Wasn't the buggy whip industry once too big to fail?

While I don't know how socialist a country has to become before it stops working, I think we're fixing to find out pretty soon unless something happens to reverse the tide.

But I learned something fascinating in the past couple of days which made me wonder how entrenched a particular well-entrenched technology industry might become before it stops working.

Let me explain by backing up a bit. (with apologies to my geekier readers who will no doubt be rolling their eyes over my slowness). It's been taking me a little while to get up to speed on Linux (which I used to enjoy back in the 90s when you had to be much more of a geek than you do now), but one of the biggest thrills I've had lately was to make several bootable, fully operational, turnkey operating systems, out of almost nothing but a few spare parts I had lying around.

These spare parts:


There are three types of memory displayed there:

  • 2 Compact Flash (CF) memory cards (one 128 and the other 256 megabytes);
  • 3 Secure Digital (SD) memory cards (two 512 megabytes and one 4 Gigabytes); and
  • one old clunker 4.3 Gigabyte IDE hard drive (with an attached USB cable).
  • All except the 128 CF (which is too small) and the 4 Gigabyte SD (which goes in my camera) were used to create fully bootable, fully operational Linux operating systems which will run any computer which has a BIOS allowing USB devices to be set to boot. Nearly all do these days, but even the older ones can still be set to boot a CF drive in the PCMCIA adaptor. Which means that those small pieces of plastic can operate virtually any conventional PC. So can the even tinier Micro Drives (although although they said to be less stable than the larger cards and unsuitable for frequent write cycles.)

    Now, because of the size limitation, I have been using Puppy and Slax, both of which are designed to be small, and which boot just perfectly from the 256 megabyte SD memory sticks.

    But with the 4.3 Gigabyte hard drive, I had plenty of space left. As I would had I used my 4 Gigabyte camera memory stick.


    Notice anything about them? They are the same memory size! But look at the difference in physical size! And consider how complicated the hard drive is; it consists of God knows how many tiny moving parts, which have to be assembled, which draw electricity to run, and which break down in a relatively short amount of time. No surprise considering that they're constantly rotating metal platters with magnetic arms waving around.

    It was when I was thinking that over that alarm bells went off. Suddenly it became painfully obvious to me that the mechanical hard drive industry is doomed.

    This is not news for industry analysts, who have known it for some time. Here's Gary Krakow in 2007, in an MSNBC piece titled "Your hard drive is now obsolete":

    In addition to being reliable, these drives are fast. SanDisk claims a sustained read rate of 62 megabytes per second and a random read rate of 7,000 inputs/outputs per second. In plain English, that means it's more than 100 times faster than most current hard disk drives.

    I can't begin to tell you what this ultimately means for the computer, PDA, cell phone and portable music device industries. The only thing that might slow down SSD acceptability is the price. Currently, SanDisk's 32GB SSD will sell for $600. But, I would expect that price will drop as more and more companies choose solid-state drives.

    I don't know what their regular solid state drives go for now, but the 32 Gigabyte CF cards sell now for around $75.00 on Ebay.

    And for 99 cents including shipping from China, you can get one of these:


    That (with the CF card inserted into it) will plug right into your laptop's IDE hard drive socket, and you'll have a faster machine which will no make that whiny hard drive noise, and which won't waste nearly as much battery life.

    I just spring for a buck so I can play around with building my own solid state hard drives. Granted, a 30 GB magnetic hard drive can now be had used for less than a CF card, and I recently replaced one in my laptop, but knowing what I know now, I might have tried replacing it with a memory stick and an adaptor. The smaller the drive, the more sense it makes.*

    And the flash drives will keep getting cheaper.

    This will surprise no one who is up on the technology, but it came as somewhat of a revelation for me. I would not want to be in the mechanical hard drive business right now, as things are going to change fast:

    Mechanical hard drives with spinning disks are doomed to extinction, thanks to solid state flash drives that are becoming cheaper and offering greater capacity by the month. At least that's how some in the data storage industry see it.

    Outwardly, there's a convincing logic to this argument, especially when you consider what's happened in other markets where devices with moving parts faced competition from solid state electronics. Televisions, telephony and radio equipment, clocks, automobile ignition ... the list is endless, and in every case it's ended up with the same result: solid state electronic devices have won because they are cheaper to make, more reliable, and offer similar or (usually) superior performance.

    So when it comes to storage planning, it's sensible to at least consider when flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) might take over from conventional hard disk drives (HDDs). Right now, SSDs are significantly more expensive per gigabyte than HDDs, and while they offer very fast read speeds, they suffer from slower write speeds, and from the limited number of times flash cells can be written to before they wear out.

    He estimates that in three years, prices will be competitive, but just from what I have seen in playing around, when you get down to the 30 Gigabyte or less, they already are competitive, and only a nut like me would even bother formatting and installing a bootable OS on a 4.3 Gigabyte hard drive.

    However, another analyst argues that it's the solid state drives that are doomed, as performance degrades. It seems that there ought to be a way to make them re-formattable, and it would not surprise me if software is developed that renews worn out flash cells. But for now, he has a point; they do seem to have a limited life. One expert explains why this happens:

    The "problem" is that memory can be flashed only so many times. I'm finding numbers between 10,000 and 100,000 times - though as with anything, I'm sure that is increasing over time as well. Regardless, there is a limit. When that limit is approached, some portion of the memory may not properly remember what was written to it, resulting in corruption. It may only take a single bit of information to be wrong, or to "wear out", for the entire contents of a flash memory chip to be lost.

    Scary, huh?

    Yes, it is scary (especially because it sounds like what's happening in all of our brains), but it's also an argument in favor of backing up regularly onto some other medium, as well as free Linux (as opposed to expensive, non DIY systems like Windows).

    And according to the Wiki entry on the subject, the above author may be pessimistic about the lifespan, because it's longer than he says, is getting longer, and the warranties are now comparable to magnetic hard drives:

    Another limitation is that flash memory has a finite number of erase-write cycles. Most commercially available flash products are guaranteed to withstand around 100,000 write-erase-cycles, before the wear begins to deteriorate the integrity of the storage.[8] Micron Technology and Sun Microsystems announced an SLC flash memory chip rated for 1,000,000 write-erase-cycles on December 17, 2008.


    There is also some concern that the finite number of erase/write cycles of flash memory would render flash memory unable to support an operating system. This seems to be a decreasing issue as warranties on flash-based SSDs are approaching those of current hard drives.

    One of the things I have noticed over the years is that problems like flash cell wear invite solutions through better technological improvements. Were I in the hard drive business, I would throw every dollar I could find into developing and patenting something -- anything -- to prevent or repair flash cell wear. But all in all, it doesn't seem to be a problem if your goal is to breathe new life into an old laptop.

    Or even a desktop.

    In that regard, let me humbly share something I found for sale on Ebay which just blew me away:


    From the listing:

    1.The compact flash card specification is fully IDE compatible which allows them to be used as hard drive replacements for embedded applications.

    2.Compact Flash to IDE adapter provides an alternative for data storage.

    3.No software driver needed.

    4.Back panel version and Bootable.

    Etc. (Of course it's bootable; the hard drive cable connects to it on the inside, and then plugs directly into the motherboard.)

    Think about the possibilities. If you are running your computer on that instead of a hard drive, you could simply pull the thing out of the back of your machine every time you went on vacation, whenever you left your house, or for that matter whenever the PC Nazis came knocking at the door. Your tiny piece of plastic could be hidden anywhere, incinerated on a gas stove or with a propane torch, or thrown into a vat of battery acid. Poof! No more hard drive! I suspect such things cause a lot of grief in law enforcement/data sleuthing circles, but the important thing here is individual autonomy and privacy of the end user.

    If the goal is having control over your computer, the flash drives win hands down.

    At any rate, I sure hope the government doesn't decide the hard drive industry is too big to fail.

    *I think I forgot to mention that flash memory cards do not break if you drop them. (But that's obvious, right?)

    posted by Eric at 11:37 PM | Comments (6)

    Beaver Nation

    While reading a review of the book Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History I came across this interesting tit bit (British spelling).

    Then there's the year 1620, when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth. Instead of seeing this as the first great turning point in the nation's colonial history, the date "when America began," Bunker argues that we might consider 1628 as an alternative. That was the year that colonial leaders sailed up the Kennebec River in southern Maine to establish a half-forgotten trading post at a place called Cushnoc, staking their claim as New England's primary dealers in beaver pelts. Only by investing in that highly desirable commodity did the settlers finally prove themselves to be more that mere "dabblers, clinging to their footholds along the coast." Beaver skins -- the single way "the Pilgrims could find the money to pay their debts and finance new supplies from home" -- transformed a tenuous, fragile community into something permanent.
    Funny thing is that my first mate did a lot of trapping when she was growing up. We were talking about it the other day and #1 daughter was not amused. And #1 daughter is also not amused with the first mate's proficiency in firearms. I'm hoping that once she gets more real wold experience her attitude will change.

    Popular history is that the Pilgrims went hungry due to bad luck.

    The official story has the pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing the Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farming techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration, and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.

    The official story then has the Pilgrims living more or less happily ever after, each year repeating the first Thanksgiving. Other early colonies also have hard times at first, but they soon prosper and adopt the annual tradition of giving thanks for this prosperous new land called America.

    The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

    In his 'History of Plymouth Plantation 1620 - 1647,' the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with "corruption," and with "confusion and discontent." The crops were small because "much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.

    So a society based on communal profits and theft does not work well. Where is the USSR when you need them?
    But in subsequent years something changes. The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, "instead of famine now God gave them plenty," Bradford wrote, "and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God." Thereafter, he wrote, "any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.
    So what did work?
    ... in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.

    Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results. At Jamestown, established in 1607, out of every shipload of settlers that arrived, less than half would survive their first twelve months in America. Most of the work was being done by only one-fifth of the men, the other four-fifths choosing to be parasites. In the winter of 1609-10, called "The Starving Time," the population fell from five-hundred to sixty.

    Then the Jamestown colony was converted to a free market, and the results were every bit as dramatic as those at Plymouth. In 1614, Colony Secretary Ralph Hamor wrote that after the switch there was "plenty of food, which every man by his own industry may easily and doth procure." He said that when the socialist system had prevailed, "we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now."

    So how socialist does a country have to become before it stops working? I don't want to find out.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:25 PM | Comments (5)

    breaking from break

    I have found that sometimes the best way to determine whether you're really sick of something is to "take a break" from it. I haven't written about politics for the last few days because I am so sick to death of it, and while you might think that taking a break from something you hate would make the hatred of it diminish, in my case it has the opposite effect. That's because I get this hard--to-describe sense of almost being free. Of liberation, if you will. And then there's that tugging sense of having to write something for the blog. I look at the news, and every day there are new events which simply trigger the same old hopelessly intractable arguments. Like there's an oil spill. Big fucking deal. Shit happens, and the left tries to score political points which they will thanks to the MSM and organized activists. And of course there is the unending immigration debate. I've said what I think about that many times and I just don't feel like talking about it right now. Fortunately, Sarah wrote a great post with which I wholeheartedly agree. I also liked this PJM piece by Gus Van Horn. And of course what Glenn Reynolds said. So that means I don't really need to say anything about immigration, much less argue about immigration. And most readers know how I feel about environmentalism.


    What I'd really like to take a break from is the feeling of obligation that always seems to be exacerbated by "taking a break."

    posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (5)

    Government Helicopters are turning my dog into a conspiracy theorist!

    Ann Arbor is a college town, and is generally pretty quiet except when there are big football games. That makes this neighborhood a bit of a zoo, but it's not too bad.

    However, in the year and ten months I have been here, I have never seen anything quite like what's going on right now. I live a block and a half from Michigan Stadium, where the university will be holding the commencement ceremony on Saturday. I understand that such a thing will necessarily make Saturday crazy around here, but it's already crazy -- much crazier than usual, and today is only Thursday. The main street which runs through town has been closed with police roadblocks, and this has diverted car and bus traffic onto the side streets, so I am seeing and hearing (and feeling) city buses and huge trucks lumbering right past the house.

    And the helicopters! Wow. They are flying low and circling, and they don't look like any I've seen before. I went out just now with my camera and took a few photos. There were at least four flying in formation -- a couple of single-bladed choppers like this:


    And at least two double-bladed ones like this:


    Even during the football games (including the manic Big Game against Ohio State), I've never seen any commotion like this -- especially two days before an event.

    Much as I have tried to get her to listen to reason, poor Coco thinks the neighborhood is being invaded, and she is in a panic state and will not stop incessantly barking at the constant and unusual noises.

    As to exactly what is going on, if I had to play detective I would speculate that all of this abnormal fussing going on two days before the event has something to do with the fact that the commencement speaker is to be Barack Obama. But how do I explain to Coco that all this commotion which is bothering her is not a conspiracy against her, but is happening only because various agencies are doing their job? How do I tell her that it will be worse tomorrow, and that Saturday will be something again?

    Unlike the football games (which are always sold out) they have enough left over tickets that they're going to be providing them to the general public.

    And -- get this -- the UM students are hoping he'll avoid politics!

    With graduation just days away, University of Michigan students anticipating President Barack Obama's commencement speech hope he'll inspire them and stay away from politics.

    "I feel graduation is more for students, and I don't want it to be overshadowed by a speaker," U-M sophomore Emily Bonchi said.

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an ethanol plant in Macon, Mo., Wednesday.

    While the subject of Obama's speech is unknown, that hasn't stopped students from speculating about his topic and voicing their own ideas.

    "I would like to hear about Obama's personal success and less policy," said U-M student Alex Bade, who is graduating with a degree in civil engineering. "I want to hear Barack Obama the scholar, not the president."

    I'm with them, because I hate politics. I hope he doesn't try to lecture them about the need to save the environment or be "community activists" or something. Like, I was sitting here minding my own business and avoiding politics while dutifully experimenting with various Linux distributions (including Puppy, my latest love), and worrying about large hard drives in older laptops with BIOSes that don't have 48-bit LBA support, when Coco's barking reminded me that the president would soon be in my neighborhood, and that all politics is local or something. Perhaps I should tell Coco it's time to think globally.

    Speaking of local politics, a group of Latinos are walking all the way from Detroit in order to rally for "immigration reform":

    Latinos are planning to rally in Michigan this weekend for immigration reform -- including a group of students who left today from a Detroit high school and are walking to Ann Arbor in advance of President Obama's talk on Saturday, said community activists.

    Elena Herrada said the students left at about 9 a.m. from Western International High School in southwest Detroit and plan to be in Ann Arbor to ask President Obama for immigration reform. Obama is set to speak Saturday at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

    What's the matter? Aren't they happy with the immigration reform that's already taking place in Arizona?

    (Putting on my detective hat again, I would guess not. But wouldn't you think they'd be grateful to have a president who's accused in some circles of being an illegal alien? Sheesh.)

    posted by Eric at 04:27 PM | Comments (3)

    Adopt A Loser

    The Democrats appear to be adopting another losing position when it comes to the Banking Bill.

    With crucial midterm elections nearing, Democrats have lost the advantage they've held for years as the party the public trusts to steer the economy.
    I wonder if that loss of trust has anything to do with the banking bill proposals? In theory (whose?) there are supposed to be strict limits on Government borrowing for bailouts. In practice? Well it may not work out that way.
    The Wall Street reform bill headed for a test vote on the Senate floor Monday night will allow the Federal Reserve to continue to pump trillions of dollars into major banks largely in secrecy, the co-author of House language that would open the central bank to an audit charged in a memo to the Senate.

    "The Senate has a provision in its reform bill that purports to audit the Fed. But, it really doesn't do anything of the sort. I'm going to run down the details for you, and reprint the legislative language so you can read it yourself," writes Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).

    It would not allow the GAO to look into the Fed's massive purchase of toxic assets, its hundreds of billions in foreign currency swaps with other central banks or its open market operations, among other restrictions.

    I'm convinced that there are never any accidents, oversights, or loopholes when it comes to drafting legislation. There are paid for holes and gratuitous holes. Never loop holes. Because if what Congress does is not intentional then what do we have? That would mean they do not even rise to the level of a Parliament of Whores.

    The bail out "loop hole" is not the only criticism of the bill.
    Relatively small institutions compared to the names often cited in the news, community banks typically operate in small towns, urban neighborhoods or the suburbs. Their remit usually involves funding small businesses that require credit in order to operate payrolls and to expand, and lending to families financing home purchases or college. Many of those familiar with the banking industry, overall, say that community banks bore little to no responsibility, on balance, for the financial meltdown that occurred in 2008. Nonetheless, an analysis of the Dodd bill indicates that if it passes, community banks will be subject to a whopping 27 new regulations that one individual who has worked with banks professionally and is closely tracking the legislation says "could threaten to put many community bankers out of business, thus reducing competition in the banking sector overall, and diminishing consumer choices."
    And that friends is how the government cartelizes the economy. They regulate the competition out of business.

    And then there are the corporate governance issues.

    Another handoff to unelected bureaucrats, this time at the SEC rather than at the Federal Reserve. They did so well with Madoff, why not give them the additional job of rewriting Amerian corporate governance? The "investors and pension holders" that Mr. Obama really has in mind are things like the New York and California state pension funds that have already been troubled by scandals and politicization. Shareholders have a role in corporations, as even good capitalists like Carl Icahn recognize. But using the proxy power to take control of companies away from management and directors and into the hands of radicals is straight out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.
    The question is: why are these economy wreckers doing what they are doing? Is it really revolution by legislation? Stupidity? Campaign donations?

    Or just help friends and hurt enemies.

    Section 972 of the bill authorizes the SEC to require firms to allow shareholders to nominate directors in proxy statement. Such proxy access turns corporate board elections from a process designed to ensure that each board has a good mix of skills and experience into a popularity contest where the long-term interests of the stockholders become secondary to political agendas or corporate raiders. The process can also be used by labor unions, politicians who manage public pension funds, and others to force corporations to respond to pet social or political causes.
    But that is not all. The real corker in my opinion is the silent Inspector General. You never heard what he didn't say? I think that is the point:
    Does nothing to address problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two government-sponsored housing giants helped fuel the housing bubble. When it popped, taxpayers--because of an implicit guarantee by the U.S. Treasury--found themselves on the hook for some $125 billion in bailout money. Not only has little of this amount been paid back, but the Treasury Department recently eliminated the cap on how much more Fannie and Freddie can receive. Yet the bill does nothing to resolve the problem or reform these government-run enterprises.
    I discussed some of that in The Best Congress Fannie Could Buy and Barney Frank Frankly Not Frank and ACORN Is Not About Nuts and probably a few other places.

    The root cause of all this is the belief that a badly run corporation sucked dry by unions and management can be reformed by government intervention. I admit of the possibility. I deny the likelihood.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:22 PM | Comments (1)

    It Would Take A Miracle

    Friends, Americans, countrymen, I bring you tidings of great joy - contrary to everything you hear in the media, to the cries of racism from the usual, loud quarters - we do not have an illegal immigration problem. Much less do we have a racism-against-hispanic-immigrants problem.

    No, I'm not saying that there are no illegal immigrants in the country or that some people don't feel uppitty about brown-skinned folk who speak Spanish - or even those like me, olive skinned with a Portuguese accent. More on this later. I'm simply saying that this is not our main, or even an auxiliary problem.

    Our problem is very simple. We have legislators who do not understand the nature or the limits of their power. Like King Canute commanding the sea, (only he was brighter and did it for a lesson in limits - his imitators are NOT that bright) they have tried to legislate over natural law. Whenever this happens the result is an ugly distortion and in this case one that is - if not killing this country - making everything - even the cherished welfare-state of our liberal friends - much more difficult.

    Continue reading "It Would Take A Miracle"

    posted by Sarah at 04:14 PM | Comments (7)


    No, I do not advocate such a thing, but that was a very popular leftist slogan in the late '60s and early '70s. There were buttons, posters, songs, and films.

    Take a look at this vintage 1968 film, and see the kids singing "OFF THE PIGS!"

    I don't think anyone was ever prosecuted for using that slogan, seditious as it sounds. That's because you can't prosecute someone for the expression of an evil idea -- even ferocious advocacy of what would today be called "eliminationist rhetoric."

    Glenn Reynolds is less than confident in the government's handling of the Hutaree militia case so far, and I can understand why. It may be that they just aren't saying what they have on these nutcases, but right now it doesn't look like they have much:

    An FBI agent who led the investigation of nine Michigan militia members charged with trying to launch war against the federal government couldn't recall many details of the two-year probe yesterday during questioning by defense lawyers.

    Even the judge who must decide whether to release the nine until trial was puzzled.

    "I share the frustrations of the defense team ... that she doesn't know anything," U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said after agent Leslie Larsen confessed she hadn't reviewed her notes recently and couldn't remember specific details of the case.

    They do have an audio tape of some murderous-sounding anti-police chatter, though:
    Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet played an audiotape of what he said were several militia members talking freely about killing police.

    The participants talked over each other, often laughed and made goofy noises and disparaging remarks about law enforcement.

    In the legal sense, that's not much different than a group of Black Panthers sitting around and saying the time has come to off the pigs.

    But as we all know, it isn't eliminationist rhetoric unless it's coming from the right!

    posted by Eric at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

    Questioning the wisdom of genital inconsistency

    They say that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and while I hate to foolishly insist on consistency, I nonetheless found my consistently foolish inner hobgoblin was activated by Dr. Helen's PJM insightful piece about society's very different attitudes toward genital assaults on males as opposed to genital assaults on females.

    no one notices or cares about violence against men's genitals, except to poke fun of those men who are kicked or hit in the balls. People even make fun of men whose penises are severed, as in the case of John Wayne Bobbitt. I think Kevin is correct -- no one cares or deals much with the trauma this act may cause to men. I often see shows where a man is kicked in the groin and this is often depicted as funny or "no big deal." Imagine the uproar if a women were punched in the breast on a television show. It is unthinkable.
    It certainly is unthinkable, and I was immediately reminded that advocating sexual violence against men has long been a part of the feminist movement. One of organized, mainstream feminism's icons was Valerie Solanas, a woman who shot Andy Warhol (he nearly died) and wrote an murderous tract called the S.C.U.M. manifesto, which specifically called for "gendercide" (the killing of men -- SCUM stands for "Society for the Cutting Up of Men"). Far from appealing only to feminism's lunatic fringes, Solanas was embraced by the movement's mainstream leadership:
    Feminist Robin Morgan (later editor of Ms. magazine) demonstrated for Solanas' release from prison. Ti-Grace Atkinson, the New York chapter president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), described Solanas as "the first outstanding champion of women's rights."[9] Another member, Florynce Kennedy, represented Solanas at her trial, calling her "one of the most important spokeswomen of the feminist movement."[9]
    Little wonder that sexually mutilating men has become funny.

    Noting the laughter over violence directed men's genitalia, Dr. Helen advocates fighting back over against double standard:

    The media and society seem to encourage it with jokes, gags, and laughs every time a man's genitals are damaged. I think we should all fight back against this abuse, for the repercussions of young men being damaged in this way are devastating. They include depression, suicide, and taking out the abuse on others as well as themselves. The sadistic men and women who laugh at this type of assault should be called out by all of us who care about the future of males in this country. We've all been told rape jokes aren't funny, and society has gotten the message. Why is the genital assault of men any different?
    I don't know why. In logic, it certainly should not be any different, but I think the double standard cannot be blamed solely on feminism. It is partially fueled by the traditional male tendency to be more tolerant of violence directed against men than against women.

    When I was a kid, I was told "NEVER HIT A GIRL!" I was a very small kid, and I remember there was this one huge athletic girl who towered over me, and once when she was visiting the house, she physically provoked me into wanting to defend myself. My father instantly intervened and upbraided me -- telling me that she was a girl and that I must behave like a gentleman, and never hit a girl -- not even in self defense. So I learned that if you did get into a fight with a girl, you could never admit it. Saying "She hit me first!" would itself have been an admission of guilt. Even today, if some psychotic woman were to attack me, I would be very hesitant to use force, and if I did I would probably get the hell out of there ASASP, as I would expect the cops to take her side automatically.

    While the different standard for general violence is not quite the same as that for sexual violence, I think it does shed some light on why men tend to minimize or diminish harm done to them by women.

    Anyway, this very uncomfortable topic reminded me that in Western culture, there are very different societal standards where it comes to female genital mutilation (FGM) than for male genital mutilation.

    As you see, right there, I ran afoul of the standard. Male circumcision cannot be called mutilation. The only people who would call it that are kooks. It is circumcision, and it is far less invasive than what is done to female genitalia, so decades ago, the word "mutilation" was attached to the latter practice in order to distinguish it from the former:

    Support for the term female genital mutilation grew in the late 1970s. The word "mutilation" not only established a clear linguistic distinction from male circumcision, but also emphasized the putative gravity of the act. In 1990 the term was adopted at the third conference of the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC) in Addis Ababa. In 1991, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the UN adopt this terminology, which it did.[10]
    But not so fast. There's a more recent movement afoot to stop using the word "mutilation" to describe FGM, lest we offend the mutilators:
    Because the term female genital mutilation has been criticized for increasing the stigma associated with female genital surgery, some groups have proposed an alteration, substituting the word "cutting" for "mutilation." According to a joint WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA statement, the use of the word "mutilation" reinforces the idea that this practice is a violation of the human rights of girls and women, and thereby helps promote national and international advocacy towards its abandonment. They state that, at the community level, however, the term can be problematic; and that local languages generally use the less judgmental "cutting" to describe the practice. They also state that parents resent the suggestion that they are "mutilating" their daughters. In 1999, the UN Special Rapporteur on Traditional Practices called for tact and patience regarding activities in this area and drew attention to the risk of "demonizing" certain cultures, religions, and communities. As a result, the term "cutting" has come to be used when trying to avoid alienating communities.[12]

    In 1996, the Uganda-based initiative REACH (Reproductive, Educative, And Community Health) began using the term "FGC", observing that "FGM" may "imply excessive judgment by outsiders as well as insensitivity toward individuals who have undergone some form of genital excision."[13] The UN uses "FGM" in official documents, while some of its agencies, such as the UN Population Fund, use both the terms "FGM" and "FGC".[14][15]

    So tolerance for this awful practice ebbs and flows according to the fickle whims of lefties and the new "feminists" who don't want to offend people who mutilate little girls.

    I admit, it's tough to keep track of these standards, and I digress, because the point here is that in the West, male circumcision is tolerated, while any sort of female sexual mutilation is considered horrific by the overwhelming majority. Now, I realize the practices are very different, so it is totally inaccurate to call a clitoridectomy a circumcision, just as it really isn't accurate to call male circumcision "mutilation." But isn't that because circumcision is socially approved? (According to the map here, the practice is prevalent in the United States, Canada, the Mideast, and Africa, but not in the rest of the world.) Or I am foolishly insisting on consistency by posing that question? Bear in mind that I am not an anti-circumcision activist. I don't especially care what people choose to do to their babies, especially if it is done for reasons of health or religion, and I don't mean to make a huge deal out of it.

    I'm just wondering whether it's reflective of some prevailing social standard that countenances treating men and their genitalia differently, and whether this standard might result in some of the unconscious attitudes (at least among males) which Dr. Helen identifies.

    posted by Eric at 12:30 PM | Comments (7)

    The rise and fall of values, according to value!

    Via Katherine Mangu-Ward, I read this fun fact:

    Regional alcohol prohibition begat national income taxes which begat national prohibition
    It's all quite well documented at Smithsonian magazine:
    The ASL's [Anti Saloon League's] state-by-state campaign was reasonably effective, particularly in the South. But in 1913, two events led the organization to adopt a new strategy. First, Congress overrode President William Howard Taft's veto of something called the Webb-Kenyon Act, which outlawed the importation of alcoholic beverages into a dry state. The stunning 246 to 95 override vote in the House of Representatives showed not just the power of the anti-liquor forces but also how broadly representative they had become.

    The override was followed by enactment of a national income tax authorized by the recently ratified 16th Amendment. Until 1913, the federal government had depended on liquor taxes for as much as 40 percent of its annual revenue. "The chief cry against national Prohibition," the ASL's executive committee said in a policy statement that April, "has been that the government must have the revenue." But with an income tax replacing the levy on liquor, that argument evaporated, and the ASL could move beyond its piecemeal approach and declare its new goal: "National Prohibition, [to] be secured through the adoption of a Constitutional Amendment."

    Wow. I had not known that 40% of the country's revenue came from alcohol. Little wonder that it was such major stumbling block to national prohibition. Money talks. And it's easy to understand why the new national income tax took so much of the wind out of the opposition's sails.

    While the Smithsonian piece is about a long forgotten lobbyist (Wayne B. Wheeler) who devoted his career to Prohibition as only a single issue fanatic can, it's a very important lesson in how political collusion works -- especially in combination with the unintended consequences of events which would otherwise seem logically unrelated.

    The hugely important (and simultaneous) role of women's suffrage is a classic illustration of how two causes assisted each other symbiotically:

    A resolution calling for a Prohibition amendment had been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1876, but none had ever emerged from committee. And no version of a female suffrage amendment had gotten as far as floor debate in two decades. But in the congressional session of 1914, both were reported out of committee on the same day.

    This was no coincidence. The suffrage movement had long shared a constituency with the anti-liquor movement. Frances Willard and the WCTU campaigned actively for both causes. Susan B. Anthony had first become involved in securing the vote for women when she was denied the right to speak at a temperance convention in 1852 in Albany, New York. By 1899, after half a century of suffrage agitation, Anthony attempted to weld her movement to the Prohibition drive. "The only hope of the Anti-Saloon League's success," she told an ASL official, "lies in putting the ballot into the hands of women." In 1911, Howard Russell's successor as the league's nominal leader, Purley A. Baker, agreed. Women's suffrage, he declared, was "the antidote" to the efforts of the beer and liquor interests.

    Nice trick. The suffrage movement fueled Prohibition, and the prohibition movement fueled suffrage.

    Unholy alliances worked in collusion, with Prohibition making political bedfellows out of such unlikely partners as the IWW and the Ku Klux Klan:

    In fact, Wheeler's devotion to the dream of a dry America accommodated any number of unlikely allies. Billy Sunday, meet pioneering social worker Jane Addams: you're working together now. The evangelical clergy of the age were motivated to support Prohibition because of their faith; reformers like Addams signed on because of the devastating effect that drunkenness had on the urban poor. Ku Klux Klan, shake hands with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW): you're on the same team. The Klan's anti-liquor sentiment was rooted in its hatred of the immigrant masses in liquor-soaked cities; the IWW believed that liquor was a capitalist weapon used to keep the working classes in a stupor.
    And just in the nick of time for Prohibition, the United States entered World War I. This brought anti-German sentiment to a fever pitch, and it was very easy for demagogues to hammer away at the obvious link between Germans and the brewing industry. Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and Miller thus became a sinister Fifth Column, poised to rot America from within :
    A dry Wisconsin politician named John Strange summarized how the ASL was able to use World War I to attain its final goal: "We have German enemies across the water," Strange said. "We have German enemies in this country, too. And the worst of all our German enemies, the most treacherous, the most menacing, are Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz and Miller." That was nothing compared with the anti-German--and pro-Prohibition--feeling that emerged from a Senate investigation of the National German-American Alliance (NGAA), a civic group that during the 1910s had spent much of its energy opposing Prohibition.

    The Senate hearings were a disaster for wets. At a time when most Amerians reviled all things German--when the governor of Iowa declared that speaking German in public was unlawful, and playing Beethoven was banned in Boston, and sauerkraut became known as "liberty cabbage"--the NGAA was an easy target. When the hearings revealed that NGAA funds came largely from the beer barons, and that beer money had secretly secured the purchase of major newspapers in several cities, ratification proceeded, said the New York Tribune, "as if a sailing-ship on a windless ocean were sweeping ahead, propelled by some invisible force."

    Events conspired to create a perfect storm that propelled the 18th Amendment into being. (Of course, in those days, they had to follow the Constitution and respect the rights of states, which is why I call the 18th Amendment "the telltale amendment.")

    In a fascinating irony, "relief" finally came in the form of the Great Depression. Not only were people sick of the law and the crime it brought, but the country desperately needed the revenue.

    In fact, just as tax policy, in the form of the income tax amendment, had paved the way for Prohibition, so did it shape Prohibition's eventual death. Rampant criminality, epidemic disrespect for law and simple exhaustion had turned much of the country against the 18th Amendment by the late '20s, but the arrival of the Great Depression sealed the deal. As income tax revenues plummeted along with incomes, the government was running on empty. With the return of beer alone, Franklin Roosevelt said during his 1932 campaign, the federal treasury would be enriched by hundreds of millions of dollars.
    It wouldn't surprise me if FDR got a lot of votes just for advocating repeal. Some new deals are irresistible.

