Dede Has Taken Tim Leary's Advice

She has dropped out.

Republican state Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava has suspended her campaign for upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District seat, giving a possible boost to Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman against Democrat Bill Owens, Fox News has confirmed.

The move comes on the heels of a new poll that showed Scozzafava had fallen behind her two competitors in a close race.

The special election is Tuesday, and political analysts believe upstate New York could be a preview of congressional races nationwide in 2010 and 2012 as Republican leaders struggle to rebuild, redefine and regain control of Washington.

The Siena College poll has Owens picking up 36 percent of the vote, while Hoffman has 35 percent. Scozzafava has 20 percent, with nine percent of voters undecided.

It's a turnaround from the first Siena poll on the race in September, which had Scozzafava leading, followed by Owens and Hoffman.

And guess what? Hoffman is not running on a Culture War platform despite being a Conservative. He is running on a limited government platform.
I'm running for Congress because I sense the America I love is being taken away from us. I want to tell Washington: No more bailouts. No more taxes. No more trillion dollar deficits. That's what I'm fighting for.

My opponents have bought and paid for $876,000 in TV ads. I urgently need to raise $125, 000. Immediately.

My opponent is a Nancy Pelosi Democrat. Defeating him comes down to one cold, hard fact - money.

In 1980, I helped Lake Placid with our Olympics when the US beat the Russians in hockey - the same year Reagan was elected. It's time to send Washington a new message now.

I can get behind that. In fact I'm willing to push it.

Sarah Palin has a few words to say about about these events.

I want to personally thank Republican Dede Scozzafava for acting so selflessly today in the NY District 23 race. Now it's time to cross the finish line with Doug Hoffman so that he can get to work for District 23 and the rest of America.

With Congress poised to overhaul one-sixth of our economy with so-called health care "reform" (which is really a government takeover of health care) and with plans to enact a cap-and-tax bill just as our economy struggles to recover, Doug Hoffman will be a voice for fiscal responsibility and common sense in Washington.

We need candidates like Doug now more than ever.

Sarah suggests you go to Doug's Site and donate.


I like what commenter Veeshir had to say about this:

Once again that stupid snowbilly outmaneuvers her intellectual betters.

She endorsed early, that's what people will remember, they'll also remember Newt endorsing Dede before he endorsed Hoffman.


Update: Veeshir just alerted me to this: In Key New York Race, Barracuda Chews Up Mitt. Another Heh moment.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:13 PM | Comments (2)

Happy Halloween!

Carving a pumpkin is an annual Halloween ritual I'm too old to stop.

Here's what my jack-o-lantern looked like at sunset:


And here's how it looks now:


Enjoy the ghosts!

DISCLOSURE: A hypothetical marriage proposal from Donna in the comments below left me feeling deepy flattered, but also a tad guilty, and I'm afraid my reply --"I'm not sure you'd have said what you did had you seen me last night!" -- may have painted less than a full picture.

As I don't want to be accused of misleading anyone about the true nature of my appearance, I humbly submit an accurate and unedited picture taken of me on Halloween:


As you can see, I take "till death do us part" seriously.

posted by Eric at 07:18 PM | Comments (5)

Oil Supply And Demand

Julian Murdoch thinks oil supply and demand are out of whack.

OPEC has publicly stated that they believe inventories in developed OECD countries to be equal to roughly 61 days of demand--a number OPEC is none too happy about. They'd prefer the world to be constantly on the brink of running out (that is, 55 days or less). So with all of this supply, you'd expect to see OPEC talking production cuts--or at least a drop in the price of oil.

Instead, last week the group discussed the need to increase production, so as to keep oil under $80--it seems even OPEC thinks prices are still too high. As OPEC Secretary General Abdalla El-Badri told Bloomberg:

"Anything above $80 will really hamper economic growth. Watch the floating storage, if that is eliminated, and watch the stocks, if they are at 52, 54 days, then OPEC will take action."
Of course, if the floating stocks (that is, oil stored at sea) remain at current levels and inventories stay full, then apparently OPEC will just sit back and rake in the money.
He does not say we have an oil bubble. But if you consider that supply is high and yet prices keep rising it seems obvious that there is a bubble.

And it may be more of a bubble than people think. There are a lot of new technologies becoming available sooner or later that will cut the cost of drilling wells. One of them is laser drilling of wells.

Laser drilling, Graves said, would have several advantages over conventional drilling:

-- Costs could be at least 10 times lower and up to several hundred times less than wells drilled with rotary rigs. For example, a typical, 10,000-foot gas well in Wyoming's Wind River Basin costs about $ 350,000 to drill. Laser drilling would drop that cost to $ 35,000 or lower, Graves said.

-- A laser drill's "footprint" -- the amount of surface space it occupies -- could be as little as 100 square feet, or even less with some models.

-- The laser rigs could be transported to drilling sites in one semi-trailer load. Conventional rigs take up several thousand square feet of space and require numerous truck trips to haul equipment.

-- Lasers could drill a typical natural-gas well in about 10 days, compared with 100 days for some conventional wells.
"You're looking at three months of disruption versus a week or so of disruption with a laser drill," Graves said.

-- Lasers could be programmed for precise well diameters and depths. In addition, they could alternately drill coarsely to deliver mineral samples, finely to vaporize rock and leave no waste materials, or with intense heat to melt the walls of well bores, thus eliminating the need to place steel casing in wells.

He goes on to say:
Compare this with the peak oiler theory:
So, as we slide down the Hubbert's Curve, not only will the rate of production decrease, but the cost of that production will increase.
Laser drilling may actually make production of the "hard to get" oil and gas easier than production of the stuff which was "easy to get". This would cause a lot of havoc with reserve numbers because commercially unfeasible small/deep deposits would suddenly become "proven" (i.e. exploitable with current technology).
Well OK! That article was from 2005 and so far the laser technology is not commercial despite advances in high power solid state lasers. Here a nice video about solid state lasers. However, the technology is advancing rapidly so it is only a matter of time.

But that is not all there is going on in the field. Exxon-Mobile announced in 2005 some very simple ways that it could reduce the cost of drilling substantially.

Exxon Mobil Corporation announced today that its drilling organization has developed an optimization process that consistently reduces the time required to drill oil and gas wells by up to 35 percent. ExxonMobil's Fast Drill Process (FDP) achieves this breakthrough performance by using real-time, computer analysis of the drilling system's energy consumption. This analysis, in turn, helps improve the management of the factors that determine drilling rate, such as weight on the drill bit, rotary speed and torque.

The result is significantly faster drilling rates and reduced downtime.

The company has used FDP in many of its operating areas, and the process improves performance in a broad range of conditions: hard and soft rock, deep and shallow wells, high- and low-angle wells in a variety of mud weights. It has shown comparable success in exploration, delineation and production wells.

So that technology is probably already being deployed. It may explain in part the recent reduction in costs for drilling natural gas wells.

There are other techniques that are coming to fruition. Here is another one from 2005.

Expectations are that widespread adoption of microhole technology could spawn a wave of "infill development"--drilling wells spaced between existing wells--that could tap potentially billions of barrels of bypassed oil at shallow depths in mature producing areas.

At the same time, microhole and related micro-instrumentation technologies offer the opportunity to dramatically cut producers' exploration risk to a level comparable to that of drilling development wells.

Together, such efforts hold great promise for economically recovering a sizeable portion of the estimated remaining shallow (less than 5,000 feet subsurface) oil resource in the United States. The Energy Department estimates this targeted shallow resource at 218 billion barrels. Recovering just 10 percent of this targeted resource would mean a volume equivalent to 10 years of OPEC oil imports at current rates.

In addition, the smaller "footprint" of the lightweight rigs utilized for microhole drilling and the accompanying reduced drilling waste disposal volumes offer the bonus of added environmental benefits.

The microhole initiative is in line with the Bush Administration's goal, set forth in the National Energy Policy, of promoting "dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound" energy production.

I knew it. That evil Bush was in cahoots with the oil companies to increase American oil supplies and reduce American dependence on the terrorist supporting nations of the Middle East. How evil can you get?

How about another Exxon project to lower the costs of drilling for natural gas?

"We're about 15 minutes away from a new frac being born," Randy Tolman, Exxon's project coordinator for the Piceance Basin, shouts over the noise. He invented this faster method of fracturing, or "fracing," the underground layers of rock and sand to unlock natural gas.

Exxon aims to export the new process to the unconventional natural gas reserves it is accumulating around the world. Drilling for more natural gas could make Exxon a lot of money as Americans demand cleaner fuel because natural gas doesn't emit as much pollution or greenhouse gases as oil and coal when burned.

Do you suppose the Greenhouse gas hysteria is a plot by the oil/natural gas companies to get government to shut down their competition? I wouldn't put it past them. Thomas Edison used similar methods to get his competition, the George Westinghouse Company's Tesla invented AC electricity system, shut down. Fortunately it didn't work. Will the CO2 hysteria work against the coal companies? So far the answer is no. It all depends on the ability of the interested parties (Al Gore will make tens of millions) to get the Senate to pass the Cap Coal and Tax the People Bill. They appear to be stymied. Good.

Ah but we are not done yet. Jared Potter is working on a water/flame drill in order to tap deep geothermal energy sources. Obviously it might also be useful for oil and natural gas.

Conventional geothermal power plants draw upon underground aquifers of hot water relatively close to the surface to create steam that drives electricity-generating turbines. The problem is that underground water currently tapped for geothermal is found mainly in the western United States. But the technology Potter is developing could drill much deeper, meaning geothermal energy could be generated nationwide.

According to a 2006 MIT study, so-called Enhanced Geothermal Systems could potentially supply 2,500 times the country's current energy consumption. That grabbed Google's attention, and last August the Internet giant's philanthropic arm agreed to invest $4 million in Potter Drilling as part of its green energy initiative.

The tech twist: Potter drills not with hard-as-diamonds bits but with water--extremely hot water. (More on that in a bit.) The goal is to radically cut the cost of EGS to spread the technology to regions that rely too much on coal for generating electricity but are not suited for solar, wind and other renewable energy generation.

You can watch a video of the drill in operation. Here is some of what the people who posted the video have to say:
Inspired by designs created by his father decades ago, Jared Potter is building an arsenal of ultra-powerful flame-jet drills. As seen in the NatGeo video above, one prototype directs a jet of burning hydrogen at 3200°F against a slab of solid granite. The rock doesn't melt, as one might expect under such a blast of heat; instead, the high temperature causes the rock to fracture as it expands along existing micro-cracks in the material. After a short exposure to the flame-jet drill, a gaping, perfectly smooth borehole has been created in the granite.

For deeper drilling jobs, in wet, high-pressure conditions where traditional bits jam and break, Potter has another prototype. This one burns at a toasty 7200°F, but the flame is used indirectly, to superheat a jet of water, which in turn bores through the rock and simultaneously flushes the fragments out of the borehole.

The drill could drill at up to 100 ft an hour. Not as fast as conventional drilling, however there would be no need to lift mile long strings of pipe out of the well to replace drill bits. Or at least it wouldn't have to be done as often. And when you are replacing a drill bit you aren't drilling.

And that is not the only place such work is being done. The Swiss are working on it too.

Heated oxygen, ethanol and water are pumped into the reactor burner through various pipelines and valves and mix under temperature and pressure conditions, which correspond to the supercritical state of water (see box). The auto-ignition of the mixture is being observed through small sapphire-glass windows by means of a camera. A newly developed sensor plate measures the heat flux from the flame to the plate and records the temperature distribution on the surface for different distances between the burner outlet and the plate.

Based on these experimental results, conclusions are drawn concerning the heat transfer from the flame to the rock. "The heat flux is the crucial parameter for the characterization of this alternative drilling method", explains Philipp Rudolf von Rohr, professor at the Institute of Process Engineering of the ETH Zurich and supervisor of the three PhD students.

During the experiment, the flame reaches a maximal temperature of about 2000°C. Rapid heating of the upper rock layer induces a steep temperature gradient in it. "The heat from the flame causes the rock to crack due to the induced temperature difference and the resulting linear thermal expansion", explains Tobias Rothenfluh. The expansion of the upper rock layer causes natural flaws, already existing in the rock, act as origin points for cracks. Disc - like rock fragments in the millimeter scale are formed in the spallation zone. These particles are transported upwards with the ascending fluid stream of the surrounding medium. "One of the main challenges of the spallation process is to prevent the rock from melting, whilst it's being rapidly heated", says Tobias Rothenfluh. "The lager the temperature gradient in the rock, the faster you can drill."

The method is particularly suitable for hard, dry rock, normally encountered at depths greater than three kilometers. In such depths conventional drilling bits wear out much faster, and their frequent replacement, renders the conventional drilling techniques uneconomic: a 10 km borehole costs around 60 million US dollars.

And that is just what we know publicly. Who knows what is going on in labs all around the world that is currently being kept secret for commercial advantage?

Bottom line? We may be running out of oil. Or not. But I do think fears of a near term peak oil limit on production are greatly exaggerated. Near term our limits are political not geological or technological. But isn't it always that way? And you know what they call a system where businessmen are in cahoots with the government to restrict the competition? National Socialism.

H/T pbelter at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:07 PM | Comments (2)

Is tobacco the new pot?

Juxtaposing two posts by Ann Althouse made me wonder.

The war against tobacco is proceeding like a relentless juggernaut -- to the point now where law professors are being forced to act as anti-tobacco narcs:

They will be armed with small cards that detail the school's impending ban on smoking or using tobacco products anywhere on campus, indoors and outdoors. If that's not enough to keep people from lighting up on campus, repeat offenders might be fined...
In a growing number of communities, smoking is being banned everywhere.

But meanwhile, marijuana smoking is being winked at:

basically, in California, anybody who wants to use marijuana and is willing to be mildly deceitful to do it, can now do it legally... almost. You have to be -- if not actually sick -- willing to go through the medical dance and to accept the not-quite-completely legal aspect of it.

Does that state of affairs make marijuana all but completely legal in your way of thinking or all but completely illegal? I would find myself in the second category, and I think there's something really unfair about that.

I don't believe in drug laws, and I think the things that people put in their bodies should be their own business.

But I find myself wondering whether there is some poorly understood mechanism at work here. It's so much what is made illegal, but what it is that fills the social disapproval niche.

Another classic example involves dog genitalia. Mickey Rourke wants to make dog testicles uncool, and of course, laws soon come, biting on the heels of social disapproval. Those who cut off their dogs' balls think it's "unfair" when they see your dog's balls swinging freely, and they are being conditioned to point to the balls and gasp in horror. They do not realize that their morality has been remanufactured for them.

It's eerily reminiscent of the way the remanufactured Donald Sutherland in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers reacts when he spots a normal human being:

Might people have a basic emotional need to stigmatize others? And if such a need exists, might it be that whenever it is uprooted in one place, it will just sprout up in whatever new place it can? If that's the case, then all that needs to happen is whenever an old enemy is de-stigmatized, the forces that be have only to point the finger at the new enemy, and the need is met again, via collective agreement. (And it makes no difference whether the old enemy was "better" or more "conventional" than the new one.)

I wish people thought more about how their unconscious needs can influence them, because I worry that they're being manipulated and herded too easily -- before they have even had time to think.

On the bright side, those who drive these endless cycles of remanufactured morality tend to forget two things:

1. Some people don't like being told what to do;

2. What is persecuted can become cool.

posted by Eric at 11:52 AM | Comments (7)

In The Future, Every War Will Be Vietnam For 15 Minutes

Today we learn JFK was advised by morons. Well, at least one.

America's unwise, unwarranted, and sadly unwinnable war in Afghanistan--hastily initiated and then abandoned for Iraq by President Barack Obama's ideologically blinded predecessor and dumped into Obama's lap in the worst possible way--is beginning increasingly to smell like the 1964-68 war in South Vietnam that swallowed up the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Something smells, all right. Remember when Iraq was the unwinnable war and Iraq-Vietnam parallels were all the rage? Now, in a hilarious irony, our unexpected victory has become the fashionable excuse for losing in Afghanistan.
It all sounds familiar. A powerless leader (whether Vietnam's Diem or Afghanistan's Karzai) with a corrupt family and little support in the countryside, who refuses to undertake the reforms (land, tax, electoral, and administrative) that the U.S. president tries to press upon him, therefore endangering the regime's stability against the guerrilla extremists (once communists, now Taliban).

It's hard to believe Sorensen was actually around for the Vietnam War, let alone advising the leader of the free world. The guerrillas lost that war; they were never a factor after their decimation during Tet. It was an NVA armored column, built in Russia, that took the South for Communism (also rounding up and imprisoning their erstwhile guerrilla allies), and that only happened because we abandoned them. This isn't exactly hard to find out, either.
The Kennedy-Johnson team, like the Obama team, was called "the best and the brightest"--but nobody's perfect.

I don't actually remember anyone accusing Obama's team of being the best and brightest. I do remember one calling himself a Communist, another saying in public that Mao was her favorite philosopher, and another being Joe Biden. They were last seen picking a fight with Fox News that everyone agrees was idiotic, and getting in another public fight with their own handpicked general over the strategy they announced earlier this year.
But the Vietnamese people, who had long resisted complete occupation and domination by the French, Japanese, and others, were not so easily grabbed, and were determined to drive any would-be occupying power from their land,

And thus they heroically drove their own South Vietnamese government from the land, after signing the Paris Accords to get rid of us. On the other hand, the Communist bloc were determined to enslave the country, and after we left they did so despite all native resistance.
There was little the U.S. could do to stop the flow of arms and enemy combatants into South Vietnam across its porous border with North Vietnam, just as there is little the U.S. can do now to stem the flow of arms and enemy combatants pouring across Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan

Sure there was: we could bomb the North. It worked so well we forced them to sign a peace treaty, which kept the South free until Congress announced we would not, under any circumstances, bomb them again. (I've been studying Clausewitz this week and I have yet to encounter the chapter of On War in which he explains the virtue of publicly announcing one's pre-emptive surrender. Must be toward the end.)
The United States was not responsible for Vietnam's suffering under colonialism, nor was it responsible for Afghanistan's suffering under colonialism; but in neither country did American soldiers or diplomats know much about the history, language, culture, traditions, or needs of people that the U.S. hoped to win over.

No, but idiots like yourself are responsible for Vietnam's subsequent decades suffering under Communism and current status as one of the poorest, most repressed populations in the world. Re-education camps and ag-slavery aren't fun no matter what your history, language, tradition or culture.
I erred in predicting at the outset of this essay that Afghanistan could become, in the future, Obama's Vietnam.

What the hell. Why didn't you go back and fix the outset of this essay then? Are you using a typewriter? How do you not have an edit function?

Anwyays, it's too late. Every future war has already become Vietnam, and not the real Vietnam but some ideologically defeatist revisionist-history version where our efforts were always foredoomed for reasons that bear little resemblance to reality.

The best we can hope for is that such comparisons will be swiftly debunked, preferably within 15 minutes of their appearance.

posted by Dave at 06:42 PM | Comments (5)

In order to reduce carbon emissions, we'll have to increase them!

Great news!

According to a Princeton University study, if we take greenhouse gas emissions arguments seriously, the implementation of cap-and-trade will have precisely the opposite effect that it's intended to have.

Carbon reduction laws encourage widespread deforestation as trees and other vegetation are harvested to produce energy from biomass to replace oil and gas. The problem is that in long run, this process actually increases greenhouse gas emissions, which cap-and-trade is meant to reduce, according to Searchinger.

The Princeton researcher's paper, published Oct. 23 in Science, points out that almost all prior global warming studies failed to take into account the carbon emissions that result from converting cropland and forests to energy production. This accounting error treats all bio-energy as carbon-neutral, the authors say, despite the fact that burning wood and clearing land actually releases quite a large quantity of carbon into the atmosphere.

"By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years," the Princeton authors say. "Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%." Neither the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nor existing European cap-and-trade programs have taken into account widespread deforestation as farmers worldwide respond to the new economic incentives, Searchinger added.

Those figures might actually underestimate the growth of greenhouse gas production caused by reliance on energy produced from bio-mass sources because cap-and-trade includes $30 billion in subsidies for alternative energy research, development, and commercialization, including bio-mass. In other words: A vote for the House version of cap-and-trade or the companion legislation sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, actually means a vote for even more greenhouse gases. Who knew? Now, it's the opponents of cap-and-trade bills who can honestly say they are just trying to save the planet from the ravages of greenhouse gases.

But will this faze Boxer, Kerry, and company? Hell no! The goal is not really to decrease greenhouse emissions, but to take control of the economy.

Cap-and-trade is also unconstitutional, but then, so is federalizing heath care, regulating wood, federalizing hate crimes, and most of the legislation they're passing these days.

posted by Eric at 04:57 PM | Comments (2)

Theocons vs Communists

Given the Choice between a Communist and a Culture Warrior I'll take the Communist.

Why? Because a Communist might admit that a policy doesn't work. A Culture Warrior will say: God Says. Making the Culture Warrior immune to reason. For the most part.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:07 PM | Comments (12)

Palin Calls For Hoffman - GOP Folds

Sarah Palin endorsed Doug Hoffman in the New York 23rd District House of Representatives race on October 23rd and now the Republican Party is getting behind him.

The House Republican leadership is prepared to welcome Doug Hoffman into its ranks, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Thursday, a sign that the GOP establishment is recalibrating its approach toward the contentious New York special election and the Conservative Party nominee whose candidacy has divided the party.

"He would be very welcome, with open arms," Sessions told POLITICO in an interview off the House floor.

Sessions's comments came as polls showed Hoffman surging in the Nov. 3 special election against Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava, a moderate who supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and Democratic attorney Bill Owens. Nearly a dozen rank-and-file Republican members announced their endorsements of Hoffman Thursday.

While the NRCC-along with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.)--have all thrown their backing to Scozzafava, grassroots conservatives have revolted against the GOP nominee, asserting that she is too liberal for them to support.

Which brings up a question. Just how libertarian is Palin? The best I can say is kinda libertarian. Eric Dondero in the comments at Independent Political Report has this to say:
Her husband was a member of the Alaska Independence Party going back two decades. Need I remind you all, that the AIP was FOUNDED BY EX-LIBERTARIAN PARTY MEMBERS!!!

Two of Palin's top Lts. in her numerous campaigns for Mayor of Wasilla were LIBERTARIANS!!

Palin has been attending Libertarian Party meetings for at least a decade.

In fact, in 2006, she was slammed by her Frank Murkowski/social conservative opponents in the GOP primary who spread the rumore that "Sarah is really not a Republican... She's a closeted Libertarian."

And Palin didn't do anything to halt those rumors. In fact, she flamed them, by continuing to attend Rob Clift's famous Libertarian Supper Club meetings at the Denny's on North Star in Anchorage every Wed. night.

Did she ever get the Libertarian Party endorsement? No. Alaska Libertarian Party Secretary Rob Clift was asked about her.
First of all, Clift wanted to make clear that the Alaska LP did not endorse Palin. They said that they liked her, as did LP gubernatorial candidate Billy Toien, but there was never an official endorsement. Clift also said that the state party won't endorse the McCain/Palin ticket, though he might vote for them.

But why? For one thing, Palin's always been friendly to the party, Clift said, speaking at a few of their meetings and asking for their support. He also said that he sees her as a straight shooter, who doesn't try to hide her disagreement with libertarians on drugs, abortion and other social issues.

Phil Manger blogging at Noaln Chart has this to say about her.
She is libertarian on the issues that matter most. She is for smaller government, less regulation and lower taxes.
The Western Standard has this to say about her.
"She is known to have spoken to two Libertarian Party meetings in 2004/05. She was endorsed by the Libertarian Party of Alaska in the final days of her race for Governor in 2006, even though the LP had it's [sic] own candidate. On election night, Ms. Palin at the Egan Center, went out of her way to acknowledge the Libertarian Party's support in her victory speech."
So the libertarians and Libertarians get a seat at her table even if they have to pay for their own meals. Megan McArdle had this to say about her during the 2008 election.
As a person I like her. Politically, I dislike what she represents: populism, culture warmongering....
Which brings up the actual libertarians at the Federal level. The Republican Liberty Caucus. One of its elected members Dana Rohrabacher who sits in the House of Representatives has endorsed Hoffman.
Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate in the NY-23 special election, has picked up two more endorsements from sitting House Republicans, Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Dana Rohrabacher of California, who are joining in the right-wing revolt against the nomination of moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava.

Cole's endorsement is big news, because he is in fact a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee -- the party organization dedicated to electing Republicans to the House.

Rohrabacher is best known for the The Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment which eliminates Federal penalties for Medical Marijuana in States where it is legal.

So how about the American people?

David Boaz at Cato@Liberty points out that since late 2008, the percentage of Americans whose political beliefs could be roughly characterized as "libertarian" (that is, say yes to both "government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses" and "government should not favor any particular set of values") has hit a high of 23 percent.
Well how about me?

Here is my take on things political. Where did I stand on the 2004 Senate election in Illinois? Let me just say that given the choice between Communist Obama and Theocon Keyes I voted for the Communist. Keyes got 27% of the vote in a State that GW Bush got 45% of the vote. Obama got 70% of the vote. Do the math.

Personally I like Sarah Palin. She was somewhat supported by the Alaska Libertarian Party. Why? She can tell the difference between her private life and government. A shame that more conservatives can't make that distinction. Conservatives and libertarians would make a great alliance. Gallup says that 23% of the population is libertarian. With Keyes' 27% socons (of course there is some overlap) that makes a heck of a base to win elections.

So why do I say that I like Palin despite her conservative leanings? Because before she got picked for the VP slot the voters in Alaska had no clue about her personal beliefs. She stuck to governing and stayed out of the Culture Wars. Will that continue? It remains to be seen.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:59 PM | Comments (1)

That Which Is Not Seen

Bastiat on taxes:

Have you ever chanced to hear it said "There is no better investment than taxes. Only see what a number of families it maintains, and consider how it reacts on industry; it is an inexhaustible stream, it is life itself."

In order-to combat this doctrine, I must refer to my preceding refutation. Political economy knew well enough that its arguments were not so amusing that it could be said of them, repetitions please. It has, therefore, turned the proverb to its own use, well convinced that, in its mouth, repetitions teach.

The advantages which officials advocate are those which are seen. The benefit which accrues to the providers is still that which is seen. This blinds all eyes.

But the disadvantages which the tax-payers have to get rid of are those which are not seen. And the injury which results from it to the providers, is still that which is not seen, although this ought to be self-evident.

When an official spends for his own profit an extra hundred sous, it implies that a tax-payer spends for his profit a hundred sous less. But the expense of the official is seen, because the act is performed, while that of the tax-payer is not seen, because, alas! he is prevented from performing it.

You compare the nation, perhaps, to a parched tract of land, and the tax to a fertilizing rain. Be it so. But you ought also to ask yourself where are the sources of this rain and whether it is not the tax itself which draws away the moisture from the ground and dries it up?

Again, you ought to ask yourself whether it is possible that the soil can receive as much of this precious water by rain as it loses by evaporation?

There is one thing very certain, that when James B. counts out a hundred sous for the tax-gatherer, he receives nothing in return. Afterwards, when an official spends these hundred sous and returns them to James B., it is for an equal value of corn or labour. The final result is a loss to James B. of five francs.

It is very true that often, perhaps very often, the official performs for James B. an equivalent service. In this case there is no loss on either side; there is merely in exchange. Therefore, my arguments do not at all apply to useful functionaries. All I say is, - if you wish to create an office, prove its utility. Show that its value to James B., by the services which it performs for him, is equal to what it costs him. But, apart from this intrinsic utility, do not bring forward as an argument the benefit which it confers upon the official, his family, and his providers; do not assert that it encourages labour.

When James B. gives a hundred pence to a Government officer, for a really useful service, it is exactly the same as when he gives a hundred sous to a shoemaker for a pair of shoes.

But when James B. gives a hundred sous to a Government officer, and receives nothing for them unless it be annoyances, he might as well give them to a thief. It is nonsense to say that the Government officer will spend these hundred sous to the great profit of national labour; the thief would do the same; and so would James B., if he had not been stopped on the road by the extra-legal parasite, nor by the lawful sponger.

Let us accustom ourselves, then, to avoid judging of things by what is seen only, but to judge of them by that which is not seen.

Last year I was on the Committee of Finance, for under the constituency the members of the opposition were not systematically excluded from all the Commissions: in that the constituency acted wisely. We have heard M. Thiers say - "I have passed my life in opposing the legitimist party, and the priest party. Since the common danger has brought us together, now that I associate with them and know them, and now that we speak face to face, I have found out that they are not the monsters I used to imagine them."

Yes, distrust is exaggerated, hatred is fostered among parties who never mix; and if the majority would allow the minority to be present at the Commissions, it would perhaps be discovered that the ideas of the different sides are not so far removed from each other, and, above all, that their intentions are not so perverse as is supposed. However, last year I was on the Committee of Finance. Every time that one of our colleagues spoke of fixing at a moderate figure the maintenance of the President of the Republic, that of the ministers, and of the ambassadors, it was answered-

"For the good of the service, it is necessary to surround certain offices with splendour and dignity, as a means of attracting men of merit to them. A vast number of unfortunate persons apply to the President of the Republic, and it would be placing him in a very painful position to oblige him to be constantly refusing them. A certain style in the ministerial saloons is a part of the machinery of constitutional Governments."

Although such arguments may be controverted, they certainly deserve a serious examination. They are based upon the public interest, whether rightly estimated or not; and as far as I am concerned, I have much more respect for them than many of our Catos have, who are actuated by a narrow spirit of parsimony or of jealousy.

But what revolts the economical part of my conscience, and makes me blush for the intellectual resources of my country, is when this absurd relic of feudalism is brought forward, which it constantly is, and it is favourably received too:-

"Besides, the luxury of great Government officers encourages the arts, industry, and labour. The head of the State and his ministers cannot give banquets and soirees without causing life to circulate through all the veins of the social body. To reduce their means, would starve Parisian industry, and consequently that of the whole nation."

I must beg you, gentlemen, to pay some little regard to arithmetic, at least; and not to say before the National Assembly in France, lest to its shame it should agree with you, that an addition gives a different sum, according to whether it is added up from the bottom to the top, or from the top to the bottom of the column.

For instance, I want to agree with a drainer to make a trench in my field for a hundred sous. Just as we have concluded our arrangement, the tax-gatherer comes, takes my hundred sous, and sends them to the Minister of the Interior; my bargain is at end, but the Minister will have another dish added to his table. Upon what ground will you dare to affirm that this official expense helps the national industry? Do you not see, that in this there is only a reversing of satisfaction and labour? A Minister has his table better covered, it is true, but it is just as true that an agriculturist has his field worse drained. A Parisian tavern-keeper has gained a hundred sous,I grant you; but then you must grant me that a drainer has been prevented from gaining five francs. It all comes to this, - that the official and the tavern-keeper being satisfied, is that which is seen; the field undrained, and the drainer deprived of his job, is that which is not seen. Dear me! how much trouble there is in proving that two and two make four; and if you succeed in proving it, it is said, "the thing is so plain it is quite tiresome," and they vote as if you had proved nothing at all.

posted by Dave at 12:57 PM | Comments (0)

Capitalizing on personal destruction

While I hadn't been following the story as much as I perhaps should've (I don't do a good job of keeping up with the tabloids), it seems that Levi Johnston is busily making a full-time, public horse's ass of himself.

If you want the full story of his antics, John Hawkins has a great PJM piece titled "Levi Johnston is Trash, Plain and Simple."

And boy is he ever!

He's utterly poisoned his relationship with the mother of his child and her family. He's in talks to do full frontal nudity for Playgirl. In another few years, when Bristol and Levi's son Tripp is in school, is he going to have someone thrusting pictures from Levi's Playgirl spread in his face? Is Tripp going to be proud of the way his father earned his 15 minutes of fame? A "man" like Levi Johnston who sees nothing wrong with putting his own child through that for his own tawdry self-aggrandizement doesn't deserve to truly be referred to as a man.
Well, who says he has to be a man? I mean, is a sex change completely out of the question?

(Just kidding, folks. I really should be taking these things more seriously.)

It's obvious that no one would care about this pathetic kid were he not the father of Sarah Palin's grandson.

So Levi can try to make a career out of spreading lies about the grandmother of his child if he likes. There's very little anyone can do to stop him since it's a he-said/she-said situation. Some people will even believe him. Malevolent sociopaths like Johnston often manage to fool people -- at least for a little while. So let him mouth off about his huge secret on CBS. He's probably talking with his agent right now trying to figure out what it is and the biggest media outlet he can get to cover it. That's what snakes like Johnston do when they get a chance.
Naturally, the media is exploiting him because they hope it will hurt Sarah Palin. Because of his age and inexperience, he may well end up self-destructing with the money he's sure to make, and because Sarah Palin is a human being, that would probably hurt her more than the ridiculous stories he's peddling. Either way, the people who are using him for political ends (or just to make a buck) won't care.

Not that Johnston's MSM handlers would care, but my personal opinion is that those who would capitalize on someone's personal destruction in the hope of causing more personal destruction are beneath contempt.

There's part of me that actually feels sorry for Levi Johnston, but OTOH, I realize that at 19, he's legally an adult, capable of signing contracts, and accepting adult responsibilities. However, I have seen what can happen when teenagers encounter fame and fortune, and it can be very ugly. He better hope that he is a sociopath as John Hawkins says he is, because if he isn't -- if he has any shred of conscience deep down in there -- such feelings can need serious medication, and this would most likely take the form of self-medication, for which of course he'll have plenty of money (at least, until he ceases to be of interest to the media).

In any case, I wouldn't worry about his silly "revelations" and "secrets" hurting Sarah Palin. By now she's as tough as nails, and she can handle it. Besides, ordinary people have compassion, and they are intelligent enough to understand that if this kid makes a huge, grotesque public spectacle of himself, it will largely be because the MSM simply wanted to use him to hurt Sarah Palin.

And they'll remember.

So, I think that the destructive behavior of Levi Johnston, while it may very well destroy Levi Johnston, will not only fail to destroy Sarah Palin, it might have the opposite effect.

MORE: Calling him "a naive kid who got caught up in a whirlwind," Ann Althouse says she is worried about Levi Johnston:

He's surrounded by false friends who will soon have used up everything he had to give. What resources does he have to draw on as his fame spike plummets? We are talking about a boy who is still only 19 years old. God help him.
And not a very bright boy at that. (Not that being intelligent prevents people from getting into trouble.)

posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (4)

As RINOs and Social conservatives battle over the future

Did someone lie to Newt Gingrich about Dede Scozzafava or whatever her name is? That seems to be an important question to some. Certainly important enough that Glenn Reynolds to felt obligated to offer some perspective about what might be more important:

To my mind, it's more important -- as noted in the Lamar Alexander interview above -- that people not divide into permanently warring camps than that anything in particular happen in this election. The nice thing about NY-23 is that it's an opportunity to send a message at low cost, but the cost won't be low if it produces long-running enmity. Instead, it should be a spur for people to get involved in politics at the state and local level now, rather than complaining about the nominees later. Follow Bill Whittle's advice!
Unfortunately, if you're a libertarian, the options are limited.

I don't like Newt Gingrich (so it doesn't much matter to me whether he was lied to), and I don't like Dede what's-her-name, and if I had to choose between her and Doug Hoffman, I would prefer the latter -- barely -- for reasons I explained here. But I do not live in New York's 23rd District, and I am getting a little tired of hearing about how this race will define the future of the Republican Party.

I hope it won't, because if the frenzied emails I'm getting are any indication, it is shaping up as a showdown between social conservatives and RINOs, with libertarians basically just cut out of the equation and left in the lurch with no say in the matter. (Furthermore, as Eric Dondero explains, if Hoffman were a Libertarian instead of a Conservative, it's highly unlikely that he would not be getting support from conservatives, even if there were no Republicans running.)

So much as I'd love to vote for a libertarian candidate, I have long since learned that they pretty much are not to be found outside the Libertarian Party. Moreover, libertarians are not especially liked by conservatives, even if the latter don't literally want them shot. So I hold my nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. I have been doing that for years. That's what being a libertarian Republican is about, and it is not likely to change.

I just wish people would stop expecting me to get excited about what I consider another choice between the lesser of two evils. Sorry if I'm not going to hop up and down with enthusiasm for Doug Hoffman, but why should I? I'm not even in a position to hold my nose and vote for him.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I should be going gaga over Doug Hoffman, and sending him lots of money. Then I could hope that he'd become a libertarian and support sexual freedom and vote to legalize drugs and stuff.

And if he didn't, I could always keep holding my nose.

What an exciting future. It's like, as things are going, maybe the social conservatives will be able to "take back" what they used to imagine they had before Bush and McCain betrayed their principles and the country elected Obama. As Ann Althouse put it,

Bring the conservatives back and not only will they start appalling us again, but we'll soon be dreaming dreamy dreams of liberal saviors.
Yeah, except I never liked saviors, liberal or conservative.

Sorry I'm not more enthusiastic, but I'm just not seeing much of a place for libertarians in the GOP. If the choice is between RINOs and social conservatives, (and the battle lines seem to be getting drawn that way), what's to do other than take sides and hope some more?

AFTERTHOUGHT: By writing this post, in no way did I mean to negate the possibility of something I have long believed in, which is an alliance between libertarians and social conservatives. (I've even proposed a Judeo-Christian-Atheist Alliance!)

However, the idea that libertarians should just shut up and butt out while RINOs and social conservatives battle over the future of the Republican Party is unacceptable. Anyway, since I have been holding my nose and voting Republican for many, many years, and since there's this huge power struggle going on right now, it has occurred to me that now might be a good time for libertarians to ask a basic question.

If libertarians don't have any say in the future of the Republican Party now, then when will we?


MORE: From Doug Mataconis, "A Libertarian Republican Case Against Doug Hoffman."

AND MORE: While recognizing his problems, Gay Patriot endorses Hoffman:

We recognize that Hoffman is not an ideal candidate, but we don't live in the ideal world. In this election, citizens of upstate New York have three real choices. Considering the broad range issues of concern to us, he is by the best of the three. We encourage all GayPatriot readers living in NY-23 to pull the Conservative Party lever in next Tuesday's balloting.
That's about right.

(Vid Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 06:26 PM | Comments (34)

Church And State

I got a really interesting comment to my post A Libertine Speaks.

Even though I spent many years active in the Church, preaching and having a music ministry, once I got old enough to realize I didn't have all the answers, I didn't want any church elders having influence in law. Law should only be about not directly harming others, and nothing else.

The problem with imposing values is that when someone says "God told me this is the right thing to do" you can't argue with it. They've invoked the ultimate authority and don't think they have to even listen to opposing viewpoints. Calvin, who is STILL considered an authority, had people murdered for disagreeing with him. Almost every Christian church old enough has blood on its hands.

I've been active in quite enough churches to see first hand the jealousy and conflicting values. My music was more modern, and some Christians said "I feel the Spirit" and others said "I feel Satan in this why did you do this". They weren't both right, but both think they know God enough to use the Law to force people to live according to their own set of values.

Paul even told the early church in Corinthians to stop arguing over less important matters.

Jesus spent his whole time WITH the "sinners", not lecturing them or judging them.

We've already seen what the world looks like when the Church runs it, no one wants to go back to that.

plutosdad · October 29, 2009 03:05 PM

I have nothing to add.

Well actually I do have something to add. Eric at Classical Values documents some people who do want to go back to a time when the church ran the world as it still does in some places.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:11 PM | Comments (23)

Where Does The Oil Come From?

There is some relatively new sciece out about the origins of oil and natural gas.

ScienceDaily (Sep. 12, 2009) -- Researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm have managed to prove that fossils from animals and plants are not necessary for crude oil and natural gas to be generated. The findings are revolutionary since this means, on the one hand, that it will be much easier to find these sources of energy and, on the other hand, that they can be found all over the globe.

"Using our research we can even say where oil could be found in Sweden," says Vladimir Kutcherov, a professor at the Division of Energy Technology at KTH.

Together with two research colleagues, Vladimir Kutcherov has simulated the process involving pressure and heat that occurs naturally in the inner layers of the earth, the process that generates hydrocarbon, the primary component in oil and natural gas.

According to Vladimir Kutcherov, the findings are a clear indication that the oil supply is not about to end, which researchers and experts in the field have long feared.

He adds that there is no way that fossil oil, with the help of gravity or other forces, could have seeped down to a depth of 10.5 kilometers in the state of Texas, for example, which is rich in oil deposits. As Vladimir Kutcherov sees it, this is further proof, alongside his own research findings, of the genesis of these energy sources - that they can be created in other ways than via fossils.

Well isn't that interesting. So called fossil fuels may not be from fossils after all.

That would tend to confirm the work of Thomas Gold and Freeman Dyson:

The Deep Hot Biosphere : The Myth of Fossil Fuels

What other findings do we have that might add further confirmation? There is some other work done in Sweden.

When Gold proposed this theory in the early 1980s, few scientists took him seriously. However, he did persuade the Swedish State Power Board to drill into a slab of granite fractured by an ancient meteor impact. Since oil is supposed to be found only in sedimentary rocks, it was a good test of Gold's theory. If gas is coming up from deep in the Earth, it might be expected to accumulate beneath the dense granite cap, and migrate slowly up through any fissures, perhaps turning into oil or tar. In the event, the prospectors did strike oil - about 12 tons of it. This was not enough to make the well commercially successful, but it did confirm that Gold was on to something.

It was not the Swedish oil that proved the most significant discovery though. Mixed in with the sludge at the bottom of the well, at a depth of over 6 km, was a large quantity of magnetite - a reduced form of iron oxide often associated with bacterial activity. After further investigation, Gold announced to the world that life exists not only on the surface of our planet but, in microbial form, deep inside the crust too.

Ah but that is not all.

There seem to be more than a few oil wells in the world that refuse to run dry.

