Tap tap tap...

Quick question.

Can cigarette smoke travel through walls? Because either it can or it can't, and this angry woman has filed a lawsuit saying that her neighbor's cigarette smoke did in fact go through walls of her townhouse:

In an age when smoking has been outlawed in most public places - government buildings, bars and pool halls - a person's home is one of the few places you can puff in peace.

Until now.

A Dallas woman has filed a lawsuit seeking six figures from a former neighbor and landlord for damage she says was caused by cigarette smoke wafting through adjoining walls of her high-end townhome.

If smoke can "waft" through walls, then I would submit that something is very, very wrong with the construction of the walls, or of the home.

However, the townhouse community manager says there's a solid fire wall between the two homes:

A manager and attorney for Estancia Townhomes, a 52-building community near Prestonwood Country Club in North Dallas, said it's unlikely the Daniels sustained any smoke damage. There is a solid, two-hour fire wall from the foundation to the roof between each of the homes.

And even if some smell did seep through, the Daniels renewed their lease at Estancia - where smoking is permitted - six months after they say the problem began.

"Why do people file lawsuits?" asked Ginger Tye, an attorney representing the property managers and owners. "They're asking for money damages."

The next-door smoker, Rebecca Williams, declined comment.

Chris Daniel and her daughter, Cary, say in the lawsuit that a construction defect is allowing smoke to migrate between the units.

After a year of stinging eyes, breathing difficulty and sinus pain, they moved out of Estancia and into the Homewood Suites in Addison. Last week, movers wearing surgical masks loaded trucks with their belongings.

The Daniels said furniture will need to be reupholstered, artwork restored and closets full of clothing dry cleaned. The bills are still piling up.

So enough cigarette smoke wafted through solid fire walls to damage artwork?

I'm skeptical, and I find myself wondering if the plaintiff is highly, um, suggestible.

It wouldn't surprise me if she was. Years ago when I served on Berkeley's Police Review Commission, a woman brought a complaint against officers who had refused to arrest her landlord for attempted murder because he smoked in the building. Needless to say, her complaint was not upheld, but the usual anti-smoking activists sent in letters supporting her.

At the rate things are going, I expect that someone will try to have parents who smoke in front of their kids arrested for child abuse.

As I have said before, there is something that non-smokers who are outraged enough to support smoker's rights can easily and legally do.

Simply go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. They're expensive, but still legal to buy and own, even in places which criminalize smoking, but the neat thing here is that if you're a non-smoker you only need to buy one pack, to have months or years of fun. There is a right to carry in all fifty states.

So you just take your pack of cigarettes, and simply brandish it in public! Take it out and tap it on your hand, on a table, anywhere! That little "Tap tap tap!" is the sound of freedom, and it irritates the anti-smokers almost as much as the sound of a match being struck! Yes, striking matches is still legal in most places too. And so is taking out a single cigarette and tapping it. Sure, you can't smoke it, but if you're a non-smoker that's beside the point.

You're just exercising your First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Where else can you have so much fun for a few bucks?

posted by Eric at 04:13 PM | Comments (15)



Will Obama Be Indicted?

What did he know and when did he know it?

When Democrat Andrew Romanoff made noises about mounting a primary challenge to Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), the White House contacted Romanoff and made an interesting -- and arguably corrupt -- counteroffer:

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

...several top Colorado Democrats described Messina's outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration. They asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.


I'm from Illinois. I've lived in Chicago. This is typical of the dirty political culture Obama hails from. And it's almost exactly the same act of political corruption that led to Governor Rod Blagoyevich's arrest and removal from office.

As Ed notes, apparently "Hope and Change" really means "Chicago on the Potomac." Will Obama and his MSM bootlickers be able to squash the notion of an independent investigation, or might Barry and Rod someday share a cell?

UPDATE: Dem fundraiser Norman Hsu gets 24 years. When will the other Hsus drop?

posted by Dave at 01:40 PM | Comments (1)



The Narrative is "Just Shut Up"!

Despite the occasional but fervent rantings of idiotarians like Matt Barber, gays in the United States generally do not seem to realize how good they have it.

While Bush was president, an observation like that would have qualified as a gay Uncle-Tomism. But now that we have a "progressive" president who has made it clear he's actually less progressive than Dick Cheney on this issue, gays are just supposed to shut up and follow the party line. No doubt "progressive" Woodrow Wilson felt the same way about blacks who had made gains under Theodore Roosevelt only to find themselves abruptly demoted to official second class citizenship. This analogy is not made to compare gays to blacks so much as to illustrate that "progressive" is not always what it seems.

The point is that American gays -- whether they shut up and follow the party line or not -- tend to forget that what is happening to gays in a country that we liberated with American blood makes disputes over gay marriage and hate crime laws look almost frivolous by comparison.

M. Simon sent me a link to a Foreign Policy piece titled "Iraq's New Surge: Gay Killings" that documents that the problem of Islamist anti-gay death squads is getting worse:

As the world hails Iraq's supposed return to normality, the country's militias -- the same ones that spent years waging a sectarian civil war -- have found a new, less apparent target: men suspected of being gay. The systematic killings, which began earlier this year, reveal the cracks behind Iraq's fragile calm. Iraq's leaders may talk of security and democracy from behind barbed wire in the Green Zone, but the surge of murders against gay men is a stark sign of how far Iraqi society still has to go.

During a 10-day Human Rights Watch research trip to Iraq in April, we heard harrowing stories of torture, abductions, kidnappings, extortion, and murder. We listened to dozens of men who had faced violence at the hands of armed militias, attacked by youths with guns for violating the unwritten codes of Iraqi masculinity. A number of signs might implicate one as being not "manly" enough, from neighborhood gossip that a man is gay to looking somehow effeminate or foreign in the wrong people's eyes: wearing one's hair too long or one's jeans too tight, for example. There is no count available for the number of deaths since the killings began earlier this year, but one U.N. worker told us that the victims could number in the hundreds.

Not a single murder has been adequately investigated, and not a single murderer has been arrested. Infiltrated by militias and fearing for their reputations if they defend "immorality," government officials turn a blind eye.

Most survivors pointed to Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia as the main culprit in the attacks.

It appears that al-Sadr is using this form of "morality" enforcement to make a comeback.

Aside from his usual pattern of blaming Bush, what precisely does President Obama plan to do about it?

Withdraw?

As to the question of who the hell cares, as I told Simon I've been reading about this issue at Andrew Sullivan's blog for some time. It's not new. But in general no one says anything. Right now the left wants to pretend Iraq no longer exists, and the Obama administration would like to pretend gays don't exist.

And while Andrew Sullivan is utterly sincere and has every right to be outraged, the fact is that he doesn't exactly inspire conservatives to jump out of their armchairs and into the streets -- over the plight of Iraqi gays or anything else. (I don't think the left trusts him much either -- a classic lesson on the burning of bridges.)

What I find especially tragic and ironic is that gays do seem to have been better off under Saddam Hussein:

Saif, one of the older residents at an Iraqi LGBT house, recalls Saddam's repressive but secular regime wistfully. "Those were the most beautiful days of our lives," he says. "The fall [of Saddam] was the worst thing to happen."
This hardly means that Saddam Hussein was gay-friendly, or cared in the slightest about them. However, he was a ruthless, secular, Machiavellian to the core, as well as an opportunistic thug who cared only about maintaining power by any means necessary. Gay Iraqis posed far less of a threat to his power than their religious enemies, and from a purely Machiavellian perspective it would have been the height of folly for al-Sadr's Islamist militias to have dared to engage in gay killings while Saddam was in power. Not because Saddam Hussein cared about gays, but because it would have exposed his enemies' position, and made them easier to locate.

To understand the man's thinking (as well as that of the Mahdi), you have to think like a psychopath, and not a Western psychopath, but a Mideastern one. I think it's important to remember that Mideastern attitudes towards gays would be considered psychopathic by Western standards:

Persecution of gays will stop only if Iraqis can abandon centuries-old prejudices. They would have to acknowledge that human rights don't cover only the humans they like. Insisting that gays are just a few undesirable perverts who "should be killed"--as one Iraqi who works in journalism put it--encourages an atmosphere of impunity no matter the offense. Killing gays becomes "honorable." And raping them is OK because it isn't considered a homosexual act--only being penetrated or providing oral sex is.
This mindset is incomprehensible to most Americans, whether conservative or liberal. Just does not compute.

But the fact is, we went in and liberated a place where attitudes like that prevail, and with Saddam gone, a power vacuum was created. The real tragedy here is that it's probably accurate to say that the gay killing spree is one of those unforeseen consequences of liberation. The Mahdi Army, it seems, simply cannot handle seeing Iraqi gays on YouTube:

A video clip showing men dancing with each other at a party in Baghdad in the summer of 2008 is thought to have triggered this string of kidnappings, rapes, and murders. Thousands of people have seen it on the Internet and on their cell phones. Islamic religious leaders began ranting about the growing presence of a "third sex" which American soldiers were said to have brought in with them. The followers of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, in particular, felt the need to take action aimed at restoring "religious morals." A video clip showing men dancing with each other at a party in Baghdad in the summer of 2008 is thought to have triggered this string of kidnappings, rapes, and murders. Thousands of people have seen it on the Internet and on their cell phones. Islamic religious leaders began ranting about the growing presence of a "third sex" which American soldiers were said to have brought in with them. The followers of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, in particular, felt the need to take action aimed at restoring "religious morals."
An American who describes himsself as a "Black, Gay, Father, Vegetarian, Buddhist, Liberal" (meaning he would doubtless be a candidate for execution in Iraq) writes a blog called The Republic of T. , and on 9/11 he remembered the gay victims of 9/11, and asked an especially poignant question about murdered gay Iraqis:
Should these men count among 9/11's gay victims, after the fact, given that the killings might not be happening had we not invaded?
As to the details of the killings, they are absolutely appalling:
In Baghdad a new series of murders began early this year, perpetrated against men suspected of being gay. Often they are raped, their genitals cut off, and their anuses sealed with glue. Their bodies are left at landfills or dumped in the streets. The non-profit organization Human Rights Watch, which has documented many of these crimes, has spoken of a systematic campaign of violence involving hundreds of murders.
More examples here:
Two gay men were found elsewhere in Sadr City, alive but bearing the scars of severe torture. They were beaten, their chests showed signs of cigarette burns, and when police found them they were rushed to the hospital. They had been sodomized with iron bars, sources said. Other men said they had had their chests slashed and their nipples cut off.
More chilling accounts here. And here ("hospitals and morgues have received dozens of mutilated bodies, living and dead"). And here ("They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out.")

Meanwhile, Amy Goodman and the left-wing Pacifica Radio are studiously ignoring the plight of Iraqi gays. Might make ordinary compassionate Americans hesitant to support the pullout the left has long wanted, mightn't it?

Better for the Narrative if we minimize questions like this:

There are many reasons to ask why we are still in Iraq, but one that hasn't gotten much press is the torture and killing of gays.
I'm not saying the issue isn't being discussed at all, because it is. The San Francisco Chronicle for example, was unable to ignore it. But in general, to overcome the power of what should probably be called the "Just Shut Up About Iraq Narrative," you have to use the power of the Internet to ferret out most of the sites like these that do.

What is happening to Iraqi gays is a horrible situation, and I'm sorry, but saying it's not our problem just doesn't cut it. Too many Americans died. I might not be able to do much about it, but I'm not going to look the other way.

Certainly, not shutting up is the least I can do.

posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (3)



Sara Palin's Going Rogue #5 On Amazon

Sarah Palin's book Going Rogue: An American Life is available for pre-order on Amazon and it is already up to #5 and there is not even a picture of the dust jacket available.

I guess she is not as popular as every one thought.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:39 AM | Comments (4)



What To Do Before TSHTF

Wretchard and his commenters are discussing what to do before there is a breakdown in civilization. Of course there is the usual - buy guns and ammo. But what else could help?

Stock up on tools. Even cheap Chinese stuff if it is not too junky. Voltmeters and for those who are somewhat adept - oscopes.

A good shortwave radio. This is good at under $150

Sony ICF-SW7600GR AM/FM Shortwave World Band Receiver with Single Side Band Reception

This is good for $60

Kaito KA1101 - Worldband radio

This is a good disaster radio for $30

American Red Cross FR150 Microlink Solar-Powered, Self-Powered AM/FM/Weatherband Portable Radio with Flashlight and Cell Phone Charger (Red)

and don't forget an antenna for your shortwave radio:

Kaito AN-03L - Radio antenna

Once you get your radio buy spare alkaline batteries and practice using your radio. Like any tool, the more experience you have with it the better it will serve you when you really need it.

If you can fix things or make thing - good. Plumbing, house wiring, simple house repairs. Auto repairs.

Tools, tools, tools. Most of them that will be useful don't have a rifled barrel.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:39 AM | Comments (4)




Discrimination against religion leads to discrimination in favor of religion?

Is there a conflict between freedom of speech and freedom of religion? I don't think there is, but I think the courts may have screwed things up to the point where people are forgetting something about the nature of free speech.

A recent example involves a group of high school cheerleaders in Florida who were banned from displaying signs with Bible verses:

Community members are rallying around Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School cheerleaders after they were banned from displaying signs with Bible verses urging fans and players to "commit to the Lord" and "take courage and do it."

The banners -- the paper ones that football players crash through at the beginning of games -- have been common sights in the school's football stadium since 2003, local officials say.

"The cheerleaders are not trying to push a religious cause, to shove religion down someone's throat," said local youth minister Brad Scott, who was LFO High's class president in 2004. "The cheerleaders are just using Scripture to show motivation and inspiration to the players and the fans."

Catoosa County Schools spokeswoman Marissa Brower said a Fort Oglethorpe resident lodged a verbal complaint to Superintendent Denia Reese last week, saying that the display of a Bible verse on the football field is a violation of federal law.

9/18/09 At a football game on the school's field, cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School hold up a sign with a Biblical verse on it. After a complaint last week, the school has banned the cheerleaders from using any more signs with religious statements on them, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.

A school system statement released Monday said the message constitutes "a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution for signs with Bible verses to be displayed on the football field."

Is it a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution for signs with Bible verses to be displayed on the football field?

I realize the courts have said it is, but should it be?

It has long seemed clear to me that religious speech is free speech, and ought not to be treated any differently from any other form of free speech.

Here's the sign that appeared in the article:

pressonJesus.jpg

Whether you like the sign or not, why isn't it free speech?

As the town's mayor says, no one has to go to the football stadium, and no one has to read the signs:

Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Ronnie Cobb vehemently disagrees with the ban and said he'll call on the City Council to support the cheerleaders and their signs.

The signs don't infringe on anyone's religious rights and are good for school spirit, he said.

"I'm totally against them doing away with it," Mr. Cobb said, adding that the cheerleaders' rights are being abused.

The mayor said football coach John Allen made the signs a tradition around 2003 and it has continued ever since.

"If it's offensive to anyone, let them go watch another football game," he said. "Nobody's forced to come there and nobody's forced to read the signs."

The ban on religious speech at schools and other government property stems from a belief that what the state allows, it endorses. But suppose the cheerleaders held up a banner saying "STOP THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN!" or "SUPPORT PRESIDENT OBAMA!" Would anyone argue that the school was endorsing that message? Or implicitly encouraging the students to endorse it?

Let's suppose we change the sign around slightly. Would people be offended if the cheerleaders held up this sign?

pressonObama.jpg

Hmmm.....

I'm thinking they might. I'm thinking that the same people who want religious signs displayed would be against the display of religious signs with a political message, or outright political signs. But why? If there's free speech, then there's free speech, right? I'm for free speech, and I'd like all speech to be treated equally.

What am I missing?

Might the ban on religious speech have unwittingly led to religious speech being poised to occupy a special category above and beyond that of ordinary free speech? Is that it? Do the cheerleaders and their supporters want special treatment that would not obtain for other forms of free speech?

Should they get it? If so, under what First Amendment theory?

I realize that religious speech has been denied the same protection offered to other forms of speech, and I think that is wrong. But two wrongs don't make a right. And just as I am against affirmative action to remedy past racial discrimination, I am against offering special protection for religious speech by way of compensation for past wrongs.

MORE: From an AFA PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (October 1, 2009)AFA urges Georgia school district to protect student expression on football banners

Does that mean the AFA agrees with the First Amendment?

posted by Eric at 10:08 PM | Comments (5)



Holy assholes!

Anyone remember this cartoon?

InkMohamet2.jpg

Far be it from me to criticize artists, but in light of this news report, I think the bomb might be in the wrong place:

(CBS) Al Qaeda has developed a new tactic that allows suicide bombers to breach even the tightest security, as CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports.

Inside a Saudi palace, the scene was the bloody aftermath of an al Qaeda attack in August aimed at killing Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, head of Saudi Arabia's counter terrorism operations.

To get his bomb into this room, Abdullah Asieri, one of Saudi Arabia's most wanted men, avoided detection by two sets of airport security including metal detectors and palace security. He spent 30 hours in the close company of the prince's own secret service agents - all without anyone suspecting a thing.

How did he do it?

Taking a trick from the narcotics trade - which has long smuggled drugs in body cavities - Asieri had a pound of high explosives, plus a detonator inserted in his rectum.

I guess it's too late to tell these guys where they can stick it.

posted by Eric at 07:05 PM | Comments (6)



If running really produced a high it would be illegal

For over 14 years, I have been running 3 miles nearly every other day. I had to force myself when I started back in 1995, and I hated running then and now. Really, I hate it about as much now as I did when I started. What I have never quite been able to understand is the way people carry on about runners as if they suffer from a compulsive disease, like an addiction. They are said to crave running because (so the argument goes) it is supposed to give them a narcotic-like rush called the "Runner's High":

Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner's body pumps out, the greater the effect.

Leading endorphin researchers not associated with the study said they accepted its findings.

"Impressive," said Dr. Solomon Snyder, a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins and a discoverer of endorphins in the 1970's.

"I like it," said Huda Akil, a professor of neurosciences at the University of Michigan. "This is the first time someone took this head on. It wasn't that the idea was not the right idea. It was that the evidence was not there."

For athletes, the study offers a sort of vindication that runner's high is not just a New Agey excuse for their claims of feeling good after a hard workout.

For athletes and nonathletes alike, the results are opening a new chapter in exercise science. They show that it is possible to define and measure the runner's high and that it should be possible to figure out what brings it on. They even offer hope for those who do not enjoy exercise but do it anyway. These exercisers might learn techniques to elicit a feeling that makes working out positively addictive.

I wish they'd hurry up. Because seriously, running sucks. Big time. I could certainly use the runner's high, because it hasn't gotten easier to run after all these years. In fact, on a cold and clammy day like this, it feels like genuine torture.

At the rate I'm going, I'll probably develop "Boomeritis" before I ever manage to eke out the slightest "high."

(And now I gotta run!)

MORE: Post-run, and still no runner's high! Being accused of getting such a thing is no fun; it's like being accused of having fun when you're making yourself miserable. (Like a celibate accused of hedonism...)

posted by Eric at 04:28 PM | Comments (8)



Mark your calendars!

I just learned that old blogfriends Kim and Connie du Toit have a new radio show that promises to be most exciting. The Kim and Connie Show begins on Saturday October 3rd on BlogTalkRadio.com. According to Connie, they "hope to present something akin to a 'Salon' but the show will probably take on a life of its own, and we'll bend to its will."

From the website, here's the schedule:

Broadcasting live every Every Saturday & Sunday beginning October 3, 2009:

* 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm (Eastern)
* 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm (Central)
* 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm (Mount.)
* 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Pacific)

This is wonderful news, as I have been missing their blogs and I wish them both success in every possible way.

posted by Eric at 11:12 AM | Comments (1)



Taking Literalism literally?

There are those who believe that taking the Bible literally can be a form of satire, and cartoonist R. Crumb is one of them:

PARIS -- Subversive US cartoonist Robert Crumb, whose take on the Bible is about to be released worldwide, says people are "totally nuts" for taking the book so seriously for so long.

"I grew to hate the Bible," he told a press conference for the international launch of "Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis", which he called a "gruelling" four year project. The book hits bookshelves in late October in Europe, Brazil and the United States.

"The idea of millions of people taking this so seriously is totally nuts," he added. "The Bible doesn't need to be satirised. It's already so crazy."

Crumb's 220-page epic take on the Book of Genesis painstakingly mirrors every twist and turn, from God's Creation of the world through the meanderings of Noah's Ark and the adventures of Jacob of the "coat of many colours".

I've looked at some of the drawings, and they are so loyal to the text that had Crumb instead announced that he had found God, he'd have likely been proclaimed a new Jack T. Chick. Via Ann Althouse, here's a link to Crumb's pictorial representation of Sodom and Gomorrah.

From a religious perspective, the book violates the Second Commandment:

Certainly from a Jewish perspective, it violates the second of the Ten Commandments. And it won't go down well with traditional Muslims either. But for Christians, it's no big deal.
Few Christians have religious objections to Michelangelo's depiction of God in the Sistine Chapel. But if Crumb thinks the Bible is nuts, his depictions are unlikely to be appreciated, no matter how loyal they may be to the text. Had an atheist made the same version of "The Passion" as Mel Gibson, it would have had a very different reception -- on both sides.

Yet isn't there a paradox here? If we assume the Second Commandment controls depictions of God, wouldn't it be more binding on believers than on unbelievers?

If Crumb thinks a religious law is nonsense, how can he be said to have violated it?

Here's the relevant portion of the Second Commandment (which I've had a lot of trouble interpreting:


Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
-- Exodus 20: 4 (KJV)
If you take that literally, it kind of ruins things for art and photography.

But if you don't take it literally, then how slippery is the slope?

(I don't worry about these things too much, because even though I'm not an atheist where it comes to belief in God or gods, I have serious logical problems with the idea of God as text.)

posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (13)



Don't Talk

The speaker in the video is Mr. James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and a former defense attorney.

Yeah. Don't talk. The Mafia Code of Omerta. Silence. The Video explains why.

Here is Part 2 by a police officer in case you need more reasons.

Which brings up this book:

Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent

Here is what one reviewer said:

This is a very thoughtful and vigorously argued book about the injustices that arise when prosecutors seek to expand the reach of federal criminal statutes beyond their proper field of application. The author has litigated many of the cases he discusses, and is able to translate the complexities of that experience intelligently and without condescension, but also without all of the unnecessary technical details that lawyers writing for a general audience sometimes get bogged down in. Harvey Silverglate is an institution in his own right: a tireless advocate for civil liberties, prolific writer, and astute student of the law, there are few people who have a stronger commitment to illuminating the practical workings of the criminal justice system and their relationship to broader currents in the law. This is a must-read for those interested in criminal law, civil liberties, and the recent history of the Department of Justice, by a writer who has the courage of his convictions and voices them powerfully and well.
Here is an interview with the author Harvey Silverglate.
BC: Then has the common law tradition been abandoned? Does innocence of intention matter anymore?

Harvey Silverglate: The common law tradition has been essentially abandoned in federal law. Indeed, for a very long time the Supreme Court has ruled that federal law is entirely the product of congressional statutes and administrative regulations, rather than of common law evolution. This presumably was -- in part -- an effort to assure clarity. The law was to mean what Congress wrote and intended, rather than follow the long-standing dictums of common law tradition and interpretation. In theory, this should have produced a body of law with more clarity than the typical state law code.

In practice, despite Morissette's admirable but ultimately failed effort to turn the situation around common law notions were abandoned in the federal criminal justice system and clarity suffered, not to mention the moral content and purpose of the law. Now, people who have done things that most normal folks would not consider a crime, can be sentenced to decades-long stays in federal prison. In truth, any criminal justice system that abandons clarity of obligation and proof of criminal intent has abandoned its moral purpose and hence its legitimacy. And, as my book shows, our federal system of criminal justice has long since lost its legitimacy.

How about that. There is much more.

Ayn Rand explains what it is all about in her novel Atlas Shrugged.

"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed? We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against . . . We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted -- and you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."
The upshot of all this: Don't Talk to the Police. Ever.

And while you are at it you might want to talk to your Representatives about what has happened to justice in America. And don't even get me started about Testilying in drug cases.

House of Representatives
The Senate

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:56 AM | Comments (1)



Saudis Green Light Israel

According to The Daily Express UK Saudi Arabia has green lighted an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

INTELLIGENCE chief Sir John Scarlett has been told that Saudi Arabia is ready to allow Israel to bomb Iran's new nuclear site.

The head of MI6 discussed the issue in London with Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Saudi officials after British intelligence officers helped to uncover the plant, in the side of a mountain near the ancient city of Qom.

The site is seen as a major threat by Tel Aviv and Riyadh. Details of the talks emerged after John Bolton, America's former UN ambassador, told a meeting of intelligence analysts that "Riyadh certainly approves" of Israel's use of Saudi airspace.

It looks like Zbigniew Brzezinski's suggestion that the US shoot down any Israeli jets attacking Iran when they are over Iraq has become a moot point.
The national security adviser for former President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, gave an interview to The Daily Beast in which he suggested President Obama should make it clear to Israel that if they attempt to attack Iran's nuclear weapons sites the U.S. Air Force will stop them.

"We are not exactly impotent little babies," Brzezinski said. "They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? ... We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren't just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not.

And Dearest Zbig, what if they avoid Iraqi airspace by overflying Saudi Arabia? And heaven forfend what if the American military fails to follow orders? Or just suddenly becomes inept? What then Zbig?

One need only look at the Saudi reaction to the 2006 war against Hizballah (an Iranian proxy) in Lebanon. Their first reaction was "we have no dog in this fight". Followed by "evil Israelis." However, they sat on their hands the whole time.

The world is routing around damage. And the damage? Obama and his crew of Marxists psychophants. Thank the Maker there are still some adults in the world.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:40 AM | Comments (2)




ACORNOMICS 101: An Economy by, for, and of the government

The ever-didactic newly-Mrs. McArdle, taking what we all hope is only a brief break from breeding a new race of libertarian superhumans (Suderhumans?), notes a disturbing trend:

On the other end, requiring LTVs of 80-90% would have made the markets much less vulnerable to a correction. ... Meanwhile, what's actually happening? The percentage of FHA loans in the market has risen from 4% to over 20%

And we have bigger and fewer banks, and CRA is being expanded. Dear Lord.

This is really getting scary. I see no understanding among the politicial class of what actually caused the financial crisis.

The next chapter of ACORNomics seems likely to cost taxpayers trillions; sequels are, after all, always more expensive. It's going to take a hell of a lot of underage Salvadoran prostitutes to pay for TARP II: Barney Frank's Revenge.

posted by Dave at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)



I hope Polanski isn't a metaphor for Poland!

In a painfully thoughtful piece, Hollywood insider Roger L. Simon looks at the Roman Polanski case, and concludes that he is a metaphor for Hollywood:

Look, Polanski is weak like the rest of us. But in the end, there is something about him that is a metaphor for Hollywood - despite that he has been exiled from here these many years. A tremendously talented man, he is the emblem of special pleading.
I agree with Roger that what the man did was indefensible.
you don't fool around with thirteen year old girls.
Exactly. Still, the thirteen year old girl is now middle aged, and she doesn't think he should go to prison. Not that it's her decision, of course. But the victims are normally taken into account at sentencing, and I'm not altogether sure that there ever was a sentence. There seems to have been a plea bargain, but the sentencing judge didn't go along with it.
In December, Polanski asked a Los Angeles court to dismiss the 1977 case because of alleged judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. He said his rights were violated in part because the judge presiding over the case at the time reneged on a plea agreement.

His California lawyers claim an HBO documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," revealed a pattern of misconduct and improper communications between the court and prosecutors. They asked in a July court filing that the Los Angeles district attorney's office be disqualified from participating in the case, which is currently under appeal.

Polanski's lawyers claim that the since-deceased judge presiding over the case was improperly influenced by prosecutors and wanted Polanski jailed until he voluntarily agreed to leave the country. The director served 42 days in jail for a "diagnostic study" before he was scheduled to be sentenced.

Plea Bargain

Under the plea bargain, the time Polanski served should have been his entire sentence, his lawyers argued.

California Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza said in February that Polanski must come to the U.S. to get a hearing on his request. Espinoza ruled that Polanski's absence forfeited his right to consideration of the facts and circumstances that led him to flee the country.

It's not entirely clear to me that Polanski will in fact be extradited. If he isn't, and if we look at the big picture, perhaps that's the best result. He's 76, and maybe he should just die abroad rather than return to prison in the United States.

There's hardly honor in a life spent on the lam.

By way of full disclosure, I like Polanski's films, but I do not defend his crimes against the girl in any way. What he did was reprehensible.

However, the cynic in me wonders why the Obama Justice Department would seek his extradition right now. For cripes sake, the case is 32 years old. What gives? Might he have failed to contribute to the Obama campaign? Or am I not allowed to ask? The conservative Polish government (headed by an outspokenly anti-gay politician) has been lobbying to get the charges dropped, and President Barack Obama is no friend of his government.

But that's completely cynical and highly speculative thinking on my part. Besides, it's wrong to question the motives of a Justice Department which would never allow politics to influence prosecutorial decisions.

MORE: I like Megan McArdle's take on this:

If the girl had been 15 or 16, I think many of us would rightly say, "let it go, already". But she was thirteen. He plied her with champagne and Quaaludes. And he knew how old she was. Ick (warning: link has a pretty graphic description of anal rape.)
Via Glenn Reynolds, who also quotes reader Michael McElwee:
Isn't it obvious this arrest - out of nowhere - is a political move by Obama's minders?

What better to keep Greta and America distracted for a week or so?

Any ideas on what might this be a distraction from?

Another different child sex scandal, perhaps? What? There's more than one?

Forgive my macabre speculation, but perhaps the plan is to drag Polanski back, then pardon him and make him the nation's Pedophile Czar.

(Experience counts, right?)

MORE: While I was trying to be funny when I cited the above post about Kevin Jennings, I sincerely hope the anti-gay comments to this earlier post on the subject do not represent conservatism. (Sorry, but helping a troubled gay teen is not "pedophilia.")

AND MORE: In a very thoughtful post, Joy McCann suggests that there is a middle ground:

...there exists a middle ground between those who want to give Polanski a pass, and those whose attitude is "hang him high." And that would be for Polanski to come back to Los Angeles and receive a reasonably light sentence. I know that saying this will get both sides mad at me, but it is the only way to balance justice against mercy -- a need that Shakespeare expressed in The Merchant of Venice, which (ironically) featured a grasping Jewish character demanding justice in the form of capital punishment of a debtor via a "pound of flesh." The ethnicities have switched, but the tension between justice and mercy remain the same, and both are critical to a humane society that nonetheless enjoys, for the most part, the freedom that goes along with "equality under the law."
Read it all.

After several days of this, I am beginning to suspect that this might very well have been a distraction, and I am beginning to regret having said anything about it at all. Because, if it is intended as a distraction, I played along.

And I don't like playing along.

posted by Eric at 08:15 PM | Comments (7)



SEIU Factor In Illinois Senat Race

Illinois Republicans are making efforts to connect the Democrats to the SEIU in the race for Obamas old Senate Seat. Roland "I am not a crook" Burris (D - Crook County) is currently keeping the seat warm.

Illinois Republicans are using a union endorsement Democrat Alexi Giannoulias received Thursday to again try to make disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich a central figure in the U.S. Senate race.

The powerful 170,000-member Illinois chapter of the Service Employees International Union endorsed Giannoulias, the state treasurer, in his bid for President Barack Obama's old Senate seat, and Republicans jumped at the chance to point out the union's ties to Blagojevich.

SEIU was one of the largest contributors to Blagojevich's campaigns before lawmakers removed him from office in January after his arrest on federal corruption charges that included accusations he tried to sell or trade Obama's Senate seat to enrich himself.

One of the things Blagojevich wanted, according to a federal indictment, was a high-paying job at a union organization affiliated with SEIU. Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU's Illinois chapter, has said he will make a good witness for the prosecution at Blagojevich's trial.

The GOP suggested the endorsement reflected badly on Giannoulias and pressed him to explain why he would accept it.

As I predicted earlier today the SEIU is the next target in the effort to pull down the ACORN family. What I did not expect was that the shots would come from the GOP. I figured it would be Breitbart or Beck leading the charge.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)



Cannae

Bill Whittle has a marvelous video that you should watch.

And what is Breitbart's strategy for continuing the attack? In a word make ACORN sue him. Which it has done. What was O'Keefe and Gile's response when a suit was first mooted? "Bring it on."

Kathleen Parker suggests the next front in the war. SEIU. And in the process explains why the public option is so critical to Obama's plan to neuter the American people.

Just last week, the Kansas City Star reported that two state agencies acting on an SEIU public records request sought to identify in-home health workers who care for the elderly and disabled. After complaints, the state acknowledged that it was under no legal obligation to provide the information and ceased helping the SEIU. Unionizing is not a state function, needless to say. And never mind the invasion of privacy.

One needn't be a mathematician to imagine what a national health-care option might mean to a union in search of new dues-paying recruits. The SEIU, which has promised "to fight tooth and nail" for a public option, is demonstrably persuasive. In Illinois, former governor Blagojevich (thank you for your patience) helped position the SEIU so that it could unionize health-care workers when he signed an executive order allowing collective bargaining. The SEIU showed its appreciation in advance by becoming Blagojevich's largest contributor, handing over $1.8 million for his two gubernatorial campaigns.

This war is not over. Not by a long shot. Keep at them Andrew. Keep at them Glenn.

You can find out what Andrew is up to at Big Government.com and of course Glenn can be found at FOX.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



Lock 'em up and throw away the key!

An Indiana grandmother has been arrested for buying more sudafed than the law allows:

CLINTON -- When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.

Now, Harpold is trying to clear her name of criminal charges, and she is speaking out in hopes that a law will change so others won't endure the same embarrassment she still is facing.

"This is a very traumatic experience," Harpold said.

Harpold is a grandmother of triplets who bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy. Less than seven days later, she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy, thereby purchasing 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week's time.

Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.

I say it's about time we got tough on these criminal hoodlums who think they can flout the law with impunity.

The woman is trying to claim that she had no intention of running a meth lab, and didn't know that she was violating the law. But that's beside the point, folks, for society has to send a loud and clear message that actions have consequences, the law is the law, and no one is above the law!

While the law was written with the intent of stopping people from purchasing large quantities of drugs to make methamphetamine, the law does not say the purchase must be made with the intent to make meth.

"The law does not make this distinction," Alexander said.

If the law said "with intent to manufacture methamphetamine," no one could be arrested until it was proven that the drug actually was used to make meth, the prosecutor said.

And that certainly wasn't the intent of the law, either. It was written to limit access to the key ingredient in meth -- pseudoephedrine -- and thereby to stop the clandestine "mom and pop" meth labs that were cooking drugs throughout the area.

Just as with any law, the public has the responsibility to know what is legal and what is not, and ignorance of the law is no excuse, the prosecutor said.

Hear hear!

There's a slippery slope, and permissiveness only runs in one direction. Next thing you know, this woman will become emboldened enough to move up to even more serious crimes, like illegally allowing neighbor's children to wait for the bus in her house. Or selling them deadly children's books printed before 1987!

You know what also angers me? Those tiny little scofflaws who run illegal lemonade stands! In this neighborhood, the underaged criminals engage in illegal sales to football game patrons, while their conscienceless parents cheer them on.

One town had the sense to do something to protect the public, and it's about time!

Listening to her criminal father prattle on about the "work ethic," I'm wondering why he wasn't prosecuted for aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy, violating the child labor laws, as well as RICO. So where are the feds when we need them?

And why no SWAT Team?

Clearly crime is out of control and criminals are everywhere, with potential career criminals in the form of children, parents and grandmothers lurking in almost every household.

Obviously, the only solution is to redouble our efforts and pass more laws! But the more laws we have, the more criminals there necessarily will be by definition.

So we cannot let down our guard -- especially when we're losing the war!

posted by Eric at 04:28 PM | Comments (8)



Strategic non-blogging?

Gregory Kane thinks it would have been better for conservative bloggers to have ignored the Van Jones story in the hope that he would stay in office until shortly before the 2012 election-- at which time his "exposure" could provide the much-needed ammo that the GOP will need to win:

...did Republicans and conservatives do themselves a favor by getting this whining weirdo cast out of the White House?

Before Jones resigned, Missouri Sen. Christopher Bond, according to a USA Today story, "said Congress should investigate Jones' fitness for the job." In the same news story, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence said "Jones' extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate."

A place in the Obama administration is PRECISELY where I wanted Jones. What's more important to Republicans and conservatives: Jones' departure from the White House in September of 2009 or Obama's departure from it in January of 2013?

Let me put it another way: What good does it do to celebrate and whoop up nailing Jones now if, on Jan. 21, 2013, Obama is taking the oath of office for his second term as president?

Here's how I would have preferred that Republicans and conservatives handled the Jones affair: Do nothing now, just keep a record of everything the guy did or said, both in the past and during his time working for the Obama administration.

Then, in 2012, around the time of say, oh, the Democratic National Convention or sometime during the post-convention presidential campaign, bring up the Jones matter. What he said about Republicans being bodily orifices and his signature on that 9-11 "Truther" statement. I'd have even thrown in Jones' support of Mumia Abu Jamal, the convicted murderer of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Etc.

Kane is right in the strategic sense, of course. The problem is, there's no magic switch to turn on and off the blogosphere, or talk radio. People can and will dig up information and blog about what they find. Gateway Pundit is credited with getting the Van Jones story out, and there's no way to censor blog posts or discussions, nor is there any way to prevent bigger media figures from picking up on them.

But let us suppose that it is theoretically possible for "the right" to issue an edict from above directing that the Van Jones story be ignored for strategic reasons. Isn't it also likely that sooner or later some of the more moderate liberals (meaning those who don't think putting Communists in cabinet level positions is a good idea) would have noticed, and wondered why?

It's a bit tough to ask bloggers to be thinking about a 2012 strategy in 2009. Besides, don't the 2010 congressional elections come first? There are a lot of voters who might very well care about Communist crackpots appointed to cabinet positions long enough that they'll not only remember in November, but they might remember all the way until next November.

And considering the rate that left-wing ideological zealots are being appointed to high office, with any luck these ideologues will remain in charge of the vetting process. I very much doubt that Van Jones will be the last Communist crackpot who makes it through.

So, I say cheer up!

While the tragic and untimely departure of Van Jones may represent an apparent loss for the cause of conservatism, there should be plenty more where he came from.

posted by Eric at 12:28 PM | Comments (7)



All the truth we can respect

In her discussion of the amazing and incredible delay by the New York Times in reporting the ACORN child prostitution-enablement scandal, Ann Althouse derides this explanation from Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt:

as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from Acorn, The Times stood still. Its slow reflexes -- closely following its slow response to a controversy that forced the resignation of Van Jones, a White House adviser -- suggested that it has trouble dealing with stories arising from the polemical world of talk radio, cable television and partisan blogs. Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.
Althouse wonders skeptically why the Times would wait so long:
Is it wrong for me to wait too long before writing about what the NYT public editor has written about why the NYT took so long to write about the ACORN story?

