Fareed Zakaria (whose Future of Freedom is a must read) has this to say about the possibility of revolution in Iran:

It's possible but unlikely. While the regime's legitimacy has cracked -- a fatal wound in the long run -- for now it will probably be able to use its guns and money to consolidate power.

I don't know why anyone thinks they need money. Regimes from Cuba to Burma to Cambodia to North Korea stay comfortably esconced with only the power that flows from the cracked barrel of a rusty gun, proving again what can be observed since the dawn of human history: leaders need neither legitimacy nor coin to quell internal uprisings, they need only force of arms and the will to use them.

Soon after the revolution, Iraq attacked Iran, and the mullahs again wrapped themselves in the flag. The United States supported Iraq in that war, ignoring Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against Iranians -- something Iranians have never forgotten.

You know what's odd? Every time I hear this assertion, propagated by the mullah tyrants and treated as gospel by American leftists, that Iranians are holding a grudge over American "support" for the Hussein regime during the Iran-Iraq war -- which support amounted to a handshake and a smile, during a period when Iraq was the world's largest importer of arms -- I never hear any mention of the possibility they might be grateful we spent much more time and effort containing and ultimately removing Saddam. Shouldn't this net out to a giant positive in their attitude toward the U.S.?

And wouldn't it make more sense for them to resent the French, Germans, and Russians who were arming Iraq (at considerable profit) and who opposed Saddam's removal?

The situation under Saddam is a bigger deal than many people realize. For decades, Iranians were cut off from Najaf. Since Saddam's fall, millions of them visit Iraq on holy pilgrimage every year -- where they now see real democracy, which is probably a large part of why they're now taking to the streets and demanding their own.

But while we'd all like to see the mullahs overthrown and a liberal democracy in Persia, the truth is there's very little chance of that happening as long as the regime believes it has the moral right to brutally suppress dissent -- and with the current U.S. administration's avowed strategy of enabling and apologizing, there's little chance of that changing.

posted by Dave at 11:15 PM | Comments (3)



If there's one thing worse than a GOP sex scandal, it's a Southern GOP sex scandal!

Does the scandal involving a womanizing southern governor shed any light on the GOP's "Southern Strategy"?

While nearly everybody agrees that what Mark Sanford did was wrong, positions as to what the consequences should be are all over the map.

Victor Davis Hanson described himself as baffled:

I am somewhat baffled by the reaction to this week's news. Take poor Governor Sanford. The only excuse for the hysteria over his trip could be possible use of state funds for personal travel, or taking vacation time without logging it in, or unauthorized leave. All are serious breaches of professional conduct.

But "adultery" during a separation? This entire popular culture transcended fornication years ago when it decided that tampons, Viagra, and Extend were fair game for commercial television. Our children know more about sexuality than our grandparents.

Can one think of very many politicians who were not guilty of some sort of adultery-Ted Kennedy? John Edwards? Bill Clinton? Newt Gringrich? Rudy Giuliani? John McCain? In a California governor's race or during the Presidential primaries the oddity is always the non-adulterer. I am being descriptive not sermonizing.

Our greatest icons-Jefferson, JFK, FDR-at times conducted private affairs in a manner that this society would have sensationalized, a society that in fact is far more tawdry and without the decorum of the past.

I don't know the circumstances of the Sanford marriage, but the notion that a culture that has deified sex, only to become "shocked" in Casablanca- like fashion that an official would reflect contemporary values is surreal. If this were 1910 or even 1950, I too would be shocked; but once our culture chose to elevate sex to Olympian status, why does it insist on Plymouth Rock reactions to the logic result of its own values and emphases?

I don't know why, but I find myself wondering whether the reaction would be different were Sanford the governor of a Northern state. There's a certain regional bias which creeps into these things, and it wouldn't surprise me if Northerners consider him more of a "hypocrite" for being a Southern adulterer than they would were he another mere Yankee womanizer. Factor in the man's Republicanism, and in some minds, it's as if Jerry Falwell himself had been caught in bed with a prostitute. There is nothing fair about it.

Anyway, I do not agree with the idea that Republicans should "kick Mark Sanford to the curb." That only perpetuates an idea that the left loves: that Republicans have to be held to a higher standard than anyone else.

Let me repeat a question I have asked repeatedly:

How the hell did sex get put on the f---ing left?

Really, since when are centerfolds images of cultural and political leftism?

What is logical about doing that? How did it happen?

There was a time in this country when most cities had red light districts, and in many places prostitution was legal. In Alaska this past June, I visited Dolly's House, the last of Ketchikan's Creek Street brothels, before prostitution was made illegal in the late 1950s. That's not all that long ago; I was a kid. Brothels and prostitution are an American tradition. They are also a classical tradition; the Pompeiian brothels are a much bigger tourist attraction that Dolly's House. When something is both traditional and classical, it deserves a tad more respect than it gets from the people who attack it in the name of "tradition," but I don't want to seem argumentative, so I'll avoid the inflammatory word "values."

Anyway, while I recognize that people disapprove of prostitution and gay sex, I think it is a huge mistake to declare that this is modern political conservatism, and that the Republican Party stands for such disapproval. It's just plain bad political math, as all the Democrats have to do is nothing, and occasionally admit they're human if they get caught having sex. (The unnoticed irony is that the Democratic Party has plenty of people who are just as deserving of the "erotophobe" title as Republicans.)

One of the reasons it's bad math is that sex -- whether practiced by Republicans or Democrats -- is absolutely guaranteed to occur. While the vast majority of people agree that adultery is wrong, politicizing it by saying that the Republicans are really really against adultery (more against adultery than anyone else) distorts all reality.

If the Republicans are more against adultery than everyone else, it does more than merely set them up for a fall. By putting them on a high horse, it makes ordinary people want them to fall. For some reason, the Republicans do not understand the basic, anti-elitist, populist mindset at work here. It's why people sympathized with Bill Clinton. Not because they really sympathized with or "approved" of what he did. Few thought what he did was OK (despite the charges many moral conservatives made at the time). What they objected to was the scolding, and it is important to understand that not liking scolding does not equate with approval of the conduct in question.

Nor is the American distaste for scolding not limited to sexual scolding. People don't like being told they are wasteful and should cut down on driving, cut down on flying, change their lightbulbs, neuter their pets, ride bicycles, stop eating certain kinds of foods -- even if they already agree with the premises of the advice. I couldn't help notice that the Democrats were smart enough to put the kibosh on Al Gore during the recent cap-and-trade push. That's because they know he comes across as a scold, and had he been wagging his finger about Global Warming right now, it might have turned off enough people to generate a backlash in the form of angry calls to congressman, with predictable consequences in a precariously close vote.

Oddly enough, Republicans are perceived as less scolding on most of the lifestyle issues, but for some reason, the narrative that the GOP is the anti-sex party is a very stubborn one.

What I'd like to know is whether this is regional, and why. Is there a GOP Southern strategy that involves sexual morality? While I think it's a bit arrogant to make assumptions about people based on geographic regions, the fact is that the GOP does a lot better in the South than it does in the North, especially the Northeast.

I grew up in the Northeast, and over the past decades I've watched as many Republican areas I knew well gradually went Democratic. What shocked me the most was to see this happen among people I'd call old guard traditional Republicans. The reasons are many, but the process accelerated under Bush, and I think regionalism played a big role. It was all too easy for these people to hate what they called "the religious right," because that was considered a Bible Belt sort of cultural thing. There was nothing rational about it, and it accelerated as the GOP under Bush (whose Southernness struck many a Northeast Republican as phony) abandoned economic conservatism. Affluent country club types, wealthy older women, double income professionals -- the kind of people who could once be depended upon to vote Republican in order to preserve what they had, now saw little difference between the two major parties. Bill Clinton's triangulation strategy had helped too -- and it wasn't missed that a Southerner had seemingly thumbed his nose at the anti-sex religious mindset which supposedly dominated his area and which the Republicans now courted.

To illustrate the state of chaos and disrepair, just look at the fates of two long-time Republican Senators from my former area. Rick Santorum, a solid social conservative, was solidly rejected. The remaining Republican, Arlen Specter, fled his own party. Yet still (despite gloating on the left), a number of analysts think the GOP is not dead in the Northeast:

Pennsylvania Senate: Specter (D)(I), 41 - Ridge (R), 48
New Jersey Governor: Corzine (D)(I), 36 - Christie (R), 47
New York Governor: Paterson (D)(I), 32 - Guiliani (R), 53
Connecticut Senate: Dodd (D)(I), 42 - Simmons (R), 43
Delaware Senate: Biden (D), 34 - Castle (R), 55
New Hampshire Senate: Hodes (D), 41 - Sununu (R), 46
Connecticut Governor: Bysiewicz (D), 32 - Rell (R)(I), 53
Ridge? While polls showed him beats Specter as well as Toomey, he now says he won't run against Toomey, thus apparently leaving it for Toomey to lose against Specter. As to Ridge, he refuses to say whether he'd vote for Toomey or Specter. The angry discussion between commenters at that last link highlights (IMO) some of the problems faced by moderates and libertarians in the Republican Party.

Judging from his past, I'd put Toomey in the GOP's anti-sex camp, but he's recently written a fairly ringing endorsement of the big tent approach.

While I don't especially like Northeast Republicans, I think the GOP has to come up with some sort of Northeast strategy. Social conservatism is a hard sell there, and if it is perceived as anti-sex scolding, the result is counter-scolding when sex occurs. Fascinatingly, what appears to be happening with Sanford is that he's being scolded by the anti-sex scolds as well as the counter scolds, and this creates a cycle: the more he's scolded by social conservatives, the more he'll be counter-scolded by social liberals.

I can only imagine what the RINOs are saying about him in the Northeast.

My "Northeast Strategy" was to leave. I'm glad I moved to the Industrial Heartland, where (if I may change the subject slightly), representatives voted 41-48 against cap and trade.

The Northeast, OTOH, voted a whopping 66-7 for the bill, while the Interior South voted 16-60 against it.

What on earth could be up with that?

Is cap-and-trade a kinky sex practice or something?

As I'm saying, the GOP needs some kind of Northeast strategy.

MORE: Not to be a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I just remembered something which might shed some light on the Northeast's penchant for kinkiness.

As he wondered about the disappearing nature of the "fierce moral urgency," Glenn Reynolds quoted Roger L. Simon on cap-and-trade:

All of a sudden... well, not quite all of a sudden, but recently... I have noticed my liberal friends (except for the most extreme and knee-jerk) are not very interested in discussing man-made global warming. The subject rarely comes up and, when it does, it is passed over quickly, given only a nod. It's as if that was last year's - or last decade's - fad, at the very moment the House of Representatives has been browbeaten by LaPelosita into voting for a cap-and-trade bill no known person has read, let alone understood.
I read that the bill is over 300 pages long. Just why did the Northeast vote overwhelmingly for it?

Doesn't this just begs the question of what sort of perversions are buried inside? I say, it just has to be chock full of pornographic pork.

Can anyone prove it isn't?

UPDATE: 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 12:17 PM | Comments (24)




Overdosed on absolute relativism

A lot of people complain about moral relativism, and over the years I've noticed that the term is often invoked inconsistently. Little wonder, for even defining the term is an immensely complicated undertaking. A frequently used definition of moral relativism is along these lines:

...the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth.
Moral absolutists hold that there is but one universal standard. I've long thought this breaks down in the face of undeniable historical facts as well as the undeniable existence of different cultures with different views of morality, so to that extent I'm a relativist. It's just that it doesn't much matter to me that other cultures see morality differently. I own dogs and I eat pork because I want to and I don't belong to a culture which sees these things as immoral. I recognize that they see my activities as immoral, though. In fairness, they have as much right to condemn me for violating their rules as I do to condemn them for having them. They can say dogs and pigs are unclean, and I can disagree. They can also say that homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral, and I can disagree with that too. And, just as individuals can disagree with each other, entire cultures disagree with each other. It can be argued logically that the existence of such moral disagreements proves the existence of moral relativism (or at least relativity). Culture A thinks X is good; culture B thinks X is bad. But that does not mean there is no morality. Whether these moral disagreements are worth going to war over depends on how many people feel strongly enough on one side or the other. We fought a war over slavery not terribly long ago, and anyone who thinks that slavery is and has always been considered immoral by all people in all places at all times is (IMO) being delusional. That I (along with 99% of the American people) think that slavery is immoral does not prevent me from recognizing the reality that this has not always been the prevailing view. The form of moral relativism that rankles me is the kind that asserts that there is no right to judge or condemn anyone. Of course there is. I condemn slavery, and I judge all slaveholders to be immoral. But does that mean I have just condemned George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as immoral, while exonerating John Adams? Hardly, because what they did has to be judged according to the standards of their times, not ours. Yeah, in that sense, I'm a hopeless relativist. However, I suspect that many of those who condemn "moral relativism" out of hand would nonetheless advance a moral relativist argument in Washington's favor. Those who would prosecute abortion as murder in the name of an absolute moral standard forget that whan abortion was illegal, it was not prosecuted as murder, but as abortion. So, far from advancing a traditional and unchanging moral standard; they are introducing a new one. My point being, morality changes, including new morality introduced in the name of tradition. Moral absolutists can be moral relativists.

And vice versa.

Some of the worst moral absolutists are those who cloak their moral absolutism as moral relativism. One of the most irritating examples I found recently was a film review linked in Christian Toto's discussion of the The Stoning of Soraya M (about the stoning to death of a woman in Iran on trumped up adultery charges).

The critic in question is Craig Smithey -- who bills himself as "The Smartest Film Critic in the World" (would any relativist say that?) -- and here's what he said:

...there is something condescending and judgmental in the filmmaker's subtext that seems to exonerate Western culture as somehow less complicit in the atrocious murders that it commits against innocent and guilty citizens alike. With American police beating, tasing, and shooting women, children, and men to death every week, the film could have been made with a more honest approach, as a more inclusive indictment of any form of capital punishment and authority-endorsed violence.
The idea (I guess) is that "Americans are guilty too, so we have no right to condemn anyone!" Now, if he had cited the Salem witch trials or maybe American lynchings, I might have been able to see his point, even though I would have still thought it an inapt comparison, for the simple reason that times have changed, and modern American culture does not countenance witch trials or lynching. Nor were these horrors perpetrated in the name of the United States government or any of its state governments. But tasings and shootings by police, and capital punishment in the United States today? Not only are there laws in place, under which police who exceed their authority can be prosecuted as criminals, but the last time I looked, adultery was not punished by capital punishment, much less by death inflicted by slow torture as it is in Iran. Even the worst, most grotesque police excesses don't come close to death by stoning.

But to his form of moral relativism, inapt comparisons are perfectly justified, as long as it is recognized that America is the primary source of evil in the world, and that Americans have no right to judge anyone else. (Naturally, in his review of A History of Violence, Smithey saw the protagonist as having a "hodgepodge mentality of esoteric ideas that combine to constitute a bizarre mirror image of America's neoconservative leaders." Who knew? I totally missed the lurking neocons, and I'll have to see that film again....) I think that what comes out of the mind of this "Smartest Film Critic in the World" is pure anti-Americanism, and although it's packaged as moral relativism, that's not really what it is. Americans are the bad guys, so thoroughly evil that we have no right to condemn evil in others.

Smithey makes me want me to play along with his game of moral reductionism, so I'm wondering how he might review a film condemning what happened to Anne Frank. Wouldn't any such film "exonerate Western culture as somehow less complicit in the atrocious murders that it commits against innocent and guilty citizens alike"? I mean, really, isn't being dragged away and gassed at Auschwitz no different from American police beatings and tasings? And wouldn't a more honest approach be to have "a more inclusive indictment of any form of capital punishment and authority-endorsed violence"? Americans are so Satanic that we have no right to say we're better than Hitler, and any attempt to do so constitutes an attempt at exoneration.

Sounds pretty absolutist to me.

posted by Eric at 12:43 PM | Comments (11)



No silence here!

Honduras.

There. I just mentioned it. Wouldn't want some scold of a blog analyst to come along and ask why it is that only conservatives care about Honduras and where are the libertarians.

But which side am I on?

Why, the libertarian side, of course!

I can't help notice that Hugo Chavez is threatening to intervene in Honduras's affairs, and a lot of countries (including Obamaland) are expressing concern that the removal of President Zelaya was illegal:

The removal of Mr Zelaya has drawn criticism across Latin America and the wide world.

The Organization of American States held an emergency meeting, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for "the reinstatement of the democratically elected representatives of the country".

US President Barack Obama urged Honduras to "respect the rule of law" and a State Department official said America recognised Mr Zelaya as the duly elected president. The European Union called for "a swift return to constitutional normality".

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, meanwhile, blamed "the Yankee empire", and threatened military action should the Venezuelan ambassador to Honduras be attacked.

Hmmm...

Is there any way to support the Yankee empire in defiance of Chavez and Obama while still maintaining any shred of libertarian creds?

I don't know, but I'd hate to be accused of silence.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Lest I be misunderstood, I wrote this post to protest one of the things I most hate about blogging, and the blogosphere (if that term hasn't become outmoded....)

For me, blogging is a spontaneous act, a labor of love, even. The problem is that if you discuss things like politics and international events, the score keepers come along tallying up points and positions, with the clear intent to influence you, or to "hold you accountable," and inject the noxious notion of obligation. They have a right to do that, of course, but I think it's despicable, as it interferes with free thinking, and thwarts the creative process. Whether stifling creativity is what they want to do, I don't know, but from time to time, I feel that I must object. Of course, there's a contradiction there, as I don't like feeling obligated to object -- not even when I am objecting to an unwanted sense of obligation. The problem is, scolds are often driven by the idea that they're doing something good, like the people who want to invade your house and castrate your dog while screwing in new lightbulbs. And if you don't say anything, they'll think you're another passive idiot awaiting their divinely guided intervention.

No, no one has specifically asked me to blog about Honduras. It's just a news item which struck me as likely to fall into the blogligation category sooner or later, and I resent having my writing dictated by the whims of news items.

Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense.

MORE: My newsphobic resentment aside, I do think a good libertarian case can be made against supporting the the ousted president. People can read the details at Fausta's blog, via Glenn Reynolds.

posted by Eric at 09:52 AM | Comments (3)




Neda Net

I was checking out the home page of Neda Net and came across this interesting bit:

I'm Eric S. Raymond. Some of you will know me from the open-source movement as "ESR". Because of the real threat of terrorist action against us, most of NedaNet is keeping a low profile. I have volunteered to be a visible public contact because (a) I've done this sort of public-face work before, (b) I already got my jihadi death threat from Iran in 2006 before NedaNet, and (c) I'm not easily intimidated.

Think of me as a cut-out. I have very carefully not asked who our contacts in Iran are. I don't even know who most of the rest of the NedaNet people are, and don't intend to try to find out; they're basically just handles on an IRC channel from whom I get URLs and files. And for any agent or proxy of the regime interested in asking me questions face to face, I've got some bullets slathered in pork fat to make you feel extra special welcome.

Neda Net is of course named after this woman:
Neda
You can read more about Neda Net at Iranian Says: Israelis Help Us.

I think what is going on in Iran has passed the point of no return. I have heard rumors of rumblings in Iran. Rumors of people saying things like "Heaven help the Mullahs if we decide to take up arms."

In the meantime the Iranian people need bandwidth in and out of Iran. Go over to Neda Net and see what you can do.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:42 PM | Comments (2)



EBAY ADMITS OBAMA WAS BORN IN KENYA!

In the latest wrinkle of Birth Certificate Trutherism, an Ebay seller has been prohibited from selling what he calls "Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate" -- and for a very interesting reason:

In the third listing from colmado_naranja, the seller explains, "This time their reasoning for the cancellation was that birth certificates and other forms are government ID are prohibited on eBay."

Nonetheless, the auction lives on.

Under its now third eBay number, 160345002984, the item up for sale is listed as a "story" and specifically states the document is a gift to the winner, not the object of bidding itself:

"I'm now auctioning my story (true story) of how I obtained U.S. President Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate," the listing states. "The winner of this auction will not bear copyrights to my story. However, along with my story the winning bidder will also take home U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama's Kenyan (African) birth certificate. Certified birth certificate. I am giving the birth certificate to the bidder that wins this auction, which is for my story."

Just to be certain, the listing restates, "You are not bidding on Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate in this eBay auction."

Fascinating.

I'm more intrigued by Ebay's reasoning than the seller's attempt to get around it.

While I think it's most likely a fraudulent listing (because Obama is certified by Hawaii as having been born in Honolulu, and no one has ever been able to come up with any official documentation to the contrary), I think Ebay's statement ought to really raise eyebrows:

"...their reasoning for the cancellation was that birth certificates and other forms are government ID are prohibited on eBay."

In other words, Ebay says Obama's Kenyan birth certificate is real!

You don't have to be a Birth Certificate Truther to recognize the fun in that.

posted by Eric at 11:42 AM | Comments (11)



Something for nothing

Even though I'm gloating over my good fortune, I feel guilty over a purchase I made yesterday. I'd been looking for canister filters (which are expensive -- typically hundreds of dollars each) and I spotted a Craigslist ad for a bunch of aquarium stuff which included two canister filters. Everything was $100.00. I made a date, drove out there, and saw a ton of stuff -- all of which had me drooling. The seller (a college age male) wasn't even there, and his affluent, busy dad had taken charge, as the stuff had been in the way, and he wanted it out. He realized I was getting a good deal, but didn't seem to care at all. So I concealed my delight as I paid him, piled everything in my car and took off lest he change his mind.

I'm not going to bore readers by listing every item, but it's all top quality stuff, including the filters, lighting, tank, stand, pumps, powerheads, a python, a protein skimmer, a box of expensive rocks, and it would retail for well over $1000.00. (And that's conservative; the pair of lights alone sell for $230 each.)

As far as I'm concerned I stole it. Except no crime was committed. These people were clearly the owners, so I did not receive stolen goods.

When I worked as an auto mechanic, my boss (who used to routinely buy perfectly drivable cars for less than $50.00 from clueless sellers) once said something I'll never forget: "If someone offers me a dollar for a quarter, why shouldn't I offer him a dime?" Me, I don't operate that way. I'll gladly pay the quarter. (Well, yesterday I paid a dime, but that's because they were only asking a dime.)

While I did nothing dishonest (and these people appeared to know what they were doing), I think there might be instances where not saying something can border on dishonesty. Suppose someone is having a garage sale, and clearly does not understand the value of something. An elderly widow has a box of books and miscellaneous bric-a-brac (marked "$5.00 FOR WHOLE BOX"), and one of the items happens to be a folding album containing her husband's collection of rare gold coins. That would clearly be a mistake on her part, for no rational person would knowingly sell gold that way, so I think it would be dishonest to buy them without saying anything.

Or would it? (I have to be fair to both sides, including my dark one....)

But suppose a seller knew he was selling gold coins, but priced them incorrectly, for less than the known market value of the gold? Suppose a proprietor has old prices from five years ago written on the gold coins, has not bothered to update them because he knows the current values anyway, but he goes on vacation leaving his shiftless and uninterested son in charge of the store. If he sells them to a customer at five-year-old prices, is the customer being dishonest by buying gold for a quarter of what he knows to be its value, or is he a savvy buyer, taking advantage of a super opportunity?

I will never forget buying collectible cash (old paper money) at an antique auction for less than the face value of the cash -- simply because no one was interested in bidding. It would have been better for the seller to deposit it in the bank. But a professional auctioneering house is neither a clueless widow nor a neer-do-well son. If they wanted to do that, it was their problem.

One of the craziest situations I've ever seen involved an extremely eccentric old man who was literally throwing money around in a New Orleans gay bar:

There was an ancient queen -- really old, really effeminate, and obviously on his last legs. Except he wasn't even on his last legs, as he was in a wheelchair. The man's face radiated pure joy, and I swear to God, he was passing out huge amounts of cash! Hundreds, twenties, fifties -- it did not matter to him. He was having the time of his life just giving money away to attractive young men. Watching carefully, I could see nothing remotely sexual about this behavior, and I doubt that the man was capable of sexual gratification. But even if he was, that was not his goal; he just wanted to see young men happy in a gay bar with his cash!

Altruism?

This behavior irritated the hell out of a young military-looking guy, who was following at the "wheels" of the old man, angrily attempting to stare down all takers, his face contorted into the angriest, most Calvinistic scowl of moral authority he could muster. In some cases, he succeeded in taking back the money (sometimes grabbing it as was dropped guiltily to the floor by those he shamed) and handing it back to the old queen. The old queen laughed at him and tried to hand him the money back -- as if this too was all part of his "fun."

Clearly, most decent people (certainly most altruists) would maintain that an old man like that should be placed in a home and cared for. But I don't know about that. He looked quite happy to me -- and he certainly did not appear senile.

I didn't take any of the money. But would it have been dishonest? Remember, the old man's giving was voluntary. Certainly more voluntary than money extracted from taxpayers under the threat of imprisonment.

At the risk of sounding like a hopeless moral relativist, I guess when you get something for nothing, it's better to feel guilty than entitled.

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



Iranian Says: Israelis Help Us

An Iranian asks:

"Dear Israeli Brothers and Sisters," writes Iranian dissident Arash Irandoost, "Iran needs your help more than ever now. And we will be eternally grateful. Please help opposition television and radio stations which are blocked and being jammed by the Islamic Republic (Nokia and Siemens) resume broadcast to Iran. There is a total media blackout and Iranians inside Iran for the most part are not aware of their brave brothers and sisters fighting and losing their lives daily. And the unjust treatment and brutal massacre of the brave Iranians in the hands of the mullah's paid terrorist Hamas and Hizbullah gangs are not seen by the majority of the Iranians. Please help in any way you can to allow these stations resume broadcasting to Iran.

"And, please remember that we will remember, as you have remembered Cyrus the Great's treatment of you in your time of need," Irandoost concludes, signing his blogged call for help "Your Iranian Brothers and Sisters!"

Which brings up something I was just looking at a couple of days ago the Zoroastrian Revival in Iran
There are, in fact, two Irans, and the lesser known one to most Americans is undergoing a renaissance that the ruling Iranian mullahs fear the most. If the Persians are awakened to their identity as children of Cyrus the Great, who wrote mankind's first charter of human rights, these oppressive regimes will topple domino-style. Besides Iran, the Persian heritage is embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and were it to be rekindled, a revolution unheard of in scope could occur."

My new friend and former Muslim, whom I will call Babak Iran, told me that Korans are being burned in Iran, and that there is a strong movement toward the philosophy of Zoroastrianism. This man showed me the pendant he now wears, a symbol of the ancient religion (it is older than Judaism). This symbol, carried by many of the parade marchers in New York City, can be seen at persianparade.org. Slide # 24 in the 2009 parade is where one can see many beautiful Persian women like Neda.

So what about Cyrus the Great?
The achievements of Cyrus the Great throughout antiquity is well reflected in the way he is remembered today. His own nation, the Iranians, regarded him as "The Father" and the Babylonians as "The Liberator". After this liberation of Babylonians, followed Cyrus' liberal help for the return of Jews. For this Cyrus is addressed in the Jewish Tanakh as the "Lord's anointed ". Glorified by Ezra and by Isaiah, Cyrus is the one who "The Lord, the God of heaven" has given him "all the Kingdoms of the earth".
And then of course there is the Jewish Queen of Persia, Esther.
Esther, born Hadassah, was a Jewish queen of the Persian Empire in the Hebrew Bible, the queen of Ahasuerus (traditionally identified with Xerxes I), and heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther which is named after her. The name Esther comes from the Persian word "star".

As a result of Esther's intervention and influence, Mizrahi Jews lived in the Persian Empire for 2400 years thereafter. Esther's husband Ahasuerus followed in the footsteps of Cyrus the Great, in showing mercy to the Jews of Persia: Cyrus had decreed an end to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews upon his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC.

It seems among some Iranians/Persians the Jews still have an honored place in their history.

Well enough history. The Iranians of today need help. If you can help pitch in.

H/T Judith Weiss Facebook. Judith also suggests that any one wishing to help contact Neda Net.

You can help by adding bandwidth and computing power to our network. It is still forming and growing; the more widely dispersed it gets, the less vulnerable it will be to denial-of-service attacks, blacklisting, or physical action by the Iranian government and its terrorist allies.

If you are a Linux or *BSD or Mac OS/X user, we have a detailed recipe for setting up and registering a Squid proxy for the revolutionaries' use. Update: We are no longer recommending people set up plaintext squid proxies. The Iranian regime appears to be doing deep-packet inspection on all traffic now.

To help support safe communications that are immune to deep-packet inspection, you can set up a Tor relay; this will help dissidents to communicate in and out of Iran without being traceable by the regime. See these directions.

Squid instructions for Windows users are under development.

Alternatively, there's a bootable CD called rbox that sets up a NedaNet site in a box. I'm told it's usable but still being polished. Windows users (especially) may want to go that route to avoid security issues.

You can get more information and links by visiting Neda Net.

Update: If you want to get deeper into the history of the Jews here is a book I liked: A History of the Jews.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)



Climate of Change

With ABC handing over hours of primetime to Obama's infomercial for socialism (which failed utterly to attract viewers, thus giving the lie to the notion they've been kowtowing to him just because he's a draw) I shouldn't be surprised by this little piece of enviro-propaganda (enviroganda?) from the AP, furtively titled "analysis," which I suppose sounds better than "openly shilling for the environmental movement."

But I am surprised, not so much by the content but by how poorly argued the piece is.

Critics of the House bill brand it a "jobs killer." Yet it would seem more likely to shift jobs. Old, energy-intensive industries and businesses might scale back or disappear. Those green jobs would emerge, propelled by the push for nonpolluting energy sources.

Has the Associated Press really never heard of the broken windows fallacy?

Let's pretend for a moment the problem was electricity rather than carbon. Let's say a group of scientists with computer models has found that our steadily increasing use of electricity is causing a tiny tear in the space-time continuum, which will keep getting larger as we use more electricity. Now, some argue the tear isn't so bad and might even turn out be a useful waste-disposal mechanism, but politicians and activists insist We Must Do Something and they have the votes.

Now imagine trying to keep a straight face as they tell you moving to more expensive and less convenient non-electric goods won't cost jobs or hurt people. You won't mind fanning yourself instead of using an electric fan. Air conditioning is bad for your allergies anyway. We survived without the Internet for most of humanity's time on this Earth. Candles are perfectly adequate for lighting. Why, we'll invent new and better forms of these things that don't require electricity!

But there is no substitute for electricity, and there isn't for coal and oil either, and waving your arms and chanting "innovation!' won't cause any of these magical breakthroughs to appear. Coal is cheap, abundant and fairly energy-dense: perfect for making electricity in fixed plants. Oil is cheap, abundant, even more energy-dense, and has the added feature of being liquid, making it perfect for mobile applications and nationwide distribution.

The rest of the article makes the argument we can do this without hurting the little people.

Not all the higher energy cost would show up in people's utility bills. Households, as well as business and factories -- including those, for example, making plastic for toys -- could use less energy, or at least use it more efficiently.

Did you catch that? You see, currently companies and households make no effort to contain costs, so if we make energy more expensive, things could get cheaper! Yes, this really is how the Associated Press thinks economics works.

The poorest of homes could get a government check as a rebate for high energy costs. That money would come from selling pollution allowances for industry.

Translation: "Well, if we only break windows belonging to rich people and corporations (never mind if Grandma's pension fund owns them) then who could really complain?" This misses the point entirely. I'll let Frederic Bastiat explain why:

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

Our shopkeepers will be forced to spend their six francs on a poorly substantiated environmental scare that even proponents admit has no net economic costs in the lifetimes of most people alive today. We don't even get a new window in the deal.

posted by Dave at 12:05 AM | Comments (3)




The finest deficits money can buy

I get emails, and this morning I was greeted by this one:

let me see if I understand this. these deficits are bad,, but bush"s were fine. and I forget what was wrong with clintons surpluses. it is a hell of mess you people got us into..

this message was awful early, you repubs(now a small clique) must have a guilty conscious, o well the only way to distract your self from this stuff is to walk the applachian trail, or have an affair.
I don't especially like the "you people" tone, and I generally try to avoid it, as it's accusatory in nature, and the email reminded me of a woman who blindsided me in front of the polls one day and accused me of something I didn't do:
"You have allowed religious extremists to take over the Republican Party!"
So what have I done now? So far as I know, I have not had an affair in Argentina.* (Certainly not recently....)

But the accusation that I think Bush deficits are "fine" is too much, really. I resolutely oppose most forms of government spending (especially "entitlements"), I supported PorkBusters over the years, and I was one of those "hold-your-nose" Bush voters. So I replied by simply sending an attachment of the chart Glenn Reynolds has been displaying.

deficits.jpg

That's hardly an endorsement of Bush deficits as "fine."

However, if the Bush deficits were in fact fine, then the present deficits must be finer still!

* What I really want to know is after I return from Argentina do I get to walk the Appalachian trail nude?

posted by Eric at 10:28 AM | Comments (2)



Western colonialism comes in more than one flavor

In a discussion of Barack Obama's father, a piece in The American Thinker touched on an interesting point about Marxism:

Like many educated intellectuals in postcolonial Africa, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was enraged at the transformation of his native land by its colonial conqueror. But instead of embracing the traditional values of his own tribal cultural past, he embraced an imported Western ideology, Marxism. I call such frustrated and angry modern Africans who embrace various foreign "isms", instead of looking homeward for repair of societies that are broken, African Colonials. They are Africans who serve foreign ideas.
Yes, Marxism is every bit as much a Western ideology as free market capitalism. It might not (yet) be as American as apple pie, but it is certainly, undeniably Western. And as forms of colonialism go, it has certainly done a nice job of keeping Africans down.

A few examples. In terms of numbers alone, Marxist genocide reduced the population of Ethiopia by a million. In Zimbabwe, dictator Robert Mugabe's Marxist regime has not only bankrupted the country, but is practicing a form of "smart genocide" -- "perhaps 10 times greater than Darfur's and more than twice as large as Rwanda's." And during Angola's Marxist period, Portuguese colonial troops were replaced by Marxist Cubans.

As to the details of whether Barack Obama's father was a Marxist and thus a practitioner of this form of colonialism, I don't know, as I have not digested his entire economics philosophy, nor do I plan to. There are two sides to the argument of whether in fact he was a committed Communist. However, I don't find statements like this partricularly reassuring:

Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100 percent of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income that is taxed.
Remember, that's Senior, not Junior talking. (Whether the elder Obama was a Commie or not, I'm not sure I buy into the idea that Marxism is necessarily hereditary....)

The point is, Marxist colonialism has much to answer for.

Little wonder Marxists like to paint colonialism as its "opposite."

posted by Eric at 09:48 AM | Comments (4)



Understanding Before Voting

The Climate Bill passed the House 219 to 212. Which is a fairly slim margin since the minimum required for a House majority is 218 votes. Now the Senate has to go over it. It will be interesting to see how the Senators from Illinois (a coal state - I met my mate in Carbondale, Illinois) vote.

