From insurance mandate to beer mandate

Allahpundit asks a question which has been intriguing me:

If it's constitutional to impose an insurance mandate, i.e. "you must purchase a product from this industry," why would it be unconstitutional to refine that to "you must purchase our product from this industry"? In fact, assuming that the feds gave you a choice between not buying a car at all and having to buy GM if you did choose to buy one, the GM hypothetical would operate more like auto-insurance laws -- which are, of course, fully constitutional -- than the true mandate that's found in ObamaCare.
Frankly, I don't see any reason why that wouldn't flow from the insurance mandate.

And I am still thinking about that wonderful Yuengling beer I've been missing since I moved to Michigan -- a beer which, as I only recently found out, happens to be President Obama's favorite beer.

So... if it's constitutional to impose an insurance mandate (and if the government can ensure universal access to readers for all writers), I don't see why the government couldn't require beer drinkers to buy Yuengling.

That would certainly solve my problem!

As to those who don't like Yuengling beer as much as their current brand, how can they be so selfish?

Obviously, they need beer reeducation camps!

posted by Eric at 09:16 PM | Comments (2)

An esteemed emblem of vigilance

Speaking of the flag which leftie blogs are attempting to use in a lame attempt to connect the Tea Party movement to the Hutaree lunatics, M. Simon reminded me that the United States Navy is flying it.

The First Navy Jack, which was directly related to the Gadsden flag, has also been in use by the U.S. Navy, and since the terrorist attacks it is flown on all active naval ships.
And here they are:

Don't Tread On Me


And here's what Benjamin Franklin said about the image:

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids--She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.--She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.--As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:--Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.--Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?
I certainly hope he was not wrong.

posted by Eric at 08:03 PM | Comments (1)

Delving deeply into the double-secret subtext of the false flags of pseudo-fascism

As regular readers know, this blog takes flags seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I came up with a composite design of two flags that strike me as being at war with each other. More recently, a reader helped improve the image:


Better to be inclusive than divisive, right?

This morning I was alerted to two interesting new flag developments. One is the attempt to link the Hutaree crackpots to the Tea Party movement by referencing a photograph taken of them in front of the historic Gadsden flag.

Those Hutaree sure look like they can throw a party.

Is that a tea party flag in the background?

That post in turn links a TPM piece which calls the Gadsden flag a symbol of "the movement":
In one group shot, she [suspect Tina Kelley] is shown with several men in fatigues -- including a man who appears to be David Stone -- along with a woman in formal wear, all wielding assault rifles. Behind them is the flag of Hutaree and a Gadsden flag, a classic symbol of the movement.
A classic symbol of the movement? What movement? It is a historic American flag, with a proud history. If some demented crackpots who think they're fighting a holy war in the forest pose in front of it, that no more ties them to any group of people than it would if they posed in front of the American flag. They're wearing military cammies; does that tie them to the Army?

But I guess if the goal is to link them to the Tea Party movement, then even the sloppiest reasoning will do.

I'd like to laugh this off, because I think it's funny when people take ridiculous ideas seriously. But what is this? Politics? Humor? Or is it political humor? I recognize that politics is supposed to be taken seriously, but how am I supposed to take ridiculous ideas seriously? Should I try harder?

Maybe I should -- at least in the case of the second flag issue to greet me this morning.

The issue is whether the Tennessee state flag is some sort of neo-Nazi emblem.

I should start by observing that because Glenn Reynolds is a Tennessean, I should be very careful about how I analyze this. I am an admitted Yankee, and there might be certain Southern sensitivities involved. Anyway, it seems that Charles Johnson (a blogger I have long respected) mistakenly thought that the Tennessee flag was a neo-Nazi emblem. Glenn says it is not, and cites the history of this 1905 flag. In an update, Glenn noted that Charles had realized his own mistake, and adds that a reader claimed it was a "crypto-confederate emblem." Which would be troubling, because the image appeared on a Barack Obama campaign button.

So what are we to make of this? While it is not my place to defend a hasty remark that was later retracted, I think it is fair to point out that what we think of as the "Tennessee flag" does in fact have undeniable historical baggage which for whatever reason is being completely forgotten. Because I think it might shed additional light on the issue of whether there's a possible neo-Nazi subtext, and even on the question of whether Charles Johnson might have been more right than he thought he was, I thought I should share this information as a public service.

The baggage to which I refer is the prominent, yet at first blush inexplicable role of the "Tennessee" flag in a classic film about freedom-loving college students who are persecuted by blatantly neo-Nazi fellow students who are encouraged, aided and abetted by a vindictive, duplicitous dean who by any standard is simply a vicious fascist.

The dictatorial and dishonest Dean Wormer is a tyrant who deems himself above the law and makes up the rules as he goes along. Here he sneeringly announces a new form of tyranny of which the Gestapo itself would have been proud -- the now-infamous "double secret probation."

When our freedom-loving heroes are finally dragged before the Nazi-style kangaroo tribunal, they are railroaded by Dean Wormer and prosecutor Douglas C. Neidermeyer (described as one of "the clench-sphinctered ringleaders of the Nazi Omegas").

But what is most significant is that the so-called "Tennessee flag" is prominently featured behind Dean Wormer.

Take a look. You cannot miss it, for when it is seen in the proper context, it actually serves to prop up each of Dean Wormer's fascistic utterances (in much the same manner that the original Nazi flag flew behind the judges in Hitler's "People's Courts.")

So what's up with that flag? The college is in Pennsylvania, so it cannot be about Tennessee. There has been some discussion about this, and here is the official explanation:

Although the film takes place in Pennsylvania, a Tennessee flag is shown in the courtroom. This is because the set decorator was unable to find a large enough Pennsylvania flag for the scene, and the blue Oregon state flag wouldn't work because it had "State of Oregon" text on the upper part. So the set decorator used the most generic flag he could find, which turned out to be the Tennessee state flag.
Should we believe that? Or should we connect the obvious dots?

Isn't it more likely there a darker, hidden, double secret subtext? I don't know, but if there is, it would not surprised if the crypto-fascists behind it were to invoke the Double Secret Digital Millennium Copyright Act and pull the above videos, so I saved a screen shot of the infamous dean striking his characteristically fascist pose in front of the mysterious flag.


Is it merely the flag of Tennessee? Or is it permanently and indelibly associated with neo-Nazism? You decide.

This is deadly serious business, and I am trying to take this as seriously as circumstances allow. I'd better be careful, because some of the comments I've been getting lately make me think that someone might be, um, flagging my posts!

Who knows? I might already be on double secret probation.

posted by Eric at 02:08 PM | Comments (7)

Buy From Government Motors - Or Else

There is an ongoing discussion at Classical Values about whether the Federal Government can force you to buy a product. Like heath insurance say. Or a car from Government Motors.

I just came across an interesting mp3 from the Volokh Conspiracy on that very question. It is a discussion by the Attorney General of Colorado of the subject. The Government Motors question comes up about 17:50 into the discussion. The Attorney General of Colorado is filing suit against the Federal Government over the law and discusses his reasons - and he has a number of them. The whole audio is about 23 minutes and well worth your time.

And for some background: here is a link to the Tabor question.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:43 AM | Comments (1)

Down By Half

The demise of the Pravda and Izvestia media is in full swing.

CNN continued what has become a precipitous decline in ratings for its prime-time programs in the first quarter of 2010, with its main hosts losing almost half their viewers in a year.
But the news is not all bad for them. Some of it is much worse.
Fox News had their best year of all time in 2009. Now that we've finished the first quarter of 2010, it's clear FNC is showing no signs of letting up -they just finished their best quarter ever, in total day total viewers.

It was also the second highest rated quarter ever in prime time total viewers.

First the viewers go. Then the advertisers. The fact that Fox news is rising proves it is not the media. It is the message.

And that is not the only place where the message is ruining the media. The newspaper business is also troubled by a Death Watch. Time is not on their side. Well maybe the magazine is. But - No Fear. There is a magazine Death Pool too.

Think of my little magazine, Power and Control. Depending on how you count it I gather 140,000 eyeballs a year. Or take Classical Values. About 1,100,000 eyeballs a year. Nothing special really. But time is limited. And every minute a reader spends here is a minute not available for other media. After a while and with enough alternatives it is going to hurt. And hurt big.

I'm reminded of the Marxist long march through the institutions.

To few Americans is Antonio Gramsci a familiar name. That is to be regretted because the work of the late Italian Marxist sheds much light on our time. It was he who first alerted fellow revolutionaries to the possibility that they would be able to complete the seizure of political power only after having achieved "cultural hegemony," or control of society's intellectual life by cultural means alone.
Well they gained control of the culture all right. In fact they have strangled it to death. Good for them. They now control a corpse. And if you have watched Weekend at Bernie's
you know just how much trouble it is trying to keep a corpse animated.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:24 AM | Comments (6)

Obama Scam Compensation

I just got a wonderful e-mail promising $500,000 for victims of Obama's scams.

On behalf of the Obama's Foundation and UNITED NATIONS, we wish to notify you as a beneficiary of $500,000 USD in compensation of scam victims.This is to bring to your notice that we are delegated from the Obama's Foundation and UNITED NATIONS in Central Bank to pay 150 victims of scam $500,000 USD (Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) each. You are listed and approved for this payment as one of the scammed victims to be paid this amount.

According to the number of applicants at hand, 114 Beneficiaries has been paid, over a half of the victims are from the United States, we still have a pending of 36 compensations left to be paid. Your particulars was mentioned by one of the Syndicates who was arrested as one of their victims of the operations, you are hereby warned not to communicate or duplicate this message to him for any reason what so ever as the U.S. secret service is already on trace of the other criminals. So keep it secret till they are all apprehended. Other victims who have not been contacted can submit their application as well for scrutiny and possible consideration.

Tens of millions of victims of Obama's scams and only 150 are going to get a payoff? Sounds like just another scam to me.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Letters To Scalzi, pt. 2

(to John Scalzi, lately author of the very entertaining and well-written The God Engines)

John, I've noticed there is a large fairness gap in writing. While a large proportion of writers are unable to garner even 1,000 book-purchasing readers, others are routinely taking hundreds of thousands or even millions -- and most shockingly, many books are not published at all because Big Publishing is only interested in making profits not helping writers spread their important ideas. These awards are only making things worse.

Now, obviously we can all agree the government must ensure universal access to readers for all writers. My question for you is, should this be accomplished by 1) seizing these unfair profits from so-called "popular" authors and their publishers and using them to print copies of disadvantaged books which book stores would then be forced to carry, or 2) simply limiting printing and sales of all books to a proportionate share of total books published, based perhaps on the prior year's total sales of all books. I think both ideas have their merits, but I'm curious what a writer such as yourself thinks of these proposals.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers, and thanks to Glenn for linking.

John is a great writer, and I encourage everyone to follow the links above and vote for him. I just wanted to tweak him a bit with a little dystopian satire wherein there is no free market for books, which prospect I hope is sufficiently horrifyingly that he spares a neuron or two to consider the notion that other people's property rights might be important, too (it's always easy to find a reason to take the other guy's stuff in the name of fairness...).

posted by Dave at 05:12 PM | Comments (25)

Sometimes, nothing is something to worry about

After reading various reactions of doctors and other health care providers who submitted posts to the Grand Rounds special post-healthcare reform edition that Glenn linked earlier, I'm worried about what might happen over the next two years. I think everyone who opposed Obamacare should be worried too.

From a partisan political standpoint, the worst thing that could happen would be nothing.

As several medical bloggers who have analyzed this pointed out, what is being put in place is not health care reform, but health insurance reform. As my congressman (John Dingell) put it, it's a framework:

"It takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps that have to be taken to put the legislation together to control the people."
And just as it took time to get the bill passed, will take time to implement the framework.

First comes the health care insurance industry, and then the health care system itself. By the bill's own terms, this will take years.

The Democrats are not suicidal, and I think it is highly unlikely that they will even come close to implementation stage of their real goal any time soon. A nightmarish goal it is, but ordinary people probably won't see it happening between now and the elections. If the Democrats have sense, they will make sure that nothing happens that will adversely affect ordinary people in the near future. That will play right into their hands, because they'll be able to sit back and say, "the Republicans told you the sky was falling, and look! Everything is under control."

And because this is a highly political, highly partisan issue, many people on the right (myself included) did in fact shriek loudly and frequently about how this would mean the end of the best health care system known to man, etc. Which it will, but the point is, the stuff that will hurt people won't happen right away.

So the Democrats will do everything possible to make the Republican look like a bunch of hysterical whining ninnies, like a bunch of little boys who cried wolf. And see, the big bad wolf never came!

The lesson is that if you say the sky is falling and it doesn't fall, you have a bit of a problem. I hate to sound like a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, but if we see the Pelosi bill as providing the legal framework for the destruction of the health insurance industry (and as we all know, health care is hopelessly dependent on health insurance), then it's like placing demolition charges in a building with timers set to go off at whatever point is deemed "optimal." The building would still look fine and be fine, even if its fate is sealed.

If you don't like that image, another way to look at it is like a fence. First come the post holes, followed by posts planted in the ground. People can still come and go. The one day, the fence is up. But it will be too late! As Sonny in A Bronx Tale told the bikers after he locked the doors.

"Now yous can't leave!"
So I guess I'm worried about nothing.

posted by Eric at 04:31 PM | Comments (3)

It would take more courage to come out as a Republican.

When read that Ricky Martin had come out of the closet, I was not terribly surprised. Nor was anyone.

Glenn Reynolds said this was the "BOTTOM story of the day," and quipped,"Who's next -- Elton John?"

Don't laugh. People are still guessing about Richard Simmons. Will such pesky rumors never cease?

As to the merits, I have to agree with Glenn. Ricky just does not strike me as a top.

But -- since the specific details are subject to speculation, can't we at least play Name That Party? I think the general lack of attention paid to this story is probably evidence that Ricky is not a Republican, and even though he was once excoriated for performing at the White House "when Bush was on top," the fact that no one is accusing him of "hypocrisy" probably clinches it. A cardinal rule of modern politics is that if you are a Republican, all sexual activity outside of strict missionary-position-sex between a husband and a wife constitutes "hypocrisy" of the worst sort.

Plus, he said this:

President Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize! That's fantastic! Foreign relations sucked! Obama brought the world together in many ways
Well, I'm sure glad foreign relations no longer suck! I'm sure the Israelis are too.

MORE: Ann Althouse calls Ricky's coming out "only a play for our attention, after all else has failed."

All the more reason for him (and his agent) to consider the benefits of registering Republican and then outing himself.

Come on, Ricky! I absolutely guarantee you'd get more attention!

posted by Eric at 02:23 PM | Comments (4)

Government makes poverty expensive

Dr. Helen links an article in USA Today I found horrifying. Government-run homeless shelters (places that basically provide people with a cot to sleep) end up costing more than it would to rent private housing. Much, much more:

Cities, states and the federal government pay more to provide the homeless with short-term shelter and services than what it would cost to rent permanent housing, the U.S. government reports.

A study of 9,000 families and individuals being released today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development finds that costs to house the newly homeless vary widely, depending on the type of shelter and social services provided by the six cities in the report.

Emergency shelter for families was the most costly. In Washington, D.C., the average bill for a month in an emergency shelter ranges from $2,500 to $3,700. In Houston, the average is $1,391.

Many communities probably don't know that they are spending as much "to maintain a cot in a gymnasium with 100 other cots" as it would cost to rent an efficiency apartment, says Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies housing policies. "We are paying for a form of housing that is largely substandard, and we are paying as much, if not more, than standard conventional housing."

Whenever the government runs anything, it's like a blank check, and accountability disappears. Unlike private employers (who are hemmed in by the bottom line) the government can hire as many people as it wants (often this is grounded in political patronage -- payoffs for campaign work), the employees have total, unionized job security, and they agitate constantly about the need to increase their numbers. So government grows and grows. "Sustainability" is for chumps in the private sector.

An article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the problem in detail:

It turns out there really is growing inequality in America. It's the 45% premium in pay and benefits that government workers receive over the poor saps who create wealth in the private economy.

And the gap is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 1998 to 2008 public employee compensation grew by 28.6%, compared with 19.3% for private workers. In the recession year of 2009, with almost no inflation and record budget deficits, more than half the states awarded pay raises to their employees. Even as deficits in state capitals widen and are forcing cuts in services, few politicians are willing to eliminate these pay inequities that enrich the few who wield political power.

And (via Glenn Reynolds) Reason has more.

So, horrifying though it is, it really shouldn't surprise anyone that homeless shelters cost far more than renting an apartment would.

Back in the old days (like when I was a kid), housing for those we now call homeless was provided in the form of "flop houses." Usually located in areas of cities collectively known as "Skid Row," these places would offer low priced rooms or even cots for a dollar a day or less.

In the 1950s, transients living outside the family unit tended to be concentrated in the poorer districts of the city where there were cheap hotels and restaurants, bars, religious missions and casual employment agencies. The current notion of "homelessness," based on the absence of shelter, did not strictly apply here, as most of the poor could readily find shelter in rooming houses, cheap hotels, or other forms of substandard housing ("flophouses"). In fact, only a small minority of the "transient" population actually resorted to sleeping on the streets.
By the end of the 1970s, the flophouses were gone, and their former denizens were living in the street.

As to why landlords wouldn't run flophouses today, the reasons are obvious. Strict building codes won't allow them, and the tort law system encourages anyone (including the residents and neighbors) to sue for almost anything. Especially "substandard housing" (which is by definition virtually illegal).

Years ago, Donald MacDonald (a liberal San Francisco architect) came up with what I thought was a good idea -- building small, weatherproof, lockable sleeping cubicles which could be set up anywhere and moved easily. It got a lot of press until someone thought to run the idea past Codes and Inspections. It was totally illegal, of course, so it went nowhere. (But exposing people to the elements meets code, doncha know.)

And naturally, problems created by government can only be solved by government. So the taxpayers should foot the bill for government-run flophouses that cost a hundred times more than private flophouses used to cost.

Poverty should be made as expensive and as permanent as possible.

Get used to it.

posted by Eric at 11:52 AM | Comments (4)

Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree

My friend Kate Paulk, blogging at our group blog (Mad Genius Club, Writers' Division has gone after one of the cliches of science fiction and fantasy. The evil overlord.

Perhaps this hit me at a vulnerable time, as I'm waiting for an answer to my proposals for sequels to Darkship Thieves - all three of which deal with evil regimes of different stripes and at least one of which centers around a revolution against said regime.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that Kate has it exactly right and that most science fiction and fantasy novels serve us very badly indeed. They show the toppling of the regime as being relatively easy and with little push back - and the victims of the regime as being happy they were freed. (How to correct that dissonance in my chosen field and why we should is a post in itself, one I owe to sf signal this week.)

I blame the WWII movies so many of us grew up with. You knew, sure as shooting, that if the allied aviator got shot behind the lines in Germany but especially in France, except for a few officers, he would find the mass of the people on his side and ready to help him/smuggle him behind the lines/do whatever they had to do to save him. Because the mass of the people (TM) were all against the evil regime, of course.

Need I tell you that in real life it doesn't work like that?

Continue reading "Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree"

posted by Sarah at 11:59 PM | Comments (11)

A heartfelt plea -- from one Yuengling fan to another!

Finally, there's something about President Obama that I like! And I mean, really like!

I did not know it until today, but according to this article, my favorite beer, Yuengling -- a great, 175-year-old beer from "America's oldest brewery" -- is also Barack Obama's favorite beer:

OTTAWA - President Barack Obama followed through on his hockey bet with Canada, sending beer to the prime minister.

Stephen Harper received the delivery of Molson Canadian on Friday. Canada won the men's gold-medal game on Sidney Crosby's overtime goal.

Harper and Obama had each wagered a case of beer on the outcome.

Obama tossed in an extra case of Yuengling for Harper, the president's brew of choice had he won the friendly wager.

Ambassador David Jacobson, Obama's top representative in Canada, delivered the beer. He also congratulated "the Canadian people on the games."

I have no interest in hockey, but I dearly love Yuengling beer, and it is one of the things I most miss about Pennsylvania.

I had no idea that it was the president's favorite. It's a habit he must have picked up at Columbia, or more recently in DC, because Yuengling is not distributed in Hawaii where he grew up, nor in Massachusetts where he went to law school, nor in Illinois where he lived more recently.

Anyway, now that I know it's the president's favorite, I'd like to see some progress on getting it distributed. Here's the company's distribution map as of right now:


It would appear that this Yankee company has a "Southern Strategy," which seems odd for a brewery centered in Pennsylvania. Nothing north of New York, and not one location in the Midwest -- and this despite the fact that its most important fan (the most powerful man in the world) is from Illinois and went to law school in New England.

BTW, the beer has recently made an entry into the West Virginia market, where it is selling like hotcakes. And while Yuengling is only number two right now, it is poised to overtake Sam Adams as the largest American-owned brewery, despite the fact that Sam Adams is distributed everywhere. Here's what Sam Adams' founder Jim Koch says about its smaller competitor:

I think Yuengling has done a fantastic job with a strategy that a lot of people told them was crazy. They've been very successful taking their own path, which is competing with the mass domestic beers with a darker and more flavorful beer. They have a huge market share in eastern Pennsylvania. They may have market share there that is competitive with Budweiser, which is an extraordinary accomplishment. Even here in New England, we don't compete with Budweiser. They are 25 or 5O times our size, so we're still very small. But Yuengling has found a way to get an enormous volume by bringing the mass domestic drinkers into something that is a little more flavorful. I admire [Dick Yuengling's] refusal to listen to everybody who told him he was wrong. A lot of people told me I was wrong when I started. I know what it's like to have people tell you you're doing it the wrong way because it's unconventional.
Budweiser is a classic example of a Goliath. I have been told that Midwestern beer distribution is basically dominated by Budweiser and Miller, two foreign-owned companies engaged in hegemonic practices. No doubt they would do just about anything to keep Yuengling out of my state, Michigan. But why the hell can't Yuengling at least be in Ohio? As the state line is only a half an hour or so away from me, I'd be glad to drive down and pick up a case or two, but driving to Pennsylvania for beer is just too much trouble.

Up until now, all I could do was join a Facebook group. But now that the beer has a powerful ally in the form of the White House, it's time to demand some real action.

Come on, Mr. President. The American beer market is in the tentacles of a huge foreign monopoly. What's going on is clearly restraint of trade! The mega-distributorships dominated by Bud and Miller take advantage of medieval laws which prevent beer from being moved about freely the way other products are. So now that you've nationalized health care, is it too much to ask you to use your power for a good purpose?

Philosophically speaking, if health care should be transportable, why not beer?

posted by Eric at 11:34 PM | Comments (7)

Going Galt with Rolls Royce Rice!

I realize it's self-indulgent to carry on about the love affair I'm having with my rice cooker, but I just made a big pot of Sushi rice, and wow! It's as addictive as salt and vinegar potato chips.

Which isn't surprising, considering that virtually all Sushi rice recipes call for rice vinegar and salt. But the main ingredient is of course Sushi rice. I bought a 5 pound bag yesterday, and at $6.50, it seemed a little pricey, but I learned that it's a top brand -- "the rice true connoisseurs treasure above all others" -- which sells for much more at (It's a world leader in gourmet rice, and is proudly grown in the USA.)


Amazing stuff. A true delicacy, and not only does it go with anything, but even eaten alone it tastes as good as any junk food I've eaten. At this rate, I will soon become a "fan tong." (That's a Chinese expression which means going John Galt.)

You'd think I'd be properly ashamed.

posted by Eric at 02:51 PM | Comments (4)

"Humane liberalism" that makes Vladimir Putin look kind

While American animal rights activists busy themselves with legislation making criminals out of loving dog owners for tethering a family dog to the front porch, our smug anti-American neighbors to the north are busy skinning seal pups alive. This horrifies Canadian Jamie Glazov, and if you read his article and you're sensitive to shocking scenes of animal cruelty, I'd suggest being careful about clicking on the video links.

The savagery of the Canadian seal massacre is completely unacceptable for any society that considers itself humane. Ninety five percent of the seals are babies less than four weeks old; they are still suckling their mom's milk and have not eaten their first solid meal or taken their first swim. They are helpless on the ice. The sealers shoot these baby seals or use hakapiks, long, sharply hooked metal clubs, to bludgeon them, leaving them to suffer on the ice in pools of blood for extended periods of time. The baby seals are left terrified and crying from the torture, until the sealers return to bludgeon them once again and then skin them alive without even checking if they are dead. Oftentimes the baby seals are cut open with box cutters while they are still alive -- inches away from each other and in full sight of their weeping on-looking mothers. Some seals slide under the ice and drown; others escape after they are shot or stabbed -- only to die a slow and painful death.
It's far more cruel than anything allowed in the United States, and I don't understand why the Canadians tolerate it. And they do more than tolerate it. They subsidize it:
....the Canadian government not only continues to rubber stamp this savagery, it blatantly lies to the public, maintaining that the seals are killed humanely. All empirical reality discredits this pathetic falsehood. Watch any video on youtube about it; read the documentation provided by groups such as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Animal welfare groups have documented hundreds of violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act that govern the seal hunt.

But the outrage continues. The Canadian sea hunt is coming up this spring and we will be seeing yet another unconscionable picture: the Canadian Coast Guard ships breaking ice and helping sealing ships to get to the baby seals...

Breaking the ice? What ice? I thought it had melted away because of Global Warming. Isn't the unnecessary use of Coast Guard icebreakers a form of Global Warming denialism in addition to animal cruelty?

What's with these crazy Canadians anyway? Apparently, there are also some interesting cultural features at play. Urban Canadian snots feel guilty about being snots, and they fetishize the working class sealers:

...we mainland Canadians - who live in cities and proudly wear our fleece winter coats made of recycled water bottles - feel almost as guilty about the man who clubbed the seals as we do about the seals themselves. But we would not wish to meet him in a social situation and would decline to shake his hand. For he has no money to speak of, and we understand that he has to earn a living, poor guy.

And this is why we let the seal hunt go on. We sentimentalise our working-class seal murderers. Okay? And it's killing us inside! We're weeping seal blood tears! We are a conflicted people. Are you happy now?

Humane liberalism is at the soppy, shameful heart of this indefensible seal hunt...

To that I would say that even Russia (despite its maniacal history of devotion to the working classes) has banned the hunting of these seal pups. The spectacle proved too much for Vladimir Putin, who pronounced the hunt a "bloody business."

I don't like or trust Vladimir Putin. But when he makes the Canadians look cruel, I'd say they have a definite PR problem.

posted by Eric at 01:33 PM | Comments (2)

The final abolition of charity

Last night I read Cathy Young's piece on health care reform just before going to bed, and some of what she said had me tossing and turning.

the life-and-death nature of medicine throws a major wrench into the libertarian paradigm.
Ouch! I hate wrenches are thrown into libertarian paradigms, and I wish I could just ignore this whole thing and make it go away. But she really rubs it in, and makes me feel like an atheist in a foxhole.
Freedom of choice is an empty concept if one of the options is death or disability; whats more, this is one area where better and costlier goods and services may be a matter of necessity rather than luxury. Indeed, as with atheists and foxholes, there are (almost) no libertarians in emergency rooms.
Well, in fairness to the cruel old days of Ebenezer Scrooge, there used to be such a thing as charity care. Hospitals would provide care for the poor, and so would doctors. Not only were there general hospitals, but teaching hospitals and private hospitals used to run free clinics. I don't know why and exactly when that mostly stopped, but it did. Nowadays, poor uninsured people use the Emergency Room, with the taxpayers footing the bill.

I think a little history is in order.

People today may find it hard to believe, but hospitals originated as charitable institutions for the poor and destitute. It was only because of the birth of modern medicine as we know it (especially the discovery of anesthesia) that they became places where people with money would actually go in order to get well:

The concept of charity care has been closely linked to the development of hospitals. As these institutions have evolved, so has the relatively vague definition of charity care. Today's hospitals differ considerably from their predecessors. Founded in Europe during the middle ages, and centuries later in America, hospitals served as the last resort for the infirm, the mentally and physically disabled, and the homeless.1 Hospitals performed multiple functions,3 but primarily provided shelter for the poor. Those who were better off usually received care in their own homes from private physicians.1 The growing number of epidemics and the need to isolate those affected led to establishment of city and voluntary hospitals during the 19th century. However, it was not until the advent of anesthesia and antiseptics that modern hospitals began to develop.1
At first, though, many of these hospitals remained true to their originally charitable tradition. (I know that this is true. When my father was a medical student in the 1930s, he and other medical students used to be sent out to the homes of poor people to deliver babies -- something which would be unthinkable and probably illegal today.) But there remained a sort of split between private and secular hospitals (which took the earliest form of government subsidies) and religious or "ethnic" hospitals, which remained charities in the true sense of the word.
In the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, the prevailing hospital systems in major cities consisted of municipal and private secular hospitals, most of which were charitable in character and affiliated with medical schools. They relied upon government appropriations rather than fees to sustain their operations. Religious and ethnic hospitals, less prominent at the time, relied entirely on fees and donations to finance their operations.1 Until the 1970s, some hospitals managed to provide care for the poor by marking up the standard charges of the medical services they provided to the general population, a practice known also as costshifting.2 Insurance plans emerged in the 1930s, as the non-poor began to demand hospital care.
Eventually, government grants were provided in order to "modernize" hospitals, and then Medicare and Medicaid. With the government money came (surprise!) new government rules:
The Hill-Burton Act of 1946, which sought to promote hospital modernization, provided government grants to non-profit hospitals. In exchange for these grants, Hill-Burton required non-profit hospitals to provide charity care or discounted care for those who could not afford care at regular costs.3 Financing of the hospital industry shifted again with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. By the end of that decade, about 90 percent of hospital revenue came either from government programs or private insurance.3

Significantly, political pressure in the 1960s and early 1970s resulted in new state laws prohibiting hospitals with emergency care facilities to deny treatment to those in critical condition.

In other words, the present "system" (for lack of a better word) is a result of government created subsidies which gradually replaced genuine charity care with taxpayer-paid care. Modern hospitals as we know them became business ventures, and much of their funding consisted of government money paying for what had once been charity care.

And Obamacare is the final coffin nail in charity care.

Why would any doctor or hospital treat a patient for nothing if there's a blank check from the government?

Charity (once a very honest and moral concept) has been replaced ("engulfed and devoured" would be more accurate) by a very dishonest and immoral concept, called "entitlement."

People are worried about the government taking over medical care, but they should also be worried that the government is taking over what was once a form of morality. In the name of charity, charity is being destroyed. Unselfishness was once a free choice. But while it purports to abolish selfishness, the "entitlement" model actually perpetuates it.

What I cannot understand is this: once selfishness is removed from the equation, how is it that unselfishness will be able to exist?

posted by Eric at 11:09 AM | Comments (2)

Senate Operations

The public scenes (Senate hearings) are pretty faithful to the record according to what I can tell. Very few words have been changed or left out. Compare the movie version to newsreel clips of them.

This came up because of Congressional hearings threatened against companies revealing material losses caused by the Health Care Bill. And you know what else amuses me? Such revelations are required by law when a bill passes.

It's been a banner week for Democrats: ObamaCare passed Congress in its final form on Thursday night, and the returns are already rolling in. Yesterday AT&T announced that it will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health bill, in what has become a wave of such corporate losses.

This wholesale destruction of wealth and capital came with more than ample warning. Turning over every couch cushion to make their new entitlement look affordable under Beltway accounting rules, Democrats decided to raise taxes on companies that do the public service of offering prescription drug benefits to their retirees instead of dumping them into Medicare. We and others warned this would lead to AT&T-like results, but like so many other ObamaCare objections Democrats waved them off as self-serving or "political."

...Henry Waxman and House Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing because their judgment "appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs."

excerpted from the Wall Street Journal

Who ever bought Senator Waxman didn't get his money's worth.

The link to the newsreel version was found in the comments at Gateway Pundit. I found the movie version on my own.

Here is a book about one of the accusations thrown at Hughes. That he was a Playboy. He was.

Howard Hughes: The Untold Story

As Mark Twain was reputed to have said: "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:42 AM | Comments (0)

I demand to see the AP's list of invisible and inaudible "tea party activists"!

Noting the difficulty inherent in proving that something did not happen, Dave quotes an AP piece which criticizes Andrew Breitbart for not providing evidence to rebut the claim that racial epithets were shouted by Tea Party activists:

Conservative columnist Andrew Breitbart disputed accounts that tea party activists in Washington shouted racial epithets at black members of Congress amid the health care debate, although he didn't provide any evidence.
Of course, if you do provide evidence, as Eric Erickson did when he said that the videos showed no racial epithets, you will be accused of lying. "John King Lets Erick Erickson Tell Latest Right Wing Lie on Racial Slurs: They Didn't Happen."

The logic is utterly impenetrable. Saying something happened without proof makes it true, while denying it and offering proof is a "right wing lie."

Notice also how the allegation has changed. It has evolved from unknown persons who shouted in a crowd to "tea party activists in Washington shouted racial epithets." Yet no one -- not even the accusers -- have come up with the slightest proof that anyone there shouted a racial epithet.

As it has not been shown that a single person used a single racial epithet, how can it be claimed that "racial epithets" were shouted by "tea party activists"?

Because the AP says so?

What I'd like to know is how does the Associated Press know about these tea party activists, and why aren't they identifying them? Who are they, and where are they? Do they have a list of imaginary names like Joe McCarthy? Why won't the AP let the rest of us in on their game?

Because, if in fact there are invisible tea party activists that no one can see, who do not appear on any videos, but who nonetheless managed to shout racial epithets that no one can hear, they are obviously very powerful, very sinister people who have great magical powers -- powers they are clearly misusing to harm the Tea Party movement. The Tea Partiers should demand that the AP identify them so something can be done to stop them.

I'm glad Andrew Breitbart is offering a $10,000 reward.

posted by Eric at 06:37 PM | Comments (11)

Local news that's not local news yet?

Glenn Reynolds wonders about the timing of a series of federal raids in the general area of Southeast Michigan.

Southeast Michigan happens to be where I live, and I'm wondering about more than just the timing. The focus of what has been repeatedly described as a "massive federal raid" is Adrian, Michigan, which is about an hour away from here. There's been speculation about precisely whom the feds were targeting and why, and Fox News reports that arrests were made for selling pipe bombs.