Somehow I, a lone blogger, feel that it is wrong for me to wait, so how absurd it feels to me that the Times, with all its resources, waited as long as it did.

I understand how she feels about it being wrong to wait to write about stuff, and right now I find myself wondering whether it is wrong for me to wait too long before writing about what Ann Althouse said about what the NYT public editor has written about why the NYT took so long to write about the ACORN story.

This goes to the heart of the distinction between blogging and journalism of the salaried, paid, legacy variety. Unless they are news aggregators, bloggers are under no obligation to write about everything. Or even anything. Lots of times I have to force myself to write, and much as I hate forcing myself to do anything, there is one thing I hate even more -- which is the idea that I am being forced to write by others -- simply because others have. That I have no such obligation, that it is not enforceable, that no one cares, that I can't be fired or disciplined for any act or omission -- these things do not alter that feeling. And because of the way my personality works, the feeling of obligation exerts a negative pull -- and makes me naturally disinclined to write about anything that even so much as hints at hitting this unwanted sense of being obligated to write about it.

Fortunately, the co-bloggers here seem to possess an uncanny knack for writing about the Stuff That's Supposed To Be Written About, thus alleviating my guilt, and allowing me to engage in my frivolous pastimes of wrestling with contradictions, engaging in overanalysis, and thinking about things to the point that they no longer make sense.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I'm not just chiming in to agree with Ann Althouse's point about the New York Times. She is right, of course, but the Times' position is symptomatic of something I discussed the other day, and I don't know whether it's a trend or simply a done deal, but it's the phenomenon of what I'll call different truths for different "troops."

Glenn Reynolds (who linked the Althouse post) also stresses the distinction between "bourgeois truth" and "revolutionary truth":

[W]e must distinguish between "bourgeois truth," which is concerned with sterile facts, and "revolutionary truth," which is concerned with what will promote the revolution.
In general, the conservative blogosphere pays more attention to the facts, while the left and the MSM are more concerned with The Narrative.

When a story does not easily fit the Narrative (or when there are competing narratives), the result can be chaotic. One recent example is the still-unsolved murder of a census taker found with the word "FED" carved into his chest. According to the standard liberal narrative, the death can obviously be blamed on conservative talk radio (and, I guess, right wing blogs, if we are to believe that backcountry murderers read them), for stirring up all those little people into a murderous rage against Big Government. But other possibilities -- that he might have been a casualty of the Drug War, or even a pedophile killed by a victim's relative -- don't fit the standard narrative, and whether the story will be made to fade away for not fitting the usual Rush-Limbaugh-did-it narrative, who knows?

Speaking of stories that don't fit the narrative, I found one at RawStory which is quite juicy. A lot of people remember the Oklahoma City blast, but few people except conspiracy theorists are still pursuing leads. However, there is one man who strikes me as less a conspiracy theorist than someone with a personal stake. Attorney Jesse Trentadue's brother died in his federal prison cell under very suspicious circumstances. Apparently believed be an accomplice of McVeigh, and there's been a lot of speculation that he was tortured and murdered. Naturally, this has led to all sorts of conspiracy theories, but what's interesting (and, I think, newsworthy right now) is the latest report that there's a missing gap in the official video camera tapes that were withheld from Trentadue and were only produced after years of litigation:

OKLAHOMA CITY - Long-secret security tapes showing the chaos immediately after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building are blank in the minutes before the blast and appear to have been edited, an attorney who obtained the recordings said Sunday.

"The real story is what's missing," said Jesse Trentadue, a Salt Lake City attorney who obtained the recordings through the federal Freedom of Information Act as part of an unofficial inquiry he is conducting into the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.

Trentadue gave copies of the tapes to The Oklahoman newspaper, which posted them online and provided copies to The Associated Press.

The tapes turned over by the FBI came from security cameras various companies had mounted outside office buildings near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. They are blank at points before 9:02 a.m., when a truck bomb carrying a 4,000 pound fertilizer-and-fuel-oil bomb detonated in front of the building, Trentadue said.

"Four cameras in four different locations going blank at basically the same time on the morning of April 19, 1995. There ain't no such thing as a coincidence," Trentadue said.

He said government officials claim the security cameras did not record the minutes before the bombing because "they had run out of tape" or "the tape was being replaced."

"The interesting thing is they spring back on after 9:02," he said. "The absence of footage from these crucial time intervals is evidence that there is something there that the FBI doesn't want anybody to see."

A spokesman for the FBI in Oklahoma City, Gary Johnson, declined to comment and referred inquiries about the tapes to FBI officials in Washington, who were not immediately available for comment Sunday.

Well, that's the Yahoo story, and it's the same as the one on RawStory. WorldNetDaily linked the Yahoo story, and the Philadelphia Inquirer has now picked up on it, along with the AP and other online news sites.

But is it news? Will it really make it into the mainstream media? You know, hard copy? Will it be a topic on talk radio? (Hey, come on, guys! Eric Holder was in on the coverup!)

I think the problem with the story is not so much a narrative issue as the fact that Oklahoma City has now been relegated to conspiracy theory land. This renders any story about it inherently suspect, and aside from provocateurish kooks like Alex Jones, respectable people want nothing to do with it -- especially people who seek an appearance of respectability.

What about the respectability issue? Is it a narrative issue?

Surely it doesn't involve morality. Or does it? What is respectability? And why is it that I have this gut feeling that news involving Oklahoma City bombing is not respectable, and therefore not "real news"?

Not to beat the meme to death again, but if some truths are more respectable than others, might this touch on an inherent conflict between truth and power?

MORE: Here's some of the video that's been making the rounds:

posted by Eric at 11:23 AM | Comments (3)




Not with my money!

I'm all for free speech, and I've criticized McCain-Feingold quite harshly. But this headline -- "Supreme Court appears poised to allow corporate contributions" -- worries me, because corporations aren't the independent entities they once were.

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court's conservative bloc sounded poised Wednesday to strike down on free-speech grounds the nation's historic ban on corporations spending large amounts of money to elect or defeat candidates for Congress and the Presidency.

If the justices were to issue such a ruling in the next few months, it could reshape American politics, beginning with the Congressional campaign in 2010. For the first time, big companies and industries--and possibly unions as well--could fund campaign ads to support or defeat members of Congress.

For example, the health insurance industry would have a much greater ability to target for defeat members of Congress who supported a so-called "public option" for medical insurance. Banks and investment firms could oppose representatives who favor stricter regulation of the financial industry.

And far more money could flow into elections. Last year, the political parties spent about $1.5 billion on the 2008 campaigns, while corporations earned more than $600 billion in profits.

That's not what bothers me.

At the outset, let me say that corporations have free speech rights the same as anyone else. The right to free speech does not disappear on the filing of articles of incorporation, any more than it disappears upon matriculation at a college or university.

The problem comes when the state becomes so entangled with certain corporations that it's no longer clear whether the corporation is really an independent entity, and not an adjunct of the state. At some point, a certain line is crossed, and I think it's crossed when huge sums of money go from the taxpayers to a corporate entity in the form of bailouts. Corporations that are considered "too big to fail" and are therefore bailed out to prevent their failure can no longer be said to be independent entities. At that point, they owe their "success" not to the hard work or business acumen of their executives, but to the government, which gets its money from the taxpayers. Their free speech is not free speech in the usual sense, as it is tainted. It amounts to government speech. And if the bailed out corporations are allowed to donate money to political campaigns, it is inherently suspect, because it means that the taxpayers are unwittingly forced to donate money to political campaigns.

It's like, I can decide whether to buy a car from GM. And if GM is allowed to donate to a political campaign, I can take that into account in deciding whether I want to buy a GM car. But if my taxes are used to bail out the company, then I have no choice, and I am donating to whatever campaign it is. (And we all know what campaign that would be, don't we?)

I'm not even sure I approve of executives who work for bailed out companies being allowed to donate personally, because their salaries and bonuses are taxpayer subsidized. But this is ridiculous.

In fact, I'm so irritated that I feel like quoting a famous radical:

"to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical."
And I'm enough of an extremist that I'll agree with Thomas Jefferson.

Corporations have a free speech right to contribute to political campaigns, but to make me contribute is sinful and tyrannical.

posted by Eric at 08:19 PM | Comments (3)



Big Battery

Texas is slated to get a really big battery to improve grid reliability.

Electric Transmission Texas LLC (ETT) has completed a contract with NGK-Locke, Inc. for a state-of-the-art, sodium-sulfur 4-megawatt NAS battery system, which will be installed in Presidio, Texas. ETT is a joint venture between American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company (MidAmerican).

The NAS battery will be the first in Texas and the largest in the United States and represents part of a $67 million overall commitment by ETT to improve transmission reliability in Presidio and surrounding areas.

And what are the capabilities of this battery?
The NAS® battery system uses sodium-sulfur battery technology. This technology proposed by ETT for Presidio will provide the following benefits:

Due to its quick response, the battery will address voltage fluctuations and momentary outages.

In the event of an outage on the radial transmission line providing power to Presidio, the battery can supply 4 MW of uninterrupted power for up to 8 hours.

The battery will allow Presidio's electrical load to receive uninterrupted power from Comisiün Federal de Electricidad (CFE) during emergency situations.

The battery will allow for maintenance on the new transmission line being built to from Marfa to Presidio without loss of electric service.

One of the many things you can do with a battery like this is peak leveling. That means the transmission lines do not have to be designed for peak power use but only have to deliver the average power required at the load. It also means a smaller generator can be used to supply the load if the generator can supply the average load. Savings all around if the battery and its associated conversion equipment are cheap enough.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:02 PM | Comments (1)



Paying the Michael Vick dues

On Friday night I had dinner at a popular Ann Arbor pub, and my otherwise delightful evening was ruined by something very unpleasant on the widescreen TV -- a long ESPN interview with dog torturer Michael Vick.

I realize people say that by serving his sentence he "paid his dues" to society, but how does that give him the right to spoil my dinner? The interview was clearly a puff piece, and I can't help notice that there's a lot of money at stake in building up this psychopath -- doubtless to please his creditors. (Yes, psychopath. I don't agree with PETA on much, but I agree with Ingrid Newkirk that Vick fits the clinical profile. What he did went far beyond dogfighting, bad as that is.)

Whether his "dues" are "paid" or not, the man makes me sick to my stomach, and I say shame on the Philadelphia Eagles for inflicting him on my former hometown. I'd boycott them if I could.

Lots of people commit crimes and serve their sentences. If someone wants to hire them, that's their business. But if they put them on TV in such a propagandistic manner as to ruin my dinner, then it becomes my business. I suppose I could have gotten up and left, but that would have made the people I was with uncomfortable and made the evening even more unpleasant, and I don't like to act like a sanctimonious moralist in public, and ruin more people's dinners. I did tell one guy how I felt, tried to ignore the TV, and figured the world is just a fucked place and I'd have to live with it.

Hey, at least I have this blog. There's no better place to say that I can't stand Michael Vick, and don't want to watch him being glorified over dinner.

Having to sit there and watch him made me feel like I'm the one having to pay his dues. Against my will.

MORE: Clayton Cramer has written a piece about offensive in-flight entertainment, and while the sexually explicit themes he discusses would not bother me, he analogizes to torture and violence:

I'm not upset that the entertainment industry is making TV shows and movies like these. My complaint is that you can't walk out of an offensive presentation on a plane. (Well, you could, but most travelers don't bring parachutes.) If you think I'm being a narrow-minded fuddy-duddy, let me change the equation a bit. Imagine if in the middle of an otherwise unoffensive film shown on an airliner, there were two minutes of very graphic torture with fingernails being pulled out with pliers. Is that something that you would want your eight-year-old watching?
I don't have children, but I see his point, and I don't think children -- or anyone else -- should be made to watch graphic torture scenes any more than Michael Vick. Frankly, the former would have been easier for me, but it wouldn't have been shown in a restaurant.

Like passengers on a plane, I was essentially part of a captive audience. I was free to leave, but not without making a big scene and upsetting myself further and upsetting others.

But unlike the case of an airline, this was not the restaurant's fault. They did not select a Michael Vick video and play it for people; they did what they always do and simply ran the sports channel, and that features the celebrities from the genre.

That's the problem with the Eagles paying millions of dollars to a dog torturer; by virtue of his lucrative position he becomes dinner entertainment, like it or not.

It could have been worse; at least I wasn't forced to subsidize him.

(Which is why I'm hesitant to link ESPN's cowardly puff interview with Vick. Not one word about the nature of his crimes, much less a questions about them. Apparently neither ESPN nor interviewer Sal Paolantonio think it matters.)

posted by Eric at 12:49 PM | Comments (1)



LSD And DNA

Linearthinker suggested this article on how LSD led to the discovery of DNA.

FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

The abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to the nearby Eagle pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they had discovered the secret of life.

Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.

There is a video about LSD at the site that is most interesting. Have a look. Albert Hoffman has a few things to say.

Which brings up some news about current research on LSD.

LSD, the drug that launched the psychedelic era and became one of the resounding symbols of the counterculture movement of the '60s, is back in the labs.

Nearly 40 years after widespread fear over recreational abuse of LSD and other hallucinogens forced dozens of scientists to abandon their work, researchers at a handful of major institutions - including UCSF and Harvard University - are reigniting studies. Scientists started looking at less controversial drugs, like ecstasy and magic mushrooms, in the late 1990s, but LSD studies only began about a year ago and are still rare.

The study at UCSF, which is being run by a UC Berkeley graduate student, is looking into the mechanisms of LSD and how it works in the brain. The hope is that such research might support further studies into medical applications of LSD - for chronic headaches, for example - or psychiatric uses.

"Psychedelics are in labs all over the world and there's a lot of promise," said Rick Doblin, director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz. "The situation with LSD is that because it was the quintessential symbol of the '60s, it was the last to enter the lab."

Because of the widespread use of the drug in the 60s by the counterculture we have lost 40 years of research on the drug. That is unfortunate. But it is being reversed.

As the video points out LSD temporarily reduces or eliminates the filters experience has encoded into the brain. In other words you experience the world the way a newborn does. With all the tools developed for studying the brain since LSD was invented scientists should be able to learn a lot about how the brain functions. It may even help to understand schizophrenia which some scientists think is caused by a lack of filters in the brain of the afflicted. It is really too bad that we have let these studies go for so long. It is fortunate that they are resuming.

Drug prohibition has cost us a lot. Fortunately we are slowly getting over it. The sooner the better.

You might like to read Albert Hoffman's book on his discovery of LSD:

LSD: My Problem Child: Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism, and Science

The discovery of DNA is not the only connection DNA and LSD have. There is also Kerry Mullis' discovery of the Polymerase Chain Reaction for replicating short strands of DNA which is used for all kinds of work on DNA including forensics.

Kerry has written a book on his work with DNA and the influence of LSD on his life:

Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:08 AM | Comments (7)




Iran In Iraq

A thoughtful piece from BIll Ardolino over at Long War Journal, with an in-depth look at Iranian influence in Iraq -- and its limits.

I'm not trying to sugarcoat the fact that Iran is exerting significant influence of armed, economic, political, and religious varieties in a post-Saddam Iraq. And there is little doubt that as the US draws down, these efforts will become bolder. But Iraqis - ranging from haughty Sunni supremacist sheiks who hate the Persians, to Shia politicians who maintain post-exile residences in Iran - prioritize their own interests.

A point seldom mentioned: Iraq is inevitably going to have the same corrosive effect on Iran's autocrats that W Germany had on E Germany and S Korea has on N Korea. Both those repressive regimes had to guard their borders to keep their people in and freedom away -- but millions of Shia Iranians make cross-border pilgrimages to Najaf and other holy sites in Iraq every year. Iran still claims to be a quasi-democracy, and brazenly stealing elections is causing increasing unrest, which will only be exacerbated by an example of free elections on their border.

posted by Dave at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)



Ecological Balance

I was having a discussion about this and that at Talk Polywell and one of my correspondents said:

...many of them both unnecessary and unsustainable. A truly civilized society would maintain an ecological balance and still be able to visit the planets.
And I said:
Humanity is unsustainable. We will go on for as long as we can.

In 1900 it was estimated that New York would be buried in horse crap by 1920 if things kept going the way they were going. Obviously they did not.

Ecological balance is pure fantasy. Because things (on all scales) are always fluctuating. Not to mention new organisms. (bird flu, swine flu)

Ecological balance before or after a large volcanic eruption? Ecological balance before or after a very large meteor strike? Ecological balance before or after the onset of an ice age?

So just exactly which ecological balance is the best? And how do you keep it?

These ecological balance folks have delusions of grandeur.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:58 PM | Comments (8)



Foolish truths

A fascinating and thoughtful piece by Ron Radosh reminded me of a nagging problem that causes a certain amount of misunderstanding. With an Atlantic piece by Mark Bowden as a starting point, Radosh examines the deeper question of whether all journalism is inherently biased:

Bowden says in conclusion that we now live in a "post-journalistic" world, in which our democracy is in a constant political battleground. Bloggers exist to help one side or the other, which leads to what Bowden sees as "distortions and inaccuracies, lapses of judgment, the absence of context," which do not bother the bloggers, since they are simply ammunition for their own chosen side. Truth is simply what comes out of whoever wins a particular battle -- it is winning that is key, not who is right. This, Bowden argues, is not journalism.

What he despairs is the result that we have more propaganda, and not news, with no room for compromise. Hence he asks a key question: "Isn't there, in fact middle ground in most public disputes?" Can't one weigh public good against factional goals? Can't we decide the public interest in other than through a "partisan lens," in which "politics becomes blood sport"?

Here is Bowden's key paragraph:

Television loves this, because it is dramatic. Confrontation is all. And given the fragmentation of news on the Internet and on cable television, Americans increasingly choose to listen only to their own side of the argument, to bloggers and commentators who reinforce their convictions and paint the world only in acceptable, comfortable colors. Bloggers like Richmond and Sexton, and TV hosts like Hannity, preach only to the choir. Consumers of such "news" become all the more entrenched in their prejudices, and ever more hostile to those who disagree. The other side is no longer the honorable opposition, maybe partly right; but rather always wrong, stupid, criminal, even downright evil. ... In a post-journalistic society, there is no disinterested voice. There are only the winning side and the losing side.

What he would love to see restored (and he doubts that it can ever take place) is what he calls "honest, disinterested reporting over advocacy." Rather than shaking preconceptions, the new post-journalists reinforce prejudices, writing or reporting to gain a victory for either the conservative or left-liberal side. He favors those who aspire "to persuade" and are seen as fair-minded and trustworthy by those "who are inclined to disagree with him." Bowden is firm: no liberal or conservative, he thinks, can have the "disinterested voice of a true journalist."

He goes on to look at Beck and Hannity versus Olbermann and Maddow, none of whom I have the slightest interest in watching.

Here's what causes misunderstanding. I am often at a loss to explain it, but I do not regard this blog as a form of warfare. I write what I think, and it necessarily takes the form of posts, on whatever subject strikes my fancy. I am just tickled pink that people read them, but I have little control over who is reading, or why. If people want to think I am a partisan blogger, working towards specific identifiable goals, they can. Certainly I oppose certain things and I support certain things, and I make no secret of what they are. But that does not obligate me to write about anything in particular, or in any particular order.

The paradox is that while I am not seeking to be any kind of warrior, I also don't seek to be "unbiased" or even particularly "objective." I try to admit my biases, so if I feel strongly about something, I try to say so. Within the bounds of reason, I also try to be willing to identify contradictions in my own thinking as well as that of other people, and question my premises. I admit, it's a very poor way to run a war, but a war is not what I am running here.

I suspect that everyone is biased, and there's nothing dishonest about our biases. What is dishonest is conceal bias and pretend that it does not exist. That is what the MSM got away with for years, and I think people got sick of it, so now they can choose between Beck and Hannity on the one hand, and Olbermann and Maddow on the other. Whether it's "journalism," who knows? Does anyone really care? Is what I'm doing right now a form of journalism? Technically, yes.

But I'd hate to think that might make me a "journalist," because once you accept a label, you become the label, and conditions attach. "Blogger" is a much bigger, much safer category. It's also more honest. (I'll take a biased blogger over an unbiased journalist any day, as I know what I'm getting.)

Yet as Radosh points out, blogs -- even the biggest, most influential blogs -- are routinely ignored, and what they say does not "count" until it gets noticed and repeated by the guys who have the large, FCC-licensed mikes:

The expose of Jones's background and previous life as a far-left revolutionary was exposed by a blogger who writes under the name Gateway Pundit. Material about Jones was made available at David Horowitz's website DiscoverTheNetworks.com. The material was relevant to the public's right to know whether such a man should have ever been appointed to a White House position. The blogs were completely ignored, until Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck took up the case and nightly aired segments about him.
I take a certain perverse delight in the knowledge that when I write posts I'm likely to be ignored, because there's freedom in that. Freedom to just be yourself. The larger the mike, the more the pressure, and the greater that paralyzing sense of "responsibility" becomes. Also, the more likely it is that you'll be singled out by the smear outfits and treated like Joe the Plumber and "brought down" or "demolished" or whatever they call it. The more off the radar screen you are, the freer you are to be yourself and be honest. Because power corrupts, the lack of power that goes with being off the radar screen allows a refreshing form of self honesty. Ironically, this echoes the "journalism" which Bowden argues has been lost:
Journalism, done right, is enormously powerful precisely because it does not seek power. It seeks truth. Those who forsake it to shill for a product or a candidate or a party or an ideology diminish their own power. They are missing the most joyful part of the job.

This is what H. L. Mencken was getting at when he famously described his early years as a Baltimore Sun reporter. He called it "the life of kings."

Except truth seekers are not now, and never have been, kings.

They're more likely to be fools. Not so long ago, only fools had the freedom to speak their mind. Now anyone can be what Bowden calls a "carpal-tunnel curmudgeon."

For some awfully strange reason, the unpleasant topic of truth-seeking reminds me of this fascinating irony uttered by the late Irving Kristol:

There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.
I was never a fan of Irving Kristol. However, I think he may have been onto something there. For as the Internet will attest, truths are out of control. Truths of all stripes are running wild all over the place. The Internet is a great place to find whatever truth you want. It's especially great for people who simply do not want any truths except those which conform to what they want to believe. Selective truths for selective truth seekers. Seek the truth ye want, and ye shall find the truth ye seek!

Dealing with those who believe they have found the truth that's right for them is difficult -- especially when their truth is said to be absolute. Disagreeing with such truths is seen as evil. OTOH, making allowances for it as their truth, or as "the truth that's appropriate for them" is seen as moral relativism. Whether truth is opinion or fact can get dicey, because facts are inherently true while opinions are opinions. Yet that does not prevent people from insisting that certain opinions are facts, if not "truths." An opinion said to be the truth is still an opinion, and calling an opinion an ultimate or absolute truth does not alter that fact.

So it's probably good that power abhors truth and truth abhors power. Just think about the consequences if power actually sought truth. Because, if power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then absolute truth would become absolutely powerful, and absolutely corrupt.

So what could be more foolish than attempting to speak truth to power?

posted by Eric at 02:19 PM | Comments (6)



Death Panels By Proxy, Jail Time For The Uninsured

Over at Powerline, Paul Mirengoff notes that the Finance Committee version of the health care bill has a nasty surprise for seniors: their doctors are going to be penalized for their relatively expensive care.

And via Drudge: go without health insurance, go to jail.

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



If there's a "right" to health care, then what about the "right" to buy groceries?

Here's a charming picture from a local news story:

A2Krogers_s.jpg

When I moved from a relatively affluent Philadelphia suburb to a relatively affluent Michigan college town I took for granted what most of us take for granted -- the easy availability of food. In the form of nearby grocery stores. So it shocked me to see long lines suddenly appear at the nearest grocery store to me without any explanation, and to be see them sold out of not one but three things on my shopping list.

Yesterday I learned that another nearby Krogers grocery store (which had been there for 30 years) had closed. It's not that it's a huge deal for me, but still I wondered why. The population and demographics of this town do not seem to have changed. Whether the population base of that particular Krogers had suddenly ceased to support it after 30 years, I don't know.

I just hope this doesn't represent a trend towards fewer stores, because that would mean longer lines, things sold out, longer distances to stores.

A Krogers closure in Toledo has infuriated patrons to the point where they are actually organizing in protest. I realize there's no right to have a store in your neighborhood, but this is the kind of thing that does affect property values, and lower property values in turn mean fewer grocery stores. (In Detroit, for example, there simply are no national grocery stores at all, and of course there's little likelihood of.... change.)

Whether this comment to the Toledo story is true I don't know:

Kroger has lost also due to shop lifting and "Shrinkage" of inventory which happens when emp[loyees and their friends and family take merchandise out of the store without paying. This is also a large factor in other Toledo City Groceries and a big reason why there are very few large chain groceries in the Central City.
You'd think something like that would be well within management's control. Employees can still be fired for stealing, can't they? Yes, and they can sue; according to an empirical study of employees who sued after being fired for theft, "the employees were victorious in 60 percent of the cases." (I don't like those odds.) So there's more to whether an area gets a grocery store than simple population demographics.

I guess I should be glad I live in an area which still has stores.

posted by Eric at 09:29 AM | Comments (6)




Extremist SEPTA photographer fesses up to terror plot

This morning I was startled by a chilling Drudge headline:

Men vanish after taking photos of Philly subway system...
Not only did I live in Philadelphia for years, but stories about disappearing humans always intrigue me, so naturally I clicked on the link, whereupon the mystery only deepened. Apparently a "man" and a "male" each took pictures at two different subway stations!
Twice in the past two days, SEPTA officials have alerted police to men taking pictures on the Broad Street subway line in South Philadelphia.

On Wednesday, a SEPTA cashier told officers about a man taking pictures at the Lombard-South station, but the man, after being questioned by the cashier about his activities, left before officers arrived.

"We are attempting to identify that male to determine what the nature or the reason for taking the photographs was," Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.

On Tuesday, officers received a report of a male taking pictures in the track area at the Snyder Avenue station.

Taking pictures in the subway? So what on earth is the big deal with that?

I read carefully to see whether there might be any conceivable terrorist connection, and the police say there isn't:

So far, neither male has been identified, although Philadelphia Police officials say the two separate incidents have no link to any terrorist activities.

While police have video of the man who they are hoping to interview from the Snyder Avenue Station incident, there is no video of the second man because cameras at the Lombard-South station, and at three of six SEPTA subway stations in South Philadelphia, are covered and not yet working.

SEPTA officials say the security system, which the transit authority describes as "state of the art," is still being installed and they don't yet know exactly when the cameras will be uncovered and begin working.

Frankly, I don't like the anti-photography trend that seems to be emerging lately, and if there's no suspicion of terrorist activities, then what exactly is the point? If it's OK for government-subsidized cameras to be in SEPTA stations watching commuters, then who the hell cares whether a commuter takes pictures too? Is the rule that it's OK to photograph citizens, but citizens aren't allowed to dare photograph back? (Just out of curiosity, how is this supposed to help achieve the public policy goal of making people want to take public transportation, and you know, save the environment and stuff?)

What I'd like to know is what is "suspicious" about taking a picture in a stupid subway station? I've taken lots of pictures in subway stations -- and even train stations -- both in New York, and in Philadelphia.

And yes, I have specifically taken pictures in SEPTA stations! I decided to use this occasion to publicly confess, and provide evidence of my suspicious behavior for the entire world to see!

The following suspicious photograph was taken on the very suspicious date of May 21, 2008, at the suspicious hour of 12:35 p.m.

SubStat02.jpg

May 21, BTW, happens to be the anniversary of a major gay riot in San Francisco -- at which I have publicly admitted to having been present. (Let me tell you, it was no tea party....)

A mere coincidence? (That's what they all say.)

Just so there is no question about the date, take a look at the next photo, which suspiciously shows a train pulling away:

SubStat03.jpg
As you can see, the information screen confirms the date, as well as the fact that I was taking photographs right next to the track for the R-5 line.

Why would I be doing that?

While it would be all too easy to claim that I have no conceivable connection to terrorism, isn't that what all suspicious people say when questioned? Considering the position taken by Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security, can I be sure that I'm not some sort of extremist?

And if that isn't enough to convince you of the dire threat I pose, consider these observations by leading terrorism expert Leonard Pitts, Jr. in today's Detroit Free Press:

For the record: No version of health care reform being contemplated by Congress mandates death for the old, the disabled or the infirm. That's a canard. It is mendacity, prevarication, bald-faced lie.

In other words, politics.

The art of the untruth is, after all, the lifeblood of governance. As a brief spin through PolitiFact.com -- the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking Web site -- will attest, no party, ideology or politician has a monopoly on lying.

And yet, the lies that have characterized the debate over health care are in a class all their own -- not simply because they are outrageous, but because they are designed to enflame and terrorize. Those lies are deserving of special rebuke.

TERRORIZE!

There you have it. When (along with M. Simon) I tried to wade through the 1017 page text of the bill, discussed the disappearing death panel language and quoted Sarah Palin with approval, I was not speculating about the interpretation bureaucratic gobbledygook (something I do a lot, BTW), nor was I engaged in partisan anti-Obamacare advocacy.

Instead, I was attempting to terrorize people.

(I only hope the readers of this blog were properly terrorized. Serves you right for coming here!)

Frankly, I found the language very confusing, and even though they took it out, I'm till not sure what it meant, or how it might later have ultimately been interpreted.

So call me puzzled. And I am not alone. Via Glenn Reynolds, Tom Maguire looks at a poll which asks:

Do you think the changes to the health care system under consideration will or will not create government organizations that will make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly, or don't you know enough about the changes yet to say?

26% say the reforms will create such "government organizations", despite Obama's vigorous denial; 23% embrace Obama's message that this is a lie; and 51% remain puzzled.

Does that mean that 26% of this country's citizens are guilty of "terrorizing" people simply for saying what they think? And what about the 51% who are puzzled? Are they potential sympathizers with "terrorism"?

I don't know, but just to be on the safe side, the terrorizers probably shouldn't be allowed to carry cameras on subways.

We can't be too careful!

posted by Eric at 11:27 AM | Comments (5)



He Helped Write A Book

It seems some one helped Mr. Obama write Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Christopher Andersen in Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage says it was American terrorist Bill Ayres.

Ron Radosh had this to say about it.

Obama had not as yet written anything. But he had taped interviews with family members. Andersen writes: "These oral histories, along with a partial manuscript and a truckload of notes, were given to Ayers." Look over those words. A man Obama said before the campaign -- after conservative pundits continually raised the issue that he was friends with an "unrepentent terrorist" -- that he knew only in passing as someone in the neighborhood. He was simply an acquaintance -- not someone he had any real friendship or relationship with. Yet Obama evidently gave Ayers his notes, tapes, and the small amount that he had already written.

On the latter point, Andersen also writes, quoting a Hyde Park neighbor of Obama: "Everyone knew they were friends and that they worked on various projects together. It was no secret. Why would it be? People liked them both." Why should it be secret? We know the answer to that. Obama was denying this relationship, as well as suggesting it was not true they worked on projects together. Everything that was ferreted out at the time that proved this was hardly likely was simply ignored by the MSM.

Finally, Christopher Andersen concludes: "In the end, Ayers's contribution to Barack's Dreams from My Father would be significant -- so much so that the book's language, oddly specific references, literary devices, and themes would bear a jarring similarity to Ayers's own writing."

Well isn't that interesting. Ayers was not just some guy in the neighborhood but also a collaborator. Maybe that is why Mr. Obama got his start in Chicago's Hyde Park politics with terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn who still sees herself as a radical.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:11 AM | Comments (4)




Ask not what the NEA can do for you...

A tiny little MicroSD memory card I got with a clone phone turned out to have a wonderfully annoying sample tune just sitting inside of it. So annoying that it's really priceless. The problem is, I have no idea what it is.

My guess is that it's some sort of propaganda, so I thoughtfully added some appropriate artwork and uploaded it to YouTube to share it with The World.

Is that not awesomely, wondrously beautiful? Is it not a sheer joy for the ears and eyes of all peoples in all times to behold?

Of course it is!

But the more I thought about asking the NEA for funding, the more I remembered the spirit of volunteerism that we're supposed to have, so I thought I'd simply donate my invaluable artwork to the NEA.

Obviously, I should qualify for a substantial charitable deduction.

Should I ask the experts at ACORN?

posted by Eric at 04:39 PM | Comments (4)



You Can't Cheat An Honest Man


Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside. William S. Burroughs


posted by Simon at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)



"he figured he could get away with it"

How stupid does President Obama think the unruly teenagers American people are?

That was my reaction when I saw this question:

Why did the president feign ignorance of ACORN when his relationship with the group goes back almost 20 years?

Glenn Reynolds offers an answer:

Because he figured he could get away with it. Same reason politicians do most things . . . .
And that begs another question.

What would make him think he could get away with it?

Does he think people didn't know? I realize this blog does not represent the sum total of what is known by American voters, but I thought I'd use it as a starting point of reference, and check to how many posts there were here about Obama and ACORN before the election. I just counted and there were twenty nine posts.

Obama's documented connections with ACORN are so far beyond dispute as to be an absolute no-brainer. It goes to the man's very essence -- even to the very definition of "community organizer" -- which is what he said he was, for God's sake. Think Barack Obama and think Community Organizer. Think Community Organizer and think ACORN. There is nothing controversial or dispute-worthy about this. Obama and ACORN go together in the same way that Al Gore and Global Warming go together. Some associations are so close as to be almost defining.

For the president to feign ignorance of ACORN is so dishonest as to be an act of jaw-dropping shamelessness. I think it's a new low.

It's as if Andrew Sullivan were to feign ignorance of the gay marriage issue.

It's almost comical, except I don't think the president was joking.

Of course, perhaps he thinks that what worked with Bill Ayers will work with ACORN.

Hmmm....Considering that fifty one posts were written here about Obama's connections with Bill Ayers, he obviously didn't get away with it here.

I guess it all depends on what getting away with it means.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

But really now -- did I actually mean to compare gay marriage to global warming? Honestly, I never thought about that before, but if readers insist, I'll take it under advisement.

I'm thinking maybe I should have said, "It's as if WorldNetDaily were to feign ignorance of the Obama Birth Certificate issue."

MORE (later that same morning): OK....here's my forced comparison between gay marriage and Global Warming that nearly everyone has been waiting for.

Neither threatens Western Civilization. But excitable people like to claim they do!

posted by Eric at 01:04 PM | Comments (26)



Bring It On

In the above video the ACORN outers, Hanna Giles and James O'Keefe, say about potential suits from ACORN, "Bring It On". Well ACORN has brought it on.

Community activist group ACORN is suing the makers of a hidden-camera video that showed employees of its Baltimore office giving tax advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman posing as a prostitute.

The liberal group contends that the audio portion of the video was obtained illegally because Maryland requires two-party consent to create sound recordings.

This has got to be the dumbest political move since Bill Clinton said, "I did not have sex with that woman."

So what does Althouse think? She says:

Glenn Reynolds is pretty sure ACORN is falling into a trap.

Yes, it's almost as if the real point of the videos was to provoke a lawsuit that would open ACORN to the legal intrusions of discovery. And of course, Giles and O'Keefe will get even more publicity, and it shouldn't be hard for them to attract aggressive legal counsel and a hefty litigation fund.

I have heard lots of folks in comments to this story offering to donate to a legal defense fund. It is almost as if ACORN wanted to keep this story alive.

As to keeping the story alive? I was already getting tired of it and hadn't planned to write anything further since the story had served its purpose. It got the Census Bureau to sever ties with ACORN.

H/T Instapundit who thinks as Althouse pointed out, "I'M PRETTY SURE THEY'RE FALLING INTO A TRAP". Yes they are. Click on the Instapundit link for more.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:26 AM | Comments (2)




She Is Bright - They Are Stuck On Stupid

As you know I have covered the Sarah Palin Hong Kong speech in a previous post. Neil sent me an e-mail link to this take on her speech.

Melvin Goodé , a regional marketing consultant, thought Mrs. Palin chose Hong Kong because, he said, it was "a place where things happen and where freedom can be expanded upon."

"It's not Beijing or Shanghai," said Mr. Goodé . "She also mentioned Tibet, Burma and North Korea in the same breath as places where China should be more sensitive and careful about how people are treated. She said it on a human-rights level."

Mr. Goodé , an African-American who said he did some campaign polling for President Obama, said Mrs. Palin mentioned President Obama three times on Wednesday.

"And there was nothing derogatory in it, no sleight of hand, and believe me, I was listening for that," he said, adding that Mrs. Palin referred to Mr. Obama as "our president," with the emphasis on "our."

Mr. Goodé a New Yorker who said he would never vote for Mrs. Palin, said she acquitted herself well.

"They really prepared her well," he said. "She was articulate and she held her own. I give her credit. They've tried to categorize her as not being bright. She's bright."

Over a year of blackening Sara's reputation down the tubes in one short quote.

I have always thought that the Democrats severely underestimated Sarah. Hopefully the Democrat politicians will stay stuck on stupid.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:58 PM | Comments (10)



Sarah Palin In Hong Kong

Sarah Palin gave a speech in Hong Kong. She blamed the Government for the financial mess we are in.
You can call me a common-sense conservative. My approach to the issues facing my country and the world, issues that we'll discuss today, are rooted in this common-sense conservatism... Common sense conservatism deals with the reality of the world as it is. Complicated and beautiful, tragic and hopeful, we believe in the rights and the responsibilities and the inherent dignity of the individual.

We don't believe that human nature is perfectible; we're suspicious of government efforts to fix problems because often what it's trying to fix is human nature, and that is impossible. It is what it is. But that doesn't mean that we're resigned to, well, any negative destiny. Not at all. I believe in striving for the ideal, but in realistic confines of human nature...

Yep. We are stuck with human nature as it is. There will be no New Socialist Man. No New Conservative Man. No New Libertarian Man. Just the same old man we have always had. Perfection is not an option. However, we can do better.

Now about the financial meltdown.

While we might be in the wilderness, conservatives need to defend the free market system and explain what really caused last year's collapse. According to one version of the story, America's economic woes were caused by a lack of government intervention and regulation and therefore the only way to fix the problem, because, of course, every problem can be fixed by a politician, is for more bureaucracy to impose itself further, deeper, forcing itself deeper into the private sector.

I think that's simply wrong. We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place. The mortgage crisis that led to the collapse of the financial market, it was rooted in a good-natured, but wrongheaded, desire to increase home ownership among those who couldn't yet afford to own a home. In so many cases, politicians on the right and the left, they wanted to take credit for an increase in home ownership among those with lower incomes. But the rules of the marketplace are not adaptable to the mere whims of politicians.