H/T Watts Up With That?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)



EPA Scientist Drops A Bomb On Warming

An EPA Staffer, Alan Carlin, has dropped a bomb [pdf] not just on global warming (it is currently not happening) but also on the "concensus" hypothesis about how the climate system works.

The document makes these points:

The EPA report is based on the last IPCC report which is now 3 years out of date. These new findings have not been taken into account:
    a. Global temperatures have been trending downwards for 11 years
    b. The concensus on Atlantic Hurricane behavior has changed
    c. Greenland is probably safe from melting
    d. The economic downturn has reduced CO2 emissions
    e. Empirical evidence supports negative feedback for water vapor
    f. Solar variability may account for 68% of warming

The Mr. Carlin also points out that the EPA has a history of doing its own evaluations of science and does not rely on outside organizations (such as the IPCC) to determine its conclusions. The EPA in this case has not done its own independent investigation.

Now here is where it really gets good. Watts Up With That reports that the Alan Carlin report is being suppressed within the EPA. Here is an e-mail that circulated inside the EPA:

"The time for such discussion of fundamental issues has passed for this round. The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision... I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office."

- Internal EPA email, March 17th, 2009

I was under the impression that the Obama Administration was going to be the most scientific administration ever. I put that one right up there with the current Democrat Congress being the most ethical ever.

Note that Watts Up With That also has several more pieces on the topic:

Source inside EPA confirms claims of science being ignored, suppressed, by top EPA management

CARBONGATE - Global Warming Study Censored by EPA

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)




Parity in our time?

Meet one of the newest members of my household (peeking from the inside of his secure PVC sewer pipe hiding place):

JackDempsey2.jpg

It's a young Jack Dempsey cichlid. I have a pair of them (each has his own piece of PVC, of course), in a tank with my Flowerhorn Trimac cichlid, which became too aggressive to be kept with my turtle, much less any normal fish. It seemed wasteful to devote an entire aquarium to a single fish though, so I thought very carefully about how to achieve a more or less peaceful balance of power, applying various game theory scenarios in my mind before deciding on the pair of Dempseys. I knew I was taking a chance as cichlids are all very aggressive fish, but in my experience, the Jack Dempsey is not quite as aggressive as the Red Devil/Trimac/Flowerhorn type monsters. The latter often can't be kept even with their own kind, and I started with two and had to get rid of one back in March. The remaining one was the wimp of the two, but now he's gotten aggressive, and I'd never try another pair of them together. The Jack Dempseys are quite larger, though, one of them is twice as large, and the smaller one about the same size as the Trimac. My reasoning was that trouble might start, but would not last, because of constantly shifting alliances. Two Jack Dempseys alone might have fought more, but together, they seem to unite against the Trimac, although the Trimac is so fierce that he's a match for either one of them. If the Trimac gets out of hand, the two will go after him and defend themselves, but they're not quite aggressive enough to attack in a completely unprovoked manner. The Dempseys occasionally attack each other, but it doesn't last, and the Trimac's attacks do not last. It's an inherently unstable arrangement, with no real alliances, but no bitter rivalries. I'm very lucky, because that's exactly what I hoped would happen. It's been almost two weeks now. A peaceful situation it is not, but I think things are close enough to achieving parity of the sort Henry Kissinger might approve.

Also, the fish have probably bonded by having had to make it together through the dreaded Nitrogen Cycle, which is very hard on fish. I have been testing the water for nitrites daily, and changing water sometimes twice a day just to keep the levels down. I stumbled onto a product called Seachem Stability, and I can confirm that it truly is the miracle substance it is said to be, because it has sped up the process from the normal month or so to just over a week. The way it works is by releasing a proprietary brand of spores into the water which cause nitrite-eating bacteria to grow much more quickly than they normally would. It used to be believed that Nitrobacter was the microbe that did the converting, but recent research has revealed that it's most likely Nitrospira. Finally, this morning (after over a week of daily testing and countless water changes), for the first time there were no longer any nitrites in the water -- not even trace amounts.

I'm sure reading about the Nitrogen Cycle is putting regular readers to sleep. Maybe I should try to tie it to Global Warming?

posted by Eric at 07:39 PM | Comments (4)



sense of self

Asking readers whether they have any ideas what the man might mean, Ann Althouse links a perplexing tidbit from former presidential hopeful Mark Sanford:

I'm here because if you were to look at God's laws, they're in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. I think that that is the bottom line of God's law, that it's not a moral, rigid list of do's and don'ts just for the heck of do's and don'ts. It is indeed to protect us from ourselves. And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self; that sin is, in fact, grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else?
I think that depends on what the is in self of self is. In my selfest self of selfist selves, there is no is, and thus there are no ises to self around with.

Now, you might say that makes no sense, just as many are saying that Mark Sanford's remarks made no sense. But since when has not making sense stopped anyone from not making sense?

There are some things worse than not making sense, though. It's when the stuff that does not make sense is invoked as justification for telling people what to do. I found someone who makes even less sense than Governor Sanford, but who invokes her senselessness in precisely that way. The president of PETA believes that just as purebred dogs should not have purebred dogs, purebred humans should not have purebred babies:

"I am opposed to having children. Having a purebred human baby is like having a purebred dog; it's nothing but vanity, human vanity."
No more selves!

Does that mean man was vainly created in the image of a purebred god?

posted by Eric at 01:35 PM | Comments (2)



Whatever happened to Baby Dee?

Until today I had never heard of Baby Dee. But a friend enlightened me after seeing her act, and I found this on YouTube.

As Baby Dee explains in the above, s/he does not want to be called a "singer songwriter," so I won't.

Your cultural mileage may vary.

posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)



Preventable tragedy?

Culturally illiterate I may be, but I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, whose brilliant career and tragic life ended with an apparently preventable death. In life, Jackson was hyped to the max, and I don't doubt the same thing will happen in death.

Considering the monstrous cap and trade scheme that is poised to be put over on a largely uninformed public, I share Glenn Reynolds' concern that the hype over Jackson's death will crowd this much more pressing concern out of the news.

Sure, a preventable death is a tragedy, but it's too late to prevent that. It is not too late to prevent cap and trade, which is more far-reaching than any single tragedy.

This is the bureaucratic nightmare the bill plans to create:

bureaucraticnightmare.jpg

Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes that the Democrats are passing the bill without reading it.

Yes, and if today's newspaper is any indication, cap and trade will be passed while the general public was busy reading about Michael Jackson.

But maybe my premise is all wrong about preventability.

Nightmare legislation might be less preventable than celebrity deaths.

MORE: Glenn Reynolds links this analysis from Investor's Business Daily comparing cap-and-trade to Smoot-Hawley, which spells out in gruesome detail what the bill would do:

Not since a misguided piece of legislation imposed tariffs that turned a recession into a depression has there been a piece of legislation as bad as Waxman-Markey.


Its centerpiece is a "cap and trade" provision that has been rightfully derided as "cap and tax." It is in fact a tax on energy everywhere it is consumed on everything it is used to make or provide.

It is the largest tax increase in American history -- a tax on all Americans -- even the 95% that President Obama pledged would never see a tax increase.

[...]

As we've said before, capping emissions is capping economic growth. An analysis of Waxman-Markey by the Heritage Foundation projects that by 2035 it would reduce aggregate gross domestic product by $7.4 trillion. In an average year, 844,000 jobs would be destroyed, with peak years seeing unemployment rise by almost 2 million (see charts below).

Consumers would pay through the nose as electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket, as President Obama once put it, by 90% adjusted for inflation. Inflation-adjusted gasoline prices would rise 74%, residential natural gas prices by 55% and the average family's annual energy bill by $1,500.

Read it all. I sincerely hope that it is not too late to prevent what would be a tragedy for the economy.

Awful. Truly awful. Long term, this is going to make the bailout fiasco look like child's play.

I'll say this for the bailout scheme. At least there were some well meaning people who thought it would aid the country's economic recovery.

The goal here is to deliberately harm the economy. And for what? To advance an unproven theory that deliberately harming the economy might lower the planet's temperatures by a smidgen?

No wonder they'd rather hype Michael Jackson's death.

posted by Eric at 08:34 AM | Comments (3)



Soccer Moms Going To Pot

The question of the day is: will Northern Lights replace Cabernet Sauvignon or Dos Equis?

Mary is a 37-year-old, self-employed mother in Seattle who smokes pot several times a week. "It is relaxing, fun, and once in a while I self-medicate for cramps or headaches," said Mary. She says she prefers smoking to drinking beer because it's easier on the body and has fewer calories. Mary buys her bags from a dealer, making it more risky because "there's still a real danger of being arrested," says Mary.

The website, Chikii.com, surveyed hundreds of women nationwide between the ages of 25 and 60 years old. Out of that group, 52% admitted to using marijuana at least ten times a year. 27% smoked between one and seven times a week. And 78% of those women knew someone who got high on a regular basis.

The results of recent surveys are no surprise to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. "These findings are indicative of women's willingness to admit to the social stigma that was so high in the 1970s and 80s," said St. Pierre.

Both women who shared their stories with momlogic say that many of their friends smoke weed.

And now you know why the laws are changing rather rapidly. No one is going to put up with a war on suburban moms.

Just look at what is going on in my town of 150,000. We have enough demand for indoor horticulture to support two grow op stores. No doubt the horticulturalists are reading books like Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible and putting what they have learned to use. In order to supply all those soccer moms and dads on pot.

It has gone so far in Oakland, California that they have a university, Oaksterdam University, dedicated to teaching marijuana horticulture and business.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)




When in Rome, visit the ruins while attending the games!

Speaking of my cultural illiteracy, I'm embarrassed to admit that until last night I had never heard of the Hygienic Dress League.

However, I had my camera handy, and I took a picture:

dressleague.jpg

As it turns out, the "League" is all in the minds of the sign painters, who happen to be engaged in guerilla art:

The culprits responsible are Detroit artists Dorota Bilica and Steve Coy, who created the "League" back at the University of Hawaii as a way to have fun mocking ad images -- and more recently, to perk up desolate Detroit buildings.

"We were passionate about doing something positive for the city of Detroit," says Bilica. "This brought that building alive."

The project cost Coy and Bilica -- who plan more public art, including nighttime projects this summer -- $400 in materials and four days of painting, much of it atop a 30-foot extension ladder. (That entry arch turns out to be tall.)

So far, nobody's defaced it, though the artists say they were aware at the outset that such a project, like almost any guerrilla art, could be short-lived.

As someone who loves classical architecture, I'm more worried about the fate of the building. If the Hygienic Dress League can help save it, I'm all for it. Just don't expect me to wear a hygienic dress.

Here's the top of a nearby skyscraper which (fortunately) looks as if it may still be in use:

classicalscraper2.jpg

Detroit is loaded with incredibly cool buildings in a poor state of repair. Where the money will come from to repair them, who knows? To call the city economically depressed is understatement, and modern building codes often require things like environmentally friendly double pane windows. And asbestos removal. (Another pet peeve, because the danger of asbestos -- especially chrysotile asbestos -- is highly exaggerated by the asbestos trial lawyer industry.) Ironically, because expensive asbestos removal is required in order to demolish a building, the asbestos might be prolonging the life of these beauties.

So perhaps asbestos can be seen as being an unwitting best friend of the preservationists -- a hygienic form of dress for older buildings. Why not? Is there some rule that destruction must always be the handmaiden of progress? Couldn't the modern forces of Henry VIII have destroyed "Papism" without knocking down almost every last Norman monastery in England?

There I go, getting distracted to the point that I almost lost track of this post, which was not so much the Hygienic Dress League, my cultural illiteracy, or even old buildings. These were merely sights I saw along the road to last night's main event, which was a baseball game: the Detroit Tigers versus the Chicago Cubs.

I rooted for the Tigers, because I live here, and if for no other reason supporting the local team is a "when in Rome" kind of thing.

Here's Tiger hunger at the gates:

tigerhunger2.jpg

A few pictures of the game.

It was tough to catch the ball in action, but in this photo I caught the ball being bunted by a Cub:

bunt2.jpg

And a missed bunt by a Tiger:

missedbunt2.jpg

Here are two taken right after the ball was hit:

hittigercub2.jpg

hitwhere2.jpg

I noticed that although I was lucky enough to catch the action, the camera seems to distort the "narrative" (if you will) -- for the participants have not yet had time to react to what they just did.

Towards the climax of the game, a nearby fireworks show provided a fairly sizable distraction, with lots of noise, and sights like this:

fireworksbb2.jpg

The Tigers won 5-3, and people exited as the fireworks did its thing with the grand finale. I took this while walking down the exit ramp:

baseballfireworks2.jpg

A surge, not a siege.

MORE: I almost forgot about an important cultural icon which graces the road to Detroit:

gianttire2.jpg

It's the giant Uniroyal Tire, originally made for the 1964 World's Fair, and kept in a good state of repair ever since:

The Uniroyal® Giant Tire was originally created as a Ferris wheel attraction at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. The wheel held 96 fairgoers and was powered by a 100-horsepower motor. More than two million people rode the Giant Tire Ferris wheel during the fair, including Jacqueline Kennedy and her children, John Jr. and Caroline.

After the 1965 World's Fair festivities ended, the Giant Tire was relocated to a Uniroyal sales office in Allen Park, Michigan, and has towered alongside I-94 near the Metro Airport ever since. Over the decades it has become an important symbol of Uniroyal's 111-year heritage and a cultural icon for the city of Detroit known the world over.

posted by Eric at 01:00 PM | Comments (3)



A conspiracy of cultural illiteracy

Regular readers know I can't stand television, and I don't watch network television programming at all. As I freely admitted in two recent posts, this makes me a cultural illiterate.

For the life of me, I don't know what programs are on, and if I hang out with television watchers and they discuss programs, I haven't a clue as to who or what is being discussed. I say this not to brag or put people down, but as a statement of fact.

A piece by Michele Catalano ("Who Cares About Jon and Kate? Apparently, We Do") drives the point home.

Seriously, I have never heard of Jon or Kate. I guess that means Michele has educated me about them, but not enough to incline me to watch whatever the effing show it is they're on. Apparently, there's a cultural knowledge gap:

There are more people who know what's going on in the lives of Jon and Kate than what's going on in Iran.

Is that a sad commentary on our population or an indictment of the media? While some may claim that the media is obsessed with Jon and Kate's sordid story, along with the personal lives of countless celebrities, I'd have to say the blame lies with the people who watch and read the tabloid news rather than the people who bring us the news.

There's a revolution going on right now and it is not being televised. Not unless you count ten minute segments on your nightly news, right after the twenty minute piece on Jon and Kate. Maybe on your cable news network, which gives it a clip show treatment, right before Nancy Grace chomps up two hours of air time with a sensationalistic story that's two years old.

Does the media decide what to feed us or do we tell it what we want to be fed?

I don't have the answer to that. I suppose you could do a scientific, Nielsen-rating style survey, featuring Jon and Kate on one channel, and Iranian protesters on another. If more people watched the former, then that's where the advertising money is likely to go.

This is not to say that there isn't a market for carnage. I think if gladiatorial combat were made legal, millions would tune in (or stand in line) to watch condemned criminals fight to the death. So I suppose Iranian protests could be marketed in such a way as to tap the niche market that involves a taste for blood.

But as to things like freedom, truth and justice as marketable commodities, forget it. People simply do not find it entertaining -- at least, not enough people to justify the advertisers spending money. Yes, people's tastes suck. I don't think it's a conspiracy, even though it might be more emotionally appealing to believe it is. On some level, though, marketability -- what advertisers think will sell -- does involve conspiracy thinking, at least on the part of advertisers. After all, they want you to buy something.

Might it be that vapid programming acts as a screening tool? If you think about it, people who get off on Jon and Kate might be just the kind of people who will stand in line to buy shlocky and unnecessary merchandise made in China by political prisoners. They might be just the people who will call the slick personal injury lawyer who offers a free medical consultation. And they might be most in need of that firm that advises them to file for bankruptcy protection now. (Most important of all, they might be the least inclined to hit the mute button!)

Where does this leave that critical subset of people who are interested in following developments in Iran? What will they buy? I can't speak for others, but I'm the kind of person who will hit the mute button or change the channel at the slightest hint of a commercial, and most likely I wouldn't be inclined to buy something even if I heard the ad. Yeah, I like dogs, and I might watch a dog barking -- especially because I like to occasionally watch Coco reacting to those ads if I flip through channels. But actually buy something because of it? No way.

So, to the extent there is a conspiracy, it's an advertising conspiracy.

Should I be glad I'm not the target?

Michele closes with this.

The media doesn't tell us what to watch; it gives us what we want to watch. In a time when print newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur, many of them are surviving by turning their front page into replicas of The Star, knowing that the latest news of Jon and Kate or Brad and Angelina will have those papers flying off the shelves.

Protests in Iran do not sell papers; protestations of infidelity do.

Hmmm... No wonder the tabloid presidency of Bill Clinton was so popular. (During the Bush era, conservatives tended to forget that he would have been elected to a third term had he been allowed one.) Barack Obama better be thinking about tabloid niche marketing in case people get bored with him.

Of course, I probably shouldn't say this, but one of my longterm worries is tabloid conservatism. As it is, I can't stand to listen to people like Michael Savage or Ann Coulter, but what annoys me the most about them others find appealing: their entertainment value. (Not a new subject in this blog.) I hate to say this, but considering the Big Three news networks are in the tank, it probably won't take long for one of them to try right wing tabloidism. Something to make Fox look lame and wimpy. If, say, Katie Couric was replaced by Ann Coulter or Michael Savage, CBS would clean up in the ratings.

And just think! Shlocky gay-friendly shows could be replaced with "family friendly" gay exorcism videos!

Now that's entertainment!

posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (3)




Black And Green

Via HotAir, Tom Friedman has a bold plan to end the theocratic state in Iran: put a $1 tax on U.S. gasoline! Sure, it will be a terrible burden on everyday Americans during the worst economic conditions in a generation, but surely the mullahs will embrace democratic reforms if they have slightly less money! Only exclamation marks can capture the enthusiastic absurdity of this international politics version of the broken windows fallacy!

Friedman cites the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this is a very poor analogy for several reasons. First off, in Communist states where the leadership had the will to crack down (e.g. Cuba and N Korea) there was no change in power despite loss of Soviet funding. Second, a major reason the USSR collapsed was that nearly all its constituent nations had been militarily coerced into the Union and retained their own nationalist/ethnic pride: Ukrainians voted 10:1 for independence when given the chance (and you can't really blame them). Iran isn't homogenous, but it's not very likely to break up along ethnic lines either. Third, oil was only a minor factor in the overall economic devastation wrought by Communist ideology itself. The notion falling oil prices, and their effect on grain purchases, were the decisive factor ignores the fact they had to buy grain in the first place, due to 70 years of steadily worsening harvests. Iran's regime is dysfunctional, brutal, and increasingly illegitimate, but not Communist.

And even were the Persian petro-economy to utterly collapse, which may happen anyway, it's not clear why anyone should expect that would lead to political change, given that the mullahs seem quite unwavering in their belief in their own holiness, and also quite willing to murder anyone who expresses a opinion otherwise. The most likely outcome has the mullahs cracking down even harder, and the country gradually starting to look more and more like Afghanistan under the Taliban (except with nukes; that should be fun!)

Ultimately only two things reform militarized regimes like Iran's: moderation/capitulation from within, or military force from without. Don't bet on either happening anytime soon.

posted by Dave at 08:56 PM | Comments (1)



Saudi Underwear Revolution

Some of you may remember my article Defeated by Pornography where I discussed how modern technology was liquefying Islamic society. We can start with this amazing statistic:

Up to 70% of files exchanged between Saudi teenagers' mobile phones contain pornography, according to a study in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.
Well the Saudis are at it again. This time with women's underwear.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Using colorful bras donated by employees at Victoria's Secret, a group of 26 mostly Saudi women completed the first course of its kind to be offered in the kingdom _ how to fit, stock and sell underwear _ a training organizers hope will help boost a campaign to lift the ban on women selling underwear in the kingdom.

The graduates held a small ceremony at a college in the western seaport of Jiddah on Tuesday, capping 40 hours of instruction during which they learned to overcome their embarrassment at doing bra fittings, deal with customer complaints and display the stock in an appealing manner.

"It was a beautiful experience," said Faten Abdo, a 32-year-old coordinator in the offices of a lingerie company.

"The most shocking thing for me was the bra sizes," she added. "We didn't know how to get proper measurements before."

Now there is a class I'd like to take. As long as there was a lot of hands on experience. Besides my engineering training should give me a head start when it comes to measurement accuracy. The key is to keep measuring until you get a consistent set of measurements.
Suzanne al-Hindi, 33, one of 26 graduates, said she and the other women were "shy at first to play-role and do fittings on each other, but we got over it."

British consul-general in Jiddah Kate Rudd said she attended Tuesday's ceremony to show support for the idea that women should be allowed to play a more active role. "It was a small step, but perhaps from this little drop there will be bigger ripples," said Rudd.

Bigger WHAT? I believe Kate said ripples you boob. And what is this about underwear fitting as an RPG? Don't kids play Dungeons and Dragons any more?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:12 PM | Comments (4)



Reports From Iran

Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs is doing an excellent job of keeping up to date on events in Iran. She has a report from a medical student.

I only want to speak about what I have witnessed. I am a medical student. There was chaos at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. What can you even say to the people who don't even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff.

The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they've asked everyone to stay and help--I'm sure it will even be worst tonight. What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities? What can you say to the family of the 13 year-old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared? This issue is not about cheating (election) anymore. This is not about stealing votes anymore. The issue is about a vast injustice inflected on the people. They've put a baton in the hand of every 13-14 year old to smash the faces of "the bunches who are less than dirt" (government is calling the people who are uprising dried-up torn and weeds). This is what sickens me from dealing with these issues. And from those who shut their eyes and close their ears and claim the riots are in opposition of the government and presidency!! No! The people's complaint is against the egregious injustices committed against the people.

The report originally came from The Guardian. The Guardian updates that page every day and provides a link to previous day's pages.

H/T R. Dave at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)



Regime Change Iran Logo Banned

If you look at my sidebar at Power and Control you will see that the logo for Regime Change Iran has been banned. The message reads in part:

This page/domain banned b/c porn, warez, or topsite. If you own this site and feel the ban is in error visit imageshack.us go to "Contact Image Shack" and refer to the contents of the url bar.
Regime Change Iran is still functioning. Visit them for their latest updates.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)



It's high time we headed in the wrong direction?

I've been scratching my head over how to interpret some of the poll results at Real Clear Politics.

President Obama Job Approval
RCP Average
Approve
60.0
Disapprove
33.0
But consider this poll, which reveals a majority of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction:
Direction of Country
RCP Average
Right Direction
42.2
Wrong Track
51.6
Unless the above numbers are seriously wrong, what this means is that a fairly sizable percentage of those who approve of the job President Obama is doing also think the country is on the wrong track.

What's up with that? Do they think it's good to be headed in the wrong direction for a change?

posted by Eric at 01:37 PM | Comments (6)



A single DDOS can ruin a mullah's entire day!

Talk is cheap, and there's not much I can say that would help the Iranian protesters. What I'd really like to do is something -- anything -- that goes beyond talk. In that regard, Glenn Reynolds linked a post by Eric S. Raymond which asked for help:

I've spent the last seventeen hours living inside a cyberpunk novel. A libertarian cyberpunk novel. It's been a weird and awesome experience.

Within an hour after I received a plea for help from Iran, a regular commenter on this blog recruited me into a hacker network that has been forming to support the democratic Iranian revolutionaries by providing them with proxy servers, Tor anonymizers, and any other technologies needed for them to communicate over channels the Iranian regime cannot censor or control.

As Glenn points out,
He's looking for volunteers, if you'd like to help.
I would, except I don't have any of that stuff or experience to offer.

However, via a link that José Guardia posted, I found something more my speed.

PLEASE HELP by clicking here and keeping the window open as much time as you can; it's a DDOS script to try to bring down Iran's official websites. Let's see if we can all make them stop blocking cellphones, SMS, Twitter, email, etc. And tell your friends!
Now that's easy! And cool.

I'm only too glad to run the script and pass it along.

Again, the link is here, and I hope it helps. (If it's now been rendered ineffective, or anyone knows of a better approach, please let me know.)

The way I see it, if spreading a DDOS can help give one mullah a bad hair day, it's worth all the talk in the world.

UPDATE: From Eric S. Raymond, an important comment:

Please do not attempt to DDOS Iranian sites from outside the country. It is a BAD IDEA.

Here's why. Iran's pipe to the ourtsise is narrow. If you flood it, the demonstrators won't be able to use our proxies and won't have communications.

I have therefore removed the links above.

posted by Eric at 01:21 PM | Comments (4)



Government Failure

I was browsing Amazon and came across a book, Government Failure, which seems tailor made for current economic and political conditions.

So, how about some reviews? This one gives the book 5 stars.

The general thrust of the text is that, however well-intentioned, no government can sustain a vibrant and diverse welfare-state over the long-term. Entrenched bureaucracies simply can't cope with the vagaries and varieties of human desires. Only the free market can hope to provide for the panoply of individuals' interests.

Part I: A concise, lucid, introduction to the theory of public choice. Professor Tullock has a definitely "small-government" mentality (which I share), but his discussion is still even-handed. The sole problem I have is that the few tables and graphs he employs are completely unitelligible to me. Fortunately, they're not essential, as his writing should be clear enough. The most important topics are rent-seeking and log-rolling, the former of which is the topic most treated by the co-authors. Also of interest is the discussion about bureaucracies.

Part II: A far ranging, perhaps wandering, discussion of the application of rent-seeking to American regulatory policy. Brady writes with a slightly more fervent tone than does Tullock, with a clear but tempered opinion of the roles lawyers, regulators, etc. Generally interesting, but the chapters somewhat lack coherence with each other beyond the theory.

Part III: Sheldon here presents the most entertaining and forcefully written section of the book. Full of vigor, he brings ip several issues that are of critical interest to proponents of small government: the Fabian fallacy, the growth of addiction to the welfare-state, and the welfare-state's role in the collapse of the family.

A great introduction for the interested student of politics or economics.

and for balance a 1 star review:
Not terribly useful, though a good introductory review of log-rolling and rent-seeking. Might perhaps do as a book for an introductory Political Science course if backed up with significant amounts of other material.
The problem I see with government is not the corruption (bad enough) but the freezing of the rules to conform to current realities. When the realities change the rules still hold us back.

We are starting to see that in the medical care debate. Since everyone can't afford the latest treatments they should be outlawed. i.e. if progress can't be instantaneous then progress needs to be outlawed.

Megan Mcardle looks at healthcare and sees it differently.

It is true that I cannot afford to spend 40% of my income on healthcare. It was equally true that my great-great grandparents could not afford to spend a third of their income on housing, and another half on clothing, manufactured good, transportation, and services--Land o' Mercy, everyone in the future is going to starve to death!!!

Obviously this is ridiculous. I am not consuming less food than my ancestors; I am consuming more. (Too much more, according to the waistband of my favorite pants.) But my income is vastly higher than theirs in real terms, so that the food I consume is 10% of my household budget, rather than 50%. Similarly, our descendents in 2100 giving over 40% of their income to health care (if indeed they do), will not be skimping on housing, transportation, clothing, entertainment, or what have you. In all probability, they will be consuming more of everything than I do, except maybe energy and housing. It's just that they'll be devoting a large share of their extra income to health care. This prospect doesn't worry me. And it probably won't worry them, other than the way it (mostly) worries us: because we'd always like everything we consume to cost less, and be more equally distributed.

The best use of increased wealth is what? I guess it depends on who you ask.

A commenter to Megan's article had this to say:

I attended a CLE in January put on by Professor M. Gregg Bloche who was one of Obama's health care reform advisors during the 2008 campaign. He made pretty much the same argument that health care costs were going to eventually consume nearly half of GDP and advocated controlling costs by slowing down the rate of innovation. His logic was that if new (and initially expensive) treatments, drugs, devices and tests don't exist then patients can't demand them and no one has to pay for them and technically we won't have reduced the quality of care since people would still be able to get the treatments that are available today.
Translation: "We can save a lot of money (to pass out to our friends) by killing a lot of people and the best thing is they will never know who did it to them."

It is a good thing our President shaves off his upper lip hair.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)



At last! Some spine!

I'm glad to see that the once-timid media are finally showing real spine, and they are daring to demand answers to tough questions about pressing issues.

At least, the most important pressing issues.

Like whether the president smokes:

"You just think it's neat to ask me about my smoking," he told the reporter, before conceding that he has "fallen off the wagon sometimes."

"Am I a daily, a constant smoker? No," he said. "I don't do it in front of my kids. i don't do it in front of my family."

Obama said he was "95% cured" and compared himself to a recovering alcoholic.

"Once you've gone down this path, it's something you continually struggle with," he said.

The line has to be drawn somewhere, and I am so delighted that they've laid down the law. And think how patient they have been! The president may have been given a pass on Iranian revolution, gay marriage, DOMA, and socialized health care, but this is where it counts.

After all, cigarettes are one of the greatest evils of Western Civilization. Obama might get a break on everything else, but smoking? On some issues, even the pliant media has to uphold society's moral standards.

I feel so much safer now.

MORE: Glenn Reynolds (in an update reading "From journalism to 'gerbilism?'") links this piece on media "gerbilism" which decries the fawning coverage, and says,

The press corps needs to get a backbone when it comes to covering Obama, and quick.
Well, they might be into gerbilism, but there are some things scientists can't get even a gerbil to do, and countenancing smoking is apparently one of them.

What I want to know is what's up with "gerbilism" these days? Have they defined gerbilism down? As a commenter Silvergoat noted,

Actually, given the MSM close attachment to the posterior of the president, the next step of gerbilism is altogether predictable.
Which begs the question of what is gerbilism. In the piece Glenn links, K. Daniel Glover cites a definition given by Doug Bates at a commencement address to graduating journalism students:
Lately, I've been thinking about that long-ago school paper, and I've decided "gerbilism" is a pretty good word for what's been going on in the news media these days. Gerbilism is an apt term for something that's soft and warm and cuddly, safe and timid, with no sharp teeth and no bite whatsoever. Gerbilism, I've decided, is partly responsible for a lot of our nation's problems today.
Mr. Bates concluded his speech by urging the graduating class of journalists to "please join the fight to keep shallow, fluffy worthless gerbilism from further weakening American democracy."

OK, I agree with Bates' central point, but should he have chosen a different word? Or is he deliberately injecting a subtext?

I hate to quibble (and I also hate to accuse a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist of a coverup) but I think it's obvious that Mr. Bates is omitting a well known, darker definition of gerbilism. A definition known all too well to college students, expounded upon in graphic-enough-while-still-being-work-safe terms here:

We're all crammed in a shithole by a higher being, who is neither benevolent or malevolent, and cares not for us. He hedonistically puts us where we find ourselves for his own sense of experimentation and enjoyment. The sum of our experiences is but insignificant fecal matter that accumulates on our fur during our arduous journey.
And:
We are the gerbil. Infinitessimally small in the colon we are enveloped by. I am not commenting on the beastlike nature of man. We are in our own, separate assholes, yet, since all assholes are similar, we can relate to the pathos of other gerbils in our very same predicament.
crammed in a shithole by a higher being? Is that where this epidemic of brown-nosed journalism is headed?

Why does it have to be incumbent on lowly bloggers like me to keep supplying the missing subtext?

I'm all for journalists showing some spine, but honest, I wasn't thinking about below the spine.

posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (3)




Don't take what he says literally

Depending on your point of view, it might or might not be a good thing that President Obama's words should not be taken literally.

First (via Glenn Reynolds), I read that the White House has gone on record as saying that Obama Health Care Promises Should Not Be Taken Literally:

Less than 24 hours after Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner questioned the veracity of President Obama's persistent claim that, under his health care proposals, "if you like your insurance package you can keep it", the White House has begun to walk the President's claim back. Turns out he didn't really mean it.

According to the Associated Press, "White House officials suggest the president's rhetoric shouldn't be taken literally: What Obama really means is that government isn't about to barge in and force people to change insurance." How's that for change you can believe in?

As Jim Lindgren tries to explain, it's like, when he said, "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period."

What he actually meant to say was this:

If you like your doctor, many of you will NOT be able to keep your doctor. Period.
Okay?

If you're having trouble, the best explanation I've seen put it this way:

The Obama giveth, the Obama taketh away.
This give or take approach is not limited to any particular issue. It has also become very clear that the president's statements about DOMA are also not supposed to be taken literally.

However, in California, a gay couple apparently hasn't taken the Don't Take Him Literally rule to heart, for they are actually taking the president's own words to court. The gay couple claims that Obama's words should mean something, so now they're in a legal battle to use the president words against the position of his own administration. Their attorney says he does not know who the U.S. attorneys are representing:

When Orange County newlyweds Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer face off against the Obama administration over a law that denies federal benefits and interstate recognition for their marriage, they will have some potent ammunition: President Obama's own words.

An Aug. 3 hearing in federal court in Orange County is scheduled for Smelt and Hammer's challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that reserves for male-female married couples such spousal benefits as joint federal tax filing, Social Security survivors' payments, and sponsorship of an immigrant partner. The law also allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state or nation.

An attorney for the couple said he will argue that the administration is on the wrong side of the case, in light of Obama's latest comments.

"I'm not sure who the attorneys for the United States are representing," attorney Richard Gilbert said.

Pressed by gay-rights groups to live up to his campaign promise to be a "fierce advocate" of equality for gays and lesbians, Obama denounced the 1996 law Wednesday while announcing limited benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

Despite his administration's position, Obama's says he stands behind his committment:
"Unfortunately, my administration is not authorized by existing federal law to provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples," the president said. "That's why I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

"It's discriminatory, it interferes with states' rights, and it's time we overturned it," Obama said.

Obama also criticized the law as a presidential candidate. But as president, he was speaking with more authority - and his statement that the law was discriminatory appeared to contradict what his Justice Department argued only six days earlier in Smelt and Hammer's case.

Notwithstanding whatever authority the president may have, Obama's Justice Department contradicts the boss, as they claim DOMA is not discriminatory:
The Defense of Marriage Act "does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits," department lawyers said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. The 1996 law, "understood for what it actually does, infringes on no one's rights," they said.

By reserving federal benefits for "those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage," government lawyers said, the law adopted "a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage" while respecting states' authority to define marital unions for themselves.

They're trying to make it perfectly clear that while the Justice Department is speaking for the Obama administration, President Obama is not speaking for the Obama adminstration:
In asking Judge David Carter to dismiss the suit and uphold the law, the Justice Department was speaking for the Obama administration.

Gilbert said he will bring Obama's remarks to Carter's attention and ask the judge to tell the government to clarify its position.

"It appears to me that the president of the United States is making it clear that the attorneys for the United States do not represent the views of the administration," Gilbert said.

"I think they have a duty to withdraw their motion. I think they have a duty to join my side of the case."

The Justice Department stuck to its position Monday that it will urge courts to uphold existing laws, including laws the president opposes.