Seven people have been arrested for allegedly selling pipe bombs in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, Fox News has learned.

The arrests and raids in Michigan and Indianapolis are related to alleged militia activity in the region, but are not related to international terrorism. There is not a current threat to the public, according to a law enforcement source.

An official for the FBI's Michigan bureau said initial court appearances are expected in Michigan on Monday.

A command post was set up last night right here in Ann Arbor, and residents of the Adrian area told Detroit's Action News station that it looked "like a small army had descended on the area":
Helicopters were spotted in the sky for much of the night, and agents set up checkpoints throughout the area, including in Sand Creek and Clayton in Lenawee County. Witnesses tell Action News that it was like a small army had descended on the area.

A command center, including two satellite trucks and a radio tower, had been set up at the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department in Ann Arbor. It has since been dismantled.

Federal agents will not comment on the investigation, only saying that they are serving a number of search warrants and that the warrants are sealed. Action News has learned that an unknown number of arrests have also been made. An unconfirmed report indicated that at least six people were arrested coming into Michigan from Ohio.

I don't find it surprising that news of the raids have been reported in Detroit (including Click on Detroit and the Detroit News) and by the Ann Arbor News (which has a lengthy background piece about Hutaree, said to be one of the targeted groups).

What I do find a bit peculiar is that the town of Adrian (repeatedly described as looking like a small army had descended there) has a local newspaper, which has said next to nothing, except a vague article which says they're looking into it:

ADRIAN, Mich. --

We have personnel heading out to the Clayton area, which was the site of federal law enforcement activity Saturday night. We'll post more information as we gather it; in the meantime, here are a few links to other sources.

This prompted a couple of angry comments at their web site:
Daily Telegram is ALL over this story.....yeah right!!! Big local news like this and we find out FIRST from Detroit?!?!?!?!!!!!
For a story in your backyard, I mean, come on, CLAYTON and SAND CREEK, it's rather pathetic the Telegram is 12 hours or more late on the story.
If the place was looking like a small army had descended there, the lack of reporting seems strange.

Get on it, guys. People might think there's a local news blackout or something.

MORE: My thanks to Memeorandum for the link! Memeorandum also links some interesting background on the targeted "Hutaree" group from the Sipsey Street Irregulars, who say the Hutaree was shunned by Michigan militia groups:

The Hutaree have indicated in the past that, much like John Brown, they WANTED to start a civil war, which is why no responsible militia group in Michigan was willing to ally with them.

But if you give them what they want, there will be nothing anybody else can do to stop it, you stupid blundering bastards.

Last time I looked, wanting to start a civil war (insane as it is) was not a crime. Assuming they are crackpots, they still have the same constitutional rights as everyone else, and I hope for the sake of the rest of us that they are being respected.

The last thing the country needs right now is another Waco.

UPDATE (3/29/10): Now that there's been a press conference and indictments have been announced, there's a lot more news than when I wrote this post. From the Detroit News.

The five-count indictment alleges that between August 2008 and the present, the defendants were trying to use bombs and other weapons to oppose the U.S. government.


They had plans to kill a local law enforcement official and, once officers from across the country came to the funeral, to attack the funeral procession, the indictment alleges.

"This is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society," said Andrew Arena, FBI special agent in charge. "The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States."

They sound like wacked out maniacs, and if they are found guilty, I hope they go to prison.

Incredibly, some commenters below seem to think I was defending them when I expressed the hope that their constitutional rights would be respected. The latest one says,

So now terrorists should have their rights respected?

I guess if having standards is good, having double standards is twice as good!

As to what double standard that is, I don't know.

Again, these people are United States citizens, and until they are convicted, they have the same constitutional rights as any other citizen.

AND MORE: The Daily Telegram (the local newspaper that was criticized yesterday) has a very comprehensive story today, with names and pictures of the suspects.

According to the indictment, Hutaree members view local, state, and federal law enforcement as the "brotherhood," their enemy, and have been preparing to engage them in armed conflict.

According to the indictment, the Hutaree's plan was to kill a police officer, then attack the police officers who would gather at the funeral using improvised explosive devices. These homemade bombs would use "explosively formed projectiles," which the indictment says are considered weapons of mass destruction.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said, "Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time."

It appears that the law enforcement agents successfully defused a very dangerous situation, and much to their credit, avoided a repeat of what happened at Waco, where innocent people were killed.

posted by Eric at 03:21 PM | Comments (21)

Left out of the framing

I know I am starting to sound like a broken record, but one of the things which most worries me right now is the way libertarianism is being increasingly written out of serious discussions of what it is that defines us. What George Lakoff would call the "framing" of political theory itself.

One of the leading "framers" who seems to be emerging is University of Virginia Associate Professor Jonathan Haidt.

A liberal, he clearly likes the liberal/conservative dichotomy, and he has come up with seemingly scientific tests to justify his theory of the framing which are well received on the left.

There are five categories he uses to measure morality (Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity), although he is thinking of adding a sixth:

Much of our present research involves applying the theory to political "cultures" such as those of liberals and conservatives. The current American culture war, we have found, can be seen as arising from the fact that liberals try to create a morality relying almost exclusively on the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity foundations; conservatives, especially religious conservatives, use all five foundations, including Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. [Note: We are currently investigating other candidate foundations. The main contender for being a 6th foundation is Liberty/constraint, which includes both lifestyle liberty, and also negative liberty -- the freedom to be left alone by government. Liberals score higher on lifestyle liberty; conservatives on negative liberty]
I can't help notice that even though he's added a "6th foundation" which would seem to go to the heart of the difference between libertarians and both liberals and conservatives, he still insists on the liberal versus conservative framework.

Why is that?

It is one thing to disagree with libertarianism, but to not acknowledge its existence is to disregard it entirely. Are libertarians so freakish that they are extreme, off-the-chart outliers?

When I complained about this guy before, maybe I didn't take him seriously enough (and parenthetically, I should frankly admit here that my failure to take things seriously may be a core problem):

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.
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, a very thoughtful post by A Goy and his Blog (which endorses the premises of Professor Haidt's liberal versus conservative dichotomy) reminded me of my previous post, as well as my ongoing worry that libertarianism is being written out of the discussion, equation, and even framing. While it ought to surprise no one that liberals and conservatives would agree on editing libertarianism out, when they agree to do it by way of scientific principle, that gets my attention.

So, trying to be as thorough as my disorganized nature will allow, and keeping in mind that my last visit to the Haidt site consisted only of taking the Disgust test, this time I took the overall Moral Compass test.

For starters, I strongly dislike the test's methodology. I find it impossible to give accurate and unambiguous answers to questions like this:

When you decide whether something is right or wrong, to what extent are the following considerations relevant to your thinking? Please answer on a scale from

Not At All Relevant (This consideration has nothing to do with my judgments of right and wrong)

to Extremely Relevant (This is one of the most important factors when I judge right and wrong)


Whether or not someone violated standards of purity and decency.

It is impossible to answer whether or not someone violated standards of purity and decency, because we do not know what is meant by the terms. Purity of what? The air, the water, sexuality, personal hygiene? And whose standards? Clearly the 9/11 hijackers thought they were adhering to the highest possible standards of purity and decency, but I think they're some of the foulest and most morally impure beings who ever walked the earth. Ditto Himmler and his SS crackpot followers. I guess I would rate purity and decency as important in my clinical analysis of them, but I would not consider it as a factor in their defense. So while it is highly relevant, I suspect that sort of relevance is not the sense the question intends.

Ditto this question:

Whether or not someone acted in a way that God would approve of.
I am not so arrogant as to know what God would approve of. I believe in following the Golden Rule, OK? The Nazis and the 9/11 hijackers obviously did not. And much as I would like to think that my Golden Rule morality is what God would approve of, certainly the 9/11 hijackers have a very different view. So again, in gauging the "relevance" I assign to it is not an accurate depiction of my view of God, and does not reflect my moral judgment. I do not consider it a defense that these people believed God approved of their evil deeds. In fact, I think it makes them worse. So I consider it highly relevant, but (I suspect) not in the way the question intends.

Similarly in considering

"Whether or not someone did something to betray his or her group"
it is impossible to give an answer reflecting my personal moral views over the betrayal of a "group." It depends on the group. Betraying an evil group is not the same thing as betraying a good group. And "betraying" a group to which one has been assigned without one's consent (as in the case of virtually all identity politics-derived groups), well, sorry liberals, but I don't consider that a betrayal at all. (Whether it is possible for me to "betray" conservatism, I don't know...) In what might seem a contradiction, I value loyalty as an operating principle, but that's probably because I consider loyalty to be an individual and not a collective concept.

Anyway, the list goes on and on:

"Whether or not someone conformed to the traditions of society."
What traditions? Saudi traditions or American traditions? What traditions might they be? Beheading adulterers is not a tradition I would respect, but then, neither are Social Security, Medicare, or Hollywood.

With my objections in mind, here are my results (mine are in green, the liberals are in blue, the conservatives are in red):


Whether I am "liberal" or "conservative," who knows? Do I really have to be one or the other? Says who?

Can I be allowed to just think what I think without being labeled, diagnosed, and categorized?

posted by Eric at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)

Emmanuel Speaks

The inimitable Jeff G brings it, as only he can:

I mean, what teen in his rebellious stage isn't going to embrace the edgy cries of, "all our shower heads are uniform in pressure!", or "hell no, we won't go (to restaurants that cook with table salt)!". Why, it's just like following the Dead around the country!

Face it, Nishi. The statist scolds -- offering soulless progressivism repackaged in the language of freedom -- will only hold power so long as they can maintain the euphemisms.

And that won't last. Jon Stewart's ears are starting to sprout hair. Matt Damon is a punch line.

You are disco, is what you are. And any day now, Asia or Journey or Joan Jett will be coming around to f*** you back into a handful of cheesy dance clubs catering to Long Island hairdressers.

Be sure to take Urkel with you.

We're seeing this discontent manifest itself in the anti-statist Tea Party movement, which sprang up out of nowhere to become the most energetic political movement in a generation. The statists' attempt to paint a widespread popular movement as violent, racist radicals is as telling as it is hypocritical coming from those who seek to use Leviathan's monopoly on violence to crush every perceived social ill from behind badges and guns with a level of detail that would have made old Dzhugashvili's mustache bristle with envy.

UPDATE: The AP water-carriers do their best to earn a gov't subsidy of their own someday:

Conservative columnist Andrew Breitbart disputed accounts that tea party activists in Washington shouted racial epithets at black members of Congress amid the health care debate, although he didn't provide any evidence.

Gosh, he failed to prove a negative! I guess the AP's Michael R. Blood was expecting a notarized transcript of every word every person in the crowd uttered that day. And this is a straight news piece, my friends.

posted by Dave at 09:03 AM | Comments (1)

Forces Of Drug Prohibition Won Big

The forces of drug prohibition won a big case that will reverberate in the fight against the health care bill. They won it in 2005 in the Supreme Court. Read it and weep.

Lawsuits from 14 states challenging the constitutionality of the new national healthcare law face an uphill battle, largely due to a far-reaching Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that upheld federal restrictions on home-grown marijuana in California.

At issue in that case -- just like in the upcoming challenges to the healthcare overhaul -- was the reach of the federal government's power.

Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy joined a 6-3 ruling that said Congress could regulate marijuana that was neither bought nor sold on the market but rather grown at home legally for sick patients.

They said the Constitution gave Congress nearly unlimited power to regulate the marketplace as part of its authority "to regulate commerce."

Even "noneconomic local activity" can come under federal regulation if it is "a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce," Scalia wrote.

The decision throws up a significant hurdle for the lawsuit filed last week in federal court by 13 state attorneys -- all but one a Republican. The Virginia attorney general filed a similar, but separate suit.

Which just goes to show you that Liberty is indivisible. You start denying it to people you don't like and pretty soon it will be denied to you.

This would be hilarious if it wasn't so funny.

Here is a nice little ditty.

First they came for the crack users; but I said nothing. I was not a crack user.

Then they came for the heroin users. But I said nothing - I was not a heroin user.

Then they came for the cannabis growers. But I said nothing - I was not a cannabis grower.

Then they came for the Antisocial Youth. But I said nothing - I was not young or antisocial.

Then they came for me. And there was no-one to speak out for me.

[after Pastor Niemoller]

Well I have been screaming my lungs out about the Drug War for decades. And my conservative friends have been putting their fingers in their ears and screaming "La La La I can't hear you."

Can you hear me now?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:15 AM | Comments (2)

The New Iraq Emerges

Historians may well mark this as the moment Iraq entered a new phase of existence, beginning to enter the Western world the way South Korea and Japan did after U.S. occupations:

BAGHDAD - The secular challenger who stunned Iraq with his razor-thin parliamentary election win turned his attention to negotiations over a future government Saturday even as supporters of the prime minister vowed to fight the results.

Ayad Allawi's two-seat win was hailed as a startling comeback for a politician who just four years ago was shunned as a U.S.-backed puppet, but the closeness of the race meant his road to regaining the premiership was anything but guaranteed.
Regardless of the final outcome, the results of the parliamentary vote were a turning point and served as a rejection of the domination of Shiite religious parties who are closely aligned with Iran and rose to power after the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime in 2003.

So much for the theocratic Iranian satellite defeatists like the oft-quoted Mideast "expert" Juan Cole promised us (longtime Iraq observers will remember Cole's earlier 2004 prediction that we would appoint a strongman instead of holding elections; somehow, despite his inability to predict even the most obvious elements of the foreign policy of his own country the MSM continues to cite his "expertise" on Iraqi matters).

It's really rather astounding: in only a few elections, Iraqi politics have gone from representative tribalism to at least a limited marketplace of ideas. While Iraq still has many problems, it's evolving by leaps and bounds next to nearly any other Arab state -- and the numbers bear that out: electricity, water, sewage service, fuel, cell phone usage, internet access, automobile ownership,and housing are all improving dramatically from pre-liberation levels, while the free press has exploded into thousands of indepedent media voices. Perhaps most auspiciously, the markets have spoken strongly in favor of the fledgling democracy: Iraqi bonds are now valued higher than bonds issued by California.

Iraqi blogger Iraqpundit celebrates, and suggests Allawi will form a governing coalition with the Kurds.

In the streets people are celebrating. They sang songs, beeped their horns, fired guns, and some even chanted anti-Maliki slogans. At least in Mansour they did; I can't say for the rest of Baghdad. The celebrations have been quieted by rain. In this part of the world, rain is considered a blessing. It seems somehow appropriate that the day ends in rain.

Iraqis can see that their votes mean something. This really is an amazing day.

Iraq the Model, indeed. I guess Baghdad isn't burning anymore.

posted by Dave at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)

Gay director maligned -- by culture war bigots!

Has the Culture War come full circle?

I've pondered the question in some recent posts, but a story I read about today makes me seriously wonder. A friend emailed me link to a story in the New York Times "Arts Beat Culture at Large" section titled "Protests and Defense of a Transgender Comedy at Tribeca Festival."

Humorless gay and transgendered activists (if calling them humorless isn't too much of a redundancy) are trying to censor the film:

A film selected for the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival called "Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives" hasn't been screened there yet, but it's already had that very effect on members of the transgender community and their supporters, prompting an advocacy group to call for the film's removal from the festival lineup as well as a rapid defense from its creators and festival organizers.
According to the festival description, the film has a deliberately campy empowerment theme about transgendered women turning the tables on their attackers ("the violated vixens turn deadly divas"). This, it seems, is intolerable to the prudish pacifist censors (who presumably want transgendered people to be victims):
That summary alone was enough to prompt many angry comments at the Web site. One commenter who gave her name as Marie wrote, "This movie trivializes people dying for being who they are. You need to consider whether you want to be remembered for such transphobic trash." Another commenter named Margaret B wrote, "I can't imagine a more offensive film to denigrate and demean a minority group. Please remove this film from your line up."

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has made the same demand of the Tribeca festival. In a statement, the alliance said, "The film, its title and its marketing misrepresent the lives of transgender women and use grotesque, exploitative depictions of violence against transgender women." The alliance added that Mr. Luna and the festival "have refused to take responsibility for the problematic content and offensive marketing of this film," and urged its membership to contact the festival and demand that the film be pulled from its schedule.

Without knowing anything more about the film (which I haven't seen although I now want to), my initial reaction was to exclaim to my friend that this is just entertainment.
No one has any sense of humor any more. They'd probably protest Pink Flamingos today.
And they certainly would. In that classic underground film by gay director John Waters, transvestite star Divine goes on a murderous rampage, killing and eating police, and taking revenge on a jealous couple who have attempted to usurp her title as "the filthiest person alive." And in a final triumph, Divine eats dogshit. Not acting style, but reality style.

Hey GLAAD, where were you in '72?

Why wasn't your stodgy board of censors decrying negative stereotypes and pointing out for the world that drag queens are not murderous cannibal coprophiles?

As my friend pointed out, times have changed:

The whole world has turned radical feminist. Remember that joke?..."How many radical feminists (substitute Lesbians) does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "That's not funny!".
He's absolutely right. These gay and transgendered activists are acting for the world like grim Puritan dowagers!

Screw 'em. What today's gay Culture War bigots are doing amounts to joining forces with James Dobson, Matt Barber and Peter La Barbera -- all of whom I'm sure would priggishly condemn "Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives."

And in what's a remarkable omission by the NYT , no mention is made of the fact that the the director is gay, and the film was made to advance the goal of gay/trans self defense!

Gay Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna is sick of reading about LGBT bashing victims. So he made a film about several of them who eschew the victim card -- and fight back. Because he's worked closely with the local trans community, he cast actual transwomen as his leads. And because he's a fan of horror, he gave them knives and a revenge story that's as over-the-top as its name, Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives. Let's get bloody.
Well, considering GLAAD's documented hostility to guns, they're probably philosophically opposed to gay self defense too. After all, if gays and transgendered people ceased to be the victims that their would-be rulers want them to be, who would look to the whining cretins at GLAAD for "protection"?

Little wonder they want to censor a film that humorously seeks to empower gays and the transgendered.


MORE: My thanks to Sean Kinsell for linking this post in his excellent post about Ann Coulter and Canadian censorship. After quoting a Canadian lesbian who thinks censoring Coulter is just fine, Sean adds this:

Having reached a Certain Age, I shouldn't be surprised when gay activists blithely support censorship in the name of "tolerance" or "diversity," but it still dumbfounds me.
First they came for Ann Coulter.

Now it's.... gay film directors!

Oh, the irony!

posted by Eric at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

Libertarians should be shocked! But should they be electrocuted?

In a post which shrilly and gratuitously indicts libertarians, a leading left-wing blog looks at a Seattle outrage in which the cops improperly tasered a woman over her refusal to sign simple traffic ticket:

Three Seattle police officers were justified when they used a stun gun on a pregnant mother who refused to sign a traffic ticket, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a case that prompted an incredulous dissent.

Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle's African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. She insisted it was the car in front of her that was speeding, and refused to sign the ticket because she thought she'd be admitting guilt.

Rather than give her the ticket and let her go on her way, the officers decided to arrest her. One reached in, turned off her car and dropped the keys on the floor. Brooks stiffened her arms against the steering wheel and told the officers she was pregnant, but refused to get out, even after they threatened to stun her.

The officers -- Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones -- then stunned her three times, in the thigh, shoulder and neck, and hauled her out of the car, laying her face-down in the street.

The blogger does not provide any link to the story, and the Memeorandum link was the first mention I'd seen of the incident. If the facts are as described, what happened was outrageous. The woman sued and won in the trial court, and then the Court of Appeal reversed the case and held 2-1 that the officers were immune from suit. Officers should not be tasering people over trivial offenses, so I agree with the stinging dissent.

What I do not agree with is the blogger's ridiculous attempt to scold libertarians:

...where are all the anti-authoritarian libertarians now? It seems as if they only care about the constitution when it comes to taxes and guns. Someone else's right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket? Not their problem.
That is such a crock. I've lost track of the number of posts I've written complaining about police abuses, and I'm not even going to dignify his argument by supplying links.

As to the "right not be be electrocuted" he does not know what the word means. This woman was tasered. Shocked with electricity. Stunned, not killed.

The word "electrocute" is not complicated, and I think most people know that it means killed:

vb (tr)
1. to kill as a result of an electric shock
2. (Law) US to execute in the electric chair
[from electro- + (exe)cute]
So, while I believe that people do have a "right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket," that is not what happened here.

I don't know what is more shocking: the underlying story itself or its mischaracterization and gratuitous smear of libertarians as people who "fail to care about the constitution [except] when it comes to taxes and guns."

I'm going to stick my neck out here and venture that if there is a "right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket," then it follows that libertarians also have a right not to be electrocuted for allegedly remaining silent about a police outrage they might not have known about -- mainly because it was only reported yesterday.

I'm shocked! Stunned!

But I'm about as surprised as I am electrocuted.

posted by Eric at 01:11 PM | Comments (3)

A proactive (not reactive) approach to guilt by association

In the latest anti-government outrage which no one has been able to conclusively prove is not somehow associated with the Tea Party Movement, there has been a brutal attack on a police car.

A pit bull mix in Tennessee has been sentenced to obedience training after his dogged attack on a local police car.

Winston didn't bite anybody, but he mauled a Chattanooga police car in what might have been a confused attempt to take a bite out of crime. The persistent pooch managed to tear off a section of the front bumper and damage the tires.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that a judge ruled that Winston had been a very bad dog. He was sentenced to obedience and canine good citizen classes, and he'll have to wear a tag that says he is "potentially dangerous."

Charges against his owner will be dismissed if the classes are completed successfully.

Owner Nancy Emerling said Winston got out of a fenced-in area at a welding shop March 14.

For the record, Coco has never shown aggressive behavior towards police cars. She believes in speaking softly (at least as softly as she can) while carrying a big stick!


But she does not like shredders.


Or maybe I should say that she's just interested in protecting innocent documents from a cruel and violent fate.


And while Coco is hardly a pacifist, she does frown on the uncontrolled proliferation of violent military technology, and on one occasion she took preemptive unilateral action against what she thought were buried weapons of mass destruction.


So I worry that she might be impressionable. Plus, she has been known to look at this blog!


So, Coco, if you're reading this, please remember that not only are you a pit bull, but you are owned by a Tea Party sympathizer! That's two counts against you.

Remember to be nice. You're an ambassador whether you like it or not!

posted by Eric at 12:20 PM | Comments (4)

Waste Fraud And Abuse

Remember a few days back when I posted about the trouble with police crime labs? Well I have more evidence.

San Francisco prosecutors told judges Friday that they could not "ethically go forward" with 46 narcotics trials because of evidence problems arising out of the scandal at the Police Department's drug-analysis lab - signaling that the district attorney is likely to dismiss nearly all 750 pending drug cases in the city.

"Based on what the district attorney's office knows about the issues within the narcotics division of the crime lab, we cannot ethically go forward with this prosecution," Assistant District Attorney Nancy Tung told a judge overseeing a case that was serving as a test of how much police and prosecutors had to disclose to defense attorneys about problems at the drug lab.

Prosecutors dropped that test case, a cocaine-sales trial, after having been deluged with 1,500 pages of police files about the lab that a spokesman for the district attorney called "troubling" and said pointed to possible larger problems in the Police Department.

As if you needed more evidence of what a waste the drug war is.

But it gets worse.

The exact contents of the 1,500 pages of police files have not been made public, but Buckelew said the documents hinted at problems with police and the drug lab that go beyond Madden's conduct. Buckelew called the files "troubling."

"At the very beginning this was a case about Debbie Madden and isolated incidents that could have been resolved by retesting," Buckelew said. However, he added, "the face of this has changed."

Bell's attorney said he believed the material included audits of the crime lab at Hunters Point, and its drug-testing section, going back at least six years.

Among the questions raised since the suspicions about Madden were made public is why the Police Department took more than two months to open a criminal investigation into her actions after her sister said she had found what she believed to be a stolen lab vial of cocaine in Madden's home. Documents contained in the files could help answer that question and reveal who in the Police Department knew what and when.

If you have been a libertarian as long as I have you know what a waste government is in general. So what will be the outcome? Most likely the government will ask for more money to fix the mess the government caused. The bigger the screw up the more government will take from citizens. Heads we win and tails we win bigger. You'd almost think the game was rigged.

The government has no interest in fighting drugs per se. That is incidental to emptying your wallet. I can't wait for the marks to wise up.

H/T Pete Guither at Drug War Rant

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:54 AM | Comments (1)

Repeal It Or Feel It
Repeal It Or Feel It
I saw this at Vanderleun's American Digest. Dymphna at Gates of Vienna whose mate Baron Bodissey did the artwork says steal it. Post it far and wide.

Dennis The Peasant has this to say:

...because Obamacare incentivizes non-coverage by imposing employer fines for non-coverage that are far less than the cost of offering health insurance, there's an excellent chance (in this economy of roughly 17%-18% actual unemployment) that companies will be dropping health benefits rather than adding them. Employers can afford to; they have highly skilled workers waiting in line to beg for a job with or without health insurance.

Now ask yourself this question: If you were a Congressional Democrat, do you really think Mom and Dad and Little Billy and Katelyn are going to thank you for the job you've done once they realize you have decided they aren't going have vacations and college funds and retirement savings because you have decided their freedom to choose how they spend their money isn't important enough for you to honor?

Ignore the above at your own risk, Democrats. I've been dealing with people and their money on a professional basis for over 25 years. The fastest way to enrage the average American is to try to force them to reduce their standard of living. People will lie, cheat, steal, and kill to continue to live in the manner to which they are accustomed. That's just the way it is. And that is the fatal flaw in The Plan... When it comes down to it, the political will to force the electorate to be poorer will not be there.

The mandate will never see the light of day.

I think the recent rash of Reichstag Fires (you racist spitting bastids) is due to our "betters" feeling the heat.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:53 PM | Comments (1)

Communication is communicable!

Speaking of making unfair associations, it has come to my attention that Facebook is associated with a rise in syphilis. No really:

Professor Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, claimed staff had found a link between social networking sites and the spread of the bacteria, especially among young women.

He said: "Syphilis is a devastating disease. Anyone who has unprotected sex with casual partners is at high risk.

"There has been a fourfold increase in the number of syphilis cases detected with more young women being affected.

"I don't get the names of people affected, just figures, and I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites.

"Social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex."

The professor also said, "I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites," which, he claims, "are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex." You know what? I bet that back in the 1920s, an association could have been made between venereal disease and those new-fangled horseless carriages! And by cracky, I'll bet that an association could also have been made between the telephone and VD! After all, in order to spread communicable diseases, people have to communicate, don't they?

Coming soon. Irrefutable proof linking Facebook to racism!

Hey, isn't it high time we applied the standard that's applied to the Tea Parties to Facebook?

posted by Eric at 03:34 PM | Comments (3)

To a Truther, denial of a false charge is proof of guilt!

What does it take these days to rebut or debunk a lie? Maybe I am living on another planet from some of my fellow citizens, but I thought the claim that Tea Party protesters shouted the N-word at a congressman had been thoroughly debunked by people who simply took time to review the numerous videos of the entire "incident" which are all over the Internet. As no one ever posted any video which showed the N-word being used, I figured that was the end of it. Sure, there will remain unreasonable bloggers on the left, just as there are Birth Certificate Truthers on the right.

I guess Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a sort of "Tea Party racism Truther" for he not only acts as if the story was never debunked, but he claims the denial of it proves that the Tea Partiers are inherent racists, like the Klansmen of the 1960s.

His piece bears at least three titles. The one in my local paper is not available at the Detroit Free Press website, but its title is: "Apologies don't excuse the rottenness within Tea Party protests." Elsewhere, it is titled "Tea party and racists -- 'isolated incidents' no more" and "Racists will never admit their racism."

The central theme is that a denial is an admission, and the more someone denies something, the more guilty he is of it.

Apparently unaware that it has been debunked, Pitts begins by asserting that the N-word incident actually happened:

So it turns out that, contrary to what I argued in this space a few weeks back, racism is not "a major component" of the so-called tea party movement. I am informed of this by dozens of tea party activists indignant and insulted that I would even suggest such a thing.

In other news, tea party protesters called John Lewis a "nigger" the other day in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.

For the record, Lewis wasn't their only target. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was spat upon. Rep. Barney Frank, who is gay, was called "faggot."

But it is Lewis' involvement that gives the Saturday incident its bittersweet resonance. The 70-year-old representative from Georgia is, after all, among the last living icons of the Civil Rights Movement.

A discussion of Lewis's inspiring struggle during the Civil Rights Movement follows. He was one of those guys who was there when things were violent and ugly, and he braved the Klan. And while there is no denying his heroism, I cannot understand how that could give "bittersweet resonance" to an "incident" many decades later which has never been shown to have happened at all.

What I cannot figure out is whether Pitt even knows about the video that refutes the allegation. He says nothing about the video, and instead misconstrues Amy Kremer's initial remarks as a dismissal, and as an apology:

Amy Kremer, coordinator of the Tea Party Express, went on Fox News to dismiss what she called an "isolated" incident. Your first instinct may be to cede the benefit of the doubt on that one. It seems unfair to tar nine reasonable people with the hateful behavior of one lunatic.

But ask yourself: When is the last time organizers of protests on other hot-button issues -- say, abortion rights or globalization -- had to apologize for "isolated incidents" like these?

Moreover, given how often tea party leaders have been forced to disavow hateful signs and slogans and even the presence of organized white supremacist groups in their midst, is it really fair to use the word "isolated"? Is there not a rottenness here? And is not the unwillingness to call that rottenness by name part and parcel of the reason it endures?

First of all, if something did not happen, no disavowal or apology is needed. And how often have Tea Partiers been groundlessly accused of racism? If you are often falsely accused of something, doesn't it stand to reason that you will be often forced to deny it? By what logic is denial of an allegation proof that it it is true?

The only "logic" that comes to mind is the Truther "logic" of paranoid conspiracy theorists.

Bad Pitts takes this paranoid illogic a step further. He says that the denial proves the Tea Partiers are really just like the Klansmen who attacked John Lewis during the Civil Rights era:

Not that the denial surprises.

Often we tell ourselves lies to spare ourselves truths. Had you asked them, the people who locked John Lewis inside that restaurant, the ones who mauled him at that bus station and smashed him down on that bridge, would not have said they acted from a rottenness within.

No, like the ones who called him "nigger" half a century later, they would have told you they were good people fighting for principle, trying to save this country from the liberals, the socialists and the communists.

They would not have said they were racists. Racists never do.

Is it possible that Pitts never heard that this story was debunked? After all, he doesn't even address the issue.

He is not some ideologically driven left wing blogger; he's a major syndicated columnist, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Presumably a member of that elite club of people with access to layers of fact checkers. You would think that either he or someone working for him might at least have watched the video.

But maybe the absence of the N-word in the video wouldn't matter. I mean, if you think that denying something proves its existence, then its absence in the video probably proves that it is actually present in the video.

I don't know how you could have a discussion with people who think like that. They'd probably call you a racist or a child molester, and any denial would be proof of the accusation.

(Yeah, yeah, I know that racists and child molesters are not moral equivalents, so please don't dump on my for that bit of hyperbole. After all, we all know that Roman Polanski is a far greater villain than the Tea Partiers..... Right?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: As to why Pitts and so many of his fellow leftists are relentlessly promoting the Big Lie that Tea Parties are racist, it makes a lot of sense if the policy goal is containment. I think there may be a fear in liberal circles that the Tea Party Movement has gotten too big, and they may have decided that the best way to frighten ordinary people away and keep attendance down is by having as many prominent media people as possible hammering away at the racist meme as frequently and as often as possible -- the hope being that people will start thinking that if so many people are saying this it must be true.

And because racism is the last thing anyone wants to be associated with, then merely making the association by way of allegations ought to (it is hoped) be enough to scare ordinary people away.

MORE: Andrew Breitbart is offering $10,000 to anyone who can prove the N-word was used against Lewis even once:

It's time for the allegedly pristine character of Rep. John Lewis to put up or shut up. Therefore, I am offering $10,000 of my own money to provide hard evidence that the N- word was hurled at him not 15 times, as his colleague reported, but just once. Surely one of those two cameras wielded by members of his entourage will prove his point.

And surely if those cameras did not capture such abhorrence, then someone from the mainstream media -- those who printed and broadcast his assertions without any reasonable questioning or investigation -- must themselves surely have it on camera. Of course we already know they don't. If they did, you'd have seen it by now.


Rep. Lewis, if you can't do that, I'll give him a backup plan: a lie detector test. If you provide verifiable video evidence showing that a single racist epithet was hurled as you walked among the tea partiers, or you pass a simple lie detector test, I will provide a $10K check to the United Negro College Fund.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 01:21 PM | Comments (17)

Those quiet and discreet violent libertarian thugs!

I've been writing this blog for nearly seven years, and one of the reasons I started it was because I was tired of the "EITHER YOU'RE A LIBERAL OR YOU'RE A CONSERVATIVE" dichotomy. It what has always struck me as a process of collusion, libertarians were simply written out of the equation.

Since the election of Barack Obama, things have gotten worse. I know I've complained about it before, but I am sick and tired of reading otherwise well-thought-out political essays by people I respect which speak only in terms of liberal and conservative -- as if libertarians either do not exist, or else should be quietly subsumed into the massive umbrella called "conservatism," and simply encouraged to simply shut up, or at least be as quiet as possible.

In other words, keep your libertarianism in the closet. I can certainly understand the argument, because I recognize the value of coalitions, and some libertarians have an unfortunate tendency to be loud, outspoken and insulting. But I think the coalition approach might work a little better if the word "conservative" weren't used so hegemonically. It's like, if you want libertarians to be part of a coalition with conservatives, then don't accuse them of not being "true conservatives." The use of the label "conservatism" clearly implies that conservatives are in the dominant position, with libertarians being subordinate. Uncomfortable as that might be to libertarians, to put them in the closet and then criticize them for not being true to "conservative principles" (or betraying them) when they never swore allegiance to conservative principles adds insult to injury. Asking people to be discreet is not the same thing as asking them to be what they are not.

