relationship. In addition, the extent of the physician's general knowledge about the patient (i.e., the patient's past, the patient's family situation, and the patient's current emotional state) is also a factor that may render a sexual or romantic relationship with a former patient unethical.
The same thing could be said about an attorney-client relationship, a student-professor relationship, an employer-employee relationship, or even a hairstylist-customer relationship. (Anyone remember Shampoo?) I am not saying that sex is a good idea when there's a working relationship; only that it should be up to the parties involved. The assumption here is that they are not adults and are incapable of deciding for themselves. I see little difference between that and the idea that homosexuals are "enslaved" by their passions (and thus in need of protection against temptation by sodomy laws).

It might not be a good idea for a woman to have sex with the attractive young man she hires to remodel her house (as it would tend to contaminate the working relationship), but whose business is that? A bureaucratic contractor's licensing board?

And while we're on the subject of power imbalances, why should a patient have more right to have sex with his or her doctor than the other way around? Suppose the patient is sexually irresistible, whose mere presence turns the doctor into an awkward, stammering, quivering mass of jello. Who has the "power imbalance" there?

If you said "the patient," then go to the head of the class!

(Let your teacher shake in fear of your power....)

posted by Eric at 12:15 PM | Comments (1)



Facing the science of solar dimming

It was with great trepidation that I saw Glenn Reynolds' link to a report that "The Sun is the dimmest it has been for nearly a century" -- especially because of Glenn's observation that the solar dimming may be causing civil unrest (as well as his concerns about fallen angels).

There's no question that the sun is dimming. What ought to be of greater concern, though, is the fact that scientists claim not to understand why.

There are no sunspots, very few solar flares - and our nearest star is the quietest it has been for a very long time.

The observations are baffling astronomers, who are due to study new pictures of the Sun, taken from space, at the UK National Astronomy Meeting.

The Sun normally undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity. At its peak, it has a tumultuous boiling atmosphere that spits out flares and planet-sized chunks of super-hot gas. This is followed by a calmer period.

Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.

Lest anyone think this is a form of hysteria, photographic evidence reveals that the sunspots are disappearing!

sun-images.jpg

The photo on the left shows the sun in 2001 (just as the Bush term was beginning), and on the right is this year.

The vital spots on which we all depend are gone.

Can it be a pure coincidence that this dramatic dimming all happened under Bush, and at precisely the same time that Al Gore and all other top scientists unanimously consensusized that human activity (in the form of deadly CO2 emissions) is destroying the Earth in a major cataclysm?

Considering the interconnectedness of everything on earth (which is part of a vastly interconnected vast interplanetary ecosystem), isn't it likely that all of this noxious human activity is in fact the cause of the solar breakdown?

In light of known scientific theories, what I'd like to know is why they are saying it's unclear? From "The correcting role of unusual heliocentric atmospheric phenomena," by A. N. Dmitriev, of the Geology and Geophysics Institute, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, USSR.

Research has been done on solar-terrestrial correlations on the basis of the organism model for the Earth, which suggests that the Earth affects the Sun by means of a natural energy and information flow and as a result of man-made factors.
(Emphasis added.) The evidence that the earth affects the sun is so overwhelming that it is repeated. Repeatedy:
Changes in the Earth pattern affect regular processes in the solar system and cause new formations in solar activity. Solar-terrestrial correlations represent an energy and information flux and provide regulation mechanisms for the biosphere and the climatic engine on an evolutionary basis in strict agreement with the evolution of the solar system.

Large bodies of observations on unusual atmospheric phenomena have led to suggestions on their role and origin. The present paper is based on the Gaia hypothesis and solar-terrestrial correlations. The latter information has also been used to elucidate the origins of the main types of unusual atmospheric phenomenon. Man's activities in the twentieth century have greatly modified the Earth's geophysical portrait, which affects solar-terrestrial relationships. The current 22nd solar activity cycle is without precedent as regards the scale and variety of the geooriented processes. From the start of the cycle, there was a sharp rise in these unusual atmospheric phenomena, particularly in stressed tectonophysics zones. Information theory and data analysis suggest hypotheses on the correcting role of these phenomena generated by the Sun. This correction tends to neutralize the destructive power of the current technical phase in civilization.

In other words, the sun is striking back against our destructive power. So why don't more people know about this so we can all face the science? Why isn't it part of the Overwhelming Scientific Consensus?

The only explanation I can come up with is that because of the Bush administration's War Against Science, vital scientific research has been ignored.

But because of Change© a new future may be dawning!

ObamaLogo4.jpg

posted by Eric at 10:24 AM | Comments (5)




"just get past it and learn to cherish the memories"

It's the 13th time Barack Obama has appeared on the cover of Time!

Yay!

Writing for the occasion, Joe Klein is upset that not enough attention was paid to President Obama's speech at Georgetown University on April 14:

The speech received ho-hum coverage on the evening news and in print -- because, I suspect, it was more of a summation than the announcement of new initiatives. Quickly, public attention turned to new "tempests of the moment" -- an obscene amount of attention was paid to the new Obama family dog and then, more appropriately, to the Bush Administration's torture policy and the probably futile attempt to prosecute those who authorized the practices. And then to a handshake and a smile that the President bestowed on the Venezuelan demagogue Hugo Chávez. These are the soap bubbles of our public life. They have become the hasty, capricious, bite-size way that we experience the world. It has made for slovenly, sandy citizenship.

The most important thing we now know about Barack Obama, after nearly 100 days in office, is that he means to confront that way of life directly and profoundly, to exchange sand for rock if he can.

OK, OK, I surrender. I'll stop blowing soap bubbles of slovenly, sandy citizenship, and admit the man is incredibly profound.

Why, as the piece notes, his profundity eclipses FDR:

"In a way, Obama's 100 days is even more dramatic than Roosevelt's," says Elaine Kamarck of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "Roosevelt only had to deal with a domestic crisis. Obama has had to overhaul foreign policy as well, including two wars. And that's really the secret of why this has seemed so spectacular.
The problem is that I'm bored by it all. I never thought I'd miss the Halcyon days of Halliburton rule, but I guess you don't know what you have until you lose it.

At this point I'd be willing to support Dick Cheney for president. (It's amazing how out-of-control feelings of nostalgia can get.)

As Bill Maher observed,

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.
Yes, I loved it when the genocidal Bush was feeding babies to the alligators, and Howard Stern and the homo culture were in charge of the "climate" at Abu Ghraib.

Three cheers to Bill Maher for some very excellent and very thoughtful advice!

posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (5)



Plural Marriage

A commenter at American Thinker had this to say.

But I must also note, as a Christian, that marriage is a sacred vow taken within a church, synagogue, or mosque, as a Sacrament. There should be no democratic government that tries to dictate such a holy action.
So the government now hands out sacraments? Or decides which ones are valid? No wonder conservatives are in political trouble. Especially if government starts handing out sacraments for killing infidels. Or suppose they do like the shia do and hand out temporary marriages (if the fees are paid) to those who want to have legal sex? No sex without a license. An excellent con. And a wonderful sacrament. Has Sacramento been informed? How about Washington?

A marriage is between one man, one woman, and one government. And don't you ever forget it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:53 AM | Comments (6)




"sent by Satan"

A story about an alleged Detroit area "pit bull" which killed an 11 month old baby has rapidly become national news (having been picked up by countless news feeds -- all of which use the phrase "pit bull" but which refuse to identify the deceased or the parents).

In most accounts, the dog is described as 2 years old, but suddenly in this story it is said to be 5 years old, and raised from a puppy.

Considering that this incident is being cited in support of breed bans, I wondered how they can be so sure about the breed. Does anyone know whether this dog was in fact a pure-bred American Pit Bull Terrier? What about the layers of fact-checkers? The reason I'm sounding so testy is not merely because Coco feels defamed, but now I see the dog suddenly being described as a "pit bull mix":

Fire Chief Dan Hagen said firefighters responded to the family's home on Nevada, in a subdivision near Nine Mile and Gratiot Avenue, at 2:47 p.m., one minute after the emergency call came in.

"(Responders) did everything they could medically and transported the child to the hospital," Hagen said.

"It was a pretty frantic situation."

He said the dog, a pit-bull mix, was killed by the father, who shot the dog several times during the attack. Police did not release the name of the couple or their son.

NOTE: I called and spoke to the reporter (Christine Ferretti) who told me that she was not only told that the dog was a pit bull mix, but that it weighed 110 lbs. Not only is that an abnormally large size for a pit bull, but according to the breed standard, the desirable weight is between 35 and 60 pounds for males, and between 30 and 50 pounds for females. (Coco weighs 40 lbs.)

So, while it is possible that the dog in question was a pure-bred pit bull, I rather doubt it. Does anyone verify these things? Or is it just impossible to resist the temptation of putting "pit bull" in news headlines? And if it turns out not to have been a pure-bred pit bull, will an apology to the breed be forthcoming?

Even though the parents and the child have not been identified, an uncle is purporting to speak for them, and warns that the dogs are "sent by Satan":

Eastpointe -- The uncle of an 11-month-old boy killed by the family's pit bull said today the grieving parents want to warn others about the dangers of a breed that is "sent by Satan."

"I know there is a love affair with pit bulls," Terrence Lovejoy said during an emotional press conference at the Eastpointe Police Department. "But neighbors, parents ... get rid of them. They are sent by Satan."

Lovejoy said the boy's parents, who have not been named, asked him to speak to the media on their behalf. The couple had been married 17 years and were thrilled when they finally conceived their son, whose first birthday would have been May 3, Lovejoy said. "We were preparing for his first birthday. ... Now we have to prepare for a funeral."

Lovejoy said the toddler was standing on his parents' bed Wednesday with the parents in the room when the dog, without barking or growling, suddenly grabbed him. The family had the dog since it was a puppy, and it had never shown signs of aggression, Lovejoy said. He said the dog was never left alone with the child.

Never shown signs of aggression? Then why are the neighbors in the video complaining that they were "terrified of the dog" and scared to walk past the place:
"he's real huge and real like mean, every time we walk past he'll bark or he'll growl or he'll jump on the fence like he's going to attack"
Not that it has any more to do with the attack than would the house being in foreclosure, but the dog was not licensed, and I suspect there may be more to this story than is being reported.

The problem with emotionally inflamed stories like this is that they supply fuel to people who want to ban dogs by breed. Bad as that is, it's worse when they can't even get the facts straight. Suppose this dog was half pit bull and half Rottweiler. Or half pit bull and half Presa Canario? Which "satanic" genes get the credit, and why?

Whatever its genetic lineage, these people had this dog for years, the neighbors were afraid of it, and they had a large chain link fence with a "BEWARE OF DOG" sign around the yard. Aren't these things considered, you know, clues?

I'm having trouble understanding how blaming the entire breed as "Satanic" helps in the analysis.

MORE: Another article refers to the dog as a "mixed pit bull." Mixed with what, I'd like to know.

Which leads me to ask a question. If we are going to play dog eugenics games, what if it turned out that statistically, pit bull mixes turned out to bite more people than pure-bred pit bulls?

The reason I'm asking is that I don't believe that the pit bull has a genetic propensity to bite. If anything, their tendency is quite the opposite, and the reasons may be found in the dog's background:

Quite ironically, the fact that there are so few attacks on people is an unintentional but logical byproduct of the dogs' historic background of being pitted against bulls, bears, and other dogs for sport. While the medieval brutes who bred these canine gladiators were anything but kind, they could not tolerate any dog with the slightest inclination to attack humans, for otherwise how could they have pitted them? Under the rules which evolved in dogfighting, the dogs had to be handled routinely, picked up, separated, then faced off to determine whether a dog was a coward, or whether it would walk across the "scratch" line to take hold of the other animal. Dogs that turned away, or tried to jump the pit were considered defective, as were dogs which displayed any tendency to turn and bite humans -- even in the heat of combat. The result over the centuries was a dog that was downright amiable, even clownish -- in many cases almost ridiculously so.

Now, this is not just my opinion -- many, many students of the breed have noticed this over and over again. (A fascinating New Yorker piece explores the phenomenon in detail.) It seems like a paradox to people, but it isn't. I've always suspected that the "natural born entertainers" were more likely to survive the sadism and cruelty which inhered to these blood sports -- perhaps out of pity, perhaps simply because people enjoy being entertained. Like it or not, the cruel spectacles were also circus performances, and people like circuses, and shows. (Shades of WWF, perhaps?)

Paradoxical as it sounds, the dogs were simply too powerful for the slightest hint of viciousness towards humans (who had to handle them in the pit) to be tolerated. But cross them out with dogs bred to be watch dogs, and who knows?

The above argument, of course, assumes that there is a genetic component to canine behavior. If there is not, then of course not only is my speculation wrong, but so is the idea of banning any particular breed for alleged genetic propensities.

Uh-oh.

Coco is looking over my shoulder again.

CDrfifi.jpg

I'd better watch what I say....

posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (4)



Save the Somali victims of American piracy!

Glenn Reynolds' post about the happy Somali pirate reminded me of the media circus that's been developing these past few days.

I have to question the wisdom of bringing Somalian pirates like Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse to the United States for trial.

I mean, look at this:

He was all smiles when he landed on American shores, but his mood was a bit different when he appeared in court this afternoon: After telling a judge via an interpreter that he had no money to pay for a lawyer, he started to cry when his lawyers brought up his family back home in Somalia. Cry not, evil pirate! You've arrived in just the right place at just the right time.

First of all, Abduwali, you already have a famous lawyer--Ron Kuby--by your side, and for the sake of his own career, he'll do everything in his power to ensure you will remain in the news for a long time to come. If you manage to avoid a conviction, or you serve anything less than a life sentence, a reality show is a given. In fact, a Hollywood agent probably asked his assistant to find a Somali-English translator hours ago.

Your hand is seriously injured, which is no fun, but you can look forward to pretty decent medical care now that you're in an federal prison. They'll also tend to the other health ailments that must along with a life spent at sea off the coast of a Third World country. Free health care is your right in America. But only if you're incarcerated. So take advantage of it. Oh, and there's a dentist available, too, if you need one.

Ron Kuby. That's the activist attorney who represents guys like Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, and subway shooter Colin Ferguson, while suing Bernard Goetz for defending his life. I doubt it will take long for a "Free Wali Muse!" movement to emerge on the activist left.

Save the Somali victims of American piracy! That ship provoked these poor people who were only trying to deal with issues of survival!

With its penchant for deconstructing criminals and turning them into victims, the mainstream media ought to be delighted to help the cause. Already, a now-scrubbed CNN headline had obliged by uncritically parroting the false claim by the pirate's family that he was a boy of 15; they family is also being extensively quoted as saying the pirates tempted him into a life of crime...

But then, isn't that the same way they treat domestic criminals?

If I were an international pirate, I'd be happy too.

posted by Eric at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)



So where does the state belong?

From Glenn Reynolds' link to Larry Kudlow, my attention was drawn to an earlier Kudlow piece which (after noting a near-300 point stock plunge over new fears of bank nationalization), Kudlow looks at the vexing question of what to call all of this:

An old friend e-mailed me this week about how to characterize Obama's economic interventions into the banking and auto sectors (with health care next on the list). He says it's not really socialism. Nor is it fascism. He suggests it's state capitalism. But I think of it more as corporate capitalism. Or even crony capitalism, as Cato's Dan Mitchell puts it.

It's not socialism because the government won't actually own the means of production. It's not fascism because America is a democracy, not a dictatorship, and Obama's program doesn't reach way down through all the sectors, but merely seeks to control certain troubled areas. And in the Obama model, it would appear there's virtually no room for business failure. So the state props up distressed segments of the economy in some sort of 21st-century copy-cat version of Western Europe's old social-market economy.

So call it corporate capitalism or state capitalism or government-directed capitalism. But it still represents a huge change from the American economic tradition. It's a far cry from the free-market principles that governed the three-decade-long Reagan expansion, which now seems in jeopardy. And with cap-and-trade looming, this corporate capitalism will only grow more intense.

