Is The BIll Dead?

A whiff of corruption: Kent Conrad says no, of course you can't pass Obamacare through reconciliation. And it has to go through his committee, so...

I've said for a while liberal wonks like Jonathon Cohn were underestimating the collegial tradition in the Senate, and sure enough it turns out they aren't going to change all the rules in the name of rank partisanship, especially for a bill that is opposed 2:1 in some polls.

Start building a funeral celebration pyre, but keep your stakes handy.

posted by Dave at 04:06 PM | Comments (2)

"He's got Boris Karloff eyes" (But is that fair?)

While the last thing I want to do is leap to the defense of President Obama, I thought I should make a simple observation about the Boris Karloff comparison that has been floating around. Rush Limbaugh seems to have started it with this remark:

Obama was sitting there and his lips were pursed. There as tight as he could be. He had one finger over his mouth and he was shooting Boris Karloff eyes.
OK, now that could be interpreted a number of different ways. Ann Althouse didn't seem to think much of the comparison yesterday, and she offered a couple of pictures of Karloff to prove her point -- one of him as the Frankenstein monster, and the other one as The Mummy.

However, Fallen Sparrow has an interesting picture of Obama exhibiting what is called the "Karloff death stare" and opines that Rush Limbaugh was not being unfair.

Here's the Obama "Karloff death stare" picture:


OK, I can see the resemblance.

My problem is that I am a huge fan of Karloff, and not so much a fan of Obama.

To better explore what Glenn is calling the Obama vs. Karloff "stare-down," here are a two more Karloff pictures (showing the actor not made up as a monster) to further prove the point:


Both of the above are Hollywood promotional photos (taken many years apart of course).

While there is certainly a resemblance in the eyes, I do think that the comparison invokes stereotypes that are unfair to Boris Karloff, who in reality was a gentle and soft-spoken man:

Boris Karloff made his name as the ultimate master of horror. Yet under the chilling monster lay a gentle, soft spoken man who found more pleasure in reading stories to children than in scaring the grown-ups out of their seats.
So I think it's unfair to Karloff the man to be making a negative comparison.

Comparisons to Karloff the actor, though, are another matter.


As an actor, Boris Karloff was legendary for his innumerable heath care horrors, but at least everybody knew it wasn't really happening.

posted by Eric at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

A relativist view of emergency sucking

I don't mean to be a bore about these things, but I try to be fair, and not long ago I wrote a long post complaining about "two dishonest words that especially offend me,"

because of their inherently argumentative nature as well as their tendency to distort perceptions of reality.
Anyway, because I used the colloquial expression "suck" to characterize the words "sodomy" and "entitlement," I now feel duty bound to use it to characterize another inherently argumentative and often dishonest word -- "emergency."

In this case, running low on free condoms is said to be an emergency:

as if anymore proof is needed that a wild Olympic atmosphere permeates B.C.'s largest city, now there's an apparent condom shortage.

That's right. As you read this, an emergency shipment of condoms is desperately making its way across Canada to the West Coast city.

Health officials in Vancouver have already provided 100,000 free condoms to the roughly 7,000 ahtletes and officials at the Games. That's about 14 condoms per person. But as of Wednesday, those supplies started running dangerously low.

So naturally, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research decided to step and make sure there were no hitches in Olympic action.

"When we heard about the condom shortage in Vancouver, we felt it important to respond immediately," said Kerry Whiteside, CANFAR's Executive Director. The organization assembled three large boxes of about 8,500 condoms, much to the relief of libidos at the Olympic Village. They're expected to arrive on Thursday.

Is there a condom shortage in Vancouver? When I google-mapped the city and searched nearby for condoms, I got 164 hits. Topping the list was the Rubber Rainbow Condom Company, although one of the Google reviewers complained that the local pharmacy chain beats their prices.

But are the innumerable Vancouver pharmacies now sold out of condoms? I seriously doubt it, because I was unable to find a single allegation or complaint anywhere about such a general "condom shortage." The problem seems to be that there aren't enough free condoms to be distributed to Olympic athletes. It is being reported that they were being grabbed by the handful -- not necessarily for their intended purpose:

It is unclear whether or not the condoms are being used for safer sex or stocked away as souvenirs. Canadian Olympic team mentor Marnie McBean suggests that athletes are collecting them. "It's kind of like a joke thing. People just take handfuls of them. They're out there everywhere. They're just out and people grab them."

For those who are not using the prophylactics to celebrate their victories, they may be stocking them away for future value. One collector auctioned off a batch of 5,000 leftover condoms from the Beijing games, but with the strong demand in Vancouver it seems unlikely there will be any left behind.

Well, doh! When you're giving away something that's free now but likely to become collectible in the near future, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that people will grab them.

I don't know what the Olympic condoms look like, but this cute image is floating around everywhere.


Anyway, I am very skeptical of the claim that there is an actual condom shortage in the city of Vancouver, and I don't think the word "emergency" is being used properly. Because, if it is an "emergency" to run out of free condoms, then the word "emergency" really does suck.

It's nothing new, though. As I pointed out in a post questioning whether a Chicken McNuggets shortage was an "emergency", the word has been used to describe all sorts of things that are not true emergencies:

  • According to Barbra Streisand, we are in a global warming emergency.
  • Autism is a national emergency. (As I'm sure are countless diseases.)
  • The current state of US math education is a national emergency
  • The lack of awareness throughout America about the nature and impact of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation is a national emergency.
  • It is a National Emergency to have no domestic manufacturing of Vitamin C!
  • And this man makes a good argument that his student loan is a national emergency and demands a federal bailout.
  • None of this should be read as a suggestion that there's anything wrong with supplying Olympic athletes with plenty of free condoms. They are a good thing, and certainly advisable to use in the event of a sexual encounter with a stranger. But surely people who have gotten as far in life as Olympic athletes are smart enough to know this, and most likely enterprising enough to be able to find a condom when the need arises in a big city like Vancouver. Using the word "emergency" in the way it is used here is a bit condescending, and it implies that they are impulsive children who cannot control their genitalia and are thus in need of nannying.

    Calling a free condom shortage an "emergency" makes about as much sense as it would for an abstinence advocacy group to call a shortage of free abstinence-only sex education leaflets an "emergency."

    (Please bear in mind that I meant that as an ironic comparison and not as an emergency suggestion!)

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

    Can't they just let the show go on?

    The hysteria over the killing of a trainer by a killer whale has now reached a media crescendo -- replete with psychoanalysis of the animal's motives, often in the context of a narrative that sees man as the oppressor. This is causing some people with knowledge about animals to roll their eyes and remark the obvious.

    Isn't it strange that the killer whale is being characterised as aggressive? Killer whales are top predators. You wouldn't be surprised if a tiger lashed out at someone. Is it because we are so fond of cetaceans and their intelligence that we forget what they are? Or are we embarrassed at keeping them captive and so make excuses for them?


    We're in a bit of a bind. If we want to keep orca in tiny pools, we might have to expect them to attack us from time to time. If we release Tilikum and long-term captive orca, like we did with Willy of Free Willy fame, we might be condemning them to loneliness and an early death.

    So we'll probably continue to keep them in captivity. As the New York Times reports, "that's a big money-making animal."

    Via Glenn Reynolds, whose response to the title of the piece ("Killer whale: the clue's in the name") was "Gee, do you think?"

    The New York Times' observation about money reminded me that this is about show business after all, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. When I was a kid I used to love to go to the circus, and one of the favorite attractions, of course, involved acts involving lion acts. The people who worked with them were called "lion tamers." In those days, everyone knew that because lions are dangerous, being a lion tamer was a dangerous occupation. A bit like being a race car driver. There was always that chance that a lion might be having a bad day and just take a fatal swipe at the guy. Or maybe decide that he wasn't in the mood for having a human's head stuck his mouth. Lions could just be that way.

    Even the "harmless" and entertaining elephant is a huge animal with gigantic feet that can crush a human being. One wrong step by either an elephant or a circus performer could easily have resulted in a fatality.

    Although I never saw an incident like that, such things did happen, and when they did, the circus band would strike up Stars and Stripes Forever:

    In show business, particularly theater and the circus, this piece is called the Disaster March. It is traditional code signaling a life-threatening emergency. This helps theater personnel to handle events and organize the audience's exit without panic. Circus bands never play it under any other circumstances.
    The idea was also that the show must go on. I don't know about today (and I don't even want to look at the animal rights sites) but in those days, anyone who attempted to psychoanalyze a lion for mauling a performer would have been ridiculed. Lions were considered dangerous animals, not victims. These days, I'm sure I'd be considered a villain in AR circles for admitting that I liked the circus.

    But people still like circuses and circus acts, even if they have to be rebadged as "marine mammal parks." Or "animal rescue" TV shows.

    posted by Eric at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)

    A mainstream meme that cannot speak its name

    Dr. Helen links a video which ought to be seen by anyone who doesn't believe misandry exists...

    Let me pause right there to note an unexpected irony which proves one of the points made by the video. As I typed the first sentence of this post, the word "misandry" was flagged in red, even though I spelled it correctly, and even though it is hardly a new word. It appears in my Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Ed., 1958. And it merits an entry in Wikipedia. But according to my spell-check, there is NO SUCH WORD:


    I have to say, it's not often that I stumble onto evidence in support of the subject of a blog post simply by the act of writing the first sentence.

    Anyway, the video is a real eye-opener.

    Just as misandry does not exist, men do not exist, unless they commit crimes or do bad things. When they do good things, they are "people" or "personnel." When they do bad things, they are men. Seriously, watch it and see if it rings true. It certainly did for me --and the sudden realization that I was unaware that these things had been slipped by me over the years started to piss me off, as I don't take kindly to being manipulated.

    To deny that the connection between misandry and feminism would be to deny reality. In fact, leading feminists such as Ms. Magazine editor Robin Morgan and New York Now leader Ti-Grace Atkinson were more than ordinary misandrists; they went to far as to embrace the notorious Valerie Solanas, the psychotic who shot and nearly killed Andy Warhol, and who wrote the SCUM Manifesto -- which specifically called for "gendercide" (the killing of men -- SCUM stands for "Society for the Cutting Up of Men"):

    Feminist Robin Morgan (later editor of Ms. magazine) demonstrated for Solanas' release from prison. Ti-Grace Atkinson, the New York chapter president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), described Solanas as "the first outstanding champion of women's rights."[9] Another member, Florynce Kennedy, represented Solanas at her trial, calling her "one of the most important spokeswomen of the feminist movement."[9]
    I read through the Manifesto, and the woman was a genuine lunatic. It does not say much for feminism (or the supposedly mainstream Ms. Magazine) that they would support someone like that. The book is still in print, and is considered trendy these days Claire Dederer, writing in The Nation on June 14, 2004, called the SCUM Manifesto "a chic little object."

    I realize that the above is extreme misandry, and not the more mainstream type that simply edits out men and only mentions them to put them down. However, the reason I cited it is to demonstrate that even the most rabid misandry (to the point of advocacy of elimination of men) has long been acceptable in leading feminist circles. Moreover, radical and extreme ideas have a way of making less radical but equally mistaken ideas look "moderate" or "mainstream" or even "reasonable." And these days, what would once have been seen as clear misandry has become quite mainstream -- a position which Dr. Helen notes that many men and even conservative men have e,braced:

    Why is it that when the left and right finally agree on something, it's to take away the civil rights of men and treat them like dogs? Apparently, misandry is a bipartisan endeavor.
    I often suspect that activists hope to create backlash (activists need enemies after all), and while I don't know what the statistics are, it would not surprise me if misandry is encouraging misogyny among men.

    What do they want? A protracted war between the sexes?

    Whose interest does that serve?

    MORE: "Sexism" is one of those supposedly gender-neutral words which on its face might be applied to discriminatory conduct by women against men as well as men against women. But in practice, it is almost always used to denote misconduct by men.

    However, in a book portion titled "Can Women Be Sexist?" the authors make the fascinating claim that women, too, can be "sexist" -- not if they oppress men, but if they oppress other women:

    there are dozens of guys who still view the trading floor as a frat house. Given the ethnography of their professional environment, it's especially surprising (and disappointing) to hear such a typical locker room remark ['The only reason Melissa got the job is because she is sleeping with Jim'] coming from a female colleague. Has Gordon Gecko submerged Girl Power among Gen-X/Y women? We wondered, just how hard are women making it for other women to get ahead at work? Are women guilty of sexism?
    By way of contrast, would any man who made a remark like "The only reason Jim got the job is because he is sleeping with Melissa" be accused of sexism? Against a member of his own sex?

    Sexism sounds neutral, but it's a one way definition.

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

    Your comments are invited -- agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 04:10 PM | Comments (56)


    Any method for doing anything that cannot be sustained for 100 billion years minimum is unsustainable. Nothing is sustainable in the long term. So why not just focus on getting by with an eye towards future requirements?

    And let me add that the things people were doing 200 years ago were unsustainable. And 200 years hence?

    My definition of sustainable? Can we keep it up for about 100 years? Which is time enough to figure out what to do next.

    Which was brought up by a discussion of the Bloom Box fuel cell and water heater.

    Now if you want to get more into the technology of the Bloom Box here are a couple of very pricey books that may help:

    Biofuels for Fuel Cells (Integrated Environmental Technology)

    That came out in 2006. I wonder if The Bloom Boys got some ideas there? Here is one of the latest books in the field:

    Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Technology: Principles, Performance and Operations

    I haven't read either of them so I can't give any recommendations.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:19 AM | Comments (1)

    When regulators are in bed with those they regulate, woe to the unregulated!

    Quite foolishly in my view, Senator John McCain has introduced new legislation that would give broad new powers to the FDA to regulate the vitamin and dietary supplement industry -- right on down to your corner store.

    Steven Joyal looks into why McCain would do such a thing, and concludes it's because of baseball:

    Most people take nutritional supplements to assure themselves that they are getting their recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals to help prevent illness and disease. They have a right to purchase those products that they believe will keep them healthy.

    During American Heart Month, there is good reason to believe that right is likely to be taken away by the McCain-Dorgan bill that is being considered by the Senate. For years, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was a staunch opponent of the giant pharmaceutical companies' that wielded their financial power and bought influence on Capitol Hill. In turn, those corporations attacked him directly for opposing their tactics of buying votes in the Senate and House. Why has this great American hero suddenly yielded to the drug makers and co-sponsored legislation that puts the FDA's thumbscrews to the nutritional supplement industry? The answer: Baseball.

    Apparently, because some baseball players were caught taking steroids (already illegal unless prescribed by a physician), McCain (and Dorgan, the Democratic lame duck cosponsor) think the FDA should be give draconian (and unconstitutional, IMO) new powers which would broaden the scope of regulation of the already regulated dietary supplements industry. Their bill -- The Dietary Supplement Safety Act (DSSA), S. 3002 -- would subject ordinary retailers to the extraordinary complexities of FDA licensing and regulation.
    "It is big government that has a proven track record of not protecting the public. And it is big government that is seeking to take away yet another individual freedom, the right to choose one's own treatment," said, a group dedicated to protecting freedom and the free market.

    "An onerous burden would be placed on the shoulders of suppliers and retailers of dietary supplements, as they would have to "obtain written evidence" from the seller that the product is registered as required by law, and keep that documentation on file. Monetary penalties for non-compliance "may, in addition to other penalties imposed in this section, be fined not more than twice the gross profits or other proceeds derived from the manufacture, packaging, holding, distribution, labeling, or license of such dietary supplement," they added.

    "The McCain bill would change existing mandatory serious adverse reporting regulations, requiring minor adverse effects to be reported as well so that the FDA could arbitrarily pull supplements off the shelves or reclassify them as drugs. This immediate recall authority would be granted to the "Secretary upon determination," that there is a "reasonable probability" that the product is "adulterated" or "misbranded.""

    Relying on the FDA to regulate and control more of our free market, fraught with all kinds of safety concerns themselves, is an outrageous infringement on the freedom of consumer choice.

    It certainly is, and it appears that the motivation is not protecting the public, but making money. Back to Steven Joyal:
    Pharmaceutical companies are pushing for the adoption of the McCain-Dorgan bill so they can get their share of the dietary supplement pie. Consider the hundreds of millions of dollars that would go to the company that gets FDA approval to be the exclusive marketer of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA found in purified fish oil, an important cardiovascular supplement that many cardiologists prescribe to their patients a steep pharmaceutical profit. Clearly, the senators have been duped by the pharmaceutical lobbyists to think that the FDA is powerless. Instead, the FDA serves as the enforcement arm of the pharmaceutical industry.
    That's a clear conflict of interest, yet nothing is done about it. Pharmaceutical executives and drug company researchers make lucrative career moves back and forth from the FDA to the private sector, gaining power and influence and ever higher salaries with each move. They are in bed with each other, and this bill is their attempt to squash small businesses and the consumers who depend on them. (Some of the latter might want to opt out of the allopathic medical system entirely. It might sound kooky, but isn't that their right as free citizens?)

    What is encouraging is that this bill is being opposed by a broad spectrum of the public, from right to left. I guess when it comes down to the simple right to keep and bear vitamins, a lot of people can agree. (I said "right" because it is one of those rights which the founders reserved to the states and the people.)

    Politically, I am very disappointed in McCain. I never thought he was perfect, and I hated McCain-Feingold, but this just adds insult to injury. Why is he doing this when facing a serious challenge by J.D. Hayworth? Were I Hayworth, I'd be all over this.

    Moreover, from a purely personal standpoint, I am also very worried that this bill could wipe out the Chinese herbal medicine market completely. That pisses me off big time, because the last time I had a sinus infection, I cleared it right up with Pe Min Kan Wan.


    And I stopped a cold dead in its tracks with Yin Chiao, which is sold here, and which Chinese have relied on for centuries. I'm not sure the Western pharmaceutical industry would ever bring it to market as "Honeysuckle and Forsythia Clean Toxin Pill," though. They'd probably do what they did with Red Yeast Rice -- synthesize the active ingredient, rename it, and then make the original natural source ingredient illegal.

    In the late 1970's researchers in Japan were isolating lovastatin from Aspergillus and monacolins from Monascus, the latter being the same yeast used to make red yeast rice. Chemical analysis soon showed that lovastatin and monacolin K were identical. An article "The origin of statins" summarizes how the two isolations, documentations and patent applications were just months apart.[2] Lovastatin became the patented, prescription, drug Mevacor for Merck & Co. Red yeast rice went on to become a contentious, non-prescription, dietary supplement in the United States and other countries.
    I couldn't make this up if I tried. Anyway, the FDA basically now acts as corporate police, and bans the sale of the naturally occurring substance which has been marketed as a Western "breakthrough":
    In 1998, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a ban on the sale of dietary supplements derived from red yeast rice, which naturally contains lovastatin, arguing that products containing prescription agents require drug approval.
    So I would expect the FDA to use their new powers in much the same way. If it turns out that a dietary or herbal supplement works and the active ingredient can be isolated and synthesized, license it, and then ban it in its natural form! I think such behavior is corrupt and scandalous

    While I think the whole scheme is an unconstitutional outrage to begin with, they certainly have enough power already without giving them more.

    They can have my Yin Chiao and my Pe Min Kan Wan when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    MORE: Post title changed to reflect embeddedness.

    UPDATE: Per Donna Barber's request, here's a link to the bill.

    posted by Eric at 05:04 PM | Comments (9)


    I have been feeling under the weather lately, and as I had some leftover rice in a ziplock bag, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and see how well my rice cooker performs at making jook. Also called congee, it is renowned throughout Asia as the ideal sick person's food, as well as a perfect way to transform virtually anything you might have sitting in the fridge into a something that will make you feel better. (I have cooked jook before, but I lack the patience to engage in the constant stirring and endless waiting normally required.)

    The recipe here was helpful as a starting point, although it calls for way more water than you need if you're starting with pre-cooked leftover rice.

    Actually, if you want to make jook from dry rice, a slow cooker/crockpot would be a better choice. This salt pork jook slow cooker recipe looks so good that I think I'll try it sometime. BTW, to make jook in a crock pot is moronically simple -- 1 cup rice to 6 1/2 cups water, for 3 hours on high. Or according to this recipe, rice to water in a 1:8 ratio, then four hours on high or eight hours on low. (Obviously, with leftover rice, less water and time would be necessary. Some call for as low as a 1:2 ratio.)

    But last night I didn't have time to experiment making crockpot jook, and as my rice cooker has a porridge setting, I just threw in the leftover rice, and added water, and pushed the button. When it beeped 40 minutes later, I realized that I had used too much water because it was not yet firm (I was not yet sure of the proportions), so I hit the button again, and waited.

    Meanwhile, into a pan with hot oil, I threw some chopped onions, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, and last but not least, a small amount of some insanely hot Chinese pepper paste I bought at an Asian store. (There's no brand name, but I think eating a teaspoonful by itself would have consequences like these.) Into that went a shredded piece of chicken, and when it was cooked I added some water and a little starch to form gravy, then left it covered. (Total prep time was five minutes.)

    When the rice cooker beeped the second time, all I needed to do was combine the ingredients. This is the result (before stirring, and without the eye-catching green flecks of scallion or sprigs of cilantro which such pictures traditionally demand):


    It was very satisfying, and I felt better immediately. I realize this is hardly a cooking blog (and I am just a hack where it comes to cooking), but I thought I'd present it as another installment of my ongoing love affair with my intelligent rice cooker.

    posted by Eric at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)

    power imbalances and root causes

    Via Ann Althouse, I just learned about a vicious attack by a killer whale:

    The Orange County Sheriff's Office said deputies responded to the theme park after receiving a call that an employee had been attacked and injured in the "killer whale tank."

    The woman who was killed was a 40-year-old senior trainer at the theme park.

    Jim Solomons of the Orange County Sheriff's Office said she fell into the tank and, "this appears to be an accidental death."

    "It is with great sadness that I report one of our most experienced trainers has drowned in an incident with one of our whales this afternoon," park manager Dan Brown said.

    The park was closed because of the fatal incident, and the Sheriff's Office is conducting a death investigation at the theme park.

    "We have never in the history of our parks experienced an incident like this and all of our standard operating procedures will be under review," Brown said.

    Witness Victoria Biniak said she saw the deadly incident from a viewing area.

    "The trainer was explaining different things about the whale and then the trainer that was down there walked away from the window. Then Telly (the whale) took off really fast in the tank and he came back, shot up in the air, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started thrashing (her) around," Biniak said. "He was thrashing her around pretty good. It was violent."

    Biniak said the attack was so violent that it caused the trainer's shoe to fly off.

    Biniak said the whale, named Tilikum, or Telly for short, does not typically have a trainer in its tank because it is too large.

    Tilikum is a nearly 30-year-old, 12,300-pound bull orca.

    Killer whale expert Nancy Black said the whale could have been playing and the incident could have been an accident.

    "They are very intelligent creatures. They have emotions, and feelings. Maybe it was unhappy in the situation, maybe it was bored," Black said.

    Obviously there is only one solution to the problem of these savage beasts, and that is for the government to ban them.

    Considering their statement on the incident, I am sure PETA would agree:

    Wednesday afternoon, internationally-known animal rights organization PETA released this statement: "The death of the SeaWorld trainer following the attack by Telly the whale is a tragedy that didn't have to happen. For years, PETA has been calling on SeaWorld to stop confining oceangoing mammals to an area that to them is like the size of a bathtub, and we have also been asking the park to stop forcing the animals to perform silly tricks over and over again. It's not surprising when these huge, smart animals lash out."
    I'm surprised they're not also demanding that killer whales be spayed or neutered. In that regard, they have a new campaign, featuring embattled golfer Tiger Woods:

    According to the story, Woods has not consented, but PETA says they're sure he'll be appreciative:

    [Virginia Fort, a campaigner with PETA] said the billboard isn't meant to offend the golfer, his family or fans, but to prevent millions of cats and dogs from being euthanized at shelters each year.

    "The world has been transfixed on Tiger's life after Thanksgiving. We're putting the focus where it needs to be," Fort said.

    It's uncertain when the billboard would go up in Windermere but "the soonest would be in two weeks," she said.

    Woods is not affiliated with PETA and has not endorsed the ad, Fort said.

    "We're sure Tiger will appreciate our attempt -- from a story that's distracted the world and followed Tiger -- to turn it into something positive for little tigers," she said.

    Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, and spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

    Greenspan can hardly be blamed. I'd say that "when gonads are outlawed, only outlaws will have gonads" (and "when killer whales are outlawed, only outlaws will have killer whales") except I'd sound like a broken record.

    One of Ann Althouse's commenters thinks the root cause of the killer whale's problem is an inappropriate name:

    The root cause of this problem is the name "killer" whale. What attitude would you expect someone to develop when constantly told he is a "killer"? Sea World should immediately change the name to something like "performing" whale, or "celebrity" whale, or maybe "superstar" whale and begin sensitivity training sessions to repair the wounded self-image of these abused animals.
    Might the same logic be applied to the name "Tiger"?

    Anyone remember this campaign?


    It is obvious that the woman in the front seat is the victim of a power imbalance, aggravated by the hegemonic and patriarchal "Tiger" meme.

    Case closed.

    UPDATE: Veeshir reminds me how far behind I am on my research:

    It's even worse than you think, via the Puppy Blender, we find out he was a Tea Partying Killer Whale!

    Yes, the murderous Glenn Reynolds not only linked the above, but he's taking flak from Eric Boehlert at Salon for doing so:
    Ha! Ha! Looks like Inastapundit got a good laugh out of the dead-trainer gag.
    Let's see what the "Inastapundit" actually said:
    SOMEBODY TELL KEITH OLBERMANN: Photo Emerges Of Murderous Killer Whale At Tea Party Rally.
    That is not laughing over a dead trainer, and neither is the post Glenn links. No one that I can see has laughed at the dead trainer. The laughter is being directed at the whale, and at the left (by ridiculing the relentless opportunistic attempts to tie things to the Tea Party movement).

    Is calling lawyers "sharks" laughing at their victims?

    As to the dangerous whale (which has killed three people now), animal rights activists are already trying to blame the victim:

    PETA has long been asking SeaWorld to stop taking wild, ocean-going mammals from their families and ocean homes and confining them with no semblance of a life to an area that, to them, is the size of a bathtub. No wonder these huge, intelligent animals, like the beaten elephants in the Ringling Bros. circus, lash out after being forced into subservience and forced to perform stupid circus tricks for their food for so long.
    Using PETA's logic, I suppose it could be argued that Telly is feeling taxed enough already and wants to join the Tea Party movement. But even that would not constitute laughing at someone's death.

    I have to agree with the characterization of Boehlert as "a sanctimonious grief-mongering twit."

    posted by Eric at 06:45 PM | Comments (2)

    cleaning up unwholesome advertising -- for the children!

    From José Guardia, I learned about a new anti-smoking campaign in France, which obviously hopes to shock young people into not smoking by means of disturbing images.

    FRA antismoking campaign.jpg

    The slogan is this:

    "To smoke is to be a slave of tobacco"
    I agree with José that the message is powerful. All the more so because of the obvious, unstated subtext.

    If you were to see one of these billboards from a distance, the word "slave" conveys a certain meaning, don't you think?

    To illustrate, I thought I would "clean up" the ad a bit. You know, censor out offensive images of cigarettes as the anti-smokers would like us to do? So the young people aren't corrupted?

    Moreover, because I found the ad so disturbing, I felt almost a civic duty to clean it up. For the children!

    So here's the cleaner, healthier version!


    I also took out all references to tobacco.

    We can't be too careful!

    MORE: Many thanks to José Guardia for the link!

    Calling the French a bunch of prudes, José also quotes an incredible statement from the leader of the project:

    Marco de la Fuente, the leader of the project for the BDDP et Fils ad agency, said: "The old arguments - tobacco is bad for you - don't work any more. The message here is that tobacco is a form of submission. In the popular imagination, oral sex is the perfect symbol of submission."
    Wow, and all this time I thought "submission" had something to do with Islam.

    posted by Eric at 10:08 PM | Comments (3)

    Do I have to hate people who don't exist?

    I had a disturbing thought earlier when Veeshir left a comment pointing out that a commenter (who calls himself "Steve") appeared to be soliciting links. I remembered that in an earlier post, the same commenter had solicited a link from another blogger, even though that blogger had not even left a comment.

    So I did something I almost never do. I Googled the content of the comment in question (his blog name plus the words "link exchange" and I got over 47,000 hits. Now, that's a lot. It would take me many years to leave 47,000 comments, and the blog only seems to have been there since 2008.

    While I have very low standards, I really don't see why I have to have my time (and other people's time) wasted by commenters who are not human beings. As I said to Veeshir, "Is it asking too much for commenters to at least be people?" I realize that people are calling this commenter a "link whore," but if the comments are generated by a bot, then he's not even a real link whore, he's a fake link whore. Do there really have to be such things?

    But I'm worried about a bigger problem. Troubling as fake commenters and fake link whores are, I began to wonder whether we might be on the verge of fake blogs. Blogs which are not written by human beings, but which crank out increasingly intelligent, readable posts, right down to taking controversial positions on heated issues. Since anonymity and pseudonymity are with us to stay, how are we to ever know whether a blogger is in fact a human being? How are we to verify a blogger's personhood? Or are my concerns justified? Perhaps it doesn't matter. I mean, there could be hundreds of thousands of fake "conservative" blogs, all linking to each other, while attacking and deriding the hundreds of thousands of fake "liberal" blogs. Gigantic fake blog wars. No real bloggers would be needed.

    As it is now, I often feel as if I am repeating myself. There are millions of words in this blog, and I see no reason why someone couldn't design a program that would just cut and paste stuff I've said into coherent dialogues on whatever the latest news is, using simple search terms to spot and flag items of concern for the fake discussion, of course. It would make my "job" easier.

    There is something downright demoralizing about knowing how ultimately replaceable we all are.

    At least I know I'm alive and writing this post.

    Or do I?

    MORE: Needless to say (as if anything would be needful to say), the program used to generate the typical fake blog posts in the typical fake blogs could be based on this famous but typical incendiary blog post template that so many people have linked that I don't know whom to credit. (Probably Gates of Vienna, via Instapundit, both of whom are known to still exist, even if the latter contemplates his cyber-replacement occasionally.)

    I wouldn't mind it if the fake blogs pursued their fake blog war indefinitely, as long as they leave us real folks alone. What I don't like is the idea of political robot blogs being set up and made to look real as part of some sick "experiment."

    Would that mean they're not true fakes?

    posted by Eric at 07:48 PM | Comments (7)

    Time For A Redo

    Fox News is reporting that there is to be a redo of climate data.

    At a meeting on Monday of about 150 climate scientists, representatives of Britain's weather office quietly proposed that the world's climatologists start all over again to produce a new trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and "rigorous" peer review.
    Isn't that supposed to be how science is done? Yes it is. Ah. But they still have a few surprises in store. Check this out:
    The Hadley stonewall began to crumble after a gusher of leaked e-mails revealed climate scientists, including the center's chief, Phil Jones, discussing how to keep controversial climate data out of the hands of the skeptics, keep opposing scientific viewpoints out of peer-reviewed scientific journals, and bemoaning that their climate models failed to account for more than a decade of stagnation in global temperatures. Jones later revealed that key temperature datasets used in Hadley's predictions had been lost, and could not be retrieved for verification.
    No data. Well that is bad.

    But how about this for a capper:

    Then, in a last defense of its old ways, the Met proposals argues says that its old datasets "are adequate for answering the pressing 20th Century questions of whether climate is changing and if so how.
    So no data is good enough to make a case in the 20th Century but for the 21st Century such an oversight will just not do. That kind of thinking puts my mind totally at ease.

    H/T Watts Up With That

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

    Better to give than attack

    One of the things I learned during my brief experience in sales years ago was never to attack a competing product. Not, that is, if you want to sell your product. I was skeptical, so at one point I actually tried what I was warned not to do, and sure enough, the guy started defending the competitor's product -- quite vehemently. Not because he owned the company or was involved with it that way, but simply because it was on his shelves.

    I often worry that there's an aspect of politics that is like sales, and that it is something ideologues tend to forget. I don't think of myself as terribly ideological, but the other day when I attacked the word "sodomy," I realized that to some people, sodomy is a little bit like a product that's been sitting on the shelf for a long time. You don't just come along and say it sucks and not expect to have people come to its defense.

    Which is why I think that attacking people's politics is not likely to change their mind. Obviously if the people attacked are true-believing ideologues, nothing will change their mind either way, so I am not talking about them. But let's assume the idea is to somehow persuade people who are followers, people who really don't have serious convictions, but who go along with the louder voices for whatever reason. Perhaps to be cool and "fit in," perhaps to get a job, and perhaps to keep a job. Or perhaps because it was drilled into their uncritical minds (which are nonetheless reassured that they're engaged in "critical-thinking") that they should think what members of their identity group are supposed to think. Attacking such people -- or their perceived "class" is quite likely to backfire (especially when their politics are not well thought out), and will tend to confirm what they have been told all along -- that the other side is mean and nasty and hateful.

    The left excels at offering people something -- typically via the time-tested principle of giveaway. The thing given might be money in the form of government benefits, it might be employment, and it might take the form of convincing a targeted audience that no one loves their identity group more than the left (and of course in the case of gays and other "counterculture" types, the social conservatives make the task easier by pre-attacking them).

    It is only now that the left is in power and is preparing to take things away from people that the right is finally in the position to offer people something in a manner approaching the way the left traditionally has.