I probably wouldn't have written this post had it not been for yet another incident which made me wonder whether there is a disturbing new anti-libertarian meme. While it seems that it's just fine to keep libertarians in the closet and use the L-word as little as possible, on the other hand, when some psycho on the lunatic fringes of the right acts up, it's suddenly just fine to fire away with the L-word. Without regard to accuracy.

Some of the vandalism appears to have been instigated by an Alabama blogger, Mike Vanderboegh, who encouraged his readers to throw bricks at the windows of Democratic headquarters across the country. Vanderboegh, a former leader of the Alabama Constitutional Militia who is headlining an open-carry gun rally in Northern Virginia next month, issued a call to the modern "Sons of Liberty" on his libertarian political blog to break windows nationwide to display opposition to health-care reform.
Well, not everyone is calling Vanderboegh a libertarian:
Conservative blogger Mike Vanderboegh called for tea party activists to hurl bricks through democrats windows, and some did.
Great. Look, I have never heard of this loon, but if he is advocating violence to achieve political ends, he is no libertarian. Nor is he a conservative -- any more than the Weather Underground were liberals. He's an extremist member of the lunatic fringe.

Regardless of what he or his friends might call themselves, it is not accurate to call him a libertarian. I mean, it is one thing to inaccurately stereotype libertarians as a bunch of selfish hedonists, but saying they're violent crazies simply goes too far. Libertarians disagree with each other over a lot of things, but opposition to the initiation of violence or force is so basic as to be a core definition of the concept.

Here's Murray Rothbard:

Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should he free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another.


In the first place, most libertarians are "subjectivists" in economics, that is, they believe that the utilities and costs of different individuals cannot be added or measured. Hence, the very concept of social costs and benefits is illegitimate. But, more importantly, most libertarians rest their case on moral principles, on a belief in the natural rights of every individual to his person or property. They therefore believe in the absolute immorality of aggressive violence, of invasion of those rights to person or property, regardless of which person or group commits such violence.

From the the ISIL's Philosophy of Liberty by Ken Schoolland and Lux Lucre:
Libertarianism considers as illegitimate the initiation of violence against other individuals.
A similar definition from
"In popular terminology, a libertarian is the opposite of an authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the idea of using violence or the threat of violence -- legal or illegal -- to impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person. Generally speaking, a libertarian is one who wants to be governed far less than he is today."
-- Dean Russell, Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), 1955
From the Wiki page on the Non-aggression principle:
Libertarians typically believe that the non-aggression principle includes property as a part of the owner; to aggress against someone's property is to aggress against the individual. Thus, the principle leads to the rejection of theft, vandalism, murder and fraud.
And of course, there's the founder of Objectivism, Ayn Rand:
The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others.
This is no minor point, and it caused a lot or debate during the Iraq War. Libertarians who saw the war as self defense (as well as some who saw it as a war to rescue Saddam Hussein's victims) were for the war, while libertarians who thought it was a war of aggression were against it. But I know of no libertarian who maintained that a war of aggression initiating force against an innocent country which posed no threat would be OK.

Hurling bricks through windows may be many things, but it is not libertarianism.

I might be able to handle being quiet and discreet about a lot of things, but I cannot sit idly by and watch while libertarians are stereotyped as violent thugs.

It makes it hard to get credit for being quiet and nice.

posted by Eric at 11:26 AM | Comments (8)

Clearing Up Misconceptions

Rick Nebel who is in charge of the Polywell Experiments at EMC2 comments on Alan Boyle's article on progress in Fusion Power on MSNBC's Cosmic Log.

As usual, I seem to have created some misconceptions by my comments. First of all, what we said on our website is that the work on the WB-7 has been completed. We did not discuss the results. If you would like to conjecture what those results are, let me suggest that you notice the fact that we are working on the WB-8 device. The WB-8 was not a part of Dr. Bussard's original development plan. This device came about as a result of the peer review process which suggested that there were issues that needed to be resolved at a smaller scale before proceeding to a demo. This was a conclusion that EMC2 heartily concurred with. I don't want to leave people with the impression that everything on the WB-7 is identical to the WB-6.

Secondly, in our contract with the DOD, EMC2 owns the commercialization rights for the Polywell. However, commercialization is not something that we can do with our DOD funding. That is what we would like to look at with any contributions from the website. This will enable us to:

1. Design an attractive commercial reactor package.
2. Identify the high leverage physics items that most impact the design (i.e. how good is good enough).
3. Give us a base design when we are ready to proceed to the next step.

rnebel (Sent Wednesday, March 24, 2010 9:12 PM)

I think it is evident that the Polywell people are making progress. Will it actually lead to a viable fusion power machine? There is no way to know for sure until the experiments are done. I am hopeful. It seems like Rick is hopeful as well and with better reason. He has the data.

Some of my more recent articles on the subject:

Rick Nebel has a few things to say:
Polywell - No BS - No Excuses

Pictures of past and future Polywell efforts:

Where the money for commercialization will come from:
Venture Capital Likes Fusion

H/T DeltaV at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:28 AM | Comments (0)

Change Prohibition Policy

The Wall Street Journal interviews a Drug War observer who says that changing our policy of Prohibition is a viable alternative to the Drug War.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:25 AM | Comments (0)

Voting For Socialism

If the audio wasn't exactly clear this should make it plainer:

Reverend Al Sharpton told Fox News: "I think that this began the transforming of the country where the President had promised. This is what he ran on." When the interviewer interjected that many view the vote as a step towards socialism, Sharpton didn't skip a beat, responding:
the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama.
Well it looks like vote or no vote we are going to get it good and hard.

Short version:

The variant of socialism where the government doesn't nationalize the means of production but controls it through law and regulation is called fascism.

Update: 25 March 2010 2327z

A commenter has objected to what he considers my incomplete definition of Fascist. So Let me post a link to another work that is in harmony with my definition:

H/T The Foundry

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:52 PM | Comments (6)

Commonsense Conservatives

Sarah Palin has a new Facebook up.

We're going to reclaim the power of the people from those who disregarded the will of the people. We're going to fire them and send them back to the private sector, which has been shrinking thanks to their destructive government-growing policies. Maybe when they join the millions of unemployed, they'll understand why Americans wanted them to focus on job creation and an invigorated private sector. Come November, we're going to print pink slips for members of Congress as fast as they've been printing money.

We're paying particular attention to those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare and represent districts that Senator John McCain and I carried during the 2008 election. Three of these House members are retiring - from Arkansas's 2nd district, Indiana's 8th district, and Tennessee's 6th district - but we'll be working to make sure that those who replace them are Commonsense Conservatives.

I sure hope so. Because I'm so tired of Culture War Conservatives and the Cultural Socialism they bring with them.

I think it is past time to retire the "Tax and Spend but I'm against Abortion" Republicans. A party that favors fiscal sanity and other wise leaves the people alone to make their own (good and bad) choices is the American way. Unless you believe government can make people moral. And how is that Drug War working out for you?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

A funny thing happened when I said "hi" to a nice family dog

While it's hardly a crisis (and in the light of the Obamacare atrocity it may seem downright frivolous), the more I think about a seemingly minor annoyance yesterday, the more it deserves a post, as I think it sheds light upon the downright despicable mentality of activists.

A neighboring family consists of a husband and wife, their two toddlers, and a sweet and lovable Siberian husky, named "Kaz." Kaz is a family dog, and a social dog, who takes delight in being a "porch dog." He likes to sit on the front porch and just basically pay attention to what's going on in the neighborhood. He knows me, as I walk by the place almost daily on the way to the store, and he likes to wag his tail and walk down the front steps to greet me. When he is on the front porch, he is kept on 10' long piece of cable which is tied to the metal railing. It's a sensible thing to do, as the street is fairly busy, and considering the numerous distractions in the form of other dogs, cats, and those fiendish squirrels whose goal is to make dogs miserable, allowing him totally free reign would be inadvisable, and might cause him to be run over.

Anyway, yesterday when I walked by and stopped to say hello to Kaz, the mom and her little son were out on the porch too, and after a brief exchange, she told me that someone had called the cops about Kaz. Not because he was barking (he's a quiet dog) but because he was tied up! I was aghast. After all, Kaz is my friend, and these people are neighbors. I had heard about some crackpot movement to pass "anti-tethering laws," but I hadn't really devoted any time to the issue, but fortunately neither Michagan nor Ann Arbor has passed them. So all the police could do was investigate whether Kaz the victim of "dog endangerment." (Itself an absurd idea.) This woman was clearly stressed by the experience -- distraught that any neighbor would do such a thing, and all I could do was express sympathy

The more I thought about the sort of vicious busybody who would sic the police on a loving family like that, the more I realized that the caller was most likely the sort of animal rights activist who is against dog ownership, thinks dogs should not be bred (there are no responsible dog breeders), and agitates constantly to make life as difficult as possible for dog owners. (The idea being to deter dog ownership as we have known it.) They consider their activities to be a form of "morality."

For now, they seek to make it illegal to tether or chain dogs. There are several leading websites, and the goal is not only to work against "chaining" (which means any sort of tying), but they also also advocate laws against "penning":

Get laws in your city, county, state or country against the chaining and penning of dogs for life.
Except the legislation they support prohibit any sort of tethering at all. Here's Little Rock's law:
Section 6-16:
Direct point chaining, or tethering of dogs to a stationary object, is prohibited.
If Ann Arbor passed that, it would be the end of Kaz's happy career as a porch dog, and nice people who own him would become criminals.

That's the whole idea. Make it tougher and tougher, in the hope of discouraging dog ownership. (Actually, they want to abolish dog ownership entirely, by replacing owners with "guardians" -- the latter being essentially state ownership accomplished by self-appointed busybody activists hauling the former owners into court.)

And if you don't think they are busybodies, read what they say about "Talking to Owners":

...say something like:

* I am a volunteer with the humane society and I came by to offer you some free resources for your dog (even if you are not a member of a specific humane society, most people recognize the term "humane society volunteer" as someone who cares about animals.)
* I live in the area and saw your dog in the backyard. I have an extra doghouse I'd be happy to bring over. Is that OK?
* I noticed your dog lives on a chain. I'm sure he would love the chance to exercise. Could I come by a few times a week to walk your dog?

The site seems to lament that because dogs are property, stealing a chained dog is illegal:
Some people steal chained dogs to provide a better life for them. The problem with that is that the owners might put an new puppy right back on the chain. And, since dogs are legally considered property, stealing a dog is a felony.
What a shame that it's illegal for one of these crackpot activists to simply snatch Kaz away from his loving family!

I am trying not to be emotional (and it was not easy to write this post, because I had trouble calming down), but all I can say is that these people are sneaky, despicable bastards. Just about as low as you can get.

Lest anyone think they are isolated crackpots, the movement works closely with and is endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States. The latter urges activists to become involved in a campaign to shame tethered dog owners, by submitting their addresses to website and then having special "Valentines" sent to them.

We are striving to raise awareness for chained and penned dogs in a positive delivering Valentines, a brochure and a treat coupon to dogs living outside all over the U.S. and into other countries where we have representation, such as Canada and Australia.


....Send addresses for Chained or Penned Dogs. This is so CRUCIAL! Please, take the time to find out the address of that chained or penned dog near you, even though it takes a little time...To make our goal, we need to mail at least 12,500 Valentines. Send addresses via mail, call 877.636.1408 to report addresses, e-mail them to or fill out the form, below (preferred). You remain anonymous!

It's basically a slick form of psychological warfare on dog owners, with a goal of inculcating an attitude of moral superiority in children, "educating" them in animal rights ideology and encouraging snooping on total strangers, like my neighbors:
"This is the perfect opportunity for people who pass chained dogs every day but feel powerless to help them to make a difference," continues Thayne. "People can anonymously provide us with the addresses of
these dogs, or make us a batch of Valentines, and we'll do the rest."

The creation of the Valentines is an ideal project for schools, scouting troops, and other similar organizations. "Children have a natural affinity for animals and they enjoy making art projects," says Thayne, an artist herself. "In this way we remind children of proper caretaking, and educate guardians as well."

Again, guardians are not owners. The goal is nothing less than the abolition of dog ownership, with concomitant vast new powers for the activists.

Power seeking is what activists do. It is very difficult for ordinary people to grasp what they're up against, because they tend to assume good faith. And when they see pictures of abused dogs with chains embedded in their flesh, they might even become supportive of new laws (forgetting, of course, that laws against animal cruelty already make it a crime to neglect or abuse dogs, whether on chains or not.)

The paradox is how to fight activist busybodies without becoming one. I'm allergic to them. If only there were some sort of "leave people alone" lobby. But you can't leave activists alone, because that plays right into their hands. Leaving them alone guarantees that they will not leave you alone.

Anyway, when they won't even leave nice people alone to enjoy their family dog, I must protest.

MORE: Great comments; Andrew C.'s point about HSUS is well taken, and I have discussed the organization's radicalism in several posts. Like many activists, they are basically hard core extremists who use slick media PR techniques to market themselves as mainstream.

And Donna Barber reminded me of another important point when she said,

It would seem that these people really don't like dogs.
Actually, they don't especially like dogs, as both PETA and HSUS oppose all domestication of animals and long term, they do not think people should be owning them.

What fascinates me the most about ever more restrictive dog laws is the collusion that results between animal rights activists (who dislike the keeping of dogs because of domestication), and plain old dog haters (who would love to see fewer dogs, and support any laws making it tougher). That they manage to dupe clueless citizens who love dogs and get them to go along with it is a testament to their skill at sheer political legerdemain.

Imagine if organized "children's rights" groups did the same thing! ("For the children.")

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (14)

Sometimes The Science Is A Crime

An interesting report on bad science in crime labs.

Let us consider something we used to teach our sophomores - lead smelting and refining. Almost all lead occurs as sulfide ores that contain lesser amounts of other metals. Smelting removes the sulfur and refining removes most of minor elements, notably gold, silver and copper. The composition of the refined lead may be easily and inexpensively determined by, for example, spectrographic analysis.

Someone at the FBI decided that if the compositions of two bullets "matched" well enough the two were from the same box of ammunition. Then if the box of ammunition was tied to the defendant, so was the subject bullet.

My reaction to the claim is "HUH?" One crucible of refined lead could make millions of bullets, and the molten lead is not necessarily of uniform composition. A composition match does not prove a darned thing.

This erstwhile expert was clearly working far above his pay grade, but sold the idea to superiors who really should have known better. For the next two decades, thousands of innocent people were convicted on the basis of totally hokum bullet matching. The FBI was the only lab in the country that was using the technique, which should have been a warning that something was wrong.

Finally someone in a high position got the National Academy of Science to address the lead-matching issue. They turned thumbs down and the FBI stopped matching bullets to a particular box.

Recently the Academy performed an extensive study of the nation's crime labs. Law enforcement agencies resented the intervention of mainstream science in the courts and an arm of the Justice Department tried to block the study. It failed and the resulting report decried the lack of science and the use of shoddy practice.

One thing the labs are really good at is producing convictions because you know - it's science. Good for mystifying the rubes. And you wonder why lawyers don't like engineers and scientists on juries.

Just round up the usual suspects.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:37 AM | Comments (1)

Viagra For Sex Offenders?

The Republicans are getting really diabolical. I mean besides Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. They are going to make Democrats vote in favor of dick stiffeners for sex offenders.

On Tuesday, the GOP put its strategy into action, with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okl.) introducing an amendment beyond agreeable. Titled "No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs To Sex Offenders" it would literally prohibit convicted child molesters, rapists, and sex offenders from getting erectile dysfunction medication from their health care providers.
Penis politics at its best. I can see the campaign adds already.
"Why does Harry Reid want to give rapists erections"?
The best answer to that question in the comments will get an honorable mention on the front page. And if I get more than one really good answer? Well electrons are cheap. Anything else you can come up with that is really witty will also get a mention. Like getting the Democrats to vote against Mom, Motherhood, and Apple Pie (and no that one is already taken, although effective embroidery on the theme will be considered). The Decision of the Supreme Judge is final. However, individuals are allowed to come to their own conclusion.

And just for fun I think it is time to reprise the Blue Pill / Red Pill controversy.

This Republican proposal sure gives new meaning to what Mr. obama was proposing. And you will notice Mr. obama favored the Blue Pill. Oh. The irony.

I can see the ads now - "obama says sex offenders should pay half price for the blue pill."

And do we have reading material (not that kind) for you? Yes we do:

The Viagra Myth: The Surprising Impact On Love And Relationships

From a review:

"a firm erection cannot solve deeper problems."
I'll say. For that you need a Penis Extension Kit. And just to be perfectly clear. The link is to something that is clearly racist. Just in case you were wondering.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:20 AM | Comments (2)

The frightening future has arrived. And it's a rube awakening!

Abe Greenwald likens the unbelievable nature of our present predicament to one of those tales of a frightening possible future. Problem is, the nightmare is true:

...we're living in one of those clever political columns written as an over-the-top straight story from a frightening future. "After seizing the American automobile industry almost a year ago, the Obama administration has used a parliamentary procedure to take control of one-sixth of the private sector ... in other news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the administration's stand against housing construction in Jerusalem ..."

But no one "respectable" made such extreme prognostications. For one thing, no one among the intelligentsia could have predicted the speed with which the country would be transformed. Additionally, for the media at large and for certain self-consciously moderate political analysts, some things are most dangerous when speculated upon. Once they are actually achieved, they are merely "historic."

Read it all.

I have liberal friends who (much like Howard Stern) really didn't think things would get this bad. They honestly thought they were voting for American liberals like themselves, not Eurosocialists.

While they might have been rubes, I'm too polite to call them that. Besides, when people are beginning to understand that they might have made an error, name calling is unproductive, and unlikely to win them over.

posted by Eric at 07:32 PM | Comments (5)

Polywell - No BS - No Excuses

Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log has a new article up on Polywell Fusion.

You won't hear Rick Nebel talking about fusion as a challenge requiring billions of dollars and decades of experimentation. For the past couple of years, Nebel heads up a handful of researchers following the less-traveled path to fusion at EMC2 Fusion Development Corp. in Santa Fe, N.M. That path involves creating a high-voltage chamber to sling ions so energetically at each other that at least some of them fuse and release energy.

EMC2 recently created a buzz in the fusion underground by reporting on its Web site that a series of experiments was able to "validate and extend" earlier results reported by the late physicist Robert Bussard. The company is now using a $7.9 million contract from the U.S. Navy to build a bigger test machine, known as WB-8. (WB stands for "Wiffle Ball," which refers to the shape of the machine's magnetic fields.)

What's more, Nebel and his colleagues are now seeking contributions to fund the development of what they say would be a 100-megawatt fusion plant - a "Phase 3" effort projected to cost $200 million and take four years.

"Successful Phase 3 marks the end of fossil fuels," the Web site proclaims.

Success isn't assured. The WB-8 experiment could conceivably show that the approach pioneered by Bussard, known as inertial electrostatic confinement fusion or IEC fusion, can't be scaled up to produce more power than it consumes. And if Nebel's team comes to that conclusion, he doesn't plan to pull any punches.

"No B.S. and no excuses," Nebel told me over the weekend. "If it looks like we have a problem with this, we're going to tell them."

Now that is a really different attitude from what has gone on in ITER. It was obvious to me a few years ago that the program was in trouble. But only in the last year have they admitted it by slipping the schedule by almost three years. So far.

You can read my earlier post on what I learned from EMC2 at WB-D which has some nice pictures of experiments and their proposed 100 MW device.

From time to time there are people reading here who need to be brought up to speed on fusion I'm reposting my usual: 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." And they seem really hard to build even. And who knows, if the Polywell experiments being done by the US Navy are successful the ITER project may just wind up as a big hole in the ground in France.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:03 PM | Comments (2)


Sorry for such an unoriginal post title, but I guess the nose grows.

By signing the health care bill today, President Barack Obama did what he specifically and repeatedly said during his campaign that he would not do.

He imposed an individual mandate.

This was quite a topic during the hard-fought primary campaign between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; it was such a key difference that many commentators discussed it.

Including yours truly; I'm ashamed to admit that I actually thought Obama was the more reasonable of the two. Little did I know that the man's words meant nothing. Bear in mind, though, that it was considered important enough at the time that Hillary went absolutely ballistic about it.

I was not alone in believing the man's repeated statements he was opposed to the individual mandate. US News described the individual mandate as "the major difference" between Obamacare and Hillarycare:

The plans have their own individual flourishes. Clinton would guarantee that premiums don't exceed a percentage of family income, while Obama would reimburse employers for major medical costs if they agree to plow the savings into reducing employee premiums. But the major difference between the two plans involves requiring people to have health insurance, the "individual mandate," as it's called.
Similarly, an article in the LA Times the year before, both candidates made it quite clear that this was a major difference:
"There are big differences between me and Sen. Obama on healthcare," Clinton said. "I have a healthcare plan that covers every single American. He does not. I have a healthcare plan that will leave no American out. He, by his own admission, leaves at least 15 million people out."


Obama argued against a requirement in Clinton's proposal that people buy coverage, saying his plan has no such mandate.

"There's been a lot of talk about the different plans the candidates have proposed to create a universal healthcare system in this country," Obama said in Des Moines. "But the reason Americans don't have health insurance isn't because they don't want it, it's because they can't afford it, which is why my plan doesn't have a mandate and goes further in cutting costs than any other proposal offered in this race."

And Real Clear Politics said the difference over the individual mandate spurred a "major confrontation" between the two candidates: :
His campaign did spur a major confrontation over that 5 percent difference, though, in a direct mail piece that said Clinton's plan "forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it." Her campaign and the candidate herself reacted furiously, prompting the famous, "Meet me in Ohio," declaration.
Not to be left out, economist Paul Krugman described the difference this way:
...the Clinton plan requires that everyone have insurance; the Obama plan doesn't.
So much for Obama's pretense of opposition to the individual mandate -- and his masquerade as the more moderate of the two candidates.

And while I hate to repeat myself, I think it's only fair to point out that in a post last year revisiting the individual mandate issue, I remembered the president's campaign promises:

And in light of his campaign promises, naturally the president will do everything he can to stop it immediately, and if it passes, he'll promptly veto it.
I read his lips! He said no individual mandate!

Of course, now that the president has violated his campaign promise, those hounds in the mainstream media press corps will be all over him.


posted by Eric at 02:55 PM | Comments (6)

Closing insurance loopholes is a matter of life and death!

M. Simon's mention of drivers licenses reminded me of one of the most annoying features of the health care debate, and that is the false analogy the Democrats make between mandatory auto insurance and mandatory health insurance. Few things insult me more than to be lectured like a child by a lecturer who is demonstrably wrong, yet who has been given the substantial power of the mainstream media microphone.

For starters, driving is not like health, which is an aspect of life. We all live, but we do not all drive. But the most important distinction between Obamacare and mandatory auto insurance is a simple one which goes to the very nature of insurance. Insurance is based on risk, and risk allocation. Poor risks mean more expensive premiums. State governments may mandate auto insurance, but so far as I know, none of them have been so insane as to mandate that an insurance company cannot charge a bad driver more money, or a good driver less. And it would be laughable to imagine mandating that an auto insurance policy cover accidents which happened before the policy. That would bankrupt the industry, right?

Which is why I don't think it is fair to consider the monster that is Obamacare to be "insurance reform" at all. It is nothing less than insurance destruction.

By requiring subsidization of all people regardless of risk, and by requiring insurance companies to insure people regardless of pre-existing conditions, Obamacare turns the definition of insurance on its head and guarantees the bankruptcy of the industry. Might as well mandate that auto insurance companies issue policies which would cover any driver (even unlicensed drivers and drivers without the intention or ability to pay), even covering any previous accidents the driver already had!

A lot of commentators have observed that there is nothing to stop people from just waiting until a health catastrophe strikes, and only then buying insurance. And why not? Once people realize that the companies cannot turn them down, it will become in their interest to wait.

I guess the next step will be making it illegal for life insurance companies to refuse to issue life insurance to people who are on their deathbeds. But why stop there? Isn't it just as unfair to discriminate against people who already died? I mean, for them, death is a pre-existing condition, right?

It is high time we had life insurance for the already dead!

(Seriously, why should their next of kin have to suffer because they weren't lucky enough or rich enough to have life insurance? It is totally unfair! Life insurance is a human right -- and it should not be denied according to the actuarial whims of greedy corporations trying to make a buck.)

posted by Eric at 12:02 PM | Comments (5)

The Culture War still sucks!

(But where's the "traditional" Culture War I'm supposed to be against?)

Melissa Clouthier thinks Obamacare is deliberately divisive:

I don't believe health care will go away. I believe it will divide us, create chaos, and turn the conversation away from big dreams and freedom to provincial "my piece of the pie" talk.

Health care "reform" makes America small. That's just the way Democrats like it.

She's right.

And even more ominously, if Jonah Goldberg is right (in a post Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday), the idea might be to promote "Culture Wars for as Far as the Eye Can See":

this legislation is a superconducting super collider of culture-war conflagrations. It will throw off new and unforeseen cultural spectacles for years to come (if it is not repealed). The grinding debate over the Stupak amendment was just a foretaste. The government has surged over the breakwater and is now going to flood the nooks and crannies of American life. Americans will now fight over what tax dollars should cover and not cover. Debates over "subsidizing" this "lifestyle" or that "personal choice" will erupt. And when conservatives complain, liberals will blame them for perpetuating the culture war.
Precisely what Zombie was complaining about the other day.

It used to be that the term "Culture War" meant -- for one "side" -- being against gays simply for being gay (supporting discrimination and favoring sodomy laws), wanting to imprison women for having abortions, favoring censorship (of pornography, "anti-family" TV shows, Howard Stern, etc.), and engaging in all sorts of personal attacks on people for things like having long hair, wearing the wrong clothes, or smoking pot. For the most part, many of those on the other side wanted to be left alone, laissez-faire style. The majority of gays, for example, would like to be left alone. However, the situation has been compounded by activists who don't want to leave anyone alone. They believe in identity politics, in-your-face lifestyle activism, inquisitory behavior like "outing" people, and in many cases their tactics have exceeded anything the other side has done. (The appalling violent demonstrations against opponents of gay marriage are a perfect example.)

For many years, I have advocated a leave-people-alone approach to the Culture War (which I have tended to define along the lines of Pat Buchanan's famous "Culture War" speech.) In answer to the cries of intolerance, I have proposed simple tolerance, and no more. I have also tried to point out the folly of focusing on distractions like condoms on bananas while more important things are being ignored, and I guess now is as good a time as any to repeat a question I have asked:

If country is headed for bankruptcy, in whose interest is it to keep people bickering over penises?
Obviously, it's in the interest of the Democrats Socialists.

But still, it's looking very much like my definition of Culture War is outdated. I'm reminded of my confusion over the phrase "Traditional Values." I have, um, traditionally made certain associations and assumptions based on commonly accepted definitions, generally agreed on by both "sides" of something I thought sucked, and then I form what borders on philosophy about politics based on that, and now decades later I wake up to find the ground rules have apparently changed. Yet at the same time, I know that the traditional Traditional Values Pat Buchanan-style Culture Warriors are still out there.

But there has been an undeniable definitional shift. On both sides.

It's almost like being against racism, in favor of racial equality and against segregation, and then waking up to see that it is "racism" to oppose affirmative action, and even racism to disagree with the president over health care. As to what happened to the evil segregationists, who knows?

To the extent that the "Culture War" now means wanting socialism and demanding government lifestyle subsidies, it's obvious that I am on the "side" that opposes socialism and subsidizing lifestyles. But as I said, I hold the same laissez-faire views.

Sorry, but I refuse to allow socialized medicine to turn me into a little fascist. Regardless of what the government might make me pay for; I will still refuse to support restrictions on what people do with their bodies, what they put into them, how they screw or how often, etc. I cannot support the argument that "it costs all of us because we now have socialism," because that is just using socialism (which is one wrong) to accelerate the destruction of freedom (which is another wrong). It is not an individual's stupid or unhealthy behavior that costs us; it is the unjust laws that compel us to pay.

It's socialism that costs all of us, dammit!

If being opposed to socialism means being on what was once the Pat Buchanan side of the Culture War, then the Culture War ain't the Culture War no more.

The meaning of the expression has changed, and it's back to the drawing board.

But what do you do when words and phrases don't mean what they are supposed to mean? Use an eraser?

UPDATE: My thanks to SayUncle and Snowflakes from Hell for linking this post!

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (4)

Laugh While You Can

Bill Whittle is up to his old tricks. And good ones they are.

And so now we have it.

I thought I might need to try my small part to cheer people up and calm them down, but for once I have underestimated the American people. People, by and large, seem not only calm but absolutely determined. Everywhere I have looked this morning the reaction seems to be more or less the same: a nation of steely-eyed missile men. These Marxist bastards have no idea what is coming for them. No idea.

Laugh while you can, Monkey Boys.

There is no doubt this is going to be painful. But I do believe we can wind up a much better country for it. With a much better medical system. We need to get to a system where the consumer pays for regular medical expenses and not insurance companies or government. This will put downward pressure on costs. Catastrophic coverage is the way to go.

Free standing MRI Clinics charge 1/4 of what hospitals charge for an MRI. And Doc In A Box type services are popping up all over. Cash at the door eliminates a LOT of hassle for the doctor and the patient.

And after that maybe we can go after the Drivers License Scam.

"Personal liberty - or the right to enjoyment of life and liberty - is one of the fundamental or natural rights, which has been protected by its inclusion as a guarantee in the various constitutions, which is not derived from nor dependent on the U.S. Constitution. ... It is one of the most sacred and valuable rights [remember the words of Justice Tolman, supra.] as sacred as the right to private property ... and is regarded as inalienable." 16 C.J.S. Const. Law, Sect.202, Pg. 987
You can find a rather long discussion of this starting here. And how does this relate? Well the requirement to buy insurance comes up at the very start of the discussion (13 pages earlier).

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:25 AM | Comments (5)

The Socialist Party

While I haven't had time to blog since this morning and now I'm tired out, I'm taking time right now because I consider this statement from Dana Loesch the quote of the day:

Last night, a new party was born; the malignant tumor that is the progressive caucus consumed the Democrat party from within and gave birth to the mainstream Socialist Party.
She has a lot more, and it's pretty hard-hitting stuff. I love the fact that she is not afraid to call socialism socialism; maybe if more people had, we wouldn't be in this pickle we're in right now.

We have to fight (and that includes worn out people like yours truly).

Via Glenn Reynolds.

posted by Eric at 10:27 PM | Comments (3)

Steal This Flag
Times's Up


Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:25 PM | Comments (2)

What To Do?

The Health Destruction Bill has passed and Americans are up in Arms. So the question is "What to Do? Well that is obvious. Throw the Democrats out in November.

The great imponderable in American elections is the 30% to 50% (more or less) that don't vote in elections. My guess is that a lot of them will be motivated. Say we can get just 1/2 of that 30% to the polls.

No seat is safe. Not one.

What to do? Voter registration drives. Massive voter registration drives. Starting now.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:42 PM | Comments (5)

No, we are not doomed!

Now that the best health care system known to man seems officially doomed, it is not surprising that some people on the right are succumbing to doom and gloom thinking. (I don't want to point fingers, because the point is not who is saying it, so much as whether the argument has merit.)

Being a libertarianish sort, I cannot but sympathize with the doom-and-gloom crowd in a certain sense, because in many ways this does look like, if not the Final Triumph, at least a major victory for the forces of socialism.

Or perhaps I should avoid the S-word and say "the forces of big government." The thing is, if you are my age (55) and you are a libertarian, it's a bit tough not to be cynical, and cynicism does have a nasty way of coming across as doom and gloom.

So whatever you want to call this, this phenomenon of big government and the opposition to it, as I see it, there is no way for me to deny a stark, naked reality.

I was born in 1954, and ever since my brain began laying down memories of what was going on, I have watched the relentless, steady, constant growth of Big Government -- regardless of which party was in power.

Yet in all that time, this country has never had an honest debate over socialism. The word has been avoided for decades, but now that it is upon us, there is no avoiding it.

We need to have this debate. Badly. It's so long overdue that I could scream.

My sincere hope is that the passage of Obamacare will bring it on.

This is not doom and gloom. Far from it. I welcome the debate, and I think it will be clarifying. Perhaps there will be a genuine fight over whether America wants want to go the socialist route, instead of phony and pointless haggling over diversionary peripheral issues (like whether abortion should be socialized right now or temporarily privatized).

Far from being the end, in many ways I see this as a beginning.

MORE: Already there is talk of civil disobedience. That's hardly doom and gloom. In fact, it's a sign of progress.

AND MORE: For your reading list.


UPDATE: My thanks to SayUncle for linking this post!

posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (10)

Killing the dream


Yeah, they passed it. (Thanks once again to Stupak and his ongoing abortion con game.)

A lot of people are reacting, but I especially liked Megan McArdle's question:

Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority?
There's always recourse, and one form of recourse would be to simply implement the Constitution. Congress does not have power to compel citizens to purchase health insurance.

The Constitution is not subject to the tyranny of the majority. Not even if the majority says it is.

posted by Eric at 11:42 PM | Comments (9)

Rockford Is Improving

According to our local paper, fondly called The Red Star, only 25% of house sales in the area are foreclosure sales. Except that I know for a fact that the banks are putting off foreclosure as long as possible so as to avoid as long as they can booking the losses.

In Boone, Ogle and Winnebago counties in February, just 62 of the 243 recorded sales were from bank, mortgage or government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

That was the lowest number of bank-owned property sales in a month since December 2008.

The flood of foreclosures in the country has been largely to blame for falling prices, because the homes are usually sold at steep discounts. Real estate experts think prices won't rise with any regularity again until we cycle through the millions of distressed properties in the U.S.

Unfortunately, February's decline in foreclosure sales is most likely an anomaly. The number of new foreclosure cases being filed continues to rise.

And we haven't even started to tear into the commercial real estate bubble. It is only a matter of time. And then the housing market will re-collapse.

Good times? Only if you like breaking records. Take unemployment in the area.

Local economists weren't the only ones shocked by the jump to the Rockford area's January unemployment rate.

It was the highest year-over-year increase in the nation.

The metro area's unemployment rate was 19.7 percent, a 5.8 percentage point increase, higher than all 372 metro areas in the country, according to an analysis released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two other Illinois metros made the list of top five biggest increases: Peoria tied for second with a 5.5 percentage point increase, and Decatur was close behind with a 5.2 percentage point increase.