This is all very disturbing.....

To call it "very disturbing" may be understatement, as it's scary as hell to watch this country's dramatic slide from economic freedom to socialism in a period of months.

More ominously, the environmentalist schemes may be the final nail in the coffin. It's not enough for the government to regulate the economy; they want to interfere with virtually all use of energy, and even regulate the air we exhale as a "poison" -- in supposed furtherance of a theory that retarding human progress will beneficially cool the planet. (Hardly a cheerful thought when contemplating the 32 degree April weather this morning.....)

Dick Morris looks at a key feature of the Obama plan (changing the nature of the acquired stock), and sees pure, unadulterated socialism:

...by changing this fundamental element of the TARP plan, Obama will give Washington a voting majority among the common stockholders of these banks and other financial institutions. The almost 500 companies receiving TARP money will be, in effect, run by Washington.

And whoever controls the banks controls the credit and, therefore, the economy. That's called socialism.

Obama is dressing up the idea of the switch to common stock by noting that the conversion would provide the banks with capital they could use without a further taxpayer appropriation. While this is true, it flies in the face of the fact that an increasing number of big banks and brokerage houses are clamoring to give back the TARP money. Goldman-Sachs, for example, wants to buy back its freedom, as do many banks. Even AIG is selling off assets to dig its way out from under federal control. The reason, of course, is that company executives do not like the restrictions on executive pay and compensation that come with TARP money. It is for this reason that Chrysler Motors refused TARP funds.

With bank profits up and financial institutions trying to give back their money, there is no need for the conversion of the government stock from preferred to common -- except to advance the political socialist agenda of this administration.

Under these circumstances, no one ought to be surprised that venture capital is under assault. Once again, the question seems to involve whether this is incompetence or design:
Obama is either in clearly in over his head, or else he is working to undermine the foundations of the capitalist system from within in order to strengthen the centralized power of the state.
Notwithstanding my penchant for finding humor in such things, this is starting not to be funny anymore.

However, hypocrisy and double standards often amuse me -- especially in the context of the "Culture War." So naturally, I found it amusing that when a pleasant young woman I'd never heard of before had the temerity to echo Barack Obama's position on gay marriage, she found herself savagely insulted by intolerant gay activists. Via Glenn Reynolds, who asks, "Why is it okay for Obama to oppose gay marriage, but not okay for Miss California to?" Apparently it's OK if he's lying. (Well, he says opposes it for religious reasons. Does that mean invoking religion in a dishonest manner is OK?)

Anyway, while I did feel sorry for Miss California (as I don't like seeing people unjustly attacked), the gay marriage activists may have inadvertently caused career doors to open for her. So the joke is on them, really. Perhaps Ms. Prejean should thank her rude and thoughtless critics.

Meanwhile, some conservatives think it's time for a big showdown on gay marriage. Unless we are married to the state, I'm not convinced of the worthiness of either "side" of such a cause. Marriage has long seemed to me to be more of a personal matter between two people than an "institution," and the clamor over a "right" to a marriage license thus strikes me as side-stepping the issue of whether the state is just being given another invitation into the bedrooms of people who in historical terms only recently succeeded in getting the state out of their bedrooms.

I can understand the philosophical debates about whether same sex marriage is a good idea, but I think debates over state regulation (like federalization of marriage) miss the point.

If only it were as conservative to advocate getting the state out of marriage as it is to advocate getting it out of the economy...

MORE: It is entirely possible that I (along with many others who attempt serious analsis of Barack Obama) could be barking up the wrong tree. According to Frank J. Fleming,

All of these goofy gaffes by the president prove that he's really Sacha Baron Cohen and we're all in his next movie.
Borat Obama?

Say it isn't so!

(As seen on Google!)

posted by Eric at 09:51 AM | Comments (6)




Blame The Capitalists

Blame the Capitalists
Click to see the full size

Note the "Young Pinkies from Columbia and Harvard" sign on the side of the cart.

H/T ravingdave

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:56 PM | Comments (1)



When in doubt, bail them out!

Finally! Now that the debt-plagued New York Times is down to its last paltry millions, the government is sounding the wake-up call.

Leading the charge, Senator John Kerry is calling for government rescue of the failing newspaper industry:

"America's newspapers are struggling to survive, and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount," Mr. Kerry said.

Most newspapers are in similar circumstances as the industry struggles with the worst job losses on record and plummeting revenues. Faced with competition from online and broadcast sources, all papers now seek multimedia ways to deliver their news and monetize their content.

"I am committed to your fight, committed to your industry and committed to ensuring that the vital public service newspapers provide does not disappear," Mr. Kerry told the Globe employees.

All well and good. But shouldn't the government be bailing out ailing churches as well? Church attendance is at an all-time low, and (especially in urban areas) many churches have been forced to close.

I'm also thinking about the long-term future of the blogosphere. What if this is all just another "bubble" -- doomed to burst just like any other bubble? If that happens, shouldn't the government intervene?

Not to say that I have any personal motivation, but if traffic falls here at Classical Values, some government revenue couldn't hurt.

(As the saying goes, free speech does not come free!)

posted by Eric at 11:02 AM | Comments (2)



Darwin In Action

It seems the DEA is telling lies again about the drug war.

Cocaine is as cheap as ever, according to a new analysis of government data by a Washington, D.C. think tank.

The findings appear to contradict claims by U.S. law enforcement officials that the drug has become more expensive. "[Over] the last two years there's been a sustained increase on the price of cocaine," said Drug Enforcement Administration operations chief Tom Harrigan in a recent interview with ABC News. Harrigan credited efforts by the United States, Mexico and local U.S. governments.

But the retail price for cocaine in 2007, the most recent year studied, was less than half what it was in 1984, when Jay McInerney's novel of a coke-addled Manhattanite, "Bright Lights, Big City," was first published, according to the report by the policy group Washington Office on Latin America, which cited a newly-released analysis by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Well what would you expect of a policy that weeds out inefficient competitors faster than market forces? It is an intense Darwinian struggle where only the fittest survive.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, the "law and order" response by our politicians only intensifies the problem. Instead, they might turn to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to glean insight as to why these "common sense" reactionary solutions often are counterproductive.

As illegal drugs become easier to obtain and more potent, politicians respond in a knee-jerk manner by ramping up law enforcement. After all, drugs are bad so why not escalate the war against drugs? Politicians get to look tough in front of voters, the drug war bureaucracy is delighted with ever expanding budgets, and lots of low-level bad guys get locked up. Everyone wins - including, unfortunately, the major drug traffickers.

As politicians intensified the drug war decade after decade, an unintended consequence began to appear. These "get tough" policies have caused the drug economy to evolve under Darwinian principles (i.e., survival of the fittest). Indeed, the drug war has stimulated this economy to grow and innovate at a frightening pace.

By escalating the drug war, the kinds of people the police typically capture are the ones who are dumb enough to get caught. These criminal networks are occasionally taken down when people within the organization get careless. Thus, law enforcement tends to apprehend the most inept and least efficient traffickers. The common street expression puts it best: "the dealer who uses, loses." Conversely, the kinds of people law enforcement tends to miss are the most cunning, innovative and efficient traffickers.

It's as though we have had a decades-long unintended policy of artificial selection. Just as public health professionals warn against the overuse of antibiotics because it can lead to drug resistant strains of bacteria, our overuse of law enforcement has thinned out the trafficking herd so that the weak and inefficient traffickers get captured or killed and only the most proficient dealers survive and prosper. Indeed, U.S. drug war policies have selectively bred "super-traffickers."

So has the Drug War selected for smarter government agents? If you judge by results they appear stupider than ever. And if they are by some miracle getting smarter, selection pressure is causing smugglers and distributors to get smarter faster. Which is why drug prices are going down.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control with the title: Government Subsidized Lies.

posted by Simon at 03:06 AM | Comments (1)



Illegal Drugs Make Some People Smarter

The left has a hard time applying economic analysis to problems except the drug war. And the right is fairly good at economic analysis (comparatively) except for the drug war. Drugs makes the left smarter and the right stupider. Interesting, no?

Capitalism applies selection pressure in the right direction - efficiency, waste reduction, etc. Socialism (government) applies selection pressure (the process Schumpeter referred to as creative destruction) in the wrong direction.

I'm a libertarian - but not an absolutist - I believe in a minimal safety net - but it should not be comfortable. And why do I believe in a minimal safety net? Because revolutions are bad for business.

Here is the Joseph Schumpeter book that made his reputation: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:40 AM | Comments (0)



HTML Lesson For Today - Tags

Today we are covering opening and closing tags. Please follow the lesson closely. There will be a quiz.

HTML Tags

H/T Extra Good Sh** by blogger Fred Lapides whose blog is neither work nor wife safe. But it is #1 in Google rankings if you look it up. Funny that there are so many people interested in naked HTML. I'm encouraged by this interest in technology.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:30 AM | Comments (1)




Today's bigots

While Janeane Garofalo's charge that the Tea Party Movement consists of racists attracted a great deal of attention, I'm fascinated by the way she slipped in an admission that not all of the participants were white.

It's almost pathological or elevated to a philosophy or a lifestyle. And again, this is about racism. It could be any issue, any port in a storm. These guys hate that a black guy is in the White House. But they immigrant-bash, they pretend it's taxes and tea bags, and like I said, most of them probably couldn't probably tell you thing one about taxation without representation, the Boston tea party, the British imperialism, whatever the history lesson has to be. But these people, all white for the most part, unless there's some people with Stockholm syndrome there....
So, not only are they automatically suspect merely for being mostly white, but any non-whites who agree with them are not there of their own free will, but basically prisoners (slaves?) who have fallen in love with their captors.

It is necessary for her to say something about the non-whites lest she run afoul of her own rule that any white criticism of a non-white person is automatically racist. Non-whites have to become victims, captives, people who lack free will. By this standard, black Republicans like Condoleezza Rice and Michael Steele do not think for themselves or have their own opinions. Rather, they are brainwashed captives, presumably in need of liberation by the likes of Janeane Garofalo and Keith Olbermann. In fact, Garofalo and Olbermann both see Steele (and all Republican women) as Stockholm Syndrome sufferers.

It's too easy to dismiss Garofalo as an over-the-top washed up actress whose tattoos are fading along with her mind. This misses the fact that what she says is not new, and is pretty much in the mainstream of liberal thought. To them, it is an article of faith that opposition to Barack Obama is racist. It's all part of the script that goes back to the election.

Were you wondering what happened to all the rabid, wild-eyed bigots yelling, "Kill him!" and "Terrorist" and "Socialist" carrying stuffed monkey plush dolls at the McCain-Palin rallies? It's easy in our jubilation over Obama's victory to forget the many people in America who were deeply fearful and hate-oriented towards an Obama presidency. Those people didn't just shrug their shoulders at the Democratic victory in Nov 2008. No, they've re-organized. Largely abandoned by the Republican party who tapped cynically into their ignorance, fear and hatred and whipped these folks into a racist lather as a Get Out The Vote strategy, the Tax Day Tea Party people have used the internet to find each other and organize.
As a matter of fact, I was wondering what happened to "all the rabid, wild-eyed bigots" even at the time they were first "identified." I could not find them.

But they're alive and well, and apparently they've become Birth Certificate Truthers. Oh yes. Regardless of how few people believe in this dwindling WorldNetDaily meme, I suppose it was inevitable that a few of them would be willing to show up and spout the WND party line on cue for leftie YouTubers eager to make generalizations:

There's real racist animus here: check out the video above of Tea Party nuts convinced that Barack Obama can't be president because he faked his birth certificate and is actually Kenyan by birth. My God -- do you know what that means? It means a black man is illegally president! Because it's just not possible for a black man to be president unless something has gone horribly wrong with the system! Citizens, act now and get to your local Tea Party!!!
Never mind that Birth Certificate Trutherism was no more a part of the Tea Party Movement than opposition to gay marriage or even birth control; all that matters is finding people willing to say whatever fits your narrative. (See Bob Shrum's scathing attack on Tea Party "paranoia" based on a selection of four signs spotted in a crowd. Never mind that anyone can show up at any event with a sign saying anything.)

Kooky as I think the Truthers are, I don't see what racism has to do with unfounded charges that Obama was not born in the United States -- any more than similar charges that were made about McCain. (Or, for that matter, Chester Arthur!)

Even in the video supplied, not one protester mentions Obama's race.

From the editorial bias, I think it's pretty obvious if a racist bigot had been anywhere to be found, he or she would have been a highlight of the video.

What's being forgotten by many is that liberal activists do not define racism the same way as most people. Racism has been defined as opposition to socialism, and belief in individualism. By that bigoted standard, Garofalo is right to call the Tea Party Movement "racist."

None of this is to deny America's long and unfortunate history as a country plagued with racism and bigots. I even remember them from when I was a kid -- including what William S. Burroughs' called the "decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces." Actually, today that's an unfair stereotype.

Not all women with mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces go to church.

posted by Eric at 11:54 AM | Comments (3)



Contact The EPA Before It Is Too Late

Watts Up With That? has information on how to contact the EPA over the new "CO2 is a pollutant" rules.

In a stunning act of political kowtowing, the EPA caved to special interest groups and politics and declared CO2 a "dangerous pollutant", even though it is part of the natural cycle of life. Now the gloves come off and the real fight begins during the 60 day public comment period. If you've never stood up to "consensus" before, now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. See instructions below for submitting public comment.
Please do visit Watts Up With That? for all the details. However I'm going to give you the contact information here. Just in case you don't.
The Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act was signed on April 17, 2009, and will be published in the Federal Register and available in the Docket (www.regulations.gov) shortly under Docket ID No. [EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171]. A pre-publication copy is provided below. While EPA has taken steps to ensure the accuracy of this Internet version of the document, it is not the official version.

* Pre-publication copy of the Administrator's Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act (full version) (PDF) (133 pp, 661KB, About PDF)

Technical analyses developed in support of the Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act may be found here:

* Technical Support Document for the Proposed Findings (PDF) (171 pp, 2.8MB, About PDF)

and
Written comments on the proposed finding (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171) may be submitted by using the following instructions:

* Instructions for Submitting Written Comments (PDF) (3 pp, 39KB, About PDF)

When providing comments, please submit them with reference to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171.

and
There will be two public hearings for this proposed finding. EPA requests those who wish to attend or give public comments, to register on-line in advance of the hearing. EPA will audio web stream both public hearings. The meeting information pages will be updated with this information as it becomes available.

* May 18, 2009, at the EPA Potomac Yard Conference Center, Arlington, VA; and

* May 21, 2009, at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle, WA

Please contact them. Before they strangle the US economy.

Let me add that the purpose of these rules is to strangle the US economy. Because, you know, cowboy capitalism gives the US an unfair advantage.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. You might also like to read A Layman's Guide To Understanding The Global Warming Hoax.

posted by Simon at 01:11 AM | Comments (12)



China Solar Needs Subsidies

All photovoltaic industries in the world depend on government subsidies. China is going down that road as well.

Shi Dinghuan has stated that what China's solar power manufacturing industry needs is a more active set of government policies to support and subsidize the adoption of solar power domestically, along the lines of the industrial policies that have created significant growth in the Chinese wind industry (see recent article). Because the use of solar power in China has been insignificant, the potential for growth is outstanding.

Very recently the framework of such policies intended to jumpstart domestic solar power demand and turn around China's overly export-oriented PV industry has begun to emerge. In late March, the Chinese Ministry of Finance promulgated its {Interim Measures for the Administration of Government Subsidies of Building Uses of Solar Energy Photovoltaic Power} (called "Interim Measures") and the accompanying {Implementing Opinion Concerning Speeding Up the Promotion of the Use of Solar Energy PV Power in Buildings} (called "Solar-Powered Buildings Promotion Opinion"), which together provide a framework for the implementation of China's "Solar-Powered Rooftops Plan."