    Because this sounds counterintuitive, I'll say it again.

    At long last, the right has an opportunity to offer what amounts to a great giveaway.

    Actually, they're not really offering to "give" anything tangible; all they're really doing is trying to stop the left from taking it away. But to ordinary people, simply not having to be saddled with government health care, onerous debt, and massive environmental regulation -- that means being able to keep what freedom they have still enjoyed up to now instead of losing it. The bottom line is that right now, the left wants to take, and the right wants to give.

    To my mind, that's an easy sell. Giving is always easier to sell than taking.

    But the hard core "traditional values," "culture war" stuff -- that's a hard sell. Culture war conservatives who scream about homos and porn and gambling come across not as people who want to give, but as people who want to take away ordinary people's privacy. Screaming that abortion is murder (never mind that it never was considered that under the pre-Roe statutes) makes people whose daughter once took RU486 think the right wing wants her in prison. Insulting people's tastes is equally unappealing, and again, it's like going into a guy's store and telling him his product sucks.

    The problem is that by criticizing the attackers in this way, I am also saying their product sucks, and thus falling into the same trap I am warning against. They could (at least if they read this blog) be expected to adhere all the more strongly to their positions. And what could I possibly offer them? Advocacy of small government federalism? I'm not sure that's attractive enough, as there are too many built in limitations, and in the long run, we are not all going to get our way.

    Right now, though, congressional gridlock is looking more and more attractive -- to the point where it's almost a no-brainer. To the extent no one gets their way, at least money and valuable freedoms are not being taken, and if preventing a taking is a form of giving, then the right is in a position to give.

    As to how long they'll be able to keep on giving, who knows?

    Probably until they appear to be taking!

    posted by Eric at 05:19 PM | Comments (1)

    Almost pointless, but not completely pointless!

    I first heard about Twitter back in 2007 -- back when I attempted to "live-blog" the September 2007 Republican debate at Morgan State University, and I believe it was Robert Cox of the Media Bloggers Association who told me about the new phenomenon. I'm all for communication, but at the time it didn't make much sense to have simply another place to put words in cyberspace. It's like, I already have this blog (and now I also have Facebook), but it all seems like such a chore sometimes, and besides, people who want to know what I think would read my thoughts here. Why would they go to Twitter?

    Thinking that I should at least "keep up with the times" (if that's the right expression), last year I finally got around to creating a Twitter account, and on May 7, 2009, I authored (would that be uttered?) the following "tweet":

    trying not to get involved.
    That remained my status, and not much has happened to change my opinion.

    The thing is, I keep seeing people's tweets getting cited as if they are just as important as blog posts, and I wonder what's up with that? Why? It seems like blogging-lite, so why bother.

    Ultimately, what's the point of Twitter? Asking that very question, I found a detailed list of reasons:

    1. It's a great way to publish to mobile devices;
    Classical Values already has a PDA link, and I have no idea whether anyone uses it. Why would I want to publish to mobile devices? And whose? I am not so self-important as to imagine there's any urgency in what I have to say in these essays that I need to publish them to people's mobile devices.
    2. it's a social networking tool to make contacts and carry on conversations;
    As to making contacts, how is it any better than Facebook or email? And I have enough "conversations." I can barely keep up as it is. Any more and I wouldn't have time to write blog posts.
    3. it's a way of discovering new information (through tips and leads);
    Perhaps it is. I guess there are people who "Twitter" things they wouldn't ordinarily "say." Or "post." Much less "write." Still, if they are important and significant enough, someone else will notice them. This tweet from Jon Henke (that Huckabee complained about too much libertarianism at CPAC) was widely linked. But there's no substitute for the detailed analysis I found linked at Instapundit, and I am not sure Twitter is designed for such things.
    4. it's a great way to follow what's happening through your mobile (set Twitter up to send you mobile updates)
    NO NO NO! I cannot stand beeping and ringing of any sort. If someone calls me on the phone, it's an interruption, and there is nothing more annoying than the beep of a text message. I get enough email already, OK? I don't have the time or the patience to handle what I now have.

    Sorry, but I will not be a prisoner of what amounts to a constant, ongoing campaign of relentless electronic harassment.

    5. It's a way of organising people
    Who in the hell am I going to "organize"? I can barely organize myself. Sheesh. It may well be a great tool for activists, though. But what if you dislike activists and activism? Might it be used against them? My problem is even if I agree with a cause, I don't want to hear about it 24/7, and I especially don't want opinions and requests constantly thrown at me. It leads to a state of total burnout. I worry that Twitter might only be helping to generate more "white noise" -- another part of that contentious cacophony of millions of voices, each one demanding to be heard, demanding to be taken seriously, and because that cannot happen, tensions rise accordingly.
    6. It's a great way of reporting from a live event or other occasions when you only have your phone
    OK, now that may be true, and the following may also be worth exploring:
    7. You can aggregate a number of twitter feeds to one collective feed of what a group of people are doing
    8. You can push an RSS feed into twitter, creating a mobile/social network update
    9. For bloggers, it's a good place to put thoughts and ideas that are so brief you wouldn't normally blog them
    So for five cents per text message, I can put thoughts on Twitter that I normally wouldn't blog about. That seemed enough reason to set it up to work with my cell phone, which I did last night.

    But this morning I worried whether it might be extravagant:

    A nickel a tweet? Are my thoughts worth it?
    I wouldn't ask such a frivolous question here on the blog, but it seemed worth asking on the cell phone -- if for no other reason than to test the setup. I guess it's not a bad idea to have the ability to put a thought into cyberspace anytime, from anywhere. But it has to be worth the nickel.

    Still, it is obvious that I am not using the technology to its maximum potential. Am I missing out on anything profound?

    posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (10)

    If massive surveillance does not stop Money Laundering, why do we have it?

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I just watched "The Failure of Anti-Money Laundering Laws" -- a very disturbing video about money laundering. The facts and figures are appalling. As Dan Mitchell of the CATO Institute shows, over 18 million "suspicious transactions" are monitored annually, yet this yields only 900 or so actual money-laundering convictions. Not only are the banks burdened by enormous costs which they pass on to consumers, but customers and depositors (including missionaries and nuns) are treated as criminals. And it's not just banks. Jewelers and dealers in precious metals and precious stones are now required to be government rats.

    But the bottom line is that it catches very few actual money launderers. No doubt that's because the latter are in the business of money laundering, know the ins and outs of the law, and how to evade scrutiny.

    Watch it and weep:

    I have to say that I admire Dan Mitchell's patience. Every inch the reasonable man, he assumes the government is acting on good faith. This is reflected in the fair-minded questions he raises:

    Why does the government devotes so much time and resources to such a failed program?

    If catching money launderers is the goal and it isn't working, then why conduct massive surveillance on honest ordinary Americans?

    Why indeed. The fact that the program continues to be endlessly expanded despite such a huge rate of failure makes me suspect that catching actual money launderers might not be the primary goal. Rather, it all begs the question of whether it's simply an excuse for snooping on millions of Americans.

    I think the whole thing is an intolerable invasion of privacy. As far as I'm concerned, if you have no privacy in your finances, then it really isn't your money.

    But considering that the money laundering scheme was created by bipartisan legislation, where are we supposed to go for relief?

    posted by Eric at 12:56 PM | Comments (6)

    Beware, the dark forces of Saxonomics!

    This morning I was treated to a marvelous new conspiracy theory, which is being promoted by Spain's socialist government: "Spain Blames Economic Crisis on 'Anglo-Saxon' Conspiracy."

    I try to be thorough and fair-minded about these things, so I thought that the best place to start would be by taking a look at some actual Anglo-Saxons.

    They look even scarier than I thought, and I have to say, there might be some truth to Prime Minister Zapatero's theory.

    Behold the dark forces of economic ruin!


    And if you think the conspiracy is limited to the men, check out the famous "Armada Portrait" of Elizabeth I, which shows her proudly reveling in Anglo-Saxon triumphalism after her navy crushed Spain.


    Does she look like a wicked woman or what?

    The resulting fallout has been a conspiracy over the centuries which among other things takes the form of singing the praises of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism.

    As a child, I learned a little poem in order to memorize the incident:

    Spain's Armada, once so great, was sunk in 1588.
    I was also taught that the Spanish Inquisition was bad -- even though we now know the myth of the Inquisition was little more than another Anglo-Saxon conspiracy theory.

    The evil Anglo-Saxons have been at it for a long time, and the current economic conspiracy is only the latest manifestation of a vast, centuries-old Anglo-Saxon conspiracy -- more insidious and more ruinous than the Spanish prime minister realizes.


    UPDATE: This post has been linked by the noted Spanish blogger, José Guardia, who says my post proves Zapatero is right!

    Thanks José!

    posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (5)

    One good drink deservesz aniother, ruhyight?

    I really don't understand how Stephen Green managed to drunk-blog this morning's Tiger Woods apologia, but he did. There is not enough alcohol in the world to get me through such a thing.

    But alcohol is a funny, perhaps cosmic, thing. After drinking a few glasses of wine, I remembered Stephen's bravery, and I thought I would at least take a look at the actual apology. I always liked Tiger Woods (who seems like a basically decent guy, the scandals notwithstanding), but I couldn't get past the first few seconds.

    Here's the YouTube video. Perhaps others can stand to watch it. I can't. Whether his pain is real or not, there's too much pain, and not enough relief. (Some people get their kicks from champagne, but drunk or sober, I get no kick from schadenfreude.)

    He says he's sorry, and Stephen thinks he really is.

    Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but the point is, he did apologize (even if I can't stand to revel in it).

    I guess that means that the comparisons that have been made between him and the president should end.

    MORE: I don't listen to Glenn Beck, nor have I read his book, but I keep seeing claims on the left that in his book, Beck actually claims that Tiger Woods is worse than Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, and a number of others:

    In his chapter titled, "U.S. Presidents: A Steady Progression of Progressives," Beck treats us to his list of the "Top Ten Bastards of All Time." The occupants of that list, in ascending order, are Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, Teddy Roosevelt, Bernie Madoff, Adolf Hitler, Keith Olbermann, Pontius Pilate, FDR, Tiger Woods, and Woodrow Wilson.
    Does anyone know whether the book actually says that?

    If so, the next question is simple one. Is the man serious? If not, then it's just comedy and no big deal.

    Because if he really does think that way, he's not helping the conservative cause in which many of his followers believe.

    MORE: I earnestly hope Glenn Beck either didn't say what he's reported as saying or that he is joking (and is a buffoon as opposed to a loon), because according to Mark Tapscott, he was taken very seriously at CPAC (including calls for him to run for president):

    Beck's address certainly confirmed him as a front-rank figure in the conservative movement. But I think it will help define Beck as one of the narrative setters for the movement, not as a candidate. But of course, politics is the most unpredictable of endeavours, so who knows.
    Sorry, but I don't think much of a "Tiger Woods is worse than Hitler" narrative.

    posted by Eric at 11:53 PM | Comments (8)

    "They have no right to tell me what to do."

    As Allahpundit noted in his post about CPAC booing the speaker who condemned the gay conservative group, there was another issue that caused tension.


    The tensions didn't end [with the gay issue]. Along the back wall 2004 World Poker Champion Greg Raymer stood waiting for a talk radio interview. "Focus on the Family considers poker immoral," Raymer said, gesturing towards the Focus on the Family booth down an aisle. "They have no right to tell me what to do." Raymer is at CPAC representing the Poker Players Alliance, which is lobbying to have a 2005 ban on Internet poker lifted - literally one of the last bills passed by the GOP before they lost control of Congress. "In the privacy of our own homes, consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want," Raymer said. "Gambling is legal in America. They shouldn't be mandating how we live. If they consider it a sin, they shouldn't do it. But don't tell me I can't do it."
    I couldn't possibly agree more with the proposition that "They have no right to tell me what to do." I don't like people telling me what to do, and I like to think that because I don't tell other people what to do, I ought to be able to expect the same thing from them, except the Golden Rule does not work in reverse. (So, while I won't tell them whether to own guns, they'll tell me, and while I won't tell them what kind of dogs to own or whether they should cut their nuts off, they'll tell me!)

    This topic touches on a problem that has long vexed me, namely,

    Who are they?

    In general, there are more of them on the left than on the right, and there are more of them inside government than outside. But it this, this personality type, the kind of person who wants to tell other people what to do, is hardly unique to the left. People who want to tell other people what to do are the ones who want the jobs that are there to do just that. OTOH, people who don't want to tell other people what to do don't want such jobs. (Although it should hardly surprise anyone that authoritarians want authority and anti-authoritarians don't want authority.)

    Which is why we end up being ruled by people who want to tell us what to do.

    They might not have the right, but since when has that stopped them?

    And how do you fight them without becoming like them? I ask this not to be argumentative, but because recently I have seen that an activist with whom I've argued over such about issues has now moved from merely advancing arguments about what people should do in their personal lives to actually being in a position of authority to tell people what to do. ("An opinion enforced at gunpoint has ceased to remain merely an opinion.") Public policy schools and the like crank out people who want to tell people what to do in assembly-line fashion. I think it is patently immoral to use government power to tell people what to do in their personal lives, yet the only way to stop people from doing that seems to be by doing the same thing. Go out and work until you too get the power to tell people what to do. What if you not only don't want such power, but you don't think it should exist and do not trust those who have it?

    Write blog posts, I guess.

    But writing blog posts has not stopped the people who have no right to tell me what to do from telling me what to do.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: While it often seems that there is no solution to this problem, actually the solution involves the simple (IMO) recognition of the proper role of government. It is not there to take money from person A and give it to person B, or to micromanage lives and tell people what to do, because when it does, the problems it attempts to solve get worse.

    Ronald Reagan put it simply when he said,

    "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem."

    Contrast that with Jerry Pournelle's explanation of today's world (this was in 2008):

    The purpose of modern government is to take money from the folks who save and pay their bills and live within their means, and use that to hire government workers; and to keep their power by using the money to buy votes from those who do not save and pay their bills and live within their means. And of course the money comes from those who work and save and pay their bills and live within their means -- who else will have any money for the government to take?

    Or am I unduly cynical? But you ain't seen nothing yet.

    Via Glenn Reynolds who remarked (in July of 2008),
    Stay tuned.
    Well, I have.

    And I'm ready to change the channel!

    posted by Eric at 02:55 PM | Comments (4)

    Words that suck

    I realize that I should have called this post "Words that cause confusion," except blog posts are supposed to have eye-catching titles, aren't they?

    Anyway, a couple of things I read today reminded me of two dishonest words that especially offend me, because of their inherently argumentative nature as well as their tendency to distort perceptions of reality.

    Let's start with "sodomy." I was delighted to see (via Glenn Reynolds' link) that a "sodomy"-hating activist named Ryan Sorba was not exactly given a warm reception at CPAC. According to a number of accounts, he was booed off the stage. Not merely content to condemn homosexuals, he also condemned CPAC for having invited the gay group GOProud. (subject of previous posts.)

    I watched the video and Ryan Sorba was so very rude that it seemed to me he was asking to be booed.

    Fascinatingly, the fact that he was roundly booed at CPAC is proving to be unsettling to the left.

    As John Aravosis from the very liberal AmericaBlog notes, "When conservatives are standing up for gays, and Democrats treat us like we are an embarrassment, there's a problem." (via Ace of Spades)
    Wow, I almost feel like saying "Heh."

    On to to my complaint. Ryan Sorba is a habitual user of the word "sodomy," and he has written a long tract called "The Gay Hoax" (said to be a book by now) in which he argues that the existence of gays and lesbians who go straight proves that homosexuality is not inborn, but a choice. I don't go in for one-size-fits-all arguments, so I have never believed that the deterministic theory of homosexuality applies to all gays. I think there is more fluidity to human sexuality than the determinists would have us believe. (Are straight men born attracted to high heels, for example?) However, I do think there are many gays who were born that way, but there is also a sizable number who happened to find out that they liked it later in life, just as there are bisexuals. The strict "heterosexual or homosexual" dichotomy is belied by the fact that there are numerous exceptions.

    Anyway, Sorba's "book" (quoted at length in a post titled "Gay" Men Sleeping with "Lesbian" Women???") cites a number of examples of sexual non-conformists. Whatever point he might have made about human sexual fluidity loses its persuasive value by his insistence on the word "Sodomy" as a synonym for homosexuality, so I left this comment:

    "Sodomy" is not a biblical term, but a construct of medieval monks. The city of Sodom was a place where the wicked inhabitants threatened to break down the door of Lot's home in order to rape an angel. It would be one thing to call the behavior of these would-be angel rapists "Sodomy," but to apply it to consensual homosexual conduct is simply a regurgitation of the medieval argument, and not supported by biblical text.

    I think its use undermines some very good points in the above piece. It also makes it much easier for gay activists who believe in the "born that way" argument to roll their eyes in dismissal. I don't know what Ryan Sorba's goal was, but instead of being persuasive, the piece comes across as preaching to the choir.

    Considering the way he insulted his hosts at CPAC, I'm not even sure exactly what his choir is, but still.... Why the insistence on using a misleading word? I found myself thinking that he probably doesn't even want to persuade anyone. Why do all that work documenting non-conforming gays who sleep with the "wrong" sex only to call people sodomites?

    The conservative blogger who quoted Sorba also uses the word "sodomy" to mean homosexuality, but as even he admits in another post about Sorba,

    "The definition of what sodomy is seems to be somewhat unclear."
    That is because the word itself arose out of an attempt to conflate angel rape with consensual homosexual intercourse, by affixing the name of a place where the rape was attempted to consensual conduct occurring in unrelated places and times.

    Similar conduct to what the Bible describes does in fact happen in many prisons. So, while it might appear to be fair to call such homosexual rape "sodomy," wouldn't it be equally logical to call it by the name of a prison?

    Leavenworthy, anyone?

    I suspect rational arguments are lost on guys like Ryan Sorba, and I think the reason he resorts to name-calling might be that he is increasingly worried that his central argument -- that gays weren't born that way -- is a waste of time. If that is his worry, he's right. Because, the deterministic view that there is no choice (which he opposes) is actually in conflict with true sexual freedom. Like any freedom, the right to do something sexually includes the right not to do it, and the right to choose it or not choose it is an inherent attribute of freedom. So if he says gays chose to be that way, the proper answer by anyone who cares about freedom is "So what?"

    Hell, there's even a gay group which embraces the anti-determinist view, called "The Queer by Choice Community." If you think about it, despite all of Sorba's hard work, he has only reinforced the case for human sexual freedom. I suspect that consciously or unconsciously, he feels that he has to taint them with a stronger accusation, and using the word "sodomy" is a tacit medieval accusation of homosexual rape.

    This is an old issue, as I've been saying that the word "sodomy" sucks as long as I've been writing this blog, so I ought to move on to the other word that sucks.


    It's at least as intellectually dishonest as the word "sodomy," and I would say that right now, the consequences are far more devastating.

    Writing in (the "sodomy"-hating but sodomy-law-loving) WorldNetDaily, Pat Buchanan echoes his own version of the leftie meme that the country is ungovernable, and explains why:

    Needed is a combination of big budget cuts and tax hikes. But the only place one can get budget cuts of the magnitude required is from the big entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And the only place to get revenue of that magnitude is by raising taxes on the American middle class.

    And here is where Barack Obama hits the wall.

    Republicans are not going to give him a single vote for a tax increase. Not only would this violate a commitment most made to the people who elected them, it would be politically suicidal. For behind the GOP today, and its best hope of recapturing Congress in 2010, are the tea-party irregulars.

    And tea partiers now play the role of Red Army commissars who sat at machine guns behind their own troops to shoot down any soldier who retreated or ran. Republicans who sign on to tax hikes cannot go home again.

    Notice that Pat Buchanan is held hostage by the word "entitlement," even though the United States Supreme Court has specifically held that statutory schemes like Social Security are not entitlements. They are passed by Congress like any other laws, and they can be modified or abridged by Congress like any other laws. That this might be difficult no one would deny. But using a word like "entitlement" is not helpful, as it mischaracterizes the nature of money paid by one group of people to another.

    It's nice that the Supreme Court threw out the theory of legal entitlement, but I wish it had thrown out the word. It is political in nature, dishonestly implicates the constitution, and contains a built-in argument which is simply false.

    I'd say entitlements are like sodomy, except I wouldn't want to be misunderstood. And if I made a wisecrack like that I'd be undermining my point (as well as inviting the unwanted suggestion that sodomy is an entitlement). So I won't.

    MORE: Robert Stacy McCain (who is hardly thought of as gay-friendly) noticed that Sorba's rudeness went well beyond the gay issue:

    But this is not about gays, or natural law, or libertarianism vs. conservatism. It's about this egomaniacal punk Sorba using his precious allotment of time on the CPAC stage to make a complete ass of himself and embarrass CPAC.
    Sorba may not realize it, but with that silly two minute outburst, he accomplished a great deal for the cause of gay conservatism. (If they're not paying him, they should.)

    posted by Eric at 01:58 PM | Comments (16)


    Does it seem strange to anyone else that after months and months of falling poll numbers mostly because of negative public reaction to Obamacare, Obama now wants a summit to focus more attention on... Obamacare? It's like he wants his party out of power as quickly as possible. You'd almost think we elected someone with no experience governing.

    I think this WH has started believing their own propaganda, which is always a dangerous situation. The public doesn't oppose Obamacare because they're ignorant or misinformed about how wonderful Obamacare will be. More education just drives the poll numbers down further, as we've watched happen all year. Obama seems to think everyone will love Marxist reasoning if they can just learn to be smart like him, but the truth is most of America is smarter than him because we've been in the private sector at some level and we know from experience it works better than government.

    At this point the GOP should hope Obamacare passes -- as all the unintended consequences pile up they could end up with 60+ Senate seats in their sights by 2012, and Obama so unpopular he doesn't even run for re-election. Then maybe we can get some real health care reform that isn't built around the notion government is the solution.

    posted by Dave at 01:00 PM | Comments (2)

    I Am The Tea Party Leader

    The Democrats have a plan. And Bill Clinton is its leader. The Tea Party is getting too strong. It is changing the outcome of elections. Seriously. Scott Brown in Massachusets? Shaking in his boots.

    Big Government has learned that Clintonistas are plotting a "push/pull" strategy. They plan to identify 7-8 national figures active in the tea party movement and engage in deep opposition research on them. If possible, they will identify one or two they can perhaps 'turn', either with money or threats, to create a mole in the movement. The others will be subjected to a full-on smear campaign. (Has MSNBC already been notified?)

    Big Government has also learned that James Carville will head up the effort.

    Obviously, there is no love lost between Obama and the Clinton machine. It may at first seem odd that Clinton would rush to Obama's defense, but the tea party movement poses a threat far beyond the immediate goals of the Obama Administration.

    The tea party movement could evolve into a new political realignment, one founded on a belief in limited government and less government interference in the economy. The Progressive agenda, which has been painstakingly built up over the last three decades, could be left in tatters.

    So they are looking for leaders and moles. Why? All they have to do is join up. They can find out everything. This is an open source movement.

    And that is exactly the basis of a Tea Party Counterattack. I Am The Tea Party Leader.

    What can be done to one of us, can be done to all of us.

    According to Andrew Breitbart, Bill Clinton and James Carville are planning personal 'deep opposition research on 7-8 national leaders' active in the tea party movement.

    It is un-American and morally wrong for a former president to attack Americans who have gotten involved in the political system.

    It was Thomas Jefferson who said, "when the people fear the government there is tyranny".

    What they still don't understand is that this is a leaderless movement, this is a 'We The People...' movement. This site is a chance for 'We The People' to stand up and say that 'I Am The Tea Party Leader'.

    Then they go into a short rap on how the movie Spartacus pertains.

    There is an action plan. And the Tea Party Patriots want you all to join in. They have a plan to make you famous. For about 3 seconds. That 15 minutes of fame ain't what it used to be.

    Participation is easy, here is how.

    1. Watch the Spartacus video first
    2. Shoot a video of yourself saying only the following words, "I am the tea party leader."
    3. Upload the video to YouTube
    4. Click here to share your video

    Please note, videos which contain more or different language will not be approved.

    Then the Patriots (sounds like a football team) suggest you go to their site, check your zipcode and find out what is going on near you. They list everything within a 100 mile radius.

    So Bill. Why not join us? Then you can find out everything. This is an Open Source Revolution.

    Tea Party Difference

    Click on the above image and learn how to spread it around.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:23 PM | Comments (8)

    How dare these uppity people show up at Tea parties!

    While it hadn't occurred to me that the Tea Parties were racist, the fact that Keith Olbermann brought it up made me think back to the local Tea Party I attended in Northville, Michigan. At the time, I didn't pay any attention to the race of the protesters, because, well, taxation is not about race. Unless you're one of those people who sees everything as a race issue, the tax laws are color-blind, and mandatory government health insurance would be mandatory for everyone.

    But Olbermann claims that the Tea Parties are racist because (so he asks) "Where are the people of color"?

    What's Olbermann's evidence that Tea Parties are overwhelmingly racist? Apparently, that there are no "people of color" at these rallies. That is so blatantly false as to induce uncontrollable laughter. There are people of all backgrounds at the Tea Parties. But even if an event is dominated by a certain race group, what does that prove? Similar to what Glenn Reynolds said earlier this month, if you look at a group of white folks and the first thought that pops into your head is "racists!" then you have some serious issues.
    I'm sure Olbermann does have serious issues. I'll bet if you asked him, he'd admit it!

    Olbermann said that the Tea Parties constitute a "white people's party" -- "they're almost all white people, and this is, in essence, a white people's party" -- and then he demanded to know,

    "Where are the people of color at the Tea parties?"

    Not once, but four times!

    While I don't take marching orders from Der Olbermannsturmbannfuhrer (or anyone else, for that matter -- and sorry for the dig at his proud national ancestry, but being part German I'm just as entitled to be self-hating, right?) it did occur to me to go back and take a look at the pictures in my post. Sure enough, one of them shows a man there who, now that I think about it, doesn't look especially white.


    I have no idea who the guy is, but he seemed to be having a good time.

    Of course, the way MSNBC reports things, they'd have probably just said he was white. (Which to their way of thinking he might as well have been.)

    In any case, pictures like the above mean nothing to people who demand answers to argumentative questions like "Where are the people of color at the Tea parties?" Because, if you do show them examples, you're playing right into their game, and they'd only turn right around and claim that any black people who show up at Tea Parties are not "true" representatives of whatever race they might appear to be because, you know, like Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice they are not not really black. In the same way that Sarah Palin is not really a woman.


    If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that what Olbermann and those white guys at NBC really want to say is that black people who go to Tea Parties in defiance of the condescending liberal narrative are not "a credit to their race." Or even "uppity." And Sarah Palin is of course being an uppity woman.

    Such progress.

    MORE Commenter "liamascorcaigh" does not approve of my characterization of Olbermann as "Der Olbermannsturmbannfuhrer."

    He thinks it's Olbermannsturmbanngruppenfuhrer!

    Did I demote him?

    Mein Gott!

    AND MORE: While I did not know it at the time, M. Simon's post made me realize that I was actually the leader of the Northville, Michigan Tea Party.

    And so was the guy who doesn't look white!

    posted by Eric at 03:50 PM | Comments (6)

    "Hit Back Twice As Hard"?

    Under what I think is a highly questionable category of "CELEBRITY FEUDS," TMZ has an article titled "Mitt Romney's Alleged Attacker -- Major Rap Star" which claims that the guy involved in a violent airplane altercation with presidential aspirant Mitt Romney was rapper Sky Blu of the group LMFAO.

    In a video interview (called a "confessional"), Sky Blu describes the incident as a physical assault by Romney:

    According to a video confessional from LMFAO's Sky Blu, it all started when he leaned his seat back while the plane was still on the tarmac ... and Romney, who was sitting behind him, started yelling at him to put his seat back up.

    Sky Blu claims Romney then reached forward and grabbed his shoulder ... so he slapped the Presidential wannabeen's hand away. Shortly after, authorities boarded the plane and escorted Sky Blu off the flight ... and the other member of LMFAO got it all on tape.

    On Tuesday, Romney's spokesperson said Sky Blu became "physically violent" when asked to put his seat up ... but the spokesperson never mentioned whether or not Romney puts his hands on him.

    Sky (a Democrat) says it was an "unfortunate situation" and he's sure Mitt (a Republican) is a "nice guy" ... but not someone he'd vote for.

    Here's the video:

    I'm skeptical about Sky Blu's claims, because (unless the other reports are incorrect) he seems to have added the claim of Romney grabbing him by the shoulder after the incident.

    But never mind what happened! To many people, all that matters is that this was violence directed at a Republican (and therefore good). Over at the HuffPo, twitterers and commenters are praising Sky Blu for his act of violence towards an evil Republican. Here's a sampling from the Twitter gallery:

    CrookedCabbie: Shout Out To Sky Blu Of LMFAO For Smacking The Shit Out Of Mitt Romney In The Airplane!

    djJealous: One of the guys from LMFAO got kicked off a plane for fighting with Mitt Romney! Loves these dudes even more now.

    nextseason: The Mitt Romney vs. LMFAO plane fight is my favorite thing to happen so far in 2010

    electricFICTION: Mitt romney is an asshole...oh, that's right, he's a republican. That would explain everything. Goooooo sky blu of lmfao :) your my hero!

    LauraR: RT @Natron602: Mitt Romney got into a fight with a dude from a rap group called LMFAO? WTF? --- Serious? I hope he got his ass kicked!

    It is quite obvious that while they might assert that Romney started it, they really don't care. They're just delighted that a Republican got pummeled.

    From the HuffPo commenters, a somewhat ambiguous sexual stereotype:

    Mittens tried to throw his weight around and got checked. Then he cries about it. Typical republican p***y.
    I'm assuming the asterisked letters are "uss" and not "ans" but there's no way to know for sure.

    The next one intrigues me in light of the "ick" factor, because as I discussed in an earlier post, the latest leftie meme is that the conservative political mindset is driven by disgust!

    I find him repellent on every level--off the charts on the ick factor. I can't believe the police just took Romney's word for it and ejected another passenger. Bleh! Which airline was this?
    If a conservative expressed personal disgust over "Sky Blu" (as many people would because of his, well, less than "couth" physical appearance) it would be called proof positive that conservatives have mental problems according to the latest "research" (and probably evidence of racism).

    In fact, that mindset is precisely what commenter "MrGoodStuff" sees:

    Mit was upset because a minority who looked to be of middle to low income dared to put his seat back in the presence of a white republican well-off (by raping the middle class) arrogant couple.
    The following comment made me wonder whether there might have been a profit motive behind Sky Blu's outburst (if not the video release):
    I am personally buying their album as we speak. You must support people who are willing to smack off the oppressive white hand of the republican party.
    And of course there are others who don't think Sky Blu went far enough:
    Mitt is an arrogant -a - hole.. , if i was on the plane an he yelled at me i would have bust him in the mouth..
    Ditto here:
    I wish he had slapped Romney in the face, not on the hand.
    And here:
    Romney is such a big liar I definitely believe the rapper. There is nothing that this guy wouldn't lie about. Too bad the guy didn't land the punch.
    Romney denies ever laying a hand on the man, and his spokesman says that Sky Blu never made his present allegation earlier
    According to video taken by one of Blu's travelling companions and cited by TMZ, the incident was sparked when the musician, who was sitting in front of Romney's wife Ann in the economy section of the plane, moved his seat back.

    Romney allegedly shouted at Blu to put his seat back. Blu claimed Romney then reached forward and grabbed his shoulder, so he slapped the 62-year-old Republican's hand away.

    Authorities then boarded the plane and escorted Blu off the flight.

    Former Massachusetts Governor Romney's spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom claimed Tuesday that Blu became "physically violent" when asked to put his seat up but never mentioned whether or not Romney put his hands on him.

    Fehrnstrom said: "Governor Romney did not retaliate."

    After hearing of the incident, the pilot returned the plane to the gate and had the passenger and his bags removed.

    Romney was not injured.

    Well, there must have been plenty of eyewitnesses, and it is very likely that the airline investigated the incident immediately after it happened. I might be wrong, but seems to me that had Romney started it by grabbing SkyBlu as the latter now claims, the other passengers would be speaking up. I also find it hard to believe that a guy like Romney (who is smart and wants to be president) would actually grab a passenger on a plane because he wouldn't put his seat forward. Sure, the latter is rude behavior, but grabbing him would be an act of political insanity. Considering how touchy air travel is right now, it would also be personal insanity. If I grabbed a passenger for refusing to put his seat forward, I would expect to be arrested on arrival, and I'd probably never be allowed to fly again.

    Not that rational analysis matters to people who revel in acts of political violence when they are directed against Republicans....

    I hope this doesn't represent a new direction in politics.

    MORE: I don't know why, but I added links to the above comments. Probably evidence of my mental illness. Libertarian blogger OCD or something....

    AND MORE: Glenn Reynolds raises the question of whether Romney might have subjected the rapper to a "Vulcan Death Grip."



    Without getting into a detailed analysis of the pressing moral questions involved (and I am sure there must be some), I'm reminded of a vintage Charles Addams cartoon.


    (Many an analyst would say that Romney's "death grip" is about as effective.)