Rockford also had the fifth-highest unemployment rate of all metro areas, outpacing rust belt mainstays such as Flint, Mich., Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., and Detroit.

As far as the statistics go I'm not counted. I'm retired on Social Security. And my mate? She works for the school system so her job will be one of the last to go.

And what is one of the biggest problems our city faces? Public employee pensions.

The debate over how to balance the city budget without cutting services has now zeroed in on the budget's ticking time bomb: pensions.

Mayor Larry Morrissey, in his State of the City address earlier this month, got everybody's attention with one example:

A 25-year-old police officer hired today at base pay and receiving an annual 3 percent wage increase and required step and longevity increases, with no promotions, will pay $304,506.25 toward his or her pension throughout a 30-year career. If the officer or the officer's spouse lives 30 years after retirement, he or she will receive a total of $5.8 million, from employee and city contributions and investment returns to the pension fund.

Now, multiply that by the number of police officers and firefighters the city expects to employ in the next 30 years. Right now the number is 549.

The city's annual pension obligation -- the amount the state says it must pay into three separate state-mandated retirement systems for its union employees -- jumped from $11.3 million in 2009 to $12.8 million this year to a projected $16.3 million in 2011.

But at the same time, money coming into the city's general fund fell from $112.4 million in 2009 to $110.1 million in 2010.

Let me do the multiplication for you. And to make it easy we will say the obligation is $5 million for 550 people. That would be around $90 million a year in a city whose budget is $110 million a year. A total 30 year obligation of $2.75 billion. Roughly.

That is unsustainable. And that which can not be sustained will not be sustained. I see bankruptcy in the city's future. Some improvement.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:19 PM | Comments (1)

"Your unhealthy choices cost all of us!"

In what I think was a remarkably idiotic display, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm proclaimed that yesterday (Saturday, March 21, 2010) all Michiganders should refrain from eating meat!

From Friday's Free Press:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Thursday that she won't rescind her proclamation urging Michiganders to forgo meat-eating on Saturday, even as new demands arrived in her office from state cattlemen.

Gary Voogt, a beef producer from Marne and past president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, asked Granholm to "admit you got flimflammed by an animal rights activist group, Governor, it is time to, as we say, cowboy up."

She'll admit nothing of the kind. In fact, her proclamation claims that eating meat is unhealthy:
'Michigan Meatout Day' proclamation

Whereas, A wholesome diet of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains promotes good health and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, which take the lives of approximately 1.3 million Americans each year; and,

Whereas, The number of those who choose to live the lifestyle of a vegan or vegetarian has increased and so has the availability and selection of meat and dairy alternatives in mainstream grocery stores, restaurants, and catering operations; and,

Whereas, Reducing the consumption of meat or not eating meat at all can significantly decrease the exposure to infectious pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter, which take the lives of several thousand Americans and sicken millions more each year;


I don't know how many times I have kvetched that what people eat is no one else's business. Even less is it the government's business.

But I was reminded of Governor Granholm's silly proclamation when I read a brilliant essay by Zombie that Glenn Reynolds linked earlier. Zombie's biggest single objection to universal healthcare is that it forces us all to be nanny-state fascists, and he specifically mentions diet:

Who among us hasn't looked on in horror at the grotesque dietary intake of the average American? Donuts, white bread, lard, Coca-Cola, pork rinds, preservatives, sugar, grease and artificial coloring. Little toddlers drinking sweet sodas instead of milk. Teenagers eating junk food instead of brain-building food. Nary a fresh vegetable in sight. Health nuts like me spend our lives trying to treat our bodies like temples, and provide good examples for everyone else; but it's hard to compete with intense cultural pressure to eat the worst imaginable foods. As above, under normal circumstances I would sigh in mystification and let other people go their merry way, killing themselves with bad food. Yet once I start to ponder the overwhelming society-wide medical costs of keeping millions of unhealthy people alive for decades and decades, my anger grows. I want to ban advertisements for unhealthy foods on TV. I want to outlaw donuts. I want to tax McDonald's to cover the full environmental cost of their products. I want to do all sorts of quasi-fascistic things that normally I would never advocate.

Because that's what socialized medicine does: it turns each of us into a little fascist. A nagging nanny who tells other people what to do and how to live.

Damn, that is so right. And it explains why the nanny state busybodies like Jennifer Granholm almost without exception favor universal health care. They figure that once we're all paying for each other's mistakes, we will be forced to "care" more, and become ever more supportive of government intrusions we would otherwise never support.

I'm reminded of Sean Kinsell's irritation over the "flexitarians" at Trader Joe's, and my own related irritation over seeing people buy junk food with food stamps. It's not what they eat; it's that I'm paying for it! And of course now they want me to pay not only for the junk food, but for the additional consequences of eating it. The result is communitarianism, and a nation of busybodies and government informants.

Sorry, but I refuse to allow socialized medicine to turn me into a little fascist. Regardless of what the government might make me pay for; I will still refuse to support restrictions on what people do with their bodies, what they put into them, how they screw or how often, etc. I cannot support the argument that "it costs all of us because we now have socialism," because that is just using socialism (which is one wrong) to accelerate the destruction of freedom (which is another wrong). It is not an individual's stupid or unhealthy behavior that costs us; it is the unjust laws that compel us to pay.

It's socialism that costs all of us, dammit!

As far as I'm concerned, those who buy into the busybody notion that unhealthy behavior "costs all of us" because of these socialistic laws are doing little more than trying to make socialism work. (Which has long been the Republican approach to entrenched socialist programs.)

They may mean well, but they can't make socialism work. Instead, by trying to make it work, they prolong it. Prolonging socialism only makes it worse.

Socialism is worse than meat, worse than unsafe sex, worse than drinking or smoking, and worse than being fat. Socialism is the unhealthiest choice of all, and it's the number one killer in human history.

Clearly an unhealthy choice that costs all of us.

posted by Eric at 07:38 PM | Comments (7)

An "elderly white man" who sounds just like an anonymous commenter....

Yesterday there was quite an uproar over the alleged use of the N-word by Tea Party demonstrators in front of black congressional representatives.

This morning I see (via Glenn Reynolds) that Dana Loesch has posted a video of the "incident" which debunks the claim that the N-word was used. (Anyone want to bet whether there will be a retraction?)

There's a similar claim (now all over the internet) that an unknown person shouted "Barney, you faggot!" at Barney Frank as he was leaving his office. Naturally, the assumption is being made that this is true, and that the insult came from a Tea Party supporter.

I don't know whether anyone has a video showing Barney Frank leaving the building, but that seems to be the only way to debunk anything these days. It is very hard to prove that someone didn't say something. We have only the word of Brian Beutler. Here is his actual account at TPM:

...Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed "Barney, you faggot"--a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.

After that incident, Capitol police threatened to expel the protesters from the building, but were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras were summoned to film the encounter and the officers ultimately relented.

Hmmm.... It sounds to me as if there would be a video of the entire incident somewhere. I'd like to see it.

The F-word slur draws almost 1400 Google hits so far. Isn't it worth verifying whether this was actually said by a genuine Tea Party demonstrator before indicting the entire Tea Party movement? Is it enough merely to say he's an old white guy? Is Bill Ayers an old white guy too?

Regardless of who he is or whether this even happened, over at Salon, the remark has been transformed from a remark by an old white guy into "chants" from a crowd:

Also today, according to Brian Beutler of, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), as he was leaving the Rayburn building, was hit with chants of "Barney you faggot."
Anyway, I'm skeptical. This is not to accuse Brian Beutler of lying, because he might be accurately repeating what he heard, but that does not shed any light on whether the old white guy was with the Tea Party movement or whether he was some sort of Fred Phelps style agent provocateur. The only way to know what was said and who he was would be to see some video, and considering the omnipresence of cameras these days, it would not surprise me if the footage of Barney Frank leaving his office turns up.

And if we assume that this happened, how on earth is that an indictment of the thousands of decent, ordinary Americans who showed up to protest Obamacare? Is it fair to call them Ku Klux Klanners and bigoted homophobes on the basis of a report that someone said something? Does anyone realize how easy it would be for anyone to just show up and yell "FAGGOT"? On what basis can an assumption be automatically made that this person was a Tea Partier?

To illustrate, check out some of these comments to a post titled Teabaggers: "Barney, You Faggot!". Someone named "Tea" says:

Tea [http://Bagger] replies:
Yesterday, 11:44:26 PM"Yeah, you and Barney Fag need a good butt f**king with a baseball bat. Only problem is you might like it.
Then there's a comment from "somehowiblamethejews":
To be fair, Barney Frank is a faggot.
Are these two commenters (and others like them) to be considered "real" Tea Partiers? I don't think they are, but there is no more way to know who they are and what their backgrounds might be than to know the identity and background of the alleged "elderly white man."

I am skeptical, and I'll believe it when I see the video.

I think that ought to be the rule in cases like this.

MORE: Via Dr. Helen, Tea Party activist Jim Hoft reviewed the record and says,

No one screamed "n***er." No one screamed "f*ggot." No one was spit on.

Do you suppose the state-run media will correct their propaganda piece now?

I'm not holding my breath.

AND MORE: Days later, and still no video of this alleged incident has turned up.

I think this comment pretty well nails it:

I'll say it in this one too. there are video cameras all over these protests all the time, in the hands of both liberal agitators and spies, and the tea partyers themselves. So where is the evidence? Liberal spies are sure to record all of the misspellings on the signs, but when some thing this huge happens, suddenly there are no video cameras around?
Odd, isn't it?

MORE: My thanks to Sean Kinsell for the link! Sean notes that "Faggot is a short, sharp word that any number of noises at a lively protest might sound like," and adds,

How much can we generalize from this, even if it turns out to be true? Given Frank's history of capitalizing on any excuse to feel put upon, it seems wise to reserve judgment.
Show me the video.

posted by Eric at 01:03 PM | Comments (7)

Hell hath no fury like real people scorned

In an earlier post in which I discussed Dick Armey's gloomy predictions that Obamacare would pass, I opined that while Dick Armey's remarks might discourage ordinary political activists, they would be unlikely to deter the Tea Partiers:

I think that even if Armey somehow did cause the activists to stay home, the real people would still be pissed enough that they would not let up. And if the real people were to actually descend on Washington, that would scare the crap out of, out of them.
Well, they did, and it did.

There's a great series of pictures Glenn Reynolds posted which shows the real people who are pissed off and who wouldn't let up, and who went to today's demonstration:


Despite what some want to believe, these people are not your regular Astroturf-style political activists who look to "leaders" for guidance. Far from being deterred by Armey, I doubt they gave him so much as a passing thought.

And it looks like it worked too!

Deem and Pass is dead; keep the no-mentum going.
As the sign says, hell hath no fury.

posted by Eric at 04:15 PM | Comments (7)

Taking another bite at the Marxist apple

There are a lot of theories about what looks very much like the image of a face on an apple in front of Michelle Obama on the latest Newsweek cover. I saw Ann Althouse's discussion, and she thinks it looks like Karl Marx. Here's Newsweek's incriminating apple, followed by Karl Marx:



Whether it's Marx or not, considering the Biblical story of Eve, I think Newsweek would have been well-advised to kill the apple entirely. Which they did (except it's too late) and which Hillbuzz thinks is no coincidence:

Early this morning, 3/16/10, it looks like the White House ordered Newsweek to crop the photo so the apple is no longer visible online. Newsweek has cut the table out completely, now, because whatever's going on in this photo was noticed by the public.
So Newsweek has only compounded the problem and made itself look more guilty. The apple has reached the attention of Snopes, where there's some discussion of whether it looks like Osama bin Laden.

The Anchoress (who seems familiar with the phenomenon of images appearing in food) is skeptical:

But I'm a Catholic; I have learned to be skeptical of images in food.
Gerard Van der Leun expresses skepticism from a photographic perspective:
The face of (Muhammad) (Karl Marx) (Rasputin) (Jesus) that so many around the blogosphere are seeing today is, alas, a mere figleaf of their imaginations. Sorry, kids, it just isn't there.

How do I know? I used an ancient reporting technique. I walked to the corner and looked for myself at the real cover on-sale now for $5.95 [Pass]. Nope. No face. Instead, there's just your average highlight on the apple representing either a reflection of one of the main umbrella lights used for portraiture photography, or something dropped in by the Newsweek photoshop jockey making everything nice on the final image.

Now I had some fun with this in the sidebar yesterday, but like many things on the web, "If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing." Today, this thing is all over. What people are freaking out about is either a subtle photoshop (which I doubt), or an artifact of pixillation that happens when an image is reduced and optimized for web display. The latter is by far the most likely explanation.

Far be it from me to spoil anyone's fun, but for the record, I don't think it looks like Muhammad, Marx, Osama, Rasputin or Jesus.

But still, this is so much fun that if I could be permitted another bite at the apple, I'd like to go on record as saying it's the spitting image of Jerry Garcia. This was my initial reaction, and I am not alone.

I just don't think the forehead shape and general hairline match Marx. But I have seen Jerry Garcia many times over the years looking exactly like the image in that apple.

Here are two examples, found by Googling, followed by the apple:




But why on earth would Newsweek deliberately insinuate an image of Jerry Garcia into Michelle Obama's apple? I doubt they would. And I certainly hope they didn't.

Far be it from me to give food to the idea that 1960s acid rock was a form of "Cultural Marxism" or anything....

posted by Eric at 03:12 PM | Comments (7)

Intercoms, Wal-Mart, and rope. (Some assembly required.)

I was trying to ignore a Philadelphia area incident which a Wal-Mart customer managed to get on the store's intercom and make the following "announcement":

"All black people leave the store now."
Observed a friend who emailed me the ink:
How hateful! My god, what a blubbering, humorless cry-baby mentality. I wonder what would have happened if some black woman had done this, asking all white people to leave? Answer: we wouldn't have heard about it.
I said that if I had been in the store and heard someone tell all white people to leave, I would have laughed (probably all the way home to write a blog post...)

What I find really scary is that anyone would be so stupid as to imagine that Wal-Mart would deliberately make such an announcement. (Seriously, people were talking about boycotting Wal-Mart over this.)

The incident illustrates how shockingly easy it is for bored pranksters to start a huge amount of trouble. A mere piece of rope fashioned into a noose and hung brattily from a tree in the park can cause absolute chaos. (I'm glad I'm a 55-year-old brat and not a 13-year-old brat!)

And Wal-Mart sells rope, does it not? Didn't Lenin predict something like this?

posted by Eric at 01:08 PM | Comments (1)

How big is the Joe Arpaio tent?

Probably because I don't like repeating myself, I don't say as much about police abuses as I should. Stuff like SWAT team abuses, civil rights violations committed in the name of the "drug war," and police retaliation against critics, go on all the time, as do a lot of things I don't find the time to write about. I guess it's because my goal is to be creative and entertaining, and ideally, I try to never write about things unless I have something new to say.

I also don't like to dump on other bloggers, especially bloggers I like who are philosophically in more or less the same, um, "camp" as myself.

This leaves me in a bit of a dilemma where it comes to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I think the man is a rogue cop who epitomizes bad law enforcement, and yet he is very popular among conservatives, mainly because he's tough on illegal immigration. As I think illegal immigration is out of control, if his only excesses related to his department's dealing with illegals, I probably wouldn't bother with a post. After all, not only am I a notorious compromiser, but these people are not citizens, and regardless of what the Supreme Court has said, violations of the rights of non-citizens are not as bothersome to me as violations of the rights of citizens. I realize there's a slippery slope, but still.... People are pissed off about illegal immigration, and I can understand why they would like Joe Arpaio for his get-tough, tent-city-in-the-desert policies.

However, I find it disturbing that they seem so willing to overlook the fact that Arpaio and his department have a long track record of appalling abuses.

Like this incident described at The CATO Institute:

One of the most appalling cases occurred in Maricopa County, Arizona, the home of Joe Arpaio, self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America." In 2004 one of Arpaio's SWAT teams conducted a bumbling raid in a Phoenix suburb. Among other weapons, it used tear gas and an armored personnel carrier that later rolled down the street and smashed into a car. The operation ended with the targeted home in flames and exactly one suspect in custody--for outstanding traffic violations.

But for all that, the image that sticks in your head, as described by John Dougherty in the alternative weekly Phoenix New Times, is that of a puppy trying to escape the fire and a SWAT officer chasing him back into the burning building with puffs from a fire extinguisher. The dog burned to death.

The deputies were described as laughing at the dog's suffering.

I don't like stories like that, and if a SWAT team did that to Coco, I would devote the rest of my life to righting the wrong.

Radley Balko has been detailing Arpaio's misdeeds, and also those of a local prosecutor he calls "Sheriff Joe's enabler." Arpaio has waged war against a local newspaper and arrested it's newspaper editor (more here). Detailing more of such tactics, James Joyner has called him a "corrupt thug and bully."

There's a list of victims which the UK Progressive calls "sickeningly endless":

* Charles Agster, a 33-year-old mentally handicapped man, died in the county jail three days after being forced by sheriff's officers into a restraint chair and placed in a "spit hood" when he suffered a seizure. He was declared brain dead three days later and a jury awarded his parents $9-million.
* Scott Norberg, a former Brigham Young University football player, died after detention officers shocked him several times with a stun-gun. According Amnesty International, Norberg was already handcuffed and face down when officers dragged him from his cell and placed him in a restraint chair with a towel covering his face for the electrocution. After Norberg's corpse was discovered, deputies accused Norberg of attacking them, overlooking the fact that he was handcuffed at the time. The county settled a lawsuit for $8.25-million.
* Brian Crenshaw, a legally blind and mentally disabled inmate, suffered fatal injuries while being held in Maricopa County Jail. Crenshaw's family filed a lawsuit which resulted in a $2 million award. As in the Norberg case, Arpaio's office was accused of destroying evidence.
* Richard Post was a parapalegic inmate arrested for possessing marijuana. He was placed in a restraint chair by guards and his neck was broken in the process. The event, caught on video, shows guards smiling and laughing while Post is being injured, which cost him the use of his arms. The now-qualrapelegic Post settled for $800,000.
* Jeremy Flanders, an inmate at Tent City, was attacked with rebar tent stakes which were not concreted into the ground. Although these stakes had been used as weapons in a previous riot at the facility, Arpaio chose not to secure them properly. During the trial, the plaintiff argued successfully the sheriff and his deputies knew that prisoners used rebar as weapons and did nothing to prevent it. Flanders suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the attack. He was awarded $635,532, of which Arpaio was held personally responsible for 35%.
While the list comes from a left wing site (which made me skeptical until I Googled all the names to verify them), the paper claims they are not isolated incidents of "a few bad apples," and that
Much of the department is as rotten as its sheriff and the Maricopa County court files are stuffed full of literally hundreds of similar cases involving sheriff office abuse.
The Agster story checks out, as does Norberg, who was described as having been "handcuffed by guards, kicked, stomped on, and then strapped into a restraint chair":
There, guards held a towel over his head, literally suffocating him. Medical records later revealed that he had been shot with a stun gun at least 14 times and beaten so badly that his larynx cracked.
Crenshaw was described as "discovered comatose in his cell with a broken neck, ruptured intestines, broken toes, and severe internal injuries":
Only sheriff's guards had contact with Crenshaw in his cell, but Arpaio still maintains that Crenshaw sustained his life-ending injuries by falling out of his bed.
Richard Post was a paraplegic arrested for mouthing off in a bar, and later restrained by Arpaio's men in a metal chair which broke his neck, while Flanders was beaten nearly to death by inmates who used tent stakes while deputies allegedly watched.

These incidents (and others cited in the articles) have cost the county tens of millions in damages. There's another list here which includes additional names.

I think the record demonstrates that Arpaio is bad news. He and his department epitomize precisely the type of police methods and tactics I feel guilty about not criticizing more often. The fact that he is willing to vigorously enforce the immigration laws seems to have endeared him to many conservatives, but I find myself wondering why they are so willing to turn a blind eye to the repeated abuses of civil rights of Americans over which he presides.

There are plenty of Americans who are disgusted with the Democrats; yesterday I cited the example of Howard Stern, who said "I will never vote for a Democrat again." That's because like yours truly, they fear and loathe socialism. But that does not mean that they support police abuses in the name of the war on drugs, SWAT team excesses, or thuggish sheriffs like Arpaio.

Clearly the anti-socialist tent is a big tent. I hope it's big enough to hold Joe Arpaio, his conservative lovers and his libertarian critics.

So I'm of two minds about the conservative love affair with Arpaio. Part of me wants to ignore it in the hope it will go away. But part of me worries that ignoring issues like this never makes them go away.

I may be wrong, but it seemed healthier to write this post and clear the air than let things sit and fester. My apologies to all Arpaio lovers I have offended.

UPDATE: My thanks to Radley Balko for the link! While I am very flattered at being called "intellectually honest" (a characterization with which many would disagree), I do not include John Hawkins in the "knuckle-dragging lumpentariat wing" of the conservative movement. For starters, Hawkins did a great job of rebutting Jerome Corsi's and WorldNetDaily's crazy North American Union conspiracy theory. And he was one of the conservatives who led the way in debunking the Birth Certificate Truthers. I might not always agree with Hawkins; but that doesn't place him in the knuckle dragging wing.

Of course, these things are relative. Here in Ann Arbor, I am every inch the knuckle dragger!

posted by Eric at 12:37 PM | Comments (15)

"I will never vote for a Democrat again"

Glenn Reynolds and Rand Simberg have pointed out something which is culturally very important: the Democrats have lost Howard Stern:

When you lose Howard Stern you've lost ordinary, everyday people. Politically, Stern is left-center to left-leaning and casually to moderately well-informed. He is done with democrats. He now sees them as communists. Many of his listeners will follow his lead.
I love Howard Stern and listened to him for many, many years. While I was discouraged when he joined the anti-Bush bandwagon, I understood his reasons. But now that the Democrats (whom he supported many times) are showing their true colors, he's really fed up. Whether you like him or not, Howard is an important barometer of how ordinary working class people feel, and he's in touch with the pulse of the guys who are up at the crack of dawn, unloading the delivery trucks, and basically getting the shitwork done that makes things function.

When Howard Stern declares "The Democrats Are Communists," that truly means they have lost the working class. Ordinary people now realize that the Democrats are elitist poseurs who want to run their lives and nationalize everything.

"I will never vote for a Democrat again."

Go Howard!

MORE: Via Phelps, a reminder!

posted by Eric at 07:09 PM | Comments (2)

Liberating Joe Biden's inner voice

It occurred to me that I was wasting my time earlier when I tried to interpret the uninterpretable Joe Biden.

So I found Joe Biden's gaffe-free inner Trololol voice, and decided to just let it speak for itself.

As you can see, he has never made more sense.


posted by Eric at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

"You know we're going to control the insurance companies"

When ABC's Jake Tapper asked, "Do you hear back from venerable* [Congressional Democrats] who are worried this bill will cost them their jobs?" the thoroughly incomprehensible Joe Biden shared his "thoughts":

BIDEN: Well, I yes. Some of them I say they say, well, Joe, look, man, I mean, you know, you guys haven't massaged this very well. And, you know, this thing has gone on so long, I don't know. And my response is, hey, man, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I'm telling you, you know, pre-existing, they're going to be covered. You know we're going to control the insurance companies. You know people aren't going to lose their health care with their employer like is being advertised. So you've got to if you really want to make sure that you get the benefit of what you've already done, vote for the bill. And I look, Jake, I really, truly believe that the worst place to be, as a legislator, is being in the position where your side is being pummeled for an idea and there's misrepresentations about all the bad things the idea is going to generate. And then the idea fails and then they go, see, I told you Jake was for it. And had I not stopped, Jake, there would have been death panels.

With guys like that at the top, it's not surprising that they think it's just fine to "pass" legislation they haven't read without a vote.

Not that a nonsense-spouting lame-brain like Biden would understand (much less care), but Megan McArdle took the time to analyze the latest CBO score, and she demonstrates how it will increase spending dramatically. Her conclusion:

I think this is a fiscal disaster waiting to happen. But no one on the other side cares, so I'm not sure how much point there is in saying that any more.
This was precisely my concern the other day when in a state of despair I posted a remixed Soviet era video (which makes about as much sense as Joe Biden's mutterings).

The only thing left to do is fight the power.

As a lot of readers are opposed to the monstrosity they are trying to "pass," I thought I'd post some helpful information from Amy Kremer on how to do precisely that.

72 Hours to "Kill The Bill"

Broad TEA Party Coalition Aligns To Defeat Pelosi-Care

STEP 1: Call Congress and tell them to "Kill The Bill" -

1-877-762-8762 or 1-202-224-3121. Melt the phone lines folks. Do not relent. Do not give up. The stakes are too high for us to fail. They want to have the government increasingly take over more and more of our healthcare system. We must stop them NOW! Call: 1-877-762-8762 or 1-202-224-3121

STEP 2: Here's the game plan for the next 72-hours. If you can get to D.C. this Saturday - please do so. If you can't see how else you can help (including calling 1-877-762-8762 or 1-202-224-3121).


For further information or to register and participate or assist others to come to Washington, DC, please check these websites where details will be posted and updated regularly throughout the next 48 hours:

It is still possible to kill this thing and there is still time to fight. Despair is not only a waste of time, but it's premature.

* I strongly suspect Tapper meant "vulnerable." Otherwise, Biden's disease might be contagious....

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Bernstein's civil disobedience pledge:

"If the government takes over health care, I will refuse to buy their package, refuse to pay the fine imposed, and make them arrest me. I will broadcast my refusal to cave to socialism on my website, on Facebook, to my students, in my lectures, and on the radio. I will fight this in the courts--or will the DC Fascists suspend the right to trial by jury? I suspect--and hope--that millions of Americans will do the same."

posted by Eric at 10:40 AM | Comments (3)

Get It Legal Tour

My friend E. J. Pagel advises me via e-mail that the Cheech and Chong Get It Legal tour is coming to the Rockford Coranado Theater on March 27th. Tickets are $35 and $50 per person.

I have a former police officer friend who says that pot prohibition will end in America about 5 years after the first state legalizes. That first legalization could come as early as this November in California.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:38 AM | Comments (4)

We Will Keep Stealing

Congressman Tom Perriello tells what is bad about Congress. "If you don't tie our hands we will keep stealing."

And the difference between Republicans and Democrats? Republicans generally steal less. Faint praise indeed.

From Real Clear Politics.

H/T Jccarlton at Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

Not big enough to succeed at failure

Yesterday I saw that the local Hollywood Video I pass on my regular running route is selling its entire inventory because it will be closing. It is part of a struggling chain which has filed for bankruptcy:

NEW YORK - Movie Gallery Inc., owner of the Hollywood Video movie rental chain, has filed for Chapter 11 protection and plans to close 805 stores -- about a third of its total.

Its the second trip through bankruptcy court in just three years for Movie Gallery. The company is struggling with competition as more people choose to stream videos online from Netflix Inc. and other services or pick up $1-per-night rentals at Redbox kiosks.

The company, which is based in Wilsonville, Ore., first landed in bankruptcy court in October 2007, unable to sustain the debt it took on in its $850 million acquisition of rival Hollywood Entertainment Corp. in 2005. Movie Gallery agreed to assume about $350 million of Hollywood Entertainment's borrowings as a part of the deal.

As to whether it's good business sense to buy out a rival company only to be bankrupted by it, beats me. The two were competitors, and now they seem to have committed mutual suicide, although it appears that a previous hostile takeover attempt by Blockbuster was the driving force behind the Movie Gallery takeover of Hollywood Video :
Hollywood Video was the target of a hostile takeover attempt, initially announced at the end of December 2004 by competitor Blockbuster Video. In February 2005, Blockbuster announced an exchange offer of $14.50 per share ($11.50 cash and $3.00 in Blockbuster shares).[19]

In order to create a stronger position against the hostile takeover, Hollywood Video agreed to a buyout on Monday, January 10, 2005 by its smaller competitor Movie Gallery. Movie Gallery paid $860 million, $13.25 per share, and the assumption of $380 million in debt. Stocks closed at $13.85 on January 10 after these news. Blockbuster then dropped its purchase plans, citing anti-trust concerns. Movie Gallery completed its purchase of Hollywood Video on April 27, 2005.

The take over, and the failed attempts to integrate the brands, resulted in Movie Gallery filing bankruptcy in 2007, though the company recently emerged from this with plans of revitalization and consolidation.

Obviously it never worked out, so (for now at least) Blockbuster is the winner.

And so is Netflix, which I use out of simple convenience. Netflix has saved me a ton of time, as I remember when I used to wander around aimlessly looking for something to rent, not being interested in anything, and I would often "settle" for something unsatisfying. This is not to say there aren't films I would like to watch; it's just that I can't walk around remembering them. In my video store rental days, whenever I would hear or read about a film that sounded promising, I would write the name down on whatever scrap of paper was handy. But writing things down on little pieces of paper is not a good system, because the little pieces of paper would get lost, or else I wouldn't happen to have them with me when I went to the store. Video lists are not like grocery lists because it's not practical to walk the aisles and remember what you need when you see it. With Netflix, however, the process works 24/7 because as long as I'm near a computer I just open my queue and add the film and it stays there until I get it. And it just comes in the mail and I can watch it whenever I want, then throw it back in the mail. No hassle about drop off times or hours. Plus, if you're renting something like Querelle or Behind the Green Door, unless you're a voyeur you might not enjoy the concealed look of surprise you get from the impressionable kid who has to go back and get it for you. Or (as happened to me in the case of the classic Behind the Green Door) the employee might actually warn you about the "x-rated adult content" and ask if you're really sure that's the film you want. Granted, that experience amused me, but not everyone has my dark sense of humor. Anyway, Netflix is completely anonymous, and even though they don't have Beyond the Green Door, they do have Querelle. Sure, there's an electronic record for the snoops, but there's also an electronic record at a store. And unless you have fantasies about being nominated to the Supreme Court and getting the Clarence Thomas treatment, it's not worth worrying about. I couldn't care less who learns what I rent, and if I did, I wouldn't use Netflix or Blockbuster.

As to the success or failure of a business, the market takes care of these things. It turns out that it was unwise for Movie Gallery to acquire Hollywood Video, and if they both go down, that's just what happens. It's unlikely that the government will bail the company out, because it's not considered "too big to fail." (Whether Blockbuster is, who knows? The company is said to be teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, and it is "a key outlet for the movie industry," so the question has actually been raised.)

But imagine the absurdity if the government did bail them out. Far from making a unsuccessful venture successful, the bailout would only stretch out the failure process, and allow greater losses to accumulate, sticking the taxpayers with the losses. OTOH, putting the government in charge of video rentals would facilitate controls on what we watch, so it might appeal to certain moralists, like the people who think The Tin Drum is "pornographic," or who believe in saving us from "erototoxins." Once the government is involved, moralists will be able to complain that their tax dollars are "subsidizing" whatever it is they don't like, and they would have a point.

So big or small, let them fail. Preventing failure prevents success.

posted by Eric at 02:30 PM | Comments (3)

Damn honkies won't leave people alone!

Via an email from a friend, I learned about a disgusting new form of rudeness which irritated me so much that I thought it merited a blog post. Apparently (and I hope this is not a trend) car dealers are using a new technology to trigger obnoxious horn-honking in vehicles owned by people behind on their payments:

The dealership used a system called Webtech Plus as an alternative to repossessing vehicles that haven't been paid for. Operated by Cleveland-based Pay Technologies, the system lets car dealers install a small black box under vehicle dashboards that responds to commands issued through a central website, and relayed over a wireless pager network. The dealer can disable a car's ignition system, or trigger the horn to begin honking, as a reminder that a payment is due.
The article is about a disgruntled employee who hacked the system and set off the horns of non-deadbeat car owners, but it's the existence of such a system that just fries me. Immobilization of the cars of deadbeats is one thing, but the dealer has no right to broadcast loud noises into the ears of uninvolved neighbors. The latter have a legal right to quiet enjoyment of their property. Oddly enough, that concern doesn't seem to be on the mind of anyone in the article:
The incident is the first time an intruder has abused the no-start system, according to Jim Krueger, co-owner of Pay Technologies. "It was a fairly straightforward situation," says Krueger. "He had retained a password, and what happened was he went in and created a little bit of havoc."

Krueger disputes that the horns were honking in the middle of the night; he says the horn honking can only be activated between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

I don't care what time of day they do it! Suppose you work at night and sleep during the day. Or suppose you just want peace and quiet?
Proponents say the systems let financers extend credit to consumers who might otherwise be ineligible for an auto loan.
At whose expense? Innocent neighbors?

Imagine if banks were to employ similar technology with defaulting homeowners, and mounted outdoor alarms which would be triggered in the event of late payments.

I think the car dealers who do this should be treated in the same way a private asshole would. Arrest them. In many states, horn-honking for any purpose other than signaling for purposes of safety is illegal. What that means is that you can't drive up to someone's house and honk because you want the person to come out.

The auto dealers' conduct is worse than that, though. They are no different than the case of some asshole driving up to a house and honking the horn because someone in the house owed him money.

I hope the bastards get sued.

Meanwhile, I hope that Amy Alkon can beat some good manners into these honkies.

Yes honkies. I hope it's not rude of me to use a racially charged term, but is there any logical reason that it can't it be used to describe obnoxious horn-honking behavior?

Interestingly enough, the word origin seems to involve conduct not much different with the obnoxious behavior of the car dealers:

a derogatory term for a Caucasian person.
there are three main theories for the origin of the word:
1. the word originated from the practice of white males wishing to hire African-American prostitutes in the 1920's, and going to the appropriate part of town while honking their car horns to attract the whores. Some versions state that the reason for this was that the white men were too afraid to actually stop in those neighborhoods, so the honking would bring the hookers to them. Others say that since few African-Americans could afford cars back in that time, the honking signaled a higher-paying white client and would quickly gain the prostitutes attention.
Not to compare hookers to deadbeats, or car dealers to their customers, but the impulse is similar. The car dealers are too afraid to go to the deadbeats' neighborhoods, and most likely they hope the honking will bring the deadbeats to them.

But I should probably be more careful about calling the car dealers honkies. Not only don't I know their race, but it might not matter. In England, a white man was prosecuted for racial abuse for calling another white man a "honky".

