It took 40 years, but it's crystal clear now

Finally! The moment I've been waiting for since 1969.

A friend emailed me a link to the supposedly "misheard" lyrics of Joe Cocker at Woodstock singing "With A Little Help From My Friends."

I'm not sure Joe's lyrics were so much misheard as they were unintelligible and in need of interpretation, but whoever it was who did the mishearing and the interpretation did a good job!

posted by Eric at 06:17 PM | Comments (4)

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your doom!

It's beginning to look as if the end is imminent.

The end of the decade, that is. While I don't like the idea of a mandatory "recap" of important stories or events of the year (much less "the decade"), I think it's probably worth pointing out that I am sick and tired of being doomed. This damned decade of doom (which is being called the "Decade of Fear" by those who deem themselves in charge of such things) started out as a bunch of silly Y2K crap. I attended a Y2K New Years party and watched as the moment of doom came and went, then the fears fizzled into nothing. At the beginning of the decade, I was a frustrated libertarian, and while I knew McCain was no libertarian, I thought he'd be a better candidate than Bush. I had voted for Dole, and I had already gotten into a pattern of hold my nose voting, but I thought I'd have to hold it harder for Bush than McCain. I endured the endless, bitterly disputed election which dragged on through Christmas and New Years and finally had to be decided in the Supreme Court, and I couldn't help thinking that McCain would have won by a bigger margin and prevented at least some of the acrimony.

But still, I longed for a more libertarian government. Instead, I witnessed one of libertarianism's worst nightmares come true: the implementation of Big Government conservatism (aka "National Greatness" conservatism). Ugh!

Not long before the 9/11 attack, I happened to notice veiled women in my neighborhood (I lived near a Saudi madrassa, as regular readers know), and I worried about the incompatibility of fundamentalist Islam with a libertarian society. I put it out of my mind but a few days later I was listening to Howard Stern half asleep when suddenly he exclaimed, "This is World War Three!" and I knew from the tone of his voice that he wasn't joking. So I spent the entire day (and much of the next few days) glued to the hated TV, contemplating what looked very much like our doom. Doom doom doom. The doom dragged on for years, but at least the war offered a way to fight the doomsayers. Whether they took the form of those who decried Bushitler fascism or the ever-louder carping about how we were living in "End Times," the doomsayers certainly were in their heyday.

I think people like doom. And I like to sneer at doom, because in my experience being doomed is a challenge, not a fate.

It would be nice to think that the end of the decade of doom means the end of doom, but I am doubtful.

We've been doomed for a long time. Our doom still looms.

My goal should probably be to try to make doom more fun, but I'm wary of making doomed "resolutions."

MORE: Thanks Sean Kinsell for the link!

Sean notes that "there's plenty of time to return to pushing grimly back against nanny-state-ism in January." And it isn't even January yet!

Enjoy the New Year everyone!

posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (6)

What Darwin Never Knew

What Darwin Never Knew is the link to the NOVA video. It is based on the following books:

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo


The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Saving Money, Lives, and Human Civilization

A couple gems from Glenn Reynolds. First, on finance:

I decide how much money to save, and it goes into a money market account, automatically every month. The key is that this account is for money to go into, not to come out of, except for major purchases (like a house or car) or emergencies. I have a separate "slush fund" savings account that also gets an automatic deposit every month, and that gets hit up for routine unscheduled things like home and car repairs.
This system turns my considerable sloth into an asset; savings is automatic, while spending takes effort.

Glenn's income is much more stable than my own, and I tend to harness my obsessiveness as my laziness tends to prevent me from spending money anyway: my overriding concern is to accumulate enough long-term bonds to live off the interest, and it's rare I go more than a few hours without thinking about this goal. This tends to satisfy both my paranoia and my need to obsess. I generally try to get about half my income into investments, and I try to avoid too much social signalling (I'm no Hetty Green, but I enjoy a certain ironic chutzpah in walking around with holes in my gloves at my income), and though I have occasional lapses they tend to come used, with low mileage.

I never lend money, always pay off my one credit card every month, and seek entertainment that is cheap but wonderful (we are blessed to live in an age where people spend billions of dollars developing games and movies that we can enjoy for a few dollars). It is probably fair to say my life as a consumer is strongly driven by the principle of seeking the maximum utility at the minimum cost. I stumbled across this concept in high school, and it has shaped my economic behavior ever since.

Taking a broader view:

We need to reach a stage of technological development where stopping an ice age is relatively easy. We should certainly be there in 2000 years if we don't blow it.

I would say closer to 100, but this is definitely an underrated threat. Global warming, if real, is a concern; the threat of an Ice Age is both existential and highly likely. People often seem confused about the relative dangers, but it's fairly obvious when you consider the approximately million to one ratio in biomass between equatorial regions and Antarctica.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the story of Lindsay Nagel. Dean Esmay has been way out in front on the problems with AIDS science, and taken a lot of heat for it, but the truth is some of the treatments appear to be more deadly than HIV.

posted by Dave at 11:39 PM | Comments (3)

From The IPCC

The IPCC has some interesting things to say about water vapor and clouds:

Recent studies reaffirm that the spread of climate sensitivity estimates among models arises primarily from inter-model differences in cloud feedbacks. The shortwave impact of changes in boundary-layer clouds, and to a lesser extent midlevel clouds, constitutes the largest contributor to inter-model differences in global cloud feedbacks. The relatively poor simulation of these clouds in the present climate is a reason for some concern. The response to global warming of deep convective clouds is also a substantial source of uncertainty in projections since current models predict different responses of these clouds. Observationally based evaluation of cloud feedbacks indicates that climate models exhibit different strengths and weaknesses, and it is not yet possible to determine which estimates of the climate change cloud feedbacks are the most reliable.

The ultimate source of most such errors is that many important small-scale processes cannot be represented explicitly in models, and so must be included in approximate form as they interact with larger-scale features. This is partly due to limitations in computing power, but also results from limitations in scientific understanding or in the availability of detailed observations of some physical processes. Significant uncertainties, in particular, are associated with the representation of clouds, and in the resulting cloud responses to climate change.

Many of the important processes that determine a model's response to changes in radiative forcing are not resolved by the model's grid. Instead, sub-grid scale parametrizations are used to parametrize the unresolved processes, such as cloud formation and the mixing due to oceanic eddies.

Cloud parametrizations are based on physical theories that aim to describe the statistics of the cloud field (e.g., the fractional cloudiness or the area averaged precipitation rate) without describing the individual cloud elements. In an increasing number of climate models, microphysical parametrizations that represent such processes as cloud particle and raindrop formation are used to predict the distributions of liquid and ice clouds.

I'm not going to go into all the problems that are indicated by this IPCC explanation.

But let me take up two. First: Electric motors are well understood. There are not 15 models of electric motors. There are not even two. There is one.

Second: The estimate of energy "forcing" from CO2 is 1.6W/m2. The estimate for cloud "forcing" is 30W/m2. An error of just 5% in how clouds are modeled will equal the CO2 "forcing". An error of 10% in the cloud models will dwarf any "forcing" from CO2. But of course given this uncertainty the politicians believe the modelers can tell us what the climate will be like in 100 years?

And don't forget the errors can accumulate. Especially if the feedback is assumed positive (as the models do). There is not (according to the modelers) any feedback that will tend to return the models to a given condition. The models show that deviations are increased and not reduced. So - off 5% for the first year could increase to 10%+ the second year and so on. Suppose the error is only 1%. It could lead to 100% or more errors 100 years out.

Why do I say could? Because the climate is a dynamic non-linear chaotic feedback system. What that means in practice is that a small error in the models could propagate or a large error could be damped out. And we can't predict in advance which is which. Nor can we tell (without comparing the results to reality) which is which.

So how do the results compare to reality? No model that I am aware of predicted in 2000 the flat lining of global temperature that has taken place since then. Have the models improved since then? To be sure. We should collect the latest predictions and see in ten years if they are reasonably correct. No way we should be committing ourselves to hundreds of trillions of expenditures globally until we know for sure we have something that reasonably compares to reality. And even then we can't be sure because climate is a dynamic non-linear chaotic feedback system.

Some people will bring up the precautionary principle: what if something goes wrong? Well what if. If it gets too hot we can cope. After all we already have crops that grow in hot climates. We just change where they are planted. However, as far as I can tell we do not have any crops adapted to grow under ice. And the last ice age lasted 100,000 years with huge glaciers covering North America significantly south of Chicago. (Yup. The glaciers are melting.) So how long do interglacials (like the one we are living in now) typically last? About 10,000 years. And how long has this one lasted? About 10,000 years. We are due.

So if you want to take precautions I'd say prepare for an ice age. In fact thinking about what we can do geoengineering wise to keep the planet warmer would be time well spent. The tipping point we have to worry about is the return of an ice age.

As snow and ice covers more of the land it reflects more energy into space cooling the planet which gives rise to more snow and ice further cooling the planet. And so on until the glaciers again cover much of the Earth.

Now I greatly admire Sarah Palin but there is no way I want to live in a Northern Illinois that resembles Alaska.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:34 PM | Comments (10)

Creative therapy that works!

While I earlier ridiculed art therapy for terrorists, it was mainly because I don't think it worked out as it might have been intended.

But OTOH, I don't believe in stifling people's creativity. And after being inspired by a comment to an earlier post, I came up with a new idea which would allow the terrorists to realize their potential in a way which, far from stifling their creativity, would actually encourage it. What I proposed was that we let terrorists do what they wanted to do in the first place:

when they're caught, simply let them do what they intended to do, but under properly controlled conditions. Fill a junk plane with terrorists, then have a suicide bomber blow it up (all at a military base, of course.) The results could be studied....
That way, not only would the punishment fit the crime, but the dead terrorists would all be contributing to forensic study. Plus, it would be less expensive than feeding and housing them at Gitmo, and the bleeding hearts at the ACLU could hardly object, for these people would be realizing their creative potential and doing what they wanted to do, which is blowing up planeloads of people while dying as "martyrs." And of course, according to their nutty belief system, their souls would be going directly to the bigot god they so love, who would reward them with virgins. So it would be a win-win-win.

As an added bonus, it makes good economic sense, because if we apply Pareto Improvement, not one person would made worse, and everyone would be at least as well off as before, if not better.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

posted by Eric at 11:42 AM | Comments (1)

Getting high is bad, but getting high without consequences is evil!

There's an old saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and that was my reaction to the idea of a safe alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers:

The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.
I'd second Glenn Reynolds, who says "Faster, please," except I suspect that this is one of those substances which might be developed, but which will never be approved.

Substances that make you feel good are bad enough, but a drug that makes you feel good without negative consequences? Forget it. I hate to sound overly cynical, but I think that what William S. Burroughs said about the anti-drug mentality applies:

The idea that anyone can use drugs and escape a horrible fate is anathema to these idiots.

I think it's worth noting that the guy who's trying to develop the new alcohol was fired for questioning the very mindset of which Burroughs complained:

The new alcohol is being developed by a team at Imperial College London, led by Professor David Nutt, Britain's top drugs expert who was recently sacked as a government adviser for his comments about cannabis and ecstasy.

He envisions a world in which people could drink without getting drunk, he said.

No matter how many glasses they had, they would remain in that pleasant state of mild inebriation and at the end of an evening out, revellers could pop a sober-up pill that would let them drive home.

Sounds good to me, but then, I don't run the FDA. There would be countless hurdles, and the biggest one would be the moral hurdle: any drug that would make you feel good without being harmful would be seen by many as the epitome of evil.
"No one's ever tried targeting this before, possibly because it will be so hard to get it past the regulators.

"Most of the benzos are controlled under the Medicines Act. The law gives a privileged position to alcohol, which has been around for 3,000 years. But why not use advances in pharmacology to find something safer and better?"

Getting the drug approved could be hard for the team as clinical trials are expensive, and it is not clear who would pay for them, according to Professor Nutt.

He said that the traditional drinks industry has not shown any interest, however some countries might be persuaded to sponsor the team.

The moralists would of course get an assist from conspiracy theorists, who could be expected to evoke the usual Brave New World analogies.

But the main objection is simply that it is immoral to get high, and immoral to alleviate emotional pain. What has never been clear to me is why it isn't immoral to alleviate physical pain. While I understand the idea that "weakness" is less than admirable (and therefore enduring pain is virtuous), the drawing of a moral line between physical and emotional pain seems rather arbitrary. Given the choice, many would prefer physical pain to emotional pain, yet it's OK to chemically alter perceptions of the former, but not the latter.

Morality can be such a pain. Especially when pain is morality.

posted by Eric at 11:04 AM | Comments (2)

The total disintegration of nearly everything

When I looked at the inner side of a pot lid the other day, I thought it looked like one of Salvador Dali's rhinocerotic creations (a collection of which I featured in this particularly obsessive post). Dali thought that almost everything could be deconstructed and broken down into rhinoceros horn shapes, including human beings and their souls.

"Dust of Souls" (circa 1960) is an example:


And here's my pot lid.


The water droplets are arranged not at random, but in an order dictated by the shape of the lid. Not quite as symmetrical as Dali's play on droplet symmetry in "Galatea of the Spheres," but evocative enough to imagine a comparison.

Here's "Galatea of the Spheres" (1952)"


I probably shouldn't be eating creampuff pastries, but I got a bag of highly delicious and addictive ones for Christmas.


While they are not dangerous enough to be immediately fatal, that heavy rich filling inside has, coupled with recent events, made me think about substitute fillings that could be more immediately fatal. Each puff pastry is large enough to contain the same amount of PETN explosive (or TATP, Semtex, or what-have-you) that was found inside Umar Abdulmutallab's panties. It wouldn't be hard for your typical psychopathic Islamist baker to get enough of that nasty stuff into cream puff pastries to turn a lot of people and their souls into tiny flying rhinocerotic shapes.

And damn! If I allowed my imagination to get the better of me, I could claim that I now finally understand the clairvoyant subtext of Jerry Garcia's "Cream Puff War." The silly lyrics that for years never made sense (except as a recipe) are taking shape now:

Well, can't you see that you're killing each other's soul
You're both out in the streets and you got no place to go
Your constant battles are getting to be a bore
So go somewhere else and continue your cream puff war
I never saw any message at all. It wasn't until last week that it ever occurred to me that seemingly "innocent" creampuffs might be made literally fatal, but live and learn.

One of these days I should analyze what I saw on TV the other night....


The total disintegration of a reality show. Too many fragments of lost meaning.

HT: Veeshir for reminding me that going with the flow of doom can be a form of entertainment.

And above all, art!

posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (4)

No more art therapy! This time, we mean it!

I'm glad to see (via Glenn Reynolds) that President Obama is calling for some sort of crackdown on Yemeni terrorists, because so far, things seem to have gone quite well for them. Yemen's Foreign Minister has complained that there are hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives who may be planning attacks like the recent one, and that his country needs help.

[Yemeni Foreign Minister] Dr al-Qirbi said: "Of course there are a number of al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen and some of their leaders. We realise this danger.

"They may actually plan attacks like the one we have just had in Detroit. There are maybe hundreds of them -- 200, 300."

Dr al-Qirbi said it was the "responsibility" of countries with strong intelligence capabilities to warn states such as Yemen about the movements of terror suspects.

The United States, Britain and the European Union could do a lot to improve Yemen's response to militants on its own soil, he added.

Boy I'll say!

Because, instead of helping the Yemeni government, the United States has (unwittingly, I have to assume) been helping the Yemeni terrorists by releasing their leaders from Guantanamo. After "art therapy":

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.

Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, and prisoner #372, Said Ali Shari, were sent to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Defense Department log of detainees who were released from American custody. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.

Both Saudi nationals have since emerged in leadership roles in Yemen, according to U.S. officials and the men's own statements on al Qaeda propaganda tapes.

Both of the former Guantanamo detainees are described as military commanders and appear on a January, 2009 video along with the man described as the top leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Abu Basir Naser al-Wahishi, formerly Osama bin Laden's personal secretary.

At times like this I really don't know what to say.

Is this a war? Are we serious??

Honestly, I'm speechless.

Would it help to point out that we didn't release captured Nazi leaders after providing art therapy?

But who needs irony, satire, sarcasm, or surrealism with realities like art therapy for enemy terrorists staring you in the face?

There's also this:

Before the bomb blast bid, the US government was in the process of trying to send home 80 Yemeni prisoners who are at Guantanamo Bay.

Yemenis represent almost half of the roughly 200 remaining prisoners at Gitmo. And any complications over their return to Yemen could mean trouble for Mr Obama's plan to shut down Gitmo. Obama's critics have already slammed the plan to send the prisoners back.

I don't know what the release plan entailed, but I'll stick my neck out here and venture that art therapy has not worked.

However, since it appears that taxpayer funds were involved, do we at least get to see the "art"?

MORE: For those who may have missed the sarcasm in this post, I found another illustration of the mindset typified by the notion that art therapy will prevent terrorism.

Via Glenn Reynolds, I found a sarcastic reaction to the Detroit's District Attorney belief that "parenting classes" might have prevented a mother from beating her two-month old infant to death.

"Monsters are monsters, it seems, for want of enough lectures."

And it follows that terrorists are terrorists for want of art therapy.

posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (6)

Terrorist rejected by Britain given visa to U.S.

According to this report, terrorist suspect Umar Abdulmutallab was refused a new visa by Britain and placed on a watch list.

Today Alan Johnson confirmed Abdulmutallab had been refused a new visa and placed on a watch list last May after applying for a bogus course.

Mr Johnson said: "If you are on our watch list then you do not come into this country.

"You can come through this country if you are in transit to another country but you cannot come into this country."

The Home Secretary said US authorities should theoretically have been informed, and he doubted there had been a "hiccup" in procedures.

American officials have said Abdulmutallab was on one of their "long" watch lists, but was not banned from travelling.

Not only was he not banned from traveling (which he should have been), but the American authorities gave him a visa.

This was mentioned only incidentally in a report that focused on more British terrorists who have been trained in Yemen to attack Western targets:

The British extremists in Yemen are in their early 20s and from Bradford, Luton and Leytonstone, East London.

They are due to return to the UK early in 2010 and will then await internet instructions from al-Qaeda on when to strike.

A Scotland Yard source said: "The great fear is Abdulmutallab is the first of many ready to attack planes and kill tens of thousands.

"We know there are four or five radicalised British Muslim cells in the Yemen.

And what happens if Britain refuses to give them visas too? Will they simply come here?

Is that the way "the system" is supposed to operate?

They have to know these people are going to fly when they give them visas.

Think about it. How else are they going to get here? Give a terrorist a visa, and you're guaranteeing that he will fly.

Little wonder they want to imprison air passengers in their seats and make air travel nearly impossible. They have created a monster where they know that there will be terrorists among us, for the simple reason that they know they are bringing them here.

Wouldn't it be easier to stop handing out visas to people in suspicious countries than to punish ordinary passengers and shut down the travel industry?

But this is an old issue.

From a CATO article back in 2002:

If a more restrictive visa policy had been applied to Arab countries in 2000 or earlier, the Sept. 11 attacks would not have unfolded as they did, and probably would have been thwarted altogether. In an ideal world of perfect knowledge, we could treat all visa applicants strictly as individuals. But with imperfect knowledge and limited resources, we need to play the odds, and the odds are that future terrorists, like those of Sept. 11, will be adult males originating from a relatively small group of Muslim-majority countries. Restricting visas and immigration from that part of the world offers the best hope of keeping terrorists out without sacrificing the benefits of an economy open to peaceful trade and immigration.
You'd think we'd have learned.

Instead, our government hands out visas to radicalized Muslim youths trained in Yemen and rejected by Britain -- despite warnings from family members.

Such systematic ineptitude (if it is not deliberate) is nothing short of amazing.

(But I guess if the reports that the guy was traveling without a passport are true, then it wouldn't much matter whether he had a visa or not.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: Is it possible to get a visa if you're on a no-fly list? Is it possible to be placed on the no-fly if you have a visa?

Sorry to sound so clueless, but I'm just wondering... If they're on a no-fly list, how are they supposed to get here? Or leave?

MORE: Just out of curiosity (and because I don't want to let the visa issue cause me to overlook it), I thought I would try to ascertain whether the man had a passport.

Nigerian authorities claim it was scanned, but not in the usual manner:

Reuters reports that his U.S. visa was issued in London in 2008. The head of Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority, Harold Demuren, told Reuters that Abdulmutallab's passport was scanned at Nigeria's Lagos airport without the use of the Advance Passenger Information System.
But that report does not quite jibe with this report:
The passenger went through a normal checking process. His passport was scanned, his US Visa was scanned and the APIS (Advanced Passenger Information System) returned with no objection. Passenger was allotted seat number 20B on the Lagos-Amsterdam leg and seat 19A on the Amsterdam-Detroit leg," the Director-General explained.

The Murtala Muhammed Airport security also has details of Abdulmutallab's passport and visa information.

Demuren said the bombing suspect possessed a Nigerian Machine Readable Passport (MRP) issued on September 15, 2005 to expire on September 14, 2010 and the passport number is A3921640.

According to the information from the passport, Abdul-mutallab has multiple entry US Visa issued in London, UK on June 16, 2008 to expire June 12, 2010.

The NCAA Director-General said the suspect presented himself for immigration clearance with his Nigerian passport and the passport was scanned into Passenger Registration System, "confirming that passenger went through normal standard security screening procedure."

It seems to me that it ought to be simple to clear this up.

Over at Freerepublic, they're already yelling "WHERE'S THE PASSPORT?"

if this story is untrue, WHERE'S THE PASSPORT? I think we need to ask the media to confirm with the FBI whether or not he had a passport.
I think that maybe someone in the MSM should ask the FBI about this after they get back from Hawaii and everything.

I'd hate to see "WHERE'S THE PASSPORT?" become some sort of ghastly rallying cry.

MORE: 2001, A Flashback Odyssey?

A new report accuses the State Department of staggering lapses in its visa program that gave Sept. 11 hijackers entry into the United States.

The political journal National Review obtained the visa applications for 15 of the 19 hijackers -- and evidence that all of them should have been denied entry to the country.

Almost all of the hijacker's visas were issued in Saudi Arabia, at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulate in Jedda. Terrorist ties aside, the applications themselves should have raised red flags, say experts. The forms are incomplete and often incomprehensible -- yet that didn't stop any of the 15 terrorists for whom the visa applications were obtained from coming to the United States.

The only alleged would-be hijacker who failed to get a visa was Ramzi Binalshibh, who was denied entrance to the United States repeatedly.

"This is a systemic problem," said Nikolai Wenzel, a former U.S. consular officer. "It's a problem of sloppiness, it's a problem of negligence which I would call criminal negligence because obviously, having reviewed all these applications, there is a pattern here."

Of course, it's easy to look at this in hindsight now that we have the benefit of hindsight.

We have learned, right? The "pattern" has been corrected, right?

(It's not as if we didn't know that visas in the hands of terrorists are weapons....)

UPDATE (12/30/09): According to Dutch authorities, Abdulmutallab had a passport.

(CBS/AP) The suspected terrorist who tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253 Christmas day did present a passport to authorities in Amsterdam before boarding the Detroit-bound plane, Holland's counter-terrorism agency said Wednesday.

Abdulmutallab arrived in Amsterdam on Friday from Lagos, Nigeria. After a layover of less than three hours, he passed through a security check at the gate in Amsterdam, including a hand baggage scan and a metal detector, officials said.

Abdulmutallab was carrying a valid Nigerian passport and had a valid U.S. visa, the Dutch said. His name did not appear on any Dutch list of terror suspects.

The confirmation on Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab's passport comes after a fellow passenger claimed to have seen a possible accomplice help the 23-year-old Nigerian board the flight.

Case closed, I'd say.

posted by Eric at 06:32 PM | Comments (4)

Why punish the passengers? (A dumb question....)

I hate to be repetitive, but reading things like the new TSA regulations really burns me up:

1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:
1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

In other words, the idea is to punish the passengers.

Excuse me, but the passengers are the ones who stop the terrorists!

So why punish them? Unless the goal is...

Oh, I get it. At least, I'm almost tempted to get it.

(Except I should probably remember Hanlon's Razor. These days it's tough.)

MORE: Glenn Reynolds links Rand Simberg

Once again, airline passengers 1, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 0.
And Professor Bainbridge wants to know when we'll rebel:
Maybe the terrorists figure they win everytime we in the West spend millions of man-hours being hassled, inconvenienced, and generally put upon by a myriad of stupid security measures.

So here's my question: When are we going to rebel and demand a sensible set of precautions?

This does call for rebellion. But how? Tea Parties at your local TSA?

I also see that some local Detroit area residents claim they witnessed the terrorist being boarded without a passport.

But that's no fair! They won't let me board international flights without a passport!


You'd think the restrictions they apply to us regular passengers could at least be applied to terrorists.

MORE: According to Reuters, the Dutch police are checking out the claim that Abdulmuttallab was allowed to board without a passport.

A U.S. couple on the flight, Kurt and Lori Haskell, told Reuters and other news agencies that they saw a tall, well-dressed man aged about 50 with the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Friday morning at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

The Haskells have claimed the man spoke for Abdulmutallab and attempted to get him aboard Northwest flight 253 without a passport.

"At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy," the military police spokesman said. "We are checking all clues and information we get."

The spokesman added that the military police and the counter-terrorism agency NCTb were reviewing CCTV video and other evidence to see if the accomplice story bears out.

The military police have already said Abdulmutallab did not go through passport control at Schiphol when he arrived from Lagos.

But the spokesman said it would be unlikely the man could board the plane without showing his passport at some point in the boarding process.

Unlikely? Why? Because Lagos officials are reliable?

I think that if he had a passport, it would have been found by now. But if he had a passport and didn't want to show it, that might explain the attempt to escort him through.

posted by Eric at 11:53 AM | Comments (6)

Work within the system! For change!

Yesterday, Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano was reported as saying that the "system" worked. Today, she says the system failed:

A day after saying the system worked, Napolitano backtracked, saying her words had been taken out of context.

"Our system did not work in this instance," she said on NBC's "Today" show. "No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way."

I agree with Jonah Goldberg that she should be fired.

The problem is that firing someone like that solves nothing, as the same people who put her there will put someone else there.

posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)

egalitarianism for asses

Gerald Posner examines the horrendous bureaucratic flaws that allowed Nigerian terrorist bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to waltz onto an incoming flight to the United States, and asks a question on many people's minds:

How did someone whose father, the recently retired chairman of Nigeria's First Bank, apparently warned American embassy officials several weeks ago that his son's religious views had become increasingly extreme and militant, gain access to a plane heading to the United States?
How indeed.