    MORE (2/22/10): I don't know how this post managed to become depublished, but it did, so I have just restored it. (I suspect an inadvertent scrolling glitch did something to the "post status" box.)

    posted by Eric at 10:20 AM | Comments (8)


    I was reading a story about how the US Navy exchanges officers and men with other Navies. Royal Navy Lt. Angus Essenhigh, a navigation officer, was part of that exchange. He was part of ship's company on the USS Winston Churchill. How fitting.

    Essenhigh found this out when he tried to lay one of his "British" navigation words on the ship's captain, Cmdr. Michael Franken.

    "I said, 'making a sternboard,' " Essenhigh recalled.

    Franken was thrown. "What's a sternboard," he said. "That's not a word."

    Essenhigh had to show his skipper the word in a dictionary of British nautical terms. It was an old sailing term retained by the Brits and dropped by the Yanks. "Making a sternboard" means "coming astern." Essenhigh is outnumbered 350 to one -- he now says "coming astern."

    Essenhigh had to watch his language in other instances, too. He can no longer shout out "5 cables" when he really means "1,000 yards." Or when he wants to turn the ship, he can't give the order "at wheelover." No one will know what he's talking about.

    Well, some of the Churchill sailors do. Essenhigh has made some adjustments, but so have some of the other crew members.

    "Like QM1 here," Essenhigh said. "He's practically bilingual. He understands me now."

    For those not up with Navy terminology QM1 is a "Quartermaster First Class". An enlisted rank. Quartermasters deal with navigation and ship handling.

    All of this was brought to mind by a Winston Churchill quote:

    Americans and British are one people separated only by a common language.

    I looked into the subject a little deeper and found this:

    `We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language' - Oscar Wilde

    Help is available for the language challenged or those wishing to improve their bilingual skills:

    Bum Bags and Fanny Packs : A British-American American-British Dictionary

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:45 AM | Comments (3)

    A New Revelation

    We have some new Climate e-mails to peruse. This one is from the fourth pdf. I transcribed it by hand so if you find any errors let me know.

    Subject: Re: Fwd: US temperature correction graphic and file
    From:Reto Ruedy
    Date:Mon, 13 Aug 2007 11:30:24 -0400
    To:James Hansen
    CC:Makiko Sato , gavin@e-mail, klo@e-mail


    I did make those calculations (I assume you mean using only GHCN and hand-adjusting only St. Helens and Lihue, in both cases decreasing the trend, eliminating a 1C and .8C step, resp., as stated in our 1999 paper, also using our urban adjustment.

    I only held them back because bringing in a new analysis at this time would confuse the situation beyond hope.

    As far as global means are concerned, the effect of our cleaningis slightly negative for the pre-1950 period, slighly positive thereafter, the biggest deviations are -.01C in 1922, +.01C in 2006; the change in 1900-1999 (lin. trend) is .01C/century (i.e. without cleaning it would decrease by .01C).

    The US trend however is a different story though not surprising: In addition to the change caused by the UHCN modifications (+.30C for the 1900-1999 change as noted in our 2001 paper: +.14 TOBS, +.16 station hist.adj), the other modifications added .08C/century to the trend. So the trend would decrease by .38C.

    The deviations for the individual years caused by the cleaning range from -.13 in 1922 to +.37 in 2006. The optical impression this creates when you look at the table of data is totally misleading: the 1998 anomaly just happens to fall below 1C (.93C) whereas 1921, 1931, 1934 are above 1C (1.27, 1,20, 1.37C) !


    It would be real nice to find out what this is about. At first glance it appears they adjust things in a way that adds almost .4°C to the US trend. Is this a valid adjustment? We would need to go back to the station data and then all the various adjustments and corrections to find out.

    Think of it this way though. If the trend has been incorrectly adjusted by nearly .4°C a century then the temperature trend is almost non-existent.

    H/T Author and Commenters at Watts Up With That

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

    A Little Kamikaze Action?

    Is this a case of a kamikaze pilot or just a flight gone wrong?

    A low-flying small plane crashed into an office building that houses the Internal Revenue Service in Texas on Thursday, and officials said they were investigating whether it was an intentional act by the pilot.

    The U.S. law enforcement officials said authorities were trying to determine if the pilot intentionally targeted the IRS. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

    Assistant Austin Fire Chief Harry Evans said at least one person was missing and two people were taken to a hospital. Their conditions and identities were not immediately known.

    The crash sent workers fleeing as ceilings crumbled, windows shattered and flames shot out of the building.

    I wonder if the SEIU is looking to man the anti-aircraft concession on top of IRS buildings?
    As a precaution, the Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defense Command launched two F-16 aircraft from Houston's Ellington Field, and is conducting an air patrol over the crash area.
    And that is going to help how? What they need is about 4 or 5 Avenger batteries on top of the building. Although debris falling on cities is not a very good idea.

    I worked on one of the competing prototypes for the Avenger tracking system. Interesting work.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

    with "respect" to certain definitions of "traditional values"

    Bill Quick has a very thoughtful essay with which I generally agree, although I was a bit confused by the essay's title -- which characterized the "Tea Party Principles" as "the call for fiscal conservatism and respect for traditional values."

    Because I write this blog, the above puts me in the position of having to ask a difficult question.

    Exactly what are traditional values?

    This is no idle question here. I would be less than honest if I did not admit that the very name of this blog is grounded in a certain jovial disrespect for at least one, well-known outfit's definition of the term-- that of the Traditional Values Coalition (an outfit I freely admit I absolutely do not respect and never will).

    The organization could not possibly be more clear about what they mean by the term. The very first Google hit you get goes to the web page they have set up, which is boldly titled "TRADITIONAL VALUES DEFINED" (of which I will excerpt some, with all bold and italics in original):

    What Are Traditional Values?

    While other pro-family groups may have their own specific definitions of what "traditional values" means, here's what we consider to be traditional values:

    A moral code and behavior based upon the Old and New Testaments. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that the Lord has given us a rule book to live by: The Bible. We are committed to living, as far as it is possible, by the moral precepts taught by Jesus Christ and by the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Bible.

    As an outgrowth of our commitment to the Bible, we believe the following:

    Among the "values" listed (presumably in order of importance) are Values Three and Four:
    Homosexuality, Bi-Sexuality, Transgenderism, And Other Deviant Sexual Behaviors: The Bible clearly condemns all sexual behaviors outside of marriage between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is explicitly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments as an abomination and a violation of God's standards for sexuality. We oppose the normalization of sodomy as well as cross-dressing and other deviant sexual behaviors in our culture.

    Pornography: The spread of pornography in our culture is a threat to the stability of families and frequently results in family break down, child molestations, and spousal abuse. We oppose this threat because it destroys families and it destroys the person who has become addicted to it. Pornography is a progressive addiction that ruins the conscience of the person. Frequently, this person acts out his sexual fantasies by molesting children, raping girls, and committing other sexual crimes--including murder.

    And here are Values Seven and Eight:
    Addictive Behaviors: We are opposed to the spread of legalized gambling in our society because this behavior frequently leads to addictions, the destruction of families, and the abuse of children. We oppose the legalization of addictive drugs and support strong law enforcement efforts against this societal scourge. We believe it is self-destructive and destructive of our culture, for individuals to become addicted to such behaviors as gambling, alcohol, smoking, pornography, or the use of drugs.

    Discrimination And Tolerance: We are not tolerant of behaviors that destroy individuals, families, and our culture. Individuals may be free to pursue such behaviors as sodomy, but we will not and cannot tolerate these behaviors. They frequently lead to death. We do not believe it is loving to permit someone to kill themselves by engaging in a self-destructive behavior. We believe in "discrimination" in the good sense: choosing between good and evil, right and wrong, the better and the best. We believe in discrimination in the sense of being discerning between good and bad choices. Popular culture maintains that all forms of discrimination are wrong. This is incorrect. A person with "discriminating taste" is one who uses wisdom in making choices. In short, we believe in intolerance to those things that are evil; and we believe that we should discriminate against those behaviors which are dangerous to individuals and to society.

    Finally, the "summing up":
    The Summing Up: Traditional Values are based upon biblical foundations and upon the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, the writings of the Founding Fathers, and upon the writings of great political and religious thinkers throughout the ages.
    Frankly, I don't see the above "values" reflected in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution (nor do I understand why supporting or opposing legislation constitutes a "value") but that's not the point. As most regular readers know, I disagree with most of the above, and because these disagreements are a major reason I started the blog, I feel obligated to at least ask what is meant when the term "traditional values" is used to characterize a movement I am on record as supporting. From what I have seen of the Tea Parties, they are not publicly advancing or advocating the above "values" as representative of the Tea Party movement -- regardless of whether individual members agree with them or not. Maybe I've been to the wrong Tea Party, and perhaps Bill Quick is talking about different Tea Parties.

    More likely, he has a different definition of "traditional values" than does the Traditional Values Coalition. Unless he has changed his mind on gay marriage, he has to, because when he came here during an extended debate on the subject, his position was that it is bigotry to oppose gay marriage. I disagreed because I think that reasonable people can differ on this issue, and that opposition to gay marriage is not necessarily bigoted, that calling people bigots is not helpful, etc. However, while I don't call all opposition to gay marriage bigotry, I would have to say that the TVC's advocacy of intolerance would constitute bigotry according to the dictionary definition of the word. Calling people bigots is not something I take lightly, because the term tends to denote disrespect. They have a right to their First Amendment views, and while I respect that right, that doesn't mean I have to respect the views themselves. So, if the definition of "Traditional Values" is the same as the one given above, I would disagree that they deserve respect.

    Then again, what is "respect"? Even that can be weaselly:

    2 : an act of giving particular attention : consideration
    3 a : high or special regard : esteem b : the quality or state of being esteemed
    If respect means holding in high or special regard, it is impossible for someone to give that to views he considers bigoted. Lest anyone think I am quibbling over the meaning of "respect," consider that Congress is prohibited from passing laws "respecting an establishment of religion," yet there is no genuine consensus over what the word means. (I tend to agree with the people who think it means "regarding" as opposed to "esteeming" or "admiring.") But I think that to the extent that the above-listed "traditional values" are religious in nature, it might actually be violative of the First Amendment for the government to get involved in "respecting" them.

    It also occurred to me that by using the phrase "traditional values", Quick's idea might have been to broaden the definition of what has become (thanks to groups like the TVC) an otherwise loaded and inflammatory code-language term, in the hope that it is weakened so that all those followers of both "sides" in the culture war don't continue to assume it means being intolerantly anti-gay, opposed to pornography, and in favor of drug law enforcement.

    If that is the case, I'm all for it. How could I not be? After all, my use of the word "classical" reflects a similar goal. What is tradition? Ours is Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman, which as I have noted repeatedly, the tradition stretches pretty far back in time:



    I should stress for the benefit of all readers (and not just the Post-Modernist ones who are trained to notice these things) that I deliberately used the term "B.C." out of respect for our Christian tradition. (I could easily have used the less respectful "BCE" which has unnecessarily come into vogue.)

    In his essay, Bill Quick later expands upon his choice of words:

    No one can doubt that the tea parties -- and the fiscal conservatism and respect for traditional conservative and libertarian values they represent -- are a legitimate and growing force in American politics. The question is: to what purpose will this force be directed? Will it become a third party, on the order of the powerful but short-lived Perot uprising that led to both the election of Bill Clinton and the destruction of fifty years of Democrat dominance in the House of Representatives but eventually faded away? Or will it wield its influence to retake the GOP and reinvigorate the Grand Old Party?
    I'm all for "respect for traditional conservative and libertarian values," because I try to be polite and respect everyone's values and not just my own. But I'm still confused, not only because I like to know the meaning of phraseology, but because I don't want to idly toss a phrase around which might be interpreted as meaning that I respect political beliefs I do not respect, profferred by admittedly intolerant people who do not respect mine.

    I'm not alone in my confusion. Commenter CatoRenasci expresses a worry (perhaps grounded in the way the term is used by groups like the TVC) that there might be a certain incompatibility between libertarian and conservative values which hasn't yet been solved:

    There is no question that the Republican Party, ironically itself a third party movement that eclipsed the Whigs, must either embody the anti-statist position or be replaced by a party that does.

    There is an inherent problem, however, that the 'right' has not yet solved: "libertarian and conservative principles" only go so far together. Although they tend to agree on fiscal and economic policy, and on defense and foreign policy, they usually diverge on "social" issues with "conservatives" wanting legislation that enshrines "traditional values" and "libertarians" preferring at least federalist solutions (that is, leaving it up to each state to strike its own balance) or leaving "social" issues entirely to the operation of social sanctions rather than law.

    I don't know that the tea parties are any closer to solving that that the Republicans have been over the past 40-odd years since Roe made the fault-line obvious.

    Far be it from me to solve the problems of "the right." (I don't even know whether I am on the right; I only know that I am definitely not on the left.) I like to think that there is a solution in the limited government, federalist approach. The trouble with that is that it requires an honest admission -- from everyone -- that no matter what side you're on, the federal government is not there to enact your values. Whether they're "traditional" or Judeo-Christian, modern or Greco-Roman, tolerant or intolerant, and whether they're deemed worthy of "respect" or not.

    MORE: M. Simon left a great comment to Bill Quick's post:

    I favor respect for American values. When I point out to my friends something quintessentially American I say "That is as American as Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll."

    Can't argue with that.

    American values I can respect.

    posted by Eric at 01:18 PM | Comments (8)

    Just As Bad As The Real Thing

    It looks like the never ending attempt to get high has brought new suppliers to the market. Government official pretend to be outraged.

    There may be nothing like the real thing, but some industrious marijuana users have seized on an obscure but easily accessible substance that mimics the drug's effects on the brain -- creating a popular trade in legal dope that has stymied law enforcement authorities.

    The users are buying a product known as K2 -- or "Spice," Genie" and "Zohai" -- that is commonly sold in head shops as incense. Produced in China and Korea, the mixture of herbs and spices is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Users roll it up in joints or inhale it from pipes, just like the real thing.

    Dang. Just like the real thing. Only not illegal. Sounds like an opportunity to me. So what is required is to raise the level of hysteria, get some bans enacted, and in short order there will be more jobs for police, lawyers, judges, prison guards, and a whole host of parasites sucking off the hysteria.
    Though banned in most of Europe, K2's key ingredients are not regulated in the United States -- a gap that has prompted lawmakers in Missouri and Kansas to consider new legislation.

    "This isn't Jerry Garcia's marijuana," said state Rep. Jeff Roorda, a Democrat from the eastern Missouri town of Barnhart. "They've used chemicals to avoid creating something that's already illegal."

    Of course it is not Jerry Garcia's marijuana. Jerry is dead and his stash is long gone.

    Let me see if I get this straight though. They are using chemicals - to avoid - creating an illegal situation. But fortunately our ever vigilant government will fix that by banning the chemicals in order to create an illegal situation. Hardly anything gets by those guys for long.

    "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." - Marcus Aurelius

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

    Open Source With Superconductors

    My friend Famulus is building an open source Polywell with super Conducting magnets. It would be the first superconducting Polywell in the world as far as anyone knows. Follow the link to see pretty pictures of the plan.

    Here he discusses power supplies for the coils.

    All very impressive. I wish I was there. There is a slight hitch. Famulus has run into a money problem.

    As of the last time I checked he had 25 donations and only needs $1,958 to reach is goal. You can check his latest fund raising stats and donate at the link. And click on the "Updates" link at the top of the page. There are 6 of them.

    But that is not the only motivational trick he has in his bag. He has custom T shirts too! I think he needs a better slogan for the shirt. Maybe I Helped Fund An Open Source Bussard Fusion Reactor And Got The Shirt As A Bonus. With suitable type faces.

    And just in case you haven't heard of Polywell I can bring you up to speed. 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 or less.

    I'm a big fan of small fusion projects. Especially after hearing what Plasma Physicist and author of Principles of Plasma PhysicsDr. Nicholas Krall said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good." No I'm not against ITER, totally, but it is sucking all the oxygen out of the room. For a project that will not be done (regular power production) for 40 to 70 more years. With that kind of schedule we can afford to wait for some breakthroughs.

    Oh yeah.

    Pledge Some Money to help keep amateurs on the cutting edge.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:50 PM | Comments (2)

    Serious bitch fights should be taken seriously!

    Damn! There are so many things I can't write about that it just kills me. Really, this not-wanting-to-hurt-anyone's-feelings thing gets to be too much, but that's the way it is in the blogosphere, especially on the right side of the blogosphere these days. People who take themselves seriously do not take kindly to not being taken seriously, and they tend to take even the slightest disagreement as a personal insult. A "betrayal," even. (Sometimes I'd like to tell the people who feel betrayed that "just because I disagree with your principles, that doesn't mean I don't have any" -- except that sounds too much as if I am taking myself too seriously.)

    Anyway, I can't talk about what I won't talk about, but I think I can at least get away with quoting my buddy Sean Kinsell's reaction. There's a huge bitch fight between two bloggers I will not name. (No, not the last ones I wouldn't name. The new ones I won't name.)

    Trying to be understated, I characterized the quarrel as a "bitch fight if ever there was one" and I sent Sean a link to the bitch fight. (Sorry, it's classified.) Sean replied that he laughed out loud, and I love the way he characterized them:

    Two paragons of smug-itude battling it out. I LOVE it.
    See, I can't say that. I'm too nice. We are supposed to be united. The smug and not-smug, united together to change the world! I don't want to be divisive, and I am not supposed to ridicule the ridiculous.

    So I just laughed my head off.

    I hope that's not too much of a betrayal. I should probably take these things more seriously. (But hey, at least I take it seriously enough to not say what it is I'm refusing to take seriously!)

    A more personal issue is that I also try not to take myself seriously. That does not endear me to people who take themselves seriously -- either in blogging or in real life -- and in a way I can understand. For, how can anyone expect someone who does not take himself seriously to take other people seriously? And how could anyone expect someone who doesn't take himself seriously to take seriously the pressing issues like the end of the world? (It's almost as bad as not taking Global Warming seriously when you're talking to someone who does.)

    It's a problem I really should take more seriously.

    posted by Eric at 03:04 PM | Comments (1)

    A biker is a figure skater is a businessman

    Ann Althouse reminded me that I don't like figure skating. Never have, never will. I also don't like Barbra Streisand. Neither musically, nor politically.

    While there's no accounting for taste (and thus no accounting for those who like "Barbra"), I wish people wouldn't make tasteless demands like this:

    Call me a stereotype if you will but I think there should be a law requiring all gays to own at least one Babsi "Best Of"! Barbra Streisand is not only one of the greatest vocalists of all time, she's also one of our most enduring gay icons. Like her or lump her, it's hard to deny that Barbra is a part of our gay cultural heritage.
    Yeah, well so is Roy Cohn.

    I'd go so far as to say that I dislike Barbra Streisand even more than figure skating. If someone insisted I watch figure skating, I could manage to stay in the same room with the TV set on. But with Barbra Streisand on, I'd leave the room. The sounds of her voice are about as pleasant to me as the unnerving screeching sounds which are made when Coco gets hungry and drags her plastic bowl across the wooden kitchen floor.

    However, none of that changes my position on embattled Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, who continues to remain in the news. I like the fact that despite his capitulation after death threats by animal rights activists, he continues to grumble.

    U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir says he received threats from anti-fur activists that made him fear for his safety, causing him to scrub any plans to stay at a hotel while in Vancouver for the Olympics.

    "I felt very threatened," he said Saturday. "I'm not allowed to say how everything got through, but my agent got letters and faxes and e-mails. I got letters at the ice rink, somebody found my phone number.

    "All these crazy fur people. Security-wise, to stay in a hotel would be very difficult. There have been threats against me. I didn't want to get hurt."

    Weir is sharing a suite with U.S. ice dancer Tanith Belbin in the Olympic village. The longtime friends have their own bedrooms and bathrooms.

    Belbin won Olympic silver in 2006 with partner Ben Agosto. A three-time national champion, Weir, who finished fifth in Torino, was third at this year's nationals to gain the final spot on the U.S. team.

    The men's short program is Tuesday with the free skate set for Thursday.

    "I'm just an easy person to pick on because I like fur," he said. "It's easy to put your case against an athlete who is going to the Olympics. It's a very good, easy thing for these activists.

    "It's a very scary thing. I'm a figure skater, I'm not some huge politician who gets these things all the time."

    Precisely the point I made in my last post about the poor kid. He's not an activist, he's a young, effeminate, obviously gay figure skater. (Who to his credit does not make a big deal about his sexuality, and he has been rudely insulted by gay culture conformists.)

    So yeah, he is easy to pick on, and if these damned animal rights activists weren't so well connected on the left, what happened to him might very well be called homophobia.

    Why don't they go pick on bikers for wearing leather at, say, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle rally? I'm sure the guys who show up to lobby their state legislators against helmet laws would be very receptive to animal rights activists issuing death threats against them for wearing leather.

    The reason the AR people don't do that is certainly not philosophical, for they consider leather to be no different than fur or wool. It's all "fatal fashion," and "A Look That Kills":

    Every year, millions of animals are killed for the clothing industry. Whether they come from Chinese fur farms, Indian slaughterhouses, or the Australian outback, an immeasurable amount of suffering goes into every fur-trimmed jacket, leather belt, and wool sweater.
    So according to animal rights ideology, there is no difference between Johnny Weir and these guys:


    Or between them and ordinary business and professional men wearing wool suits and leather shoes.

    The real target is not fur. Most fur is farmed from animals raised for that specific purpose, and slaughtered as humanely as any other farm animal. To oppose fur and not oppose leather is inconsistent, even hypocritical.

    So why pick on Johnny Weir? The answer is that he's an obvious, vulnerable target.

    How brave of them.

    MORE: Thanks for the comments, and I especially loved the one from "Vince":

    Your disdain for Barbra, the greatest voice of the century, proves that you are an unhappy vindictive individual. You don't have the capacity to enjoy the fact that you are living at the same time as this Living Legend. Barbra reigns,shame on you.
    I'm thinking I should cling bitterly to my guns and plead guilty as charged.

    posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (6)

    A Democrat Who Gets It

    Senator Evan Bayh is retiring. On his way out he had a few choice words.

    "I simply reached a conclusion that I could get more done to help my state and the American people by doing something in the private sector," said Bayh, the two-term senator and former governor, on ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday. "Real accomplishments in a real way."
    Now all we have to do is to make the 535 in Washington keep that in mind until the people retire them and we might actually get decent government from time to time.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:06 AM | Comments (1)

    Please be a gracious reader

    My apologies to those who came here looking for one of my usual eccentric or silly posts. I'll try to come up with something later, but I think this is important, so I'm changing the time on this post so it will stay at the top all day.

    As most of you know, I don't especially like quoting what other people say when I have nothing to add, and as I'm not a war blogger, there's not much I can say about Michael Yon's latest dispatch from Afghanistan. Besides, Glenn Reynolds quoted the post in its entirety the other day, which means most readers here have already seen it.

    If you haven't read it though, please do. If you have read it, may I suggest donating to Michael Yon? As you know, there's no tipjar here. What I do doesn't cost much, and I don't need help. But what Michael Yon does is expensive and dangerous, and he needs money to continue doing it. I've contributed to him regularly over the years, as he's one of the few reliable sources of inside reports. And as we all know, we are in a real war there now. What shocks me is that so few people care. As Michael Yon says, ominously, "reader interest is low." (Hence this post, and hence my request that you go over there and donate.)

    The War in Afghanistan has truly begun. This will be a long, difficult fight that is set to eclipse anything we've seen in Iraq. As 2010 unfolds, my 6th year of war coverage will unfold with it. There is relatively little interest in Afghanistan by comparison to previous interest in Iraq, and so reader interest is low. Afghanistan is serious, very deadly business. Like Iraq, however, it gets pushed around as a political brawling pit while the people fighting the war are mostly forgotten. The arguments at home seem more likely to revolve around a few words from the President than the ground realities of combat here. I can bring the ground realities, but can sustain the coverage only by the graciousness of readers. Please keep that in mind. Please click...
    Yes, please do click, and please do be gracious. Thanks.

    posted by Eric at 11:59 PM | Comments (2)

    sovereignty issues at the LA Times

    Anyone familiar with Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón will remember that he's an activist who sought to bring criminal charges against a number of Americans, including Henry Kissinger and the so-called "Bush Six." (Alberto Gonzales, former Attorney General; John Yoo, of the Office of Legal Counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, also at Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff.) The Wall Street Journal called his behavior "an assault on American sovereignty and the integrity of the U.S. legal system."

    And now that Garzón is facing trouble -- in Spain -- for trying to bring indictments in violation of the 1977 amnesty for 70 year old Civil War crimes, the LA Times has leaped to his defense.

    José Guardia has the details, and explains how the LA Times got it wrong.

    So no, LA Times, Garzón's trouble are not as venial as a disagreement on whether to prosecute a dead regime or not. I know it all sounds really strange, more like in a bad movie than reality. Welcome to Spain's "wonderful" politics.
    What I'd like to know is why the LA Times went out of its way to stick its nose into Spain's internal politics in the first place.

    Might it be that they like Garzón's assault on American sovereignty?

    posted by Eric at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

    Fiddling with distractions

    In a post about the latest attempt to medicalize political opinion, I interjected a gratuitous, unelaborated thought:

    I often suspect that the culture war is intended to keep us bickering over penises in the hope we won't notice the country is going bankrupt, but that's another rant.
    I've talked about this before. It's the old condom on a banana trick, and while I don't mean to belittle those with genuine concerns about the coarsening of culture or the sexualization of children, views on sex often vary according to individual tastes. Regardless of what these tastes are or how disgusting or unhealthy they may considered to be by those who don't share them, getting into arguments over them is about as productive as getting into arguments over tastes in food. The Romans had a saying "de gustibus non est disputandum":
    De gustibus non est disputandum is a Latin maxim. It means "there is no disputing about tastes"[1][2], and is essentially equivalent to the English expression "there's no accounting for taste"[3]. The implication is that opinions about matters of taste are not objectively right or wrong, and hence that disagreements about matters of taste cannot be objectively resolved.
    I am well aware that disagreements about taste cannot be resolved, and it has long struck me that attempting to politicize them is a fruitless endeavor (if not insane). Except it gradually dawned on me that the point is not so much for anyone to win an argument as it is to keep people fighting. Over things that really don't threaten the status quo. Does anyone really think, for example, that Barack Obama really cares about gay marriage? Actually he does care, but not in the same way as the people who get worked up on both sides. He and the ruling political class care about the issue only to the extent it acts as a diversion. It is an intractable issue that some people take very personally. People hate each other over it. Yet no matter which way it might be resolved (or not resolved), there are few if any consequences to those in power. So, like many of the culture war issues, it's a perfect foil. A distraction.

    While he was not talking about culture war issues, Thomas Sowell recently wrote about how distractions work:

    If eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, incessant distractions are the way that politicians take away our freedoms, in order to enhance their own power and longevity in office. Dire alarms and heady crusades are among the many distractions of our attention from the ever increasing ways that government finds to take away more of our money and more of our freedom.

    Magicians have long known that distracting an audience is the key to creating the illusion of magic. It is also the key to political magic.

    Alarms ranging from "overpopulation" to "global warming" and crusades ranging from "affordable housing" to "universal health care" have been among the distractions of political magicians. But few distractions have had such a long and impressive political track record as getting people to resent and, if necessary, hate other people.

    There are few better ways to divert attention than arguments about sexuality. Again, I don't say this to take sides, so much as to make a simple point.

    If country is headed for bankruptcy, in whose interest is it to keep people bickering over penises?

    What I like about the Tea Party Movement is that for the most part, it has been able to avoid getting mired in these side issues. Sure, there are people who feel very strongly about gay marriage and abortion, just as there are birthers. But these issues are not central, and despite some attempts to insinuate them into the Tea Party Convention, the people who have really been there can see past it. (Incidentally, my hat's off to Eric Erickson not only for seeing past the birther issue, but doing something about it.)

    On February 6 I was watching the Tea Party Convention live on CSPAN (at 11:57 a.m EST), and when social issues were brought up in a question, Amy Kremer said this unequivocally,

    "We do not touch social issues, because that is where you lose people."
    Good for Amy Kremer (who I suspect is to the right of me on social issues, which is precisely not the point).

    But remarks like Kremer's (one of the original grass-roots organizers of the Tea Party movement) don't tend to get reported. Instead, the emphasis is on the people who sounded off on contentious side issues -- like WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah (who yelled about the birth certificate "issue"), or Judge Roy Moore (who yelled about the homos). I wouldn't be surprised if someone yelled about abortion too. Or if there were people waving false Tea Party flags.) Never mind that these are not Tea Party issues.

    Or perhaps I should say the Tea Party issue. I think Freeman Hunt put it best, even though she wasn't speaking about the Tea Parties per se:

    You want a big tent? It's fiscal conservatism. The people are overwhelmingly in favor of it.

    You offer that, you follow through on it, and you get the Republicans, the moderates, and a sizable chunk of disaffected Democrats.

    Everything else is beside the point right now.


    Embrace fiscal conservatism. Leave the rest to federalism.

    It's easy. It's a no-brainer. It's even Constitutional. People are sick of the spending, sick of the debt, sick of the bailouts, sick of the handouts, sick of the back room deals, sick of the taxpayer funded bribes, sick of the bureaucrats. They want unyielding, unapologetic fiscal conservatism.

    She is absolutely right, and I think her words come about as close to being a Tea Party manifesto as any I have read. (See Glenn Reynolds' additional thoughts .)

    The left dreads nothing more than the idea of such a tent, so naturally they're delighted to give as much help as possible to the assorted cranks who can be depended upon to show up at Tea Parties and vent about side issues. The Huffington Post went out of its way to carry on about Farah's appearance at the convention, and of course it didn't take much work to dig through his archives to find a piece he wrote in support of a woman who murdered her philandering husband.

    Obviously, the idea is that Americans should wake up and realize those crazy Tea Party types favor not only birtherism, but murdering adulterers! FWIW, I think it's awful that WorldNetDaily's founder thinks it's just fine to murder adulterers, just as I disagree with their position that the "homosexual agenda" is threatening to destroy America. And I think it's unfortunate that the man was given the stage there. But that is what happens when you get a lot of people together who disagree on various side issues. Disagreement is one thing, as we all disagree. But side issue fanatics are another species entirely. They are determined people with a knack for not only getting on the stage, but yelling about their issues and attempting to insinuate them into anything they can. Guys like Farah and Moore are distractions, and they play right into the hands of those who want us arguing over penises while Rome burns America bankrupts itself.

    See? Despite my desire to avoid distractions, I actually wrote "while Rome burns." I blame WorldNetDaily for making me lose my self control.

    MORE: Looking at a long New York Times attempt to link fringe racist crackpots to the Tea Party movement, Ira Stoll makes a point similar to the one I've tried to make here:

    ....the Times seems unable to give a reasonably sympathetic hearing to Americans mad at Wall Street, Washington, Republicans and Democrats but instead travels to Idaho to interview and emphasize what it depicts as a particularly strange group of them; that those Americans angry at both political parties would channel their anger toward immigrants; that minorities would feel intimidated by Americans mad at Wall Street, Washington, Republicans and Democrats. The Times doesn't get into the question of how anti-immigrant and how heavily armed the average non-Tea Party-activist Idaho resident is. Nor does it get into the fact that a certain set of wild-eyed true believers who don't appear normal to outsiders tends to exist on the fringes of just about every mass movement, from the AFL-CIO to the Obama campaign.
    Via Glenn Reynolds, who also links Don Surber's post about a wild-eyed true believer on the fringes of the Obama campaign.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, more on the increasingly curious Nevada Tea Party

    I cannot find any evidence that any of these principals have ever been involved in any Tea Party activities, until now. I've emailed a number of Tea Party organizer-activists in the state and so far, nobody has ever heard of any of the principals - except for Barry Levinson because he is a Las Vegas attorney.

    Here are some snippets from my research so far:

    Barry Levinson was part of the "Bush Lied, People Died" cabal (very strange creds for a Tea Party guy).

    Not really core to the story but one of the principals, Larry Lathum, appears to be a 9/11 Truther. A number of sane Tea Partiers emailed me to say they are concerned about credibility and perceptions and are not happy to see Levinson's and Lathum's names on that principals list.


    I'd also note that somtimes if you scratch a birther, you'll find a truther. It might also work the other way around.

    posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (2)

    Liberal disgust over conservative disgust -- cheerfully discussed by disgusted libertarian!

    I've read that conservative is the new gay, but might there actually be a "conservative gene"? What if conservatives are "born that way" as activists maintain gays are? Wouldn't that make conservatives the members of a legitimate identity group worthy of the full range of legal protections?

    Lest anyone laugh at the absurdity, the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof takes the deterministic view quite seriously, and he is citing studies which purport to document things like the conservative blink rate. No really:

    Researchers have found, for example, that some humans are particularly alert to threats, particularly primed to feel vulnerable and perceive danger. Those people are more likely to be conservatives.

    One experiment used electrodes to measure the startle blink reflex, the way we flinch and blink when startled by a possible danger. A flash of noise was unexpectedly broadcast into the research subjects' earphones, and the response was measured.

    The researchers, led by Kevin B. Smith of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, found that those who had a stronger blink reflex at the noise were more likely to take such conservative positions as favoring gun rights, supporting warrantless searches, and opposing foreign aid.

    That makes intuitive sense: If you are more acutely sensitive to risks and more fearful of attack, you also may be more aggressive in arming yourself and more wary of foreigners.