So maybe I should just tell them to cut out the honky business.

posted by Eric at 12:43 PM | Comments (3)

Idaho Will Sue

If the Health Care Destruction Bill passes Idaho will sue the Federal Government to prevent implimentation of the individual mandate.

Idaho took the lead in a growing, nationwide fight against health care overhaul Wednesday when its governor became the first to sign a measure requiring the state attorney general to sue the federal government if residents are forced to buy health insurance.

Similar legislation is pending in 37 other states.

Constitutional law experts say the movement is mostly symbolic because federal laws supersede those of the states.

Well maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. It sure means enforcement is going to be difficult.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

EMC2 (Polywell Fusion) has updated their site with an image of WB-8 shown above. The Drawing is labeled as "with diagnostics".

And then there is this picture:


WB-D 100MW Polywell Demo Device

Your Contributions Will Help Us Design The WB-D Polywell Device

Send your supporting contributions to:

New Mexico Community Foundation

Contact Energy Matter Conversion Corporation

1202 Parkway Drive Suite A
Santa Fe, NM 87507
Phone: 505-471-2050
Email: Rick at Emc2fusion dot com

There is considerable speculation at Talk Polywell as to what it all means.

And since from time to time there are people reading here who need to be brought up to speed on fusion I'm reposting my usual: 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 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 they seem really hard to build even. And who knows, if the Polywell experiments being done by the US Navy are successful the ITER project may just wind up as a big hole in the ground in France.


Here is the progress report given so far by EMC2:

EMC2 Fusion Development Corporation has been formed as a charitable research and development organization in frontier energy technologies with emphasis on fusion.

Fusion R&D Phase 1 - Validate and extend WB-6 results with WB-7 Device: 1.5 years / $1.8M, Successfully Completed

Fusion R&D Phase 2 - Design, build and test larger scale WB-8 Polywell Device: 2 years / $7M, In Process

Fusion R&D Phase 3 - Design, build and test full scale 100 MW Fusion System: 4 years / $200M, In Design Phase

Successful Phase 3 marks the end of fossil fuels

Good luck and happy fusing to the EMC2 folks and Rick Nebel who is leading the project.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:08 PM | Comments (8)

In the war against pain relief, there is no exemption for wounded soldiers!

One of my quirks is that I don't like being lied to or manipulated, especially by people whose job is to simply gather the news and report facts. So I found myself more than a little annoyed by the manipulative nature of a USA Today story which attempts to promote a meme I wish had died with the Vietnam War -- that large numbers of soldiers are drug abusers:

WASHINGTON -- The military is trying to curb the volume of narcotics given to troops as the number of prescriptions for painkillers and instances of drug abuse continue to soar, according to Pentagon data and recent congressional testimony.

Military doctors wrote almost 3.8 million prescriptions for pain relief for servicemembers last year -- more than four times the 866,773 doses handed out in 2001, according to data from the Pentagon health office.

Jim Webb thinks the statistics are stunning:
"These are stunning statistics," says Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who intends to look into the issue next week during a Senate subcommittee hearing that he will chair. Surgeons general of the Army, Navy and Air Force will testify. "I would really like to dig down in the data here and get their thoughts about what is driving this."
I find myself stunned too, but not in the way Webb seems to be. I'm stunned by the fact that the above "statistics" are so garbled as to be so incomprehensible. First off, the number of "prescriptions" written is being contrasted to the number of "doses" said to have been "handed out." Handing out a "dose" is hardly the same as writing a prescription. Furthermore, not all "prescriptions for pain relief" involve narcotic drugs. There's no way to make sense out of it. To call the above "misleading" would be too kind.

But even if the numbers represented an accurate comparison, is it really fair to contrast the number of pain prescriptions written in 2001 with the number that would be written after nine years of ongoing wars in two countries? I don't know what the numbers are, but I would think that the number of wounded soldiers in acute and chronic pain should have been gone up by a huge ratio -- maybe more than whatever number is indicated by the increase in the number of prescriptions written. Moreover, when a soldier is wounded in battle, his need for pain relief often does not end with his discharge from the hospital. Injuries resulting in permanent tissue or nerve damage, amputations, retained foreign particles like shrapnel and plastic -- all of these things can result in severe, ongoing, and chronic pain. The longer that a war drags on, the more such injuries can be expected to accumulate. That there would be an ongoing, cumulative need for pain relief should not surprise anyone. Does it require rocket science to understand that there are many more wounded soldiers there are now than there were in 2001? (Bear in mind that this does not even factor in the numerous injuries other than wounds inflicted by the enemy.)

According to an Iraq War Wiki entry, in the Iraq War alone "as of February 23, 2010 there were 31,693 wounded in action." The same entry states that according to October 18, 2005 USA Today article,

"More than one in four U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment, according to the Pentagon's first detailed screening of service members leaving a war zone.'
To the above add Afghanistan.

As to how many of the wounded have chronic pain, I don't know, but if we consider the huge number of American civilians who have chronic pain, the military's numbers (high and unfortunate as they are) are neither surprising nor disproportionate:

An estimated 76.5 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, affecting more people than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. Pain is a serious public health issue that does not discriminate based upon age, race, gender, or occupation. Since 2001, over 1.5 million servicemen and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with nearly 33,000 sustaining severe wounds from roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These very visible wounds include traumatic amputation, some forms of traumatic brain injury, burns, and shrapnel damage, resulting in chronic--or lifelong--pain.

Pain is the number-one cause of disability in returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more soldiers will endure the often invisible wounds of war, including high rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronically painful injuries of the spine, joints, and muscles due to combat.

76 million chronic pain sufferers out of 300 million Americans is about 25%, and 33,000 out of 1.5 million is around 2.2%. (And even that is only if we assume that all wounded soldiers suffer from chronic pain, which is not the case.)

But the important fact is that in 2001 we simply did not have those 33,000 wounded soldiers (or the innumerable non-battlefield injuries which accompany all wars), so it is ridiculously misleading to look at a rise in pain prescriptions as evidence for the claim that soldiers are "abusing" drugs. As to what they might mean by the term "abuse," I shudder to wonder.

Ramped up drug war rhetoric has been coming from all directions lately and I am sorry to see that the military is being dragged into the ongoing war against prescription pain meds. The real casualties of this campaign will be wounded soldiers suffering from chronic pain.

It really bothers me to think that a guy who was wounded for his country but needs pain relief will now have to face the stigma of being looked at as a suspected drug abuser, in order to further the expansion of the war on drugs into places it does not belong, while fueling the leftie narrative that evil wars turn our troops into a bunch of drug addicts.

I guess it would be unreasonable to expect a story which fuels two narratives to be characterized by honest reporting and fact checking.

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

Being my brother's keeper makes me hate my brother!

More than once I have been treated to the spectacle of seeing welfare mothers in supermarket check-out lanes, carts full of grape soda and all sorts of cheesy, puffy processed junk foods, like potato chips, pork rinds, etc. I don't know whether such stuff still qualifies legally as "food," but many times I found myself succumbing to fits of stereotypical thinking, and I have wondered, "Why are my tax dollars financing that?"

So now (thanks to the ever-vigilant Sean Kinsell) I have to wonder why they are financing a more healthy, "flexitarian" diet:

In the John Waters-esque sector of northwest Baltimore -- equal parts kitschy, sketchy, artsy and weird -- Gerry Mak and Sarah Magida sauntered through a small ethnic market stocked with Japanese eggplant, mint chutney and fresh turmeric. After gathering ingredients for that evening's dinner, they walked to the cash register and awaited their moments of truth.

"I have $80 bucks left!" Magida said. "I'm so happy!"

"I have $12," Mak said with a frown.

The two friends weren't tabulating the cash in their wallets but what remained of the monthly allotment on their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit cards, the official new term for what are still known colloquially as food stamps.

Sean takes note of the inherent smugness of a word ("flexitarian") that allows poseurs to have their burgers and their sanctimony too, and spots an economic issue: these people are both:
(1) on food stamps and (2) not planning their budget.
Why the hell should they care any more than the stereotypical welfare mom? After all, it's other people's money.

The painful part here is that I am trying to figure out which wasteful stereotype I detest more. The trashy potato chip and grape soda victim, or the savvy health-conscious flexitarian?

God, people suck.

The whole thing makes me feel a lot more antisocial than I would if my tax dollars weren't paying for it.

posted by Eric at 10:12 AM | Comments (5)

Time to face the music?

Dick Armey predicts (via Memeorandum) that the current round of Democratic shenanigans will succeed at forcing Obamacare through.

"They'll probably force this through," he said. "But you can't discount the number of people who can be moved by a ruthless and powerful political leader or group of political leaders."

The FreedomWorks chairman also had harsh word for the rest of Congress - the "self-serving" people he suggests are equally to blame for the passage of health care legislation.

"The average member Congress - House and Senate - is first and foremost only a self-serving inconvenience-minimizer who doesn't have a lot of principle they stand on the first place," he said. "It doesn't take much to move a jellied spine, so they'll probably get their votes."


On the plus side, Armey thinks it will result in a Republican triumph in November, with the Tea Party movement playing a prominent role:

Asked if Democrats will get a bounce in poll numbers if they pass health care reform, Armey said Democrats "will get politically bounced" from office. Armey is confident that Harry Reid will lose his Senate seat in November and that Republicans will regain a majority in both houses of Congress either this election cycle or the next.

Armey attributed the rise of conservatism and the Republican Party to a "wave of grassroots activism" led by the Tea Party movement. He called the Tea Party the swing vote in the upcoming election, but he also made clear that the Tea Party is not a third political party.

"Right now they have a clear understanding of who they're swinging against," Armey said. "They're swinging against the Democrats because the Democrats are scaring them half to death."

Armey warned Republicans that the Tea Party activists won't go away if the Republicans regain the majority. They will keeping watching and will be just as quick to turn on Republicans if they start putting their own interests above America's interests.

"The Republican Party has got to find a way to convince [the Tea Party] that they're reliable adults - a rare thing indeed to be found holding public office," Armey said.

Reminds me of what I said about "courageous leadership" being a political oxymoron.

I don't know what is going to happen, and much as I hope Armey is wrong, what hurts the most right now is seeing Big Pharma in bed with the big government monster:

The drug industry, which has held off running ads until officials sign off on the final reconciliation bill, is growing more comfortable with the emerging legislation and is preparing a substantial pro-reform ad buy in 43 Democratic districts, according to a senior industry source. The amount and timing of the buy have not yet been set and hinge largely on action in the House. Still, the development is a substantial step forward from Monday morning, when industry officials, coming off a tough weekend of negotiating with Democratic staffers, said there were no ads in the works. The movement should also help appease the White House, which has been leaning on the industry to provide Democrats air cover, according to industry sources.
Sickening if true. Once again, when regulators are in bed with those they regulate, woe to the unregulated!

I would love to see all these predictions prove wrong and I hate to sound so glum, so I thought I would offer some spiritually uplifting music which is a remix of a lovely Soviet Era tune that's currently the rage on YouTube (the song couldn't be sung at the time, so they ditched the lyrics).

Nothing like something to comfort us in our time of need.

And the lyrics really make about as much sense as this:

"The preferred solution for Democrats would be for Obama to hold off signing anything until the sidecar health bill has cleared Congress -- something neither CBO nor the parliamentarian's office rules out. ... CBO has said nothing officially but it's clearly signaled that the most practical approach would be for the reconciliation bill to be written to directly reference the larger Senate bill. ... But for the parliamentarian, this is the hardest route to defend if Democrats truly want to avoid having an early bill signing. Frumin has privately argued that if reconciliation is to change law, what it changes must truly be law -- not simply a bill on its way to the president. He's pointed to alternative routes such as amending the underlying Social Security or Medicare statutes on which much of the Senate bill rests. But if the bill is written to specifically build on the Senate bill -- thereby helping with CBO scoring -- then Obama will have to sign it into law before Senate action. A compromise might yet be found, but after weeks of trying different drafting approaches, the House appears resigned to moving ahead with an approach that directly references the Senate-passed bill."
Can he sign a bill that was "passed" by people who never read what they didn't really vote for? (You know the answer to that.)

MORE: If you weren't disgusted enough, read "Sleazy backroom deals on Obamacare."

It's hard to believe we live in a country founded on the idea of government by the consent of the governed.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Dan Riehl did not like Armey's prediction:

What Armey did stinks. And it stinks like inside the beltway political crap. I've no idea what an organization's agenda really is when it's running ads and promotions for a protest, collecting contact information for it, then going on record predicting defeat before said event has even taken place. It was pretty gotdamned insulting, especially considering so many people are out here everyday putting so much into this stuff - and without the presumably six figure pay-out Armey enjoys for apparently talking the talk but not walking the walk.

Freedom Works has a problem. I'm not going to go on about it. But they had better fix it, whatever it is. As things stand, I'm not real interested in pushing their crap going forward. What Armey did sucked, big time. It was a slap in the face of every genuine activist out here and it came at a critical time.

Well, considering the fact that the Obamacare horror has been direly predicted to be about to pass since at least Christmas (and now they're looking at ruining Easter), the Armey prediction did at least succeed in motivating me to write yet another post. (Which is saying something, as it's not easy after seven years of blogging and some rather difficult problems to motivate me to write yet another post repeating thoughts I have made clear so many times I could scream. No one could pay me to do this!!!!!)

I'm 55 years old, and one of the things I have seen many, many times is that political wars are won by attrition. There are many ways to wear people down and eventually wear them out. Make them stay up all night -- better yet on a Saturday night -- physically and mentally wear them out by forcing them to listen, schedule and reschedule endless committee meetings that last until two in the morning, and talk, talk, talk , debate, debate, debate, and above all harangue, harangue, harangue. In the normal course of events, this will ensure that the only people left standing are political ideologues. Ordinary people will have given up. I haven't given up, but that's only because I know their fucking game, and I can refuse to play it and therefore reuse to lose it.

What is different now is that ordinary people know what's going on. They know that the endless waits at the doctors office which would be a reality if this nightmare "passes" will make the delays now look like a walk in the park.

So I think they'll wear out the ideologues before they wear out the ordinary people.

Dick Armey is an ideologue (a guy the left accuses of being Mr. Tea Party Astroturf personified), and I think he is so used to playing that game that he might have thought that putting the fear of God into people would motivate them. But screw Armey. He is not in charge of the Tea Parties and I seriously doubt he will wear anyone out, (least of all a leaderless, spontaneous, self-starting juggernaut). He certainly didn't wear me out; as I said, he caused me to crank out another post about this despite the fact that I hate -- and I mean absolutely detest -- repeating myself.

I think that even if Armey somehow did cause the activists to stay home, the real people would still be pissed enough that they would not let up. And if the real people were to actually descend on Washington, that would scare the crap out of, out of them.

(Forgive me for repeating myself etc.)

posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (6)

Some Random Drug War Notes

Well not so random actually. They are the working notes of anti-Drug War Lobbiest and retired Detective/Officer Howard Wooldridge.

De Nile is also a river in Egypt:

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting this week our Deputy Secretary of State for the Americas, Mr. Valenzuela was asked by the chairman about the murders of 16 school kids at a birthday party in Mexico. His response was 'the murders were a sign of success' of the policy of Mexican President Calderone. I did not believe my ears. After the hearing I asked 2 others if I had heard correctly. Yes. I reviewed the tape at home. Yup. Like body counts in Vietnam and Iraq, dead students are a sign of success. Who knew?

Unsurprisingly a modest search of the Internet turned up nothing about those remarks.
Hell froze over:

On Tuesday I attended a press conference in the Capitol. The IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) endorsed the Webb Commission bill. 17 of my colleagues in full dress uniforms stood behind four Senators asking the Congress for a speedy passage* of the bill. The IACP represents 20,000 Top Cops. It is the only major group to endorse the Webb bill. The rest are fighting it for all their worth.

I never thought the IACP would support this bill. I was wrong. On this occasion it is good to be wrong.

More about IACP support.

And why are the rest of the top police opposing it? Follow the money.

Last month in the hallway of the Heritage Foundation, I ran into Ron Brooks, chief lobbyist for the nation's 69,000 narcotics officers (one cop in 12 is a narcotics officer). He smugly stated that my organization only had a few thousand members vs his 59,000 strong organization. I countered that a solid poll had just shown that 22 percent of all active duty cops would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. This percentage meant about 225,00 cops feel like I do. Per the same poll, a majority of cops felt that marijuana should be just a ticket, not an arrest. I told him that he and the narcs favored prohibition because it was a big, overtime check and job security. He became upset and stormed off.
That is not the only corruption going on in the Drug War. Ever wonder how all those drugs get across the border?
Worse than we thought:

Senator Pryor (D-AR) had the courage ( no other Senators attended the event) to call a hearing on the 'Corruption of federal officers by the Mexican Drug Cartels.' One witness stated that the polygraph exam was washing out 60% of the applicants. The audience was stunned at such a figure.

Then came the bad news. The Border Patrol only polygraphs 15% of applicants. The witnesses testified further that the Drug Cartels are hiring people who then apply to the Border Patrol. Why receive only one paycheck? And you wonder how drugs flow across the border like beer in a German bar?

Well not to worry. We are winning the Drug War. In fact we have been winning it for 40 years. Or would that be 96 years - since the passage of the Federal anti-cocaine and heroin laws - or for 73 years since thye passage of the Federal anti-marijuana laws?

"So what numbers can you 'hang your hat on?" asked Wooldridge. "In 2005 our federal government reported these sobering numbers: One - 110 million Americans had tried an illicit drug at least once. Two - 35,000,000 had used an illicit drug the previous year. More importantly, ask yourself what is the most crucial question for you and your children. Is it how much has drug use has gone up or down or how easy is it for your kids to buy drugs from marijuana to heroin. Of course it is drug availability which is the crucial question and that is why the Prohibition Crowd never, ever wants to discuss that aspect.

"Drug Prohibition will be repealed when a majority understand its destructive effects AND tell their politicians. Help your family by re-directing police time towards public safety, not personal safety. Going after Willie Nelson smoking marijuana on his back porch is NOT making America safer. Silence here means politicians will keep voting billions to feed the police drug machine."

Which just goes to show you how long failure can be maintained if you are spending other people's money to support it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

I Need To Buy A Computer

If you want to read about my recent computer travails you can get a short history at Power and Control. But history is a thing of the past. I need to buy a new machine in the next day or three. I want to buy one locally - probably at Best Buy - since I want local service for the first 30 or 90 days - what ever initial warranties are running these days.

Can any one suggest a good desktop machine for under $400?

Also - I would like a machine that can run XP which is the OS of my back-up. I hate the learning curve that every new version of Windoze forces you into.

Thank you for your support.

posted by Simon at 08:29 AM | Comments (10)

Sam's Club Window Replacement

A man purporting to represent Sam's Club came around today offering "discounts" and government money for window replacement and other housing upgrades. He declined to leave his information. I did a quick search and couldn't find anything on the program related to Sam's Club.

Does any one know of anything?

I note that a similar program in Australia is riddled with fraud.

posted by Simon at 08:29 PM | Comments (2)

The larger issue....

Sean Kinsell's
reaction to the Coffee Parties was to embrace with ridicule the language of the oppressor:

I think I'd rather be tea-bagging.
While no one denies that "teabagging" is meant as an insult, isn't it also a tacit acknowledgment of a larger issue, that the Tea Partiers have balls?

posted by Eric at 01:13 PM | Comments (7)

A deeper analysis of coffee therapy

Via Ghost of a Flea, I found an entertaining (and certainly educational) video titled "Coffee Party Group Therapy Session":

After the therapy session, they got together and made cool signs and stuff. I haven't seen the signs, but I wouldn't be surprised if they enjoy ridiculing as "teabaggers" the people they lamely imitate.

Now, while it's easy to criticize these people for astroturfing and all that (especially when that is being ignored by the MSM), I think it needs to be remembered that coffee really is considered an alternative therapy by some people. As it has been noted that these coffee parties have a strong appeal to the "the alternative lifestyles community," I thought that as a public service I should present some alternative coffee therapy information:

Coffee enema is simply an effective and natural process to cleanse our body. As we know that liver is our primary processor of all the blood in the body. All the blood in the body passes through the blood every 3 minutes. Coffee enema cleanses the toxins and wastes in the blood by stimulating the liver to make more biles.

How To Make A Coffee Enema?

Firstly, you need to prepare some coffee enema supplies and kits. Since coffee enema is really simple and natural, there is not much to buy. You can set your budget below $100 and you can do it for many times. Next, prepare a good coffee. Finally, get the coffee in your body and enjoy the process. It's really simple and all you need to do is just follow the steps.

And why not? After all, the enema of my enemy is my friend.

posted by Eric at 12:44 PM | Comments (2)

An End To The Culture War?

Michael Barone thinks the Republicans may be giving up on the culture war. Finally.

The Republicans for the last two decades have been a party whose litmus tests have been cultural issues, especially abortion. The tea partiers have helped to change their focus to issues of government overreach and spending. That may be a helpful pivot, given the emergence of a Millennial generation uncomfortable with crusading cultural conservatism.
I am glad the Republicans are being forced by the turn of events to give up on Cultural Socialism. I have thought for some time that Cultural Socialism was a losing strategy because it did not lead to smaller less intrusive government and fewer black markets. The Tea Party people are forcing the issue because their only (or at least by far their main) issue is taxes and spending. Americans are a cantankerous independent lot who do not take well to government herding. If cultural issues can't make headway on their own, no government force is going to improve their position. In fact such force will be resisted and the culture warriors will in fact be working against themselves. Alcohol Prohibition being a case in point.

It is more than evident that those who pride themselves on a knowledge of history would rather avoid inconvenient history. A documented case in point is the slighting of Thomas Jefferson in Texas' American History books because he was the author of the words:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
Obviously a wall like that would be a problem for those who want to use government to ram their religious views down our throats. Fortunately Texas is only one part of America. And the denial of history in the Internet age is going to be difficult. Because, you know, we can fact check your ass. And not just the Internet. We have books too:

Quotations of Thomas Jefferson

If you want to do something about taxes and spending and are not too concerned about Culture Wars may I suggest Tea:

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

H/T Eric at Classical Values

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:02 PM | Comments (9)

In our egalitarian society, some deadbeats are still more equal than others

A lot of people on the left complain about "economic injustice." Usually, this involves the fact that some people have more money than others, the assumption being that the Haves got whatever they have at the expense of the Have-Nots. The idea is that income differences are inherently "unfair" or "inequitable" and that they should be remedied. By government, of course.

Well, what about economic injustices that result from government action? Glenn Reynolds linked a post which talks about the huge debts incurred by law students -- debts which are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. This means that for an increasing number of young lawyers (who are unable to find employment), their best bet is to flee the country and avoid living as perpetual, hunted, "deadbeats." The author sees the system as "unsustainable":

The economics of legal education today seem unsustainable to me. Here is an article of mine on the subject, with more gory details. It was for a symposium on "the ethics and economics of legal education today". Here are all the symposium articles, posted by Paul Caron.

Then again, unsustainability seems to be a theme in much of the country's - and not only this country's - economics and politics today.

I agree, except it seems that there's a double standard where it comes to unsustainability.

I am not saying that people should not pay their debts, nor am I saying that taking out $150,000 in student loans for a degree which offers insufficient job prospects is a wise financial move. But is it any more stupid than paying an exorbitant amount of money for overvalued real estate? By what standard of economic justice should a person be able to walk away from one and not the other? Is the rule that, a stupid investment in real estate we can forgive, but make an unwise investment in education and you're screwed for life?

It isn't the lenders that decided these things; it's the government. And it isn't just the borrowers who are getting away with bad real estate investments. The banks which made these irresponsible loans are able to walk away from them too. What frightens me most about the prevailing banking climate now is the near total lack of accountability. Almost by accident, I stumbled onto report in the Detroit Free Press involving a foreclosure which seemed to be of media interest mainly because the tenants faced eviction. The subtext, of course, is that evictions are another injustice that the politicians and bureaucrats ought to be tasked with rectifying. What shocked me was the near-total lack of any accountability of anyone:

Sister Brigid Johnson, a university math teacher who has made her home in a Plymouth fourplex for the last 22 years, will be evicted this month if her landlord can't work out a deal with his lender.

Johnson likes her home's proximity to downtown Plymouth, where she can walk to restaurants and shops. "I haven't looked for a new place yet. I don't want to," she said.

Her landlord, John Nicholas Wuest, 40, of Royal Oak, was having trouble making payments on the rental house in late 2008 after his mortgage business dropped off.

OK, so the landlord is in the mortgage business. That means he's hardly what we would call an unsophisticated investor who didn't know what he was doing and was taken advantage of by predatory lenders, right?

It strikes me as obvious that anyone in the mortgage business ought to be charged with knowing the value of his own property, as well as what he owes on it. Apparently not, for the Free Press says he only "learned he was underwater" after he attempted to refinance! And once he "learned" that, he simply stopped making payments:

So he attempted to refinance and learned he was underwater on the mortgage -- he owes about $240,000 on a house worth $85,000 in the current market. His lender wouldn't talk about options as long as he was making his payments, so he stopped.

A sheriff's sale already has occurred on the property, so the lender, GMAC, now effectively owns the home.

It's a familiar story and one that usually ends with an eviction.

I don't know whether he is using the tenants as leverage or not, but now he is trying to buy back the building for a fraction of what he mortgaged it for "so his tenants won't be out on the street":
"I'm now $150,000 underwater," Wuest said. "At the end of the day, you wonder what you are fighting for. Why throw good money after bad?"

Wuest, president of Liberty Lending in Troy, has hired an attorney and made an offer to buy the property back for $90,000. He wants to get it for close to market value, which he thinks he can afford, so his tenants won't be out on the street.

GMAC is putting off an eviction while talks continue.

So, he walked away from the property, but now he should get it back for a fraction of what he owed?

What happened to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that was lent to him?

Where did it go? Wasn't it other people's money? Do they get it back, or do the taxpayers now owe it? Am I alone in thinking there is something manifestly unfair about letting him walk away from the debt and get the building back anyway?

What sort of lesson in life does this impart to the young people who discover that they are now liable to be stalked for life because they can't pay their student loans? Why pick on students, when older people who know better and are guilty of far worse errors in judgment are allowed to walk?

Sooner or later, the institutionalized lack of accountability -- reflected at the highest levels in the persona of Timothy Geithner -- is going to cause the oppressed masses at the bottom to wake up and realize that despite record growth in unaccountability, there is still a major accountability gap, and a very unfair one. Unaccountability should be fair! Why should only some people not have to pay? Why don't we all get to be unaccountable?

And why should ordinary taxpayers be footing the bill for mistakes that weren't theirs?

As I say, it's economic injustice.

MORE: Speaking of economic injustices, as if it wasn't bad enough that a man who failed to pay $34,000 in taxes was put in charge of the Treasury Department, the unaccountability gap has struck again! The agency over which he presides has sent "very aggressive, very condescending" agents to hassle a small business owner over four cents.

What sort of message was this supposed to send? ($34,000 owed by a big shot is a trifle, but four cents owed by a little guy is serious business?)

Can it be that they like economic injustice?

posted by Eric at 07:21 PM | Comments (6)

Finding authority in disagreement

Putting words in the mouths of respected figures is as old a practice as man. The reasons vary; sometimes the idea is to knock the venerated figure off his pedestal, while other times the idea is to invoke what he purportedly "said" as an argument to authority in support of one premise or another. Sometimes, this is relatively harmless; it really shouldn't much matter whether George Washington admitted to his father that he chopped down that cherry tree with his little hatchet, because what he did or didn't do as a boy is of little consequence. However, I didn't enjoy learning that the story I had been told about him was a myth, as it deepened my suspicions that I was being lied to about a lot of other things. (If you think about it, making up a story about the father of the country and promulgating that as a national moral lesson for children might not be wise.)

OTOH, it might have been good for me to learn that at a relatively early age that one of the core national narratives was a lie. It is healthy to be skeptical -- especially when the skepticism involves an argument to authority.

Like it or not, the dishonest cherry tree narrative shaped my character, and helped form such lifelong cynicism that even today, the "cherry tree" goes off whenever I am subjected to a quote from a respected authority figure which just sounds too, um, "good to be true." A recent example was the Einstein bee quote:

"If the bees should die, humankind would have but four more years to live."
Not only is there no evidence he ever said it, but even if he had, Einstein was not an entomologist. It would be about as persuasive as if it had been said by Thomas Jefferson, who is credited with other scientific pronouncements which are very silly by today's standards. A good example is what he "said" about meteorites:
"I would rather believe two Yankee professors would lie, than that stones have fallen from the heavens."
That sounds like something that a lot of people would want to believe the man said, although it appears to date from the 1890s. Whether it was fabricated by a detractor or an admirer of Jefferson is unknown, but I suspect the former. (The cherry tree mythology is much older, going all the way back to 1800, only a few years after Washington's death.)

Clayton Cramer has been debunking dubious quotes attributed to the founders, and he notes that this one dates from 1902:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. -- George Washington
Cramer also notes that he cannot verify a much-circulated Jefferson "quote" about how much he enjoyed sitting on his verandah and smoking pot. (I would add that he does not ever seem to have used the word "bong" either.)

For his research, Cramer has been relying on the Thomas Jefferson papers and the George Washington papers. These are great resources, and I thought I would try my luck with the quote about the lying Yankee professors. While I could find not a single example of Jefferson ever using the word "Yankee," it was used three times in letters to Jefferson -- all of which were written by William Short. A fellow Virginian, Short was so close to Jefferson that he was called his "adoptive son," and served as a diplomat in a number of posts. I think it is significant that Short used the term to distinguish Americans from foreigners and not to distinguish Northerners from Southerners, which the meteor quote seems to imply. During the early history of the country, the term was used by the British to describe all Americans, and it does not appear to have been widely used to deprecate Northerners until the Civil War.

So it seems very unlikely that Jefferson would use that term in a demeaning manner to characterize either American professors in general, or professors from the North in particular. All the more so if we consider a letter to Jefferson from Professor J. Wheatcroft dated September 29, 1803, and detailing a "Report on Meteors Over Normandy":

An account of a Meteor which passed over Normandy, and let fall Shower of Stones in the environs of Laigle
A rich and detailed description of the stones follows, with eyewitness accounts, descriptions of the stones' morphology (one weighed up to 17 1/2 lbs), an intelligent discussion of how they differed geologically from anything in the area, speculation that this was an explosion of a comet, etc.

So it seems quite likely that Jefferson knew about meteors and had read Wheatcroft's detailed scientific account, and there is nothing to indicate that he would have considered him a Yankee liar. Moreover, because the report he forwarded originated with French scientists, it seems more likely that a skeptical Jefferson might want to believe that French (as opposed to "Yankee") scientists were lying.

This is not to say that Jefferson was not above scientific skepticism. He approached science itself with skepticism, and in a letter to Caspar Wistar (professor of anatomy, midwifery, and surgery, and later chair of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania) he expressed misgivings about the practice of medicine going too far, with doctors experimenting on patients to prove the "bewitching delusions of their theories."

While he didn't say anything about marijuana or hemp, Jefferson did note that opium cures "watchfulness" (archaic for insomnia). From his letter to Caspar Wistar, June 21, 1807:

....We know, from what we see & feel, that the animal body in it's organs and functions is subject to derangement, inducing pain, & tending to it's destruction. In this disordered state, we observe nature providing for the re-establishment of order, by exciting some salutary evacuation of the morbific matter, or by some other operation which escapes our imperfect senses and researches. She brings on a crisis, by stools, vomiting, sweat, urine, expectoration, bleeding, &c., which, for the most part, ends in the restoration of healthy action. Experience has taught us, also, that there are certain substances, by which, applied to the living body, internally or externally, we can at will produce these same evacuations, and thus do, in a short time, what nature would do but slowly, and do effectually, what perhaps she would not have strength to accomplish. Where, then, we have seen a disease, characterized by specific signs or phenomena, and relieved by a certain natural evacuation or process, whenever that disease recurs under the same appearances, we may reasonably count on producing a solution of it, by the use of such substances as we have found produce the same evacuations or movement. Thus, fulness of the stomach we can relieve by emetics; diseases of the bowels, by purgatives; inflammatory cases, by bleeding; intermittents, by the Peruvian bark; syphilis, by mercury; watchfulness, by opium; &c. So far, I bow to the utility of medicine. It goes to the well-defined forms of disease, & happily, to those the most frequent.
So even if Jefferson didn't smoke pot on his verandah, he didn't seem to have a problem with the use of opiates to relieve sleeplessness. Whether this means he would have disapproved of the Harrison Narcotics Act a century later, who knows? Does it matter? I'm not sure that it does, any more than it matters whether he was an aficionado of cockfighting, as he and other founders are frequently said to have been. He was one of the founders, and to the extent his ideas should be authoritative, those that ought to matter are the ones that shed light on the founding philosophy, especially the interpretation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. His interest (if any) in cockfighting is interesting from a historical standpoint, but hardly controlling on issues involving present-day morality or legislation. So if I said, "Thomas Jefferson approved of cockfighting!" or "Thomas Jefferson approved of opium!" the correct response is really "so what?" These are simply hollow arguments to the dubious "authority" of his beliefs about personal matters.

Which doesn't mean I can't agree with him and cite him! For example, I wholeheartedly agree with the view he expressed to Dr. Wistar along the lines of skepticism affording a break from politics -- the latter being a "dry & dreary waste":

The natural course of the human mind is certainly from credulity to scepticism; and this is perhaps the most favorable apology I can make for venturing so far out of my depth, & to one too, to whom the strong as well as the weak points of this science are so familiar. But having stumbled on the subject in my way, I wished to give a confession of my faith to a friend; & the rather, as I had perhaps, at times, to him as well as others, expressed my scepticism in medicine, without defining it's extent or foundation. At any rate, it has permitted me, for a moment, to abstract myself from the dry & dreary waste of politics, into which I have been impressed by the times on which I happened, and to indulge in the rich fields of nature, where alone I should have served as a volunteer, if left to my natural inclinations & partialities.
Politics is a dry and dreary waste! And while I already knew that, and I didn't need Thomas Jefferson to tell me, I can easily understand the temptation to use him as an argument to an "authority" on the subject with expertise greater than my own.