It strikes me that preventing such people from ever getting near, much less on a plane to the United States ought to be priority number one for those entrusted with airline security. But instead of focusing on keeping dangerous people off planes, efforts seem to be directed towards further inconveniencing and penalizing ordinary travelers. It wasn't enough to confiscate your nearly empty toothpaste tube because the label said it once contained six ounces of toothpaste. Now they're talking about body scans, and even looking up your asshole electronically. Never mind the cost or inconvenience:

Douglas Laird, former security director for Northwest Airlines, is a proponent of the backscatter machine in airports worldwide. The device has sparked controversy by people who consider it an invasion of privacy.

Laird said the machines, which cost about $200,000, are a less-invasive -- and less risky -- alternative to devices so powerful they would show passengers' bones.

"With backscatter, when you scan, you'd see a silhouette of the body," said Laird, president of Nevada-based Laird & Associates, who advises airlines and governments about aviation security.

"You could see whatever was on the outside of the body, on the surface of the body or anything sewn into the lining of your coat. It would show up as kind of a gray mass."

He shrugs off privacy complaints.

"I believe we have to give up some rights for the safety of everybody," he said. "It's a real nerve that you touch when you mention that."

It's not so much the searches or the privacy issue that concerns me as it is the lack of focus on the reason for subjecting everyone who flies to ever more intrusive searches. This obsession with treating everyone equally seems to make people forget that the very reason for the intrusive searches is the fact that there are people like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who want to blow themselves up. If we're going to talk about giving up some rights for the safety of everybody, doesn't it seem logical that the fewer people who have to give up rights, the better?

Instead, there seems to be growing tacit acceptance of an absurd proposition -- that it is better to let people who want to blow themselves up fly and look up everyone's butthole than look up the buttholes only of people who want to blow themselves up.

What am I missing here?

Is the goal to move toward a world where people who believe in religious suicide have a right to fly, and to better facilitate this we will all bend over to accommodate them?

In the name of "safety"?

MORE: I should probably remind readers that when I refer to "those who believe in religious suicide," I do not mean to imply that all Muslims support religious suicide. Far from it. As Ali Eteraz points out, "25% of US Muslims under 30 support suicide bombings in some capacity," and the study he links reports that the numbers shrink with age.

Still, I think it's worth asking, should those who support suicide bombing have an automatic right to fly?

And if so, how far do the rest of us have to go in accommodating them?

MORE: Annie Jacobsen says "the TSA has a lot of explaining to do, starting with why Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was not placed on the U.S. no-fly list."

"According to the family members, Mutallab has been uncomfortable with the boy's extreme religious views and had six months ago reported his activities to United States' embassy, Abuja and Nigerian security agencies," reported Nigerian news outlet This Day.

If this is proves to be true, the TSA has a lot of explaining to do, starting with why Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was not placed on the U.S. no-fly list. And what qualified a radicalized engineering student for travel to the U.S. under a religious visa? The State Department, which grants visas, and the Department of Homeland Security, which participates in the review and approval of such visas, have a lot of explaining to do. That Mutallab began his Detroit-bound journey halfway across the world in Africa bringing with him only carry-on luggage raises long-ignored questions about transporting bombs and/or suicide bombers into the U.S. from flights originating at third-world airports. If a passenger such as Mutallab was so easily able to board an airplane with explosives in Africa, why would he not be re-screened in Schiphol before heading on to the United States?

I think the "explanation" is ultimately grounded in the idea that even extreme religious views should be no bar to getting a visa to the U.S. boarding a plane, or anything else.

Instead, according to the egalitarian spread-the-risk doctrine, it's everyone else who should be inconvenienced.

MORE: Incredibly, Janet Napolitano says "the system worked." Jonah Goldberg thinks she should be fired:

I watched her on three shows and each time she was more annoying, maddening and absurd than the pevious appearance. It is her basic position that the "system worked" because the bureaucrats responded properly after the attack. That the attack was "foiled" by a bad detonator and some civilian passengers is proof, she claims, that her agency is doing everything right. That is just about the dumbest thing she could say, on the merits and politically. I would wager that not one percent of Americans think the system is "working" when terrorists successfully get bombs onto planes (and succeed in activating them). Probably even fewer think it's fair that they have to take off their shoes, endure delays and madness while a known Islamic radical -- turned in by his own father -- can waltz onto a plane (and into the country). DHS had no role whatsoever in assuring that this bomb didn't go off. By her logic if the bomb had gone off, the system would have "worked" since it has done everything right.
I guess it depends on how you define "system," doesn't it?

posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (8)

Meanwhile in Ann Arbor...

I hate to sound like one of those NIMBY types, but when I read about the terrorist who tried to blow up the incoming flight with a suicide bomb, I was not terribly happy to learn that it nearly happened right over Detroit.

While I'm delighted that there are heroes like Jasper Schuringa (more here), what I don't like is that most of the reports of the incident I've read don't so much as mention him. This one is typical:

DETROIT - A 23-year-old Nigerian man who claimed to have ties to al-Qaida was charged Saturday with trying to destroy a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, as authorities learned his father had warned U.S. officials of concerns about his son.

Some airline passengers traveling Saturday felt the consequences of the frightening attack. They were told that new U.S. regulations prevented them from leaving their seats beginning an hour before landing.

So if you're a good little citizen and you see a guy going snap crackle and pop and lighting the wall on fire, don't get out of your seat!

Does this mean the bureaucrats will charge Schuringa with violating "regulations"?

The Justice Department charged that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (OO-mahr fah-ROOK ahb-DOOL-moo-TAH-lahb) willfully attempted to destroy or wreck an aircraft; and that he placed a destructive device in the plane.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman read Abdulmutallab the charges in a conference room at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. where he is being treated for burns.

Hey wait a second! I LIVE in Ann Arbor.

Are they planning to release him on his own recognizance here in Ann Arbor?

I don't mean to sound like a NIMBY type, but considering that they gave the man a visa and let him board a plane without so much as a second glance even though his father complained about his radicalism to the US Embassy, I don't think my concerns are unreasonable.

The suspect smiled when he was wheeled into the hospital conference room. He had a bandage on his left thumb and right wrist, and part of the skin on the thumb was burned off.
I'd smile too.

MORE: Again, I know I sound like a NIMBY, but where's Guantanamo when you need it?

AND MORE: Interview with Jasper Schuringa:

(Via Towelroad)

posted by Eric at 08:09 PM | Comments (2)

Prostitution Services

Andrew Cockburn, who is not a conservative politically, has a few words about what is really behind the global warming scam. You will note that the piece appears on Counter Punch which is not in any way shape or form associated with American Conservative thought.

Shortly before the Copenhagen summit the proponents of anthropogenic - human-caused - global warming (AGW) were embarrassed by a whistleblower who put on the web over a thousand emails either sent from or received at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia headed by Dr Phil Jones, who has since stepped down from his post - whether temporarily or permanently remains to be seen. The CRU was founded in 1971 with funding from sources including Shell and British Petroleum. At that time the supposed menace to the planet and to mankind was global cooling, a source of interest to oil companies for obvious reasons.

Coolers transmuted into warmers in the early 80s and the CRU became one of the climate modeling grant mills supplying the tainted data from which the UN's Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC ) has concocted its reports which have been since their inception - particularly the executive summaries -- carefully contrived political initiatives disguised as objective science. Soon persuaded of the potential of AGW theories for their bottom line, the energy giants effortlessly recalibrated their stance, and as of 2008 the CRU included among its financial supporters Shell and BP, also the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and UK Nirex Ltd, a company in the nuclear waste business.

You will also note that James Hansen, one of the cheer leaders for global warming, was at one time funded by Enron. He also has a peculiar stance on fossil fuels. Coal bad, natural gas good. I don't see why one form of CO2 (from coal) is worse than the CO2 from another source (natural gas).

Mr Cockburn continues with:

After some initial dismay at what has been called, somewhat unoriginally, "Climategate" the reaction amid progressive circles - 99 per cent inhabited by True Believers in anthropogenic global warming - has been to take up defensive positions around the proposition that deceitful manipulation of data, concealment or straightforward destruction of inconvenient evidence, vindictive conspiracies to silence critics, are par for the course in all scientific debate and, although embarrassing, the CRU emails in no way compromise the core pretensions of their cause.

Scientific research is indeed saturated with exactly this sort of chicanery. But the CRU emails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers - always absurd to those who have studied the debate in any detail - that they commanded the moral high ground. It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as intellectual whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate modeling enterprises. There's now a vast archipelago of research departments and "institutes of climate change" across academia, with a huge vested interest in defending the AGW model. It's where the money is. Scepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker.

The camp followers and prostitutes are sure to be pissed if the global cooling predicted by Russian scientists in 2006 comes to pass.
Khabibullo Abdusamatov expects a repeat of the period known as the Little Ice Age. During the 16th century, the Baltic Sea froze so hard that hotels were built on the ice for people crossing the sea in coaches.

The Little Ice Age is believed to have contributed to the end of the Norse colony in Greenland, which was founded during an interval of much warmer weather.

Abdusamatov and his colleagues at the Russian Academy of Sciences astronomical observatory said the prediction is based on measurement of solar emissions, Novosti reported. They expect the cooling to begin within a few years and to reach its peak between 2055 and 2060.

"The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times," he said. "The global temperature maximum has been reached on Earth, and Earth's global temperature will decline to a climatic minimum even without the Kyoto protocol."

There are signs:

Rare blizzard strikes West Texas.

DALLAS -- In much of the rolling plains of West Texas, a blizzard has never been recorded.

There has been one now.

The region west and northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth area saw blizzard-like conditions throughout the day Christmas Eve as up to 8 inches of snow fell in the region, according to the National Weather Service. Winds gusting at up to 65 mph drifted the snow as deep as 5 feet in some areas.

No blizzard warning had ever been issued for an area of Texas as far south as Interstate 20, said Jim Wingenroth, senior forecaster at the National Weather Service office in San Angelo.

Blizzards in China.

There is a lot more bad weather going around. Compare the predictions of Britain's Meteorological Office to current reality.

And a look at how China is profiting from the AGW scare is instructive.

So you think giving developing countries all those free "carbon credits" is going to cut greenhouse gas emissions and save the planet? Think again.

Through a bizarre but wholly foreseen loophole in the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) system, payments are actually incentivising manufacturers in China and other developing countries to continue producing one of the most potent of all greenhouse gases, the ozone depleting substances (ODS) known collectively as CFCs, used for refrigeration and other industrial purposes - at a cost to British and other developed world consumers of over $18 billion.

And how is China doing? Pretty damn good.
The level of China's involvement, as a major beneficiary of the scheme, makes a nonsense of the commentators at Copenhagen who were predicting that China might sabotage a deal. With so much money at stake, there was no way China was not going to fall into line, showing up the much-reported spat between Obama and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao for exactly what it was - pure theatre.

Thus does Booker conclude that the part played at Copenhagen by all the tree-huggers, abetted by the BBC and their media allies, was to keep hysteria over warming at fever pitch while the politicians haggled over the real prize, to keep the Kyoto system in place.

As with all prostitutes the haggling is not about the act it is about the price.
The tree-huggers have been well and truly "had" - but then so have we. It is us that are going to pay, through our electricity bills, our taxes and living expenses, in increasing amounts for this hidden bonanza which the negotiators so diligently protected last week.

Trading in what amounts to thin air, on the farcical premise that life-giving carbon dioxide is a "pollutant", they have perpetrated the biggest heist in the history of mankind, all to protect "Big Carbon".

It is becoming more obvious every day that the prostitutes did have sex but it is the customers who got fucked. If people are paying for Global Warming and they are actually are getting Global Cooling I predict that in time even true believers will begin to howl at being duped. At least the honest ones.

There is also another synonym for "Big Carbon". I like to call them The Climate Cartel.

You might find this book of interest: Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed. Lubos Motl of the Reference Frame did.

During my years in the U.S. Academia, I experienced a couple of events related to the global warming propaganda that I found stunning. Scientists around me (including myself) were subjects of intimidation and disciplinary proceedings - or they were instantly fired - because of their skeptical views about the climate change (or even for skeptical results of their work).

Chris Horner shows us that those events were not coincidences. Environmentalism has become a new ideology that has replaced Stalinism and that is beginning to take over the Western world - a world that has enjoyed freedom and democracy for centuries. You will learn that Greenpeace is reading from Horner's trash, in order to obtain materials that they could find helpful in their propaganda war.

Do you know what's happening to the children at schools? They are being indoctrinated. In fact, they are expected to revolt against their parents who "cause global warming". Because the children have to watch scientifically unrealistic horror movies related to the climate, such as An Inconvenient Truth, many of them don't sleep well at night.

Many politicians are scared of the "momentum" that they demand "action" against the climate change, too. Scientists who don't join this irrational hysteria are being threatened, likened to criminals or even Islamic terrorists. Journalists produce piles of lies and distort scientific findings that are already damaged by biased peer review or full-fledged censorship.

This whole scary machine is moving in the direction chosen by the environmental activists who are always "ahead" of their followers. Right now, they want the "dissidents" to be censored or even arrested. Are their today's dreams going to become reality on the day after tomorrow? Meanwhile, there is no climate crisis. In fact, there hasn't been any statistically significant global warming at least for 13 years. But the society seems to be choosing a direction that is disconnected from any observations or science.

The similarity of the environmentalists' techniques with those of the Nazis and communists are far too obvious. If you live outside the Academia or other sectors of the society influenced by this movement, and you are not certain whether there is a reason to worry, read this insightful and shocking book because it can tell you what you might expect tomorrow unless we manage to defeat this new ideological cancer bubbling in the society.

Thank you Lubos.

If we don't defeat these profiteers we are well and truly screwed. There is hope.

Via the Examiner we see a report in the Christian Science Monitor. It tells us that a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 50 percent of likely (US) voters now believe that global warming is caused primarily by long-term planetary trends.

One slightly false note - the Examiner says: "... the climate alarmists now have a long way to go to re-establish their credibility with the public at large." Nah! They've blown it. If after 20 years of propaganda, this is the best they can achieve, then they are going nowhere.

Interesting though how many of the media stories on the current vile weather fail to mention global warming (lack of) in their copy. You can bet that if there was anything that could be remotely attributed to their religion, it would be right up-front.

Religion? Isn't Global Warming, fraudulent though it may be, science? Not according to a British Court. With a blanket of Global Warming spreading across North America I predict a rush of believers to the Church exits. I hope no one gets trampled. But I'm not in the main sympathetic to the believers, considering how many of them have yelled "fire" on a crowded planet.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:22 PM | Comments (2)

Happy Boxing Day!

Christmas has kept me offline for the past few days, but now that I am back and finally have a couple of minutes, I thought I would show off some Christmas gifts.

As you can see, Coco likes to be involved in the Boxing Day unboxing ceremony:


The unwrapped gifts:


From left to right, two books; Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust and The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke; and a classic, no-longer-available VHS movie, A Visit From The Incubus.

They all look exciting and I can't wait to dig in -- but don't take it the wrong way!

posted by Eric at 02:03 PM | Comments (2)

Merry Christmas!

I second this post! (What are you doing here?)

Me, I'm back after a long drive to avoid driving in the snowstorm that's on the way.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday.

posted by Eric at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

A Free Market In Health Care

From Ron Bailey, the best piece on health care I've seen all year:

What would the results look like? It's impossible to predict all the specifics, but here's one partial vision of what markets might bring us.

The typical American might purchase high-deductible insurance policies that cover expensive treatments for chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, as well as the catastrophic consequences of accidents. Coverage would also include expensive treatments such as heart surgery, organ transplants, dialysis, and radiation therapy. In addition, we'd be able to buy health status insurance that would guarantee that we could purchase insurance at reasonable prices in the future.
For a hint of what free market medical shopping might be like, check out the California government's admittedly clunky website for comparing the costs of common surgeries. Browsing there reveals that the price of a heart valve replacement varies from $72,000 to $368,000, while angioplasty runs from $9,000 to $204,000. Other sites, such as, enable consumers to shop for relatively routine procedures such as colonoscopies, laparoscopic hernia repair, and MRI scans. A colonoscopy in Washington, D.C., for instance, could cost anywhere from $580 to $1,386.
Opponents of markets in health care worry that patients in extremis will be in no position to make such decisions. But the slow progress of the kind of chronic illnesses that are driving up health care costs, such as cancer and coronary artery disease, allows consumers time to shop around for suitable treatments. Prostate cancer patients can evaluate and choose between options such as watchful waiting, various radiation therapies, surgery, and, soon, a new biotech immunological treatment. Information gathering would take no more time than the current wait for a follow-up appointment.

As medical care becomes ever more affordable, the government could dismantle its medical entitlement programs--Medicaid, SCHIP, and Medicare--and instead provide vouchers directly to the poor, who could then purchase health insurance and health care in the private market.

Read the whole thing.

This is where we're eventually going to end up; as with Communism, the only question is how much misguided socialist failure we have to endure first before people wake up. The central lesson of the 20th century is that you cannot wring efficiencies from an economy using central planning, and the effort only creates misery, poverty, and chronic shortages.

posted by Dave at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)

A Mathematical Education

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:26 AM | Comments (1)

Just Words

There has been a discussion in the comment section of Watts Up With That about the use of tow vs toe in the phrase "Toe the line". It means not exceeding bounds or limits.

A commenter there said:

Aaagh! I can't stand it any longer! The phrase is "toeing the line" i.e. "not stepping over the line" not 'towing the line." Nobody is pulling a line or rope anywhere - and even if such a phrase existed, it would not make sense in the context of the complaints here, that the mainstream media is failing to move forward with investigative journalism. Maxx is not the only one who uses the wrong word.
I dunno. I'm up on toe vs tow and I think it makes perfect sense.

Line = official position. As in "The current Communist Party Line on Global warming...."

So towing the line would mean supporting the official position through heavy labor. As in "haul on the bowline, we sang that melody...." (those of you of a "certain age" will get the reference).

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:26 AM | Comments (15)

What Are You Doing Here?

Turn Off The Computer.

Spend time with your family.

And A Merry Christmas to all. From all of us at CV.

posted by Simon at 11:17 AM | Comments (7)

One last thought

I have zero time right now, but regular readers might enjoy this post from David Swindle, "Conservatives Need to Reconsider War on Drugs."

HT: Michael van der Galien

posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

Merry Almost-Christmas!

Blogging from me will be sparse in the next few days, as I will be doing the usual Christmas stuff. Frantic time, but I will try to check in when I can.

Kill the bill!

Ho Ho Ho!

posted by Eric at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

Tom Ligon On The Space Show

Tom Ligon will be on the Space Show at 9 PM CDT, 22 December 2009. That is this evening. The Maker willing and if the technical details work out I will be joining him.

You can listen live at the link.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

my dog is better than ten environmentalists!

As if any further proof was needed that global warming hysteria was a pretext to invade people's lives and tell them what to do, a "study" -- by so-called "specialists in sustainable living" -- advances the claim that dogs are worse for the environment than SUVs:

PARIS (AFP) - Man's best friend could be one of the environment's worst enemies, according to a new study which says the carbon pawprint of a pet dog is more than double that of a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle.

But the revelation in the book "Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living" by New Zealanders Robert and Brenda Vale has angered pet owners who feel they are being singled out as troublemakers.

The Vales, specialists in sustainable living at Victoria University of Wellington, analysed popular brands of pet food and calculated that a medium-sized dog eats around 164 kilos (360 pounds) of meat and 95 kilos of cereal a year.

Combine the land required to generate its food and a "medium" sized dog has an annual footprint of 0.84 hectares (2.07 acres) -- around twice the 0.41 hectares required by a 4x4 driving 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) a year, including energy to build the car.

To confirm the results, the New Scientist magazine asked John Barrett at the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, Britain, to calculate eco-pawprints based on his own data. The results were essentially the same.

"Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat," Barrett said.

Other animals aren't much better for the environment, the Vales say.

Cats have an eco-footprint of about 0.15 hectares, slightly less than driving a Volkswagen Golf for a year, while two hamsters equates to a plasma television and even the humble goldfish burns energy equivalent to two mobile telephones.

I think it's time for everyone to say "screw these people!" Just tell them collectively to go pee up a rope and then fuck off.

Anyone who thinks their efforts will be limited to dog eradication is barking (!) up the wrong tree. This is no time for dog owners to act all apologetic and defensive the way some are:

"Everyone should work out their own environmental impact. I should be allowed to say that I walk instead of using my car and that I don't eat meat, so why shouldn't I be allowed to have a little cat to alleviate my loneliness?"
Spoken like a groveling slave. Really, some people talk as if they accept without question that the environmentalists are their masters.

For the umpteenth time, this calls not for denial, but defiance.

If we take these crackpot specialists in sustainable living at their word and assume the average dog has an annual footprint of 0.84 hectares, it should be pointed out that by the environmentalists' own calculations, the average American has a footprint of 10.3 hectares.

Which means that according to the environmentalists' own calculations, my dog Coco is more than ten times less wasteful than a single environmentalist.

Environmentalists propose that people eat their dogs. I propose that it would be more ecologically sound for dogs to eat the environmentalists.

Right now, Coco is chowing down on Rachel Ray's brand of dog food (developed for Ray's pit bill Isaboo), but if the environmentalists could simply be ground up and made into dogfood, I would be willing to feed her ten environmentalists per year. Think of the carbon footprints that could be reduced!


It's recycling for a good cause.

MORE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post!

Hope all your Christmases were doggone good!

posted by Eric at 03:08 PM | Comments (18)

"thank God for obstructionism"

I couldn't agree more with what Gene Healy says here:

In a party-line vote at 1:17 a.m. yesterday, Senate Democrats cleared a key procedural obstacle to a federal takeover of health care. With Saturday's buyoff of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a pre-Christmas vote now looks likely.

But Obamacare's far from a done deal. There are large and contentious differences -- on abortion, taxes, the "public option" -- between the Senate bill and the one that passed by five votes in the House. The GOP Senate leadership intends to filibuster whatever emerges from conference as well.

Liberals are screaming bloody murder about Republican obstructionism. But thank God for obstructionism, and the Senate rules facilitating it -- because the longer this debate goes on, the less Americans like what the Dems are trying to sell them.

No wonder Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is desperate to force a vote before senators go home: As CBS's Nancy Cordes put it, he otherwise runs "the risk that any Democrats change their minds over the holidays or get swayed by all those tea party protests."

I think that even if yelling and obstructing is the only thing the Republicans can do now, they should do it -- as loudly and unpleasantly as possible. This is an unconstitutional measure which tips the balance so far in the direction of socialism that if it passes, it will soon be accurate to call the United States a full-fledged welfare state. Some things are worth fighting for, even if you know you're going to lose. The Republicans can do much to restore their lost luster by taking one last stand against the welfare state, and giving it their all. Any trick in the book is fine by me. Those who say it's undemocratic to fight to the end are the ones who are the tyrants. The fact that they so desperately want to steamroller this atrocity on the country as a grotesque Christmas present only compounds the travesty, and the tragedy.

I like Healy's conclusion, which I find downright Churchillian:

Having overthrown the constitutional doctrine of enumerated and limited powers, liberals now want to remove a Senate rule that serves as an imperfect, but necessary substitute -- a jersey barrier to unconstitutional federal expansion. Thankfully, Senate rules still give a determined minority the tools to help them stand athwart the federal juggernaut, yelling "stop!"

The Center for American Progress' Matt Yglesias argues that "welfare state entrenchment" is a key reason liberals should abolish the filibuster. They should make it easier to pass universal entitlement programs, because "nobody dismantles public commitment to these goals once they're achieved."

It's that dynamic that has us careening toward fiscal apocalypse. Attempts to grease that slide ought to be met with the fierce urgency of "never."

The Republicans have absolutely nothing to lose by fighting it out to the bitter end, using every possible technique, every maneuver, and every political artifice (from Machiavelli to Alinsky). If they can drag it out past Christmas, so much the better.

Let any Democratic victory be a hard fought one, and hopefully a Pyrrhic one.

MORE: It ought to go without saying, but MAKE ALLIES WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM!

(Hell, if I have advocated libertarians allying themselves with social conservatives, then why not Jane Hamsher? You know, if Hitler invaded Hell....)

AND MORE: I didn't mean to leave out transsexual anarchists framed as conservatives.

(Sorry, but I can't cover every last thing.)

The point is, if you're going to engage in obstructionism (which by definition means being a pain in the ass), there's no reason to be picky. Transsexual anarchists can obstruct just as well as fundamentalist Christians.

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

Is the world going to the dogs? I wish!

According to Future Pundit (who Glenn Reynolds linked), the latest research shows that "dogs rule":

New research from the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion. In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a walking program for five days a week, while the remaining 19 served as a control group. Among the walkers, 23 selected a friend or spouse to serve as a regular walking partner along a trail laid out near the home. Another 12 participants took a bus daily to a local animal shelter where they were assigned a dog to walk.
Guess which group did better? (Click here if the answer isn't obvious.)

Future Pundit Randall Parker's conclusion:

Dogs are good for humans.
Now, because most of my life has been spent with dogs, I knew that whether I knew the research showed it or not.

I also know that dogs can save your life in other ways. There is no better device available for preventing home intrusions, and because dogs have better senses than we do (or than guns do), many times a bad guy is deterred without our even knowing it. It makes me feel guilty about the number of times I may have yelled "SHUT UP!" at my dogs just as the psychopath they deterred without my noticing skulked away and decided to find another mark.

Dogs also avert depression by providing a constant distraction, and I believe they help prevent suicide. They certainly did in my case, as even when I wanted to end it all, I just wasn't selfish enough to do something like that to animals that I loved who depended on me. I would have had to get rid of them first -- a thought more awful than getting rid of myself. I don't mean to be maudlin, but I do not exaggerate when I say that one of the reasons I am alive today is because of my dogs.

Coco is a nice dog who nonetheless harbors no illusions about humanity. She knows that while there are many nice people in the world, there are also assholes everywhere.

In fact, I just heard her barking at an idiot who does not know how to drive.

She may be jealous of the driver, though. Because as I have explained before, much as I love Coco, I don't fully trust her driving skills.

But it's easy to overlook a fault like that.


They let anyone drive these days, so why not Coco?

MORE: I just noticed that the bureaucrats in the government of Chaos screwed up Coco's height and weight. Typical.

AND MORE: Not only were Coco's height and weight wrong, but I was shocked to learn upon closer reinspection that her license had expired in 2007! Thanks to my inside contacts with the movers and shakers inside the State of Chaos, I saw to it that all of these things were corrected. Thank God!

It's bad enough to have a dog with questionable driving skills, but driving on an expired license? Heaven forfend!

posted by Eric at 06:58 PM | Comments (5)

Old History

Not really old history just forgotten according to history Professor David Kaiser.

How did he get people on his side? He did it by promising jobs to the jobless, money to the money-less, and rewards for the military-industrial complex. He did it by indoctrinating the children, advocating gun control, health care for all, better wages, better jobs, and promising to re-instill pride once again in the country, across Europe , and across the world. He did it with a compliant media - did you know that? And he did this all in the name of justice and change. And the people surely got what they voted for.
You know who he is talking about. And if you don't read the essay.

