Nate Silver is discussing Democrat prospects for this coming November (bad and getting worse) and says the results are overdetermined.

...there is reason to be skeptical of two types of analyses: those that claim that Factor X definitely isn't contributing to the Democrats' troubles, and those that assert that it definitely is. For instance, I'd urge some caution in reading this article at Real Clear Politics by Jay Cost -- which rightly critiques those who have entirely dismissed the role that health care played in the Democrats' decline, but probably goes too far in trying to argue the contrary. Mr. Cost is right, for instance, that the Democrats' polling decline was steepest during last summer, when health care began to be debated -- but when one delves in a little deeper, the timing of the sharpest periods of decline do not line up very well with specific events in the health care debate.

Does that mean Mr. Cost is wrong? Not at all. Health care dominated the political discourse for about nine months; it seems implausible that it hasn't played some role. But he hasn't offered much in the way of proof -- nor is there much of it to be had: overdetermined phenomena usually beget underdetermined attempts to explain them.

If the results are overdetermined doesn't that mean that the Democrats have a LOT of changing to do?

.i.e. I'm a voter who hates the Health Care Bill and TARP. I only have one vote for two issues. So to get my vote you have to head in a different direction in TWO places.

I don't think the Democrats are constitutionally suited for the changes they need to make. Either the disease or the cure is likely to kill them.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

The Happy Now

Instapundit called this "a disturbing photo essay" when linking to it a couple of weeks back.

It did disturb me, but perhaps not in the way me he meant it to. (No, I'm not sure. It never does to second guess Glenn Reynold's intentions.)

What disturbed me more than the pictures was the tone of the post which seemed to - universally - assume that "then" was better than now.

This romantic fallacy, the idea that the past was "simpler" or somehow "cleaner" or "nicer" seems to be part of how humans are built. And it is almost always a hundred percent wrong.

Let me start at the top. First, the "then" pictures are not the same as the "now" pictures. No, not in the obvious way, but in the nature of the shots. The "then" pictures are all, without exception, posed, even those that don't look it. Trust me on this. I grew up in the sixties and seventies, in a society where few people owned a camera, film was expensive and developing film even more expensive. There is a reason why I - a tomboy in t-shirt and shorts - only have childhood pictures in pretty dresses and holding dolls. This was my mother's idea of what I should wear and how I should spend my time, and by gum, that's what we'd show the camera.

Need I tell you that nowadays you can use your phone and take pictures when people aren't even aware of it? I hope not. At least not if you're living in the same universe.

So, what is being compared is the "image" someone wanted to project to candid shots. That's the first issue - and let us pause and be grateful for the material wealth and tech progress that allows us to capture candid shots of men outside Walmart, before we move on.

Let's move right on to the picture of the people saying grace before the barbecue dinner. Do you see how all the men are dressed more or less alike? All the women are in their Sunday best? This while they're having fun, mind. And they're ALL saying grace. (read more...)

Continue reading "The Happy Now"

posted by Sarah at 09:01 PM | Comments (18)

inartful phrasing or hidden meaning?

As the idea of government health care becomes ever more unpopular with the taxpayers, the federal government's top health care bureaucrat has issued a statement which is at least insensitive, and (in light of the word used) quite possibly inflammatory:

As a widely-watched survey shows support for the new health care reform law slipping, the leader in the reform effort says the administration has "a lot of reeducation to do" to reverse the trend.

The poll, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows more Americans now oppose the reform law than favor it, 45 percent to 43 percent, reflecting a seven-point drop in support from the organization's last survey, released in late July.

Since the law's passage in late March, the monthly Kaiser survey has been highlighted by backers of health care reform as evidence of increasing support for the measures, as it suggested a slight upward tick in the number of Americans embracing the reforms -- rising as high as 50 percent in last month's poll. Now, much of the gains have been erased.

The current survey shows only 39 percent of Americans believe the country will be "better off" under the health care reforms, a new low in this poll. Slightly more than half of those questioned say they're disappointed in the new law.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken in July, 50 percent of Americans disapproved of the president's handling of health care, with 45 percent saying they approved. Those who disapproved did so more strongly than those who favored the Obama administration's actions.

In an interview before the latest Kaiser results were released, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told ABC News that the sustained opposition to the Democrats' health care reform efforts has mainly been a function of "misinformation."

"Unfortunately there still is a great deal of confusion about what is in [the reform law] and what isn't," Sebelius told ABC News Radio on Monday.

With several vulnerable House Democrats now touting their votes against the bill, and Republicans running on repeal of the law, Sebelius said "misinformation given on a 24/7 basis" has led to the enduring opposition nearly six months after the lengthy debate ended in Congress.

"We have a lot of reeducation to do," Sebelius said.

I cannot think of a more inappropriate choice of words than to characterize government health care opponents as in need of "reeducation."

The word has several definitions:

* A euphemism for Brainwashing, efforts aimed at instilling certain beliefs in people against their will
* Reeducation through labor, also called laojiao, a form of penal detention in China; or the Soviet gulags for "re-education of class enemies" and reintegrating them through labor into the Soviet society
* Rehabilitation, therapy to remove or restore a habit or condition, usually medical or penal
* Adult education, education for adults
* Re-Education (Through Labor) a single by punk rock band Rise Against from their 2008 album Appeal to Reason
I think we can rule out the last three meanings, which leaves the first two. "Reeducation" is a Marxist phrase, and for someone to use such a phrase in the context of opponents of socialism is, well, sinister.

Couldn't she have said they are in need of "education"? While that would have been condescending (as it implies that people who dissent are ignorant), at least it doesn't have the unmistakable totalitarian ring that "reeducation" does.

Of course, this may be a job pitch of some sort. We already have a Department of Education (headed by a man called the Education Czar); perhaps the next step is the creation of a Department of Reeducation, with a Reeducation Czar commanding an army of reeducrats.

But I guess that's not in the Constitution, so we don't have to worry that they'd ever do such a thing.

posted by Eric at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

If Ann Coulter is now a RINO, can I take my checkers and go home?

In what I think is a very important post titled "Ideological War Spells Doom for America's Schoolkids," Zombie touches on an issue near and dear to my heart which I have ranted about for many years. That is the way the culture war tends to be exacerbated by increasingly extreme ideological positions at both ends.

As I keep saying, they fuel each other, and drive normal people away, leaving the playing field to themselves.

I won't live forever, and because of the nature of repetitive blogging, it sometimes feels as if I am preaching to a choir consisting of myself. (See my long collection of posts in "Sinners and scolds, feasting together in a cornucopia of collusion!") So nothing makes me happier than seeing an articulate blogger like Zombie saying what he is saying:

In one camp are conservative Christians and their champion, the Texas State Board of Education; in the other are politically radical multiculturalists and their de facto champion, President Barack Obama. The two competing visions couldn't be more different. And the stakes couldn't be higher. Unfortunately, whichever side wins -- your kid ends up losing.

That's because this war is for the power to dictate what our children are taught -- and, by extension, how future generations of Americans will view the world. Long gone are the days when classrooms were for learning: now each side sees the public school system as a vast indoctrination camp in which future culture-warriors are trained. The problem is, two diametrically opposed philosophies are struggling for supremacy, and neither is willing to give an inch, so the end result is extremism, no matter which side temporarily comes out on top.

Both visions are grotesque and unacceptable -- and yet they are currently the only two choices on the national menu.

Please read it all.

That this is happening in America is just awful. I have tried to joke about how the obsession with things like condoms on bananas serve as a distraction from whether children are getting a basic education.

The process is fueled by the unbearable old "you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem!" meme. Here's Zombie:

Innumerable liberal critics condemn the anti-science and partisan revisionist lunacy coming out of the Texas school board meetings. And you know what? The criticisms hit home. It's next to impossible for a sensible person to defend the TSBE's often ridiculous proposals.

On the other side of the fence, you'll find countless conservative pundits and angry parents increasingly outraged by the ever-escalating political correctness and equally egregious (but mirror-image) historical revisionism which dominates public schooling away from the Texas sphere of influence. And you know what? They're right too. Left-wing activists have basically taken control of the educational system and have for years been brazenly transforming it into a training ground for young radicals.

But what you won't find is anyone willing to say that BOTH sides are unacceptable. (Until now, that is. I'm saying it.) Either you're on the left and you bash the Texas standards, or you're on the right and you bemoan the progressive curriculum. Each published criticism only tells half the story, so the argument never goes anywhere, since each side refuses to even acknowledge the points made by the opposition.

The worst part is the way the two sides help each other win, by freezing out everyone else. So they end up engaged in a ridiculous tug of war, and the result is mutual enablement -- in this case a hodgepodge of Foucault multiculturalist drivel and Falwell anti-intellectual idiotarianism. Hey, but if those are the only "choices" because no one can stand being in the same room with shrill advocates, then the result is a triumph of the combined forces of authoritarian idiocy.

Another example of the way the shrillest of culture war nuts drown out common sense is over the gay issue. And I do not mean the debate over gay marriage.

For many years, I have tried to point out here that here is something that the gay left and the anti-gay right very much want in common:

anti-gay bigotry in the Republican Party.

Yet the majority of Republicans (and the majority I have seen in the Tea Party movement) are by no means anti-gay. Sure, they don't support the gay left and its ridiculous demands, and many disapprove of gay marriage, but where it comes to basic lifestyle tolerance -- simple acknowledgment of gays as citizens with a right to be left alone in their bedrooms, the overwhelming majority of conservatives have no argument with that. However, an increasingly noisy group of anti-gay conservative activists does have a major argument with that. They do not believe in tolerance for gays on any level, and they think gay conservatives are a "fifth column." They shrilly attack conservatives who disagree with them and call them "RINOS" not for being RINOS -- but simply for being insufficiently anti-gay, and for not toeing the line of the anti-gay right. Even Ann Coulter -- who is about as conservative as it is possible to be -- has now incurred their wrath. Why? Simply because she agreed to speak to a group of gay conservatives. Anti-gay leader Brian Camenker was apoplectic, and WorldNetDaily retaliated by canceling her appearance at their "Taking America Back" conference -- but Coulter didn't exactly take that lying down.

The mechanics operate in the same manner that Zombie describes in his post about education. Just as you're given the choice of being an anti-gay bigot or a homo-loving RINO, you also have to be either a Darwin hater or a Marxist multiculturalist!

Ditto abortion. The more extreme the activists get in their demands, the less likely reasonable people are to be heard. But I am repeating myself. Again.

I am hardly alone in noticing that like-minded, single-issue activists often associate with -- and tend to exclusively surround themselves with -- other like-minded, single-issue activists. The result is what many call an echo chamber -- or "the choir." But I think "echo chamber" and "choir" are less than accurate terms, because the implication is that people are simply getting together and agreeing with each other in groups. When group dynamics are factored into single issue fanaticism, a lot more happens than mere group agreement. Because people are naturally competitive, many activists want to prove to the group that they are not only devoted to the cause, but more devoted than the others. This leads to extreme hyperbole, and the taking of positions which normal people would consider laughable.
So the normal people tend to leave these people to have the playing field to themselves.

This is a big mistake. Normal people possessed of common sense need to be speaking up. But few will dare cross an ideologically extreme activist.

Which is why my hat's off to Zombie.

UPDATE (9/02/10): Wow, thanks everyone for all the great comments! And thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for linking this post!

(I've been outa comish the past couple of days, and I guess the title of this post reflects it....)

posted by Eric at 08:44 PM | Comments (56)

It Is More Like Prostitution

I an article on age discrimination in the high tech industries a commenter came up with this analogy.



Actually to me the software industry appears to have more in common with prostitution.

1. Time is money.

2. You can't be choosy about customers.

3. Everybody wants you on your back with your legs up.

4. Getting older and more experienced is not necessarily a positive development.

My advice? If you are good - become a contractor. No one cares about your age. Just if you can do your job.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:44 PM | Comments (0)

say what?

Sorry not to have had anything to say today. I've been swamped with errands, and poor Coco (who has been inexplicably sick) had to be taken to the vet for innumerable tests. She has an acute GI infection and according to the vet she is so filled with gas that they're going to have to pump her full of barium. No idea what caused it, but I worry that it had something to do with the late-night skunk encounters I mentioned previously, because her energy levels have been waning since. They don't think that a toxin is responsible, though, so I'm clueless.

Surely, there is something going on in the world. But what?

How about a "comment" that got nine passengers thrown off a plane? CNN won't say what it was.

(CNN) -- Nine passengers aboard a plane at Dulles International Airport were removed before takeoff due to a comment made to a crew member Sunday night, a United Airlines spokeswoman said.

Megan McCarthy told CNN she had no information early Monday morning about the nature of the comment. She said United employees came to the gate, spoke with the crew and then spoke with the passengers taken off the plane.

Naturally, the commenters are irate.


"Megan McCarthy told CNN she had no information early Monday morning about the nature of the comment. "....I smell COVERUP! Great reporting, CNN!...next up...what's for lunch, and what exaclty is that stuff on my winshield anyway?
And here's deb8891:
Uh....ok. Can I get a hint about the comment? Can we play 21 questions so I can try and guess the category of the comment? Did all nine passengers say the comment all at one time? Was it yelled? Are the nine people denying they said whatever was said? WHAT DID THEY SAY?!?!?!!?
In today's world, you are not allowed to know what it is you are not allowed to say!

That's the way it is around here.

I never know what I am not allowed to say, or when I am not allowed to say it. I never know what I am not allowed to not say, or when I am not allowed to not say it, so I have to rely on commenters to tell me what I said that I should not have said, and what I have not said that I should have said.

