Vote openly (but keep the narrative in the closet)

I just voted "Yes" in a Facebook poll which asks,

Would you vote for an openly gay candidate for president if you agreed with his or her other positions?
So far, it seems to be winning handily.

However, because I'm a contrarian, it almost makes me want to do a poll along the lines of ""Would you vote for a closeted gay candidate for president if you agreed with his or her other positions?" But there are such obvious logical problems with such a question that I'm not sure it can be answered intelligently. Maybe "openly closeted," or "blatantly closeted." Nah, that's too surreal. It does an injustice to a perfectly unjust word, and tortures the meaning of already meaningless words beyond all meaninglessness.

I'm not sure that this issue breaks neatly as a Republican versus Democrat issue, though. For while there is no denying the existence of a certain hard core conservative enclave which believes homosexuality is a dire threat to Western civilization itself, the vast majority of the rank and file don't agree with that. (Being against gay marriage or thinking homosexuality is immoral is a far cry from believing it threatens Western civilization or is a "thermonuclear device aimed at the soul of America.")

While it was never widely reported (although I've pointed it out before), back in 1999 John McCain said that he would be "comfortable with a homosexual as president of the United States."

And then there's Dick Cheney, who is to the left of Barack Obama on gay rights.

But I don't expect to see that widely reported either.

It might have a chilling effect on the narrative.

posted by Eric at 04:44 PM | Comments (8)



Tentative thoughts on the final confrontation

If this anonymous commenter is right in his assessment of the current political climate, then I'm clearly not living up to my responsibilities:

In recent months, the totalitarian left has finally begun reveal themselves in public. Masks Off indeed.

The radical dems are acting like they never need face the voters again - like the fix is in, forever. This is the end-game, and those of us who oppose themust realize that mid-game guides to action will soon no longer apply. There is no avoiding the final confrontation, IMO. Are we ready, no matter what happens? Or will we be un-prepared, disunited, divided, un-coordinated and overwhelmed one by one - defeated in detail?

They have control of all the levers of state and the commanding heights of the MSM, Acedemia, Hollywood, Industry, etc. The continuing threats to our lines of communication (AM radio, the net, etc.) and vehicles of peaceful action and protest is ongoing. When they strike, and close them all down, it will be too late.

Someone or someones should prepare for this, instead of trusting that the mid-game rules will still be usable. I am not that person - I don't have the skills, ability or the life situation; but the need is clear. Duplicate lines of communications that can't be interdicted. Underground organizations and leadership that cannot be targeted. Preparing for the worst (a full fascist flowering), instead of just hoping for the best (that our opponents will obey the constitution and the law).

End game? The "fix" is in forever? The rules will no longer apply? That is all pretty strong stuff, and if it is true, then there's apparently no point in working within the system, or voting, or for that matter writing blog posts. It's either time for a revolution (or, I suppose, counterrevolution) or time to leave the country.

And clearly McCain (who was booed for saying he believed Barack Obama was a decent man who respects the Constitution) is part of "the fix." Say what you will about McCain, but I just don't believe he is part of "the fix." True, he is part of the political system, and he is considered a RINO by many conservatives who believe it is now their turn to take control of the GOP. But if the fix is in, what's the point of taking control of the GOP only to see it defeated? Maybe defeat is the wrong word. If the Democrats "never need face the voters again," then we're where we were under Bush (who seized power and was all set to cancel the elections, but for some inexplicable reason let the power slip right through his hands).

Mind you, I would like to see the GOP win, but if they ignore political realities and voter demographics (as the left hopes), they could still lose -- even if Obama's popularity continues to fall. A groundswell of opposition does not a majority make. Dislike of A does not necessarily translate into love for B. To win requires not only that people dislike the Democrats, but that they like the Republicans. It's a tricky business.

I have a serious problem in that the dynamics of political blogging have changed. I used to criticize both sides freely, while holding my nose and grudgingly voting for whoever the GOP served up. I realized that libertarianism would never be embraced by the GOP, that it had taken an unfortunate turn towards "National Greatness conservatism" thanks to Brooks and Kristol, and that this was a done deal. But I figured I could at least slam the social conservatives when they deserved it, and advocate libertarian politics when I could. But with the GOP out of power, that approach simply does not feel right to me, and it's tough to explain why. It's like, I had the luxury of saying whatever I wanted about the GOP, or social conservatives, because they were in power and "all was well" from a certain bottom line perspective (i.e. the left was out). I could even feel good about defending Bush. Plus, the war mattered in those days. There was an organized anti-war movement, and they were constantly yelling and screaming, literally begging for ridicule. Even they've gone away, leaving poor pathetic little Cindy Sheehan and her ilk out in the cold.

Now it seems that all there is to do is just attack Obama, all the time. Now, while I oppose his administration vehemently and I can do that, there are not enough hours in the day to do it enough, and it is tedious, repetitive, and everyone who is right of center is doing the same thing. The fact that I hate repeating myself, and I've already been blogging for over six years (and that Obama may well be president for another seven years) makes thinking about the future a very grim undertaking indeed. Where is it written that I have the responsibility of being a repetitive, boring, anti-Obama blogger?

The worst aspect of all of this is the fact that I hate disagreement. What has begun to sink in as never before is a simple truism:

Disagreement is disagreeable.

Complaining is negative. And if I complain about Obama, complain about statism, complain about shrill social conservatism, then it's just all negative, always disagreeing, all the time.

True, there is still humor, and ridicule. But the left was a lot funnier when they were out of power than they are now that they're in power. This makes the opposition less inclined to be humorous. Yet if I complain that people are taking things too seriously, that's just another disagreement, and another complaint.

So, while I don't like the idea that "there is no avoiding the final confrontation," there's a part of me that would just like to get it over with.

But like dealing with death or fatal disease, these things occur as part of a process. First there's denial, and right now I'm still in a state of final confrontation avoidance. I'd like to keep on avoiding it, one day at a time.

However, doesn't the fact that I just said I'd like to get it over with indicate that I might be reaching the early stages of what they call "bargaining"? Might it also mean that I'm eagerly anticipating finality? Because after all, I don't like confrontations any more than I like disagreements, so a final confrontation might mean a final end to all confrontations.

That might be less tedious, except after a while, no more confrontations might become just as boring as the usual endless confrontations. And unity is at least as tedious as divisiveness. Conformity is as stultifying as non-conformity.

One thing is certain. As the final confrontation approaches, no matter how much or how little I do, clearly I am not doing enough.

posted by Eric at 11:46 AM | Comments (10)



Putting A Dent In Religion

Alan W. Bock writing in the Orange County Register has some interesting things to say about how decriminalization in Portugal is going.

Since decriminalization lifetime prevalence rates (any consumption over a lifetime) have decreased, especially for the critical adolescent-young-adult population cohort. For 13-15-year-olds the rate decreased from 14.1 percent in 2001 to 10.6 percent in 2006. For 16-18-year-olds, the lifetime prevalence rate, which had increased from 14.1 percent in 1995 to 27.6 percent in 2001, fell to 21.6 percent in 2006. Perhaps most significantly, heroin use, which officials felt was the most socially destructive drug, fell from 2.5 percent to 1.8 percent from 1999-2005.

The number of drug-related HIV and AIDS cases has declined substantially every year, as have Hepatitis B and C infections and drug-related mortality rates.

When compared with the rest of the EU, usage rates in Portugal, which had been among the highest in Europe, are now among the lowest. Portugal now has the lowest lifetime prevalence for cannabis (marijuana) usage in Europe, 8.2 percent, while in Europe generally it is 25 percent. Portugal has a lifetime rate of 1.6 percent for cocaine, compared to 4 percent for Europe generally.

For whatever bundle of reasons, we should start getting accustomed to the idea that harsh anti-drugs laws are often correlated with a worsening of drug problems and decriminalization with bringing them into manageable bounds. Mr. Greenwald cites a 2008 survey of 17 countries showing that the U.S. had by far the highest level of cocaine use over a lifetime (16.2 percent to second-place New Zealand's 4.3 percent) and the highest level of cannabis use. As Greenwald writes, "stringent criminalization laws do not produce lower drug usage, and some data suggest the opposite may be true."

There appear to be second order effects of prohibition (profit to dealers - forbidden fruit) that overwhelm the first order effects such as punishment. It happens.

Mexico recently decriminalized small amounts of most drugs. Alan has some comments on that.

I would add that Mexico makes no provision for acquisition of drugs, which is likely to leave the black market largely undisturbed and still powerful. Decriminalization combined with a determination to end trafficking can leave users still dependent on the black market - as is still the case for all too many medical patients in California. The way to undermine a black market is to allow a white market to emerge.

Nonetheless, Mexico's move, combined with a court decision in Argentina last week that will have a similar impact on small-time users, has the potential to put a significant dent in the religion of prohibitionism. Now if we can just get politicians in the U.S. to pay attention.

Prohibitionism is a faith based on the idea that prohibiting substance abuse and the substances associated with it will lower the incidence of abuse at relatively low cost. It happens with all faiths, if the disconnect from reality is severe the faith loses ground. As with most sincerely held beliefs - it is the youth who see the Emperor Without Clothes first. After that it is just a matter of the faithful dying off.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:46 AM | Comments (8)




What Is Wrong With Journalists?

Barbra Oakley has a very interesting article in Psychology Today explaining what is wrong with journalists. The whole article is a must read, but I especially liked the closing.

As far as investigating the dark side of the Major Issues, there's a critically important concept that students of journalism are rarely taught. It's easy to find any number of targets to write about in capitalist societies with an open press. But totalitarian governments are journalistic black holes. Journalists can tickle their self-righteous neurocircuitry every day (and many do), by exposing easy-to-find faults in democratic societies. But beyond their event horizon is the bigger story that often remains untold as it occurs--the horrific deaths of millions in totalitarian regimes like the former Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea and, yes, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. That's why, when Robert Conquest was asked whether he wanted to retitle his updated The Great Terror, about the Soviet purges, his answer was: Yes, how about

I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?

If you're a journalist, want to help people and want to tell the truth, what truth are you going to tell? Why, the truth you think helps people, of course!

Technically, that's the truth.

But it's very different than the truth.

It would be real nice if journalists recognized the one true fact about politicians taught to me by my grandfather (on my mother's side). "They are all crooks." Which means none should get special treatment from the press. In fact if I was a political strategic thinker I'd make sure the crooks in my party got the harshest treatment possible. Pour l'encourager les autres. Then my party gets known as more honest and that might help swing a few elections when the voters decide "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more." What are the odds? Slim and none.

H/T R. Dave at Talk polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:17 PM | Comments (1)



Another mysterious alcohol-related quote?

José M. Guardia quotes from a piece by Javier Rupérez -- Spain's ambassador to the US between 2000 and 2004 and currently Consul General in Chicago remembering Ted Kennedy:

Shortly after the Iraq war started I saw Senator Kennedy in a public session of the U.S. Supreme Court. As we were taking our seats he briefly took my arm and told me he greatly appreciated the attitude of the Spanish government regarding the decision taken by the White House because, he said, "although you know my position " -- he was one of the few senators to oppose the authorization for the war -- "I appreciate the solidarity with my country in times like this." "I would appreciate if you relay this to President Aznar," he added.
This caused José to ask some good questions:
Interesting. Let me see if I get this straight: if it's good to show solidarity with the US "in times like this", why did this only apply to foreigners? Why didn't he start with himself? I understand the "politics ends at the water edge" principle, but it's one thing not to criticize, and another to send a clear, precise message like this. Of course it may be he was acting as a politician, telling his interlocutor what he wanted to hear. But still, the opposition to the war in Iraq was a topic in which Ted Kennedy was very vocal, and it's certainly odd he said this, if he did.
It certainly is odd. It's hard to know who or what to believe. But expecting Ted Kennedy to show solidarity with his own country in time of war sounds a little fantastic. But who knows? Maybe he was engaged in some sort of confabulation.

Reminds me of this morning's exercise in which I was trying to deciper "quotes" from famous drunks.

This probably fit's in with the theme.

posted by Eric at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)



Unverifiable quotes drive me to drinking!

As I suspect is the case with many people who get email, I often get multiply forwarded emails making all sorts of claims, with all sorts of emotionally appealing quotes from famous people. By emotionally appealing, I mean saying stuff I like to hear and want to believe.

Like the drinking quotes. There is something very appealing in having great men carry on about the wonders of a morally maligned substance like booze -- and you don't have to be a drunken sot to enjoy them.

The problem is, some or most of them might not be true, and there's nothing more time-consuming that having to engage in detailed historical research over a single, silly email which was after all only intended as entertainment.

The text of latest email is titled "Beer Theories" and here's what it says:


Beer Theories
Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, "It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."

Babe Ruth
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day."

Lyndon B. Johnson
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."

Paul Horning
~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not."

H. L. Mencken
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let's all get drunk and go to heaven!"

George Bernard Shaw
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Benjamin Franklin
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
Dave Barry
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BEER: HELPING UGLY PEOPLE HAVE SEX SINCE 3000 B.C.!

W. C. Fields
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Remember "I" before "E," except in Budweiser.

Professor Irwin Corey
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To some it's a six-pack, to me it's a Support Group Salvation in a can!

Leo Durocher
~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One night at Cheers, Cliff Clavin explained the" Buffalo Theory" to his buddy Norm:

"Well, ya see, Norm, it's like this. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest b uffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members! ; In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine! That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

Well, the Franklin one isn't verifiable anywhere, and many have tried. I hate it not being true as it's one of my favorites. It would take me a long time to go through them all, but I'm sure some of them are legit.

However, the LBJ quote seems to have been said by Frank Sinatra!

AND by Lyndon Johnson.

Obviously, both are highly unlikely to be right.

As to the Mencken quote, I'm not as much of a Mencken scholar as I should be, but he was known to be a home brewer, so I guess he might have said that about 24 beers, as this site says he did.

The Shaw quote is attributed here to Brian O'Rourke.

Maybe the rest all said what they're quoted as saying, but I doubt it. (Or maybe I should just be happy and say they might as well have....)

Maybe pro-booze and anti-booze readers can help out, and pro-accuracy-in-email readers can chip in; I am busy today and don't know whether I'll have time for all of this nonsense.

MORE: "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading" is quoted here as having been said by comedian Henny Youngman.

That's enough "scholarship" for now.

posted by Eric at 10:49 AM | Comments (5)




"It ain't [America] no more"

So "explains" the officer who works at the Fairfax Public School, as he threatens to arrest a man for displaying an anti-Obama sign he does not like.

From Veeshir, who adds,

This stuff is supposed to happen in North Korea, China and Massachussetts, not Virginia.
So where's the ACLU when you need 'em?


MORE: Link fixed. Thanks again Veeshir!

posted by Eric at 07:48 PM | Comments (8)



Developing Convergence

A fascinating video by Hans Rosling on development, income, and health outcomes. The software he uses in the video can be found at Gap Minder. The exact page is Gap Minder World. It is fun to play with. Possibly even educational.

H/T Betruger at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:39 PM | Comments (2)



Who will protect us against idiocy?

On the road earlier, I was reminded of the tedious, irritating, and downright dangerous nature of some of the people who are Out There In The Real World (where they clearly don't belong) talking on their cell phones while driving.

When this happens, I always remind myself that stupid people almost always provide the justification for stupid laws. Like the stupid people who seemingly justify their creation, there are more and more annoying laws, because there are always more and more stupid people. It's as if there's a direct relationship.

But some people can't walk and chew gun at the same time. Should that be illegal?

Probably not in the minds of even the most fiendishly statist lawmakers, because walking is not normally dangerous to anyone except the walker. But if some damned insurance industry think tank did a study showing that chewing gum while driving caused hundreds of accidents, a law might be proposed to prevent the nation's adult kindergarteners (which statists imagine us all to be) from putting substances in mouths while driving.

Come to think of it, I'd be willing to bet studies have been done which show an association between eating while driving and accidents, but I don't dare Google for it, as I might find some loony anti-eating-while-driving activist group and start gnashing my teeth. But sure. It's common sense that you shouldn't do anything that interferes with your driving, unless you can handle it. Doctors should not eat while performing surgery, but if a diabetic doctor needed a candy bar while operating on me, I'd rather have him eat it than go into glassy-eyed shock and sever my aorta. Some things are not proper subjects for legislation.

A phone is a communications device. There are many reasons why people might want to communicate while doing all sorts of things, including things which are dangerous (like performing surgery or driving).

I don't know how many readers are old enough to remember the CB craze in the 1970s, but I do. It started as a truck driver thing, but eventually millions of ordinary people were buying CB radios and puttting them in their cars. There was a whole CB culture with its own lingo. What fueled it was that good old all American rebellious spirit. People were saying "fuck you" to the 55 MPH speed limit. Sorry for the long quote here, folks, but this is a walk down memory lane:

driving 55 saved gasoline. It also wasted our lifetimes, turning eight hour trips into ten hours. Many say it saved lives. That is a dubious argument at best, as the evidence points as much to improved safety features in cars as much as the reduced speed limits.

Truckers were livid. Their livelihoods depended on getting their loads to various destinations in a timely matter, and the nationwide speed limit put a serious damper on that. By and large, non-professional drivers grew to resent the law as well. The interstate highways were designed to be safely traveled at speeds of 70 MPH and faster, and tooling along at 55 just didn't seem right in many ways.

So, the nation rebelled. And their main weapon in the non-violent coup was the CB radio.

Citizen's band radios were originally intended for public and small business communication. It took an FCC license to legally operate them. The 1960's saw them used by contractors, taxi drivers, and especially truck drivers. They developed their own slang, as well as a protocol that was to be followed at all costs.

The aforementioned speed limit in 1974 brought them to the forefront in the trucking industry. Fellow drivers warned each other of speed traps over the airwaves.

That's where Burt Reynolds, "C.W. McCall," and the Duke boys stepped in. As tales of the trucker's circumvention of the cops and their radar guns began to circulate, a pop culture formed around their communication medium, the CB radio.

Burt, of course, was the star of 1977's Smokey and the Bandit, a movie which was a huge hit, and which featured use of CB's throughout its length. The Dukes of Hazzard also used the device to foil Boss Hogg. And Jim Fries noticed the character of C.W. McCall, created to sell baked goods in the Omaha, Nebraska area, and took his persona in performing one of the biggest hits of the 70's, Convoy.

When I was a junior in school in late 1975, the CB radio craze hit my little town of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Lunch hours were spent ratchet jawing with truckers. Nights were spent doing the same. And we all adapted handles. I was Trapper John, BTW.

Longtime CB users were outraged. They had paid good money to get their licenases, and here were a bunch of people using their bandwidth illegally, and completely ignoring their protocol! So many CB's were sold that the government ended up lifting the license requirement, infuriating the old-timers even more.

Other abusers bought devices known as linear amplifiers to magnify their signals from the legal five watts to a thousand or more. These would interfere with neighbor's TV reception, and would also bleed over onto other channels within the bandwidth.

However, many amplified home base users were foiled by a simple stright pin thrust through the coaxial cable leading to the antenna. When the mike was keyed, the amp was instantly smoked. Frontier justice at its finest!

In many ways, the original users of the internet were like the early licensed CB users. Posting on USENET required that you know the rules of behavior beforehand.

One thing leads to another. I had a CB radio, and eventually I got a ham radio license. After years of resisting temptation, I finally got a cell phone and a couple of years later I started a blog.

The advent of the cell phone, of course, was the death knell of CB culture. Of course, the first cell phones were big clunky things, permanently installed into cars. Come to think of it, they were actually called "car phones"!

Now, my memory may be faulty, but at no time during the CB craze do I remember anyone ever so much as suggesting that it be made illegal to talk on a CB radio while driving. If they had, it would have provoked such an outcry that the bill would have been quickly withdrawn. Yet talking on a CB is a lot more difficult than talking on a cell phone, and therefore, in logic it is more dangerous.

Can it be that people were more coordinated in those days? Had the people unable to walk and chew gum at the same time not yet been born?

What am I missing? Was there something about having a CB unit installed in a car that tended to sort out total idiots from those who were (for lack of a better word) handier?

If that's what it is, if the laws are passed in response to the number of idiots who use or have access to technology, then maybe I'm not just being paranoid. Perhaps I should be even more worried. Not about people who need to be protected from themselves, but about those who think that protecting idiots requires treating free and independent American citizens like idiots.

As far as I'm concerned, they're running a racket. An idiotic racket, run by idiots acting on behalf of other idiots.

It's not the idiots on the road I should be worried about.

LINGERING QUESTION: If talking on cell phones while driving is banned completely, might that spark another rebellious CB radio craze?

posted by Eric at 01:01 PM | Comments (10)



Won't never get me through the night

Just saw this incredibly irritating notice at YouTube:

We will be phasing out support for your browser soon.
Please upgrade to one of these more modern browsers.
No really, here it is:

youtubenotice.JPG

I realize that the above is protected by the First Amendment, but I think it's worse than so called "hate speech," because I fear that it might have real consequences beyond merely being an annoyance.

I'm getting it because I'm forced to use IE6 as a condition of blogging. MovableType 3.2 does not support any version of Internet Explorer beyond version six. Not, that is, if you want to be able to use the following shortcuts:

  • Bold = Ctrl+Shift+B
  • Italic = Ctrl+Shift+I
  • And my favorite,

  • Insert link = Ctrl+Shift+A
  • To use the latter, first you highlight the text, then the command, then paste the URL in the box. I cannot live without it, as I do NOT want to have to type out all that carrot, plus-sign, "a href=" then carrot, slash, then "little a" then close carrot shit!

    No seriously.

    Not to sound like a crank, but all I want to do is what I have always done, and use the software I had that has worked for me for over six years. It might not sound like much, but I have become dependent on being able to use these commands while blogging inside the MovableType interface. Mozilla will not let me, nor will the newer versions of Internet Explorer.

    Worst of all, there is no easy way to upgrade Movable Type, nor is there any easy way to upgrade to any alternative blog software without archive hassles. I'm getting more and more shutdowns, errors, and lost posts like this and I don't like it, so I don't know what to do. (Bear in mind that I don't want to be a geek and be forced to write code; I only want to write posts.)

    So, unless YouTube is having a hissy fit under pressure from Microsoft, the writing may be on the wall.

    Seriously, I think I have a legitimate question here. Why are my blogging traditions being throttled? Why can't I continue to do what I have been doing for years? Any ideas?

    I'm not trying to be snarky about Obama's new secret plan to shut down the Internet in the event of an emergency, I just have a plain, simple question:

    Will the Internet ever be finally fixed so it just works?

    Here's a song which provides the most likely answer to the question --

    From 1961, the Parktowns' "That Day Will Never Come"!

    Speaking of things that will never come, anyone remember "What ever gets you through the night"? It was John Lennon's only number one solo, and while some might say that it helps promote the downfall of Western civilization, it's actually not a bad song from a philosophical perspective. Unless you think songs about getting through the night are part of a huge commie plot (unknown to to the singers and composers themselves), and please don't laugh, because there are people who think such things.

    Anyway, I never liked John Lennon's version of the song, because it seemed too smarmy and PC. But songs are often improved by musicians other than the original composers, and I think Waylon Jennings does a better job with the song than did John Lennon.

    Much better, in fact.

    And if you don't like that, then here's "Mental Revenge" -- from 1966:

    UPDATE: I've been trying to explain what I mean about the "entry editing shortcuts" (which only seem to be a feature of MT 3.2 and below), so I thought I'd offer a screen shot of it. Unfortunately for me, I have grown totally dependent on th feature. Spoiled, you might say. That can happen after six years of using something every day and just taking for granted that it will always be there.

    More than any other problem related to being online, I hate using the mouse, as it takes a terrible toll on my wrists. In short, I hate to click. On anything. Especially links and buttons. I want, no, I need, to use the keyboard if at all humanly possible.

    For all this time, MT's entry editing shortcuts have made it possible, but only in IE 6. Firefox will not allow me to use the keyboard shortcut feature at all.

    Thanks again everyone. I am willing to pay for any appropriate anyone can offer. I don't care what software it is, as long as I don't lose this functionality. Maybe I need a custom designed plug in.

    Here's the screenshot. The popup box which is triggered by pressing Ctrl+Shift+A is called "Explorer User Prompt" and within that it says "Script Prompt."

    EntryEditor_sm.JPG

    (It directs to whatever text has been highlighted, and after you paste the URL in the box, and hit "Enter" the link is a done deal -- without having to use the mouse to click on any damned buttons.)

    How it works, God only knows. But I sure would like to keep it.

    My problem is that not only do I hate using the mouse, but so does my wrist.

    Plus, using the mouse is just plain awkward. It requires taking my right hand off the keyboard, finding the mouse, positioning my fingers on it, clicking, sometimes dragging, then looking, going back to the keyboard, etc. But keeping both hands on the keyboard -- whether to navigate with the Ctrl and arrow keys or highlight text with the Shift and arrow keys, that's just second nature, and feels effortless. To add the URL when I'm already holding down the Shift key to the text I have highlighted with my left ring finger, I just add two more fingers -- the little finger to the "Ctrl" and the index finger to the letter "A" and then the box appears. As I have usually already copied the URL I then insert it with Ctrl+V, then Enter and viola! It sounds complicated explaining it, but it's all one movement and I have done it so many times that it's fluid and effortless.

    I mean it when I say I don't want to lose this functionality. I worry that longterm I will not be able to keep IE6 forever, because it affects the overall operation of Windows, and if it becomes obsolete, I will be screwed.

    UPDATE: In a state of abject despair (and in what I assumed would be another waste of time), I just tried the latest version of Firefox (3.5.2), and to my amazement and relief, the Ctrl+Shift+A now brings what is called "Explorer User Prompt" with the "Script Prompt" in IE, except in Firefox popup box is labeled "The Page at http:///www.classicalvalues.com."

    Saved by the bell, I guess.

    My thanks to all for leaving some very helpful advice. I was beginning to wonder what I would do in the future...

    posted by Eric at 01:14 AM | Comments (15)




    The torch is passed dropped...

    Last night, I made the mistake of flipping through the channels on my television. Whatever movie Robert Osborne was showing on TCM had failed to hold my attention, so I scrolled down with the channel button, and stopped on A&E Biography. It was a maudlin, fawning, sentimental puff piece on Ted Kennedy.

    Ugh!

    Worse yet, they were devoting the entire evening to Kennedy family biographies -- a gigantic Camelot narrative extravanganza. They were also trying to tie it in with a Barack Obama biography, and it occurred to me that they'd love nothing more than to somehow collectively pass the Camelot torch to him. Obamalot? I don't know.

    But I'll say this for Barack Obama. He doesn't seem to have gotten kicked out of Harvard for cheating. Nor is he especially known for drunken womanizing. Or driving women into ponds and leaving them there. So maybe Obamalot won't work.

    Since time immemorial, there has been a sort of unwritten rule that we should never speak ill of the deceased. Ted Kennedy's demise seems to be inviting wholesale violations of that rule (myself not excepted), but I guess why should anyone respect a man who spent his whole life flagrant disregard of rules he considered made for the little people to obey?

    Years ago I read Leo Damore's Senatorial Privilege, which dealt with Ted Kennedy's conduct in the Kopechne case.

    I think the title is a bid misleading, and it really ought to have been titled "Kennedy Privilege." Maybe "Democratic Privilege," for no Republican could ever have gotten away with this:

    What was undeniable was that he waited ten hours to report the incident - all the long night. Even the next morning, he was seen chatting casually with an acquaintance at his hotel. There is evidence to suggest that Miss Kopechne was alive in the car for quite some time after the accident, breathing the last of the air caught inside.

    Bad men can support good ideas. We can't condemn liberalism itself on the strength of Kennedy's character. It's only a coincidence that the man who left Miss Kopechne to tap, tap, tap against the Oldsmobile window while he apparently tried to establish an alibi and otherwise cover his ass also spent a lifetime promoting policies that have endangered our freedoms, harmed our economy and damaged the lives of the poor people they were presumably intended to help.

    I've been reading about Henry VIII, and the divine right of kings. In those days, there really was such a thing. Henry carried it one stage further when he threw out the one restraint which he couldn't fully control and which stood in his way: the Catholic Church. Once he replaced that with himself, he was free to marry and divorce at will, and cut the heads off troublesome wives.

    God forbid that I would ever compare Ted Kennedy to Henry VIII. For starters, I like Henry VIII, despite his many awful flaws. Besides, it's a lot easier to say you "like" someone that far in the past than to like a recent tyrant. It's almost like saying that you "like" Hadrian or Marcus Aurelius; it's taken with a grain of salt and not too many people are going to start laying into you over their killings, tortures, or love of sadistic games.

    But even if Ted and Henry were judged side by side, when all is said and done, the simple fact is that leaving a drowning girl to die does not rise to the level of beheading wives in the Tower of London. Going for the jugular politically (as in the case of Ted Kennedy's vicious, unprincipled attacks on Judge Bork) cannot be compared with slowly pulling out the intestines of political adversaries.

    However, Ted Kennedy does remind me of Henry VIII in one important sense. Both men believed in their ultimate unaccountability, and neither really was held accountable. In Henry's day, though, the man in the Tudor street wanted his king to be strong, and unaccountable. They liked the idea of him standing up to the Pope and having as many wives as he wanted. They liked the fact that he was a bloated, dissipated gourmand who kicked anybody's ass anytime he wanted. Unfortunately, there's a strong streak of populism that loves unaccountability. This was something Republicans forgot during Monicagate.

    Clinton was arrogant and shameless, and many people loved him for it.

    I was 14 when Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo into Poucha Pond, and I remember his TV appearance with the cervical collar, and a lot of arguing back and forth. In general, people who liked him sympathized, and people who didn't like him didn't. I noticed that it all seemed to come down to whether people agreed with his politics. Kennedy/Camelot lovers (invariably Democrats) used to say things like "That poor man has been through enough!" while Republicans said he should be held accountable the same as anyone else, despite the fact that they all knew he would get away with it.

    The fact is that Republicans don't get away with anywhere near as much. There is no Republican Camelot. A Democratic senator can get away with leaving a girl to tap, tap, tap on the windows while she slowly dies over a period of hours, and yet a Republican senator is politically ruined and permanently disgraced for tapping his foot in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Nothing fair about it.

    I think the American people vacillate between liking accountability, and liking unaccountability, and I cannot explain it. It's as if they think there's a balance to be struck between two tyrannies, either one of which can go too far if unchecked. For some reason, a demagogic champion of the common man is often expected to live like a king and flout the rules -- as many a union boss has and as the Kennedys did. However, Republicans are traditionally not allowed such privileges, for they were long associated with the patrician aristocracy (before that crumbled) and if they tried to act like that it would have been intolerable as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

    But the old aristocracy is gone, and this has led to much resentment all around. We hear a lot of talk about the new aristocrats, and Barack Obama certainly acts like one. So do his unaccountable people, like Timothy "Leona Helmsley" Geithner. But this is a far cry from the populist Camelot flouting of the rules, nor does it resemble the old aristocracy of the Henry Cabot Lodge / Nelson Rockefeller Republicans. It's just looking more and more like regular corruption, maybe with a pseudo-populist Peronist window dressing.

    If Americans were fooled, it seems to be wearing off.

    lessfooled.jpg

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



    Spare the boycott and spoil the backlash!

    In light of M. Simon's earlier post, I thought a brief word about Glenn Beck would be in order. As Simon points out,

    "some folks are unhappy with Glenn Beck and want advertisers to boycott his show."
    I don't like Glenn Beck, and I don't watch the show. While I agree with a lot of what he says, his shrill yahoo style annoys me. To each his own, though. To be fair, I should point out that I even have trouble watching people on television when I agree with them, because not only is the presentation usually annoying to my senses, but I HATE commercials, and when one comes on I have to hit the mute button or change the channel, and at that point my patience to watch whatever I was watching is gone, and I have no interest in either switching back or "keeping track" of the timing of the commercial to unmute the sound.

    So I never watch Glenn Beck unless it's purely by accident flipping through the channels (and then only briefly).

    That said, I find it most annoying to be told not to watch him, as it's no one's business but my own what I watch or don't watch. What's really horrifies me about the Glenn Beck boycott is that the group which is spearheading it -- Color of Change -- is directly tied to the White House:

    Van Jones, who the Los Angeles Times describes as "a White House environmental advisor and co-founder of an African American political advocacy group that organized an advertising boycott of his program."
    Via Glenn Reynolds (whose commercial-free InstaVision I do watch, BTW.)

    So what do you do if you don't like a show but you don't like the boycott? Boycott the boycott? How? I'm not about to spend my time searching out Beck's former advertisers who canceled and not buying from them. I probably don't buy their stuff anyway, and unless I sat down and wrote letters in protest they'd never know (and I'm not going to do that either), so any boycott of the boycott would be lame and ineffective. And sending money to Glenn Beck strikes me as even more ridiculous; as it is I can't afford to support causes and people I do like. Hence the blogpost.

    Besides, if this White House-assisted boycott is actually helping Glenn Beck, why should I stand in its way?

    It deserves my sincerest efforts at ridicule.

    posted by Eric at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)



    How Is That Boycott Coming?

    It seems that some folks are unhappy with Glenn Beck and want advertisers to boycott his show.

    An advertising boycott against Fox News host Glenn Beck has succeeded in keeping most major sponsors from running commercials on his show even as the controversial commentator's viewership has grown.

    Beck attracted 2.81 million viewers Monday, his third-largest audience since his show launched on Fox News in January, according to Nielsen Media Research data provided by the network. On Tuesday, nearly 2.7 million viewers tuned in, his fifth-largest viewership to date. And the conservative host got a plug from former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who urged people to watch his program in a post on her Facebook page.

    Isn't that interesting?

    And Sarah Palin's Facebook Page on Beck? Short and sweet.

    FOX News' Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House.

    Monday night he asked us to invite one friend to watch; tonight I invite all my friends to watch.

    -Sarah Palin

    At last count Sarah had 800,000 Facebook fans.

    Which kind of leads me into a topic I have been meaning to discuss. Leaderless political warfare. I'd like to start with a comment I found at Oath Keepers.

    #87 bruce Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 9:50 am

    There are many of us who believe in supporting the constitution the way it was intended: to HELP us as a country. Our unamerican president sees it only as a nuisance and roadblock to his goals. Unfortunatley, their machine (smoke & mirrors, bag of tricks, etc.) is well oiled and has considerable momentum.

    Those who support this site/cause, and others like it, have a common obstacle: We have no central unification. There are numerous organizations & militias, some of them just nut jobs who actually hurt our credibility, but I think to be an effective force, we need to come together somehow under a central figure or organization.

    I think he is wrong. The last thing the opposition needs is a leader. The left will go after a leader with all their power. Best for now to keep it diffuse. Small unit actions suited to local conditions.

    Which brings up a couple of novels by Gordon R. Dickson. The first is a book that includes the story of Amanda Morgan:

    The Spirit of Dorsai

    I'm not going to go into a long dissertation. The essence is that old men and children defeated a large well armed and well paid army by having a general order and then adapting tactics to local circumstances with minimal central direction.

    If you are into reading novels for entertainment as well as education (the following novel was once on the US Military reading list) you might want to read this one first as it also covers the events in Amanda Morgan.

    Tactics of Mistake

    I reviewed the novel at The Tactics Of Mistake.

    So what is our general order? Simple really.

    Not On Our Watch

    General enough for you? Now how about another analogy? I have one:

    In many ways the Republicans are like the Spanish in their dust up with Napoleon. The Spanish Army (The Republican Party Machine) is totally ineffective against Napoleon's Regulars (The Democrat Party Machine). However, the partisans redeem the war.

    Which brings up a a post by Wretchard called 5G.

    Somebody believes the left is losing the public policy debate because they've got all the flagship institutions. And that's a liability. Umair Haque, writing in a Harvard Business Publishing article, argues that the right, like al-Qaeda has mastered the art of "5th generation warfare" and is swarming all over the left. He notices that liberals have been losing the debate lately and tries to analyze why. The problem with the left, he seems to think, is that they are responding from a center, sending talking points out to a periphery, whereas the right has discovered how to attack swiftly, from a plethora of directions and in depth. The right is inside their OODA loop and Haque realizes that if this goes on long enough, the left will lose.
    And how has the right got inside the left's OODA loop? Not by being faster. It is hard to get much speed advantage in an internet age. The right is doing it by giving the left more events than it can handle. Tea Parties are breaking out all over with no Central Command. There will be a march on Washington on 12 September starting at 11:30 AM at Pennsylvania Ave. [map] opposite the White House going to the Capitol.

    And what do you know? Glenn Beck has mentioned the march on Washington on his show.

    Now back to Wretchard. Wretchard discusses some of Haque's advice on how to counter a distributed movement. And then has this to say.

    I think Haque's advice will ultimately fail because it fails to recognize the fundamental difference between 'fake' 5th generation warfare and the real thing. The real thing is bottom up; the fake thing is astroturfed. The genuine article aggregates the wisdom of crowds; the counterfeit hires crowds. The real thing genuinely takes into account the experience of the many and values it. It accepts that "norms" are actually driven by the normal and not pronounced on from above. This distinction in source of initiative is crucial. His "10 rules for fighting a 5G war" will come to nothing without recognizing rule number 1: the people can act directly in public policy. The result of applying this principle is 5th generation warfare. The opposite principle is that an enlightned elite, led by a One are leading the world to change. Applying this principle may result in a slick advertising campaign, but it will never be 5th generation warfare.

    This is the crucial realization. The Republican leadership was in fact the first victim of the revolt from below. Only after the "5th generation" war had ripped through the comfortable assumptions of business as usual did it break out to face the left. To think that the current unrest is the creation of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck would be to make a fundamental mistake. Those figures are simply its beneficiaries -- and its beneficiaries by accident.

    Which fits in rather well with my diagnosis of the current Republican vs. Democrat struggle. Republicans (the politicians) are losing. And Wretchard is absolutely right. The masses are absolutely disdainful of their leaders. The leaders on the right are as inept as the Spanish Army was it its struggle with Napoleon. It probably doesn't matter for now. When the time is right some one will step to the front of the parade.

    And may I suggest the comments at Wretchard's 5G? They are absolutely first rate.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:39 AM | Comments (3)



    Red Ted

    It seems that Ted Kennedy had very good relations with the USSR before their much lamented demise.

    This letter which details Senator Edward Kennedy's offer to help the Soviet Union defeat Reagan's efforts to build up the nuclear deterrent in Europe was unearthed by a Times of London reporter in the 1990s after the KGB files were opened.

    It got little or no attention, however, until the publication of Paul Kengor's book "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism"

    So how about an excerpt from the letter?
    Regarding Senator Kennedy's request to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Comrade Y.V. Andropov

    Comrade Y.V. Andropov

    On 9-10 May of this year, Senator Edward Kennedy's close friend and trusted confidant J. Tunney was in Moscow. The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Center Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.

    Senator Kennedy, like other rational people, is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations. Events are developing such that this relationship coupled with the general state of global affairs will make the situation even more dangerous. The main reason for this is Reagan's belligerence, and his firm commitment to deploy new American middle range nuclear weapons within Western Europe.

    According to Kennedy, the current threat is due to the President's refusal to engage any modification on his politics. He feels that his domestic standing has been strengthened because of the well publicized improvement of the economy: inflation has been greatly reduced, production levels are increasing as is overall business activity. For these reasons, interest rates will continue to decline. The White House has portrayed this in the media as the "success of Reaganomics."

    Good old Red Ted. Friend of the USSR. Champion of Health Care Socialism.

    He will be missed.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:07 AM | Comments (0)



    This is government, right?

    Here's how Senator Robert Byrd appeared over a year ago, crying about Ted Kennedy and saying.... something. (It's so incomprehensible I can't really make out the details.)

    While it's sad for anyone to have be in such a deteriorated mental state, because Byrd is a powerful man with enormous responsibility, it's also a bit scary.

    The man could barely talk.

    Yet somehow, today, 15 months later, he is reported as having "issued the following statement upon learning of the passing of his dear friend Senator Ted Kennedy." The full statement follows, with the quotes in original:

    "I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the lost of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy."

    "Senator Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war. That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq."

    "Neither years of age nor years of political combat, nor his illness, diminished the idealism and energy of this talented, imaginative, and intelligent man. And that is the kind of Senator Ted Kennedy was. Throughout his career, Senator Kennedy believed in a simple premise: that our society's greatness lies in its ability and willingness to provide for its less fortunate members. Whether striving to increase the minimum wage, ensuring that all children have medical insurance, or securing better access to higher education, Senator Kennedy always showed that he cares deeply for those whose needs exceed their political clout. Unbowed by personal setbacks or by the terrible sorrows that have fallen upon his family, his spirit continued to soar, and he continued to work as hard as ever to make his dreams a reality."

    "In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American."

    "God bless his wife Vicki, his family, and the institution that he served so ably, which will never be the same without his voice of eloquence and reason. And God bless you Ted. I love you and will miss you terribly."

    "In my autobiography I wrote that during a visit to West Virginia in 1968 to help dedicate the "Robert F. Kennedy Youth Center" in Morgantown, "Senator Kennedy's voice quivered with emotion as he talked of his late brothers and their love for West Virginia. 'These hills, these people, and this state have had a very special meaning for my family. Our lives have been tightly intertwined with yours.'"

    "I am sure the people of the great state of West Virginia join me in expressing our heartfelt condolences to the Kennedy family at this moment of deep sorrow."

    Considering Senator Byrd's pathetic condition as evidenced by his near inability to talk over a year ago, I think there are some serious credibility problems with the above "statement." I realize that it was "issued" by his "office," but since the man's ability to speak is in serious doubt, have the words ever been confirmed as actually having been uttered by him? If he did not say them, then did he write them? How can we be sure?

    Especially considering that one of the principle objections to the health care bill is that it's "authors" have never read it, I think verifying the authorship of "Byrd's" "statement" is highly relevant. And what if it turns out that he didn't say it or write it. Can we even be sure he even read it?

    I seriously doubt it.

    What is going on?

    A bill that no one ever read is "renamed" by a pathetic dodderer who issued a "statement" he didn't write and cannot read, but who knows how to run the medical profession?

    This is a joke, right?

    posted by Eric at 01:23 AM | Comments (5)



    Mind-Blowing Chutzpah, Or Mind-Boggling Lack Of Self-Awareness?

    I blog, you decide!

    Remember that entire day ABC News turned over to Obama to sell his health care plan? Apparently they don't. Suddenly they've discovered they can't take sides, at least when it comes to selling time for an ad opposing ObamaCare.

    "The ABC Television Network has a long-standing policy that we do not sell time for advertising that presents a partisan position on a controversial public issue," spokeswoman Susan Sewell said in a written statement. "Just to be clear, this is a policy for the entire network, not just ABC News."

    Oh wait, I misunderstood the policy. They won't sell time to Republicans, but that has nothing to do with giving time to Democrats. Apples and oranges, don't you see.

    posted by Dave at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)




    What's In A Name

    It seems like the health care bill needs a new name.

    Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), one of the few to have served in the Senate longer than the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, said in a statement today that health care legislation should be named in his honor.