This may make some sense in areas of China that are far from power lines. It makes no sense where access to the Chinese grid is available.

This is all part of the Chinese stimulus plan.

Asia's financial markets greeted China's massive stimulus plan warmly, but with caveats that underscored concern that economic stability in China won't by itself reverse global trends.

The size of the stimulus plan solidified Beijing's position as a pivotal economic policy maker in the region and the world. "It lends weight to the importance of China," said John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management in Tokyo. "But of course, China is leaning against some pretty serious headwinds."

Asian currencies, stocks and commodity prices bounded higher from Shanghai to London on Monday, hours after the government unveiled a two-year stimulus package it valued at around four trillion yuan, or $586 billion. The government said it would build infrastructure, fund housing, cut business taxes and encourage banks to lend money, all in a bid to offset slowing global growth by boosting the spending power of its people.

And that is not all the Chinese stimulus plan will do. It is also intended to stimulate the Chinese manufacturers of consumer electronics.
...a consumer stimulus plan implemented by the Chinese government designed to drive consumption of electronics and appliances by citizens living outside the major urban regions," he said. "This has prompted a supply chain scramble in select markets, namely LCD TV, netbooks, consumer based notebooks and low-end handsets."

There are other positive signs. "While there are widespread rumors of more Chinese stimulus to come, some suppliers are expressing skepticism that these recent order gains will extend past the short-term," he added.

It will be interesting to see if the effort has its intended results. One possibility is increased unrest caused by Chinese citizens who will find it easier to organize protests against the Chinese government.
Bankruptcies, unemployment and social unrest are spreading more widely in China than officially reported, according to independent research that paints an ominous picture for the world economy.

The research was conducted for The Sunday Times over the last two months in three provinces vital to Chinese trade - Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. It found that the global economic crisis has scythed through exports and set off dozens of protests that are never mentioned by the state media.

Can we expect to hear (through clandestine channels) of tea parties (or equivalent) in China? Time will tell and hopefully the Sunday Times will report it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:08 AM | Comments (0)




Save lives! Save the children! Save the planet!

Roger Kimball looks at Britain's pending 20-mph speed limit, and observes,

In Britain, as in the United States, "local authorities" like nothing better than sticking their collective noses into the everyday life of ordinary citizens, chivvying them with ever more intrusive rules and regulations, backed up by the coercive power of the state.
The only reason the lowered speed limit hasn't happened yet here is that people have not yet been sufficiently conditioned to give up their freedom.

But give them time.

In Berkeley, 81% of the voters approved an ordinance which is being implemented with a massive home invasion scheme I discussed yesterday.

In Britain (as Kimball points out) the ruling bureaucrats are invoking "safety" -- an argument we've all heard countless times in countless forms.

"If we can only save one life..."

"If we can save one child!"

With the global warming meme now factored in, there's now a new argument.

"This is the only way to save the planet!"

I'm not sure whether the people who fall for this stuff deserve contempt or pity, but one of the downsides of democracy is that when they acheive majority status, they can trample on everyone else's rights in the most unnatural and inhuman ways. Like surveillance cameras; Kimball mentions " The Road to Big Brother: One Man's Struggle Against the Surveillance Society" (to which Glenn Reynolds wrote the introduction), which I've been reading. What worries me is that the bureaucratic rulers (and their activist handmaidens) are running an ongoing operation which is relentless and has as its primary goal the total destruction of personal freedom. They don't stop with whiny pronouncements; these lead to laws and regulations, which then lead to fiendish enforcement ideas. Like red light cameras, government-mandated GPS snooping, more surveillance cameras, and on the heels of the type of home energy "analyses" they've planned for Berkeley will be Big Brother intrusions into what people do inside their once-sacrosanct households.

"None of your business," you think?

Try saying that when the meddlers meddle.

Canadian libertarian Pierre Lemieux bravely did just that when he was asked prying personal questions about his love life on a government form, and (as Mark Steyn relates) he immediately lost his gun permit. Steyn argues that free men should stand up to such tyranny, but he recognizes that the consequences can be too severe for most people:

The proper response of free men to the trivial but degrading impositions of the state is to answer as Pierre Lemieux did. But it requires a kind of 24/7 tenacity few can muster - and the machinery of bureaucracy barely pauses to scoff: In an age of mass communication and computer records, the screen blips for the merest nano-second, and your gun rights disappear. The remorseless, incremental annexation of "individual existence" by technologically all-pervasive micro-regulation is a profound threat to free peoples. But do we have the will to resist it?
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

I worry that the larger the Nanny surveillance state gets, the more we will all live in glass houses. (Double-paned, of course, to save the planet!) Those who demonstrate the willingness to resist will be regarded with contempt by the good citizens (a process explained here), and as fools by those who obey resentfully in the hope that they'll just be left alone.

After all, if we are lucky and do as we are told, we might be allowed to drive our GPS-monitored cars at 20 MPH, only on certain days of the week, while mobile cameras film our every movement.

(Yeah, the innocent have nothing to fear, and all that....)

posted by Eric at 10:13 AM | Comments (6)




Environmentalists are funny. Right?

I like to joke about global warming, especially global warming hysteria. The problem with humor is that it's like drugs; it relieves pain symptoms but does not make it go away. I suppose you could laugh at physical pain too, but that would not treat the underlying cause.

Pain that they are, global warming activists do not go away. Far from it. They aren't merely content to have an opinion; they want to reach out and meddle with people's lives. In the privacy of their own houses:

The classic Berkeley home - a creaky Victorian with drafty windows, a Wedgewood stove and musty furnace - will undergo a drastic makeover under the city's aggressive new plans to fight global warming.

Within the next few years, the city is likely to mandate that all homes meet strict energy standards. In many cases this would mean new double-paned windows, insulation in the attic, walls and floors, a new white roof that reflects heat, a forced-air furnace and high-efficiency appliances.

The cost: upward of $33,800.

In many cases, the figure will be considerably higher. These insane bureaucrats are hell-bent on invading every home in the city of Berkeley (if you think they'll be content to stop there, well, go ahead and laugh) and forcing people to spend a small fortune on upgrades they do not need. Like tearing off the roof and replacing it with a white roof. Or removing perfectly good vintage or antique windows to replace them with ugly, double-paned "energy efficient" ones. (Great thing to do when people are facing foreclosure, eh?)
The requirements, some of the most drastic efforts any municipality has taken to curb global warming, are part of the city's long-awaited Climate Action Plan. The 145-page report, which has been closely watched by other cities and states, covers everything from organic gardening to recycling to bike paths.

The plan, which the City Council is slated to approve Tuesday, aims to bring the city into compliance with Measure G, a 2006 initiative requiring the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Under the proposal, all homeowners in Berkeley will be required to hire an energy auditor to inspect their home for leaks and inefficiencies.

Hire an energy auditor? If that isn't an invitation to bribery and fraud, I don't know what is. They're trying to literally invade each home and tell people how to live:
Each home will receive a rating, similar to a car's gas- mileage rating. The owner will be required to improve the home's energy efficiency to meet city standards.
This is mandatory stuff, and penalties will attach for non-compliance.

Whatever happened to the right to privacy? How much energy I use in my own house is no more the government's business than whether I smoke cigarettes or have sex in my own house. (Or does "privacy" only apply to sex?)

If they can do this, the next thing they'll do is tell you when you can and can't drive. What you can and cannot buy in the store. Precisely. The plan from which this emanates is full of such surprises.

As well as Sovietic exhortations that we all must do our part!

Turning this plan into action rests on more than just ideas and good intentions. It requires Berkeley residents, businesses, the City government and other institutions to urgently rise to the challenge of making big changes - changes in our infrastructure, technological advances, ramped up green workforce development, and change in the decisions we make every day as members of the Berkeley community. Everyone must play a role.
They're even trying to tell people what to eat:
Sustainable food systems reduce the distance food must travel to get to our tables. When food is produced, processed and distributed near where it is consumed, transportation miles are minimized as well as are the associated pollutants. According to a WorldWatch Institute study, a typical meal brought from a conventional supermarket chain consumes 4 - 17 times more petroleum for transport than the same meal using local ingredients.29 Despite California's massive food production capacity, the state imports 40 percent of its food, which translates into at least 250,000 tons of GHG emissions per year, according to an NRDC study.30

Sustainable food systems also prioritize the consumption of organic food over conventional food, and the consumption of vegetables rather than meat. Organic food production requires far less fossil fuel inputs than conventional systems, which in turn reduces GHG emissions. Likewise, a meat diet requires twice as much energy to produce as a vegetarian diet.31 Globally farm animals generate 18 percent of GHG emissions, according to estimates by the United Nations.
Local food systems offer a host of social and economic benefits as well. For example, growing a garden can make a difference for a family's food budget. And efforts to increase access to local, affordable, healthy food for low-income families, the elderly, and others with mobility challenges can improve public health. Local food systems also help to insulate communities from volatile oil prices, which in turn affect food prices. Finally, food localization can create high-quality local green jobs in the farming, food processing and distribution trades.
The City of Berkeley already has a foundation on which to build when it comes to promoting local, nutritious food. The City Council adopted a Food and Nutrition Policy in 2001. Its purpose is to "help build a more complete local food system based on sustainable regional agriculture that fosters the local economy and assures that all people of Berkeley have access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food."

Culturally appropriate food? To think I was complaining about the failure of humor. These people are funny. In fact, the more serious these people are, the funnier they are.

But how do you keep them the hell out of your house?

Continue reading "Environmentalists are funny. Right?"

posted by Eric at 09:17 AM | Comments (23)



Tea Party At The Alamo

Sgt Mom gave a rousing speech at the Tea Party at the Alamo recalling the history of Texas. It is not too long. Follow the link and read the whole thing. Note that Sgt. Mom was one of the organizers of the Alamo Tea Party and she and the other organizers managed to get rock legend Ted Nugent to say a few words there. Way to go Sgt. Mom.

You can read some history about three of the people she mentions in her speech by reading Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis.

Cross Posted at Power and Control


posted by Simon at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)




The First Amendment can be so fickle!

I've been trying to reconcile two recent incidents -- one in which an angry and violent mob was allowed to shut down a talk by Tom Tancredo, and another in which a perfectly civil journalist was arrested for trying to ask questions of the public outside a Katie Couric award ceremony.

Here's the video of the violent mob which shut down Tancredo's talk:

Notice that despite the violence, no one was arrested for anything. Instead, the police terminated Tom Tancredo's talk -- precisely what the violent demonstrators were targeting.

On the other hand, here's the video of journalist being arrested for asking questions at the Katie Couric ceremony -- which was not canceled:

So what is the First Amendment "rule" here?

Violent disruption of conservative events warrants cancellation of the event, while critical coverage of liberal events warrants arrest?

posted by Eric at 05:44 PM | Comments (3)



Redneck Racist Tea

The election in 2010 will be most amusing. And 2012 is going to be the height of hilarity.

About 1/2 the electorate is apathetic about politics. If 20% of them decide to participate in the next election due to taxes and inflation.....

My first mate didn't want to vote for the Black Man for two reasons.

1. Disagreements about political philosophy.
2. All political questions would be turned into arguments about racism.

I think re: #2 she was on to something.

H/T Jccarlton

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:34 AM | Comments (2)




trying not to care about unfair credit

Because I'm no political naif, it came as a shock to see that I had apparently been duped.

(Well, at least so it appeared.)

While catching up on email, I found an apparently official announcement from the American Family Association (how I got on their list I don't know) claiming that the AFA was "the" organization behind the Tea Party protests:

Tupelo, MS - The number of cities organizing Taxed Enough Already (TEA) party rallies has grown to 1,593. American Family Association (AFA), the organization sponsoring the rallies, says that number continues to grow.

"Our goal was to have a TEA party in 1,500 cities. We are nearly 100 cities above our goal and still growing," said Donald E. Wildmon, AFA chairman. He said that the AFA sponsored TEA parties are in addition to several hundred more being organized by other groups. A listing of the cities participating can be found on the Internet at TEAPartyDay.com.

Wildmon said April 15 was chosen because it is the day federal income taxes are due. "The runaway spending by President Obama and Congress will have a definite negative effect on our families. We are leaving a debt of trillions of dollars to be paid by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Wildmon said his organization is working with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Renewing American Leadership organization.

Lovely.

I can't think of a better way to take the wind out of people's sails, except I don't think that most of the attendees were told that the AFA was "the" organization behind the Tea Party Protests. Fortunately for the Tea Party Movement, the AFA claim is false, even though there's nothing anyone can do about it. False advertising might be actionable in a commercial setting, but political speech is in a category all its own, and exaggeration, misrepresentation, or lying are all protected forms of speech.

Political opportunism crosses all ideological lines. I'm reminded of the Socialist Workers Party's penchant for showing up at any left-wing demonstration and trying to claim credit for it.

Were I on the left, I'd send a check to the AFA. For now, the AFA's message doesn't seem to have resonated with the attendees; if Jennifer Rubin's report is correct, social conservatives might not be ready to rejoice:

Republicans should not be rejoicing quite yet. Many protesters went out of their way to say they are upset with both parties and hold George W. Bush equally responsible for launching the now never-ending stream of bailouts. And the crowd, if anything, was libertarian in bent rather than conservative. These people are advocating less government, restraints on federal power, and a return to "constitutional government." Social conservatives who seek expansion of state power on issues from abortion to support for faith-based programs may find themselves at odds with a newly invigorated movement to shrink government and enhance individual liberty.
Regardless of the extent of their involvement, I think it would be a mistake for libertarians (or major libertarian organizations) to claim credit for what a broad-based grass-roots mass movement. It's bad enough that CNN is publicly crediting Fox News.

I realize that there are sharp differences between libertarians and social conservatives, but I don't see why they can't agree on taxation, just as they generally agree on the Second Amendment. I think both sides should take to heart what Ronald Reagan famously said,

"You can accomplish much if you don't care who gets the credit."
Good advice, if sometimes hard to follow.

It just strikes me as unfair that those who take the credit should get the credit.

MORE: I'm not the first to criticize the AFA's bogus claims. Hot Air's "Repurblican":

It is these special interests, Right and Left, that pose the biggest threat to the movement. Contrary to what the Media Matters crowd might tell you, the tea parties are a grassroots movement that's picked up some power players along the way, and not the other way around. It's the power players that need to be watched. The Founders didn't forcefully disembark a ship full of tea because of gay marriage, abortion, God in schools, or anything beyond the right of self-determination and right to not be taxed without their interests represented, and if "sponsoring" organizations such as the American Family Association try to make "traditional values" a retrofitted part of the movement, God help us, the movement is going to devolve into a diluted, meandering ideological sideshow that does more harm than good to small-government interests. (AFA, unsurprisingly, doesn't show up at the "sponsoring" link at the "tea party" website,a testament to how decentralized this grassroots movement seems to be.)
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

MORE: Speaking of Newt Gingrich, Andrew Ian Dodge discusses his attempt to co-opt the Tea Parties:

One of the major mistakes made by the national movement was the ill-conceived decision to accept the help of Newt Gingrich and his American Solutions organization. Gingrich is a very divisive and high-profile Republican. His entry into the movement marked the beginning of a campaign by Republican groups to take over and ruin the non-partisan cred.
Let's hope the Tea Party Movement continues in spite of him.

posted by Eric at 09:21 AM | Comments (5)




Jevons - Khazzoom

We are in the midst of seriously improving energy efficiency in the hopes that it will reduce energy consumption. However, there is an economic theory (about coal consumption no less) known since 1865 that says that increasing efficiency will increase overall energy consumption even if the amount used for a given task is reduced.

