Men, get over your "macho culture"! Seeing the doctor is a must!

Sarah's last post -- "You Are NOT my Mother" -- was one of the most compassionate arguments I have seen in favor of leaving people alone.

Whatever became of true compassion? Sometimes I think that in the name of compassion, compassion is being destroyed. Those who want to rule us forget that compassion does not merely mean "helping" people by any means necessary (including forcing them literally at gunpoint to do what their rulers deem best).

Compassion also includes leaving people alone. Letting them have their right to do what they want with their lives, including take risks, so long as they don't endanger others. You know, that "pursuit of happiness" thing that has been relegated to a point of minor historical interest?

It is one thing to ensure that people do not starve to death; it is quite another to force-feed them what you think they should eat! And it is one thing to make some form of medical care available, and quite another to make people go to the doctor.

In that respect, I found myself disturbed by a Wall Street Journal piece about a condescending campaign to "Shock Men Into Going to See the Doctor." In an accompanying online video, author Laura Landro explains that the problem stems from a "macho culture not willing to ask for directions," and an ad is run which features a female realtor ridiculing an obviously clueless male homebuyer in front of his family because he will die soon (from a preventable disease) while they get to enjoy the new house. Males, you see, need to get screened for all sorts of diseases -- "especially depression" which "hurts everybody" -- but they don't. And the culprit?

"Macho culture":

While there is no scientific evidence as to why men avoid doctors, many physicians attribute it to a macho culture which equates doctor visits with weakness, reluctance to undergo tests such as rectal and prostate exams and fear of finding out that something might be wrong.
Yes, many men (including yours truly) are not in a hurry to bend over and get that lubed gloved hand shoved where the sun don't shine. And the colonoscopy procedure requires anesthesia and costs between five and ten thousand dollars. Maybe some men just instinctively don't like spending that sort of money (or other people's money) on themselves.

Do those who want to be left alone have a right to refuse these things? Or does society's growing interest in preventive healthcare outweigh their concerns? What worries me is that with socialization of health care, a "right" to care might very well turn into a positive obligation to see a doctor.

This is not as much of a problem for women, because apparently they have less of an instinctive objection to being taken care of by other people than do men. But let's assume that "macho culture" is somehow the culprit. Why is it more "wrong" to not want to be taken care of than it is to want to be taken care of? Can anyone please explain? I think a good argument can be made that wanting to be taken care of reflects a state of dependency. Isn't dependency something feminism is against? So why single out men as "macho" morons for not wanting to be dependent?

And why isn't there a similarly sexist term for women who want others to take care of their needs?

Instead, the idea is being promoted that women are better and smarter because of this tendency:

Women tend to be more engaged in their health care from puberty as they visit gynecologists and, later, obstetricians for childbearing. But even excluding reproductive needs, women are more likely to seek care than men, says Carolyn Clancy, director of the AHRQ, which worked with the Ad Council on the public-service campaign. The gender differences are obvious early, she says: In one study of 8- and 9-year-old campers with headaches, girls were more likely than boys to see the camp nurse.
Well, no kidding! When I was a kid, the last thing on earth I would have wanted to do at summer camp was to go see the nurse!

%^&*#!

Boys want to be left alone. To take care of things themselves. You can call it "macho culture" if you want; I'd call it individual dignity.

What kind of society raises boys who want to go see the nurse for every ache and pain?

This "make them go see a doctor" theme ties in with an HBO special I watched recently which also made me uneasy. The topic was addiction (including drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol), and the relentless message was that "denial is part of the disease," which no doubt it is. Similarly, men's denial of depression is said to be part of that disease. But is it that simple? Might there be an additional reason for the denial? (What about the reality that admitting to something is like confessing, and that confessions have consequences? Might the addictionologists be in a bit of denial over that reality?)

Watching the various addictionologists and treatment specialists echo the theme, I was then hit by an additional theme -- that "the family" is also part of "the disease" and must be treated too! There was something about the relentless enthusiasm on their faces, a positively evangelical insistence that everyone needs "treatment" -- that I found impossible to ignore. Now, I recognize that addicts are messed up, just as depressed people are messed up, but what really hadn't dawned on me until then was that these people that we call "addictionologists" are not merely treating illness. They are in the business of telling people what to do, how to live their lives.

In simple lay terms, they are control freaks. (How a psychiatrist might analyze their motivations, I do not know.) But I found it horrifying that such people might try to claim the right to enter my life and tell me what to do. Sorry, but I would rather die. If that's "macho culture," then label me a victim of it; I don't care. Just don't take away my freedom, and my right to be left alone.

Seriously, I worry that there is an entire community of people out there who can't wait to cross the line from helping people to forcing them into getting help -- and getting paid with tax dollars to do it.

Where does it end?

Back to the Wall Street Journal:

All men should have their body-mass index assessed to screen for obesity; starting at 35, they should have their cholesterol checked regularly, and a blood-pressure check is recommended every two years. Men with high blood pressure or high cholesterol should also be screened for diabetes. Men aged 65 to 75 need a test for an abdominal aortic aneurysm if they have ever smoked. At 50, they should get a colorectal-cancer screening test, unless there is a family history of the disease, in which case patients may need to be screened earlier.

Men are also urged to talk to their doctor about being screened for depression if they have felt "down, hopeless or sad" over a two-week period or have felt "little pleasure or interest in doing things." And depending on their sexual habits---a list of risk factors is available on the website---men should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

There are a lot of "shoulds" there, and I am not arguing with them. There are a lot of things men should do. (In addition to bending over for that gloved, government-paid hand....)

Macho my ass!

(Did I really need to say that?)

Seriously, my concern is that when the government takes over health care, the word "should" can easily become "must."

Whenever we must do something, to that extent we are not free.

Sheesh. Next they'll be saying that freedom is a macho thing -- if they aren't already....

posted by Eric at 12:03 PM | Comments (8)




What did the Post know and when did they know it?

While it's rather tough to defend Dave Weigel's unhinged rantings about Matt Drudge or his arrogant attitude in general, it has increasingly become apparent that something about the release of personal remarks that he had emailed to a private site just smelled funny.

My suspicion was that the Post -- for reasons unknown -- wanted to get rid of him. Yet none of the possible reasons made a whole lot of sense, so I was inclined to think that someone had been jealous of him, and leaked his incriminating remarks in the hope of getting him canned.

But now, via Glenn Reynolds, I see that Dave Weigel was apparently the only Post reporter to cover the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation scandal:

This is a scandal that, thanks to Rubin, von Spakovsky, and Adams, is now hiding in plain sight. The basic facts of the case were captured in real time on video (above). Yet other than a few posts by Dave Weigel regarding the Civil Rights Commission's hearings in the case on the Post site, I cannot find a trace of it in either the Washington Post or the New York Times. While justice has been politicized in a most disgusting manner in the Obama administration, the mainstream media have averted their eyes and moved on.
(Emphasis added.)

The dismissal of the case is a major scandal. Not only does the story not go away, but it just keeps getting bigger. And more sinister in its implications for democracy:

...the dismissal [of the case by Eric Holder and company] is part of a creeping lawlessness infusing our government institutions. Citizens would be shocked to learn about the open and pervasive hostility within the Justice Department to bringing civil rights cases against nonwhite defendants on behalf of white victims. Equal enforcement of justice is not a priority of this administration. Open contempt is voiced for these types of cases.

Some of my co-workers argued that the law should not be used against black wrongdoers because of the long history of slavery and segregation. Less charitable individuals called it "payback time." Incredibly, after the case was dismissed, instructions were given that no more cases against racial minorities like the Black Panther case would be brought by the Voting Section.

Refusing to enforce the law equally means some citizens are protected by the law while others are left to be victimized, depending on their race. Core American principles of equality before the law and freedom from racial discrimination are at risk. Hopefully, equal enforcement of the law is still a point of bipartisan, if not universal, agreement. However, after my experience with the New Black Panther dismissal and the attitudes held by officials in the Civil Rights Division, I am beginning to fear the era of agreement over these core American principles has passed.

How convenient, now that the only guy who covered it for the Post is out of the way!

"Weigelgate" indeed.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all!

Comments invited, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 04:10 PM | Comments (12)



A Song For Our Times

A song for our times. Written by Sheldon Harnick. You might think this song was written recently. The above recording of the Kingston Trio was made at the Hungry I in 1958.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:00 PM | Comments (1)



All politics is local. But how local is local?

While I have absolutely zero sympathy for corrupt public officials (see my extensive posts about the scandals surrounding Philadelphia's Mayor Street), I find myself wondering why it is that the entire Michigan electorate should be forced to step in and wipe the asses of the voters of Detroit. At least, that's my take on this fall's ballot initiative:

LANSING -- Michigan voters will decide in November whether former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers -- or any other local officials convicted of violating the public trust -- should be banned from public office for 20 years.

The House voted 91-13 Thursday to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, far more than the two-thirds majority needed. The Senate approved the bill unanimously last week; it does not require the governor's signature.

The ballot issue would extend to local offices a current 20-year ban that applies to state legislators who are convicted of a felony involving deceit and fraud related to holding office, such as bribery or fraud. It would not apply to convictions for violent or property crimes.

Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to perjury in 2008 and resigned from office after the text message scandal. He vowed publicly for a political comeback. Conyers pleaded guilty for her role in a bribery scheme involving a $1.2-billion sludge-hauling contract with the city.

There is little question that Detroit's corruption is immense, and legendary. But considering that people like Kilpatrick and Conyers get elected and reelected, even though the voters supposedly have free choice, doesn't this suggest that the problem lies deeper than corruption only on the part of its leaders?

Take Conyers' husband, for example. (Or as Henny Youngman would say, "PLEASE!") An annoying article in Sunday's Free Press (headlined "House icon Conyers steers clear of his wife's troubles") took such a softball approach to Conyers as to be obviously (IMO) bending over backwards. But even the Free Press had to admit that Conyers has at least the hint of an appearance of an aroma of what might politely be called a conflict of interest:

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. John Conyers was cloistered in his office.

In a courtroom in the same building, his wife -- former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers -- was being sentenced to more than three years in prison.

Counseled that it would be a mistake -- as chairman of the committee that oversees the prosecutors who extracted a guilty plea from his wife on corruption charges -- to be in the courtroom, John Conyers stayed away.

To this day, as his wife awaits a September incarceration date, he has said nothing about it.

The 81-year-old congressman was cleared of any involvement in his wife's crime and no one -- Republican or Democrat -- has suggested he give up his chairmanship of the powerful Judiciary Committee.

[...]

as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee -- which oversees the Justice Department that prosecuted his wife -- any comments he might make could be seen as improper influence.

Could be? Let's not be too harsh or judgmental!

I mean, being the "chairman of the committee that oversees the prosecutors who extracted a guilty plea from his wife on corruption charges" is, like, perfectly OK. No way that anyone could possibly be influenced by his position, is there?

And the voters don't mind, do they?

After all, most of the objections to Conyers come from outside of his district (and all those mean pundits and bloggers):

Sometimes, Conyers' off-the-cuff remarks have stirred the pot in Washington's political hotbed. For example, while speaking at the National Press Club last year, Conyers addressed the complexity of national health care reform legislation being debated.

He said: "What good is it to read the bill?" unless you had the time and expertise to make sense of it. His comment set off a firestorm of blogging and news releases, feeding opponents of the bill.

But perhaps the harshest criticism of Conyers in recent years came from investigative reports published by the Free Press about complaints from his staff. In 2003, the Free Press cited six unnamed Conyers aides who complained of having to do work on various campaigns, including a failed legislative campaign for Monica, on government time and in Conyers' office. A subsequent report focused on allegations that Conyers used staff to babysit his sons, help his wife with her law studies and chauffeur him to private events outside the scope of their duties -- accusations the congressman's office denied.

The House Ethics Committee eventually investigated the matters and reached a deal with Conyers, saying he would ensure staff knew it was not to take care of his personal affairs or work on campaigns on government time. It barely amounted to a slap on the wrist.

I'm relieved that he will ensure that staff knows it is "not to take care of his personal affairs or work on campaigns on government time." How dare they have done such a thing, when they knew they shouldn't have! It was all the staff's fault!

And despite her rather generous salary, his wife seems to be just as poor as many of her Detroit constitutents:

His wife got a court-appointed lawyer despite his salary of $174,000 a year.
(Not to mention her own city council salary....) I might be wrong, but I have a feeling that if I made that much money a year (which I don't), I wouldn't get a court-appointed lawyer -- especially if I was accused of taking bribes!
Last year it came to light that Conyers, in 2007, wrote a letter in support of a controversial waste well that his office had previously raised concerns about. Federal prosecutors alleged that Monica Conyers, then on City Council, pressured the well's prospective owner, Jim Papas, to hire her aide, Sam Riddle, as a consultant at about the same time Conyers sent the letter.
Sam the Bagman Riddle is of course another local legend in Detroit's corruption game, and only after a second trial (thanks to an earlier racialized mistrial) was he finally convicted.

But I am glad the Free Press saw fit to mention Riddle. I also liked this quote from Michael Barone:

"It's sort of bizarre for the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to be the spouse of someone convicted of a felony."
It's also sort of bizarre for the voters of Michigan to be having to tell the voters of Detroit that they can't vote for her for twenty years. Otherwise, she'd probably be as politically untouchable as her husband, who is about to be reelected to his 24th term:
Conyers is running this summer for his 24th two-year term in Congress, and he has no Democratic challenger in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
I guess that means that a Republican might try to unseat Conyers against 10 to 1 odds. Who would ballsy enough (or fool enough) attempt such a thing?

Really, it's almost as ballsy as it was for Mickey Kaus to run against Barbara Boxer! As a Democrat! (Recognizing the near-impossibility of achieving success in such a venture, Glenn Reynolds stressed "the importance of having fun.")

I had to look elsewhere to find out who Conyers' obviously fun-loving Republican opponent might be. According to the Examiner, it's either Pauline Montie
(who says, "I'll never have the money he has. But if your vote isn't for sale, then he can't win") or Don Ukrainec.

Hmmm....

Even though I'm skeptical about getting all of the voters of a state embroiled in local politics, still.

If the state voters can ban local officials convicted of violating the public trust -- from public office for 20 years, then why shouldn't they also subject their office-holding spouses to a special state-wide referendum?

Why not?

It would be more democratic because more people would be voting, and it would be certain to increase voter turnout, and above all, it might make the election more fun.

Certainly, anything would be more fun than seeing Conyers overwhelmingly reelected to a 24th term.

posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)



You Are NOT my Mother

I must first confess that I find picture books, of the sort foisted on kids in their earliest years, inherently creepy. The concepts are boiled to the sort of level where they raise more questions than they answer.

Of these books - rivaling with the seriously disturbing Animal Kisses - possibly the creepiest is "Are you my mother?" where some exceedingly stupid little animal (is it a duck?) goes from unlikely creature to unlikely creature and asks "Are you my mother?" When forced to read picture books to the boys (being young gentlemen of taste, they preferred Ray Bradbury, even at six months of age) I used to insert my own commentary into the performance, including but not limited to, "Oh, for heavens sake, we're not even in the same Phylum." (Okay, there were wittier comments, but my husband forbade me from saying anything even vaguely related to sexual innuendo or that implied/asserted these characters were on various drugs.)

The sheer stupidity of this defenseless small creature going around to carnivores who could devour it in a single bite asking if this might be his mother seemed to betray something wrong with the author of the book.

Little did I know this was considered a blueprint for society.

I was going along in the blissful belief that while our government has got bloated and overstretched and sticks its nose into everything it possibly can, at least in our every day contacts in society we were ... well, normal people. Normal people who are NOT the old ladies in the village where I grew up. In fact, ever since leaving the village I have stayed as far away as possible from the kind of small community that might encourage neighborhood busybodies.

I find it very amusing that a certain type of mind romanticizes villages and the "closeness" therein, because to me - a mildly strange young person of artistic disposition - this translated into having busybodies creating the most interesting rumors about me and/or telling my mom their interpretation of things I'd done.

Little did I know that this sort of mind had now taken charge of our society.

What do I mean by that? Oh... Let me tell it as a tale. It was Friday afternoon. My husband had just got home from work and my younger son - the only one at home, this summer - came into the my office to tweak my husband and I about something or other. Don't remember what, but it might have been the music I was listening to at the time - no, don't ask. Current novel demands eighties dance tunes. - Kid is sprawled in my research chair, laughing. My husband is leaning against the door. I'm at my desk, and we're in three-way banter. I LIVE for these moments. Even the kid's eyes are laughing.

And then we get a phone call.

Continue reading "You Are NOT my Mother"

posted by Sarah at 08:19 AM | Comments (13)




"Blogging is Hard. Don't Let Economists Tell You Otherwise!"

It's not every day that I feel as if I am the equivalent of Paul Krugman (or that my lay economic opinion is equally as valuable as his), so today is a day I can rejoice.

But first I will explain.

Greg Mankiw linked an influential essay by Kartik Athreya, Ph. D. (a senior economist in the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond's research department) which is titled "Economics is Hard. Don't Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise". According to Dr. Athreya, simplistic economic pronouncements by bloggers (like yours truly) are about as helpful as simplistic economic pronouncements by elite economists like Krugman, and both should be ignored:

In this essay, I argue that neither non-economist bloggers, nor economists who portray economics -- especially macroeconomic policy -- as a simple enterprise with clear conclusions, are likely to contibute any insight to discussion of economics and, as a result, should be ignored by an open-minded lay public.
Which would apply to Paul Krugman's latest pronouncement:
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost -- to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs -- will nonetheless be immense.

[...]

....future historians will tell us that this wasn't the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn't the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment -- especially long-term unemployment -- remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.

In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven't yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

In his usual simplistic manner, Krugman maintains, of course, that we must spend our way out of debt with money we don't have.

And even though I am not an economist and therefore have no idea what I am talking about, I will nonetheless continue (in my usual simplistic manner) to maintain that spending your way out of debt simply does not work. I think that any temporary "relief" it might provides is as illusory as the apparent "recovery" of a medieval patient being systematically bled back to life. But what do I know? I'm just glad that for once, a knowledgeable economist thinks my opinion is as worthy of being ignored as Krugman's! And even Brad Delong's! Back to Dr. Athreya:

...I am totally puzzled by the willingness of many who fearlessly and breathlessly opine about economics, especially macroeconomic policy. Deficits, short-term interest rate targets, sovereign debt are all chewed over with a level of self-assuredness that only someone who doesn't know more could. The list of those exhibiting this zest also includes, in addition to those mentioned above, some who might know better. They are the patron saints of the "Macroeconomic Policy is Easy: Only Idiots Don't Think So" movement: Paul Krugman and Brad Delong. Either of these men will assure their readers that it's all really very simple (and may even be found in Keynes' writings).
Wow. Being as worthless as Paul Krugman and Brad Delong is very humbling.

(I'm glad it's only for a day.)

posted by Eric at 01:05 PM | Comments (2)




Downsizing Detroit by means of eminent domain

When we think of eminent domain, normally we think of the government taking private land in order to put it to public use, although the controversial (and incorrect, IMO) Kelo decision expanded the concept to include government takings for private use -- if that private use can be said to improve a city's tax base.

What's being proposed for Detroit, though, is a new wrinkle. The mayor wants to condemn private property in areas that the city deems too sparsely populated, and the reason given is that it's inconvenient for the city to continue offering government services. So eminent domain is not being used to help the city grow, but to shrink the city.

For downsizing. Eminent domain expert Alan Ackerman explains:

There are areas of the city where 60 to 80 percent of the area is vacant. There are areas with three houses instead of the 150 they used to have. In those areas, the same costs exist to put the water and sewer in the neighborhood. The police still have to drive there. This mayor needs to find out if he can buy these homes at fair market value and move them to areas that are still viable and have a higher density of homes. If there is a higher density, then it is a lot easier for the utility companies to go there. What you need to do is figure out how to treat people fairly and do it constitutionally. The state constitution will allow the city to acquire individual homes by eminent domain. However, the state statute is more restrictive than the constitution. You have to allow the city to remove homes that are shown to be blighted or worthy of condemnation.
I'm not sure about the assumption that once the government buys up the remaining homes in shrinking neighborhoods and tears them down, the police won't have to drive there. Will they be "closed"? What's to stop criminals from going there and hiding, camping out, and using them as bases of crime to better prey on surrounding areas? The people promoting these utopian schemes like to talk about using the land for urban farming, and "daylighting" old creeks and restoring the land, but with the land still there and still part of Detroit, the police are going to have to police it. Who will protect the people who tend these "urban farms"?

I'm skeptical. And what about the people who just want to live in perfectly good homes where they have lived for years? It isn't their fault that the surrounding houses were abandoned, vandalized, or burned. They paid their taxes, and now the government that has been taking their money all these years wants to take their houses because they are suddenly deemed inconvenient. I would think that they should at least allow people to opt out of being bought out. There's just something about the government saying, "we can't offer you services any more so we want your house" that I find offensive in the extreme. Like "we can't protect you, so get out!"

Why not allow people the option of signing a waiver agreeing to be on their own and take their chances? Besides, many of these Detroit houses are worth next to nothing, so paying 125 percent of next to nothing is a travesty.

I realize that few people care about Detroit, but if they can do this there, they can do it anywhere.

Hey, how about let's demolish suburban neighborhoods to prevent sprawl?

posted by Eric at 04:32 PM | Comments (3)



The New Jim Crow

It all started (in modern times) with Richard Nixon

"You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks.

The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to."

Richard Nixon as quoted by H.R. Haldeman, supporting a get-tough-on drugs strategy.

Thus begins the Fort Worth Star Telegram review of Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. They go on to look at how she came to write the book.
Michelle Alexander was an ACLU attorney in Oakland, preparing a racial profiling lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. The ACLU had put out a request for anyone who had been profiled to get in touch. One day, in walked this black man.

He was maybe 19 and toted a thick sheaf of papers, what Alexander calls an "incredibly detailed" accounting of at least a dozen police stops over a nine-month period, with dates, places and officers' names. This was, she thought, a "dream plaintiff."

But it turned out he had a record, a drug felony -- and she told him she couldn't use him; the state's attorney would eat him alive. He insisted he was innocent, said police had planted drugs and beaten him. But she was no longer listening. Finally, enraged, he snatched the papers back and started shredding them.

"You're no better than the police," he cried. "You're doing what they did to me!" The conviction meant he couldn't work or go to school, had to live with his grandmother. Did Alexander know how that felt? And she wanted a dream plaintiff? "Just go to my neighborhood," he said. "See if you can find one black man my age they haven't gotten to already."

She saw him again a couple of months later. He gave her a potted plant from his grandmother's porch -- he couldn't afford flowers -- and apologized. A few months after that, a scandal broke: Oakland police officers accused of planting drugs and beating up innocent victims. One of the officers involved was the one named by that young man.

They go on to look at some of what she found.
Others have written of the racial bias of the criminal injustice system. In "The New Jim Crow," Alexander goes a provocative step further. She contends that the mass incarceration of black men for nonviolent drug offenses, combined with sentencing disparities and laws making it legal to discriminate against felons in housing, employment, education and voting, constitute nothing less than a new racial caste system. A new segregation.

She has a point. Yes, the War on Drugs is officially race-neutral. So were the grandfather clause and other Jim Crow laws whose intention and effect was nevertheless to restrict black freedom.

The War on Drugs is a war on African-American people and we countenance it because we implicitly accept certain assumptions sold to us by news and entertainment media, chief among them that drug use is rampant in the black community. But. The. Assumption. Is. WRONG.

According to federal figures, blacks and whites use drugs at a roughly equal rate in percentage terms. In terms of raw numbers, WHITES are far and away the biggest users -- and dealers -- of illegal drugs.

So why aren't cops kicking THEIR doors in? Why aren't THEIR sons pulled over a dozen times in nine months? Why are black men 12 times likelier to be jailed for drugs than white ones? Why aren't WHITE communities robbed of their fathers, brothers, sons?

The answer is pretty simple. If the laws were equally enforced the Drug War would be over in a few months. White people wouldn't stand for it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:12 PM | Comments (18)




Sinners and scolds, feasting together in a cornucopia of collusion!

