White Roses

By now you have probably heard of Energy Secretary Chu's plan to paint the roofs in America white to fight global warming.

He should have had a talk with Alice about the big mistake that was made in Wonderland by painting the roses red. So how about some appropriate mood music?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:30 PM | Comments (5)

My Sunday morning suicide mission

As if there wasn't enough wrong with Justice Sotomayor, now we learn she is against the Second Amendment:

Just six months after Heller, however, Sotomayor issued an opinion in Maloney v. Cuomo that the protections of the Second Amendment do not apply to the states, and that if your city or state wants to ban all guns, then they have the right to disarm you. Such an opinion seems to fly directly in the face of Heller, exposing Sotomayor as an anti-gun radical who will affirm full-on gun prohibitions and believes that you have no right to own a firearm, even for the most basic right of defending your family in your own home.

Maloney has now been appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case on June 26. If confirmed, Sotomayor would almost certainly have to recuse herself from Maloney, but her views that made her such an attractive candidate to an anti-gun president would be involved in deciding similar cases appealed to the court.

While at the Joyce Foundation, Obama failed in the organization's plot to corrupt Second Amendment legal scholarship and undermine the decision-making processes of the Supreme Court. Now president, only a concerted effort by America's gun owners may keep an anti-gun activist judge from claiming a seat on the Court itself.

After Heller, the ever-changing candidate Obama affirmed the individualist view supported by a growing majority of Americans and sought to reassure America's gun owners that he was not about to disarm them. By nominating an activist judge who holds a radically different view, Obama's affirmation has proven to be yet another promise with a short shelf life.

Media pundits and Beltway insiders alike are predicting Sotomayor will be confirmed by the Senate and take her seat on the Supreme Court.

And of course it's been called "suicide" to oppose her. Clearly, the woman has no respect for the Second Amendment. Considering that this was post Heller, I guess this also means she has little respect for precedent.

No doubt she "would put it differently." (They always do.)

I'm feeling recklessly suicidal today, so I think maybe they should go ahead and oppose her -- even though that might mean "death" for the Republican Party.

Huh? It was alive?

posted by Eric at 09:27 AM | Comments (4)

I blame the culture for my cultural illiteracy, Part II

Well, I have to blame something, don't I?

There's some fat woman whose picture I keep seeing every day at Drudge, and I haven't been interested because it looks like a plug for a TV show or something.

This morning, (after having seen her picture for probably the 20th time), I figured I should check into the story to find out what it is that I'm missing that's supposed to be so important.

The name of the woman is Susan Boyle, and she is a "Scottish singer - whose performances in earlier rounds of the show clocked up millions of views on YouTube."

OK, I'm sure there are other performers who rack up millions of views on YouTube. So what is the big deal? Why is it assumed that I should be even remotely interested?

Anyway, she lost whatever the contest was after being "beaten in the final of Britain's Got Talent by brilliant dance act Diversity."

(Never heard of them either.)

Will someone tell me what I am missing?

Once again, I blame the culture for my cultural illiteracy!

But perhaps I'm a culturally insensitive bastard.

Would that be my fault? Should I care?

MORE: Please note that I have never watched this woman perform. Do I have to?

posted by Eric at 08:48 AM | Comments (17)

Keep Yo Effn Mouth Shut

Will we still have a Constitutional Republic in four years? I have my doubts.

A new White House policy on permissible lobbying on economic recovery and stimulus projects has taken a decidedly anti-First Amendment turn. It's a classic illustration of Big Government trying to control every aspect of a particular activity and in the process running up against civil liberty.

Check out this passage from a post on the White House blog by Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President on Ethics and Government Reform (emphasis added):

"First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program.

"Second, we will focus the restriction on oral communications to target the scenario where concerns about merit-based decision-making are greatest - after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Once such applications are on file, the competition should be strictly on the merits. To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see.

"Third, we will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists. If registered lobbyists have conversations or meetings before an application is filed, a form must be completed and posted to each agency's website documenting the contact."

Evidently these guys have never heard of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Obama may be a Constitutional scholar, but it is more than evident that actually reading the document is not a requirement for such an appellation.

I wonder if this phrase added to many of my posts comes under the restrictions:

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

Because Polywell is getting some stimulus funds but the award is not final.

H/T Small Dead Animals

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Islamic Crusades - British Rule Of India

Islamic Crusades: An Introduction
Islamic Crusades 1: The Occupation of Constantinople
Islamic Crusades 2: Before Islam... Egypt, Iran, Iraq
Islamic Crusades 3: The Co-Option of Jerusalem
Islamic Crusades 4: Lessons From the Thai Jihad
Islamic Crusades 5: Why did they hate us in 1783?
Islamic Crusades 6: India's Millennial Burden
Islamic Crusades 7: India's Modern Struggle - Above Video

Detailed Account of the Fall of Constantinople

The Occidental Soapbox has lots more on the videos and other stuff. Have a look.

And if you find the subject of interest you may find this book helpful:

The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In

I did find this review of the book interesting. Especially his conclusion:

For those Arabs today who mourn the loss of empire and feel humiliation and inferiority at the hands of the West, they would do well to study the lessons of this book. Tolerance of other cultures and religions - not rigidity and exclusion - is the key to greatness and power.
However imperfectly we practice it, tolerance of other cultures and religions is built into the American scheme:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

H/T Gates Of Vienna

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

So who owns "socialism"?

A question which has been plaguing me lately is whether it is possible to have a legitimate debate over socialism without sounding like a rabid, hysterical, over-the-top, far-right conspiracy theorist.

It would be nice to have time for an essay-length discussion, but I don't.

The problem is, for some time I've been convinced that socialism is upon us, and I mean really upon us. Now, I might be wrong, but that is why these things should be discussed. And I don't mean discussed the way people who agree with each other rant and rave. I mean a national discussion along the lines of where we want to go.

Do we want socialism?

Unfortunately (as I have pointed out in several posts), the "s" word is so fraught with problems that it might be too contaminated to use. I worry that "socialist" within five words of "Barack Obama" has become code language for belief in various popular far-right conspiracy theories. The "Obama is a secret Muslim sleeper agent born in Kenya" stuff. After all, who but a secret Muslim sleeper agent born in Kenya would want to impose socialism on the United States?

In theory, "socialism" is still a perfectly legitimate word, but I worry that it is becoming delegitimized. As it is, the responsible critics of Barack Obama's economic programs are very, very careful not to use the word "socialist," and if they do, it is only to distance themselves from those who call Barack Obama a socialist.

Even as it excoriated his policies, The Economist recently defended Barack Obama against the charge that he's a socialist, because

No true leftist would be as allergic as he has been to nationalising tottering banks, nor as coldly calculating in letting Chrysler, and probably General Motors, end up in bankruptcy court.
Sorry, but this avoids an important issue. At what point can nationalization be said to have taken place? By what standard is government ownership of 72% of a company less than "true" socialism?

What is happening is serious and unprecedented, so this is by no means a case of the boy who cried wolf. (But I worry that the "s" word has been used for so long that way that it might be permanently associated with those who do cry wolf constantly.)

In one of the most fervent defenses of capitalism I've seen in a mainstream newspaper, Carl Schramm describes what is happening as a "frightening economic drama":

We continue to be in the middle of a frightening economic drama, one that is putting the core tenets of modern capitalism at the center of the global debate. That is an important debate to have, considering that the fundamental assumptions of modern economics -- that governments have appropriately designed counter-cyclical tools, that central banks are omnipotent, that the business cycle has been tamed and that our securities markets have finally rationalized risk -- have been shattered.
The piece is titled "Schumpeter's Moment" and it's a must-read. The fact that Schramm goes out of his way to avoid any mention of socialism -- in a piece using the word "capitalism" 19 times -- is very telling.

This is by no means a criticism of the Economist or Schramm; they are probably well advised to avoid using such a contaminated and inflammatory word.

I'm just worried. Again, Upton Sinclair:

"The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label."
Socialism is hard to take, but the label is harder to take. What about honesty in labeling?

I think there's a well-oiled machine (fueled by hopeless collusion between the left and right) which wants the word "socialism" to be forever relegated to being a right wing conspiracy machine smear, and thus conveniently perceived as within the exclusive territory of kooks.

It's easy to complain, and I know that I will sound as if I am simply bashing the far right. (Hard leftists, of course, would say I'm engaged in red baiting, but that does not matter, as so few of them read this blog.)

But here's my problem: I am sick to death of this creepy feeling that I can't talk about socialism without sounding like a kook.

Any ideas?

AFTERTHOUGHT: Yes, I should have titled this post "I AM NOT A KOOK!"

Too late for that.

MORE: In a great piece linked by Glenn Reynolds, Lawrence Kudlow looks at the permanent government takeover of GM, and poses devastating questions:

What does Government Motors say about the direction of the United States?

Historically, we don't own car companies -- or banks or insurance firms. But we do now. Tick them off on your fingers: GM, Citi, AIG. Oh, and let's not forget Fannie and Freddie, those big, quasi-government, taxpayer-owned housing agencies. California is broke and likely headed to bankruptcy. Will we the taxpayers own that, too?

Altogether, we're talking about hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars that will never be repaid. This is the stuff the Italians used to do, and the Brits before Margaret Thatcher, and the Soviets a long time ago. But it's something very new and very different for America.

Call me paranoid, but I can't but notice the absence of the word "socialism" there. (And what economic system were the places he cites known for?)

Again, the s-word appears nowhere in the entire piece, although Kudlow does not hesitate to call what's happening an attack on capitalism:

Is this onslaught of government ownership an attack on free-market capitalism? Yes, it is. Call it Bailout Nation or Ownership Nation, it's an unprecedented degree of government command, control and planning, all in the name of a tough economic downturn.

I don't pretend to know all the answers to GM's problems. Neither do I know all the miscues of the banks and insurance companies. But I do know this: The present level of government control over the economy does not bode well for this great country.

I couldn't agree more.

I realize I'm beating a dead horse, but I think it does not bode well for this great country that only right wing cranks get to use the word "socialism."

Maybe over time, that will change.

(What? I should be so crazy as to hope for such a thing?)

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

Your comments are appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 10:50 AM | Comments (127)

A Doctor Talks About Medical Cannabis

A poster on the Drug Policy Forum of Texas list suggested the above video in the context of a University of California at San Francisco course on cannabis therapeutics that is accredited by the AMA and the ANA (American Nurses Association).

Here is what the www site has to say about the accreditation.

The University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine (UCSF) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

UCSF designates this educational activity for a maximum of 10 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

One of the presenters in the course is Angel Raich who was the subject of a Supreme Court Decision. I always liked Justice Thomas' dissent in that case. Angel said before the decision (it could have been after) that no mater how the decision went she intended to keep growing and using her medicine.

Some good books on the subject:

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine

Medicinal Uses of Cannabis and Cannabinoids

And for those of you into medicinal horticulture:

Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:33 AM | Comments (0)

Clouds And Climate - New Ideas Not Welcome

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

I have done a number of posts on the subject of how cosmic rays affect clouds and climate including:
Magnetized Weather And The Lost Concensus
Global Warming Not So Hot
More Clouds
Model Prediction
Climate Alchemy - Turning Hot Air Into Gold
Clouds In Chambers
Feedbacks Misdiagnosed
The Big Heat Pipe In The Sky

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:27 AM | Comments (0)

Liberals love germs!
And germophobia is a symptom of... conservatism!

I realize some people have personal stakes in the liberal versus conservative dichotomy, but is there any end to this conservative liberal diagnostic crap?

If you want to tell whether someone is conservative or liberal, what are a couple of completely nonpolitical questions that will give a good clue?

How's this: Would you be willing to slap your father in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit?

And, second: Does it disgust you to touch the faucet in a public restroom?

Studies suggest that conservatives are more often distressed by actions that seem disrespectful of authority, such as slapping Dad. Liberals don't worry as long as Dad has given permission.

Likewise, conservatives are more likely than liberals to sense contamination or perceive disgust. People who would be disgusted to find that they had accidentally sipped from an acquaintance's drink are more likely to identify as conservatives.

Mean people suck! And nice people swallow!

Nyah nyah!

There's a lot more, like this:

For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty -- and revulsion at disgust.
And this:
The upshot is that liberals and conservatives don't just think differently, they also feel differently. This may even be a result, in part, of divergent neural responses.
Almost makes me wish I had no feelings at all. Then I wouldn't resent them so.

But as an admitted erotophobe who's failed at being a hedonist, I guess I'll never understand.

Can we contaminate each other?

MORE: These idiotic "studies" really are relentless. Dr. Helen links another one which claims that having daughters makes fathers more liberal:

Professor Oswald said: 'As men acquire female children, those men gradually shift their political stance and become more sympathetic to the "female" desire for a larger amount for the public good.
Sounds downright authoritarian to me!

posted by Eric at 07:48 PM | Comments (4)

Double Post

For those of you who have noticed the double post of "The Death of Copyright" my apologies.

I left the title off the first post and decided to repost it with the title and delete the previous version. A simple matter on blogspot. With the Six Apart software used here it is a total pain and does not work very well. Next time I will do what I used to do and just add the title.

posted by Simon at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

The Death Of Copyright

What the Motion Picture industry has not figured out is that the price of any product will go down to its marginal cost. How do you make a profit in such an environment? Volume. The difficulty of course that the available time for watching movies is limited.

So let us look at what my internet service costs me. I pay about $40 a month for high speed cable. I'm a heavy user and spend probably 12 hours a day on the 'net. (retirement is fun) Figure 30 days in a month. Twelve hours a day. Sixty minutes an hour. That is 21,600 minutes a month. At $40 that comes to about .2¢ a minute. So what is a reasonable charge for entertainment? One or two cents a minute. At most. Don't forget that while I can't watch while I'm not at my computer I can be downloading. And if I was into it, file sharing.

New technology kills old business models. TV killed live stage entertainment. Just as motion pictures before it did. Lots of theaters had to convert to motion pictures. So how can motion pictures make money? Use them as vehicles to sell stuff. Just as Star Wars did. I have a plastic Yoda sitting atop my computer. Still. At my daughter's high school graduation yesterday they played the Star Wars theme music. I'm sure a royalty was paid.

Actors? Their value is going down. What will take its place? Community theater. My #1 daughter has provided The Rockford Dance Company with many years of free labor as a dancer in community productions. It is one way a small community like ours (150,000) can have live ballet. For my daughter of course it is a labor of love.

You can watch the rest of the videos by following the below links. You may have to click some of the links in the sidebars to get the whole thing.

Part One
Part Two - Shown above
Part Three
Part Four

Trial Editon

I highly recommend this history of book publishing and censorship. Steal This Film II. It may explain the origin of our First Amendment Rights.

Personally I was one of the first users of computer information distribution called Resource One which I accessed at the Whole Earth Store in Berkeley. That led me into the computer revolution and subsequently my design of the I/O board that went into the world's first BBS. I helped Ward and Randy fix some bugs in the early Intel Serial I/O chips with hardware fixes. I have a few more words on the subject at this link.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

A racist liberal agenda that's kept in the closet

The fact that racism lurks behind much of the gun control impulse is not a new topic at this blog.

Among the things I've discussed over the years have been my personal experience with gun control advocates; Clayton Cramer's groundbreaking work on the subject (and his documentation that racist gun control efforts even included dog control); gun control's disparate impact on black people; and Martin Luther King, Jr. application and rejection for a gun permit.

For those who are interested in examining the racist history of gun control in more detail, I just learned about a new video titled "No Guns for Negroes," which does a great job of documenting the racist history of gun control, past and present.

Here's Part One:

And Part Two.

Watch for yourself.

The evidence is overwhelming.

posted by Eric at 02:14 PM | Comments (5)

Supplying humor for serious times?

Watching a recent White House press conference video at Politico, I am more convinced than ever that the White House is having fun and games with the Birth Certificate Truthers.

(FWIW, I have tried to take their arguments seriously, but the whole thing seems designed to be immune to serious debate; I think that even if Barack Obama produced the "long form" copy they demand, it too would be labeled a forgery.)

Here's the press conference video:

From the dialogue between Press Spokesman Robert Gibbs and WorldNetDaily's Lester Kinsolving:

...Gibbs appeared incredulous. "You're looking for the president's birth certificate? It's on the Internet, Lester."

"Long-form, listing his hospital and physician," Kinsolving clarified.

Laughing, Gibbs replied: "Lester, this question, in many ways, continues to astound me. The state of Hawaii provided a copy with the seal of the president's birth.

"I know there are, apparently, at least 400,000 people who continue to doubt the existence of and the certification by the state of Hawaii, of the president's birth there," he continued. "But it's on the Internet because we put it on the Internet for each of those 400,000 to download. I certainly hope by the fourth year of our administration that we'll have dealt with this burgeoning birth controversy."

Actually, it looked more to me as if Gibbs was having fun than being astounded.

I think they want this to be an ongoing, burgeoning -- and above all funny -- controversy for four years.

It beats having a serious debate over whether the country should head in the direction of socialism. Leftists want nothing more than to be able to paint their enemies as crackpots, and the more Birth Certficate Truthers there are, the easier that task becomes.

Besides, the Truthers are funny, while socialism is dreary, and everybody wants a good laugh.

I'm wondering why Bush didn't try this with the 911 Truthers.

posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (6)

How to make crime disappear

While I moved to Ann Arbor last August, I haven't spent much time in Detroit. Although I want to check out the cool ruins, people have told me not to go, as it's not only a high crime place, but if you call the cops they'll never come. This isn't why I haven't gone there (because I have my own security), but it's a common attitude people in the surrounding areas have towards Detroit. On the other hand, I keep hearing that Detroit's crime rate is down and I've wondered why. Is there less to steal? Fewer people worth robbing? Or have criminals abandoned the city?

Sometimes my naivité shocks me, but until yesterday I had not realized how silly I was to be taking Detroit's official crime statistics at their face value. An article in the Detroit Free Press highlights a problem with government-compiled crime statistics. A problem so obvious that I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it.

Crimes which are never officially acknowledged are never officially reported.

Detroit police are making fewer arrests, a dereliction so obvious it has led some Detroiters to conclude there's no point in even calling the cops.

"I've talked to dozens, probably hundreds, of people in the community who are telling me they never made a report because the police never came," Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans said Tuesday. "The delay in response time is such that many, many, many crimes don't get reported."

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy agrees, echoing Evan's assertion that decreases in reported crimes are misleading.

"We tell the press that crime is going down," Worthy said. "It's not going down; it's going up, exponentially, and we have many fewer officers on the street. We need to acknowledge the problem."

Well doh! Fewer arrests translate into less "official" crime! So, if you're in charge of a city government and you want to lower the crime rate, the answer is to not arrest anyone. Better yet, don't answer the phone!

A bit like running a complaint department. Make it impossible for anyone to get through to complain (the way they make it impossible to close an account), and your business or government agency will have an enviably low complaint rate.

Naturally, the Detroit PD will not comment. They merely cite Detroit's low crime rate:

The Detroit Police Department did not respond to several requests for comment last week. Instead, a department spokeswoman, citing preliminary police statistics, said overall crime in the city so far this year is down 9.1%, excluding a 24% increase in homicides -- a trend that, if true, would partly explain the jail's decreasing census, especially for those awaiting trial.

In 2007, the Wayne County Sheriff's Department recorded 20,423 felony bookings. Last year, there were just 18,261 -- a drop of more than 10% in a single year. So far this year, bookings have continued to drop roughly 10%, said Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes.

Wow. That's progress. At the rate they're going, crime will have ended completely in Detroit by 2020!

Ordinary Detroiters, though, seem unconvinced that the drop in the "crime rate" correlates with an actual drop in crime:

But few city residents think a drop in crime is the reason. Ask east-sider Joyce Betty, 56. A young man snatched her purse, with $300 in it, out of her car while she pumped gas at Mack and Gratiot in February. Betty called 911 on her cell. Police never responded. "They made no attempt to contact me," Betty said, even though the gas station has surveillance tapes of the incident. "It's water over the dam, but I have little faith in the Detroit Police Department."
In surrounding counties, the jails are full. Surprise! (If this keeps up, the "nice" suburbs will have higher crime rates than Detroit, and maybe people will move back into the city so they can be safe!)
Neither Oakland nor Macomb Counties report comparable declines in their own jail populations. Both counties' cells remain full, despite innovative efforts to manage the population, Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel and Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe say.
In Pontiac, though, the arrest rate seems to be correlated with the number of officers:
Pontiac, however, is experiencing a trend similar to Detroit's: Arrests have declined as the number of sworn officers has dropped from 170 to 65 in the last three years.

The Detroit Police Department deploys about half the number of sworn officers it did in the 1990s, and has lost roughly 1,000 officers over the last five years.

Even serious crimes aren't getting solved. Arrests are made in only 37% of Detroit homicides, compared to more than 60% nationwide. Officers have too little time to investigate, and they work with a community that often does not trust them. Detroit's shuttered police crime lab has raised more troubling questions about homicide investigations.

Hmmm.... I'm not sure how official statisticians might interpret a "shuttered" police crime lab. They could always say that because it has no caseload that its rate of unsolved cases is now down to zero -- the lowest ever!
Another reason arrests are down is the closing -- for good cause -- of many decrepit, pre-arraignment holding cells under a federal consent decree that is mandating reforms. Six years ago, police held 350 in such lockups, compared to about 130 today. Shift supervisors, and probably officers, know when the lockups are full.

Evans said he offered to lease county jail cells for police lockups five years ago. Negotiations continue, but a deal should have been struck long before this.

Privately, some law enforcement officials also say Detroit police are frustrated by the added paperwork required for arrests under the federal consent decree. But that's no excuse for failing to perform. The consent decree, signed in 2003, might be a headache, but it's one the department earned by abusing the citizens it was supposed to protect, including mistreatment of prisoners in lockups and dragnet arrests of homicide witnesses. The department also had the highest rate of fatal shootings by officers among America's big cities.

Fundamental breakdowns in other basic services also decrease public safety. Copper thieves have made land-line phone service in parts of the city, especially on the east side, unreliable and sporadic. It's not unusual for phone lines to be dead when crime victims try to call 911.

Sounds like the proverbial tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it. If a 911 call did not go through, then clearly there was no call!

There's more, and a public safety spokesman for the new mayor is saying they have improvements to make.

Of that I'm sure. With continued progress, crime will soon be a thing of the past.

Now, if we could just apply Detroit's law enforcement model to health care, we could abolish disease!

posted by Eric at 09:13 AM | Comments (4)

ITER Delayed, Scaled Back

Nature News is reporting that the ITER fusion experiment is in big trouble. Very big trouble. It is way over budget, way behind time, and the experimental efforts are being scaled back.

ITER -- a multi-billion-euro international experiment boldly aiming to prove atomic fusion as a power source -- will initially be far less ambitious than physicists had hoped, Nature has learned.

Faced with ballooning costs and growing delays, ITER's seven partners are likely to build only a skeletal version of the device at first. The project's governing council said last June that the machine should turn on in 2018; the stripped-down version could allow that to happen (see Nature 453, 829; 2008). But the first experiments capable of validating fusion for power would not come until the end of 2025, five years later than the date set when the ITER agreement was signed in 2006.

The new scheme, known as 'Scenario 1' to ITER insiders, will be discussed on 17-18 June in Mito, Japan, at a council meeting that will include representatives from all seven members: the European Union (EU), Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States, China and India. It is expected to be approved at a council meeting in November.

Indeed, the plan is perhaps the only way forward. Construction costs are likely to double from the €5-billion (US$7-billion) estimate provided by the project in 2006, as a result of rises in the price of raw materials, gaps in the original design, and an unanticipated increase in staffing to manage procurement. The cost of ITER's operations phase, another €5 billion over 20 years, may also rise.

All the while a five man team in New Mexico that is actually getting results and is expected to solve the fundamental problems of their fusion method in two years or less is being starved for funds. I'm referring to the Polywell Fusion experiments being done by EMC2. Now it is true that Polywell might not work. But it is also true that at the level of funding they are getting they may be unable to do the all the experiments and tests that would speed the project along. All this for a project whose funding is in the millions per year vs ITER at billions per year. I don't get it. Well maybe I do. ITER has loads of political support. Lots of engineers scientists, and government labs have their thumbs in the pie. The support for Polywell is a grass roots rag tag effort. That effort has done some good. It has gotten the US Navy to restart the efforts in August of 2007 after the project was considered dead in 2006. So there is that.

One year of the USA contribution to the cost overruns on the ITER project could fully fund Polywell to a working 100 Mega Watt demonstration reactor (if that is feasible) in four to six years. What are we waiting for?

I will leave you with the usual message I leave at the end of posts on fusion:

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

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

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. For something different you might like how to fix Social Security.

posted by Simon at 06:58 AM | Comments (25)

The Hookers Are Well Educated

Spengler at Asia Times is looking at the portents from Iran and sees a collapse coming. And as per usual he uses his favorite metric. Whores. The man is obsessed. I can, however, appreciate his obsession.

Until very recently, an oil-price windfall gave the Iranian state ample resources to pursue its agenda at home and abroad. How, then, should we explain an eruption of social pathologies in Iran such as drug addiction and prostitution, on a scale much worse than anything observed in the West? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it appears that Islamic theocracy promotes rather than represses social decay.

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran's birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers have sought in vain to explain Iran's population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy.

But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Popular morale has deteriorated much faster than in the "decadent" West against which the Khomeini revolution was directed.

"Iran is dying for a fight," I wrote in 2007 (Please see Why Iran is dying for a fight, November 13, 2007.) in the literal sense that its decline is so visible that some of its leaders think that they have nothing to lose.

That is a very dangerous position. Many think that the Austrian Corporal started WW2 in Europe based on a similar estimate of Germany's future. Spengler estimates:
Their efforts to isolate Iran from the cultural degradation of the American "great Satan" have produced social pathologies worse than those in any Western country. With oil at barely one-fifth of its 2008 peak price, they will run out of money some time in late 2009 or early 2010. Game theory would predict that Iran's leaders will gamble on a strategic long shot. That is not a comforting thought for Iran's neighbors.
Now let us get to the good parts. The cultural indicators.
First, prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. [1]

"More than 90% of Tehran's prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying," reports Der Standard. "The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them."

The Austrian newspaper added, "Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this career voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs.

And what about poor women? Iran is exporting them.
There is an extensive trade in poor Iranian women who are trafficked to the Gulf states in huge numbers, as well as to Europe and Japan. "A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women," I wrote in a 2006 study of Iranian prostitution, Jihads and whores.

Prostitution as a response to poverty and abuse is one thing, but the results of this new study reflect something quite different. The educated women of Tehran choose prostitution in pursuit of upward mobility, as a way of sharing in the oil-based potlatch that made Tehran the world's hottest real estate market during 2006 and 2007.

A country is beaten when it sells its women, but it is damned when its women sell themselves. The popular image of the Iranian sex trade portrays tearful teenagers abused and cast out by impoverished parents. Such victims doubtless abound, but the majority of Tehran's prostitutes are educated women seeking affluence.

Spengler goes on to discuss the whore situation further, opiate addiction rates in the working population (an astounding 5%), and the fact that the fertility rate in Iran is at 1.9 and falling - well below replacement rates.

One other thing to consider is that oil money has been used to buy peace in Iran (and instability elsewhere) and that money is running out. It is more than evident that Iran has run out of hope well before it has run out of extractable oil.

In an article by ajacksonian that I posted here in January of 2007 called Oil Outlook the future of the oil industry in Iran was examined as well as the demographic time bomb and other instabilities. His projection (without knowledge of the current oil bust) was that Iran could be in serious trouble by 2010 and by 2019 it would cease to exist as we know it. So he bracketed Iran's collapse between those two dates.