It is obvious we are far down the road when Congress Critters vote in favor of a bill they are not allowed to read.

You may find Professor Kaiser's book, The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy of interest.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:07 PM | Comments (1)

An old man, writing nearly 100 years ago

I just had an experience which illustrates the folly of thinking that if a quote can't be found online, it doesn't exist.

Looking an a 1917 road map last week, my eyes were drawn to quote from Rear Admiral W.W. Kimball.


Above the picture of Uncle Sam, here's the quote from W.W. Kimball:

"A military people are a peaceful people, free from the danger of preventable war, from the danger of being conquered, and from all danger of being infected with militarism."
Much as I Googled, I couldn't find the quote anywhere. This surprised me, because I thought that a statement famous enough to be featured prominently on a road map ought to be easily findable online today.

It wasn't easy, nor did I find the exact quote of this now-obscure rear admiral. But I did learn that Admiral Kimball had in 1914 authored a tract bearing the title of "Our Question of Questions -- Arm or Disarm?" That was the very caption on the road map under the picture of Uncle Sam, but I had no idea it was a book The book is of course long out of print. Kimball (an early proponent of submarine technology) died in 1930, but thanks to the public domain doctrine, the entire book can be read freely online here.

By today's standards, Kimball is a militarist (even though he condemns militarism) and a racist. Yet he comes through as a wise old warrior and I found his writing witty and irresistible. While cynical and hard boiled, he is also thoughtful, patient, and reflective. Every major argument is backed by historical examples and his personal wartime experience. He detests college professors and pacifists with a particular passion that comes from knowing too well from his firsthand experience how terribly naive and misguided they were. (Or should I say are?)

A few examples I culled by hand:

On the movement to abolish war:

However, the picture seems to obfuscate our conceptions of realities and thereby to aid the Pacificists in what Dr. Wyatt calls "the ceaseless efforts which are being made alike in the United Kingdom and in the United States, to destroy what remains of the military spirit of the Anglo-Saxon race. War and the preparation for war, without which it beings defeat, are represented as barbaric which can be abolished by international agreements." (page 43)
On diplomacy:
Diplomacy is the science of finding a pretext for shirking responsibility -- personal, national, or international; it is the art of doing so. (page 83)
On political parties:
Our political parties have principles, -- they are not without them --, but principles are reserved for platform purposes only. After a party comes into power, it throws overboard politics -- the Science of Government -- and attends strictly to its real business of office broking and election manipulation. (page 103)
A practical lesson in diplomacy:
Haec fibula docet, that while a kid, from the high shed to which he has been boosted, may, until he is knocked off the roof, safely rail at the wolf of war passing bellow, it would not be the best kind of diplomatic business for that kid to use rash language toward a man with a gun. *

*Mr. Bryan was Secretary of State when this was written.

(Bold lettering and footnote are original.)

And a warning not to assume our enemies are fools:

We should first read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this dogma of Frederick the Great:

"He is a fool and that nation is a fool, who having the power to strike his enemy, does not strike and strike his deadliest."

Then we should consider what nations would be inclined to be our enemies as a result of the interferences with the desires of those nations arising from the maintenance of our Pacific empire or of the Monroe Doctrine. (pages 123)

After spending a couple of hours reading the book in its entirety I finally stumbled upon the full quote (which appears on the map only in abbreviated form).
However, the beautiful dreams of the war-provoking pacificists cannot be realized for some decades at least; and meantime, and we had the pluck and necessary business sense, we might make ourselves over from the warlike, war-inviting, unmilitary lot that we now are, into a properly military and therefore peaceful people, free from the danger of preventable war, from the danger of being conquered, and from all danger of being infected with militarism. (pages 155-116)
It's another way of saying what Vegetius said. Or Heinlein.

During peacetime no one listens to people like that. When wars come, they wish they had.

posted by Eric at 04:52 PM | Comments (2)

Cry Havoc, And Let Slip The Dogs Of Unintended Consequences!

It looks like health care "reform" will pass.

Nick Gillespie asks: How Many Americans Will Choose to be Uninsured Even if Insurance is Mandatory?

This problem is MUCH worse than it seems at first glance.

Since there's no PEC (pre-existing condition) denial anymore, you aren't buying insurance, you're buying the right to exchange your medical bills for premiums. As a rational actor you would of course only do this when the latter became greater than the former.

This means more and more healthy people will drop out of insurance, buffered only by the stickiness in the fact that employers provide a lot of coverage and don't usually offer cash equivalents (yet) and the fines (which are tiny).

Premiums will skyrocket as fewer people are paying in more than they take out. Some rational employers will respond by offering employees cash and telling them "Hey, if you're healthy, why not take cash? It's not like you can be denied coverage!" More people will drop off, and premiums will go even higher. Rinse and repeat.

It's hard to see a good end to this...

posted by Dave at 02:09 PM | Comments (1)

Become a man of letters by cutting letters out!

What do you do when the keys on your keyboard wear out? I have been using a Logitech model EX-110 wireless keyboard for two and a half years, and I have gradually worn off the letters on the more frequently used keys, to wit, the letters A, S, D, H, L, and C. (The carrots are also worn off the period and comma keys, but that's not a crisis.) As the keyboard is black and the letters are white, it is very disconcerting to see so many blank, black spaces when I glance down, and because I'm a self-taught typist who looks occasionally at the keyboard to find my place, the missing letters have caused me to get lost, and type gobbledygook too many times. (I don't like typing the word "clash" only to see "v;sdj.")

So last night I thought I would buy a new set of keys. As there is nothing otherwise wrong with this keyboard, and a new one is fairly expensive, buying a set of keys seemed to be a more logical thing than buying a new keyboard. But while that might be logical, there is no such logic at Logitech. Googling the subject, I soon learned an unfortunate truth:

Logitech does not sell any spare keys as replacement parts.
So I emailed Logitech about the problem, and alas! I was told that my "product" is "defective" but that it might be under warranty:
At this point I believe it is safe to consider your product as being defective. The product should not behave as the way that you have described.

In regards to this issue, I would like to know when you purchased the product and please fill in the warranty form below:

* All details requested in this email are meant to use to verify your product warranty status. Therefore, your replacement will only be honored if the product is still covered under the warranty period.

I don't know what the warranty period is, but I have long since lost any relevant receipts. I emailed back asking whether I could buy a new set of keys, but I don't expect to get them, nor do I like wasting time.

Researching the matter further, I learned that there are keyboard stickers available for sale, most of which are for people needing extra foreign language characters, but some are just plain old keys. The thing is, I would have to pay to have them shipped and then wait impatiently for the mail, when all I want to do is be able to write in a more or less coherent manner without going crazier than I usually do. As I see it, there are enough things to be annoyed about without having the added annoyance of not knowing what is emanating from your clueless fingers.

Suddenly, a thought flashed through my increasingly slow mind. Why not try making my own keyboard stickers? As the letters are white, I thought that maybe I could just make them out of paper and stick them on with scotch tape. I started by printing out the letters, using the Arial font and outlined capital letters in 20 point size. I started with the "S" and it was harder than I thought to make the tiny curve cuts with scissors, but finally I had a tiny paper "S." Using a piece of scotch tape to pick it up, I think cut out the small square around it and stuck it on. It didn't look or stick quite as well as I thought it should, and I worried that it wouldn't last long the way my fingers will be pounding on it. Then it occurred to me that cellophane packing tape is more durable and substantial than scotch tape, so I found a roll of that and went back to my letter cutting. Damn if it wasn't a huge pain in the ass. Ever try cutting the hole out of a 3/8 inch D? As to the tiny triangle that's within the upper portion of the A, fuhgettaboutit! The keyboard is black, right? And it's my keyboard, right? So I cheated on the A, and colored in the damnably tiny triangle. The L was the easiest, followed by the H, and the curves in the C were very frustrating, although by then I was starting to get better at it. I would not want to cut out tiny letters for a living, though. That seems like something you'd only expect oppressed children in the third world to have to do. Hell, it might be a nice arts and crafts project for children in the affluent, decadent West! I am sure that cutting out tiny paper letters builds character!

Anyway, here's the "final" result.


Not perfect, but I can live with it. As to how long they'll last, who knows? No doubt the S will go first because of the scotch tape.

I think I can confidently predict that they'll last into next year.

MORE: And they will have to last.

I just got a reply from Logitech's Technical Support confirming what I suspected:

Thank you for your reply.

Unfortunately, we do not have replacement keys for any type of keyboard.

I apologize for the inconvenience but without the receipt, we cannot proceed with the warranty replacement.

Should you have further inquiries, please do not hesitate to email us back.

Thank you for choosing Logitech. Have a great day!

I am having a great day. Thanks to my custom hand-lettered keyboard!

posted by Eric at 01:03 PM | Comments (9)

Avatar: One Sentence Review

Riveting Rousseauian warporn, set in a gorgeous hi-def Azerothian CGI landscape, ironically itself a dazzling gem of the technological civilization it decries.

posted by Dave at 12:58 PM | Comments (4)

"a pretext to set up an international police apparatus"

Reading today that "there'll be nowhere to run from the new world government" which will use "climate change" as a pretext reminded me of a prediction repeatedly made by William S. Burroughs, as immortalized in 1989 in a marvelous film clip from "Drugstore Cowboy". Unfortunately, embedding has been disabled, so you'll have to click on the link if you want to see it. The caption reads "William S. Burroughs pontificating on drug hysteria in a scene with Matt Dillon in his best role," and I went to the trouble of transcribing the old man's rant, which is a classic example of Burroughs' eloquently bitter but cynically resigned, drawling style of speech.

Narcotics have been systematically scapegoated and demonized. The idea that anyone can use drugs and escape a horrible fate is anathema to these idiots.

I predict in the near future right-wingers will use drug hysteria as a pretext to set up an international police apparatus.

I'm an old man and I may not live to see a final solution of the drug problem.

He didn't live to see that, of course.

If the goal is to find a pretext to set up an international police apparatus, climate change hysteria works a lot better than drug hysteria. That's because drug users hurt only themselves, and not everyone uses drugs, while carbon users hurt everyone, and everyone uses carbon. (At least, so goes the narrative.)

What carbon has in common with drugs is that it is an addictive substance. The difference is that unlike drugs, we are all hopelessly, abjectly dependent on carbon, and thus perpetual victims of the carbon cycle. Without carbon we would of course die.

Will there be a final solution of the carbon problem?

posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (2)

To own the truth

Who owns what professors teach? Can knowledge in the sense of knowing what the truth is about a particular subject really said to be someone's property?

Greg Mankiw links a fascinating discussion of the online sale and distribution of notes taken in class:

The basic legal question of whether a professor or university has any claim over the notes a student takes in a lecture is, it turns out, not a simple one to answer. According to copyright scholars, it depends on how the lecture was given and what the notes look like. Copyright only protects works of authorship that are fixed in a "tangible medium of expression" - at the very least there need to be notes that the lecture was read from, or a Powerpoint presentation. And the closer the student notes are to an exact transcript of the lecture, the more likely they are to be infringing the professor's copyright.
Damn! When I was in law school I used to write down as accurately as possible almost everything a professor said (because my experience taught me that exams tended to heavily favor what professors actually discussed in class). Little did I know that the more accurate my notes were, the more I was guilty of copyright infringement.

You can't be too careful! Not that any professor in those days would have cared about copious note-taking, but now that they can be easily uploaded to the Internet, it's a different -- and very commercial -- game, although the courts are divided:

The few times courts have weighed in have produced contradictory decisions: A 1969 lawsuit in California in which a UCLA professor sued a notes service found that the professor did indeed have the intellectual property rights to his lecture, but the University of Florida lost a 1996 suit against a similar company.

And while the basic issues are not new, the amplifying scope of the Internet gives them a new sharpness. Jim Sullivan is the attorney for a University of Florida biology professor named Michael Moulton who is suing the same notes provider that the university unsuccessfully sued in 1996.

"There's a whole new raft of these companies out there," Sullivan says. "It basically amounts to an online clearinghouse for stolen intellectual property."

I find it hard to see note-sharing as theft.

Harvard professors Stephen Pinker and Greg Mankiw have a different takes on the matter.

Pinker says he was excited about the interactive promise of the site's online study groups but agnostic about the class notes aspect. "There's nothing that I would say in class that I wouldn't say in any other public forum, so I kind of had nothing to hide," says Pinker.

Several professors, including the English professor and writer Louis Menand and the economist Greg Mankiw, have refused. Mankiw says he didn't want to make it easier for students to cut class. "Listening to lectures and taking your own notes is part of the educational process," he wrote in an e-mail. Other professors expressed reservations about the accuracy of the notes and the fact that students were paid to take them.

I see Mankiw's point about not making it easier to cut class, although that's a different issue than whether detailed verbatim notes constitute stolen intellectual property.

Notes Mankiw,

I am not at all confident that I am right about this one.
I don't know whether he's right or not, there's so much arrogance in the world of academia that I admire any professor who who is willing to admit he might be wrong.

posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (7)

Your 2074 page Christmas present

Despite a lot of wishful thinking on the right, it appears that the health care boondoggle will pass this week. Reid and company managed to literally buy off the sole remaining holdout (Nelson) with an abortion compromise measure.

John McCain says the Republicans will not be able to stop the bill, although he says Bernie Madoff would approve:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says that Republicans will "probably not" be able to stop the passage of health care this week, but that his party will continue to "win the battle of American public opinion."

"We'll fight the good fight, we will fight until the last vote," he said on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. "We must look back and say that we did everything we could to prevent this terrible mistake from taking place."

He said the CBO's scoring of the bill, which projects that it would cut the deficit by $132 billion and cost $871 billion, is based on "gimmickry and we all know it. "

Only Bernie Madoff would approve of this kind of budgeting," he said.

Nor is he impressed by President Obama's "change":
He said that POTUS is not the kind of president he said he would be, and that he would give Obama an "incomplete" grade so far.

"He said there would be a change in climate in Washington, there's been a change," said McCain. "It's more partisan, it's more bitterly divided than it's ever been."

Fortunately for the right, some divisions are starting to appear within the Democratic ranks.

Not enough to derail the health care boondoggle, though. The Blue Dog Democrats have shown that they can be bought. The only principled (in the sense of "not for sale") opposition to the health care bill in the Democratic Party is coming from the left -- the likes of Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann (who is threatening civil disobedience if the bill passes), NOW, and, which is circulating a petition.

But it seems to be a done deal. I only wish the Republicans in the House had not helped.

As to what is in the bill now, God only knows. The purported text is here, and it runs 2074 pages, but that was in November before the more recent amendments, so I don't even know whether there is a final version. Not that it would matter, because no one reads these things, much less understands them. (Especially the people who pass them.)

Democracy disgusts me, but it's still better than the alternative.

MORE: Forgive the title of this post, but the final version of the bill that no one has read is nowhere to be found.

Maybe they're planning on passing it first, then writing it later.

Interestingly, the cloak of secrecy surrounding this bill (and many others) is being likened to totalitarianism:

Citizens cannot see who authored which provisions, who won big federal favors, or who will get new privileges in the Brave New World of Big Brother delivering health care.

No one knows ... yet.

A penchant for secrecy is a style of governing that is well known in many authoritarian countries. We don't have to stretch our imagination to see these governing styles on display in Iran, China, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.

Thankfully America isn't Venezuela. And Obama has not become Hugo Chavez.

I suspect the face of authoritarianism here may arrive with more benign faces. It may emerge with subtle velvet hands like those used by regulators out of the European Union's faceless bureaucracy. There, regulations are hatched in private among elites, then paternalistically dispensed to their citizens. The EU model is driven by an impenetrable bureaucracy that has little accountability, protects special groups, and informs the public in a genteel way about what it is they can and cannot do.

This may be more in tune with the Obama administration and so-called "progressives." As they stand in awe over Europe for its many "superior" ways, they may be looking at a neo-European governing style as a role model.

Rather than assume their penchant for secrecy with the health care bill is an aberration, this could become their governing norm.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

I think at minimum their punishment should take the form of being made to write the entire bill 100 times on a giant blackboard.

MORE: The manipulative nature of Harry Reid's Christmas deadline is no coincidence. It's a blatant but wholly unprecedented tactic.

Take a look at this chart:


The author sees a relationship between the trickery and the Christmas deadline:

If Harry Reid does hold the Senate in session until a Christmas Eve vote on health care can be held it will have been in session 25 consecutive days before this National Holiday! In the previous 31 years we have only exceeded 10 days twice (ending before Christmas) and the majority of the time there is NO December legislative business. As of Saturday Dec 19 (the date of this writing), he has not released the text of the amendment upon which he wants to vote nor provided Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring! Why is he doing this? Is there a critical issue here that must be addressed immediately for the good of the country? Does health care threaten the nation in such an instant and acute way that it that cannot be addressed after the holidays when an important issue such as this can receive the necessary attention that it deserves?

Given that this legislation affects every American and impacts about 1/6 of the nation's economy it is reasonable that a full consideration be given to the final proposals. The 'discussions' that have taken place about health care during the previous months are NOT a substitute for a careful, line-by-line analysis of the cost, effectiveness, and wisdom of every part of a piece of comprehensive legislation such as this. The thoughts, wishes, and desires put forward by many over the months DO NOT equate to a review of an actual piece of legislation. Such a review is effectively impossible based on Harry Reid's authoritarian schedule. Why?

Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama know that if the American people are given time to review and digest the measures in these health care bills they will reject them more strongly by the day. They know it can only be passed out of the view of Americans using any and every parliamentary trick-in-the-book. This is a disgraceful, cowardly, and tyrannical strategy by people undeserving of their leadership positions.

They don't deserve their positions any more than we deserve them.

MORE: Despite the bill's elusive nature, Republicans are nonetheless threatening to read portions of it as a delaying tactic:

Republicans, who have been accused by Rush Limbaugh and others for failing to oppose the legislation vigorously enough, have threatened to force Senate clerks to read the entire text of the proposed changes aloud, a process that could consume eight hours or so.
Eight hours? I think they should read the whole bill. One. Word. At. A. Time.

Obviously, the Democrats don't want anyone to read it, and the possibility that it might be read explains why the legislation is secret. And urgent.

MORE: Here's a statement from Senator McConnell:

...[T]hey want to rush this bill through by Christmas -- one of the most significant, far-reaching pieces of legislation in U.S. history. They want to rush it.

"And here's the most outrageous part: at the end of this rush, they want us to vote on a bill that no one outside the Majority Leader's conference room has even seen.

"That's right. The final bill we'll vote on isn't even the one we've had on the floor. It's the deal Democrat leaders have been trying to work out in private.

"That's what they intend to bring to the floor and force a vote on before Christmas.

"So this entire process is essentially a charade.

A double secret charade. Arbitrary, unaccountable, and without any restraint.

UPDATE: Sean Kinsell links this post and has some excellent observations about "betrayal."

it's frightening to encounter so many adults, free to run about loose on the streets, who seem not to have considered it within the realm of possibility that a politician, once in office, might turn his back on supporters, waffle, do 180s, and talk a lot of self-serving nonsense -- and who therefore have not steeled themselves to deal with it now that it's happening. I hate to choose this time of year to sound uncharitable, but I'm finding them hard to sympathize with.
There's a sucker born every minute, but it's hard for me to feel "betrayed" by people I didn't vote for and never believed in.

And you don't have to be a raging anti-government nut to believe that all bills should be in writing.

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

Climate Cartel

It looks like Al Gore is not the only one involved in making big money on CO2 trading. The Head of The IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, is in on it as well.

Although Dr Pachauri is often presented as a scientist (he was even once described by the BBC as "the world's top climate scientist"), as a former railway engineer with a PhD in economics he has no qualifications in climate science at all.

What has also almost entirely escaped attention, however, is how Dr Pachauri has established an astonishing worldwide portfolio of business interests with bodies which have been investing billions of dollars in organisations dependent on the IPCC's policy recommendations.

These outfits include banks, oil and energy companies and investment funds heavily involved in 'carbon trading' and 'sustainable technologies', which together make up the fastest-growing commodity market in the world, estimated soon to be worth trillions of dollars a year.

Today, in addition to his role as chairman of the IPCC, Dr Pachauri occupies more than a score of such posts, acting as director or adviser to many of the bodies which play a leading role in what has become known as the international 'climate industry'.

The profitability of most of these enterprises is dependent on either direct government largesse or laws requiring CO2 trading.

We already have oil cartels. We have illegal drug cartels. Do we really want a climate cartel? Other than the profiteers I mean.

And what do all these cartels have in common? They require government to keep them in business. If the USA was more active in exploiting its own oil resources it would not be so much at the mercy of OPEC. And without the anti-drug laws the dope cartels would be out of business. And so we come to the climate cartel. You know the story. Without laws enacted by government.......

H/T EU Referendum

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)

Being me is so unfair!

As I said earlier, I feel more had by Andrew Sullivan than by Tiger Woods. I don't like it when people are not who they say they are, and the whole Sullivan Doppelganger thing makes me wince when I think back on the innumerable posts I've written over the years either agreeing or disagreeing with the man. There's something very disturbing about not knowing who I was agreeing or disagreeing with.

And then on top of that, there's the annoying "cerebral juices" metaphor. The other day, Sean Kinsell poignantly asked that it stop:

...can we please not hear any more about Sullivan's juices, cerebral or otherwise?
And then today, Glenn Reynolds asked the same thing, noting additionally that marination was involved:
CAN WE PLEASE STOP IT WITH THIS "marinating in Andy's cerebral juices" metaphor?
Sean and Glenn are two bloggers I greatly respect. And the last thing I want to do is stew in Andrew Sullivan's "juice." However, I'm still unclear on the concept. What was the idea of introducing the cerebral juices metaphor in the first place? Is the idea that since all of Sullivan's doppelgangers are working for him, that they're all marinating in the same "soup" so it's all OK?

Really? Isn't this just another attempt to homogenize the decline?

I'm not trying to prolong a very unpleasant metaphor, but I thought I should ask.

The whole thing seems very unfair. Not to sound bitter, but why does Andrew Sullivan get to have lots of people being him, while I have to be stuck being me? Do he and his various cerebrally marinated selves think that "being me" is for the little people?

posted by Eric at 12:42 PM | Comments (6)

Sometimes, being "had" matters

Is the subject of whether I feel "had" by Tiger Woods even worth a post?

I don't know.

For the life of me, I just don't feel part of a growing chorus of angry "we's" who do feel -- very strongly -- they they have been "had." (Apparently, there is a sense that by betraying his wedding vows as promiscuously as he did, the man betrayed the people who believed that he would never do something like that.)

While I never gave it much thought, I always liked Tiger Woods, simply because he appears to be a pleasant fellow. I don't watch golf, though, so I am in no position to comment on his abilities or skill, and all I know is that he's one of the greatest golfers in history. I never followed his personal life, which interests me about as much as would the personal lives of the nation's top bowlers.

So I really can't claim that I was "had." If I idolized him as a fan, and if I had read and believed that Tiger Woods led an idyllic life as a devoted family man, maybe that I'd feel differently. But even so, how much would having been "had" in this manner really matter?

There's a lot of clucking going on (mostly by MSM types) about how the media didn't do their job, despite longstanding evidence of Tiger's womanizing. And some conservatives are drawing analogies between being had by Tiger Woods and had by Barack Obama.

Except there's a major difference. Tiger Woods is one of the nation's greatest golfers. His sex life may cause his fans to feel betrayed (and it obviously hurt his family), but nothing can change his accomplishments in his sport.

Falsely posing as a happily married family man with media assistance did not get Woods elected as a top-ranked golfer, and cheating on a wife is not cheating at golf. So the question of whether his fans were "had" (whether by him or his media supporters) is at best inconsequential.

I agree with Glenn that there's a more important question.

How long before we hear "we were all had" about Barack Obama?

MORE: I should add that I feel a lot more "had" by Andrew Sullivan than by Tiger Woods, and that is because like Ann Althouse, I always assumed that whether I agreed with him or not, at least he was who he was. So far as I know at least, Tiger Woods is still Tiger Woods.

Seriously, what is the world coming to when Andrew Sullivan is not even Andrew Sullivan?

It really hurts to be had by someone you thought you knew but never knew, because he wasn't even the guy you didn't know but thought you knew.

posted by Eric at 11:49 AM | Comments (3)

Why I like Climategate

In general, politics is a depressing topic for me. Maybe it's because after six and a half years of blogging against socialism and big government only to see more of both, all I can do is repeat myself.

A big Ugh! to that. What could be more ineffective than telling my readers what I think when they already know what I think? Yet if I sit by and watch as the country slides into socialism (it's more of an avalanche than a gradual slide), I feel as if I am not "doing my job." What job is that? To engage in an ideological debate I have already had? With whom? My readers? No; the people who come here are generally not my ideological opponents, so I am not debating them. Besides, as I have said countless times, my purpose in blogging is not to debate people so much as it is to say what I think. I have done that, and I will continue to do it, but there's something about "chiming in" when I have nothing new to add of ideological value which strikes me as a bit hollow, and it would be dishonest of me not to acknowledge it.

This is not to say that there isn't a raging national, ideological debate going on right now between capitalism and socialism, because there is. Victor Davis Hanson puts it well:

We are still in a great public debate between capitalism and socialism, and individual freedom versus statism -- odd since hundreds of millions worldwide have escaped poverty the last 30 years due to the spread of Western-inspired free markets.

Many choose sides in the debate based on their own predicaments. Sometimes the more independent and secure who have thrived under capitalism promote it, the more dependent who have not detest it.

At other times the realist mind is opposed to the idealist. And we can also envision the split as an age-old dichotomy between the tragic view and the therapeutic: either man is born pretty awful and must toughen himself through denial of the appetites, or he is by nature wonderful but corrupted and hurt through the burdens placed on him by society.

In whatever way we frame the debate, again more than ever Americans are choosing sides.

On the one, are those who believe personal freedom and liberty trump egalitarianism and fraternity.

Anyone who imagines that this debate was settled by the failure of socialism to work forgets that socialism is not intended to work. The fact that socialism is bankrupt means nothing to those who believe you can spend your way out of bankruptcy.

But please forgive the appearance of a debate here. I am really debating no one except myself.

What I find most worrisome about this debate is that things are reaching the point where it isn't an ideological one. People are not voting on whether they agree with the socialist ideology, but on what they get. The problem is as old as the Greeks, and CATO's Dan Mitchell explores it in Glenn Reynolds' latest Instavision interview. If a large enough group of people gets something which the government takes from a smaller (but more productive) group, they'll tend to vote for what they're getting. It comes down not to ideology, but to pure self interest. As the less productive majority becomes more dependent on the more productive minority, it does not matter which "side" has the better ideological argument. ("I don't know Keynes from Adam, or Adam Smith! I just want the government to pay for my medication, damn it!")

My worry is that because of the way socialism can become entrenched, these people will have the votes -- all ideological debates be damned.