    Hey I can remember when they tried to show that gays have a different blink rate than straights. (The pre-pulse inhibition rate, to be exact.) I wonder whether they've compared the PPIs of liberals and conservatives. (Never mind libertarians; they don't exist.)

    Tom Maguire has a lot of fun deconstructing the latest of advances from "science":

    Let's see - conservatives are more alert to danger and distrustful of foreigners. So it was conservatives that opposed NAFTA and every free trade agreement since then, fearful as they were of job losses and foreign competition.

    And it is conservatives, fearful of the possibility of hurtful speech leading to violent action, that have advocated for speech codes on our nation's campuses.

    It was fearful conservative educators who suspended a first grader for bringing a "spork" to school.

    And (you guessed it!) it is conservatives, ever alert to threats and fearful of the possibility of global climate change caused by those polluting Chinese, that have led the charge for a global agreement on carbon emissions.

    Ain't neuroscience grand?

    It never ceases to amaze me the way liberals will claim that conservatives are "authoritarian" in nature when the latter are overwhelmingly against government telling people what to do. Even religious conservatives, much as I disagree with them, tend to believe in divine authority, perhaps biblical authority, but they generally admit that it's beyond the control of man. Liberalism once meant belief in freedom, but it has degenerated into hopeless buttinskyism, and there is no political class more enamored with the idea of telling people what to do. Often at gunpoint. The idea that conservatives are more "authoritarian" is one of the big lies of politics.

    The study that Kristof sites is also criticized here for a methodology so thoroughly flawed that the author calls it a "textbook example":

    In sum, the authors support their conclusions through multiple acts of creative and tendentious redescription: They describe all of the relevant physiological and ideological variables as indicating a perception of threat, and then show that they are correlated. This is a textbook example of the fallacy of "misuse of hypothesis" or "persuasive definition": The authors define and characterize phenomena in a manner favorable to their hypothesis, but with little justification other than to support their hypothesis.
    Attempting to chart one's political views by measuring levels of disgust over things like spiders crawling on faces, rotten meat, dead bodies is silly, because these matters ultimately involve taste, and I can't help notice that what is entirely omitted in the definitions of conservatism are economic matters. (I often suspect that the culture war is intended to keep us bickering over penises in the hope we won't notice the country is going bankrupt, but that's another rant.)

    Anyway, I should point out that in the interest of fairness I took the Disgust Scale test which is linked in the paper Kristof cites. ("The Ick Factor: Disgust Sensitivity as a Predictor of Political Attitudes.")

    Considering the admitted bias of the test's author (and the fact that registration is required), I suspect that most of the 45,000 or so people who have taken the test would be politically to the left of me.

    Even so, my disgust scores are lower than the average (and my "animal reminder" levels are way lower):


    The terms are explained here:

    1) Core disgust: the "core" of the emotion, which is about defending the mouth from contamination by dirty or inappropriate things like body excretions, certain animals like rats and cockroaches, and certain foods, like ice cream with ketchup.

    2) Animal-reminder disgust: things involving death, corpses, and violations of the external boundaries of the body, such as amputations. These things remind us that we, like animals, are mortal.

    3) Contamination disgust: this kind of disgust is a defense of the whole body, not just the mouth, from contact with dirty or sleazy people.

    Hmm... Perhaps I should feel contaminated just by having participated in the study. I feel all icky. Maybe I should take a bath.

    I'll try not to throw my inner child out with the bathwater.

    posted by Eric at 06:45 PM | Comments (7)

    Heartwarming news for coldhearted skeptics

    It was a bit of a shock to see a frank admission -- from one of the world's leading proponents of global warming theory -- that there has been no global warming for the last 15 years. But that's what the man says!

    THERE has been no global warming for 15 years, a key scientist admitted yesterday in a major U-turn.

    Professor Phil Jones, who is at the centre of the "Climategate" affair, conceded that there has been no "statistically significant" rise in temperatures since 1995.

    The admission comes as new research casts serious doubt on temperature records collected around the world and used to support the global warming theory.

    One of the problems I have is that I don't revel in people's misery. Probably because I'm a natural-born bleeding heart. Maybe even lily-livered, but please not lily-livered liberal! Lily livered libertarian? Perhaps, but there's still too much alliteration, and it makes me squeamish to self-identify that way.

    In any case, I am not gloating over what has to be a major case of the blues for poor Dr. Jones.

    And besides, even if I did want to gloat over his plight (and the plight of the warmists generally these days), I'm further hamstrung by worries that any resort to ridicule would constitute Alinskyite behavior.

    Fortunately for me, the schadenfreude I lack is being supplied by others with harder hearts, and more bilious livers.

    Like Gerard Van der Leun, who links the AGW Hitler parody video, and opines,

    This one sums up the state of how the flaming wheels are flying off the AGW juggernaut with every passing day. It's got it all and is so densely packed with the lunacy of the scam that it's worth playing several times.

    In short, "Dee-licious!" Such intense mockery couldn't happen to a more rotten group of people.

    Check it out. Pass it on.

    (Via Memeorandum.)

    What better way to harden my heart, bilify my liver, and stiffen my spine than this delightfully hilarious new Hitler parody? After all, what red-blooded bleeding-heart could feel sorry for Hitler?

    Seriously, anyone who feels sorry for Hitler is in need of compascism, and should SEEK HELP!

    I'm feeling so invigorated that I won't even worry about whether the above might violate Godwin's Law.

    posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (3)

    Natural Gas Fuel Cell

    I just came across an Australian Company, Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd., that makes a solid oxide natural gas fuel cell, BlueGen™, that can produce electricity and heat.

    BlueGen™ is a the latest breakthrough in small scale electricity generation - a modular style fuel cell generator that can be configured to suit a range of different markets and installations. For markets that require an alternative product approach to fully-integrated 'European style' systems, such as Japan, Northern America and Australia - BlueGen™ bridges that gap.

    Utilising the Gennex™ fuel cell module; BlueGen™ is a grid-parallel SOFC system that operates on natural gas producing highly efficiency electricity.

    * Output: up to 2 kW power export
    * Efficiency: up to 60% electrical efficiency (net AC export)
    * Modular installation; can be configured as:
    mono-generation (power only)


    co-generation (power+heat)

    BlueGen™ is fitted with an integrated heat exchanger to recover the heat from the fuel cell module. A separate water tank (not supplied) can be connected to the unit to increase the total system efficiency.

    I do see a few problems. It takes 20 hours to get the system up to operational temperature. So far it is only available in 50 Hz models. The USA uses 60 Hz. You have to burn gas to keep the system hot even if you are not using the heat or electricity.

    One very good thing: It will self power if you lose mains power - if it is hot enough.

    With all the new natural gas being discovered a system like this might make a lot of sense. If the price is right.

    For those interested: there is no North American Distributor. It looks like an opportunity to me.

    H/T Seeking Alpha article and comments on the coming glut in natural gas supplies.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:09 AM | Comments (4)

    the inside skinny on the fatwa of the fiqh

    In a recent news item I wish I didn't have to take seriously, the Shariah-promoting Fiqh Council of North America is claiming that airport body scanners violate Islamic law. The Detroit Free Press says this could complicate airline screening:

    In a move that could complicate airport screening, a group of Muslim-American scholars issued a religious ruling this week that called upon the faithful to not go through body scanners because the scholars said the machines violate Islamic rules on nudity.

    A growing number of body scanners -- 450 more of them this year -- are to be introduced in airports in Michigan and across the U.S., say Transportation Security Administration officials. Their increased use comes after the Dec. 25 bombing attempt on an airliner over Detroit, heightening fears of terrorism. The suspect in the failed bombing is a Nigerian Muslim.

    The Fiqh Council of North America -- a national group based in Indiana -- said the scanners contravene Islamic law, which is grounded in the Quran. The council consists of an executive council and a council of 10 scholars, two of whom live in metro Detroit. It's an affiliate of the Islamic Society of North America.

    The Fiqh Council's goal is to make American Muslims follow Shariah Law. (To ensure "that the dealings of North American Muslims fall within the parameters of what is permitted by the Shari'ah.") While I don't especially like the idea of body scanning, if they are limited to airport passenger screening the argument can be made that no one is forced to go through them, because no one is forced to fly. If they started scanning people on the street without warrants, that would violate the constitutional prohibition on illegal search and seizure. That's because this is the United States, and we are governed by the Constitution. The damned Shariah has nothing to do with it.

    As far as I'm concerned, people who have objections grounded in Shariah Law can just stay the hell off the planes.

    Please, just go ahead and obey the fatwa!

    "It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women," reads the fatwa. "Islam highly emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts."

    In a statement late Thursday, the TSA said it is committed to keeping passengers safe and also protecting privacy. "Screening images are automatically deleted, and the officer viewing the image will never see the passenger," the agency said.

    The suspect in the Dec. 25 attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is accused of hiding explosive chemicals in his underwear. Since then, some have called for the use of body scanners at airports to find dangerous materials on passengers. Critics say the scanners show details of the outlines of a person's body.

    But the TSA said the scanners "do not produce photos." Rather, it said, the images "look like chalk outlines."

    Currently, there are 40 full-body scanners -- two of them in Detroit -- at 19 airports in the U.S., said TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos.

    One option offered to passengers who don't want to go through a scanner is a pat-down by a security guard of the same gender, the TSA said.

    OK, right there I see a problem, and it isn't a necessarily fatwa-related one. Not only does offering same-sex pat-downs discriminate on the basis of sex, but it offers no guarantee that everyone will be comfortable with the pat-down. I mean, what's the idea here? To make sure the patter-downer is not turned on? Or to make sure that the pattee-downee is not creeped out by some lech? Merely having the patter-downers be the same sex hardly eliminates this problem, especially if we consider the sexual orientation issue. Why, for example, is it fair for gay male passengers to get patted down by men (or lesbians by women) whether they like it or not, while heterosexuals are not patted down by members of the opposite sex? And none of this addresses the further issue of the patter-downers themselves possibly being turned on by the subject of the search.

    All in violation of someone or another's religious principles, no doubt!

    What would the Shariah say? Shouldn't there at least be a fatwa against making heterosexual Muslims submit to pat-down searches by gay American TSA employees when the latter get turned on by the search?

    The two members of the Fiqh Council from Michigan are Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn and Imam Ali Suleiman Ali of the Canton Mosque. "Fiqh" means Islamic jurisprudence.

    The director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a separate group that has a chapter in Michigan, says it endorses the fatwa.

    Well bully for the bullies at CAIR!


    Maybe these scanners are a better idea than I realized.

    And I still think that hiring sexy hookers to conduct the searches is an idea whose time has come!

    posted by Eric at 06:37 PM | Comments (4)

    Alinskyism before Alinsky: an ancient but uncredited legacy

    Earlier I was sent a link to an event I consider ridiculous, which I was all set to ignore in my usual manner. I offhandedly forwarded the link to M. Simon, who made an obvious suggestion -- that I ridicule the event.

    The event featured programs with titles like "Homosexual Rights and First Amendment Freedoms: Can They Truly Coexist?" That depends on how rights and freedoms are defined and who does the defining, doesn't it? Obviously, free speech per se is not endangered by gay rights per se, unless gay rights are defined as criminalizing "hate speech." I certainly would not define gay rights that way, but I suspect that's the idea the conference is promoting. There's also an idea which has been floating around for some time that gay rights constitutes an abridgment of religious freedom, although once again, that requires defining "gay rights" as forcing people to violate their religious beliefs, as well as defining as "religious beliefs" things like decisions about providing services or employment. Thus, a Muslim cab driver who refuses to transport gay passengers might complain that anti-discrimination laws violate his right to exercise his religion. Or I suppose a fundamentalist Christian parent might complain that it violated his religious beliefs to have his child taught by a gay teacher. While I have trouble seeing such things as interfering with the right to hold religious views (much less actually practicing religion), I suppose some people do think that way. What I cannot understand is why having to hire a homosexual interferes with a religious belief that homosexuality is wrong, any more than being forced to hire someone who eats pork would interfere with the religious prohibitions in Islam or Judaism. Or having to hire an atheist, or having one's children taught by an atheist.

    But these examples are not new here, and I am sorry to be such a bore. I guess I'm not doing a very good job with ridicule. I do find it a bit annoying that I get put on these mailing lists, though, because as I told Simon, it places me in a sort of Catch-22 where if I ignore such an email, I feel like a wimp, but if I take it on, then I'm reacting and drawing further attention to it. (Which is probably what the forces of Anti-Gay Inc. want.)

    However, there's a greater problem posed by any resort to ridicule. To my consternation I learned recently that it was invented by Saul Alinsky, who made it Rule Number 5:

    "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It's hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."
    As Alinksky is "the father of political ridicule," I dare not use it, lest I be accused of being an Alinsky follower. An Alinskyite. (Ugh!) I can't stand Alinksy, so I would hate to be following him in any way. Perhaps I should never ever ridicule anyone or anything again, no matter how ridiculous I consider them to be.

    Well what about the idea that there was no political ridicule before Alinsky? What if I consider that ridiculous? Would that make me an Alinskyite too?

    I mean, the ancient Greeks loved ridicule so much that they even had a god for it -- Momus, the god of ridicule. Should Momus be renamed "Alinskyous"?

    How about the many Roman satire writers like Juvenal and Petronius?

    Petronius Alinskyous, anyone?

    And I guess we would also have to admit that Thomas Jefferson was a victim of this cruel example of classically Alinskyite political ridicule.


    I can't imagine why, but Alinsky is credited nowhere in the description of the above:

    In this critical cartoon, Thomas Jefferson as the cock or rooster, courts a hen, portrayed as Sally Hemings. Contemporary political opponents of Jefferson sought to destroy his presidency and his new political party with charges of Jefferson's promiscuous behavior and his ownership of slaves. The cock was also a symbol of revolutionary France, which Jefferson was known to admire and which, his critics believed, Jefferson unduly favored.
    Ok, so Alinsky hadn't been born yet, but doesn't that just show his diabolical genius? He actually inspired things that had happened before he was born! Centuries before! Even thousands of years!

    So I had best be very careful with ridicule here, lest I fall into the same Alinskyist trap that has befallen innumerable writers and cartoonists throughout human history.

    Why, I can't even ridicule Alinsky himself without becoming an Alinskyite! Touch the father of political ridicule with political ridicule and voila! -- you have become an Alinskyite and he claims you from the grave. Seriously, the guy is a tar baby.

    (I might wonder whether some of Alinsky's critics aren't giving him a little too much credit, but I think I've committed enough Alinskyisms as it is....)

    posted by Eric at 04:51 PM | Comments (2)

    Why We Can't Work It Out

    The below video explains why banks are not wiling to make a deal on foreclosed property. And also why "the less we sell it for the better" is depressing housing prices. Now this may be a good thing to get property moving again. But it means that the true market value is unknown. The good stuff begins about a minute forty into the video.

    The video with commentary is also available here.

    H/T Jccarlton at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

    The Wheels Are Coming Off

    Phil Jones admits no statistically significant warming since 1995.

    Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is 'not as good as it should be'.

    The data is crucial to the famous 'hockey stick graph' used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

    Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now - suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

    And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no 'statistically significant' warming.

    But what about the steady rise in CO2 since the start of the industrial age? That has got to have caused something. Here is a question and answer - British Style - Between BBC reporter Roger Harrabin (H) and Phil Jones (J) of the University of East Anglia ClimateGate Scandal.
    H - If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?

    J - The fact that we can't explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing...

    Well whaddaya know. We couldn't find who dunnit so we're going to pin the rap on you. That kind of injustice is occasionally imposed by the courts. Science is supposed to be better than that. You jerk.

    But in fact he did just what he was told to do. You can read the IPCC remit in their charter.

    The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
    You know. That is one of the funniest things I have ever read. In terms of religious history. In times past what we didn't understand we ascribed to the gods, a god, or The God. Now it is all man's fault.

    Science IS better than that. About 11 March 2008 sceptic Richard Lindzen said:

    There has been no warming since 1997 and no
    statistically significant warming since 1995. Why bother with the
    arguments about an El Nino anomaly in 1998?
    So that is 15 years more or less with no statistically significant warming. While CO2 has been going up. And now Jones agrees.

    As they say in the movies - this is a big break in the case.

    And as usual Osama is wrong about everything. Maybe Mr. Obama as well.

    H/T Author and Commenters at Watts Up With That

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:03 AM | Comments (3)

    the war against plain

    When I wrote about the used Japanese rice cooker I found at a Craigs List moving sale for nothing, the implications of this emergent "fuzzy logic" technology had not yet begun to sink in. I was not yet fully aware of how easy it had become to prepare high-quality, low-cost food, but now that it's become a habit, and I've had time to think about the implications, another post is in order.

    As I will explain, I think this technology (along with the related smart "slow cooker" technology) is more revolutionary than most people realize, and if it catches on in a big way, it could become what marketing people call "disruptive technology." (Americans might love instant-ness, but they also love gadgetry, and this gadgetry is on a collision course with the long-established instant, um "tradition.")

    Take oatmeal. It's one of those things that's good for you, but it's usually a hassle to make, especially when you're in a hurry and just want to slurp your coffee and have something handy, and ready to eat. This is why (as you can see if you go to every supermarket I've seen), the oatmeal shelves are dominated by instant oatmeal -- in endless varieties, flavors, and brands. Like many people, I have been buying instant oatmeal, although it's sometimes difficult to find the plain variety. I realize that "real" non-instant oatmeal tastes better (and is said to be better for you), but I just don't like to screw around with cooking when I'm barely awake. Too easy for the mind to slip into something else and end up with lumpy or burned oatmeal. As to so-called "steel cut" oatmeal, forget it! That stuff takes 40 minutes of stirring, and whether it's good for you or not, the goodness is offset by the badness of the hassle. And even though at my local Whole Foods, steel cut oatmeal costs $1.44 per pound in bulk, the hassles outweigh the low cost and undoubtedly higher quality of the food.

    That has changed big time. Now that I've gotten used to dumping the steel cut oatmeal and water into the rice cooker (at a simple ratio of three to one water to oatmeal -- which takes less time than preparing my coffee maker), I just set the timer for whenever I want to eat in the morning and it's ready. Quicker, faster, and easier than any "instant," and far superior, for a variety of reasons.

    In the morning, I don't have to do anything, and if I used instant, I would have to boil water, tear open a package, dump it into the bowl, and then wait while bleary-eyed, for a far less rewarding meal.

    The rice cooker has made the most difficult oatmeal the easiest. And when hard becomes easy, that's disruptive of the market. What could be more disruptive than the realization that instant is no longer instant?

    I realize that few ordinary Americans know about this. If they did, it would pose a dire threat to the huge "instant" market.

    This touches on another pet peeve I have about instant marketing, and that is the systematic destruction of regular, ordinary, plain old grits. I am not a Southerner, but I grew up enjoying grits for breakfast, and they were not instant grits, nor were they even "quick" grits, but the "old" kind that take 20 minutes to cook.

    Old plain, unimproved were were simply better, and they still are. Maybe not quicker to cook, but better to eat.

    This vital point has been made all over the Internet, and was immortalized for ordinary Americans in "My Cousin Vinny."

    At 9:11 in the following YouTube video, an eyewitness in court makes the following statement, under oath:

    "No self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits."

    That's a pretty serious indictment of instant grits, especially if we consider that 75% of grits are sold in the South. (Wiki calls this phenomenon the "grits belt.")

    And of course, now that I have the rice cooker (which makes it easier to have perfectly prepared regular old grits than to use instant), naturally I have been confronted with an annoyance grounded in a stubborn geopolitical marketing reality: trying to buy plain, real, grits in a very Northern state. Where it comes to this gritty reality, Michigan is more "Northern" than Pennsylvania. Not sure why, but it has been like pulling teeth to find plain old grits around here. The two local supermarkets (Krogers and Meijers) have quick or instant grits only, and to my utter dismay, Whole Foods offers no grits at all! Similarly, the local organic food stores that sell bulk foods have no grits. A local delicatessen specializing in gourmet food can get them for you but the price is a simply outrageous $25.00. Plus $7.99 shipping!

    That's $32.99. For two pounds of grits

    Asks a local writer about the place, "When did healthy food become a luxury?"

    Beats me, but trying to find a way to work around the "instant" mega marketing mania can be expensive. And I can hardly blame a deli for the obvious fact that there are so few people around here who want grits of any kind, much less the old unimproved type. Although it is also understandable that it can cause people with a real grits habit to develop what might be called "grits derangement syndrome." (The website documents a long and fruitless struggle to get Arrowhead Mills White Corn Grits back into the market after the company's callused marketing decision to remove it.)

    I was nearly ready to order real grits online. The best deal for the stone-ground variety is here, and the Quaker Oats company makes a brand called "Old Fashioned Grits" which I found at Amazon. (Six boxes for $17.70, plus postage.)

    Finally, though (with the help of the old-fashioned yellow pages), I found the Quaker Old Fashioned brand for sale at Hiller's -- an old fashioned grocery store that specializes in the rare and unusual:

    Our grocery stores offer premier products, gourmet delectables, healthy choices, and lifestyle shopping. It has been said that we eat with our eyes before we ever take a bite. You'll have such a sensory-rich experience at Hiller's - how good it will feel for shopping to be enjoyable and even fun!

    The company was created in 1941 by Sidney Hiller with a commitment to quality, selection, and value. Now, led by Jim Hiller, Hiller's Markets is Michigan's home for discerning shoppers. We listen to shoppers, and we obtain items that you request, no matter how arcane, rare, or unusual.

    Thank God for Hiller's.

    But how did it come to be that plain has become arcane, rare, and unusual?

    (Seriously, it's getting so I have a hard time finding plain yogurt, and they are often out. But if you want banana daiquiri, no problem.)

    MORE: Damned if M. Simon's post (with a video of the "food guy" who believes in making you "change what you eat because it is killing you") didn't remind me of yet another wrinkle.

    Instant food is probably worse for THE ENVIRONMENT!

    Now why did it take M. Simon to make me think of that?

    (This new technology might be more disruptive than even I realized.....)

    AND MORE: Larry Sheldon's comment has absolutely cracked me up:

    I've been reading too much politics.

    I read through that article twice before I realized the title ends with the word "PLAIN".

    At least that's one typo I don't need to correct!

    posted by Eric at 12:29 PM | Comments (16)

    Red Meat To The Masses

    This video is by a food guy. You know the type - change what you eat because it is killing you. If it's not one thing it's another. About 45 seconds in he puts up an atomic bomb blast (very pretty) and then he goes on to discuss the existential threat of our time. Wait for it. Can't guess? Climate Change.

    Yep. Global Warming is real and dangerous and all scientists agree. Sounds serious. Why the glaciers in the Himalayas could be gone by 2030. Or was that 2035? Or 2350? Well no matter. It is serious. And Catastrophic. But we have these planners who have a plan and they can fix it all. They just need to control everything. What you eat. Travel plans. How much energy you can use. The number of children you are allowed. And one or two other minor points. Certainly we can all agree this must be done.

    Am I overreacting? Maybe. But I don't think so. Here is what some person had to say in the comments at YouTube.

    While I agree with this, fixing it is basically like getting a T-rex to eat veggies and telling people in general money isnt important. Simply put, if you want to correct this huge problem, you have to attack the cause. If humans were not allowed to procreate as much as we do, every and almost all problems will be fixed. Hell, just even making a law that you have to pass an IQ test before you conceive will cut down population and increase non-ignorance for a race.
    The commenter is not an alimentationist he is an eliminationist.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:50 PM | Comments (6)

    Scientist Quits

    "Physicists dream of Nobel prizes, engineers dream of mishaps." Hendrik Tennekes

    Science is in a sorry state these days. It is so bad that a Dutch scientist has resigned from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Henk Tennekes is well known to the visitors of our website. A few days ago, he told me that he submitted a letter of resignation to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences on Saturday, January 23. He wrote to me "I don't want to remain a member of an organization that, like AMS and NAS, screws up science that badly." The Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad apparently got hold of a copy of the resignation letter and ran a News Flash on Saturday, January 30. In the letter to the Academy, Henk complains that he submitted the manuscript of his essay on Hermetic Jargon (which I am happy to reproduce here below, with his permission) to the Academy President at that time, Frits van Oostrom. The President, however, did not bother to respond. The NRC news flash, translated by Henk himself at my request, reads:
    You can read the rest by following the link.

    What bothers me is the attitude (not a new one) that we know it all. And what is unknown will just be a few minor corrections and additions to current theory.

    American and British history is riddled with examples of valid research and inventions which have been suppressed and derogated by the conventional science community. This has been of great cost to society and to individual scientists. Rather than furthering the pursuit of new scientific frontiers, the structure of British and American scientific institutions leads to conformity and furthers consensus-seeking. Scientists are generally like other people when it comes to the biases and self-justifications that cause them to make bad decisions and evade the truth. Some topics in science are 'taboo' subjects.
    The author of the paper goes on to describe how it works. He does sometimes fall in with the cranks (well who knows - maybe some day they won't be cranks) but he makes a lot of good points along the way.

    Here is one I especially like.

    Other innovators who were described by Milton (Alternative Science: Challenging the Myths of the Scientific Establishment 1996) as victims of the insults of the skeptical scientific power elite, were such men as John Logie Baird, inventor of television. Baird had been described by the British Royal Society as "a swindler" (p. 19). Likewise, Wilhelm Roentgen's discovery of X-rays was decried as an "elaborate hoax" (p.22) by Lord Kelvin, the most influential scientist of Europe in 1895. Scientists of Roentgen's day produced film fogging X-rays on a substantial scale but were unwilling to consider the wide ranging implications of Roentgen's work for 10 years after his discovery (Milton, 1996).

    Another example of such victimization, presented by Dean Radin (1996) in his book The Conscious Universe, involved the theory of German meteorologist, Alfred Wegener. This theory which Wegener developed in 1915, contended that the earth's continents had once been a single mass of land which later drifted apart. Although Wegener carefully cataloged geological evidence, his American and British colleagues ridiculed both him and his idea (Radin, 1996). Although Wegener died an intellectual outcast in 1930, every schoolchild is currently taught his theory which is known as continental drift.

    I'm not actually comfortable with Radin's book. The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. I don't think we actually have any scientific truth in the field. However, people do report things which, if valid, are weakly explained. Or explained away. I'm personally of the opinion that it is an emergent behavior of the way our brains work. I believe it is related to the fact that not all the signals the brain sends out rise to the level of consciousness (I have a feeling).

    In any case I think this list is instructive.

    Hans Alfven (galaxy-scale plasma dynamics)

    Astronomers thought that gravity alone is important in solar systems, in galaxies, etc. Alfven's idea that plasma physics is of equal or greater importance to gravity was derided for decades.

    John L. Baird (television camera)

    When the first television system was demonstrated to the Royal Society (British scientists,) they scoffed and ridiculed it.

    Robert Bakker (fast, warm-blooded dinosaurs)

    Everyone knows that dinosaurs are like Gila monsters or big tortoises: large, slow, and intolerant of the cold. And they're all colored olive drab too! :)

    Bardeen & Brattain (transistor)

    Not ridiculed, but their boss W. Shockley nixed their idea, and when they started investigating it, he made them stop. They assembled their point-contact experiment on a wheeled cart and continued. They could shove it into a closet whenever the boss came by.

    J Harlen Bretz

    Endured decades of scorn as the laughingstock of the geology world. His crime was to insist that enormous amounts of evidence showed that the "scabland" desert landscape of Eastern Washington state had endured an ancient catastrophy: a flood of staggering proportions. This was outright heresy, since the geology community of the time had dogmatic belief in a "uniformitarian" position, where all changes must take place incrementally over vast time scales. Bretz was vindicated by the 1950s. Quote: "All my enemies are dead, so I have no one to gloat over."

    One of the fields I'm currently exploring, fusion power, makes extensive use of ideas such as Alfven Waves in an effort to make tokamak devices (such as ITER) work.

    Here is another good site on Geniuses derided. It speaks to something I am personally familiar with.

    Some ridiculed ideas which had no supporters:

    * Ball lightning - lacking a theory, it was long dismissed as retinal afterimages
    * Catastrophism - ridicule of rapid Earth changes, asteroid mass extinctions
    * Child abuse - before 1950, doctors were mystified by "spontaneous" childhood bruising
    * Cooperation or altruism between animals - versus Evolution's required competition
    * Instantaneous meteor noises - evidence rejected because sound should be delayed by distance
    * Mind-body connection - psychoneuroimmunology, doctors ridiculed psychological basis for disease
    * Perceptrons - later vindicated as Neural Networks

    I once had a personal experience with ball lightning which I describe here.
    I once had a personal experience with ball lightning. About 3/4 of a m across glowing green. Moving slowly. Scared the hell out of me.

    It happened inside a geodesic dome that had a long wire antenna connected. (Ham radio stuff).

    I watched it while slowly backing away. It dissipated in about 10 seconds more or less.

    Let me add that it seems to have been triggered by a near by lightning strike. More discussion of ball lightning.

    When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift

    So true. The problem is in separating the cranks from the geniuses. I did a post on some "cranks" that seem to be coming up with some interesting results. The people "in the know" said it was all foolishness.

    I did a post not too long back on the origins of inertia that I called Maching Einstein. And there is a very long thread at NASA Spaceflight on the subject. You would think that a fundamental concept like inertia might warrant a closer look. Maybe a few millions a year for experiments. But you would be wrong.

    I remember what an uphill fight I had to get people interested in Polywell fusion. I got comments like, "They blew up their experiment? Proof positive of incompetence". Or "If this is such a good idea why was funding cut?" Or "There is a paper out there (Todd Rider) that proves it can't work." And much more along those lines. Now is it a sure thing? No. But the odds are good enough and the rewards so large that it is worth a few million (which the US Navy put up in August of 2007) to find some answers. There is way too much in science that the scientific establishment does not want answers to - you know - the science is settled.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:20 PM | Comments (1)

    "If you disagree with me, you hate yourself!"

    Self hatred has long fascinated me, because it's one of those psychological conditions which has been transformed from a medical disorder into a political indictment.

    Gay conservatives, gay libertarians, and any other gays who disagree with the left have been called "self hating homosexuals" for so long and so repeatedly that it's almost a thing to be expected. Like the "Uncle Tom" smear. I have of course tried to do my part to question the logic of it, because I think a lot of people hate themselves to one degree or another, and I don't really see what light it sheds on, say, what a person might think about government policies. In an older post, I speculated that accusing people of "self-hatred" might simply come down to identity politics:

    There is a general consensus that any homosexual in the Republican Party is the equivalent of a gay Uncle Tom, and guilty of self hatred, because since all Republicans hate homosexuals, any Republican who is a homosexual must hate himself.

    Of course, black Republicans are also considered Uncle Toms, so this may come down to identity politics more than anything else. Certainly, it's more than single issue politics, because no one would call a Democrat against abortion or gun control an "Uncle Tom," nor would they refer to a pro-choice or anti-gun Republican that way. "RINO" or "DINO" perhaps, but not a "self-loathing" hypocrite. The reason is because if you're in favor of the right to keep and bear arms, that is not considered your identity in the same way it is if you favor sexual freedom. Don't ask me why; I consider gun control and penis control equally offensive, and if self-loathing is defined as belonging to a party which opposes something you believe in, then I'd be guilty of self loathing in either party. The problem with me is that I can't see my entire self through the lens of any single issue.

    But alas! My criticisms failed utterly to stop the continued attempt to medicalize politics and politicize psychology by misusing an ostensibly mental condition called "self-hatred."

    And isn't it bad (as well as politically incorrect) to ridicule people by attributing mental defects to them? If so, then why is it OK to say that someone suffers from "self-hatred" as a political criticism, but never to accuse them of being "retarded"? What makes the Retard Lobby so much more powerful than the Lobby of Self Haters?

    I think someone needs to stand up for self haters now, because the term really is getting out of hand. As if it wasn't enough to accuse gay and black dissenters of hating themselves, the use of the term is being expanded to encompass liberals who don't toe the Official Line of Liberaldom According To Joan Walsh.

    Salon's Joan Walsh is not content to merely disagree with fellow liberals David Broder and Joe Klein for the crime of suggesting that Sarah Palin might actually have genuine populist appeal. For this, she labels them "self hating liberals":

    Broder praised Palin's "pitch-perfect recital of the populist message." Klein hailed "the brilliance of Sarah Palin," and suggested that "real Americans" can relate to "a woman who goes to war against the 19-year-old boy who knocked up her daughter and then posed for Playgirl," and who calls national policy "current events ... the high school term of art for the hour each week when students are forced to study the state of the world." Klein compared Palin to the folksy hound dog Bill Clinton and suggested they had the same kind of populist appeal. (I know it's just a coincidence Clinton wound up hospitalized for chest pains later that day.) The worst line of the piece? "One might even argue that you betcha is American for 'Yes, we can.'"

    Et tu, Joe? You're going to suggest Barack Obama doesn't speak American? Really?

    I had a lovely conversation with Klein a few weeks ago, about Clinton and Obama and American liberalism. He's not stupid, he just writes stupid things sometimes. I have to say, though, I'm tired of self-hating liberal elites lecturing other liberals about how out of touch we are with real America. Lots of real American voters may well like Sarah Palin, admire her moxie or her mothering, and still know she'd be a terrible president.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Be all of that as it may, she never explains why or how she reached the conclusion that David Broder and Joe Klein hate themselves. (I read it twice but couldn't find the slightest hint of actual forensic evidence.) Unless self-hatred means disagreeing with Joan Walsh, I'm stumped.