    Reading through the details of the rise and fall of Prohibition, I'm struck by how little people have changed. Whether that's optimism or pessimism, I don't know.

    Not that my feelings matter, but I feel strangely optimistic.

    posted by Eric at 01:15 PM | Comments (6)

    Clinging bitterly to my old clunker....

    Here's something that strikes me as being of interest to very few readers, but I never know....

    In my ongoing struggle to make an old clunker laptop (a Dell C600 with an 850MHz CPU) into a modern, fast-running Internet machine, I have been experimenting with different Linux distributions. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I began with Ubuntu, which worked quite well (even running from the live CD) and managed to configure itself perfectly in every respect, even finding and bringing up the wireless Wifi card (an Orinico/Lucent/Agere mini-PCI -- the kind which has to have an internal antenna wire).

    The problem, though, is that the card is an older, slower one which does not support WPA encryption, but only the less secure WEP (which even an amateur could hack). As reconfiguring my router for the less-secure WEP is out of the question, I was stuck with outmoded technology, which cannot be upgraded by new drivers, whether in Linux or Windows. But I was intrigued by the way the Linux OS immediately started up the card, and displayed all the nearby networks, and it occurred to me to check Ebay to see whether there is a WPA version. Sure enough, Broadcom has one which fits the PCI slot in the older Dells, and not only does it support WPA, but at 54Mbps it is much faster than my old 11Mbps card.

    Moreover it was cheap. And I mean amazingly dirt cheap; for $4.66 I bought a Broadcom 4318 including shipping -- from China! You'd think the shipping alone would be more than that. Even more amazingly, it arrived in a week's time.

    The problem, though, is that these Broadcom wireless cards are notoriously difficult to install. Even in Windows, I found that while there are a number of drivers available, they didn't work, and I tried and tried. Finally, I learned that Dell had rebadged the Broadcom chipset cards as the 1370 TrueMobile card, and that Dell's downloadable driver might be made to work. It didn't, but finally I read somewhere not to rely on the self installer to install it, but to point to the unpacked files later when the Found Hardware Wizard pops up. It finally worked. (In Windows, after many hours of work.)

    In Linux, though, these cards are considered to be an infinitely larger pain in the ass to configure. They are called "stubborn and infamous" and are so notorious for causing trouble that they cause many people to reject Linux as an OS:

    In the end, many get discouraged with linux and wonder why anyone ever said Linux worked well.
    The problem is so bad that it's called "the BCMxx issue (and "such a showstopper") -- with the BCM chip being called "one of the most notorious wireless chipsets in the Linux community."

    I'm not especially into being a geek, but it occurred to me that in light of all of this fussing that I might use my old laptop with BCM chip as a sort of Linux "challenge" -- to see which would work best in a stubborn old laptop with an even more stubborn and challenging wireless card. While the Ubuntu live CD made the laptop really fly, there's no way I could get it to drive the Broadcom wireless card without going through a long litany of installation commands which are AYOR, and which, because they are not permanent, would be a huge waste of time to do on a temporary OS running off a live CD. So next I tried OpenSUSE. I have used SUSE before and this version looks really cool, but I think it's designed for a faster CPU and more RAM, because on the old Dell it was slow as molasses compared to the Ubuntu. Plus it absolutely would not recognize the wireless card, and again, I didn't want to get into lengthy experimenting with an on-the-fly OS....

    Where was I? (While I was writing this, a couple of Mormon missionaries knocked on the door, and they couldn't have been nicer. I told them I liked the LDS church (which I do, for reasons I spared them) but that Mormonism wasn't for me, and they left.)

    Next I tried Zenwalk Linux. Zenwalk is based on Slackware, which I've used in the past and know to be the real hard core geek Linux. Master Slackware, and you have acquired the skills to become a hacker. I have the greatest of respect for it and for the Slackware community, but not enough patience to be a true believer, or a Slacktivist, or whatever they're calling themselves. But as Zenwalk is supposed to be Slackware repackaged as easier to use, I thought I'd try it. Again, like the OpenSUSE, it was much too cumbersome for the old and tired machine. Not only did everything seem to get stuck, but wireless networking was hopeless, and it would not even come close to configuring the Broadcom card.

    So I had pretty much decided to do a full install of the Ubuntu and then work on the lengthy tweaking when I read about Vector Linux. Another Slackware-based derivative, it has been tantalizingly described as "a better Slackware than Slackware," and has also been praised for its ability to configure the dreaded BCM43xx. Then I read this review, which sold me on it:

    I've read past reviews by other reviewers describing Vector Linux as "better Slackware than Slackware" or "what Slackware should be" and I always felt that was a bit of a stretch. With this release it isn't.
    Unfortunately, the first version I downloaded (which was 5.9) did not work, although it did actually recognize my card, and in response to my query:

    lspci -vnn | grep 14e4

    it spat out the name:

    0001:01:01.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM4318 [AirForce One 54g] 802.11g Wireless LAN Controller [14e4:4318] (rev 02)
    This tantalized me further, and made me think I was on the right track with Vector, but needed a later version. So I downloaded the iso of the 6.0 version of the live CD, burned one, and popped it in.


    It found and configured the cantankerous BCM4318 card right out of the box (or, "ootb") without any configuration, searching for or downloading of drivers or anything. All I needed to do was click OK, and the wireless networks just appeared, I entered my password and I was online. With an ancient clunker that most people would have turned into landfill.

    Vector Linux is also very pretty and well designed, highly intuitive, lots of goodies, games, esthetically pleasing screensavers, etc. Very impressive, and based on my experience, highly recommended.

    I'm glad there are so many Linux geeks running around and reverse engineering everything, because it makes it that much harder for the people who want to tell people what do to with their own computers. As entertainment industry stooges and other hegemonic copyright trolls wage their relentless war against freedom with wretched legislative power grabs like DRM and the DMCA (and endless takedowns of protected free speech), Linux is always lurking just behind them, nipping at their heels, and reminding them that the desire for freedom is very much alive and kicking, even in the newly reminted corporate-socialist United States..

    The problem is, there are still people who believe that there's a right to own your own computer.

    I'll cling to mine for as long as I can.

    MORE: Lest anyone think my healthy interest in Linux is paranoia (or anti-Microsoft in nature), consider the fact that large computer companies like Apple are now heavily involved in law enforcement, and may even involve themselves in police raids on bloggers.

    The raid that San Mateo area cops conducted last week on the house of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen came at the behest of a special multi-agency task force that was commissioned to work with the computer industry to tackle high-tech crimes. And Apple Inc. sits on the task force's steering committee.

    Glenn Reynolds has more on the raid.

    If using a Linux computer to play a DVD is a felony, it begs the question of not only who is enforcing the laws, but who is writing them.

    I like to think that what I own should be mine, and if I don't own what's in my computer, then someone already has a foot in the door, and one foot leads to another.

    MORE: CNET News has more on the raid, which appears to have been illegal.

    posted by Eric at 03:41 PM | Comments (5)

    "The Homeless" -- a libertarian-communitarian hybrid class with special privileges?

    Yesterday's post about society's denial of mental illness drew some very thoughtful comments which reflect the apples-versus-oranges, libertarian-versus-communitarian nature of this debate. I'm not even sure it's a debate, as people have such widely diverging views which come from different directions.

    Are these people -- those belonging to dysfunctional, unwashed and hallucinatory classes -- suffering people who need help? Or are they to be treated as full citizens with all rights and responsibilities thereto pertaining?

    This touches on the fairness issue, which breeds an enormous amount of resentment (much of which remains unstated and unacknowledged). I worry that by a process of unwitting collusion, society has created a class of people who are considered beyond the law, and specially privileged (albeit in a de facto manner). When ordinary taxpaying citizens perceive that in the case of some people, the ordinary remedy of calling the cops does not work, they are likely to resent those people. (This is also a frequent complaint about illegal aliens, but that's another topic.)

    Ironically, it was never a deliberate goal of society to create any "special privilege" for the mentally ill. It's just that because the mentally ill are incapable of being law-abiding in the normal sense, it strikes many of us as "unfair" to punish them for the same crimes we would expect normal people to be punished for. That is not mere bleeding heart liberalism, but a traditional view grounded in an endangered form of thinking once known as common sense, and it is a major reason people like that used to be placed in mental hospitals.

    Analysis is further complicated by the standard which Xhristopherus mentioned in the comments -- whether or not the mentally ill person poses a threat to himself or others. Now, I think it could easily be argued that someone who is incapable of being law-abiding does in fact pose a threat to himself or others, but that runs afoul of the libertarian view that indefinite civil commitment for criminal behavior is unconstitutional punishment. And I can see the logic of that; after all, if a sane shoplifter would normally get probation or a 30-day sentence, why should the insane shoplifter be locked up possibly for the rest of his life? What is being missed here is that the insane shoplifter is not being locked up as punishment, so it's apples and oranges to compare the two.

    But anyway, the mindset has prevailed that we should not put the insane shoplifter in a mental hospital, because that would be unfair. Seen in isolation, most people tend to go along with that thinking. So, while we have done away with the idea of committing the insane, we have not done away with the traditional view that because the mentally ill are incapable of being law-abiding in the normal sense, they should not be punished. This is aggravated by the very serious problems that the mentally ill face in prisons, where they in fact do not belong. The problem is increasing, though, because prison is the only place for the mentally ill to go once they have committed crimes serious enough that they cannot be ignored. So activists agitate constantly for their release. As they should, because in prison not only are they victims of other inmates, but in a matter reminiscent of the way they were treated in medieval times, they are punished for their symptoms:

    Prison staff often punish mentally ill offenders for symptoms of their illness, such as being noisy, refusing orders, self mutilating or even attempting suicide. Mentally ill prisoners are thus more likely than others to end up housed in especially harsh conditions, including isolation, that can push them over the edge into acute psychosis.

    "Asking prisons to treat people with serious mental illness is pushing round pegs into square holes," said Fellner. "People who suffer from mental illness need mental health interventions, not punishment for behavior that may be motivated by delusions and hallucinations."

    Well, that's all good and fine, but the problem is that they don't get mental health interventions. Instead they are treated as normal citizens with the same rights as everyone else.

    In this way, the communitarian and libertarian viewpoints have been unwittingly combined to create a hybrid monster. This has had a ripsaw effect of creating a specially privileged class, much to society's detriment.

    As a practical matter, until they commit serious crimes, you can't lock 'em up, and you can't put 'em away.

    Whether you're a communitarian or a libertarian, that's unfair.

    MORE: Just to be more clear, I should restate the above this way.

    As a practical matter, until they commit serious crimes, you can't imprison them [because isn't fair to treat insane people as criminals], and you can't commit them [because it isn't fair to put insane people in mental hospitals].

    We are treating the mentally ill as mentally ill when it comes to criminal accountability, yet as normal citizens when it comes to their mental illness.

    And we call them crazy....

    posted by Eric at 11:07 AM | Comments (8)

    Nook e-Reader

    I note that Barnes and Nobel is offering the Nook e-Reader. I wonder if it is safe for children? I wonder what they were thinking? I can just hear the conversations: "Not tonight dear, but the Nook e is fully charged."

    Amazon sells them if you have to have a look:

    Barnes and Noble NOOK e-reader

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

    A minor story that didn't pass my smell test

    When I read this story I suspected there was more to it than was being reported:

    (04-21) 18:28 PDT Bellingham, Wash. (AP) --

    Police said a Cost Cutter store employee was punched in the mouth after he confronted a customer about his body odor. Police spokesman Mark Young told The Bellingham Herald that police went to the store after a report of a fight and found employees holding down a man.

    The newspaper said customers apparently complained while the man was in the store Sunday, and the employee decided to discuss it with him when he returned the next day.

    Young said the store employee was not going to ask him to leave the store, but only approached him to share the complaints. Young said the man snapped and threw a bunch of batteries and punched the worker, causing a minor injury.

    Common sense suggested that this was not an ordinary "customer" with "body odor." Store customers would not go to the trouble of complaining about regular body odor (such as sweaty armpit smell) on another customer. They would likely ignore it and go on about their business.

    So I suspected that the man must have been emitting an overpowering stench -- the kind not associated with normal people or with regular, even unpleasant body odor, but the kind associated with people who are incapable of caring for themselves on the most basic level. Like the guy I encountered in the New York subway who made me realize that we give preferential treatment to suffering dogs:

    I remember riding the New York subway once and being overcome by the stench of a man who was sleeping on five or six seats. The car was nearly empty, and people kept moving out of it and into other cars simply because the foul smell of rotten vomit and fecal material was strong enough to make a normal person wretch. (Really, the people leaving looked like they were going to get sick if they stayed.)

    "We'd never treat a dog that way!" I remember thinking at the time.

    And we wouldn't. Because, to our enlightened way of thinking, dogs have the right to be cared for when they are clearly unable to care for themselves, whereas humans don't. In the name of some perversion of "rights" theory, humans are allowed to rot away in public places, because society has no right to help people who are clearly unable to take care of themselves if they are unwilling to accept help.

    I suspected that the "customer" in the store was probably no more of a customer than the man in the subway, and that his body odor was probably that same sort of overpowering stench that would make you want to vomit.

    Not only should a person who neglects himself to that point get help, but customers should not have to put up with anything that unhygienic in a stores -- especially stores like Costcutter where food is sold, and where public health laws prohibit even the cleanest dogs and the cleanest bare feet for public health reasons.

    Anyway, it turned out that my suspicions were probably right. The man was in there stinking up the store for four hours and (If the commenters to this local story know what they're talking about), he is mentally ill, and has a long history of arrests for typical homeless person type charges.

    Boehringer apparently was in the store for about four hours Sunday when the complaints were made by other customers. When he returned to the store Monday, the employee approached him, either to talk about the complaints or about loitering in the store -- police reports are unclear on that.

    "It doesn't appear (the employee) was going to ask him to leave the store. He was just sharing the complaints, but the conversation didn't get far," Young said.

    Boehringer "snapped," Young said, throwing down a package of batteries and punching the employee in the mouth. The employee suffered a minor injury that didn't require treatment.

    I feel really sorry for the owner of the store, for the employees, and even for the arresting officer (who undoubtedly did not want the poor wretch in his nice clean police car). There really isn't much anyone can do, other than play "let's pretend that we're dealing with a normal rational person and hope the courts do something." No one wants to do anything. They don't want him in the store, the police car, in court, or in the prisons. And of course the mental hospitals will only hold him for a few days, and then he's out, and free to go back to his favorite store where he can wallow in his filth all day, yell at the products on the shelves (which is how some commenters characterize the problem) and drive away customers. I think this one probably hit the nail on the head:
    Since we closed Western State mental hospital, we in this state have been paying for it daily.
    The strict Thomas Szasz Libertarian approach is simply to treat the mentally ill the same way we would treat normal people. The problem is, that does not happen. We can't treat them like everyone else because they aren't like everyone else. If I went into a store and punched out a clerk, I'd be charged with assault and battery, I'd show up in court to face charges, and if convicted I would get probation or prison. On a fourth offense, I would most likely be sent up for a period of time. The problem with mentally ill people is they don't show up for court dates, judges don't want to send them to prison because they don't belong there and will be victimized, and everything just gets deferred until they really do something bad. (Like, saw open someone's chest.) And so, while I would agree that it's inhumane to send someone like that to prison, where should they go? It's completely dysfunctional to just pretend they're normal. (Just a regular old customer with body odor who lost his temper....) Same thing with the term "homeless" -- the implication being they're just like the rest of us only they lack housing.

    It's just a minor story, but it reflects massive denial.

    posted by Eric at 12:39 PM | Comments (6)

    A right to deliberately share a free speech forum?

    As I sit here playing with my wirelessly-networked Linux laptop and perusing the other nineteen networks that are within range of my wireless card, a thought occurred to me. One of the networks is unsecured, which means I could easily get on it. Not that I want to use someone else's bandwidth, mind you, but suppose I did the same thing deliberately that the hapless (at least so I assume) owner of the unsecured network is doing. Just set up a router and leave it unsecured, free for anyone in the world to use.

    It might be foolish, but it is a means of communication, right? Communication being speech, does that not mean that my conduct would be protected by the First Amendment? If have a right to put up a public bulletin board for "community messages" in my front yard (which I do), then I think I have the same right to allow anyone to use my bandwidth. I realize I might be violating the terms of the ISP, but that's another issue. Most of the posts about this issue speak in terms of the the theft of bandwidth (and opinions vary), but my concern is whether the state could make this a crime; i.e. whether there's a legal right under the First Amendment to give it away. I think there is. (If a city can give away free Wifi, then why can't a private citizen?)

    Only a crackpot would do this, but legal issues often turn on the whims of crackpots.

    MORE: Here's a typical news report warning the public about the danger of sharing WIFI:

    But what I'm talking about is not stealing, but giving. Simply providing free service to anyone. All that's needed is an account and a router. Is it a bad thing? If it free speech?

    posted by Eric at 10:11 PM | Comments (5)

    conservative skepticism is violence!

    Over the years, I've had fun ridiculing nonsensical phrases that get bandied about by the left, such as "POVERTY IS VIOLENCE."

    But it never occurred to me that anyone would attempt to link skepticism to violence until I saw this editorial by Rush Limbaugh:

    The latest liberal meme is to equate skepticism of the Obama administration with a tendency toward violence. That takes me back 15 years ago to the time President Bill Clinton accused "loud and angry voices" on the airwaves (i.e., radio talk-show hosts like me) of having incited Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. What self-serving nonsense. Liberals are perfectly comfortable with antigovernment protest when they're not in power.
    Well, if skepticism about Barack Obama is linked to "violence," then this blog must be very violent indeed. I cannot count the number of times skepticism about Barack Obama has been expressed here.

    But what about the skepticism I have expressed about Bush, and other Republican leaders? Doesn't that count as "violence"?

    And in light of this latest meme, I'm wondering about violent anti-Obama skepticism like this tirade by Alexander Cockburn, with the following highly inflammatory title:

    "Obama-nation would be abomination!"

    If I didn't know it was the title of an article by the famous Stalin apologist Alexander Cockburn writing in the leftie rag that just smeared Ann Althouse, I'd swear that it was cribbed from WorldNetDaily.

    The article goes on to refer to Barack Obama as "the slithery junior senator from Illinois" about whom Cockburn said,

    I've never heard a politician so desperate not to offend conventional elite opinion while pretending to be fearless and forthright.
    And this:
    In his advance to the high table, Obama is diligently divesting himself of all legitimate claims to being any sort of popular champion. Instead, he's just another safe black, like Condoleezza Rice (whom Obama voted to confirm). The Empire relishes such servants.
    His conclusion was that Obama is no leader:
    Obama had his finger stuck in the wind, as always. He bends to every breeze, as soon as he identifies it as coming from a career-threatening quarter. This man is no leader.
    A safe black servant who is no leader? Coming from anyone on the right, such statements would be seen not only as skeptical (and therefore violent) but as blatantly racist.

    Surely there's no double standard for skepticism, is there?

    posted by Eric at 05:27 PM | Comments (1)

    Release the Khalidi tape! (Part 2 -- Nixon stonewalling continues...)

    I can't believe it's been over a year since I wrote a post about the refusal of the LA Times to release a much-sought video tape which showed Barack Obama at a dinner honoring the notorious former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi.

    At the time I speculated that it was probably because Ayers was there -- and maybe too chummy with the people he tried to say he barely knew:

    I'd be willing to bet that Ayers is at least part of the reason for withholding the tape. Maybe he and his wife were a little too chummy with people who didn't mind being chummy in 2003, but would find it immensely embarrassing right now.

    Not being able to see it, no one will know.

    That was then. A year and a half later, it has still not been released, and the LA Times has dug in its heels, in a classic display of what Richard Nixon used to call "stonewalling it."

    The reason for this second post is that via Glenn Reynolds, I now see that Roger L. Simon is trying to start a movement to get the LA Times to release it:

    Given the extraordinary sudden turnabout in US policy toward Israel under the Obama Administration, I have become obsessed by the repressed 2003 videotape of Rashid Khalidi and Barack Obama. That tape -- or so we are told -- is ensconced in a safe at the Los Angeles Times building. In the current situation, its release by the paper is more important and newsworthy than ever.

    The Khalidi tape could be of tremendous significance in revealing the provenance of Obama's views on the Middle East and the degree to which the public was misled on those views during the presidential campaign.

    I am writing to solicit the help and ideas of Pajamas Media readers for seeking the release of the tape to the public.

    Well good for Roger. I'm glad to at least chime in, even though I can't do much more than that.

    Like Roger, when I read about such stubborn insistence on covering up important stories by those charged with reporting them, I also want to yell and scream:

    Sometimes I want to yell and scream. What is wrong with the Los Angeles Times? Are they a news organization or the propaganda wing of some leftover unit of the IWW? No wonder subscribers are deserting them in droves.

    But I won't yell and scream. I want to be polite. I have old friends at the Times. And what I seek is the release of the tape. Even if there is a legitimate promise to the source, the public interest now overwhelms this. Few stopped to criticize when the Pentagon Papers were published by the New York Times. And they were stolen from the Department of Defense. Let's get this done. If the tape exonerates Obama, they should be anxious to publish it. If it doesn't, the Times has done a public service. That's their job.

    But failing that, I turn to you, dear reader. What is to be done? We can't send a FOIA request to the Los Angeles Times. They're a private company -- or owned by one. There must be other means.


    the time to reveal the tape is now. Please make your suggestions for what to do. It will be an interesting experiment in citizen journalism to try to do it together. And, unlike the current administration, to do it transparently.

    I remember when there was such a thing as investigative reporting. No more. Now that that the "reporters" have become Nixonian stonewallers, the only thing left to do is for citizen journalists to do the investigative reporting.

    They might start by sending in the citizen journalists with video cameras, and hound the officials with questions.

    (You know, the way 60 Minutes used to do in the old days?)

    posted by Eric at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

    Birther State

    Arizona has become a Birther State. Not full fledged so far. Only the Arizona House has passed the bill.

    Even by the measure of Arizona's long history of conservatism, the past week has been extraordinary.

    In the past six days, the legislature has passed the nation's strictest anti-illegal immigration bill, a law permitting concealed weapons, and the House has approved a bill requiring a presidential candidate to show his or her birth certificate to appear on the state ballot.

    The last bill, which now must pass the Senate, was a clear nod to the birther movement, which claims that President Obama was not born in the US.

    But is it just Arizona moving to the right? Nope. Utah seems to be shifting as well.
    In a surprising development that sets the stage for a dramatic political showdown, tea party and grass-roots conservatives tell Newsmax they have seized control of Utah's GOP delegate system, and are now in a position to select which candidates will represent the party in the midterm elections.

    "Our feeling is that the majority of the Republican Party delegates are now tea party people," Brian Halladay, one of the founders of the grass-roots Utah Rising organization, tells Newsmax.

    Utah GOP leaders say they can't be sure, but concede the activists' assessment may be accurate.

    That is definitely encouraging. But there are other folks who are not encouraged. In fact downright dismissive.
    McCarthyism? Jim Crow? Segregation? Japanese internment?

    Child's play. ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis says the times people are living in now will "dwarf" all those stains on America's history. And she points to the Tea Party movement -- or "bowel movement," in her words -- as a harbinger of the persecution to come.

    "They are coming. And they are coming after you," the embattled head of ACORN said during a talk last month to the Young Democratic Socialists, the youth branch of the Democratic Socialists, the U.S. branch of the Socialist International.

    During the address, Lewis praised the group's members for calling themselves socialists, and warned that undefined forces are plotting their doom.

    "Any group that says, 'I'm young, I'm Democratic, and I'm a socialist,' is all right with me. You know that's no light thing to do -- to actually say, I'm a socialist -- because you guys know right now we are living in a time which is going to dwarf the McCarthy era. It is going to dwarf the internment during World War II. We are right now in a time that is going to dwarf the era of Jim Crow and segregation," Lewis said.

    So let me see here. The Japanese were put in camps by Roosevelt and Democrat President Woodrow Wilson instituted segregation in the Federal Government. Evidently she doesn't know her history very well and hopes that her audience got an education in government schools as well.

    Well history or no history - she is bothered by the Tea Parties because, and I'm sure you will be very surprised to hear this, they are not very socialist friendly.

    And how about Colorado?

    A Rasmussen survey released Monday paints a strange picture of Tea Party participation in Colorado. According to the report, 33% of likely Colorado voters identify themselves as participants in the Tea Party movement, compared with 24% nationally.
    That is enough to swing elections. If enough of the support comes from outside Party mechanisms.

    Noted liberal polling organization, Pew, looks at where America is heading and comes to a tentative conclusion.

    "By almost every conceivable measure," reads the latest Pew research poll out this week, "Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days." Calling it a "perfect storm" of conditions that have brought about a widespread distrust of the federal government, Pew points to the bad economy, bitter partisanship, an unhappy mood among voters, and "epic discontent" with Congress and elected officials.

    I didn't need Pew to tell me that fiscal conservatism is becoming more popular than either political party. When I ask folks I meet what their political outlook is, very few say "Republican" or "Democrat." Almost everyone now starts by saying they're a fiscal conservative, then places themselves on the spectrum of social issues from conservative to liberal. I have yet to hear anyone say, "Well, I'm a fiscal liberal ..."

    That's because no one outside of the White House and the speaker's office thinks government spending is the answer--to problems in the healthcare system, to the environment, and to some degree, to the problem of failing schools.

    It looks like the socialists of ACORN may very well be the ones being flushed this November. Which would make her recent comments projection and good news for the Tea Party.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:55 AM | Comments (1)

    Some people give me the urge to void!

    Via Ann Althouse, a writer who takes himself far too seriously lays viciously into her, then indicts bloggers in general:

    We who labor at turning dead trees into public knowledge feel some obligation to make the sacrifice of the atmosphere-cleansing, oxygen-producing creatures worthwhile. It's possible that the theoretical infinity of cyberspace encourages throwing whatever is lying around into the void. It achieves nothing. It is simply wasting time by people who have time to waste.
    Well, sometimes I do feel as if I am wasting my time, but reading a remark like that makes this process feel quite worthwhile. This man -- this Vince O'Hern -- has shown himself to be such a horse's ass and such a supreme prick that he has now earned a post from me by way of condemnation. (Something that isn't easy, as I hate wasting the infinite voidness on people like him.)

    Of course, if he's right, then condemning him is probably as much a waste of time as reading him or the silly "newspaper" he writes for (which he thinks turns dead trees into knowledge). I'd never heard of Isthmus before, but Althouse bashing is definitely their current shtick; I went to the home page only to confirm that they are online (and thus doing what O'Hern condemns as "throwing whatever is lying around into the void") and found myself drawn right into their time-wasting, nothing-achieving, void.

    Right on the front page -- just begging to be linked by the bloggers of the leftie void -- is a long, vicious attack on Althouse. It's over 3200 words long, and the writer actually calls Althouse obsessive.

    She has a bizarre obsession with men in shorts.
    I think her interest in the subject is cute, and anyone who thinks it is a "bizarre obsession" has absolutely no sense of humor. And they probably haven't seen John Edwards in his cute shorts, but that's getting off topic and I wouldn't want anything I once threw out into the void to become public knowledge.

    Sheesh. I realize that some lefties can't stand Ann Althouse, but are these people for real?

    To the void with them!

    posted by Eric at 07:42 PM | Comments (7)

    Is primate primitivism a form of simian relativism?

    I know I shouldn't watch TV, but in the wee hours of the morning the other night, I woke up, went downstairs and turned on the damned thing in the hope of inducing drowsiness. As I flipped through the channels, my attention was drawn to one of those sensationalistic animal attack programs, this one being about attacks on humans by pet chimpanzees. Now, I think anyone who keeps a chimp as a pet has a huge responsibility, and probably ought to be very rich, with plenty of space, as well as a hired keeper to help, because these animals are intelligent and dangerous, and they can become very neurotic in captivity. But that does not mean I think there should be yet another federal law (which is proposed, but not yet passed) making it a felony to have a pet chimp! Policing pets in private homes -- no matter how dangerous they are -- is just not the federal government's business.

    But my libertarian disgust makes me digress. The propriety of federal legislation is not what this post is about. What intrigued me about this program was the especially horrendous -- and especially tragic -- nature of a particular attack, as well as the reactions of people to it.

    The story began with a baby chimp adopted in 1967 by a kindly American who was visiting Africa when he happened upon the baby attempting frantically to nurse off his mother's dead body (she had been killed by poachers). This moved the American deeply, and he adopted the baby, naming him "Moe" and bringing back to be raised like a human baby by him and his wife, who lived in the Los Angeles area. They certainly did about as good a job as can reasonably be done with a chimp, for Moe reached adulthood, and it wasn't until he was in his thirties that problems developed, and he bit people. Not his adoptive parents, but a police officer and a woman who had been warned not to put her hand in his cage but did so anyway. This resulted in the city of West Covina going in and forcibly removing Moe from his loving home, and taking him to chimp sanctuaries where he was apparently grieving for his adoptive parents, and they for him. Endless litigation to get Moe back ensued (replete with neighbor petitions demanding him back), and the couple spent huge amounts of time driving back and forth from these sanctuaries.

    The gruesome attack occurred at a sanctuary in Bakersfield, in 2005. It was Moe's birthday, and they showed up to celebrate with cake, which they were sharing with Moe, who was locked in a cage, and who was not the attacker. The attackers, two teenage chimps with known violent backgrounds, were roaming free, and they were apparently provoked when the woman made the mistake of meeting the gaze of one of them. He flew into a rage, bit off her thumb and part of her hand, and when the husband intervened to save his wife, the pair literally tore him to pieces. Poor Moe simply stared at all of this from inside his cage.

    As the woman related the details, showing what was left of her hand, I assumed in my only half-awake state that her husband had died, for surely no one would survive such injuries. I went back to bed.

    The next day, using Google, I learned I had been mistaken. Incredibly, the man did survive. Minus his nose, his face, his buttocks, many fingers, parts of his legs, and both testicles. From a 2005 account titled "The Animal Within -- They Tamed Moe. But Two Other Chimps Heeded the Brutal Call of the Wild":

    She cut two pieces of cake. When St. James handed one to Moe through an opening in the cage, the chimp dug in immediately, smearing blue icing all over his lips.

    As LaDonna moved to cut her own piece, she glimpsed something to her left. It was one of the teenage male chimps. He was out of his cage.

    "I made eye contact with him," she says. "That instantly changed his demeanor."

    He slammed into her backside, knocking her into St. James. She thinks she must have thrown her arm around her husband's neck, and just like that, the chimp "just chomped off my thumb."

    Her husband pushed her under the table, and the chimps -- because now a second had appeared -- turned their frenzy on him.

    LaDonna watched as one latched onto St. James's head, the other onto his foot. And here, she chokes on the words: "They virtually were -- I don't know how you say it -- eating him alive."

    Davis says she screamed and the Brauers' son-in-law, Mark Carruthers, came running. She cried to him, "He's killing James!"

    Carruthers retrieved a handgun, according to Davis and police accounts. He had to struggle to find a clear shot. As Buddy, the larger male, lifted his head, Carruthers came in close and fired a single bullet into the animal's brain.

    As Buddy fell away, Ollie began dragging St. James's mutilated body down a walkway. The 62-year-old man was conscious but near death. He had lost his nose, an eye, most of his fingers, both testicles and much of the flesh from his buttocks and face and left foot, but the chimp was not done with him yet.

    At the time of the article the man was clinging to life in a medically induced coma. He lived, and (via Overlawyered) there's a gruesome picture of what he looked like when he finally left the hospital. (Trust me, it's AYOR.)

    This guy should have been dead, and the ability of medical technology to save people from horrendous injuries never ceases to amaze me.

    What fascinates me the most, though, is the way humans react:

    Why did they do it?

    It's the question that hangs over almost every conversation about the case. Chimp attacks on humans are highly unusual. How could this have happened to people who knew and loved these creatures so well? Why did it get so ugly?

    USC's Stanford [professor of anthropology and biology at the University of Southern California] gets frustrated with this kind of talk. "If a tiger attacked these people, you wouldn't say, 'Why was this tiger angry?' " he says.

    Now that is an excellent point.

    It is the fact that this was a chimpanzee attack that makes it so especially horrifying. If a tiger mauled someone in the same way, sure there'd be horror expressed over the tragic injuries, but no one would say "imagine a tiger attacking a person like that!"

    Even a vicious dog attacking and mauling a person does not generate the same almost instinctive feeling of horror, because we recognize that dogs are domesticated predators, and to that extent, are not fully "like us." Simians are, because we are simian. Moreover, we have been (at least, much of the baby boom generation was) heavily influenced by the National Geographic, Jane Goodall style romanticizing of our closest simian relative, and there's a sort of worship of them that's evocative of the "noble savage" nonsense.