Considering some of Jefferson's religious views, I can also understand the temptation in some quarters to edit the man out of the founding to the maximum extent possible. While it is beyond dispute that the man held religious views which don't fit a certain narrative of the founders which is being promulgated, I don't think the antipathy towards Jefferson is based so much on the views themselves as it is the fact that the founders had widely divergent religious views, and that this lack of consensus on matters of religion reflects a founding view of the First Amendment as keeping government and religion separate. Jefferson's advocacy of separation of church and state and his view of the First Amendment may well result from his involvement in religious arguments which were intractable in his time, and which still are, if this New York Times report about a textbook censorship board is true:

Even the course on world history did not escape the board's scalpel.

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term "separation between church and state.")
"The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based," Ms. Dunbar said.

If that's true, Jefferson would be especially chagrined to find himself replaced by Blackstone, because in a letter to James Madison dated May 25, 1810, he compared Blackstone to the Koran, and lawyers to Mahometans:
"I have long lamented with you the depreciation of law science. The opinion seems to be that Blackstone is to us what the Alcoran is to the Mahometans, that everything which is necessary is in him, and what is not in him is not necessary. I still lend my counsel and books to such young students as will fix themselves in the neighborhood. Coke's institutes and reports are their first, and Blackstone their last book, after an intermediate course of two or three years. It is nothing more than an elegant digest of what they will then have acquired from the real fountains of the law. Now men are born scholars, lawyers, doctors; in our day this was confined to poets.
As to Calvin, Jefferson made it quite clear that he did not like him, nor did he like his followers.

In a letter from William Short to Thomas Jefferson dated July 2, 1822, Short makes it clear how he feels about the growing Presbyterian threat despite the positive growth of Unitarianism:

How does it happen that the Presbyterians are acquiring such influence in Virginia at the very time that they are losing it altogether in their former favorite region? At Boston the revolution in this respect seems to be complete. There is scarcely a man or woman there of information or fashion, who is not professedly unitarian. Even Cambridge has been taken complete possession of by this new school, who affirm however that they are oldest of the Christian sects, & that the idea of the trinity was an interpretation only after some centuries. The principal of Harvard University & all the Professors are unitarian. And from this source teachers of the doctrine are dispersed throughout the United States. You know without doubt, that the Chaplain, chosen last year by the house of representatives, is one of them. And such an instinctive terror of this new doctrine now exists amongst the other Christian sects, that they have all buried the hatchet hitherto raised against each other, & have become a band of brothers to combat this new enemy, the most dangerous probably they have ever had.

In Jefferson's reply to Short on October 19, 1822, he states that he considers Presbysterianism "the most intolerant and tyrannical of all our sects," and their clergy as "enemies." Still, he holds out hope that Unitarianism will come from the North!

Our enemies are in the vicinage of Wm & Mary to whom are added the Presbyterian clergy. This is rather the most numerous of our present sects, and the most ambitious, the most intolerant & tyrannical of all our sects, they wish to see no instruction of which they have not the exclusive direction. Their present aim is ascendancy by only their neat exclusive possession and establishment. They dread the light which this University is to shed on the public mind, and it's obstruction to their ambition. But there is a breese advancing from the North, which will put them down. Unitarianism has not yet reached us; but our citizens are ready to recieve reason from any quarter. The Unity of a supreme being is so much more inteligible than the triune arithmetic of the counterfeit Christians that it will kindle here like wild-fire. We want only eloquent preachers of the primitive doctrines to restore them to light, after the long night of darkness under which they have been hidden. Such would gather into their fold every man under the age of 40 female fanaticism might hold out a while longer.
Hmmm, I'm 55, so I'm afraid my female fanaticism may be on the wane....

In another letter to Short (dated April 13, 1820), Jefferson makes it clear what he thinks of Calvin:

The serious enemies are the priests of the different religious sects, to whose spells on the human mind it's improvement is ominous. Their pulpits are now resounding with denunciations against the appointment of Dr. Cooper whome they charge as a Monarchist in opposition to their tritheism. Hostile as these sects are in every other point, to one another, they unite in maintaining their mystical theology against those who believe there is one god only. The Presbyterian clergy are loudest. The most intolerant of all sects, the most tyrannical, and ambitious; ready at the word of the lawgiver, if such a word could be now obtained, to put the torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere, the flames in which their oracle Calvin consumed the poor Servetus, because he could not find in his Euclid the proposition which has demonstrated that three are one, and one is three, nor subscribe to that of Calvin that magistrates have a right to exterminate all heretics to Calvinistic creed. They pant to restablish by law that holy inquisition, which they can now only infuse into public opinion. We have most unwisely committed to the hierophant of our particular superstition, the direction of public opinion, that lord of the Universe. We have given them stated and privileged days to collect and catechise us, opportunities of delivering their oracles to the people in mass, and of moulding their minds as wax in the hollow of their hands. But, in despite of thier fulminations against endeavors to enlighten the general mind, to improve the reason of the people, and encourage them in the use of it, the liberality of this state will support this institution, and give fair play to the cultivation of reason. Can you ever find a more eligible occasion of visiting once more your native country, than that of accompanying Mr. Correa, and of seeing with him this beautiful and hopeful institution in ovo?
It is easy to understand why admirers of Calvin (or haters of Unitarianism) would not like Thomas Jefferson, and they probably see his views as anathema. But what they are forgetting is that these disagreements are informative by their very nature about the First Amendment.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were bitter enemies, although both were Unitarians. In a long letter to Adams of August 22, 1813, Jefferson explains the need to keep secret his views of the Old versus the New Testament, and that his religious views derive from Joseph Priestley:

Very soon after my letter to Doctor Priestley, the subject being still in my mind I had leisure during an abstraction from business for a day or two, while on the road, to think a little more on it, and to sketch more fully than I had done to him, a syllabus of the matter which I thought should enter into the work. I wrote it to Doctor Rush, and there ended all my labor on the subject; himself and Doctor Priestley being the only two depositories of my secret. The fate of my letter to Priestley, after his death, was a warning to me on that of Doctor Rush; and at my request, his family were so kind as to quiet me by returning my original letter and syllabus. By this, you will be sensible how much interest I take in keeping myself clear of religious disputes before the public, and especially of seeing my syllabus disembowelled by the Aruspices of the modem Paganism. Yet I enclose it, to you with entire confidence, free to be perused by yourself and Mrs. Adams, but by no one else, and to be returned to me.

You are right in supposing, in one of yours, that I had not read much of Priestley's Predestination, his no-soul system, or his controversy with Horsley. But I have read his Corruptions of Christianity, and Early Opinions of Jesus, over and over again; and I rest on them, and on Middleton's writings, especially his letters from Rome, and to Waterland, as the basis of my own faith. These writings have never been answered, nor can be answered by quoting historical proofs, as they have done. For these facts, therefore, I cling to their learning, so much superior to my own.

What are we to deduce from all of this? That Jefferson was an anti-Calvinist bigot? Even if this were true, how important is that to anything but the recognition of the fact that there were profound religious differences during the founders' times? No one would argue that "the founding" was anti-Calivinist or anti-Trinitarian in nature, but nor can it be argued that the founding was anti-Unitarian or pro-Trinitarian. (Much less pro-Old Testament literalism.) I think it makes more sense to conclude that the First Amendment was borne out of -- and reflects -- fierce religious diversity, and that the government should stay the hell out of it.

George Washington was an Episcopalian, but he took a very tolerant view of other denominations, including Presbyterianism, Judaism, and Catholicism. His letter welcoming the Jews is well know, but he also stated that Catholics could be good citizens:

On March 15, according to The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, a committee of Roman Catholics waited upon the President with a congratulatory address, to which the President replied. Washington said, in part:

"I feel, that my conduct in war and in peace has met with more general approbation than could reasonably have been expected: and I find myself disposed to consider that fortunate circumstance, in a great degree, resulting from the able support and extraordinary candor of my fellow-citizens of all denominations....

"...As mankind become more liberal, they will be more apt to allow, that all those, who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality. And I presume, that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part, which you took in the accomplishment of their revolution and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance, which they received from a nation in which the roman catholic religion is professed...may the members of your Society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity."

What is probably less known is that Washington specifically stated that he would have no objections to employing Mahometans. Or (gulp!) even atheists:
Dear Sir: I am informed that a Ship with Palatines is gone up to Baltimore, among whom are a number of Trademen. I am a good deal in want of a House Joiner and Bricklayer, (who really understand their profession) and you would do me a favor by purchasing one of each, for me. I would not confine you to Palatines. If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, Jews or Christian of an Sect, or they may be Athiests. I would however prefer middle aged, to young men. and those who have good countenances and good characters on ship board, to others who have neither of these to recommend them, altho, after all, the proof of the pudding must be in the eating. I do not limit you to a price, but will pay the purchase money on demand. This request will be in force 'till complied with, or countermanded, because you may not succeed at this moment, and have favourable ones here after to do it in. My best respects, in which Mrs. Washington joins, are presented to Mrs. Tilghman and Mrs. Carroll. and I am etc.
In other letters, he said that the country had moved past mere "toleration" and "gives to bigotry no sanction":
On this same day (August 17) Washington received and answered an address from the master, wardens, and brethren of King David's Lodge of Masons in Newport. Both address and answer are entered in the "Letter Book." In the answer Washington said: "Being persuaded, that a just application of the principles, on which the masonic faternity is founded, must be promotive of private virtue and public prosperity. I shall always be happy to advance the interests of the society, and be considered by them a deserving brother."

On this same day (August 17) Washington also received and answered addresses from the Hebrew congregation of Newport, and from the clergy of Newport. In replying to the former he said: "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support....May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

Contrast this with Jefferson's less-than-tolerant statement that "the greatest of all the Reformers of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth."

I might be wrong, but where it comes to the religious views of others, Washington strikes me as being more personally tolerant (and less bigoted, if you will) than Jefferson. Yet unlike Jefferson, he seems to have given very little indication of what his personal religious views were. I suppose if you're an anti-Calivinist, you could cite Jefferson in support while pro-Calvinists could cite Washington's statements as being supportive of the Calvinists' contributions to the country.

These differences shed more light on the meaning of the First Amendment than they do on the respective merits of their positions.

There is much authority to be found in disagreement.

(Whether citing arguments between authorities is an argument to authority is a more complicated question.)

posted by Eric at 04:11 PM | Comments (7)

Visit To A Trade Show

Jeff Id visited a trade show in St. Louis and brings back a report.

First, there is a definite but slight recovery in in industry at this moment. Good news.

The second, is that industry is absolutely angry at what BHO and the extremists in charge are doing. Now understand, these include rank and file union and non-union workers, equipment builders, sales people, engineers, corporate heads and owners alike. The warriors of capitalism who provide and feed the world. This IS your food, it IS the funding which drives your banking jobs, health care and the rest. These are the people who know what it takes to get a job done, how to build a power line, what is required to move product, plumb a building, fill a pothole, how proper equipment is made.

They are universally afraid, and have learned a lesson from this economy which is unstated in media.

Recently the Tea Party movement has been marginalized by the MSM, however the extreme political hacks of the MSM haven't figured out what the movement is OR why they have lost nearly all their viewers. The point is that the 'tea party' movement is not a group, it is a symptom. They don't need a new party to divide them as the media is trying to sell. They are America, and the politicians had better start listening.

The same industry which has powered the world has been pushed right to its limit by both the wall street Republican and somewhat more culpable Democrat power brokers. It's at the brink of collapse and there is a palpable fear in industry. We are right at the edge of loosing America. It's far closer than you think, and these bankers and socialists owe humanity a greater debt for their blatant corruption than any humans have ever owed to a population.

Read the rest to find out why he says that.

And if you want to help out add this to your blog:

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 06:34 AM | Comments (0)

The official gay narrative? "Shut up!"

Earlier I read about a group of young men with Muslim names -- Mohammad Habibzada, Shafiq Hashemi and Sayed Bassam -- who went from their hometown of Hayward, California to San Francisco, California for the express purpose of shooting gays with a BB gun, which they already confessed to doing:

Three Hayward men are scheduled to be arraigned on assault and hate crime charges in San Francisco next week for allegedly shooting a man they thought was gay with a BB gun.

The Feb. 26 incident took place at about 10 p.m. outside a Mission District bar at 16th and Guerrero streets, according to police.

The 27-year-old San Francisco man had just come out of the bar when he was shot once in the cheek by suspects in a nearby car, which then drove off, police spokesman Officer Samson Chan said.

The man was not seriously injured and called police, and while officers were interviewing him outside the bar, he spotted the same vehicle again driving by, Chan said.

Police pulled the car over and found three men inside with a "rifle-style" BB gun and a video camera, which investigators later discovered had recorded the shooting, according to Chan.

The three men, Shafiq Hashemi, 21, Sayed Bassam, 21, and Mohammad Habibzada, 24, the driver, were arrested.

According to Chan, they allegedly admitted to the crime.

"The suspects did make a confession, basically stating that they came to San Francisco to target gay people," he said.

Prosecutors have since charged all three men with assault with a deadly weapon, hate crimes and attempted mayhem, a charge relating to the possibility of a disabling or disfiguring injury.

Because they were apparently so proud of their deed that they filmed it, police determined that there were as many as eleven more victims:
They were returned to custody after prosecutors viewed a video that police found in the three men's car when they were arrested.

Brian Buckelew, spokesman for District Attorney Kamala Harris, said the video showed the 16th Street attack and BB rifle shootings aimed at 11 other men. Police say the video depicts the suspects laughing as they fire.

Bruce Carroll points out that next to nothing is being said about the attackers being Muslim.
Imagine, if you will, that the BB gun attackers had been white. Or from Utah. Or from Texas. Or Laramie, Wyoming. What kind of wild adjectives would have been applied? We can only surmise. Editorializing against mainstream Americans who are now out-of-favor by the media (whites, Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons, conservatives) happens everyday on America's front pages and network news programs. But when it comes to Arab/Muslim attackers -- all silence is golden for the American media.

Predictably, the gay media outlets and left-wing bloggers continued their head-in-sand approach in the reporting of this Muslim-on-gay violence in America's homo mecca. The leading gay magazine in America, the Advocate, is silent about the identity or motives of the men aside from their names. Again, one can only imagine if these were "Christianists" on an anti-gay BB gun field trip to San Francisco.

The silence of the Muslim angle is also deafening by left-wing gay bloggers Towleroad, JoeMyGod. But at least they took notice. No such luck over at Pam's House Blend and Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. You would think Sullivan, who once claimed to recognize the threat to gays by Islamic radicals, would have picked up on the story. Nope. Andrew must not have heard about the incident. Convenient.

Well, shame on all of them. (Right now I see that Andrew is busily refuting the Christianist theocrats on homosexuality. While Islamist theocrats advocate death for homosexuals at American universities....)

I'm not a gay activist, but they are. I would have thought that investigating the motives behind premeditated shootings by young thugs who went out of their way to deliberately target gay men, and who filmed themselves laughing about it might be of more interest to gay journalists, but I guess I'd be wrong.

If these were white middle-class suburban punks, the gay activists would be blaming conservative talk radio or the Mormons, and loudly beating the usual narrative to death.

But as I've pointed out before, if the attackers are Muslims, there's an eerie silence -- as if they think that what happens to gays in Muslim countries could never happen here.

Well guess what? It is happening here.

Muslim "chaplains" at respected American universities advocate death for gays. And Muslim youths think shooting gays is funny.

Like it or not, that's the real (and very ugly) narrative.

But the official gay narrative is "shut up!"

I'm thinking that the Galil triangle (prompted by this post) might be better.


MORE: Out of fairness to some of the San Francisco media, I should point out that at least one of the stories does in fact mention the religious motivation of these shooters:

According to [district attorney's office spokesman] Buckelew, the men are Muslim and prosecutors have evidence they may have committed the alleged acts because they believe homosexuality is against their religion.
It's hard to imagine a group of Christian teens shooting gays and invoking their religion as justification, but such a thing did happen, virtually every Christian denomination would denounce them. That's because despite what some activists might want to believe, Christians aren't supposed to shoot people. Not even those they consider sinners.

MORE: In Norway, the left has shown its true homophobic colors by awarding their "Role Model of the Year" award to a man who "wants a ban on homosexuality, based on the Koran," and who believes the death penalty for gays should be a local option. According to Socialist Left Party leader Stein Petter Lokken:

"There is freedom of speech in Norway and in the Tynset Socialist Left Party we consider it unproblematic that Mahdi is opposed in principle to homosexuality. It is in accordance with his religion."
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

According to simple logic, if the left sees as "unproblematic" something which would be intolerable among Christians, that means that they have no inherent philosophical problem with anti-gay bigotry. Thus, the fact that they condemn only Christian opposition to homosexuality cannot be philosophical, but has to be tactical in nature.

Considering the fact that Communist regimes have a long track record of systematically place gays in gulags, I guess that should surprise no one.

So why is it that so many gay rubes continue to buy into the narrative that they belong on the left?

posted by Eric at 07:11 PM | Comments (0)


Classical Values fiddles while Reichstag burns!

Like clockwork, every time I might think of taking a little time to do, you know, things unrelated to blogging, a new emergency arises.

Until a few moments ago, I had absolutely no idea that "they" were about to burn the Reichstag, and that because M. Simon was discussing drugs, that makes this blog "unreal."

Well, I often have to agree that this blog is unreal. It seems that I have to reinvent it every time I write another post, and it always changes, like some amorphous alien being. However, I'm not sure that's what Frank meant in the comment.

I am obviously being accused of ignoring a huge impending disaster akin to the infamous, Nazi-staged burning of the Reichstag, and I just hate it when that happens, because I try to be, like, at least basically attentive about major things. The thing is, I Googled and (other than some older Godwin-style arguments like this one) couldn't find out what the event might be. Nothing breathtaking in Drudge. I mean, sure, old Nancy Pelosi is acting up and pushing for another showdown on healthcare, a jogger jumped off a cliff, a drunk driver was too drunk for sentencing, Sean Penn is behaving in a particularly dysfunctional manner, James Brown's body is said not to be moldering in the grave, and Texas conservatives are supposedly trying to edit out Thomas Jefferson. Interesting as these stories may be, they simply don't rank with a major event like the burning of the Reichstag.

But hey, at least by linking them I am not neglecting them! And I did more than link them; I said they were interesting!

Phew. That's what you call getting real.

I wish I had more time to be unreal...

MORE: Obama's Reichstag (Reichstag fire) is on Facebook. And Glenn Beck warned about it too! And so did Michael Savage!

And here's a site that says Bush started it and Obama will finish it!

How could I be so unreal?

posted by Eric at 03:39 PM | Comments (5)

It Is Just A Matter Of Time

High Country News has an interesting article on how Mexico is becoming a failed state. All because of the Drug War.

The man talking on the screen was recruited by the drug industry in Ciudad Juarez, sent to the state police academy, where he got around $150 a month as a student and around $1,000 a month from the drug industry as their sponsored law enforcement person. He was also trained by the FBI in Tucson, Ariz., (he told me the training was very good) and headed an anti-kidnapping squad in Juarez. And he also kidnapped people, almost all of whom died once their families were drained of money.

I helped make the film the man is watching, and he knows this. He is mesmerized by the man talking. And he is angry at me, because I know such a man, someone like the killers who took his son and sold him back for some money. Fortunately.

If the press reports this sort of thing, it is framed as part of a War on Drugs that must be won. These stories are fables at best. There is no serious War on Drugs. Rather, there is violence, nourished by the money to be made from drugs. And there are U.S. industries whose primary lifeblood comes from fighting a war on drugs. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, has 225,000 employees and a budget of $42 billion, part of which is aimed at making America safe from Mexico and Mexicans. Narcotics officers in the U.S. cost at least $40 billion a year. The world's largest prison industry would collapse without the intake of drug convicts, and, in recent years, of illegal Mexican migrants. And around the republic there are big new federal courthouses rising that would be cobwebbed without the steady flow from drug busts and the Mexican poor coming north.

It is just a matter of time until this sort of thing crosses the border and becomes an American problem. Of course considering the cost it already is an American problem. And we are financing this with our War On Some Drugs. Some day we will surrender the fight. And then we will have the aftermath where the drug gangs turn to other "opportunities" for profit. The aftermath of the War On Alcohol lasted some 20 or 30 years. The sooner we can get over the war on drugs the sooner we will get over the aftermath.

You can read more about it in:

Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:47 PM | Comments (8)

My illegitimate and anonymous computer chatter is unworthy of respect!

One of my pet peeves is that in many jurisdictions, police officers have become little more than revenue agents. Tax collectors, if you will. Here's a typical rant:

You go 75 (which nearly everyone does, and which you have to do to keep up with traffic), and you're vulnerable, because sooner or later, some damnable uniformed revenue agent (euphemistically called a "Highway Patrol Officer") will pull you over and ticket you. Often the bastards use unmarked cars, so there's no way to rely on the rear view mirror to avoid them.

It is beyond dispute that the primary purpose of these unmarked cars in speed traps is purely to raise revenue, but what really fries me (and what insults my intelligence) is the claim that they are protecting the public. As if it's "dangerous" to go 75 when everyone else is going 75 on highways designed to be safe at much greater speeds. They are preying on ordinary people whose only crime is trying to get from point A to point B. Maybe they're going to work, or maybe they're going to visit relatives. Traveling is stressful, and IMHO, preying on travelers (by lying in wait so you can extort money under threat of official force) is about as low as you can get. I don't know how these revenue officers can live with themselves. I could not do that for a living. I would rank them even lower than trial lawyers, and I consider the IRS more honest, for at least the latter don't make the dishonest claim that they're protecting the public.

Apparently, this is a sensitive topic for local police departments. So sensitive that when Dr. Helen Smith raised the issue in her blog and a local journalist asked the Knoxville Police Department about it, the Police Public Information Officer went out of his to deride what she said as "computer chatter," and as something other than a "legitimate question":
We do not respond to blog postings. If we were to respond to blogs we would need to create a new position just to keep up with all of the comments. Legitimate questions posed to the department by our citizens will be answered. Responding to opinions and computer chatter will not change perceptions or opinions.
Yet the Public Information Officer had not been asked to respond to blogs in general or "blog postings," but only to address this issue, as it was raised by Dr. Helen Smith:
It seems like you can't go more than a few miles without the police circling like vultures to give people traffic tickets. I was out yesterday and saw people left and right being pulled over for what looked like routine traffic stops for going a few miles over the speed limit. The limits are so low in our area that if you don't "speed," you almost get rear-ended. It's a tough choice to decide which one is worse, a ticket or an accident. Has anyone else noticed an increase in cops in your area? I understand that the states and counties need revenue but is this the way to get it? Can citizens fight back?
Dr. Helen is a well-known forensic psychologist who has worked on criminal cases in the area, and hosts a TV program for Pajamas Media. Moreover, it is public knowledge that she is married to Glenn Reynolds -- who is not only as prominent as you can get in blogging, but who is a distinguished law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. A nationally known author of several books, he has also written for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and God knows what else. I may be wrong, but my common sense instincts tell me that the Knoxville Police Department's Public Information Officer (a man named Darrell DeBusk) simply had to know that Dr. Helen Smith was not an ordinary blogger.

If he didn't know, then he wasn't doing his job:

The Knoxville Police Department's Public Information Office is a 24-hour a day, 7 day a week operation. Darrell DeBusk oversees one of the most advanced PIO offices in the country. Darrell has 17 years experience in television both as a photojournalist and most recently as the Assignment Manager for one of the top NBC affiliates in the country. He is a member of the National Information Officer's Association. The KPD has twenty-seven Assistant Public Information Officers spread throughout the department. Because of this staffing, the KPD is able to respond to media calls for service at a moment's notice. These officers respond to calls for media assistance while on duty only. The Public Information Office is assigned to the Police Chief's office and is physically in the Chief's suite. Darrell answers directly to Chief Sterling Owen and is considered a member of his Command Staff.

The Public Information Office is structured to support the entire Knoxville Police Department. Its main function is to promote the department in a positive manner to both the general public and the news media. One way in which that goal is obtained is through periodic meetings with local media outlets to address their questions or concerns. These meetings allow them to have input on the media guidelines or to offer suggestions for fostering positive police / media relations.

That's a pretty big staff, and I would think that if their collective goal is to promote the department in a positive manner, the CIO wouldn't be so quick to blow off a question raised by a distinguished blogger and forensic psychologist (as well as a taxpaying Knoxville citizen) which prompted a question from a well-known local journalist who writes for the Knoxville News.

But even after Michael Silence persisted, DeBusk dug in his heels and invoked irrelevant stereotypes:

You didn't ask the KPD to respond to you. You asked us to address her posting. You know as well as I do that everyday people post opinions and all sorts of rhetoric on blogs and the majority of them do so anonymously. If the blogger or anyone else has a question concerning activity in their neighborhood or community, all they have to do is contact us and we will be more than happy to respond. As far as responding to blogs, we never have responded as a department. City Council members know how and who to contact at the KPD to get answers to their questions. And believe me, they have never been shy about requesting information or clarification on our policies, practices and crime incidents.
It's quite clear that he knew this was no anonymous blogger, so why talk about anonymous bloggers? No one was asking him to respond to blog posts in general, much less anonymous blog posts.

Considering the way he touts his MSM background ("17 years experience in television both as a photojournalist and most recently as the Assignment Manager for one of the top NBC affiliates in the country") I suspect that Darrell DeBusk does not like -- and does not respect -- blogging or bloggers, and that is reflected in his swipe at Dr. Helen. I think he has to know full well who she is, but he is dissing her for being a blogger. However, it would not surprise me that were he confronted further, he would explain that he didn't mean to disrespect her personally, but meant to say that it's her medium he deems unworthy of respect.

He may even think that blogging is so inherently illegitimate that a citizen's concerns are nullified by being expressed in a blog post, and that Dr. Helen delegitimizes and therefore cheapens herself by blogging. After all, as he says, bloggers are just anonymous spewers of all sorts of rhetoric. The questions we raise are not "legitimate," but constitute "computer chatter" which is unworthy of any response by those who belong to the legitimate classes.

Does that mean we peons would be taken more seriously if we just shut up entirely?

You know, the way they used to take us seriously in the old days before blogging?

posted by Eric at 12:23 PM | Comments (8)

Venture Capital Likes Fusion

If you read my post Investing In Polywell you would know that venture capital seems interested in funding fusion start-ups. We now have more confirmation in this Finance Business article.

A prominent venture capitalist, Wal van Lierop, of Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, has begun to invest in companies (such as General Fusion) who are providing patents and technologies for economical fusion power. in a recent interview at the Clean Tech Investor Summit (which we're very sad we're not attending), van Lierop said that he expects large energy companies to start thinking about building fusion plants within the next five years.

As we've noted before here at EcoGeek, the best way to track down that technologies are going to (very shortly) change the world is to watch what the venture capitalists are doing. these are people who basically make ridiculous sums of cash by predicting the future...and investing in it. and since they've got so much riding on their bets, they like to do a lot of research.

Often this is research that people like me (because I don't have billions of dollars to invest) can't do. So I follow the VCs, and pay attention to what they're saying.

And what van Lierop is saying seems almost crazy, on the surface. But dig a little deeper, and things start looking exciting. despite sounding like a comic book hero, General Fusion's technology is very realistic. in a world where we're all used to hearing that "Fusion power has been twenty years away for twenty years" hearing that it's five years away is pretty remarkable.

Yes. It does seem remarkable. Except if you have been reading articles of mine like: We Will Know In Two Years or less. Or one of my more recent ones like: Advanced and Delayed.

Let me also say that I have been approached several times over the last few years to personally develop a project that would reach the fusion goal faster than any government project. One of these days I will connect either with my own project or as an assistant to some one else's project.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Advanced And Delayed

Famulus at Prometheus Fusion has raised enough funds through Kick Starter to get the funds released for his amateur Polywell Fusion Reactor experiments. We look forward to the results in three months or so.

Small fusion is doing well. Big fusion not so much. The roughly $10 billion ITER Project in France is being delayed again. By almost another year. Yeah. I know. Cue up the jokes.

The scheduled start-up date for the ITER fusion reactor project looks set to slip again by 10 months to November 2019. The new date comes less than a year after the start-up was shifted from 2016 to 2018. William Brinkman, director of the Department of Energy's Office of Science, said at a meeting of fusion energy advisers on Monday that the schedule was changed at a meeting of ITER heads of delegations in Paris in late February.

ITER, an enormous research fusion reactor which is shortly due to begin construction in France, is a collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States and is due to cost somewhere between €5 billion and €10 billion. (The cost is a current bone of contention.) Over the past couple of years, the funding partners have become alarmed about the rapidly escalating cost estimates and delays in getting the project moving. The ITER council ordered reviews of the costing system and the project management. Sources say that the European Union, which, as host, is shouldering 45% of the construction cost, has been calling for more construction time because of concern that pushing ahead too fast could lead to unacceptable technical risks. Although Brinkman does not name the E.U., he says that a delay until 2020 was requested but after objections the meeting settled on a start date of late in 2019.

I can tell you from practical experience that fudging the dates like that means the project is in way more trouble than the people involved are letting on.

And since from time to time there are people reading here who need to be brought up to speed on fusion I'm reposting my usual: 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." And they seem really hard to build even. And who knows, if the Polywell experiments being done by the US Navy or Famulus are successful the ITER project may just wind up as a big hole in the ground in France.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

"Nothing to do with Islam"

Yes, the above has become a cliche. But because the cliche reflects a narrative that many people are not buying, it's become a bitterly sarcastic cliche. I think that when a narrative becomes a sarcastic cliche, it's worth taking a closer look at the narrative.

For many years I lived in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. I grew up there, then returned years later as an adult, so I think it's fair for me to say that I know the place. So I was particularly shocked to learn yesterday that a fellow Montgomery County resident -- a woman named Colleen R. LaRose -- has been arrested and charged with plotting the terrorist murder of one of an artist who drew a portrait of Muhammad:

She is white and has an American passport, so "JihadJane," a.k.a. Colleen R. LaRose of Montgomery County, decided she was an ideal candidate to carry out a terrorist attack in Sweden, federal prosecutors alleged yesterday.

The target was Lars Vilks, who in 2007 drew a portrait of Muhammad to test "the limits" of artistic expression.

The result was a series of death threats, culminating yesterday in the indictment of LaRose, 46, on charges of conspiring to provide support to Islamic extremists with whom she allegedly plotted to kill the Swedish artist.

Only a few American women have been indicted on terrorism charges. National security officials have feared Islamic extremists could recruit Western-looking women to carry out attacks.

LaRose was arrested in October, but her incarceration was kept secret until her indictment was unsealed yesterday afternoon.

American and foreign governments used the time to sweep up an extremist network in Ireland, according to news media in that country. The Irish Times said seven men, most from Islamic nations, were arrested as part of a plot to murder Vilks.

Two American officials told The Inquirer that the charges against LaRose were connected to that investigation. According to prosecutors, on Aug. 23, LaRose flew to Europe "with the intent to live and train with jihadists, and to find and kill" Vilks.

Her itinerary in Europe has not been disclosed. LaRose was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport on Oct. 16 when she stepped off a plane from Europe. Her Internet postings sympathetic to radical jihad attracted the FBI's attention.

What I would like to know is why.

It's a simple question: what would make this American woman suddenly decide to murder an artist for his exercise of a right all Americans take for granted? And what would make her quite willing to lay down her life in order to accomplish such a sinister goal?

According to the indictment, LaRose replied: "i will make this my goal till i achieve it or die trying."

LaRose had a difficult time finding money for the trip, however. In July, an accomplice posted an online appeal for money.

In September, apparently when she was in Europe, LaRose e-mailed the South Asian man that it as "an honor & great pleasure to die or kill" for him. "Only death will stop me here that i am so close to the target."

Can it be that she had a religious motivation?

I don't mean to pose a snarky rhetorical question here. The problem is that every time there's an incident involving an American caught up in Islamic terrorism, there is a chorus of denial that the terrorism has anything to do with Islam -- to the point where even the phrase "Islamic terrorism" has become taboo. OK, I would be the first to say that most Muslims do not subscribe to or sympathize with terrorism, or radical Islam, nor are they ever likely to become jihadis. But what I cannot understand is how that negates any religious motivation on the part of Islamic terrorists. Is the idea that they are not "true Muslims" or isn't it? If they are not Muslims, then what are they? Religious impostors? That would be fine with me, except I don't see it happening. I think that at the very least, they are members of radical religious cults. LaRose belonged to the Al-Qaeda branch. Don't "true" Muslims condemn these cults out of hand, as true Christians would condemn radical "Christian" groups which murder abortion providers?

It often strikes me that much of the condemnation of these radical Islamic groups as being something other than Islamic is not coming from Muslims, but from non-Muslim Westerners. How are they to know? And why aren't they as quick to condemn abortion clinic bombers as "non Christian"?

Do these terrorist incidents involving American Muslims in fact have nothing to do with Islam? I would be delighted were that the case (as it would be easier to sleep at night), but I'm not so sure it's that easy. These are tough questions which don't lend themselves to either glib denial or simply looking for and finding support for whatever it is you might want to hear. (Those who want denial can easily find it, as can those who want to find support for waging war against all of Islam.)

What made me want to examine the implications of the "nothing to do with Islam" meme was Roger L. Simon's discussion of a disagreement over Geert Wilders between Charles Krauthammer and Paul Mirengoff.

While supporting his free speech rights (as of course I do),Krauthammer disagrees with Wilders' generalizations about Islam:

What he says is extreme, radical, and wrong. He basically is arguing that Islam is the same as Islamism. Islamism is an ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation [of Islam].

The untruth of that is obvious. If you look at the United States, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the U.S. are not Islamists. So, it's simply incorrect. Now, in Europe, there is probably a slightly larger minority but, nonetheless, the overwhelming majority are not.

Mirengoff, OTOH, agrees with Wilders that the distinction is between Muslims and Islam. Here's Wilders:
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't have a problem and my party does not have a problem with Muslims as such. There are many moderate Muslims. The majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens and want to live a peaceful life as you and I do. I know that. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people, the Muslims, and the ideology, between Islam and Muslims. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam.

Islam strives for world domination. The Quran commands Muslims to exercise jihad. The Quran commands Muslims to establish shariah law. The Quran commands Muslims to impose Islam on the entire world.