    Kennedy famously called health care reform "the cause of my life." He set the tone for the current health care debate in Congress and worked to pass a number of monumental health care-related bills while in the Senate.

    "In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American," Byrd said in his statement.

    In line with my previous post Win One For Mary Jo I think a new name is in order.

    The Mary Jo Kopechne Health Care For All Plan

    That should throw a spanner into the works.

    Another irony? The proposed name change comes from a former KKK guy. Truly, the Democrats are geniuses at public relations. First for making these bottom feeders icons, and more ironically thinking they could still make it stick in the age of the internet with 10,000 writers working feverish overtime looking for effective counters to the Democrat "truth" machine. Pravda comrades. Pravda.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:34 PM | Comments (0)



    Happy birthday, Glenn Reynolds! (You're in good company...)

    It's happened before, and according to the ephemeris, it's happening again today.

    Glenn Reynolds is having a birthday.

    And what I want to know is why has the White House been so suspiciously silent about this occasion? They've had all day now, so the omission has to be deliberate.

    The White House has gone out of its way to snub Glenn Reynolds.

    Need I remind anyone that Glenn was a loyal servant of President Obama's favorite spiritual advisor Jeremiah Wright, at the White House, before Obama was in it?

    The whole affair was well documented, and this picture speaks for itself.

    clintonreynoldswright.jpg

    There's no question but that the above is completely authentic. As Glenn admitted himself at the time, "photos on blogs don't lie."

    Seriously, folks, this vicious snubbing by the White House has become a pattern. Our president has already snubbed Nikolas Sarkozy twice, he's also snubbed Silvio Berlusconi at least once and he's even snubbed the Queen!

    Heads of foreign states being snubbed is bad enough, but this is the blogfather!

    At long last, has the president no sense of shame?

    MORE: The above list is just for starters. Our president has also snubbed Neil Cavuto, Nancy Reagan, gay activists, and American troops!

    I think Glenn is in good company.

    posted by Eric at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)



    Win One For Mary Jo

    Eric put up a post on the death of Ted Kennedy. He is disgusted that some Democrats are taking advantage of his death to push their health care plan.

    'Win One for Teddy,' Say Dems Pushing for Health Reform

    Well if they want to get down and dirty:

    'Win One for Mary Jo' say those trying to prevent government take over of health care.

    And for those of you needing a history lesson:

    Mary Jo Kopechne

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:08 PM | Comments (1)



    Heather has THREE mommies!

    Such a scenario will be possible in the near future.

    In light of news reports like this one, some people will be worrying that the "institution of reproduction" is under assault.

    Others will worry about whether that should that be the government's business. If you're willing to pay to utilize such advanced DNA techniques, by what right should the state be able to stop you?

    In a piece titled "The Bioethics of a Three-Parent Embryo," Wired interviews University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Jonathan Moreno about these issues, and he zeroes right in on possible political considerations:

    There are going to be a lot of techniques that offer people in gay couples the chance to reproduce in non-traditional ways. This is one possible pathway. We are going to be facing some very interesting social questions about how far this goes.

    The two papers published last fall on induced pluripotent stem cells -- very few people have noticed that if you can turn a skin cell into a pluripotent cell, and then into a pancreatic cell, you can probably also turn it into sperm cell, or an egg cell, or even a blastomere.

    The [Newcastle technique] is one pathway that gives an option for people who either medically or situationally can't engage in sexual reproduction in traditional way. The key element here is that it lets them use their own DNA.

    My body, my blastomere? Or does it cease to be "mine"? Ethicists will haggle, but suppose all I want is a new liver?

    Suppose a guy and his wife want the DNA of himself, his wife, and all their best friends scrambled Mixmaster style to create a child with five or six parents and they all consent. Is that the business of others? If so, on what basis?

    Is it "conservative" to want the government kept out, or is that liberal?

    We're not in a good position to tell people how to have kids.

    But we are in a position to say it's an area where the public doesn't want to invest -- and that decision was already made 28 years ago in the US with IVF research. And the result of that is that if government isn't involved early on in the research, it doesn't have an opportunity to set ethical standards.

    That's one of the ironies about IVF and stem cells -- it's partly because the U.S. government pulled out in 1980 from IVF research that the fertility field developed on its own. And now there's lots of concern about its practices and standards. That's the downside of not geting involved. [People who are morally opposed to this] shouldn't support this necessarily -- but the political system kind of controls it.

    [If goverment funds the research] then you create a culture of responsibility around that technology. It wouldn't be perfect or foolproof -- but people would have a sense of where they could go, where it would not be acceptable to go. Whereas if you say, "It's a matter for the market to decide," the boundary conditions are a lot fuzzier.

    It puts bioconservatives in a very odd position: if they say no to government funding, they leave open the possibility of creating a Wild
    West scenario. But if they shrug shoulders and say government has to get into this to create a moral culture down the road, then they look as though they're endorsing it.

    Bioconservative?

    Yes, there is such a creature!

    Bioconservatives are individuals whom oppose human augmentation, whether cybernetic, genetic, or nanotechnological, as opposed to transhumanist whom advocate self-modification.
    I don't seem to have written about the phenomenon before, but I think I'm probably a bioliberal at heart.

    posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (4)




    Slogans like "Socialism or death" can be carried too far

    Yesterday it was the endlessly dying Castro, equating criticism of President Obama with racism.

    Today its the dead Kennedy, and while it would be disrespectful (and inaccurate) to say he's demanding a death panel from beyond the grave, his colleagues are clearly using his death for advocacy purposes:

    'Win One for Teddy,' Say Dems Pushing for Health Reform
    Key Question Is Whether Kennedy's Death Can Rally Fellow Democrats

    Democrats are hoping that the memory of Sen. Ted Kennedy will revive the Democratic Party's flagging push for health care reform.

    I guess death with dignity would be asking too much.

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



    Inequality

    Eric recently wrote a post on the connection between genetics and crime. I thought it would be good to chime in with a post I wrote in 2007 at Power and Control on the connection between genetics and talent.

    =====

    According to the American founders all men are created equal.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,...
    Does that mean all men have equal talents? Of course not. Some are fast runners and some are slow runners. Some are very smart some are not so smart. The equality the founders professed was equality before the law. And there by hangs a tale.

    What I'm going to look at here is inequality. Let us start with sports.It seems some people run faster than others. I guess we have races to find out who is fastest of the fast.

    Running offers the best prima facie case for the potential impact of body type differences. Athletes of West African descent dominate sports requiring speed and jumping, such as basketball and football. They hold the fastest two hundred 100-meter times, all under 10 seconds, and 494 of the top 500 times. In last weekend's NFL draft, of the 69 players who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or less, only one is white.
    How about marathons? That is a little different story.
    Humans are different, the consequence of thousands of years of evolution in varying terrains. This is not an issue of black and white. East African blacks, from Kenya and Ethiopia, for example, have traveled a different evolutionary path and are genetically distinct in many aspects of their body type and physiology from West Africans. The best East African time in the 100 meters, 10.28 seconds, ranks near 5,000 on the all time list.

    While relatively poor sprinters, East Africans win more than 50 percent of top endurance races. Almost all trace their ancestry to the 6,000-8,000 foot highlands that snake along the western edge of the Great Rift Valley. This region of roughly 1.5 million wins 40 percent of international distance events. The Nandi district in Kenya, 500,000 people - one-twelve-thousandth of Earth's population - sweeps an unfathomable 20 percent, marking it as the greatest concentration of raw athletic talent in the history of sports. They win in large measure because elite runners have a near perfect biomechanical package for endurance: lean, ectomorphic physiques and huge natural lung capacity.

    "Kenyans are born with a high number of slow twitch fibers," states Bengt Saltin, director of the Institute of Sports Science in Copenhagen. "They have 70 to 75 percent of their muscle fibers being slow. Very many in sports physiology would like to believe that it is training, the environment, what you eat that plays the most important role. But based on the data it is 'in your genes' whether or not you are talented or whether you will become talented."

    White folks sure got short changed when it comes to being runners. There must be some kind of athletics white people are good at. In fact there is.
    Genetically linked, highly heritable characteristics such as skeletal structure, the distribution of muscle fiber types, reflex capabilities, metabolic efficiency, lung capacity and the ability to use energy more efficiently are not evenly distributed among populations and cannot be explained. For example, whites of Eurasian ancestry, who have, on average, more natural upper-body strength, predictably dominate weightlifting, field events such as the shot-put and hammer (whites hold 47 of the top 50 throws), and the offensive line in football. Where flexibility is key, East Asians shine, such as in diving and some skating and gymnastic events (hence the term "Chinese splits").
    What does he mean by cannot be explained? I think he means that there is no explanation for the clustering of traits in certain groups other than isolated populations in different environments. Natural selection. Darwin in action. In the 100,000 years since our ancestors left Africa we have differentiated according to environment. That is pretty rapid evolution.

    So what is all this race stuff any way? It is not like the different races can't interbreed. Isn't race just a social construct? Well no.

    Several analyses have confirmed the genetic reality of group identities going under the label of race or ethnicity. In the most recent, published this year, all but five of the 3,636 subjects fell into the cluster of genetic markers corresponding to their self-identified ethnic group. When a statistical procedure, blind to physical characteristics and working exclusively with genetic information, classifies 99.9 percent of the individuals in a large sample in the same way they classify themselves, it is hard to argue that race is imaginary.
    Now here comes the hard part. I think that it is now evident and different races have different athletic talents and even within races there are still more subdivisions. What about cognitive ability? Something the scientists call 'g', but we will call it by its better known but somewhat inaccurate term intelligence quotient or IQ. The term 'g' refers to raw computing power. IQ (not 'g') is divided into two main parts. Verbal and spatial intelligence.

    Let us look into a real world example, Ashkenazi Jews, to see how this works.

    Ashkenazi levels of real world accomplishment are impressive and thus support the IQ studies. Jewish Americans make up no more than three percent of the U.S. adult population. But in the 1995 book Jews and the New American Scene, the prominent social scientist Seymour Martin Lipset, a Senior Scholar of the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Studies, and Earl Raab, Director of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University, pointed out
    "During the last three decades, Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals, 40 percent of American Nobel Prize Winners in science and economics, 20 percent of professors at the leading universities, 21 percent of high level civil servants, 40 percent of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington, 26% of the reporters, editors, and executives of the major print and broadcast media, 59 percent of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures from 1965 to 1982, and 58 percent of directors, writers, and producers in two or more primetime television series." [pp 26-27]
    Interestingly, the Ashkenazi cognitive advantage seems to be mostly in verbal and numeric, rather than visual, skills. For example, in Hollywood, fewer top cinematographers are Jewish compared to screenwriters or agents.
    So that is one example of variation on the high end. The results are obvious. The differentiation of the Ashkenazi Jews happened in a span of 1,000 years or less. That is very rapid evolution.

    So are Ashkenazis a race? Maybe. What they are for sure is an identifiable sub group based on DNA (their DNA is most like Arabic DNA, not too surprisingly) and genetic diseases that cluster in the Ashkenazis like Tay Sachs.

    What about variation on the low end? Here comes the really hard part.

    When the late Richard Herrnstein and I published The Bell Curve eleven years ago, the furor over its discussion of ethnic differences in IQ was so intense that most people who have not read the book still think it was about race. Since then, I have deliberately not published anything about group differences in IQ, mostly to give the real topic of The Bell Curve--the role of intelligence in reshaping America's class structure--a chance to surface.

    The Lawrence Summers affair last January made me rethink my silence. The president of Harvard University offered a few mild, speculative, off-the-record remarks about innate differences between men and women in their aptitude for high-level science and mathematics, and was treated by Harvard's faculty as if he were a crank. The typical news story portrayed the idea of innate sex differences as a renegade position that reputable scholars rejected.

    It was depressingly familiar. In the autumn of 1994, I had watched with dismay as The Bell Curve's scientifically unremarkable statements about black IQ were successfully labeled as racist pseudoscience. At the opening of 2005, I watched as some scientifically unremarkable statements about male-female differences were successfully labeled as sexist pseudoscience.

    The Orwellian disinformation about innate group differences is not wholly the media's fault. Many academics who are familiar with the state of knowledge are afraid to go on the record. Talking publicly can dry up research funding for senior professors and can cost assistant professors their jobs. But while the public's misconception is understandable, it is also getting in the way of clear thinking about American social policy.

    Good social policy can be based on premises that have nothing to do with scientific truth. The premise that is supposed to undergird all of our social policy, the founders' assertion of an unalienable right to liberty, is not a falsifiable hypothesis. But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.

    One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups. The statistical tests for uncovering job discrimination assume that men are not innately different from women, blacks from whites, older people from younger people, homosexuals from heterosexuals, Latinos from Anglos, in ways that can legitimately affect employment decisions. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 assumes that women are no different from men in their attraction to sports. Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.

    The American Psychological Association, not a hot bed of racism, checked out The Bell Curve and this is what they found.
    There is no technical dispute on some of the core issues. In the aftermath of The Bell Curve, the American Psychological Association established a task force on intelligence whose report was published in early 1996. The task force reached the same conclusions as The Bell Curve on the size and meaningfulness of the black-white difference. Historically, it has been about one standard deviation in magnitude among subjects who have reached adolescence; cultural bias in IQ tests does not explain the difference; and the tests are about equally predictive of educational, social, and economic outcomes for blacks and whites. However controversial such assertions may still be in the eyes of the mainstream media, they are not controversial within the scientific community.

    The most important change in the state of knowledge since the mid-1990's lies in our increased understanding of what has happened to the size of the black-white difference over time. Both the task force and The Bell Curve concluded that some narrowing had occurred since the early 1970's. With the advantage of an additional decade of data, we are now able to be more precise:

    (1) The black-white difference in scores on educational achievement tests has narrowed significantly.

    (2) The black-white convergence in scores on the most highly "g-loaded" tests--the tests that are the best measures of cognitive ability--has been smaller, and may be unchanged, since the first tests were administered 90 years ago.

    What does all this mean?

    Let us start with some simple statistical assumptions that are aproximately correct and see if we can figure out what the implications are. First IQ. Ashkenazi Jew IQ is 115. White IQ is 100. American black IQ is 85. These are averages. They tell you NOTHING about individuals. Let us also assume a standard deviation (a measure of variation) is 15 for all groups. I'm going to use this handy bell curve calculator to get my results.

    What percentage of white Americans are going to be top college material with an IQ above 125? About 5%. How many Ashkenazi Jews will be found in that range? About 25%. How many American blacks (African blacks are significantly different)? About .4%. Which means if we follow merit alone, there ought to be about 10 times as many whites per capita as blacks capable of work in our top institutions. This is a depressing fact of life, just as the Ashkenazi Jews are a bright spot.

    It gets worse at the very high end. For scores above 160, the brightest of the bright, among the Ashkenazi Jews the proportion will be about one in a thousand. For whites the number is zero (actually that really means less than one in 10,000 because the calculator does not do really small fractions) and for blacks the number will be a much smaller percentage than whites. Given that Ashkenazi Jews are at least 100 times as likely to be in that range relative to whites and Ashkenazi Jews represent about .1% of the world's population, the results we see above are not unexpected.

    We see all this born out in the top science and math prizes.

    So the question as Lenin put it is: "What is to be done?" First off treat people as individuals not statistics. Every one has their own group of talents that should be develped as fully as possible.

    Second off we are turning into a society whose rewards are based on cognitive ability. Something the Bell Curve guys discuss at length. What is their answer, besides giving every one a fair shot to develop their talents? They suggest socialism light. The top perfomers should be able to reap top rewards for top performance. Not every one gets first prize in the race. However, because of the work of these top performers, labor doesn't have the value it once did. "John Henry, the Steel Driving Man" was a harbinger of that. It is hard to compete, labor wise, with a motor controlled by a microprocessor. So the top performers are going to have to help those on the bottom, if for no other reason than to keep the peace. Socialism lite.

    Milton Friedman and a number of others (including The Bell Curve authors) think that the negative income tax (instituted by Nixon) is the way to go because the bureaucracy required is minimal.

    I think we also have to accept that there is a limit to what our public schools can accomplish. Each added increment of resources is going to produce a diminishing return.

    There are lots more policy implications in all this. More than I can deal with here. The main point for me is that even in a race blind society not all races will do equally well at all tasks.

    A couple of books that might be of interest:

    Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It

    The Bell Curve

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:07 PM | Comments (12)



    For a psychopath, hate is love, and race is a game

    For a number of reasons, I found this post by Katie Granju deeply disturbing.

    There aren't too many things more disturbing to contemplate than the horrific Christian/Newsom double torture murder case, and Ms. Granju (a local news reporter who had written about the case since the beginning) does not spare the details. Nor should she. For not only is it horrible beyond belief, but it occurred right in her neighborhood. Forgive the lengthy quote, but I think it's well worth reading:

    ...the thing I'd been unable or unwilling to think about previously was the fact that in those 24 hours in January of 2007, someone's beloved children were being tortured and murdered in unspeakable ways while I happily went about my life in my own house only a few blocks away. I know it's irrational, but I found myself feeling as if I should have known, or sensed somehow that someone was being hurt so terribly over a prolonged period of time so very close to the place I consider the warmest and safest in the world - my own home. That sense that I was oblivious to that level of suffering and cruelty over those many hours taking place so close to me has given me more than a few nightmares in the past year - generally the same nightmare. In my dream, I hear someone's daughter screaming for help, begging for help, and I am frantically running up and down streets in our part of town, knocking on doors and trying to find her before it's too late, but I always fail, and I wake up feeling sick and sad.

    The other thing that I finally allowed myself to think about after my visit to the scene of the horror was the fact that the terrible, sick, predatory individuals who did it almost certainly DID drive by my house, likely on multiple occasions, as that's the route they would have taken from their rental house to a major thoroughfare, and the interstate. Were my children playing in our front yard,? Did they consider hurting one of them, just because they were an easy target, like Chris and Channon? Did they ever see me standing outside my car on our city street, perhaps fumbling with my keys, and consider carjacking me? Did we pass one another in the aisles of our shared neighborhood grocery store? Did they case our street to consider possible home invasion targets? These are the thoughts that now come to me, now that I understand in a meaningful way the very real geographic connection between my home and that house.

    As the details of the case have become even clearer with the police investigation and judicial proceedings, I am, of course, horrified by the brutality of the men who did these things. You hear about sexual sadists - and that's surely what these guys are - on TV and in true crime books, and you pray that you don't have one of this relatively rare but incredibly dangerous kinds of predators living in your own neighborhood. But what are the odds that we apparently had three or four men who all knew one another capable of this level of depravity living basically up the street? Three or four men capable of something that went far, far beyond the "ordinary" criminal behavior of robbing, killing or even of raping a woman in an opportunistic way. And not only were there three or four of them who were capable of doing something savage like, they were capable of doing it over and over and over for at least 24 hours, hurting Channon Christian, leaving the house for groceries or to visit friends, and then coming back to hurt her in new and unbelievably horrific ways. This brutality wasn't carried out in a brief time frame - in a sexual or murderous rage or frenzy, or while under the influence, or during a psychotic episode - this was a conscious, willful brutality over a prolonged period of time. The fact that that many people with that level of evil perversion and willingness to cause pain to another human being over that period of time were here, right here all the time, chills me in a way I can't quite express.

    The last thing that I really struggle with is the issue of the women, at least one (she admits it) and probably others, who knew that there was another young woman, just about their age, hogtied, blindfolded and bleeding in the bedroom at their boyfriends' rental house, and yet they went about their lives inside and outside the house during the day or more that Channon was being held captive. They did things like prepare sandwiches for the men between their individual forays in and out of the bedroom to rape that other young woman. At least one of the women has children of her own, just like Channon's mother. At least one of them knew that Channon's mouth was washed out with household cleaning chemicals in a bizarre and horrible attempt to erase evidence of rape. But these women, who could have ended Channon's suffering and saved her life DID NOTHING. And there is absolutely ZERO evidence that this was a case where the women in question were "brainwashed" or had any sort of battered women's syndrome or that they even felt actively threatened by the men during that period of time. They weren't strung out on drugs and incapable of thinking clearly. No, they were just without consciences, and part of a trashy, thuggy subculture that's both incredibly sexist - everything caters to the men, and to getting and keeping these worthless men who father their children - as well as very self-absorbed. But as a woman and as a mother, I just find it incomprehensible that other women, another mother, could stand by and let this happen without making any attempt whatsoever to make it stop.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who also lives in the city where the murders occurred.)

    Unbelievably, Katie Granju found herself descended upon by racist commenters angry at her for writing what I think is a very articulate expression of how the crime has personally affected her. (And for not subscribing to their theories, of course.)

    The most important two words in the entire piece are "without conscience." These killers are clearly psychopaths, and in that sense, the case reminds me of the 12 year old murderer in Detroit I recently posted about. Children tend to be without consciences, and fortunately for all of us, eventually the vast majority develop them.

    While there are certainly racial overtones to the Christian Newsom murder case (which I have discussed before at length), most of the people who want to make it about race strike me as angry over the fact that had the races been reversed, all hell would have broken loose, and the case would have been front page news everywhere, for a long time. That is undeniably true. However, it is an abuse of logic to say that it makes the crime racially motivated. Whether, say, the white psychopaths who dragged James Byrd to death were motivated by race has no bearing on the motivations of other pyschopaths, absent some sort of retaliatory motive (which has not been found here). Similarly, whether or not the killers of Matthew Shepard (or the fact that the case was widely reported) were motivated to kill him because he was gay has no bearing on crimes committed by gays.

    There is no question that there is a double standard for hate crimes, and in the case of black on white hate crimes, the authorities tend to bend over backwards not to see them as hate crimes. However, that double standard should have no bearing on whether a black on white crime is a hate crime. It either is or it isn't. Retaliation for unfairness should not have anything to do with it.

    But then, I don't believe in hate crime theory anyway. I only want the torture-murderers executed. Somehow, though, I suspect that many of the people screaming the loudest about this case would not be paying nearly as much attention had the victims and the torture-murderers all been black. Is that a form of racism?

    There is nothing racial about the psychopathic personality, and I think applying the hate crime standard to them misses the point completely.

    For God's sake, they're psychopaths! By definition, they have no compassion, nothing resembling ordinary human feelings. Hate and love mean nothing to them.

    Barbara Oakley wrote a great book on the subject, which I discussed here. She also observed that despite a growing body of evidence for a psychopathic gene, there is widespread opposition to the idea that they could be born that way. I've noticed that those who don't believe in evil genes have no problem embracing other genetic theories, and as I explained, I think it constitutes genetic cherry picking, driven by a political agenda:

    the inconsistencies never cease to intrigue me. It completely escapes me how it can be that sexual preference is genetic (and homosexuals are said to be "born that way"), but yet there are absolutely no differences between the male and the female brain. That physical size and strength can be inherited, but not mental ability. The idea that IQ might be inherited is almost a heresy in the same circles which would fight like tigers to defend the idea that homosexuality is. It makes no sense unless you consider the possibility that they're more concerned with the consequences of the particular application of the theory than the theory itself.

    What they're doing amounts to cherry picking. If they like the result, they allow for the genetic theory. If they don't, why, genetics must be ignored, and it's all to be blamed on the environment. This is often grounded in political considerations, and it is not limited to the left. It has long baffled me how many social conservatives will maintain that pedophilia is innate and cannot be cured, but homosexuality is a choice which can be. They might selectively cite scientific studies in support of their arguments, but there is nothing scientific about agendas driven by politics.

    Applying the "hate crime" standard to psychopaths only compounds this error.

    So does applying a racial standard. I can't imagine anything more ridiculous than looking at the race of Jeffrey Dahmer or that of victims. Or Charles Manson's, or John Wayne Gacy's, or Ted Bundy's. Psychopathic criminals themselves would probably love the racial analysis, though, as psychopaths are very quick to blame factors outside themselves in the hope of gaming the system.

    Some people are just born bad. Their malevolence is a product of what Barbara Oakley called "evil genes."

    It is not surprising that just as some of them are white, some of them are black. And some of them look like Manson, while others look like Bundy. (Was hippiedom any more responsible than Brooks Brothers?)

    If 1 out of a hundred are born with the psychopathic gene, why should it surprise anyone that it crosses all racial and cultural lines?

    I guess because that's not what some people want to believe.

    posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (3)



    Who says we don't have shock "treatment"?

    A homeless man (who has been arrested 50 times) burst into flame when Ohio police tasered him, and even though it's in my general area, I only learned about the incident because a British newspaper reported it, and it was then linked by Drudge.

    I was in the middle of a post on the subject, though, and much to my irritation, my post got cyber-tasered by a typical Internet conspiracy of glitches.

    lost post.JPG


    Internet Explorer just shut my post down without warning. (I managed to take a screen shot before what I wrote vanished completely.) Now, I realize that I "should never" use IE. I also "should never" write blog posts in the software designed for that purpose by the hopelessly unaccountable MovableType people (who will not answer any questions about anything, and whose software can only be upgraded by some guy in Romania). I am free to hate them all, but that does absolutely no good. After all these years, the Internet still does not work reliably. You'd think they'd get it right, but no. I'm not a geek, so I can't offer grand pronouncements as to why, but sometimes I think the situation is hopeless.

    Anyway, it's very irritating, and I cannot finish the post the way I originally intended it. I don't like reinventing my own squeaky wheels, especially when I'm only repeating what I've said countless times about the tragedy of the untreated mentally ill, running around and terrorizing society. Nothing is done until they do something really dangerous to themselves or others. Like sawing open a subway passenger's chest, or (in this instance) bursting into flames.

    Here's the guy we're talking about:

    flamingman.jpg

    That picture was taken after he had been "allegedly sniffing gas from an aerosol can as he ran through traffic," and "resisting arrest by attempting to bite the officers and lashing out with his feet" and tasered by officers, which cause him to burst into flame. Almost in passing, the story noted his arrest history:

    Wood, who has been arrested more than 50 times, has been charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer and abusing harmful intoxicants.
    Fifty arrests means that something within him has been trying to get attention. In all likelihood, most of these arrests were for misdemeanors, which means he could have been put away for a long time on a piecemeal basis, but the bottom line is that they don't want mentally ill people in the criminal justice system. It was not designed for them. Jails and prisons don't want them, the courts don't want them, and cops don't want them in their nice clean police cars. Not that I blame them; the police cars are workplaces, for heaven's sake. And who wants a man covered with his own feces (or toxic aerosol) polluting his workplace? So they're just left alone to rot for the most part. But what happens when they go beyond screaming in people's faces, and actually start making physical contact? The cops are called, and they have to come. Never mind that they don't want to be mental health workers; the days of the guys in white suits are long gone. When today's mental patients need to be restrained, all you can do is call the cops. But of course, they don't want to touch them any more than the citizens who called them.

    No wonder they love having the Taser handy.

    Wouldn't you?

    posted by Eric at 09:59 AM | Comments (4)



    Was Saddam Really Working On A Bomb?

    I just ran across an article on the proliferation risks of fusion and a few paragraphs caught my eye.

    Some proponents of nuclear fusion power falsely claim that it would pose no risk of contributing to weapons proliferation. In fact, there are several risks including the use of tritium as a fusion power fuel which raises the risk of its diversion for use in boosted nuclear weapons, or, more importantly, the use of fusion reactors to irradiate uranium to produce plutonium or to irradiate thorium-232 to produce uranium-233.

    Fusion power has yet to generate a single Watt of useful electricity but it has already contributed to proliferation problems. According to Khidhir Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist involved in Iraq's weapons program in the 1980s: "Iraq took full advantage of the IAEA's recommendation in the mid 1980s to start a plasma physics program for "peaceful" fusion research. We thought that buying a plasma focus device ... would provide an excellent cover for buying and learning about fast electronics technology, which could be used to trigger atomic bombs."

    The device he mentions is a Dense Plasma Focus fusion generator.
    A dense plasma focus (DPF) is a plasma machine that produces, by electromagnetic acceleration and compression, short-lived plasma that is so hot and dense that it becomes a copious multi-radiation source. It was invented in the early 1960s by J.W. Mather and also independently by N.V. Filippov. The electromagnetic compression of a plasma is called a "pinch".
    So where is the fusion?
    Intense bursts of X-rays and charged particles are emitted, as are nuclear fusion neutrons, when operated in deuterium. There is ongoing research that demonstrates potential applications as a soft X-ray source for next-generation microelectronics lithography, surface micromachining, pulsed X-ray and neutron source for medical and security inspection applications and materials modification, among others.

    For nuclear weapons applications, dense plasma focus devices can be used as an external neutron source. Other applications include simulation of nuclear explosions (for testing of the electronic equipment) and a short and intense neutron source useful for non-contact discovery or inspection of nuclear materials (uranium, plutonium).

    OK. So just as the article on Saddam's program stated. It is a good device for checking out electronics for a bomb program.

    You can read more about it in:

    Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon

    Which may not be an entirely reliable source.

    So what are the odds of a Dense Plasma Focus device generating power any time soon? The device has a couple of problems. In 20 years of research no one has figured out how to reduce the losses sufficiently and because the experiments pulse Mega Amps of current into relatively small devices, electrode erosion is going to be a severe problem. The 20 year deal is significant because small Dense Plasma Focus devices have plasma characteristics very similar (+/- 10%) to large devices.

    I still like Polywell.

    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 07:01 AM | Comments (0)




    A Reality Check In Iraq

    Various people seem very worried Iraq is falling apart, but these concerns are probably overblown and to some extent their premises are likely baseless.

    At least half of Ignatius' piece sounds like typical Iraqi political conspiracies, which as a rule run the gamut from improbably contradictory to downright bizarre. Anonymous sources are extremely unreliable (remember the burning Sunnis story? Jamil Hussein?) Sectarian suspicions are such that half of Sunnis think the Shia are working for Iran, while Shia are happy to claim the same of Sunnis and Syria.

    But look at the numbers. At 240, July 2009 had the 4th-fewest deaths since they started keeping track. August will be worse, but still looks to come in well below the average of 494 in 2008. And those numbers are compiled by people who still count the six "burning Sunnis" mentioned parenthetically above in their statistics, because they assume any and all deaths reported by the toddler-aged Iraqi press are accurate (presumably they also would have recorded 10,000 deaths on 9/11 and stacks of raped and cannibalized corpses in the Superdome).

    Meanwhile, U.S. deaths last month were a record low of 8. This month so far: 5.

    Yes, there are still attacks. Yes, Iraq is still horribly dysfunctional (but far better than under Saddam by virtually every measure, from basic services to average violent deaths to GDP to basic liberties like voting, free press, and free speech). But overall this still looks a whole lot like the victory conventional wisdom in 2006 said was a pipe dream.

    So while it's possible Iraq could get a lot worse in the future, nothing has happened so far that should cause anyone to panic. As Michael Totten observes:

    The uptick in violence following America's partial withdrawal shouldn't shock anyone. If you scale back security on the streets, more violence and crime are inevitable. The same thing would happen in the United States if local police departments purged the better half of their officers. That does not mean, however, that Iraq is doomed to revert to war.
    posted by Dave at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)



    Castro enters the fight against the "racist right"

    While Bill Richardson visits the country, Cuban dictator emeritus Fidel Castro is echoing the longstanding Democratic talking point that opposition to Barack Obama is racist:

    HAVANA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is trying to make positive changes in the United States, but is being fought at every turn by right-wingers who hate him because he is black, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Tuesday.

    In an unusually conciliatory column in the state-run media, Castro said Obama had inherited many problems from his predecessor, George W. Bush, and was trying to resolve them. But the "powerful extreme right won't be happy with anything that diminishes their prerogatives in the slightest way."

    Obama does not want to change the U.S. political and economic system, but "in spite of that, the extreme right hates him for being African-American and fights what the president does to improve the deteriorated image of that country," Castro wrote.

    "I don't have the slightest doubt that the racist right will do everything possible to wear him down, blocking his program to get him out of the game one way or another, at the least political cost," he said.

    Castro, who writes regular commentaries for Cuba's state-run media, has criticized Obama, complimented him occasionally and said that he is watching him closely to see if he means what he says about changing U.S. policy toward Cuba.

    His latest column comes during a visit to Cuba by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson that has stirred speculation that he may try to push U.S.-Cuba relations forward.

    What a clever way to improve relations and get what you want! Simply accuse the president's critics of racism, and apparently doors will open.

    I wonder why Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il haven't thought of that.

    posted by Eric at 05:23 PM | Comments (4)



    In retreat from science fiction

    Samuel R. Delany might very well be a great science fiction writer, but I haven't read him, because I don't read science fiction.

    I don't know how to say something like that without having some readers think I'm bragging about my ignorance, but it's a simple statement of fact, and I don't know how else to put it. Perhaps I should grovel and claim to be ashamed of myself for what I have not read. I'm sorry! (If it's any consolation, I haven't read all of the great books either, and I suck at math, chemistry and physics.)

    The thing is (and once again, I don't mean to put the man down), what I've read about Delany inclines me to distrust his judgment. Not long ago, I noticed his fantastic claims about sexual escapades, and today I see him lumping global warming deniers with evolution deniers, and even with Holocaust deniers:

    The current retreat from science in this country--I've already seen several books on the topic -- that the "information explosion" is prompting, coupled with the overload of the usual "epistemological filters" (my own term), is one of the most important and potentially damaging. It manifests itself in everything from denials of global warming and its effects, denials of evolution, the -- by the same process -- denials of the Holocaust, and the rise of fundamentalisms -- as well as the superceding of science fiction by fantasy fiction. I believe all are facets of a single trend, in which increased population and the failure of social benefits to keep up with them on several levels are the greatest drivers.
    So, if you're an AGW skeptic, you're part of the same "retreat from science" that opposes Darwin, denies the Holocaust, reads "fantasy fiction" (now why pick on that?) and takes the Bible literally -- all because of the "failure of social benefits." (Did Michael Crichton know he was part of the fundamentalist retreat?)

    With all due respect to Mr. Delany (who may well be one of the world's greatest writers), his fantastic claims do not incline me to buy his books.

    Even if I did decide to start reading science fiction.

    posted by Eric at 02:40 PM | Comments (9)



    Tips for travelers wishing to avoid loopholes

    For some reason, I was under the impression that Malaysia was one of those modern, "progressive" Muslim countries, where things like caning people for drinking alcohol did not go on. Wrong!

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - An Islamic court in Malaysia on Tuesday indefinitely put on hold the caning of a woman found guilty of drinking beer, saying the sentence was too harsh, a news report said.

    The chief judge of Pahang state's Shariah court decided to defer the caning pending a review "as it was deemed too extreme," The Star newspaper reported on its Web site.

    The report did not give details and court officials were not immediately available for comment.

    Separately, Malaysia's home minister indicated the caning was unlikely to be carried out, arguing the prisons department did not have staff with the expertise to administer the caning according to Shariah laws.

    The developments were likely to defuse growing consternation in Malaysia over the unusual sentencing, which if carried out would have made Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno the first woman to be caned in the country.

    The 32-year-old woman's plight has drawn international attention to the use of Islamic laws and raised questions whether a radical brand of Islam is taking root in this traditionally moderate Muslim-majority country.

    It certainly does raise questions. The fact that this woman could be sentenced to be caned in the first place has made me revise my thinking about Malaysia being a moderate Muslim country.

    The article says that she could have gotten three years in prison as well:

    Malaysia's Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the country's 27 million people, are prohibited from drinking alcohol under the Shariah laws they are subject to. The offense is punishable by up to three years in prison and caning but most offenders have been let off with a fine in the past.

    Malaysia's non-Muslims, the ethnic Chinese and Indians, are allowed to consume alcohol and are not subjected to Shariah laws but only civil laws.

    I don't know what made me think Malaysia was a moderate country. Perhaps I was falling into the trap of believing what I wanted to believe.

    When I researched the matter, it didn't take long to find other examples of people being caned for drinking, as these two men were in 2005:

    Brothers Mohamed Nizam Ibrahim, 32, and Mohamed Nasha, 30, were sentenced to receive the maximum six strokes of the cane and fined RM5,000 (S$2,000) each by the Syariah High Court here.

    They were caught drinking stout at a restaurant in Jalan Bukit Ubi here on Aug 19 last year.

    Under the state of Pahang's laws, they could have been jailed for up to three years.

    The imposition of the caning penalty caught everyone by surprise in court on Tuesday, including the brothers, who had pleaded guilty to the charges, believing that they were going to be let off with a fine.

    Judge Abdul Rahman Yunus said the sentence he meted out should serve as a reminder to all Muslims not to commit the offence.

    'The excuse given by both offenders, that they are in the lower income group and, therefore, should not be severely punished, is unacceptable,' he said.

    'It is quite obvious that the alcoholic beverage they drank is more expensive than other drinks such as syrup.'

    The brothers - factory workers - were detained in an operation by the Pahang Islamic Religious Department to discourage Muslims from drinking alcohol.

    A team of department officials, accompanied by policemen, arrested the brothers at the Yi Huat Restaurant in Jalan Bukit Ubi at 11.32pm.

    Nice. So they have activists involved in law enforcement sting operations over there too. Bastards.

    (I often wish there were some way to keep activists out of government, but I don't want to get distracted with my utopian thinking or I'll start ranting about how groups like MADD and animal activists are blurring the line between activism and law enforcement.)

    The problem is that ordinary people just want to be left alone, and because they want to be left alone, they want to believe that they will be left alone. Wanting to be left alone thus lends itself to sloppy thinking, and denial. Even now, I think a lot of Americans -- including Americans who travel to Malaysia -- would just shrug their shoulders and be glad the law doesn't apply to them.

    But they would be wrong. As the sidebar notes, "LAWS APPLY TO FOREIGN MUSLIMS AS WELL"

    ALL Muslims, including foreigners, are subject to the Islamic criminal laws of Malaysia when they are in the country, lawyers said yesterday.

    In the wake of the ground-breaking case where two Muslims were ordered to be caned for drinking alcohol, the lawyers said foreigners were expected to respect the laws of Malaysia when in Malaysia.

    'Once you enter the country, you are in the jurisdiction of the court and the laws,' said the Malaysian Syariah Lawyers' Association president Muhamad Burok.

    Syariah lawyers are those accredited to appear in the Syariah courts.

    Islamic laws are under the jurisdiction of individual states. Each state has its own Syariah enactment but they generally include the basic Islamic offences such as not fasting during Ramadan.

    Mr Muhammad said foreigners have been charged in the Syariah courts.

    So that would mean that American Muslims could be arrested and imprisoned or caned for drinking in Malaysia.

    How, pray tell, do they define who is a Muslim?

    No doubt groups like the Pahang Islamic Religious Department would agitate for the broadest possible definition -- perhaps even including innocent American children who are alleged to have been converted to Islam by adoptive parents. And so might MADD (or one of its international equivalents like GAPA, which promotes prohibitionistic policies in Malaysia).

    As things stand now, MADD has already stepped up to the plate and condemned an American president merely for drinking beer.

    Which is an outrage, if you take the time to think about it.

    Unfortunately, not that many conservatives defended him. But I guess I should be glad that there isn't an alliance between Shariah activists and MADD or else they might have tried to sic Islamist activists on Barack Obama under the crackpot "once a Muslim, always a Muslim" theory. (Funny how hardline Islamists and their most hardline enemies often agree on the most hardline theories as being the only true Islam. Almost reminds me of the unspoken alliance between gays and their enemies, but that's another subject.)

    Anyway, now that I'm drifting off into paranoia land, I might as well see it through. Let's turn this silly business into a law school exam question. Suppose you were a confused but very open-minded teenager and you enjoyed exploring and dabbling in different religions, just because they were there. You tried Christianity, Buddhism, Bahai, Hinduism, and finally you stumbled onto Islam, and discovered a local madrassa -- like the one in my old neighborhood. You liked the free Arabic lessons, and one thing led to another, so you thought you'd give the religion a try. Next thing, you sat down in their auditorium and recited the Shahada in front of witnesses. No big deal; just dabbling, right? Americans under the First Amendment have a constitutional right to dabble in whatever religions they want. So eventually you grow up and forget all about it. On a trip to Malaysia years later, in an amazing coincidence you stumble onto an old "friend" from the madrassa, and when he asks you whether you're still going to prayers five times a day you sort of tell him what he wants to hear in the hope that he'll just shut up and, you know, leave you alone. You forget all about that, but then later that evening, he sees you hanging out at the Yi Huat Restaurant, drinking a Guiness. He goes straight to the religious police, who come back and arrest you for drinking while Muslim. "But I'm not a Muslim!" you claim. "You have it all wrong!"

    Would that be a defense? Or would it be preferable for you as an American be charged with drinking? Or apostasy? (The latter is not a loophole, but a crime.)

    I don't know the answers, but it probably wouldn't be the greatest time to ask your old friend where the Malaysian gay bars are.

    posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (3)




    At least as dangerous as rope

    I've been given propofol as anesthesia a couple of times, and it's not something I would ever want to have. Being knocked out and having no memory for chunks of time is not a pleasant experience, and while it certainly is preferable to undergoing a gruesome procedure while conscious, I can't imagine what would possess someone to actually want to take that stuff.

    But take it some people do. Because it's not a street drug and not sold in pharmacies, most propofol users are anesthesiologists:

    One in five academic anesthesiology training programs reported at least one case of abuse by physicians or other healthcare workers over the past decade, new research shows. The incidence of propofol abuse has risen fivefold over the last 10 years.

    Propofol abuse shatters careers and lives -- and worse. Only a few cc's more than what's required to put a person to sleep can trigger fatal respiratory arrest. That threat is an insufficient deterrent for determined users; 40% of residents who reportedly abused the anesthetic died from the high -- the peril of propofol's exquisitely narrow therapeutic window.

    "That's the drive to use this drug. It's amazing," said Paul Wischmeyer, MD, an anesthesiologist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. "People who have abused propofol say it's pretty much their first-choice drug every time."

    What's especially fascinating is the profile of the typical propofol user. While almost all are anesthesiologists, they also seem to have suffered childhood trauma, often of a sexual nature. They're often unable to sleep, and they want to block out the world:
    Talbott has seen a growing number of propofol abusers over the last two years, Dr. Earley said. Almost all of them have been anesthesiologists; the majority appear to be women. Many have admitted to a history of psychological or physical trauma, such as rape or childhood sexual abuse -- which may help explain the drug's appeal, Dr. Earley said. "What it's best at is why it's used in anesthesia -- making people unconscious. It's somewhat dissociative, and can lead to an out-of-body sensation."

    "Propofol is a drug that in a sense doesn't get you high," said Omar S. Manejwala, MD, associate medical director at the William J. Farley Center at Williamsburg Place, an addiction treatment clinic in Virginia that, like Talbott, also focuses on physicians. "It blocks out the world,"

    In his experience, Dr. Manejwala said, nearly every propofol addict started injecting to overcome persistent insomnia. That aspect of the medication fits neatly with the link both Drs. Manejwala and Earley have observed between propofol abuse and a history of trauma. "One of the hallmark symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] is hyperarousal. Folks with PTSD want to block that out," Dr. Manejwala said.

    What's puzzling, experts said, is the strength of the connection. "I don't know of any other drug where the perceived incidence of trauma, particularly of sexual trauma [in abusers], is so high," Dr. Manejwala said. "It's really quite remarkable."