...

Lack of government wasn't the problem. Government policies were the problem. The marketplace didn't fail. It became exactly as common sense would expect it to. The government ordered the loosening of lending standards. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates low. The government forced lending institutions to give loans to people who, as I say, couldn't afford them. Speculators spotted new investment vehicles, jumped on board and rating agencies underestimated risks.

And that part I bolded? Sounds like Ronald Reagan. I like that.

There is way more at the link. Too much to cover in a blog post. I do think it woluld be interesting to see how the left (they just couldn't resist) covered the speech.

Two US delegates left early, according to AFP, with one saying "it was awful, we couldn't stand it any longer." He declined to be identified.

"I'm going to call it like I see it and I will share with you candidly a view right from Main Street, Main Street U.S.A.," Palin told a room full of asset managers and other finance professionals, according to a video of part of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. "And how perhaps my view of Main Street ... how that affects you and your business."

Palin spoke out against government intervention in the economy. "We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place," Palin said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We're not interested in government fixes, we're interested in freedom," she added.

She also praised the conservative economic policies of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, according to another attendee who declined to be named because he didn't want to be seen as speaking on behalf of his company.

She claimed that if taxes were cut and the capital gains tax and estate tax eliminated, the world would "watch the U.S. economy roar back to life."

My totally uninformed guess on the walkouts? Recipients of Government largess. Of course they couldn't stand it.

As to cutting taxes to get us out of the hole? Seems like a good idea to me. The money would go where profits are being made. That would be an automatic investment in winners rather than the Obama way of investing in the politically connected.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:17 PM | Comments (1)



The aging of sweetness

Speaking of evolution, Cab Calloway's "Reefer Man" video in M. Simon's earlier post made me fixate on another form of cultural depravity. Or would that be degeneracy? I don't know the right word, but let's face it, some people just don't like songs about controversial cultural topics, not even if they're light-hearted and humorous.

Like the 1960 song "You're Sixteen, You're Beautiful, and You're Mine":

I don't know whether it's coincidental, but sixteen happens to be the magic age of consent in most places, so I suspect that the above song is having a little blatant fun with that subtext. While it's been performed by others, it wasn't the first in its genre.

Two years earlier, rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry has a smash hit with "Sweet Little Sixteen" in 1958:

Here he is performing it that same year:

And here he is performing it in 1972:

In all these years, the girl never appears to have grown up. Nor has Berry, even though he is in his 80s.

Nor has his audience, which showed itself willing to sing the entire song for him last year:

The song being archetypal rock, it lives on in other ways. Because the Beach Boys' Surfin' USA is a direct copy of Sweet Little Sixteen, Chuck Berry owns the rights to it. (You could take a song like that and plug in almost any lyrics you want, as many a punk band did in the 70s and 80s.)

While Berry has had more than his share of legal problems, fortunately his music -- which is decidedly non-political if not apolitical -- is generally not considered part of the "culture war."

Well, back during the Reagan era there was an attempt to ban rock and roll during the Washington 4th of July festivities, but when it was learned that both the president and Mrs. Reagan loved the Beach Boys, the anti-rock crackpots (and, yes, I do think people who oppose rock and roll are crackpots) had to back off.

Of course, some might argue that the musical expression of attraction to a sixteen year old girl constitutes waging "culture war," and that there is nothing sweet about anyone who is sixteen.

There are people who want to raise the age of consent, and there are people who want to lower it.

At 55, I'm way above the age of consent and I am neither involved with nor attracted to anyone even remotely close to being that age. So it's easy for me to be glibly dismissive.

However, I just read about something dreadful which may soon affect me: an outrageous legislative attempt to institute age of consent laws at the opposite end of the age spectrum:

the law (in Massachusetts) would make it a very serious crime -- tantamount to child pornography -- to make, and distribute "with lascivious intent," "any visual material that contains a representation or reproduction of any posture or exhibition in a state of nudity" involving anyone age 60 or over
Sorry, but that's carrying the culture war way too far! My body is mine, and in five years it will still be mine -- even at Sweet Little Sixty! I mean it; if I can consent now to sending someone my own nude pictures, why can't I consent then?

BTW, the loon behind this insane bill is a Democrat, Kathi-Anne Reinstein.

As I say, in many ways the left wing is more against sexual freedom than the right wing.

posted by Eric at 02:42 PM | Comments (7)



What Are They Trying To Hide?

The most transparent Congress evah does not want to put the bills it votes on online 3 days before a vote. Especially not the health care bill.

Senate Finance Committee Democrats have rejected a GOP amendment that would have required a health overhaul bill to be available online for 72 hours before the committee votes.

Republicans argued that transparency is an Obama administration goal. They also noted that their constituents are demanding that they read bills before voting.

Democrats said it was a delay tactic that could have postponed a vote for weeks.

Three days equals weeks? That seems a bit math challenged to me. Considering how hard it is for some Democrats to figure out their taxes why am I not surprised?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:35 PM | Comments (8)



apart, not a part

While I hate to generalize, and I hate to stereotype people, I feel compelled to say something about a disturbing recent trend. One of the most annoying slogans of the 1960s was this one:

If You Are Not Part Of The Solution You Are Part Of The Problem
Widely attributed to Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver (whose evolution did little to solve the problem of his slogan), the above was used as a cudgel, to bludgeon people into agreement. (Or disagreement, depending on the POV of the rhetorical bludgeoner.) To call it divisive is understatement, because the slogan was more than a slogan. The words represented a mindset that did more than divide people into being for or against something. It established the principle that merely by not taking a side in an argument, you could become an unprincipled sellout (and a traitor by simple reduction) -- by whichever side wanted to call you a traitor. This alienated many reasonable people, often people of good will who might have friends on both sides of arguments, and amazingly enough, actually had serious opinions of their own but didn't believe they had to shout them loudly, and who didn't feel obliged to join organizations. At best, they found themselves derided as wishy-washy, muddled, or confused. (It can get so bad that merely recognizing that there are two sides to a dispute can be enough to turn both sides against you.)

One of the things that attracted me to blogging was that there was no particular obligation to take sides or align myself on any issue unless I felt like it. This does not mean that I was lacking in opinion; I had -- and continue to have -- opinions on almost everything. But that does not obligate me to weigh in, simply because other people are weighing in. And if perchance I do weigh in from time to time (or drop hints that I am aware of an issue), that does not obligate me to weigh in again.

One of the things that most disturbs me about the blogosphere right now is to read fantastic pronouncements and generalizations about what I should or should not be voicing agreement or disagreement with. It's so bad that I am hesitant even to offer examples by links -- because that would not only draw attention to the fact that I am not taking sides but it would inevitably be taken as criticism, and then I'd have another damned disagreement.

I keep saying that I find disagreements disagreeable, because I do. They generally go nowhere, and I can't remember the last time I saw anyone's mind changed as the result of an argument. Sure, people win arguments, just as litigants win lawsuits. But the "losers" almost always continue to believe what they previously believed, and they'll come back and try to win the next time, and the next time. It's all very tedious.

So I am not going to be corralled into being part of the problem or part of the solution. If that makes me part of the problem, so be it. If that makes me part of the solution, I guess I can reluctantly run that risk too -- although even the possibility sounds grandiose and self important. And if it makes me wishy-washy, muddled, and confused, that's OK too. (In fact, my wishy-washy confused muddledness has inspired many a blog post.)

Some problems don't have solutions.

posted by Eric at 10:18 AM | Comments (4)




Only in Oakland?

This article from Oakland's East Bay Express is a classic illustration of what you get when you live in a left wing city that's hurting for money. They come up with fiendish new tax schemes and tyrannical restrictions on businesses. Apparently, some genius in the Oakland bureaucracy figured out that it would be legal to apply laws originally designed to tax and regulate pawn shops to other businesses that deal in used goods.

Small Oakland retailers, already suffering because of the recession and the proliferation of Internet shopping, are angry about the City of Oakland's decision to begin collecting a hefty new business tax. The fees could amount to more than $600 per business and apply to sellers of used goods -- such as used book, clothing, record, and toy stores, and antique shops. The city has sent letters to dozens of such retailers across Oakland, demanding that they pay the tax and force their employees to be fingerprinted, or face additional penalties.

But the city's demand is sparking a revolt -- not unlike the backlash over the council's decision this summer to raise parking meter rates and extend hours to 8 p.m. One retailer said she does not intend to pay the tax. "I don't think this should apply to our business," said Amy Thomas, owner of Pendragon Books, a bookstore on College Avenue in Rockridge that sells new and used books. Thomas, who also owns Pegasus Books in Berkeley, said that the City of Berkeley has never attempted to implement such a tax. Nor has the City of Alameda.

Traditionally, the tax has applied only to pawnbrokers. It's based on the state's Secondhand Dealers' law, a 50-year-old statute written to help law enforcement track stolen goods. Historically, cities, which collect the tax and can keep most of its proceeds, have exempted businesses not usually associated with the stolen-goods trade -- such as used bookstores and antique stores. Pawnshops, by contrast, have had to pay the tax.

But in the past few years, several cities have begun imposing the tax on other businesses, too, said Carl Brakensiek of the California Alliance of Resale Merchants and Collectors, a statewide trade group that has followed the issue. As the economic downturn has bludgeoned city budgets, local officials have desperately searched for ways to raise revenues. "Some municipalities are doing this while others have chosen not to," Brakensiek said of the tax.

In Oakland, however, sudden implementation of the tax does not appear related to a search for new revenues. Instead, employees apparently took it upon themselves to launch the program. Nancy Marcus, whose title is "administrative assistant 1 for special events permits," said that two new employees had discovered that Oakland could legally require many retailers to apply for license like pawnbrokers, and then begin collecting the fees.

So in an August 13 letter that Marcus said she sent to 48 Oakland retailers, she told business owners they had to pay $310 for an application fee, $195 for a state license fee, and $57 to $67 to fingerprint each employee. Businesses must pay annual fees in succeeding years. Marcus gave business owners a deadline of September 10 to comply. Under state law, once a business acquires a secondhand dealers' license, they must keep meticulous, detailed notes of every item they buy and sell, including the private personal information of the persons involved in each transaction. Failure to comply with the law is considered a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $1,500 or two months in county jail.

The kicker is that they could law apply the law to almost anyone:
under a liberal reading of the law, there is no reason it shouldn't also apply to garage sales.
Or Ebay sellers, for that matter.

It's easy to laugh at Oakland because it is such a left-wing city, but if you think ideas like that don't spread, think again. City bureaucrats attend conventions and share ideas, and many a goofy idea we all laughed at (like bans on smoking, trans fats, and dog testicles) started in nutty left wing cities and towns, and eventually ended up being de rigueur everywhere. After all, these things are called "progressive."

Besides, as we all know, only mean-spirited bigots mind paying their taxes!

(You know, like Geithner, Rangel, ACORN....)

posted by Eric at 08:16 PM | Comments (3)



Bits And Pieces

From the Department of WTF comes news of plans expand the Community Reinvestment Act.

Apparently the mortgage crisis wasn't big enough. We can do more!

In other news, the "life expectancy as health care barometer" meme so loved by the progressives has been demolished. (h/t Glenn)

And Ace reports seventy percent in swing districts oppose the Baucus mandate/fines. As I've been saying, Americans don't like the government telling them what they have to buy for their own good. It just seems... unAmerican. We're a country founded on liberty.

posted by Dave at 06:10 PM | Comments (1)



Looking after people by balancing their freedom

As most readers know, I can't stand to watch television, so I missed all of the past weekend's MSM Obama Extravaganza. I don't know how he does it, but Stephen Green not only sat through it, but managed to put together a video review of the marathon which Glenn Reynolds linked earlier. Which is great for me, because I simply don't have the patience to sit through the news programs as Stephen Green did. (There is not enough vodka in the house, and if there was, my liver would go on the blink before my TV set!)

In one segment, the president (after being asked about racism by David Gregory) referred to the argument that's "gone on for the history of this republic," which he characterized as the following:

How do we balance freedom with our need to look after one another?
Huh? I thought the question was about racism.

What on earth can he mean by the above statement?

First of all, what is our "need" to "look after" "one another"? True, I have plenty of neighbors. But I not only don't need to look after them, I don't especially want to look after them, and I don't think they'd want me to. Nor do I want them or anyone else to look after me. Now, if someone's house caught on fire, I'd certainly do what I could to help, just as if I saw a neighbor's house or car being burglarized, I would try to stop it. I suppose you could say that's looking after one other. But it's voluntary, and based on enlightened self interest. As I said in an earlier post about returning someone's stolen cell phone, I'd like to think that someone would do the same for me.

But what has that to do with freedom? Why would the president (who was a law professor) phrase it as a "balancing test"? Does he think there's tension between "looking after one other" and freedom?

Whatever can he mean?

As I see it, if people really look after each other, there's no way that would entail a loss of freedom. Because freedom is the American birthright, so looking after other Americans would mean preserving freedom, not taking it away. There is no tension there at all. People don't look after each other by taking away each other's freedom.

So what's with the balancing test?

MORE: This post by Kejda Gjermani discusses the dichotomy between economic and personal freedom as a false rhetorical construction:

The dichotomy between economic freedom and personal freedom had always been a faux rhetorical construction. Economic tyranny, even within an unrealistic bubble of personal freedom, can be reduced to a state of limited autonomy within bureaucratic boundaries dictating severe redistribution of the fruits of any successful efforts. Economic tyranny entails an indirect and often passive infringement of personal freedoms. Personal tyranny is directly intrusive and the active intervention required to enforce it cannot go unnoticed or un-resented by the citizenry. Infringements of either personal or economic liberties are all steps toward the same absolutist political direction, whatever their different nuances on the radicalism scale.
Seen this way, the president's claim becomes little more than coded advocacy of economic tyranny.

But I think it's a little disingenuous for him to claim that that this "argument" has "gone on for the history of this republic."

Especially considering that the country was founded by people who fought a war in opposition to economic tyranny, and who settled the argument with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Um, is it inflammatory of me to ask which side the president is on?

posted by Eric at 04:54 PM | Comments (5)



Whose neurons get to rule?

Via Dr. Helen, I found this very disturbing analysis of the "science" of neurolaw. (I use the word "science" advisedly, for phrenology was once called that, and sociology still is.)

What neurolaw proposes is basically scrapping the criminal justice system as we know it and dispensing with the idea of punishing crime or criminals. That's because criminals have no control over their actions at all; instead their actions are simply the product of their brains' neuronal discharges -- and that therefore scientists should take charge of what we erroneously think of as criminal justice.

...[N]eurolaw talk embraces the promise of changing minds by changing brains through a therapeutic model of criminal justice which views retributive punishment as inhumane but classifying and modifying brains by the state as a great triumph of rehabilitation. As one leading scholar suggested, there is no real difference between prison and lobotomy.27

This credulous fervor for neurolaw hides its secret ambition. Those who view desert as an improvident distributive theory of punishment are many, but few suggest dispensing with the criminal justice system wholesale. Yet much of the neuro-person model's construction of culpability lies with the view that crime itself is a mental illness and not behavior of lawless citizens. 28 Crime is considered the product of impaired brains and scientists as best suited for handling criminal justice policy, not lawyers. Once crime is understood as a behavioral problem rooted in the impaired brains of many unfortunate citizens, ameliorating crime will properly involve civil remedies instead of criminal ones. Therapeutic justice has already made substantial inroads under the reasonable view that criminal justice policy should encompass provisions which reduce offender recidivism. But in doing so, therapeutic justice seems all too eager in jettisoning the adversarial system of justice in place of one which values intervention at the cost of adversarial rights and individual liberty. The very nature of the criminal justice system as one entrenched in laws which restrain government is quite foreign to therapeutic justice. And that is troublesome given the emerging rise of the therapeutic state.

Needless to say, neurolaw not only negates free will, but freedom itself becomes a meaningless concept. What I can't figure out is that if there's no such thing as criminality in the traditional sense because these human automatons lack free will and independent agency, from where would the neurolaw scientists get the idea that robbing, raping, or murder are even worthy of being deterred? If criminals cannot appreciate or control their conduct and are lacking in accountability because we are all automatons, then under what basis do victims of crime have any right to feel aggrieved or object? Why don't their perceptions and feelings of what happened to them ultimately become as arbitrary and meaningless as those of the people who preyed on them?

Who gets to decide even what should be a crime?

Under what theory do the neurolaw scientists imagine that they have any special say-so? Are they not also just masses of firing neurons which cause them to sputter these theories? Isn't their desire to control other people evidence of yet another form of mental illness just as beyond their control as the conduct of criminals? Surely they don't argue that only criminals lack free will.

Yet inexplicably, neurolaw science talks of "intervention" and "prevention" -- by neuroscientists themselves!

...[M]uch of the neuro-person model's construction of culpability lies with the view that crime itself is a mental illness and not behavior of lawless citizens. 28 Crime is considered the product of impaired brains and scientists as best suited for handling criminal justice policy, not lawyers. Once crime is understood as a behavioral problem rooted in the impaired brains of many unfortunate citizens, ameliorating crime will properly involve civil remedies instead of criminal ones. Therapeutic justice has already made substantial inroads under the reasonable view that criminal justice policy should encompass provisions which reduce offender recidivism. But in doing so, therapeutic justice seems all too eager in jettisoning the adversarial system of justice in place of one which values intervention at the cost of adversarial rights and individual liberty. The very nature of the criminal justice system as one entrenched in laws which restrain government is quite foreign to therapeutic justice. And that is troublesome given the emerging rise of the therapeutic state.
It's beginning to look like a simple power grab, accomplished by scientifically packaged rhetoric.

Trust the experts? I would maintain that people who believe in "trusting the experts" are suffering from just another form of mental illness, as are the experts they trust.

This is complete nonsense, and someone needs to call these people on it lest they get legislation passed while no one is looking.

I won't deny that they have an interesting philosophical argument, but over the years I have wasted many hours with people advancing similar arguments. Ultimately, whether we are all just chemicals and neurons firing leads itself to metaphysical debates over the meaning of existence. Do you exist? Do I exist?

Interesting, but not grounds for overturning the legal system. Or scrapping the Constitution (which would be required if neurolaw is to have their way). But I worry that this isn't just a late night philosophical debate of the sort I used to engage in Berkeley; these folks seem as determined as they are deterministic:

The foundational walls upon which [cognitive neuroscience] rests hold unwaveringly to the tenets of classical physics, reductive materialism, and hard determinism. Implicit in this model is the notion that, in time, all human experiences will be accessible by various physical apparatuses designed to explore the brain, that all mentation will be measurable by these devices, and accurate predictions of future behavior by way of brain activity can be made solely by understanding the material properties of the brain. Other theories abound but most hold to the immutable premise that people direct their behavior at least some of the time. Even under the subterfuge of the unconscious, psychoanalysis claimed that people acted because they had reasons - even when they were unaware of them.40 While alternative psychological theories hold to some of these premises, cognitive neuroscience confidently suggests our perception of personhood grounded in the sense that we choose how to act is false and untenable.41 Instead we are automatons, fooled by a belief in goal-directed behavior that we perceive is under our control but is entirely the product of forces set into motion long before our existence.42 That we may believe that we prefer and choose to indulge in chocolate ice-cream over vanilla is an illusion; instead, we are a passive audience to the electrical cadence of neuronal firings buried deep within our heads.4
The best aspect of this theory is that built into it is the ability to dismiss all who disagree as unenlightened fools whose identity itself is as much of a delusion as the "freedom" in which they claim to believe:
At the least we are fools under the direction of our selfish genes;47 at the worst our identity is utterly an illusion.48 The very notion of human agency - that people evaluate their environments, make choices, and impose those choices in the world - is entirely incompatible with the cognitive neuroscience theory of personhood.49 The very idea that people are mere passive observers of the world in which they occupy is no recent development. And that view has serious implications for theories of culpability and responsibility so fundamentally rooted in most legal systems.
Bottom line:
[M]oral thinking and behavior is merely a product of neuronal discharges inside the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain - and nothing more.94 They are, as two preeminent neuroscientists put it recently, "not mere correlates but are the physical bases of these aspects of our personhood."95
Sheesh.

This almost makes me inclined to revert to a strict Freudian view of things. Funny that the other day I'd be blogging about what I called "sexual freedom" -- only to wake up today and see this monstrosity staring me in the face. These people care not a hoot about sexual freedom. They don't believe anyone has any right to be straight or gay or any of that stuff. In fact, they don't even believe that there is such a thing as freedom.

I hope I won't live long enough to see them get their way.

posted by Eric at 11:08 AM | Comments (8)



All That Jazz

This was made in 1933. Marijuana was made illegal in 1937.

Harry Anslinger was the front man for the effort to make marijuana illegal.

Harry Anslinger (1892-1975) was the first US drug czar. Anslinger was appointed to the newly created position of Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics on August 12, 1930 and he served in the position until 1962. He had perviously served as Assistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition. He was responsible for the introduction of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act which criminalized cannabis in the United States.

He is notorious among the American proponents of de-criminalization of marijuana for his manipulation of misinformation masquerading as science behind the criminalization process, the earliest form of a " War on Drugs"

Harry had only the best of taste in music.
Marijuana is taken by ...musicians. And I'm not speaking about good musicians, but the jazz type... --Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the US Bureau of Narcotics, 1930 - 1962
Even in his prime Harry was known as a fraud. At least among some folks.
Even at the time, reputable experts had already deemed much of the alarmist anti-cannabis propaganda that was being disseminated in Hearst publications and quoted by Harry J. Anslinger in congressional testimony was inaccurate. Anslinger took pains to ensure that news of upcoming meetings was not circulated where any groups that might counter the proposed legislation (which taxed marijuana out of existence, in an end-run around the medical issues) would be alerted. The American Medical Association, which would likely have argued the medicinal benefits of marijuana, was notified only two days before the hearing. Their representative, Dr. William Woodward, denounced the hearings as being rooted in tabloid sensationalism, and demanded an explanation for the secrecy involved. Anslinger ignored Woodward's vociferous objections -- when before the vote he was asked by Congress if the AMA agreed that the bill should be passed, a member of Anslinger's committee replied, "Yes, they are in complete agreement."
And so for the last 70+ years we have been denied the benefits of marijuana as medicine based on the lies of a government official.

Not every one was on board with the refer madness of the time.

The La Guardia Committee was the first in depth study into the effects of smoking marijuana. It systematically contradicted claims made by the U.S. Treasury Department that smoking marijuana results in insanity, deteriorates physical and mental health, assists in criminal behavior and juvenile deliquency, is physically addictive, and is a "gateway" drug to more dangerous drugs.

The report was prepared by the New York Academy of Medicine, on behalf of a commission appointed in 1939 by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who was a strong opponent of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act . Released in 1944, the report infuriated Harry Anslinger who was campaigning against marijuana and he condemned it as unscientific. Anslinger went on an offensive against what he saw as a "degenerate Hollywood" that was promoting marijuana use.

After high profile arrests of actors like Robert Mitchum, Hollywood gave Anslinger full control over the script of any film that mentioned marijuana.

Thankfully, as more information comes out, reefer madness is dying a slow death.

H/T Diogenes via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:00 AM | Comments (2)




The Winnable War

The conventional wisdom on the left for going on five years has been that Iraq was a mistake, that it diverted resources from the "real fight" in Afghanistan. But as Victor Hanson points out, that cuts both ways, and our difficult victory was Al Qaeda's crushing defeat.

2) We were far more able to inflict casualties (given the terrain, geopolitics, and nature of the fighting) in Iraq than in Afghanistan, and that resulted in both more damage to terrorism in general, and a greater sense of deterrence than was true of the fighting alone in Afghanistan/Pakistan. When bin Laden and Zawahiri announced that Iraq was the major front in the terrorist war on the U.S., they raised the stakes, and were in essence inviting terrorists to go there rather than to Waziristan. Note we hear no more from either one of them about winning in Iraq, the central front in Iraq, the need to join jihad in Iraq, etc. Now, it is all Afghanistan again.

It's important to understand what we have accomplished in the land of the two rivers. We not only replaced a brutal police state with a relatively stable, liberal, democratic government and removed a virulent enemy sitting on trillions in oil wealth, we also inflicted terrible harm to AQ, both to their image and in material terms -- something that would have been much more difficult in Afghanistan. Iraq was a battleground far better suited to our strengths: it had the resources to establish and maintain a central government, and terrain and infrastucture much friendlier to our weapons systems and logistical requirements.

This all begs the question: what would the war in Afghanistan have looked like from 2003-2009, had we not invaded Iraq? As our victory in Iraq solidifies and AQ abandons that front, the answer is becoming clear: it would have looked like Afghanistan does now, a difficult, deadly insurgency over terrain that lessens the impact of our advantages in weapons and wealth, in a country that is too poor to sustain the strong central government necessary for any exit strategy that can reasonably be called success, where our drug policies create a huge incentive for desperately poor farmers to join the other side. We might have abandoned the country in defeat years ago, as Obama appears increasingly willing to consider.

Our Mesopotamian "misadventure" bought us several years' worth of relative peace in Afghanistan while dealing a grievous blow to Al Qaeda, by dragging them into a setting where the war was winnable. Like the intervention that allowed South Koreans to remain free, Iraq may never be a popular war, but increasingly it appears in hindsight to have been a strategic masterstroke.

posted by Dave at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)



Major Electronics Magazine Covers Polywell

ECN Magazine has an article up on Polywell and other small fusion efforts. You will never guess who the author is. Heh.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:37 PM | Comments (4)



Somalia is not in Vietnam, and neither is Minnesota!

While we might debate the appropriate penalty for stealing cell phones, I don't think too many people would agree that it should cost you an arm and a leg:

London, England - Civil rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the Somali Al-Shabab armed group not to carry out amputations on four men accused of stealing cellphones in Mogadishu.

The four men were sentenced on Monday to cross-amputation (amputation of the right hand and the left foot) by an ad-hoc court set up by Al-Shabab in their military camp in northern Mogadishu. They were accused of stealing mobile phones and pistols from Mogadishu residents.

An Al-Shabab spokesman told AP the sentence would be carried out but was delayed because of fears the men could bleed to death in the hot weather.

"We are appealing to Al-Shabab not to carry out these cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments," said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International's Africa Deputy Director. "These sentences were ordered by a sham Al-Shabab court with no due process or guarantees of fairness."

The four men have allegedly admitted to the robbery, but were not represented by lawyers and are not allowed to appeal against their sentence, says Amnesty.

Al-Shabab factions and the Hisbul Islam armed group, headed by Sheikh Hassan Aweys, launched a military offensive against forces of the Transitional Federal Government, on 7 May 2009.

The armed opposition is in control of several districts of Mogadishu. An Al-Shabab-controlled coalition in the port city of Kismayo, southern Somalia, has carried out at least two amputations since the beginning of the year.

Islamist group al-Shabab, which literally means 'the lads' in Somali, is already on the United States' list of foreign terrorist organisations. "Al-Shabab is a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of officials affiliated to al-Qaeda," says the US State Department.

OK, let me start by saying that I am not a war blogger and I did not especially want to write this post, and I had only vaguely heard of this group before.

But I guess I should have paid more attention, because they appear to be operating right here in the United States. In nearby Minnesota, to be exact -- although it's barely reported:

September 16, 2009 -- Earlier this week, U.S. Special Forces killed a man U.S. intelligence said was the link between an Islamic militia in Somalia and al-Qaida in Pakistan. But he also had a connection to the U.S. that has not been reported: He was a senior instructor for new al-Shabab recruits, including a handful of young Somali-Americans from Minneapolis.

When FBI agents capture a terrorism suspect, one of the first things they do is pull out mug shots so they can try to identify other possible members of al-Qaida. And that's exactly what happened earlier this year -- when some of the young Somali-Americans who trained in Somalia returned to Minneapolis.

Intelligence officials tell NPR that when agents flipped to a picture of one al-Qaida operative, several of the young men said they recognized him.

His name was Salah Ali Nabhan. He's the man American commandos killed in a daylight raid in southern Somalia on Monday.

The Minneapolis boys said they recognized him because he had been one of their trainers in the camps in Somalia -- on loan from al-Qaida to boost the training operations of a Somali militia called al-Shabab.

"Usually people like Nabhan are jacks of all trade," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "They are particularly skilled, as Nabhan was, in the fabrication of vehicular bombs, particularly ones used for suicide attacks."

Hey wait, wait, wait! Before we get to suicide attacks, can someone please answer me a question?

What on earth are these people doing here in the United States? Does anyone remember this video showing Somali teenagers harassing a gay man for fun?

If their more radical brethren in Somalia want to impose Shariah law and amputate arms and legs, how long will they be content merely to harass Americans because of what they think they might be doing in bed?

This is still the United States, right? Do we really have to go out of our way to bring these people here? Does anyone screen them? The other day I went to a Wal-Mart and I saw two young girls (no more then ten) both of whom were wearing complete floor-length hiqabs, leaving only slits for their eyes. While it is constitutionally permissible to wear whatever you want in this country, I worry about the wisdom of bringing people to live here who think it's appropriate for their children to demonstrate utter contempt for everyone. My fear is that we might not be limiting immigration to only those people who will make the best citizens.

Shouldn't we be? It seems stupid not to.

Or is it "bigotry" not to want people who would destroy our freedom moving here?

Sorry to sound so bigoted, but I just don't like to read that a terrorist group that cuts off people's limbs is operating right here in the United States. It doesn't help much to consider that the news about al-Shabab's Minnesota connection comes at the same time I read that we need to send more forces to Afghanistan, or face 'Mission Failure':

"[A] perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents."
I've been seeing brand new "WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER" signs springing up lately here in Ann Arbor. This reminded me that even thought President Obama ran on a platform of fighting the war in Afghanistan, many of his followers disagree with that, and see it as analogous to Vietnam, in the same tired way that everything reminds them of what they did in the 1960s.

I remember the Vietnam War quite well, and I think these people are losing sight of the fact that there is a major difference between that war, and the current war. Neither the North Vietnamese Army nor the Vietcong had any interest in fighting Americans here in their own land. Vietnam was literally "over there." So, even though our resolve was uncertain, Vietnamese combatants never came over here and waged war on Americans.

Unless you're an absolute fool, September 11, 2001 showed that Afghanistan was not Vietnam.

I think events that are happening now are a warning that if we treat it like Vietnam it will be at our peril.

posted by Eric at 02:15 PM | Comments (3)



Good and bad deeds

Yesterday I returned a cell phone I found which turned out to have been stolen. When I found it over a month ago, it had been half-buried in mud, and it was so severely water-damaged that I thought it was junk. Even after I cleaned it up, the screen was filled with water droplets and the battery was swollen up so much that the battery door had to be forced off. Still, I let it dry in the sun for a few days, then put it on a table and had forgotten about it until it dawned on me right after replacing my own cell phone with a different brand that even though I was on a different carrier, the new charger might work in the "ruined" phone. So, feeling a tad daring, yesterday I plugged the mysterious found phone into my brand new charger. To my utter amazement, the screen lit up with a bright red wallpaper design and the charging symbol started its right to left pulsation. After a half an hour I picked it up and it was warm but not hot, so I thought I might as well turn it on and play detective. The keypad was at first unresponsive from months of moisture and non-use, but pressing the buttons repeatedly and working them around, I was pretty soon able to navigate freely. There were hundreds of contacts in the address book, lots of pictures, and countless text messages. I noticed that the last call had been made in May, not to Mogadishu, Somalia, but to a name recorded among the contacts. Assuming the phone most likely didn't work (and not wanting to make calls on someone else's phone), I looked around until I found the phone's own official mobile number, which I called on my phone. As I suspected it wouldn't, the cell phone did not respond, but someone answered, and after a some preliminary discussion, the person was most excited and grateful, and drove over immediately to get the phone. It had been stolen months ago, but it contained a lot of valuable as well as sentimental information, and I felt as if I had done my good deed for the day. I'd certainly like to think that someone would do the same for me.

It occurred to me that while this phone probably cost a hundred dollars or so to replace, losing a cell phone has become almost like losing a small computer in the sense that you're losing a lot of irreplaceable stuff. They're often not as easy to back up, and then of course there's the privacy issue. (A criminal, or some creepy stalker type would know a lot about you by getting hold of your cell phone.)

So whether he or she knew it or not, whoever stole the person's phone was real scum. Stealing a cell phone would by itself constitute only petty theft, but I don't think monetary value is the real issue. When we lose a wallet, our primary concern is not about the cash, and in many ways what's in many cell phones today makes its loss worse than losing a wallet. (And if it's a business device like a Blackberry, I could imagine that the consequences might be devastating.)

As to what the proper punishment should be, I don't know. It is, after all, a theft, and if the thief simply shoplifts a new phone from, say, a phone company store, that would strike me as the least morally egregious type of phone theft. If he steals a working phone and proceeds to call his criminal cohorts in Nigeria or Somalia, the crime quickly morphs into theft of services, which is felony grand theft and probably various federal crimes. But if his goal is invasion of privacy or identity theft, I think that is morally the worst, whether it is legally or not.

I'd like to see such people be made to suffer, but even so, I'm not sure prison is the best way to punish them. I think society should save its limited prison resources for the kind of people who have shown by their actions that they would harm people with violence if allowed to roam around. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, it probably isn't a good idea to be locking up nonviolent criminals with violent criminals, as the latter will prey on the former, thus assisting them in making a very unfortunate transition from nonviolent to violent crime.

Evil as these crooks might be, I don't see any valid reason to lock them up at public expense. They're like Enron executives or that Madoff guy; unlikely to hit you over the head if you're walking down the street. Still, there is a need for a deterrent aspect, as well as the public thirst for vengeance.

Traditionally in the West, such crimes were dealt with in much the same way that Islamic societies deal with them today -- by brutal and cruel punishments if not the death penalty. Under the reign of Henry VIII, they didn't have cell phone thieves, but merely stealing a loaf of bread could mean death, or at least amputation.

We don't allow cruel or unusual punishments, and while amputation would certainly constitute that by any standard, at the time of the founding flogging was quite usual, and in many ways it is arguably more kind than locking people up for years in hellholes where they'll be raped and brutalized.

In a poll, I once asked readers
whether they'd prefer to receive lashes or a prison term, and the overwhelming majority would take the lashes. I certainly would, and I have no illusions that it would be nice to have the skin on my back torn up. But the pain would be over in a few days and the injuries would all be healed in a matter of weeks. Compared to what could happen in prison, it's a no-brainer.

So why do we* call a dozen lashes more cruel than prison? Is it simply because of the social conventions and cultural biases of our particular places and times?

Or am I a post-modernist moral relativist for posing the question?

* And who is this "we," anyway? What I find quite ironic is that general public would probably prefer to see Bernie Madoff tied to a post and whipped than be sent to prison -- and I'd be willing to bet that so would Madoff!

posted by Eric at 12:32 PM | Comments (6)



Government medicine at the State Fair

Let's see if I can get this straight. A killer (acquitted by reason of insanity in the 1987 slaying of an elderly woman whose body he soaked in gasoline to throw off search dogs) who has been declared criminally insane, with a history of escape, was taken on a "field trip" to the Washington State Fair, whereupon -- guess what? He escaped, duh! (Video here.)

While the nurses at the hospital had warned against letting such risky patients go on public outings, in recent years, "the types of patients allowed to participate in the outings has become more inclusive."

(Inclusivity, as many of us have been forced to learn, is an important government concept. A friend who is a public school teacher told me that many staff meetings are devoted to the constant need for its implementation.)

So, the trip was allowed despite the murder of the elderly woman*, despite his previous escape (during which he "attacked a sheriff's deputy in the jail booking area, knocking him unconscious"), and despite a recent ruling that he was a threat to the public:

A Yakima County judge had ruled two weeks ago that Paul remained a threat to the public because of his aggressive behavior and his decreased awareness of his psychosis, The Spokesman-Review reported Saturday.

The Spokane newspaper reported that Paul had repeatedly tried to win full release from his court-ordered commitment, especially after fathering a child with a woman during a conditional release.

Davis said allowing patients like Paul to go on field trips can put hospital workers and the public at risk.

Davis is of course a union rep, and naturally the union's primary concern is worker safety. (It would not surprise me if the union agreement enables them to take evasive action and if necessary run away for their own safety in the event one of these patients gets violent, the public be damned.)

But I don't mean to knock the union workers assigned to watch him, for at least they did report the escape immediately. Their "administrators," however, "waited nearly two hours before calling law enforcement." Naturally, this delay "gave Paul plenty of time to disappear."

He was finally caught, but don't worry! There's now tough talk from government bureaucrats, one of whom went so far as to actually call the situation "unacceptable."

"He is in a bad mental state," his brother, Tom Paul, told The Associated Press. "Why would they load him on a bus and take him to a fair?"

That's a question many are asking.

Authorities at Eastern State Hospital are being criticized for allowing Paul to visit the fair despite his violent criminal past and history of trying to escape. Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard has called it unacceptable, and the state Department of Social and Health Services ordered an immediate end to such trips and launched an investigation into the practice.

Um, sorry, but the issue isn't field trips per se; it's taking dangerous murderers with previous escape histories on them. I have no problem with busing a group of severely depressed patients out to the countryside, and I don't think most reasonable people would.

Is there no common sense?

Or is the problem that common sense and bureaucracy do not mix?

That's the larger issue here, because remember, this is a government run hospital. If despite all their funding and employees and committees and meetings they can't figure out that a dangerous murderer with an escape history shouldn't be going to the State Fair, how can they be relied on to make tough decisions about whether your gall bladder should be cut out? Or whether your child's leg really does need to be amputated? Or which doctor is best qualified to do it? I find it unacceptable, for example, to read that routine gall bladder surgery led to the amputation of an air force veteran's legs.

By the way, the story of how the airman lost his legs is a classic example of government ineptness, and because this is about government medicine, I don't think it's off topic. The gruesome details were reported in a link sent to me in an email over the summer, and while I didn't write a post at the time, I didn't forget.

It's a chilling story, but worth reading:

...A resident had punctured Read's aortic artery, which is near the gallbladder, with one of four ports that had been inserted into his abdomen. The resident hadn't even removed the gallbladder. The resident and the chief surgeon, Maj. Kullada Pichakron, who was observing, raced to clamp his artery and sew it up in time to save his life. At 11 a.m., Pichakron brought Jessica Read into the operating room to explain that Read was alive but the artery was leaking. A vascular specialist was needed to properly repair the valve, but the specialist at David Grant had separated from the Air Force eight days earlier. The replacement wasn't scheduled to arrive until Aug. 5.

Dr. Michael Hines, Jessica Read's uncle who is a surgeon in Texas, credited the doctors with saving Read's life after the aorta was punctured.

"A mistake was made, but it is a tribute to those doctors that Colton is still alive," Hines said.