The fall in the oil markets is making the earlier dates more likely. One thing for sure. We do live in interesting times.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:13 AM | Comments (0)

Climate Modelers At Work

The picture (Climate Modelers At Work) is from a Popular Science article discussing an MIT (yeah THAT MIT) paper predicting doomsday if the Chinese and Indians don't stop improving the lives of their citizens with more and better electrical supplies using their coal resources. Well not really. It is only American policy that is in doubt. They might want to look at pdf page 26 of this article which shows that around 2020 China's CO2 emissions will be about 2 1/2 times the emissions of the USA in that year. So even if the USA cut its emissions to zero and sent all its industry to (where? China and India maybe?) it will not make a bit of difference. Other than mass starvation in the USA caused by the Great Leap Backwards. It could solve the Social Security problem though.

H/T Watts Up With That

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

No ordinary reporter

When I saw the Drudge headline that a reporter had been dragged kicking and screaming for wanting to give President Obama a letter, naturally my curiosity was aroused.


The picture links this story:

A reporter for a small newspaper was forcibly removed from a press area near Air Force One shortly before President Barack Obama arrived at Los Angeles International Airport to depart California early Thursday.

Airport security officers carried the woman away by the feet and arms as she protested her removal.

She later identified herself as Brenda Lee, a writer for the Georgia Informer in Macon and said she has White House press credentials. The newspaper's Web site says it is a monthly publication, and a Brenda Lee column is posted on it.

All true. The column (as you'll see) is nothing short of amazing.
Calls to the newspaper and the White House press office were not immediately returned.

Lee said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that she wanted to hand Obama a letter urging him "to take a stand for traditional marriage."

She said she asked a Secret Service agent to give the president her letter, but he refused and referred her to a White House staffer. Lee said she refused to give the staffer the letter.

"I said, 'I'll take my chances if (the president) comes by here,'" said Lee, who identified herself as a Roman Catholic priestess who lives in Anaheim, Calif. "He became annoyed that I wouldn't give him the letter."

Lee, who was wearing what she described as a cassock, said she protested when she was asked to leave.

OK, right there I thought something was odd. There are no Roman Catholic priestesses.

But sure enough, this woman does appear to be a reporter (she's also described as a "journalist"), although the style of her journalism is a bit odd, even by media standards. The story links her latest column, which is a diatribe against gays and gay marriage.

But I noticed a non-sequitur, thrown right into the middle of her discussion of homosexuality:

Several months ago, the practice of priests sleeping with Protestant virgins before their marriage to Catholic males surfaced. A Catholic male and his would be bride went to speak to the priest concerning their marriage. The priest stated that he would have to try her out before the marriage. The girl told her mother. The marriage took place some months later.
News of that "practice" is indeed a real scoop! The problem is, I can't find much discussion of it anywhere, except in Indiana Ku Klux Klan literature from the 1920s.

However, I did learn that this "journalist" (or should that be in quotes?) has made other amazing claims. In 2007, in a Georgia Informer editorial, no less -- she complained to the Justice Department and vowed to complain to President Bush about.... plucked emails, tapped phone lines, and dental torture accomplished by ray guns:

Emails are plucked from yahoo; phones lines are tapped and threats continue. One rejects all shots including Novocain at the dentist when one has been poisoned and one's life has been threatened. Last week a dentist used a ray gun to dry a filling; it sent shockwaves through the body. Now there are headaches and pains that shoot from one side of the head to the other from time to time. It is the hope of some cowardly person or persons that these things will bring about a retreat. Not so! Another call is made to the Justice Department and a formal complaint will be written to President Bush asking for an investigation into the abuse by powerful people who have the means to make these things happen.
So, I'm not sure what to think.

This "priestess" cannot be an ordinary reporter.

If she is, it would appear that something is not right in the world of journalism.

UPDATE: The Orange County Register has spoken with "Reverend" Lee and has more on this story. As I suspected, she is not a priestess:

In a phone interview, Lee said that she is a Catholic priestess "with St. Juliana's in Fullerton," and that there are 60 other Catholic priestesses worldwide.

Father Paul Gins of St. Juliana's said that Lee is a member of the parish and a "well-meaning person," but that "she does not represent the church. We do not recognize women priests, and haven't for 2,000 years."

Lee said that her duties as a minister involve consecrating the host, and ministering to the disabled and elderly in convalescent homes.

She called the White House to request credentials for Obama's arrival, citing her involvement with the Georgia Informer, an independent black newspaper in Macon, Georgia.

It is not clear whether she had a press credential, but she is indignant that other reporters didn't stand up for her, and she also claims that a staffer who took her letter (a man who she said calls himself "Worly") must be gay:
At LAX this morning, Lee asked a Secret Service agent to take her letter to President Obama after learning that the president wasn't scheduled to take any questions at the appearance.

The staffer came and asked to see the letter. "He said his name was Worly but I doubt that was his real name," Lee said.

After "Worly" gave Lee the letter back, another staffer asked to see it, Lee said. Lee said that she'd rather give it to Obama herself when he walked by.

"'I assure you, he's not going to come by here,'" Lee recounted the man saying. "'I don't want you to yell his name. I don't want you to do anything disruptive.'"

When Lee refused to surrender the letter, the man had security remove her, Lee said.

Lee said she yelled at reporters for not sticking up for her, saying "...you did nothing. What kind of reporting is this?"

Lee said she thinks she was being discriminated against for being a priestess, and that a priest wouldn't have received the same treatment.

She said she was discriminated against because her stand for traditional marriage offended the staffer.

"The person who came to get the letter was, in my opinion, gay," Lee said. That's why he acted that way, she said, because, "why would a person jeopardize his job for craziness."

Outside the terminal, a police officer chided Lee for making a scene, she said.

"'This could've been much worse,'" she said the officer told her. "We could have cuffed you, put you in a black-and-white, and held you for 72 hours.'"

Lee - whose sister worked in a mental hospital, she said - understood the reference to the holding period for mental illness cases.

As she tearfully recounted this afternoon, she had one thing to tell the officer: "Are you trying to imply that there's something mentally wrong with me?"


Well, from a legal standpoint, her claim that she is being discriminated against for being a priestess appears meritless-- for the simple reason that she is not a priestess!

I'm trying to take this seriously, but I think she's lucky they didn't threaten to use the ray gun on her.

MORE: According to this account, the woman did have a press credential, and police say she was not kicking and screaming:

The staffers offered to deliver Lee's letter to Obama, but she refused and insisted on handing it to the president herself, said Sgt. Jim Holcomb, a spokesman for LAX's police department.

"There was a concern and airport police made a decision that she was being uncooperative and asked her to leave," Holcomb said.

Instead, Lee sat down and refused to cooperate with airport police, he said.

"We decided that we could not put up with her conduct in a restricted area," Holcomb said. "We picked her up and carried her out of the press area. She raised her voice, but there was no kicking and screaming."

Lee, who said she lived in Anaheim, voluntarily boarded a bus driven by LAX public relations officials, Holcomb said. She was driven away from the tarmac and allowed to leave the airport on her own.

Lee had a press credential and was part of the media pool that had gathered when Obama arrived at LAX on Wednesday, but caused no problems at that time, he said.

"She was never considered a threat," Holcomb said. "It was just plain bad behavior. This was not the time and place to hand-deliver a letter to the president."

I think she was seen as behaving erratically. Claiming to be a "priestess" while demanding to personally hand a note to the president and then refusing to cooperate is simply not what reporters do.

Sorry, but she gave every appearance of being either a demonstrator or a nut.

(I certainly wouldn't expect to act that way in a press area and get away with it. Unless I'd been a Code Pink demonstrator being passed off as a reporter during the carefree days of Bush fascism...)

posted by Eric at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

Are things getting to be unprecedented?

Whether I like it or not, this is supposed to be a political blog, not a self-indulgent forum for posts about personal irrelevancies like being awakened in the middle of the night by bats. Anyone reading that post might think, "What has any of this to do with the serious problems posed by Barack Obama?" It's as if by writing and obsessing about the bats in my home, I'm ignoring the much more serious problems of "moonbats" taking over the government.

Unfortunately, I've learned that not thinking about Barack Obama (and whether his administration is populated by "moonbats") is a lot easier than thinking about him. The guy is an absolute magician that way. The more you ignore him, the more pleasant he becomes. The more you think about him, the less pleasant the experience. It's double reverse aversive conditioning or something, and because I'm human, I'm vulnerable.

I don't know what the solution is. Perhaps I should try harder to be more negative. And instead of dwelling on real bats, perhaps I should be dwelling on moonbats.

Whether Justice Sotomayor is a moonbat I cannot say. Certainly it wouldn't be nice to call her that, and I pride myself on being nice. I realize that there's an argument going on over how nice we should be, but I've spent six years trying (if not always successfully) to be civil in this blog, and at 54, I'm probably too old and set in my ways to suddenly start going out of my way to be deliberately rude.

However, you don't have to be rude to recognize that Justice Sotomayor sounds like a moonbat when she says this:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male...
Or this gem:
"All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is -- Court of Appeals is where policy is made," she said. "And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don't 'make law,' I know. [Laughter from audience] Okay, I know. I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it. I'm, you know. [More laughter] Having said that, the Court of Appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating. Its interpretation, its application."
Ha ha ha! We all know that policy is made by the courts, even though it is not supposed to be that way.

So with her little "wink-wink," Justice Sotomayor reveals much about herself. Not only is she a left-wing judicial activist, she's so cavalier about it that she doesn't think it's worth concealing. In fact, her sarcastic "I should never say that" (to great laughter) is a barely concealed sneer of contempt for all who would disagree with judicial activism.

Thumbing one's nose at the opposition hardly constitutes the sort of gravitas we associate with the Supreme Court. Might her appointment be meant as an insult? Whether it is or not, the woman has demonstrated a stunning lack of respect for precedent, and yesterday a law professor writing in the Wall Street Journal recommended that she be asked about it:

Should Supreme Court justices be bound by precedent? All justices sometimes overrule previous decisions. So when is it appropriate to do so? Of course, this is the question that senators use to probe nominees of Republican presidents to see whether they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. For Ms. Sotomayor the question is whether she perceives any limits on the ability of the Supreme Court to read new rights into the Constitution.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

What is often forgotten about precedent is that it is a two-edged sword. There is nothing in the Constitution about the precedent system, which not all legal systems share, as it derives from common law. Without precedent as an operative principle, each legal case would be decided according to its own facts and merits, and would not be binding on other cases.

What this means, of course, is that without precedent, courts would not be able to set policy. They'd be limited to deciding only the actual cases in front of them and their decisions would not be binding in other cases. Which is why neither "side" of the judicial activism dispute can go too far in ignoring the principle. Get rid of precedent, and a decision grounded in judicial activism would only apply to its own case, and could be summarily ignored by any other court. This is why judicial opinions always claim to be respecting precedent whether they are or not. Whether a decision is considered "judicial activism" depends on which side you're on. Usually, people who agree with a decision maintain that the court was following existing precedent, while those who disagree say that it either violated precedent or else was wholly unprecedented.

Do away with precedent, and judicial activists would be whistling in the wind.

A bit like total deconstruction. When nothing means anything, there's no duty to be bound by anything or take anything seriously.

Justice Sotomayor should be careful with her winking, lest people fail to take her seriously.

Am I taking this as seriously as I should?

Hey, at least I didn't call her a "moonbat."

Wouldn't want to start a precedent....

UPDATE: From Richard Epstein, a reminder that "constitutional law contains no magic bullet that condemns judicial activism and lauds judicial restraint." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Whether federalism is libertarian or conservative is best left to the federalists.

posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (5)

light night flight

Last night after 1:00 a.m. I was rudely awakened by a home invader.

Well, actually, it was my trusty watchdog Coco who awakened me by barking and lunging at the window from the bed. As I was already fast asleep, the commotion entered my dream state, and gradually caused the dream to merge into a groggy misperception of the invasion as something else. The window was rattling like crazy in its frame, and I thought it had been blown partially open by the wind, and that I could solve the problem by locking it securely.

I scolded Coco for waking me up over nothing, went over and pulled up the blind, thus exposing the invader, which turned out to be a brown bat that had gotten inside the space between the window and the screen/storm window unit. The bat was already in a panic state, but when I opened the blind it went absolutely nuts, as did Coco, who barked furiously at the glass, thus escalating the panic.

I realized that being half asleep would not do, as the situation would require thinking before acting. So I took Coco by the collar and dragged her out of the room, shutting the door behind me. It's not every night that I deal with a trapped bat (the last time was in 1971, when I "defended" myself with a tennis racket), and I thought this might present an interesting photo opportunity. So I went downstairs, got my camera, and after looking around for a net, decided that a towel would work best if it came to that. I went back upstairs (closing the door to ensure Coco couldn't get in), turned on the room light, and the bat went into full panic mode, eventually cornering itself in the top left corner of the window space. When I pointed my camera in there with the flash on and pressed the shutter to focus, the camera emitted the tiny red sensing light, which made the bat look directly at it, in a clearly defensive posture, while opening and closing its mouth to show its little teeth.

Unfortunately, the camera didn't catch the teeth, and the pictures are poor quality as I have problems focusing through panes of glass. But you can still see the bat:


As I thought about catching the bat, I realized that opening the window might do more harm than good, as the bat would most likely enter the room, and then I'd be driving myself crazy trying to net a flying object with a towel, and even if I succeeded, I might not get back to sleep for a long time. And if the bat went under the bed (or deep inside the long, skinny, disorganized closet), I'd really be screwed. (There's plenty of advice on the Internet on how to deal with bats -- this guy recommends trapping them with Frisbees -- but I really didn't want to turn on my computer and get online.)

The bat hated the camera flash, though, and I knew it had gotten into that space somehow. So I kept "shooting," and the bat became more and more desperate to escape. Finally, it found the small crack it had obviously used to enter, which was located between the top of the screen and the bottom of the raised storm window, and it was gone.

Hopefully forever.

While I'm not 100% positive, I think last night's invader was a Little Brown Bat -- the Latin name for which is Myotis lucifugus.

Interestingly, "lucifugus" means "light-fleeing," so my little nocturnal invader seems to have lived up to its name!

posted by Eric at 10:44 AM | Comments (4)

Paying For Social Security

Gates Of Vienna explains how Germans paid for Social Security.

How socialist was Hitler? Let us look at the government contributions to social security between 1938 and 1943 (in millions of Reichsmarks)
1938 640
1939 749 +16%
1940 940 +26%
1941 1395 +48%
1942 963 -31%
1943 1119 +16%
This is how socialist Hitler was. He commanded a solidarity and social justice policy the current Social Democrats can only dream about.

The question is: how could Hitler pay for this all? Well, the 31% decline in spending on social security in 1942 reveals it. In that year, the expropriation of the rights of Jews to social security was processed in the accounts.

Hitler's welfare was paid by the theft of Jewish property and wealth. First in Germany and later in the lands under German occupation. Six million people were first robbed and then forced to work without payment. Only when Hitler's Socialists couldn't make any money on them anymore were they murdered.

There was nothing irrational about the Holocaust. It was the only way Hitler could finance his social security. And that very same social security was the reason that the Germans got carried away with him, despite the hardships of war. They gained: the companies and houses of Jews were available for "nothing". Jewish household goods and clothing went to those who lost their homes in the bombings. Money, jewels, and gold went to the state.

The question for us in America is WWOD. What Will Obama Do? Who will be declared surplus? No longer an asset to the State? All I can do is to remind you of what The Silhouettes used to sing about. Get A Job before you become a silhouette. The government needs your money.

Note that the book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change is mentioned often in the comments and the post. You might want to give it a read.

BTW who do I think will be "allowed" to die? The old and infirm. It is a twofer. It cuts down on Social Security payments and reduces medical expenses. And if we get government health care the culling will begin early. Starting with the birth of "unproductive" children. Maybe that is why liberals were so offended by Sarah Palin's Downs Syndrome child.

H/T Dave, R. via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:06 PM | Comments (17)

Succor Or Sucker?

In looking at what the auto bailouts will mean for unions I came across an interesting comment on the current danger in investing in unionized companies.

Well, sure. Fewer companies mean fewer companies needing government services. While we are at it, we could also kick some states out of the Union, and maybe revoke a bunch of people's citizenship. Those all cause "legacy obligations" in one form or another. Or we could, you know, structure our government to provide governance, as was originally intended, rather than succor.
Translation: if you invest in a unionized company you are a sucker.

And of course you can read the article and all the comments for more details.

H/T Instapundit who thinks it is just another example of the Chicago Way.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

fear is for racists!

Despite her wildly irresponsible public pronouncements about judges making the law, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court will go sailing through.

That's because, in a numbingly familiar process, the identity politics card has been played again. In a statement that horrified Roger L. Simon, Justice Sotomayor elucidates tellingly on her philosophy:

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male...
The idea behind identity politics is that criticism of any member of a certified minority group by other than a certified member of that group (especially by a white male) is certifiably racist.

Few people these days would notice the arrogant racism inherent in the above statement, and fewer still would dare to criticize it. Imagine the outcry, though, were a white male nominee discovered to have been on record saying this:

I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina female...
The latter statement would be considered racist by all reasonable people, across the political spectrum. It would be universally condemned, and it would doom the nomination of any white male candidate who made it, as it should, because it is racist. No sane white man with career ambitions would say such a thing, even if he were a racist, because racism is the ultimate taboo. However, in a supremely rich form of irony, the taboo operates in a selectively racist manner solely against whites.

Actual racism is perfectly acceptable if directed against white males; in fact, it has become an untouchable minority prerogative and privilege -- to the point where criticism of it is now seen as racism.

Thus, it is not Justice Sotomayor's statement that is racist, but all white criticism of it. (Yes, a few Republicans in Congress will criticize it, but we all know they're racist, and in any event, it will not stop her nomination.)

This process is intimidating for everyone; white people are cowed into silence, and many otherwise free-thinking members of minority groups become fearful and fall into line.

This is a major reason the business community is afraid to criticize Barack Obama. The operative principle is fear -- the fear of being called racist if the critic is white, or of being called a sellout (or worse) if the critic belongs to a minority group.

And if you're not afraid of being called racist, why, that's proof that you're either a racist or a sociopathic kook. No reasonable and responsible person would fail to exhibit this fear. Of course, those who do fear being called racist are obviously racists too, and the fear proves their racism.

After all, we have a president who is against fear, and who campaigned against it.

It follows, then, that fear is racist.

posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

USA Losing Its Innovation Edge, China Rising

Test and Measurement World is looking at the innovators of the world and finds that China is rising.

China has a reputation as a production powerhouse but generally doesn't get much respect as a source of innovation, despite efforts to change that. Now, those efforts may be paying off, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which reports that China is climbing up the world innovation rankings faster than other countries.

"Since the Economist Intelligence Unit first published its global innovation index two years ago, China has moved up from 59th to 54th in the rankings--an improvement we thought would take five years has been achieved in just two," the organization reports.

However, China at number 54 in the rankings is no match for the USA at number three/four. However all is not peaches and cream. The US has dropped from number three in 2006 to tied for number three/four in 2008. And who has moved into a tie with the US? Finland. In the point ranking system used Japan is 10.00, Switzerland is 9.71, Finland is 9.50, and the USA is also 9.50.

The news is not all bad. The USA moved its rating up from 9.48 in 2006 to 9.50 in 2008. However, Finland improved even more. From 9.43 to 9.50 between 2006 and 2008. Which means we in the USA must try harder. Now of course to some extent the rankings are arbitrary. Even so, with Japan at 10.00 there is considerable room for improvement. And according to the report [pdf] the future is not so bright.

The slippage of the US confirms the gradual erosion in recent years of the country's traditional position as the world's technological leader -- a trend we expect to continue. To some extent, the erosion in the US's position reflects the fact that other countries are catching up. But it is also a result of the weakening US innovation environment--and this is likely to be accentuated by the current economic crisis.
I have noted earlier that Obama's attacks on venture capital are not helping. And neither is the Sarbanes-Oxley Law's hindrance of innovation. Mr. President and Congress, are you listening?

You can read how the report by Cisco was done by following the links at the Economist.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:35 AM | Comments (2)

Roland Burris Is Not A Crook

Roland Burris is not a crook and in so far as we know neither is Mr. Obama. Let me revise that remark. It looks like Burris may be a crook from Crook County. That would be Chicago for you folks not from the area.

CHICAGO - Sen. Roland Burris promised to "personally do something" for Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund while pressing for the then-Illinois governor to appoint him to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat, according to a wiretap transcript released Tuesday.

"Tell Rod to keep me in mind for that seat, would ya?" Burris tells Robert Blagojevich, who headed his brother's campaign fund, in a Nov. 13 phone conversation secretly taped by the FBI.

The remark came after Robert Blagojevich urged Burris to "keep me in mind and you know if you guys can just write checks that'd be fine, if we can't find a way for you to tie in."

"Okay, okay, well we, we, I, I will personally do something, okay," Burris says.

Earlier in the conversation, Burris and Robert Blagojevich explored the possibility that Burris might raise campaign money on a larger scale.

"I know I could give him a check," Burris said. "Myself."

I wonder if he had to pay the new guy? Governor What's His Name who probably is as pure as any Chicago politician ever gets. How pure is that? Well far be it for me to cast unwarranted aspersions on Chicago politicians. And especially not our esteemed President.

I can tell you what my mom says about politicians in general though. "They are all crooks." She learned that from her father, who of course was my grandfather.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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


All I can say is that I have done my part. My family includes four children. Yes. It has come with a great economic cost. But what about the future all you hedonists? What kind of world do you want to live in?

H/T ravingdave at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:50 PM | Comments (19)

Isn't Czarism bad for the constitution?

Just what we need -- another Czar!

This time, we're getting an Internet Czar.

Adds Glenn Reynolds,

Several readers point out that, once again, Obama is putting power into the hands of an appointed official who is not subject to Senate confirmation.
The reason "Czars" (whether reigning on the Internet or elsewhere) are not subject to Senate confirmation is because the "advice and consent" provision only applies to positions falling within the constitutional purview:
[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
Does this mean that "Czars" are "inferior officers"?

Or is the president simply creating power out of thin air? I share the concern of Glenn's readers about "putting power into the hands of an appointed official who is not subject to Senate confirmation," but what power? Where does such power come from?

Have we reached a point where the idea of constitutionally enumerated and limited powers has become a fiction?

I guess they don't call them czars for nothing. While no one seems to know exactly how many czars there are, President Obama is so in love with czarism that he is being called a "Monarchist." Even before he took office, he made it clear that he was going to dramatically increase the nation's czar supply:

...Mr. Obama will name former Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner as a White House energy czar, along with other officials to head the Energy Department and EPA. Over the weekend, he announced New York City housing commissioner Shaun Donovan as his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and he is also planning to name an urban-affairs czar to work out of the White House, likely Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion.

He has already named an economic czar, former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker, to look at big-picture economic issues -- while he also has a Council of Economic Advisers, a National Economic Council and a large Treasury Department right next door.

He has made former Sen. Tom Daschle a health czar of sorts, in addition to making him secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Congress came close to creating a car czar, and even though that legislation died, the idea could return. And public interest groups are lobbying for a consumer czar.

Via James Joyner, who noted Mickey Kaus's call for a "Czar Czar", to harmonize the nation's czars.

So far, czarism in the United States has been a failure, which is good.

"There've been so many czars over last 50 years, and they've all been failures," said Paul Light, an expert on government at New York University. "Nobody takes them seriously anymore." He pointed to officials placed in charge of homeland security and drug policy.

The problem is that "czars" are meant to be all-powerful people who can rise above the problems that plague the federal agencies, he said, but in the end, they can't. "We only create them because departments don't work or don't talk to each other," Mr. Light said, adding that creation of a White House post doesn't usually change that. "It's a symbolic gesture of the priority assigned to an issue, and I emphasize the word symbolic. When in doubt, create a czar."

I guess we should consider ourselves lucky.

I'd hate to think that all this symbolic power might become the real thing, because that would violate the spirit of that quaint little phrase that goes "No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States."

(Wouldn't want to have to overthrow the Czars or anything....)

posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (5)

Nearly forgotten

Yesterday I visited the White Chapel Cemetery in Troy, Michigan, where I watched a brand new documentary film about the little-known Polar Bear Expedition (also known as the North Russia Campaign), in which 5500 American soldiers battled Soviet Bolshevik troops through a long arctic winter just after World War I.

Many of the veterans of this campaign are buried next to the memorial sculpture. Here's how it looked yesterday:


Not much is known about this sad chapter in World War One's aftermath. Historians don't seem comfortable with it:

"The American Expedition to North Russia in 1918-1919 has been oddly neglected by professional historians, with the result that most US citizens, including even the best educated and well-read, have been unaware of its existence. Partly, this has been because it got underway in the closing weeks of the Great War (now officially called World War I), and like a side show at a circus where they are already striking the tent, it drew little attention.

"Besides that, there was the confusion and obscurity surrounding it with regard to its purpose, especially in Washington and among the American troops who were involved: they literally had no idea what they were being sent to do. Even President Woodrow Wilson, as will be seen, was in a spin of uncertainty as to whether he should or should not authorize the expedition, and the British leadership (for it was to be an Allied operation, including British and French soldiers, but with the British officers in all the top command positions) offered little clarification.

"Without further enlightenment, five thousand American doughboys found themselves, early in September of 1918, after a long, slow trip from England through the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, disembarking at the Russian port of Archangel - and more than half of them no sooner ashore than they were, with astonishment, packed off to "the front" to fight "the Bolos" - which was to say units of the Soviet Red Army. The operation thus turned out to be, willy-nilly and right from the start, an invasion of Soviet territory."

I can certainly understand why it would have been neglected by government historians, and I can also see why liberal historians and even conservative historians might not like it. It was a completely half-assed invasion. The American troops were not given full backing by their country, and they were sent in by a president who was rapidly losing his mental faculties, and uncertain about his purpose in sending them in. They were hugely outnumbered by the Bolsheviks, undersupplied, commanded by British officers they hated, and while they did the best they could in arctic conditions, eventually they were simply withdrawn, giving up the territory they had bled and died for. I can't imagine anything more disheartening for the soldiers, or for the American people to read about. Sure, the Detroit Free Press covered it at the time, but as the troops were drawn largely from Michigan (by bureaucrats who condescendingly thought that they would "adapt" to life in the arctic), what might have otherwise been a national scandal was successfully buried as local news. The rest of the country was basking in the glory of victory while these men were freezing and dying, and the story would have made the United States (and the sainted Woodrow Wilson) look bad.

By the time of World War II, our alliance with Stalin would have transformed what might have been a temporary historical coverup into a longterm one. It's bad practice to play up a previous war against a current ally (and it wouldn't have done to let the American people know that the Communists killed American soldiers in World War I), so the less said the better. Plus, the invasion was a thankless, unsuccessful task, and Americans are victory-oriented people.

Even during the Cold War period, I don't think talking about this sad chapter in the war (well, post-war, as the war was over) would have served the interests of the government, or the anti-Communist cause, as it would have been evidence that the U.S. had previously engaged the Communists, and failed. People also might ask why we were on the side of the deposed czar. Better not to learn from certain mistakes, eh?

Nor would talking about this campaign have suited leftists and pro-Soviet types, who loved to say that there had never been any quarrels between the peace-loving Soviet people and America. Let people know that Americans had been in there before, and war against Russia becomes less "unthinkable."