"Until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged," the department said.

Sigh.

While I am having a great deal of trouble following the logic, I have to recognize how nervewracking it must be to be the president and yet not be able to speak for your own administration. My heart goes out to the president.

But is he at least allowed to at least take himself literally? The reason I'm asking is because he famously said he was against gay marriage, and his supporters apparently don't take him literally, nor do they want him to take himself literally.

If Obama isn't allowed to take himself literally, how will he ever know what he meant?

posted by Eric at 04:37 PM | Comments (3)



Ed McMahon, 1923-2009

I'm sorry to see that Ed McMahon has died.

McMahon, 86, was a household name for 30 years as the announcer and sidekick to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. His trademark opening "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" became part of the cultural lexicon, echoed most memorably by Jack Nicholson in 1980's The Shining.
He was one of the great all-time straight men, and he had what had to be the best belly laugh in the business -- a belly laugh that enabled him to endlessly endure Carson's steady stream of clever insults without seeming to be affected at all. One of my favorite examples occurred during the "Deep Throat" era, when I heard Carson speculate that if McMahon had been in the film, they'd have had to titled it "Deep Fat." To which McMahon roared louder than I'd ever heard him. The fact that he roared with laughter at such personal insults made them much funnier than they'd otherwise have been. Of course, between having worked as a street barker and served for years in the Marines, he had probably had lots of practical experience enduring insults worse than anything Carson could dish out:
Born in Detroit and raised in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, McMahon began training for his future career by calling bingo games as a teen and hawking vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City boardwalk to pay college expenses.

He served as a pilot in the Marine Corps in World War II before graduating from Catholic University and starting his announcing career in Philadelphia. He went back to Marine service during the Korean War, flying reconnaissance missions.

He retired from the Marines with the rank of Colonel and then later became a Brigadier General in the Army Reserves.

Ed McMahon was a true American original and he will be missed.

They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

posted by Eric at 12:39 PM | Comments (6)



Green Jobs Come Real Jobs Go

Power Magazine whose mission is to cover Business and Technology for the Global Generation Industry reports on what Green Energy is doing to Spain. It is pretty ugly.

Gabriel Calzada Álvarez, PhD, an economics professor at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, completed Spain's first comprehensive review of the long-term effects of Spain's renewable energy policy on jobs and the economy. His report, "Study of the Effects on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources," was released in March. Some of its most surprising findings include these:
* The premium paid for renewable power in Spain that's charged to consumers translates into $774,000 for each Spanish "green job" created since 2000. In an interview with Bloomberg, Álvarez stated: "The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices."
* The study calculates that the programs creating those jobs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs destroyed for every "green job" created. The report notes that Obama's estimates of job creation gloss over jobs lost due to lost opportunity in the private capital market or the higher efficiency of private capital employed in renewable energy investment. Álvarez concluded that each "green" megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy: 8.99 by photovoltaics, 4.27 by wind energy, and 5.05 by mini-hydro.
Now couple that knowledge with how people are feeling about the US Economy.
A string of new polls seems to show that America's belief in the wonder-working power of Obamanomics has begun to fade. A Pew poll found President Obama's economic approval rating has fallen to 52 percent from 60 percent in April. A Wall Street Journal poll found 53 percent disapprove of his handling of GM and Chrysler vs. 39 who approve. And the New York Times found that 60 percent don't think Obama has a "clear plan" to deal with the monstrous budget deficit.

Okay, here's the thing: Obama took a tremendous economic and political gamble last January. The new president had the option of putting forward a stimulus plan that would attempt to reverse or significantly dampen America's terrible economic downturn ASAP. The quickest and most effective approach would have been a big cut in payroll taxes. For $800 billion, combined Social Security and Medicare taxes could have been slashed by 6 percentage points, or 40 percent. That would have put $1,500 in worker paychecks and, according to one credible study, increased employment by 4 million jobs in 2009.

Instead, Obama chose to listen to Rahm "Never let a crisis go to waste" Emanuel and put forward an $800 billion plan that advanced his healthcare, energy and education policy goals -- but pretty much neglected the economy in 2009. Team Obama had to fully understand this. Indeed, a study from the Congressional Budget Office study -- when led by current Obama budget chief Peter Orszag -- concluded that an Obama-like economic stimulus package would be "totally impractical" because it would take so long to implement. (True enough, only seven percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been doled out so far.)

And how about the rosy future we have hears so much about in the last few months, "an economy on the mend".
The terrible tale of the tape: a) the current downturn is arguably the worse since the Great Depression; b) household wealth has fallen by $14 trillion during the past two years, including the first quarter of 2009; c) while the economy may not shrink as much this quarter as it did in the previous three months (-5.7 percent) or the final quarter of 2008 (-6.3 percent), unemployment is soaring; d) Obama himself said the jobless rate will hit 10 percent this year; d) even worse, the Federal Reserve sees it approaching 11 percent next year. (Recall, that the original White House economic analysis of the Obama economic plan never saw unemployment exceeding 8 percent if Obamanomics was passed by Congress.)

So now many Americans are rightfully wondering just what they are getting for that $800 billion, as well as massive budget deficits as far as the eye can see. And it goes beyond the mercurial world of polling. Pricey plans to deal with perceived climate change and healthcare are also appear on the ropes or are being scaled back as voters view them as lower priorities than job creation and taming out-of-control spending.

Green shoots? Oh there are some to be sure. Just yesterday, the Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose by its biggest monthly amount in five years And the stock market is up nearly 40 percent from its lows as depression fears ebb. Gluskin Sheff economist David Rosenberg, by contrast, declares that the "era of the green shoots is over." He points out that 1) bellwether FedEx described the economy as "extremely difficult" when it reported disappointing earnings , 2) United Airlines said second quarter traffic fell as much at 10.5 percent, 3) commercial real estate loan concerns led S&P to cut ratings on 22 non-"too big too fail" regional banks; 4) incomes are being pinched by rising gas prices, and 5) surging interest rates are refreezing the housing market.

The Republicans tried to tell Obama what to do: "lower taxes, drill for oil, implement alternative energy when it becomes cheaper than the alternative". Was Mr. Obama listening? Evidently not. Let us hope his party pays for it in the 2010 mid-term elections.

And about that health care thing? Bill Whittle has some words on the subject. The words are not kind to Mr. Obama and his Democrat confederates.

So what do I think is required to get us out of the current mess? Cheaper energy. And not just oil. Although we need to bring more of that to market. It wouldn't hurt to get electrical energy below the price of coal. I think fusion might be an answer.

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.

And the best part about Polywell? We Will Know In Two Years.

The next best? If it works it should be possible to make fusion electricity for about the same price or less than coal electricity.

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

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)




The dire Canadian threat

I'm still fairly new to the Detroit area, and it's easy to forget that Canada is just across the river -- the nearest city being Windsor, Ontario. While I hate to think that my mind has been programmed by big media and political pundits, the fact is that when I hear about "illegal immigrants" and "drug smugglers" I tend to associate these with Mexico and not "our fine neighbor to the North."

So I am finding it a bit startling to read stories like this one (headlined "Patrols guard against smugglers on Michigan-Ontario border"):

Drugs and illegal immigrants are the main cargo coming into Michigan. Authorities say they believe criminal rings are involved in the smuggling of many of the illegal immigrants. For $2,000 to $3,000, almost anyone can get a trip across the river, they said.

Officers also suspect increased security at land crossings, such as bridges, is leading to an increase in narcotics smuggled across the water. Border agents found an undocumented Albanian last March in a riverside park in Detroit with a hockey bag filled with about $28,600 worth of marijuana.

Undocumented Albanian?

Interesting. There wouldn't be much work for any illegal aliens around here. There are far fewer Hispanic workers in the area; not once when I've gone to Home Depot or Lowes have I seen aliens hanging around looking for work. (In California there are so many you can barely drive into the parking lots.)

Other than smuggling, I don't know what an Albanian might be doing here.

I noticed also that the smuggling seems to be a two way street:

Law enforcement agencies hope to slow down the smuggling -- primarily narcotics and illegal immigrants coming into Michigan and alcohol and cigarettes going into Canada -- by beefing up equipment and patrols.
So, apparently Canada has narcotics that Americans want, while we have alcohol and cigarettes that Canadians want (even though they once supplied booze to us). Go figure. The whole deal sounds counterintuitive to me, as like many Americans I've been conditioned to think of Canada as having less of a drug problem than the United States.

What drugs do they have that we want so badly that people are going to risk prison to smuggle them across? Are they cheaper there?

According to the State Department, it's mostly marijuana and ecstasy:

Drug Flow/Transit. Marijuana is smuggled primarily from British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec into the U.S. by all modes of conveyance. Significant seizures of MDMA from clandestine laboratories indicate they are larger and more sophisticated organized crime operations. Prior to 2004, MDMA arrived mainly in tablet or powder form from Europe. Shipments of MDMA powder and tablets were intercepted at Canadian ports of entry, notably Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The CBSA reported that (as of September 30) it had seized 54,194 doses of MDMA at the border.
Calling Canada the "number one source for ecstasy," the State Department is also scolding Canada for not doing enough to curb production:
The U.S. State Department says Canada should do more to curb the production and trade in ecstasy and other illicit drugs.

The 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released Friday, says Canada has become the top source of ecstasy available in the United States.

"Canada's continued role as a source country for ecstasy to U.S. markets highlights the need for greater co-operation in tracking precursor chemical activity," it says.

Blaming the supplier for demand is like blaming a distillery for alcoholism.

The State Department report also complains about Canadian meth labs, but what I found most intriguing is the attempt to meddle with Canada's harm reduction programs:

The State Department also cast a critical eye on harm-reduction programs across Canada, such as a controversial supervised injection site in Vancouver.

It pointed to a 2007 report of the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which said a Vancouver Island "safe crack kit" program violated the 1998 UN Drug Convention.

"Canada should implement the INCB's recommendations to eliminate drug injection sites and drug paraphernalia distribution programs because they violate international drug treaties."

The report also quoted Canadian officials as saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted to increase penalties for drug production and trafficking, but not for drug use.

In other words, the United States wants more Canadian drug users in prison.

What are we trying to do? Spread the misery?

The United States has also gone to war against a Canadian who sells marijuana seeds.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Psychedelic rock booms through The Vapour Lounge. In the store, young and some not-so-young people smoke pot through a variety of devices. And owner Marc Emery stands in the middle of it all, proclaiming his goal of defeating the U.S. war on drugs.

Known as the Prince of Pot, Emery has sold millions of marijuana seeds around the world by mail over the past decade. In doing so, he has drawn the attention of U.S. drug officials, who want him extradited to Seattle. Emery has agreed to plead guilty in Seattle to one count of marijuana distribution in exchange for dismissal of all other counts, and the U.S. District Attorney is pressing for a sentence of five to eight years in a U.S. prison.

The case is the latest twist in Emery's two-decade-long fight against the prohibition of marijuana in North America. To his supporters, he is a brave crusader for the use and sale of a drug with both recreational and medicinal value. To drug officials, he is a criminal and the biggest purveyor of marijuana from Canada into the United States.

Emery sits "right smack in the middle" of the North American debate over marijuana prohibition, said Allen St. Pierre of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C. St. Pierre predicted that Emery's trial would "kick-start it all again."

But drug officials say they are simply going after one of the world's top 50 drug traffickers. U.S. authorities claim Emery's seeds have grown $2.2 billion worth of pot.

Let's see. The guy sells seeds, which no one can use to get high, and our government officials consider him one of the world's top 50 drug traffickers?

As any horticulturalist knows, seeds can't grow by themselves themselves into $2.2 billion worth of pot; they need soil, water, warmth, sunlight, fertilizer, and pesticides. And who is supplying that soil, water, warmth, sunlight, fertilizer and pesticides? Seriously, don't they also bear a large share of responsibility for these dangerous pot precursors?

Until I stumbled onto him today, I'd never heard of the seed man before, and it's tough to take this seriously. But the DEA takes him very seriously -- as a threat to the United States:

"He's a drug trafficker, plain and simple," said the DEA's Rodney Benson in 2006. "Marc Emery is a significant threat to the United States."
Move over Osama bin Laden, and make way for the deadly seed man!

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (1)



Legalization A Failure

In an article discussing Mexico's probable decriminalization of small amounts of drugs for personal use, the US Drug Enforcement Agency made its unhappiness known.

Michele Leonhart, acting director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, however, said in April that legalization "would be a failed law enforcement strategy for both the U.S. and Mexico."
How true. It would be one less set of laws to enforce.

The police would have a lot less work to do.

Well I'm going to be fearless and ask a question no one else will ask: "If the police have so much less work to do, who will pay for them?"

Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:04 AM | Comments (1)



Limited Crooked Election

Rumors that the Iranian elections had crooked election results in 150 or more Iranian cities is totally false. Nothing of the sort happened. According to Iranian government sources.

Quoted by Press TV, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for the authoritative Guardian Council -- a 12-member panel of clerics charged with certifying the vote -- denied claims by another losing candidate, Mohsen Rezai, that irregularities had occurred in up to 170 voting districts.

"Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100 percent of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80 to 170 cities are not accurate -- the incident has happened in only 50 cities," Mr. Kadkhodaei said.

But he said that a voter turnout in excess of the registered voting list was a "normal phenomenon" because people could legally vote in areas other than those in which they were registered. Nonetheless, some analysts in Tehran said, the number of people said to be traveling on election day seemed unusually high.

I wonder if they have considered high speed rail to reduce congestion on election day?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)




Your rights are an "odd divergence from federal law"

In an incident which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called "embarrassing" last year, bumbling bureaucrats (if that isn't too much of a redundancy) placed the elderly and venerated South African leader Nelson Mandela on the infamous "terrorist watch list":

WASHINGTON -- Nobel Peace Prize winner and international symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela is flagged on U.S. terrorist watch lists and needs special permission to visit the USA. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the situation "embarrassing," and some members of Congress vow to fix it.
At the time, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff observed that the incident raised a "troubling and difficult debate" about who gets placed on the list, and why:
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says "common sense" suggests Mandela should be removed. He says the issue "raises a troubling and difficult debate about what groups are considered terrorists and which are not."

When ANC members apply for visas to the USA, they are flagged for questioning and need a waiver to be allowed in the country. In 2002, former ANC chairman Tokyo Sexwale was denied a visa. In 2007, Barbara Masekela, South Africa's ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2006, was denied a visa to visit her ailing cousin and didn't get a waiver until after the cousin had died, Berman's legislation says.

Moving forward a year, the debate became more troubling when the DHS (under Chertoff's replacement Janet Napolitano) suggested that right wing groups (such as anti-abortion protesters, certain veterans, and people overly concerned with the loss of their Second Amendment rights) should be watched.
...Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Whether these people were (like Nelson Mandela) added to the no-fly" list, who knows? The list is kept "confidential" --which means government employees, airline security people, police, and no doubt "private investigators" for a fee, can access it. The ACLU estimates that there are a million Americans on the list, and there have been complaints that even credit scores are factored in:
Among the complaints about the No Fly List is the use of credit reports in calculating the risk score. In response to the controversy, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials said in 2005 that they would not use credit scores to determine passengers' risk score and that they would comply with all rights guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments.
Somehow I don't find any of this reassuring. (The Wiki piece has a long list of false positives, including many children and people with common names.) However, it has to be recognized that this list was generated for use during the war on terror, and that there is no constitutional right to fly on a plane. It's an extraordinary measure passed for an extraordinary time. As I keep saying about the extraordinary measures adopted during the war on terror, it would have been one thing if their use had been limited strictly. The abuses are out of control and in light of recent news, things are getting worse.

In that regard, Glenn Reynolds linked a most recent development I consider very ominous, in the form of a New York Times article which reads more like an anti-Second Amendment infomercial than a news story. Author Eric Lichtblau (who seems to have jettisoned his normal concern with civil liberties) seems unpleasantly startled over the fact that the many people who managed to get on this list have not had an important constitutional right taken away:

WASHINGTON -- People on the government's terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them, according to a new government report.

In one case, a person on the list was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives.

The new statistics, compiled in a report from the Government Accountability Office that is scheduled for public release next week, draw attention to an odd divergence in federal law: people placed on the government's terrorist watch list can be stopped from getting on a plane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from buying a gun.

Odd divergence?

Has a fundamental constitutional right now become an odd divergence?

What is an odd divergence from the American tradition of freedom is the watch list itself, but the reason people have acquesiced to it is because of its emergency nature and the fact that it is not supposed to take away fundamental constitutional rights. Like the right to keep and bear arms.

Or free speech.

Would the Times consider it an "odd divergence" that "people placed on the government's terrorist watch list can be stopped from getting on a plane or getting a visa, but they cannot be stopped from writing or speaking"?

There's an elderly liberal senator who may think so, for he believes that the failure of the no-fly list to deprive citizens of their constitutional rights is a "glaring omission"

"This is a glaring omission, and it's a security issue," Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who requested the study, said in an interview.

Mr. Lautenberg plans to introduce legislation on Monday that would give the attorney general the discretion to block gun sales to people on terror watch lists.

There's a serious problem with this. People on the no-fly list are placed there for an infinite variety of reasons, and there is no due process, nor is there any right to due process. (I know a man who told me he was placed on the list simply for arguing with airport security.)

I realize that liberals like Lautenberg hate the Second Amendment, and believe that the more people who aren't allowed to buy guns, the better. But this is a grotesque constitutional abuse. With the one hand, they want to expand the no fly list to include right wing political dissidents -- including, in a Kafkaesque twist, Americans who buy guns in fear that their rights will be taken away. And now with the other hand, they want to expand its use to deprive citizens (who haven't even been accused, much less charged with or convicted of crimes) of their Second Amendment rights. (If you're so paranoid that you think we're going to take your guns away, then we should take your guns away!)

I won't mince words here. For even threatening to introduce such a bill, I think Frank Lautenberg has violated his oath of office and disgraced the Senate.

I realize that at 85 he's still a young chap, but he's the best argument for term limits to come along since Robert Byrd.

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 12:21 PM | Comments (26)



Applause For Obama

You don't get that much around here. But when he does something right he should be encouraged. This is from the 16th of June so I'm a little late.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had contacted the social networking service Twitter to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians who are disputing their election.

Confirmation that the U.S. government had contacted Twitter came as the Obama administration sought to avoid suggestions it was meddling in Iran's internal affairs as the Islamic Republic battled to control deadly street protests over the election result.

Twitter and Facebook have been used as a tool by many young people to coordinate protests over the election's outcome.

President Barack Obama said earlier on Tuesday he believed "people's voices should be heard and not suppressed" in Iran.

Good on ya Barack.

Judith Weiss asked on Facebook on June 20th:

OK everybody let's help BHO out. What should the US do SPECIFICALLY to help the Iranian people right now? He (finally!) made a "statement" - now what?
My answer:
Keep the 'net open to them. Add proxy servers. Deliver Sat Phones with unlimited minutes (for the duration). And blog it every day, all the time.
Well it seems Barry is keeping the 'net open. Good for him. And let us hope he is doing more of that sort of thing behind the scenes: like set up proxy servers.

Now if the proxy servers had monitors on them a pretty good picture of what is going on in Iran could be built. Would Barry do that? Why wouldn't he?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:17 AM | Comments (2)



HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Of course, I'm not a father, nor do I have one, as my dad died decades ago.

But I'm sure there are plenty of readers who are dads or are married to one, so I found something which might be of interest. Dr. Helen reflects on a Spectator article about today's neutered dads, and offers some Father's Day advice:

...I was recently at a spa getting a pedicure and a young boy and his sister were sitting next to their mom. The young boy blurted out, "I can't help it that I'm not a girl!" in response to something they were saying. I was taken back a bit. When did you used to hear boys saying that and in a serious way?

Our society simultaneously thinks it's funny that boys have been regulated to second class citizenship and at the same time, they feel it it their "just desserts." Afterall, they must pay for whatever happened to women in past times. This is cruel and vindictive but worst of all, it is happening because we let it.

Perhaps this Father's Day, we should all think about what it mean to have "a bit more courage," when it comes to helping the next generation of boys succeed. Without courage, we (and they) are lost.

What she heard that boy say is a sad but interesting commentary on human adaptability. The kid is smart enough to realize that being a male is a disadvantage, yet he's savvy enough to understand the paramount importance of claiming his niche as a victim -- something that in the old days men tended not to do. Newly manufactured morality can be a two edged sword. If boys are considered useless creatures with girls as their victims, they'll simply go on strike and claim their counter-victimhood. Little wonder so many men are opting out, even if it means they get nothing for Father's Day.

Fathers deserve gratitude today for simply being men who didn't opt out. I realize that's not the original purpose of Father's Day, but hey, times change.

posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (4)




We Are On Our Own

The story of the Revolution is being written by the women.

I don't know where this uprising is leading. I do know some police units are wavering. That commander talking about his family was not alone. There were other policemen complaining about the unruly Basijis. Some security forces just stood and watched. "All together, all together, don't be scared," the crowd shouted.

I also know that Iran's women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I've seen them urging less courageous men on. I've seen them get beaten and return to the fray. "Why are you sitting there?" one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. "Get up! Get up!"

Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of "Death to the dictator!" and "We want liberty!" accompanied her.

There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.

"Can't the United Nations help us?" one woman asked me. I said I doubted that very much. "So," she said, "we are on our own."

The world is watching, and technology is connecting, and the West is sending what signals it can, but in the end that is true.

The Iranian women are fighting and dying. About all I can do from here is pass on news that I find and wish the people of Iran better days.

You all know where I stand and have stood since 2003 and before.

I SUPPORT DEMOCRACY IN IRAN
Just as
I Support  Democracy In Iraq

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:54 PM | Comments (1)



When fingers become keys

I loved this typewriter sculpture, which I thought I'd share.

typewriter_sculpture_1.jpg

Nothing like new uses for old things.

posted by Eric at 07:08 PM | Comments (1)



The Woman Rocks
Woman Shot By Iranian Regime
Gateway Pundit has the story.

Gateway also has this picture gleaned from Facebook.

Woman With Rocks

The next few days will tell the story. Will there be enough blood in the streets to end the demonstrations? Or have things already gone beyond control?

Update: 21 June 2009, 0152z

The woman who died was called Neda, which means which means voice or call in Farsi.

Yesterday I wrote a note, with the subject line "tomorrow is a great day perhaps tomorrow I'll be killed." I'm here to let you know I'm alive but my sister was killed...


I'm here to tell you my sister died while in her father's hands
I'm here to tell you my sister had big dreams...
I'm here to tell you my sister who died was a decent person... and like me yearned for a day when her hair would be swept by the wind... and like me read "Forough" [Forough Farrokhzad]... and longed to live free and equal... and she longed to hold her head up and announce, "I'm Iranian"... and she longed to one day fall in love to a man with a shaggy hair... and she longed for a daughter to braid her hair and sing lullaby by her crib...

my sister died from not having life... my sister died as injustice has no end... my sister died since she loved life too much... and my sister died since she lovingly cared for people...

my loving sister, I wish you had closed your eyes when your time had come... the very end of your last glance burns my soul....

sister have a short sleep. your last dream be sweet.

You can see the video that the still of Neda was taken from on Facebook.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:05 PM | Comments (1)



Voting "Present" On Iran

Barack Obama finally weighs in on the Iranian protests with these weightless words:

"The world is watching."

And apparently watching is all the world is going to do, if Obama has anything to say about it.

"The last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States," Obama said. "That's what they do. That's what we're already seeing. We shouldn't be playing into that."

Beyond the paralyzed passivity, there's another problem here, too, exemplified both in Obama's remarks and in Joe Klein's self-contradictory morass yesterday: the notion that our actions must be hostage to the delusions of others. This is a well-known problem in game theory sometimes called the "madman's advantage," and Obama is in fact playing right into the mullahs' game. Allowing your opponent's delusions to subdue your own response limits your options and encourages even more irrational behavior from your opponent (which is probably why the Iranian response to Obama's apologetic overtures was to brazenly steal an election). By granting the semblance of legitimacy to irrational arguments, you allow them to choose the ground on which the ideological battle will be fought and do immense harm to your cause.

(This is also why responding to "trolls" in internet forums is generally discouraged (e.g. "please don't feed the trolls") as otherwise a discussion about interest rates can end up dominated by an argument over the finer points of whether the Jews were behind 9/11.)

The protests are now a week old, and Mousavi is apparently going to demand a nationwide strike if he is arrested. The question of whether Iran's Minutemen will achieve revolution or even a measure of reform now appears to rest on their will to continue and expand these protests. If the crowds start to evaporate this moment will be lost, but another few weeks of mass protests coupled with mass strikes and the regime will begin to become desperate.

UPDATE: Commenter kenb points to the excellent coverage from Nico Pitney, including some very graphic video of a young woman who appears to have been shot and killed.

posted by Dave at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)



The cure is worse than the disease.
But is it conservative?

A few days ago, M. Simon wrote a post ("Brain Dead Republican Enhances Party Image") that just stuck in my craw. A Republican congressman in Illinois (he's co-blogger TallDave's rep) has sponsored a new anti-marijuana bill to toughen penalties for with penalties of up to 25 years in prison for first-time offenses involving sales of "high potency" marijuana.

More of the damned war on drugs. It constantly escalates, demanding ever more draconian sentences, ever more troops, with potential drug profits increasing accordingly. Naturally, dealers and smugglers constantly search for creative ways to concentrate and strengthen their product -- because shrinking the actual size of contraband is of paramount importance. (Heroin is less bulky than opium, methedrine is less bulky than benzedrine, powdered cocaine is less bulky than leaf, etc.) Simple economics dictates that tougher laws can be expected to lead to stronger drugs, which then create a demand for even tougher laws in the minds of people who believe in prison as an appetite deterrent.

Simon's post led me to recall an ugly memory:

When I lived in Berkeley I will never forget getting all enthused about a local Republican who challenged a Democratic incumbent in the outer Bay Area, and I actually got involved in the campaign, only to have the wind totally taken out of my sails by a live call from Newt Gingrich -- who urged the campaign supporters (me included) to do everything they could so this great guy could help Newt fight the war on drugs.

This was in the mid 90s when I was disgusted with the Clintons and otherwise all set become a newly minted conservative. I realized that even though I hated the left, I could never become a conservative.

Guys like Mark Kirk always seem to have a knack for appearing at just the right time to supply another reminder.

It is not my purpose here to bash conservatives or conservatism. Sure, I could write a peevish post pointing the finger at some of conservatism's most iconic figures, like Ronald Reagan. There is no question that he did much to expand the war on drugs, and I always think of this when I hear him being wishfully spun as some sort of libertarian. There's no question that Reagan was an economic libertarian, but on the drug issue, his libertarian streak was MIA.

But was Reagan's drug war truly "conservative"? Is the drug war conservative? Is the prohibition impulse a conservative or is it liberal? Or do the usual political labels fail? Considering that many leading liberals have long favored the drug war, and many leading conservatives (such as William F. Buckley) have long opposed it, might it be time to take it off the partisan table?

Or would continued "bipartisanship" only allow it to fester and get worse, as it has over the years?

Is it helpful to look at the origins of the Drug War? Before 1914 (and the Harrison Narcotics Act, which was the granddaddy of all future drug laws), Americans could walk into any pharmacy and buy whatever drugs they wanted without prescription. (Including Bayer's then wonder drug "Heroin.") Drug dependent Americans might have been morally weak, but "drug addicts" were not yet the vile degenerate criminals they was when the Hearst newspaper chain got through with them, and there was no such animal as "drug pusher." The Harrison Narcotics Act caused and accompanied a sea change in thinking. But was it conservative?

Let's look at the Act's author, Francis Burton Harrison. He was a Wilsonian Democrat -- a solid progressive through and through:

A member of the Democratic Party, Harrison was elected to the 58th United States Congress, and served from March 4, 1903, to March 3, 1905. In 1904, Harrison ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of New York. Afterwards he resumed the practice of law. He was again elected to the 60th, 61st, 62nd and 63rd United States Congresses, and served from March 4, 1907 to September 3, 1913, when he resigned to become chief executive of the Philippines. His Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was eventually passed on December 17, 1914.

During his service in the Far East, Harrison was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 1920 presidential election. He lost the nomination to Governor of Ohio James M. Cox at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

Naturally, the liberal New York Times led the way:
Before the Act was passed, on February 8, 1914 The New York Times published an article entitled "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are New Southern Menace:Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower-Class Blacks" by Edward Huntington Williams which reported that Southern sheriffs had increased the caliber of their weapons from .32 to .38 to bring down Negroes under the effect of cocaine.
Another champion of the HNA was Wilson's Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. Another progressive, socialistic Democrat, he was the ultimate busybody. Sure, he was a deeply religious fundamentalist who opposed teaching evolution, but to call him a "conservative" by that standard is about as reasonable as making Mike Huckabee a spokesman for all conservatives. Besides, Bryan is "credited with turning around an entire [Democratic] political party," and his speeches have been described as leading "in a direct line to the progressive reforms adopted by 20th century Democrats."

Turning to the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, it was mostly the brainchild of Harry J. Anslinger, and championed by William Randolph Hearst.

Although it would appear that Anslinger was a conservative who truly believed marijuana to be a threat to the future of American civilization, his biographer maintained that he was an astute government bureaucrat who viewed the marijuana issue as a means for elevating himself to national prominence. The two positions are not necessarily incompatible.

Some of his critics allege that Anslinger, DuPont petrochemical interests and William Randolph Hearst together created the highly sensational anti-marijuana campaign to eliminate hemp as an industrial competitor. Indeed, Anslinger did not himself consider marijuana a serious threat to American society until in the fourth year of his tenure (1934), at which point an anti-marijuana campaign, aimed at alarming the public, became his primary focus as part of the government's broader push to outlaw all drugs.[7]

Members of the League of Nations had already implemented restrictions for marijuana in the beginning of the 1930s and restrictions started in many states in U.S years before Anslinger was appointed. Both president Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Attorney General publicly supported this development in 1935.

How conservative was this movement? I don't know. FDR was anything but a conservative, and as to Hearst, I think it's fair to call the man a populist yellow journalist and a supreme self-aggrandizer. At any rate, by the time of the Marihuana Tax Act, he was a solid FDR Democrat.

Obviously, there have always been conservatives who supported the drug war, but it's my considered opinion is that in terms of its historic origins, the drug war is more a product of progressive statism than conservatism.

It's been around so long that I suppose a conservative case can be made for keeping it. But that idea didn't impress William F. Buckley. Nor does it impress me, although I can hardly call myself a conservative.

Can the drug war be broken free from conservatism as an issue? Can it be divorced from politics?

Or is it like an incurable chronic disease which will always be around? I realize that many conservatives dislike irony, but I do find it ironic that waging the drug war is itself like waging a war against a chronic disease. The demand for drugs is a symptom.

And the "treatment"? Imprisonment. Hardly what physicians would call "conservative treatment."

posted by Eric at 10:08 AM | Comments (4)



Incorrect Hypothesis

Scientists are all the time trying to figure out how the world works (it is their job after all). So they think about things that interest them and imagine how they work. Then they develop a rule, called a hypothesis, to match their imaginings. Then they test the rule against the real world. Some times things don't come out the way they were imagined.

"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."
It wouldn't be the first time such an effect was found.
The term medical marijuana took on dramatic new meaning in February 2000, when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. This report shows the medicinal value of marijuana and cancer treatment.

The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals. In 1974, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institutes of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead the medicinal value of marijuana and cancer treatment. THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice -- lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.

And with some new research out we are actually getting into the details of what has so far only been a statistical connection. Researchers have recently made headway into figuring out how it works. The title of the piece is Cannabinoid action induces autophagy-mediated cell death through stimulation of ER stress in human glioma cells. Here is a bit from the abstract:
Autophagy can promote cell survival or cell death, but the molecular basis underlying its dual role in cancer remains obscure. Here we demonstrate that Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component of marijuana, induces human glioma cell death through stimulation of autophagy.
They go on for pages with all that medical stuff. Not my area of expertise. So let me just say that THC kills cancer cells.

I look forward to the day when government controls medicine and requires people to smoke pot to prevent lung cancer. Perhaps they will go so far as to jail people with a negative drug test.

OK. So what is the bottom line here? In 1976 Gerald Ford forbade the US Government's sponsorship of any public research on marijuana and its effect on cancer. Can you imagine where we would be now if he had promoted such research? Prejudice kills. Think of all those cancer patients who have been victims of prejudice and didn't even know it.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:02 AM | Comments (2)



Trust Issues

It seems that the Obama Government is loosing the support of its own members.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is unfair to the ethanol industry with its proposals on greenhouse gas reduction, the House Agriculture Committee chairman said on Wednesday, and he will not support any climate-change bills.

"You're going to kill off the biofuels industry before it even gets started. You are in bed with the oil industry," Collin Peterson told officials from the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency at a hearing on ethanol's impact on land use and greenhouse gases.

"I want this message sent back down the street. I will not support any climate-change bill. I don't trust anybody anymore," said the Democrat from Minnesota.

Good to see the thieves at each other's throats.

It seems that rural electric co-ops are not thrilled either.

Some say Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, could play a role in killing climate legislation. Others call him just a blip in the current political radar.

English, for his part, says he may not be able to support the federal global warming legislation now pending in the House until it reaches the Senate -- or as he calls it, "the fourth inning."

That's because NRECA represents some 930 rural customer-owned utilities that are more dependent on coal than many other generators. Under the federal climate bill, English fears, his members' customers will be hit hard.

And it looks like the EPA is already in trouble. Laws are being passed against it.
House appropriators approved a $10.6 billion spending bill for U.S. EPA last night, tucking in several amendments aimed at insulating agricultural interests from the reach of federal climate regulations.

The House Appropriations Committee cleared the fiscal 2010 Interior and Environment spending bill after adding provisions to block EPA regulations requiring factory farms to report their greenhouse gas emissions and exempt livestock operations from possible carbon regulations.

The committee voted 31-27 to adopt an amendment that would prevent funding from this or any other bill to go toward a rule that requires mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases from manure management systems at large factory farms.

Agriculture "is scared to death," of the regulation, said the amendment's sponsor, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa). "They don't know what it's going to cost or the impact it's going to have on their livelihood."

EPA proposed a rule in March that would establish a national reporting system for industries to document their greenhouse gas emissions. The reporting rule would affect about 13,000 facilities nationwide, including large factory farms. The public comment on the rule ended earlier this month and EPA is expected to take final action in October.

I certainly hope this whole thing goes no where.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:10 AM | Comments (1)




Red Spilling Over Green

Rumor has it that the IRGC will be called into to crush the Iranian protests sooner rather than later.

While many see hope for revolutionary change, I'm skeptical any internal movement will displace the mullahs. It's easy to forget the Soviet Union fell only because their leadership lacked the will to send in the tanks as they had in the past, possibly due in part to a decade of being harangued as an "evil empire" by Ronald Reagan. The mullahs, by all indications, have no such moral qualms and today's President seems to think all this is just "robust debate." The only real hope for the protesters is that the IRGC itself will refuse such orders.