    I would wonder aloud whether Ms. Walsh (who called Christopher Hitchens "condescending" for calling her "Ms. Walsh") hates herself and is engaging in what shrinks call projection, except I'm not a shrink. She clearly detests Sarah Palin, though. Not only does she call her "the snarling pitbull in shimmery lipstick" (a remark which hurt poor Coco's feelings) but she says repeatedly that Palin is mean and dumb. Mean and dumb! And mean and dumb!

    I know journalists aren't supposed to use words like mean and dumb, but I can't help it. Palin is one of the meanest people on the public stage today. She wallows in it. She loves it! Also? Possibly one of the dumbest. But mean works, and so does dumb. And so do lies, and there were many mean, dumb lies in her speech.
    Well! Thank God we have such kind and intelligent people like Joan Walsh to point how how mean and dumb our palingenetic pit bulls with shimmery lipstick are.

    Might there be some resentment involved in this? I think it's pretty obvious that Sarah Palin can draw a bigger crowd than Joan Walsh, and I would be willing to bet that her books sell more copies.

    Um, yeah. I just checked with Amazon, and Joan Walsh's 2001 book Splash Hit has an Sales Rank of #2,517,644, while Sarah Palin's Going Rogue is ranked 70. I'm sure Walsh's book once ranked higher than it does now, but I'd be willing to bet that it never even approached Going Rogue in overall sales. I'm no psychiatrist (and I certainly don't mean to diagnose Ms. Walsh, whom I don't know) but I think that a thing like that can damage a writer's self-esteem. And low self-esteem is precisely what psychologists and psychiatrists call self-hatred:

    The term "self-hatred" is used infrequently by psychologists and psychiatrists, who would usually describe people who hate themselves as "persons with low self-esteem." Self-hatred and shame are important factors in some or many mental disorders, especially disorders that involve a perceived defect of oneself (e.g. body dysmorphic disorder). Self-hatred is also a prime feature of many personality disorders.
    Might Joan Walsh be jealous of Sarah Palin? It's one thing to attack her, but here she's doing a lot more than attack her; she's gone out of her way to attack male liberals, not for liking Palin, but simply for remarking that she has strong populist appeal. For that alone (without no evidence at all) she accuses them of hating themselves.

    Would it be mean and dumb of me to ask what a shrink would say?

    posted by Eric at 12:41 PM | Comments (5)

    The Tea Party Difference

    My friend Karl has designed a new widget for your sidebar:

    Tea Party Difference 1 Karl.png

    You can go here to get the code to add to your sidebar.

    If you want to get a mug or a T shirt or other stuff you can get it at The Tea Party Difference. Support the artist who designed the image by buying a few things. I get a bit of the purchase price also.

    Thanks to Karl Egenberger of Envision Design/ Plum Creative Associates, Towson, Md 21286, who did the fantastic artwork. Give Karl a hand. Buy some stuff.

    And don't forget your Pocket Size: The Constitution of the United States & Declaration of Independence

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit Readers

    posted by Simon at 10:31 PM | Comments (6)

    Taxed Just For Breathing

    And by the same group: Hide The Decline

    H/T Vanderleun at American Digest via TDPerk at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

    The IPCC Is Underwater

    It appears that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has some seriously wrong figures for the Netherlands.

    A United Nations report wrongly claimed that more than half of the Netherlands is currently below sea level.

    In fact, just 20 percent of the country consists of polders that are pumped dry, and which are at risk of flooding if global warming causes rising sea levels. Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer has ordered a thorough investigation into the quality of the climate reports which she uses to base her policies on.

    Climate-sceptic MPs were quick to react. Conservative MP Helma Neppérus and Richard de Mos from the right-wing Freedom Party want the minister to explain to parliament how these figures were used to decide on national climate policy. "This may invalidate all claims that the last decades were the hottest ever," Mr De Mos said.

    The incorrect figures which date back to 2007 were revealed on Wednesday by the weekly Vrij Nederland. The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency told reporters that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) added together two figures supplied by the agency: the area of the Netherlands which is below sea-level and the area which is susceptible to flooding. In fact, these areas overlap, so the figures should not have been combined to produce the 55 percent quoted by the IPCC.

    The discovery comes just a week after a prediction about glaciers in the Himalayas proved wrong. Rather than disappearing by 2035, as IPCC reports claim, the original research underlying the report predicted the mountain ice would last until 2350.

    I have reports like this backed up in a queue five or ten reports long. The revelations are coming up so fast I can't keep up.

    Take this latest bit of news.

    Editor of Nature forced to resign from climate review panel

    Within hours of the launch of an independent panel to investigate claims that climate scientists covered up flawed data on temperature rises, one member has been forced to resign after sceptics questioned his impartiality.

    // In an interview last year with Chinese State Radio, enquiry panel member Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature said: "The scientists have not hidden the data. If you look at the emails there is one or two bits of language that are jargon used between professionals that suggest something to outsiders that is wrong."

    He went on: "In fact the only problem there has been is on some official restrictions on their ability to disseminate data otherwise they have behaved as researchers should."

    Dr Campbell, was invited to sit on the enquiry panel because of his expertise in the peer review process as editor of one of the world's leading science journals.

    The journal has published some of the leading papers on climate change research, including those supporting the now famous "hockey stick" graph, the subject of intense criticism by climate sceptics.

    Dr Campbell has now withdrawn his membership of the panel, telling Channel 4 News: "I made the remarks in good faith on the basis of media reports of the leaks.

    You believed the media? You fool. If you haven't caught on to the Failing Media game by now you deserve what you are getting. And that goes double for ANY pronouncements by the United Nations.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:57 PM | Comments (6)

    Affinity Groups

    Eric commented on a series of e-mails between us and was wondering if the Christian Conservative wing of the Tea Party Movement was trying to lever the libertarians out of the movement by gay bashing and other culture war memes. He referenced this post on which I commented:

    M. Simon says:

    What you saw was a Tea Party event. Which is not the same as the Tea Party Movement.

    But I encourage all you lefties to stay confused and dismissive.

    As to Tea Party fraud? For charging money? OK I'm down wit that. The Government is a bigger fraud. It makes me pay for things I don't even want at the point of a gun.

    Posted On: Sunday, Feb. 7 2010 @ 1:03PM

    Which backs up the advice given by some panelists at the convention. Find a group you like and work with it. It is not about regions (although that comes into play during elections). It is about that old 60s revolutionary's term "affinity groups". Find one you like and work with it.

    Tea Party Patriots is a good resource for finding like minded patriots. They are the people behind The Contract With America.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)


    The Department of Energy is giving out grants. Research grants.

    DOE Secretary Steven Chu recently announced recipients from across the nation will receive about $85 million in total funding for five-year research grants.

    Under the program, university-based researchers will receive at least $150,000 per year to cover summer salary and research expenses. Awards were given in advanced scientific computing research, basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, fusion energy sciences, high-energy physics, and nuclear physics.

    Awardees were selected from a pool of 1,750 university- and national laboratory-based applicants. Selection was based on peer review by outside scientific experts.

    A list of the 69 awardees, their institutions, and titles of research projects is available at [at the 1/14/2010 Update - ed.]

    This is excellent news. We may actually get something useful out of this. But compare it to the cost. On average each project costs $250,000 with a minimum of $150,000 per project. It will cost $17 million a year to fund 69 projects out of a possible 1,750. That is 4% of the proposals. Which is pitiful. I'd like to know which projects didn't make the cut.

    Let us look at the social dynamics of that. Every one who didn't make the cut is obviously in the top five percent since only the top four percent made the cut.

    So what would I do about all this? I'd cover 90% of the reasonable proposals. That could be done for $400 million a year plus the usual graft and corruption overhead. And what about the sociology of picking so many? If you don't make the cut you are in the bottom ten percent. Perhaps that is too harsh. Maybe covering only 80% of the proposals would be better if we didn't want to totally demoralize the losers. That leaves all the losers in the bottom 20 percent. That would make them decide if science is for them, and if only just barely, do they want to put more effort into the hard part: thinking.

    Here is a book I liked a lot on a related subject:

    Managing the Design Factory : The Product Developer's Toolkit

    The writer's thesis is that if half your research money doesn't end in failure you are not getting the most bang for the buck. You get the best return when you get a yes-no answer. The maybes can kill you.

    And let me add that I got some good ideas from MirariNefas at Talk Polywell.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:03 PM | Comments (1)

    Nice strategy for mean libertarians?

    Just about everyone across the political spectrum has sounded off about Sarah Palin (who has predictably been praised and denounced for her appearance at the Tea Party Convention), and all the while I have remained silent. Perhaps too suspiciously silent, perhaps not.

    In an earlier email to M. Simon, I explained why I didn't want to discuss Sarah Palin at the present time, and I thought I would share my thoughts here. Especially because some libertarians have been dumping on her, and I think that's a terrible mistake. Not only is she the closest thing we'll ever get to having an electable libertarian with a chance at the nation's highest office, but it's just bad strategy, and I'll try to explain why.

    I liked everything Palin said at the convention -- right up to the question and answer portion, at which point she sort of lost me (after being prompted, it seemed) with what I saw as inappropriate remarks about injecting God into politics and seeking divine intervention. It's easy for libertarians to get worked up about stuff like that, but again, context is everything. (And Judson Phillips isn't Greta van Susteren.)

    I may be wrong, but Sarah Palin strikes me as one of those people who is highly resistant to criticism, and I think libertarians would get more out of her with honey. It would be a shame for her to side with the cultural conservatives simply because they are nicer to her. But that is what happens with politics, and this type of who-is-my-natural-friend thinking also explains why artists and gays tend to be on the left.

    Not to generalize, but a big problem with libertarians is that they (and I mean we, as I don't except myself) can be rude. And personal. (Like Ayn Rand, perhaps?) If we assume that Sarah Palin wants to take a big view of the political world, it would be very petty for libertarians to react against her cultural conservative followers by taking it out on her. Incidentally, lest anyone assume I'm a hopelessly nice guy, I think I should point out here that my private anger is often very nasty and it tends to act as a brake on what I say in public or on my blog (thus making me appear nicer than I am). The weird thing is, I often suspect that a lot of the people who vent angrily on their blogs are probably less angry in private, so there might be another paradox worth pondering some time.

    If I had to speculate, I would say that the cultural conservatives are at least as worried about Palin's libertarian, pro-Constitution streak as the libertarians are about her social conservatism. (I remember how some of them freaked over the way she allowed gay spousal benefits.) And Palin's cultural conservative supporters might very well be smart enough to realize that the way to turn her against libertarians is to:

    a: insult and provoke libertarians as much as possible (not a difficult task for so-cons); and

    b: create the impression that they are doing it in her name.

    With any luck, libertarians will turn right around and insult her, thereby losing her support, while widening the existing rift between libertarians and social conservatives. The latter can play the part of completely innocent victims without guile, of course. And who but a paranoid libertarian crackpot would suspect religiously pure people like WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah -- or the sainted Judge Roy Moore -- of worldly Machiavellianism? (Of course, with the embrace of Alinskyism by so many social conservatives, maybe you don't have to be paranoid to entertain such suspicions.)

    So, while I understand their temptations to get snarky, libertarians should remember that it costs nothing to be nice.

    But being mean can be very expensive.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Jennifer Rubin quotes "the dean of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder":

    Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.
    Libertarians would do well to remember that they are not going to get such a candidate anywhere else.

    (Least of all from the so-called "front runner" Mike Huckabee!)

    posted by Eric at 01:37 PM | Comments (7)

    Racist anti-abortionist kook, beloved by left

    While I enjoy history, it's always humbling, because there's no way to know everything about everything. The most that can be hoped for is to know a little bit about as much as you can in the time you have on this earth. But that, of course, is never "enough" for there are always countless people who know more. And if you think you know a little bit about everything, you'll only look like a moron if you get into a conversation with someone who specializes in one thing.

    Anyway, there's that trite old expression, "you learn something every day." I am often surprised at how often it's really true, and this morning I stumbled onto something which surprised me about one of the great villains of the anti-abortion right.

    Margaret Sanger (of Planned Parenthood fame) was a eugenicist who is on record as saying a number of despicable things about the need to reduce the black population. That this has caused embarrassment to Planned Parenthood is not surprising, and it fits right in with the "sting" campaigns which caught Planned Parenthood employees accepting donations from pranksters posing as racists who wanted to donate money for black abortions. Considering the disproportionate number of abortions that Planned Parenthood performs on blacks, to say that they are vulnerable to criticism on this issue might be understatement.

    I have read many impassioned screeds condemning Planned Parenthood for the large numbers of black abortions, and they are usually sprinkled liberally with references to Margaret Sanger's racist statements. Because I knew that Sanger was a racist, and Planned Parenthood is the biggest abortion service provider in the country, naturally I just took it for granted that Sanger was in favor of abortion.

    Well, guess what? Apparently, this racist crackpot was opposed to abortion. The confirmation comes directly from her autobiographical writings (which also condemn masturbation). The irony is detailed here, at an anti-abortion site.

    While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.
    Sanger saw contraception as a vital tool in preventing abortion:
    Family limitation will always be practiced as it is now being practiced--either by birth control or by abortion. We know that. The one means health and happiness--a stronger, better race. The other means disease, suffering, death.
    The author notes the irony of Sanger's views:
    So Planned Parenthood honors this woman, an unequivocal racist and eugenicist, as a trailblazer and hero of women, particularly poor and ethnic women, and the most noteworthy socio-political cause they champion [abortion], she opposed? The irony, if she did in fact oppose abortion.
    I found further confirmation of Sanger's anti-abortion views at a feminist site which also quotes her on masturbation, and notes that she hardly fits today's feminist mold:
    Sanger had some interesting points of view that would have certainly clashed with the popular ideologies of the current feminist movement:

    Against masturbation: "It would be difficult not to fill page upon page of heartrending confessions made by young girls, whose lives were blighted by this pernicious habit, always begun so innocently, for even after they have ceased the habit, they find themselves incapable of any relief in the natural act...Perhaps the greatest physical danger to the chronic masturbator is the inability to perform the sexual act naturally."

    Contrary to popular belief, Sanger actually opposed abortion: "To each group we explained what contraception was; that abortion was the wrong way--no matter how early it was performed it was taking life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way--it took a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long run, because life had not yet begun."

    I suspect that the reason these views are not better known is that they don't fit the narrative -- either of the left or the right.

    Speaking of things that don't fit anyone's narrative, another interesting tidbit I stumbled on was this embarrassing statement from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

    There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist -- a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.
    Make of these statements what you like.

    A clever demagogue could probably use them to suggest almost anything.

    I'm not trying to defend or attack Sanger here. I just find it a little surreal that this villain of the anti-abortion right, and hero of the pro-abortion left would have expressed opposition to abortion. This information is of no benefit to either side, but I thought I would share it for those who find the deconstruction of popular narratives entertaining.

    If we add in King's lionization of her, it all makes me wonder about so many other narratives I tend to "safely" assume are true. I don't have time to investigate them all.

    posted by Eric at 12:19 PM | Comments (1)

    Can You Guess?

    Jonah Goldberg wants to play a guessing game.

    I'm thinking of a military leader who seized power in his country by stirring up populist rage against foreigners and foreign powers and promising a sweeping program of national-socialism. He claims that he is the true expression of the will of his people and is using every trick to make himself dictator for life. He is currently harassing the Jewish population, a quarter of which has already fled the country.

    Give up? The answer is Hugo Chavez, world famous Buckleyite Conservative and devotee of Milton Friedman.

    You can find more of the discussion series at this link. Jonah also suggests this book: German big Business & the rise of Hitler

    Or you can buy the book Jonah was discussing when the above "can you guess?" came up: Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:55 AM | Comments (0)

    The Living Dead

    It looks like the Grateful Dead will live on in business schools.

    Oddly enough, the Dead's influence on the business world may turn out to be a significant part of its legacy. Without intending to--while intending, in fact, to do just the opposite--the band pioneered ideas and practices that were subsequently embraced by corporate America. One was to focus intensely on its most loyal fans. It established a telephone hotline to alert them to its touring schedule ahead of any public announcement, reserved for them some of the best seats in the house, and capped the price of tickets, which the band distributed through its own mail-order house. If you lived in New York and wanted to see a show in Seattle, you didn't have to travel there to get tickets--and you could get really good tickets, without even camping out. "The Dead were masters of creating and delivering superior customer value," Barry Barnes, a business professor at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University, in Florida, told me. Treating customers well may sound like common sense. But it represented a break from the top-down ethos of many organizations in the 1960s and '70s. Only in the 1980s, faced with competition from Japan, did American CEOs and management theorists widely adopt a customer-first orientation.

    As Barnes and other scholars note, the musicians who constituted the Dead were anything but naive about their business. They incorporated early on, and established a board of directors (with a rotating CEO position) consisting of the band, road crew, and other members of the Dead organization. They founded a profitable merchandising division and, peace and love notwithstanding, did not hesitate to sue those who violated their copyrights. But they weren't greedy, and they adapted well. They famously permitted fans to tape their shows, ceding a major revenue source in potential record sales. According to Barnes, the decision was not entirely selfless: it reflected a shrewd assessment that tape sharing would widen their audience, a ban would be unenforceable, and anyone inclined to tape a show would probably spend money elsewhere, such as on merchandise or tickets. The Dead became one of the most profitable bands of all time.

    It's precisely this flexibility that Barnes believes holds the greatest lessons for business--he calls it "strategic improvisation." It isn't hard to spot a few of its recent applications. Giving something away and earning money on the periphery is the same idea proffered by Wired editor Chris Anderson in his recent best-selling book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Voluntarily or otherwise, it is becoming the blueprint for more and more companies doing business on the Internet.

    Sound's good to me.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:17 PM | Comments (2)

    Bronze Irony

    They who seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of rulers... Call this New Order, but it is not new and it is not order - FDR

    The irony? FDR was not going to do the job by setting taskmasters over us. At least not at first. Instead he set taxmasters over us by implementing the withholding tax. And now instead of screaming at the thousands gone on April 15th we say, "A $300 refund? Let's party!"

    Found at Extra Good**** , now the place is definitely unsafe for work but I will tell you how to find it. Search for - Fred Lapides Good. You are on your own.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:27 PM | Comments (1)

    Mind if I generalize about being a stereotypical exception to the rule?

    Eric S. Raymond (whom I greatly respect) took umbrage at this statement from Bill Whittle (whom I also greatly respect):

    Of course, the media coverage has tried very hard to portray the normal, average, every-day Americans of the Tea party rallies as dangerous and angry racists and Wal-Mart knuckle-draggers, while identifying the mass-produced signs, the mass-produced T-shirts, the mass-produced members of bused-in wiccan nihilist anarcho-Maoist lesbian eco-weenie anti-war protestors as somehow the genuine voice of the American people.
    Accustomed as I am to rhetorical hyperbole, when I first saw the above paragraph, I pretty much read through the above as something said in passing, hardly a central argument worthy of a detailed, point-by-point refutation. You could say it would be inartful in a campaign speech, but in a blog post such stuff is the sort of throwaway language which is routinely put there for like minded-people to read. Like many generalities used in such contexts, it throws together a number of general statements in a hyperbolic manner. (Had I heard him say that out loud, though, my reaction may well have been different, and I don't know why...) So even though I had seen the Whittle post earlier, had Glenn Reynolds not linked Raymond's post, I might have missed this opportunity to engage in an unfairly specific hyper-analysis of Whittle's generalizations. I think the latter are understandable in context (and I've made similar statements myself), but they're worth a closer look.

    As to the "mass-produced signs" carried by leftists, check. As to the "mass-produced T-shirts," check. These are general statements, though and while there is no denying that there were most likely hand-lettered signs as well as hand-made T-shirts, the point is made to contrast the professional SEIU union-type activists with the Tea Party demonstrators. Take a look at my photographs from a Michigan Tea Party and I doubt you'll see a single mass-produced sign. I saw plenty of home-made and improvised T-shirts too, although because of their nature, any crowd will contain a lot people wearing mass-produced T-shirts. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was wearing this now worn-out T-shirt, which I have been wearing ever since it was "right wing":


    I can't remember whether I bought it at a cafe press store or at the blog's own store, but it's a standard Hanes shirt, so to that extent it's fair to say it was mass-produced. Does the added design mean it's not home-made? I don't know.

    Parenthetically, I should probably point out for the many years I wore it, I always thought I was being politically incorrect. However, since the Tea Party event, the T-shirt's designer has stereotyped the Tea Parties in what I consider to be such an unfair manner that it wouldn't be right for me to wear it to a Tea Party today. Nor would I wear it in the streets of Ann Arbor, lest someone mistake me for a leftie. I know that sounds crazy, but that's the way it is. The shirt is longer politically incorrect. It has become politically correct. Well, I guess you could say that the T-shirt is still politically incorrect in conservative circles. But I like the Tea Parties, so I wouldn't wear it to a real Tea Party event. I might keep it, though.... just in case there's ever an AFA or World Net Daily event in my hood. Plus, it might be a good conversation starter at a left wing event. I could explain that "I bought it in 2004, back in the good old anti-idiotarian days...." (Yes, I consider it all very sad, and I have avoided writing about it because arguments are always pointless.)

    As it happens, I have another T-shirt that I designed myself and actually contemplated wearing to the Tea Party, and it really is politically incorrect:


    The problem is, it might be too politically incorrect for any event anywhere, as it could create confusion in the minds of emotional people. People who might not get my point, and either think I was endorsing Che Guevara, or making an unfair comparison between him and their favorite dictator. The T-shirt is likely to cause trouble and might hurt feelings unnecessarily. (My duel with commie fascism notwithstanding.)


    Where was I before I got distracted by the T-shirt issue? I guess the point was that plenty of people wearing non-mass-produced T-shirts at leftie events -- or mass-produced T-shirts at Tea Party events -- could theoretically have taken umbrage at Bill Whittle's generalization. I didn't, even though T-shirts are a somewhat touchy issue for me (especially when their meaning changes through no fault of my own).

    Next we come to the general statements guaranteed to step on a number of sensitive toes (including mine, had I not simply scrolled through the post to determine his central thesis) -- the "mass-produced members of bused-in wiccan nihilist anarcho-Maoist lesbian eco-weenie anti-war protestors."

    You know, that is quite a mouthful. I might have put it this way --"mass-produced members of bused-in Islamist-loving nihilist anarcho-Maoist multicultural identitarian eco-weenie anti-war protestors" -- but that's just me. There are conservative and libertarian wiccans just as there are conservative and libertarian gay people. And there are right wing anarchists. I'd call myself a pantheistic pansexual except it would only invite arguments and it sounds ridiculous. But I can see why people would get offended by being lumped in with the enemies of the Tea Parties because of their personal lifestyle characteristics.

    It's tough to generalize, because generalizations tend to be stereotypes. And while it's easy -- in general, of course -- to say that the exception proves the rule, it's never easy to be an exception. If you happen to be one of the exceptions to one of these "general rules," you're likely to feel dissed and pissed. A lot. It makes what most people take for granted -- being with their own kind -- tough. Because if you're an exception to the rule, you don't have your own kind. (That problem touches on what I most love about the blogosphere, but that's another, complex, topic.)

    Gay Patriot is another exception to a general rule. The general rule is, simply, that gays belong on the left. I have devoted a great deal of time to undermining that rule, not only because I see no logical connection between politics and sexuality (much less homosexuality and socialism), but because I don't like the way the demagogic opportunists on the left (who claim to love gays, so long as they're socialists) are assisted by anti-gay activists on the right (who also want gays to be on the left, and additionally do everything they can to help drive them there). This "rule" is very tyrannical, as the idea is to keep gays from being free to make up their own minds about politics. It activates a reflexively stubborn emotional mechanism which I think helps keep gays relegated to being less than full, informed, participating citizens.

    But there's another general rule to which Gay Patriot (B. Daniel Blatt) finds himself being an exception. The rule? That all intellectuals belong on the left. If you think about it, that's possibly more sickening and stultifying than the rule that all gays belong on the left -- because intellectuals are by their nature supposed to have the intellectual ability to reject such rules out of hand. I touched on this in my post about my own background vis-a-vis Sean Kinsell's background. In a post Glenn linked recently, Gay Patriot discusses his background and adds a very important observation which sheds light on the mechanism that pushes intellectuals leftward:

    Like many intellectually-inclined individuals born in the Midwest, I chose to attend college in New England and settle in cities outside my native region, first living in the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area and now in Los Angeles. And while many of my peers who made similar journeys share my politics, most do not. It seems that when they pull up stakes, they lose all allegiance to their place of birth-and the people who live there.

    They behave as if because they're so much smarter than the folks they left behind, they know better how to run their lives than they do. They heap scorn on those who don't know the difference between Hegel and Heidegger and can't name a single German film director from the 1920s or a French one from the 1960s. In fact, most of the folk left behind probably couldn't name more than one or two American directors for the 200os.

    We conservatives, most of us at least, are a tad more humble. While we appreciate the company of those with whom we can share our intellectual/cultural pursuits, we recognize that our supposed smarts don't give us the qualifications to run the lives of our youthful companions or to question their world view. Sometimes, we're even aware that these folks have more practical intelligence than we do; we even turn to them for advice on matters of running our households and managing our money.

    Yet, many of our left-wing counterparts just can't accept that those in the hinterlands just don't trust the judgments of their betters.

    Absolutely true. Read it all, as he gives examples.

    Especially all of you who belong to the "effete corps of impudent snobs" or if you're a card-carrying member of the "pointy-headed intellectuals who can't even park their bicycles straight."

    They can have my impudent snobbery when they pry it from my stinking effete corpse!

    And as to my bicycle, there's nothing "straight" about it! Besides, bicycle riders are all a bunch of demented car-hating radical greenie weenies.

    No really. They annoy me every day.

    posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (7)

    The Worse The Better

    During the 2008 Presidential Campaign there were folks out there who said: "the worse the better". They were very unhappy with Mr. Obama. They were not thrilled by McCain and only the advent of Palin sent even a spark of joy to their political hearts. Their political theory was - if we elect some one really bad the American people will wake up and and we will throw out not only the Democrat bums but the Republican bums as well. It was not my theory. I didn't vote that way. I wrote and wrote that such a strategy even if it worked was a very bad idea.

    So far it looks like the strategy is working. We get confirmation of that in this Bill Whittle video for PJTV. However, as I predicted, it is a very bad idea. Which Mr. Whittle also confirms. Watch the video because it is definitely worth the time it takes to get to the punchline.

    Update: And in another PJTV video Bill Whittle further confirms my thesis.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:51 AM | Comments (1)

    How many mass murderers do we want?

    While I have discussed RU-486 (mifepristone, or "miffy") in previous posts, my thoughts turned to the drug again in light of this statistic:

    A medical abortion is a type of non-surgical abortion in which an abortifacient is used to induce voluntary miscarriage. Safe and effective abortifacients for use in the first trimester became available in the 1970s.[1] The most widely used medication are mifepristone or methotrexate either alone or in combination with a prostaglandin.[1] Medical abortions accounted for 9.9% of abortions in the United States in 2005, 35% of abortions in England and Wales in 2007, 46% of abortions in France in 2006, 61.8% of abortions in Scotland in 2007, and 64.2% of abortions in Sweden in 2008.[2]
    The huge difference between Sweden and the U.S. surprised me greatly, as it seems puzzling that American women who seek to terminate their pregnancies would prefer a surgical procedure to taking pills. Perhaps it's because the abortifacient pill has to be taken within the first 63 days, and Swedish women are more attentive to spotting their own pregnancies. But that doesn't make much sense either.

    The only reason I can see which would explain the much higher percentage of medical abortions in Sweden (and in the rest of Europe) is the length of time mifepristone has been available.

    Worldwide over 30 million women have used mifepristone and a prostaglandin analog to terminate pregnancy with impressive safety and efficacy. In France, Sweden, and Great Britain, where mifepristone has been available for more than 15 years, there has been an increase in the proportion of abortions performed at earlier gestation [2].
    The drug was approved in European countries beginning in 1988, but the FDA didn't approve it in the United States until 2000. Furthermore,
    mifepristone is only authorized in the United States during the first 49 days (as opposed to 63 in Sweden) and it is not allowed to be sold in pharmacies:
    It is a prescription drug, but it is not available to the public through pharmacies; its distribution is restricted to specially qualified licensed physicians, sold by Danco Laboratories under the tradename Mifeprex.
    Despite these restrictions, its use in the United States has increased steadily:
    Medical abortions as a percentage of total abortions in the United States have increased every year since the approval of mifepristone: 1.0% in 2000, 2.9% in 2001, 5.2% in 2002, 7.9% in 2003, 9.3% in 2004, 9.9% in 2005 (15.1% of those at less than 9 weeks gestation); although data is limited by ten states not reporting statistics to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (including California where an estimated >23% of total U.S. abortions were performed in 1997).[34]
    More interestingly, even though mifepristone is effective as an emergency contraceptive, it is not approved for that purpose.

    I realize that to the anti-abortion people, mifepristone is morally no different than surgical abortion, and the main reason I disagree with that is because I think that earlier abortions are less immoral than later abortions, and to the extent this drug encourages earlier abortions, I would consider it to be ultimately less of a social evil than the previous methods.

    But what fascinates me the most is the change it will ultimately have on the dynamics of activism. Americans (myself included) have long been accustomed to seeing an abortion as a procedure done by a doctor using instruments. This has caused the anti-abortion activists to view such doctors as murderers and demonstrate in front of clinics of known abortion providers. By allowing any doctor to provide pills, the whole process becomes much more anonymous -- almost impossible to detect or protest. (I'm sure that's a major reason the activists hate these drugs.)

    Through a strange process the logic of which I cannot comprehend, women who have abortions tend to be seen by the activists as victims of doctors, with the doctor as the greater villain than the woman. Which doesn't make sense, for even if we assume abortion is murder (which I don't), by going to a clinic and paying a doctor for an abortion, the woman has quite knowingly hired a hit man to kill her baby -- just as much as if she went to the Mob and took out a contract on her son or husband. Since when is someone who hires a killer less guilty than the killer?

    But when a woman takes pills to kill the fetus, unless they are pushed down her throat she becomes the actual killer, and it is much harder to visualize a prescribing doctor as a murderer. I think that's a good result, because I have long believed that women who terminate their pregnancies are the ones who are responsible for their actions. And just as I get sick of people calling doctors murderers, I get even more sick of people who say that "we" as Americans are murderers. Call me callused, but I do not consider myself responsible for the conduct of others, whether they terminate their pregnancies, take fatal overdoses of drugs, or eat themselves to death. I realize that the immorality of a doctor who wields his pen to write a prescription is the same as the one who wields a scalpel, but ordinary people will not see it that way. Mifepristone will be seen as less ugly, and therefore less culpable.

    To continue with the responsibility argument, if in fact the providing doctor or nurse is guilty of murder, then why wouldn't the pharmaceutical distributor be guilty? How about the manufacturer? Right now, mifepristone is only approved as an abortifacient, but it appears to have a number of other possible uses:

    Other medical applications of mifepristone that have been studied in Phase II clinical trials include regular long-term use as an oral contraceptive, and treatment of: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, major depression with psychotic features, glaucoma, meningiomas, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer. Mifepristone has been used to treat Cushing's syndrome with treatment durations being as long as 10 years without noticeable adverse effect[10].

    Mifepristone has been studied as an antiretroviral for its in vivo interference with the HIV regulatory protein vpr. It showed no detectable anti-HIV activity in clinical trials.[11] [12][13][14] It is currently being studied as a treatment for chronic multisymptom illness.[15] Mifepristone has not been approved by the FDA for any of these uses.

    Mifepristone has shown significant effectiveness[16] in psychotic major depression, a form of depression resistant to normal treatment. The effect was rapid and the study was double-blinded, but it was limited by small study group and limited treatment duration.

    Once it becomes approved for any of those other uses, seeing the manufacturer as a murderer would become even more difficult. Plus, if it can prevent breast cancer or inhibit ovarian cancer and could be legally prescribed as a treatment, pharmaceutical suppliers would have no way of knowing the intended use of the product. (It would also make it infinitely harder to prevent the drug's use as an abortifacient, so I would expect anti-abortion activists to oppose the testing or approval of mifepristone as a treatment for disease. According to this article, they already have.)

    I am also fascinated by the way emergency contraception (the so-called "morning-after pill") is being discussed. Now sold over the counter, the way these drugs work is by preventing implantation of the fertilized egg. As abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy, whether or not emergency contraception is abortion depends on how pregnancy is defined. I realize that many activists and the Catholic Church maintain that life begins at conception. But does pregnancy begin at conception? If it does, then the existing abortion statistics are understating the number of abortions by a substantial, possibly huge, number. That's because countless women take contraceptives which not only prevent ovulation and fertilization, but also prevent implantation of any egg which does get fertilized.

    One of the forms of contraception which prevents implantation is the IUD, which is so effective in preventing pregnancy that not only will it work as normally worn, but it will work even if inserted within five days after intercourse.

    An alternative to emergency contraceptive pills is the copper-T intrauterine device (IUD) which can be used up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Insertion of an IUD is more effective than use of Emergency Contraceptive Pills - pregnancy rates when used as emergency contraception are the same as with normal IUD use. IUDs may be left in place following the subsequent menstruation to provide ongoing contraception (3-10 years depending upon type).[42]
    Is that the prevention of pregnancy? Or is it an abortion?