In economics, the Jevons Paradox (sometimes called the Jevons effect) is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. It is historically called the Jevons Paradox as it ran counter to popular intuition. However, the situation is well understood in modern economics. In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given output, improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource - which increases demand. Overall resource use increases or decreases depending on which effect predominates.
William Stanley Jevons

The proposition was first put forward by William Stanley Jevons in his 1865 book The Coal Question. In it, Jevons observed that England's consumption of coal soared after James Watt introduced his coal-fired steam engine, which greatly improved the efficiency of Thomas Newcomen's earlier design. Watt's innovations made coal a more cost effective power source, leading to the increased use of the steam engine in a wide range of industries. This in turn increased total coal consumption, even as the amount of coal required for any particular application fell. Jevons argued that increased efficiency in the use of coal would tend to increase the use of coal, and would not reduce the rate at which England's deposits of coal were being depleted.

It all depends on whether the demand for energy is elastic or inelastic. And that is where Kahazoom comes in.
In the 1980s, the economists Daniel Khazzoom and Leonard Brookes revisited the Jevons paradox for the case of a society's energy use. Brookes, then chief economist at the UK Atomic Energy Authority, argued that attempts to reduce energy consumption by increasing energy efficiency would simply raise demand for energy in the economy as a whole. Khazzoom focused on the narrower point that the potential for rebound was ignored in mandatory performance standards for domestic appliances being set by the California Energy Commission.

In 1992, the economist Harry Saunders dubbed the hypothesis - that improvements in energy efficiency work to increase, rather than decrease, energy consumption - the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate, and showed that it was consistent with neo-classical growth theory under a wide range of assumptions.

What to do? Well government could tax energy so that consumers and produces do not reap the benefit of energy efficiency. Another way to get such results is for the government to promote high cost energy sources such as wind and solar.

In other words Obama's energy policies are well grounded in economics. And most importantly they are good for government. We can be thankful we have the Smartest President Ever™.

So now you know why Polywell Fusion hasn't been fully funded by the Obama administration. If it works and is low cost, energy use will skyrocket. And the wise one is against that.

Fortunately Mr. Obama responds well to political pressure. So keep the heat on. Contact info for your government and a simple explanation of Polywell Fusion and its benefits can be found at:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Note that Amazon has a lot of books on Energy Efficiency and none on Polywell. I'm looking forward to some one writing a book.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:40 PM | Comments (1)



When winning is losing

The announcement that Pat Toomey will be running against Arlen Specter (again) in the Republican Primary election is a reminder of a stubborn problem plaguing the Republican Party.

While I'm not enamored of Specter's borderline liberalism, I find Toomey's social conservatism annoying, but it isn't the point of this post to weigh in on the merits of the two men's politics. Rather, I want to look at some numbers.

Like it or not, Pennsylvania is a state that recently went heavily for Barack Obama, and which (in 2006) turned out the socially conservative Rick Santorum:

Santorum was defeated 59% to 41% in the 2006 U.S. Senate election by Democratic candidate Bob Casey, Jr. This was the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Senator since 1980.
Here's the breakdown in numbers:
CASEY, BOB JR (DEM)

2,392,984 58.7%

SANTORUM, RICK (REP)

1,684,778 41.3%

While John McCain is considered a RINO by many conservatives, he did better than Rick Santorum by several percentage points:
OBAMA, BARACK (DEM) 3,276,363 54.7%

MCCAIN, JOHN (REP)

2,655,885 44.3%

In 2004 (he last time Specter ran in a general election) he defeated his Democratic opponent by a healthy 10% margin:
SPECTER, ARLEN (REP)

2,925,080 52.6%

HOEFFEL, JOSEPH M. (DEM)

2,334,126 42.0%

CLYMER, JAMES N. (CST)

220,056 4.0%

SUMMERS, BETSY (LIB)

79,263 1.4%

Interesting to see a Constitutional Party candidate receive such a high percentage.

Here are the numbers from the last primary election in which Toomey ran against Specter:

Democratic Primary

Candidate Votes Percent

HOEFFEL, JOSEPH M. (DEM)
595,816 100.0%


Republican Primary

Candidate Votes Percent

SPECTER, ARLEN (REP)

530,839 50.8%

TOOMEY, PAT (REP)

513,693 49.2%

What this all means is that while Toomey might very well be able to defeat Specter in the primary, if he does the seat will in all probability go to the Democrats.

I see two lessons here for the Republicans.

One, there is of course a growing dissatisfaction within the party, especially among conservatives, to business-as-usual RINO types like Specter.

Two, this dissatisfaction does not seem to be shared by the general electorate -- and by that I mean the non-primary-voting electorate (regardless of party affiliation). If anything, there is a huge gap between the dissatisfied primary voters and ordinary voters, who apparently are not on the same wave length (and maybe not on the same page in history).

Even among Republicans who do vote in the primary, there is a fairly even split. Whether this reflects a split between "conservatives" and "RINOs" or between conservatives and pragmatists who want their party to win, I am not sure.

I do think it's a bit unreasonable to label all pragmatists RINOs, though. At some point (perhaps that point has been reached right now), Republicans may face a debate over whether winning is more important than ideology. But I think it would be a mistake to conclude that pragmatists who want to win are unprincipled people devoid of ideology. I'm a libertarian, for example, and I'm quite used to the fact that libertarianism is not the triumphant ideology in the GOP, and it may never be. So, I long ago concluded that beating the Democrats is preferable to sitting out elections (or being a Ron Paul/Bob Barr type spoiler). That makes me a pragmatist, but not someone devoid of ideology.

Naturally, it is being pointed out (especially by Specter) that Toomey is to the right of Santorum, an incumbent who lost his seat. That Santorum lost his seat while Specter won overwhelmingly illustrates the dual nature of the problem the Republican Party faces. The side that wins is not considered Republican by the side that loses. Each side is increasingly out of touch with the other.

I realize that a growing number of people believe that being ideologically right is preferable to winning, and I can't help wondering what they'd be saying if, say, the economy not tanked just in time for the election and McCain had won. It's easy to dismiss McCain now as bereft of ideology, and attribute his defeat to that, but if they get one of their own on the ballot in 2012, and he loses, what will happen? Will the Republicans go into "Long March" mode, and content themselves with being the party that cannot win? That happened in California for years, until Schwarzenegger came along, and he's made many California Republicans yearn for the good old days of losing.

I understand the idea that winning isn't everything, and that winning can be a form of losing if you lose your principles in order to win. It's just that I've had to leave my libertarian principles outside the voting booth in nearly every election. I've long been accustomed to seeing libertarian principles as a luxury to be subordinated to winning.

And, unprincipled though it may sound, I'd vote for McCain over Obama again.

posted by Eric at 06:13 PM | Comments (8)




Polywell Gets In On The Act

Polywell Fusion looks to be getting a $2 million boost from the DoD Recovery Act Plan. Here is what the DoD has to say about their plan.

Today, March 20, 2009, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its EXPENDITURE PLAN for the projects to be funded with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act provides $7.4 billion to the Department largely for projects that are located at Defense installations spread across all fifty states, District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. The report includes $2.3 billion in construction projects, including two major hospital construction projects: Camp Pendleton, California; Fort Hood, Texas; and a hospital alteration project at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. The plan also contains $3.4 billion for nearly 3,000 facility repair and improvement projects that will immediately generate additional employment in communities around Defense installations. Furthermore, the plan details how $300 million for near-term energy technology research will be allocated. The allocation of the remaining $800 million for Defense facility infrastructure investment be announced at a later date.
There is a pdf of the plan. On pdf page 166 there is a small item under the heading Domestic Energy Supply/Distribution. It is as follows:
Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Demonstrate fusion plasma confinement system for shore and shipboard applications; Joint OSD/USN project. 2.0
The "2.0" is the amount of funding in millions. This indicates the military has a fair amount of confidence in Polywell and the progress made so far in the research.

There is no doubt that if Polywell can be made to work a shore installation would probably be the first and easiest application. Next would come size reductions for shipboard use. And if we can get the weight down enough - rockets for space. Or perhaps use as low cost power supply for a ground based laser propulsion system.

I just looked at Amazon and there is no book out yet on Polywell Fusion. I have heard rumors of people writing books on the subject so maybe we will see one in the coming months.

In the mean time you can look at this www page to get some understanding of what is involved:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

H/T KitemanSA at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)



Tax Day Tea Party Protest in Ann Arbor

In news that warms my heart, I see that right here in Ann Arbor, a Tax Day Tea Party Protest drew over 200 people:

About 200 residents turned up for the Tax Day Tea Party on the University of Michigan's Diag at noon today.

The protest coincided with similar events across the country. And locally, another rally was held in Chelsea that drew about 250 people.

The Ann Arbor protesters met at the Diag, and when the Burton Tower bell tolled at noon, the group began a silent march to the federal building on Liberty Street.

During the walk, the protesters drew honks and cheers of support. The group included young and old alike - many holding signs with messages like, "My child is not your ATM" and "Cut taxes not deals."

Cheryl Allie of Ann Arbor came with her three children, ages 9, 6 and 2. She said she joined the grassroots effort on behalf of her children.

"Our agenda is the future of our country and the future of our children," Allie said.

That's a lot of people for Ann Arbor. I'm a bit late to cover the protest (which I just found out about a few minutes ago), but I'm glad it happened.

large_041509TEAPARTY1.jpg

posted by Eric at 02:29 PM | Comments (6)



Raising the beer tax -- "for the children!"

While I am not always successful, I often seek to understand what drives the mental processes of those who devote their lives to meddling with other people's lives.

Sometimes, though, these mental processes prove very difficult to understand, as I found when I read this report about a Michigan state task force which wants to raise taxes on beer -- in order to help the children!

The Michigan Child Welfare Improvement Task Force plans to recommend a higher tax on beer in Michigan, raising the tax from two to five cents per 12 ounces of beer, or about one can, in bars, grocery stores and wholesale stores. The money from the tax rate increase will go toward prevention programs for child abuse and neglect and to help children in the foster care system.

Patrick Babcock, a co-chair of the task force, said raising the taxes on beer would have a large impact on child abuse prevention programs.

"If the legislature were to adopt the five-cent proposal, we could raise as much as $110 million per year," Babcock said. "And for five cents on the bottle, we think it's a small amount to be able to protect our children."

Got that? Taxing beer protects children from child abuse!

That's because (according to Babcock) there's a connection between alcoholism and child abuse, so beer must therefore be the culprit!

Babcock added that the group chose to tax beer because of high trends of alcoholism among abusive or neglectful parents.

"There is a relationship between the ingestion of alcohol and child abuse and neglect," Babcock said. "Though it is not always the case, there is often alcohol involved in cases of child abuse and neglect."

How many of these alcoholic abusive parents drink beer, and how many of them would stop drinking beer (much less child abuse) because of a beer tax is not clear to me at all. Most of the alcoholics I've known have not been content with beer. So why single it out?

Fortunately, the beer tax faces opposition in the state senate, but it never ceases to amaze me the way people make these tenuous connections by plugging in their favorite causes. No doubt feminists could claim there's a correlation between alcohol and rape, and demand another beer tax for rape crisis centers. Perhaps MADD could get in on the tax action (if they're not already).

If you think Michigan bureaucrats are crazy, in Oregon they're proposing to raise the beer tax a whopping 1,900% -- to pay for (among other things) drug treatment. Never mind that this will seriously hurt the state's economy:

....The state may do this even though Oregon is the second largest microbrewery producer in the U.S. The beer industry and its 96 breweries contribute 5,000 jobs and $2.25 billion to state GDP. Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brewing Co. says the tax would "devastate our company and small breweries throughout the state." Adds Joe Henchman, director of state projects at the Tax Foundation, "This microbrewery industry has gravitated to Oregon in part due to low beer taxes."

For Oregon to enact punitive taxes on its homegrown beer industry makes as much sense as Idaho slapping an excise tax on potatoes or for New York to tax stock trading. Even without the tax increase, taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in a glass of beer, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild.

What few of these people stop to think about is how easy it is for people to brew their own beer tax-free.

posted by Eric at 02:08 PM | Comments (9)



The unnatural nature of Jeffersonian government

M. Simon just sent me a wonderful quote about progress:

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. This is so because those who gain positions of power tend always to extend the bounds of it. Power must always be constrained or limited else it will increase to the level that it will be despotic. T. Jefferson of course.
Reminds me of the way the Patriot Act was passed ostensibly for the limited purpose of fighting terrorism, only to end up being used against nearly anything and everything police and prosecutors might want (including sudafed, gambling, cockfighting, counterfeiting, and drugs).

The problem with power is that to anyone except anarchists it's an ugly necessity. I often wish there were some way of preventing those who want it from ever getting it. The problem with the political system (and the main reason activists rule) is that the people who most want to go into government are the ones most motivated to mess with other people's lives and tell them what to do. Those who want the government to leave people alone tend to hate the government, and thus are disinclined to be part of it. (Similar to the way guys who hate cops are the last people who would ever go into police work -- or people who oppose drug laws tend not to apply for DEA jobs!) An endless, seemingly hopeless paradox which empowers only supporters -- but never opponents -- of power.

Stay with the drug model for a moment. Power has often been likened to drugs. To the extent this is true, it would follow that addiction to power is similar to addiction to drugs. Few pharmacists or hospitals would hire a drug addict to dispense medications to which they were addicted, for obvious reasons. So, if it wouldn't make sense to hire a junkie to work in a pharmacy (or a child molester to run a day care center), why is power so routinely handed out to those who seek it? Simply because they want it?

On the other hand, people who go to work for the DEA tend to be morally opposed to drugs, tend to believe in drug laws, and strict enforcement thereof. The DEA would not hire someone who was morally opposed to drug laws, and such a person would not waste his time applying for a job there.

My worry is that it's the same way with government. People who go into it are the true believers.

Those who think like Jefferson need not apply.

MORE: On the other hand, this piece by Ed Driscoll provides optimism, by way of a reminder of a fascinating dynamic:

Historian Robert Conquest's Third Law of Politics posits that "The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies."
That certainly explains why the FDA and FCC are considered little more than industry police for drug companies broadcasters.

Hmmm.... It would be nice to think that the regulators are controlled by those they regulate (although I'm not sure about the implications for the DEA), but is this true in all cases? Ordinary people -- say, commuters on their way to work -- are not drug companies or broadcasters. If the bureaucrats decided to employ "red light cameras" to extort money from commuters, the commuters might become their enemies, but how and at what point would that lead to the former becoming a powerful cabal?

posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (2)




Trouble In River City

Which reminds me a lot of America in the 50s when it was comic books, duck tail haircuts, and rock 'n roll. It seems there is always some tool of the devil that needs exploiting.

And the tools of the devil go in an out of fashion. In 1914 the once legal over the counter medicine heroin was it. Along with the cocaine vice which made Negroes lust insatiably after white women. NEGRO COCAINE "FIENDS" were the menace of the day according to the New York Times, America's paper of record. And then in the late 30s we had marijuana. Which was favored by the inferior Mexican "race" and jazz musicians. Negro jazz musicians. And of course jazz was whore house music. And you know what kind of depravity that can lead to.

There is always Trouble in River City. Profitable trouble. Fortunately there alway appears on the scene a savior who will lead us from temptation. A politician. A minister. A community organizer.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:40 PM | Comments (3)



Defining patriotism down

Speaking of activists with the power to ruin lives, one of the things that has long concerned me about activists in government is their natural tendency to misuse the power of government to go after people they don't like.

While I don't know whether liberal activist types have now taken over the Department of Homeland Security, I am more than a bit concerned about some of the language in the report that "Homeland Security Warns of Rise in Right-Wing Extremism." I did not find it especially reassuring to click on the link to the source material only to find this definition of "right wing extremism":

...Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Would that make libertarians and federalists extremists?

What about the people who uttered these famous statements?

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."

-- Barry Goldwater

Or,

"Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem."