During the discussion, Jessica Read looked down at her husband's feet. They were blue

"They rushed me out of the operating room after I noticed," she said.

The two main arteries carrying blood to Read's legs were clogged with clotted blood. As time ticked by, the tissue and muscles in Read's legs began to die.

"Anytime you lose blood supply to any tissue in the body, that tissue will die," said Dr. Tim Gardner, a heart surgeon and former president of the American Heart Association. "Once blood is blocked from the legs, the legs go pretty fast."

Jessica Read said that at 2:30 p.m., Pichakron and two unidentified medical center officials came to tell her they decided to transfer her husband by helicopter to University of California Davis Medical Center, some 40 miles north.

The three explained Read's legs could go without blood six hours before being permanently damaged. More than five hours had already passed. And because of unexplained delays in transportation, it would be four more hours before the emergency surgery would be conducted.

Hines questioned why Read's doctors didn't do more to monitor the circulation to Read's legs.

"Not having blood flow to your legs for nine hours is like having a truck lie on top of your legs for nine hours," Hines said. "They are going to die."

The helicopter was scheduled to take off 20 minutes after the conversation. Medical personnel, though, didn't carry Read onto the helicopter for nearly two hours, at 4:23 p.m.

Neither Jessica Read nor the rest of Read's family has received an explanation from the Air Force why it took three hours to transport Read to UC Davis.

"It almost feels to me that my husband's life was not important to them because why did it take so long, and why did he arrive here in the condition that he did," Jessica Read said. "They didn't feel the urgency, it seemed."

Neither did the hospital administrators "feel the urgency" when the mental patient walked away at the State Fair. At least, they didn't feel enough urgency to bother to pick up the phone and call 911 for two hours.

We are of course more horrified by a criminally insane killer escaping at the state fair, even though no one lost his legs and nearly died.

Yet each horror story involved government medicine, and a lack of accountability.

Whether we should be more horrified by one than the other is a good question.

MORE: * Since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, does that mean the woman was not murdered? I might be mistaken in the legal sense, but were she my mother, I'd probably be inclined to think of her as having been murdered anyway.

But because of the legal finding, she was no more "murdered" than she would have been murdered by an escaped tiger which mauled her to death.

So I stand self-corrected.

posted by Eric at 09:59 AM | Comments (3)



Tea Parties And The Drug War

Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who is against the drug war, had this to say about his experience at the 9/12 March Against Washington (via e-mail).

"Resistance continues to crumble: How conservative does one have to be to board a bus & travel all night to go to a march on Washington on September 12th? The DC fire department estimated the crowd at about 70,000 & I would say it might have gone to 100,000. Regardless, I was there, wearing the shirt & had about 60 ask why. Keeping in mind these were extremely serious conservatives, 80% were agreeing with the COP message of legalize all drugs.

Many more read the shirt and waved or nodded.

For the few that disagreed my standard line was: 'I believe in liberty & keeping the police out of my house.' What do you believe in?'....that tag line was effective in helping the listener understand what principles I stood for.

Love my hat: Attending a monthly conservative breakfast, the gentleman across from me, 10 years my senior, asked what COP stood for. I told him. He replied he had just given a presentation on why all drugs should be legalized & regulated. At the end of the breakfast he invited me to his 'pre 9/12 march' on Washington soiree on one condition; wear the hat.

www.CitizensOpposingProhibition.org

The crowd was definitely a 'grasstops.'..doctors, lawyers & Indian chiefs affaire. For two + hours I chatted with über conservatives from all over the country.wearing my best Stetson. It was an 18 hour day and well worth it."

Howard also documents how opposition in Congress is crumbling.
And the envelope please: Nearly a year ago I reported my excitement, as chairman of the largest caucus (104 members) in the House invited me to a one hour chat. He wanted to drop (introduce) a bill to end federal prohibition of all drugs, starting with cannabis. I was unable to tell you who he was for discretionary reasons. Only senior LEAP staff and Board Members knew.

Roll the drums...Former Congressman and Republican candidate for President Tom Tancredo this week stated for the first time in public the need to legalize drugs, all drugs. Mr. Tancredo and I have been in regular contact the past 12 months, including being on his radio show. I applaud his courage to become a leader on our issue. Though no longer in Congress, he remains the spiritual head of the Congressional Immigration Caucus. I am exploiting this connection.

The Kumbayjah Moment has arrived: I attended a Senate hearing this week. Although the topic was immigration and the borders, the witnesses spent well over half their time on how federal agents are arresting drug smugglers and seizing drugs. The Chairman, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was focusing his hearing to demonstrate that the borders are now secure enough to allow the Congress to move forward with a comprehensive, immigration bill.

Near the end Senator Hatch (R-UT) stated to all, The War on Drugs has been a failure. Ladies and Gentlemen his admission has become the general tone on the Hill. His sentiments reflect the Zogby poll that 76% of Americans agree the Drug War has been a failure. As I present to staffers, there is a statistical zero pushback on declaring the Drug War a dysfunctional failure. This does not mean we are near the finish line. No. There is a lot more work to be done. Think of the 12-step process for Alcoholics Anonymous. - Hi, my name is Bob and I am an alcoholic: Hi, my name is America and the Drug War is a failure. Eleven steps to go. Kumbayjah.

Out to lunch: As you know, many believe that the Congress and federal employees live in a Lah-Lah Land and have no idea of what the real world (outside the Beltway) is like. This perception was reinforced at the above hearing. A federal police agent reported a great victory as the federal police have seized 13 million dollars (out of a yearly total of some 25 billion) in the past two months going from the US to Mexico. Upon hearing this, I reacted instinctively and made a pddffhh noise that was heard by a few around me, including a newspaper reporter and a former Congressman and hearing witness. After the hearing the reporter and I had a good chat and chuckle. Yes, it was impolite but I was unable to stop myself. Me bad.

Howard is a man after my own heart and says:

Modern Prohibition/The War on Drugs is the most destructive, dysfunctional & immoral domestic policy since slavery and Jim Crow.

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:36 AM | Comments (2)



Values Voters Ask A Question

I always thought that the thing to do was to bless people in the hope that they would see the light. These "Values Voters" from 2007 don't seem to see things that way.

The New York Times reports on the 2009 Values Voters Summit. The Times does have some good news for us libertarian types.

At a time when the Republican Party is in search of new leaders, the procession of familiar faces on stage Friday and in the audience was striking. Two of the party's biggest names -- Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Sarah Palin, the party's vice-presidential nominee in 2008 -- did not show up at all, citing scheduling conflicts.

Many Republicans have been arguing that the party's focus on social issues is a mistake at a time when voters are concerned about the economic downturn and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the emphasis at the summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council, was still decidedly on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.

These Republicans don't seem to have any understanding of the "leave us alone" voters.

And just in case you want to know the words to the song in the video I have a link. It is some ugly shit. Really ugly shit. Ungodly ugly shit. Some one should tell these folks to put a sock in it if they are interested in winning elections.

Because come the next election I may have to make a choice between a communist and a theocon. If that is the choice I'm given I'm going to do the same thing I did the last time I was given that choice. I'm going to vote for the communist.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:34 AM | Comments (21)




The Magical Mendacity Tour

How do you know Obama is lying about health care reform? His teleprompter is moving.

Apparently under the theory that if you lie often enough the lies start to sound true, the Magical Mendacity Tour kicked into high gear this weekend, with even more facepalming dishonesty:

President Barack Obama says requiring people to get health insurance and fining them if they don't would not amount to a backhanded tax increase. "I absolutely reject that notion," the president said.
Well, okay. Maybe we could just call it a "forced contribution to the welfare of others." Catchy? But of course if you don't carry insurance or pay the huge fine, the IRS shows up at your door demanding the non-tax. It would almost be worth going without health insurance and being arrested just for the chance to subpoena Barack Obama at my tax evasion trial. "Your Honor, he clearly said it wasn't a tax! He absolutely rejected the notion!"

But it gets worse... much worse. Obama goes on to claim the absence of his plan to have young, healthy people subsidize everyone else's health care would force people to carry others' burdens:

"What it's saying is, is that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore," said Obama.
That's exactly the opposite of what it actually tries to accomplish. There are two kinds of people who don't carry insurance right now: the poor, who cannot pay for their care no matter what laws you pass, and the young and healthy, who as rational actors balk at the notion of paying tens of thousands of dollars in premiums over a period of their lives when they are unlikely to need much health care. The point of mandates is to drag the latter kicking and screaming into the system so that the system can have "community rating" under which they will pay even higher premiums in order to subsidize care for older, sicker people.

And then we get hit with the tired false analogy of "auto insurance."

"Right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase."
This is the most egregious lie of all. If you want to go without collision or theft insurance on a car you own, no one will stop you. The only reason you are required to carry auto liability insurance is the obvious fact that a car is a large, fast-moving, dangerous machine that could cause great harm to others' persons and property. There's no such thing as health liability insurance. It's an asinine analogy, but Slick Barry the used-car salesman hopes you won't figure that out.
"I've tried to keep it digestible," Obama said. "It's very hard for people to get their arms around it. And that's been a case where I have been humbled and I just keep on trying harder."
Again, the truth is exactly the opposite of what he says. The problem isn't that Americans are just too dim to grasp the brilliant Obama (notice he has the incredible gall to say he has "been humbled" by our stupidity) it's that too many people are figuring out a pig in a poke shouldn't be hissing and yowling.

Some of us have got our arms all the way around this socialist monstrosity, despite your best efforts, and we say "You lie!"

posted by Dave at 11:57 AM | Comments (7)



Hoes for Hos!

While I'm delighted to see the final downfall of ACORN (which I've condemned repeatedly), I'm fascinated by the fact that even though the organization had a long history of voter fraud, mortgage fraud, and the worst sort of political corruption, and all of these outrages were repeatedly exposed, it wasn't until something was uncovered that titillated the public's imagination that Congress decided to do something.

There are evils, and then there are evils. Child prostitution is a titillating evil, and thus inherently more interesting than other evils. I missed the point entirely when I opined that socialism and Communism were worse:

I have a bigger problem with ACORN than I do with even the corrupt child prostitution advocacy that is leading to the organization's downfall, because I think socialism and Communism are worse than aiding and abetting child prostitution.
I didn't stop to realize how out of touch I was with the prevailing view of relative evils in this country.

Perhaps relativism is not the issue, though. Whether Larry Flynt is worse than Joseph Stalin is not the point. Americans don't consider "girls running wild" to be worse than the confiscation of private property; only more interesting.

Had the same filmmakers gone into multiple ACORN offices and coaxed Maoists into admitting that they'd really like to see people being rounded up and taken into fields to hoe the soil at gunpoint, there'd have been a collective yawn. (Like it or not, girls being made into "hos" are more interesting than girls being made to pick up hoes.)

Jon Stewart would not have shown a video of boring Maoists. Nor would it have interested him in the least if there were a half a dozen sting videos documenting ACORN committing wholesale voter fraud, welfare fraud, and mortgage fraud -- even if the ACORN people openly admitted in the videos that their goal was to undermine capitalism and bring about socialism via the Cloward-Piven strategy.

Such things are just business as usual for ACORN, and it would not have been interesting, or funny, or titillating.

Socialism is boring.

The moral lesson, comrades, is that ACORN should have insisted that the girls reform their ways, join workers cadres and go to work in the fields!

posted by Eric at 10:53 AM | Comments (2)



Obama Was A Trainer For ACORN

Here is what ACORN had to say about Mr. Obama.

Since then, we have invited Obama to our leadership training sessions to run the session on power every year, and, as a result, many of our newly developing leaders got to know him before he ever ran for office. Thus, it was natural for many of us to be active volunteers in his first campaign for State Senate and then his failed bid for U.S. Congress in 1996. By the time he ran for U.S. Senate, we were old friends. And along about early March, we started to see that the African-American community had made its move: when Sen. Obama's name was mentioned at our Southside Summit meeting with 700 people in attendance from three southside communities, the crowd went crazy. With about a week to go before the election, it was very clear how the African-American community would vote. But would they vote in high enough numbers?

It seemed to us that what Obama needed in the March primary was what we always work to deliver anyway: increased turnout in our ACORN communities. ACORN is active on the south and west sides of Chicago, in the south suburbs and on the east side of Springfield, the state capital. Most of the turf where we organize in is African American, with a growing Latino presence in Chicago's Little Village and the suburbs.

And where did I get the hint to look for the Obama ACORN connection?

From this Glenn Beck video.

And what made me look into that? A story about the genesis of the current situation by Glenn Beck where Glenn discusses the Cloward Piven strategy. And of course you have heard of the Cloward-Piven strategy from my pre-election post Barney Frank Frankly Not Frank which discusses how the mortgage crisis got started.

You can actually learn something useful about Cloward and Piven from the wiki.

The Cloward-Piven strategy refers to a political strategy outlined by Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, then both sociologists and political activists at the Columbia University School of Social Work, in a 1966 article in The Nation. The two argued that many Americans who were eligible for welfare were not receiving benefits, and that a welfare enrollment drive would create a political crisis that would force U.S. politicians, particularly the Democratic Party, to enact legislation "establishing a guaranteed national income."

Cloward and Piven's article is focused on forcing the Democratic Party, which in 1966 controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, to take federal action to help the poor. They argued that full enrollment of those eligible for welfare "would produce bureaucratic disruption in welfare agencies and fiscal disruption in local and state governments" that would "deepen existing divisions among elements in the big-city Democratic coalition....

OK. How about some more of the picture?
First proposed in 1966 and named after Columbia University sociologists Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, the "Cloward-Piven Strategy" seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.

Inspired by the August 1965 riots in the black district of Watts in Los Angeles (which erupted after police had used batons to subdue a black man suspected of drunk driving), Cloward and Piven published an article titled "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty" in the May 2, 1966 issue of The Nation. Following its publication, The Nation sold an unprecedented 30,000 reprints. Activists were abuzz over the so-called "crisis strategy" or "Cloward-Piven Strategy," as it came to be called. Many were eager to put it into effect.

In their 1966 article, Cloward and Piven charged that the ruling classes used welfare to weaken the poor; that by providing a social safety net, the rich doused the fires of rebellion. Poor people can advance only when "the rest of society is afraid of them," Cloward told The New York Times on September 27, 1970. Rather than placating the poor with government hand-outs, wrote Cloward and Piven, activists should work to sabotage and destroy the welfare system; the collapse of the welfare state would ignite a political and financial crisis that would rock the nation; poor people would rise in revolt; only then would "the rest of society" accept their demands.

Now who was it that said "never let a serious crisis go to waste"? Rahm Emanuel, Obama's Chief of Staff. And what does a Chief of Staff do? Well he helps to fill staff positions wih the appropriate people. People like Communist Van Jones, Obama's former Green Jobs Czar. Or how about radical John Holdren, Obama's Science Czar.

You know it looks like these folks have a plan for America. And I don't think I like the plan.

And to think it all started to come apart with an attempt to start a child prostitution ring that was aided by ACORN.

Members of a community organisation closely linked to US president Barack Obama have been secretly filmed advising a fake pimp and his prostitute on how to evade authorities.

The video is seen as a serious setback for Obama, who has previously worked for Acorn, America's largest community organisation representing minorities and the poor.

Acorn was also a major supporter of Obama's campaign to become president, even though it is a non-profit non-partisan government organisation that receives over $70 million in taxpayer money.

Conservative activist James O'Keefe, along with a bogus prostitute, filmed Acorn workers advising on tax advantages for underage prostitutes.

In the video, an Acorn worker is heard telling O'Keefe that "under sixteen, yeah, so you'll be eligible for a child tax credit".

The worker also tells O'Keefe on how not to get caught by police.

If you haven't seen the videos you can watch them here:

Acorn Videos. And more is to come says Andrew Breitbart at Hot Air.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)



Obama Hates Democrats

The New York Times passes on the rumor that Obama has asked New York Governor David Patterson to withdraw from the New York Governor's Race.

President Obama has sent a request to Gov. David A. Paterson that he withdraw from the New York governor's race, fearing that Mr. Paterson cannot recover from his dismal political standing, according to two senior administration officials and a New York Democratic operative with direct knowledge of the situation.

The decision to ask Mr. Paterson to step aside was proposed by political advisers to Mr. Obama, but approved by the president himself, one of the administration officials said.

That sounds racist to me. Why? David Patterson is Black.

H/T Lois Koenig via Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:28 AM | Comments (4)




A dog is a rat is a doctor is a vet

I want to return briefly to a point made in a hard-hitting post from Canadian blogger Blazingcatfur about the awful treatment his mother received:

With barely contained anger I informed the nurse that keeping an ill, 84 year old woman in a hospital corridor for 18 hours was not the type of care that anyone should be expected to tolerate. In fact my cat receives better treatment from his vet.
This is not the first time I've seen the point raised about veterinary care being better than health care for humans. And you don't have to compare veterinary care to health care under socialized medicine to see the difference, although it becomes particularly glaring if you do.

Under our "system" of veterinary health care, there's generally little or no wait, they're invariably friendly (because you could always grab your dog or cat and take it to another vet), and as to the prices?

Let me give a personal example. My old dog Puff once swallowed half a tennis ball he had flattened, and it opened up like a parachute inside his small intestine. This formed an insurmountable blockage, and necrosis set in. Without immediate emergency surgery, Puff (by that time in horrible agony) would have been dead in a day or so. He was cut open, the foreign object removed along with a three foot section of intestine (the two severed ends being anastomized together) and after a couple of days at the vet I took him home, where he fully recovered without complication.

The bill for all of this? Nine hundred and fifty dollars.

$950.00

Now, this was some time ago, and today it would be more. Probably close to a couple of grand.

But imagine how much it would cost if a boy were to swallow something he shouldn't have and it lodged in his small intestine and had to be removed. I shudder to think of the possible bill for emergency surgery and two days in the hospital, but I think you'd be lucky if it cost less than $20,000.

Why?

The instruments, the drugs, the surgical techniques, sterile hygiene, intravenous lines, and post-operative support, all of these things are basically the same. True, the boy would not be placed in a four by six cage during his stay in the hospital, but a bed in a room is not all that complicated.

What accounts for the huge difference in price? A lot of people say it's the liability insurance, but is that all there is to it? It's not as if there's much difference in the degree of education between an MD and a DVM. (And it's actually harder to get into vet school than it is to get into med school, so if there's an issue involving brains, the vets might win.)

It strikes me that there is a giant, overarching difference between veterinary care and regular medical care, and that is that the former is barely regulated by the government, while the latter is so regulated that even now -- without socialized health care -- many doctors feel as if they spent most of their time being bureaucrats. Is that it? I'm sure my vet kept records for Puff, but I'd be willing to bet they consisted of little more than a couple of paragraphs summarizing the diagnosis, the procedure, and his recovery. And I'd also be willing to bet that for the same procedure on a boy, if all of the records were all printed out they'd be a stack of documents inches thick.

I realize that people will say I am silly and comparing apples and oranges, but it wasn't that long ago that the complex education and licensing as we know it simply did not exist. When they weren't cutting people open, "barber surgeons" cut hair and shaved faces.

But you don't have to go back to the 18th century. A close friend who died a few years ago had a copy of a bill she received for the birth of her son in the late 1940s. Including delivery, hospitalization, and maternity care, it came to just over two hundred dollars. Even if we correct for inflation, there is simply no comparison between the prices then and the prices now for medical care.

While I realize technology has added many tools to the medical arsenal since the 1940s, the same tools have been added to the veterinary arsenal, so that can't be all there is to it. I have not seen any vet bills from the 1940s, but I am sure that a cursory examination would reveal that the rate of increase has risen in a normal manner that we would expect, while the rate of increase for human medical care has skyrocketed. (Of course, in those days, far fewer people had health insurance. Might the "blank check" from the big pocket have something to do with it?)

Should we allow vets to treat humans? Why not? If a woman can consent to an abortion, why can't I consent to having a veterinarian cut a tennis ball out of my intestines?

Why can't we be consenting adults?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and a warm welcome to all.

Your comments are invited -- agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (44)



On The Margins

Eric at Classical Values was discussing the efforts to maginalize Glenn Beck. In that piece Eric also mentions the Drug Warriors on the right. Reality of course is much more hilarious than anything I could imagine. Instapundit shows that the Democrats are using Glenn (who claims to be a libertarian) to make fun of the outcry against Obama's Czars.

And who do they (through Glenn) pick on first? The Drug Czar. So can we expect to see a concerted effort to eliminate the Drug Czar position? One can only hope.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)



Why must "his" omission be "my" subtext?

I woke up this morning to see an apparently reassuring headline:

Obama: Health care anger not motivated by his race

Finally! I thought. The president has had the decency to at least acknowledge something dictated by simple logic and common sense. (As I pointed out not long ago, no one said opposition to Hillary Clinton's 1993 health care plan was grounded in sexism.)

But then I read what the president actually said:

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said Friday that angry criticisms about his health care agenda are driven by an intense debate over the proper role of government -- and not by racism.

"Are there people out there who don't like me because of race? I'm sure there are," Obama told CNN. "That's not the overriding issue here."

Am I being nitpicky, or is there a distinct difference between saying "because of race" and "because of my race"? The former might mean that some people don't like him because they don't like the way race is presented as an issue, while the latter would obviously be evocative of racism.

Or should I assume that the AP headline got it right, and the president missed a word?

I don't know, but I don't see why I should have to play mindreading games with the president. As astute commenter Baldilocks put it to another commenter last night:

Don't assume you can read minds.
So I don't want to assume anything. What I want to know is why didn't he simply state "because of my race" or "because of racism" if the goal was to make himself clear? The reason this apparently simply missing word matters to me is that I do not like the fact that race matters in this country, and I wish it did not. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I don't like race, nor do I like people who play games with it. I wish race did not exist at all, but since it does, I wish it did not matter. I do not like the fact that some people want race to matter, and I worry that the president is one of them. (To say that it matters to many of his supporters is an extreme understatement.....)

So I hope that the president meant to say "because of my race." Because I am sick of the race game, and sick of endless racial subtexts. (And I'd hate to think the subtext might be along the lines of if you are sick of race you are a racist, because that would confirm my suspicion only racists are not "racists.")

But maybe I should look on the bright side!

At least he didn't say "people don't like me because of racial subtexts."

posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (1)




Who's trying to tell me what to do?

I like sexual freedom. I think that arises out of the fact that I don't like being told what to do. Being told what to do sucks, especially when people are trying to tell you what to do in the most personal area of your life.

Americans have a long history of hating being told what to do. It crosses the political spectrum as well as the cultural spectrum. I recently watched a documentary about Frank Lucas, the famous heroin-dealer of "American Gangster" fame, who is out of prison and interviewed in his old age. I was almost moved to tears when at one point he said that he just couldn't stand it when people tried to "tell me what to do." There was so much tragedy in that statement. Tragedy in the sense that anything can be so right and yet so wrong at the same time.

Frank Lucas is not alone. No one likes being told what to do. It's against our nature as free human beings, as Americans. I don't care whether you're a country music star like Van Zant. Or a rap star named "nas"

no one can tell me what to do. None of the black leaders, none of these motherfuckers, record companies, none of them can tell me what to do. Because you can't stop what I want to do, you understand?
Or a Nobel Prize winner like Linus Pauling:
"I don't like anybody to tell me what to do or to think, except Mrs. Pauling."
Or just a teenager trying to grow up, defying those who will not let you.

But it's tragic because not wanting to be told what to do can be a major distraction from life. Many of the mistakes I have made were a direct result of decisions I took based on the principle of not wanting anyone to tell me what to do.

In terms of politics, telling people what to do with their lives is authoritarianism. For some reason, "liberals" have a penchant for saying that "conservatives" are "authoritarian," and have said it so often and for so long that a lot of people just accept it as an article of faith. It is one of those big lies of politics, and you don't have to be much of a student of history to see not only that big government is primarily a left wing creation, but that the horrors of left wing authoritarianism far exceed anything perpetrated by the right.

Back to sexual freedom. There is a another common misconception that the left is "for" sexual freedom, and the right is "against" it. That's because the left loves to scream as loudly as possible that they're for it, and that the right is against it. Sometimes I fall into this stereotypical thinking myself, against my better judgment.

Glenn Reynolds linked a piece by Mark Steyn which reminded me that things are never as clear as they seem. The gist of Steyn's argument was this:

We've never had more personal sexual liberty. And less freedom of almost every other kind.
Steyn is absolutely right that we have less freedom of any other kind, but is there really more personal sexual freedom than before? I don't mean to disagree with Steyn here, because not only do I greatly respect him, but I think I understand the point he is making, although I'm not sure that personal sexual liberty is the same thing as sexual freedom in that more important sense of being free from being told what to do.

To understand this, I think it's important not to conflate government-granted sexual liberty and personal sexual freedom. If liberty is not the same as freedom, then neither would sexual liberty be the same thing as sexual freedom. Just as a slave who has been given liberty is not the same thing as a slave who has been given freedom, sexual liberty is more analogous to a sort of grant of license, usually by the government. It is not true sexual freedom. Being at liberty to do something is not the same as being free, because conditions can be attached to liberty, whereas freedom is a state of being.

A totalitarian state might grant citizens the right to have sex with each other in any number of ways, subject to government and social approval or disapproval, but this would not constitute sexual freedom. Being given a government approved course on masturbation along with a manual illustrating various techniques, while seemingly tolerant, and seemingly supportive of sexual liberty, is actually less free than simply being left alone. Yet many people, given the manuals and training, and told that they have the government's permission to masturbate, might be dumb enough imagine that the government has actually "given" them something.

[We're the ever so tolerant liberal government, and we have a condom for your banana that the authoritarian right does not want you to have!]

I have long believed that at heart, the so-called sexually tolerant left is at least as sexually intolerant as the even the sexually intolerant right, and maybe even more so.

A study Glenn Reynolds links which shows a higher teen pregnancy rate in more religious areas of the country provides a classic illustration. Headlined "Teen birth rates highest in most religious states -- Link may be due to communities frowning on contraception, researchers say", the study focuses on attitudes about contraception:

U.S. states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth, a new study suggests.

The relationship could be due to the fact that communities with such religious beliefs (a literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance) may frown upon contraception, researchers say. If that same culture isn't successfully discouraging teen sex, the pregnancy and birth rates rise.

Mississippi topped the list for conservative religious beliefs and teen birth rates, according to the study results, which will be detailed in a forthcoming issue of the journal Reproductive Health. (See chart below.)

However, the results don't say anything about cause and effect, though study researcher Joseph Strayhorn of Drexel University College of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh offers a speculation of the most probable explanation: "We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself."

While there's plenty of discussion of the anti-contraception mentality, quite intriguingly, there is no mention of the anti-conception mentality. This certainly exists, and I think it is a major reason so many people in the Northeast and the West Coast recoiled in horror over the idea of a vice presidential candidate who cranked out babies and then returned to her job. You don't have to be a scientific expert conducting a study to know that having babies is frowned on in many liberal circles in much the same way that having an abortion is frowned on in conservative circles. These two opposing cultures simply do not react to "teen pregnancy" the same way. What might be an unforgivable horror to a Northern liberal parent might be a forgivable problem to Southern conservative.

Of course, as a way of lessening the horror, an abortion would be insisted upon by the liberal Northern parents. But that "solution" would be no solution at all to the Southern counterpart; it would be seen as a greater horror.

We all know that the question of whether pregnancy is a greater horror than an abortion touches on religion, but I don't think the religious issue involves solely the morality of abortion, or of contraception. The teen pregnancy study notes that religion may play a role, and while I think it does, I find myself wondering whether even that follows the standard narrative about religious people. Sure, if a girl gets pregnant, the religious view is that she sinned. But it was the extramarital sex that was the sin, not the pregnancy. Few devoutly religious people would punish the fetus for its mother's sin by aborting it. They might put it up for adoption, they might raise it, but by contrast, in the liberal home the most likely result would be an abortion.

As to having the child, that would be considered an absolute disgrace in many liberal homes. The expression the parents would use is "It will ruin your life to have an unwanted child!" Whether the girl wanted it would be irrelevant. There is a very unforgiving attitude where it comes to having a baby, and there is no religion to fall back on.

Despite my endless frustrations with politics, I'm endlessly intrigued by contradictions, and one of the reasons is because I believe that the more fearlessly contradictions are examined, the more the process leads to something resembling honesty. And I see a major contradiction where it comes to the issue of forgiving, which may touch on why the teen pregnancy rate is higher in religious homes.

You don't have to be religious to recognize that a forgivable error (a religious sin) is easier to live with than an unforgivable error (a non-religious sin). If a girl is told she has sinned, is not as hard on her as being told she has ruined her life. With the exception of certain harsh Calvinistic doctrines, most Christianity is noted for its ability to forgive, and many would argue that this goes to the very heart of Christianity itself. Take away the mechanism of forgiveness, and life gets a lot tougher.

The bottom line is that it would not surprise me to find that having a baby in a home where such a thing is an unforgivable sin would be a lot harder than having a baby in a home where the sex that led to the baby is a forgivable sin, and having the baby is not a sin at all.

Where does this leave someone like me who believes in sexual freedom? How is it "freedom" to tell people they shouldn't have children? We all hear about the cruelty inflicted on young gays by parents who try to tell them they can't be gay, and while I realize many liberal parents might support the right of their son to be gay, many of them would also absolutely freak out over their daughter having a baby, as if that was "worse." The visceral liberal fear of Sarah Palin having babies reminded me of the way some religious conservatives might have acted had a Democrats nominated a gay man to run for the vice presidency.

Isn't telling people not to have children is at least as oppressive as telling them that they should not prevent themselves from having children?

Isn't telling a girl she has to have an abortion at least as oppressive as telling her she has to bear a child?

So who has more sexual freedom? The girl in the uptight religious South? Or the girl in the cool, sexually liberated North? The answer is not as obvious as it might seem, and I think we are influenced by unquestioned cultural memes.

To carry this a step further, let's look at the nature of the relative "sin" involved. (I use the term loosely, for I realize that you have to be religious to recognize a true sin, but in both cases we are talking about morality.) In the religious home, the sin is having the sex that led to the pregnancy, whereas in the non-religious home the sin is not so much in having the sex but in allowing conception to occur. What is going on? It's as if when these two "sides" discuss teen pregnancy they are not talking about the same thing at all. Why not? Doesn't sexual freedom include what feminists call "reproductive freedom" -- which means the right to have children? (I'm assuming the term means what it says and is not code language meaning only the right to prevent pregnancy with contraception and abortion.) So why would one "side" think the sex is wrong but not the babies, while the other side thinks the babies are wrong but not the sex? If it's OK for teens to screw, then why is having babies being stigmatized?

And what about these mindless slogans?

There is nothing more tragic than an unwanted baby!

and

An unwanted child will ruin your life!

I'm sure that there are religious conservatives who would say,
There is nothing more tragic than an abortion!

and

Becoming gay will ruin your life!

But who decides what is tragic and what is wanted or unwanted?

I don't know how related this is, but I couldn't help noticing that both on the East Coast and in California, there's a growing antipathy to dogs having puppies -- to the point where laws are being passed right and left making un-neutered dogs illegal. Is it a coincidence that in the South where girls are allowed to have children, more dogs are also allowed to have puppies? And we say that the South is more uptight, less sexually liberated. What is "liberated" about a culture that regards people who breed dogs as akin to child molesters?

Anyway, I see many contradictions, and I am not inclined to make sweeping pronouncements about how conservatives hate sexual freedom more than liberals. It simply isn't true. Depending on how sexual freedom is defined, the opposite might be the case.

Who devotes more time these days to telling people what to do? I'm not just talking about been told to fix my dog. How about telling people -- and I mean adult American citizens -- that they cannot have sex with each other if one of them is a professional and the other a client. Or if one of them is a massage therapist. Or even a lawyer. Who created and facilitated the lynch mob mentality behind the false rape charges at Duke University, and more recently Hofstra? (And so many other places that many college students are afraid that having sex at all can open them up to rape charges.) What about the increasing trend to criminalize drunken sex? And how about the public outing of gays in the hope of ruining their careers?

Despite the chatter about conservative sexual uptightness, I don't see too many conservatives behind these things.

The idea that sexual authoritarianism is right wing may be the popular narrative, but it's another canard. It's amazing how many narrative turn out to be a canards if you take the time to look at them.

posted by Eric at 04:57 PM | Comments (3)



"Death Panels" Are A Reality For Young And Old Alike

The ugly truth of government rationing:

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.

Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away
...
"Forecasting death is an inexact science,"they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death "without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.


This is what a government healthcare system looks like. And it's not just those near the end of their lives; newborns are getting the axe too:
Doctors left a premature baby to die because he was born two days too early, his devastated mother claimed yesterday.

Sarah Capewell begged them to save her tiny son, who was born just 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy - almost four months early.

They ignored her pleas and allegedly told her they were following national guidelines that babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment.


Those pushing a quasi-socialist system with a "public option" (that proponents privately brag is a path to single-payer) claim such notions are just "scare tactics," even as Obama scares us with lies about cases of rescission, grossly exaggerates the number of people who need insurance, and pushes unconstitutional mandates that would force the young to subsidize health care for the old by calling people who don't carry health insurance "irresponsible."

Some will claim life expectancy and infant mortality statistics show U.S. healthcare is subpar. But these claims are as dishonest as Obama's speech the other day; that premature infant mentioned above was not only left to die without any care, he doesn't even get counted in their infant mortality statistics. This is beyond perverse: socialised countries set up rules saying if you are born too early or weigh too little at birth, you are not worth caring for or counting, then they trumpet their low infant mortality as evidence of how well their systems work. Only government could have the gall to let babies die and call it better quality care.

Furthermore, even with the American penalty for counting preemies as people, states like Hawaii and Minnesota have life expectancies as high as any in the world. This is because life expectancy is mostly driven by factors other than the state of national healthcare, as these maps demonstrate with a 10-year gap across the country.

The truth is there is very little about the status quo that can be improved with government intervention. American health care is the best in the world. We have the highest cancer survival rates, do twice as many transplants as Europe, have about twice as many MRIs per capita as the OECD average, and get new drugs an average of a year before Europe does.

Don't let them trick you into taking all that away. Learn the facts and demand to be heard.

posted by Dave at 11:03 AM | Comments (4)



If you strike off one head....

Dan Riehl (who watches Glenn Beck about as much as I do) criticizes the movement in the MSM and the liberal blogosphere to marginalize and eliminate Glenn Beck:

It appears to be We must marginalize and eliminate Glenn Beck Day in the media and liberal blogosphere. That's unsurprising, given a Tea Party movement that precedes Beck's timely and now somewhat prominent role in a broader effort meant to push back against the Federal Government.

The reality is said government now seems all but out of control in its current desire to grow and usurp individual liberty and the freedom to choose. Add in the 9/12 protests Beck did have a major role in, the incredible sales figures for Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny, which has nothing directly to do with Glenn Beck, and clearly someone senses there is trouble at hand and they need to lash out at someone if they can. However, they could run Glenn Beck off the air tomorrow and not much would change. Check that, it would probably only get worse for them.

I agree, and I hope they are so stupid as to go after Glenn Beck. As Glenn Reynolds has noted repeatedly,
If you strike him down, he will only . . . well, you know the rest.
I think that's a quote from.... probably something I didn't read, but sheesh! The expression is so popular that Google wouldn't let me get past "If you strike me..."

strikemedown_s.jpg

It's a line from a movie I saw when I was in my 20s, of course. But it's totally appropriate.

If I were running "The Left," I would not even attempt to "strike Glenn Beck down." Instead, I would embrace him as the new, de facto leader of "The Right," and I would henceforth drop the ridiculous, sexual-freedom-phobic "teabagger" expression and start calling the Tea Parties "The Glenn Beck Tea Party Movement" in the hope of sowing division in their ranks. Whenever Tea Parties are mentioned, always insert Glenn Beck as a modifier, and whenever Glenn Beck is mentioned, always add his new "title" -- "Leader of the Tea Party Movement." (Sure, it's an absolute lie, but absolute lies repeated enough become absolute truths.) And this would put Glenn Beck in the position of either denying being the Leader, or embracing the title.

Of course, it might not work, but it's a better strategy than attacking Beck and imagining he'll wither away and die. The biggest problem the left has with the Tea Parties is that they are too horizontal.

The goal here would be to verticalize, verticalize, verticalize.

You can't chop off a head that isn't there.

But fortunately, I'm not running the left, and they never listen to me. Every time I make one of these practical, "here's what I would do" suggestions, the left ignores it -- which is precisely why I'm making it. A good thing, too. No matter how annoyed I get from time to time at certain people on the right (mainly the Sex and Drug War types), they're only annoyances, because they mainly offer gratuitous moral advice, and while they might want to tell people what to do, they generally don't seek government power to do it. The left not only wants to tell people what to do, they mean to have it enforced. Ultimately at gunpoint.

So I'm glad I'm not running "The Left." You couldn't pay me enough, because I couldn't live with myself.

Of course, what if the left is thinking ahead? What if they're following the Star Wars strategy and deliberately trying to strike Glenn Beck down in the hope of building him up and making him stronger -- precisely along the lines of "If you marginalize me, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine"? If that would that end up verticalizing the Tea Party Movement, then there's really no downside for the left in continuing to marginalizing, is there?

Looking at the long run (and I do mean long run, as we're barely half a year into Barack Obama's first term) I don't think it will matter much either way. Because, if they think they can grow a head on a vertical movement and then cut it off, they are doomed to disappointment. A horizontal movement might grow a head here, and a head there, but if they are cut off, it will always be able to grow new ones.

Sounds like scifi or even the Book of Revelation, but it has solid grounding in ancient mythology.

So go ahead, and marginalize. Go ahead and verticalize. If you strike off one head, more will appear!

The left may be many things, but they are not Hercules.

MORE: To illustrate the idea that the more they demonize the heads, the more heads there are to demonize, I found this little gem:

demonheads.jpg

posted by Eric at 09:58 AM | Comments (4)



Munich II?

Obama's unilateral capitulation on missile defense is being met with alarm in countries that remember the Iron Curtain.

One is reminded of when Jimmy Carter cancelled the B-2 bomber, and sent his ambassador to ask the Russians what they would do in exchange. The Russian ambassador chortled and told our envoy "Sir, I am neither an altruist nor a pacifist."

The Czechs, of course, are worried that they have been down this road before.

posted by Dave at 09:21 AM | Comments (4)




Back When The Left Liked Israel

The group doing the singing is The Weavers. Pete Seeger was a member. Pete was a at one time a communist and as far as I know he is still on the left (he did repudiate Stalin).

H/T R. Dave via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:16 PM | Comments (2)



What happens there can happen here!
With barely contained anger I informed the nurse that keeping an ill, 84 year old woman in a hospital corridor for 18 hours was not the type of care that anyone should be expected to tolerate. In fact my cat receives better treatment from his vet.
That's just a chilling glimpse from this horror story about Canadian government health care.