    But it would be simplistic to say that we are horrified by the chimp attacking because we think they are "like us." Because if a human did the same thing, most people would recoil and call the attacker a vicious, insane psychopath, with those who believe in capital punishment demanding that such a monster be executed ASAP. The irony, of course, is that even the most cursory look at human history reveals that humans have maimed and mutilated -- and continue to maim and mutilate -- far, far more human beings than do our closest simian relatives. If we compare the odds of being savagely mutilated by chimpanzees with the odds of being savagely mutilated by people -- even in an area populated by both chimps and humans -- it's a no-brainer to lay the money on human attackers.

    This is not to say that humans are "worse" than chimps, for we are not. Humans have developed (or, at least, we are supposed to have developed) what is called civilization, with rules and standards for civilized human behavior. Chimps have not, nor can they. They will always retain the capacity for being brutal simian killer apes -- even if we have mythologized this away in what I would call a classic example of simple denial. As to what's behind the human need for this denial, perhaps it is fear. Not of apes, but of ourselves -- in our primitive, pre-civilized evolutionary state. For some strange reason I can't quite penetrate, we seem to want the apes to be "better" than we are. Perhaps it is related to the love of all things primitive, and the ridiculous idea that children are "innocent." And if apes are in fact as capable of murderous and vicious atrocities as adult human beings are, then there's nothing "better" about being in a childlike and primitive state.

    So out goes that myth.

    Furthermore, if we are horrified to see our closest relatives in the animal kingdom showing the same primitive dark side that humans have but generally keep under control, it might also be because we worry about ourselves, and need the myth that our closest relatives are not like us but are actually peaceful creatures -- thus creating the narrative that our violent tendencies are somehow "unnatural."

    Back to Professor Stanford:

    The chimps were out of their cage, and out of their comfort zone. Moe was the new, threatening male on the scene who needed to be taken down a peg, but they couldn't get at him. So "they attacked the first individuals they came across who were in their immediate territory."

    For the ugly truth is that these kinds of attacks are quite common -- in the wild, against other chimpanzees. The males are highly territorial; if threatened, they will shred a rival's genitals, rip out his windpipe.

    "They just have the same tendencies as all of us," says Stanford. "Some individuals can be violent and nasty, others not."

    The more human such behavior looks to us humans, the more shattering it is to the myth.

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

    "Leave-me-alone politics." Oxymoron or Tea Party?

    Politics is a real drag, and I hate it. But last night I dragged myself to a Tea Party meeting and fund raiser. I wasn't in the greatest mood, and I have a long history of being immensely turned off by political meetings of any sort. Still, this weird sense of duty made me go anyway, and I expected to just grit my teeth and get through it. By "it" I mean the insufferable pontificating and displays of egotistical "I take myself very seriously and you should too!" behavior that inevitably seems to accompany most political meetings and discussions.

    Most but not all. Once again, the Tea Partiers renewed my faith in the power of ordinary people to just get fed up and say "HELL NO!" to activist busybodies.

    The speaker (whose name does not matter here) was no political junkie, but an ordinary family woman who was just fed up with what is going on. She won me over with a very simple remark that there was nothing she hated more than politics, and nothing she would less rather be doing. She also said (as did several other people) that conservatives want to be left alone.

    Naturally, this was music to my ears.

    She realized (as I think most of the rank-and-file Tea Partiers realize) that the problem is people who like politics, who like hearing themselves pontificate, and who don't want to leave people alone. Tea Partiers are people who would rather be left alone, and would have been perfectly content to leave the rest of the world alone, except they've learned that the Golden Rule doesn't work in reverse. Leaving them alone does not guarantee they will leave you alone; instead it guarantees the opposite.

    So, much as I realize that this sounds like another impossible contradiction, I have to say that I rather enjoyed doing what I hated last night. I still hate politics, but there's something incredibly optimistic about being with fellow haters -- especially those whose goal is to take away power from those who won't leave people alone, and then leave people alone.

    posted by Eric at 11:04 AM | Comments (3)

    too big to be accountable (and other lessons in corporate anarchy)

    Along with countless people, my email account with Verizon has been down for two days now. I have spent a lot of time on the phone in India talking with people who have absolutely no ability to do anything except tell me that I am talking to the wrong people.

    My problem is that I have dialup Internet service with Verizon, and they aren't set up to provide technical support for dialup, but they won't admit it. Sure, they give you a voicemail option to press for dialup, but it makes absolutely no difference; your call gets put on hold and is automatically placed in the same pool as high speed customers. Which means that after a considerable wait, you will get someone in India who will tell you that his job is to answer the phone and provide technical support for high speed and not dialup. He will then give you the dialup number (which is of course the same number you called) and tell you to select the dialup option). I did this repeatedly. Of course, on two of the occasions, I was dropped after being on hold. (I suspect they enjoy doing that at random.) And when finally I did get through, I was told that there is an system-wide email outage problem which would be resolved by 6:00 p.m. last night.

    Well guess what? It wasn't!

    To say that there is no accountability would be understatement. This company does not even reach the state of even theoretical accountability. It is pure bureaucratic anarchy, run amok.

    Fortunately, I'm still online (I don't have Verizon as my Internet service provider), and as Verizon email has been down for two days now, it occurred to me to Google the news sites. Sure enough, the problem is bad enough to have been written up as a story.

    If you are a Verizon user, you might be wondering what has happened with your Verizon email. Well, at the time of writing, it seems many people are reporting Verizon email problems, being unable to sign in to their account due to time out.

    Verizon has used their Twitter account to let their users know they are aware of the problem and working on it:

    "Some Verizon Online customers are unable to access email today. We are working to isolate and resolve this problem"

    And as no story about Verizon would be complete without an official lie from Verizon, Verizon has managed to come up with one -- on Twitter, no less!
    UPDATE!! Verizon apparently has resolved the problem, in the Twitter account they posted:

    "Verizon Online email access completely restored at www.verizon.net"

    Is the problem resolved for you?


    No, of course the problem is not resolved, and Verizon damned well knows it. At least, someone, somewhere at Verizon knows it. The company is so large that there is absolutely no accountability anywhere. They lie by rote and there is no way to call them on it. They are not people, they have no titles, they have no country, and there is no there there. Almost reminds me of the golden days of The Telephone Company:

    ...you're dealing with the telephone company. We are not subject to city, state, or federal legislation. We are omnipotent.
    Except in those days, even though The Telephone Company was an omnipotent monopoly there was a sort of mutually understood cultural acknowledgment that they would would fix your service when it didn't work.

    No more. Now they won't admit to anything being broken. Instead, they issue official lies, and only if you go through an elaborate ritual called technical "support" might you be lucky enough to glean an admission that something is wrong.

    Not that they're fooling anyone. The commenters certainly know.

    joan says:
    April 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Nope. Webmail is back - sometimes but not e-mail. 7 pm east coast - just live chatted and they said they are still working on it
    joan says:
    April 22, 2010 at 4:51 am

    8:51 a.m. east coast - still not working.
    joan says:
    April 22, 2010 at 5:01 am

    Just called and got a recording: There is an e-mail outage in your area. We are committed to resolving the problem by Friday April 23.


    YIKES is right. But I'm curious about something. What's with this Twitter business? Why would a huge company like Verizon open a Twitter account? I don't know how to interpret this. Is it just a new place to lie? A better way to expand upon their hegemonic system of unaccountability? Or might some joker in the corporate hierarchy simply be displaying a sense of humor?

    I can't be sure, but I did find the Official Lie here, and as Twitters are notorious for disappearing, I thought I would take a screen shot.


    Not that this would in any way hold them accountable, for I know such a thing is impossible. But because I think it's actually funny to see an official corporate lie on Twitter. I also think it's funny to read that my email has been "completely restored." (And I find it especially touching that even though they apparently can't fix their email service, and have to lie about it, they're still not too busy to wish their customers a Happy Earth Day!)

    In what was a sort of mini-triumph this morning, I managed to get an online chat person to make an admission of sorts:

    there is an outage going on in Verizon so please wait until it is resolved.
    It wasn't easy, as he played the same game with me that they play on the phone. First they say they can't talk to you because you've been sent to the wrong department, then finally -- if you're lucky enough to persuade them to look past the jurisdictional wrangling for a moment -- you might be able to get them to admit the system is down. That might not be much, but I'm willing to settle even for a tiny victory in my ongoing Sisyphean struggle against vast bureaucratic anarchy and total unaccountability.

    I saved my chat room dialogue for those who are into such kinky things, and if you're interested, you can read it below.

    UPDATE: Just got an email from a friend:

    no wonder some of my emails to you failed! What a nightmare.
    Well, it might be a nightmare for customers who rely on email to do things like conduct their own business, but it's all just fun and games for the corporate anarchists.

    MORE: The Examiner has a story of the outage too. It's major.

    Verizon DSL customers across the country, including here in New York, are reporting an email outage. POP access is down completely. It appears the servers have crashed. Webmail access is sporadic at best and even the Verizon.net page is having load issues.
    Having issues? That's putting it mildly. I can't login at all.

    AND MORE: Bad as this is, it only underlines how much worse things could be, as Glenn Reynolds explains in this book review.

    AND EVEN MORE: If this mess sounds familiar, it is.

    As a report from last year illustrates, it's
    nothing new

    Yep, it looks like their server crashed and died! As I am a Verizon customer myself I called their tech support to find out what the story was. The rep insisted everything was fine and blamed it on my computer. Uh, no don't think so. When your website is telling people there's no server to connect to, you have definite problems!

    As of 6:30am EDT POP mail was restored while website access is intermittent at best. Slow, poorly formatted pages alternate with the APACHE failure message quoted above. Mail on the POP side is trickling in and is delayed. Users up and down the East Coast have been flooding DSLReports.com with outage reports, so the problem seems to be fairly widespread.

    Mail and server outages seem to be a fairly regular occurrence these days yet Verizon refuses to acknowledge or apologize for the downtime. The last update on their System Status page is from January. What gives, Verizon? Why don't you want to communicate with your customers?

    IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING! (Like the old movie title....)

    UPDATE (Friday, April 23, 2010): Email is still down, there is an interminable waiting period for customer support and the Verizon chat line people say they have no idea how long it will last. From my earlier chat this morning:

    Chat Subject: Other
    Your Question: For three days I have been unable to access my email, and unable to login. It will not accept my password, and when I try to reset, I get this: "The tool is currently unavailable."
    A Verizon eCenter Representative will be with you shortly. Thank you. (10:04:07)
    Agent Kayci has joined. (10:04:07)
    Kayci : Chat ID for this session is 04231027682. (10:04:07)
    Kayci(10:04:32): Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. I will be happy to help you today.
    Eric Scheie(10:04:38): Helo
    Eric Scheie(10:05:17): No email for three days. It's a problem.
    Kayci(10:05:52): I apologize, the POP server has gone down and Tech Support is aware of this issue. You can call them directly at 800/567-6789 if you would like further information. There is not an estimated time that this issue will be resolved.
    Eric Scheie(10:06:26): I called four times, and I don't want to call them again. How long should I wait?
    Kayci(10:06:51): We do not have an estimated time of repair, I apologize.
    Eric Scheie(10:07:04): OK thanks, I realize this is not your fault.
    Kayci(10:07:29): You are welcome, and again, I apologize for this inconvenience.
    Eric Scheie(10:07:50): OK, I'll just keep checking. Thanks. Signing off now.
    Hey, at least they say they don't know, which is honest.

    That's progress.

    UPDATE (April 24, 2010): After being told this morning that the problem was solved, my email still didn't work, and I was still unable to login, it would not accept my password, nor could I delete or change the password. So I called tech support again, and they were able to change my password account and bring my account back. Which means the problem is solved for now. Thank God.

    Continue reading "too big to be accountable (and other lessons in corporate anarchy)"

    posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (13)

    Bigoted, bombastic, and brutal buffoonery

    I love buffoonery, and former ACORN boss Bertha "bowel movement" Lewis wins the prize for the most bombastic hyperbolic buffoonery imaginable:

    Any of these groups that says, "I'm young, I'm Democratic, and I'm a socialist," is okay with me. You know that's no light thing to do -- to actually say, I'm a socialist. You've got to know, actually, we are living in a time that's going to dwarf the McCarthy era. It is going to dwarf the internment of World War II. We are right now in a time that is going to dwarf the era of Jim Crow and segregation.

    They are coming. And they are coming after you. And they are going to be brutal and oppressive. They've already shown it. ... This is not rhetoric or hyperbole -- this is real. ... This tea party so-called movement -- a bowel-movement in my estimation -- and this blatant uncovering and ripping off the mask of racism...

    While the remarks are funny, this is also a classic example of what Andrew Breitbart warned of in New Orleans at the SRLC:
    the greatest thing that the left does, and it uses the the media to do it, is that it accuses you of what they're doing to you.
    It's tough to imagine any better proof of that than what happened in New Orleans to Allee Bautsch and Joseph Brown -- right after the event that Andrew Breitbart addressed.

    Here's a picture of the couple after the attack in which Bautsch's leg was broken, and Brown's jaw was broken.


    And the caption, courtesy of bombastic Bertha:

    They are coming. And they are coming after you. And they are going to be brutal and oppressive. They've already shown it. ... This is not rhetoric or hyperbole -- this is real.
    So accurate it's almost funny.

    MORE: Shocking Report: Police Find TEA Parties More Peaceful Than Anti-war Protests.

    Precisely why they accuse the Tea Parties of being violent!

    Elementary my dear Alinsky.

    posted by Eric at 10:55 PM | Comments (5)

    Bye, Bi love

    I'm not sure exactly what to do with this one, but I've had it staring me in the face, and I hate the feeling that if I don't write about it I might be censoring myself. Or worse, censoring the censoring of the latest love that dare not speak its name -- in the name of the Original Love That Dared Not speak Its Name:

    Three bisexual men are suing a national gay-athletic organization, saying they were discriminated against during the Gay Softball World Series held in the Seattle area two years ago.

    The three Bay Area men say the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance in essence deemed them not gay enough to participate in the series.

    Not gay enough? This is as bad as "not black enough." I realize these people can do whatever they want (and there's no right to play bi baseball), but I think a good argument can be made that these self-appointed judges of human sexuality are not free enough.
    The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle accuses the alliance of violating Washington state laws barring discrimination. The alliance organizes the annual Gay Softball World Series.

    Beth Allen, the alliance's attorney, said the lawsuit is unwarranted and that the three plaintiffs "were not discriminated against in any unlawful manner."

    In any case, Allen said, the alliance is a private organization and, as such, can determine its membership based on its goals.

    Whether the alliance is public or private will likely have to be determined in court, since the plaintiffs characterize the alliance as a "public accommodation" that's open to the public and uses public softball fields.

    The three plaintiffs -- Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles and Jon Russ -- played on a team called D2 that qualified for the 2008 Gay Softball World Series, which is organized by the alliance.

    The alliance's rules say that each World Series team can have no more than two heterosexual players. According to the lawsuit, a competing team accused D2 of violating that rule.

    Each of the three plaintiffs was called into a conference room in front of more than 25 people, and was asked "personal and intrusive questions" about his sexual attractions and desires, purportedly to determine if the player was heterosexual or gay, the lawsuit alleges. The alliance has no category or definition for bisexual or transgender people in its rules, the plaintiff's attorney said.

    At one point during the proceedings, the lawsuit alleges, one of the plaintiffs was told: "This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series."

    The alliance ruled the three men were "nongay," stripped D2 of its second-place finish and recommended that the three players be suspended from participating in the World Series for a year, according to the suit.

    There really have to be rules about these things, don't there?

    Sexual freedom never quite got off the ground.

    It was drowned in the bathtub by activists.

    MORE: They keep tossing 'em. In Philadelphia, a candidate who said he was bisexual has been "outed" as actually straight:

    Veteran Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Phila.) last Thursday accused her primary opponent, Gregg Kravitz, of pretending to be bisexual in order to pander to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voters, a powerful bloc in the district.

    "I outed him as a straight person," Josephs said during a fund-raiser at the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, as some in the audience gasped or laughed, "and now he goes around telling people, quote, 'I swing both ways.' That's quite a respectful way to talk about sexuality. This guy's a gem."

    Kravitz, 29, said that he is sexually attracted to both men and women and called Josephs' comments offensive.

    Now wait just a second. Unless she has been monitoring the man's genitals for every moment in his life, how on earth could his opponent possibly know whether he is completely straight as she claims?

    What's fascinating about this is that had the man kept silent about his sexuality, he might have found himself outed as gay. Anyway, he is being forced to indignantly defend the sanctity of his, er, non-closet:

    Kravitz, 29, said that he is sexually attracted to both men and women and called Josephs' comments offensive.

    "That kind of taunting is going to make it more difficult for closeted members of the LGBT community to be comfortable with themselves," Kravitz said. "It's damaging."

    But others said the remarkable quarrel itself was a sign of progress.

    "We've hit a new high point when candidates are accused of pretending to be gay to win a seat," said Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and a pioneering civil rights advocate.

    "I've been doing this for 40 years, and I never have heard of this kind of charge in any race in the nation," he said. "I take that as flattery. It shows how far we've come."

    I think it's a new low point in terms of sexual freedom.

    In or out, gay or straight or bi, if you run for office your sex life is now the proper subject for a sexual inquisition. Those who simply remain silent are subject to charges of being "in the closet" (a terrible moral crime involving cowardice and hypocrisy), while those who think they're "out" are subject to being investigated for a lack of sexual purity.

    By the new Puritans on the left, of course.

    As I keep saying, the idea that the war on sexual freedom is right wing is getting very tired.

    posted by Eric at 07:54 PM | Comments (5)

    saving at-risk babies from underage parental abuse, with UGF!

    And now for something I know will out-thrill all my thrilling blog posts; a update about my ongoing adventure in Jack Dempsey cichlid husbandry. (Or maybe that should be parentage? I'd hate to pollute the institution of marriage any further than it's already been polluted!)

    Anyway, while I haven't yet made a video of the shenanigans in my tank, I'm relieved to read that the Supreme Court struck down that ridiculous federal law making it a crime to depict animal cruelty, because now I'm worried that Ma and Pa Dempsey might be eating some or most of their hundreds of juniors.

    That's mass carnage, followed by cannibalism, right? And these are animals. So, regardless of whether fish cruelty depictions came up during oral argument at the Supreme Court, at least I don't have to worry about my First Amendment right to share any video I might shoot with the readers.

    Anyway, this morning I noticed that the babies had disappeared. I couldn't find any at all. Reading through the many accounts here, I learned about many instances of Jack Dempseys eating their fry. It seems to be especially characteristic of first time parents, which these two are. I got them as small youngsters less than a year ago, which means that what I'm facing is the piscine moral equivalent of a human teen pregnancy. So it wouldn't surprise me if they were eating their young, but OTOH, I have not seen it happening, and I'm pretty observant.

    So there weren't any this morning, but later on in the day when the sun was shining into the tank, I noticed a small crowd of about 20 or 30 hovering just outside the bottom of their Colosseum. Then five minutes later, they were gone. I guess it's possible that they group themselves together, but I don't know. Another concern is the plastic undergravel filter, part of which was scraped clean of gravel during the parents' excavation. (Cichlids are known to do this.) I had thought to turn off the power jet that had supplied suction to it, as it was no longer doing anything with the gravel gone, but now I'm thinking that the babies might very well have gone between the 1/8" wide slats and down into the area under the plastic plate. They would be completely safe from everything, including their parents, and it might explain their ability to totally disappear and then appear out of nowhere when they feel like it.

    Of course, the stupid undergravel filter is now useless as a filter, and I also see that I never should have used an undergravel filter for cichlids in the first place:

    Can I use an Undergravel filter (UGF) with cichlids?

    Yes and No. This depends on the type of cichlid you're keeping. Many cichlids will move gravel to all parts of the aquarium and uncover the UGF plate, which renders the UGF useless. For this reason, UGFs are bad ideas for MOST cichlids. However, for fish like the Cyprichromis that like fairly still water and do not dig, an UGF would be a perfect filter choice. UGFs are also good for raising baby cichlids in as well. Fry and juveniles don't dig all that much, so it is safe to use an UGF to filter a tank full of these guys.

    UGFs are definitely out of the question for nearly all South American cichlids. These cichlids dig more than any other group of cichlids. The only adult South American cichlids that won't re-arrange gravel to the point of making an UGF useless are: Discus, angelfish, and the dwarf cichlids such as the Apistogrammas . The only adult African cichlids that really won't disturb UGFs are the Cyprichromis species. The Aulonocara ("peacocks") from Lake Malawi tend to not disturb UGFs if flat surfaces for breeding are available. Other than the mentioned fish, the majority of adult cichlids will move enough gravel around to not make it worth using an undergravel filter.

    UGF??? WTF is UWT? God, I hate all these "insider" abbreviations.

    FWIW, IMO, it's best to use a UGF only AYOR. LOL. But OTOH, I think it's a perfect hiding place for the babies. ("Try and get me, Mommie Dearest!")

    If I were one of those little opportunists I'd be ROFLMAO.

    Or more technically, ROFUGFLMAO.

    posted by Eric at 06:11 PM | Comments (0)

    Dancing On the High Wire

    I have no idea if anyone not a writer has an interest in this http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/ but many of you are readers, and perhaps it would be of interest to take a look at my road to publication. It is neither unusual nor unusually difficult. It would, however, have been a total shock to me when I started out. It would have been an even greater shock to me when I was "just" a reader.

    Writing is part obsession -- possibly mental illness -- and part vocation. A writing career is part persistence, part luck and part -- I hope -- craft and art. I blog on Wednesdays (after recent adjustments) and my mind -- you'll be shocked -- often runs to strange things. My co-bloggers are usually saner, more reliable and always interesting.

    Anyway, if anyone is interested, there is a peek behind the curtain of the few, the proud, the almost completely insane.

    posted by Sarah at 11:24 AM | Comments (3)

    A sarcastic rhetorical question from a South Park conservative

    Were I to use the word "conservative" to describe myself, I would be more comfortable to modify it with another descriptor, and while "libertarian conservative" immediately comes to mind, this report renews my enthusiasm for the term (and the book) "South Park conservative."

    A radical Islamic website is warning the creators of "South Park" that they could face violent retribution for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode broadcast on Comedy Central last week.

    RevolutionMuslim.com posted the warning following the 200th episode of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "South Park," which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit. The Web posting also included a graphic photo of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a documentary on violence against Muslim women.

    "We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," the posting reads. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

    Reaching by phone early Tuesday, Abu Talhah al Amrikee, the author of the post, said he wrote the entry to "raise awareness." He said the grisly photograph of van Gogh was meant to "explain the severity" of what Parker and Stone did by mocking Muhammad.

    "It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome," al Amrikee said, referring to the possibility that Parker and Stone could be murdered for mocking Muhammad. "They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."

    Al Amrikee said the website is considering a protest against the "disgusting" show, which also depicted the Prophet Muhammad in an episode on July 4, 2001.

    "This is not a small thing," he said. "We should do whatever we can to make sure it does not happen again."

    The hell with them and their death threats.

    Are they also going to threaten Fox News for running this picture?


    To its credit, CNN is also running the picture, and the piece also notes that the RevolutionMuslim.com website (run by a group described as an American Al Qaeda) published "Comedy Central's New York address, and the Los Angeles, California, address of Parker and Sloane's production company."

    Whoever these nutcases are, they are waging war against the Constitution and against freedom, and they are enemies of the United States.

    Which leads me to wonder about something.

    Lefties like Joe Klein have been accusing Americans with whom they disagree of "sedition".

    Will they speak up about this?

    Or do they think Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are more dangerous than radical Muslims who would murder American cartoonists?

    It's a shame that has be asked as a sarcastic rhetorical question. But it's as good a reason as any to call myself a South Park Conservative.

    UPDATE: The cowards at Comedy Central have now censored their own show:

    Now "South Park" can't even say the words "Prophet Muhammad."

    After last week's episode of the Comedy Central series sparked a threat (and yes, it was certainly a threat) from a radical Islamic website, the network has cracked-down-for-their-own-good on creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone during last night's continuation of the show's storyline.

    For those who missed the drama, the show's 200th episode last week mocked the one "celebrity" that the series has been largely unable to depict, the Prophet Muhammad, who was hidden from view in a bear costume. A U.S.-based website RevolutionMuslim.com then warned Parker and Stone they could end up like Theo Van Gogh (the Dutch filmmaker who was murdered by Muslim extremists after depicting Muhammad on his show) and even posted the address of the show's production office. The site has since been shut down.

    Last night, "South Park" continued the controversial Muhammad storyline, but with a key difference: every instance of the words "Prophet Muhammad" was bleeped out, making the episode practically incomprehensible, especially to anybody who missed the previous week.

    The character of Muhammad was once again also hidden from view, covered by a large block labeled "censored."

    A Comedy Central spokesperson confirmed it was the network's decision to bleep the words.

    I'm sure they remain free to make fun of Christians, Buddhists, homos and Scientologists though. What the hell is so damned special about Islam?

    (Geez, I wish I could stop it with these sarcastic rhetorical questions....)

    posted by Eric at 11:02 AM | Comments (2)

    Purchasing Magazine Closing

    Purchasing Magazine is ceasing publication.

    Reed Elsevier, parent company of Purchasing, announced today that it is closing Purchasing and the magazine's website, purchasing.com, as well as most of its other U.S. publications, effective immediately.

    The closing is part of a broad divestiture that itself is part of a restructuring of the London-based Reed Elsevier.

    The magazine has published for almost 95 years and has been the leading magazine in the supply chain sector of the economy.

    This is so doubly sad. It is not just the loss of future publications that will hurt but also the loss of older issues for research purposes. The technical magazine sector of publishing is under severe pressure. It is only a matter of time before more publishing companies throw in the towel one way or another. Either going out of business altogether or going with a www only format.

    Also closing:

    Manufacturing Business Technology
    Industrial Distribution
    Logistics Management Magazine
    Material Handling Product News Magazine
    Plant Engineering Magazine
    Control Engineering Magazine
    Semiconductor International Magazine

    The Wiki reports that at least 23 magazines (including the above mentioned) are being closed. Obviously this is an opportunity.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

    Do you want women dressed as men teaching your kids?

    I keep reading about the cross-dressing threat to our nation's children, and I find myself wondering about the meaning of the term. I don't think it's inherently sexist language in the purely logical sense, but as applied, "cross dressing" almost exclusively means men dressing as women.

    Similarly, the word "transvestite" is almost never applied to women. While there can be female to male transsexuals, women who dress as men simply are not called transvestites. If I saw a woman wearing men's clothing and called her a "transvestite," people would either think I was nuts or else they'd assume I thought she was actually a man trying to pass as a woman.

    But regardless of what the term means, how big of a threat to our republic is cross-dressing? Does that depend on how many cross-dressers there are? If women wearing men's clothes is cross-dressing, then I'd say we've already lost to the abject de facto tyranny of female majority rule (which probably explains why women wearing pants does not "count" but men wearing skirts does).

    OK, then. Logic be damned. Cross-dressing is a guy thing only.

    I looked at the bill people are complaining about and the section which pertains to cross dressing is gender-neutral:

    "Nothing in this Act shall prohibit an employer from requiring an employee, during the employee's hours at work, to adhere to reasonable dress or grooming standards not prohibited by other provisions of Federal, State, or local law, provided that the employer permits any employee who has undergone gender transition prior to the time of employment, and any employee who has notified the employer that the employee has undergone or is undergoing gender transition after the time of employment, to adhere to the same dress or grooming standards for the gender to which the employee has transitioned or is transitioning."
    What that means is that under the bill, an employer could not only prohibit men from wearing dresses, but could also prohibit women from wearing trousers -- only provided that they were not undergoing gender transition.

    I think that's a pretty big loophole. Companies could in fact discriminate against transvestites of the straight variety (who do it for the sexual thrill) as well as gay drag queens with no desire to actually become women but who just enjoy aping women and camping it up. And they could even stop women from dressing as men -- again, only so long as none of these people were actually changing their sex. (It might even nip in the bud the idea that it's "discrimination" to make girls dress like girls.)

    As to how many people actually change their sex, the numbers are pretty low. Estimates vary widely, but the closest thing to a consensus would seem to be about 1 in 10,000.

    Now, I know they're saying that they'll soon be in every classroom teaching your kids, but if there are 6.2 million teachers in the United States, it would stand to reason that there would be approximately 620 transsexual teachers.

    I realize that some might think that 620 transgendered teachers is 620 too many, but I don't see how a group of that size could ever hope to come close to achieving the goal the "Traditional Values" people say these freaks of nature have.


    Speaking of traditional values, a good argument can be made that we're lucky not to be rolling back the clock to the days of real traditional values -- when cross-dressing was really inflicted on children, and boys were made to dress like girls.

    But never mind that.

    "Tradition" didn't actually begin until the 1930s.....

    posted by Eric at 02:28 PM | Comments (9)

    Lead us not into a communitarian climate of road rage

    Back in 1995, Bill Clinton blamed conservative radio talk show hosts for the horrific act of terrorism committed by Timothy McVeigh. I will never forget how he singled out G. Gordon Liddy by name, and his argument back then was not much different than it is now.

    These people created a climate that led to this.

    The difference this time is there has not been an Oklahoma City type of incident (and I pray that there won't be). But there are Tea Parties, and even though they are well-mannered and non-violent, the left-wing ideologues simply cannot stand what they say, so in desperation they are now trotting out the old "they're creating a climate" line of bullshit.

    Byron York does a great job of demolishing the shabby logic behind Bill Clinton's latest climate reincarnation job:

    There's a new narrative taking hold in the wake of the recent Tea Party protests and the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing: The Tea Partiers' intense opposition to the Obama administration has led to overheated political rhetoric, which could in turn lead to violence, perhaps as devastating as Oklahoma City.

    Former President Clinton is the leading voice of this new narrative. In newspaper interviews, television appearances and a widely discussed speech Friday, Clinton said it's "legitimate" to draw "parallels to the time running up to Oklahoma City and a lot of the political discord that exists in our country today."

    "Watch your words," warned ABC News, reporting that Clinton "weighed in on the angry anti-government rhetoric, ringing out from talk radio to Tea Party rallies."

    It is beyond obvious to me that the individuals themselves -- not climates -- are responsible for the acts they commit. It's one of the annoyances that caused me to start this blog, and it has fueled many a blog post over the years.

    I wish I could say that this "blame the climate" mentality was limited to the left, but it's not. It is a form of communitarian thinking as old as the idea that "I am my brother's keeper." While conservatives tend to be individualists and are therefore much less likely to succumb to it than liberals, partisan ideology has a way of causing "I blame the climate created by [fill-in-the-blank]" to creep into the thinking of otherwise reasonable people, especially in the heat of ideological battles. Blaming "climates" lies at the heart of both sides of the "traditional" Culture War, and has caused people to do things like blame Columbine on certain forms of music (even the wearing of trenchcoats), or blame Howard Stern and the "homosexual agenda" for Abu Ghraib. (Similarly, films like Brokeback Mountain threaten Western civilization because of the climates they create. Throw in a little more climate theory, and sex, drugs, rock and roll, and yoga all become "Marxist." Throw in a hurricane and watch human climates conflate with natural climates into perfect storms of divine retribution. I blame voodoo!)

    I find all of it maddening, and it is one of the reasons I persist in calling myself a libertarian and not a conservative, because I don't want to be associated with it. But not wanting to be associated with it does not make it go away. Merely by going to the Tea Parties, I am now helping to encourage terrorists.

    This reminds me of something I wasn't going to blog about at all (because I thought it might be "irresponsible," but I'm so sick of the climate lectures that I might as well.

    But maybe I shouldn't. After all, it involves a road rage incident in which a man with a concealed carry permit (who has been called a "Tea Partier," btw) shot another driver who had tailgated him and then got out of his car to confront him.

    I researched the whole squalid thing and in one of my innumerable but invisible acts of self-censorship, I refrained from publishing the post, as I didn't want to be inflammatory or supply fuel for the other side. I still have reservations about this, and as the fruits of my research are lengthy, I'll do something I don't normally do, and I'll hide it so it won't be staring at readers who are easily upset.

    Consider yourselves warned if you read on.

    And please bear in mind that my goal is to anticipate a "climate" I oppose, not create one.

    Continue reading "Lead us not into a communitarian climate of road rage"

    posted by Eric at 11:31 AM | Comments (4)

    Can't say anything anymore

    Glenn Reynolds linked a very thoughtful post by Sean Kinsell, and the thoughtless comments Sean is getting do not endear me to the people making them. Anyway, I'm too tired to get into the details, but in a minor aside to a post, Sean attempted to explain why local Japanese might be uncomfortable about a nearby U.S. army base. That drew angry comments taking Sean to task for supposedly denigrating the military, with one actually suggesting that Sean charged the military with being likely to commit "atrocities" when he said no such thing. But because of such comments, Sean's single sentence ended up requiring a long explanation which no one who is familiar with Sean would have considered necessary.