The left loves this, of course.

But that's why I love Climategate. It reminds people that there is another ideological debate (albeit in scientific drag) which is not all about taking from one group of people and giving it to another, but which posits simply taking something from everybody, and giving to no one at all, save a bunch of whiny environmentalists and their warm-mongering allies in the scientific consensus community. Ordinary people -- including many non-ideological types who ask "what do I get?" -- are told that they will have to do with less, and pay higher prices. That they will have to have more and more regulations touching virtually every aspect of their lives (ultimately to include restrictions on travel, diet, pets, and even how many children are allowed). And in return for all of this, the average temperature might -- with stress on might -- go down a tenth of a degree in the future after most of them are dead.

Meanwhile, they still freeze in the winter and watch as the snow continues to fall. As a way to buy votes, AGW is thus a very hard sell for the left, and Climategate has exposed the sellers as the con artists and cheap swindlers they are.

Even if you're a tired anti-statist blogger like me, what's not to love about that?

MORE: Speaking of love, I am in love with this chart, which shows how they homogenized the decline:


Down is up! Hear hear!

And even the Russians are pissed!

I love the irony.

posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

More self-indulgent psychedelic nostalgia (while I attempt to hide my decline)

Not everyone appreciates vintage Grateful Dead. Please feel free to yawn and roll your eyes if you've heard this rant before -- which you have -- and in that regard I admit that this is probably another classic example of what I have called,

self-indulgent psychedelic nostalgia, aggravated by a narcissistic, passive-aggressive sense of midlife "entitlement" which takes the form of imagining that I need a break from blogging about important issues.
But even if you don't share my perspective, at this point in time I think some of their stuff qualifies as historic in nature, especially any video containing actual footage of Pigpen, the band's original "leader" (leader is in quotes out of respect for the obvious anarchistic irony, as well as for Pigpen, who might have resented being charged with "leadership"). There is damned little decent footage of the guy, who died in 1973, and what little there is seems to be yanked from YouTube whenever it appears, so naturally I am always on the lookout for it. Amazingly, every once in a while new vintage video will actually appear amidst the usual pretend video, and this one I have to say is the best Pigpen video I have found so far. It's from the Spring of 71, and they looked exactly as I remember them from that period when I first became a bona fide Deadhead. Things were very casual and anyone could go anywhere; the stage was largely irrelevant and it was nothing like rock concerts today. This offers a pretty accurate glimpse of the atmosphere at the time.


Pigpen, btw, is the singer with the cowboy hat.

Here's a picture of him posing while holding Janis Joplin's breast in a mischievous yet not lascivious manner, while Janis (whom he introduced to Southern Comfort) grasps his hand and her bag simultaneously.


And posing with a couple of classic guns.



posted by Eric at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

Another Way To Hide The Decline

I have been sitting on this story for a couple of days - waiting for verification. I now have some. Watts Up With That says that the CRU (of ClimateGate fame) cherry picked Russian data. And you probably couldn't guess this in a million years, but they left out the data from the coldest stations.

They actually have a computer program that can pick out the special stations depending on their match to the desired result. At least they have a program that can do that with tree rings. Why not weather stations?

Here is a bit from the pdf of the announcement.

Climategate has already affected Russia. On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.

The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country's territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.
I believe they did something similar with Russian trees. First you "goose" the "official" temperature record and then you go looking for data that backs up the desired results. Gotta keep the press releases coming.

My question is: when did the Russians learn about the misuse of their data? How long have the Russians been sitting on the knowledge that their record was corrupted?

H/T Clarice Feldman at American Thinker

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:04 PM | Comments (5)

The smart way to avoid bankruptcy

I've been marveling over the president's contention that unless we spend a ton more money, we will soon be bankrupt. I like the way David Harsanyi puts it in his column with the appropriate title of "All the president's mendacity":

President Barack Obama grimly warned America this week that if his health care plans fail, the nation will go "bankrupt."

Sure, adding another trillion-dollar entitlement program to our $12 trillion debt may seem like a counterintuitive way to stave off economic ruin, but who are we to argue? The president's got smarts.

Yeah, and smart people can get themselves into much bigger economic messes than dumber people. That's because dumb people are generally smart enough to realize that you can't spend what you don't have, and that more spending does not prevent bankruptcy. Most dumb people would probably think more spending makes bankruptcy more likely.


Smart people know better. They believe that if you're facing bankruptcy, you can simply spend your way out! It's the principle of counterintuitive money management.

If you're smart, and you've maxed out your credit card, the thing to do is go get more credit cards, and when you're maxed out on them, get more and max them out! You'll never be bankrupt that way, because you will simply owe more and more, and then owe more so that you can then owe more and more! Likewise, if a check bounces, the smart thing to do is to immediately write another check (on another account if possible), and then if that bounces, simply write another one, and so on. And why not? As the president says, that's the only way to avoid bankruptcy.

But isn't that illegal? Ah, smart people don't worry about things like laws either. Laws and prisons are for dumb people. Besides, smart people get to work for the government, so they can make sure that only dumb people have to pay.

Being smart means being unaccountable while making the dumb people accountable.

The moral lesson is that it's smart to be smart!

posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (4)

It Would Damage What We Hold Dear

That I think is one of the most eloquent points ever made against the alternative energy craze as it is currently being manifested. We know what the world looks like now. How will it look if we have to get 100% of our energy from natural sources with technology that is available now? Or even technology that will reasonably be available in the next ten years?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:41 PM | Comments (4)

Being white isn't "enough"

I'll say it isn't!

I woke up to see a truly marvelous headline staring me in the face.

Ethnic groups say 'white' isn't enough on the 2010 census
What is apparently going on (at least according to Detroit Free Press staff writer Niraj Warikoo) is that Arab Americans and others fear a "loss" of "benefits" if ancestry not accounted for. What benefits are those, you ask? The benefit that attach to being anything other than white! And right now, Arab Americans are in the unenviable position of being classified as white.
Arab Americans -- who make up about 1.5% of Michigan's population, based on the 2000 census -- won't be counted as such in 2010. Census officials say part of the reason was to streamline and shorten the form so that more people fill it out.

Two of the 10 questions will ask about a person's race -- white, black or Asian -- and whether the respondent is Hispanic. Arabs are considered white.

"It's unfair because we are not treated as white in society and by the government, but we also don't qualify as minorities to get the benefits of some programs" such as minority contracts, said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Who could blame them for being pissed?

Because of the relentless expansion of affirmative action (which began as a remedy for discrimination against blacks), there are innumerable non-white categories, and if you are lucky enough to get into one of them, you have an asset. I know a white woman who acquired a Hispanic last name by a marriage which soon ended in divorce, but do you think she reverted to her previous name? Not on your life. Hispanic-surnamed individuals have a leg up in the job market and it would be unreasonable to expect people to disadvantage themselves by eliminating such an advantage -- especially in this economy

I don't know whether the Arab Americans will get their way and become something other than white, but I also find it interesting that religion seems to factor somehow into the definition of race. At least, so says a University of Michigan professor:

Arab Americans and Chaldeans have varying views on the issue of race, said Andrew Shryock, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His research showed that religion can affect racial identity, with Arab-American Christians much more likely to see themselves as white than Arab-American Muslims.
Hmmm.... I wonder. Might converts to Islam be able to get something?

What about plain old white people? What sort of goodies might the left have to offer them? Surely they are aware that the way things are going, white people will be second class citizens by operation of law (which they may already be), because all non-white people will be able to claim some sort of legal advantage, and those who have the advantage are by definition more advantaged than those who don't.

A tantalizing clue that some advantage might be in store for certain whites is the possibility of some white people laying claim to being "ethnic":

"There is no such thing as white culture," said Thaddeus Radzilowski, president of the Piast Institute, a Polish-American group in Hamtramck that is one of 56 census Information Centers in the United States and the only one in Michigan. Having the ancestry question "provides a better notion of our pluralistic society and who we are," Radzilowski said.

Polish Americans and members of other European groups, such as German Americans -- two of Michigan's most common ethnicities on the 2000 census -- are interested in keeping the ancestry question. But the issue has somewhat faded for them given that they, on average, are more culturally assimilated and not as visible in the post-Sept. 11 world as Arab Americans.

Well, hey, I think I have just as much right to be a Norwegian American as they do to be Polish Americans and German Americans, and if we factor in religion as a race, I'm thinking that maybe I should explore my Norse roots. And I mean my Pagan Wiccan roots. "We" (those who believe in the Old Gods) have been persecuted too long, and being considered white is cultural hegemony at least. If we consider the systematic extirpation of Norse Culture by White America, I think I could make a good argument that my cultural DNA was annihilated, every bit as much as was that of the Aboriginal peoples. That's cultural genocide, folks! And even though I am still alive, I have suffered cultural death at the hands of White America. How dare they call me "white" after such an ordeal? Being white is second class citizenship, and in light of what was done to my people I deserve better!

Not only does whiteness suck because it carries with it second class citizenship, but so does equality. Because equality means getting nothing more than any regular old second class white person. Moreover, equality is racist, because "those who believe in colorblind equal treatment are either conscious or unconscious racists." The author makes it clear why the offer of equal rights to gays might be seen as chump change, because what good is equality if that means being the same as non-privileged white heterosexual people?

Being equal to white these days not only isn't enough, but because it is "equal," it's actually a step down.

Being white is unbearable. Having to be white against your will is manifestly unfair. How dare they put people into such a category based on an accident of birth -- especially when they can demonstrate a grievance?

I'm thinking that finding new ways to get out of whiteness might become a growth industry.

(Instead of writing these silly essays, perhaps I should get to work helping the disadvantaged.)

posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (7)

Polywell Down Under

Among the many wonderful links from the 2009 IEC conference, we learn the boys at the University of Sydney have made their own small Polywell device:

do particles follow the left-hand rule in the Southern Hemisphere?

Cute little guy. Congrats to proud parents Matthew Carr and Dr. Joe Khachan, who got the wee tyke up to 1T magnet strength and 250KV drive depth.

Also of interest: Dr. Joel G Rogers has done some critically important 2d particle-in-cell simulations of the plasma in a Polywell. It's vital we have a good understanding of how to optimize reactor operations without having to physically build the machine over and over.

Dr. Richard Nebel, who is of course working on the most advanced Polywell fusion machine (dubbed WB-8 and previously mentioned here) under a U.S. Navy contract with results (and full-scale reactor design) due in April, gave the summary for the conference.

Eternal thanks to ladajo at TalkPolywell.

posted by Dave at 11:58 PM | Comments (2)

"Precautionary principle" throws caution to the wind

The misapplication of the so-called "Precautionary Principle" is one of my pet peeves, because it is selectively invoked. It is routinely applied to the risk of environmental damage but never the risk of economic damage.

Rand Simberg takes a close look at the Precautionary Principle, which is problematic at best:

Those advocating that we upend the global (and particularly the U.S.) economy to stave off climate change resort to a concept called the "precautionary principle". Simply stated, it is that if there is some risk of an irreversible disaster in taking an action, then that action should be foregone.

In this formulation, the risk is climate change that will be disastrous for humanity, and the action to be foregone is continuing to add the carbon dioxide that is ostensibly causing it to the planetary atmosphere. The beautiful thing about the principle (at least for them) is that, because it doesn't assign any particular probability to the risk (i.e., it is uncertain), then it doesn't matter whether the science backing it up is known to be valid, because even if the science has only a small probability of being correct, the principle applies.

So even though "it doesn't matter whether the science backing it up is known to be valid," wrecking the economy is still seen as justified in the name of science.

Looking at uncertainty in the context of economic game theory, Simberg illustrates why the Precautionary Principle is being misapplied:

The problem is that, with the heretofore monomaniacal devotion to the flawed precautionary principle by the warm mongers, we haven't even defined the rows and columns, let alone attempted to come up with the numbers.
No wonder science has become political.

posted by Eric at 10:13 PM | Comments (2)

210 years ago....

Yesterday marked the 210th anniversary of George Washington's death, and Michael McNeil has a fascinating overview of the man and his life. Despite his immense importance, notes McNeil, Washington is more of a mystery now than ever.

This year (2009) marks the 210th anniversary of the passing (on earthdate 1799-12-15) of the man who, first as a general in war, won the freedom of the people of the United States of America; thence in peace -- after the ignominious failure of the first American constitution, the Articles of Confederation -- presided by acclamation over the Constitutional Convention, composed of all-time exceptionally clear-headed political thinkers, which drafted the Constitution of the United States, still in effect today (a monumental achievement compared with the experience of almost every other country in the world); and finally served two terms as the first constitutional President of the unified American nation. Beyond these monumental achievements -- which one might judge, due to the outstanding example presented to his successors and posterity, as equal to all the preceding actions of his eventful career -- was his final voluntary withdrawal after those elected terms of office, retiring to his Mount Vernon estate and removing himself entirely from subsequent politics. These actions made Washington him the stuff of legend -- almost deliberately hearkening back to Republican Rome in its grandeur.

Nowadays after the turn of the 21st century, the extraordinary devoted homage earlier eras in America paid to its founding General and President seems a bit mysterious. Portrayals of Washington in powdered wig and 18th century elite attire of the day present a notably quaint appearance today, and though founder of the U.S.A. (which somehow seems a very easy thing to do in retrospect, even foreordained), really (so the "modern," irreverent trendy line of thought goes) what did he do that was so all-fired great? Folk today typically know little of the period or the man, so nothing (or very little) is usually the implied answer -- and since most folks' dilettantish inquiries seldom go further, that's usually the end of the inquiry.

Except you don't need to let it be the end of your inquiry today. Simply go to Michael McNeil's blog, check out his own essays, scroll down to read Van Loon's Washington and look at some wonderful images.

It is no exaggeration to say that George Washington's leadership of the country in its infancy has ensured that we have never had an emperor, dictator or military coup. His importance cannot be underestimated, and it's never too late to learn why.

posted by Eric at 07:18 PM | Comments (1)

What to do with a Senator in need of an etiquette lesson?

Reading that Senator Schumer called an airline flight attendant a "bitch" simply because she asked him to turn off his cell phone as federal rules require, a couple of things came to mind.

First, we have one of the quintessential champions of massive federal power -- a guy whose daily existence consists of figuring out new ways to tell people what to do and how to run their lives -- demonstrating for all the world that he does not think the rules should apply to him. It would difficult to find a better example of the pure arrogance of power.

Second, there's the rudeness issue. In an odd coincidence, I have been very recently been thinking about rudeness. Yesterday I watched Dr. Helen's interview with Amy Alkon, whose book on the subject I just bought. A recurring theme is what to do when people are rude, and how they become emboldened when no one calls them on it. Perhaps mistakenly, I tend to associate public rudeness with the scummier citizens -- like the guy I described here who made an angry display of public littering, as if he dared anyone to challenge him. This made my thoughts drift to the whipping post:

I saw a guy throw a coffee cup on the ground over the weekend, and as he glanced glaringly at the people around him it occurred to me that he might consider putting the cup in a nearby trashcan to be beneath his "dignity" -- or even "sissy" behavior. (An unfortunate truth is that society once had the whipping post precisely to deal with miscreants like that.)
The difference here is that a United States Senator behaved in exactly the same manner as the scummiest criminal types. I'm not saying I would excuse an ordinary scumbag for behaving that way, but I think what Schumer did was far worse, because of his position of public trust. If someone like that can't be held to a normal human standard of public politeness, then what's the point of even talking about it?

At minimum, the man deserves to be severely punished by Amy Alkon (who has blogged about the Schumer incident, BTW).


I just thought of something. Maybe he'd enjoy it, and we can't have that, can we?

But on the other hand, (at the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart), I don't think Schumer deserves an extreme lesson in politeness from Hannibal "Eat The Rude" Lecter. Better to just lock him in a room with the guy I saw defiantly throwing the coffee cup. (I'd be willing to bet he could give the senator a good lesson on the proper use of the bitch word...)

Far be it from me to engage in Photoshopping for an appropriate outfit. Others have seen to that.


MORE: Sean Kinsell quotes from this post, and calls Schumer "a walking, talking argument for term limits if ever there was one." He also has some thoughts about Andrew Sullivan.

Thanks, Sean!

posted by Eric at 12:25 PM | Comments (5)

Sorry, but the green just had to go!

It was getting tired. And confusing.

Yeah, I get that way myself, but back in June, acting with the very best of intentions, I added the green color at the top of this blog in order to express solidarity with the Iranian protesters.

It was intended to be temporary, and while I of course still support the Iranian dissidents, temporary does mean temporary, and it was up there for too long a period of time.

While I'm lazy about making changes of any kind, there's something worrisome to me about seeing that green color when the Iranian protests are no longer in the headlines.

Especially now, when "green" means ruining the economy and placing government controls on nearly everyone in the world. And I am sick to death of hearing Obama talk about "green jobs," which are at worst a wholly parasitic drain, and at best non-productive make-work jobs.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that if I could put up the green as a protest against Iran, the time has come to take it down in protest.

Of Copenhagen. Climategate. The sickening "greening" of our freedom.

I said YES to the green of the Iranian protesters, and now I am saying NO! to the green hell of tyrannical "science."

I break with green, because I will not brake for green!

posted by Eric at 11:13 PM | Comments (7)

dead issue

Dead bodies suck.

No, really. I feel incredibly sorry for the owners of this land:

Some people have skeletons in their closet.

Others have 'em buried beneath their house.

That's the life lesson a group of construction workers learned in Fairmount on Saturday, when they unearthed seven old graves.

Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said the workers made the bone-chilling discovery as they were excavating an empty property site on 20th Street near Poplar about 1 p.m.

"They dug through a heavy concrete plate," Vanore said. "At a certain depth, they found seven shallow graves and some remains."

Police and a representative from the city Medical Examiner's Office were called to the scene, as was an archaeologist.

Based on a preliminary analysis, the bones appeared to be about 100 years old, Vanore said.

"It's possible that land could've been a cemetery at one point," he said, adding that so far, the discovery has not merited a criminal investigation.

It is going to be very expensive for the property owner, who had no way of knowing what might have been under a concrete slab. But it could have been worse. The bodies might have been of archaeological interest, especially if they were Native American, or early African American. That would mean a thorough investigation (most likely by professors and their students sifting through every piece of soil), and a possible halt to construction activity.

According to another piece, workers had already removed the remains of five bodies, but two more were found:

According to police, while remains of two bodies were recovered, five others were apparently loaded into dumpsters by workers and removed earlier in the week.

"It appeared through the investigation that some of the material had already been taken to another location by the contractor," Lt. Vanore said.

The city's medical examiner's office will take custody of the bones that were recovered to make sure that after a century or longer, they will be properly placed into a final resting place.

The investigation into the bizarre discovery is ongoing.

They were even kind enough to have a picture of some of the bones, lying amidst the debris:


To most people, this is one of those odd little human interest items, but it's a property owner's worst nightmare. Reading through some of the laws that deal with dead bodies was a real eye-opener. I don't know what the situation is in Pennsylvania, but in Virginia, removing dead bodies from their resting place -- regardless of their age -- is a felony.

Cemetery Preservation
Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if I find human bones or an unmarked grave? First of all, don't remove anything. Vandalizing a grave regardless of its age or ethnic identity is a felony.

If there are bones exposed you should leave them in place and report your find to the local or state police. They need to determine if there is evidence of criminal action--either a modern homicide or vandalism to graves.

If you know of graves that are being dug up, or gravestones, cemetery fences, etc., that are being damaged, contact your local law enforcement agency or Commonwealth's Attorney to report possible vandalism to a cemetery.

Never mind that it's been just another backyard for over a century. Decades ago when I did construction work, an older carpenter told me about running into abandoned graves while digging foundations for a commercial building. With a whole crew working and a schedule to meet, he was not about to be disruptive and delay the job, so he just threw them in the trash. (Something he confided in me in a hushed voice.)

That sounds callused (although it probably wasn't illegal at the time), but the bureaucratic alternative is a genuine nightmare. Not only is it painfully slow, but the bodies have to be relocated, by professionally trained people, and reburied in new graves. And the property owner has to pay for it -- even though he did absolutely nothing wrong. It is horrendously unfair, especially when you consider that people used to be routinely buried on private land and in many cases this was never recorded officially so there is no way to know. It strikes me that if you have title to land, you should own whatever the hell is buried underneath it.

But like it or not, the presence of dead bodies can alter the legal status of your land, as even a private cemetery can be a permanent easement on the land.

Which is why title insurance policies contain standard recitals like this:

The Seller(s)/Owner(s) has/have no knowledge of any highways, abandoned roads, lanes, cemetery or family burial grounds, springs, streams, rivers, ponds, or lakes bordering or running through said premises.
I guess that's one of the reasons for having title insurance.

It's someone else's problem, but whose? Why stick it to the current property owner? Philosophically, how long should we be encumbered by long-forgotten human remains? Bones eventually disintegrate, and depending on the soil, many bones of that age are already gone. I remember peeking into an above-ground crypt through a large (3 inch wide) crack and the bones had been reduced to fragments of rubble. Had it been scattered on the ground, it would have looked like nondescript debris of the sort you'd see anywhere in the dirt. When dead bodies are cremated, bones and bone fragments (not "ashes") are what remain behind, and they have to be fed through a grinder. Here's what they look like after they come out of the furnace,


And here they are, going into the grinder:


While options as to the disposal of "cremains" vary, people scatter them everywhere, and it is legal to scatter them on public land. As to whether they can legally be discarded in the trash (which will end up in a landfill), I don't know. Why do we not consider such bone material to be dead bodies? Because they have been ground up?

For the life of me, I'm having trouble seeing 100 year-old bones as a "dead body." I see no reason why they can't just do to these old bones what many people do with modern bones and simply feed them through a grinder. It wouldn't bother me.

And isn't the Golden Rule "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you?"

That's all good and fine, but who is you? If I wouldn't mind having my cremains tossed in a landfill, does that mean I have the right to do that to other people? Are bones (which consist largely of calcium) "people"?

If so, do we have to go back in time and respect the unknown sensibilities of long-deceased strangers?

Whatever happened to "ashes to ashes, dust to dust"?

posted by Eric at 11:27 AM | Comments (4)

An idea whose time has cum?

In Nevada, brothel owners are contemplating adding male prostitutes to their stables:

The owner of a brothel more than two hours' drive from Las Vegas said she hopes to hire Nevada's first legal male prostitutes within a month, now that state health officials have approved a method to test men for infectious diseases.

The world is ready for women, or even other men, to legally buy sex, said Shady Lady Ranch owner Bobbi Davis. Plus, being the first to offer male service could boost business in tough economic times, she said.

"With so many other male revues going on in Vegas, we thought it was time to give this a try," Davis told The Associated Press.

Regardless of how ready the world might be, Nevada's state health laws apparently weren't, because they required all prostitutes to have cervical testing. (No cervices, no services!) And as we all know, men do not have cervices. So it was time for a law change:
Until now, men have been effectively barred from legally plying the world's oldest profession in Nevada by the specificity of a state health law requiring prostitutes to undergo frequent cervical testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

The health board approved a regulation to allow urethral testing for men -- a crucial rule change by the state agency with ultimate power over whether prostitutes can or can't work.

For more than 25 years, no licensed female prostitute in Nevada has contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, said George Flint, a Reno wedding chapel owner and longtime lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Owners Association.

"My concern is that we continue to maintain that kind of record," he said.

Not surprisingly, concerns have been expressed about a legislative backlash.
Prostitution has been legal in rural Nevada counties since 1971 under strict state health board oversight but is against the law in the Las Vegas and Reno areas.

Flint said he feared the idea of male prostitutes serving male clients could spur a legislative backlash. He said he works to make the brothel industry socially acceptable to both libertarians and conservatives.

Hey, I'm not familiar with the ins and outs of Nevada politics, but I'll say this. If George Flint can actually figure out a way to make the brothel industry "socially acceptable to both libertarians and conservatives," that would be one of the greatest political feats in American history. It would go a long way towards ending the Culture War itself! Such a man deserves serious consideration as a presidential candidate.

They're still working on the pricing details. Women now run $300.00 per hour.

Davis said she wants to add two men to the three women she currently has living and working at her compound of trailers off U.S. 95 about 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

She said the women usually charge about $300 per hour for the five to 20 customers who visit on any given night.

"We don't know how to structure the men's pricing yet," Davis said.

Not to be facetious about such a serious matter, but I think a good argument can be made that prostitution is harder work for a man than it is for a woman.

So, I'm not sure that the doctrine of "equal pay for equal work" would apply.

Nor would "comparable worth," especially if you read the details:

A theory holding that compensation for job classifications filled chiefly by women should be the same as for those classifications filled chiefly by men if the jobs, albeit dissimilar, are regarded as having equal value. According to this theory, workers' salaries should be calculated on a scale of socioeconomic value that transcends traditional supply and demand.
I think asking the sex worker industry to transcend the laws of supply and demand goes too far.

As to the issue of "sustainability," don't laugh. In Copenhagen they're claiming that sex with prostitutes is not an environmentally "sustainable" activity:

Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard and the city council had postcards sent to 160 hotels urging people coming to town for next week's UN Climate Change Conference to "be sustainable -- don't buy sex," according to Spiegelonline.
OK, I am on record as supporting emissions as a human right, so once again:
it's time to get the government out of all of our emissions, for good.

Emissions are a human right!

Accusing sex workers of unsustainable conduct reveals that environmentalists not only have a Neo-Puritan agenda, but they probably have doubts about their own sustainability. I suspect their inability to sustain their own emissions is behind their obsession with the emissions of others.

Bring back traditional supply and demand!

posted by Eric at 01:52 PM | Comments (8)

Fewer people means fewer emissions!

On CNN, there's been a serious discussion of implementing a worldwide one-child policy, and Jack Cafferty is obviously sympathetic.

CNN's Jack Cafferty all but endorsed a global version of China's oppressive one-child policy on Friday's Situation Room. He repeated the argument of Canadian journalist Diane Francis, that population control is the only way to fight global warming, and mentioned the opposition of "fundamentalist leaders" and others only in passing. All but one of the viewer e-mails that Cafferty read endorsed the idea.
If you believe that controlling human emissions will save the planet, it's a no-brainer that the fewer humans there are, the fewer emissions. So, actually reducing the number of humans would from a purely utilitarian standpoint be the most practical final solution to the problem. As Cafferty notes, the China's one-child policy makes it a "world leader in creating policy to combat the destruction of the environment":
The Chinese instituted a policy limiting the number of children each family can have thirty years ago, and they claim that since that time, they have prevented 400 million births and saved carbon emissions to the tune of 18 million tons a year.
As we all know, today's scientists are more concerned with political advocacy than hard science. So why haven't they come up with an overwhelming scientific consensus that the one-child policy must be implemented immediately?