    Remarkable or not, it's apparent that Michael Jackson wanted the drug, and he must have asked for it, or else his doctor would be charged with murder instead of manslaughter.
    LOS ANGELES (AP) - A law enforcement official tells The Associated Press that the Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide.

    The finding makes it more likely criminal charges will be filed against the doctor who was with the pop star when he died.

    The official says the coroner determined a fatal combination of drugs was given to Jackson hours before he died in his rented Los Angeles mansion on June 25. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings have not been publicly released.

    Forensic tests found the powerful anesthetic propofol in Jackson's system along with two sedatives, the official says.

    Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson's personal physician, is the target of a manslaughter probe headed by Los Angeles police.

    Despite my inability to understand why anyone would want to be injected with propofol, as a libertarian, I'm of two minds about these charges. On the one hand, Dr. Murray may have acted very unprofessionally in giving his patient a powerful hospital anesthetic in a non-hospital setting. (After all, when you get this stuff for surgery, your vital signs are being monitored constantly, and you are placed in the recovery room until they are sure that the drug's effects have worn off.) So, it might very well have been criminal negligence to give Jackson a shot at home if that is what happened. Especially in light of the "narrow therapeutic window." This is not ordinary dope of the sort a garden variety junkie would use to get high.

    On the other hand, if Jackson knew the risks and wanted to take that stuff anyway, as a libertarian I'm hard pressed to say that he shouldn't have been allowed to. In that respect, it's like David Carradine's erotic asphyxiation; I would never countenance imprisoning someone for doing that to himself.

    However, even though rope is freely available over the counter without prescription -- as I think drugs should be -- if someone asks me to put a noose around his neck and I agree, don't I at least have a responsibility to stay there and make sure he doesn't die? (I don't think we're talking about assisted suicide, at least no one has alleged Jackson wanted to die.)

    If it turns out that Jackson's doctor just gave him a shot of propofol and left him there, he might be guilty of manslaughter.

    OTOH, I'd hate to see this case being used to intimidate doctors, and frighten them away from giving their patients whatever pain medication they need.

    Stay tuned. I'm sure it will be exciting to watch the case unfold.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link (and for quoting from this post), and a warm welcome to all.

    Your comments are appreciated, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 05:46 PM | Comments (19)



    A Few Words On Market Manias

    David Warsh is giving economic advice to the Queen of England on how to avoid bubbles and financial panics in the future.

    The disarming question you asked when you visited the London School of Economics last autumn - why did nobody notice that the credit crunch was on its way? - produced a thoughtful letter from the various authorities who gathered recently at the British Academy to ponder and draft a measured answer.

    A panel of economists, regulators, market participants and journalists examined the usual suspects among the leading causes - global imbalances, technological optimism, deregulatory zeal, euphoria and hubris - and concluded that overspecialization among experts was the real culprit. The unanticipated virulence of the crisis derived from "the failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole."

    So what is my take? The short answer is that high profits are to blame. Let me explain.

    It all starts with "expected future value" or "expected future profits".

    And it doesn't require a central bank pumping the money supply. A high rate of profit that releases sufficient capital will suffice. We have had a 30 year run of that with microprocessor/electronics technology.

    So where did we go wrong? Not enough investment in research. i.e. not enough good new ideas to absorb the generated capital. Compared to the losses we are currently sustaining research is very cheap. The difficulty is that it requires a LOT of brainpower. And there is never enough to go around. And way too much is going into banking and marketing (it is where the money is) and not enough into sciences and engineering.

    In other words - we don't apply the right valuation to our overall situation. Hence - financial bubbles vs technological bubbles. Financial bubbles are looting. Technological bubbles are foundations for the future (the dot com bust left us with infrastructure - which when marked to market led to the current communications boom).

    Here are a few books on the subject that might be of some use:

    Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery by David Warsh

    Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises

    Here is a 150 year old classic on the subject:

    Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

    And here is one due out on September 30th:

    This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)



    "pour in gunk to make the system lock up then gun the motor until it seizes"

    Watching this video of the execution of an innocent Volvo (which I had to force myself to do) made me feel a combination of emotions.

    Sadness (yes, I'm not alone there), because even though I've never been a Volvo driver (I can remember howling with laughter when I saw George Carlin ridicule them as "safe cars"), this was obviously a perfectly good car. A lot of technology and human effort (to say nothing of raw materials) went into it, and someone could have used it. I might have bought it myself if it had been a good deal when I needed a used car.

    But thanks to some sadistic-minded, wasteful edict emanating from the "green" mentality currently in vogue with the new adminstration, these clueless functionaries at the bottom of the cash-for-clunker hierarchy get to have fun pouring a liquid glass, "killer app" mixture into the crankcase, to make absolutely sure that no one can ever use that engine again.

    So much for the idea of "recycling." The above is nothing less than an exercise in sheer waste.

    In a sinister twofer, it represents both a waste of resources, plus a deliberate trashing of a once proud car culture:

    "My most honest, most visceral response to Cash for Clunkers is sadness-sadness that old cars are being destroyed before their natural end. Older cars are rolling history. Chevrolet isn't making any more 1991 Chevrolet Caprices, for example. These cars are a non-renewable and, in my mind, precious resource."
    I have to admit, as I forced myself to watch the annoying video above, I felt anger, and even hatred for those who would deliberately implement a such a program.

    I see the destruction of that engine as symbolizing pure, naked, raw, disgusting abuse of power.

    I realize it will sound harsh, but I think that car was more useful than the useless bureaucrats who ordered its destruction.

    Here's the assessment of Brian Dunbar (at whose blog I found the video):

    Me, I'm driving a '97 Escort. I don't exactly like it but she runs well enough and my commute is short enough and I damn sure don't want a car payment.

    And the government is paying blokes to destroy a nicer car than I've ever owned. Fuckers.

    Government in action: pour in gunk to make the system lock up then gun the motor until it seizes.

    That's what they'd like to do to the rest of the economy.

    And what the more malevolent among them would like to do to many of us....

    MORE: M. Simon reminded me of a video he linked, showing the destruction of an American car, an Oldsmobile to be exact. Not that the make and models are especially relevant (most cars are multinational these days), but the point is that they're spending taxpayer's money to destroy perfectly good cars. It's wastefully destructive, and bad economics.

    While I'm sure the bureaucrats would deny it, I can't help suspect that the anti "clunker" movement has at its core the belief that cars are bad.

    It reminds me a little of the movement to destroy guns.

    posted by Eric at 12:52 PM | Comments (5)



    But for a villain, the culture might have been lost

    I'm thinking that it might be time for me to weigh in on an important and pressing controversy, The Princes Project:

    The Richard III Foundation, Inc. is respectfully requesting that the bones in the Tower, that are alleged to be the sons of Edward IV, be subjected to modern scientific examination and the treatment of DNA analysis.

    The examination of the bones will not only bring closure to their identity, but it will also bestow them with an appropriate and lasting place in the annals of history.

    King Richard III, the reigning monarch from 1483-1485, has through the writings of Sir Thomas More and William Shakespeare been vilified for over 515 years.

    It is imperative that we put to rest the resolution of one of England's greatest historical mysteries. But, it is equally paramount that we provide justice for a man wrongly accused.

    Before anyone starts laughing too loudly, it should be remembered that there is a principle involved, here stated by the current patron of the Richard III society, the present Richard, Duke of Gloucester:
    "... the purpose and indeed the strength of the Richard III Society derive from the belief that the truth is more powerful than lies - a faith that even after all these centuries the truth is important. It is proof of our sense of civilised values that something as esoteric and as fragile as reputation is worth campaigning for."
    Richard III, of course, has been maligned for centuries as an evil hunchback, murderer of his innocent nephews, and as one of history's favorite all time villains. The narrative began under Henry VII, and was permanently memorialized in the popular imagination by Shakespeare. And the narrative has continued on, like a relentless historical juggernaut, with the obligatory Hitler, and even Nixon comparisons.

    Needless to say, Hollywood has always been glad to pitch in. From the 1939 classic Tower of London starring Basil Rathbone (with Boris Karloff as Richard's club-footed executioner) to this 1962 classic Tower of London, starring Vincent Price:

    I enjoyed both films when I was a kid. It could even be argued that villains are a good thing. They help children learn the difference between right and wrong. Richard is one of those historically agreed-upon villains who has occupied that important historical niche of evil for so long that a good argument could be made for leaving him there.

    Truth be damned.

    Now, while I am a compromiser by nature, I don't agree with the philosophy of truth be damned, because the truth interests me, dammit! Not only is the truth at minimum interesting, but in many cases it is actually important.

    The reason I care about the truth is primarily because I am unlucky enough to have an insatiable curiosity to know what happened. I care about what happened more than I care about the value of the narrative.

    How much value does the traditional Richard III narrative have today? To be sure, it had great value to Henry VII. And Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I. Because after all, the original Tudor claim to the throne was shaky at best, and while Henry VII did defeat and kill Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth (thus putting an end to the War of Roses), he really had no right to the throne, and had the Princes in the Tower been alive, he wouldn't have stood a chance of being crowned. So he benefited enormously by the boys' disappearance. Interestingly, it has never been established with any certainty that they were in fact murdered, how they died, or even when. What was established by Henry VII and continued by his progeny was the legend of the arch-villain Richard III.

    It would be all too easy to be flippant here, and simply toss in the famous Churchill Goering quote that "history is written by the victors," because clearly Henry VII was the victor, and history was his to write. (And to erase in the case of the Titulus Regius.)

    But to write history that works, there's more to it than winning. There's also more to it than truth, because the truth is nearly always contested by the losing side. History has to be made easy to swallow by ordinary people (who must be willing consumers if the cultural integrity is to be preserved). It must be popular with the people. Like it or not, people want heroes and they want villains. It would not have done for Henry's subjects to see Richard III as a product of his times and his culture and not much different from the guy who killed him. It had to be reduced to a narrative. Good and evil.

    RichardandHenry.jpg

    ("Evil" king on left, "good" king on right.)

    Even Bosworth Field:

    Henry hired chroniclers to portray his reign favourably; the Battle of Bosworth Field was popularised to represent his Tudor dynasty as the start of a new age, marking the end of the Middle Ages for England. From the 15th to 18th centuries the battle was glamorised as a victory of good over evil, and as the climax of William Shakespeare's play about Richard's rise and fall, it provides a focal point for critics in later film adaptations. The exact site of the battle is disputed because of the lack of conclusive data, and memorials have been erected at different locations. The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre was built, in 1974, on a site chosen based on a theory that was challenged on the battle's quincentenary.
    The accuracy of the narrative seems to have been a secondary concern until recently. The people -- especially generation after generation of earnest and trusting schoolboys -- learned about this showdown between good and evil in much the same way children today learn about the Civil War.

    Was that a good thing? Should truth be subordinated to moral considerations based upon good and evil?

    I mean, really. Where do hopeless romantic searchers for the "actual truth" like me get off demanding answers? Is it simply to satisfy some emotional "need to know"? I like to think curiosity is more grounded in wanting to know, but there may be some emotional need as well, and I'd be dishonest not to acknowledge at least the possibility.

    Of course, then there are the Post-Modernist deconstructionists, who simply want to shatter all narratives for the sake of shattering them, to serve their larger cause that There Are No Truths. (Which sounds suspiciously like an assertion of truth to me, and thus a contradiction in terminology at the outset.) They suffer from the same primitive need to confirm what they want to believe, and they want to believe that nothing is true. That strikes me as profoundly illogical, because things did happen, and sometimes they can be confirmed with research. If, for example, DNA can be recovered from the bones that were found in the Tower, modern methods could determine whether or not they contain genetic material which would place them in the royal family. (However, this would not be enough to satisfy extreme skeptics of the conspiracy theory mindset, especially now that the narrative of DNA testing integrity has been shattered.)

    None of this is to argue that Richard III was a great guy, or that Henry VII was a villain. I don't get my jollies looking for emotionally satisfying narratives. The problem is, I get annoyed when other people do, because it tends to cloud their thinking. Wanting Richard III to be a villain should not be a reason for maintaining his villainous niche. But wanting him to be a hero is equally silly, and reminds me of the Abyssinian sainthood of Pontius Pilate.

    On the other hand, I don't want to think too hard about what might have happened had Henry VII not been perspicacious enough to satisfy his subjects' need for a villain.

    His son might not have been king, America might never have been English, the United States as we know it might not exist, and we might not have many of the cultural standards we take for granted today.

    And needless to say, (if I may quote Richard Nixon) "that would be wrong."

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (3)



    Carbon Market Frauds

    It looks like the European Carbon Trading Scheme is being hit by massive fraud.

    Carousel fraud has found its way to the carbon market. The particularly European type of fraud entails setting up complicated import and export schemes between EU member countries, charging buyers for value-added tax in the country of destination, and then absconding with the tax rather than handing it over to the governments.

    In 2006 the UK and German governments embarked on a series of raids in 2006, and the UK introduced 'reverse charging' for VAT on certain items prone to carousel fraud. At the time carousel fraud was mainly seen as confined to small electronic goods such as mobile phones and computer chips.

    A year later it was it was observed that fraudsters were simply moving away from those goods towards others that hadn't yet been targeted by authorities. But it wasn't until high volumes of trade were observed on France's BlueNext carbon exchange this year that carousel fraud became an issue in the carbon markets.

    So you have this imaginary quantity - one carbon credit - and people are surprised such a "commodity" is open to fraud? It shouldn't be a surprise. It should be a given.

    Here are a few words from some one who saw it coming.

    The [carbon offset] market requires validators and verifiers all over the world. The system is already short personnel with these skills. Then there is the question of who pays these people? Regulators need to keep in mind the failure of the credit rating agencies (Moody's, S&P, etc.) in the recent credit crisis. Markets require trust. Respondents said the only reason certain investors purchased some MBS assets was the Triple-A rating. These same respondents say that a significant flaw in the system exists because the credit rating agencies are paid by the bond issuers. A disincentive exists for doing a thorough job. Currently, validators and verifiers are paid by project developers. If we are to learn from the failings of the financial markets, this is an aspect of the carbon offset markets ripe for misconduct.
    Well, well, well. Another government program that encourages massive amounts of waste fraud and abuse.

    It was never about carbon emission reduction. It was always about government/elite Power and Control. In the sixties when I was on the left the slogan was "Power to the People" a traditional American value - perverted to be sure - but the slogan resonated with the American ideal of self governance. And what has the left got now? "Take Power From The People", both economic power and literally electrical power. Eventually people catch on to this sort of thing and in America they vote the rascals out. Faster please.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:28 AM | Comments (1)




    The Marijuana Option

    Instapundit links to a piece on Hillary Clinton that proclaims that Hillary wants to stop sexual violence.

    Women and girls in particular have been victimized on an unimaginable scale, as sexual and gender-based violence has become a tactic of war and has reached epidemic proportions. Some 1,100 rapes are reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day.

    I visited a hospital run by the organization Heal Africa and met a woman who told me that she was eight months' pregnant when she was attacked. She was at home when a group of men broke in. They took her husband and two of their children and shot them in the front yard, before returning into the house to shoot her other two children. Then they beat and gang-raped her and left her for dead. But she wasn't dead. She fought for life and her neighbors managed to get her to the hospital - 85 kilometers away.

    I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity.

    Well ALRIGHT!! Hillary. But how about we tackle such a problem a little closer to home. Not quite so severe. But some easier to reach. And instead of convincing another government to do something we just get our government to act.

    Here is an excerpt from the book

    Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

    The social consequences of all this student drinking are even more alarming. At the most tragic level, alcohol abuse is a leading cause of fatalities on college campuses. In 2001, there were an estimated 1,700 alcohol-related unintentional-injury deaths among college students and others aged 18 to 24. But these deaths are just the tip of the alcohol-related-injury iceberg. Researchers estimate that every year approximately 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol. Of course, those who drink are not the only ones adversely affected. Even more disturbing is the number of injuries to others that are caused by students under the influence of alcohol. Each year approximately 700,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by students who have been drinking, and close to 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. Yet these raw numbers only tell part of the story. The much broader impact of alcohol abuse on campus is evident when one looks at the percentage of violent acts that are booze-related. According to a 1994 report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), 95 percent of all campus assaults are alcohol-related, and 90 percent of all reported campus rapes involve a victim or an assailant who has been drinking alcohol.

    "Virtually every sexual assault is associated with alcohol abuse. Almost every assault of any kind is related to drinking." - University of Maryland President C.D. "Dan" Mote, August 2008

    So what do the book authors suggest? No doubt it will come as a surprise.
    University officials are well aware of these startling statistics. As is evident by the quote above, campus leaders not only recognize that alcohol is a frequent cause of injuries and assaults, but many also believe that it is a factor in almost all campus assaults. Think about this point for a moment. These same officials are aware that students use marijuana on their campuses?most likely to a greater extent than they would like. Yet despite pot's popularity among the student body, you rarely if ever hear university officials or campus police publicly blaming assaults or rapes on marijuana abuse. In other words, the people responsible for maintaining safety on college campuses recognize that alcohol use frequently leads to widespread injuries and violent student behavior while marijuana use does not. You would think that leaders of institutions of higher learning would rationally and impartially examine this data and act accordingly. Think again.
    I guess one thing you can say for sure is that alcohol prohibition for people under 21 isn't working. And marijuana prohibition for everyone isn't working either.

    Normally people drop policies that aren't working. If not sooner then eventually. But we have government involved here. There are people making a very good living doing things that are counter productive. And what about the alcohol industry? They would lose some of their best customers. And don't forget people in the illegal drug trade who depend on prohibition for their profits.

    And so we have to ask. Is Hillary looking into how substituting marijuana for alcohol could reduce sexual violence in America? And if it works here could we give it a go in Goma?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)



    the sweet innocence of feral children

    No one wants to be murdered. But it seems to me that there's something especially degrading about being murdered by a child. Even a feral child, like the 12 year old boy who is charged with robbing and murdering a 24 year old woman:

    Detroit -- Trisha Babcock's dreams of becoming a nurse were snuffed out by a 12-year-old boy who police say fatally shot her during a robbery attempt.

    Demarco Harris has been charged with felony murder and armed robbery in connection with the Aug. 1 slaying of Babcock, 24, of Davison, who was in Detroit looking for a job, Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans said Wednesday. He said police are seeking a second suspect in the shooting.

    Babcock's father said she planned to attend nursing classes in the fall.

    Advertisement

    "It's just so senseless," Steve Babcock said. "You don't know how hard it can be as a parent to pick out your daughter's casket. I couldn't believe it when the prosecutors called and told me it was a 12-year-old kid who killed my daughter."

    I don't know why it seems worse than being killed by an adult; maybe it's because it's so abnormal. Children just aren't supposed to be murderers. Not 12 year olds.

    Interestingly, the child was already wanted -- for truancy:

    Wayne County juvenile officials in June issued an order to apprehend and detain Harris because of a school truancy complaint, but the order was dismissed in July because authorities apparently could not find where he lived.

    The fatal shooting happened nine days after Judge Sheila Ann Gibson of the Wayne Circuit Court juvenile division signed the dismissal seeking Harris' detention.

    Babcock was sitting in a parked car with a male friend on West Outer Drive near Minock, close to Rosedale Park, when Harris, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, approached the vehicle shortly after midnight, brandished a pistol and demanded money, Evans said.

    "When she didn't respond to his demands, he shot her," Evans said.

    6 feet 2 inches tall? Wow. It would be tough to be a teacher these days. I mean, how would you deal with a gargantuan child like that if he became disruptive in class? And what if you were the truant officer assigned to go pick him up? When I think of truant officers, I always think of poor Mr. Rooney chasing Ferris Bueller. This kid could kill Mr. Rooney with one hand tied behind his back.

    There is something especially creepy about a 12 year old attacker, though, because there's no way to really win no matter what happens. If a 12 year old kid broke into my house and I fatally shot him, I'd look like the bad guy, and technically, I would have to live with the knowledge that I was a child killer.

    Detroit's Police Chief says things have changed since he was a kid, and (naturally) says there are too many guns:

    "I could not have been out at night when I was 12," police Chief Warren Evans told reporters Wednesday. "Things have changed."

    Police have not said how Harris got the gun, which they have not found yet. But Evans expressed frustration at the widespread presence of guns on the city's streets, particularly in the hands of young people.

    "There are days when the shootings -- everyone (victim and suspect) is a juvenile," he said. "There are too many guns out there."

    Had the kid stolen a car and fatally plowed into someone he wanted to kill, would the chief be complaining that there are too many cars?

    The problem is that no one wants to blame the kid. Much of society is still locked into the myth of the "innocence" of children.

    No matter how evil they are.

    When I was 2 years old I was attacked by older children, who were about as innocent as playful felines, or child cadres in the Khmer Rouge. Of course, at age 2, I was not old enough to understand society's theory of childhood innocence -- I just thought the attackers were bad because that was how they had acted. Not a good early lesson, because I hated having to listen to adults deliver tedious lectures on the "innocence" of children when I knew from firsthand experience how wrong they were. (In one of life's early ironies, I concluded that it was the adults who were more innocent than the children, for the former had generally learned how to restrain their animalism, and were therefore safer to be around. And unlike children, adults spoke of and claimed to have something called compassion.)

    OTOH, I guess you could say that having no feelings or compassion for other people is a form of innocence, and therefore children are innocent. But by that standard, adult psychopaths are as innocent as children.

    Millions would disagree, but I think there are plenty of evil children. And they're not going to grow up to be good.

    posted by Eric at 04:20 PM | Comments (14)



    New coincidences from Barry birther territory!

    Via Dean Esmay, I found a hilarious post by Ace tearing WorldNetDaily a new one over the latest Birther "revelation." This time, it seems WND has learned that Barack Obama actually was born in Hawaii, only in 1957 instead of 1961.

    The evidence? A typo on his MySpace time. Which is, um, his real birth-year of 1957; all other claims he was born in 1961 are faked. Or somethin'.

    Which means he was now born in Hawaii -- now he's born in Hawaii, in this theory, not in Kenya-- but Hawaii wasn't a state then so he's not a citizen.

    Incidentally, they don't say this would make him a non-citizen; they just imply it, by noting the state was just a territory at the time.

    Of course anyone born in a US territory is a citizen, too. So this article hints at a new theory by which Obama is not a citizen whereas in fact it's a new, goofy new theory based on a typo that proves he is a citizen.

    You've really given up all credibility and are now blatantly hit-whoring when you don't mention such an important fact, but imply -- and leave your readers to erroneously conclude -- that this would make him a non-citizen.

    Ace has more, and it's very funny.

    The only thing I'd add to this fascinating new theory is that in an utterly amazing coincidence, the Republicans' 1964 Republican presidential candidate was also born in a United States territory before it became a state.

    AND he was also a United States senator.

    AND, in an unbelievable coincidence, he was also called Barry!

    But what would be even a more astounding coincidence (if only it were true), if we subject the numbers in their birthdates to a numerological analysis, both Barrys are threes.

    Barry Obama: Born August 4, 1961 (8/01/1961)

    8+4+1+9+6+1=29, and 2+9=12, and 1+2=3

    Barry Goldwater: January 1, 1909 (1/1/1909)

    1+1+1+9+0+9=21, and 2+1=3

    Three!

    Bingo!

    If that doesn't prove Trilateral Bilderberger involvement, I don't know what does.

    But alas! By setting back the Obama birthdate to 1957, WorldNetDaily's latest revelation has wreaked havoc with my numerological analysis, and forced me back to the drawing board, because if his new birthday is August 4, 1957, then,

    8+4+1+9+5+7=34, and 3+4=7

    Seven.

    How discouraging!

    But perhaps I'm missing something. If some of the more enlightened readers can decode the new hidden meaning, I'm all ears.

    MORE: As M. Simon pointed out, my math is wrong. Obama is a 2. (Unless WND is right about his 1957 birth, in which case he's a 7.)

    But surely, there has to be a Bilderberger Trilateral connection somewhere..... Maybe the Illuminati.

    AND MOREL Barack Obama has appointed many Bilderbergers and Trilaterals to the top 14 spots in his inner circle!

    Here's a breakdown:

    Of Barack Obama's 14 top cabinet selections, 9 of them are affiliated with the Bilderberg group, 10 of them are affiliated with the Council on Foreign Relations and 5 of them are affiliated with the Trilateral Commission

    14 top jobs to Bilderberg/CFR/Trilaterals.

    That's 2 times 7.

    He's obviously using the power of both of his birth years for synergistic effect!

    Case closed.

    posted by Eric at 12:37 PM | Comments (2)



    A Word For The Sceptics

    I was looking at the comments to my American Thinker article Fusion Energy and came across an interesting sequence of comments I had missed earlier. The first comment is by a sceptic. There are earlier comments by him in the comment section.

    Posted by: WR Jonas Jun 19, 01:18 PM

    I have spoken out here about my skepticism based on a provable dynamic and truth. There will always be ample reasons to spend other peoples money. To give this research or any other some noble purpose or cause does not necessarily make the aims correct or worthwhile.

    If we were still shooting rockets at the moon and coming up empty or failed we would have stopped it a long time ago. This canard of ,try until we run of money, is the basis for continuing a proven failure. Because it is Navy project doesn't give it any greater chance of success.

    So , how about we put the fusion research industry on a time, results or dollar limit to see if it is ever going to produce anything. Any takers?

    I added the emphasis. And then there is a reply to the question by Rick Nebel:
    Posted by: rnebel
    Jun 23, 04:11 PM

    Mr. Jonas:

    I'll take you up on that.

    It seems Rick is confident of getting a yes/no answer on time and within budget for the question "Is it worthwhile to scale up the Polywell Fusion Concept to the size of a modest (~100 Megawatts) net power reactor?

    And what is Rick's time frame? The answer Rick gives is "We Will Know In Two Years."

    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. (same article referenced above)

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

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:47 AM | Comments (5)




    A US Marine Speaks Up

    Semper Fi Mac.

    You might want to follow up this video with a visit to my bit on Oath Keepers. Whose motto is:

    Not On Our Watch

    H/T R. Dave via e-mail

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:02 PM | Comments (1)



    Protecting the children

    Via a link from Glenn Reynolds, I see the feds have declared war on old toys, and are cracking down on people who sell recalled items on ebay and Craigslist.

    WASHINGTON -- If you're planning a garage sale or organizing a church bazaar, you'd best beware: You could be breaking a new federal law. As part of a campaign called Resale Roundup, the federal government is cracking down on the secondhand sales of dangerous and defective products.

    The initiative, which targets toys and other products for children, enforces a new provision that makes it a crime to resell anything that's been recalled by its manufacturer.

    This used to be a free country.

    We are now being ruled by bureaucrats. Like Inez Tenebaum:

    "Those who resell recalled children's products are not only breaking the law, they are putting children's lives at risk," said Inez Tenenbaum, the recently confirmed chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    The crackdown affects sellers ranging from major thrift-store operators such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army to everyday Americans cleaning out their attics for yard sales, church bazaars or -- increasingly -- digital hawking on eBay, Craigslist and other Web sites.

    Secondhand sellers now must keep abreast of recalls for thousands of products, some of them stretching back more than a decade, to stay within the bounds of the law.

    I can't believe I ever made it to adulthood! Where was the government back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I was in need of protection?

    I think this calls for a touching picture. Here's Inez Tenenbaum, Barack Obama's recently appointed chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, blowing out the candles on his birthday cake back when he was a mere senator and she was a recently retired State Superintendent of Education.

    Inezcake.jpg

    (I'd say "Blow baby blow!" but it might be taken the wrong way.)

    Anyone remember the hysteria over the fictionalized reports of book banning by Sarah Palin? She never so much as attempted to ban a single book. But Superintendant Inez Tenenbaum actually did. However, because she's a Democrat, it apparently doesn't fit the narrative, and I doubt it was widely reported. (It's all detailed here, for anyone who is interested in yet another example of this endless double standard.)

    However, I think Ms. Tenenbaum's flamboyant encouragement of cake-eating in public sets a very poor example for children. Cake -- especially the kind with rich chocolate icing like the above -- is loaded with sugar and all kinds of rich creamy stuff that's bad for children, and if they see an adult -- especially an authority figure who's entrusted with the safety of our children -- setting an example like that, why the children's very lives will be at risk!

    Next thing you know, they'll want ice cream to go with their cake!

    Fortunately, (as I read in another news story that would probably warm Leon Kass's heart) concerned mothers are declaring war on ice cream trucks. Apparently their children want them to buy the ice cream, and they can't say no:

    Kudos to the New York Times for providing an endless supply of parenting trend stories to irritate and delight. There's a doozy in today's paper, about moms and dads who are trying to oust ice cream trucks from their local parks. Next week: a movement to euthanize Mr. Peanut.

    One woman describes the ice cream men as "predatory" because they loiter inside the playground's gates. My favorite passage from the article is a quote from a woman who says that learning how to deal with your children wanting treats from the ice cream man is as difficult as potty training. "The ice cream truck, nobody ever mentions that" as a potential sore spot, the lady laments.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who cruelly questions the sanity of the concerned moms. Hmmm... A libertarian approach is one thing, but doesn't this involve the deliberate exposure of children to a very dangerous product which has been putting them at risk for centuries?

    There is nothing funny or fun about putting children's lives at risk, whether with unapproved toys, unapproved books (whether they contain filth or lead), or unhealthy foods like cake and ice cream. And when parents can't or won't protect their children from these threats, then obviously the government has to step in!

    (I guess the idea is that when parents cease to be parents, we all become children -- of the government. They don't call it Nanny Statism for nothing!)

    posted by Eric at 05:53 PM | Comments (2)



    How outraged should I be?

    From actor Jon Voight, an interesting question:

    Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country?
    I don't know whether he is or not. But I do know that I am against civil war, and against anyone who wants to create one -- whether Barack Obama or his enemies.

    Civil wars have a poor track record, and it's the last thing this country needs.

    Voight explains why he asks the question:

    "We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation, and whoever can't see this is probably hoping it isn't true. If we permit Mr. Obama to take over all our industries, if we permit him to raise our taxes to support unconstitutional causes, then we will be in default. This great America will become a paralyzed nation."

    Be outraged, Mr. Voight advises.

    "Do not let the Obama administration fool you with all their cunning Alinsky methods. And if you don't know what that method is, I implore you to get the book 'Rules for Radicals,' by Saul Alinsky. Mr. Obama is very well trained in these methods," he continues, citing a television campaign critical of the Republican Party and contentious town-hall meetings about health care reform.

    "The real truth is that the Obama administration is professional at bullying, as we have witnessed with ACORN at work during the presidential campaign. It seems to me they are sending down their bullies to create fist fights among average American citizens who don't want a government-run health care plan forced upon them," Mr. Voight says. "So I ask again. Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country?"

    I assume that Voight would be against the civil war he hypothesizes about, but I do wish he would say so.

    It's one thing to get outraged. I am so outraged so much of the time (in blog post after blog post after blog post!) that I am often just plain sick and tired of being outraged.

    Yet despite my outrage, I had to pause and get outraged once more over the idiotic idea (that obviously exists in some quarters or Voight wouldln't have mentioned it) of starting a civil war. I think that anyone who wants a civil war is a flaming loony tune, and I agree with Mrs. du Toit's comment here:

    As long as the people continue to have the right to vote, rebellion is completely out of the question. Corrections to constitutional overreach and abuse is still maintained in the ballot box.
    Connie also cited Thomas Jefferson, who said this:
    "A spirit which should... countenance the advocates for a dissolution of the Union and for setting in hostile array one portion of our citizens against another... would prove indeed that it is high time for every friend to his country, in a firm and decided manner, to express his sentiments of the measures which government has adopted to avert the impending evils, unhesitatingly to pledge himself for the support of the laws, liberties and independence of his country; and... to resolve that for the preservation of the Union, the support and enforcement of the laws, and for the resistance and repulsion of every enemy, they will hold themselves in readiness and put at stake if necessary their lives and fortunes on the pledge of their sacred honor." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Connecticut Republicans, 1809
    I think Jefferson would be outraged by the idea of anyone -- whether Barack Obama or his opponents -- starting a civil war.

    I'm probably worried about nothing, though. You know the routine. (Another day, another tawdry headline, trying to get me all stirred up....)

    MORE: Alan Keyes loves to invoke the civil war meme, and the following is typical:

    That kind of hysteria doesn't play well in middle America.

    I may be wrong, but I think the talk of civil war helps Barack Obama.

    posted by Eric at 03:43 PM | Comments (11)



    Police Officer: Prohibition Is A Ruination

    Some useful links:

    www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com

    which redirects you to:

    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

    And the Peter Moskos book:

    Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)



    A 9 trillion dollar annoyance

    I don't like the fact that Barack Obama has hiked the deficit to $9 trillion.

    And what the hell does it matter what the hell I like? Sometimes I don't know what I find more annoying: the news or my annoyance with the news. Because it is the latter that triggers an annoying sense of obligation to say something.

    The most annoying part is the way the constant annoyances trivialize the things that are annoying.

    posted by Eric at 12:52 PM | Comments (2)



    "infinite Trust in matters of life and death"

    Michael S. Malone looks at trust and betrayal, initially in the context of the failure of his Comcast service, but this causes him to reflect on why people distrust the government to manage life and and death issues:

    ...nowhere is the burden of trust greater than when we enter into a relationship that requires us to abandon all alternatives. Because Trust can never be perfect, it always helps to know that if that Trust begins to falter we have someplace else to go, an escape hatch.

    This human need, I suspect, is what underlies the angry response right now to the Obama Administration's health care plan. Progressives and other social engineers always make the same mistake: they find what they believe is the One Best Way, the empirically most efficient, reasonable and fair process, and then seek to impose it on the entire population as the Right Thing To Do. What they inevitably fail to appreciate (because they are Utopians) is that they are demanding from the populace almost infinite Trust in matters of life and death -- something most sensible adults will, wisely, never give -- while at the same time stripping away every other alternative. This is guaranteed to create fear, a sense of helplessness . . . and ultimately, anger.

    There are very few people I would trust in matters of life and death, and the government is most definitely not included among them. Malone's use of his downed cable service as a starting point is especially poignant, because Comcast is one of those huge unaccountable bureaucracies, like Verizon which drives me crazy, or Amtrak and SEPTA, on which I could never really depend for reliable transportation when I lived on the East Coast. We do not trust government-supported monopolies, because we have learned not to. You never know when that taxpayer-subsidized train will run, what they will do, or whether it will get you there at all. If you absolutely, positively have to be somewhere, drive yourself. Or ride a bike. Or even walk.

    But still, much as we might curse and swear at Amtrak, Verizon, Comcast, or SEPTA, the fact remains that reliable cable or phone or train services are generally not life and death matters. Life and death are. The idea of losing personal autonomy in these personal matters, instead having to trust in the government while losing the ability to choose between various private sectors, is one of the most horrifying fates imaginable.

    Little wonder that the government health care debate has triggered such a visceral reaction.

    Bad as Comcast is, the government is worse. Anyone who has ever had to queue up to get a drivers license or register a car knows this firsthand. The fact that you are trapped and have nowhere else to go, that you must do whatever these unaccountable bureaucrats demand and there are no alternatives, that's creepy enough when all that's at stake is your ability to drive. But when it's your body being cut open? The end of your life?

    There are some places where government should not be.

    And yes, I realize that for many people, the government is already there in the form of Medicare. It's in huge trouble, and it is headed for bankruptcy. Except the government can't go bankrupt, so we'll all have to pay. I think Medicare was a huge mistake, but instead of learning a lesson from it, the dreary, controlling people behind it -- I call them "They" and Malone calls them "progressives and other social engineers" -- they want to use Medicare as a model and expand the pool until it includes everyone, and finally at that point there will be no practical way out. No competing private insurance companies, no right to go to better hospital, no right to find the best doctor you can afford, and pay him extra.

    There will be nowhere to go, and ultimately no way to leave, and I am reminded of this observation about how freedom is lost:

    People will not know they are encircled until it is too late - like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose...
    And we should trust them?

    Trust the progressives and social engineers in matters of life and death?

    I'd like to say "they've got to be kidding."

    Except I know they're not.

    posted by Eric at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)




    Mexico Legalizes Users

    Mexico has legalized personal use of all kinds of currently illegal drugs.

    MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexico enacted a controversial law on Thursday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs while encouraging government-financed treatment for drug dependency free of charge.

    The law sets out maximum "personal use" amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities will no longer face criminal prosecution; the law goes into effect on Friday.

    I wonder if research on the medical use of marijuana such as treating/preventing cancer will be moving to Mexico since the DEA has strangled such research in America?

    Let me point out that such a law will do nothing to limit the reach of the drug cartels. In America under Alcohol Prohibition, alcohol consumption was legal. Its manufacture and distribution were not. All Mexico has done is legalize demand while doing nothing to legalize supply. The supply chain murders will continue.

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:13 PM | Comments (1)



    Loopholes in the law (and double standards for enforcement) are as old as Henry VIII.

    In what I assumed was a form of political escapism, I've been reading a great deal lately about Henry VIII -- a cruel and tyrannical narcissistic Christianist theocrat if ever there was one. I'm into my fifth book dealing with the period, which sounds almost obsessive, and I've worried that I might be carrying my escapism too far. (Wouldn't want to have my Internet addiction compounded by a book addiction, would I?)

    I probably should have been more concerned when I made fun of my Tudoresque escapism in a post titled "Escapism and the politics of the past." I thought I was being cute when I snidely dismissed the idea that political concerns of Henry's day would have any relevance to modern events.

    Little did I know. For today, much to my horror, I stumbled upon a serious historical comparison by British historian David Starkey between Henry VIII and Barack Obama:

    Hear David giving an insight into our fascination with Henry VIII, and his process for researching his new biography on this icon of British history.

    'Henry comes to the throne as the Tudor Obama,' explains David. 'How does the thin, beautiful, elegant, musical, poetical, reasonable, charming, sweet-tempered man who marries for love... how does he turn into Henry who was the horror, Henry who was the tyrant?'

    A Tudor Obama? Did he really say that?

    Yes, I'm afraid he did.

    Here's the video, titled David Starkey on Henry VIII "Tudor Obama"

    Did he really have to say that? I mean, puh-leez! Isn't there enough hyperbole in the world? It's like, we're all tired of Hitler comparisons, and many people have said it's time to stop with that. Fortunately, there's even an unwritten law, called Godwin's Law, which we can invoke when we become sick and tired of Hitler comparisons.

    The problem is, so far as I know, Godwin's Law does not apply to Tudor comparisons, so Professor Starkey may well have found a loophole.

    But I want my Tudor escapism, dammit! (Is there no way to close this loophole, so I can prevent my history reading from being spoiled?)

    Let's just hope that Professor Starkey is only trying to sell his book (which looks like a good one, BTW) and that this comparison does not withstand the test of time. (What worries me the most is that Starkey happens to be a leading Tudor scholar.)

    One last point. I can't help notice the Wiki entry for Godwin's Law seems to have been expanded quite a bit since I last cited it. Could it be that the law is being taken more seriously under Obama than it was under Bush? Surely a bad Hitler comparison is a bad Hitler comparison, right? I'd hate to think that Obama Hitler comparisons are being considered more offensive than Bush Hitler comparisons, for that would constitute a double standard in the law's enforcement. (Godwinian relativism is something we can do without.)

    OTOH, it's probably a sign that a law has really made it to the big time when people are complaining about loopholes and double standards.

    posted by Eric at 01:37 PM | Comments (5)



    Oliver Stone is a skinky, skanky, skunk who rides sidesaddle!

    I know it's not nice to insult people, and I try to be nice. Nor is it logical to engage in ad hominem rhetoric or stereotype people, and I try to be logical. I'm not always successful at living up to these standards, though. Sometimes I feel like letting loose, and usually I check myself.

    I was all set to unload on Oliver Stone, and I started a post the other day in which I exclaimed,

    what a pompous, self important ass!
    Not a nice thing to say about Oliver Stone, even though I was provoked. By this:
    Oliver Stone is making his most ambitious stab at American history yet.

    The controversial director is creating a 10-part documentary series for Showtime titled "Secret History of America."

    Narrated by Stone, the series promises to focus on events that "at the time went under-reported, but crucially shaped America's unique and complex history of the last 60 years," according to Showtime.

    Subjects will include President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, the origins of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, to "the fierce struggle between war and peace in America's national security complex."

    The project includes "newly discovered facts and accounts" from the Kennedy administration, the Vietnam War and the great changes in America's role in the world since the fall of Communism in the 1980s.

    "Through this epic 10-hour series, which I feel is the deepest contribution I could ever make in film to my children and the next generation, I can only hope a change in our thinking will result," Stone said in a statement.

    I can only imagine what "secrets" he'll unveil in his ongoing quest to present conspiracy theories as history.

    Will he reveal that J. Edgar Hoover thought FDR's plan to intern Japanese Americans was unconstitutional as well as unnecessary?

    How about the fact that HUAC was dominated not by Joe McCarthy and the Republicans, but by Democrats?

    That the Ku Klux Klan was founded as a terrorist arm of the Democratic Party?

    I doubt it. Where it comes to tidbits like those, I'd be willing to bet that Oliver Stone is a real secret keeper.

    But back to my statement that the man is a pompous, self important ass. I would have forgotten all about it (and probably never finished or published this post) had not a very colorful post written by Ace that I linked last night reminded me. Ace criticized MSNBC's Contessa Brewer in language which makes what I said about Stone look ridiculously tame, but which shares in common the negative characterizations of annoying humans by means of anatomical references. Calling a man an asshole is a simple example, as is calling a woman a c*nt. (In common usage, these words are not treated equally, and the former is less offensive than the latter; hence my need to substitute a typographical symbol to which I need not resort in spelling the name "Contessa.")

    No matter how insulting language becomes, though, insults are considered opinions, and are not legally actionable unless they are specific accusations.

    Insults and epithets are not normally considered defamatory because they are generally seen as outbursts of emotion, with no real substance except to show intense dislike. A fair critique of a restaurant, movie, TV show, or theater play is also not considered defamatory. However, if the comments or criticism are disparaging enough, they may result in a loss of business or reputation.

    Opinions are also not normally considered defamatory because opinions usually don't contain specific facts that can be proven untrue. Merely labeling a statement as your "opinion" does not make it so. Courts look at whether a reasonable reader or listener could understand the statement as asserting a statement of verifiable fact. (A verifiable fact is one capable of being proven true or false.) This is determined in light of the context of the statement.

    So, I am legally entitled to my opinion that Oliver Stone is a pompous ass.

    I could also legally call him a bastard, a son of a outhouse whore, or just a motherf*cker, and because such terms are regarded as insulting (if dirty) language, no reasonable person would consider them statements of fact.

    To call someone a motherf*cker is not libelous, but to falsely allege actual acts of sexual intercourse between him and his mother would be. Similarly, calling someone a "f*ggot" is not the same thing as saying that he frequents a particular gay bathhouse where he lies on his belly next to a tube of KY lubricant. But again, context is everything. Ace for example, might make such allegation in jest about a total stranger, even a heterosexual one, and his readers would all get the joke. Or I could say that someone I knew "stole" a car -- meaning simply that he got a good deal. Most of the time, if we hear that a guy licked his boss's asshole to get a promotion, we don't interpret that as meaning that he literally engaged in anilingus.