There are always cranked-out stories floating around the Internet, and as a seasoned skeptic, I understand skepticism better than most people. But I have known the blogger who sent me this from the earliest days of this blog, and I can vouch for his integrity.

posted by Eric at 08:07 PM | Comments (3)



Leviticus "sting" video and other heresies

Speaking of being punked, Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen faced tough questions about Leviticus from what I suspect are atheist pranksters. (Possibly even of the sodomitic gay homo variety!)

The problem is, eventually he catches on, and becomes evasive, and he gets away without answering why he considers only some parts of Leviticus to be binding law, while others aren't.

I hate it when they do that.

The problem is that it would have taken a lot of time for the Archbishop to explain his views, which he does here. He thinks the Bible has to be seen in its entirety (which would put him at odds with the literalists, but which will not satisfy the anti-literalists, including yours truly).

He also doesn't think Barack Obama is the Messiah, a view which is probably heretical in some Christian circles.

No seriously. From Obama Messiah, here's OBAMA BE THY NAME:

I don't think that one's a sodomist sting operation. (At least I hope it isn't.)

Here are the lyrics:

OBAMA BE THY NAME

THY CHANGE SHALL COME

THY WILL BE DONE ...

The theme is also reflected in a wonderful series of essays by Timothy Noah, titled "Obama Messiah Watch."

Not to be confused with the literal Obama Messiah Watch, by the way. There's more than one variety. There are these, which would accessorize beautifully with the leftie Brooks Brothers look:

obamamessiahwatch_s.jpg

And there's this:

barack-obama-watch.jpg

I found the above at what can only be called an Obama Watch Watch, which features a series of pictures watching all watches that The One wears, or has worn, since childhood.

Like this:

ObamaFather.jpg

Unfortunately that picture has managed to do it for me. My love of surrealism and my paranoid conspiracy thinking have been simultaneously activated.

Now I'm afraid. Perhaps it's a symptom of the Obama End Times, but the conflation in my mind of surrealism and conspiracy thinking have forced me to consider an awful possibility. And because I have probably already offended nearly everyone with this useless post that trivializes All Things Sacred, I will share my theory with mankind for the first and hopefully only time.

Let me start by saying again that much as I think the Birthers have not proved their assertion that Barack Obama was born anywhere other than in Hawaii, there is something that strikes me as odd about his father. Perhaps I should say alleged father, for no one has ever applied the same DNA testing standard to him that the Trig Palin Birthers want applied to Sarah Palin's child. So we have only his mother's word for it that the father of her baby was Barack Obama Sr. Hospitals and governments take the mother's word in these cases as a matter of routine, and in fact, DNA testing is never done unless legal disputes arise. For example, my birth certificate states that I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to my mom, and while I am pretty confident that this is true, can I really claim with 100% absolute scientific certainty that I know there wasn't a switcheroo of some sort? And even if I believe my mom, how do I really know my dad was my dad? Again, DNA testing was never done. But I'm not running for office, so no one cares.

But enough about me. The real issue here is the Messiahship of Barack Obama. I have scrutinized pictures of him and his family, and I see distinct resemblances between him and his mother, and even between him and his grandfather, but -- and this is a highly significant but --

The man simply does not resemble his "father."

Now why might that be?

If we allow for the possibility that he is the Messiah (since we must, for many people believe he is, and religious views must always be accorded respect, right?), then his father would be God, and he would not look like any earthly man, would he? Seen this way, his father becomes a sort of Joseph-like figure, cuckolded by God and going along with cosmic events for reasons best known to him. (This might explain his subsequent drinking problem, but who knows?) No one knows what God looks like, but a number of congregations assert that Jesus was -- and probably still is -- black. And if Jesus was black, then there's already a precedent for messiahs being black, and it would mean that God is black. And why not? Surely no one can assert with any confidence that God is white, and as to the painting in the Sistine Chapel, I don't think it is reasonable to believe that Michelangelo painted God from life. Furthermore, we have to remember that the man was painting to please his benefactors, who were for the most part white Medici guys who probably would not have taken kindly to a painting of a black Yahweh in their chapel.

Little wonder the Birthers aren't demanding any sort of DNA testing! They might have to rewrite Merovingian conspiracy theories, Holy Grail theories, and even best selling books like The Da Vinci Code.

I'm glad they're not, because I'd never be able to keep up. As it is, there are too many serious things to take seriously at one time.

posted by Eric at 11:54 AM | Comments (8)




ex post facto jackass punk issues

Detroit Free Press Web Editor Mark W. Smith advances the speculative claim that Kanye West's interruption of Taylor's Video Music Award acceptance was a hoax, and that "we have all been punked":

What started as a rapper behaving badly quickly transformed into a three-act opus of tweeted outrage, must-see TV and tearful apologies, spanning three networks and generating millions of video views across the Web.

We all know the story: Kanye West stole the spotlight Sunday from Taylor Swift, snatching her microphone to tell that world that it was Beyoncé who deserved the teen's first Video Music Award.

All the parties involved -- the now infamous West, the innocent Swift, the classy Beyoncé -- stood to gain from a bit of drama.

So, have we all been taken for a ride?

In a world where scandals spread instantly across social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, MTV was positioned to gain the most from a buzzworthy moment.

So that means everything (including the apology from West) was all part of this elaborate showbiz hoax. Connect the dots, folks!
The network did its part by making the incident available for viewing almost immediately on its Web site, even before the show ended on the East Coast. And then, in a game of "media whack-a-mole" as the New York Times calls it, MTV instantly began to flag versions of the video on YouTube uploaded by Regular Joes, ensuring anyone who wanted to see the video would have to end up at MTV's Web site.

To its credit, MTV did also make the video easily embeddable elsewhere (and we took full advantage of that here on Browser), but of course MTV still rakes in the video views.

Oh, and don't mind that pesky ad ...

It was a publicity stunt! Just like the way Sacha Baron Cohen jumped on Eminem to promote "Bruno":
MTV is no stranger to award show hoaxes. During the network's Movie Awards in June, Sacha Baron Cohen descended from the rafters dressed as the flamboyantly gay character Bruno, landing on Eminem's lap wearing a thong and angel wings.

Eminem played his part, feigned outrage and left the award show. The next day, sources told Entertainment Weekly it was a publicity stunt to promote the movie "Bruno."

Naturally, Jay Leno is accused of being in on the hoax:
On Day 2, the West-Swift scandal's wealth spread to NBC Universal and its much-hyped premiere of Jay Leno's new show.

West was previously scheduled to perform -- along with Jay-Z and Rihanna -- but the show was reorganized to include a three-minute interview with the rapper.

Before the interview, Leno was unusually clear that the interview was a last-minute add and not planned.

Leno had the watercooler moment of the night when he asked West what his mother would have thought of the outburst. West's mother died in 2007 from botched cosmetic surgery.

What followed was 20 seconds of silence and emotional reflection from West: TV gold.

Leno's prime-time premiere was seen by 18 million people, beating expectations.

There's more. "West is a showman," "buzz is becoming harder to generate," and "all indications are that this was a well-orchestrated effort on the part of a savvy West to ride a wave of public outrage."

Using similar logic, you could say that anything was a publicity stunt.

At any time.

That's the cool thing about it; you could even get the parties themselves to agree (after the fact of course), that what happened was deliberate, and had been planned that way.

I'd be willing to bet that we'll see more such "publicity stunts."

What I can't figure out is whether Barack Obama also got punked, or whether MTV paid him to call West a "jackass."

posted by Eric at 11:12 PM | Comments (4)



Texas Style

These folks are not native Hebrew speakers. They don't do the hard "ch" right. Still. I loved it! Klezmer style - Mickey Katz would be proud. (check out "Kiss of Meyer" a Yiddish classic I loved as a kid)

Here are some Chinese who do the hard "ch" (Ashkenazi pronunciation) better. Funny. They don't look Jewish.

Here is a jazzed up version (Klezmer style, Sephardic pronunciation) by a native Hebrew speaker.

Surfer version by Dick Dale.

H/T R. Dave via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:03 PM | Comments (5)



We are all "racists" now. Except for the racists.

I realize distinctions can be tedious, but here I go again.

Yesterday I complained about how sick I am of having to play offense.

my natural distaste for joining what often seems like a constant stream of daily attacks, cranked out every day, all the time, is compounded by a creepy and irrational feeling that if I don't join in, I am on the side of the president, which politically I am not.
Well, there's something else I'm sick of, and that is the constant stream of daily accusations of racism, cranked out every day, all the time.

All summer long, I've been hearing that if you oppose socialized medicine, you're a "racist."

And the latest is that if you say the president lies, you're a "racist."

That canard had to be given the highest seal of approval they could find, so they trotted out the doddering Jimmy Carter, known mainly in recent years for hobnobbing with Michael Moore and defending the anti-Semitism in his book. A great one to talk.

Sorry, but in my 55 years I have not yet lived to see an American president who was not called a liar. Every president is called a liar. It is almost a job description.

I'm totally in agreement with Ann Althouse who slammed Jimmy Carter and who said "it is not acceptable to have a President who can't be criticized."

Jimmy Carter is doing something that, before the election, he would not have revealed that he planned to do. It is a low and despicable political move that he should be ashamed of.

And since demanding apologies is all the rage, let me say that I would like the wizened old husk of a former President to beg our forgiveness.

This is old, old, old. It's so not new that Glenn Reynolds links a post of over a year ago:
I can think of no better reason to vote against Obama than the prospect of an administration where any criticism of the President is treated as racism.
Hey, don't look at me; I voted against racism, and for that I became a "racist." As Ann Althouse put it,
It is racist to say that it's racist to criticize a black President, because you are being patronizing and you are saying that a black person needs to be coddled and protected in some special way that doesn't apply to white people.
I agree, which means the hurlers of the "racist" charge are racists.

As Ace noted earlier, 55% of the country is now officially "racist."

But as we all know, the "racists" lost the election. And the racists won.

Sick as I am of this, I do see a bright side. If we live in a country where "racism" is defined as meaning opposing government health care, or saying the president lied, it makes it a lot easier to be a "racist," and takes the sting out of the word.

That does not alter the fact that my poor aching "racist" fingers, callused as they are, are very sick of having to put quotes around the word.

But I have to, because how else are we to distinguish between the racists and the "racists"?

posted by Eric at 07:32 PM | Comments (11)



ACORN Is Looking For A Few Good Gynecologists - Or Is Bill Gates In Favor Of Child Prostitution?

By now you are familiar with the ACORN Child Prostitution ring scandal. If not watch this video. Or you could watch this video. Among others.

Well ACORN is embarrassed and plans to investigate what went wrong and who is to blame.

ACORN, calling the actions of some of its employees "indefensible," has suspended advising new clients as part of its service programs and is setting up an independent review to see what happened.

ACORN chief executive Bertha Lewis said in a written statement that she was "ordering a halt to any new intakes into ACORN's service programs until completion of an independent review."

Is the investigation going to be on the up and up? What do you think?

One way to tell is to see how they intend to do the investigation.

In addition, she said, "ACORN's independent Advisory Council will help select an independent auditor/reviewer no later than September 18th to review all of the systems and processes called into question by the videos."

In early 2009, ACORN set up an independent Advisory Council to help put together a new management team under Lewis. Lewis was appointed to the job in the fall of 2008 after disclosure of a set of improper management decisions by the founder of the organization.

The Advisory Council includes John Podesta, president of the liberal Center for American Progress; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland; Andrew Stern, international president of Service Employees International Union; Henry Cisneros, a former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; John Banks, vice president of Government Relations Con Ed; and Eric Eve, senior vice president of Global Consumer Group, Community Relations, of Citigroup.

John Podesta? President of a liberal Center? Yeah. He is going to go after them with tooth and nail.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend? A member of the Kennedy clan. Is she going to make the Democrats look bad by bringing down the hammer on ACORN? Sure. Why wouldn't she do the right thing?

Andy Stern whose SEIU is tied at the hip with ACORN? I'm sure he will show considerable independent judgment. NPR (yeah that NPR) has the story:

ACORN's biggest union backer, the Service Employees International Union, gave more than $4 million to the community organization and its affiliates from 2006-07, according to Dept. of Labor filings. One SEIU local union, the Illinois Homecare Workers and Home Childcare Providers, sprouted from ACORN's organizing efforts and pays rent to ACORN.

ACORN's affiliates also pick up money from the Change to Win labor federation, the Food and Commercial Workers Union and the United Federation of Teachers, among others.

Henry Cisneros of HUD? Yeah right.
...the Department of Housing and Urban Development gave ACORN Housing Corp. $8.2 million from 2003 to 2006, according to USAspending.gov. ACORN Housing provides counseling, classes, and access to special loans to low-income homebuyers. HUD has given another $1.6 million to other ACORN affiliates since 2003.
Henry would have absolutely no reason to sweep anything under the rug. None at all.

John Banks of Com Ed? I got nothing on him. Yet.

Eric Eve of Citi Group? Citi got $45 billion in TARP funds. Are they going to do any thing to unduly embarrass the government and threaten their gravy train? Nope. This particular abortion will get buried as expeditiously as possible with a minimum of fuss.

How about some other connections.

...Project Vote -- the voter mobilization organization that works closely with and draws its leadership from ACORN -- paid ACORN and an affiliate $5.4 million in 2006. But where does Project Vote get its money? Normally it's hard to tell, but we obtained a 2006 tax return showing the nonprofit's funders, including: $4.5 million from the charitable trust of the investment management firm Vanguard; $425,000 from the Bauman Family Foundation, which also gives to the People for the American Way; and $396,000 from the liberal phone company Working Assets.
How about that Project Vote? Well I have some dirt on them. Mr. Obama did some legal work for them.

How about foundations supporting ACORN?

The foundations that give to ACORN & Co. vary widely. There are some classically liberal ones: The Bauman Family Foundation gave $350,000 to ACORN's American Institute for Social Justice. George Soros' Open Society Institute gave $300,000 to that institute and $250,000 to ACORN proper. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation gave the institute $1.8 million.

But some of the biggest donors are mainstream foundations of big corporations, according to data from the Foundation Center. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation gave $2.4 million to ACORN Housing and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation gave $1.4 million. Citigroup's foundation gave $1.5 million to the social justice institute.

Other major donors include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave $1.4 million for an education reform campaign. The Ford Foundation has given $1.3 million, including $257,000 this year for "public education and technical assistance to grassroots groups working to expand access to the Earned Income Tax Credit, living wage ordinances and paid sick days." Foundations affiliated with the late founder of the United Parcel Service gave a combined $6.4 million.

Just what kind of education do Bill and Melinda support for Salvadoran child prostitutes? Something better than what the ACORN folks had in mind I hope.

How about individuals?

The 527 organization Fund for America was set up last year by top liberal donors and operatives to help fund pro-Democratic organizations this election season, but it ended up folding. The Fund, itself bankrolled by George Soros and others, gave $200,000 to ACORN.

ACORN has also had its own affiliated 527s. Communities Voting Together, for example, was founded to "educate and mobilize low income voters in key communities in key battleground states in the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections, focusing on Latino and African-American neighborhoods." The group received $125,000 from film producer Jeanne Levy-Hinte; $100,000 from environmentalist donor John R. Hunting, whose wealth comes from the Steelcase office furniture company; $80,000 from the president of Working Assets, and $70,000 from Linda Pritzker of the Hyatt fortune.

There's a lot more to ACORN's financial picture that we can't complete here. ACORN's network is complex, and money often transfers from one affiliate to another, making it hard for outsiders to keep track of it all. But one thing is for sure: ACORN is busy.

For sure they have been busy. Doing one of the biggest money laundering schemes in America.

Linda Pritzker has quite a family. Take her Cousin Penny.

...lets start with a well known Chicago name Penny Pritzker. It starts with a bank failure.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the case for the 1,406 people who lost much of their life savings when Superior Bank of Chicago went belly up in 2001 with over $1 billion in insured and uninsured deposits. This collapse came amid harsh criticism of how Superior's owners promoted sub-prime home mortgages. As part of a settlement, the owners paid $100 million and agreed to pay another $335 million over 15 years at no interest.

The uninsured depositors were dealt another blow recently when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision to put any recovered money toward the debt that the bank owners owe the federal government before the depositors get anything.

But this seven-year-old bank failure has relevance in another way today, since the chair of Superior's board for five years was Penny Pritzker, a member of one of America's richest families and the current Finance Chair for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, the same candidate who has lashed out against predatory lending.

How charming. A family that looks out for the little people.

Well there you have it. The team of gynecologists in charge of doing the internal investigation of ACORN. And some of their connections.

In my opinion this will not be over until ACORN, SEIU, Project Vote, and every one connected with them goes down. If you find out stuff about them I can use send it to me. Or blog it yourself. And don't forget to save every incriminating page in your own computer. Just in case they try to disappear the evidence.

Happy hunting.

H/T Instapundit along with many other links.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:20 PM | Comments (2)



Vanguard Of The Proletariat

American Thinker has an interesting article up about the 9/12 protests. Several in the comments noted that it was a movement with no leader. That got me thinking about the Marxist concept of the Vanguard of the Proletariat. Or in more common parlance - Leaders of the Revolution. What we saw on 9/12 turns that whole concept on its head. The Proletariat IS the Vanguard.

How exactly is Mr. Obama going to defeat such a movement in the traditional way i.e. by taking out the agitators and leaders? So far he and the Democrats have attempted to do it by insulting the citizens involved. A tactic similar to what was used on Sarah Palin. This has only served to get more citizens involved. We are all Sarah Palin now.

And Sarah, like this movement, is no friend of Republicans or Democrats. She is a friend of the vanguard. A friend of the proletariat.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:05 PM | Comments (4)



"This is a private video."

Over at the website of the producers of the ACORN child prostitution videos, I found a YouTube link to a film titled "BROKEBACK PRIESTS: PRIESTS TELL GAYS TO STAY GAY" described this way:

Ben and James go undercover in Boston and get homosexual advice from two Reformed "Catholic" Franciscan Ministers.

Here's the "embed":

But if you try to start it, all it says is this:

This is a private video. If you have been sent this video, please make sure you accept the sender's friend request.
What's up with that? Why is it being marked private? Does anyone know what that means? Is it another example of YouTube censorship?

It can't be that the film makers don't want to let people to watch their film, because otherwise why have it up at their website? Every other YouTube link works except the one for BROKEBACK PRIESTS.

I don't know whether I would like the video or agree with the premise, but I'd like to see it.

posted by Eric at 02:02 PM | Comments (1)



"And I shot him. And he died. Right there."

While I have no problem with paid sex between consenting adults, like M. Simon I have a major problem with prostitution involving children. (Which I define as those under the age of consent.) And I have a bigger problem with ACORN than I do with even the corrupt child prostitution advocacy that is leading to the organization's downfall, because I think socialism and Communism are worse than aiding and abetting child prostitution.

It does appear, though, that the ACORN employee who appears in the latest video might have been lying when she said she killed her husband. That does not mean that ACORN is anything less than a thoroughly corrupt outfit; in fact it only drives the point home further.

But I'm wondering why she would say that she killed her husband if she did not.

Dialogue from the video:

Then I just picked up the gun and said f*** you

I shot him, I shot him (in self defense yeah)

And I shot him. And he died. Right there.

Assuming Hannity's commenters are right, why would she lie about something like that? Is she crazy? Was something else going on? If so, then what?

Any ideas?

posted by Eric at 01:28 PM | Comments (1)



But aren't certain ideas outside the conservative mainstream?

A post by Ann Althouse got me thinking about agents provocateur, and frankly, it's giving me the heebie jeebies.


Thanks to all my readers who gave immediate and overnight pushback to a vile new commenter...

... who I assume was pro-Obama and writing under a pseudonym here with the object of making this blog -- and more generally, criticism of Obama -- look racist. This coward put up his comment on my 9:50 p.m. post -- "Should the President be insulting pop stars?" -- at 11:52, presumably to maximize the time that it would be up on the blog and that it would sit here as long as possible before I would take it down, which I did as soon as I got on the blog this morning at around 9 (Central Time).

The commenter, Metlife, had never posted here before and had a profile showing that he'd joined Blogger just this month. He wrote -- and the asterisks are mine: "can someone murder that f***ing n***** fast? It will be a good day when Hussein is murdered by one of our southern patriots."

My suspicion is that the commenter is an agent provocateur, and I think there will be more of them.

I wouldn't have written a post about this, except I stumbled onto an interesting tidbit I hadn't known about before -- that the AR15-holding black man (who the MSM tried to characterize as white) was a member of a crackpot "church" run by a "Pastor Steven Anderson." The latter says he hates Barack Obama because God wants him to:

"God Hates Barack Obama, I hate Barack Obama. I hate Him. God wants me to Hate Barack Obama." "Someone who commits murder should get the death penalty."
Not only does Anderson pray for Barack Obama to die, but he doesn't think it would be murder if someone killed him.

Nor does he think it is murder to kill gays.

MS: You want all gay people to be executed, correct?
SA: That is correct. It is what the Bible teaches.
MS: If somebody were to go out with a machine gun and spray down a crowd of gay and lesbian people, would you think that was okay?
SA: I would not think it's okay because I believe in due process.
MS: Whould that person be a murderer?
SA: No, I would not judge them as a murderer, no.
As far as I'm concerned, the guy is a whackjob, even if he does make amusing videos about how real men pisseth on the walls. Maybe whether he is in fact an agent provocateur like Fred Phelps shouldn't be the point so much as who he is really helping.

As far as I am concerned, Anderson is helping the pro-Obama left, whether he is doing so deliberately or not. Countless left wing bloggers are doing everything they can to link this nut to the right wing. Those right-of-center bloggers who have taken the time to check him out have of course condemned him, and so did this Ron Paul site. But because he has tried to insinuate himself into the Tea Party movement he has also been praised (most likely by people who really aren't familiar with him).

I'm no different. If someone appears to be "on my side," I'm generally reluctant to criticize him, and it never occurred to me that the black guy with the AR15 was anything but a hard core libertarian gun nut.

Anyway, because the guy with the AR15 is one of "Pastor" Steven Anderson's congregants who listened to the "Why I Hate Barack Obama" sermon shortly before his gun-toting escapade, I think it's relevant. Andrew Breitbart has a video here of the whole uncut "sermon." (I warn you, it is very long, probably too long for most people to get through.)

A theologian I am not, but I did a little digging and learned that Anderson has been criticized from a religious perspective by people who seem to know him back when he was in Hammond, IN:

Pastor Steve Anderson has twisted some basic Bible doctrines, perverting the truth of Scripture. What is truly sad is that he teaches his wife, children, and church his doctrines. Pastor Anderson rarely spends time anymore discussing Scripture, preferring instead to provoke fights with police officers, dragging the name of Christ through the mud as he attacks the United States government, praying that Obama will be killed and his wife and children left widowed and fatherless. One must pray for his salvation.
Then there's this plea from an apparently disgruntled member of his "congregation":
*WE ARE AFRAID OF STEVEN L. ANDERSON, HIS WIFE, HIS FOLLOWERS AND EVERYONE THAT BELONGS TO FAITHFUL WORD BAPTIST CHURCH, IF ANYTHING HAPPENS TO US, WE HOLD EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF FAITHFUL WORD BAPTIST CHURCH AND HIS SUPPORTERS RESPONSIBLE TO ANY HARM THAT WOULD BE CAUSED TO OUR FAMILY, WE HAVE BE THREATENED TO BE PHYSICALLY ATTACKED INSIDE FAITHFUL WORD BAPTIST CHURCH BUILDING IN TEMPE, AZ AND I DAVID EDWARDS WAS THREATENED ON THE PHONE BY STEVEN L. ANDERSON TO BE PHYSICALLY THROWN OUT IF I OR MY FAMILY GOT CLOSE TO HIS CHURCH, WHICH WE DON'T HAVE ANY DESIRE TO DO, NOW OR EVER.*

TO ALL THE READERS:
PLEASE HELP! POST THIS ALL OVER THE INTERNET, WE CANNOT GET INTO HELEN'S BLOG AT ALL.

I have no idea what that's about and I cannot verify it, but considering what a nut the "pastor" is, it seemed worth including.

As I said, I have no idea whether Anderson is in fact an agent provocateur. No idea where he came from, what he may have been taught, or where he might have been taught it.

And I know even less about his apparent follower -- other than the fact that not long after listening to the "sermon," he showed up with the AR15, and he also expressed the hope that Barack Obama would die.

But I remembered an interesting comment thread at Jeff Soyer's blog. There are few stauncher Second Amendment advocates than Jeff (my original blogfather), but even he had serious reservations about the AR15 guy. However (as Jeff noted wryly),

if the White House has no problem . . .
I like the dot dot dot.

While one commenter approvingly called the man "Chris the Libertarian," commenter Mike O was not as convinced, and seemed to think the White House knew all about him:

They especially would be, since the most heavily armed individual (AR15) was part of the pro-Obama group in Arizona. I love how the media tries to trim down the picture to only the guy's shirt and gun (to hide the fact the bearer is black) when they imply that he was a member of the anti-Obama forces (when he definitively was not). And naturally, there is no interviews with him; it might turn out his intent was to intimidate the dissenters.
Another commenter asked,
I wonder what gives with that turn of events?
And another expressed a more paranoid thought:
A dark, cynical, and suspicious thought: this attitude by the socialist bastard makes me wonder if he wants somebody to take a shot at him. What could possibly discredit the protests more than a nut with a concealed-carry permit trying to kill the president in public? Opposition to both socialist health care and gun control would be completely marginalized, instantly.
It is worrisome to me, but of course this is all pure speculation, and speculation can lead to paranoid conspiracy thinking, much to the delight of agent provocateurs (like Alex Jones, who interviewed the "pastor" after he was allegedly arrested and brutalized).

What is not speculation is that there are people with very wacky ideas out there running around. There are, in fact, radical extremists who really do believe believe in killing homosexuals in order to uphold their interpretation of Biblical law. These people are not mainstream, and I don't think it would be fair to call them conservative. Not only won't I call them conservative, I won't even call them right wing, as I don't think advocacy of killing homosexuals is a right wing position.

Anyone who thinks it is, please explain. I'm all ears. Opposition to gay marriage is one thing, and I'm a compromiser.... But this? I can't believe I'm even having to discuss it in a blog post.

Let me just say that if -- and I do mean if -- the penumbra (the big tent) of conservative thought includes the belief that homosexuals should be killed, then conservatism as a legitimate political force is doomed. And should be.

Whether my fears are legitimate or not, for years I have been concerned about a well-funded, well-organized religious outfit which holds precisely that belief -- that homosexuals should be killed. I refer to Chalcedon, founded by the late R.J. Rushdoony. I was first alerted to their stealthy, even hegemonic presence back in the mid 1990s, when I saw a full page ad the Washington Times featuring a conference led by Rushdoony and a number of prominent conservatives, whose pictures were featured in the ad along with Rushdoony. When I learned what the man thought about executing homosexuals, it gave me pause. And it gave me the creeps that "conservatives" would be sharing the stage and promoting him at a conference major enough to be running a full page ad in America's leading right wing newspaper.

This is not a question of free speech. Rushdoony and his ilk have just as much right to articulate their views as Holocaust deniers (which Rushdoony has been accused of being, BTW...) It's a question of what is part of conservatism, and it is just as legitimate to raise questions about whether Rushdoonyites are welcome in conservative circles as it is to ask whether Bill Ayers is welcome in liberal circles.

Nor is the question one of guilt by association. Just as in the case with Bill Ayers, it's not so much whether someone has a connection with a loon, but whether they endorse, agree with, or think the loon's views should be part of the mainstream.

As to what is mainstream, and what constitutes endorsement of lunatic views, the devil is in the details. But to me, being a follower of a loon who advocates killing homosexuals crosses a certain line. Along with others, I objected when Tom McClintock's campaign manager was found to be a Rushdoonyite, because I don't think such people should have legitimacy in conservative circles.

Much to my horror, I was reminded recently that Rushdoony followers are alive and well in conservative circles. At least this one is:

A contact kindly forwards me a new interview with Doug Giles, posted at the Chalcedon Foundation. Giles relates his early years as a junkie (although the youthful arrests for burglary are no longer part of his shtick) and how a charismatic church caused him to "clean up" his act (no mention of His People either). However, these charismatics were "defeatist", so he turned to Rousas Rushdoony, now deceased but whose sinister visage frowns out from the Chalcedon page.....
There is an important distinction between Rushdoony's group (who keep their advocacy of killing homosexuals discreet) and the raving lunatics of the Fred Phelps/Pastor Steven Anderson variety. The latter rave while the former quietly insinuate themselves -- in a determined manner that reminds me of the Communist Party -- into positions of leadership and, if you will, respectability. Their goal is legitimacy and power. Giles is a respected Townhall blogger, and his daughter (of recent ACORN sting fame) seems to be doing quite well for herself too. Whether her father believes in the book on his desk and actually wants to kill homosexuals, who knows? (I am not the first to ask "is Doug a Charismatic Reconstructionist, but downplaying his links with the movement in order to reach a wider audience?") Wider audience is right. But what does he mean when he says
The thing I like about Rushdoony and the others -- they know we're gonna win this thing.
What is this this "thing"? Does his up-and-coming daughter share her father's views?

Or is it rude of me to ask? (As I explained yesterday, I don't like to go on the offensive, and I try to be polite. Is there a polite way to ask about such things?)

All I can say -- and I mean this sincerely -- is that I hope she doesn't approve of killing homosexuals. I can't believe I'm even saying that or imagining that she might think such a thing. But there are people do think such things, and what would Rushdoony's book that advocates them be doing on her father's desk? I raise these questions not merely because I don't want such views to be a part of the mainstream, but because I absolutely loathe ACORN, and I wouldn't want them to be able to claim that they were the victims of a group of people who believe homosexuals should be killed.

I'd be a lot more comfortable if the man would state for the record whether he agrees with Rushdoony that homosexuals should be killed.

If someone in a similar position of power and influence had the works of Stalin or Mao on his desk, I'd also have questions.

And I'd be called a "red baiter" for asking whether they approved of mass murder, because supporting Communism is acceptable to the mainstream.

(I hope that asking conservatives whether they approve of killing homosexuals is a fair question, and not "Rushdoony-baiting.")

UPDATE: My research has alleviated any concerns I might have had about Doug Giles. He may have Rushdoony's book on his desk, but in his Townhall blog, he makes it quite clear that he does not agree with executing people for homosexuality:

...before the reflexive left gets there neckerchiefs and their thongs in an irreversible knot, I'm not homophobic. And I couldn't care less what adults do with other adults in the privacy of their own homes. If men want to have sex with other men, let 'em have at it. Just don't expect me to wear a special ribbon in support of it or to cheer it on during the Testicle Parade when you march through my city, OK?

The axe I have to grind is with the criminal advocacy of men seducing and raping underage boys.
OK, that's fair enough for me. (And I wasn't planning on marching in his city's Testicle Parade, so I don't expect any special ribbons!)

Moreover, Coco and I both liked what he said about pit bulls:

The pit bull epitomizes courage and persistence. They are little, scrappy warriors who will not back down. They face difficulties with a win-or-die perspective. They love the battle . . . they love the heat . . . they love the fight . . . and everything that is good, praiseworthy and noble comes through difficulty.
Yeah, and it can be difficult sometimes.

I'm just glad to have found those quotes.

I of all people should remember that it is possible to admire even a crackpot like Rushdoony without agreeing with everything he said.

posted by Eric at 12:26 PM | Comments (5)




Feeling positive about being negative

Dan Riehl has a very thoughtful post titled "Why The Right's New Energy Needs A Positive Approach," in which he discusses the distinction between defense and offense:

...we've also been playing defense for many years, having to defend the Bush administration, particularly due to the war effort, as it was. Things have changed. It's the Left that has to play defense now. Based on my experience, that can wear you down over time. So, I actually believe we have even more good things to look forward to as the landscape shifts and we surge our way to the mid-terms in 2010.

But defense against a tough adversary can develop a certain mindset. Sometimes it felt as if we almost had to slash and burn everyday just to stay in the game. We have the chance to play offense, now - and offense in a political context often requires a different approach, in part.

There's a lot more, but I want to focus on what has been wearing me down over time. Now, I'm not saying this is all about me, but to the extent that it affects my ability to blog, then it is.

I am, by my nature, more of a defender than an attacker. I can't stand mobs, crowds, or group think of any kind. Even when I agree with what they're thinking, if a lot of people are thinking the same way, I tend to question it, even if that means questioning my own premises. OTOH, if someone is being attacked, my instinct is to defend that person. It makes little difference whether that person is in the wrong; I just can't stand group attacks. It borders on a phobia, and it may be some sort of neurosis grounded in childhood, as I have been that way for as long as I can remember. The thing is, this natural tendency I have made it a lot easier to blog when Bush was president, because whether I agreed with him or not, he was under attack all the time. By the left. And while Bush was not my idea of an ideal president, I couldn't stand the left. Every time I went to a party and heard the usual endless attacks on him, I'd look forward to coming back to my blog to even the score. (For those with short memories, in those days, merely trying to point out in the nicest, most polite, most indirect manner that Bush was not a moron and Cheney was not Satan was seen as an affront to common morality and decency.)

To say things are not the same now is an understatement. My political philosophy has not changed one iota, but I face a serious problem in that the psychological dynamics of who is supposed to be attacking and who is supposed to be defending are completely inverted. From a purely psychological standpoint, I don't like seeing anyone hounded by a mob. Not even Barack Obama. And while I'm sorry to say this, the idea of joining in a mob sickens me to the core of my very existence. Again, this is not political, but psychological, and I fear that it cannot but affect my blogging.

In the seven months since January 20, blogging has worn me down as it never did before. Everything is seen as suspect, because everything is suspect.

I oppose socialism and I oppose Barack Obama, and I still think what I have always thought, but my natural distaste for joining what often seems like a constant stream of daily attacks, cranked out every day, all the time, is compounded by a creepy and irrational feeling that if I don't join in, I am on the side of the president, which politically I am not.

But what if psychologically I am?

There is something about a mob mentality that makes me naturally feel a certain affinity with whomever or whatever it attacks, even if I think the person being attacked is human scum. (Yes, I would most likely defend a known child molester from a lynch mob. Or an accused dogfighter from animal rights activists, as long as he isn't dog torturer Michael Vick, whom the animal rights mob loves.)

Considering that even saying that Obama is the president is enough to trigger fierce debate in some circles, where does that leave me?

The worst thing about this is that it often feels like a hopeless no-win. And nothing wears me down like being in a no-win. If I join in the attacks (which I often do), then I feel as if I'm with the attackers and it wears me down. If, OTOH, I don't join in the attacks, then I'm running the risk of appearing to be "on the side of Barack Obama" and that wears me down. Either way, it wears me down, dammit!

As I just said this began on January 20, I thought I'd go back and do a post mortem on my post from that fateful, awful day. I did not want to watch the inauguration, much less blog about it, and I literally had to drag myself to the only working television set, which was still sitting in my former office (a converted garage):

Oath2_s.jpg

Not only that, but I was actually worried about the Confederate battle flag on the wall behind the empty aquarium, so I cropped the photo of the swearing in.

Should I have? (Interestingly, you can still see the edges of it just behind the aquarium. It had been there for many years, not as an endorsement of the Confederacy, but as a decoration, and I didn't want it to be seen as having any political significance, much less as an attack on the brand-new president.)

On that bleak, depressing day, I was literally grasping at straws, trying to find something, um, maybe, er, patriotic? to say:

It is obvious to me that Bush likes Barack Obama, and it served as a much-needed reminder that we have a new president, and he's the president of the entire country.

Painful as it might be for cynical worrywarts like yours truly, I think we should all wish him and his administration well.

I guess that shows by today's standards what a secret Obama sympathizer sellout I was all along. Just like that NWO commie Bush! Silly me. (Never mind that I can't stand what's happening to the country. How many times and in how many ways can I say that?)

This whole setup of playing offense sucks. Big time.

I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit it.

In a nutshell, my problem is that because I like defending people, I consider defense to be a positive thing. So for years I could feel positive about being positive. But because I dislike attacking people, I consider offense to be a negative thing. So it's tough for me to feel positive about what I consider a negative, and it's even tougher to feel negative about being positive.

It can wear you down over time.

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (5)



Kaelian frogs and Obama's pot

Speaking of political surrealism, did you know that if you boil Pauline Kael slowly, she won't jump out of the pot?

And no frog ever knew a frog that actually voted for Nixon!

Both statements are absolutely true.

Honestly, I don't see why people have to be so nit-picky, but Glenn Reynolds was taken to task for citing the apparently apocryphal anecdote about Pauline Kael. The whole thing reminded me that it's sometimes tough to blog about anything. You can't just speak your mind and be done with it.

(I've had repeated trouble with slowly boiled frogs, but I got away with Kaelianism. Twice! And it's too late for nitpickers to correct me as the comments expired long ago. Nyah nyah!)

OTOH, I did get in trouble for quoting a famous Churchill remark (about "fearful fatalistic apathy") that was supposedly later retracted. And because he retracted it, I was told I shouldn't cite it! Nor should I have called Ann Coulter a "cute blonde bombshell!"

As to why the Kaelian frogs refuse to jump out of Obama's pot, I'm thinking it has something to do with fearful fatalistic apathy.

posted by Eric at 09:45 AM | Comments (3)



Are they elected, or are they rulers?

Just when I thought it was safe to go to bed, I saw a very scary post from Glenn Reynolds:

A GOVERNMENT THAT FEARS ITS PEOPLE: SONIC WEAPONS USED IN IRAQ POSITIONED AT CONGRESSIONAL TOWNHALL MEETINGS IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY.
The link went to this very ominous development:
September 11, 2009 (San Diego) - "Long-range acoustic devices [LRADs] for crowd control can be extremely dangerous. These are used in Iraq to control insurgents. They can cause serious and lasting harm to humans...We want to know WHY our Sheriff Dept has this weapon," Sal Magallanez of San Diego-based Liberty One Radio said in an e-mail sent to East County Magazine, prompting a joint investigation.

The device was stationed by San Diego County Sheriff deputies at a recent town hall forum hosted by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) in Spring Valley and at a subsequent town hall with Congressman Darrell Issa (R-San Diego). The Davis Rally drew an estimated 1,300-1,500 people, including vocal conservative and liberal protest groups.
More about these "crowd control" weapons (which can cause permanent hearing loss) here.

I realize there will always be sadistic SWAT Team types who just want to use powerful devices like that because they can.

But what I want to know, simply, is what kind of disgusting excuse for a congressional representative would allow such weapons to be deployed at his or her Townhall event?

The kind that should be voted out of office, I'd say.