However, during the Cold War, teaching Russian children about the American intervention seems to have served the purposes of the Soviets:

The American contingent, the North Russian Expeditionary Force, was a force of 5,500 men from Fort Custer in Battle Creek. Of course, it didn't work. And just as U.S. President Woodrow Wilson worried would happen, it cast a long shadow over U.S.-Russian relations ever since.

"When Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev came here, Richard Nixon made a statement about the U.S. never being at war with the U.S.S.R.," Crownover said. "Kruschev corrected him. They were teaching their schoolchildren that story."

No such story for American schoolchildren, though!

From a centrist but generally patriotic standpoint, the disorganized, ill-managed, post-World War I anti-Soviet campaign is unsettling, as it complicates historical analysis and makes the country look flaky. For starters, what war was this? World War I? Not really, for the invasion started in September, 1918, the war ended on November 11, 1918, but the troops stayed until June. That's a nine month campaign, seven months of which occurred after the war. Why weren't the troops supported and backed by the government? Why were they withdrawn? America was not supposed to have acted this way until the Vietnam era of "limited war" had been officially launched.

As it is, there is considerable disagreement among the few historians who have examined the anti-Bolshevik campaign as to what Woodrow Wilson's reasoning was:

Some historians maintain that Wilson's actions were motivated by desires to topple the Bolsheviks. "...Wilson and others hoped to bring down the fledgling Bolshevik government, fearful it would spread revolution around the world." [1] George Kennan, however, discounts this motive [2], emphasizing that the three American battalions in Northern Russia were under British command, thereby obligated to follow British and French policy which was, at least as openly stated, to protect Allied supplies and possibly reopen the eastern front. Kennan cites the story of Maxim Litvinov's 1933 visit to Washington, DC, during which he was shown documentation relevant to the US Siberian intervention. Litvinov's public letter, following his examination of the documents, waived any Russian claims with regard to US intervention.

Page Smith's analysis [3] concludes that, "Americans would be withdrawn if there were and indication that they were being used against the Bolsheviks." Russian historian David MacKenzie [4] cites war necessity as one reason for intervention: "President Woodrow Wilson allowed US participation in the Allied expeditions to north Russian ports in the summer of 1918 only after the Allied command insisted it was the sole way to win World War I."

It sounds like a classic muddle. Nonetheless, some Wilson scholars argue that Wilson was the "first Cold Warrior."

Really? If he was, no one knew about it. It's an unknown chapter in the Cold War. (As well as an unlearned early lesson against waging "limited war" for unclear goals.)

Something else the public also didn't know about would have been shocking news had it been reported -- the fact that their president's health was terrible, and he suffered a series of strokes -- notably one that incapacitated him in 1919 for for the latter part of his term. Whether he was clear-headed from a medical standpoint when he launched the Russian campaign, by his own admission he had had no confidence in his own judgment:

In late 1918, as the war in northern Russia unfolded, President Wilson regretted his decision to commit American troops to Russia. He concluded, this "is a matter of the most complex and difficult sort, and I have at no time felt confident in my own judgement about it." By then it was too late.
So, for a variety of reasons, Wilson's muddle -- our little mini-Cold war against the fledgling Soviet Union -- was swept under the rug. I'd read in general terms about "American interventionism," but I did not know about the Detroit Polar Bears until yesterday, and I was very moved by the memorial sculpture, their graves, and their families, who packed the cemetery hall to watch the film.

What is agreed upon by all is the incredible bravery of these men, despite their knowledge that the original war over, their campaign (and the "cause") was doomed, and their sense that they were being forgotten. What drives men to fight valiantly under such circumstances? Duty? Loyalty to country? Fighting to stay alive? Fighting to keep their buddies alive? Whatever the reason or combinations of reasons may be, they deserve our undying gratitude.

posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (7)

The Next Oil Shock

You ought to watch an interesting video of oil/economic experts James Hamilton and Daniel Yergin giving testimony before Congress. Their testimony begins about 11 minutes into the video. Note at the beginning though where Congress Critter Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) says she wants to avoid drilling new oil supplies.

A good text overview can be found at The Star. Another valuable look at the hearings is at Talk Radio News Service. Some very good quotes from the hearings are available from The Washington Post. A good discussion in the comments and more links can be found here.

Jevons Paradox says that energy efficiency will not gain us as much as the numbers suggest. An increase in efficiency of 10% might only decrease use by 5% or it could increase use by 5% depending on the supply/demand curve.

That can be offset by increased taxes. However, what you usually get from taxes is a large dead weight loss. If it costs to increase efficiency (it will) the net effect of more taxes can be anything from a reduction in growth to negative growth.

The only way out is to increase energy supplies. Where is that to come from? Oil shale reserves in America are very large. There is also a lot of offshore oil yet to be discovered. Alaska has untapped reserves. All of those are off limits to varying degrees by law.

If we started tapping those reserves we have more than enough energy to carry us through the 50 to 75 years it will take to develop ECONOMICAL alternatives. By pushing alternatives before they are economical we are creating further dead weight losses to the economy.


Fortunately our new President and Congress understand all this and will do the right thing. (/sarc off)


Well OK. Our Congress and our President only exist to make things worse. What can be done? We need to invent cheap sources of energy NOW. Cheap enough so converting that energy to liquid fuels provides a ceiling on liquid fuel prices.

Well - talk is cheap. But I do have a suggestion. Polywell Fusion. It is no sure thing. But the cost to find out if it will work is minuscule in comparison to even a one cent rise in the cost of a gallon of gasoline. At an American consumption rate of 140 billion gallons a year, a one cent rise in the per gallon cost of gasoline would cost Americans $1.4 billion a year. What would five years of experiments (the time to get a certain yes or no answer) cost? Around $200 million. So five years of experiments would cost 1/7th of a cent a gallon for one year. And what is our government putting into the experiments? About $5 million a year. You know, with the brilliance found in our current Congress it is a wonder that any of them can move their lips and talk at the same time.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

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

H/T Econobrowser

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:44 PM | Comments (5)

Where the moose and the buffalo play....

One of the unending annoyances of life on the Internet consists of those forwarded emails making fantastic but false claims, often (although by no means always) politically motivated. I don't know why anyone would think that making things up and emailing them to millions of people would be of long-term benefit to a favorite cause, but some people think that doing things like putting their favorite words into George Carlin's mouth will make them more persuasive.

Others must think it's entertaining to make up and circulate new urban legends.

I'm always suspicious when I get one of these forwarded emails, so -- especially if I find them appealing -- I try to verify them. What a pleasant surprise it is to occasionally learn (as I did the other day) that one happens to be true.

It's a series of pictures showing a horny moose mounting and humping a bison statue:


The heading asked whether it was "statutory rape" but I'd have called it "statue-tory rape."

It was so funny that I hoped it really happened, and I was delighted to discover (when I Googled "moose bison statue") that there was a Snopes write-up, which said it was true. It has been photographed from another angle, and mooses are known to mount statues when they're "in the throes of sexual passion."

Interestingly, moose are known to range into Michigan, but I doubt they'd ever get as far south as Ann Arbor, so a buffalo statue would probably be safe in front of my house. Well, safe from moose at least. Inebriated humans are another matter. The buffalo might have to contend with a drunken goose.

posted by Eric at 12:39 PM | Comments (1)

Happy Memorial Day

I can't believe it's Memorial Day already. Things are pretty quiet in my neighborhood, but I imagine it will be pretty lively later with student partying.

However, as Glenn Reynolds reminds, today is "not all about picnics and beer."

What it is (as many of us tend to forget), is "a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service."

On Memorial Day, it's especially important to remember who America's real heroes are, because in the normal course of things, it's the show business people who tend to be immortalized. As Jeff Emanuel asks in a great PJM piece, "our culture immortalizes show-biz celebrities -- shouldn't we know the names and hear the stories of our nation's true heroes?"

Specifically, Jeff Emanuel remembers Danny Dietz, Jason Dunham, Ross McGinnis, Jason Cunningham:

a selection of four exceptional warrior -- one from each branch of service -- whose names and deeds every American should know. These stories alone do not even begin to break the surface of the reservoir of deeds those fighting for our nation have carried out. However, each of these men is a true hero in every sense of the word, having fought in defense of America and having made the ultimate sacrifice for his mission and for his fellow men.
Read it all -- especially if you're looking for a worthwhile Memorial Day read.

Make note of his conclusion:

On this Memorial Day, take a moment to thank a friend, family member, or even a total stranger who has served -- or is serving -- this country. For though they will never seek the praise and thanks of their fellow man, all will appreciate the expression of gratitude.

It is our solemn duty to honor those who have kept us safe and free for the past 232-plus years. America has stood strong all this time largely because of men like these. And it is because of men like them that it shall remain so.

I never served, and although my father served in World War II and my grandfather in World War I, they're dead, and while the purpose of today is to remember them, I really can't thank them.

However, I can take time out from the food and beer to thank my co-blogger M. Simon (a Navy veteran) for his service. (Yes, I realize that thanking living veterans is not technically the true purpose of Memorial Day... But then, neither is pigging out and drinking beer!)

So, enjoy Memorial Day.

But please remember.

posted by Eric at 11:22 AM | Comments (2)

Psychological warfare has certain limits

We live in a world that is sometimes tough to explain. On the one hand, the U.S. military under Barack Obama discharges gay Arab linguists for being gay, despite the fact that their language skills are much needed.

But even though gay Arab linguists are forbidden, in a story headlined "U.S. defense chief lauds soldier in pink boxers," I learned about the apparent position of our military leaders under Barack Obama that wearing pink boxer shorts and flip-flops into battle is a good thing -- for reasons of psychological warfare:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday praised an Army soldier in eastern Afghanistan who drew media attention this month after rushing to defend his post from attack while wearing pink boxer shorts and flip-flops.

In fact, Gates said he wants to meet the soldier and shake his hand the next time he visits Afghanistan.

"Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip-flops has a special kind of courage," Gates said in remarks prepared for a speech in New York.

"I can only wonder about the impact on the Taliban. Just imagine seeing that: a guy in pink boxers and flip-flops has you in his cross-hairs. What an incredible innovation in psychological warfare," he said.

So, let me get this straight. It's OK to get the Taliban all hot and bothered about soldiers in pink boxer shorts and flip-flops, but we can't have them thinking that the guy who has them in the cross-hairs might be gay? Is the idea not to push the Taliban too far?

Can someone please explain?

Here's the picture:


What would General Patton say?


For that matter, what would Ann Althouse say?

MORE: I see that M. Simon has already posted about this. Sick minds think alike!

It just figures that Simon's picture would offer a closer view!

posted by Eric at 05:56 PM | Comments (4)

Pink Private
Pink Private

You can read a story that explains the picture at Dallas-Fort Worth NBC.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

A View From Pravda

Pravda has a very strange view of the American economy. For the newspaper of record of a formerly communist country. Or maybe they have learned their lesson.

It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.

True, the situation has been well prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past twenty years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.

Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.

First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blind the foolish.

Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.

The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.

Well, some of the history is revisionist no doubt. But I have to say being burned by the Marxist menace has lead to its own cure in Russia for the most part. After an awful lot of pain and suffering.

Is that what we in America have to look forward to? I hope not. But all the hope in the world will not get you a dime of spare change. Unless you have a special friend in the White House. What will that friend cost you? Better not to ask and just pony up because it is unicorns all the way.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:47 AM | Comments (2)

A Book Review For Pelosi

Doug Giles reviews a book Speaker Pelosi should read. Giles explains why Pelosi needs it.

That's why parents and grandparents who loathe what the media and various institutions are trying to do to our boys need Miniter's new book more than Pelosi needs Jesus and a straight jacket.
Read the whole review. It has a few more amusing quips like the one quoted.

And the book? The Ultimate Man's Survival Guide: Recovering the Lost Art of Manhood.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

the debate that will not speak its name?

History shows that great changes (I mean "great" in the sense of huge or tumultuous, not necessarily good) are almost invariably accompanied by great changes in political rhetoric. Barack Obama not only wants to be remembered as a man who brought great change to America, he is well on his way to having done that.

Considering what he was reported to have said yesterday, I'm not sure people can begin to appreciate the enormous nature of the change which is coming. Americans have a tendency to take what they have for granted and assume that everything will be OK. An entitlement to an affluent lifestyle and a free economy is taken for granted as a birthright, as something that could never be taken away.

Again, the president's words:

we have a short-term problem and we also have a long-term problem. The short-term problem is dwarfed by the long-term problem. And the long-term problem is Medicaid and Medicare. If we don't reduce long-term health care inflation substantially, we can't get control of the deficit.

So, one option is just to do nothing. We say, well, it's too expensive for us to make some short-term investments in health care. We can't afford it. We've got this big deficit. Let's just keep the health care system that we've got now.

Along that trajectory, we will see health care cost as an overall share of our federal spending grow and grow and grow and grow until essentially it consumes everything...

The sane solution would be to simply stop it. End the entitlement system. Common sense dictates that there can be no "entitlement" by a group of citizens to bankrupt the entire country. These entitlements were created by government, and they can be ended by government.

Except Barack Obama hasn't the slightest intention of ending these entitlements. As he says, using the high future cost of the entitlements as an excuse, he wants to change "the health care system that we've got now" into something else. There is no way to do this without socialized health care and mandatory rationing. While it would be one thing to mandate such policies for citizens on Medicare and Medicaid, he wants to do it to everyone else too.

When most people say "there isn't enough money" to pay for something, the logical meaning is that therefore, they aren't going to buy it. That is not what Obama means. The assumption behind his "there isn't enough money" is that there should be, there has to be, and there will be. If there has to be, there are only two ways: printing money, or taking it from citizens through socialism.

Rhetorically speaking, I think we have reached that point of no-return I have discussed, only it happened a lot faster than I thought it would back in September:

What worries me is that the closer we get to full-blown socialism, the more the word becomes politically unmentionable. Even discussing an end to the entitlement system is politically taboo. This puts politicians who might want to do something about it in a very difficult position.

It's all too easy for me to shoot off my mouth. I'm not running for anything, and I couldn't get elected to anything. Not unless I moved to one of those outlying areas where people go to imagine that they're fleeing socialism, but even there I'd be unelectable, because I refuse to respect things like the war against condoms on bananas. (So for now I can just shoot off my mouth against socialism in the hope that its final triumph might be postponed.)

Calling it socialism is no longer hyperbole. We have reached a turning point. It is time for the s-word to come out of the closet, be acknowledged for what it is, and be honestly debated. Can it be done politely and in a civil manner?

As Jim Kearney pointed out, Barack Obama (at least in the context of abortion) likes to talk the talk:

...He wants to change the tone, and he calls for mutual respect. He wants civility!

The president -- let's call him that, even though a scornfully uttered surname was the most respectful appellation certain parties accorded his predecessor -- the president is praying for a "presumption of good faith" about his political opponents.

If his followers are listening and taking this seriously, Republicans are in for even more serious trouble.

Imagine a Left where MoveOn and Kos and Keith and all their spinners and yakkers suddenly turned rhetorically even-tempered. Imagine Carville as gentlemanly as Calvin Borel, or Howard Dean speaking with the calm, measured assurance of an NPR anchor.

Meanwhile, the Right would still be represented by (let's be honest now) shrill, antagonistic, accusatory, and sometimes downright snarling Savages and grating Great Ones. Double digit electoral votes for life my friends, that would be our fate.

When it comes to political rhetoric, we've got to go to school on this guy, this eloquent Mr. President. He's taking about style, saying he will argue with "passion and conviction", while still extending a "presumption of good faith" through "fair-minded words." We need to do that. We need to sound like that.

Is it possible to politely and resolutely oppose socialism in the United States? There are two major differences between the abortion debate and the socialism debate.

One is that abortion is an undeniable reality, freely acknowledged to be a fact by both sides. Socialism in the United States has historically been denied by its proponents, so much so that its ugly little closet has been a been a built in feature from the start. In the words of Socialist Upton Sinclair,

"The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label."
This is where the Great Rhetoric comes in. The great label is upon us. Unless Barack Obama is successful in calling it something other than what it is, here is no avoiding a debate over socialism.

The other major difference between the abortion debate and the socialism debate is that abortion is by definition chosen, and never imposed. It is thus very easy for people to duck the debate as not really applying to them. Not so with socialism. There is no way to opt out.

We can't not have a debate -- and we cannot have a "debate that will not speak its name" over something this serious, and this potentially devastating to the American birthright.

What really shocks me is that so many people -- responsible people like business leaders who are most affected and who should know better -- are afraid to have this debate:

at a neighborhood barbecue, a businessman who ran a manufacturing concern spent a good quarter of an hour railing against Obama's plans to nationalize health care. He had informed himself about the pending legislation in minute detail. He had devoted hours to studying the effects on hospitals and HMOs. He had become utterly convinced that Obama's plans would harm millions.

Well, then, one of his listeners asked, why had the businessman failed to say any of this in public?

The businessman paused, astonished.

"Isn't it obvious?" he replied. "I have an obligation to my shareholders. Keep your head down. Don't speak out. In this climate, that's just being responsible."

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Few are that afraid to say what they think about abortion. Yet this is socialism. As the author of the above concludes,

"This is America," Asness concludes. "We have a free enterprise system that has worked spectacularly for us for two hundred plus years. When it fails, it fixes itself. Most importantly, it is not an owned lackey of the Oval Office to be scolded for disobedience by the president."
If socialism isn't at least be allowed to be debated the way abortion or countless other issues are, our free enterprise system will have gone down without a fight. And without so much as a debate.

I'd like to have a polite debate over socialism based on mutual respect and civility, of course. But considering that "violent revolutions have been fought over less wrenching economic changes than this one promises to be," what's with the idea of dispensing with debate altogether?

To put it simply, can socialism be imposed without debate? In the United States?

If so, shame on us!

UPDATE: Don't miss Roger Kimball's analysis:

what is needed is not a 12-step support group fro damaged souls but a network of back-stiffening resource groups equipped to sound the alarm over the governments astonishing encroachments upon prosperity of the United States and the freedoms of its citizens.

As it happens, I am in the mid-West at the moment. A couple of days ago I addressed a group of businessmen, doctors, and ordinary concerned citizens in a suburb of Chicago. Outrage at what the Obama administration had done, and fear of what it was planning to do, to this country was a common theme in the questions I entertained and in the conversations I had with people at the dinner following my talk. Two emotions predominated among the men and women I spoke to. One was a disorienting astonishment at what was happening in the country: Chrysler. The government bail outs. The prospect of nationalized health care. The environmental follies even now being drawn up by the Obama administration. There was a palpable sense of shell shock: a sudden paralysis brought on by the inexplicable intrusion of the incomprehensible.

Kimball ends on a note of optimism:
I hope and expect that the more we learn about what the Obama administration has planned for us, the more people will stand up to oppose it.
I hope so too, although I think it might be time to consider opposing socialism by simply calling it what it is. If Upton Sinclar was right that "the American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label," then it follows that they won't take socialism if it is properly labeled.

UPDATE: "Anecdotal and quantitative evidence ... would appear to confirm a decided bias against dealers who donated to GOP causes or to anti-Obama Democrats." (Link via Glenn Reynolds.)

Little wonder businessmen think that keeping their heads down and not speaking out is "just being responsible."

posted by Eric at 10:16 AM | Comments (3)

Gun Owners Up In Arms

Evidently Mr. Obama can't get gun regulation/confiscation through the Congress in the normal manner so he is trying an end run by getting the Senate to pass a treaty.

You can read more about it at this Department of State site. Here is just one provision:

Technical Assistance and Training. Parties agree to cooperate to better ensure adequate training in such areas as identification and tracing; intelligence gathering; and detection methods and search protocols at borders.
So we are going to have Secret Police going after gun owners in America? How well has that worked out for drug users? Have they curtailed drug use much?

And what is Mr. Obama's rationalization for this effort? To keep criminals from getting guns for use in the Drug War. That should be about as effective as keeping the criminals from getting drugs. Like all failed socialist policies new laws are required to make up for the failures of the previous set of policies. The Drug War begets a War On Guns. I have been beating this drum for years, warning gun rights folks that the Drug War was going to be used against them. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of Gun Rights folks haven't been paying attention.

For those of you interested in a little history may I suggest: The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:30 PM | Comments (4)

Everything. Consumed.

When political opposites like Barack Obama and Eric S. Raymond agree on something, that gets my attention.

Here's Barack Obama in a CSPAN interview reported by Drudge today:

...we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we've made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we've seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.

So we've got a short-term problem, which is we had to spend a lot of money to salvage our financial system, we had to deal with the auto companies, a huge recession which drains tax revenue at the same time it's putting more pressure on governments to provide unemployment insurance or make sure that food stamps are available for people who have been laid off.

So we have a short-term problem and we also have a long-term problem. The short-term problem is dwarfed by the long-term problem. And the long-term problem is Medicaid and Medicare. If we don't reduce long-term health care inflation substantially, we can't get control of the deficit.

So, one option is just to do nothing. We say, well, it's too expensive for us to make some short-term investments in health care. We can't afford it. We've got this big deficit. Let's just keep the health care system that we've got now.

Along that trajectory, we will see health care cost as an overall share of our federal spending grow and grow and grow and grow until essentially it consumes everything...

(Emphasis added.)

And here's what Eric S. Raymond (no supporter of Obama, BTW) said in September:

The fundamental problem is that income-transfer programs (and the interest service on the debt purchased to keep them running) are spending wealth in higher volumes than the economy can actually generate, and demand for that spending is rising faster than the economy is growing. Thus, raising tax rates is no longer a way out, if it ever was.

At some point, the U.S. government is going to lose both the ability to increase revenues and the ability to sell bonds. At that point the entitlements system will crash. Transfer checks will either stop issuing or become meaningless because the government has, like some banana republic, hyperinflated the currency in order to get out from under its debt obligations.

Unlike the oncoming European demographic crash, the entitlements crash will be survivable in that there will still be people around to make things and trade things with. But it's going to be ugly. probably rioting-in-the-streets ugly. People dependent on income transfers will starve or die of preventable diseases in large numbers, unless they can find work or private charity. Since many of those people will be old, work will be unlikely unless they are exceptionally capable at something. Families will have to re-assume the burden of caring for their elderly; retirees without children will be in especially severe jeopardy.

Violent revolutions have been fought over less wrenching economic changes than this one promises to be.

And here was my reaction:
I think the country might be approaching a turning point of sorts. We've gone about as far as it's possible to go with the socialist-flirtation, welfare-state mode without plunging over the abyss into the irreversible, tyrannical, full-blown variety.

I probably rant and rave too much against socialism and risk boring readers. (Always a mistake in blogging.) But the reason I do that is that I think this country is in serious denial, as if they want to have their socialism and not have it too. What will happen if the day of reckoning that Eric S. Raymond warns about ever comes? Is this just something to not think about the way we don't like to think about a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city?

Or is it paranoia? I mean, don't we have an unlimited supply of freedom, resources, and enough of the can-do American spirit of individuality to overcome all obstacles? What worries me is that socialism is incompatible with freedom. So is extreme debt. (Even the 13th Amendment to the Constitution allows that slavery in payment of debt is not slavery.)

Free countries do not declare massive "entitlements" by one class to the money of another class, especially when the money is not there. In free countries, no one is "entitled" to the property of someone else without just compensation.

That was six weeks before the election of Barack Obama.

And now that I see that he basically agrees with Eric S. Raymond on the entitlement problem, it's hard to chalk any of this up to paranoia.

Anyway, much as I don't like to repeat myself, I thought that what I worried about in September was worth repeating.

FWIW, I tried to vote against socialism, of course. And "entitlements."

We are still allowed to vote against these things, aren't we?

BTW, Eric S. Raymond's recent observation on the nature of the problem is well worth contemplating:

The underlying problem is that in any democratic system, the political demand for redistribution of wealth rises faster that the economy's ability to generate wealth to be redistributed.
It's an ancient* problem.

As to the future, Raymond allows room for optimism:

Soon - very soon, in historical time - it will become clear that democratic redistributionism cannot deliver on its promises. All such systems, not just California's and the U.S's, are running headlong towards a terminal state of moral, political, demographic, and financial bankruptcy.

Then, the question will become: what happens afterwards? And it is a serious one, because the crisis could resolve either through the end of democracy or the end of redistributionism. On one path, we learn that we must live within our means and reject the delusion that redistribution can solve more problems than it causes; down the other path lies Peronism on steroids.

I am not in doubt which of those I will choose. If I am given any choice...

I agree, but will we get that choice?

* John Adams (echoing Plato) said "There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

Aren't we too big to commit suicide?

posted by Eric at 11:39 AM | Comments (3)

Well institutionalize my cynicism!

Are we becoming like Europe?

Victor Davis Hanson argues that we are -- and in more ways than one.

In particular, he says that Europe has become a place of institutionalized cynicism:

The natural human response to forced multiculturalism, socialism, and equality of result is cynicism. One senses that in Europe the public persona is a mere veneer. Privately most scheme to avoid taxes, to moonlight, to barter-if they are not among the government elite with high-paying, hyper-perked tenures at a ministry-while avoiding the legions of new unassimilated Muslims from North Africa, and especially the Americanized troika of assimilation, integration, and intermarriage. Let us avoid such institutionalized cynicism in the US.
Not to sound cynical, but I think it might be too late for that.

After all, we have a president who made running against cynicism the cornerstone of his supremely cynical platform.

posted by Eric at 09:50 AM | Comments (1)

Disappearing speech is not free

Last night I learned that (in what seems to be an increasingly common practice), another important news story has been taken down from YouTube.


This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Georgia Television Co. d/b/a WSB-TV .
While I haven't seen the story because I can't, it apparently takes a close look (too critical a look?) at some of the practices of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

To back up a bit, for some time now, I have been concerned about the radical animal rights philosophy being mainstreamed by HSUS. (I'm hardly alone.) Among other things, HSUS President Wayne Pacelle has said he wants to stop all hunting, and has spoken in favor of getting rid of all domestic animals:

We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. ...One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding...Wayne Pacelle - Former National Director of Fund for Animals.
Under Pacelle, the HSUS hired notorious former Animal Liberation Front activist JP Goodwin, ("arrested and convicted for being the ringleader of a crew that vandalized fur retailers in multiple states during the 1990s") and placed him in a prominent position.

What annoys me the most about the HSUS, though, is not the pronouncements of its president or his hiring practices, but the fact that a lot of people still think the HSUS runs your local humane society, and that money given to them goes directly to animal care. Nothing could be further from the truth. HSUS is a PETA-style lobbying group, except they've got a wonderfully mainstream-sounding name and are therefore largely unburdened by the baggage that PETA's brand name carries.

Contrary to popular belief, they do not run your local animal shelter. While this is almost never reported in the news media, that's the central story on the video that has disappeared.

WSB-TV is a local ABC affiliate in Atlanta, and not long after their story on HSUS aired, all hell broke loose. Not only was the story was taken down from YouTube for "copyright" issues, but the written report was pulled from the affiliate's website:

A cone of silence continues to descend over the original WSB-TV story on HSUS fundraising practises that continues to support the rumor of the unleashing of the HSUS legal team on WSB-TV for their researched & fact-supported story.

As I previously mentioned, the original story been removed from the WSB-TV website. When I wrote to WSB-TV that I was saddened to see the story removed from their website, I received the following response. A response that has been sent out to others who wrote in to WSB-TV over their disappointment as seeing the story vanish from view.