I also never know when I am going to be accused of saying what I didn't say, and of not saying what I did say!

It's comforting to know that there's always an inexhaustible supply.

posted by Eric at 02:09 PM | Comments (6)

Being polite can be dangerous

I just had a rather unsettling experience while running (from which I just got back), and were I a superstitious person, I'd be convinced that I'd had a "premonition" beforehand.

For no particular reason (other than the fact that the thought just popped into my head), just before the run I recalled a legal ("equitable estoppel") doctrine I learned about decades ago in California when I was doing personal injury work. It's the "lulled into a false sense of security" doctrine, stated this way in Carruth v. Fritch (1950) 36 Cal.2d 426, 433 [224 P.2d 702, 24 A.L.R.2d 1403].):

"One cannot justly or equitably lull his adversary into a false sense of security, and thereby cause his adversary to subject his claim to the bar of the statute of limitations, and then be permitted to plead the very delay caused by his course of conduct as a defense to the action when brought."
We used to use it as a way to overcome statutes of limitation, various dismissals, and all kinds of things. It's sort of a catchall, although it doesn't always work.

Why this would pop into my head before my run, I do not know. Had it not been for an accident in which a car came so close to hitting me that I had to jump out of the way, I would have dismissed it as just a passing random memory. I suspect that what makes people think these passing thoughts are "premonitions" is when something happens latter which reminds them of the otherwise passing thought.

Onto what later reminded me of my "false sense of security" "premonition." I was running on the sidewalk beside a major, heavily-trafficked through street, when a car leaving a driveway crossed the sidewalk directly in front of me. I made eye contact with the driver, who looked like a nice guy. Polite, even. So, while I could have run in front of his car (I generally prefer to run behind cars that are moving forward), without slowing down, I veered sharply to the right, where I could run behind him. No biggie, just being polite. And it seemed to me that he accelerated to get out of my way, as if acknowledging my politeness by hurrying out of the way. Normally, neither of these acts of mutual politeness would have been a big deal. Quickly forgettable.

Except, no sooner did he accelerate into the street than there was that instant, high decibel BLAM! sound of a car crash, and at the same time, the poor guy's car (which had been struck very hard by a car coming from the left) was thrown in a huge 270 degree arc, sending it over the curb, then onto the sidewalk and the yard, until it was coming directly towards me! I had just heard the noise and was still in the process of stopping my run, and I had to jump out of the way or else I would have been hit.

The next thing I noticed was smoke inside the now-stopped car that had been going straight. Both cars had serious front end damage, and the passenger door of the car in the street was opened by a man who was rubbing his jaw in pain. Both airbags had deployed, and the woman behind the wheel looked dazed and confused. I didn't have my cell phone, but I asked if everyone was all right. Then I saw that the driveway driver had pulled out his cell phone, and they didn't need me for anything, so I resumed my run.

While I did nothing wrong, I felt a little guilty for not doing the impolite thing, and running in front of the guy's car. Had I done so, he might have thought I was a pushy jogger, but there would have been no accident.

I didn't lull him into a false sense of security, of course, and in any event that doctrine does not apply to accidents. He was supposed to look before entering the street, although I think the other driver had to be going well above the speed limit to do that kind of damage. Even if I had waved him through (as if to give him the right of way -- which I didn't, nor would I, as I couldn't see cars traveling behind me), he could not rely on that.

Still, I felt bad, because I was just being polite, and I hated to see people harmed -- even as an indirect result.

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

"born that way"? Says who?

As I pondered the comments to an earlier post about transsexualism and added one of my own, I remembered a snarky remark I heard yesterday about the religious aspect of the issue. A man making a speech cited Jesus Christ as being in support of his view that transsexualism is wrong. I thought that was odd, because the closest Jesus ever came to the subject was in his puzzling mention of eunuchs during what seems like a condemnation of divorce:

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'[a] 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'[a]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

11 Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage[a]because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

In the ancient world, there were plenty of man-made eunuchs, and I guess Jesus considered them incapable of marriage (and probably not bound by whatever restrictions might be placed on divorce). But what can he have meant by those who are "eunuchs because they were born that way"?

This has generated a lot of debate, and predictably, it has been postulated that Jesus might have been referencing exclusively homosexual men, or possibly intersexed people. The "third sex," perhaps? Hermaphroditism is hardly modern, and many ancient definitions of "eunuch" were broad enough to include a variety of categories considered less than fully male.

So, the meaning would probably depend on the typical and commonly understood usage of the word "eunuch" in his day. Being no biblical scholar, I can't offer any kind of authoritative opinion.

But I think it's interesting that Jesus would say that people who were "born that way" are not subject to what he was saying about marriage and divorce. Born what way? Born without actual testicles? (That is such a rare medical condition that it seems unlikely as an interpretation.) Perhaps he meant born with an innate inability to consummate marriage. Was Jesus saying it was possible to be born with intact male genitalia yet unable to consummate marriage? Because of something occurring before birth?

The King James Version does not say "born that way," but puts it a little differently:

But he said unto them, All [men] cannot receive this saying, save [they] to whom it is given.

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive [it], let him receive [it].

It's hard to know exactly what is meant. And while it's not a major point, I'm hardly seeing the strong condemnation of transsexuals or intersexed persons said to emanate from Jesus.

I guess these things are always subject to interpretation.

(Especially the comparison of divorce to adultery!)

posted by Eric at 01:55 PM | Comments (6)

Interesting dichotomy

Glenn Reynolds mentioned the "overwhelmingly white" meme, and malcontent that I am, I just had to click. The first link went to a story with the following "headline" (more editorial than headline, really):

"Tea Party rally big on God, short on colour"
If they were interested in mathematical balance, you'd think they could have at least mentioned that there are innumerable churches which are big on both.

To say nothing of certain houses of incestuous worship that are notoriously small on both.

I'm feeling overwhelmingly underwhelmed.

posted by Eric at 12:15 AM | Comments (1)

No herding these cats

The Tea Party has been likened to herding cats, and I think that's a good (if sometimes exhausting) thing.

M. Simon sent me a link to a local writeup of what is being called a Tea Party takeover of the GOP here in the Ann Arbor area. The piece also refers to an Idaho "coalition of tea party members, Ron Paul disciples and old-guard conservatives" -- exactly the sort of coalition which has arisen here.

What is local is also national news.

Party bosses are pissed. The cats are rising.

It is not perfect. The cats have disagreements, and there is no herding them.

Yet there is a bottom line which frightens the hell out of those in power.

It is true that cats can't be herded. But when they do find areas of agreement, the result is not a herd, but a pack.

Unlike dogs (which I frankly prefer to cats, but hell, there's a limit to my anthropomorphism), cats aren't especially known for being pack animals.

And so, when they do agree, look out. I just got back from a couple of days in Lansing, where I was one of the Tea Party affiliated Convention Delegates at the Republican State Convention mentioned in the Post.

I am exhausted (in fact, I was so busy that I forgot to wish Glenn Reynolds a Happy Birthday), so please forgive the lack of intricate detail in this post.

I spent my time with people who are to the left of me on some issues, people to the right of me on some issues, and some people I disagree with vehemently. (The cowardly, opportunistic cheap shots at the expense of transsexuals typified here really piss me off, OK?) The Detroit News fairly describes the Convention as "rowdy," which is fair.

Cats. With a common goal. (Well, sometimes more somewhat common than common.)

I think it's good that they can't be herded.

Where is it written that they should be?

posted by Eric at 11:32 PM | Comments (1)

Who Are These Peopole?

H/T Jccarlton Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:34 PM | Comments (3)

Surviving In A War Zone

I was reading a post about economic collapse, H/T Instapundit, and the handle of the guy making the following comment got my attention. Then I read deeper.

by Gully Foyle
on Thu, 08/26/2010 - 17:24

In addition to the Argentinian survivor post above.


From a Sarajevo War Survivor:
Experiencing horrible things that can happen in a war - death of parents and
friends, hunger and malnutrition, endless freezing cold, fear, sniper attacks.

1. Stockpiling helps. but you never no how long trouble will last, so locate
near renewable food sources.
2. Living near a well with a manual pump is like being in Eden.
3. After awhile, even gold can lose its luster. But there is no luxury in war
quite like toilet paper. Its surplus value is greater than gold's.
4. If you had to go without one utility, lose electricity - it's the easiest to
do without (unless you're in a very nice climate with no need for heat.)
5. Canned foods are awesome, especially if their contents are tasty without
heating. One of the best things to stockpile is canned gravy - it makes a lot of
the dry unappetizing things you find to eat in war somewhat edible. Only needs
enough heat to "warm", not to cook. It's cheap too, especially if you buy it in
6. Bring some books - escapist ones like romance or mysteries become more
valuable as the war continues. Sure, it's great to have a lot of survival
guides, but you'll figure most of that out on your own anyway - trust me, you'll
have a lot of time on your hands.
7. The feeling that you're human can fade pretty fast. I can't tell you how many
people I knew who would have traded a much needed meal for just a little bit of
toothpaste, rouge, soap or cologne. Not much point in fighting if you have to
lose your humanity. These things are morale-builders like nothing else.
8. Slow burning candles and matches, matches, matches


I would advise that you don't keep everything that you have in one location. I was forced to leave my house and take off with just my backpack and weapon. If you can, keep a bug out bag [cached] a few miles away from your house so that you could go to it, if you are forced to abandon your residence. Be prepared to not return to your home for years and try to have another place to live in another part of the country or even some other country. I was not able to go back to my home until years later. Stash as much ammo in different locations as you can. I did not have enough ammo in the first place and whatever I had was used or traded within first month of me leaving my home. Ammo was good trading currency and could get you a meal at any time. Local paper currency was basically worthless but if you had foreign currency, then you were in better shape. At that time German Mark was most popular currency in Europe and could get you anything in former Yugoslavia during the war. The Gold and Silver were good to have but it was harder to find someone that would accept gold and silver as form of payment .

People that lived in big towns also had their share of problems. If they lived in apartment buildings, they were dependent on central heat and when the things started to go bad, there was no more fuel to heat these apartments. Not that many people had wood burning stoves and the winters in Eastern Europe can get really cold. I would advise that if you don't have a wood burning stove, to get one and store it somewhere until you need it. You will need it not just for heat but also for cooking. The people that had stoves or were able to obtain them or make them then had another problem, getting the firewood. If you live inside of city that is surrounded and you can't just go outside of city and cut some trees down, obtaining firewood can become your daily battle for survival. Burning your furniture, books, park benches, trees from the parks and every other tree that you can find will be normal. I would advise that if you are going to have a stove either store at least one winter supply of firewood (if you have a place to store it at) or have a plan where you get that firewood when you need it. Another issue that people from the cities faced was the shortage of water. Some people ended up digging wells in the courtyard of their apartment buildings but majority of people who tried this were unsuccessful since they were digging where there was not water or old city utilities were under the places where they tried to dig. Most of the people were forced to make daily runs to water points and bringing the water back to their families. Water points were favorite targets for snipers. Having extra water jugs will help you minimize your visits to water points.

Since this is my first post, I will not make it too long and will stop here until the next time. - A Bosnian Survivor

For those of you not familiar with the Gully Foyle reference may I highly recommend:

The Stars My Destination (S.F.Masterworks)

I own three copies.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Happy Birthday Glenn

My friend Eric just called me this morning with a bad case of blogger withdrawal syndrome. He is at the Michigan Republican Party Convention representing the anarcho wing of the Tea Party. So he says. He also said that there are about 700 delegates openly favoring the Tea Party out of about 2,000 total. And the Republican Party establishment is pissed. Why not? The Tea Party movement intends a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. So the usual political maneuverings are going on. Rules changes being on the top of the list of holding actions.

Well as I said Eric was disturbed. He forgot to wish Instapundit a happy birthday yesterday. My guess is that Glenn is 29 or 39 going on 19. But he is going to have a ways to go to catch up with me. My mate tells me I am 65 going on 17. Well. Any way.

Happy Birthday Glenn

Help Glenn out by buying his book:

An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths

Which seems rather appropriate under the circumstances.

posted by Simon at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

Just what Michigan needs now -- a bathroom litmus test!

Much as it tires me to discuss it, some people are insistent on making the transgender issue into another one of those stupid political litmus tests. Candidates for Secretary of State are being asked to take positions on the vital issue whether transgendered individuals should be allowed to have the sex on their drivers licenses changed from M to F or from F to M.

According to this article, the issue was injected into the race by Paul Scott:

Gary Glenn, leader of a Midland-based anti-gay group, believes Lewis' license should still bear an "M" instead of an "F."

The issue could become a political hot potato in this year's campaign to replace Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who is leaving office because of term limits.

The Secretary of State sets the policy that decides when and if a person can change the gender designation on his or her driver's license.

The issue surfaced recently when Paul Scott, a Republican candidate for Secretary of State, announced that one of his top priorities will be to "ensure transgender individuals will not be allowed to change the sex on their driver's license in any circumstance."

That drew objections from the transgender community, which asked why Scott would raise an issue that has been settled since 2005.

"Harm will only come from changing this rule, and this rule is causing no harm at this time," said Lewis.

Lewis argued people whose driver's licenses do not reflect their gender are in danger of being mistreated. In some cases, their treatment needs have been ignored by paramedics or they have been abused by police officers, she said.

Scott, a state representative from Grand Blanc, said he did not intend to provoke controversy. His pledge to deny gender change requests "may have been inartful," he said.