Instead, we only hear from CNN and their listeners, some of whom are quite articulate:

Sean in Belvidere, Illinois: 'Morally, there are better ways of fighting global warming than infanticide. But sadly, this method makes more sense than carbon credits.'

Jay writes, 'Absolutely. Every year, we have deer hunting season, with the argument that if we don't control the deer population, they'll over-breed and starve to death. Why can't these 'John and Kate' and 'Octomom' people see that the same biological mathematics applies to humans? On a planet of finite resources, you cannot just keep producing an ever-growing pool of consumers and still expect the whole thing will work.'

I have to say, I never really thought about it this way, but I'm wondering whether a little historical revisionism might be in order. We tend to think of Mao, Stalin and Hitler as the greatest mass murderers of all time, but has anyone bothered to calculate out how many tons of emissions they prevented? Sure, mistakes were made, but might these farsighted men have actually been pioneers acting in the long term interests of the planet?

I'm no post-Modernist historian, but I'm thinking the topic -- whether Mao, Stalin, and Hitler weren't ahead of their time -- might be worthy of a doctoral thesis. Moreover, I think that they might be a source of inspiration for youth, especially future leaders in need of role models.

So I came up with an image to inspire them.


Teach your children!

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

"Copendeniers" at the gate!

Probably in the hope of driving a stake through the heart of AGW skeptics in Copenhagen, a self-described Al Gore trainee named Kevin Grandia has created the term "Copendenier." He must really like it, for he has even authored a Wiki page announcing the term to the world.

I'm always fascinated by new words, but what surprised me about this one is that even though it's quite new, it already gets over 10,000 Google hits. However, I think it will soon slide into oblivion.

Unlike "Climategate." (Although it's worth noting that despite 11 million Google hits, the term still has not earned a Wiki page.)


I can live with that.

At least in the philosophical sense.

posted by Eric at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

The AP Investigates ClimateGate

The Associated Press puts one of their top reporters on the ClimateGate scandal.

LONDON - E-mails stolen from climate scientists show they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data -- but the messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked, according to an exhaustive review by The Associated Press.
Ah. Yes. It was a train wreck. But the hazmat crew is cleaning up the toxics and soon everything will be restored to just the way it was before the unfortunate incident. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

OK. I'm moving. So I moved over to Watts Up With That and found out some interesting details about one of the authors of the AP piece. Seth Borenstein. It seems that he was in on the scam as detailed by e-mails he sent to the CRU Team.

On Jul 23, 2009, at 11:54 AM, Borenstein, Seth wrote:

Kevin, Gavin, Mike,
It's Seth again. Attached is a paper in JGR today that
Marc Morano is hyping wildly. It's in a legit journal. Whatchya think?

Seth Borenstein
Associated Press Science Writer
The Associated Press, 1100 13th St. NW, Suite 700,
Washington, DC

I think a call or two into the Associated Press might be in order. You might want to investigate for yourself how some one involved in suppressing information he didn't care for could investigate himself.

It seems to me that many of the MSM's recent "exonerations" of the ClimateGate conspirators are an exercise in foot shooting - their own. Some one should remind the MSM that if the wound is not properly treated it could prove fatal.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:57 PM | Comments (4)

Fraud for a worthy cause?

It's a complicated read, but "The Smoking Gun At Darwin Zero" by Willis Eschenbach (which Jerry Pournelle calls a must-read) explains in detail why Climategate is about a lot more than the scientific bitch fight that the AGW advocates and their media allies are allies would have people believe. You should read it all, as it's carefully researched and extremely damning.


the clumsy fingerprints of someone messing with the data Egyptian style [...] are indisputable evidence that the "homogenized" data has been changed to fit someone's preconceptions about whether the earth is warming.

One thing is clear from this. People who say that "Climategate was only about scientists behaving badly, but the data is OK" are wrong. At least one part of the data is bad, too. The Smoking Gun for that statement is at Darwin Zero.

So once again, I'm left with an unsolved mystery. How and why did the GHCN "adjust" Darwin's historical temperature to show radical warming? Why did they adjust it stepwise? Do Phil Jones and the CRU folks use the "adjusted" or the raw GHCN dataset? My guess is the adjusted one since it shows warming, but of course we still don't know ... because despite all of this, the CRU still hasn't released the list of data that they actually use, just the station list.

(HT Glenn Reynolds for the Pournelle link.)

I have a question. What kind of "scientists" refuse to allow scrutiny of data which lies at the very heart of the international juggernaut intent on placing the entire world economy in shackles and ultimately controlling nearly every person on this planet?

I used the quotes because I don't think con artists deserve to be called scientists.

Fraud at such a level makes favorite villains like Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff look like pikers.

The difference of course, is that while Lay and Madoff engaged in fraud to commit economic damage for personal gain, the "scientist" con artists believed in a higher cause, and were motivated by that same perverse sort of altruism that characterizes dishonest fanatics like Communists or Islamists.

Does that altruistic motivation make them better? Or does it make them worse?

I suppose it depends on your view of their cause.

posted by Eric at 01:10 PM | Comments (5)

Sarah Palin Reads Poetry

Note what a warm welcome Wm. Shatner gets when he comes on. Then note how much warmer the welcome for Sarah is.

More reactions at Hill Buzz.

And if you want to read Sarah's book to make sure Shatner got his lines right may I suggest: Going Rogue: An American Life

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:47 PM | Comments (1)

Communist Physics

Conserve momentum comrades? I don't think so. The time has come to liberate it from those who have captured it in the name of greed and personal profit.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:00 PM | Comments (4)

Does the Constitution limit Congress? At all?

This video discussion (with Senator Orrin Hatch, Eugene Volokh, and Randy Barnett) of the constitutionality of the Health Care Mandate is over an hour long, but really worth watching. I was especially impressed by what Senator Hatch says about the importance of the Constitution as a restraint on government. Renewed my faith to see a senator talk that way. Hatch believes the mandate is unconstitutional because it goes beyond regulation of the marketplace, and requires participation by citizens under penalty of law. The requirement that every American buy health insurance is, argues Hatch, completely unprecedented and such a dramatic departure from constitutional limitations on congressional power that if upheld, it would mean that the Congress could do anything it wanted.

Including, presumably, implementing a planetary one child policy -- recently advocated by a leading Canadian newspaper:

A planetary law, such as China's one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate currently, which is one million births every four days.
And why not? If Congress has the power to make all citizens buy insurance, then surely it has the power to save the planet.

Congress could simply copy and paste the following Canadian editorial language as "Congressional findings":

The world's other species, vegetation, resources, oceans, arable land, water supplies and atmosphere are being destroyed and pushed out of existence as a result of humanity's soaring reproduction rate.


-If only one child per female was born as of now, the world's population would drop from its current 6.5 billion to 5.5 billion by 2050, according to a study done for scientific academy Vienna Institute of Demography.

-By 2075, there would be 3.43 billion humans on the planet. This would have immediate positive effects on the world's forests, other species, the oceans, atmospheric quality and living standards.

-Doing nothing, by contrast, will result in an unsustainable population of nine billion by 2050.

Just add a few "whereas's" and it's ready to go.

Besides, it relates to health care, so maybe they could attach it to the current bill at the last minute when no one is looking or has time to read.

China has proven that birth restriction is smart policy. Its middle class grows, all its citizens have housing, health care, education and food, and the one out of five human beings who live there are not overpopulating the planet.

For those who balk at the notion that governments should control family sizes, just wait until the growing human population turns twice as much pastureland into desert as is now the case, or when the Amazon is gone, the elephants disappear for good and wars erupt over water, scarce resources and spatial needs.

How long will it take? I'm 55, and I have seen countless predictions fail to come true. I'm freezing my ass off in Michigan while I'm being scolded about how the oceans will boil and continents will disappear. So yes, I balk at the notion that governments should control family sizes. Besides, governments have already controlled family sizes, with rather horrific results.

I'd rather enact controls on government sizes.

That was the original theory of the Constitution.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Jim Lindgren raises the question of whether a planetary one-child policy might doom the welfare state.

A welfare state is in one sense a big Ponzi scheme. Without increasing numbers of people entering the scheme, there is no money to pay the people receiving the money. As Mark Steyn has repeatedly pointed out, you can't run a welfare state without a growing population.
The simple solution is to just raise taxes on the rich!

posted by Eric at 12:58 PM | Comments (7)

God Bless America

MMcA notes some health care polling:

Are you opposed because it gets government too involved in health care or because it would not involve government enough?

Too much government involvement: 90%
Not enough government involvement: 6%
Not sure: 4%

I am so damned proud of my country right now.

PROGRAM NOTE: My blogging may continue to be light due to the awesomeness of life.

posted by Dave at 08:12 PM | Comments (1)

Is being right more important than winning?

Regardless of what her politics are, I liked what Carly Fiorina said here about Climategate.

This week, diplomats from around the world are gathering in Copenhagen for the global climate change summit--an event that has been marked by controversy in the wake of the "climate-gate" scandal that has recently and rightly gained significant international media attention.

This scandal has provoked many questions that I believe deserve answers. Among other things, it would seem that information relating to climate change research may have been held back from the public-- and key decision-makers, too. This could of course impact the appropriateness and effectiveness of policy that the US, and indeed world leaders, might pursue. Before moving forward, given the potentially significant economic consequences associated with some of the steps under consideration, I personally think it is important to get a handle on all the facts, whether they be good, bad or ugly.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Well, good for Carly Fiorina for saying that!

Naturally, she is taking flak, but if you think it's coming from the left, you're wrong. She is being excoriated in the comments by angry conservatives, who accuse her of being a RINO, a liberal, or like McCain.

I'm sorry, but whether this woman is in fact a RINO or a liberal or like McCain simply has no bearing on whether her thoughts on Climategate are accurate.

I notice that the angry commenters are supporters of Chuck DeVore, who is running against Fiorina in the California Republican primary.

They're so rude that they almost make me feel like sending Fiorina money.

Moreover, the claim that Fiorina is a RINO seems a bit overwrought. DeVore has certainly positioned himself to the right of her, but unless RINO has come to mean being anything less than far right, that does not make her a RINO. Clearly DeVore is more to the liking of the right wing of the California GOP, but as this is politics, what ought to count the most is who has a better chance of beating Barbara Boxer.

thinks Boxer would make mincemeat out of DeVore:

The race for the GOP nomination to take on the spendthrift Mrs. Boxer is not a contest between a mainstream conservative and a liberal Republican, but between two conervatives with different backgrounds and different appeals.

If elected, neither would vote to increase the size of government and limit our freedoms. Each candidate would better serve our state than has Barbara Boxer. The real issue is which one is better suited to defeating her.

Should DeVore win the GOP nomination and misrepresent Boxer's record as he has misrepresented Carly's, the better-funded Boxer attack machine would make mincemeat of him. And that machine would have the support not just of the Democratic Party, but of the California media.

The issue would not be Boxer's record, but DeVore's competence.

My worry is that some of DeVore's supporters don't see the issue as whether he can beat Barbara Boxer. They'd rather see him lose to her than see Carly Fiorina win.

Unless the idea is a Long March, I don't see much strategic value in losing.

As to a Long March, what if it loses too?

posted by Eric at 01:22 PM | Comments (6)

Spelling errors are disrespectful!

And having a "sic" sense of humor is no defense!

Over the years, many readers have caught me committing one or another of my innumerable errors -- whether in spelling, grammar, getting names and dates wrong, or various combinations thereof. While I usually appreciate being corrected, what sometimes annoys me is when someone becomes indignant over an error having little or nothing to do with the point I was trying to make. A perfect example was this comment left to a post about Ahmadinejad's necktie phobia, in which I quoted Matthew Yglesias's thoughts about Ahmadinejad, but inadvertently spelled his name with an "I" instead of a "Y." The infuriated commenter really let me have it, and accused me of having no respect for my (gulp!) values!

One classical value you have no respect for is SPELLING. Learn to do it. It's Yglesias, not Iglesias. Clown.

Now that hurt, so I promptly corrected my error, but I don't think the commenter's anger was warranted. When you write these long essays, it is nearly impossible to avoid errors like that. Almost every post I write has one or more errors, and I correct them when I see them. What I find especially unfair about angry corrections is that I am a very forgiving, non-pedantic person where it comes to other people's typing and spelling mistakes. Not only don't I like to correct people, but I actually find it annoying when persnickety polemicists score points by playing the "sic" game. Interestingly enough, in the very post of Yglesias that I quoted (now found only at the Internet archives), he had misspelled the Iranian president's name as "Mahmoun." I couldn't have cared less, because the point involved the man's attire, not his name. However, others did care, and they rubbed the "sic" right in Yglesias's face!

Even one of Yglesias's commenters pointed it out, but Yglesias never corrected it. Maybe he just didn't think it was a big deal, and maybe he just likes ducking "sics."

Not to lose my point here, but I was reminded of such useless nitpickery this morning when I saw that Ann Althouse is being savaged by a man with a name as unspellable as it is unpronounceable. As the guy is obviously at least as sensitive about his own name as Matthew Yglesias's angry minions are about Yglesias's, I must be extremely careful to get the name right. Hyphen and all.

It's Ta-Nehisi Coates!

So there! And boy is he touchy. Maybe I should retract what I said about the name being unpronounceable, because all that you have to do to learn how to pronounce it is to go to his Wiki entry, which very helpfully provides instructions:

Ta-Nehisi Coates (born 1975, Baltimore, Maryland) is a contributing editor for The Atlantic and blogs on its website. (He pronounces his given name /ˌta-nɘˈhasi/.) Coates has worked for The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, and Time. He has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Washington Monthly, O, and other publications.
I guess the pronunciation instructions are in parentheses because you really should know -- just as you should know his name is "given" (something which matters enough to mention?) -- and if you don't, it's because you just aren't in the know. [Not cool enough, perhaps?]

Geez, I just thought of something.... What if my blogging software or the various browsers can't render the phonetic alphabet in the above pronunciation text correctly? Would that, too, be "disrespectful"? (If so, then all who are offended can go ahead and "sic" my "dis.")

This is all so unbelievably petty. My name ("Scheie") gets misspelled all the time, because it looks like a typo to begin with. It would never occur to me that people who misspell my name are showing a lack of respect. Whether for me as an individual or for my proud Norwegian heritage.

Obviously, I am missing something. There must be a hidden subtext involved. Do some people have more right to complain about misspelled names than others?

MORE: Damn, if there's one thing I hate more than spelling and grammatical errors, it's html errors! It just so happens that I found and corrected several in this post, and they involved Matthew Yglesias's dead but now archived post.

No disrespect intended -- for Yglesias or his disappeared post.

posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (15)

Is there hope for change?

President Obama's Oslo acceptance speech has drawn surprising praise from conservatives (including Sarah Palin), and I have to say that I too liked what he said about the use of force being "not only necessary but morally justified."

It's already being called the "Obama Doctrine" - a notion that foreign policy is a struggle of good and evil, that American exceptionalism has blunted the force of tyranny in the world, and that U.S. military can be a force for good and even harnessed to humanitarian ends.

"There will be times," Obama said, "when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

The remarks drew immediate praise from a host of conservatives, including former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"I liked what he said," Palin told USA Today. "Of course, war is the last thing I believe any American wants to engage in, but it's necessary. We have to stop these terrorists."

Gingrich told The Takeaway, a national morning drive show from WNYC and Public Radio International, "He clearly understood that he had been given the prize prematurely, but he used it as an occasion to remind people, first of all, as he said: that there is evil in the world."

"I think having a liberal president who goes to Oslo on behalf of a peace prize and reminds the committee that they would not be free, they wouldn't be able to have a peace prize, without having [the ability to use] force," Gingrich said. "I thought in some ways it's a very historic speech."

The context was striking....

I'll say. You couldn't find a more pacifist setting to deliver a speech like that. Clearly, his intended audience was not the ostensible one in front of him.

So maybe I wasn't too far off yesterday when I speculated that his Oslo behavior might be "a bone to conservatives."

While it's too early to tell, it is to be sincerely hoped that he means what he said, and that maybe he isn't quite the teleologist he has seemed to be.

(Of course, I'd like to see some real, concrete evidence before I succumb to wishful teleological thinking myself.)

posted by Eric at 09:01 AM | Comments (1)

Those frightening Republicans

President Barack Obama has told the Republicans to "stop trying to frighten the American people."

Surely he jests.

There are a lot of things that might be said about the Republicans, but right now they are no position to frighten the American people. They couldn't frighten their way out of a paper bag.

This is not to say the American people aren't frightened, though, because they are. Of Barack Obama's policies. And President Obama should be frightened by this poll:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama's declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they'd rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that's somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country's difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited. The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore, which is good news generally for Republicans and especially ones like Rob Portman who are running for office and have close ties to the former President.
I only hope the Democrats use the Bush card to "frighten" the American people. Again and again.

Why, they could even use this to scare them!


(I'd be willing to bet that Barack Obama would think it's frightening.)

MORE: Sean Kinsell links this post and shares some related thoughts about the brave entertainers who stood up to Bush:

Thrilling as it may have been to pretend to be all scared by Karl Rove, none of these people risked anything close to the midnight knock at the door.
Of course, if they wanted to imagine that their conduct constituted "bravery," little wonder they put the Republicans in Nazi uniforms and Klan robes.

posted by Eric at 04:08 PM | Comments (1)

The View From My Window

Why on earth anyone would want to see such a thing, I don't know. But it's some sort of tradition in certain parts of the blogosphere, so this morning I took a picture which is not only The View From My Window, it also doubles as My View of Global Warming.


Yes, it was 13 degrees this morning, and the windows were opaque with ice. Obviously, all that CO2 is simply not doing its job around here.

posted by Eric at 11:41 AM | Comments (10)

A show of ingratitude for an undeserved award?

Can anyone tell me what the hell is going on with Barack Obama? I mean, when he was in Saudi Arabia and Japan, he bowed obsequiously before the monarchs, yet in Norway -- which honored him with an undeserved Nobel Prize -- he has snubbed the the king, and nearly everyone else over there. Naturally, Norwegians are outraged:

Norwegians are incensed over what they view as his shabby response to the prize by cutting short his visit.

The White House has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre.

He has also turned down a lunch invitation from the King of Norway.

According to a poll published by the daily tabloid VG, 44% of Norwegians believe it was rude of Obama to cancel his scheduled lunch with King Harald, with only 34% saying they believe it was acceptable.

"Of all the things he is cancelling, I think the worst is cancelling the lunch with the king," said Siv Jensen, the leader of the largest party in opposition, the populist Progress party. "This is a central part of our government system. He should respect the monarchy," she told VG.

The issue is not so much whether he should respect Norway's monarchy, so much as it is a bizarre form of inconsistency in the man's behavior. Snubbing the Norwegian king when he was being honored with the country's highest award makes him seem like a pompous ingrate. Yet when he was in Japan and Saudi Arabia, he bowed and scraped like a humble supplicant.

I'm wholly at a loss to explain this. Honestly, the whole thing reminds me of Marlon Brando and George C. Scott snubbing the Academy Awards. (But that's a bad analogy, because at least they earned their respective Oscars.)

If there is some element or subtext that I'm missing, I'm all ears.

(I'd hate to think that he might he be secretly offering a bone to conservatives by treating the Nobel Committee and the Norwegian government with the contempt they deserve for giving him an unearned Nobel, but I suppose anything is possible.)

UPDATE: Via Allahpundit, I see that some of the more enterprising Norwegians were not to be outdone by the no-show president, so they replaced him with a cardboard cutout.

Well, cardboard probably causes less harm.

And wastes fewer trees!

posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (7)

"a compelling type of legal claim"

In a case which I think epitomizes what is wrong with today's tort system, the daughter of a woman killed in an accident caused by a driver talking on a cell phone has sued Samsung (the phone manufacturer) and the wireless provider.

She hopes to prove that the companies should have foreseen the dangers and that they failed to provide adequate warnings.

Legal experts said her lawsuit, currently the only such case and one of only a handful ever filed, faces steep challenges but also raises interesting questions about responsibility for behavior that is a threat to everyone on the road.

"This is a compelling type of legal claim," said Kenneth A. Bamberger, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. "It deals with the widespread use of a product we now know is involved in significant risk and deals with the ultimate question of who should contribute in minimizing the risk."

The lawsuit, filed in October, involves a crash in Oklahoma City on Sept. 3, 2008. Ms. Smith's mother, Linda Doyle, 61, died after her Toyota Rav4 was hit by a Ford pickup driven by Christopher Hill. Mr. Hill, then 20, told the police he was so distracted by a cellphone call that he ran a red light at 45 miles an hour, hitting Ms. Doyle's car as it crossed in front of him.

Mr. Hill was talking on a Samsung UpStage phone on the Sprint Nextel service. Samsung declined to comment. Sprint Nextel said that it "rejects the claims of negligence" in the suit and that it includes safety messages on packaging and user manuals, on its Web site and in its advertising.

I disagree with Professor Bamberger that it is a "compelling claim." I think it is a wholly frivolous claim, but the fact that it is considered compelling by a professor at one of the top law schools in the country illustrates a major problem with the legal system which needs to be addressed.

Of course, is Professor Bamberger is right, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and Taco Bell should be very worried.

Because all of those places provide drive-through windows where food is sold to whomever is behind the wheel, no questions asked, no warnings given. And according to AAA, consumption of food and beverages causes more accidents than cell phones:

According to the AAA findings, 1.7 percent of accidents were caused by those eating and drinking, while 1.5 percent were caused by those using cell phones. Nevertheless, both distractions rated far below the distractions caused by outside events. They included fender benders or animals running into the road, which contributed to 11.4 percent of accidents; those caused by passengers, which contributed to 10.9 percent of accidents; and those attributable to objects falling off car seats, which contributed to 4.3 percent of accidents.
Cell phones and food are not the only distractions. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration reports that
most drivers engage in activities that take their attention away from the road. These activities include:

* Talking with other passengers: 81%
* Playing with the radio or CD: 66%
* Eating or drinking: 49%
* Using a cell phone: 25%

Which means that not only might the manufacturer of the radio or the CD player be liable, but so might the passenger who talked with the driver.

Furthermore, I was told by police officers in Berkeley that many an accident has been caused by a driver being sexually distracted -- not by someone in the car, but by an attractive person walking down the street. Why should scantily clad young women be allowed to get away with causing accidents?

"But officer! She was compelling! Utterly compelling!"

Don't laugh. One consultant estimated that "5 to 10 percent of distraction accidents have a sexual content."

Of course, there can often be considerable overlap between sex and talking on the phone (it's called phone sex), but is it really fair to see the telephone or the service provider as the distraction? Isn't the object or source of the conversation at least as culpable?

I realize people will say that the driver is responsible, but under our legal system, that does not end the inquiry. It only begins it.

UPDATE: My thanks to Clayton Cramer for the link. (Interesting discussion about the feasibility of alternative designs too.)

posted by Eric at 11:00 PM | Comments (6)

Do amorous and amoral robots threaten our values?

WARNING: Some of these videos might not be safe for work. (Depends on how anthropomorphic your boss is.)

Did you know that YouTube was alleged to have censored robot sex? I didn't, and I find myself a bit perturbed, not only because the video in question is pretty amusing, but as far as I am concerned, what is going on does not constitute sexual intercourse.

Take a look; they are depictions of moving parts on what are clearly machines. No one would mistake them for humans.

I don't know whether this was prudishness on YouTube's part, and I understand why they might be afraid of pornography, but I see no way that this could legally be considered pornography.

So I looked again. YouTube seems to have reconsidered:

An article in the Washington Times raises the dicey issue of whether humans will marry robots, although the experts quoted admit that this won't be possible until the middle of this century. By then I'll be in my nineties if I'm alive, so I just can't get too worked up about culture war aspects of cybernetics -- especially whether robots might pose yet another threat to the "institution" of marriage.

Besides, what about the wording in the various marriage amendments which all recite that "marriage is between one man and one woman"? Assuming men and women are people (which I think they are), a robot is not a person, so it can't be called a man or a woman.

Presumably, a robot could be designed to look like either a man or a woman (or both, I suppose), and it could easily be programmed to be sexually responsive in either a heterosexual or homosexual manner, but as marriage between robots and humans would be legally impossible, I think cultural worries are premature.

What I'd really like to know is why so many people assume that once robots become intelligent and sentient beings, they'll necessarily want to take over. I saw the idea expressed again and again by commenters to a post Glenn Reynolds linked not all that long ago, and I culled these as typical examples:

  • Robots will be very "other" and may have far more power, thus they are far more likely to kill all humans than one human tribe is to kill most or all of another human tribe - and the latter has happened plenty of times.
  • why should sentient robots have any regard for humans or human rights? The concept of life and death doesn't apply to a robot; back it up, destroy the original, reload the memory into another copy and you're right back where you started from. Where would the tragedy be in a robot war? Similarly, we humans value our lives more than we value the lives of lesser creatures, e.g., cockroaches or cows. Who's to say that robots won't see us similarly?
    For all of these reasons, truly sentient robots that can self-replicate will probably spell the end of humanity.
  • One of the reasons that the notion of democracy bothers me is that successful genocide (and high breeding rate if you can pass on your views) is one of the win conditions in democracy.

    Instinctively people know this. This combines with the realistic fear that one day robots will be better than us. Also, its interesting how the cultural biases are. In Japan, people don't fear robots.

  • all law is legislated morality.
  • I am staring at the death knell of humanity in these comments
  • I don't fear superior people or superior technology, and I don't see the death knell of humanity. Besides, in an evolutionary sense, if superior beings were created by us and eventually surpassed us and did us in, they would stand on our shoulders, would they not?

    Anyway, I tend to think that hypothetical hyperbole about the future is a bit silly, and I felt like leaving a comment along these lines:

    I've noticed a recurrent theme in many of these comments, to the effect that robots will be necessarily be superior to humans in all respects, and that because they will be unbeatable, humanity's destruction is assured. Now, I won't live to see it, but I'm skeptical about the idea that man will be able to design a superior being that he will be unable to destroy in the event of some ultimate showdown.

    Should I care?

    Actually, I do care (at least in the theoretical sense) in that I would like to see robot technology evolve and develop without interference from anthropomorphic busybodies. In that respect, I think Glenn is right to be worried about robophobia. If they are our creation, they will always be an extension of us, and if each one of us is doomed anyway, isn't the creation of superior beings a bit like having superior children continue on?

    But I suppose if we're really paranoid, we could always make them edible.

    Or we could simply send disobedient robots back to the factory to be treated like Woody Allen.

    posted by Eric at 02:03 PM | Comments (1)

    Power beyond Nixon's dreams

    The Washington Examiner looks at the EPA's so-called "Endangerment Ruling" and concludes that "Obama has launched a thermonuclear warhead aimed directly at the very heart of congressional authority":

    The EPA Endangerment Ruling assigns to the agency authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions not included under that law's purview. Indeed, when the original law was approved by Congress, nobody said a word about any agency of the federal government telling any business or industry in America how much CO2 it could emit. By now saying the law gives it unilateral authority to declare CO2 dangerous pollutants, the EPA is grabbing power to regulate the 85 percent of the U.S. economy that depends on energy derived from the burning of carbon-based fuels. Those fuels -- oil, natural gas, and coal -- are heavy CO2 emitters. This ruling thus renders congressional intent irrelevant. If the ruling stands, the law will then be whatever the president and his bureaucratic minions in the executive branch decree, not what the people decide acting through their elected representatives in Congress.