UPDATE: Joe Klein says the Iranian people are brainwashed morons who hate us because they think we gave Iraq WMD and don't want our support, and if we support the protesters the Iranian government will attack them, which those idiotic Iranian people will cheer. Also, the protesters will fail anyway, and we don't want to look bad for not supporting them enough like in Hungary 1956 or Iraq 1991. Oh, and those moronic Iranians who have such crazy beliefs are also "well-educated, sophisticated people."

Unsurprisingly, Sully agrees.

posted by Dave at 03:01 PM | Comments (7)



A Second Holocaust

This interesting essay over at HotAir by Doctor Zero looks at various scenarios under which Iran might wreak havoc as a nuclear power, including this very real problem:

The Nuclear Umbrella: The most logical, and essentially guaranteed, result of a rogue regime achieving nuclear capability is the immediate foreclosure of the Saddam Hussein option. The regime could take all sorts of provocative actions without ever needing to worry about military retaliation

The good Doctor also mentions a nightmare scenario under which the U.S. is nuked, which is a real concern but a fairly remote possibility. However, there is a much more plausible scenario under which Iran could attack and possibly even destroy the state of Israel by fully exploiting its nuclear shield.

Consider the likely American/European reaction to this sequence of events: an Iranian nuclear weapon is set off in Tel Aviv by Hizbollah, and Iran immediately announces it was not the source and furthermore asserts it has nuclear-tipped missiles targeting London, France, and Berlin which it will launch if it considers itself threatened. Days or weeks are required to ascertain the source of the nuclear material, and of course the device itself will be vaporized, leaving no direct fingerprints. Obama and European leaders will frantically demand Israel not retaliate with its own strike, and a nuclear counterattack isn't the sort of thing one can decide to launch after a laborious investigation in any case. In the end, Israel would probably be left with nothing more than the usual impotent UN condemnations and sanctions. Meanwhile, at best Israel's economy will be shattered and much of the relatively affluent Jewish population will have fled, leaving the viability of a Jewish state in doubt.

And the outcome could easily be much worse than that. An atomic attack would also create an EMP effect which could render much of Israel's superior military technology inert. This could open the door to an opportunistic invasion in which Israel would find itself massively outnumbered by hostile forces in a matter of hours (and if you think it's unlikely Palestinians and other Arabs would charge into an irradiated Israel, remember such an act combines the best of two regional traditions - suicide attacks and car swarms). In addition to the gleeful abandon with which Hamas and Hizbollah would attempt to fulfill their long-stated goal, it would not surprise any longtime observer of the region if the IRGC and other regional forces invaded under the pretense of giving aid.

It may be comforting to think the U.S. wouldn't just stand by and let a strategic ally fall, but Obama's ideological forebear Jimmy Carter dithered while the Shah of Iran fell, gifting the world with the Iranian theocrats who will shortly control nuclear weapons. Circumstances could unfold too quickly for measured, thoughtful diplomacy-first, diplomacy-last, diplomacy-always style of the this administration.

This "shield+sword" scenario will become increasingly problematic over time, as other Mideast states will likely follow Iran in becoming nuclear powers. When Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran all have nuclear arsenals, Israel will be in the position of not knowing where a retaliatory strike should land. Their only option for deterrence would be to promise a massive counterattack against most of the Muslim capitals and Mecca itself in the event of such an attack. This would fuel enormous resentment and international condemnation, never mind that such a policy would constitute Israel's only real defense against an existential threat.

And if any hostile power should ever doubt Israel's resolve to immediately launch such a reprisal...

After the events of sixty years ago, the civilized world said "Never again." Today, those words are starting to ring hollow as forces are aligning that may allow a repeat of modern history's greatest tragedy.

posted by Dave at 12:37 PM | Comments (6)



Some Music For The Iranian People

The below video came from Raye Man Kojast? Where Is My Vote? There is a lot of excellent material there in English, French, and Farsi. Updated frequently.


I SUPPORT DEMOCRACY IN IRAN
Just as
I Support  Democracy In Iraq

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)



morality on the fly
(A boy is a girl is a dog is a fly...)

Three news items intrigued me, but as they didn't inspire me enough to write three individual blog posts, I thought I'd do the lazy thing and dump them together in one.

In New York, a man posed as his dead mother in order to collect her government benefits. He did a pretty good job of it too, using an accomplice to pose as his concerned nephew, and ultimately managed to collect over $100,000. But that's OK, because (so says the man), he really is his mother:

Thomas Parkin was in need of immediate cash flow so he started dressing up as his dead mother in order to collect her Social Security benefits, according to Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, who announced the arrest this morning. The scam worked so well he did it for six years.

Sporting a wig, sunglasses, nail polish and old-fashioned garb, Parkin managed to collect more than $100,000 in Social Security benefits and rent subsidies.

But he didn't act alone. The makeup-laden schemer crafted a detailed façade, using a cane, fake ID and even inventing a fake nephew, played by alleged accomplice Mhilton Rimolo, to help convince government agencies to shell out the dough.

Cops busted the 49-year-old yesterday and charged him with grand larceny, forgery and conspiracy, perjury and criminal impersonation in connection with the plot. Rimolo was also charged in the ruse.

Here's where it gets really creepy. Parkin impersonated his deceased mother for so long that he appears to believe he actually assumed her identity.

"I held my mother when she was dying and breathed in her last breath, so I am my mother," Parkin told cops when he was arrested.

Well, it's kind of a stretch, but if you can decide what sex you are (and can go from being a father to being a mother in the legal sense) I don't see why you shouldn't be allowed to decide go from child to parent. Such a result is dictated by simple fairness: if you can have a gender transformation, why not a generational transformation? If I can be a woman, and if I can be my my inner child, then why can't I be my inner parent? (All this guy needs is a good expert witness....)

Besides, if (as Barack Obama is learning the hard way) a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy is a fly, then who's to say what is what or who can be who?

Obviously without contemplating the cruel nature of his actions, the president of the United States apparently lost his temper and mercilessly crushed to death a helpless fly. Naturally, PETA is upset:

WASHINGTON -- The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the flyswatter in chief to try taking a more humane attitude the next time he's bedeviled by a fly in the White House.

PETA is sending President Barack Obama a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a device that allows users to trap a house fly and then release it outside.

"We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. "We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals."

During an interview for CNBC at the White House on Tuesday, a fly intruded on Obama's conversation with correspondent John Harwood.

"Get out of here," the president told the pesky insect. When it didn't, he waited for the fly to settle, put his hand up and then smacked it dead.

"Now, where were we?" Obama asked Harwood. Then he added: "That was pretty impressive, wasn't it? I got the sucker."

I can certainly understand why PETA is so upset, because of the "hypocritical" double standard at work. Imagine the outcry had the president treated a small boy like that, and then bragged about it by saying "I got the sucker."

Yet because his victim was a fly, no one would have cared had not Bruce Friedrich spoken out so eloquently against the president's callused, cruel behavior.

Considering some of his past statements, I think Mr. Friedrich let the president off a little too easy, though.

For example, he likes explosions:

"If we really believe that these animals do have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then, of course we're going to be, as a movement, blowing stuff up and smashing windows. For the record, I don't do this stuff, but I do advocate it. I think it's a great way to bring about animal liberation ... I think it would be a great thing if all of these fast-food outlets, and these slaughterhouses, and these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it's perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows, and everything else along the line. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it."
And he sees no moral distinction between meat eating (which the president does, BTW) and child beating:
"[Eating meat] is not your personal decision, any more than, you know, whether somebody beats their child is their personal decision."
Which begs the question, by what standard do we punish the latter while letting the former go scot-free? That brings to mind this last news item, about the immigrant mom who set fire to her daughter in a religious rite:
Determined to drive evil spirits out of her daughter, a Queens mom performed a bizarre voodoo fire ritual that left the 6-year-old girl scarred for life, prosecutors say.

While young Frantzcia Saintil was "engulfed in flames," Marie Lauradin let the screaming girl burn, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday.

The girl told cops "the flames crawled up her body and burned her," the criminal complaint said.

Eventually, Frantzcia's grandmother doused the flames with cold water, but the women then put the girl to bed instead of getting her help, Brown said.

Frantzcia suffered for a whole day before a relative begged them to take her to a hospital.

When doctors finally saw her, Frantzcia had second- and third-degree burns covering 25% of her body, including her face, torso and legs, court papers state.

Lauradin, a 29-year-old Haitian immigrant, was charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

By animal rights logic, that really isn't much different than what is routinely done to crabs and lobsters by cruel torturers in millions of homes and restaurants.

And we have a president who crushes animals with his bare hands, and mutilates cruelly murdered chickens.

I am deadly serious. If you think what he did to the fly was bad, just take a look at this shocking and disgusting display of violence:

wings.jpg


Worst of all, he and his cruelly fashionable wife blatantly use and wear leather products, which according to PETA are "the modern equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of the people killed in the death camps."

I realize that the emerging definitions of morality I've touched on here are not shared by all people. (As regular readers know they certainly are not shared by me). Sometimes I worry that there's a paradox with newly emerging, activist-created morality, and I do not say this so much to defend "old" morality as to make an observation.

It seems that the faster morality is redefined, and new morality created, the faster morality itself fails.

MORE: If you thought Barack Obama's fly murder was bad, in the shocking video that follows, Ann Althouse helps burn a tick alive:

Personally, I just pop 'em into the microwave on high for five seconds. (On a piece of paper, of course.)

I hate ticks without exception, because they torment Coco and carry Lyme disease, and at the risk of sounding like a genocidal Nazi, I say the only good tick is a dead tick.

The insect issue is by no means new for PETA, which has long opposed the use of silk, because silkworms are "steamed or gassed alive."

I've gassed alive many a bug, and I've burned insects alive too.

Although PETA would probably consider insect-killing behavior another Holocaust equivalent, I think it's worth noting that PETA kills dogs and cats, and while "PETA has claimed that most of the animals it kills are "broken beings" and that: "[W]e refer every healthy, cute, young animal we can to shelters," they have such a high (97%) slaughter rate that an anti-PETA group wants the organization reclassified as a slaughterhouse. (Should Obama have said the fly was a broken being for which he couldn't find a home?)

I have a question: from where does such an outfit derive the moral authority to attack the president -- or anyone else -- for killing an insect?

They strike me as having less moral authority than a satire group called "People for the Ethical Treatment of Insects" -- which Glenn Reynolds discussed here. That's because the satire group is being deliberately funny about a ridiculous cause and they know it. The reason almost everyone is laughing at PETA right now is that they are being deadly serious about a ridiculous cause and they don't know it.

posted by Eric at 12:06 PM | Comments (2)



Looking For A Schedule

The joke that is the ITER Fusion Project in France just got a lot funnier today.

The EC said it welcomed the decision by the parties to adopt a "phased approach to the completion of ITER construction as a working basis for development of the project baseline."

In particular the EC said it welcomed a proposal to finalize a realistic schedule for the project.

"This is key to ensure a sound management of the project, which in turn will warrant running ITER in the most cost-effective and efficient way," the EC said.

They would welcome a realistic proposal. What have they been accepting up 'til now? Smoke, mirrors, fairy dust, and regular visits to the best brothels of Paris?

Sound management? The tokamak ELM problem has been known for 20 years. For ITER a solution was proposed after the design was done. "Sound management?" Surely you are joking.

Even the lawyers in Congress are starting to notice. If the American contribution to ITER goes down the whole DOE Fusion edifice goes down because it is built around ITER. Most of the small scale experiments are in support of ITER. And a big chunk of dough (something like $160 million a year) gets sent to ITER as either cash or payment in kind (equipment). Something like 4 different nations are going to supply the superconducting wire for the magnets. That is nuts.

Now what would a rational fusion program look like? Start with twenty small projects at $2 million a year per. That is $40 million. Add a $5 million slush fund to that to give boosts to promising experiments. Add in 5 projects at $10 million a year each. Add in one project at $20 million and one project at $40 million. That leaves $5 million a year for investigating new ideas and managing the overall project. And there you have managed to spend $160 million a year on a Balanced program that actually has a chance to achieve an economical working fusion reactor in twenty years or less.

And that is the biggest strike against ITER. Even its proponents agree that a working fusion reactor based on its principles will not be economical. On top of that the ITER approach is not expected to give results for 100 years. As some one said to me in an e-mail recently, "when I was a kid it was only 30 years." It is madness to go on this way.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)




Hello

Greetings CV readers, I'm honored and blessed to be contributing at Classical Values. You may have seen my work at Dean's World, perhaps via the odd Instalanche. I've always loved the idea of a blog based on the values of classical civilization (partly as a result of everything Victor Davis Hanson has written on the Greeks), and I hope I can uphold the tradition of quality posting I've enjoyed reading here lo these many years. And maybe people will finally stop confusing me with Dean.

A little bit about me: I'm in my mid-thirties, recently married to someone much better than I deserve, work in information technology (when circumstances allow), and am generally libertarian in political view. Like M Simon, I'm both a Polywell enthusiast and reside in Obama's home state of Illinois:

A majority of Illinois voters (52%) believe politicians in the state are more corrupt than most politicians in other states. Forty-one percent (41%) say they are about as corrupt as those in other states. Only three percent (3%) say they are less corrupt.

(Ah, the Land of Lincoln. If only Honest Abe could see us now! Actually, I think he may have voted in the last election.)

I'm not quite a Republican, being socially very liberal, though I usually vote for them as the lesser of evils. I'm critical of Obama in general, even reflexively so, but I do try to give him and other Democrats their due when merited.

I generally write about international and national politics, with a foray into science or philosophy now and then. I hope longtime CV readers will enjoy my contributions.

posted by Dave at 10:56 PM | Comments (3)



ITER Fusion - 100 Years Away

The BBC reports that tokamak fusion may be 100 years off.

The Iter project was set up three years ago to build an experimental nuclear fusion reactor in the south of France.

But construction costs alone have more than doubled and some scientists now argue that the development of fusion as a commercial power source is still at least 100 years away.

The ITER guys have a well paid flack you can watch at the BBC link extolling the virtues of ITER. He calls it the world's biggest science experiment.

Compare that to the applied research on the Polywell WB-8 Fusion Reactor test which is now gearing up. And with the experiments already completed and contemplated We Will Know In Two Years if the design can produce limitless fusion energy. Or if it is just another interesting science experiment. And the answer won't cost $20 billion either.

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

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

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

H/T rn via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:51 PM | Comments (3)



Announcement

I am pleased to announce that a new blogger will be contributing here at Classical Values: Dave Price, best known to commenters as "Tall Dave." Dave is a regular blogger at Dean's World, a good friend of M. Simon, and his philosophy is quite compatible with that of this blog, so I'm honored to have him aboard.

Exactly when he might start posting, I do not know. I had hoped for a formal, traditional christening ceremony at the White House, but when I told Dave that Michelle Obama would be wielding the champagne bottle, he said this:

I'll pass on the Michelle bash, that sounds dangerous!
Aw come on, Dave! A big guy like you should have nothing to fear. You're so tall, she might swing and miss! (And even if she hit you, the taxpayers would foot the bill for your recovery.)

Seriously, M. Simon and I are both delighted by this development, and I think regular readers will be too.

posted by Eric at 04:28 PM | Comments (1)



Is that my sister-in-law? Or is that my brother-in-law?

I don't know how many readers have seen this picture, but it's been making the rounds as an email attachment:

burkhas-photo.jpeg

I've gotten it twice now, both times in a Power Point file with this cute accompanying story:

MY FAMILY PHOTO

On the left is my wife, in the middle is my mother-in-law, beside her is my sister and on the right is my sister-in-law.

No, I believe that the person in the middle is my wife, beside my sister-in-law and to the right is my mother-in-law and left is my mother ...

My memory is not that good any more, and I do not know if my daughter was with us that day.

I believe that she could be the person on the right but I am not that sure. The only thing I can be sure of is that my wife is in the middle ...

Or maybe not ...

Oh, this is so troublesome!

Normally, I wouldn't bother to make a blog post out of one of those anonymous emails, but it just so happens that when I thanked a friend for sending me the above, it somehow triggered a question I found deeply disturbing:
Did you notice their hands?...I'm not sure they're all females.
The thing is, I had wondered that myself, but I dismissed my thoughts as a product of my sometimes paranoid hyperimagination, possibly even fueled by, by, Islamogenderphobia?

I don't know what you'd call it, but the fact is, Islam and gender bending don't mix.

Or do they? Anyone remember these pictures of the Taliban guys all dolled up?

TalibanGuys.jpg


Or Mahmoud on the piano wearing the red dress?

Mahmouddress.JPG

No wonder he said there are no gays in Iran.

What's really going on under those burkhas?

I smell a coverup!

And I suspect some sort of internalized phobia or another.

posted by Eric at 10:07 AM | Comments (3)



Room Temperature Superconductors One Step Closer

We are one step closer to room temperature superconductors.

Menlo Park, Calif.--Move over, silicon--it may be time to give the Valley a new name. Physicists at the Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have confirmed the existence of a type of material that could one day provide dramatically faster, more efficient computer chips.

Recently-predicted and much-sought, the material allows electrons on its surface to travel with no loss of energy at room temperatures and can be fabricated using existing semiconductor technologies. Such material could provide a leap in microchip speeds, and even become the bedrock of an entirely new kind of computing industry based on spintronics, the next evolution of electronics.

Physicists Yulin Chen, Zhi-Xun Shen and their colleagues tested the behavior of electrons in the compound bismuth telluride. The results, published online June 11 in Science Express, show a clear signature of what is called a topological insulator, a material that enables the free flow of electrons across its surface with no loss of energy.

Pretty darn exciting. It all depends on something called topological insulation. The article gives some details on how that works. Which gets a bit heavy on the physics. I'm going to skip that here. However, if you have heard of the Pauli exclusion principle it is worth a read.

There are some limitations. For now.

Topological insulators aren't conventional superconductors nor fodder for super-efficient power lines, as they can only carry small currents, but they could pave the way for a paradigm shift in microchip development. "This could lead to new applications of spintronics, or using the electron spin to carry information," Qi said. "Whether or not it can build better wires, I'm optimistic it can lead to new devices, transistors, and spintronics devices."

Fortunately for real-world applications, bismuth telluride is fairly simple to grow and work with. Chen said, "It's a three-dimensional material, so it's easy to fabricate with the current mature semiconductor technology. It's also easy to dope--you can tune the properties relatively easily."

"This is already a very exciting thing," he said, adding that the material "could let us make a device with new operating principles."

Bismuth Telluride is a semiconductor that is currently used for solid state refrigerators. It is also used to generate electricity from small temperature differences. That means the semiconductor industry has more than a little experience in fabricating the material.

If the lab boys have developed a repeatable formula it is possible we might see useful devices using this superconducting property in as little as three years. One use of such properties might be to make a super low noise microwave filter that doesn't require cooling to Liquid Nitrogen temperatures (77° Kelvin). That could be very helpful.

I will be keeping an eye on this one.

If "normal" superconductivity interests you this book is a good place to start:
Introduction to Superconductivity

And if you are a little further along and contemplate building a fusion reactor in your garage, this book could help:
Case Studies in Superconducting Magnets: Design and Operational Issues

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:18 AM | Comments (2)




Green for solidarity

No, Classical Values has not "gone green on us" as TigerHawk worried Glenn Reynolds might've. (There are no greenie weenies who blog here.)

However, like many bloggers I want to express solidarity with the protesters in Iran. (Andrew Sullivan, despite my many criticisms of him, is really on board with this one.)

Showing some temporary green is the least I can do.

Persia has a long and proud tradition, and it's a tragedy what has happened for decades under the mullahs.

I hope the protesters win.

posted by Eric at 12:49 PM | Comments (3)



The nannies are coming.

(And they can have my knife when they pry it from my cold dead hands....)

In a series of some of the dumbest "clarifications" I have ever heard of -- to one of the dumbest laws I have ever heard of -- government Obamacrats have construed the 1958 Switchblade Knife Act in such a way as to prohibit the vast majority of pocket knives routinely sold in stores and carried by ordinary citizens.

Like me.

For many years I've owned the knife pictured here:

knifeopen2.jpg

It's not a switchblade. I know what a switchblade is; a switchblade is a knife that opens automatically by means of a spring, the pressure of which is released by a switch. The knife I have -- like countless others of the same variety -- has to be opened manually, by directly moving the blade itself. The little post which protrudes from the blade is not a "switch" nor does it release any spring. The idea that this knife is now poised to be considered an illegal switchblade by the federal government is a classic lesson in how overregulated we have become, and in the tyrannical nature of those who implement and "interpret" regulations.

While I think this clearly reflects on the mindset of Barack Obama's people, the fact is that the law they're interpreting is insane to begin with. As Tiger Hawk observes,

The law is a relic of simpler and, in some respects, more authoritarian times. Something to remember.
I think he's absolutely right. While the legislative history of the Switchblade Knife Act is tough to track down without access to a law library, a Customs and Border Patrol ruling quotes some of the language:
It was testified that, practically speaking, there is no legitimate use for the switchblade to which a conventional sheath or jackknife is not better suited. This being the case, your committee believes that it is in the national interest that these articles be banned from interstate commerce. S.Rep. No. 1980, 85th Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 2 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News 1958, at 3435-37. As quoted by Precise Imports Corp. v. Kelly, 378 F.2d 1014, 1017 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1967).
Even back in 1958, the federal government thought it had a right to decide what uses are and are not "legitimate."

I'm trying to be logical in analyzing this, but what has me scratching my head is why, if we assume a switchblade has no legitimate use to which another knife is not better suited, the law nonetheless exempts the police and the military:

Sections 1242 and 1243 of this title shall not apply to--
[...]
(3) the Armed Forces or any member or employee thereof acting in
the performance of his duty[.]
What possible "legitimate use" might the police or the military have for switchblades that a citizen might not also have? The purpose of any weapons they have is for use against bad guys, right? If the basis of the law is that other knives are in fact better than switchblades, then there should be no need for the police or military to have them. But if they have any value as weapons against bad guys (let's say the factor of intimidation), that would be a legitimate use which goes to the heart of self defense, and it would be just as legitimate for civilians. Arguably, it might decrease the actual need for the use of the knife. If the blade can frighten people by snapping open at the push of a button, and if such brandishing makes bad guys run away, that would mean less, and not more knife fighting. This would be useful for all people faced by bad guys. If OTOH, it could be shown that the knife being clicked open does not frighten away anyone, then the knife would be equally useless as a weapon for both military and civilians.

I'm trying to envision other reasons why a cop might want a switchblade-style knife. Maybe it save a couple of seconds in cutting through stuck seatbelts? No, because that purpose too would be shared by civilians. Once again, the added element of intimidation is the only thing I can come up with. It might cause suspects to surrender more quickly without a fight, and it might serve as a backup weapon in the event the officer's gun was dropped or jammed. Aren't civilians just as entitled to intimidate bad guys, and to have a backup weapon? Try as I might, I'm having a great deal of trouble understanding precisely why a citizen with a right to carry a gun or a knife has no right to carry a knife if it clicks open at the push of a button.

Am I being too logical?

Damn. I almost forgot about entertainment value. Are not switchblades entertaining for some people? The way they open and close is intriguing to watch, and they're probably considered very cool by a good chunk of the male population. Is having something which looks cool all that harmful? Sure, used as a knife it is a potentially dangerous weapon, but many kitchen knives are bigger and sharper, and capable of doing far more damage. (And as Glenn points out, the nannies are coming for them soon.)

But I guess Congress in 1958 did not consider entertainment to be a legitimate use. For civilians, at least. Might they have thought that the police and military should have a right to forms of entertainment not shared by the general public? I hope not. Anyway, the Switchblade Knife Act is a ridiculous law, probably fueled by silly hysteria related to too many busybody do-gooders goading each other into fits of group panic attacks after seeing "West Side Story." I don't mean to single out that lovely musical as a culprit, but it did help fuel a media-abetted "moral panic":

Switchblades are often covered by very specific laws-- enacted at times of moral panic by newspapers and films about knife use by criminals.[1] This was most prominent in the late 1950s, when films such as The Wild One in 1954, Rebel Without a Cause and High School Confidential in 1955, the Broadway play West Side Story and 12 Angry Men in 1957 all featured switchblades, and were closely followed by the US Switchblade Act of 1958 (a federal law; individual state laws differ widely). This US federal law was closely followed by the UK Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959.
(Coco and I can only hope Hollywood doesn't do something like that to "pit bulls.")

Back to my knife. My most frequent use for it is as a letter opener. But I often use it as a work knife, because it's sharp and will cut through almost anything. It's handy as a box cutter, for electrical work, and it can be used to score sheet rock. Several times when I've been in dank and dirty crawl spaces I've been able to pull it out of my pocket, flip it open with one hand, and do repairs. It's versatile. Maybe a switchblade would be better; maybe not.

But my knife is not a switchblade, and for the government to say it is makes me very angry. This is tyranny. Another lost freedom. It might be seen as just one more "little thing" but as I discussed in this post, such "little things" are happening everywhere, all the time.

Once again, the nannies are coming. And they won't leave you alone in the privacy of your own home. Quite the contrary.

Butting into people's homes is what nannying is all about.

posted by Eric at 11:31 AM | Comments (7)




The Boys At Talk-Polywell Have Struck Paydirt

The boys at Talk Polywell have uncovered the details of the WB-8 contract [pdf]. Those details can give us some insight into how WB-7 has gone. From the looks of things - rather well.

The current effort will build on what has been completed under these previous contracts as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of AGEE with a delivered item, wiffleball 8 (WB8) and options for a modified wiffleball 8 (WB8.1) and modified ion gun. The objective of this procurement is validation of the basic physics of the AGEE concept as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of AGEE. It builds upon previous concept-demonstration bench top versions of plasma wiffleballs. As such, it comes under the FAR 35.001 definition of applied research. The contract will be for a wiffleball 8 with 2 options for modifications to the wiffleball based upon it's success.
OK. They are going into deeper validation. Which means WB-7 went OK.
3.1.1 The Contractor shall construct and test a small-scale MG Insulated, Wiffleball Polyhedral Device, WB8. WB8 shall be built based on results of WB7 (built under contract N68936-03-C-0031) and shall utilize design and performance knowledge gained from test of prior WB machines.

3.1.2 The design shall use circular coils around each main face cusp axis. The device shall use emitter electron gun arrays and an ion beam drive. The machine will be operated in magnetic fields with pulsed currents. WB8 shall be operated at a magnetic field strength of approximately 0.8 Tesla, which represents an increase of 8 times the magnetic field strength of previous WB machines. Improvements over previous WB machines in WB confinement, ion energy and fusion reactivity are expected as a result of these changes to WB machine design.

3.1.3 Within 20 days of completion of testing of the WB8, the contractor shall deliver a report detailing the results of the experimental testing of this MG Insulated, Wiffleball Polyhedral Device, WB8. The report shall provide sufficient information to guide programmatic and design decisions about further, refined design efforts for similar devices. The report shall address the plasma dynamics of WB devices, and shall address the scaling laws that apply to polywell fusion. (A001)

Circular coils means that there will be no significant change in geometry. That is good. Apples to apples comparisons. An increase of field strength by a factor of 8 means - if the scaling laws hold a factor of about 4,000 increase in power out. If WB-7 was similar to WB-6 it means an increase from 3 neutrons a shot to 12,000. A real countable number i.e the error bars will be much lower. A count of 3 can actually be considered a count of 3 +/-2. That is a big error bar. For 12,000 the error bar is on the order of +/-100 about 1%. That makes improvements or degradations of 5% easily detectable. Where as in the first situation (WB-6/7) changes that doubled or halved the output rate would be hard to detect.
3.1.4 Within 30 days of build and test of WB8, the contractor shall provide a predictive model of WB behavior including data points for detailed 2D/3D profile measurements of plasma density, ion energy and WB magnetic field structure during follow-on tests to validate the scientific basis for a Polywell fusion power reactor, and guide further research. The contractor shall coordinate with the Government for a program review meeting at the contractor's facilities to be held no later than 40 days after the testing of the WB8 and shall provide the detailed predictive model and data points at this program review meeting.

3.1.5 The contractor shall deliver a periodic progress report specifying status information of the experimental testing of the MG Insulated, Wiffleball Polyhedral Device, WB8. (A002)

The magnetic profile of an operating device is critical for knowing how the device actually operates. Without that it is very difficult if not impossible to design in improvements.
3.1.6 The contractor shall deliver a conceptual design for a follow-on fusion demonstration device, WB-9. Conceptual studies will focus on the feasibility of extending the WB-8 results to this device and determining the suitability of this concept as a fusion reactor. This design will be delivered at the end of the contract.
So the program is starting to take on a life of its own. A WB-9 device is already under consideration even before experiments on WB-8 are even completed. This indicates a fair amount of confidence in the forthcoming results. Excellent.

Now here comes what I consider the most critical requirement of WB-8testing.

3.2.1 Enhanced Ion Drive with PB11 (proton/boron 11): Based on the results of WB8 testing, and the availability of government funds the contractor shall develop a WB machine (WB8.1) which incorporates the knowledge and improvements gained in WB8. It is expected that higher ion drive capabilities will be added, and that a "PB11" reaction will be demonstrated. The contractor shall investigate and validate the plasma scaling laws with respect to B-field, voltage and reactor size. The contractor shall investigate the feasibility of a neutron-free fusion power reaction using a polywell WB machine. It is anticipated that improvements in WB confinement, ion energy, and fusion reactivity will be demonstrated in WB8.1. Improvements over the WB8 predictive, computational model are expected, which should yield a better understanding of the WB fusion reaction thus allowing optimization of the WB machine.

3.2.2 The contractor shall deliver a report detailing the results of the experimental testing of WB8.1. The report shall provide sufficient information to guide programmatic and design decisions about further, refined design efforts for similar devices. The report shall address the plasma dynamics of WB devices, and shall address the scaling laws that apply to polywell fusion, and the feasibility of the PB11 reaction. The report shall address the conceptual requirements for a polywell fusion reactor capable of generating approximately 100mW. (A0001)

3.2.3 Within 30 days of testing, the contractor shall update the predictive computer model of WB behavior created under paragraph 3.1.4 using the PB11 reaction and shall deliver the model within 30 days of completion of initial tests specified in paragraph 3.2.1.

The fact that they are contemplating work on the pB11 reaction is very encouraging. That fuel is one of the most difficult to burn in a fusion reactor. Which means testing with lesser fuels (or simulated fuels) has gone very well indeed.

At 100 milliwatts for a follow on reactor they are starting to get into the power range. If they can get that kind of power with .3 m dia. coils and .8 T fields, then a reactor with 3 m coils and 10 T fields should produce about 2.5 Mega Watts if the scaling laws hold.

And just as a little kicker:

3.3.1 The contractor shall develop an enhanced ion drive system that is compatible with Wiffleball 8.1 and projected future wiffleballs. The ion drive system shall be capable of injecting protons (ionized Hydrogen), and ionized Boron 11. The ion drive system shall be capable of generating ions in sufficient quantity to fully fuel the wiffleball fusion machines.
If they are going to fuel even a small machine the ion guns are going to have to be capable of multi amp currents - each.

Well that is my first cut at digesting the news. If you want to figure out more a look at all the links at Talk Polywell will be helpful. I especially liked this inventory [pdf] of items purchased since about 1999.

All in all the new contract has a lot of good news. To sum up:

What it means about past work: it went well.
What it means for the future: verifying engineering rules
More: there is a plan to test the Hydrogen/Boron 11 fuel combination
More: They must be confident of results since they are planning a WB-9

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

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

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

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. For something completely different may I suggest Michael Totten On Iran?

posted by Simon at 09:03 PM | Comments (8)



Michael Totten On Iran

Michael Totten as usual has very good sources. Let us start with the fact that in the above video a phalanx of police is retreating before a mob.

Then Michael gives this excerpt from Shah of Shahs.

Now the most important moment, the moment that will determine the fate of the country, the Shah, and the revolution, is the moment when one policeman walks from his post toward one man on the edge of the crowd, raises his voice, and orders the man to go home. The policeman and the man on the edge of the crowd are ordinary, anonymous people, but their meeting has historic significance.

They are both adults, they have both lived through certain events, they have both their individual experiences.

The policeman's experience: If I shout at someone and raise my truncheon, he will first go numb with terror and then take to his heels. The experience of the man at the edge of the crowd: At the sight of an approaching policeman I am seized by fear and start running. On the basis of these experiences we can elaborate a scenario: The policeman shouts, the man runs, others take flight, the square empties.

But this time everything turns out differently. The policeman shouts, but the man doesn't run. He just stands there, looking at the policeman. It's a cautious look, still tinged with fear, but at the same time tough and insolent. So that's the way it is! The man on the edge of the crowd is looking insolently at uniformed authority. He doesn't budge. He glances around and sees and sees the same look on other faces. Like his, their faces are watchful, still a bit fearful, but already firm and unrelenting. Nobody runs though the policeman has gone on shouting; at last he stops. There is a moment of silence.

We don't know whether the policeman and the man on the edge of the crowd already realize what has happened. The man has stopped being afraid - and this is precisely the beginning of the revolution. Here it starts.

The question is, will this nothing left to lose attitude be sustainable? Will the boat rock far enough to tip over? So far the regime has been able to contain these eruptions. It all depends on the balance of fear. And chaos. In chaos small perturbations can have big effects.

Well you know Michael has way more. Visit him. And drop him a buck or two.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:19 PM | Comments (0)



sialophobia? salivaphobia? queunliskanphobia? They all sound gross!

I hate to think that I might be diagnosed as a conservative for saying this, but I have never liked other people's saliva.

It's irrational and I admit it. I'm not afraid of blood or urine, and I would rather be bled on or urinated on than drooled on. The relative actual dangers of these substances have little to do with it; in terms of bacteria content, urine happens to be the cleanest, and saliva the dirtiest, but blood has its own dangers (especially if it manages to get combined with your own). I just find saliva gross.

Normally, it wouldn't occur to me to bare my soul in this way, but earlier in the grocery store, the bagger (a facially deformed man with vitiligo on his hands, BTW -- not that there's anything wrong with that!), kept licking his fingers every time he pulled out another plastic bag for my groceries, and I didn't like it. Now, I thought it over carefully, and I realized that it wasn't the fact that he had a deformity or a skin disease which bothered me. I understand that vitiligo is not contagious or unsanitary, and I'd have the same reaction to an attractive person who did the same thing. It was the saliva -- and fact that he licked his hands and touched my food. I know I'm being irrational, because even though I know that the human mouth is "teeming with bacteria," what happened probably won't make me any more sick than the fact that the shopping cart handles have doubtless been drooled on by countless babies. Which means that if the health issue were my paramount concern, I'd be wiping down everything that might have been touched by humans in the store, and I'd have washed my hands as soon as I got home (which I didn't).

Plus, I don't mind dog saliva at all, and I love it when Coco licks me. See how screwed up I am?

This is therefore a classic phobia. According to the medical model, I need help and understanding, not blame and judgment!