"I just wanted people to know what my position on the issue is," he said. "If I am elected, I will follow Michigan and federal law."

Well, if he did not intend to provoke controversy, he certainly has. He continues to push the issue, and as a matter of fact it came up at a meeting of State Convention Delegates last night. (Scott, by the way, was a leading proponent and sponsor of Michigan's smoking ban.)

While I find the transgender debate annoying (and personally, the idea of such surgery gives me the creeps), I think that if someone is that unhappy with his or her sex as to go through surgery and hormones to become a member of the opposite sex, the state has absolutely no business interfering. Saying "NO" to a bona fide request to change someone's sex on a drivers license strikes me as unreasonably petty and downright mean.

Moreover, what a drivers license says has absolutely nothing to do with "protecting bathrooms." An objection raised last night involved the use of rest rooms by members of the opposite sex, and it was pointed out quite eloquently that if someone looks like a woman, that person is most likely going to use the women's rest room, and if the person looks like a man, the men's room. What do the people who are freaking out want to do? Have bathroom ID checkers at the doors? And even if they did such a ridiculous thing, suppose the bathroom police discover that someone who looks for the world like a woman is actually a man. What then? Do the activists want to force this man who looks like a woman to use the men's room? Precisely what social goal is that supposed to advance? Protecting children? How is a child more protected by seeing someone who looks like a woman using the men's room than a woman's room?

Can anyone explain? I'm all ears.

It strikes me that because transgendered people are going to use public bathrooms, social decorum and common sense should dictate that they use the bathrooms most appropriate to the sex that they resemble. If the state starts insisting that persons born male who look and act like women are stuck with legally remaining men, and persons born female who look and act like men are stuck with remain legally female, the results might be very different than what they had in mind.

To illustrate the nature of the problem, I just Googled "transsexual" and decided to use the first picture that came up.

It's a girl named Kim who used to be a guy named Tim:



So can someone please explain what's "conservative" about wanting her in the men's room?

A hell of a way to run a litmus test.

posted by Eric at 03:01 PM | Comments (10)

A Cheech and Chong litmus test? Later alligator!

In local news, the Oakland County Sheriff's Department has been conducting raids on medical marijuana sellers.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Narcotics Enforcement team raided three businesses and 12 homes Wednesday and confiscated marijuana, $30,000 in cash, guns, grow lights, patient records and two guard alligators, authorities said Thursday.

Prosecutors contend the operators of Clinical Relief in Ferndale and Everybody's Caf;é and Herbal Remedies, both in Waterford, were exceeding the number of people they could supply with medicinal marijuana and providing the drug to people without proper documentation.

"You can't sell to anybody but five designated patients," Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said Thursday at a news conference. A two-month investigation found the establishments were selling to dozens, she said.

"This is Michigan. This is not a Cheech and Chong movie," Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said.


Bouchard and Cooper contend the operators of the three establishments went far outside the law's scope, selling pot to people lacking medical documentation and in some cases, to undercover officers.

The sheriff said some of the people purchasing pot at the dispensaries were there because of "sore shoulders and stomachaches," conditions not covered by the law.

Is it true that "sore shoulders" and "stomach aches" are not covered by the law? Here's the relevant text of the law:
a) "Debilitating medical condition" means 1 or more of the following:

(1) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, nail patella, or the treatment of these conditions.

(2) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces 1 or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

(3) Any other medical condition or its treatment approved by the department, as provided for in section 5(a).

Can chronic pain include "sore shoulders" and "stomach aches"? Can "severe and persistent muscle spasms" include shoulder pain? Are not stomach aches a symptom of nausea?

Are such questions for the police or a doctor? What the law states is that the patients are supposed to be diagnosed with one of these conditions by a doctor:

(h) "Qualifying patient" means a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.
So, if a doctor diagnoses such a condition, the patient can legally obtain the marijuana:
(b) A primary caregiver who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for assisting a qualifying patient to whom he or she is connected through the department's registration process with the medical use of marihuana in accordance with this act, provided that the primary caregiver possesses an amount of marihuana that does not exceed:

(1) 2.5 ounces of usable marihuana for each qualifying patient to whom he or she is connected through the department's registration process; and

(2) for each registered qualifying patient who has specified that the primary caregiver will be allowed under state law to cultivate marihuana for the qualifying patient, 12 marihuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility; and

(3) any incidental amount of seeds, stalks, and unusable roots.

As I read it, if the supplier is limited to "2.5 ounces of usable marihuana for each qualifying patient," and 12 plants, then how much marijuana could be grown or possessed as inventory would depend on the number of patients, and the number of primary caregivers involved.

In that regard, the language of the law is a bit confusing:

(d) The department shall issue a registry identification card to the primary caregiver, if any, who is named in a qualifying patient's approved application; provided that each qualifying patient can have no more than 1 primary caregiver, and a primary caregiver may assist no more than 5 qualifying patients with their medical use of marihuana.
So, it would seem that in order to run a coordinated medical marijuana dispensary, you would need to ensure a five to one ratio between patients and primary caregivers. If, say, there were 100 patients, there would have to be 20 caregivers. Unless there were a common agreement by all caregivers on some sort of collective storage location, that would present obvious inventory control issues. Were I their lawyer, I would advise them to keep careful track of the numbers of patients, and ensure there are enough caretakers with written agreements spelling out the quantities of marijuana allowed on hand. In theory, 100 patients would mean 250 ounces, and 1200 plants.

Thinking about all the paperwork, though, makes me glad I don't smoke pot.

The Drug War is a tired issue for me, and it might not normally be worth a post, but for a couple of things. One is the presence of "guard alligators" allegedly found. (Alligators are nowhere specifically mentioned in the text of the act, although it does mention "locks or other security devices that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient.") The Freep story doesn't say much about them beyond this:

The raids included 13 homes of operators and employees, where much of the marijuana was found. The alligators were found in a home with a large marijuana inventory and were there to guard it, Bouchard said.
How large were they, and why isn't there a picture? I've had experience with alligators, and I can tell you that if you were trying to guard a home or a business, a captive alligator would be a very poor choice of guard animal. They are generally sluggish creatures which tend to become fat and tame in captivity, and the only thing they're interested in is food. A human "invader" would be regarded with complete disinterest unless he waved a rat or a piece of meat at them. Humans are not normal alligator prey, and even though attacks happen occasionally, it would take a very large alligator to actually be capable of preying on a human. While I suppose that there is a slight possibility that a large underfed alligator left in a home might act scary towards an invader, it would not scare me if I were the invader. If I knew it was there, I'd just bring some food. I would not consider my house safe if all I had was an alligator; dogs are infinitely better. So I find myself wondering whether these people just happened to have a couple of alligators and the story was sexed up.

If so, for what possible purpose? Others may disagree with me, but it is my considered opinion based on personal experience with alligators that because they are inherently unreliable, alligators do not constitute "other security devices that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient." So I'm having a bit of trouble understanding what gives here. The law requires the marijuana to be secured, right? Presumably, that means locks, alarms, and maybe guard dogs. Is Sheriff Bouchard contending that the alligators violate the law because they are inadequate security devices? Surely he isn't against providing security devices, because the law requires security devices, and his job is to enforce the law, so perhaps that's what he means. If so, then why doesn't he say so? Stripped of hysteria, it's a fairly straightforward issue: "guard alligators" either are security devices or they are not. The fact that he is calling them "guard alligators" implies that he thinks they were being used as security. If that is the case, then the only issue becomes their adequacy. And even that would be irrelevant if additional security devices "that permit access only by a registered primary caregiver or registered qualifying patient" were present. Which leaves only the issue of the legality of alligators in Michigan. While this Yahoo post is hardly authoritative, it appears that the pet Nazis have not made them illegal.

And they better not! Interestingly, I just saw alligator meat apparently being legally offered for sale at a fair in Ypsilanti last week; I hope the sellers weren't undercover cops trying to entrap me into buying it.

(Sorry for my digression, but I am only trying to analyze what's in the news.)

The other issue I worry about is that Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard was a candidate for governor, and was favored by many in the Tea Party movement, which I support. I saw him speak in Lansing, and I was not particularly impressed. There's an election coming, and I hope these raids don't constitute some sort of political posturing.

But if what I read in The Detroit News is any indication, political posturing might be the whole idea. While there are plenty of accompanying pictures, curiously, there are no alligators. Why? What if it turns out they were harmless baby alligators being sexed up to somehow smear the marijuana dispensaries or titillate voters?

I find some of the additional details about the raid perturbing:

Ryan Richmond, co-owner of Clinical Relief, said he operates a medical marijuana consultation business where certified patients can pick from among 15 to 20 varieties of medical marijuana to take elsewhere for use. Richmond's company also sells edibles: products that contain cannabis, including sodas, suckers and baked goods.

This morning, Richmond said his business partner, Matthew Curtis, and three other employees were in police custody after police raided his business at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

"They had patients on the ground. There were cancer patients on the ground, senior citizens on the ground and staff on the ground. They raided all of our partners' homes while their kids were home. They were taking their TVs like we were drug dealers," Richmond said.

Richmond said police took HIPAA-protected documents, all patient files and TVs from the clinic.

"I am in shock. They have not said why they did this," he said.

Richmond said the company's Lansing store was not raided and was operating this morning.

"Our clinic is empty now. I heard them say they want a test case. That's what a detective said at the store," Richmond said.

A test case? My hope is that this does not degenerate into a liberal versus conservative, Republican versus Democrat issue. Considering that Michigan's Medical Marijuana Initiative passed overwhelmingly, it's a loser for Republicans.

Just to be thorough, I checked the official results for the "State Proposal - 08-1: Legislative initiative to allow under st. law the medical use of marijuana":





The site displays the county results, and I could not find one in which the initiative failed, so this is hardly an urban versus rural issue.

But I guess arguments about the popularity of an issue with the voters are based on practicality as opposed to principles. And on principle, I oppose the Drug War, as I have explained in countless posts. However, where it comes to politics, I am also a pragmatist, so I put aside my principles and end up voting for conservatives who believe in the drug war, generally because I think they're better on economic issues. But still, shouldn't putting aside one's principles be a two way street? If right-leaning libertarians are willing to put aside their principles out of political pragmatism, then shouldn't drug-war conservatives be willing to do the same? Especially when the voters disagree with them?

I realize that many principled conservatives think the drug war is right, but is this "we have to fight the drug war, regardless of what the voters think!" mindset a "principle" so worth fighting for that it's more important than winning elections?

Some maintain that the Tea Party should take a libertarian approach to the Drug war, and Jeffrey Miron makes a good case for it at NRO.

Many Tea Partiers I know do tend towards the libertarian view of the Drug War, but they're too savvy to let it be a litmus test issue, much less a litmus test for conservative principles.

What I would really hate to see would be hard line Drug Warriors like Newt Gingrich (who supports Singapore style death penalty drug laws) try to make it their litmus test.

I hate to say it, but the hard line drug warriors actually make me want to go out and watch a Cheech and Chong movie.

Which would be bad, because I don't especially like Cheech and Chong or other stoner flicks, and I'd hate to become a reactionary.

posted by Eric at 12:34 PM | Comments (1)

Bloomberg's baffling dots defy my powers of analysis!

Every once in awhile, I see something so completely and thoroughly incomprehensible that it defies logical analysis, and a recent statement from New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg about the NYC cabbie-slasher suspect is one of them. It appears that the mayor is trying to connect some dots, and his mental processes leave me feeling dumbfounded. As you read, please remember that this man is the mayor of America's largest city:

NEW YORK - The college student accused of slashing a taxi driver because he's a Muslim has been taken to a New York City psychiatric ward.

Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello says Michael Enright, of Brewster, N.Y., was taken from the Rikers Island jail to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday night.

Authorities say Enright uttered an Arabic phrase before slashing Sharif's face and neck Tuesday night.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg met Thursday at City Hall with the Bangladeshi driver, Ahmed H. Sharif.

Bloomberg says it's impossible to know the motive but connected the attack to the debate about an Islamic center planned near ground zero.

If the man is in a psychiatric hospital and it is "impossible to know the motive," then how can the attack be said to be "connected" to the debate about the Ground Zero mosque?

Seeing that the only connection the man had to the Ground Zero mosque was that he supported it, then presumably he would be on that side of the debate, right? Certainly, he cannot have been against building the mosque, or otherwise why would he belong to the group supporting it?

So unless he thought that by viciously attacking a Muslim stranger he was advancing the cause of the Ground Zero mosque, I am at a total loss to understand the "connection to the debate" that Mayor Bloomberg is trying to make.

A debate is a debate, and a savage attack with a knife is a savage attack with a knife, right? To connect the two, you would have to show that a knife attack arose out of or resulted from something said during a debate which provoked a stabbing. Is there any evidence that this man was in an argument with the cab driver over the Ground Zero mosque, and that he became outraged by something the cab driver said? If not, I am just not getting it, try as I might.

Or maybe Mayor Bloomberg and the people who travel in his higher circles think this is one of those things that's just "obvious" somehow. Perhaps he thinks that when a mentally ill person commits a crime during a time period of a public debate, it's because he doesn't process the information related to the debate in a rational way and that somehow the debate itself is to blame. If that's the case, then no debates should be allowed on any issues which tend to provoke a mentally ill person. But surely he can't mean that, because that would mean he should just shut up.

Try as I might, I cannot connect Bloomberg's dots. But then, I might be stupid, and I might be missing something which is quite obvious to geniuses like Bloomberg.

If only he could explain!