- Ronald Reagan

While there are plenty of liberal activists who would characterize the latter is an "extremist anti-government" sentiment, they would do well to remember that a full 59% of the American people still agree with it:
...a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows that the basic views of the American people have not change: 59% of voters still agree with Reagan's inaugural address statement. Only 28% disagree, and 14% are not sure.
In light of the recent reports, I think the Department of Homeland Security should be watched carefully for abuses of power. As things stand now, the Patriot Act has already been hideously misused. Many people worried that it would be, and it is a primary reason I opposed it from the start. I didn't like the idea of empowering people with the right to conduct warrantless searches any more then than I do now.

Despite my concerns I was repeatedly reassured that such extraordinary powers would only be used to go after real terrorists in light of the 9/11 attack.

Sorry, but government does not work that way; I witnessed Patriot Act powers being used against black American teenagers riding the Greyhound Bus. And if they'll abuse their power to shake down black teenagers, then why wouldn't they now use it against, say, libertarian federalists who oppose gun control?

If anyone can now be considered an "extremist" (and hence a terrorist) according to the whim of whoever is in charge, I think it might be time to junk the Patriot Act.

posted by Eric at 11:38 AM | Comments (6)



Taxing the cool?

Ever since I moved to Ann Arbor in August, I've wondered why gasoline prices are so much higher here than in surrounding communities. I assumed it was because the gas stations have to pay higher rents. But the higher prices are not my imagination; today I saw official confirmation:

AAA Michigan says gasoline prices in the Ann Arbor area were the highest in the state Monday after rising 2 cents a gallon over the past week.

Monday's Ann Arbor average was $2.05 for a gallon of unleaded fuel, which is 2 cents higher than the statewide average. Over the past week, gas prices have crept up an average of 3 cents a gallon around Michigan.

In the comments, I found an explanation:
Its called the Ann Arbor penalty! but what makes you think its just fuel? Food,entertainment,rent,fines,ect. Everything costs more here. Do you think living in such a cool city doesn't come with a price? You should be proud to pay extra for this, and perhaps even pay a little extra on your taxes.
I'm too cheap to take pride in paying extra if I don't have to. A mile down the road in "un-cool" Ypsilanti, gas is 5 to 10 cents lower.

If people think the Ann Arbor "coolness penalty" is bad, they should try the San Francisco Bay Area.

As to those who believe in taxing their own coolness at a higher rate, I hope they believe in lower taxes for the un-cool.

(I find coolness taxing...)

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




Pick A Side

Glenn Beck talks with the former Deputy Foreign Minister of Mexico.

And as long as we are on the topic of Mexico. The rumor that 90% of the guns involved in Mexico's crimes come from America is a flat out lie. And suppose the "loophole" that allows so many American guns into Mexico was closed. Is it reasonable to believe that organizations that are so adept at smuggling drugs to every country around the world (drug smuggling is worth a half trillion dollars to the world economy) couldn't smuggle in guns from other suppliers?

If the American's want to do something about Mexico's gun problem they could stop financing the smugglers. In a word: legalization.

It appears that we have a choice. Legal guns and legal drugs or drug prohibition and gun prohibition. Supporters of the 2nd Amendment had better wake up. Because you know how it goes - first they came after the drug users, but I did nothing because I don't use drugs....

Or as Ben Franklin was supposed to have said, "Either we hang together or we hang separately."

Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)



Where are the layers of mainstream media fact checkers?

I realize that gun grabbers routinely misrepresent facts and figures, but the ongoing campaign by Mexican officials to make it look like US guns are flooding their country is getting ridiculous. In the latest, Mexico's US Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan repeats the claim that 90 percent of the weapons seized in Mexico can be traced to the U.S.:

Stopping the flow of money and weapons from the United States into Mexico is critical to dealing with the violent drug cartels creating havoc on the border, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. said Sunday.

Mexican officials believe that 90 percent of the weapons seized there can be traced to the U.S., Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said.

"The key issue right now is how can the United States help to shut down those guns and shut down that bulk cash that is providing the drug syndicates in Mexico with the wherewithal to corrupt, to bribe, to kill," Sarukhan said on CBS televsion's "Face the Nation."

Mexican President Felipe Calderon began a national crackdown on organized crime in 2006. Since then, violence among the drug cartels, their rivals and soldiers have led to nearly 9,000 deaths and crime that has spilled across the border into the U.S.

Although Sarukhan contended that the cartels' use of assault weapons rose dramatically after the U.S. ended its ban on the firearms in 2004, he stopped short of advocating that Congress reinstate the ban.

"What we will say is ... by reinstating the ban, that could have a profound impact on the number and the caliber of weapons going down to Mexico," he said.

First of all, Ambassador Sarukhan ought to be ashamed of himself for blatantly attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

But what I'd really like to know is where are the Mexicans getting this "90 percent" figure, and why is it being accepted so uncritically?

As it happens, two reporters from Fox News (William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott) took the time to thoroughly investigate the "90%" claim, and found that it wasn't merely exaggerated, but it was so wrong as to amount to a big lie:

There's just one problem with the 90 percent "statistic" and it's a big one:

It's just not true.

In fact, it's not even close. The fact is, only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.

What's true, an ATF spokeswoman told FOXNews.com, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency's assistant director, "is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S."

But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

"Not every weapon seized in Mexico has a serial number on it that would make it traceable, and the U.S. effort to trace weapons really only extends to weapons that have been in the U.S. market," Matt Allen, special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told FOX News.

(Via Clayton Cramer, who also links this excellent analysis.)

In other words, what is built into the ATF's ability to perform tracing is a validly recorded serial American number -- something which is only placed on weapons manufactured or imported here. I know this from firsthand experience, as I own several foreign-made guns which, because they were imported into the United States, had new, American serial numbers stamped into them (in addition to the original manufacturers' serial numbers). Had they never been imported into the United States (but instead went directly to Mexico) they would not be traceable.

Interestingly (and parenthetically), these are not American guns; they just have traceable American numbers. My Russian Makarov, for example, was made in Russia, but if someone were to go to the trouble of smuggling it into Mexico and it was later seized and traced, it would become another "gun traced to the US" -- only because it had once been imported and stamped here. I find that fascinating in itself. Why wouldn't it be just as logical to claim it was a "gun traced to Russia"? (I guess we should be glad that the Mexican Army does not buy its guns from the US, lest a much larger share of confiscated firearms be said to "originate" here.)

What was not pointed out by CBS is the breakdown of the numbers of actual guns seized versus guns submitted for tracing. Only a small percentage could be traced to the US.

A Look at the Numbers

In 2007-2008, according to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF for tracing. Close to 6,000 were successfully traced -- and of those, 90 percent -- 5,114 to be exact, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover -- were found to have come from the U.S.

But in those same two years, according to the Mexican government, 29,000 guns were recovered at crime scenes.

In other words, 68 percent of the guns that were recovered were never submitted for tracing. And when you weed out the roughly 6,000 guns that could not be traced from the remaining 32 percent, it means 83 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico could not be traced to the U.S.

That's quite a discrepancy, and I'll try to analyze it.

90 percent of the weapons seized there can be traced to the U.S.

versus

83 percent of the weapons seized there cannot be traced to the U.S.

Surely, the Mexican ambassador wouldn't be deliberately lying to the American people on "Face the Nation," would he? Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm thinking that what he meant to say was this:

90 percent of the weapons traced to the U.S. can be traced to the U.S.

And it got all screwed up in translation.

No, that can't be right, because not only do Mexican officials keep repeating the 90% figure, but it is being widely parroted by U.S. officials and reported as a fact by mainstream media.

Might the hope be that lies can change into truth with age?

(I guess such hope and change removes any need for the layers of fact-checkers...)

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




comparability is a right!

Jennifer Rubin takes issue with the feminist/socialist "comparable worth" doctrine, which she sees as another bad idea that will not die:

There are some public policy ideas that won't die -- no matter how bad they are. One of these is "comparable worth." It is built on the misguided policy notion that there is a gap in pay between men and women that cannot be accounted for except by subtle gender discrimination. And it survives by confusing the public that the only goal is to assure men and women performing the same work are paid "equally."

The basic idea behind comparable worth is that the government will determine which jobs are "comparable" -- a truck driver and a school teacher, a welder and a nurse -- and mandate that they should be paid equally. The theory is that those sneaky schools and hospitals evade the free marketplace in determining wages, taking advantage and "undervaluing" those jobs with higher percentages of female employees. Government will sort all that out and restore "gender fairness." The CEO of the Center for Equal Opportunity, Roger Clegg, writing in 2008 reminds us:

President Ronald Reagan correctly called comparable worth "a cockamamie idea." A great lesson of economic theory, not to mention historical experience, is that government-set wages and prices not only curtail freedom, but lead to shortages, surpluses and market disruptions.
Read it all.

I'm thinking that it is unreasonable to expect socialists who want to ruin the economy to stop doing what they do, and of course appeals to common sense are lost on people who lack it.

So rather than quibble, let me just accept the "comparable worth" idea on its face as a starting point, and offer a couple of modest suggestions based on fairness. And comparability.

Statistics show that women outlive men by a substantial margin. There is nothing fair about this. Seriously, what could be more unfair than death? So, I propose some sort of "comparable death" rule. I'm no policy wonk (so the details will have to worked out by the usual committees), but the bottom line is that it is high time we spared men from having to continue their struggle against this most deadly form of discrimination. Seriously, we often hear talk of the "glass ceiling" that women face. Bad as this is, it pales by comparison with the plight dead men face each day.

Yes, many women do remain on the wrong side of the "glass." But can that misfortune really be compared to being on the wrong side of the "grass"?

The comparable death issue is by no means the only sex-discrimination inequity faced by men. Statistics also show that there is a huge inheritance gap between men and women. Quite simply, women inherit far more wealth than do men. As long as this gap remains unclosed, there can be no equality between the sexes. A "comparable inheritance" law is long overdue to redress this cruel power imbalance.

There is no reason in this day and age why men should not be able to inherit a comparable amount of money as women do, just as they should have the right to live just as long.

So, if comparability is a right, then why have the comparable rights busybodies been asleep at the wheel?

posted by Eric at 04:47 PM | Comments (11)



Pirates

The immediate pirate crisis is over with the killing of three pirates, the capture of a wounded fourth and the recovery of Captain Phillips unharmed physically.

The American captain taken hostage by Somali pirates aboard a lifeboat was freed today after making a second daring escape bid that allowed waiting US forces to open fire on his captors.

Three of the four pirates were killed in the firefight and the fourth was injured but survived and was taken into custody, according to initial reports.

US officials said that Captain Richard Phillips was unharmed and safe aboard the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge last night.

"I can confirm that Captain Phillips has been safely recovered," Laura Tischler, a State Department spokeswoman, said.

What I don't understand is why we don't deal with those pirates the way it used to be done.
Bombarding Tripoli

The wiki gives a short history of our war with the pirates of Tripoli.
By late 1793, a dozen American ships had been captured, goods stripped and everyone enslaved. Portugal had offered some armed patrols, but American merchants needed an armed American presence to sail near Europe. After some serious debate, the United States Navy was born in March 1794. Six frigates were authorized, and so began the construction of the United States, the Constellation, the Constitution and three other frigates.

This new military presence helped to stiffen American resolve to resist the continuation of tribute payments, leading to the two Barbary Wars along the North African coast: the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805 and the Second Barbary War in 1815. It was not until 1815 that naval victories ended tribute payments by the U.S., although some European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s.

The United States Marine Corps actions in these wars led to the line "to the shores of Tripoli" in the opening of the Marine Hymn. Because of the hazards of boarding hostile ships, Marines' uniforms had a leather high collar to protect against cutlass slashes. This led to the nickname Leatherneck for U.S. Marines.

After the general pacification of 1815, the European powers agreed upon the need to suppress the Barbary pirates. The sacking of Palma on the island of Sardinia by a Tunisian squadron, which carried off 158 inhabitants, roused widespread indignation.

American resolve is still obvious. The question is: why are these pirate harbors allowed to function? Who is selling them fuel? Why aren't they being blockaded? Why aren't they being bombed? Why isn't a punitive expedition on the way? Are the Europeans so weak that they are helpless? In a word - yes. They have no fight left in them. Someone might get killed.
PARIS - Navy commandos stormed a French sailboat held by pirates off the Somali coast Friday in an assault triggered by threats the passengers would be executed. But one hostage was killed in the operation, demonstrating the risks of a military operation against sea bandits.
So what is the French attitude? They intend to finance more piracy.
In a break with French government policy, authorities proposed paying a ransom during 48 hours of fruitless talks, but the pirates, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rejected the offer, Morin said, without divulging a sum.

The French also offered the pirates a French naval officer to hold in exchange for a mother and child but that too was rejected, the minister said.

The pirates can't operate without fuel and a safe harbor. So obviously you destroy their fuel supplies and their harbor. Sink all the ships in the harbor. Bomb all known pirate hideouts ashore and any other targets of interest for good measure. If piracy doesn't pay there will be a lot fewer pirates.

Update:

You can learn how the pirates of the Caribbean were brought down by reading The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. And Wars of the Barbary Pirates: To the shores of Tripoli: the birth of the US Navy and Marines might also be of interest.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:41 PM | Comments (2)




Activists with the power to ruin lives

From a report that Glenn Reynolds linked earlier, I read that Joe Biden bought a pedigreed German Shepherd puppy from a breeder. Not much of a story there, but what happened later illustrates something I consider a very serious (and possibly unsolvable) problem.

Because of an unstoppable movement of single-issue activist fanatics, the breeder has faced huge legal problems:

EAST COVENTRY -- It was a proud moment for Linda Brown when then-Vice President-elect Joe Biden selected her kennel to purchase his new German shepherd puppy.

That was in mid-December.

For Brown, that proud moment was short-lived.

After the story about the puppy sale ran in the newspapers and on TV newscasts, three dog wardens from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture showed up on Brown's doorstep for a kennel inspection.

And they showed up again and again for four visits over four months.

She said she has also received death threats from animal activists against her and Biden, which were reported to the Secret Service and the FBI.

This is all too typical, and you don't have to be Joe Biden to attract the ire of these activists. As liberal feminist blogger Jessica Valenti found out when she dared commit the politically incorrect crime of buying a pure bred dog.

What ordinary people tend to forget is that animal rights activists have increasingly been put in charge of animal law enforcement.

The bottom line is that they consider dog breeding an egregious moral offense, and they see dog breeders the way anti-abortion activists might see a late term abortion provider. Or the way a child advocacy activist would see someone who opened a NAMBLA chapter. If you doubt me, I suggest breeding and selling pure bred dogs. Never mind that the dog itself is the product of selective breeding by humans; the activists ultimately want to end pet ownership, and for them, going after breeders is only one step. Breeders, of course, are in a tiny minority, and are thus extremely vulnerable.

Note the way the horror story unfolded for the unfortunate breeder who thought it was an honor to sell a dog to the Second Family:

Following a story about Brown and Biden in the Daily Local News, readers posted 131 comments, some chiding Biden for having the Secret Service with him when he went puppy shopping and others complaining he did not get the dog from a shelter.

Brown was taken to task for selling pedigree dogs.

Brown said she has read the comments, even the one that said she was sued.

"I'd like to meet that person," Brown said, adding that she has not been sued.

Some people were outraged about the photograph of Biden holding a 5-week-old puppy, Brown said. But, the breeder points out, Biden only came to select a puppy on that visit, left it with its mother and returned three weeks later to take it home.

Naturally, PETA led the charge:
Brown was not only vilified in posted comments to newspapers but also on the Web site of People for the Ethical Treatment Animals, or PETA.

According to a Dec. 12 press release from the animal rights group, it aired its controversial TV commercials "Buy One, Get One Killed" in Biden's home state of Delaware after he bought his dog from Brown. The commercial blames euthanization of animals in shelters on people who purchase pets from breeders.

What the story fails to point out is that PETA is not only against dog breeding, but all pet ownership, and has a documented record of routinely euthanizing dogs rather than putting them up for adoption.