"Thank you for writing to Talk2Us. We appreciate hearing that you were engaged by the report about HSUS. We put up and pull down stories as part of our daily editorial process. We are working on an additional story about HSUS. - WSB-TV"

Its an odd response. How often does a network pull a story after less than 24hrs where the viewing is accelerating and the comments are still being logged at a rapid pace. (mostly supporting the article I might add. I have copies of the comments, just in case this is contested) Furthermore, the Youtube copies of the WSB-TV video have all been taken down by WSB-TV request through a copyright claim. Funny thing though, at last my count there were 254 Youtube video links that were WSB-TV video. Yet the video that they have taken down is the one with the HSUS investigation? Considering the current evidence, I fear a much less accurate follow up. I hope to be wrong.

The author's claim about other WSB YouTube video links being untouched is absolutely correct; there are hundreds of WSB videos, and many of them are over a year old. If the issue is "copyright," why is it being enforced selectively, and only with a story considered sensitive by a gigantic lobbying organization?

There's also something funny going on with Twitter. An account belonging to a HSUS critic has been suspended for "suspicious activity":

David Martosko of the Center of Consumer Freedom has not been immune from the attacks either. Alot of people on Twitter were surprised to find that his accounts had been suspended for "Suspicious Activity", allegedly at the behest of the HSUS. Given that (a) his Twitter activity does not appear to violate Twitter terms of service and (b) the Humane Society Twitter users have the ability to block his messages if they don't want to see them, it is difficult to interpret this as anything but a message that the HSUS doesn't want anyone one Twitter to be able to see his messages.
I'm not very familiar with how Twitter works, but regardless of whether HSUS is responsible for taking down the guy's account, someone obviously is, and the fact that a guy as prominent as Martosko has lost his account hardly makes Twitter look like a reliable outfit.

A lot of people want to see the video of the report, and are asking questions. Some have tried to post copies at other sites, but they too are being taken down.

Amazingly, even the Google cache of the original text report has been removed:

It has been an interesting weekend since the May 14th release of the WSB-TV investigation of the Humane Society of the United States' fundraising practises and the use of those funds. The reaction of the Humane Society of the United States executive team and employees has been dramatic, if not over the top.

Apparently the HSUS executive has not been content to stop with the rumored unleashing the HSUS legal team on WSB-TV. This is a rumor supported by the swift removal of both the text, viewer comments and video from the WSB-TV website by the afternoon of Friday, May 15th and the subsequent removal of the text article from Google's cache system by Saturday, May 16th. The speed of this has been startling considering that images in Google's cache can linger for days, weeks and even years in some cases....

They're certainly right about that; the text of the story can be found only at web sites critical of the HSUS. (The text of the report follows this post.)

For its part, the HSUS has issued a response impugning the motives of its critics, including insinuations about their tax-exempt status:

WSB-TV reporters should have checked their sources when they relied on information from the widely discredited Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). While organized as a 501(c) (3) charity, CCF is a front group for a wide range of animal abuse industries and other corporate interest that wish to conceal their attacks on public interest groups and government. The group's stock-in-trade involves taking aim at organizations that promote food safety, public health, or animal welfare. CCF has even attacked the National Cancer Institute, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their anti-drunk driving and public health campaigns.
What groups like MADD have to do with this, I'm not sure.

What I'd like to know is why won't the HSUS simply let me watch the report and decide for myself?

Are they afraid of something?

I realize people disagree about animal rights, but there's a larger issue, and it isn't how accurate WSB's HSUS report may or may not be. It goes to the integrity of basic access to news reports. What's the point of having investigative journalism if people aren't allowed to see it? There's a legal doctrine called "fair comment," but how is anyone supposed to comment fairly on things that can't be seen?

As others have pointed out (in a post linked by Glenn Reynolds), this abuse of copyright law "is a kind of censorship."

I think it's a growing trend which doesn't bode well for the future of free speech.

MORE: Commenter Janj notes this excellent post with a connection to the video, but naturally, the videos keep getting pulled as fast as the're put up. (As one commenter there notes, it's like playing whack-a-mole.)

I hope you saw the report because it's gone. Gone from Yes Biscuit and the WSB-TV website. Gone from YouTube. Gone from Google.


In typical HSUS fashion, their response to any factual allegations seems to be to suppress the message and attack the messenger.

Now we hear that the HSUS is going to join Michael Vick in some sort of public relations ploy. Since HSUS is responsible for killing far more dogs than Michael Vick did, it is quite ironic. Even Michael Vick didn't kill newborn puppies.

Hmmm.... Wasn't Michael Vick the dog torturer just released? Isn't he in the Atlanta area? [Note: He played for the Atlanta Falcons, but lives in Virginia.] And now the plan is to have him work with the HSUS? (I find myself wondering aloud whether the censorship campaign might have something to do with the latest Michael Vick news.)

The video is here.

Watch it while you can!

MORE: Here's the embed; I don't know whether it will work or how long it will last.

MORE: More on the Pacelle Vick partnership in the New York Times. I find it sickening that they'd work with a man who electrocuted and hanged dogs that didn't want to fight.

But perhaps I'm not cynical enough.

Why it already appears that the teams are bidding for Michael Vick.

Is HSUS providing his ticket back?

Sounds profitable!

AND MORE: Michael Vick's release is of course huge news in Atlanta.

(Whether there's any connection between the spiked WSB story and the HSUS/Michael Vick alliance is of course pure speculation.)

Continue reading "Disappearing speech is not free"

posted by Eric at 09:33 AM | Comments (8)

But I thought my emissions were a human right!

Sometimes I wonder whether "getting the government out of our bedrooms" (supposedly accomplished by Lawrence v. Texas) wasn't just a ruse so people could imagine they were more free.

Yeah, I know that women are free to destroy their fetuses too. Getting the government out of wombs is also marketed as another ultimate form of freedom (based on "privacy"), but what I've never been able to understand is this: if "privacy" gives the woman a right to have a scalpel inserted into her body to cut out her fetus, then why doesn't "privacy" also allow that same woman to put whatever drugs she wants into that same body?

Such contradictions aside, the former government invasions of freedom pale by comparison to what is being implemented right now. In terms of lifestyle invasiveness, the current war on CO2 -- which M. Simon points out will "reduce us to a subsistence level in about forty years" -- far, far surpasses the old, largely inefficient war on sexual privacy.

This time, it's a real war. I say it's time to get the government out of all of our emissions, for good.

Emissions are a human right!

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

Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

UPDATE: My thanks to Shannon Love at Chicago Boyz for the link, in a must-read post with excellent observations like this:

Leftists in the free world are driving us down the same path, albeit in slow motion. They do so by shifting language. They have defined "personal" to mean only those decisions that touch upon sex. Anything that doesn't touch on sex is not personal and is therefore a matter subject to state control. With this definition they can claim to protect personal freedoms while locking down every other freedom. More and more people have to go hat-in-hand to politicians just get the basic necessities.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (42)

Some unoriginal and insincere thoughts

While there's plenty of news, there's nothing I feel terribly compelled to write about today. Besides, no one likes to deal with news stories on Fridays, which is why things that are being swept under the rug tend to hit the press on Friday. On Fridays, that initial feeling of "wanting to write" can very quickly become an overwhelming sense that writing about anything is an onerous chore.

The sense of feeling obligated to write is very unhealthy, and IMO the worst aspect of daily blogging. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the beast. If you have a blog that gets daily visitors, you must put food there for them. Worse yet is the self-imposed demand for originality.

Sometimes, I have nothing to say. Yet the curse of blogging is that having nothing to say is not permitted. The cardinal rule of blogging is that if you have a daily blog, you cannot have nothing to say. Because "content" is expected, you must say something even if you have nothing to say, and compliance with this demand is a form of dishonesty which corrupts the thinking and the writing process. I like to think I can force myself to write under any circumstances, but sometimes it just plain sucks all around, and no one wants to hear that. Taking a break does not work; in my case it only exacerbates the problem, because one break leads to another, and pretty soon that ugly sense of freedom that's always lurking in the background kicks in, and it can be very distracting. Sometimes I even remember that I am not obligated to blog at all, and I have the freedom to stop. Yet I also have the "right" to not do daily exercise, to stop bathing, and to stop a lot of things. The way I have "tricked" myself into daily blogging despite the distractions posed by considerations of the right not to blog is by treating it the same way I treat exercise. ("I will do 120 pushups, because it is good for me.") Because there's nothing "original" or inspired about pushups or running, this analogy has served me well. However, it's hardly a recipe for creativity.

Having said all this, it would not be very nice to link someone's blog post and say that "I agree because blah blah blah." They'd think I was just insincerely cranking stuff out and using their thoughts to fill space. (One step above mindless linking.)

Sincerity. That is the thing most threatened by forced, daily blogging. If you feel obligated to agree with someone just to fill space and feed the readers, sincerity is the first victim. Better to seek out something you disagree with. For reasons which are not entirely clear to me, disagreement always seems more sincere than agreement. Now why would that be? Are there not disagreeable people who just disagree because it is their habit? How do we know they are always being sincerely disagreeable? Of course, my problem with disagreeing is that I find it disagreeable, so I try to find a way to be agreeable in my disagreement. What could be more insincere than that? It's almost like trying to find a polite way to say "f(_)ck you." Yet isn't that thing we call "civilized society" built on finding polite ways to say "f(_)ck you"?

Oh the contradictions. How I love to hate them.

posted by Eric at 10:17 AM | Comments (2)

WB-8 In The Works

EMC2 has just been awarded (a solicitation actually but sure to go through) a contract for a WB-8 and WB-8.1 device under the America recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. I reported on the prospects for this in mid April in my post Polywell Gets In On The Act. Here is some of the text of the solicitation:

THIS OPPORTUNITY IS AVAILABLE ONLY TO CONTRACTORS UNDER theAmerica recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Research Development Test Evaluation (RDT&E) Plan Plasma Fusion (Polywell) project. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake intends to procure on sole-sourced basis, a Cost Plus Fixed Fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing to validate the basic physics of the plasma fusion (polywell) concept as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of polywell fusion with a delivered item, wiffleball 8 (WB8) and options for a modified wiffleball 8 (WB8.1) and modified ion gun. The requirement is sole sourced to Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2) who is the original developer of the plasma fusion (polywell) approach and holds the proprietary data rights.
It looks like EMC2 is getting closer to full funding and will be building a follow on machine to WB-7 and WB-7.1. There is still a ways to go (about 18 to 24 months) but it is fair to say we have come a long way since early summer of 2007 when it seemed like the project was dead in the water with no prospects.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

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

H/T marc b via e-mail

Welcome Instapundit readers. You might like to look at what Eric Calls the War On CO2 and what I call Back To 1620.

posted by Simon at 04:55 AM | Comments (8)

GITMO Not Gone

It seems that the Senate is finally holding the line on spending. There will be no money for a GITMO shutdown.

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a major rebuke to President Barack Obama, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to block the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States and denied the administration the millions it sought to close the prison.

The 90-6 Senate vote--paired with similar House action last week--was a clear sign to Obama that he faces a tough fight getting the Democratic-controlled Congress to agree with his plans to shut down the detention center and move the 240 detainees.

Last month, Obama asked for $80 million for the Pentagon and the Justice Department to close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by January. In the eyes of the world, the prison has come to exemplify harsh U.S. anti-terror tactics and detention without trial for almost all of its inmates, most of whom were captured in Afghanistan.

The administration put its Democratic allies in a difficult spot by requesting the Guantanamo closure money before developing a plan for what to do with its detainees.

Obama is scheduled to give a major address Thursday outlining in more detail his plans for Guantanamo, but it's already clear that Congress has little appetite for bringing detainees to U.S. soil, even if the inmates would be held in maximum-security prisons.

How about that? 90 to 6 in a Senate with 60 Democrat members. Dear Leader seems to be losing control of his own Party. The question is: do the Democrats in Congress have any more appetite for the carbon tax commonly referred to as Cap and Trade? Or the total dismantling of the current health care system? It is one of the reasons Presidents like to get as much done as possible in their first 100 days in order to prevent the opposition to various proposals from coalescing.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:44 PM | Comments (3)

I blame the culture for my cultural illiteracy!

While I don't watch network programming* (instead I watch only old movies, and occasional documentaries), I hate being a cultural illiterate. An unpleasant fact of life is that not knowing what's on TV is probably a form of cultural illiteracy.

How regrettable that is might be open to debate, but when I saw Glenn Reynolds' roundup of this season's canceled TV shows, I thought that if I clicked the link, I might find myself with an instant cultural education. Sure enough the link went to a complete list of canceled shows organized by network:

In the Motherhood
The Unusuals
According to Jim
Samantha Who?

Harper's Island
Without a Trace
Eleventh Hour
The Unit
Worst Week


King of the Hill
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Kath & Kim
Knight Rider
Lipstick Jungle
My Name is Earl (may get picked up by Fox or ABC)
Medium (may move to CBS)

If I really wanted a cultural education, what I should have done was to click on each show's link above. Alas, I lack the patience!

Which means that I may not be culturally qualified to answer the question which follows the list:

Which shows are you saying "good riddance" to?
I have never seen any of them, I do not know what any of them are about, so good riddance is fine with me! I guess that means I get a 100% score.

But will I ever know what I'm missing?

* I guess the proper phrase is "episodic television." (From Roger L. Simon and Lionel Chetwynd's lively debate on the relative merits of TV versus movies.)

Glad those guys can duke it out while filling me in!

I obviously prefer movies, but I was a sucker for The Sopranos as well as Dexter (assuming watching the later DVDs counts.)

posted by Eric at 01:32 PM | Comments (9)

Back To 1620

Keith O. Rattie gave a speech at the 22nd Annual UVU Symposium on Environmental Ethics at Utah Valley University about America's energy future under cap and trade.

The long term goal with cap and trade is "80 by 50" - an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Let's do the easy math on what "80 by 50" means to you, using Utah as an example. Utah's carbon footprint today is about 66 MM tons of CO2 per year. Utah's population today is 2.6 MM. You divide those two numbers, and the average Utahan today has a carbon footprint of about 25 tons of CO2 per year. An 80% reduction in Utah's carbon footprint by 2050 implies a reduction from 66 MM tons today to about 13 MM tons per year by 2050. But Utah's population is growing at over 2% per year, so by 2050 there will be about 6 MM people living in this state. 13 MM tons divided by 6 MM people = 2.2 tons per person per year. Under "80 by 50"‟ by the time you folks reach my age you'll have to live your lives with an annual carbon allowance of no more than 2.2 tons of CO2 per year.

Question: when was the last time Utah's carbon footprint was as low as 2.2 tons per person per year? Answer: probably not since Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley (1847).

You reach a similar conclusion when you do the math on "80 by 50"‟ for the entire U.S. "80 by 50"‟ would require a reduction in America's CO2 emissions from about 20 tons per person per year today, to about 2 tons per person per year in 2050. When was the last time America‟s carbon footprint was as low as 2 tons per person per year? Probably not since the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

In short, "80 by 50" means that by the time you folks reach my age, you won't be allowed to use anything made with - or made possible by - fossil fuels.

So I want to focus you on this critical question: "How on God's green earth - pun intended - are you going to do what my generation said we'd do but didn't - and that's wean yourselves from fossil fuels in just four decades?" That's a question that each of you, and indeed, all Americans need to ask now - because when it comes to "how" there clearly is no consensus. Simply put, with today's energy technologies, we can't get there from here.

So the plan is to reduce us to a subsistence level in about forty years. You say you want a revolution? Now is the time.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:57 PM | Comments (4)

Finders losers!

Most people have probably had fantasies about finding a large amount of cash.

You think it would be fun? Think again. When a contractor in Ohio was tearing out bathroom walls in an old house he was remodeling for a friend, he found two ancient metal boxes containing $182,000 in Depression era cash. Because he tried to do the right thing, his life has been miserable ever since:

CLEVELAND -- A contractor who found $182,000 in Depression-era currency hidden in a bathroom wall has ended up with only a few thousand dollars, but he feels some vindication.

The windfall discovery amounted to little more than grief for contractor Bob Kitts, who couldn't agree on how to split the money with homeowner Amanda Reece.

It didn't help Reece much, either. She testified in a deposition that she was considering bankruptcy and that a bank recently foreclosed on one of her properties.

And 21 descendants of Patrick Dunne -- the wealthy businessman who stashed the money that was minted in a time of bank collapses and joblessness -- will each get a mere fraction of the find.

While the dispute between the contractor and the homeowner (who were old high school friends) is bad enough, what I cannot understand is how the descendants of the guy who stashed it are entitled to anything after all those years. It's been some time since law school, but I seem to remember that when you buy a house (depending on the contract), you own whatever is in it. Thus, the rightful owner to whatever is in the walls of a house would be the present homeowner, not the former homeowner, much less his descendants. There also ought to be a statute of limitations on personal property left behind; otherwise, it might suddenly occur to me that I left a collection of now-valuable magazines stashed in the attic of a house I sold and want them back.

In this case, there's also the principle of "you can't get blood from a stone," because the homeowner spent much of the money, and now claims unknown parties stole the rest:

A month after The Plain Dealer reported on the case in December 2007, Dunne's estate got involved, suing for the right to the money.

By then there was little left to claim.

Reece testified in a deposition that she spent about $14,000 on a trip to Hawaii and had sold some of the rare late 1920s bills. She said about $60,000 was stolen from a shoe box in her closet but testified that she never reported the theft to police.

Kitts said Reece accused him of stealing the money and began leaving him threatening phone messages. Marcinkevicius doesn't believe the money was stolen but said he couldn't prove otherwise.

Reece's phone number has been disconnected, and her attorney Robert Lazzaro did not return a call seeking comment. There were no court records showing that Reece had filed for bankruptcy.

Kitts said he lost a lot of business because media reports on the case portrayed him as greedy, but he feels vindicated by the court's decision to give him a share.

"I was not the bad guy that everybody made me out to be," Kitts said. "I didn't do anything wrong."

He's often asked why he didn't keep his mouth shut and pocket the money. He says he wasn't raised that way.

Well, just shutting up and keeping the money (as Richard Nixon would say) would have been wrong. And easier.

$182,000 makes it easy to be wrong.

Frankly, if I hired a contractor who found that kind of money in my bathroom wall, and was honest enough to tell me about it, I'd be glad to split it 50/50 and avoid the newspapers.

But I guess then we'd both be wrong. If only two wrongs made a right!

MORE: According to the Wikipedia article on treasure trove law, the contractor was entitled to the money:

A majority of state courts, including those of Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin, have ruled that the finder of treasure trove is entitled to it.
In other states, the owner of the property would get it. But in interpreting the law, there's always room for argument. Which means the lawyers get it.

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

Whose base?

I am no fan of the Republican establishment. So naturally, I am inclined to agree with the central thesis of a PJM piece by John Hawkins, which is that the Republican establishment "views the conservative base like a medieval monarch viewed his serfs."

What it all comes down to is that the Republican establishment is out of touch, doesn't respect the people who put them in office, and has no principle they wouldn't compromise for little more than a few kind words from the media.

Getting rid of many of the "old bulls" in the Republican Party may be the only saving grace of the last two disastrous election cycles that the GOP suffered through. Not only did those failures show that the policies advocated by the GOP establishment have failed the party entirely, but it helped get rid of a lot of Republican politicians who looked at the base about the same way that 14th-century French monarchs viewed their serfs. Hopefully, the pain the party experienced during Bush's second term, along with a more motivated and demanding base, will be enough to teach the GOP establishment a lesson -- so we won't have to spend another few election cycles wandering around in the political wilderness, waiting for the establishment to die off or be voted out of power so we can move forward.

There is no question that the Republican establishment is unprincipled and moribund, and that the party needs to be reinvigorated or else it will keep losing.

But a nagging question (for me at least) is who is the base?

Personally, I'd love to see the Tea Party movement simply take over the party en masse. Surely they constitute a large portion of what Hawkins calls a "more motivated and demanding base."

However, there are certain "motivated and demanding" activists who are (IMO) just as likely to cause the party lose as the moribund, out-of-touch establishment. While it would be illogical and unreasonable of me to make sweeping generalizations about these people and say that they all fall into the same camp, the fact is that their views are sufficiently outside of the American mainstream to provide plenty of ammo for the Democrats. And they don't mind making this an easy task for the Democrats by being plenty loud.

Mind you, I do not think the Republican base believes Barack Obama was born in Kenya and the State of Hawaii is lying. Nor do I think that the Republican base agrees with Rush Limbaugh that evolution is wrong, and creationism is the way to go. However, such views are asserted loudly enough -- and repeated often enough by accepted spokesmen for the so-called Republican "base" -- that Republicans will be hard pressed to distance themselves from them regardless of who actually wins or holds power. (Frankly, I might find it a bit embarrassing to be told that I belong to a party that opposes evolution, but I have a thick skin.)

Once again, being a libertarian is a curse, because libertarians have no responsibility for any of this, and because they tend to abhor political meetings, they sit on the sidelines, later claiming to be squeaky clean. They can plead not guilty to being part of the Republican establishment, and not guilty to being part of the motivated and demanding activist base.

Then later, of course, libertarians can smugly say "I TOLD YOU SO!"

If I were part of "the base," I'd probably hate libertarians even if I agreed with them.

However, if we consider that the base has no official gatekeepers, perhaps libertarians ought to infiltrate it by stealth.

posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (9)

Louisa Lockhart
Lousia Lockhart

The lovely lady in the picture is Louisa Lockhart, from the UK. What I find most attractive about her, and there is a lot to like, is her million watt smile.

Since I found her, we have been in a rather animated Facebook conversation. She is just 19 and working on a degree in Marine Biology. Here is what she has to say about herself:

I'm 19, and a student at the University of Liverpool. I'm studying Biology and I hope to go into Marine Biology next year. I love any kind of music, I love my dogs, and I practice yoga everyday. I love taking photos, and also having photos taken of me! I love being naked, or in something that makes me feel really sexy. I hate tights but I love long socks. If you bought me sweet strawberry cake I'd love you forever!
Here is what I found most endearing:
I wish to become successful with my glamour model career when I am finishing my degree. When I graduate, I want to raise money for our Navy, Army and RAF.

I love the sea, and I want to live on the coast somewhere.

I promised to get her some publicity to boost her career in modeling which is why I did this post. Enjoy.

Good luck to you Louisa in what ever you endeavor.

Update: 05 June 2009 0819z

Lousia has a blog. Giver her a shout: leave a comment.

And if you like girls in Bikinis then you will love: Bunny Yeager's Bikini Girls of the 1950s (Illustrated)

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:42 PM | Comments (3)

Running what you hate

Thomas Frank had some nasty things to say about conservatives the other day. Basically, he sees the conservative anti-government philosophy as being responsible for the failure of government:

The government and its bureaucrats are, to the right, ever a malign force -- jealous, power-hungry and greedy. But it's hard to blame someone for failing after you've worked so hard to make them fail.

The world knows about the Republican Party's problems these days -- its purges, denunciations and defections. On the other hand, reconstituting itself as a more uniformly conservative organization might let the GOP free itself from the taint of the Bush years and fight big government in the Reagan manner.

But I doubt it. Even when conservatism is made pure, it won't be able to govern. Its bottomless suspicion toward federal workers is part of the reason.

Well, the nice thing about being a libertarian is that I get to wash my hands of all responsibility. After all, libertarians weren't in charge of the government, so how can libertarianism be blamed? (Convenient excuse, no?)

But if I may say a few words in defense of conservatives here, it would be that the government was never actually being run by conservatives, but by untouchable, unaccountable, and above all unelected bureaucrats. It matters very little who is supposedly in charge of them, as they can't be fired and they often have more power than their purported superiors who have to run for office, and who dare not offend the movers and shakers in the bureaucracy.

Even if through some bizarre miracle there were a libertarian majority in Congress, I doubt they'd be able to do much. Government would still fail to fix problems, and problems that government tries to solve invariably demand more government to fix. It's part of the design.

It is also part of the conservative (and libertarian) design to be anti-government. Being tasked with running what you claim to be against yet cannot do much to change is a perplexing contradiction, and not something I'd wish on anyone.

No wonder they tried to invent Big Government Conservatism, which makes about as much sense as would Big Government Libertarianism.

As I say, it's a lot easier to be a libertarian than a conservative. The only thing libertarians get blamed for is ruining the economy by mismanaging the Fed when they weren't even in charge of it. (And as is pointed out here, not only weren't they in charge, but most libertarians would vote to scrap the Fed.)

Which means that unlike conservatives (who actually run serious campaigns and get elected), libertarians can't be charged with running -- and ruining -- what they hate.

If only someone could put the libertarians in charge of socialism!

They could do a better job of making it not work this time.

UPDATE: Sean Kinsell links this post, and really nails Thomas Frank. Don't miss it.

Sean also has a good question:

I'm getting really sick of hearing about how economic policy governed by unbridled "free-market faith" is the cause of our current problems. What meaningful deregulation of anything has there been in the last decade--especially related to the housing market, where one of the big problems was insulation from feedback?

UPDATE: The Rhetorician sees a similar phenomenon at work in California:

It's easy to vote for fiscal conservatives and low spending, but even when we do that, we always get out-organized and out-voted by California's public employee unions, including the teachers union. They are the ones who run things in Sacramento. The Legislature and the governor largely work for them and their interests.
(Via a link from Glenn Reynolds.)

And of course, the public employee unions, the teachers union, and their media allies will turn right around and blame the fiscal conservatives. For not being able to run what they hate!

posted by Eric at 01:48 PM | Comments (2)

Dog On A Ham Slicer

Watts Up With That is having a discussion of a Times Online review of the new Honda Insight. The Times review is a hoot.

Much has been written about the Insight, Honda's new low-priced hybrid. We've been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you're easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things. The beginning of days.So far, though, you have not been told what it's like as a car; as a tool for moving you, your friends and your things from place to place.

So here goes. It's terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It's the first car I've ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn't have to drive it any more.

The biggest problem, and it's taken me a while to work this out, because all the other problems are so vast and so cancerous, is the gearbox. For reasons known only to itself, Honda has fitted the Insight with something called constantly variable transmission (CVT).

It doesn't work. Put your foot down in a normal car and the revs climb in tandem with the speed. In a CVT car, the revs spool up quickly and then the speed rises to match them. It feels like the clutch is slipping. It feels horrid.

And the sound is worse. The Honda's petrol engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full chat, makes a noise worse than someone else's crying baby on an airliner. It's worse than the sound of your parachute failing to open. Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you'd have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.

I have no dog in this fight. I earn a what little living I make from my modem and what little driving I do or is done for me is done in eight or ten year old cars. But seriously. If this is the coming Green Revolution America will begin to look like Cuba with a lot of 30 and 40 year old cars on the road. And what is that going to do for fuel economy or pollution? I predict nothing good.

No wonder Congress is considering a plan to pay to destroy serviceable used cars. And what will that do to pollution? Probably nothing good if you consider the energy and effort required to turn a scrapped car into a new one.

A functioning market economy is a system for minimizing costs and maximizing value. A functioning Congress is a system for maximizing costs and minimizing value. Too bad we are getting less market and more Congress.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Tradition sacked again!

A fashion blog this most definitely is not. The closest I come to that is occasionally offering gratuitous fashion advice to politicians, which they don't seem to heed.

But this blog does purport to be about the culture, and like it or not, fashion is part of the culture. So, when a new men's outfit is billed as "the worst outfit in the history of the earth," I feel that creepy sense of obligation -- as if the earth's history might be passing me by while I sleep.

Anyway, I've seen the outfit, and while I don't know whether it's the worst in history, it does kind of make me want to plagiarize William F. Buckley and "stand athwart history, yelling Stop!"

Which I can do. But seriously, I doubt this blog has the power to stop history.