Mystery in the Gulf

In 1973 oil was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 80 miles south of Louisiana known as Eugene Island 330. Producing 15,000 barrels per day, it was thought the well had seen better days when in 1989 its output dropped to 4,000 barrels per day. In 1990 the production of the well increased to about 13,000 barrels daily and has held steady. Although its output has slightly dropped it still refuses to run dry.

Want a Refill - Is That Possible?

Scientist working at the site discovered two important changes in the oil properties. Its age was was more recent than in previous years and its temperature was hotter. Using 3-D seismic technology scientist found a deep fault at the bottom of the well. What they saw startled, intrigued, and forced them to rethink the origins of oil. What they clearly saw was a deep fault gushing oil and refilling the well. There was no debate about it.

Mystery in the Mideast and Elsewhere

It's been said that the Mideast oil was a finite resource and could last 40 or 50 years at best. Yet over the past 25 years, reserves have more than doubled. With no new wells geologist have been hard pressed to explain why and it appears there is no end in sight. These fields have been methodically exploited since the first gusher was discovered. Today, OPEC is pumping over 30 million barrels of oil per day.

Cook Island in the Gulf of Mexico and oil fields in Uzbekistan are other examples of wells that refuse to dry out. Many wells around the world are refilling.

Peak oil? I dunno. Maybe not.

And then there is the biology of the Gulf of Mexico. We hear a lot about killer oil spills. But what if oil is life? Here is an article about all the oil seeping out of the gulf of Mexico.

The discovery of abundant life where scientists expected a deserted seafloor also suggested that the seeps are a long-duration phenomenon. Indeed, the clams are thought to be about 100 years old, and the tube worms may live as long as 600 years, or more, Kennicutt said.

The surprises kept pouring in as the researchers explored further and in more detail using research submarines. In some areas, the methane-metabolizing organisms even build up structures that resemble coral reefs.

It has long been known by geologists and oil industry workers that seeps exist. In Southern California, for example, there are seeps near Santa Barbara, at a geologic feature called Coal Oil Point. And, Roberts said, it´s clear that "the Gulf of Mexico leaks like a sieve. You can´t take a submarine dive without running into an oil or gas seep. And on a calm day, you can´t take a boat ride without seeing gigantic oil slicks" on the sea surface.

Roberts added that natural seepage in places like the Gulf of Mexico "far exceeds anything that gets spilled" by oil tankers and other sources.

"The results of this have been a big surprise for me," said Whelan. "I never would have expected that the gas is moving up so quickly and what a huge effect it has on the whole system."

Although the oil industry hasn´t shown great enthusiasm for the idea -- arguing that the upward migration is too slow and too uncommon to do much good -- the search for new oil and gas supplies already has been affected, Whelan and Kennicutt said. Now, companies scan the sea surface for signs of oil slicks that might point to new deposits.

Well what do you know. Look for an oil slick, find oil.

If you do some searching around on your favorite search engine you can find lots more of this stuff. Which made me think of the Firesign Theater Album: Everything You Know Is Wrong.

Peak oil? Probably more like peak hysteria. Well it used to sell newspapers. Today? Not so much.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:55 PM | Comments (3)

"Respected Imam" killed in FBI shootout

A big FBI shootout at a Detroit mosque is the subject of huge headlines

Radical mosque leader killed in FBI shootout
Feds say goal was Islamic nation in U.S.

on the front page of today's Detroit Free Press. Luqman Ameen Abdullah, Imam of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit, was killed when he fired at FBI agents, and he appears to have been quite outspoken about the need to use violence in the name of Islam:

Abdullah believed he and his followers were soldiers at war against the government and non-Muslims.

"Abdullah told his followers it is their duty to oppose the FBI and the government and it does not matter if they die," FBI agent Gary Leone said in an affidavit unsealed Wednesday. "He also told the group that they need to plan to do something."

Abdullah, 53, of Detroit stayed true to his word Wednesday as armed FBI agents raided a Dearborn warehouse at Michigan Avenue and Miller. Four other suspects surrendered without incident. Authorities said Abdullah refused to surrender, opened fire and then died in a shootout in which an FBI dog also was killed.

"We're not any fake terrorists, we're the real terrorists," Abdullah once boasted to an undercover informant, according to the affidavit.

Because the Detroit Mosque was affiliated with the Ummah (a group headed by the former H. Rap Brown, now serving a life sentence for murdering a police officer), it's tempting to dismiss the group as kooky domestic radicals:
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI in Detroit unsealed a 43-page document, however, describing a sinister, radical fundamentalist group allegedly headed by Abdullah. The document notes conversations he had with undercover agents and federal informants that ranged from talking about attacking Super Bowl XL in Detroit to blowing himself up as a final act of courage.

"If they are coming to get to me, I'll just strap a bomb on and blow up everybody," he said in a March 21, 2008, conversation.

Federal officials said Abdullah was the leader of a group that calls itself "Ummah, a group of mostly African-American converts to Islam, which seeks to establish a separate Sharia-law governed state within the United States."

"The Ummah is ruled by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, who is serving a state sentence ... for the murder of two police officers in Georgia."

Brown came to prominence in the 1960s as a leader of the Black Panther Party.

Referring to Abdullah, Leone said in the affidavit, "He regularly preaches antigovernment and antilaw enforcement rhetoric. Abdullah and his followers have trained regularly in the use of firearms and continue to train in martial arts and sword fighting."

Despite reports of violence against children, criminal activity, and threats to kill FBI agents, a local CAIR official insisted that Abdullah was a "respected Imam."
Inside the mosque, authorities said, Abdullah conducted firearms training, spewed hate and sometimes violently disciplined children by beating them with sticks.

He beat one boy "so badly with sticks that he was unable to walk for several days," Leone said in his affidavit.

During the Jan. 20 eviction, police found two firearms and about 40 knives and martial arts weapons in Abdullah's apartment within the mosque, investigators said.

Authorities said none of the charges levied Wednesday are terrorist-related, but U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg said the case is still under investigation. Abdullah and 11 suspects were charged with felonies including illegal possession and sale of firearms, mail fraud to obtain the proceeds of arson, theft from interstate shipments and tampering with motor vehicle identification numbers.

Seven of the suspects were in U.S. District Court on Wednesday for initial appearances, one was in custody and three were still being sought.

Even as FBI investigators kept tabs on Abdullah through surveillance, he urged his cohorts to learn of the agents' whereabouts.

"Trail them, follow them, know where they house is at, and everything else," he told an informant, according to the criminal complaint. "You've got hundreds of agents right there off Michigan" Avenue.

The reference was to the McNamara Building, the headquarters of the Detroit FBI.

"The FBI knows that I will kill them," he said, adding that police also are targets, according to the affidavit.

Imad Hamad, senior national adviser and regional director of the Dearborn-based Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, said he received a call from the head of the FBI's Detroit office midday to tell him about the raid.

Hamad said FBI Special Agent Andrew Arena told him that the case was "solely criminal" and had to do with "smuggling and fraud." He said Arena revealed few details of the investigation, but said it had been ongoing for about two years.

Hamad said he didn't know the defendants.

"Agents were trying to chase some people," Hamad said Arena told him, referring to the raid. "They were giving instructions to lay down. He resisted. He pulled a gun. They exchanged fire, he was shot down, killed. A dog ... was dead as well."

The warehouse is near the heavily commercial intersection of Miller and Michigan.

Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Arena called him as well.

Walid said he knew Abdullah.

"I know him as a respected imam in the Muslim community," Walid said.

The allegation that he's a "respected imam" intrigued me. I mean, how does a career criminal who preaches the killing of non-Muslims and plots against the FBI become respectable?

In an accompanying article titled "
Muslim leaders caution against hasty judgment
" another Muslim leader warns about "trying to imply that faith has anything to do with it":

Victor Ghalib Begg, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, said the Muslim community condemns any type of violence.

"Obviously, these people are Muslims, but we don't know the circumstances, so I really want to reserve any comment," he said. "Incidents like these, people need to be careful smearing religions and trying to imply that faith has to do with it."

But I'm not trying to imply anything!

The respected Imam himself has stated plainly that his faith had everything to do with it.

And by the way, it is no understatement to call him "respected." He is listed as being on the governing body (the "Majlis ash-Shura"), of an organization called the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA). MANA is considered a mainstream Muslim organization, and its founder is Ihsan Bagby, who is on the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), as well as a Board Member of CAIR.

Which means the CAIR spokesman did not exaggerate when he called the murderous Abdullah a "respected Imam."

I think this indicates that the American Muslim community has a problem over who is considered respectable.

But don't take my word for it. Just read what the respected Imam said:

  • "We got to take out the U.S. government. The U.S. government is nothing but Kuffars."

    (The indictment says that "Kafir is a highly derogatory term used to describe a non-Muslim, and that 'Kuffar' is the plural form of the word."

  • "The worst Muslim is better than the best Kafir."
  • "America must fall."
  • Or read what the respected Imam's followers are saying at a site where he is called a "martyr":
    O Imam Luqman, what a hero you are! You were a star and your last breath was like a supernova.
    You did not fear or falter, by the Lord of the Kaba, you have been triumphant!


    So is killed one more great leader of our Ummah,
    but one hundred will take his place.

    Yes, our brother's blood was spilt, but it was not is vain.
    Verily the seedlings of Tawheed are watered with the blood of the martyrs and fertilized with their flesh.

    Yes, our brothers's blood was split, and it ran red.
    And may it be red also on the Day of Judgment, but only let is smell of Musk.

    Yes, our brother's brother's blood was spilled, and it was like rain water on the parched earth.
    Truly it is an expensive price to pay to enter Jannah.

    And let it be, O Imam Luqman, that when you meet Allah, and He asks what what you want,
    may it be you say, Ya Allah, put my soul in my body again, so I can be killed once more for Your safe.

    And may he find happiness in the company of The Propet [S.A.W.], and the Martyrs, and the Pius,
    and may you rejoice with in Hoor Al Ayn in a garden where the fruit is sweet and the flowers never wilt.

    Again, who is "trying to imply that faith has to do with it"?

    Here's a video compilation from local news:

    And here's the Fox News writeup.

    I wish I could figure out how to stop violent anti-American terrorists from being considered respectable.

    But that was my complaint about Bill Ayers -- repeated to the point I was tired of repeating myself.

    posted by Eric at 11:37 AM | Comments (3)

    Who wants to look like a bigot?

    Commenting on Byron York's post about how the Democrats outmaneuvered the GOP on ACORN (never mind the endless ongoing scandals), Glenn Reynolds opines that "Republicans are insufficiently relentless."

    He's right, they are, and I think there's a poorly understood but well-oiled mechanism behind it.

    When Republicans are relentless, they look like bigots. Think Jesse Helms.

    When Democrats are relentless, they look compassionate. Think Clarence Darrow.

    This is a longstanding principle of conventional political wisdom, enforced relentlessly by the pro-Democrat MSM.

    Nothing fair about it, but I think it goes a long way towards explaining why the Republicans hesitate to be relentless.

    The fear of looking like a bigot takes its toll, as does the fear of being called a bigot.

    BTW, I think it's no accident that the outmaneuvering in question here took the form of adding "experts in the fields of consumer protection, fair lending and civil rights, representatives of depository institutions that primarily serve underserved communities, or representatives of communities that have been significantly impacted by higher-priced mortgage loans" (code language for ACORN) -- at the behest of the very relentless Maxine Waters, who wants conservatives probed for racism.

    posted by Eric at 06:46 PM | Comments (5)

    A Seat At The Table

    Tom Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce has a few things to say about the Obama Administration not offering them a seat at the table.

    "I did an interview a couple of week ago, and somebody said, 'Well, the White House says that you've become Dr. No and you are going to lose your seat at the table.' And I said, 'The White House doesn't give out the seats at the table. The seats at the table go to the people who have a rational policy, who have strong people to advance that policy, that have a strong grass-roots system, that have the assets to support their program, and that are willing to play in the political process," Mr. Donohue remarks, sitting in his office, which looks across Lafayette Park to the White House.
    I note that Sarah Palin has no seat at any table and yet a word from her on Facebook moves political mountains.

    Mr. Obama is losing his clout. And there is no worse debility for a Chicago politician than losing your clout.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    Making a hero disappear
    "I have to die a man or live a coward."

    Dr. Ossian Sweet

    One of the basic principles of justice (and human rights) is the right not to have your house invaded. Call it "a man's home is his castle" or whatever, but the right to resist invasion is both ancient and inherent in human nature. It does not matter whether the invasion is mounted by an individual or by a group; in fact, a group of evil men hell-bent on doing violence is a lot scarier than a lone attacker. In both cases, there is a human right to self defense and to use lethal force.

    I recently learned that in 2006, Michigan law codified this right by enacting the "man's home is his castle" doctrine, establishing that there is no duty to retreat when one's home is being invaded, and creating a rebuttable presumption that deadly force is justified in self defense: is a rebuttable presumption in a civil or criminal case that an individual who uses deadly force or force other than deadly force under section 2 of the self-defense act has an honest and reasonable belief that imminent death of, sexual assault of, or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another individual will occur if both of the following apply:

    (a) The individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used is in the process of breaking and entering a dwelling or business premises or committing home invasion or has broken and entered a dwelling or business premises or committed home invasion and is still present in the dwelling or business premises, or is unlawfully attempting to remove another individual from a dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle against his or her will.

    (b) The individual using deadly force or force other than deadly force honestly and reasonably believes that the individual is engaging in conduct described in subdivision (a).

    While I'm glad Michigan joined the states which have this presumption, I think it's a shame that when the legislators passed the man's-home-is-his-castle bill, they dropped its original name, and I'm fascinated by the reasoning involved.

    The bill had been titled the "Dr. Ossian Sweet Self Defense Act" in memory of the black physician who valiantly defended his home against a mob of white racists in 1925.

    After Sen. Alan CROPSEY (R-Dewitt) gave an explanation of the bills, Sen. Buzz THOMAS (D-Detroit) said though he considered quietly voting against the bills but couldn't do it unless references to the "Dr. Ossian SWEET Self Defense Act" were changed.

    Ossian Sweet was a doctor who moved his family to an all-white Detroit neighborhood in the 1920s. When Sweet moved in, he asked several friends and friends of friends to stay with him and his wife for the first few nights they were to stay in their house.

    Sweet was afraid his family would be attacked. His fears were not unmerited because several black families who tried to penetrate all white neighborhoods were harmed and/or driven from their homes.

    A mob, or large group of people, depending on who was asked, stood outside of the Sweet's house. Finally someone threw a rock and one of the men who was defending Sweet's house started shooting out the window and into the crowd.

    He killed a white man and he and several of the black men in the house, including Sweet, had to go to court in what became a very publicized case.

    Sweet eventually won on the grounds that he was reasonable to be afraid that his family was going to be attacked and possibly killed. The legislation before the state Senate is intended to give homeowners a tool to protect themselves from danger and so it was named the "Dr. Ossian Sweet Self Defense Act."

    Dr. Sweet and his family were defended by the legendary Clarence Darrow, who considered the Sweet case and the Scopes "Monkey Trial" to be his most important cases. Here's what Darrow said at the time:
    If I thought any of you had any opinion about the guilt of my clients, I wouldn't worry, because that might be changed. What I'm worried about is prejudice. They are harder to change. They come with your mother's milk and stick like the color of the skin. I know that if these defendants had been a white group defending themselves from a colored mob, they never would have been arrested or tried. My clients are charged with murder, but they are really charged with being black.
    A long and detailed story with pictures is here.

    The point is, no human being should ever have to endure the sort of mob violence that Dr. Sweet and his family endured, and I think it's a crying shame that it took the Michigan legislature over 80 years to enact into law the ancient principle that Dr. Sweet had the right to defend his home against a mob.

    So why couldn't it be named after him? What is wrong with helping to rectify an injustice committed against a black man who tried to defend himself, his home, and his family against mob of racist invaders?

    Why would Rep. Thomas say that "though he considered quietly voting against the bills but couldn't do it unless references to the 'Dr. Ossian SWEET Self Defense Act' were changed"? Bear in mind that he was opposed to the bill, that the bill would have codified Dr. Sweet's right to defend his home, and also would have made his prosecution highly unlikely if not impossible because of the legal presumption.

    Surely it cannot be that Rep. Thomas doesn't think Dr. Sweet had a right to defend his home? Or can it?

    His explanation only puzzled me further:

    Thomas said the legislation would offend many people because the circumstances behind the case created a constant source of fear for black people. For one, the case was decided by a white jury and included white legal council. Secondly, the issue of mob rule was prominent in the case.

    "I urge you to take away this shameless pandering and move on with your case," Thomas said.

    No one objected to having the "Dr. Ossian Sweet Self Defense Act" language taken out of all six bills.

    What happened to Dr. Sweet was an outrage. That charges were brought was an outrage. The prominence of mob rule makes it even more of an outrage.

    So how does a bill with a stated goal of preventing such outrages become "shameless pandering" if it is named for the victim?

    And what gives someone who is opposed to such a bill the right to dictate the removal of Dr. Sweet's name from it?

    As usual, I'm not getting it. I can't be sure of the reasons, but I can speculate, and I think the answer might lie in identity politics. It sounds as if certain black left wing activists believe that because Dr. Sweet was black, his identity is owned collectively -- by them, of course -- and they demand that he be counted within "their" ranks. But because they oppose the right to self defense, they will not tolerate dissent within the ranks, so Dr. Sweet's name must never be linked to self defense -- even though that was a principle for which he was willing to sacrifice his life.

    Moreover, they wanted his name off the bill because had it been there, it would have constituted an ever-present reminder that by voting against it, they voted against Dr. Sweet's right to defend his home against a racist mob.

    And what a cruel irony that is. Seriously, I don't believe I've ever seen a more monstrous example of the tyranny that is identity politics.

    I think that if the brave Dr. Sweet knew, he'd cry out from his grave.

    posted by Eric at 10:50 AM | Comments (2)

    Health Care Mantra

    Advocates of socializing health care have asked: how can America's relatively free market spend the most money on health care, yet have among the worst outcomes?

    The answer is, we don't. The oft-cited WHO rankings don't really measure quality of health care, preferring to judge things like "fairness of financial contribution" and measures like life expectancy (which is more strongly correlated to lifestyle than health care) or infant mortality (other countries use different standards and so generally record more infant deaths as stillbirths than we do, perversely making their numbers better even though they sometimes let marginal infants die).

    American health care is simply the best in the world, and by many measures ithe competition isn't even close:

    U.S. does 2x as many transplants as OECD average

    U.S. has best cancer survival rates in OECD

    Death panels in Britain are putting people to death who could have recovered

    Death panels: now in kids' sizes too! Infants being left to die.

    U.S. has more MRIS "it was found that Canada had 4.6 MRI scanners per million population while the U.S. had 19.5 per million"

    U.S. has about twice as many MRIs as OECD average

    The U.S. gets new drugs 1 year sooner "On average, the FDA approval came 1 year ahead of clearance by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA)."

    "Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the United Kingdom and 457 percent higher in Norway."

    "The top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other developed country"

    U.S. performs more operations than any country in the world.

    Lower U.S. life expectancy does not argue U.S. has worse health care due to lifestyle factors and differences in how infant mortality is reported

    Please feel free to steal, share and cite any or all of these links early and often. If anyone else has links to add, please share in the comments! Don't let them take the best care in the world away from us without a fight!

    posted by Dave at 07:19 PM | Comments (4)

    An opinion at gunpoint is no longer an opinion

    Last night I recommended a book titled The Right To Be Wrong, because I think it's a good idea for people who disagree to always keep in mind that the right to be wrong is a hallmark of civilization. In the West, civil society generally abhors the opposite approach, which typifies totalitarian or extreme authoritarian societies.

    Dissent is virtually non-existent in most Arab countries, many of which are ruled by archaic systems of government taken straight out of a political science atlas - monarchies and emirates, sultanates and dictatorships. There is no right to be wrong in Arab countries, where governments grant you the right to agree, or the right to disappear. That's it.
    I realize some people would argue that there is no right to be wrong in the philosophical sense, and certainly no one has a moral right to maintain that what he knows is wrong is actually right. But in the human rights sense, we all possess the right even to deliberately maintain positions we know to be incorrect or wrong. I have a human right to insist the earth is 6000 years old, or even that it is flat. An opinion is just an opinion, and no opinion ever harmed anyone in the abstract. Harm can only result at the implementation stage. If I say that a mountain is only 2800 feet high when it is actually 28,000 feet high, no harm is done, no matter how often or how loudly I proclaim it. It might be wrong, but it is only my opinion, right? Well, suppose I get a job as an air traffic controller and broadcast that "opinion" over the air, and a pilot relies on it, crashing his plane into the mountain. I could hardly hide behind my right to hold a wrong opinion. How much different is that from a crackpot getting on the radio and proclaiming that H1N1 flu shots are a eugenics conspiracy? Hey, don't laugh. That's just what one screwball Canadian doctor with the unpronounceable name of Ghislaine Lanctot says:
    Lanctôt warns that the elite and their minions will introduce a compulsory vaccination that will contain a deadly virus and this will be used specifically as a eugenics weapon for "massive and targeted reduction of the world population." Moreover, a pandemic will also be used to further establish martial law and a police state, according to Lanctôt, and activate concentration camps "built to accommodate the rebellious" and eventually transfer power from all nations to a single United Nations government and thus fulfill the sinister plans of the New World Order.
    [Ditto, NOI leader Louis Farrakhan.] OK, so suppose this ridiculous idea spreads and takes hold among the more stupid and gullible people, whose children are deliberately left unvaccinated and die. Should Lanctot and other crackpots be heard to say they had a right to be wrong too? How far does the right to be wrong go? As a libertarian I would like to think that bad ideas should be met by fierce condemnation in the marketplace of ideas, and that intelligent people would simply ignore them and that's that. Many, however, would call this insensitive and irresponsible, and libertarians are often criticized for ignoring the plight of those with poor self control and lower IQs.

    This comment from Kim du Toit to Perry de Havilland is a classic:

    Perry, my old friend:

    The problem I and many others have with libertarian philosophy is that not everyone has a 120+ IQ and a decent moral code -- and sadly, 'tis only under this condition in which libertarianism can come even remotely close to being a workable social system.

    While that debate involved the regulation of cognitive enhancers, I sometimes worry that just as some people can handle cognitive enhancers better than others, some people can handle bad ideas better than others.

    And just as an opinion that is implemented becomes more than just an opinion, an opinion that is enforced at gunpoint can ultimately become destructive of the very "right to be wrong" I champion. This can happen even with the most seemingly harmless and innocuous opinions.

    Take opinions over what to eat.

    As these remarks by Lord Stern advocating a vegetarian diet illustrate, those who think vegetarianism is a good idea have no intention of leaving it at that.

    People will need to turn vegetarian if the world is to conquer climate change, according to a leading authority on global warming.

    In an interview with The Times, Lord Stern of Brentford said: "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. A vegetarian diet is better."

    Direct emissions of methane from cows and pigs is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas.

    Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, said that a successful deal at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases.

    It's easy to be dismissive of Lord Stern, but the problem with people who agree with him is that they are activists with power, and they would not hesitate to use the power of government to criminalize meat-eating.

    At that point it ceases to be an opinion, and becomes tyrannical.

    Anyway, I think Lord Stern has just as much right to his opinion as those who believe it's a good idea to spay and neuter pets, to use certain type of light bulbs, to wear a veil, to not have certain kinds of sex, to not have children, or to not have guns.

    An opinion enforced at gunpoint has ceased to remain merely an opinion.

    How to debate such opinions civilly is not an easy question.

    posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

    And what if we're all wrong?

    While I wasn't tagged * (and I'm glad I wasn't, for tagging me makes me want to avoid doing whatever I was ordered to do), I can't resist responding to Glenn Reynolds' "BOOKS I WOULD RECOMMEND TO THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH ME" post.

    Linking Ilya Somin's post, Glenn points out that it's a theme of the blogosphere lately, and recommends James Scott's Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes To Improve The Human Condition Have Failed.

    Glenn's observation that "everybody disagrees with me about something," reminded me that if you try hard enough, you can disagree with everyone about everything. Or, if you're a far-out radical Buddhist Kumbaya Eastern Mysticism Utopian, maybe you can figure out a way to agree with everyone about everything.

    We will always disagree, but I think the most important thing to remember is that when people disagree, it is because those who disagree consider those with whom they disagree to be wrong. Now, while I always want to be right (and I think most people do), I try to never forget at least the possibility that I might be wrong. And I think that we all need to remember that there is a right to be wrong. If there wasn't, we would have no freedom.

    So the book I would recommend to those who disagree with me is Kevin Seamus Hasson's The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America. Here's the first paragraph:

    It is perhaps America's most enduring myth: The Pilgrims came here looking for religious freedom, found it, and we all lived happily ever after.

    From an Amazon review by James T. Hill,

    Hasson is delightfully witty as he skewers both extremes in the culture war. One extreme, "the pilgrims," are people of whatever faith (Muslims, Christians, etc,) who want their religion to the be the only official one. The other extreme, "the park rangers," want to drive all religion from public life. Hasson's solution is to welcome all faiths into the public square.

    Hasson is, however, no relativist. He doesn't think that the various faiths that he'd welcome into public life are all somehow true. As he says in his introduction "on any given day, I think most of my clients are wrong. But I firmly believe that...they have the right to be wrong."

    Remembering that might make it possible to tolerate the intolerable. The book is several years old, and while I didn't agree with everything the author says (I especially wish he'd spent more time on the atheist issue), his central premise is extremely valuable, and I would highly recommend it to anyone -- especially people who disagree with me on culture war issues.

    Besides, the book is ranked 652,730, so I thought it could use a plug.

    * Unless M. Simon emailing me constitutes being "tagged," that is....

    posted by Eric at 07:54 PM | Comments (4)

    A Libertine Speaks

    Eric Olsen of Technorati interviews Andrew Breitbart at Technorati. And a delightful video it is. Worth fifty minutes if you are interested in the state of the culture, the state of politics and how the two intersect.

    Andrew Breitbart who broke the ACORN child prostitution scandal talks about his happy time on the left (about 8 minutes 30 seconds in) when it came to sex (who knows about drugs and rock and roll - although he talks about rock near the beginning of the video). He goes into why the left dominates the culture. For instance how many right wing bands do you know? There are a few. How many right wing actors are there? A few. But in general the state of right wing popular culture is abysmal.

    He has some very nice things to say about libertarians about 24 minutes in. In that segment he makes a very good point (obliquely) about the social conservatives being on the wrong side of the culture wars and thus losing the more important war for limited government and fiscal responsibility. A point I have been making for a very long time and certainly since I started blogging in September of 2004.

    He also talks about how media bias creates great opportunities to present points of view that are shut out of the failing media. This is an expansion on a point that he made earlier in the video about the people running the failing media having no business sense. That they are not there to serve a market but to serve as the propaganda arm of the left.

    Here is a link to the Financial Times piece mentioned in the video. And here is the Wall Street Journal on Breitbart.

    Then he goes on to say that people should be writing in their own names. I agree. And then he gets into the fact that people can lose their livelihood if they speak out under their own names. Which brings him to the McCarthyism of Hollywood.

    He also gets into his libertine side. A side most folks are unwilling to admit. As most of you know I have my libertine side and although it is not my focus I'm not ashamed of it either. All I'm going to say on the matter is "Lesbians. Yummmmm." And one other thing. I love hanging out with musicians. I will add that if you choose to be a libertine be a responsible libertine. Succinctly: Don't drink and drive. Don't have unprotected sex unless you are willing to bear the consequences. etc. Other than that do what I tell my kids to do. Have Fun!

    Andrew says he is trying to create a groovier conservative movement. So just maybe there are beginning to be enough libertine conservatives to create a critical mass. I do notice that libertarians - often confused with libertines for good reason - are starting to get more respect on the right. About time. And Objectivists, who have Ayn Rand's personal life as an example of a sexual libertine, are also starting to be accepted as part of the right. It seems to me that the core values of the right are being whittled down to two. Fiscal responsibility (and responsibility in general) and limited government.

    He also mentions that the right are the adults in the room and tells social conservatives that they have to come up with a coherent policy on gays that makes gays whole. They cannot be written off. The socons can't pretend that they don't exist or that they can be made to go away. That pretending that gay love is not real love has no future. As I said above. Lesbians. Yummmmmmmm! Then he goes off on the supposed socially liberal Democrats and says - show it. He says that the Democrat constituencies of Hispanics and Blacks are as socially conservative as any white Republican socons and yet the Democrats get the reputation as the socially liberal party.

    Breitbart finishes up with the comment that what he does is not about business. It is about his passion for information. When did my passion for information get really rolling? First when I worked for WFMT in Chicago in 1962 and I got to watch the AP news stories come over the Teletype in real time. Stories, many of which I never saw in the newspapers and television of the day. The second place that fired it up for me was when I was in Electronic Technician School in the Navy and we set up one of our receivers with a Teletype to get the AP wire over the air. Getting the news in real time before it was printed in the newspapers or even announced on the radio was a real thrill for me. And the thrill has never gone away.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:59 PM | Comments (71)

    "outside the Democratic norms of our society"

    The United States Chamber of Commerce is being subjected to unprecedented attack by a variety of forces on the left.

    Its crime? Refusing to go along with the monstrous cap-and-trade scheme which would destroy what's left of the economy. Here's the organization's position on cap-and-trade, as well as carbon emissions:

    2. The Chamber's position on Waxman-Markey

    We opposed this specific legislation because it would not reduce the global level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is neither comprehensive nor international, and it falls short on moving renewable and alternative technologies into the marketplace and enabling our transition to a lower carbon future. It would also impose carbon tariffs on goods imported into the U.S., a move that would almost certainly spur retaliation from global trading partners.

    3. The Chamber's position on EPA's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act:

    The Clean Air Act is not the appropriate vehicle for regulating climate change. Even though EPA is only addressing motor vehicles, the Clean Air Act is structured so that once EPA regulates greenhouse gases in any manner; the Act regulates all emitters of the gases which includes stationary sources that have never been subject to EPA Air regulation. To quote Congressman John Dingell, this will be a "glorious mess." Our economy does not need a glorious regulatory mess, especially now. Reason needs to prevail and Congress needs to enact a comprehensive climate change law.

    They have also called for hearings on the scientific theory behind climate change, which is considered a form of heresy by the left. In typical hit piece fashion, Mother Jones has called the Chamber of Commerce the "Chamber of Carbon."

    And the very shameless Eliot Spitzer (whose hatred of the free market even extends even to persecuting the type of businesses he frequented) is trying to bully companies into silencing the Chamber of Commerce.

    Disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer thinks people who own shares in mutual and pension funds should pressure the directors and executives of America's great corporations to silence the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Spitzer, aka the "Client Number Nine" who famously kept his socks on while dallying with Emperor Club VIP hookers, now accuses the chamber of misrepresenting its members. How? By lobbying against "the reform of markets, health care, energy policy and politics that we have all been calling for."

    Spitzer's solution is for mutual and pension fund owners to demand that the corporations cancel their chamber memberships, thus denying the nation's most influential business voice of the lifeblood of every trade association -- dues revenue. It comes as no surprise to hear such demands from Spitzer, who as New York attorney general posed as an ethical champion while using the mere threat of state-sponsored litigation to force corporate boards and executives to take actions that clearly weren't in the best interests of their stockholders.

    The Chamber has also been targeted by highly professional left-wing pranksters, who issued false statements in support of cap-and-trade which purported to emanate from the Chamber of Commerce.

    Then there's Valerie Jarrett. Described as one of the most influential members of Obama's inner circle, she's a protege of SDS leader (and Ayers friend) Marilyn Katz, and President Obama cannot say no to her:

    An Obama 2008 campaign official told the New York Times, "If you want him to do something, there are two people he's not going to say no to: Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama."
    Through Valerie Jarrett, the White House plan is to "neuter the Chamber," which Charles Krauthammer described as "outside the Democratic norms of our society," and which the Wall Street Journal called "The Chicago Way":
    A White House set on kneecapping its opponents isn't, of course, entirely new. (See: Nixon) What is a little novel is the public and bare-knuckle way in which the Obama team is waging these campaigns against the other side.

    In recent weeks the Windy City gang added a new name to their list of societal offenders: the Chamber of Commerce. For the cheek of disagreeing with Democrats on climate and financial regulation, it was reported the Oval Office will neuter the business lobby. Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett slammed the outfit as "old school," and warned CEOs they'd be wise to seek better protection.

    Old school, eh? I'm wondering whether Ms. Jarrett believes the free market economy is old school. (If so, then the CEOs really are in need of "protection.")

    Warns author Kim Strassel,

    The Oval Office might be more concerned with the long term. It is 10 months in; more than three long years to go. The strategy to play dirty now and triangulate later is risky. One day, say when immigration reform comes due, the Chamber might come in handy. That is if the Chamber isn't too far gone.

    White House targets also aren't dopes. The corporate community is realizing that playing nice doesn't guarantee safety. The health executives signed up for reform, only to remain the president's political pinatas. It surely grates that the unions--now running their own ads against ObamaCare--haven't been targeted. If the choice is cooperate and get nailed, or oppose and possibly win, some might take that bet.

    There's also the little fact that many Americans voted for this president in thrall to his vow to bring the country together. It's hard to do that amid gunfire, and voters might just notice.

    Bare knuckles Chicago-style politics is one thing. But to see it directed at the Chamber of Commerce, from leftist radicals in the White House, is quite another.

    I'm glad to see that so far they haven't caved to pressure. My worry is that the reason the Chamber of Commerce is being so viciously targeted might involve more than just playing the game by Chicago politics.

    I worry that the target is the free market system itself.

    How many Obama voters thought they were voting for that?

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

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    MORE: A website dedicated to stopping Valerie Jarrett has been created.

    posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (10)

    Herding Junkies

    Peter Moskos of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition takes a look at what the drug war means from a law enforcement perspective.

    As a police officer, I responded when citizens called 911 to report drug dealing. Those calls didn't tell me much, though, because I already knew the drug corners. And what could I do? When a police car pulls up to a drug corner, the corner pulls back. Dealers, friends, addicts and lookouts walk slowly away.

    I didn't chase them. If I did, they'd ditch the drugs. What would I do if I caught them? Charge them with felony running? A smart dealer doesn't hold drugs and money and guns. He's got workers for that. Besides, an anonymous call to police doesn't give the legal "probable cause" needed for a search. So I'd walk up, perhaps frisk for weapons and stand there until "my" corner was clear.

    But soon enough I'd have to answer another 911 call for drugs. And when I left, the crew would reconvene. One of my partners put it succinctly: "We can't do anything. Drugs were here before I was born, and they're going to be here after I die. All they pay us to do is herd junkies."

    Seems like a waste of time. A huge waste of time. At a cost of $50 billion a year. A typical government program. Lots of people getting paid lots of money to make it look like something is being done when in fact hardly anything is being done.

    Peter goes on to compare how Amsterdam deals with drugs and compares Dutch drug use rates to American. The Dutch have a significantly smaller problem (per capita) with drugs than America does. And they spend significantly less on enforcement (per capita) than America does.

    In another neighborhood in Amsterdam, a man caught breaking into cars was released pending trial. The arresting officer returned to him, along with his shoelaces and personal property, his heroin and drug tools. I was amazed. The officer admitted he wasn't supposed to do that; heroin is illegal. But the officer had thought it through: "As soon as he runs out of his heroin, he'll break into another car to get money for his next hit."

    For the addict, the problem was drugs. But for the police officer, the problem was crime. It made no sense, the officer told me, to take the drugs and hasten the addict's next crime. The addict was not a criminal when he had drugs (beyond possessing them); he was a criminal when he didn't have drugs.

    I asked the officer if giving drugs to addicts sends the wrong message. He said his message was simple: "Stop breaking into cars!" With a subtle smirk in my direction, he added, "It is very strange that a country as violent as America is so obsessed with jailing drug addicts." Indeed, Dutch policymakers plan, regulate, fix and pragmatically debate harms and benefits. Police in the Netherlands are not involved in a drug war; they're too busy doing real police work.

    If only American police were as interested in doing police work. If you take the "herding junkies" quote as some kind of evidence it seems that at least some of them are.

    So what does Peter suggest?

    Regulating and controlling distribution is far more effective at clearing the corners of drug dealers than any SWAT crackdown. One can easily imagine that in some cities -- San Francisco, Portland and Seattle come to mind -- alternatives to arrest and incarceration could be tried. They could learn from the experience of the Dutch, and we could all learn from their successes and failures.

    Regulation is hard work, but it's not a war. And it sure beats herding junkies.

    We will eventually come to our senses about drug prohibition just as we came to our senses about alcohol prohibition. The sooner the better.

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:46 AM | Comments (8)

    Government Finance Reform

    Now compare what he says near the end of this two minute video to what is said 36 minutes in to the video that can be found here.

    And also carefully note that he doesn't hold the Legislature of California totally to blame. He says the voters are driving the problem.

    Also note that Bill Lockyer, who is a Democrat, obliquely takes a shot at the Republicans for focusing on the Culture War instead of bread and butter issues like controlling State spending.

    H/T Diogenes via e-mail

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

    The past is an ever-persistent now, more than ever!

    A Wall Street Journal book review (of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age) makes an important point about the inherent conflict between digital and human memory:

    We once could improve ourselves by shedding our pasts. Now the past is always with us.
    The past is more than merely with us. The past is in the present, as never before -- to the point where it literally overwhelms the present by blurring all time distinctions.

    A lot of people have written about the insane increase in the number of laws and the criminalization of nearly everything, and I think this inability to forget is leading to a much more unforgiving attitude on the part of everyone. It becomes impossible to forgive things that always seem right there in front of you no matter how old they are. Saying something like "that happened a long time ago" -- once a reasonable statement grounded in common sense -- now sounds outdated, and almost lame as a defense. And yet sometimes the passage of time does matter. Times change, and customs with them.

    A perfect example is the way Richard Nixon's various grumblings to his aides are brought to new life and judged by contemporary standards. Nixon is now seen as a racist, an anti-Semite, and a homophobe, and while no one would defend any of his remarks, the fact is that attitudes like Nixon's were shared by innumerable powerful men of his day and his generation. In short, his peers. To overlook this is to overlook reality. Yet when we see Nixon as "the most racist" or "the most sexist" president, we give LBJ or FDR or JFK a pass -- only because tapes of their mutterings are not available for scrutiny on the Internet. Nixon is forever -- and permanently -- distorted simply because of the persistence of memory.

    Yeah, I know that's a Dalí title. Nixon is permanently hung out to dry like the famous Dalinian watch!


    Yeah, I know that's Coco who got PhotoShopped in there instead of Nixon, but I'm just too lazy to PhotoShop Richard Nixon into Dalí's art. Besides, my memory is already cluttered enough, and thanks to the persistence of memory, Coco's breed is being persecuted at least as persistently as Nixon memory, and I think it sheds some light on how the persistence of memory is distorting legislation.

    The pit bull will do as an example. For those don't like pit bulls and think it's an example of my bias, please hear me out anyway, for the memory mechanism works the same way for almost anything.

    As I tried to explain before, humans have only a limited ability to endure reading pit bull horror stories:

    human beings have only a limited capacity to endure reading horror stories about mauled children, and if there are, say, a half a dozen such stories a year, if each story is widely circulated, then a cumulative effect is created, and the reaction tends to be along the lines of "how much more of this must we as a society endure?" The ugly fact is, these stories are very hard to read; it makes me sick to read about a child being mauled to death. Add to this the fact that in many instances there are gruesome pictures of little girls who survived "pit bull" attacks, pictures showing awful disfigurement, details of the years of plastic surgery which will be needed, and all of these pictures and stories will remain online forever, and little wonder that people say, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" Never mind that banning a breed will no more prevent child maulings than banning a type of gun will prevent its misuse.
    So, even if there are millions of pit bulls with six fatal attacks on children annually, each attack becomes a permanently recorded online tragedy with gruesome pictures, and if it happened in 1999, it will look just as gruesome and just as new this year, or in 2019. Except that in 2019 there will have been that many more each year, that many more victims, and that many more people screaming "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" "How many more pit bull attacks must we endure?"

    And how many more drug overdose deaths before we finally get tough and do something? How many more oil spills? How many more My Lais massacres? It is as if everything that happens will henceforth always be happening, and will always be in the present. By being more persistent than ever before, memory is distorted accordingly.

    How long must we tolerate the persistence of memory before we say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"?

    (To call Dali prophetic might be redundant, but my memory persists.)

    Sometimes I wish I could do what they used to do in the old days, and just fuhgeddaboutit.

    Do we have to relearn how to forget?

    posted by Eric at 12:27 PM | Comments (5)

    why women are victims and men are suspects

    At 5:30 a.m. in Springfield, Virginia, a woman was cutting through a stranger's yard, whereupon (for reasons best known to her), she looked into the window of the house and saw the guy who lived there, making a cup of coffee in the nude. She called the cops, who actually came and arrested him.

    For being naked in his own house in the wee hours of the morning.

    Michele Catalano takes a close look at the case, and she has some good questions:

    What if the tables were turned? What if Williamson were a woman and a man walked by the house instead of a woman? What if that man happened to look into the window, staring long enough to see that the woman inside was naked? Would he call the cops to say he was flashed? Probably not, because he would end up in handcuffs for being a peeping Tom. A woman looks in on a naked man and thinks he is committing a crime. A man looks in on a naked woman and she thinks he is committing a crime. Weird how that works.

    So now Eric Williamson is branded a criminal, a pervert, a flasher. Even if he did walk to another window as the mother was walking, the mother was trespassing. She had no right to expect that she would be shielded from anything going on in the house, nor did she have any right to be close enough to the window to look in on a man making coffee.

    Yes, it is weird how that works. It's a double standard, and I've commented on it before.

    As it happens, the complaining "victim" also happens to be the wife of a local police officer, which probably explains why her call was taken seriously.

    The moral lesson here is that only women can be victims of nudity when they trespass. No trespassing man looking in a window would ever be likely to seen as a victim. That's because males occupy the suspect role, and women have the victim role.