The topic of collusion is of longstanding interest here, as I am always fascinated by the way politics makes strange bedfellows, especially the way sworn political enemies can end up working towards the same goal.

This can take many forms; the following are only a few examples selected from some of my blog posts over the years:

  • Continued stigmatization of minorities for political ends by mutual agreement
  • Animal rights activists (who oppose domestication of animals) and plain old dog haters agree on unreasonable restrictions calculated to inhibit dog ownership
  • A coalition between the stupid and the evil, resulting (surprise!) in stupid and evil policies
  • Fundamentalists and atheists agree to redefine secularism -- to the point where the word has lost its original meaning
  • the creation of an exclusively homosexual "identitarian" caste aided and abetted by anti-gay activists who wanted to preserve a cultural stigma working in collusion with organized activists reacting against them
  • Leftist egalitarianism combines with the conservative love of accountability and a mandatory bottom line so that gifted students are systematically ignored
  • Liberals and conservatives who unite in opposition to the Enlightenment -- and reason
  • Environmentalists and big business working in collusion to create draconian new restrictions
  • the secret, unacknowledged love affair between fundamentalists and atheists
  • Those are just a few examples from over the years. M. Simon has also discussed this phenomenon, and in at least two posts he discussed the "Bootleggers and Baptists" phenomenon. The latter is a term coined by former FTC boss Bruce Yandle to explain what happens when a good cause collides with special interests.

    Reason.tv has a fascinating video in which Mr. Yandle explains the phenomenon and some of its modern manifestations, such as the way environmentalists and their supposed "enemies" in big business work together for draconian new regulations which make things worse for the rest of us, and he takes a whimsical look at opposition to legal marijuana by pot growers!

    Watch it and laugh. Or cry.

    What's next? Criminals lobbying for gun control?

    (Oh, I guess I already wrote about that one....)

    MORE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link (and for making what I thought was a grim title actually look funny)!

    A warm welcome to everyone (sinners and scolds included). Comments invited -- agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (12)



    Tea Party Patriots Support Killer Sheriff

    The site Resist.net, billing itself as The Home of The Patriotic Resistance, is supporting Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

    So let me tell you a few things about Sheriff Joe. How about we start with the wrongful death of Scott Norberg.

    Sheriff Joe Arpaio: The Norberg wrongful death lawsuit was settled out of court for $8.25 million. Sheriff Sheriff Joe Arpaio has repeatedly claimed that this cost the taxpayers nothing since it was paid by an insurance company.

    Truth: At the time of the settlement the county had a $1 million "deductible" on its coverage. The taxpayers had to pay the first $1,000,000 on this case and now the deductible has been raised to $5 million.

    Well I have a few more details on that case.
    The investigation into the death of Scott Norberg is a perfect example. Norberg, who had struggled with drug addiction, was arrested after attempting to slug a cop. He was in Arpaio's jail just 15 hours before he was handcuffed by guards, kicked, stomped on, and then strapped into a restraint chair. There, guards held a towel over his head, literally suffocating him. Medical records later revealed that he had been shot with a stun gun at least 14 times and beaten so badly that his larynx cracked.

    The county was forced to settle with Norberg's family for $8.25 million. Astonishingly, says Norberg's attorney, Mike Manning, Arpaio promoted the guards who did the beating.

    Arpaio's critics say Norberg's death was far from an isolated incident. But there's one reason the case continues to be talked about when so many other inmate deaths have fallen into obscurity: Scott Norberg's family had enough money to hire a good attorney. Manning's investigation showed that important records had been destroyed -- including the X-ray of the cracked larynx. He also obtained the videotape that showed Norberg pleading for his life.

    Even then, Arpaio managed to thwart a criminal investigation.

    The sheriff's internal affairs investigators, Manning says, failed to give deputies the proper warnings before interviewing them. That invalidated the evidence they had obtained. Even worse, internal affairs and criminal investigators sat in on the same interviews, which Manning says is strictly forbidden by most police agency policies.

    "There is no doubt, no other explanation, than that they intentionally botched the investigation," Manning says. "This kind of stuff was too stupid -- too stupid even for them."

    Or how about the death of Charles Angster III?
    Mentally retarded Charles Agster III, 33, was arrested for trespassing on August 6, 2001. Detention officers pulled a hood over his head and slammed him into a restraint chair. Agster was asphyxiated to the point that he became brain dead. He was pronounced legally dead three days later. In 2006, a federal court awarded $9 million to his family.
    Or how about this case?
    Deborah Braillard, 46, was documented as a diabetic in the jail's health records. Her cellmates say a nurse did not give Braillard insulin, and then detention officers ignored her when she went into diabetic shock. Braillard died on January 23, 2005, ultimately from lack of insulin.
    Ah. What a well run jail. A fine example for law enforcement everywhere.
    Legally blind and serving a short sentence in Tent City for shoplifting, Brian Crenshaw, 40, was transferred to solitary confinement after a tussle with Arpaio's detention officers. Six days later, he was found comatose in his solitary cell with a broken neck, ruptured intestines, broken toes, and severe internal injuries. Arpaio maintains Crenshaw sustained the injuries when he fell off his four-foot bed. Crenshaw died on March 14, 2005.
    Yeah. He fell. It could happen to anyone.

    And Sheriff Joe's deputies are a kind and caring lot.

    On March 26, 1996, Jose Rodriquez, 39, died in a pool of his own vomit on a jail floor. His cries for help went ignored by Arpaio's jail employees. Rodriquez's dehydration, fever and twitching ultimately led to his death, even while inmates shouted for help.
    Well those inmates were just troublemakers. Not doubt Sheriff Joe's boys meted out to them the punishment they deserved.

    From what I can tell Sheriff Joe has cost the taxpayers in his area over $40 million for the mismanagement of the jail. I was under the impression the Tea Parties stood for fiscal restraint. So even on that count the Sheriff is not a good exemplar of the movement.

    My advice? Until Resist.net cleans up its act don't give them a dime or any other kind of support. If they were trying to discredit the Tea Parties they couldn't be doing a better job.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:22 PM | Comments (3)



    Repeating The Cycle

    Instapundit linked to the RS McCain blog which was discussing the resignation of Washington Post reporter David Weigel. I found this comment there of interest:

    Danby June 25th, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

    The deal here Stacy is that Weigel was NEVER A CONSERVATIVE. He's not a member of set B. He's a member of set F, the so-called cosmopolitan Libertarians. In other words he's pro-drug, pro-abortion, pro-perversity, the kind of guy who writes for Reason. He is for a smaller government, but only because government interferes with absolute personal autonomy. Somehow, in the current political climate that puts him on the right.

    I'm a member of the government can't fix the drug problem, government can't fix the abortion problem, and government can't fix the perversity problem libertarian right (government can kill people and break things - which is useful in some very limited situations).

    I have a lot of trouble with conservatives who believe government can fix much of anything. So to my conservative friends all I can say is:

    Your faith in government is misplaced

    Liberals believe government can fix things by money taken at the point of a gun. Conservatives skip the money part and go straight for the guns. (gross generalizations of course but this is a a blog post not a footnoted essay)

    I dunno - haven't conservatives ever heard of limited government?

    Conservatives lost control of Congress when they painted themselves as the social control party. Liberals will be losing over being the economic control party. Do we wish to keep repeating that cycle?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:12 AM | Comments (8)




    posted by Dave at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)



    From the blackness of my dark, bleak soul! The most depressed post ever!

    Over the years, I've seen a number of attempts attack, malign, regulate, categorize, and otherwise mess with bloggers, blogging, and the blogosphere, but today I stumbled across an entirely new potential avenue of approach.

    Apparently specialized software has been developed which purports to psychiatrically analyze bloggers' writing styles, diagnose them as ill, and direct them into treatment. Right now, the software seems to be targeting bloggers with depression:

    The program scours blogs for words and phrases, descriptions and metaphors that can indicate the writer's psychological state.

    The software's initial test run, which was part of a research study headed by Professor Yair Neuman of Ben-Gurion University's department of education, combed more than 1,000 blog posts written by American bloggers that were online in 2004.

    As part of the research, the software was asked to determine what it perceived as the 100 "most depressed" bloggers and the 100 "least depressed."

    Wow. That's the most depressing thing I've read in years. Makes me almost ready to contemplate doing what Dave Weigel suggested Matt Drudge do! But I won't, only because I enjoy my foul black moods too much to want to put an end to them.

    But as I read this, my mood is blackening by the minute! I'm telling you, there's no hope! As Veeshir often likes to remind me, we are all doomed!

    Doomed by this busybody software (which apparently can do just as good a job as the shrinks themselves):

    Neuman told Haaretz that the software diagnoses largely matched those of four clinical psychologists who made their own diagnoses based on the blog posts.

    "We found an 80 percent match between the automatic identification mechanism of the software and the human diagnosis given by the psychologists," Neuman said.

    "A psychologist knows how to spot various emotional states through intuition," he said. "Here we have a program that does this methodologically through the innovative use of 'web intelligence.'"

    Neuman said the software could enable mental health workers to identify individuals in need of treatment and to recommend that they seek help.

    "What does all of this mean from a practical standpoint?" he asked. "First of all, it shows that the technology is here and available and that it could be put to use."

    "In the United States there is a wide-ranging problem with depression," said Neuman. "Through this software it will be possible to contact a blogger and request a general examination of the contents of his blog. If the blogger agrees, he will know whether he needs to seek professional counseling for any possible distress."

    Dear Mr. Blogger,

    According to our software analysis, your recent blog postings indicate a strong correlation with the indicators of section 311 of the DSM IV. We suggest you seek professional counseling. A copy of this diagnosis will be forwarded to the Justice Department, the IRS, and the ATF. If you own any firearms, we suggest they be surrendered now!

    Sincerely, Your Independent Online Software Shrink Service.

    I read the piece carefully in the hope of detecting some hint of satire, but unfortunately it was deadly serious. So now I'm feeling depressed. But hey, at least it has no intended military use!

    The research and development for the software was funded by the Defense Ministry, yet Ben-Gurion University officials said yesterday the project would not be used for military purposes.

    The program is capable of spotting words that express various emotions, like the names of colors that the writer employs to metaphorically describe certain situations. Hence words like "black," if combined with other terms that describe such symptoms of depression as sleep deprivation and loneliness will be recognized by the software as "depressive" texts.

    The software can also spot love and vengefulness (or at least thinks it can ).

    Men who write prose laden with imagery from nature as well as words like "fire" or "lightning" could be determined by the program to be in love, as could women citing poetry or words related to music.

    "The software does not rely on a single context-dependent word, but on a series of words strung together, terms and images chosen by the writer," said Neuman.

    Hmmm...

    No way to light my fire and too lonely to sleep,

    so I prayed for more lightning and I counted black sheep!

    And I'm feeling lovingly vengeful too!

    halloween09.jpg

    As anyone can see, I'm otherwise perfectly normal in every way.

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



    Some Speculation On War

    Donald Sensing asked me to write up an e-mail conversation we were having about the coming war in the Middle East. You can find it at The Coming War.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)



    Your Next Senator Or Congressman

    H/T Hot Air

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:00 AM | Comments (3)




    All Heck Is Breaking Loose

    Yesterday I posted a story on the publicity amateur fusion has gotten over the last few hours (at the time).

    It is a day later and a Google search on fusion suppes (Suppes is the last name of the fusion experimenter profiled) now shows 857,000 hits. And my Classical Values article is right up there near the top.

    Heh.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)



    Al Gore's emissions are not sustainable

    I don't like to chide anyone for his or her sexual peccadilloes, and that includes even the very ridiculous Al Gore.

    The woman's statement--which could be mistaken for R-rated Vice Presidential fan fiction--describes Gore as a man with a "violent temper as well as extremely dictatorial commanding attitude besides his Mr. Smiley Global Warming concern persona." After fleeing Gore's suite, the woman returned home to discover, a la Lewinsky, "stains on the front of my black slacks." Suspecting that the stains were Gore bodily fluids, the woman made sure not to clean them. "I carefully hung them up and decided to be sure not to launder them until I knew more what to do with what had happened. Just my intuition."
    I know, I know. Judge not, lest ye be judged! and all that.

    But still....

    I think we need to be clear on one thing. At the Copenhagen Conference, sex with prostitutes was declared -- by the Mayor of Copenhagen, no less -- to be an environmentally unsustainable activity. (A crime environmentalists consider morally worse than traditional sins of the flesh, if for different reasons.) And Nobel Prize winner Al Gore fancies himself to epitomize environmentalism.

    Now, I realize that the woman he's accused of messing around with may not be a "real" prostitute, but if the man behaved like a real John, isn't that a distinction without a difference?

    So what's up with his unsustainable sex life? Isn't it time for him to cut out the moral lectures? And as for his green Bible....

    Yes, I mean that literally:

    gorebook.jpg

    Go wave that thing somewhere else for Gaia's sake!

    MORE: Speaking of religious issues, Ann Althouse reminded me that in the Drudge picture, Al Gore appears to be praying.

    Yikes.

    (Is he on his knees?)

    And Sean Kinsell's link to an earlier Althouse post forces me to ask another question about Gorean spirituality.

    Whatever happened to dignity and grace?

    posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (1)



    Those in charge of natural law have great power!

    Like many people, I like taking nature walks. There's something about getting away from humanity that I find emotionally appealing. What I don't like is the increasing tendency by other humans -- especially meddlesome humans -- to interrupt the natural beauty with constant, ugly reminders of their relentless and intrusive presence. And what a domineering presence it is!

    These people (some might call them environmental crackpots) seem to believe that what they call "the environment" and what normal people might call nature, even natural beauty, is exclusively theirs to control. They believe that natural beauty of the sort we might enjoy in public parks or on public lands is also theirs to destroy according to the vagaries of their latest whims. They even think that they and they alone have the right to set fire to nature!

    Not only that, but they like to brag about it in the form of offensive signs like these:

    BurningNature01.jpg

    BurningNature_closeup.jpg

    I am sick to death of seeing them, much less thinking about them. But think about them I must, for these arrogant declarations to the taxpayers who are forced to pay for them are not merely signs. They mean what they say. These people -- whoever they are -- have been given a unique right to set fires, and of course those of us who pay their salaries have no say in the matter.

    If you think about it, that's real power. They alone have the power to be the fire starters! The power to destroy nature! In order to save it, so they say. Some of what we ignorant peons might think constitutes natural beauty is deemed by our moral superiors to be "non-native species" and thus worthy of being singled out for death by fire.

    The fires that these specially anointed humans start are called "controlled burns." They have the right to set fire to nature whenever they deem it necessary. And they get to make up the rules as they go along, setting fires whenever and wherever they deem it necessary, supplying narratives like this to be tailored accordingly:

    In the beginning stages of the prescribed burn program, frequent burns were necessary to reverse the effects of the approximately 100 years of suppressed fire cycles. More frequent burning was required to set-back exotic invasive plants such as buckthorn & honeysuckle to allow more light to penetrate into the savannah habitats. As the successes of the High Park prescribed burn program continue, the frequency and interval between burns will need to be reevaluated and adjusted accordingly.
    Hear hear!

    And who pays for their fun and games? We do, of course. By "we" I mean those of us who are not allowed to set fires. If you doubt me, try burning leaves or starting a bonfire. You'll be arrested. In many places now, even having a fire in a fireplace is illegal. That's because fires started by taxpaying peons pollute the air. Unlike the controlled burns which must by some magic be emissions-free, or else they'd never start them, right?

    I know that bitching in my blog won't stop these relentless saviors, and I normally wouldn't have bothered with a post like this, except an item I saw in Drudge aroused my curiosity. It seems that some environmentalists don't like the controlled burns which are being done in Lousiana to get rid of the oil, because the fires are burning sea turtles:

    VENICE, La. - A boat captain working to rescue sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico says he has seen BP ships burning sea turtles and other wildlife alive.

    Captain Mike Ellis said in an interview posted on You Tube that the boats are conducting controlled burns to get rid of the oil.

    "They drag a boom between two shrimp boats and whatever gets caught between the two boats, they circle it up and catch it on fire. Once the turtles are in there, they can't get out," Ellis said.

    Ellis said he had to cut short his three-week trip rescuing the turtles because BP quit allowing him access to rescue turtles before the burns.

    "They're pretty much keeping us from doing what we need to do out there," Ellis said.

    Other reports corroborate Captain Ellis' claims. A report in the Los Angeles Times describes "burn fields" of 500 square miles in which 16 controlled burns will take place in one day.

    Huh? But I thought controlled burns were good for the environment. And here's this Captain Ellis (who must be an officially credentialed environmentalist, for why else would he make it into the news?) saying that some controlled burns are bad. What's up with that?

    Is there a controlled burn double standard? In this case, perhaps it's because the controlled fires are being set by BP, which, because it is an evil corporation, does not set the kind of "safe" fires which environmentalists set (which of course would never harm wildlife or pollute the air.....)

    But that can't be right, because I found some herpetologists complaining that controlled burns of precisely the type they're doing around here are killing and injuring helpless snakes. One herpetologist offers advice on healing a snake which was injured in a supposedly "controlled" burn:

    Clean the burn twice a day with betadyne and put some triple antibiotic ointment on it after you clean it. If it doesn't start to heal up I would suggest a vet visit if that's possible. I've had a few snakes brought to me from those ignorant controlled burning on nature trails.
    Wow.

    What if it turns out that fires burn whatever wildlife happens to be in an area -- regardless of whether they're started by environmentalists, evil corporations, or just taxpaying landowners?

    I'm confused here, because if such fires are set by humans, and if man is not part of nature, then aren't these fires like, equally unnatural?

    Or is there an exception for those who set the fires on behalf of what they deem to be natural law? Probably. Because it seems that only they have the right to kill snakes and turtles and pollute the air while despoiling natural beauty while advertising their prowess with annoying signs.

    The rest of us can only marvel over their power, and despair!

    posted by Eric at 11:24 AM | Comments (7)




    Real storm? Or election year storm?

    (Forgive my cynicism but that's what happens when you're subjected to non-stop government spin and relentless bullshit day after day, week after week, and year after year.....)

    Right now there's a tornado warning in effect for the City of Ann Arbor, and the city sirens are sounding. "Take shelter" is being texted in emergency emails.

    This is confirmed at Weather.com:

    A Tornado Warning has been issued. A tornado has actually been sighted by spotters or indicated on radar and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. Take cover immediately.
    I'm indoors and in front of my computer, and have basically nothing to report, but you never know. If my house is hit, that would be a serious problem. If not, I think I'm equipped to probably survive a temporary loss of power and water.

    MORE: The tornado watch warning (thanks for the correction!) is also confirmed at NOAA:

    AT 915 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
    SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
    STORM WAS LOCATED 5 MILES WEST OF MANCHESTER...MOVING EAST AT 40 MPH.

    THIS DANGEROUS STORM WILL BE NEAR...
    PLEASANT LAKE AROUND 930 PM EDT.
    BRIDGEWATER AROUND 935 PM EDT.
    SALINE AROUND 940 PM EDT.
    PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP AROUND 942 PM EDT.

    THE WARNING INCLUDES AREAS SURROUNDING THESE LOCATIONS...
    WILLIS... DIXBORO... YPSILANTI...
    SALINE... MANCHESTER... ANN ARBOR...

    PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

    TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A
    STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR
    OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT
    YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.

    Hmmm... I'll let readers know if I live. If not, well, I won't know how to let you know.

    MORE: Maybe I'm being nitpicky, but it seems that "SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO" -- is not quite the same thing as a tornado.

    It's now 9:27 and the gods sound angry.

    posted by Eric at 09:10 PM | Comments (5)



    BBC Covers Amateur Fusion

    My friend Famulus whose blog is Prometheus Fusion Perfection has just had his efforts (and in part mine too - I helped him with a Polywell research proposal) picked up by the BBC

    Mr Suppes, 32, is part of a growing community of "fusioneers" - amateur science junkies who are building homemade fusion reactors, for fun and with an eye to being part of the solution to that problem.

    He is the 38th independent amateur physicist in the world to achieve nuclear fusion from a homemade reactor, according to community site Fusor.net. Others on the list include a 15-year-old from Michigan and a doctoral student in Ohio.
    The fusion reactor in the Brooklyn warehouse Mr Suppes has spent the last two years perfecting his reactor

    "I was inspired because I believed I was looking at a technology that could actually work to solve our energy problems, and I believed it was something that I could at least begin to build," Mr Suppes told the BBC.

    Here is sort of an offhand reference to the proposal work I did with him. Let me add that we were assisted by a knowledgeable physicist friend of mine who wishes to remain out of the spotlight for now. Our physicist friend is also working on an amateur fusion experiment.
    Mr Suppes is hoping to build a break-even reactor from plans created by the late Robert Bussard, a nuclear physicist who drew up plans for a fusion reactor that could convert hydrogen and boron into electricity.

    Work on a scaled up version of a Bussard reactor, funded by the US Navy, has already been taking place in California.

    But Mr Suppes believes he will be able to raise the millions of dollars it takes to build a Bussard reactor because he feels someone with enough money "will feel they cannot pass up the opportunity" to find out if it will work.

    Iter said it would be wrong to dismiss out of hand the notion that an amateur could make a difference.

    "I won't say something that puts these guys down, but it's a tricky situation because there is a great deal of money and time and a lot of very experienced scientists working on fusion at the moment," said Mr Calder.

    "But that does not eliminate other ideas coming from a different group of people."

    The work is actually going on in New Mexico but other than that they have most of the details correct. I'm hoping that he connects with enough money to do his proposed prototype reactor. Because I'd dearly like to help.

    You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

    Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

    And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years or less.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:07 PM | Comments (0)



    Can't? Or won't?

    Many people are reacting to President Obama's latest encounter with a fly; the incident caused Ann Althouse to "reminisce about the time when Obama seemed to have superhuman power."

    Ditto here. Well maybe microditto. Certainly it is beyond dispute that our president did once have the power to swat flies....

    Now, our president (whom a close associate calls "henpecked" and others call "snakebit") appears to be downright tyrannized by them:


    unsuperfly.jpg

    As I don't like to ridicule people over minor mishaps, I might normally be inclined to feel sorry for the president, because something like that could have happened to anyone.

    But I can't help wondering about his current inability to swat the fly. Hell, even the New York Times sees this as occasion for ridicule, and they cite the previous incident which got him in trouble.

    He may be the commander in chief, but President Obama apparently has no power to control a lowly fly.

    During an event on Tuesday in the East Room of the White House to promote his new health care law, Mr. Obama was repeatedly pestered by the fly. He swatted away at it, to no avail.

    "Get out of here,'' the president instructed the fly, provoking laughter from the audience. He added, "You've seen me grab one of those before.''

    Indeed, it was only the latest fly-swatting incident at the White House. During an interview a year ago with our colleague John Harwood of The Times and CNBC, Mr. Obama ordered a fly to "get out of here" and ultimately killed the insect, drawing the ire of animal rights activists.

    So my question is, what might explain the formerly fearless president's current display of apparent "incompetence"? Might it stem from fear? Exactly why would he mischaracterize what he did in the past by saying "You've seen me grab one of those before," instead of ""You've seen me kill one of those before"?

    When he swatted and killed a fly -- exactly a year ago (what a difference a year makes!), he was excoriated for it by animal rights activists like PETA, and I defended him here.

    But his current conduct -- when coupled with his choice of language in characterizing what happened last year -- forces me to wonder about something...

    Do we now have a president who won't hurt a fly?

    Or do we have a president who can't hurt a fly?

    posted by Eric at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)



    As the remarkable becomes unremarkable...

    I often read things that bother me. Sometimes they are opinions with which I disagree, and other times they involve inaccuracies. Usually, I forget all about them, but sometimes, an item will still be bothering me the next day, and this is one of them.

    I did a bit of a doubletake when I read yesterday's front-page Wall Street Journal account about Faisal Shahzad's guilty plea:

    A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, calling himself "a Muslim soldier" avenging U.S. attacks in Muslim countries, admitted Monday that he tried to detonate a crudely made car bomb in New York's Times Square in May.

    Faisal Shahzad, of Shelton, Conn., pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to a 10-count indictment that included charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting an act of terrorism and transportation of an explosive. He faces life in prison when he is sentenced.