Is it really true that there is no such thing as a moderate Islam?

Who is right? What is Islam? Is it the people or is it the text? Not being an Islamic scholar, it isn't easy for me to say, and I suspect that even if I were an Islamic scholar, that wouldn't make it any more clear, as the Koran is loaded with contradictions. On one place, its "Kill them wherever you find them" and in another it's said to be a "live in peace with the People of the Book" narrative. (An old, unsettled, ongoing debate.... And not a new one here.)

Roger thinks that Islam needs a reformation, and I couldn't agree more. At minimum, there needs to be a reformation of interpretation. Christian texts were once interpreted as condemning all Jews as Christ killers, but they no longer are. Religious texts need to be seen and placed in the appropriate historical context; just as today's Jews and Christians agree that neither homosexuals, Sabbath-breakers, nor children who disrespect their parents should be executed, Muslims ought to get with the times. I realize that there are radical Christian crackpots who believe in implementing Old Testament law to the letter, but such groups are in a very tiny minority and simply cannot be compared in number scope or influence to the growing forces of radical Islam.

Roger is right to be concerned about the blurry line between Islam and Islamism:

If Wilders is correct, and the line between Islam and Islamism is as blurred as the Dutchman posits, then we in the West are in very deep trouble indeed.
Especially since (as I have complained umpteen times) we help fund the blurring of this distinction every time we fill up at the gas pump.

How I wish this had nothing to do with Islam.

MORE: This video by Pat Condell illustrates the insanity with stinging irony:

posted by Eric at 12:18 PM | Comments (3)

Healthy Skepticism

Pelosi is once again claiming the end is near on healthcare. That's nothing new, a fact Drudge had some fun with today, but this bit rankles:

These states, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts among them, already provide coverage under the low-income program for the poor that other states do not but would be required to if the legislation passes. The 12 are concerned that they will effectively be penalized for having been more generous than the rest of the country.

Memo to whoever writes the AP's style guide: it isn't generosity when you're spending other people's money. That's called "social justice" or more commonly "socialism." Generosity describes an act whereby the politicians donate all their own personal assets to charity (the accompanying frost warnings in Hades might also end the whole global warming scare).

Oddly, the article doesn't mention Stupak. Unless he and his bloc back down on abortion, the House cannot pass the Senate version, and if they pass a modified version the Senate cannot pass the modified abortion language through reconciliation even if they can get the votes for such a move, as it isn't a budgetary measure.

Meanwhile, Obama's healthcare push has him at a new low of 43 percent approval -- and an astounding -21 on the passion index; he's down almost two to one among those with a strong opinion. It's a longish way to November 2012, but Obama has a lot of ground to make up. And the number of people who buy the Obamacare budget numbers is about the same who think Elvis is somwhere out there crooning to little gray people on a mothership.

It does look like this will probably be the last Obamacare push either way it goes, if only because there won't be enough elected Democrats to pursue the destruction of American healthcare after November. So anyone who doesn't want their bodies or the U.S. budget on the Liverpool pathway should give their last, best, hardest push over the next few weeks.

Spread the mantra!

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

U.S. has best cancer survival rates in OECD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please share, steal, print on a bumper sticker, chisel in granite, or drip in syrup on a naked woman any of the above facts, no attribution needed. Don't let them take the best care in the world away from us without a fight!

posted by Dave at 10:56 PM | Comments (1)

manners to die for?

Dr. Helen has reviewed Amy Alkon's book I See Rude People: One woman's battle to beat some manners into impolite society, and she also interviewed the author for PJTV.

In one of her posts about the book (which I bought), Dr. Helen asked what I thought was an excellent (but not easy) question:

If someone is rude in public, do you say anything?
This was my comment at the time: response to the question -- "If someone is rude in public, do you say anything?" -- in my case it would depend on whether the rude person is "reachable." Some people are clearly hopeless -- even hostile and antisocial -- while others may not realize they are being rude. The former, being either deliberately rude or hopelessly ignorant, are likely to attack their correctors, while the latter might learn something, say they're sorry, etc. I don't think it is incumbent on me to police the world's assholes, and when they are being deliberately rude and provocative, policing them means being ready to get into a physical altercation when you might just feel like walking from Point A to Point B. The question arises, "Is it worth it?"

Sometimes, though, when the rudeness involves trampling on the rights of other people, and the other people are not standing up for their rights, it is worth making a scene.

Saying "DON'T LET THAT GUY CUT IN FRONT OF YOU!" is often in order -- even if the line crasher falls into the hopelessly and deliberately rude category as happened to me once when a guy deliberately cut in front of a long bank line and actually sneered at the people who were waiting. When I objected, the spineless people in line did nothing except look guilty, and the teller waited on him (quite improperly in my view). So I escalated the situation by going to the manager, and he scolded me! For interfering with bank policy! The tellers, he said, are trained not to get involved in these disputes, and the more I complained about such a policy, the more irritated the manager became. I realized that to them, I was the problem. I had tried to make my point, and I left in disgust. How far are we to escalate these things? I don't know, but I'm sure I could have done more. Maybe write a long letter to whoever the manager's boss was. (Doubtless someone will tell me what I should have done back in the mid-1980s in San Francisco, but it's too late now.)

I have learned that rudeness often works. Rude people tend to get their way because nice people are nice. So rudeness is enabled by niceness. The result is not nice.

The trick is to somehow stand up to the unbearable assholes of the world without becoming one.

But this does not really address the growing problem of what to do about people who are worse than your garden variety unbearable asshole. My thoughts drifted to the whipping post when I saw one of them throwing down his coffee cup as a way of challenging the world:
I saw a guy throw a coffee cup on the ground over the weekend, and as he glanced glaringly at the people around him it occurred to me that he might consider putting the cup in a nearby trashcan to be beneath his "dignity" -- or even "sissy" behavior. (An unfortunate truth is that society once had the whipping post precisely to deal with miscreants like that.)
The man looked and acted like a scuzzy criminal type of the sort I would describe as beyond "reachable." His conduct struck me as far surpassing ordinary rudeness in that it was deliberately provocative: he clearly wanted someone to tell him to pick up that coffee cup, so he would have an excuse to be violent. If you want to straighten a guy like that out, you have to assume that he will hurt you and be prepared.

There are too many people like that, and today I saw more evidence in a news report about a theater patron who was assaulted with a deadly weapon for asking another patron to turn off her cell phone during a movie:

Deputies say that while the movie was playing, a woman was talking on her phone and the victim asked her to turn it off.

The victim was attacked by the woman's boyfriend and another man. Deputies say he was stabbed in the neck with a meat thermometer.

The situation even turned into a melee:
The stabbing victim is expected to survive and is recovering at a local hospital. Two others who tried to help the victim were also injured, according to KTLA.
Not to be overly dramatic, but an incident like that begs the question of what is worth dying for. Are manners? Scummy, trashy people like that are beyond the reach of manners, and they regard the slightest criticism as justifying violent retaliation, even with a deadly weapon.

This creates an interesting problem for someone who is carrying concealed, because suppose you are carrying concealed, you ask someone in a movie theater to turn off his cell phone, and he stabs you. You're justified in using deadly force to protect your life, but firing a gun in a crowded theater is problematic, so it might be best to just avoid escalating things with people who are deliberately being provocative in crowded public places.

Trouble is, if you complain to the theater ushers, they don't want to get involved either. That nervous pimply-faced kid don't consider his job worth dying for, so most likely the manager will offer you a refund. But that's no good, because you want to see the damned movie and wasted your time going there.

Perhaps we need armed politeness brigades, to engage in armed outreach to the unreachable. There must be a way to politely remind people that an armed society is a polite society.

posted by Eric at 02:20 PM | Comments (10)

beyond the naked shower fights. And away from the fog...

From Ed Driscoll, here's the Quote Of The Day from Nancy Pelosi on why the health care bill should be passed:

"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."
I always knew Nancy Pelosi was wacky, but I didn't know she was that far gone.

Instead of one of my usual rants about how these people have no respect for the constitutional process, I thought I'd look at Nancy Pelosi's remark in a slightly different context.

Glenn Reynolds has mentioned the leak attacks on Rahm Emanuel, Eric Massa (who seems knowledgeable about such matters) has complained about naked shower fights with Emanuel (whom he calls "the son of the devil's spawn"), and it has become clear that certain folks are determined to make him the fall guy.

I can't be sure, but I suspect that "away from the fog" is probably inside code language for something else.


Little wonder that since the above picture was taken, Pelosi has told Rahm Emanuel to (in her words) "cool it."

I smell not only a coverup, but a sexist double standard.

Seriously, can anyone imagine what would happen if Emanuel had been photographed doing exactly the same thing to Eric Massa?

MORE: Ann Althouse discusses the meaning of word "grope" and offers a definition:


1: to feel about blindly or uncertainly in search
2 : to look for something blindly or uncertainly
3 : to feel one's way

According to the definition, Nancy Pelosi's "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy" not only constitutes groping, but also a solicitation to engage in mass groping.

posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (1)

Investing In Polywell

Famulus at Prometheus Fusion had a close encounter with an angel investor from Europe. He gives an account of his interactions. Famulus was kind enough to ask me for some assistance with his proposal. I also got one of my physicist friends (Dr. Mike) to help out.

Famulus needs to raise funds to continue his experiments. He is getting close to his goal.

Donate Here.

Cross posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:05 AM | Comments (1)

protecting the public at gunpoint -- from unregistered beer brands!

Nick Gillespie's post about the Pennsylvania crackdown on unlicensed allegedly "unregistered" beers makes me glad I left the state:

More than a dozen armed State Police officers conducted simultaneous raids last week on three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections. The cops confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive ales and lagers, now in State Police custody at an undisclosed location.

The alleged offense: Although the bar owners had bought the beer legally from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and had paid all the necessary taxes, the police claimed that nobody had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board - a process that requires the brewers or their importers to pay a $75 registration fee for each product they want to sell in Pennsylvania.

Based on a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify, three teams of officers converged last Thursday on the three bars, run by Leigh Maida and her husband, Brendan Hartranft. Checking their inventories against the state's official list of more than 2,800 brands, the cops seized four kegs and 317 bottles, totaling 60.9 gallons of beer, according to police calculations.

In fact, according to Maida, more than half the beer removed by the State Police was properly registered - but the cops couldn't find it on their lists because of "clerical errors" or "blatant ineptitude" between the police and the Liquor Control Board, with whom the officers were conferring by telephone.

Well, hey, I guess we should be glad they didn't send in a SWAT team.

Pennsylvania, readers may remember, is a place where you can't buy a sixpack of beer in a convenience store, but instead have to buy it by the case at specially licensed "beer distributors" which are only open during certain hours. The latter, of course, now constitute a well-funded lobby that fights to keep their monopoly.

The unregistered beer brand bust is so typical of the way government works. Petty tyrants like the Liquor Control Board bureaucrats love nothing more than playing Eliot Ness reenactment games at the taxpayers' expense.

Why ordinary people put up with it is one of the mysteries of life.

MORE: It seems that whether ordinary people want to put up with it or not, they have very little to do with it. As former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornbugh explains, attempts at reform are blocked by an odd coalition:

"In my view, the principal roadblock to reform has traditionally been an odd coalition of state store employee unions, fundamentalist anti-alcohol groups and organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, all of which perceive that they have legitimate interests which are not susceptible to statewide budgetary considerations," Thornburgh said.

"It would take some courageous leadership to stare down this combination, something I do not see in the Commonwealth today," he added.

Applied to politics, "courageous leadership" sounds like an oxymoron.

posted by Eric at 04:30 PM | Comments (4)

"the way it is..."

Dan Rather's remark that Barack Obama couldn't sell watermelons has drawn a lot of attention and ridicule, and Ann Althouse is inclined to give Rather a pass, but with a caveat:

So I'll give Dan Rather a pass. But if we give Dan Rather a pass for the accidental appearance of racism, will anyone who isn't liberal be given a pass? I know they won't. That's the way it is.
Can anyone imagine Rush Limbaugh getting a pass for saying this?
Part of the undertow in the coming election is going to be President Obama's leadership. And the Republicans will make a case and a lot of independents will buy this argument. "Listen he just hasn't been, look at the health care bill. It was his number one priority. It took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death." And a version of, "Listen he's a nice person, he's very articulate" this is what's been used against him, "but he couldn't sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic." (Emphasis added.)
Because Rather was said to be characterizing the thinking of Republicans and independents, he gets a pass, as if he had been quoting someone. But he's not quoting anyone; he is putting his own words and thoughts into other people's minds.

If Limbaugh had said exactly the same thing (to say nothing of Rather's earlier "Buckwheats" remark), it would trigger another national tirade about what a bigot he is.

posted by Eric at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

The Natural Order

NOTE: This post was written by M. Simon (who is having computer problems), and posted by Eric.

The natural order of things is for the rich to steal from the poor. Any other order is unnatural. So how do you maintain an unnatural system where the poor have a chance?

The only way is that no one steals from any one else. Once you allow stealing into the system the rich get their usual extra advantage. Which is why our founders stated that the system they designed can only be maintained by a moral people. And the morality was not about who was having sex with whom but the morality relating to property.

Socialism is a system for stealing from the rich in the hopes of advantaging the poor. But once you allow theft into the system it reverts to the natural order where the poor have no chance. Which is why socialism always fails.

So the trouble with socialists is that they mean well but have no understanding. Which is why I am no longer a socialist.


And note: when you take into account the incentives for production socialism comes out even worse. If you can't keep a very large portion of what you earn the incentives for production decline and we are all worse off. The rich and the poor alike. Of course for the rich it makes less difference.

The moral of the story is that socialism leads to feudalism (anther name for a system where warlords rule) and the people are then reduced to serfs. And serfs are held in place by force. And force came into the system through government as a way for the poor to steal from the rich.

It may be why F. A. Hayek called his book on socialism:

The Road to Serfdom

And it gives added meaning to what George Washington said:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

posted by Eric at 10:48 AM | Comments (2)

Today Barcelona. Tomorrow, the world!

Sharing photos of the bizarre Barcelona blizzard, Barcepundit's José Guardia speculates that Al Gore must be in town. Snow in mid-March is of course extremely unusual because Barcelona has a mild Mediterranean climate.

Telegraph reports forecasts of snowfalls of up to 20 inches, school closures, and 200,000 clients without electricity.

So where is Al Gore?

I don't know, but he is displaying the most ferocious bunker mentality I've seen in a long time. Not only does he refuse to back down, he's actually turned up the volume of his rhetoric, claiming that human beings "face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.'' As to the snow, he steadfastly maintains that "Climate change causes more frequent and severe snowstorms.''

Hmmm.... The style seems familiar to me.


Has anyone seen Baghdad Bob lately?

MORE: Thank you, José Guardia for the link (and for confirming my suspicions...)

posted by Eric at 10:29 AM | Comments (1)

Who gets to run against the big bad Congress?

Carl Cannon thinks Barack Obama will win reelection in 2012 for a variety of reasons, one of which involves the dynamics of Congress. He compares the situation to that of Reagan and Clinton:

...Incumbency is supposed to be a disadvantage in the current political environment, but that perception is worth a closer look. It's certainly true that people have a low opinion of Congress. A recent Gallup Poll put the percentage of Americans who approve of the job Congress is doing at 18 percent, the lowest figure in a year. A number of governors have seen the bottom fall out of their polling numbers, too. So yes, anti-incumbency is potent right now. But so is the bully pulpit. At this point in his presidency Ronald Reagan's job approval rating was in the mid-40s, lower than Obama's is now. In the 1982 midterm elections, Reagan's party lost 26 seats in the House. Two years later, Reagan carried 49 states while winning 58.5 percent of the popular vote in his re-election bid.

"In a midterm election, it's possible to get really far by just saying 'no,'" astute political observer Bill Schneider said at a breakfast meeting with political reporters last week. "In a presidential year, you have to present a real alternative."

Which is why (as I have argued repeatedly) it is absolutely vital to Obama that the Republicans retake Congress in the fall elections. It is likely that Congress will remain unpopular even if the Republicans win, but an unpopular Democratic Congress hurts him a lot more than an unpopular Republican Congress. Obama will have a much better shot at selling himself as an alternative when he can play victim to a Republican Congress. OTOH, I think that if the Republicans lose, Obama may well be toast.

The 1994 elections positioned Clinton perfectly to offer an alternative, and to appeal to the traditional love affair American voters have with "checks and balances."

Plus, there's always the chance of something unforeseen and nasty happening:

In 1994 when I was covering the White House for the Baltimore Sun, I spent the week of the midterm elections vacationing in Arizona. It turned out I missed a pretty big political story -- the first GOP takeover of Congress in 40 years, to be precise -- and when on my return our congressional correspondent told me breezily, "While you were gone, your beat disappeared." I accepted the needle, but remember my private reaction, "I don't think the White House disappears."

As it happened, Bill Clinton had some of those same feelings: "The president is still relevant here," he said somewhat defensively in a news conference the following April. Clinton was right, even if he was mostly bucking himself up. The president appoints judges, vetoes bad legislation (and sometimes legislation that isn't so bad), manages the executive branch, and serves as the commander-in-chief. He also is the person this nation turns to when tragedy strikes. They can rise to the occasion, or not. For Reagan it was the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. In Clinton's case it was the Oklahoma City bombing.

He doesn't mention the attempt on Reagan's life, but I think that also created a very strong emotional and even moral bond between ordinary Americans and the president.

Of course, there's no way to go back in time and play out alternate history scenarios. What if the Democrats had managed to hold Congress in '94? What if there had been no Oklahoma City? Might he too have been a one-term president like Carter? We'll never know.

But we do have an unpopular president with a much more unpopular Congress.

Here are the current RCP Poll Averages:

President Obama Job Approval

RCP Average
Spread +2.9

Congressional Job Approval
RCP Average
Spread -56.8

I may be wrong, but my reading of what this means is that the more Congress pisses off the American public right now, the more it will help the president in 2012.

After all, he can't very well run against his own Congress, can he?

posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (12)

Who are they? Part V

Who are "they"?

It's an ongoing question here, and I have devoted a number of posts to the issue.

In a piece titled "Boss Rangel and the Spirit of 1876," Walter Russell Mead really nails them:

....take the upper middle class neo-Puritan goody-goodies out of the mix and there isn't all that much left of the Democratic Party.

These folks, spiritually if not biologically descended from the original New England Puritans, really believe that the state is here to make virtue reign among men. In the nineteenth century they were the 'Conscience Whigs' who opposed Sabbath delivery of the mails, the relocation of the Cherokee Indians and slavery. Later they supported female suffrage, Prohibition and disarmament. Today they are against torture, tobacco and trans fats.

These are the cats, Joe, who really believe that the state is here to make us Do Right. These are the university professors and academic bureaucrats who believe in suppressing free speech in the name of polite discourse -- just as they did 100 years ago when dirty books were banned in Boston. These are the folks who want to write long 'codes of conduct' to regulate sexual encounters among undergraduates in the name of feminism -- which again is pretty much what they were doing when Victoria was queen. These folks want a strong national government because they deeply, truly and instinctively believe that true freedom means doing right, and that a government that makes people behave right makes them more free.

In other words, "they" are people who believe that they have a duty as well as a right to rule, notwithstanding the nation's founding principle that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Fortunately, as Glenn Reynolds noted, "only 21 percent of American voters believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed."

They must just hate that.

posted by Eric at 11:28 PM | Comments (1)

Self-hating gourmands repress their inner Tudorphobia?

Confronted with the spectacle of the gluttonous David Axelrod chomping on a drumstick, President Obama is reported to have "surveyed the spread on Mr. Axelrod's desk with a slight smirk" and then quipped "What is this, King Arthur's court?"

Neo-Neocon notes that the president committed a historical gaffe:

King Arthur's court? I believe Obama must have meant to refer to King Henry VIII, who was often pictured as a glutton holding a drumstick...
A lot of politicians say the wrong thing, and this wouldn't be the first time President Obama has mangled history when making a point.

Much as I'd like to shrug this bit of sloppiness off entirely (and much as I'm inclined to agree with Glenn's "whatever"), my inner paranoid conspiracist worries that the choice of King Arthur might reflect a conscious desire to scrupulously avoid anything that hints of the dreaded "Tudor Obama" meme. British historian David Starkey is considered the world's leading Henry VIII scholar, and here is what he said in comparing Henry VIII to Barack Obama:

'Henry comes to the throne as the Tudor Obama,' explains David. 'How does the thin, beautiful, elegant, musical, poetical, reasonable, charming, sweet-tempered man who marries for love... how does he turn into Henry who was the horror, Henry who was the tyrant?'
Now, if a lowly blogger like me made a comparison like that, I'd be ignored. But words like that from a scholar of Starkey's stature simply cannot be ignored.

But hey, at least there's no physical resemblance!



All cholesterol jokes aside, if I were Barack Obama, I think I'd keep the imagery focused on Arthur (and Camelot) too.

posted by Eric at 03:28 PM | Comments (2)

They Kill Patients Don't They?

Government run medicine in Britain strikes again.

A man of 22 died in agony of dehydration after three days in a leading teaching hospital.

Kane Gorny was so desperate for a drink that he rang police to beg for their help.

They arrived on the ward only to be told by doctors that everything was under control.

The next day his mother Rita Cronin found him delirious and he died within hours.

She said nurses had failed to give him vital drugs which controlled fluid levels in his body. 'He was totally dependent on the nurses to help him and they totally betrayed him.'

An isolated incident you say?

Don't bet your life on it.

Hospital bosses received huge pay rises as up to 5,000 patients in their care died needlessly

Three thousand needless deaths every year in hospital as watchdog fails to spot poor standards

Patients were 'routinely neglected', says most savage indictment of NHS trust

And that is not all. It seems the hospitals in Britain have a cockroach problem. And a rat problem. And mice too. Did I mention maggots?

British Hospitals Overrun With Rats, Bed Bugs, Maggots, Cockroaches

Hospital maternity unit closed after cockroach infestation

NHS hospitals report thousands of pest infestations

At least 30,000 patients were starving in NHS wards in 2007

Evidently the Brits don't need death panels. They let individual staff decide on a case by case basis who lives and who dies. Of course if we get government health care in America things will be different.

H/T JLawson Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:58 AM | Comments (2)

the "right" to not be offended -- for thee, but not for me?

While I've used Ebay to buy and sell for many years, about a year ago I decided that I would never be a seller again. That's because after many years of a feedback system that allowed both buyers and sellers to leave negative feedback, Ebay suddenly instituted a "no-negative feedack" rule -- but only against buyers. What that means is that the buyers now have all the power and sellers have none. If I sell an item and the buyer never pays for it, I cannot leave negative feedback, but there is nothing to stop him from leaving negative feedback against me. Sellers are screwed. They might complain, but it's the rule.

It's NOT fair at all that buyers can leave Neg fb for sellers but not the other way around. It should be EQUAL for EVERYONE. I'm a buyer AND a seller so it's not like I'm saying this because i'm a bitter seller or anything. It's the TRUTH. EVERYTHING is aimed to please the buyers now - because that's where ebay gets most of their money. You know what they did? They reeled everyone in with "normal" and "fair" rules when they first started, and then, when they became popular and the #1 auction site in the world, THATS when they changed all the rules - when they already had everyone at their every beck and call.
Not content merely to stop sellers from leaving negative feedback, Ebay also prevents sellers from listing deadbeat buyers. This has not stopped sellers from starting their own deadbeat buyer lists using blogs like this, but that's hardly a remedy.

But none of this is really news. What prompted this post is that I recently learned that sellers are now no longer allowed to warn "deadbeat buyers" or "deadbeat bidders" not to bid on their listings! The reason for the rule?

People might be offended! Ebay explains:

A listing can't include words like "deadbeat bidder" or "deadbeat buyer" because they can offend people and discourage them from buying your item.

Please edit your listing, making sure there's no mention of those words or something similar. If there is, you won't be able to list your item. You could also lose your Top-rated seller status.

Find out more about our selling practices policy.

The poor seller said, "I can't call deadbeats deadbeats for fear that deadbeats might be offended."

Sure it's unfair, but what else is new? It's not censorship, as no one is required to sell on Ebay. Still, what most fascinates me is the Orwellian condescension on the part of Ebay. As I said in an email to a friend who sells a lot and complained about this policy,

The only people who might be offended are deadbeat buyers. In which case, I would WANT them to be offended, and thereby discouraged from bidding!

I can only conclude that ebay wants to encourage deadbeat buyers.

Even if I give Ebay every possible benefit of the doubt, let's assume that there are some legitimate buyers who might just possibly be offended by the word "deadbeat." Well, what if you'd rather not deal with thin-skinned buyers who are so easily offended? Why isn't there a right not to be offended by people being easily offended? Such people might be offended by a lot of other things, like slowness of mail delivery, or the use of packing materials that were not deemed sufficiently "green." What if you as a seller offended by that? Isn't there a market operating here? Is it really Ebay's business to ensure that no one might ever be offended by a seller's phraseology?

What about people who get offended by morons who cannot write a simple English sentence? Why isn't it offensive to misspell?

And if we return to the original feedback theme, isn't negative feedback offensive by its very nature? If so, then why does Ebay allow it at all? Is the idea that it's OK to offend some people, but not others?

By any standard, that's not fair. Because, if there is a right not to be offended, then it is a right held by all people, not just some people.

posted by Eric at 11:01 AM | Comments (4)


The video that Glenn Reynolds posted reminded me of something I have discussed before -- there is a serious problem with absolute idiots on the road. For whatever reason, our society deems it unnecessary to ensure that drivers know how to drive. Watch and weep as Mike Allen of Popular Mechanics demonstrates that (doh!) you can actually stop a car with a runaway accelerator by:

  • 1. applying the brakes; and
  • 2. shifting into neutral.
  • I'm sorry, but people who don't know this are morons. Idiots. Retards. They do not belong on the road, period. They are a far greater hazard to the public than the Toyota accelerator problem which has generated the huge recall.

    Worse yet, there seems to be a demand that the industry now modify its product so that when you apply the brakes, the car automatically shifts into neutral:

    Because Toyota did not incorporate the critical safety feature that shifts the car into neutral during braking, the driver must manually shift the vehicle into neutral.
    Huh? Does this mean that in the future, all cars will be designed to shift into neutral during braking? (Anyone who thinks that's a "safety" feature ought to try it on a San Francisco hill.)

    I think there needs to be a driver recall.

    Except I know it will never happen. We live in a country in which
    someone who never had a drivers license nonetheless managed to have her nonexistent license "suspended" 12 times
    , yet after her fatal accident, officials say that "no one wants to pass judgment." (And now, of course, she has another excuse: she can blame the car!)


    posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (7)

    Giants of the screen

    In a post about short actors, Ann Althouse features a YouTube video of the original "Mr. Skeffington" trailer:

    It's a great film which starred Bette Davis and Claude Rains, and the two of them were perfectly matched -- as Bette Davis was 5' 3" while Claude Rains towered over her at 5' 6 1/2". You'd never know from watching the film that these two legendary giants of the screen were so tiny in real life.

    While height is not the same factor in women that it is in men, Ann Althouse wondered whether Davis' average looks might have been the equivalent of male shortness:

    Is there something comparable for women? Maybe we could make a list of women who have fairly average looks who play beautiful women on screen. My favorite example of this is Bette Davis in "Mr. Skeffington," where the raving over Bette's beauty occasionally crosses the line into the laughable. No man could resist her...
    Well, Bette Davis is hardly one of those actresses who made it on physical beauty. Perhaps the idea was that no man could resist her illusion.

    And speaking of creating illusions, Claude Rains had to contend with more than just his height. He was nearly blind in one eye, and more important for an actor, he had a speech impediment:

    He grew up, according to his daughter, with "a very serious cockney accent and a speech impediment".[1]
    You wouldn't suspect any of that by watching his films. His voice alone was enough to carry scene after scene in "The Invisible Man":

    Great acting by any standard. His voice made people leave the lights on:

    Universal was embarking on its new-found role as horror film factory, and they were looking for someone unique for their next outing, The Invisible Man (1933). Rains was the very man. He took the role by the ears, churning up a rasping malice and volume in his voice to achieve a bone chilling persona of the disembodied mad doctor. He could also throw out a high-pitched maniac laugh that would make you leave the lights on before going to bed.
    Hey, disembodied thoughts made me turn the lights on in the wee hours of the morning to finish this post!

    MORE: Sean Kinsell links this post (thanks Sean!) and offers Rains' performance in Notorious as an example of the actor at his most chilling.

    ...I'd be hard pressed to think of a recent movie that achieved anything like the quiet, oppressive horrifying-ness of that scene...
    I think the same could be said for Bette Davis' performance in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

    Watch out for that innocent-looking covered plate!

    posted by Eric at 05:03 AM | Comments (7)

    An Inconvenient Question

    I missed this video when it first came out. It is reporter Phelim McAleer asking Stephen Schneider some questions. Check out the totalitarian response to an inconvenient question.

    And just who is Stephen Schneider? He is the academic who said:

    "To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."
    Ah. So honesty is no longer the best policy. Nice to know where he stands. If he is talking he is lying. Unless conclusively beyond a reasonable doubt proved otherwise.

    And Mr. SS has written a book:

    Science as a Contact Sport

    Evidently the contact has been a bit too much for him.

    Schneider is also a member of the Club Of Rome. Here is a bit on The Club of Rome along with a cast of characters.

    "We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now much more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries."

    David Rockefeller

    Well on to the video.

    And these folks wonder why there is a Tea Party movement? It seems like a rational response to their plan for world domination.

    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 04:37 AM | Comments (1)

    The War On Coal

    Could Climate Alarmists be dupes in the


    Consider. When it was global cooling - coal plants were the enemy. Now with warming - coal plants are the enemy. I'm beginning to detect a pattern. Perhaps James "Coal Trains are Auschwitz Trains" Hansen can tell us more.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:29 AM | Comments (0)

    Ranting And Raving

    The Tea Parties have gotten a lot of people's shorts in a knot. Check out this video:

    And this response to it:

    Just another day in the slow hari kari of our media elites.

    Tea Party Difference

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

    BTW the above videos are a fine addition to Eric's post So litte time! So many dots to connect! And so much blood on my hands.... You should go and read the whole thing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

    So litte time! So many dots to connect! And so much blood on my hands...

    In his column today, Leonard Pitts echoes a tired but familiar theme -- that because crazy people show up at Tea Parties, the movement is itself crazy, and because "conservatism" is reluctant to denounce the nutcases, all conservatives are somehow tainted: the tea party movement, some conservatives finally meet a cognitive disconnect they simply cannot bridge.

    A recent New York Times profile found the tea party movement to be amorphous and largely without an organizing principle other than its anger toward government and fear of a supposedly imminent dictatorship. Beyond that, tea partiers are an unwieldy amalgam of tax haters, global warming holdouts, illegal immigration protesters, secessionists, gun rights advocates, white supremacists, militia types and conspiracy theorists, all banging their gongs at the same time.

    Like the liberal noisemakers who follow the World Trade Organization around, their lack of message discipline renders them -- that word, yet again -- incoherent. Like them, they have yet to figure out that to protest everything is to protest nothing.

    Make no mistake: Every movement or marginalized people has its fringe extremists who threaten to define the whole. Thus, moderate American Muslims are periodically required to rebuke Islamic terrorists, environmentalists are obligated to rebuff eco-terrorists and moderate African Americans are expected to reprove Louis Farrakhan.

    But conservatives, outside of a few integrity-driven souls over the years, have not rushed to repudiate the crazies among them, even as the crazies have grown crazier and threatened to engulf the whole.

    I disagree, even though I never hesitate to denounce and repudiate those whom Pitt calls the crazies.

    But I can't spend all of my time denouncing and repudiating everyone I disagree with. For example, last night's Pentagon shooter appears to have been a genuine loon, as well as a Rothbard libertarian, a marijuana advocate, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, a Bush hater, and more. But do I really have to "denounce" and "repudiate" him in order to have credibility? Of course I denounce him, but
    are he and people like him really threatening to engulf "the whole"? Whose
    "whole" might that be?

    If we apply Pitt's standard to Pitt himself, why shouldn't he be held accountable, and forced to denounce and repudiate all crazies on the left? Not merely Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky, but people more recently in the news, like the protesters in Berkeley who say things like this:

    "Take a look around you--ages, colors, gender," said Nancy Kato, assistant registrar at Boalt Hall, told the crowd. "All of us are united as workers, students and community members. Our movement is national and international."

    Students spoke of emails and letters of encouragement trickling in from their peers and supporters in Moscow, Brazil and Mexico.

    "They are going after public schools because they want our youth to join their wars and fill their prisons," Kato said. "We will not let the university or the bureaucracy or the police intimidate us. Tax the rich and the big businesses!"

    Hmmmm.... Maybe she should start an anti-libertarian think tank, and call it the KATO Institute. But wait a second! Isn't an assistant registrar at one of the nation's leading law schools part of "the bureaucracy"? Come on, lady, you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem.

    In a demonstration closer to home, activists in Detroit are protesting in front of DTE Energy (the local power company), which they blame for the fact that power stolen from DTE caused a fatal fire:

    In the wake of a fire that killed three young children earlier this week, some protesters Thursday called on DTE Energy to halt the shutoff of gas and electricity during the winter months.

    "We want a moratorium from October to April," said Stacey Ross Streeter, a member of Detroit's Downtown Citizens District Council.

    DTE spokesman John Austerberry said that isn't necessary.

    "We offer protection for customers who are most vulnerable already," he said.

    Streeter was among a few dozen protesters who gathered Thursday outside of DTE headquarters in downtown Detroit. The gathering was sparked by the Tuesday night fire that raged through a home on Detroit's west side and killed three children identified by the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office as Travion Young, 5, Fantasia Young, 4, and Salena Young, 3.

    DTE had disconnected illegal hookups for gas and electricity hours before the blaze. Someone illegally reconnected the electricity and warmed the home with an electric space heater, which is being investigated as a possible cause of the fire.

    Blaming DTE makes about as much sense as saying that repossessing a car "caused" it to be stolen by whoever who was in default and whose subsequent accident was therefore the fault of the bank, but never mind logic. These people are activists.