    I left this comment:

    Sean was not denigrating the military. I read his blog daily and he does not deserve the criticism he was getting here. I spent enough time in Japan to realize that there are huge cultural differences. They have virtually no crime by our standards, and see Americans as inherently more criminal-minded by their standards. Sean is simply commenting on a reality (of Japanese perception), and I didn't see him as judging anyone.
    The problem of being misunderstood is a good argument against blogging. I can't tell you how many posts I have failed to write because of it.

    In fact, were Sean not my friend, I wouldn't have written this one at all.

    MORE: I'd like to hope that there is no such a thing as "political correctness" on the right, but some of the comments to Sean's post make me wonder.

    posted by Eric at 11:44 PM | Comments (2)

    Guilt by association, without guilt or association

    While I normally don't like to write posts about something that is already under discussion in a previous post, I think I should make an exception in light of more recent comments to my post about a sloppily-reported story alleging that "STRAIGHT PRIDE" stickers and T-shirts were being sold by an "Official Tea Party Sponsor."

    To back up, I attended a Tea Party in Lansing, Michigan. I was there for over three hours, and I later found myself surprised to later read accounts circulating the Internet which implied that the Tea Partiers were a bunch of homophobes. These multiple accusations were almost all based on a report by one Todd Heywood (writing in the Michigan Messenger) that a "Tea Party sponsor" had been selling "STRAIGHT PRIDE" stickers and T-shirts. I was there, I never saw any such merchandise, and I said so in my post. Among other things, I said this:

    ...why is there no photograph showing the vendor wearing this button? If this is supposed to be such a big story -- and it certainly is being parroted as such by the left -- then why not do the basic documentation?
    My post drew the attention of the Editor of the Michigan Messenger, Ed Brayton, who emailed me and pointed out quite courteously that they stood behind the story.
    Eric, you know I'm a big fan of your blog. You may not know that I am the editor of the Michigan Messenger. I can assure you that the shirts were being sold there. We do, in fact, have a picture of the guy who sold the shirts with his "official sponsor" button on. We didn't put it in the story because I never imagined anyone would actually challenge the mere fact that they were being sold (I certainly expected people to disagree with whether it matters). You may not have seen the shirts, but they were there. We have many more pictures of it, and the audio of the interview with the person selling them. I'd be happy to send it to you and you can hear for yourself what he says and why, much to my frustration, we could not make out the first word in the name of his company. Todd Heywood is an excellent reporter who would never make up such a thing, and I certainly would not allow it on the site if we were not 100% certain about it.
    Mr. Brayton supplied a picture of the man who Todd Heywood claimed was the vendor selling the items. However, the picture does not show any of his merchandise; it only shows a man wearing a "Tea Party Sponsor" button. There was also an audio recording (said to be with the man in the picture), but that made absolutely no reference to the "STRAIGHT PRIDE" merchandise.

    This eventually drew the attention of commenter "Xhristopherus" who says he is the man in the picture, but who says he was not selling "STRAIGHT PRIDE" T-shirts and never has. (At that or any other Tea Party.)

    As he is now demanding a retraction from reporter Todd Heywood and Editor Ed Brayton, I thought another post was in order.

    The comment Xhristopherus left last night can speak for itself:

    I am no graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, but what I remember from working on my high school paper is that we ask the five W's

    Mr. Heywood is obviously not a professional Journalist as evidenced by his getting the picture of the wrong vendor, interviewing the wrong vendor, then smearing the wrong vendor.

    If Mr. Heywood had bothered to introduce himself, and ask about the shirts in particular, then he would have been directed to the vendor selling them.
    He did not identify himself as a member of the media, he was trying to hide his recording device,likely thinking he was getting a scoop on a vicious, homophobic "sponsor" of the tea party express.

    I thought he was an idiot that night in Lansing for being so rude and secretive. I called him out on it.

    Had he done the job to the standards of a high school newspaper he would have found out he interviewed and photographed the wrong guy. He might have got the story he wanted. Then again, maybe not. Guys like that couldn't find their asses with both hands tied behind their backs.

    If I were a liberal I might view this as an opportunity to file a defamation lawsuit.

    There have been thousands of stories and blog posts about this t shirt/tea party fiasco, and now my picture is (mistakenly) associated with it.

    I call on Mr. Heywood to apologize to me just as publicly as he has attempted to smear me AND retract his sloppily researched story.

    I have, to date not sold a single "Straight Pride" Tshirt at a tea party rally.

    By any reasonable standard, it is unfair to allege that the man in the picture was selling something he was not selling.

    If what the commenter is saying is true, he does deserve an apology for being dragged into this. (And while I never accused him of anything, if my posting the picture is doing harm to his reputation in any way, I would gladly take it down.)

    I also call on Ed Brayton, If he is indeed the editor of the Michigan Messenger as he claimed above, to Immediately remove the story and live up to his word of not allowing something on the site that is not 100% accurate.

    If that is his standard, then he has missed the mark by a country mile.

    I've already made my thoughts clear on the merits of the silly "STRAIGHT PRIDE" meme, but that was not the point of my earlier post, and I don't think it requires further discussion, because there has been no connection made between that and either the Tea Party Express organization or the Tea Party movement in general.

    I like the way Xhristopherus puts it, though:

    I am a libertarian who supports equal rights for everyone, including gays, and also including their right to call their relationships whatever they choose and have that relationship respected legally by the state, medical facilities, schools etc.

    I see no difference in the mocking, in your face iconography of a straight pride t shirt or a gay pride t shirt, irrespective of the motives of the artist of that image which I, and Mr, Heywood can only guess at.

    In this country, individuals are free to express themselves in whatever way they want, and mock whatever they want. Precisely why I wore the Che Guevara satire T-shirt the other day. Now, I happen to think that was appropriate attire for a Tea Party, but I wore it -- and mocked Che Guevara -- as an individual, and I would never presume to be speaking for a movement. Similarly, I have seen anti-abortion T-shirts at the Tea Parties, but I don't think they are speaking for the Tea Party movement as a whole. Any more than would "END THE DRUG WAR" or "BAN BSL" T-shirts. And if I wore or sold them at Tea Party rallies, so what?

    FWIW, I have seen two 911 conspiracy T-shirts at the Tea Parties -- which is two more than the number of "STRAIGHT PRIDE" T-shirts I have seen. Should I conclude that Tea Partiers are more likely to be into 911 Trutherism than heterosexual identity politics?

    As I said in an email to a friend, this tactic of smearing people because somebody put something on a table at a public event at which they were present (or over which they are said to have had control) is getting out of hand.

    I've never been comfortable with the whole idea of guilt by association. But bad enough as that is, here it has been done without proof of either guilt or association.

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

    It Is Not Happening Here

    It looks like drug prohibition has given us a gift.

    The battle for Ciudad Juarez began about two years ago when the Sinaloa drug cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and based along Mexico's Pacific coast, began trying to wrest control of the crucial drug smuggling corridor into the United States from the Juarez cartel.

    Fighting for the Juarez cartel is a street gang known as the Aztecas that operates on both sides of the border. Most Azteca members are heavily tattooed ex-cons who served time in Texas jails. One of the top Azteca leaders, Eduardo Ravelo, is a U.S. citizen.

    Ah. A multi-national enterprise. That seems rather discomforting in this particular case.
    Criminal gangs working for drug cartels already operate on both sides of the border, and in a sign of the growing risks, on March 13 gunmen killed three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Juarez. The sky-high murder rate is driven by two rival groups - the Juarez cartel and the Sinaloa cartel - and their battle for control of drug smuggling into the United States.

    The FBI estimates that 40 percent to 60 percent of the narcotics and marijuana smuggled from Mexico to the United States moves through the corridor, which runs roughly from the Texas border with New Mexico to Big Bend National Park, about 300 miles southeast.

    Murder is only one of Juarez's problems. Ambitious cartel underlings have diversified into extortion, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery. When President Felipe Calderon sent 10,000 soldiers to Juarez in March 2008 to bolster security after a purge of corrupt police, the army largely ignored other crimes to focus on the cartels, and crime has taken off.

    The result is a palpable sense of unease despite assertions by the mayor, Jose Reyes Ferriz, that only 200 of the 2,400 people killed last year were innocent bystanders.

    Coming soon to an American city near you. In fact the prototypes are already installed and they are producing satisfactory results. All we need is a crack down to produce the requisite amount of violence.

    The question for me is how long can the war be contained to Mexico? Not too much longer.

    Mexico's drug war is spreading uncomfortably close to the capital at a time when drug-related violence is spiraling out of control throughout the country.

    Over the weekend, panic gripped the central city of Cuernavaca after alleged drug traffickers imposed a nighttime curfew on the city, which sits just an hour south of the capital. Cuernavaca, a city of one million, is a popular weekend retreat for Mexico City residents and is also well-known to Americans as a retirement spot and a place to learn Spanish.

    On Friday, an e-mail from a purported drug gang warned residents to stay indoors past 8 p.m. "We recommend you not go out to restaurants, bars, etc. because we might confuse you with our enemies," said the e-mail, a copy of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal.

    They can close down a city with just an e-mail. That is some awesome power.

    I think that pretty soon Mexico is going to say "No Mas" and come to terms with the gangs. Either officially or in a covert manner. And then the gangs will go hunting for bigger prey. Or maybe one gang will win the Mexican Drug War and the losing gangs will decide to come north.

    And every day I wonder how much longer this stupidity can keep going. And at the end of ever day I'm amazed. Another day's useless energy spent.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:34 AM | Comments (3)

    Break out the cigars!

    Well, the event that I anticipated in a previous post has occurred. My Jack Dempseys have had babies. Hundreds of them! (What this means is that inside their excavated Colosseum, they laid eggs and hatched them out, and the fry have just started to venture outside.)

    I was talking on the phone earlier when I happened to look in the tank, and it appeared that there was suddenly a lot of loose pieces of gravel or dirt in the water. But then I saw the particles moving, and realized they were tiny fish (each one is a maximum of 1/4" in length).

    Which means that I am now a proud grandfather with hundreds of grandchildren. I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do (and no idea how to raise them), but I thought I would start with an announcement in the blog.

    Here are a couple of closeup shots showing what nature hath wrought:



    So now I'm off to Petsmart to see about buying some appropriate food. I guess that would be baby brine shrimp, although I don't think that's what my mommy gave me.

    MORE: No sooner did I take this picture when the parents spirited the babies away to safety. I've read that Jack Dempseys are known for their careful parenting skills, and now I believe it.

    I'm amazed. My parenthood was completely unplanned.

    MORE: For those who are interested this video gives a pretty good idea of what is going on:

    posted by Eric at 04:36 PM | Comments (7)

    If followers are zombies, then arguments are futile, and democracy is a farce!

    M. Simon's post about the Obama Zombies book linked my earlier post on the general subject of zombiedom, and Simon offers a personal observation:

    ...a lot of us tried to warn you but you were so caught up in hope and change that your eyes glazed over whenever we tried talking reason.
    Yeah, that is a problem. Perhaps resorting to reason is a waste of time when you're dealing with people whose eyes glaze over. However, I have had arguments with leftists who have accused me of refusing to listen to reason, and I admit, my eyes probably would have glazed over.

    However, I think the terms "zombies" and "brainwashed" are a form of political hyperbole which tends to dismiss or minimize the possibility that some (by no means all) people might actually think what they say they think, and have reasons for thinking it. In the process, people are absolved of real responsibility for their thoughts. As someone who believes in accountability, I don't think that's the right approach. And as a practical matter, I find it very annoying when people on the left do the same thing to people on the right. An example was candidate Barack Obama's attempt to portray gun owners as victims of demagoguery:

    According to Obama, firearms ownership thus becomes not an individual choice, but something other people have planted in the minds of the "gun-clingers." Their clinging to guns becomes not an individual act, but something demagogic leaders drive people to as part of their exploitation of wedge issues. ("Condescending" is almost too kind a word to use for this ruling class-style denial of the fact that gun owners -- and I am one of them -- actually think what they think.)
    I have given a lot of thought to the gun issue, and I would not find it persuasive at all if someone told me I was a "Gun Lobby Zombie," or that I had been "brainwashed by the NRA." Disagree with me if you must, but please, give me fucking credit for thinking what I think.

    Now, despite what I just said, I will grant that there are plenty of people who in fact do not think what they purport to think, but are instead parroting the thoughts of others in an unoriginal manner. It is one of my pet peeves, of which I have complained in a number of posts. It's tough to define what it is, but I know it when I see it. People resort to canned slogans (like "there's a right to health care!"), but when you ask them about specifics about rights theory, ("Why would you define a right as a positive obligation on the part of others?") they are unable to explain themselves. It's hard to have a discussion with someone who only "knows" slogans, and such people strike me as having at least been indoctrinated.

    But I don't think they're brainwashed in the true sense of the word. They just haven't taken the time to think. Whether calling them zombies is effective, I don't know. (It may be in some cases. But there are other people who might see it as name-calling, and it might only heighten their determination.)

    Now, I would agree that those who have been indoctrinated (and whose thoughts are not their own) really don't deserve the same credit as people who actually think what they say they think. But calling someone brainwashed who does in fact think what he thinks is futile, extremely condescending, and it tends to let him off the hook. As if what they think is not their fault, because it's someone else's fault. (And where does such a process lead? Were Hitler's and Stalin's and Mao's willing followers actually victims of their leaders?)

    I may be a hopeless individualist, but I think the better overall approach is to have the simple common decency to give people credit for thinking whatever they say they think. And if they are hapless followers, maybe that will cause them to stop being followers.

    But this touches on another issue which might be strategically important. I'm not a psychologist, but which of the following is an easier admission for people to make?

    "I was wrong!"


    "That bad leader brainwashed me!"

    (I realize there are excuses I am leaving out, such as the "I voted for Obama to prove I wasn't a racist!" excuse, but at least that's driven by practical self interest. So is "I voted for Obama because I want more entitlement money!" Say what you will about such people, but they're hardly brainwashed.)

    posted by Eric at 01:02 PM | Comments (5)

    Graphene Advances

    Mass produced graphene Transistors just got a little closer with this laboratory advance in graphene film fabrication.

    "Before we can fully utilize the superior electronic properties of graphene in devices, we must first develop a method of forming uniform single-layer graphene films on nonconducting substrates on a large scale," says Yuegang Zhang, a materials scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Current fabrication methods based on mechanical cleavage or ultrahigh vacuum annealing, he says, are ill-suited for commercial-scale production. Graphene films made via solution-based deposition and chemical reduction have suffered from poor or uneven quality.

    Zhang and colleagues at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) center for nanoscience, have taken a significant step at clearing this major hurdle. They have successfully used direct chemical vapor deposition (CVD) to synthesize single-layer films of graphene on a dielectric substrate. Zhang and his colleagues made their graphene films by catalytically decomposing hydrocarbon precursors over thin films of copper that had been pre-deposited on the dielectric substrate. The copper films subsequently dewetted (separated into puddles or droplets) and were evaporated. The final product was a single-layer graphene film on a bare dielectric.

    "This is exciting news for electronic applications because chemical vapor deposition is a technique already widely used in the semiconductor industry," Zhang says.

    It is always nice to have a process that just needs to be adjusted. Even nicer is that it is a production process. There are probably 1,000 more steps like that required before your next microprocessor is made of charcoal (with a few enhancements).

    Graphene has some exceptional properties.

    In a semiconductor there is a quadratic relationship between the energy and momentum of the electrons. But in graphene that relationship is linear. Papers #2 (Geim's group) and #3 (Philip Kim's group, Columbia University, New York), published side by side in Nature, report on an important consequence of the linear relationship. They independently discovered that electrons move through the films as if they have no mass. That's because the energy-momentum relationship means that electron transport is governed by the relativistic Dirac equation.

    In semiconductors, electron transport is ruled by the non-relativistic Schrödinger equation. So electrons in graphene behave like relativistic particles and travel at about 106 m s-1. Although that speed is about 300 times slower than the velocity of light, it is much faster than the speed of electrons in conductors. The electrons travel sub-micron distances without scattering, something unheard of in semiconductors. Suddenly, ballistic transistors, in which electrons barrel through the device like a bullet, begin to look feasible.

    I think massless electrons could come in quite handy. Provided you could produce them on demand and control them. You know. Power and Control.

    Here is a fairly recent book on the subject that may help you get up to speed:


    H/T DavidWillard at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

    Zama Ombies

    Eric mentioned Obama zombies in this post which brings up a post I did on a book about Obama zombies:


    So I'm noodling across the net and came across a reference to this book:

    Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation

    So naturally I'm interested in the reviews. Here is one reviewer, E. Berry "zeetwo8", whose family is having buyers remorse.

    I can't believe where we are at this present time in America. My whole family voted for Barack...I mean my whole family..we are all white working class people. We usually get together for major family events, of which was my mother's 85th birthday. It was not too long before politics was brought up and I have to say, on save my admitted socialist sister attending NYU journalism program, we are all kinda' shell shocked about what just went down in D.C. with the vote on health care. We all talk about how this system needs fixing, as a couple of us are in the health care industry. But, the way this was passed has left most, not all, but most of us very troubled.
    Well a lot of us tried to warn you but you were so caught up in hope and change that your eyes glazed over whenever we tried talking reason.

    The reviewer does finish off on a positive note.

    This book has really opened my eyes and made me really slow down, take a chill pill and slowly, patiently and OBJECTIVELY watch what politicians say and do so that one can make a more reasoned decision.

    Thanks Jason for writing this book for my generation. With this new perspective, we have no excuse for repeating this mistake...

    You are not going to get anything even close to OBJECTIVE if you keep getting your news from Amalgamated Pravda Inc. Anyway - there is more good stuff in the review. Go read it.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:32 AM | Comments (3)

    One unintentional conspiracy insinuation deserves another! (Part 2)

    Bill Clinton's recent remarks about Oklahoma City reminded me of a post I wrote almost two years ago, when Hillary gaffed ominously,

    "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."
    At the time I opined that K. Lo was right when she said "There is something deeply wrong with the Clintons."

    To be kind about it, their gaffes (at least I think they're gaffes) keep coming!

    I thought we were rid of them.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds has a good roundup of Oklahoma City anniversary links.

    And not to be picky, but I'd still like to know whether the number of victims totaled 168 or 169. The unidentified stray leg has never been explained, and the Wiki entry mentions it. Why not just call it an "unknown victim," raise the number of victims to 169, and be done with it?

    MORE: Thanks Sean for the link!

    Also, Sean has some vintage words of wisdom from Virginia Postrel:

    Loud voices are not the same as violent deeds. Criticism is not the same as murder. Exposing government violence is not the same as blowing up buildings. It is grossly irresponsible to blur these distinctions. And those who rely on such smear tactics are in no position to lecture the rest of us about toning down rhetoric.

    posted by Eric at 10:58 PM | Comments (2)

    The ice is thinning! The volcanoes are coming!

    Did you know that the volcano that exploded in Iceland was most likely because of global warming? I didn't either, but an expert says it is "just the beginning":

    Hooper ["an expert on Iceland's volcanoes at Delft University in Holland"] warned that the eruption may be only a taste of the future if climate change causes ice sheets to melt further. As the last ice age ended, volcanic activity in Iceland increased 30-fold because of reduced pressure on the earth's mantle.

    "Since the 19th century the ice caps in Iceland have been shrinking yet further," said Hooper. "This will lead to additional magma generation, so we should expect more frequent voluminous eruptions in the future."

    So there you go. The global warming mechanism thingie takes the ice caps off the earth's surface, which makes it lighter, and more likely to explode!


    The theory is explained in more detail here, although the scientists caution that AGW might not have causes Eyjafjallajokull to erupt. The point is, it should be a warning!

    Eyjafjallajokull, although the 5th largest glacier in Iceland, is considered too small and light to affect local geology. This does not detract from research done by Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a vulcanologist at the University of Iceland, who confirms that "eventually there will be either somewhat larger eruptions or more frequent eruptions in Iceland in coming decades."

    He said that global warming melts ice and this can influence magmatic systems pointing out that the end of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago coincided with a surge in volcanic activity in Iceland. This apparently as a result of the land rising while huge ice caps thinned out.

    His team are of the view that the thinning of the ice is not materially responsible for triggering the volcano below Eyjafjallajokull because relatively speaking it is an eruption under a thin ice cap.

    The concerns are not limited to Iceland with Carolina Pagli, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds in England, confirming that there were risks that climate change could also trigger volcanic eruptions or earthquakes in places such as Mount Erebus in Antarctica, the Aleutian islands of Alaska or Patagonia in South America.

    The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that reduced pressure on the earth's mantle would also mean more earthquakes!

    Bring back the Ice Age now or we're all gonna die!

    MORE: It appears that the scientists have it wrong. According to Iranian Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, it's actually human sexual misbehavior which causes earthquakes:

    "Many women who dress inappropriately ... cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes," Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi told worshippers at overnight prayers in Tehran.

    "Calamities are the result of people's deeds," he was quoted as saying by reformist Aftab-e Yazd newspaper.

    "We have no way but conform to Islam to ward off dangers."

    He doesn't mention volcanoes, but I'm sure the same principle is involved.

    Via Glenn Reynolds who alludes to the mechanics of shaking but is silent about volcanic eruptions.

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

    brainless and heartless thoughts

    At the Ann Arbor Tea Party, I was delighted to see a very young-looking college age kid wearing an F.A. Hayek T-shirt, and I complimented him on it, saying that very few people his age had even heard of Hayek, much less knew enough about his philosophy to like him. At the time, I was wearing this Che Guevara T-shirt --


    -- which is my way of saying I don't like the man, or his image -- especially the one that appears on countless leftie T-shirts.

    But now I come to the hard part. Which T-shirt indicates a greater likelihood that the wearer is sincere in his belief?

    Guevara or Hayek?

    My bias may be showing, but I like to think that in general, young people wearing Hayek T-shirts are more sincere and thoughtful than those who wear the Che T-shirts. The latter tend to be followers, and to my way of thinking, few things are more detestable than being a follower. Now, while it is theoretically possible that some Hayek T-shirt wearers are mindless zombies who have been brainwashed at libertarian think tanks, I seriously doubt it, because almost every libertarian minded person I have known came to libertarianism through independent thinking and study and reading. And many of the Che T-shirt wearers wouldn't know much about Che's actual thinking. I doubt they know that he was a Maoist who made Fidel Castro nervous or that he cold-bloodedly carried out many executions single-handedly, including teenagers. Of course, the left condemns the peaceful Hayek and praises the murderous Che.

    I think that what I like about the Hayek T-shirt is the reassurance it gives that the wearer in fact knows what he thinks and is not a zombie. As to where the line is drawn and what is a zombie, I do not know.

    There's a meme going around now in conservative circles that young people who voted for Barack Obama were unthinking zombies (automatons) who did not know what they were doing. It's as reassuring a thought as it is a terrifying one, because it's harder to blame people who did not know what they were doing, although it's scary to think there are people like that running around and voting. But considering that more than half of the American voters also voted for Obama, I'm not sure that it's really fair to single out only young people as zombies. Plenty of middle aged people (including many of my baby boomer friends) also voted for him. And some of them supported him for reasons I think are wrong, but which they think are right. I would not call my friends who voted for Obama zombies, because I don't think they are.

    As far as the young Obama voters, some of them may be zombies, but what about the ones who are not? There are young people who are simply on the left. I know this because I once was, and it took me time to realize the error of my ways. It was the revulsion towards Communism that I felt when I was a student in Berkeley that turned me towards libertarianism -- and away from what struck me as a worse form of authoritarianism than what so many young lefties called "authoritarianism":

    By 1976 I had become so disillusioned with the left that I had decided I was a Libertarian. Learning about Cuba from people who'd been there did not endear me to the place. Gay bars which had been joyously cheering the victory of Fidel were closed down as places of bourgeois decadence not long after. Not much to cheer about. In general, Communists struck me as control freaks. People who, the more you got to know them, the more they wanted to tell you what to think. Communism in practice, I realized, was a very controlling deal. The ideology had an answer for everything. All you had to do was look it up, and follow Marxist principles. The Trots were more like fundamentalists in the sense that they could at least look up the text for themselves. But then they'd get into these fractious, tedious arguments, in the most hair-splitting detail. Insufferable. The Communist Party types were even worse, as they took direction from above. It was authoritarianism at its worst. No dissent at all. Party discipline was a prerequisite to any responsibility. If you wanted to join the Communist Party, you'd be given tasks involving utter drudgery (like standing around gathering signatures on some petition), and you'd be watched. Graded, like a child in school. Original thinking? Forget it. That's only for those with years proven to be "politically reliable."

    So, I didn't like real Marxists, and I didn't like the idea of Marxism in government. However, I liked the hordes of fake Marxists (political poseurs) even less. None of them seemed free. I liked the idea of simply being left alone, and politically I was more of an anarchist than a Marxist, so Libertarianism (with its emphasis on leaving people alone) had an early and enduring appeal.

    But before I realized that, was I a zombie? I don't know. My thinking was immature and emotional, but no one had brainwashed me. I came to the conclusions that I reached pretty much on my own, although in my case the process was aggravated by my reflexive antagonism towards very real racism and bigotry that I saw growing up in the 60s.

    There's also that Churchill truism, which may be apocryphal,

    "If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain."
    So if that's true, what are the implications as to zombiedom? The older the zombie, the less likely he is to come back to life?

    Critical thinking is at least as much of a pain in the ass now as it was when I was young. Sometimes I feel like a zombie even now, except I don't think anyone brainwashed me. More likely, I'm just suffering from brain overload brought on by a cacophony of hyperpartisanship. Obviously, this is aggravated by my own desire to be right and to help reverse the things I think are wrong, so to that extent I'm contributing to the cacophony. I don't see much point in arguing against zombies, any more than there's much point in preaching to those who already agree.

    But pointless as it may be to have arguments with some people, I think it's best to give them credit for at least having the ideas they claim to espouse, no matter how wrong or misguided they think they are. Otherwise, we cease to be human.

    I guess that's the whole idea of zombiedom.

    posted by Eric at 04:08 PM | Comments (5)

    The winning entry in the category of grassroots professionalism!

    While I think it's an inconsistent argument, the Tea Partiers are often accused of being an "astroturf" front for Big Republicanism, while at the same time their handmade signs are scrutinized and ridiculed at every opportunity for spelling errors, politically insensitive gaffes, etc. Actually, I think the obvious sincerity and ingenuity of their homemade signs indicates a movement that is alive, and (hopefully) one that won't easily be bought.

    But I've carried on about their signs (especially my favorites) in previous posts. In light of the counter-demonstration in Ann Arbor, it seems only fair to recognize the talent of the other side too. You know, give the Devil his due?

    And among the signs I saw in Ann Arbor on Thursday, I have to say that the winner is this one:


    Here's a closeup:


    Whether you agree with the sentiments or not, it's excellent. First rate work.

    I'm not a sign professional, but I'm fairly tech savvy, and even so, I simply don't have the wherewithal to come up with a sign that good. I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to get a sign like that designed, nor would I know where to start. I do know that there's no way on earth I could do that at home, nor could anyone else I know.

    As to the clever theme (taking right wingers to task for what they allegedly failed to get mad at), it is hardly original. The title varies, and I've seen it as "Freepers, Birthers, Morons of all stripe" and "This is dedicated to all you self proclaimed conscientious patriots, We want to get this straight" and in other forms. The text has been floating around for so long that it obviously wasn't originally designed specifically with "teabaggers" in mind, but the designer of the above sign obviously thinks it resonates against any and all people or groups to the right of center, as long as it has the right catchall title. "Birthers, Deathers, TEABAGGERS, and Angry People" is about as catchall as you can get, although I suspect it is not meant to include angry people on the left, or left wing Trig Palin Birthers, or left wing Deathers like Paul Krugman.

    The only spelling error I could find is a very slight one - "Abu Ghraib" is spelled "Abu Grahib." While the typo is inconsequential, it is also unoriginal, as the identical typo can be found 1920 times, and seems to date back to at least last August. The verbatim "Tea Bagger" version with "Abu Grahib" is also widely circulating, and can be found on the White House Facebook page, as well as CraigsList.

    I find it surprising that in all of this time, no one caught a fairly obvious typo which has circulated extensively and is now appearing on professionally prepared signs. Where are the leftist hordes of Tea Party spellcheckers when you need them?

    Parenthetically, they also seem to forget that there are a number of libertarians and Ron Paul types who would indignantly deny that they didn't get made over any number of complaints listed in the sign. I kvetched about the Patriot Act for years, many conservatives and libertarians were furious and did in fact complain about the horrendous spending during the Bush years (Porkbusters, anyone?), and some of the social conservatives were very upset about Abu Ghraib (which they blamed on Howard Stern and the homos). But who cares about the merits when the goal is simply to stereotype all people on the right as thinking the same things?

    Anyway, I shouldn't digress from my point. Again, the truthfulness of the ideas on the sign are not so much the issue as the sign's overall quality.

    Hands down, I'd give it an A.

    It is without question the most professional grassroots work I have ever seen.

    MORE: In the comments below, Darleen Click points out that posters like the one above cost $43.50 each at printing shops. Yikes!

    No wonder the Tea Partiers can't afford professional signs.

    They're expensive!

    posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (11)

    Taking A Position

    The conservative position: Some one could be doing something bad and the evil goes unpunished - we must pass a law.

    The liberal position: Some one could be unfairly taking advantage of another in an economic transaction. The evil goes unpunished - we must raise a tax.

    Which is why I am neither a liberal nor a conservative. I don't believe government can provide prosperity or moral uplift. And worse: by trying to do either it actually does the opposite.


    The above was sparked by an interchange with one of my favorite correspondents. We have a lot of points of agreement. Otherwise we go at each other with no quarter. Which is why I love our correspondence.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:59 PM | Comments (4)

    The IowaHawk Earth Week Virtual Cruise-In

    It's that time again.

    I was surprised to see my own entry here. Can CV readers spot my contribution to keeping the Earth out of an ice age?

    Remember folks, much of the world gets dangerously cold every year. If you're not doing your part to help, you're no better than some lunatic stuffing people into freezers.

    posted by Dave at 03:31 PM | Comments (1)

    Leftist heckler? Or Romneyite stooge?

    One thing I missed in last night's post about the Ann Arbor Tea Party is a video clip I shot which shows the deliberate disruption of one of the speeches.

    Tony DeMott of the Campaign for Liberty was talking about Mitt Romney (to whom the Ron Paul supporting DeMott is resolutely opposed), when a goofy looking man in a red shirt suddenly appeared and did his best to mock DeMott by prancing around him and getting in his face while saying things I couldn't make out. He was finally persuaded to leave.

    Very quick on his feet, DeMott rolled with the punches and speculated (to laughter) that the guy must be one of Romney's supporters.

    That in itself fascinated me, as I had assumed the guy was with the leftist counter demonstrators. If he was, then I'm sure he have intensely disliked being taken for a Romney supporter.

    Here's the incident:

    I think there's an important moral lesson here. If you're a leftist disruptor, it's probably wise not to interfere when a Republican is attacking another Republican, lest you be taken for one.

    As things stand now, we will never know exactly what was up with the red-shirted guy!

    But he was a lot funnier than he thought he was.

    UPDATE: I misspelled Tony DeMott's name. Error corrected. Thanks for letting me know.

    posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (5)

    Jack Herer Has Died

    The Examiner reports that The Emperor of Hemp, Jack Herer, has died.

    Jack Herer, much beloved Emperor of Hemp and marijuana hero. is dead at age 70. Herer was a tireless advocate in the battle to end marijuana prohibition. He was perhaps the world's most famous activist for the decriminalization of marijuana and the utilization of hemp.

    Jack Herer was born June 18, 1939. A former Goldwater Republican, Herer became a political activist and the author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, a book which is now a classic polemic in the effort to decriminalize marijuana.

    Herer argued for the decriminalization and utilization of marijuana. Marijuana has been shown to be a renewable source of fuel, food, and medicine, and can be grown in virtually any part of the world. Herer was one of the first to show that the U.S. government deliberately hides the proof of marijuana's efficacy and utility. Herer devoted his life in support of cannabis, hemp and marijuana.

    I met Jack in 1993 at a Rally in Rockford put on by then Rockford NORML director E.J. Pagel. Jack gave the greatest hugs. He will be missed.

    If you haven't already, may I suggest reading a copy of Jack's book:

    The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana

    You can also see a video about Jack's life:

    Emperor of Hemp: The Jack Herer Story

    It is narrated by Peter Coyote who I used to know from a time long ago in a galaxy far away.