    Mr. Shahzad is one of a number of home-grown U.S. terrorists who have surfaced over the past two years, posing greater difficulties for antiterrorism officials to track than foreign-born suspects. Mr. Shahzad had no history of support for jihad and had not appeared on the government's radar, even though he received terror training in Pakistan late last year.

    Excuse me, but "home-grown"? As opposed to "foreign-born"?

    You'd think the Wall Street Journal would at least know how to use Google -- or at least read the guy's Wiki entry. The was born in Pakistan, and came here to attend college on a student visa.

    Since when does attending college on a student visa constitute being "home-grown"? Considering the incredibly squalid, "near-subterranean" history of one of the colleges he attended (Southeastern, where he had a 2.78 GPA), a good argument can be made that his "higher education" was anything but "higher" and constituted the opposite of "growth," but still. Calling a foreign student "home-grown" is a misuse of the term.

    There is, of course, the man's 2004 arranged marriage (which feel apart soon after he got his citizenship and insisted that she wear a hijab and move back to Pakistan):

    On December 24, 2004, in an arranged marriage in Peshawar, Pakistan, he married Huma Asif Mian, a Pashtun Colorado-born U.S. citizen who had just graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Accounting.[3][36][37][38][5][39] She and her Pakistani-born parents had lived in Qatar and Colorado; her parents now live in Saudi Arabia.[38] A neighbor recalled Shahzad visited the family only once before she joined him in Connecticut.

    [...]

    He was granted U.S. citizenship on April 17, 2009, due to his marriage to his wife.[7][39] A few weeks later, he abruptly quit his job and stopped making payments on his house, defaulting on the $218,400 mortgage.[35] The New York Times observed: "while in recent years Mr. Shahzad struggled to pay his bills, it is unclear that his financial hardship played a significant role in his radicalization. He still owned his home and held a full-time job when he began signaling to friends that he wanted to leave the United States."[3]

    His marriage became strained in 2009, as he pressured his wife to wear a hijab, and insisted that the family return to Pakistan while he searched for a job in the Middle East.[3] On June 2, he telephoned his wife from JFK Airport, saying he was leaving for Pakistan, and that it was up to her choice whether to follow him.[3] She refused, and instead she and their two children (a girl named Alisbheba, and a boy) moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where her parents were living.[3]

    Sorry, but I am not seeing anything that looks "home-grown." Clearly, this man's allegiance was never to the United States.

    A good question might be what the hell are we doing admitting people like that, much less allowing them to become citizens? But I'm sure others have asked similar rhetorical questions, which will never be addressed as long as we have a government that hands out visas and citizenship to people who are our sworn enemies.

    Then there's this incredible, self-contradictory statement:

    Mr. Shahzad had no history of support for jihad and had not appeared on the government's radar, even though he received terror training in Pakistan late last year.
    According to a CBS report, the man first appeared on the government radar in 1999.

    As to "no history of support for jihad" (as if terror training in Pakistan is art therapy), how about statements in support of the 9/11 attacks?

    In 2000 he transferred to the University of Bridgeport, where more than a third of the students were foreign students.[3] Shahzad's former teachers at the University of Bridgeport said he appeared to be quiet and unremarkable. On weekends, he would go to Bengali-theme nightclubs in New York City. A classmate remembered him watching new footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and saying: "They had it coming."[3] He received a B.A. in computer applications and information systems,[3][33] with his parents attending his graduation on May 13, 2002.[35] Just before graduation, in April 2002, he was granted an H1-B visa for skilled workers.[33] He remained in the U.S. for three years on that visa, earning an M.B.A at the University of Bridgeport in the summer of 2005.[33]
    Considering his background, perhaps his statement that "They had it coming" is unremarkable.

    What ought to be considered remarkable is that someone who thinks that way would be allowed to stay here after the attacks, be issued visa after visa, and finally become an American citizen. And then when he finally decides to strike out at the evil America he's never made any secret of hating, everyone acts surprised. And officials issue statements about how he might have been a mortgage foreclosure bomber.

    Now that he's had his day of glory in court, he will be an ongoing liability, and I shudder to think about how much it will cost the taxpayers to keep maintain him. (No doubt we'll have to foot the bill for the whatever imams he deems spiritually psychotic enough to minister to his religious needs as well....)

    Frankly, I'm so disgusted that I don't know what to say.

    Might it be easier to stop pretending we're at war?

    MORE: In other unremarkable news, police officers in the nearby city of Dearborn, Michigan arrested four Christian missionaries on "disorderly conduct" charges because they were handing out pamphlets on a public street near a Muslim event. Video here.

    Apparently, the authorities in Dearborn think the First Amendment does not apply there.

    Surely there's nothing remarkable about that!

    MORE: Regarding pretending we're not at war, I agree with what Gerard van der Leun said:

    Those who tell you, in government or in your personal life, that it is over are either lulling you into a deeper sleep, or fools more than half in love with easeful death.

    posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (1)




    Tariffs

    Commenter simentt at my post Got An Old Hard Drive? tells me about a campaign going on in Norway to reduce the costs of goods imported to Norway.

    Do you eBay?

    There is a small campaign (Organized by the libertarian magazine 'Farmann', apparently on Facebook) going on to have people eBay all kinds of stuff for 30USD with a 'buy now' option enabled. The reason for this, is that the Norwegian customs service collects VAT for all imports above 200NOK (~33USD), and that this tax is waived for lower amounts.

    Thus the above campaign to get a as large as possible market for 'no-tax' imports.

    This USB-adapter would thus be tax-free from Amazon, while a device costing 40USD would be taxed (the tax is 25%, and in addition a 'handling fee' of another ~20USD would be applied).

    The intent of the campaign is to have people offer up goods from WallMart and other low-price vendors at less than 33USD (depending on exchange-rates) on eBay and similar so that we Norwegians can benefit from low US prices, and US citizens can make a few bucks pr item on reselling them to Norwegians.

    Which just goes to show the problem of "no feedback" accounting when it comes to government taxes and tariffs. Citizens will do as much as they can to thwart the efforts of government to steal their money.

    If only those passing the laws took to heart the old libertarian slogan:

    Taxation Is Theft
    we might get some legislators who tried to increase tax revenue by growing the economy rather than just trying to increase the extortion rate.

    In general the smartest people go into the sciences and mathematics. Then come the engineers. Followed by businessmen. And who goes into politics and crime? (what's the difference?) The dimmest bulbs on the block.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:48 PM | Comments (1)



    Got An Old Hard Drive?

    Amazon is selling for a very reasonable price (currently $27.93) a hard drive to USB adapter that is just wonderful for extracting data from old hard drives or using a new hard drive for an emergency backup. I don't recommend it for use as a permanent USB drive as it doesn't come with a case. Let me add that it comes with a power supply for the drive and can read modern SATA drives and the older IDE drives. Transfer speeds using USB 2.0 run from about 10 MB/second to 25 MB/second. I bought it because the hard drive in my new computer (2 months old) was giving an immanent failure notice and I happened to have a hard drive on my shelf that I was planning to install in my computer. Here is the adapter:

    Cables To Go 30504 USB 2.0 to IDE or Serial ATA Drive Adapter (Black)

    And here is the new hard drive I was planning to install:

    Western Digital 1.5 TB Caviar Green SATA Intellipower 64 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Desktop Hard Drive WD15EARS

    Let me add that I did have one minor problem with the adapter and it was my own damn fault. If you are using a new Hard Drive with this device be sure to follow the formatting instructions given in the half page manual. Hint: use diskmgmt.msc Enter it in your command line utility or in Win 7 the search function in the Windows toolbar icon. The rest is easy.

    I messed around for a half hour or more before I followed the universal rule - RTFM. ;-) My thinking was "A half page? How hard can it be?" It turns out that for most stuff not hard at all.

    Let me add that Amazon still has Sony DVD-Rs at $5 for 30. A real deal. And if you order 6 packs of them shipping is free.

    Sony DMR 47RS4 - 30 x DVD-R - 4.7 GB ( 120min ) 16x - spindle - storage media

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)



    His Allies Are Deserting Him

    A promo for an article on the Gulf oil spill at Rolling Stone is entitled:

    The Spill, The Scandal and the President: How Obama let BP get away with murder.
    No wonder my friend Eric at Classical Values thinks the Resident would like to be doing something else besides being President. Like parties, golfing, and photo ops.

    Only two and a half more years to go. The question is not "will he survive". The question is "will we"?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)



    Greedy

    We hear a lot about how greed is ruining _____ (fill in the blank). In other words:

    Definition of greedy: anyone who has more than you do.

    OK I'll play. Governments are the greediest bastards on earth.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:01 PM | Comments (6)



    This awful spill was caused by greed!

    When I read about the Obama $7.00 a gallon gasoline "Global Warming" agenda, my reaction to the "plan" was to exclaim,

    "I'm beginning to think that these people don't want to get reelected!"

    I didn't want to write a post, though, for I'm worried that the direction of the "spill spin" is still undetermined, and my biggest fear is that the Democrats might be trying to figure out a way to use the mess (with media help, of course) as a campaign issue. In the minds of too many people, there's an equation which comes down to this:

    BIG OIL = GREED = REPUBLICANS!

    The greed equation has an unfortunate tendency to be self-activating during periods of financial stress (something we saw in the last election cycle which left McCain trying to simultaneously stand up for the free market while bashing greed, which left him pleasing few leftists, and even fewer conservatives and libertarians....)

    As the idea that "they" don't want to be reelected, Roger L. Simon thinks that in his heart, President Obama really doesn't:

    Ever since viewing his depressing and disconnected "energy" speech last week, I have been mulling whether Barack Obama actually wants to be president anymore. That was an address given by a man who looked very much like he didn't want to be there, didn't want to continue. He appeared slumped and worn, as if he aged eighteen years in eighteen months. His demeanor was oddly distracted.

    I am not being metaphorical here -- I am quite serious. The more I have thought about this, the more I am convinced Barack Obama no longer wishes to be president. The degree that he admits this to himself, I am not sure. But I rather suspect that in the small hours of the morning he fantasizes he were anywhere but 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And who could blame him? By almost any measure, he is doing a terrible job.

    Of course, as we all know, Obama didn't really expect to be president. This was to be a trial run. And then it took off. He ended up in the White House with virtually no experience that prepared him for the task.

    I am sure he fantasizes about basking in the glory of being a former president, and it would not surprise me if he is jealous of Bush.

    But I think Obama is enough of a politician to realize that these are just fantasies, and are not a real option. The Democrats have power right now, and they are not about to let go of it. Especially when they have an opportunity to use to their benefit a growing disaster aided and abetted by their own incompetence.

    The problem with the greed equation is that it lets them off the hook every time. The Republicans are "for" greed, while the Democrats are against it. Oil represents pure greed -- of the sort we should all be ashamed -- even if it is an ugly necessity. So not matter what happens, what counts is that the disaster was caused by greed, the Democrats are fighting greed, and therefore they are the heroes.

    A depressing post by Jay Tea that Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday reminded me that all roads lead to the greed equation (the Democrats being against, and the Republicans being for).

    ...the situation below the former Deepwater Horizon platform is developing into an ecological catastrophe that could scar -- and economically cripple -- the US for a very, very long time.

    This is Katrina bad. This is 9/11 bad. This is JFK Assassination bad. This is Pearl Harbor bad.

    And -- it should go without saying -- this is "screw politics, all hands on deck" bad.

    But it isn't.

    The Obama administration wastes no opportunity to remind us of how dire the situation is in the Gulf. But its actions are utterly inconsistent with their words.

    Jay Tea outlines four hypotheses as to what might be going on:
    1) The disaster isn't as bad as we all think it is, and the Obama administration knows that.

    [...]

    2) The disaster is as bad as we think, but the Obama administration doesn't realize it.

    [...]

    3) The disaster is at least as bad as we think, if not worse, and the Obama administration knows it.

    [...]

    4) The disaster isn't as bad as we think it is, but the Obama administration doesn't realize it.

    While none of these really matter in terms of the greed equation (which is implemented as political spin), I can't help notice how bullet-proof in nature the leftist ideology is. Actually "bullet-proof" is understatement, because the bullets can actually serve to strengthen it. As the disaster grows in size and scope and becomes more unsolvable, the more emotionally appealing the "greed" argument becomes -- both to demagogic politicians and to cringing citizens who believe in collective guilt. The magic of being on the Democrats' side of the greed equation is that condemning greed allows you get to deny your own greed and gain the moral high ground in the process. This works in a similar manner to the egalitarian superiority racket. Elitists who fancy themselves "superior" deny it by expressing utter contempt for "inequality," (which establishes their superiority!) while those who are in fact greedy, power-loving consumers (of taxpayers' dollars and oil) condemn all greed. This proves their generosity, and they see themselves as taking from the greedy only to give to the deserving. How generous of them! (And of course, deregulation is greedy, while regulation is generous!)

    That this is total hypocrisy is lost on most people.

    So the question becomes, who are you going to vote for? The greedy? Or the generous?

    The spill was caused by greed. Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?

    I sincerely hope the voters are not that dumb.

    Because if they are, my only recourse is to hate them, which always sucks.

    posted by Eric at 12:05 PM | Comments (9)




    Flying in the face of zero tolerance

    The previous post about the kid who was forbidden to wear a hat with plastic toy soldiers on it illustrates a problem which won't go away. Although the principal announced he would try to change the policy to allow images of guns if carried by soldiers and police officers, it is not entirely clear that the policy is even his to change. Many schools have implemented so-called "zero tolerance for guns" policies, the goal of which is not merely to ban actual guns, but to indoctrinate children along Orwellian lines. Not only are toy guns banned, but so are images of guns, and the school in the news recently is only one example. At a Staten Island school earlier this year, a student was disciplined for having a LEGO policeman and a tiny gun:

    Just how little tolerance is zero tolerance? A Staten Island fourth-grader was reprimanded and almost suspended yesterday when the principal spotted him playing with a LEGO policeman and a two-inch-long toy gun during lunch, the Advance reports.

    Under the city's no-tolerance policy regarding guns in schools, PS 52 Principal Evelyn Matroianni brought 9-year-old Patrick Timoney to her office and called his mother to say the boy might be suspended for carrying the miniature toy gun to school, pending the approval of the Department of Education's security administrator. When contacted, the administrator reportedly said the toy should be confiscated and returned to the boy's parents, however no other punishment would be necessary.

    "It's crazy," the boy's mother, Laura Timoney, told the paper. "He's missing class time, all for silly toys. The boys are just trying to relax. If there's a real threat, why not call the Police Department?" She noted that another child had brought an action figure that was carrying an ax, but only her son was punished. "When are we going to take responsibility for common sense and logic?" In 2007, a New Jersey 7-year-old was suspended when he drew a picture of gun.

    The "picture" shows silly stick figures and the gun (which the student said was supposed to be a water pistol) is barely recognizable.

    In 2002 in Barstow, California, pretending hands were guns was banned:

    A school in Barstow, California has banned the students from playing cops and robbers on school grounds. The game involves making gun shapes with one's hands and pretending to shoot criminals, played by other kids, also with pretend hand shape guns.
    In another incident, a pre-schooler was disciplined for talking about guns.

    I'm surprised that lawyers haven't gotten involved in this "zero tolerance for guns" business, because it would probably not withstand judicial scrutiny. The idea that under "zero tolerance" students can be disciplined merely for talking about guns would mean that children could not be taught about the Second Amendment, nor would they be allowed to study firearms technology (both of which have helped ensure this country's freedom.)

    From where did this "zero tolerance" madness arise? The starting point appears to have been the "Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994.":

    The "Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994" requires a one-year expulsion of any student who brings a firearm to any elementary or secondary school that receives federal funding. The Act allows "the chief administering officer of such local educational agency to modify such expulsion requirement for a student on a case-by-case basis."

    Many public schools have taken the liberty to expand this policy to include toy guns, food items being used as toy guns, and children pointing their fingers like guns. Most would agree that this is ludricious, with the exception of many schoolteachers and policymakers whose melodramatic paranoia of anything gun-like is beyond any semblance of reason.

    This reefer-madness mentality about firearms is a major contributing factor to the total lack of education about the Second Amendment in our nation's schools. Plus, it creates a mysterious, forbidden mystique about firearms that generates a natural curiosity among young people. A curiosity that puts some at risk as they may not have had any education about firearms or firearm safety and are certainly not going to get such an education at school.

    The Act seems to have been used as an opportunity to implement John Lennon "Imagine" style indoctrination against any thoughts or images which might be considered "violent" -- including even a picture of the Crucifixion.

    So "zero tolerance" has shifted from prohibiting guns in schools to a stated goal of "building a zero-tolerance culture":

    Building a zero-tolerance culture to guns

    To solve the problem of guns in schools, we must acknowledge a gun culture exists and seek solutions.

    "Gun culture"? Whatever might the author (executive director of CrimeStoppers of Memphis and Shelby County and a former Memphis police director) mean by that?

    According to the Wikipedia entry on the subject, the term means different things in different countries, but in the United States it refers to people who keep firearms legally for self-defense (and who believe it is their Second Amendment right), while in other countries it refers to criminals:

    The gun culture is a culture shared by people in the gun politics debate, generally those who advocate preserving gun rights and who are generally against more gun control. In the United States, the term is used solely to identify gun advocates who are legitimate and legal owners and users of guns, using guns for self defense, sporting uses (hunting), and recreational uses (target shooting). By contrast, the term is used differently in the UK and Australia, where it refers to a growing use and ownership of guns by criminals.
    Solely? Really?

    The Memphis CrimeStoppers director's choice of that term (in a manner denoting criminal culture) makes me wondering whether the goal is to further a rhetorical shift in terminology by conflating law abiding gun owners with the criminal class.

    I'm also wondering whether the schools are doing the same thing -- and using the Gun-Free Schools Act as an excuse.

    What I don't know is whether the individual schools set their own policies or whether they are dictated by elected people at the School Board level. To return to the latest example involving the boy with the soldiers on his hat, the principal stated that he wanted to revise the policy. But is it his to revise? Or does he have to go through the School Board? What he has the power to do is not entirely clear from the news reports; according to this one he says he "will work to change the policy" (which sounds as if it isn't entirely up to him):

    COVENTRY, R.I. (AP) - The superintendent of a Rhode Island school district that banned a second-grader's homemade hat because it displayed toy soldiers with tiny guns said Saturday he will work to change the policy to allow such apparel.

    Ken Di Pietro said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the no-weapons policy shouldn't limit student expression, especially when students are depicting "tools of a profession or service," such as the military or police.

    "The event exposed how a policy meant to ensure safe environments for students can become restrictive and can present an image counter to the work of our schools to promote patriotism and democracy," Di Pietro said.

    The way he talks about how "the event" "exposed" how "a policy" can present "an image counter to the work" of the schools, you certainly wouldn't think he decided on his own to ban the hat. But regardless of whether he can unilaterally change school policy, let's suppose he accomplishes the revision he seeks so that students may depict "tools of a profession or service such as the military or police."

    Doesn't that amount to indoctrinating children to believe that guns are only OK (and should only be allowed) when they are in the hands of the police and the military? Is that not contrary to the purpose of the Second Amendment and the founding of this country? If, as Di Pietro says, it is "the work of our schools to promote patriotism and democracy," such a bias would do just the opposite.

    Moreover, only allowing gun images that are in the hands of police and the military would effectively prohibit a student from bringing the Michigan State Flag to school, because this state's flag clearly depicts an ordinary settler holding a gun in one hand as he waves with the other, beneath the slogan "TUEBOR" ("I will defend.")

    mi_flag_s.jpg

    Here's a closeup of the seal:

    tueborcloseup.jpg

    The meaning is not disputed:

    The state coat of arms depicts a light blue shield, upon which the sun rises over a lake and peninsula, and a man with raised hand and holding a long gun representing peace and the ability to defend his rights.
    Not only is that gun image a symbol of the gun culture, but the flag itself flies squarely in the face of zero tolerance!

    Obviously, it's not safe for any school.

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

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (25)



    Can You Believe It?

    Note that the gentleman being interviewed is an Obama supporter if you can judge by the above conversation. He says Obama was not born in Hawaii. He also says those that don't like Obama are racists.

    Here is what he had to say:

    There is no birth certificate," he said. "It's like an open secret. There isn't one. Everyone in the government there knows this. ... In my professional opinion, he definitely was not born in Hawaii. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he was not born in Hawaii because there is no legal record of him being born there. - Tim Adams, the former senior elections clerk for the city and county of Honolulu
    H/T Curmudgeonly & Skeptical

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:16 AM | Comments (11)



    A Child's Heroes
    HER-Heroes.jpg
    The picture is from Curmudgeonly & Skeptical.

    The above is a proud Palestinian child. Eric at Classical Values discusses the resurgence of Nazi Politics in the Middle East. I too have posted a few times on the subject. Then there is my post: The Nazis of the Middle East. The Baath Party which runs Syria and formerly ran Iraq under Saddam is an offshoot of the Nazi Party.

    And this is not the first time Palestinians have been closely identified with the Nazis.

    In the Middle East we are still living in the aftermath of WW2. In fact it is not even the aftermath. It is just the continuation.

    H/T Diogenes via e-mail.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:47 AM | Comments (2)




    Put The Navy In Charge

    Let us get the bad news out of the way first. The Resident has put a part timer in charge of oil spill operations. And of course the Resident is defending that decision.

    Can the man who President Obama has tapped to formulate a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan work only part-time on such a monumental effort?

    Some environmental groups say no way and are suggesting that Ray Mabus should give up his post of Navy secretary to focus on the Gulf full-time.

    The criticism comes after White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, will be splitting his time between the two jobs.

    At least the guy has some contact with the Navy and knows the Gulf. Another big plus is that he is a Democrat.

    Now for the real meat. Here is what a Louisiana politician had to say about the matter on 10 June.

    Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told a Senate Homeland Security hearing today that the government and BP's command and control structure in responding to the Gulf oil spill disaster have been overly bureaucratic and slow to respond to the ongoing crisis.

    "I still don't know who is in charge," Nungesser told the Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration.

    Nungesser said President Barack Obama should appoint someone with "the authority and guts to a make decisions." He said that currently it takes five days for questions to make their way up the chain of command to Admiral Thad Allen, the national incident commander, which Nungesser said was "much too slow."

    The president and Allen have assigned Coast Guard officials to work with parish officials to cut through red tape, but Nungesser said it isn't working.

    "If they have the authority they aren't using it," he said.

    Ah. It isn't working. It seems nothing the Resident does is working. Except for paying off supporters and cronies.

    Not to worry. The Idiot in Chief says he is going to give the Gulf spill every thing he has got.

    Seeking to reassure Americans that his administration can handle the growing Gulf Coast oil crisis, President Obama promised Tuesday in his first address from the Oval Office to hold BP accountable for all costs and to "use everything we've got" in the federal response to the calamity.

    Hours earlier, the scale of the problem widened dramatically when federal officials said in new estimates that the spill is at least 50% greater than previously known.

    Evidently everything he has got is a part time director of operations.

    Bill Quick is calling out (wanna fight?) the idiots who put President Present in office. Like the ass lickers in the media.

    Listen up, you punked, chumped boobs: We looked at Obama not through your rose colored hallucinations, but through the cold, clear spectacles of reality. None of what he's done since has surprised us one bit. In fact, many of us, myself included, predicted it even before his coronation by people like you. Yes, it's nice that after a year and a half of horrible examples, the truth about him is finally beginning to penetrate your skulls. But why, for the love of god, couldn't you see it at the beginning, when it was no less obvious, but your understanding of it might have done some good?

    Actually, never mind. Since Obama's election will turn out to be the worst thing to happen to the leftist project in America in the past hundred years, and will free a generation from the chains of leftist quackery at just the time such freedom is most sorely needed, I actually thank our lucky stars for useful idiots like you two. Without such, we might have been saddled with John McCain, and that would truly have been a disaster for conservatism, liberty, and America.

    Sorry to say this. But I think he is right.

    Let me add that the Brits are none too happy with President Absent.