What is going on? Do they think the constituents who elected them and want to talk to them don't vote or something?

posted by Eric at 01:28 AM | Comments (4)




My inner toddler wants to remain in denial!

I know I'm a sucker for surrealism, but I think this 13-second video is absolutely hilarious, and I don't especially care who made it, or what on earth they might have had in mind.

Via Jim Geraghty, who has some observations about authenticity and toddlerhood which I'll childishly disregard, not so much because I want to agree or disagree, but because my inner toddler is feeling inauthentic lately.

MORE: Speaking of authenticity, President Obama called Kanye West a jackass off the record, following which the tweet that reported it was retracted.

But it was already too late, for the damage had been done. Glenn Reynolds and countless other bloggers had already agreed with what the president is having trouble un-saying. As Jules Crittenden said, it's still

not too late for O to grow a set, come out and firmly, presidentially, declare, "I meant it. For the record. Kanye West is a jackass."
Firmly and presidentially? Growing a set? Now we're drifting into the realm of the fantastic.

(As I say, I'm a sucker for surrealism.)

posted by Eric at 01:12 PM | Comments (3)



Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Much as I hate playing hypothetical prosecutor for a day, regular commenter Steve Skubinna made me think about the government's legal case against Andrew Sullivan, which I previously discussed mainly in philosophical terms.

Here's Steve's comment:

The fact remains that marijuana is illegal. Have as many opinions on whether it should be or not, but unless the law is changed, you smoke pot on federal land you're committing a crime.

Unless you're the One True Conservative with a man crush on Obama. In which case we can expect David Brooks to light up an enormous doobie at the next get-together of the media's favorite "conservatives." Either that, or perhaps you could get away with it if you're also simultaneously brandishing weapons at polling places and intimidating voters.

Argue all you like about whether drugs should or should not be legal. I don't see much room to argue that the Obama Administration might have, in eight months, established itself as the most corrupt in US history. Nixon, Harding, Grant - all pikers.

Equal protection? What's that? Must have joined "states rights" in the lefty lexicon of discredited and racist phrases.

Good comment, although I don't think it comes down simply to whether marijuana is illegal. As I pointed out in reply, my experience with criminal law is that small misdemeanors (including federal misdemeanors) are usually dealt with in a summary manner, and prosecutors generally will make quick deals to avoid trial. When I worked briefly in the Public Defender's office while in law school, the idea of letting a misdemeanor go to trial was almost unthinkable, because it was considered a waste of resources. So, the way I used to get charges dropped was simply to push every aspect of the case like hell in preparation for trial, and truthfully tell the DA that I really wanted to go to trial so I could get trial experience. This annoyed the hell out of them, but it put them in an awkward position of having to either drop the case entirely, or settling on ridiculously easy terms (often the form of dismissal provided the defendant stipulated that there was probable cause for the arrest). As the defendants were ultimately the ones who decided these things, they would always settle -- whether poor little Eric the law student really wanted to go to trial or not.

The point is, the more complicated, the more messy, the more involved the case gets, the more likely they are to drop it. Especially if it is a stupid misdemeanor. I realize that this was a federal misdemeanor and not a state misdemeanor, but the mechanics are basically the same. Avoid trial and make a deal. The sweetness of the deal depends on a lot of things. Starting with the facts.

Here are the reported facts underlying the case against Andrew Sullivan:

Sullivan, who lives in Washington but owns a home in Provincetown, was stopped by a park ranger for smoking marijuana on the beach shortly before 3:45 p.m. When the ranger asked Sullivan if he had any other joints, the writer fished one out of his wallet and said, "I thought small amounts of marijuana were legal to have in Massachusetts," according to court records.

Massachusetts voters approved a referendum in November that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, but the change does not apply to federal property.

Now, if we ignore for the moment Sullivan's status was a prominent blogger (if not a politically connected gay celebrity), right off, I see four legal issues:

1. Probable cause for the stop. What attracted the officer's attention? Was it a hunch? Or were there articulable reasons such as the characteristic smell which the officer based on his experience and training recognized as marijuana?

2. Miranda rights. Did the officer tell Sullivan he was under arrest before questioning him? Did he warn him that anything he said could be used against him? If not, then the statements and possibly the results of the search would be suppressible.

3. Search and seizure. Again, was it valid? Did Sullivan consent freely? Or did he do so under the mistaken belief that his conduct was legal? (The latter is also relevant to whether he knowingly violated the law, which is an element of any crime.)

4. Chain of custody/testing of the substance. Did they save it? Do they have it? Did it test positive for marijuana? Every element has to be proved to obtain a conviction.

From a criminal law standpoint, I see far from an open-and-shut, slam-dunk case against Sullivan. Even without considering who the suspect was, the case appears to have some possibly serious problems. I don't know much about the priorities, the court docket, etc., and I would want to see statistics on how the feds are now handling small amounts of possession, misdemeanor marijuana cases in Massachusetts, especially since the state law was changed.

Sullivan obviously has attorneys, and if they made it clear that they were going to litigate this case every inch of the way, I could see many a reasonable prosecutor being willing to decline prosecution, especially if there were weaknesses in it. (In nearby Detroit, they are barely able to prosecute most murders, and burglaries have become "low priority" crimes.)

So, while the suspect's celebrity status (and the political favoritism of which the judge complained) obviously influenced the decision, I'd still like to know more about the details of the case, as well as today's normal prosecutorial priorities.

But if I may return to the philosophical side, there's another wrinkle that hasn't received much attention. Not long before his arrest, Sullivan was complaining -- as only he can complain -- about what he called "The Marijuana Closet." As one of his very helpful hypothetical readers noted, "It's a problem":

Larison is right about decriminalized marijuana. And you are right about decriminalized marijuana. The argument "duuuude, I want to get wasted all the time" is written off by most people. The argument "I would never touch the stuff but we can save money sick people libertarianism blah blah blah" is cold.

We need credible people to stand up and say "I contribute to society, I work hard, I love my family, and I smoke pot. This is the only way I break the law. The law is wrong." And we need a lot of them. There are a lot of people that could make this argument. Unfortunately, society being what it is, a lot of people, myself included, are (excuse the metaphor) in the closet.

The link provided by the helpful reader goes to a previous discussion of an AmCon piece, which (claims Sullivan) stands for the proposition that "proponents of marijuana legalization are being counterproductive":
...the standard "I'm in favor of legalization, and I'm the farthest thing in the world from a pot smoker!" argument ends up making the argument for legalization less compelling. This is because this kind of argument unintentionally reproduces the stigma against the drug and effectively endorses one of the key claims that supporters of criminalization make.
Says Sullivan,
But anyone who does not fit the stereotype - and I have nothing but regard for stoners myself - is rendered invisible by the criminalization.
So, not only did Sullivan repeatedly condemn the marijuana closet, he did so recently, and just weeks before a golden opportunity was laid at his feet to stand up and be counted.

If we apply his own standard to the arrest, he wasn't merely busted, he was outed. Yet he has not said one word about it -- despite the fact that prominent conservatives (including those he's on record as loathing) have said he should go to jail and be deported -- not only for marijuana but also for having HIV.

That, IMHO, is a hell of a poor way to "come out."

Let me repeat that I refuse to support the criminal prosecution for drugs of anyone -- whether rich or poor, young or old, politically connected or not, whether named Rush Limbaugh or Andrew Sullivan or Joe Shmo, whether in the closet or out of the closet -- and so I cannot support the prosecution of Andrew Sullivan.

However, I don't think the man is living up to his own standards.

posted by Eric at 10:51 AM | Comments (15)



Acorn Encourages Child Prostitution And Tax Cheating

This has been making the rounds. I thought it might be good to have those who missed it see it. Also watch Part 2.

This is so utterly depraved that it beggars belief. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of prostitution (loveless sex doesn't interest me), but if adults want to engage in that sort of thing it is their business. But importing children for sex slavery is so beyond the pale I can hardly imagine what was going through the minds of the descendants of slaves giving advice on how to pull off this depravity with government money.

And we are getting the usual "isolated incident" crap from the usual suspects. And then this video surfaces. So what I want to know is when is ACORN going to be RICOed? Judging by the Black Panther case just dismissed by Obama's Justice Department, not any time soon.

Just so you know, ACORN is slated to get billions in stimulus money. I do not believe that abetting child prostitution was ever the kind of stimulus most Americans had in mind.

It seems Mr. Obama has had an ongoing relationship with ACORN.

While Barack Obama's connection with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has not gone entirely unreported, it has not been fully explained. Most media background pieces simply note Obama's involvement in a 1995 lawsuit on behalf of ACORN. Obama's own website, as well as most major media, fail to reveal the full depth and extent of his relationship with the organization.

Attempts to hide evidence of Obama's involvement with ACORN have included wiping the web clean of potentially damaging articles that had appeared, and were previously publicly accessible. Unfortunately, those behind the attempted cover-up failed to realize that in today's day and age, nothing disappears forever. There also exists another layer of the web, the hidden web, which is full of information included in proprietary scholarly databases where these very same "missing" articles can be easily uncovered.

Obama's campaign website states:

Fact: Barack was never an ACORN trainer and never worked for ACORN in any other capacity.

Is that really a FACT, or just another lie? Let's take a look at a quote from a 2004 article - Case Study: Chicago- The Barack Obama Campaign - written by Toni Foulkes, a Chicago ACORN Leader, which was published in the journal Social Policy. Did we mention that Social Policy recently pulled this particular article from their website, while leaving links to all other articles up?

"Obama took the case, known as ACORN vs. Edgar (the name of the Republican governor at the time) and we won. Obama then went on to run a voter registration project with Project VOTE in 1992 that made it possible for Carol Moseley Braun to win the Senate that year. Project VOTE delivered 50,000 newly registered voters in that campaign (ACORN delivered about 5,000 of them).

Since then, we have invited Obama to our leadership training sessions to run the session on power every year, and, as a result, many of our newly developing leaders got to know him before he ever ran for office. Thus it was natural for many of us to be active volunteers in his first campaign for State Senate and then his failed bid for U.S. Congress in 1996. By the time he ran for U.S. Senate, we were old friends."

So Obama is an "old friend" of ACORN? What a surprise.

What is that I hear? A bus revving up? It looks like ACORN may be about to get thrown under the bus. Along with the Rev. Wright and Mr. Obama's very own granny. Evidently the bus has already started to roll.

Conservatives have cheered the Census Bureau's decision to sever ties with ACORN because it had lost confidence in the group, but the hidden-camera videos that prompted ACORN to fire four workers this week could raise more questions about the federal funding ACORN receives for housing outreach.

ACORN Housing Corporation received $1.6 million to provide housing services to low-income communities in this fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, according to USASpending.gov, a federal government Web site for tracking government grants.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development Grants has given $8.2 million to ACORN in the years between 2003 and 2006, as well as $1.6million to ACORN affiliates.

Talk about a culture of corruption. However, the destruction of ACORN will not be sufficient if another organization rises up to take its place. Or if only a few token bad apples take the fall. The whole rotten structure must be brought down. And that is going to require at minimum a new Congress and probably a new president. We have to keep the heat on these low lifes. My advice:

The price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance.

And I'm not the first to say that. Not by a long shot. The recent March Against Washington is a step in the right direction.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:59 AM | Comments (0)



Ham At A Tea Party

Mary Katharine Ham and Uncle Jimbo cover the March Against Washington.

H/T Ace Of Spades

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



Suicide Run

Ed Driscoll has a few things to say about the fall of the mainstream media. He quotes from John Nolte.

Mainstream news outlets have been caught off guard before, but they used to play catch up. Today they play "hide the ball." For as long as I've been politically aware the media's been biased, but willfully ignoring a major national news story at great cost to their credibility and relevance is a new low. So what changed?

Ironically enough, scrutiny and accountability is the cause of much of the media's increasingly disgraceful behavior.

Once trailblazer media watchdogs like talk radio, The Media Research Center and Bernard Goldberg were joined with the awesome power of the Internet and Fox News, the media's sins of omission and commission could no longer be hidden from the general public, or denied. This gave the Fourth Estate two options. They could either: A) Clean up their act and do their jobs honorably ... or B) Surrender their fig leafs of objectivity and run amok as the ideologues they really are.

Doing their jobs honorably would mean a setback for the Leftist cause, and so they chose B.

The good news is that this appears to be a suicide run.

The Dinosaur Media is losing money, viewers and readers hand over fist. The reason they're folding or on life support isn't because there aren't enough left-of-center Americans to keep them in business, it's because, like everyone else, liberals don't want to sit in a choir and be preached to. They want information. They want to know what's going on in the world.

Our liberal friends may not like hearing Van Jones, the NEA and ACORN are under fire, but they still want to know. What a disappointing revelation it must be to open the New York Times or turn on the network news only to discover after the curtain has already fallen that one of Obama's Czars was forced to resign or that the U.S. Census Bureau let ACORN go.

The liberal media is failing for the exact same reason a dozen-plus anti-war films flopped: propaganda is dull.

It is not just that propaganda is dull. When reality diverges sufficiently from "information" mistakes are made.

Now here is a human interest story from the comments at Ed Driscoll's blog. The comments! The kind of story you would hope to find in your reading matter. The kind that is currently missing in action.

14. betsybounds:

Increase Mather:

With respect to your mention of the foreign press's estimates of crowd size this week-end, to wit: "NYTIMES, CNN continue to put the crowd in the "thousands" ...foreign press has it at well over a million"

I don't know what the actual size was, but I was interested to note that Fox News' Chris Wallace, on this morning's Fox News Sunday, put the estimate at "tens of thousands." It seems that everyone, including the notoriously "conservative" Fox, has some kind of interest in minimizing the turn-out numbers. I think, having watched the thing yesterday on C-SPAN, that a count of tens of thousands is a deliberate low-ball (and low-life) estimate-it was WAY more than that.

I have a good friend at work whose husband went to the Washington Tea Party this week-end. She told me that he was getting ready to head out to DC last week, and went to a local Dollar General to buy some American Flags. He ran into a couple of elderly ladies who wondered why he was buying those flags, and he told them where he was getting ready to head out to. One of the ladies was using a walker, and she began to cry, and the other one went to the back of the store where the flags were shelved, took all the remaining ones off the shelf, and went to the check-out line to buy them all and give them to him. The cashier also, upon hearing what my friend's husband was doing, pitched in, and so those 3 people together bought out the store's entire stock of American flags and gave them to my friend's husband. He left, with the back of his pick-up filled up with American flags to take to Washington, purchased with the good will and strong sentiment of three utterly random American citizens. I am confident that every person at the event can be held to have represented at least 3 additional Americans, who could not be there.

This is a true story. I'm confident that it's not unique among the stories of this Tea Party. It's a story that Mr. Obama and his minions, and the Democrats in Congress, would do well to heed. I think the American people are not going to sit still for what they see coming. I wasn't so sure about this a couple of months ago, but I'm seeing something surprising: The American people are not going to submit. God grant us all that they (we) never will.

And this was just some ordinary citizen with no J-School training writing from the heart. With stuff as good as that or better available all over the 'net for the price of an ISP connection why bother with papers any more? With better coverage of town hall protests on YouTube than your local TV station why bother with television?

I am honored to say that I had a little to do with the creation of the Internet. May it live long and prosper.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:20 AM | Comments (3)




Why saving a billion people is just not cool...

In a comment to my post about the Detroit Zoo, Patrick in Des Moines said that he's sick of being preached to by people who see humanity as a threat to the planet:

Just went to the zoo recently myself. I'm a big fan of Zoos, Aquariums and Museums, but have grown tired of being preached to at all of them. The continual drumbeat of how man is threatening every other living thing is getting a bit old.

My favorite recently was a lecture disguised as a 'show' where you could watch the sea lions getting fed. We were told that overfishing threatened the survival (of course) of the sea lions by cutting off their food supply.

They also mentioned that one of the main functions of the sea lions is to prevent overpopulation of fish.

I'm sure there's a happy balance out there somewhere, but it doesn't start with blaming man for everything.

He's absolutely right about these lectures. Nearly every exhibit I saw yesterday had some kind of scolding message accompanying the description.

This one was typical:

biodiversity.jpg

If you're having trouble reading the text, here's what it says:

What can be done to stop the biodiversity crisis? The biggest threat to biodiversity is the insatiable demands of humankind. We are extremely short-sighted and consuming natural resources at a rate that cannot be sustained. Tropical forests are disappearing at a rate of 500,000 square kilometers per year, or 4-5 football fields every second. At this rate, they will be gone by 2020. The human population is currently estimated at almost 6 billion, 3 times what it was just 70 years ago. It is growing by 90 million people per year and will reach 8 billion by 2017.

Unless we do something soon to control our growth and consumption, we will lose more than just biodiversity... we will lose our ability to survive on this planet.

Why I happened to take a picture of that scolding little lecture yesterday, I don't know. Perhaps because it seemed Ehrlichistic, and I remember being made to read The Population Bomb while I was in high school, when I was not only naive enough to believe it, but thought being told not to have children was a form of scientific wisdom. Eventually, Ehrlich turned out to be wrong, but that doesn't seem to have stopped the narrative scientific consensus that he established from continuing on. (Isn't Obama's new science advisor some sort of neo-Ehrlichian?) Anyway, I have long found the doctrines of Paul Ehrlich to be annoying, and I sometimes feel like having kids just to spite the whole Ehrlichian mindset that wants to tell people not to have children. If you think about it, telling people it is immoral to have children is every bit as much of an attack on sexual freedom as telling them it's immoral to be gay. Busybodies telling people what to do with their genitalia -- and even their dogs' genitalia -- are endlessly annoying.

What I had not known until this morning was that Norman Borlaug had died. Borlaug has been praised in this blog (and Paul Ehrlich's attacks on him have been ridiculed), and I noticed today that the bloggers who are mourning his passing seem to be overwhelmingly libertarian or conservative.

No seriously. Check out this lineup:

  • Power Line
  • The Rhetorican
  • Instapundit
  • The Agitator
  • Betsy's Page
  • TigerHawk
  • Moe Lane
  • The American Mind
  • Chicago Boyz
  • Cafe Hayek
  • Not a leftie among them. What's up with that?

    Can it be that helping to ending world hunger is no longer a liberal cause? That saving a billion people from death is just not cool? That progress is no longer progressive?

    The answers to the above are so obvious that they look like rhetorical questions.

    Unfortunately, it's easy to see why a man like Norman Borlaug would not be mourned by the left.

    After all, saving a billion people threatens biodiversity.

    MORE: Veeshir says I left out Ace (an omission I hope Ace will forgive), and cites this highlighted comment:

    A fitting tribute would be to mulch Paul Ehrlich into fertilizer for a Third World wheat farm.
    I'm sorry, but the environmentalist in me simply cannot countenance polluting the soil with toxic substances.

    MORE: I have been reminded in the comments that science Holdren is not a Neo-Erhlichian, but a Paleo-Ehrlichian (n that he co-authored a book with the discredited Paul Ehrlich).

    Considering that the Obama administration is solidly on the wrong side of the Borlaug-Ehrlich dispute, it's quite obvious why the left does not mourn the passing of a great man who saved countless lives and made the world a better place.

    posted by Eric at 03:02 PM | Comments (6)



    The Police Will Be Sticking It To You

    In the not too distant future police will be drawing blood from suspect motorists. No consent required.

    When police officer Darryll Dowell is on patrol in the southwestern Idaho city of Nampa, he'll pull up at a stoplight and usually start casing the vehicle. Nowadays, his eyes will also focus on the driver's arms, as he tries to search for a plump, bouncy vein.

    "I was looking at people's arms and hands, thinking, 'I could draw from that,'" Dowell said.

    It's all part of training he and a select cadre of officers in Idaho and Texas have received in recent months to draw blood from those suspected of drunken or drugged driving. The federal program's aim is to determine if blood draws by cops can be an effective tool against drunk drivers and aid in their prosecution.

    If the results seem promising after a year or two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will encourage police nationwide to undergo similar training.

    I don't think I like this. Police could use the pretext of a traffic stop to torture people with needles. "Confess or we will draw blood."

    I want my America back. And this kind of stuff is certainly not the America I grew up in.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:53 PM | Comments (5)



    Can anti-idiotarianism be kept alive?

    Considering some of the nastiness that has been going on in the blogosphere since the election of Barack Obama, "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" is probably good advice right now.

    Last night, I was a bit taken aback at the level of vitriol directed towards Stephen Green -- for his crimes in linking one blogger and for apparently not delinking another. It's so nasty and contentious that I don't feel like sharing my thoughts about either of the bloggers in question right now. (Sorry, I won't even quote the comments, but trust me. If you don't trust me, then just go for a Sunday scroll.)

    I'd just like to remember the good old days of a more pleasant world. A world where there was more or less unity against what was called idiotarianism. The term had its origins in an observation Glenn Reynolds made back in 2002:

    "What bloggers are more than anything, I think, is anti-idiot. That makes life tough for Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, and the Revs. Falwell, Robertson, Jackson, & Sharpton, for reasons that transcend traditional partisanship and ideology."
    This eventually evolved into a sort of common sense manifesto articulated by Eric S. Raymond:
    "WE DEFINE IDIOTARIANISM as the species of delusion within the moral community of mankind that gives aid and comfort to terrorists and tyrants operating outside it.

    WE REJECT the idiotarianism of the Left - the moral blindness that refuses to recognize that free markets, individual liberty, and experimental science have made the West a fundamentally better place than any culture in which jihad, 'honor killings', and female genital mutilation are daily practices approved by a stultifying religion.

    WE REJECT the idiotarianism of the Right - whether it manifests as head-in-the-sand isolationism or as a a Christian-chauvinist political agenda that echoes the religious absolutism of our enemies.

    WE ARE MEMBERS OF A CIVILIZATION, and we hold that civilization to be worth defending. We have not sought war, but we will fight it to the end. We will fight for our civilization in our thoughts, in our words, and in our deeds."

    Perhaps that was too utopian an idea to withstand the pressures of change.

    So many people's definitions of what is idiotic have changed that it sometimes seems to me that almost everyone thinks almost everyone else is an idiot on some level.

    Still, even now, I think the anti-idiotarian cause is a good one. Incurable romantic that I may be, I'm as much against idiots as I ever was. The devil is in the details, though.

    However, I'd be less than candid if I did not observe that much of what I said over the years (and perhaps the basic philosophy of this blog) would no longer be seen as rightish small l-libertarianism, but as left wing. Criticisms of guys like Falwell are now seen as "attacking Christianity." Even defending Bush (for which I used to get reams of excrement) now looks suspiciously liberal.

    I often feel as if I can't say anything. Everyone is offended by something now, including me.

    I'd say I agreed with Pat Buchanan that we are more divided than ever, except I think he's too divisive. Besides, agreeing with Pat Buchanan is almost as disagreeable as linking to WorldNetDaily.

    Geez, this is looking pretty bleak. I should point out that I like the Tea Party Movement, which I find new and refreshing. Sure, there are a few idiots with idiotic signs, but as Matt Welch notes, they're far outnumbered by the good ones. The movement strikes me as inherently anti-idiotarian in nature.

    But what about the idiots? Should they just be ignored?

    posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (5)



    Prostitution Is Prohibited

    Buford C. Terrell is discussing how prohibition really works and gives the example of prostitution in America.

    Prostitution has been prohibited in most of the United States (all except for a small part of Nevada) for over a century, but prostitutes can be found working in virtually every town and city in the country. In the cities they even work openly and advertise their services. The police have given up trying to suppress the activity and instead limit their efforts to preventing disruptions of neighborhoods, control of sex slavery and underage prostitutes, and providing a flurry of activity when a member of the city council goes on a morality kick.
    Which is how drug prohibition is currently working in America. The police have given up trying to suppress the activity and instead limit their efforts to preventing disruptions of neighborhoods. And even that effort is not working well.

    Buford goes on to give several other examples from recent and not so recent history. Including how the drug war works. i.e. it doesn't.

    You can read the first part of Buford's analysis at Prohibition: Theory and Practice (Part I).

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:18 AM | Comments (0)




    A zoo is not a tea party

    I wish I could have made it to one Tea Party or another, but I couldn't. (Have to say, two million is an impressive figure.)

    Instead, I went to the Detroit Zoo, where I didn't get to see signs like this one:

    doesntmattersign.jpg

    However, I did see signs like this:

    handdryersign.jpg

    While the sign from the Tea Party is beyond dispute, the truthfulness of the sign from the zoo men's room is highly debatable.

    I don't know whether they're early risers, but I got a picture of this sleepy tree sloth at the zoo:

    sleepysloth.jpg

    Coco does a pretty good imitation of that, but usually in her favorite blanket, never in a tree:

    cocosloth.jpg

    And I caught a polar bear stretching itself in the hot sun, as if to demonstrate that it wasn't especially worried about death from global warming:

    polarbear3.jpg

    This pair of chuckwallas was in an air-conditioned indoor enclosure, and they seemed even less concerned than the polar bear:

    chuckwallas_s.jpg

    And as I walked through a plexiglass tunnel, there were actually seals swimming over my head.

    sealswims2.jpg

    Finally, on the way out I couldn't resist taking a picture of these two macaques sunning themselves in the most insolent manner:

    macaques.jpg

    Japanese macaques, mind you. In Detroit.

    (In an amazing coincidence, they also happen to be the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil macaques, but as there were only two of them, I guess I can say whatever I want.)

    MORE: Brendan Nyhan says that the DC Tea Party did not attract 2 million people. I was at the zoo, so I don't know.

    What I think would really suck would be for the numbers to vary depending on the political perspective of the people claiming to have them.

    (You know, the way no one knows how many aliens there are....)

    posted by Eric at 06:57 PM | Comments (3)



    Polywell Gets The Dough

    EMC2 has gotten almost eight million dollars to do further experimentation on the Polywell Fusion concept.

    Energy Matter Conversion Corp., (EMC2)*, Santa Fe, N.M., is being awarded a $7,855,504 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing in support of the Plan Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Project. Efforts under this Recovery Act award will validate the basic physics of the plasma fusion (polywell) concept, as well as provide the Navy with data for potential applications of polywell fusion. Work will be performed in Santa Fe, N.M., and is expected to be completed in April 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity (N68936-09-C-0125).
    I think this is the award based on the solicitation discussed here and here and here.

    Evidently the $2 million promised in May was just a place holder and the actual funds are significantly greater. This means that the work on WB-8 and the engineering for WB-9 will go forward with the next milestone in April of 2011. Which is in accord with Rick Nebel's promise that We Will Know In Two Years.

    If you would like to keep these reports coming visit Five Years of Blogging and do what you can.

    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.

    H/T Marc Bruggeman via e-mail.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:50 AM | Comments (3)




    The Sullivan Limbaugh standard

    As regular readers of this blog know, I think drug laws -- and I mean all drug laws, not just marijuana laws -- suck.

    I have thought so for a long time, and I try to be consistent. I don't care who the person is, when someone is facing drug charges, I defend him or her. When he was arrested for drugs, I defended Rush Limbaugh. Repeatedly.

    And now that Andrew Sullivan has been busted (and some bloggers I need not name are screaming for his head), I think I owe him at least the same standard I applied to Rush Limbaugh.

    The problem is, there is a significant difference. When Rush Limbaugh was arrested, many more people were screaming for his head than are now screaming for Sullivan's head. The Reverend Jesse Jackson wanted him prosecuted for "money laundering," and there was a frenzy of condemnation of Limbaugh which simply does not exist now. Why is that? Surely not because of the merits of the crime; Limbaugh was an addict, and Sullivan a mere recreational user. Isn't it more likely that politics is the primary consideration?

    The evidence is overwhelming that Andrew Sullivan has received favorable treatment, and I couldn't agree more with Glenn Reynolds' assessment that had the same favorable treatment been shown to Sarah Palin or a member of her family, Andrew would be screaming bloody murder.

    I'm with Ron Radosh on this one:

    No, and hold the complaints -- I don't want Andrew Sullivan to face a problem gaining citizenship because he chose to smoke pot on a forbidden federal beach. I think the drug laws should be changed, and anyone found engaging in this "crime" should find the charges dismissed, if even the culprit is arrested. What the marijuana does to his body is between himself and his health.

    But the implications of his special treatment are important. And Sullivan, who blogs about everything, to this moment (4:30 pm East Coast Time) has not said one word about the situation on his own blog, although it is all over the internet.

    So come on Andrew. Fess up. Give us the backstory, before we hear it on Glenn Beck.

    Doubtless Glenn Beck drools in anticipation. Whether Rush will cover it, who knows?

    But why isn't Sullivan covering his own bust?

    Really. Can't he at least criticize the Limbaugh defenders who think he should be punished?

    You know, for "hypocrisy" or something?

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds links a deeply moving insight from Andrew Sullivan, just five months ago:

    "My view is that no one is above the law, and that when a society based on law prosecutes the powerless and excuses the powerful, it is corroding its own soul."
    Via Internet Scofflaw.

    It seems only fair to let Sullivan have the last word.

    posted by Eric at 10:23 PM | Comments (8)



    The sincerest apologies can backfire

    Everyone is talking about apologies lately.

    Most of us hate to apologize. Me, I have a lot to apologize for -- especially my role in the Columbine massacre, the Kennedy assassination, and other awful things.

    Usually, when most people apologize, it's because they got caught, or else found it was politically expedient to apologize. Real men, of course, never apologize.

    From today's Philadelphia Inquirer, I found a touching moral lesson on the wisdom of apologizing:

    Shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday, [Vickie Gambrell] stopped at a Country Farms minimarket in Wilmington intending to buy $20 worth of gasoline.

    But when the cashier told Gambrell she'd only given him a single dollar, the woman became livid.

    Gambrell, 53, was adamant. She had given the clerk a 20. The clerk was just as sure Gambrell had only given him a buck.

    They argued. She fumed. She stormed in and out of the store. She cursed and screamed. She accused the clerk of cheating her by committing a switcheroo.

    Then Gambrell bounded behind the counter and punched and kicked the clerk. She reached for a pair of scissors and held its point against his throat, demanding $20 back, Whitmarsh said.

    The clerk, fearing for his life, gave her two $10 bills. Gambrell left with the sawbucks.

    The clerk called the police.

    Before the troopers arrived, Gambrell sheepishly returned.

    She approached the clerk. And put the two tens back on the counter.

    She'd made a small mistake. As she drove away from the minimarket, she had peered into her purse. And there was the $20 bill. The very same bill she thought the clerk had pilfered from her.

    Whitmarsh said it was a little too late for an "I'm sorry."

    When troopers arrived, they arrested Gambrell and charged her with possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and several other counts.

    The lesson?

    Never apologize -- especially when you're guilty!

    And never apologize when you're sorry!

    The best policy is to apologize only for things you didn't do or which you're not sorry for. That way, you get all the credit, with none of the guilt.

    If anyone is offended by this post, feel free to apologize on my behalf.

    posted by Eric at 06:20 PM | Comments (1)



    Is partial victory a victory?

    Speaking of Republican political math, Larry Sabato has done a very detailed study of the 2010 congressional election, and concludes that there will be substantial Republican gains, but not enough to retake the House:

    After examining all 435 House races for 2010, the Crystal Ball projects that Republicans will gain between 20 and 30 seats. While this is nothing to sneeze at, especially given that it would be the largest gain for congressional Republicans since 1994, it still puts them short of the 40 seat pick-up they need to take back the House.
    Of course, a lot can change between now and next summer.

    But if the GOP makes gains in 2010 but fails to take back the House, what will become of the current intraparty debate? Who will take credit for the partial victory? Or blame for less than a full victory?

    By then things will be gearing up for the big 2012 challenge, and I am sure there will be bitter infighting. But because there are so many divisions, it's quite possible that the winner might once again be chosen by default.

    Any ideas on who that might be?

    posted by Eric at 04:35 PM | Comments (4)



    Never forget September 11!

    It's very important to remember today, especially because so many people want to forget what happened eight years ago. And because it's human nature to forget.

    I say this as someone who dislikes being repetitive, and while it's tough to find anything new to say about 9/11, I did find a new (at least hitherto unknown) video which Gateway Pundit linked.

    It's an accidental video, which happened because some guy set his camera out on a balcony after the first plane hit, and then left it there -- not knowing it would record the second crash.

    Chilling in its robotic simplicity.

    And wouldn't you think that after the passage of eight years, the 9/11 memorial would be maybe, um, finished?

    Think again.

    Via Bill Quick, Mark Steyn observes that the gaping hole is still there, which he sees as emblematic of government inefficiency:

    it's pathetic that eight years after 9/11 Ground Zero is still a big hole in the ground, but these days the biggest obstacle to making things happen is Big Government of the kind Thomas Friedman mostly favors
    It is pathetic but typical, and if I had lost a friend or relative there I'd be more outraged. I'm sure they've held countless committee meetings, though, and spent lots of money debating the hole as they create more obstacles to making anything happen.

    I'd say "Thank God they're not yet in charge of health care!" except that's not the topic of this post.

    Once again, never forget.

    MORE: Don't miss this PJTV video, in which Bill Whittle, Stephen Green, and Scott Ott look at just two victims in detail, and share more footage which has never been shown by the MSM (and never will). Very moving.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who has a number of 9/11 links today.)

    posted by Eric at 09:25 AM | Comments (3)




    Bless Obama, and damn Bush!

    Every day I get a lot of emails from various right wing organizations, all of which seem to be telling me that the only alternative to Barack Obama is the far right. These organizations include the American Family Association, the Traditional Values Coalition, Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ, not to forget longtime emailer Matt Barber, who sends mainly anti-gay diatribes from Liberty University where he's "Associate Dean for Career & Professional Development."

    I don't like these organizations, and I have been ignoring these emails.

    Should I? Here's the text I was just sent moments ago, from Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ:

    "Tonight, President Obama reconfirmed his far-left agenda by re-launching an effort for government-run health care.

    "But at the same time, Obama is re-launching the conservative movement.

    "Because President George W. Bush's administration and the Republicans in Congress abandoned conservative principles and massively expanded government, many grassroots conservatives and activists dropped out of politics.

    "However, thanks to President Obama's and Nancy Pelosi's massive political overreach, which has frightened and angered conservatives and many independents, they've launched a thousand Tea Parties and town hall meetings and put new life in the conservative movement.

    "Obama and Pelosi have become major fundraisers for conservative organizations, candidates, and Tea Parties. New members and supporters are flooding conservative organizations.

    "In anticipation of a strong tide in 2010 against Obama Democrats, conservative leaders are making plans to challenge in primaries those Democratic and Republican politicians who support government-run health care.

    "The President's policies, especially his effort to turn America's health care into a massive government-run program, are putting a strong wind into conservative sails.

    "Obama would have been able to sign his government-run health care plan by the 4th of July if it were not for a combination of a real people's rebellion at Tea Parties and town halls, plus conservatives' using new and alternative media, including talk radio, cable TV, the internet, and direct mail.

    "And as usual, Republican politicians are mostly on the sidelines and absent from the biggest political battle of the 21st Century.

    So, they like Obama for helping them, and they hate Bush and the Republicans for betraying them, right?

    It's very confusing.

    I realize that I am not supposed to criticize "other" "conservatives," but is that a fair rule? They certainly don't hesitate at all to criticize libertarians and "RINOs," do they? Nor do they hesitate to criticize Bush and McCain at every opportunity.

    Anyway, it occurred to me that since I spent years defending Bush from the left, I might as well continue to do it now that he's getting it from the far right. Or was I only allowed to defend Bush against left-wing attacks? Is that it? Does defending Bush now make me a liberal RINO sellout?

    It is certainly true that a growing number of Americans have grown disenchanted with Barack Obama. But I think it's a mistake to assume this means they'll support the American Family Association, the Traditional Values Coalition, Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ, Matt Barber, WorldNetDaily, and Alan Keyes, and the rest of the anti-Bush, anti-McCain right.

    Aren't they forgetting that Bush won twice, but only barely, against Al Gore and John Kerry? And that Barack Obama beat McCain by a safe margin? I realize that Bush and McCain are too far to the left for their liking, but do they seriously believe that the reason McCain lost -- to Barack Obama -- was because he was too far to the left? And that therefore someone more to the right would have won?

    I could be wrong, but I don't think the math supports their position. I say this as someone who held my nose when I voted for Bush, and less so when I voted for McCain (because I so feared the election of Barack Obama). I became quite accustomed over the years to holding my nose, and I accepted the unpleasant fact that libertarianism was pretty much a lost cause in the GOP. I'd be a fool not to recognize that if the AFA, TVC, WND right takes over the GOP, libertarianism will be as much of a lost cause as it was under Bush and McCain, if not more.

    So how come I have to hold my nose and vote for the GOP but they don't? And why should they have any more right to complain than I do?

    I'm not claiming to be a loyal Republican, but what gives them the moral authority to drop out of politics, sit out the election, actually vote for third party candidates, and then claim the party is theirs, while castigating the people who don't agree with them as RINOs?

    I'm thinking maybe the party should just be handed over to them, and then I could drop out of politics and vote for a third party.

    posted by Eric at 05:57 PM | Comments (12)



    The Drug War escalates.
    From prosecuting doctors, to prosecuting their supporters!

    I find the ongoing story of the federal government's campaign against an anti-pain activist to be horrifying.

    It's bad enough that doctors are afraid to prescribe pain medication because the government is breathing down their necks. But now the government is going after people who are speaking up in defense of targeted doctors.

    OK, regular readers know I'm biased, so let me get that out of the way. I don't think that the government has any business telling doctors how much pain medication they should prescribe, for what reason, or to whom. I think that drug addicts have just as much of a right to an untrammeled relationship with their doctors as anyone else, and I think that if a doctor wants to prescribe drugs to an addict he should be allowed to do so, even if that would only relieve symptoms of, but not cure, his addiction. That, however, is a crime, and not only can the doctor be arrested for it, but thanks to the war on drugs, compassionate conduct becomes a criminal enterprise:

    Prescribing painkillers becomes drug trafficking, applying for insurance reimbursement becomes fraud, making bank deposits becomes money laundering, and working with people at the office becomes conspiracy.
    While I think that's an outrage, I realize some people think that doctors who prescribe to addicts should go to jail. The problem is, when prescribing to addicts is a crime, that acts as a deterrent to prescribing to people who need narcotics for pain. Pain is inherently subjective, and because the system turns addicts into skillful and manipulative liars, how is a doctor supposed to know whether a claim of pain is "legitimate" or not? It makes him waste an inordinate amount of time, and turns him from a healer into a sort of "pain cop" whether he likes it or not.

    Under this "system," a patient's plaintive cries for pain relief ("Doctor, I want Oxycontin! Doctor, please! I need more Oxycontin!") is likely to be seen as highly suspicious, as "drug-seeking behavior." And of course if it is the latter, the doctor has good reason to fear that law enforcement officials might go from breathing down his neck to raiding his office. If you think this is my paranoia, you don't know the ways of the street. An addict who gets Oxycontin from a doctor and later gets popped for selling some of it on the street would often be highly "motivated" to "cooperate" and say whatever the ambitious drug warriors might want him to say.