After the activists complained, enforcement teams were sent in, and naturally (thanks to legislation drafted by activists) they were able to find technical violations. They didn't hold up in court, but of course the damage was done:

Brown also was cited for record-keeping problems and warned about maintenance and sanitation shortfalls by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

"I was cited for a piece of kibble on the floor and five strands of dog hair. They took a picture of that, they walked around, snapped pictures and don't tell you why," said Brown, who disputes all the items where she was written up.

Brown's case was heard by District Justice James DeAngelo in South Coventry on March 31. She was found "not guilty" for each citation, the judge's office confirmed Wednesday.

Chris Ryder, press secretary for the Department of Agriculture, said Brown was inspected in December because of a complaint. He said it was department policy not to release the name of the person who complained.

Brown's kennel, Wolf Den, was inspected twice a year by the agency and routinely had satisfactory reports until December 2008 when it had seven unsatisfactory inspection results out of 26, according to the inspection records on the agency's Web site.

Ryder said the inspectors returned as a matter of follow-up to determine if the unsatisfactory matters had been taken care of. He said more than one inspector was brought in because Brown runs a large kennel.

Before going to court, Brown had to hire a lawyer. So far her legal fees are $4,000, she said.

"Never, never, never again," Brown said about selling a dog to anyone with a high profile.

I have nothing but sympathy for this woman, and for Joe Biden. If I were to breed Coco and sell her puppies, I would no more write about it in my blog than I would jump in shark infested waters with bloody meat strapped to my side. (I would be naturally hesitant to sell a puppy to a high profile celebrity, too.)

Like it or not, we live in twisted times in which selling pure bred puppies is considered a heinous moral offense. The bottom line is that if you breed dogs, you are vulnerable, as there are teams of well-organized, well-funded activists who regard you as morally akin to a child molester, and who can't wait to treat you that way.

It illustrates a larger problem, though. The majority of people don't seem to have any say in what goes on. Activists get their way and there is nothing democratic about it. Few people would ever decide to "stand up" to the activists, especially breeders, who have to keep a low profile, lest they find their dogs confiscated and killed, and having to face trumped-up charges.

As I discussed in a number of posts, a tiny minority of animal rights activists in Philadelphia decided that the elephants in the Philadelphia Zoo had to go. It made no difference what the zoo or the public wanted. The activists intimidated the zoo, and got their way.

No one stands up to them.

The problem is, while it's easy for me to advocate standing up to them (I attracted considerable ire for my elephant posts), in honesty I can't completely fault vulnerable people (like breeders, pet stores, or zoos) for not standing up to them. Putting yourself in their place, would you? Life is too short. How many people will stand up to single issue advocates with the power to ruin people's lives?

Still, I have some lingering questions. How did they get such power in a supposedly democratic society? Who gave it to them? Is there any way to take it away from them, or is it too late?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all. Your comments are appreciated, agree or disagree.

MORE: There are recent news reports about Barack Obama's choice of a pure bred Portuguese Water Dog as the White House dog. So far, both Obama and the dog's breeder seem to have escaped the treatment which befell Biden and the German Shepherd breeder.

Hmmm... I see that the dog was a gift from Ted Kennedy, who, while not the breeder, owns other Portuguese Water Dogs and seems to have acted as the middleman.

(Not surprising. Ted Kennedy would probably get a pass even if he were caught in flagrante delicto committing the actual crime of allowing two purebred dogs to mate!)

AND MORE: As details surface, the Obama Portuguese Water Dog story has intrigue written all over it:

The twists and turns of the Portuguese water dog's route to the White House make for the kind of intrigue that political junkies and the highly opinionated dog world delight in.

[...]

...conspiracy buffs might speculate that Bo was meant for the Obamas all along. Was his adoption engineered to look like a rescue--or at least blur the line to head off criticism that the Obamas had picked a purebred from a breeder?

It does appear that the dog was "laundered" for the Obamas, if that is the right word. The reason this has taken on the air of political intrigue is that daring to obtain a purbred dog has become a new morals offense.

posted by Eric at 12:08 PM | Comments (61)



Salt - The Natural Anti-Depressant

Yep. New research shows that salt may be an anti-depressant.

Does demolishing a salty bag of potato chips seem to put you in a better mood? If so, you're not alone, according to psychologists at the University of Iowa who say salt may be nature's anti-depressant.

Researchers based the conclusion on studies on rats. They found that rats that were deficient in sodium chloride avoided activities they normally enjoyed, like drinking a sugary substance or pressing a bar that stimulates a pleasant sensation in their brains.

"Things that normally would be pleasurable for rats didn't elicit the same degree of relish, which leads us to believe that a salt deficit and the craving associated with it can induce one of the key symptoms associated with depression," said University of Iowa psychologist Kim Johnson.

The study cannot definitively conclude that the salt-deficient rats are suffering from depression, but the lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities is a key sign of the condition.

So why is the mayor of New York pushing an campaign to cut the amount of salt in processed and restruant foods in half? Does he want to see a lot of depressed Americans?

Actions have consequences often unforeseen. Take the campaign against tobacco. A lot of schizophrenics self medicate with tobacco. Do we really want a lot of unmedicated schizophrenics on our streets? Is that really a good idea? Fortunately if this salt initiative gets enacted they will have a lot of depressed people to keep them company.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:33 AM | Comments (1)



The Narrative

Red Alerts reports on a school teacher who was using drugs and alcohol to sexually exploit youth. Red asks this question:

Victimless Crime Files: Why Do Adults Want Kids to Get High?
Red Alerts then says:
The truth is that only two kinds of adults involved with drugs, ones with addiction problems/psychological issues and the ones who use drugs to take advantage of others.
and then follows it with this report:
It includes statements from alleged victims of all ages, accusing Levine of allowing teenagers to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana.....
So why no bad mouthing of alcohol? Or coming to the obvious conclusion that prohibiting these substances to minors has given an opening to malefactors to exploit youth.

I guess it wouldn't fit the narrative. And yes: the Right and the Left have their narratives. I so look forward to the day when Americans think for themselves. As individuals rather than spouters of some collective meme. Given the current trajectory that might happen as soon as the year 3000. But it could take longer.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:14 AM | Comments (1)




Do Electric Sheep Dream Of Androids?

And just in case you are wondering about the title. It is a play on Philip K. Dick's book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which led to the movie with Harrison Ford called Blade Runner.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

H/T EDN Magazine

posted by Simon at 03:47 PM | Comments (1)



tar and water?

Are libertarians conservative?

More properly, are libertarians included -- and should they be? -- within the rubric of the word "conservative"?

This is not an idle question, as there is a fierce ongoing debate (linked by Glenn Reynolds earlier) about the Tea Party Movement, and it seems to me that this debate goes to the essence of the nature and definition of conservatism.

Perhaps it is my bias showing, but the Tea Party Movement strikes me as more libertarian than conservative. That's because its primary thrust is economic -- opposition to socialism, to massive taxation, to government bailouts. I don't think many will disagree with me that libertarians have had a better record of opposing these things than conservatives -- especially if conservatives are defined as those in the leadership of the Republican Party during the last decade.

As I've pointed out in countless posts, I don't consider myself a reliable conservative, mainly because I disagree with the philosophy of so many of the standard bearers who use the "c" word like a bludgeon. And I support the Tea Party Movement wholeheartedly, without worrying about whether it is or should be called a strictly conservative movement. But now I'm wondering, should I be worried? Aren't these just labels and definitions? Shouldn't what matters involve whether I agree with the goals? Seen this way, it should not matter to me whether individuals I disagree with are involved. Rick Moran is upset that Glenn Beck is involved. Hey, I'm no fan of Beck, Coulter, or Gingrich. But if they think (as I) that socialism and endless bailouts suck, that does not destroy the truth of the central premise. I might not want to be listening to one of their harangues, but I hardly think their harangues are what the Tea Party Movement is about.

More likely, they're glomming onto it because they're celebrities who don't want to be left out. And if they happen to agree, fine. But suppose -- just suppose -- the Newt Gingrich showed up at a Tea Party protest and delivered a pro-Drug War diatribe. I would not like it, but would it debase the central premise of the Tea Party Movement? Unless Gingrich gets to define the Tea Party Movement as "conservative" and the word "conservative" as meaning agreement with him, I don't see how.

Still, I'd like to see the word "libertarian" included in more of these discussions and debates. I thought it was a bit odd that while Robert Stacy McCain praised prominent thinkers who are near and dear to (if not formative of) the libertarian philosophy -- Mises and Hayek and Ayn Rand -- he almost went out of his way not to use the word "libertarian" at all.

Why? Is the word becoming taboo or divisive?

In another long and thoughtful discussion, Pam Meister argues that its "Time for Conservatives to Unite and Fight" -- that "Individualists must overcome their distrust of mass movements and rallies in order to combat the socialist tide." She sees conservatives and libertarians as "close cousins" -- with individualism as the common glue.

I love individualism, and consider myself an individualist. To the extent individualism is conservatism, I'd have to call myself a conservative. However, over the years I have seen many attacks on individualism, from communitarians on the left -- and communitarians on the right. I know that I am not a liberal, because liberalism is almost always communitarian. But what about communitarian conservatism? It's easy to find people who would define themselves that way -- David Brooks being a perfect example. (And I suspect Andrew Sullivan would too.) While Brooks is considered a RINO and Sullivan's conservatism is suspect, what about those on the hard right -- especially social conservatives who condemn individualism routinely and in the strongest possible terms? Even if we put all labels aside, my worry is that it is unreasonable to expect them to find common cause with individualists.

I've struggled over the definition of conservatism for a long time. Right now I'm thinking about individualist conservatism versus communitarian conservatism.

Is it too divisive to ask which "side" better defines conservatism?

Fortunately, the Tea Party Movement strikes me as anything but communitarian, so perhaps the question is not an urgent one.

On the other hand, a Tea Party by implies almost by definition something more than a lone individual affair. Unless, of course, you live in Ann Arbor like yours truly.

My Tea Party would go like this:

I had a little Tea Party, this afternoon at three,

'Twas very small, three guests in all,

Just I, myself, and me!

Nothing communitarian about that!

posted by Eric at 11:35 AM | Comments (15)




Sometimes, denial can be a good thing....

I have mixed feelings about the news that the Obama administration is denying that the president bowed to Saudi King Abdullah:

The White House is denying that the president bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at a G-20 meeting in London, a scene that drew criticism on the right and praise from some Arab outlets.

"It wasn't a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he's taller than King Abdullah," said an Obama aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Washington Times called the alleged bow a "shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate" and said it violated centuries of American tradition of not deferring to royalty. The Weekly Standard, meanwhile, noted that American protocol apparently rules out bowing, or at least it reportedly did on the occasion of a Clinton "near-bow" to the emperor of Japan.

Interestingly, a columnist in the Saudi-backed Arabic paper Asharq Alawsat also took the gesture as a bow and appreciated the move.

Yes, well it is interesting.

Let's look at the scene:

There's no question that Obama is considerably taller than Abdullah, but it appears there's more to this than a taller man reaching down to shake the hand of a shorter man. The odd thing about it is that Obama appears to bend down to the left -- almost as if he dropped something on the floor and wanted to pick it up quickly.

As far as I'm concerned, there's now an element of mystery.

And I have to say, even though I'm no fan of Obama (nor official lying), I like the fact that the "bow" is being denied -- whether it was a bow or not. Our presidents should not be bowing down before foreign leaders -- whether they're potentates or not.

If only he'd insulted the king by giving him a crucifix...

CORRECTION: I mistakenly called King Abdullah "Obama" above. (My Biden bad!)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and a warm welcome to all! All comments appreciated -- agree or disagree!

posted by Eric at 08:03 PM | Comments (33)



GM Announces Electric Car Of The Future
Electric Car Of The Future
Laugh all you want but this is no joke. The article linked is about batteries for cars.
Anyway, this battery issue -- and many like it -- hasn't stopped GM from announcing yet another Car Of The Future. Only this time they've partnered themselves up with Segway.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.

The interesting thing here [is] its vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Not only does the P.U.M.A. talk to other units, but it can detect the presence of other types of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists; using that info to avoid collisions. It can also join together with other P.U.M.A.s to form high-speed (if you can call 35 MPH high speed) cross-city trains capable of using special lanes for uninterrupted travel.
So, the only thing that makes this more useful than a bicycle is predicated on (a) massive consumer adoption of the things and (b) ubiquitous specialized urban infrastructure? That's clever.

I guess now that GM's effectively owned by the federal government we should get used to ideas like this.

I can just see this car gliding down Chicago's Michigan Avenue in 20 below weather with a 40 mph breeze blowing. And some people wonder why GM is in trouble. It is not just the unions. Of course with Congress now running Government Motors I expect a lot more ideas like this of equal or greater brilliance. Look for solar cells that can collect dark energy and wind turbines that can generate power on windless days. Of course the Congress is equally good with economics. We are so fortunate to live in such a country.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:02 AM | Comments (13)



Sex Weeds

It appears that there is a "new" weed to improve male sexual performance. And I'm not talking about marijuana. Nope. I'm talking about the appropriately named "Horny Goat Weed".

The soft green heart-shaped leaf of the horny goat weed could hold the key to a new drug for treating erectile dysfunction. Researchers say the Viagra alternative could be as effective as the famous blue pill, but have fewer side-effects.

Mario Dell'Agli of the University of Milan, Italy, and colleagues tested four plants which are used as natural aphrodisiacs in traditional cultures to establish their potential as alternatives to Viagra.

Viagra's active compound, sildenafil, works by inhibiting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5). Because PDE5 helps control blood flow to the penis, inhibiting PDE5 promotes male erection.

Dell'Agli and his colleagues tested the four plants in vitro to see how efficient they were at inhibiting PDE5. Just one - Epimedium brevicornum, also known as horny goat weed and Bishop's Hat - had an effect. This confirmed previous studies showing that icariin, a compound found inside the horny goat weed, is a PDE5 inhibitor.

Don't get your hopes up right away. A drug based on this plant could be decades away.

However, if you want to grow your own an appropriately named book, Secrets of Plant Propagation, could be rather useful. According to Amazon (I haven't checked) Bishop's Hat is covered on page 90. And if you want to grow marijuana Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible could be helpful. I have to warn you though. Marijuana is illegal and the penalties for growing it are severe including lots of jail time and loss of any property remotely connected to growing it. However, not to worry. We have legions of criminals willing to supply it to you. And you can get it from either domestic growers or smugglers. So how does an old fart get connected with these criminals? Ask a kid because marijuana is easier for a kid to get than beer. No doubt a lovely way to bring the generations together.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)



Depressing statistic

As I keep saying, the news sucks.

On Drudge earlier, I saw a creepy (if unverified) statistic:

Rasmussen Poll: Just 53% of Americans Say Capitalism Better Than Socialism... Developing...
The question arises, what do you do when a manjority of citizens don't appreciate what they have and are willing to vote away the freedom that was their birthright?

Move?

But where?

MORE: Marc Ambinder thinks it's time to cheer up, because "Americans are feeling more optimistic about the economy" and because President Obama's approval rating is 66 percent -- "its highest ever."

I don't know why I'm not feeling happier. Perhaps I'm just antisocial.

AND MORE: Frank J. Fleming has finally cheered me up with some much needed perspective to supplant my grumbling about socialism. He compares and contrasts Barack Obama and Kim Jong Il, and concludes that the latter wins,

...while we are certainly blessed beyond measure to have Barack Obama as our president, it does look like Kim Jong Il edges him out as the more impressive being when you compare accounts of the two. Thus, while we should take pride in our leader, we must also humble ourselves when we look to North Korea.
Yes, I'd hate to think that Americans have become overconfident.

MORE: The Rasmussen poll is here.

posted by Eric at 08:42 AM | Comments (3)



The Miracle Gas

A friend of mine, RN, said he found a comment I wrote about climate change rather funny. So I thought I'd let the rest of you in on the joke.