    If further proof were needed that the Obama administration's relentless bashing of BP is seriously damaging America's standing in Britain, a new YouGov poll shows that just 54 percent of Britons now have a favourable view of the United States, down from 64 percent before the Gulf oil spill. The poll, which surveyed 1,500 people on both sides of the Atlantic, also revealed that a significant majority of Britons believe that Barack Obama has harmed the Special Relationship. As The Sunday Times reports, "by 64% to 2% in Britain and by 47% to 5% in America, people believe the president's handling of the crisis has damaged relations." In addition, 22 percent of those surveyed in both the US and UK believe that President Obama is anti-British, a strikingly high figure among Americans.
    Well a lot of those Brits depend on BP share prices to fund their retirement. So maybe that is understandable.

    Wasn't Obama going to restore our special relationship with Europe that Bush had destroyed?

    When Obama was campaigning for president (as did John Kerry before him), he harped on endlessly about "restoring" America's standing in the world in the wake of the War on Terror and the Anglo-American led war in Iraq, as though world leadership were some sort of glib PR exercise. He excoriated the Bush administration for supposedly alienating US allies (no doubt he had the likes of France and Germany in mind), and imperiously lectured about the need to make America respected abroad.

    But what has the Obama administration actually succeeded in doing? Seriously damaging relations with its closest ally, Great Britain, throwing loyal allies like Poland and the Czech Republic to the Russian bear, and sparking a major diplomatic spat with America's closest friend in the Middle East, Israel. I don't recall President Bush ever knifing US partners in the back, and siding for example with Washington's enemies in Latin America by calling for negotiations over the sovereignty of British territory. Bush understood the meaning of alliances, and he also cherished the partnership with Great Britain. No one could ever accuse him of being anti-British.

    You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

    But what about the French? Here is a report from April of this year. A very long time ago it seems.

    A new report circulating in the Kremlin today authored by France's Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) and recently "obtained" by the FSB shockingly quotes French President Nicolas Sarkozy as stating that President Barack Obama is "a dangerous[ly] aliéné", which translates into his, Obama, being a "mad lunatic", or in the American vernacular, "insane".

    According to this report, Sarkozy was "appalled" at Obama's "vision" of what the World should be under his "guidance" and "amazed" at the American Presidents unwillingness to listen to either "reason" or "logic". Sarkozy's meeting where these impressions of Obama were formed took place nearly a fortnight ago at the White House in Washington D.C., and upon his leaving he "scolded" Obama and the US for not listening closely enough to what the rest of the World has to say.

    I don't see how you can get closer to your friends without at least considering their opinions. As to "insane"? Only the people who voted for him. Well. I tried to warn you. But you wouldn't listen. You insane fools.

    Not near soon enough.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)



    DVD Sale

    I just came across a real deal for recordable DVDs at Amazon. Sixteen and a half cents each (roughly). And not some off brand. These are made by Sony (or at least carry their brand).

    Sony DMR 47RS4 - 30 x DVD-R - 4.7 GB ( 120min ) 16x - spindle - storage media

    Let me add that if you order 6 packs (180 DVD-Rs) shipping is free.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)



    Which things are more worth dying for?

    There's an old rule of polite society to "never discuss religion or politics," and the reason is that people get emotional about such things, and take them personally. Hurt feelings result, and even occasional fights.

    In view of what went on in Los Angeles recently, I'm wondering whether the rule should be amended to include sports.

    No, seriously. Some Americans can't resist resorting to violence against supporters of the wrong team:

    Despite a massive Los Angeles police presence Thursday night, sporadic violence broke out near Staples Center after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

    Crowds hurled bottles and other objects at police, smashed marquees, jumped on vehicles, broke windows, and set rubbish dumpsters and vehicles on fire along Figueroa Street north of Staples Center and on Flower Street.

    Police fired non-lethal rounds to disperse the crowd at Figueroa and Venice Boulevard after several small fires were set, as well as at 11th and Hope streets. At 7th and Flower, a car believed to be a taxicab was engulfed in flames.

    At least one person was beaten unconscious as fights broke out on Flower Street near Olympic Boulevard. A bicyclist was injured when struck by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department vehicle near 11th and Flower streets, according to the LAPD.

    Isn't that just lovely?

    I'm reminded of the time there was a showdown in Philadelphia between the Lakers and the 76ers, and being recently retransplanted to Philadelphia from California, it struck me that my loyalties really ought to be with the Lakers. So in my usual clueless manner, I thought it would be amusing to shout "GO LAKERS!"
    Bad idea!

    In the Philadelphia area, there are sports fans who do not take kindly to criticism of their opinions or teams. I remember that not long after I moved back to Philadelphia from California, there was huge local hysteria over a showdown between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. While riding through Philly in a friend's car and thinking it was funny to hear people cheering in the streets for the Lakers, I thought it would be equally funny to evoke (in an imitative if insincere manner) a little pro-California cheering. I opened the window and yelled "GO LAKERS!"

    According to my friend who was driving, this was not a good idea at all! He yelled at me to shut up, and said he was worried for our safety, and about his car getting damaged.

    You know what? I think he was right to shut me up. In retrospect, I was being an ass, and I shouldn't have shouted out support for the Lakers. (I don't think I need to conduct extensive research to document the fact that soccer games are taken even more seriously in Europe.)

    In light of recent events, I'm now wondering about my own sanity to imagine I was free to yell such a hateful slogan without police protection!

    Is this for real? Somehow it just strikes me as beyond the pale to be beaten and/or killed simply for supporting the wrong team. Entertainment is, after all, considered to be a harmless if not healthy activity, and harming people because they don't share your taste in basketball teams is like beating an orchestra patron for liking Stravinsky. It strikes me as insane.

    As to the morality involved, society has decided that some crimes are worse than others, and that beating someone for the wrong race, wrong religion, or wrong sexual preference is more evil than beating the same person for other reasons, or for no reason at all.

    Why is that? As I observed in a post about hate crime, a good argument can be made that a random attack is more wicked than an attack for a reason (whether good or bad):

    Would it be less "hateful" if the same group of kids deliberately singled out a well-dressed businessman for attack? Why? Suppose that in addition to administering a near-fatal clubbing, they took his wallet. Does that make the crime "better"? Less "hateful"? I think you could argue it was at least as hateful, and certainly it was more purposeful. Or does hate have to have more of a random element? But what is random? Isn't there an element of randomness in selecting any stranger as a victim? Had he not just happened to be there, he wouldn't have been selected, but I'm having conceptual difficulties with the idea that simply targeting the next person to come around the corner is any less or any more hateful than targeting the next "easy mark" to come around the corner. Most criminals, of course, select their victims based on the likelihood of a successful attack. In order to do this, criminals utilize a mental process which can only be called discrimination. Don't hate crime laws simply discriminate further, by making a judgment that some victims are better than other victims?

    I'm against hate crime legislation, but I think that if we are going to have it, we have to be fair. And the only way I can see to be fair is to give randomness the same minority status as any other victim category. That's because crime victims can be divided into two groups: those who were attacked for a reason, and those who were attacked at random. Aren't random attacks generally seen as worse? I mean, if you're going to be hit over the head with a baseball bat, wouldn't you rather have it happen for a reason than because your attacker was simply lying in wait for the next person to come around the corner? And if this happened, wouldn't it have been because the criminal, by deliberately committing his crime at random, singled you out as a random person?

    What better way of assigning people to a group than at random?

    No one wants to be attacked, beaten, or killed. But there is something about knowing that there was a reason for the attack that provides a certain, if not emotional satisfaction, then closure (if you will) for victims and their families. To be attacked for one's race or religion -- or even for one's money -- is "better" than being attacked simply at random. Because a reason -- even a wrong reason -- carries with it meaning. Parents are more proud of (and have very different memories of) a son who died in combat defending his country than if the same son died in a car accident, and families of the 911 victims would not feel the same way had the Twin Towers collapsed because of a design defect. And people who die as martyrs are seen as having meaningful deaths. A "senseless" death leaves people grasping at straws trying to understand, and maybe never understanding.

    So, crazy as it sounds, I would rather be attacked for my nationality or political beliefs than for my taste in sports.

    So why is it that "hate" crimes are "worse" than "senseless" crimes? Assume that mob that attacks and beats someone for being of the wrong race is just as savage and animalistic as the mob that attacks and beats someone for liking the wrong sports team. Why is the former type of savagery considered morally more egregious? Is there something more "innocent" about the latter? What is "innocent" about having no excuse? The Rodney King rioters, bad as they were, were at least arguably driven by a sort of vengeance that could find support in certain political circles or among demagogues. But no one that I know of would defend Lakers versus Celtics violence.

    So, if we assume that the relative merits of these things can or should be judged, I think the sports rioters are less innocent than angry political-style rioters, and more deserving of punishment. That probably makes me a bad sport.

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds links a post by an LAPD officer who says he "hope[s] the Lakers lose every game next year," and describes the violence as celebratory in nature:

    I don't know when this peculiar custom began, but it is one I hope -- in vain, surely -- to see ended someday.

    I refer to the bizarre practice of some sporting fans who, on the occasion of their favored team having achieved some triumph on the court, field, or ice rink, choose to celebrate the event by running amok in the streets, looting businesses, breaking windows, tipping over automobiles, and setting fire to garbage cans, cars, and, occasionally, the unfortunate passerby.

    To the extent that the violence was motivated by a desire to have fun, that makes it even worse from the standpoint of a victim. To hit someone out of anger (or because of some grievance, real or imagined -- even wearing a Celtics hat) is at least comprehensible.

    To hit someone in order to have a good time is sheer animal sadism.

    posted by Eric at 04:21 PM | Comments (1)



    Simon

    You can also see the video at an Israeli site.

    Learn more about Urban Warfare.

    H/T Diogenes via e-mail

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)




    Only a hateful bigot would be intolerant of Hitler!

    Via Jamie Glazov, I found a link to a truly appalling video in which a UCSD student makes light of the charge that the Muslim Student Association hosted a "Hitler Youth Week," and after questioning, finally expresses approval of a second Holocaust:

    David Horowitz: "I am a Jew. The head of Hezbollah has said that he hopes that we will gather in Israel so he doesn't have to hunt us down globally. ... For it or against it?"

    Jumanah Albahri: "For it."

    Here's the video:

    I was taken aback by the way the audience just sits there, as if expressing support for a second Holocaust is just another opinion, and as worthy of consideration as, say, a proposal to build a new student housing complex.

    So I wonder. Is there an emerging standard of tolerance for Hitler?

    Or is there some sort of Hitler double standard?

    The fact is, if any American of European descent publicly expresses approval of Hitler, riots erupt. At the very least, any comment supportive of Hitler or Nazi policies would be greeted with an instant chorus of boos.

    Yet when a Muslim does the same thing, we are supposed to be understanding and tolerant of other cultures.

    In this context, it's impossible for me to overlook a very ugly phenomenon that is usually overlooked (possibly suppressed) in the MSM. I refer to an undisguised fondness for Hitler among too many Islamists and their supporters. In the Mideast (and in Turkey), Mein Kampf is a best seller, and babies are named for Hitler.

    I think that's appalling, and I don't understand why the phenomenon isn't roundly condemned by all Americans who believe in basic standards of civilization. Yet instead of it being roundly condemned, those who roundly condemn it find themselves roundly condemned -- for "hate speech"! And the sites which document pro-Hitler hate by Muslim extremists are called "hate sites." That in itself is outrageous.

    This is not to say that there aren't crackpot, Hitler-loving Americans of European descent, only that there is a vastly different standard applied to them. When an American couple named their baby for Hitler, the baby was taken away. I'm not saying their baby should have been taken away, but I very much doubt the same thing would have happened had the parents been Muslims.

    This Hitler double standard is dangerous and I don't like it. Adolf Hitler -- a man who stands out in human history as truly epitomizing evil -- is being treated as if he were an oppressed Muslim in need of tolerance.

    To call it a slippery slope would be understatement.

    I'm worried that in the name of "tolerance," people are losing their minds.

    posted by Eric at 11:54 AM | Comments (5)



    Jonesing

    And where does the term "jonesing" come from? From the Grateful Dead. And the song? Casey Jones. Introduced here by Bill Graham who talks about "all the shit that has gone down." No shit.

    Grateful Dead Stuff

    Oh. Yeah. A few words on how the Jones Act is hampering cleanup in the Gulf.

    H/T Jccarlton at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:27 AM | Comments (1)




    Public Morality - Private Corruption

    Russell Roberts discusses the perverse incentives that motivate politicians.

    This wiggle room for politicians in a democracy leads to some strange outcomes. It allows politicians to do the right thing and the wrong thing at the same time. How is that possible? We shall see below. Even stranger, the imperfect information available to voters can even allow politicians to do the wrong thing and pass it off as the right thing if we're not paying close enough attention.

    Bruce Yandle uses bootleggers and Baptists to explain what happens when a good cause collides with special interests.

    When the city council bans liquor sales on Sundays, the Baptists rejoice--it's wrong to drink on the Lord's day. The bootleggers, rejoice, too. It increases the demand for their services.

    The Baptists give the politicians cover for doing what the bootleggers want. No politicians says we should ban liquor sales on Sunday in order to enrich the bootleggers who support his campaign. The politician holds up one hand to heaven and talk about his devotion to morality. With the other hand, he collects campaign contributions (or bribes) from the bootleggers.

    Yandle points out that virtually every well-intentioned regulation has a bunch of bootleggers along for the ride--special interests who profit from the idealism of the activists and altruists.

    If that's all there was to Yandle's theory, you'd say that politics makes for strange bedfellows. But it's actually much more depressing than that. What often happens is that the public asks for regulation but inevitably doesn't pay much attention to how that regulation gets structured. Why would we? We have lives to lead. We're simply too busy. Not so with the bootleggers. They have an enormous stake in the way the legislation is structured. The devil is in the details. And a lot of the time, politicians give bootleggers the details that serve the bootleggers rather than the public interest.

    Which brings me to the drug war. A classic Baptist-bootlegger coalition.

    And it is not like it is a new thing. The directors of an opium trading company had this to say about the Opium Wars in China:

    "If the trade is ever legalized, it will cease to be profitable from that time. The more difficulties that attend it, the better for you and us." -- Directors of Jardine-Matheson
    It can't happen here. Can it?
    "The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995
    Possible? More like certain or inevitable.

    Well it is for the children. Of the drug kingpins. For the American children illegal drugs are easier to obtain than beer. The bootleggers are very fortunate to have a whole large government agency devoted to maintaining their profits. The DEA. Not to mention every police force in America. So let me see here. Drug cartel cash flows in America track expenditures on the drug war. Approximate numbers are: $50 billion spent on enforcement (Federal, State, and local). Giving the agents of enforcement a powerful incentive to "save the children." And the cartels? They too reap very roughly $50 billion a year from enforcement. How else can the value of a pile of vegetables be escalated to be worth its weight in gold?

    So you have very powerful constituencies who depend for their funds on the strong enforcement of the prohibition laws. For the children. Which is why it is very hard to put an end to this stupidity which takes $100 billion a year (or more) out of the American economy.

    Don't believe me? Here is what the prospect of pot legalization is doing to the market in California.

    For decades, illegal marijuana cultivation has been an economic lifeblood for three counties in northern California known as the Emerald Triangle.

    The war on drugs and frequent raids by federal drug agents have helped support the local economy -- keeping prices for street sales of pot high and keeping profits rich.

    But high times are changing. Legal pot, under the guise of the California's medical marijuana laws, has spurred a rush of new competition. As a result, the wholesale price of pot grown in these areas is plunging.

    Yep. And that is just from the medical marijuana laws. What will happen when California legalizes pot come November? There is a comment on that article that is so backwards that you would think that some one with an interest in the trade had written it:
    Mar 24, 2010 10:20pm EDT

    You have GOT to be joking! That's exactly what we need in California: Drug cartels bringing their violence even further into the state to protect their illegal drug trafficking under that guise that it is now 'legal.'

    Hey, if you think the cartels will sit still for losing even a penny of their revenues, I've got some beachfront property in Oaklahoma I'd like to sell you.I'm sorry, but I will not have California become "North Mexico" and allow us to be subject to the violence they have just across our border. I will fight this with every donation I can to organizations that are working to stop this from becoming legal, and to organizations that will challenge its legality should it pass. I really will not stand for this.

    Uh. Dude. When the profits from growing pot approximate the profits from growing wheat the cartels will have NO MONEY to support vast armies of enforcers that make Mexico a living hell. The commenter goes on to say:
    Oh, just to let you know, my brother died last year because of years of drug and alcohol abuse that started with pot when he was young. I won't allow anyone to go through what he went throught and what we all went through with him, not without a fight.
    I think that is proof positive that prohibition is not working. I note that he made no mention of people like my brother who got killed in the drug war crossfire. I guess he has no problem with killing my brother (Jeffrey) for a policy that does not work and can not work for its publicly intended purpose. Jeff's death turned my family from strong supporters of the drug war to strongly supporting the anti-prohibitionist position.

    Well Jeff, this post is for you. RIP. I will not rest until this stupidity ends.

    Some books on the Opium Wars.

    H/T Jccarlton Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:37 PM | Comments (3)



    Emasculating bullying mitten? Or oppressed and harassed shark?

    With the aid of a geographical map, Ann Althouse makes a plausible argument that Michigan's Upper Peninsula (a.k.a "da U.P." -- where the inhabitants call themselves "Yoopers") appears to have been stolen from Wisconsin by Michigan:

    That is ours, baby. It's like that mitten is reaching up there an yanking off our manhood. And speaking of manhood, I think, if we had that peninsula that is rightfully ours, the politics of Wisconsin might shift from Mommy Party to Daddy Party.
    I think it is certainly true that if Wisconsin seized the Upper Peninsula away from Michigan, the politics of the state (and possibly both states) would undergo a sea change. And it might be a good thing for the economies of both states if they agreed to have such a battle.

    But does the peninsula rightfully belong to Wisconsin? I think a better case could be made that the entire state of Wisconsin actually belongs to Michigan, for it was once a part of the Michigan Territory:

    The Territory of Michigan was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from June 30, 1805, until January 26, 1837, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Michigan. Detroit was the territorial capital.
    Here's an early map:

    Michigan-territory-1830-blue.png

    The Michigan Territory only got bigger, until it engulfed and devoured Minnesota, Iowa, and nearly half of the Dakotas:

    In 1834, all of the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase that were as yet unallocated and lay east of the Missouri River (generally, the Dakotas, Iowa and the western half of Minnesota) were attached to the Michigan Territory, an area that was officially characterized as "north of Missouri and east of the Missouri and White Earth Rivers." At this point, Michigan Territory included what is now the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and a large portion of the Dakotas.
    Just take a look at this chunk of real estate:

    Michigan-territory-1834-blue.png

    It was not long after that that Michigan went to war with Ohio over the Toledo Strip, but Michigan lost. President Jackson favored Ohio and in a compromise deal, it was decided to allow Michigan to become a state without the Toledo Strip but including within its new state borders the entire Upper Peninsula.

    Michigan became a state in 1837, shortly after Wisconsin was made a territory:

    Wisconsin Territory was established in 1836 with the present boundary in the Upper Peninsula.
    While the Wisconsin Territory did not include Michigan's Upper Peninsula, it did include the states of Minnesota, Iowa, and parts of the Dakotas. It lost them in stages until finally becoming a state in 1848:
    the 1836 Wisconsin Territory included all of the present-day states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and that part of the Dakotas that lay east of the Missouri River. The portion of the Territory east of the Mississippi River had originally been part of the Northwest Territory, which had itself been included in the cession by Britain in the 1783. Most of the remaining land of the original Wisconsin Territory was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase, though a small fraction was part of a parcel ceded by Great Britain in 1818. This land west of the Mississippi had been split off from the Missouri Territory in 1821 and attached to the Michigan Territory in 1834. In 1838, the Iowa Territory was formed, reducing the Wisconsin Territory to the boundaries for the next ten years; upon granting statehood to Wisconsin, its boundaries were once again reduced, to their present location.
    So, Michigan included the Upper Peninsula when it was a territory and continued to include it when it became a state in 1837. Wisconsin has a better claim to Iowa and Minnesota than it does to the Upper Peninsula.

    Interestingly, Michigan was not always pictured as a mitten. In older maps (like the 18th Century Mitchell Map), it looked more like a defensively angry shark, butting its snout into an Upper Peninsula which had a far more offensive overhang than it does today.

    Mitchell_map_michigan.jpg

    Not to sound like an apologist for a bullying, hegemonic state, but I can see why people in those days might have been led by that map to conclude that the poor shark needed to protect itself from the northern menace!

    posted by Eric at 05:35 PM | Comments (5)



    Vandalism, naturally?

    I don't know whether to cal this independent investigative journalism or pure self indulgence, but I have noticed an interesting discrepancy in the reporting of a local story, and as I possess additional relevant evidence (which the local authorities probably wouldn't appreciate), I don't know what to do with it other than to put it here.

    Last week, a local Ann Arbor newspaper ran a story headlined "Stolen artwork found in Huron River" which claims that stolen art ended up weighted down in the Huron River in Ann Arbor:

    Authorities from multiple police jurisdictions are investigating how art sculptures ended up weighted down in the Huron River in Ann Arbor last week.

    Members of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department Marine Division were asked by officials with both the Ann Arbor Police Department and University of Michigan Department of Public Safety to locate and remove a sculpture from the river near the Nichols Arboretum June 6, according to reports.

    Dive team members found the artwork, which is made of roughly 300 pounds of bronze wire molded into the shape of a light bulb, and another sculpture weighted down with numerous concrete blocks.

    Another sculpture was found at Gallup Pond June 8, according to reports. The items are valued at about $25,000 together. Further details were not released by police.

    No suspect information was available.

    My immediate reaction was that this was not theft at all, but vandalism. The art has been controversial. A number of locals are nature lovers, and think the art (wire mesh sculpture in shapes like light bulbs) is tacky, and it would be quite easy for someone to either wade into the river there or hook the piece up to a boat and drag them to deeper water.

    By way of background, the installation artist is from Finland, and was brought to Ann Arbor by the University of Michigan, which appointed him a Visiting Artist in Residence at the School of Art & Design. (Those who are really interested in such things can read his "Artist's Statement.")

    While it is not the purpose of this post to engage in art criticism, I do think that a good argument can be made that installation art in a popular scenic river site in a town like Ann Arbor might not be a wise move, for a variety of reasons. As things are now, it's probably costing the taxpayers a bundle. (Unless the University is paying for the County Dive Team to perform underwater salvage operations on Sundays. But even then, isn't the University using taxpayers' money.)

    What is not at all clear (and hence this post) is what happened. The story seems to have been changed, and unless my suspicions are wrong, there is -- as of right now -- a concerted effort to spin this as an act of God as opposed to an act of vandalism. From an article headlined "Huron River sculptures partial casualties of recent thunderstorms":

    Visitors to Gallup Park hoping to see "Valence," the sculpture placed in the Huron River by University of Michigan visiting artist William Dennisuk, will walk away disappointed over the next few days.

    "Valence," along with its counterpart "Pulse" in the Nichols Arboretum, were partial casualties of the thunderstorms that hit Ann Arbor on June 6. Neither project was destroyed, but both were dislodged, despite an estimated 800 pounds of concrete mounting on each.

    Dennisuk's works are a part of his Vessels Project, a three-part sculpture series designed to highlight the balance between nature, art and the environment. Part I, "Spin," still resides in the Lurie Reflecting Pool on North Campus. Valence was part II. Pulse, or part III, is in the Huron as it winds through the Arb.

    Though Dennisuk's works caused some controversy - everybody loves the Huron River - Chrisstina Hamilton, director of the Roman Witt Residency Program that sponsored Dennisuk's fellowship, doesn't believe vandalism is to blame.

    The real culprit was the thunderstorms on Sunday, June 6 - thunderstorms that developed into tornadoes not far south of Ann Arbor.

    Ann Arbor police were called initially, but routed the call to the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, the only police agency in the county with a dive team. Divers were dispatched to the Arb and to Gallup Park to recover the works.

    Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said the call initially came in as a theft, but deputies were soon able to locate both pieces.

    The article has this picture of the Valance sculpture, captioned "The Valence sculpture, in better days."

    Valence Gallup-thumb-300x470-43804.jpg

    Not only have they had to send in a dive team to retrieve it, they're going to have to reinstall it. Pity, because the Resident Artist is already back in Finland!