    Which is all a roundabout way of saying I'm genuinely surprised that a New York court has held that a blogger can slander a model by calling her a "skank" and a "ho." At least that's what the court appears to have done; naturally the Slashdot fans are perplexed.

    "Skank" and "ho" are simply insulting terms -- expressions that means no more than motherf*cker or bitch. If these are applied (as they seem to have been) to someone who was written up in the newspaper for being in an altercation at a bar, I don't see how they become actionable. Don Imus got in trouble for calling female basketball players "hos," but no one would have reasonably thought he meant to accuse them of prostitution. Interestingly, the more dry and technical the terms are, the more likely they might be seen as defamatory, so "prostitute" would be riskier than "ho" or "skank," and "homosexual" riskier than "f*ggot."

    Anyway, I've rambled long enough about language, so I better stop before the Ho of Babylon comes to get me (and washes out my foul you-know-what with you-know-what).

    Whorebab.jpg

    Hmmm...

    Is there some rule that biblical skanks have to wear long dresses and ride sidesaddle?

    Modest girl!

    (But how will she factor into Oliver Stone's ambitious stab?)

    MORE: Ann Althouse explains why the lawsuit by the model against the blogger is abusive of process:

    The key is for courts to have a high standard in determining whether there really is defamation before they order that the name be revealed. Otherwise, someone who has not actually suffered a legally remediable injury can use a lawsuit for the wrong purpose: to inflict the injury of making a pseudonymous writer's name public.

    Note that Liskula Cohen is now dropping her defamation suit against Port. That's good for Port. It's bad to be sued for $3 million. But it suggests that the disclosure of the name was the point of the lawsuit. Courts should not allow themselves to be used for that purpose. And Google's lawyers should fight hard to make courts see it that way.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds that but for the lawsuit, he never would have heard the words "Liskula Cohen" and "skank" together had it not been for the lawsuit.

    Nor would I. Nor do I want to again!

    Especially because Liskula, Cohen & Skank sounds like the name of a law firm.

    Maybe Liskula, Skank & Cohen would have a better ring.

    posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (1)




    Black is white

    While I try to avoid writing posts when I have no new or original observations to add, some things are so outrageous that I don't mind saying the same thing that others are saying, and the fact that MSNBC had the gall to show a cropped image of a black man carrying a gun so they could complain about "racial overtones" and "white people showing up with guns" is simply beyond the pale.

    They don't even make a pretense of honesty or objectivity anymore.

    As Megan McArdle put it, "the liberal rage at right-wing loonies is starting to sound, well, a little loonie."

    Fox News asked MSNBC about the incident, but they "never got back to us."

    So much for MSNBC's professionalism.

    Words fail me. But they don't fail Ace:

    They can't be allowed to get away with this.

    As I have noted with footnotes and authoritative citations previously, Contessa Brewer is a dirty, lying, pus-mouthed whore.

    A cheap, sore-riddled nasty bit of gutterscrunge who'll rent you her mouth for the change in your pocket.

    A tawdry wallow-trollop oozing with syphilitic fester who raises her filthy skirts at the scent of crack-smoke.

    A disease-dripping pincushion, the media's vile mattress of last resort, a pathogen in garish vinyl high heels, a loose-toothed croup-breathed nightcrawler reeking of bathtub gin, fungicide, and the genetic stink of human desperation.

    Wow. I can almost smell it. Can it be love? (Some people get off on trash talk, and perhaps Ace knows something.) Read the rest, if you dare. Ace also has the contact information for those who want to write to what passes for management at MSNBC.

    But I suspect their narrative runs along the lines of "He might as well have been white."

    posted by Eric at 11:10 PM | Comments (2)



    animated emanations from the waves of the passive aggressive penumbra of change

    I realize it's not a contest, but earlier I contemplated this image from Gunzip that Glenn Reynolds linked:

    Picture-7.png

    Most likely, such subversive ideas are Bill Whittle's fault. But I share his distaste for the Obama logo, so I thought I ought to do at least try to do something.

    The logo is about change, right? And it's passive aggressive in the sense that it drips with unstated, manipulative premises and assumptions, right? And it's like a wave, right? But waves should move, and every wave that rises must eventually fall, right?

    So here's my depiction of animated emanations from the waves of the passive aggressive penumbra of change.

    crashagain.gif

    I know it's a mouthful, but who said change would be easy?

    MORE (08/23/09): That invasive Obama logo just won't leave me alone. How naive I was to dismiss it as a Thomas Hart Benton painting knockoff!

    Who'd have thought the "field" was actually the upside down eyelid of an owl?

    owlbama.jpg

    posted by Eric at 08:46 PM | Comments (3)



    Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol

    There is a new book out called Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? which suggests that switching people from alcohol to pot could save lives.

    I haven't read the book. But a former Police Chief has and has written a forward to the the book. Here is some of what he has to say.

    When you pick up a book touting marijuana as a safer recreational alternative to alcohol, I imagine the last thing you are expecting is a foreword from the former chief of police of a major U.S. city. Well, if you're surprised, I guess we are off to a good start. You see, the goal of this book--and the purpose of this foreword--is to encourage you (fan and foe alike) to reassess the way you think about marijuana.

    In pages that follow, you will find objective comparisons of marijuana and alcohol. You will learn about the ways in which the government and other influential institutions have maintained marijuana prohibition while simultaneously turning public opinion against its use. And you will be exposed to a plethora of statistics quantifying the damage caused by alcohol use in our society. Steve, Paul, and Mason have done a terrific job of presenting all of this information in an objective, compelling, and thoughtful manner. I am certain, whatever you may think about marijuana laws at this moment, that you will look at the issue differently by the time you reach the final chapter.

    But before you dive into this book--which I truly couldn't put down the first time I read it--I'd like to give you an insider's perspective on the question of marijuana versus alcohol. By "insider," I refer to my decades of law enforcement experience, during which time I witnessed firsthand how these two substances affect consumers, their families, and public safety overall. As you can imagine, those of us who have served our communities as officers of the law have encountered alcohol and marijuana users on a frequent if not daily basis, and we know all too well how often one of these two substances is associated with violent and aggressive behavior.

    In all my years on the streets, it was an extremely rare occasion to have a night go by without an alcohol-related incident. More often than not, there were multiple alcohol-related calls during a shift. I became accustomed to the pattern (and the odor). If I was called to a part of town with a concentration of bars or to the local university, I could expect to be greeted by one or more drunks, flexing their "beer muscles," either in the throes of a fight or looking to start one. Sadly, the same was often true when I received a domestic abuse call. More often than not, these conflicts--many having erupted into physical violence--were fueled by one or both participants having overindulged in alcohol.

    He has more to say on the subject. Follow the link and read the whole thing.

    Just think of it. Not only could we save the vast quantities spent on policing marijuana, but we may also save even more because people stoned on pot vs those stoned on alcohol are easier to police and less likely to need policing.

    So. Are the winds changing when it comes to marijuana prohibition in particular and drug prohibition in general? There is a book that discusses the history of the drug wars in America that may have an answer. This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America. The author Ryan Grim was recently interviewed by Joe Hicks in a 15 minute video called Marijuana on the March: Is the War on Drugs Over? Here is a paraphrase of what he had to say. - "With the libertarian faction (smaller government) of the Republican Party ascendant and the Democrats basically anti-prohibitionist, the support for drug prohibition is crumbling [not even Police Chiefs can be counted on - ed.]. Even so it will take about ten years for the changes in policy to go national and policy changes are starting with State Governments either authorizing or running Medical Marijuana dispensaries." Not to mention even more states that have legalized medical marijuana without attending to distribution.

    So far no state has fully legalized marijuana. California is in the running to be first - there are two ballot measures being planned for 2010 in that state.

    So where will all this lead? Back to 1936 if we are lucky. A year when marijuana was still legal nationally. And we may finally get the research we deserve about the cancer prevention and treatment properties of marijuana.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:30 PM | Comments (1)



    Going Wobbly On Global Warming

    There are ten Democrat Senators who are not happy about the "Climate Change" bill. Here is a bit of what they have to say:

    As Congress considers energy and climate legislation, it is important that such a bill include provisions to maintain a level playing field for American manufacturing. Manufacturing accounts for more than 10 percent of our economy and nearly three-fourths of the nations industrial research and development. Manufacturing jobs also pay 20 percent more on average than service jobs and have a strong multiplier effect. Therefore it is essential that any clean energy legislation not only address the crisis of climate change, but include strong provisions to ensure the strength and viability of domestic manufacturing. Further, any climate change legislation must prevent the export of jobs and related greenhouse gas emissions to countries that fail to take actions to combat the threat of global warming comparable to those taken by the United States.
    Translation - if India and China do not sign on to a similar CO2 taxing scheme then we are against it too. The question is: how will they get a provision like that into the bill? Or will they be forced to vote against it? I have my fingers crossed. The Democrats can engineer a vote so that they only need 50 votes plus the Vice President in order to get a bill passed. Can they get the votes? We will have to wait until September to find out.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)



    Socialism Is Going Broke

    U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus says Social Security may go broke in two years.

    TUSCALOOSA - Social Security could face a deficit within two years, according to U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus who met with The Tuscaloosa News editorial board Tuesday.

    "The situation is much worse than people realize, especially because of the problems brought on by the recession, near depression," said Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, in an interview with the Tuscaloosa News editorial board.

    Bachus, the ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services, said most people seem unaware of the impending crisis. He initially said Social Security could face "default" within two years, but his staff responded later saying the Congresssman intended to say "deficit."

    "What this recession has done to Social Security is pretty alarming," he said. "We've known for 15 years that we were going to have to make adjustments to Social Security, but we still thought that was seven or eight years down the road. But if things don't improve very quickly, we're going to be dealing with that problem before we know it."

    Yep. All that money in the lock box was ransacked at night while no one was looking. Actually it was hijacked in broad daylight by Congress. Think of it this way. If the money was invested in Wall Street you could lose 1/2 or 3/4s in a serious market downturn. If the market is going up there are profits. Give the same money to Congress to "invest" and you lose it all. Which is the better deal?

    Just how bad is it?

    "The way Social Security works, taxes from current workers go straight to paying for the benefits of current retirees. Your money is not being "saved" anywhere to be withdrawn later. In 1950, there were 7.3 working-age people for each person over 65; now, the ratio is 4.7 to 1, and it is scheduled to drop to 2.7 to 1 by 2035. That's a lot less people paying in." (My money.com)

    "The trustees predict that in 2018, the amount being paid out for benefits will begin to exceed the amount being paid in. There is enough money to keep paying full benefits until 2041. The CBO predicts the system will fall apart about 10 years later."( Social Security Trustees and Congressional Budget Office)

    If you are 40 or under do you really expect to draw a dime of Social Security?

    Of course that is the general outline of the problem. The actual date when outgo exceeds income will vary according to economic conditions at the time. Our current economic troubles are speeding up the timetable.

    So how about Medicare? Not so hot either.

    "The current and future financial status of the separate trust funds is the focus of the annual reports of the Medicare and Social Security Boards of Trustees, a focus necessitated by law that may appropriately be referred to as the "trust fund perspective." The latest reports show that while in the near term the trust funds are in surplus, in the long run the funds will have substantial deficits due to impending demographic shifts and projected growth in per capita health care costs." (This paper is an expanded version of Appendix E of the 2004 Medicare Trustees' Report that treats the same topic in a more abbreviated form. Contact James E. Duggan (james.duggan@do.treas.gov) for questions or comments.)

    Another Governmental Program scheduled to go BROKE..

    The trust funds are a joke. Have they been invested in productive resources to generate an income stream? Not unless you count Government Motors and Goldman Sachs as wealth generators.

    The way out? I'd like to see more investment in researching potential wealth generators. Things like Polywell Fusion.

    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.

    WB-8 Contract Details

    We Will Know In Two Years

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

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)



    Elizabethan distractions and pointless historical ironies

    This is a disjointed post that I'll probably regret publishing, but what the hell. (In blogging, it's usually better to regret doing something than to regret doing nothing.)

    Quite innocently -- and by that I mean I had no particular ideological axe to grind --last night I was reading about Elizabeth I of England and her intriguing diplomatic initiatives with Muslim rulers:

    Trade and diplomatic relations developed between England and the Barbary states during the rule of Elizabeth.[139][140] England established a trading relationship with Morocco in opposition to Spain, selling armour, ammunition, timber, and metal in exchange for Moroccan sugar, in spite of a Papal ban.[141] In 1600, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, the principal secretary to the Moroccan ruler Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur, visited England as an ambassador to the court of queen Elizabeth I,[142][143] in order to negotiate an Anglo-Moroccan alliance against Spain.[144][145] Elizabeth "agreed to sell munitions supplies to Morocco, and she and Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur talked on and off about mounting a joint operation against the Spanish".[146] Discussions however remained inconclusive, and both rulers died within two years of the embassy.[147]

    Diplomatic relations were also established with the Ottoman Empire during with the chartering of the Levant Company and the dispatch of the first English ambassador to the Porte, William Harborne, in 1578.[148] For the first time, a Treaty of Commerce was signed in 1580.[149] Numerous envoys were dispatched in both directions and epistolar exchanges occurred between Elizabeth and Sultan Murad III.[150] In one correspondence, Murad entertained the notion that Islam and Protestantism had "much more in common than either did with Roman Catholicism, as both rejected the worship of idols", and argued for an alliance between England and the Ottoman Empire.[151] To the dismay of Catholic Europe, England exported tin and lead (for cannon-casting) and ammunitions to the Ottoman Empire, and Elizabeth seriously discussed joint military operations with Murad III during the outbreak of war with Spain in 1585, as Francis Walsingham was lobbying for a direct Ottoman military involvement against the common Spanish enemy.

    It has to be borne in mind that Elizabeth's immediate predecessor, the very unpopular "Bloody Mary," had restored Catholicism in England and her widowed husband Philip II, King of Spain, had been the King of England, and believed it was his duty to re-re-Catholicize England. So Spain remained a potent, dire threat, the Moors were Spain's implacable enemies, and seen as no threat to Protestantism. Even if she didn't trust them, Elizabeth was a skilled practitioner of war by diplomatic means. Ultimately, the Anglo-Spanish war resulted, the Armada was sunk, and Spanish decline began. Elizabeth, who had tried to be tolerant of British Catholics turned on them after her excommunication by Pope Pius V, and the latter's declaration that British Catholics owed her no allegiance, thus forcing the issue by turning Catholics into traitors. Elizabeth in turn supported Protestants in the religious wars in France and the Netherlands, and of course the protracted European wars of religion outlived her.

    I think the most flattering words ever spoken about Elizabeth came from Pope Sixtus V, who, while he naturally renewed his predecessor's excommunication of her, made this comment (shortly before the sinking of the Armada):

    She certainly is a great queen. And were she a Catholic she would be our dearly beloved. Just look at how well she governs; she is only a woman, only mistress of half an island. And yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all.
    Anyway, while reading about Elizabeth, I happened upon this map of Europe just before the Counter-Reformation:

    Catholicism_Protestantism_and_Islam.jpg

    CAPTION

    Catholic areas (green), Protestant areas (blue) and Islam-controlled areas (red), before the Counter-Reformation. The Muslim Ottoman Empire shared the boundary with Christian Europe to the southeast.

    Inevitably, the question arises of how many people were killed, and by whom. Unfortunately, the figures vary enormously, and there is not enough time in a day -- or a year -- to come up with numbers. Sites like this list them war by war and battle by battle, but as there was no agreement between contemporaneous historians (and considering government and religious biases how could there be?), I see no way to achieve consensus now. It used to be that Protestant and Catholic finger-pointing would tend to inflate the numbers on each side, but then revisionism would reduce them, often dramatically. For example, a post Modernist scholar I know insists that only 35 people were killed by the Spanish Inquisition and that Americans have largely been duped by bigoted British promoters of the "Black Legend."

    Of course, a more recent tendency is to see modern atheism as the far greater killer. This (IMO) requires seeing Stalin, Hitler, and Mao as all being atheists first, with a primary goal of eradicating religion, and it has of course been hotly debated. But the analysis of these bloodthirsty tyrants as being primarily driven by atheism is problematic. Stalin (a former seminarian) did persecute religion, but he also revived the church during the war, and Hitler (who condemned atheism, claimed to be a Christian, but flirted with creating a bizarre quasi-pagan state religion) hardly fits the profile of a man motivated by atheism. He may have killed more people for being Communists than he did for being members of religions he opposed. And if Communists are atheists, then Hitler was arguably one of the biggest mass killers of atheists who ever lived. A question that intrigues me is how many Communists did Stalin kill? During the many purges, countless Soviet Communists who imagined they were loyal were summarily murdered and sent to the Gulags to die:

    Stalin's drive for total control, and his pressing need for convict labour to fuel rapid industrialization, next spawned the series of immense internal purges -- beginning in 1935 -- that sent millions of party members and ordinary individuals to their deaths, either through summary executions or in the atrocious conditions of the "Gulag Archipelago."
    Which leads me to ask, who killed more atheists? Stalin or Hitler?

    Or am I not supposed to ask? (Personally, I think it's irrelevant, because they would not have been killed for being atheists -- any more than kulaks were killed for being Christians.)

    As to Mao, he killed 45 million Chinese, including Christians, Buddhists, Confucians, and Muslims. But surely there were millions of atheists killled too, for like Stalin, Mao was a paranoid infighter, who launched internal purge after internal purge.

    Identifying those who were killed specifically for their religion would be a difficult if not impossible task.

    So it would be another one of history's pointless ironies* if Mao turned out to be the greatest killer of atheists of all time, but hey, I was just trying to read about Elizabeth, and I got all distracted.

    * But aren't there people who would use such figures to make a point? Hmmm.... Maybe it's inaccurate call them pointless. If some people make a point by claiming that "Christians kill Christians," then why isn't it a point to claim that "atheists kill atheists"? (And Muslims kill Muslims too, in this big happy world.)

    posted by Eric at 11:45 AM | Comments (3)




    This is even worse than taxation without representation!

    "Man Jailed Three Months for Breath Mint Possession."

    I wish that I could say headlines like that were a joke, but no, it wasn't.

    A man is suing the Kissimmee Police Department for an arrest over mints. When officers pulled Donald May over for an expired tag, they thought the mints he was chewing were crack and arrested him.

    May told Eyewitness News they wouldn't let him out of jail for three months until tests proved the so-called drugs were candy...

    May was pulled over for an expired tag on his car. When the officer walked up to him, he noticed something white in May's mouth. May said it was breath mints, but the officer thought it was crack cocaine.

    That's a predictable result of laws which criminalize possession of things, because lots of things look like other things, and testing things takes time.

    Interestingly, the officer claimed that the breath mints tested positive for cocaine on a "field test," but that the more accurate lab test confirmed that they were in fact breath mints.

    According to Radley Balko, in these "field tests," lots of things test positive for substances other than what they are:

    the Marijuana Policy Project announced the results of some lab testing they'd hired an expert to conduct on some of the more commonly used field tests, and found that patchouli, spearmint, and eucalyptus all tested positive for marijuana on one test kid, while an incredible 33 of 42 innocuous substances tested on another came back positive, including vanilla, anise, chicory, and peppermint.
    I guess the remedy would be to sue the field test manufacturer, as the doctrine of sovereign immunity would protect the officer involved.

    Another problem is that minute amounts of illicit substances are often present in legal substances. Poppy seeds contain trace amounts of opium, and 90% of ordinary U.S. currency is laced with cocaine. Which means you could technically possess something without knowing it.

    I wish they'd at least treat drugs the way they once treated booze under Prohibition. For the most part, personal possession was legal, although there was no legal way to get alcohol, as buying, selling, and transferring were crimes. But if you really wanted to be legal, you could always go to a booze prescribing doctor, get a prescription like this, and have it filled at any booze-selling pharmacy:

    While it was illegal to manufacture or distribute "beer, wine, or other intoxicating malt or vinous liquors" it was not illegal to possess it for personal use. The provision allowed Americans to possess alcohol in their homes and partake with family and guests as long as it stayed inside and was not distributed, traded or even given away to anyone outside the home.

    Another interesting provision to prohibition was that alcohol was available via a physician's prescription. For centuries liquor had been used for medicinal purposes, in fact many of the liqueurs we know today were first developed as miracle cures for various ailments. Despite the fact that in 1916 whiskey and brandy were removed from The Pharmacopeia of the United States of America and in 1917 the American Medical Association stated that alcohol "...use in therapeutics as a tonic or stimulant or for food has no scientific value..." and voted in support of prohibition, there was still a belief in liquor's medicinal benefits among many.

    Because of this established belief that liquor could cure and prevent a variety of ailments, doctors were still able to prescribe liquor to patients on a specially designed government prescription form that could be filled at any pharmacy.

    That's more humane than the current approach to drugs, but any doctor today who prescribed drugs the way alcohol was once prescribed would find himself in jail.

    How modern Americans put up with this stuff, I don't know.

    (To think that King George couldn't even get away with taxing tea....)

    HT, Nick Schweitzer.

    posted by Eric at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)



    Since when is a bad debt more sacrosanct than the Bill of Rights?

    In an earlier email, M. Simon mentioned Thomas Jefferson's famous remark about a revolution every 20 years, and here is the exact quote:

    "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion... We have had thirteen States independent for eleven years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half, for each State. What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion?" --Thomas Jefferson to William S. Smith, 1787. ME 6:372
    I think the above is consistent with Jefferson's philosophical belief that the dead do not have power to bind the living, which is expounded on by Jefferson in a letter to James Madison a couple of years later:
    The question, whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here, on the elementary principles of society, has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be transmitted, I think very capable of proof. -- I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living: that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severality, it will be taken by the first occupants, and these will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to its creditor. But the child, the legatee or creditor, takes it, not by natural right, but by a law of the society of which he is a member, and to which he is subject. Then, no man can, by natural right, oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the payment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come; and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living, which is the reverse of our principle.

    [...]

    ...by the law of nature, one generation is to another as one independant nation to another.

    Let's turn to a recent news report quoting a congressman on the impending default of the Social Security system:
    TUSCALOOSA -- "Social Security could face default within two years," U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus predicted here Tuesday. "The situation is much worse than people realize, especially because of the problems brought on by the recession, near depression.

    "That's not been on the board -- people don't seem to know that," Bachus, the ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services, said in a wide-ranging interview with the Tuscaloosa News Editorial Board. "What this recession has done to Social Security is pretty alarming.

    "We've known for 15 years that we were going to have to make adjustment to Social Security, but we still through that was seven or eight years down the road," he said. "But if things don't improve very quickly, we're going to be dealing with that problem before we know it."

    The solvency of Social Security, which provides pensions for people over 65, has not played a major role in the current debate over health care in Congress and Bachus, a Vestavia Hills Republican who represents part of Tuscaloosa County, said it will not likely be addressed in any health care bill the House eventually passes, although if a Social Security bail out is needed, it will invariably impact government health care programs.

    In the debate over health care, Bachus said that he could support a bill that includes privately-administered health "co-ops," along with the elimination of fraud and waste in existing government programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

    The creation of health care "co-ops," or non-profit health cooperatives run by members, is an idea that has gained momentum as Democrats and President Barack Obama seems to have moved away from the idea of a "government option," which would be a government-run alternative to private health care now offered by for-profit insurance companies.

    "I can not vote for a bill that has the government intruding into the private sector, subsidizing health care and eventually putting the insurance companies out of business," he said.

    As for the looming Social Security crisis, Bachus said options are just now beginning to be discussed.

    "We could raise the retirement age, or in the worst case, cut back on some benefits," he said. "But that is something we are just now beginning to get a handle on."

    As I've said before, Social Security is a law, and like any other law, it can be changed or repealed as the legislature deems fit.

    However, the way some people talk, you'd think Social Security was a form of Holy Writ -- as if we are supposed to bow our heads in respect whenever it is mentioned. Politically, it's considered the "Third Rail" to question it, and unlike any other law, the benefits it confers are spoken of in the most solemn terms -- as "entitlements."

    I'd like to pose a Third Rail question. How is it that the biggest Ponzi Scheme on earth, which was put over by the worst human rights violator in U.S. history, has come to be seen in many circles as more sacrosanct than the Bill of Rights? Is it because it represents America's first major founding step towards socialism, so that it is akin to Hallowed Ground -- a sort of Biblical Hill On Which We Must Take Our Stand?

    Come on! It's no more holy than a bounced check, and if the money's not there, the money's not there.

    We're all familiar with the observation that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

    I realize that some constitutional die hards might disagree, or at least have qualms with that sentiment. But if we assume for the sake of argument that the Constitution is not a suicide pact, by what standard should Social Security be?

    posted by Eric at 12:31 PM | Comments (16)



    War On Cancer Patients

    It seems our government has been holding out on us when it comes to drugs that may be helpful in fighting cancer.

    "Cannabinoids possess ... anticancer activity [and may] possibly represent a new class of anti-cancer drugs that retard cancer growth, inhibit angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and the metastatic spreading of cancer cells." So concludes a comprehensive review published in the October 2005 issue of the scientific journal Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry.

    Not familiar with the emerging body of research touting cannabis' ability to stave the spread of certain types of cancers? You're not alone.

    For over 30 years, US politicians and bureaucrats have systematically turned a blind eye to scientific research indicating that marijuana may play a role in cancer prevention -- a finding that was first documented in 1974. That year, a research team at the Medical College of Virginia (acting at the behest of the federal government) discovered that cannabis inhibited malignant tumor cell growth in culture and in mice. According to the study's results, reported nationally in an Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper feature, administration of marijuana's primary cannabinoid THC, "slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."

    Despite these favorable preclinical findings, US government officials dismissed the study (which was eventually published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1975), and refused to fund any follow-up research until conducting a similar -- though secret -- clinical trial in the mid-1990s. That study, conducted by the US National Toxicology Program to the tune of $2 million concluded that mice and rats administered high doses of THC over long periods experienced greater protection against malignant tumors than untreated controls.

    Rather than publicize their findings, government researchers once again shelved the results, which only came to light after a draft copy of its findings were leaked in 1997 to a medical journal, which in turn forwarded the story to the national media.

    Nevertheless, in the decade since the completion of the National Toxicology trial, the U.S. government has yet to encourage or fund additional, follow up studies examining the cannabinoids' potential to protect against the spread cancerous tumors.

    The Drug War is a war on cancer patients. Instead of working to extend people's lives with a medicinal plant, prohibition trumps medicine.

    It wouldn't be the first time.

    There were two pieces of medical evidence introduced with regard to the marijuana prohibition.

    The first came from a pharmacologist at Temple University who claimed that he had injected the active ingredient in marihuana into the brains of 300 dogs, and two of those dogs had died. When asked by the Congressmen, and I quote, "Doctor, did you choose dogs for the similarity of their reactions to that of humans?" The answer of the pharmacologist was, "I wouldn't know, I am not a dog psychologist."

    Well, the active ingredient in marijuana was first synthesized in a laboratory in Holland after World War II. So what it was this pharmacologist injected into these dogs we will never know, but it almost certainly was not the active ingredient in marijuana.

    The other piece of medical testimony came from a man named Dr. William C. Woodward. Dr. Woodward was both a lawyer and a doctor and he was Chief Counsel to the American Medical Association. Dr. Woodward came to testify at the behest of the American Medical Association saying, and I quote, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug."

    What's amazing is not whether that's true or not. What's amazing is what the Congressmen then said to him. Immediately upon his saying, and I quote again, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.", one of the Congressmen said, "Doctor, if you can't say something good about what we are trying to do, why don't you go home?"

    It has been about 72 years since that hearing and Congress has improved some. In the past they used to ignore testimony when voting on a bill, now they just ignore the bill. An advance? I'm not so sure.

    Here is page of books on Cannabis Therapeutics.

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:31 AM | Comments (1)



    Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf

    Yo can find more Jimmy Smith at Amazon.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control


    posted by Simon at 04:33 AM | Comments (0)




    Forging A Consensus

    Do your part for global warming by supporting Tim Blair at the Green Awards:

    Blair continues to drive fast and furious and cackle publicly about leaving as big a carbon footprint as possible.

    Tim offers a rousing self-endorsement:

    Napkins? Ha! No napkin is more disappointing than me.

    Vote now! Tim's got a good lead at 645-102 but let's not take anything for granted. We need to send a message and deliver an overwhelming mandate that cannot be ignored!

    UPDATE: The stakes have been raised. Won't someone please think of the children?

    For anyone having trouble voting, the category is "Can Do Better." It's on the first row, far right.

    posted by Dave at 11:15 PM | Comments (2)



    War is no longer war! And tyranny is no longer tyranny!

    "For the Left, war without Bush is not war at all," argues Byron York.

    Nor are a lot of things considered what they once were. It's the post-Bush double standard, and while I've been complaining about it, I worry that the problem goes to the nature of power.

    In general, most ideologues think that power is fine if you have it, but not if they have it. The former is democracy, the latter is tyranny.

    The only solution I can see is that people who want power should never be allowed to have it.

    Easy to say, but it takes power to stop them.

    I don't mean the new and improved kind, but the old, unimproved kind, in the form of two simple but very powerful sentences:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
    And:
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
    The lovers of power must really hate the above, or there wouldn't be a movement to restore it. That's because it isn't really there any more, even though it is.

    Although I'm guessing that saying it is there when it isn't even though it is might be some form of extremism.

    posted by Eric at 06:53 PM | Comments (2)



    Warm Sodium Battery

    There is some amazing news in the world of high energy batteries. Coors Ceramics thinks they have a way to make Sodium-Sulfur batteries that can operate at 90° C ( 194° F which is below the boiling point of water)and charge-discharge once a day for ten years.

    The battery breakthrough comes from a Salt Lake company called Ceramatec, the R&D arm of CoorsTek, a world leader in advanced materials and electrochemical devices. It promises to reduce dependence on the dinosaur by hooking up with the latest generation of personalized power plants that draw from the sun.

    Solar energy has been around, of course, but it's been prohibitively expensive. Now the cost is tumbling, driven by new thin-film chemistry and manufacturing techniques. Leaders in the field include companies like Arizona-based First Solar, which can paint solar cells onto glass; and Konarka, an upstart that purchased a defunct Polaroid film factory in New Bedford, Mass., and now plans to print cells onto rolls of flexible plastic.

    The convergence of these two key technologies -- solar power and deep-storage batteries -- has profound implications for oil-strapped America.

    "These batteries switch the whole dialogue to renewables," said Daniel Nocera, a noted chemist and professor of energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who sits on Ceramatec's science advisory board. "They will turn us away from dumb technology, circa 1900 -- a 110-year-old approach -- and turn us forward."

    One small quibble. Unless this technology can be used to make liquid fuels at a lower cost than oil, its uses in transportation will be limited. One drawback is that it needs to be kept around 90C for the battery to deliver juice. It will be hard to maintain that temperature with low losses in a Chicago winter.

    Enough of the caveats. How about some more techno porn.

    Inside Ceramatec's wonder battery is a chunk of solid sodium metal mated to a sulphur compound by an extraordinary, paper-thin ceramic membrane. The membrane conducts ions -- electrically charged particles -- back and forth to generate a current. The company calculates that the battery will cram 20 to 40 kilowatt hours of energy into a package about the size of a refrigerator, and operate below 90 degrees C.

    This may not startle you, but it should. It's amazing. The most energy-dense batteries available today are huge bottles of super-hot molten sodium, swirling around at 600 degrees or so. At that temperature the material is highly conductive of electricity but it's both toxic and corrosive. You wouldn't want your kids around one of these.

    The essence of Ceramatec's breakthrough is that high energy density (a lot of juice) can be achieved safely at normal temperatures and with solid components, not hot liquid.

    Ceramatec says its new generation of battery would deliver a continuous flow of 5 kilowatts of electricity over four hours, with 3,650 daily discharge/recharge cycles over 10 years. With the batteries expected to sell in the neighborhood of $2,000, that translates to less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour over the battery's life. Conventional power from the grid typically costs in the neighborhood of 8 cents per kilowatt hour.

    Re-read that last paragraph and let the information really sink in. Five kilowatts over four hours -- how much is that? Imagine your trash compactor, food processor, vacuum cleaner, stereo, sewing machine, one surface unit of an electric range and thirty-three 60-watt light bulbs all running nonstop for four hours each day before the house battery runs out. That's a pretty exciting place to live.

    And then you recharge. With a projected 3,650 discharge/recharge cycles -- one per day for a decade -- you leave the next-best battery in the dust. Deep-cycling lead/acid batteries like the ones used in RVs are only good for a few hundred cycles, so they're kaput in a year or so.

    My favorite caveat in projects like these is logistics. Or in layman's terms "how soon can they ramp up production once they have a working battery."
    Grover's brother, John K. Coors, is CEO of CoorsTek, the manufacturing company that applies what the scientists at Ceramatec dream up. Their nephew, Doug Coors, oversees R&D.

    With some 21 plants producing advanced ceramic products worldwide, the expectation is that full-scale production of ceramic sheets for the new batteries could be tooled up in short order. In fact, only a handful of CoorsTek facilities would likely be employed.

    The order of magnitude pencils out along these lines: a target of 20 gigawatt hours of storage in 20 kilowatt-hour battery increments equals 1 million batteries. Or using a different metric, 1 million square meters of thin ceramic electrolyte would yield 20 gigawatt hours of batteries, equal to California's entire spinning reserve.

    Nobody at CoorsTek even blinks at such figures. The company already produces 3 million pounds of ceramic material per month. "Once we have a working prototype battery with all the standards and cost requirements met, it will come up quickly," said Grover Coors. "It would scare people to know how quickly we can bring this up."

    They're about about six months away from initial scale-up toward a commercial product, he said.

    Lots of sodium will be needed to make the new batteries, and Ceramatec proposes a symbiotic relationship with the federal government to get it. Enormous quantities of sodium metals, the byproducts of nuclear weapons manufacturing, just happen be available for cleanup at Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland, Wash. It's a ready-made source of material that CoorsTek can recycle.

    Of course once that source is gone they will have to pay full price for their sodium. Fortunately neither Sodium nor Sulfur are too hard to come by.

    And what does all that talk about time to scale up mean? Here are my guesses. About a year and a half to pilot plant production. A year for battery testing and scale up. Another year to get a full production plant operating. So optimistically about 3 and 1/2 years. Realistically 5 years. Pessimistically 7 years. And very pessimistically never.

    What would this technology mean? For one thing, besides its uses for wind and solar, it would be very handy for shaving peak loads. It costs the utilities a lot less to deliver steady power than to deliver power that varies a lot over the course of a day. Think of it as having a peaking plant and some backup power (for the refrigerator and furnace) in every home.

    Of course superflywheels [pdf] might be a competitive technology capable of even more charge discharge cycles at roughly equivalent energy density.

    H/T R. Dave Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:10 PM | Comments (5)



    we have always been at war with our culture!

    One of the things I hate about the Internet is what I love about the Internet. I find fascinating stuff, and then I often can't determine whether the fascinating stuff I find is true.

    For example, there's a deck of cards for sale in England, and each card features a picture of prominent politician accompanied by an embarrassing statement he purportedly made about marijuana.

    Because of its perplexing logic, the Newt Gingrich card especially fascinated me:

    GingrichCard.jpg

    While the bad logic is self-evident (because the supposed immorality of marijuana was what led to the hysteria resulting in its criminalization in the 1930s), the threshold question is whether Newt Gingrich ever said that.

    The statement is quoted at several left-wing sites, but it does not appear in his Wiki bio, and I could find no original source anywhere. Even though I don't like Gingrich, I find it very difficult to believe that he would be so stupid as to make a public statement like that. Seriously, the man is highly intelligent, and a student of history. If he did say that, what must he have been smoking?

    Certainly not marijuana. Not if what he said about his personal marijuana use is true:

    "I tried it once; it had no effect on me."
    Affected or not, Gingrich, has been known to issue highly inflammatory, even bizarre statements about drugs, and while I cannot verify his announcement of support for a "World War Two level" Drug War, he has sponsored legislation supporting the death penalty for for "anyone caught bringing more than two ounces of marijuana into the United States." While that was in the 90s, he doesn't seem to have changed his mind. In April of this year criticized him for a more recent harangue, in which he called for Singapore-style drug policies and opined that it's time that we "get the stomach" for executions.

    Politically, executing people for drugs is not a popular position to be staking out, and as Gingrich is polling behind Romney, Palin, and Huckabee as a possible presidential candidate, it's doubtful that he'd be saying things like that in the hope of pulling ahead. So (unfortunately) I think he means it sincerely, which is scary.

    According to a column purportedly written by Michelle Malkin in 1998, he did a dramatic flip-flop on medical marijuana:

    Who would stand in the way of these private and professional efforts to heal, relieve and restore hope?

    Politicians. Hacks on the left and right, Democrat and Republican. Control freaks inside the Beltway and down in Olympia who favor the deadly grip of government over compassion. Moralists who sacrifice the sick and infirm in the name of upholding public safety, defending the regulatory process, or protecting the collective good.

    As citizens in Washington state and Washington, D.C., prepare to vote on medical marijuana initiatives this fall, they should ready themselves for six weeks of Drug War wile and dissimulation.

    Let's start with Republicans. It was Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who once sponsored a bill in Congress to allow therapeutic use of marijuana. In 1982, Gingrich wrote an impassioned letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association attacking the "outdated federal prohibition" of medical marijuana. He decried the plight of "thousands of glaucoma and cancer patients" held hostage by "bureaucratic interference."

    Sixteen years later, Gingrich is Speaker of a House that just declared that marijuana "contains no plausible medicinal benefits." No, the plant wasn't corrupted. Gingrich was.

    I love that column, and I hope it wasn't made up! (It's separately referenced here, so maybe it isn't. But with the Internet, you never know.)

    The odd thing about this post was that while I didn't set out to bash Gingrich, it now looks like I did, simply because I've carried on so long in an anti-Gingrich fashion. So by way of atonement, I should probably say that I liked Gingrich's spirited defense of Sarah Palin's "death panel" remarks. Here's the video:

    I might be misreading the interview, but it appears that Stephanopoulos was all but inviting Gingrich to take issue with Palin over the death panel stuff, and he didn't. Good for him.

    And meanwhile, Romney is trying to make it look like he was always against government health care. We have always been at war with government health care? (Never mind the facts.)

    Oh, I almost forgot about the Sarah Palin card. Like Gingrich, she's also a black queen. (Jeez, I'm sorry about that last remark. I mean, how must it sound?)

    PalinCard.jpg

    I like the quote, which was easily verified. And by the way, Andrew Sullivan liked it too -- so much that it inclined him to like Sarah Palin before he hated her (and apparently before he even hated vaginas).

    I guess the bottom line is that if you don't like something, don't inhale it.

    (If only I could learn to treat politics that way....)

    posted by Eric at 12:20 PM | Comments (2)



    What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

    The singer is my cousin and childhood friend Janice Meyerson. I spent a lot of time with her and her husband this past weekend at the Simon Family Reunion. Janice and her husband drove my mate, my mother, and I to my mothers apartment Saturday night after the reunion dinner at the Offutt Air Force Base Air and Space Museum. Janice sang a bit from the opera "Carmen" at the dinner.

    The SR-71 was hanging over the area we had dinner at. I was able to impress all the people at my table by telling them I had a couple of lines of code flying on that aircraft. Not to mention some hardware I designed that flew on the B-52.

    It was a lot of fun getting re-acquainted with friends and relatives I haven't seen for over 40 years.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:46 AM | Comments (1)



    Who is this Joker?

    Mark Milian at the LA Times blog misses a few fundamental points about political speech and street art: it's not political speech until someone injects the politics, and it's not street art until it hits the streets.

    When cryptic posters portraying President Obama as the Joker from "Batman" began popping up around Los Angeles and other cities, the question many asked was, Who is behind the image?

    Was it an ultra-conservative grassroots group or a disgruntled street artist going against the grain?

    Nope, it turns out, just a 20-year-old college student from Chicago.

    When you ask a vague question like "Who is behind the image?," you may as well say Time magazine, their photographer, Bill Finger and Bob Kane. It's not the image that matters, but the context. When Milian blithely dismisses the Obama-as-Joker Socialism poster as a college student's PhotoShop experiment, intentionally or not, he obscures the reality of the question: it's not the image of Obama as the Joker, but the image in the context of the word SOCIALISM, in the context of a poster plastered in a city landscape.

    The context of art is everything, and the artist, whom Milian calls a "still-anonymous rogue," has yet to be unmasked.

    posted by Dennis at 10:01 AM | Comments (1)




    "if you're on that no fly list, your access to the right to bear arms is canceled!" (Rahm Emanuel)

    A story I missed from last month ties in with what I said earlier about using the "Bush did it too!" argument to justify Orwellian tactics.

    According to this article, the Department of Homeland Security has placed a political enemy of Janet Napolitano on the DHS "No-Fly" list:

    On July 16th, Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin discovered he was on Department of Homeland Security's "No-Fly" list when he was "pulled aside by agents from the Transportation Security Administration," according to azfamily.com.

    Martin was an outspoken critic of former Arizona Governor and current Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS). There's no doubt Napolitano has some hard feelings for Martin. He was one of the first open critics of her state-wide photo radar cameras (calling them unconstitutional), initiated by a single signature of Napolitano's dictatorial executive order. Back in January during a State Loan Commission meeting, he also gained some media attention when, as Chairman of the Arizona State Loan Commission, he attempted to warn Arizonans that the state would be facing a major budget crisis by March (which has come and gone) due to Napolitano's reckless spending as governor. This meeting took place right before she flew off to Washington to pursue her life-long career as a socialist politician. Before she hopped on a plane and left our great state, Martin criticized her in front of TV cameras at the meeting, calling journalistic attention to how devastating her policies have been to the people of Arizona. In typical Democrat fashion, she had a fit. And stormed out of the meeting.

    Now Martin's on the "No-Fly" potential terrorist list. Democrats should be distancing themselves from Napolitano's actions by screaming bloody outrage at such disgusting abuse of governmental power. (Imagine if John Ashcroft were still head of DHS and a local Democrat Treasurer were put on a potential terrorist "No-Fly" list.

    I'm sure there are those who believe that Ashcroft routinely put his political enemies on the No-Fly list whether he did or not. And since he might as well have, retaliation is perfectly OK. (About time the right wing enemies got a taste of their own medicine, eh?)

    Mr. Martin joins a growing list which began with a few hundred people, and now runs to over a million names according to the ACLU. If the NRA is correct, the ACLU is understating the case. According to the latest issue of the NRA's America's First Freedom, the list is now at 1.5 million names, and growing. (Additional background here and here.)

    Moreover, the No-Fly list is not intended to be limited to flying. If Frank Lautenberg and Rahm Emanuel have their way, these more than a million Americans (who don't have to be convicted of anything to get on the list) will lose their Second Amendment rights.