Many simple minds need to understand.

posted by Eric at 09:49 AM | Comments (3)

Race War

Because of my last post Beat Whitey Night I have been hanging at some rather strange places. And then I came across Angry White Dude. Where I found this comment which refers to this murder.

August 26, 2010 at 7:05 am

Black Bart:

""He didn't bother a soul," said neighbor Kathy Mathis. "He was really a nice man."

Mathis was nearby when Greaves was killed around 3 p.m. Greaves had just finished cutting his grass when THE TWO YOUNG (14 & 17) blacks, Spellman and Combs approached him, police said. The teenagers brandished a gun and demanded money, then shot Greaves in the chest.

"From what we can tell, he didn't move as quickly as they may have wanted him to," Clark said. "They maybe took that as some type of resisting, or disrespect."

Mathis heard gunfire and, seconds later, saw the teenagers running from the scene.

"They didn't have to kill him," Mathis said. "He's 87 - they could punch him, knock him down. It's just unbelievable that something like this could happen."

"teenagers" = black murderers;

"punching and knocking down an 87 year old man" is fair play as long as the assailants are young blacks and the victim is and old white man.

The race war in America has already started. Years ago.

Deal with it.

And then I stumbled upon The Thug Report. Just in case you want to keep up with Thug America™, that is the place to go.

This all seems like so much stereotyping to me. But you know how it is. Hitler was a white guy. A German white guy. Thankfully I'm a Jew.

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

All the "noose" that fits....

In a post titled "The government is pushing these food poisoning events because they want to over-regulate," Ann Althouse quotes a commenter who says this:

You should look into some of the regulations currently being considered by the FDA and USDA. These regs are going to increase the price of food considerably, if they are put into place - and they are doing it all under the guise of food safety.

These regs will also likely put small producers like myself out of business. I'll still raise chickens for our eggs, but I'll be disallowed from selling the eggs to anyone else unless I take some draconian steps and agree to paperwork for each individual chicken from hatching until death - if a skunk, opossum, raccoon, coyote or hawk kills a chicken, I'd have to report that to the government.

In her previous post, Althouse pointed out something I was taught as a child that should be obvious to everyone: that it is stupid to eat raw eggs, and we should assume that they might contain salmonella.

While I can't call it a conspiracy because I have no idea whether newspapers in separate cities are deliberately working in cahoots with government regulatory agencies, I saw a disturbing pattern in today's Detroit Free Press and today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Both newspapers -- the Inky and the Freep -- featured alarmist editorials calling for draconian FDA regulations.

I certainly agree that the government is "pushing these food poisoning events because they want to over-regulate."

And at least two newspapers in two different cities (there are probably more, but I haven't checked) are marching in lockstep with the government.

I'm sure they would say that they are trying to protect the public health, but seeing these newspapers clamoring in unison for bigger government gives them every appearance of being quasi-official mouthpieces for the government bureaucracy.

Incidentally, readers who dislike giving these regulatory agencies more regulatory power might want to keep in mind that the EPA is considering banning lead in bullets.

As the noose tightens, the news complies!

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

Beat Whitey Night

In news about all the post racial harmony we have heard so much about lately, there was a Beat Whitey night at the Iowa State Fair.

Des Moines police are trying to determine what led to a series of attacks outside the Iowa State Fairgrounds over the weekend that included the assault of two police officers.

At least three people were arrested Friday through early Monday morning. Other arrests may occur as officers investigate the incidents, officials said.

There are indications that some of the fights - which appear to involve mostly teenagers and young adults - were racially motivated, police said.

"We don't know if this was juveniles fighting or a group of kids singling out white citizens leaving the fairgrounds," Sgt. Lori Lavorato said. "It's all under investigation, but it's very possible it has racial overtones."

Officials announced last week that they were stepping up security outside the fairgrounds after a series of attacks Aug. 14 that included a pair of stabbings. Investigators are still investigating those assaults and victims intend to pursue charges.

Fifty years ago I was marching for civil rights. Well, I ain't marchin anymore.

I don't sing along to those kind songs anymore either. Nice sentiment though. If only we didn't have an alpha male problem. A problem with dominators. Whirled peas does sound nice though.

Here is a video report.

The report says there were three incidents on separate days. I'd say we have some people who are not satisfied with the way the country is run.

Wait. I know. They were Tea Party People.

Update: from the Beat Whitey link above.

Sgt. David Murillo stated in a report on Friday night, "On-duty officers at the fairgrounds advise there was a group of 30 to 40 individuals roaming the fairgrounds openly calling it 'beat whitey night.' "
State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, who has worked to fight gang-related violence, said he doesn't have enough information to decide if the fights were racially motivated. He said police comments that race was involved could miss other factors, such as nonracial taunting.

"Unfortunately, like any other city, you have certain parts of town that individuals congregate in," Abdul-Samad said. "You have those that go into that area with no problem, and those who cannot."

He added, "We of course need to work on race relations. If anyone says we don't, they are playing games with themselves."

Mr. Abdul-Samad seems to be quite a gamer himself. Note: I have gone into the Zone (as my black friend calls it) from time to time when I lived in Chicago. I always went with an appropriately pigmented escort.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:48 AM | Comments (7)

"Palin's endorsement hasn't helped"

Now that Joe Miller is within victory over Lisa Murkowski, it looks like Sarah Palin is more popular in Alaska than Slate's Alexandra Gutierrez predicted yesterday in a piece titled "Why the candidate of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express is losing in Alaska."

...Tuesday is likely to be a disappointment to Palin and the Tea Party Express, which has spent more than $400,000 since June on radio and television ads attacking Murkowski. Fresh off its Nevada primary victory with Sharron Angle, the Tea Party Express was looking for both an appealing challenger and a sufficiently complacent incumbent. Murkowksi fit the role in part because of her record with earmarks and her reputation for occasionally working with Democrats. "We just felt that Joe Miller basically lines up better with Alaskan voters and the conservative kind of frontier feeling of Alaska," says Tea Party Express political director Bryan Shroyer.

Many Alaskans don't exactly feel that way. In part because Alaska has weathered the recession better than most states and because even conservative Republicans realize the importance of federal funding in the state, "I don't think the Tea Party movement has much currency in Alaska," says Ivan Moore, an independent pollster based in Anchorage. Moore's poll in July showed Miller down by 32 points, and other polls have come up with similar numbers. "From the very beginning, he has positioned himself so far to the right of the ideological spectrum and attached himself to the Tea Party movement, which even in Alaska is perceived as being a pretty extreme right organization," Moore says.

And Palin's endorsement hasn't helped, Moore adds. According to a Dittman Research poll conducted in April, 52 percent of Alaskans hold a negative opinion of Palin. "When someone with those kinds of numbers endorses someone for public office, believe me, the effect is on the whole negative," says Moore.

I'd say that was wishful thinking on the part of Slate. Consider today's news:
With 98 percent of election day precincts counted, Murkowski trailed Joe Miller by 1,960 votes out of more than 91,000 counted. The race was too close to call, with as many as 16,000 absentee votes and an undetermined number of provisional or questioned ballots, remaining to be counted starting on Aug. 31.

Murkowski would be the seventh incumbent -- and fourth Republican -- to lose in a year in which the tea party has scored huge victories in GOP Senate primaries and voters have shown a willingness to punish Republicans and a handful of Democrats with ties to Washington and party leadership. Miller is a Gulf War veteran and self-described "constitutional conservative."

I guess it's still possible that Miller might lose (these close elections are notoriously tough to predict, and it is to be hoped that Alaska's Secretary of State is not in the Soros tank). But I am not seeing any evidence of him being "down by 32 points."

What polls was Slate smoking, anyway?

posted by Eric at 10:37 AM | Comments (3)

"para endulzar su dia"

The above expression relates to some practical advice I was given years ago during the course of my travels to Mexico.

It means, "to sweeten your day," and while there is nothing wrong with sweetening people's days, the context of the usage of that travel phrase might very well be considered immoral, especially by moral absolutists.

I was advised (by a very experienced bilingual traveler to Mexico) that it's an ideal choice of words to use in situations when one must respectfully and discreetly offer a police officer a bribe.

But bribery is wrong, right? Of course it is. That's a given. But what is also a given is that the entire government system has for years been built on, dependent on, bribery. Everyone, from the lowliest village cop all the way up to El Presidente, expects to be paid, and the higher up the pecking order you go, the higher the price. If you find yourself unlucky enough to be arrested down there (and it isn't hard; greedy cops will appear out of nowhere to shake down Americans simply because they want money and have the power to get it), you're in quite a predicament. Whether you've done anything isn't the point. If they say they found marijuana on you, or that they saw you taking a dump in the park, it's their word against yours. And if you actually did something, forget it; an ordinary fender bender is often considered legitimate cause for arrest. And as most people know, Mexican jails are no fun. Sure, you can howl about your largely nonexistent "rights" all you want, but sooner or later you're going to have to pay up. And the more trouble you're in, the more it costs. If you are in jail, it costs more to get out, and if you need a lawyer to help get you out, it's a lot more expensive. And if you end up in court, you have to pay the lawyer to pay the judge, and that can get even more expensive. But if you're smart enough to know how to handle the arresting officer properly, you can save a lot of money. Saying "esto es para endulzar su dia" is a non-confrontational way of saying the money is a gift and not really not a bribe, and it doesn't put the officer on the spot. "Can I pay the fine now?" is another one.

Such conduct is immoral. But what is more immoral; paying $50.00 to a corrupt local cop, or having to shell out hundreds of dollars later to a corrupt lawyer and a corrupt judge? Depending on one's point of view, the latter might me more immoral than the former, as you're pouring more money into an inherently corrupt system.

Suppose you're a principled moral absolutist. Is rotting in a Mexican jail the right thing to do?

I do not mean to advocate corruption here, but am I? Is there a duty of strict honesty in dealings with crooks? If a burglar asks you where you keep your valuables, should you tell him the truth? When the Gestapo knocked on the door of the people harboring Anne Frank and asked whether there were any Jews hiding in the house, were they under any duty to tell the truth? (And if the government decided to condemn all pit bulls to death and I was asked whether Coco was a pit bull, would I be under any duty to disclose the truth if that would get her killed?)

I realize that this is all an exercise in line-drawing, but who gets to draw the lines? And why?

Have a sweet day.

posted by Eric at 09:39 AM | Comments (4)

"bullets used in the drug war"

A lot of words are spewed forth in the War on Drugs, and when the drug war is combined with trouble at the border, the result is quite predictable. Every once in a while, though, I see things that push credulity beyond what I consider acceptable.

I saw a recent example in this AP story, headlined "Drug war sends bullets whizzing across the border":

...one bullet came across the Rio Grande, crashed through a window and lodged in an office door frame at the University of Texas at El Paso. Police are also investigating reports that another errant round shattered a window in a passing car. Witnesses at a nearby charity said at least one bullet hit their building, too.

El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said authorities have only confirmed the single bullet found at the university, but it is possible that several other shots flew across the border.

"As a local municipality, we are doing everything we can," Petry said. "Looking where we're at, the community we live in, that's all we've got. It's the reality of life here in El Paso for right now."

Officers say the types of bullets used in the drug war can travel more than a mile before falling to the ground.

There's no question that bullets being fired across the border constitute a growing problem, but I have a serious problem with that last sentence, because it implies that there's something uniquely awful about "bullets used in the drug war" as opposed to what I guess the AP thinks are "normal bullets."

There are no normal bullets that won't travel more than a mile before falling to the ground. The most typical, garden variety rounds (ranging from .22 to .44) all travel to maximum distances in excess of a mile. The following chart displays the range of ordinary handgun bullets of the sort sold today.


Notice that there is no bullet available which if it is fired straight will drop to the ground in has a range limited to less than a mile.

So, while it is technically correct to say that "the types of bullets used in the drug war can travel more than a mile before falling to the ground," it is very misleading. The .22 (often thought of as the smallest commercially available gun) can kill from a mile away. And while I doubt the .22 is the weapon of choice for the Mexican drug gangs, it will do as an illustration.

Of either AP ignorance or anti-gun bias.

UPDATE: The correction came from commenter "Lt York," who pointed out that "all listed bullets, fired straight, (level, parallel to the ground, I assume you mean...) would hit the ground in less than a mile," which means that the maximum ranges listed have to factor in elevation. So I shouldn't have said "if it is fired straight." As to how many bullets are fired exactly straight, who knows?

OTOH, what is "straight"? Does the word necessarily mean "level"? And is it really possible under the laws of physics to fire a bullet in a mathematically absolute straight trajectory? (At some point both gravity as well as the curvature of the earth would come into play.)

No matter how I look at it, it seems that "straight" was a poor word choice.

MORE: Not to digress, but because of my poor word choice I found myself wondering whether it is theoretically possible for any bullet to ever be fired in a mathematically truly straight trajectory. There's an interesting theoretical discussion here about bullets fired in space. Yes, they can be fired, but the consensus seems to be that if they are within the earth's gravitational field, they will orbit the earth for a very long time; otherwise they will head for the nearest influential planet

If a bullet is fired outside the Earth's gravitational field, it will be acted on by the nearest large mass; The Sun, The Moon, one of the planets, the Milky Way, etc. The bullet will turn toward that large mass and what happens then depends on the parameters. Since no gun has ever been outside the Earth's gravity, it's kind of moot up until now. The effect of a vacuum on the bullet would probably give it a slightly higher muzzle velocity since the bullet doesn't have to expend energy pushing the air out of it's way as it leaves the barrel. You would have to measure the aerodynamic drag of the bullet in the atmosphere and add that velocity to the muzzle velocity. It won't be much, but it might be measurable withing the repeatability of loads.
At some point, it seems that a bullet in zero gravity might be going "straight." But if pull (however slight) is always being exerted by one planet or another, is there really such a thing as zero gravity in the mathematical sense?