    Call me biased, but I think this entire approach is horribly wrong, and it interferes with the practice of medicine. That's my opinion, and regardless of who agrees with me or whether I'm right or wrong, I at least have the right to express myself, and naturally, I would defend any doctor singled out by the government for prosecution.

    I have a First Amendment right to do that, have I not?

    According to the government, no!

    Nine months after a federal judge rejected [Assistant United States Attorney] Treadway's attempt to gag Reynolds, the activist learned she was the subject of a grand jury investigation into possible obstruction of justice. Reynolds and PRN received subpoenas demanding their communications with dozens of people, including relatives of the Schneiders and members of their defense team. Tellingly, the material sought includes correspondence related to a PRN-commissioned billboard in Wichita proclaiming "Dr. Schneider never killed anyone."

    Scott Michelman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Reynolds, says the interest in the billboard "confirms that this so-called investigation is about Siobhan Reynolds' speech....The most plausible explanation here is that the prosecutor is trying to shut Siobhan up."

    Last week a federal judge rejected Reynolds' motion to quash the subpoenas on First Amendment grounds and imposed $200-a-day fines on her and PRN for refusing to comply. Reynolds plans to appeal. "This is a direct attempt to intimidate me and silence me," she told A.P.

    Another item sought by the grand jury is a PRN documentary that discusses how the war on drugs affects pain treatment, a video Michelman calls "completely innocuous from a criminal perspective" and "absolutely protected speech." Its title, especially apt in light of Treadway's vindictive campaign against Reynolds, is The Chilling Effect.

    So, apparently our government -- under President Obama -- thinks free speech does not include the right to criticize the war on doctors.

    This is a national disgrace.

    posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (4)



    "A divisive speech to a divided nation"

    Stephen Green drunkblogged President Obama's speech last night, so I didn't have to. Here's his final conclusion:

    I'm disgusted. And I need another drink. If I'm feeling up to it, I'll post a little Oh I'm So Wise summary later tonight at VodkaPundit.com. Or possibly not. But here's the short version: Obama will see a brief spike in the polls, but not enough. He delivered a divisive speech to a divided nation -- and that's no way to spur a divided Congress into action.
    I don't know how he could stand watching it. I didn't, and I couldn't have. Obama Burnout Syndrome is getting the better of me, and I need to take care of myself.

    So, in the interest of my mental health, I avoided watching the latest divisive speech to a divided nation.

    I'm glad this is a free country and no one makes me watch the Leader's speeches. Otherwise my Obama Burnout Syndrome might turn into Obama Derangement Syndrome.

    MORE: Ann Althouse watched the speech and found it boring.

    And I'm jealous of her boredom!

    Really, it seems so unfair that I have to be stuck being burned out while others are merely bored!

    posted by Eric at 08:31 AM | Comments (8)



    Desolation Row

    I originally wrote Desolation Row in January 2007. I also posted it at Classical Values then. It is a companion piece to one I posted here a few days ago:Decline and Fall. So that is why you are seeing it again here. Not to mention that I promised some one in the comments to Desolation Row that I would post it, although I did not give the title.

    ==

    American Thinker has an interesting piece up about American Imperialism. In it J.R. Dunn looks at the difference between American Imperialsm and the Roman version.

    Much in the way of criticism of the United States comes in the form of accusations of imperialism. According to this view, echoed by everyone from Harold Pinter to Noam Chomsky to the Arab press, the U.S. has for decades run roughshod over the globe, in defiance of agreements and civilized norms. Enforcing its policies unilaterally and always for its own benefit, the U.S. has effectively colonized huge swathes of the planet, if not through direct military action, then by economic exploitation or diplomatic chicanery. No one dares raise a hand against this; any show of independence is met by cruise missiles at the very least, if not armored divisions or carrier battle groups. Today it's Iraq, tomorrow... who knows? America is the third-millennial Rome, brutal, implacable, infinitely corrupt.

    Domestically, this takes the form of hegemonism, with the U.S. viewed as the primal source of global iniquity. Internationally, it's a major component of anti-Americanism, in which the U.S. is taken as the embodiment of an overpowering modernity, in whatever form - economic, political, cultural -- the onlooker finds most threatening. In such a context, anything and everything can be labeled "imperialist", from military bases to McDonald's fast-food joints to tourism. Intent and results are meaningless; all U.S. actions are evil, since all are viewed through the lens of imperialist activity.

    It's difficult to match any of this with the actual record. The America that takes on the dirty jobs, the jobs no one else will touch - Serbia, Kuwait, Somalia - the country that comes to the rescue when disaster strikes, as with the Indian Ocean tsunami or the Pakistan earthquake, either goes unmentioned or has its actions attributed to somebody else (as in Kofi Annan's taking credit for tsunami relief operations in his farewell speech).

    It is a strange kind of imperialism that neither rules nor directly taxes the imperium for the maintenance of the imperial garrisons and the American rulers of the conquered states. In fact Americans pay the price to keep the "imperial" system running. Strange indeed.

    Mr. Dunn looks at Rome to see what might be in our future.

    But the world's anti-Americans should take care that their fantasies don't catch up with them. Myths have a way of coming true. If believed in long enough, and hard enough, and by enough people, they can come to pass, if only by limiting the possible responses of the subject in question. Tell someone they're an oppressor often enough, and they may become an oppressor, out of spite, or anger, or simple weariness. Useful the Roman stereotype may be, but it can prove very dangerous.

    How did Rome get that way in the first place? The Rome we know is seen through the lens of the later, corrupt empire -- brutal, heartless, and tyrannical. We see the Romans as dour, arrogant, living off the intellectual capital of older civilizations, slowly falling victim to their own worst impulses. But was Rome always like that? Did Rome start out that way? Was Rome ever young?

    It must have been at one time. Rome was once a republic, and must have possessed a republic's virtues. How could it ever have accomplished so much otherwise?

    So what happened to change things? Wars, in a word - Rome's early history is that of a state with its back to the wall, sacked by the Goths, at constant sword's point from neighboring states. Livy's histories are a chronicle of endless strife -- wars with the Etruscans, the Social Wars, at last the Punic Wars. And with each conflict, another layer of republican virtue was scraped off. At some point, perhaps during the Second Punic War, with Italy all but under occupation by Hannibal's forces for a decade, it effectively vanished, destroyed not only by the fear and strain of constant struggle, but what the Romans felt compelled to do in response. Consider that terrible image of Scipio gazing on the blazing ruins of Carthage and seeing Rome itself in the flames.

    In Decline and Fall I take a look at what the end of American "imperialism" might mean for America and the world. Again, not surpisingly, through a look at what happened to the Roman Empire. It was not pretty. Long distance trade became impossible. With the lack of long distance trade the gains from what economist David Riccardo called comparative advantage are reduced to a local scale. The gains are limited indeed. This leads to a much lower carrying capacity for the regions formerly under protection of the empire. Populations disappear through, war, disease, and starvation. Everything comes back in balance at a much lower level. For the world it would mean a massive die off. For the USA a drastic cut back in our standard of living.
    There's a sense of weariness at international ingratitude, irresponsibility, and hostility. It has not gone unnoticed that sympathy for the U.S. effectively evaporated within days of 9/11, that support for necessary responses has been grudging and hedged with conditions, that, time and again, Western states have been caught under the table with corrupt UN officials and even the terrorists themselves, that, with a few notable exceptions such as India and Japan, our sole dependable allies against a universal threat have been our cousins, Great Britain and Australia.

    The classic U.S. response to such provocations has been isolationism. When betrayed in the international sphere, we go home and mind our own business. But that's no longer a viable option. In this millennium, we can't isolate our troubles overseas. If we turn our back, they'll come right after us.

    There have been rumblings, comments on the Net, voices on talk radio, arguing another alternative. That we owe the rest of the world nothing. That an effective response to terror is simply to start vaporizing cities, beginning with Tehran and working our way down until attacks cease. That, quite simply, the United States should transform itself into Rome.

    I have given some thought to this myself. I have wistfully rejected it. The Sampson option. If we are going down we will take the rest of the bastards with us. Let the world become like the Iranians, nostalgic for the "oppression" of the Shah.
    But we had better know this: if the U.S. ever does take on the trappings of imperium, if we, out of despair or terror, turn to Roman methods, then, like Scipio, we will be witnessing our own fate in the cities we set ablaze.

    Fate is by definition unavoidable. Nations are often forced into roles they might not have chosen, the way Britain found itself an empire "in a fit of absentmindedness". For now, we - the Americans, despised and envied across the world -- still stumble along, doing the best we can, taking our licks and looking for solutions while living up to our image of ourselves. But the criticsshould be wary of screaming too loud, of conspiring too well, of undermining us too thoroughly. Because if they succeed, if they do get what they insist they want, then the result may well be something they never conceived, and it will be their desolation, and our peace.

    I think he has that right. Except with our peace will come our impoverishment.

    We do have a trick or two up our sleves. One I found at Classical Values. One I invented myself. One is defensive, one is offensive (yeah, that's me).

    The defensive measure is Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion. With greatly increased energy supplies we will not be dependent on the oil tankers plying the high seas. We will greatly reduce the funding by the Arab states of terrorism. Enegry independence would become our defensive shield since energy (specifically liquid energy) is our greatest vulnerability.

    The offensive measure is the Neighborhood Development Package. A package designed to give a neighborhood access to the internet, cell phones, and electrical power. By distributing these packages we educate and emanicipate women. Educated and emancipated women are the best tool we have to destroy tribal culture.

    We can get our wish (a measure of peace) by destroying the world. We can also get it another way. Let us hope our better angels predominate, but we will have to get cracking.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)



    Liar's Poker
    That was CongressMAN Joe Wilson calling Obama a liar. So is Obama lying?
    During Barack Obama's speech tonight, Obama said it was untrue that "the reforms I am proposing" cover illegal aliens. Someone in the audience, reportedly South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, yelled out "liar."

    Now this isn't the British parliament, so I don't agree with shouting out. Just who is lying, though, depends upon which plan is being used to determine if illegal aliens are covered.

    Technically, Obama was correct that his plan does not cover illegal aliens because Obama has no plan that has been released, only concepts. So if Obama says his plan doesn't cover illegals, then by definition it does not cover illegals -- at least until we see the language in his plan. Similarly, the Senate HELP Committee bill defines an "eligible individual" in numerous places throughout the bill to include only citizens and legal residents (including for the public option, at page 111 of the bill).

    So using the two measures, the non-existent Obama bill and the draft Senate HELP Committee bill which was not a full Senate proposal, Obama was correct.

    But if the standard is the full House Bill, HR3200, then it appears that Obama was incorrect. There is nothing in HR3200 that excludes illegal aliens from the various coverage provisions (with a few limited exceptions). The Congressional Research Service agrees with this assessment (full report embedded below).

    So Mr. Obama. You say you have a big solution? We'd all like to see the plan.


    H/T Judith Weiss on Facebook

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



    Why Don't You Come With Me Little Girl, On A Magic Pony Ride

    The Obama healthcare speech transcript for those, like me, to impatient to sit and be read to (come on, the bandwidth is terrible).

    Well, 47 million uninsured has now become 30 million. So he's getting closer to intellectual honesty. One is tempted to ask where those 17 million disappeared to (FEMA camps? lol) but one also wishes to encourage such movement towards virtue, feeble as it is.

    It's still very hypocritical, though. First he scares us with what a terrible crisis this is, then he complains about scare tactics. Then we get the tired false analogy of "auto insurance" mandates. You are not required to buy "auto insurance," you are required to buy liability insurance due to the fact you are operating a couple tons of machine at speeds of up to 70 mph or more which could cause severe harm to others.

    Let it be said there are some things Obama got right here. Exchanges are a good idea. Insurance companies should be able to compete across state lines. Malpractice reform is a nice talking point, at least, though we'll see if it actually happens.

    Overall, though, this is nothing new, just Magical Pony Sales Pitch #4,237. He claims we can do more with less by adding his patented new formula called Government!. Government! will cut costs, Government! will cover everyone, Government! will give you security. Government! will makes your whites brighter, your skin clearer, and rainbows and kittens will appear everywhere. Unfortunately, the American people have seen Government! in action and aren't impressed.

    Honestly, I am starting to think the rumors of his brilliance are vastly overstated. I don't think he even realizes the things he is promising are impossible. He seems to honestly believe statements like "Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan."

    Why don't you tell your dreams to me, fantasy will set you free.

    This was a nice moment, too:

    There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

    AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)

    It's not a question of coverage, it's a question of enforcement, and an enforcement mechanism was proposed and voted down. Illegals aren't supposed to vote either, but for some reason voting is easier than buying cigarettes, and we hear mutters of "voter suppression" and "poll taxes" even when the enforcement plans include giving people free photo IDs.

    posted by Dave at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)




    There Oughta Be A Law

    In the wake of news that current health care deform proposals would fine people up to $3800 for not carrying insurance, James Taranto asks:

    Why not apply this principle to other areas of social policy as well? For example, we could deal with the problem of homelessness by passing a law requiring everyone to have a home, and levying thousands of dollars in fines against those who fail to comply.
    posted by Dave at 06:01 PM | Comments (3)



    Why it's too late

    Obama supporter Camille Paglia thinks it's too late for the coalition that elected him to repair the damage. Along with a tantalizingly accurate definition of that group of people I've called "THEY," she asks some great questions:

    Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism.

    How has "liberty" become the inspirational code word of conservatives rather than liberals?

    Just as feminists haven't believed in independence for women for some time, liberals don't believe in liberty, and haven't for some time. Gay activists don't believe in sexual freedom anymore; instead it's sexual inquisitions and invasion of privacy. Everywhere on the left, individuality has been stifled by identity politics and group think. Under the misnomer of "critical thinking," unoriginal followers are indoctrinated to imagine themselves to be leaders. It's mass self delusion, and I don't think it is any coincidence that it has been presided over by elders who mastered the art of self-delusion when they were in college, where they redefined their own cowardice as bravery, and deconstructed virtue itself in the process. I think it would be unreasonable to expect honest self-appraisal from such pathologically stubborn people. Especially as they approach old age, it's way too late for them to change.

    However, Obama is just a kid compared to that dishonest crowd of self-deluded people. The problem is, he seems to actually look up to them.

    And I mean really look up to them. It's one thing to be a regular old demagogic politician and use people on your way up, but I worry that he sees them as his ideological betters.

    MORE: I enjoyed Ann Althouse's reaction to Paglia:

    "This is a big reason why I feel so drawn into writing what gets perceived as a right-wing blog."
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) It's probably also a big reason why so many right wing liberals are turning to Alinsky.

    posted by Eric at 09:02 AM | Comments (11)



    If You Don't Vote, They Win

    So it appears Human Rights Watch is hiring Nazi paraphernalia collecting enthusiasts. Yep, you read that right.

    Ace on this wee problem:

    If the same dude is the Human Rights Watch Israel critic and the gonzo Nazi memorabilia collector... well, if you're constantly going to dog Israel, you probably should find a different hobby.

    Kinda looks bad. Just a bit.


    Ace is surprisingly perceptive about appearances for someone who resembles an Ewok with a growth hormone problem. But in truth all this can be solved with a little well-applied PR: Human Rights Watch just needs a snappy new moniker, something to reflect its edgy new attitude and modern priorities. Vote for your choice below, or make a suggestion in the comments.

    What should Human Rights Watch be renamed to?
    Aryan Rights Watch
    Look, We Found Hitler's Watch!
    The Watch To Make Sure No One Beats Those Nazi Genocide Records, Thus Devaluing Our Memorabilia
    Hitler's Reich Watch (this would save time on letterheads and etc)
    Watch Those Jews, They're Up To No Good Again
    Zionist Entity Watch
    Humans, March Right Over And Watch "The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion," It Explains Everything
    pollcode.com free polls
    posted by Dave at 03:17 AM | Comments (0)




    Republicans Don't Have A Chance

    Bill Clinton is offering Mr. Obama some advice on health care reform.

    Former President Bill Clinton says those in his party should ignore any grief from Republicans on health care reform, because the GOP is just waiting for Democrats to "mess up."

    Clinton told Esquire magazine that lawmakers should put together the best health care measure for President Barack Obama, even if it must be fixed later.

    "All we have to worry about is getting things done and doing them as well as we can," Clinton said. "Don't even worry about the Republicans. Let them figure out what they're going to stand for. 'Cause as long as they're sitting around waiting for us to mess up, they don't have a chance."

    I wonder if Mr. Clinton has forgotten the 1994 mid-term elections that gave Republicans control of the House.
    Skocpol undertook the study just after President Clinton's failed health care reform effort of 1993-94, when Clinton and his fellow Democrats fared poorly in the 1994 elections and conservative Republicans won many seats in Congress. Taking advantage of a timely opportunity, Skocpol decided to examine this very specific case: how the 1993-94 conflicts over health care reform contributed to the larger political turnaround.

    Skocpol's work resulted in Boomerang: Health Care Reform and the Turn against Government, published by W. W. Norton & Co. in 1996. Using the failed health care reform effort of 1993-94 as a case study, Skocpol gives an overview and an explanation of what happened -- or failed to happen -- during those policy debates about the role of the federal government in health care.

    And what was the key to Clinton's failure?
    Privileged middle-class Americans who already had some kind of health coverage began to fear that Clinton's Health Security plan might make their health care more costly and cumbersome. Skocpol says President Clinton assiduously avoided the tax-and-spend modalities of traditional New Deal liberalism -- only to fall victim instead to the political pitfalls of substituting regulations for spending.
    And the Obama Plan? Massive regulation AND massive spending. It is no wonder that people like this lady are up in arms.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:45 PM | Comments (8)



    Decline And Fall

    Here is a bit I did in December of 2006. It is especially relevant given Eric's post on how the world is going to the dogs.

    ===

    Commenter Karridine alerted me to this interesting piece by Orson Scott Card on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

    Card's central thesis is that trade made the empire and its people richer and that the empire fell because trade was no longer safe.

    Trade breaks down as merchants lose confidence and markets are disrupted by barbarian invaders. When this happens, specialization becomes impossible, local areas must become agriculturally and militarily self-sufficient again, and between disease, famine, war, and emigration, populations crash.
    Then he asks the most important question of the day. Can it happen to us?
    For a century, America has been the great cushion to absorb the shocks that might have brought down western civilization. In the Great War (WWI), Europe crashed its own population through war and then crashed further through the influenza epidemic. But the American economy provided the means for France and Britain -- but not Germany -- to recover. Arguably, it was the failure to include Germany in the recovery that led to repeated economic crises, and when America finally joined Europe with its own Depression in the 1930s, the stage was set for the next barbarian invasion.
    He discusses the German and Japanese barbarians of WW2 and why it was good that America defeated them.

    He then goes on to discuss the American "imperial" system.

    In the aftermath of WWII, once again America was the economic cushion -- only this time the portion of Germany under western occupation was included in the economic recovery, as was Japan.

    The result, over the past sixty years, has been a pax Americana covering much of the world. And the world has prospered fantastically wherever the American military sustained it.

    Let me say that again: As with Rome, the American military has been the wall behind which a system of safe trade has allowed an extraordinary degree of specialization and therefore mutually sustained prosperity.

    America has not been imperial -- we have not been stripping other countries. On the contrary, those nations that were able to sustain the internal peace necessary for production, and that have joined the economy presided over by America, have all been able to join in the prosperity as equals.

    We don't tax them -- quite the opposite. We have taxed ourselves to pay for the military protection that maintained the safety and perception of safety that allowed the European community and Japan to flourish. Their welfare economies are only possible because they did not have to pay for their own defense at anything like the levels we have paid.

    People talk about America's enormous defense budget as if it were a menace to the world. But our enormous defense budget has allowed Japan and Europe -- and Taiwan and South Korea -- to thrive without having to invest much of their gross domestic product in defense.

    He then goes on to discuss China and Russia and the different path's they have taken. He is not optimistic about either country.

    Then he discusses how the American system could fall to the barbarians.

    Here's how it happens: America stupidly and immorally withdraws from the War on Terror, withdrawing prematurely from Iraq and leaving it in chaos. Emboldened, either Muslims unite against the West (unlikely) or collapse in a huge war between Shiites and Sunnis (already beginning). It almost doesn't matter, because in the process the oil will stop flowing.

    And when the oil stops flowing, Europe and Japan and Taiwan and Singapore and South Korea all crash economically; Europe then has to face the demands of its West-hating Muslim "minority" without money and without the ruthlessness or will to survive that would allow them to counter the threat. The result is accommodation or surrender to Islam. The numbers don't lie -- it is not just possible, it is likely.

    America doesn't crash right away, mind you. But we still have a major depression, because we have nowhere to sell our goods. And depending on what our desperate enemies do, it's a matter of time before we crash as well.

    He points out what I have and so many others have said over and over. At this time oil is the life blood of civilization. Without it there will be a huge die off.

    Card looks at what America might become without world trade and imported oil.

    ...our own oil production cannot meet the demands of transportation and production at current levels. Rationing will cripple us. We will not be able to maintain our huge fleet of trucks. Air travel will becoming shockingly expensive and airlines will fail or consolidate. We won't even be allowed to drive our cars on long trips because gasoline will be rationed.

    We will go back to the rails. Only we won't have the money to rebuild and refurbish the railroad system -- it will only be able to limp along.

    It will look, even inside the United States, amazingly like the shrinkage that happened at the time of the fall of Rome.

    Then, and only then, will America look -- and be -- vulnerable to any kind of intervention from the south. Economies that are still somewhat primitive will recover faster than economies that are absolutely dependent on specialization.

    It takes two generations for the dark ages to reach America. But they will come, if we allow this nightmare to begin. Because once you reach the tipping point, there's no turning back, as the Emperor Justinian discovered.

    Our global economic system is a brilliant creation, imperfect of course, but powerful and effective in creating more prosperity for more people than ever in the history of the world. It is a creation of America's military and America's benign government of the world -- so benign they pretend we don't govern it.

    Our enemies and most of our "allies" and many of our own citizens are working as hard as possible to bring the whole thing crashing down, though that is not at all what they intend.

    They just haven't learned the lessons -- the principles -- of how great economic empires are maintained. They only look at the political dogmas du jour and spout their platitudes. People like me are ridiculed for seeing the big picture and learning the lessons of history.

    A similar crash of global trade happened in the aftermath of the European wars of the 20th century. Starting in 1914 it did not fully recovered until 50 years from the end of the last of the European shooting wars.

    We many not be so lucky this time.

    Fortunately we have an ace in the hole. However, we had better get cracking. This new source of energy will take 5 years to prototype and probably 10 years to roll out. There is no time to waste.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:38 PM | Comments (7)



    The Butcher, The Baker, And The Congress Critter

    Actually the butcher is at the meeting only in spirit as far as I can tell. But the baker is there and she unloads on her Congress Critter. For taxes. For Cap and Tax. For health care. For bank bail outs. And for the Congress Critter insulting her with the critter's responses to her questioning the votes the critter cast. You know, the usual "thank you for your support" when no support was communicated.

    I think 2010 will be another throw the bums out election. I suggest we keep throwing out the bums until they figure out who their bosses are.

    H/T Judith Weiss on Facebook

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)



    So little time, so many distractions!

    This San Francisco Chronicle editorial reveals so much about the leftist mindset that I found it almost charming. Their position on Van Jones is not that there's anything wrong with his thinking, but that the Obama administration is too busy to be bothered having to defend him:

    This administration has far too many pressing issues on its plate to spend its energy defending Jones' past statements on race and politics, his support of cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal or his association with the conspiracy theorists trying to link the Bush White House to 9/11.
    While such things as radical Communism are mere trifles to the Chronicle ( which is obviously quite familiar with the Bay Area-based Jones), they're having trouble figuring out whether the White House was incompetent or deliberate:
    The White House either missed the inflammatory aspects of Jones' past - which raises serious questions about its vetting process - or assumed they would never become an issue, which suggests a certain naivete about the ways of Washington.
    Well, there is a third possibility, and that is that this was deliberate. (A thorough exploration of the possible reasons might verge into conspiracy theory turf, though....)

    It's hard for me to believe that they didn't know damned well about Jones's radical activism, because all of it -- including his unabashed Communism -- is just a Google click away. And if they did know, then his appointment might not have been naivete at all, but a deliberate and cynical serving of red meat for conservative and libertarian wolves. But why? To bait them? To set them up? For what? It hardly makes Jones's critics look bad; in fact, it would only seem to confirm their warnings about what could be expected from the kind of guy who hung out with the likes of Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright.

    OTOH, the Jones appointment might also have been a bone thrown to the hard, Communist left. One of "theirs" was appointed to something, but see what happened!

    And then of course it might have been intended as another distraction, for it certainly provided that. But distraction from what?

    A distraction here, a distraction there, and pretty soon this will become a distraction administration.

    MORE: The Wall Street Journal opines that like Ayers and Wright before him, Jones too has been "thrown under the bus."

    Can I think stick my neck out here and venture that I detect a pattern?

    posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (2)



    Suicidal talking points

    Will the Democratic Party be so stupid as to pass a health care reform bill? The other night a group of eager beaver policy wonks told me they would, and explained why.

    This morning I found virtually all of their arguments outlined here. Despite the fierce opposition that gripped the nation all summer, the bill is alive and well:

    ...as the right became energized, the left grew disillusioned, as much by the administration's backroom deals as by its ineffectual messaging. Eventually, the shift showed up in the polls. First people grew more wary of reform. Then they grew more wary of the president. It was if everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

    Somehow, though, health reform is not dead. Despite all of the setbacks and all of the missed opportunities--despite this train wreck of a month--the situation remains remarkably similar to what it was before the recess. Significant health care legislation is likely to pass, particularly if Obama manages to give a good speech on Wednesday night.

    As I was told the other night, the liberals are counting on Olympia Snowe, but even if she disappoints them, there's always reconciliation:
    ...if Snowe signs on, according to nearly every person I consulted, it's quite possible the legislation she supports would become the Senate's bill with very little change--and that, in conference, the Senate bill would prevail. She'd hold the leverage, as long as the administration and Democratic leadership prefer to pass pass legislation with 60 votes. And that certainly seems to be the inclination of Obama and his advisors. (It's harder to tell about Congress, particularly the House, but they're unlikely to challenge the White House openly on this.)

    Unless, of course, it never gets that far. Snowe may not sign on; even if she does, one source close to the process notes, she "may not bring a sufficient number of conservative Democrats" to reach 60. If that happens--if consensus proves elusive, for whatever reason--then Obama and his allies would focus on trying to pass a bill through reconciliation. And they would move quickly.

    It is, as one senior administration official put it recently to me, a "high-risk-high-reward" strategy. Since reconciliation means passing a bill with just fifty senators supporting it, the group of interests to satisfy becomes narrower--potentially allowing for a bolder, more progressive bill. That's the reward. At the same time, it's risky because of the procedural hurdles. Among other things, Conrad would apparently become the measure's "floor manager," since he's chairman of the Budget Committee. (It's not clear to me what that entails, but, I gather, it's not entirely helpful, given his well-known skepticism about health reform.)

    But the greatest risk with reconciliation is that the process produces a weak bill, an incomplete one, or, in the very worst case, a counter-productive one--not that it fails to produce any bill at all. The Democratic Party isn't necessarily the bravest. (If it was, it'd have passed reform already.) But it's also not the dumbest. Failing to pass a bill when they have the numbers would be politically suicidal, just like it was in the 1990s. Having committed themselves to passing legislation, they now must follow through.

    That's what I kept hearing the other night, that it would be suicide not to pass it.

    I think it's suicide to pass it -- especially by using the undemocratic, shove-it-down-your-throat "reconciliation" process. Because voters won't like it, and the reality of what they did will have plenty of time to sink in before the next election.

    MORE: Pelosi and Reid Tell President: We Have the Votes; President Wants Bill Passed Soon

    They're committing political suicide. To avoid political suicide.

    posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (2)




    Poles apart

    As one of those who has not (yet) been driven crazy by the prospect of Barack Obama delivering a propaganda lecture to the children, I'm finding it a bit hard to figure out how I fit into this analysis that Glenn Reynolds linked earlier:

    The Silly Season ceases to be "silly" when what passes for political debate in America turns not merely stupid or witless, but certifiably demented.

    I write of the kooky reaction of many conservatives--politicians, citizens and commentators in the media--to the plan by President Obama to address the nation's schoolchildren tomorrow. (And I write, please note, as a nonlefty libertarian who did not support Barack Obama in the presidential election.)

    I haven't had time to go crazy. I mean, I can barely keep up with the pole dancing threat, and I was all set to write a post about that, but I didn't have time.

    I dislike propaganda as much as anyone else, and there has been no shortage of it with this administration. I can certainly understand why people would not want their children indoctrinated, but sometimes I worry that the net effect of all the hysteria over "the children" might be making them more fragile than they really are.

    It's like, I can understand why parents would see a pole dancer doll as a threat to the children, just like I can understand an Obama propaganda speech being a threat to the children, but aren't these kids going to have to grow up and leave home at some point? Aren't they American citizens, supposedly possessed of free minds and entitled to think for themselves? It's as if some people are seeing them as totally vapid, empty vessels, into which filth, obscenity, degradation and left wing propaganda are being poured, while their parents just sit there helplessly. And instead of raising and educating their kids the way they see fit, parents act as if they are victims along with their kids.

    Now, I realize that this sounds as if I am complaining about people complaining, but there's something about the way they're complaining that I find a bit creepy.

    While I agree with many of their political concerns, the parents who complain about Obama propaganda remind me a bit of the parents who organized against the ice cream threat. Or the condoms on bananas.

    Or the pole dancer dolls. A number of people are up in arms about this alleged toy for tots -- which I can't find for sale anywhere, although I have looked diligently. I don't know whether the picture is a hoax*, but here it is:

    pole-dancer.jpg

    Via Clayton Cramer, who posts this under "decline and fall of Western Civilization." He's by no means alone; in a post headlined "CULTURAL APOCALYPSE WATCH" Robert Stacy McCain says that "God owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology."

    I don't mean to single out conservative bloggers, though. I am certain that many lefties -- especially feminists -- share in the outrage. A San Francisco Chronicle writer opines, simply, that

    "This is the end of civilization as we know it.
    I'm sorry to sound so dense, but how is it that Western Civilization can be brought down by dancing in conjunction with a pole? What is it that's doing this? Erotic dancing? Such dancing is hardly new. Does it have something to do with the pole? Is there something particularly erotic or dirty about a pole that I am missing?

    There is of course erotic pole dancing, performed by strippers. Maybe I'm a square, but the only kind of pole dancing I've seen was in a bar while on a cruise ship, but these were just patrons, fully clothed and (so far as I could tell) they were just having fun. Pole dancing is also a recognized exercise, although that seems to be outside the popular construction of the narrative, which is that it's filthy, filthy, filthy.

    My question is this: is there something particularly outrageous about a pole which does not obtain in its absence? Is it, um, phallic? Is that what's pissing all these people off?

    Well what about the Maypole? Back in 2006, I took some pictures of a Maypole Dance on Mayday, but the young women were modestly attired, and the idea was to wind around the pole and wrap it with ribbons.

    And does it matter whether the doll that has outraged so many people in fact exists? Or is it one of those situations where it might it as well have? I can't find it anywhere, but anyone can make anything, and there is this more adult-looking version I found here:

    There are also antenna pole dancers for truckers and manly men types to put on their vehicles.

    But as I say, anyone can make anything. I could create a box top showing two leather guys engaged in S&M/B&D and call it "THE ADAM AND STEVE FOLSOM STREET DOLL FOR CHILDREN."

    Why should it be that easy to bring about the end of Western Civilization? Should "we" make it harder?

    And how come the same result doesn't obtain in Tokyo?

    Seriously, if American children are so abjectly helpless against the threat of a pole dancing doll, I don't think it's the pornographic doll -- or even a speech to children -- that's the threat to Western Civilization. I think the greater threat is posed by Western Civilization being in a constant state of readiness to fall.

    And I'd say that even if the president puts a condom on a banana during his propaganda lecture.

    * Some have opined that the pole dancer doll is a hoax, with one blogger going so far as to say that

    "Yes, the pole dance doll is distasteful and inappropriate for little girls, but the real issue here is whether this doll even exists. (There might be hope for society if it doesn't.)
    Hope for society?

    Let's not get carried away. It didn't take much effort for me to find bondage kewpie dolls:

    bondagekewpies.jpeg

    OTOH, it's only fair to point out that it was the evil, decadent, fallen nature of the West that helped bring about the fall of the Soviet Union, so maybe filth is more powerful than we realize.

    What if falling is contagious?

    posted by Eric at 11:10 AM | Comments (14)



    Neutrality nostalgia

    As I've been swamped with Labor Day weekend business aggravated by a mechanical breakdown (try fixing a radiator leak when you're in another state on a weekend with no tools wearing a suit!), I haven't been able to keep up with the blogosphere. Normally, I trust Glenn Reynolds to keep up with the blogosphere for me, and while I admit that's very lazy on my part, it's also efficient. (I see him as embodying the ethos of "I KEEP UP WITH THE BLOGOSPHERE SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO.") The downside is that Glenn Reynolds does not link every last thing I might possibly want to see, but then, he also does not link a lot of things I would definitely NOT want to see.

    Anyway, there's always a lot of stuff that I miss, so I really appreciated it when Veeshir sent me a link to a post by Ann Althouse about pit bulls. While she's not gushing over how wonderful they are, she has a YouTube video showing a very endearing pit bull she met at a Wisconsin party. How could he not be endearing with a name like Romeo?

    I think he looks like my old dog Puff. In the video, the dog's owner mentions a famous picture of a pit bull draped in the American flag, and Althouse tracked down the image of it. I recognized it, but I had never seen the pit bull displayed alone, as the one I'm familiar with is from a 1915 World War I neutrality poster:

    neutralityposter_s.jpg

    I guess neutrality can be a tough stance to maintain if you're a pit bull.

    Since World War I is off topic, I don't have to drift into alternate history land, so I need not speculate about what might have happened had the US not made the world safe for democracy by ending the war to end all wars.

    posted by Eric at 09:37 AM | Comments (9)




    The Waterloo Myth

    This article about lawmakers worried about 2010 repeats a meme whose popularity has really started to bother me:

    Their political fortunes next year are likely to hinge on whether the U.S. economy, in its longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression, improves and if Congress passes a significant healthcare reform bill.

    People keep talking about health care reform being Obama's Waterloo. It's not. It's his Heraclea, his Asculum, a potential Pyrrhic victory that might destroy his party. Americans are generally happy with their healthcare, and abhor gov't rationing and government mandates in a way Europeans and Japanese don't. Our cultural identity is built around individualism and liberty. That's why "reform" gets less popular they more people hear about specific proposals.

    The latest offering, BaucusCare, isn't quite as egregious but offers a lot of the same problems:

    Mandate Some penalty for employers who don't buy health insurance for low-wage workers Medicaid up to 133% of the poverty line Tax credits for buying insurance up to 300% of the poverty line Taxes on cadillac coverage that greatly exceeds the national average Guaranteed issue Something close to community rating

    I'm shaking my head waiting for the collective "omg wtf" from Generation Y as they find out they're going to be required to pay for all this. They may never vote Democrat again.

    Also, if you do something that includes both community rating and guaranteed issue, I think a very real and ugly constitutionality problem arises for mandates, because now you're explicitly forcing younger, healthier people to subsidize the rest. (And some people will just refuse to do it. Then what? Do we send in SWAT teams? Enforcement could be very sticky, offering many opportunities for state ugliness.)

    What if the government required you to buy a pound of cheese every year? Would that be constitutional?

    This is actually much worse. At least you'd have some hope of getting a fair value for your cheese-buying. This is like saying everyone has to pay $10 for the cheese, and older people will get 1.5 lbs and younger people .5 lbs.

    The Waterloo meme may be helpful to Democratic ideologues who really really think socialism will work and to Republicans who are happy to pick up the pieces when an outraged public gets hit with the bill (and the baton), but it's bad for America.

    posted by Dave at 09:27 PM | Comments (2)



    Sunday morning relative nihilism

    There are few things in life I detest more than enthusiasm for government. And as my luck would have it, last night I ate dinner surrounded by people who feel exactly the opposite way. Young, enthusiastic, left-wing policy wonks, who are simply drooling over the prospect of implementing government programs. It was a sickening experience, although I kept telling myself that I might learn something by listening. I learned nothing; it only reconfirmed my hatred for all things government -- and my loathing for the mindset that would tell people what to do.

    And telling people what to do is what it's all about. These folks see themselves as benevolent dictators, working for the public good. I'd call them "self-appointed" except that they think they've earned it by virtue of their training (graduate degrees in proper subjects), and their enthusiastic attitude is roughly analogous to police academy graduates all set to go out and fight crime in the big bad world.

    Depressing? I don't know if that's the right word, because they were like aliens to me. All of them were young enough to be my kids, and the universities are turning them out assembly-line style, and they're ready to go, like fully operational turn-key systems.

    It occurred to me that there are probably a few conservatives who also get graduate degrees from the same places, in the same government-related subjects, but that thought did not comfort me in the least. Had I been surrounded by young conservative policy wonks, I'd have had a lot more to agree with, but the problem is that I deeply distrust all government, and anyone who wants to be involved in it is therefore suspect. It's that love of power that I find so disgusting.

    Libertarians, of course, believe in the less government the better, and would agree wholeheartedly with Ronald Reagan's stated philosophy that "government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem."

    And good luck filling all the policy wonk spots with people who think like that.

    Little wonder the conservative policy wonks invented National Greatness Conservatism.

    Libertarians like me who hate government have nothing to offer.

    I'd say "literally" -- except I might be accused of advocating nihilism, and we can't have that, can we? Certainly not on a Sunday.

    In terms of government, nothingness is relative. If you're a federalist who believes in the 9th and 10th Amendments, to roll back the size and scope of the federal government to constitutional limits would mean completely shutting down virtually every federal department except for State, Defense, Treasury, Attorney General, and maybe Interior (which was added in 1849):

    Here's a hypothetical hit list of what I'd slate for utopian annihilation:

  • Agriculture, added in 1889;

  • Commerce and labor (once a single department), added by progressive Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 (and then split into two departments by progressive Woodrow Wilson in 1913).

  • HEW/HHS, added in 1953.

  • The rest have all been added during my lifetime. (HUD and Transportation were added under Johnson, Education and Energy under Carter, Veterans Affairs under Bush I, Homeland Security under Bush II, and under Clinton the EPA became a Cabinet level administration.)
  • Close them all. Including every alphabet soup bureaucracy that's within another department but which exercises power or jurisdiction that isn't specifically empowered by the Constitution.