    A man who took a shortcut through someone's yard would inherently be a suspect -- regardless of the attire or the sex of the resident. I consider any stranger I see walking through my yard to be a suspect. However, I would assume that the police would take a call from me more seriously if I complained about a man walking through my yard than a woman walking through my yard. Is this sexist? Sexual profiling? I don't know, but it is just the way the world works.

    And if I were to cut through someone's yard (especially at 5:30 a.m.) and see a guy naked inside, I'd feel a little ashamed of myself for invading his privacy. It would never, ever, in my wildest dreams occur to me to call the cops, and I would expect to be laughed (or worse) at if I did. If I saw a naked woman, I'd run, for I would expect her to call the cops. And if I saw a naked adolescent girl, I'd run even faster, lest I be accused by her mother of stalking a child.

    While none of this is fair, it's the way the world works.

    Men are evil and perverted, and women are victims and innocent.

    On this point, right and left tend to agree.

    posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (2)

    The DOD Looks At Energy Security

    The gentlemen and gentlewomen at Talk Polywell have come across a couple of major finds. The first is a discussion of American energy security and its military implications. Energy & National Security: An Exploration of Threats, Solutions, and Alternative Futures [pdf].

    Abstract - Findings of multiple Department of Defense (DoD) studies and other sources indicate that the United States faces a cluster of significant security threats caused by how the country obtains, distributes, and uses energy. This paper explores the nature and magnitude of the security threats as related to energy--some potential solutions, which include technical, political, and programmatic options; and some alternative futures the nation may face depending upon various choices of actions and assumptions. Specific emerging options addressed include Polywell fusion, renewable fuel from waste and algae cultivation, all-electric vehicle fleets, highly-efficient heat engines, and special military energy considerations.
    Interesting (to say the least) that Polywell gets a mention in the very beginning of the paper. We have come a long way since the Polywell program was nearly permanently shut down in 2006.

    The second paper is about funding for various quick reaction [pdf] programs by the DOD. The interesting bits are on page 11 of the document. Look at just how small the effort was in fiscal year 2008.

    Boron Fusion The objective of this project is to continue research towards a proven, validated, and reviewed and approved final design basis for engineering development and construction of full-scale clean nuclear power plants. Boron/hydrogen reactions are radiation-free and non-hazardous and well-suited to direct electric power applications to Navy propulsion, as well as to modest scale ground power plants/systems, able to be run without fossil fuels. Such power plants would revolutionize DoD power systems applications and requirements.

    FY 2008 Accomplishments:
    This project continued research towards a proven, validated, and reviewed and approved final design basis for engineering development and construction of full-scale clean nuclear power plants. Payoff would be elimination of the need for fossil fueled plants. Boron/hydrogen reactions are radiation-free and non-hazardous and well-suited to direct electric power applications to Navy propulsion, as well as to modest scale ground power plants/systems, able to be run without fossil fuels. Such power plants would revolutionize DoD power systems applications and requirements.

    Things are picking up speed in the Polywell research. You can find out more about the latest funding for Polywell at WB-8 Contract Details and at WB-8 Contract Progress.

    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.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:58 AM | Comments (2)

    Beauty and death

    Earlier I visited Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery, "the oldest continuously operating, non-denominational cemetery in Michigan," and took some pictures.




    While in Detroit, I also visited the historic Michigan Central Station, which has remained in ruins for decades while its "future" is endlessly debated. The owner of the historic building would like to fix it up, while the Detroit City Council wants to tear it down. This I cannot understand, for it is a beautiful example of Beaux Arts architecture, and a stunning reminder of what Detroit was once like (and of course how far it fell).

    Opened in 1913, the building is of the Beaux-Arts Classical style of architecture, designed by the Warren & Wetmore and Reed and Stem firms who also designed New York City's Grand Central Terminal.[3] The price tag for this 500,000-square-foot (46,000 m2) building was $15 million when it was built.

    The building is composed of two distinct parts: the train station itself and the 18-story tower. The roof height is 230 feet (70 m). Ideas as to what the tower was originally designed for include a hotel, offices for the rail company, or a combination of both. In reality, the tower was only used for office space by the Michigan Central Railroad and subsequent owners of the building. The interiors of at least the top floor were completed and served no function.

    The main waiting room on the main floor was modeled after an ancient Roman bathhouse with walls of marble. The building also housed a large hall adorned with Doric columns and contained the ticket office and arcade shops. Beyond the arcade was the concourse, which had brick walls and a large copper skylight. From here, passengers would walk down a ramp to the departing train platforms, 11 tracks in all. Below the tracks and building is a large area for baggage, mail, and other office building functions.

    The building has been stripped of most valuable items including brass fixtures. It has also been the victim of extensive vandalism.

    Tearing it down strikes me as Ceausescu like behavior, evincing a lack of pride in the past. But the City Council voted to tear it down -- "passing a resolution that calls for expedited demolition." Fools. As if to add insult to injury, they want to spend "stimulus money" to finalize the destruction:
    What a scandal that money that is supposed to be spent to put people to work, that could have been used to create the greenest of jobs in building restoration and upgrading, would be misused to hide the embarrassment of Detroit, that such a gem could be left to deteriorate to such a state.
    I'm glad it's privately owned and I hope the building's owner fights the demolition.

    The people who want to tear it down call it an eyesore. I disagree, and it was well worth driving out of the way just to visit it. Yes, it is in a ruined state, but they don't make ruins like this anymore:



    I think it outclasses any modern eyesore that might replace it.

    MORE: Here's what Michigan Central Station looked like in its day (and in Detroit's):

    posted by Eric at 05:34 PM | Comments (1)

    A Three Percenter Speaks

    I found an interesting comment at The statists' fear and loathing of the Oath Keepers.

    In the end, too, we can always lean back on this concept with the control freaks, a concept which Vanderboegh makes brilliantly: the instant that the law fails to protect us from the state, making it null and void--that being the whole point of that charter-document thingy, after all--it also no longer protects the state from us. And for anyone who whines about the current dialogue being "uncivil", what with people speaking frankly and displaying a willingness to resist: remember, these are the people who want to talk. These are the nice guys. It might be prudent not to shut them down, lest others start to pop up. Anyone who thinks that won't happen is, as the saying goes, whistling past the graveyard of history.
    Which is why the White House war on Fox News will hurt the ∅ administration in the end.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:22 PM | Comments (4)

    Belief In Global Warming Falls Precipitously

    Now only 36% believe the Earth is being warmed by manmade sources.

    It's really not surprising at all, though. AGW rests on some very shaky evidence, which has only recently come to light because the "scientists" involved have been assiduously avoiding requests to share their data (which is crazy when you think about it: "I have evidence we need to spend trillions of dollars or the world will end! What? You want to see my work? No way!").

    When you get down to it, the whole thing falls apart without the hockey stick, because otherwise you don't need CO2 to explain anything; as this graph shows, the proxy averages indicate the Earth saw very similar warming around 1200. But for all the cries of "consensus" the hockey stick is the product of a relatively small group of people who all cite each other and tend to be environmentalists -- and some of them appear to have done some very bad things with the data; this year, it's started to look more like a hoaxey stick.

    Meanwhile, AGW proponents' predictions both short- and long-term haven't panned out. The Arctic wasn't ice-free this year or last, hurricane activity is dropping off the charts, the 1988 IPCC predictions were all too high, and the methane prediction turned out to be way off too.

    All in all, it's looking more and more likely that trace concentrations of CO2 just aren't that important to climate.

    I think most people are open to the idea of AGW, but the evidence just isn't there, at least not yet. If temperatures spike over the next 10-20 years, we might have to reconsider, but if a cooler PDO pushes them down AGW may be regarded as the Club Of Rome prediction of its day.

    posted by Dave at 06:18 PM | Comments (10)

    "the Constitution explicitly forbids it"

    From an Investors Business Daily editorial:

    In ways large and small, it's easy to see we're building a nanny state that will make Europe's seem modest by comparison. After all, this doesn't even include health care "reform" or cap-and-trade. Soon, the federal government will control every aspect of our lives - though the Constitution explicitly forbids it.

    This is the inevitable result of the massive expansion of government over the past year. The $700 billion TARP program, the $787 billion stimulus, a planned "second stimulus," $13 trillion in new debt over the next decade - inevitably, we'll see new government controls and regulations on nearly everything.

    "They are awakening a vast regulatory apparatus with authority over nearly every U.S. workplace, 15,000 consumer products and most items found in kitchen pantries and medicine cabinets," the Washington Post has observed.

    Yes, the Constitution explicitly forbids it. And we have a president and a Congress who all took an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend" that Constitution.

    I'd say this is the biggest constitutional crisis since Watergate, except that isn't really accurate, because after all, Watergate consisted of a burglary and a coverup. Nixon resigned and the country survived with the Constitution largely intact. The problem with this constitutional crisis is on a much grander scale. We have a government now which violates the Constitution with impunity, and act as if that's just the way things are supposed to be. No wonder; if you talk about things like federalism and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, people roll their eyes as if you must be a kook. (I am serious; the argument is largely wasted, especially on serious, ambitious policy types who think you have to live in the real world.)

    However, a History Channel* documentary on the drug war which was on the other night offered a stunning if brief reminder that there was a time when the Constitution meant something. About 50 seconds into the video, former San Jose police chief Joseph McNamara (now a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford) explains how the Harrison Narcotics Act made the first major end run around the Constitution:

    "For the first 140 years our country included the right to ingest whatever chemicals you wished. Only in 1914 did that change. And the change is probably the most radical public policy change in the history of the United States."

    What's fascinating is the way they went about it. Congress knew that the federal government simply lacked the power under the Constitution to invade people's medicine cabinets, so they got their foot in the door with a "tax" measure, and then started arresting people for tax violations.

    A few years later, they faced the same constitutional problem banning alcohol, except the problem was much vaster in that there were so many people involved.

    So this time they went about it the right way -- by amending the Constitution. I call the 18th Amendment the "Telltale Amendment," because its existence proves the existence of a once-flourishing Constitution, which had to be respected.

    They don't need no steenking amendments today! They can do anything they want.

    Especially what the Constitution explicitly forbids.

    * It's a sad commentary on our plight that the only place ordinary people can get to hear about these things would be in brief mentions on the History Channel.

    posted by Eric at 05:00 PM | Comments (9)

    Killing federalism under a must-pass $680-billion false flag!

    Did you think the Matthew Shepard Act is merely about adding sexual orientation to the list of federal hate crimes? If you did (as I did), then you are in for a rude awakening.

    To back up a bit, over the weekend, I was appalled to discover that the federal government had assumed jurisdiction over and actually criminalized illegal wood. What I found especially disturbing was that the wood regulating provisions (consisting of amendments to the Lacey Act) had gone unreported, and were simply buried in a 663 page atrocity called the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill itself received limited attention, and seemed to be of media interest only because Bush's veto of it was overridden.

    The latest piece of federal legislation to receive such deceptive attention is called the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The conventional media spin is that this would add sexual orientation to existing hate crimes categories. I had been following the debate, and was so distracted by the arguments pro and con that I missed the bigger picture.

    OK, let me stop and reiterate that I oppose all hate crimes legislation -- whether for blacks, gays, Jews, Christians, Muslims, the blue-eyed devils, the homeless, or any other conceivable identity group (of which there are many more). What has bothered me the most about this debate is to see a number of Republicans argue that hate crime laws are OK for some identity groups, but not for gays. Whether they realize it or not, such a mindset looks like anti-gay bigotry, and will be perceived that way by gays and their supporters, and thus helps fuel the continuation of identity politics.

    Anyway, I say this not so much to argue the merits of my position (which finds little support among either Democrats or Republicans), as to illustrate that like most people, I assumed that I at least knew what was being debated and voted on. The issue (so I believed) was a simple one: whether gays should be added to the already long federal hate crimes list.

    That this was the issue was confirmed in numerous headlines. "Hate crimes bill set to become law" is typical. So is a headline from today's Detroit Free Press -- "Congress extends hate crime protections to gays":

    WASHINGTON -- Physical attacks on people based on their sexual orientation will join the list of federal hate crimes, in a major expansion of the civil rights-era law that Congress approved Thursday and sent to President Barack Obama.

    A priority of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., that had been on the congressional agenda for a decade, the measure expands current law to cover crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

    The measure is named for Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student who was murdered 11 years ago.

    But wait! This was not an up and down vote on the Matthew Shepard Act. They attached it to a huge Defense Policy bill, to force recalcitrant Republicans to vote for it:
    To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to a must-pass $680-billion defense policy bill the Senate approved 68-29. The House passed the defense bill earlier this month.

    Many Republicans, normally staunch supporters of defense bills, voted against the bill because of the hate crimes provision.

    "The inclusion of the controversial language of the hate crimes legislation, which is unrelated to our national defense, is deeply troubling," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

    Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., disagreed: "It is highly appropriate for this law to be part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The values our men and women fight for include tolerance and freedom from hate-inspired violence against our citizens."

    I'm wondering whether Senator Levin (gad, the man is my senator now!) does not think that the limitations on federal power spelled out in the Constitution are also "values our men and women fight for."

    Especially in light of this sentence later in the piece:

    But it does broaden the narrow range of actions that can trigger federal involvement -- such as attending school or voting -- and allows the federal government to step in if the Justice Department certifies that a state is unwilling or unable to follow through on an alleged hate crime.
    If the bill does that, then I find myself wondering why another apparently dramatic expansion of federal jurisdiction is being spun by nearly everyone as the much narrower issue of adding gays to a list?

    The whole thing smelled fishy, so I thought it was time to check out the actual bill in its entirety. Once again, I was appalled to find another monster. The Defense Policy bill is 1192 pages long, and is so unreadable that I find myself wondering whether the hate crimes provisions might have been tacked as a way to avoid debate on whatever else might be in the bill. As to what else might be in there, God only knows.

    However, narrowing my inquiry to the hate crimes provisions was a real eye opener, because there is a lot more involved than simply adding a sexual orientation category to the list.

    It is no exaggeration to say that this is a whole new law which substantially broadens and expands the definition and federal jurisdiction of hate crimes. The previous law specifically stated that the victim has to be engaged in a federally protected activity.

    Quite predictably, Senator Kennedy called the requirement that the victim be engaged in a federally protected activity a "loophole."

    Interestingly, members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission were so concerned about the potential prosecutorial abuses of the law that they urged a no vote:

    Four members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission urged Congress not to pass the federal hate crimes bill (LLEHCPA). In an April 29 letter to Congressional leaders, they point out that it would circumvent Constitutional protections against double jeopardy, giving the federal government the power to reprosecute people in federal court even after they have been found innocent of rape and other "hate crimes" in state court...


    We wrote earlier about how backers of the federal hate-crimes bill want to use it to reprosecute people who have already been found innocent, and to prosecute people whom state prosecutors decline to charge because the evidence against them is so weak. Supporters of the bill have given only lame rationalizations for why state not-guilty verdicts should not be respected. (Some of the bill's supporters have even made the strange claim that the defendants in the Duke Lacrosse case, whom the North Carolina attorney general later admitted were actually innocent, should have been reprosecuted in federal court).

    Great. So now they have a new prosecutorial tool to federally reprosecute the groundless Duke rape case.

    Are you beginning to see why they spun it the way they did?

    What I find much more monstrous than the addition of gays to the list is the way federal jurisdiction is being redefined to include anything.

    Until fairly recently, all federal legislation contained a recital of what gave rise to the federal jurisdiction, and this often took the form of a boilerplate recital along the lines of "of or in or affecting interstate commerce."

    This act describes interstate commerce in such a way that virtually everything that happens and anything that anyone does in the United States is interstate commerce:

    Such violence substantially affects interstate commerce in many ways, including the following:

    (A) The movement of members of targeted groups is impeded, and members of such groups are forced to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk of such violence.

    (B) Members of targeted groups are prevented from purchasing goods and services, obtaining or sustaining employment, or participating in other commercial activity.

    (C) Perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence.

    (D) Channels, facilities, and instrumentalities of interstate commerce are used to facilitate the commission of such violence.

    (E) Such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce.

    Articles that have traveled in interstate commerce? Are there any that haven't? As to "purchasing goods and services," if that now creates federal jurisdiction, then that not only that all hate crime is now federalized, but that federal jurisdiction everywhere is assumed to be a given. The feds could now criminalize all abortion, or all anything.

    Federalism is gone.

    This is of course reflected in the new description of the circumstances defining hate crimes:

    `(B) CIRCUMSTANCES DESCRIBED- For purposes of subparagraph (A), the circumstances described in this subparagraph are that--

    `(i) the conduct described in subparagraph (A) occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim--

    `(I) across a State line or national border; or

    `(II) using a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce;

    `(ii) the defendant uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A);

    `(iii) in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A), the defendant employs a firearm, dangerous weapon, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce; or

    `(iv) the conduct described in subparagraph (A)--

    `(I) interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct; or

    `(II) otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.

    Get that? If you're about to buy lunch, eating lunch you've just bought, buying a drink, about to get on a bus, doing to or from your place of employment, going to the store, you're engaged in interstate commerce. Say, doesn't paying taxes affect interstate commerce? So doesn't any attack on anyone who has ever paid or will pay any taxes affect interstate commerce for that reason too?

    Anyway, I think I have made my point, and I don't want to belabor it to death.

    To say that this grotesque expansion of federal jurisdiction is not what the founders had in mind is extreme understatement.

    So is the claim that it's all about sexual orientation. Or all about a "must-pass $680-billion defense" bill!

    I'm getting so tired of all this federal false flag fraud that I thought it was time to unfurl my favorite fake but real "Culture War" flag again.

    As my earlier photoshop design left a lot to be desired, reader Carl Henderson helped out with a rebel rainbow redesign pretty enough to be the envy of any Tea Party:


    posted by Eric at 11:53 AM | Comments (1)

    MSM Does The Right Thing

    I never thought I would say that. Ever. But when confronted with a fundamental challenge to the free press in America the press did not cave. Obama caved.

    Moe Lane has a few words on the dust up.

    So this administration had what passes for a brainstorm among that group: now that they've made it clear that they disapprove of one particular news network, why, there would be nothing stopping them from stepping up their attempts to marginalize said network. So the White House announced today that a specific White House Press Pool access - Ken Feinberg, who is one of the myriad 'czars' so beloved of this administration - would explicitly exclude Fox News. Despite the fact that the Press Pool is supported in part by Fox News.

    And the media refused to play along.

    This, oddly enough, has not been brought up by any of the other networks, so for right now the best source for this story is FNC (yes, savor the irony)

    Well other than standing tall when it counted I guess I can't give the MSM as much credit as I would like. Damn shame because had they reported the news instead of burying it they would have deserved it.

    Baby steps.

    There was one MSM reporter who sees an ominous connection between the psychology of this administration and one long passed into history

    How do you know that the White House's anti-Fox News campaign has gone seriously wrong? When CNN, let alone Anderson Cooper, begins to compare the Obama and Nixon administrations
    As I recall the Nixon thing didn't end well. Nixon was forced to resign and his Vice President, Spiro Agnew, was convicted on corruption charges. Leaving Gerald Ford to baby sit the country until Jimmy "incompetent" Carter's election.

    H/T Instapundit and Judith Weiss on Facebook

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:37 AM | Comments (2)

    Palin Endorses Hoffman

    Yesterday I covered the New York 23rd District's Congressional race in my post: The Revolution Starts Here. The race pits "Republican" Dierdre Scozzafava against Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party of New York candidate Douglas L. Hoffman. As you know from my previous report Scozzafava is to the left of many Democrat Congress persons. i.e she is a Democrat. Or if you prefer A Republican In Name Only.

    In a surprise move Sarah Palin on Facebook has endorsed Hoffman.

    The people of the 23rd Congressional District of New York are ready to shake things up, and Doug Hoffman is coming on strong as Election Day approaches! He needs our help now.

    The votes of every member of Congress affect every American, so it's important for all of us to pay attention to this important Congressional campaign in upstate New York. I am very pleased to announce my support for Doug Hoffman in his fight to be the next Representative from New York's 23rd Congressional district. It's my honor to endorse Doug and to do what I can to help him win, including having my political action committee, SarahPAC, donate to his campaign the maximum contribution allowed by law.

    Our nation is at a crossroads, and this is once again a "time for choosing."

    The federal government borrows, spends, and prints too much money, while our national debt hits a record high. Government is growing while the private sector is shrinking, and unemployment is on the rise. Doug Hoffman is committed to ending the reckless spending in Washington, D.C. and the massive increase in the size and scope of the federal government. He is also fully committed to supporting our men and women in uniform as they seek to honorably complete their missions overseas.

    And best of all, Doug Hoffman has not been anointed by any political machine.

    Doug Hoffman stands for the principles that all Republicans should share: smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense, and a commitment to individual liberty.

    Well that is a shot across the bow of the Republican establishment.

    And Palin finishes off her Facebook message with this zinger:

    Republicans and conservatives around the country are sending an important message to the Republican establishment in their outstanding grassroots support for Doug Hoffman: no more politics as usual.
    You know, whether Hoffman wins or loses I believe Palin has a future in politics. Currently Hoffman at 23% is trailing Scozzafava at 29%, with Democrat Owens leading with 33%. If Hoffman wins or at least does better than the Republican anointed Scozzafava, Palin's official political future will start November 4th.

    My advice to the Republican Party? Wake up. The days of business as usual are over.

    Interesting times.

    Oh yeah. Palin asks that people donate what they can to Doug Hoffman for Congress.

    Update: And Don't forget to buy Palin's book Going Rogue: An American Life which is currently selling for $9.00 in hardcover.

    I ♥ Sarah'cudda

    More: RS "The Other" McCain and I don't always see eye to eye on many political questions. But he has been way out front in his support for Hoffman. Read his take on events at Palin Endorses Hoffman.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:32 AM | Comments (9)

    The distractingest distraction yet!

    Dick Polman (a liberal Democrat who writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer) thinks President Obama's war on Fox news is both foolish as well as "tactically stupid" and he explains why:

    1. Going after Fox serves only to elevate Fox, making it appear that Fox is on an equal footing with the White House. Every president gets unfavorable press coverage; lashing out at the press generally makes a president looks small. In this instance, Fox winds up looking bigger. There's no need for Obama to do that, because he's the one with the biggest megaphone. His last speech to Congress drew 32 million TV viewers, according to the Nielsens. His last appearance on CBS' 60 Minutes drew 10 million viewers. Glenn Beck, on Fox, typically gets 2.2 million; Sean Hannity, 2.1 million. Why go to war with Fox, which only boosts its profile and plays right into the hands of Fox chief Roger Ailes - the ex-Nixon aide who thrives on this kind of pugilism?

    2. Speaking of Nixon, the attacks on Fox merely serve to make Obama look Nixonesque. Which is hardly Obama's preferred image. Back in '69, Nixon sent forth his vice president, Spiro Agnew, to wage frontal war against CBS and the other "nattering nabobs of negativism," and it made that president look petty and vindictive. In fact, if George W. Bush had waged the same kind of frontal war against MSNBC, the odds are high that much of the Washington commentariat would have accused him of trying to intimidate the press and despoiling the First Amendment. They would have assailed him as petty and vindictive. Is Obama less so? Or is he getting a pass from most pundits simply because his chosen target is Fox?

    3. The war on Fox is an unnecessary public distraction. Obama has a lot on his plate already, most of it very substantive - Afghanistan, health care, the economy, climate change, stuff like that - and his smartest play is to keep his eye on the ball...rather than try and make a big fuss out of an old story about how Fox is conservative.

    Well, yes, this does make the president look small, and Nixonian. And yes, he is getting a pass simply because his target is Fox.

    As to whether the war on Fox is an "unnecessary public distraction," I think it is most likely a public distraction, but whether it's unnecessary depends on who needs the distraction, and why. Axelrod, Dunn and company obviously think it's a necessary distraction or else they wouldn't have started the war.

    But distraction from what?

    Several distractions ago, I remarked on the sheer number of distractions at that point:

    A distraction here, a distraction there, and pretty soon this will become a distraction administration.
    Maybe this distraction is intended as a distraction from the other distractions.

    I have to say, it's certainly the most distracting distraction I've seen since the last distraction.

    MORE: Polman is not the only Democrat who is worried.

    In Congress, the White House attacks worry moderate Democrats. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    AND MORE: Also via Glenn Reynolds, Jennifer Rubin says something too rich for me to ignore:

    the administration is doing the impossible -- offending the mainstream press and forcing some of Fox's toughest critics to ride to its defense. Nice work, fellas.
    And on top of that, Michael Silence opined that
    "If Fox News was running for office, it would have to list President Obama as an in-kind contributor."

    This couldn't be another one of those publicity stunts, could it?

    I know it sounds fantastic, but the evidence is accumulating.

    posted by Eric at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

    The Revolution Starts Here

    The Tea Parties are not Republican friendly according to the Wall Street Journal.

    The rise of conservative "tea party" activists around the country has created a dilemma for Republicans. They are breathing life into the party's quest to regain power. But they're also waging war on some candidates hand-picked by GOP leaders as the most likely to win.

    In upstate New York, Dede Scozzafava, 49 years old, is the choice of local party leaders to defend a Republican seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, an abortion-rights candidate who could appeal to independents. Doug Hoffman, 59, is a local accountant backed by tea-party activists who has jumped into the race declaring himself the real conservative.

    Mr. Hoffman has siphoned so much support from Ms. Scozzafava that their Democratic rival has vaulted into the lead, according to a poll released Thursday. The election is Nov. 3.

    Evidently the current Republican Party is no longer conversant with small government libertarians.

    You can see how much trouble Ms. Scozzafava is in by watching this video.

    Which brings me to an e-mail I got from The Tea Party Express.

    The Tea Party Express is an effort made possible by the support of all sorts of different patriotic Americans coming together with basic, shared, common goals. We are generally "conservative" although some would bristle at that description and prefer to be called 'libertarians' or 'constitutionalists' or students of 'objectivism.' I helped start Our Country Deserves Better Committee, which is the lead sponsor of the Tea Party Express, during the last campaign season to call voters attention to the far-left policies we could expect if Barack Obama were elected President, and to rally Americans to oppose these policies and Obama's candidacy. The Our Country Deserves Better Committee continues to be a thriving project that wouldn't be possible if many different individuals associated with many different other groups didn't all work together to advance the shared cause we believe in.
    It looks to me like traditional conservatives are making common cause with those of a more libertarian bent. I applaud this. In fact it is about time. Because as one of my favorite politicians has said:

    "If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism." Ronald Reagan.

    In fact there are far too many Christian Socialists like Mike Huckabee in the Republican Party. They use God Talk to cover for their socialist impulses. They run on a platform of crosses. I'm sorry. It offends me. I have no interest in crosses or bigger government. I'm interested in smaller government and praying to my God in private.

    It is good to see the Tea Party Express folks have not fallen for the Christian Democrat brand of conservatism. It is what we have a Democrat Party for.

    H/T Instapundit and Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:54 PM | Comments (2)

    Activists make it hard not to care

    How my email address gets on these lists I do not know, but last night I received an urgent email which asked me to help do something about a sick Cockatiel for sale at a pet store in New York. A link went to this web site, where I saw a number of comments posted -- almost all of which display fanatic abolitionism on the subject of pet stores. They believe passionately that it is immoral to sell animals, and the only "debate" involves whether it is immoral to pay money to the store to "rescue" a sick bird.

    The bird is described as having ascites -- an infection which can result when impregnated birds retain egg yolk:

    Egg yolk peritonitis (the presence of yolk material in the coelomic cavity) is a common cause of abdominal distension in birds. Yolk material by itself induces a mild inflammatory response and may be reabsorbed by the peritoneum. Because yolk is an excellent growth medium for bacteria, peritonitis may result from secondary bacterial infection. Localized to diffuse fibrinous peritonitis may result, and may lead to secondary ascites and organ inflammation or compromise in chronic cases.

    Egg peritonitis is characterized by fibrin or albumen-like material with a cooked appearance among the abdominal viscera. It is a common cause of sporadic deaths, but in some flocks may become the major cause of death and give the appearance of a contagious disease. It is diagnosed at necropsy.

    Lodgment of eggs in the oviduct was probably due to reverse peristalsis brought about by breakage of the thin-shelled eggs and secondary bacterial infection. Peritonitis follows reverse movement of albumen and Escherichia coli bacteria from the oviduct into the abdomen. If the incidence is high, culture should be done to differentiate between Pasteurella (fowl cholera) or Salmonella infection.

    When hens have too many large ovarian follicles, a problem described as erratic oviposition and defective egg syndrome (EODES) is seen in broiler breeders.

    If this disease affects birds like farm chickens, it would not be surprising to see it in an occasional pet store bird, although the diagnosis has not been confirmed by anyone writing these postings -- the primary goal of which is to condemn pet stores for selling animals.

    One commenter decried the horrors in this and other pet stores and said poignantly,

    I have been taking pictures of all the dead fish in Wal Mart.
    Most normal people would read that and say "Get a life!" The problem is (and this applies to most activists) she already has a life, and this is it.

    What bothers me the most about this abolitionist mentality is that there's no compromise with it. To these people, it is immoral for animals to be kept in zoos, pet stores, raised on farms or even kept as pets. To them, a picture of a dead fish at Walmart is as shocking as a picture of a bloody fetus is to an abortion activist, and presumably, they think that non-activists will be shocked into agreeing with them by seeing the images. When this does not happen, the activists only become more determined.

    This principle has been called group polarization:

    Study of this effect has shown that after participating in a discussion group, members tend to advocate more extreme positions and call for riskier courses of action than individuals who did not participate in any such discussion.
    The counterintuitive nature of this discovery of this phenomenon surprised researchers, who had always assumed that group decisions would reflect the group's average:
    The study of group polarization began with an unpublished 1961 Master's thesis by MIT student James Stoner, who observed the so-called "risky shift", meaning that a group's decisions are riskier than the average of the individual decisions of members before the group met. The discovery of the risky shift was considered surprising and counter-intuitive, especially since earlier work in the 1920s and 1930s by Allport and other researchers suggested that individuals made more extreme decisions than did groups, leading to the expectation that groups would make decisions that would conform to the average risk level of its members. The seemingly counter-intuitive findings of Stoner led to a flurry of research around the risky shift, which was originally thought to be a special case exception to the standard decision-making practice. By the late 1960s, however, it had become clear that the risky shift was just one type of many attitudes that became more extreme in groups, leading Moscovici and Zavalloni to term the overall phenomenon "group polarization".
    The phenomenon seems to be worse online:
    Group polarization has also been found to occur with online (computer-mediated) discussions e.g. (Sia et al., 2002). In particular, research has found that group discussions conducted when discussants are in a distributed (cannot see one another) or anonymous (cannot identify one another) environment, can lead to even higher levels of group polarization compared to traditional meetings. This is attributed to the greater numbers of novel arguments generated (due to PAT) and higher incidence of one-upmanship behaviours (due to social comparison).
    Years ago in Berkeley I noticed that left-wing radicals used to seem to be competing over who was the most rad (the most rad being the coolest of course), with predictable results. Guess what? I still see it, and I haven't been on the left for a long time.

    Of course, if you disagree with the group in question, the reverse tends to occur. What is fascinating about this is that even when people's positions are refuted or debunked, that only makes them adhere to their beliefs more obstinately. Persuasion does not work, because arguments do not win, and those who are unconverted tend to become more set in their ways. Little wonder that totalitarian states imprison dissenters; they know that while repetitive propaganda may fuel the believers, it also tends to fuel dissent.

    While it's beyond this post, there may be an inherently irreconcilable conflict between those who want to be told what to do, and those who do not.

    Anyway, what all of this means is that to the extent I want to remain rational and objective, I'd probably be better off not subjecting myself to activist propaganda. An additional problem for me is that even if I agree with an argument, if I start seeing it too often I am more likely to become critical of it. Thus, I tend to become repelled and disgusted by group polarization even if I agree with the premise of the group! It makes it very difficult for me to be an activist on any level. At best, I end up being disappointed with humanity again, even if I manage to hold my nose and support the group. (Yes, I should learn to be more understanding -- but even that sounds condescending on my part.)

    But what I find especially annoying is when people demand I care about something I don't care about, simply because they care deeply about it. That makes me care, perhaps not enough to "join the other side" (as I might have when I was younger), but still. Someone demanding that I care about what I don't about forces me into a position of at least caring enough to be annoyed by their demand.

    I am forced to give a crap only because others give a crap. The existence of the "give a crap" forces requires me to give a crap, even though I resent giving a crap.
    As I say, I'm not necessarily giving a crap over what the activists think I should be giving a crap about so much as I give a crap over the insistence that I give a crap. (There is a difference.)

    And just as I felt compelled to give a crap about pornography, right now I give a crap about dead fish.

    Enough that I took a picture of the dead fish at my local supermarket, which I rescued from being eaten by a total stranger, and which are now in my refrigerator.


    Is that picture persuasive of anything?

    That picture reminded me of another one which was clearly intended to persuade, but which failed in my case.


    So, simply because of my irritation over an email, I am now running the risk of being seen as making fun of an issue that a growing number of devout abolitionists feel very, very strongly about.

    And I'd be foolish not to feel strongly about the fact that they feel strongly, for I'm sure that many animal rights activists believe there is a special place in hell for people like me.

    Please bear in mind that I could have written about other emails from various activists who have failed to persuade me, but I selected this one because it's easier for me to write about, plus I thought it would offend the least number of readers.

    That's because animal rights activists don't think their position defines conservatism, nor do they call their enemies RINOs.

    I guess I need to try harder not to care.

    MORE: Citing a post about a new movement to eat your pets in the name of CO2 reduction, M. Simon propose having activists eat each other to lighten the load for the rest of us.

    Mmm mmm good!

    Maybe someone should start an organization called People for the Eating of Tasty Activists.

    Come to think of it, isn't the above picture suggestive of the idea?

    posted by Eric at 11:12 AM | Comments (7)

    Mach-Einstein Drive

    I have a new article up at ECN Magazine on experiments testing out the possibilities of a Mach-Einstein Drive. I call it: Maching Einstein.

    Why is this important? If the experiments work (and even if they don't) we will learn more about how our universe is constructed. If they do work we can get propulsion without having to build huge rockets. Earth to Mars travel in a few days would be a definite possibility. If it works really really well faster than light speed travel is a definite possibility.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    the joy-of-destruction game

    Did you know that 40% of people are nasty, and if they did not fear retaliation, they would destroy the property of others?

    I didn't, but an Economics and Business study at the University of Amsterdam seems to confirm it:

    We introduce the joy-of-destruction game. Two players each receive an endowment and simultaneously decide on how much of the other player's endowment to destroy. In a treatment without fear of retaliation, money is destroyed in almost 40% of all decisions.
    (Via Robin Hanson.)

    And I always thought Amsterdam was a "nice" place!

    There I go, blaming furreigners! I didn't mean to, but I really would like to think that Americans would be less likely to want to destroy what others have. I'm thinking maybe only 33% of Americans would. (You know, the 33% who believe in socialism, which is built upon the impulse to take away people's property.) This is not to say that the sort of resentment which motivates people to destroy is limited to the left (and the study gives no clue as to the politics driving the destructive urges), but after all, Marxism is built on class warfare and class resentment, which I think at the core is a political attempt to collectively harness what would in be considered a violation of the 10th Commandment ("Thou shalt not covet") by many Christians and Jews.

    Not that I'm advocating Mosaic Law, mind you. But the 10th Commandment has long been my "favorite," because it's the least enforced and the most frequently violated. No wonder it was put last; as a practical matter that makes more of a "suggestion" than a "commandment." By its very existence, it seems to contemplate the fact that we are not perfect and we will covet.

    But even if it's only a suggestion and not truly enforced, I'd still prefer a society which suggests that it's wrong to covet what your neighbor has than
    one built on the idea that it's right according to political theory, and which justifies class resentment -- and inculcates the joy of destruction -- as deliberate social policy.

    If only such games were kept in European universities!

    posted by Eric at 12:24 AM | Comments (1)

    "Palling around" becomes official policy
    "Clearly the White House has no problem being associated with Bill Ayers."

    That is absolutely true, and the proof is here. Ayers delivered a major speech before The Renaissance Group's 20th Anniversary Celebration in Arlington, Virginia. Speaking at the event ("A Time for Reflection, Celebration and Rebirth") along with Ayers were Under Secretary of Education Dr. Martha Kanter (who spoke before Ayers) and her boss Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education (who spoke after Ayers).

    Via Tom Maguire, who said,

    People Say "Palling Around With Terrorists" Like It's A Bad Thing
    As Glenn Reynolds put it, "the parting on the right is now a parting on the left."

    Anyway, while Barack Obama was not there palling around with Ayers in person, the Ayers gala was clearly priority number one for the Department of Education. I'd say that the Department of Education has disgraced itself, except it would be absurd to imagine that both the Secretary and the Under Secretary acted without approval from above.

    It's the Barack Obama Administration -- literally palling around with a terrorist.

    There's nothing I can say about Ayers -- or Barack Obama's association with him -- that I haven't said before.

    What can I do other than say "I told you so"?

    (It's just not terribly satisfying to have been right about unpleasant things.)

    By the way, Ayers is also reported as admitting he wrote "Dreams of My Father".

    If that's true, then by avoiding Ayers, Barack Obama is behaving as an ingrate.

    I guess there's nothing new about that either.

    posted by Eric at 07:31 PM | Comments (4)

    Fox News

    Since the White House has declared War on Fox News I'm putting a link to Fox News near the top of my sidebar at Power and Control.

    I suggest all bloggers against Government Censorship do the same.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

    Serve The People

    Eric of Classical Values and I have been having an e-mail discussion of management styles provoked in part by his article on Chairman Mao: Proudly emulating the bold and imaginative attitude of Chairman Mao!

    My attitude was to always treat those below me with the same attitude I treated those above me. Respect. Because good results depend on every one on the team. Or as an American philosopher put it:

    "The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water." -- John W. Gardner, Saturday Evening Post, December 1, 1962

    Chairman Mao was not the only one to see that a fundamental respect for others was necessary to make an organization work. Sadly the Chairman got carried away with the privileges of power and bad philosophy. Leading him to kill at least 50 million Chinese. The movie The Last Emperor is an excellent look at the Empire of Mao.

    Which leads us to another dying empire. The American auto industry. Or as I currently prefer: Government Motors and Crisis Motors.

    Everyone knew Detroit's reputation for insular, slow-moving cultures. Even by that low standard, I was shocked by the stunningly poor management that we found, particularly at GM, where we encountered, among other things, perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company.
    But that is only the money. What about their attitude towards the people producing the cars?
    The cultural deficiencies were equally stunning. At GM's Renaissance Center headquarters, the top brass were sequestered on the uppermost floor, behind locked and guarded glass doors. Executives housed on that floor had elevator cards that allowed them to descend to their private garage without stopping at any of the intervening floors (no mixing with the drones).
    And that is the essence of the problem. They never practiced management by walking around. Finding out what was actually going on and fixing things. They never liked the peasants. Reminding me of the old joke: Courtier to the King: "The peasants are revolting." King to the Courtier: "Yes they are." There is an identity there. As in congruency.

    As Mao once knew. If you don't serve the people you can not succeed.

    And Michelle Obama? All she wanted was a few servings of leafy greens.

    Let's say you're preparing dinner and you realize with dismay that you don't have any certified organic Tuscan kale. What to do?

    Here's how Michelle Obama handled this very predicament Thursday afternoon:

    The Secret Service and the D.C. police brought in three dozen vehicles and shut down H Street, Vermont Avenue, two lanes of I Street and an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station. They swept the area, in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with bomb-sniffing dogs and installed magnetometers in the middle of the street, put up barricades to keep pedestrians out, and took positions with binoculars atop trucks. Though the produce stand was only a block or so from the White House, the first lady hopped into her armored limousine and pulled into the market amid the wail of sirens.

    Andrew Monaghan thinks this shows more than a minor disconnect from the "little people".
    I ask my readers to consider one thing: What mindset must one be in to block traffic during rush hour (in Washington DC of all places!) in an attempt to satiate your craving for certified organic Tuscan Kale?

    Here's the answer: One must be in the state of mind where your whimsical cravings supersede the desires of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people to get home to see their families after a hard day of work.

    This is giving Michelle Obama too much credit. The statement above presupposes that Michelle Obama actually has the desires of these people on her radar. She does not. Anyone who stops traffic in rush hour to obtain an obscure lettuce isn't thinking of anything other than impressing the "small people" with her nuanced palate.

    Which brings me back to the political side of the current bunch of liars we have in office. They have more than the usual amount of disrespect for the people they serve (yeah that Chairman Mao again). It will not end well.

    Obama Snob

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:23 PM | Comments (1)

    Proudly emulating the bold and imaginative attitude of Chairman Mao!

    While a lot of attention has been paid to Anita Dunn's quotations from Chairman Mao, and there's been a lot of criticism for her praise for Mao as her "favorite political philosopher," I don't think that most people (either on the right or the left) have really had the heart to engage in a serious Maoist-style analysis of the thoughts of Spokesperson Dunn.

    I realize that Dunn's remarks on Mao are getting a bit stale, and I know it's not my job to get into serious Mao mode, but when I clicked on Glenn Reynolds' link, to Megan McArdle I was just, well boldly inspired!

    I thought that this must be some kind of grotesque conservative exaggeration, but no, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn really did tell a graduating high school class to emulate Mao Tse-Tung's bold and imaginative attitude during his takeover of China.
    This forced me to ask myself, who needs grotesque conservative exaggeration when you can emulate the bold and imaginative attitude of Chairman Mao?

    So, to hell with grotesque conservative exaggeration! It is time to boldly and imaginatively analyze the thoughts of Spokesperson Dunn according to the teachings of her favorite political philosopher, Chairman Mao!