I was responding to this bit of a comment.

Meanwhile our atmosphere is loading up with carbon dioxide from that oh-so-easy combustion and we don't have 50 years to wait for fusion to take over while climate change fries our biosphere.
Here is my response:
Since the climate seems to be cooling while CO2 is rising the new theory is that below 350 ppm CO2 causes warming and above 350 ppm it causes cooling. This is based on the scientific fact that CO2 does what ever it needs to do to keep government money flowing.

In fact CO2 is a miracle gas. Not only can it perform warming or cooling as needed on earth but it also affects the number of spots on the sun by emitting invisible rays of electromagnetic energy that cool the outer layers of the sun and absorb magnetic energy. Which explains the current low value of the suns magnetic field. After all no other explanations have been offered so it must be CO2.

Of course I am making fun of the IPCC which attributes all currently unexplained warming of the climate to CO2. Not a very scientific approach but very effective politically. For now.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:14 AM | Comments (2)




A new low? In comedy?

Over the many years I've been blogging, I have seen countless scurrilous attacks on Glenn Reynolds by leftie bloggers. He is hated with a unique passion, for two primary reasons:

  • His blog is too popular; and
  • As a libertarianish blogger, Glenn is not right wing enough (or conservative enough).
  • The latter may sound counterintuitive, because in logic, why should a leftie hate a blogger for not being right wing enough? The reason is that leftists fear the destruction of the well-worn, left-right dichotomy, and as a non-conforming libertarian type, Glenn upsets the stereotype. Thus, he has to be portrayed as "far right" -- whether he is or not.

    This is further aggravated by the fact that leftists don't believe in free thinking, but leader-directed group think. People who agree with Glenn Reynolds are seen as pawns who have been led, or somehow tricked. This means that to "counter" Glenn Reynolds, his true, hard core, inner "radical rightism" must be exposed, and his more influential "followers" condemned as crypto-fascists. (If they happen to be libertarians or political moderates, this proves the concealment of their evil radical rightist "agenda.")

    Lately this process has become so exaggerated that it's reached almost comical proportions. I'm tempted to call it a new low, but there's really nothing new about it, and I'm not sure whether new lows are possible. (After all, how low can bottom-dwelling sea slugs go?)

    Perhaps the latest attacks represent a new twist on the vintage Alinsky approach of "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Perhaps not; I have been distracted lately so I haven't had time to keep up with everything that's going on in the blogosphere. So I don't know whether it's a pattern. (I think it's worth pointing out that there's also a renewed attempt to tar Milton Friedman as a Nazi. Once again, it's a tough time to be a libertarian.)

    Anyway a couple of apparently unrelated attacks strike me as a new low.

    I'll start with the apparently serious attempt (led by prominent leftie blogger Oliver Willis) to link Glenn Reynolds to a demented, Nazi-sympathizing cop-killer:

    The conservative blogs are enraged that people are pointing out that they have and are stoking the fires of an atmosphere of hate that leads to police officers getting killed. As I've written for years, this is part of their pattern of behavior in America and for too long we've accepted their verbal diarrhea and incitements to violence as honest political dialogue and not the insanity it is.

    UPDATE: Ooooh, this one clearly rankles old Insty, because he actually responded... Oh, no he didn't. He called me a "shill" for Media Matters and accused me of being on a listserv. Its days like this I'm glad that when I was deciding what side of the political aisle I wanted to be on, I didn't make the same mistake as Glenn Reynolds and choose the one where we encourage people to shoot cops.

    Since when are demented cop-killing Nazis on a particular "side" of the "political aisle?" And since when has Glenn Reynolds been "choosing" the "side" encouraging cop killing? (Shrinkwrapped looks at the psychology involved, and argues that "only someone who believes that other people have no independent agency can believe such nonsense")

    Considering the glorification of cop killing (and cop killers) that has long occurred on the left, the logic of this is almost comical. See Don Surber's "Selective outrage on cop killing."

    Or, for that matter, watch this video:

    Hey, as Glenn says, "Free Mumia!" (And while we're at it, how about academic tenure for cop killers?)

    As if one new low isn't enough, I've been amazed by the venom directed at Ann Althouse -- ostensibly for the crime of becoming engaged to a man who has commented on her blog. I for one am delighted that Ann Althouse has found love, and I wish her the best. But to the leftosphere, her engagement represents little more than another opportunity for new attacks. It wasn't enough merely to resort to ridicule, though; Ann Althouse had to be falsely smeared as an anti-Semite by a Democratic hit man (Pandagon's Jesse Taylor, formerly a communications director for Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.)

    Ann Althouse, anti-Semitic "Jew baiter"? I have to say that's so low that despite my jaded nature it got my attention.

    What on earth can be going on? There's an interesting analysis here which concludes Jesse Taylor was merely following orders from above. But whose orders? And why? Might it be because Althouse (who voted for Barack Obama) cannot be dismissed as a right winger and thus represents a dire threat?

    I don't know which is more ridiculous -- charging Althouse with anti-Semitism or linking Reynolds to cop-killing Nazism, but when the attacks are seen together, I think they represent a new low.

    But maybe I'm taking this too seriously.

    Really, at some point doesn't this become ridiculous enough to be considered comedy?

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




    Don't freeze me, bro!

    Bill Whittle recalls one of life's early lessons on charity.

    There was a time, in my twenties, when I was very poor. I have sat silent in an apartment, shades drawn, silently waiting for the loud knocking of the landlord to go away. I have borrowed enough money to have to decide whether or not to restore the electricity, or the telephone. (And by the way, that decision is a no-brainer.) I have been that broke long enough to realize something about myself.

    I was living off of the charity of friends. The charity of friends - do I make myself clear? I never applied for welfare or food stamps because - silly me - I thought that was for people who really needed it.

    After a year or two being constantly bailed out by my friends - "Wheel-less Whittle" they called me, far more kindly than I deserved - after several years of their largesse, and because my delicate artistic nature prevented me from getting any number of the actual paying jobs I could have landed in a half-hour - I began to get angry with them, especially my best friend, Fritz. Yes, he bought me lunch and dinner and drove me everywhere. Yes, he helped cover my electric bills and rent. But he was making out like a bandit: he was a successful commercial actor in Miami, making over a hundred grand a year.

    And so I stopped looking at what he did for me, and started looking at what he could do, but didn't. I went to him with a plan for him to pay my entire rent and expenses. He refused, the miserable selfish bastard. Not because he couldn't afford it, mind you, but because he was getting really worried about me and thought it would - get this, Mr. Berg! - do me harm.

    And I was furious. Furious. For two weeks I hated him with a white-hot rage.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    By refusing to fund him, Bill Whittle's friend was kinder than the government bureaucrats, because he realized that not allowing him to fail would do more harm than allowing him to fail.

    Bill's resentment about being cut off, of course, was a natural reaction, and it reminds me of something one of my employers told me years ago:

    "Eric, if you put $10.00 a day in a stranger's mailbox every day for 30 days, and then you walk by on the 31st day without putting in any money, you will not have made a friend; you'll have made an enemy!"
    Interestingly, if Bill Whittle lived in Michigan today, he might not have to worry about paying his utility bills. Under new legislation, it will be illegal for power companies to cut people's power off for nonpayment.

    That's because some people have been known to freeze to death.

    Why the man in this case didn't seek shelter or call an ambulance, I don't know.



    What I'd like to know is, what happens when the government finally can't pay the utility bills for all the non-paying customers, and there's no more power?

    Will they make it illegal for people to freeze in their homes?

    That's no idle question!

    I mean, even though it's April, the temperatures are still in the 30s and there's snow on the ground.

    AprilSnow.jpg

    My thermostat is set at 64 and it's too damned cold. If I turn it up, why should I have to pay more money?

    That strikes me as fundamentally unfair.

    So why won't the government help me?

    posted by Eric at 10:13 PM | Comments (8)



    Bringing back the 1930s?

    God, I hate the news these days. (This post may touch on why....)

    While I haven't obsessed about it in this blog as much as I perhaps should, it has frequently occurred to me that the group of cultural attitudes popularly known (and yelled about) as "traditional values" are little more than 1930s values. Dominated by the Great Depression, the 1930s was a bleak, morally vengeful time, when things were seen as very black and white. Which they were. Times were tough, and enemies (Stalin, Hitler, etc.) were demonic. Little wonder that the period was known for censorship, drug war hysteria, and hard-core authoritarianism. "Progress" meant "change." A new, schmaltzy and moralistic authoritarianism replaced the freewheelingly chaotic, laissez faire 1920s, and this is reflected culturally in films and music of the period.

    I admit my bias. I am no fan of the 1930s, and I think the term "low dishonest decade" pretty well sums it up.

    Why anyone would want to return to the quasi-medieval 1930s mindset escapes me completely.

    However, Thomas Sowell thinks that Barack Obama wants to do just that:

    Barack Obama seems determined to repeat every disastrous mistake of the 1930s, at home and abroad. He has already repeated Herbert Hoover's policy of raising taxes on high income earners, FDR's policy of trying to micro-manage the economy and Neville Chamberlain's policy of seeking dialogues with hostile nations while downplaying the dangers they represent.
    Ugh.

    Unfortunately, many of these disastrous mistakes were popular at the time.

    (Of course, no one would intentionally vote for a low dishonest decade....)

    MORE: "Obama Approval Hits New High - 66%."

    (Via Joe Gandelman.)

    So far, triangulating the 1930s seems to be working.

    posted by Eric at 10:07 AM | Comments (7)



    In The Dark

    Rick Nebel, the lead guy in Polywell Fusion Research has a few things to say about his current state of knowledge with reference to the Polywell Fusion Reactor. He also discusses some rather technical questions about his research and findings. You can read those by following the link.

    To a certain extent we are in the same boat as everyone else as far as the previous experiments go since Dr. Bussard's health was not good when we started this program and he died before we had a chance to discuss the previous work in any detail. Consequently, we have had to use our own judgement as to what we believe from the earlier experiments and what we think may be questionable.
    That may explain why the US Navy has contracted Rick's company, EMC2 Fusion, (formerly run by Dr. Bussard until his death) to do several different measurements on the plasma including density, and magnetic fields.

    In various Polywell discussion groups a lot of the talk is focused on how little published information there is about Polywell. The above may be part of the explanation.

    I must say that this news is a surprise to me. I was under the impression that the knowledge was out there. Now it appears that however much there was a lot of it died with Dr. Bussard. However, some very big names in plasma physics, like Nicholas Krall, who wrote Principles of Plasma Physics are interested in the progress of the Polywell reactor. In fact Dr. Krall who famously said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good.", wrote a paper with Dr Bussard titled Forming and maintaining a potential well in a quasispherical magnetic trap. So despite our current state of knowledge I'd have to say the effort to find out more is very worthwhile. Especially given the relatively low cost of knowledge. So far the US Navy agrees. Here is what Dr. Nebel recently said about what the experiments show.

    "There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."
    If we upped the burn rate of the project from $2 million a year to $10 million a year we could learn more faster. Which means faster decision making. And that is almost always a good thing. Right now we are in the position of not having enough solid information. More is better.

    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 02:52 AM | Comments (5)




    when restraint goes unappreciated

    I realize we have an increasingly tedious president, and for my part I'm trying not to add to the tedium by carrying on about how tedious he is.

    Not that I expect anyone to thank me. In fact, my blogging has been so light lately that I doubt readers appreciate my enormous restraint. The thing is, if I complained every time I found President Obama tedious, this blog would be a broken record.

    However, when British journalists complain about our tedious president, that I cannot ignore.

    Iain Martin has a column with the very understated title of "Barack Obama really does go on a bit." The first sentence really rubs it in:

    Isn't it time for him to go home yet? It is good, in theory, that the new President of the United States is taking so much time to tour Europe. He arrived in London last Tuesday, has been to Strasbourg, Prague yesterday and now he's off to Turkey. It shows, I suppose, that he cares about the outside world and that is 'A Good Thing'. But his long stay means that we are hearing rather a lot from him, way too much in fact.

    His speeches have long under-delivered, usually leaving a faintly empty sensation in this listener even though I welcomed, moderately, his victory last year as offering the possibility of a fresh start and a boost to confidence.

    Yet, we are told that he is a great orator and in one way he certainly is. He does have a preternatural calm in the spotlight and a mastery of the cadences we associate with the notable speakers in US history - such as JFK and MLK. But beyond that, am I alone in finding him increasingly to be something of a bore?

    No, you are not alone, but I wish you would just shut up. Martin's observations are as painful to read as they are damningly true.

    Then there's the ultimate insult:

    When he really gets going he's worse than Tony Blair.
    Ouch.

    Well, at least he didn't say that Bush looked interesting by comparison.

    posted by Eric at 07:12 PM | Comments (2)




    Learn about the roots of growth!

    Here's an item which guarantees fun for the whole family -- the Chia Obama!

    chiaobama.JPG

    For just $19.99, you can teach your children about civics and horticulture while amusing your friends.

    In honoring our 44th US President, the Chia Pet company presents this Special Edition Chia Obama.

    On the side of the Chia Obama planter are his famous words:

    '"YES WE CAN."

    Can you grow one?

    YES YOU CAN.

    Easy to do..... Fun to Grow.
    Full growth in 1-2 weeks

    Apparently, the Chia Obama is considered disrespectful in some quarters, so it has been banned by Walgreens. Naturally, ebay sellers are wasting no time selling them for more than twice the manufacturer's retail price. From one listing:
    ....The Walgreens in Tampa have decided not to sell this item as it is not representative of their corporate image. That is what the banned in the title refers too. I expect others will take the phony high ground and not want to sell it either. This item was show behind Rick Santelli on CNBC while he broadcasted from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Obama camp is no friend of Rick and company. This will be a great gag gift. I forsee contests to see who can put the best hairstyle on their Obama Chia. I'm thinking maybe Mr T will be a winner. I have 4 available. Winner adds $7.95 for US shipping.
    Well, people can buy and sell whatever they want.

    Me, I've been getting along fine with my existing Chia Pet -- a perfectly good Tweety Bird!

    tweety2.jpg

    No change needed.

    UPDATE: Via commenter "apotheosis," I see that Velociman is celebrating Tweety's birthday.

    Happy birthday Tweety!

    posted by Eric at 07:32 PM | Comments (5)



    Global Warming Will Make People Dumber

    I have just come across a book, Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis, which has given me something new to worry about. Global warming - if it lasts long enough - will cause the average IQ of the human race to decline.

    Here is a bit from a review of the book.

    The book's central finding: the world average IQ is no more than 90, and declines from north to south. An IQ of 90 is equivalent to the mental age of a White14-year-old. (Standardized IQ tests are normed to 100, the mental age of the average white 16-year-old.). Lynn also draws attention to the fact that a north-south IQ continuum has evolved, apparently through selection for survival in cold winters.
    The danger is obvious. If the planet stays warm enough for long enough the average IQ in the cooler climates will decline. OTOH that could be a good thing for eliminating the disparities in wealth that are caused by intelligence differences. So in the long run global warming could lead to a more egalitarian world. But there is a small problem. Such a decline in average IQ may reduce the opportunities for women. What to do? What to do?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:56 PM | Comments (2)



    A Consumer Report

    I have been meaning to write something about a Consumer Report I have been reading on licit and illicit drugs. They discuss a few famous opiate addicts, including the father of modern surgery Wm. Halsted, among others.

    One bit of the article struck me as particularly interesting.