    Pulse is still in the Huron, turned on its side. But Valence has been pulled from the river for the time being. It will be reinstalled shortly, just as the piece in the Arb will be stood upright, Hamilton said. The staffer who will do that job is out of town, but will be back soon.

    The displacement of Dennisuk's vessels is ironic, considering the lengthy permitting process the artist waded into to place them in the Huron - a first in Ann Arbor history.

    "We were surprised they didn't stay in place," Hamilton said. "When we were trying to obtain the permits to place the sculptures, a lot of the questions were about how we'd keep it weighed down if people were climbing on it."

    Dennisuk, who has returned to Finland, said via e-mail that he's been relying on reports from Ann Arbor on the condition of the sculptures.

    OK, now it just so happens that I have this picture, which was taken on Sunday, June 6, 2010, at 12:45 p.m.

    Valence06061245.jpg

    And here's a closeup of the sign:

    ValenceSign.jpg

    The fact is, both the sculpture and the sign were intact at 12:45 p.m. and the above photographs prove it conclusively. (The camera's date and time settings are correct and the original SD memory stick is intact. I would not entrust it to the Ann Arbor police, though.....)

    The point is that the storm had long passed when the pictures were taken, so I don't understand the claim that the sculptures were moved underwater by an earlier storm. I was here the whole weekend, and yes, the storm was so severe that I blogged about it at 11:10 a.m. While I expected more rain, it didn't materialize, and in fact, when I went to the Nichols Arboretum later that afternoon, I was told that because they didn't expect more rain, they were planning an outdoor performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream later Sunday evening. Because I thought it might rain, this struck me as possibly wishful thinking, but the producers turned out to be right. It did not rain that evening.

    So, the bottom line is that the "Valence" sculpture in the above photograph was not moved during the previous night's storm.

    Unless the river bed had been eroded in the earlier storm and somehow caused the sculpture to move much later, it is safe to say that what happened was not an act of God Gaea.

    Something does not make sense.

    MORE: To get an idea of how local Ann Arborites feel about placing sculptures in their river, read the comments here.

    MORE: A more recent photo of the sculpture is dated June 16 and described here as

    Valence River Sculture. Tangled amongst the flotsam, down from its moored site, lies the sculpture in the Huron.

    wiresculpture.jpg

    Which is odd, because the dive team was supposed to have saved it.

    posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (1)




    Making history disappear? In school?

    While the deliberate censorship of toy soldiers with guns is not a new topic on this blog, I see that those I characterized as "decadent bureaucrats" in an earlier post just keep on doing it:

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Christan Morales said her son just wanted to honor American troops when he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and small plastic Army figures.

    But the school banned the hat because it ran afoul of the district's zero-tolerance weapons policy. Why? The toy soldiers were carrying tiny guns.

    "His teacher called and said it wasn't appropriate," Morales said.

    Morales' 8-year-old son, David, had been assigned to make a hat for the day when his second-grade class would meet their pen pals from another school. She and her son came up with an idea to add patriotic decorations to a camouflage hat.

    Earlier this week, after the hat was banned, the principal at the Tiogue School in Coventry told the family that the hat would be fine if David replaced the Army men holding weapons with ones that didn't have any, according to Superintendent Kenneth R. Di Pietro.

    But, Morales said, the family had only one Army figure without a weapon (he was carrying binoculars), so David wore a plain baseball cap on the day of the pen pal meeting.

    "Nothing was being done to limit patriotism, creativity, other than find an alternative to a weapon," Di Pietro said.

    The district does not allow images of weapons or drugs on clothing. For example, a student would not be permitted to wear a shirt with a picture of a marijuana leaf on it, the superintendent said.

    The principal "wasn't denying the patriotism," he said. "That just is the wrong and unfair image of one of our finest principals."

    Here's the patriotic hat which was found so unacceptable by this poor excuse for an educator one of our finest principals:

    BannedSoldiers.jpg

    As to the rule that there be no "images of weapons or drugs," regardless of context, I guess that would also mean that there could be no pictures of Florence Nightingale administering medicine, and no images of medical corpsman or doctors aiding the wounded.

    And we can't have famous images from World War II, like the following:

    Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri.jpg

    I see two HUGE, scary-looking guns in that one. Just think of the terrible damage that could be done to young minds by allowing them to see it!

    CENSORED!

    And Oh My God! I see at least three images of guns in this inappropriate photograph:


    iwojima.jpg

    EEK!

    Get rid of those guns!

    Sheesh. This is almost as bad as Winston Churchill's disappearing cigar.

    It's easy for me to laugh dismissively at such idiotic nonsense because I don't have children, so in theory the decadent bureaucrats can't reach out and touch me directly.

    But they have power over people's kids, and they take themselves so deadly seriously that while it is very funny, it also isn't very funny at all.

    And laughing at them does not make them go away.

    MORE: Hey, speaking of "images of weapons," it occurred to me that this ban cannot be limited to images of guns, because there are many other images of weapons that might do harm to the developing brains of our children.

    So I'm assuming that swords would also have to be banned.


    king-clubs.png

    Oh, and let's not forget the bow and arrow. Isn't it high time we put a stop to an especially deadly image that's been floating around for years, associating images of weapons with small children, and even love?

    cupid1.jpg

    And what about the inappropriate images of arrows that children are known to carry in their pockets as "lunch money"?

    unitedstates.jpg

    The sooner we put a stop to such militaristic images of weaponry, the better!

    Our children are at stake!

    UPDATE (06/19/10): To his credit, the school superintendent now says that he will work to change the school policy to allow toy soldiers:

    COVENTRY, R.I. -- The superintendent of a Rhode Island school district that banned a second-grader's homemade hat because it displayed toy soldiers with tiny guns said Saturday he will work to change the policy to allow such apparel.

    Ken Di Pietro said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the no-weapons policy shouldn't limit student expression, especially when students are depicting "tools of a profession or service," such as the military or police.

    "The event exposed how a policy meant to ensure safe environments for students can become restrictive and can present an image counter to the work of our schools to promote patriotism and democracy," Di Pietro said.

    Well good for him!

    Let's hope the School Board backs him.

    posted by Eric at 07:15 PM | Comments (4)



    posted by Simon at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)



    The Narrative turns 38. But as to the facts, just shut up!

    Today is the 38th anniversary of the famed Watergate break-in. The topic is of longstanding interest to me, and I continue to marvel over the fact that after all these years, the reasons for the burglary are still unsettled.

    Historians and Nixon scholars continue to wonder, while pondering various theories.

    The one thing that stands out is that principle accuser John Dean -- the man whose testimony brought down Nixon and sent people to prison -- was the architect of the burglary and the coverup. His story changed many times, and it appears to a number of people who have studied Watergate in detail that he ordered the burglary for personal reasons, and then later implicated others who had no idea what was going on. In exchange, he was allowed to walk, while those he implicated went to prison.

    There have been a number of books which have attempted to flesh out the details in an attempt to clarify history. John Dean has sued some of them, and threatened to sue others -- most recently James Rosen of Fox News, whose biography of John Mitchell concluded (after years of research) that the conventional version of the burglary (especially Dean's version that Mitchell ordered it) was wrong, and that Dean himself had ordered the burglary for personal reasons.

    As I observed last year,

    Little wonder he's threatening to sue.
    For those who are interested, here's an interview with Rosen:

    NRO's Kathryn Lopez has an interview with Rosen here.

    In what I think is a very significant new development, Geoff Shepard (author, "The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President") recently delivered a comprehensive 90 minute presentation which is a review of the prominent Watergate conspiracy books and more. Shepard came to similar conclusions about John Dean and if you are at all interested in Watergate, this video is an absolute MUST WATCH! It's called "The Mysteries of Watergate":

    May 24, 2010: Former Nixon Domestic Council official, Watergate defense lawyer, and author Geoff Shepard presented the fourth Richard Nixon Legacy Forum. Shepard spoke about the conventional wisdom of Watergate, five alternative perspectives on how the controversy unfolded, and the role of former White Counsel John Dean as the orchestrator of the cover-up.
    From the caption:
    May 24, 2010: Even forty years later, Watergate remains America's greatest political scandal. What is so interesting, at least to those who are interested in learning more about it, is that there is almost no agreement on the motivation for the original Break-in itself--or on whether the true culprits were those who actually executed the Break-in and the Cover-up or those they later alleged authorized and approved their illegal acts. Dozens of books have been written by principal Watergate players; hundreds of books and articles have been written by various commentators. Geoff Shepard's 90 minute presentation reviews the prominent Watergate conspiracy books and then explores a series of continuing uncertainties and concerns with what most Americans have been taught as 'conventional wisdom' about Watergate. It the course of it, he reveals some startling information about John Dean, one of the most prominent Watergate actors--and shows why we can expect Watergate controversies to continue well into the future.
    And here it is. If you can spare the time (and I know it's long), it's worth it.

    For more, see my previous posts, and be sure to watch the Key To Watergate video:

    It's interesting even if you're not a political junkie.

    Recommended reading includes Jim Hougan's groundbreaking Secret Agenda, Len Colodny's Silent Coup, James Rosen's Strong Man, and Geoff Shepard's The Secret Plot to Make Ted Kennedy President.

    As to why the history of such an important event still remains unsolved after all these years, why, it's the Narrative Principle at work. The Narrative is that Nixon was bad and evil, and had to be brought down by in a grand political pageant orchestrated by the sainted MSM, by that heroic whistle-blower named John Dean!

    As to the details, they don't matter.

    Shut up and think as you're told.

    posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (2)



    Tea? Party

    There is a report in Playboy about the Tea Party movement and a consultant who plans to help them win. The article is discussing a Tea Party organizer.

    The speeches went on for hours. The sun was shining. It was the kind of day when you could take a nap under a tree. The organizer had personally delivered about a thousand activists. It was her big day. Two hours into the speeches she sat down on the warm grass next to me at the back of the rally and said, "This is the perfect day. Now all I need is a joint." That tells you everything you need to know about my friends.

    We are tremendously plugged in to BigGovernment.com and its stable of writers. Our news cycle is measured in minutes, not days. Combine the DNA of a flash mob, a news addict and a conĀ­servative who feels betrayed by the spending excesses of George W. Bush, sprinkle in some anxiety and you've got my people.

    That doesn't sound very conservative. It sounds down right libertarian.

    I can't wait to tell my conservative friends. And woo hoo - I can't wait to tell my anti prohibition - mostly liberal - friends. Perhaps I can add some cognition to their dissonance. Or at least get them all agitated. Some fun!

    H/T Dana Loesch via Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:36 AM | Comments (0)



    "Now watch this drive"

    This oil for golf/golf for oil stuff is getting old, but it's just so damned true:

    Remember how critical the left was of Bush for golfing, instead of dealing with more pressing matters?
    Yes, I remember! And how!

    Such associations formed the irrational basis of many a stoner's revelations about Bush, thanks to Michael Moore.

    And where are the stoners are now?

    Probably admiring the drive.

    Well, there is a difference.

    The Bush drive is evil!

    The Obama drive is good!

    Isn't it obvious?

    posted by Eric at 12:49 AM | Comments (1)




    An intergenerational con game of Orwellian proportions

    The topic of extending adolescence for health care purposes generated some extensive (and even heated) discussion in Glenn Reynolds' post -- much of it occasioned by a piece by Michael Barone ("The price of perpetual adolescence") which I found grimly ironic, as well as true. Here's Barone:

    An article in the New York Times examines the trend toward prolonged adolescence. It notes that an increasing percentage of people in their twenties are living with their parents, and that's with pre-recession data; presumably it's higher today. Also, "Adults between 18 and 34 received an average of $38,000 in cash and two years' worth of full-time labor from their parents, or about 10 percent of their income," with a link to this study.

    All of which got me thinking about the much ballyhooed provision of the Obamacare bill that allows parents to include "children" up to age 26 in their family health insurance policies. This is said to be wildly popular among the Millennial Generation, those born after 1980.

    OK, right there I think I maybe see a clue as to what's going on. Votes. Obama and the Democrats want to shore up the youth vote, as well as the Baby Boomer vote, and this move (they hope) will be a twofer. Something to make the self-indulgent Baby Boomer parents happy as they satisfy their kids with a nice freebie, and of course something to make the kids happier about Obamacare. After all, it's tough to ask healthy young people to pay into something that most of them don't see as conveying a direct benefit.

    From a political standpoint, it's a smart move. Satisfy as many voters as possible with as much of everyone else's money as possible. As to who will have to pay later, who cares?

    Barone voices a very reasonable objection, grounded in the most basic logic:

    I think it's appalling, on several grounds: people aged 26 are not "children," they for the most part don't have substantial health care expenses (aside from pregnancies and births) and they should not be encouraged to remain dependent on parents for extended periods. In that spirit, let me suggest that the Obamacare bureaucrats, in order to hold down health care expenses, may have to set some terms and conditions for "children" aged 21 to 26 who remain on their parents' health insurance policies.
    With that as a starting point. Barone goes on to list the terms and conditions which ought to be imposed on the "children" by their parents.

    What we're talking about here are the baby boomers' kids. For many years now, I have heard the baby boomer generation derided as spoiled, immature, self-indulgent, etc. And now it's their kids' turn. One spoiled and immature generation has begat another. Etc.

    Can we all get along?

    (Or maybe that should be "Can we all grow up?")

    What worries me is that this comes right on the heels of the "Going Galt" movement. It strikes me that if this country is to have any productive capacity at all, parasitism of any kind should be discouraged, not encouraged. (My point is not so much to condemn or praise any generation so much as to observe that because people will do whatever is in their interests to do, it is not wise for the government to deliberately create incentives to encourage parasitism.)

    As to the "terms and conditions" Barone goes on to discuss, the Boomer parents themselves have no real economic incentive to impose them, as it's not their money. It's all to come from a vast, government-mandated pool, in which all of us will soon be swimming unless something is done to stop Obamacare.

    Barone's argument that parents should mandate terms and conditions for children -- "if you want to sponge off mommy and daddy's health insurance, you may be subject to kiddie rules" -- while meant to chide the Boomers in a household context, is chilling in its ultimate logical implications.

    Because like it or not, we are all part of that sickening dysfunctional family of perpetual "children," only the terms and conditions won't be coming from Baby Boomer mommies and daddies, but from the government.

    I don't want to live under such a communitarian regime.

    Yes, regime. That's the only word for what's coming.

    And the fact that it's being sold to the voters through the use of manipulative and emotional intergenerational divide-and-conquer tactics (packaged as a "win-win for everyone" by tricking parents into thinking they're "giving" their children something they're not) only makes it more sinister.

    This is an awful, profoundly Orwellian scam.

    I should probably be glad I didn't have kids.

    posted by Eric at 11:14 AM | Comments (9)




    Isn't risky behavior supposed to be a guy thing?

    While I don't like stereotypes and hate to sound like some kind of bigoted crackpot, occasionally I notice things which force me to ask basic "why" questions. And because this one simply doesn't make sense, I thought I would share it with the readers, who can hopefully fill me in on what I am missing.

    I run every other day, I take a lot of long walks with the dogs, and I also drive around Ann Arbor. Now that there are a lot of runners outside, I have been noticing that the runners who run while wearing headphones (presumably because they are listening to music), are overwhelmingly female. I am not just talking about them being more likely than men to run while wearing headphones. There is a huge difference. The vast majority of women runners (more than 70%) wear headphones, and the vast majority of men (again, more than 70%) do not. It's really like a 10 to 1 headphone ratio, and there are a lot of men running, but they rarely wear headphones. Women almost always do. (At least, they do around here.)

    My question, simply, is what could be behind this?

    Whether it goes to a basic difference between the sexes, I do not know. Since running with headphones is a dangerous activity and one which constitutes risk-taking behavior (runners are less likely to hear cars), and since the stereotype is that men are more likely to engage in risky behavior than women, I would expect running with headphones to correlate with maleness.

    I can't figure this out and it's driving me nuts because I want to understand, so at the risk of seeming like a bigot, I thought I'd run it past the readers.

    Any ideas?

    Hopefully, this is only an Ann Arbor thing and not a general trend. The difference does not seem grounded in women liking music more than men, because from what I've seen, both sexes are equally likely to wear headphones while walking.

    Perhaps it was sexist of me to think that risky behavior was a guy thing.

    The problem is, whether it's sexist or not, that stereotype seems to have considerable scientific confirmation.

    Sexist or not, I'm stumped.

    posted by Eric at 06:02 PM | Comments (14)



    The Lobby

    JLawson is responding to a comment by Diogenes at Talk Polywell.

    Diogenes wrote:

    This doesn't look good.

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6593/648967

    You can read more about the link at: The Gulf - It Is Worse Than We Thought.

    The reply by JLawson:

    No, it doesn't. In fact - that's about as far from 'good' as I could imagine.

    Ironic, isn't it, that the environmental lobby, pushing hard as they can to get oil drilling as far offshore as possible, seems to have caused the disaster that they were so anxious to avoid.

    Of course, it all depends on how accurate the info and analysis is... but it rings true, unfortunately.

    What can you expect from people making technology policy who have no deep understanding of technology?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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



    The Gulf - It Is Worse Than We Thought

    The Oil Drum has an excellent bit of speculation (backed with knowledge) about what is going on with the blown out well in the Gulf of Mexico. (you should read the whole thing)

    All of these things lead to only one place, a fully wide open well bore directly to the oil deposit...after that, it goes into the realm of "the worst things you can think of" The well may come completely apart as the inner liners fail. There is still a very long drill string in the well, that could literally come flying out...as I said...all the worst things you can think of are a possibility, but the very least damaging outcome as bad as it is, is that we are stuck with a wide open gusher blowing out 150,000 barrels a day of raw oil or more. There isn't any "cap dome" or any other suck fixer device on earth that exists or could be built that will stop it from gushing out and doing more and more damage to the gulf. While at the same time also doing more damage to the well, making the chance of halting it with a kill from the bottom up less and less likely to work, which as it stands now?....is the only real chance we have left to stop it all.

    It's a race now...a race to drill the relief wells and take our last chance at killing this monster before the whole weakened, wore out, blown out, leaking and failing system gives up it's last gasp in a horrific crescendo.

    We are not even 2 months into it, barely half way by even optimistic estimates. The damage done by the leaked oil now is virtually immeasurable already and it will not get better, it can only get worse. No matter how much they can collect, there will still be thousands and thousands of gallons leaking out every minute, every hour of every day. We have 2 months left before the relief wells are even near in position and set up to take a kill shot and that is being optimistic as I said.

    Over the next 2 months the mechanical situation also cannot improve, it can only get worse, getting better is an impossibility. While they may make some gains on collecting the leaked oil, the structural situation cannot heal itself. It will continue to erode and flow out more oil and eventually the inevitable collapse which cannot be stopped will happen. It is only a simple matter of who can "get there first"...us or the well.

    We can only hope the race against that eventuality is one we can win, but my assessment I am sad to say is that we will not.

    The system will collapse or fail substantially before we reach the finish line ahead of the well and the worst is yet to come.

    Sorry to bring you that news, I know it is grim, but that is the way I see it....I sincerely hope I am wrong.

    And what is the worst case?
    According to BP data from about five years ago, there are four separate reservoirs containing a total of 2.5 billion barrels (barrels not gallons). One of the reservoirs has 1.5 billion barrels. I saw an earlier post here quoting an Anadarko Petroleum report which set the total amount at 2.3 billion barrels. One New York Times article put it at 2 billion barrels.

    If the BP data correctly or honestly identified four separate reservoirs then a bleed-out might gush less than 2 to 2.5 billion barrels unless the walls -- as it were -- fracture or partially collapse. I am hearing the same dark rumors which suggest fracturing and a complete bleed-out are already underway. Rumors also suggest a massive collapse of the Gulf floor itself is in the making. They are just rumors but it is time for geologists or related experts to end their deafening silence and speak to these possibilities.

    I wonder if mining oil shale might not be better relative to environmental risks than drilling for oil in deep water. The risks of oil shale are relatively well known; the real risks of deep water drilling not so much. Until now.

    If you want to read up on oil shale may I suggest:

    Oil Shale

    H/T Diogenes at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:38 PM | Comments (1)



    As a Norwegian American, I'm feeling offended!
    So when's my hearing?

    For criticizing the Islamists, Bruce Bawer has become an enemy of the people -- and he might even be liable for criminal prosecution.

    In Norway of all places.

    Being an American of Norwegian heritage, I take this personally, and I think that the Norwegian government is making all Norwegians look bad. In fact, I feel personally humiliated and insulted by their actions.

    Here's what the Norway's Discrimination Law (passed in 2005) says:

    It forbids "harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs," and, in turn, defines harassment as "actions, omissions, or utterances [Bawer's emphasis] that have the effect or are intended to have the effect of being insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating."
    Which means it is illegal to say anything which might offend anyone.

    And as Bawer notes, anyone can complain -- especially members of certain far left Norwegian organizations:

    Defendants may be accused not only by the individuals whom they've supposedly offended but also by semiofficial organs such as the Anti-Racist Center and the Center against Ethnic Discrimination (both of which helped formulate the law, and both of which exist less to oppose real racism and discrimination than to oppose political incorrectness generally) or by the government's Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud.
    So if they disagree with you and say they're offended (as happened to Bawer) there can be criminal penalties:
    Violations of the law by individuals are punishable by fine; violations by individuals in concert with at least two other persons (such as a writer conspiring with an editor and publisher, perhaps?) can be punished by up to three years' imprisonment -- this in a country where murderers often get off with less. Moreover, the burden of proof is on the accused: you're guilty until proven innocent.
    The normal American (non-leftist) response to this is to say "it can't happen here." Many leftists, though, want it to happen here. They are chafing at the bit to be enforcers, and they would love nothing more than to be able to imprison people who disagree with them.

    Islamist activists are the worst offenders, and they are working overtime here in the United States to harass their critics any way they can. Just yesterday, I learned that Pam Geller, who is very outspoken in her criticism of Islamists, was labeled a "hate site" by Paypal, which threatened to lift her account privileges.

    Paypal.

    That's basically online banking for anyone who buys, donates or moves money online. It's huge, run by eBay, and an institution with which anyone with an established online presence literally has to deal. (I use it often.) Being threatened by Paypal in this way is the equivalent of your bank threatening to close your account because someone disagreed with what you said. It is an outrage. I was all set yesterday to call Paypal and yell and scream, but enough people already have -- to the point where the company backed down in the face of the bright lights.

    Sorry, but that is not enough. It should never have happened, and should never be allowed to happen. (I say this not as a fan of Geller -- whose style I don't share and with whom I have my disagreements -- but that is totally irrelevant. I would say the same thing if Paypal tried to terminate WorldNetDaily.)

    What is clear that activists are doing everything they can to harass and silence those with whom they disagree. If they are ever (God forbid) given the sort of legislation that Norway is using against Bawer, then we can kiss freedom goodbye.

    But I would like to point out something that is being forgotten -- probably because Norway does not share our legal system. When insulting or offending people is made illegal, the list of potentially aggrieved parties cannot easily be delimited or circumscribed. What might be intended to prohibit insulting Islamists can just as easily be applies to fundamentalist Christians, or any other group. If "harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs," includes "actions, omissions, or utterances that have the effect or are intended to have the effect of being insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating," that would also criminalize the Folsom Street Fair's sadomasochistic spoof of the Last Supper. Because there's no question that it was considered insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating by many fundamentalist Christians. A statute like that can't be limited to things like Muhammad cartoons, or criticism of Islamists, or jihadists. Moreover, Islamists hate gays, and want to kill them. Anti-gay statements by Muslims would therefore be just as actionable as anti-Muslim or anti-Christian statements by gays.

    As to what constitutes "beliefs" (within the rubric of "ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs") that might even include conservatism. Or libertarianism. Which means that in the event of a different result in the next Norwegian election, it would be the other side's turn to take control of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, and have at it by retaliating against their political enemies.

    It's too easy to laugh at Norway, and liken the place to a corrupt Third World kleptocracy. I'd be laughing if there weren't people here who want to do the same thing here, and who have been raised and nurtured in academic environments where the freedom to speak our minds Americans take for granted for hundreds of years has been systematically stamped out.