I can't even stop history's worst outfit:


CAPTION: A model presents a creation by Kazakhstan's Kenje design house during Kazakhstan Fashion Week in Almaty May 15, 2009. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

The very first comment is typical, and not very complimentary:

Ewwww! Now that is gross. Where could one wear an outfit like that except maybe a gay parade.
I think that might be the whole idea. But because I have been trained to look on the dark side, I suspect (naturally) a darker purpose. Every year at around this time, the wicked San Francisco sodomite crowd have a contest in which they mock traditional values. Last time it was the Last Supper, and this year, the sodomites have outdone themselves further, and are deliberately mocking 1950s kitchens.

Is it possible that the Kazakh sodomites (influenced, no doubt, by their Western counterparts) might be chiming in with their own brand of mockery? Can it be a coincidence that for centuries, Kazakhstan was the traditional headquarters of the Saka and the Huns? That the traditional menswear looked like this?


The traditional elements of the hooded cap and eye-catching colors are clearly being mocked by the latest fashion atrocity, the stripped-down nature of which conveys an unmistakably homoerotic sexual subtext along the lines of "HUNS WITH BUNS!"

Have these people no shame? As if it wasn't enough to smash the American cowboy icon forever with "Brokeback Mountain," to forever link Leonardo da Vinci's art with Folsom Street festivities, and even to desecrate 1950s kitchens, must they now they taint the traditional values of the Huns?

Can it be a coincidence that one of greatest leaders of the Huns is even today considered an iconic right wing figure -- a standard by which all conservatism is measured? I refer, of course, to that favorite conservative slogan, "to the right of Attila the Hun."

What self-respecting Attila lover can use that expression in light of what can only be called "Huns with Buns"?

Is nothing sacred?

posted by Eric at 09:32 AM | Comments (5)

Power From Wind

I think it might be a good idea to look at how a wind generator's output varies with speed. Wind power varies with the cube of wind speed. That is basic physics. No way around it that we know of.

So let us look at some wind turbines. Typical are turbines that start generating power at wind speeds of 2.5 meters per second and max out at wind speeds of 16 meters per second or 20 meters per second. First let us convert that to miles per hour to get a feel for the speeds involved.

2.5 m/s = 6 mph
16 m/s = 36 mph
20 m/s = 45 mph

Now let us look at output.

If you consider 2.5 m/s minimum output then at 16 m/s maximum output the max/min ratio is 262. At 20 m/s the max/min ratio is 512.

Or consider a wind blowing at 90% of maximum turbine rating. Output is 73% of maximum. At 80% output is 51% max. At 70% it is 35%. At 60% it is 22%. At 50% it is 12.5%. At 40% you are down to 6.4%. At 30% you are down to 2.3%. At 20% you are at less that 1%.

Economically it is probably useless (other than to impress the rubes) to design wind turbines that can handle max/min ratios more than 5 or 6 to 1. And from a practical stand point useful effectiveness is actually in the 2 to 1 range.

So it is not just having wind. You really need a very stiff breeze to generate useful power. I think our experiment with deploying massive amounts of high cost wind power are just about over. If the costs come down that improves the situation some. But not a lot.

Evidently Mr. Obama and his Green friends have never run the numbers.

Inspired by Glasgow Looking To Freeze In The Dark

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:43 PM | Comments (7)

Let Me Read It Again, If I Can Find The Page

I believe this will not end well for Pelosi.

H/T Pajamas Media which has an excellent discussion of the likely outcome. Short version: Pelosi under the bus.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:26 PM | Comments (4)

Those dirty, filthy libertarians!
"I became a conservative by being around liberals, and I became a libertarian by being around conservatives."

So says Greg Gutfeld, host of Red Eye on Fox News and former editor of Men's Health magazine in a free-ranging reason.tv interview Sean Kinsell describes as "a hilarious conversation" with "a lot to say about health-related nanny-state-ism, tiresome moralizing, and keeping your toaster away from meth addicts."

It's not every day I hear a journalist with a media microphone maintain that smoking is good for you, that global warming is "the biggest scam ever devised,"
or explain how the Tea Party movement was deliberately made to look like a joke, but there's all that and more.

Very, very entertaining.

However, for those who are easily offended, I should repeat Reason's warning:

Warning for viewers prone to high-blood pressure, heart palpitations, and sour-puss syndrome: Gutfeld mixes humor, outrage and language salty enough to cure a side of bacon. Proceed at your own caution.


No wonder certain Republicans consider libertarianism a "dirty word."

MORE: If you thought the wars on cigarettes, drugs, and exhaled air were bad, get ready for the coming war on soda.

Clayton Cramer links a Wall Street Journal piece, and says,

The May 12, 2009 Wall Street Journal reports that "Senate leaders are considering new federal taxes on soda and other sugary drinks to help pay for an overhaul of the nation's health-care system." The motivation isn't just money; the article quotes "Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest" a Ralph Nader affiliate, that, "Soda is clearly one of the most harmful products in the food supply, and it's something government should discourage the consumption of." Gadzooks! I thought it was beautifully marbled steaks, or Big Macs, or hot fudge sundaes!
Not to give anyone ideas, but I'm surprised they haven't also gone after the soda industry because of the links to the deadly CO2 gas that's killing the planet.

How can libertarians defend such filth?

MORE: In light the question of whether libertarianism is becoming a dirty word, a related question might be whether "gay conservative" has become an oxymoron.

In a post Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday, Gay Patriot discusses the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the limits of political labels:

While supporting repeal of DADT marks me "liberal" on that issue, I don't see the ban itself as a conservative policy. It just doesn't advance the ideals of the modern American conservative movement, the basic tenets of which are limited government, a strong national defense and judicial restraint.
If conservatism means limited government, a strong national defense and judicial restraint, then by all means I'm a conservative. But if conservatism means fighting DADT, I guess I'm a "liberal" on that one.

What are the consequences? Depends on how you define yourself. If you self-define as a libertarian, then opposing DADT is without consequence. If OTOH, you self-define as conservative while opposing DADT, others may attack your self-definition.

Which means it's probably easier for non-conforming conservatives to self-define as libertarian.

I never gave it much thought, but I now find myself wondering how many "libertarians" might be simply non-conforming conservatives afraid of taking ideological flak.

Egad! Here's something else: I'd hate to think that any conservative might be so cowardly as to call himself a libertarian in order to feel more comfortable at liberal cocktail parties..... And what about the inverse? Might there also be libertarians in conservative drag?

You can't be too careful!

posted by Eric at 08:58 AM | Comments (5)

"Drive her wild with the new Buick!"

I'd heard that Buicks were popular in China, but I didn't know they were this popular:

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A popular Chinese online video showing a woman going hysterical after her male companion refuses to buy her a car is stirring debate about Shanghai's females, who are renowned for their demanding ways.

In the video, apparently shot on a mobile phone or handheld camera and carried on the widely read www.youku.com (http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNjQ0NTc0Njg=.html), the woman is seen screaming at the man in a Shanghai car showroom.

It's already attracted over 1.7 million hits since it was posted some four months ago and is still drawing heated comments.

"The car doesn't suit you," the man tells the woman, to which she answers screaming: "It does suit me!"

"It's like this each time we go shopping. I'm not buying this car for you!" he counters.

The woman is then seen jumping into and driving the burgundy sedan up and down the showroom, ignoring her frantically gesturing companion and the salesman.

Finally the man gives in, waving his credit card and shouting: "Stop! Stop! I'll buy it! I'll buy it!"

So far, the video has attracted over 1,000 comments, some supporting, others criticizing the woman's behavior.

Here's the YouTube version:

I don't know whether anything is enough to save the American auto industry, but if the above reaction is typical, they may be overlooking an opportunity for niche marketing.

Anyway, I thought I should do what I could to help save GM. Especially considering that I now own part of the company thanks to the bailout, it's probably my patriotic duty!

posted by Eric at 03:43 PM | Comments (3)

"we all wish there were fewer abortions"

Do we all agree that there should be fewer abortions?

The reason I'm asking is because President Obama has been quoted as saying that we do:

Notre Dame provost Thomas Burish said he thought Obama fared well in the face of controversy, delivering a speech the audience embraced and setting the tone for a conversation they want to continue.

"You heard the president say that we all wish there were fewer abortions, and I think that's a common ground that we can all agree with," Burish said in an interview.

Well, I didn't hear him say anything, but for the purpose of this post I'll take the provost at his word.

It's easy to say we should find common ground, but I think is wrong to suggest that we all wish there were fewer abortions. In fact, in another story about the same event, an abortion rights activist is quoted as demanding expanded abortion access (I have to assume expanded access would mean more abortions) as well as the lifting of "the stigma":

Sunsara Taylor, a New York City resident and a member of the abortion-rights group Abortion on Demand, said outside the school's gates that "there was a voice missing" in the controversy over Obama's visit.

"If women don't have a right to decide if they have a child, women aren't free," she said. "We need to expand abortion access and abortion rights and lift the stigma. Fetuses are not babies and women are not incubators."

I'm not sure what she means by asserting that women "don't have a right to decide" whether to have a child. What country is she referring to? China? I have never heard of a case in the United States where the government forced a woman to have either children or abortions.

Furthermore, except in the case of rape, the decision to become pregnant involves free will. Or is she saying that women do not consent to sexual intercourse? I don't know, but the statement makes no sense. I suspect she's one of those people who thinks that "reproductive rights" work only in one direction, and involve the right to have an abortion, but I can't be sure.

However, the Abortion on Demand leader has a blog which makes it perfectly clear that the president is wrong when he says we all agree that there should be fewer abortions:


Let's be very clear: To talk today of reducing the number abortions is to talk about strengthening the chains on women. The goal should NOT be to reduce the number of abortions. The goal should be to break down the barriers that still exist in every sphere of society to women's full and equal participation as emancipated human beings. In this society, right now, that means there will be - and therefore should be -- more abortions.

I'm going to stick my neck out here and suggest that means we don't all agree.

MORE: Reproductive rights in the White House, anyone?

I just found this picture:


Caption: A military usher suggests to a guest a better location than the crosshall of the White House to change a baby's diaper before an event in the East Room in Washington May 1, 2009.

But I thought diapers were bad.

posted by Eric at 11:08 AM | Comments (9)

Jobbed By Greens

You think green energy crates jobs? Guess again.

A power producer typically gets paid for the power it generates. In Texas, some wind energy generators are paying to have someone take power off their hands.

Because of intense competition, the way wind tax credits work, the location of the wind farms and the fact that the wind often blows at night, wind farms in Texas are generating power they can't sell. To get rid of it, they are paying the state's main grid operator to accept it. $40 a megawatt hour is roughly the going rate.

This is really incredible. The power companies are constructing wind turbines and, at certain times, not only providing the power for free but actually paying the grid to take it. All to capture subsidies and tax credits paid for by these special rate surcharges. The only jobs being created are analysts trying to find the best way to rent-seek under these new laws. I would rather pay people to dig holes and fill them back in.
What they really need to do is to find customers who are willing to be paid to use electricity. In other words we have set up a system where conservation is a bad idea.

Once you start screwing with the market ever more laws are required to make up for the distortions created by the previous set of laws. It never ends and only gets worse.

H/T linearthinker at my post Wind Scam

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

An Interview With Tom Ligon

Tom Ligon is an engineer who worked with Dr. Robert Bussard on Polywell Fusion. Tom explains the technology and his work with Dr. Bussard. There are seven videos in the series. You can watch the rest of them here:

Tom Ligon Interview 2
Tom Ligon Interview 3
Tom Ligon Interview 4
Tom Ligon Interview 5
Tom Ligon Interview 6
Tom Ligon Interview 7

My thanks to Matt M. who did the interview and posted the videos.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering.

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: 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 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

Enhancement of screaming

I'm probably projecting my own frustrations onto my dog while behaving in a very anthropomorphic manner, but a recent picture of Coco screaming made me think of a famous Norwegian painting, so into the painting Coco had to go!


This is not the first time that Coco has invaded art.

Here she is persistently invading memory:


(I realize that none of this does accomplishes much by way of solving the serious problems of the world, but it beats paying a psychiatrist....)

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Beautiful and emotional. But will it work?

This video was described by Ann Althouse as "A beautiful, emotional anti-gun ad."

Which it is. See for yourself.

One of the things I most like about Ann Althouse is that she fearlessly and unhesitatingly highlights the strengths and weaknesses of arguments on both sides, regardless of which side she and most of her readers might be on.

The above ad is beautifully done, and of course it appeals strongly to the emotions, but I don't see how it could persuade anyone to switch from the pro-gun to the anti-gun side. The only way I could see it changing minds would be by making people more entrenched in their existing thinking, and possibly polarize things a bit more.

If the comments to Ann Althouse's post are any indication, not a single person's mind was changed from being against to being for gun control. Lots of commenters are extremely annoyed at the obvious manipulation, though. (As am I.)

Here's Pastafarian:

Here's an idea for another beautiful ad: Use ultra-slow-motion photography to show speeding cars smashing melons and pumpkins; then replace the melon with a child's head, and the car with the tagline:

Stop the carnage -- kill the car.

There's also considerable discussion of the exploding watermelon -- one commenter asks why it would be racist to propose going "watermelon huntin'" -- but not "ketchup huntin'." Another commenter said, "The film was racist because it associated watermelons with black youths." Really. And why does a liberal organization get away with juxtaposing watermelons with black youths in an ad campaign?

I think that what ads like this are intended to do is not persuade the opposition, nor are they intended to preach to the choir. Rather, they are intended to agitate the choir into getting more outraged than they had been previously, in the hope that they'lll go out and do something. In other words, persuade those who already agree to become highly partisan, by-any-means-necessary activists.

Oddly enough, Second Amendment activists might be able to use it the same way. I'm already a member of that choir, and even seeing the film makes me want to send the NRA* another check right now.

Which I just did.

Wow. I guess beautiful and emotional ads can be effective after all!

* I sent a check to the NRA-ILA. If the video annoyed you as much as it did me, feel free to contribute too!

posted by Eric at 02:36 PM | Comments (3)

Unpopular congress, unpopular party

M. Simon made the following observation about politicians last night:

Politicians use words the same way squids use ink. To cover their tracks.
I think that in the current political climate, most voters understand the above implicitly.

A brief review of the current numbers from RealClearPolitics is in order:

President Obama Job Approval

RCP Average
Spread +28.8

Congressional Job Approval

RCP Average
Spread -28.7

Generic Congressional Vote

RCP Average
Democrats +4.7

Now, it's easy to look at the low congressional numbers and say that it is obviously the Republicans' job to convince the voters that only they are the party which has principles. But if we assume voter cynicism about politicians accounts for the low congressional numbers, how feasible of a goal is it to convince them that the Republicans (who only lost power recently) are suddenly sincere and more principled? I'm not saying that principles should be abandoned or discarded, but I do think there's an important point which must not be overlooked, and that is the instinctive distrust ordinary people have of power. Especially entrenched and corrupt power.

If we juxtapose Obama's high numbers with Congress's low numbers, how might the discrepancy be explained? The primary difference between Obama and Congress is not political (both are Democratic), but freshness. Obama is still new (and bear in mind his approval numbers are not strong), while Congress is old, rotten, and corrupt to the core. It is obviously clear to the voters that while an old and stale president can be replaced with a new one, Congress is a metastasized malignant tumor that cannot ever be fully excised, regardless of which party holds the congressional majority.

Considering the low opinion voters have about politicians -- and especially Congress -- is the best hope for the GOP to try to convince voters that only they have principles and that the Democrats don't? How likely is this to be believed? I think it is very unlikely, and while I don't think the GOP should abandon all talk of principle, neither should they miss the opportunity to remind voters that the balance of power is in their hands, and if they think Congress is malignant tumor that cannot be removed, the best alternative is to prevent it from getting stronger. In this respect, the Republicans' vintage anti-government philosophy is likely to have appeal, regardless of how sincere or principled it actually is in practice.

Republicans -- even if the voters assume their principles are bogus -- can nonetheless package themselves as a brake on congressional power, and I think they have an advantage in the next election if only they will use it. The numbers indicate Congress is vulnerable, and because Congress is Democratic, the Republicans are the anti-incumbency, anti-Congress party. If the Republican Party is in disarray, so much the better. Just run against Congress. This puts the Democrats on the defensive, for they can't very well run against themselves.

And as Nancy Pelosi has comically demonstrated, they can't run against Bush forever.

Sooner or later, someone might remember that this is a country that elected Bush twice.

posted by Eric at 09:45 AM | Comments (1)

All hail the year Six!

I can't believe it, but it was six years ago yesterday that I started ranting in this blog. These days I often feel like I've run out of things to say, but then something will come along and annoy me enough (or amuse me enough) that I just keep right on as if there's something still new. Aside from the futile quest for originality, the worst challenge that a blog like this creates is trying not to repeat myself after so many millions of words. (In that respect, and in many other respects, I'm so glad to have M. Simon posting here, as not only is he an original thinker, but he never repeats myself!)

I think what keeps me going is that I do like having readers come here, whether they agree or not.

Thank you all.

MORE: I realize it is now technically "Year Seven," but I still like the feel of hailing the year six, hence the title.

(Surely you're expecting me to say "ALL HAIL THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH...")

posted by Eric at 08:17 AM | Comments (7)

Wind Scam

In a comment on my post Green Energy Kills Jobs stressdoc had this to say about his experience with wind power.

I am a mechanical engineer and quite knowledgeable about wind power and the reliability problems. They are many!

Wind power has a longer history in the EU, but the experience has been similar. Wind power has been subsidized in the EU for longer than it has here in the states. The results have been similar. Power from wind turbines is more expensive that the more traditional sources (coal, gas, hydroelectric, nuclear and oil). The only way that it viable is with government subsidies.

In the EU, turbines cannot be installed without monitoring system to watch their health. This is due to the many failures that have occurred. They cannot operate without insurance and the insurance is unavailable without monitoring. Here in the states, very few turbines are installed with monitoring.

Why? Simple. Turbines here are normally owned by investor groups that exist primarily to market the tax credits. The total cost of the turbine can be recouped in 3-5 years with these credits. The investor groups contract with the turbine manufacturers to install and operate the turbines for the 5 year warrantee period. By the time that the warrantee has expired, the turbines are paid for and any further running time is pure gravy. When they fail, shut them down and there is no loss.

Except, of course, to the tax payers that support this scam.

I have always thought that the subsidy for wind power ought to be phased out. I'm more convinced of that than ever. I am still in favor of wind power, where it makes unsubsidized economic sense.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:58 AM | Comments (2)

Green Energy Kills Jobs

Durango, Colorado is having economic difficulties. And what are they giving up to be able to pay for city workers? Green energy.

For two years, the city of Durango, Colo., bought electricity for all its government buildings from wind farms. The City Council ended that program this year, reverting to electricity derived from coal-burning plants and saving the cash-strapped city about $45,000.

"It's very hard for us to lay off an employee to justify green power," City Manager Ron LeBlanc said. "Those are the tradeoffs you have to face."

As long as wind and solar electricity cost more than conventional (coal, nuclear) electricity they are going to be a job killers. Now imagine what a plan to reduce fossil fuel use by 80% by 2050 is going to do if they are not replaced by low cost alternatives.

Plus, it seems wind is having reliability problems. Not just the intermittency of wind. The gear boxes connecting the turbine blades to the generators are falling apart.

Engineers at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory want to know why some gearboxes and other key wind turbine components wear out too soon. Wind turbines are expected to operate for 20 years. Early equipment fatigue threatens to reduce performance and drive up wind power costs. "The end users and the owner-operators say we're only getting five years, or in some cases, three years out of these gearboxes," said NREL principal engineer Sandy Butterfield, who is leading the Gearbox Reliability Collaborative. Initially, the gearboxes are being tested at NREL's National Wind Technology Center before testing at a Colorado wind farm under real conditions.
Well that is going to raise the cost of wind power. A lot.

In good economic times the extra cost of wind electrical generation made some sense in order to develop wind to see how it worked in practice. Given the hard times we are having it makes sense to phase out the subsidy for wind so that wind turbines are installed only where they make economic sense. The same goes for solar and all the alternative energy subsidies. They are a job killers.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:20 AM | Comments (2)

Black Ink

Politicians use words the same way squids use ink. To cover their tracks.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:16 AM | Comments (0)

Keep Bush alive!

I'm trying to avoid the appearance of gloating over this report:

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama warned Democrats in Congress against making a partisan cause out of the Bush administration's harsh interrogation tactics.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ignoring him -- loudly -- and the party, from the president on down, may pay the price.

Were Nancy Pelosi a man, I'd call her a horse's ass. But because she's a woman, I don't know what to call her. (Oh the irony!)

The thing is, it's not as if Barack Obama is innocent of what he warns the Democrats against. It was part of his campaign, for God's sake.

Even now, these people act as if they're still running against "Bush torture." It's as if they think they made Bush "lose" even though he wasn't running, and they're desperate to keep his political corpse alive. Do they think they can maintain the evil Bush in a state of animated political zombiedom forever?

On the other hand, perhaps the Democrats need to be able to claim that Bush is such a truly malignant Svengali that he still rules from beyond the grave. That way, Obama can be better spun as a hapless Bush victim, powerless not to follow the former president's sinister lead. What else could explain (from a Democratic standpoint) this enormous flip-flop?

President Barack Obama was today accused of a major U-turn after he decided to keep the controversial military commissions set up by George Bush to prosecute terror suspects.

The surprise White House announcement reversed Mr Obama's campaign pledge to rely on America's conventional criminal court system.

It was the president's second U-turn this week after he changed his mind and pledged to try and block the court-ordered release of damning photographs showing US soldiers abusing prisoners.

Last night's move led to an outcry from shocked human rights campaigners who thought Mr Obama intended to dismantle the terror tribunals after calling them 'an enormous failure' during last year's presidential campaign.

Well, now that Pelosi is saying that regardless of whatever she knew and whenever she knew it, it was all Bush's fault, I think Obama can safely say it's all Pelosi's fault and that Pelosi, um, what's the expression? "set me up!"

(After all, he wasn't yet elected to the Senate when she fell prey to the evil Bush, was he?)

Either way, they still need Bush.

posted by Eric at 07:47 PM | Comments (1)

Putting principles first?

In a remarkable piece titled "The Alinsky Administration," Jim Geraghty demonstrates how the Obama administration is following the Alinsky model -- with detailed line and verse examples. It's a must read, and the bottom line is that this is not about ideology, but power:

...an Alinskyite's core principle is to take any action that expands his power and to avoid any action that risks his power.

As conservatives size up their new foe, they ought to remember: It's not about liberalism. It's about power. Obama will jettison anything that costs him power, and do anything that enhances it -- including invite Rick Warren to give the benediction at his inauguration, dine with conservative columnists, and dismiss an appointee at the White House Military Office to ensure the perception of accountability.

In a conclusion that might be unsettling to those who place principles first, Geraghty maintains that it's all about power:
...evidence suggests that rising in that party's political hierarchy requires some adoption of a variation of the Alinsky philosophy: Power comes first. Few Democrats are expressing outrage over Nancy Pelosi's ever-shifting explanation of what she knew about waterboarding. Those who screamed bloody murder about Jack Abramoff's crimes avert their eyes from John Murtha. The anti-war movement that opposed the surge in Iraq remains silent about sending additional troops to Afghanistan. Obama will never get as much grief for his gay-marriage views as Miss California.

It's not about the policies or the politics, and it's certainly not about the principles. It's about power, and it has been for a long time.

What's fascinating about this is that while the Alinsky crowd busily consolidates their power, their political opponents busily debate their principles.

But will the voters ultimately perceive that the choice is between those who care more about power than principle, and those who care more about principle than power?

How much would that matter to most ordinary voters?

Bear in mind that from the voters' standpoint, both sides always say they care more about principle than power, and they always say that the other side has no principles. I think voters tend to be more cynical than is customarily believed, and certainly they're smart enough to realize that to most politicians, "principles" are all about talk. Something the chattering classes and political junkies might debate, but nothing for which any rational politician would risk losing his seat. Besides, how are ordinary people supposed to evaluate the legitimacy of rival politicians' claims to having "principles"? I think it's more likely that in the end, voters will do what the politicians do, and conclude that it's all about power.

If this is the case, they may decide that the Alinsky Adminstration has too much.

Barack Obama remains personally popular. But the Democratic Congress is not. Collectively, Obama and the Congress have way too much power right now, and its sting is only beginning to be felt.

Stephen Green warns of what's coming:

A massive underground economy. An ever-more massive federal government. Major manufacturing and financial industries in the hands of the president and his cronies. Unprecedented debts we'll have to either repudiate or inflate away. A business climate based on fear and favor.

In other words, welcome to the Banana States of America.

Hmmm.... Sounds like Alinsky on Hugo Chavez steroids.

And while Barack Obama might be popular, the voters may see the wisdom of counterbalancing too much power in his hands, regardless of debates over principles.

There's still an opposition party, right? Maybe they'll realize that in the next couple of years a lot of voters might just want to vote for them -- whether because of their principles or in spite of them.

UPDATE: My thanks to Sean Kinsell for the link, and the kind words. Plus, Sean has some advice for the right:

...it's not just liberals who openly romanticize government who vote for meddlesome nanny-state policies and distortionary entitlements. There are as many on the right as on the left who could stand to bear in mind the old libertarian saw that it's dangerous to increase the powers of the state under the assumption that your friends are always going to be those enforcing them.

posted by Eric at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

the road to hell needs repaving

Now that Glenn Reynolds has favorably linked Andrew Sullivan's discussion of Barack Obama's betrayal of gay rights, I'm hoping that Andrew will reciprocate (and without one of the snotty asides he usually directs towards Glenn).

I notice that Andrew was surprisingly kind to Carrie Prejean not long ago, even linking Kathryn Jean Lopez's column. Perhaps it is beginning to sink in that if it constitutes "bigotry" to take the same position on gay marriage as Barack Obama, then we have a bigoted president -- and it is outrageously unfair to make a conservative beauty contestant into his whipping boy.

While I realize that Andrew Sullivan is unbudgeable on the gay marriage issue and that I can never change his mind, it does seem worth pointing out again that just as not all opponents of gay marriage are bigots, neither are all of its proponents a bunch of homo-lovin' libruls.

Glenn also noticed that the commenters at Politico "showed limited sympathy for Andrew's plight." In light of some of the more recent comments, that might be understatement, as many excoriate Andrew in viciously personal terms, and make no bones about their disgust with his (and all) homosexuality.

But the commenter who really got my attention was "nonny," who is so fed up with homos that he wants gay marriage legalized -- in order to punish them.

I'm straight and I want Gay Marriage legalized. I want gay couples to be publicly registered with the government. Just like the rest of us. For too long gays have been able to bounce from partner to partner, with none of the special trapped in misery feelings that so many hetro married couples have. I want Gays want to fully experience divorce court with all the life wrecking hell it has to offer. I want gays to think "Wow, your 18 year old son is really hot, but he's not worth my house and half of my remaining life's income." Gays just about never kill their ex-lovers. It's just too easy to dump and move on. I want to change that too. I want gays to share that special feeling of looking across the breakfast table in the morning and knowing that they're trapped for the rest of their lives... Or at least, the rest of their spouse's life... If we're lucky, gays will soon be able to adopt. Then you'll get to share custody battles and child support for other people's kids. You precious darlings have wanted equal treatment for a long time. Looks like you're finally getting it. Welcome to hell. *****es.
I've been making some of the same points for years, but as arguments against gay marriage. Except, I thought I was just trying to help gays avoid the straight peoples' hell, and now this straight guy comes along and paves all over my good intentions.

Just goes to show you....

posted by Eric at 04:15 PM | Comments (6)

Zogby: Americans Want Pot Legalized

That is right. According to a Zogby Poll half of all Americans want pot legalized.