    Incredible as it may seem, even a few poverty-stricken American addicts today make a reasonably successful adjustment to their addiction. "It doesn't happen often," Dr. Marie Nyswander concedes, "but once in a while, one of the so-called vilest addicts in East Harlem finds a doctor who gives him drugs or he gets an easy source from a friend. Under these conditions, he is likely to keep a job, maintain his family intact, and cut out his criminal activity. We see more of this kind of adjustment among middle-class and wealthy addicts who either have a medical disease which gives them a legal excuse for acquiring a regular supply, or who discover a brave doctor. With these people you see no social deterioration. I've yet to see a well-to-do addict arrested."
    A $100 a day black market heroin habit is a heavy load. A $1 a day white market heroin habit can be supported by panhandling. It is true that drug users can be quite a burden. Opiate addicts like Surgeon Wm. Halsted should have been properly persecuted for their dug habits. And that Olympic Gold Medal guy? Pot just ruined his life.

    A lot of the problems attributed to drugs are actually caused by forcing distribution to the black market. But who knows this? Not many because few still alive today remember what things were like before prohibition of drugs. You can start your education with a little history: The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States which covers more than marijuana. Or you can read this speech given to the California Judges Association, Drug War History, by one of the authors of the book. Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State also has a lot of good history.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:33 AM | Comments (3)



    A Failed Model
    The spike in violence due to heavily armed gangs in Mexico can be rectified, but not through the failed model of near-complete prohibition.
    Bob Owens made the above remark at A Call to Arms in Mexico. He was referring to gun prohibition. Now if only that understanding could be applied to drugs we might get some where.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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




    "get the stomach"

    I don't know whether to title this post "why I am not a conservative, Part XXVI," but every once in a while I find myself so appalled with conservatism (Republicanism?) that I feel an overwhelming need to speak out and distance myself from, um, it? (From them?)

    In this case, I'm not talking about the WorldNetDaily crowd, but Newt Gingrich, whose conservatism is as Republican as apple pie. Not merely content with advocating the continuation of the disastrous Drug War, he's now clamoring for stepped up enforcement -- along blatantly totalitarian lines. On the O'Reilly show the other night, he called for a "dramatically stronger anti-drug program" -- including Singapore-style drug testing of American citizens, and even opined that it's time that we "get the stomach" for executions!


    O'Reilly: ...this is what they do in Singapore. If you're caught possessing drugs -- and that means drugs in your bloodstream, they have a little hair thing and they put it in there -- then you have to go to mandatory rehab. And they have centers where you go. Now, they have no drug problem in Singapore at all, number one, because they hang drug dealers -- they execute them. And number two, the market is very thin, because when they catch you using, you go away with a mandatory rehab. And you go to some rehab center, which they have, which the government has built.

    The United States does not have the stomach for that. We don't have the stomach, Mr. Speaker.

    Gingrich: Well, I think it's time we get the stomach for that, Bill. And I think we need a program -- I would dramatically expand testing. I think we have -- and I agree with you. I would try to use rehabilitation, I'd make it mandatory, and I think we have every right as a country to demand of our citizens that they quit doing illegal things which are funding, both in Afghanistan and in Mexico and in Colombia, people who are destroying civilization.

    Sorry, but reading that, I don't have the stomach for Newt Gingrich. Sick as I am of President Obama, the idea of a guy like Gingrich as president fills me with fear and loathing.

    Does he represent the future of conservatism? If so, then count me out.

    It's looking like a tough time to be a libertarian.

    posted by Eric at 07:54 PM | Comments (28)



    As people grope for answers, a profile emerges....

    Like many people, I'm tempted to ask just what the hell is going on with what seems like a phenomenon of "another day, another massacre."

    I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to make sense out of something so senseless, but Rick Moran has done an admirable job of analyzing the mass killing in Binghamton and I suggest reading it, as well as the other links in Glenn Reynolds' earlier post.


    I thought these observations about media saturation coverage were especially apt:

    "Once again the cable news programs are going wall to wall covering the latest mass shooting. All other programming is on hold. I've said this before. When the news shows do this they are guaranteeing the next atrocity. A twisted desire for fame and attention drives some of this. Recall that when the networks were having a problem with streakers at televised football games, they simply turned their cameras away. The problem evaporated. These mass shootings are a little more complicated, and news organizations cannot completely ignore them. But they don't need to stop everything to cover them."
    I don't know whether these things are seen as providing a diversion, but I don't like the way they're dominating the news.

    More ominously, as so many people grapple over the unanswerable question of why, as if on cue yet another shooting has captured the media attention, injecting the gun issue in a manner that almost seems bizarrely scripted:

    PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) --A man opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call Saturday morning, killing three of them, a police official said.

    Friends said 23 year-old Richard Poplawski feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

    Three officers were killed.

    So, some distraught loony tune shooter feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

    Is that supposed to be a suspect profile?

    Somehow, I'm not reassured.

    MORE: Add this report:

    He was also convinced that the government wanted to take away his guns and his freedom.
    Isn't it about time we recognized that people who think that way are dangerous?

    posted by Eric at 06:48 PM | Comments (0)




    Not gun grabbers. Gun monopolists.

    Not long ago, the following pronouncement from Hillary Clinton upset me enough that in desperation I turned to Ayn Rand:

    "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers, and civilians."
    Ugh! (That is the Secretary of State, talking, after all....)

    In a great PJM piece today, Bob Owens takes a critical look at this utterance:

    Sadly, media already sympathetic toward gun control take such claims at face value, even when the evidence proves that the most dangerous weapons used by cartels in Mexico come from sources outside of the civilian U.S. gun market. Yes, there are small arms and ammunition being smuggled illegally into Mexico by cartels battling the authorities and each other for supremacy. Yes, many of those firearms presently come from the United States, but they are brought in by cartels that specialize in international smuggling.
    What Owens proposes is to allow Mexicans to own guns in self defense, along the Iraqi model:
    Mexico should look to the more successful gun policies of a nation that overcame a far more brutal reign of gunmen. That nation is Iraq.

    Iraqi culture has always been a gun culture, even during Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Even after the coalition invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi families were allowed to keep firearms and a limited supply of ammunition for home defense. These included not just aging British colonial-era rifles, but modern firearms like AK-47 assault rifles and Glock pistols.

    I think that's a brilliant idea, and totally in keeping with human rights and individual dignity. (Probably why it will never be implemented.)

    People forget that many of those we call "gun grabbers" are not stereotypical anti-gun pacifists trying to achieve a John Lennon "Imagine" society where guns magically disappear. Many of them are gun monopolists, who think gun ownership should be the exclusive province of the government and government-favored elites. Plenty of "gun grabbers" either carry guns, or are surrounded by people who do. But if you're not a member of their club, you have no right to your guns. The idea of ordinary people being able to defend themselves fills them with terror. Self sufficient people are not as easily frightened, and this makes their rulers feel irrelevant. Hence they want a gun monopoly for themselves. Makes a lot of sense.

    It wouldn't surprise me if the guys who run the Mexican drug cartel feel pretty much the same way about keeping ordinary people disarmed and disempowered.

    Elites tend to think alike.

    posted by Eric at 09:26 AM | Comments (4)



    China Builds A Lot Of Cars

    China has surpassed the USA in automobile production.

    In 2008, China surpassed the United States to become the world's second largest auto-making nation, and in 2009 is set to displace Japan as the planet's largest car producer, according to iSuppli Corp.

    Last year, China manufactured 9.3 million cars, while the United States built 8.7 million. In 2009, China will build 8.7 million autos, compared to 7.6 million for Japan.

    "China's rise to the No. 2 position in global car manufacturing in 2008 marks a major milestone in China's economic ascendency and the United States' industrial decline," said Egil Juliussen, director and fellow of automotive research for iSuppli. "China during the last five years more than doubled its domestic automobile production, while U.S. manufacturing has declined by nearly 50 percent. China, which produces most of its cars for domestic sale, has benefited from its booming economy and the soaring disposable incomes of its consumers. Meanwhile, U.S. auto production has been declining steadily due to increasing imports from the NAFTA nations Canada and Mexico, as well as from Europe and Asia."

    In America we have an excellent way of reducing car production. We have government mandates for things like airbags. And guess what - you can get 95% of the safety effect of airbags with seat belts at a cost of $10 per passenger. For a cost of around $500 to $1,000 per passenger you get the slight added protection of air bags which don't work properly if you are not wearing your seat belt.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:17 AM | Comments (3)




    four legged opportunity

    I liked this story about an enterprising Detroit man who has been hunting and selling raccoons -- in urban Detroit:

    Beasley, a 69-year-old retired truck driver who modestly refers to himself as the Coon Man, supplements his Social Security check with the sale of raccoon carcasses that go for as much $12 and can serve up to four. The pelts, too, are good for coats and hats and fetch up to $10 a hide.

    While economic times are tough across Michigan as its people slog through a difficult and protracted deindustrialization, Beasley remains upbeat.

    Where one man sees a vacant lot, Beasley sees a buffet.

    "Starvation is cheap," he says as he prepares an afternoon lunch of barbecue coon and red pop at his west side home.

    His little Cape Cod is an urban Appalachia of coon dogs and funny smells. The interior paint has the faded sepia tones of an old man's teeth; the wallpaper is as flaky and dry as an old woman's hand.

    Beasley peers out his living room window. A sushi cooking show plays on the television. The neighborhood outside is a wreck of ruined houses and weedy lots.

    "Today people got no skill and things is getting worse," he laments. "What people gonna do? They gonna eat each other up is what they gonna do."

    A licensed hunter and furrier, Beasley says he hunts coons and rabbit and squirrel for a clientele who hail mainly from the South, where the wild critters are considered something of a delicacy.

    Though the flesh is not USDA inspected, if it is thoroughly cooked, there is small chance of contracting rabies from the meat, and distemper and Parvo cannot be passed onto humans, experts say.

    Doing for yourself, eating what's natural, that was Creation's intention, Beasley believes. He says he learned that growing up in Three Creeks, Ark.

    "Coon or rabbit. God put them there to eat. When men get hold of animals he blows them up and then he blows up. Fill 'em so full of chemicals and steroids it ruins the people. It makes them sick. Like the pigs on the farm. They's 3 months old and weighing 400 pounds. They's all blowed up. And the chil'ren who eat it, they's all blowed up. Don't make no sense."

    Hunting is prohibited within Detroit city limits and Beasley insists he does not do so. Still, he says that life in the city has gone so retrograde that he could easily feed himself with the wildlife in his backyard, which abuts an old cement factory.

    He procures the coons with the help of the hound dogs who chase the animal up a tree, where Beasley harvests them with a .22 caliber rifle. A true outdoorsman, Beasley refuses to disclose his hunting grounds.

    "This city is going back to the wild," he says. "That's bad for people but that's good for me. I can catch wild rabbit and pheasant and coon in my backyard."

    Well, good for him. He's absolutely right about the city going back to the wild; check out the collection of pictures here.

    Michigan also has a growing feral pig problem -- and one was reportedly roaming around in Detroit.

    When economic times are tough, you can't expect people to ignore food running around in their backyard.

    posted by Eric at 05:11 PM | Comments (6)




    A more nuanced anti-Christ

    In what will surely come as a disappointment to some, David Horowitz has argued that "We are not witnessing the coming of the anti-Christ."

    Ron Radosh discusses this and Obama Derangement Syndrome generally in a well reasoned PJM piece arguing that "a more nuanced conservatism may be emerging from the ashes."

    I'm all for nuanced conservatism. Maybe there's a more nuanced explanation for the lottery numbers here:

    posted by Eric at 01:11 PM | Comments (2)



    Eating Food Of This Kind?

    Instapundit says that Amazon is having A Big Food Sale. And that you can get some really good deals. So let me ask you. Who buys food like this:

    Ener-G Foods Chocolate Chip Potato Cookies, 9.6-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6).
    Or as a Jedi Master once said, "How you get so big eating food of this kind?" Well, it is a mystery.

    And the deal? A total of 57.6 ounces for $24.16, about 42¢ an ounce. That is $6.71 a pound. Which seems rather pricey for potato cookies. Even if they are doused in chocolate. But it is a big discount off the $43.08 regular price. Only a little over $11.94 a pound.

    Now I have to admit Amazon has some pretty good deals on electronics. I like this "Atomic" Sony Automatic Time Set Clock Radio for $11.00. And the Western Digital My Book Essential Edition 1 TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive for $117 seems like a good deal for a back up drive. Although I must say that it will take more than 11 and a half days to fill the whole drive using a standard 1 MB per second USB port.

    Now I like Amazon for a lot of general merchandise and books. Lots of books. But food? I'm a generic brand oatmeal cookie guy. Under $2 a pound. Less on sale.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:08 AM | Comments (2)



    Al Jazeera Discusses Drug Legalization

    I got this clip from Transform where they explain a bit about the show.

    ...debate drug legalisation/regulation with Anne Widdecombe MP on David Frost's Al Jazeera show; 'Frost over the World'. This was significant in that the show is broadcast to an audience we rarely access - 140 million households internationally (although not, presumably, anything like that many actual viewers) - mostly in the Middle East, where the drug law reform debate is historically some way behind Western Europe and the Americas.

    Anne Widdecombe (who was very personable and charming in the green room) is famously outspoken on the issue (she has clashed with Transform before), and one of the most public voices (along with Melanie Phillips) for a particular form of moral authoritarianism in the drugs debate, which is, IMHO, rooted in ideology rather than evidence and rational analysis.

    They have more plus links.

    It is interesting that even in the most conservative of regions drug policy is now on the table. I'd say that the problem has more than a few people around the world bothered.

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:09 AM | Comments (0)



    Fusion Is Hot

    Says Alan Boyle in his most recent Cosmic Log.

    So what's behind the seemingly sudden interest?

    Part of the buzz is dictated by the calendar. After 12 years of construction, the world's most powerful laser is finally finished at the National Ignition Facility in California, and VIPs are getting a look at some of the best that Big Science has to offer in fusion energy research.

    But part of it is dictated by the hard times we're living in, said Richard Nebel, who heads a team looking at an unconventional kind of fusion technology. "These can be the times when innovation can really take hold," he told me today.

    The way Nebel sees it, tough times can spur people to look for unconventional solutions to society's challenges - for example, how to develop cleaner, cheaper, more abundant sources of energy. Biofuels (including algae), wind, wave, geothermal and solar power are all part of the mix, along with better batteries and greater fuel efficiency.

    There's a place for safer nuclear power as well, involving fission as well as future fusion - or maybe even fission-fusion hybrids.

    Rick has a few more things to say about fusion and his particular efforts in that field.
    If fusion is a hallucination, the wildest part of the vision would have to be the project that Nebel and his colleagues are working on at EMC2 Fusion Development Corp. in New Mexico. They're following up on preliminary indications that a relatively low-budget, high-voltage gizmo known as a Polywell fusion device could produce more energy than it consumes - that is, if the gizmo is scaled up to the appropriate size.

    Late last year, Nebel's team sent a report about their experiments to their funders at the U.S. Navy. The results were encouraging enough that the Navy is providing the money for follow-up work through the end of this year.

    Nebel told me the interim funding was meant to "keep us alive until they figure out what they want to do." Although he was reluctant to go into the details, progress reports posted on the Talk-Polywell discussion forum and the Dean's World blog indicate that the device's design is being tweaked to improve its performance.

    "We've been trying to clean up some of the things we know we can do better," Nebel said.

    Nebel has long hoped that the technology could be ramped up to create commercially viable fusion reactors - which would cost way less than $10 billion each, by the way. He is still hopeful. "We think that we should be able to go forward with this," he said.

    However, Nebel is also reluctant to overpromise. That might not be a bad thing, considering that so many people involved in the fusion quest have been promising so much for so long. The most Nebel will say is that the studies - and the discussions with potential funders - are continuing.

    Of course Cosmic Log goes into more details on other methods of fusion being researched. I'm focusing on Polywell because in my best engineering judgment it has the best chance of producing a viable fusion energy system. Especially if the cost of the energy produced is an important criteria.

    If you would like to read up on fusion and the standard approaches being researched may I suggest: Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering.

    If you want to learn more about what Rick Nebel is up to may I suggest: 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 01:05 AM | Comments (0)




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