    I realize this sounds a hair-splitting distinction (and at 145 microns, the human egg is only slightly wider than a human hair), but a lot of people care. I was also told by a doctor that about half of all fertilized eggs never make it to the implantation stage, and if they were all people who had a right to life, in theory we could be talking about a lot of murders. The reasons for the failure of implantation are varied (and most of them are natural causes -- which means that God might be the world's biggest abortionist), but if a woman was taking a drug known to prevent implantation, and if preventing implantation is murder, then there may be millions and millions of mass murderesses walking among us.

    Whether they're guilty of murder or not, I think they are responsible for their actions, not "us."

    posted by Eric at 03:02 PM | Comments (13)

    Breitbart At The Tea Party Convention

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    I also like the following interview of Breitbart done by Instapundit. You can see several of the themes he presented in his speech previewed here.

    Part 2

    And just to add to the mix, here is Bill Whittle on how Breitbart splashed on to the scene.

    H/T Andrew Marcus at Big Government

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

    The Image President

    You can't be an image President unless you can control all the information sources. And even that is not possible. There are leakages. The best you can hope for in this age of the Internet is about 30 to 60 days. Long enough to win an election campaign. And thus we have a quote from an Old Joe. The whole quote. Because the usual excerpt doesn't do it justice.

    "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

    Joseph Goebbels

    The trouble is that there are not enough leakages - yet - to cause trouble in a thirty or sixty day campaign. But a year in office? People begin to notice that the words don't match the reality. You know, people in contact with the real world rather than the reality based community in their heads.

    And who would the reality based community be? People with unicorns and Obama in their heads.

    There appear to be thousands of these paintings (made by mental patients, we think) of a naked Obama astride a unicorn, being rubbed down with oil by a unicorn, and doing things with unicorns that would be grossly inappropriate anywhere but deep within the bowels of Man's Country in Andersonville.
    The above was written by a male gay blogger. So you can just imagine what a joint Man's Country must be like. This search page has cataloged 152,000 images in the - Obama Unicorn - category. And let me tell you. The images are just as weird as described.

    But reality seems to be settling in with some frequency (Kenneth is that you?) these days among the very people who who shielded him for long enough to win an election.

    Let me start with Edward Luce of the Financial Times.

    Whatever issue arises, whether it is a failed terrorist plot in Detroit, the healthcare bill, economic doldrums or the 30,000-troop surge to Afghanistan, the White House instinctively fields Mr Axelrod or Mr Gibbs on television to explain the administration's position. "Every event is treated like a twist in an election campaign and no one except the inner circle can be trusted to defend the president," says an exasperated outside adviser.
    Mr. Luce goes on to point out in detail that just having a position is not helpful. You have to have a policy or a plan. And to start having policies and plans and taking action is not in Mr. Obama's repertoire. Can he change? Mr Luce gives this answer.
    "There is an old joke," says Mr Gergen. "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one. But the lightbulb must want to change. I don't think President Obama wants to make any changes."
    OK why doesn't Obama want to change? Pretty simple. He won. Against impossible odds.
    ...close allies of the president attribute the problem to the campaign-like nucleus around Mr Obama in which all things are possible. "There is this sense after you have won such an amazing victory, when you have proved conventional wisdom wrong again and again, that you can simply do the same thing in government," says one. "Of course, they are different skills. To be successful, presidents need to separate the stream of advice they get on policy from the stream of advice they get on politics. That still isn't happening."
    Now I read my history. And I can tell you that the Government of a certain Austrian Corporal whose Reichsminister of Propaganda I quoted above had the same problem. His political and military intuition was astounding. And then reality set in. He had gained a large domain and found to his chagrin that it was ungovernable.

    Steve Clemons at the formerly reliable Huffington Post piles on. Ann Gerhart of the Washington Post has some words to add. And even hacks like Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times are firing shots across Mr. Obama's bow.

    It is not all rainbows and unicorns or rainbows and unicorns any more. Or even a Plastic Jesus of one version or another riding on the dashboards or rear view mirrors of some cars.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:30 AM | Comments (1)

    Thankless tasks drive people to drink

    I can think of few people more deserving of Christopher Hitchen's vitriolic wrath than Gore Vidal. Once a talented writer, the latter has clearly degenerated into a tawdry peddler of ridiculous crackpot conspiracy claims. an article headlined "Vidal Loco", Hitchens launches a stinging attack on Vidal, claiming that the events of 9/11 "accentuated a crackpot strain" in the author. He claims that Vidal's work after the terrorist attacks consists of "a small anthology of half-argued and half-written shock pieces [which] either insinuated or asserted that the administration had known in advance of the attacks."

    "He openly says that the Bush administration was 'probably' in on the 9/11 attacks, a criminal complicity that would 'certainly fit them to a T'; that Timothy McVeigh was 'a noble boy', no more murderous than generals Patton and Eisenhower; and that 'Roosevelt saw to it that we got that war' by inciting the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor," Hitchens writes.

    Now that Hitchens has called him on his bullshit, Vidal is predictably being defended by nihilistic professors of the Edward Said school:
    yesterday, a British academic, who was also criticised by Hitchens, leapt to the author's defence. Dr Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, of Sussex University, described Hitchens' attack as "extraordinarily vitriolic". He claimed there was a "sense of jealousy he never did quite get to Gore's level of literary flair and his almost iconic status. It does seem like a kind of bizarre personal vendetta being carried out on the pages of Vanity Fair, replete with factual inaccuracies and not very much substance."

    Dr Ahmed, director of the London-based think tank the Institute for Policy Research and Development, claimed Hitchens failed to contextualise Vidal's comments.

    "Hitchens has taken them very literally and Gore is being much more playful and much more provocative," Dr Ahmed said.

    Vidal was not trying to absolve the Oklahoma City bomber, McVeigh, he added, but to make people think critically.

    As Hitchens points out here, Professor Ahmed is the author of conspiracy tracts which maintain that "the attacks on New York and Washington were part of a pre-arrangement involving the United States government." His theses were thoroughly debunked, but naturally that has not stopped his nihilistic crusade.

    I admire Hitchens for having the balls, the patience, and the intellectual rigor to go after these people, because otherwise their ideas spread like unchecked viruses. Somebody has to do what Hitchens is doing, and too often those who could and should don't or won't.

    No wonder he drinks to excess. Who wouldn't?

    I'd say thank God for Christopher Hitchens, but I won't, because he might take it the wrong way. Perhaps I should just toast him later.

    posted by Eric at 11:43 AM | Comments (5)

    Looking At Light

    Anthony Watts has a great article up on how he changed out a fixture that used a CFL Flood Lamp to one using an LED lamp. Anthony bought 5 LED fixtures and got a deal. He paid $80.00 each for them. So let us run some numbers.

    Cree LED Lighting LR6-GU24 White 6$80.0050,00012
    GE 47478 15 Watt (65 Watt equivalent) Energy Smart Floodlight 6 Year Life R30 Light Bulb
    5 CFLs$31.2550,00015

    For 50,000 hours You pay $31.25 capital

    In 50,000 hours you save 150,000 Wh or 150KWh with the LED fixture. The LED fixture costs $48.75 more than 5 CFLs . If your electricity costs less than 32.5¢ a KWh The CFLs are a better deal.

    On new construction or when replacing a fixture the cost of the fixture enters the picture. Don't forget to figure out what it is worth in time and hassle changing bulbs more often vs installing a fixture. Another point is that you can dim the LEDs and the CFLs do not dim. Dimming the LEDs should add to their life since ordinary LED lifetime is roughly proportional to current. Not only that: light output per watt goes up at lower currents.

    My advice to cheapskates? At 10¢ a KWh wait until you can buy one for $45 or less. A couple of CFLs should see you through.

    Those are the economic issues - roughly. As Anthony points out there are other considerations. And thank you Antony for being an early adopter. It will help bring the price down to one I can afford.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:56 AM | Comments (10)

    "the Pol Pot of noodledom"

    In a fit of homesickness, earlier I was thinking about surly service in favorite decrepit Chinese restaurants I have known over the years. (For some reason the two tend to go hand in hand.) In Berkeley, some of my fondest drunken memories involved Robbie's Chinese American Hofbrau, which used to be on Telegraph Avenue. The place had been there since the 1950s, and old wooden table tops in the booths were covered with carved writings, including (so I was told by elder Bohemians who "knew" about such things) stuff that had actually been carved by Allen Ginsberg back in the days before he was allegedly running around with Michael Savage. The problem was, everyone carved stuff in there, and there was no way to distinguish what Allen Ginsberg might have carved from what decades of drunken frat boys might have carved. (That sort of indistinguishability I'm sure Ginsberg would have approved.) Beer flowed, and the food was your basic Chow Mein, egg foo young, sweet sour pork fare. One day in the mid 1970s, Robbie was gone, and when I asked where he was, the other Chinese guys laughed and said, "He get too old!" Not long after that, the place closed and was abruptly sacked, the tables violently ripped out and piled in the middle, and when I went in demanding to know what was happening, a Mideastern cheapskate type who appeared to be now in charge looked at me and with what seemed like a gloating expression on his face, said "Robbies is closed. Permanently." History was gone with the wind. I never forgot it.

    Then there was the Wong Star, on Haight Street in San Francisco. A few words in a passing blog post cannot hope to do justice to either the place, or its proprietor, a stout, energetic, and probably manic woman known to everyone simply as "Kim." Kim ruled. Over the greasiest dive this side of South Brunswick, New Jersey. The prices were out of the 1950s, as was Kim. Normal people would have been scared away by the shocking tackiness of the decor. I doubt the front windows had been washed since 1952, but this might have been a good thing, actually. For while you could read where "WONG STAR RESTAURANT" had been painted, the window dirt obscured the window "display" -- which was nothing but a long, bent curtain rod over which was hung plastic greasy yellow shower curtains. And between the shower curtains and the window was a vase holding plastic flowers so covered with grime and dust you really couldn't tell what color they might have been. It was wonderful.

    Kim was the ultimate tyrant, and brooked no attitude. And I mean, no attitude, for Kim feared no man. (And no woman.) I'll never forget the time that some jive-ass pimp type (a man quite accustomed to getting his way) came in and ordered food to go. While he waited, he and one of his girls carried on loudly, and when the food was brought out, the bags were stapled shut with the receipt on top, per Kim's usual practice. The man paid, but suddenly decided that now he wasn't going to leave, and instead he sat insolently down and started opening up the food to eat it.

    Instantly Kim launched into action.

    "YOU ORD' TO GO NOT EAT HERE!" she shrieked, while literally lunging at the man. Realizing that he was out-gunned psychologically and probably physically, the guy got up and left, defensively muttering things like "crazy bitch, what she talking bout?" under his breath.

    At this point, Kim turned to the entire restaurant and announced something I will never forget as long as I live --


    Everyone got it. There was just an understanding there. Kim was so brutally right and so politically incorrect in the most innocent and charming sort of way....

    The food was actually quite good, and there was no other place I had seen (least of all in San Francisco) where you could get a decent steak and egg breakfast for $2.95 in the 1980s.

    Feeling nostalgic, I tried to find these places and had no luck with the Wong Star. Robbie's is mentioned here and here and I was lucky to find it mentioned here as an early 60s poetry hangout.

    Where I really scored was with another favorite -- San Francisco's Sam Wo Restaurant. The place used to be (and amazingly, still is) the most inexpensive restaurant in Chinatown, and you had to walk up a skinny flight of not-to-code stairs and then through a dingy kitchen, where you would be greeted by a man who really took delight in being insane. I used to love going there just to watch his behavior. He would yell at you as soon as you got to the top of the stairs, specks of foam flying from his mouth, tell you where to sit and what to order. He was something of a San Francisco legend (who had regular mentions in Herb Caen's column -- especially when he would chase non-paying customers into the street waving a cleaver) and I figured he must be dead by now and long forgotten. But I was very encouraged when I Googled "Sam Wo" and found that not only is the place still there, but there are many reviews, mostly favorable, and one mentioned a crazy waitress who no longer works there:

    sorry to break it to you guys, but the non-english speaking waitress who loves to throw chopsticks and what not at you has retired!!! Apparently the owner's daughter (who by the way, speaks English and is way awesome) has taken over her job duties. So customer service has definitely stepped up a notch.
    That made me sad, because there is a part of me that would love nothing more than to be yelled at by a crazy Chinese waitress in San Francisco. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

    But what I really remembered about Sam Wo was the man who took delight in being insane -- a truly immortal San Francisco character with the unforgettable name of "Edsel Ford Fong." When I saw that the place still existed, I thought maybe there'd be a mention of him somewhere, so I did what modern people do. I Googled him.

    To by utter astonishment, not only did I get hits, but the man (who died in 1984) has his own Wiki page. A Wiki page! The last thing on earth I would have expected. In all these years of blogging, never have I been more surprised to discover the existence of a Wiki page, yet no one is more deserving of a Wiki page than Edsel Ford Fong.

    Edsel Ford Fong (May 6, 1927 - April 1984) was a Chinese American restaurant server from San Francisco, California. [1] He was often called the "world's rudest, worst, most insulting waiter".[2]
    That's my guy! What I would give to be waited on by him once more. We just don't appreciate these things while we have them. Anyway, many a writer and artist remembers him, and they were so charmed by him that he was immortalized, as evidenced by the heavily-footnoted Wiki piece:
    Edsel Ford Fong was born and raised in San Francisco's Chinatown. He worked the second floor of the Sam Wo Restaurant on Washington Street. (The restaurant name means "three in peace", a reference to its founding partners.)[3] As head waiter, Fong greeted visitors with an admonition to "sit down and shut up".[4] He was known for calling patrons "retarded" and "fat", criticizing people's menu choices before telling them what they should order, slamming food on the table, complaining about receiving only 15% tips, and groping female patrons.[2] An imposing man with a crew cut hair style, he also was notorious for seating people with strangers, forgetting orders, cursing, spilling soup on customers, hazing newcomers, refusing to provide forks or English menu translations, and busing tables before diners were finished.[5]
    What's not to love about that? You were lucky he even let you in, and you had to eat fast, because there was no better deal in town. Even today, dinner for four can be had for $12.00:
    I have to agree with all the other yelpers and say that if you want a clean, rated-A Chinese restaurant, then don't come here!!! Entering through the dirty kitchen and seeing random poultry parts everywhere might be enough to make anyone turn in their tracks... and yes, I was rather grossed out, HOWEVER the food is scrumptious. The service isnt too fabulous or attentive by any means, but I was rather disappointed to not hear any yelling or screaming or see any chopsticks thrown.

    All the tables are pretty small, so the four of us smushed in the back corner. We ordered a bowl of bbq pork noodles, and a plate of chow mein with beef and sprouts. The bowl of soup was huge, definitely enough for the four of us to share. Very tasty on a cold, rainy day. The chow mein was nice and greasy, and I had to add some soy sauce to give it some more flavor, but it was also very tasty. The bill came out to something like $12, which you can't go wrong with!! Cash only though, so be prepared.

    In the old days of Edsel Ford Fong, woe be anyone who had not been prepared or had tried to pay by credit card. (Meat cleaver time!)

    The Wiki piece recognizes that the man's style was an art form:

    Sam Wo Restaurant continues to operate (as of 2009) in Chinatown, and is still listed in tourist guidebooks as being where Fong practiced a "wicked sarcasm [that] took on aspects of performance art".[12]
    And then there's this description:
    A Chinatown institution for over 100 years, Sam Wo's is a ramshackle speakeasy of a restaurant where you are more likely to get yelled at and berated rather than unctuously served. As you walk directly into the kitchen, a waiter yells at you, already exasperated, to come up the rickety stairs to the meager dining area. Saw Wo's was the home of the legendary Edsel Ford Fong until he passed away recently--this surly, rude "waiter" would treat you like a recruit at his own private Chinese restaurant boot camp. The tradition continues: you are most likely told what to eat, instead of choosing the food yourself--but its eternal redeeming quality is the fact that Sam Wo's is some cheap, cheap eats.
    Oddly enough, I didn't find him to be rude, but hilariously camp. He enjoyed being an entertainer, and rudeness was not the point, really. From a piece quoted in Wiki:
    "But it was a despotic head waiter known as Edsel Ford Fong that made SAM WOH such a formidable Babylon-by-the-Bay institution. Edsel, big for an oriental chap at 6' 200 lbs. in his whitewall crew cut, long apron and omnipresent game-face scowl. If you walked in at prime time and didn't know Edsel you were in for some first-class abuse taking. He was the Pol Pot of noodledom and when it came to insults, he took no prisoners."
    When you're dealing with the Pol Pot of noodledom, issues of rudeness pale by comparison.

    I think his customers enjoyed the treatment he meted out, and it was probably well deserved. Look at this picture:


    The caption is Edsel Ford Fong and some "abused" customers, 1982


    (I'd say he wasn't rude enough, except I don't want to be disrespectful.)

    posted by Eric at 10:16 PM | Comments (5)

    Tea Party Fraud

    Eric of Classical Values sent me this link via e-mail about the Tea Party Convention held Saturday.

    I was particularly struck by this comment:

    RueTheDay says:

    The whole Teaparty Movement is a fraud.

    Charging $600 for tickets to the Tea Party Convention, so attendees can eat steak and lobster at the Opryland while listening to a mainstream politician (Sarah Palin) who's being paid $115k to give a speech - this is supposed to be a grassroots populist movement aimed at changing the status quo in DC? LOL.

    Tea Party fraud? For charging money? The people who went there wanted to go. They willingly forked over their own money to see the show and be a part of it. But OK I'm down with the idea that it was a fraud. But the Government is a bigger fraud. With the Tea Party Convention I had a choice. I didn't have to support it if I didn't want to. I didn't have to pay a dime to watch Andrew Breitbart there. The Government is different. It makes me pay for things I don't even want at the point of a gun. Which makes the Government not only a bigger fraud but also a Criminal Enterprise.

    I thought this book title seemed apt: It's Getting Ugly Out There: The Frauds, Bunglers, Liars, and Losers Who Are Hurting America.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:18 PM | Comments (2)

    If only class war had remained a Marxist meme

    To what class should Barack Obama be assigned? That is not an easy question to answer, because while it's clear that he is now at the top of the political and "intellectual" ruling class elite, his background cannot easily be characterized in ordinary class terms as we understand them (or, as we once understood them). To call his background "working class" would be dishonest, because he lacks the trappings of that. Much as he wants and pretends to have them. He certainly was not rich, but neither was he poor. That would place him in the "middle class" except that doesn't have quite the right ring to it -- because classes in this country are not defined solely in economic terms.

    Thus, if a guy who works a blue collar job for a living has a Ph.D. in History or Public Policy, it seems less than honest to refer to him as "working class." I have met many people in the San Francisco Bay Area who work with their hands despite advanced degrees. Cab drivers with Ph.D's are considered part of the Bay Area charm. Gay guys with genius IQs (smart enough to contribute great things to any number of fields) can be found working in "stereotypical" careers as hairdressers. Not that this should come as a surprise; one of the smartest guys I ever knew did nothing with his life but have sex and collect comic books. Yet it would never have occurred to me to assign him to the category of "lower class" -- much less "the poor."

    The old "upper class" that used to exist when I was a child has become largely a joke. They're still there, they still have old family names and inherited money, but forget about people looking up to them, them setting an example for the middle class, or any of that "noblesse oblige" stuff. They just sit on their money and hide from the world, hoping to avoid attention, and hoping they'll be left alone. The middle class is still quite large, but they are now so culturally diverse that it is misleading to use that term to define them as a cultural group. Maybe "culturally diverse" is the wrong term, because within that group we call the middle class, there are enormous, bitter cultural divides. Silly little things of the sort I laugh at -- like condoms and sex ed in the schools and whether the boy scouts should allow gays -- have become cultural battlefields. People hate each other over them, and they provide a perfect opportunity for one "side" to look down on the other. Even religion isn't religion anymore, but another battleground. Stuff that was once a fairly straightforward and non-controversial part of a normal education has been politicized. Evolution is routinely attacked as a form of "political correctness." Little wonder, because the parents who want condoms on bananas in class and gays in the Boy Scouts often enjoy baiting people so they can feel superior, and the people they bait bait back. So, while I don't know what class is anymore and cannot define it, I see class war everywhere. It frequently takes the form of "the elites" versus "us regular people."

    Part of what we call the American Dream involved class mobility. These days, I pity those who moved their way out of a genuine working class background into Ivy League degrees only to find that they are subject to derision. While this derision might not be as severe as it would if they were inner city welfare blacks caught "acting white," populism -- like most isms -- tends to work that way.

    I've said this before and I am sure I'll say it again. It really shouldn't matter where someone went to school or how much (or how little) money that person had, or whether he -- and more importantly his father before him -- worked with his hands. But matter it does -- to the people on both sides who fight these class wars.

    I find it refreshing that Sarah Palin is a down-to-earth real person, and not an Ivy League snot. I can't stand the fact that a degree from Harvard conveys a quasi divine right to tell people what to do and how to live their lives, and I like the fact that Sarah Palin very definitely does not want to do that. However, if I thought she did want to run people's lives, where she went to college would be a secondary issue. Similarly, if a hands-off libertarian type had gone to Harvard, I'd be be very quick to forgive. These things should not matter. Just as an Ivy League education should convey no right to rule, unless we're going to use a neo-Maoist litmus test, neither should the lack thereof.
    Easy for me to say, isn't it? I fled the Ivy League. Broke my mom's heart by choosing Berkeley over Penn and Princeton. I feel no duty to any class, and I wish class war would disappear. Perhaps I am a naive idealist, but as far as I'm concerned, class war is a Marxist meme, and you don't fight Marxist memes by imitating them, any more than you fight racism with racism.

    Wow, how did this get started? I'm on the verge of denouncing conservative Marxism or Marxist conservatism, when all I wanted to do was say something about Barack Obama's elusive "class issues" in light of this poignant piece by Sean Kinsell. For a little class background, Sean happens to hail from the "real" working class. His father wasn't a factory worker with a Ph.D. but the real thing. Unlike me, Sean did not condescendingly flee from something that was in his "blood"; he saw the Ivy League as something to aspire to, and he dislike the unthinking attacks on everything Ivy League:

    ...a lot of actual working-class people tend to perceive "public service" positions like his (Obama's) as out-of-touch condescension, geared less toward helping the disadvantaged to clear a path toward achieving their own goals than toward making the public servant feel good about his own magnanimity. It's the modern version of the manor-house-ladies-visiting-food-and-moral-hectoring-on-the-cottage-dwellers routine.

    Perhaps Obama did doubt that he was "accomplishing much" as a community organizer, in the sense of serving people in need. Or perhaps, like seemingly thousands of other Ivy grads each year, he decided that what he was doing wasn't fast-track enough and that, as a humanities/social-science major, his best shot at giving himself a grad-degree boost was law school. And when I say "fast-track," I'm not just talking about money; power, influence, and image figure into a lot of people's calculations of self-worth as much as money does. (Judis does recognize that.) New York is chock-a-block with cutthroat lawyers who imagine they're more moral and civic-minded than the bankers downtown--just because, as nearly as I've ever been able to tell, they don't work for banks.

    There are two major problems in perceiving these things clearly, I think. One is that there's a serious class divide in America based on expectations. Obama grew up, it appears, among people who saw going to a hoity-toity college and then bossing people around for a living as the natural progression of things. Working-class people do not. (I say this as the son of a steelworker and a high-school dropout who later got a GED and a data-operations certification. My parents and their friends were optimistic and happy, but the idea of wanting to devote your working life to lording it over people would have been very foreign to them.) I'm sure Obama had times when he had to struggle--difficult exams and all that--but he was following the same path as his peers, and one that his elders were presumably easing him along. That doesn't diminish his actual accomplishments, but I suspect it does make it pretty much impossible for him to imagine what life is like for people who have succeeded by working their way up.

    Sean sees Obama as an insecure poseur, and thinks that he should try being honest about his background:
    It never occurred to me in high school that I wouldn't be applying to Ivies like my more comfortably-off friends. (I have my parents to thank for that, BTW. They would have been perfectly justified in informing me that it was my responsibility to work my way through college. Instead, they took out parent loans so I could spend four years daydreaming about Japanese literature for a Penn degree.) I go back to my hometown, and much as I love spending time with my parents and other relatives, I'm an outsider there.

    In a way, it breaks my heart. We all want to feel close to our origins, and I'm far more distant from mine than the two-hour drive might suggest. In another way, though, this is the richness of America: you the individual do not have to be what others assume you were born to be. Though I won't pretend I don't like money, I don't value the way I live because I make more than my father does; I value it because it suits my personality. Happily, I'm not a politician, so I don't have to go back to Allentown and pretend unconvincingly to be sunk in and at home there. If President Obama wants to succeed more with regular folks, maybe he could stop trying to act like one of them (seriously, man-no...just, no) and be frank about being an outsider and politician.

    He's right about Obama, and if the conservatives country is lucky, Sean's advice will not be read or heeded by the poseur in chief. More personally, I can identify with Sean's feeling of being an outsider. I feel like an outsider anywhere I go. Whether I'm in trendy leftist Manhattan, the People's Republic of Berkeley, the different and more ugly new world of the Philadelphia suburbs where I once grew up, or here in Ann Arbor, where the average age is about 20, and people walk around with their ears plugged with Ipods and their eyes riveted to tiny screens. What do you do if you don't fit in? Politically, I long ago rejected liberalism, yet I am not a conservative and I get a bit tired of the assumption that I am supposed to get behind what is called "conservatism," because, you know, with ideologues, it isn't enough to sincerely oppose statism and believe in the Constitution. To be a conservative, you have to acknowledge, at least respect, an ever more irritating litany of memes and conspiracy theories, and you have to denounce "elitism," "intellectualism," "secularism," "RINOism" and all things Ivy League. It all evokes class war, which is predicated on the ad hominem fallacy. It was what made me detest the left, and it hardly endears me to the right

    Just to get my bearings, I thought I'd look again at the various litmus tests. Not much has changed.

    My answers to this test supposedly indicated that I was overall 80% conservative and 20% liberal:

    Overall: 80% Conservative, 20% Liberal

    Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

    Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

    Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

    Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

    Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

    I am unable to locate that test online now, but I suspect the results would be unchanged.

    I found another test called Typology, and the results indicated that I belong to the "Enterpriser" group. While I probably belong to that "type," I am very suspicious about the way it is described in stereotypical terms that did not represent the answers I gave. I doubt its accuracy and reliability as a serious test. (But it's from the liberal left Pew Center, which has a long history of trying to write libertarianism out of the political equations, and is just as guilty as conservative organizers who relentlessly try to do the same thing.)

    Then there's the simple old "world's smallest political quiz," which I have taken before, and which continues to show me as solidly libertarian.


    (How solidly depends on my waffling answers to the question about the military draft; which I would support in the event of a serious war. If I say "NO" to the draft, then my little red dot moves all the way at the top of the chart's libertarian apex.)

    Lastly, there's the so-called "political compass test" which is long and irritating, and which seems designed from a left-wing perspective, and which made me out to be a borderline authoritarian, which I am not:


    As to my class, much as I find the subject annoying, I found a rather silly online test which asks about things like the quality of your teeth and what you like for leisure and travel, and here are my results:

    You Are Upper Class
    Class isn't always about money, and you've at least got the brains, manners, and interests of an upper class person.
    You don't have a trashy bone in your body, and you don't pretend to be someone you're not.
    You're comfortable with your station in life, and class issues don't really bother you.
    The finest things in life are within your reach, and you're comfortable enjoying them.

    You may end up: A business leader, corporate lawyer, or philanthropist

    Other people who share your class: Bill Gates, Oprah, former world leaders like Bill Clinton, and those reclusive billionaires no one ever talks about.

    More stereotypes. Class issues don't bother me? Really? Were I not too culturally fatigued to care, I would consider the test to be little more than a dissembled and manipulative ad hominem attack.

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

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 11:31 AM | Comments (38)

    No Mystery Song

    Since Eric put up a mystery doo wop song, I thought it might be nice to put up a song that was no mystery and that has over a million YouTube hits.

    For you young whipper snappers here is a wiki on doo wop. Note: whipper snapper may have been derived from whipster. And if they had only left off the "w" they would have had hipster. Which turns everything on its head and leaves the old farts as squares. And of course head..... I could go on. But I'm not going to.

    posted by Simon at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

    Saturday night mystery song

    Earlier today I found a longtime favorite doo-wop song that I've listened to for years recently uploaded to YouTube.

    Hardly a video, but it does have a cute picture, and I also think it's cute that it has only had 23 views!

    The song is the mysterious "Oh You," by an obscure doo-wop group called The Chalons. Great rhythm, great vocals, great piano and an amazing guitar lead. There's also a disconcerting skip at 2:01 -- in exactly the same place as in the MP3 version that's on my player, so it's probably the same tune that's been lovingly passed around.

    I would love to know more about them. Anything about them. Despite a diligent search, though, I have been able to learn next to nothing about this very talented group, except I did learn that someone else has also discovered nothing:

    The Chalons were a typical black doo-wop group of the time. I cannot find out more about them.
    When the only thing you can find out after a long search is someone else saying he can't find out anything, you know you're in trouble searching.

    They're great, though, and I'd like to help immortalize them, whether I know anything about them or not.

    (Whether the Chalons were named after the important ancient battle, will probably remain equally mysterious.)

    posted by Eric at 12:50 AM | Comments (0)

    First Demoralize

    Yuri Besmenov was a KGB Agent. You can watch more of Yuri at YouTube.

    H/T Big Journalism

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:48 AM | Comments (1)

    Much as I hate to ignore politics....

    From time to time, I write posts about Salvador Dalí. However, I tend to move on from one thing to another, and unfortunately, this blog doesn't have categories, so things get lost.

    Last night I collected and cross-posted the Dalí posts into a blog I started years ago, but neglected,

    I don't know whether there is anyone who might want to read only my Dalí posts, but if so, there it is.

    Maybe I should come up with categories for the rest of the stuff here. Yeah, and maybe I should get organized and clean up the blogroll, which deserves an intervention from professionals who save people from their own clutter. Right.
    One neurosis at a time.....

    But yes, a facelift of some sort is probably in order.


    And no but about it, in the case of Lenin, a butt lift is in order!


    Dali got in a lot of trouble for dissing Lenin, and remains much hated by the PC pigs to this day.

    Contrary to what his detractors say, he had unbridled contempt for politics. (Yay!)

    But esteel, Dalí he wuzzzz....


    If you like my Dalí posts, do check out my modest little Dalí Blog.

    posted by Eric at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

    Liberty, Health Care, and WalMart

    A fairly absurd argument that Dems' health care reform bill will increase liberty from William Galston:

    So when the Tea Partiers complain that a government health insurance mandate invades their liberty, they reveal a defective understanding of the logic of liberty in a modern society. Individuals who choose to go without health insurance could try to resolve the contradiction by signing a document foreswearing all reliance on health care they didn't pay for themselves. But, because our medical norms don't permit us to leave injured accident victims at the side of the road, such a document couldn't be enforced. To be a citizen of the United States today is to live in a community where individual health care choices can have social consequences, a fact to which government can legitimately respond.

    The obvious fallacy in this argument is that choosing not to insure against health care costs is not an announcement one will refuse to pay them when they are incurred, particularly in extremis. Rather than smiting such spurious strawmen, Galston might explain how a policy of throwing people in jail for not buying health insurance can be called consonant with maximizing liberty outside of an Orwell novel.

    And such a policy is counterproductive anyway. Stephen Spruiell cites a Democrat who makes an relevant analogy to WalMart:

    In most goods and services there are very few active consumers. What happens is, everybody selling a good is affected by Wal-Mart. You benefit from that wherever you are. So many of those who oppose consumer-driven health care use the perfect as the enemy of the good. You're not going to shop for health care if you're hit by a bus. That's not the point. The point is you're served in a health-care system that's been tightened up, both from a cost and quality point of view, by the fact that some consumers, for many procedures, are shopping around, and not just on price.

    The inefficient government is already paying for half or more of health care by some estimates, and insurance companies granted near-monopolies by state law cover all but a few percent of the rest. That's not a recipe for driving efficiency, and the smaller we make the already-tiny fraction of people who are still incentivized to shop around for health care the worse off we're all going to be in the end. The bill under consideration would make it zero.

    posted by Dave at 03:50 PM | Comments (4)

    As Congress goes under the bus, "principles" trump triangulation!

    While he was guest blogging for Glenn Reynolds yesterday, Michael Totten linked an interesting analysis which tends to confirm my previous suspicions:

    ...for those seeking a true measure of Obama's judgment, on both policy and politics, the meeting between the president and Senate Democrats yesterday was much more instructive. Obama's words made it clear that, notwithstanding his party's recent election losses at the polls and its declining poll ratings, he has no intention of embarking on a Bill Clinton-style "triangulation" strategy.
    This is not surprising. As I argued earlier, if Obama moves to the center now, not only would he look weak, but there's a serious risk that he might just save enough congressional seats to keep it in Democratic hands. And if that happens, the American voters (who remain center-right) would be much more inclined to vote him out in 2012.