    First, here's some vintage Rahm Emanuel, talking to the Brady Center in 2007:

    Here's what Emanuel said he wanted:

    "if you're on that no fly list, your access to the right to bear arms is canceled, because you're not part of the American Family - you don't deserve that right."

    In June, one of the country's most notorious gun grabbers, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, introduced a bill (S. 1317, pdf here) which would make Rahm Emanuel's dream come true.

    When I posted about this previously, Lautenberg had not yet introduced the bill, although I noted that the DHS under Janet Napolitano had already been suggesting 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.

    This morning I learned that the "suggestions" are coming from left wing activist groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    And on top of that, they would also seem to include political opponents of Janet Napolitano.

    All of these and more are now earmarked to lose a fundamental constitutional rights if the Lautenberg bill passes.

    I hate to be repetitive, but since Lautenberg won't quit, neither will I. Once again:

    ...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.

    Senator Lautenberg may not realize it, but according to the ACLU, his colleague Ted Kennedy was also placed on the No-Fly list and had trouble getting his name removed.

    It would be nice to think they know not what they do.

    But since when has a little thing like that stopped them?

    MORE: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) is co-sponsoring the House version of S.1317 -- a "bill preventing people on the government's no-fly list from purchasing guns."

    Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), a strong gun control advocate, is co-sponsoring the legislation that would apply to the nearly 1 million people that make up the government's no-fly list - people believed to either be terrorist or have strong terrorism connections.

    Currently the no-fly list is not a part of the background check for buying guns.

    A Zogby International Poll last month found that 69 percent of 3,967 registered American voters only supported a move to prohibit people on the no-fly list from buying a weapon if they have previously been convicted of a crime. On the other hand, 20 percent said anyone on the list should be prohibited.

    It's encouraging to see that over two thirds of the voters disagree with these nitwits who want to take away their rights.

    MORE: For conservatives this is probably a minor point, but I'm just wondering.... Does Carolyn McCarthy realize that her bill would disarm her colleague Loretta Sanchez?

    Or will they be exempting members of Congress?

    CORRECTION: When I expressed the fear that "these more than a million Americans" would lose their Second Amendment rights I was probably in error, as the group includes people who are not Americans, and thus do not have Second Amendment rights. As to what the percentages are, I do not know, and the government isn't supplying numbers.

    posted by Eric at 06:07 PM | Comments (11)



    Mass. Wait Times

    Can you believe that the Massachusetts health care "miracle" was cooked up by a Republican?

    Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive, as Mr. Romney's foresight previews what President Obama, Max Baucus, Ted Kennedy and Pete Stark are cooking up for everyone else.

    In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time.

    They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget. The program provides low- or no-cost coverage to about 165,000 residents, or three-fifths of the newly insured, and is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase that is likely to be optimistic. The state's overall costs on health programs have increased by 42% (!) since 2006.

    And yet. Despite experience the Democrats in Congress and our esteemed President think that this time it will be different. There is one small chance that they are correct. With luck and enough votes the bill will not pass in any form.

    To help make sure that the bill doesn't have enough votes here are some people you should contact:

    House of Representatives
    The Senate

    H/T Judith Weiss on Facebook

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:25 PM | Comments (3)



    activist narrative becomes government mainstream?

    Commenter Veeshir alerted me to the possibility that I was overreacting (in this post) to an ABC report which in turn quoted a retired FBI agent who claimed that Rush Limbaugh's comparison of the Obamcare logo to a Nazi logo "legitimizes people who are on the edge to go do something or say something."

    While I took issue with Rush Limbaugh's comparison, I also opined that "law enforcement officials at the highest levels are now thinking like left wing activists."

    Pointing out that the sources in the ABC report all came down to the SPLC, Veeshir expressed hopeful skepticism about whether our law enforcement officials are going along with it.

    That story is kind of scary, but....

    Check it out, you don't get any quotes from current law enforcement


    [...]

    Hopefully, the fine law enforcement people in the gov't take their vows seriously and don't allow the Chicago Machine to make dissent illegal.

    Veeshir also supplied a link to this post from Confederate Yankee, and concluded that all the stories about this "go back to Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center." Not the government, just an activist working for a left wing outfit.

    I was relieved, because I don't like to think that the government is taking marching orders from left wing activists any more than Veeshir did.

    This morning, however, I was disabused from my wishful thinking, when I read a well-documented post which appears to demonstrate pretty clearly that the SPLC is being used as a Homeland Security source:

    Last week, ALG News reported a startling update in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "rightwing extremism" threat assessment controversy after receiving an interim response from the department to Americans for Limited Government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

    Instead of being sourced to hard intelligence and data, DHS based its findings of a "resurgence" of "rightwing extremism" upon outside sources, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League, one conspiracy website, and a few news accounts of hate groups and incidences of violence.

    I checked out the links, and unless the letters are forgeries (which I doubt), the above is true. Much as I'd like to think that the SPLC isn't a government source, and that this is just (as Veeshir said) "the media trying to push their narrative," it appears more likely that these SPLC narratives are being mainstreamed by the government in what I'd call a left wing opinion laundering cycle.

    From activist "sources," to left-wing blogs, then to mainstream media, and finally to the government. Didn't they used to accuse the right of doing the same thing?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: The retaliatory nature of this cycle game worries me, because I could easily see the left rationalize it by saying "Well, Bush did it too!" That poses quite a problem, though, because the evil Bush meme encompasses torture, genocide, war crimes, illegal surveillance, and even blowing up the Twin Towers. I'm not saying Bush did these things, but lots of lefties think he did.

    Should they be using the evil Bush meme as a retaliatory role model?

    How does that represent hope and change?

    posted by Eric at 11:48 AM | Comments (6)




    Government Takeover Of Health Care No Longer An "Option"

    The "public option" is dead.

    We did it. We killed the worst part of this bill, the part that probably meant government would eventually end up taking over 15% of the economy.

    Ed urges we not be complacent, and he's right, but nonetheless this is a moment to savor. Congratulations to everyone who spoke out against this monstrosity, whether at a town hall, online, in a letter, at the water cooler... Congress has heard our voices and sanity has prevailed.

    God Bless America, the land of the free.

    UPDATE: Drudge is running a white flag.

    posted by Dave at 02:50 PM | Comments (10)



    a crime is a game is a context

    While it doesn't have much to do with Obamacare, I'm nonetheless fascinated by the public reaction to a YouTube video that's gone viral, showing a woman dragging her leashed toddler through a Verizon store.

    Many people are outraged, and they're calling for harsh punishment. The woman is charged with felony child cruelty and she faces up to 20 years in prison. Opinions vary, though, and even CNN's legal analyst is puzzled:

    "I really need to know more facts in this case," Legal analyst Lisa Bloom told CNN, when asked if this is a felony. "It certainly looks awful in the video because it appears that the collar and the leash are around the child's neck. But the child isn't fighting. The child doesn't appear to be in any pain. And I can remember when my daughter was little what she thought was a good time was to clamp onto my ankle and I would drag around the living room and she thought that was better than Disneyland. I need to know if is there was some serious physical harm before I can decide if this is a felony or not."
    Leashes on children are surprisingly common, and while they are not illegal, I'm sure that this incident will be fuel for new laws.

    While most people seem to be outraged at the woman, this report about the incident drew comments from conservative talk radio listeners, who seemed mostly on the side of the mom. Fascinatingly, when the police tracked her down, she claimed that the boy enjoyed it:

    (WSB Radio) An Alabama woman is under arrest, charged with cruelty to children after being caught on video dragging her son on a leash.

    37 year old Melissa Means was in a Verizon Wireless store in Rome when witnesses, and an employee, spotted her dragging the boy on the leash that was attached to his monkey backpack. The employee captured the episode on video.

    When police tracked her down, Means dismissed the incident, saying the boy liked being "dragged around by his monkey."

    Means, of Gaylsville, Alabama, told officers she suffers from lupus and pneumonia and had been having trouble with the boy. When he refused to walk she tried picking him up, but could not. That's when she started pulling him by the leash.

    Rome Police Officer Keith Greene says the child had a bruise on the left side of his neck, caused by the backpack strap.

    DFACS was contacted and conducted an investigation into the incident. The boy was eventually released to the custody of his grandmother.

    After reading that, I watched the video carefully, and I noticed that the kid has his right leg straight out, with his foot positioned sideways as if he's using it as a rudder to steer. This would at least raise the question of whether he's quite accustomed to being dragged around (and might tend to support the woman's position that he enjoyed it).

    Suppose for the sake of argument that he does enjoy it. What are the implications as to whether it's child abuse? How is that to be judged? By the external standards of others? Or by the parties involved? What if the kid enjoys acting like a pit bull puppy?

    Should a child be allowed to consent to being dragged by his mom? Or are the implications of such a question too unpleasant to contemplate? When I was in school, I used to wrestle, and it could get pretty violent. I enjoyed it when I won, but not when I lost. But at all times, I consented to the violence. But because I was legally a child, I was probably not really allowed to consent in the legal sense, and what was happening was that others (the school authorities and my parents) basically consented on my behalf. I will never forget one occasion in which I was in a wrestling match against a military school, and I sensed that my obviously effeminate opponent was not consenting of his own free will (which I was), but he was being forced to wrestle by his brutal wrestling coach, who slapped him in the face after the pre-match pep talk. The boy appeared to me to be in a state of shock, as he was glassy-eyed and seemed to be fighting back tears. He offered zero resistance, and as I took him down, he went limp immediately and simply whined "Owwwwwww!" as I pinned him. Consent? Frankly, at the time I thought he was being abused (and I was a little shocked by my own role in the abuse), but who was I to judge the inner motivations of perfect strangers, simply because they were suddenly thrust in the arena with me? My job was to "win," but the situation seemed surreal.

    As to to why an effeminate boy would be forced to wrestle even though he didn't want to, there was nothing unusual about a sissy being sent to military school in those days. They were sent there by concerned parents to be forced to "butch it up" (along with thuggish juvenile delinquents whose affluent parents had made deals with judges to avoid the state reformatory).

    So, even though I had apparent context (because I was there and right in the middle of the situation), at the same time I lacked context, because I didn't fully understand the dynamics. I did not know my "opponent," or his story, or his background, and it was only later that I came to suspect that I had been an unwitting dupe in what must have been an unpleasant, if not traumatic, experience for him. (I realize others might see it differently, but I seriously, seriously doubt I helped "make a man out of him.")

    The point is that context is everything in analyzing such situations, and sometimes we lack context even in situations in which we are direct participants.

    Most people think that YouTube "caught" the child-dragging incident and that ends the inquiry. But I feel that I have no idea what might have really been going on. If the kid actually saw his being dragged by his mom as a game, well, it could still be argued that such a "sport" is inappropriate for child raising. But the fact that they've been caught and put on YouTube takes the game to a whole new level. The family is in the arena now, and the boy may well be taken away from his mother while she goes to prison.

    What kind of game is that?

    posted by Eric at 12:19 PM | Comments (13)




    Girlcott Whole Foods!

    I'm probably behind the times but until today I never heard the word "girlcott" before. However, I support the idea, Whole heartedly.

    John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods (and a former socialist) has taken a huge amount of flak for daring not only to oppose Obamacare, but to say so in a WSJ Op-Ed. This has infuriated some of the health food aficionados who shop at Whole Foods, who have predictably gone absolutely ape. I guess they imagine that they have some particular right to be self righteous and morally indignant, because they act as if they have been personally betrayed. (I suppose they're so narcissistic as to imagine that the "health food" type of diet ought to be officially certified as another form of left-wing identity politics.)

    As this TPM piece explains, what Mackey did is being treated as akin to heresy:

    You would think someone building up a successful Green business from scratch, promoting vegetarian living, healthy foods, bringing it to new neighborhoods across the country would be something of a Progressive hero.

    You'd be wrong.

    Even before today, John Mackey had fallen out of favor with many progressives because as he notes, "he used to be a "democratic socialist" in college, but when he began a business and barely made money while being accused by workers of not paying them enough and customers of charging too high prices, he began to take a more capitalistic worldview and discovered the works of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Friedman."

    Well, today, Mackey has earned the scorn and ire of the Progressosphere by doing the one thing that leftists cannot tolerate - he expressed his opinion. Not just any opinion - one that disagreed with the common agreed upon wisdom of the left, which is that we need to reform health insurance this year or else, though we don't know exactly what's going to be in it but it won't be single payer or have a public option and Big Pharma contributions will be capped so the industry doesn't suffer too much and whatever else gets watered down in bill writing and in committee and in reconciliation.

    John Stossel admires him as one of the few capitalists willing to stick up for capitalism.

    I admire him too, and while I have never been much of a Whole Foods patron, I'm now planning to join the girlcott.

    posted by Eric at 09:12 PM | Comments (3)



    Godwin Must Protest

    A little advice to the right-wing crazies enthusiasts who are using Hitler and other Nazi iconography to protest health care reform government takeover:

    1) Bush protesters already beat this meme to death. Don't bother.

    2) Anyways, there's a much more effective icon you can employ: Che!

    The murdering socialist has long been a favorite of the left, such as the Obama supporter who sent a fake doctor to a town hall, so using him will cause them great dismay and confusion -- if you're subtle enough, many of them may even take you for a supporter!

    posted by Dave at 01:59 PM | Comments (2)



    Here I go again, misinterpreting "end of life" consultations to death....

    More on death panels.

    The provisions in the healthcare bill which gave rise to the term are being scrapped. At the same time (as the LA Times condescendingly reports), the provisions are being said to have not ever existed:

    A Senate panel has decided to scrap the part of its healthcare bill that in recent days has given rise to fears of government "death panels," with one lawmaker suggesting the proposal was just too confusing.

    The Senate Finance Committee is taking the idea of advance care planning consultations with doctors off the table as it works to craft its version of healthcare legislation, a Democratic committee aide said Thursday.

    Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the committee, said the panel dropped the idea because it could be "misinterpreted or implemented incorrectly."

    For Democrats, the decision was an apparent acknowledgment that the provision had become a lightning rod for critics of a proposed overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system. Democratic lawmakers and President Obama are trying to extend health insurance to more people, rein in health costs and make other changes.

    Recently, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speculated that Obama and other Democrats wanted to set up "death panels" to decide who gets medical services and who does not.

    In reality, the provision was designed to allow Medicare to pay doctors who counsel patients about planning for end-of-life decisions. The consultations would be voluntary and would provide information about living wills, healthcare proxies, pain medication and hospice.

    I have read the provision six times, and it's not at all clear to me what it means, much less what it was "designed" for by its authors (whoever they may be).

    In a post Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday, Fabius Maximus opined that it was designed with cost cutting in mind, and thus he takes issue with Sarah Palin, who thought (and apparently continues to think) it was designed with death panels in mind. Of course, if "end of life" consultations have in mind the cutting of costs, that would certainly seem to raise a reasonable inference about whether shortened lives are cheaper.

    As I said, I have no problem with an individual deciding to forgo life-extending procedures, but I am adamant in my opinion that the state should stay the hell out of it.

    If the state would save money by a patient's early death, then the state is in a clear conflict of interest.

    I say this as someone who supports the right of the individual even to take his own life, and to have physician assistance with dying. The state should be nowhere near that decision, though, and not involved even in a purely advisory or consultative capacity. End of life planning is not the government's business, and it horrifies me to suggest that it should be. I don't care if they call it "voluntary."

    Aren't we forgetting that the words "voluntary" and "volunteer" are two of the most abused words in the English language, and that much of this abuse has been at the behest of bureaucrats, and accomplished by means of sneaky gobblygook known popularly as "bureaucratese"? Thus we have paid "volunteers," and "voluntary compliance" with the IRS code under penalty of imprisonment.

    So if a group of doctors approaches an elderly patient (many of whom have not a friend in the world and don't want to be a burden) and they announce that they would like to set up an end of life consultation, with a caveat that "this program is purely voluntary," how many compliant seniors will tell these authority figures to butt out?

    Another reason I'm skeptical of reassurances made about the intent behind complex laws is that laws -- even relatively simple laws (which Section 1233 of HR 3200 is not) -- are often designed for one thing end up being used for something entirely different. Everyone thought that RICO laws were intended to be used against racketeering (which meant groups like the Mafia), yet today they're deployed against ordinary prostitutes. A law which was intended to stop the commerce in sexually tittillating so-called "crush videos" ended up being used to prosecute depictions of animals fighting. And thanks to what Reason called "legislative mission creep" the Patriot Act (supposedly designed to be used against Islamic terrorists) is now a tool in the prosecutorial arsenal against such "terrorism" as drug dealing, sudafed, pirated DVDs, and illegal lobsters!

    So, no, I don't trust them, and I like the fact that Sarah Palin pared through the "end of life" advance planning consultations bullshit and used the term "death panels."

    The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

    Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.

    Ann Althouse thought she had a point. So did law professor William A. Jacobson. And so did Tom Maguire, who issued a sarcastic warning that we should not be calling them death panels.

    Sorry, but I'll call them death panels, and I'm glad they're apparently dead and that it's all a moot issue.

    Which means that as usual, the president was just speaking for himself and no one else (well, except maybe his science advisor) when he said this in a New York Times interview back in April:

    THE PRESIDENT: So that's [what you do around things like end-of-life care] where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?

    I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

    So how do you -- how do we deal with it?

    THE PRESIDENT: ...you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. ...

    Not death panels, just end-of-life cost-cutting consultations.

    If the scrapped proposal was just the government's way of trying to save money, well, maybe the government shouldn't be in such a position. Maybe health care shouldn't be in the hands of the government. What seems to be driving this whole push for socialized health care (yes, I will call it that!) is that Medicare is running out of money. Well, that's bad enough, but isn't that evidence that socialized medicine does not work, and that Medicare should simply be scrapped?

    Instead, the impending bankruptcy of Medicare is seen as a justification to expand the unworkable construct. So, while Medicare as we once knew it will repealed (even the CBO admits that it would eventually be made to wither away), the underlying bad idea -- government health care -- must be expanded until it engulfs and devours the entire health care system.

    Sarah Palin was essentially right in her criticism.

    So was Thomas Sowell.

    Socialism equals death.

    MORE: While he tried to wiggle out of it later, to his great credit Ronald Reagan opposed Medicare, and he explains why here:

    Reagan was right.

    Continue reading "Here I go again, misinterpreting "end of life" consultations to death...."

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




    Bewitching symbolic resemblances just burn me up!

    One of my most frequent complaints involves the tendency ((of activists, usually) to blame people who did not do something for the actions -- often criminal in nature -- of people who did. The blame game usually takes the form of a communitarian political argument. A favorite target of left wing political activists is Rush Limbaugh, and while I've complained about that before (and defended him even though I'm no Rush fan), if a story I saw today is any indication, law enforcement officials at the highest levels are now thinking like left wing activists. I think that's a dangerous development, because they have real power.

    Experts who track hate groups across the U.S. are growing increasingly concerned over violent rhetoric targeted at President Obama, especially as the debate over health care intensifies and a pattern of threats emerges.

    [...]

    "It's certainly a scary time," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, now an ABC News consultant. Garrett said the Secret Service "cannot afford to pass on anyone," and he believes "they really do fear that something could happen to [Obama]."

    Garrett said statements like one recently made by controversial radio host Rush Limbaugh comparing a logo for the White House plan to a Nazi symbol "legitimizes people who are on the edge to go do something or say something."

    "And if you go and take a look at this, you will find that the Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo," Limbaugh said.

    Later, someone painted a swastika outside the office of Congressman David Scott of Georgia, one of Obama's supporters.

    Wait a second. How does anything Rush Limbaugh says "legitimize" anything or anyone, much less "people are on the edge"? If you listen to him (which I do occcasionally), you can either agree or disagree with what he says, but his words don't legitimize a damned thing.

    In the case of the logo, I listened to a recording of what Limbaugh said, and he was talking about this logo:

    obama_healthcare_logo_sm.jpg

    And his argument is that it generally resembles this:

    nazi_eagle.jpg


    The resemblance is very superficial, for the double eagle wings are quite obviously lifted from the medical caduceus, and really don't look like the Nazi eagle wings.

    caduceus.gif

    He'd have a better case suggesting that the NSA logo --

    nsa_logo.gif

    -- resembles this Nazi logo:

    naziparadehelmetEagle.jpg

    Or that the Obamacare logo is shaped too much like the United States Marine Corps logo:

    USMC-10.jpg

    But it's just my opinion that Limbaugh is wrong with his comparison. Others may disagree and see creeping Nazi symbology surreptitiously being insinuated into national health care.

    My question is, how on earth does this "legitimize people who are on the edge to go do something or say something"?

    Can anyone tell me what I am missing? If we assume there are nutjobs out there listening to Rush Limbaugh, how can he be responsible for how they might feel? Such people are by their nature unpredictable and irrational. Anything might in theory make them feel legitimized -- including even the voicing of a disagreement with someone they didn't like. For example, if some deluded maniac believes that all witches should be burned at the stake, and Rush Limbaugh calls Hillary Clinton a witch, is it Limbaugh's fault if the nutjob sees it as his duty to go find Hillary and attempt to lead her to the stake?

    I don't think so -- any more than it would be the fault of the left-wing Mother Jones magazine if the same nutjob felt that his views were "legitimized" by this:

    hillary_arc.jpg

    Sigh.

    Isn't it high time to end these cycles of witchcraft?

    MORE: I should add that if the above logo is in fact intended to be the logo of the proposed national health care system, I am appalled by the idea, because it is obviously derived from the Obama campaign logo, and it's use by a government agency would constitute political advocacy at taxpayers' expense.

    So if it is to be the logo, that's another reason to oppose Obamacare.

    posted by Eric at 12:08 PM | Comments (6)



    "real people who are fired up who weren't engaged before"

    Are the Republicans due for a resurgence?

    Byron York makes a very credible argument that they are:

    "I think what's going to happen is Obama's going to be fine, and the Democrats in Congress are going to get their asses kicked in 2010," says one Democratic strategist who prefers not to be named. "This is following a curve like the Clinton years: take on really controversial things early, fail, or succeed partially, ask Democrats to take really tough votes, and then lose. A lot of guys are going to get beat, but the president has time to recover."

    Most Republican hope focuses on the House of Representatives, but even there they have a huge job ahead. Democrats control 256 seats, and Republicans 178. Forty seats would have to change hands for Republicans to take charge.

    On the other hand, 52 seats turned over when the GOP won the House in 1994. And even if Republicans don't get the 40 they need in 2010, they could dramatically narrow the gap between the parties, giving Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership less room to operate.

    The polls are definitely moving in the GOP's direction. Just look at the Real Clear Politics average of the generic ballot question, which asks whether, if the election were held today, you would vote for your local Democratic or Republican candidate for Congress. It's been dominated by Democrats for the last few years -- until now.

    In recent weeks, poll after poll has shown Republicans neck-and-neck, or even ahead, of Democrats. Even a National Public Radio survey found Republicans in the lead. "There's no question that you're seeing a shift across virtually all the polling," says one GOP strategist, "with Democrats losing ground."

    It certainly looks good for the Republicans right now. But there's an important caveat -- two weeks is a long time in American politics.

    If the Democrats have any sense, they'll kill Obamacare, at least for the time being. It doesn't have to be all the Democrats having sense; just enough. Things might then die down. But whether enough Democrats have enough sense to make that happen, who knows?

    Obama's popularity ratings are falling, and nothing seems to have made them fall as fast as the hurried plan to implement government health care right now or else. I think he's come very close to using up the political capital that new presidents traditionally have, and if he's as slick as so many believe he is, he ought to just back off for the time being.

    Even from a left wing point of view, it ought to be clear that this drive for government health care has done great damage, for it has gone beyond merely reactivating the tired old GOP; it has created a new generation of activists. Moreover, these activists are not activists in the traditional sense. Far from being GOP party hacks, they are beholden to none. Worst of all, regular people like them!

    Republicans were sensing momentum earlier in the summer, but events of the August recess -- specifically, the town hall meetings in which opponents of the Democratic health care reform plan have turned out in force -- have changed their view. "This month has opened our eyes," says one plugged-in House aide. "We're seeing real people who are fired up who weren't engaged before -- the first time we've had a popular movement that could really benefit us electorally."

    For the moment, Republicans aren't worried about press reports portraying protesters as rent-a-mobs or ugly extremists. A new Gallup poll asking whether the demonstrations have made people more or less sympathetic to the protesters' point of view found that 34 percent of respondents said they were more sympathetic, while just 21 percent said less sympathetic. (Thirty-six percent said it made no difference.) For Republicans, that's a net plus.

    I think the reason for this sympathy is to be found in the way they are being attacked. As I explained in my post ("It's really hard being a loud-mouthed, T-shirt-wearing, soft-spoken, grass-roots, Nazi-sign waving, Brooks Brothers suit-wearing member of the angry-Republican-mob-base-supporting, astroturfed RINO lobby of activist-hating activists from Hell"), the contradictory nature of the attacks reveals that they are not traditional activists, but genuinely outraged, regular citizens. Trying to stereotype and vilify them only makes regular citizens more sympathetic. Not so much to the Republicans, but to the "real people who are fired up who weren't engaged before."

    If the Democrats are dumb enough to push this atrocity of a health care bill through, then the real people who are fired up who weren't engaged before can be depended on to vote. All that Republicans would need to do to win would be to run on an anti-Obamacare platform.

    Here's my dilemma. While I hope the Democrats are dumb enough to allow this to happen (because I'd like to see them lose their majority), I also hope they kill Obamacare. (You know, for the sake of the country?)

    On the other hand, maybe if they do kill Obamacare, the real-people-who-are-fired-up-who-weren't-engaged-before brigades will start enjoying the taste of political victory, and want more.

    posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (4)




    Can't they even leave me alone when I'm dying?

    While we are all going to die, each death is an enormously personal thing. I've been through the process with a lot of people, and it is never, ever easy.

    My reaction to the talk about government-mandated death panels (which Joe Klein thinks are a great idea) is that I can't believe things have reached the point where the matter is even under discussion.

    If the government can't at least leave us alone in this most personal matter, then where will it ever leave us alone? For me to say that when I die, I would like to do it without the help of government bureaucrats is an extreme understatement. In fact, a government-mandated panel is the last thing in the world I want near me when I die!

    The idea is enough to make me wretch.

    Bear in mind that I'm a far cry from the enforcers of life at any cost, who would struggle to pray over me and stuff me with tubes even though I wanted to die. I have been intimately involved with end of life decisions, more than I can count or remember. At no point was it considered anyone's business other than the individual, his doctor, and his family and friends. (OK, I still bear a grudge over the fact that a minister my mom never knew attempted to inject himself into her death process and "save" her soul when she was too weak to say no, and she had to ask me for help in getting rid of him and it made me look Satanic, but still... I'd take him sniffing around over a government panel any day.)

    Hell, I feel so strongly about keeping the government out of death and dying that I wouldn't even want them near my dog. When my beloved dog Puff died, it was an agonizingly personal experience, and I finally decided to pay the vet to come to the house to help him die peacefully and painlessly. If the vet had started talking about a need for a government panel, I'd have been absolutely horrified -- and justly so. There are some places the government does not belong. The problem is, the government doesn't seem to think so, nor do the people who want to run our lives, and now run our deaths.

    I don't want the government running my death, OK? Not only is it much too personal a thing, but governments have poor track records in that regard.

    Government death panels?

    I can't believe I'm even seeing such creepy looking words, much less that they're being debated.

    I realize the president made it clear that he had a green agenda, but I thought he meant saving the environment, not telling me that maybe it's time for me to just take a pill.

    Obama-greenhealthcare2.jpg

    Here's what he said:

    "Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking painkillers."
    No wonder 84 year old Ed Koch fell out of love with the doctor-in-chief.

    posted by Eric at 12:32 PM | Comments (12)



    It's really hard being a loud-mouthed, T-shirt-wearing, soft-spoken, grass-roots, Nazi-sign waving, Brooks Brothers suit-wearing member of the angry-Republican-mob-base-supporting, astroturfed RINO lobby of activist-hating activists from Hell

    Did that all fit? (I hope so, but I didn't clear it with the national lobby.)

    My observation yesterday (that swastikas just don't go with Brooks Brothers suits) was not terribly original, for it doesn't take much imagination to see major inconsistencies in the way health care protesters are being stereotyped and characterized by those who are trying to discredit them in the media, and theoretically in the eyes of the American public. Watching this process is at least as amusing as it is irritating, because they are trying to stereotype an incredibly, truly diverse crowd -- people who have little in common other than their opposition to the proposed destruction of the American health care system. Remarkable as it may seem to those who want to control our lives, the guy who wears a suit to work and always speaks in polite, measured tones can have exactly the same health concerns as the tattooed guy who works on motorcycles and punctuates every other sentence with a four letter word. So it really ought not surprise anyone that when the inefficient, bumbling government wants to mess with something as basic as their health, you'd get a very broad cross section of opposition.

    I guess the attempts to discredit them should also not be surprising, and I'm glad to see it's backfiring. Why wouldn't it backfire? A guy in a suit who'd rather be at his country club does not enjoy being stereotyped as an angry thug, any more than a guy who never wears anything more formal than blue jeans and who doesn't even own a tie likes reading in the paper that he's a professionally astroturfed member of the Brooks Brothers brigade. Soft spoken, respectful people who do to great lengths to be polite don't like being told they're a loud and shrill mob, any more than angry, fed-up, ordinary people who can't take it anymore like being told they're well-organized lobbyists for a giant corporate agenda.

    The bottom line is that there are a lot of ordinary people involved in this, and ordinary people are not professional lobbyists.

    The idea here is of course to discredit them by any means necessary; hence all the ridiculous and contradictory stereotypes.

    Not a new phenomenon. Once again:

    I've said this before and I'll say it again. I am not a lobby! My opinions are my own. Furthermore, I am not an agenda. These phrases are used to discount opinions, and while it is not surprising to see them tossed around by activists engaged in ideological disputes with each other, for any legislator to discount constituents that way is to my mind, a lot worse than simply disagreeing with them.
    As I explained in an older post, I first encountered this when I was living in California, and called a state legislator's office because I was upset about a local gun show ban. Because I had joined the NRA and admitted it, I was immediately discounted as a professional lobbyist, not a concerned citizen with, you know, an actual opinion of my own:
    One of the most common forms this classic ad hominem attack takes is to claim that an opponent works for or has been paid by some entity perceived as a malefactor.

    The first time I experienced this personally, I had called the offices of a San Mateo County Supervisor who was seeking to prohibit gun shows, which I saw as a violation of the First Amendment. Before I could even state my position, I was asked, point blank -- "Are you a member of the NRA?" After I said I was, I was told that they had "heard enough from the gun lobby" and "we want input from ordinary citizens."

    I'll never forget it. My argument was nullified without my being heard, much less addressed. I was considered a "lobbyist" -- simply because I had joined an organization and paid $35.00 or whatever it was. Not only was this deeply insulting, but it was profoundly illogical. Had I not bothered to join the NRA, my argument would have been exactly the same. And it would be exactly the same even if the NRA had paid me $10,000.

    I guess right now in the health care debate I'd be considered some sort of professional too. Professional what, I don't know. I'm not being paid to write any of this, so I'm certainly not a professional blogger. I have major problems with both parties, and I don't take marching orders from anyone. In fact, I'm one of those people who if someone tried to get me to do something and I smell even the hint of an agenda, I'll immediately come up with reasons not to do it. True, I have been to one Tea Party, but I didn't wear a suit, nor did I wave signs and yell and scream. I'm not a card carrying anything, and I have a major problem with activism and activists. I guess they could stereotype me as a lone wacko.

    But as I've been saying from the beginning of this blog (and keep saying), why am I not allowed to just think what I think and be given credit for that?

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



    Follow The Constitution

    Here is a link to The County Sheriff America's Last Hope. Here is a description:

    Sheriff Mack's newest book covers decades of research to prove once and for all that the sheriffs in this country are indeed the ultimate law authority in their respective jurisdictions. The sheriff absolutely has the power and responsibility to defend his citizens against all enemies, including those from our own Federal Government. History, case law, common law and common sense all show clear evidence that the sheriff is the people's protector in all issues of injustice and is responsible for keeping the peace in all matters. He is the last line of defense for his constituents; he is America's last hope to regain our forgotten freedom. This short but powerful book is a must read for all citizens, sheriffs, and government officials that we may all work to return America to the constitutional republic she was meant to be. Amazing as it might be, the sheriff can make this happen!
    Now how about that Supreme Court Case? Mack, Printz, vs UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

    And the oath that service men and women take?

    I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
    Now what about the Oath Keepers?

    You can find out more about them at Oath Keepers.

    Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of currently serving military, veterans, peace officers, and firefighters who will fulfill the oath we swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

    Our motto is "Not on our watch!"

    Don't Tread On Me

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:55 AM | Comments (8)




    My Brooks Brothers look is already too toned down for swastikas!

    Here's something I'm not finding persuasive of anything:

    swastikasprayed.jpg

    CAPTION:

    A vandalized sign outside the office of Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., is shown Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009 in Smyrna, Ga. Scott had a contentious community meeting on health care last week. Scott, who is black, said the swastika is the latest example of what he believes is an increasingly hateful and racist debate over reforming health care.
    According to the article, Scott claims that the above sign "should serve as a reminder for people to tone down their rhetoric."

    Even though we do not know who did it, or why.

    So why should it serve -- and how could it serve -- as a reminder of anything other than the fact that spraypainting swastikas and other acts of vandalism are offensive, wrong, and criminal acts? What has it to do with the "tone" of anyone's "rhetoric" any more than a broken window would have anything to do with the tone of rhetoric? Whether a rhetorical tone is implicated (and whose "tone" that is) would depend on whether it was intended as rhetoric, and the only way to know that would be to know who painted it, and why.

    So what's the idea with this rhetorical tone argument? Should I be less opposed to socialized health care simply because some unknown idiot * in another state spraypainted a swastika on a sign? What's for me to tone down, and why should I?

    Anyone -- literally anyone -- can take a can of spray paint and paint two lines in the shape of a swastika.

    You'd almost think the goal was to implicate those who didn't.

    * Yeah, I know. I shouldn't go assuming he's an idiot. Whoever did it might be quite intelligent.

    posted by Eric at 06:27 PM | Comments (4)



    Some debts are more immoral

    Think we don't have debtors prison in these enlightened times? Well, think again.

    Not only are deadbeat dads routinely imprisoned, but via Dr. Helen, I just learned about an incident in which the "dad" went to prison for a child that wasn't his:

    Frank Hatley, 50, spent 13 months in jail for being a deadbeat dad before his release last month. A judge ordered him jailed in June 2008 for failing to support his "son" -- a child who DNA tests proved was not fathered by Hatley.

    Last week, Cook County Superior Court Judge Dane Perkins signed an order stating, "defendant is no longer responsible for paying any amount of child support." The order permits the state's Office of Child Support Services to close its file on Hatley.

    "We're satisfied with the result for Mr. Hatley, but still troubled by the state's monumental lapse of judgment in this case," attorney Sarah Geraghty with the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights told CNN in a written statement. Hatley did not immediately return a call from CNN Tuesday.

    His story dates back to 1986, when Hatley had a relationship with Essie Lee Morrison, who gave birth to a son. According to court documents, Morrison told Hatley the child was his, but the two ended their relationship shortly after the child was born. The couple never married and never lived together, the documents said.

    When the child turned 2, Morrison applied for public support for the child. Under Georgia law, the state, can recoup the cost of the assistance from a child's non-custodial parent.

    For 13 years, Hatley made payments to the state until learning in 2000 that the boy might not be his. A DNA test that year confirmed the child was not fathered by Hatley, court documents said.

    The state maintains that he still owes his back payments and is not entitled to a refund of any of the payments he's made, since he made them under a consent agreement based upon the belief the child was his. (Which is like saying that if you're overcharged for taxes on income you never earned but you pay under the mistaken belief you do owe the taxes, that's just too damned bad.)

    As to the nature of imprisoning people for debt, I'm curious about the theories of immorality. The idea behind debtor's prison was that it was a form of dishonesty to promise to pay money and then not pay it. I can see that, although it's a bit weak, because many people get into debt because of circumstances unforseen at the time of the obligation, and if the result is economic ruin, they can find themselves unable to pay. Also, it takes two to create debt, and while you can always say the borrower did a stupid job of running his affairs, it's also stupid to loan money to an obviously bad risk. If I lent $500.00 to a homeless wino I met on the street and then expressed surprise when he failed to pay me back as promised, most people would rightly consider me more foolish than the wino.

    It also takes two to have a child, yet for reasons which have never been clear to me, only men are treated as the responsible party. Let's compare the creation of a child support obligation to the creation of ordinary debt. Unlike most borrowers, who read and sign documents before credit is ever extended to them, a baby results from sexual intercourse between two people, usually in the heat of emotional passion, and often when the parties have been imibining in mood-altering substances of one form or another. They do not know with any degree of certainty that a baby will result; in fact the vast majority of coital acts do not result in pregnancy. By what standard, then, is the failure -- especially by a non-custodial parent -- to honor the obligation to support a child so much more morally egregious than the failure to abide by a legal contract entered into at arm's length? Simply because there is a child? If that were the case, then why isn't the mother also obligated to pitch in? Furthermore, the mother is legally entitled to get out of the entire obligation -- either by abortion before the baby is born, or by adoption afterwards. The father has absolutely no say, and a non-custodial father has less than no say.

    But let's assume that the insemination of a woman (if it happens to lead to the creation of a child) is more culpable than the signing of a loan document. How do we get from there to it being a criminal offense with imprisonment as the penalty? Any why only for the man, who had no right to ameliorate the situation by offering the child up for adoption, and who likewise has no right to participate in raising the child? It's as if it's his child only for the purpose of paying the state, but for no other purpose, while the mother always gets to be the mother, gets money from the state, and owes the state nothing in return.

    Little wonder that some men consider that monthly check the mother gets to be partially theirs. After all, if it weren't for their contribution, the child who creates the income stream wouldn't exist!

    On a last but only peripherally related point, notice that the state took the mother at her word as to the father's identity. No doubt he is listed on the birth certificate. People do lie about such things, and they form the basis for government records. How many people know to a scientific certainty that their mama didn't lie? How many readers have had their DNA tested?

    (I can't imagine why I would think such a silly point is worthy of discussion, though....)

    posted by Eric at 05:24 PM | Comments (4)



    Democrat Position: Obama Is Hitler

    It appears that a Democrat was holding up the Obama is Hitler poster at a John Dingell townhall.

    I think a look at the evidence is in order. First a picture then a video.

    Obama Plant

    I think an explanation is in order about Dingell's Town Hall.

    Note the black man holding up the poster. This screenshot was used in reports by the MSM who painted the protesters as Nazis. Here's the thing, though - that black man is a Dingell supporter! Last Friday, Frank Beckmann on his show broadcast on WJR 760 AM interviewed an eyewitness that said not only were union thugs let in through a side door before anyone else was let into the venue, but that he clearly saw from his vantage point that very Obama as Hitler poster in that back hallway after the union thugs took their seats. The interview was around 11:00am, but WJR chose not to post that audio (they only tend to select one or two clips a day to post). I thought it would have been bigger news, and needed more than just that to write a post, albeit an audio clip would have partially sufficed. In any case, I've been scouring YouTube and the web for more info, and have finally found some. Here is one account that was posted Monday over at FreeRepublic:
    A couple that were at Dingals TH meeting said there was a black man outside with a sign comparing Obama the Adolf Hitler. After the meeting ended and when everyone was leaving this same man was handing out Dingal campaign flyers.
    A Black supporter of Representative Dingell (D - Michigan) comparing Obama to Hitler? Maybe he knows something.

    Calling Doctor Mengele. Calling Doctor Mengele. Code blue. Code blue. Stat. The Democrat Party is in deep trouble. Report to the emergency room immediately. Order SEIU protest blockers at once.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:06 PM | Comments (4)



    unsatisfying question

    Quick question (which may touch on why I hate politics).

    Should I be hoping the economy is improving?

    According to most of the leading economists quoted in the Wall Street Journal, it is.

    But from a political standpoint, would economic improvement be a good thing?

    Just asking, because the left used to hope for disaster in Iraq, and I thought that was unpatriotic at the time.

    Such disturbing and unwanted thoughts are not comforting.

    The problem, obviously, is that because of the nature of politics, President Obama would claim credit for any economic improvement, even if it happened in spite of and not because of his policies. This means that it is in the political interest of everyone right of center to want the economic downturn to continue, and to deny all existence of evidence economic improvement if it appears.

    I don't find such an approach either emotionally or intellectually satisfying. So I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't. Politically, if the economy improves, I have to choose between being either a crass right wing ideologue or a RINO.

    Which means I am not likely to be a happy camper, regardless of what happens with the economy. Things either get better or they don't, and either way they don't. When honesty ultimately is no more satisfying than dishonesty, what's to do?

    Blog about it?

    (Believe it or not, that provides a form of satisfaction.)

    posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (8)



    Through A Distorted Lens

    This article goes a long way toward explaining why I abandoned left-liberalism after college.

    One protester even brandished a sign that seemed to advocate Bush's assassination. The man held a large photo of Bush that had been doctored to show a gun barrel pressed against his temple.

    "BUSH: WANTED, DEAD OR ALIVE," read the placard, which had an X over the word "ALIVE."
    ...
    On Sunday, The New York Times reported that a Democratic congressman discovered that "an opponent of health care reform hanged him in effigy" and was confronted by "200 angry conservatives." The article lamented "increasingly ugly scenes of partisan screaming matches, scuffles, threats and even arrests."

    No such coverage was given to the Portland protest of Bush by The New York Times or the Washington Post, which witnessed the protest.

    When you consider the relative merits of political philosophies, you have to realize there is a gigantic illusory bias in favor of left-liberalism simply because journalists are overwhelmingly left-liberals and tend to slant coverage as noted above. This is still pretty much the same media that gave Walter Duranty a Pulitzer for reporting how great things were going in Stalin's new socialist utopia, even as the Soviet state inflicted an agonizing death by starvation on millions of Ukrainians.

    It isn't just the media, either; teachers in our schools and universities are also overwhelmingly left-liberal and tend to push their ideology on students in the course of knowledge transfer, often unintentionally but sometimes quite deliberately and at the expense of actual education.

    The net effect of all this is that to take a realistic view of most information, one has to view it with a very rightward tilt to correct for the left-liberal slant (which explains why Fox News gets more viewers than all other cable news channels combined).

    But this is difficult to apply to individual cases where information is missing; for example, given the facts as reported by the NYT, it's hard not to infer that right-leaning protesters are much less civil. It's easy to see why people who avoid right-leaning sources like Fox News develop an inaccurately left-liberal view of the world.

    posted by Dave at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)




    Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Health Care Crisis?

    Obama-socialism_0.jpg

    The scary Obama-Joker face seems a perfect fit for this truly awful AFP article shilling for the President.

    But Obama, hoping to offer healthcare to the 46 million Americans who currently have no insurance, attempted to cool the boiling rhetoric being blasted across cable news channels and conservative talks radio every day.

    "For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary -- what is truly risky -- is if we do nothing."

    So... it's okay for Obama to scare us, but not his critics? How is his own scare tactic different than the ones he decries in the same sentence? And how in God's name does playing his own scare card cool the rhetoric?