    Truly, freedom of speech is one of those things where we use it or lose it.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    It is being pointing out that there is a double standard in the way these laws are enforced, and I am well aware of that. (Hence the ironic title -- and my gentle reminder that if we live under rule of law, phrases like "insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating" can -- and will -- be applied to a lot of things.)

    posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (28)



    Some One Is Missing

    In a discussion of Obama's handling of the Gulf oil spill it seems as if a commenter has found that some one is missing.

    captainjack Jun 14, 2010 03:56 PM ET

    This problem calls for someone with managerial experience and knowlege of the oil business. Hum, see if you can find that resume from that guy, uh, George something. That must have been a couple of years ago. I thought he was kinda stupid but I didn't really know what stupid was back then.


    Miss Me Yet.jpg

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)




    Unfair!

    Speaking of entitlements like food, housing, and healthcare, advocates for the poor are now insisting that having a cell phone is also a necessity of life which should be taxpayer-subsidized:

    Should the poor have cell phones?

    It's a question that has engaged both ends of the political spectrum since 2004, when the conservative Heritage Foundation published a controversial paper saying the poor enjoy "high living standards" and cited as proof that many have cell phones, among other things.

    In rebuttal, advocates for the poor have argued that cell phones are not luxuries but necessities, as basic to modern life as electricity.

    Complicating the debate these days is a new development: free cell phones for the poor and working poor distributed by a Miami wireless company.

    They're paid for, in part, by charges on phone bills that the federal government allows carriers to levy. It's a little-known collaboration between the federal government and phone carriers, devised by the Reagan administration 26 years ago.

    What this does is to force paying customers to fund phone service for non-paying customers. Saying that the government "allows" carriers to do this is a bit deceptive, because I suspect they are required to do it. The whole idea blurs the distinction between government and private business -- and most likely, that's the whole idea. Corporate socialism -- enforced not by the government, but by big business.

    The Lifeline program does seem to be a Reagan vintage idea, too (aided by later Republicans, of course):

    Though free phones are a new idea, the notion of the government's becoming involved to help the poor get phone service is not.

    The federal Lifeline program, begun in 1984, requires phone companies to discount the bills of poor people up to $10 a month.

    The Federal Communications Commission established a subsidy for carriers so they could recover those costs. Money for that subsidy comes from all phone customers, who pay a charge of up to $2 per monthly bill.

    Under the administration of former President George W. Bush, TracFone and other wireless carriers were allowed to participate in what had been a wired-only program, industry experts say. TracFone changed the equation two years ago by offering discounted service and free cell phones.

    To opponents, the government funding feels as though phone customers are being surreptitiously taxed, said Kevin Kelly, a leader of Loyal Opposition, a conservative Center City political group.

    "This is theft masquerading as charity," he said. "If companies want to help the poor, they should take the money out of their own hides, not their customers'."

    I can't help notice that the plan they're talking about only offers 68 minutes of free talk a month. Isn't that unfair? I mean, why should the rich get more minutes than the poor? Shouldn't poor people have just as much right to unlimited service as anyone else?

    I'm wondering where these endlessly-expanding entitlements to "necessities" will end. Is a television a necessity? If so, then why not cable TV or satellite? How about a car? A computer? A washer and a dryer? A dishwasher? Automatic garbage disposal? And what about furniture? Isn't there a right to beds, chairs, tables, pillows, bookcases, patio furniture? And if there's an entitlement to these things, isn't there also an entitlement to have them repaired?

    I think it's unfair that anyone should get to have anything that everyone else can't also have.

    So where's my free phone?

    posted by Eric at 02:59 PM | Comments (6)



    Leadership

    The New Your Post is discussing President Present's inadequate response to the Gulf Oil Spill. As usual I think the best commentary is in the comments. Like this one:

    Mainer1776

    06/13/2010 6:22 AM

    This week we've learned that assistance from countries that are experienced in oil spill clean-up was rejected repeatedly by the Obama administration and the Coast Guard. We need to know why.

    The explosion of the oil rig and the leakage of the oil was tragedy enough. But the intentional actions of NOT cleaning up the oil is a crime.

    It may not be totally Obama's fault.
    We learned a simple thing this week: that the BP clean-up effort in the Gulf of Mexico is hampered by the Jones Act. This is a piece of 1920s protectionist legislation, that requires all vessels working in U.S. waters to be American-built, and American-crewed. So while, for instance, the U.S. Coast Guard can accept such help as three kilometres of containment boom from Canada, they can't accept, and therefore don't ask for, the assistance of high-tech European vessels specifically designed for the task in hand. This is amusing, in a way: a memorable illustration of ... the sort of stuff I keep going on about. Which is to say, the law of unintended consequences, which pertains with especial virulence to all acts of government regulation.
    Well OK. So why didn't he call Congress in session to amend the law at least for the duration of the crisis? You know - take executive action.

    More comments at the post:

    Maspeth Sally

    06/13/2010 6:30 AM

    ....Obama's lack of any action and his not allowing others like Bobby Jindal from doing any corrective action shows that history will call Jimmy Carter only the second worst president in modern history after Obama "the anointed one". All this president is the re-definition of idiot. I think the U.S. would be better off with having Bush back than the current empty suit at 1600 Penn. Ave.

    Which reminds me of a recently famous billboard.

    Another commenter notices a few fundamental problems with Obama's general approach to management.

    Joanne600

    06/13/2010 6:55 AM

    Obama needs to understand the fundamental principle of "lead, follow or get out of the way". He has not shown leadership and his best move would now be to just get out of the way and let the experts get it done. Many proposals have been put forth, but he seems incapable of rendering a decision.

    The heck with rendering a decision. He could just make one.

    This commenter is replying to a comment by an Obama supporter.

    Dinerboy

    06/13/2010 8:46 AM

    John,

    Yes, the job of plugging the well falls to BP and experts, but the point that the article is making is that Obama is not showing real leadership here. It is a sign of weakness when a manager or leader has to resort to threats and firings.

    He SHOULD be leading the cleanup and containment effort, mobilizing all resources and drawing from all sources on that front. And, he should be addressing that, rather than public ccck swinging and bravado that's just fueling emotions and angering one of our closest allies. Proverb from Japanese business - fix the problem not the blame.

    By the way, Bush is no longer president. 2/3 of your post is Bush bashing.

    Let me note that in the above comment ccck is spelled wrong. Possibly a slip of the fingers or hand. That can cause some very nasty spills although the volume is unlikely to cause a disaster.

    So what can the Present do? He could read some books. Might I suggest he start here:

    Drilling For Oil

    H/T Instapundit and Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:14 AM | Comments (2)




    Sneaky deceptive gay alphas?

    While I never liked the term "fag hag" or the superficial stereotypical thinking surrounding the whole meme, an article in Scientific American discusses the latest research results. Not only are women who are attracted to gay men not as ugly as commonly supposed, but according to one expert, their existence has encouraged and facilitated gay men having unique access to women -- thus confounding the traditional evolutionary notions about the "alpha male" always getting the pick of the flowers.

    This has been called the "sneaky f*cker" hypothesis:

    She's also apparently never heard of biologist John Maynard Smith's "sneaky f*cker" evolutionary hypothesis for male homosexuality, which posits that gay men in the ancestral past had unique access to the reproductive niche because females let their guards down around them and other males didn't view them as sexual competitors. We're not infertile, after all, just gay.
    Such deception raises several questions. First, whether such "gay" men are in fact "really" gay, because regardless of society's labels, the successful impregnation of women by men constitutes heterosexual behavior. So they would technically have to be bisexual.

    Second, whether they are "fag hags" or not, why would females be letting down their guard? Is that really what's going on? Or are they actually attracted to the apparent non-attraction? And if so, and if something then occurs, then doesn't that mean that the non-attraction is a deception? A subterfuge? Why would that be going on?

    And why would other males not regard them as competitors? Are they seen as analogous to eunuchs? In the distant past, eunuchs were used to guard female harems, and the reason they were trusted was simple: they were seen as lacking the proper male equipment. It never seems to have occurred to the sultans who owned the harems that many castrated males actually can have sex. But perhaps this didn't matter as much as the fact that they could not render a woman pregnant. Still, eunuchs were automatically trusted not to act as men with women, and if similar thinking has been applied to apparently (or obviously) "gay" men, a reproductive loophole results, for the simple reason that all uncastrated men have testicles -- whether they're gay or not. Thus, gay men may have been placed in a situation analogous to a man believed falsely to be a eunuch and placed in a harem.

    Definitely sneaky. But would it necessarily be hereditary? If so, then wouldn't it follow that gay men should never be trusted around women?

    Should we care?

    Naturally, I'm puzzled. (And because I'm going to be gone all day, I haven't the time to consider the implications for gay conversion therapy* or raise the question of whether the cuckolded straight alpha males are getting it in the butt.)

    *Assuming there is a "gay gene," wouldn't anti-gay religious conservatives be helping to perpetuate it -- and promoting what they claim to oppose?

    Glad I didn't make these "rules."

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (8)




    A nice break from creeping post-modernism...

    Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Toledo Museum of Art, and I only wish I had visited the place earlier. In my state of ignorance, I had assumed that the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) would be the the be all and end all, and I was both annoyed and disappointed by a very snarky Post Modernist attitude there, which takes the form of ridiculing and disrespecting much of the art on display. The DIA seems ungrateful for what it has, and they do a piss-poor job of showing it. They simply have it wrong. A Free Press article about the DIA's current director danced around the issue a few years ago:

    ...beneath Beal's starched demeanor beats the heart of a populist. He believes in the power of art to change lives, to ennoble the human condition. He believes that museums have a moral duty to speak to anyone who walks in the door, not just those who know the difference between Picasso and Pollock.

    Beal believes these things so passionately that he has staked his professional reputation -- and that of the DIA -- on them. Six years after breaking ground on a $158-million renovation rooted in Beal's egalitarianism, the DIA reopens to the public Nov. 23. More than 5,000 works have been reinstalled, from ancient Egyptian art to cutting-edge contemporary paintings.

    The collection has been heavily reinterpreted, relying less on traditional art history than on stories and themes pitched to average visitors. Thousands of labels have been rewritten in plain English. There are high-tech interactive displays, videos, explanatory panels, booklets and lift panels.

    Many critics are suspicious. Beal has been accused in some quarters of dumbing down the DIA, and aficionados are holding their breath. Beal knows his legacy is irrevocably tied to the reinstallation. The chance to rethink one of America's greatest encyclopedic collections was the reason he left the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the DIA in 1999.

    Dumbing down alone would bad enough. But it's the condescending way it's implemented that I find much more annoying. Why the need for all the captions with big letters? People can either read or they cannot. Or is the idea to have as few words as possible in order not to turn off "slower" readers? Quite frankly, it's as if the museum staff thinks that its patrons are children. The idea is to display art, not preside over a post-Modernist kindergarten class! And while I can do without gratuitous commentary about artists catering to white male privilege, I would find it more bearable it it were at least intelligently presented.

    I'm pleased to report that I was not subjected to dumbed-down post-Modernist indoctrination at the Toledo Museum of Art. (Museum web site here.) They appreciate what they have, and display it in a coherent, accurate, and respectful manner. The reason for the overall feeling of coherence is that most of the paintings (which include Rembrandt, El Greco, Velazquez, and van Gogh and other impressionists) were painstakingly collected by glass titan Edward Drummond Libbey who founded the museum and bequeathed one of the most impressive art troves in the United States.

    I'm not alone in being impressed:

    ...there are many reasons to visit this grand regional museum, whose collection is astounding for a city Toledo's size. The room with Greek, Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities is fabulous. The contemporary collection, which includes an early Christian Marclay video, an Op art room, a Juan Munoz sculpture and plenty of photo-realist paintings, is truly remarkable. And the cafe is pretty fabulous too! I'm totally looking forward to the upcoming Glass Pavilion, which will house their fabulous glass collection, originally purchased with Libbey Glass money.
    I agree, except that I wouldn't call this a regional museum. It's world class (considered in the top ten), and while the collection is not as extensive as the DIA, the DIA only exhibits a small fraction of what it has (and does a piss poor job, IMO).

    Plus, the Toledo Museum of Art serves the best museum food I've had!

    I'm not much for photographing art at museums, as it rarely does it justice, and most of the works can be found online. But I was enchanted by a couple of Yves Tanguy paintings (I have an old Tanguy print, which I restored last year), and took a photo of one:

    TanguyToledo2.jpg

    The artist seems to have been quite a character.

    tanguy2.JPG

    Guys like Tanguy make the stodgy post-Modernists with their stupefying drivel look like the antithesis of creativity.

    posted by Eric at 08:36 PM | Comments (2)




    Jimmy Smith - Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf ?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control


    posted by Simon at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)



    Deliverance

    The US Government has a plan. A plan to deliver us from the the scourge of drugs. Really. For sure. Well OK not so sure. It is hard to sell sure after the twentieth or thirtieth time. Well it is all good. But not in fun.

    Law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 2,200 people in an investigation targeting Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the United States, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

    The probe, called Project Deliverance, focused on the transportation networks that carry methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the United States, with return trips of drug proceeds and weapons.

    At a news conference Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the extensive operation began nearly two years ago. He said federal agents targeting violent drug cartels have seized nearly 70 tons of marijuana and nearly 1,500 pounds of heroin. Authorities said some of the drugs were hidden inside buses that cross the Southwest border.

    But Holder said the fight is far from over.

    "Make no mistake. We know that as successful as this operation was, it is just one battle in what is an ongoing war," he said.

    Yeah. A War On Plants and Plant Extracts is going to be successful one day. Real Soon Now. The war on the opium and coca plants has been going on for 96 years (Harrison Narcotics Act). The war on the hemp plant has been going on for 73 years (Marihuana Tax Act of 1937). So yeah. Real soon now there will be some useful results.
    At the news conference in Washington, Michele Leonhart, acting administrator of the DEA, described the law enforcement strategy as an effort to cut off and shut down the supply of drugs headed northward and the flow of drug profits and guns southward into Mexico.
    Well the US Government has been doing that for over 70 years with no end in sight. Evidently the government is beginning to wise up. A little. Look at what the Drug Czar recently said about the government effort.
    "In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told the Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified."
    So what do you call an effort (how many Drug Kingpins have been collected so far?) that makes things worse and yet is intensified with each successive failure?

    A Government Program.

    That is how it works with socialism (price supports for criminals). And yet a lot of so called conservatives support this program. A friend of mine tells me that in the new crop of "Conservatives" running for election this year there are quite a few who favor government price supports for criminals (what would a pile of vegetables be worth if it wasn't for Drug Prohibition?). I don't get how you can be a Conservative and support a government program that has never worked, is not working, and will never work in the way proposed by its supporters. Did I mention that it costs at least $50 billion a year (Federal, State, and Local). A rather nice chunk of change in these hard times.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:08 PM | Comments (8)



    Feral children and the age racket

    A new trend in crime is taking the form of vicious, potentially fatal attacks by children. They prey on older people whom the attackers deem incapable of defending themselves:

    Vincent Poppa, 72, spent 39 days at Methodist Hospital after he was assaulted, robbed, and stomped by a group of youths, the victim of the notorious "catch and wreck" near a playground in Southwest Philadelphia.

    But the case, which drew national attention for its brutality, has proven difficult to prosecute.

    Family Court Judge Kevin Dougherty was forced to find three of Poppa's four alleged attackers not guilty on Monday, after a 13-year-old witness recanted on the stand, saying she had received death threats. The fourth defendant, an 11-year-old boy, was convicted of aggravated assault and related charges, and will be sentenced Tuesday by Dougherty.

    "Our hearts dropped," Poppa said during an interview in his studio apartment less than a block from the site of the March 13 attack. "My gut feeling was, it was a big disappointment."

    "The judge was infuriated that he had to find them not guilty," said Deborah Rossiter, Poppa's longtime friend and former partner, who moved into his apartment to care for him.

    "It is frustrating," agreed prosecutor Adam Geer, who handled the case of the four boys, all ages 11 to 13. He said it was less common for Juvenile Court witnesses to recant than in Common Pleas Court cases.

    "We only had one witness," he said, noting that Poppa was unable to identify his attackers. "It was too dark, and the attack was so brutal."

    Because of their ages, the middle schoolers' names have not been made public.

    I think that by engaging in adult behavior, these "children" have forfeited any claim to privacy.

    Not only did they beat this guy within an inch of his life, but they used a gun (which sounds pretty adult to me):

    Poppa's brother, Nicholas, 74, who also attended the trial, was so upset by the outcome, he began shouting at Dougherty.

    "They beat a guy half to death and left him there to die," Nicholas Poppa said.

    "The overall picture is, they got away pretty clean. . . . It was a just a nightmare to go to 18th and Vine," he added, referring to Family Court.

    Dougherty did not return calls seeking comment.

    Vincent Poppa is a lifelong resident of Eastwick who ran a candy store at 65th Street and Dicks Avenue for three decades. What happened to him March 13 as he walked near Finnegan Playground, he said, "was like a bad dream."

    He was returning to Unico Village Apartments, the seniors' apartment complex where he lives, from a nearby Chinese restaurant with two bottles of Pepsi around 9:30 p.m.

    "It was so dark, it was like going through a hallway to your door and not seeing anything and then all of a sudden - smash! Your nose and your eyes are hurting," Poppa recalled. "It was like a freight train hit me."

    He remembers "a couple blows to the head, and I weakened. And then more blows came, and then I went down."

    When Poppa struggled to get to his feet, he found himself staring at the barrel of a gun.

    "When I was down, they pointed it at me," Poppa said. "I could see it was a .45 silver-plated gun."

    Police said Poppa was struck in the back of the head with the gun, punched, kicked repeatedly, and stomped. He was left unconscious by his assailants, who stole $200 from his recently cashed Social Security check.

    What worries me about feral children (not a new topic here) is society's refusal to recognize their existence and deal with them honestly. This denial often takes the form of a bizarre belief that being of a certain age conveys "innocence," even though anyone with an ounce of common sense who has seen such monsters knows full well that they are the antithesis of innocence.

    Sooner or later, someone who is carrying concealed is going to be attacked by such a mob, and will be forced to defend himself. No one wants to be portrayed as having shot innocent "children," but I don't see any way to prevent it from happening.

    The age racket can be so unfair, and it isn't just unfair to adult victims of "children." At least adults walking down the street have the legal right to call 911 and press charges if they are attacked -- no matter how old the attacker is. But if you are a child, and you are attacked by other children, society turns a deaf ear, especially if you're attacked at (or on the way to or from) school. I've never been able to understand what I think is a grotesque double standard. Once again:

    ...what crime have students committed which requires they be legally required to be placed in hellholes of incarceration where they must face huge undisciplined thugs on a daily basis? Remember, teachers, like guards, can quit at any time. Unless a student's parents have money or influence within the system, he's stuck. His daily life is a struggle to survive in the cruel and violent world we call the public school.

    And where is due process? No one can be imprisoned absent a lengthy process which requires society to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a crime, following which a judge has to actually sentence him to prison, but even beyond that he has the right to appeal the sentence. Students are simply sentenced by society to attend the daytime holding facilities without any hearing at all. No due process. No appeal. If they have committed a crime, it is one of status. They are (it seems) the wrong age.

    Imagine for a moment if society did the same thing to adults. Suppose I received a notice in the mail telling me that I had to report each day to a place of "education" where I knew I would learn nothing but where violent men abounded who would threaten me, and where I was not allowed to carry a weapon in self defense. But I just had to go there daily -- so that society could pretend I was being "educated."

    I don't know whether I'd call it Communism, Fascism, or Totalitarianism, but I'd probably scream that I had committed no crime, and I'd go to court and allege that the outrage violated my 5th and 14th Amendment rights to due process, as well as the 13th Amendment prohibition on slavery and involuntary servitude.

    The reason I have these rights is not because I am a United States citizen, but because I am over eighteen. (This, of course, fits right in with what Dr. Robert Epstein observed in the Glenn and Helen podcast interview -- that young people are severely lacking in basic rights.)

    But beyond the right not to be compelled to be sent to a place against my will, common sense suggests that adults and children have the same rights not to be attacked. I have the right to walk down the street without being attacked, and if someone attacks me, I can defend myself, and I can also call the police and have the attacker arrested. It strikes me that children have these same rights, but they are not being enforced.

    While there's nothing in the Constitution about it, the fact is that those we call "children" neither have the responsibilities that other citizens have, nor do they have the same legal rights as other citizens. They are placed in a special, off-limits, unaccountable category based on a naive meme of "innocence" -- even if they are the casually-spawned offspring of parasitic criminal elements who pass along their legacy of violence to their children beginning in infancy.

    And polite civilized, law-abiding society is then shocked when they commit crimes.

    Perhaps lawlessness promotes lawlessness.

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (8)




    Wasting Trillions Is A Conservative Strategy

    I'll bet you didn't know that wasting trillions was a conservative strategy. It is. In one of the biggest pork barrel projects in America. The Drug War.

    After 40 years, the United States' war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.

    Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn't worked.

    "In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told the Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified."

    Another conservative social engineering failure. Well actually it was started by Progressives, but many Conservatives have fully embraced it. So what do you call a Conservative who embraces Progressive policy?

    Confused.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:04 PM | Comments (9)



    The Unthinkable Is Now Inevitable

    The Euro is going down. Not with a whimper but with a bang. A trillion dollar bang.

    Mrs Merkel is right: "The euro is in danger... if the euro fails, then Europe fails." What she has not yet admitted publicly is that the main cause of the single currency's peril appears beyond her control and therefore her impetuous response to its crisis of confidence is doomed to fail.

    The euro has many flaws, but its weakest link is Greece, whose fundamental problem is that for years it spent too much, earned too little and plugged the gap by borrowing in order to enjoy a rich man's lifestyle. It flouted EU rules on the limits to budget deficits; its national accounts were a moussaka of minced statistics, topped with a cheesy sauce of jiggery-pokery.

    By any legitimate measure, Greece was unworthy of eurozone membership. That it achieved card-carrying status was down to the sleight-of-hand skills of its Brussels fixers and the acquiescence of central bank bean-counters. Now we know the truth, jet-hosing it with yet more debt makes no sense. Another dose of funny money will delay but not extinguish the need for austerity.

    This is why the euro, in its current form, is finished. The game is up for a monetary union that was meant to bolt together work-and-save citizens in northern Europe with the party animals of Club Med. No amount of pit props from Berlin can save the euro Mk I from collapsing under the weight of its structural dysfunctionality. You cannot run indefinitely a single currency with one interest rate for 16 economies, when there are such huge fiscal disparities.

    What was once deemed unthinkable is now, I believe, inevitable: withdrawal from the eurozone of one or more of its member countries.

    The welfare state as we know it is unsustainable. I suppose I'm going to need some back up for such a broad statement. I have it.

    How about this: Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits.

    Across Western Europe, the "lifestyle superpower," the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

    Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

    Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. "The Europe that protects" is a slogan of the European Union.

    But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.

    With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.

    "We're now in rescue mode," said Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister. "But we need to transition to the reform mode very soon. The 'reform deficit' is the real problem," he said, pointing to the need for structural change.

    The reaction so far to government efforts to cut spending has been pessimism and anger, with an understanding that the current system is unsustainable.

    And yet under our Glorious Leader, in this crisis our government has moved in the direction that sunk Europe. One way or another it will not last.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:16 PM | Comments (3)



    Promoting public health and morality by preventing self harm

    Do you have the right to eat what you want?

    To most people, even posing such a question would seem ridiculous, as we take such freedoms for granted. Yet the idea that there should be free choice in foods is under relentless assault by neo-Prohibitionist busybodies who believe that the government should prohibit food deemed unhealthy:

    The forces of neo-Prohibitionism are afoot everywhere, seeking to minimize not just our choices when it comes to food and drink, but our very pleasure. In San Francisco, health officials have cracked down on high-end bars that make their own bitters. In New York, raw eggs have been banned from use in cocktails such as sloe gin fizzes. When will it ever stop?
    Nick Gillespie has an interview with "culinary freedom fighter Liz Williams, the founder and president of New Orleans' own Southern Food and Beverage Museum" which I would embed here but the link doesn't work. Don't miss it.