    The US Government did have a few good things to say about hemp at one time. Hemp for Victory. You may also like Hemp in Illinois. Some history about a time when the government wanted citizens to grow hemp.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:48 AM | Comments (1)

    3 Michigan Tea Parties in 1 day

    Three Tea Parties in one day, and I'm back. I can't believe I went to all three!

    This morning I attended a "Taking it to the Street!" meet on Haggerty Road in good old Northville, Michigan, then in the afternoon I attended a Tea Party rally in Plymouth (both of which were organized by Rattle With Us) and finally I went to the rally here in Ann Arbor -- to which the leftie crashers had been heavily solicited.

    I have far too many pictures to upload them all, and while I haven't looked, I'm probably running low on hard drive space anyway. So these will just have to do as representative.

    From the sidewalk in Northville, some well done signs:



    And just in case anyone thinks I wasn't really there, here's proof!


    Many cars were honking their approval and people were waving. A few disapproved, but they were the rare exception.

    Later in the afternoon, I went to the Tea Party at Kellogg Park in downtown Plymouth, where I heard author James Keena, Dr. Elder Levon Yuille, from WAAM 1600 radio, and Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, current representative for 11th District, and live music with the Skinny Raccoons a local group.

    A picture of the crowd:


    Here are a couple of signs I liked (and you don't have to be religious to agree that Obama is not God):


    And while I'm not one to exploit baby pictures, I liked this one, because it fit with my previously discussed theme of Democrats being people who take candy from babies! (No seriously.)


    That was a real Tea Party, and Plymouth is a charming heartland town. What America is all about.

    Finally, it was time for the rally in Ann Arbor. As leftie websites from Daily Kos to My Barack Obama had been promising to crash the party, I came prepared with two cameras, lest I run out. (And I did run out. Of memory on one, and battery on the other.)

    The rally had been scheduled for 7:00 p.m., but as the lefties promised to arrive early (which they did), this forced the organizers to arrive at 5:00 p.m. and basically wait it out lest they be pushed out and lose their space. I got there around 5:30, and the scene looked like this:




    As you can see, the left-wing reactionaries were not staying in their original location away from the stage, and there were spirited debates. The most common refrain seemed to consist of repeated scoldings over the fact that "the University of Michigan is a public university!" -- which means that therefore, the anti-government protesters were "hypocrites" just for being there. (I'm still trying to figure out the logic of that one, but it seemed self apparent to them.)

    One angry-looking guy was perched behind the stage, glaring at everyone in a supreme demonstration to the world that yes he can:


    (But can he really?)

    Then there's this guy (wearing a "WAR IS NO ANSWER" T-shirt) who kept interrupting the speakers. He thinks God will not save you if you don't have health care or something.


    Then there were the smart sophisticated pseudo-surrealist signs, from the smart sophisticated pseudo-surrealist set.

    This one trumpeted the crumpet lifestyle:


    How amazingly cool! How chic! I would have told him he was a metaphysical innuendo, but his sophistication was overpowering, and I was too far away.

    And finally, the glories of waffles, plus having a sign:


    Such incisive brilliance! Such piercing wit! The parents who shelled out all that money for tuition must be so proud.

    Anyway, there was no violence, and considering that spirits ran high that's commendable. Once again, I admire the courage of these students who stood up for free speech knowing there would be attempts to silence them and shout them down.

    Way to go Tea Partiers! They made me proud to be an American

    (I'm partied out and signing off.)

    posted by Eric at 11:21 PM | Comments (2)

    Who owns the label?

    Palin-Romney in 2012? Or maybe that was Romney-Palin? Yes, I guess it was the latter. Anyway, I'm not that keen on Romney, but I'm wondering whether it would work. So, apparently, is Sarah Palin -- if the headline "Mitt Romney-Sarah Palin in 2012? You betcha!" is to be believed:

    Conservative superstar Sarah Palin opened the door yesterday to joining forces with Mitt Romney for a 2012 White House run - a hot ticket that has some Republicans licking their chops at the prospect of unseating President Obama.

    "Sounds pretty good," Palin declared at yesterday's Tea Party Express rally on the Common when asked about pairing up with the former Bay State governor - giving the idea a big thumbs-up as she left the stage after her headline speech.

    Last night, as Palin stopped for cannoli at Mike's Pastry in the North End, she said she was "serious" about the idea.

    "I have a lot of respect for Mitt," she told the Herald.

    Asked who would be on top of the ticket, Palin roared, "Ha! I haven't even thought that far ahead yet."

    Indeed, Palin said she hasn't decided whether she'll run in 2012 - with or without Romney.

    This may be what's called "testing the waters."

    My biggest problem with Romney is that he is too enamored of big government solutions. As M. Simon said in an earlier email,

    Romney has a little problem. Romney care.
    I realize this will sound irrational, but what I like the most about Romney is the fact that he is a Mormon. No, I am not a Mormon, and I'm not especially fond of the LDS church. But what I do like is religious diversity -- especially the idea that Christianity can embrace a variety of alternatives. I don't like the way an unholy coalition of atheists and fundamentalists have hijacked the word "Christianity" to their own ends so that to many young people, it means only fundamentalist Christianity of the Liberty University variety -- or even Christian theocracy of the Rushdoony, Gary DeMar variety. But OTOH, if Christianity includes Mormons, Episcopalians, Rainbow Baptists, and even Unitarianism of the sort Thomas Jefferson espoused (all of which would be deemed heretics or even apostates by the hard core fundamentalists), I think we would all be a lot better off. By saying this, I am not making a utilitarian argument in favor of religion or Christianity (much less my hopelessly fuzzy paganistic version of it), only one in favor of the sort of diversity that once characterized Christianity.

    But religion is only a minor side issue, right? These things should not matter in politics, any more than tastes in food or sex.

    posted by Eric at 10:44 AM | Comments (3)

    What's next? Will supporting Israel be called racism too?

    I know I haven't said anything about it (probably because there are just too many wrong things in too many places and I can't write posts about them all), but I think what's going on between the United States and Israel right now is especially horrifying. Our most loyal, stalwart ally, and the only real democracy in the Mideast, is being systematically shafted by the Obama administration -- which now says support of Israel to be 'balanced against other interests.'

    I think such a cowardly and disloyal attitude is disgusting and borders on malevolent.

    Quite properly, Phillis Chesler says that "the absence of outrage is outrageous." She's ready to leave.

    America is rapidly changing in terms of its relationship to Israel and to Islamism. My passport is ready, near my bedside. Others are worried, just as I am. For example, read Daniel Greenfield at SultanKnish, Marc Prowisor at Yesha News, and Ed Koch at the Huffington Post. Just last night a friend who has lived in North Africa, Israel, Europe, and the United States suggested that we might slip away to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, maybe Costa Rica because "war is here, war is everywhere, but what jihadist group is going to target such countries"?

    Jews cry: "Never again." Jews cry: "No more will we be silent."

    I read Ed Koch's piece last night, and I found myself getting very depressed about the whole situation.

    You'd almost think Hugo Chavez had been put in charge of our backstabbing foreign policy.

    MORE: Seriously, I am one of those people who tends to look on the dark side of things, and while I never supported him, I really didn't think Obama would be as bad a president as he is turning out to be.

    posted by Eric at 07:37 PM | Comments (16)

    "we will completely overwhelm them with our numbers"

    Noting the organized effort to deploy Tea Party crashers,
    Ann Althouse offers some words of advice for those who might feel overwhelmed:

    1. If any Tea Partiers feel tempted to express themselves in a manner that can help their opponents paint the movement as racist/extreme/violent, they need to resist that temptation. If they now think it's okay or humorous or something, they'd better think again. They are hurting the movement.

    2. Tea Partiers should look around and listen and notice people who might be Crashers. Whether they are Crashers or actual fringe Tea Partiers, talk with them. It's good for people at these gatherings to talk to each other and be friendly anyway. It helps project the image of normality, which, I think, is the reality with most Tea Partiers. And it's nicer for everyone, and it encourages even more participation by average folks. You can also reach out to the outlier types in your own movement and help them become more mainstream. And, in the process, you have a shot at detecting the frauds. That's all good.

    3. People should talk a lot -- here for example -- and get the message out that those who attend a Tea Parties are going to be trying to spot the Crashers. They should fear exposure. Right now, the frauds may be assuming that Tea Partiers just accept people in their group who stand around with offensive signs and yell terrible things. That makes it easier to crash. But if they think your name and face will be all over the web displaying your ugly fakery, it will take some boldness to crash.

    Here in Ann Arbor, there's a Tea Party planned for tomorrow evening, and earlier I received this forwarded email from a student:
    A personal appeal from a U of M student in Ann Arbor:

    As the day of our Tax Day Tea Party approaches, we are hearing more and more about the dirty tactics the other side plans to employ in order to destroy our campus movement. Our protest began as an organic and genuine cry against the massive encroachment of the federal government upon our personal liberties. We have now been informed that the other side plans to bus people in from Metro Detroit and Detroit proper in an attempt to dwarf us. Campus is quite literally abuzz.


    The Opposition plans to arrive an hour before us, at 6:00pm. PLEASE, help us and try to arrive by 5:00pm if possible! Gather on the steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library so as to prevent the Opposition from doing so at 6:00. Many students will still be in class, so we need YOU to come and help us as we fight liberalism at Ground Zero: Ann Arbor! If you can only commit two hours, please consider coming early and then letting the students relieve you closer to 7pm.

    Once again, we are outnumbered heavily, even at our own event. The other side has said that we should be destroyed as a movement on campus. We have received every sort of threat, taunt, and smear imaginable, and will continue to have them thrown at us through the rally. Let's show them they're wrong. NOW IS OUR TIME TO FIGHT BACK AND BEGIN THE PROCESS OF TAKING BACK OUR PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES!!!

    To draw an analogy, this protest is NOT the equivalent of a Tea Party in Boston over 200 years ago. Rather, it is the equivalent of a Tea Party in London 200 years ago, at the heart of British power and the influence of the British Crown. WE HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT! JOIN US THIS THURSDAY and help us DEFEND LIBERTY at U of M!!!


    A U of M Student Patriot

    The above email is being ridiculed at Daily Kos, where they're encouraging counter-demonstrators while gloating over an opportunity to "completely overwhelm them with our numbers." With help from My Barack Obama.

    As if that wasn't bad enough, now I see that the Geico gecko has been dragooned into becoming an anti-Tea Party reactionary! At long last, is there no shame?

    Anyway, I'll be there, but I'm only one person among a small group of Tea Partiers, who are likely to be surrounded on all sides by bused-in outsiders and krazed Kossites. I encourage all who live in the southeast Michigan area to please show their support against the overwhelmed Michigan students by attending the Ann Arbor Tea Party if you can. Here's the Facebook information:

    Thursday, April 15, 2010
    7:00pm - 9:00pm
    University of Michigan Diag
    That's in the center of the campus in front of the Clements Library.

    I admire the courage of these young people for holding a Tea Party in a town as left wing as Ann Arbor.

    posted by Eric at 04:20 PM | Comments (4)

    Giving Up The Pretense

    I got an e-mail from Tea Party Patriots.

    Many have asked about the news that there may be "infiltrators" at tea parties around the nation. A website (crashtheteaparty.org) was recently set up. The creator, though he tried to hide his identity, has been outed; his name is Jason Levin, and he's a middle school teacher in Beaverton, Oregon. He's on record saying that you might see some of his team in Nazi uniforms at your local tea party pretending to be racists and other offensive characters. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy doesn't it? And one has to ask the question; if tea partiers are racist, anti-Semitic homophobes, and it's so obvious, why does he need to plant people who pretend to be those things at your tea parties?
    Good question. The Patriots suggest you be prepared.
    1. Be prepared. Make sure your security team knows about the potential for disturbance, and your procedures for dealing with any issues. If you have law enforcement at your event, let them know about the potential threats in advance. Most are happy to remove people who intend to disturb your event.
    I must say it is nice to be on the side of law and order from time to time. Keeps me from feeling so all alone.
    a. Have a plan. We suggest that you handle every incident in a predetermined manner. Your preparation will allow you to handle any incident in a calm and reasoned manner.
    I take slight exception to this. Don't have one plan. Have twenty. Or a hundred. Then mix and match them according to circumstances. Avoid being too predictable. And don't do anything you don't want to show up on nightly news. The world is watching. The Patriots suggest calm and video. I second that motion.
    iii. Partner up. If you are going to deal with one of these situations, always have at least one other person with you. It's imperative that any situation not be your word against someone else's. Have a witness and a helper with you at all times.
    I suggest 3 person teams. What is the third person for? Video. So we have a 3 person team. A confronter. A runner who should know where to go or who to call for help. (Keep those cell phones charged and handy). And finally a camera operator.
    c. Don't worry...be happy. If you weren't so good at what you are doing, and so successful at influencing the debate in this country, people wouldn't feel compelled to try to shoot you down using sleazy tactics. You are dominating the political playing field, and doing so by being honest, operating with integrity and staying within the law. Be proud of what you are accomplishing, and enjoy your day.
    And don't forget to buy some buttons. Reminds me of my hippie days but with different slogans. I do miss the incense.

    And in case you missed it Andrew Breitbart discusses how to do confrontation. The short version? Just ask questions.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:31 PM | Comments (1)

    If they're going to write a smear, can't they get the story "straight"?

    On Saturday I went to a Tea Party event in Lansing, Michigan where I spent over three hours. There were vendors walking around hawking Gadsden flags, but at no point did I see any table or vendor selling "STRAIGHT PRIDE" signs, nor did I see anyone wearing a "STRAIGHT PRIDE" T-shirt.

    A reporter named Todd Heywood says he did, though, and he offers pictures as proof. Problem is, the pictures he displays show absolutely nothing to indicate that the signs or T-shirts were worn at the Lansing Tea Party event.


    That could have been taken anywhere.

    So could this:


    If I saw something I didn't like being sold somewhere, and I wanted to prove it with a photograph, wouldn't common sense suggest that I take a wide enough shot to include enough of the surroundings to indicate the location?

    Call me skeptical.

    Moreover, the reporter claims that the "vendor's" company name "could not be made out on the tape" -- but alleges that he was affiliated with the Tea Party Express:

    LANSING- State and national organizations who represent the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are expressing outrage over t-shirts bearing the slogan "Straight Pride" offered for sale at a Saturday rally of the Tea Party Express.

    The person selling the t-shirts told the Michigan Messenger that his company -- the name of the company could not be made out on the tape due to a loud blast of noise, but it ended in "free media" -- was an official sponsor and financial supporter of the Tea Party Express, saying that they typically give 10-15 percent of their sales to the organization. He wore a button saying "official sponsor."

    Oh yeah? So why is there no photograph showing the vendor wearing this button? If this is supposed to be such a big story -- and it certainly is being parroted as such by the left -- then why not do the basic documentation?

    From nothing more than this reporter's scanty claim, there are headlines all over the Internet screaming "Why is the Tea Party selling "Straight Pride" t-shirts? Is it a shot at gays?" and "Straight Pride" t-shirts now on sale at Tea Party rallies

    For the reasons I explained here, I think such signs and T-shirts would be as inappropriate at a Tea Party event as would a "GAY PRIDE" or "BLACK PRIDE" t-shirt. But I'm not even sure the merits are the issue. I'm skeptical over whether it happened. Were these signs and T-shirts sold there?

    Does anyone actually know?

    MORE: I spoke with Levi Russell, who is the Communications Director for the Tea Party Express. While he was unaware of any "STRAIGHT PRIDE" shirts or stickers for sale at the Lansing event, he told me that except for their own vendors who sell only their own buttons, the Tea Party Express does not control (and legally cannot control) what vendors sell, and that they operate independently of Tea Party Express.

    Which means I guess I could go there and sell pit bull T-shirts, and legalize marijuana stickers. That would not make them Tea Party issues -- any more than the failure of Tea Party Express to stop me!

    MORE: Michigan Messenger editor Ed Brayton comments below:

    Eric, you know I'm a big fan of your blog. You may not know that I am the editor of the Michigan Messenger. I can assure you that the shirts were being sold there. We do, in fact, have a picture of the guy who sold the shirts with his "official sponsor" button on. We didn't put it in the story because I never imagined anyone would actually challenge the mere fact that they were being sold (I certainly expected people to disagree with whether it matters). You may not have seen the shirts, but they were there. We have many more pictures of it, and the audio of the interview with the person selling them. I'd be happy to send it to you and you can hear for yourself what he says and why, much to my frustration, we could not make out the first word in the name of his company. Todd Heywood is an excellent reporter who would never make up such a thing, and I certainly would not allow it on the site if we were not 100% certain about it.
    If I get the pictures confirming what Ed Brayton says, I'd be glad to post them here.

    However, as I was told by Mr. Russell that the only official Tea Party vendors do not sell these items, I would wonder whether the presence of a button saying "Official Sponsor" actually makes the guy an official sponsor (much less an official vendor, as the story is being spun).

    Stay tuned....

    MORE: The following picture -- which shows a man wearing a button which appears to say Tea Party Express) was sent to me by Ed Brayton along with audio.


    Whoever is speaking on the audio (which I am told is the guy in the picture) states that whatever he is selling (and that is not discussed, so there's no way to know from the audio whether it included "STRAIGHT PRIDE" T-shirts) is not official Tea Party Express merchandise, and as Levi Russell told me Tea Party Express does not and cannot control these vendors, I don't see how they have any responsibility for whatever he was selling. It sounds as if he says he's with "Hank's free media" or maybe "Tax Free Media."

    I don't know where this man's stand was and why I didn't see it or him, as I walked all around. He may have come after I arrived, and I didn't see him later. (It did get dark while I was there, and the above picture was taken in the dark.)

    And what I still have not seen is a picture of the actual shirt or stickers being sold there, although, considering Ed Brayton's additional information, it looks like they may have been.

    But I see nothing to indicate involvement by the Tea Party Express with these items. Unless you believe in guilt by association.

    MORE: So, what I have is a picture of a man wearing a button, and an interview with a vendor -- neither of which makes references the "STRAIGHT PRIDE" shirt.

    Should I retract my skepticism?

    UPDATE (4/17/10): A commenter who says he's the man in the photo has responded. He says he was not the seller "STRAIGHT PRIDE" T-shirts, and that he was asked no questions about them in the audio, but that he has now been persuaded to start selling them!

    I am a capitalist, I sell gay pride flags to gays at a huge gay pride rally in Atlanta, and I sell straight pride t-shirts at gun shows, if I thought the gay pride shirts would sell at tea parties, I would offer them.

    Double standards are crap.

    Do not take a right for yourself (flaunting gay pride messaged apparel) and then forbid me the same right by flaunting straight pride messaged apparel.

    The ones with the double standards are the real bigots. Special set aside rights for special groups.. sounds discriminatory to me.

    Here is the funny thing. I am the man in the picture above. I was NOT selling those Tshirts, but the vendor next to me was, since the uproar, I have decided to carry that merchandise.

    The "reporter" was trying to get dirt on the tea party, so he targets t shirt vendors? He approached me asking questions with his recording device hidden, and his camera tucked into his jacket with it zipped up. Every other member of the media on this and previous trips has been polite, has introduced themselves,has identified themselves as media and has asked if we would mind being taped, or recorded. Not this clown. He came with an agenda, he got it wrong.

    All he had to do was ask. I called him an asshole on site for being rude and not introducing himself first. Listen to the tape and you will hear that I told him we "Typically donate 10 to 15% to the LOCAL Organizers of tea party events and sometimes to the tea party express" by donating the checks we receive for merchandise directly to that cause.

    As for the "Official sponsor button", it;s actually more of an inside joke for the vendors at the tea party express rallies. Last year there was a member of the board at TPX who wanted to control who got to sell what merchandise and their/her preferred vendors made up official sponsor tags and buttons. We made those buttons up to mock the attempt to regulate a micro market like that (the vendors who follow the tpx) by people who are supposedly for free trade and unregulated markets (Tea party express).

    This year that person is no longer with the TPX ad the vendors have not been similarly harassed, but the buttons stayed.

    BTW, he did not ask about the tshirts (if he had, he would have taken a picture of the vendor next to me and recorded him secretly and not me) in question, he only asked questions about how much money we make, and what does the official button mean.
    If that's all true, then nice work, Todd Heywood! [That's total sarcasm, btw...]

    I already said what I thought about the merits of the "STRAIGHT PRIDE" meme. I am 100% against censorship, but I don't think it's any more of a Tea Party issue than "gay pride" or "black pride." As to the knee-jerk comparison that many lefties are making with "WHITE PRIDE," I think the latter is a more complicated issue, because of its clear association with extreme groups like Nazis and the Klan. So I think a "WHITE PRIDE" sticker would be even more inappropriate for a vendor to sell at a Tea Party, even though I would defend anyone's constitutional right to do so.

    As whether the primary goal of the "STRAIGHT PRIDE" sticker is politically incorrect satire or the assertion of identity politics, I don't know. I once had an amusing bumpersticker which read "HETEROSEXUALS HAVE RIGHTS TOO!" and I'm pretty sure that was satire. (I put it on an aquarium to be funny.)

    Anyone can put anything on anything -- a car, a shirt, or a table. It speaks only for that individual, and it is problematic to extrapolate further.

    But to take this to the extreme, let's suppose someone showed up at a Tea Party and started hawking "WHITE PRIDE" stickers. If that's all it takes to indict the Tea Party movement, then I'd expect someone to do it.

    posted by Eric at 01:26 PM | Comments (12)

    What's A Digital Brownshirt For The Goose...

    Just try to imagine the deafening shrieks of "McCarthyism! Oppression! Mob tactics!" if we substituted, say, Al Gore for the subject of this piece.

    Remember, this is the same MSM that ignored the Edwards adultery story for years and allows climate shillionaire Gore to bar them from his events with little scrutiny. But this story? Entirely newsworthy.

    posted by Dave at 08:25 AM | Comments (1)


    Watch the second part. See the discussion at Bring your cameras and video recorders.

    This seems like a pretty good camera for the price. More than enough pixels for the Internet. Kodak EasyShare C180 10MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom and 2.4 inch LCD

    This video camera had decent reviews: Kodak Zi6 HD Pocket Video Camera

    Any way - good enough for YouTube and the nightly news. And one other thing. Keep your batteries charged and take your camera with you.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    What they can't find, they'll invent!

    Even though I've been over this ground before, there's a point I made in the last post that deserves emphasis. The fact that it deserves more emphasis annoys the hell out of me, OK? Not just because I am sick to death of repeating myself, but because I think this is such basic stuff that no one really needs to be saying it, much less repeating it.

    The point is this. Despite the fact that the Tea Partiers have been one of the most mild mannered and well behaved groups of demonstrators in American history, there is a huge ongoing effort to portray them as racist, violence-prone, extremist kooks. That this huge effort has produced so little in terms of actual evidence -- almost nothing, in fact -- in my view explains the campaign to infiltrate and discredit the Tea Party movement with a COINTELPRO-style tactics such as false flags, agents provocateur, etc.

    As I have argued in countless posts now, it would matter if there were actual extremists and kooks to be found in the ranks of the Tea Partiers, for after all, these are public events. Like it or not, "the public" includes a lot of people, and there is no way to bar members of the public from attending a public event just because you think they hurt your image.

    Obviously, the Tea Party movement has not drawn a sufficient number of kooks or extremists, so the left wants to oblige.

    So go ahead lefties. Show up in right wing drag (or whatever you think that is) and scream your leftist obscenities. Do your damnedest.

    This stuff is old. It won't matter.

    While I'm at it, though, I should point out another irony, if I put on a Che Guevara T-shirt and a PLO kaffiyeh and went to a left wing demonstration, there'd be no way I could discredit them, no matter how many racist slogans or obscenities I yelled. To the MSM, I'd just be another Commie loon in the crowd, unworthy of any particular attention. I might even be cheered by the crowd. I think I would certainly be more welcome than an infiltrator who tried a similar approach at the Tea Parties.

    Because at the Tea Parties, there are people who think like this:


    That alone speaks rather well of the Tea Parties.

    MORE: From Charlie Martin, some advice for Tea Partiers:

    whatever the source, racially charged language, threats or actual violence are unacceptable, whether it's some misguided soul working independently or a false-flag demonstrator trying to manufacture an incident.

    So let's work together to beat them at their own game. If you see anyone with an offensive sign, take a picture of it and forward it to us at Pajamas Media. Mail it to our tips address (story@pajamasmedia.com) and we'll publish it, along with an explicit statement that this doesn't reflect the real tea party spirit. Try to get the person's face, so they can be properly shamed.

    Of course, if they're leftists flying under a false racist flag, they will also have their faces and signs published. They'll also be derided, just as if they're real racists. If their friends happen to see them, along with their sign, any conclusions they draw will be their own.

    posted by Eric at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

  • Fiscal Responsibility.
  • Constitutionally Limited Government,
  • Free Markets.

  • Beyond that, you're on your own!

    To what extent is it reasonable to judge a group of people by the actions of an individual member of that group? I don't think it's reasonable at all, but a lot of people -- especially activists -- seem to do it. And of course when it happens the activists on the other side have to retaliate in kind. I often think that most of the screaming which we call "politics" simply consists of activists on one side playing gotcha games with activists on the other side. It gets very tedious. But to them, it must be very exciting, so maybe I should try harder to be patient and tolerant of the screaming.

    A perfect example is an article in the Dayton Daily News about a supposed "Tea Party candidate" for an uncontested low level office who was caught Twittering a racially offensive statement:

    SPRINGBORO -- Racist comments, including a slur about Hispanics, posted on the Twitter page of the Springboro Tea Party were particularly hurtful to Alana Turner.

    "Illegals everywhere today! So many spics makes me feel like a speck. Grrr. Wheres my gun!?" said the March 21 posting on the site managed by the group's founder, Sonny Thomas.

    Turner said the comments upset her because she and Thomas have a 6-year-old son who is part Hispanic.

    "Basically, it's like he's saying he hates his son," Turner said.

    The Twitter posting triggered cancellations by several local and statewide candidates and elected officials scheduled to speak at a Springboro Tea Party rally scheduled for Saturday, April 17, at North Park. However, some officials say this doesn't tarnish the Tea Party movement as a whole.

    "I don't think it says anything about the movement per se," state Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Clearcreek Twp., said on the same day Tea Party officials from around the country formed a federation to counteract perceptions that the groups are racist, unsophisticated and disorganized. Jones was the first elected official to withdraw from the event.

    It goes without saying that a guy who puts out stuff like that on the Internet is a liability, but I had never heard of him or the Swingboro Tea Party before the above story went viral.

    While anyone can join or show up at these things, I have to say that the Swingboro Tea Party web site does not look especially representative of the Tea Party Movement. They heavily promote Alex Jones-style conspiracy theories, while Sonny Thomas (the guy who made the Twitter remark) is a big Birth Certificate Truther, and has a lot of ideas on other subjects (such as "freeing Scotland" and keeping the gay lifestyle "in the closet") which would be considered unconventional by many. As to whether he made the inflammatory Twitter statement, I don't know. I didn't see it on his Twitter account (although I got a chuckle out of the Bilderberger stuff), and while the leftie Think Progess says "the offensive tweet has been removed" but they have claim is a screenshot.) So assume he said it. If I lived in his area, I would not vote for him for whatever Republican local office he is running for. But to judge the Tea Party because of what this one man Twittered is simply absurd.

    Clearly, the man was drawn to the Tea Party Movement, as are a lot of people. But do their individual opinions become part and parcel of what the Tea Party movement stands for?

    I don't see how. It's like, for seven years I have been carrying on in this blog about countless topics. Does that mean that if I were to become a mover and a shaker in the Tea Party movement, that my more controversial ideas should be imputed to them?


    From what I have seen of the Tea Partiers, I think that's the antithesis of what the movement is about. At the Lansing Tea Party over the weekend, I got into several discussions with people who didn't completely agree with me (nor I with them), but we could agree that the federal government is not the place to sort these things out.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the Tea Party movement as I have known it is a coalition standing for three principles:

  • Fiscal Responsibility
  • Constitutionally Limited Government
  • Free Markets
  • There's no immigrant policy, no abortion policy, no gay policy (no word on gay marriage, and not even a position on Don't Ask Don't Tell), no education policy, no drug war policy, no foreign policy, no position on Obama's birth certificate, and nothing about the proper role of religion, how many gods there are or aren't, or which books or carved stones ought to dictate truth to us. Plus, the movement does not seem to have issued any statements in favor of banning pit bulls! (For that Coco and I thank whatever gods may be looking down on us with favor!)

    Nor should there be any Tea Party position on these things. But I guarantee that if you went around and asked individual Tea Partiers, you would get thousands of positions on all of the above issues. I am also quite confident, though, that the huge majority of them would also say that these were their own views and not those of the Tea Party movement.

    I realize that none of this will stop the activists from saying that the Tea Partiers want to use the S-word against Hispanics. Before shooting them, of course.

    This sort of argument is all so familiar as to be tired.

    Once again
    , the people who do these things are the ones who do them:

    By any standard, the conduct displayed by the bigoted gay demonstrators is outrageous, inexcusable, and indefensible. However, speaking as an individualist, I don't think it any more reflects on gays as a whole than it would reflect on blacks as a whole if some angry black demonstrators hurled epithets at gays or Jews. The people who do these things are the ones who do them. That they are in a crowd of demonstrators might reflect poorly on the other demonstrators, but the problem with extrapolating from angry demonstrators to the group they claim to "represent" is that they are rarely more than a small percentage of that population. So, if a half a dozen gay bigots use the N-word at a demonstration, it no more reflects on all gays than something shouted from a crowd at a McCain rally would reflect on all Republicans.
    This is not to say that Tea Partiers -- even at the individual level -- have displayed conduct anything like those angry gay demonstrators, but even if a small number did, it would be completely unfair to judge the group as a whole by the actions of a few.

    So this post is a retread of similar rants I have had in this blog over the years, and I almost feel that by forcing myself to address it, I am descending to the activist level. And while being an activist is something I abhor, OTOH, I support the central message of the Tea Parties, and while I'm not much of a sign waver (and I'm certainly not running for office), I do have this blog. Speaking up is the least I can do.

    Especially when I have to say what I don't think I should have to say.

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

    Desiree Bassett - Power and Force

    From the blurb at YouTube:

    Desiree Bassett of Connecticut shreds guitar like no other her age! sit down and enjoy! The song is called "Power & Force, which is also the the title of her all original CD. Desiree also wrote this song at the age of 10.

    Desiree has a fan club where you can listen to cuts from her album Power and Force.

    You can get the album at Amazon: Vol. 2 Power & Force

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:40 AM | Comments (4)

    Not Interested In Politics

    This is about the best take on the Tea Party participants (as opposed to the "leaders") that I have read so far.

    Beyond their fiscally conservative principles, the ideology of the people involved in the tea party movement tends to vary dramatically. So far, tea party activists "haven't been interested in politics," Fitton said.
    Which reminds me of an experience I had last week at a Tea Party. I met some old friends of the family who are involved in Rockford Pro Life and asked them pointedly if they were interested in any way in laws banning abortion. Their position was that the Federal Government should stay out of the issue. Neither banning abortions nor paying for them. That is a position I can support. And it fits with the smaller government theme of the Tea Parties. So I visited their www site and found it a little too Christian for my tastes. But let me re-iterate that I like their position. Are there any secular anti-abortion groups that hold that position?

    And I really like the idea of conservative groups that understand the difference between changing the culture and changing the laws. There are limits to what law can do. Did I mention the Drug War?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:37 AM | Comments (0)

    The Status Of Crime

    Camden, New Jersey has a problem.

    For nine months last year, Ron Mills was locked in the Camden County Jail.

    For nine months he held firm to his story that the drugs he was charged with possessing didn't exist.

    Last month Mills' story was validated when a former Camden police officer admitted in federal court that for more than two years he and four other officers arrested suspects with planted drugs, carried out illegal searches and wrote false arrest reports.

    Mills' story, which was detailed by former Patrolman Kevin Parry in court, is now being laid out in one of a growing number of lawsuits planned against the city.

    That is the trouble with status crimes. Only a police officer is needed to give evidence. If you are going to falsely accuse some one of robbery you generally need a civilian accomplice who will testify "I wuz robbed". Somewhat more difficult than just planting evidence and making up stories. A tactic often referred to by police as Testilying.

    But haven't we heard that story before?

    The Rampart scandal refers to widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (or CRASH) anti-gang unit of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Rampart Division in the late 1990s. More than 70 police officers in the CRASH unit were implicated in misconduct, making it one of the most widespread cases of documented police misconduct in United States history. The convicted offenses include unprovoked shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of evidence, framing of suspects, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury, and covering up evidence of these activities.
    Those Rampart boys sound a bit excessive. Even for out of control police.

    But back to Camden.