    Speaking of Obama's scare tactics, that 46 million is a very dubious statistic, the kind Mark Twain had in mind when he talked about lies and damned lies. Here's a chart from a GOP Senator (based on U.S. Census data) that explains who those 46 million actually are.

    uninsured_chart.jpg

    So what we actually have is about 12 million American citizens of income less than $75K who have no access to insurance or government programs. That's about 4% of the population. Many of those are young, healthy people who don't particularly need insurance, and those at incomes of $40-$50K or above can probably afford to borrow and repay medical bills over time; half seems a reasonable estimate of the two combined. So we have 2% of the country that really has a need for this reform. Some "truly risky -- truly scary" crisis.

    And if that seems flippant or uncaring, well, as it happens, I am one of those uninsured people in that last piece of pie: I was laid off last year, my income this year is less than $75,000, and I am not carrying insurance. And I don't want it if it comes at the price of a gigantic socialization of the health sector that will cost taxpayers trillions, stifle innovation, slow our economic growth, and may lead to government controlling a significant percentage of the economy.

    Mr. President, I have the courage to do nothing. I would ask you to look deep within yourself and find that courage as well.

    posted by Dave at 09:21 PM | Comments (27)



    Obamageddon Is Fascism

    Gerald Celente wrote a book.

    Trends 2000: How to Prepare for and Profit from the Changes of the 21st Century

    He has a web site Trends Research

    More Videos:

    The coming tax revolt:

    A series of clips in one video. Gerald says you have to produce your way out of problems:

    My vote for the future Polywell Fusion:

    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.

    WB-8 Contract Details

    We Will Know In Two Years

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

    H/T Purely Politics

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:40 PM | Comments (2)



    Ignorance is bliss!
    But see (hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4)....

    I found and downloaded the entire text of HR 3200 here.

    At least, I downloaded one version of it; I understand that there are different versions with different amendments. Mine runs 1017 pages and I haven't had time to read it. It's not an easy read; especially because it's loaded with language like this (from my page 424):

    SEC. 1233. ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION.
    6 (a) MEDICARE.--
    7 (1) IN GENERAL.--Section 1861 of the Social
    8 Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x) is amended--
    9 (A) in subsection (s)(2)--
    10 (i) by striking ''and'' at the end of
    11 subparagraph (DD);
    12 (ii) by adding ''and'' at the end of
    13 subparagraph (EE); and
    14 (iii) by adding at the end the fol15
    lowing new subparagraph:
    16 ''(FF) advance care planning consultation (as
    17 defined in subsection (hhh)(1));''; and
    18 (B) by adding at the end the following new
    19 subsection:
    20 ''Advance Care Planning Consultation
    21 ''(hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the
    22 term 'advance care planning consultation' means a con
    23 sultation between the individual and a practitioner de
    24 scribed in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning,
    25 if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years.
    As there is no way to read that kind of garbage without looking up other laws and other paragraphs in other kinds of garbage, reading it is pretty much a waste of time.

    It's almost as if they've come up with something which was never designed to be read, except later by the salaried bureaucrats who wrote it -- and whose job it will be to enforce it. The latter write the laws, and politicians who vote to enact these laws are not really making the law in the sense that the Constitution requires; they are doing as they are told.

    Earlier, Glenn Reynolds linked a piece by Obama supporter and former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who recently underwent major heart surgery, and who is (as he puts it) "Falling Out of Love with Barack Obama." Koch has expensive health insurance which covered him, but he worries about the future under Obamacare:

    Most alarming for people like me, who at 84 years of age recently needed a quadruple bypass and aortic valve replacement, are the pronouncements of President Obama's appointee, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who, according to a New York Post op ed article by Betsy McCauley, former Lt. Governor of the State of New York, stated, "Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, 'as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others' (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008)." He also stated, "...communitarianism' should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those 'who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens...An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.' (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96). "

    Opponents of Obama's health care proposals raise the specter of a panel making decisions on who should receive health care. I am not aware of any proposed panel. However, an article in today's New York Times, referring to a Senate bill, stated, "The legislation could have significant implications for individuals who have bought coverage on their own. Their policies might be exempted from the new standards, but the coverage might not be viable for long because insurers could not add benefits or enroll additional people in noncompliant policies."

    So, where lies the truth? I don't know. But I do know that I want the continued right to purchase and have available insurance that will permit me, no matter my age and physical condition, to purchase with my own money all the medical care I can afford.

    Where lies the truth? I don't think they want Ed Koch or anyone else to know. And the best way for them to go about this is by not reading it themselves.

    I finally understand why the Congressmen who are pushing HR3200 have not read it, and have come up with something unreadable. It's quite deliberate.

    If people could actually read it, they might learn too much. If they learned that a new cancer drug would not be available, or that their father's heart surgery would not be covered, millions and millions of ordinary people would be outraged and up in arms, and it would be very bitterly personal, like Mike Sola, the guy whose son has cerebral palsy and who learned he wouldn't be covered.

    As things stand now, most of the bill's opponents are people who are philosophically opposed to overnment health care, or else they're smart enough to realize where this is headed and don't trust the government.

    Dealing with that is bad enough, but it's why they want to keep the numbers to a minimum, and I think it explains why the rest are being deliberately kept in the dark with unread, unreadable legislation.

    BOTTOM LINE: HR 3200 is not meant to be read. Not by Congress, and certainly not by people. It is simply written by its enforcers. Our new ruling class.

    MORE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post -- and also for linking TallDave's post on the courage to do nothing.

    A warm welcome to all. Your comments are appreciated -- agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 06:39 PM | Comments (18)



    Oregon Has A Health Plan

    This is the same type of "health" board that is in the Obama plan. It will help reduce medical costs at least in theory.

    SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Barbara Wagner has one wish - for more time.

    "I'm not ready, I'm not ready to die," the Springfield woman said. "I've got things I'd still like to do."

    Her doctor offered hope in the new chemotherapy drug Tarceva, but the Oregon Health Plan sent her a letter telling her the cancer treatment was not approved.

    Instead, the letter said, the plan would pay for comfort care, including "physician aid in dying," better known as assisted suicide.

    "I told them, I said, 'Who do you guys think you are?' You know, to say that you'll pay for my dying, but you won't pay to help me possibly live longer?' " Wagner said.

    Well we know pretty much who they are. A kinder gentler version of Doctor Mengele.

    But our representatives in Congress know who the real National Socialists are.

    President ∅ (as in your life is worth nothing to him) says all this type of misinformation must stop. And the implied or else? SEIU

    PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Hoping to blunt the momentum of critics, President Barack Obama went on the offensive in support of his health care plan Tuesday, urging the country not to listen to those who seek to "scare and mislead the American people."

    "For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary is if we do nothing," Obama told a friendly town hall audience.

    Well in Oregon they are definitely in favor of doing nothing to lower health care costs. I don't see why Obama says doing nothing is not an option. It is part of his plan.

    And don't forget to report this post to flag@whitehouse.gov in order to keep our Dear Leader ∅ informed.

    Don't Tread On Me

    H/T Oregon Guy in the comments at Classical Values. Oregon Guy has a real nice blog OregonGuy. He is hitting the health care issues hard. Give him a visit and have a look around.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:47 PM | Comments (1)



    With the government in charge, who will prevent overprevention?

    We've all heard the expression "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," but in an economic sense, that is not necessarily the case.

    At least, not according to that trouble-maker of a Congressional Budget Chief who keeps popping utopian bubbles with doses of reality:

    In yet more disappointing news for Democrats pushing for health care reform, Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, offered a skeptical view Friday of the cost savings that could result from preventive care -- an area that President Obama and congressional Democrats repeatedly had emphasized as a way health care reform would be less expensive in the long term.

    Obviously successful preventive care can make Americans healthier and save lives. But, Elmendorf wrote, it may not save money as Democrats had been arguing.

    "Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall," Elmendorf wrote. "That result may seem counterintuitive.

    "For example, many observers point to cases in which a simple medical test, if given early enough, can reveal a condition that is treatable at a fraction of the cost of treating that same illness after it has progressed. In such cases, an ounce of prevention improves health and reduces spending -- for that individual," Elmendorf wrote. "But when analyzing the effects of preventive care on total spending for health care, it is important to recognize that doctors do not know beforehand which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case of acute illness, it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway. ... Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness."

    Via Greg Mankiw, never one to shy away from facts.

    If you really think about prevention as an idea, it's not difficult to see why all sorts of chaos and waste would result once the heavy hand of government bureaucracy is in charge.

    Imagine, for example if government safety Nazis (can I still say that without being accused by Nancy Pelosi of being a Nazi myself?) were in charge of preventing accidents and injuries. The cost of everything would go up astronomically. Children would be wearing safety helmets to walk outside, cars would be rendered nearly undrivable, food would be inedible, and everything would cost a fortune. And how many bad things would actually be prevented?

    That's the biggest problem with prevention. You often don't know whether you're really preventing something. And the way the government works, preventive measures would tend to be imposed on everyone in the hope of preventing diseases that would only affect a small percentage of people.

    Plus, fads change. When I was a kid, the medical "consensus" of many pediatricians was that children should have their tonsils removed to "prevent" infections and sore throats. Millions of children were subjected to this needless surgery and some died from it. Today we laugh, but in those days the skeptics were laughed at. (Need I mention the prefrontal lobotomy fad?)

    Regrettable though it is that incorrect beliefs can lead to incorrect practices, the medical-scientific field at least has a tendency towards self correction -- something that is not generally true about even the best-intended government bureaucracies.

    I think the best form of prevention is to keep the government the hell out of it.

    posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (3)



    missing the good old dots

    I've seen a lot of twisted logic in the health care debate, and it especially annoyed me to see opposition to government health care being attributed to racism. I well remember during the 1993 debate over Hillarycare (to which I was adamently opposed), there were a lot of the usual insults, imprecations, and the impugning of motives hurled back and forth, but I don't remember anyone being charged with sexism for opposing Hillarycare. It would have been laughable -- even by the standards of the left. Obviously, leftist "standards" have changed since 1993, but that does not explain in logic how opposition to government health care is racist.

    Has there possibly been a deterioration in basic logic since 1993? I realize that certain people have a way of "connecting dots" which aren't there, to their favorite causes which always are, but that's traditionally been the province of conspiracy theory thinking. (Black babies had AIDS. Doctors were Jewish. Jewish doctors gave them AIDS. Etc.)

    What made me laugh out loud was an attempt by the former president of Columbia attempt to link health care reform to the war on drugs.

    The former president of Colombia laid out Mexico's crisis to me in an interview this spring in Brazil: "Drug usage is unstoppable [in the United States] and the cartels have coyotes [people smugglers] planting on the streets hundreds of thousands of illegals selling drugs. The U. S. consumption has stayed level, despite huge costs and the jailing of millions of people."
    OK, I'm with him so far. And I agree with him about about getting rid of the Drug War. But look at what he says in the same sentence:
    He said the Americans must recant, and abandon, their drug prohibition policies and adopt European or Canadian-style health care to deal with the problem. Because they have not, Mexico runs the risk of being devastated as was Colombia.
    Since when does "European or Canadian-style health care" constitute an end to drug prohibition? The last time I looked, not only were all drugs illegal in both Europe and Canada, but they're still throwing marijuana offenders in jail. In most European countries, marijuana is still "in the same category as heroin or other hard drugs."

    Of course, anything might be in a 1000 page law that no one has read, so I don't want to be hasty.

    Tell you what. If the congressional health care bill legalizes all drugs, I'll at least partially reconsider my opposition to it. Maybe I'll call my congressman and ask whether he could reintroduce the drug relegalization provisions as a separate bill.

    Except, well, I strongly suspect that such provisions simply do not exist.

    Alas! Sometimes the whole world seems like a vast conspiracy of missing dots.

    They're everywhere, and it's so hard to fight them. They can't be seen, and they can't be caught! And the worst thing about them is that if you say they're not there, you're in denial!

    posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (3)



    A Middle Of The Night Visit From Thugs

    Here is the New York Post article mentioned in the video. I had a few words about it at Palin On The Health Care Bill.

    It seems that the bill is getting a lot of support from union members. I wonder why that is? Why not let the union guys speak for themselves.

    Mel Hoffer, 67, of Monroe, a retired Ford quality control worker, said he supports reforms because the country needs it. There's no assurance autoworkers will continue to get health care they now have. "We don't know what's going to happen."

    Mel Hoffer, 67, of Monroe, a retired Ford Motor Co. employee, said retired autoworkers have no guarantees. "We may need something to fall back on," he said.

    I wonder if that is a typo or if they quoted the same guy twice? In any case what is wrong with Medicare and Medicaid? Don't union workers have access to that if they have no other plan?

    And how about some dissent from the union stance by a person associated with Ford.

    ...Fadwa Gillanders, a Henry Ford Health System pharmacist, said no changes are needed.

    "I work with poor people all the time," she said. "Nothing is left wanting in ... America."

    So why does the government want to get control of health care so badly? Here is one guy who thinks he knows.
    John Rhen, 68, of Troy wasn't buying it.

    "They're going to take over everything. It's socialism," he said. "I don't want some bureaucrat making health decisions for me and my family."

    I think it is not just "some bureaucrat" they are worried about. Insurance companies already have those. I think it is some bureaucrat backed by government guns. Or for plausible deniability union goon squads.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:21 AM | Comments (1)




    Hilarity at Daily Kos

    Over at Daily Kos, Ken Gladney (beaten by SEIU union thugs for distributing Gadsen flags while black) is being mocked for not having health insurance:

    But there's an interesting twist to this story.

    It turns out that Kenneth Gladney is a man without health insurance. And he's asking for help with his medical bills.

    More on this hilarious irony after the jump.

    According to the leftist view of reality, Gladney is a "hypocrite" for being needy yet not wanting the government to supply him with what he lacks:
    Maybe somebody should ask Mr. Gladney why he is taking money from others. Clearly he hasn't earned the right to health insurance. So why is he asking others to support him, people who have jobs and work hard for their money? Why should they have to give it to him? Seems almost communistic or socialist to me.
    Sorry, but voluntarily sharing with someone in need is not communism or socialism. It's called charity and they give precisely because they don't have to give. Apparently the Kos people don't understand the difference between charity and theft.

    I guess you have to be a part of their compassionate chorus to see an injured man without health insurance as hilarious.

    Or is the rule is that only injured conservatives are funny? Especially if they're beaten by leftists?

    MORE: In the comments, M. Simon supplies a Gateway Pundit link pointing out that Mr. Gladney was insured.

    As an earlier report had quoted him as saying he was not, the Washington Monthly is gleefully implying he's a liar.

    But as brian made clear in his comment, it really does not matter whether he had insurance, or whether he realized he may have been covered under his wife's policy.

    The left will attack him whether he has insurance or not. And they'll probably accuse him of freeloading off his wife, or lying, or anything else they can think of to smear him. It is shaping up to be a massive blame-the-victim, no-holds-barred, smear campaign. Absolutely disgusting.

    MORE: Yes, more. "Father of Handicapped Son Received Threats After Confrontation With Rep. Dingell"

    If this stuff was happening to Democrats, we'd be hearing about an epidemic of Republican hate crimes...

    posted by Eric at 04:25 PM | Comments (16)



    Manufactured Dissent

    Now that you have listened to the CSPAN caller, it may be time to look at who are the real astroturfers. From a Craig's List ad:

    Now is the time to work for change

    We need people like you--lots of people like you--to go out in communities around the country this summer and help make change happen. And you can earn money doing it. Earn $4,000-$6,000 this summer.

    Get skills. Learn vital campaign skills including how to fundraise, run a news conference and mobilize activists.

    Know the issues. Learn about the issues from some of the nation's top advocates, organizers and experts.

    Be part of a winning team. Work alongside other motivated staff who share your passion for change. Make lasting friendships.

    I'm surprised they didn't guarantee hook-ups.

    Looking At the Left has lots of pictures and comments about Citizens vs the Obama Astroturfers.

    Michelle Malkin asks, "Who is funding the astroturfers?"

    If you believe the White House, there are 30 million Americans who support a government health care takeover. But if you look at the funding behind the Obamacare Astroturf campaign, it's the same few Leftist billionaires, union bosses, and partisan community organizers pushing the socialized medicine agenda. Let's connect the dots.

    On Thursday, a national "grass-roots" coalition called "Health Care for America Now (HCAN)" will march on Capitol Hill to demand universal health care. The ground troops won't have to march very far. HCAN, you see, is no heartland network. It is headquartered at 1825 K Street in Washington, D.C. - smack dab in the middle of Beltway lobby land.

    In fact, 1825 K Street is Ground Zero for a plethora of "progressive" groups subsidized by anti-war, anti-Republican, Big Nanny special interests. Around Washington, the office complex is known as "The Other K Street." The Washington Post noted in 2007 that "[i]ts most prominent tenants form an abbreviated who's who of well-funded allies of the Democratic Party... Big money from unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as well as the Internet-fueled MoveOn, has provided groups like those at 1825 K Street the wherewithal to mount huge campaigns."

    It is not just Craig's List. Red State has lots of screen shots of the astroturf recruiters and links to other blogs discussing the topic. It looks to me like the astroturf campaign and the denigration of the Tea Party people is only serving to bring out more concerned citizens.

    Here are the astroturfers you really have to watch out for:

    SEIU in attendance
    Image courtesy of Gateway Pundit

    IMO all this is going to backfire on Obama and bring out even more dissenters from his program. You would think a politician from Chicago would understand politics better. But maybe not. Chicago is a one party town.

    H/T Hot Air

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



    Super duper diaper lesson

    Reading between the lines of a story about a woman who claims to have been duped, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that something sexual was going on here.

    MELBOURNE - A Florida woman was duped into changing diapers and providing care for a man she met through Craigslist who feigned disabilities.

    Turns out the man who hired Janet Schulte to look after an adult brother with diminished mental capacity was the same guy she bottle-fed and treated like a child for 3 months.

    Schulte says the worst thing is that authorities can't go after the man because he appears not to have committed any crime. Though the man lied, he typically paid the agreed $600 weekly for her services.

    Schulte said he never broke character, and on the phone always gave an excuse when she tried to meet his "brother."

    She and her husband got suspicious and found the man out after subtle behavior changes and a few late payments.

    While I am not without compassion for this woman, once again it illustrates a distinction between women and men.

    This woman accommodated what she no doubt now realizes is a disgusting fetish, and while she was paid for her time, she might not have done it had she realized the likely sexual nature of what was going on.

    Women seem to me more traumatized by these things than men. Perhaps I am more cynical, but if I needed money badly enough to be willing to change an adult man's diapers for pay, I would certainly take into account the chance that he might be getting off on it. Would taking that into account make me a whore? I don't know, and frankly I don't care. I suppose I could try raising my price, and if the "brother" readily agreed to it, that might be a clue.

    But I'd have a great deal of trouble seeing myself as a victim. I did read about a young woman who wore and then sold diapers to pay for her college tuition, but the difference there was that she obviously knew what was going on. This woman claims to have been duped.

    How much that really matters, I'm not sure. If there's a sexual dimension in a paid relationship, but that attraction is concealed, how relevant is it? I mean, suppose -- just suppose mind you -- that I hire someone to give me Latin lessons at home. But unbeknownst to the "teacher," I didn't really want to learn more Latin, but instead had a sexual fetish about being corrected for errors in Latin due to an adolescent crush on a Latin teacher which hypothetically seared its way into the fetish center in my hypothalamus. Would I be exploiting such a person if I did not disclose my fetish? How far does this go? We all know about women with sexual interests in the pool cleaning guy, and of course it happens so often with UPS men -- that it probably accounts for a sizable portion of the company's sales.

    Speaking of "learning Latin," here's a video I don't want to own and should probably either sell or throw in the trash:

    learninglatin_s.jpg

    It's true that I don't want it (and I hasten to add that it was someone else's), and despite my interest in the classics, I was never "duped" by the title into watching it.

    But should I throw it away? I mean, what might the homeless guys who go through my trash can looking for cans and bottles think? Should I list it for sale? What if I don't want to disclose what I suspect is its real nature? And what if some well-meaning parents bought it because they wanted their kid to do better in his high school Latin class and they were disappointed?

    The diaper story has given me an idea. I could buy a real "Learning Latin" video (there are plenty around), and stuff it in the box! Wouldn't that guarantee that some poor teenager in need of Latin lessons would be duped into playing it?

    It might, but it would just as dishonest, because duped is duped.

    posted by Eric at 12:31 PM | Comments (3)



    An AP Story

    The AP has a story up about evangelicals and sex. Since the AP is charging $2.50 a word for any one quoting five words or more from their stories I will give you just a four word taste.

    When
    and
    Then
    and
    can
    and
    the
    I hope that helps.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:18 AM | Comments (5)



    I have not yet begun to feel sore!

    I'm pretty tired of politics, mainly because it's so damned redundant. In fact it's so redundant and so repetitive that I am actually sick of being sick of politics, and most of all, sick of even saying I'm sick of politics.

    I mean, how many times and in how many ways can I say that I don't like socialism, and don't approve of the present administration? I'd like to think that pretty well covers how sick I am of politics, but it hardly solves the problem for me. It doesn't even begin to solve it. I have this blog, see, and it's called ClassicalValues.com, and I've spent over six years writing about politics, and I'd be tired of writing about politics no matter who was president. Every day the blog stares at me, it seems more and more to be a yawning black hole inviting -- no demanding -- yet another obligatory daily polemic against the socialist direction in which the country is headed. Yet at the same time, I have pretty much run out of new ways to say what I have said countless times about socialism. Leftism. Multiculuralism. Identity politics. Global Warming. Animal rights. Giant unelected bureaucracies that rule our lives. Elitists who think a Harvard Ph.D. gives them a divine right to rule without having to run for office. The collective "They."

    Well, now that They're in charge, it's as if I have to start over, and this blog is a blank slate. Perhaps I'm too impatient, but I just don't take kindly to repeating stuff I've said. When I see someone else making the same point, I'm glad, but impatient, as I don't like going over old ground. (If you've already complained about, say the government ban on old children's books, it rather takes the joy out of complaining again, and linking another blogger's similar complaint becomes a task. Not necessarily a bad task, but a task nonetheless.)

    This leads to a related point. Saying "I TOLD YOU SO!" is not attractive. It is crass, ugly, boring, tendentious, and when I have to see it emanate from myself, it does not do wonders for my self esteem. Ironically, others get a self-esteem lift from saying "I TOLD YOU SO!" because it's a form of proof that they were right. (I'm more interested in saying what I think as accurately as I can than in being right, because people who disagree with me will never think I'm right anyway, so worrying about being right is a waste of time, unless the goal is winning an argument.)

    What makes me especially sick of politics is an overwhelming sense of anticipatory dread. If --

    a) I don't like the socialist direction in which this country is headed; and

    b) we have not yet made it even a paltry six months into Obama's first term; and

    c) I am stuck with my role as a daily political blogger;

    -- then there can be no escaping the fact that unless I change something, daily, constant repetition is to be my fate in life. No amount of whining or complaining can change that, nor will writing posts like this one have any effect other than helping to set out and clarify the awful reality, which is already staring me in the face.

    This overwhelming sense of anticipatory dread of having to engage in constant repetition for the next seven years (at the end of which time I'll be in my 60s) is not lessened by reading fantasies about how Obama really isn't the president because he was born in Kenya. Or how he has already been defeated and completely discredited in the eyes of the general public. I don't know why I'm so cynical, but perhaps it was because this behavior reminds me of how my dead friends acted when they were dying of AIDS. It's called denial, and I did it too. Guess what? It did not work -- any more than it worked for the lefties to imagine that Al Gore won in 2000. Whistling past the graveyard is whistling past the graveyard.

    This is not to say that I'm lacking in compassion. I share the horror felt by the people on the right. Where I'm lacking is in my ability to engage in denial. I'm not saying that what's in store is an easy thing to face, though. It's horrible. So awful that words fail, and the fact that it's barely started (and I saw it coming) only makes it more awful.

    What many on the right cannot stand to face is that they are in for the equivalent of a long, hard, daily, screwing. It may go on for years. Far be it from me to tell them they should relax and enjoy it.

    Maybe denial is the best way to handle a fate like that. I wish I could be more helpful, but denial is just not what I do, because I got burned out on it years ago.

    So what can you do if you're burned out on denial of the reality of the screwing, and also burned out on facing the reality?

    Not much. But you can always make the screwing as unenjoyable as possible.

    If only that could be a more enjoyable task!

    MORE: As several posts by M. Simon have reminded me, no one enjoys screwing a rattlesnake.

    dont_tread_on_me_s.jpg

    posted by Eric at 10:57 AM | Comments (4)




    AARP Members Unhappy

    This is a video of the August 4th AARP Meeting in Dallas. Pay close attention to the Marine speaking about 4 minutes into the video.

    And if you concentrate on the video you will notice a certain flag that keeps showing up in relation to citizen discontent.

    Don't Tread On Me

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:31 PM | Comments (1)



    American hostages spend night in captivity

    Being trapped on an airplane for nine hours and not being allowed to leave strikes me as false imprisonment, and I'm not sure I'm buying the airline's explanation that the "rules" required passengers to stay on the plane:

    47 passengers [...] spent the night trapped inside a small airplane, parked at the Rochester airport, complete with crying babies and the aroma of over-used toilets.

    The ExpressJet Airlines that operated the plane says the flight was diverted to Rochester because of Twin Cities thunderstorms, and that airline regulations prevented passengers from getting off the plane.

    A law professor who was aboard is not buying their explanation, nor am I:
    "It's not like you're on a [Boeing] 747 and you can walk around,'' said Christin, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law. "This was a sardine can, with a single row of seats on one side of the plane and two rows of seats on the other. And they've got about 50 people inside, including babies, for the whole night. It was a nightmare.''

    Continental Airlines, which issued the tickets for Flight 2816, referred inquiries to ExpressJet Airlines. ExpressJet spokesperson Kristy Nicholas said the flight ran into several problems.

    The airline crew on the plane reached their maximum work hours in the air, so another crew had to be flown in. The alternative of chartering a bus didn't work out. And letting the passengers into the Rochester airport was not possible because they would have to go through security screening again, and the screeners had gone home for the day.

    What about just letting the passengers sleep in the airport terminal? "That was not provided as an option by ground services personnel at the airport,'' said Nicholas.

    Go through security again?

    Passengers already on planes do not have to go through security again when exiting a plane, so it wouldn't make any difference whether the screeners had gone home. Or whether sleeping in the terminal was "provided as an option" or not. (And if they had to let them leave in an unsecured area outside the terminal, then there's no need for screeners!)

    No wonder people hate air travel. These callused employees seem to think that that because you've bought a ticket onto some stupid flight that they own your life.

    I hope the passengers sue and I think that they'd have been fully justified in simply leaving the plane. You know, like politely saying that they wanted to leave, and then opening the door and getting out?

    Or would they have been shot for trying to escape?

    Don't laugh. I haven't looked up the laws, but it would not surprise me if a SWAT Team could actually be legally deployed in the event of such an escape attempt. Moreoever, I think that the pettily sadistic type of mind it takes to keep passengers trapped in a plane all night would much prefer to arrange a heavyhanded law enforcement response than have the TSA bring the screeners back in (assuming the latter were even needed, which I doubt).

    Sorry if I'm sounding pissed, but this is not right. I hope the passengers sue and end up bankrupting this poor excuse for an airline. Short of violence, litigation is the only language they seem to understand.

    posted by Eric at 03:31 PM | Comments (8)



    CAUTION: Babies crossing!

    In an earlier post when I complained about ejected babies crashing into vehicles driven by unsuspecting motorists on the freeway, I mentioned my own "near miss" with a baby in plastic pants crawling on a public street in Berkeley.

    This upset me so much that I never forgot it, but still, I always comforted myself with the knowledge that the incident was unusual, if not bizarre. The story about the flying babies on the Ohio Turnpike made me wonder whether it was, though.

    So did a story Drudge linked today, about another baby unsupervised and at large on a Ohio road. Fortunately, it was rescued before someone ran over it:

    SOUTH EUCLID -- A 14-month-old boy wandered from his house Friday and was found crawling in the middle of a busy street by a passing driver.

    "Thank God nothing happened and that people stopped," police Lt. Jeff Meyers said.

    The child was crawling in the middle of Bayard Avenue near Warrensville Center Road about 8:45 a.m. The youngster was wearing only a diaper and a green onesie, witnesses said.

    Rachel Downey of South Euclid was on her way to work when she approached the intersection and couldn't believe what she saw. She slammed on her brakes and jumped out of the car to prevent other cars from passing her and hitting the toddler.

    "He was smack in the middle of the street," Downey said. "I grabbed him and looked for adults."

    Nobody was outside, but Downey headed toward a house with an open front door. A 9-year-old girl then ran outside yelling for the toddler. Downey asked to speak with the girl's mother, but the child grabbed her brother and ran inside screaming.

    The toddler was crawling and Downey said she probably would have hit him but the moving baby caught her eye. Downey's 5-year-old son was in the car with her.

    "It's pretty awful," Downey said. "I'm still in shock. It's very upsetting."

    The child's mother could not be reached for comment.

    The baby won't remember this, but like me, I'm sure the driver will never forget it.

    I hope this isn't becoming a trend, because every time I read one of these stories, I feel that my right to assume that other people will obey the law is being undermined.

    I don't want to sound like a crank, but signs like this would really take a lot of the fun out of driving.

    babyhighwaysign.jpg

    Hey, don't laugh. (If we could save just one baby, wouldn't the signs be worth it?)

    And people could demonstrate their concern with bumperstickers.

    brakeforbabies.jpg

    posted by Eric at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)



    What Is He Smoking?
    What Is He Smoking?
    You can see a larger version of the poster and read about the controversy with the photographer at the link.

    Gerard Vanderleun at American Digest gives his take along with more photos of Obama smoking plus a reprise of the original American Digest December 18th article along with the comments from that earlier post.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



    Oath Keepers

    I just came across a most interesting www site. Oath Keepers. Here is how they describe themselves.

    Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of currently serving military, veterans, peace officers, and firefighters who will fulfill the oath we swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

    Our motto is "Not on our watch!"

    You know. I took that oath myself. I understand just how those guys feel. And I am with them. All the way.

    Here is a list of ten orders they will refuse to obey.

    1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.

    2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people

    3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as "unlawful enemy combatants" or to subject them to military tribunal.

    4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a "state of emergency" on a state.

    5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.

    6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

    7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

    8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to "keep the peace" or to "maintain control."

    9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.

    10.We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

    You know. I think our current President has bit off much more than he can chew.

    We are getting our own American Schwarze Kapelle (Black Orchestra) only openly.

    It does Obama no good to be Commander in Chief if the military will not follow his orders. I'm not sure the people who put Obama in the White House understood exactly what they were biting off when they made their plans.

    A reference to Oath Keepers in the comments to this Atlas Shrugs post Wanted: National Guard For "Internment" Position got me to look into Oath Keepers.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:34 AM | Comments (5)




    The Rebels Strike Back

    Eric of Classical Values suggested a read of this article about the opposition to Obama's Health Care initiative. In the comments I came across this interesting thought by commenter RKV who
    talks about the current attitude of the Obama opposition.

    Victory is what we're after. We'll decide what standards we uphold, and refuse to give our enemies the power to define us. We read Alinksy's book and we're raising him a Clauswitz and a Sun Tzu.
    I think that is quite correct.

    Let me suggest a couple of Sun Tzu quotes that I think are relevant.

    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu




    So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a thousand battles without a single loss.

    If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.

    If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself. - Sun Tzu

    Obama has the tactics he knew from the Chicago Way. Steam roller your opponents and if you are close to victory - bully them into submission. Once the changes are fait accompli reversal will be difficult. Obama did not KNOW his opponents. The image he had of them was of bitter clingers. Rednecks. Unsophisticated.

    But those are not the people who turned out at the town hall meetings to be roughed up by SEIU thugs. In fact one of the persons roughed up was a guy handing out Gadsden Flags. Some times known as the "Don't Tread On Me" flag.

    Don't Tread On Me

    Obama and the Democrats are making the same mistake the Japanese made in the South Pacific in 1942. They did not expect America to counter attack until 1943. And in fact the Japanese estimation was quite correct. They did not count on the will of Admiral King and the US Marines who, though weaker than the Japanese at the time, took them off guard. Semper Fi Mac.

    Here is the analogous Obama mistake: they disregarded the Tea Parties and marginalized them when possible, but mostly ignored them. The MSM did the same. Big mistake. They now have to fight a movement that wasn't nipped in the bud and is not amenable to the "take out the leaders" strategy. And now - the more they fight the stronger the movement gets.

    How will this all turn out? Like Guadalcanal the issue will be in doubt until mid-November. There will be some state elections then and some special Congressional races. Especially watch the Governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia. Right now it looks like the Democrats will be losing those races very badly. As in not even close.

    For those of you interested in defeating Obama's programs, if you can't join the Tea Party people in public demonstrations and town hall meetings, you can send a note to your Congress Critters.

    House of Representatives
    The Senate

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:46 PM | Comments (3)



    The Real Koran

    Eric did a post on Free Will and mentioned that the Koran was supposed to be the exact words of Mohamed as received by him from Allah. That made me think of a post I did back in 2006 which I think is pertinent.

    ==

    I have been noodling around the net and have come across some very interesting stuff on the history of the Koran.

    By the standards of contemporary biblical scholarship, most of the questions being posed by scholars like Puin and Rippin are rather modest; outside an Islamic context, proposing that the Koran has a history and suggesting that it can be interpreted metaphorically are not radical steps. But the Islamic context -- and Muslim sensibilities -- cannot be ignored. "To historicize the Koran would in effect delegitimize the whole historical experience of the Muslim community," says R. Stephen Humphreys, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "The Koran is the charter for the community, the document that called it into existence. And ideally -- though obviously not always in reality -- Islamic history has been the effort to pursue and work out the commandments of the Koran in human life. If the Koran is a historical document, then the whole Islamic struggle of fourteen centuries is effectively meaningless."
    So there you have it. The Koran can not withstand real scholarship. I say turn the academics with courage loose. Where is Indiana Jones when you need him? The University of Chicago perhaps?

    Here are a few more along those lines:

    In Islam Free Will is From The Devil

    FWIW the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt linked to this one. Michael Totten said he thought it was because the original title (not the one I use here) gave them cover.
    Reforming Islam

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:23 PM | Comments (3)



    Profiles in "democracy"

    While I'm a Global Warming denier, the details of a gigantic Congressional junket to the South Pacific almost make me want to become a believer, just so I can jet around the world and go diving and partying and have someone else pay for it.

    WASHINGTON -- When 10 members of Congress wanted to study climate change, they did more than just dip their toes into the subject: They went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. They also rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest, visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole.

    The 11-day trip -- with six spouses traveling along as well -- took place over New Year's 2008. Details are only now coming to light as part of a Wall Street Journal analysis piecing together the specifics of the excursion.

    It's tough to calculate the travel bills racked up by members of Congress, but one thing's for sure: They use a lot of airplanes. In recent days, House of Representatives members allocated $550 million to upgrade the fleet of luxury Air Force jets used for trips like these -- even though the Defense Department says it doesn't need all the planes.

    They spent a half a million on the trip, and I doubt that a single one of them changed his mind about Global Warming.

    Such wasteful government pork spending is so routine that I normally wouldn't consider it worth a blog post, except that one of the Congressman happens to be Democrat Russ Carnahan, whose incredible arrogance has earned him much recent notoriety. At Carnahan's town hall meeting "tea party taxpayers were locked out, union thugs were let in and conservative blacks had their heads kicked in." Carnahan blamed Republicans for the attacks:

    Carnahan first claimed that the SEIU members may not have been his supporters.

    Carnahan announced this morning that the GOP was behind the violence.

    He also accused Minority Leader John Boehner of instigating the violence(?)

    How the GOP managed to provoke union thugs into attacking black conservatives, he doesn't say.

    While Carnahan might prefer not to meet with his constituents, he has no objection to meeting scientists on expensive trips to other countries. Here's what his spokesman said about the junket to the South Pacific:

    "It is the role of Congressman Carnahan to observe the kinds of important scientific research taking place and to meet with scientists firsthand to make sure that taxpayer dollars are being spent most efficiently."
    Well, if he sees union thugs as having been provoked into attacking black conservatives, no wonder he sees wasteful junkets as a model of spending efficiency.

    Great folks we have in charge.

    Here's a video of Russ Carnahan being asked about the union thug attacks, if you can stand to watch it:

    MORE: From Glenn Reynolds, a reminder that having union goons beat people up is vintage Nixonian behavior.

    Come to think of it, so is "




    Authority is as unsustainable as free will

    What is authority? And what is free will? We talk about those things as if the words have self apparent meanings, but do they? There are so many views of free will that when I use the term I have no idea how I am being interpreted. People use words like "family values" or "sustainability" as if the meanings are self apparent, but often they convey special meanings -- and they are used in a manner pre-understood and pre-agreed upon. "Sustainability" is normally used to refer to something's effect on "the environment" and that is another concept which may look like two ordinary words, but it practice is an ideology which would require volumes to explain and debate. Whether such words are called "code language" or "trust cues," they illustrate the difficulty of communication.

    Last night's whimsical remarks about my turtle's inability to disobey a sign (which made him more apparently obedient than school children) touched on the nature of human free will, and I thought about that in the context of Henry VIII's frustrations with the newly disseminated English (Tyndale) Bible.

    Henry's struggles with the authority of the Catholic Church happened to coincide with the first translation by Tyndale and printing of the Bible into English. A tyrant by nature, he was quite perplexed by the Pandora's Box he had opened. No doubt he thought about man's free will and the nature of authority, and I would be willing to bet that it tormented him. It's easy to say that God was the authority, and God was supposed to be in charge, but how? By what process? Who were his legitimate agents? Or were there none?

    So as I wondered not only about the nature of authority, I also wondered about the need. Does man need authority? Or does authority need man? If you tend towards a libertarian-anarchist view of the world and think authority sucks like I do, then you might understand why I was a bit envious of the turtle, who is freed from having to contend with any authority for the simple reason that he lacks human free will. He can neither obey nor disobey.

    Which came first? Free will or authority? The phrase "free will" (which I use a lot, often in a less than thoughtful manner) implies that there is some sort of authority, otherwise, why would there be a will to be free, and what would the will be free from? ("Willfullness" of course implies disobedience.)

    Henry VIII was willful, and he broke with the authority of the Church, which was the authority of the Pope, whose authority came from God. As a practical matter, this was because Cardinal Wolsey was unable to push through his annulment, to which Henry believed he was entitled because his marriage violated Leviticus. (He had married his dead brother Arthur's wife, although the Church took the position that the indulgence it granted superseded Leviticus.) In real life, he was frustrated over his wife's inability to produce a male heir, but that's not a ground for annulment. Once he broke with the Church, Henry had no choice but to sever the religious hierarchy and become the head of the Church himself, lest his authority be rendered illegitimate by his being a godless king. Thus it was necessary for him to overthrow Papal authority over the Church, and put royal authority in its place.

    The Catholic Church took the position that ordinary people should not read the Bible, and Tyndale ended up being burned at the stake in Belgium. While Henry's henchman Cromwell did try to intervene on Tyndale's behalf, Henry (who had once courted Tyndale) had turned on Tyndale, as the latter opposed his annulment because of an interpretation of Leviticus different from Henry's:

    When Tyndale finally considers the divorce itself, he explains that the curse of childlessness if a man marries his brother's wife (Leviticus 20.21) applies only when the brother is still alive--an interpretation that also explains the injunction (Deuteronomy 25.5) that a man must marry his brother's widow.
    Had Tyndale not written that, Henry would probably have saved him. Anyway (and I am simplifying a complex period) with Tyndale safely dead, Henry ordered (and Cromwell oversaw) the printing and distribution of an English translation of the Bible (lifted almost entirely from Tyndale) all over England. (What we call the King James Version many scholars consider 90% plagiarized Tyndale.)

    Here's how the Wiki entry puts it:

    Tyndale's final words, spoken "at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice", were reported as "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes."[9] In a strange, but well received, rehearsal, the King of England ordered Tyndale's translation of the Bible to be printed in England and made available in every English church, as well as to the public. Thus, Tyndale's Bible translation became a basis for the unification of the English language, and his sacrifice had not been in vain.
    Henry later later came to regret this move (and he restricted Bible reading to the upper classes), for he learned that just as he had replaced the authority of the Pope, an English Bible allowed each man to feel that he had direct access to the same ultimate authority from which the King or the Pope derived their authority.

    Direct access to the Bible without any intermediary was thus inevitably seen as undermining authority and promoting anarchy. Interestingly, Henry VIII's and Tyndale's differing interpretations of Leviticus illustrate why, as I am sure Henry realized. It fascinates me how the translation and distribution of the Bible led directly and inexorably to the concept we call "freedom." It's very easy today to use words like "fundamentalism," but such code language obscures what was actually going on: each man was freed up to read (and therefore interpret in his own mind) a translation* of words in an individual search for authority. To obey or disobey, of his own free will, according to his own interpretation. (Or even to reject in its entirety.)

    No wonder the authorities saw it as anarchy and tried to stamp it out, and no wonder it led to freedom. (Well, at least the concept.)

    * It's probably worth noting that this goes to a primary difference between Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism:

    Muslims and most Western scholars of Islam believe that the Arabic Qur'an that exists today contains substantially the same Arabic that was transmitted by Muhammad. This often surprises scholars of the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity who in many cases assume that the Qur'an has substantially evolved over time (which is what scholars of the Bible --but not many believing Christians or Orthodox Jews-- generally agree on concerning the Bible).

    In other words, while scholars of the Bible in the West have largely succeeded in convincing the community of scholars that the Bible we have today was not the very same "Word of God" that was revealed through the prophets and which was spoken by Jesus, scholars of Islam have generally not come to similar conclusions about the Qur'an.

    Hence, translations are suspect:
    Translations--however inspired they may be--are only shadows of the original. They should always be read with a healthy dose of skepticism concerning the degree to which they reflect the original. The gulf between the original and the translation is an important reason why Muslims must recite the Qur'an only in Arabic for the required daily prayers. A translation of the Qur'an is not the Qur'an; it is simply one person's interpretation of the Qur'an.
    But if an English Koran is not a Koran, then how can an English Bible be a Bible?

    It's easy to see how such a belief system could lead to different notions of authority and free will.

    posted by Eric at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)



    Inflation Ahead?

    The Market Ticker has a very interesting report. From August 6th.

    Remember the Dallas Fed's Fisher saying that "The Fed will not become the handmaiden of Treasury"?

    He was lying (The Fed already has), and now there is proof.

    Mad props to both Zerohedge and Chris Martenson for noticing this; I missed the facts buried in the CUSIP list.

    The upshot: The Fed bought nearly half of LAST WEEK'S 7 year Treasury Issuance TODAY.

    Huh? Remember, after the 5 year auction that went badly (and which I wrote about) the 7yr auction went "well." Rick Santelli (and a lot of other people) agreed - demand was strong. That made no sense to me at the time, coming one day after a near-failure in the 5 year.