    Getting rid of all that would be a good start.

    Not total nihilism, just relative.

    posted by Eric at 09:12 AM | Comments (7)




    I'm Sorry

    I would like to apologize to the citizens and constitutional government of the Republic of Honduras for the actions of the Obama administration. Apparently the open hand will only be extended to those who clench their fists in rage at America.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to extend the middle finger of non-friendship to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. May you soon water the tree of liberty.

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



    Next Big Issue? Or Next Big Distraction?

    While he was talking primarily in the context of healthcare, Thomas Sowell recently praised Barack Obama's skill as a magician.

    Just as magicians know that the secret of some of their tricks is to distract the audience, so politicians know that the secret of many political tricks is to distract the public with scapegoats.

    No one is more of a political magician than Barack Obama. At the beginning of 2008, no one expected a shrewd and experienced politician like Hillary Clinton to be beaten for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States by someone completely new to the national political scene. But Obama worked his political magic, with the help of the media, which he still has.

    Barack Obama's escapes from his own past words, deeds and associations have been escapes worthy of Houdini.

    Like other magicians, Obama has chosen his distractions well. The insurance industry is currently his favorite distraction as scapegoats, after he has tried to demonize doctors without much success.

    Distractions have long intrigued me, and the distraction provided by the "condoms on bananas" meme has been a favorite in the past.

    But as distractions go, the condom issue is relatively minor. To see a major issue like socialized medicine being used as a distraction is new, and worrisome.

    If issues are becoming distractions instead of issues, this complicates analysis as never before.

    Even before I read the Thomas Sowell piece, I was wondering about Barack Obama's wisdom in making immigration the Next Big Issue.

    Michael Barone argues that it's a bad idea, because the timing is poor, it won't help the Democrats politically, and illegal immigration rate has been dramatically dropping:

    Before leaving for his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Barack Obama said the next big item on his legislative agenda -- well, after health care, cap and trade, and maybe labor's bill to effectively abolish secret ballots in union elections -- was immigration reform. What he has in mind, apparently, is something like the comprehensive immigration bills that foundered in the House in 2006 and in the Senate in 2007. These featured guest-worker and enforcement provisions, as well as a path to legalization.

    The prospects for such legislation still seem iffy. Immigration bills have typically needed bipartisan support to pass, and the Republicans who took the lead on the Senate bills in 2006 and 2007 aren't interested in doing so again. And some Democratic congressional leaders are wary of a bill that many members' constituents oppose.

    But there's another reason why Congress and the administration would be unwise to revive the 2006-07 legislation. The facts on the ground have changed. The surge of illegal immigrants into the United States, which seemed to be unrelenting for most of the last two decades, seems to be over, at least temporarily, and there's a chance it may never resume.

    So, from a conventional analysis standpoint, reviving the immigration issue is as much of a loser as the legislation would be.

    But what if the idea is not to pass legislation, but something else? If this is a distraction, might the idea be to bolster a narrative? And what better narrative than the old, tried-and-tested, conservatives are racists meme? I'm thinking that the left might just be drooling over another opportunity to cast the opposition as racist bigots, and if that's the goal, then reviving this issue might have little to do with actually getting legislation passed. In fact, if it failed, its defeat could be blamed on conservative Republican Tea Party redneck racism -- a distraction the media would be all too glad to further.

    distract the public with scapegoats?

    From the standpoint of timing, I can think of few better scapegoats than "right wing racism." The left has been trying desperately to portray opposition to health care as racism, but they have failed. There's just something about all that massive, tedious bureaucracy, debates over Medicare, whose insurance will cover what (along with the complex 1000 page bill that no one has read) that just defies being crammed into any sort of race narrative.

    Immigration, though, offers a perfect fit with the narrative.

    If the goal is a distraction rather than legislation, little wonder it's the Next Big "Issue."

    posted by Eric at 11:26 AM | Comments (4)



    Hitler is coming!

    And he's not wearing a condom!

    At least, that's the general theme of this anti-AIDS video that has upset a number of AIDS activists.

    Apparently, the objection is to showing an AIDS-infected Hitler is that it will portray AIDS sufferers in a negative light:

    The commercial was produced by the young Hamburg-based advertising agency das comitee on behalf of a small German Aids awareness group called Regenbogen e.V.

    The group could not be contacted for comment this morning but defended its controversial approach on the "AIDS is a mass murder" website.

    "The campaign is designed to shake people up, to bring the topic of Aids back to centre stage, and to reverse the trend of unprotected sexual intercourse. Because anyone can become infected," the website states.

    Hans Weishäupl, creative director of das comitee, told the Telegraph that it proposed the Hitler film after being briefed by Regenbogen e.V to come up with hard-hitting ideas.

    "A lot of people are not aware that Aids is still murdering many people every day. They wanted a campaign which told young people that it is still a threat," he said. "In Germany, Hitler is the ugliest face you can use to show evil".

    Mr Weishäupl said that the some members of the Regenbogen e.V organisation who have Aids raised concerns that the campaign could present a negative view of sufferers, but they agreed that the advert's shock value could help prevent the spread of the infection.

    I guess this represents a sexual violation of Godwin's Law, but considering the penchant for inserting Hitler into almost every political argument, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see Hitler being inserted into sexual matters (and even orifices). At least the film's producers were sensitive enough not to portray Hitler as a gay man. (There is a well-established "Hitler was gay" meme among certain conspiracy theorists.)

    I guess if they really wanted to ratchet this up a notch, they could show Hitler as a "gay teabagger," with Anderson Cooper on the receiving end. (They could factor in the lone nut theory to make it easier on poor Anderson.)

    But don't get me wrong! Just as I am against violating Godwin's Law, I'm also against sexually violating Godwin's Law.

    Ridiculing such violations should not be construed as praise.

    posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (2)



    Feynman Videos

    I was Googling "feynman lectures video" and came across this series on quantum electrodynamics. Very light on the math. Very heavy on the concepts. In the delightful Feynman way. I especially recommend the first lecture (about 78 minutes) where Feynman discusses the theory of light, the philosophy of physics, and Mayan Codexes.

    And as I always do when discussing Feynman I suggest a read of his Physics Lectures:

    The Feynman Lectures on Physics (3 volume set)

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)




    Exceptional museum

    It took me about a year to get around to it, but yesterday I finally visited the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. There's a lot I could say about it, but if I had to sum it up in a word, that word would be "INSPIRING."

    Truly, Henry Ford was an inspirational genius on a number of levels. It's one thing to read about the Model T, but seeing the whole process, seeing the history of the evolution in his mechanical thinking, seeing the assembly line system laid out in visual terms, this was a remarkable experience. (If you're planning a trip there, be sure to budget an entire day at least, as it's huge.)

    They assemble a Model T from parts there every day, and here's a picture I took showing a disassembled Model T suspended from the ceiling to the floor:


    Model_T_expl_s.jpg


    The techniques Henry Ford developed revolutionized industry, and put America on the map as the world's leading manufacturing country. The whole thing made my head spin, and when I came home I was reminded of what Barack Obama showed the other day that he still has not learned -- that "American Exceptionalism" (despite the left having made it into a politically loaded term) is not an argument, but a statement of fact. Henry Ford is a reason why.

    But yet...

    And I hate to say "but yet" -- but yet I have to. I really don't mean to sound like a politically correct whiner or anything, but I'm a bit touchy where it comes to bigotry, and whether he deserves it or not, Henry Ford occupies an undeniable place as one of the more notorious anti-Semites in history. Because I've read a book on the subject, what I know about the man kept creeping into my mind and spoiling (at least making me question) my nice thoughts about Henry Ford. Unwanted or inappropriate thoughts have a way of doing that sometimes. For nearly a decade, Ford was the publisher of The Dearborn Independent, an anti-Semitic newspaper with a circulation second only to the New York Post. It featured in excerpts a book length diatribe called "The International Jew" -- which influenced Adolf Hitler's thinking, and which was widely read in Nazi Germany and is a bestseller in the Mideast today.

    Henry Ford's millions made it possible, and by any standard, that is a bad thing. Yet Henry Ford repudiated anti-Semitism, denounced Nazi ideology, and closed down the Dearborn Independent in 1927. The trouble is, the words live forever; every dishonest word of The International Jew is freely available online.

    What does it mean to repudiate something? I was once a Marxist, but I have long since repudiated those beliefs, and no one who knows me would call me a Marxist today. (It would be laughable.) Yet I'm not sure that's a good analogy, because when I was a Marxist I was a stupid teenager, and in no position to influence millions of people. In terms of scale, Ford's anti-Semitism dwarfs my Marxism. Certainly, it is to his credit that he repudiated it, but simply because of the scale involved, there's an indelible stain that cannot be washed out, and will never go away. However, in fairness to Ford, he never advocated genocide (and anti-Semitism was far more acceptable in his day than it is now), and I don't think it is completely fair to judge him by post-Holocaust standards. Blaming Ford for the crimes of Hitler is like blaming Marx for the crimes of Stalin.

    The difference, though, is that Marx never repudiated Marxism, and thus his words can always be cited as his; Ford expressly repudiated the words that bore his name.

    It did not surprise me that nowhere in the Museum did I find any mention of the Dearborn Independent, or the International Jew. Whether or not they "should," who knows? I could see how a thoughtful argument could be advanced both ways (and I realize that ignorant people can be misled), but I tend to come down on the side of full disclosure. I don't think it's an accident that dishonest trash like "The International Jew" (and its closely related Czarist precursor, "Protocols of the Elders of Zion") is not considered to be part of serious thought here in the United States, but is taken seriously only in countries that don't have the First Amendment, where the governments don't allow critical scrutiny under the bright light of free speech.

    To return to the subject of technology, Megan McArdle was probably speaking quite literally yesterday when she observed (while blogging from an airplane) what Glenn Reynolds quoted: that "the future has rotten battery life." At least I hope she didn't mean the future of free speech, though recent events make me wonder.

    As I was reminded yesterday at the museum, rotten battery life is not a new subject. Electric cars were considered a viable enough alternative that Henry Ford's wife drove one. In the early days of the automobile, they were considered an especially good choice as an urban car for doctors and for women, because they didn't have to be hand-cranked. Range was limited, though.

    The cars were advertised as reliably getting 80 miles (130 km) between battery recharging, although in one test a Detroit Electric ran 211.3 miles (340.1 km) on a single charge. Top speed was only about 20 miles per hour (32 km/h), but this was considered adequate for driving within city or town limits at the time.
    Obviously, today's electric cars can go faster, but the distance they'll go on a single charge does not seem to have changed that dramatically:
    Cars that can travel 111 miles on a single charge will be sold for between $23,000 and $26,000. Longer distance cars that can travel 200 miles will cost $33,000. The company hopes to sell 40,000 autos next year and 270,000 the year after, in the United States, Asia and Europe.
    Some things never change. And rotten battery life seems to be one of them. Here's a picture I took of the original Detroit Electric car (the one that got 80 miles on a single charge):

    ElectricCar_s.jpg

    Not a bad looking car. I'd actually consider driving one today if I could get my hands on it. However, if I wanted to really feel independent, I'd prefer something I could drive longer distances, and faster. The Ford Model A, with its new electric starter, led to the demise of the early electric car, as it undercut the advantage of the latter.

    Back in the 1990s, this 1928 Model A was driven from Tierra del Fuego to Dearborn by Hector Quevedo Abarzua and his son Hugo Quevedo Liberona:

    Model_A_Punta_Arena.jpg

    That's a very old car to have made a drive of 22,000 miles, and it's a testament to Henry Ford and to American Exceptionalism.

    But would an electric car have made it?

    If you needed to plug in your car and recharge it every 100 miles, that would require 220 stops, and I'm not sure there are places that even have electricity every 100 miles between here and Tierra del Fuego, much less car charging stations.

    I'd love to see American Exceptionalism extend rotten battery life. But until then, I'd rather drive a Model A.

    posted by Eric at 02:37 PM | Comments (2)



    One Flew Over The Donkey's Nest

    The notion Republicans need to tone down their rhetoric to retake power took a beating today with the revelation Obama "green jobs" czar Van Jones not only signed a Truther petition, but organized Truther marches.

    Just think, today's Birthers are tomorrow's czars!

    posted by Dave at 02:08 PM | Comments (1)



    The Beam In Justin Raimondo's Eye

    Over at Reason, Matt Welch spots Justin Raimondo geting huffy about ths guy:

    Kostric.jpg

    Quoth Raimondo:

    This was widely interpreted as a not-so-subtle threat to the President, personally. And I fail to see how it could be understood in any other way. To carry that sign in one hand, and a gun in the other, is a declaration of war. .... Typically, some in the libertarian movement hailed Kostric as a hero. While we've had more than our our share of crackpots and scamsters in the libertarian movement, never have we had a significant organized grouping that openly advocated violence, or even flirted with it--at least, not until now.

    There's just one wee little problem with Justin's forehead-dabbing, hand-wringing "oh my, that sign suggests violence, I think I may faint" indignation:

    Raimondo's website consistently published propaganda generated by Randall (Ismail) Royer, a former CAIR employee now doing a 20-year federal sentence for terrorist activities. Recently, one of Royer's associates, Ahmad Omar Abu Ali, was charged with plotting to assassinate President Bush in collaboration with al-Qaida.

    So, he was fine with publishing the terrorist Randall Royer with his merry band of Bush-assassins, but a guy with a sign at a rally alluding to a 1700s statement from Thomas Jefferson about resisting dictatorship is a dangerous loon who's discrediting libertarianism?

    I'm not saying the sign is a good idea, but at least Kostric hasn't actually tried to kill anyone.

    posted by Dave at 11:01 AM | Comments (6)



    The Christianist theocrats are coming!
    (First "sodomy," and now "charity.")

    Christianity has always been considered almost synonymous with charity. Yet in order for charity to be charity, it has to be voluntary, for absent free choice, it ceases to be charity and becomes a tax. Now, I'm no theologian, but even by the most cursory analysis, it would seem that Jesus was reminding his followers that they had a duty to the state to pay their taxes when he said "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." But that is not charity, and there are a number of examples of Jesus stressing the importance of charity, and the example of the poor widow comes immediately to mind:

    Luke 20:45-21:4

    [45] While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, [46] "Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. [47] They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."

    [21:1] As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. [2] He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. [3] "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. [4] All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

    Interestingly, the rich people who "devour widow's houses" were religious scribes and the fact that they are condemned just before the poor widow is described as giving all she had is said constitute "condemnation of a religious system that robbed widows of their money."

    But religious scribes don't hold that sort of power today, If any entity robs widows of their money, I think it would be the government, via the estate tax.

    In any case, I have never seen a single Biblical example where Jesus advocates state and religious entanglement, least of all in matters of charity. Charity comes from the heart, and cannot be mandated; otherwise, how could people who are charitable be praised for their charity, or the uncharitable condemned for their selfishness?

    So I cannot quite make sense of the religious dispute under discussion here:

    A reading from the gospel according to Barack, and not for the first time either. I get a kick out of it, partly because it's healthy to see how shameless religious politicking looks when it comes from the other side and partly because I think the Christian ethos points more towards his side of the argument on this one. Yes, granted, there's nothing in the Bible about caring for the sick by rendering unto Caesar, but if it's a choice between that and letting millions of people go without treatment, what's the more Christian-y option? Schultz's point about democracy is interesting, too. It's one thing to have Herod sending down diktats about taxes for his personal policy whims, but if a majority of the public supports taxes as a way of covering the uninsured, isn't that a form of private charity albeit through a public mechanism? And if the answer to that is, "No, because those in favor should just start their own private institution devoted to covering the uninsured and donate to it voluntarily," then what, if any, divine repercussions should there be for people who don't donate to it? Is Jesus A-OK with you letting people suffer without care even if you have spare income you could offer them? Inquiring atheists want to know!
    (Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes that the "Christianists" are everywhere.) I'm not an atheist, but think the answer depends on whether there is separation of church and state. We seem to have a president who does not believe in that supposedly settled constitutional doctrine, and who invokes religion as he sees fit. OTOH, some of his conservative religious opponents also don't believe in separation of church and state either, so they get all squirmy over the issue of public health care, because naturally they think that if taking care of the health of others is a Christian duty, and there's no separation of church and state, why, then clearly Christians should support state-mandated health care out of religious duty. (Otherwise, it would be hardly be consistent to have religion dictate sex laws, but not health care.)

    I think the First Amendment stands for the principle that religion is not compulsory, which means that the state ought not to make people do things for religious reasons. If the state decides to tax people to make them pay for the health care of others, that is bad enough, but if the reason is to ensure compliance with Christian doctrine, then I am as much against religious-based public health care as I am religious-based sodomy laws.

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



    The Finger Biting Has Commenced

    Not content with nail biting (their own) over the prospects of health care reform Democrat operatives have begun finger biting (other's). It seems particular unfair to me - this finger tax. Couldn't they just have asked for the shirt off his back? Or a twenty year lease on his first born?

    Well actually no one knows if the mysterious stranger with a hunger for human fingers was a Democrat operative. He may have been a moveon.org operative. No one is sure (right now). But the incident is regretted by those who fear the negative publicity.

    Ilyse Hogue, the director of political advocacy and communications for the left leaning MoveOn.org, called the incident a "regrettable act of violence."

    "While we don't know if either party involved was a MoveOn member, we regret any violence that may have occurred yesterday, and we support the Ventura County Sheriff's investigation into the situation. It is our firm hope that this event does not detract from the tens of thousands who were out peacefully making their voices heard for health care reform and a public option."

    As far as I know there is no word yet if it detracts from the tens of thousands who were out peacefully making their voices heard AGAINST health care reform and AGAINST a public option.

    No matter what, there is usually a book by someone that can shed light on these matters:

    A History of Cannibalism: From Ancient Cultures to Survival Stories And Modern Psychopaths

    I think it is especially important for the socialists of various stripes to pay attention to the Psychopaths. They seem to attract an inordinate share of them. Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini.

    Although Hayek in The Road to Serfdom says that Socialists always have trouble matching resources to consumers and must inevitably resort to population trimming to bring supply and demand in balance. It is not a bug, it is a feature.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:41 AM | Comments (0)




    Who said they don't have death panels?

    Dr. Helen's headline "Health care for Clunkers" reminded me of the "care" they actually give the "clunkers" -- many of which are perfectly good cars.

    The care? It's called "pour in gunk to make the system lock up then gun the motor until it seizes" and it's dictated by the federal bureaucracy which wants to run our deaths lives.

    Once again, here's the government mandated death panel in action:

    As I concluded in my post,

    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....

    Eventually we'll all be clunkers.

    posted by Eric at 11:10 AM | Comments (4)



    Man bites man

    It is being widely reported that mayhem occurred at a pro-Obamacare rally in Los Angeles area yesterday, but I'm having trouble figuring out what happened.

    According to most accounts, a MoveOn.org member punched an anti-Obamacare protester and the pro-Obamacare protester had a finger bitten off in the process. However, in these versions of the story, it was the older anti-Obamacare protester who had his finger bitten off. (An eyewitness account posted here claims that the biter was pro-Obama.)

    Some of the headlines have changed back and forth.

    The confusion is evident at FreeRepublic.com, as evidenced by earlier comments like these before the story was changed:

    Rabies shots.

    [...]

    Whoa- no wonder people are showing up to these things armed. The radical left is out of control.

    [...]

    Figures. Sissy leftists bite. Hope the old guy doesn't get AIDS.

    [...]

    That's sad and it speaks volumes about what kind of person Obama is.

    [...]

    Cannibals for Obamacare!

    [...]

    Death Cult Nazi Eats Senior Citizen Alive

    [...]

    Bunch of rabid foaming at the mouth libtards. They shoot rabid animals don't they?....just sayin'

    [...]

    Judging by the picture and the account, the Obama thugs had the real Americans outnumbered about 25 to 1. No wonder they felt so bold.

    Etc. I'll spare the picture of Mike Tyson. There's that pathological part of me that wants to see this as funny, but that might be taken the wrong way.

    It illustrates the tediously partisan nature of politics that the biter was presumed to be a "typical" Obamacare supporter until the story appeared to change. (What the story is, I honestly don't know. There are more versions being added as I speak.)

    But if he appears to be on the other side, then the rabid partisans on the left can claim victimhood.

    And then there's me. I have this blog, and I often feel pressured to "weigh in" on these things, and the process is so crass that it almost reminds me of an Eagles fan in Philadelphia "weighing in" on an adverse decision by a referee. It's human nature, but it's not why I started blogging.

    I think the same things I always thought about socialism (to which I am unalterably opposed) and about healthcare (which is up to the individual), and I think that whatever demonstrator bit the finger off whatever other demonstrator was the one who did it, and whoever punched the other guy first was the one who punched the other guy first. (Most likely, someone started it, and someone had the right to self defense.)

    The combatants do not represent anyone else, least of all me, and I don't see why I should be expected to weigh in for or against them, then switch my position later, depending on which side the biter happens to be on.

    For my own edification I'd like to know exactly what happened, but frankly, I'm not seeing much of a political analysis or a moral lesson in this.

    MORE: There is no doubt bias in the reporting of this story. Both sides would probably prefer to be the victims of the biter and have the biter on the other side.

    My view is that the biased reporting matters more than the identity of the biter.

    MORE: Yes we cannibal! It is irresistible, I have to admit. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    MORE: To illustrate the confusing nature of this, here's a headline that says, "Protester Bites off Finger of Obama Supporter at Health Care Rally."

    But the leftie Raw Story says "Healthcare supporter bites off opponent's pinky."

    And earlier I saw "MoveOn.org Supporter Loses Finger After Punching Anti-Obamacare Protester at Rally (It was bitten off)" later become "MoveOn.org Thug Bites Off Protester's Finger At Obamacare Rally!" at a leading conservative blog.

    Hence my cautiously worded post title of "Man Bites Man."

    Now I'm thinking maybe it should be the other way around.

    UPDATE: A day later, it's clear that the man who did the biting was pro-Obamacare, and the man who lost his finger was counter-protesting the MoveOn.org event. Video interview here.

    And in an Editor's note, it is explained that there was a "surprise reason Rice was really at the scene (it wasn't about health care)." The man explains that health care is a pretext.

    I'm sorry he lost his finger, but regardless of his views or those of the biter, they speak for themselves.

    MORE: I like Ed Morrissey's take on this incident:

    Whether or not the perp belonged to MoveOn is really immaterial. As conservatives, we believe in individual responsibility, not group guilt. Nevertheless, this does demonstrate -- again -- that most of the violence in these protests have come not from Tea Party activists or gun-carrying protesters, but from the counterprotesters from unions and left-wing groups.

    posted by Eric at 10:23 AM | Comments (6)




    Consider, Compare And Contrast

    As companion to this brilliant must-read piece from Megan McArdle that lays out the libertarian philosophy on health care beautifully...

    But even after you get beyond that, the more "practical" considerations remain. If the government crowds out private health insurance for many people--a result that a number of analysts on both right and left think (hope) is likely, then the government rationing regime becomes actual rationing for the majority of the population. There is also the fact that private insurers often base their services around what the government does, setting their rates as a percentage of Medicare rates, using Medicare to define what standard medical practice is, and so forth.

    The core problem with rationing, for most libertarians, is that even if you think that the government's interference is just--and hey, in the case of World War II, I am probably willing to listen--that it has other effects we recognize as bad. Black markets breed crime. Government rules are necessarily extremely broad and will make some people worse off. But the core issue is that when you disable the price signal, you usually severely degrade the production and distribution of the good in question. I hate to drag out Hayek again, but that old chestnut is still the single best exposition of why you might choose not to ration, set price floors/ceilings, or otherwise disable the price mechanism, even if you would like to see some more just distribution of the goods in question:


    Assume that somewhere in the world a new opportunity for the use of some raw material, say, tin, has arisen, or that one of the sources of supply of tin has been eliminated. It does not matter for our purpose--and it is very significant that it does not matter--which of these two causes has made tin more scarce. All that the users of tin need to know is that some of the tin they used to consume is now more profitably employed elsewhere and that, in consequence, they must economize tin. There is no need for the great majority of them even to know where the more urgent need has arisen, or in favor of what other needs they ought to husband the supply. If only some of them know directly of the new demand, and switch resources over to it, and if the people who are aware of the new gap thus created in turn fill it from still other sources, the effect will rapidly spread throughout the whole economic system and influence not only all the uses of tin but also those of its substitutes and the substitutes of these substitutes, the supply of all the things made of tin, and their substitutes, and so on; and all his without the great majority of those instrumental in bringing about these substitutions knowing anything at all about the original cause of these changes. The whole acts as one market, not because any of its members survey the whole field, but because their limited individual fields of vision sufficiently overlap so that through many intermediaries the relevant information is communicated to all. The mere fact that there is one price for any commodity--or rather that local prices are connected in a manner determined by the cost of transport, etc.--brings about the solution which (it is just conceptually possible) might have been arrived at by one single mind possessing all the information which is in fact dispersed among all the people involved in the process.

    Mechanisms to distribute tin without prices have been tried, and found wanting. So have mechanisms to distribute practically every other good you can think of, from housing to hotdogs. Rent control distorts the housing market and discourages landlords from building or improving their housing stock. Price controls on bread result in shortages, and often distort the non-controlled sectors of the market. Fuel subsidies result in your precious tax dollars being diverted to Columbian roadside vendors who will siphon the gas out of your tank at great danger to themselves and pay something closer to market rates for it. Etc.

    ...a couple of Drudge links to illustrate the point (also well-made by others) in the real world.

    Exhibit A -- Cold, uncaring capitalism:

    NYC Man Survives After Heart Stops For 45 Minutes

    Joseph Tiralosi was released from the hospital Tuesday. He had gone to the emergency room at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center on Aug. 17 because he wasn't feeling well. Within minutes of his arrival, he collapsed and his heart stopped beating.

    Doctors and nurses tried CPR and shocked him multiple times with a defibrillator. A last-ditch effort to break up any clots finally worked, and Tiralosi's pulse finally came back.

    Doctors kept his body cold while they removed a clot and Tiralosi's heart started working normally.

    Exhibit B -- Warm and fuzzy socialism:

    In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.

    Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.

    ...
    "Forecasting death is an inexact science,"they say. Patients are being diagnosed as being close to death "without regard to the fact that the diagnosis could be wrong.
    ...
    The warning comes just a week after a report by the Patients Association estimated that up to one million patients had received poor or cruel care on the NHS.

    Rationing? What rationing?

    I can only imagine how quaintly spendthrift the whole Terry Schiavo episode must have seemed across the pond.

    UPDATE: Remember, the very idea of government "death panels" is just crazy talk.

    UPDATE: Michelle Goldberg gets McArdled. Ouch.

    posted by Dave at 06:03 PM | Comments (1)



    We Are Running Out Of Peak Oil

    Yes. It is true. We are temporarily running out of peak oil. A lot of new oil has been discovered. BP is British Petroleum.

    BP has reopened the debate on when the "peak oil" supply will be reached by announcing a big new discovery in the Gulf of Mexico which some believe could be as large as the Forties, the biggest field ever found in the North Sea.

    The strike comes days after Iran unveiled an even larger find of 8.8bn barrels of crude oil, and the moves have encouraged sceptics of theories which say that peak production has been reached, or soon will be, to hail a new golden age of exploration and supply.

    BP, already the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the US, said its "giant" Tiber discovery in 4,100ft (1,250m) of water was particularly exciting because it promised to open up a whole new area.

    Yes. A lot of oil. So far we are discovering it faster than we are using it. Not by a lot. But at least so far we are keeping up.
    Analysts agreed that the find appeared to be very significant. "Any time an oil major uses the word 'giant' you have to sit up and take note. Kaskida confirmed the western limits of the lower tertiary play and this extends the limits even further," said Matt Snyder, a Gulf of Mexico specialist at oil consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
    But I got to thinking. Especially about a comment made by Ron de Haan (05:22:33) at Watts Up With That.
    Today the Liberals are infiltrated bu radical Marxists and Fascists and they have high jacked the entire AGW/Climate Change docrine, but not to replace coal plants by nuclear power plants.

    No, this is about Global Governance, about control over the world's resources and this is about population control.

    The world will face a 30% increase of the population by 2030.

    We will need 50% more agricultural output to feed the world, and we need 30% more energy.

    Instead of building new power plants the West is talking about replacing existing coal fired plants by natural gas plants, a kind of cash for clunkers for energy plants instead of cars.

    This is utter madness because it has taken us many years to build the current energy infra structure which could serve us for decades to come and we could spend all that wasted money for other purposes.

    So, we have to conclude that the West does not intend not to expand the agricultural output and will not to increase but instead replace the current energy infra structure, thus concluding that they will NOT prepare for an increase in population and go the way of a population reduction (by starvation).

    How is it the Socialists always start with there is not enough (xxx, yyy, or zzz take your pick) because there are too many consumers and then come up with the bright idea of passively or actively killing off the extras?

    First it was too many Jews and other untermenschen. Not enough lebensraum. But that was found to be too racist for the tastes of some. Not to mention that agricultural output per acre was going up. Lebensraum, Jews, and untermenschen are now politically incorrect, so now it is just too many people. With either peak oil or peak CO2 taking the place of the now discredited lebensraum theories. There currently is no mention of who they have lined up to do the starving. No doubt a player or players to be named later. India and China don't seem to want to buy in so I guess that leaves the Africans.

    The socialists answer to resource constraints is not "let us invent new resources at lower costs" i.e. serve more customers. Nope, the socialist answer is "kill off as many consumers as possible until supply and demand are in balance" i.e. kill off customers. I suppose that is one way to kill demand.

    When it comes to all this "running out of" stuff I wish we were running out of socialists. Despite their kind words I do not think they have our best interests at heart.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:32 PM | Comments (8)



    same old "a harm for a harm" policy, with new defenders

    Esquire Magazine has an interesting piece with the exciting (for me, at least) title of A Radical Solution to End the Drug War: Legalize Everything:

    One cop straight out of The Wire crunches the numbers with Esquire.com's political columnist to discover that America's prohibition of narcotics may be costing more lives than Mexico's -- and nearly enough dollars for universal health care. So why not repeal our drug laws? Because cops are making money off them, too.
    As an advocate of drug legalization (which I prefer to call relegalization, for obvious reasons), I'm delighted every time I see the argument advanced, especially at something more mainstream than the usual hard core libertarian sites -- or the various "stoner" sites. As I'm not a pothead, I'm not interested in the partisan approach to lifestyle vindication, and while I think aggressive lifestyle advocacy has its place, it tends to get in the way of serious discussion, and invites distracting ad hominem, "Culture War" style invective.

    What fascinates me the most right now is what appears to be a new trend of anti-legalization snarkiness coming from pro-Obama people. Had the same Esquire piece come out during Bush's tenure, reaction against it would have been been expected from Republican and conservative circles.

    I guess it shouldn't surprise me to see that with a new administration, new standard bearers and new flak catchers are emerging. Now that liberals are running the drug war, the task falls on liberals to defend it, and Mark Kleiman is among those who has stepped up to the plate.

    Esquire publishes yet another drug-leglization screed. Whoever does press relations for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition deserves a bonus.

    Demolition of the argument (if you can call it that) is left as an exercise for the reader. A few hints, just to get you started [...]

    Anyone looking for an intelligent discussion of constitutional or moral arguments will be disappointed, though, as Kleiman's arguments are utilitarian in nature.

    Parenthetically, (and this is old stuff), I think it is patently evil to imprison people for self harm. Moreover, if abortion and "sodomy" cannot constitutionally be made crimes, on what basis can ingestion of substances? But this is off topic, and I realize that it is unreasonable to expect consistency from the state.

    I learned about Kleiman's snarky dismissal of the Esquire piece from Pete at Drug WarRant, who concludes,

    Legalization is on the table. It is a point of discussion. It cannot be ignored or merely pushed off as so politically impractical to negate consideration. Those who would lead policy will have to be willing to have serious discussion about it, or they'll be left behind.
    Actually, I'm not sure that Kleiman's goal is so much a serious policy discussion so much as it is defend the Obama administration (as he does here) when the subject of legalization comes up.

    Bear in mind that when Bush was president, Kleiman was in favor of legalizing personal use and growing of marijuana:

    Allow use of cannabis, and growing for personal use or gratis distribution. Forbid commercial activity.
    Whatever.

    But policy is policy, and liberal policies require liberal defenses by liberal public policy experts. When Obama's new Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske was appointed, Kleiman sang his praises as a "respected voice on gun and drug policy," and as a "welcome change."

    "Respected" is one of those words which depends on who does the respecting. The man's long record of support for gun control (documented here by Dave Kopel) would alone do much to endear him to Obama supporters.

    But as this report makes clear, Kerlikowske is anything but pro-legalization.

    "Legalization is not in the president's vocabulary, and it's not in mine," [Kerlikowske] said.

    Kerlikowske said he can understand why legislators are talking about taxing marijuana cultivation to help cash-strapped government agencies in California. But the federal government views marijuana as a harmful and addictive drug, he said.

    "Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit," Kerlikowske said in downtown Fresno while discussing Operation SOS -- Save Our Sierra -- a multiagency effort to eradicate marijuana in eastern Fresno County.

    (Via Timothy Sandefur.)

    Hey, at least they didn't put him in charge of guns. God spare us from the policy people. But someone has to do it, right? I'm just curious: how many libertarians are interested in the field of public policy? Are they turned off by the field? Do public policy schools screen them out? Does anyone know?

    Incidentally, the federal government has admitted that 98% of the eradicated marijuana is not cultivated, but is simply wild "ditchweed" -- with little or no psychoactive properties.

    According to the data, available online at: albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t4382005.pdf of the estimated 223 million marijuana plants destroyed by law enforcement in 2005, approximately 219 million were classified as "ditchweed," a term the agency uses to define "wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing, or tending." Unlike cultivated marijuana, feral hemp contains virtually no detectable levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, and does not contribute to the black market marijuana trade.

    Previous DEA reports have indicated that between 98 and 99 percent of all the marijuana plants eradicated by US law enforcement is ditchweed.

    Hmmm... So it would be technically true that the marijuana they're eradicating has no medicinal value. But OTOH, ditchweed cannot be said to be "dangerous" -- even if we assume for the sake of argument that psychoactive marijuana harms its users.

    What I can't quite grasp is the notion that self harm should be aggravated by the additional (and very serious) harm of criminal punishment in the form of imprisonment. I realize the theory is that harm punishes harm, and harm deters harm, and I can understand it if the goal is to punish or deter harm to others. In that respect, I could even understand the Islamic idea that cutting off the hands of thieves deters theft. But prison for drugs is like cutting the arm off a man for cutting off his own hand. Whipping a masochist for having had himself whipped. Having a man raped because he engaged in "sodomy," or raping a woman for having had unlawful intercourse. It's worse than an eye for an eye, as it's a perversion of the doctrine, and I have long wished that conservatives would stop defending it.

    So I don't know whether I should be glad to see liberals stepping up to the plate, or whether I should worry about a growing statist consensus.

    posted by Eric at 12:47 PM | Comments (6)




    Ann Boleyn is dead.
    But maybe she'd feel it was worth it!

    In my previous comparison of Ted Kennedy to Henry VIII, I touched on how unaccountability -- a feature of both traditional royal prerogative and Kennedy family prerogative -- can be buttressed by populism:

    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.

    Let me admit my bias here. I strongly distrust groupthink and the tyranny of mob thinking, and the way populism lends itself to tolerating unaccountability scares me.

    Actually, tolerating is not the right word; it's enjoyment. The "little people" often have an unfortunate tendency to like and even revel in the unaccountability of strong populist leaders. Yet it is often the case that these same "little people" have zero tolerance for similar conduct by people who are popularly perceived of as not being "one of us" but as belonging to the elite, or the aristocracy. Compare the ho-hum treatment of Charles Rangel to that of Leona Helmsley, or Martha Stewart. Populist demagogues can not only get away with not paying their taxes, they are applauded for it. I think that because he is a rank populist, Rangel would actually stand a good chance of being elected from prison.

    Anyone remember Philadelphia Mayor John Street? The discovery that he was the subject of an FBI investigation (something that would have been fatal to any Republican) actually ensured his reelection.

    I guess that populism must have something to be said for it, or so many Republicans wouldn't seem to be embracing it. I don't mean to sound like an elitist libertarian snot, but if I didn't admit that it worried me I would be less than candid. It's all too easy to forget the many excesses of populism over the centuries.

    Anyway, I think the embrace of corruption is but one one of the scary yet characteristic downsides of populism. While it would be bad enough if it were limited to financial corruption, what's really scary is when the "little people" become so callused as to be willing to look the other way when their populist leaders take the lives of other people. True, Ted Kennedy did not chop off the heads of inconvenient lovers, but Mary Jo Kopechne was just as dead as Ann Boleyn. (And the latter did have a quicker death.)

    The reason I look at history is not so much to resort to historical comparisons (which are always risky), but because I sometimes tire of contemporary politics. Tired though I am, issues like this have a timeless quality to them.

    Sometimes I wonder whether the medieval peasant mentality is still with us. Anyway, I thought about my previous post when I saw two items that Glenn Reynolds linked earlier. First, Matt Welch takes issue with the HuffPo meme that "maybe she'd [Mary Jo] feel it was worth it," as well as an equally preposterous assertion by Joyce Carol Oates:

    [I]f one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?
    Though Oates (I think) is more ambivalent than this passage would suggest, the sentiment is a timely reminder of the seductive awfulness of political ideologies everywhere and always. The ends are always worth a few strangled means, especially to those wielding or sympathizing with power. If you're openly musing whether the unwilling, unjust sacrifice of an innocent is worth a broad set of alleged legislative improvements, you're not asking a morally challenging question, you're answering it.
    Well, the consensus of many historians is that Ann Boleyn was executed based on false evidence. But if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man many historians have called the "most important monarch ever," what is one to think?

    Glenn also links Mark Steyn, who takes issue with another cloying populist remark:

    Ted was not perfect, and his post Chappaquiddick, life-long mission of penance almost makes up for getting away with leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to suffocate to death.
    I have to say, it warmed the cockles of my heart to see Steyn touch upon the mutual undercurrents of medievalism and the Democrats' paternalistic populism:
    As for the argument that, well, for a rich and powerful man Ted sure did a lot for da liddle guy, include me out. Benign paternalism and droit du seigneur are two halves of the same coin: The former has excused the latter in monarchical societies through the ages. It's distressing to see so many alleged "democrats" embrace it here.
    It's also distressing is to see so many "little people" fall for it.

    But on the bright side, at least they can't reelect Ted Kennedy.

    (On the dark side, they would if they could.)

    MORE: From Ann Althouse, a reminder of the next best thing to electing a dead Kennedy -- Joe Kennedy contemplates the "Kennedy Seat." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (3)




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