Might there be true zero gravity beyond that area we circumscribe as delimited by the Big Bang, commonly called "the Universe"?

posted by Eric at 12:41 AM | Comments (37)

Religion of peace?

Perhaps because of the Ground Zero Mosque flap, more people than ever are speculating over whether Barack Obama is a Muslim.

This may sound counterintuitive, but I honestly hope the most powerful man in the world is in fact a Muslim.

That's not because I think he is one, but only because I think Islam needs more squishy multiculturalist pacifists at "the top."

Think about it. If all of Islam were led by the likes of Barack Obama, we'd have most likely never been attacked on 9/11.

And if all Muslims were like him, we wouldn't be facing the war against terrorism that may no longer speak its name.

Peace via conspiracy theory, anyone?

posted by Eric at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

Support your local tyrants!

Government tyranny is hardly restricted to the federal government. Many people believe that the worst governmental tyrannies of all are committed by local government. New York and San Francisco have become infamous for regulating food and drinks, and San Francisco has led the way towards the use of invasive recycling police, banning the sale of pets, and much more. California GOP state Chair Ron Nehring was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying that "San Francisco epitomizes that local government can be the most tyrannical level of government."

I don't mean to leave out Los Angeles, though. Bankrupt though the city is, tyranny is nevertheless a booming business:

The City is $500 million in the red. Rather than do what is necessary - cut expenses and show leadership - Villaraigosa and the spineless City Council has taken to terrorizing the city's residents by slamming them with fees. This includes sharp increases in fines for parking and directives to the LAPD to "increase traffic enforcement".

With respect to fees, in a recent controversy involving the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Villaraigosa attempted to strong-arm the City Council into approving a 37% rate increase. He has tripled the city's trash collection fees, and supports ballot measures to increase other taxes on city residents, including additional property tax surcharges.

In another terrific piece by the L.A. Weekly, reporter Michael Goldstein notes that, despite 13% unemployment, Villaraigosa and his hacks have instituted these regressive taxes with no regard for the citizenry. Rather than include his staff of 205 in budget cuts, Villaraigosa saw fit to raise parking ticket fines. The city plans to double the number of red-light cameras by next year - despite mounting evidence that they contribute to accidents rather than prevent them. This, while he and the City Council drive free cars with free gas, are exempt from parking tickets, and make 4 times the median income of LA residents, according to Mr. Goldstein.

Sources have informed me that the LAPD has been told to increase traffic enforcement....

And you know what that means.

Need I mention red light cameras?

Insane as it sounds, cities are also busily installing RFID spy chips on recycling bins, so that they can snoop on people's garbage habits, and send in the garbage cops to collar the dangerous criminals who neglected to separate their glass and plastic.

And in my previous home town of Philadelphia, the greedy government bureaucrats are demanding that bloggers get $300 business licenses!

even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there's the potential for it to be lucrative -- and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising -- the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads -- regardless of how much or little money is actually generated -- qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers. As former City Paper news editor Doron Taussig once lamented [Slant, "Taxed Out," April 28, 2005], the city considers freelancers -- which both Bess and Barry are, in addition to their blog work -- "businesses," and requires them to pay for a license and pay taxes on their profits, on top of their state and federal taxes.

Mannino says the city doesn't keep track of how many bloggers and small-website owners are affected.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds,
As our profligate politicos get more and more desperate for cash, look for more stuff along these lines.
Glenn also links Dan Riehl's post and Investors Business Daily, which says this:
Philly bloggers, as well as tax watchdogs and speech guardians outside the city, are understandably upset. If city hall can tax speech, it can tax anything. What -- and who -- is next? Should Philadelphia get away with this, other cities will surely follow. Constitutional rights are small hurdles for covetous lawmakers.
Naturally, they justify their tyrannical behavior by saying they need the money. What I'd like to know is why they're singling out a few starving bloggers as "businesses." What about sellers on Craigslist and Ebay? Is the city sending out $300.00 invoices to all of them too? Why not? I am sure there are many thousands of precisely such unlicensed online "businesses" (which surely make much more money than bloggers do) so what gives?


Maybe I shouldn't be giving the tyrants ideas.

Of course, it might be that bloggers are seen as an easier target because they are relatively few in number, whereas so many people sell on Craigslist and Ebay that if the city went after them there'd be massive public uproar, with a resultant backlash at the polls.

What I cannot understand is this: what psychological mechanism causes so many apparently normal people who live in cities to vote for these greedy and profligate tyrants who then turn right around and regulate, tax, nanny, herd into crowded trains, and generally butt into the lives the people who elected them? And what's even more baffling is why so many of these same voters see their cities' very bankruptcies as a reason to vote for the people whose policies did it.

Really, I don't get it.

Is there such a thing as voter masochism?

Or is all masochism local?

posted by Eric at 03:56 PM | Comments (6)

I hate being barraged with a constant stream of copyrighted words which make me "liable"!

One of the many electronic annoyances in life consists of the endless "updates" which are sometimes requested, other times demanded, and in the case of my antivirus software, performed automatically and without notice in the most annoying, computer-freezing manner. Lately I have been hassled by a box screaming at me to "Update Adobe Flash Player."

As I was more concerned with my second cup of coffee than anything else, I finally decided that I might as well comply. Perhaps out of morbid curiosity, I did something I never, ever do; I clicked on the Adobe product license agreement (best known as "EULA" or "end-user licensing agreement"). There are different licenses for every Adobe product, all which are translated into just about every language known to man, but at the bottom of the starting page, there appears the following, startling edict:

Home use of Macromedia branded products

Notwithstanding the terms of the product license agreement included within a Macromedia branded product, when such a product is licensed through Adobe's Open Options licensing program (not including Student Licensing, Site Licensing, and Term Licensing), the primary user of the computer on which such software is lawfully installed may install a second copy of such software for his or her exclusive use on either a portable computer or a computer located at his or her home, provided that the software on the portable or home computer is not used at the same time as the software on the primary computer.

So that means that if I open a pdf file on this computer, I can't go upstairs and open one on the computer there without closing down this one? Why is that? And did I "agree" to it simply by clicking and installing the software? Apparently so, as this has been standard industry procedure for many years, and companies like Adobe have hordes of lawyers who can in theory use the Copyright laws to pounce on violators.

But there is just something that rankles me about being told what not to do, especially when I am told automatically and "agree" without even knowing.

How many of us routinely engage in copyright violations? I'd be willing to bet that almost anyone with a computer has from time to time committed a copyright law violation.

And in theory, the "victims" of our violations could sue millions of Americans for statutory damages.

Statutory damages range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands:

* Statutory damages range from $750 per work to $150,000 per work
* In case of "innocent infringement", the range is $200 to $150,000 per work. "Innocent" is a technical term. In particular, if the work carries a copyright notice, the infringer cannot claim innocence.[48]
* In case of "willful infringement" (again, "willful" is a technical term), the range is $750 to $300,000 per work.

Coupled with the ubiquity of technical violations, the Copyright Act lends itself to arbitrary and tyrannical "enforcement" actions by greedy lawyers who just want to milk the system and get their fees paid. As Clayton Cramer has made clear in a number of posts, we are all at risk.

Especially bloggers. People who are online are easy targets for avaricious attorneys.

If you don't like the abuse of the copyright laws, don't just get mad. Do as Glenn Reynolds suggests, and DONATE.

At the risk of sounding like an anarchist or pirate, I think Thomas Jefferson had it right when he said this:

"That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."
Especially when the inventions consist of words -- speech -- which are endlessly broadcast to the world, even as they are at the same time generating endless opportunities for lawyers in search of "liability."

I'm sick and tired of word liability.

Copyright law tyranny is inconsistent with free speech.

posted by Eric at 09:38 AM | Comments (4)


Meet the unabridged Abdul Rauf:

The United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.

Sure, that sounds like just the kind of guy we want building mosques in the 9/11 debris field.

Supporters of the mosque are responding with the detached aplomb and reasonable behavior we've come to expect from them in this debate. It's nice to see Rauf is building so many bridges already.

UPDATE: A couple thoughts: I still remember, vividly, the horror of 9/11, of people throwing themselves off the building to escape the flames and realizing they were the lucky ones, because other people trapped inside were being burned alive.

I can't imagine anyone thinking on that day "Hey, let's build a mosque there!"

There's a simple test I like to do in these situations: I try to imagine myself in the other side's shoes. As a Christian (and one who believes in Christian evangelism and peaceful, liberal Christian expansion) I ask myself: if nutty militant Christian-supremacist extremists were committing terrorist acts in Islamic countries, would I try to build a church at the epicenter of their greatest success? The answer is unprintably negative. The whole idea is shocking to my Christian identity. It disgusts me. It horrifies me. Such an act would make me ashamed of my faith's shortcomings.

Now, as we've heard, the idea is equally repulsive to many Muslims -- the truly liberal Muslims who want an Islam compatible with the post-Enlightenment values of liberty that decent people of all faiths hold so dear. For the rest... well, I find it hard to interpret their actions as anything other than declaring themselves my enemies, and the enemies of decency.

But we are decent, so let them build it if they can get the funding, and let those who sow indecency reap their reward of shame in the fullness of time. This act will not profit Islam.

posted by Dave at 05:53 PM | Comments (65)

"Tea Party" fakers commit fraud within fraud

I just got back from a long meeting of the Michigan State Board of Canvassers in Lansing. I am pleased to report that they voted to refuse certification of the obvious (IMO) attempt by Democratic Party operatives to place the fake "Tea Party" on the ballot. Many genuine Tea Partiers (including myself) were there, and the vote was 2-2 along party lines. Which means that absent a successful legal challenge of the Board's ruling, the fake Tea Party will not be on the ballot.

It's quite a victory, and I don't think it would have been possible had it not been for the diligence and passion of real Tea Party supporters who were not about to have a group of crooks use their name in this way. They came to the hearing in strength today, and I heard a number of moving speeches.

Their cause was helped by the recent exposure of fraud within the fraud.

As Glenn Reynolds pointed out when he linked this post, "Michigan Democrats are embarrassed" by the fraud within the fake Tea Party. As well they should be. Today's vote to refuse certification isn't going to lift their spirits much either.

The fraud within the fraud piece that Glenn linked discussed the role of Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson -- who addressed the Board of Canvassers today -- in exposing fraud by one of the Democratic operatives behind the fake Tea Party, and there's more here:

The Oakland County Democratic Party says it has requested and accepted the resignation of operations director Jason Bauer in the wake of accusations he notarized campaign filings for a fake Tea Party candidate.

"We are saddened by this situation, but cannot condone his alleged actions," the OCDP said Sunday in a released statement. "For the sake of the organization, we must part ways effective immediately."

Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, a Republican candidate for secretary of state, announced the allegations against Bauer on Friday, noting she had turned over documents to the county prosecutor and Michigan Attorney General's office for further investigation.

Johnson said her office was contacted by Aaron Tyler, a former Springfield Township resident who moved to Phoenix in late July only to find he had been nominated as a Tea Party candidate for a seat on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

Tyler said he'd never filed to run for the office, let alone signed an affidavit of identity which Bauer allegedly notarized. "I figured it must have been some sort of mistake," Tyler wrote in a letter. "I believe a fraud was committed."

Yes, and fraud is utterly embarrassing! (The liberal Free Press can't ignore the news.)

Regular readers may remember a post titled Fake "Tea Party" Democratic operatives fail my smell test!, in which I explored the ties between Jason Bauer and top Democrats. Doubtless they'll be doing everything they can to erase, obfuscate, and wiggle out of these ties, and distance themselves from Bauer any way they can.

They can wiggle all they want, but the whole thing stinks. There's that old expression that the fish stinks from the head down, and I find it hard to believe that an up and coming Democrat operative would be mounting an elaborate con job like this all on his own.

Ruth Johnson deserves the highest praise for her role in uncovering this, and I think it's worth pointing out that she exposed this fraud while running for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in a crowded five way race. It speaks highly of her that while the rest of the crowd are acting like a bunch of conventional politicians, she's the one who is doing the sort of work that Michiganders should expect from a Secretary of State -- which is to ensure election integrity.

Which brings me to something I haven't mentioned in my blog before but probably should now. I happen to be one of the "hundreds of new, tea party-backed delegates" who will vote in the official primary election at the Republican State Convention on Saturday, and after what I saw today, I plan to vote for Ruth Johnson with the greatest of enthusiasm.

(For people who want more details about the fraud Johnson uncovered, her press release follows this post.)

Inspiring as it was to see the uncovering of the fraud and the successful fight against the fake Tea Party, what I saw today was truly remarkable for another reason. It has been nothing short of amazing for me to witness something I never thought I would see in politics. These people, these "hundreds of new, tea party-backed delegates" mentioned in the Freep, many of them are libertarians just like me, people who got involved because they felt they had to, and did so despite the fact that (like me) they hate politics. And yet, they are becoming politically empowered. People who are used to sitting around and complaining about statism and big government are actually organizing to do something to stop it. Yet instead of wanting power for its own sake, they want to use that power to limit power.

As Glenn has said, "Those dangerous libertarians -- they want to take over the government, and then leave you alone!"


MORE: Michigan Capitol Confidential has an excellent report on the Board of Canvassers hearing.