(As to the people who thought this discussion was gross, be glad I didn't discuss my admitted coprophobia. Yes, if I'd seen the man reaching into his pants and scratching his ass before bagging my groceries, I'd have been even more perturbed.)

CORRECTION: I momentarily confused "vitiligo" and "impetigo." (Error corrected.)

MORE: Commenter Chocolatier offers the following advice:

When a clerk in a store opens a plastic bag by wetting his fingers in his mouth first, I take my purchase out of the bag and leave the bag on the counter. If its a food store, I'll complain the manager as well.
The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that complaining to the manager might be a good idea, and that it might have been my salivaphobia which momentarily made me lose my senses and prevented me from saying anything at the time. I had felt nauseated and I just wanted to get the hell out of there ASAP.

So I called and spoke to an assistant manager, who told me that they had ongoing problems with this bagger, and she almost begged me to put something in writing, because the man had Downs Syndrome and was disabled, that "we've talked to him over and over, there's nothing else we can do unless someone complains in writing." She also said they had talked to his supervisor. I expressed concern about the man's bathroom habits, and she told me that they had the same concerns, but the management worried that the guy just couldn't handle simple instructions.

Amazing. Can't a store fire someone for being unable to follow simple instructions?

Any ideas as to what might be going on here?

It seems to matter that the finger-licking bagger has Downs Syndrome.

Should it?

posted by Eric at 06:34 PM | Comments (2)



No denial here

I was very upset to see Glenn Reynolds point out how true it is that "90% Of Waking Hours [are] Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles."

So upset, in fact, that I decided to get up now. To get up out of my chair. To get up right now and go to the window. (That's because "I'm a human being, goddammit! And my life has value!")

No, I didn't get up to turn on the television, for you won't catch me spending the remaining 10% of my waking hours staring at glowing rectangles!

Rather, I got up and went over to the window to take a photo of one of my important hobbies, which I offer as proof:

55gal2.jpg

Obviously, with a healthy and wholesome hobby like that, there's no way I can be said to be addicted to glowing rectangles, is there?

posted by Eric at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)



Neglected outrage

Not that this will surprise anyone, but I think it is a national disgrace that ABC is blatantly shilling for President Obama's health care plan:

ABC TURNS PROGRAMMING OVER TO OBAMA; NEWS TO BE ANCHORED FROM INSIDE WHITE HOUSE
Tue Jun 16 2009 08:45:10 ET

On the night of June 24, the media and government become one, when ABC turns its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care -- a move that has ignited an ethical firestorm!

Highlights on the agenda:

ABCNEWS anchor Charlie Gibson will deliver WORLD NEWS from the Blue Room of the White House.

The network plans a primetime special -- 'Prescription for America' -- originating from the East Room, exclude opposing voices on the debate.

Outrageous. So sickening that it reminds me of Pravda.

There. My outrage has been expressed. Now I don't have to feel guilty that I have "neglected an important issue."

A problem for me in blogging is that while the above is something I really do think, it also typifies the sort of thing I think but often don't write. I seriously doubt there are any regular readers don't know that I strongly disapprove of partisan media government entanglement, so predicting my thoughts on this issue is a no-brainer. I have no new insights on the matter, and there is nothing I might say that countless other bloggers haven't also said. It bores me to blog about something about which I have nothing new or particularly original to say.

Yet still, some things are so awful that I feel an obligation to say something. A problem only compounded by the fact that I absolutely hate feeling obligated to say anything. Naturally, this puts me in a double bind. (Anything I do feels as wrong as anything I don't do.)

Now that ABC ObamaCare is out of the way, I can get on with neglecting other important issues.

MORE: Commenter "guy" says I need a picture of my dog wearing a hat, because nothing says "Absolute Moral Authority" like a dog wearing a hat.

OTOH, Commenter Donna B. says Coco doesn't need a hat, but that she's "always up for pictures of Coco! They make me smile and feel good."

So, that's two commenters for Coco, even though there's a divergence in opinion as to whether Coco needs a hat.

It just so happens that I already have a picture of Coco wearing a hat!

CocoHunger.jpg

No question about it; she's showing off her absolute moral authority.

Quite incidentally, the picture of Coco originally appeared in a post inspired by Ann Althouse who had quoted Glenn Reynolds as saying the following:

"If I quit blogging, it will be because I get tired of having to pay attention to the news all the time."
I'd love nothing more than to be able to stop this creepy unwanted feeling of being obligated to respond to news.

posted by Eric at 02:13 PM | Comments (5)



Dying company sics robots on dead performer

Like many YouTube users, I have grown a little tired of clicking on videos only to discover that the sound has been disabled by corporate robotic vandals who leave a calling card which says this:

NOTICE This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled.
More about copyright
Yeah, I know they have their rights to the music and everything, but the sound quality of YouTube is so poor that no one in his right mind would go there in the hope of downloading an actual tune to play.

So the claim that profits are being interfered with is simply ridiculous. If anything, hearing music on YouTube encourages people to buy it who otherwise wouldn't, and in the case of older music, it exposes a previously untapped audience of young potential fans, encouraging their appreciation of what they might never otherwise have heard.

If this were only a case of some idiot posting current top 40 hits, I might understand why they'd be taken down. But this morning I heard about a documentary titled "Nico Icon," a 14 year old film about the tragic life and career of Nico (of Velvet Underground fame). Nico died tragically in 1988, and if she were still alive she'd be in her 70s. A popular underground performer in her day, she is a classic example of someone who could be expected to fade away. A distant memory to former fans, and a virtual unknown to the generations who have reached music appreciation age in the decades since her death.

So, in a pattern now numbingly familiar, I found the documentary on YouTube, but thanks to WMG's copyright police, it has been rendered unwatchable. Apparently there are snippets of protected sound tracks in there. Never mind that it would be impossible to make a movie about Nico without featuring her music, and never mind that such documentaries are a classic example of fair use.

Obviously, the makers of the documentary (which is a highly collectable DVD) would have the legal right to have it taken down, but I doubt they're interested. They're probably smart enough to realize that exposing people to it on YouTube creates a whole new market for it that wouldn't otherwise be there. So what's up with the robots at WMG? If you don't know what snippets of what songs are being played, you can't order them or download them, so they seem to be just shooting themselves in the foot. Aside from being a pain in the ass.

You can still watch Part One (which apparently doesn't contain any snippets of WMG-owned content):

If you want to watch the whole thing, though, you'd have to buy the collectable DVD at Amazon.com for a lot of money. (I'm a fan of Nico, but not that much of a fan. Still, I thought the annoyance merited a blog post)

Here she is in the 1980s, singing "All Tomorrow's Parties."

I think BMG will probably have to let the above live, for the rights are owned by the company that posted the video. Some companies have enough sense to realize that there's more money in putting things up than taking things down.

BTW, WMG's stock is at an all time low, and its "Future Appears Bleak."

Please dear God, don't let the government bail them out!

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm not as familiar with this issue as I should be, but this war between WMG and YouTube makes my inner conspiracy theorist wonder whether the former might be going after the latter as part of a shakedown strategy.

posted by Eric at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)



Obama's Iran Policy

Obama's policy on Iran seems to be to lay low and hope the whole thing blows over.

Meeting with the press before President Obama's speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "I think there are a number of factors that give us some concern about what we've seen."

"Obviously we continue to have concern about what we've seen. Obviously the Iranians are looking into this, as well," Gibbs told reporters. "We continue to be heartened by the enthusiasm of young people in Iran."

What the heck does heartened by the enthusiasm of young people mean?

Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is not too happy with Obama's position.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lambasted the White House in a statement Monday afternoon, as reports came out of Iran of at least one protester killed in the tumult after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed a landslide victory over challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi on Friday.

"The Administration's silence in the face of Iran's brutal suppression of democratic rights represents a step backwards for homegrown democracy in the Middle East," Cantor said. "President Obama must take a strong public position in the face of violence and human rights abuses. We have a moral responsibility to lead the world in opposition to Iran's extreme response to peaceful protests.

"In addition, Iran's clerical regime has made clear that its nuclear program will move forward," he said. "The United States cannot trust the aspirations of a nation that is a state-sponsor of terrorism, and the Administration must work with Congress to do everything in its power to deny Iran nuclear weapons."

And Harry Reid's position? Too disgusting to even mention. That man is whipped.

Well Michael Totten has pointed to some photos of youthful enthusiasm in Iran. The question is: will it burn itself out or can it be sustained long enough to overthrow the current regime?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)



Brain Dead Republican Enhances Party Image

And THIS abomination my friends is why the Republican party is in trouble. Big trouble.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk will call for legislation Monday that would toughen drug-trafficking laws regarding a highly potent form of marijuana, with penalties of up to 25 years in prison for a first-time offense.

The law would target offenders who sell or distribute marijuana that has a THC content exceeding 15 percent.

... Drug dealers are increasingly cross-breeding plants to produce high-potency variants of marijuana, which are called "kush" in street slang when they have 20 percent THC, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said. "When you amplify the strength of it, you are increasing the harm to the system," said Curran, who supports the legislation, which would amend a federal law. "They are more dangerous behind the wheel of a vehicle. It's not a good idea to have people that messed up."

Well that is a novel approach. You are not held responsible for how intoxicated you are but whether you got that way by serially downing six packs of beer or tumblers of whiskey.

Paul Armentano has some things to say about this. I'm going to start with the second of his points.

2) THC -- regardless of potency -- is virtually non-toxic to healthy cells or organs, and is incapable of causing a fatal overdose. Currently, doctors may legally prescribe a FDA-approved pill that contains 100 percent THC, and curiously, nobody among Rep. Kirk's staff or at the Lake County Sheriff's office seems to be overly concerned about its potential health effects.

3) Survey data gleaned from cannabis consumers in the Netherlands--where users may legally purchase pot of known quality--indicates that most cannabis consumers prefer less potent pot, just as the majority of those who drink alcohol prefer beer or wine rather than 190 proof Everclear or Bacardi 151. When consumers encounter unusually strong varieties of marijuana, they adjust their use accordingly and smoke less.

Of course, if Rep. Kirk (write him here!) was really concerned about potential risks posed by supposedly stronger marijuana, he would support regulating the sale of drug (as opposed to jailing first-time pot sellers for a quarter of a century) so that its potency would be consistent and this information would be publicly displayed to the consumer. This same advice applies to the members of the Lake County Sheriff's Department and the Waukegan Police Department -- who claim "we don't make the laws; we just enforce them" -- yet seem to have no problem whatsoever lobbying for increased federal pot penalties while on company time.

And this my friends is exactly what is wrong with the Republican party. The handwriting is on the wall relative to marijuana and the Dumb Republicans can't read it. I do know how it is with policies and parties though. It is like a real marriage. 'Til death do us part. Or defeat in an election. Whichever comes first.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:27 AM | Comments (4)




Ethnic Studies is for socialists!

Ever wonder why racist crackpots, Nazi sympathizers, and rabid anti-Semites like James von Brunn are always said to be part of the "right wing"? This "conventional wisdom" never made much sense to me, as it's based on very sloppy reasoning. Whether you're a conservative or not, the Edmund Burke tradition has nothing to do with fascism or Nazism. But I think leftists just love the idea that conservatives, racists, and Nazis are automatically assigned by less-than-thoughtful people to the "right of center" space. (According to this illogic, if conservatism is right wing, and if racists, Nazis and fascists are very right wing, conservatism then becomes a form of Nazism-lite, and obviously more "racist" than anything on the left.)

In a stinging piece titled "Left Cries 'Racist' in Crowded Country," Andrew Breitbart (founder of breitbart.com) takes issue with the conventional wisdom:

The inconvenient truth is that David Duke and James von Brunn currently share more in common with Markos Moulitsas and Arianna Huffington than with Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. But the right wouldn't be so crass or foolish to try to blame the political left for the existence of - or motivation behind - haters like Mr. von Brunn.

No one is suggesting Mr. von Brunn was doing hip rolls at the Huffington Post tent during the Democratic National Convention, but his underlying philosophy, when examined and detailed, shares eerie similarities to the dominant "multicultural" mind-set at the liberal American college campus and on prominent left-wing blogs.

Change the word "supremacy" to "studies" and you'll understand the separatist mold dominant in humanities departments across the land. Women's Studies, Queer Studies, African-American Studies and Chicano Studies all produce culturally acceptable separatist and supremacy mind-sets and countenance movements that resemble those of white supremacists.

At its heart, Nazism was but another form of identity ("Aryan" identity) politics. It would not surprise me at all if crackpots who thought like James von Brunn eventually demanded "Aryan" Studies departments.

An old idea, really:

"In place of non-Aryan scholarship, Nazi scholars attempted to create "Aryan studies." In some instances, this meant establishing new areas such as racial biology and military science. Often, trends in scholarship that had existed prior to 1933 rose to prominence under the Nazis."
I'm sure the scholarship was about sound as that involved in today's identity politics. And like their modern identity politics counterparts, Nazi "Aryan Studies" scholars called themselves socialists.

The fact that they got put on the right is one of the biggest con jobs in history.

posted by Eric at 06:07 PM | Comments (4)



easing the way into the day

Bruce Bawer has written the best tribute to Howard Stern that I can remember reading. It's titled "Howard Stern, Man's Best Friend -- A lifelong listener speaks of the joy Stern has brought to his life." Because I'm a longtime fan of Howard Stern, almost all of it rang very true with me.

Here's an excerpt:

The years went by and brought many changes for me, but Howard -- along with Quivers and his gifted sidekick Fred Norris -- remained a constant. He saw me through several apartments and into and out of a long-term relationship. After he was fired by NBC in 1985 and became the morning man at WXRK, I got into the habit of setting my alarm for 6 a.m., when his program began. It helped me ease my way into the day.

Writing was, and is, my life -- writing, mostly, about things I take very seriously. Listening to Howard every morning helped me keep a sense of humor about it all -- a sense of the ridiculous, a sense of balance. From 1982 to 1998, when I moved to Europe, I had his show on, all four to five hours of it, almost every single weekday. In my entire life, I realized one day, there's nobody whose voice I've listened to more. And nobody who's given me more laughs.

It helped ease my way into the day.

I couldn't agree more, and so do many people. As I pointed out in an older post, Howard Stern helped keep the economy going, and Bruce Bawer's piece has inspired me to regurgitate my rant:

My bedroom radio had a built-in timer, which I set to wake me up to Howard Stern each morning when his show started. I soon learned that I was not the only one to do this, because just before starting the program, he'd always play some sort of musical prelude which seemed perfectly appropriate to that sleepy, REM-dream-state I'd be in. Sometimes he'd even play this surreal, dreamy, 1960s sci-fi type, trance music -- the stuff which typified many a movie "flashback" (or "memory regression") segment. This was great -- and it didn't matter whether I slept through it or incorporated it into my dreams.

Eventually, I would wake up, and almost always in a great mood.

A great mood.

Was I alone in this?

Far from it. I hadn't noticed it before, but I started to notice that many of the delivery guys -- you know, ordinary working-class men who had to get up way early in the morning and perform the sort of drudgery which the economy (and the country) needs to function -- would be listening to Howard Stern!

I am a morning runner, and I can't tell you how many times I would hear bits of Howard Stern coming from the Pepsi delivery trucks, the Budweiser delivery trucks, construction sites.

These guys looked as if listening to Howard made their jobs easier! Easier to get to work, and easier to work when you get there! Running with a radio headset on, I'd sometimes hear an "echo" -- and I'd loosen the headphone, and there'd be some worker or group of workers, usually smiling, getting through the hardest part of the day.

Can this be measured in dollars? It might be difficult, and it might require some serious studies by economists, but I have long argued that Howard Stern is a boon to the national economy, and I think I am right.

The more I listened, the more I came to love that show. I found that many white collar guys listened to him too, and then the more I asked around, the more I heard that women also listened to Howard Stern!

Imagine that! Women listening to this misfit misogynist trash talk guy! What continues to amazes me is that the women who like Howard Stern are a cut above; they tend to be smarter, more cynical (the healthy kind), and above all they have enough of a sense of humor to appreciate that Howard is intelligent and poking fun at all human foibles (not the least of which are his own). Even his braggadocio is deliberately ridiculous. His lies about serving in Vietnam, his endless declarations that he is the greatest "KING OF ALL RADIO," the nonsense about his being "half Jewish and half Italian" -- these are the kind of things which the clueless might take literally. And that fact alone -- that the clueless take him seriously -- is a very important part of the humor.

It's tough to explain this to anyone who is not a regular listener. Yet these are the people who most hate him.

It's from a long post, and Howard Stern is just one of the many paradoxes I've grappled with in this blog. Of course, many people don't get satire. Or irony.

Hmmm... Maybe that looks condescending. (Saying people "don't get" something might be seen as implying they're stupid or have no sense of humor, and it's one of the hazards of blogging -- especially irritating if you don't like explaining yourself on demand.) So... maybe some of them do get it but just don't like it. Well, I never said Howard Stern is for everyone, nor did Bruce Bawer.

Anyway, whether you like Howard or not, the whole thing is well worth reading.


posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (4)



Cloud Cover

I was just reading an interesting report on clouds by Willis Eschenbach at Watts Up With That? The post is long and detailed so let me just focus on the conclusions.

1. The sun puts out more than enough energy to totally roast the earth. It is kept from doing so by the clouds reflecting about a third of the sun's energy back to space. As near as we can tell, this system of cloud formation to limit temperature rises has never failed.
All that is based on thermodynamics. We are not living in a green house. We are living in a huge heat engine.

Point six is pretty good too.

6. The earth's temperature regulation system is based on the unchanging physics of wind, water, and cloud.
Buh, buh, but, aren't the climate models suppose to be physical? Yes and no. Some physics equations are in there, however when things get really complicated they resort to parameterization. Because who has enough computer power to follow all the zillions of atoms and molecules that make up a cloud? No one. So an algorithm might go like: at temperatures, relative humidity, and pressure between such and such values a cirrus cloud will form and its density will depend on the inputs. All very well and good. But suppose they get it wrong? And suppose that wrong is used millions of times in a 100 year run of the model. And suppose there are 10 other such parameters all interacting. And out of this you purport to tell me what the climate will be like in 100 years? The probability this could all work as advertised is not zero. But it is close enough to zero as to make no practical difference. At least for government work. And isn't all this "CO2 will burn us alive" hoo haa in the main government work? Yes it is.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:09 AM | Comments (1)




Murderers don't fill out the proper forms!

As I discussed in a previous post, because Holocaust Museum shooter James von Brunn was a convicted felon, he was not allowed to buy or possess firearms.

But once again, the gun laws failed utterly. Apparently von Brunn was so busy plotting murder that he never stop to consider the gun laws he was violating.

When I read that the gun he used was an old .22 rifle, it occurred to me that gun owners could at least be relieved that it wasn't a Kalashnikov, and that this incident would not be invoked as justification for the "Assault Weapons Ban" or most of the usual gun control talking points.

My relief proved short lived, however, when I saw a CNN piece which invokes another popular cun control narrative -- so-called "gun tracing":

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It is not possible for authorities to trace the rifle used in this week's shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum to the original purchaser, a law enforcement source said Friday.

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, said the weapon is a Winchester Model 6, .22 caliber rifle -- a type of gun manufactured between 1908 and 1928 -- long before records were kept on gun purchases.

Authorities also were checking to see if the weapon had been used in any other crime, the source said.

As anyone rudimentally familiar with the history of firearm technology knows, millions of guns were made and sold before any sort of gun control laws were passed, and of course sales records were neither required nor kept.

So what?

Does anyone think that being able to "trace" the original purchaser of a 1920s era weapon would be in any way helpful in this case? Obviously, it was manufactured by Winchester and sold to a buyer who is almost certainly long deceased. How would the identity of whoever that was aid the investigation?

What might matter would be the identity of the last transferor of the gun because it would have been an illegal transfer. But the age of the gun (and the inability to trace its first purchaser) has nothing to do with the modern federal sales report forms, which are required under more recent gun laws which von Brunn did not obey. Except for antique firearms (which this gun is not) for modern transfer purposes this gun is treated the same as a gun made last year. Whoever sells or transfers it is required to obey the law against sales to felons, and any dealer would have to have made von Brunn fill out the federal form. Obviously, the law was violated -- most likely by the previous owner, and certainly by von Brunn once he illegally possessed the gun.

If you read CNN's article and didn't know any better, you might think that old guns are exempt from sales reporting because of their age, and that there's another "loophole" we need to close. Nonsense. As a collector of old guns, I have had to fill out this form each time I've bought one, and the same law would apply if I sold it. Original purchasers are irrelevant.

Obviously, there would be no recent sales records in the case of von Brunn's .22, because he could not have bought it legally. This was not because of any "tracing loophole" in the law, but because one or more laws was violated by this convicted criminal and/or his accomplices.

No surprise there. Since when do criminals obey laws?

posted by Eric at 02:42 PM | Comments (8)



How to prevent an urban renaissance

Detroit was once one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. Architecturally, much of that beauty still remains.

Here are a few pictures I took in Detroit last weekend of some beautiful boarded up buildings:

BUP6_sm.jpg

BUP4_sm.jpg

BUP3_sm.jpg

They're palaces, really. And like many a palace in history, they've fallen into serious decay.

For decades, there's been a lot of talk about a "Detroit Renaissance" of a sort similar to that which has gone on in other cities, but for a lot of reasons (including continued deterioration of the local economy aggravated by horrendous mismanagement) Detroit's Great Reawakening has just not happened. But at least the theoretical goal of a Detroit Renaissance was never abandoned.

Never, that is, until the recent appearance new movement which seems deliberately calculated to end all talk of urban renaissance -- in Detroit and in many other cities. I refer to the insidious (almost Ceausescuesque) proposals being seriously considered by the Obama adminstration -- to simply raze huge urban areas. Not preserve, not repair, not rebuild, but destroy. But instead of saying they're going to "destroy the city in order to save it," they're calling the idea a radical experiment:

The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink - we're all shrinking - but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America.

"Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.

As to the "cultural and political taboo about admitting decline in America," I don't think it's a taboo for these people at all. They don't merely admit decline; they wholeheartedly court and embrace decline. Making things fail has always been part and parcel of their program, and now what they want to do is up the ante by making recovery and success impossible. America in decline is now official policy. The vast wastelands which will be created will no doubt be zoned to remain that way.

The question of how to create an urban renaissance in places like Detroit has become how to prevent an urban renaissance.

Easy. Ceausescu led the way. Just tear down the past. That way, bourgeois sentimentality can never show its ugly head again.

Anyone remember the so-called "anti-sprawl" movement? In a wholesale reversal of that, the idea will now be to move people from the cities and further out into the suburbs:

The city is buying up houses in more affluent areas to offer people in neighbourhoods it wants to demolish. Nobody will be forced to move, said Mr Kildee.
Right. And the people living in the "more affluent areas" won't be forced to move further out. But move they will. The old idea of encouraging people to move back into cities has fallen prey to the government wrecking ball.

But not to worry. They're calling it a back to nature movement:

"Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow," he said.
Forests and meadows? Or simply vast areas of trashed no-man's lands consisting of trash, junk, weeds and weed trees, surrounded by disconnected pockets of former cities?

The story about the new demolition campaign was linked by Ann Althouse, who as Glenn Reynolds observes, asks some tough questions:

You can't just return to nature by removing the streets and buildings. What will these non-urban buffer zones really look like? Even if it is something like a forest -- made of very fast-growing trees? -- or meadow, what sort what sorts of animals -- rodent and human -- will run wild there?
I don't know, but it's a lot harder to defend homes and business when the attackers can congregate and hide in places without roads or lighting, or police. (As it is, police in Detroit don't respond to calls -- something the deliberate creation of no-man's-lands would most likely institutionalize.)

Personally, I'm fascinated by ruins, and I am not alone. The classic ruins of Detroit ruins are becoming attractive destination spots, and they are attracting more and more tourists, as well as creative people with ideas.

Might certain government types find this offensive? I can't help but wonder whether part of the goal of the new anti-renaissance movement might be to prevent what's been happening in Detroit -- people like artists buying cheap houses, then moving in and fixing them up:

A local couple, Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, started the ball rolling. An artist and an architect, they recently became the proud owners of a one-bedroom house in East Detroit for just $1,900. Buying it wasn't the craziest idea. The neighborhood is almost, sort of, half-decent. Yes, the occasional crack addict still commutes in from the suburbs but a large, stable Bangladeshi community has also been moving in.

So what did $1,900 buy? The run-down bungalow had already been stripped of its appliances and wiring by the city's voracious scrappers. But for Mitch that only added to its appeal, because he now had the opportunity to renovate it with solar heating, solar electricity and low-cost, high-efficiency appliances.

Buying that first house had a snowball effect. Almost immediately, Mitch and Gina bought two adjacent lots for even less and, with the help of friends and local youngsters, dug in a garden. Then they bought the house next door for $500, reselling it to a pair of local artists for a $50 profit. When they heard about the $100 place down the street, they called their friends Jon and Sarah.

Admittedly, the $100 home needed some work, a hole patched, some windows replaced. But Mitch plans to connect their home to his mini-green grid and a neighborhood is slowly coming together.

Like them or not, existing buildings and even ruins have potential. I think there are people who would like to nip such private initiative in the bud, lest it lead to an urban renaissance.

Besides, how much in property taxes can the government get from people who paid $1900 for a house? The only kind of development government favors is the kind that generates money for the government, so from a revenue standpoint, independent ownership of inexpensive housing is a nightmare. Tearing down the neighborhoods and taking the land off the map relieves the government of having to provide city services on the one hand, while allowing the later possibility of government development schemes whenever they feel like it. (Another horror for which Kelo greased the skids....)

I better stop thinking about all the awful possibilities lest I give the radical experimenters more ideas...

posted by Eric at 12:16 PM | Comments (7)



How To Thrive In A Drug Obsessed Culture

The man who wrote Drugs, Kids & Crime: Surviving Our Drug Obsessed Culture has figured out how to thrive in such a culture. At least for a while.

Kendall Craig Farris' website is filled with influential endorsements for the drug prevention program he founded. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl called them "amazing tools which our schools and communities desperately need" and thanked Farris for meeting with him and his staff.

Something went wrong, however, and Farris was arrested Thursday at a Starbucks in El Segundo after Redondo Beach police set up a drug buy over the phone.

Farris, 47, arrived at the coffeehouse in a taxi, police said. An undercover officer gave him an envelope containing $480 in exchange for methamphetamine and ecstasy tablets, which turned out to be fake, authorities said. Farris was arrested at 3:40 p.m.

Isn't selling fake illegal drugs a violation of the Semi-Pure Food and Drug Act? I would hope so.

Well any way, maybe it is time he wrote a sequel. "Adults, Drugs, and Crime: Avoid Getting Caught".

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)



The Advent Of The Video Phone

Amazon is selling a Logitech QuickCam Communicate video camera with microphone for under $40.

Here is what one reviewer had to say:

Previously we purchased a cheaper web cam. This was not a good thing. We then decided upon the logitech. The picture is great and we are enjoying being able to talk to our friends and see them at the same time. This was a great purchase for us!
What is so remarkable is that this use as a video phone is no big thing. And that review was from 2008.

Amazing. And why is it so amazing? I grew up in the 50s when stuff like this was imagination only. Either that or you needed a broadcast network. I guess now we have a different kind of broadcast network and color cameras at less than $1/2 million a pop.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)



Iran Reaches Critical Mass

According to Michael Totten the above is

...thousands of Iranians chanting not "Death to America" or "Death to Israel," but "Death to the Government."
Michael goes on to say:
Oppressive governments that face ferocious resistance in the streets often don't last very long. The Islamic Republic regime has been durable so far, and reports of its imminent demise have been premature, but there is only so much it can withstand.

A reader writes to Andrew Sullivan, who is doing an excellent job covering Iran this weekend.

Why did the clergy panic? Because they saw something much larger than just Mousavi being elected. They saw the beginnings of a wave that would sweep them out of power. This started with Khatami. and it won't stop today just because they declared a fraudulent winner. Mousavi would have been the crowbar with which to pry open the tangled nest of corruption that came into power soon after the 1979 revolution. There is enough pent-up anger in Iran's youth to fuel a complete wipeout of the regime. If the thugs were so utterly ham-fisted in their attempt to usurp power, they surely will commit scores of idiotic errors in the days to come. I cannot imagine Rafsanjani staying quiet for much longer; the theocracy is about to break wide open. Resistance will take many forms, and now will not stop until the mullahs are permanently out of power. Iran is headed for civil war.
I certainly hope so. I hope it is a velvet revolution. And if it can't be that well.... I'm cheering for the latest gang of revolutionaries. Hopefully we will soon find out if they are any better than the last batch.

Instapundit says keep an eye on Totten's place for the latest. Good advice. And drop Michael a buck or two. It keeps him in beans and bus tickets.

H/T Instapundit and Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:59 AM | Comments (1)




Time for "damn tired" nostalgia

Calling himself an "intellectually honest fiscal conservative" (in a post titled "Insta-Hack Watch") Andrew Sullivan attacks Glenn Reynolds as a partisan "hack" (for this post) and contrasts Glenn's "silly posturing about pork" (by which he means the PorkBusters movement) with his own so-called "actual proposals for serious structural spending cuts."

For starters, I remember PorkBusters quite well. Glenn went after the free-spending Republicans with such determination that Trent Lott lashed out, quite vehemently:

Said Lott when asked by an AP reporter about criticism of the project he has long championed and which was just funded in a Senate Appropriations Committee bill to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as additional Hurricane Katrina relief:

"I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble ever since Katrina. We in Mississippi have not asked for more than we deserve. We've been very reasonable."

Remember, this was when the Republicans controlled everything, and guys like Tom Delay were actually saying there was no pork to cut! That prompted this remark from Glenn:
Give it to me, Tom. I'll find some things to cut. Starting with your salary, which you don't seem to be earning . . .
I think it is very impressive that Glenn and a few bloggers were able to rattle them. It is the antithesis of "silly posturing."

But what really baffles me is Sullivan's charge that opposing Republican pork projects constitutes being a partisan hack. What sort of "partisanship" would that be? Republican partisanism? Since when do partisan hacks attack their own party's programs? Could Sullivan mean partisan Democratic hack? A libertarian partisan hack?

Partisanship is defined as "the tendency of supporters of political parties to subscribe to or at least support their party's views and policies," and I don't see how PorkBusters did that in any way. I think Sullivan's charge of hack partisanship at least warrants an explanation of what sort of partisanship he means.

I think it's only fair to point out that I supported PorkBusterswholeheartedly, so I might be said to be guilty of partisan PorkBusterist hackery.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also point out that yes, I even bought one of the official PorkBusters coffee cups, which I still use.

Photo taken today:

pbccup3.jpg

And here's the "DAMN TIRED" rear:

[Hmm... maybe I shouldn't have put it exactly that way. No pun intended, OK?]

pbccuprev.jpg

I've had the cup for four or five years, and I'm just as much of a hack now as I was then. I'm for slashing as much government spending as possible, especially spending on so-called "entitlements" which I see as the most ruinous in the long term. I think PorkBusters anticipated the Tea Party Movement -- which Sullivan also attacks and derides in a similarly unprincipled manner.

This all begs the question: is Andrew Sullivan an "intellectually honest fiscal conservative" with "actual proposals for serious structural spending cuts"? I don't think it's intellectually honest or fiscally conservative to dismiss pork-cutting advocacy as "silly," and as to his actual proposals, when I clicked on Sullivan's links, I was dumbfounded, even horrified. Both Sullivan's own proposal and that of Bruce Bartlett call for additional taxes -- namely the value added tax. As to entitlement spending, Bartlett pretty much sums up the mentality:

I myself long opposed the VAT on money machine grounds. I changed my mind when I realized that there was no longer any hope of controlling entitlement spending before the deluge hits when the baby boomers retire; therefore, the U.S. now needs a money machine.

In other words, the damned baby boomers will demand lots of money, so we need to create another huge tax scheme to give it to them!

Money machine? I'd call it a pork machine.

It's anything but fiscally conservative. Where does Sullivan get off calling himself that? Factoring in that Sullivan is also on record as supporting confiscatory estate taxes, and higher (a dollar a gallon) gasoline taxes, Sullivan is anything but a fiscal conservative, and he is in no position to call Glenn a hack.

Little wonder Sullivan is winning Ann Althouse's "Who's the bigger partisan hack?" poll. Even though he's winning by 94% to 6%, Glenn is at least conciliatory enough to predict that Andrew Sullivan will change.

Considering that Dick Cheney is solidly to the left of Obama on gay rights, it's high time for Andrew (who once had a reputation for gay single issue thinking) to wake up and smell the coffee.

My "damn tired" cup has now been emptied in his honor.

posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (9)



Triple Cross

Triple Cross: How bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI--and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him

Now there is an interesting title. Perhaps there is even some truth to it. No doubt it should provide many hours worth of material to gnaw on.

So how about a review?

While I was deciding how I should start a review of Peter Lance's new book - I remembered a quote from Monica Gabrielle, one of the 9/11 widows, in a documentary about 9/11: "The one thing that I personally was hoping for was another Woodward and Bernstein with regard to 9/11. Someone, anyone that was willing to put their teeth into this."

Well, we have found that person, and his name is Peter Lance. In his third book on the origins of the 9/11 plot and the failures of the FBI and others to stop the attack, Lance focuses on Ali Mohamed - yet another figure relegated to footnotes in the "9/11 Report" who Lance shows played a central role in Al Qaeda's plan of attack. Not only did he help create the "Brooklyn Cell" which supported the 9/11 hijackers, but he wrote the training manual for Al Qaeda and created training camps for hijackers, all while the FBI thought he was on their side as an informant!

The best part of Triple Cross is the way Lance weaves together the different strands of the 9/11 story and enhances them with his own original reporting on each. For example, the book quotes from numerous interviews Lance conducted with Tony Shaffer, Curt Weldon, and other members of the Able Danger team. While not a full history of Able Danger, it has by far the most complete version in any book published to date.

Some have expressed frustration at the delays in publication, but I can attest to the fact that Lance needed the extra time in order to include all of the latest details from the interviews National Geographic conducted for their documentary based on his book, and the latest developments in the Able Danger and Greg Scarpa Jr. scandals. It is a great read, and uncovers a lot of new information about the 9/11 plot.

I was twigged to that book by this Jack Cashill newsletter Libby Prosecutor Threatens Critic. Curiouser and curiouser.
Fitzgerald does not approve of the book's thesis, a thesis embedded in the original subtitle, "How Bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets and the FBI - and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him." And he is doing everything he can to prevent the book's paperback publication.

Fitzgerald's efforts have caught the unflattering attention of Newsweek, New York Magazine, and even activist librarians.

The book deals specifically with the FBI's failure to stop the master spy in question, Ali Mohamed, who had infiltrated the Bureau, the CIA and the Green Berets at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Of particular interest to me, Lance details how the Ali Mohamed case intersected with the TWA Flight 800 case, a subject that Lance is not afraid to tackle.