    Let's take her recent criticism of Fox News:

    "Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party," Dunn told CNN, adding, "let's not pretend [Fox is] a news organization like CNN is." Dunn also took her beef to The New York Times, saying in a Sunday interview that Fox is "undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House [and] we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave."

    In the most significant exchange on CNN, Dunn stressed that President Obama now personally views Fox as a partisan opponent, rather than a journalistic organization. "When he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point," she explained, "he is going on it to debate the opposition."

    That's a big departure from how most of the Democratic establishment engages Fox. It's been a long time coming.

    Well, from a Maoist perspective, it is very traditional. It fact, it echoes the central philosophy of the "the most important philosophical essay[s]" which Anita Dunn's favorite political philosopher, Mao Zedong, ever wrote!

    I refer in particular to the famous "ON THE CORRECT HANDLING OF CONTRADICTIONS AMONG THE PEOPLE" from 1957. What Mao advocated was to allow democracy for "the people," while treating enemies differently.

    As Mao made clear in 1957, the idea was not new, even then:

    Many people seem to think that the use of the democratic method to resolve contradictions among the people is something new. Actually it is not. Marxists have always held that the cause of the proletariat must depend on the masses of the people and that Communists must use the democratic method of persuasion and education when working among the labouring people and must on no account resort to commandism or coercion. The Chinese Communist Party faithfully adheres to this Marxist-Leninist principle. It has been our consistent view that under the people's democratic dictatorship two different methods, one dictatorial and the other democratic, should be used to resolve the two types of contradictions which differ in nature -- those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people. This idea has been explained again and again in many Party documents and in speeches by many leading comrades of our Party. In my article "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship", written in 1949, I said, "The combination of these two aspects, democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, is the people's democratic dictatorship." I also pointed out that in order to settle problems within the ranks of the people "the method we employ is democratic, the method of persuasion, not of compulsion". Again, in addressing the Second Session of the First National Committee of the Political Consultative Conference in June two, I said:

    The people's democratic dictatorship uses two methods. Towards the enemy, it uses the method of dictatorship, that is, for as long a period of time as is necessary it does not permit them to take part in political activity and compels them to obey the law of the People's Government, to engage in labour and, through such labour, be transformed into new men. Towards the people; on the contrary, it uses the method of democracy and not of compulsion, that is, it must necessarily let them take part in political activity and does not compel them to do this or that but uses the method of democracy to educate and persuade. Such education is self-education for the people, and its basic method is criticism and self-criticism.

    Thus, on many occasions we have discussed the use of the democratic method for resolving contradictions among the people; furthermore, we have in the main applied it in our work, and many cadres and many other people are familiar with it in practice. Why then do some people now feel that it is a new issue? Because, in the past, the struggle between ourselves and the enemy, both internal and external, was most acute, and contradictions among the people therefore did not attract as much attention as they do today.

    Quite a few people fail to make a clear distinction between these two different types of contradictions--those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people -- and are prone to confuse: the two. It must be admitted that it is sometimes quite easy to do so. We have had instances of such confusion in our work in the past; In the course of cleaning out counter-revolutionaries good people were sometimes mistaken for bad, and such things still happen today. We are able to keep mistakes within bounds because it has been our policy to draw a sharp line between ourselves and the enemy and to rectify mistakes whenever discovered.

    It may be 2009, but I think that today we see a similar application of Mao's time-tested method of handling contradictions. Just as there is a huge difference between enemies of the people are those who are with and of the people, we must recognize that there is a huge difference between CNN and Fox News. And they must be treated differently.

    The Fox News clique clearly epitomizes what Mao called "the U.S. imperialists and their running dogs -- the bureaucrat-capitalists, the landlords and the Kuomintang reactionaries who represented these two classes" who it almost goes without saying "were the enemies of the people" while CNN and the friendly news agencies can be counted among what Mao called "the other classes, strata and social groups, which opposed them" all of which "came within the category of the people."

    That such contradictions have to be handled differently should hardly surprise anyone who considers Mao a favorite political philosopher. Thus we see that Spokesperson Dunn's remarks about the friendly CNN and the enemy Fox are at once not only bold, but because they have been (as the Nation said) "a long time coming," they are also reassuringly traditional.

    "Two different methods, one dictatorial and the other democratic!"

    "Emulate the bold and imaginative attitude of Chairman Mao!"

    MORE: Whoops, almost forgot my favorite music!

    And for those who want more Maoist music to massacre millions, don't forget this favorite!

    posted by Eric at 12:27 PM | Comments (3)

    Euros Balk On Climate Agreement

    The Euros are balking when it comes to paying to prevent climate change. As if restricting the output of plant food could actually accomplish that goal.

    Environmental campaigners slammed Europe's governments tonight after latest talks to settle funding levels for climate change broke down without agreement.

    The European Commission has put a price of up to £14 billion a year on the EU's contribution towards the cost poor countries will face meet a global climate change deal.

    But talks between EU finance ministers failed to agree figures today.

    Swedish finance minister Anders Borg, chairing the talks, said afterwards: "There was a disappointing failure to reach agreement on climate financing today. The lack of conclusion was disappointing - but it doesn't mean we won't find a solution."

    EU environment ministers will try next -- but all eyes are on an EU leaders' summit in Brussels at the end of the month to deliver an accord on funding with little over a month before the EU goes to Copenhagen hoping to present a united environmental front to the rest of the world..

    Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken said: "Today's EU fiasco has made the chance of failure in Copenhagen very real.

    Good news for the people who would actually have to pay for this stuff. You know the former darlings of the socialists. The Workers. Who seem to have become a liability.

    Evidently the workers are putting up a fight.

    Nine of Europe's poorer countries, led by Poland, demanded their own economic circumstances be taken into account before the EU agrees up to 15 billion euros ($22.5 billion) in financial aid for developing nations.

    Developing countries say they cannot cut emissions and adapt to changing temperatures without help from industrialized nations, which grew rich by powering their industries with hydrocarbons and polluting the atmosphere.

    Earlier, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh rejected an Indian newspaper report that he was willing to drop a long-standing demand for foreign aid and technology as the price for accepting international curbs on India's rising emissions.

    Dropping such a link would have been a big concession for the December 7-18 U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen. India is the fourth biggest emitter behind China, the United States and Russia.

    Ramesh said in a statement India would agree to international monitoring of emissions "only when such actions are enabled and supported by international finance and technology."

    The 190-nation U.N. talks are bogged down over how to share out greenhouse gas curbs between rich and poor nations as part of an assault meant to avert ever more heat waves, rising sea levels, floods and more powerful storms.

    Ah yes. Well things are looking bad indeed. Except for one small point. Temperatures are not rising. They are falling.
    Global satellite data is analyzed for temperature trends for the period January 1979 through June 2009. Beginning and ending segments show a cooling trend, while the middle segment evinces a warming trend. The past 12 to 13 years show cooling using both satellite data sets, with lower confidence limits that do not exclude a negative trend until 16 to 22 years. It is shown that several published studies have predicted cooling in this time frame. One of these models is extrapolated from its 2000 calibration end date and shows a good match to the satellite data, with a projection of continued cooling for several more decades.
    Evidently there is no rush to curb emissions of plant food. We have time to study the matter further and come up with economical fixes if a fix is even needed.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:47 AM | Comments (1)

    Can I opt out of a conspiracy that hasn't happened?

    Wondering who might be behind the non-public registration, Glenn Reynolds links a site which asks a very disturbing but mis-phrased question:

    Is it true that the Left will kill Obama?
    Here's the theory:
    The buzz all over the 'net is that if it looks like the Republican challenger is going to win in 2012, the Left will make it like some racist white guy kills Obama. Or towards the end of a second term.

    People say that Obama is no good to the Left as a normal ex-president; that they would get a lot more emotional/political leverage out of him by having it like some "racist supremacist white guy" or "anti abortion christian" kills him.

    It strikes me as odd for someone to go to all the trouble of creating and paying for an anonymous web site (which has no doubt received considerable traffic by now), yet be unable to pose a simple question coherently.

    The question "Is it true that the Left will kill Obama?" cannot be answered as it is phrased. Whether something that has not happened will happen cannot be answered as true, because it has not happened. Nor can it be a matter of opinion -- not matter how inflammatory the subject matter. To illustrate, try asking yourself the ridiculous question, "Is it true that it will snow in Chicago on Christmas Day?"

    So my first reaction is to wonder whether there's an inconsistency between having the smarts to set up an anonymous web site while being unable to see (or later correct) a major logical error in the basic premise of the site.

    At the bottom, there's a poll:

    YES, it makes sense that the left would kill Obama to get political leverage. 90.2%

    NO, politicians aren't that soulless and calculating. 9.8%

    Again, the answers pose an impossible logical choice, as the NO response goes beyond the question of whether "the left" would kill Obama, and posits that the killers or the people behind the killers would necessarily be politicians, and requires a new opinion on whether or not politicians in the general sense are soulless and calculating enough to kill one another. Thus, it is impossible to answer NO even if you doubt the left would kill Obama, unless you share the opinion that "politicians" would not do it because they are insufficiently soulless and calculating.

    Moreover, the poll has not changed, and looking at the source code for the pages, I see no evidence of a counter, or any meter of Java script that might record visits to the results pages for "YES" and "NO" votes (both of which look like the same page). I'm not knowledgeable enough to declare it a fraud, but I think it might be possible that no records of votes are being kept, and that this is not a poll at all.

    Hell, it's not as if someone couldn't set up a real poll. It's as easy as 1,2,3. For example, here's a poll on the legitimacy of the above poll which I just set up:

    Do you think the "Is it true that the Left will kill Obama?" poll is legitimate?
    Yes, I think it is legitimate.
    No, I think it is fake.
  free polls

    Note that the poll does not determine the legitimacy of the poll. It cannot. It only counts the responses of whoever clicks on the answers. Not even a scientific opinion poll could determine whether the other poll is legitimate. Polls cannot determine what is true; they can only request opinions.

    Another problem is that even people's opinions are always affected by confirmation bias:

    Confirmation bias (or myside bias[1]) is an irrational tendency to search for, interpret or remember information in a way that confirms preconceptions or working hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. This bias in information processing is different from the behavioral confirmation effect (also called self-fulfilling prophecy), in which people's expectations influence their own behavior.
    That's why even if the poll at the anonymous website were keeping an official tally, showing the poll results before people vote (which it does) can be expected to skew the results accordingly.

    So, I think that the purpose of the "Is it true that the Left will kill Obama?" website is to promote among conservatives the idea that if Obama is killed, "the Left" will have been behind it.

    The biggest problem I see with that is the way it tends to set up conservatives to start pointing fingers before an event has happened, when it might never happen. This is not to discount the awful, horrible possibility of it happening, and I pray that it never does, because short of a nuclear attack, an assassination of President Obama would be the worst thing that could happen to this country right now.

    I hope whoever created the website is acting alone, OK?

    I think the most important thing to avoid is the notion of collective guilt. There are innumerable nuts running around with all kinds of grievances, real or imaginary, and any one of them could go off and try to do something dramatic. Absent a proven conspiracy, such an action should not reflect on anyone else, much less "the left" or "the right." Collective guilt is irrational and (I believe) profoundly evil, and it is the sort of thing that can lead to civil war.

    We don't need another one. That is why I am against revolution, for (as I said earlier in an email to M. Simon) I think a revolution would would not be a revolution, but would become bloody civil war, resulting in the victory of totalitarianism. Many people would die in the process.

    It does no more good for "the right" to be blaming "the left" than vice versa. I say this now, and I would say it in the horrible event of an assassination.

    What I think is also important to remember is that blaming "the right" might not be an entirely effective strategy even for those evil, soulless, and calculating politicians on "the left," because "the left" is no more monolithic than "the right." Don't forget, many on the left already think that it's a foregone conclusion and a no-brainer that "the right" is actively plotting to assassinate the president.

    But -- and this is an important but -- they also think that assassinations do not occur unless they are allowed to occur. In that respect, I found an interesting post by a Bush-hating leftie who of course assumes that only "the right" would kill Obama. The way he pleads with everyone not to let the assassination happen reminded me that regardless of the political proclivities (real, fake, or alleged) of whatever nutcase might pull the trigger, an assassination would inevitably be seen -- especially by Obama's supporters -- as having been the product of official acquiescence, if not outright assistance:

    Normally, when any President is assassinated, the nation goes into a state of shock followed by a deep mourning period depending on his popularity. If President Obama is assassinated, once the shock wears off, instead of a deep mourning of a President, Black America is likely to rise-up and uncontrolled rioting is apt to break-out in cities across the nation. Even though President Obama hasn't lived up to his campaign promises, he is still a symbol to Black America that "The American Dream" is alive and well - and is a symbol of black pride throughout the United States.

    I would advise those who harbor such thoughts that assassinating President Obama would bring consequences to this nation that would make the Watt's riots seem like a walk in the park. Some of our major cities which have large black populations would be devastated with rioting and property damage that would reach billions of dollars, and any economic recovery that we're all hoping for would vanish, replaced by death and destruction on a magnitude never before witnessed in the United States. There's no doubt in my mind that such a despicable act would result in a declaration of Martial Law, further diminishing the civil rights of a nation that each day, loses more of our liberties and freedom.

    To President Obama, it may be time to begin ratcheting-up your personal security - maybe even to the level that President Bush had in place. It's becoming obvious that racial hatred and bigotry is still alive and well in this nation, and sadly, those within the GOP are playing the race card to inflame their base;with as much talk that's going around about assassinating President Obama, if it continues, I have no doubt that some nutcase will consider himself a patriot for ridding America of a black President - and at all costs, that's a scenario that must be stopped before it gains much more momentum. There are people in this nation whose racial hatred was ingrained in them since childhood, and undoubtedly consider Obama's Presidency to be the beginning of the end of their principles and beliefs.

    The fuse is already lit; it's tantamount to our survival as a nation that President Obama receive the same amount of security and protection that previous Presidents have enjoyed. If Obama is assassinated, then it was orchestrated and planned at the highest levels - just as was the case of JFK, only this time, we won't be fooled, and know that a breach in security was allowed to facilitate such a dastardly deed - and believe me, if such a despicable act is allowed to happen with current security technology - and the Secret Service aware of the clear and present danger to his life, the fallout from such an act will irreparably scar this nation and it may be one that will forever doom us to a loss of our liberty and freedom - and make the Bush years a welcome respite to what would befall our nation for decades to come."

    Obviously, I don't share his view of the Bush years. But he is right to be worried about what an assassination of Obama might usher in. I am too.

    That's why I don't think promoting anticipatory conspiracy theories is a good idea.

    Collective guilt is bad enough, but does it have to be imposed for something that hasn't even happened?

    posted by Eric at 11:21 AM | Comments (6)

    Winning A War With A Warmer

    Always open up in the attack mode:

    There is no way to know for sure but is it possible that the proponents of Climate Catastrophe are being paid by Al "I'm going to make billions off of carbon trading" Gore to push his agenda? He and his friends stand to make a LOT of money if they can get Congress to act in the fashion they desire.

    Also, it wouldn't hurt to read a book:

    Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed

    Inspired by Tall Dave's dust up with some warmistas. (in the comments)

    Cross Posted at Classical Values

    posted by Simon at 05:29 AM | Comments (3)

    Kudos To Obama

    No sarcasm this time:

    WASHINGTON -- Pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers should not be targeted for federal prosecution in states that allow medical marijuana, prosecutors were told Monday in a new policy memo issued by the Justice Department.

    Credit where it's due: this is by far the most sensible administration we've seen on this issue.

    This really gets the ball rolling towards legalization. Once you have a quasi-legal industry that's employing people, creating tax revenue, and not hurting anyone, it's hard to shut it all down again.

    (via HotAir)

    UPDATE: Cannabi-mentum! (Er... ganjamentum?)

    Forty-four percent of Americans favors legalizing marijuana use, the highest level of support since Gallup first asked the question in 1970. From the late 1970s to the late 1990s, only about a quarter of the public supported legalization.

    To be sure, Gallup's polling shows a slim majority, 54 percent, still oppose legalization. But in the mid 1990s, nearly three in four adults supported prohibition.

    The Internet has broken the information dam. People are learning the truth.

    posted by Dave at 06:02 PM | Comments (6)

    "Fox News made me do it!"

    In a post titled "Jacob Weisberg Loses It," Dave Price has a lot of fun demolishing some of Weisberg's more ridiculous assertions in Newsweek.

    Clearly, poor Weisberg has lost it. Assuming, of course, he ever had it. What I find myself unable to ignore is another incredible Weisberg assertion.

    Did you know that CNN's bias is the fault of Fox News? Neither did I, but Weisberg explains:

    That Rupert Murdoch may tilt the news rightward more for commercial than ideological reasons is beside the point. What matters is the way that Fox's model has invaded the bloodstream of the American media. By showing that ideologically distorted news can drive ratings, Ailes has provoked his rivals at CNN and MSNBC to develop a variety of populist and ideological takes on the news. In this way, Fox hasn't just corrupted its own coverage. Its example has made all of cable news unpleasant and unreliable.
    I don't know where Weisberg has been all these years, but CNN has exhibited unpleasant, unreliable, ideologically-biased coverage for decades! Does anyone remember "Baghdad Pete" Arnett? Or how about the days when it was called the "Clinton News Network" and no one had even heard of Fox News?

    But now all of a sudden, their bias is Fox News's fault?

    Sigh. (I guess if you believe that, you'd probably believe that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was the fault of the United States.)

    What this means, obviously, is that the reason Weisberg lost it was because Fox News made him lose it!

    posted by Eric at 04:19 PM | Comments (8)

    Erototoxin -- a toxin from Eros? Or toxic to Eros?

    In my post about erototoxic end times, I was in too much of a hurry to explore a paradox I might as well call the erototoxic paradox. (I decided to call it the Erototoxic Paradox because I think the model operates along similar lines to a poorly understood phenomenon the cardiologists call the French Paradox.)

    The topic is frustrating and counterintuitive, but let me start with a quote from a piece Glenn Reynolds wrote in TCS Daily, titled Porn and Violence: Good for America's Children?

    Teen pregnancy is down, along with teen crime, drug use, and many other social ills. There's also evidence that teenagers are more serious about life in general, and are more determined to make something worthwhile of their lives. Where just a few years ago the "teenager problem" looked insoluble, it seems well on the road to solving itself. But why?

    After that column came out, it occurred to me that I had the answer: Porn and videogames. That's what's making American teens healthier.

    It should have been obvious.

    After all, one of the great changes in teenagers' social environments over the past decade or so has been far greater exposure to explicit pornography, via the Internet, and violence, via videogames. Where twenty or thirty years ago teenagers had to go to some effort to see pictures of people having sex, now those things are as close as a Google query. (In fact, on the Internet it takes some small effort to avoid such pictures.) Meanwhile videogames have gotten more violent, with efforts to limit their content failing on First Amendment grounds.

    But -- despite continued warnings from concerned mothers' groups -- teenagers are less violent, and they're having less sex, notwithstanding the predictions of many concerned people that such exposure would have the opposite effect. More virtual sex and violence would seem to go along with less real sex and violence.

    The solution is thus obvious -- we need a massive government program to ensure that no American teenager goes without porn and videogames Let no child be left behind!

    I suggest reading it all, because I think it highlights a major flaw in the thinking of those who complain about erototoxins.

    Let's start with a brief review of erototoxin theory -- from its inventor Dr. Judith A. Reisman:

    Reisman says that there are chemicals in the brain, which she has dubbed "erototoxins,"[5][6] that are produced by watching pornography and that have toxic influences on the brain.[7] Reisman lists these "erototoxins" as testosterone, adrenaline, oxytocin, glucose, dopamine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine.[6] While some of these chemicals are related to arousal or orgasm, none are specifically associated with toxicity or the viewing of erotic images.
    According to Reisman, pornography is an addictive substance that damages the brain and leads to rape. Moreover, pornography subverts the First Amendment:
    Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that emotionally arousing images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail.

    This applies to so-called "soft-core" and "hard-core" pornography, which may, arguably, subvert the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process.

    Subverting the First Amendment? That's an amazing assertion in and of itself, and for those who are interested, there's a detailed explanation here. (Her argument is that the human mind is involuntarily drugged by viewing pornography; hence it is not free speech because the viewers are involuntarily subjected to a powerful drug. I find myself wondering whether dirty talk or reading dirty books might do the same thing, because I found myself more turned on by James Joyce than by Playboy.)

    Agree or not, these erototoxins are said to be highly addictive:

    Pornography triggers a myriad of endogenous, internal, natural drugs that mimic the "high" from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins - mind altering drugs produced by the viewer's own brain.

    How does this 'brain sabotage' occur? Brain scientists tell us that "in 3/10 of a second a visual image passes from the eye through the brain, and whether or not one wants to, the brain is structurally changed and memories are created - we literally 'grow new brain' with each visual experience."4

    Children and others who cannot read can instantly decode and experience images, hence images are not speech.5 In fact, erotic (any highly arousing) images commonly subvert left hemisphere cognition.6

    Since the 50s, as pornography became mainstreamed and pushed the envelope of normal sexual conduct, law enforcement reported that sex crimes mimicking comparable acts were being inflicted on women and children. (See OJJDP study) 7

    I have spent decades addressing the effects of pornographic "humor" and photos on children, fathers, husbands and wives and communities, much of which is found in my book, ''Soft" Porn Plays Hardball, 1990,8 in my U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) report, Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler,9 and in my white paper on "The Psychopharmacology of Pictorial Pornography: Restructuring Brain, Mind & Memory & Subverting Freedom of Speech" (

    A basic science research team employing a cautiously protective methodology should study erototoxins and the brain/body. As with tobacco, these data could be helpful in public education and in legal change.

    Testimony from victims and police commonly finds pornography to be an on-site-sexabuse manual.

    And of course, Reisman and her colleagues assert that erototoxins lead to rape:
    Research indicates and my clinical experience supports that those who use pronography are more likely to go to prostitutes, engage in domestic violence, stranger rape, date rape, and incest. These beahviors should not be suprising since pornographic videos contaning all of these themes are readily available and the permssion-giving beliefs of these pornographic videos reinforced by the orgasm say that all these behaviors are normal, acceptable, common and don't hurtanyone.
    (a) Prolonged exposure to pornography increases men*s self-acknowledged rape proclivity. Both noncoercive and coercive sexual displays have this effect.
    I admit it's a generous assumption, but if we assume Reisman and her supporters are right about the existence of highly addictive erototoxins, what about the fact that the amount of sex in the "erototoxin-addicted" population has gone down?

    In other words, if erototoxins are decreasing rather than increasing sex (and rape), why would the anti-sex people be against them? You'd think they'd be for them.

    It's puzzling, and as I say, a paradox.

    Dr. Reisman, one of the country's leading anti-sex crusaders (she's a leading Abstinence Clearinghouse activist) might need to rethink her position.

    Pornography might be helping to promote and spread the very thing she advocates.

    If that is the case, then the erototoxins of which she complains are indeed toxic -- to eros itself!

    Imagine! If Dr. Reisman could only team up with what she calls "Big Pornography," all of America could be drugged into abstinence!

    posted by Eric at 03:39 PM | Comments (1)

    Dollar Down Exports Up

    Here is a headline I never expected to see in my lifetime. U.S. Steel Exports Surpass Imports. So far it is only for the month of August. Still.

    A steel industry trade group said the United States exported more steel than it imported in August for the first time in more than 50 years. But another group said that assessment was based on a selective reading of government data.

    The American Institute for International Steel said late Monday that government data indicated U.S. steel exports totaled 800,000 tons while imports amounted to 975,000 tons during the month.

    But the group, which advocates for free trade and opposes tariffs, subtracted imports of 156,000 tons of semifinished steel and 30,000 tons of hot-rolled steel because that metal is turned into other steel mill products that are considered domestic, the group's president, David Phelps, said Tuesday.

    OK. So it looks like they are cooking the books in search of a headline. They got one from me. So I guess it is working - for them.

    Some people think corporate America worries about the shrinkage of the US dollar.

    Chief executives from the biggest U.S. corporations worry that the slumping dollar could sap U.S. credibility around the globe, spur inflation and ultimately undermine the economy.

    The dollar has fallen to a 14-month low; and while a weaker dollar makes U.S. products cheaper overseas, chief executives gathered for the Business Council meeting in Cary, North Carolina, expressed deep concern that the anemic dollar signals serious jitters.

    "The issue is currency devaluation, and the worry is that it essentially lowers our credibility in the world," said Office Depot Inc (ODP.N) CEO Steve Odland in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.

    CEOs say that a slew of government spending programs on health care and other priorities could undercut economic recovery.

    And all that is true.

    But let us take a look at the numbers. US imports have exceeded exports for a very long time. This is balanced by loans and other investments, thus more or less balancing the books. It does argue that at least on a materials basis the dollar is overpriced. But I got to tell you that a 14 month low is not exactly panic city. My worry is not about the amount but the continued direction.

    One thing that does happen in a market system when costs are rising is that the people in the markets work very hard to reduce costs. No one wants to be the first to raise prices. It is bad for business. It is the usual: the greed of the honest businessman leads to a better deal for the consumer.

    Of course not all businessmen are honest.

    Raj Rajaratnam, a portfolio manager for Galleon Group, a hedge fund with up to $7 billion in assets under management, was accused of conspiring with others to use insider information to trade securities in several publicly traded companies, including Google Inc.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas F. Eaton set bail at $100 million to be secured by $20 million in collateral despite a request by prosecutors to deny bail. He also ordered Rajaratnam, who has both U.S. and Sri Lankan citizenship, to stay within 110 miles of New York City.

    A guy like that has to know who his friends are.
    Rajaratnam, 52, was ranked No. 559 by Forbes magazine this year among the world's wealthiest billionaires, with a $1.3 billion net worth.

    According to the Federal Election Commission, he is a generous contributor to Democratic candidates and causes. The FEC said he made over $87,000 in contributions to President Barack Obama's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and various campaigns on behalf of Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in the past five years. The Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, said he has given a total of $118,000 since 2004 -- all but one contribution, for $5,000, to Democrats.

    And it seems that he was interested in some rather unsavory characters.
    ...even before his arrest, Rajaratnam was under scrutiny for helping bankroll Sri Lankan militants notorious for suicide bombings.
    Now why would a guy friendly to suicide bombers also be friendly to Democrats? Let me think. It will come to me soon I'm sure.

    Did some one say economics? All I can say is that the Democrats are moving in the wrong direction. A slide in the dollar may be a good thing for some and a bad thing for others (gasoline prices say - and didn't Sarah Palin have a word or two recently about developing more domestic supplies? Yes she did.) But a cratering of the dollar would be a disaster. Time for a new direction? You betcha!

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:24 AM | Comments (4)

    shame on our virtually erototoxic end times!

    Noting that Marge Simpson has posed for Playboy, Glenn Reynolds
    says, simply,

    The end times are upon us.
    Well, he's right. The end times are upon us.

    And the end times are erototoxic!

    I could not make this stuff up if I tried. No seriously. There are people who apparently sincerely believe that cartoon porn is more dangerous than real porn:

    ....American Family Association Special Projects Director Randy Sharp blasted 7-Eleven's decision to attract young men to the pornographic pictorial.

    "Most American dads know the dangers that porn represents to young males," Sharp said in a statement. "It's irresponsible of 7-Eleven to display porn in front of boys who pop into 7-Elevens for a hot dog or a Slurpee."

    He continued, "The cover will create the kind of curiosity that can easily lead them into an addictive porn habit. This is not what American families want to see in their neighborhood convenience store."

    According to the AFA, the magazine will be carried in 1,200 7-Elevens that are corporately owned, stores that have been virtually porn-free for the last two decades.

    And it's not merely offensive, it's deeply offensive. And "erototoxic":
    Monica Cole, director of AFA's, and a mother, said 7-Eleven's decision is deeply offensive.

    "Marge Simpson on the cover of Playboy is disturbing on so many levels," she said. "7-Eleven has to know that using an animated character on the cover of a pornographic magazine is deceptive and harmful because it will attract the attention of children.

    She accused the chain of using a cartoon character to push pornography.

    "America's moms didn't like Joe Camel selling cigarettes to their kids, and they don't want Marge Simpson selling degrading images of women, either," she said. "A lot of moms are going to shop somewhere else if 7-Eleven doesn't do the right thing and refuse to stock this magazine."

    Dr. Judith Reisman is former principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention study
    of child sexual abuse and crimes suborned by "soft" pornography, and author of several books on Kinsey and pornography, including "Kinsey, Crimes & Consequences."

    In a recent WND commentary, Reisman declared, "Mother Marge is used to snare millions of child 'Simpson' fans, future pornography addicts, boys made impotent, dependent on pornography and often predatory, to 'feel' anything, and girls trained to risk their very survival however an eortotoxic society has shown them is desirable.

    "Shame on all us all for the growing erototoxic pandemic," she said. "And shame on 7-Eleven."

    So what exactly are erototoxins?

    If you're not familiar with the word, it's because Reisman (who believes Hitler was a gay plot and whose doctorate is in Communications) made it up.

    Reisman says that there are chemicals in the brain, which she has dubbed "erototoxins,"[5][6] that are produced by watching pornography and that have toxic influences on the brain.[7] Reisman lists these "erototoxins" as testosterone, adrenaline, oxytocin, glucose, dopamine, serotonin, and phenylethylamine.[6] While some of these chemicals are related to arousal or orgasm, none are specifically associated with toxicity or the viewing of erotic images.
    Well, if the Marge Simpson cartoons are fake porn for kiddies as opposed to real porn for grownups, might they they contain virtual erototoxins?

    I have to admit, there is something cartoonlike about all of this.

    DISCLOSURE: My father gave me Kinsey's book when I was in my teens, so I am thoroughly erototoxic. And (as I have admitted) erotophobic.

    UPDATE: For those who enjoy deeply offensive things, don't miss my more recent discussion in which I juxtapose the thoughts of pro-porn Glenn Reynolds with those of the very anti-porn Judith Reisman to come up with what I call the Erototoxic Paradox.
    My shocking startling conclusion?

    Pornography causes abstinence!

    Not that you have to conflate Reynolds with Reisman to realize that. Most people with common sense will understand that typically, pornography is not used by couples who are having sex, but by individuals using it to achieve solo gratification.

    In other words, at least while they use the porn, they're not having sex. And not having sex is abstinence, right?

    posted by Eric at 06:42 PM | Comments (9)

    Jacob Weisberg Loses It

    His tirade against Fox News would some have some semblance of coherence if it at least made a pretense toward intellectual honesty.

    What's most distinctive about the American press is not its freedom but its century-old tradition of independence--that it serves the public interest rather than those of parties, persuasions, or pressure groups.

    What's most distinctive about the American press is the extent to which they've become the cheering section for left-liberalism. This is not merely right-wing paranoia (or in my pro-choice pro-legalization case, libertarian paranoia); numerous studies and journalists confirm the media's rampant sinestrophilia.

    All industries suffer from some form of self-selection bias. Women are more likely to become nurses and teachers, men are more likely to work in construction and hard labor, conservatives are more likely to choose a military career.. and left-liberals are more likely to become journalists, something Weisberg should understand.

    To merely complain about a political view he disagrees with is his just and noble right as an American, but for the author of a book called The Bush Tragedy to sanctimoniously call for all right-thinking people to ignore the top-rated cable network because they're illegitimately biased:

    Whether the White House engages with Fox is a tactical political question. Whether we journalists continue to do so is an ethical one. By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations. Respectable journalists--I'm talking to you, Mara Liasson--should stop appearing on its programs. A boycott would make Ailes too happy, so let's try just ignoring Fox, shall we?

    The only word to describe such total lack of self-awareness, my friends, is hilarious.

    UPDATE: Jay Nordlinger points out CNN also has newspeople. Does Anderson Cooper sound objective?

    CNN has those, too. One of the CNN anchors is Anderson Cooper -- he's their star, as I understand it. The hurricane guy. When the "tea party" protests got going earlier this year, Cooper interviewed David Gergen. Gergen said, "They [Republicans and conservatives] still haven't found their voice, Anderson. This happens to a minority party after it's lost a couple of bad elections, but they're searching for their voice."

    Then Cooper said, "It's hard to talk when you're teabagging." He said this smirkingly.

    He was referring to a sexual practice defined by the Urban Dictionary as follows: "the insertion of one man's sac[] into another person's mouth."

    Would a Fox News anchor ever, ever say anything like this -- ever? Can you conceive it? But that is what CNN anchormen do, apparently. When people tell you that CNN is a real news network, whereas Fox isn't -- I would just smile at them.

    Don't just smile, Jay. Laugh. Guffaw. Collapse on the floor in tears of pure unadulterated hilarity.

    posted by Dave at 04:35 PM | Comments (27)

    Blog Of The Week

    According to Vodka Pundit (about 2:30 into a 4 minute video) I'm the number four blog in his top ten for this post: An Epiphany On The Left?.

    H/T EricF via private message at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

    The New World Order
    Watts Up With That has some excerpts from the treaty.
    Skimming through the treaty, I came across verification of Monckton's assessment of the new entity's purpose:
    38. The scheme for the new institutional arrangement under the Convention will be based on three basic pillars: government; facilitative mechanism; and financial mechanism, and the basic organization of which will include the following:

    World Government (heading added)
    a) The government will be ruled by the COP with the support of a new subsidiary body on adaptation, and of an Executive Board responsible for the management of the new funds and the related facilitative processes and bodies. The current Convention secretariat will operate as such, as appropriate.

    To Redistribute Wealth (heading added)
    b) The Convention's financial mechanism will include a multilateral climate change fund including five windows: (a) an Adaptation window, (b) a Compensation window, to address loss and damage from climate change impacts [read: the "climate debt" Monckton refers to], including insurance, rehabilitation and compensatory components, (c) a Technology window; (d) a Mitigation window; and (e) a REDD window, to support a multi-phases process for positive forest incentives relating to REDD actions.

    And of course there is an enforcement mechanism.

    It will be interesting to wake up one day and find the country under new management without benefit of an election or revolution. I expect we will have a new government first and a revolution second. Interesting times.

    You can look at copy of the treaty and come to your own conclusions.

    Maybe it is time for a call to the politicians.

    House of Representatives
    The Senate

    It seems like they are throwing so much at us that it is near impossible to defend every point. All they need is one win and they are over the top. Any loss means our destruction. Eric at Classical Values shows where a bill making wood illegal has already passed. And then there is the health care monstrosity wending its way through congress. How do you fight it all?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:59 AM | Comments (8)

    Where were you when wood became a felony?

    There are few things I hate more than being a scold. Especially because of all of my condemnation of scolds and scolding, having to be a libertarian scold makes me feel like a hypocrite, and little better than the scolds I criticize. I don't like people who criticize the moral failings of others, especially when the others consist of ordinary citizens simply trying to live their lives in peace.

    The problem is, last night I learned about something awful that happened while millions of ordinary citizens who simply tried to live their lives did nothing to stop it. Someone has to be responsible, but who?

    I honestly don't know. Not only do I hate to be a scold, I don't know who to scold for this damnable atrocity that befell this country in May and June of 2008 (while I and most bloggers were busy writing post about the impending election).

    I refer to the 2008 Farm Bill (also known as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, aka Public Law 110-246). To call it a law would be dishonest in the extreme. To attempt to summarize it would be impossible because of its vastness, so this post will focus on just one minor detail in the bill -- the federalization and criminalization of wood.

    Not that anyone could have known. The scanty news reports at the time focused on President Bush's veto of what was described in vague terms as a bipartisan "Farm Bill," and of course because Bush was such a tired and evil man, the only interesting aspect of the bill was the bipartisan override of his tired and evil veto:

    But to put Title III into effect, Congress re-passed the entire legislation, including the missing pages, and resent it to Bush. The House voted 306-110 at the end of May. The Senate voted 77-15 for the bill at the beginning of June.

    Two-thirds of the $300 billion in spending for the farm bill will go for nutrition programs such as food stamps. Another $40 billion will go toward farm subsidies, and $30 billion is allocated for payments to farms to keep land idle and other environmental programs.

    After vetoing the latest version of the farm bill, Bush scolded Congress on Wednesday for not "modifying certain objectionable, onerous and fiscally imprudent provisions. ... I am returning this bill for the same reasons as stated in my veto message."

    When he vetoed the first version of the farm bill, Bush said it "continues subsidies for the wealthy and increases farm bill spending by more than $20 billion, while using budget gimmicks to hide much of the increase."

    The president said it would hurt efforts to improve American farmers' access to overseas markets.

    Other than Bush looking like a mean-spirited piker who wanted to starve the nation's children, there's nothing there that would give anyone a clue about what was in it. Had I the slightest idea what was in store, I'd have been hopping up and down, and screaming like a Banshee, instead of playing the present game of "how could this have happened?"

    FWIW, that arch-liberal RINO who's every conservative's favorite demon right now (John McCain) voted against it. And in what right now I see as a laughable understatement, the White House said it was "bloated."

    So what was going on when this 663 page monstrosity (which I cannot read for the life of me, even though I probably should) was being pushed through? Why didn't any of the provisions (to say nothing of Bush's exercise of his seldom-used veto powers) merit attention in the press? It's easy to say that they were trying to sneak this through, but the fact is, the political junkies (as well as libertarians like me) were pretty much preoccupied with the impending election. Bush was tired, worn-out, unpopular, passe, and many Republicans were acting as if he was an embarrassment.

    I don't know what all is in that bill, but last night when I was researching something else I stumbled upon just one teensy provision of the bill -- an amendment to the Lacey Act which received no media attention at all, and isn't receiving any now.

    This amendment deals with illegal plants -- the primary thrust being illegal wood. Henceforth, all wood is to be a federally regulated, suspect substance. Either raw wood, lumber, or anything made of wood, from tables and chairs, to flooring, siding, particle board, to handles on knives, baskets, chopsticks, or even toothpicks has to have a label naming the genus and species of the tree that it came from and the country of origin. Incorrect labeling becomes a federal felony, and the law does not just apply to wood newly entering the country, but any wood that is in interstate commerce within the country. Here are some excerpts from a summary:

    The Lacey Act now makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken in violation of the laws of a U.S. State, or any foreign law that protects plants. The Lacey Act also makes it unlawful to make or submit any false record, account or label for, or any false identification of, any plant.

    The definition of the term "plant" includes "any wild member of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts, and products thereof, and including trees from either natural or planted forest stands."


    Anyone who imports into the United States, or exports out of the United States, illegally harvested plants or products made from illegally harvested plants, including timber, as well as anyone who exports, transports, sells, receives, acquires or purchases such products in the United States, may be prosecuted. In any prosecution under the Lacey Act, the burden of proof of a violation rests on the government.


    Violations of Lacey Act provisions for timber and other plant products, as well as fish and wildlife, may be prosecuted through either civil or criminal enforcement actions. Regardless of any prosecution, the tainted plants may be seized and forfeited.

    Everyone means everyone, which includes every reader of this blog.

    Obviously, this means that in the future, the Fish and Game guys will be able to accompany SWAT Team raiders to check all wood in homes and businesses for possible violations. Even if they're wrong in their suspicions about the wood, it can still be confiscated. (Might that be a goal? To beef up employment at Fish and Game?)

    Just think about the law enforcement possibilities alone. After kicking through and impounding your illegal wooden door, a federalized army of government termites could literally strip all wood paneling and flooring from every raided house as suspicious contraband, and haul away all the furniture, wood carvings, picture frames, tools, musical instruments! I can't think of a better harassment tool. The list of potentially regulated items is mind-boggling:

    the scope of products that will require a declaration under the Lacey Act is broad and includes certain live plants, plant parts, lumber, wood pulp, paper and paperboard, and products containing certain plant material or products, which may include certain furniture, tools, umbrellas, sporting goods, printed matter, musical instruments, products manufactured from plant-based
    resins, and textiles.


    After September 30, 2009, based on experience with the implementation of the electronic system for declaration data collection, we will phase in enforcement of the declaration requirements for additional chapters containing plants and plant
    products covered by the Lacey Act, including (but not limited to) Ch. 12 (oil seeds, misc. grain, seed, fruit, plant, etc.), Ch. 13 (gums, lacs, resins, vegetable saps, extracts, etc.), Ch. 14 (vegetable plaiting materials and products not elsewhere specified or included), Ch. 45 (cork and articles of), Ch. 46 (basket ware and wickerwork), Ch. 66 (umbrellas, walking sticks, riding crops), Ch. 82 (tools), Ch. 93 (guns), Ch. 95 (toys, games and sporting equipment), Ch. 96 (brooms, pencils, and buttons), and Ch. 97 (works of art). We will announce a specific phase-in schedule for those chapters in a subsequent Federal Register notice.

    Did they mention shipping pallets and cargo braces? Wood is not only in stuff, it's in the stuff that the stuff comes in! Nearly everything is regulated.

    Oh, and you firearm owners out there, let's not forget gun handles!

    Ch. 93 Headings (arms and ammunition).
    9302 -- Revolvers and pistols.
    93051020 --Parts and accessories for revolvers
    and pistols.
    Ch. 94 Headings (furniture, etc.).
    940169 -- Seats with wood frames.
    Ch. 95 Headings (toys, games, & sporting
    950420 -- Articles and accessories for billiards.
    Ch. 97 Headings (works of art).
    9703 -- Sculptures.
    Glad I don't own an art gallery, but my picture frames are not labeled, which means there are probably multiple potential felonies in progress in my home. (Perhaps I should be more careful about what I say.)

    And while the NRA might not have noticed the impending crackdown on gun handles, at least IKEA is starting to speak up.

    Between Wood Control and the Consumer Product Safety Nazis, I pity anyone in the secondhand business, including all Ebay and Craigslist sellers as well as people holding garage or yard sales.

    In short, I pity the American people. This is not their fault, though, for no one has any control over what is going on. Not even the despicable fools we call "legislators" who cannot read the "laws" they pass because they are not meant to be read. As to the enforcers, they are only doing their job. They have to earn a living. And we are supposed to respect them, because they lay their lives on the line, "protecting" the public! From felonious wood!