Continue reading ""Tea Party" fakers commit fraud within fraud"

posted by Eric at 04:48 PM | Comments (1)

Fun and games with Balkenkreuz subliminalism

Saying "It reminds me of something, but I'm not sure what," Glenn Reynolds linked this picture of the red hot new Dodge logo:


It reminded me of something too. (Especially what's buried in the middle.)

I think it's surprisingly evocative of the notorious 1933-1945 German Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht military logo, the dreaded Balkenkreuz.


To illustrate, I cropped the cross from the center of the Dodge logo and added a little olive drab.


Wouldn't look bad on a plane or a tank! And best of all, the logo is inside a shield -- the kind that would look just stunning on a helmet! (The red color in the background adds an even niftier subliminal touch, now that I think about it...)

The beauty of the Balkenkreuz design lies in its utter simplicity. It boils down to four L-shapes arranged in 90 degree symmetry.

Like this way cool Balkenkreuz T-shirt:


Impress your friends!

posted by Eric at 01:58 PM | Comments (9)

My dog is lacking in the wisdom of ancient repugnance

Back in October, I worried about Coco possibly having a close encounter with a local skunk. I called it one of my worst fears, which it is, and I have dreaded the night when Coco and a skunk actually cross paths.

It finally happened on Thursday "night," then again last "night." (The two encounters took place first in the wee hours of the morning.) Around 3:00 a.m Friday morning, Coco woke me up in an agitated state letting me know she wanted to go outside. I'm groggy and half awake, so I just let her out to "do her business." Except, instead of coming back inside as she normally does, she was hitting the fence in an agitated state while whining. I had to get a flashlight to investigate, and there was nothing there, but I immediately smelled the skunk. I made her come in, and she had enough of the skunk scent on her that it was annoying, but not so much that it was an emergency. Obviously she had not been sprayed, but I suspect she rubbed up against some area that had had contact with the skunk. I was so upset I couldn't get back to sleep easily, and I gave Coco a stern lecture. Hah! Little effect that had. For last night it was exactly the same thing; Coco knows the damned thing is in the yard, and she woke me up to go skunk hunting. Stupidly, I let her out again (I guess I hoped that my yard was back to its "normal" state and all would be well), and I heard her jumping at the fence, obviously in hot pursuit of a skunk that had (thank God) had the good sense to leave. Perhaps they're smart enough to know when they're dealing with a dog that is nutty enough to take a musk blast and then kill them anyway. (I certainly hope so, but I don't like these highly speculative odds...)

The whole arrangement is unacceptable, big time. As I see it, I have a right to let my dog out in my own yard at any time for any reason. And no damned smelly-assed weasel relative has any right to mess with me.

The problem is, arguments based on rights and fairness are lost on wild animals.

So I remembered that some of the comments to my last post about skunk worries were quite helpful. "Captain Ned" offered a kitchen variety recipe consisting of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap, Veeshir discussed the tomato juice option, and Sissy Willis mentioned a commercially available remedy which she said worked great on her skunk-sprayed cat.

The worst case scenario hasn't happened yet, but after such precariously close encounters, I thought I'd go out and buy the commercial product, which I found at Petsmart.


It contains some sort of natural enzyme, and has received rave reviews, and I am very grateful to Sissy for telling me about it. I hope I never have to use it, but I believe in being prepared for emergencies, and I'm glad I got a bottle.

I was intrigued by the French translation just under the skunk on the label:

Demenageur d'Odeur de Mouffette

Mouffette is the French word for skunk, and so because Coco is quite full of herself and thinks she is a princess, I have been scolding her using the French word Mouffette. (Non non Mouffette, Coco!) Whether this will have any effect I don't know, as I am afraid Coco may be one of those stubborn dogs described at UC Davis's pest management page for skunks:

Some dogs will confront skunks whenever they get an opportunity. Even though they suffer when they get sprayed, some dogs never learn.
I did not need to read that, which is a way of saying I didn't want to read that, so maybe I did. I'm afraid that Coco's answer is "Oui oui Mouffette, Eric!"

The UC Davis site (along with other sites) suggests household ammonia as a skunk repellent, so I poured some ammonia based cleanser along the problem fence area, and I hope it helps.

Maybe I should try scolding Coco in Latin, for the Latin name for skunk is Mephitis. Which means the French word is basically their version of the original Latin word, which BTW, comes from a stinky goddess of the same name. She personified toxic gases!

In Roman mythology, Mefitis (or Mephitis) was the personification of the poisonous gases emitted from the ground in swamps and volcanic vapors. Mephitic, derived from Mefitis, is an adjective in the English language meaning "offensive in odor"; "noxious"; and "poisonous."

Mefite is also a solfatara, a gaseous fissure, associated with the Roman Goddess, Mefitis. It is located in Italy along the Via Appia between Rome and Brindisi. There, the ancient Romans would rest on their travels and pay homage to the goddess by performing animal sacrifices using the fissure's deadly gases. Today, it lies near the village of Rocca San Felice in the province of Avellino (Campania region). The solfatara still emits deadly volcanic gasses originating from the Vesuvian volcanic system.

Ancient wisdom? Or ancient repugnance?

Whatever it is, I wish Coco had some.

(I better not tell her, or she'll claim she's engaged in religious worship....)

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

Genetics And Trauma

I got the video from Reason Magazine via Instapundit. What is interesting is that two of his three key markers for psychopathy are: genetics and trauma or abuse. Those are the two markers that I have been saying for years are the cause of chronic drug use.

You can follow my trail some by reading these articles in order.

Is Addiction Real?


PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System

Addiction Is A Genetic Disease

Now does this particular information prove my point? Of course not. I do think it means I'm on the right track and some further exploration is in order.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:56 AM | Comments (1)

Bombay Calling

It's A Beautiful Day.

I wonder if Eric was in the audience?

posted by Simon at 02:06 PM | Comments (4)

the new tea?

A headline in yesterday's Detroit Free Press offers MSM confirmation of what I suspected in my earlier post about Michigan's smoking ban.

The headline is "Smoking ban dries up business," and even though I consider it old news, I am still outraged by the number of Republicans who voted for such statist nonsense:

...since Michigan's smoking ban went into effect May 1, Natalie Samu, the soon-to-be ex-owner of the bar, has just one or two waitresses serving the dwindling crowd.

"Our business is down over 50%," said Samu, who sold the bar earlier this month but will stay on as manager. "I know things go down in the summer, but it's never been this bad."

A survey by the Michigan Restaurant Association backs up Samu's woes. More than 42% of responding restaurants said their sales have declined since the ban went into effect, while nearly 15% said their sales have increased and 43% said they have seen no change.

I guess the do-gooder busybodies would say "TOUGH!" You should have known when you opened your small business and worked your ass off to make it succeed that the government might decide to ruin you. But some business owners are incredulous:
"I can't believe that the State of Michigan did this at a time when the economy is so bad," said Carol Corrie, general manager of Cloverleaf Bar and Restaurant in Eastpointe.
Believe, sister, believe.

Even though I am a non-smoker, I think this kind of intrusive legislation is utterly despicable. So despicable, in fact, that I'm thinking that it just might qualify as an appropriate "Are you a statist?" litmus test. (After all, there is an election coming....) I am hardly a single issue activist where it comes to smoking, and frankly, I am uncomfortable eating in a smoke-filled room. I have also been advised by my doctor to avoid secondhand smoke. But the thing is, the places that cater to smokers are very easy to avoid. Most of them are bars where local regulars enjoy drinking and smoking at the same time. I should say "were" for their regulars can smoke no more. Now they have to go outside, after which it's just easier to go home:

Employees have been laid off; hours have been cut for others, and the tips have shrunk for the waitstaff and bartenders who are left, said Bo Burton, general manager of the Blarney Stone. Even the bands that get hired for entertainment are losing business.

"My smokers who still come in have one or two (drinks) and then go outside for a smoke," Burton said. "Food sales are about the same, but alcohol sales have tanked."

I'm sure a lot of busybodies would say that's great. Serves them right for catering to the needs of addicts. "We" will all be better off when they are finally "nudged" into treatment. Yeah, and we will all die of one thing or another. Tobacco is just one of those things that might -- and I stress might -- cause us to die younger. I am reminded of a woman I knew who was 97 and smoked like a chimney. Naturally, they were trying to make her stop:
I came to know a woman who had finally retired to a rest home at age 97, and she was one of those loquacious grand dames who would sit and hold court on the porch. While smoking like a chimney. As I got to know her, she complained to me about the staff's attempts to get her to stop smoking. I will never forget the way, in a loud voice, she bellowed,

"They want me to stop smoking -- 'FOR MY HEALTH!' Honey, I'm NINETY SEVEN YEARS OLD!"

It struck me as cruel, ironic, and hilarious. She was full of life, sharp as a tack, and had lived longer than her "helpers" probably would.

So while I don't know what anybody's "secret" is, I found myself thinking that this defiant old girl might not have made it to 97 had she done as she was told.

The founders (some of whom grew tobacco) must be turning in their graves. This country was founded by people who did not do as they were told, for people who do not believe in doing as they are told.

I find it fascinating that the original Tea Party was a protest against government taxation and regulation of another plant substance, tea. Anyway, the question on my mind right now is a simple one:

Might tobacco be the new tea?

Since the founding of this country, tobacco has been a legal substance, and what today's rulers are doing is far, far worse than the tax which the British government tried to impose on tea.

A good case can be made that tobacco more than qualifies as the tea for today's rebels.

And if tobacco is the new tea, then what?

Is there a modern equivalent of tar and feathers?

posted by Eric at 12:49 PM | Comments (15)

Fertigate, and how! (A dull and non-controversial issue...)

With my sincerest apologies to the beloved political junkies who visit this site (and seriously, because I'm one myself, you know you are always very welcome here), it's time for a bland post about gardening.

It's been three weeks and five days since I started my backyard vegetable garden, and as I have had to learn from scratch and started way late in the growing season, this is more of an experiment than anything else. (I didn't plant any tobacco, though, as it is too late in the season for such a frost-sensitive plant.) Having nothing more than the Internet as my guide, I determined that there are several things which can be started late in the summer, so in addition to the tomatoes and a pepper that I bought as plants I am growing zucchinis, broccoli, Swiss chard, and peas.

Here's a partial view.


As you can see, I learned that a drip irrigation system beats using a watering can.

However, plants need fertilizer. I like using my aquarium water to water plants, and I might also like to fertilize them with Miracle Gro or something, but that presented problems because the drip system is fed from the hose bib by an attachment. After putting in all of the work to install the nearly 40 drippers, it struck me that they would be a highly efficient way to introduce whatever liquid fertilizer I wanted by injecting it directly.

It's not a new idea; it's called fertigation.

Not a bad article, except that under "Disadvantages" it lists this:

"Use of chemical fertilizers of low-sustainability, instead of organic fertilizers."
I take offense at that, and I will have Wikipedia know that my used aquarium water is about as organic as you can get!

Anyway, to make my drip system fertigation-capable seemed to require purchasing additional units -- meaning time and money. (The cheapest injection units I found cost over $60.00.) I have a couple of standard Petco aquarium powerheads lying around, which look like this:


They're surprisingly powerful, and it occurred to me that as a pump is a pump, I might be able to use it for other than it's intended purpose of creating a powerful underwater current in an aquarium. I'm always siphoning water from the tanks into plastic bins, and I've also been putting it into the watering can and laboriously watering each plant with it. So, I thought, why not just put the bin full of aquarium water near the vegetable bed, add a tee to one of the lines, and then pump the aquarium water directly into the line feeding the drippers?

At the hardware store, I found an adapter for 99 cents which could be screwed directly into the pump's threaded discharge outlet. All I had to do was unscrew the existing discharge fitting, screw it in, attach a compatible hose, hook that into the tee, throw the pump into the bin and plug it into an extension cord. The result?


A fertigation system, for very little money!

The drippers all started dripping aquarium water at a rate indistinguishable from that of the hose bib, and in about ten minutes or so, the tub was nearly empty. Much easier than the watering can. (And more efficient, as you don't spill water on the plants or lose any to evaporation.) I still have to get the water from the fish tanks into the bin, but I have a siphon long enough to reach out the window and directly into the bin. While it might seem like a nuisance, it really isn't an additional nuisance, because I have to change the aquarium water anyway.

Being free, aquarium water is a lot cheaper than Miracle Gro, and it said to be very high in the nutrients plants need. The problem is, there's no way to know with any degree of accuracy what the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) ratios are, and it varies from water change to water change:

The N-P-K would naturally be relevant to the fish load and how long the tank has been setup.. By the time you tested it would be different again lol. My guess is that it'a about a third of the necessary nutrients for most plants. The great part is that it could never burn and all the elements are in a stable form. Certainly better than straight tap water,but wouldn't expect to quit fertilizing.
I think I could use store-bought fertilizer every couple of weeks instead of weekly, although some online gardeners state that aquarium water is all you need.

Sheesh, what a boring post. Readers come here expecting to see exciting discussions of controversial issues, and hopeless arguments dissected down to the last hopeless bone. And here I am talking about how to be a cheapskate backyard gardener.

Well, to spice things up a bit, I might as well mention a form of natural fertilizer I have not tried yet: urine.

Oh yes:

maybe you didn't know that human urine is the fastest acting, most excellent source of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and some trace elements. Not only that, but we all have a constant, year round supply of it - and it's free! There's not a lot of effort involved in creating this wonderful organic liquid fertilizer.

Some men I know are more than happy to oblige a tree, bush or lawn (out of view, of course).