    There was an article about this yesterday. In December, the power was turned off at the request of a former resident, following which an illegal hookup was made. Then, after that was turned off, someone broke off the padlocks and hooked it up again, plugging in an electric heater. Seven kids were then left alone by their mother, a fire started, and three of them were killed. Despite the fact that DTE has a program to allow poor people power in the winter, no one apparently called them.

    "We can't encourage customers enough to contact us if they're having problems paying their utility bills," said Scott Simons, a DTE spokesman, "but if we don't know about them, it's very tough."

    Fire officials said the investigation is ongoing. Sylvia Young told WDIV-TV (Channel 4) that her landlord had supplied her with the space heater.

    DTE had disconnected gas and electricity to the home at 3 p.m. Members of the utility's theft-investigation team removed the gas meter and double-locked the electricity meter, Simons said.

    Less than four hours later, the home was engulfed in flames.

    Seven children were home alone when the fire broke out, said Jarmar Taylor, 18, who lives nearby and said he rushed to the home when he saw flames bust through a front bay window.

    Even though no one ever called the utility company to take advantage of their program, the claim has nonetheless been made that DTE has "blood on their hands":
    Anton Mills, 20, said he lived in the house until December, after which the new family moved in. The property is a rental home that, as of March 1, was $637 delinquent in property taxes, according to City of Detroit records.

    Keith Owens, Wayne County director of communications, said the listed owner is Darnell Jackson of Detroit. A woman answering the phone at Jackson's residence said he wasn't available for comment.

    Today, the front porch of the home had turned into a makeshift shrine as people dropped off stuffed animals, balloons and candles.

    LaTonya Jackson, 42, approached the home and blessed it, then bellowed scripture.

    "DTE has got blood on their hands," she yelled. "DTE!"

    Simons said a previous resident had DTE cut off services to the home Dec. 11. No one had asked for it to be restored since then, he said.

    If you ask me, blaming the power company under these circumstances is nothing short of crazy. Power theft is a crime, right? Leaving seven young children alone is negligent parenting, right?

    So where are the denunciations and repudiations?

    Anyway, now that I have denounced and repudiated J. Patrick Bedell, I am feeling very morally sanctimonious, and therefore duty-bound to note an obvious connection to the Tea Party Movement that many analysts have missed. And I do mean connection; in this area, DTE supplies power to most of Southeastern Michigan, which means it is beyond dispute that a number of Tea Partiers are on the same fatal grid that murdered the children in Detroit. Moreover, many of them pay their bills on time, and this generates revenue for the same murderers who force people to steal power and who force mothers to leave their children alone in buildings with the illegal power they were forced to steal!

    The Tea Partiers have blood on their hands! So who will be the first to denounce them?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Guilt by association really seems to be quite the rage these days.

    The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party's public image.
    Guilt by association is the very lifeblood of activists. As might be expected, the rule is only applied against whomever is perceived to be "on the other side."

    But are ordinary people that easily fooled? I'm optimistic about what Megan McArdle called "the rise of electronic media," because I think the more we are saturated with guilt-by-association, the less it will sting.

    DISCLOSURE: As I've said repeatedly, it's time to confess:

    I killed the kids at Columbine, and my collective guns regularly murder hundreds of children in Philadelphia. I have murdered millions of unborn babies. I tortured Iraqis at Abu Ghraib! I pulled the tube from Terri Schiavo! I also clubbed the baby seals, and probably helped Richard Speck murder all those nurses in Chicago in 1966.

    (Oh, yeah, I also owned and transported lots of slaves. Lots and lots of genocide was committed by the "we." I am therefore guilty as charged!*)

    That footnote was a reminder that I was also a Little Eichmann and probably still am.

    posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (2)

    Treasurer's Treasury Will Fail

    Fox News is reporting that the bank owned by the family of Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias will fail.

    Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias says things don't look good for the struggling bank his family owns.

    Giannoulias told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board Wednesday that it's likely the bank his father founded 30 years ago will fail.

    Broadway Bank entered into a consent decree with regulators in January and has 90 days to raise about $85 million in new capital. The bank also has to deal with bad assets and improve its management.

    Ah. Yes. Most unfortunate. But there is a kicker:
    Giannoulias touted his banking experience when he was elected Illinois state treasurer in 2006.
    I'll bet he doesn't do that again.

    Unfortunately for Giannoulias it looks like it is already too late.

    Democratic Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias spent 10 hours on Wednesday in eight interviews with Chicago print and broadcast outlets, taking questions about his family owned Broadway Bank. Giannoulias, 33, was a loan officer at the bank before he was elected treasurer in November, 2006.
    A loan officer? Aren't those the banking guys who decide who is credit worthy and who is not? Yes they are.

    If it is Illinois (and especially Chicago) the boyz at Hill Buzz have the best rumors around. Check this one out:

    The rumor today in Chicago is that Alexi Giannoulias is going to be forced to step aside as the Democrats' nominee for the Senate race to fill Roland Burris' seat upon retirement. Not to "spend more time with his family", as slimeballs like this usually say, but because the criminal enterprise his family runs, the mob's bank, Broadway Bank, is collapsing.

    It's coming out the Giannoulias family siphoned more than $70 million from the bank, to pay their back taxes, and to pretty much recreating the HBO series "The Sopranos", all around Chicago.

    There is absolutely nothing good we can say about Alexi Giannoulias, except that it's nice he's not a twin, and great he's fathered no children. Perhaps, dare we dream, his genes will end with him.

    Former Senator John Edwards is going to be indicted soon, for misappropriation of campaign funds. We wonder if an indictment of the Giannoulias Family is all that far away: how can they just take $70 million out of a bank? That has to be illegal.

    How can Democrats think they can run this man for the Senate when the mob bank his family runs is going under, and all its secrets will be revealed once the government seizes it?

    Things sure will get messy, once taxpayers realize government funds will be going directly to Giannoulias, to bail his family out...with tax dollars also going to mobsters, since those are Giannoulias' clients...and they will be the ones the government bails out when it takes over Broadway Bank.

    Not only will the White House own General Motors, but it could end up running the Chicago mob, too.

    Which just emphasizes the substance of a bit I wrote a while back, Government is a Criminal Enterprise.

    So other than the mob how is Illinois doing? Not so good.

    Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed cutting spending and raising taxes to deal with one of the biggest state budget crises in the nation, but his plan will likely be unpopular with some voters and lawmakers during a tough election year.

    Illinois's deficit through mid-2011 is estimated at $11 billion to $13 billion--close to 50% of the expected $26.7 billion in available revenue for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. That is among the worst such percentages among states. Health-care and social-service agencies routinely wait three months or more for the state to pay its bills.

    The state pension system also is the worst-funded in the U.S. Illinois borrowed nearly $3.5 billion last year to make its annual pension payment. State auditors estimate that the pension systems are underfunded by $62 billion.

    Jeeze. It looks so bad that Illinois may go down before California. And raising taxes on business? Swell. Illinois already has too many businesses. And no doubt too many jobs.
    The unemployment rate in Illinois is back over 11 percent. New data released today by the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows that non-farm payroll fell for the 23rd straight month and the jobless rate jumped to 11.1 percent, the highest it's been since 1983.
    That report was from late January. I haven't heard of much improvement since then.

    Fortunately The Madam who is speaker of the house (see Parliament of Whores) says the Democrats are not in crisis.

    - Obama has to buy a Congressman's vote by appointing his brother to the Federal Apellate Court

    - Charlie Rangel (D-Ghetto) has to step down from Ways and Means due to bribe taking

    - Mary Landrieu (D-Mardi Gras) is the poster child for "Buy My Vote Please" on ObamaCare

    - Congressional approval rating (Pelsoi's leadership) is lower than the outside temperature at the North Pole

    - One DEM Congressman changed parties

    - Congressman Massa (D-Blow Job) is leaving office having sexually harrassed a MALE employee

    Not in crisis? OK maybe the crisis is over and we can all attend the burial in November. Sadly the Jefferson/Jackson Day dinners they used to hold will be sparsely attended. But they haven't honored the frugality and limited government of Jefferson and the militancy of Jackson for a very long time.

    When Ali Babba is the Treasurer of Illinois and wants to be governor you can see a party that has lost its way. And it is not like we won't have other thieves to contend with. As my grand pappy Max used to say about politicians, "they are all crooks". The question is are they bringing 40 thieves with them or 40,000?

    I think this video is an excellent illustration of the errors of the Illinois crooks. "Never underestimate the mark." Or as William Burroughs liked to say: The Marks Are Wising Up.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:27 AM | Comments (1)

    Which came first? The narrative or the nut?

    There's a lot of speculation here about the Pentagon shooting suspect who has been identified as "John Patrick Bedell" since Glenn Reynolds linked the original report. If the Freepers are correct, he may be a Lew Rockwell-following, gay, Obama-loving, pot-growing, Bush-hating 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

    As to whose narrative this might fit, I have no idea.

    MORE: Obviously, I cannot vouch for the integrity of any of the information at the links I found at Freeper, and by reciting and mentioning them here I am in no way implying that the person(s) to which they pertain is (are) necessarily the suspect.

    There's a lot of information floating around on the Internet, and this illustrates that speculation is not without risks. I'm not speculating about anyone; only observing the phenomenon as it unfolds.

    Regardless of what the shooter's politics turn out to be, unless there are others who helped him, he alone is responsible for his actions. Not Lew Rockwell, not the marijuana agenda, not the gay agenda, and not even the 9/11 conspiracy theorist agenda.

    MORE: And if the accused turns out to be this guy (as some say he is), then Wikipedia is not responsible either!

    AND MORE: Bush-hating Truther or not, it didn't take long for certain leftists to start calling the suspect (now reported dead) a "Tea Bagger" while pointing the finger at libertarians and the Tea Party movement.

    If the same Bedell was a committed libertarian devoted in part to legalizing marijuana and in full to reducing government control over our lives, he might be a "teabagger" ideologically-speaking, for the Tea Party movement has sought to bring both libertarians and extremely conservative Republicans into the fold.If the same Bedell was a committed libertarian devoted in part to legalizing marijuana and in full to reducing government control over our lives, he might be a "teabagger" ideologically-speaking, for the Tea Party movement has sought to bring both libertarians and extremely conservative Republicans into the fold. But Bedell possibly having a teabagger attitude towards the government may not in the end be to blame for his alleged, attempted rampage. It may just be that he was nuts all along.
    It may just be, huh? Reading his Wiki user page was enough to convince me. (If he's the same guy, which it is appearing that he was.)

    MORE: Here's a YouTube video in which J. Patrick Bedell describes his "Rothbardix" "information currency" software.

    Will anyone blame the late Murray Rothbard? Or Linux?

    UPDATE: Thanks to Memeorandum for the link.

    posted by Eric at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

    Too late to change my vote

    Glenn Reynolds quoted part of a remark by Ann Althouse which made me wish I had voted for Barack Obama:

    ...Barack Obama won the presidency by holding himself out as powerfully virtuous, as the man who would change the way Washington works. When I voted for Obama, I didn't think that was going to be the set-up for sarcastic, world-weary jokes.
    My problem is that I was sick of sarcastic, world-weary jokes -- my own jokes included -- well before the election. And I didn't vote for Barack Obama.

    While this may sound strange, I believe that had I voted for him, I'd have felt reinvigorated, and I would have taken new pride in my worn-out, world-weary sarcasm. It would have felt like.... an entitlement. I would have felt special! Like, you know, a genuine dissenter from the ranks or something.

    Instead, all I can do is lamely say "I told you so" like hordes of conservatives who have no regrets.


    Having been wrong and having regrets makes life interesting. Having been right is irritating and boring.

    What really hurts is to think of how much fun I would have been having by now had John McCain won. He'd be getting it from liberals and conservatives, and I would be able to get all defensive about my vote, defending McCain against the sarcastic, world-weary jokes by countering them with more sarcastic, world-weary jokes.

    And the coolest thing of all is that because McCain is a white guy, none of the sarcastic, world-weary jokes would be racist!

    Except I'd still be racist for having voted for McCain in the first place, wouldn't I?

    What this means is that, speaking purely from the viewpoint of a sarcastic, world-weary daily blogger, the most overall fun result for me would have been for McCain to win after I voted for Obama. Seriously, if you were able to pick an ethos, that's about as clear as a conscience as a blogger can get!

    But we can't have everything, can we?

    posted by Eric at 07:50 PM | Comments (1)

    Taxing our way to better health?

    Can people be taxed into adopting better health habits?

    It's a fascinating idea, and it seems to be the primary goal of Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter, who wants to impose unprecedentedly high taxes on soft drinks:

    Mayor Nutter, balking at cutting "core services" and running out of ways to raise money, is expected to balance next year's budget with a steep tax on sugary drinks and a $300 annual residential trash fee, sources familiar with the plan said yesterday.

    City Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. said he anticipated a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sweet drinks as part of Nutter's 2010-2011 budget, to be presented tomorrow. That's $2.88 on a 12-pack of soda cans

    Nutter says they have no alternative:
    Nutter would not comment on details of the budget yesterday, but did say: "The major tax sources are not really available."

    That's because the property tax still relies on notoriously inaccurate and inequitable assessments that are at least two years away from being fixed; the city raised the sales tax 1 percentage point last year; and Nutter and others remain opposed to increases in income or business taxes, whose receipts have plummeted in the slow economy.

    Combined, the trash fee and soda tax likely would raise enough revenue to wipe out the city's 2010-2011 deficit, which has been projected at $125 billion to $150 million.

    More than one critic has observed that this isn't the government's business:
    Can't wait for the high fat tax to implemented on a pizza, burgers and hot dogs next. This is all getting a little too out of control, food and liquids are a necessity and the government has no business increasing prices on what they decide is the healthier or non-healthier choice.
    I would also like to think that the government has no business increasing prices on what they decide is unhealthy. But to my utter astonishment, my belief that something isn't the government's business has not made them stop thinking that it is their business!

    Imagine that.

    The best way to fight this sort of thing might be to remind them that the policy will hurt the city economically. On that point, those affected in business and labor seem to agree:

    "Philadelphians already pay the highest sales tax in the state, and this would increase the cost of the beverages they enjoy by as much as a staggering 100 percent," said Tony Crisci, legislative counsel of the Pennsylvania Beverage Association (PBA). "This proposal is unfair to Philadelphians, who already are being gouged by the city's high taxes. And, without question, this plan could have a significant impact on the family-sustaining jobs offered by our industry."

    Danny Grace of Teamsters Local 830 in Philadelphia agreed.

    "If the government drives up the cost of the products our members deliver, there will be a direct impact on jobs," said Grace. "The math is simple: Less production and distribution will mean fewer jobs available for those who work in an industry that actually has ADDED jobs throughout the ongoing economic downturn. In these economic times, Philadelphia can't afford to bleed anymore middle-class jobs."

    Crisci noted that the beverage industry in Philadelphia is strong, and, in fact, added jobs at a time when Philadelphia's unemployment rate climbed to more than 10 percent. All told, about 2,000 Philadelphia-area jobs are directly attributed to the beverage industry.

    "It's hard to understand why anyone would lay out an idea that not only would heap new burdens on Philadelphians when they can least afford it, but also put the city at a competitive disadvantage, especially in these still challenging economic times," Crisci said.

    The mayor claims this new tax plan will help make the city's residents healthier. But Philadelphians aren't falling for it. They know that taxes don't make people healthier; diet and exercise do that.

    There's also a contradiction inherent in this policy. Philadelphia is facing a deficit, which means it needs the money in order to preserve bloated bureaucratic jobs. If taxing soft drinks is intended to bail the city out, then it is in the city's interest for the public to consume as many soft drinks as possible, right? And it follows that if the taxes did cause a dramatic decrease in soft drink consumption, that would not help city revenues. If the tax is a revenue measure, then it cannot honestly be said to be a health measure, and I wish they would stop pretending that it is. The city will simply be in the business of making money from soft drink sales, and because of this conflict of interest, it is about as reasonable for them to claim that the taxes are a health issue as it would be for a corner drug dealer to raise his prices on the ground that crack cocaine was bad for his customers' health.

    Besides, the City of Philadelphia cannot handle the money it now has. Any more just goes down the rat hole. A new program like a soft drink tax will almost certainly cause the hiring of more administrative staffers, whose salaries will eat a good chunk of whatever increased revenue is raised.

    Even the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which ought to be a cash cow, manages to spend it all on administrative salaries, while being completely unaccountable. But that sort of thing so typifies big cities and government in general that it's unremarkable.

    Over a year ago, the number of government employees surpassed the number of jobs in manufacturing and construction, and Fabius Maximus posted this graph:


    If you ask me, that looks unhealthier than soft drinks. If a graph like that illustrated a similar imbalance inside a patient's body, you can be sure that a responsible doctor would want to do something about the serious and growing problem.

    The problem is that it's the serious and growing problem -- government -- which wants to be our physician. Those who eat out our substance are telling us that we are sick, and that if we just give them even more money, we will then be healthier.

    Sorry, but that's too much like saying that cancer cures cancer.

    MORE: Here's another unhealthy looking chart which shows the average compensation of the Federal Civilian workers versus the U.S. private sector workforce (as of 2004):


    (Copied from a CATO article titled
    "Federal Pay Outpaces Private-Sector Pay.")

    It used to be that government jobs paid less (which they should, for a variety of reasons).

    Are we getting what we pay for?

    UPDATE: My thanks to Fabius Maximus for linking this post, and more importantly, for updating the post I linked with additional data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

    * Good-producing employment peaked in 2000 at 24.6 million.
    * Since then the number of goods-producing workers has dropped by 1/4, to 18.6 million.
    * In 2007 for the first time both groups were equal (22.2 million).
    * Since 2007 private sector employment has dropped by 7.0 million, over 1/2 of that from good-producing industries.
    * Since 2007 the number of government employees has risen by 2% (by 326 thousand).
    Fabius Maximus thinks "the trend should send shivers up your spine" and has some additional observations.

    posted by Eric at 12:49 PM | Comments (7)

    RIP Jon Swift

    I am very sorry to see that Jon Swift -- whose real name was Al Weisel, and who described himself as "a reasonable conservative who likes to write about politics and culture" -- has died.

    I can't help notice that his blogging seems to have stopped not long after the inauguration of Barack Obama. I don't know whether that was a coincidence in his case, but for me it was really, really difficult (and sometimes still is) to make the transition without succumbing to total burnout. (The rip-saw effect of Obamamania versus Obama Derangement Syndrome can lead to bigtime Obama Burnout Syndrome. And being sick of Obama is a hell of a way to start a blogger's day.)

    Jon Swift is being remembered by a number of bloggers, including Ann Althouse. who liked him even though he enjoyed antagonizing her:

    ...He died after 2 aortic aneurysms, which happened as he was on his way to his father's funeral, according to a comment on his blog -- which hadn't been updated in about a year. The comment is (apparently) from his grieving mother.

    Swift was a terrific writer. He liked to antagonize me, but that means nothing now, other than that I'm honored to have provided some raw material to a fine writer.

    She quotes a touching exchange about his struggle to have her notice him which is quite amusing.

    It's sad, and he'll be missed.

    posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)

    I Got A Link

    The New York Times linked to my article Climate "Science" Is Ruining Everything. My article was about how the government gets the science it pays for.

    I discussed drug war "science" and how it relates to climate "science". The NYTs thinks that the problem with climate science is not dodgy science but a failure to communicate on the part of climate scientists. I'd have to agree.

    And so I responded to the NYTs piece thusly:

    There is no doubt (in the science community - sceptics and warmists alike) that a doubling of CO2 (absent any other effects) will produce a 1 deg C rise in the Earth's temperature. Not very exciting.

    Where it gets tricky is the water vapor amplification factor. Warmists claim it will increase the warming from CO2 by 1.5X to 3 or 4X. i.e. from 1 C from CO2 to 1.5 to 4 C for CO2 plus water vapor. The sceptics say the amplification is around .5 i.e. the 1 C from CO2 is reduced to .5C.

    Now the warmist community (as well as the sceptics) admit that the effects of water vapor are the least understood part of climate science. So we are fed alarms based on what is currently incomplete science. And you know what? None of the scientists in the warmist camp explain this to the public.

    There is your communication failure.

    We are getting partial truth gussied up as certainty. I'm sure that is not the communication failure they were hinting at.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:26 AM | Comments (0)

    Who Ya Gonna Call?

    From the comments in a New York Times piece on why so many engineers in the Muslim world are terrorists:

    In every field
    and every endeavor
    there are those who are just
    as crazy as ever.
    But even the crazy
    see one thing clear:
    If you want something done,
    call an engineer.

    Robert Marino

    H/T #2 Son via e-mail

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:55 PM | Comments (1)

    Climate "Science" Is Ruining Everything

    Clayton Cramer is expounding at length on why pot should not be legalized. He cites a government funded study. In the comments I found this:

    13. Roux's Papa:

    Well - having used pot twice in my life and the second time experiencing a debilitating effect that would truly alarm a vibrant young man and exactly at the wrong time. So, I got religion and prayed that everything would be alright and my deal with GOD was that I would never use it again. GOD kept his end of the bargain and I kept mine. The point of this story that happened almost 45 years ago is that I am not a user or purveyor of the substance. However, I strongly favor legalization and as for the STUDIES? Hey, you offer grants to study something - My life depends on continuing research grants - I love money - I want to please you - tell me the desired results that you are seeking - deliver money and I will deliver the desired results.

    After the Global Warming fiasco, I find it extremely pathetic that members of the general public would continue to fund,with their tax dollars, and believe scientists. The Scientific Community ranks alongside Politicians, Lawyers and Ponzi Schemers in trustworthiness. Any test or study can be manipulated to deliver desired results. The results in this article are like all other Scientific?!!? research??!!?? another desired result produced for $$$$$$$$. In all things SEEK THE TRUTH by following the $$$$$$ MONEY $$$$$$ TRAIL !!$$$$$$

    So climate scientists aren't the only corrupters of science. This is good to know.

    Note that Eric has also taken a look at the "scientific" report cited from a slightly different point of view. Have a read.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:48 PM | Comments (2)

    Reefer Madness -- It worked before. Can it work again?

    Back in the good old 1930s, when radio and talking movies were the rage, few Americans thought to question the voices of authority which issued sanctimonious pronouncements in stentorian tones. "Marihuana" was addictive and dangerous! And all of our youth were at risk to dope peddlers in schoolyards!


    What the authorities wanted most of all was to drum up public support for federal legislation to "stamp out this scourge." A massive propaganda campaign was spearheaded by Federal Narcotics Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger, who testified at congressional hearings that marijuana caused insanity, and who wrote a truly amazing piece titled "Marijuana -- Assassin of Youth" which posited that the weed could turn your kids into psychotic murderers. This was precisely the plot of the now-classic 1936 exploitation film Reefer Madness:


    And of course the rampant, media-fueled hysteria all culminated in the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, but because marijuana still did not disappear, the law was expanded to include draconian penalties in the 1940s and 1050s.

    Forgive my nostalgia, but I love this stuff.


    I don't know whether it's a coincidence or not, but now that people are so sick of these silly and unconstitutional laws that public sentiment has turned against them, there seems to be a revival of the old "reefer madness" meme. A much-ballyhooed recent Lancet study shows a correlation between prolonged marijuana use and the development of psychoses, and it wouldn't surprise me if people started claiming that the 1930s hysteria was actually not hysteria at all, but a form of wisdom. (Would that be Neo-Reefer Madness?)

    The Lancet study is a regurgitation of past research:

    LONDON -- Using marijuana seems to increase the chance of becoming psychotic, researchers report in an analysis of past research that reignites the issue of whether pot is dangerous.

    The new review suggests that even infrequent use could raise the small but real risk of this serious mental illness by 40 percent.

    Doctors have long suspected a connection and say the latest findings underline the need to highlight marijuana's long-term risks. The research, paid for by the British Health Department, is being published Friday in medical journal The Lancet.

    "The available evidence now suggests that cannabis is not as harmless as many people think," said Dr. Stanley Zammit, one of the study's authors and a lecturer in the department of psychological medicine at Cardiff University.

    The researchers said they couldn't prove that marijuana use itself increases the risk of psychosis, a category of several disorders with schizophrenia being the most commonly known.

    There could be something else about marijuana users, "like their tendency to use other drugs or certain personality traits, that could be causing the psychoses," Zammit said.

    Never mind that a predisposition to schizophrenia may correlate with a lot of other things. Tobacco use, anyone?

    Does it matter to anyone that prison is a more dangerous consequence than schizophrenia?

    Anyway, where it comes to statistics, I am always skeptical. I am sure that the right-kind of number crunching could demonstrate that lot of things people don't like are statistically correlated with other social ills. Abortion might correlate with depression (I'd be surprised if it did not), and homosexuality with AIDS. Does that mean that we should imprison these people to save them? I don't think so.

    As a result of these recent reports, though, a number of people are changing their minds. Clayton Cramer no longer supports decriminalizing marijuana, and while I understand his reasoning, it would not matter to me if actual causation were irrefutably demonstrated, because I don't think the government has the right to prevent adult citizens from ingesting whatever they want -- including addictive drugs like heroin, or even deadly poisons like arsenic or strychnine.

    As I keep saying, freedom has its costs.

    ...if there is one lesson I have learned from freedom, it's that there are risks and downsides, and you have to take the good and the bad.

    Economies do not always thrive. The American people are acting like a bunch of babies. (Or whiners as Phil Gramm said). Like gays clamoring to shut down the bathhouses once they got AIDS (which some did).

    Hedonism, the irresponsible fast lane of freedom, is a high risk activity -- whether economic, sexual, or chemical. You cannot have freedom without allowing it, and people are going to get hurt. Ditto, legal guns.

    The problem is, no one wants to hear this.

    Beyond that, the more the government intervenes (as they did in this economy), the greater the demand for more intervention when intervention fails, which it inevitably will.

    True conservatism (at least, the old fashioned kind) involved allowing freedom and encouraging -- not mandating -- responsibility. It's AYOR (at your own risk) stuff, and it's not for children.

    Failure in all these things has to be allowed, but the voters want safety nets and will not allow it.

    There's tragedy in this.

    The tragedy is that in order to save the children, we have to become children. The bigger the safety net, the more we are all entrapped by it. That's because if anyone goes crazy or gets AIDS, that person now becomes everyone's problem. So as we all become gradually reduced to statistics, the individual is erased.

    Politically speaking, individualism is so unworkable as to be a form of madness.

    (I don't doubt that individual resistance to the communitarian impulse could be correlated with insanity....)

    MORE: Sean Kinsell has a great piece about the government as an instrument of collective will:

    Yes, the federal government is an instrument--"expression" sounds weird to me there--of our collective will. That's exactly why it should be smaller. Americans have principled disagreements over a lot of issues. Getting together and talking about them can help establish goodwill and make things less contentious, but that doesn't mean we're ever going to be able to agree on most of them. Whatever you want to say about the air, state power would be better used if it were contained as much as possible. Competition and the right of exit allow citizens to make the trade-offs that best suit them; collectivism and central planning force citizens to adjust their aspirations to Washington's master plan. It's all very well to use the federal government to "address collective problems," but we still have to decide what those problems are and are not.
    Lots of people blame the "progressivism" of Woodrow Wilson, but I think it was in the 1930s that the idea of using the government to "address collective problems" really became deeply established in the American conscience. (Big Government, aided by Big Media, was a world-wide fad at the time.)

    My worry is that it might have become ineradicably established.

    posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

    In fake wars, winning and losing are the same strategy

    As M. Simon made clear in his post about a recycled story, things are going worse than we thought in the Drug War (rapidly approaching its centennial).

    The drug war is touted as one war worth fighting. Does anyone still believe that any more? And what is the lead in every single article? It is worse than we thought. Worse than ever before. Of course we get the same drivel in climate war news. It is always worse than we thought.
    But according to the warrior elites, when things are worse than we thought, that means we must redouble our efforts!

    But when things are better than we thought, that also means we must redouble our efforts!

    The implied threat is that we will lose. Either because we are losing because we didn't fight hard enough, or because we stand to lose what we have already fought to win!

    All bases are covered. Americans don't want to lose wars. Attaching the word "war" to a social problem is the best way to ensure that government solutions will never go away.

    Why do people fall for it so easily?

    posted by Eric at 12:50 PM | Comments (2)

    "All our theories were wrong."

    Justin pointed me to a fascinating Newsweek report about a new archeological find at Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey which turns conventional knowledge of early human on its head:

    Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn't just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago--a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture--the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember--the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.
    Like many college students who took archaeology, I was taught that 11,500 years ago would have been in the Stone Age, barely into the post-Pleistocene, post-Mesolithic period, and at the very beginning of the Neolithic Period, when our ancestors would have still been making flint arrowheads to kill wild beasts. Probably not yet farming, and definitely not building sophisticated buildings like these:
    ...Across the hill, he has found carved and polished circles of stone, with terrazzo flooring and double benches. All the circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that evoke the monoliths of Easter Island.

    Though not as large as Stonehenge--the biggest circle is 30 yards across, the tallest pillars 17 feet high--the ruins are astonishing in number. Last year Schmidt found his third and fourth examples of the temples. Ground-penetrating radar indicates that another 15 to 20 such monumental ruins lie under the surface. Schmidt's German-Turkish team has also uncovered some 50 of the huge pillars, including two found in his most recent dig season that are not just the biggest yet, but, according to carbon dating, are the oldest monumental artworks in the world.

    So it appears to be back-to-the-drawing board time:
    The new discoveries are finally beginning to reshape the slow-moving consensus of archeology. Gobekli Tepe is "unbelievably big and amazing, at a ridiculously early date," according to Ian Hodder, director of Stanford's archeology program. Enthusing over the "huge great stones and fantastic, highly refined art" at Gobekli, Hodder--who has spent decades on rival Neolithic sites--says: "Many people think that it changes everything...It overturns the whole apple cart. All our theories were wrong."
    It makes me wonder how many other things that we take for granted are wrong. We laugh at beliefs from the Middle Ages, yet in the future, many of today's theories will probably be long-debunked, and equally amusing.

    While it would be a major error to conclude that everything we know is wrong (because a lot of it is right), the findings so far at Gobekli Tepe would seem to confirm the wisdom of healthy skepticism.

    Meanwhile, I'm sure the new findings will be hotly debated by the guardians of the old consensus.

    MORE: Author Tom Knox makes an interesting but somewhat fanciful case that Gobekli Tepe was a temple in the Garden of Eden.

    posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (9)

    Recycled Story

    It appears that our drug prohibition enforcement agencies are in need of a PR boost. Why do I say that? Because they are recycling this story.

    Drug gangs taking over US public lands

    Not far from Yosemite's waterfalls and in the middle of California's redwood forests, Mexican drug gangs are quietly commandeering U.S. public land to grow millions of marijuana plants and using smuggled immigrants to cultivate them.

    Pot has been grown on public lands for decades, but Mexican traffickers have taken it to a whole new level: using armed guards and trip wires to safeguard sprawling plots that in some cases contain tens of thousands of plants offering a potential yield of more than 30 tons of pot a year.

    Well this story has been done before.

    Nov 2009

    October 2008

    August 2008

    June 2007

    August 2006

    May 2005

    June 2003

    April 2001

    Nov 1996

    This one is funny:

    Nov 1989

    The drug war is touted as one war worth fighting. Does anyone still believe that any more? And what is the lead in every single article? It is worse than we thought. Worse than ever before. Of course we get the same drivel in climate war news. It is always worse than we thought.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:51 PM | Comments (3)

    Can a zebra change his spots? Yes he can!

    Roger Kimball thinks Al Gore has become quite a comedian, and cites with devastating approval his recent column in the New York Times:

    It is just lovely that the New York Times -- the world's most discredited newspaper -- would give so thoroughly discredited a mountebank this lavish soapbox upon which to make a fool of himself. Next stop, Hyde Park Corner -- or maybe a padded cell.
    Likewise, Matt Drudge is having a ball with Al Gore -- playing lost and found in the snow!


    (The link goes to the same Times piece that Roger Kimball found so entertaining.)

    As I like comedy, I thought I would come to the gratuitous defense of Al Gore the comedian. I think some of what he said would actually sound OK if applied in another context properly recontexted. Like this:

    We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands.
    That would be a perfectly appropriate thing to say about the need to so something about "entitlements" like Social Security or Medicare. The above words might draw cheers before a Tea Party crowd if uttered in that context.

    At the risk of sounding a bit fantastic, I think Al Gore (who no longer has to run for office) might give some consideration to rebadging himself. What's to lose? The fact that he might look ridiculous? He's already looking completely ridiculous, and you can't get any more ridiculous than that. According to the saturation principle (especially as applied in SCUBA diving), once you are saturated with something, more becomes inconsequential, and there's no particular risk.

    Despite Frank Rich's insistence that the Tea Partiers are far-right terrorists, Nancy Pelosi has already greased the skids for Al Gore by saying,

    "We share some of the views of the Tea Partiers."
    Considering his present state of saturated buffoonery, Al Gore could easily take that a step further, and claim that he invented "took the initiative in creating" the Tea Parties. And why not? After all, did he not also take the initiative in creating something almost as maligned as Tea Parties?
    Throughout most of my life, I raised tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I've hoed it. I've dug in it. I've sprayed it, I've chopped it, I've shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it.
    What's not to like about that? Now I realize that Gore later declared that cigarette smoking causes global warming, but that was only to demonstrate the hilarious truth of another of his obviously comedic hypotheses:
    A zebra does not change its spots.
    Don't laugh. There really is such an animal, and there's even a book about it:


    I haven't read the book, so I don't know whether there's a happy ending, much less a moral lesson.

    But it's a tragedy to think that global warming might lead to the extinction of the spotted zebra.

    MORE: On Facebook, John Hawkins quotes Al Gore with approval:

    "I, for one, genuinely wish that the climate crisis were an illusion."
    Replies John, "Your wish has been granted, Al."

    Considering that the "climate crisis" is an illusion Al Gore "took the initiative in creating," maybe it's time to just fess up. (He could always claim that he was the first man to receive the Nobel Prize in Magic.)

    MORE: Lest we forget, Al Gore is also a bible-waving fanatic!


    posted by Eric at 12:31 PM | Comments (3)

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