    Well now we know what happened: The Fed pretty clearly pre-arranged, either explicitly or by "suggestion", that the Primary Dealers take up the auction with the promise that The Fed would immediately monetize half what the Primary Dealer's took!

    Folks, this is beyond bad - it is pernicious and outrageous conduct by The Federal Reserve in conspiracy with the Primary Dealers, both of which are now desperately trying to prop up the US Government Bond Market through subterfuge rather than just buying up the bond issue from Treasury when originally put to the market!

    If you think the economy and credit markets are "on the mend" why would The Fed do something like this? It would not be necessary unless The Fed was told (by those very same Primary Dealers) that they were going to be unable or unwilling to take down any more Treasury Debt.

    Folks, let me be clear: The United States HAS OFFICIALLY HIT THE TREASURY DEBT WALL and The Fed and Treasury are engaged in subterfuge and conspiracy in an attempt to hide this from the market.

    What this means is that the dollar's value is much less than what it was last week. If it is true. Or to put it another way. The government in the last 6 months has stolen a nice fraction of your money. As of today you are broke and don't know it.

    There are two ways to protect yourself. Buy hard assets or go into debt.

    It may very well be Wiemar Republic time. And you know what follows that.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:09 PM | Comments (5)



    Waterloo

    If you like the above cut here is the whole movie on DVD. According to the reviews do not be put off by the title in Russian (the movie was made in Russia), the movie is in English (even the French speak in English).

    WATERLOO - by Sergei Bondarchuk (Import)

    And why have I been thinking of Waterloo? Some say Obama has met his. I'm not sure the battle is won yet. It certainly has been joined.

    Wellington says: "Now Maitland. Now. Now's your time."

    Maybe in this current fight it represents the Town Hall meetings where where Obama's program is getting lashed by the fires of thousands of angry citizens. It won't be over until Congress votes down Cap and Tax plus the Health Care Abomination.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:49 AM | Comments (1)




    Signs of progress?

    This little cutie is named "Mud."

    mudedamame.jpg

    While I haven't sexed the turtle and can't easily ask its gender, if he turns out to be a she, her name would be "Mudelle."

    Not a very original name either way, but reflective of the species. Mud is a Mississippi mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis), and in the picture above, Mud is eating an edamame bean. Normally he gets Reptomin brand turtle food, plus occasional earthworms and insects, but his coinhabitant (see the fin in the background) is a plecostomus and that was who the bean was intended for. The problem with Mud is that when I feed the pleco, he acts suspiciously like a dog, and wants whatever he sees being eaten. Even broccoli.

    Not very altruistic behavior, is it? And that's in spite of the sign right above the pair, which, although cut off in the picture, clearly states "Fish Need Love Too" in plain English! Were I less cynical, I might see that the fact that the turtle is not trying to eat the plecostomus as an indication that the sign is working. But that would be naive, as plecostomuses not only don't look or act like "real" fish, but they are well armored and have sharp spines which discourage most would-be predators.

    No, I'm afraid that expecting that turtle to obey the sign is about as reasonable as expecting teenagers to obey a "Drug Free School Zone" sign.

    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure the turtle won't deliberately disobey the sign.

    In that one important respect, turtles are more obedient than people.

    posted by Eric at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)



    Palin On The Health Care Bill

    Sarah Palin has a few words about the health care bill now before Congress.

    The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
    That is only part of the statement. You can read the rest at the link. Sarah also suggests you watch this video:

    Here is what one of the President's Health care advisers has to say about cutting the costs of health care.

    Start with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.

    Emanuel bluntly admits that the cuts will not be pain-free. "Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality are merely 'lipstick' cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change," he wrote last year (Health Affairs Feb. 27, 2008).

    Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, "as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others" (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008).

    Yes, that's what patients want their doctors to do. But Emanuel wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.

    Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.

    Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

    What is the Hippocratic oath?
    I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

    To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.

    I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

    I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

    But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

    I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.

    In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.

    All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.

    If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

    How is it that a pagan from around 400 BC has a better moral stance than our current President and Congress?

    That is easy. Socialism Kills. From 2003.

    In a period of two weeks during August, more than 11,000 elderly French men and women died of heat stroke. It is important to note that this is not nearly the scandal in France that it would be in America. In fact, upon hearing the news, French president Jacque Chirac decided to stay on vacation in Quebec.

    Why has this happened? In large measure because, in the words of British historian Paul Johnson, the French, like most Europeans, and like most left-thinking people anywhere, love ideas more than people. The average educated European can intelligently discuss Hegel or Matisse almost as well as the average educated American - who probably never heard of Hegel or Matisse - can discuss real estate or sports.

    Europe has given the world Marxism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, racism, and socialism, all rotten ideas that have caused immeasurable human suffering. But for Europeans and their ideological twins on the American left and at universities, ideas are not judged by their ability to ameliorate human suffering or reduce evil, but by their complexity and apparent profundity. An idea is not good because it produces good - that's unromantic American pragmatism - it is good because it sounds good.

    Of course that is only the tip of the iceberg. The National Socialist in Germany are estimated to have killed 20 million. The Russian Communists (communism is a socialist variant) are thought to have killed 30 million. And the Chinese Communists at least 50 million. It costs a lot - both monetarily and in terms of human life to live up to the Socialist Ideal.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:03 PM | Comments (2)



    Government medicine, a horrifying joke

    "Government Medicine Should Horrify Americans."

    So argues Deroy Murdock, who demonstrates in chilling detail that death rates are higher -- and the standard of medical care lower -- in the single payer systems of England and Canada. Countries that Obama wants to emulate here:

    As he told the AFL-CIO in 2003: "I happen to be a proponent of single-payer, universal health-care coverage. . . . That's what I'd like to see."

    And why a public option just for medicine? Wouldn't government clothing stores be best suited to furnish the garments Americans need to survive each winter? And why not a public option for restaurants? Shouldn't Americans have universal access to fine dining?

    All kidding aside, government medicine has proved an excruciating disaster in the U.K. and Canada. Our allies' experiences with this dreadful idea should horrify rather than inspire everyday Americans, not to mention seemingly blind Democratic politicians.

    I completely agree.

    In fact, just the two words -- "government medicine" -- look creepy together.

    Creepy enough to call for an alternative redesign of the Obama Joker poster, perhaps?

    I don't know whether this is allowed (and I meant no disrespect to the orginal artwork), but I thought this called for the greening of the government medicine joker, and I thought his coat probably ought to be white.

    Obama-greenhealthcare2.jpg

    I guess the red spots on the joker's coat reflect the fact that having the government in charge of medical care "won't be easy."

    posted by Eric at 06:30 PM | Comments (2)



    You are unsustainable!

    What is health? And why does it keep changing? The reason I'm asking is because I was at a local "health food" store (which sells extremely expensive organic produce along with their extremely expensive health food), and I noticed a display rack full of expensive plastic drinking bottles, which was emblazoned with an important and proud announcement that the store no longer sells bottled water. Along with this were some propagandistic moral denouncements of bottled water as being very "bad." (This reflects a major national movement against bottled water, which includes a campaign in many cities to ban it.)

    Never mind the health nuts from the past who berated unhealthy, chemically treated tap water. The new edict from somewhere in Health Land is that bottled water is less healthy than tap water because it is bad for the environment.

    Whose health is this? The customer's? Or the environment's?

    It struck me that the store (which is, after all, a business, and is presumably there to make money) is shooting itself in the foot, because people who want to buy a bottle of water will buy it from another store.

    One of the arguments the store made was that bottled water is not "sustainable." This does not mean so much that the water is being used up or the plastic is being used up, but that fuel is being used up trucking it around. Yet the store was filled with inventory that had to come there by truck, and they still sell numerous soft drinks, in both plastic and glass bottles. By what standard are soft drinks sustainable while bottled water is not?

    Besides (I thought) aren't soft drinks unhealthy? At least, surely they're more unhealthy than water. And this is a health food store.

    What gives?

    My concern is that if this idea spreads (which it is), governments will end up treating bottled water like deadly trans fats, wiping out yet another industry ($15 billion a year) that doesn't need to be wiped out.

    Moreover, when this trend is coupled with the anti-soft drink campaign (already underway in cities), I could imagine a future where there are no beverages for sale except coffee, beer, and wine.

    Public drinking fountains, you say? They have so much bacteria that they're called "the germiest places in America."

    Putting aside such health concerns, I think the long term idea behind sustainability might be to make us all ride bicycles, carry thermoses, replace lawns and gardens with "native species," eat only locally grown food, and live like the Amish.

    What I want to know is why people who use the word "sustainability" do not seem to be concerned in the slightest with the economy. Do they believe a healthy and thriving economy is unsustainable? And might they think that it's therefore a good idea to ruin the economy in the name of sustainability?

    Shouldn't we keep such people away from the economy?

    posted by Eric at 01:30 PM | Comments (6)



    Union Thugs Beat Black Man

    It seems the Obama health care plan is attracting a LOT of unwanted attention from dissenters.

    Kenneth Gladney, 38, a conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with "Don't tread on me" printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was awaiting treatment for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack.
    Gateway Pundit has video and links. One of the links is to Patterico who has this to say:
    I guess the Democrats were right after all. At a town meeting held by a Democrat congressman, a rowdy group of organized and angry thugs showed up to make a point about ObamaCare, and then beat up a man. Race was involved, too: the victim was black -- attacked by a man yelling racial slurs.

    It's every Democrat talking point you've read about in the last day or two, come to life in an ugly fashion.

    With one twist. The black victim was a conservative, and the assailants may well have been union thugs....

    This seems like a perfect Obama "can't we all get along" moment. I wonder if the union guys and the black fellow will get a White House invite for beer?

    Gateway has another piece on the action with a link to David Harsanyi.

    If you're a virtuous and patriotic American, you may find this column either offensive or misleading. If so, please forward it to White House authorities at the Department of Fishy Activity. (E-mail the good people at flag@whitehouse.gov.)

    As many of you have heard, the White House now requests that the public tattle on those of us spreading "fishy disinformation" regarding Washington's proposed takeover . . . oops, I mean "reform" . . . of your health care. This step, naturally, is for our own good.

    Now, don't get overly paranoid, you freaky right-wing zealots. Judging from the Obama administration's track record, the program will do absolutely nothing other than add billions to the deficit.

    The vital thing to bear in mind, though, is that the nation needs a concerted plan to corral this wacko "mob" of "thugs" who recklessly use the First Amendment to decelerate all this forward progress.

    We are talking about a moral imperative here. As one senator asserted this week, passing government-run health care is the "sacred duty" of Congress. (Boy, it's a good thing we banished all that moral preening from Washington.)

    When your mission is the same as that of the Lord himself, well, you can imagine the kind of scandalous characters populating the opposition camp. It is the type of individual that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi astutely points out has the tendency to carry "swastikas and symbols like that" to local town hall meetings on health care.

    You might be curious to find out what symbols Pelosi believes are "like" swastikas. Maybe she's referring to the Gadsden flag.

    I have done a little writing on the flag email address. You can find it here: Sex With Sarah Palin And Several Animals. And that other flag? The Gadsden flag? You can see it on my sidebar. Or if that image is too small try this:

    Don't Tread On Me

    Gateway has another article up on the above described events: SHOCK VIDEO--- DEMS SNEAK UNION THUGS INTO CARNAHAN TOWN HALL-- 1,000 Tea Party Taxpayers Locked Out!

    And Missouri is not the only place this sort of thing is happening: Anti-Obamacare Protester Slapped at Town Hall Meeting (Photo)

    You know if this sort of thing keeps going on I predict a Civil War in America. I'm betting on the guys with the most guns. And it isn't the gun banning leftists.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:38 PM | Comments (2)



    Who has more to lose in the ugly new game?

    Paul Krugman and Peggy Noonan have both written columns analyzing the protests against nationalized health care, and they agree on one thing: the protests are new and ugly.

    Noonan:

    There's a new tone in the debate, and it's ugly.

    Krugman:

    So this is something new and ugly. What's behind it?
    From there, they diverge, and naturally, these two see the health care protesters in very different terms.

    In a piece which shows signs of severe rhetorical strain, Krugman struggles valiantly to make the case that the protesters are not really driven by concerns over health care, but that they are actually racists. To do this, he engages in a two-step process: first, he accuses them of being a bunch of Obama-hating Birth Certificate Truthers (never mind whether they are), and once they become Birthers, because of some "driving force" known only to Krugman, it's a short step to Klanhood or something. (I take it that according to his view of the world, questioning the veracity of Hawaiian documents is the newest and ugliest form or racism):

    ...they're probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they've heard about what he's doing, than to who he is.

    That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that's behind the "birther" movement, which denies Mr. Obama's citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don't know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn't be surprising if it's a substantial fraction.

    It wouldn't be surprising, eh? Now there's a convincing argument. (Because nothing ever surprises me, shouldn't I already be convinced?)

    Peggy Noonan looks at the frantic nature of Democrats' attacks (especially the gathering of a dissident database), and wonders why they are being so unnecessarily provocative:

    All of this is unnecessarily and unhelpfully divisive and provocative. They are mocking and menacing concerned citizens. This only makes a hot situation hotter. Is this what the president wants? It couldn't be. But then in an odd way he sometimes seems not to have fully absorbed the awesome stature of his office. You really, if you're president, can't call an individual American stupid, if for no other reason than that you're too big. You cannot allow your allies to call people protesting a health-care plan "extremists" and "right wing," or bought, or Nazi-like, either. They're citizens. They're concerned. They deserve respect.

    The Democrats should not be attacking, they should be attempting to persuade, to argue for their case. After all, they have the big mic. Which is what the presidency is, the big mic.

    And frankly they ought to think about backing off. The president should call in his troops and his Congress and announce a rethinking. There are too many different bills, they're all a thousand pages long, no one has time to read them, no one knows what's going to be in the final one, the public is agitated, the nation's in crisis, the timing is wrong, we'll turn to it again--but not now. We'll take a little longer, ponder every aspect, and make clear every complication.

    You know what would happen if he did this? His numbers would go up.

    This all depends on how stupid the Democrats are. Maybe stupid is not the right word. Paul Krugman is certainly not stupid; he's a highly respected economist, but he doesn't seem to realize that straining to call people racists when they are furious about socialized medicine not only won't persuade then, but it might very well have the opposite effect.

    Of course, this may all be part of the plan. I tend to assume people have sense, and rightly or wrongly, I have been assuming that the Democrats don't want Obamacare to pass right now lest it cause a 1994-style backlash at the polls. If we assume that this is the unacknowledged Democratic consensus, then all the deliberate antipathy and baiting makes sense. The idea is to provoke people as much as possible right now, so that it will look believable to blame them for Obamacare's defeat.

    My argument assumes the Democrats consider holding Congress to be more important than passing Obamacare right now. Should I make that assumption?

    As to the Republicans, what is a more important goal? Stopping Obamacare or retaking Congress?

    For the Republicans, the goals are not as mutually exclusive as they are for the Democrats.

    What's an open question, though, is which would help the Republicans more.

    For Obamacare to pass in a hurry?

    Or for it to be defeated (and have the media try to blame a lobby of right-wing racist Birther Brooks Brothers Nazis for its defeat)?

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (6)




    Out Go The Lights

    Britain may soon have an electricity problem according to The Economist.

    In the frigid opening days of 2009, Britain's electricity demand peaked at 59 gigawatts (GW). Just over 45% of that came from power plants fuelled by gas from the North Sea. A further 35% or so came from coal, less than 15% from nuclear power and the rest from a hotch-potch of other sources. By 2015, assuming that modest economic growth resumes, a reasonable guess is that Britain will need around 64GW to cope with similar conditions. Where will that come from?

    North Sea gas has served Britain well, but supply peaked in 1999. Since then the flow has fallen by half; by 2015 it will have dropped by two-thirds. By 2015 four of Britain's ten nuclear stations will have shut and no new ones could be ready for years after that. As for coal, it is fiendishly dirty: Britain will be breaking just about every green promise it has ever made if it is using anything like as much as it does today. Renewable energy sources will help, but even if the wind and waves can be harnessed (and Britain has plenty of both), these on-off forces cannot easily replace more predictable gas, nuclear and coal power. There will be a shortfall--perhaps of as much as 20GW--which, if nothing radical is done, will have to be met from imported gas. A large chunk of it may come from Vladimir Putin's deeply unreliable and corrupt Russia.

    Many of Britain's neighbours may find this rather amusing. Britain, the only big west European country that could have joined the oil producers' club OPEC, the country that used to lecture the world about energy liberalisation, is heading towards South African-style power cuts, with homes and factories plunged intermittently into third-world darkness.

    American Greens have a similar plan for this country if we let them get away with it.

    The Economist thinks energy taxes are the way to go.

    ...carbon must be taxed if firms are to invest in long-term, expensive, technology-heavy projects such as nuclear plants, cleaning up coal and taming renewable sources of power. Carbon is already assigned a price through the European cap-and-trade mechanism, but the system is focused on the short term, vulnerable to gaming and plagued by hugely fluctuating prices. A tax on carbon is hardly going to stop the lights going out in a few years, but it would provide a floor price for power, giving investors a clearer sense of likely profits. In the meantime you know who to blame.
    A political solution subject to gaming? I'm shocked. And then there is the carbon tax idea. That may sell to the Brits but in America I recall we had a Tea Party about some relatively modest British Tea taxes. And to this day we are not fond of paying taxes to any government.

    If Brits are going to stay warm at night I think that soon they are going to have to find extras to sleep with. Maybe some one like Louisa Lockhart who is rumored to sleep well with others.

    On another note: I typed in "Green Electricity Swindle" into Amazon and this is what came up:

    Chill: A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory, Does Climate Change Mean the World Is Cooling, and If So What Should We Do About It?

    Further: You can listen (while you still have electricity) to more Pat Travers on this CD:

    Live! Go for What You Know

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:40 PM | Comments (2)



    Meet Don Manzullo

    The guys from the Rockford Tea Party are having a meet up with Illinois Congressman Don Manzullo from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday Aug 8th at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, 1350 W. Prarie Drive, Sycamore, Illinois and from Noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug, 8 at the Ogle County Farm Bureau, 421 W. Pines, Oregon, Illinois.

    BTW Oregon is about 1/2 way between Rockford, Illinois and Dixon Illinois. And if you go a little farther you get to Tampico, Illinois the birthplace of Ronald, Reagan.

    The Rockford Register Star had a bit on the local Tea Party People. From June 22nd 2009.

    A man who walked from his Rockford home to Washington, D.C., will speak to the Rockford Tea Party at the group's meeting Thursday night.

    The Rockford Tea Party, a group that's part of a national movement that aims to hold government accountable, originally was supposed to meet at the First Free Evangelical Church on Mulford Road. But after church administrators heard radio ads inviting the public to the meeting, they informed the group they could not use the church as a meeting space.

    The group now will meet at the Highland School building on East State Street.

    Kurt Kallenbach walked from Rockford to Washington, D.C., with the hopes of educating others about the government's missteps.

    "It was a philosophical walk, not a political walk," Kallenbach, 48, said. "It gave me a chance to meet people across the country and get the opportunity to speak."

    Kallenbach said church administrators canceled the Rockford Tea Party's meeting within an hour of his interview on radio station WNTA 1330 AM on Tuesday.

    "The church kicked us out," said David Hale, director of the Rockford Tea Party. He said he received "an angry phone call" from an employee of the church who told him the Rockford Tea Party's values are not the values of the church.

    The Tea Party People promise to also meet with Rep. Mark Kirk at a later date.

    I have had a few words to say about Rep. Kirk here:

    Mark Kirk Is No Traitor

    Upsetting The Political Apple Cart

    Brain Dead Republican Enhances Party Image

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)



    Sex With Sarah Palin And Several Animals

    It has come to my attention that if you send an e-mail to flag@whitehouse.gov to report unwarranted criticism of President ∅ your IP address will go into a permanent file.

    Cuffy Meigs at the above link explains what to do:

    For the record, I'm not completely freaked out by the White House having my IP address permanently in a database. Because I know the more I post flag@whitehouse.gov here and around the web, the more robo site-crawling spambots will join me on the enemies list. The White House hates re-financed boner pills from Nigerian governments-in-exile. That address again: flag@whitehouse.gov
    And just in case you missed it: flag@whitehouse.gov and for stupid crawlers that only understand plain text (be kind to stupid machines) here it is in plain text:

    flag@whitehouse.gov

    And just in case they need a reminder:

    flag@whitehouse.gov

    You know. Spambots may have their uses after all. I wonder if the President needs Viagra? Or money from Nigeria? Perhaps he has won the lottery? Or maybe he wants a date with a Russian lady who really really wants to love him if he is kind and generous.

    H/T Eric of Classical Values via e-mail.

    Update: Commenter Watcher thinks I may have left a few things out:

    Sarah Palin naked bestiality viagra cialis flag@whitehouse.gov

    Britney Spears threesome mortgage casino flag@whitehouse.gov

    Megan Fox penis vagina dildo rape slut xxx flag@whitehouse.gov

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:40 PM | Comments (2)



    Experience counts!

    I've been getting quite a laugh out of the accusation that "conservatives" are using Nazi symbolology ("SS Nazi sign carried at town hall protest") -- especially considering that the "evidence" consists of a picture of a hand-lettered sign attempting to use the SS double lightning bolts in a mocking way:

    doggett_ss_sign_090801a.jpg

    The sign uses the SS bolts to say "STOP" something (most likely socialized medicine, but I don't know). While I certainly would not make my point that way, I don't think the above sign indicates the slightest sympathy for Nazis by the sign holder, and certainly not by conservatives in general.

    But if it does, then I think we have to be fair, and I offer a few headlines, because these "SS Nazi signs" have been numbingly familiar for years.

    "SS Nazi sign carried at anti-Bush protest."

    BushSS.jpg

    "SS Nazi bumperstickers for sale to anti-war protesters at Cafe Press."


    StopBussh.jpg

    And of course,

    "SS Nazi sign displayed by popular American musicians."

    kiss_concertlive.jpg

    I hate to sound so critical, but I think the hand-lettered sign waved at the town hall protest is pitifully sloppy by comparison.

    Where it comes to Nazi calligraphy, the amateurs could use some lessons from the professionals.

    posted by Eric at 06:43 PM | Comments (3)



    Facing a "public challenge" to "come forth and publicly tell why"

    This morning I learned (much to my chagrin), that the Obama Joker image I was promoting has not only upset some very prominent people on the left, but it is considered racist in some circles.

    They're also saying it is "dangerous."

    It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but as I'll explain later I think that this sort of imagery:

    ObamaChangeProgress.jpg

    is actually more dangerous than this:

    Obama-socialism_0.jpg

    As to the criticism of the latter, a piece by Frank J. Fleming alerted me to the problem.

    The image quickly spread throughout the internet, gaining knee-jerk liberal condemnation and making people ask things like "What does Obama have to do with the Joker?" and "What does the Joker have to do with socialism?" and "Is this racist somehow? I'm pretty sure it has to be racist."

    Well, as it's my job as some guy on the internet, I will definitively answer all of these questions.

    First off, it's worth looking at whether the poster is racist. Liberals seem pretty certain it is. An LA Weekly blogger commented that "the only thing missing is a noose."

    Yes, the LA Weekly blogger did say exactly that. And here's the full quote:
    The poster, which bears a very superficial resemblance to Shepard Fairey's famous Obama Hope illustration, has been pasted on freeway supports and other public surfaces. It has a bit of everything to appeal to the drunk tank of California conservatism: Obama is in white face, his mouth (like Ledger's Joker's) has been grotesquely slit wide open and the word "Socialism" appears below his face. The only thing missing is a noose.
    He's technically right. There is no noose, but why does he say it's the "only" thing missing? Aren't there a lot of other things missing? There are no burning crosses, no hammer-and-sickles, no swastikas (which Nancy Pelosi claims the critics of socialized medicine like to wave), no Stars of David, no peace symbols, and no Islamic crescents. And while I'm at it, there's also no Hitler moustache!

    So I'm not getting it. Is he complaining that there is no noose? Or is he implying that it was dishonest to leave a noose out, because they obviously somehow wanted to put one in? What does a noose have to do with the Joker, anyway? If I really stretch my brain, I can sort of make a connection between the word "socialism" and a noose, because of Lenin's famous reputed saying about how the capitalists would sell Marxists the rope they'd use to hang them, but that doesn't work, either artistically or politically. So that can't be what he means.

    Perhaps the absent noose just one of those subtexts within a subtext that you just have to assume is there because it ought to be there. That the designers might as well have put a noose in the image because that is what the critics say they really wanted to put there.

    Anyway, while it hurt my feelings to be told that I was helping to circulate an image which might as well have featured a noose I might as well have secretly wanted, what hurt even more was reading that some people think using the poster is "mean-spirited," "dangerous," "offensive," and "goes beyond political spoofery."

    Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, denounced the image and called on those behind it to reveal themselves. "Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery.

    "It is mean-spirited and dangerous.

    "We have issued a public challenge to the person or group that put up the poster to come forth and publicly tell why they have used this offensive depiction to ridicule President Obama."

    As Noel Sheppard points out, the same sort of spoofery was routinely inflicted on Bush, who was also depicted as a joker. (He was also depicted as Hitler so many times that it became dull.) Not that the fact that it was done to Bush is any defense. After all, two wrongs do not make a right. Yet how many of those who are complaining now were also complaining that Bush's treatment was mean spirited and dangerous?

    Then there's the public challenge:"We have issued a public challenge to the person or group that put up the poster to come forth and publicly tell why they have used this offensive depiction to ridicule President Obama."

    Why?

    I can't speak for anyone else, but I certainly didn't do it to "get even" for all the anti-Bush ridicule. I did it because I am horrified by the direction in which this country is headed, and I did it especialy because I knew certain people -- especially those who believe that images of their leader should be treated in a quasi-religious nature -- would find it offensive.

    It's a bit like spoofing Che Guevara, and although I am in no way comparing our president to that Communist murderer, there is something in the Shepard Fairey stuff that positively nauseates me, reeking as it does with the stench of the personality cult. Personality cults have a long history of glorification of tyrants, and they are not only un-American in the true sense of the word. I consider them obscene, and I consider them dangerous.

    I have zero tolerance for personality cults, and if I see anything resembling one, I consider it fair game for ridicule.

    As the Obama Joker poster strikes a much-needed blow at a burgeoning personality cult, it is thus much more than mere political criticism or ridicule of the president. It is a defense of freedom, in the full sense of the word. It is not the Obama Joker poster which is dangerous, but the personality cult at which it is aimed.

    Anyway, the main reason I felt the need to "come forth and publicly tell why" is because I don't have to. The United States is still a country where ridiculing personality cults is not literally dangerous, and not the sort of country where we have to "come forth and publicly tell why."

    While I can't be sure what he's thinking, it is to be hoped that Earl Ofari Hutchinson considers personality cults more dangerous than their ridicule.

    I'd hate to live in a country where personality cults became mandatory, and ridiculing them became dangerous.

    Perhaps Mr. Hutchinson should be more careful with his choice of words.

    posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (5)




    Schwarzenegger for President!

    I had to say that.

    Especially in light of the story headlined "Schwarzenegger Finally Learns: Freedom Is Profitable, Statism Starves" that Glenn Reynolds linked earlier detailing how the governor is "aggressively pursuing a way to open a portion of California waters to offshore drilling."

    What's up with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Can it be that he is trying to mollify the right wing GOP "base" in contemplation of a run for the presidency?

    To those who would laugh at this suggestion and point out the fact that Arnie wasn't born here and is thus ineligible to run, I would point out that that (via a link M. Simon sent me) the left is saying otherwise:

    Let's imagine that Barack Obama had been born in Indonesia or Kenya or anywhere else for that matter, and hadn't become a citizen until moving to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. Is there one good reason why that would make him less fit to be president?

    Put another way, is there one good reason why foreign-born governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm can't legally run for president but Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin can?

    Naturalized citizens like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Madeline Albright have been allowed into the highest positions in the U.S. national security establishment without anyone questioning their loyalty. Why shouldn't voters be allowed to decide whether a foreign-born candidate is American enough to be president? New York voters didn't mind the fact that Hillary Clinton had never lived in the state before running for its senate seat.

    I say, it's time for the Republicans to get tough.

    Two can play at this non-citizenship game!

    And why make it easy for the Democrats? I mean, if it's as easy to get a Hawaiian birth certificate as the Birthers say it is, what's to stop Arnie from just flying to Honolulu and getting one, and while he's at it, planting a back-dated birth notice in the local paper?

    I wish Arnie had more of a sense of humor, though. Because if he did, he could market himself as a multiculturalist dream.

    "You guys say you want a foreign born president, but you're only pretending!" he could say. "Despite all the claims, Barack Obama has still not proved that he was born in Kenya, or anywhere other than Hawaii. I was not only born in Austria, I can prove it!"

    Easy for me to say. But if he did that, some leftist crackpots would probably say he's lying, and that he was secretly born in the USA.

    posted by Eric at 07:28 PM | Comments (4)



    German Scientist Doubt Climate "Consensus"

    Sixty German Scientists doubt the current "consensus" that human CO2emissions are driving the climate.

    More than 60 prominent German scientists have publicly declared their dissent from man-made global warming fears in an Open Letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The more than 60 signers of the letter include several United Nations IPCC scientists.
    Well well well. It seems the goat herders at the UN's IPCC have failed to get all their goats in line.

    Well that is just the opening volley from these German scientists. They have some bigger guns.

    The scientists declared that global warming has become a "pseudo religion" and they noted that rising CO2 has "had no measurable effect" on temperatures. The German scientists, also wrote that the "UN IPCC has lost its scientific credibility."
    I'm sure that recent books like these:

    Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science

    Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming

    Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed

    Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Ruin Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them

    Scam: The Liberal Misinformation Machine And Its War On America

    haven't helped the "CO2 is an evil gas" cause. So what is the cause of the recent rise in temperatures which seem to be falling currently? Ah. The Germans have an answer.

    The July 26, 2009 German scientist letter urged Chancellor Merkel to "strongly reconsider" her position on global warming and requested a "convening of an impartial panel" that is "free of ideology" to counter the UN IPCC and review the latest climate science developments.

    The scientists, from many disciplines, including physicists, meteorology, chemistry, and geology, explain that "humans have had no measurable effect on global warming through CO2 emissions. Instead the temperature fluctuations have been within normal ranges and are due to natural cycles."

    "More importantly, there's a growing body of evidence showing anthropogenic CO2 plays no measurable role," the scientists wrote. "Indeed CO2's capability to absorb radiation is almost exhausted by today's atmospheric concentrations. If CO2 did indeed have an effect and all fossil fuels were burned, then additional warming over the long term would in fact remain limited to only a few tenths of a degree," they added.

    "The IPCC had to have been aware of this fact, but completely ignored it during its studies of 160 years of temperature measurements and 150 years of determined CO2 levels. As a result the IPCC has lost its scientific credibility," the scientists wrote.

    "Indeed the atmosphere has not warmed since 1998 - more than 10 years, and the global temperature has even dropped significantly since 2003. Not one of the many extremely expensive climate models predicted this. According to the IPCC, it was supposed to have gotten steadily warmer, but just the opposite has occurred," the scientists wrote.

    Is that the final word? Of course not. There is no final word in science. New evidence and/or new ideas are always coming along to displace "what we know is true". One need only look at the history of plate tectonics in geology where the consensus was against the idea of plate tectonics for a very long time. And then with some better evidence and some scientist willing to buck the orthodoxy a new consensus was formed.

    Now why do the Germans think the CO2 orthodoxy is a religion? It has one of the essential features of a religion: new evidence contrary to belief does not change the belief (at least in the minds of the believers).

    If you are not in the believer camp it may be a good idea to contact your Congress Critters and make sure they kill the Cap and Tax bill. And even if you are a believer you should contact your critters and make them kill the bill. Why? Because even if you believe the current failing consensus, if India and China don't join in taxing CO2 the Bill will just drive American jobs to India and China. And heaven knows that we could stand to keep what jobs we have. And it wouldn't hurt to have a few more. And no "Green Jobs" Malarkey please. If going Green doesn't reduce costs for energy it is a jobs killer. And when Green Energy costs less than current sources it will not need Government Subsidies and unfunded mandates.

    House of Representatives

    The Senate

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:53 PM | Comments (4)



    Well, now I Definitely Trust these guys to lower health care costs

    When success is defined as "we were able to give away WAY more taxpayer money than we thought we would" you should be worried.

    Very, very worried.

    And these people want to run 15% of the economy.

    posted by Dave at 01:17 PM | Comments (3)



    There oughta be a law against internalized bigotry!

    How do you complain about identifiable groups of people without sounding like a bigot? Yesterday when my patience was tried by a particularly awful driver, I found myself wondering, and I also found myself feeling a bit jealous of the bigots (if it isn't a form of bigotry to refer to bigots that way), because they're the only group of people in America who are free to say whatever the hell they think.

    Imagine that. Bigots are possibly the freeest group in America! Those damned bastards! I hate them, I tell you, I absolutely hate them!

    There may, of course, be an element of self hatred involved in my hatred of bigots. Yesterday it certainly felt that way, because the more I thought about the source of my irritation yesterday, the more all signs pointed to this internalized self hatred.

    My bigoted outrage started with an act of chivalry. On a crowded road which is under construction and covered with orange cones and barrels, I let a woman cut in front of me.

    Now, right there, I see bias creeping into my speech. If I let her in, then how can I fairly say she cut in front of me? Well, sorry, but she did, and I did. She was bearing down in a very aggressive manner, inching meancingly out as if she was trying to decide whether she was threatening to hit the stream of traffic -- or tempting someone in it to hit the gigantic SUV she was barely able to control. Torn between being a pig and not hitting her, I waved her in anyway against my better judgment, and almost immediately her poor driving skills began to irritate me. She cut in in much too wide of an arc, circling widely and nearly hitting the barrels, then overcorrected and swerved, and I could see the following:

    -- the SUV was filled with undisciplined children moving hither and thither;

    -- the woman clearly had a very poor sense of spatial awareness; and

    -- (WORST OF ALL) she was talking on her hand-held telephone!

    Damn her for that last offense in particular! People like her are responsible for the growing public support for laws criminalizing the use of cell phones in cars, and of course challenge even libertarian anarchists to be fair. Yet the problem was not so much the cell phone as it was the fact that it was clearly the icing on the cake.

    It's not that she was a woman, because many men are also Persons With Spatial Awareness Perception Issues, so as I contemplated my detestable sexist impulses I realized that to be fair I should refer to them all as PWSAPIs for short. But even there, am I being an anti-PWSAPI bigot? I can't be sure, but I really don't think it is a good idea for the PWSAPIs to be driving vehicles which challenge their spatial awareness issues, at least, not without special training. It's not so much a case of "there oughta be a law" as it is "there ought to be common sense." I mean, I don't need a law telling me that I should not just start driving an 18 wheeler on the highway if I never have before, do I?

    Another thing: I have nothing against SUVs, and I don't want this post taken as evidence that I am an anti-SUV bigot. I say this because I've run into trouble before complaining about Subarus (aka "Lesbarus"), and I was chagrined to discover that Clayton Cramer is a proud Lesbaru Subaru driver. I would never advocate that there be another busybody law. But -- PSWAPIs should not just be handed the keys to one of these things without learning how to drive it.

    And had this just been a poorly trained PSWAPI driving a gigantic SUV, I might have left well enough alone, as there are plenty of worse things in the world (like sex-deprived gymnasium shooters). But add to that the enormous distraction posed by filling the spatially-challenging vehicle with kids, and yakking on the cell phone on top of that, and it really was too much.

    The whole thing brought out my inner bigot. Still, I won't say there oughta be a law, because I think PSWAPIs have a right to live in peace and harmony, and drive SUVs, and discipline rambunctious children, and change diapers, and talk on the phone. But if they do that all at the same time, I submit that it constitutes dangerously distracted driving. I've seen obviously drunk drivers I'd consider safer than this woman yesterday.

    We don't need another law. Besides, there are already laws against distracted driving, just as there are laws against drunk driving and driving without a license. But as the case of the driver who never had a license but had "it" suspended 12 times anyway shows, such laws don't prevent violations -- even when they're enforced.

    I should comfort myself with the certain knowledge that it is already illegal to be a PSWAPI on the phone driving a gigantic SUV full of uncontrolled brats.

    posted by Eric at 11:45 AM | Comments (4)



    As usual, I can't control the climate....

    Not long after my complaint about news creating a sense of blogligation, there was a story -- BLOODBATH AT GYM ATTACK PLOT ONLINE (linked with huge Drudge headline). I guess that means I am supposed to say something about it, although I am not sure why.

    The shooter kept a diary, and I think it would be fair to characterize him as just the latest in a long line of nutcases who engage in terror-style shootings in public places:

    Sodini's Aug. 3 online diary entry, which included a date of death, was full of disturbing musings about religion and his plans for the attack. He noted that he hadn't had a drink since 2:30 on Friday as part of his preparation.

    "Total effort needed. Tomorrow is the big day. Unfortunately I talked to my neighbor today, who is very positive and upbeat. I need to remain focused and absorbed COMPLETELY," the diary read. "Last time I tried this, in January, I chickened out."

    The diary also indicated that Sodini hadn't had sex since 1990 and that his so-called "practice papers" -- details about the planning of the attack -- are welcome to be published afterward because "maybe all this will shed insight on why some people just cannot make things happen in their life, which can potentially benefit others.

    "Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell," Sodini apparently wrote, before adding later, "I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them."

    I have nothing to say that I haven't said before about these types of incidents. The man who committed the crime was the culprit. Other people are not to blame, the culture is not to blame, guns are not to blame, and no, not even a "climate" is to blame.

    I realize it's not very emotionally rewarding, yet it would strike me as a cheapshot to use the shooting as an occasion to invoke favorite culprits, climates, or other pet peeves.

    Besides, as the man left an online diary, where he excoriates Barack Obama, women, right wing fundamentalists, and complains that he has not had sex since 1982, there's plenty of fertile ground for ideologues (as well as pro-sex and anti-sex crusaders) across the entire political spectrum.

    For example, a DailyKos entry calls him a "Racist, Sexist, Nut-Job," with the url title adding the words "Religiously Deranged" -- conveniently leaving out his hatred of religious fundamentalists so that other leftists can assume that's what he is. And a diarist named "FishOutofWater" admits there's no making sense of the shooter, but lays blame on the right anyway:

    ...there are guys like this one who are walking time bombs who are being stirred up by Glenn Beck, Fox News and the Republican Party.

    There's no making sense of this killer. However, it's pretty clear that the right wing is using people like him to create an atmosphere of intimidation of liberals, Latinos and gays.

    Am I missing something?

    Has anyone on the right used this deranged man to intimidate anyone, anywhere? Please fill me in if they have, as I would like to be fair. Otherwise, I will conclude the people who can be accused of "using people like him to create an atmosphere of intimidation" are the ones who hurl such wildly unfounded charges.

    Sigh.

    Some climates are more predictable than others.

    posted by Eric at 10:33 AM | Comments (4)




    Two Cows

    These have been floating around a while, and seem apropos. This first batch are regional/philosophical forms of capitalism.

    U.S./TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
    You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

    FRENCH CAPITALISM
    You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. The cows go on strike to keep out American hormone-fed milk and launch a stampede through a McDonalds franchise at Euro-Disney. The French Cow Liberation Front hacks into the Cheddar website with images of Roquefort and WAV files declaring "Vive la France!"

    JAPANESE CAPITALISM
    You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

    EXTROPIAN CAPITALISM
    You have two cows. You read their DNA and figure out a way to create lean beef directly in a vat. You upload your cows. You debate endlessly on what to do with the originals cows, which are still alive and well, and are demanding bovine rights.

    BRITISH CAPITALISM
    You have two cows. Both are mad.

    CHINESE CAPITALISM
    You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.

    AFRICAN CAPITALISM
    You have two cows. The government takes them because they used to belong to white colonists. No one feeds them and they starve to death. Then you starve to death.

    Below are the more traditional "two cows" explanation of political ideologies.

    Continue reading "Two Cows"

    posted by Dave at 11:05 PM | Comments (2)



    Having something to say versus finding something to say

    In general, I prefer blogging when I have something to say about something, as opposed to when I have to find something to say about something. * That's because the former is more sincere, and less driven by a sense of "blogligation" than the latter, which in my case often takes the form of saying something about something that others are blogging about, lest I appear to be neglecting or not interested in the subject. For example, if fifty students were suddenly shot by some damned nutcase in another classroom, I'd have to say something -- even though I'd resent the hell out of that sense of having to.

    It's like, whose life is this? Why should the stuff we call news get to dictate my blogging agenda to me? It's as if other people -- even random events -- are telling me what I have to do, and I don't like it.

    However (and here's the catch), I have learned that the blessed people who actually read my stuff don't really care whether what I have to say is something I had to say, or found to say. Some seem to prefer the latter to the former. Perhaps this is because I care more about the former than the latter, and the less I care, the less I tend to be emotional, and the less I find myself struggling over, say, pointless nuances involving endless internal contradictions in my thinking.

    Philosophically none of this matters, because once I put whatever I put here, I then have it, and whether I was originally driven by having to say it -- or by the process of finding something to say something about -- becomes irrelevant. Likewise, whether I hate or love what I wrote (or hated or loved the process of writing it) has no relationship to what readers seem to like.

    That's because my tastes are not yours, and there is no accounting for taste.

    Anyway, I'm sure I am neglecting a lot of important issues right now, but whatever they are, you can be sure that someone, somewhere isn't!

    * It should go without saying that if the goal is blogging, having nothing to say is not an option. So if you have nothing to say, never say it!

    posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (3)



    Deliberate aquaculture leads to accidental horticulture

    I live in a densely populated student neighborhood characterized by a lot of moving in and moving out, and when either thing happens, stuff gets discarded -- typically on the area between the sidewalk and the street -- and the rule is that it's free for the taking. I'm not much of a green thumb (quite the opposite!), but I have occasionally felt sorry enough for discarded houseplants to take them home. Sometimes they do well, other times not.

    But by pure accident, I stumbled upon a winning formula which has now dramatically resurrected three near-dead houseplants which were so far gone I almost felt like a bag person for bothering to pick them up and carry them home.

    The secret? Aquarium water! My cichlid tank contains two Jack Dempseys and one Flowerhorn Trimac, and they generate so much waste that their water has to be changed to prevent the fish diseases which an excess of nitrogen invites. I had been simply siphoning this water into ten gallon plastic storage bins and out of laziness, just leaving it out on the deck till I needed the bin for the next water change, and as it was right by the dying throwaway plants, I thought, why bother with the sink or the hose? So I just started dunking each entire flower pot into the bins and let them soak for a while in the dirty fish water.

    I swear to God, these plants turned around so fast that you'd have thought I was a professional horticulturalist. And I have no idea what I'm doing.