    In announcing the case dismissals for the first time last month, Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk described their extent as "unprecedented in the state of New Jersey."

    Cherry Hill attorney Michael Pinsky said in his 46 years as an attorney he has "never seen mass dismissals like this."

    But the corruption in Camden isn't completely unique, as rogue officers from Philadelphia to Los Angeles have caused thousands of cases to be dismissed.

    In the mid-1990s, a police scandal in Philadelphia's 39th District led to at least eight officers pleading guilty to corruption charges. Hundreds of criminal cases were thrown out by judges and lawsuits against the city tallied at least $4 million in settlements, according to media reports.

    Say didn't they have problems like these during alcohol prohibition? Yes they did.
    Prohibition also fostered corruption and contempt for law and law enforcement among large segments of the population. Harry Daughtery, attorney general under Warren Harding, accepted bribes from bootleggers. George Remus, a Cincinnati bootlegger, had a thousand salesmen on his payroll, many of them police officers. He estimated that half his receipts went as bribes. Al Capone's Chicago organization reportedly took in $60 million in 1927 and had half the city's police on its payroll.
    One of the reasons I think police have a need for prohibition to continue for as much longer as is possible is that there are a lot of ugly things that are going to be uncovered when this rock is lifted.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:36 PM | Comments (1)

    Dithering outside the Colosseum

    As it's Monday, and I got all politicked out over the weekend, I thought I would take a brief break from writing about politics. Perhaps I am being naughty, but earlier I received a very nice email from a reader who was actually inspired by a series of posts about my adventures in rice cooker cooking. I really didn't feel I "should" be writing about such trivialities when really serious things are happening. It's almost like when Bush was president and people were, like, you know, dying in Iraq and New Orleans or something and you had to be oh-so-serious all the time, and Condoleezza Rice got in trouble for shopping.

    Plus, I spent much of the day Saturday working on my damned taxes! Unfortunately, I am not among the privileged half of the country who don't have to pay taxes, and while I agree with Dr. Helen that such a divisive system is wrong, the fact is that there are Two Americas -- the tax payers and the tax eaters.

    But that's political, and this post is not. It's about a very disturbing controversy (a piscine culture war, if you must) which arose between my fish, and looking back, I see that I wrote a post about the situation nearly ten months ago. Naif that I am, I thought I had come up with a wonderful solution to the problem involving difficult fish that had trouble getting along. What I thought I had achieved was peace through applied game theory:

    I have a pair of [Jack Dempseys] (each has his own piece of PVC, of course), in a tank with my Flowerhorn Trimac cichlid, which became too aggressive to be kept with my turtle, much less any normal fish. It seemed wasteful to devote an entire aquarium to a single fish though, so I thought very carefully about how to achieve a more or less peaceful balance of power, applying various game theory scenarios in my mind before deciding on the pair of Dempseys. I knew I was taking a chance as cichlids are all very aggressive fish, but in my experience, the Jack Dempsey is not quite as aggressive as the Red Devil/Trimac/Flowerhorn type monsters. The latter often can't be kept even with their own kind, and I started with two and had to get rid of one back in March. The remaining one was the wimp of the two, but now he's gotten aggressive, and I'd never try another pair of them together. The Jack Dempseys are quite larger, though, one of them is twice as large, and the smaller one about the same size as the Trimac. My reasoning was that trouble might start, but would not last, because of constantly shifting alliances. Two Jack Dempseys alone might have fought more, but together, they seem to unite against the Trimac, although the Trimac is so fierce that he's a match for either one of them. If the Trimac gets out of hand, the two will go after him and defend themselves, but they're not quite aggressive enough to attack in a completely unprovoked manner. The Dempseys occasionally attack each other, but it doesn't last, and the Trimac's attacks do not last. It's an inherently unstable arrangement, with no real alliances, but no bitter rivalries. I'm very lucky, because that's exactly what I hoped would happen. It's been almost two weeks now. A peaceful situation it is not, but I think things are close enough to achieving parity of the sort Henry Kissinger might approve.
    Right. Well, I guess I was lucky to get as far as I did with what appears in retrospect to have been a touchy-feely, John Lennon-Imagine, Kumbaya approach to aggressive fish management, because nature has a way of biting pacifism in the ass. Only in this case, it was the poor Flowerhorn who has been bitten in the ass (and everywhere else) by the suddenly brutal Jack Dempseys.

    What happened was that the Dempseys both grew up, and as it turned out, they were male and female, and they have bonded as a pair. Not long ago I noticed that they were acting strangely and would not come out of the 12 by 10 plastic Roman Colosseum hollow tank decoration that supplanted the PVC pipes and was long ago staked out as their exclusive territory. At first I worried that they were sick, but as I investigated more closely, I saw that they have been performing a huge amount of excavation inside the Colosseum. It has no floor, so they have carefully and meticulously excavated all the sand it sat upon, all the way down to the surface of the plastic undergravel filter. This is classic mating behavior, and it means they are getting ready to spawn.

    Once a pair has formed, Jack Dempseys can be exceptionally prolific parents. They will dig a pit in the substrate in which eggs will be laid, and the pair will guard the eggs and fry ferociously until they are ready to be moved on. Spawn sizes can number into the hundreds. Once a pair has bred once they will continue to do so on a regular basis.
    What this means is that the laws of nature have intervened in what I had thought was a carefully crafted peaceful trilateral coexistence!

    Worse yet, I learned that by keeping the Flowerhorn in there, I had unwittingly supplied the Dempseys with what is called a "dither fish" -- an unwitting dupe in a savage ritual:

    Many breeders recommend adding a "dither fish" to encourage the parents to bond together against a common enemy. A slightly smaller convict cichlid makes a good dither fish. You want one they can't kill too quickly.
    Well isn't that lovely! I thought I was doing everything right, and it turns out I was doing everything right -- only not what I thought I was doing right!

    The attacks on the Flowerhorn began only in the past few days, but last night the violence reached a climax. I noticed that water was actually splashing out of the tank as the Jack Dempseys relentlessly smashed and bashed the poor Flowerhorn, building up momentum to slam him as hard as hard as possible from opposite sides of the tank. I couldn't stand the brutality anymore, and when I went over to look closely I noticed that every one of the Flowerhorn's fins were shredded, he was missing many scales from both sides, and he was lying on his side in a corner right at the surface. I raised that fish from a fry and I've had him for over a year, and I just couldn't let this continue, so even though I don't have room for another aquarium, I nevertheless cleared off some space and set up an emergency 10 gallon "hospital tank." He was just lying there spent, and so easy to catch that I didn't think he would make it through the night (he still might not make it), but I knew he would have been dead if I didn't intervene. So I put him into the new tank, added a fake mermaid-on-a-rock hiding place that had been in a salt water aquarium (salt can benefit sick fish) and I treated the water with Stress Coat to help him heal. When I went to bed he was on the bottom of the tank, barely moving, and this morning, while he looked like the most seriously beat-up fish I had ever seen, there was clearly some new liveliness in him. Like one of those pugnacious pit bulls I've read about that would be nearly killed in dogfights and manage to survive.

    Here's how my rescued "dither fish" looks right now:


    It's nice to have an occasional diversion from politics.

    posted by Eric at 01:27 PM | Comments (4)

    When overnight no longer means overnight....

    I wouldn't normally have written a blog post about something as mundane as going to the post office to mail an overnight letter (something that it turned out can no longer be done), but no sooner did I return from my mini-adventure than I saw that the GAO is warning that the Postal Service is no longer viable:

    Happy Monday! The U.S. Postal Service's current business model "is not viable" and the mail agency should make deeper job and wage cuts, hire more part-time staff and consider outsourcing operations, according to a draft of a government audit acquired by The Federal Eye.

    Auditors also urge Congress to remove restrictions on the Postal Service's ability to cut Saturday mail delivery and close post offices, according to the report, which offers recommendations similar to the USPS's own proposed 10-year business plan.

    Lawmakers requested the Government Accountability Office report, set for a Monday release, as they prepare to consider the USPS plan, which was introduced last month. The proposals call for an end to six-day delivery and ask Congress to give the mail agency the ability to raise prices beyond the rate of inflation and close post offices if necessary.

    Well, I had to solve this morning's problem by going from the post office to a Federal Express office. There was no line, a courteous employee simply took my letter, filled out everything for me, and in no time at all I was out of there with a guaranteed delivery receipt in my hand. Granted, FEDEX costs more, but there's also UPS, which costs less, and either one can manage to get a letter from Michigan to California overnight. So, why is it that the federal government, with all its resources, cannot do the same thing?

    Sure, I had to pay more, but if the USPS had an "overnight mail" service (yes, that is the Newspeak phrase they use to describe their 2 day delivery), and it actually worked, they could charge the same as FEDEX or UPS, and maybe be competitive.

    Can you imagine what would happen if they ran medical care the way they run the Postal Service?

    Yeah, I know. Questions like that used to be rhetorical.

    MORE: From Byron York a real question, "Will Obama create the Post Office of health care?"

    If only that were a joke.

    posted by Eric at 11:30 AM | Comments (4)

    Nighttime Tea in Lansing, Michigan

    Yesterday I drove to Lansing, Michigan for the Tea Party Express rally in front of the State Capitol building. While I'm no estimator, it was a good-sized crowd, and I read that there were thousands of people at the earlier rally in Grand Rapids. That may explain why the event started an hour or so late, and this became a nighttime event (which if you think about it, is in the original Tea Party tradition). Photography became difficult after dark, but there was a huge amount of enthusiasm, and I thought I would share the pictures I took just before the twilight's last gleaming.

    Here's the Capitol building from afar:


    And up closer, on the front steps, to the left and to the right:



    While it pains me to have to point this out, considering the utterly bogus (but utterly relentless) charges of Tea Party racism, I feel obligated to mention that not only were there a number black Tea Partiers, but at least two of the speakers were black. One of the Tea Party Express tour leaders is author and musician Lloyd Marcus, who has been singled out for especially vicious left-wing abuse. Because he's black, of course, and he won't conform to their degrading narrative.

    So I say, more power to those who turn the tables on their would be masters!

    And more power to those who turn the tables on the language of the oppressor by mocking it, as this protester did.


    As the oppressors are defined as those who think we should be ruled from above as opposed to governed with the consent of the governed, naturally I loved this sign:


    Of course, foremost in the minds of the Tea Partiers was the health care atrocity which is so monstrous that does not even deserve to be called legislation. Tea Partiers were among the first to blow the whistle about the notorious "end of life" panel provisions, and they, along with Sarah Palin were ridiculed for calling them death panels. But now that the death panels have been embraced by lefties like Paul Krugman, where are the apologies?

    It was a favorite theme, and I liked this couple's signs:


    And this one, calling for "end of life counseling" for Congress:


    This brings to mind a petition I signed there, which would amend the Michigan Constitution to basically nullify Obamacare. Sponsored by Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom, the amendment would accomplish the following:

  • I hope it qualifies and passes, because if the legislation isn't repealed, the more challenges and showdowns the better -- in as many states as possible.

    BTW, I simply love their redesigned "Gadsden Caduceus."


    One of my favorite signs (which reflects the theme of yesterday's post) was this:


    And if you want to keep everyone guessing with a generic sign that could be carried at virtually any protest, anywhere, it would be hard to do better than this:


    I'm all for stopping nonsense!

    But OTOH, maybe I'm not! (I mean, sometimes I work hard at my nonsense, so I'm still puzzling over exactly what she meant, but a little surrealism is always OK. A sign like that can be read any way you want!)

    It was a fun event, and obviously I can't say that I agreed with everything said by every speaker, but I couldn't be more supportive of the overall message, which is to stop socialism and restore freedom.

    MORE: Reporting on the event, the Detroit Free Press says there were "more than 1,000 on the steps of the Capitol."

    And there were many more on the promenade in front of the Capitol!

    MORE: Capitol Confidential says there were "about 1,800 people."

    AND MORE: And via Glenn Reynolds, don't miss theblogprof's report!

    posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (2)

    A Trumka is an Alinsky is a Hoover is a Hoffa

    I've been mulling over the rather bizarre (and amazingly tardy) claim by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka that he "witnessed" the N-word being shouted by Tea Partiers at black congressmen.

    I share Dan Riehl's skepticism:

    It seems curious to me that he made no such claim in a released statement dated March 25th that specially cites his time on Capitol Hill that day. The only other relevant statement I can find via the AFL-CIO site is this one praising ObamaCare on March 21. It makes no sense that Trumka suddenly remembered what he heard, after failing to mention it during the debate over harsh rhetoric that followed. In my opinion, that he failed to invoke it in the release below on the very same topic casts doubt on his credibility in this regard.
    Jim Treacher is also skeptical, but puts it a bit more sarcastically:
    Trumka personally witnessed these events, which somehow a throng of people with video cameras all missed. And he can prove he was there. And it only took him three weeks to speak up about it, when directly asked by a guy who's offering a $100,000 reward for any evidence.

    And of course, Trumka has no reason to lie. No reason at all to try to discredit these folks.

    What more proof do you need?

    No reason at all! Love it.

    Warner Todd Huston is more blunt:

    Trumka is simply a liar. That's all there is to it.
    I may be wrong, but I think there may be more to it than that. If you consider his position and his ethos as basically the number one union man in the country, Trumka's lie may not have been a lie in the ordinary sense. Rather, I think his purpose might have been to let the rank and file know that it's time to get tough, Alinsky-style. Lie and prevaricate ruthlessly and without hesitation.

    This makes a lot of sense if the primary goal is to use any means necessary to stop the Tea Party movement.

    JWF linked a HuffPo piece with a title that included these words: "Unions Try To Out-Tea Party The Tea Party." And Trumka (surprise!) is an architect of this strategy:

    A host of union groups and community activists are planning to one-up the anti-Wall Street sentiment commonly associated with the Tea Party movement by actually organizing a massive protest on the streets of downtown Manhattan.

    The AFL-CIO is set to orchestrate a 10,000-person "march on Wall Street" on April 29, designed to push for several broad and specific actions on the financial regulatory reform front.

    The union conglomerate's president, Richard Trumka, in an interview with Politico, described the event as a focal point for populist angst with the financial industry's practices.

    "People will be talking, yelling, chanting, and letting America -- and letting Wall Street, particularly -- know that their brand of economics, where the financial economy overshadows the real economy, is no longer acceptable, that we want them to help pay for the jobs that they destroyed," he said.

    But "out-Tea Partying the Tea Partiers" is only one prong of the strategy.

    The other prong involves any-means-necessary tactics -- some of which are taken right out of the COINTELPRO textbook.

    There's a group called the "Patriot Majority" which uses this logo:


    They appeared out of nowhere, and the group's founder (Democratic activist Craig Varoga) is already being prominently featured as Mr. Anti-Tea Party as in this CBS "Washington Unplugged" debate with Tea Party Patriots organizer Debbie Dooley. At a web page called "The Tea Party Is Over," the group encourages anti-Tea Party activists to "help us put a stop to the dangerous ideas of the Tea Party."

    Then there's a newly up and running group called Crash the Tea Party. Here's their strategy:


    Sheesh. You'd almost think these people were trying to give J. Edgar Hoover an erection in his grave.

    Once again, this is vintage COINTELPRO stuff.

    The FBI and police used a myriad of other "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.
    I don't know whether to call such tactics Alinskyist or Nixonian, but there's nothing new about them. (Parenthetically, I think it's worth noting that Ann Althouse has been besieged by "Mobys" who are doing their damnedest to make her mostly thoughtful and reasonable commenters look like right wing nuts.)

    If anyone thinks this is a grass roots effort, think again. It appears this is a well organized, well-paid attempt. According to NPR, the group "Patriot Majority,

    "just reported a $1.65 million haul from AFSCME, in addition to $1.5 million from the union earlier in the month, not to mention even more before October."
    So I think it's clear that Big Unions are out to stop the Tea Party Movement, and will do just about anything.

    Almost reminds me of the way Hoffa used to work with Nixon.

    MORE: TigerHawk takes a look at Crash the Tea Party, and poses some interesting speculative questions. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Meanwhile it looks like the Freepers have the goods on the guy who owns the site. (He appears to be a Philadelphia school district employee.)

    posted by Eric at 11:55 AM | Comments (3)

    "The statement has been made."

    I've been reading about a rash of fires started by arsonists in Flint, Michigan. There have been so so many fires in recent weeks that it's hard to give an exact count.

    But what I find especially ominous are local news reports quoting Flint officials as saying the arson was committed for political purposes, apparently in retaliation over the fact that the City of Flint has laid off fireworkers.

    From a story headlined "Rash of fires in Flint thought to be for 'perverted political purpose'":

    FLINT, Michigan -- City officials suspect arsonists with a political bent were trying to scare residents after nine vacant homes were torched over a 20-hour span.

    The rash of fires was worse than the city has seen on Devil's Night in recent years, a night typically considered the worst night for arsons in Flint all year.

    The fires started Wednesday about 30 minutes after Flint Mayor Dayne Walling announced that 23 firefighters would no longer be on the job starting Thursday morning.

    Two firefighters were hurt in the ensuing fires, including one who had a ceiling fall on him.

    The injured firefighters, who were treated and released, were among those who lost their jobs in the layoffs.

    Thursday, Walling and Public Safety Director Alvern Lock renewed their calls for residents to be especially vigilant after the outbreak of arson fires.

    "The point here is that this is a series of coordinated criminal attacks that are designed to scare the residents of this city," said Walling, saying the arsonists are seeking a "perverted political purpose" by setting them.

    Another story is headlined "Flint Mayor: Rash of fires a series of 'coordinated criminal attacks'":
    March 25, 2010, 11:50AM

    FLINT, Michigan -- Firefighters have battled at least one more blaze today after a night filled with seven fire calls, and city officials are calling for residents to be vigilant in the face of these 'coordinated criminal attacks.'

    Mayor Dayne Walling said today that the city is doing everything it can to curb the outbreak of fires, and promised to "not allow criminals and fear to take over this city."

    He said investigators believe the fires have been set in routine pattern out to achieve a "perverted political purpose."

    Well, I'm glad he doesn't want to allow criminals to take over the city, but I find myself baffled over whether this is crime in the ordinary sense of the word. Sure, arson is a crime (a particularly awful crime, because fires can spread), but when arson is committed for a specific political purpose, it rises to another level entirely. I mean, if these fires had been started by animal rights activists who wanted to shut down a research lab, by anti-war activists who wanted to shut down a military recruiting center, or by a crackpot "Christian militia" group for some insane reason, there would be a huge uproar, but this story is being very selectively reported. Why is that? Surely, the goal of terrorizing a city into hiring back laid off firefighters no more justifies political arson than any other goal. Arson is a heinous crime, and if it is being committed to achieve a political purpose, that makes it more heinous. And even if we analyze it purely as crime, it resembles classic mob-style extortion; the old insurance racket. ("Pay up, or your building burns!")

    If the goal is to frighten citizens, it is working. Students at the University of Michigan understand full well what is going on, and they're afraid their buildings will be next:

    Community members expressed a great deal of concern for the spreading of fires as well as the disregard for the potential utilization of these buildings.

    "It's ridiculous. People could have lived in the houses that were set on fire tonight," said Kyle Suber, a resident of the community. "It's also pretty scary. You never know when your house will be next to go up in flames."

    "Whoever is doing this needs to stop," said Suber.

    Students at UM-Flint also expressed dismay at the ongoing situation around Flint.

    "As a political statement, this has gone completely out of hand," said Nick Weldon, a sophomore visual communications major. "This is one of the first houses that has carried over to another house, which just proves how dangerous this is. The statement has been made."

    As a residential student at UM-Flint, Weldon feels safe, but as a member of Theta Chi fraternity, whose house is located in the Carriage Town district of Flint, he is worried for the safety of the house.

    He's right that the statement has been made. And a hell of a statement it is.

    "Fires in Flint Continue to Rage"

    More worrisome to me is that the statement not only has been made, but it's been heard. And acted upon -- in a way that strikes me as sending the very wrong message that arson committed for political purposes will be rewarded.

    At the highest levels. Yes, federal money is now on its way, so the city will be able to hire back the laid-off firefighters.

    We learned Wednesday that Flint is receiving a federal $6.7 million SAFER grant that will allow the Flint Fire Department to rehire 39 firefighters.

    The city may also reopen two fire stations that were closed at the time; Fire Station 8 on East Atherton Road and Fire Station 3 on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

    Last month the city laid off 23 firefighters.

    We talked to firefighters today who are happy they could get their jobs back. Many said they are waiting to to see if 39 firefighters will actually be added.

    News of this grant comes on the heels of another long night for firefighters. Seven fires were reported Wednesday - a lot to handle for a short-handed fire department.

    When this grant money becomes available, some of those laid-off firefighters will be hired back.

    Why is there no mention of arson in the writeup of that announcement? At least the Detroit Free Press mentions arson in its story, although there's not so much as a hint of the political motivation which city officials acknowledge:
    FLINT -- Flint has received a $6.8 million federal stimulus grant that could allow the struggling city to recall recently laid-off firefighters.

    U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint, says Flint should be able to rehire 39 firefighters.

    Democratic U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say the money comes from $7 million in Homeland Security Department grants to state emergency responders.

    Last month, Flint announced the layoffs of 23 of 88 firefighters and 46 of 150 police officers to help close a budget deficit. The cuts have been accompanied by a wave of arsons, many in abandoned homes.

    Might it be that they don't want people to know that the "perverted political purpose" is being subsidized with tax dollars?

    Yes, I think the idea of committing arson in order to get federal stimulus money for government jobs is about as perverted as it is possible to get. It's the sort of thing we traditionally associate with kleptocracies, and I am sorry to see it happening in the United States.

    And I think what's worse than the fact that it happened is that it isn't being widely reported.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for quoting from this post. A warm welcome to all!

    For more background, do not miss this post from theblogprof which has details how unions are basically running the government, which deploys a "human shield strategy" to justify raising taxes and preventing any cutbacks in government jobs -- even "under the most dire circumstances."

    That's bad enough, but if arson is actually being deployed as deliberate political strategy, we are at risk of degenerating into a thugocracy. Politicians who encourage or reward such tactics are a dire threat to freedom and democracy, and this amounts to aiding and abetting terrorism.

    Why is this a local investigation? And where's the full investigation by the FBI and Homeland Security?

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Rick Moran for linking and discussing this post!

    posted by Eric at 08:09 PM | Comments (23)

    There are worse things than Boden swimsuits

    While I like to be thorough, today is a busy day for me, so I absolutely will not have time to deal with the issues raised here by one of Glenn Reynolds' readers:

    Anyhow, was just wondering if you could please mention at some point in the next few months how very pleased you have been with: your new Boden swimsuit, your Merrell Timpani sandals, and your Bernina Cut & Sew attachment. Thanks.
    I'm not a fashion follower so I really had no idea what the reader was talking about. It is of little interest to me what clothes Glenn has or wears, but Glenn's reply had me scratching my head:
    I look good in anything, but the Boden swimsuit may test that limit.

    That made me feel really ignorant, so I Googled "Boden swimsuit" and I got images images like this one -- called the "Mini Boden Girly Swimsuit."


    I think Glenn's point is well taken, and I am glad I am too busy to prove it. It might look good on Joe Biden, though. After all, "Biden" is just a keystroke away from "Boden," which means that "Mini Biden Girly Swimsuit" is close enough for gummint work. But today I just don't have time for what would be a very tedious and unpleasant Photoshopping task.

    Especially when I tested my own limits by looking at a picture titled "Joe Biden's Stimulus Package."


    I don't know anything about Merrell Timpani sandals but where it comes to Biden's sagging stimulus package, the Bernina Cut & Sew attachment might just help.

    posted by Eric at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

    fighting the high priests of religious emissions

    First they said that cows caused global warming. I dutifully repeated their claim until I was blue in the face.

    But now they're saying that cows don't cause global warming after all!

    Livestock could actually be good for the environment according to a new study that found grazing cows or sheep can cut emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas.
    Quick! A new study is needed, so we can tell the hapless dupes who fret and worry over their footprints that they can go back to worrying about cows again! And while they're at it, they need to find a way to suppress news reports about the arctic ice that isn't supposed to be there, but is at normal levels anyway.

    In many ways, this new religion is worse than the old. Used to be they were stuck having to argue over interpretations of existing rules. Now the rules are made up constantly. And while the old religion might have been annoying, at least in free countries the priests really couldn't compel non-believers to believe, nor could they force them to do things. It used to be that if you didn't believe in a religion, you had a right to be left alone.

    No more. This is the sort of invasive thinking that transformed John Stossel from a Kennedy-style "liberal" into a libertarian:

    We know that conservatives want government to conserve traditional values. They say they're for limited government, but they're pro-drug war, pro-immigration restriction and anti-abortion, and they often support "nation-building."

    And so-called liberals? They tend to be anti-gun and pro-choice on abortion. They favor big, powerful government -- they say -- to make life kinder for people.

    By contrast, libertarians want government to leave people alone -- in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don't hurt anybody else.

    Stossel notes that leaving people alone used to be the essence of liberalism. It was a reaction against authoritarian control freaks:
    Ironically, that used to be called "liberal," which has the same root as "liberty." Several hundred years ago, liberalism was a reaction against the stifling rules imposed by aristocracy and established religion.

    I wish I could call myself "liberal" now. But the word has been turned on its head. It now means health police, high taxes, speech codes and so forth.

    So I can't call myself a "liberal." I'm stuck with "libertarian." If you have a better word, please let me know.

    Well, I kind of like "Tea Partier" these days. Not just because it annoys the hell out of authoritarian control freaks, but because the Tea Party movement is essentially leaderless. No leader means no one to let you down, no one to tell you what to do, and no one to tax your emissions!

    MORE: Speaking of the high priests of religious emissions, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has is urging San Franciscans to go without meat. On "meatless Mondays":

    SAN FRANCISCO -- Besides approving rules against using plastic grocery bags, mixing recycling with compost, and smoking in sidewalk cafes, San Francisco supervisors have passed a resolution asking residents to observe meatless Mondays.

    San Francisco supervisors passed the resolution Tuesday for no-meat Mondays in their latest legislative endorsement of healthy, eco-conscious living.

    It cannot stop the city's residents from eating meat. Instead, it is meant to call attention to the relationship between diet and climate change.

    Via Clayton Cramer, who has more on the obvious religious implications of this nonsense.

    posted by Eric at 12:44 PM | Comments (5)

    Imagine taking candy from a baby!

    Remember when taking candy from a baby was a cruel thing to do? When I Googled that phrase from yesteryear, this was the first picture that came up:

    taking candy from a baby.jpg

    The photographer of the above aside, what sort of cruel person would take candy from a baby? I remember when that was a stereotype of the evil city slicker.

    Now, taking sweet stuff away from children (as David Harsanyi points out) is the liberal thing to do. By means of more authoritarian legislation, of course:

    As we speak, legislation is wiggling through Congress that would ban candy and sugary beverages in local schools -- bake sales, a la carte lunches, Halloween goodies, birthday cupcakes -- and stipulate that suitable chow be offered. It's legislation that can't be stopped. It's for the children.

    Michelle Obama -- no doubt driven by the best of intentions -- went on to take food manufacturers to task, asking them to "rethink the products" they produce because business, apparently, should be a clearinghouse for ethically sound groceries rather than a place that manufactures frozen pizza.

    Look, I have no problem with Michelle Obama taking food manufacturers to task. But this legislation makes a mockery of the Constitution. If the federal government can dictate what sort of food has to be served in local schools, there really isn't anything it can't do.

    The First Lady is also grumbling about access to supermarkets:

    The first lady says there is a lack of "accessibility and affordability" as so many Americans reside in "nutritional wastelands" found in urban and rural areas (the latter, one gathers, filled with farms) with no access to supermarkets. "Some 23.5 million Americans -- including 6.5 million children -- currently live in food deserts," claims the Let's Move! site.

    This fantasy quickly evaporates when one learns that the average American spends a mere 7 percent of his or her annual income on food (the lowest percentage in the world). That average person has an amazingly rich and diverse array of nutritious foods to choice from. In addition, it turns out that that there are very few "food deserts" in states that have the highest levels of obesity in the nation.

    This is not a new issue here. I looked into a claim promoted by a respected columnist that Philadelphia had neighborhoods with no grocery stores within five miles and found it to be utterly bogus. But one thing I've learned and relearned in all these years of blogging is that if a claim is what people want to believe, then it doesn't much matter whether it's utterly bogus. Whether it is bogus is only of interest to those who don't want to believe it, which means that ultimately debunking these claims is unlikely to persuade anyone. Especially because the narrative is all that matters to true believers. Apparently, we have a believer in the White House.

    According to Harsanyi there's an authoritarian at the USDA who fancies himself the nation's Food Czar or something, and he scoffs at the idea of local control. He also wants to ban inappropriate commercials.

    This week, I sat down in an editorial board meeting with Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, a friendly and well-spoken authoritarian who effortlessly dismissed the idea of local parental and school control over kids. The problem is just too big, he explained.

    Concannon did, however, speak enthusiastically about one day banning commercials that the administration found where simply inappropriate for kids to be watching -- like cereal ads. Too flashy. Too much sugar.

    Sounds like the war on tobacco.

    And if the advertising bans don't stop the children from liking sweet foods, the next logical stop ought to be restricting their sale to adults only!


    It would almost be funny except these sour people have the power to do whatever they want. I can't think of a better way to make the Republicans look sweet than for ordinary people to perceive Democrats as mean authoritarians who want to take away what their children love.

    This sort of nonsense could make the victory even sweeter than what Dick Morris predicts. To quote the late Peter Jennings,

    Imagine a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage.
    Hey, I can imagine.

    You may say that I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one...

    posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (4)

    Light Up
    Somali-Pirates-smoke em 450x360.jpg

    H/T Diogenes via e-mail and The Sniper who created them and has more. And who for the price of viewing this picture here insists that you give him a visit. It would be the honorable thing to do.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

    A History Lesson

    I had something to say about all this yesterday. F. A. Hayek had something to say about it in 1944:

    The Road to Serfdom

    H/T Diogenes via e-mail

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:42 AM | Comments (12)

    The Trap

    The trap is simple: some really smart managers with really good tools can greatly reduce the "waste" of the system to the profit of all. That is the essence of communism, socialism, fascism and every kind of despotism known to man.

    And don't forget envy. i.e. "Share the wealth"

    F. A. Hayek in his nobel lecture entitled The Pretence of Knowledge discusses the error of the first assumption. About envy? I don't expect to see an end to it anytime soon. It may be a bug but it is also a feature.

    The theory which has been guiding monetary and financial policy during the last thirty years, and which I contend is largely the product of such a mistaken conception of the proper scientific procedure, consists in the assertion that there exists a simple positive correlation between total employment and the size of the aggregate demand for goods and services; it leads to the belief that we can permanently assure full employment by maintaining total money expenditure at an appropriate level. Among the various theories advanced to account for extensive unemployment, this is probably the only one in support of which strong quantitative evidence can be adduced. I nevertheless regard it as fundamentally false, and to act upon it, as we now experience, as very harmful.
    That sounds like it was written yesterday. It was actually presented in December of 1974.

    Then he lights into the notion that government spending can cure mal distribution of resources.

    Let me illustrate this by a brief sketch of what I regard as the chief actual cause of extensive unemployment - an account which will also explain why such unemployment cannot be lastingly cured by the inflationary policies recommended by the now fashionable theory. This correct explanation appears to me to be the existence of discrepancies between the distribution of demand among the different goods and services and the allocation of labour and other resources among the production of those outputs. We possess a fairly good "qualitative" knowledge of the forces by which a correspondence between demand and supply in the different sectors of the economic system is brought about, of the conditions under which it will be achieved, and of the factors likely to prevent such an adjustment. The separate steps in the account of this process rely on facts of everyday experience, and few who take the trouble to follow the argument will question the validity of the factual assumptions, or the logical correctness of the conclusions drawn from them. We have indeed good reason to believe that unemployment indicates that the structure of relative prices and wages has been distorted (usually by monopolistic or governmental price fixing), and that to restore equality between the demand and the supply of labour in all sectors changes of relative prices and some transfers of labour will be necessary.
    I didn't know he was a Tea Party guy.

    He goes on at length as is the custom of worthy Nobel recipients. But let me give you the short version alluded to above. There is no way by general rules to obtain an optimum general functioning of a machine with 300 million pieces which are only loosely constrained by the rules imposed. In other words it is impossible to figure out the right general rules (beyond a very limited set). i.e. "subsidize here and limit investment there" can't work. OK. Suppose you tell the 300 million exactly what to do and give them each detailed instructions. Who is going to write those instructions - every day. How will you co-ordinate the necessary adaptations? An ice storm in Florida. A tornado in Nebraska. An earthquake in Missouri? And what if the predicted ice storm doesn't happen.