    Obviously, the full implications of this dramatic loss of freedom are beyond the capacity of a single post. After all, I am just one blogger, doing this by myself, without the kind of access to data that media organizations and think tanks might have. So, I cannot possibly hope to analyze everything. As things stand, I became exhausted last night just reading through the Lacey Act Amendment stuff pertaining to wood -- and that was one mere fraction of an execrable, unreadable monstrosity. I don't mean to whine, but slogging through such horrors is not exactly my idea of Saturday night fun. But who the hell else is going to do it? Flooring and furniture industry blogs? Who the hell reads them except people in the business? They're all greedy tree haters and have no credibility. Besides, all big business is the enemy right now. We need to stand up not only against Big Cereal, but now Big Flooring! Big Siding! Big Furniture! (Is there such an industry as Big Chopstick?)

    I realize I'm in full-blown libertarian scold mode, and it probably reflects impotent rage over the fact that this is too little too late. But that goes to my biggest complaint (aside from my discovery of yet another horrific legislative power grab), which simply is this:

    How come we were not told about this?

    Where were the news media and think tanks when we needed them? It's too late now. Vast power grabs like this are almost never repealed, and certainly won't be in this Congress.

    The fact that I was so upset after reading this late last night that I could barely sleep means nothing. And why should it? Our freedom means nothing. The full realization of that can be very unsettling, and the knowledge that there's so little that can be done about it -- that this is the way laws are passed and freedom lost -- it's just hard to live with that, and normal people really need denial in order to cope. The way I try to cope is by resorting to my usual sarcastic asides, knowing that this too, is just another blog post. It will be visible, but only for a few days, as it becomes slowly, inexorably buried under layer after layer of more and more blog posts. And if I hate the constant, relentless loss of freedom, all I can do is continue to write sarcastic blog posts, for even though I realize that none of this is funny, I really don't know what else I can do, other than maybe show up at a Tea Party demonstration and earn the entitlement to be called a racist bigot by the people who are busily cranking out unreadable "laws" like Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-246), which reduces us further to serfdom than any law I can remember reading attempting to read.

    And I do mean serfdom. For those old fashioned cranks who like to imagine that a man's home is still his castle, I heartily recommend that they try doing what I tried doing last night when they were having fun at the movies, and try reading this!

    This bill is very large, and loading it may cause your web browser to perform sluggishly, or even freeze. This is especially true for old and/or bad browsers. As an alternative you can download the PDF of the bill or read the text on THOMAS.
    They are not kidding. Trying to load the bill shut down my browser for a while and nearly caused a crash.

    Bringing up the alleged "text" of the "law" in turn brought up only a gigantic list of links, each of which goes to another gigantic piece of garbled and unreadable text. Yes, the Government Printing Office does have a PDF file, for those who want to contemplate unreadable gobbledygook in its entirety.

    I think it is no accident that they make the loss of freedom as boring as it is possible to make it. They think this will make most people go away, and they are right. Only a maniac (or someone with a special interest) would actually spend his time reading this bill. There is probably not one member of Congress who read it, but then, they say that about all the monstrous bills cranked out by this monstrous government which every last one of our founders would decry as precisely what they were trying to avoid when they wrote the Constitution.

    Yes, I truly believe that if they were alive today, our founders would say we ought to have another revolution. But it's inflammatory and irresponsible to talk that way, and the problem is, I don't advocate a revolution, because I don't want to see a whole lot of people getting killed, which is what tends to happen in revolutions. The fact is, the votes are not there to get rid of the tyrannical system which calls itself the federal government, and to deny this is, well, denial.

    Besides, how can you overthrow a system which has metastasized into a grotesque life form so slippery, multi-tentacled, and all-encompassing that its very morphology evades detection and analysis? Really, the federal government is like a science fiction monster. No one can keep track of things which are not reported or discussed, and which are too complex to be read by human beings. Hell, despite my outrage right now, I was completely silent when this monster was being passed.

    What was I doing? Mostly blogging about the impending election. (And of course, the usual things like pit bulls, porn, and responsibility.) But I thought stopping Obama was the most important national issue at the time. Besides, what the hell do I know about farming? That's what I thought the bill was about. No one said anything about federal wood control.

    And get this:

    Despite my ruined Saturday evening reading about wood control, I still haven't the faintest idea what else might be in there!

    Looking back, I'm thinking that had people known what was happening, had enough bloggers sounded the alarm, it might just have made enough of a difference to persuade a few Republicans not to go along with the override of Bush's veto.

    As things stand, former President Bush is the only guy who comes out looking good, and not only does he deserve to be thanked, I think that every Republican who voted to override owes him an apology.

    But this Farm Bill was such a monster with so many provisions that it defies ordinary analysis. People could have voted for it or against it for innumerable reasons, liberal or conservative. Here's how the vote looked:


    Having that many provisions in a bill means that only some provisions attract attention, so voting against wood control could be construed as voting to take food away from infants.

    Anyway, I'm exhausted. I have finally succumbed to Orwellian overload, and my scold is over.

    Once again, please bear in mind that I specifically do not advocate revolution. But wouldn't it be nice if we could vote for legislators who would simply pledge to vote against any and all legislation?

    Who knows, it might be a nice campaign gimmick.

    UPDATE (11/19/09): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all.

    Comments to this post have now been turned off automatically (and I don't think there is a way to turn them back on), but anyone who wants to say something, please feel free to leave a comment on any of the more recent posts.

    This one (on whether lost freedom can ever be regained) is probably as good a place as any.

    Thanks for coming!

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that the Gibson Guitar plant was raided by the federal wood police recently, so they're not wasting any time.

    posted by Eric at 11:21 AM | Comments (13)

    Obama To Win Nobel In Economics?

    So... the government forces the sale of the company to the unions, and the unions squeeze the competition.

    This is not what a free market looks like.

    No doubt our Nobel Laureate-In-Chief will explain this is just good healthy "competition," a la the public option. As Nola Dog suggests in Megan's comments, it's probably not too soon to promote this new theory in Stockholm.

    posted by Dave at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

    Another disappointing choice for the already disappointed?

    Linking a post which explains how the Tea-Party Activists Complicate Republican Comeback Strategy, Glenn Reynolds opines,

    Well, they should.
    Well, I don't know whether I should. Perhaps I shouldn't. Are libertarians like me just supposed to swallow whatever pride we still have after years of supporting "National Greatness" conservatism, and keep our collective traps shut while holding our nose once again and supporting social conservatives with whom we do not agree lest we complicate the Republican Comeback Strategy even further?

    So even though maybe I should stay the hell out of this one, there's a side of me that thinks I should say something, and that's because not only I am not only sympathetic to the Tea Parties (and I've attended a local one), but I'm a blogger. Yes, a libertarianish, Tea Party-supporting blogger. And if the Tea Parties are complicating the Republican Comeback strategy, then I might as well risk complicating it further, by taking a brief look at the race which is being described by some conservatives as a "Hill To Die On."

    While I'm unfamiliar with the dynamics of the district, the race in question seems to be shaping up as a three way contest between a Democrat (Bill Owens), a RINO (Dede Scozzafava), and a member of the Conservative Party (Doug Hoffman), who seeks the Republican nomination. The establishment Republicans support Scozzafava, and the Tea Partiers are supporting Hoffman, who is described as a staunch conservative on both economic and social issues. (On the latter, he not only opposes gay marriage, he supports DADT and opposes civil unions.) The GOP candidate, OTOH, is said to be liberal enough on both economic and social issues that she's rumored to be thinking of switching over to being a Democrat.

    As a small l-libertarian who is conservative on economic issues but liberal on the social issues, if I did the math simply by overall totals, I'd come up with a coin toss between the RINO and the social conservative. It seems that to be a libertarian means always having to be disappointed in something, because the only candidates who are libertarian on both economic and social issues are, well, libertarians.

    So maybe instead of doing simple math, the question should weighted along these lines: Which is more important?

    Economic issues?

    Or social issues?

    Do I have to choose? Why is that? I think economic issues are more important, but why should libertarians have to choose, while no one else does?

    Why is it that the Democrats get the best of both worlds? Their candidates promise economic and social liberalism, which makes voting a no-brainer for most liberals. God, how I envy the Democrats. Republican voters usually are not offered anything like the best of both worlds, though. Usually, the GOP offers watered down economic conservatism-lite, along the "National Greatness conservatism" model, which isn't really economic conservatism at all, but just barely not-as-bad as economic liberalism. And in addition to that, the GOP establishment has offered plenty of lip service to social conservatism -- enough to piss off libertarians, but never enough to satisfy the demands of the true-believing social conservatives. Which means that libertarians have gotten basically nothing satisfying out of the GOP, other than perhaps the past satisfaction of having seen the left lose.

    What seems to be emerging, though, is a movement which appears to offer the possibility of real economic conservatism along with real social conservatism, which means that if you are not a social conservative, you end up having to swallow your pride -- again -- and voting against your own beliefs. Again. Now, I suppose you can always hold out hope that these are just the usual political promises which don't mean anything, but is that really "hope"? I don't think so.

    The only thing I can conclude is that libertarians will have to get used to being disappointed no matter what happens.

    Nah, scratch that. They're already used to being disappointed.

    Still, I guess there's always the Libertarian Party. They never win, but at least when you're disappointed, you can have the satisfaction of principled disappointment.

    I'm getting a little tired of the unprincipled variety of disappointment, though. Voting against your principles does take its toll.

    But maybe I should stop being so negative and instead of complaining, just be more positive. Earlier Glenn Reynolds linked an interesting post by Kerry Howley about the positive thinking. Asks Howley,

    Does positivity lull us into quiescence or spur us toward risk-taking?
    I'm afraid that if you're a libertarian right now, you're going to lose either way. Being positive about everything is not always positive. But I guess in the face of certain disappointment, there's always the power of total denial. In that respect, voting Libertarian is a way to engage with the power of positive thinking. And while you might, like lose, that's OK, because as long as you feel good about your, um, principles and stuff, you're really winning! You voted for the Libertarian Party, and because they always lose, you always win! You never have to experience the disappointment that accompanies realism.

    Hey if such positive thinking works, I shouldn't knock it.

    Just like I shouldn't complicate the Republican Comeback Strategy by writing negative posts.

    posted by Eric at 03:40 PM | Comments (8)

    Is Roland A Warrior?

    I just got an e-mail from Roland Burris (who claims to be my Senator). He wants me to know that he is here to help.

    As Congress debates contentious issues such as health care reform, climate change, and our continued economic recovery, it is more important than ever to keep in touch so that I can faithfully serve your needs in Washington.
    Well of course climate change is very serious. So I asked Roland a serious question.
    In order to stop the climate from changing the USA will have to invade every country burning carbon based fuels and make them stop. Are you making plans for this? If not why not?

    At the very least we could be atomic bombing power plants.

    Could you let me know a couple of weeks before the bombing starts? I'd like to be prepared. And I can keep a secret.

    Well of course the last statement is a flat out lie. I CAN keep some secrets. Starting a war for Climate Change (or is it against Climate Change? I forget) is not one of them.

    But lest you think Mr. Roland "I am not a crook" Burris is some hard hearted politician from Chicago I have some news for you.

    On his www site he suggests:

    If your are experiencing a personal crisis or emergency and you need immediate assistance, please call 202-224-2854
    So if the climate is too hot, or too cold, or too much rain, or not enough snow, or if you want a sunny day for your wedding - please give Mr. Burris a call.

    And of course I had another Roland in mind when I was asking about warriors.

    Paul Shaffer looks like he was getting a big thrill from playing with Warren.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

    Why should the reproductive "right" hate the reproductive "left"?

    Life sure is complicated.

    While I have blogged about the war on sex, there's a related meme which I hope doesn't turn into a war (although maybe it already is in some circles), and that is the idea that there is some sort of duty for those with good genes to reproduce. I would hesitate to call this a moral duty, for that injects moral judgments into something which involves more than mere morality. We think of sex as involving morality, but reproduction involves more than just sex. Obviously, it does involve sex, but additionally it involves the having or not having of children.

    To a great extent, the right to reproduce is therefore inextricably interconnected with the right to have sex, for without the latter the former would be problematic. But if there is a right to reproduce, like other rights it would encompass the right not to reproduce. Similar to the way the right to free exercise of religion includes the right not to be religious at all, even to reject religion and God entirely.

    I've noticed that when most people on the left talk about "reproductive rights," the emphasis is more on the right to not have children, so "reproductive rights" don't mean the right to have babies, but often the right to be free from having to have them. The right to contraception, and often the right to have abortion as a backup option -- these are seen as part of the package we call "reproductive rights." While I think the rights of women in, say, China to have children despite government restrictions on reproduction should also be called "reproductive rights," that's not what leftists normally mean by the term. (To be fair, though, I don't doubt that most of them would defend the right of a woman to have a child along with her right not to.)

    If there are to be "sides" in the reproductive rights dispute, though, it seems that the conservative side comes down more on the right to reproduce. Unless I am reading them wrong, some conservatives even seem to maintain that there is a duty to reproduce.

    A duty to whom, I honestly don't know. Hence I write such posts. I find myself asking whether or not there is an emergent political category that might appropriately be called "the reproductive right."

    Oh darn. I actually thought I had come up with something original there, but of course I had not. Like so many times I've had fantasies of originality, it didn't take much Googling for me to discover that the term "the reproductive right" has been coined by others, in this case Nicholas von Hoffman, who characterized them thusly:

    The Republicans who get their marching orders from on very high want all women to have babies. This goes deeper than a fear there will not be enough of them to kiss come campaign time. They are driven by a conviction that the earth is underpopulated, an opinion which they share with corporate farm managers, out-sourcers and people looking for inexpensive help in the garden.

    Hence the Republicans bounce around putting pin pricks (no pun exactly intended) in condoms, pouring birth control pills down the toilet and generally doing all they can think up to promote fecundity. It hasn't yet occurred to them that the best method is to start a war on the American Dream which is usually taken to mean a comfy life with a house, several cars and the contents of a Costco. American Dreamers don't have children. That's a statistical fact. They are notoriously bad at going forth to multiply.

    Often when they do get around to multiplying they're in their fifties and have to buy other people's eggs and rent other people's wombs and it still ends up more American Dream type expenditures than baby production.

    Sigh. I hate injecting politics into personal decisions which may very well have been grounded in the same type of thinking that causes people to not to get a dog. I realize that there are environmentally minded Ehrlichian couples out there who earnestly believe they are saving the planet by not having children, but there are also many people who just don't have them because they think children will be destructive of things like careers and leisure time. They may be missing out on much joy, but their motivation is hardly political, and I think it is an error to attempt to politicize it. I say this because if these people have in fact passed their reproductive years, it is too late to persuade them to have children, and any attempt to scold them in a political manner for their selfish, non-reproducing ways can be expected to have political consequences to the detriment of those doing the scolding. Which means that the more the "reproductive right" scolds people for not having done what they can no longer do, the more likely they are to create a newly minted crop of bitter political enemies. Yes, and I do mean bitter. Because, if there's any truth to the argument that these childless people have missed out on one of the great joys of life, then it's reasonable to expect that they might already be naturally bitter. And if they're naturally bitter, and someone comes along gratuitously snarking about what they should have done, they are likely to direct that natural bitterness away from themselves and in the direction of the snarkers.

    To illustrate from personal experience, it's a bit like those who lost friends and loved ones to AIDS in the 1980s, only to hear a political chorus of socially conservative voices telling them that their beloved dead loved ones brought it all on themselves, and were asking for it. Putting aside whether this was true (and how many of those who "asked for it" could have known about a fatal disease before its discovery), the reality is that the scolding of people who are grieving and already bitter can backfire and cause them to externalize rather than internalize their grief and bitterness. The result is a self-rationalizing hatred, which of course fuels the culture war.

    Anyway, a fascinating law review article that Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday made me wonder about this emerging reproductive war, and forces me to ask which side I am on. The "reproductive right"? Or the "reproductive left"?

    In the article ("Body and Soul: Equality, Pregnancy, and the Unitary Right to Abortion") author Jennifer S. Hendricks expresses concerns that this reproductive debate might result in new, eugenics-based restrictions on abortion:

    ...the combination of (1) poverty and inequality as a justification for abortion and (2) willingness to allow greater regulation when and where women enjoy greater equality is a potentially dangerous mix. Demographic panic in the United States and Europe today is reminiscent of the fears that motivated the criminalization of abortion in the first place. Conservatives have increasingly expressed concern that privileged women are failing to breed, while less privileged women are breeding too much.116 A theory that emphasizes social disadvantage as the primary justification for abortion, and allows for greater regulation when greater sex equality is present, is an invitation to regulate access to abortion in an essentially eugenic fashion. It is not hard to imagine, for example, that abortion decisions could be made by a governmental body under a generous "health" standard that permits or encourages abortion for poor women but rejects abortion requests from healthy women with ample means to support a child.117 In other words, a sunset clause for reproductive rights is a bad idea in any event; even worse if the sunset looks different on the basis of race and class. (Emphasis supplied.)
    Damned if that doesn't invoke the specter of fetal death panels!

    But the very idea that the "conservative" position (if it is in fact that) is grounded in eugenics fascinates me, if for no other reason than that conservatism is supposed to be diametrically opposed to eugenics. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger is one of the Great Satans of the reproductive right precisely because she was a eugenicist.

    But if the conservative position is that the privileged should breed more, does that necessarily mean conservatives also believe the underprivileged should breed less? Or might it be that they just want everyone to breed more, and think that the privileged aren't doing their fair "share"? I honestly don't know.

    But let's assume that the goal is to increase the percentage of privileged (meaning well-educated, informed, enlightened, and above all productive) people -- i.e. people with "good" genes. If we also assume that Planned Parenthood and the numerous contraception/abortion advocacy groups are deliberately and disproportionately targeting the poor, can't it be argued that they are doing their part in helping to advance at least part of the conservative agenda? I realize that "conservatism" is now supposed to be so philosophically opposed to abortion that being pro-choice means being a RINO, but is it also opposed to contraception and all family planning? If in fact they want to increase the size of one group vis-a-vis another, should they not support efforts which would assist that goal?

    Something does not make sense, at least, not when examined from a purely Machiavellian perspective. What also doesn't make sense is the organized conservative effort to prevent certain forms of reproduction. Artificial insemination and sperm donations are generally frowned on by social conservatives, especially when the women inseminated are lesbians. But again, if the goal is to increase the numbers of people who should be reproducing, well, I don't know what the income levels are of women who seek sperm, but in theory their sperm donors have been genetically pre-screened.

    It is well known that Danish sperm is much in demand by virtue of its genetic superiority, and I do not doubt that many a childless couple would pay a premium for it. (Plus, we're supposed to Support the Danes, right?) Isn't the emphasis on good genes what the "reproductive right" would want?

    Or am I part of "the reproductive left" merely for posing such questions?

    I admit, looking for areas of mutual agreement on such things is a pretty radical, so let's just call this whole thing satire, OK?

    MORE: A video I found here (via Glenn Reynolds) might shed some additional light on the problem.

    Idiocracy - Opening Sequence - The funniest videos are a click away

    Whether the couple in the video is too late for Danish sperm donors, who knows?

    posted by Eric at 11:03 AM | Comments (6)

    Haven't I Seen This Movie Some Where Before?

    It seems that some Chicago Police Officers may have gotten themselves in trouble for some little indiscretions at the G-20 summit.

    The video apparently shows about 15 police officers in riot gear posing for a photo with a man they detained kneeling in front of them.

    Kyle Kramer, the 21-year-old University of Pittsburgh student forced to pose with police, was returning to campus from a pizza parlor when he was detained by police who were rounding up protesters, his attorney Cristopher Hoel told The Associated Press on Friday.

    And how did Chicago Police Officers wind up in Pittsburgh? They volunteered.

    No doubt we will eventually find out that they were members of the "Skull Crackers Club". Or maybe they just wanted to join the club and needed a war trophy. Or it could be just a figment of my fevered imagination.

    Second City Cop had this to say.

    Honest to god, the Chicago Police Department could fuck up a one-car-funeral. Who the fuck was leading this expedition of mentally-challenged sorry excuses for police officers? You can see at least one of them holding the camera and another right there in the front row:
    And they have the video to prove it.

    I also like the way Second City got a good "fuck" in before he was done with the first sentence.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:06 PM | Comments (4)

    Pills and Price-Shifting

    The world's tallest female econoblogger takes on cost-shifting at hospitals.

    When asking whether hospitals engage in cost-shifting--subsidizing inadequate public reimbursement with private insurer fees--the question is partly one of framing. One way to look at it is that the private insurers pick up the slack for the public programs. Another way to look at it is that once private insurers have covered the hospitals' fixed costs for physical plant, and so forth, as long as the government programs cover a little more than the marginal cost of serving the patients, they're actually slightly subsidizing the private patients.

    This looks strikingly similar to how Europe pays for its drugs. Drugmakers have a small marginal cost once all the R&D is sunk, so it makes sense to sell for $3 a pill they can make for $1 even if the amortized R&D cost over the expected number of pills they can sell under patent is $5 -- as long as they have one big market (i.e., us) where they can charge $10.

    One perversity of this arrangement is that the better a price Europe gets, the worse our price must be.

    Say R&D is $5M and expected sales are 1 million units, half in free market Region Y and half in socialized Region X. If Region X negotiates a $2 price, Region Y must pay $10 just for the company to break even (i.e. pay back its R&D):

    (2-1) * 500K + (10-1) * 500K = $5M.

    If Region X pays $5, the company could break even with a price of only $7 in Region Y :

    (5-1) * 500K + (7-1) * 500K = $5M.

    Of course, if we get pushed into single-payer too, then no one is paying for R&D. Guess what happens to things no one pays for?

    posted by Dave at 02:39 PM | Comments (4)

    My rational aromaphobia

    This post touched on one of my worst fears:

    A skunk in Oklahoma, USA, was rescued by a good samaritan and a 'skunk whisperer' after it got its head stuck in a jar of peanut butter.

    Teresa Vick spotted the stuck skunk while delivering papers and called for help.

    Ned Bruha, 'Skunk Whisperer', used a small amount of chloroform to slow the animal down and trap him, before he was able to pull the jar off without the skunk being injured or spraying its foul scent.

    Via Ann Althouse who expresses amazement over human sympathy for animals, and asks,
    Would you help a skunk with a jar of peanut butter stuck on its head?
    Well, the first thing I would do would be whatever was necessary to avoid getting sprayed, because getting hit with that stuff will ruin your life for weeks. This is not to say I'm unsympathetic to the plight of greedy, peanut-butter-loving skunks, but I'm more sympathetic to the possible plight of me.

    My fear of getting sprayed is entirely rational, because skunks are a very real problem in this neighborhood, and they have been in my backyard repeatedly. And because I have an inquisitive pit bull who obsessively patrols every square inch of a small backyard at all hours of the day and night, my fear of being skunked extends to my dog. Because, if Coco gets sprayed, it's a huge -- and I do mean huge -- hassle: removing the odor is problematic, and the house is basically ruined for weeks. If the dog is not scrubbed down immediately with the right chemicals, the scent can linger for up to 2 years. Plus, dogs are so scent-oriented that the experience can cause serious personality changes, at least while it lingers. Some friends had a very sweet dog who got sprayed, and while they did their best to get it out, she was nauseating to be around, had to be kept outdoors, and that dog obviously knew there was something wrong with her, as people who used to love her now rejected her. I have never seen such a transformation in a dog from nice and happy to dejected, miserable, and downright sour. Plus, skunks are nocturnal, so this is the sort of thing which would most likely occur at night when you're least prepared.

    Even contemplating this is unpleasant. More unsettling than Coco getting sprayed is her penchant for bringing animals into the house. Amusing when it was a possum. But a skunk? Perish the thought!

    As to shooting the skunk (which one of Ann Althouse's commenters recommended), pest control experts say it's a bad idea because "it often results in release of their odor." Plus, discharging a firearm within city limits often results in the arrest of the owner.

    I give skunks wide berth. If I saw one with its head stuck in a peanut butter jar, I'd let it stay stuck, and make sure Coco stayed the hell inside.

    posted by Eric at 11:03 AM | Comments (8)

    Who's the most full of carp?

    On the front page of today's Detroit Free Press, there's a scary article about ferocious killer fish from Asia which are about to invade and destroy Lake Michigan. The situation is said to be as bad as a hurricane:

    Immediate action is needed to prevent a flood-prone Illinois river from releasing scores of ferocious Asian carp into Lake Michigan, where they could wreak havoc on the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and surrounding bodies of water.

    The urgent threat has Congress debating a bill it could pass as early as this week, authorizing the Army Corps of Engineers to do whatever is necessary to keep the voracious fish out.

    The Des Plaines River runs beside the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which has an electric barrier to stop carp from getting into the Great Lakes. The river is only 100 feet from the canal, and if it floods again as it has the past two years, carp could escape into the canal above the electric barricade.

    Scientists just discovered in September that the invasive carp were so far up the river -- and so close to Lake Michigan.

    "This is a natural disaster waiting to happen," said Jennifer Nalbone of Great Lakes United in Chicago. "We need to respond to it like we would respond to a hurricane."

    Ferocious? Their diet consists of plankton, and they're basically like large goldfish. The problem is that when boats approach, they jump, so they have been known to hit boaters and water skiers. While this jumping habit could result in serious injuries or deaths, that behavior is no more "ferocious" than deer jumping in front of cars, and while the latter is a hazard to motorists I don't think too many people consider deer ferocious animals.

    Silver carp can grow to 80 pounds and leap out of the water, endangering boaters and anglers. They feed voraciously on the food other lake species eat, so they could destroy or drastically alter the food chain.

    If carp get beyond the electric barrier, officials could use a powerful chemical to kill them. But it also would kill other fish in the area, said Phil Moy, chairman of an advisory panel on the barrier.

    Sandbagging along the Des Plaines or poisoning the fish are not long-term solutions, said Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

    The Chicago canal should be fully or partially closed, he and others said Wednesday.

    The canal is an important link to Lake Michigan for barges and recreational boats. The city of Chicago dumps its wastewater into it. But protecting the Great Lakes from carp and other invasive species is paramount, Gaden said.

    That sounds like the pure and noble thing to do, doesn't it? And the ferocious invaders from Asia sound every bit like the piscine equivalent of Attila the Hun, poised to destroy underwater civilization.
    Experts fear the fish could wipe out sport and commercial fisheries on the Great Lakes.
    Except what the experts aren't pointing out is that Lake Michigan is not as ecologically pristine as they'd have you believe. The linchpin of the sport fishing industry happens to be salmon, but there are no native salmon. All the salmon have been introduced (just as the carp once was further south):
    Great Lakes recreational fishing generates about $4.5 billion a year, according to 2002 figures from the U.S. General Accounting Office, and the most prized species are exotic salmon and trout.

    Ironically, salmon were brought to Lake Michigan in the late 1960s for two reasons: to create an exciting fishing experience for vacationers and to eat the oceangoing alewives that had infested the lake.

    At one time, the lake looked after itself, with big fish living off little fish like chubs, lake herring and bottom-dwelling sculpins. The lake also was home to healthy populations of yellow perch, whitefish and burbot, a cousin to the oceangoing cod.

    But the system collapsed in the 1950s when overfishing, habitat degradation and the arrival of sea lamprey caused lake trout to disappear. With lake trout gone and no predator to replace it atop the food chain, alewives flourished.

    By the mid-1960s, up to 90 percent of the lake's fish "biomass" was alewife. The bacon-strip-sized fish periodically died off by the billions, though, likely because of temperature swings the ocean species was not built to handle.

    Beaches up and down the 307-mile-long lake were choked with mounds of rotting flesh crawling with maggots.

    "You didn't even walk by the beach down in Milwaukee. It stunk awful," recalled retired DNR fishery chief Lee Kernen. "They needed bulldozers to clean them up. It was that horrible."

    Looking for a more exciting alternative to trout fishing, biologists turned to Pacific salmon. Almost instantly, alewife numbers plummeted and salmon fishing exploded in popularity.

    Now, the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana engage in a delicate balancing act to keep enough alewives around to feed the salmon, but not so many that they once again dominate the lake.

    The states also annually plant nonnative brown and steelhead trout, and the federal government stocks about 2 million native lake trout - a species that evolved in the lake over thousands of years but disappeared in the 1950s.

    The result is a paradox, however: Politicians and conservationists tout the value of salmon as a reason to protect and restore the lake.

    So, what we have is one non-native species competing against another, while humans pontificate on which non-native species should be allowed to survive in order to be eaten. What would Darwin say?

    In Alaska they're worried about invasive Atlantic salmon, and more recently, a new threat has been discovered in the form of captive-bred native species! No, seriously. Apparently, it is evil to allow human-bred captives to breed with their wilder brethren. At least, so say the high priests of ecology:

    Fish raised in large ocean pens have genetic traits that make them distinct from their wild counterparts. This has led critics of the fish farming industry to argue that farmed fish that break free - a common occurrence - might breed with native ones, perhaps compromising the health of the entire species and threatening its ability to survive in its natural setting.

    Dr. Fleming says the key to avoiding this real ecological danger is to break what is normally considered a biological taboo: deliberately introducing a new species into an ecosystem.

    "The real issue is a fascinating one - it's to analyze if it is actually better to be farming Atlantic salmon on the West Coast rather than farming Pacific salmon there," says Dr. Fleming. "That might be considered a heretical idea, in the sense that we would be introducing an exotic species into the Pacific, and all our knowledge of invasive species suggests that we shouldn't do that. But with salmonids, particularly Atlantic salmon, there are indications that that might not be such a bad idea."

    Gee, so that means non-native species are actually better for the environment than captive-bred native species.... I sure hope these environmentalists know what they're talking about. One thing I've noticed about environmentalists is that they're very quick to change their minds. Wood burning stoves were once good, but now they're bad. Windmills went from good to bad, then good again. Biodiesel went from good to bad. I can't even keep track of their thoughts on ethanol as fuel. But I'm relieved to hear that (at least for now) non-native fish can be better than captive natives.

    There is an old-fashioned, man-made solution to the problem of carp. They have been aquafarmed for countless centuries for food, and they are not only a delicacy in Asia, but they're a main ingredient in Gefilte fish. Plus they're a great source of fish feed as well as Omega-3 oil.

    On top of all that, they're fun to catch! Watching the video of this Redneck Carp Fishing Tournament makes me want to throw Coco in the back of my 1964 Ranchero and head for the Mississippi River!

    And to wipe out the recalcitrant invaders that the rednecks can't handle, perhaps we could call in the Israelis for help. They've been breeding carp for years to supply the Gefilte fish industry, but lately their carp crop has been devastated by a virus which kills 90% of the fingerlings: the last decade commercial carp breeding has been hit hard by the carp virus, which kills about 90 percent of the fish in the early stage of life. This week about four million carp fingerlings in the fish ponds of the Beit She'an Valley are being immunized against the virus, a step that Agriculture Ministry officials said Wednesday was vital to insuring sufficient supplies of the adult fish ahead of Rosh Hashanah.

    Carp virus arrived in Israel in a shipment of koi fish, ornamental varieties of carp. The virus does not affect other species of fish or human beings.

    I realize we've got an administration that isn't exactly loved by the Israelis right now. But I think if we asked them nicely, they might at least be willing to share their carp virus with us.

    Anyway, I think that if there were a concerted effort between the rednecks and the Israelis, the edible invaders wouldn't stand a chance.

    posted by Eric at 03:05 PM | Comments (7)

    The Unthinkable Victory

    Breaking news: the Iraq war is still over -- and won.

    I think this makes it official: the liberal Brookings Institution is apparently no longer bothering to update their Iraq Index, with the last update having been done on September 1st. Final score: 8500-11000 MW of power (vs. 4000 prewar), vastly improved access to potable water/sanitation/trash removal, something like five hundred times as many cellphones, a million people with Internet access in a country that previously had essentially none, a tripling of GDP, billions in foreign investment, national debt halved, and thousands of trained judges. Even the endemic fuel shortages appear much ameliorated, with the number of Iraqis saying they had good access to fuel rising from 19% in 2008 to 68% this year. Oh yeah, and a fairly liberal Arab constitutional democracy with basic rights for minorities, including the rights of voting, free press, free assembly, and free speech.

    Meanwhile, the security situation in Iraq is better than ever (and far, far better than the average ~7,000 a month killed under Saddam), with icasualties reporting an incredibly low 158 deaths total in September -- the lowest ever recorded.

    This is all lending an odd, even surreal quality to the Afghanistan debate, where the "surrender now!" coalition (largely composed of people who, like Obama, vehemently insisted for years that our conflict in the Hindu Kush was the really important war that Bush should have been focused on) assiduously avoid mentioning (or, presumably, even thinking about) the awful reality of the profound, thoroughgoing American victory in Iraq they all said was impossible or even undesirable.

    For them, Iraq is still literally the unthinkable victory. If they want to lay any claim to credible analysis of ongoing events in the GWOT, they will need to start acknowedging this basic, painful fact: we won.

    posted by Dave at 02:50 PM | Comments (3)

    When children act like adults....

    Whenever I read news reports like this about horrendous crimes being committed by people society considers "children," I am reminded of the fiction of child innocence.

    DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Wayne County prosecutor announced first degree murder charges against a teenage boy and his mother for the shooting death of a teenager who was playing basketball at a recreation center.

    Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says 15-year-old Tremaine Davis shot and killed 19-year-old Demitry Jackson from Highland Park at the Considine Little Rock Family Life Center on Thursday, October 8.

    Davis is in custody and is expected to be arraigned Wednesday.

    Police are searching for the suspect's mother, Tarranisha Davis. She is accused of unlatching the hood of her van to allow her son to retrieve a concealed gun. After the shooting, she reportedly drove off with him.

    Both mother and son are facing first degree murder charges. If convicted, they could both spend life behind bars without parole.

    Tremaine Davis will be tried as an adult.

    Well, he should be tried as an adult, for shooting people to death is an adult activity.

    There was another case not long ago involving a 12 year old who is charged with shooting a 24 year old woman to death. While the boy has since confessed that he was trying to rob her when the gun went off, my post drew a number of comments (under different names but with the same IP numbers) which attempted to blame the victim by making an unsubstantiated claim that she was a "stripper." As I pointed out, a victim's occupation is irrelevant to a murder charge.

    But suppose the 24 year old woman had been raped instead of murdered. I think her occupation might suddenly take on the appearance of being highly relevant. Should it be? I mean, if 12 year olds and 15 year olds can shoot adults, they can certainly rape them, can't they? Surely, teenage rapists should not be allowed to use the legal presumption that they are incapable of consent as a shield, should they? (At least onesource says they can. In another post at the same site, a teenage girl is warned that when her older boyfriend turns 18 he legally becomes her rapist.)

    Surely, if a woman is raped by someone who is deemed legally incapable of consenting to sex, surely the law would not consider the victim's involuntary participation to be a crime, would it? It's not quite as clear as you might think. Here's the Michigan statutory rape law:

    750.520d Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree; felony. Sec. 520d. (1) A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if the person engages in sexual penetration with another person and if any of the following circumstances exist: (a) That other person is at least 13 years of age and under 16 years of age.
    It is not clear to me whether Michigan's law imposes a strict liability standard. If it does, might it be possible for an adult victim of a teen rapist to be chargeable with statutory rape? Obviously, no district attorney would bring such a charge, but what if the kid claimed the woman had consented? Rapists do routinely make such claims as part of their defense. I would think that the victim's occupation would be seen as highly relevant, unfair though that might be. Which would mean that if, say, a high school LaCrosse team were to hire a stripper, and she did what these private dancers are often alleged to do, then she could face charges of multiple child rape. But would it matter whether she could prove that they had raped her? Or would such a defense not be allowed? I honestly don't know, but her occupation might be seen as highly relevant. Should it be?

    It seems that some adult activities are seen as more adult than other adult activities. It's easier for a teenager to be seen as a murderer than as a rapist. Or are adult victims of teen murderers less suspicious than adult victims of teen rapists?

    Childhood fictions are confusing.

    Once again, the problem of feral kids challenge the traditional notions of innocence.

    posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (1)

    Something Is Happening Here

    I suspect liposuction fat oozing out of our ground. I have no proof.

    H/T rj40 at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:19 PM | Comments (5)

    Certain opinions are worse than torturing dogs to death

    So the NFL won't allow the likes of Rush Limbaugh within its hallowed tent, but dog torturer Michael Vick is just fine.

    Yet another in a long line of mind-numbing double standards. (See this post from Stephen Spruiell which Glenn linked yesterday.)

    The message? Uttering opinions with which powerful activists like Al Sharpton disagree is worse than feloniously torturing animals.

    Of course, whether the remarks that make Rush more unwelcome in the NFL than Michael Vick were in fact racist doesn't seem to matter any more than whether they were true.

    In his notorious ESPN comments last Sunday night, Rush Limbaugh said he never thought the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb was "that good of a quarterback."


    McNabb, he said, is "overrated ... what we have here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback can do well -- black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well."

    I'm not much of a football buff, but the author (sportswriter Allen Barra) says Rush was right.
    ...the truth is that I and a great many other sportswriters have chosen for the past few years to see McNabb as a better player than he has been because we want him to be.

    Rush Limbaugh didn't say Donovan McNabb was a bad quarterback because he is black. He said that the media have overrated McNabb because he is black, and Limbaugh is right. He didn't say anything that he shouldn't have said, and in fact he said things that other commentators should have been saying for some time now. I should have said them myself. I mean, if they didn't hire Rush Limbaugh to say things like this, what did they hire him for? To talk about the prevent defense?

    OK, Rush may have been right, but rules are rules, and apparently whoever the authoritarians are that run things decided that you cannot express the opinion that the media wants black quarterbacks to do well. Rush got booted out of ESPN for saying that. And apparently there is no such thing as forgiveness in the sports world. Unless...

    Unless you electrocute and drown dogs, and slam them to death?

    Will someone please explain to me how expressing the opinion that the media wants black quarterbacks to win is worse than such vicious torture?

    As usual I'm not getting it.

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

    Your comments are welcome, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 07:36 PM | Comments (47)

    The Open Hand Meets The Nuclear Fist

    Smart power.

    We scrap the Eastern European missile defense program that Russia hates, and Russia responds by... changing their policy to start using nukes in just about every conceivable military situation:

    In an interview published today in Izvestia, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Kremlin's security council, said the new doctrine offers "different options to allow the use of nuclear weapons, depending on a certain situation and intentions of a would-be enemy. In critical national security situations, one should also not exclude a preventive nuclear strike against the aggressor."

    What's more, Patrushev said, Russia is revising the rules for the employment of nukes to repel conventionally armed attackers, "not only in large-scale, but also in a regional and even a local war."

    This is what we mean, lefties, when we say you're dangerously naive.

    "But... but... at least we're getting some help from Russia on Iran, right?"

    Yeah, not so much.

    Enjoy that Nobel, Neville Obama.

    posted by Dave at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

    Capitalism And Free Press

    The Chinese are finding out it's difficult to have one without the other:

    The future of China's most independent and outspoken publication is in doubt following a mass walkout of its commercial staff and rumours that many members of its editorial team are planning to follow them out of the door.

    Under Ms Hu's leadership, Caijing has forged a reputation for hard-hitting exposés of corruption, a rarity in China's state-owned and heavily censored media industry. Ms Hu has also banned her journalists at the magazine, which comes out every two weeks, from accepting payments from the people or companies they report on, a practice that is common in Chinese journalism.
    People familiar with the situation said many editorial staff had quit as well. These people said Ms Hu had found a publisher for a magazine she was planning to set up, and staff were waiting to join her there.

    As Jim Pinkerton is wont to proclaim, information wants to be free. Information consumers will naturally migrate their purchases towards reliable, unencumbered sources.

    This will be an interesting decade in mainland China. The new generation of middle-class Chinese have mostly been successfully indoctrinated with nationalism, but that doesn't mean they will tolerate open repression of popular media figures. It's an open question how much longer the current situation can persist.

    posted by Dave at 01:09 PM | Comments (4)

    Some things are more entertaining than politics

    Former police officer Barry Cooper (author, "Never Get Busted Again") is so disgusted with the War on Drugs that he came up with an idea for a reality TV show called "Kop Busters." In a clever sting operation, police ended up raiding a house where nothing illegal was going on -- most likely because their illegal FLIR cameras detected indoor grow lights:

    "KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana," claims a release from "When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house."

    "The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster's attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster's secret mobile office nearby.

    "The attorney was handcuffed and later released when eleven KopBuster detectives arrived with the media in tow to question the illegal raid. The police refused to give KopBusters the search warrant affidavit which is suspected to contain the lies regarding the probable cause.

    "It is not illegal to grow plants under a light in your home but it is illegal to lie on an affidavit and plant drugs on a citizen. This operation was the first of its kind in the history of America. Police sometimes have other police investigating their crimes but the American court system has never dealt with a group of citizens stinging the police. Will the police file charges on the team who took down the corrupt cops? We will keep you posted."

    Here's the video:

    Cooper says that he targeted the Odessa police because marijuana was planted on a young woman which resulted in an eight year sentence:

    Cooper chose the Odessa police department for baiting because he believes police there instructed an informant to plant marijuana on a woman named Yolanda Madden. She's currently serving an eight-year sentence for possession with intent to distribute. According to Cooper, the informant actually admitted in federal court that he planted the marijuana. Madden was convicted anyway.

    Video here:

    I wish Cooper had made more of these videos, but he seems to be busy running for Attorney General on the Libertarian ticket.

    More power to him, and may he fight the good fight, etc.

    I hate to sound cynical, but history shows that Libertarian Party candidates don't win. However, it's nice to know that people who don't like police tactics in the drug war at least have an outlet, because they're not going to find it in either of the two major parties. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, the drug war seems to have been ruled off limits for discussion by mutual agreement of both parties.

    What I think would be truly inspiring would be for Cooper's Republican opponent Ted Cruz (praised by NRO's Jay Nordlinger as well as Eugene Volokh) to join Cooper in denouncing the war on drugs.