Did you know that many toilets use between 50 and 100 litres of water a day to flush around 1.5 litres of pee? And the high levels of nutrients in our effluent systems leads to the growth of algae, which ultimately causes the death of plants and animals throughout our waterways.

What are the advantages of using urine as an organic liquid fertilizer?
# If you're not flushing this valuable liquid down the loo, you are reducing your water consumption - good for the environment and your pocket

# You'll be reducing the amount of sewerage runoff

# There'll be less nutrients in our waterways

# Urine as a liquid fertilizer is available in an ideal chemical form for plants to use

# Gardening costs are less as your liquid fertilizer is free

# It is readily available all year round and there are no transportation costs

Just so that you know, fresh human urine is sterile (unless there is a urinary tract infection - this urine should not be used) and so free from bacteria.

I recommend that you dilute urine to 10-15 parts water to 1 part urine for application on plants in the growth stage. Dilute to 30-50 parts water to 1 part urine for use on pot plants as they are much more sensitive to fertilizers of any kind.

Well now, isn't that nice to know? I had no idea that I have been flushing away perfectly good organic and natural fertilizer. (But OTOH, aren't we humans supposed to be unnatural?)

As to whether I should be peeing into my water bin, I don't know. Perhaps readers can assist me. (Assist me in the decision process, of course.) I'm thinking that this might be the sort of thing that a gardener who did it might want to keep to himself, especially if you want people to be enthusiastic over your vegetables at the dinner table. (Obviously, I have no desire to get caught up in any sort of "fertigate scandal.") And is it legal for farmers to add piss to their crops?

Anyway, I hope I managed to inject a wee bit of controversy into the otherwise dull issue of fertigation.

I only hope no one was pissed by my, um, flow.

AFTERTHOUGHT: A question of guilt to ponder. What should I feel more guilty about?

-- wasting perfectly good liquid fertilizer with every flush?


-- the fact that I injected "guilty urine" into an otherwise innocent discussion?

posted by Eric at 10:11 AM | Comments (6)

Total Loss

Seeking Alpha is taking a look at the problem with bundled mortgages. And they are huge. As in bigger than you can possibly imagine.

Mortgages bundled into securities were a favorite investment of speculators at the height of the financial bubble leading up to the crash of 2008. The securities changed hands frequently, and the companies profiting from mortgage payments were often not the same parties that negotiated the loans. At the heart of this disconnect was the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, a company that serves as the mortgagee of record for lenders, allowing properties to change hands without the necessity of recording each transfer.

MERS was convenient for the mortgage industry, but courts are now questioning the impact of all of this financial juggling when it comes to mortgage ownership. To foreclose on real property, the plaintiff must be able to establish the chain of title entitling it to relief. But MERS has acknowledged, and recent cases have held, that MERS is a mere "nominee" -- an entity appointed by the true owner simply for the purpose of holding property in order to facilitate transactions. Recent court opinions stress that this defect is not just a procedural but is a substantive failure, one that is fatal to the plaintiff's legal ability to foreclose.

I see a lot of work ahead for lawyers.

Update: More at Stop Foreclosure Fraud

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:56 AM | Comments (2)

The "Personhood Amendment" -- just what conservatives need now!

An emerging issue epitomizes a phenomenon I have discussed in countless posts, and I hate to be a repetitive bore, so please bear with me....

I am hardly alone in noticing that like-minded, single-issue activists often associate with -- and tend to exclusively surround themselves with -- other like-minded, single-issue activists. The result is what many call an echo chamber -- or "the choir." But I think "echo chamber" and "choir" are less than accurate terms, because the implication is that people are simply getting together and agreeing with each other in groups. When group dynamics are factored into single issue fanaticism, a lot more happens than mere group agreement. Because people are naturally competitive, many activists want to prove to the group that they are not only devoted to the cause, but more devoted than the others. This leads to extreme hyperbole, and the taking of positions which normal people would consider laughable. A classic was a fierce theoretical libertarian debate I remember over whether handguns should be sold in school vending machines. Like-minded libertarians are no more immune to this phenomenon of ratcheting up the rhetoric than anyone else. However, I think that one of the remarkable aspects of the Tea Party (so far, at least) is that the focus on a common denominator of a few basic principles (namely Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets) -- without excluding any single issue activists -- has led to the integration by compartmentalization of most of single issue activists who are involved.

One of the largest single-issue factions in politics today consists of the anti-abortion people. I don't know whether they're supposed to be called "pro-life" or "right to life," these days, but I have no interest in living up to their definitions or passing their litmus tests, any more than I have an interest in the definitions or litmus tests of the pro-abortion (whether they're "pro-choice" or "anti-life") Planned Parenthood type people. As I have said countless times, I think abortion is morally wrong (the more human brain material the embryo has, the more wrong I think it is), but I do not think abortion is murder, and I have a serious problem with imprisoning women for it. Which I hasten to say again is hardly approval:

Saying that a woman shouldn't be imprisoned for aborting her fetus is not the same thing as approving of her act, much less saying it is a good thing. I think drugs should be legal, but that does not mean I approve of or advocate heroin. If God disapproved of heroin, does that mean it would be immoral to oppose imprisoning people for it?
Whether that makes me worthy of the pro-life or pro-choice label, I do not care.

I grew up in a time when abortion was illegal, but it was not murder. In my home state of Pennsylvania, if a woman wanted an abortion, she had to get a physician to say that it was for "therapeutic" reasons -- something many doctors and (or psychiatrists, in the case of a physically healthy woman) were willing to say. Only after the "therapeutic loophole" requirements were complied with (wink-wink) could the therapeutic abortion be performed. This meant that legal abortions were expensive and as a result they were more available to the educated, affluent classes than to the uneducated poor or working classes. Today, of course, there's no need to go doctor-shopping; it's abortion on demand.

In those days, abortion was the sort of thing that people didn't like to discuss, but (and this may reflect my background) I never heard anyone call it murder until after the divisive Roe v. Wade decision was handed down. The idea that abortion is murder is, IMO, a modern phenomenon which is largely a result of single-issue anti-abortion activists who would never have gotten together had it not been for Roe v. Wade. Few of these activists care about the consequences of actually changing the law to make abortion murder. Do we really want to have a country with millions and millions of mass murderesses walking the streets?

The idea that abortion is murder was also aided by Vatican rulings that life begins at conception. But what is conception? Some would say the moment of fertilization, but the history of the term suggests otherwise:

Both the 1828 and 1913 editions of Webster's Dictionary said that to "conceive" meant "to receive into the womb and ... begin the formation of the embryo."[10] It was only in 1875 that Oskar Hertwig discovered that fertilization includes the penetration of a spermatozoon into an ovum. Thus, the term "conception" was in use long before the details of fertilization were discovered. By 1966, a more precise meaning of the word "conception" could be found in common-use dictionaries: the formation of a viable zygote.[11]

In 1959, Dr. Bent Boving suggested that the word "conception" should be associated with the process of implantation instead of fertilization.[12] Some thought was given to possible societal consequences, as evidenced by Boving's statement that "the social advantage of being considered to prevent conception rather than to destroy an established pregnancy could depend on something so simple as a prudent habit of speech." In 1965, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) adopted Boving's definition: "conception is the implantation of a fertilized ovum."[13]

The 1965 ACOG definition was imprecise because, by the time it implants, the zygote is called a blastocyst,[14] so it was clarified in 1972 to "Conception is the implantation of the blastocyst."[15] Some dictionaries continue to use the definition of conception as the formation of a viable zygote.[16]

If we analogize to other forms of life, a fertilized egg is in many ways like a chicken egg or the seed of a plant. It is alive, (and fertilized human eggs can be kept alive for many decades, as can other animal eggs and plant seeds), but until it is actually placed in some sort of environment conducive to its growth, it cannot be said to be the same as a living breathing animal or plant.

I think that saying that a fertilized human egg is a person is about as logical as saying an acorn is an oak tree, but here I am repeating myself. I don't think eggs have souls, and as I have pointed out, if they do then God is the biggest mass murderer of them all, because as many as half of all fertilized eggs never make it into the implanted and growing stage.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of abortion, it is a real stretch to declare eggs people, but once again, it is a perfectly predictable result of single-issue activists ratcheting up the rhetoric.

The latest idea is the so-called Personhood Amendment, which is being promoted in a number of states (including Michigan), and would amend state constitutions to have fertilized eggs legally declared to be people. True to form, the activists are ratcheting up the rhetoric, just in time for the election season:

Members of Personhood Colorado unveiled their first campaign advertisement at a news conference at the Capitol. The radio ad, which will be aired in the coming days, compares the rights of fetuses to American slaves.

It features a fictitious slave by the name of George Stevens who says he fought to end the practice of declaring people as property.

"I fought so all slaves would be recognized as persons, not property, and we won," says Stevens in the radio spot, as patriotic war music plays in the background. "But today in Colorado there are sill people called property Ń children Ń just like I was. And that America you thought you wouldn't recognize is all around you, and these children are being killed."

The ad asks voters this November to vote "yes" on Amendment 62 because the measure declares unborn children persons, not property.

"And that's the America I fought for," concludes the ad.

The news conference yesterday was attended by former Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes, as well as faith leaders who support the initiative.

The proposal would define the term "person" in the state constitution as being from the "beginning of the biological development of that human being."

Well, it figures Keyes would be involved. I only hope this kooky idea doesn't become a GOP litmus test, because it is very unpopular with voters. Such a ballot measure has already lost 3 to 1 in Colorado, but losing elections does not stop activists. You might think that a guy who figures largely in the political rise of Barack Obama as does Alan Keyes would think twice about a movement which almost seems perfectly calculated and timed to hurt the conservative cause. But then, hard liners like Keyes are like people who enjoy gambling against huge odds. They expect to lose, and will settle for nothing less than total victory against overwhelming odds.

While I am quite fascinated by the slavery analogy, for a couple of reasons I don't think it's quite accurate to phrase it only in terms of "property" versus "personhood." Even in the days of American slavery, while slaves were property, they were generally considered to be people nonetheless; an early DC statute is typical:

While each state would have its own, most of the ideas were shared throughout the slave states. In the codes for the District of Columbia, a slave is defined as "a human being, who is by law deprived of his or her liberty for life, and is the property of another."[61
Slaves were also considered by most Americans to have souls, and their masters (even if they were nephews of Thomas Jefferson) were not allowed to kill them with impunity.

So I don't think the personhood of a fetus is necessarily dispose of the slavery issue.

Slavery is covered by the 13th Amendment:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Not to digress, but I can't help wonder why the animal rights activists (especially those who call themselves abolitionists) haven't seized on the failure of the amendment to limit slavery to human beings. Why aren't hogs and cattle considered slaves? Why isn't Coco my slave? (At times I think I am her slave, but that's another issue....)

The point is that only people can be slaves, and in that sense human chattel slaves are not like animals, as animals by definition cannot be slaves. Except in the United States, humans are not allowed to be slaves. So, while defining a fertilized egg or a fetus as a person would give it 13th Amendment protection, how is it to be determined whether it is in a state of slavery? A fetus is not the sort of chattel property which can be sold as a "slave," any more than an unborn calf embryo could be sold as a cow, because what gives a slave value as chattel is that because it is a living, walking, talking, comprehending person, it can perform human-like work.

However, embryos and fetuses do share one feature in common with slaves in that they are trapped and not free to leave. Unlike slaves, though, they cannot be transferred from one woman to another (unless this could done before the implantation stage).

Sorry, but I just don't think the slavery analogy works. You could make a better case that an unwilling mother of the fetus is a slave, or at least in a temporary state of involuntary servitude. This argument has been debated by libertarians, and it gets complicated. I'm not sure how I would feel about the idea of having to carry to term a fetus implanted within me against my will. Suppose a burglar broke into my home and for some pathological reason left a baby behind. Sure, I would call the cops and have it taken away, but suppose the burglary happened when I was getting ready to drive to the airport for a two-week vacation, and if I took the necessary time to wait for the appropriate bureaucrats to come and ask all their ponderous questions, I would miss my flight. Of course, I would just have to miss my flight, but suppose I was callused enough to get in my car and drive away. Would I have any legal duty towards that unwanted human in my home? And because the baby is incapable of trespassing, it wouldn't make any difference whether it was left by a burglar or by some stranger who left it on the front porch.

Now, I realize that hypothetical is ridiculous, and that no normal person would leave an abandoned baby to die, but wouldn't it be at least as ridiculous to declare me under a duty to care for that child for a period of many months? Obviously, I am not free to kill an unwanted baby left in my house, but whether I should be forced to care for one is not the same issue. The state cannot compel me to be a child care worker against my will. Unless I were compensated for it, it would be involuntary servitude. Whether this means that women forced to carry unwanted babies to term should be paid, or by whom, I don't know; I use the example mainly to illustrate the endless hair-splitting that results from the "slavery" analogy.

But imagine the debates that will result if state constitutions are amended to call a fertilized egg a person. Taking ordinary birth control pills could be murder. If you think that sounds far-out, consider that there's a major debate going on in the pro-life movement over whether contraceptives should be considered abortifacient drugs. The fact that they might prevent implantation of fertilized eggs in the case of "breakthrough ovulation" is very troubling to some, but what fascinates me is that for pragmatic reasons, there's a sort of polite advocacy of keeping the issue in the closet, which has been bitterly opposed.

If birth control pills can in fact act as abortifacients (which I think it's fair to say they sometimes do), there have been hundreds of millions of murders committed by innumerable ordinary people -- many of whom vote.