More generally, the book documents the role Southern District New York (SDNY) Fitzgerald played in the war on terror, a war that Lance claims Fitzgerald badly mismanaged before September 11, 2001.

And now I don't know what to think. What is Fitz trying to hide? Why is he trying to get all unsold hardback copies confiscated?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:51 AM | Comments (3)




Queen Of Spain Vs American Peasants

The above is queen Sophia of Spain from Barcepundit.

And of course below are our American lovelies.

Yasser Clinton
Hill and Beans

H/T Susan in the comments at Classical Values for the Queen of Spain. Original idea suggested by Judith Weiss on Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:34 PM | Comments (11)



MegaNarratives to you all!

In what I think was understatement, Glenn Reynolds observed that the 88-year-old nutjob who murdered a guard at the Holocaust Museum doesn't fit the narrative. That is certainly true. (Rand Simberg explains why in far more detail.)

But like many nuts who are out there, the shooter's views are inevitably going to overlap with convenient political targets who do fit The Narrative.

Like Mr. Big Bad Right Wing Narrative himself, Rush Limbaugh. Regular readers know I don't especially like him. But I have to say something about the hatchet job that's going on right now of linking Limbaugh and other prominent conservatives to the Holocaust Museum shooter, because by using similar "narrative logic," the Holocaust Museum shooter can be linked to almost anyone whose opinions he may have heard. Or read. (Now there's an unsettling thought. Considering the man's unconventional views about the Fall of Rome, what if he read my blog? Could I be considered a terrorist suspect?)

In what has become a numbingly familiar pattern over the decades, when deranged killers strike, people with political axes to grind will invoke their favorite demons for blame. In what I'll call the "Columbine tradition," the Columbine killers were said by leftists to be a product of "the gun culture," and by rightists to be a product of the "climate" of the 1960s. (And, of course, "depravity on the Internet.")

Why people don't focus on the individuals themselves, I don't know. It would be one thing if a killer were acting on behalf of (or with the approval of) someone else, or an actual identifiable organization. But when a murder is committed by a single individual, it makes about as much sense to blame "the right" or "the left" (much less a "climate" created by either) as it would to blame the Republican or Democratic Party if he happened to belong to one of them. (In that regard, it wouldn't matter if the sum total of the man's political views consisted of an exact laundry list ticking off every last item in the GOP platform; that still wouldn't make the Republicans in any way responsible for his outrageous crime.)

It makes even less sense to blame a man talking on the radio, but quite predictably, a climate allegedly created by Rush Limbaugh is being blamed for the actions of the suspect in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting.

When I clicked on Glenn Reynolds' link to the Newsbusters piece ("Journalist Links Rush Limbaugh to Holocaust Museum Shooting"), I expected more in the grand Columbine tradition, and I was not disappointed.

Newsbusters links a piece by Salon's Joan Walsh with the provocative title of "Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder?") She clearly thinks that "right-wing hate talk"

Then came Rush Limbaugh with his sexual fears about having to "bend over and grab the ankles" for a black president. Soon Limbaugh was saying he hoped Obama fails; last week he said Obama was more dangerous to our country than al-Qaida, our terrorist enemy who has killed thousands of Americans. Could that conceivably inflame someone marginal and isolated to act against a president who's more dangerous than terrorists?
The link goes to this quote from Rush Limbaugh:
"If al Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they better hurry, because Obama's beating them to it..."
Is that really the same as saying Obama is "more dangerous to our country than al-Qaida, our terrorist enemy who has killed thousands of Americans"? Is he in any way implying that President Obama is going to murder thousands of Americans? Maybe in the minds that are marginal and easily inflamed, and maybe the mind of Joan Walsh, but I don't think ordinary people would read it that way. Sure, any nutcase can turn on the radio and plug what he hears into his schizophrenic stream of consciousness, but does that make Rush Limbaugh responsible? He's clearly resorting to an ironic comparison of the sort I do all the time when blogging. During the Cold War, many conservatives used to voice ironic agreement with Communist view that capitalists would sell the rope used to hang them, and that we would destroy ourselves without a shot being fired. Does that mean they thought capitalists were "more dangerous to our country than Stalin, our terrorist enemy who has killed millions"?

Anyway, I'm not impressed with her argument. This doesn't even rise to the level of guilt by association.

However, I was especially intrigued by a statement Ms. Walsh made towards the end of her piece:

How von Brunn, a felon who'd used a gun in his earlier crime, still had the right to carry a gun, I'll never understand.
Still had the right to carry a gun?

Come on!

Surely she has read enough about the story and is versed enough in the legal system to know that the above is just a flat-out misstatement of fact. And even if she wrote it before von Brunn's criminal past was made known (very unlikely), then why is there no correction?

I think she is either deliberately lying or else she is ignorant beyond belief. (Joan Walsh, bear in mind, is Editor in Chief of Salon. The head honcho, the one they put on TV.)

The fact is that the shooter had multiple felony convictions, and was thus legally barred from possessing firearms:

WASHINGTON - A frustrated artist and an angry man, the suspect in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting once tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve board, a "caper" thwarted when a guard captured him outside a board meeting carrying a bag stuffed with weapons.

James Von Brunn, 88, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier, describes the assault with apparent pride on his Web site, the source of fulmination against Jews and races other than his own.

Von Brunn was sentenced in 1983 to more than four years in prison for attempted armed kidnapping and other charges in his Fed assault. He was released in 1989.

"The subject resides in my memory like old road-kill," he wrote. "What could have been a slam-bang victory turned into ignoble failure. Recalling all of this presents an onerous task. I am getting near the end of the diving board."

Boy, I'll say. The guy is a complete, dangerous, raving loon, and if he isn't a good argument for locking up the criminally insane, I don't know who is.

Convicted felons aren't allowed to possess guns, and it is a serious crime in itself if they do. One of my pet peeves is that this is not pointed out as often as it should be in news stories about crimes committed by convicted criminals. I suspect that it doesn't fit the standard gun control narrative, which is that criminals have guns because society "allows" them to. To its credit, the article points out that von Brunn was barred from buying (although it should have also said "possessing") firearms:

Two law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, said investigators are trying to better understand time he spent in Idaho, and how he acquired the .22-caliber rifle used in Wednesday's attack. At the request of the U.S. Park Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is tracing the weapon. Under federal law, convicted felons cannot purchase firearms.

In his account of his "Federal Reserve caper," the St. Louis native relates his "character shapers" -- among them a schoolyard bully who beat him up, vacation days on the Mississippi River, his service on a PT boat in World War II, and what he said was his first trouble with the law -- a year in jail for tussling with a sheriff on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1968, the year he moved to the area from New York City.

Von Brunn applied to have his art shown at the Troika Gallery in Easton, Md., around the time the gallery opened about 12 years ago, two of the owners, Laura Era and Jennifer Wharton, told The Associated Press. They said they turned him down because it was not up to their quality and that made Von Brunn angry.

Rejected as an artist? Now, there's an interesting connection. Adolf Hitler was himself rejected as an artist.

Hmmm...

Shouldn't Homeland Security immediately start rifling through the admissions files of all art schools, and checking all gallery records so they can follow up on the individuals who didn't make the cut? How long will it be before another rejected artist lashes out and subjects the world to a murderous artistic tantrum?

But since some people are insistent on making the Limbaugh connection, I guess we need to look more closely at the man's, um, politics:

A self-described artist, advertising man and author living in Annapolis, Md., Von Brunn wrote an anti-Semitic treatise, "Kill the Best Gentiles," that he said no one would publish. He decries "the browning of America" and claims to expose a Jewish conspiracy "to destroy the White gene-pool."

Von Brunn also wrote, "The 'Holocaust' Religion is destroying Western Civilization. The Aryan gene-pool dies, 'unwept, unhonored and unsung.'"

Wow.

Sorry, but while I'm no fan of Rush Limbaugh, I think I can safely stick my neck out here and say that the above just isn't the sort of thing which would appeal to even the most manically "Megaditto" of Rush's legions of Megadittodom. To compare this loon with Rush Limbaugh and to say that Rush Limbaugh helped inspire him because they maybe share vaguely similar views on something is just beyond the pale.

We might just as well blame the Aryan gene-pool.

After all, aren't we're all swimming in the same MegaNarrative?

posted by Eric at 12:15 PM | Comments (4)



The Future Of Energy

I don't agree with all the prescriptions presented. However, his outline of the problem is good for some critical thinking. The secret word is Terawatt. But a terawatt is only a rate of delivery. To be really useful it has to be ready to go when you need it. That would be terawatt-hours. And terawatt-days. And terawatt-months. And terawatt-years. And then comes reliability. Can the production be sustained? What is the up time? Is the resource seasonal? Can it be matched to demand?

I do like his idea about upping the research budget to $10 billion a year. I know. A quick ramp up will encourage a lot of waste. The problem is that you never know where a good idea will come from. Suppose we spend that amount in inflation adjusted dollars for 20 years. That is $200 billion. Suppose we only get a significant pay off from 10%. If that 10% covers even half our energy supplies (i.e. what ever technology that is developed is cheaper than the alternatives) it will have paid for itself.

There are a lot of interesting ideas available. Pebble Bed Reactors, Molten Salt Reactors, and others.

We need to phase out subsidies for solar and wind. When they become economical they will roll out on their own.

My thoughts? Well they drift back as always to The Polywell Fusion Reactor.

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

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

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

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:18 AM | Comments (2)



Do I Detect A Pattern?
Yasser Clinton
Hill and Beans

H/T Suggested by Judith Weiss on Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:03 AM | Comments (6)




The unpopular popular majority

While shopping for aquarium stuff the other day at a PETCO store, I happened to see ferrets for sale. They're very cute, friendly, and inquisitive animals, and for people who want a pet but who are allergic to cats and not allowed to have dogs, they might be just the ticket.

It cheered me to see that such alternative pets were for sale, along with some cool-looking reptiles, and of course, lots of tropical fish. But my thoughts soon turned gloomy, as I realized that someone had to breed those ferrets, and that there is a relentless corps of activist thugs who think the breeders are profoundly evil, and want them stopped by any means necessary. And, the fact that PETCO does not sell dogs (like the much demonized PETLAND) or that the activists stopped PETCO from selling large birds did not satisfy them; it only emboldened them for the next battle in their declared war on pet ownership, pet stores and all things related. The goal is total abolition of the ownership of animals by humans.

For now, they want no animals to be sold or owned except by them or their activist allies. It's about power over people, of course....

But animal rights activists are an old and tired issue at this blog. I can't help notice that they're more determined than I am. They devote 24/7 to what they do, and while I'll write an occasional post, it pretty quickly fades away from public view, and I've noticed that no matter how many posts I or anyone else might write criticizing them, facts matter not at all to them, because they are activists. They're always there and they get stronger, bigger, and better organized, while all I can do is express my wistful feelings as I anticipate the loss of the simple freedom to buy a small animal at a pet store.

Not being able to buy a ferret is a little thing. A minor annoyance so trivial that I really ought to be ashamed for writing a blog post about it when there are major things going on in the world. Besides, ferrets are not even "my" issue, and I don't think I've ever discussed them in this blog. I didn't even say anything about Rudy Giuliani's rather bizarre hatred of them, because I thought there were bigger issues. Which there are.

However, the fact that many people don't like ferrets (or weasels) makes them a convenient target. Like landlords, especially landlords in Berkeley. Where it comes to taking away freedom, the unpopularity of the target always supplies a weak link in the chain.

No one likes "polluters," for example. So busy was I at PETCO getting all hot and bothered on behalf of ferret owners that I didn't stop to consider that the animal rights activists are now teaming up with environmentalists with a whole new wrinkle aimed at criminalizing a large swath of pet owning community, including the tropical fish owners like me. Sure, PETA and groups like that oppose keeping tropical fish, but it's a harder sell than opposing ferrets, and I wasn't worried about it except over the long term. The new wrinkle is to ban so-called "non-native species.":

HR 669 bans import, export, transport, breeding, sale or barter of ALL nonnative species unless they are placed on an Approved List established by the USFWS after extensive study. This law would affect most pet owners of non native species.

Most pet birds, ornamental aquarium fish, reptiles and small pet mammals are nonnative species and would be ILLEGAL under this act, unless placed on the Approved List!

Any company manufacturing or selling product for these pet species would be affected by this act. This means hundreds of thousands of pet birds and animals, reptiles and fish would be affected

Thousands of small businesses involved in any aspect of the pet industry, from breeding, selling and transporting animals to manufacturing and selling products for animals, such as foods, toys, and equipment.

It's being called "the most restrictive animal bill ever concocted." Watch the video:

There's a web site devoted to stopping HR 669 here.

Why should you care about HR 669?
Anyone with pet fish, birds, reptiles, or small mammals will be affected by this bill. Any company selling product or services for pet fish, birds, reptiles or small mammals will be affected by this bill. Would you be impacted by "The Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act"?

* Virtually all fish in an aquarium are not native to the United States
* Most pet birds are species not native to the US
* Most reptiles kept as pets are not native to the US
* Hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and ferrets are not native to the US

There's another video at the link.

It appears to be the most horrendous attack on pet ownership I have yet witnessed, and it is all being misleadingly packaged as "protecting the environment."

I'm embarrassed to say that I had not even heard of HR669 until today, and I wouldn't have even thought to write an admittedly frivolous post about ferrets had an old blog friend Connie du Toit (whose blog I dearly miss) not emailed me about yet another horror.

I'm sending this to you because, well, I don't blog anymore, and I thought you might be interested in this subject. To get around the staggering cost of cigarettes (because of Obama and Congress increases taxes on them), I started ordering "Native American" cigarettes. The carton price differences make it worth the effort (my 20 year loyalty to B&H went out the window when the price of a carton went to $85! From about $55). The price of a carton of "Native American" cigs is about $20. They aren't as good and the quality isn't as great, but we're talking a $55 difference here!

Anyway, it seems so tragic that folks who have been operating as mail order businesses are going to be put of business by this legislation. It just seems WRONG.

Thought you might agree and get some attention focused on it.

Damn right I agree. The cigarette issue might not sound like keeping ferrets or snakes, but it's that same busybody activist mentality. These people want to run our lives, down to the last detail. And if we figure a way around them, ever more draconian laws will be passed. By activists, who always claim to be fighting against the evil, polluting, unhealthy minority and in the name of the good, sane majority!

What they're trying to do in the case of cigarettes is to make it a crime to put them in the mail, and I'm delighted to have an opportunity to try to stop this bill, which is called the "Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009":

THE SITUATION: Right now there is legislation pending in the United States Senate - the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009 ("PACT Act") (S.1147) which contains, among other bad ideas, a provision to make ALL cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products non-mailable.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU: By making all cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products non-mailable, the Senate is ensuring you will no longer be able to purchase these products by mail-order, telephone order, and/or the Internet because the United States Postal Service will be prohibited from delivering your orders to you. Taking away your options means forcing you back to buying over-priced tobacco products from your local retailer once again.

WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP: Native American cigarette and tobacco sellers are committed to doing everything we can to stop the PACT Act but we need your help. Your Senators work for you and as their constituents, it is your voice and your vote that counts!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Contact your Senators and tell them not to pass the PACT Act. Your Senators should be protecting your interests, but it is up to you to let them know what you think about the PACT Act. There are three easy ways to contact your Senators - by telephone, email, or regular mail - all of which are explained below. Every state has two Senators - please remember to contact BOTH Senators for your state. At this point time is a big factor, so a phone call is by far the best means to use.

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: As an American Citizen, it is your right to let your Senators know how you feel about any action Congress takes. You elected your Senators to represent you and they can only do this if you tell them what you want. When you contact your Senator you do not need to identify yourself as a smoker or as someone who purchases cigarettes and/or smokeless tobacco products by mail-order, telephone-order, and/or the Internet. You only need to identify yourself as a resident of the state they represent.

SOME CONCERNS ABOUT THE PACT ACT TO DISCUSS WITH YOUR SENATORS:

THE POSTAL SERVICE: The price of stamps is being raised practically every year. The PACT Act will take an entire class of legal, non-hazardous goods and make them non-mailable. What this means is a huge loss of business (potentially hundreds of millions of dollars) for the Postal Service. Will they continue to raise the price of stamps and other mail services to compensate for their lost income? The United States Postal Service is already suffering a fiscal crisis due to the downturn in the economy. If the PACT Act is passed and millions of dollars of revenue are taken away, there could be serious consequences for consumers, including reducing the number of delivery days from 6 per week down to 5 or perhaps only 4 days per week.

COST: When the PACT Act of 2003 (S.1177) passed the Senate, the Congressional Budget Office prepared a Cost Estimate for the Bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the PACT Act of 2003 would cost about $140 MILLION over the 2004-2008 period to enforce. $140 Million over four years - and that estimate is already six years old. How much will the PACT Act of 2009 cost to enforce? Isn't there a better way to spend our tax dollars?

To an activist, there is no better way to spend our tax dollars than harassing small merchants (mostly Indians, in this case), and driving the price of cigarettes ever higher.

This will also harass (and aggravate the plight of) the millions of Americans who suffer from schizophrenia and who rely on cigarettes as self medication. Doubtless schizophrenics are another minority few care about.

Looking back over this post, I'm realizing that even though it's a similar theme, there are so many topics that it's unwieldy. And while it might seem a bit counterintuitive to lump together ferrets, snakes, pet stores, aquarium fish and cigarettes (if for no other reason that agreement on one issue might not translate into agreement on others) the reason I'm doing it is to illustrate how the activists succeed by demonizing unpopular minorities one at a time, while pretending to act for the common good of us all.

So I've nearly run out of steam, but before I do, there's one last thing. In San Francisco, it will soon be illegal to throw coffee grounds and eggshells in your trash:

Throwing orange peels, coffee grounds and grease-stained pizza boxes in the trash will be against the law in San Francisco, and could even lead to a fine.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 Tuesday to approve Mayor Gavin Newsom's proposal for the most comprehensive mandatory composting and recycling law in the country. It's an aggressive push to cut greenhouse gas emissions and have the city sending nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020.

"San Francisco has the best recycling and composting programs in the nation," Newsom said, praising the board's vote on a plan that some residents had decried as heavy-handed and impractical. "We can build on our success."

The ordinance is expected to take effect this fall.

Too late to stop it in San Francisco, but I'm sure the idea will spread, and pretty soon the activists will be sticking their noses into every last trash can in America. (How do we fight them? Should we should start mailing "compost" to Al Gore in protest?)

I'm no statistician, but I think it's clear that if you total up all the people the activists are going after, well, it becomes a bit like Dirksen's rule.

An unpopular minority here and an unpopular minority there and pretty soon you're talking about an unpopular majority.

To a true activist, there's nothing popular about the majority.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Yeah, I know, I should have titled this post "First they came for the ferrets."

But to be accurate, I'd really need to say "First they came for the cigarettes."

(The point is, they always go after an unpopular minority first, so you can just fill in the blank with the unpopular minority of the moment.)

posted by Eric at 12:58 PM | Comments (14)



Can democracy be carried too far?

No, I'm not talking about Americans voting away their own freedom.

The latest bizarre twist of democracy consists of voting for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Los Angeles.

In case you didn't know it, Los Angeles, aka Tehrangeles, is one of the biggest Iranian cities in the world, perhaps the biggest outside Iran. According to Wikipedia, metropolitan LA has about 900,000 Iranians and descendants. That's considerably less than the some 7.7 million in Tehran itself, but still a significant number.

Many of these Tehrangelenos (and other Iranians throughout the US) hold Iranian identity cards or passports - sometimes dual citizenship - and are qualified to vote in Friday's Iranian presidential election, for which there will be polling stations across the USA. A fair number of these Iranians will be going into Southern California stations in such redoubts as the City of Commerce and Anaheim and exercising their franchise to reelect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

What, you say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, noted Holocaust denier and nuclear arms developer - the very pivot of the Axis of Evil who calls the United States the Great Satan roughly every thirty minutes - is going to be elected in Los Angeles? Yes, the same guy....

Amazing but true. Go read Roger L. Simon's whole piece; PJM will be covering the "Tehrangeles" election.

I hope this is just a bizarre aberration. I'd hate to think that Americans might be allowed to vote to enact Sharia Law by democratic means.

People can do funny things at the polls, though. Consider California's long forgotten Prop 14, a majority-approved 1963 ballot initiative that would have allowed racially restrictive covenants. It was voided as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and would be unthinkable in America today.

(Of course, I'd have thought that voting for Ahmadinejad would be unthinkable in America at any time.)

posted by Eric at 10:12 AM | Comments (8)



Testing Speakers

I have always liked China Grove as a good test song for Rock 'n Roll speakers. If the mids and highs are good and the bass line thumps clearly I like 'em. This cover of China Grove is pretty durn good. Especially the instrumental portion. Another one I like for testing is Marshall Tucker's Fire On the Mountain which gives a good test of the mids and highs. With just enough bass so IM if severe will show up. Another good one is Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower.

Well my mate got me an early Father's Day Present of these speakers: Logitech S220 2.1 Speaker System

How do they sound? Well I like them. Not the thumping base of big floor speakers but for the price she paid - very nice. The bass unit has a volume control so you can adjust the balance to suit. Let me add that the speakers are very quiet when there is no signal. I always like that.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:54 AM | Comments (2)




I Have Nothing Further To Say
Hill and Friend
I see the Democrats know how to put a woman in her place.

H/T Judith Weiss on Facebook.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:05 PM | Comments (2)



Base Money

I just don't know where to start. So how about I try to start with the beginning. Mike Huckabee wants to move the the "mushy middle" out of the Republican Party.

Some argue that Republicans have lost Congress and the White House because they've turned the party over to social and religious conservatives, driving away moderates and independents. Huckabee made precisely the opposite argument.

"It's when they move to the mushy middle and get squishy that they get beat," he said.

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, argued that the U.S. is a conservative country receptive to Republican ideals.

"Historically, the way we've found our way back to winning, having clear convictions that are conservative and then when elected, act like it," he said. "In every election, when Republicans have had clarity of convictions and those convictions were conservative, they win."

He warned that many Republicans have gone astray by buying into President Barack Obama's big-spending effort to stimulate the economy, a move he called "a big, colossal, utterly disastrous mistake.

"Our Republicans have culpability in that," Huckabee said. "There were some people who questioned whether I was really conservative. I don't want to hear, ever, people ever again talk about how conservative they are if they supported that."

Huckabee is right when he says conservatism is popular. But is it social conservatism that is the winner? Or economic conservatism. Well big spender social conservative Huckabee (who was rightly questioned about his conservative creds) has come down on the side of economic conservatism. Yip e. Nice try Mike. But how can we actually trust you when you didn't walk the walk?

One good thing I can say about Mike. When he puts his finger to the wind he can read its direction accurately.

When it comes to Sarah Palin I must say that her team doesn't even know if there is a wind. Kathleen Parker says the Palin team is inept in handling her scheduling. That may be so but it is not the worst thing they are doing to her. Sarah is being positioned wrong. Her libertarian governance rather than her social conservative personal life should be her image. Why is that? Well let us look at Party Politics and see if a conclusion is possible. Don't worry. I've made up my mind on this a long time ago. And to get what is wrong with the Party we must look at how the electorate is changing.

The Wall Street Journal has a look at what is going on with the electorate.

Independents hold the balance of power in the Obama era. That's the conclusion of a recent, 165-page Pew Research Center survey that shows independent voters climbed to 39% from 30% of the electorate in the five months following the 2008 election. During that same time, Democratic identification fell to 33% from 39%, while Republicans fell four points to 22% -- their lowest since post-Watergate.

This is evidence that President Obama's election does not represent a liberal ideological mandate, as House Democrats have claimed. It also shows continued rejection of the Republican brand.

On virtually every policy issue, independents are situated between increasingly polarized Democrats and Republicans. They more accurately reflect centrist national attitudes than the 11% of Americans who describe themselves as liberal Democrats or the 15% who call themselves conservative Republicans.

Independents are nonideological problem-solvers, but they do not have a split-the-difference approach to politics. They are fiscally conservative but socially progressive, with a strong libertarian streak. It's on fiscal issues that independents are putting the Obama administration on notice.

Bailout backlash is reflected in independents' attitude about the expanding social safety net. Just 43% believe that we "should help more needy people, even if it means going deeper into debt" -- down 14 points over two years. Independents' belief that "labor unions are necessary to protect the working person" has declined 23% since 2003. They are closer to the Republican view that government is usually wasteful and inefficient.

Independents are now the youngest voting block overall: 44% of Americans born after 1977 identify as independent. Republicans are the oldest voter cohort, with just 19% of those born since '77 identifying with the GOP. Demographics are destiny.

The Republican Party is obviously in free fall. I also covered this in Playing To An Ever Shrinking Base. The electorate is going independent, libertarian. Fiscally conservative, socially moderate. Which is how Sarah governs. So what are the geniuses of her team doing? Amping up her socon creds. At least Mike Huckabee is smart enough to shift with the wind and go against his past. And Sarah? Going in the other direction and also trying to hide her past. That is nuts.

And why do I think this is happening the way it is? I think Sara is going after base money and Huckabee is going after national votes.

OK enough of candidates. What does the Republican Party have to do? Get right with God. Start living up to their economic conservative principles. Religiously. What ever happened to the small government Party? Small government is another principle the Republican Party should stick to. Religiously.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:29 PM | Comments (14)



Too much late night entertainment is wearing me out!

The last time Coco had a late-night interaction with a wild animal, she awakened me by barking at a bat which had gotten between a window screen and the bedroom window. Well, Coco seems to be on a roll.

Last night as I was getting ready to go to bed, I let her out for what I thought would be her routine nocturnal toiletries, and she took too long, and dawdled about coming in, even after I nagged her. (Normal on a beautiful sunny day, but late at night she's almost always ready to go to bed.) Only after I grumpily ordered her in did she finally comply, but she dashed past me, and I noticed she was carrying something in her mouth which looked dead and grey.

"Great!" I thought. "She's killed a squirrel and I'll never get it away from her." Like most dogs, Coco hates squirrels, and like most dogs, she cannot catch them. After being subjected to an instant, high-decibel human temper tantrum, Coco (much to my surprise) dropped the dead lump of grey, and even more to my surprise, it walked away from her and into the kitchen. The thing initially looked like a rat, but then I noticed it had a lumbering gait, funny hair, and was too fat to be a rat.

Coco had found and dragged in a baby possum!

Using a dish towel, I quickly grabbed it by the tail and inspected the poor thing for damage. Other than a coating of saliva, it seemed OK. Whether Coco wanted to keep it or whether it had played dead and tricked her, she seemed quite gentle with the little beastie, and after all she did drop it on command (itself a very un-doglike thing to do). But I thought it over, and decided that I didn't want the hassle of keeping a wild animal in my house. So after posing for this brief picture, I took the possum to a nearby park where I released it.

babypossum3.jpg

While I think it was probably fine, it did go through the possum routine of playing dead. However, when I picked it up with the dish towel, it gave itself away by clinging to the cloth (something dead animals will not do).

I don't know whether dogs can get along with pet possums, but last night I was in no mood to experiment. My tent is big enough.

posted by Eric at 03:11 PM | Comments (5)



A mandatory "right," imposed by the majority?

When I saw the title of Senator Bernie Sanders' piece -- "Health Care Is a Right, Not a Privilege" at Real Clear Politics, I was irritated, because I disagree wholeheartedly. But when I clicked on the link, expecting a philosophical explanation to dissect, I found nothing except a bare and unexplained premise that rights are created by majority rule:

As the health care debate heats up in Washington, we as a nation have to answer two very fundamental questions. First, should all Americans be entitled to health care as a right and not a privilege - which is the way every other major country treats health care and the way we respond to such other basic needs as education, police and fire protection? Second, if we are to provide quality health care to all, how do we accomplish that in the most cost-effective way possible?

I think the answer to the first question is pretty clear, and one of the reasons that Barack Obama was elected president. Most Americans do believe that all of us should have health care coverage, and that nobody should be left out of the system. The real debate is how we accomplish that goal in an affordable and sustainable way...

Sounds like Global Warming: the debate over theory has been won, and we're now at the implementation stage.

But there's a huge problem: even if the majority thinks socialized medicine is desirable, that does not make health care a right. In the American philosophical tradition, rights are innate to human beings, and are defined as what government cannot take away. Those things the government might decide to give citizens by various forms of income redistribution cannot be said to be rights as they are not innate, but come and go, and are subject to the vagaries of the political process. Whatever citizens might vote to give themselves or vote to discontinue giving to themselves are not rights.

So, even if a majority wants to socialize the health care industry (itself a debatable point), that could change with a new administration elected with a pledge to reprivatize it. It is no more a "right" than a new highway project, and a majority being for it right now does not transform it into a right.

Aside from his recital of "majority rule" (or the even more irrelevant claim that "every other major country" does what he favors) Sanders offers no theory under which "health care" is a "right." I was hoping he'd at least cite the Constitution's "general welfare" or "necessary and proper" clauses. Or maybe the Declaration's "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." A good argument can be made that citizens have a right to buy whatever* health care they can afford (because after all, it's their money), but that no more confers a right to have others pay for it than the Second Amendment guarantees a "right" to have the government provide each citizen with a gun at taxpayers' expense! To create such a novel right, the Constitution would have to be amended. But in any case, Sanders didn't say that. He offers no actual theory of a "right to health care" for me to dispute.

I'm very disappointed.

* Interestingly, the right to buy only the type of health care you want and no more would be taken away by state-mandated socialized health care programs. Saying you have to have something is precisely the opposite of a right. If the government mandated church attendance and provided all citizens with churches, would that be called a "right to spiritual care"?

If that's not absurd enough for you, how about state-mandated marriage for all citizens, under the name of the "right to marriage"?

Things which the government makes us do are not rights. I hope people aren't dumb enough to fall for such nonsense.

MORE: Regarding the idea of democratically voting away freedom, I think this guest writer at Samizdata nails it:

What makes Americans' surrender to statism so shameful is that we freely chose this course in direct contravention of our founding principles.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Is there a right to choose not to be free?

I don't know, but I'm not sure I like the idea of others being able to do it on my behalf.

Isn't surrendering to statism bad enough without calling it a right?

Really, if this keeps up, they'll eventually call slavery "the right to work."

posted by Eric at 08:47 AM | Comments (8)



Green Power: Black Death

Green Power: Black Death
Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death

The author of this book is Paul Driessen. And just who is Paul Driessen?
Driessen received his bachelor's degree in geology and field ecology from Lawrence University, JD from the University of Denver College of Law, and accreditation in public relations from the Public Relations Society of America.

Driessen is currently a senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and a senior fellow with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

During a 25 year career, that included staff tenures with the Department of the Interior and an energy trade association, he has spoken and written frequently on energy and environmental policy, global climate change, corporate social responsibility and other topics. He has also written articles and professional papers on marine life associated with oil platforms off the coasts of California and Louisiana - and produced a video documentary on the subject.

A geologist interested in climate change? What will they think of next?

Paul has some interesting friends. One of them, Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace has this to say about the book.

"The environmental movement I helped found has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity. The pain and suffering it is inflicting on families in developing countries must no longer be tolerated. This is the first book I've seen that tells the truth and lays it on the line. It's a must-read for anyone who cares about people, progress and our planet."
Another Friend of Paul is Niger Innis. Who is Niger Innis?
Niger Innis currently serves as the National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality. He works closely with the National Chairman and represents CORE across the country. He is a MSNBC contributor on the 24-hour news network providing insight and analysis on the day's news events.
And what does Niger have to say about the war on the poor waged by "back to the stone age" environmentalists?
Liberal politicians and environmental activists continue to say we must switch to "green" energy. Oil, gas, coal and nuclear must go, they insist.

Informed voters support conservation and alternative energy. But they know fossil and nuclear fuels created health and living standards unprecedented in history.

Over two-thirds of American voters support increased onshore and offshore drilling. They know world energy demand is surging, while US production is prohibited and declining. They realize anti-drilling policies don't just cause unemployment and cost us trillions in lost lease bonus, royalty and tax revenues.

Those policies also wage an immoral war on poor families. They destroy jobs, erode civil rights gains, and force minority and elderly households to choose between food, fuel, rent and medicine.

Since 2006, the cost of driving a 25-mpg car 10,000 miles has risen $600. Heating and air-conditioning costs - and the price of everything we eat, wear and do - continue to soar. While higher income families spend a nickel of every dollar on energy, families at the bottom of our economic scale spend up to half of their incomes on gasoline, heating and cooling.

This is intolerable and unnecessary. We have centuries' worth of oil, gas, oil shale, coal and uranium - and we can develop them without harming the environment.

But environmental radicals in and out of Congress refuse to let us do so. They want to force us to switch to renewables, even though there is a yawning chasm between 0.5% of US energy produced by wind and solar power - and 93% produced with hydrocarbon and nuclear power.

The eventual switch to alternative energy is obviously decades away. Meanwhile, we are sending up to $700 billion a year to Russia , Iran , Venezuela , Saudi Arabia and other countries - in the midst of our worst economic crisis in memory.

People are justifiably angry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow a debate or vote on ending congressional drilling bans. The only "energy" bills she supports would open few areas, while adding more taxes, regulations, lawsuits, delays, price hikes, and renewable-energy mandates and subsidies. They will produce little or no new energy.

Here is a review of the book by A Customer on the Amazon page linked above.
Before reading this exceptional primer on the negative effects of modern environmentalism, I was clueless of the far-reaching costs that group's policies have had on the Third World. Driesen documents at length the effect radical environmentalism has had on Africa's struggling poor, who want nothing more than to benefit from the same energy sources and standard of living the First World takes for granted. He shows how DDT saved thousands of lives in Africa by protecting families from malaria, while radical Greens fought to eliminate the benign chemical because of a theoretical risk it posed to birds. When families were restricted from using the chemical on their huts in Africa, malaria deaths shot through the roof. Driesen lays the blame for those thousands of deaths at the doorstep of the Sierra Club and other like-minded groups who would rather maintain a politically correct notion of what good environmentalism is rather than save actual lives.

Driesen goes on to show how environmentalists keep the Third World populations in poverty by fighting against the use of traditional, affordable sources of energy like coal and fossil fuels. Instead, Greens think other sources like wind and solar should be the only option for these people, disregarding the fact that the technology is no where near advanced enough to provide the energy needs these populations need to pull themselves out of poverty. Ironically, it would take over 10,000 acres of windmills to generate the same amount of electricity a 2-3 acre fossil fuel plant produces. So much for "saving the land."

Driesen does not endorse using fossil fuels forever and ever amen. In fact, he wants nothing more than for the world to develop and invest in alternative energy because he knows as well as everyone else the day will come when we have no other choice. He simply believes (and rightly so) that, in the mean time, the problems of the Third World are real and not theoretical like so many Green "concerns", and that First World governments should not be intimidated by radical Greens and NGOs in their efforts to employ free-trade and responsible investment in these areas. One of the books biggest themes is how unfair it is that NGOs are not held to the same standards of accountability and transparency they constantly demand from for-profit corporations.