    I say this not in any way as criticism of Cruz, who is obviously a fine man, and for whom I would have no trouble voting if I lived in Texas. The war on drugs is so institutionalized and ingrained in both parties that it's just part of the way the system works. As un-budgeable as big government itself. Voting does not change these things. Any real change in policy cannot come from the top, but has to come from below, in the form of people getting outraged. I think Cooper could accomplish more by going back to making these sting videos than he ever could by running as a Libertarian. Never mind the fact that polls show more public support for marijuana legalization -- and against cruel mandatory minimum sentencing laws -- than for gay marriage.

    Polls, platforms, facts and figures don't work nearly as well as seeing a video showing people something that could actually happen to them.

    posted by Eric at 11:03 AM | Comments (13)

    Commemorating the good old days?

    I'm glad Dave Price put up a post to commemorate the defeat of Communism, and I'm glad Glenn Reynolds remembered it too

    Matt Welch asks an excellent question: The defeat of communism 20 years ago was the most liberating moment in history. So why don't we talk about it more? And here's an excerpt from his analysis:

    Twenty years later, the anniversary of that historic border crossing was noted in exactly four American newspapers, according to the Nexis database, and all four mentions were in reprints of a single syndicated column. August anniversaries receiving more media play in the U.S. included the 400th anniversary of Galileo building his telescope, the 150th anniversary of the first oil well, and the 25th anniversary of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A Google News search of "anniversary" and "freedom" on August 23, 2009, turned up scores of Woodstock references before the first mention of Hungary.

    Get used to it, if you haven't already. November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating, let alone processing the lessons from, the collapse of its longtime foe. At a time that fairly cries out for historical perspective about the follies of central planning, Americans are ignoring the fundamental conflict of the postwar world, and instead leapfrogging back to what Steve Forbes describes in this issue as the "Jurassic Park statism" of the 1930s (see " 'The Last Gasp of the Dinosaurs,' " page 42). There have been more Hollywood hagiographies of the revolutionary communist Che Guevara in the last five years than there have been studio pictures in the last two decades about the revolutionary anti-communists who dramatically toppled totalitarians from Tallin to Prague (see Tim Cavanaugh's "Hollywood Comrades," page 62). And what little general-nonfiction interest there is in the superpower struggle, as Michael C. Moynihan details on page 48 ("The Cold War Never Ended"), remains stuck in the same Reagan vs. Gorby frame that made the 1980s so intellectually shallow the first time around.

    Disgusting as it is to contemplate, I think there are many people who still yearn for the good old days.

    Not of the fall, but of Communism.

    One of the last titans of Communism is Fidel Castro, who did not fall, even though his regime had largely been underwritten and financed by the Soviet Union. Castro found himself in trouble after the Soviet collapse, and in the 1990s he did what he had always done when he needed moral support.

    He came to the United States. Here is the murderous tyrant himself, speaking to a fawning leftist audience in New York, in 1995:

    Yeah, I know it's boring to watch -- to the point of utter, tear-your-hair-out tediousness. That's what they want to do to their enemies -- bore them to death in the hope that they'll go away and let them win. The name of the game is attrition by tedium.

    And I don't like to subject the readers of this blog to such a video unnecessarily, but there's one particular detail in it that I think is worth remembering.

    Take a good, close look at the guy standing on the stage behind Castro and to the left. [If you must skip through the speech, you can see him clearly at 3:59 and later.] It's Charles Rangel, the corrupt, ACORN-swilling, tax-exempt, scandal-ridden Congressman for life.

    Does anyone think it's a coincidence that he'd be so unabashedly pro-Castro?

    Anyway, there he is, kissing Fidel's ass and helping him out, right at the peak of that tough "special period" after the fall of Communism, and I thought it was worth sharing on the anniversary of Communism's fall.

    Communism fell, if not completely. Castro is still there, and so is Rangel.

    Some things never change.

    posted by Eric at 09:34 PM | Comments (2)

    World's biggest search engine makes a common search term difficult

    An article that Glenn Reynolds linked about the up-and-coming search engine Bing reminded me that something is rotten in the state of Google -- especially where it comes to searches related to abortion.

    If you're familiar with Google (and who isn't?) you know that most of the time when you enter a search word, you won't even have to get half way through the word before the most common suggestions appear in the search window. Now, the word "abortion" is certainly not unusual (it draws over 24 million Google hits), and it is neither right wing nor left wing, it is not a dirty word, and because no one I know of considers the word offensive, it cannot be said to be either politically correct or politically incorrect.

    But try typing abortion. As soon as you type "abor" up comes a list of suggestions: aborigines, aboriginal art, aboriginal culture, and aboriginal names. And if you keep typing and add a "t," all suggestions disappear and you have to enter the word "abortion" all by itself. Now, if Google were working normally (which it obviously is not), there would be all kinds of suggestions. Like abortion, abortion clinics, etc.

    To illustrate, here's what I get as a dropdown list if I search at


    So what's up with Google? Surely abortion can't be among Google's censored words?

    I don't know what it is, but I'm thinking it may have something to do with Google advertising.

    Google has been sued for refusing to accept anti-abortion ads:

    A Christian group is suing Google over the internet giant's refusal to take its anti-abortion adverts.

    The Christian Institute, a "non-denominational Christian charity", wanted to pay Google so that whenever the word "abortion" was typed into the popular search engine, its link would appear on the side of the screen.

    The link would have read: "UK abortion law - news and views on abortion from the Christian Institute."

    But Google refused the advert because it said it had a policy of declining sites which mixed the issue of abortion with religious views.

    Its Dublin-based advertising team replied: "At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain 'abortion and religion-related content'."

    Google does, however, accept adverts for abortion clinics, secular pro-abortion sites and secularist sites which attack religion.

    The Christian Institute has now started legal proceedings against Google on the grounds that it is infringing the Equality Act 2006 by discriminating against Christian groups.

    This lawsuit appears to have been settled. OTOH, there are also allegations that Google has restricted access to abortion advertisements in 15 countries, and I'm not entirely sure what that's about, although I noticed that pro-choice activists are irate.

    Might the litigation explain why Google would disable the functionality of its search feature?

    In the Wiki article about censorship by Google, there is some discussion of Google's attempt to censor anti-abortion advertising, but no mention of the failure of the word itself to appear as a search term.

    The whole thing is baffling. After all, Google is supposed to facilitate searches, not obfuscate them.

    Whatever the reason, I am beginning to think that Google has gotten too big for its britches, and I am glad there are alternatives like Bing.

    posted by Eric at 07:09 PM | Comments (2)

    August 23rd, 1989: V-C Day

    Matt Welch asks why we aren't celebrating it.

    It's a question that needs to be asked: why don't we celebrate the greatest victory in American history? After all, we celebrate V-E day, even though our WW II "victory" in Europe left more of that continent under totalitarian rule than before the war, and failed to achieve the war's initial aim of restoring Polish sovereignty.

    Some of the discrepancy stems from the undramatic nature of the event, of course: there was no great decisive shooting war of machines and men, no surrender ceremony. But a large part of why August 23rd is practically unknown can be explained by the fact that the left dominates our cultural institutions, and many never regarded our triumph over Communism as a victory at all. There's a reason Platoon and Apocalypse Now won Oscars and The Green Berets didn't (it's the same reason Obama won a Nobel for 268 hours of... nothing much).

    To celebrate V-C Day is to rub their noses in the Pulitzer they gave to Duranty, Dan Rather's assertion that Soviets enjoyed "economic freedom," and FDR's embrace of "Uncle Joe" Stalin. It says maybe Joe McCarthy had a valid point. It says "America, f**k yeah!"

    posted by Dave at 06:39 PM | Comments (0)

    Darwin never raised my taxes!

    One of the reasons I am against Global Warming theory is because it's not just a theoretical argument or a scientific position. The theory that man-made CO2 causes warming is so inextricably intertwined with the notion that the power of government must be utilized against CO2 that it can literally said to be built in. From Global Warming flows the need for draconian controls over every aspect of the way we live.

    Because the political application of the theory is built into the theory itself, naturally I must oppose AGW theory, and I do so without regard to whether man-made CO2 is the culprit. I am a complete skeptic about government solutions to problems, because history shows that government solutions are almost invariably worse than whatever the problem was. Now, in view of that old saying that the first step in addressing a problem is acknowledging the problem, if addressing a problem means using the government to solve it, then it follows that the best way to stop the government from addressing something as a problem is not to acknowledge that it is a problem. So, even if I were to become convinced that there is global warming, it would not follow that this would be a problem -- much less a problem that demanded a government solution.

    The best defense being a good offense, I have no moral qualms about opposing Global Warming theory at every turn. If the bastards intend to use this theory to rip my lungs out, I'd be a fool not to oppose it.

    What I have called my approach is not Global Warming Denial so much as Global Warming Defiance:

    As I've explained before, I'm not so much into Global Warming denial as I am Global Warming Defiance. That's because the AGW political campaign is the largest attempted power grab I've seen in my life, and if there's one thing I do know, it's that bureaucratic attempts to solve problems are worse than the problems the bureaucrats attempt to solve. Basically, we the people emit carbon, and they the bureaucrats want to squeeze us and punish us any way they can, and tell us how to live. Nothing in the Constitution gives them such power, but they'll try to grab it anyway.
    Defying them at every turn may not be scientific in the strictest sense of the word, but the science has become so hopelessly political that defiance makes perfect logical sense as political science.

    One of the memes that I find most annoying is the attempt by various scolds to conflate Global Warming skepticism and evolution skepticism. The idea being to shame global warming skeptics into feeling like moronic young earthers, or even flat earthers. And of course, the argument is repeatedly made that Global Warming skepticism is closely linked to religious conservatism:

    Is it mere coincidence that just about all 'skeptics' of both evolution and human-induced global warming are politically and religiously conservative? I doubt it -- though I'm not sure what the common factor is. Perhaps once having been introduced to anti-scientific ideology and/or the idea of preferring ideology over science, it's easier to do the same to a new subject. Perhaps the very rejection of evolution inclines one to disbelieve global warming, though I'm not sure how that would work.
    I guess the author (Austin Cline) realizes that this "just about all skeptics are religious conservatives" argument is lost on certain people, like yours truly. Because he ends his scold by putting the question to them:
    ...there seems to be people who reject the anti-evolution "skepticism" of creationists while disputing the global warming consensus of science. Such people should be asked why the anti-warming arguments look and work so much like the anti-evolution arguments. They should have to explain what distinguishes their position from that of creationism and Intelligent Design, ideologies which they readily reject as absurd. This also shouldn't be too difficult, if in fact their skepticism is based upon genuine skeptical and scientific principles while that of creationists is merely a front to rationalize a religious ideology.
    Well, at least he's civil enough not to demand that global warming skeptics explain why they're not like Holocaust deniers. Anyway, as it's not every day that I read that I "should be asked about something," I figured might as well respond to the argumentative question -- "why the anti-warming arguments look and work so much like the anti-evolution arguments."

    My central argument is that there is no crisis. Certainly nothing which would justify the massive government intrusions which are being demanded by a political consensus which masquerades as "science." Furthermore, I am against government solutions to "crises" -- whether the crises are real or not.

    Whether people agree with me or not, how does my position in any way "look and work so much like" an argument against evolution?

    Has Darwinian theory (natural selection, and gradual species changes that accompany survival of the fittest over time) ever been posited as a "crisis" which requires a massive government response? While it is true that Nazis and Marxists have attempted to invoke Darwin as justification for their discredited theories, this was pure demagoguery, and there's nothing in evolutionary theory which posits the need for the state to force evolution upon people by doing something. The idea that evolution is an urgent problem that needs solving right now is absurd on its face. I suppose that because the power to tax is the power to destroy, one could argue that the strong will tax the weak to death, but that's hardly an argument in favor of high taxes.

    I see no resemblance at all between evolution and global warming, and I resent the attempted linkage.


    But why stop with Darwin? Why not also demand that I explain why my anti-warming arguments look and work so much like the birth certificate truther arguments? Or anti-single-bullet-theory, Kennedy assassination arguments? And how about cholesterol theory skepticism, or AIDS theory skepticism? While I happen to be skeptical about all of the above forms of skepticism, the point is that one is not related to the other.

    Global warming skepticism may be many things, but tying it to creationism is a rhetorical cheap shot and not a legitimate argument against it.

    No wonder that a growing number of people on the right have grown tired of trying to engage in legitimate arguments. Reasonable though I try to be, even I am often tempted to think that one rhetorical cheap shot deserves another.

    That's a temptation that I feel I must resist, even though I am human and I sometimes fail. Because if you think about it, when both sides consist of people flinging rhetorical cheap shots at each other, when the choice is between two rhetorical cheap shots, then the winner invariably becomes the "better" of the rhetorical cheap shots! Fine if your cheap shot is the winner, but what does the game become?

    May the best rhetorical cheap shot win?

    Survival of the fittest rhetorical cheap shot?

    That sounds more like devolution than evolution.

    posted by Eric at 12:30 PM | Comments (3)

    The difference between art and music

    Cornered by an interviewer, Jerry Garcia tries to explain.

    posted by Eric at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

    Nobel Prize Slap At Obama

    No I'm not talking about his Nobel Peace Prize. I'm talking about the Economic Prize announced this morning. Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson won it for:

    Ostrom, a political scientist at Indiana University, showed how common resources -- forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands -- can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies.

    "What we have ignored is what citizens can do and the importance of real involvement of the people involved -- versus just having somebody in Washington ... make a rule," Ostrom said during a brief session with reporters in Bloomington.

    We keep finding this over and over: The closer to a problem decisions are made the better the decision.

    Mr. Obama, Congress, are you listening?

    House of Representatives
    The Senate
    The President

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

    *** Media Threat Level Raised ***

    The Media Threat Level (MTL) has been raised from Fawning Lapdogs to Praetorian Guard.

    WHAT THIS ALERT LEVEL MEANS: Danger of dissent is extremely high. Any criticisms of Barack Obama should be made with the understanding the media will portray them as racist or dangerous. Exercise free speech at your own risk.

    ABOUT THE MTL: The Media Threat Level Advisory System is designed to guide our protective measures when specific information to a particular sector or geographic region is received. It combines media threat information with vulnerability assessments and provides communications to the public.

    posted by Dave at 01:51 PM | Comments (1)

    The winningest of all intentions

    In an amazing development I learned about at Greg Mankiw's blog, a first year graduate student in Economics has won the Nobel Prize! In Economics!

    LONDON -- The surprise choice of first-year graduate student Quintus Pfuffnick for the Nobel Prize in Economics drew praise from much of the world Friday even as many pointed out the youthful economist has not yet published anything in scholarly journals.

    The new PhD candidate was hailed for his willingness to tackle difficult problems, his commitment to improving the economic system, and his goal of bringing efficiency and equality into harmony.

    Well, as someone who lives in the heart of education land in Ann Arbor Michigan, I can vouch for the fact that graduate students work hard! And they are willing to tackle difficult problems. Plus, they believe in hope and change, many of them hate Bush, and they wrote very promising essays when they applied to graduate school.

    As economics professor Paul Krugman notes, it was just such an essay that led to Pfuffnick winning the prize:

    Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton, who won the prize in 2008, said Pfuffnick's award shows great things are expected from him in the coming years.

    "In a way, it's an award coming near the beginning of the first year in grad school of a relatively young economist that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our economy a better place for all," he said. "It is an award that speaks to the promise of Mr Pfuffnick's message of hope."

    He said the prize is a "wonderful recognition of Pfuffnick's essay in his grad school application."

    I like the idea of a preemptive approach of issuing awards for good intentions.

    Hey maybe the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission should give its annual award to President Barack Obama for the great promise he displayed by signaling an intention to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    MORE: In other anticipatory news, President Obama seems to be signaling an intent to stand by the embattled Kevin Jennings, head of the Education Department's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (whose inadequate version of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" with a 15 year old student has hardly endeared him to conservatives.)

    posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (1)

    An Epiphany On The Left?

    The Belmont Club was discussing the McChrystal letter and the President's response to it.

    The Wall Street Journal says Secretary Gates has passed on a request for more men for the Afghan campaign from General McChrystal. Gates had attempted to delay the formal transmission, but mounting public interest in the issue made it pointless to hold it back.
    WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates has forwarded a request for more troops in Afghanistan to President Barack Obama, the Pentagon said Wednesday, as divisions within the administration and Congress continued despite Mr. Obama's high-profile meeting with congressional leaders the day before ... in the end, the defense chief feared that the document -- already widely reported on -- would leak to the press before Mr. Obama had a chance to read it, said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. The request outlines several options ranging up to 40,000 troops added to the 68,000 now stationed or headed there.
    Interestingly Fox News reports: Code Pink Supports Afghan War?
    But one report says the group is now rethinking its position on the Afghanistan war. The Christian Science Monitor reports that during a recent trip to Kabul, local Afghan women told Code Pinkers the situation is a lot more complicated than they think. Afghan member of Parliament and women's activist Shinkai Karokhail told the group's founders: "In the current situation of terrorism, we cannot say troops should be withdrawn."

    Those concerns convinced the founders that setting a deadline is not in Afghanistan's best interest. Medea Benjamin, Code Pink co-founder, said: "We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline... So many people are saying that, 'If the U.S. troops left -- the country would collapse. We'd go into a civil war.' A palpable sense of fear, that is making us start to reconsider that."

    It is amazing what even accepting a little responsibility can do.

    Let us not forget that a lot of vets (Ds as well as Rs - The founder of Swift Boats was a D) caused Kerry to lose to Bush. If Obama turns his back on the troops he loses them.

    And then with responsibility for the women of Afghanistan adopted by Code Pink (they actually want to live up to their highest ideals - even if it tarnishes some of their others - as long as it is they who care and not Bush)

    A debacle in Afghanistan for the women of that country (more videoed stonings of women) would not just be a point for the opposition. It would ruin what is left of Obama's self image. The guy has got to be really hurting. The knife to the gut from Medea Benjamin has got to be his "Et Tu Brutus" moment.

    My friend Alex sent me an e-mail with a link to this piece from another Code Pinker (or a fellow traveler) who was in Afghanistan.

    I have come to Kabul because I want to experience for myself what is happening here, eight years after the U.S. ousted the Taliban. I have spent the past 40 years of my life protesting war and working for peace in conflict areas. I don't believe that killing leads to peace.

    I came here as part of a small peace delegation of mostly women who share my conviction that President Obama must not send more troops and should set a timeline for withdrawal of the 60,000 that are here.

    But now - after seven intense days and nights of interviews and meetings in Kabul - I no longer have that conviction.

    The best path to peace may not be the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops. And since the troops here now are not able to provide enough security for the Afghans to rebuild their country, it is possible more troops may be needed.

    It shocks me to admit this. But the voices I have heard - local and international NGO workers, reconciliation activists, ex-Taliban members, warlords, women in homeless shelters and in governmental positions - clearly do not want a withdrawal of troops now. They are under attack. The great majority of the people I listened to - not all but the great majority - feel that additional troops are necessary to train a viable Afghan army and a national police force and to secure the country so that development projects can proceed. Yes, we should have accomplished those goals by now, but we have not.

    Now if you go to the site you will see some drivel about Palestine to begin the post. But I have to tell you that even a little honesty and honor among the left is a big surprise and was the very best I could expect after the election of our current President. Now if only our President was listening. One can only HOPE.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:48 PM | Comments (2)

    none dare call it corporatism

    Maybe I'm too sensitive to images, but for some time, I've been wondering something about the Obama logo. And I have to ask.

    Do we have a president who wants to be a soft drink?


    Or do we have a soft drink that wants to be president?


    Or does it matter?

    I realize it's all about money, but isn't there something undignified about this?

    That last one was a real, actual Pepsi ad (as if there is anything actual or real anymore....)

    This one, however, is a spoof.


    (Even so, I still think maybe it's The Real Thing.)

    And this one suggests itself:


    MORE: Was Pepsi a corporate sponsor of this beauty contest?


    Photo via Darleen Click.

    AND MORE: Much to my dismay, I see that one of Darleen's commenters asked an unfair question about the contestant's views on gay marriage. I say unfair because, while we know perfectly well that the contestant's views are the same as Carrie Prejean's, the situation is very different, because while the latter was forced to say what she meant, the president was forced to say what he never meant!

    And what could be more unfair than comparing something that was meant to something that was not meant?

    posted by Eric at 10:03 AM | Comments (1)

    Something Is Missing

    In Secular Decline I discussed how we can get out of our current financial troubles. I talked about Kondratieff Waves and what drives economic cycles. Innovation.

    Electronic Component News makes a similar point.

    Name an industry that can produce 1 million new, high-paying jobs over the next three years. You can't, because there isn't one. And that's the problem.

    America needs good jobs, soon. We need 6.7 million just to replace losses from the current recession, then another 10 million to spark demand over the next decade. That's 15 million to 17 million new jobs. In the 1990s, the U.S. economy created a net 22 million jobs (a rate of 2.2 million per year), so we know it can be done. Between 2000 and the end of 2007 (the beginning of the current recession), however, the economy created new jobs at a rate of 900,000 a year, so we know it isn't doing it now. The pipeline is dry because the U.S. business model is broken. Our growth engine has run out of a key source of fuel--critical mass, basic scientific research.

    Pretty depressing news.

    What we have been doing is eating our seed corn. New ideas have a profitable lifetime. And with information diffusion as fast as it is these days the lifetime is short. Which means we need more discoveries per year just to stay in one place.

    ...since the 1990s, labs dedicated to pure research--to the pursuit of scientific discovery--have seen funding slowly decline and their mission shift from open-ended problem solving to short-term commercial targets, from pure discovery to applied research. Bell Labs had 30,000 employees as recently as 2001; today (owned by Alcatel-Lucent ALU) it has 1,000. That's symbolic and symptomatic of the broken link in the U.S. business model. With upstream invention and discovery drying up, downstream, industry-creating innovation is being reduced to a trickle.

    It's easy to ascribe current job losses in the U.S. to the deep recession or outsourcing. Both are to blame, but neither is at the root of the larger problem, which is lack of new, high-quality job creation. We are in the throes of the fourth recession since 1981. We have been outsourcing jobs for decades, but we have always bounced back with a new industry--a blockbuster industry. Discovery drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, productivity drives economic growth. But this time it's different, and whenever the current recession mercifully ends, the U.S. economy will not respond with the same job-creating vigor we have come to expect.

    So what is our esteemed President doing to counter this difficulty? Is he spending the majority of stimulus money on stimulating research. Of course not. It is going into stimulating his cronies. It is the kind of thinking you get when you have lawyers running the government. Zero sum thinking. I win you lose. And of course we got that in spades from our President with the "We won" statement.

    Maybe Mr. Obama needs to read The Myths of Innovation. He might learn that innovation is a matter of putting a lot of pieces together and that the more pieces you have to work with the greater are the options for profit. Take one idea from biotechnology, two from computer science and mathematics, and three from management theory and you get a profitable business. Which says that research on a narrow front is not going to do it.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:09 AM | Comments (5)

    Scary Saturday Graph



    That's the biggest fall in employment ever.

    The good news is, once the trend bottoms out history suggests employment should bounce back strongly. The bad news is no one really knows when it will bottom out. And with the huge expansion of FHA, continued loss of employment could mean another massive financial crisis looming...

    posted by Dave at 01:44 PM | Comments (3)

    There's no saving this planet without a savior!

    While I've read reports like these before, it's a bit of a shock to see them finding their way into the BBC. But find its way this one did, with a headline sexy enough to make any sceptic drool:

    What happened to global warming?

    This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

    But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

    And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

    So what on Earth is going on?

    Climate change sceptics, who passionately and consistently argue that man's influence on our climate is overstated, say they saw it coming.

    Yes, I saw it coming. So did M. Simon.

    What's a real shocker is that the Arctic ice has also failed to melt as predicted, and in fact, it's growing. While Glenn Reynolds opines that this doesn't fit the narrative, I'm thinking that it might be time for a narrative change. A sea change in the narrative, so to speak. Because, if present trends continue, President Obama might just be able to walk to Norway on the ice to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize.

    What more proof do we need that He is a miracle worker who walks on water?

    (As I said, we need a sea change in the narrative....)

    posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (9)

    Why we are all worse than Roman Polanski

    Speaking of considerations related to crime and punishment, I sometimes wonder whether (in some minds, at least) abortion is becoming a sort of moral reductionist trump card that can be used to trivialize concerns about nearly anything else.

    It's a version of the slippery slope argument, and I first heard it a few years ago on a talk radio show discussion of a girl who had killed her newborn baby. Anti-abortion callers were insisting not only that infanticide was the logical culmination of abortion, and of course that there was no moral difference between abortion and infanticide.

    Today the argument is often made that because abortion is murder, there is no moral difference between the killing of a fetus and the killing of an adult. Actually, some argue that abortion is morally worse than the killing of an adult, because the unborn are truly innocent, while living humans are by definition sinners, and therefore less worthy to God.

    Anyway, when I first heard the argument it would be hypocritical to punish the girl who killed her baby because "we" routinely allow doctors to "murder millions of innocent babies," I was horrified. But it's now so routine that I just consider it standard fare in the abortion debate.

    Not long ago, I read a comment to a post about the Christian-Newsom murder trial which applied the same moral equivalency argument (yes, that's what it is) to the torture and murder of two young people. The snarky commenter questioned why anyone should be fussing over the torture murder of only two people when millions of babies are tortured to death each year.

    If you see things that way, then no one has a right to raise a fuss over anything.

    In a more famous recent example, the abortion-as-a-moral-leveler argument was raised by Ann Coulter in a discussion of the murder of an abortion doctor on Bill O'Reilly's show:

    Never one to shy away from controversy, Coulter offered the following ethical assessment of the crime:
    "I don't really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester."
    When pressed by O'Reilly on this statement, Coulter replied,
    "I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don't want to impose my moral values on others."
    They have the video clip over there for people who find this sort of thing entertaining. I guess she was being funny; isn't that what entertainment is all about?

    What's sometimes forgotten is that in the old days when abortion used to be a crime, it wasn't considered murder because the baby wasn't born, but never mind that. It is not my purpose here to debate the relative degrees of immorality of various types of conduct so much as it is to examine the logical consequences of abortion as a trump card that dwarfs almost all illegal and immoral conduct. Because if in fact abortion is murder (and torture murder at that), then it is worse than anything that goes on except maybe other torture murders, like the Christian-Newsom case.

    What this means is that not only are murders no worse than abortion, but other illegal or immoral conduct -- no matter how awful, disgusting, or egregious -- must pale by comparison.

    And if any outrage less than torture murder pales in comparison to abortion, then certainly that would include sexual outrages, like the Roman Polanski case. That's because the rape of a child is not as evil as the torture murder of a child, and therefore because Polanski did not murder his victim, he is less culpable than any abortionist. Moreover, he and all other child molesters are by definition less culpable than those who use and dispense today's moral equivalent of Zyklon B, the abortificient drug RU-486. Because we tolerate this Himmler behavior, we have no right to condemn Polanski.

    Please bear in mind that while this is not what I think, it is apparently what many other people think.

    But is it conservatism? I don't know, but I don't think it will ever play well in middle America.

    MORE:Commenter Mike Foster takes issue with me below, and says this:

    Forgive me for saying so, but... aren't you being a bit obtuse? It is a simple reductio ad absurdum argument. And very effective, I might add. Morally, what is the difference between a mother killing an unborn child (because of its "inconvenience") and a newborn child (because of its "inconvenience") or any other child in a state of ("inconvenient") dependence upon that mother? Also, perhaps I am being obtuse, but I don't see how the Polanski Incident relates to this issue?
    As I explained below, if abortion is in fact torture/murder (and I am not saying it is), then it is in fact worse than what Polanski did. The Polanski example is intended to illustrate where the logic of the "not as bad as abortion" argument leads, and why I get tired of hearing it used over and over again.

    But don't take my word for it. My reductio ad Polanski argument is in fact the official position of at least one major religion. According to a Vatican ruling in March, the rape of a nine-year old girl (that's four years younger than Polanski's victim) was specifically held to be not as heinous as abortion:

    A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion in Brazil after allegedly being raped by her stepfather.

    Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Catholic church's Congregation for Bishops, told the daily La Stampa on Saturday that the twins the girl had been carrying had a right to live.

    "It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated," he said.

    Re, who also heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, added: "Life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian church is unjustified."

    The row was triggered by the termination on Wednesday of twin fetuses carried by a nine-year-old allegedly raped by her stepfather in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.

    The regional archbishop, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, pronounced excommunication for the mother for authorising the operation and doctors who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the fetuses to term.

    "God's law is above any human law. So when a human law ... is contrary to God's law, this human law has no value," Cardoso had said.

    He also said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed "a heinous crime ... the abortion - the elimination of an innocent life - was more serious".

    (Emphasis supplied.)

    So, if abortion is worse than the rape of a nine year old girl (which many seem to believe), then it is of course worse than Roman Polanski's crime.

    Again, I don't agree with this thinking, nor do I believe in collective guilt. But if a major religion does, I think my point is well taken.

    Nor do I see this issue as likely to go away.

    One last thing. I hate to be argumentative, but why did I have to do extra work and come up with a specific religious rulings to illustrate what I thought was a relatively simple point?

    posted by Eric at 11:23 AM | Comments (14)

    My pit bull hates negative stereotypes!

    After playing around with the idea a bit, I thought this was funny enough for the blog:


    Coco is hoping I don't print it out and paste it on the gate.

    posted by Eric at 06:57 PM | Comments (3)

    What is crime? What is punishment? And who is good? Who is bad?

    Crime and punishment seems to be under a great deal of discussion lately, and it's one of those issues that always seems to be lurking in the background, even when the issue is not directly about crime and punishment. Roman Polanski, for example is not an ordinary sex scandal, but is a debate about crime and punishment. The drug and abortion issues are really about whether these things should be considered crimes, and if so, how they should properly be punished.

    In a recent post I titled "Who are the real criminals?" I looked at the phenomenon of overcriminalization (focusing on federal law), and pointed out a number egregious examples.

    While it wasn't really what I was talking about, commenter "Dwight" drew a contrast between "dishonest" and "badness" criminals, and raised an entirely new topic:

    So do you think that we have a shortage of dishonest to badness criminals? Graft and corruption seemed to be more prevalent than ever. Should pension fraud cases be pursued, or is it OK to steal money from the government? How about income tax fraud?

    Righties supposedly want law and order, but whose law and whose order?

    I don't know how much of a "rightie" I am in general, but I do tend to be pretty intolerant when it comes to violent crime. I'm a fervent believer in self defense -- both as an individual right, and by way of protecting society against people who have shown themselves willing to commit crimes of violence. The idea being that if violent, dangerous, psychopathic people are either dead or locked up, they will not be able to hurt those of us who are not violent and dangerous psychopaths.

    That's where I guess I'd have to be considered a "conservative" -- if such labels apply. However, I am a liberal in the sense that I would not use prison as punishment for non-violent criminals, and I would not punish victimless (vice type) crimes at all. As to what the punishment should be for tax cheating, pension fraud, and white collar crime in general, I don't know. But I'm thinking that most of these offenders (and they are offenders) would qualify for work in the vast bureaucracies that the rest of us can't escape, so maybe I'd use them as white collar paper slaves. (Under supervision, of course, so they can't steal on the job.) And if that's not punishment enough to satisfy society's lust for revenge and blood (as, say, in the case of Bernie Madoff), then society might have the right to demand a public flogging of some sort. But if they're not violent, I see prison as pointless. Prisons are expensive, overcrowded, and violent places, which IMO should be reserved for violent offenders, the primary goal being to protect society, not to punish.

    So while it would be dishonest of me to call myself a conservative, I see a lot of dishonest and negative stereotyping of conservatives in the area of crime and punishment -- some of which tempt me to embrace the label of "conservative" by way of reaction.

    A recent example of this is a piece that Andrew Sullivan linked (he titled it "Conservatism And Capital Punishment") about an apparently innocent man who was executed in Texas. Apparently, "conservatives" are to blame, because "they" don't care whether or not innocent people are wrongly executed. Plus, they believe that science doesn't matter!

    This Nightline piece is amazing. It's worth watching the two people largely responsible for Willingham's death. It's worth thinking on the fact that John Jackson, the original prosecutor (who, based on Willingham's music choice, believes he killed his kids as some form of devil worship) is now a Texas judge. It's worth thinking on the fact that we have arson investigators who think science doesn't matter.

    Texas justice is essentially sorcery, and there will be people who say that we can perfect it, that we can close the loop-holes. They're wrong. The problem isn't with loopholes--it's with us. We are fallible. Conservatives, more than anyone, should know that--it undergirds their entire philosophy. They don't think government can perfect much of anything. What makes them think we can perfect murder? I'd have a lot more respect if they just came out and said, "Yeah, it isn't perfect, but it's a price we should be willing to pay.

    It is claimed that the execution is supported by conservatives who do not care whether the man was innocent. Because, you know, they are mean, vindictive, and above-all angry people who take delight in punishment, and think the guy just needed execution whether he was innocent or not.

    Some of the comments I found there typify this view of conservatism.

    Conservatism is not a philosophy, but a club for resentful whites:

    We are fallible. Conservatives, more than anyone, should know that--it under-girds their entire philosophy.

    If conservatism were a philosophy, that would be true. But it's actually a club for resentful white people (and Michael Steele) to recite a few shifting, angry slogans. Principles, and policy, have nothing to do with it.

    Some humility in the machinery of death-- and in theology-- would certainly be a welcome addition to conservatism. But resentment isn't about humility.

    Conservatives are religious nuts who believe that people who are well off are favored by God, and people who suffer are disfavored by God and therefore do not deserve pity:
    It's no accident that so many of these people are Christian fundamentalists. They honestly believe that they got what they did because God gave them a deserved reward. Ergo, people who experience unfairness must have done something to deserve it. It's a blame the victim mentality, that conveniently jibes with Republican ideologies that ignore ingrained racism and entrenched poverty. The only thing I can find that all Republican positions have in common these days is "I got mine, screw you." There seems to be no acknowledgement of others suffering in today's conservatism.
    Now, while that sounds like something R.J. Rushdoony and his ilk might say, if it's anywhere in the Republican platform or if it is considered a "conservative principle," that would mean things are far worse than I thought.

    Will someone please let me know?

    Then of course there's Texas. Apparently, that's a place which has a huge monopoly on conservative principles, and where all conservatives believe that it's just fine to execute the innocent -- just as long as they're guilty of something else:

    When I was growing up in Texas, the loudest proponents of the death penalty self-identified as conservatives. And when I visit my home town, I've heard self-identified conservatives (politicans and private citizens) say that not only do they support the death penalty but also it's OK with them if an innocent person or two is executed by mistake.

    I agree with Stacy up thread, who hypothesized that these are Just World-ers. They seem to assume that both (a) the state's innocent victims were guilty of something else and thus "bad people" and (b) as they themselves are "good people", they are in no danger of personally becoming one of these victims. As many of these people equally vocally call themselves "good Christians", this seems a very peculiar way to love our neighbours as ourselves. Perhaps these people have very small neighbourhoods?

    Ever know any conservatives like that? I haven't. But then, perhaps I lived too long in California and on the East Coast. Do the "real folks" in the rest of the country believe in frying people innocent of capital crimes simply because they're "bad people"?

    Another conservative "principle" seems to be that if someone is trashy and cluttering up respectable white society, then by all means it's OK to pull the switch on him:

    I think the subtext of so much of the behavior of the people responsible for Willingham's execution, at least as depicted in the New Yorker article, was a more chilling version of this. Killing him, whether or not he was guilty of the crime with which he was charged, WAS a price they were willing to pay. To them, Cameron Willingham was nothing but trash. Even if he wasn't guilty of murdering his three children in cold blood, he was guilty of being poor and distasteful to respectable white Texan society. Their world was better off without him cluttering it up, so why bother taking the necessary pains to provide him with justice under the law?
    I'm sorry, but I know a number of conservatives, and while most of them support the death penalty, I have never met a single conservative who supports the idea of executing an innocent man simply because he's a "bad person" who deserves it. Say what you want about conservatives, but I really don't think that type of mindset is a principle of conservatism. Sure, there may be some people calling themselves conservatives who think the guy got what was coming to him whether he was guilty of that particular crime or not, but to call that conservatism is like calling a lynch mob "conservative." Or calling violent rioters and looters "liberal."

    I say this as someone who supports the death penalty. In order for it to work, society needs to be extremely scrupulous in ensuring that innocent people are not executed, because cases involving executions of the innocent become the best single argument in favor of abolishing the death penalty.

    However, there does seem to be a difference between conservatives and liberals in one important respect. Conservatives might not want to execute people for the crime of being bad, but neither do they want to hire bad people and put them to work at ACORN, or in the census. (Not a new idea, BTW. Philadelphia has made hiring ex-felons an official priority.)

    What's up with that?

    Is there a disagreement between conservatives and liberals over who is good, and who is bad? Or does it involve the concepts themselves?

    posted by Eric at 03:00 PM | Comments (10)

    Peace in our time! At last!

    I was going to comment on Barack Obama winning the now-thoroughly discredited Nobel Peace Prize, but I see M. Simon has beaten me to it, and said this:

    Expect a war. A big war. Soon.
    Yes, as I said just last week, "If you want war, prepare for peace."

    The Brits are already having fun with the award; in an editorial titled "absurd decision on Obama makes a mockery of the Nobel peace prize," the Times has a scathing review:

    Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America's first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

    Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.

    The pretext for the prize was Mr Obama's decision to "strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples". Many people will point out that, while the President has indeed promised to "reset" relations with Russia and offer a fresh start to relations with the Muslim world, there is little so far to show for his fine words.

    The whole thing is undignified in the extreme, and makes the United States look like a laughingstock (at least, to the people around the world who didn't think we were a laughingstock during the years we were said to be a laughingstock under Bush.)

    Or maybe I'm missing something.

    Will our enemies love us now?

    I'm skeptical.

    posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (4)

    Its Cosmic Ray

    Yep. The results of the experiments are in and it is now official. Cosmic Rays affect clouds.

    ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 2009) -- Billions of tonnes of water droplets vanish from the atmosphere in events that reveal in detail how the Sun and the stars control our everyday clouds. Researchers of the National Space Institute in the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have traced the consequences of eruptions on the Sun that screen the Earth from some of the cosmic rays -- the energetic particles raining down on our planet from exploded stars.

    "The Sun makes fantastic natural experiments that allow us to test our ideas about its effects on the climate," says Prof. Henrik Svensmark, lead author of a report newly published in Geophysical Research Letters. When solar explosions interfere with the cosmic rays there is a temporary shortage of small aerosols, chemical specks in the air that normally grow until water vapour can condense on them, so seeding the liquid water droplets of low-level clouds. Because of the shortage, clouds over the ocean can lose as much as 7 per cent of their liquid water within seven or eight days of the cosmic-ray minimum.

    "A link between the Sun, cosmic rays, aerosols, and liquid-water clouds appears to exist on a global scale," the report concludes. This research, to which Torsten Bondo and Jacob Svensmark contributed, validates 13 years of discoveries that point to a key role for cosmic rays in climate change. In particular, it connects observable variations in the world's cloudiness to laboratory experiments in Copenhagen showing how cosmic rays help to make the all-important aerosols.

    Interesting. There is now an official verified mechanism showing a connection between cloud cover and cosmic rays. Why is this important? As the solar magnetic field weakens (and it is weakening) we get more high energy cosmic rays on earth. More rays more clouds. More clouds. Cooler climate. i.e. CO2 will be going up (got to keep warm) and temperatures will be going down.

    Well some Russians had a few things to say on the subject before Svensmark finalized his data. In fact they said it over two years ago.

    Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other gases emitted through human activities, believed by scientists to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, are an effect rather than the cause of global warming, a prominent Russian scientist said Monday.

    Habibullo Abdusamatov, head of the space research laboratory at the St. Petersburg-based Pulkovo Observatory, said global warming stems from an increase in the sun's activity. His view contradicts the international scientific consensus that climate change is attributable to the emission of greenhouse gases generated by industrial activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

    "Global warming results not from the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but from an unusually high level of solar radiation and a lengthy - almost throughout the last century - growth in its intensity," Abdusamatov told RIA Novosti in an interview.

    "It is no secret that when they go up, temperatures in the world's oceans trigger the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations."

    Well fortunately the Brits are way ahead in all this. They have a plan to destroy their economy to prevent dangerous releases of harmless industrial CO2.
    At the moment the UK is committed to cutting greenhouse gases by a third by 2020.

    However a new report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said these targets are inadequate to keep global warming below two degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

    The report says the only way to avoid going beyond the dangerous tipping point is to double the target to 70 per cent by 2020.

    This would mean reducing the size of the economy through a "planned recession".

    Kevin Anderson, director of the research body, said the building of new airports, petrol cars and dirty coal-fired power stations will have to be halted in the UK until new technology provides an alternative to burning fossil fuels.

    The old bait and switch. The only way to get a 70% reduction in CO2 in ten years is a deep depression. Very deep. It is not just no new autos and airports. Existing transportation equipment will need to be destroyed. Plus almost all the coal fired electrical generating plants in the UK will need to be shut down. Probably natural gas fired plants as well. Fur da grater God duvall.

    And ya know? There has been a curious lack of sun spots lately. Well not to worry. With the current geniuses in charge what could possibly go wrong that they haven't anticipated and planned for?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:37 AM | Comments (1)

    Pot Cartels Busted

    Novel headline eh? About what you would expect if you believed in law enforcement. Well as usual I mean what I say but in a different sense. Pot cartels are going broke.

    ARCATA, Calif. -- Stiff competition from thousands of mom-and-pop marijuana farmers in the United States threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico.
    Oh yeah. Quasi legalization is destroying the market for imported marijuana.

    So what is an economically savvy cartel to do? Improve the product and shorten the supply chain.