A majority of Americans, in a poll released Wednesday, say it "makes sense to tax and regulate" marijuana. The Zogby poll, commissioned by the conservative-leaning O'Leary Report, surveyed 3,937 voters and found 52 percent in favor of legalization. Only 37 percent opposed.

A previous ABC News/Washington Post poll found 46 percent in support. In California, a Field Poll found 56 percent backing legalization.

Responding to the poll at a press conference Tuesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for an open debate on legalization.

It is only a matter of time until national politicians take notice. They can smell the money. And nothing gets politicians as excited as the smell of money. You got it. They want it. All the traffic will bear plus 10%. In that respect they are worse than dope dealers who don't make a sale unless you are willing to buy. But politicians have one important advantage. They make their "sales" at gun point. Very convenient.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:01 PM | Comments (3)

Teleportation Progress

You heard that right. And it is not tinfoil hat stuff. It is from reputable scientists.

It makes intuitive sense that if superconductors can carry currents with zero resistance, then superconducting light emitting diodes might do their stuff with equally amazing efficiency.

But superconducting LEDs are not only bright, they are brighter than anyone can explain, even after taking superconductivity into account. Now a team of Japanese theorists seems to have figured out the puzzle.

What does this have to do with teleportation?
This is exciting not just because superconducting LEDs will be bright but because Cooper pairs can also produce entangled pairs of photons. That raises the prospect of intense sources of entangled pairs, the likes of which physicists have not yet seen. And that could be hugely useful for everything from quantum communication to quantum teleportation.
That is still a long long ways from a Star Trek Transporter Room. But it is definitely a step in that direction.

For those of you interested in some of the more technical details and a nice graphic RTWT.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

My "unmistakable implications" exposed!

Commenter Robert (to a post about parenting) supplied a link to a truly amazing piece titled "Gun Control Is a Reproductive Justice Issue."

Among other things, the author claims that gun control opponents are racists:

In casting the gun issue as a matter of individual rights and responsibilities, the gun lobby only fuels the criminalization and scapegoating of impoverished people of color, especially young men. Framing the issue this way has an unmistakable implication: better-off white people must know how to handle their guns responsibly, and low-income people of color must not--why else would there be so many more gun crimes and deaths in *those* neighborhoods? *Those* people got what was coming to them, didn't they?
That "unmistakable implication," of course, is entirely in the mind of the author, who has read race into arguments that have nothing to do with race. As a matter of fact, in the last story about home-invasion self defense that I discussed, the victims of the invasion (including the heroic man who defended them with a gun) appear to have been black.

At the time, I didn't think the race of the victims was worth even mentioning (much less discussing), but now that I see "individual rights and responsibilities" being interpreted as fueling "the criminalization and scapegoating of impoverished people of color," I thought I should speak up in defense of the victims, lest they be seen as white racist vigilantes because of "unmistakable implications" on my part.

Honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

posted by Eric at 11:55 AM | Comments (4)

If there's one thing worse than genuine crackpots, it's fraudulent crackpots!

Sometimes I wonder whether things are getting a bit loopy on the libertarian side of the fence. (Either that or some clever agents provocateur are making it look that way.)

Earlier today I received an invitation -- from a libertarian Facebook friend I will not name -- to join a group named "The New World Order Resistance Movement."

I went to the site, and learned to my horror that it consists of little more than raving anti-Semitic claims.

For too long have our nations been controlled by these International Bankers who have no love but for Money and Power. Too long have we given them the ability to control our money supply enabling them to steal our hard-earned wealth through inflation, deflation and debt. Too much of our blood has been spilled on the battlefield in conflicts they have orchestrated for the sole benefit of a select few.

1) Many people do not know or understand why the Political & Banker Zionists were funding Hitler. Hitler received his initial funding from Zionist banker: Paul Warburg, in 1929. Listen to Warburg talk about The New World Order:

"We will have a world government whether you like it or not. The only question is whether that government will be achieved by conquest or consent."
(February 17, 1950, as he testified before the US Senate).

2) People can't get why Hitler allowed Jews to leave to Israel but nowhere else.

3) People can't get why at the highest levels you will see Zionists right beside top Nazi's at the BILDERBERG GROUP.

You get the picture. They list as office locations the "CANADIAN ACTION PARTY" and "DR.RON PAUL," and there are also 9/11 Truther links.

Of course, it is possible that someone is gaming Facebook to make it appear that this invitation was from my Facebook friend.

According to the headers the email came from Facebook, but I'll update this post if I learn it did not originate with my Facebook friend. The group certainly appears to exist, however, and if they're resorting to fraud I would hope they'd be shut down ASAP.

posted by Eric at 10:32 AM | Comments (1)

Who needs parents?

Last night I did something I hardly ever do and flipped innocently through the TV channels. An annoying story caught my attention -- involving some local high school kids who were caught horsing around with disposable cameras they'd modified into low-powered stun guns, and who now face felony charges

Some of the comments I heard on the TV report struck me as classics in cluelessness, so I checked them out online this morning:

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. -- Two Macomb County teens may face felony charges after one teen built a homemade stun gun and the other brought it to school.

Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said a 13-year-old boy found instructions on how to make a stun gun out of a disposable camera and some hardwires off the Internet.

The boy gave the gun to his 18-year-old friend who brought it to Dakota High School and showed his friends.

"He didn't think it was much more than a gag, but what he didn't realize is he could be charged with a felony," said Hackel.

Investigators said the school called the Sheriff's Department after they learned the student was using the homemade stun gun to shock students.

Nobody was seriously injured.

Apparently they were amusing each other, with the students consenting to the shocking. When I was a boy, boys who did things like that got hauled to the principal's office, and later had to reckon with the wrath of an angry father. That was the public reaction by adult authorities; their private reaction would have been to roll their eyes and say "Boys will be boys!"

Nowadays, things like this have become a huge police matter involving felony charges.

And instead of facing the job of disciplining their unruly brats, parents are blaming the Internet:

Macomb County parent Larry Beard is disappointed that students can find such dangerous recipes online.

"What are they going to come up with next," said Beard. "You are fighting tooth and nail against this thing but it's a lot bigger than any of us."

The school district said it is deciding whether or not the students will be suspended.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's department has turned the case over to the prosecutor's office, which will decide if the student's will face felony charges.

What are they going to come up with next?

There is nothing new about this. In fact, I post about it five years ago, and offered a flippantly sarcastic conclusion:

We definitely need mandatory background checks plus a fifteen day waiting period.

And sales to minors should be strictly prohibited! I "shutter" at the thought!

How any of this is "a lot bigger than any of us," I'm not sure. But in another version of the story, the finger is pointed at YouTube:
The makeshift stun gun was found Monday at Dakota High School in Macomb Township, where an 18-year-old student zapped willing friends as a joke. Word got to school administrators, who confronted the student and confiscated the device.

Macomb County deputies tracked the device back to a 13-year-old who learned how to make it on YouTube.com.

Hackel said neither student meant to cause real harm.

"They thought it was a prank," he said. "We want to warn kids that this isn't funny and warn parents that they need to keep a watch on what their kids are doing on the Internet."

What they're doing on the Internet is watching these videos (as I did five years ago).

But buying a disposable camera, modifying it, taking it to school, and horsing around with it? These are independent actions, and "the Internet" is no more to blame than would a book showing how to make Molotov cocktails be to blame if the kids found bottles, filled them with gasoline, stuffed them with wicks, lit the wicks and then threw them at cars.

Both teens could face felony and misdemeanor charges first for having an electronic weapon, then for bringing it near school property, the sheriff said.

One of the students has also been suspended, but Hackel wouldn't identify the school.

"To me, this is not a school issue," he said. "How do you prevent a kid from bringing a camera to school? This is a parenting issue."

Yes, it is a parenting issue, but who is the parent? The biological parents of an individual child, or the state?

A lot of people talk about a lack of accountability, as I did yesterday in the context of parents who sit around and let their children eat lead. The less accountable people become, the more the heavy hand of the state gets involved and takes on accountability which was once that of parents, in the process taking away freedom from everyone. Lack of accountability grows, and fuels the process.

Is individual accountability being destroyed by the state? Or is the state stepping in and intervening because of a lack of individual accountability? Or both? I don't know, but there seems to be a direct relationship between the lack of parental accountability and the state becoming the parent, not just of children, but of adults. Adults who don't want to parented by the state are finding that there's no way to opt out.

I suppose disposable cameras can be banned, along with 1/8" pipe, which as this video shows, can be used to make .22 caliber zip guns:

And now that I think about it, wire can be used to garrote people; piano wire, and guitar strings, or just plain old hardware store wire. That innocent-looking guitar string in your kid's pocket could very well be a deadly weapon!

The things people do all because of the Internet!

Where are their parents?

posted by Eric at 11:38 AM | Comments (4)

We Will Know In Two Years

Rick Nebel, the head of EMC2 Fusion (Polywell), has a few words to say in the comments at Next Big Future about the progress he is making in understanding The Polywell Fusion Reactor and its chances for power production.

I believe we will know the answer for the Polywell in ~ 1.5-2 years. I haven't looked at MSimons design, but I know he has a lot of good ideas. We'll probably take a closer look at D-D reactors over the next 2 years.
I'm honored Rick thinks that I have made some useful contributions to the advance of this technology.

What most excites me is that we will probably know in two years or less if this technology is viable. That is very exciting.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

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

If you want to learn more about the basics of fusion (Polywell is a little more complicated) may I suggest:

Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering.

H/T Roger Fox via e-mail. You might want to have a look at Roger's video IEC Fusion for Dummies v5.7

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)

Sex Tools

Eric at Classical Values says that what people want to read is weird and sensational stuff. A little humor never hurt either. My take is that if it includes sex and home improvement it ought to work even better. Popular Science meets the National Enquirer.

So today I'm doing a short (very short) review of Make Your Own Sex Toys: 50 Quick and Easy Do-It-Yourself Projects.

Here is what one buyer had to say about the book:

This book is hilarious to read as a couple. I bought it for hubby's anniversary gift. We laughed so much about the ideas that we never got around to trying any of them. Maybe some day when we are bored (which may never happen ;-) ).
Another buyer had this to say:
My husband and I have had many fun nights with this book. Every couple should try this fun book.
And of course if you don't want to do it yourself you can always just buy Sex Toys.

Well what are you waiting for? Get busy.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)

Repudiating the impure Anti-Jihadists

Sean Kinsell looks at a couple of pieces by Bruce Bawer on the repudiation of Pim Fortuyn by certain members of the European right wing. Warns Sean,

Some of these people probably had contempt for Fortuyn all along but were willing not to repudiate him as long as he was one of the few high-profile advocates of classical liberalism. It doesn't take a major leap to see their becoming fans of the Vlaams Belang (which from everything I've ever heard is seriously wacko), either.

What's more worrisome is the number of sensible, rank-and-file Western European citizens who may be figuring that the emerging alternatives to the left establishment are the only useful corrective and pushback available at this point, and that the unpalatable fascist undercurrents can be dealt with later. It seems a dangerous game to play in light of history.

Interestingly, Bawer (whose piece is also posted at Little Green Footballs) has a lot to say about the growing rift among Anti-Jihadists. According to Bawer (and Johnson) things have reached the point where some Anti-Jihadists will not consider you a "real" Anti-Jihadist unless you support the far right Vlaams Belang. And if you're a "libertine" like Fortuyn, you're too impure to be a real Anti-Jihadist.

To tell the truth, much as I loathe Jihadists and consider them the enemy, I never thought much about Anti-Jihadist purity.

I assumed only the Jihadists were into that sort of stuff.

posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (8)

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

The singing in the video is one of the best versions I could find on YouTube. I did like the dancing in this version better though.

The version in the above video is very good. It doesn't hold a candle to the version of Brush Up Your Shakespeare that was done by a traveling company about 15 years ago at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, Illinois. My daughter, who was three years old at the time, loved watching the play so much that she tried her best to sing along. Much to the chagrin of the other customers.

Since then she has spent a lot of time on stage at the Coronado as a member of the Rockford Dance Company. Her last performance was in The Sleeping Beauty.

If you want to brush up YOUR Shakespeare may I suggest The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works 2nd Edition.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

Dangerous books

The other day Glenn Reynolds linked a Reason piece about new federal rules for anyone running a yard or garage sales:

Selling old kids books, anything with metal, paint, or plastic that a kid might use, old clothes or shoes with metal components that a kid might wear? You know, any of the stuff people routinely sell at yard sales? Technically, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of fines.
While that was horrifying enough to read, the link to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's list makes it clear that the regulatory sweep is even broader:
CPSC's laws and regulations apply to anyone who sells or distributes consumer products. This includes thrift stores, consignment stores, charities, and individuals holding yard sales and flea markets.
So I'm not off the hook just because I don't hold yard sales. Presumably this would cover anything I might sell on Ebay or CraigsList.

And here in Ann Arbor (and also in Berkeley), it is customary for people to often put old stuff they don't want out in the strip between the sidewalk and the street -- the unwritten rule being that anything put there is free to take. Would that be, um, distribution?

It's all too easy for most people to dismiss these rules as not applying to them; a friend who buys and sells used stuff for a living seemed to think it was only directed at childrens' toys, clothes, and bedding.

What really got my attention was to read that the rules apply to books!

That's right. Some busybody bureaucrats apparently discovered that the ink which was used to print books before 1985 is bad for children to eat! Therefore, "you can be slapped with a $100,000 fine for selling your kids' old books at a yard sale."

According to a recent WaPo article, the banned books include such classics as "Little House on the Prairie.":

Rachel Merrill, mother of three, was holding innocuous-seeming contraband in her hand at an Arlington Goodwill store earlier this month: a 1971 edition of "Little House on the Prairie." This copy of the children's classic had just become illegal to resell because of concerns that some old books contain lead in their ink.
Needless to say, the "implementation" phase has librarians and bookstores rattled:
Implementation of the new law has libraries and secondhand bookstores reeling. Although they could pay to have each old book tested, the cost ($300 to $600 a book, according to the American Library Association) makes that impractical.

The [Consumer Product Safety Commission] has advised libraries not to circulate old books while the agency reviews the situation....

"We're talking about tens of millions of books," said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Washington office of the American Library Association...

More here.

"Consumer," you say? I think the idea that we all must be regulated to prevent moronic parents from allowing their children to eat books is a grotesque perversion of the word "consumer."

Never mind that there is not one documented case of a child ever having developed lead poisoning from a book.

The books must be destroyed!

BTW, I can't help noticing that Little House on the Prairie is a libertarian classic.

What is to become of our dangerous old, lead-filled books? Who gets to decide which classics will be considered legal, and which have to be burned?

(I guess they don't call them "safety Nazis" for nothing.)

posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (5)

her greatness is grating...
"It's great to have a private jet."
So says Oprah Winfrey (to a group of young and impressionable people).

Yes, I'm sure it is just great to have a private jet. (And armed bodyguards too! How great is that?)

What I think would be even greater would be if Oprah would just stop lecturing the rest of us about global warming, while being surrounded everywhere she goes by men with guns.


It grates.

posted by Eric at 08:27 AM | Comments (4)

"Imagine giving birth through a penis"

Forgive the title, folks. But inspired by a link, I decided to yellowize the blog up a bit.

And why not? As things are, I'm so burned out on human politics that a slight change of pace (to hyena politics) seems very much in order.

Whether you're into traditional values or tend towards more radical feminist gender-bending stuff, and whether you see things from a human-speciesist or from an anthropomorphic perspective, the hyena lifestyle is interesting and challenging. Alpha females run the show:

Unlike most mammalian societies, female spotted hyenas run the show and are significantly more muscular and aggressive than males. After studying hyenas in Kenya for nearly two decades, researchers discovered that in the final stages of pregnancy, high-ranking females provide their developing offspring with higher levels of androgen--a male sex hormone associated with aggression--than lower-ranking mothers provide to their developing young.

This is the first study to show that a mother's social status, and not just her genetic makeup, can directly affect her offspring's observable physical characteristics.

Wow. That sounds almost neo-Lamarckian! What I'd really like to know is whether the female would stop providing the higher androgen levels if she lost social standing.

After all, it's a hyena-eat-hyena world out there.

Aggressiveness is a good attribute for a creature living in a society where 40 to 60 individuals scrap over food, and especially for females requiring extra energy for developing offspring.

By infusing her developing young with androgen, the mother increases the likelihood that her genetic information will survive.

There's a paradox, though. By becoming more masculine, the females gain a certain genetic advantage, but that androgynous glass ceiling carries a heavy price in that she's less likely to conceive. The alpha female clitoris becomes more and more penis-like, which makes things tougher for male hyenas!
....providing the extra hormones takes a toll on the mother. The dose of androgen that she received from her own alpha mother damages her ovaries, making it difficult to conceive.

It also causes female reproductive organs to grow. A lot. Her clitoris, which contains the birthing canal, protrudes 7 inches from her body.

"Imagine giving birth through a penis," said study co-author Kay Holekamp of Michigan State University. "It's really weird genitalia, but it seems to work. Although giving birth through a 'penis' isn't a trivial problem."

The clitoris' birth canal is only an inch in diameter, and the tissue often tears as a 2-pound cub squeezes through the narrow opening. The rip can be fatal, as evidenced by the high death rate for first-time mothers.

Practice makes perfect

Because of the female's awkward genitalia, successful mating for hyenas is tricky to pull off. It takes careful positioning for the male to crouch behind her and somehow get his penis to point up and backwards to enter her clitoris.

"Males need practice. After a couple of months of practicing, they get it lined up just right," Holekamp told LiveScience.

I think that's very chivalrous of the males.

(Lesser animals would resort to female circumcision, you know....)

posted by Eric at 01:47 PM | Comments (8)

Someone Turned The Heat Off
Ocean Heat

As you can see from the above graph the heat stored in the ocean does not match global warming predictions. Normally this would mean the death of a theory or at minimum some serious adjustments of it. But you know what we are dealing with is not real science. It is climate change science.

Albert Einstein once said, "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong." Einstein's words express a foundational principle of science intoned by the logician, Karl Popper: Falsifiability. In order to verify a hypothesis there must be a test by which it can be proved false. A thousand observations may appear to verify a hypothesis, but one critical failure could result in its demise. The history of science is littered with such examples.

A hypothesis that cannot be falsified by empirical observations, is not science. The current hypothesis on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), presented by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is no exception to this principle.

That would be true if we were dealing with real science. When what you are dealing with is politics disguised as science no amount of falsification short of economic/political collapse is sufficient.

We are rather fortunate (in a very unfortunate way) that the recent economic collapse has slowed the carbon tax schemes. Jim Hansen (yeah THAT Jim Hansen) explains how Washington works in the context of the current Cap and Trade Bill.

Why is this cap-and-trade temple of doom worshipped? The 648 page cap-and-trade monstrosity that is being foisted on the U.S. Congress provides the answer. Not a single Congressperson has read it. They don't need to - they just need to add more paragraphs to support their own special interests. By the way, the Congress people do not write most of those paragraphs - they are "suggested" by people in alligator shoes.
So true. What he fails to add is that Congress works this way on every single project it tackles.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

Gas and guns for me, but not for thee!

Michael Barone looks at why public support for gun control and global warming hysteria have diminished over time. The preaching and scolding have had a cumulative effect, aggravated by hypocrisy:

...For liberal elites, belief in gun control and global warming has taken on the character of religious faith. We have sinned (by hoarding guns or driving sport utility vehicles), we must atone (by turning in our guns or recycling), we must repent (by supporting gun control or cap-and-trade schemes). You may notice that the "we" in question is usually the great mass of ordinary American citizens.

The liberal elite is less interested in giving up its luxuries (Al Gore purchases carbon offsets to compensate for his huge mansion and private jet travel) than in changing the lifestyles of the masses who selfishly insist on living in suburbs and keeping guns for recreation or protection. Ordinary Americans are seen not as responsible fellow citizens building stable communities but as greedy masses who must be disciplined to live according to the elite's religious dogmas.

Naturally, in addition to the mansions and jet travel, many of ruling class gun grabbers own guns or have armed bodyguards.
It should not be completely surprising that, over time, these views have become less congenial to the masses who are the object of such condescension....
It's a familiar pattern.

They're hurting their own causes so much that I hope they keep it up.

posted by Eric at 12:22 PM | Comments (1)

perfect timing for hilarious death by kidney failure

I can't help thinking that the timing of this this "death to Limbaugh" meme is awfully suspicious. For the past week, a sizeable portion of the conservative and libertarian blogosphere have been debating whether or not to adopt leftie-style meanness and dirty fighting as a tactic, and with the debate still ongoing, what does the president do? He laughs supportively while listening to a death wish issued against one of the country's most prominent conservative voices.

Might the intent might be to deliberately provoke the notorious "angry white men" into overreacting? (I haven't looked to see whether or not someone is selling "I HOPE HE DIES OF KIDNEY FAILURE" T-shirts and bumper stickers, but people are easily stirred up, and it doesn't take much to get investigated by the Secret Service.)

Don't expect the kidney failure remarks to be called "eliminationist rhetoric," though.

If a death wish is directed against a conservative, it's merely funny.

After all, the president thinks so.

posted by Eric at 08:48 AM | Comments (3)

How? Don't ask why.

I tell you we must die.

I'm just kidding. Death is optional. Sanity is optional. Hell, everything is optional. Tha'ts the real secret. Coincidentally, it's happy hour. Always is. Somewhere.


You know what is incredibly unenjoyable? A radio friendly version of a rap album. Give me parental warnings for [G]od's sake! How else am I to know a piece of plastic is capable of creating vibrations in the air inappropriate for adults? Children don't know what is or is not suitable for adults. They haven't been around the block... so to speak... and need guidance... with regard to... you know... parentals.

Show me... the way... to the next...

That is all.

[Sigh of Relief. Exit, Camera Left. Muted applause]

FYI, the Scions of Entropy were Founded by Me.

posted by Cosmic Drunk at 06:53 AM | Comments (1)

elevating the discourse of hope

I realize that the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner is supposed to be a sort of no-holds-barred roast, but isn't there a tradition that the insults are at least supposed to be funny?

I admit, my sense of humor has not been up to snuff lately, but still, I'm having trouble seeing the humor in this. While the subject of the roast at these things is supposed to be the president , "comedian" Wanda Sykes went after Rush Limbaugh with a vituperative venom that hardly seemed like comedy:

Rush Limbaugh, one of your big critics, boy, Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails. So, you're saying "I hope America fails," it's like, I don't care about people losing their homes, or their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq. He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason. He's not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You know, you might want to look into this, Sir, because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on oxycontin he missed his flight.

Rush Limbaugh, I hope the country fails, I hope his kidneys fail, how 'bout that? Needs a little waterboarding, that's what he needs.

(Transcript found at Newsbusters.)

Now, I don't believe in censorship, but can anyone even begin to imagine the outcry had a right-of-center comedian directed a similar comment at Barack Obama? We'd never hear the end of it.

But in this case, I'm sure we'll all be told things like "Relax! This is just comedy!"

After all, the president laughed. That means we have a president who believes it's perfectly OK -- and even funny -- to publicly wish your enemies dead.

Hey, wait a second! Didn't Obama promise to "elevate the political discourse" when he was running?

Can someone please explain to me how hoping for someone's kidney failure (or laughing about it) elevates the political discourse?

MORE: British journalist Toby Harnden asks,

what was President Barack Obama thinking when he laughed and smiled as the comedienne wished Rush Limbaugh dead?
Um, maybe that he liked the idea? I can't think of any other explanation.

posted by Eric at 05:14 PM | Comments (5)

Virginity Balls

I was reading the reviews at Amazon and came across one about the book The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS by Elizabeth Pisani that I found rather interesting.

Pisani has no patience for distraction, a major one being that AIDS is a gender / development / poverty issue. Pisani shows that this liberal idea, favored by a lot of NGOs and UN agencies and other donors is a distraction. First, it's a distraction because first, you may have the causality wrong (AIDS causes development / gender issues rather than the other way around), second, as shown in the book, even in Africa, that's not always the case, and third, because, again, that gets in the way of common sense prevention which should be the main focus, along with treatment for the already infected population. But again, focusing on women and children makes the AIDS issue more palatable to donors than those filthy whores, junkies and fags, so, Pisani and her colleagues at the AIDS Mafia, as she calls them, played that game too. After all, once you have the money, you can still get stuff done.

And, of course, I particularly enjoyed the chapter blasting the Bush administration and its faith-based initiatives and PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Although she does credit the Bush administration for putting money on the table, Pisani makes mince meat of the Bush and his religious nuts crowd for their hypocrisy and nonsensical attitude. She deals swiftly with Virginity Pledges and the creepy Virginity Balls and the whole family values crowd.

The term Virginity Ball is a new one to me and I was imagining some kind of modern day chastity belt. But that is not at all what Virginity Balls are about. So let us take a look at the wiki and see if we can learn something.
A purity ball (also known as a father-daughter purity ball or purity wedding) is a formal event attended by fathers and their daughters. Purity balls promote virginity until marriage for teenage girls, and are often closely associated with U.S. Christian churches, particularly fundamentalist churches. Typically, daughters who attend make a virginity pledge; a pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. Fathers who attend pledge to protect what they view as their young daughters' "purity" of mind, body and soul. Proponents promote a strong father-daughter relationship as a means to affirm what they consider to constitute spiritual and physical "purity".
Well that is a little strange. Unless you know that the tree of knowledge that the serpent enticed Adam and Eve to eat from was not an apple tree. It was a fig tree. And what is that symbolism about? The fig looks like the genitalia of some females. Funny thing is that Eve ate the fig first. Kinky girl. Or as the cruder males among us might say. "Lesbians. Wooo Hooo!" But you know that Adam had to be one popular guy. He ate figs.

The meaning is reinforced by two of the Ten Commandments. Commandment Seven says, "Do not commit adultery." And that is further reinforced by Commandment Ten, "Do not covet your neighbor's wife."

So what is the meaning of all this? I think the Biblical context is that carnal knowledge can lead to social and ultimately physical disaster for nomadic tribes living on the margin. One social mistake - arousal of jealousy for instance - can destroy tribal unity and lead to starvation and/or murder. And in those days the rape of a daughter or even consensual - but unapproved sex - can destroy the tribal harmony necessary for survival. Daughters were property (even more so than male children) and needed to be protected to maintain their value. In cases of rape a traumatized daughter is going to be a large burden on the tribe and not an asset. Which is why cultures that are not far from the tribal state still do things like honor killings of raped females. The woman is officially made as guilty as the rapists because there was not enough wealth to deal with even potential problems. Harsh law. To go along with the harsh necessities of survival on the margins.

The thing is. We no longer (most of us any way) live on the margins. We can carry a lot of dead weight without catastrophic harm to our economics (just look at our government for proof of that. Although the new guy looks to be doing his best to introduce catastrophe). So the rules were changed (slowly). Murder for adultery was no longer necessary for tribal and intertribal harmony. Cities had different advantageous rule sets than those required for nomadic tribes. The first harbinger of that cultural change came some 2000 years ago. It seems nuts to go back to the old ways where the tribe was more important than the individual.

So the Purity Balls seem to be a throwback. However, you also have to consider genetics. Culture can change rather rapidly (a few hundred years even in times of slow communications) while genetics takes longer. And the rule of genetics is that humans are "designed" to get their genes reproduced. And having strange men impregnate your wife is not conducive to that. We see the remnants of that in our laws which consider catching a guy with your wife grounds for leniency in murder cases. Our genes are the product of many millenia of killing rapists and adulterers. And until our genes change enough there will be pockets of culture that are throwbacks to distant ages.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:05 PM | Comments (10)

States Rights

This will have a lot of ramifications if Wickard vs. Filburn is overturned. Justice Thomas in his dissent in Raich took the stance that Wickard was wrongly decided. So there is one Justice on board. The States only need four more.