    But if OTOH, the Republicans re-take Congress in the fall, that dramatically increases Obama's chances of reelection (as the guy who would help keep in place that reassuring gridlock that American voters historically favor). Say what you want about Obama, but I think he's smart enough to realize this.

    If my theory is correct, then once the Democrats lose Congress, then and only then would the Obama triangulation strategy begin in earnest. I think that any comparisons with Clinton triangulation are thus premature, and I think it should be remembered that Clinton's triangulation began after the disastrous Democratic losses in 1994 (which was the birth of the "Contract With America").

    There's plenty of time for triangulation. Meanwhile, it is in Obama's best interest to have his party lose.

    What's especially remarkable about this is that even as he betrays his party, he is nonetheless being praised for his "principles" -- by the very people he is screwing:

    The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off [Senator Blanche] Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy. To be sure, maybe the whole thing was just kabuki -- Lincoln standing up to the president for the benefit of the folks back home who don't like him, and Obama obligingly playing his part. But it sure looked pretty spontaneous to me.

    The Lincoln-Obama debate epitomized the left-vs.-center debate within the Democratic Party these days, which is much broader than health care, even though it is necessarily focused on that for the moment. The question is whether the party should cut its losses on comprehensive health reform, or keep pursuing it despite the political headwinds, on the grounds that even an initially unpopular bill would be easier to defend than no bill at all.

    David Plouffe, back in the White House to direct post-Massachusetts political operations, favors nailing the party's colors to the health-care mast. He wrote recently in the Post that "if we do not pass it, the GOP will continue attacking the plan as if we did anyway, and voters will have no ability to measure its upside. If we do pass it, dozens of protections and benefits take effect this year."

    Obama's answer to Lincoln suggests that he fully embraces the Plouffe strategy. I don't understand it. Independently of what anyone might think of the health-care bill's merits, the public's attitude is hardening against it; it is politically toxic, period. If Virginia and New Jersey didn't prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again. If the Dems tip-toe away from health care now, it would be embarrassing, but they would at least give the electorate time to forget the issue and focus on the Democrats' other accomplishments -- if they can come up with some between now and November.

    Still, give the president credit: No one can accuse him of bending his principles to politics. Of course, if there's a price to be paid for that this year, he won't be the one paying it. Blanche Lincoln, among others, will get to do that.

    He won't be the one paying it.

    Truer words were never spoken.

    But in general, few Democrats seem to really care about whether he's betraying his party. The important part of the White House strategy is that he be sung the praises for standing up for his principles.

    For now, of course.

    What I can't figure out is how many Democrats -- especially the rank and file -- have caught on to him. I suspect that in elite Democratic circles, a decision has already been made to basically throw Congress under the proverbial bus now in order to save the Obama administration later, but they don't want the ordinary people to know. Hence the sycophantic talk of "principles" -- and the meme fits the Obama as hero narrative. Plenty of Democrats will buy it. (Plus, it's red meat for the hard left base.)

    And when the time comes from him to finally be "forced" to move to the center, he will have had no choice, and they can blame the Republicans.

    That the Democratic elite seem to prefer having an Obama administration with a Republican Congress to a Democratic Congress with a Republican president begs the question of what people on the right might prefer.

    I realize this isn't a professional poll, nor are my readers necessarily on the right, but short of Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, but I'm just wondering.... If you had to choose, how many of you might prefer an Obama presidency with a Republican Congress? Or A Republican president with a Democratic Congress?

    If you had to choose, which would you prefer?
    An Obama presidency with a Republican Congress?
    A Republican presidency with a Democratic Congress?
  free polls

    MORE: The president's fascinating call to his fellow Democrats to "just turn off... the blogs" is making sense, especially because the advice was directed to a Democrat faced with the lose of his seat:

    The president's advice came in answer to a question from Sen. Mike Bennet, D-CO, who is facing a difficult re-election fight back home and wanted to know what Democrats and Republicans can do "to fix this institution so that our democracy can actually withstand the test that we're facing right now."

    "You know what I think would actually make a difference, Michael? I think if everybody here -- excuse all the members of the press who are here -- if everybody here turned off your CNN, your Fox, your blogs," Obama said, before being interrupted by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who piped up, "And MSNBC!"

    Obama, appropriately reminded of the network with shows more friendly to liberals, continued, "Just turn off the TV -- MSNBC, blogs -- and just go talk to folks out there, instead of being in this echo chamber where the topic is constantly politics. ... It is much more difficult to get a conversation focused on how are we going to help people than a conversation about how is this going to help or hurt somebody politically."

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Hmmm... Does this mean all my Democratic readers are going to turn off this blog? No more Democrats reading Classical Values, by presidential edict? I'm devastated. Crushed!

    And frankly, I think they're more than a little bit jealous of the rebellious Tea Party phenomenon, because they're the ones in power, which means they cannot protest, cannot, um, fight the power.

    God, how they must hate seeing people on the right doing that.

    posted by Eric at 02:05 PM | Comments (4)

    Instapundit Interviews Breitbart

    This is a must watch video. About 19 minutes. And worth every pico second. I really liked his take on the elitists of America and the world near the beginning. I also got a kick out of his Jewish shtick about 9:50 into the video. I also liked the fact that he considers himself a traitor to his class. Having gone to U. Chicago I can definitely relate.

    The book mentioned at the beginning of of the video:

    and later in the video:
    Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives

    The Magic Negro - LA Times

    The Kenneth Gladney case: Union Thugs Beat Black Man

    Walesa Comes To Illinois

    Commenter newrouter Notes that Breitbart also gave a speech this morning.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:40 AM | Comments (1)

    Shake Up On The Way

    For those of you not familiar with Latin "iter" means "the way". And the ITER Fusion program now headquartered in France is undergoing a top management shake up.

    In an effort to put the world's largest scientific experiment back on track after delays and cost overruns, Europe is shaking up the agency overseeing its portion of the multinational ITER reactor.

    On 16 February, Frank Briscoe, a British fusion scientist, will take the reins as interim director of Fusion for Energy (F4E), the agency in Barcelona, Spain, that manages Europe's ITER contribution -- the largest of any partner's. Briscoe replaces Didier Gambier, a French physicist who joined the F4E as director when it formed in 2007. Gambier was originally appointed for a five-year term.

    The European Union (EU) is also formulating a plan to complete construction on the multibillion-dollar machine in 2019, a year after currently scheduled, Nature has learned.

    ITER aims to prove the viability of fusion power by using superconducting magnets to squeeze a plasma of heavy hydrogen isotopes to temperatures above 150 million °C. When full-scale experiments begin in 2026, the machine should produce ten times the power it consumes.

    It seems the shake up is due in part to unhappy customers. You know - the people putting up the money.
    Europe has faced increasing criticism from ITER's six other international partners: Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, China and the United States. A budget proposed last week by US president Barack Obama would slash America's funding for ITER in 2011 by 40%, to US$80 million; it cited "the slow rate of progress by the [ITER Organization] and some Members' Domestic Agencies". And on 2 February, Evgeny Velikhov, a Russian fusion researcher and head of ITER's council, called Europe a "weak link". "Unfortunately, their organizational structure is very poor," he told Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview that appeared on a Russian government website.

    Finishing ITER in 2019, a goal that the F4E is now working towards with industrial contractors, would involve risks such as producing components in parallel, but scientists think that those risks can be managed. "There should be no doubt that Europe is trying hard to get ITER ready in the shortest time that is realistic," says one senior European scientist. The new schedule will be presented to other ITER partners at a meeting on 23-24 February in Paris.

    In a recent post, Spiraling Out Of Control, I discussed some of the financial problems at ITER. And for those of you interested in the technical problems may I suggest (actually highly recommend) the Talk Polywell link at the end of that article.

    And let me leave you with a few words from a Polywell Fusion fan who is no fan of Tokamak designs (ITER and similar devices): 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."

    And the best thing about Polywell is what Physicist Rick Nebel, who is now herding the project, has to say about it: We Will Know In Two Years or less.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:15 PM | Comments (4)

    "Thank God John McCain lost the election"

    Who said that? If you think it's some liberal bigwig, you'd be wrong.

    Tom Tancredo said it, and I agree with Dan Riehl, who calls it "stupid pandering."

    While no big fan of McCain, if Obama gets the two more SCOTUS appointments he might, don't tell me we're better off because McCain lost. We'll be living with the result of that for decades. And for Tancredo to be correct, one has to assume he thinks conservatives are just a bunch of sheep who wouldn't be protesting big government under McCain, just as they began doing under Bush.

    McCain may be wrong on many things, but he was more right on many than Obama will ever be.

    Once again, here's how Clayton Cramer put it during the last election:
    Do you want someone is wrong half the time, or someone who is wrong all the time?
    The idea that we should thank God for McCain losing is too silly for words.

    What is Tancredo smoking?

    posted by Eric at 03:11 PM | Comments (5)

    Jon Stewart tears the blogosphere a new one!

    And what a well-deserved tearing it was!

    Never have I felt more destroyed, disemboweled, mauled, hammered, ripped, slammed, and buttf*cked than I did when I watched this.

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    The Blogs Must Be Crazy
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Political HumorHealth Care Crisis


    posted by Eric at 01:57 PM | Comments (1)

    WARNING: Don't get hit by Big Government SUVs!

    Because I know that Jim Treacher is a humorist, I thought that this early, one paragraph report of him being hit by a State Department vehicle might have been intended as some sort of satire. I'm sorry to see (via Glenn Reynolds' later link) that I was mistaken, and that this was actually a very serious accident, compounded by very scary behavior on the part of government officials:

    The State Department has refused to answer basic questions about an accident that took place in Washington on Wednesday night, in which a U.S. Diplomatic Security Service vehicle struck Daily Caller employee Sean Medlock as he was crossing the street.

    An agent in the vehicle, Mike McGuinn, did not identify himself to Medlock at the scene, or apologize for running him down. Indeed, Washington, D.C., police drove to a local emergency room to serve Medlock with a jaywalking citation as he lay prostrate in a hospital bed, while a man who identified himself as "special agent" stood by watching and taking notes.

    Reached on his cell phone the following day by the Daily Caller, McGuinn refused to answer questions about the incident.

    "I'm a federal agent and I'm not allowed to talk to the media," McGuinn said, citing "liability." McGuinn initially declined even to reveal which agency he works for. "You can refer to the [DC] police department report," he said before hanging up abruptly. (According the police department, no report will be publicly available for at least three days.)

    According to Medlock, who writes under the name Jim Treacher, he was struck at about 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, while crossing M Street in downtown Washington. Medlock says he was walking within the bounds of the crosswalk, toward a blinking white signal, when a government SUV suddenly turned left and plowed into him, knocking him to the ground.

    Bystanders tended to Medlock, collected his crushed glasses and called an ambulance. McGuinn, meanwhile, called The Daily Caller's offices from the scene to tell Medlock's colleagues about the incident. But he did not identify himself to them or to Medlock.

    Medlock was taken to Georgetown University Hospital with a broken left knee, lacerations and bruises. He will undergo surgery later this week.

    At the hospital, DC police officer John Muniz arrived to issue Medlock a $20 jaywalking ticket. Medlock was lying sedated on a gurney, so Muniz delivered the ticket to a Daily Caller colleague, who was at the hospital with Medlock. He looked embarrassed as he did so. Behind him stood a man dressed in a dark suit who identified himself as a "special agent." He said nothing but wrote in a notebook.

    Jim Treacher is a longtime favorite blogger, who has graced this blog with witty and humorous comments over the years. I'm very sorry that this has happened to him, and what I don't like is that there is every indication of callused, heavy-handed, big government arrogance.

    First the cops tried to make it look as if Treacher was jaywalking. But then later, the guy in the SUV gave a different story:

    Curiously, the ticket says that Medlock was struck at an intersection four blocks from where the accident actually took place. And it claims that Medlock was walking diagonally across the intersection at the time. In one of his strikingly short conversations with the Daily Caller, agent Mike McGuinn acknowledged that Medlock was not jaywalking at all, but walking "outside the crosswalk when the incident occurred."
    Naturally, this raises questions. And they are being met with evasion and indifference:
    The question is: Did the federal agent driving the SUV, faced with potential liabilities from the accident, encourage local police to issue some sort - any sort - of citation to Medlock, to establish his culpability?

    If not, what exactly did happen? Calls to the State Department were met with evasion and indifference. Spokeswoman Grace Moe first asked a Daily Caller reporter where the publication's offices were located before taking a message.

    And if you think that's bad, get a load of this. They're also trying to say that it was Treacher who attacked their SUV!:
    A second DSS spokeswoman, Sarah Rosetti, requested that questions be submitted in writing. When she responded in an e-mail, Rosetti claimed that "a jogger collided with one of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service's official vehicles" - as if Medlock, who does not jog, had somehow attacked the SUV.

    One of the things that has long galled me is the way wrongdoers will frequently refuse to acknowledge that they did wrong (and instead go on the offensive), when a simple apology at the right time would have sufficed. This can lead to protracted litigation; I remember a case I worked on in which a client's car (an older VW bug) had been broadsided by a driver who ran a red light. All he had wanted was a simple acknowledgment that the other driver was in the wrong, and he wanted to get his car fixed. But the insurance company wouldn't admit liability and refused to pay for the damages, maintaining that the car was basically worthless because of its age. So the guy was pissed, and went the full, all-out litigation route. He ended up getting $15,000 or something, and I'm sure the insurance company spent a lot more than that on their attorneys, expert witnesses. But that's nothing compared to some of the insurance bad faith cases I remember. (There was one in which millions of dollars in punitive damages were awarded because an insurance company tried to avoid paying out a modest settlement in a simple fender bender.)

    Here it's the government, and not an insurance company, but I don't think the government should be allowed to behave in a manner that an insurance company would not be allowed to behave. (But so far, it appears that's just what the government is doing.)

    For more, see Matt Welch's "How Does the D.C. Establishment Compensate You for Smashing Your Leg with a Diplomatic SUV? By Giving You a Jaywalking Ticket for a Faraway Intersection, Then Accusing You of "Jogging" Into the Vehicle." Asks Welch about the above report,

    how many dumb government lies are packed into those six paragraphs?
    I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet that if I got into a detailed dissection, I would find not only lies, but lies within lies, etc.

    All I know is that if a California insurance company acted this way, Jim Treacher could very well end up owning the company.

    It's just too bad that Treacher can't end up owning the federal government.

    (But then maybe I shouldn't wish such a fate on poor Treacher....)

    MORE: Frank J. offers his analysis:

    despite him crossing at the crosswalk while the light was telling him to cross, they gave him a ticket for jaywalking. So it's like, "Sorry we ran you over and broke your knee, but pay us this fine." Except without the "sorry" part.

    Anyway, I hope Treacher gets better soon and then attacks more State Department SUVs.

    MORE: It is being pointed out by commenters that this is a joke. If so, then I was right before I was wrong. But the ever-reliable Media Matters is taking this oh-so-seriously, and Eric Boehlert is fit to be tied. He claims initial reports of a hit-and-run were wrong, and demands retractions. So why isn't he saying the whole thing is a joke when he clearly has the opportunity?

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links the most recent post from Jim Treacher, which ought to clear up any lingering questions about whether this was a joke.

    It was not.

    So now I'm in the hospital, and in a few hours they're going to try to fix my knee. It is my considered opinion that my knee never should have been damaged in the first place.

    To recap: I was hit by an SUV while crossing a DC street legally, the driver who hit me is a federal agent who failed to identify himself in any way, I'm about to undergo reconstructive surgery to repair the knee injury he admits he caused, and somehow I was issued a jaywalking citation whose particulars in no way match what was seen by multiple eyewitnesses.

    Wednesday night I just wanted to get a few things at CVS, watch Lost on Hulu, and go to bed after a long day of work. Now it's turned into a whole big thing.

    Fine by me.

    I wish Jim the best.

    (And I hope he is able to sue for bad faith so he ends up owning the United States government!)

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

    Book Wars

    Amazon and Apple are having a book war. Which is to say a war over who will get the biggest market share for electronic books.

    "One defends when his strength is inadequate, he attacks when it is abundant."--Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    The Apple iPad isn't even available yet, but already it is forcing Amazon (stock symbol AMZN) to respond in a variety of ways to protect its competing Kindle eBook business. Amazon just snapped up a touchscreen technology startup, presumably to update the already ancient-looking Kindle. Emboldened book publishers are pushing back on Amazon's $9.99 pricing now that they can sell the same eBooks on the iPad for $14.99, and Amazon is capitulating. And the Kindle team at Amazon, which once had an arrogant approach towards publishers when it was the only game in town, is now bending over backwards to solicit their loyalty, says one editor at a publishing company who has noticed the change in tone.

    The coming battle between Apple (stock symbol AAPL) and Amazon will occur on many fronts, but the place where Apple can really hurt Amazon is on pricing. Just as Apple initially did with 99-cent songs on iTunes, Amazon imposed a uniform $9.99 price on bestsellers in the Kindle Store. A single price helps to establish markets for new product categories, especially when that price is at a discount to the physical alternative. While the 99-cent strategy worked well for Apple in digital music, in books Apple doing a jujitsu move on Amazon by allowing publishers to have more control over the pricing. Now Macmillan is demanding that Amazon sell its eBooks for $14.99, and News Corp's Rupert Murdoch is making similar grumblings about HarperCollins.

    So far Apple and Amazon have different digital formats. That means you can't read books you buy from Amazon on your Apple reader. And vice versa. This is similar to the floppy disk wars in the early days of the home computer. I don't see such incompatibilities lasting more than a few years.

    Another thing I see happening is a reduction in prices. For one thing high prices will encourage pirates. Just as they do for music. Why should a song which costs under 1¢ to deliver have to cost $1.00? If the artist was getting 50¢ of that it might be a reasonable deal. At least you are supporting the artist.

    But that is not how it works.

    The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month. The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never "recouped," the band will have no leverage, and will oblige. The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won't have earned any royalties from their T-shirts yet. Maybe the T-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys. Some of your friends are probably already this fucked.
    Which, although a different type of publishing, explains why my friend Sgt Mom self publishes and self promotes her own work. You can by her books on Amazon.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:56 AM | Comments (1)

    Listen My Friends

    The above is a little Moby Grape ditty called Omaha. Which brings to mind a report on how Omaha voters view the Obama administration.

    OMAHA, Neb.--As President Barack Obama began his first State of the Union address Wednesday night, Kevin Fischer glanced at television above him and compared his 2008 vote for the president to ordering from an infomercial.

    "You listen to the sales pitch and you're so excited and then it arrives and you open the box and it just crumbles," Mr. Fischer said. "It turns out you didn't get what you thought you were going to."

    Politicians and used car salesmen. Voters should know better.
    Regret for supporting a Democratic presidential candidate is an unusual sensation in this quiet, snow-covered prairie city. That's because heading into the 2008 election, no Democratic presidential candidate had won here since 1964. Nebraska was second only to Utah in its red-state reliability.
    My mom is an Omaha Democrat. When I was growing up I was an Omaha Democrat too.
    The Obama campaign succeeded by drawing from the district's substantial pool of independent voters and by coaxing a critical mass of registered Republicans in middle-class neighborhoods to cross party lines, according to Douglas County election records. Here, where the urban core gives way to 20- and 30-year-old subdivisions with names like Ridgefield and Eagle Run, Mr. Obama turned Omaha blue.

    Some of those voters eat breakfast at Billy's Cafe, a small restaurant in a busy strip mall where a short stack of pancakes and an egg costs $2.85 and photos of dirt-track racing cars adorn mustard-colored walls. Jennifer Wood, a waitress at Billy's for seven years, said a lot of her customers own their own homes and pay cash for new cars.

    "All of a sudden, a lot of them lost a lot of money and instead of retiring in a year, they're hoping to retire in five years, minimum," she said. A Republican who voted for Sen. John McCain, Ms. Wood said that Mr. Obama, "had a chance to be a great president. But he focused on the wrong thing, he focused on health care instead of jobs, and people are angry about that."

    I can confidently tell Jennifer it is not just Omaha.
    Chris Pflaum, a liquor salesman who also abandoned his party to support Mr. Obama, said in retrospect, he voted with his heart instead of his head.

    "I think I got caught up in the fact that he was the first African-American president," Mr. Pflaum said. "With the economy the way it is, that doesn't seem as important anymore."

    Well at least he has the liquor to fall back on.

    What is the most common sentiment in America about Mr. Obama's election and subsequent performance according to totally anecdotal evidence I have collected?

    Mr. Fischer said when he voted he believed Mr. Obama would draw down U.S. troops abroad, close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and help get the economy back on track.

    "None of that has happened," he said. "I feel duped."

    These folks from Omaha are not the only rubes.

    There is evidence that there are a lot of rubes in Europe. And there is no evidence that any of the European people quoted ever lived in Omaha.

    And for the record: I voted for Palin. I could see the Three Card Monty dealer now ensconced in the White House from half a continent away. Actually I didn't have to look that far. Chicago is less than 90 miles away from where I reside.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:35 PM | Comments (1)

    I may be tolerant, but don't ask me to accomodate savagery
    And yes, some people are savages.

    In an earlier post, I made a point of hesitating, ironically, to use the word "savages" in characterizing those Pashtuns who have sex with men who would kill one of their own for admitting homosexuality

    I'd say that the British had a word for people like that -- "SAVAGES" -- except I'd be inviting trouble from the people who piled on Sarah Hoyt, and then they'd conspire to ensure that I would never get ahead in life. (Like I care at this point.)
    My remark drew an angry response from a commenter who said,

    You need to brush up on your Koran.

    viz your comment about savages "piling on Sarah Hoyt", what are you talking about?

    And who then launched into an irrelevant diatribe about Sarah's various commenters, which, fortunately or unfortunately, I hadn't taken the time to read in their entirety. But I wasn't talking about Sarah's commenters; I was talking about her general complaint about the "mental binds of political correctness" which was prompted by the criticism she has received as an author.
    Political correctness deliberately - IMHO - conflates race and culture so you can't point at cultures as dysfunctional and so that anyone criticizing a foreign culture can be called racist.
    That was my point about the use of the word "savages." I never said or implied that savages were piling on Sarah; but that others might if you use the word "savages" to describe them -- even if they are in fact savages.

    What I saw today in a post by Donald Sensing that Glenn linked made me decided to return to that remark made in irony.

    Only this time, I'm going to claim it for real.

    I'm hardly what anyone would call a gay rights activist. I have long criticized the gay rights movement (especially gay identity politics), I don't endorse same sex marriage, in many posts I have questioned the wisdom of using human sexuality to classify people, and it would be dishonest for me to classify myself that way. I believe in sexual freedom, not judging people by the content of their orgasms, and I find sexuality classifications stultifying and oppressive.

    I ask very little from people by way of ideological agreement, though. I'm even willing to concede that there is a right -- at least in a philosophical sense -- to be intolerant, even judgmental, about these things. Just because I don't care what consenting adults do with their genitalia doesn't mean I can demand the same from others.

    However, there is one thing I absolutely refuse to tolerate (and I don't care what the source is), and that is demanding death for homosexuals. I have repeatedly condemned Christians who do that (as well as those associated with them), as well as Muslims. The difference, of course, is that Muslims don't just advocate killing homosexuals, they do it. In the name of their dreadful interpretation of a religion we are told is peaceful and civilized.

    Sorry, but advocacy of killing homosexuals is neither peaceful nor civilized. And killing them is even less peaceful and less civilized than advocacy. It is savagery.

    Yes, I consider the hooded thugs who are hanging the two young gay men in this picture to be savages:


    So is Vanderbilt's chaplain who said that homosexuals should be killed:

    What Chaplain Binhazim said was that [the above] hanging, and countless others in Iran and other Islamic countries, was dictated by the basic tenets of Islam and that he agrees with those tenets. Hence, these executions are right and proper and unobjectionable.

    You may recall that when Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University in 2007, he said there are no homosexuals in Iran. Now we know why. He has them killed.

    Let me be clear of my own position here. Asked a straightforward question, Mr. Binhazim gave an equally straightforward answer: This is what Islam says and I am bound by the tenets of Islam to accept it. I personally do not think he should be disciplined or fired for answering the question, even as bluntly as he did.

    I think whether he should be disciplined or fired depends on whether a Christian chaplain would be disciplined or fired. (Donald Sensing says the latter would be.)

    But the point here is that because the man advocates savagery, that makes him a savage. I'd say that about any Christian who advocates killing homosexuals too.

    And would someone then me that I need to study the Bible? I doubt it. So what's with telling me I need to study the Koran?

    I would hate to think that we live in a world where it's OK to call Christian savages savages, but we have to tiptoe around the sensibilities of Muslim savages lest we offend them by calling them what they have demonstrated themselves to be.

    When we can no longer call savages savages, civilization suffers.

    So I'll say it again. Those who advocate killing homosexuals are savages.

    Such a point would seem so obvious and unremarkable to most civilized people that it's really not saying much. It requires no more of a moral standard than saying that slavery is evil. And naturally, all civilized people would condemn Islamic slavery just as much as they would Christian slavery, right?

    Obviously then, my ironic hesitation in the previous post was unnecessary.

    posted by Eric at 06:21 PM | Comments (5)

    Distracted by "Wantingtobelieveism"

    I've been so preoccupied with personal business yesterday and today that I have had no time to blog about whatever is happening in the real world. I haven't even had time to look. Between a household repair emergency and trying to help out a friend who has become a villain in a compelling but false narrative, I am only now venturing into the real world of regular onlineliness. I have still not checked my email, the news, nothing.

    But still, the narrative thing pisses me off. I won't get into detail about what it is, but there is a disease which affects the human mind which I should call want-to-believe-itis. Hmmm.... Maybe it's more properly an ism. Wantingtobelieveism. We all fall for it, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservative, and of course libertarians including yours truly. For some reason, when we hear something that resonates with whatever narrative we've got going, we just want to believe it. If, for example, I started a convincing rumor (from, say a "staffer who refuses to be named") that a well-known conservative senator used the n-word in reference to President Obama, lots of lefties would love it, and could be depended upon to repeat it. And once "established" by numerous quotes and links going to each other, it would be believed by more and more people who wanted to believe it. Same thing if there was a rumor that a senior presidential advisor who used to be a ballet dancer had been caught in flagrante delicto with a page boy and that Obama forces are covering it up while paying money and making threats to the boy's family. Wantingtobelieveism works that way.

    It is now looking like AGW has been fueled by phony or sexed up statistics, which in turned fueled another Wantingtobelieveist cult.

    The process disgusts me, and I wish there was a way to drive a stake through its heart. But that's impossible, because the heart lies in the human brain.

    posted by Eric at 01:56 PM | Comments (5)

    Spiraling Out Of Control

    I have covered the troubles the ITER fusion project is having in ITER Gets Clipped which covered the American view of ITER's troubles. The The European Voice is taking a look at the problems from an European view.

    ITER's projected costs have soared since the first estimates were made in 2001. Contributions will generally be made in kind (through provisions of construction materials, reactor components, labour and expertise). The EU's total in-kind contribution was estimated at €1.491 billion in 2001. By 2008, when the EU's Fusion for Energy agency, which was set up to manage the EU contribution to ITER, reviewed the costs, the estimate had risen to €3.5bn.
    Rising costs

    Concerns about the ballooning budget led the Commission last year to set up an expert group tasked with reviewing the construction costs. The group's report, released to member states last month and seen by European Voice, said that the construction costs alone could rise as high as €1.5bn (compared to a 2001 estimate of €598 million).

    The report said that the increase was a result of "omissions or underestimates" in the original estimates, inflation in concrete and steel prices and "changes in specifications".

    The Commission has set up a task-force to identify sources of additional funding for ITER. One option being considered is a loan from the European Investment Bank.

    The latest budget numbers I have seen have the project estimate at around $7 billion US (€5.1 billion).

    Interesting that the budget was low balled to get things going and then things started spiraling out of control. Making up for missing resources in out years always costs a lot more than budgeting for them from the start. We see this in the space program all too often. The reason is that you have people you have to keep on board while changes are being made. What we in engineering like to refer to as "the burn rate" - the amount you have to spend to keep going while actual progress halts to make the changes. Every day's delay can cost millions of dollars. Then there is the problem of bringing new people up to speed. Adding people to a late project will often increase the delay over what making do with the people you have will cause. It is easy to get into a regenerative mode where you can never finish at an acceptable time with an acceptable budget. Another thing that happens when you add new people to a project is that the design suffers because the new people never know as much as the old hands.

    Fredrick Brooks originally looked at this problem with respect to big software projects. He published his observations in a 1975 book called The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering.

    It is probably the best book on big project management ever written so far. I have used his insights often in my engineering career. Management will hardly ever listen to these types of insights at the beginning. But occasionally you can get them to accept the insights provided once a project is in trouble.

    Let me add that the much smaller Polywell Fusion project is not having any such difficulty. Physicist Rick Nebel said of his WB-7 experiment: it "runs like a top". Rick has been mum about WB-8 progress. Since he has the same team that did WB-7 working on WB-8, I expect he will deliver the knowledge required on time and within budget. Of course he has an advantage. It is easier to keep a small project ($ millions) on time than it is to do the same for a large project ($ billions). If the experiments look promising I expect that he will have a lot more trouble getting a real power plant operational. The logistics get harder.

    You can look at recent list of the design problems ITER faces at Talk Polywell.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:02 AM | Comments (2)

    Molon Labe

    The person speaking is Keli Carender. Otherwise known as Liberty Belle.

    H/T NPR via Instapundit

    Tea Party Difference IMG_1188.jpg

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

    "Internet addiction" -- latest growth industry in a highly competitive field

    Are we facing an epidemic of "Internet addiction"? Apparently so.

    There are more and more studies like this warning of dire dangers, which are said to include depression and the risk of suicide:

    Study leader Dr Catriona Morrison, from the Institute of Psychological Sciences at the University of Leeds, said: "The internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side."

    The scientists employed the internet to carry out their research.

    An online questionnaire was used to assess levels of internet dependency and depression in 1,319 individuals ranging in age from 16 to 51.

    In general, the longer people spent online the more depressed they tended to be, the scientists found.

    "There was a high correspondence between the amount of time spent on the internet and levels of depression," said Dr Morrison. "If you look at how dependent people feel they are on the internet that is likely to correspond with how happy or sad they feel."

    Her team identified a small group of 18 hard-core internet users who spent many hours online each day and were classed as "internet addicted".

    Their average depression score was more than five times higher than that of non-addicted users, and they were more likely to be moderately or severely depressed.

    The addicts spent proportionately more time browsing porn sites, gaming sites and online communities. They also tended to be young, having an average age of 21.

    Although they only made up 1.2% of the total number of participants, this was a higher fraction than the 0.6% of people in the general population who are addicted to gambling.

    "While many of us use the internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities," said Dr Morrison.

    "Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don't know is which comes first - are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?

    "Now we need to investigate the nature of that relationship and consider the issue of causation."

    Incidents such as the spate of suicides among teenagers in the Welsh town of Bridgend in 2008 have led to questions about the psychological dangers of social networking sites. Some experts are worried about their potential for fuelling depressive thoughts in vulnerable teenagers.

    It's tough to deny that any activity can be carried to excess (I've been writing this blog for nearly seven years, so I should know), but I'm not sure that doing something too much constitutes an addiction in the true sense of the word.

    As to the correlation between the Internet and depression, it wasn't that long ago that I read about another study linking television watching to depression. It should come as no surprise that depressed people (as well as people with various anxiety disorders which might make them not want to leave the house) would tend to engage in passive forms of entertainment. It's all too easy to say that this is what "caused" the depression, but is there any reason to suppose that taking away their TV and Internet would make them happy? Depression has been with humanity for a long time. Winston Churchill called it "my black dog" and he used to build brick walls in his garden. (Today that would probably be called an obsessive building addiction or something.)

    Since Internet addiction seems here to stay, I thought I'd take an unscientific look at the popular addictions and see how they compare on Google.

    Because it's where the addiction word came from, drug addiction ought to to be the granddaddy of them all, and it does get a whopping 12,100,000 hits. Internet addiction is of course close behind and at 8,700,000 hits, I think it's fair to call it our fastest growing addiction.

    However, you would have to add drug and Internet addictions together to surpass what seems to be the number one addiction -- sports addiction, which at 16,400,000 hits, seems to be the top-rated addiction.

    At 9,770,000 hits, music addiction is only slightly ahead of Internet addiction. But that may change. As to which addiction is "better for you" (more "wholesome" perhaps), that would seem to depend on your point of view.

    EDITORIAL NOTE: It might be Google, or it might be my error, but music addiction seems to have done down to only 6,350,000 since I first wrote this post. Are people that fickle about such serious matters?

    Maybe it's a form of addiction nostalgia, but today I pity poor television addiction. A much-discussed topic among concerned parents when I was a child, today it seems almost left out. Only 1,280,000 hits. Even cell-phone addiction is ahead of the television, with 1,870,000 hits. Not bad, but even the ubiquitous cell phone has a little ways to go to catch up with shopping addiction -- currently standing at 2,000,000.

    Anyway, I don't want into an extended debate about how wholesome or healthy (or unwholesome or unhealthy) any of these things are. My purpose here is only to look at the various addiction ratings. (Or "ratings of addictions" -- take your pick.)

    Lagging behind cell phones is the
    NASCAR addiction
    , which has 1,160,000 hits. Surprisingly, gambling addiction (despite the hype) comes in slightly behind NASCAR, with 1,020,000 hits. Go figure.