    Congressional liberals who failed to get their cap-and-trade scheme approved in the Senate are ecstatic about the EPA's ruling. There was a time when American liberals worried about excessive executive power; today they cheer as Barack Obama dons the robes of the imperial presidency in ways that Richard Nixon never dreamed possible.

    NRO calls the result an "EPA run economy." (And you thought the Federal Reserve was bad....)

    I don't expect this Congress to stand up for its rights, but I guess there's still the Supreme Court. The problem is that in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA itself violated the Clean Air Act by not regulating CO2:

    In April 2007 the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 549 U.S. 497 (2007) that the EPA violated the Clean Air act by not regulating greenhouse gas emissions.[1] In the ruling the Court said that the EPA Administrator must determine whether or not there was sufficient scientific evidence to support the supposition "that emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare... The Supreme Court decision resulted from a petition for rulemaking under section 202(a) filed by more than a dozen environmental, renewable energy, and other organizations."[2] Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act is titled "Emission standards for new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines" [3]
    So I don't expect much help from the Court.

    At the Emperor can't stop people from voting. Or having opinions.

    MORE: I guess there is sort of a resemblance, isn't there?

    bigger than Nixon.jpg

    And let me make one thing perfectly clear.

    The EPA itself was created by Richard Nixon.

    MORE: David Harsanyi looks at the EPA Endangerment Ruling, and says "What we need is a RICO trial."

    It looks like vintage Nixonian nostalgia is in.

    MORE: Commenter Phelps says "I'm a trendsetter!" and looking at his photo comparison, I'm inclined to agree.


    posted by Eric at 11:57 AM | Comments (3)

    A climate of levitation?

    As M. Simon's post on magick reminded me of the practical impediments to willing something to happen (or not), my thoughts drifted back to that marvelous demonstration of magical impotence in 1967, during which the Pentagon failed to levitate as the demonstrators hoped.

    And as my thoughts further, um, drifted to the recent snow, I wondered... Just how many of the AGW crowd believe in magical thinking, in teleology? Might there be a division between the scientists in their ranks and the true believers who imagine things like cities and continents underwater? Like poet Al Gore, who imagines this:

    One thin September soon
    A floating continent disappears
    In midnight sun

    Vapors rise as
    Fever settles on an acid sea

    Geez. I hate to be a spoilsport, but isn't making a continent disappear a taller order than levitating the Pentagon?

    What will they do if the plans don't work out? And what are the implications? If global warming is politics, and politics is like war, then the proponents of the theory must wish devoutly that the nightmare scenario they envision happens, or at least start to happen, so they will be proven right and get what they want, while the other "side" will want them to fail, and thus wish it not to happen. From a Machiavellian perspective, this can be reduced to "cold" logic. "Coldening" is in the interest of the opponents of AGW theory, while warming is in the interest of the proponents. But of course the climate itself is not subject to persuasion.

    Hence Climategate.

    It is to be devoutly hoped that genuine scientists are not teleologists, for with all due respect to magic (and magick), I think it's fair to say that scientific magical thinking is unprofessional.

    But what about the other, non-scientist, blatantly political AGW faction? The "Imagine" people. What are they imagining? Are they hoping for warming? Do they actually pray for the catastrophes they predict? I hope not, because that would be downright mean-spirited and negative and evil -- at least as mean-spirited as Rush Limbaugh hoping for Obama to fail. And they condemned that, didn't they?

    If we return to levitating the Pentagon, it could be argued that the goal (at least from the perspective of the levitators) was a good thing. But here, unlike the case of the Pentagon, the goal of the wishes is admittedly a bad thing. Doesn't this place the teleological warmists in an inherent conflict of interest?

    Think about it; if they want to be the good guys and catastrophe makes them happy, while the bad guys are made happy by uneventful normality, the good guys must be suffering from a bad karma overload by now.

    I should feel sorry for them. Please forgive my levity.

    MORE: Gerard Van der Leun explains how Al Gore's poem will cause mass suicide.


    Maybe this teleology business is more powerful than I realized.

    posted by Eric at 09:59 AM | Comments (2)


    Unfortunately, I have no friends beyond the visible universe with which to test the quantum "many-worlds" interpretation of relativity's claims of possible time travel... but I'm still pretty sure decoherence is irreversible.

    So even if you could use a distant (~200B LY) intermediary to, say, pass yourself tomorrow's lottery numbers via quantum entanglement and the relativistic effect of walking across your living room (as described in Brian Greene's Fabric of the Cosmos), when you played the numbers the next day they would turn out to be wrong because the universe isn't deterministic, it's probabilistic.

    I mean, otherwise the universe is just silly.

    posted by Dave at 06:06 PM | Comments (9)




    is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.

    (Illustration: It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take "magical weapons", pen, ink, and paper; I write "incantations" --- these sentences --- in the "magical language" i.e. that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth "spirits", such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of


    by which I cause changes to take place in conformity with my Will<>)


    ANY required Change may be effected by the application of the proper kind and degree of force in the proper manner through the proper medium to the proper object.

    (Illustration: I wish to prepare an ounce of Chloride of Gold. I must take the right kind of acid, nitrohydrochloric and no other, in sufficient quantity and of adequate strength, and place it, in a vessel which will not break, leak, or corrode, in such a manner as will not produce undesirable results, with the necessary quantity of Gold: and so forth. Every Change has its own conditions. In the present state of our knowledge and power some changes are not possible in practice; we cannot cause eclipses, for instance, or transform lead into tin, or create men from mushrooms. But it is theoretically possible to cause in any object any change of which that object is capable by nature; and the conditions are covered by the above postulate.)


    (1) Every intentional act is a Magical Act.

    (Illustration: See "Definition" above.)

    (2) Every successful act has conformed to the postulate.
    (3) Every failure proves that one or more requirements of the postulate have not been fulfilled.

    (Illustrations: There may be failure to understand the case; as when a doctor makes a wrong diagnosis, and his treatment injures his patient. There may be failure to apply the right kind of force, as when a rustic tries to blow out an electric light. There may be failure to apply the right degree of force, as when a wrestler has his hold broken. There may be failure to apply the force in the right manner, as when one presents a cheque at the wrong window of the Bank. There may be failure to employ the correct medium, as when Leonardo da Vinci found his masterpiece fade away. The force may be applied to an unsuitable object, as when one tries to crack a stone, thinking it a nut.)

    (4) The first requisite for causing any change is through qualitative and quantitative understanding of the conditions.

    (Illustration: The most common cause of failure in life is ignorance of one's own True Will, or of the means by which to fulfil that Will. A man may fancy himself a painter, and waste his life trying to become one; or he may be really a painter, and yet fail to understand and to measure the difficulties peculiar to that career.)

    (5) The second requisite of causing any change is the practical ability to set in right motion the necessary forces.

    (Illustration: A banker may have a perfect grasp of a given situation, yet lack the quality of decision, or the assets, necessary to take advantage of it.)

    (6) "Every man and every woman is a star." That is to say, every human being is intrinsically an independent individual with his own proper character and proper motion.

    You can read the rest at Magick In Theory And Practice [pdf]

    The above inspired by Eric's Why all arguments against magic fail

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:07 PM | Comments (8)

    "The momentum seems to be with the Democrats." Does that mean the fix is in?

    According to a GOP senate aide, the Senate health care bill is dangerously close to passing.

    Reid suggested Monday that the Senate endgame may be near. "We're there," he reportedly said.

    A Senate GOP aide said, "At the beginning of this debate the Democrats were 3 to 4 votes shy of passing this bill. They seem to feel now that they are only one vote shy. The anxiety levels are very high on the GOP side."

    Anxiety or not, if what the aide says is any indication of their mood, the GOP seems downright resigned to watching this atrocity pass:
    A vote was expected late Monday or perhaps Tuesday on a Nelson amendment to bar any federal insurance subsidies from going to any insurance plans that funded abortion. It was modeled on language by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that became part of the House health bill passed last month.

    Under current Senate rules, Nelson's amendment would need 60 votes to pass. It was expected to fail.

    "The message that is being sent to GOP senators is you better vote for the Nelson amendment, because he'll probably vote for the final bill anyway even if the amendment loses," said the GOP aide. "Don't vote against the amendment in the hopes that Nelson will walk away from the health care bill."

    Nelson has previously said if the bill doesn't have language similar to Stupak's, he would not move it off the floor. Nelson's office did not respond to a request for comment.

    There was also concern that public opposition to the bill is not as intense as it has been.

    "The peak in interest was in August and there was another peak during the House vote," said the GOP aide. "How many people know there is an abortion vote today? The pressure is not as intense. The momentum seems to be with the Democrats."

    Great. So the Republicans seem to think no one cares. And it seems not to matter to them at all whether the lone wobbler Nelson is mollified by the anti-abortion amendment. Why else would they say that "he'll probably vote for the final bill anyway even if the amendment loses," despite Nelson's previously insistence that if the bill doesn't contain a Stupak-type amendment, he would not move it off the floor?

    I hope I'm wrong, but I'm beginning to smell a rat.

    UPDATE (12/09/09): Nelson's antiabortion amendment failed. Which means that if Nelson carries out his threat, the Democrats are one vote short of passage, unless they are able to persuade a Republican.

    Nelson has promised to vote against the overall legislation unless his amendment is included. If he carries out his threat, Democrats would fall at least one vote short of passage unless they can find a Republican to fill his shoes.

    The most likely votes are Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who voted against Nelson's amendment, but snagging their votes would require compromises likely to alienate many Democrats.

    The Senate tabled Nelson's amendment by a 54-45 vote, with seven moderate and conservative Democrats supporting it. The amendment mirrored a similar provision in the House legislation essential to its passage last month.

    Olympia Snowe is considered somewhat sympathetic to the healthcare bill, and she is now sitting in the catbird seat.

    See "All Roads Lead to Olympia Snowe as Reid Looks for Health Care Closer."

    As to Susan Collins, (also from Maine), she favors health care reform, but she has said she doesn't like this bill.

    Snowe is a complete wobbler compared to Collins, and I would say that if things are this close, both of their votes may depend on how the issue polls in her home state. From a recent Zogby poll:

    UTICA, New York--Two-in-five likely Maine voters (39%) support the healthcare bill now making its way through Congress, while 44% oppose the measure and 18% are undecided. Support for healthcare reform breaks evenly across party lines.


    A third of likely voters say they would be less likely to vote for Senators Collins (33%) or Snowe (31%) if they voted in favor of the healthcare bill; nearly half say that such a vote by Senator Collins (43%) or Senator Snowe (45%) would make no difference. Forty percent of democratic voters say they would be more likely to consider voting for Senator Snowe, while 35 percent would be more likely to vote for Senator Collins if they voted in favor of the bill.

    The more I research this, the less predictable it looks. Anything could happen.

    posted by Eric at 01:43 PM | Comments (4)

    Climate Leaking Again

    Yep. Not only have we had the leak of the CRU Data. We now have in addition a big leak from the Copenhagen Climate Summit. It seems as if Clancy or some one like him has decided to sing. Maybe a lot of Clancys.

    The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations.

    The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

    The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as "the circle of commitment" - but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark - has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalised this week.

    The agreement, leaked to the Guardian, is a departure from the Kyoto protocol's principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act. The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank; would abandon the Kyoto protocol - the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions; and would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent on them taking a range of actions.

    Another torpedo below the water line of the SS Carbon Tax. I think this one hit a magazine.

    For sure some one was trying to scuttle the Copenhagen meeting totally. First the "science" second the politics. Lots of things to think about. Did one of the governments (or all of them) who worked on the secret protocol leak it. Or was it a lone leaker? Was the CRU leak a private operation? The work of a disgruntled employee? Or part of the bigger picture? Who Shot JFK?

    If you want to deconstruct the text of the secret protocol you can find it here.

    H/T Watts Up With That

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

    Clancy Can't Even Sing

    Buffalo Springfield

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

    Why all arguments against magic fail

    This post by Steven den Beste helps explain why it is that some people -- those driven by teleological thinking -- tend to be far more intolerant of disagreement than others.

    Teleologists inherently don't believe in unintended side effects when it comes to implementing their idealistic policies. Obviously it should be possible to provide free health care to everyone without wrecking the economy; it's just how things really should be, so that's how it will be. Where will the money come from? That's the kind of question that materialists ask; teleologists don't concern themselves with such trivial. It'll happen somehow, because it's obviously how it should turn out. To say we shouldn't do it is to be heartless, uncaring -- and those things are more important than mundane claims that it won't work. If you just believe, it will work.

    Of course, it won't work. The materialists are right about that. But when it fails (if it gets tried) the teleologists will blame the negative vibes of all the materialist doubters for the failure. If only they'd come on board and supported it, then it would have come out OK.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    While I'd love to quote the post in its entirety, I suggest reading it for yourself.

    Basically, teleological thinking is a form of magical thinking. People who tend to think that if we all believe in something, it will happen.

    It's teleologists who drive around with bumper stickers that say, "Imagine world peace." I can imagine it just fine. I don't expect to see it in my lifetime, though. Why would they want me to imagine it?

    It's because teleologists believe that human thought truly affects things. Of course it does; thought precedes action, and actions change history, right? Yeah, but that's not the point. Teleologists believe that thought directly affects things. The mere act of thinking about something and wanting it a lot directly changes reality, even if the thought doesn't get translated into action.

    An extreme and bizarre form of this was the attempted levitation of the Pentagon in 1967 by activists.

    If teleologists had a hymn, I'm sure it would be John Lennon's "Imagine." (I've been patient enough to try applying "Imagine" to jihad, and even to angry bicycle riding, but I'm afraid I'm stuck in the ancient paradigm that wishing things away will not make them go away.)

    While this sort of magical thinking might seem the epitome of "tolerance" because of the peace and love, Kumbaya, "we can all live together in peace" mindset, in practice it tends to be intolerant in the extreme, because it is predicated on the idea that things will only change if we all think the right way and believe. In the magic, of course.

    But what about those who don't believe in the magic? What if your experience has taught you that there are bad people in this world, and that if you aren't ready to defend yourself against them, they will steal from you, or kill you, or even attack your country? The teleological school would hold that to oppose bad people is to become like them, but that allowing them to have their way will somehow cause them to change.

    I'll never forget a dinner conversation I had with a woman who lectured me about how war is now obsolete because the paradigm had changed. That the reason we were at war was because Bush and Cheney and the Neocons just didn't get it. She clearly and devoutly believed that the problem was the people who still believed in the old paradigm. Those who would defend themselves against attackers are thus no better than the attackers.

    Now, I am often fascinated to hear what people think, and I have a very gentle demeanor in conversations which is often mistaken for either agreement or susceptibility to conversion. But eventually this woman was not content with my passivity, and started demanding that I tell her what I thought. I tried to be diplomatic, but when I allowed that self defense is a human right, she sensed reluctance to go along with her view of the new paradigm, and became clearly enraged. (I was reminded of another woman who first flirted with me and engaged in animated political conversation only to abruptly walk away when I told her that I belonged to the ACLU and the NRA. End. Of. Conversation.)

    Perhaps I am a masochist, but I have subjected myself to numerous dinner lectures by these peace-loving, angry, John Lennon Imaginist-type teleologists, and on another occasion, I was subjected to a severe scolding by a schoolteacher who condemned all forms of self defense as part of the whole problem. Knowing that she was Jewish, I thought I would raise the example of the Jews who fought back in the Warsaw ghetto. This really infuriated her, and she raised her voice to a yell, but she still steadfastly maintained that it was just as wrong for the Jews to defend themselves as it would be for anyone else. It was also clear to her that I was part of the problem, with all my backward "old paradigm" thinking.

    It's not easy to "agree to disagree" with people who believe that disagreement is evil. Also, because they are not religious, for them there is no such thing as forgiving people for bad thoughts, or praying for them to change. Little wonder that there are so many people who believe in criminalizing bad thoughts. If thinking will actually magically make things happen or not, then bad thoughts are inherently dangerous, and should be regulated, made illegal, stamped out.

    By the way, this magical, teleological thinking is not limited to imagining war or self defense out of existence. I have seen it applied to people facing terminal illnesses, in what I consider a very cruel and callused manner. As my best friend lay dying of AIDS in the mid 1980s, a contingent of magical thinkers descended on him and plied him with the idea that disease is all in the mind, and that he could literally wish himself to wellness. They also brought him some herbs which they said would heal him if only he would take them and "believe" in their healing power. He knew he was going to die, and thought this was all a form of denial, and I think he was right. But the magical thinkers actually blamed him, cluck-clucking like a bunch of Puritanical scolds, and saying things like "If he really wants to get better, all he has to do is change his thinking!" and "If he dies, it will be his karma!" This reminded me of another friend (now in his 80s) who watched his father die of a ruptured appendix which could have been operated, but his devout Christian Scientist family refused surgery and prayed. (Not surprisingly, the man has been an atheist ever since.) Just as my friend's failure to recover from AIDS was considered his fault, no doubt the failure of the ruptured appendix to heal would have been evidence that the family didn't really believe in the power of prayer as they should have. (And naturally, the Pentagon failed to levitate in 1967 because of a lack of devoutness on the part of the part of the magical levitators!)

    In this way, failure of magic, far from disproving the magic, can be made to reinforce it, which makes magical thinking a self-fueling, closed loop. Any failure on its part to work can be blamed not only on the evil arguments against it, but on insufficient devotion on the part of its followers.

    And if you think about it, that really is magic.

    posted by Eric at 11:18 AM | Comments (7)

    The Folly Of Fareed (Power, Poppies and Petroleum At Home and Abroad)

    I was and remain a big fan of Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom. Oh, Fareed, why hast thou forsaken facts?

    He seemed to be implying that the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the crucial path to America's long-term security. He explained that challenges at home -- economic growth, technological innovation, education reform -- were at the heart of maintaining America's status as a superpower. In fact, throughout history great nations have lost their way by getting bogged down in imperial missions far from home that crippled their will, strength and focus. (Sometimes even when they won they lost: Britain prevailed in the Boer War, but it broke the back of the empire.)

    Fareed is smarter than this. The cost of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan together are considerably smaller in terms of GDP and population than past commitments in Korea and Vietnam. We are not bankrupting the "empire" (VDH: "no tribute; we pay for bases; no land taken since 1898; allies that tell us where to go when we ask them for help; voluntary exits from places like Panama and the Philippines; no flattening of a Grozny when we feel like it; and a strong anti-imperial lobby on both the right and left that make it hard to spend over 5-6% GNP on defense") or breaking its war machine; if anything, we are giving it a finely battle-honed edge. The advancements in robotics and counter-insurgency alone make America considerably deadlier than we were in 2003, to say nothing of our veterans (who some in 2003 believed were too soft to fight a tough, long war). The back of our "empire" is stiffer by the second and sprouting spikes.

    In any case, Obama is too deep in the pocket of teacher's unions to champion any real eductation reform, and seems bent on crippling innovation and crushing prosperity beneath trillions in new taxes and trillions more diverted in the name of agenda-driven pseudo-scientific environmental scares.

    For his policy to succeed, Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Afghanistan will not be transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. We can find ways to secure American interests in that region more manageably.

    This strange combination of wishful thinking (we can "find" other "ways?" really?) and meaningless banalities (everything he says about Afghanistan in 2011 could have been said in 2003; we have been "transitioning" since the Taliban fell) ignores the obvious: leaving Afghanistan means ceding the country to Islamic radicals who think 9/11 was a good start but needs a lot of follow-up work.

    America needs to realize it is entirely possible Obama will lose Afghanistan to Islamic radicals, with every horrible consequence imagined, and it is not entirely his fault. Social conservatives need to decide between a war on terror we must win and a war on drugs that was lost before it started. We cannot stand up a government in Afghanistan when we are ceding 90% of the country's income to the enemy, and no number of troops will change this; it would be like trying to stand up an Iraqi government while telling them they could not sell oil to pay their troops, but Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army could drill wells wherever they established control.

    It would be a terrible tragedy if it took a mushroom cloud to end prohibition.

    posted by Dave at 11:25 PM | Comments (1)

    not everything can be removed gracefully

    Maybe I don't pay as much attention to these things as I should, but until I clicked on Glenn Reynolds link, I hadn't really heard of "Spanx" (which sounds vaguely sexual as well as vaguely violent, in a sexual sort of way) -- and thus never considered whether the product might mean the end of the sexual revolution, as Corky Boyd wonders. Noting a Wall Street Journal piece describing "Spanx" as "a $76 piece of flesh-toned underwear that extended from the bottom of her bra to mid-thigh" designed so fiendishly that there is "no graceful way of taking the thing off," Boyd expresses optimism:

    The world has come full circle. Will this dampen the sexual revolution? It's doubtful anything can. And I hope not.
    I hope not too! As a supporter of sexual freedom between consenting adults in whatever form it might take, I staunchly oppose any and all forms of undergarments which complicate or thwart attempts at removal. It's dehumanizing to treat human beings as if they're consumer goods in tamper-resistant packages designed never to be opened.

    The whole thing reminds me of LBJ's famous remark about pantyhose back in the 60s.

    Men quickly came to see tights as a contemporary version of the chastity belt, while women discovered that you can't do a strip-tease in them, at least not smoothly. The very word "pantyhose" began to evoke derisive, even scatological, reactions. "Wage and price controls," president Lyndon Johnson is reputed to have said, "will do to the economy what pantyhose did to finger f---ing."
    I think history reveals that in matters of sex as well as matters of economics, people tend to find ways of working around whatever obstacles are placed in their path by those who want to thwart them -- whether government controls which would thwart the American free market, or restrictive underwear which would thwart the sexual revolution. In both cases there might be no graceful way of taking these things off, but that doesn't mean they can't be removed.

    What I can't figure out is what motivates their reactionary inventors.

    posted by Eric at 07:41 PM | Comments (2)

    Abortion showdown today! Are the Republicans ready?

    The fate of the Senate healthcare bill may well depend on today's vote on an anti-abortion amendment:

    A pep talk by President Obama wasn't enough to give Senate Democrats the votes they needed to pass a massive health care overhaul, but a Monday vote on abortion funding could determine whether the legislation survives.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the chamber would take up an amendment by Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., that would strictly prohibit taxpayer money from being spent on abortion.

    "I want to get it out of the way," Reid said. "I think we all do."

    But the amendment could ultimately stand in the way of the bill's final passage, no matter what the outcome of the Monday vote.

    Nelson is one of the Blue Dog wobblers. Will the Republicans help make him happy with the bill in order to ensure its passage? That's what they did in the House, and I'm worried they will do it again:
    The decision on the abortion amendment will be a decisive moment. If it fails, anti-abortion Democrats including Nelson and Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., may vote against the final bill. But if the amendment passes, the party's many senators who support abortion access, such as Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., could walk away.

    Nelson's amendment is based on a provision authored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that would prevent insurance plans that received taxpayer subsidies from covering abortion. Stupak's amendment to the House bill that passed last month has become a lightning rod on the Left.

    It's too early to tell what will happen, but I am hoping the Nelson amendment is rejected so that the bill can be voted down as is. (I seriously doubt that Mikulski and her ilk would walk away from a chance to gobble up this large a chunk of the national economy.)

    Once again, Don't turn opponents of what you oppose into supporters of what you oppose!

    It just isn't smart for Republicans to turn Democratic opponents of the bill into supporters of the bill.

    All I can do here is to beg, even beseech the GOP, please don't do it again. This may be the last chance to stop this thing.

    posted by Eric at 02:00 PM | Comments (3)

    "An exploded, abandoned, and defunct interpretation of the Constitution"

    Those who worry about the Tenth Amendment should sink their teeth into this long and disturbing look at the birth of the animal disease regulation industry.

    Many Americans became convinced that only the federal government could enforce the collective action needed for success. Preventing the spread of contagious diseases required creating an authority with the power to act immediately to impose quarantines, enter private property without warrants, and destroy animals. Crisis conditions called for the "one man power principle," suspending time-honored checks and balances. Not everyone agreed. Special interests, most notably Texas ranchers, opposed any legislation that might threaten their access to northern markets. In addition states rights and civil rights issues galvanized the opposition. The stakes were enormous and farmers, railroads, meat packers, middlemen of all sorts, public health advocates in the medical community, veterinarians, and consumer groups chose sides. Fierce battles to give state and federal animal health officers the power to inspect, regulated the movement of animals, and condemn animals were fought in the press, state capitals, the halls of Congress, and the courts. On occasion, vigilantes took the law into their own hands interrupting trade, destroying property, and murdering government agents.
    Bear in mind that this was in the 19th Century, and culminated in an 1884 Act establishing the Bureau of Animal Industry, which granted new and unprecedented powers to the federal government.

    Animals carried diseases, people were afraid, and they looked to the federal government for a collective response.

    Formerly outspoken opponents of granting the federal government unconstitutional powers not specifically granted in the Constitution did more than go wobbly; they flip-flopped. A typical example was Republican Senator John Ingalls:

    A look at the record of a few key senators further adds to our understanding of why the bill finally succeeded. In 1881, when a similar bill (S. No. 2097) died in the Senate, the leader of the opposition was Senator John Ingalls, a Republican from Kansas.96 He left no doubt as to his opinion:"...I feel impelled to say that it is without any exception the worst bill that I ever read upon any subject. It is bad in principle; it is bad in theory; it is bad in policy, and worse in detail. He went on to assert that every one of its provisions "is directly at variance with the Constitution...." Ingalls further charged that the legislation would "put the entire live-stock business of this country at the mercy of a totally irresponsible machine...."97 "It is a hydra-headed monster, it is a regular octopus, a legislative devil-fish, with its arms extending in every direction, and gasping within its pernicious embrace every feature of one of the most valuable industries of this country, without one single particle of responsibility to any source whatever."98

    This 1881 "devil-fish" died in the Senate without a roll call being recorded.99 In 1882 Ingalls spoke against and voted for killing a similar bill (HR No. 896). In 1883 he again sided with the opponents in a vote on the same bill (HR No. 896).100 By 1884, Ingalls was an ardent supporter of the FDM bill to help fight the suspected outbreak in Kansas and went so far as to declare that "the doctrine of State rights and State sovereignty dies hard, but I think it is moribund and in the course of time will eventually be buried." Where in 1881 States Rights was a sacred principle for the Senator, it was now an "exploded, abandoned, and defunct interpretation of the Constitution."101

    Apart for one procedural comment, the Senator was mute in the debates and voted with the bill's hard-line supporters on two of the key early skirmishes.102 Ingalls was absent for the remained of the ballots, but it is likely that he had changed his colors. What in 1881 was an unconstitutional "hydra-headed monster" was now worthy of his support. What had changed? Precisely at the time that Ingalls flipped a FMD scare erupted in five counties of his home state as well as in Missouri and Illinois.