Paul and Willie Soon have written a piece with a publication date of June 7, 2009.
Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of Earth's most impoverished regions. Over 90% of its people still lack electricity, running water, proper sanitation and decent housing. Malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and intestinal diseases kill millions every year. Life expectancy is appalling, and falling.

And yet UN officials, European politicians, environmentalist groups and even African authorities insist that global warming is the gravest threat facing the continent. They claim there is no longer any debate over human-caused global warming - but ignore thousands of scientists who say human CO2 emissions are not the primary cause of climate changes, there is no evidence that future warming will be catastrophic, and computer models do not provide valid projections or "scenarios" for the future.

[Global] Warming alarmists use the "specter of climate change" to justify inhumane policies and shift the blame for problems that could be solved with the very technologies they oppose.

Past colonialism sought to develop mining, forestry and agriculture, and bring better government and healthcare practices to Africa . Eco-colonialism keeps Africans "traditional" and "indigenous," by insisting that modern technologies are harmful and not "sustainable" in Africa.

Let me see if I get this? A healthy prosperous Africa is unsustainable, but millions of African children dying every year can be continued indefinitely. You know, if the Austrian Corporal had proposed such a thing we would call these policies genocidal. But wrap it all it green swaddling and it is "saving the earth". You have to wonder what the greenies have against the poor and people of color? Is it possible they are practicers of covert racism?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:11 AM | Comments (2)



Without Energy Life Is Brutal And Short

"Without energy" is about 6 minutes 45 seconds into the video. Topics covered:
Water vapor amplification - models vs data.
Polar regions and polar bears
Glacier melt
Sea Ice
Sea Level
Dangerous Weather
Energy Is Life

Here are the other parts of the video:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4 - above video
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

H/T Mark at It's An Absolute Disgrace

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)




The silent underdog

Maybe it's just because I live in Ann Arbor, which is a very left wing place, but driving around earlier reminded me of yet another reason I prefer the right wing to the left wing. By "prefer," I don't mean which "side" I'm on politically so much as whom I find less offensive. (To the senses.)

The fact is, the right wing is more discreet. Even if you hate them, you don't see them. People who are on the left, OTOH, are more visually offensive. They love to advertise what they think with endless bumperstickers, signs, demonstrations, and noise. At any party or event, it's the left that makes noise; the right is usually silent. And it's always the lefties who want to know what you think, who you voted for, etc. If you want to spot a conservative in these situations, look for the silent ones.

The reasons for this are another matter. I understand that many on the right feel intimidated, and keep their politics strictly in the closet the way gays did in the 1950s. That's a regrettable situation, and many have advocated changing it. But still, I think the silence is one of those little peculiarities that gives conservatives a certain unique charm. Think about it: Americans love an underdog, and the more they see conservatives as embattled and driven underground, the more they'll tend to like them.

Similarly, the more they realize that the last coffin nails are being driven through the freedom which was once their birthright, the more they'll sympathize with those who seek to resurrect it.

With any luck, the left will continue to turn up the volume.

If the left gets loud enough, it might not even matter whether the conservative silence is seen as cowardly or dignified!

posted by Eric at 08:47 PM | Comments (3)



Read My Lips - More New Taxes

I don't think this move by Congress is going to go over well.

WASHINGTON - Despite a less-than-rousing reaction from the Obama administration, House Democrats are considering a new tax on employer-provided health benefits to help pay for expanding coverage to the uninsured.

Several officials also said an outline of emerging legislation envisions a requirement for all individuals to purchase affordable coverage, with an unspecified penalty for those who refuse and a waiver for those who cannot cover the cost.

"There's no sense having a mandate unless you have a contribution," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Monday. He referred to the suggestion as "play or pay."

Mandates, contributions, and government guns. I take it that the plan will not be voluntary. I wonder how they will apportion the contribution between workers and their employers? If the tax is on workers directly the workers will howl at election time. If the tax is on the companies there will be more unemployed workers.

You know, with the Obama economic plans it is hard to tell the bugs from the features.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)



having kittens

Normally, I don't blog much on matters involving people's personal appearance. But occasionally I can't resist temptation, and there's always the exception that proves the rule.

So, after 24 hours of self-deprivation, I am no longer able to resist the picture of first ladies Carla Bruni and Michelle Obama that launched a photo caption contest. (When Glenn Reynolds linked it, he said the picture reminded him of this vintage gem.)

Here's the picture that generated the commotion:

PoutyMichelle.jpg

Incidentally, this comes on the heels of an earlier "First lady fashion faceoff," which had been detailed in a HuffPo puff piece:

The first ladies' outfits complemented each other, and each stuck to their favorite designer. Michelle wore a poppy printed Thakoon coat over a matching pink dress, while Carla wore a belted Dior trench in gray suede. Both coats had a bow on the neck and fell just below the knee.

Michelle wore black kitten heels while Carla went for Dior flats.

That was in April, so maybe it isn't completely accurate for me to have said the Althouse caption contest "comes on the heels" of the earlier "faceoff." Besides, I'm not sure I like the ring of that expression. I really should do a better job of editing my sloppy writing, shouldn't I? That's one of the problems posed by blogging, and I'm not sure that calling attention to my shortcomings really solves anything.

Anyway, among the comments to the Althouse post was a remark which, while not a caption, caused a friend to email me to say, simply, "this one hit it":

Carla Bruni is a beautiful rich white woman. There is no more priveledged class of people on earth than rich, beautiful, white Western Women. Bruni is the symbol of everything Michelle Obama has been angry about her entire life.
While I don't know how privileged Bruni is (especially in comparison to Michelle Obama), to me the former looks more malnourished than the latter. Some might even argue that she looks as if she is starving.

It is hard not to notice that Michelle Obama does not look happy in the picture. (I think she looked downright pouty, and she didn't look especially happy to me in most of the HuffPo pictures.) How much of this is based on animosity or resentment towards Bruni, I don't know. But the overall dynamics of the European move to the right must just kill the left, especially the American left. For years they were scolding America for having a conservative presidency who was out of touch with progressive Europe, and now that they've got someone exactly to their liking in the White House, the damned European voters had to betray them by acting like a bunch of ungrateful children and electing conservatives. Really, look at this:

Right-leaning governments were ahead of the opposition in Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, while conservative opposition parties were leading in Britain and Spain.
Why it's, it's... downright un-American.

And now President Obama -- the guy who promised to rebuild bridges with our former European allies -- has to build new bridges with conservatives. (Will our former allies just go on being former allies?) The irony is delicious.

What I also find delicious is what the First Family had for dinner in England.

Having spent yesterday in Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament - they had tea with Sarah Brown but were at least spared meeting Gordon Brown - the Obamas probably felt they had earned a hearty meal.

However, they eschewed the many upmarket restaurants of Mayfair - such as Scott's and Corrigan's - for the rather less glamorous surroundings of the The Audley.

The children chose the fish supper at £7.95 while their mother opted for sirloin steak at £9.15.

Before their main course the girls tucked into a hot cheese platter, washed down with Pepsi Cola. Mrs Obama, 45, shared wine with the adult entourage, who ate burgers.

Now, regular readers may not like to see me praising Michelle Obama, but I have to say that I approve wholeheartedly of the above meal, which I see as an act of defiance. Whether it was an act of defiance against Carla Bruni, I don't know, but consider for a moment how much the various professional scolds hate fish and chips.

In England the government has condemned them in a press release.

In New Zealand, the mere mention of fish and chips has been banned from children's books.

And in the United States, the well-heeled (well non-leather-heeled, I would hope) lobbying group PETA has called for relabeling fish as "sea kittens" in the hopes of brainwashing children.

So, I like the fact that Michelle Obama served her children sea kittens and chips.

As to the fact that she ordered steak, does it take a conspiracy theorist to say that she was in the mood for red meat?

MORE: Those who assume she's a garden variety conservative might find this statement from Carla Bruni surprising:

I'm monogamous from time to time, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry.
Somehow, I don't think Michelle Obama could have gotten away with saying that. Should I hope she's jealous?

We live in confusing times.

posted by Eric at 12:18 PM | Comments (3)



Bill Whittle Visits Maureen Dowd And Captain Kirk

If you are fan of the original Star Trek with Wm. Shattner you absolutely have to watch this video. Don't argue. Just watch it. You will be glad you did.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:11 AM | Comments (7)



Electric Motor Stimulus

And you were hoping for something about a sexually themed massager? We have those, but that is not what this is about. This is about electrical motors for home and industry.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has approved an amendment May 20 that creates a NEMA Premium motor rebate program. During committee work on the House of Representative's climate change legislation, Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Ross (D-AR) offered an amendment to incentivize the adoption of NEMA Premium motors.

The amendment, which is nearly identical to an amendment the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee adopted last month, incentivizes the purchase of NEMA Premium motors by creating a federal rebate program. This amendment approves $350 million to provide $25 per horse power rebate for NEMA Premium motors. This provision also provides a $5 per horse power rebate for the proper disposal of the inefficient, non-NEMA Premium motors.

"Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Mike Ross recognize the importance of making our country energy-efficient, while listening to the needs of their constituents," said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis. "Congresswomen Baldwin represents Wisconsin's Second Congressional District, and Congressman Mike Ross represents Arkansas' Fourth Congressional District. Both districts house America's major motor manufacturers, and these two representatives have identified their district's needs and have taken the necessary steps to address them."

Ah. Yes. Services to their district. AKA bribing the voters. And no doubt the Congress Critters will be looking for generous campaign contributions from all those that have been helped.

And my guess on the net effect of all this? The cost of electric motors will rise to the point that nearly all the subsidy is absorbed by the manufacturing and distribution chain with none of it showing up as lower prices for consumers. Thus adding inefficiency to the economy. Because in most cases if there was an economic reason for higher efficiency motors they would already be used.

I think this is just another case of the public being Jobbed by Greens and politicians. In the case of wind turbines (discussed in the previous link) the subsidies are so high that the wind companies are paying utilities to take the wind energy they produce.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:22 AM | Comments (0)




If Only We Had Done Nothing

We have added at least a trillion dollars to our national debt and the accomplishments for that spending are worse than if we had done nothing. Where is the Do Nothing Congress and the Do Nothing Presidency when you need them? If only they had put the effort into raising the price of electricity while lowering the reliability of supplies. Well they are doing that. And what else are they doing? They are going to spiff up Public housing

Vice President Joe Biden and two Cabinet secretaries unveiled a national program Tuesday to train workers for "green jobs" that will make public housing more energy-efficient.

Biden, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the plan in Denver at a meeting of President Barack Obama's task force on the middle class.

Donovan said some of the $4 billion from Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan that was budgeted to renovate public housing will be spent to create jobs for making the dwellings more energy efficient.

Solis, another task force member, said $500 million will be distributed as grants for training workers. That sum includes $50 million for communities battered by job losses and restructuring in the auto industry.

Investing in public housing will improve its quality, reduce energy costs for residents and the government and create jobs for people who live in the units and their neighbors, Donovan said. Some of the stimulus money also will be used for basic repairs and maintenance.

Hmm. I wonder if the Obama Administration has a plan for us and is getting our accommodations prepared.?

H/T Judith Weiss on Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. You might also like: Green Power: Black Death

posted by Simon at 11:18 PM | Comments (1)



Demand For Oil Down - Price Up

Want to know why gasoline prices are up? Me to. I have no idea if they are right in their analysis. But I do trust their tracking numbers.

For a more complete snapshot of the current state of the economy visit Purchasing.Com

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:41 PM | Comments (1)



"We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism."

Who said that? Ayman al Zawahiri?

No, it was the guy who wants to be the Republicans' presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who wonders whether it's 2005 all over again.)

I guess this means Gingrich has decided to kiss the Hindu vote goodbye, and he's probably assuming all Pagans vote Democrat. As I've pointed out before, I consider myself a Pagan Christian. And interestingly enough, it was in 2005 that I publicly admitted to being a pantheist.

I have voted solidly Republican since 1996.

My religious views ought to matter to no one, though, and while I don't discuss them much, it ought to go without saying that the right to make free choices in religion is an American birthright.

But by singling out Pagans, what kind of message is Gingrich sending? I mean, I could sort of understand if he got all excited and exclaimed "We are living in a period where we are surrounded by Islam." Except he'd never, ever say that, and why? Because it would be seen as bigotry. So what's up with this? Does Newt Gingrich not mind being perceived as an anti-Pagan bigot?

While I can't be sure, to fair to Gingrich, it's worth considering that he might not have really meant to literally single out Pagans according to the religious meaning of the word, because right after that statement, there's this:

They and other speakers warned about the continuing availability of abortion, the spread of gay rights, and attempts to remove religion from American public life and school history books.

Gingrich and Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, argued the rights of Americans stem from God and to ignore that connection is perilous. The two were among several speakers, including former U.S. Senate candidate Oliver North, at the three-hour "Rediscovering God in America" event. The event was closed to reporters but was broadcast live on God.TV, an evangelical Web site.

Gays are by no means necessarily Pagan, nor are pro-choicers. And atheists by definition cannot be called Pagan in the religious sense, because they believe in no gods -- precisely the opposite of many gods.

In that purely mathematical sense, monotheists tend more towards atheism than do polytheists.

So (if I do the math) maybe I should just be happy that Gingrich is more of an atheist than I am.

posted by Eric at 12:41 PM | Comments (9)



How many single issues can fit in a tent?

In a thought-provoking PJM analysis, Clayton Cramer asks "Just How Big Should Our Tent Be?"

...a Republican Party narrowly focused on social conservatism will have a tent so small that few converts will come inside. I fear that it would be like a much larger but still too tiny to matter Libertarian Party -- from which emanates some bruising and pointed arguments between the "incredibly small tent" and the "infinitesimal tent" activists.

A Republican Party that stands for almost everything will be like John McCain's campaign, with similar results -- the base had little enthusiasm, except for Sarah Palin.

But do we really need to make a choice? Sometimes. But now we should focus more on common ground.

Cramer takes a close look at the abortion issue, and makes a good case that conservatives are more in line with the American majority now:
The "big tent" crowd also needs to think about their antipathy towards the social conservatives. A majority of Americans finds something disturbing about abortion -- at least some abortions. Partial-birth abortions? Yucky. Abortion because your wedding dress wouldn't fit as well? Yucky. Yet a majority accepts abortion for some really troubling situations: the 13-year-old impregnated by an adult, a fetus who is going to die an excruciating death soon after birth from Tay-Sachs Disease. There is clearly a widespread moral objection to abortion as backup, or sometimes primary, birth control. The "certain circumstances" crowd may not agree with the pro-lifers about the absolute immorality of abortion, but they do see it as morally troublesome.
I'm personally appalled by abortion, but I'm also appalled by the idea of imprisoning women who kill their fetuses. Whether that makes me "pro-choice," I can't say. The more advanced the pregnancy, the more human the fetus becomes, and I don't see much distinction between killing a third trimester fetus and outright infanticide. (But no, abortion is not true infanticide, and calling it that does not make it that.)

In debating the size of the tent, I think that what leads to problems is that the debates on various issues tend to be dominated by single issue thinkers (commonly known as "activists"). A common pattern with their arguments is the assumption that statistical agreement or disagreement by the public on each issue will translate into votes for or against a candidate. If this were the case with abortion, then John McCain would have won the election, as his views are more in line with the American majority (which, as Cramer points out, is largely against abortion). Obama, the most pro-abortion president in US history, won handily despite being out of touch with the majority.

Pro-life voters helped elect a fiercely pro-choice president.

There's a reason for this. No matter who is "pro-life" or "pro-choice," (or like me, pro-life and anti-prison), abortion is simply not considered a paramount national issue for voters, at least, at least not paramount enough to decide the outcome of elections. Perhaps in deciding upon the size of the tent, weight should be assigned to the importance ordinary voters assign to these issues.

Gay marriage is another one. To most people, it's maybe an annoyance, perhaps a source of amused debate. But the heated, angry rhetoric? Once again, that's activist stuff.

Unfortunately for regular folks, both parties tend to be dominated by collections of activists. Whether they're "the base" or "the grass roots," there's hell to pay if they're offended, because they feel more strongly about issues than normal people, and if some ordinary Joe comes along and just doesn't feel as strongly (or doesn't see priorities the same way), they'll see him as a compromiser with evil or a sellout or something. The louder the activists are, the more they tend to drive the ordinary Joes, and the easier it becomes for the quieter but deadlier activists on the other side to claim their louder opposites are a bunch of raving kooks.

This is not to say that activists should be excluded from the tent. That would be impossible, even absurd. And while I know that single issue activists will never get along with their single issue opposites, there ought to be a way to get single issue thinkers to get along with people who are not single issue thinkers.

Let me admit my bias here. I suffer from activist phobia. To that extent, I might be called an anti-activist activist, although I try not to get carried away. In the last cycle, thought Obama's friendship with activists was an important single issue, and therefore a huge negative. OTOH, one of the reasons McCain appealed to me was that he tended to be hated by activists.

One problem was that many Republican activists hated McCain even more than they hated Obama. Another problem was that the Democratic activists did a far better job of maintaining strict silence during the election. They also had a pliant media, not only to assist with this silence, but to portray the noisier Republicans as a bunch of angry right wing kooks, and even racist lynch mobs.

Tragically, the single issue for the voters was the economy.

(On that issue, I'm an admitted right wing kook.)

posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (4)



In the bestest of the bestest hands

There's an old saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. I have long believed that among the reasons for GM's failure has been that its products are seen as designed by committee. (The camel, of course, is a horse designed by committee.) Ford, OTOH, has suffered less from this, probably because it is still more reflective of the traditions of its founding patriarch. A Ford is still perceived as a Ford, while "a GM" could be almost anything.

The national economy is much more complicated than broth or an automotive manufacturer, yet people believe that somehow the government -- especially in the form of the president of the United States -- is in charge of it. Now more than ever.

If we assume for the sake of argument that the president is in charge, you wouldn't know it. In ann article titled "Obama's Economic Circle Keeps Tensions Simmering," the pro-Obama New York Times looks at the vicious bickering between the many economic "chefs" Obama has around him. But not to worry! According to David Axelrod, everything is OK. "At the end of the day!"

The disagreements are only natural, White House officials say. The issues are big, and so are the personalities, as Mr. Obama intended. He has said he wanted advisers who would be teammates as well as rivals, long on experience and brainpower and able to air all sides of an issue to help him decide.

"You can't assemble a group of really brilliant people, and deal with some of the most complex problems in our lifetimes and not have disagreements," said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's senior political strategist who, with the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, plays a big role in mediating among the economic advisers and helps shape the decisions.

The president "invites debate but he doesn't tolerate factionalism. And ultimately everybody on the economic team knows that at the end of the day we're going to hold hands and jump together," Mr. Axelrod added.

Which means we get one or two parts Roemer, one or two parts Summers, plus varying parts Bernanke, Goolsbee, and Geithner, following which they all hold hands. (I hope they're required to sing "Kumbaya" or something.)

President Obama is in charge, of course, and the pundits are left speculating about whether the economic fallout is a result of design, incompetence, or incompetence by design.

I'm wondering whether design by committee might be a factor.

Or would that be incompetence by committee?

posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (4)



Three US Car Companies
Crisis Motors
Government Motors
FUD Motors

(FUD stands for Fear Uncertainty and Doubt)

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:17 AM | Comments (0)




The Right Says No To Bailouts

Yep. The right is up in arms about the cost of bailouts. In Europe.

BRUSSELS - Conservatives raced toward victory in some of Europe's largest economies Sunday as initial results and exit polls showed voters punishing left-leaning parties in European parliament elections in France, Germany and elsewhere.

Some right-leaning parties said the results vindicated their reluctance to spend more on company bailouts and fiscal stimulus amid the global economic crisis.

First projections by the European Union showed center-right parties would have the most seats -- between 263 and 273 -- in the 736-member parliament. Center-left parties were expected to get between 155 to 165 seats.

Right-leaning governments were ahead of the opposition in Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, while conservative opposition parties were leading in Britain and Spain.

Mr. Obama might want to keep that in mind. If people don't see results commensurate with expenditures his party will be in trouble. No matter how much patronage Obama has bought at Government Motors.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:34 PM | Comments (0)



they didn't warn me!

Because my psychotically mean Trimac cichlid has outgrown his tank and is suddenly threatening to kill his tankmates (including my beloved mud turtle), I had a bit of an aquarium emergency, to which I devoted much of today.

(Hence I'm way behind on blogging, and haven't had time to catch up with current events. I did see something about Obama Beach, though. Or was that Mutual of Obama?)

To remedy the immediate problem, I found a used 55 gallon tank, but it needs to go in the living room, and because the only stand I have for it is a hideous home-made eyesore made of 2x4s, I decided that it wouldn't do to set it up, as it's very hard to change everything later.

So I went out this morning and found a stand which will fit the style of the room. Trouble is, it came in kit form and looked like this:

stand_kit.jpg

That's 20 pieces of wood, plus two bags of screws and hardware.

It took me nearly 3 hours to put it together (you have to recheck everything constantly, lest you end up with one of the finished sides facing the wrong way), but finally I ended up with this:

Stand_assmbld.jpg

It doesn't look too bad, and it seems solid enough. The only complaint I have is with the lawyers, who put a ridiculous disclaimer on the front page of the instructions:

WARNING
Unit can tip over causing severe injury or death.
And underneath that there are more warnings, but here's the part that killed me:
Put heavy items on lower shelves or drawers.
Who are they kidding? This is an aquarium stand, for God's sake. The aquarium goes on top!

A filled 55 gallon aquarium weighs 625 pounds.

Sure, there are some little shelves you could put things on, but there is no place to put the aquarium except on the top. That's what it was designed for.

Or are the lawyers warning me that it was not designed for what it was designed for?

I'm thinking they should have also warned me not to submerge myself in the aquarium and drown.

Hey don't laugh! It could happen. I might have to get in there and commune with my fish and then I could pass out or something. And with no warning, the company might be liable.

posted by Eric at 05:58 PM | Comments (3)



It's An Absolute Disgrace

The above is part two of a four part series. The video is not too good but the information is first rate.

Part 1

Part 2 - shown above

Part 3

Part 4

And here is one scientist's research on why we may be cooling:
The Chilling Stars: The New Theory of Climate Change

And a forthcoming book:
Chill: A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory, Does Climate Change Mean the World Is Cooling, and If So What Should We Do About It?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:14 AM | Comments (7)



The Seeds Of Stupidity

Here is a link to the Ravi Khanna piece mentioned in the video. Here is what Gretchen Peters has to say:

She says the U.S. must disrupt the Taliban's heroin money trail.

"While the insurgents earn some money from collecting taxes from the farmers, the bulk of the earnings come from protecting the trade, protecting the convoys and protecting the refineries and taxing the refineries and yet we are not going after that element of it," Peters said. "Even the US military resisted that until very recently."

Yeah. All that has been tried in the USA for over 90 years. None of it has worked. Why? There are estimates out there that for every 1% increase in the interdiction budget drug profits rise 3%. So how much would we have to spend to drive the criminals and terrorists out of the narcotics business? NOTHING. Well obviously we can't afford it.

And you can get more of Ms Peters at YouTube and Pajamas TV.

And if that is not enough she has written a book: Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda.

In the Pajama's TV video Ms Peters suggests that going after the Taliban labs, convoys, and money shuffling network can stop the Taliban from profiting from the opium trade. However, she fails to notice that those very same types of efforts have been going on in the USA for some 90+ years with no noticeable effect on the trade. Why something that has not worked in the friendly USA will work in unfriendly Afghanistan goes unexplained. When the Boston Globe comes out in favor the same policy Boston Globe - End Heroin Prohibition for defeating the Taliban as I do it just may be possible I'm on to something.

Other articles discussing this:
Defeating The War On Terror
From Drug War To Real War
The War Lords of Afghanistan
Shoot the Europeans First
The Source of the Problem is not in Afghanistan
Supply side economics

Now if a guy like me can figure it out, and even the Boston Globe gets it, what exactly is wrong with Ms Peters? And especially what is wrong with the Obama administration? I mean besides every thing else.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:08 AM | Comments (5)




Remember D-Day

It's hard to believe that it's been 65 years since the Normandy invasion, but it has. While I wasn't yet born, I was a child in the 1950s -- when World War II was still a very fresh and vivid memory for every adult. (And World War I was in the memory of almost every older person -- I thought of it as my grandfather's war.) So while the sheer enormity was overwhelming, I don't think D-Day was quite as unimaginable then as it would be to young people growing up today. Today it's so distant that it's something films are made about but almost no one still remembers. In that sense it might as well be World War I. And before long it will be as distant as Gettysburg; right now D-Day is as distant in time as the Civil War was to the young men who ended up fighting in World War II. (They were all kids at the time of Gettysburg's 65th anniversary....)

Last night I watched "Saving Private Ryan" again. Even that is now 11 years old.

It's sad to think about it, but time is running short for actual participants to recall their memories. But with the youngest of the World War II veterans being in their mid-80s, the reality is an enormous attrition rate:

One of the principal U.S. commemorations of the 65th anniversary of the World War II landings in France will take place June 6-7 at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Among those taking part will be several hundred veterans of the D-Day landings and other World War II battles.

The success of the Allied landings on Normandy's beaches 65 years ago spelled the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. But, while many people today know of D-Day from history books or movies, fewer and fewer people remain who were alive when it happened and fewer still who witnessed the dramatic event.

National World War II Museum Vice President Sam Wegner says the 65th anniversary of D-Day provides an opportunity to honor those who fought in the war while they are still around. "There were 16 million Americans who served in uniform in World War II and that number is down to a little over II million [that's a Roman numeral TWO] Americans now. The U-S World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 900 a day," he said.

Wegner says the June 6 events planned at the museum include a ceremony focused on the surviving veterans and their families. "On Saturday afternoon we are going to be doing a ceremony called 'A Gathering of the Greatest Generation, a Roll Call of the American Fighting Man of World War II.' We have invited down World War II veterans and their families and, in some instances, we will have the families of the veterans, since the veteran has since passed on," he said.

An 88-year-old D-Day veteran will be there:
One of the veterans of the D-Day operation who is on hand for this weekend's events at the museum is 88-year-old Tom Blakey, a native of Houston, who was 22-years old when he parachuted into northern France with the 82nd Airborne Division on June 6, 1944.

[...]

Blakey says there were many times in combat when he wondered why he was there and questioned the point of all the bloodshed and suffering. He says that attitude disappeared when he helped liberate a concentration camp and saw the atrocities that had been committed by the Nazis. But Blakey says he feels uncomfortable when people call him a hero.

"I do not feel that I did anything unusual or out of the ordinary. We needed to do something and we did it. It is just that simple. There were 400 thousand men killed in World War II and they are your heroes. I am just one of the lucky guys who got home," he said.

I'm glad there are still a few guys like that around, as it is so easy to forget the sacrifices that were made.

A point driven home last night as I watched this awful death scene in Saving Private Ryan:

Yeah, it's Hollywood, but scenes similar to that happened. Hundreds of thousands of times. Sacrifices like that have a way of forcing me to think about priorities.

Anyway, I'll be gone most of the day, and whether I have time for another blog post or not, I think the anniversary of D-Day is the most important thing to remember.

posted by Eric at 10:18 AM | Comments (5)



Newton's Cradle


Newton's Cradle

Newton's Cradle is a great desk piece for the executive or an educational toy (energy, inertia, momentum) for kids. Or both.

If you want to read up on Newton and learn a little physics this book would be a good place to start:
Introducing Newton

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:41 AM | Comments (2)




Taxes Send Jobs Offshore

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft says that higher taxes will force Microsoft to move jobs offshore.

June 3 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steven Ballmer said the world's largest software company would move some employees offshore if Congress enacts President Barack Obama's plans to impose higher taxes on U.S. companies' foreign profits.

"It makes U.S. jobs more expensive," Ballmer said in an interview. "We're better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S."

Obama on May 4 proposed outlawing or restricting about $190 billion in tax breaks for offshore companies over the next decade. Such business groups as the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable have denounced the proposed overhaul.

U.S. tax rules let companies defer paying corporate rates as high as 35 percent on most types of foreign profits as long as that money remains invested overseas. Obama says he wants to end such incentives to keep foreign profits tax-deferred so that companies would invest them in the U.S.

Way to go Obama. What ever happened to the three million new jobs? And Mr. Obama - have you ever heard of unintended consequences? Evidently not.

Well at least we know one definite culprit for sending jobs offshore. Government.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:38 PM | Comments (2)



The law is the law!

And police priorities are police priorities.

Hear hear!

A friend emailed me a link to a story about the repeated ticketing of a car with a dead man inside:

A New York City woman says her father apparently lay dead for weeks in a minivan while police repeatedly left parking tickets on the vehicle.

Jennifer Morales of Manhattan says it's believed her father, George Morales, died of a heart attack.

Morales said she had last heard from her dad in early May. Morales said she had contacted police; but police say they have no report on record.

A city marshal found the body of George Morales on Wednesday while trying to tow the minivan from beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway overpass. Parking tickets and dust covered the vehicle.

In another report, the body is described as severely decomposed with the vehicle window cracked open.

The man was also described as "homeless."

I suspect a dying or even dead dog would have merited more attention, as it's considered inhumane to leave a dog inside a car. Which it is, of course. But humans -- especially those considered "homeless" -- are left to rot.

I remember seeing a man on the New York subway who was so decrepit that he had the entire subway car almost to himself. I couldn't stand the stench, but I stayed there long enough to observe that everyone who entered the car would leave immediately. The chronically ill man was lying horizontally on a row of seats. At the time I realized that had he been a dog something would have been done. In a post titled "Preferential Treatment for homeless dogs," I commented on the contradiction:

.... to our enlightened way of thinking, dogs have the right to be cared for when they are clearly unable to care for themselves, whereas humans don't. In the name of some perversion of "rights" theory, humans are allowed to rot away in public places, because society has no right to help people who are clearly unable to take care of themselves if they are unwilling to accept help.

Hmmm....

I'm wondering why the animal rights people don't make the same argument about dogs. Why isn't the argument made that they have just as much right to live in squalor and disease in the streets as people do? Don't "rights" work that way? Or is it the old "some animals are more equal" thing?

It's easy for me to pontificate about these things, but to be fair to the bottom-level bureaucrats involved, I have to say that it would be a lot easier to report a canine problem than a human problem. "Just call animal control!" is an easy thing to remember, and there are probably brownie points awarded to any meter person enlightened enough to report an animal-in-car problem. But actually report a decrepit homeless man in a car? Heaven forfend! You might get in trouble with a supervisor over "priorities." Or the activists who work against harassing the homeless.

I guess we should be glad that such a "system" wasn't designed deliberately.

posted by Eric at 11:38 AM | Comments (7)



A teaching moment?

In a comment left to M. Simon's earlier post about the death of actor David Carradine (who was found naked and hanging), Captain Ned opined that it was not suicide, but auto-erotic asphyxiation, and pointed to this post by Ace.

Looks like Ace was absolutely right:

David Carradine could have died from suffocation or heart failure after an auto-erotic sex act went tragically wrong, Thai police said today.

The star of the iconic Seventies TV show Kung Fu, was found dead in a Bangkok hotel room yesterday in bizarre circumstances.

Police said the 72-year-old American actor had hanged himself, using cords from curtains in the room.

A hotel chambermaid discovered his naked body hanging in a wardrobe with a cord around his neck and genitals.

Thai police said they could not no longer treat the case as a simple suicide.

But police commander Lieutenant General Worapong Siewpreecha emphasised it still remained unclear whether he killed himself or died from suffocation or heart failure.

'There was a rope tied around his neck and another rope tied to his genitals, and the two ropes were tied together and they hung in the closet, ' he said.

'Under these circumstances we cannot be sure that he committed suicide.'

That last statement strikes me almost as understatement, as I think it's quite obvious what happened. (The timing also struck me as odd; why would any actor commit suicide in the middle of shooting a film?)

Anyway, it's a real tragedy, as I was a fan of David Carradine, and his father, and his brother. My heart goes out to this very talented family, and while I do not want to be seen as making light of a tragic situation, I have a few thoughts. Please bear with me, as I have a dark sense of humor and a non-judgmental attitude about sexuality.

First, I don't judge the man any more than I judge anyone else for his sexual tastes. It matters not in the least to me how anyone gets off. (Save harm to others, such as sex with children or people who don't consent.) While I'm not into auto-erotic asphyxiation, I'd like to think that if I was, I'd be careful, though, not only because I'd prefer to live, but because sudden deaths are very hard on relatives. That is why practitioners of this particular fetish need to be especially careful. Like any high-risk activity, they should never do it alone. (Something any SCUBA diver knows.)

Not that having another person present makes it 100% safe, but it certainly increases the odds. A close friend worked as an emergency room nurse in California, and he told me about a couple who were both found hanging -- both of them dead from joint (as opposed to auto) erotic asphyxiation. (He also told me that another man he knew who tried it told him that until he tried it he had never imagined that any activity could be so pleasurable, and he was warned not to try it.) The couple that was found had made the mistake of enjoying their moment of hypo-oxygenated orgasm together.

Common sense suggests that this is not the sort of thing you'd want to do together, and certainly not at the same time, for obvious reasons.

I realize it sounds a bit silly to use the blog for a "public service announcement", but I don't expect the CDC to go around putting up posters saying something like this:

Kids, if youre going to play around like this, play safe. Don't do it alone.

And if you're a solitary practitioner, don't try it at all. You might like it, and it might very well kill you.

No orgasm is worth dying over.

posted by Eric at 09:00 AM | Comments (4)




You Can't Do It At Random

Commenter CJ Yetman had this to say in my post Paying For Social Security that discussed how Hitler Saved Social Security (for at least a year) by killing a lot of Jews. Actually he probably just moved some paper between file cabinets and spent the money on the war. Still the numbers were adjusted on paper at least. Oh. Yeah. CJ's comment.

So, it would have been completely rational if he had randomly selected a few million people to slaughter?

If I owed a bunch of money to a bunch of different people, would it be rational to murder all of them to relieve myself from the debt?

CJ,

You can't pick them at random. That just gets people riled up.

You have to pick a group everyone hates. Dopers are the only group where the hate is sufficient but that is declining. Although the war on fat people and tobacco smokers is ramping up.

Second off I'm warning against it. Now it may be just a little paranoia on my part. But it goes with my territory. You see I'm Jewish and some of us get twitchy about these things.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:12 PM | Comments (3)



In debt to Islam? For Western thought?

No, seriously. We have a president who thinks we are in debt. On more than just the economic front.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment.
So said Barack Obama in a major speech delivered in Cairo.

But was it really "Islam" that carried the light of learning? The Charlotte Capitalist takes historical issue with president's words:

The president's error is in attributing "Islam" to the accomplishments of the Arab world of a thousand years ago. The president couldn't be more wrong.

It was Arabs qua Aristotelians and not Arabs qua Islamists who are responsible for the accomplishments described by the president.

Read it all.