    Now, to stay competitive, Mexican traffickers are changing their business model to improve their product and streamline delivery. Well-organized Mexican cartels have also moved to increasingly cultivate marijuana on public lands in the United States, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center and local authorities. This strategy gives the Mexicans direct access to U.S. markets, avoids the risk of seizure at the border and reduces transportation costs.
    But, at least in California it is just a stop gap measure. Californians will get a chance next year to legalize pot.
    SAN FRANCISCO - Marijuana advocates are gathering signatures to get as many as three pot-legalization measures on the ballot in 2010 in California, setting up what could be a groundbreaking clash with the federal government over U.S. drug policy.

    At least one poll shows voters would support lifting the pot prohibition, which would make the state of more than 38 million the first in the nation to legalize marijuana.

    Such action would also send the state into a headlong conflict with the U.S. government while raising questions about how federal law enforcement could enforce its drug laws in the face of a massive government-sanctioned pot industry.

    The state already has a thriving marijuana trade, thanks to a first-of-its-kind 1996 ballot measure that allowed people to smoke pot for medical purposes. But full legalization could turn medical marijuana dispensaries into all-purpose pot stores, and the open sale of joints could become commonplace on mom-and-pop liquor store counters in liberal locales like Oakland and Santa Cruz.

    And you know what else? If none of the initiatives pass the proponents promise to do it again until they get the answer(s) they want.

    Well what about the politicians? Cowards the lot of them.

    Even some prominent politicians, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, have recently shown some movement on the issue, saying publicly that the time has arrived to at least study the legalization of pot.

    But the skittishness of politicians on this subject is still palpable. When the Legislature last month was discussing sentencing reform, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, spoke of just how fearful lawmakers are of voting for anything someone might label as "soft on crime."

    Leno noted that in California it is a misdemeanor for an adult to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and that the penalty for that crime cannot exceed a fine of $100.

    As Leno told fellow senators, that is the very definition of an infraction. Every year, he said, judges ask the Legislature to change possession of a small amount of marijuana to an infraction because it is folly for them to conduct misdemeanor trials on a charge for which the maximum penalty is a $100 fine.

    To date, lawmakers haven't been moved by such logic. Perhaps in June, voters will get the chance to leap well beyond that small step.

    If this passes I wonder if California will become the pot supplier to the nation - at least temporarily reversing its economic situation from dire straights to just abysmal.

    Well I just couldn't resist. So here is the video:

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:30 AM | Comments (6)

    Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize - Country Doomed

    President ∅ has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. I'm not going to name all the losers who have won that award. But I will name a few. Al Gore - for Global Warming. The Globe is cooling. Jimmy Carter for bringing Peace to the Israelis and Palistinians. The war never stopped. Yasser Arafat for being a Peace Maker. He started Stupidfada II - and lost.

    Well you get the drift. The Peace Prize is usually a sign that the policies praised will fail. Usually sooner than later.

    Expect a war. A big war. Soon.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:45 AM | Comments (7)

    Got Gas?

    Yes we have gas. Lots of gas. Lots of natural gas.

    Last October, just as the economy was tilting into crisis, a small oil and gas company in Houston quietly announced the discovery of a mammoth natural gas field in South Texas that at any other time might have garnered bigger headlines.

    Petrohawk Energy's find, however, did not go unnoticed in the oil and gas industry -- and it didn't take long before oil companies large and small began making their moves.

    Today, though the economy and natural gas prices remain weak, the Eagle Ford shale remains one of the hottest prospects in North America, and energy companies are moving forward there even as they're pulling back elsewhere.

    That's because of what some companies suggest is a virtually recession-proof combination of highly productive wells and low drilling costs they say can yield profits even as natural gas prices hover near seven-year lows.

    Just how much gas is there in the new fields using the new methods?
    Recently discovered U.S. shale plays, including the Haynesville in Louisiana and Marcellus in Pennsylvania, are expected to provide a major boost to U.S. natural gas supplies in coming years. The dense rock formations, once thought too difficult to explore, have been unlocked with the help of recent advances in drilling technology.

    The core areas of the eight largest U.S. shale plays may contain 475 trillion cubic feet of recoverable resources, according to an estimate by Ross Smith Energy Group, an industry research firm in Calgary, Alberta. That's roughly ten times the size of Texas' famed Barnett shale play in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which supplies nearly 10 percent of U.S. natural gas production, excluding Alaska.

    That is a lot of gas. But really what does the new gas situation look like from a longer term perspective?
    After declining for 15 years, U.S. natural gas production is finally on the rise, thanks to new technological developments that make it possible to draw large amounts of gas from deposits previously thought to be unreachable. An increase in natural gas production of the magnitude many industry insiders predict could do wonders for business, the environment and even U.S. energy independence.

    U.S. gas production is up 9% this year - a rate of increase not seen since 1984 - with most of that gain coming from natural-gas shale, particularly the Barnett Shale, a deposit that now produces 7% of the country's gas supply. Indeed, there could be as much as 842 trillion cubic feet of retrievable gas in shale deposits throughout the United States alone, according to Navigant Consulting. That would support the current level of U.S. consumption for about 40 years.

    And that is just from the gas found so far. I have seen estimates that go as high as 100 years for the total amount of gas available with current methods. More than enough time to get fusion or even economical wind/solar/storage going.

    And if Thomas Gold's The Deep Hot Biosphere : The Myth of Fossil Fuels theory is correct we may have much more than 1,000 years of gas and oil available if we can drill deep enough.

    Now that would make our transition off fossil fuels very comfortable. Time and a few very deep exploratory wells will tell.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

    new, worse, and much more expensive!

    A dishwasher fill valve consists of a simple plastic body, to which are attached a solenoid and an inlet coupling, and a few plastic interior parts.

    Mine conked out recently, and here is what it looks like, in its disassembled state:


    Yes, I did clean it up and reassemble it, but the solenoid remained dead.

    I suspect that these cost a few dollars to manufacture in China, where nearly everything like that is now manufactured.

    So what I want to know is how in blazes it cost me $55.65 at a local appliance parts store? And why does the new one look like a shoddily made piece of crap compared to the old one? (The new one is an el cheapo crimped unit -- clearly designed so that it cannot be taken apart.)

    I could have saved twelve dollars or so and bought the same part on ebay, but then I'd have had to wait a week for it to arrive, and it's very aggravating when you wait and look in the mail every day, and each day it's not there you start to worry that you might be up against one of those flaky or crooked sellers. Not only that, but the hot water shutoff also means shutting off the hot water to the kitchen sink -- which also means that the kitchen sink can't be used because the cold water runs out the disconnected dishwasher line so unless I were to disconnect the line entirely and cap off the shutoff valve (all of which is irritating and time-consuming), I wouldn't be able use the kitchen sink while waiting impatiently for the ebay part to arrive.

    So I'm willing to pay more to have it now, and avoid stress.

    It wouldn't be worth a post except that this is the third time in a year that I have had to replace a water valve. First was a sink valve, then the washing machine fill valve, but they all have the same problem; they become clogged with the calcium and crud that's in the water until finally they're non-functional.

    Still, fifty bucks is an extortionate amount of money for a simple fill valve. A normal person would call a dishwasher repair service. That adds another hundred dollars. A new dishwasher like mine costs about $300.00.

    An expensive part here and an expensive part there, and pretty soon your average homeowner might find himself questioning the whole idea of appliance repair.

    And why is the new valve a piece of crap compared to the old one, and why is it designed so that it cannot be taken apart? I don't know much about the appliance repair industry, but I do remember when things were "built to last" and I found an appliance repair site with a shockingly honest (if somewhat speculative) explanation of what may be going on:

    Today many shoppers are finding that their new appliances are only lasting an average of five to seven years. My one word explanation for this short service life is that the), bought "Junk."

    Why did this happen? Did a gang of criminals take over the .appliance industry, or what?

    'Today, although there are more than twenty-seven major appliance brands on the American Market, ownership of the entire industry are controlled by just five companies. I have a chart telling you who own what in an Appendix at the end of the book.

    Another result of this policy was that the management of many of the remaining companies had to find new ways to inject profit into their companies. One technique was changing the parts and changing department, from a "necessary evil" into a profit center.

    When a manufacturer turns to parts replacement as a major profit source, there is little or no incentive to improve product quality or longevity. In fact, if you are bottom line oriented, and business management has to be, it would seem the temptation would be to go the other way. I can not say that this is the reason for the apparent lowering of quality in many companies' products. But anyone in the appliance repair industry could tell you that many manufacturers continue to use components that have a high failure rate year after year. The parts are almost never improved and tile parts and service departments just keep getting busier. This might seem short term smart, but it is long term stupid.

    You'd almost think that the guys who know how to use their hands to make a living had been replaced by MBAs. If so, why? And why would educated, supposedly intelligent people have a preference for shortsighted thinking?

    I hate to say this, but I can sometimes understand why the "little guy" might sometimes be susceptible to Michael Moore's bullshit.

    MORE: Might there be something inherent in the MBA orientation which does not lend itself to considering the more practical aspects which drive the businesses they are supposed to run?

    Here's an MBA critiquing his own profession:

    ...whereas a youth training scheme in car repair or a plumbing apprenticeship might actually teach you to repair a car or fix a leak, the MBA does nothing more than give you some ideas for how to approach a problem. Which is why so many of the most successful business people, Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch to name just two, never bothered with a formal business education. Their success derives from their experience and their nature ­ not from sitting in a classroom with a group of aspiring management consultants.

    MBAs in the public mind have become expert at extracting value from an economy, through fees, bonuses and exorbitant salaries, without knowing how to build value. They use their management voodoo to suck the blood of the real value creators in an economy. But really they are of less practical use to society than a decent carpenter or accountant.

    Sounds like some of the things I've said about lawyers.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (12)


    Donate to help with breast cancer research. The Boobiethon page is work safe. The rest of them? You are on your own.

    My mother is a 40+ year breast cancer survivor and she approves of this solicitation.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

    Publicly baring your life can be a warm and fuzzy experience!

    I love Facebook. It's the perfect medium for tracking down long-lost friends, getting in touch, and then reminiscing. Which is great. (Even though I wouldn't say anything there that I wouldn't say here in my blog)

    But as they luxuriate in the warmth and camaraderie of a technology that seems calculated to invite dredging up these long forgotten memories, I think lot of people might be forgetting something. While being a Facebook friend with someone may create the feeling of safety and intimacy (as if you're settling down in front of a comfy fireplace) doesn't the fact that this is all taking place online make that safe and intimate feeling a bit of an illusion?

    What I am trying to say is this. How many people would take the time to suddenly and out-of-the-blue hunt down a long lost friend's email address, and then start sending emails back and forth, fondly recalling a passionate love affair, LSD trips taken together, or a drunken evening culminating in something very embarrassing that both parties regretted? I think there are a lot of people who would never do that, because as we all know "email is not really private, and anyone could read it." (Like the evil George Bush, who read everyone's email, and invaded everyone's privacy.)

    But with Facebook, there don't seem to be the same concerns. Even though government snoops are just as entitled to conduct Facebook fishing expeditions as they are to read email.

    Which means that everywhere that Dubya went, Obama's sure to go.

    I don't mean to single out Obama, and it would be redundant to point out that the 4th Amendment still exists, and his administration is bound by the same Constitution as Bush's. Rather, I think there is something about online technology that lends itself to fatalistic thinking, which in turn leads people to accept what they never would have accepted even ten years ago.

    "There's nothing you can do about it!"

    "You might as well live as if everyone is watching your every move, because they are!"

    So if you bare your life on Facebook, it's no big deal. That's what Facebook is for. It makes baring your life a warm and fuzzy experience.

    Don't get me wrong. As I said, I've grown quite fond of Facebook. It's just that I don't have illusions about it being "safer" than email, but I think a lot of people either do have such illusions, or they've reached the point where they no longer care.

    I certainly hope that the technology isn't helping them not care.

    And I also hope that there isn't a generational surveillance gap, because my worry is that kids who grew up under surveillance might come to believe that privacy doesn't matter. (In much the same way that people who have no free speech rights cannot be expected to respect the free speech rights of others.)

    posted by Eric at 08:02 PM | Comments (0)

    "preserve, protect and defend"

    In what I think is a very ominous development, this administration is moving away from a longstanding tradition of defending the principle of free speech, and is instead supporting a UN resolution with "a number of disturbing elements."

    It emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

    Pakistan's Ambassador Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, made it clear that they understand the resolution and its protection against religious stereotyping as allowing free speech to be trumped by anything that defames or negatively stereotypes religion. The idea of protecting the human rights "of religions" instead of individuals is a favorite of those countries that do not protect free speech and which use religion--as defined by government--to curtail it.

    Ugh. It's a pretty basic principle that "religions" don't have rights. People have rights, and among them are religious freedom and free speech. That the latter includes the right to say whatever you want about any religion or all religions is so basic that it should not require discussion. Defaming or negatively stereotyping any religion is 100% protected as free speech, as would be praising one religion while negatively stereotyping other religions, or defaming atheism.

    We have the right to say whatever we want about others' belief systems, or their lack thereof.

    Law professor Eugene Volokh points out that we are still protected by the First Amendment, but he is concerned about the possible consequences of the resolution:

    ...why the fuss, some might ask, if we're protected by the First Amendment? First, if the U.S. backs a resolution that urges the suppression of some speech, presumably we are taking the view that all countries -- including the U.S. -- should adhere to this resolution. If we are constitutionally barred from adhering to it by our domestic constitution, then we're implicitly criticizing that constitution, and committing ourselves to do what we can to change it.

    So to be consistent with our position here, the Administration would presumably have to take what steps it can to ensure that supposed "hate speech" that incites hostility will indeed be punished. It would presumably be committed to filing amicus briefs supporting changes in First Amendment law to allow such punishment, and in principle perhaps the appointment of Justices who would endorse such changes (or even the proposal of express constitutional amendments that would work such changes).

    To be sure, I think it's quite unlikely that the Administration would indeed work to enact a specific Anti-Hate-Speech Amendment, or make support of article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights into a litmus test for Supreme Court appointees. But it seems to me that the Administration's and the Nation's international representatives' calling for the suppression of "hate speech" throughout the world would have some significance. At least it would let other countries fault us for inconsistency when American law fails to punish such speech.

    7. And beyond that, I'm worried that the Executive Branch's endorsement of speech-restrictive "international human rights" norms will affect how the courts interpret the First Amendment, so that over time, "an international norm against hate speech ... [would] supply a basis for prohibiting [hate speech], the First Amendment notwithstanding." And that worry stems not just from my fevered imagination, but from the views of Prof. Peter Spiro, a noted legal academic who is a supporter of this tendency. That's not fear-mongering on his part, but hope (hope-mongering?) and prediction. So anything that an Administration does to endorse international speech-restrictive norms might well have an effect on our own constitutional rights as well.

    While it's bad enough that most countries are sorely lacking in the free speech rights we take for granted as our birthright, there is a well-established clique of professors and activists in this country who don't believe in free speech, and this will play right into their hands.

    And as Frank Gaffney notes, some of these enemies of free speech are already implementing policy at the highest levels:

    What is news, and deeply troubling at that, is the fact that President Obama and his administration are now formalizing this ominous alignment in international forums like the Human Rights Council. According to the past writings of Harold Koh, the former Yale Law School dean who is now the U.S. government's top authority on international law and its application domestically, "norms" like the new Human Rights Council resolution should supercede U.S. laws and even the Constitution.

    The Ethics and Public Policy Center's extraordinary Ed Whalen cites a 2004 essay by Koh, entitled "International Law as Part of Our Law," as approvingly setting forth the transnationalist view that "Domestic courts must play a key role in coordinating U.S. domestic constitutional rules with rules of foreign and international law, not simply to promote American aims, but to advance the broader development of a well-functioning international judicial system." Toward this end, Koh believes that, in several circumstances, it is "appropriate for the Supreme Court to construe our Constitution in light of foreign and international law."

    The conclusion seems inescapable: In yet another expression of the President's arrogance, he and his administration are in the process of willfully promoting an agenda at odds with not just the Constitution but the larger national interest.

    Even before he was elected, Barack Obama and his team repeatedly displayed contempt for dissent, and contempt for free speech. So, unfortunately, it is not surprising to see this reflected at an international level.

    So what's up? Is this administration determined to be remembered as having the worst record on free speech in US history?

    Yes, I realize that if historians were to hold such a grotesque contest, John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Act would probably still be running ahead.

    But it's not yet nine months into President Obama's first term.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Darleen Click at Protein Wisdom for linking this post, and adding some astute observations. Great comments too. Don't miss it.

    posted by Eric at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

    Saving The Planet

    If we want to save the planet we will need to put it in a bank.

    If we want to invest the planet we will have to get an army of space aliens to surround it.

    Another possibility is setting up a series of artificial banks often referred to as dikes. If we can get the dikes and the space aliens together perhaps we can get compound growth and eventually withdraw more than we put in.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:31 AM | Comments (3)

    Who are the real criminals?

    My apologies for titling this post with a 1960s slogan, but the stuff I have been reading about makes me so angry that I thought a little vintage rhetoric was justified.

    Anyway, Glenn Reynolds is not kidding when he speaks of "THE CRIMINALIZATION OF EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING":

    With the proliferation of criminal law, everyone is a criminal of some sort, whether they know it or not.
    Perhaps because too many people have taken notice, in Washington, they're finally holding hearings on the subject.

    And the stuff that is coming out is truly disgusting:

    Chairman Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, and ranking member Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, conducted a truly bipartisan hearing (a D.C. rarity this year).

    These two leaders have begun giving voice to the increasing number of experts who worry about "overcriminalization." Astronomical numbers of federal criminal laws lack specifics, can apply to almost anyone and fail to protect innocents by requiring substantial proof that an accused person acted with actual criminal intent.

    Mr. Norris ended up spending almost two years in prison because he didn't have the proper paperwork for some of the many orchids he imported. The orchids were all legal - but Mr. Norris and the overseas shippers who had packaged the flowers had failed to properly navigate the many, often irrational, paperwork requirements the U.S. imposed when it implemented an arcane international treaty's new restrictions on trade in flowers and other flora.

    The judge who sentenced Mr. Norris had some advice for him and his wife: "Life sometimes presents us with lemons." Their job was, yes, to "turn lemons into lemonade."

    The judge apparently failed to appreciate how difficult it is to run a successful lemonade stand when you're an elderly diabetic with coronary complications, arthritis and Parkinson's disease serving time in a federal penitentiary. If only Mr. Norris had been a Libyan terrorist, maybe some European official at least would have weighed in on his behalf to secure a health-based mercy release.

    Krister Evertson, another victim of overcriminalization, told Congress, "What I have experienced in these past years is something that should scare you and all Americans." He's right. Evertson, a small-time entrepreneur and inventor, faced two separate federal prosecutions stemming from his work trying to develop clean-energy fuel cells.

    The feds prosecuted Mr. Evertson the first time for failing to put a federally mandated sticker on an otherwise lawful UPS package in which he shipped some of his supplies. A jury acquitted him, so the feds brought new charges. This time they claimed he technically had "abandoned" his fuel-cell materials - something he had no intention of doing - while defending himself against the first charges. Mr. Evertson, too, spent almost two years in federal prison.

    It's the old principle of "if they want you, they've got you!" The number of things that are illegal are mind boggling. The Heritage Foundation cited a 2004 estimate that there were at least 4000 federal crimes, but said there could be many more.

    Those of us who are online tend to hear about federal laws criminalizing things like annoying someone on the Internet, or using a false name in violation of TOS, but in reality, almost anything can be a federal crime.
    Reason has a long piece on the subject, and noted that public welfare offenses are systematically becoming crimes based on congressional whims. So people like Edward Hanousek are going to prison for "crimes" of which they were never even aware were being committed:

    In 1996 Edward Hanousek Jr., a road master for a railroad company running between Alaska and Canada, was convicted of negligently discharging a harmful quantity of oil into the Skagway River, a U.S. waterway, in violation of the Clean Water Act. An independent contractor had accidentally ruptured a pipeline while attempting to clear rocks off the tracks. Hanousek was off duty and at home that day, nowhere near the accident site, and he had no knowledge of the pipeline rupture until after the fact. The government nevertheless prosecuted Hanousek, a federal jury convicted him, and he received a sentence of six months in prison, six months in a halfway house, six months of post-release supervision, and a $5,000 fine.

    These are just three of the many cases that illustrate how federal criminal law has overstepped its proper bounds, prescribing draconian punishments for offenses that should be handled at the state level or that should not be considered crimes at all. During the last century, especially in the last three decades and in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Congress has made federal crimes out of an astonishing array of behavior, much of which is already prohibited by state law, could be better addressed with civil penalties, or is considered wrongful not because it violates anyone's rights but only because Congress says so.

    Any attempt to even count the number of crimes is doomed to failure, and even the Congressional Research Service said (remember this was over five years ago) that it was impossible:
    In an October 2003 column published on, Rebecca Hagelin, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, noted: "America started out with three federal laws -- treason, counterfeiting and piracy. In 1998, the American Bar Association counted more than 3,300 separate federal criminal offenses on the books -- more than 40 percent of which had been enacted in just the past 30 years. These new laws cover more than 50 titles of the U.S. Code and encompass more than 27,000 pages. Today, the Congressional Research Service says it no longer can even say how many federal crimes exist." She continued: "Are we that much more evil than we were 200 years ago that we need this many laws to keep us off of each other? Or has the nanny state veered completely out of control -- creating crimes where no evil existed, pinning blame where no harm was intended?"
    One reason it's impossible is that many offenses are "derivative" in nature:
    One reason it's impossible to get a definitive count of federal offenses is that many are derivative, defined by other criminal acts. Laws against money laundering, for example, make otherwise innocent transactions criminal if the government believes they were intended to disguise the source of drug money or other ill-gotten gains. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, federal investigators can criminalize many normal financial transactions by alleging even the most tenuous connection to the funding of terrorism or other illegal activity. Federal prosecutors recently used the PATRIOT Act's money laundering provision against Las Vegas officials accused of taking bribes from a strip club owner. And as illustrated by the indictment of University of Alabama booster Logan Young, derivative crime laws can be used to transform a single offense into several, allowing prosecutors to pile on charges in a way that encourages a guilty plea.
    I know it's tedious to read example after example, but I think that if these people had to endure prison in our name (which is, BTW, the nature of a federal prosecution), the least we can do is read about their fate.

    The Hansens (who made the mistake of going into the plastics business) went to federal prison for years because an employee slipped in contaminated water. He wasn't injured, but that didn't matter:

    Consider the case of Christian Hansen and his son Randall, owners and operators of the Georgia-based LCP Chemicals and Plastics. In 2001 the Hansens were convicted of more than 30 environmental violations, including offenses under the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Recovery and Compensation Liability Act. The elder Hansen was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while his son was sentenced to four years. Even though only one employee testified to slipping in contaminated wastewater (but reported no resulting injury), the Hansens were convicted of endangering the health and safety of employees, among many other charges.

    Perhaps the most disturbing feature of prosecutions like this one is that federal regulatory statutes such as the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act impose criminal liability on the basis of negligence and do not require any culpable intent by the accused. The Supreme Court has determined that certain "public welfare" offenses can trigger criminal sanctions without a showing of criminal intent, recklessness, or even knowledge of the violation. Thus, Congress can impose harsh criminal penalties on business owners and supervisors who have no knowledge of or control over regulatory violations that may occur at their firms.

    Environmental regulations, antitrust laws, securities regulations, and a host of other federal laws aimed at nonviolent, nonpredatory behavior the government wants to discourage illustrate how far we have moved from the traditional view of crime as deliberate wrongdoing. Only intentional crimes against people or their property should be subject to criminal penalties. If the Hansens' environmental violations merited sanctions, they should have been civil, not criminal. And if Edward Hanousek, the railroad supervisor mentioned at the beginning of this article, was negligent in overseeing the independent contractor who accidentally spilled oil into a river, whatever harm resulted should have been addressed in a civil proceeding, requiring payment for cleanup or restoration of the waterway.

    Back to Glenn, who thinks we should cut back on criminalization itself:
    ...the most important decision is the decision whether to prosecute. But while we've larded criminal procedure with due process, the decision to prosecute -- or not -- is almost entirely discretionary on the part of prosecutors. We either need to cut back on the criminalization (my first choice) or start cabining prosecutorial discretion.
    I agree. The problem with relying on discretion is that it lends itself to completely arbitrary rule, and with everything being illegal, it's just a question of whether the government feels like prosecuting you. And as Reason points out, there's no practical remedy for abuse of prosecutorial discretion, because prosecutors enjoy a legal presumption that they acted fairly:
    Courts consistently have rejected constitutional challenges by defendants complaining of selective prosecution. The federal prosecutor did not have to explain why he chose to prosecute Palmer but not Roberts for essentially the same conduct. Prosecutors enjoy a legal presumption that they exercise their discretion soundly, making their decisions almost entirely unreviewable. Even if the federal prosecutor had chosen to prosecute Palmer but not Roberts because he personally disliked Palmer, there would be no remedy for that abuse of discretion.
    I won't mince words here. The whole federal system has become monstrous and tyrannical.

    Especially in the wrong hands.

    posted by Eric at 07:00 PM | Comments (5)

    Being fair can be so unfair!

    Speaking of a lack of virginity, the last thing I am interested in is David Letterman's sex life. (No really. Do I have to explain why?)

    Just thought I'd point that out in case I'm accused of deliberately avoiding it. This is not to say that I'm in any way supportive of sexual harassment; even when I owned a nightclub business and employees as well as wannabe employees were offering themselves to me, I never, ever succumbed to temptation. Yes, I am human, and subject to human temptations. Of course, that might end; they say that when I'm 96 years old, sex with robots will finally become a reality. But as I pointed out before, it might be too late.

    Anyway, the reason I never took advantage of my position of, um, "power" was that I thought it might interfere with business efficiency, and I think the Letterman scandal provides proof of that. Certainly he brought much of this on himself with the attacks on Sarah Palin's personal life. What did he expect? That his critics would ignore an opportunity dropped in their lap? Fair is fair.

    Then of course there's the double standard. A conservative sex scandal means that conservatives are profoundly evil and bad and most of all hypocritical!

    A liberal sex scandal means that all people are human and so we must forgive. Liberals, of course, get the benefit of at least being forgiven by other liberals. Conservatives are generally forgiven by no one. Well, maybe they're forgiven by annoying libertarians like me, but they're never forgiven by liberals, nor are they forgiven by their own "side."

    Not only does this lead to a common stereotype of conservatives as unforgiving people, but it sets up liberals to be seen as forgiving, when they're anything but.

    However, because of this seeming mutual agreement by both sides, unless you're one of them (as is Letterman), you will not be forgiven. For reasons that aren't clear to me, this double standard is actually seen as fair.

    I think fair double standards are the unfairest double standards of all.

    posted by Eric at 11:41 AM | Comments (1)

    time to unwind with the restoration movement

    What do vinyl records, slow food, mechanical watches, cloth diapers (and the more primitivistic diaperless movement), as well as what I think is the latest example (linked by Glenn Reynolds yesterday) -- running barefoot -- have in common?

    The old way was better? Bring back lost innocence? Things that evoke a return to simpler, more innocent times have enormous appeal, and while the modern glorification of primitive technology is not necessarily Luddism, the sentimental thinking involved reminds me of the noble savage meme. Back in the 1930s, people used to carry on about how silent films were... "better." While the YouTube video I saw at Ann Althouse's blog doesn't make the claim that the early Internet was "better," the popularity of the video is, I think, grounded in a yearning for the lost innocence -- and hopefully the restoration of -- earlier, supposedly better, times.

    Hey, where it comes to love of innocence, I'm equally guilty! Not only do I like the anachronistic Grateful Dead, but my favorite music of all is the Doowop music of the early 1960s, just before the British invasion. I might not be fanatic enough to demand hearing it on the original 45 RPM records (much less virgin vinyl), though. Any old MP3 file (or even RA file) will do.

    The love-of-the-unspoiled, natural-innocence phenomenon cuts across the political spectrum. Before the meme was debunked, spotted owls were once said to prefer "virgin" forests, as if they knew whether evil mankind had already taken something from the previous generation of trees.

    If we carry this into the personal, sexual realm, what about virginity restoration? Not only is there such a movement in the United States, but various clinics offer surgery. But more and more women maintain that there is such a thing as "reclaimed" virginity. Or "secondary renewed" virginity.

    Are these people merely fooling themselves? It's not my concern, and I don't see why this or any other sexual matter is the business of anyone other than the people involved. It's really of no concern to me that people might fetishize mechanical watches, even virgin "movements," so why should I care whether someone wants to restore a ruptured hymen? I hope they're not feeling pressured, though, because according to one website with a high Google ranking, the loss of virginity is often caused by "peer pressure." If that is so, it strikes me that substituting one form of peer pressure for another might not lead to true independence. But that's just me, and I have an admitted, probably anachronistic desire for that ever elusive thing called "independence."

    I can certainly understand why ceasing to have sex could lead to increased feelings of independence, but it seems to me that calling abstinence or chastity "virginity" does not make it so. Ceasing to ring a bell simply cannot "unring" it.

    In Europe, Muslim women are having the restorative surgery and then purchasing virginity certificates:

    Wrobel is one of an unknown number of gynecologists in France who are willing to repair hymens, the membrane usually broken by the first act of sexual intercourse. He was one of few doctors willing to talk about it.

    Wrobel says women come to him having convinced themselves that the procedure will somehow reverse the irreversible. "They tell me, 'I'll be a virgin again. You will make me a virgin,' which in reality is totally false .... It's a secret we share."

    Other doctors issue false virginity certificates or offer such tricks as spilling a vial of blood on the sheets to fool families into believing the bride has passed their purity bar.

    Virginity has traditionally been prized across religions and cultures. Doctors note that only a few generations ago, European non-Muslim brides also had to furnish documentary "proof" of chastity.

    In France today, with an estimated 5 million Muslims - the largest such population in western Europe - it's part of the larger question of how to deal with cultural clashes ranging from head scarves in schools to sexual segregation in swimming pools.

    A 2005 government report addressing culture clashes in hospitals, which was issued a year after Muslim head scarves were banned from classrooms, briefly mentions the virginity issue, asking doctors to refuse to issue false certificates.

    Isabelle Levy, author of "Religion in the Hospital," decries both certificates and hymen repair, saying deception "increases the moral suffering."

    Well, it might. Surgery followed by "virginity certification" is a form of lying, especially if such a thing matters to a spouse, and it hardly seems like the basis for an honest and open relationship. OTOH, men who regard women as mere chattel are probably more concerned with their value and status (which would seemingly be increased) than honesty or openness.

    I don't know whether it's the Kaelian principle, but I don't know anyone into virginity restoration. But I think I can understand the appeal, and it ought not surprise anyone that entrepreneurs in Asia have come up with the closest thing possible to a virginity restoration kit:

    No more worry about losing your virginity. With this product, you can have your first night back anytime. Insert this artificial hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate, it will ooze out a liquid that look like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable. Its easy to use, clinically proven non-toxic to human and has no side effects, no pain to use and no allergic reaction.
    I can't help notice that while it is being marketed as a sex toy, it is causing a great deal of consternation in the Mideast.
    Conservative Egyptian lawmakers have called for a ban on imports of a Chinese-made kit meant to help women fake their virginity and one scholar has even called for the "exile" of anyone who imports or uses it.

    The Artificial Virginity Hymen kit, distributed by the Chinese company Gigimo, costs about $30. It is intended to help newly married women fool their husbands into believing they are virgins -- culturally important in a conservative Middle East where sex before marriage is considered by many to be illicit. The product leaks a blood-like substance when inserted and broken.

    Gigimo advertises shipping to every Arab country. But the company did not answer e-mails and phone calls seeking comment on whether it had orders from Egypt or other parts of the Middle East.

    Um, I can see why. A number of men in Asia are turned on by virginity, but because it's a sexual fetish with them, it's not so much real virginity they want as the appearance of it. Like men who pay prostitutes to dress as school girls, or gay men who fetishize having sex with "police officers."

    Which leads to the inevitable but unpleasant question.

    Is there a difference between real fake and fake fake?

    Women in the Mideast are looking for the "real" variety of fake virginity, because they genuinely want to pass themselves off as virgins. That is clearly not the idea behind the product, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Chinese manufacturers find the Mideast attitude confusing. From a purely business standpoint, it certainly wouldn't be their target market, because if you think about it, the goal is always repeat business, and women who seek "real" virginity restoration would in most cases only need the product for their wedding night, but not again. The real money is in the girls seeking repetitive fakery. The fake fakes.

    Hmmm.... Am I reversing things? Maybe the fake fakes are more real than the real fakes.

    This hall of mirrors thinking is all too much for me, as I only learned about this last night.

    Anyway, the Egyptian Brotherhood is pissed, and it all started because of Radio Netherlands:

    The fracas started when a reporter from Radio Netherlands broadcast an Arabic translation of the Chinese advertisement of the product. That set off fears of conservative parliament members that Egyptian women might start ordering the kits.

    Sheik Sayed Askar, a member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who is on the parliamentary committee on religious affairs, said the kit will make it easier for Egyptian women to give in to temptation. He demanded the government take responsibility for fighting the product to uphold Egyptian and Arab values.

    I'm assuming the latter are incompatible with Netherlands values.

    I do not mean to be facetious. In the Mideast, people are quite willing to kill each other over this stuff.

    Prominent Egyptian religious scholar Abdel Moati Bayoumi said anyone who imports the artificial hymen should be punished.

    "This product encourages illicit sexual relations. Islamic culture forbids these relations except within the confines of marriage," Bayoumi said. "I think this should absolutely not be allowed to be exported because it brings more harm than benefits. Whoever does it (imports it) should be punished."

    In a country and a region where pre-marital sex is so taboo it can even lead to a woman's murder, the debate over the virginity-faking kit has revived Egypt's constant struggle to reconcile modern mores with more traditional beliefs -- namely, that a woman is not a virgin unless she bleeds after the first time.

    Thanks to the Internet, the product's very existence is publicly known, and said to be threatening the country's existence.
    The product is also causing a buzz on Egyptian blogs and news sites.

    "If this thing enters Egypt, the country is going to go to waste. God protect us," commented a reader on the Web site of Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabie.

    Marwa Rakha, an author and blogger who writes about dating issues, sees the product as a tool of empowerment for women in a macho Arab culture that restricts women's sexual urges but turns a blind eye to men galavanting.

    "It sticks it in the face of every male hypocrite," she said.

    But sticking it in the face of male hypocrites was not the idea behind the product!

    The idea was to offer a product that would turn men on.

    Or is there something wrong with that? (Some say yes, some say no, so I have to ask.)

    Back to the joys of mechanical watches:

    These timepieces give back to us that visual splendour of a beautiful work of art. Its very beating heart laid bear by the window into its soul, allows us to gaze upon it in wonderment at the intricacies of its moving micro-organs. The graceful sweep of the seconds hand enthrals the best of us. The rapid beat of the tick-a-tick-a quickens our own pulse. And aahh, the quiet whirr of the rotor as we swing our arms What do you call this, but pleasure of the highest order, from its existence on your wrist? What better feedback can we ask for? This and the comforting feeling that they will be by our sides faithful companions sharing our lives and experiences being there with us for a long time to come. Something that we cannot say for sure with the quartz. Once their life is up, they will fall by the wayside.

    It is the same with a winding watch our careful, gentle, loving ministrations in our ritual winding coaxes it to life. It is our own special time that we spend with it every day. And oooh that feel of a Patek winding experience deliciously smooth and creamy, coming together with that fine pitched ratcheted sound tactile ECSTASY!

    And you wonder why you can't explain your love!

    No, I've long since ceased wondering.

    Come to think of it, I ceased wondering about the same time I ceased winding.

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (9)

    Why I like the Tea Partiers

    One reason is that signs like this amuse me.

    Tea Party sign.jpg

    Via Robert Bidinotto, who blogs here.

    UPDATE: Here are more signs that also amused me:


    But I might as well be honest and point out that while the above might look like conventional Tea Partiers, they are actually angry gay rights protestors in Beverly Hills, California.

    What this means is that henceforth, all "Teabagger" remarks shall be considered homophobic!

    (A word to the wise for Anderson Cooper and company...)

    posted by Eric at 06:31 PM | Comments (4)

    A Copenhagen Interpretation

    It appears that there will be no anti-plant food (CO2) bill from Congress in time for the anti-plant food summit in Copenhagen this December. Carol Browner, head of the EPA, says so.

    "Obviously, we'd like to be through the process, but that's not going to happen," Browner said. "I think we would all agree the likelihood you would have a bill signed by the president on comprehensive energy by the time we go early in December is not likely."
    Why not? Well the bills would require cutting America's CO2 production by about 20% in ten years.

    Something that is logistically impossible. So is Congress giving in to logistics? Of course not. They are giving in to those who do not want to see drastic rises in their electric, gas, and oil bills and those who do not want to see rolling electrical black outs.

    Carol does get a good whine in about the situation.

    Browner said the U.S. could still take a leading role at the Copenhagen talks, even without a new climate law.

    "We will go to Copenhagen and manage with whatever we have," she said.

    Which is nothing. Which corresponds exactly to what she should have.

    What should believers in CO2 catastrophe be doing? Working on energy sources that produce no CO2 output. And not just working on them. They have to get the costs below the costs of our current sources of energy. Once that happens no laws or subsidies will be required to make the transition happen. Profit will make it happen. You know. Markets and capitalism.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:01 PM | Comments (5)

    Was everything really "deregulated"? So why do we all have to pay?

    While I have nothing against morality per se, sometimes an overabundance of morality can get in the way of analysis, and this is especially true in economic analysis.

    So, while I'd like to say that I think that the biggest problem with capitalism is socialism, these concepts are so dripping with morality that it's tough to talk about them in objective terms. The fact that capitalism is said to be "greedy" (think widows and orphans evicted at Christmas time), or that socialism and Communism are responsible for the deaths of 100 million people -- these things connected to the isms are emotional and tend to get in the way of efficacious discussions of what is going on.

    Even calling a free or unregulated market "capitalism" is problematic, as it is imitative of the Marxist approach. Communism is an "ism," and multiple volumes are devoted to what it is, and how to implement it. The word "capitalism" is largely a Marxist meme, and it distorts the idea of an unregulated marketplace into something that becomes a system, with planners, managers, economists, MBAs, CEOs, CFOs, and finally government bureaucrats -- who become collectively those who control "Capitalism."

    I know I am a curmudgeonly person who hates change, and I often doubt whether I am a "conservative," but I can't help notice the way "deregulation" has become a dirty, almost evil word. Things have reached the point now where if you talk about the desirability of the free market, and complain about government regulation, people will roll their eyes as if you're hopelessly out of touch with reality. That's because we all know what deregulation did, don't we?

    Think about deregulation. What does it really mean? That something was regulated, and the regulations were eliminated or loosened. But in a true free market setting, there would be no need to talk in terms of deregulation, because there would have been little or no government regulation of the marketplace to begin with.

    What really bothers me, though, is the way the current economic crisis is being spun as having been caused by deregulation (especially deregulation of the banking system) having run wild. In logic, this boils down to seeing the free market as the culprit, and the freer the market is, the more dangerous things will be. Naturally, the way out of this mess is to regulate, regulate, and re-regulate. As to the other side, people seem too intimidated to speak up. Almost like the deer caught in the headlights syndrome -- as if they believe the lie that they and their free market ideas are to blame.

    They are not only being given a severe scolding, but they are taking it as if they deserve it. They are acting like a group of errant husbands caught by their wives at an orgy. Not to dwell on sexual matters again, but I worry about psychological factors sometimes, and I think the dynamics of what I've called "economic hedonism" are similar. And the way the word "deregulation" is being used in a blatantly Puritanical manner, it clearly denotes economic hedonism. Seriously, it's as if they're saying, "Your orgy is over and now the whole country has AIDS!"

    As Paul Krugman is fond of saying, the "grownups" now need to be in charge!

    I'm no economist, but the problem is that deregulation is being seen in a vacuum, without reference to the bigger picture, and I think the bigger picture was influenced -- possibly even dominated -- by something worse than regulation.

    I refer to the complete absence of any standards. Not long ago, Glenn Reynolds made a nostalgic reference to the stuffy uptightness of old-fashioned bankers:

    You know, we may just find that all those "stuffy" and "uptight" traits that old-fashioned bankers used to be mocked for were actually a good thing. . . .
    Truer words have never been spoken and I've blogged about this before. It used to be that you had to actually qualify for a loan. You had to demonstrate income, creditworthiness, equity in the home, that the downpayment wasn't borrowed, etc. before the stuffy uptight pinstriped guys would even think about giving you a loan. It was good that they were uptight. The "system" (for lack of a better word) worked.

    So, what made these stuffy uptight guys decide they could get away with ditching the old uptight unfair standards that said (among other things) that some people are more worthy of getting loans than others?

    The answer, as most of us know, is the government. It wasn't as if these guys just stripped off their pinstripes and dove into the economic orgy room; they did something that's really perfectly in character for stuffy uptight guys -- they did as they were told. And they were told not to ever under any circumstances do anything that might in any way be interpreted by anyone at ACORN to have so much as a smidgen of an appearance of anything resembling discrimination. (A word denoting pure, unmitigated evil.)

    Bad as the loss of banking standards might be, it's not what I think is the overarching problem.

    In my view, the biggest the loss of standards came in the form of the all-encompassing government guarantee. It was a gigantic blank check, and it operated to cover all sins. That no bank could ever be allowed to fail, and every mortgage would be backed by big daddy at FANNIE and FREDDIE meant that there really was no downside to anything, whether deliberate irresponsibility or government-mandated irresponsibility. The taxpayers would be responsible.

    This may be many things, and it may of course be profoundly immoral, but to call it "deregulation" or "an excess of the free market" is absurd.