    I find myself wondering whether government-enforced dietary restrictions constitute "morality" and whether such moral considerations matter enough to form the basis of laws. We seem to take it for granted that prohibition of substances such as alcohol and drugs is grounded in morality, but why? Isn't the primary underlying argument that these substances are bad for the health, and thus the immorality lies in self-harm? The idea is that if you are so immoral as to harm yourself, society has the right to send you to prison for it. In the name of "morality."

    Frankly, I see very little difference between the immorality of one form of self harm as opposed to another. An alcoholic or a drug addict may shave more years off his life more quickly than a food addict, but eating the wrong foods for too long can also have devastating, often fatal, health consequences.

    What about moral tradition? Are not people who overeat called "gluttons"? Is not gluttony one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

    Church leaders from the Middle Ages (e.g., St. Gregory the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas) took a more expansive view of gluttony, arguing that it also consists in an anticipation of meals, the eating of delicacies, and costly foods, seeking after sauces and seasonings, and eating too eagerly.
    So there are solid, traditional moral and religious grounds for policing food.

    Naturally, libertarians can be expected to resolutely oppose the policing of food. So can most conservatives -- especially those who call themselves small government conservatives.

    What I've never been able to understand, though, is how using the power of the state to punish self-harm constitutes conservatism. I have yet to see a conservative explanation as to why imprisoning people for taking unapproved drugs is a legitimate exercise of the state function, but not prohibiting unhealthy foods. If the former jibes with conservative theory, then why not the latter? And if according to conservative theory, the government has the legal right (and a moral duty) to prohibit drugs and foods (and other high risk activities), then why should it not also not have the same moral and legal right to manage health care?

    It all flows from the idea that the government is there to prevent individual self harm.

    posted by Eric at 11:36 AM | Comments (12)




    The Stupidest Race-Baiting Article Ever Written?

    On CNN.com:

    But scholars say Obama's critics ignore a lesson from American history: Many white Americans don't like angry black men.

    Oh good Lord, what a crock. Americans of all ethnicities love Samuel L. Jackson's ferocity. Will Smith is arguably the biggest star in Hollywood, and he gets angry in every movie. Michael Jordan's triumphant scowl is legend. OJ Simpson was... wait, scratch that one.

    Angry black rappers sell millions of CDs. Perhaps a hundred million Americans watch angry black men battle on the basketball court -- and brutalize on the gridiron. That cheering sound you hear after a (usually white) quarterback is sacked isn't millions of white people shrieking in terror.

    But wait, that's just the tip of a monstrous iceberg of stupidity bearing down on the unfortunate reader:

    During a news conference last summer, Obama casually said that police acted "stupidly" when they arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates in his home for disorderly conduct after a confrontation with a white police officer.

    Obama's comments infuriated many white people, and even some black supporters. Obama had to have a Beer Summit to calm the public uproar.

    "He flashed genuine anger," says Ambar. "At that moment, when he touched on the issue of race, he spoke frankly and passionately about what he felt and it got him into a big deal of trouble."


    Oh, I see -- Americans were upset because white people are racist, not because Obama's comments were premature, idiotic, and wrong. It wasn't because the white police officer was quickly proven to be possibly the least racist cop in America -- a guy who actually taught courses on diversity -- and Skip Gates had acted in a manner that was eminently deserving of arrest. No, no, anytime people are angry at Obama, it's because they're racist. (Like the Tea Party!)

    But this is CNN, so the stupidity doesn't end with moronic race-baiting. No, we also learn FDR was a great champion of capitalism.

    Ambar, from Lehigh University, doesn't think so. Obama doesn't share Roosevelt's elite background, which inoculated him from charges of being anti-American. Roosevelt came from a prominent, and wealthy, American family.

    "It's easier to do it if your name is Roosevelt," Ambar says. "No one questions your love of capitalism or your patriotism."


    Roosevelt is the guy who imposed unprecedented wage and price controls, attacked business leaders, and generally enagaged in the most damaging government intervention in American economic history, turning a recession into The Great Depression. If he loved capitalism, capitalism should have filed a restraining order.
    Just as gushing oil lurks below the Gulf's surface, all sorts of ugly, racial undercurrents exist beneath the surface of American politics, Baick says

    No, they're right on the surface. Most of them are on display in the people who wrote and contributed to this article.

    -------------

    I have a dream. My dream is that one day people will learn to judge others on the content of their character instead of endlessly obsessing over race. It's time to stop this ridiculous, destructive racial Balkanization of America. It's time to stand up to those who would divide us along arbitrary lines for their own selfish ends and say "No more."

    We're not black or white or Hispanic or Asian -- we're American.

    posted by Dave at 07:08 PM | Comments (2)



    Crime as a force for social control

    White flight. The term denotes racism, as it means that white people run away from black people.

    White flight is the sociologic and demographic term denoting a trend wherein whites flee urban communities as the minority population increases, and move to other places like commuter towns.
    The loaded term carries with it the implication that white people are not only running away from black people, but they are doing so because of their race.

    At least, that's the Narrative.

    A recent Wall Street Journal article -- titled "Black Flight Hits Detroit" -- documents something very disturbing to the narrative.

    Middle class black people are deserting Detroit in record numbers. And obviously, they are not leaving because of the racial demographics of Detroit; they are leaving because of crime. The situation has become so hopeless that calling the police is a waste of time, bars and burglar alarms are useless, and even tough watchdogs get killed:

    DETROIT--This shrinking city needs to hang on to people like Johnette Barham: taxpaying, middle-class professionals who invest in local real estate, work and play downtown, and make their home here.

    Ms. Barham just left. And she's not coming back.

    In seven years as a homeowner in Detroit, she endured more than 10 burglaries and break-ins at her house and a nearby rental property she owned. Still, she defied friends' pleas to leave as she fortified her home with locks, bars, alarms and a dog.

    Then, a week before Christmas, someone torched the house and destroyed almost everything she owned.

    In March, police arrested a suspect in connection with the case, someone who turned out to be remarkably easy to find. For Ms. Barham, the arrest came one crime too late. "I was constantly being targeted in a way I couldn't predict, in a way that couldn't be controlled by the police," she says. "I couldn't take it anymore."

    It's a real horror story, and I admire the woman's perseverance.

    One of her biggest strategic "mistakes" was in having a job which required her to leave her home. This allowed the neighborhood criminals to plan their invasions at their leisure:

    As a single woman with a predictable schedule, Ms. Barham was an easy target for theft. There was one at the house even before she moved in, she recalls, in which a contractor she hired lost his tools. "I was just thinking, 'Oh, it's a vacant house, and somebody broke in and stole some tools,'" she recalls. "'That happens sometimes.'"

    But the break-ins would become routine. One evening in February 2004, she returned home to find that her back door was busted in, and several rooms had been ransacked. Mr. McCune helped her pay a company to board up the door with plywood.

    On the occasion of one of the invasions, she called 911 and the police actually did arrive -- over three hours later. So she had an alarm installed, but the thieves simply ripped the alarm from the wall!
    On July 17, 2005, Ms. Barham returned home around 1:30 in the morning to find her front door busted open and what she thought was a robbery in progress. She rushed back to her car to call 911 and waited there for police.

    They arrived at 4:41 a.m., according to their report. Missing items included a $1,200 Dell laptop and a $385 money order. The house was dusted for fingerprints, but Ms. Barham says police never followed up with her.

    Afterward, Ms. Barham had a monitored alarm system put in. But in a break-in just four months later, the alarm was ripped from the wall.

    At that point (if not much earlier), most people would have moved out if they could afford it.

    But Barham was persistent enough to do one of the first things I would recommend to anyone in such a situation. Get a dog. And it better be a dog that frightens criminals.

    So she got a pit bull mix, and for three years, her home was safe:

    By then, Ms. Barham's friends were becoming afraid for her safety. They urged her to move out of the city, as many of them had. "I was telling her as a friend that you need to let the house go and leave the city," says Mr. McCune. "But Johnette grew up in Detroit, and she's very loyal to Detroit."

    A neighbor suggested Ms. Barham get a dog, and brought over a pit-bull mix. Ms. Barham led the dog to her backyard and watched as his barking frightened a passing stranger.

    "I'll take him,'" she said. She named him Diesel.

    With Diesel in the yard and new bars on the windows, her home went untouched for more than three years.

    The problem with a dog is that if criminals are watching your house constantly (and know the police won't do anything), they'll just wait till you're gone with the dog. Like most dogs owned by responsible people, at some point it was Diesel's turn to go to the vet:
    The relative calm at 1239 Atkinson ended on a snowy Friday in January 2009 when Ms. Barham returned from a trip to the vet with her dog to discover an upstairs rear window broken. Yet another computer and sundry possessions were gone.

    Police followed footprints in the snow to a house next door. James Christian, 28, who lived there with his grandmother, had just been released from Wayne County Jail after serving a 90-day sentence for a drug conviction, court records show. He had a reputation as a thief and neighbors had been complaining to police about him for years, says Robert Jeter Sr., whose house across the street had been robbed twice in the previous year and a half.

    The grandmother told police that Mr. Christian wasn't home, according to the police report. Police wouldn't question Mr. Christian for a year.

    The Detroit Police Department is short about 700 officers, says Warren Evans, appointed police chief in July 2009. The result is he must assign officers to the worst crimes. Homicides have dropped roughly 25% since he took the job.

    "The average Detroiter is worrying about home burglaries and auto thefts," not being shot, he says. But homicide numbers were so alarming, "that we decided to take a triage approach."

    Petty theft? "I've got nobody to send to that," he said.

    Hey, Mr. Police Chief, it's home invasion we're talking about here, not petty theft! And the criminals damn well know that you and your department are not serious, which means they can take their time to strike when they're good and ready. If they're sadistic psychopaths (as these people obviously were), they can take their time and figure out how to do things like burn your dog to death:
    Even after all the burglaries, Ms. Barham says, she was determined to stay. Then came a burglary in October 2009, the first while Diesel was home.

    After that, Ms. Barham couldn't sleep at night. She made sure Diesel slept next to her bed. She hid her valuables. She replaced locks and two doors.

    On Dec. 17, Mr. McLaughlin, her neighbor, had lit a cigarette and was warming up his car when he peered across the street at Ms. Barham's house and noticed flames behind the living-room curtain. He ran back inside and called 911. Another neighbor phoned Ms. Barham at work.

    When she arrived at the house, five fire trucks were there. Feeling almost ashamed to face her neighbors, she watched from her car as her home burned. The firefighters found Diesel and her cat, Tinker, upstairs in her bedroom, dead.

    That did it. She moved out of Detroit for good. With the Wall Street Journal breathing down their neck and requesting records, the police finally arrested the guy next door, and maybe he'll get another 90 day sentence. Then he can get out and find new people to terrorize.

    After all, crime is a way of controlling people.

    Bastards.

    If only there were a way to sic the animal rights activists on the sadistic criminal for what he did to the poor dog and the cat!

    (Hey, at least crimes against animals are taken seriously....)

    posted by Eric at 02:10 PM | Comments (4)



    Crime in the hood

    I don't know why these things don't make it into my local newspaper, but thanks to Memeorandum's link to a post by Eugene Volokh, I learned that I am in a higher crime neighborhood than I ever imagined! In fact, based on the behavior that I witness regularly at drunken late night parties, many of my male neighbors are nothing more than unapprehended felons.

    Here's the Michigan law (Michigan Penal Code Ā§ 750.532):

    Any man who shall seduce and debauch any unmarried woman shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 5 years or by fine of not more than 2,500 dollars ....
    Wow. That sort of thing goes on all the time around here. The average age in my hood is about 20. These young people party and drink heavily (often way into the wee hours of the morning), and trust me, there's a whole lot of seducing and debauching going on.

    But until today, I had no idea such behavior was a felony.

    I couldn't make this up if I tried.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: In view of Lawrence v. Texas (which threw out sodomy laws), I'm wondering whether the Michigan law is constitutionally valid.

    Besides, isn't it sexist on its face?

    posted by Eric at 11:35 AM | Comments (10)




    A Double Dipper?

    Chairman Bernanke says no double dip recession. Sort of.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday he is hopeful the economy will gain traction and not fall back into a "double dip" recession.

    "My best guess is we will have a continued recovery, but it won't feel terrific," Bernanke said.

    That's because economic growth won't be robust enough to quickly drive down the unemployment rate, now at 9.7 percent, he said in remarks to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan research group.

    The economy grew at a 3 percent pace in the first quarter of this year. That's good growth during normal times. But coming out of such a deep recession, the economy must grow much more strongly to make a dent in the jobless rate.

    Fears have grown that the recovery could be derailed if Europe's debt crisis turns into a broader financial contagion, crimping lending in the United States and around the globe.

    Broader financial contagion? IF? There is no IF about it. It is just a matter of when. And did the Chairman mention the China Real Estate Bubble? No he did not.

    And something else he didn't mention while we are at it. Housing may go into a double dip.

    mortgage purchase applications are down nearly 40 percent from a month ago to their lowest level since April of 1997. Yes, you can argue that a larger-than normal share of buyers today are all cash, but those are largely investors.

    That means real organic buyers are exiting in droves.

    "With another week of historically low mortgage rates, the trend from the prior three weeks continued, as refinance applications increased while purchase applications dropped. Purchase applications are now almost 40 percent below their level four weeks ago, while the refinance share, at 74 percent, is at its highest level since December," said Michael Fratantoni, MBA's Vice President of Research and Economics.

    And then the Realtors' chief economist, Lawrence Yun, after touting the numbers and telling all of us how much home equity was "preserved" by the tax credit stabilizing prices ($900 billion), throws water on his own numbers:

    "A big concern surfacing recently is insufficient time to close the deal at the settlement table. Under normal circumstances, two months would be enough time from contract signing to settlement date," Yun said.

    "However, the recent housing cycle has brought long delays related to the short sales approval process by banks, and from ongoing appraisal issues. There could be a sizable number of homebuyers who responded to tax credit incentives, but may encounter problems meeting the settlement deadline by June 30."

    The mentality seems to be "If we just hold on there are better days around the corner." But what if that is not true?

    What if they are cooking the books?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that employment in the United States grew by 433,000 jobs in May, but that those jobs included 411,000 temporary workers hired by the Census Bureau.
    So let me answer the question: what if better days are not around the corner? And the answer is: a second crash. A Double Dip Recession.

    This book on the Great Depression was pretty popular for a while:

    The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

    The reason I bring it up is that there were lots of dips (rises and falls) in that depression. Could we be repeating some of the same mistakes? Why not?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:14 PM | Comments (2)



    All day long

    Watching Steve Jobs' so-called "keynote meltdown," I could understand the guy's frustration, because no one likes to look foolish in public, and regardless of whether it was his fault that the WiFi was hopelessly overloaded, he's Mr. Big -- and expected to be some sort of magician. So even though what happened to him would have happened to anyone in the same position, the audience thought it was hilarious, and he became the butt of a joke.

    Being a techie, though, he could never have gotten away with a line like the one Barack Obama delivered here in Ann Arbor:

    ...in an era of iPods and Tivo, where we have more choices than ever before -- even though I can't really work a lot of these things -- (laughter) -- but I have 23-year-olds who do it for me -- (laughter) -- government shouldn't try to dictate your lives.
    Nice to know that the president said that -- even though he has appointed hordes of people who have dedicated their lives to dictating our lives.

    But what really caught my attention more than Steve Jobs' "meltdown" was a passing remark he made when he was demonstrating his new improved gadget, and boasting about the quality of the picture -- "you can really see it around the eyes and teeth" -- and finally

    it comes down to what do you want to be looking at all day long?
    While I don't know exactly what I want to be looking at all day long, I know what I don't want to be looking at all day long -- and that is a video screen. Whether huge, tiny, fuzzy, or clear.

    As it is I spend a lot of time looking at words, but one of the things that attracted me to this medium was my hatred of television. Part of that is grounded in not liking programming, and while I realize that Jobs is not talking about programming but communication, I don't want to be communicating all day long either. Around here, that would seem to place me in a minority:

    Here in the heavy student areas of Ann Arbor, I've noticed that some young people are incapable of even walking safely while using their phones. I have had them walk right in front of me, eyes riveted to tiny screens while I slam on the brakes to avoid hitting them.
    A tiny screen here, a big screen there, and pretty soon we're talking about an omnipresent screen. If the government made people have them everywhere, and they were called "The Telescreen," we would hate and fear them. Instead, people are standing in line to buy them, complaining when they don't work, and thinking it's quite reasonable to be looking at them all day long.

    Don't get me wrong; I'm not a Luddite. In fact, I'm on a screen right now, looking at these words appear as I type them. (In Fedora, which is a nice distraction....) But as Groucho Marx famously never said, "I smoke a cigar, but I take it out of my mouth occasionally."

    Well, at least tobacco was good for the health!

    tobacco ad doctor1.jpg

    posted by Eric at 10:42 AM | Comments (4)




    Overlapping reflections

    While it's not his fault because he didn't know, I blame M. Simon for inspiring this post, which started innocently with a pleasantly haunted photo taken by me inside a former church:

    interior_church_A2.jpg

    It was when I started to see reflections that I realized my initial effort to photograph what I thought I was photographing had failed. But the reflections seem to lead into something else, so just I stayed with the camera and let them.

    I'm honestly not sure what I was trying to photograph, but that's how it came out. It's ethereal, although somewhat "grounded" by the reflections of my hands holding the camera under the peculiar "ball" image. I have no idea how it happened, but it pleased me enough to put it on the blog.

    M. Simon's earlier post reminded me of the Grateful Dead, and I thought of "The Eleven." Like "Uncle John's Band," it has an unusual time signature.

    As its name suggests, this is in 11/8 time, mostly played as three beats of three followed by a beat of two - but with all sorts of variations played against each other.
    As in the case of the picture, there's lots of overlapping.

    This gem from 1968 is classic unadulterated acid rock at its best (if you're impatient, "The Eleven" starts at 3:17).

    Outside in the yard, a head seemed to scream as the ivy league closed in:

    ivyhead.jpg

    posted by Eric at 10:48 PM | Comments (4)



    the safety of mandatory decadence

    Writing about the pervasiveness of what he calls "lawsuit culture," Philip K. Howard noted in passing the demise of the jungle gym:

    Jungle gyms, diving boards, and seesaws seem relics of some past civilization.
    They really do. I can't remember when I last saw a diving board (in the United States) or a seesaw. And until very recently, I had not seen a jungle gym of the sort I used to play on when I was a kid, but I spotted one in the yard of a former school and church in Ann Arbor, and I was lucky enough to have my camera handy.

    junglegymfencedoff.jpg

    Naturally, the owners of the property have fenced it off so children can't play with it. Most likely, this is because of insurance requirements, for an unfenced jungle gym would be considered an "attractive nuisance" by any tort lawyer for parents wanted to sue over a child's scraped knee or something. Accidents can happen, and we have to make everything accident proof. (Who cares whether children are allowed to develop into strong and healthy adults?) I'm surprised the thing still stands at all.

    I hate to sound like a maudlin libertarian, but it really made me sad to see that fenced-off vestige of our healthier past. There's not a damned thing I can do to bring back real jungle gyms, or diving boards, seesaws, swimming holes, or even running on the playground, but I think it's a sign of our society's true decadence that these things are almost all gone.

    And I do mean decadence, in the truest possible sense.

    We're conditioned to think of decadence as when people have too much fun (and I can see the point), but the damage that results from having too much fun tends to be self-apparent, like when you engage in an excess of hedonism and end up rotting your brain or your body. But the damage that results when people are not allowed to have fun is more subtle -- and in my view more decadent. Not being allowed to have fun is like not being allowed to fail, or not being allowed to succeed. It's preemptive rot -- forcing people to rot without even giving them a free choice in the matter. The resulting paralysis is true decay, and that's what the word "decadence" means in its literal sense.

    As I say this, I realize that decay is inevitable. It's part of life, and we all get there sooner or later. But if I'm going to rot away, it should be either as a result of my own natural decay, or because I have chosen to accelerate that decay for whatever reason. That choice is not for others to make, much less self-appointed "guardians" or "helpers" who believe in saving me from risks.

    But I guess I must be a crackpot to prefer a past which allowed dangerous choices to a future in which nothing is allowed unless it is "safe."

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all!

    Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 04:33 PM | Comments (24)



    ITER Meltdown

    The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) did not melt down from an excess of energy production. It is melting due to budget excesses.

    It has been billed as the solution to tomorrow's energy crunch, but ITER, a massive fusion experiment by seven international partners, is under serious threat from a present-day problem: the financial crisis.

    In a meeting on 26 May, the cash-strapped member states of the European Union (EU) were unable to agree on how to find the additional billions needed to finance construction of the giant reactor, which is sited near St-Paul-les-Durance, France. The EU is set to contribute 45% of the construction costs for ITER, which some estimates now put at €15 billion (US$19 billion) -- three times the 2006 cost estimate (see 'The ITER rollercoaster').

    Left unresolved, the impasse in Europe will, at best, delay the project further. At worst, it could cause ITER to unravel entirely.

    All the while Polywell Fusion and other small fusion programs are getting along on budgets 1/100th the size and are actually making progress towards answers.

    You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

    Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

    And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years or less.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:09 AM | Comments (1)




    Tea Party National Anthem - Their Motto Is...


    Dont-Tread-300.gif

    posted by Simon at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)



    "The Watershed." Where your rights and your freedom end!

    Patrick Dorinson has an interesting piece on the so-called Western "Watersheds" Project in which he touches on the plastic issue:

    ...hidden behind the facade of planting trees or discussing the virtues of "paper or plastic" is a well-financed global group of dedicated radicals who are bent on changing the way we live whether we like it or not. They are funded by a vast network of wealthy individuals, trust funds, and foundations who selectively give money to organizations they can control like puppets on a string (think George Soros).
    That hated plastic, again!

    Naturally, plastic is hated by the Watershed people, who are dependably against anything made or done by any humans anywhere, save what they want to do to everyone else, which is of course to make life as expensive and inconvenient as possible and above all tell us what to do. And in the name of protecting "the Watershed," they have appointed themselves as quasi-official agents to inconvenience us and tell us what to do. (And they have lots of money to do it with, too!) Above all, they excel at creating real, brand new power for themselves without ever having to run for office.

    "Watershed" is one of those weasel words which activists love to use, for it means very little to most people (it sounds harmless, innocuous, even wholesome and natural), but to them is code language for achieving total control over as much territory and as many people as possible.

    If you think about it, there are few to no areas of land on the planet that are not the "watershed" of one body of water or another -- and all land is the "watershed" of the seas.

    So what they're doing by using this word is establishing a new system of control. For themselves, of course. Because they care more about "the watershed" than you or I! And they are the ones who should get the power to "protect" "it." (And if you disagree with them, why, that means you must not care about the "watershed"!)

    How it is that otherwise reasonable people keep falling for these cheap rhetorical tricks is beyond me.

    posted by Eric at 02:11 PM | Comments (1)



    White Bird

    It's a Beautiful Day is the band. Led by possibly the finest rock violinist ever. David LaFlamme. I had the honor of seeing one of their concerts back in the day. On another related note: I play harmonica (Marine Band) and was rather good at it when I practiced regularly. My favorite was to do rock with an electric violinist. You don't hear that sound much (violin/harmonica) but I think it is rather interesting. I'd like to see some noted bands get into it.

    posted by Simon at 01:23 PM | Comments (1)



    Government Prices Are Market Prices

    The government of the US is engineering a shortage of doctors. Read it and weep:

    ... the Justice Department has unambiguously stated that refusal to accept government price controls is a form of illegal "price fixing."

    The FTC has hinted at this when it's said physicians must accept Medicare-based reimbursement schedules from insurance companies. But the DOJ has gone the final step and said, "Government prices are market prices," in the form of the Idaho Industrial Commission's fee schedule. The IIC administers the state's worker compensation system and is composed of three commissioners appointed by the governor. This isn't a quasi-private or semi-private entity. It's a purely government operation.

    What's more, the Antitrust Division has linked a refusal to accept government price controls with a refusal to accept a "private" insurance company's contract offer. This lives little doubt that antitrust regulators consider insurance party contracts the equivalent of government price controls -- and physicians and patients have no choice but to accept them.