This is not to say that there isn't "common ground between the Arab world of one thousand years ago and the United States of America." There is, but it does not derive from Islam, but classical Greek thought:

It is the common ground of transmitted Greek thought (reason) taken from idea to action. And for this, we should be thankful to certain Arabs of that time period. We should be thankful for many pro-Aristotelian Arab philosophers including Averroes.
Unfortunately for Islam, Islamic theologians eventually rejected it, and ultimately "logic and philosophy (as parts of "alien learning") became extinct, extinguished by popular and theological hostility to non-Islamic culture."

In other words, while Muslims did help transmit classical Greek thought, "Islam" did not originate it, nor did "Islam" seek to preserve it. (Whether the president really believes otherwise, or is merely trying to imply it for political advantage, I don't know.)

Concludes the Charlotte Capitalist,

For Barack Obama to not only deny the reality of medieval Arab history by praising Islam as the tool of modern progress when in fact it is the consistent killer of human thought and action is a disgrace. It is a disgrace because it attacks not only the true tool of human progress (reason), but it attacks the philosophical and historical roots of the country of which he is president.

There are few greater scams or sins ever committed by an American president than the one committed by President Barack Obama today. The United States of America is at war. At war, not just on the battefield, but in the realm of ideas. We are in the ongoing war between reason and faith. An American president has just yielded to the enemy.

He may think that flattery and deceit will work.

I have to admit, thanking Islam for Western civilization is an interesting form of triangulation.

Hmmm...

Should I be glad again that the president was being dishonest?

posted by Eric at 03:50 PM | Comments (13)



David Carradine Is Dead

Actor David Carradine killed himself in Bangkok, Thailand.

BANGKOK - Actor David Carradine, star of the 1970s TV series "Kung Fu" who also had a wide-ranging career in the movies, has been found dead in the Thai capital, Bangkok. A news report said he was found hanged in his hotel room and was believed to have committed suicide.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Michael Turner, confirmed the death of the 72-year-old actor. He said the embassy was informed by Thai authorities that Carradine died either late Wednesday or early Thursday, but he could not provide further details out of consideration for his family.

The Web site of the Thai newspaper The Nation cited unidentified police sources as saying Carradine was found Thursday hanged in his luxury hotel room.

It said Carradine was in Bangkok to shoot a movie and had been staying at the hotel since Tuesday.

How sad. And what an inconsiderate way to go. His fans will miss him. And I have been a long time fan.

Here is a bit from the very first Kung Fu episode that I have always liked. Wake up!

When I first began having stomach problems I consulted a Shaolin Master who worked the appropriate pressure points and gave me some very good advice. Relax! It has helped a lot. Now I know what pressure points to use to help myself and I put effort into relaxing. Which of course is a contradiction in terms. But if you do it correctly it works.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:30 PM | Comments (2)



Sunspots and Radio Propagation

You may have noticed that I added a current radio propagation and solar statistics chart to the sidebar at Power and Control.




The chart is refreshed every 3 hours, but you will need to refresh the page that has it to see the latest.

If you want one for your blog or webpage you can click on the chart or the link in this sentence. When solar activity starts rising propagation on the higher frequency bands will improve. There will more skip. That is the radio waves can bounce from the ground to the ionosphere to the ground more than once without the power being reduced to undetectable levels.

If short wave radio interests you this is a good starter radio. You will need an to buy an AC adapter to reduce spending on batteries.

Sangen SG-622
Sangean SG-622 AM/FM 10 Band Shortwave World Band Radio

Here is a cute short wave radio kit. It will take you back to the old days of radio with modern components. It is all solid state. Because of the single tuning knob with no vernier the tuning is apt to be a bit twitchy. Good for the kids as a starter or just for fun. But the price is right. $15 plus shipping. You will need an antenna for weaker signals - but that can be just a few tens of feet of copper wire strung out where convenient. In the old days you could just clip the antenna terminal to the stop of a rotary phone. Gone are the days. Of course with a better antenna you will get better reception.

Ramsey SW Radio Kit
Ramsey SR3 Shortwave Receiver Learning Kit

If you want to build your own outdoor antenna this book is a good place to start:
Arrl Antenna Book: The Ultimate Reference for Amateur Radio Antennas

And for a moderately priced top end radio receiver:

Grundig 750
Grundig Satellite 750 AM/FM-Stereo/Shortwave/Aircraft Band Radio with SSB (Single Side Band)

This book has a good section on radio propagation and a number of other topics including antennas, receivers, and transmitters. A good starting point for the beginning experimenter or the budding engineer interested in radio.

Radio Amateur's Handbook
The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications 2009 (Arrl Handbook for Radio Communications)

Ah, the romance of short wave radio.

posted by Simon at 11:38 AM | Comments (2)



My shiftless attention span

In a comment left to an earlier post, commenter and blogger Evil Otto said this to an anonymous* commenter (who left no URL or email address):


I'd like to congratulate LBP on a masterful job of trolling. You have managed to shift attention away from the subject at hand with great skill. Kudos.
I thought that was quite funny (as was the anonymous commenter's later complaint that it was an "ad hominem attack"!), although it has to be remembered that it's hard for trolls to shift the attention of people who don't read comments!

I haven't a clue about how many readers there are who don't read comments, nor do I know how many allow trolls to shift their attention.

I'd have to say that nothing anyone says can possibly shift my attention away from the subject at hand, for the simple reason that for me, the subject is only "at hand" once, when I write the post. After that, people can comment all they want, but no comment can change the subject of the post, which remains there as long as the blog exists. I have a very liberal comments policy, but comments create no obligation on my part or anyone else's to read them or comment on them. How could they? After all, none of the posts I write create any obligation on the part of anyone to read them or comment on them, so how could the comments?

This is not to say I dislike comments; only that without the posts and without the blog and its comment feature, they wouldn't be there.

And commenters would not be able to have fun imagining that they have shifted people's attention.

Once again, I have no responsibility for any comments left here. To the extent I am "accountable," it is only to acknowledge the authorship of my own creative product in my posts. They create no more obligation on my part than that. I am no more obligated to defend what I say than an artist would be to "defend" a painting he has just painted. Comments are always welcome, as is all criticism, but neither my posts nor the comments create any obligation. I see them the way I might see art. Some are more entertaining than others.

However, there is a very important reason I allow comments, and it goes beyond all other considerations. There happens to be a well-oiled political movement which seeks to regulate blogging. One foot in the door is by criminalizing anonymity (i.e. government regulation of blog comments), another is by regulating "hostile" blog content. The way I see it, the best defense is a good offense. Allowing uncontrolled and anonymous comments creates a free speech zone which preemptively defies those who would regulate blogging. In this respect, the less attention I pay, the greater the preservation of freedom, for the government has no more right to make me read comments than do the commenters themselves. This is not to say that I don't read them; only that I don't have to.

So feel free to fire away. You can count on my unaccountable attention!

* I understand why some people might not want their identities known, and (assuming they are people and not bots) I champion their right to anonymity. However, it is wholly unreasonable for anonymous commenters to expect to be taken as seriously as people with identifiable blogs, or those willing to put their actual names on what they say.

MORE: Speaking of anonymous comments, I loved this:

do any of you guys here mind if I dump my sewerage on your property?
Not at all!

His form of "sewerage" helps fertilize the First Amendment!

posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (7)



They Just Want The Bacon

Illegal Drugs? Illegal Food? Where will it stop? In time we will all be outlaws.

"Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." (Atlas Shrugged1957)
One thing to keep in mind is that Los Angeles is in California, a State that is technically bankrupt.

H/T Pejman Yousefzadeh via Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:47 AM | Comments (2)




More: Enron And Carbon Trading - Hansen Double Deals

This is something I wrote in October of 2007. I don't know why I haven't cross posted it before this. So without further ado:

==

I recently wrote an article on Enron and Carbon Trading. Here is another bit excerpted from a link provided in Enron and Carbon Trading.

Enron commissioned its own internal study of global warming science. It turned out to be largely in agreement with the same scientists that Enron was trying to shut up. After considering all of the inconsistencies in climate science, the report concluded: "The very real possibility is that the great climate alarm could be a false alarm. The anthropogenic warming could well be less than thought and favorably distributed."

One of Enron's major consultants in that study was NASA scientist James Hansen, who started the whole global warming mess in 1988 with his bombastic congressional testimony. Recently he published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicting exactly the same inconsequential amount of warming in the next 50 years as the scientists that Enron wanted to gag.

They were a decade ahead of NASA. True to its plan, Enron never made its own findings public, self-censoring them while it pleaded with the Bush administration for a cap on carbon dioxide emissions that it could broker. That pleading continues today - the remnant-Enron still views global warming regulation as the straw that will raise it from its corporate oblivion.

{snip}

"Enron stood to profit millions from global warming energy-trading schemes," said Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association and American Coal Coalition. The investigation into the collapse of Enron will reveal much more about the intricacies of the Baptist-bootlegger coalition which was promoting the Kyoto cause within the Republican Party and within US business circles. Coal-burning utilities would have had to pay billions for permits because they emit more CO2 than do natural gas facilities. That would have encouraged closing coal plants in favor of natural gas or other kinds of power plants, driving up prices for those alternatives.

Enron, along with other key energy companies in the so-called Clean Power Group - El Paso Corp., NiSource, Trigen Energy, and Calpine - would make money both coming and going - from selling permits and then their own energy at higher prices. If the Kyoto Protocol were ratified and in full force, experts estimated that Americans would lose between $100 billion and $400 billion each year. Additionally, between 1 and 3.5 million jobs could be lost. That means that each household could lose an average of up to $6,000 each year. That is a lot to ask of Americans just so large energy companies can pocket millions from a regulatory scheme. Moreover, a cost of $400 billion annually makes Enron's current one-time loss of $6 billion look like pocket change.

from: Investigate Magazine March 2006. Note that Enron was a major broker of natural gas.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:37 PM | Comments (1)



Who Ya Gonna Believe?

Watts Up With That? is taking a look at satellite data vs model data. The satellite data, ERBE - The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment, is in the upper left. You can click on the graphs for a larger view.

Data vs Models

I'm not going to go into all the math. I leave that to the boffins. The important thing is to look at the slopes of the lines. The models all go one way. The satellite data goes another. Who ya gonna believe?

The below graph is a condensation of the satellite vs model data.

Models or Data?

The numbers for the closest model comes in at about 3X the satellite data. Bottom line? The earth is not as sensitive to CO2 as the models show. GIGO

H/T Watts Up With That? for the data vs model chart. Richard Lindzen for a Power Point presentation on the data. And The Shadow of the Olive Tree for excerpting the graph with all the dots from Richard Lindzen's Power Point presentation.

Update: Evidently I have not made myself perfectly clear. Here is my point:

This is not about Global Warming isn't happening.

What is presented here is evidence that the models have made assumptions that do not conform to the data and so the climate's sensitivity to increased heat input may be less than the models show.

If this is verified the models will need to be changed.

We should start verification at once before enacting a devastating carbon tax. We should not be fixing problems that don't need to be fixed. There are hungry children in the world without access to clean water.

And another thing: here is a book that is coming out soon on the topic: Chill: A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory, Does Climate Change Mean the World Is Cooling, and If So What Should We Do About It?

If we are headed for cooling we are doing the wrong thing.

Update 2: For those of you who REALLY care I have reposted More: Enron And Carbon Trading - Hansen Double Deals

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:39 PM | Comments (44)



For once I'm glad the president was being dishonest!

Speaking to the Turkish Parliament, President Barack Obama made the following claim:

"...if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."
As Don Surber demonstrates, the claim is wrong:
With an estimated 5 million to 8 million Muslims, obviously he does not mean by percentage; Muslims are less than 3% of the U.S. population.

By sheer number, the United States is far behind Indonesia (213 million), Pakistan (156 million), Bangladesh (127 million) and so on. At least 23 nations have more Muslims.

The USA in fact has less than 1% of the world's Muslim population of an estimated 1 billion people.

So why would a president make such an outrageous lie?

Because no one will fact check him.

How true. Fact checking does not go hand in hand with bowing.

If we assume for the sake of argument that the United States did have the 24th largest Muslim population in the world, it simply is not honest to call it "one of the largest."

But even if the statement were true, it would be insensitive to the spirit of this country's tradition of separation of church and state. Imagine the outcry if President Bush had said this:

"...if you actually took the number of Christian Americans, we'd be one of the largest Christian countries in the world."
Or:
"...if you actually took the number of Jewish Americans, we'd be one of the largest Jewish countries in the world."
(Actually, the United States ranks second in "largest Jewish populations by country," but I've never heard any American politicians call it "one of the largest Jewish countries in the world.")

Over a year before the election, John McCain got in trouble for saying America was a Christian nation, and had to distance himself from his remarks.

What matters isn't the numbers of Christians, Jews, or Muslims who live in the United States. What matters is that no religion should ever have so much as a hint at government favoritism.

I guess I should be glad that the president's use of the phrase "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world" was dishonest.

posted by Eric at 02:30 PM | Comments (23)



Bow!

Wow.

Can the kowtow be far behind?

MORE: I think Brian Williams' bow might tend to have at least partially answered M. Simon's question.

AND MORE: Ed Morrissey asks a question to which he does not want the answer:

If Williams bowed, what would Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews do to wish the President a good night? On second thought, I don't want to know.
I know. But I won't tell.

MORE: A comment below, offers an opinion, plus some advice:

"it's a nod, not a bow, do try to learn the difference before you die"
I don't think this looks like a nod, but a bow:

BowToObama.jpg

I can't speak for anyone else, but when I nod, I nod with my head, and I do not bend my shoulders or look down as Williams did.

I think it looks like a bow.

posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (5)



"Freaked out by egg twins"

When I saw that post by Ann Althouse (guest blogging at Instapundit), I immediately thought the link might be going to this highly popular YouTube video of these Siamese twin girls.

Instead, it went to a picture of edible twin egg yolks.

It's hard to tell whether the yolks are completely separate, so whether the "egg" (would that be plural? Is egg defined only by the shell?) would have hatched into Siamese twin chickens, or hatched at all I do not know. Commercial eggs are often unfertilized. So the author's boyhood concern about destroying two lives might be misplaced.

Of course, the standards for labeling bird and reptile fetal abnormalities seem to be a bit different than the standards for humans. For example, there are plenty of references to "two headed turtle" and "two headed snake" but most people would not call a two headed turtle "Siamese turtle twins" (or "conjoined turtle twins") because they think of them as a unit. This article called "conjoined turtle twins" a turtle:

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - A two-headed turtle captured by a turtle collector is a rare example of a conjoined-twin birth, its owner said.

The turtle would have likely died in the wild because it swims awkwardly and would be an easy target for predators, according to Jay Jacoby, manager of Big Al's Aquarium Supercenter in East Norriton.

The store bought the tiny turtle from the collector for an undisclosed price and will keep it on display, he said.

If the Wiki article about the girls on YouTube is any indication, the term "Siamese twins" seems to be going out of style (at least for humans). Instead, they are referred to as "highly symmetric dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins." (There's also a piece on conjoined twins.)

To illustrate the different standard for humans and animals, in another popular YouTube video (from David Letterman's show),

"Jungle" Jack Hanna shows off Mary Kate & Ashley, the two-headed turtle.


As Hanna points out, each head controls the corresponding leg for its side, which makes it very difficult for the turtle to get anywhere. Were that to happen in humans (as it did with the girls), they'd be considered conjoined (Siamese) twins.

The article on Polycephaly notes the difficulty in line drawing as well as the double standard:

It is difficult to draw the line between what is considered "one animal with two heads" or "two animals that share a body." With humans, dicephalic conjoined twins such as Abigail and Brittany Hensel are considered "twins", i.e., two individuals.[12] This makes sense as there is a range of conjoinedness, and non-dicephalic conjoined twins may be barely-conjoined and separable by surgery, as is the case with Chang and Eng Bunker. Although the Hensel twins only have one pair of arms and legs total, each twin controls one side of the body's limbs. On the other hand, Syafitri, born 2006 in Indonesia, were given one name by their parents because they only had one heart.[13] With other animals, polycephaly is usually described as "one animal with two heads."[3][14] One of the heads, especially in three-headed animals, may be poorly developed and malformed, and not "participate" much.
I would think that one head might tend to be dominant even in humans (possibly even by mutual agreement), if for no other purpose than ease in getting around. But I don't know.

I guess I'm of two minds about all of this. I'm also of two minds about whether it's "exploitation" to discuss the phenomenon with reference to specific humans as opposed to general terms. Hence, I embedded only the two headed turtle(s). OTOH, the girls don't seem to mind being on YouTube or discussing their condition frankly, but they also say they don't want media attention. So I guess they're of two minds too.

Of two minds?

The more I look at that, the less right it looks.

The more I look at things, the more freaked out I get.

Especially if the things are words. Why is it that they almost always are?

(Maybe I should just say that I'm feeling dicephalic.)

posted by Eric at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)



Constitutional omission for everyone to hate

Whenever I engage in brevity, I feel as if I'm leaving something out, which is my way of apologizing for this short post.

Anyway, Richard Epstein contrasts the views of libertarians and conservatives towards the Sotomayor nomination, and said this:

"...constitutional law contains no magic bullet that condemns judicial activism and lauds judicial restraint..."
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Utterly true, and I was reminded of unsettled issues in my previous post in which I pointed out that the Constitution is silent on precedent -- a common law doctrine from which derives judicial review itself -- and which we all take as a given. It's a given all right, but who gave it, and why are we bound by it?

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

(So is whether the Constitution is fair to both "sides.")

posted by Eric at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)




Fighting theocracy in the White House

Now that Dick Cheney is to the left of Barack Obama on gay marriage (or, as Ann Althouse says, "doing his usual thing of currying favor with the lefties"), where does that leave our reactionary president?

I guess he's doing his usual thing of currying favor with "Christianist theocrats."

Oh the irony!

posted by Eric at 06:37 PM | Comments (4)



The World Of The Future

H/T Raving Dave via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)



A New Hope

There is new hope for incandescent light bulbs. Shooting them with lasers can raise their efficiency dramatically.

An ultra-powerful laser can turn regular incandescent light bulbs into power-sippers, say optics researchers at the University of Rochester. The process could make a light as bright as a 100-watt bulb consume less electricity than a 60-watt bulb while remaining far cheaper and radiating a more pleasant light than a fluorescent bulb can.

The laser process creates a unique array of nano- and micro-scale structures on the surface of a regular tungsten filament--the tiny wire inside a light bulb--and theses structures make the tungsten become far more effective at radiating light.

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

"We've been experimenting with the way ultra-fast lasers change metals, and we wondered what would happen if we trained the laser on a filament," says Chunlei Guo, associate professor of optics at the University of Rochester. "We fired the laser beam right through the glass of the bulb and altered a small area on the filament. When we lit the bulb, we could actually see this one patch was clearly brighter than the rest of the filament, but there was no change in the bulb's energy usage."

Now that is promising. But wait. There is more.
In addition to increasing the brightness of a bulb, Guo's process can be used to tune the color of the light as well. In 2008, his team used a similar process to change the color of nearly any metal to blue, golden, and gray, in addition to the black he'd already accomplished. Guo and Vorobyev used that knowledge of how to control the size and shape of the nanostructures--and thus what colors of light those structures absorb and radiate--to change the amount of each wavelength of light the tungsten filament radiates. Though Guo cannot yet make a simple bulb shine pure blue, for instance, he can change the overall radiated spectrum so that the tungsten, which normally radiates a yellowish light, could radiate a more purely white light.

Guo's team has even been able to make a filament radiate partially polarized light, which until now has been impossible to do without special filters that reduce the bulb's efficiency. By creating nanostructures in tight, parallel rows, some light that emits from the filament becomes polarized.

The team is now working to discover what other aspects of a common light bulb they might be able to control. Fortunately, despite the incredible intensity involved, the femtosecond laser can be powered by a simple wall outlet, meaning that when the process is refined, implementing it to augment regular light bulbs should be relatively simple.

Guo is also announcing this month in Applied Physics Letters a technique using a similar femtosecond laser process to make a piece of metal automatically move liquid around its surface, even lifting a liquid up against gravity.

Let a guy loose with a laser and some spare time and you never know what might happen.

And to think it all started with Edison. Did you know that you can buy a replica 1890 Edison 40 Watt Light Bulb? Me either. You can read some history on how we got where we are today in terms of light and electricity in: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. Did you know that Tesla started us on the path to fluorescent bulb technology? And the wonders are still coming.

H/T jgarry at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:40 PM | Comments (4)



Obama Inherits Problems



So Bush was King and Obama is his son?

Who knew?



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



When identity politics becomes misogynistic hate speech

Speaking of insults and ad hominem attacks, Ann Althouse (guest blogging at Instapundit) links one of the most extreme examples I have yet seen in all my years of blogging.

At Playboy's online site, an angry leftist named Guy Cimbalo (who apparently fancies himself a "rape fantasist") compiled a list of prominent conservative women, and singled each one out for brutally misogynistic abuse. To call this sexist would be understatement. Screenshot here, via Tommy Christopher, who concludes,

I get that Playboy is a sex magazine, but I don't see what hate has to do with sex. While the author might think it's funny or edgy, none of these women consented to be "hate f***ed," and the whole exercise is just foul and creepy.

What's worth noting, too, is that although he singles out conservative women, the author belies a hostility toward all women.

I outgrew my fascination for Playboy magazine the very instant I was able to purchase one for myself. Hopefully, any other men who claim to love women will kick the habit, too. As of this writing, a "Boycott Playboy" twitter campaign is already underway.

Ed Morrissey has more.

Naturally, Playboy would like to pretend this never happened, and pulled the piece. (Regrettably, Politico came close to assisting the coverup by mischaracterizing the nature of what Cimbalo actually said.)

While this sort of viciousness would not be surprising at a far-left site or at the sort of angry radical gay blogs that heaped abuse on Carrie Prejean, what's remarkable is that it occurred at Playboy. (Misogyny goes mainstream!)

I have to say, for a variety of reasons I'm surprised.

I'm also surprised that they'd include Peggy Noonan (who's seen by many conservatives as a sellout) with people far to her right. (I can't think of a better reminder of the hang-together-or-hang-separately principle.)

Moreover, the timing is a bit off. The left has power, both in the White House and Congress, while conservatives have been dispirited, disunited, and largely disillusioned. Such tactics right now are completely unnecessary. I guess the angry left just can't stop being angry.

However, there's a lot more to this than anger. Many conservatives are angry too, but there is simply no right wing counterpart to the misogynistic hatred routinely displayed towards conservative women.

Nor are conservative men subjected to anywhere near the same type of personal attacks on their hairstyles, clothing, or personal anatomy that conservative women have to endure. Over the years I have seen such abuse directed against Margaret Thatcher, Kathleen Harris (during the Florida vote count), and of course we all remember what happened to Condoleezza Rice (whose additional crime was being a black conservative). While rape advocacy is a new escalation, in many ways, this misogyny springs from identity politics. Conservative women are seen as traitors to their sex, and thus no holds are barred. Not even hate speech of the sort the left would call "eliminationist rhetoric." So, while it's certainly sick and twisted, the rape advocacy piece in Playboy is in many ways a very logical culmination.

If the left keeps stuff like this up, the right won't have to do anything to win.

UPDATE: Recalling the bumper sticker "argument" that Sarah Palin was "not a woman" but a Republican, Ed Driscoll notes that Playboy has now become a Larry Flynt-style hate site, and

to bring this full circle with the bumper sticker above, they're not human to the identity politics-obsessed left, because they think different. Somebody should write a book about this phenomenon.
Little wonder the self-proclaimed liberal experts on fascism refuse to acknowledge the long and ugly history of "eliminationist rhetoric" on the left. To say nothing of the accompanying actual elimination of tens of millions of people.

(Bill Ayers and his friends wanted to murder 25 million Americans.)

Little wonder that leftists would see the rape of conservative women as funny.

posted by Eric at 10:28 AM | Comments (24)




State Run Utopia

Here is the book Klavan mentions: Democracy in America

and a more modern look at the phenomenon:

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change

H/T Video suggested by Brendan Wright on Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:36 PM | Comments (14)



Failing States Or It's The Money Stupid

Not California. Although California is failing. The States I'm going to discuss are Muslim States affected by the world wide financial crisis. Spengler is taking his usual jaundiced look at the world.

Financial crises, like epidemics, kill the unhealthy first. The present crisis is painful for most of the world but deadly for many Muslim countries, and especially so for the most populous ones. Policy makers have not begun to assess the damage.
Spengler wrote this in December of 2008 and half a year later the policy makers are no further along.
Moderate Islam was the El Dorado of the diplomatic consensus. It might have been the case that Pakistan could be tethered to Western interests, or that Iran could be engaged peacefully, or that Turkey would incubate a moderate form of Islam. I considered all of this delusional, but the truth is that we shall never know. The financial crisis will sort them out first.

As I commented in the late autumn, the world is not flat, but flattened (see Asia Times Online, October 28, 2008), leaving the economies of the largest Muslim countries in ruins. It is hard to forecast the political fallout, for when each available choice leads to a failed state, it is a matter of indifference which one you adopt. As state finances crumble, states will become less important, and freebooters will seize the stage. Think of the Mumbai terrorists as a political cognate of the Somali pirates, and the character of a Middle East made up of failed states comes into focus.

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad controls Iran through a kleptocracy of Central African proportions, dissipating the country's oil windfall into payoffs to an "entire class of hangers-on of the Islamic revolution", as I wrote in June (see Worst of times for Iran, Asia Times Online, June 24, 2008), when oil still sold at US$135 a barrel. What will Ahmadinejad do now that the oil price has collapsed? According to my Iranian sources, the answer is: Exactly the same thing, but without the money.

Iran is a State that depends on oil socialism. And the problem with all socialisms is that they eventually run out of other people's money. Did I mention California? I do believe I did. First thing too. Surprisingly California has oil which they do not intend to drill for. It's the ecology don't you know.
The point of the joke is that Iran's regime cannot reduce subsidies or raise taxes without losing control of the constituencies that brought it to power. They are the peasants and the urban poor who barely afford shelter and food as matters stand. Despite the oil-price collapse, the government has not reduced energy subsidies that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) puts at more than a fifth of gross domestic product (GDP). A proposed value-added tax was withdrawn last October after strikes in the bazaars, starting in Isfahan and other provincial towns and spreading to the capital Tehran. Iran is eating through its $60 billion of foreign exchange reserves, unable to adjust to a collapse of its only significant revenue source.

Iran must break down, I argued last June, or break out, through a military adventure. The sand is slipping out of the hour glass, and the regime must decide what to do within a few months. If it does nothing, the default position, as it were, is Pakistan.

Pakistan has a couple of ways to reduce its dependent population. A civil war - which appears to be underway or foreign adventures which have as yet not seriously materialized.
Iran's Ahmadinejad rules through massive subsidies. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari does the same thing, but without the money. Pakistan ran out of foreign exchange reserves in November and obtained emergency financing from the IMF. Its current account deficit was running at an alarming 14% of GDP, or about $20 billion a year, a small sum, but an important one for a country two-thirds of whose 175 million people subsist on less than $2 a day.

Pakistan received just $7.6 billion from the IMF, covering a third of its current account deficit, which means that imports must be reduced drastically (although lower oil prices may help a bit). Inflation is running at 25% a year.

Pakistan has one of the world's youngest populations and an enormous capital requirement. Young people borrow from old people, and countries with young populations should import capital from countries with aging populations. That is out of the question, for the world markets have turned Pakistan into a pariah. The cost of credit protection on Pakistani sovereign debt
is now more than 3,000 points (or 30%) above the benchmark London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), reflecting a complete shutout from capital markets.

A 30+% rate implies that Pakistan can't last more than three years as a country. I believe that in this case the market is underestimating the risk. Where have we seen that before? The US housing market? Evidently a clue stick is insufficient to get the world wide money boys to wake up. Perhaps a clue bomb is required. It is coming.
Pakistan was at least able to raise a modicum of official support. What will Iran do if its reserves run out? The same thing as Pakistan, but without the money, for Iran is a geopolitical pariah without access to official aid.

The Muslim risk premium has become so pervasive that investors are looking cross-eyed at Saudi Arabia. The cost of credit protection on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has jumped since August, and now is considerably higher than Israel's.

But what about all that oil? Israel has none and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is awash in it. Evidently a barrel of oil doesn't carry you as far, money wise, as it used to.
Turkey has been able to keep afloat through the crisis, but barely so. The Turkish currency has fallen by a third, its stock market has fallen by nearly 80% in dollar terms, and the central bank must keep interest rates at a punishing 20% to prevent money from fleeing the country. Turkey has a real economy with a few first-rate manufacturing companies, unlike Iran and Pakistan, so the comparison is not quite fair. Nonetheless, Turkey relied heavily on short-term interbank borrowings to finance its balance of trade deficit, and the crisis has pulled the carpet out from under its economy. In August, before the crisis erupted in force, Turkey had 10% unemployment. It will get much worse.

Turkey was the poster-child for the so-called carry trade, in which hedge funds and other investors borrowed in low-interest currencies, for example the Japanese yen, and lent the money in high-interest currencies, of which Turkey's lira was the highest. The carry trade was the main source of money for Turkish business. What will Turkey do now that the credit crisis has made the "carry trade" a painful memory? The same thing, but without the money.

Pakistan is about to become a failed state, and Iran and Turkey will be close behind. As I commented to Chan Akya's report of December 2 on this site (see The
hottest place in the world), Pakistan's military-age population is far greater than those of other Muslim military powers in the region. With about 20 million men of military age, Pakistan today has as much manpower as Turkey and Iran combined, and by 2035 it will have half again as many.

Spengler goes on with more grim details and finishes with:
The lights are going out across the Middle East; states are failing, and it is not in the power of the West to make them whole again. All the strategic calculations that busied policy analysts and diplomats are changing, and the West has a very short time to learn the rules of a new and terrible game.
So the question is this: can Obama and Company raise their game? My personal opinion is that they are not up to the job. America is currently short of carrots and Obama, unlike Bush, is not big on sticks. My prediction: a crisis (financial) carried Obama into office, a crisis (military) will carry him out of office. Ah for the good old days of FDR. He was no better than the Obama crew relative to economics but, from his tenure as Secretary of the Navy, he knew how to fight.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:19 PM | Comments (1)



Cobra coverage?

When I saw this video, I was a bit taken aback.

It's easy to forget that (just as there are parents who'd strap a bomb on their baby) there are parents in the world who think it's cute to watch their baby play with a deadly snake.

As the YouTube caption explains, there is a reason for it:

It is beleived to be luck for a baby if he/she is touched by the snake on the head.
Whether that view is grounded in religion, I don't know. Here in America any parents who let their child do that could be arrested -- whether they were religious or not. Even snake-handling religious sects (mostly illegal, even for adults), do not allow children to handle the snakes.

Philosophically, is it politically "liberal" to stop them? Or is it "conservative"? Not that I'd let that influence my thinking; any more than I would be influenced by what doctrinaire libertarians might say; I think it's child abuse to let children play with deadly snakes, just as it would be to let them play Russian Roulette.

Adults, OTOH, should be allowed to play with deadly snakes (barring harm to others, of course).

Funny thing about this is that if you remove religion from the equation, the parents' behavior becomes somehow less forgiveable. It's as if they're given a "break" (at least considered less morally culpable by most people) if they watch their kid play with a cobra because they think some deity approves. By that standard, parents who strap bombs on children for "Allah" are less guilty than parents who might blow up their children for purely political reasons. And the latter, while more guilty than religious criminals, are nonetheless less culpable than parents who would blow up their children to collect on an insurance policy. Similarly, a mob hit man who has "nothing personal" against the guy he blows away is more guilty of the requisite malice than a guy who is consumed by hatred or jealousy. (No actual malice in the personal sense thus equals more malice in the legal sense.)

Which is a convoluted way of saying that the video of the baby handling the cobra reminded me of today's news story about the guy who apparently thought he was killing an abortion doctor for religious reasons.

Do his religious views make him more guilty or less guilty? Or are they irrelevant?

posted by Eric at 05:13 PM | Comments (4)



Life was easier under Bush.

Speaking of labyrinths, sometimes the self-canceling nature of blogging prevents me from being able to write.

For example, I don't like ad hominem rhetoric and personal attacks. When I saw one yesterday, I was immediately irritated. But the self canceling "rules" got in my way. This was especially complicated by the fact that it was a conservative-on-conservative attack. Now, I have never especially liked the subject of the ad hominem attack, but when I saw him attacked simply because he went to an expensive prep school and wore a bow tie, I found myself wanting to defend the bow tie wearing preppy. The left, of course, is fond of attacking the same man for the same things, and there is nothing logical about it. In fact, it is profoundly illogical, intellectually thuggish, and I got very, very tired of that approach to politics during the past eight years of Bush bashing.

Here's where the self-canceling came in: I didn't want to name the blogger involved, and not just because I don't like being disagreeable or because I think right-of-center people should stick together. There's the additional factor of his being very prominent. If you pick a fight with someone bigger, you're seen as a sort of trollish provocateur doing it for the hits and the traffic, and it just looks like a cheap shot. OTOH, if you pick on someone smaller, then you're seen as picking on a little guy. [Also a cheap shot.]

See what I mean about self canceling? Seriously, I don't want to write this post, and the only reason I am is to get it the hell out of the way. (In that respect, hitting "Publish" is like flushing the toilet. Or should I cancel that flush?)

One of the reasons I liked George W. Bush was not so much because I liked him, but because vicious leftists -- people like Ted Rall, for example -- were always relentlessly and viciously attacking him.

I miss the good old days.

posted by Eric at 01:32 PM | Comments (8)



The systematic deconstruction of fairness

Don't miss Victor Davis Hanson's "Lost in the Labyrinth of Race."

Hanson has spotted so many of the perverse twists and turns in the pretzel logic that calls itself "affirmative action" and "identity politics" that for those who love to hate bad logic, this piece is a pure joy to savor.

Like this delicious excerpt:

The conservative TV newsreader named Joe Lopez, who does not trill his r's, and is politically inconspicuous, will not be given as much preference as the 'Latina' who pronounces Spanish-names with Spanish accents, adds accents to her own name, and is prominent in liberal causes. Consider the antithetical treatment accorded to a Miguel Estrada versus Sonia Sotomayor, or a dark conservative Clarence Thomas versus an Eric Holder of Barbados ancestry. Estrada, remember, was targeted by the left precisely because he was Hispanic.
Or this:
Had Barack Obama kept his assumed name Barry, and used his mother's maiden name-logical, given the Dunham family's exclusive caretakership of young Barack-a Barry Dunham might have appeared far less exotic and authentically black than Barack Obama.
How true. A simple twist of fate could have changed the fate of the nation. That's because even though the identity politics pretzel logic might be very twisted, it's twisted in a very particular way. But for the special twist supplied by his appealing name, "Barry Dunham" would probably still been languishing in the Illinois state legislature where he belongs.

History can be so random, and fate so arbitrary. So unfair, even!

(As if fairness has anything to do with things done in the name of fairness...)

posted by Eric at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)




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