    To illustrate how absurd it is, imagine if schools were mandated (under the theory that grades were evil and discriminatory) to make it Impossible To Fail, so that henceforth, no one would fail and everyone would get an A. Eventually, teachers would have no incentive to teach, students would have no incentive to learn, and the educational system itself would fail.

    No failure thus would mean universal failure.

    I realize grades are not an economic issue, so let's stick with the blank check analogy until we carry it to the point of absurdity, by applying it to every person and all economic activity within the United States.

    Every person gets an unlimited blank check in the form of a government account (the social security account number will do), on which he is allowed to write checks for anything he wants in unlimited amounts, with the taxpayers simply all footing the bill owing all money on behalf of each other. While this might initially be good for the economy, it would not take long for total bankruptcy to set in, and the very predictable result would be that the government would simply own everything.

    By any stretch of the imagination could such an insane "system" be called "deregulation" or the "free market"? I don't see how, and I think that once anything is backed by a blank check, what you get is a very sinister form of regulation which quite insidiously doesn't seem like regulation; it seems like the very opposite.

    When people (or entities like banks) are given government guarantees, that amounts to a blank check which will transform virtually anything they do into what I believe economists would call "risk averse" activity. Meaning that from a free market perspective there is no downside to them. It may be everyone else's downside, but it is not their downside. Because ultimately, it is not their money that's at risk.

    It is the height of dishonesty to characterize their behavior as the "free market." There is nothing free about being underwritten by the government, and because taxpayers are forced to foot the bill, it is in fact a profound distortion of the market. A market operating on money which people were forced by the government to pay in cannot be called free. And on a personal level, if I am given a financial guarantee that the taxpayers will be forced to bail me out of anything I do, nothing I do with that money (a guarantee is virtually money) is free, and it is absurd to characterize my behavior as the result of "deregulation."

    I wish they'd be nice and stop calling it that.

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

    Your comments are invited, agree or disagree.

    By the way, since I mentioned Paul Krugman remarks about putting "grownups" in charge, I thought it's worth noting that he's still quote fond of characterizing his opponents as children. From his October 5 column:

    ...the modern conservative movement, which dominates the modern Republican Party, has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.
    To bed without supper, you bad bad children!

    AND MORE: I'm not a shrink, but I'd love it if someone could explain what makes Krugman feel so certain that he is the adult in this equation. There's just something about his repeated insistence that his critics are a bunch of children that has a seventh-grade sound to it.

    MORE: Commenter Dana correctly points out that I should have said "risk indifferent" instead of "risk averse":

    A certain degree of risk aversion is normal and rational. Risk indifferent is what you become when you have a sugar daddy giving you blank checks.
    Absolutely right.

    Of course, having a blank check removes normal risk aversion from the equation.

    posted by Eric at 01:51 PM | Comments (21)

    Since I can't learn history I'll have to kill it!

    Sometimes I get so sick of the Internet that I want to kill it.

    As a perfect example of my frustration, I have been plagued by Firefox slowdowns which have grown steadily worse since I was forced to largely stop using Internet Explorer. This started with sluggishness whenever I tried to type URLs in the Firefox URL location bar, and then the sluggishness got worse and worse (such problems don't get better over time, do they?) and finally it spread to serious sluggishness whenever I enter text anywhere, including Google search terms.

    My temper finally reached the boiling point when I found that I could no longer write blog posts in a normal manner in Firefox. I try typing something, and I can enter as many as ten characters without them appearing at all! They appear a few seconds later. Maddening.

    Worrying that it might be a virus or a RAM problem, as a comparison experiment I opened bad old Internet Explorer (an old, outmoded version which caused so many problems I had to switch to Firefox). IE was totally normal, and characters I entered appeared immediately, just as quick as a whip!

    So I Googled and found a long discussion of my problem here. Apparently, I need to clear my history. The problem is, I don't want to clear my history, as I'll lose passwords and all that crap I don't remember.

    But no problem! They say that all I need to do is download and run something called "MozillaHistoryView" and run it:

    Export Firefox Browsing History
    1. Download MozillaHistoryView and run it.
    2. You can either export it to text or HTML format. For HTML format, go to View and select "HTML Report - All Items". For text file, go to Edit and click on Select All. Then go to File and select Save Selected Items.
    There's of course a lot of other inevitable bullshit I have to do, which is bad enough, but when I went to the site they link to download "MozillaHistoryView" I was told that the site is dangerous!
    This Web page has been identified as Dangerous.

    What you can do:
    For your own safety, please close this web browser window now and never return to this website.
    If you still want to see this blocked page:

    1. Launch Trend Micro Internet Security console.
    2. Click Internet & Email Controls.
    3. Click the Settings... link under Protection Against Web Threats.
    4. Click the Approved websites link in the next window that opens.
    5. Copy and paste the address of the blocked website into the list.

    Sorry, but that's all too much trouble. I don't want to have to reconfigure my effing anti-virus just to download a single file which might as well be a virus anyway.... So, I Googled "MozillaHistoryView" and found it at a CNET download site, which seemed trustworthy.

    I installed it, ran it, and guess what? MozillaHistoryView itself hangs! So there's no way to save a backup of my history or anything, and I had to go through a long and stupid process just to turn off the stupid MozillaHistoryView.

    When we were cave men, we could just kill stuff when we got pissed.

    Looks like I'm going to have to kill my history without ever being able to save it.

    It's so sad, but so typical.

    MORE: This touches on something I find deeply disturbing, which is that I don't like change.

    In a normal, logical, real world, not liking change would tend to make me a conservative. But in a world where conservative means sticking with the dysfunctional Internet Explorer until it dies and progressive means putting all your eggs in the new Firefox until it dies, it's all about having to change, and the idea of simply being left alone and continuing to do what you always did is laughably unrealistic.

    Perhaps "conservative" is a poor choice of words for those who find change annoying. I'm thinking that "curmudgeon" might be more like it. Frankly, I find it annoying to be told that I am an "elitist" for not listening to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.

    Fortunately, no one will judge me by my browser preferences.

    posted by Eric at 09:47 AM | Comments (10)

    A New Movie

    I'm told Michael Moore has a new movie out that is anti-capitalist.

    And he charges people to see it.

    I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:42 AM | Comments (1)

    "having children changes things"

    That is what I have been told repeatedly -- both by commenters I don't know at all and by friends like M. Simon, who recently said, "Where I might have given Jennings a pass as a single as a parent I'm not comfortable with him."

    Of course, I never said I was comfortable with him. Rather, my complaint is that I don't think he is being treated fairly, nor do I think his background as a gay activist inherently disqualifies him.

    Beyond that I think the debate over the man's qualifications carries with it an implicit admission that we NEED a safe schools czar -- the argument being over who should be heading another useless, intrusive federal agency. Thus (and quite ironically) the culture war once again hoodwinks the right into unwittingly acknowledging the legitimacy of something that they might otherwise dispute. Might as well argue over who gets to be in charge of putting the condoms on bananas....

    But the larger point is certainly worth discussing. Does having children change one's views?

    Where it comes to thinking what I think I tend to be a proud person, and I don't like the idea that my thinking could change because I fathered a child. But OTOH, familiarity with certain issues does lend itself to holding opinions based on experience in a way that a lack of familiarity does not. For example, I am familiar with dogs, as I have owned, bred, and raised many dogs, for many years. If someone who has never owned a dog shot off his mouth about dogs in a way that indicated a lack of familiarity, I would not hesitate to point out that he simply did not know what he was talking about. And I have not raised children, so I am not in a position of experience in that regard. Not that I'm trying to tell anyone how to raise their child, but I'm certainly not as qualified as someone who has.

    But this reminded me of some wonderful childless heterosexual neighbors I had, who agreed with me about drug legalization, but who told me that when they debated their issue with friends who were parents, they were told in no uncertain terms, "If you had children you would feel differently."

    Would they? It's bad enough to think that having a little brat would change my attitude towards sex, but I'd hate to think that I'd be forced to change what I think about drugs too!

    Who are these people, these diaper-wearing fascists? And what gives them such power over their parents' political thinking?

    And suppose for the sake of argument that the government wasn't involved in the parenting process. Would having children still change things?

    posted by Eric at 06:02 PM | Comments (15)

    WB-8 Contract Progress

    The US Navy has just published a Justification and Award for EMC2's Polywell Fusion Reactor experiment.

    The highlights:

    * The award is for $10 million
    * WB-8.0 report to be delivered 30 March 2010
    * WB-8.1 report to be delivered 30 March 2012

    The WB-8.1 effort is contingent on success with WB-8.0 experiments.

    What does all this mean? It is possible that there has been much more progress than was expected. You can read about the expected progress at: We Will Know In Two Years. That was published in May of 2009. The minimum time expected for results when that was published was 18 months which would have been November of 2010. Actual time from the prediction to the end of the WB-8.0 contract is 10 months. Of course this is speculative. It may be that we won't know until March of 2012. Which would make the actual time line almost three years and not two.

    You can read some of my previous posts on the WB-8 contract at:

    Polywell Gets The Dough

    The Boys At Talk-Polywell Have Struck Paydirt

    WB-8 In The Works

    And if you are not familiar with fusion in general or Polywell in particular may I suggest:

    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 Polywell basics.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit readers.

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

    "You have to eliminate it"

    While I can't believe that anyone would take another movie by America-hating hypocrite Michael Moore seriously, apparently some people are. The film has been gushingly praised by Arianna Huffington, who wants President Obama to see it, and I find it typical of Moore's intellectual perfidy that he starts the film out by resorting to "a brilliantly edited montage equating our current state of despair with the fall of ancient Rome." (Gee, that sounds familiar! Almost like a wet dream from Pat Buchanan and the rest of the folks at WorldNetDaily; what a shame for them that Moore happens to be on the other "side.")

    Michael Moore is living proof of an important lesson I've learned over the years. There is no such thing as "demolishing" or "debunking" anyone. Certainly not in blog posts. Like mold growing on a basement wall, the man comes back again and again.

    Needless to say, because Moore is a Communist, the film is little more than crass, undisguised advocacy of Communism:

    ...there are calls for armed revolution delivered in Moore's trademark singsong, Bolshie bedtime-story voice. The movie ends with Moore telling us, "Capitalism is evil, and you cannot regulate evil. You have to eliminate it." Then he plays the bloodthirsty Soviet national anthem "The Internationale."

    They've already tried precisely the kind of eliminationism of evil that Moore advocates, and over 100 million people were eliminated.

    It's nice to have another reminder of what side Moore is on.

    Back in the day (when I imagined people like Moore could be debunked) I used to dedicate beheading videos to him.

    But what are a few beheadings compared to the massive glories of Communist eliminationism?

    So, in his honor, a lovely video of his favorite song!

    MORE: If this report is any indication, the movie is not doing well at the box office.

    Boo effing hoo.

    MORE: Mhy thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all (especially those who worry about eliminationist rhetoric, a subject of longstanding concern here).

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 12:17 AM | Comments (43)

    Is Kevin Jennings Fit For Office?

    Eric asks that in his recent post on Kevin Jennings in response to my post on Kevin Jennings (for sure the Google rankings are going up now). He says something to the effect of: "is it good to be demonizing Jennings because of one incident between a boy and an older man which on the face appeared to be consensual?" The question revolved around "should Jennings have reported the incident?" as appeared to be required by law? And further should that lack of reporting disqualify him from office?

    I quoted Atlas Shrugs in my discussion who herself quoted some folks I'm not entirely comfortable with (rather an understatement). To put it plainly - the folks Atlas quotes don't like gays. And they don't like them a lot. Atlas makes it clear that is not her view. She just has a problem with Jennings being appointed to be the Safe Schools "Czar" in the Dept. of Education. In that respect I'm with Atlas despite the people she quotes.

    Well needless to say I don't like it when Eric and I disagree. Besides his tolerating me on his blog (for which I am grateful) I consider him a friend.

    So after I cooled down a bit on the subject I thought I'd look into it further. Was Jennings really just trying to protect gay kids (a very good thing IMO) or did he have another agenda?

    My looking turned up this article in The Washington Examiner.

    But failure to report what appeared to be a case of statuatory rape of a child may be the least of Jennings' worries. Lori Roman of Regular Folks United points to statements by Jennings a decade or more ago when he praised Harry Hay of the North American Association for Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which promotes the legalization of sexual abuse of young boys by older men.

    Roman provides damning details and links here. She also notes that Jennings wrote the forward "to a book called Queering Elementary Education. And another fellow you may have heard of wrote one of the endorsements on the book jacket--Bill Ayers." Ayers, of course, is the Weather Underground bomber from the 1960s who is just an "acquaintance" of Obama.

    You can get the links from the Examiner article.

    I dunno. I could be all wrong. But it seems to me that endorsing sex between old guys and young boys is no better than endorsing sex between old guys and young girls. Now if Jennings was making music or performing some other useful service I suppose he could be forgiven for his opinions. But in the job for which he has been appointed opinions and attitudes are all he has to offer. And I have to say I'm not comfortable with him in that position.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:25 PM | Comments (7)

    Can a "child" make a "mistake" deliberately?

    The Secret Service has closed its investigation of the Facebook poll asking whether President Obama should be assassinated:

    WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service has determined that a juvenile was behind the online survey that asked whether people thought President Barack Obama should be assassinated, an agency spokesman said Thursday.

    No criminal charges will be filed against the juvenile or the juvenile's parents, spokesman Edwin Donovan said. Donovan would not identify the names of the child or parents or say where they are from.

    The poll, posted Saturday on Facebook, was taken off the popular social networking site quickly after company officials were alerted to its existence. But, like any threat against the president, Secret Service agents took no chances.

    The poll asked respondents "Should Obama be killed?" The choices: No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.

    After Secret Service agents met with the child and the child's parents, they determined there was no intent to harm the president.

    "Case closed," Donovan said. "I guess you could characterize it as a mistake."

    OK, I guess everyone makes mistakes, including the "juvenile" who is being called a "child," but who of course has been assumed by countless people like the commenters here to be a Republican.

    How are we ever to know what he is or who his parents are? I mean, what if he's a 17 year old left wing agent provocateur whose parents are left wing activists?

    All we will ever know is that the author was a juvenile who made a mistake.

    Which leaves me with one stubborn question. If the Obama assassination poll was removed, and was a "mistake," then how come this group -- "We all Want To Kill George Bush" -- is still there?

    Is it there on purpose?

    posted by Eric at 04:08 PM | Comments (2)

    Cutthroats and Thieves

    It has been my observation that people who preach "working for the greater good" always wind up picking your pocket, imprisoning you, or worse. In general I prefer the company of cutthroats and thieves to ecclesiasticals. The thieves and cutthroats are more honest.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:39 PM | Comments (1)

    Just fooling around with blanks

    Hey suppose I asked "What do Bill Maher and [name omitted] have in common?"

    Because I said [name omitted] (who will remain blank), no one would know what I was talking about, so they would draw a complete blank. About Blank. What if I said that this Blank was having a huge blog war with another Blank. That both of these Blanks have well known policies of declaring absolute war against anyone who criticizes them. Would that make it clear who the blank was and why it is a fruitless and foolish endeavor to fill in the Blanks?

    If so, then let me restate the question.

    Q. What do Bill Maher and Blank have in common?

    A. Both claim to be libertarians!


    I know that's not funny, and jokes like that could get me in trouble with one or the other Blank faction, and I'd hate to be in trouble with the Blank faction just because I'm having fun fooling around with blanks.

    But would I have any defense against the Blanks if the joke happened to be true?

    Is that it? Are jokes supposed to be lies?

    Can't they be about lies?

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

    Flaky food for flaking off

    I am so not-in-the-mood for blogging that I feel like flaking out totally.

    But that wouldn't do, would it? I have a blog which is alive and which requires daily posts, and to not supply them is tantamount to negligence. Like having a fish tank (which I have) and neglecting to put food in it.

    Actually, the fish tank is a bad analogy for several reasons. One is that my readers will not starve. Two is that you can go a day or two without feeding fish and they'll be fine. Neglect a blog for two or three days, and it starts to look dead. (If you're the obsessive compulsive type, which many bloggers are, it starts to look dead after two or three hours.) Another difference is that fish are more tolerant of my flakiness than readers, and they couldn't care less what kind of mood I'm in and whether or not I feel like feeding them. They just gobble the food, which consists of big plastic bags full of fish flakes. Fancy that!

    But seeing that there are no fish flakes for readers, I thought I would do the flaky thing and simply upload YouTube videos.

    Here's Chuck Berry, performing a truly great version of one of my favorite Chuck Berry songs, "Let It Rock":

    And here's Jerry Garcia, doing Chuck Berry's song:

    Nothing political there, and there's no need for there to be.

    Surely no one could mount a politically-based objection to music? It's not as if Chuck Berry's sex life should matter to anyone. Or for that matter, Jerry Garcia's drug habit. I mean, I like both of those guys (and I truly loved Jerry Garcia), but surely that doesn't make them role models for me to follow, does it?

    It's not as if the Beatles were responsible for Art Linkletter's daughter taking LSD and jumping out the window, just because they took LSD and bragged about it....

    Why, I'm feeling so flaky that I don't think I should be held responsible for anyone doing anything because I did it.

    So, I would hardly pattern my sex life after Chuck Berry's sex life, nor would I pattern my recreational activities after Jerry Garcia's. But the thing is, I loved Jerry Garcia, and I can remember that when he got in legal trouble I was totally on his side, defended him against all criticism, and wished him the best. While he was a rock star (and I am sure had countless girls of all ages throwing themselves at him) I don't remember his ever managing to get into a sex scandal, least of all of the Chuck Berry variety. But if he had, I would have remained on his side and defended him to the best of my ability, even if I completely disapproved of what he had done. That may be irrational, but it has something to do with love (and maybe loyalty), and it would be a lot worse if the wrongdoer were a close friend or family member.

    Again, I'm glad none of this is political, for I'm so sick of such "politics" that I want to scream.

    Nice to have the opportunity to be flaky for a change.

    Last of all, some food via photo synthesis. When my plecostomus gets hungry, he chews on things, including his hermit crab:


    While it's plastic, it would not be accurate to call it a plastic plecostomus pacifier, because algae grows on it, and the fish eats the algae.

    That's another difference between an aquarium and a blog. No algae grows here, and there are no algae eaters. No real photosynthesis here.

    Only fake!

    MORE: When I edited the above I realized that I should have put "politics" in quotes, so I did.

    But I shouldn't've. Because it doesn't matter whether I think it should be politics or not. It is!

    posted by Eric at 12:49 PM | Comments (4)

    Chicago Loses Olympic Bid

    Cross Posted at Power and Control
    posted by Simon at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

    Should I just ignore it in the hope that it goes away?

    My biggest problem right now is that I can't stand Obama, but that has not translated into loving conservatism.

    Now, while that equation might not seem terribly problematic in itself, and it might even constitute remarking the obvious, there's an added dimension.

    While I may be wrong about this, it seems to me that conservatism is changing. Each day, it seems to be trying to become more, um, assertive. More muscular, if you will. That may be good and it may be bad, but for those of us who don't like conservatism, the more muscular it becomes, the harder it is to ignore.

    Has conservatism changed? Is it the kind of change that "change" produced?

    I don't have to go along with Obama's form of change, I don't see any reason why I should have to go along with conservatism's form of change. If I don't like left wing Alinskyism, why should I like right wing Alinskyism? If I don't like left wing ends-justify-the-means, by-any-means-necessary dishonesty, why should I like right wing ends-justify-the-means, by-any-means-necessary dishonesty? If I don't like left wing identity politics, why should I like right wing identity politics?

    Yes, this is getting repetitive. Change is tedious.

    I should try harder to ignore it in the hope that it goes away.

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

    I appreciate the comments, agree or disagree.

    The only thought I might add to this post is that while I'm a libertarian (and a conservative one at that), I also like to think of myself as a "civil societarian." That's a term coined by economist Arnold Kling, who once called himself that here. While Kling largely meant it as an economic term, he has also criticized impugning people's motives in debates, and I try to think of myself as a civil societarian in the sense of being civil. But these days, talking about the need to be civil is a good way to be called a wimp. Or worse.

    I am old enough to remember Ronald Reagan quite well, not only as President, but as Governor of California. In those days I was much further from being a conservative than I am now, and I am not exaggerating when I say that what drove the left absolutely bonkers about Reagan was the fact that he was a disarmingly nice, affable, avuncular guy -- a fact that even his worst enemies grudgingly acknowledged. He was a conservative who believed in a civil society, and in being civil. I think the fact that he won two elections plus the Cold War proves that not only is there nothing wimpy about civility, but that it might be an effective tactic, even worth emulating.

    MORE: My thanks to Dean Esmay for the link.

    Dean's interesting discussion makes me think that maybe I should have put quotation marks around the word "muscular."

    posted by Eric at 12:55 PM | Comments (87)

    Czars are bad enough, but gay czars?

    I had not wanted to write about (much less argue about) the rather tedious gay politician Kevin Jennings, but for reasons which elude me, I feel that my hand has been forced.

    Or has it? Should I be entitled to ignore issues that are raised here at my own blog? Do I have any duty to speak up? The reason I feel obligated is not because I want to start a debate, but because had I been a stranger and seen the post about Jennings, I might have made certain assumptions about this blog, and I probably would have made a peremptory decision not to come back. (Plus, I wouldn't want to lose all four of my gay readers, would I?)

    Anyway, as I noted in a comment, I think the position to which Jennings has been appointed should not exist, but I have read nothing about him which should disqualify him for office (as opposed to any other Obamanoid), and I think the attacks on him are largely because of his homosexuality and because he is outspokenly supportive of gay -- as opposed to other -- rights. He founded GLSEN, and he's reported as saying this:

    Twenty percent of people are hard-core fair-minded people. Twenty percent are hard-core bigots. We need to ignore the hard-core bigots, get more of the hard-core fair-minded people to speak up, and we'll pull that 60 percent ... over to our side. That's really what I think our strategy has to be. We have to quit being afraid of the religious right. We also have to quit -- ... I'm trying to find a way to say this. I'm trying not to say, '[F---] 'em!' which is what I want to say, because I don't care what they think! [audience laughter] Drop dead!9
    Sure, that's strong language, but if it's disqualifying for office, then most of us are.

    As to the idea that he is "promoting homosexuality," of course he is. Feminists promote feminism, black activists promote being-blackness. It's the nature of identity politics, and while I can't stand identity politics, I think he is being singled out because his critics dislike gay identity politics with a particular passion. (In purely First Amendment terms, promoting what you believe in is rather mundane.)

    Jennings is also reported to have not ratted on a teenager who confided in him that he'd cruised the T-rooms and picked up an older man. I wouldn't have either, and I don't think most people who understand the problems faced by gay teens would. Lending a sympathetic ear to a troubled teen and then not turning him in may be many things, but it is not pedophilia, and I don't even think it constitutes the promotion of homosexuality -- any more than the failure to rat a kid out who admits to smoking marijuana constitutes "promoting drug use."

    Personally, I think it would have been unconscionable to rat out that teenager to meddlesome bureaucratic investigators, and it might have even caused him to consider suicide. (I speak from my life experience.)

    Is the point debatable? Sure. But does it have to be my f-cking job? Why?

    I do think that if Jennings is unfit for office, then so are virtually all gay activists. Considering the way "gay activist" reduces itself in some circles to any publicly gay person involved in politics, the message here seems to be that gays should not be appointed to political office, period.

    If that's conservatism, then it's yet another reason to say I'll never be a conservative. In another post not worth writing.

    So f-ck them. And f-ck the czars.

    Even f-ck the gay czars.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: There is a question I find more interesting than Jennings, and that is whether the Polanski extradition is intended as a distraction from Jennings.

    I hope it isn't, because I thought the idea was that cynicism should be replaced by hope.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Scott Ott takes a different view of Jennings, and says his failure to rat on the kid was criminal negligence.

    If it was a crime, then the point about vetting is probably well taken, but I still think that reporting the kid that was described in that situation (who confided in someone he thought he could trust) would have been worse than not reporting him, and were I in the same position, not only I would never report him, but I'd prefer to be fired.

    Which means that at this rate I'll never make Czar...

    MORE: Regarding the assertion that the failure to report this constituted criminal negligence, unless my reading of the relevant Massachusetts statute is wrong, the penalty for non reporting is a fine, and there has to be "physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare including sexual abuse."

    Any...[public or private public school teacher]...who, in his professional capacity shall have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of eighteen years is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse inflicted upon him which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare including sexual abuse, or from neglect, including malnutrition, or who is determined to be physically dependent upon an addictive drug at birth, shall immediately report such condition to the department by oral communication and by making a written report within forty-eight hours after such oral communication; provided, however, that whenever such person so required to report is a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school or facility, he shall immediately either notify the department or notify the person in charge of such institution, school or facility, or that person's designated agent, whereupon such person in charge or his said agent shall then become responsible to make the report in the manner required by this section. Any such hospital personnel preparing such report, may take or cause to be taken, photographs of the areas of trauma visible on a child who is the subject of such report without the consent of the child's parents or guardians. All such photographs or copies thereof shall be sent to the department together with such report. Any such person so required to make such oral and written reports who fails to do so shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars. Any person who knowingly files a report of child abuse that is frivolous shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars.

    Said reports shall contain the names and addresses of the child and his parents or other person responsible for his care, if known; the child's age; the child's sex; the nature and extent of the child's injuries, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect, including any evidence of prior injuries, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect; the circumstances under which the person required to report first became aware of the child's injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect; whatever action, if any, was taken to treat, shelter, or otherwise assist the child; the name of the person or persons making such report; and any other information which the person reporting believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries; the identity of the person or persons responsible therefor; and such other information as shall be required by the department.

    Was the teenager "suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse"? He went out looking for sex, and apparently found it.

    Sorry, but for the life of me I'm having a tough time seeing this kid as the "victim" of an "abuser" he sought out. I think the Jennings case touches on something I'm hesitant to blog about lest I be misunderstood, but I think there's a serious underlying problem with the way teenage minors are routinely being treated as if they are actual children. They are not children.

    I'm not saying it should be legal to have sex with 15 year olds, but if a male of that age goes into, say, a Las Vegas brothel (in this case, it was a men's room of the sort where he knew homosexual activity was likely to be found), he is engaged in an adult activity -- every bit as much as if he shoots someone with a gun. To see him as a victim may be what the law dictates, but sorry, I think it is ridiculous. I will spare my readers a long post I could write about how some of my teenage peers used to victimize an older gay man by going to his place, beating him up, having sex with him, and stealing his drugs. They knew exactly what they were doing, and he went along with it because he was a masochistic old queen. To call him the abuser and them the victims is preposterous.

    I'm not saying that sort of thing should be legal, but "child abuse"? Spare me.

    And whether this "child" was sixteen also seems at least debatable. While I have not verified their claim (and cannot vouch for it) Media Matters claims to have proof that the "child" was 16 -- which is above the age of consent.

    Jennings was 24 at the time he failed to turn his student in.

    I don't like his politics, nor do I like the fact that the position he was given exists. But I think the way he's being treated as a pedophile stinks, and I find myself wondering whether his critics would be screaming the same way if he had failed to rat on a girl of the same age had she confided in him that she'd had an abortion or was on the pill.

    posted by Eric at 12:05 PM | Comments (5)

    I hate it when Cretins and Mongoloids violate my terms!

    You learn something every day, and I just learned something cool about Facebook:

    "The mere use of the word 'retard' is not a violation of terms of use."
    I'm 100% in favor of free speech, even when the speech in question is not within the rubric of my day-to-day vocabulary. I often get spontaneous, though, and I never stopped to think about whether I have referred to anyone as a "retard" recently. Grammatically, it's an odd noun, and a common term of derision when I was growing up, especially in school. Typically, the word would be invoked when someone would get exasperated over someone else's inability to understand a seemingly simple point -- and if my memory serves me correctly, the term was more likely to be used on the athletic field than in the classroom.

    Of course, as an adult I've heard it used more times in political reference than I care to remember. Bush retard draws nearly 1.5 million Google hits. Obama retard draws slightly fewer, even though he's the president now. But Bush moron and Obama moron are more popular.

    Now that I've been forced to think about it, it just so happens that in my day-to-day fits of pique and exasperation, I'm more likely to call people and things morons and moronic, as opposed to retarded. As to why, I dunno, as I never thunk about it before. Obviously, a moron is a person with a low IQ, and morons are usually considered at least slightly retarded, so there is a degree of overlap.


    I never knew it before, but even moron is now considered a "controversial term."

    Moron is a controversial term once used in psychology to denote a category of mental retardation.[1] The term was closely tied with the American eugenics movement.[2] Once the term became popularized, it fell out of use by the psychological community.
    That may represent a trend in language. Elitist professionals invent terms ("moron" is derived from Greek word moros, meaning "dull"), and if they fall into popular use, they cease to be the language of the elite, and therefore new terms have to be invented. However, people being the way they are, I suspect that finding clever ways to call people stupid will always be a popular pastime. And thus professional terms -- no matter how seemingly neutral or politically correct -- will tend to drift away from their origin as they become hijacked by ordinary people and used as terms of opprobrium. The meaning of words evolves according to the mechanism:
    The term "mental retardation" has itself now acquired some pejorative and shameful connotations over the last few decades due to the use of "retarded" as an insult. This may in turn have contributed to its replacement with expressions such as "mentally challenged" or "intellectual disability". While "developmental disability" may be considered to subsume other disorders (see below), "developmental disability" or "developmental delay" (for people under age 18), are generally considered more acceptable terms than "mental retardation" among members of the disability community.
    And, of course, "slow," "mentally handicapped," "mentally challenged," "feeble-minded," or even "intellectual disabled"can all be used to indicate disapproval or disagreement with the mental processes of other people.

    There will never be a shortage of ways to call idiots stupid.

    I may be showing my age here, but when I was a kid, an absolute favorite insult was to call someone a "Cretin." That word has fallen into such disfavor that it has withered away as an insult -- almost in direct proportion to the withering away of the underlying disease. Appropriately, its Communist usage has similarly withered away:

    'Parliamentary cretinism' is an incurable disease, an ailment whose unfortunate victims are permeated by the lofty conviction that the whole world, its history and its future are directed and determined by a majority of votes of just that very representative institution that has the honour of having them in the capacity of its members.
    So said one of Communism's founding bigots, Friedrich Engels.

    The word's actual history is fascinating:

    Cretin is the oldest and comes from a dialectal French word for Christian.[12] The implication was that people with significant intellectual or developmental disabilities were "still human" (or "still Christian") and deserved to be treated with basic human dignity. This term has not been used in any serious or scientific endeavor since the middle of the 20th century and is now always considered a term of abuse: notably, in the 1964 movie Becket, King Henry II calls his son and heir a "cretin." "Cretinism" is also used as an obsolescent term to refer to the condition of congenital hypothyroidism, in which there is some degree of mental retardation.
    I don't know why they left out the Ramones, but I thought they made an important contribution to the word's evolution -- along with a nod to the important historical principle that all good Cretins will in fact go to heaven!

    No seriously.

    Then there's "Mongoloid," musically immortalized by Devo:

    But then, if Mongoloid is a racist term because it associates a form of mental retardation with a race or even nationality, wouldn't "Cretin" be a form of anti-Christian bigotry?

    The anti-bigot bigots word police better get to work.

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (4)

    ACORN Is A Criminal Defendant

    ACORN is in big trouble in Harry Reid's home state, Nevada.

    A preliminary hearing Tuesday in the downtown Clark County courthouse has put ACORN on trial for the first time as a criminal defendant.

    Until now, prosecutions for voter registration fraud have focused on ACORN workers, and authorities have secured guilty pleas from several who admitted to falsifying voter registration forms.

    But when investigators from Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller's office raided the ACORN Las Vegas office, Ross says they found a paper trail that implicated the ACORN organization itself.

    "We came across policy manuals that outline their policy of creating a quota system, which is against the law," Miller told FOX News in an interview. "This, in fact, was something that was widespread and something the organization itself knew about, and it's important to hold the organization criminally accountable as opposed to the individual field directors."

    It just keeps getting worse for these folks. I wonder what ACORN lawyer and community organizer Mr. Obama has to say about this?

    Democrats used to say in the 2008 Campaign that "Jesus was a community organizer." I wonder if he ever condoned vote fraud? There is no record that he did. The record on ACORN being involved in vote fraud seems rather robust though.

    And ACORN is being hurt by one of its own (well not any more) who is grassing on them.

    At the preliminary hearing Tuesday, prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over the arcane regulations of voter registration. But the highlight of the proceedings was the testimony of Christopher Edwards, the 33-year-old former ACORN field director who has cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against the group.

    Edwards has begun to provide a view inside ACORN's operations, telling investigators about the Blackjack program in the Las Vegas office, which allegedly submitted the names of the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys as new voters.

    "It's Las Vegas, it's blackjack," Edwards testified, describing what he called the "Blackjack bonus," saying ACORN set a quota of 20 cards per day for workers, and 1,000 a week for the group's political organizers. Edwards described a huge sign in the ACORN office that read: "Blackjack Bonus, 21 cards, extra 5 dollars," and said the program was instituted with the approval of higher-ups.

    In fact, he said, other ACORN offices were jealous of the Blackjack program. Edwards said there were problems with payroll fraud at ACORN, noting that a Detroit voter registration director paid himself twice, falsely claiming he was also a canvasser.

    If ACORN loses its case it could lose its Nevada tax exempt status. And then there is the criminal probe in New York.

    What I wonder is when the SEIU comes in to the mix in a public way?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:56 AM | Comments (2)

    Kevin Jennings For Safe Schools

    Kevin Jennings, Obama's Safe Schools "Czar", is in the news. So I thought this bit from Atlas Shrugs might be of interest.

    President Obama has appointed Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) -- which sponsored the conference that produced the notorious "Fistgate" scandal (in which young teens were guided on how to perform dangerous homosexual perversions including "fisting") -- to head up "Safe Schools" efforts at the Department of Education. Jennings is a vicious, anti-religious bigot who once said "[F-k] 'em" to the "Religious Right." He supports promoting homosexuality and gender confusion as normative to even young students. He made that comment in a New York City church. TAKE ACTION: Urge your U.S. Congressman and Senators to call for the withdrawal of Jennings' appointment at the Education Department. Call Congress at 202-224-3121 or 202-225-3121. More here,
    You can't make this stuff up. Obama has appointed this radical to head up our "safe schools"? But who is going to keep kids safe from him? I have said this before: I don't care what you do in the bedroom - whatever rocks your boat, as long as it's two consenting adults, but don't bring it into the classroom. The left will twist this into some homophobic charge. I am not, and that is a fallacious argument. This is another terrible Obama choice. Do not traumatize children. Why can't the schools just teach reading, writing, arithmetic and civics? There is radical in every Obama appointee.
    Visit Atlas for more links and to read the rest of what she has to say.

    As to the Obama radicals. All we can do is to take them down one by one. If we can do one a month for the next 12 months it will definitely have an effect on the November elections.

    I'm still waiting for the expose on the SEIU. I believe it is just a matter of time.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:53 AM | Comments (5)

    Watch Out - Democrats Will Pass Their Health Care Bill

    The Democrats plan to pass their health care bill next Thursday.

    The Washington Post front page blares today: "Prospects for Public Option Dim in Senate." Don't believe it. Yes, the Senate Finance Committee did vote down two amendments that each would have added a government-run insurance plan to the committee's health care bill. But two key Democrats who voted against Sen. Jay Rockefeller's (D-WV) public plan, Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Tom Carper (D-DE), voted for Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) version.

    According to an independent analysis of Senate Democrat public statements on the public option, that raises the number of Democrats on record supporting a public option from 47 to 49. Moreover, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairmen of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, told the liberal "Bill Press Radio Show" yesterday that Democrats "comfortably" have the remaining votes to reach 51 and pass a public plan once the debate moves to the House floor.

    But what about Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus' (D-MT) claim yesterday that, "No one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes with a public option." That may be true, but it is also irrelevant. The question is not whether Democrats can muster 60 votes to pass Obamacare; they only need 51 votes to do that. The only time the number 60 will be relevant is when the Senate votes on whether to end debate and vote on the final bill. This is a separate question.

    If you don't like this may I suggest you contact these folks:

    House of Representatives

    The Senate

    And let them know your position.

    H/T Tea Party guy Robert Moon via e-mail.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:06 AM | Comments (0)

    Yes to blanket approval! Yes to unquestioning acceptance! But NO to federalized gay penguins!

    M. Simon sent me a link to a piece which makes some fascinating assertions about what otherwise appears to be a relatively simply piece of legislation (HR 3567), the operative text of which says this:

    For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State.
    That would require the federal government to recognize any valid marriage which a state recognizes, and it seems quite obvious to me that the intent is to include same sex marriages.

    But according to Kerry Jacoby, the statement I just made is a lie. A "complete lie," in fact:

    Now, the gay rights lobby is going to try to tell you that all this will only affect same-sex couples, and it won't bother your marriage or your family one little bit.

    But that, as well, is a complete lie. They wouldn't want it if it didn't have a more public effect. Because the goal is not to protect private behavior. The goal of the gay rights lobby is, and always has been, to change society and force it to accept their "lifestyle choice" as a legal and moral equivalent to traditional, heterosexual marriage -- or, as we've called it for thousands of years, "marriage."

    It is not enough to obtain the same rights and privileges that actual married couples have. It is not enough to have unique protections against perpetrators motivated by aversion to what from ancient times has been recognized in most cultures as aberrant sexual behavior. In addition, gay rights activists demand something that no other minority group is required to be given -- blanket approval of their behavior and unquestioning acceptance of their intellectual and moral arguments.

    Once this legislation passes, no state's individual Defense of Marriage Act will stand past the first opportunity the Court gets to strike it down. Once this legislation passes, books about gay adoptive penguins will not be found only in the far reaches of liberal school systems. They will be everywhere. The Administration is already moving this direction. This year's "bullying" curricula are not targeted at those who taunt the skinny kid for wearing glasses, but at those who look askance at the high school boy with a beard and a dress.

    I don't know what this year's bullying curricula are, and while I do remember reading about gay penguins in a news item (I posted about them here and later with a gratuitous reference to my gay Oscars), I had not heard that there will soon be books about them everywhere. And I am shocked. There are some places where the federal government does not belong!

    Show me where in the Constitution it gives the feds jurisdiction over penguin genitalia!

    Really now. I was so shocked that I read the law again. Then I reread it carefully searching for penguin subtexts. In all honesty, I just don't see it at all. So what I'd like to know is, aside from whether the feds should recognize same sex marriages or not, precisely how would the above law lead to books about gay penguins?

    No, seriously. Please, someone tell me. I'm all ears. (Might there be a stealth movement to sneak gay penguins in the definition of marriage in the hope that no one will read the laws?)

    But I have to admit that there is one part of the new law that I like, and that's the part about blanket approval of my behavior and unquestioning acceptance of my intellectual and moral arguments. I've wanted that for years, especially in this blog. Over the past six years I have put up with untold grief from countless insolent commenters, to say nothing of the vast hordes cruel and callused bloggers who refuse to link me no matter how much I link and praise them or how relentlessly I kiss their asses!

    So, while I'm against messing around with gay penguins, it's high time the feds got tough on the mean-spirited cyber bullies who have made my life miserable.

    All in all, H.R. 3567 is a wonderful bill which will finally give me some much-needed relief. (I'm so jazzed I'm not going to reread it again!)

    posted by Eric at 03:54 PM | Comments (4)

    The Hockey Stick Is Broken Permanently

    This is a tale of forensics and what appears to be scientific fraud. And wouldn't you know it: climate hysteria. Let me start with the famous hockey stick. It is a graph showing unprecedented global warming at the end of the 20th century. It was the icon of global warming hysteria. The wiki has the graph and a picture of Michael Mann (the discoverer).

    You will note that Mr. Mann is holding a section of a tree. Why? Well the hockey stick was developed by analyzing tree rings which are supposed to be a proxy for temperature. This may or may not be true but I'm not going to deal with that question. You can look into that at The Problem With Tree Ring Thermometers.

    Steve McIntyre showed that by using the Mann methodology and feeding noise into the computer program that analyzed the tree ring data you get the hockey stick. So the tree rings are irrelevant to the hockey stick.

    But that is not too important to the current controversy. What is important is that it has now been shown (since Steve was finally - after years of asking - able to get the data) that Michael Mann cherry picked the data. And in fact with the full data set the hockey stick goes down (Steve prefers to say the results are flat) and not up. Which is rather a surprise given the bias of the analysis.

    It started with this post (which references Climate audit):

    Mann Cherry Picked The Data

    Here is a mirror posting of the Climate Audit post (it is kinda technical):

    How Michael Mann Was Found Out

    A more detailed look at the revised graph.

    UK Climate scientists have some 'splainin to do.

    In layman's terms what does it mean? The hockey stick is dead and its development in the first place may have been a scientific fraud for at least two reasons. Bad analysis and data cherry picking.

    Books on some other things wrong with climate science:

    Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed

    Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know

    The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don't Want You to Know About--Because They Helped Cause Them

    Happy reading!

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:52 PM | Comments (3)

    "If you want war, prepare for peace!"

    Or something like that.

    In his characteristically circular manner, Jerry Garcia explains why the Grateful Dead never bothered with anti-war politics and didn't write anti-war songs -- in a video of anti-war demonstrations to the tune of "Cream Puff War":

    All in all, it's a remarkably good period video, and I recognized some people I knew.

    War and peace are in fact similar in one important respect. Both are things humanity can't live with, and can't live without. We hate to love them and love to hate them.


    But should I start treating the Culture War that way?

    No way. I must redouble my efforts to take it seriously!


    posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (5)



    Fortunately, someone has come up with a handy, easy-to-inplement fix, which I searched out the other day in exasperation after accidentally hitting CAPS for the umpteenth time on the laptop they gave me at a new job. The registry edits at the link can either turn it into a shift key or just disable it altogether. No more capital punishment for me!

    posted by Dave at 10:14 AM | Comments (3)

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