    Despite this, Antitrust Division chief Christine Varney, an Obama political appointee, insists she's trying to protect "competition":

    The orthopedists who participated in these group boycotts denied medical care to Idaho workers and caused higher prices for orthopedic services. Today's action seeks to prevent the recurrence of these illegal acts and protects Idaho consumers by promoting competition in the healthcare industry."

    The Idaho attorney general compounds the lie:

    The free marketplace works best when there is fair competition. Anticompetitive activity harms the marketplace, businesses and consumers. Enforcement of the antitrust laws restores competition to the marketplace to the benefit of businesses and consumers and the marketplace as a whole.

    There are two possible outcomes of this:

    Government sets prices too high and more producers enter the market and some consumers leave. Or government sets prices too low and some producers leave the market and some consumers enter the market who would otherwise be priced out.

    The net result of government efforts is supply/demand imbalances.

    There is a third possible outcome: government gets the prices just right and continually adjusts them according to local and general market conditions. What are the odds of that?

    A couple of books on the subject of the knowledge problem and market pricing that you might find of interest:

    Keynes and Hayek: The Money Economy

    Calculation and Coordination: Essays on Socialism and Transitional Political Economy

    Update: thanks to commenter S.M. Oliva at the CSM link at the top I have this bit of added information:

    By law, the DOJ must file all comments received with the court together with an official reply. The court is then supposed to take the comments and reply into account when determining whether entry of the proposed order is "in the public interest."

    Comments should be sent to Joshua H. Soven, Chief, Litigation I Section, Antitrust Division, U. S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth St. N.W., Suite 4100, Washington, D.C. 20530. Soven's fax number is 202-307-5802.

    The 60-day clock doesn't start until the proposed order is published in the Federal Register, which might take up to two weeks.

    Do send them a polite note or two. Just to give them something to think about.

    H/T Jccarlton at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)



    Who is responsible for the latest outrage????

    The Ann Arbor area suffered a torrential downpour last night -- so bad that my yard looks like a swamp, and I'm having to take precautions about the possibility of more water:

    A state of emergency was declared in Dundee Township and the village of Dundee. A help line was set up for anyone who needs assistance and can be reached at 734-529-2277.

    Officials believe it was the only tornado to touch down overnight, Dodson said.

    The system of storms - which lasted from about 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. - dumped 2 inches of rain onto the Ann Arbor area, leading to widespread flooding, Dodson said.

    A parking lot was flooded near Oak Valley and Lohr roads in Pittsfield Township.

    At 2:30 a.m., meteorologists received reports of flooding at Packard and Eisenhower and M-14 and US-23. A flash flood warning was issued Saturday night.

    "We're seeing a lot of flooding, and the storms mostly moved along I-94 from Ann Arbor to Detroit," Dodson said.

    I should probably consider myself lucky. Here's how it looked in another Ann Arbor neighborhood:

    Kingsley_St_AA_Flood.jpg

    The question, of course, is which malefactor to blame. Nature? God? The "laws" of nature and of nature's god or gods? A particular god like Tlaloc the Rain God?


    Tlaloc_front_sm.jpg

    Hey, don't laugh. He looks plenty guilty to me!

    How about Global Warming? Or BP and Halliburton? As man is increasingly being seen as the ultimate cause of all occurrences (natural or otherwise), and as man is definitely not natural, then pretty soon any natural occurrence will be either the fault of man, and barring proof of that, as nature's way of striking back -- to retaliate or warn us that we have pissed off the planet, and are being punished for it.

    There are people who think this way, and perhaps I should call them "envirofundamentalists," for they remind me of some of the religious fundamentalists who see the direct hand of God in every occurrence. There is little difference between saying that God intended a hurricane to be punishment or that nature is sending a warning to man. All that's needed is a blank to fill in. God is pissed off about abortion, or Nature is pissed off about the Deepwater Horizon spill. Etc.

    Gotta blame someone.

    Blame is a human need -- a coping mechanism which offers a way out, and an emotionally satisfying release. It is not emotionally satisfying to simply observe that "these things just happen."

    Perhaps I should try going out there and shaking my fist at the sky.

    (The next time the lightning starts, of course....)

    MORE: While I really hadn't had time to fully digest the implications, an incisive comment from Veeshir to another post makes me think that last night's horrendous storm might in fact be my fault!

    So Eric, you hate Gaia, is that it?

    You need to understand, once a claim of how evil people are destroying the environment is made you're supposed to accept it and act as if it's true and work to fix it, even if such a fix dramatically lowers the standard of living of everybody (poor hardest hit).

    Geez, it's like you haven't learned anything from Silent Spring and global warmmongering.

    Clearly, I have not learned my lesson.

    And if Veeshir is right and I hate Gaia, then why wouldn't Gaia punish me? (Or, you know, send Tlaloc to do the dirty work....)

    OK, I did it! So how do I turn myself in?

    posted by Eric at 11:15 AM | Comments (1)




    Disasters

    After an explosion, deaths, and months of oil spewing into the Gulf, 12% more people want the health care reform law repealed than are opposed to new offshore drilling.

    posted by Dave at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)



    The Helen Thomas flotilla

    The much-beloved (by the left and by Barack Obama) Helen Thomas is in the news for saying that the Jews should go back to Poland:

    The grande dame of the Washington press corps put her foot in her mouth with an answer at the White House last week, suggesting Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else."
    So when a widely respected American journalist says the Jews should go back to Poland, she merely put her foot in her mouth?

    Considering what happened to the Jews in Poland, I'd call her remarks nothing less than raving anti-Semitism.

    And there seems to be a lot of it going around. Thomas's remarks were echoed by flotilla "activists" whose voices were recorded by IDF forces in "an audio reproduction of the moments before Monday's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla."

    In it, the soldiers can be heard warning the flotilla that its vessels are nearing an area under naval blockade. They are answered by calls of "Go back to Auschwitz" and "Don't forget 9/11 guys".
    The flotilla activists might not be as educated as Helen Thomas, but I'm sure they not only know what happened at Auschwitz, but know (as Thomas certainly knows) that Auschwitz is in Poland.

    Unbelievable.

    MORE: Via Drudge, a touching photo:

    htbo.jpg

    (I guess she's just some girl in the neighborhood, right?)

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (8)



    Economics Quiz

    H/T commenter Chuck at Free Book

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)




    Add "Garbage Patch Skepticism" to my long list of sins

    Another day, another heresy.

    California is on the verge of banning "single use" plastic bags in all stores.

    California would be the first state to ban plastic and most paper bags from grocery, convenience and other stores under a proposal that appears headed for a major legislative victory this week.

    Shoppers who don't bring their own totes to a store would have to purchase paper bags made of at least 40 percent recycled material for a minimum of 5 cents or buy reusable bags under the proposal, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2012. A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he supports the bill, which will be voted on in the Assembly this week and could go to a Senate vote this year.

    The measure would go further than plastic bag bans in at least five California cities, including San Francisco.

    San Francisco's ordinance applies only to chain supermarkets and pharmacies, but the state measure would bar the items from all food and convenience stores, and it would also restrict retailers from handing out free paper bags.

    "AB1998 would ban all of the single-use bags that have been polluting our oceans and waterways and threatening marine life," said the bill's author, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica.

    Etc.

    While this is not the biggest deal in the world, it occurs to me that maybe I should defend my right to keep and bear this foul and toxic substance against people who mainly seem interested in cranking out feelgood legislation which seems designed mainly to inconvenience ordinary people.

    Reading the text of the legislation, I was somewhat relieved that it does not make a crime out of simple possession or use of plastic bags. (Not yet, at least.) But as these things tend to become trends, I simply imagined how I would adjust if they did the same thing here. As it is now, I like to get in a little exercise when I go grocery shopping, and as my local supermarket is a half a mile away, I walk there and then back with my groceries -- something that is only possible because of the very convenient plastic bags. Offered the choice between plastic and paper, I always choose plastic, because I simply can't carry two or three paper bags full of groceries that distance. No, not even the ones that have the little handles, as they are very prone to break off. But the plastic bags are perfect. They weigh nothing, they envelop themselves around whatever is in them, and I have never had a handle break.

    Best of all, they do double duty for doggy doo! Perfect for picking up Coco's droppings, and long enough to easily tie the mess up into a knot before throwing it away. (Which is what the powers that be want all us peons to do with our dog droppings, lest they cause outbreaks of "E Coli.") Anyway, for me the plastic grocery bags are not "single use." I stuff them in my pockets whenever I walk dogs. They're also handy for carrying other stuff I might encounter, such as nightcrawlers which I bring home for the fish.

    If Michigan adopted a similar ordinance, I would simply be inconvenienced, which I suspect is the whole idea. Make people feel as if they're criminals against the environment. I notice that the text of the law does not ban the sale of these bags inside the stores, though, nor does it prohibit people like me from carrying and using them. But I have a feeling that if I did walk into a California store with one of my bags to use as a tote bag, some busybody might object. Because it's plastic, and plastic is evil! What they want is for me to do what all nice little environmentalists do and lug around a heavy canvas (or hemp) bag, and use that for my groceries. Sorry, but I won't. I don't carry around canvas tote bags when I walk about in my daily business, and I don't plan to start. They are ridiculous and inconvenient. The plastic ones work better, crumple into nothing and fit in my pocket.

    Besides the heavy canvas bags are no good for picking up dogshit. For that you need plastic.

    And plastic is the enemy -- make no mistake about it.

    As the legislation itself declares, there's a huge patch of floating plastic (aka "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch"), and it is now said to be larger than the United States:

    THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

    SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the
    following:

    (a) The prohibition imposed by this act, pursuant to Section
    42281 of the Public Resources Code, is necessary for the
    environmental, public health, and societal burdens imposed by
    the use of single-use plastic carryout bags.

    [...]

    (d) The North Pacific Gyre in the Pacific Ocean is home to
    largest garbage dump of plastic trash, now estimated to be
    the size
    the largest accumulation of plastic
    pollution, now estimated to be the size
    of the United States
    and is increasing rapidly.

    OK, right there, I'm skeptical. And I am not alone. Some environmentalists are skeptical that wild claims are being made. Skeptoid calls the claim "ripe for scientific inquiry" and notes that descriptions of the area claimed to be full of floating plastic had morphed from two football fields to an area the size of Texas, and to an area bigger than Texas, and he concludes,
    Bringing attention to the issue is good; presenting an overdramatized representation of the facts to do so, not so much.
    Except the claimed area has continued to grow exponentially, from larger than Texas to the size of the United States, and finally to a size much bigger than the United States.

    Who does the verifying? And how? Aren't these claims supposed to be independently verified before they're written into laws? Or are we just to accept the claims of "experts"? Who might they be?

    The discoverer (I'd hate to say "inventor") of Great Pacific Garbage Patch Theory is a man named Captain Charles Moore. Here he is talking about the patch, and I admit, he has a great flair for the dramatic.

    But who is this guy? Virtually every discussion of the Patch cites him; the Wiki page on the Patch cites him as a leading authority, but little seems to be known about him (not even a date of birth) other than the fact that he was a boat racing enthusiast who became a committed environmentalist after finding the Patch.

    What is known but doesn't seem widely publicized is that he's an heir to oil money, and more of an activist than independent oceanographer:

    The patch of garbage, which has actually expanded into two connecting areas known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches, was first discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who was "taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race."

    As Moore navigated through the rarely traveled North Pacific gyre, "a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems," he became perplexed that there, thousands of miles from shore, was an endless stream of debris:

    "Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by. How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?"

    The spectacle both galled and galvanized Moore. Heir to an oil industry fortune, he sold his business interests and became an environmental activist, founding the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

    Is it not possible that such a man might have ample reason to exaggerate his claims?

    Who checks this stuff? Has it been independently verified that the Patch is now the size of the United States and getting ever larger? How do we know? I mean, at its present rate of growth, pretty soon the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be larger than the Pacific Ocean itself.

    Where are the layers of MSM fact checkers when you need them?

    How do we know this isn't just "garbage in, garbage out"?

    posted by Eric at 04:30 PM | Comments (7)



    If She Had Only Gone Topless

    From the YouTube site (or should that be sight?) of this video.

    July 28, 2009 -- CORRECTION: The description originally stated that exposed film was to be used, but you actually have to use blank, developed film. A chemical used in the development process is what gives the film it's visible light filtering capabilities.

    First off my apologies for the very shoddy camera work and even shoddier narration.

    Secondly, this is merely my own personal findings after conducting several very unscientific tests using esotericsean's method of turning an ordinary camcorder into one that only lets in infrared light, allowing the operator to 'see through' various objects including clothing. The tests speak for themselves and yes, by using this method you can actually see what people are wearing under their clothing, provided that the clothing is relatively clingy, and is a thin fabric. Dark clothing works the best, but I've also gotten great results with all colors, provided that the fabric is thin and clingy.

    In other words - if you can practically see through the garment already this method has possibilities. And even if it doesn't, it might be fun to find an accomplice who would be willing to help you with the experiments. To insure the correct experimental procedure is followed in every experiment it is a requirement that the experimenter dress and undress the model for each iteration of the experiment. And to properly document the experiment videos and photos should be taken at each step. Then you have to write it up. Finally no experiment is really complete until the results are published and replication has confirmed the results. Oh. Yeah. Take measurements.

    You can buy a Hoya 58mm RM-72 Infrared Filter from Amazon but making your own or just getting a bit of developed blank film from a film processor seems cheaper.

    Some books on Infrared Photography to help you on your way.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:49 AM | Comments (1)




    Only through unfairness can fairness be achieved!

    I'm noticing a very peculiar trend in restrooms lately. In government buildings, I am seeing floor after floor in which there are two types of restrooms, labeled thusly:

    Women's Restroom

    and

    Unisex Restroom

    While it's not the biggest deal in the world, I find myself having no other choice than to use the unisex restroom, but I wondered why women would have restrooms which no one else is allowed to use. Is this some sort of twisted implementation of "potty parity"?
    The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held hearings Wednesday on the "Potty Parity Act," a bill that seeks to address the unequal number of restroom facilities for women in federal buildings by requiring at least a 1-to-1 ratio for toilets, including urinals, in women's and men's restrooms.
    Obviously the elimination of men's rooms (by simply converting them to "unisex") achieves such parity without much expense, because it allows women to use 100% of the toilets, while forbidding men from using half of them. Unless men object, women are thus over-enabled, and the "problem" is solved.

    This seems about as "fair" as removing urinals. (Never mind that the latter save water.)

    In the waiting room at New York's Grand Central Station, the new bathrooms are women-only.

    Can anyone imagine the outcry if the new bathrooms were for men only?

    What I can't understand is why it would be unfair from a potty parity standpoint to simply convert all restrooms to unisex. The problem seems to be that women take longer than men, which has led political demands that there be more toilets for women than men, but has anyone looked at the idea of making all toilets equally available to both sexes? If women take more time, then the resultant longer wait time would be equally distributed among both sexes, and OTOH, if men take less time, then the shorter wait time would also be distributed equally.

    But I don't think the objection to all unisex would be grounded in mathematics or fairness. I think the most likely objection would be from women who don't want men in their "private" spaces -- even when the private spaces are not theirs, as I learned firsthand when I "invaded" a men's room which women had taken over. This is irrational, but it is deeply ingrained in our culture. There are also legitimate fears of crime and sexual perverts -- but even if we assume that the vast majority of criminals and perverts are men, by what standard should only men have to tolerate them in their supposedly private spaces?

    Regardless of how they sort out the details of this pressing issue of national urgency, I think that having only women's restrooms, but no men's restrooms is a bad idea, as it will lead to callused civil disobedience of the sort described here.

    Or this.

    unisexdumpster.jpg

    I gotta go.

    UPDATE (6/05/10): Wow, I was gone all day and only now I'm seeing these great comments.

    Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all!

    Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 11:37 AM | Comments (23)




    Online Effort

    Riehl World View is discussing why the GOP online efforts will fail. One commenter is looking for:

    a leader that embraces conservatism instead of power.
    That will never happen until the majority of the "conservative" base gives up on social engineering. i.e. really embraces small government instead of paying it lip service.In the meantime we will see the pendulum swing back and forth between the social engineers of the right and those of the left.

    In my opinion the absolute BIGGEST MISTAKE RR made was getting involved in the Culture War. i.e. amping up the Drug War.

    Culture is the responsibility of the people NOT the government.

    It would be nice if we had two parties competing on the basis of more Liberty rather than more Control. What are the odds? It goes against nature for one thing. Some people crave power and control. Heck. I'm one of them (don't elect me - ever), but I channel that desire into something useful. Electrical power systems. Electrons go where they are told - mostly.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:58 PM | Comments (1)



    Just what we need

    The situation in the Mideast is really looking ugly, and I think Allison Kaplan Summer (who has been quoted by Glenn Reynolds and David Bernstein), but it best:

    "Israel appears to have stepped directly into a trap of a carefully planned suicide mission dressed up in the clothing of a humanitarian effort."
    And what a trap.Things are escalating, dramatically, as we speak.

    Turkey is threatening to go to war with Israel, and Turkey is a NATO member (with all the mutual defense obligations that entails). Moreover, we have a pacifistic president who also happens to be the most anti-Israel president in history. As Donald Sensing Daniel Jackson at Sense of Events put it,

    this will be his FIRST disaster that will be clearly his own fault. Way to go, Dude.
    A perfect storm.

    UPDATE: I mistakenly confused Daniel Jackson with Donald Sensing. My apologies. Mistake corrected above.

    posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (8)




    Skank: "Any substance considered particularly foul"

    Joy McCann (who writes Little Miss Attila -- a blog I have enjoyed for years), is being subjected to legal attacks for criticizing a man many people would consider religious crackpot and cult leader, one R.L. Hymers.

    Let me begin by saying that I never heard of R.L. Hymers until today! Perhaps I don't keep up with these things as I should, but seeing an old blogosphere friend under attack for exercising her First Amendment rights made me want to learn about the attacker.

    It wasn't hard. Just perusing his Wiki page, I learned more than I wanted to learn.

    Hymers became known for a series of provocative anti-abortion demonstrations in the early 1980s. He recounts in his 2000 book, Battle for the Bible in the 21st Century, that he became deeply concerned about the millions of abortions in America during a discussion with Francis A. Schaeffer, a leading theologian, on January 20, 1981 in Schaeffer's living room, as they watched Ronald Reagan's inauguration. [18] According to Hymers, Schaeffer blamed abortion on the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Five years later, in June 1, 1986, Hymers called on his parishioners to pray for God to remove Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan from his seat on the court by death. On the same day, his church, the Baptist Tabernacle, chartered a plane that trailed a banner reading "Pray for Death: Baby killer Brennan." [19] This resulted in the Los Angeles Times referring to him as a "Death-Prayer Pastor."[20] Hymers later apologized for this prayer and said, "I wish I had not done that and I would never do it again."[2] He maintains, however, a strong commitment to the pro-life movement, and continues to write against abortion, which he has compared to Hitler's Holocaust. [14]

    Hymers' other most well known demonstrations occurred after he read the The Last Temptation of Christ, the book upon which the controversial movie was based; he felt that the film would be an attack on orthodox Christian belief concerning Christ.[9] Hymers led two demonstrations against the movie: The first included about 200 of his followers, and occurred at Universal Studios; it featured a small plane overhead that carried a banner proclaiming, "Wasserman Fans Jew-Hatred W/Temptation."[21] The second protest occurred in front of the home of Lew Wasserman, the head of Universal, and featured a passion play in which a blood-soaked Jesus knelt down under the weight of a large cross; another actor played "Wasserman," and stepped on him repeatedly, holding the Christ-figure down with his foot. Meanwhile, another plane appeared overhead, trailing the same banner about Wasserman, while the crowd chanted about the film being "bankrolled by Jewish money."

    Reading that alone was enough to convince me that the guy is a loon. I vaguely remembered the praying for the death of Brennan business, but now I know the guy's name, and more.

    In her blog, Joy McCann states that she was unlucky enough to fall for his cultish outfit when she was very young, and she simply wants to warn others -- as it is her right to do.

    When I was in Hymers' cult it preyed on teenagers, and the lonely. His followers went door to door, flushing out those who might have any sort of emptiness in their lives, and offering human companionship at what probably looked like a real church. He rented houses and apartments under the church's name and let teenagers and twenty-somethings live in them dorm-style for very little in rent--paid weekly. It made it easy for these young people to leave their familes and practice the "total immersion" 24/7 approach to Church life that made it less likely that anyone--especially impressionable youths--would pull away. This brand of "Christianity" separated the individual from his or her work, family, studies, or other commitments. When I lived this life I was in a prayer meeting or Bible study every single night of the week. As the weekend began we had a large, rowdy prayer meeting on Friday night, followed by door-to-door prosylytizing on Saturday, and a marathon of services on Sunday: one on the Westside in the morning, one in Hollywood around noon, and one in Echo Park in the evening.

    How did I pull away? you ask. I got mononucleosis. Without the indoctrination, I could see very clearly why this organization was an unsuitable place for me to spend my time and money at the age of 14.

    She's lucky she saw through it when she did, and I don't blame her for warning others.

    No doubt that's why Rymers and company are threatening her with legal action, and charging her with "cyber-bullying." [Bracketed comments are those of Joy McCann.]

    To further frighten and harass my father, two days before his sixty-ninth birthday, Ms. McCann posted the words, "I don't pray for Hymers' death." It is this kind of speech that frightens my father and our whole family. What does she mean, "I don't pray for Hymers' death"? Why does she consistently [consistently? Huh?] talk about my father's death? Why does she show a picture of herself with a pistol next to a blog posting about him? [it's all about him.] Why does she obsessively attack my father for something she says occurred when she was 14 years old, a third of a century ago? I fear that she will soon attack him in a violent way. She calls her pistol "Bathsheba," which is the name of a biblical character that had sexual relations with King David. Ms. McCann said, "I love that revolver." I fear that she is stalking my father and may shoot him.

    [JWM here: Valium is your friend. Word.]

    She has been led on by [D.R.] and [J.S.K.], and their hate group, of which she is a member, "RLHymers-watcher." On the front of this website they call my father "the Fuehrer." The group's stated purpose is "to oppose Hymers and the Hymerites" (statements quoted from the front page of their website). [D.R.] and [J.S.K.] have led Joy Whittemore McCann into these threats and acts of "cyber-bullying" against my father, and that they are in fact in league with her in stalking my father, and have encouraged her to do so. They even held a meeting with her and other members of this group in [J.S.K.'s] house, according to one of the members who was present and later told us about it. I am requesting that the FBI enter this closed "religious hate" site and review the posted material, since I am afraid that some of the members are conspiring to attack my father (http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/rlhymers-watcher). I am also requesting that the FBI monitor the contents of this site periodically to deter them from an act of violence against my father. [Oh, that would be fun for the special agents: months of silence, and then a spirited debate over Green Acres vs. Petticoat Junction. And then the ongoing knock-on-and-drag-out over whether it would be worth it for Household X to buy a turntable, so the members thereof could listen to their vinyl records. Our taxpayer dollars at work!]

    Well let me just add to the "threats" and say that I don't pray for R.L.Hymers' death either! I'm not in the habit of praying for people to die -- no matter how loony I think they are.

    What bothers me about the threat of legal action is that there are emerging trends in the laws that enable this sort of abuse of process, so that causes of action for "cyber-bullying," "cyber-stalking," or "cyber-harassment" are increasingly being filed by anyone who dislikes being criticized online. I think the standard should be considerably higher. Stalking means invading someone's space, and that cannot be done at a blog which is located somewhere else. No matter what I say about someone here, it is not "stalking" -- for the simple reason that no one has to come here. If you don't like what I say, don't read it.

    R.L.Hymers reminds me of Liskula Cohn -- that New York "model" whose name became so permanently associated with the word "skank" that if you start Googling "Liskula Cohen" the word "skank" pops right up:

    hymers_cohen_skankfest_s.jpg

    Hymers ought to be more careful.

    As Glenn put it, "IT'S SELDOM A GOOD IDEA to send legal threats to bloggers."

    I think it's downright skanky.

    posted by Eric at 11:28 AM | Comments (4)




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