Here is my favorite part of Thomas' Raich dissent.

Monson and Raich neither buy nor sell the marijuana that they consume. They cultivate their cannabis entirely in the State of California-it never crosses state lines, much less as part of a commercial transaction. Certainly no evidence from the founding suggests that "commerce" included the mere possession of a good or some purely personal activity that did not involve trade or exchange for value. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.
This current dust up is about the law recently passed in Montana.
The state of Montana has signed into power a revolutionary gun law. The State of Montana has defied the federal government and their gun laws. This will prompt a showdown between the federal government and the State of Montana. The federal government fears citizens owning guns. They try to curtail what types of guns they can own. The gun control laws all have one common goal, confiscation of privately owned firearms.

Montana has gone beyond drawing a line in the sand. They have challenged the Federal Government. The fed now either takes them on and risks them saying the federal agents have no right to violate their state gun laws and arrest the federal agents that try to enforce the federal firearms acts. This will be a world-class event to watch. Montana could go to voting for secession from the union, which is really throwing the gauntlet in Obama's face. If the federal government does nothing they lose face.

We certainly do live in interesting times.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

Happy Mothers Day

On Mothers Day, I remember and miss my mother. That's all I can do, for she died nearly ten years ago.

So, my simple advice to those with moms who are living is to celebrate Mothers Day.

Go do something nice for her!

posted by Eric at 10:12 AM | Comments (3)

Be all that you hate?

In yesterday's post (in which I maintained that "conservatism can be effectively communicated in a Moveon-esque, 20-second sound clip"), I cited the example of Ronald Reagan's "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem."

I forgot about a complicating factor, and that is the recent GOP movement (criticized here by Rush Limbaugh) to "get beyond" Reagan.

I think this may be grounded in the recognition that Republicans are seen as having had control of the government for so long that the cry of "Government is the problem!" sounds a bit disingenuous.

In fairness, there is a seeming contradiction in having an anti-government stance while simultaneously seeking to run the government you're against. It's as if you're saying, "Government is the problem, so let me be the problem," and after eight years in power, the Republicans arguably became the very problem that they appear to be philosophically against.

Little wonder there is a movement to get beyond Reagan.

The tragedy is that the anti-government message is more resonant now than ever. Just months into Obama's first term, the Tea Party movement (which I'm sure Reagan would have supported) has appeared out of nowhere. There are huge numbers of people who think government is the problem, and their numbers are certain to grow. Whether the Republican Party will be able to get past the apparent contradiction of seeking to be what it historically condemns, who knows?

It's a bit like hating cops so much that you want to be one.

Or as in my case, hating activists so much that I'm tempted to become one.


It's tough having to live up to self-canceling standards.

MORE: Fortunately, the "be what you hate" mechanism does not seem to be limited to Republicans.

As DISSENTING JUSTICE shows in graphic detail, "

the Obama administration has embraced many of the same positions that liberals and Obama himself criticized during the Bush administration."
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)


I'm reminded of Bill Clinton's famous "THE ERA OF BIG GOVERNMENT IS OVER!."


Obviously, this means that "the Clinton administration embraced many of the same positions that liberals and Clinton himself criticized during the Reagan administration."

And while I'd hate to think that the Bush administration embraced many of the same positions that conservatives and Bush himself criticized during the Clinton administration, I wouldn't be surprised if political historians could find a few examples.

Does this mean we will soon get beyond hope and change?

posted by Eric at 09:48 AM | Comments (1)

Resentment, Envy, Jealousy, And Self-doubt

As I was reading the comments to some blog posts around the net I came across one that suggested a read of Ludwig Von Mises' book The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality.

So I looked at the reviews and found an interesting one.

This book explains the basis for the American (and Western) fascination with non-capitalism despite an increasing standard of living that has come about precisely because of capitalism. Mises explains how little, if any, of such fascination is grounded in intellectual arguments. After all, it can hardly be admitted that non-capitalist systems offer the same type of prosperity and lifestyle that have been enjoyed by capitalist societies. Nevertheless, animosity towards capitalism abounds and some still look towards non-capitalist ideologies to save us.

But one must ask: Save us from what? An increasing standard of living? Enjoying commodities that had been reserved for the wealthy only a generation before? The mass availability of goods and services? The freedom to choose goods and indirectly control production? In posing such questions, Mises shows how absurd the anti-capitalist mentality is. But he does not leave the reader without an explanation for such sentiments. He shows how this continued fascination with anti-capitalism it rooted in emotionalism - particularly resentment, envy, jealousy, and self-doubt. And how those that despise and disparage entrepreneurs and "the wealthy" are doing so not for valid reasons, but because they feel cheated since they have less and believe they somehow have a right to more absent any effort on their part.

Yet, anti-capitalists never entertain the notion or possibility that effort and sweat may have gone into such achievement and prosperity among entrepreneurs and "the wealthy." Neither do they recognize the importance of such individuals in increasing the standard of living for all people. It is quite amazing how much "punch" this book packs considering it is less than 100 pages in length. I definitely recommend it to those who are dumbfounded by the continued existence of anti-capitalist sentiments within the most prosperous nation on earth. I also recommend the book to anti-capitalists who will either "see the light" (doubtful) or will become even more emotional in their screed against capitalism (emotionalism that can only damage their cause in the long run).

It seems there is a lot of that resentment, envy, jealousy, and self-doubt going around.

The big advantage we have at this time in facing and defeating anti-capitalists is that they have decided that another small slice of the salami is not enough. They want a huge and noticeable slice. There is a very good chance that they want so much that they will choke on it.

And as always, may I suggest a work also along these lines that is over 60 years old and more popular than ever. The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:48 AM | Comments (3)

Hard To Fire - Hard To Hire

It seems there is a mismatch between jobs and workers that is keeping as many as 3 million people unemployed. (it could be a lot less - but still)

Are American employers too picky? Are they rejecting reasonable candidates at the same time they claim to have lots of openings they would like to fill?

That's a key question because the job market is still getting worse even as the overall economy shows signs of reaching bottom. On May 6 the ADP National Employment Report said the private sector shrank payrolls by an estimated 491,000 jobs in April. Economists -- who don't always trust the ADP numbers -- expect the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report on May 8 a decline of about 600,000 jobs in the private and public sectors combined. The median unemployment-rate forecast in the latest Bloomberg survey of economists is 8.9% for April, vs. 8.5% in March.

With the labor market so weak, it's hard to understand why so many jobs are unfilled. As BusinessWeek pointed out in a recent magazine cover story, employers reported that they had 3 million openings they were actively trying to fill as of the end of February.

Well of course employers are going to be super picky. If it is hard to fire a worker without a lot of lawyering (or even fear of same) then employers are going to be super selective. Especially in slack labor markets.

At will employment is hard on those with a job. There is no job security. On the other hand such easy come easy go labor laws are better for the unemployed. Especially the person with a marginal record who want a chance to prove his or her value.

Such job protections are one of the reasons that so many companies employ contractors. They are in fact the last major bastion of at will employment.

And what is the very antithesis of at will employment? Companies with union labor contracts. Because it is very hard to fire a union guy who is not doing his job adequately. And then there are government jobs under civil service laws.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:39 AM | Comments (1)

Only bigots oppose hope and change

Jeremy Marks (a very articulate, conservative law student) identifies what he sees as the real problem for conservatives:

Conservatism's real quandary lies in the fact that it cannot be effectively communicated in a Moveon-esque, 20-second sound clip -- a medium that my Pavlovian generation flocks to without a critical thought. Liberalism is an ideology of emotion and false hope: a deadly combination. Conservatism takes some thought and deductive reasoning: a deadly knell.
Actually, I think conservatism can be effectively communicated in a Moveon-esque, 20-second sound clip.

For example, Ronald Reagan's "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem."

It's just that no one is doing it. As Marks points out, conservatives stumble around in the face of "Obama's Houdini-like homilies" (why "hope and change" are magic words, I don't know) with "an inherently feeble conservative response."

I don't think the problem is a shortage of articulate conservatives. I think it's because of fear. Part of Barack Obama's magic is that all opposition to him is defined as bigotry. But that's only a culmination in a meme that's been polished for decades.

Conservatives are mean and bigoted, while liberals are nice.

This puts conservatives in an awkward position -- a classic case of the deer-caught-in-the-headlights syndrome. On top of that, right now conservatives are seen as having squandered years in power, and as other than trustworthy. Regardless of how true this is, it's the public perception (and it is even the way many conservatives see themselves).

Being seen as less than trustworthy while acting like a deer caught in the headlights is not a winning combination.

posted by Eric at 07:57 AM | Comments (8)

Imprisoning hostile leftist bloggers

I wonder whether Linda Sanchez has considered that the bill she proposes (which Glenn Reynolds linked here and here) -- to Imprison Hostile Bloggers -- would make felons out of some leading left wing bloggers.

The text of the bill (H.R. 1966) says this:

(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

(b) As used in this section --

(1) the term 'communication' means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and

(2) the term 'electronic means' means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.

How about trying to get someone fired from his job because you disagree with his opinions? Does anyone remember the repeated leftist campaigns which were mounted against Glenn Reynolds to do just that? I remember them well, and while I spoke out against them, it never would have occurred to me to pass a federal law making felons out of people like Steve Gilliard and Paul Campos (as well as countless lesser bloggers who joined in the campaigns to have Glenn fired).

Needless to say, campaiging to get someone fired will "coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person" so if the bill is passed, to prison these hostile leftist bloggers must go!

Personally, I think the "Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act" is mistitled. I realize that the repeated calls for firing never drove Glenn to suicide, but have his hostile blogging enemies on the left ceased their ruthless campaigns of harassment?

Therefore, I think the bill should be retitled the "Glenn Reynolds Cyberbullying Prevention Act."

If we could save just one law professor....

UPDATE: I inadvertently called Linda Sanchez Linda Chavez. Error corrected.

posted by Eric at 11:18 AM | Comments (2)

what if you aren't nice but you just don't like meanness?

In a piece titled "Attention Conservatives: Nice Guys Do Finish Last," John Hawkins responds to Adam Graham's argument that conservatives shouldn't play dirty.

I read Hawkins regularly, and I like his blog. Although I don't consider myself especially nice, the point of this post is not to take sides in this dispute so much as it is to make an admission by way of disclosure (at the risk of repeating myself).

In his rebuttal to Adams, Hawkins (who is in a position to know these things, so I won't fact check him), makes a couple of observations I just can't ignore:

it's worth noting that Ann Coulter is the single most popular conservative columnist in America...
So noted.

And this:

Moreover, the Right is slowly but surely narrowing the media gap. For example, WorldNetDaily -- which Mr. Graham disparagingly mentions -- gets more traffic than the Associated Press and the top seven conservative talk radio hosts alone reach more than 60 million people a week combined.
The problem is, Ann Coulter irritates me and I can't stand WorldNetDaily. (I feel guilty for not disparaging that dishonest outfit even more.)

If Coulter and WND are "the Right," then to that extent, I'm very definitely not.

Nor can I stand Michael Savage. Yet the man is often described as a conservative. (No references are necessary here, as I don't want to be seen as picking fights. But trust me. He is routinely called a conservative -- by conservatives.)

My point is, if Ann Coulter, WorldNetDaily, and Michael Savage represent conservativism, then I have a huge problem with conservatism, and I cannot call myself a conservative.

If the Birth Certificate Truthers (a major WND movement -- and for me the straw that broke the camel's back) represent conservatism, then I cannot call myself a conservative.

Whether conservatives "should" play more dirty, I don't know. (Playing dirty is the nature of politics, and no one can change that.)

I only know that by the standards of Coulter, Savage, WND, and the Birth Certificate Truthers, I am not a conservative, and will never be one.

This is not to say that I would not vote for a conservative over a liberal. I would do so unhesitatingly, as I have many times. My problem is that I'm lacking in the enthusiasm factor, and I would be dishonest if I did not admit it.

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds linked a piece which maintains that "conservatives need to fire the marketing department." I understand the point. But how do you fire what conservatives like?

OTOH, might my complaints involve just a matter of taste? If I happen not to like certain personalities, certain styles of writing, and certain beliefs, should these things go to the way I define myself? I mean, it's not as if someone set up a conservative litmus test which says that if you are a conservative, you have to like Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and WorldNetDaily, and you have to believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, so perhaps I'm being illogical and I'm setting up an unreasonable test.

Is there some pressing reason I should have to decide between liberal and conservative? Where was that rule written, and who wrote it? Liberals and conservatives? Perhaps it's time to return to basics. After all, rejecting these labels was a primary reason I started this blog.

UPDATE: Deafening Silence links this post with some interesting observations. Thanks!

posted by Eric at 10:33 AM | Comments (4)

Crazy Tax

Schizophrenics like to self medicate with tobacco - a LOT.

Schizophrenia and Tobacco

And they are among the heaviest of tobacco users. So maybe we need to call the tobacco tax a Schizophrenia Tax.

If we can raise tobacco taxes high enough maybe there will come a day when only crazy people will pay taxes.

Inspired by this Matt Yglesias piece.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:42 AM | Comments (3)

"Moderate" skepticism

I've been thinking Barack Obama would like very much to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, or (if that fails) at least have him declared officially dead. If he is successful in actually nailing bin Laden, it would be a game changer in more ways than one. This would not only appear to fulfill a campaign promise he made and endear him with the American people, but it would go a long way towards his goal of ending the war on terror -- or at least enable him to declare it as largely over.

But where is Osama bin Laden? There already appears to be a growing consensus (if that's the right word) that he no longer exists.

In a recent interview in which he offered reassurances about the security of Pakistan's nukes, President Zardawi opined that bin Laden is dead, and asserted that US officials feel the same way:

In a wide-ranging interview with the international media, Zardari spoke about the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, growing Taleban clout in Pakistan and his own political future.

"I want to assure the world that the nuclear capability of Pakistan is under safe hands," he said.

Zardari said Pakistan had a strong command-and-control system for its nuclear weapons that was fully in place.

Zardari said the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden remained a mystery and there was a suspicion that he could be dead.

He said US officials had told him that they had no trace of the Al-Qaeda chief and the same view was shared by his own intelligence agencies.

"There is no news," the president said. "They obviously feel that he does not exist anymore but that's not confirmed, we can't confirm that," he said, referring to Pakistani intelligence agencies.

Zardari said authorities in the northwest of the country had struck the deal with Islamists in Swat in line with the popular demand for a negotiated and political settlement of the issue.

But in this report, US officials are quoted as saying bin Laden is alive.

If that is US policy and it is changed, who gets to claim credit for his death?

There's been much discussion of having talks with so-called Taliban "moderates," with few specifics about who these people might be. I'm inclined to agree with analysts who say that there is no such thing as a Taliban moderate. (See this post by Michelle Malkin, which has additional links.)

However, the Saudis (who appear to endorse the idea that bin Laden is dead) have been pushing the "moderate Taliban" meme, and this Saudi analysis actually names names of purportedly moderate Taliban leaders.

I'm skeptical, because if the leadership of the Taliban is not moderate, even if there were a few "moderates" to be found, precisely how would they be installed at the top?

Naturally I find myself wondering whether the courting of the elusive moderate Taliban wing is grounded in wishful thinking, or whether it might indicate some sort of strategy.

As things stand, the Taliban forces which gained control of the Swat area hardly seem "moderate." According to this account, they have invited Osama bin Laden in:

Even though the agreement ignores the constitution by setting up a new legal system in the valley, which is not genuine Islamic law but the Taleban's brutal interpretation of it, Mr Gilani reiterated on 18 April that ''whatever we have done is in accordance with the constitution and there is no need to worry".

In fact the majority of Pakistanis are desperately worried, asking how the state could concede so quickly.

The Swat Taleban added fuel to the fire by inviting Osama Bin Laden to settle in Swat, indicating their complete control of the valley.

On 20 April, Sufi Muhammad, a radical leader who the government and the army have termed as ''a moderate" and whose son in law Fazlullah is the leader of the Swat Taleban, said that democracy, the legal system of the country and civil society should be disbanded as they were all ''systems of infidels".

The Taleban have now infiltrated western and southern Punjab province with the help of Punjabi extremist groups, the second largest city of Lahore and the southern port city of Karachi.

Even more surprising has been the attitude of the army, which has declined all international and local pressure to curb the spread of the Taleban.

I realize I tend towards a cynical view of these things, but somehow the above philosophy -- disbanding democracy along with the legal system, and inviting in Osama bin Ladem -- does not strike me as moderate. Nor does murdering musicians for the crime of playing music. Some of them have been lucky enough to flee to the United States. Others (like popular singer Ayman Udas) find themselves murdered.

If the goal is to drive a wedge between the Taliban and al Qaeda by courting "moderates," that does not appear to be happening so far.

From a military standpoint, it appears that the longstanding alliance between the two takes advantage of a historic enemy strategy:

With al-Qaeda safely ensconced within Pakistan, the United States is in the position of trying to destroy an enemy occupying a position in territory that belongs to a supposed ally. The only way our military has to strike back at Taliban positions without actually entering the country is to use unmanned drone aircraft, a practice that has come under much criticism from Pakistanis, because of the inevitable collateral damage.

In another New York Times article published on May 5, "Porous Pakistani Border Could Hinder U.S.," the writer observed: "If Taliban strategists have their way, [U.S.] forces [in Afghanistan] will face a stiff challenge, not least because of one distinct Taliban advantage: the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan barely exists for the Taliban, who are counting on the fact that American forces cannot reach them in their sanctuaries in Pakistan."

The problem of fighting enemies hiding across international borders in sanctuary areas was a major handicap for U.S. forces in both Korea and Vietnam. The insanity and treachery behind the catastrophic policy of giving the Chinese communist troops a privileged sanctuary on the north side of the Yalu River -- from which they could launch massive attacks against American soldiers in Korea without fear of retaliation -- is legendary.

A similar situation existed in Vietnam, where a strategic offensive against Hanoi would have been a sure approach to victory. But President Johnson -- like President Truman before him during Korea -- blocked such a path. North Vietnam also became a sanctuary. According to historian Dave Palmer, such fear "protected North Vietnam from invasion more surely than any instrument of war Hanoi could have fielded.

President Johnson did his damnedest to win over the North Vietnamese by offering New Deal style programs. But it didn't work. If there were any moderate Stalinists under Ho Chi Minh, they kept quiet.

But maybe the Saudis and President Obama know something I don't.

I'd really like to know whether Osama bin Laden is in fact dead.

If he is, it might be politically very convenient for Pakistan. Here's Tom Maguire:

Pakistan's ISI announces their conclusion that Osama bin Laden is dead. Although I don't speak Austrian, I believe a more complete translation of their announcement is "Osama is dead already, so go away and leave us alone".
And Ed Morrissey:
Osama could be dead. He could be alive. The problem with trusting the ISI's conclusion is that they have a huge stake in convincing people of the former. They'd like nothing better than to declare Osama dead and get some of the international heat off of Pakistan -- and the ISI itself, which has been thoroughly infiltrated by Islamic extremists sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

As Bill also points out, that heat has risen considerably over the last few months. Obama has raised the profile of the Af-Pak War, by increasing American troop levels in the theater and by failing to get more combat troops from our NATO partners. Pakistani intel would like nothing better than to give Europe enough excuse to push for an end to the Afghanistan mission. If Osama's dead, they might think, it would be easier for the West to declare victory and go home.

But what would Ayman al Zawahiri say? He still "exists," does he not? If Osama is dead, that makes Zawahiri the number one man:
[Osama] never taunts the US anymore. All high level communications from Al Qaeda are now issued by al-Zawahiri. We can stop the charade of calling him Al Qaeda's No. 2, he has now inherited the No. 1 spot.
Zawahiri is known to detest Barack Obama; not only has he issued racial insults, but he continues to scold him.

For Obama, taking out Zawahiri would be almost as much of a coup as taking out bin Laden, but the attack drone approach seems to have backfired:

Col Kilcullen, who has also informally advised the Obama administration and British government, said yesterday: "The Pakistani population sees the drones as neo-colonial, and they are especially unpopular in the Punjab, where there is a rising militancy."

Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation, said the administration was "acknowledging that there is an interaction between the attacks and political instability and are re-evaluating the costs and benefits of these attacks".

He said the Obama administration decided to intensify the attacks in the hope they would reach the top of al-Qaeda quickly.

He added: "My sense is they were looking at their watches trying to finish the job but they have run out of time."

A temporary cessation in air assaults would offer a considerable reprieve to their main targets such as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri and Beitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban held responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former president, last year.

Via Allahpundit, who observes that Obama is playing "a strange game":
The One's not going to deny himself the glory of scalping Bin Laden or Zawahiri if he has a chance, but the mid-level operational guys may suddenly have a reprieve. There's an interesting contrast with the torture calculus here: Opponents of harsh interrogation refuse to balance the morality of inflicting suffering on one to possibly avoid the suffering of many, but in the case of drone strikes, the suffering of many seems to be the cold, hard, bottom line. If blasting terrorists and civilians in their vicinity from 20,000 feet makes America safer, let's do it; if not blasting terrorists and civilians from 20,000 feet makes America safer by taking some heat off a wobbly, nuclear-armed government, then let's do that. A strange game.

Incidentally, David Obey's given Obama a loose deadline of one year to turn Afghanistan around before they start cutting funds for the war. I'll be surprised if the anti-war movement waits even that long. Is that why The One didn't respond to Iranian aircraft attacking Iraqi villages, incidentally -- because he can't be "distracted" from the real war right now? Or was that more a case of politely looking the other way in the interests of "dialogue"?

Targeting bin Laden and Zawahiri while courting "Taliban moderates" -- whether they exist or not -- strikes me as a deliberately calculated strategy along the lines of "DECLARE VICTORY AND GET OUT!"

Maybe if the "moderates" can be persuaded to agree that bin Laden is dead, then everyone will be able to let bygones be bygones, sing "Kumbaya," and go home.

But will they promise not to steal the nukes? I'm skeptical.

MORE: Ryan Mauro argues that al Qaeda is the least of our worries, and that the strategy of making deals with "moderates" is of great benefit to jihadists:

The tendency of the West to look for any sign of rationality, open-mindedness, or humanity in radicals results in a remarkably low standard for which one can be designated a "moderate."

The effect of such psychology, which often emanates from an outlook influenced by moral relativism, will be to embrace extremists at the expense of true moderates, resulting in a longer, and far more costly, war against radical Islam. The price to pay to become labeled a moderate by the West -- namely, to be marginally less reckless and extreme in tactics than al-Qaeda -- is quite the bargain, as such a strategy is more beneficial to their jihad in the long run anyway.

posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (3)

"I feel like I live in a third world country now."

In what appears to be another Patriot Act horror story, a 16 year old North Carolina boy was arrested by a team of agents, dragged from his home, and is being held incommicado for two months now:

WRAL television reported yesterday that Ashton Lundeby, an Oxford, North Carolina teenager, was removed from his home by a dozen Federal agents and hauled to a detention facility in Indiana two months ago. He has been held without being afforded a trial or regular access to his family under the authority of the Patriot Act, a law enacted under the George W. Bush administration in the wake of 9/11 that has been widely criticized for denying due process to anyone deemed an enemy combatant by Federal authorities.

16 year old Ashton Lundeby is the homeschooled son of widow Annette Lundeby. His bedroom is decorated with American flags, and his mother says the family was at church the night that Federal agents contend a bomb threat was made from Ashton's computer. She believes his computer must have been hacked by crank callers who made it look as though the threat was made from Ashton's computer.

Whether the 16 year old had his identity hacked or whether he himself was the culprit, he should have had an arraignment/bail hearing long ago, and in the normal course of things (before the Patriot Act), he'd have been released to parental custody pending his trial. Instead, he's been languishing for two months.

Understandably, his mom feels like she's living in a Third World country:

Annette Lundeby told the television station that she feels like she is living in a third world country, having to protect her son from the government. A scheduled court hearing for Lundeby has been repeatedly pushed back, according to his mother.

Because of a gag order, Federal officials have not commented on the Lundeby case.

As to why there's a gag order, who knows? It certainly would be a good way for overzealous prosecutors to avoid having to admit a mistake.

This is the first time I've heard about this case, and I don't know all the details, but I don't like the looks of what I've seen so far.

Drudge reported the story, and the case has been attracting more and more attention. I found a YouTube video here:

Thank God for the Internet. It makes it hard for the government to cover things like this up.

Once again, I think it's time to reexamine or repeal the Patriot Act. Otherwise, because it is in the nature of power that those who have power will abuse it, we will only see more stories like this.

posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (3)

A story which probably won't make your paper

Clayton Cramer links a story that seems certain to go largely unreported, in which a college student shot and killed an armed home invader and scared another armed invader away -- in the process preventing what would have been horrendous carnage:

Bailey said he thought it was the end of his life and the lives of the 10 people inside his apartment for a birthday party after two masked men with guns burst in through a patio door.

"They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, 'Give me your wallets and cell phones,'" said George Williams of the College Park Police Department.

Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. "The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough," said Bailey.

That's when one student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.

The student then ran to the room where the second gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Calvin Lavant, was holding the women.

"Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting. The guy jumped out of the window," said Bailey.

A neighbor heard the shots and heard someone running nearby.

"And I heard someone say, 'Someone help me. Call the police. Somebody call the police,'" said a neighbor.

The neighbor said she believes it was Lavant, who was found dead near his apartment, only one building away.

Bailey said he is just thankful one student risked his life to keep others alive.

"I think all of us are really cognizant of the fact that we could have all been killed," said Bailey.

The student with the gun is a true hero.

Yet as I say that, I realize that many liberals would consider him a villain -- and many more think he should not have had a gun.

I'm not suggesting all liberals think that way, but something is very wrong with those who do.

(The problem is that their influence is out of proportion to their numbers.)

MORE: A commenter below takes issue with my characterization of the armed student as a hero, and speculates that the forensic evidence might show that the victims were not victims of an invasion, but were all making the story up. I suppose that is possible, but I called him a hero based on the story I read, and as it was apparently reported to the police.

The police issued a warrant for and arrested the second suspect, and I'm assuming they did so based on some sort of investigation which confirmed the witnesses' statements.

If the home invasion story turns out to have been made up by the witnesses, I will update accordingly.

MORE: Michelle Malkin has a post about this same case, and at least one commenter there is speculating that the victims may have been "gang bangers."

What is going on here? Is there an attempt to blame the victims?

posted by Eric at 11:19 AM | Comments (16)

Rolling back the clock

Regular readers know I can't stand Michael Savage, who I think is an opportunistic provocateur who devotes his time to giving conservatism a bad name. But I would unhesitatingly defend his First Amendment rights, and even though there is no First Amendment in England, the fact that Savage has been banned from entering the country is a pretty sad commentary on the lack of freedom there.

As Philip Johnston notes, in banning visitors, the government is supposed to look at " whether the individual in expressing his views would threaten public order":

The list of people banned over the past six months includes a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, a neo-Nazi, a Hamas MP, a Baptist pastor and his daughter barred for homophobia and a Jewish extremist. Oddly, it also contains the name Michael Savage, a US "shock jock" talk-show host whose views on Islam, rape and autism have stirred controversy in America. By all accounts, his views are pretty offensive; but is that reason enough to ban someone? The test usually is whether the individual in expressing his views would threaten public order. This is the justification given for refusing entry to the American political leader Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. But to ban a radio presenter from a democratic country where he is allowed to broadcast freely is a new departure, as was the decision to refuse entry to Gert Wilders, the Dutch MP, a few months back for wanting to show a film about the Koran to British parliamentarians.