    Not to sound classist or anything, but where I grew up, many a man was addicted to golf. Yet today, golf addiction doesn't even break a million -- at 919,000 hits. Slightly behind that is Skiing addiction (905,000).

    Another popular (and therefore addictive) pastime is surfing, but I left out the numbers, because the activity is so hopelessly entangled with Internet addiction (via "surfing" the web or the Internet), that any number would be misleading.

    It may come as a surprise to many people, according to Google, Porn addiction (939,000) is ranked more highly than either skiing or golf.

    There are few things I can think of that are more "wholesome" than exercise, but even that can be addictive, and there are a number of sites devoted to combating it. However, out of fairness, I don't think it's reasonable to rate exercise addiction according to the 1,320,000 Google hits it receives, because many of them refer to exercise in the context of fighting other addictions. But if exercise can be addictive too, doesn't that beg the question of whether addicts are just substituting one addiction for another?

    While I didn't mean to overlook work addiction, with 551,000 hits, the good old all-American work ethic just doesn't seem to be stretched to the obsessive compulsive proportions it was in my childhood. Perhaps Going Galt has helped people break free from these neurotic chains.

    Make of these numbers what you will. But I was surprised to find so many addictions, and I am sure there are many that I overlooked. It occurs to me that if so many of us are as addicted as it seems we so obviously are, we might be in danger of becoming a nation of addicts. And if things get to the point where we are all addicted to one thing or another, doesn't this beg the question of what addiction is, and whether it is unhealthy? Who gets to decide these things? The same people who seem ready to declare that we are all suffering from one mental illness or another?

    At the rate things are going, pretty soon we'll all be abnormal. I guess I can handle such a fate, but sooner or later someone is bound to ask, "if we are all abnormal, then what is normal?" And if we're all sick, what is well?

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

    Pulling Economics

    Reuters has pulled a story on how the Obama Administration intends to short circuit any incipient American economic recovery by stealth tax raises.

    NEW YORK ( -The Obama administration's plan to cut more than $1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade relies heavily on so-called backdoor tax increases that will result in a bigger tax bill for middle-class families.

    In the 2010 budget tabled by President Barack Obama on Monday, the White House wants to let billions of dollars in tax breaks expire by the end of the year -- effectively a tax hike by stealth.

    While the administration is focusing its proposal on eliminating tax breaks for individuals who earn $250,000 a year or more, middle-class families will face a slew of these backdoor increases.

    The targeted tax provisions were enacted under the Bush administration's Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. Among other things, the law lowered individual tax rates, slashed taxes on capital gains and dividends, and steadily scaled back the estate tax to zero in 2010.

    If the provisions are allowed to expire on December 31, the top-tier personal income tax rate will rise to 39.6 percent from 35 percent. But lower-income families will pay more as well: the 25 percent tax bracket will revert back to 28 percent; the 28 percent bracket will increase to 31 percent; and the 33 percent bracket will increase to 36 percent. The special 10 percent bracket is eliminated.

    Investors will pay more on their earnings next year as well, with the tax on dividends jumping to 39.6 percent from 15 percent and the capital-gains tax increasing to 20 percent from 15 percent. The estate tax is eliminated this year, but it will return in 2011 -- though there has been talk about reinstating the death tax sooner.

    There are other tax hikes as well. Read the whole thing.

    And why was the story pulled? Instapundit says it was due to pressure from Obama who claims the story is in error - at least in part.

    - Our budget explicitly calls for permanently extending the Bush tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. - Our budget explicitly calls for allowing the top rate on dividends to increase to 20% for households making over $250,000. - Our budget accounts for the cost of continuing the AMT "Patch". The last administration's budgets ignored these costs, but we explicitly account for them. - Our budget extends expiring tax provisions through 2011.
    So let me see if I can get a handle on this: high earners who are investors in our economy are going to be punished. Investment creates jobs. So by punishing high earners Obama will be punishing people who are out of a job.


    Perhaps Obama needs to read a book. This book: The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.

    I like what one reviewer had to say when discussing what he learned from reading the book.

    3. The struggle over economic policy in the 1930's was really an episode in the long, historical conflict between business participants in the market and anti-business academics. Roosevelt gave free rein to the professors, until the start of the Second World War led him to realize that he would need the tycoons to help mobilize to defeat Hitler. I suspect that one reason that Roosevelt and the New Deal come off so well in the conventional wisdom is that history books are written by professors, not by entrepreneurs.
    Say. Don't we have an anti-business academic for President? Yes we do.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

    "It can't happen here"

    Did you know that if you like small breasts on women, you're likely a "pedophile"?

    I didn't, but today I learned that some people think that, and they're just the kind of people who enjoy career censorship. In Australia, they're behind an effort to insist on large-breasted women in porn. No really. (I couldn't make this up if I tried.)

    A reader writes, "Australian Classification Board (ACB) is now banning depictions of small-breasted women in adult publications and films. They banned mainstream pornography from showing women with A-cup breasts, apparently on the grounds that they encourage paedophilia, and in spite of the fact this is a normal breast size for many adult women. Presumably small breasted women taking photographs of themselves will now be guilty of creating simulated child pornography, to say nothing of the message this sends to women with modestly sized chests or those who favour them. Australia has also banned pornographic depictions of female ejaculation, a normal orgasmic sexual response in many women, with censors branding it as 'abhorrent.'"

    The Board has also started to ban depictions of small-breasted women in adult publications and films. This is in response to a campaign led by Kids Free 2 B Kids and promoted by Barnaby Joyce and Guy Barnett in Senate Estimates late last year. Mainstream companies such as Larry Flint's Hustler produce some of the publications that have been banned. These companies are regulated by the FBI to ensure that only adult performers are featured in their publications. "We are starting to see depictions of women in their late 20s being banned because they have an A cup size", she said. "It may be an unintended consequence of the Senator's actions but they are largely responsible for the sharp increase in breast size in Australian adult magazines of late".

    A sharp increase in breast size! Talk about government-dictated tastes!

    The war on sex can take many twisted turns. Fortunately, I have yet to see an equivalent effort like this in the United States. But ideas spread, don't they?

    I'm surprised that no one has picked up on the possible latent homophobia displayed by the censors. It is well known that small-breasted women (and the men who find them attractive) have long been ridiculed as "gay," with the women being called "boys" or "boyish" in a direct attempt to impute homosexual pedophilia. A classic example of this was the reaction of Frank Sinatra's ex to his marriage to Mia Farrow:

    Ava Gardner on Frank Sinatra's marriage with Mia Farrow: 'I always knew Frank would end up with a boy.'
    By any standard that was certainly an insulting thing to say. As one of Ace's, um "small-breast phobic" (is there a word for that?) commenters put it, the
    "best bitchslap ever." But at least here in the United States, we don't enforce breast size tastes with government commissions. Nor do we bar men from having allegedly latent homosexual tastes. In women. (?)

    In practice, what this amounts to is a ban on androgynous porn. I suppose that if they were "fair," they would also ban male porn models who lacked sufficient muscle definition, or who were deemed insufficiently hirsute.

    People are of course free to criticize or condemn the sexual tastes of others, but Australia is a good lesson in what happens when the government gets into the business of setting sexual tastes.

    And if you don't think there are organized activists in this country who are just chomping at the bit to get into regulating porn, why, there are plenty of sites like this where you can go have yourself a scroll. I keep telling myself that people like that are few in number and only represent the lunatic fringes of cultural conservatism.

    But I've also seen similar activism on the left, so I worry.

    MORE: A commenter to the above worries about the size issue in the context of men:

    Next they will ban porn with men with smaller penises because it may promote pedophilia.
    I'd say we should have seen it coming, but somehow that doesn't sound right.

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

    How Did The T Party Do Last Night In Illinois?

    Here is a list of the T Party candidates:

    GOP Primaries:
    Adam Andrzejewski - for Governor
    About 15% in a race where the top vote getters got 20%. Not bad. But he came in 5th.

    Don Tracy - Lt. Governor
    About 11% - 3rd place

    Jason Plummer - Lt. Governor
    About 34% - 1st place so far. Second place has 33% of the vote.

    Kathleen Thomas - United States Senate
    About 7% - 4th place.

    John Arrington - United States Senate
    About 3% - 6th place.

    Bobby Schilling - United States House

    Not a bad night for T Party Candidates in the first election in Illinois in which the T Party was a real factor. It looks very likely that Jason Plummer will be the Republican Candidate for Lt. Governor. He is ahead by about 7,000 votes.

    Let me add that I saw Dave Winters on the tube. Dave is a local Democrat in State Government and he was talking like a Republican - lower taxes, less regulation, lower the cost of workers comp., make Illinois more business friendly. He said Illinois was losing jobs to Indiana and Wisconsin. I think the hand writing is on the wall. And I liked his punk haircut.

    You can check The Chicago Sun Times for the latest preliminary results. The results are not final until the State certifies them.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

    It takes guts to demand "body blows"

    Sean Kinsell has noted a downright authoritarian streak in Frank Rich, and quotes a remarkable passage from his column about President's SOTU address:

    One year into Obama's term we still don't know whether he has what it takes to get American governance functioning again. But we do know that no speech can do the job. The president must act. Only body blows to the legislative branch can move the country forward.
    Well, in a way, I have to reluctantly admit that Rich has a point. The president just doesn't seem to have what it takes to deliver the "body blows" that Frank Rich advocates. Physically, he doesn't have the guts (or the heft, if that isn't too redundant) to slam guys like Barney Frank around. Besides, whether he wants to is, I think, highly debatable. But obviously, Frank Rich wants him to, or else why employ violent rhetoric? And why talk in terms of physical contact? Isn't that sort of talk normally associated with Mussolini and company?

    But to be fair to Frank Rich, it may be that he's more than just an angry liberal with armchair fantasies about slamming people around. Physically, he has heft -- every bit as much as your stereotypical doughnut-munching policeman. And I think that many a doughnut-munching policeman (regardless of political orientation) would agree with the general philosophy of the sentiment Sean identified.


    So where does this leave Frank Rich? What sort of man advocates body blows?
    If a right wing pundit had urged George W. Bush to do that, wouldn't he be accused of authoritarianism? Of "eliminationist rhetoric"?

    Frank Rich's views are shared by many on the left, and his latest authoritarian "body blows" broadside is being cited with approval at TPM, while other commenters are repeatedly urging President Obama to eat doughnuts!

    Really, now. This almost makes me feel sorry for the president. Because after all, doughtnuts are extremely dangerous (witness the crackdown in New York and other cities), and to urge the president to eat them comes close to urging him to take poison. Surely they know doughnuts are bad for people. Do they wish ill-health upon the president? What's up with such nastiness?

    doughnuts are rich. obama is blue. and as we all know, transfats will kill you!


    Sounds like a strong undercurrent of eliminationist rhetoric to me.

    And doesn't it just beg the question of another subtext running through the TPM thread?

    Um, might it be that Frank Rich actually enjoys eating doughnuts? (Wink wink?)

    I won't go so far as to say "when you've seen one doughnut-munching authoritarian you've seen them all," but would it be too nasty to wonder whether Frank Rich and Chief Wiggum were separated at birth?


    Please, don't anyone blame Sean for the above. He only inspired my fearless investigation.

    posted by Eric at 11:46 AM | Comments (8)

    Added Risk

    The US Treasury Department says that bailouts add risk to the financial system.

    WASHINGTON - The government's response to the financial meltdown has made it more likely the United States will face a deeper crisis in the future, an independent watchdog at the Treasury Department warned.

    The problems that led to the last crisis have not yet been addressed, and in some cases have grown worse, says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the trouble asset relief program, or TARP. The quarterly report to Congress was released Sunday.

    "Even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car," Barofsky wrote.

    And guess what? He is not the only one saying that.

    From a November 2009 report we get the word that more stimulus creates more unemployment.

    "Stimulus" is in the process of turning a nasty recession into a genuine depression. The evidence is in the "Employment Situation" report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on November 6th. The "headline" unemployment rate shot up to 10.2%, the highest in more than 26 years. But the report was much worse than most people realize.

    The "household survey data" showed that 589,000 jobs vanished during October. This is bad enough, but the three-month moving average of changes in total employment (current month and prior two months) shows that job losses are actually accelerating.

    The three-month moving average (TMMA) of changes in total employment began a serious decline in February 2007. It went into negative territory two months later. This indicator has now been negative for the past 21 months. During this time, total employment has declined by more than 8 million jobs.

    I have to admit that recently the rate of job loss appears to have slowed. But that may only be a temporary respite. And why is our recovery from problems so off track?
    The massive sales of U.S. Treasury bonds to finance "stimulus", bailouts, and other government spending is sucking capital out of the private sector and destroying jobs.
    And there are still problems with other sectors of the economy.
    The smaller banks are carrying the burden of the commercial real estate problems and consumer debt and mortgages still present these banks with problems because these loans represented "Main Street" and were not all packaged and sold to investors in Finland. Remember there are 552 banks, all small- and medium-sized banks that are on the FDICs list of problem banks and this is expected to grow this year before declining, generally do to actual failures.

    There are more dislocations throughout the economy that point to persisting problems. For example, in manufacturing, since the 1960s the unused capacity of United States industry has continually declined from peak usage to peak usage of that capacity The latest peak utilization of capacity still saw that about 20% of the industrial capacity of the United States remained unused. Unused capacity for the past thirty years seems to average around 23% to 24%.

    We see unused capacity in the labor force as well. Since the 1970s under-employment of labor has grown quite consistently. Attention is focused upon the unemployment rate, but this measure does not include those individuals that have left the labor force because they are discouraged and those that are only working part time but would like to work more. We have seen estimates that 17% to 20% of the employable people in the United States are under-employed. Another dislocation that is not comforting.

    Then we hear about the problems in state and local governments. Reports indicate that there are more than 30 states that are currently experiencing fiscal difficulties. We hear most about California and New York, but there are many other states particularly in the west and southwest that are having real problems. One estimate is that the states will have a combined budget shortfall of at least $350 billion in the fiscal years of 2010 and 2011. And, this doesn't even get to the difficulties that are being faced by local governmental bodies.

    Illinois where I live is in bad shape. Very bad shape.
    And, there are the dislocations being created by the federal government. Budget deficits for the next ten years have been placed in the range of $15 trillion. The United States is fighting three wars throughout the world. The government is passing health care legislation that has been justified fiscally by postponing start dates of programs from three to five years. There is climate control efforts being considered along with regulations, like anti-pollution controls, that will just exacerbate the economic and fiscal problems of the country. Then there are other changes in the rules and regulations that apply to industry that will further change the playing field and create greater uncertainty about what management's should do.

    There is the problem of unemployment, the number one issue among the American voter. (And you thought the number one issue was health care or pollution or terrorism or the war in Afghanistan.) But, there is a dislocation problem relating to federal government stimulus programs.

    For fifty years or so the federal government has attempted to stimulate the economy to put people back to work in the same jobs from which they were released from. The government has sought to put unemployed people back to work in the steel industry, in the auto industry and in other jobs that are the backbone of American industry (according to the labor unions and others). As a consequence, the steel industry lost competitiveness, the auto industry lost competitiveness and so did many other industries.

    This effort to stimulate the economy and put people back into the jobs that they lost has contributed greatly to the increase in the unused industrial capacity and to the increase in the under-employed in this country. The effort to constantly maintain a low unemployment rate by putting people back into the jobs they have lost has resulted in a massive slide in the competitive position of the United States.

    And the funny thing is that we did not lose those jobs to foreign competition. We lost them to computers and robots.
    ...the news about the manufacturing sector gets a little better. According to the Federal Reserve, the dollar value of U.S. manufacturing output in November was $2.72 trillion (in 2000 dollars), which translates to $234,220 of manufacturing output for each of that sector's 11.6 million workers, setting an all-time record high for U.S. manufacturing output per worker (see chart below). Workers today produce twice as much manufacturing output as their counterparts did in the early 1990s, and three times as much as in the early 1980s, thanks to innovation and advances in technology that have made today's workers the most productive in history. So at the same time that manufacturing employment has been declining to record low levels, manufacturing output keeps increasing over time, and the amount of output that each manufacturing worker produces keeps rising almost every month to new record high levels.
    So despite Stupid Government Policies the economy is getting rationalized. The reason it is so painful this time is that we have 50 years of accumulated dead weight to shed.

    Which brings me to a book. This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly and a book review.

    Unemployment rose by several hundred thousand jobs in the fourth quarter, and if you look at some surveys, it approached 500,000. That is hardly consistent with a 5.7% growth rate. Further, sales taxes and income-tax receipts are still falling. As I said last year that it would be, this is a Statistical Recovery. When unemployment is rising, it is hard to talk of real recovery. Without the stimulus in the latter half of the year, growth would be much slower.

    So should we, as Paul Krugman suggests, spend another trillion in stimulus if it helps growth? No, because, as I have written for a very long time, and will focus on in future weeks, increased deficits and rising debt-to-GDP is a long-term losing proposition. It simply puts off what will be a reckoning that will be even worse, with yet higher debt levels. You cannot borrow your way out of a debt crisis.

    While I was in Europe, and flying back, I had the great pleasure of reading This Time is Different, by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff,...

    The thesis of the book is that this time it is the same as it ever was.
    Let's lead off with a few quotes from This Time is Different, and then I'll add some comments. Today I'll focus on the theme of confidence, which runs throughout the entire book.

    "But highly leveraged economies, particularly those in which continual rollover of short-term debt is sustained only by confidence in relatively illiquid underlying assets, seldom survive forever, particularly if leverage continues to grow unchecked."

    "If there is one common theme to the vast range of crises we consider in this book, it is that excessive debt accumulation, whether it be by the government, banks, corporations, or consumers, often poses greater systemic risks than it seems during a boom. Infusions of cash can make a government look like it is providing greater growth to its economy than it really is. Private sector borrowing binges can inflate housing and stock prices far beyond their long-run sustainable levels, and make banks seem more stable and profitable than they really are. Such large-scale debt buildups pose risks because they make an economy vulnerable to crises of confidence, particularly when debt is short term and needs to be constantly refinanced. Debt-fueled booms all too often provide false affirmation of a government's policies, a financial institution's ability to make outsized profits, or a country's standard of living. Most of these booms end badly. Of course, debt instruments are crucial to all economies, ancient and modern, but balancing the risk and opportunities of debt is always a challenge, a challenge policy makers, investors, and ordinary citizens must never forget."

    And it not just the US. It is a problem world wide.
    One point I found fascinating, and we'll explore it in later weeks. First, when it comes to the various types of crises with the authors identify, there is very little difference between developed and emerging-market countries, especially as to the fallout. It seems that the developed world has no corner on special wisdom that would allow crises to be avoided, or allow them to be recovered from more quickly. In fact, because of their overconfidence - because they actually feel they have superior systems - developed countries can dig deeper holes for themselves than emerging markets.

    Oh, and the Fed should have seen this crisis coming. The authors point to some very clear precursors to debt crises.

    We hear of trouble in in Greece taking Europe down. Maybe down so hard that it will collapse the Euro market. And then there is China which I have been writing about for the last few days. They have yet to undergo the first stage of the world wide fall. And every one knows China will fall. No one knows just when. It could start this week. Or it could start two years from now. If I was a betting man I'd bet on sooner than later.

    So what should the US Government do? Other than keep people off the streets - nothing. And by off the streets I don't mean in homes that are unaffordable. A roof - we have plenty of them - and a minimal diet. Then let the wisdom of 300 million people take over.

    At the core of our problem is a secular decline. The easy gains from microprocessors (I have the equivalent of four or ten Cray 1s on my desk - not so micro any more. Except for size.) have been realized. So what is the next big thing? It could be a real breakthrough in fusion not one of those mega projects with big promises and small results. It might be in carbon nanotubes. Or it might be a breakthrough in materials that allows us to substitute cheap materials for much more expensive ones. Or it could be something in biotech. Or a new way to do business. Or probably something hardly any one knows about. Some unrealized potential.

    The deal is, that what ever it is, Washington with its macro policies is more likely to hurt than help. So what could Washington do? Pour money (it need not be a lot) into micro policies. More fundamental research. And a big push into research is not expensive. A few tens of billions a year could reap us big dividends. If we are truly in a knowledge economy (we are) then what we need is more knowledge not more bail outs of dying sectors of the economy. What is unseen is more important than what is seen.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

    Evidently There Was A Lack of Evidence

    The Stern Review on the effects of climate change (things will be different?) had to retract a point or two after publication.

    The Stern Review on the economics of climate change, which was commissioned by the Treasury, was greeted with headlines worldwide when it was published in October 2006

    It contained dire predictions about the impact of climate change in different parts of the world.

    But it can be revealed that when the report was printed by Cambridge University Press in January 2007, some of these predictions had been watered down because the scientific evidence on which they were based could not be verified.

    Among the claims that were removed in the later version of the report, which is now also available in its altered form online, were claims that North West Australia has been hit by stronger tropical typhoons in the past 30 years.

    Another claim that southern regions in Australia have lost rainfall due to rising ocean temperatures and air currents pushing rain further south was also removed.

    Claims that eucalyptus and savannah habitats in Australia would also become more common were also deleted.

    The claims were highlighted in several Australian newspapers when the report was initially published, but the changes were never publicly announced.

    A figure on the cost of US Hurricanes was also changed after a typographical error was spotted in the original report. The original stated in a table the cost of hurricanes in the US would rise from 0.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 1.3%.

    The later report corrected the error so the increase was from 0.06% to 0.13%. A statement about the correction appeared in a postscript of the report and on the Treasury website.

    We are so fortunate that it was not a Harsh Review. Or a Severe Review.

    What it looks like to me is that things are not as bad as we thought. Except maybe for Climate Scientists.

    A mighty outpouring of rage today from Philip Stott, foaming with righteous indignation, on the life and imminent death of the AGW scam.

    Part of him is naturally enthralled:

    ... as an independent academic, it has been fascinating to witness the classical collapse of a Grand Narrative, in which social and philosophical theories are being played out before our gaze. It is like watching the Berlin Wall being torn down, concrete slab by concrete slab, brick by brick, with cracks appearing and widening daily on every face - political, economic, and scientific.
    He recognises that this an era of massive geopolitical power shifts:
    The humiliating exclusion of Britain and the EU at the end of the Copenhagen débâcle was partially to be expected, but it was brutal in its final execution. The swing of power to the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) had likewise been signified for some time, but, again, it came with precipitate ease, leaving even the American President, Barack Obama, with no doubts as to where the political agenda on climate change was now heading, namely to the developing world, but especially to the East, and to the Pacific Rim. The dirigiste tropes of 'Old Europe', with its love of meaningless targets and carbon capping, will no longer carry weight, while Obama himself has been straitjacketed by the voters of Massachusetts, by the rust-belt Democrats, by a truculent Congress, by an increasingly-sceptical and disillusioned American public, but, above all, by the financial crisis. Nothing will now be effected that for a single moment curbs economic development, from China to Connecticut, from Africa to Alaska.
    So how about those scientists who ran the scam? Off with their heads.
    Now suddenly it has all changed utterly. And you know what? I'm in no mood for being magnanimous in victory. I want the lying, cheating, fraudulent scientists prosecuted and fined or imprisoned. I want warmist politicians like Brown and disgusting Milibands booted out and I want Conservative fellow-travellers who are still pushing this green con trick - that'll be you, David Cameron, you Greg Clark, you Tim Yeo, you John Gummer, to name but four - to be punished at the polls for their culpable idiocy.

    For years I've been made to feel a pariah for my views on AGW. Chris Booker has had the same experience, as has Richard North, Benny Peiser, Lord Lawson, Philip Stott and those few others of us who recognised early on that the AGW thing stank. Now it's payback time and I take small satisfaction from seeing so many rats deserting their sinking ship. I don't want them on my side. I want to see them in hell, reliving scenes from Hieronymus Bosch.

    Yeah, maybe it isn't the Christian way. But screw 'em. It's not as though they haven't all been screwing us for long enough.

    As you can see it is the view from the Brit side of the pond. Over here we have Al Gore as our bete noire. And Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre as our relentless surveyors of the scientific scene.

    And as long as Anthony Watts is on my mind, how about a look at coral bleaching in Florida?

    Never mind predictions of catastrophic bleaching from global warming, cold is the culprit of this story. With ocean heat content now shown to be dropping slightly since 2005, there is even greater concern.

    Excerpts from Coral in Florida Keys suffers lethal hit from cold:

    January 30, 2010 By Curtis Morgan

    Bitter cold this month may have wiped out many of the shallow water corals in the Keys.

    Scientists have only begun assessments, with dive teams looking for "bleaching" that is a telltale indicator of temperature stress in sensitive corals, but initial reports are bleak. The impact could extend from Key Largo through the Dry Tortugas west of Key West, a vast expanse that covers some of the prettiest and healthiest reefs in North America.

    Given the depth and duration of frigid weather, Meaghan Johnson, marine science coordinator for The Nature Conservancy, expected to see losses. But she was stunned by what she saw when diving a patch reef 2.5 miles off Harry Harris Park in Key Largo.

    Star and brain corals, large species that can take hundreds of years to grow, were as white and lifeless as bones, frozen to death. There were also dead sea turtles, eels and parrotfish littering the bottom.

    "Corals didn't even have a chance to bleach. They just went straight to dead," said Johnson, who joined teams of divers last week surveying reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "It's really ecosystem-wide mortality."

    The record chill that gripped South Florida for two weeks has taken a heavy toll on wildlife -- particularly marine life.

    Jeeze. The Global Warming folks have been preparing for hot and now they have nothing in their bag for cold. I warned them. But they wouldn't listen. Oh well.

    BTW the last I heard CO2 was still going up:


    This falling temperature thing was totally unexpected. According to Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. the IPCC models don't do natural variability.

    What can we learn from the IPCC climate models based upon their ability to reconstruct the global average surface temperature variations during the 20th Century?

    While the title of this article suggests I've found evidence of natural climate cycles in the IPCC models, it's actually the temperature variability the models CANNOT explain that ends up being related to known climate cycles. After an empirical adjustment for that unexplained temperature variability, it is shown that the models are producing too much global warming since 1970, the period of most rapid growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This suggests that the models are too sensitive, in which case they are forecasting too much future warming, too.

    There are things the models can't explain? Like where they learned the trick to hide the decline? Well I can tell you I am shocked. I don't mind a girl straying. We are all human. But Heidi D. Kline has gone too far by hiding her extra curricular activities. I consider that cheating. Admitted error I can handle. Cheating is beyond the pale.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:54 PM | Comments (0)

    ITER Gets Clipped

    It looks like the Obama Administration is cutting back its support for ITER in next year's Federal Energy Budget.

    ...funding for DOE's fusion energy sciences (FES) program gets clipped from an estimated $426 million this year to a requested $380 million next year, a reduction of 10.8%. That reduction would come out of the United States's contribution to the international fusion experiment, ITER, which will be built in Cadarache, France. Under the proposed budget, ITER would get $80 million next year, down from an estimated $135 million this year. The decrease marks the latest dip on the ITER budget roller coaster. In 2008, Congress zeroed out $150 million of spending on ITER in a squabble with the White House. The project got $124 million the following year.

    Ironically, the current cut comes about because ITER itself has slowed down as researchers contend with design revisions that could double its $7 billion price tag. "We need to make sure that we don't get ahead of the project as a whole," says Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, home of the U.S. ITER project office. The proposed $80 million would keep U.S. researchers fully engaged next year, Mason says. However, he worries that the dip this year will make the required funding increases in 2012 and beyond all the larger and harder to achieve.

    I looked at the ongoing design review in ITER Back To The Drawing Board. I believe ITER is in big trouble for two reasons. One is that the engineering is not solid even for an experimental project and also that even if it is successful in its 40 or 50 year time line it will never produce a commercially viable fusion reactor.

    For viability I like Polywell which is currently being funded by the US Navy. For about $10 to $20 million spent over the next Two Years or less we will have an answer. You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

    Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

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

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

    About Half

    Quite a few states are working to change their constitutions to prevent Federal health care mandates.

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Although President Barack Obama's push for a health care overhaul has stalled, conservative lawmakers in about half the states are forging ahead with constitutional amendments to ban government health insurance mandates.
    About half?
    Lawmakers in 34 states have filed or proposed amendments to their state constitutions or statutes rejecting health insurance mandates, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit group that promotes limited government that is helping coordinate the efforts. Many of those proposals are targeted for the November ballot, assuring that health care remains a hot topic as hundreds of federal and state lawmakers face re-election.
    So 68% of the States is about half. No doubt if it was 90% of the states it would be over half. Just barely.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:59 PM | Comments (2)

    "can we call them 'gay'?"
    (Beats me! I didn't write the narrative!)

    Over the weekend, M. Simon emailed me a link to a news item Glenn Reynolds had linked about the Pashtuns. Or should I say the "gay Pahstuns"?

    As if U.S. troops and diplomats didn't have enough to worry about in trying to understand Afghan culture, a new report suggests an entire region in the country is coping with a sexual identity crisis. An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns -- though they seem to be in complete denial about it.
    According to the report, the behavior of some Afghan men has left Western forces "frequently confused."

    The story also contains some gems about love, and denial:

    ....Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot "love" another man -- but that doesn't mean they can't use men for "sexual gratification."

    The group of interpreters who had contracted gonorrhea joked in the camp that they actually got the disease by "mixing green and black tea." But since they refused to heed the medics' warnings, many of them re-contracted the disease after receiving treatment.

    The U.S. army medic also told members of the research unit that she and her colleagues had to explain to a local man how to get his wife pregnant.

    The report said: "When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked, 'How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.'"

    (Emphasis added.)

    As I remarked to Simon, "Sounds like a line from gay underground theater in SF!" Except that one man's satire can be another man's truth.

    However, there's a real split among gays between those who go in for longterm relationships, and those who only want sex without any emotional reciprocation (pure lust). The latter constitute one of the stereotypes the anti-gay conservatives like to complain about, yet ironically, that's the Pashtun way. The main difference is that the American gays do admit they are gay, and the Pashtuns would kill one of their own who did admit that. (After raping him, of course...)

    I'd say that the British had a word for people like that -- "SAVAGES" -- except I'd be inviting trouble from the people who piled on Sarah Hoyt, and then they'd conspire to ensure that I would never get ahead in life. (Like I care at this point.)

    But parenthetically, I'd like to say that is what I admire so much about Sarah. She is standing up to the insecure and mediocre conformists of this world who enjoy ruin the lives of non-conforming others -- and she dares to do so despite the possibility of damaging career consequences. I was also reminded of her earlier post when I read about figure skater Johnny Weir's capitulation to animal rights activists:

    Weir will replace the fox on his costume with faux fur after receiving "hate mail and death threats" from animal rights activists, agent Tara Modlin said Thursday.

    "He's changing it because he needs to focus on skating," she said.

    Friends of Animals posted an open letter to Weir after he added white fox fur to the left shoulder of his free skate costume for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. On Tuesday, the animal advocacy group called his costume designer, Stephanie Handler, and faxed a press release about its open letter to her business.

    Since then, Weir has heard from other anti-fur activists, Modlin said. Although People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made its case in a professional manner, Modlin said others did not -- to the point she and Weir were concerned someone might disrupt his performances at the Vancouver Olympics.

    Weir qualified for his second Olympic team by finishing third at nationals.

    "I do not want something as silly as my costume disrupting my second Olympic experience and my chance at a medal, a dream I have had since I was a kid," Weir said in a statement, first published by

    Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, said no one from the group had threatened Weir. She applauded Weir's decision.

    While I understand that his career comes first, it's a shame he didn't stand up to the activists. It's classic illustration in one of my oldest complaints in the blog -- why activists win. Non-activist people don't want the hassle, especially if they are in sensitive positions.

    Naturally, Ms. Feral (?) and her group had no connection whatsoever to those who threatened him.

    (As Willie Cicci once said, the Corleone Family "had a lot of buffers." So do the people who would never officially threaten you for calling men-who-kill-men-for-having-sex-with-men-even-though-they-have-sex-with-men savages. That's because civilized people are not allowed to call uncivilized behavior uncivilized.)

    Whether men who have sex with men are necessarily gay is an old issue in this blog.

    Suffice it to say that Westerners are incapable of understanding the sexuality of the Pashtuns -- probably more incapable than we are of understanding the sexuality of the ancients.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, Gay Patriot looks at Pashtun sexuality, and asks a good question:

    ....can we call them "gay"?
    Yes we can!

    And I am sure that "we" will. Anyone can call anyone anything. But if they are gay, then so are Charles Manson, John Dillinger, and countless prison rapists. If being gay means any man who has sex with another man (as gay activists and anti-gay religious conservatives insist), then all of these people and more are gay. Would anyone ask them to their faces? This would also mean that many of ancients were gay -- even though they did not think in modern terms at all. They didn't think in terms of heterosexual or homosexual categories. Zeus and Ganymede were lovers, but not gay, because there was no such homosexual "otherness" concept of sexuality. My opinion is that the category was created by a competing view of same sex sexual practices as "sin".

    However, it would be a serious mistake IMO, to place the Pashtuns (or many of the men in the Mideast) in the same category as the ancients, for the simple reason that they do have a religiously assigned category for sexual relations with men, and consider it to be a sin. A death penalty sin. Which means that while they screw each other in the butt, they cannot admit it, and would kill anyone who did. (Probably after raping him.)

    Is that clear now?

    posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (2)

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