    Quite properly in my opinion, the authors wonder why so little mention is made of what was a momentous battle to regulate the livestock industry:
    American constitutional and economic history has devoted considerable attention to the federal government's emergence as a regulator of economic activity. In this literature the first significant federal economic regulatory initiatives date to the passage of the Interstate Commerce Commission Act (1887) and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890). These measures are traditionally viewed as part a long narrative of the rising federal power to confront big business, especially to take on monopoly power in transportation and manufacturing. The literature makes no mention of the establishment of the Bureau of Animal Industry in 1884 and the subsequent rapid expansion of its powers. This omission seems unjustified for several reasons. First, the livestock industry, while smaller than the railroad industry, was not much smaller.

    There were $1.85 billion invested in livestock inventories and $2.62 billion in railroads in 1880, and the two industries were closely dependent on one another.114 The interregional and international trade in livestock and meat was growing rapidly in the 1870s and 1880s. Second, the debate to create a federal bureaucracy with powers to regulate diseased livestock preceded and in many ways anticipated the problems confronted in the creation of the ICC. For this reason our analysis of the controversy surrounding the birth of the BAI sheds light on the growth of regulation more generally.

    No matter what side you're on, the heated rhetoric on both sides of the debate is eerily reminiscent of what is going on today.

    It's all too easy to point the finger at FDR and LBJ, but they wouldn't have been able to do what they did without the framework that was already in place.

    There's an old saying that bad cases make bad law, but when people are in a panic (as they always are over things like wars and diseases), they are willing to do almost anything.

    Sadly, precedents like this make me wonder about the utility of advancing Tenth Amendment arguments against things like Climate Change or government-run health care. This is not to say that monstrosities like Cap-and-Trade, the Copenhagen Treaty, and Obamacare don't violate the Tenth Amendment, because they do. But history shows that the country has been quite willing to ignore the Constitution when it is seen as getting in the way of solving problems that scare people.

    Without getting into the constitutional arguments, it was quite logical for people -- then or now -- to see uncontrolled animal diseases as scarier than government inspections. Thus, supporting the BAI was seen as a no-brainer, the Tenth Amendment be damned. In purely utilitarian terms, the solution was seen as a lesser threat than the problem.

    But OTOH, I think that people are more likely to oppose legislation when they consider it scarier than the problems that scare them. When the solution is seen as scarier than the problem -- especially when the "problem" is so overstated as Global Warming, and the "solution" consists of sweeping and drastic regulations which would cause economic harm and personal inconvenience to virtually every last citizen in the country, there are better arguments to deploy than to simply call it unconstitutional. (An argument which can nowadays be made against most congressional legislation anyway.)

    Especially now, when the "evidence" that there even exists an imminent problem is so underwhelming that its opponents admit it's a "travesty." The latter (in a CRU email) prompted a marvelous outburst of skepticism from George F. Will (hardly a raving Constitutional literalist):

    never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject.
    Well put. And so is his treatment of the "travesty" admission:
    A CRU e-mail says: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment" -- this "moment" is in its second decade -- "and it is a travesty that we can't."

    The travesty is the intellectual arrogance of the authors of climate change models partially based on the problematic practice of reconstructing long-term prior climate changes. On such models we are supposed to wager trillions of dollars -- and substantially diminished freedom.

    Some climate scientists compound their delusions of intellectual adequacy with messiah complexes. They seem to suppose themselves a small clerisy entrusted with the most urgent truth ever discovered. On it, and hence on them, the planet's fate depends. So some of them consider it virtuous to embroider facts, exaggerate certitudes, suppress inconvenient data, and manipulate the peer review process to suppress scholarly dissent and, above all, to declare that the debate is over.

    Yes, and I'm sure they consider it virtuous to disregard the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment (in continuation of a trend going back to at least May 29, 1884, which might be called "the day the Tenth Amendment died"). Doubtless they would agree with Senator Ingalls that states' rights is "an exploded, abandoned, and defunct interpretation of the Constitution."

    They can say that about the Constitution if they want, but they're still stuck with a more pressing problem.

    The exploded, abandoned, and defunct interpretation of data.

    MORE: More on the explosion and abandonment from Roger L. Simon ("Things are falling apart with amazing rapidity for the man-made global warming movement"), and from Bruce Bawer

    The bombshell revelations of recent weeks, now known as Climategate, and explored so thoroughly and informatively on this website, should have shaken to the roots any true believer in the doctrine of man-made global warming owing to CO2 and other greenhouse gases. But so far there appear not to have been any major defections from the climate club -- not that that's really much of a surprise, because even before the dam burst, it was clear that this whole movement to place global warming at the heart of the international agenda wasn't about responsible science but about politics, pure and simple. The plain fact is that after Communism disappeared in Europe, the Green movement arose to take its place as a counterforce to democratic capitalism -- meaning that every crank and malcontent who previously would have been a Communist or fellow traveler now keeps busy ranting about the way in which capitalist societies, America above all, are brutally destroying the environment, greedily using up resources at rates a zillion times higher than people in developing countries. The global-warming cause is a subset of this -- and to my mind it's always seemed to be, for Europeans anyway, not only a means of elbowing the U.S. in the ribs, but also a convenient distraction, a way to avoid dealing with the continent's real problem, namely Islamization, while still allowing oneself to posture as a serious, responsible-minded citizen.

    posted by Eric at 11:48 AM | Comments (3)

    Remember Pearl Harbor


    Today is the 68th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- a horrible event which should always be remembered, and which always has been annually commemorated by whatever president has occupied the Oval Office.

    I haven't read news reports or other blog entries about whether the current occupant plans to do anything or what he plans to do (or what he has failed to do) and quite frankly I don't want to, because I am just not in the mood to be irritated. Besides, what can we expect from a president who bowed deeply to the Emperor of Japan? An apology for our "occupation" of Pearl Harbor?


    Regardless of the circumstances and the contexts (and I realize that Nixon bowed to Mao), that picture kind of queers the memory, and triggers cynical "what did we expect?" thinking. Plus, you know, actions speak louder. (Well on the bright side, the argument could be made that at least he didn't dither where it comes to bowing...)

    I don't expect much if anything from this president. It gets tired complaining about him, so enough of that.

    The important thing is to remember December 7, 1941. It's all the more important because there are so very few remaining survivors:

    It happened 68 years ago today, but Clarence J.M. Davis can still clearly remember the noise, confusion, frenzied activity and deadliness of the attack that propelled the United States into World War II.

    The St. Mary's County resident, now 86, is one of a few dozen known survivors of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor who are still alive and living in Maryland. He plans to mark the day, and remember the dead, at a ceremony scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at Maryland's World War II Memorial, beside Route 450 near Annapolis.

    More than 2,400 Americans were killed in the surprise attack.

    President Roosevelt (a man our current president would like to emulate) did not dither. From his "a date which will live in infamy" speech:
    No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

    I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

    Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

    With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

    Victory. After a horrendous and protracted war, this country finally did achieve victory. Today the word seems to be politically incorrect.

    It's probably politically incorrect even to remember.


    posted by Eric at 09:40 AM | Comments (6)

    The Birtherism Of A Nation

    The latest left wing meme is that Sarah Palin is a Birther. (She is not, but based on some sympathetic statements she made in a radio interview, numerous leftists have declared that she is -- including those who subscribe to a crackpot theory of their own known as "Trig Birtherism.")

    From "Is Sarah Palin a Birther? No, But the Left Wishes She Was"

    nothing would make the Left happier than to see Palin as a birther. Why? Because it would be the end of her political career. She would immediately be neutralized as a serious fighter against their agendas. Everything she said could then be dismissed, "Oh what does she know? She's so nutty she thinks Obama was born in Kenya!" She would never be able to develop the centrist and independent support she needs to be a viable political force. She could never be a Reagan, forging an effective alliance of the Right and the independent center.
    Of course, the way WorldNetDaily is behaving, it's clear that they want her to be a Birther almost as much as does Andrew Sullivan. Not the first time that Andrew and WorldNetDaily have found themselves in the strange bedfellow position. (Tut tut.)

    David Swindle concludes with a sarcastic statement of support for Andrew Sullivan's efforts:

    Just as leftists hope that the Birther conspiracy continues to exist to dog the Right, I fully endorse Sullivan's efforts to keep Trig Birtherism alive. By all means, please continue to pursue this, Andrew.
    No doubt he will.

    In fact, I'm going to scoop Andrew on something. It may shock readers to know this, but Trig Palin was born in Kenya!

    No, seriously. The only known, true, government-certified copy of his Kenyan Birth Certificate has come into my possession.

    And here it is, for the first time on the Internet!


    If you look closely, you will see that Andrew Sullivan's name appears as "Informant." So he knew all along, and that can only mean that he was there. Obviously, the question now becomes, what is he hiding?

    It would be simple matter to clear this up!

    posted by Eric at 04:30 PM | Comments (5)

    An issue I will not write about

    What a coincidence. A lot of people have been writing about something I vowed never to write about, as M. Simon Dave just did.

    Sean Kinsell "wasn't going to post about it" but he finally did, saying that,

    Today, you can't read any blog anywhere, it seems, without running into a discussion of [it].
    I left a comment, and I see no reason not to quote my own comment, nor do I see any reason I should have to get into the exact merits of the underlying issue. (Plenty of others can, and have.) Here's what I said:
    I have spent years explaining in detail what I don't like about social conservatism, and I have explained why I disagree with certain conservatives, and consider some to be so beyond the pale that they don't even qualify as conservatives. But it would be the height of arrogance to generalize about all conservatives because I can't stand (to name one example) Michael Savage. That would constitute unfair stereotyping -- precisely the sort of thing I call bigotry.

    It takes a lot more time to spell out specific disagreements than to just create a big category and lump unrelated people together as "the right" but that's the way a lot of people think.

    I'm against socialism, the war on drugs, the war on guns, the war on sex, the war on CO2, so I don't fit neatly into right or left, but as a libertarian I'm more right than left, although I am acutely aware that I don't meet the conservative litmus test. When it comes to voting, I hold my nose and vote for the conservatives. It gets a little tedious being considered a RINO, though. Or being told that you lack principles because you don't agree with other people's!

    I can tell you what I think about any issue, but that does not solve the problem of what to call myself. To call myself a conservative would not be honest. Libertarian as a default position is about as accurate and honest as I can get.

    I have said what I think and will continue, but I am too old for public tantrums. "Breaking" with "the Right" sounds melodramatic and histrionic.

    I think that's all I really need to say about this.

    MORE: As commenter Jim reminded me, Dave is not M. Simon! I should have looked at the name!

    posted by Eric at 02:07 PM | Comments (6)

    What The Hell Happened To Charles Johnson?

    Not that anyone knows, I just thought I should ask.

    UPDATE: I mean, wow.

    posted by Dave at 08:19 PM | Comments (8)

    Shakespeare 1, Monkeys 0
    ...The theory is flawed. After one month - admittedly not an "infinite" amount of time - the monkeys had partially destroyed the machine, used it as a lavatory, and mostly typed the letter "s".

    NOTE: On a related subject, my own blogging may be light due to similar issues.

    posted by Dave at 08:11 PM | Comments (1)

    "Societal hypocrisy." A sin more sinful than sin itself!

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I learned that a woman named Joy Behar thinks that whether Tiger Woods is or is not a hypocrite depends not on whether he failed to uphold the values in which he believes, but whether or not he is "right wing."

    "The "View's" Behar: If Tiger Was A Right-Winger He Would Be A Hypocrite."

    While I think Behar's argument is ridiculous on its face, what concerns me more is her attempt at crass, heavy-handed political hegemony. Were I a peon being ruled by her, I should be on my knees, thanking her for allowing that believing in being loyal to one's wife is still not considered "right wing" by itself. You have to think other things. The good news is that those who fail to live up to their beliefs in marital fidelity are largely off the hook -- provided that they do not subscribe to right wing ideology!

    Once again, the message is clearly that not living up to one's personal standards of morality only rises to the level of the detestable crime of hypocrisy if the sinner is right wing.

    What I cannot understand is why Woods isn't just as guilty of "hypocrisy" as anyone else who doesn't live up to his standards of morality. What the Beharists of the world are saying is that if Woods had he been caught, say, listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, he would be a hypocrite for exactly the same conduct that occurred.

    This is not merely unfair, it is wildly unfair.

    Just to be clear on the facts before I start ranting, if we consider what the man said, there is little question that Tiger Woods did not live up to his own standards:

    I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.
    At the risk of sounding clueless, it strikes me that falling short of one's standards is either hypocrisy or it is not. Guilt is not heightened or lessened according to political views.

    So why then, would Woods have to be "right wing" in order to qualify for a "hypocrisy" charge? This is more complicated than it looks, because while Woods is a celebrity, he is not especially known for being a political person.

    Here's what Behar says, (condescendingly, on Woods' "behalf"):

    Let me say this about Tiger on his behalf. He has never held himself up as one of these pro-marriage, right-wing kind of guys, who is anti-gay, In other words, the guy is not a hypocrite in his personal life.
    Huh? Does that mean that if you're against gay marriage and you cheat on your wife, you're guiltier than if you were for gay marriage and cheated on your wife?

    Wow. (That means Barack Obama better be awfully careful about even considering cheating on his wife. Unless of course he were to get straight and go with the program on gay marriage, then Behar would forgive him.)

    Challenged on this, Behar attempts to explain:

    It's like the Larry Craig Syndrome you know where the guy's tapping in the bathroom. Meanwhile he votes against gay legislation.
    While it escapes me how right wingers who cheat on their wives are like Larry Craig (does she think they voted to criminalize adultery?) she does not elaborate. At that point she was interrupted and asked whether it isn't hypocritical to violate one's marriage vows, and she distinguishes between "personal" and "societal" hypocrisy.

    Got that?

    Societal hypocrisy. Whatever might that mean? Beats me. Perhaps it involves not practicing personally whatever it is that you preach politically. In Woods' case, would that mean political advocacy against adultery? Would he really have to go that far in order to be a hypocrite? Or is simply having an opinion that Behar does not like enough? I suspect the latter.

    However, there is no getting away from politicized hypocrisy charges, and I plead guilty to leveling them myself. Whenever a leftist gun grabber is caught owning a gun, I am quick to howl gleefully about another leftist hypocrite.

    Guns for me but not for thee!

    And whenever a sanctimonious Global Warmist is caught running up gargantuan energy bills, or wastefully jetting around the world to one Global Warming junket or another, I'm just delighted to gloat over their hypocrisy too.

    Hair shirt for thee, but not for me!

    I may be a hypocrite for thinking this, but I see a major difference between, say, gun-owning gun-grabbers or Global Warming energy gluttons on the one hand and philanderers who champion the ill-defined "traditional moral standards" on the other. The former want to literally have the government invade and run huge chunks of your life, whereas the latter, while they seem unable to resist the urge to tell you how to conduct your sex life, in general don't advocate government penis control or orgasm control.

    If we assume that both groups are moral scolds, and that there is such a thing as societal hypocrisy, then which group of scolds are the greater societal hypocrites? The scolds who want their moral code imposed with force by the state? Or those who limit themselves to advocating "traditional moral standards"?

    The latter might not practice what they preach, but unlike the former, at least they aren't using the government to make me practice what I don't preach and what they don't practice.

    I may be a bad boy for saying this, but I'll take a stern moral lecture over fines, jail terms, and loss of freedom any day. (And what bad boy wouldn't?)

    Hell, at least I can walk away from a stern moral lecture with my sexual freedom still intact.

    (And if my sexual freedom is "sin" to some people, so be it. I'd rather be free and considered sinful by some people on the right than neutered by a manipulative offer of sexual freedom in which sexual deviations are tolerated only as long as they are not accompanied by political deviations. I'm not even sure that such neutering is better than not being tolerated at all, but it's another topic.)

    posted by Eric at 02:13 PM | Comments (4)

    "The innocent have nothing to fear..."

    Edward Lawson (who regular readers may recall is a dear old friend) was arrested not long ago in Newark, New Jersey for basically nothing. (A lot of manufactured, trumped up charges.)

    He discusses what happened here:

    EDWARD LAWSON from Picture America on Vimeo.

    For no reason that I can determine other than his appearance and attitude, the Newark police arrested Edward for the following:

  • failing to identify himself (something he is under no obligation to do)
  • "obstructing a police officer"
  • possession of "burglary tools" ( flashlight.)
  • As the cops were all members of a gang task force, they also decided he was "a high profile gang leader." These gang task forces are real genuises, as a similar thing happened to Edward in Los Angeles.

    I have known Edward Lawson for three decades and I am absolutely certain that the above charges are total bunk. The reality is that Edward is a lot more intelligent than most cops, and no matter what they do he always remains calm, logical, and articulate. (I have seen him interact with the police numerous times, and it is hard to believe that they can get so annoyed at someone as calm and rational as Edward is. I think they must assume he has to be on drugs, but they couldn't be more wrong; he is a teetotaling vegan who never uses drugs of any sort.)

    Because Edward does not conform to police stereotypes of how they think a dark-skinned black man should look and behave, the cops tend to get very exercised, and these ridiculous charges are the result. What I find inspiring about him is probably what irritates the cops the most; he is firm, and when challenged, he never backs down, no matter how long it takes.

    The poor "Gang Task Force" fools obviously don't realize that they are dealing with a man who took a landmark case all the way to the Supreme Court where he won.

    I think it's basically a racist twist on the IQ War.

    It's long, and worth watching in its entirety. (Whether you agree with Edward's political philosophy or not, he's a great guy.)

    posted by Eric at 08:45 PM | Comments (10)

    "Heavage" and the urge to heave

    Maybe I'm too traditional, but men's plunging necklines (exhibited in order to display what the fashionists call "heavage") is something I can do without.

    Man cleavage -- plunging necklines slit open to reveal chest hair, pectoral muscles, maybe more -- is back.

    Until recently, male décolletage was an androgynous fashion affectation limited mainly to sporadic appearances on European runways. But the look, including deep V-necks and scoop-neck tops, hit the U.S. in full force at New York's September Fashion Week, turning up at shows by Duckie Brown, Michael Bastian and Yigal Azrouel.

    They're bringing back a 1970s look once popularized by John Travolta (who probably wouldn't look as good that way now), and cosmetic surgeons are trying to cash in on the craze:
    The last time man cleavage was so prevalent in the U.S. was in the 1970s -- "the golden age of male chest hair," says Mr. Bryan. Epitomized by John Travolta in 1977's "Saturday Night Fever," the convention back then was to skip enough shirt buttons to show off a thick forest of hair, perhaps topped with a gold medallion as a sign of virility.

    After decades in the fashion equivalent of Siberia, man cleavage got a boost in the early 1990s when Tom Ford, then head designer and creative director for Gucci, climbed to the top of fashion's ranks while often wearing a dress shirt unbuttoned practically to his navel.

    It still took years for the fad to go more mainstream. Helping to pave the way were magazines like Men's Journal and Men's Health, which objectified the male torso on their covers. Marketers such as Abercrombie & Fitch attracted droves of fans with their buff, waxed male models. For those who don't have the goods naturally, cosmetic surgery offers an increasingly popular solution. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that pectoral implants more than tripled in 2008, to 1,335 procedures up from 440 in 2007.

    Boob jobs for male boobs? I'm not impressed by any of it.

    Then there's the chest hair issue:

    The latest resurrection of man cleavage does raise a not-so insignificant issue: to wax or not? For a number of years, any male chest hair was considered a fashion don't, but very recently a thin thatch has become quite acceptable. The low-cut look "is better if you have a little chest hair," says Tyler Thoreson, a New York-based men's style consultant. "It's not about showing off chest hair, it's about it peeking out a little bit."

    Robert Caponi, a 32-year-old musician in Greensboro, N.C., isn't taking any chances. In order to get the hair-to-skin ratio just right, he shaves his chest every two weeks or so -- a regimen that helps him to feel comfortable in one of the six deep V-neck shirts he owns. Not all styles fit the bill. After purchasing a wide scoop neck recently, he declared it simply too revealing. "I looked in the mirror and I was disgusted," he says.

    Some women share the sentiment. Posting on her blog earlier this year, Ketty Colom, a 22-year-old college student in Orlando, Fla., vented about the burst of men sporting heavage. "Leave it to the bedroom," she said. "I don't want to see your chest."

    While I won't discount the possibility that there are some men who might look OK showing chest hair, the fact is that there are many more who don't.

    Here's an example of someone I wouldn't want to see sporting the new look.


    Not when I'm eating lunch, at least. His heavage makes me want to heave.

    Still, no matter how ugly it is, if people want to show off their chest hair at the beach or at a nightclub or in the streets I don't care as I can avert my eyes. And I wouldn't care if I didn't know that things like this tend to spread to offices, beginning with the clueless clods who don't know how to dress on casual Fridays. There's an old-fashioned invention that once prevented civilized people from having to view the hirsutism of other civilized people, and that's a necktie.

    Yes, I know that they're condemned as un-Islamic, and that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won't wear them. All the more reason to buy one of these:


    What's next? Hairy legs at the office?


    OK, now I'm heaving.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds comments on the heavage phenomenon, by saying, simply "THE '70S REALLY ARE BACK."

    Ugh. I hated the 70s, and I hope they are not... back. Especially because THE BACKS REALLY ARE 70's.


    Of course, I'm probably just being paranoid, you know, and seeing unwanted subtexts everywhere.

    posted by Eric at 03:13 PM | Comments (4)

    The Current State Of Fusion

    Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log has the latest broad look at the state of Fusion. He discusses the state of laser fusion. The the $3.5 billion American National Ignition Facility seems to be doing well. But what excites me is that he has some indirect news on The Polywell Fusion Reactor experiments.

    The dark horse in the fusion race is an approach known as inertial electrostatic confinement fusion, or Polywell fusion. This method, pioneered by the late physicist Robert Bussard, involves designing a high-voltage cage in such a way that atomic nuclei slam into each other at high speeds, sparking fusion.
    That is the hope. Now what about some news?
    In September, EMC2 Fusion was awarded a Navy contract, backed by $7.9 million in stimulus funds, to develop a scaled-up version of a Polywell fusion reactor. Development and testing of the device is expected to take two years, and there's an option to spend another $4.4 million on experiments with hydrogen-boron fuel (known as pB11).

    In the past, EMC2 Fusion's Richard Nebel has been able to describe the team's progress in general terms, saying that he was "very pleased" with the performance of an earlier test device. But now, with more Navy money on the line, Nebel has been constrained from saying anything about the project. The fact that the research is continuing, however, appears to indicate that the results have been promising enough to keep the Navy interested.

    My sources on the project have dried up as well. No one is talking. I am running on unsupported rumors and conjecture. Some think that the silence is a cover up for failure. Being a fanboy I'm more inclined that they are so wildly successful that the Navy doesn't want to let the cat out of the bag any sooner than they can help. Reality is probably some where in the middle or worse. The design is so simple that if the Navy gets it to work no country is more than 5 years behind in producing a working model from scratch (given a crash program).

    As you know I have been closely following the progress of the WB-X contracts at EMC2. If you want to get deeper into them:

    WB-8 Contract Progress

    Polywell Gets The Dough

    The Boys At Talk-Polywell Have Struck Paydirt

    WB-8 In The Works

    Polywell Gets In On The Act

    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.

    And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years

    H/T rschaffer8 at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

    Massive International Scientific Fraud

    Auric Goldfinger? Not this time Mr. Bond. This time it is Climategate.

    Ah. Yes. Science Adviser to the President, John Holdren is a Climate Playah.

    Lift up a rock and another snake comes slithering out from the ongoing University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) scandal, now riding as "Climategate".

    Obama Science Czar John Holdren is directly involved in CRU's unfolding Climategate scandal. In fact, according to files released by a CEU hacker or whistleblower, Holdren is involved in what Canada Free Press (CFP) columnist Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball terms "a truculent and nasty manner that provides a brief demonstration of his lack of understanding, commitment on faith and willingness to ridicule and bully people".

    "The files contain so much material that it is going to take some time t o put it all in context," says Ball. "However, enough is already known to underscore their explosive nature. It is already clear the entire claims and positions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are based on falsified manipulated material and is therefore completely compromised.

    What he means is that you can't base public policy on lies. Forever. Eventually the marks wise up to Goebbels Warming. The article about Holdren goes on to discuss his efforts to support Michael Mann's Hockey Stick Chart and discredit contradictory research. You will note that the Hockey Stick Chart is the one in which Mr. Mann used some tricks to Hide The Decline.

    Holdren is a rather normal fellow for the Obama Administration. For instance, he has a lot of real good ideas for solving the overpopulation crisis.

    * The population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation's drinking water or in food;
    * Single mothers and teen mothers should have their babies seized from them against their will and given away to other couples to raise;
    * People who "contribute to social deterioration" (i.e. undesirables) "can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility" -- in other words, be compelled to have abortions or be sterilized.
    * A transnational "Planetary Regime" should assume control of the global economy and also dictate the most intimate details of Americans' lives -- using an armed international police force.
    And why would Holdren favor doing all these things? Obviously Holdren is running out of Lebensraum or some other critical resource like brains. Or a heart. And he also seems to lack the courage to do the deeds himself. He wants a government bureau to handle the messy details.

    I know that in a nation of 300 million you are going to find more than a few kooks and crazies. But did Obama have to staff his administration with so many of them? What else would you expect from a man who spent 20 years listening to "God Damn America" at the church he attended?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

    Using budget cuts as a form of regimentation?

    Earlier I saw signs hanging on chains which blocked a brand new, otherwise perfectly passable sidewalk on the University of Michigan campus. The signs proclaimed "SIDEWALK CLOSED. NO WINTER MAINTENANCE" and yet there was absolutely no indication that any maintenance was needed.


    The only thing that's changed is that the temperature has dropped into the 20s and snow is on the way. Obviously, the idea is that the maintenance department won't remove the snow, and for that reason they have closed the sidewalk -- thus requiring the regimented citizenry to walk around to use a further-away sidewalk or else walk a block to get to the front entrance.

    It's what you might call a high profile public inconvenience, and apparently there are similar signs elsewhere on campus. "Budget cuts," doncha know....

    In response to budget cuts, the University has determined to save money by not scraping the snow and ice from all the broad steps leading up to Angell Hall and the ones to Hatcher Library. Only the center sections are kept passable; the two sides are chained off and kept in the environmentally natural state.

    The Angell sign is clear: "DANGER. Sidewalk closed. No winter maintenance." The sign is a little misleading since the sidewalk is not closed; only the two side stairs are closed.