    So macro policies are inefficient at best and micro policies are impossible. What does that leave?

    Liberty is the best way for economies to adjust. The more government encourages monopoly the worse the outcome. Government Motors? Crisis Motors? Bank takeovers. Green jobs? It is not going to work well. In fact it may well work in reverse.

    Well Congress spends the money. I think we need a new one.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:39 PM | Comments (3)

    Racist Tea Parties
    100_0535 -cropped.jpg

    More Rockford Tea Party pictures

    I don't know who the above gentleman is (I think he is a candidate for office in Illinois - my mate took the picture) but he was speaking at the Rockford Tea Party yesterday and was warmly welcomed. Let me add that I was talking for a few minutes with a black guy who had a Naval Air Wing cap (VA-45 IIRC). We had a very pleasant and animated discussion. He was not at all agitated as some one might be under threat of any kind. I have felt angry crowds (Century City - Los Angeles - anti-LBJ rally) and at no time during the Tea Party did I ever feel anything but peace and serenity. My mate said it was one of the most centered large gatherings she had ever attended. She also remarked that she felt the most anger when hanging out with Democrats. Interesting.

    Why bring up something so utterly unremarkable? Hot Air sheds some light on the subject.

    One purpose of the endless racial demagoguery of the right by the Frank Riches of the world is, of course, to make life hard for minorities who break with leftist orthodoxy. They'd never admit that, which is understandable, but they're also rarely ever called on it, which isn't. For all the media navel-gazing these days about how political rhetoric mainstreams hostility, the "race traitor" accusation that's almost universally experienced by minority conservatives I know and that's implicit in any grotesque caricature of tea partiers as some sort of neo-Klan rarely gets attention outside of right-wing media.
    Here is the account of a TV Reporter about his Tea Party encounter.
    [H]ere's what you don't often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies: Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper. ... It is important to show the colorful anger Americans might have against elected leaders and Washington. But people should also see the orange-vested Tea Party hospitality handlers who welcome you with colorful smiles.

    There were a few signs that could be seen as offensive to African-Americans. But by and large, no one I spoke with or I heard from on stage said anything that was approaching racist.

    Almost everyone I met was welcoming to this African-American television news producer.

    In other words - at another place at another time he didn't feel in any way intimidated at the event he attended.

    And then we have some crazed Jewish guy saying totally unhinged things about Tea Parties.

    MEMPHIS, TN - The Mid-South Tea Party is fuming over comments made by Congressman Steve Cohen comparing the national movement's members to the Ku Klux Klan. We told you this weekend about the legislator's words on an obscure radio talk show, "The Young Turks."

    "The Tea Party people are kind of, without robes and hoods. They have really shown a very hardcore angry side of America that is against any type of diversity," Rep. Cohen said on the show. "And we saw opposition to African Americans, hostility toward gays, hostility to anybody who wasn't just, you know, a clone of George Wallace's fan club. And I'm afraid they've taken over the Republican Party."

    So why do I bring up that the guy is Jewish? Well I'm rather obviously Jewish. And I never felt a bit of animosity. I never once got an angry vibe. What I got was a feeling of determination. The feeling of, "We are going to turn this country around. We have already started. Won some battles, lost some. The next Big Battle will be on Nov. 2nd. Be there. Bring Your Friends. All of them. Now is the time for some advanced planning. Make sure they are all registered to vote."

    In a similar vein may I suggest this 5 minute Bill Whittle video.

    And just in case you have forgotten what the Tea Party is about:

    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 12:34 PM | Comments (1)

    Social shunning promotes self-censorship

    Adding his own insights to yesterday's post about authoritarianism, Sean Kinsell also defended me against a commenter who put words in my mouth. It is true that I did not say that social shunning was censorship, and sometimes I don't see why I should feel obligated to say "I didn't say that!" over and over. I realize I have done that in countless posts, though, and perhaps that's a mistaken approach. Anyway, I left this comment at Sean's blog:

    When commenters put words in my mouth I often find myself having to say something like "I didn't say that." It not only sounds defensive, but it tends to draw me further into a debate with someone who has already shown himself to be unreasonable. And based on my experience, there is no point in debating people who have demonstrated that they did not come to the blog for fair or reasonable discussions, but to engage in dishonest partisan nit-picking.

    My post (which I think was obvious) was not about direct government censorship, but the way left wing authoritarian types bully others into self-censorship.

    Social shunning is, of course, one of their methods, and it is a very effective method, as people don't want to "lose friends."

    Here's Sean:

    Social shunning is less like censorship than, say, blocking the publication of a book. But your criteria for choosing friendships say something about your character, and it's not out of bounds to maintain that they say something about your political positions, too, if you're going to drop friends for their politics. At least when I was a boy, we were taught that it was practically a civic responsibility to assume good faith on the part of your political opponents and to seek out opportunities to get to know people with differing views. If someone shares your values about how to treat people--politeness, respect, consideration--and you otherwise have compatible personalities, I don't think it speaks well of you if you decide he's no longer worth breaking bread with because you disagree over politics.
    I completely agree. I was taught to assume good faith, and one of the things that I will always be grateful to my father for was sending me to a religious school despite the fact that he was a fierce non-believer. (Atheists and fundamentalists would probably have called him an atheist, but he wasn't dogmatic enough to assert that his beliefs were the absolute truth.) He properly thought it was a good idea for me to be exposed not only to religion, but to other points of view. In those days, Republicans and Democrats (and yes, there were liberals and conservatives) could be and often were friends.

    Believe it or not, my first memory of social shunning for political reasons involved guns. Toy guns. The wife of a wealthy and prominent Democratic neighbor (whose parents had been big New Dealers under FDR) had decided that "something had to be done" about guns in the aftermath of Kennedy assassination. Like innumerable boys, I had toy guns and played with them, and one of my friends was her son. She laid down the law with my mom, and told her that she should get rid of the toy guns (my toy guns!), and that until she did, she would not allow her son to come over to our house and play with me! I thought this was ridiculous. (Although it is fair to point out that like many other things people enjoyed in the old days, the toy guns I once played with are illegal today.)

    Naturally, my mom was intimidated and humiliated by the woman's demand, and discussed it with my father over the dinner table. Always the diplomatic sort on touchy social matters, he was dismissive, but in a condescending sort of way, as if the woman was just being emotional. Which I am sure she was, but thanks to this gratuitous act of parent-dictated child-to-child snubbing, I "lost a friend." Or was he a friend? When you're eight years old, you're not really in charge of these things, but I remember how stressed my mom was. She was a people-pleaser, and feared social disapproval. Hardly an irrational fear, for social disapproval can have consequences. Not only might you not get invited to the "in" parties, but you might not get to join that country club to which you aspire, and in some cases, you might not get that promotion!

    It's really easy for me to be dismissive of these things as a self-employed, 55-year old libertarian blogger, but I was raised to put myself in the positions of others, and I think I understand how they can be made to suffer.

    If it could happen to my mom, it can happen to anyone.

    Social shunning is not censorship, but it results in self-censorship, and I think the more people censor themselves, the more likely they are to want to censor others. That's because people who comply with "the rules" resent people who don't, and they become enforcers themselves.

    Because those who conform resent those who don't, compliance with tyranny ultimately leads to a demand for tyranny.
    Which is why today's social mores can become tomorrow's laws.

    MORE: OTOH, there's always this approach. (And no, I will not reveal the identity of whoever may or may not have emailed me the link!)

    posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (7)

    Rockford Tea Party Pictures 6 April '10

    I have a bunch of pictures from today's Rockford Tea Party at Power and Control. I may post some of them here later. But for now follow the link.

    And don't forget:

    Tea Party Difference

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

    posted by Simon at 07:01 PM | Comments (1)

    Freedom from the press?

    Last night I took a closer look at the Ipad (the technology itself as well as the marketing phenomenon), and I concluded that there was no particular reason for me to shell out seven or eight hundred dollars to replace my existing laptop with what appears to be a lightweight and verticalized version of a laptop. What underwhelmed me the most was to read that if you want a real, physical "keyboard" (as opposed to the flat, vertical version which can be made to appear at the bottom of the screen), you need a docking station contraption to plug the whole screen in. What that means is that instead of my existing laptop, I'd have a new, two-piece unit that would look like this:


    It looks like an awkward, top-heavy laptop with a vertical screen. Considering that the only reason I use my laptop is to get online, check email, and write blog posts when I am on the road or in the event of a power failure, I'm tempted to ask "What's the point?" but I know I'd sound like an old grouch.

    The point, according to Charlie Martin, is that it's all part of "Apple's Plan to Conquer the World." He makes an excellent argument that the idea is that it will replace paper -- "Paper print is dead; accept it. With the release of the iPad, we can see Apple's strategy to replace it." I think he's probably right, although I still like real books. There is something tranquil about them that simply does not apply to an electronic screen, no matter how cool it is. I'm in no way opposed to this new technology, mind you; I just don't see any compelling reason to ditch my books and my laptop.

    What's also fascinating is what Martin says about the cost of content:

    ...financially, the tail is wagging the dog. The editorial costs, the cost of making the content, are way overwhelmed by the cost of making the big bundle of paper. So we don't need to make up the revenue -- most of the revenue was going toward something we're not going to provide any longer.

    Existing publishers are worrying about how to prevent their electronic publishing business from cannibalizing their print publishing business; they have made arrangements with e-book publishers to keep the prices high enough to at least stay close to the price of a printed book.

    This is a great deal for the publishers, of course: it means their margin on an e-book is about 90 percent. But that can't last; pretty quick someone will figure out that they can take less margin, and those great physical objects will become just for collectors, hobbyists, and fans, like vinyl records have become.

    Let's back up, and start again. First principles: the real product is content, and if you want content, somebody has to pay for producing it. There are only two known ways to pay for that content: pay for it in the purchase price or pay for it with advertising.

    if you want content, somebody has to pay for producing it

    Is that necessarily true? The content here is free. No one pays me to produce it, and no one has paid anything to read it. The millions of page views this blog has generated cost nothing either to produce or consume.

    I am hardly alone. Almost everything that I read and link is free. True, there may be sign-ins required at some of the news sites, but that's not an out-of-pocket cost. But I don't think Martin is talking about the free stuff; he's talking about magazines and books, yet all of that paid production content has to increasingly be competitive with what's produced by volunteer work. Sometimes in my darker moments I think that what I am doing is slave labor, but no one cares. Like any other junkie, I can quit whenever I feel like it, and if I quit or burn out, whatever void I leave can be filled by another peon among the millions of voluntary online slaves. And the point is, many of them generate content superior to paid content. The fact is that words -- no matter how well put together or esthetically pleasing -- are not as valuable as they once were.

    But that's a side issue, as the Ipad doesn't seem to have been created to facilitate the existing free content. Martin concludes with an analogy to iTunes (something I hardly ever use, but which people don't mind paying for):

    prices must come down, way down, below what we pay for content on paper. That doesn't mean content has to be free, although it can be nearly free.

    Third, there has to be a really convenient way to get the content.

    An attractive way of getting content, low prices, easy shopping, and payment. That's iTunes. We think about it for music, but data is data; it can be music, movies, video, or print.

    While the publishing companies try to preserve their print-based models, Apple has dug the foundation out from under them. What we are really seeing is a coherent, long-term strategy to replace the traditional models of publishing, with everything delivered over the internet to inexpensive devices like the iPad.

    He's right about the prices coming down. There's nothing that lowers prices like having to compete with what's free.

    My only real worry is that I like books, and I hope I'll still be able to get them.

    In that regard, I hope that the news of this technology can be kept from the greenie-weenie AGW environmentalists, because the way some of them talk, they might decide it's time to ban books to save trees.

    (Something like that would fly directly in the face of the First Amendment, but that's off topic...)

    UPDATE: Apple might want to rule the world, but in what may come as a shock to some of its trendy green customers, it appears that the Ipad will not save the planet.

    Under cap-and-trade, Apple company would pay for the 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually by its U.S. buildings and domestic operations, and also for the 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted by shipping its products. But the 3.8 million tons of CO2 emitted by its manufacturing -- 81 percent of the company's total -- would be exempt from a carbon tax because the emissions would be in China.
    Honey, I just Ipadded Apple's Chinese payroll with new carbon footprints!

    posted by Eric at 10:40 AM | Comments (8)

    Northern Lights

    A brilliant bit of analysis from Allahpundit:

    Taking a modest pro-legalization position (i.e. "I don't use it myself and don't want kids using it, but...") would (a) electrify the debate over a hot-button issue, which she obviously relishes doing (see, e.g., "death panels"), (b) prove that she doesn't mindlessly follow Republican orthodoxy, which would force centrists and libertarians to give her a second look, (c) mindfark the media, which would be on her side for once, and (d) reestablish her political identity as a western, not southern, conservative.

    Well, northwestern, at any rate. Read the whole thing, and just imagine the MSM gears grinding.

    posted by Dave at 10:39 PM | Comments (3)

    Submission to authoritarianism is freedom!

    Like most libertarians, I don't like authoritarianism. But defining it is another matter. At the most basic level, I do not like people telling me what to do. Meddlesome, tyrannical, busybody control freaks -- whether they're working for the government or whether they're private assholes, I just plain don't like em. I would characterize all such people as authoritarians. Some might possess real authority, some might be petty tyrants who are insecure about the amount of authority they possess, while others are bullies who enjoy wielding authority they have only because people go along with them. Most street criminals are authority figures, and if you think about it, what could be more authoritarian than using force to compel someone to give you that which rightfully belongs to him?

    What never ceases to fascinate me is the sheer gall of liberals in attributing "authoritarianism" to conservatives and libertarians while pretending that liberals are the authoritarian antithesis. It is one of liberalism's biggest lies. Like so many of the people who drive around with bumperstickers that say "QUESTION AUTHORITY" -- while they really mean to say "QUESTION AUTHORITY SELECTIVELY."

    A great PJM piece by Amit Ghate looks at authoritarianism in the form of the growth of government czarism:

    The flip side of this government growth is the shrinking of the domains in which private citizens can make their own decisions and pursue their own values. The individual's thoughts are marginalized -- primacy is given to whatever the president and his cronies happen to think. Science czars push science in directions they prefer, regulatory czars restrict affairs they deem objectionable, etc. Substituting the government's judgment for that of private individuals is the essence of authoritarianism.

    Thus czar advocates are authoritarians. But what of critics? Unfortunately, on the essential point, they're no better. Their typical criticism hinges on who confirms and supervises the czars. They ignore -- and thus concede -- the real issue.

    This was a point I tried to make during the hubbub over Kevin Jennings:
    the debate over the man's qualifications carries with it an implicit admission that we NEED a safe schools czar -- the argument being over who should be heading another useless, intrusive federal agency. Thus (and quite ironically) the culture war once again hoodwinks the right into unwittingly acknowledging the legitimacy of something that they might otherwise dispute. Might as well argue over who gets to be in charge of putting the condoms on bananas....
    Actually, that analysis is a bit overstretched (!), as I'm not sure they would literally want to be in charge of putting condoms on bananas so much as they would want to have their own person in charge of the banana condom department, and switch the emphasis from condom demonstrations to chastity lectures.

    But the basic principle -- substituting the government's judgment for that of private individuals -- remains the same.

    I agree that it is the essence of authoritarianism, and I think such authoritarian positions should be abolished. I don't merely question their authority, I advocate getting rid of it.

    What is more insidious about the authoritarian left is the way they are often able to wield their authority without any resort to government force. As Theodore Dalrymple explains, politically correct censorship of writing works precisely in this way:

    I have noticed that whenever I used the word "Mankind" in an article, it emerges in the printed version, without my permission, as "Humankind," a word I despise as both ugly and sanctimonious. (In the Oxfam shop round the corner from where I live there is a poster with a slogan that nauseates me: "Thankyou for Being Humankind.") The change is made with such regularity, and in so many publications, that the government might as well have decreed it, though in fact it has not. There is, presumably, a monstrous regiment of sub-editors at work, all of like mind.

    Of course the change lacks logic. If Mankind is objectionable because of its masculinity, Humankind is no better. It still contains the dread word, or should I say syllable, "man." Nor would "Hupersonkind" be better, because of the masculinity of the syllable "son." To eradicate all sexism from the word, it should be "Huperoffspringkind." This is clearly ridiculous. But censorship by language reform is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of power. As Humpty Dumpty said, it is a question of who is to be master (if one may still be allowed the word), that's all.

    I am not alone the victim of the monstrous regiment of sub-editors. I get to review quite a number of books published by academic presses, British and American, and I have found that the use of the impersonal "she" is now almost universal, even when the writer is aged and is most unlikely to have chosen this locution for himself (or herself). It is therefore an imposed locution, and as such sinister.

    (Emphasis added.)

    That might not be government authoritarianism, but authoritarianism it is. These petty tyrants have the power to stop a writer's work from being published, and if someone is trying to make a living from his (yes, his; the masculine subsumes the feminine) writing, the writer either complies or starves.

    Dalrymple resorts to a workaround method:

    I now simply avoid the use of certain ways of putting things so that the question does not arise. I do not want to have a blazing argument with editors or sub-editors each time I use the word "Mankind" and it is changed without my permission, nor do I not want to stop writing altogether; and the matter, after all, is a very small one. How petty one would look to argue about it, how foolish to cut one's nose off to spite one's face if one refused to write any more because of it!

    And so the censors have achieved a small victory. They will seek out new locutions to conquer.

    Yes, they will. And they get their way because they are relentless authoritarians who not only deny their authoritarianism, but who loudly accuse their critics of being authoritarians. I can almost hear them chiming in to say that anyone who uses the male pronoun is obviously a patriarchal chauvinist -- and probably diagnosable as having what Adorno called "the Authoritarian Personality." In this way they delude themselves into thinking that by telling people what to do, they are combating "authoritarian attitudes" and thus fighting rather than promoting authoritarianism.

    In a discussion of burkas and free speech, Phyllis Chesler discusses another form of leftist authoritarianism which literally promotes the worst sort of patriarchal authoritarianism while claiming to do the opposite, and which fights dissent by silencing people, shouting them down and finally by social shunning:

    Right here in the good old U.S.A., we do not yet have European- or Canadian-style punishment for certain kinds of free speech-but we do censor, denigrate, and silence free speech with which we disagree. "Wrong" thinking is simply not published; if published, it is not reviewed in the mainstream media-or it is damned; therefore, such books are not read by too many people. "Wrong" thinking speakers require bodyguards on American campuses, their lectures are interrupted or end in violence. Mainly, "wrong" thinkers are not invited to speak at mainstream universities.

    But there is another, quieter, ongoing, and equally insidious silencing at work in presumably free America. Recently, a Jewish lesbian feminist and red diaper baby came to visit me. She lives in Berkeley and spent many years before that in Eugene, Oregon. She visited Israel for the first time last year, loved it, and made the fatal error of telling her friends all about it. Conversations ended abruptly. Dinner parties ground to a halt. Friendships-many with prominent Jewish, Israeli, and feminist leftists-soon followed. She's been reading, hard, ever since, found my work, came to visit.

    Let me share just one of her anecdotes. Based on her new understanding of the matters at hand, my brave Berkeley friend has begun to stand with the StandWithUs group every Friday at Sproul Plaza, right opposite the Women in Black, who demonstrate against Israel. She recognized some of her old friends among the Women in Black-and was, herself, recognized. Both she and another woman left their respective groups, (SWU had five people, WIB had twenty), and greeted each other with affection. They live right near each other in Berkeley. The friendly conversation was quickly interrupted by a member of Women in Black who came over and said "She's one of them, she's for Israel." Abruptly, loudly, the WIB demonstrator said: "You're not a friend of mine." My SWU demonstrator said "But we're neighbors. We know each other for years." SWU: "I don't care." And she marched off.

    When they meet in their neighborhood supermarket, the WIB demonstrator looks down and away. "She won't even look at me."

    All I can say is that this woman did not "lose" a friend. That neighbor was never her friend; she only wanted to control her (which is not friendship at all) and once she could not, the "friendship" was over. No doubt that neighbor endorses tyrannical and murderous regimes which are far more authoritarian than the tiny democratic state which only wants to be left alone in peace. And no doubt she would call her former "friend" an authoritarian for disagreeing with her!

    Sorry, but someone who dumps a friend for not agreeing with his politics did not have a real friendship. More likely, what was going on was a personal power game over who gets to be in charge, and who has to submit to whose will. Petty authoritarianism. It's sad that it happens, but don't think the phenomenon constitutes friendship.

    The idea that authoritarianism is right wing is heavily promoted by the left, though. Pseudoscientific "tests" claim that a high authoritarian ranking is inherent in conservatism, and some conservatives even seem to go along with it. To me it only indicates the bias of the tests. Considering the history of the many horrors perpetrated by left-wing authoritarianism, the claim of authoritarianism being "right-wing" is downright Orwellian. As Jonah Goldberg noted, leftists have long been trying to define communism and authoritarianism as opposites:

    Ever since Theodor Adorno came out with his scandalously flawed Authoritarian Personality in 1950, liberal and leftist social scientists have been trying to diagnose conservatism as a psychological defect or sickness. Adorno and his colleagues argued that conservatism was little more than a "pre-fascist" "personality type." According to this school, sympathy for communism was an indication of openness and healthy idealism. Opposition to communism was a symptom of your more deep-seated pathologies and fascist tendencies. According to Adorno, subjects who saw Nazism and Stalinism as similar phenomena were demonstrating their "idiocy" and "irrationality."
    In other words, our authoritarianism is not authoritarianism but is actually freedom. And your freedom is not freedom, but is actually authoritarianism.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

    I sincerely hope that America's new slogan does not become "Submission to authoritarianism is freedom!"

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    AND MORE: If you want to do something about authoritarianism, I don't think there is any better antidote than the leaderless Tea Party Movement.

    And watch this video from Bill Whittle that Glenn linked earlier.

    posted by Eric at 01:11 PM | Comments (25)

    The impossibility industry

    An economist I am not. But this piece by Glenn Reynolds had my head spinning over the vastness of attempting the impossible:

    In his "The Use of Knowledge In Society," Hayek explained that information about supply and demand, scarcity and abundance, wants and needs exists in no single place in any economy. The economy is simply too large and complicated for such information to be gathered together.

    Any economic planner who attempts to do so will wind up hopelessly uninformed and behind the times, reacting to economic changes in a clumsy, too-late fashion and then being forced to react again to fix the problems that the previous mistakes created, leading to new problems, and so on.

    I realize that economic planners might not want to analyze themselves, but I find myself wondering about something.

    Is there some economic law which explains why it is that attempting the impossible generates a constant need to expand the ranks of those who attempt the impossible?

    It isn't really supply and demand, because while there might always be popular demand for fixing problems, if the problem "fixers" by definition cannot fix what they're supposed to fix, but only create more work for themselves, any "demand" created is largely illusory. But still. The more broken things are, the greater the supply of "fixers." Regardless of actual demand.

    But demand can be created, can't it? Those who do not have the knowledge to fix these problems because it is impossible to have such knowledge have to convince people that they do, lest they not be in demand. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that they would promote the idea that they possess superior knowledge. As long as no one figures out that this knowledge is impossible to have, everything will be OK, right?

    Doesn't this also depend on convincing people that the impossible is actually possible? So what is the economic principle which explains why attempting the impossible is a growth industry? Is there an impossibility curve; i.e. the more impossible things seem, the greater the number of people attempting the impossible?

    But they're simply fueling an illusion, because in logic, a thing is either impossible or it is not. Just as it is not possible for things to become more impossible, nor is it possible for impossible things to become possible.

    If Hayek is right, the whole thing is a racket.

    posted by Eric at 09:39 AM | Comments (4)

    Tea Party Coming To Rockford and Madison

    Do you recall my recent Report From Omaha? I reported on the Tea Party Express Bus Tour's stop in Omaha. On April 6th they will be coming to Davenport, Iowa and Rockford, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin. Here are the details for Rockford.

    Rockford, IL


    Tuesday, April 6th at 2:30 pm

    Rally Location:
    Davis Park
    329 South Wyman
    Rockford, IL

    You can find maps at the links if you are unfamiliar with the area. Barring unforeseen events I plan to be there.

    The Rockford Register Star has a story.

    David Hale, coordinator of the Rockford Tea Party, said he expects about 1,000 people to show up for the Rockford rally, which begins at 1 p.m.

    "This is a patriotic, musical, speaking show, really," Hale said. "This is a movement that's really fresh."

    A slate of conservative speakers will take to the stage. Scheduled speakers include Adam Andrzejewski, former candidate for Illinois governor; National Taxpayers United of Illinois President Jim Tobin; and Joe Walsh, a candidate for the Illinois 8th Congressional District.

    The Tea Party Express bus will arrive at 2:30 p.m.

    In an e-mail to Rockford Tea Party members, Hale encouraged people to bring signs and said there could be national media coverage of the downtown Rockford rally.

    "Make signs with honest and heartfelt slogans. No Obama Hitler Signs please. Please make signs. They are one of the best parts of having a Tea Party," Hale wrote. "If you think Obama is a communist, that's another story. I doubt anyone will get mad about that."

    Asked why he thought it necessary to suggest the kinds of signs, Hale said the key for the movement is to stay on the party's message of limited taxes, fiscal responsibility and adherence to the U.S. Constitution.

    David Hale has a page at Tea Party Patriots. You can sign up with your local Tea Party Patriot group at Tea Party Patriot Sign-Up.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:29 AM | Comments (0)

    Fun with Linux on Easter!

    Happy Easter, everyone!

    I've been offline for more than a day, and haven't had time to blog, but yesterday I saw my old friend Dean Esmay. Among other things, he was installing, tweaking, and playing with the latest version of Ubuntu Linux, and burned an extra CD for me.

    Dean is pretty excited about Ubuntu, and as a longtime, off-and-on Linux user, I have to say that I was amazed at the ease with which it was able to configure itself on an otherwise useless old Compaq latop someone had given Dean because it wouldn't accept an install of Windows XP. This just seemed so effortless and so instantly user-friendly that I couldn't wait to take it home and try it. You can run it off the CD and do just that as an evaluation, or you can do a total install alongside Windows. I tried it out very briefly last night on my main computer, and it configured itself with no problem. But that was not surprising, as the computer is reasonably new. It was late at night and I didn't have time to get into heavy tweaking, but I figured as the real test I would try it in my old clunker of a laptop, a Dell Latitude C-600, which runs at 850 Mhz, and has 500 megs of RAM. It runs XP, but slowly, and I don't use it much, as I have a newer Inspiron 700m for use on the road.

    Well, here it is, all fired up and running on the Ubuntu CD, and I'm writing this very post from the evaluation operating system on the CD. I didn't have to do anything except stick it in and turn it on! It did everything else, found the network, and is just incredibly FAST. This is almost like having a new laptop and not an old clunker.

    I am very, very impressed, and I highly recommend Ubuntu Linux. The version/a> I am using is 9.10, and it can be freely downloaded here.

    My thanks to Dean for turning me on to this and reiviving my interest in Linux, and I totally second what he says here:

    All those years of saying Linux is "not ready for prime time?" I'm not sure I can even say this. Installing Ubuntu was easier than installing Windows, and this thing is fast and remarkably stable. And very easy to work with, so far.

    But remember, kids, playing DVDs on Linux is a felony! So I would never advocate that, and heaven forfend that I would I ever be an accomplice to such a thing.

    posted by Eric at 06:03 PM | Comments (8)

    A Layman's Explanation Of Polywell

    You can get the Physicist's explanation at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    Found at Maggie's Farm

    H/T Jccarlton at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:00 AM | Comments (1)

    obma Has A Plan

    Click on image for a larger view.

    The green areas in the above map show where drilling is allowed. The Red areas show where drilling is not allowed. Compare Bush's map to obama's map. It pretty much explains why the oil markets didn't even blip on the announcement by obama about his opening of some areas for oil drilling.

    Obama & Democrats: Destroying U.S. Energy Security With Incompetence and Insanity offers this bit for your understanding of what is going on:

    "Obama did not open new lands to offshore drilling - all of these areas were already open for drilling once Congress and President Bush lifted the moratorium in 2008. Instead, President Obama yesterday announced what areas he would CLOSE to offshore drilling....over 360 million acres are now under a new "Obama Moratorium" that blocks American energy production....plan puts 13.14 billion barrels of oil and 41.49 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under lock and key....The entire Pacific Coast is now off limits. The Pacific Coast alone holds an estimated 10.5 billion barrels of oil--almost 75 percent of the total amount available off the U.S. coastline in former moratorium areas - and 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas"
    Now compare what we know to what was reported. It is all just a magic trick.

    H/T Instapundit

    And just in case you are wondering: my not capitalizing the first letter in obama's name is no accident. Small letters for a small man.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:03 PM | Comments (6)

    Your stupit! And were smart!

    I thought I should weigh in on the "Teabonics" project that I learned about from Ann Althouse. It is apparently believed that if enough spelling errors on the protesters' signs are discovered (or created via photoshopping), that the Tea Party movement will be laughed out of existence. Or else maybe the goal is to shame the ignoramuses into spellchecking their signs more carefully. Unfortunately for the Tea Party movement, not all of them went to the finest prep schools and Ivy League colleges, so it is inevitable that there are going to be occasional signs with spelling errors.

    Like this one?


    Except I see two possible problems. One is that the white space to the left of the word "Feedom" looks a little too white, so I find myself wondering whether there might have been an "r" and the "F" was cut out and pasted over it. The other problem is that McCain-Palin sign. I didn't see any of those at the Tea Party I went to last year, nor would I have expected to. Don't those signs pre-date the Tea Parties? Or is the idea that these kids are so clueless and stupid that they're still displaying campaign signs from the last election?

    I guess such stupidity and cluelessness is possible, though. Here in Ann Arbor, the Obama-Biden signs are still displayed all over town. Still on houses, and still in the front yards. Except I doubt they'd think that was funny or stupid. Displaying their signs after the election indicates high intelligence.


    posted by Eric at 11:41 AM | Comments (8)

    A New Drug War Book

    The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

    A review from the above link:

    Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration--but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.
    I have to wonder though if this is not just another left wing ploy. What do I mean by that? I am in deepest sympathy with the general sentiments expressed. The Drug War is destructive and it is a latter day Jim Crow. But are the people championing the cause doing it out of a conviction of liberty or just another tactical move in the quest of our leftists for power. Are they trying to delegitimize our system or improve it?

    If destruction of the system is the goal how do you defend against such attacks? It is rather simple IMO. We have to stop dragging our feet when it comes to fixing glaring problems in our system.

    One of the ways to do that is to look at history. A good place to look is the history of Progressive and Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

    Wilson's racist views were hardly a secret. His own published work was peppered with Lost Cause visions of a happy antebellum South. As president of Princeton, he had turned away black applicants, regarding their desire for education to be "unwarranted." He was elected president because the 1912 campaign featured a third party, Theodore Roosevelt's Bullmoose Party, which drew Republican votes from incumbent William Howard Taft. Wilson won a majority of votes in only one state (Arizona) outside the South.

    What Wilson's election meant to the South was "home rule;" that is, license to pursue its racial practices without concern about interference from the federal government. That is exactly what the 1948 Dixiecrats wanted. But "home rule" was only the beginning. Upon taking power in Washington, Wilson and the many other Southerners he brought into his cabinet were disturbed at the way the federal government went about its own business. One legacy of post-Civil War Republican ascendancy was that Washington's large black populace had access to federal jobs, and worked with whites in largely integrated circumstances. Wilson's cabinet put an end to that, bringing Jim Crow to Washington.

    And that is not all Wilson brought to Washington. He used his Southern power to get cocaine outlawed.
    ...a multiyear effort to enact a federal antidrug law culminated in the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. To convince conservative Southern members of Congress to accept this substantial expansion of federal power, promoters of the law exploited racist myths, depicting "cocainized" Negroes as the principal cause of rape of white women.
    The question as always is "what is to be done?" I think it is a mistake for conservatives who were duped once to continue in that rut.

    It was never about the drugs. It was always about the power.

    It is disheartening to see Conservatives being on the wrong side of this issue. OK. They were fooled once. Shame on Wilson. But to continue to be fooled? Shame on Conservatives.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:33 AM | Comments (1)

    Report From Omaha

    I grew up in Omaha and my mom still lives there. So this report from Omaha about a Tea Party there inspired me to write.

    The big traffic problems in Southwest Omaha Thursday night could be blamed on one thing: a political rally. Some people had to park more than a mile away from the event. It's exactly what Tea Party organizers were hoping for.

    The Tea Party Express Bus Tour began last weekend in Saturday. "One person does make a difference," says one of the tour speakers.

    Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom helped organize this stop. "I think a lot of people who haven't got too involved in politics before have really gotten angry and frustrated to the point that they want to get involved in politics now," says Doug Kagan who represents the organization.