The Government claims Savage engages in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence. But is not the real reason he is barred because he preaches dislike of other groups rather than violence against them?

Home Office officials say Michael Savage, real name Michael Weiner, holds abhorrent views on immigration, Islam, rape and autism, which have caused great offence in America. That may be so. But are we now banning people because we don't like what they think or say; or are we accepting that anyone who responds violently to a view of which they disapprove can effectively veto other people's right to free speech?

Under this test, Congressman Tom Tancredo could be banned, simply because a bunch of activists have responded violently to his speeches and shut him down. So could David Horowitz, Michelle Malkin, or Ann Coulter (all of whom are regularly targeted by violent demonstrators). Such a policy effectively allows violent activists to set policy, and determine who gets to speak.

The lesson here is that activists get their way and violence works.

Ironically, the British authorities might imagine themselves to be enlightened (by "pre-empting violence"), but what they're really doing is rolling the clock back to the pre-enlightenment days.

It can't happen here, right?

posted by Eric at 08:01 AM | Comments (2)

Obama Plan To Raise Used Car Prices

The Obama Administration has another plan to screw poor people. He is working with Congress to drive the poorest people out of the used car market. The plan is called Cash For Clunkers.

Committee members emerged from the meeting Tuesday claiming a modest victory. They said they agreed to embrace a "cash for clunkers" plan that would provide $3500 or $4500 to people who replace old, low-efficiency cars with new, more fuel-efficient models.
Brilliant. What will happen? People in the market for a new car will buy a $1,000 (or cheaper) running used car to sell to the government and the government will give them $3,500 or $4,500 for their junker. This will help clear the used car market of the very lowest price cars and it will help raise the price of all used cars. It effectively puts a floor of $3,500 (or more - depending on the "generosity" of Congress) an the price of a used car. The $500 and $1,000 used cars will be vacuumed from the market.

So what is the point of raising used car prices for everyone and especially the poorest of the poor? I think it is rather obvious. The Democrats hate poor people and love inflation.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:17 PM | Comments (11)

Happy Birthday, F. A. Hayek

Via Glenn Reynolds, I learned that F. A. Hayek would be 110 today. (I celebrated by running three miles.)

As Glenn also pointed out by way of irony, Barack Obama is helping Hayek in book sales.

Irony or not, I think it's only fair that the Obama administration should help sell Hayek's books, for they have used one of his more trenchant observations as a backbone of administration policy, and as far as I know, Hayek has been given absolutely no credit for it.

What Hayek famously said (in Law, Legislation and Liberty) was this:

'Emergencies' have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.
It's even been put on a bumper sticker:


While it technically might not qualify as plagiarism, in terms of irony, Rahm Emanuel's famous "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste" certainly comes close enough for government work.

So yeah, they should help sell his books!

Happy Birthday, F. A. Hayek!

MORE: Over at Instapundit.com I read that the date he'd linked before was mistaken, and that Hayek's real birthday was a few days later.

(May 8, to be exact.)

posted by Eric at 07:08 PM | Comments (1)

Your free speech ends with my religion!

One of my concerns over the years has been with the way freedom of religion and the Establishment Clause are being used to whittle away free speech. It started with the court's banning the expression of religious views in schools (lest the government be seen as endorsing religion). But almost as if there's a giant (if unintended) pincer movement, this has been accompanied by the growth of a rather paranoid (IMO) "religious discrimination" industry -- which tends to see religious speech as entitled to special protection beyond that of "regular" free speech. I think this is very mistaken, not only because free speech is free speech regardless of the thinking behind it, but because almost any view on any subject can be said to be grounded in religion. A recent example of this is the "no kissing before marriage" trend Glenn Reynolds linked the other day. Never mind that this finds no basis in the Bible; if you disagree, you might be disrespecting someone's "religion":

In a culture where casual sex is the norm, some Tennesseans have taken the purity pledge to a whole new level, through a practice that some teens refer to as the "Virgin Lips Movement."

Religious leaders say these examples of super-abstinence deserve admiration, not derision.

So, does that mean that a teacher who expresses his view (pro or con) about the virtues of the "no kissing before marriage" movement might be held to have violated the Establishment Clause?

Don't laugh. In California it was held that a public high school teacher's calling creationism "superstitious nonsense" was a violation of the establishment cause:

So holds C.F. v. Capistrano Unified School Dist., decided Friday. I understand the logic of the case -- the Court has repeatedly said that the government's disapproving of religion is as unconstitutional as the government's endorsing religion, and the district court decision tries to implement that. But it seems to me that this just helps illustrate the difficulties posed by the endorsement test.
Noting the court's test was whether "Corbett's statement primarily sends a message of disapproval of religion or creationism," Eugene Volokh speculated that the same might be said a statement he'd made (discussing a hypothetical) that "voodoo is bunk":
A couple of students after class actually told me that they thought this might be offensive to people who believe in voodoo, but my view was that I can't teach my classes with an eye towards not offending people who believe in voodoo, just as I don't have to worry about people who believe in ghosts or werewolves or unicorns. But under the court's reasoning, would I have been violating the Establishment Clause? (Recall that the endorsement test isn't limited to high schools, but generally applies to public universities as well.) What if a student says that the Earth is 6000 years old because that's what the Bible says; is a public university or high school teacher constitutionally barred from dismissing that theory as "nonsense"? What if a student calls belief in astrology "nonsense," fully aware that some people (not many, but some) have a religious belief system that treats astrology as sensible and in fact as something like a sacrament?
Can you say it's nonsensical to haul people to the tops of pyramids and cut out their hearts without disrespecting the Aztec religion?

This is turning the country into a never-never land where virtually nothing will be able to be discussed because no opinions can be voiced lest they offend some opponent or proponent of one view or another said to be grounded in religion.

If this keeps up, the First Amendment will have cannibalized itself.

posted by Eric at 10:03 AM | Comments (5)

Happy birthday, Robert Osborne!

While Hollywood celebrities are not this blog's shtick, I love old movies, and I dearly love the TCM channel. (It's the only TV channel I like, and if it didn't exist, I'd dump cable.) As it happens, yesterday was the 77th birthday of Robert Osborne, host of TCM Classics. The guy is always so crammed full of knowledge about old movies that he's really a national asset. Seriously, I often find the "little known facts" he rattles off to be more fascinating than some of the movies he's introducing.

Anyway, to help celebrate his birthday, here's a little known fact about Robert Osborne. Early in his career, he used to play occasional bit parts, and in the original 1962 pilot which launched The Beverly Hillbillies, he played Milburn Drysdale's assistant "Jeff Taylor" who had been charged with the purchase of the Clampett home right next door to the Drysdales. (He's listed as "Bob Osborne" in the credits, and he appears in the office about 20 seconds into the following video).


posted by Eric at 07:05 PM | Comments (1)

Obama - Guilty Until Proven Innocent

It is not Mr. Obama who will be guilty though. It is you. Obama has a plan to raise business taxes which I discussed in The War On Business Continues. As part of that plan the rules of evidence for innocence and guilt will be changed. You will be guilty until you prove you are not.

Obama also planned to ask Congress to crack down on tax havens and implement a major shift in the way courts view guilt. Under Obama's proposal, Americans would have to prove they were not breaking U.S. tax laws by sending money to banks that don't cooperate with tax officials. It essentially would reverse the long-held assumption of innocence in U.S. courts.
Now suppose you have done nothing wrong? Where exactly will you be able to find the evidence?

I have heard that Mr. Obama is a Constitutional Scholar. Where is the evidence?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

you can't hug a jihadi with nuclear arms

In a piece titled "Words Matter in the War on Terror," Raymond Ibrahim decries the inability of the Obama administration to call terrorists terrorists, or even use words like "jihadi":

Would the free world have understood the Nazi threat if, instead of calling them what they called themselves, "Nazis," it had opted to simply call them "extremists" -- a word wholly overlooking the racist, expansionary, and supremacist elements that are part and parcel of the word "Nazi"?

Unfortunately, the U.S. government, apparently oblivious to this interconnection between language and knowledge, appears to be doing just that. Even President Obama alluded to this soon after taking office when he said, "Words matter in this situation because one of the ways we're going to win this struggle [war on terror] is through the battle of [Muslims'] hearts and minds."

According to an official memo, when talking about Islamists and their goals, analysts are to refrain from using Arabic words of Islamic significance ("mujahidin," "salafi," "ummah"); nor should they employ helpful English or anglicized words ("jihadi," "Islamo-fascism," "caliphate"). Instead, vague generics ("terrorists," "extremists," "totalitarians") should suffice.

One of our biggest fears (terrorists getting hold of a nuke) happens to be one the greatest threats in the world right now. But I guess if you're, you know, an enlightened and informed journalist for the New York Times, you can do your part to stop the threat by going out of your way not to offend those who consider nuking Manhattan their number one goal:
WASHINGTON -- As the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda spreads in Pakistan, senior American officials say they are increasingly concerned about new vulnerabilities for Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, including the potential for militants to snatch a weapon in transport or to insert sympathizers into laboratories or fuel-production facilities.

The officials emphasized that there was no reason to believe that the arsenal, most of which is south of the capital, Islamabad, faced an imminent threat. President Obama said last week that he remained confident that keeping the country's nuclear infrastructure secure was the top priority of Pakistan's armed forces.

But the United States does not know where all of Pakistan's nuclear sites are located, and its concerns have intensified in the last two weeks since the Taliban entered Buner, a district 60 miles from the capital.

Will calling them "insurgents" and "militants" give them pause? Will they now wake up and realize the ultimate truth of the slogan "A single nuclear bomb can ruin your entire day" and announce their own unilateral freeze and an end to all the madness?

I wish I felt more reassured.

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

"Parties were more fun when George W. Bush was president"

In today's Detroit Free Press, liberal columnist Laura Varon Brown complains that she does not feel free to criticize anything Barack Obama has said or done, and that this is not healthy:

Parties were more fun when George W. Bush was president. You could debate, argue even, praise and condemn, throw darts and laurels and solve the world's problems over a bottle of wine.

No more. At least not in my circles. If you want to stop a conversation in its tracks, just question something President Barack Obama has said or done. It's not open to debate -- and I don't think that's healthy, for the country or the president.

It's especially unsettling for a free speech girl like me. The First Amendment is important -- but lately, it feels like my right of self-expression is being squashed.

One example: Obama's comment to Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show," comparing his bowling abilities to someone in the Special Olympics.

Can you imagine the uproar had Bush said that? He'd be banished from bowling alleys for eternity. His bowling average and IQ would have immediately been compared in Twitter messages demanding his resignation.

Actually, I think it might have been worse than that, but the point is well taken, and there's a lot more.

The elections are still a ways off, but I hope they keep this up.

UPDATE: Perhaps things are not as bleak as I thought. Linking an amazing piece of fearless investigative journalism, Glenn Reynolds praises the "HARD-HITTING, DEEP-DIGGING, WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS."

As you can see right here, it's pull-no-punches time at the Corps:

After a date night out on Saturday evening, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama decided to take a stroll when their motorcade arrived back at the White House.

So they began walking on the driveway of the White House South Lawn while holding hands. First they passed the West Wing, then their children's swing set. They kept walking, swinging their hands together.

There were no Secret Service agents right behind them -- the agents stood off, in one of the rare moments that the Obamas had private space outside the White House walls.

As the Obamas walked behind shrubbery and out of sight, the unscripted moment left reporters guessing where they were going. To the vegetable garden? The basketball court? No final word, but they eventually came back the same way from where they started, rounding out their 8-minute walk.

Wow. I'm on the edge of my seat.

Nice to see the kid gloves are finally off!

posted by Eric at 09:29 PM | Comments (5)

why they "fear her tremendously"

I see that I'm not alone in noticing that the ferocity of attacks against Sarah Palin have increased since the election.

Michael van der Galien notices that the attacks have been stepped up even more, and he offers an explanation as to why:

...the attacks on Palin - all the litigation, attempts to destroy her and her family by the driveby media, etc. - convince me that liberal activists, journalists and politicians fear her tremendously. They would not go after her - even obsess over her - if they thought she was a wacko who could never win elections for president.
They should fear her tremendously. Because, in this media-driven culture, (where politicians can rise from relative obscurity to the presidency in a very short time), she's just the sort of person who could revive the moribund Republican Party. Even though she was new to the game in the last election, she came close to doing just that. Plus, she's one of the few bona fide conservatives I know of with solid libertarian appeal. (I certainly thought so. And I am not easily sold on conservatives.)

Oh, need I mention that she's a woman? We've never had a woman president. Not even a woman candidate for president. And you know damn well that there's no way a woman will be running for president on the Democratic ticket....

It must just kill them.

And it just might.

posted by Eric at 07:31 PM | Comments (0)

where talent lies

I'm not much of a YouTuber. Sure, I link to YouTube videos all the time, but where it comes to making them, I'm just not motivated, and I don't know why. You'd think that as a blogger I'd be more, um, extroverted about this, but I find the process a bit distasteful, almost exhibitionistic. Many of the videos I've made have involved Coco, but even that strikes me as a bit like making a movie of your kid and then showing it to people who are about as interested in watching it as guests at a party who find themselves forced to watch home movies. (I'm the type who'd suddenly realize while it's been an utterly charming evening I have to get up at six the next morning and really ought to be leaving.)

Not that some of my Coco videos haven't been occasionally successful and amusing; the Hillary Clinton ring tone video drew over five thousand hits. Most of them, however, get a few hundred and that's it.

If Coco had a little more talent (or if I were a better trainer), she (and I) might make it big. I mean, imagine if I could get Coco to talk! I could make millions, and we'd be on Jay Leno with the stretch limousines and all that.

But even if she learns to talk, Coco faces stiff competition. There are already plenty of talking dogs on YouTube.

Here's a dog which made it onto David Letterman for saying "I LOVE YOU!"

In all honesty, I can't really make out the "I LOVE YOU!" It sounds more like a dog screaming.

However, I was able to find three pit bulls that have been trained to say "Obama" well enough that it really does approach the credibility threshold.

I've ranked them here according to talent, with the best first. However, while the first one -- "Kerrington" -- has the most hits (17,551), the one I considered second best -- "Truman" -- has only 75 hits, while "Zoe" comes in at 8,689.

Here's Kerrington, who's pretty good:

And here's Truman -- a close second:

And finally, Zoe:

While it occurred to me that YouTube viewers might not agree with me, I think there is something in the nature of YouTube which is totally unpredictable and random, and has little or nothing to do with fairness, quality of the videos, or anything like that. It was over a year ago that I posted a silly video complaining about a mousetrap that did not work, and like most of my videos, it only got a few hundred hits.

But then recently I noticed it had gotten 3,239 views. Why?

The way I figure this, if I can get over 3000 hits complaining about a mousetrap, then a video of Coco talking ought to really draw them in.

If only Coco would cooperate! I have pointed the camera at her and tried to get her to say "Obama" repeatedly, but in the most stubborn manner possible, she won't even try. (Which means that she's trying not to try!)

What a shame. Because if Coco could just learn to say "Obama," the president himself might come and visit this blog.

But Coco is a smart dog, perhaps too smart. She may fear that there's a slippery slope, and if she complies with my wishes and says "OBAMA!" then the next thing you know I'll try to get her to say "I LOVE YOU!" and then I'd put the two together -- thus making a liar out of my own dog, in flagrant violation of Coco's principles, and possibly even my own.

For the record, Coco favored Hillary over Obama, and I suspect she still does, so I cannot make her lie.

At this rate, I'll never succeed in politics.

posted by Eric at 10:53 AM | Comments (3)

To hell with bureaucracy

Regular readers know how much I abhor bureaucracy and annoying regulations.

Well, after reading this NYT obituary of ghost hunter Hans Holzer, I'm not sure I want to die:

Mr. Holzer saw life on the other side in sharp detail. As he described it to the Web site ghostvillage.com in 2005, it is strangely like this side, and bureaucratic to boot. The dead who become restless and wish to return to Earth for another go-round must fall in line and register with a clerk.
(Via Ann Althouse.)

Ugh! I'd rather haunt the earth while I'm alive so I won't have to stand in line for my official ghost license.

But maybe Holzer's vision is only about Hell.

Perhaps Heaven is less organized.

posted by Eric at 09:05 AM | Comments (1)

A Must See Video

Bill Whittle gives Jon Stewart a history lesson.

Probably the best 15 minutes of video I have seen in the last year. Stop what you are doing and watch it.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

Gun Grabbers, may all your victories be Pyrrhic!

Don't miss Clayton Cramer's analysis of Nordyke v. King:

You won't find me saying nice things about the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals very often, so savor the moment.

On April 20, Alameda County, California, "won" a gun control case that has many gun owners dancing in the aisles.

King Pyrrhus of Epirus in 280 BC and 279 BC won such costly victories over the Romans. He remarked, "One more such victory and I am lost." And the gun control movement just had such a Pyrrhic victory in Nordyke v. King.

While the court found that the Second Amendment did not bar Alameda County from prohibiting guns on its public property, the most important holding in the case was that the Second Amendment does apply to the states by incorporation:
We therefore conclude that the right to keep and bear arms is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition." Colonial revolutionaries, the Founders, and a host of commentators and lawmakers living during the first one hundred years of the Republic all insisted on the fundamental nature of the right. It has long been regarded as the "true palladium of liberty." Colonists relied on it to assert and to win their independence, and the victorious Union sought to prevent a recalcitrant South from abridging it less than a century later. The crucial role this deeply rooted right has played in our birth and history compels us to recognize that it is indeed fundamental, that it is necessary to the Anglo-American conception of ordered liberty that we have inherited.17 We are therefore persuaded that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it against the states and local governments.18
As Cramer observes, the County's "victory" is thus not much of a victory for gun control, nor can it be appealed:
The Heller decision answered a very specific question: is there a right to have a handgun, or any loaded firearm, in your home? The Alameda County ordinance, as silly as it was, did not prevent that. Nor did it apply to public streets. It applied only to non-public facilities owned by the county. A government acting as landlord has substantially more discretion than the government acting as government.

Because Alameda County technically "won," they can't appeal to the Supreme Court. They can, at most, request what is called an en banc hearing of the Ninth Circuit (in which a larger panel of judges decides whether this decision is correct or not). It appears unlikely that such an en banc hearing will take place.

Little wonder the decision is being downplayed.

To give you some idea of the crackpot thinking behind the Alameda County ordinance, though, here (according to the 9th Circuit) is what its author said:

Shortly before proposing the Ordinance, King sent a memorandum to the County Counsel asking him to research "the most appropriate way" she might "prohibit the gun shows" on County property. King declared she had "been trying to get rid of gun shows on Country property" for "about three years," but she had "gotten the run around from spineless people hiding behind the constitution, and been attacked by aggressive gun toting mobs on right wing talk radio." At her press conference, King also said that the County should not "provide a place for people to display guns for worship as deities for the collectors who treat them as icons of patriotism." Without expressing any opinion about King's remarks, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Ordinance.
Presumably, the "spineless people hiding behind the constitution" now include the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in addition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As to the "aggressive gun toting mobs on right wing talk radio," I'm wondering... How is Supervisor King able to see guns being toted on the radio?

Nor can I figure out how to interpret her remark about guns being worshiped as deities. What's the subtext here? Is she trying to set up a conflict between the Second Amendment and the Second Commandment?

(I guess it could have been worse. At least she didn't say guns were phallic symbols.)

posted by Eric at 03:00 PM | Comments (1)

"They Told Me If I Voted For John McCain...."

It was disturbing to wake up this morning and see the headline "Obama revelling in U.S. power unseen in decades," but alas, it appears to be true:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Barack Obama is revelling in presidential power and influence unseen in Washington for decades.

Barely 100 days in office, the U.S. president and his Democratic Party have firm control over the White House and Congress and the ability to push through ambitious plans.

Now, with the coming retirement of a Supreme Court justice clearing the way for him to appoint a successor, Obama already is assured a legacy at the top of all three branches of government -- executive, legislative and judicial.

On the corporate front, the federal government's pumping of billions of dollars in bailout money into banks and auto companies has given Obama the power to force an overhaul in those industries, a remarkable intervention in capitalist industries by the state.

Americans are giving him leeway as well. His job approval ratings are well over 60 percent, giving him political capital to undertake big challenges.

His political opponents, the Republicans, are in disarray, reduced in numbers and engaged in an internal struggle over how to recover from devastating election losses in 2006 and last year.

What I find most puzzling is the "decades" part.

Because, I spent the last eight years living under the imperial presidency of George Bush, which was repeatedly described as the worst in history.

Jim Hightower called it "the most massive and rapid expansion of presidential might America has ever known" and "a de facto presidential autocracy."

Not to be outdone, Glenn Greenwald saw Bush as more imperial than even the British King:

we've lived for the last eight years under a President who literally has claimed powers greater than those possessed by the British King; whose underlings have promulgated radical and un-American theories literally vesting him with the power to rule outside of the law, who has exploited a political and media culture devoid of "suspicion of power" when exercised by the White House, and who has acted with no meaningful constraints or checks from Congress and virtually none from the judiciary...
I'm old enough to remember Richard Nixon (for whom the term "imperial presidency" was once considered synonymous). But by 2002, senior journalistic stateswoman Helen Thomas had declared Bush the new monarch:
WASHINGTON -- The imperial presidency has arrived. On the domestic front President Bush has found that in many ways he can govern by executive order. In foreign affairs he has the nerve to tell other people that they should get rid of their current leaders.

Amazingly, with Americans turning into a new silent majority and Congress into a bunch of obeisant lawmakers, he is getting away with such acts.

Eventually, John Dean weighed in, declaring that George W. Bush's imperial presidency was "beyond anything in the annals of the modern American presidency," and Dean's meme eventually morphed into the clever phrase (and book title) "Worse than Watergate" with Bush said to be more worthy of impeachment than the imperial Nixon.

And of course (from the New York Times) the Bush presidency was "Just What the Founders Feared."

As to the Bush fascism Bush Hitler stuff, there are millions of hits.

Needless to say, waking up to see Barack Obama reveling in "power unseen in decades" is a pretty terrifying experience.

But I guess they aren't calling him "Barack Milhous Obama" for nothing!


I realize the title of this post is very unoriginal. But they really did tell me that if I voted for John McCain we'd have an imperial presidency.

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

For Political Junkies And Stones Fans

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

It Gave Me Hope

I think the moral of this story is: don't stand between old people and their medicine. Wait until word gets out that marijuana is Better Than Viagra. Well Viagra is a prescribable medicine. But Viagra can make you go blind. Going blind for sex seems to be rather a high price to pay. Marijuana has never made anyone go blind. In fact just the reverse. Regular use can prevent the effects of glaucoma. I can't wait until I'm old and tell my mate, "The doctor told me to smoke two of these and have sex." That is so 60s. Well, except for the doctor part. People in their 60s are returning to the 60s for their medicine. I just can't get the image out of my mind of a couple of crusty ones humping away to the smell of incense and the sound of The Doors' Light My Fire. "Honey could you turn on the black light and the strobe before we get started?"

Seriously. Multiple Sclerosis is no joke. And there are way too many anecdotes to pass off the evidence that marijuana helps as merely anecdotal. That it helps is not surprising. There is some evidence of as yet unnamed cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system. And MS is a disease of the nerves. And cannabis plants are very good at manufacturing a whole host of cannabinoids. And they do it cheap. And they can be selectively bred to enhance the production of the desired cannabinoids.

The medical underground is going to have a significant role in the defeat of drug prohibition. The real question is why in America, the land of the free, is a medical underground even necessary? For a medicine safer than aspirin and as cheap to grow as hot house tomatoes.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:58 PM | Comments (1)

Hole-istic healing

I found myself cheered up by an email from a friend with attached pictures of some of the most grotesque examples of extreme piercings and mutilations ever.

Like this poor fool.


I know it may sound insensitive, but that picture made me laugh at my own problems. I often think I'm neurotic and messed up, but it's reassuring to know that there are people in much worse shape than I am. Most likely, the people who mutilate themselves like this are engaged in a form of self-therapy, as a way of working out their problems. At the very least, it's an extremely passive-aggressive cry for help. People who suffer from a need to do something like that provide much needed perspective on life, and hence I'm cheered up.

From a libertarian standpoint, self-mutilation is a right, of course. Putting people in prison for the crime of making unsightly and unhealthy holes in their heads makes about as much sense as imprisoning them for drugs.

Interestingly, one of the pictures in the email was already familiar to me -- the guy with a corset where his throat ought to be.


In an amazing coincidence, Glenn Reynolds (never one to overlook stylish new trends) had just linked a picture of the very same corset-throated man!

I realize that not everyone likes seeing these images. For those who don't, cheer up. In yet another trend Glenn noticed, it may soon be a "Federal Felony To Use Blogs, the Web, Etc. To Cause Substantial Emotional Distress."

But as I say, one man's emotional distress is another man's nerve tonic.

posted by Eric at 01:10 PM | Comments (3)

My remote doesn't work

President Obama's official popularity ratings may still be high, but people have grown tired of watching him on television. The story headline is "Obama's ratings slide: press conference down 29%":

Audience interest in Barack Obama's news conferences seems to be falling, with Wednesday's press event drawing the president's smallest primetime audience since his inauguration.

The telecast to mark Obama's 100th day in office was viewed by 28.8 million people, according to Nielsen. That's a 29% drop from the president's last press conference, on March 24, and a 42% fall since his first, on Feb. 9.

The ratings of the last three primetime news events are listed:

Feb: 9: 49.5 million
March 24: 40.4 million
April 29: 28.8 million
The problem is, political power does not work like a television. If it did, then people could use their remotes to switch channels at the White House. Maybe try switching back to the Bush Channel, or even the Reagan Nostalgia Channel. But they can't, because politically they're tuned to one channel for four years.

At least the FCC still allows the set to be turned off.

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (1)

They Are Coming After Your Refrigerator

The Obama Administration has a brilliant new idea. Ban HFCs.

UNITED NATIONS -- The Obama administration, in a major environmental policy shift, is leaning toward asking 195 nations that ratified the U.N. ozone treaty to enact mandatory reductions in hydrofluorocarbons, according to U.S. officials and documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"We're considering this as an option," Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Adora Andy said Wednesday, emphasizing that while a final decision has not been made it was accurate to describe this as the administration's "preferred option."

The change -- the first U.S.-proposed mandatory global cut in greenhouse gases -- would transform the ozone treaty into a strong tool for fighting global warming.

"Now it's going to be a climate treaty, with no ozone-depleting materials, if this goes forward," an EPA technical expert said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because a final decision is pending.

The expert said the 21-year-old ozone treaty known as the Montreal Protocol created virtually the entire market for hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, so including them in the treaty would take care of a problem of its own making.

How nice. Can he get Congress to ratify the treaty? We shall see.

So what are HFCs used for?

HFCs are used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems throughout the world. HFC systems conserve energy, and therefore reduce global warming gas emissions at electric power facilities. This is more significant when they replace older, less-energy-efficient systems.
And guess what else HFCs are good for?
HFCs offer solutions to global-warming...
I guess they haven't got the word. The HFCs are no longer in favor.

And who had a prominent role in getting CFCs (the predecessors of HFCs) banned?

DuPont, the world's dominant CFC producer, played a key role in the development of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.
Well of course. Its patents on CFCs were running out and CFCs were cheaper to make than HFCs. They were also somewhat more efficient as refrigerants.

So my question is: are the patents on HFCs running out? Has DuPont invented a replacement? Are they behind this new move?

Is this another example of the $Green Economy? I'd bet on it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

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