    OK, so maybe they don't have the money to shovel or throw some salt down. But is it really necessary to close the sidewalk? I mean, aren't people who live in Michigan capable of deciding whether or not to walk on snow and ice?

    The signs, of course, are only a minor annoyance, and the people who use the building are simply ignoring them and squeezing past the areas on each side of the posts from which the chain hangs. However, they reminded me of a creeping authoritarian tendency I've seen over the years. It started with the "closure" of lakes and oceans because life guards are not present. (Closure is in quotes because they really can't close natural conditions.) In Berkeley there's a park with a field that's perfect for running, except when the rainy season starts, they put signs in front of every entrance to it which say "FIELD CLOSED DUE TO WET CONDITIONS." Not that the runners pay any attention to the sign, because after all they have to run on slippery streets covered with slippery leaves to get there, but still... If they can "close" a park for being wet, then what else could "they" ultimately close? All roads? (Anyone remember that plane full of passengers who were not allowed to exit their plane because the TSA screeners had gone home? Or how about threats to arrest passengers for leaving a stranded commuter train?)

    I'm of two minds about the useless and annoying signs. As an angry libertarian crank, I hate them. But philosophically, I have to ask whether these signs might actually be good (in the ironic sense, of course). One effect they clearly have is that they systematically condition people to ignore them and go about their business. That's good, because it promotes a healthy spirit of individualism, as well as healthy hostility towards mind-numbing bureaucratic control. But what I cannot determine is whether they might be obeyed by some people, and actually condition such people to accept ever more mindless regimentation. That would be bad.

    To be fair to the bureaucrats involved, they may very well be motivated by fear of litigation. That seems to be the ultimate trump card to be used to shut down nearly anything (such as public restrooms in parks, jungle gyms in playgrounds, old buildings that might contain asbestos, and virtually any body of water in which someone might theoretically drown) and it is most likely a major reason for the sign. The fact is, if some idiot walks on the ice and falls, the University is liable. Back in the evil old days, they could have put up a sign saying "USE SIDEWALK AT YOUR OWN RISK. NO WINTER MAINTENANCE." But since assumption of risk has been abolished, not only can't they say that, but I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't now legally required to actually enforce their blasted sign. Seriously; I could envision a trial lawyer arguing that even though his client disobeyed the sign that was placed there for his protection, by allowing people to do it, the University was "negligent" for not posting a guard or issuing citations or something. Of course, it's easy to blame the trial lawyers (and they are a disgusting species of human being), but state legislatures could step in at any time and correct the problems they create. Just as in many states they have enacted the "man's home is his castle" doctrine, there is no legal reason they couldn't reenact a statutory version of "assumption of the risk" as an absolute defense. (It has been effectively abolished by the "comparative negligence" doctrine.) I wouldn't expect state legislators to bring it back, though. The trial lawyers contribute too much to their campaigns.

    If there's a rule here, it seems to be that if something can't be fixed or costs too much, it should be closed. So why can't that rule be applied to the courts and the state legislatures?

    posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (3)

    More word hell

    Here's a guy who speaks fake Chinese, fake French, fake Italian, fake Russian, fake Spanish, fake German and fake Japanese, in order to invite fellow fakers to reply by speaking in fake English.

    A tall order, but for those who wonder what our language sounds like to those who don't speak it, here's one girl who took him up on it:

    And here's a boy doing the same thing, in a video titled "This is what English REALLY sounds like":

    If you think I have nothing better to do at midnight than attempt to solve the problems of the world by making fun of misunderstandings, you're wrong.

    Duty calls. No government bailout here!

    Unlike the MSM, I'm like really into total sustainability.

    posted by Eric at 12:14 AM | Comments (6)

    Words are hell!

    Earlier I stumbled across the phrase "New York hostess" in a news article, and as I tend to be hypervigilant about sneaky new trends in language, I wondered precisely what the term meant. The hostess in question is a nightclub hostess named Rachel Uchitel. While "hostess" is not defined, it would see that it is to be distinguished from waitress (at least for the purpose of keeping track of who is allegedly involved with whom). I can remember when "hostess" was used to describe female airline flight attendants, but then they became "stewardesses" and finally the less sexist term "flight attendants." (I have to say, seeing the older terms described as "historic" makes me feel even older than I am!)

    In Berkeley, "waitress" used to be considered a sexist term (and I do not remember a single "hostess" ever having existed when I lived in that town), but maybe we've regressed. Although it is arguable that maybe we haven't. I see that the rules are still there. Maybe they don't apply to journalists. But OTOH, maybe there's an exception to not using "gender specific job titles" when the job is only incidental to an alleged affair. It's like, if an important person were accused of having an affair with a "server" or a "waitperson," might the readers be wondering about the server or waitperson's sex? Or would that be an illegitimate subject to wonder about? (Somehow, sex with a server sounds cybersexual -- as if you've had sex with a web host or web hostess or something.)

    I see that in San Francisco there are nightclub hostesses, and being a hostess can be dangerous work. From a bouncer's account:

    when he started disrespecting a woman it was time to get his ass gone.

    Our hostess girl comes out and she's a caucasion girl, so then he starts saying jungle fever whatever and telling her to suck his....whatevers. At this point I'm like you need to leave now, get away from the club. Then this dude gets in my face and straight pushes me trying to knock me over. Now I'm a thick guy so I lean back, ready myself, and throw a short right and then a left hook, but I just grazed his cheek. Thinking back I'm glad I just grazed him. So then I turn around and make sure the hostess girl is ok, and she screams "watch out behind you!", but I know he's coming. I had already grabbed the MACE that was in my pocket. This shit is potent, you need a license for the mace I used on this dude. So before he could connect I give it two squirts in his face. 5 seconds later, his ass is screaming on the ground wondering why he can't see. I then put him against the wall around the corner, call the police, file my report, and then take him away. All in all a shitty night, but I felt good getting the guy with mace, though not as good as I would've felt if my left hook would've connected.

    In Japan, while things aren't as violent, the "nightclub hostess" denotes something something very different (and more lucrative) than in New York, where it apparently means simply being in charge of who gets in and who doesn't. But the occupation wouldn't be the same as a doorman, as hostesses would seem to do more than that. Exactly what, I am not sure.

    The Wiki entry for the woman described in the Detroit Free Press as a "New York hostess" refers to her as a "nightclub manager" and as a "hostess" in a way which clearly implies these terms are interchangeable:

    Rachel Uchitel (born 1975)[1] is a nightclub manager, who has managed the VIP section of "some of the most successful clubs in New York".[2] In 2006, she was the VIP hostess at Tao.[3]
    Whether she actually managed the clubs, who knows? This is all very surprising to me, for I thought we were long past the sexist terminology of the long past. Something seems to have changed, and I find myself wondering whether at least some of today's women are beginning to take pride in certain gender specific job titles.

    Not that I would expect the New York hostess's lawyer to approve:

    In 1981 she sued California State Senator John G. Schmitz for slander for $10 million for calling her a "slick butch lawyeress," but settled for $20,000 and an apology.
    "Lawyeress" does sound a bit extreme. But what about "actresses"? There was a movement to get rid of the term and replace it with "actor" but they haven't changed the Academy Award wording, and isn't Hollywood about as PC as you can get?

    Another vital issue of the day is that Wiki is threatening to delete the entry for the New York hostess. Apparently, she might not meet their criteria for importance:

    Newsworthy, but hardly a scandal. And if that's her only claim to fame, she does not merit an article on Wikipedia.
    Be that as it may, Googling her name yields nearly 2 million hits. William Tecumseh Sherman gets 219,000, even though he dramatically altered the course of American history, and is considered the architect of the strategy of "total warfare."

    Yet according to Googleocracy, he is less important than a New York hostess.

    I think Sherman would be the first to recognize that there's nothing fair about it.

    posted by Eric at 11:18 AM | Comments (8)

    Cracking down on cowards who avoid having their lives saved

    One of the things I most like about Michigan is that it's a relatively car-friendly state. The speed limit is 70, which means that you can comfortably do 75 without having to worry about the cops.

    This touches on one of my pet annoyances about life on the East Coast -- and I recently saw it again during my trip to the speed trap state of Illinois. You go 75 (which nearly everyone does, and which you have to do to keep up with traffic), and you're vulnerable, because sooner or later, some damnable uniformed revenue agent (euphemistically called a "Highway Patrol Officer") will pull you over and ticket you. Often the bastards use unmarked cars, so there's no way to rely on the rear view mirror to avoid them.

    It is beyond dispute that the primary purpose of these unmarked cars in speed traps is purely to raise revenue, but what really fries me (and what insults my intelligence) is the claim that they are protecting the public. As if it's "dangerous" to go 75 when everyone else is going 75 on highways designed to be safe at much greater speeds. They are preying on ordinary people whose only crime is trying to get from point A to point B. Maybe they're going to work, or maybe they're going to visit relatives. Traveling is stressful, and IMHO, preying on travelers (by lying in wait so you can extort money under threat of official force) is about as low as you can get. I don't know how these revenue officers can live with themselves. I could not do that for a living. I would rank them even lower than trial lawyers, and I consider the IRS more honest, for at least the latter don't make the dishonest claim that they're protecting the public.

    Anyway, I saw a typical example of this dishonest mentality in a news item about harried drivers attempting to use iPhone technology to inform each other of the location of speed traps and traffic cameras. Washington DC's Chief of Police argues that predatory tactics by police are "saving lives," and that it is "cowardly" to attempt to avoid them:

    Area drivers looking to outwit police speed traps and traffic cameras are using an iPhone application and other global positioning system devices that pinpoint the location of the cameras.

    That has irked D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier, who promised her officers would pick up their game to counteract the devices, which can also help drivers dodge sobriety checkpoints.

    "I think that's the whole point of this program," she told The Examiner. "It's designed to circumvent law enforcement -- law enforcement that is designed specifically to save lives."

    The new technology streams to iPhones and global positioning system devices, sounding off an alarm as drivers approach speed or red-light cameras.

    Lanier said the technology is a "cowardly tactic" and "people who overly rely on those and break the law anyway are going to get caught" in one way or another.

    The greater D.C. area has 290 red-light and speed cameras -- comprising nearly 10 percent of all traffic cameras in the U.S., according to estimates by a camera-tracking database called the POI Factory.

    Far from being "cowardly," these motorists are only trying to get to where they want to go under very stressful conditions, and the state is doing everything it can to make it more difficult. If anyone is being cowardly, it is those who set up and run speed traps and traffic cameras that lie in wait and operate through stealth to catch unsuspecting travelers for the sole purpose of taking their money -- with the power of the state behind them. And on top of that, not only do they lie about the purpose of their cowardly activities, but they have the unmitigated gall to suggest that people trying to protect themselves against such villainy are the cowards. (It's about as logical as calling someone a coward for avoiding a bad neighborhood at 2:00 a.m.)

    And lest anyone doubt that revenue is what it's all about, look at the numbers:

    Photo radar tickets generated nearly $1 billion in revenues for D.C. during fiscal years 2005 to 2008.

    In the current fiscal year, Montgomery County expects to make $29 million from its red light and speed cameras.

    Forgive my skepticism, but I just don't think that sounds like "law enforcement that is designed specifically to save lives." (Unless the money is going directly to fund emergency care hospitals or medical research, which I doubt.)

    I think all that money could have been put to better use by leaving it with the citizens it was stolen from. Instead, it will most likely be spent to figure out new ways to "sen[d] hither more swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance."

    posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (9)

    Something Is Rotten In Denmark

    And what is that something that is rotten in Denmark? Climate data? Nope. (although that is a likely candidate). The rot stems from the CO2 trade.

    Denmark is the centre of a comprehensive tax scam involving CO2 quotas, in which the cheats exploit a so-called 'VAT carrousel', reports Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

    Police and authorities in several European countries are investigating scams worth billions of kroner, which all originate in the Danish quota register. The CO2 quotas are traded in other EU countries.

    Denmark's quota register, which the Energy Agency within the Climate and Energy Ministry administers, is the largest in the world in terms of personal quota registrations. It is much easier to register here than in other countries, where it can take up to three months to be approved.

    Ekstra Bladet reporters have found examples of people using false addresses and companies that are in liquidation, which haven't been removed from the register.

    One of the cases, which stems from the Danish register, involves fraud of more than 8 billion kroner. This case, in which nine people have been arrested, is being investigated in England.

    FYI the kroner runs about 5 to the dollar currently. So 8 bn kroner is about $1.6 bn dollars. From one scam.

    I dunno. It all seems suspicious to me. Phony temperatures. Phony credits. Phony scientists. Phony hucksters. (isn't that a redundancy - yes it is) What can you expect?

    On a side note: I asked the first mate this morning if she had heard about "ClimateGate" or the "hacked" UEA CRU e-mails and data. Nope. She doesn't spend much time on the www. TV and newspapers are still her main sources. She said, "No coverage."

    I wonder how much longer they can keep the story bottled up? Especially with stories like: Phil Jones steps down - pending independent review, and also Climategate grows to include other research institutions, coming out almost daily they are going to have to break the news soon.

    In the mean time, while you wait, read a book:

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

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:25 AM | Comments (2)

    Fish gender is confusing, and gender confusion is fishy!

    I've been keeping aquarium fish for years, and I have long known that fish gender is nowhere near as starkly defined and inflexible as it is in higher animals. It has long been known that many species of fish can and do switch gender, sometimes routinely. The process is not well understood, though.

    Earlier Glenn Reynolds reminded me of this when he linked a piece with the provocative (some might even say "transphobic") title of Something in the Water Is Feminizing Male Fish. Are We Next?

    It's one thing to worry about pollutants in our freshwater supply. It's another to find out that all across the country, male fish swimming in some of that water are becoming "intersex," their male sex organs producing immature female eggs. Although the condition occurs naturally in some species, it shouldn't happen to black bass. But a new study shows that it is, and in numbers far greater than ever suspected. The phenomenon raises serious concerns about the pollution levels in our rivers and could threaten several species.
    Far be it from me to accuse the author of either being "transphobic" or capitalizing on other people's "transphobia." But if you Google "intersex fish" you will see innumerable scary articles that make the phenomenon appear new and dangerous, and above all, caused by human activities. This is highly speculative stuff, and I am seeing very few reminders of the fact that gender fluidity in fish (whether called "sex change" or "gender change" or whatever) is hardly a new phenomenon.

    The basics are discussed in "Hermaphroditic Fish Can be Two Sexes at One Time -- Fish Can Change Gender to Increase Their Reproductive Potential:

    Not all fish can change sex, but many can. In fact, the majority of reef fish will change gender at some point in their lives. These fish are considered hermaphroditic and such fish have a few options. Some fish are simultaneous hermaphrodites meaning they are both genders at the same time and could potentially mate with any other individual in their species. Other fish are sequential hermaphrodites and these fish change sex at some point in their lives. Protandry is when a male becomes a female and protogyny is when a female becomes a male. Some fish can change their gender more than once, going back and forth between genders.

    Why Do Fish Change Sex?

    Fish will change their gender in order to maximize their fertility. Maximizing reproductive success is influenced by the amount of resources around, the current male to female ratio in the fish population, and the size of the current males and females. Some fish species will start off all female and a large aggressive male will form a harem, using aggression to keep the smaller fish female. If he dies off the largest female fish can change sex and use her size to maintain dominance over the harem. In other species the juveniles are all males waiting for their chance to mate with the large female. This is useful to fertility because larger females can produce more eggs. When the female dies the largest male fish will change gender.

    How Do Fish Change Sex?

    The endocrine system is almost certainly involved in the gender switch. The endocrine system is in charge of releasing hormones into the body and includes the gonads. However, while progress is being made the exact mechanisms are still not known. Scientists are still researching which hormones, genes, and chromosomes are involved.

    Gender changes in cichilds
    have been known since at least the 1970s. One researcher's explanation is that the sex of the fish varies according to social signals related to size advantages. Another researcher states "In fishes, almost anything goes when it comes to ways to reproduce and raise young."

    This is complicated stuff, and I am no expert, but I think it's worth reminding people that the phenomenon is anything but new.

    From a 1984 New York Times piece titled SEX CHANGE IN FISH FOUND COMMON:

    Conversions from female to male are now known to occur in species belonging to at least 14 families, while conversions from male to female are known in eight families.

    Nevertheless, the process by which fish change sex remains a mystery to scientists. ''No one has ever come up with an answer'' as to how they do it, Dr. Klaus D. Kallman of the New York Aquarium, a fish geneticist, said recently.

    And in 2003 gender-change was described in black sea bass -- not as something that "shouldn't happen," but as a routine "phase of life."
    Gender-change is just a phase in life for the black sea bass. They are born in the wild as females, and when they reach about 2-5 years of age, they change to a male. Black sea bass in captivity can change their gender much faster than those in the wild. This is causing a problem for the fish breeder in commercial fishing industry.
    (More here.) I realize that black sea bass are not the same as black fresh water bass, but still, I'm confused. It seems to me that as a threshold question, people ought to be asking exactly how abnormal this is. My worry is that because "intersex fish" sounds scary, people might simply be assuming that something is very wrong and that therefore, "we" did it.

    The concern over intersex fish is not new, except that in 2003 the culprit was said to be cattle hormones used in feedlots. Now it's pee from women using birth control pills.

    I'm not saying that hormones in the water aren't messing with the fish, for how could I hope to prove such a thing? But shouldn't the people who are pointing to humans as the culprit have to prove something beyond the assertion of a correlation?

    I hate to sound like a parent in denial, but what if the fish are just going through a phase?

    MORE: From the abstract of "Widespread occurrence of intersex in black basses (Micropterus spp.) from U.S. rivers, 1995-2004":

    Intersex was not found in largemouth bass older than five years and was most common in 1-3-year-old male largemouth bass. The cause(s) of intersex in these species is also unknown, and it remains to be determined whether the intersex we observed in largemouth and smallmouth bass developed during sex differentiation in early life stages, during exposure to environmental factors during adult life stages, or both.
    How is it that the cause was unknown then, but so widely suspected now?

    posted by Eric at 04:27 PM | Comments (4)

    ITER Back To The Drawing Board

    The ITER fusion test reactor project is getting a schedule review [pdf] because the project is seriously out of whack.

    The scientific and engineering team building the ITER fusion reactor failed to win an expected endorsement from the project's governing council last week. The council, which represents the seven international partners in the project--China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States--sent the team back to do more work on the proposed construction schedule for the mammoth undertaking.
    So what is being done to fix this mismatch between means and ends?
    ...ITER staff have been racing for months to get the final project baseline documents, which describe the design, cost estimates, and planned schedule, ready for the 18-19 November council meeting at Cadarache (Science, 13 November, p. 932). But some council members voiced concern that the schedule, which aimed to start the reactor by 2018, was not realistic and that there was too high a risk that some part of the immensely complicated effort could go wrong.

    A slip in the schedule would invariably mean increased costs, and the council is already concerned about budget estimates, which, sources say, may have doubled from 􀀀5 billion since the partners signed up in 2006. So the council told ITER staff to nail down more firmly the risks, both technical and organizational, involved in the schedule and come back in February with earliest and latest possible start-up dates.

    And they are not even going to discuss costs until they get a schedule estimate. Good.

    I wonder if the fact that Focus Fusion, and Tri-Alpha Energy, and General Fusion, and other groups promise results much sooner at much lower costs also has something to do with the reevaluation.

    Of course you all know my favorite. The Polywell Fusion Reactor. You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

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

    The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics. And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years.

    Here is a good page to keep up with ITER news. I love what it says at the top of the page:

    18 Years Until 1st Q = 10 DT pulse 400s long at 500MW on ITER

    Plasma Physicist and author of Principles of Plasma Physics Dr. Nicholas Krall said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good."

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

    Where's my Christmas stimulus?

    Is everyone ready for the Christmas season? I'm not.

    However, Sean Kinsell got me in the mood with this quote from Virginia Postrel on buying Christmas gifts:

    The problem of buying good presents for other people, even people you supposedly know well, illustrates that old familiar Hayekian concept, the knowledge problem. If you can't even give your loved ones the right presents, how likely is it that a central authority could make the right decisions for everyone?
    Sean then makes an excellent analogy to government health care:
    That's especially true of goods such as health care, in connection with which the criteria for satisfaction vary so widely from person to person. Some people go to the doctor for every case of the sniffles. Others get a general physical every year, see the dentist whenever prompted by a reminder card, and otherwise don't bother with doctors. Still others never see the inside of a doctor's office unless a limb is turning blue and hanging at a strange angle.
    Government health care, of course, makes all three equal in the sense that everyone pays for everything. The guy who rarely goes to the doctor would have to pay for the guy who goes to the doctor for every little ache and pain. That this is inherently unfair to the frugal patient (and provides unjust enrichment for the more extravagant patient) is lost on those who think that it is fair to "treat all people equally." It's like asking someone who scrimps and saves by living off beans and rice to suddenly pay into a giant pool to pay for lobster tails and caviar for everyone.

    And how long would anyone expect that to last? (About as long as the hypothetical world I imagined in which everyone could write an unlimited number of government-guaranteed blank checks for everything.)

    To those believing in individual rights, there is nothing fair about mass (or group, or societal) fairness, because fairness is an individual thing. I see it as inherently unfair that I should have to pay for someone else's health care without my consent. It is no more fair to make me pay for others than it is fair for them to receive their ill-gotten gain. (Of course, communitarianism is considered unfair by individualists, while individualism is considered unfair by communitarians, so this argument goes in circles. However, now that the president has actually stated that there is a "right" to healthcare, the communitarian argument might be poised to win by government force.)

    Anyway, with the government in charge, ultimately government-run healthcare makes about as much sense as government-run Christmas shopping. So why not just have everyone pay for everyone else's Christmas shopping? Isn't it unfair that some people get cars, while others get a pair of socks, and still others get no gifts at all?

    Why should Christmas be limited by the ability to pay?

    posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

    What To Do?

    I was reading the other day an article about the Angry Middle.

    Here is something I found in the article that rings true:

    It's not a resurgent right wing that should trouble Obama's party. Indeed, the stronger the right's role in shaping the Republican message, the harder it will be for middle-of-the-road voters to use the Republicans to express their discontent.
    He goes on to lament socialism's prospects. Tough year for him. Tough decade in fact.

    Here is what I see happening from watching the ebb and flow of politics from the last 20 or 30 years. The socialists get in and wreck the economy. Rs fix it. Then they think because they got in they have a mandate for moral crusades. The Terry Schiavo case was particularly egregious. The Rs get sloppy with their financials. Out they go. The Ds get in wreck the economy. Then the Rs come back.

    Except we have a bunch of new anti-economic laws that NEVER get repealed. Sarbanes-Oxley is killing venture capital. So we get a ratchet effect.

    Let me just outline a few of the ongoing effects (as evidenced by past and current moral crusades) of the Moral Socialism that periodically puts us in the hands of the socialists.

    The Stalinist public school system (and mandatory attendance) was championed by Protestants as indoctrination centers for Catholics and Jews.

    Alcohol prohibition was another moral crusade. Billy Sunday ring a bell? Fortunately that didn't last long.

    Drug prohibition is on going. But that is failing too - politically. Medical marijuana got 58% of the vote in Maine vs 53% for traditional marriage.

    Sooner or later moral socialism fails just as economic socialism does. For the same reason. Government can no more make us moral than it can make us prosperous.

    I have nothing against moral crusades. Done in the private sector. It is when the moralists get the bright idea that with he help of government guns they can FORCE people to do the right thing.

    Not in America. We are a nation full of people willing to break laws we don't agree with. Which is why drug prohibition with 95% compliance is such a failure.

    So let me tell you what I see coming. Abortion. Not just restrictions which seem reasonable. But a total ban. Are there enough people who don't agree with this to form an abortion underground? No doubt. And then policing gets hard.

    Access to women contemplating abortion is no longer frequent - because no woman wanting an abortion even if only fleetingly is going to want the fact known. Who wants to be investigated by the police?

    Doctors may fall out of the practice but today we have drugs. RU-486 can be imported from France (drug dealers will handle it) or birth control pills could be used. So of course tighter restrictions on birth control pills will be required (and that will give us an increase in undesired pregnancies and thus increase the demand for illegal abortions - yipeee - we can then demand harsher laws and more of them to fix the problem).

    Moral socialists suffer from the same defect that economic socialists have. They think: "once I have a law the law will be obeyed in the way I contemplate and voila a better world."

    But it never works that way.

    So what do I think should be done about abortion:

    1. Kick the fn socialists out of government and get the economy moving again. Many abortions are for economic reasons. And stop staying home on election day because the fn R Party has served up some RINO. We at least have the ear of the RINO (Harriet Meyers?). The Communists are not going to listen.

    2. End the drug war asap. Why are there so many abortions in the black community? Because we have a significant part of that community (about a third of all males) in jail or in the criminal justice system for prohibition violations. And we keep them there long enough to be sure to destroy any family they may have once had.

    Demographics explains how it works.

    It also explains "Girls gone wild". And where to go to find the wild women. Hint: look for places where the ratio of women to men is above 1.05 or more. Above 1.5 and you are in (you will pardon the expression) slut city. We are not being afflicted in this nation by declining morals and a culture of evil. We are afflicted by bad demographics. So how do you fix that? Beats me. Maybe we just have to learn to live with it unless we encourage differential abortion of females. No. I don't think so. Absolutely not.

    3. More intensive teaching of birth control. The Baptists COULD do this. They just don't have the nerve. But if they were really sharp they could slip in a morals lesson or three while showing how to put a condom on a banana with your mouth.

    4. Information - how well do crisis pregnancy centers work? Is there a better way? In fact more information on all programs that reduce abortion. Then the private funders can get the most bang for their buck.

    There are probably more things to be done. Those come to my mind.

    But for God's sake. Keep it out of the hands of government. That includes government funding.

    I'd love to hear some major Moral Socialist come to his senses and say: "You know, what I want is of such intrinsic goodness that I don't need any government help to promote these ideas. And not only do I not need any help - I don't want any. There doesn't have to be a law. Social pressure can do the job. After all look at what changes to cultural attitudes have done for tobacco consumption. The only people who still smoke that stuff are hard core schizophrenics."

    The only way government can accomplish anything is with sticks and stolen carrots.

    Who do you want to steal from to accomplish your goal? Who do you want beaten with sticks?

    Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. - H. L. Mencken

    Government functions by committing what in other contexts would be called crimes. It has a certain utility. But is a danger and ought to be strictly limited. Government can make you a slave - through taxation or though imprisonment. And slavery is against the law. Except for government.

    In short: Government is a Criminal Enterprise.

    "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Geo. Washington

    Is it worth increasing the number of criminals in our society (nearly permanently) in exchange for being able to say: "It is against the law." Of course followed by (from a different sort of person): "I know a guy who knows a guy......."

    I guess it all depends on what kind of world you want to live in.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:43 AM | Comments (10)

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