    Lynn Ewing brought her family to boat ramp/picnic area at Lake Zorinsky. "I think they're being taxed to death and it's not fair."

    Organizers were expecting a few hundred at the rally but instead there were an estimated 3,000.

    "I'm disgusted with government and the takeover of everything. They're not listening to us," says Allyson Bendorf of Harlan, Iowa, who went to one of these rallies in Kansas last year. Her daughter Jordan also attended. "We just want to let out what we believe."

    Todd Sales came to the rally from Council Bluffs because he wants the government to operate more like his own bank account. If you can't afford to buy something, you don't. "It's definitely not an angry mob as a lot of the media portrays. It's people who are fed up with Washington's overspending and raising our taxes. They're standing up. They've awakened the beast."

    You can watch a video report of the rally at the link.

    It is telling that the organizers expected hundreds and instead got thousands.

    Also interesting is the fact that unemployment in the Omaha area is running well below the national average. I guess it has something to do with the region being a food producing area. It is not extremely profitable but people always need to eat. I guess that is why my grandparents went into the grocery business. When I was growing up in the grocery business from time to time we used to get supplies from Table Supply Meat Company which later turned into Omaha Steaks. My mom sent me a Care package from them a while back. Yum. Thanks mom.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit readers. This was the Care package my mom sent me: Omaha Steaks Gourmet Variety Packs. We used this seasoning on the steaks: Omaha Steaks Seasonings. A real flavor enhancer.

    posted by Simon at 04:29 AM | Comments (5)

    Stating The Obvious

    Megan McArdle's experience at a Post Office highlights the inefficiencies of a government monopoly.

    I'm always surprised people can ignore the most obvious economic lessons of the 20th Century: statism slows productivity growth, and in the end productivity growth is more important than anything else (GDP is just population x productivity). You're about ten times better off being in the lowest quartile of the rich, unequal United States than a median forcibly equalized Cuban or North Korean, and the poorest U.S. state has a higher PPP GDP per capita than most of the Western European social democracies.

    Eastern Europe and Asia are still recovering from their wasted 50 years chasing coercive equality at the expense of growth. China's rise to relevance was powered by free market reforms that produced growth. The Arab socialist dictatorships haven't done much better than the communists. At least Pinochet left behind a better country than the one he seized, and economic freedom eventually led to political freedom.

    P.S. Hey, remember that jump in the polls Obamacare was going to get after it was passed? How's that going?

    UPDATE: Reason and Glenn Reynolds explain the public sector problem from different angles.

    posted by Dave at 09:55 PM | Comments (30)

    The Senator Has A Plan

    Senator Chris Dodd has a plan to make investing in new ventures more difficult.

    ...Dodd's bill would require startups raising funding to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then wait 120 days for the SEC to review their filing. A second provision raises the wealth requirements for an "accredited investor" who can invest in startups -- if the bill passes, investors would need assets of more than $2.3 million (up from $1 million) or income of more than $450,000 (up from $250,000). The third restriction removes the federal pre-emption allowing angel and venture financing in the United States to follow federal regulations, rather than face different rules between states.
    The above linked article has the reactions of a number of individuals. Here are some quotes from those individuals.

    Robert E. Litan is vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation who writes at the Huffington Post had this to say:

    Various studies published or sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation have made it abundantly clear how dependent the U.S. economy has been and will continue to be on the formation and growth of new companies. Angel investors are important funders of new companies. There is no good time to make it more difficult for them to invest in startups, and now -- when the economy is struggling to recover from what may be the deepest recession since the Great Depression -- is the very worst possible time to discourage angel investment.
    I guess it depends on whether you want the economy to recover. Maybe recovery is not part of the plan.

    A writer who calls himself Zemanta has this to say about Texas, one of the States that is weathering the financial crisis fairly well.

    My dad sent me an email the other day pointing out a news story about an incubator in Texas that was cranking out startups and creating jobs. He told me that he believes that the work entrepreneurs and the people who work with them (ie me) are doing is incredibly important to the health of our economy. He's right and we need to explain that to Chris Dodd and his friends in the Senate. If they are going to reform accredited investor regulations, they should liberalize them, not constrain them further.
    In other words our Congress is going in the wrong direction. No surprise there.

    And how about this block buster from my first link:

    Investors offered more criticism on Twitter, with Slide vice president Keith Rabois tweeting, "Anyone still need more evidence that Obama and the Democrats intend to destroy Silicon Valley and the dreams of entrepreneurs?"
    But Mr. Obama has a degree from Harvard Law. I don't understand. Harvard graduates are supposed to be very smart. Nobel prize winner Friedrich August von Hayek explained it all in his book The Road to Serfdom. No amount of central planning can account for the knowledge of millions of individuals. Not even a degree from Harvard Law is good enough to paper over those difficulties. But that is our problem. Too many lawyers in Government. I suppose it makes law writing easier. But what good is that if Congress is writing bad laws?

    It is becoming more and more obvious that the American Dream is under attack. Hard work, a good idea, and a lot of luck are not enough any more. Now you also need enough spare cash to buy at least half of Congress. What ever happened to limited government? It is enough to make you want to join a Tea Party.

    I'd say if you have a good idea now is the time to put your plan in motion before the law goes into effect. These books might help:

    Successful Business Plan Secrets and Strategies

    Raising Venture Capital for the Serious Entrepreneur

    And it might also be a good idea to write a Senator or two before you are forced to buy them retail.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    metaphorical imbalance makes island capsize!

    Regarding a plan to shift thousands of U.S. troops from Okinawa to Guam, Congressman Hank Johnson said this:

    My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.
    Huh? Is he effing kidding?

    I've been having enough trouble lately trying to figure out what's humor and what is serious, but as it's the April Fools season, I thought I would give the congressman the benefit of the doubt. So I went to his web site, where I found the Rep. Johnson's April 1, 2010 "statement on Guam comments in an Armed Services Committee hearing":

    "The subtle humor of this obviously metaphorical reference to a ship capsizing illustrated my concern about the impact of the planned military buildup on this small tropical island."
    Was the guy really being funny?

    If so, a lot of people didn't get it, including the leftie Mother Jones, which called this and the congressman's other gaffes at the hearing "cringe-worthy":

    Earlier, in another cringe-worthy moment, Johnson goes into exhaustive detail about the island's dimensions, eventually posing this question to the admiral: "I don't know how many square miles it is, do you happen to know?"

    Willard: "I don't have that figure with me, sir, but I could certainly supply it to you if you'd like."

    Since Willard definitely has more important things to do than Google the square mileage of Guam, I'll save him the trouble: approximately 212.

    Jon Stewart needs to send Johnson a thank you note. You can't make this stuff up.

    They also supply the YouTube video, and while it would have made me cringe had I not "known" this was "humor," at this point I honestly don't know what I am supposed to think.

    Take a look:

    If the man is joking, he is doing a great job of playing it with a straight face, as he "pretends" to painfully drag out his thoughts in the most laborious manner imaginable. And I'm not sure what to make of poor Admiral Willard's reaction. He is clearly trying not to laugh.

    Does that mean he was in on the joke too?

    The problem is, lots of people are taking this seriously, and they think the man really was worried about the island tipping over.

    I don't think it helps much that Johnson offered another metaphorical explanation:

    "I wasn't suggesting that the island of Guam would literally tip over I was using a metaphor to say that with the addition of 8,000 Marines and their dependents - an additional 80,000 people during peak construction on the tiny island with a population of 180,000 - could be a tipping point which could adversely affect the island's fragile ecosystem and could overburden its stressed infrastructure.

    "Having traveled to Guam last year, I saw firsthand how this beautiful - but vulnerable island - could easily become overburdened, and I was simply voicing my concerns that the addition of that many people could tip the delicate balance and do permanent harm to Guam."

    OK, except that's not funny. So, which is it? A serious metaphor about the island's ecosystem? Or a subtly humorous metaphor about a ship capsizing?

    Maybe I'm missing the subtle humor of shifting metaphorical references, but I am beginning to detect a seriously humorous metaphorical imbalance.

    And you know what that might mean.

    The whole metaphor might tip over and capsize!

    MORE: Neo-Neocon has demonstrated that Congressman Johnson and Admiral Willard have known each other for years, share a remarkable gift for deadpan humor, and that the exchange constitutes an "updating of their old routine, with both Johnson and Willard playing their familiar roles."


    (She also documents a floating island pastry theme, and I like edible metaphors!)

    posted by Eric at 02:55 PM | Comments (5)

    ramping up the war against your toxic thought processes

    Yesterday I saw an anonymous piece which appeared in the National Review Online. Titled "Getting Serious About Pornography," the author claims that:

    -- her husband left her because of porn

    -- pornography is an addictive drug

    -- hearings should be held, and the federal government should get involved.

    This is not a new topic here, as I have addressed the pornography as a drug "erototoxins" issue before, albeit somewhat facetiously. Perhaps now I should take the title of the NRO piece to heart and get serious, but yesterday was April Fools Day, and nothing was being taken seriously here. Plus, what if the NRO had been joking? I wouldn't have wanted to look like a clueless idiot by taking their joke seriously, because when you take something seriously that the proponent meant it as a joke, then you get caught up in cycles of ridiculousness, and you end up looking ridiculously clueless.

    When I emailed M. Simon a link to this, he was quick to suspect something was up with the timing. He emailed me back, saying,

    I sent NR a bit of my mind on the subject:

    She doesn't know why her husband left her but she blames pornography.

    It's an April Fool joke right?

    I don't think he heard back (correct me if I am wrong, OK?), and I am sorry to report that it does indeed appear that in all probability the NRO and the author of the piece were deadly serious.

    Anyway, because this isn't a new issue and I don't like repeating myself (or engaging in fruitless debates which convince no one), I might have ignored the piece entirely, but then I saw Dr. Helen's very thoughtful PJM post on the matter. She takes issue with "the insinuation that porn is to blame for an entire generation not being able to form lasting marriages and that it is damaging families and leading to rape and every other kind of ill in society" when the data show otherwise, and (noting that the husband ran off with another woman and not a magazine) expresses skepticism over whether pornography was the real culprit.

    The author of the article thinks that she lost her husband due to "porn" (he ran off with another woman). She mentions a number of reports that point to porn's "harmful effects," such as one released by the Witherspoon Institute. "The Social Costs of Pornography" claims that pornography has negative effects on individuals and society. The ominous video on the report's website, however, makes me wonder what its real motive is. Perhaps it's controlling the sexuality of males?
    Well, it is certainly about control. The author wants government hearings and taxpayer-funded scientific studies with a view towards doing something about pornography.

    Dr. Helen's conclusion shows that the author omits the full picture while blaming porn for things it does not cause, and warns about the danger of government intervention:

    ...although Anonymous suggests that porn viewership leads to rape, rape rates are plummeting even as porn becomes more pervasive.

    I am very sorry that Anonymous's marriage did not work out. However, while blaming porn for every social ill and for her marriage dissolving may make her feel better, crusading for laws to make other men pay for this failure will not lead to better marriages. It will lead to even more men going underground to view porn -- and feeling resentful while they do.

    I think there are many reasons that marriages are not working out, but porn seems to be the least of the problems. And I wonder -- does porn distort men's attitudes as much as romance novels and Lifetime TV distort women's? Maybe we should discuss the many social institutions that are giving women unrealistic expectations of men and a sense that they have the right to control men, and men's sexuality, in their own interest.

    Aside from the fact that "Anonymous's" piece made me worry about whether the NRO agrees with it, what most disturbed me the most was the author's advocacy of government intervention. Coupled with her contention that pornography is a drug, what are the implications? Should the war on drugs be expanded to include this new "drug"? Or should pornography now be regulated by the FDA?

    She claims that pornography is a "narcotic" which hides behind the First Amendment:

    Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment.

    According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million people use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn't come in pill form. It can't be smoked, injected, or snorted. And yet neurological data suggest its effects on the brain are strikingly similar to those of synthetic drugs. Indeed, two authorities on the neurochemistry of addiction, Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwirth, claim it is the ability of this drug to influence all three pleasure systems in the brain -- arousal, satiation, and fantasy -- that makes it "the piece de resistance among the addictions."

    Calling "it" a drug is a quantum leap in logic -- totally aside from First Amendment considerations. Pornography can consist of books, pictures, or moving images, and unlike a drug like, say, heroin or aspirin, it cannot be expected to have the sort of scientifically predictable pharmacological effects on human beings that drugs do. It's highly individualized. There is straight, gay, bi porn, S&M porn, fetishistic porn, etc. There are people who are not turned on at all by porn. Others (like yours truly) who just shrug their shoulders. Besides, it just so happens that I am more easily aroused by text than by images, but to call such text an addictive drug is simply preposterous, and insults my intelligence as well as my imagination.

    By the way, some women like porn; as one commenter to Dr. Helen's post said,

    Speaking of myths about porn, am I the only one disheartened that this whole conversation can happen and nobody debunks the idea that only Men enjoy it? Many women also enjoy pornography; either by themselves, or watching it with their partner. We've made the social price for Women enjoying porn so high that we've put it in the closet because the Male is (by long standing mythology) the sex craved horndog and the Female is the forever recipient of his advances. This view of course hurts both men and women.
    I have known women who loved porn, and used it for sex enhancement. So what? Were they addicted too?

    I'm very skeptical about the idea of showing people porn and pronouncing it a "drug" simply because changes are detected in their brain scans. I'm sure that showing them anything that gets their sexual attention would work the same way (including text). Moreover, I'd be willing to bet that a guy who gets turned on by a sexy pair of legs in a video might get just as turned on by a sexy pair of legs walking down the street. So, should "provocative" attire also be considered an "addictive drug"? What is that an argument for? Veiling women?

    If the idea is that the First Amendment should not protect things that excite the brain, what are the implications for other texts and images that excite people -- like "hate speech" or, say, Muhammad cartoons? Suppose you were able to corral some radical fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, strap them down, hook them up to a brain scanner while prying their eyes open, and then forced them to stare at offensive images of their pbuh prophet. I am sure a lot of excitement would occur in certain areas of the brain. Does that mean controversial images are drugs too? Why not?

    Anyway, I know I've talked about this before, but whether you like porn or not, I think the idea of treating it as a drug is absolutely beyond the pale.

    And if science determines that certain forms of speech are like drugs, if that's an argument for anything it might be an argument in favor of offering more and better "drugs" to counter the alleged ill-effects of the first drugs. Fight speech with more speech. But the anti-porn crowd wouldn't like that, because just as the anti-drug people want to control what goes into your body, anti-porn activists want to control what goes into your mind.

    While I have long seen the war on porn as a war on the First Amendment, this new meme ups the ante substantially by introducing a noxious new concept that outside images should be regulated not merely because they are "immoral," but because they have an effect on the brain.

    To my mind, that's Orwellian thinking.

    What goes on inside my brain is my business.

    posted by Eric at 12:09 PM | Comments (9)

    Victorian Sex

    We have an image of Victorians as prudish about sex. And the continuous decrying of our sex gone wild culture. But the truth may be different. For those into sex control the past was always more moral and today's youth are going to hell one night at a time. But maybe human nature is not so different today. Maybe the Victorianism of the Age of Victoria was just a myth.

    The Mosher Survey recorded not only women's sexual habits and appetites, but also their thinking about spousal relationships, children and contraception. Perhaps, it hinted, Victorian women weren't so Victorian after all.

    Indeed, many of the surveyed women were decidedly unshrinking. One, born in 1844, called sex "a normal desire" and observed that "a rational use of it tends to keep people healthier." Offered another, born in 1862, "The highest devotion is based upon it, a very beautiful thing, and I am glad nature gave it to us."

    Well I'm glad too.

    The sex survey of Victorian women was done in the name of a so called modern cultural drive. Which turns out to be not quite as modern as is currently thought.

    Thanks to a steady supply of young female research subjects, Mosher's scholarly aim soon became clear: to prove that women were not inferior to men, and that frailties chalked up to sex were really the effects of binding garments, insufficient exercise and mental conditioning. Her master's thesis, for example, showed that women breathe from the diaphragm, as men do, rather than from the chest, as was believed at the time. She concluded that this so-called biological difference was really due to tight corsetry.
    Women in tight corsets was never one of my great favorites, although I did buy a rather expensive one for my mate once to give it a try. It was amusing but never became a staple.
    So how did women of the Victorian Era get educated about sex?
    Slightly more than half of these educated women claimed to have known nothing of sex prior to marriage; the better informed said they'd gotten their information from books, talks with older women and natural observations like "watching farm animals." Yet no matter how sheltered they'd initially been, these women had--and enjoyed--sex. Of the 45 women, 35 said they desired sex; 34 said they had experienced orgasms; 24 felt that pleasure for both sexes was a reason for intercourse; and about three-quarters of them engaged in it at least once a week.
    I wonder if their preferred positions were influenced by the way they got their education?

    And the complaints of the women seem age old. Uneducated men.

    Some enjoyed sex but worried that they shouldn't. One slept apart from her husband "to avoid temptation of too frequent intercourse." Some didn't enjoy sex but faulted their partner. Mosher writes: [She] "Thinks men have not been properly trained."
    You still hear echos of those complaints today. "He only wants one thing and when he gets it he rolls over and falls asleep." Sometimes without even so much as a "Was it good for you too?"
    One woman, born in 1867, wrote that before marriage she believed sex to be only for reproduction, but later changed her mind: "In my experience the habitual bodily expression of love has a deep psychological effect in making possible complete mental sympathy & perfecting the spiritual union that must be the lasting 'marriage' after the passion of love has passed away with the years." Wrote another, born in 1863, "It seems to me to be a natural and physical sign of a spiritual union, a renewal of the marriage vows.
    That view has turned from an observation into advice. And we are the better for it. But much better? I don't think so or else the advice wouldn't need to be repeated so often.

    And now we get to the heart of why we have a view of Victorian attitudes towards sex as prudish. It was a class thing.

    ...if not all Victorian women scorned sex, why do we think of them as prudish? First, says Freedman, the notion of passionlessness wasn't universal, it was a class privilege, a way for wealthier women to claim respectability that more sexually vulnerable slave, immigrant and working-class women couldn't. "To some extent it's a protection of women from the sense of availability, and in other ways it's a limitation on them and denying their sexuality," Freedman says. Virtue was also a way for women to demonstrate good citizenship--men expressed this in the public sphere, and women in the home.
    We see the same sort of thing with respect to tans. In that age outdoor work was common and the upper classes differentiated themselves by staying indoors and untanned. Since work has moved indoors the leisure class has moved outdoors and now a tan is a sign of the upper classes. Mostly.

    I wonder if the proposed tax on tanning beds isn't just another way of maintaining class distinctions. The ins always love kicking the outs. Another innate characteristic of humans. But how is the tax sold? As a way to save lives. Well how about raising taxes on vacations in the Caribbean? Wouldn't that save lives too? Ah. But regular vacations on tropical islands separates people with real money from poseurs. Can't have that.

    To further your research:

    A Page Full Of Corsets

    A history of Victorian Erotica:

    Unauthorized Pleasures: Accounts of Victorian Erotic Experience

    An Ordered Love: Sex Roles and Sexuality in Victorian Utopias--The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community

    That should be a good start on the subject. And some advice for you men out there. There is no such thing as "what women want". What is real is "what this woman wants". The best way to find out? Ask.

    And for you women. Men are some easier but individual too. They want the usual plus a threesome with your best looking girlfriend. As always though before you go plunging into some untoward direction. Ask. It enhances the pleasure and helps to avoid complications.

    And let us not forget the perennially popular male enhancement. Better Than Viagra

    Found at Good**** , now the place is definitely Not Safe For Work but I will tell you how to find it. Search for - Fred Lapides Good. You are on your own.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    UPDATE FROM ERIC: As this post seems to fit our new format, I decided to bump it, so that "Victorian Sex" would be on top until midnight tonight! After that, who knows.

    (I am still awaiting a check from the people who hacked this blog!)

    posted by Simon at 11:59 PM | Comments (4)

    Enough is enough!

    Either someone pays me by midnight tonight or the dreadful logo at the top of this blog is coming down.

    I mean it!

    Hackers, consider yourselves warned!

    posted by Eric at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

    cognitive dissing to a Golden Oldie

    Earlier tonight I decided to check out a new restaurant that has just opened on the main boulevard here in Ann Arbor. As it is only a half a dozen or so blocks away, I decided to walk. A few blocks up the street, some young people were blasting the neighborhood with rap music at concert hall pitch -- accomplished by placing the speakers of their sound system on the windowsills of open windows. It was seriously loud -- so loud that had I been walking with someone else, we would have had to shout in order to hear each other even if we'd been an entire block away. Yes, it really was that loud. Not that this isn't the sort of thing to be expected in a student town; I occasionally have issues right in this block with a couple of loud houses, but even they have never been this bad. A young couple were sitting on their porch trying to enjoy what would normally have been a quiet sunset time, and I noticed that they had especially pained looks on their faces -- although they were not the sort of annoyed looks I would associate with having to hear music that was too loud. They looked pained almost in a guilty way. Strange. So instead of tuning things out in my usual manner, I decided to "tune in," and actually listen. To the, um, lyrics -- because it struck me that because of the genre that they might very well be "offensive."

    Boy, was that an understatement.

    Every few seconds the song (which wasn't all that musically bad, really, as rap goes) was punctuated by the usual "motherfucker" type obscenities, but what I found most significant was the constant recurrence of the N-word. Obviously, that (and not the sound alone) was what the neighbors on the porch found so upsetting.

    What is it with that blasted N-word? It gets Tea Partiers in trouble even when it can't be heard, and yet it can apparently be blasted with impunity in popular music.

    And I do mean popular. I'd heard this song (which I vaguely recognized) before, and it's a rap classic from 1996 -- Tupac Shakur's "All Eyez on Me." Tupac was of course black, which means that according to the prevailing cultural mores, he and all black people have a right to use the word with impunity.

    But here's the thing: I couldn't help notice that the kids who were blasting the neighborhood were white. Do they have less of a "right" to play the song? What are the rules here? Are there any?

    There is certainly no problem with the song on YouTube; it has gotten over 8 million hits. The song has its own Wiki post.

    A Golden Oldie by any objective standard.

    Out of curiosity, I did an N-word word count on the lyrics. The word appears in that song no less than 29 times.

    Yet it is said to be the most offensive word in the English language, and it is deemed awful enough that the Tea Party Movement found itself in a sea of controversy over the merest allegation without proof that the word the was yelled.

    Sorry, but I think this "system" is crazy. Just absofrigginglutely insane.

    What if some asshole drove by a Tea Party and blasted them with "All Eyez on Me"? Would they get in trouble for that too?

    Anyway, here's the song which upset the neighbors. I don't much like it myself, but there's no denying it's a classic, which probably makes it, you know, traditional for folks who are into nostalgia.

    I think it overuses a word I don't use.

    (As if anyone cares what my privileged white ass thinks.)

    posted by Eric at 11:08 PM | Comments (1)

    A Palin lie becomes a Krugman truth

    Remember when "death panels" were considered a right-wing crackpot conspiracy theory?

    Well, via Adam Bitely, I learned that it turns out that not only were the death panels there all along, but they're a good thing!

    A cost saver, don't you know.

    So explains Paul Krugman (who as a left-wing economist ought to know about such things):

    Below the Beltway has the transcript:

    PAUL KRUGMAN, NEW YORK TIMES: Think about people on the right. They're simultaneously screaming, they're going to send all of the old people to death panels and it's not going to save any money. That's a contradictory point of view.

    TAPPER: Death panels would save money, theoretically.

    KRUGMAN: The advisory path has the ability to make more or less binding judgments on saying this particular expensive treatment actually doesn't do any good medically and so we're not going to pay for it. That is actually going to save quite a lot of money. We don't know how much yet. The CBO gives it very little credit. But most of the health care economists I talk to think it's going to be a really major cost saving. I have to say, I'm wearing an FDR tie in honor of the fact that we have gone from the New Deal to the Big Biden Deal, I guess we're allowed to say.

    TAPPER: Big bleeping deal?

    KRUGMAN: Yes.

    Anyone remember how Sarah Palin was ridiculed for warning about what Krugman has now confirmed? (Yeah, and I was ridiculed too, FWIW.)

    The moral lesson here is there are some truths that aren't true until they are spoken by leading leftists.

    posted by Eric at 05:05 PM | Comments (5)

    Everything finally explained! With proof!

    A well-known blogger I greatly respect but won't name (you will understand why; he fears reprisals) told me about an amazing man named Dr. Peter Beter. Dr. Beter was a successful Washington lawyer and former Kennedy administration diplomatic liaison, until finally he decided to blow the whistle on what was really going on, and he devoted the rest of his life to telling us about it in the form of audio newsletter tapes which he sent out to loyal followers in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of his claims would undoubtedly be controversial, even today.

    But that does not mean they are not absolutely true.

    In fact, I challenge the readers here to offer me proof that any one of the following assertions by Dr. Beter is not true!

    * Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was involved in the Kennedy assassination.[12]
    Prove he wasn't! Betcha can't!
    * Several important public figures such as David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and Jimmy Carter are actually dead, and are being impersonated by organic "robotoids".[13][14][15]
    Forget about proving they weren't. I certainly can't. And according to the prevailing political standard, that means it has to be true!

    * Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after the Hearst newspaper chain published secret Congressional testimony. This testimony revealed that America's atomic secrets were handed over to the Soviet Union - not stolen by Soviet spies, before America's first atomic bomb was finished, and that the Rockefellers were directly involved in this plot.[16][17][18]
    Hey, even though I was living in Berkeley at the time of her kidnapping, I am absolutely unable to prove that it wasn't the CIA. Simple logic as well as prevailing political memes dictate that means it had to be the CIA.
    * The CIA was responsible for the secret death of General George Scratchley Brown because he simply knew "too much".[19]
    Well, why else would they have killed him? The CIA doesn't waste its time killing people for knowing too little does it? Case closed.
    * The Jonestown massacre was staged to camouflage a joint U.S.-Israeli military operation to destroy a Soviet missile base in Guyana. The Jonestown incident explained the movement of U.S. military personnel into Guyana and concealed the real count of casualties from the attack on the Soviet base.[20]
    That, too, is a no-brainer. I was in college at the time, and just a few days after the so-called Jonestown "suicide," the US military also made Dan White eat too many Twinkies and whack Mayor George Moscone and gay supervisor Harvey Milk, thus providing a perfect distraction to ensure that San Franciscans would have too much on their plate to look into Jonestown.
    * Particle beam weapons and other advanced aerial weapons under secret development, such as the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program had the power to change the weather. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had developed such weapons.
    Of course they did! Can you think of a better explanation for what they misleadingly call "Global Warming"? Little wonder that Soviet stooge Al Gore is the number one promoter of this theory, and it's a very clever one. He's been in on the deal from the start. These people can turn the weather on or off any time they want, and then they blame the activities of ordinary people for their crimes against God's weather. The only thing true about Anthropogenic Global Warming theory is that it is anthropogenic. However, the culprits are not us, but the guys behind the curtain like Al Gore!

    Keeping in mind that claims like Dr. Beter's don't need to be proven true in order to be true because the duty is on those who dispute them to prove them false, I have decided to go the extra mile here, and actually prove that one of the claims made by Dr. Beter is absolutely true.

    I have researched this thoroughly, and have learned much to my consternation that it really is beyond dispute that Jimmy Carter is in fact an organic robotoid. Here is Dr. Beter on Alvin Toffler's book 'Future Shock':

    "...Toffler defines future shock as 'the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.' In his book Toffler called attention to the fact that numerous rapid and drastic new developments are taking place today without people quite knowing how to cope with it all. Among these developments Toffler discussed the revolutionary advances in biology and genetics. Quoting leading scientists in the field, he gave examples of astonishing things which are either possible now or will be soon.

    "All of these are fascinating to read about and many are frightening as well. In particular, several items point directly toward organic robotoids, although the book does not say so. As I explained last month, an organic robotoid is an artificial robot-like creature. It is a kind of biological machine with a biological computer brain. With this in mind, consider the words of Arne Tiselius, a biochemist and Nobel Prize winner. As quoted in 'FUTURE SHOCK' ... he said: "It is quite obvious that computers so far are just bad imitations of our brains. Once we learn more about how the brain acts, I would be surprised if we could not construct a sort of biological computer. Such a computer might have electronic components modeled after biological components in the real brain, and at some distant point in the future it is conceivable that biological elements themselves might be parts of the machine"...

    Well, we certainly know that this last claim turned out to be true, don't we? In fact, there is a well-organized conspiracy of sellout traitors, known variously as "futurists" and "singularitarians" who actively welcome our enslavement at the hands of the diabolical organic robotoids. Many of them also want to extend their lives, to better facilitate the demise of those they consider lesser human beings.

    Can it be a coincidence that Jimmy Carter is still alive? He may be the oldest living organic robotoid (if you can call such a thing life), and the proof that he is being kept alive by his creators lies in the fact that they keep changing his appearance, as they have been doing for decades.

    From a careful analysis of one of Dr. Beter's audio lectures:


    Look at the photos below. The differences should be notable. I wish the quality were better, but these are screen grabs from old videocassettes. On the left is the real Carter in 1978. Compare that to the "Carter" of 5-9-79, which Beter contended was a Russian organic robotoid. Notice that photos of the real Carter show a somewhat wider, more jowly face. If the 5-9-79 Carter had lost some weight, or had a facelift or similar, we were never informed of it.

    Some of the doubles for Carter were not very good, as sometimes the facial features would be out of proportion. Or some doubles would have more or less wrinkles. What they did to the Carter doubles from the start was change the part in his hair.

    The actual change occurred after April 21, 1979, the night Beter contended that the real Carter was assassinated. Before that date, you see the real Carter with his hair parted one way. After that date, his hair is parted the other way and has remained that way until the present.

    Here are the pictures:


    Parenthetically, I think this explains some of the seemingly bizzare behavior of the thing we thought was our president. His famous encounter with the "killer rabbit" made little sense at the time. But to those in the know, it indicates that the technology still had a few bugs, and occasionally the CarterBot would act in an unanticipated manner, and do things that no U.S. president would do. Similarly, "Carter's" micromanagement of the White House tennis courts schedule puzzled analysts at the time, but it makes absolute sense now. It's easily explained by anyone who understands that such behavior, while abnormal for a human president, would be perfectly normal for a robotoid president -- especially if the creature had been left momentarily unsupervised.

    And to prove that the conspiracy continues, here is a more recent picture, showing the cleverly aged "Jimmy Carter" being carefully stage-managed by one of his handlers:


    That is proof positive that an enormous amount of effort was put into creating the impression that this organic robotoid is subject to the same ravages of senescence over time that we all are. What more proof do we need that there is an ongoing conspiracy than this blatant attempt at a coverup?

    I realize that this is deeply disturbing, very serious stuff, and of course I cannot do justice to it all in a single blog post.

    So I will leave you with this video, which I think explains just about everything.

    My deepest, deepest thanks to the blogger I cannot name for sharing this valuable suppressed knowledge with me.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Dean Esmay for a very mysterious link! Says Dean:

    I see that I others in the blogsphere are learning about a great unheralded genius of our age, Dr. Peter Beter.

    I'm glad I'm no longer alone, although I wonder who the unnamed blogger is...

    Dean also left a comment below calling Beter "the great unheralded genius historian and fearless whistleblower of the 1970s and 1980s."
    It's a pity he's no longer with us, but his invaluable archives help us to understand much of the critical history that has gone on since his passing, such as the faked fall of the Soviet Empire and George W. Bush's walking around holding hands with the Saudi King.

    I'm shocked you did not mention the critical Battle of the Harvest Moon, which I think explains much of what we're seeing these days with the so-called Space Shuttle "disasters":


    We know that the Bolsheviks who continue to control the White House were planning on rebuilding Moonbase Alpha using those shuttles, the only question in my mind is how those shuttles were shot down without that being obvious to the gullible American public.

    I thank Dean for the link and for the important additional revelations in his comment. Otherwise my lips must remain forever sealed!

    As the saying goes, those who tell don't know, and those who know don't tell!

    posted by Eric at 11:30 AM | Comments (2)


    What the hell is going on with this blog?

    Have we been hijacked?

    MORE: Over at Power and Control, M. Simon expresses bitter disappointment, and is threatening to quit! I can hardly blame him.

    I think it is high time that we get some answers around here!

    AND MORE: What I want to know is why did all of this start right when M. Simon wrote a post about Victorian Sex???

    posted by Eric at 12:39 AM | Comments (3)

    March 2011
    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3 4 5
    6 7 8 9 10 11 12
    13 14 15 16 17 18 19
    20 21 22 23 24 25 26
    27 28 29 30 31    


    Search the Site


    Classics To Go

    Classical Values PDA Link


    Recent Entries


    Site Credits