    I guess it should come as no surprise that the aquarium water is an excellent form of fertilizer for houseplants, but really, this stuff produced miraculous results, and it comes custom premixed! From a professional who knows:

    People always notice how healthy, green and shiny my plants are. While partly it's a firm knowledge of how to raise houseplants, my main secret is the fish water. That dirty, icky, smelly water is pure nutrient nirvana for your flora - both inside the house and in the garden.
    I actually rather like the smell. Maybe someone could bottle it and make a few million selling it as "Foodchain Fragrance," but I've seen firsthand how good it is for plants.

    I wish I'd thought to take before and after pictures of all the plants, but I did find one of them in a picture taken shortly after I found it (slightly more than a month ago):

    throwawaycroton3.jpg


    That had been lying on its side in a pile of discarded clothes and empty paint cans. Mind you, I know nothing about plants, and I didn't know what it was. Had I known, I probably would have thought twice, for it is a "Croton." The name sounds like a Science Fiction title and it is not supposed to be an easy plant to care for:

    Contrary to its' hardy looks, Croton is a fussy plant that requires constant care.

    Before bringing home a Croton from the garden store, you need to consider the needs that this plant requires.

    I considered nothing, except that it was gonna die if I left it there. I just added aquarium water (by the lazy dunking method), and here's how it looked this morning:

    throwawaycroton4.jpg

    I always thought you had to have a magical "green thumb" to make plants thrive and I always assumed I didn't. Was I inadvertently succumbing to "magical thinking"? Some say the phenomenon ("psychotronics") is real, and some say it isn't.

    While it is possible that my thumb has suddenly turned invisibly green, the "magical" results I've seen from dirty aquarium water make me strongly suspect that the process has less to do with the imaginary thumb colors as with simply figuring out what the plants need and giving it to them.

    posted by Eric at 11:08 AM | Comments (7)




    Feeling The Heat

    Rep. Tim Bishop (D) from New York is getting a lot of heat from voters in his district about Global Warming. After a run up starting with the Health Care Bill the Global Warming stuff starts at 3:50 in. A really well informed citizen starts speaking at about 5:00 in. He talks about carbon taxes sending jobs to China.

    How about a little information from the wiki on Tim.

    Timothy H. "Tim" Bishop (born June 1, 1950) is a politician from New York and the current Congressman for New York's 1st congressional district, which includes most of Central and Eastern Suffolk County, including most of Smithtown, as well as the entirety of the towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southold, Southampton, East Hampton, and Shelter Island. The district of encompasses wealthy enclaves such as the Hamptons, middle class suburban towns such as Selden, Centereach and Lake Grove, working class neighborhoods such as Mastic and Riverhead and rural farming communities such as Mattituck and Jamesport on the North Fork.
    I don't know the man but if I had to guess I'd say he was another Limousine Liberal telling the little people how to live.

    Here is a Congress Critter being grilled on Health Care: Congress Should Be Forced On It.

    Videos like these featuring different Representatives are all over the 'net. What does it portend? I think the Democrats are going to get crushed in 2010.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:38 PM | Comments (1)



    Commercial Real Estate

    Malay Bansal has an interesting and not too complex article explaining the problems in the Commercial Real Estate (CRE) market.

    Let me give you the short version. Valuations will fall by about half and the declines (already in the pipeline) will manifest between now and 2015 as the various loans become due or the current owners default. Now you know why the banks are sitting on all that government money ($1 trillion plus in cash) and not lending. They expect to take further hits. The magnitude of the hits could run anywhere from 1/2 trillion to 1.5 trillion. We are not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:45 PM | Comments (1)



    We need socialism now! (The details are unneccesary...)

    Socialized medicine can be painful.

    According to this news report from England, literally:

    Patients forced to live in agony after NHS refuses to pay for painkilling injections

    Tens of thousands with chronic back pain will be forced to live in agony after a decision to slash the number of painkilling injections issued on the NHS, doctors have warned.

    The Government's drug rationing watchdog says "therapeutic" injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.

    You'd think we could learn from Britain's mistakes, but not the Democrats. The Obamacare bill was approved in committee, but narrowly. I didn't think they'd be in such a hurry to be so stupid.

    What I think is beyond stupid is the increasingly common pattern of legislators voting for legislation they have not read. While I'm not a constitutional scholar, I think a case can be made that laws enacted without being read by the legislators who voted for them are unconstitutional.

    Under the Constitution (which each Congressman is sworn to uphold), Congress has power to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution" its enumerated powers. Can anyone tell me by what stretch of the imagination a law which has not been read can be considered "necessary and proper"? I think the constitutional language "necessary and proper" carries with it a requirement that congressmen use judgment and deliberation, that they have at least thought about the legislation they are passing, and therefore, I would argue that there is a Constitutional requirement that any law being made must first have been read.

    Surely, if the right to privacy can be read into the penumbra of rights, it is not asking too much to recognize that legislators -- who are required to determine whether a law is necessary and proper -- cannot perform that legislative function unless they have read the law in question.

    There is also a well-known legal doctrine (which the Supreme Court has recognized) known as Ignorantia juris non excusat -- often summed up as "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." In order for this principle to have any meaning in law or equity, it would be manifestly unfair to allow legislators to be passing laws of which they themselves are ignorant.

    Does the constitutional due process requirement prohibit their enforcement? I think it might. According to the the United States Supreme Court, due process is violated "if a practice or rule offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental."

    If it isn't a fundamental principle that legislators must read the laws they require us to obey, then what is a fundamental principle?

    That legislators read a law they would require us to obey is as fundamental as the right to be present in court. It's as fundamental as the right to be free from taxation without representation. Such things were considered worth fighting for when this country was born.

    Whatever could be next? If they pass laws that haven't been read (and might contain anything), why bother with other legal niceties?

    Just pass a bill establishing socialism and let the bureaucrats work out the details later.

    posted by Eric at 03:12 PM | Comments (5)



    How the original Kenyan birth certificate came to be destroyed in the Twin Towers

    I can't stop thinking about a statistic I read in a piece by Jennifer Rubin that Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday, that a full six percent of Americans believe Barack Obama is a conservative.

    Where are these people, and how come I never get to meet them? According to many statisticians, six percent is a higher figure than the percentage of Americans who are gay, which means that statistically, the average American is more likely to believe that Obama is conservative than to be gay.

    I don't like those numbers. Of course, there may be some overlap. Andrew Sullivan, for example, is a gay man who claims to be a conservative, and if his views constitute his meaning of conservatism, then perhaps he can be counted among those who believe Obama is a conservative.

    But why should I worry? According to another statistic, 63% of American voters subscribe to beliefs that I and others in the minority consider to be unreasonable -- if not insane:

    Fully 35 percent of Democrats believe George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Fully 28 percent of Republicans believe Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.
    This goes a long way towards explaining the accelerated rhetorical framework which Phil Bowermaster outlined:
    The rise of the blogosphere and sites like Daily Kos and Free Republic have established a new "accelerated" rhetorical framework for politics which now seems to be more or less universally applied. The basic assumption behind the framework is that there is Our Group and then there is the Other. Any ideas from the Other are subjected to a three-step analysis and response:

    1. Hysteria / overreaction

    2. Vilification

    3. Condemnation

    Personally, I'd like to see a group such as IEET take a different approach. Maybe they could look for some kind of, oh I don't know, Middle Way that transcends opposites?

    I'm a reasonable person and I believe in compromise, but is there a middle way between Bush flying fake planes into the Twin Towers and Barack Obama's covered up Kenyan birth certificate?

    Hmmm...

    Maybe there doesn't need to be.

    Isn't Obama continuing the Bush coverup?

    And isn't Bush ratifying the Kenyan birth certificate coverup by saying nothing?

    Things are starting to make sense now.

    MORE: In other developments, Mark Steyn discusses a new trend:

    ...why not blame Bush for the horrors of the Obama presidency?
    They've obviously been in cahoots all along.

    It's the New World Order, doncha know?

    The crazy ones are the people like me, who still cling to denial and refuse to believe.

    MORE: Commenter Clint makes an important (and reassuring) point:

    ..35% of Democrats + 28% of Republicans does not equal 63% of the voting population.

    Depending on the numbers you use for party ID, it's probably less than 20% of the population.

    I hope the independents don't share the above views in similar proportions to the party members.

    Does anyone know?

    posted by Eric at 12:28 PM | Comments (9)



    Trousers are indecent, and so is freedom

    As if any reminder was needed about the insane and cruel nature of Islamism, a Sudanese woman faces 40 lashes for wearing what millions of American women (and our Secretary of State) wear -- trousers.

    Such chilling accounts are so routine that I can't blog about them all, but what interested me about this one is that the trousers are considered "indecent":

    A Sudanese journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing "indecent" trousers vowed on the eve of her judgment that she is ready to be whipped 40,000 times in her bid to change the country's harsh laws.

    Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who works for the media department of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, is to be judged on Tuesday after waiving the immunity granted to UN workers.

    She is to be judged under Article 152 of Sudanese law, which promises 40 lashes for anyone "who commits an indecent act which violates public morality or wears indecent clothing."

    Hussein, who is in her 30s and whose husband died of kidney failure, told AFP in a telephone interview: "I'm ready for anything to happen. I'm absolutely not afraid of the verdict."

    Police arrested Hussein and 12 other women wearing trousers at a Khartoum restaurant on July 3. Two days later 10 of the women accepted a punishment of 10 lashes, but Hussein is appealing in a bid to eliminate such rough justice.

    The other two women are also facing charges.

    "If I'm sentenced to be whipped, or to anything else, I will appeal. I will see it through to the end, to the constitutional court if necessary," Hussein said.

    "And if the constitutional court says the law is constitutional, I'm ready to be whipped not 40 but 40,000 times."

    Hussein invited scores of journalists to her first court hearing on Wednesday, when she made a point of wearing the same clothes she wore when she was arrested -- moss-green slacks with a loose floral top and green headscarf.

    Covering the human anatomy -- whether with trousers or with a dress (I guess some men in the Mideast wear cassocks) -- is by definition the opposite of indecent, so I'm having trouble understanding how long trousers like the woman was wearing could be considered indecent. In this country, men often consider pants on women to be sexless -- which is about as "decent" as you can get.

    In this country, men are even free to wear dresses and the most they face are occasional social penalties (like this boy who was barred entry to a high school prom in Guam). I don't even want to think about what they'd do to a cross-dressing male in the Sudan, but I think it's fair to assume it would go beyond turning him away at a prom. And I don't think the Shariah courts would entertain his lawsuit, either.

    I don't mean to sound all preachy about how lucky we are to be able to take freedom for granted, but I think Americans -- especially those who believe in the multicultralist mantra -- need an occasional reminder that there are people living right here in the United States who would whip women for "indecency," and who are willing to work incrementally towards their goals. What begins as the assertion of a "religious right" to wear a headscarf (or to refuse to transport passengers who consume alchohol) can lead to the next stage -- which is the "religious right" to not face penalties for forcing these things on "their own" people. (Or in "their own" school -- even a local public school in a Muslim area.)

    It used to be that people came here seeking freedom, and seeking to be Americans. I worry that some of them seek to be just the way they were in countries like the Sudan, and would take away freedom from Americans.

    posted by Eric at 11:06 AM | Comments (2)



    Order A Pizza Today

    Pizza Ordering in the very near future. Perhaps you would like to contact some people after seeing this. Here is a list:

    House of Representatives

    The Senate

    The President

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)




    Honoring the natural born truth

    As this post by Tom Maguire (which Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday) reminded me, there are many gradations of Birthers, many types of Truthers, and many types of "believers." Including Birthers, True Believers, True Believing Birthers and "honorary" truthers like Tom Maguire and (quite shockingly) even Andrew Sullivan.

    What is the Truth anyway? There are only so many things that can be known, and only so many absolute truths that can be known absolutely.

    I'm a skeptic about most things, and I believe in that old expression "Trust but verify." But trust what? Verify how?

    I have a great deal of impatience with self delusion, and I don't like having to humor people who are engaged in it. Thus, I have harshly criticized the Birth Certificate Truthers, especially the WorldNetDaily variety. However, in addition to the "honorary" birthers (who only want to see the long form certificate even though they don't think it will alter the election results), there is one form of Trutherism I can respect. That's what I would call "non-believing Trutherism." This is the type of person who really doesn't care what the truth is (and may even secretly believe Barack Obama was in fact born in Hawaii), but sees the birth certificate issue simply as a political tactic. I think it's a bad tactic and likely to help Obama, but at least such people are not engaged in self delusion. Their position reminds me of my "Global Warming defiance," to which I would adhere even if I became a secret believer in Global Warming theory.

    What I continue to see as the biggest problem for all Truthers, Birthers and sympathizers is this: the State of Hawaii has officially certified that Barack Obama was born there.

    I am sorry, but if you don't believe that Hawaii has in fact certified that he was born there, then I must respectfully consider you to be a loon. What I mean by "respectfully" is that I will not call you a loon to your face, but I will think it, and I will tend not to take what you say seriously.

    Like it or not, that official state certification settles the eligibility inquiry for electoral purposes, because states have the right to certify who was born in them. Just as they have the right to certify who dies.

    Such certification is no ironclad guarantee that fraud does not occur, of course, so the fact that Hawaii certified Barack Obama's Honolulu birth does not guarantee that he was born there as a matter of scientific truth. As many people have pointed out, this could all be a plot, and the Obama family, the doctors, the Hawaiian newspaper, and that Department of Health woman with the name which would probably be rejected as a personalized license plate in California* -- all of these could be conspiring to perpetrate a lie. That is what many Truthers believe, and they are demanding that Obama produce a "long form" style, old fashioned birth certificate -- the kind Hawaii no longer issues.

    Could Obama do that if he wanted to, and would that "clear everything up" as the Truthers say? I think he probably could, but I don't know. It might depend on whether his family saved the old long form certificate and if he has it. Considering the amount of traveling they did, I would not be surprised if it has been lost over the years, and replaced with the newer version. The State of Hawaii says they have a copy of the old form in their files, but are prohibited by law from releasing it -- possibly even to Barack Obama himself. I rather doubt they'd refuse a direct request, but you never know.... Personally, I'd like to see the form, because I'm curious about anything I'm not allowed to see, especially when the government is hiding it.

    As to whether releasing the long form would clear all of this up, of course it would not. It would be attacked as a forgery of some sort, and even if it appeared to demonstrate conclusively that Hawaii is telling the truth, the hard core Truthers would simply switch gears to the Donofrio-Taitz argument, that even if Obama was born in Hawaii, the fact that his father was a Kenyan makes him less than a "natural born citizen," and thus automatically ineligible to be president. (I think the argument is frivolous, but my opinion will not make it go away.)

    Were I advising Obama and he came to me and asked whether he should produce the long form if he has it, or demand that Hawaii produce it if he doesn't, I'd tell him to wait until the election is closer. Let his opponents gnash their teeth and spin their wheels, and at the last possible optimum time, give them what they want (better yet if Obama has to sue the State of Hawaii to get it) and make it appear as if they are wasting valuable time. This would then cause them to make the even more unreasonable claim that the long form is also a forgery (or was obtained through fraud), as well as advance the argument that Obama is not a natural born citizen.

    So, onward and upward for the Truth, whatever it may be!

    Whether that makes me an natural born Truther, who knows?

    * While it might seem unfair that a bureaucrat like Dr. Fukino would have the power to decide such a momentous national issue, that happens to be the way all state bureaucracies like Hawaii's Department of Health operate. Some official we have never heard of has similar power in every state.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Here's my prediction. Whatever the truth may turn out to be, it will change nothing. Naturally, I'd be delighted to be wrong.

    MORE: Via M. Simon, WorldNetDaily reports that Orly Taitz has come up with an original Kenyan birth certificate showing Obama's birth in Mombasa, Kenya. There is a picture in the article, which means that people can now argue ad infinitum over the document's legitimacy.

    The normal rule is that because governments keep these records, they get to be the judges of the authenticity of their own purported records. (Which means the Kenyan government will most likely have the last word.)

    Will anyone ask Kenya about this document, or is that a silly question?

    posted by Eric at 06:01 PM | Comments (9)



    "Add glue and find a pole!"

    As regular readers know, I love guerilla and underground art.

    So naturally, I was quite taken by the ObamaJoker image discussed here, that Glenn Reynolds characterized as speaking truth to power.

    I really don't care who is "behind" it as it speaks for itself. (Let no one claim credit for it, and just allow it to thrive in its natural, wild, viral state.)

    When I emailed the link to a friend, he exclaimed "I WANT ONE!!!" so I went to a link that Noel Sheppard cited, where it took me about three seconds to download the image --

    Obama-socialism_0.jpg

    -- which would probably print up fine in the form of a four by four color copy for those who find making guerilla art more emotionally satisfying than fantasizing about how Obama is not really the president...

    I did say "Add glue and find a pole!" but I wouldn't want to be misinterpreted, because I do not advocate defacing public property or property belonging to others.

    So make sure the pole is in your own back yard!

    MORE: Sorry, I misspoke above. By "four by four," I meant four images, like this:

    obamajoker4way.jpg

    I guess you could turn the above into a four by four, but you'd really have to go forth and multiply!

    fourbyfourJoker.jpg

    Not that I'd ever advocate that.

    (And not that there's anything wrong with that, of course....)

    AND MORE: Can we multiply this further, and create worthless stamps so we can engage in further cut and paste antics?

    YES WE CAN!

    worthlessstamps.jpg

    MORE: By the way, I think the Obama Joker poster is real street art. More true to the original ethos of Shepard Fairey than the copyrighted corporatist art he peddles today:

    Fairey defends his corporate commissions by saying that clients like Saks Fifth Avenue help him to keep his studio operational and his assistants employed.[4] Fairey has acknowledged the irony of being a street artist exploring themes of free speech while at the same time being an artist hired by corporations for consumer campaigns. Of this he has stated that designers and artists need to make money.[58] "I consider myself a populist artist," Fairey says. "I want to reach people through as many different platforms as possible. Street art is a bureaucracy-free way of reaching people, but T-shirts, stickers, commercial jobs, the Internet -- there are so many different ways that I use to put my work in front of people."
    Yeah, capitalism still sucks, but we need to make money!

    UPDATE: John Burgess wonders whether the USPS is still allowing people to design their own stamps.

    Yes, and it's easy! Just go to stamps.com, upload the design, and you can even enter your stamp in the Smithsonian's stamp design contest!

    SmithsonianStamp2.jpg

    Well, doesn't socialism belong in a museum?

    posted by Eric at 02:16 PM | Comments (6)



    Feynman Physics Lectures Video

    Eric F via e-mail alerted me to the fact that Microsoft has made the Feynman lectures on physics freely available. You can watch them here.

    And as a very helpful adjunct may I suggest the book version:

    The Feynman Lectures on Physics

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:26 PM | Comments (1)



    In other nonnews, Nonsullivan admits having lots of nonsex

    When I saw an eye-catching mouthful in a post by Ann Althouse, I wondered whether Andrew Sullivan had finally succumbed to one of the fatal smackdowns that have been inflicted on him over the years.

    But alas! To my great disappointment, the startling admission did not come from Andrew Sullivan, but some writer I'd never heard of at the City Paper:

    He would have sex with as many as 10 or 15 men in the course of a normal day, while still logging a full day's work at the typewriter. He puts his lifetime total at something on the order of 50,000 partners. "I don't know whether it resolves any particular conflicts," he says. "You learn a lot about different people, different groups -- and it's a lot of fun." Although he does not practice safe sex, he has remained HIV-negative, in part because he engages only in nonpenetrative sex.
    Aren't we forgetting that this is not sex?

    And seriously, if oral sex is nonsex, then nonpenetrative activity is like really really nonsex! Considering the sheer volume, it must have been pretty anonymous nonsex too.

    But "You learn a lot"?

    What's to learn? It strikes me that doing the same non-thing 50,000 times would get to be a little repetitive. About as exciting as putting caps on 50,000 bottles in an assembly line. Yeah, I know each anonymous human being is different, but so is every snowflake. Would that make looking at 50,000 snowflakes one at a time a learning experience?

    I'm not arguing that the guy is immoral, mind you. That he may have done something 50,000 times does not alter the nature of whether what he did was immoral.

    But it would almost make it more interesting if it was.

    MORE: Can I say nonsex sucks, or would that be wrong?

    AND MORE: I hate to have to spell out my inner suspicions, but one of them was that this piece might just be exaggerated. Rereading the headline, I realize I should have quoted it:

    Chat it up with The Polymath. Whoa, he's slept with how many dudes?
    Slept with 50,000?

    Sorry, but no human life contains enough time for that much sleep.

    MORE: At least one commenter ("Twisted_Colour")at the City Paper calls Delany's sexual assertions "bullsh*t."

    posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (4)



    The simple logic of free will

    One of my pet peeves is that whenever a gunman opens fire on unsuspecting victims, there's a flurry of finger-pointing, and a haste to blame almost anyone besides the gunman, often with blatant political overtones.

    The fallout over the recent shooting at an Israeli gay center (in which the gunman killed two and wounded twelve) shows that the idea of collective blame is not limited to the United States. Activists in Israel are blaming an anti-gay party called Shas for the shooting:

    Homosexual activists and some politicians were quick to condemn what they called an atmosphere of incitement by elements in Israel's religious and specifically ultra-Orthodox society, including the Shas political party.

    At a demonstation through the streets of Tel Aviv immediately following the attack, hundreds of protesters marched and carried banners accusing Shas of incitement.

    But Shas, whose members and rabbis have been openly critical of the country's homoseuxual community, condemned the attack.

    "We are shocked and bereaved, and denounce without reservation the murderous incident that targeted Tel Aviv's gay community," the statement said.

    The two people killed in the attack were identified as Nir Katz, 26, a counsellor helping lead discussion at the support group, and Liz Troubishi, 17.

    Ten people wounded in the attack were still being treated in hospital on Sunday, two of them in critical condition.

    The unprecedented attack has sent shockwaves in the country as a whole where the homosexual population enjoys civil liberties and a general sense of tolerance. Homosexual soldiers serve openly in the army. Tel Aviv in particular is known for it's embrace of the community, a city Israeli tourism officials have been marketing as an international homosexual travel destination because for its openness and vibrant local culture.

    Among the injured were teenagers who had not yet discussed their sexuality with their families. Some of their parents found out about their children's sexual identity only when they arrived at the hospital on Saturday night.

    Rona Kenan, one of Israel's most popular singers and a lesbian, said: "Some of them were thrown out of their homes because they voiced their willingness to come out of the closet.

    I've known quite a few kids who were thrown out of the house for being gay (a friend used to work with such kids, who would often end up selling their ass in the street). Still, I blame the parents for abandoning their kids, not some idiot on the radio or asshole in the pulpit.

    It's a total copout and cheap shot to blame political opponents for the individual actions of others, much less for crime. Unless there is direct incitement to murder (something I doubt Shas would do), or unless the shooter can be shown to have a direct, culpable connection with the group, they're no more responsible than an anti-gay group in this country would be had a similar shooting occurred at an American gay center. Same thing if an angry gay man shot up a group of anti-gay Mormons. (It wouldn't be "the gays" who did it, but the shooter.)

    Blaming political enemies for crimes committed by inviduals is a predictable consequence of the activist view of things, which is often communitarian, and divides the world as "us" versus "them." Anyone who is not with us is one of them! And if one of "them" attacks one of "us," then they become responsible! I admit, it does make it much easier to analyze things if you see the world that way, but it turns my stomach anyway. Gays of all people should remember that many of their political opponents not only blame them (in the form of "the homosexual agenda") for a whole host of problems, but they believe homosexuality is a social contagion, with gays being collectively responsible for others being gay. Which is about as logical as saying that if you smoke pot, you're responsible for the fact that others smoke pot.

    This is all very easy for me to say.

    But what if it turned out that the Tel Aviv shooter was a Palestinian? I would have a very different attitude, and I would condemn and probably blame Islamic bigotry.

    How I hate my contradictions! They make it so hard to be honest. It makes for a much easier argument that the shooter does not appear to be a Muslim (if he was, someone would have most likely said so by now, and Shas would not be condemning the attacks in the same way), and I don't know why I'm being so hard on myself, but these contradictions plague me, and sometimes make it very difficult to write, as they get in the way of clear thinking. Which is logical, because contradictions by their nature highlight unclear thinking. In my defense, I would argue that had the shooter been a Muslim, he'd most likely have been driven by Islamism, Hamas or Hezbollah style. This is such an extreme form of communitarianism that it would be hard to argue that such a person could even be considered an individual, much less someone with free will. Islamists do not have free will, because it's all about submission, and the further you get into that, the more you cease to be a free individual.

    But Islamism is one of the biggest challenges to libertarianism as a worldview, and it's been one of my biggest worries since the September 11 attacks. And while it's easier for this particular analysis that Islam is not implicated in the Tel Aviv gay center attack, the "what about Islam?" question has a way of sneaking its way into my head, and raising unsettling questions.

    Easy to say it would never happen here. But what if one of the Somalian immigrant youths in this video had been armed and shot the gay guy instead of just taunting him?

    I want to see those kids as free-thinking individuals living in a free country and possessed of free will. I really do.

    But I worry that wanting to see them that way does not make them the way I want to see them.

    Sigh.

    I guess when all logic fails, at least we can thank God for the Second Amendment.

    MORE: Phyllis Chesler highlights another ugly story, involving the rape of a Liberian girl by Liberian boys, and the girl's rejection by her family:

    Immigrants bring both their barbarism and their traumatized histories right along with them when they come to America.

    For example, an eight-year-old girl from Liberia was recently savagely gang-raped in Phoenix, Arizona, by a gang of Liberian boys, aged 14, 13, 10, and 9. The poor child was lured to an empty shed with an offer of chewing gum. The boys held her down as each took turns raping her. These boys knew her and live in the same immigrant community. Sgt Andrew Hill said: "She was brutally sexually assaulted for a period of ten to fifteen minutes." The police and others heard "hysterical screaming" and found the girl "partially clothed."

    This much we know. All else is somewhat in question.

    Instead of comforting her, the girl's family was said to have rejected her for bringing "shame" upon them and upon the community.

    I don't know what possesses people to think that way about a brutal crime inflicted on their daughter, and once again, as a libertarian I would like to blame them as individuals instead of blaming their "culture." But even if we assume the problem is their culture, if they cannot shed such a culture, why bring them here to to live?

    At the rate things are going, libertarians will be out of touch with the communitarian reality, with nowhere to go except outer space!

    posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (5)



    Hot Tuna

    I saw Hot Tuna Saturday night at the Rockford Theater courtesy of the first mate. They have added another musician to the line up, Barry Mitterhoff, who plays a wicked mandolin among other instruments. Naturally the Rockford hippie contingent was out in full force. We met a lot of very nice people there and made some new friends.

    Their next gig is on Monday 3 August at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota. For other gigs click on Barry's link above. You can hear a Hot Tuna clip with Barry playing at Barry's link above.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:22 AM | Comments (2)




    Cash For Clunkers

    This is how a Cash for Clunkers car is destroyed. Now think of what this will do to the low end used car market. People who depend on these low end vehicles to get around will no longer be able to afford transportation. Socialism at work.

    Here are a couple of other things I have written on the program:
    Obama Plan To Raise Used Car Prices
    What Is Wrong With Republicans? #2 In A Series

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:08 PM | Comments (6)



    Gonad Nazis of the world, hands off!

    I'm glad the war on sex hasn't spread to include dog sex,* or else there'd be a movement to have the government ban the sexual dog dummies that Glenn Reynolds linked earlier.

    While their use as a novelty or toy seems new, sex "dummies" of various sorts have been used in artificial insemination for years. For example, here's a mobile dummy cow:

    MoblieDummyCow.JPG

    Why that would turn on a bull, I don't know. The only bull I have is a pit bull, and I doubt Coco would have anything to do with it. (Of course, she does occasionally hump her blanket when she gets excited, and I don't know what she sees in that. Female dogs do engage humping activity, and I'm not convinced it's necessarily sexual. Such behavior is common, and she may be trying to dominate her blanket.)

    At the risk of going into unnecessary detail, I think it's fair to point out that if the goal is to get your dog to produce semen (whether as a sexual release or not), you don't need a dummy at all.

    As this video demonstrates, you can do it manually:

    Doing that manually might seem like a messy chore to some, so I think some breeders might be delighted with the new "hands off" dummy that Glenn was nice enough to link. (I realize that Glenn expressed some squeamishness about the "easy-to-clean reservoir," but I think breeders would be delighted by the convenience of it.)

    But the bottom line here is that I'm 100% in favor of sexual freedom for dogs, and (for the umpteenth time) the government better keep its sticky hands off my dog's genitalia!

    * Perhaps the war on sex does include dog sex, if the huge mandatory spay and neuter movement is any indication. But so far at least, I have not seen an organized attempt to deny the few remaining unneutered dogs out there a little fun. So, go buy your dog a sex toy while you can. Before they close the "loophole."

    posted by Eric at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)



    Better Than Ezra (and Ben as well)

    Megan McArdle's piece on why she opposes national health care got deservedly wide coverage, and provoked some generally limp objections, such as this offering from Ezra Klein:

    For all its waste, elevating the U.S. government to sole purchaser seems to ensure a much-higher rate of military technology innovation than if we left it to the private sector.

    How does this remotely make any sense? The reason the government is the sole purchaser of laser-guided 500 lbs bombs and Tomahawk cruise missiles is that we don't allow civilians to lob them around at each other. There is no private market for such military technology, unlike for Lipitor or Viagra. Utterly ridiculous.

    Next he calls Megan "wealthy" which is probably a bit confusing to Megan, and completely ignores the fact her obesity comments have to do with economics and coercion, not social justice and whether some obesity experts are more sympathetic than others. Ezra heaps scorn on her -- "I'd be interested to know how many obesity experts Megan has listened to. My guess: very, very few" -- apparently unaware she cites quite a few such experts over her last few posts.

    Finally, he invokes the left's gold standard non sequitur: "Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, spend less on drug research than on administration and marketing." What difference does that make? So do many, if not most, industries, and no one think the government should run them (this notion is discredited even in Communist China). As an argument for nationalization of health research, this is like saying "Mom spends more time watching TV than driving, so let's have the dog drive the kids home after soccer practice."

    Ben Domenech raises a different but equally flawed point:

    They [private pharma companies] do productization research, and only for well-known medical conditions that have a lot of commercial value to solve.

    This is like complaining that farmers only grow crops many people want to to eat, or car manufacturers only make cars that many people want to buy. This is Free Markets 101. Yes, it's tragic there are rare conditions that affect only a small number of people; it would be stupid and even more tragic not to focus on treatments that will benefit more people. This is why free markets work and command economies fail: efficient allocation of resources.

    Unprofitable basic research is important, and some funds should be allocated to it. But to suggest the whole system could or should be run that way runs counter to every economic lesson of the past century.

    The grant process is not nearly as effective as the profit motive. Just last month, there was a NYT article citing the poor progress of nonprofit cancer research: "One major impediment, scientists agree, is the grant system itself. It has become a sort of jobs program, a way to keep research laboratories going year after year with the understanding that the focus will be on small projects unlikely to take significant steps toward curing cancer."

    Inevitably, such endeavours become hostage to the people involved and their egos. Judah Folkman's groundbreaking work on angiogenesis was ignored for a decade because his theory contradicted most experts' beliefs on how cancers developed.

    In the end, it comes back to Megan's point about public choice theory: take away the profit motive, and what's left doesn't deliver results quickly or efficiently, if at all.

    UPDATE: Ten reasons American health care is better than you've been told.

    posted by Dave at 05:34 PM | Comments (31)



    Why no good deed goes unpunished

    While I agree with Glenn Reynolds that the Obama administration's softening stance on obscenity prosecutions is a good thing, I'm enough of a worry wart that I worry about how the consequences will play out.

    Because of the way politics works, any action that can be perceived as softening the war on sex will be seen by some Republicans as an opportunity to advocate toughening the war on sex. Naturally, this would take the form of new calls for adding more obscenity prosectors, more obscenity prosecutions, and increased penalties for porn. (Maybe even as GOP platform positions. Ugh! I mean, I have to hold my nose and vote for those guys, you know....)

    It doesn't take much imagination to see the same thing happen if the Obama administration were to show any sign of loosening-up in the "Drug War." (Or, more chillingly, if the Democrats tried to do something about improper SWAT Team raids, would Republicans reflexively oppose that too?)

    Problem is, a move by the left triggers a countermove by the right. Why, it's almost as if the law of physics (that an action triggers an opposite reaction) applies to politics, except the problem is, we're talking about government. Complex laws and powerful bureaucracies with the power to ruin lives and put people in prison.

    I wish I could think of a way to suspend the application of laws of physics to politics, but I can't. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, all I can say is no wonder so many things suck.

    Maybe I should look on the bright side. I should probably be glad things don't suck more.

    At least things suck in a bipartisan manner.

    posted by Eric at 01:00 PM | Comments (5)



    Try to be careful, and never pass judgment!

    One of my worst nightmares involves the idea of driving on the freeway in a reasonable and prmudent manner, only to have a pedestrian suddenly appear in front of me. I've hit a couple of deer before, and that is an unpleasant experience, but deer are animals, and what can you do? If they dash out, you can try to stop, but often they are in small herds, and it is very difficult to avoid hitting all of them. Fortunately, it is illegal for pedestrians to be on freeways, and there exists a legal presumption (which we have a right to make) that other people will obey the law.

    But "people" includes children, and even babies. I remember one time in Berkeley when I started my car (which was parked on a public street), I thought I noticed a small moving shape in the side view mirror, just behind my car. I got out and looked and sure enough, a baby in plastic pants had crawled onto the street just behind my rear wheels. There were no adults anywhere in sight. Fortunately, I didn't back up, or the baby would have been squashed. Some young girls were playing on the sidewalk (in front of a multi-unit building), and I asked them (angrily) if they knew where the mother was. They shook their heads and said no, and I just drove away. It sounds callused, and today I would make more of a scene, but I was younger, in a hurry, had at least alerted people, and considered myself lucky to have avoided an accident. Was it my duty to have a confrontation by searching for an irresponsible mother who for all I knew might have been high on crack in one of the apartments with angry men who might have assaulted me? Personally, I think moms who allow unsupervised babies to crawl into the street should have their babies taken away, but that is not the way the system works.

    Bad as that was, at least it was a residential street, where pedestrians -- including infants in plastic pants -- can be expected. I had fits of paranoia later, and I have never forgotten the experience. On another occasion, a tiny boy dashed in front of my car when I was driving on Haight Street in San Francisco, and I had to slam on the brakes, missing him by inches. My passenger hit the frame of the windshield hard enough that it raised a bump on his head, and we both yelled at the kid, who was no more than six and who just stared and looked afraid before running off. Do you think there was a parent anywhere in sight? No. Once again, I did nothing but drive away and consider myself lucky. How involved should you get in these situations? Does driving carries with it a duty to stop everything you're doing and get into making police reports about kids who run off and bad parents who are nowhere around? (Police, BTW, do not enjoy wasting their time even on real auto accidents, and they are not interested in accidents that didn't happen with people who are not there.)

    Anyway, I have had two close calls. You can't be too careful. The fear of hitting pedestrians on residential streets is rational. And while I'd like to think that my fear of hitting pedestrians on freeways is irrational, what's to stop the type of people who let kids dash onto residential streets from letting them dash onto freeways? Nothing. All I have is my legal right to assume people will be reasonable and obey the law. But having this "right" to drive on the highway and not have pedestrians suddenly appear in front of me does not make my fear go away, because the real world is not populated by reasonable prudent people.

    The real world includes so many unreasonable, imprudent people that I'm not sure that there's a right to assume anything anymore. Seriously, if recent news is any indication, I now have to worry about flying babies on the freeway. Ejected from vehicles crashed by mothers not even licensed to drive:

    The woman who was at the wheel of a minivan involved in a tragic double fatal accident Wednesday morning on the Ohio Turnpike does not have a valid license. In fact, Fox 8 News has discovered that it appears Setita Patrick has never had a license.

    Investigators believe she fell asleep behind the wheel.

    Two of Patrick's children were killed and a third child -- an infant -- was seriously injured during the crash in Lorain County.

    The accident, which initially involved two vehicles, occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

    An Ohio Highway Patrol spokesperson tells Fox 8 News that a Kia minivan driven by Patrick, 29, of Detroit, was traveling eastbound in the right lane of the Turnpike. In the vehicle's passenger seat was 37-year-old Jerome Thomas. The three siblings -- Alexia Patrick, 10; Jamel El-Amin, 5; and 5-month-old Kevin Green Jr. -- were in the back.

    "It was devastating to me, I really didn't know how to react from it," said Patrick's uncle, Derrick Gavins. "They were great, they were fun-loving, energetic, active."

    All occupants of the minivan are from Detroit, Michigan.

    The minivan sideswiped a PT Cruiser that was traveling eastbound in the middle lane. The driver of the PT Cruiser, Jose Arzuaga, 58, of Lorain, told authorities that he never saw the minivan until it hit his vehicle.

    After striking the PT Cruiser, the minivan rolled several times before crashing into the concrete median barrier.

    Alexia Patrick and El-Amin -- both of whom were not wearing seat belts -- were thrown into the westbound lanes of traffic. They were already dead when rescue crews arrived at the scene.

    Once thrown from the minivan, Alexia Patrick was struck by a commercial semi. That vehicle has not yet been located, but authorities are searching for it.

    "That driver may not have even known that he struck the child," said Lt. John Maxey with the State Highway Patrol.

    Authorities are searching for it. I'll just bet they are, and the personal injury lawyers will be too, because unlicensed drivers have no insurance, this is a multimillion dollar case, and trucking companies are what the trial lawyers call "deep pockets."

    The deaths of these innocent children is of course a horrible tragedy. But imagine being the driver of that truck. No matter how carefully he was driving, no matter how perfect a record he has, he could face hit and run charges, and for the rest of his life he will have to live with the knowledge that he squashed small children to death who were suddenly transformed into flying objects through no fault of their own.

    I can't believe the way they're talking about seat belts as the issue. Considering that this was a totally illegal driver, it makes about as much sense as criticizing a felon whose illegal gun went off during a robbery for ignoring firearm safety rules. I'm fascinated by how someone who has never had a drivers license managed to have it suspended 12 times. I guess they call that getting tough. Anyway, as a police spokesman explains, they're trying to avoid passing judgment:

    According to the Michigan Secretary of State, Setita Patrick has had her driving privileges suspended 12 times since January 2001 for traffic violations, as well as her failure to obtain a driver's license, insurance and registration.

    [...]

    According to the SOS, it is technically possible to never have a driver's license and yet still receive a license suspension.

    "Whenever a person without a license receives a citation, that information comes here, and they are issued a driver's license number, which is used as a tracking device," said Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the SOS. "If the person keeps receiving citations, has too many points or doesn't pay their citations, the system will automatically issue a suspension of the license, even though they don't really have a license."

    According to Woodhams, the "suspended" driver would have to pay off their tickets/fees and be free of suspensions before they could then apply for a valid license.

    "That's what happened in this case," Woodhams said. "In January 2009, Patrick applied for a valid driver's license. She was denied."

    According to the SOS, Patrick has two points on her driving record.

    [...]

    "It was a tragic, tragic event," said Lt. John Maxey, who was at the scene of the crash. "Anytime you have your seat belt on, your chances of surviving a serious crash are doubled. Obviously, we would encourage anyone to put their seat belt on before they leave. Once the crash starts, it's too late to go back and secure your seatbelt."

    Maxey said the children probably would have survived the crash if they had been secured in child restraint seats.

    "No one wants to pass judgment, but if the children had been secured, their injuries would have been greatly diminished because there wasn't a lot of intrusion into the minivan," Maxey said. "Hopefully, others can learn from this situation."

    What can others learn from this situation? Since "no one wants to pass judgment" on a woman who has been driving for eight years without a license or insurance while racking up twelve suspensions, I'd say the lesson is that if you want to be an illegal driver, just go ahead. Laws are only meant to be followed by law-abiding people. Let responsible drivers get their licenses and pay for insurance, and if you get into an accident, sue them!

    If the lawyers can find a deep pocket, this case is worth millions of dollars -- with 30-40% going to ther lawyers, of course.

    It is an unconscionable system, and I speak as a lawyer who used to practice personal injury law. I get a little tired of hearing about rich doctors and big pharmaceutical companies when the trial lawyers are some of the richest people in the country -- much of their wealth being little more than ill-gotten gain.

    Hey, as an aside, if we're going to socialize medicine, why not socialize the trial lawyer industry? Limit their fees, and make them all work for the government! You want a trial lawyer, get in line, fill out a form, and wait. No more exorbitant fees, no more annoying billboard and bus ads, and since all the money comes into and goes out the same government pool, naturally, awards will have to be limited to what the government can afford to pay. More fair that way.

    Sorry, I got off track there. Socializing the trial lawyers is a whole different subject, and I shouldn't have injected it into a blog post about flying babies and unlicensed drivers and responsibility and stuff.

    You'd think that as a lawyer myself, I would have learned to never pass judgment.

    I promise to try to be more careful.

    posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (4)



    Marijuana Reduces Some Cancer Risks

    Yes. Marijuana reduces some cancer risks. Specifically head and throat cancer. And who is reporting this study? Some fly by night organization or some pot legalization folks? Heavens no. The National Institute of Health (NIH). I'm going to quote the full extract because it would be hard to excerpt the details without giving the full flavor.

    Cannabinoids, constituents of marijuana smoke, have been recognized to have potential antitumor properties. However, the epidemiologic evidence addressing the relationship between marijuana use and the induction of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is inconsistent and conflicting. Cases (n = 434) were patients with incident HNSCC disease from nine medical facilities in the Greater Boston, MA area between December 1999 and December 2003. Controls (n = 547) were frequency matched to cases on age (+/-3 years), gender, and town of residence, randomly selected from Massachusetts town books. A questionnaire was adopted to collect information on lifetime marijuana use (decade-specific exposures) and associations evaluated using unconditional logistic regression. After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of HNSCC [odds ratio (OR)(10-<20 years versus never users), 0.38; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.22-0.67]. Among marijuana users moderate weekly use was associated with reduced risk (OR(0.5-<1.5 times versus <0.5 time), 0.52; 95% CI, 0.32-0.85). The magnitude of reduced risk was more pronounced for those who started use at an older age (OR(15-<20 years versus never users), 0.53; 95% CI, 0.30-0.95; OR(>/=20 years versus never users), 0.39; 95% CI, 0.17-0.90; P(trend) < 0.001). These inverse associations did not depend on human papillomavirus 16 antibody status. However, for the subjects who have the same level of smoking or alcohol drinking, we observed attenuated risk of HNSCC among those who use marijuana compared with those who do not. Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC.
    So not only is marijuana medicine, it has prophylactic properties as well.

    But we have a law passed by Congress that says marijuana has no medical use. Now if they would only pass a law making π equal to 3 it would make math a lot easier. And if they repealed the Law of Gravity (well reduced it greatly) it would make space travel a lot easier. I wonder why our elected geniuses are not doing their part?

    Here is a book for those of you who want to grow your own medicine:

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

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:56 AM | Comments (1)




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