Try as I might, I can't see the Personhood Amendment as helpful in any way to the Republicans or to the conservative cause. Were it to really get going, few things could be more divisive or more helpful to the left (and it might especially help the pro-choice movement.)

So under the circumstances, I must question the timing.

posted by Eric at 01:05 PM | Comments (12)

A Cell Phone Mandate

There is a bill pending in Congress to require FM radios in cell phones.

The FM chip mandate is an attempt to mollify the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters); under the terms of the Performance Rights Act, the [broadcast- ed.] industry would pay approximately $100 million to broadcast music on terrestrial radio. The inclusion of FM chips in all mobile devices would purportedly give broadcasters access to a wider audience. But it's the consumer companies (and by extension, the consumer) who get the shaft in this deal.

This is little more than a government-mandated crutch for a legacy technology--no better than the EPA's attempts to legislate a longer lifespan for incandescent lifebulbs. The high popularity of Sirius, XM, and internet radio shows where the market is headed. This new government mandate apparently removes a "competitive disadvantage" (to quote an EPA spokesman) for AM/FM Radio.

CEA President Gary Shapiro is furious, and rightfully so. "The backroom scheme of the [National Association of Broadcasters] and RIAA to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity," he said. "Rather than adapt to the digital marketplace, NAB and RIAA act like buggy-whip industries that refuse to innovate and seek to impose penalties on those that do." It's understandable that Shapiro would feel blindsided, since the CEA (the very companies to implement the FM chips) wasn't consulted.

Having worked in the music industry a long time ago: juke box servicing, juke box mfg., Chief Engineer at a radio station, I can tell you the whole industry is totally mobbed up. I was just discussing it with my mom who used to know a lot of the people in the industry in Omaha and she agrees.

And now the criminals get to whisper in the ears of our government. And just to get a political dig in: is it any surprise when the head of our government comes from one of the most mobbed up cities in the nation?

And who is going to pay for another chip that must be included in the cell phones? Well it is not going to be the music industry. Plus, I wonder if they have considered the antenna issues?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:25 PM | Comments (5)

I Am Israel

Tall Dave (as he is known in Polywell Fusion circles) wrote a bit on Israel: The Jewish Burden of the Israeli Paradigm.

Here is the video that can be found at the link he posted.

posted by Simon at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)

Tipping Point

Reason Magazine is where I got the video. They have this to say:

Fichtner points out, three public policy trajectories converging. The medical marijuana movement is gaining momentum. People are increasingly wakening up to the fact that drug prohibition creates more public health problems than it solves. And, in the same way that the Great Depression caused people to reprioritize how we spend our public dollars, the current economic crisis has got people thinking that bringing the biggest cash crop in the US out into the open might not be such a bad idea.
Hard economic times are good for companies and governments. They force the rationalization of policies and expenditures. Alcohol was in part legalized because before prohibition the Federal Government got 1/3 of its revenue from taxing alcohol. The same dynamic (although not the scale) is at work with marijuana.

You can find the book mentioned in the video here:

Cannabinomics: The Marijuana Policy Tipping Point

Some other books on the subject:

Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

Why Marijuana Should Be Legal

William F. Buckley Jr. "A Conservative Look at Marijuana"

And if you want to get in on the boom it might be good to learn a little horticulture:

Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible

But get in early. Because like the microprocessor/personal computer industry eventually economies of scale are going to drive most small undercapitalized businesses out of the market. OTOH you might wind up being the Steve Jobs of the industry.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:13 PM | Comments (0)

The Jewish Burden of the Israeli Paradigm

Via Michael Totten (for my money, the best journalist in the world), an absolutely fascinating essay from Yoram Hazony on how Israel is viewed by Europeans, with references to Kuhn.

Israelis and friends of Israel can reasonably be divided on the question of whether this withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, or the parallel withdrawal from the security zone in South Lebanon in 2000, was really in Israel's interests, and whether the Jewish state is today better off because of them. But one thing about which we can all agree, I think, is that these withdrawals did nothing to stem the tide of hatred and vilification being poured on Israel's head internationally. ... When it comes to shifts of political paradigm, these take place principally through books, which expose people to an idea at length and in depth; and in schools, where such books are studied and discussed, especially universities. If we are interested in the reconstruction of the paradigm that has served as the foundation for Israel's existence, that's where the work is going to have to be done.

You really have to read the whole thing.

posted by Dave at 03:40 PM | Comments (2)

Hockey Stick Shattered For Good?

This is possibly the second-biggest climate science news of the past ten years: some statisticians did a full rework of Mann's infamous hockey stick papers, and he results were... not pretty.

We find that the proxies do not predict temperature significantly better than random series generated independently of temperature.
On the one hand, we conclude unequivocally that the evidence for a "long-handled" hockey stick (where the shaft of the hockey stick extends to the year 1000 AD) is lacking in the data.
Climate scientists have greatly underestimated the uncertainty of proxy-based reconstructions and hence have been overconfident in their models.

That's despite the study's very generous assumption that all the proxy and measurement data is valid.

The news for AGW believers isn't all bad as they still find a trend of warmer recent temperatures, but any claims of certainty about "unprecedented" warmth now go out the window.

The study is probably most damning for the "the science is settled! we must act now!" crowd, because, as others have noted, you can draw a straight line through the whole reconstruction. That means we don't know with much certainty whether temperatures have changed at all over the last 1000 years.

posted by Dave at 12:22 PM | Comments (2)

It's not about rights

All talk of rights to the contrary notwithstanding, I think that building a Hamas-sympathetic mosque near Ground Zero is a bad idea. That does not mean I favor religious discrimination, nor does it mean that I don't think mosques should be allowed in America. But I think there is a time place and manner issue here which is being clouded by sanctimonious talk about rights, and the American tradition of freedom.

Bill Whittle really has a good point about cowardice in this video that Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday. The issue is not the "right" of anyone to build a mosque in America. The issue is why these cowards are so desperately asserting that right on behalf of people who not only don't respect that right, but who are politically and philosophically opposed to the very concept embedded in the First Amendment.

S.E. Cupp puts it this way:

President Obama is just the latest public figure to voice his support using this declaration of constitutional might, joining Mayor Bloomberg and others in trumpeting the country's freedom of religion clause as the only real argument that matters on the issue.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn) had this to say: "I commend President Obama's statement on the Cordoba House and his support of our First Amendment rights of freedom of religion and separation of church and state."

Case closed, conversation over. Well, no offense to the Constitution, but so what? They're right, of course - the group behind the mosque has every legal right to build their house of worship wherever they like.

But what about common sense and decency? If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf had either, he and his group would reconsider the location out of respect for the hordes of Americans, many of them 9/11 family members themselves, who think that this idea just plain stinks. And if it weren't for political correctness and our decidedly 21st century paranoia over offending Islam, our national leaders would proudly echo those sentiments.

Enough is enough. The speechifying and pontificating on the mosque's constitutionality are a distraction and a straw man. No one in serious circles who opposes the mosque at Ground Zero is suggesting it should be made illegal to build a Muslim house of worship near the site of the 9/11 attacks.

What they're trying to say, and largely to plugged ears on the left, is that having the right doesn't make it right.

Which was pretty much what I said in a comment to Dave's earlier post:
"Under our Constitution one could hold a Japanese Pride Parade down the streets of Nanking," just as under our Constitution the Nazis had the right to march in Skokie, IL.

There is a big difference between something being legal (or legally protected) and the same thing being good.

If the Nazis wanted to march again in an Illinois town populated by elderly Holocaust survivors, would Obama, Bloomberg, Nadler and company be singing the praises of their right to do it?

I don't think so. They are not only cowards, but they hide their cowardice in the Bill of Rights. Rights for which their enemies have nothing but contempt and wish to destroy.

I'm sure there are some who would complain that it is unfair of me to compare Muslims to Nazis, which I am not doing. I'm just using Skokie as a famous example of a right that I would defend as a right even though it is not right.

But for those who think it is wrong to invoke a Nazi example, then how about let's try Pat Robertson? Shortly after 9/11, he joined the chorus of loons who blamed the gays and the abortionists for the attack. He was of course well within his First Amendment right to do that, just as the 9/11 Truthers were well within their First Amendment rights in saying the attack was an "inside job." So let's suppose that Pat Robertson wanted to build a Ground Zero evangelical center. Or suppose some wealthy crank decided that he wanted to build a "Worldwide Center for 9/11 Truth." Would the sanctimonious left be carrying on about their rights? Hell no; they would scream quite loudly that these things would be inappropriate at Ground Zero. (And you can be sure that Robertson and/or the Truthers would be so tied up in bureaucratic red tape that they wouldn't get zoning or building permits for the next ten years....)

And why is that? Why would they loudly denounce Pat Robertson and the Truthers and yet shamelessly carry on about the rights of a Hamas-loving cleric?

I think the answer is simple.

They don't fear Pat Robertson or the 9/11 Truthers.

MORE: Don't miss "A Patriotic Muslim's Warning on Ground Zero Mosque" -- Aaron Elias's PJM interview with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. A genuine moderate Muslim, Jasser explains why "the project threatens to send a message of weakness to Islamists the world over."

It strikes me that those who champion the rights of Imam Rauf would just as soon avoid his moderate Muslim critics like Dr. Jasser.

You'd almost think they wanted to send a message of weakness.

MORE: In contrast to Sarah Palin (who properly IMO, questioned the rightness of the Ground Zero mosque while acknowledging the right to build it), Newt Gingrich displays open contempt for the First Amendment itself:

Sarah Palin, the first national figure to make an issue of the Park 51, says "we all know that they have the right to do it." But Gingrich knows no such thing.

"The Ground Zero mosque is all about conquest," he says, "and thus an assertion of Islamist triumphalism which we should not tolerate." In response to those who note that interfering with the project because of its Muslim character would violate the First Amendment, he says, "Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington."

Actually, they do have that right, distasteful though it may be. Surely Gingrich is old enough to remember the Skokie case.

And Newt has every right to say what he says, but that does not make him right.

By his logic (that there is no right to engage in offensive speech), then he should have no "right" to open Gingrich campaign office next door to the headquarters of American Atheists, or Planned Parenthood.

MORE: What I just said reminds me of a practical issue. Suppose Fred Phelps opened a branch of his "GODHATESFAGS!" church on Castro Street in San Francisco, or Operation Rescue actually opened a branch next to Planned Parenthood.

The cops, the neighbors, and the municipalities involved would absolutely hate such things, would they not? How much would it cost in terms of city services and overtime to attempt to keep the peace between groups of people who hate each other?

When free speech gets expensive, who should bear the cost?

posted by Eric at 08:26 AM | Comments (10)

Rights vs. What's Right

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser: he could not hate the Ground Zero mosque so, did he not love Muslims more.

Mr. President this is not about religious freedom. It is about the importance of the World Trade Center site to the psyche of the American People. It is about a blatant attack on our sovereignty by people whose ideology ultimately demands the elimination of our way of life. While Imam Faisal Rauf may not share their violent tendencies he does seem to share a belief that Islamic structures are a political statement and even Ground Zero should be looked upon through the lens of political Islam and not a solely American one.

As a Muslim desperate to reform his faith, your remarks take us backwards from the day that my faith will come into modernity. I do not stand to eliminate Imam Rauf's religious freedom; I stand to make sure that my children's religious freedom will be determined by the liberty guaranteed in the American Constitution and not by clerics or leaders who are apologists for shar'iah law and will tell me what religious freedom is..

These are the people who going to reform Islam, not the "hear no evil, see no evil" types like Rauf who condone Islamic terrorism by refusing to condemn it.

The Park51 tweeting is obnoxious and deceitful. This is the "dialogue" they're trying to promote? They can't build their Islamic center somewhere that wasn't the site of a building destroyed by Muslim terrorists in the name of Islam? These people have the mentality of a seven-year-old who marches around swinging his arms and says it's his sister's fault for getting hit because she was in the way.

UPDATE: Via Glenn, Bill Whittle and Jim Treacher weigh in. Whittle makes some great historical points.

UPDATE: The Park51 tweeter has apparently been sacked.

Update: We are in the process of introducing a new team and are issuing apologies for any prior tweets that may have caused offense.

So, maybe there's hope some adults over there will take charge and move the Islamic center somewhere nearby that doesn't piss off 68% of Americans.

UPDATE: Stealing a bit from Allahpundit seems appropriate here, so I have two exit questions:

1) Where are all these lefties so concerned about free expression when a Southern state does anything vaguely resembling honoring their Confederate heritage?

2) What did they, and the Cordoba people, think of "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day," an actual free speech protest against violence directed at people exercising their rights?

UPDATE: Ace has a big roundup of mosque-ings from all over.

posted by Dave at 07:44 PM | Comments (4)

A Third Of Your Adult Life On The Dole

There's some confusion about how many years of Social Security someone who reaches SS retirement age will actually receive. While life expectancy is only in the high 70s, that includes a lot of people who die in infancy or before reaching retirement age.

Life expectancy at 65 in 2005 was about 18 years. It appears to be about 19 in 2010. It's been steadily increasing by about a year per decade for some time, and while Obamacare's rationing and innovation-stifling will doubtless stall that a bit, the trend is likely to continue in the long run (especially if the 60% of likely voters who want HCR repealed get their way). If you work from 18 to 65, or 47 years, you would only need to live about 23 years before achieving that one-third. By the time most Americans working today retire, that's probably about where the LE at 65 will be.

So yes, as it stands now the system really is promising most Americans working today a third of their adult lives on the dole, assuming they make it to retirement age. Or, to put it another way: you're expected to spend fully half the time you worked in retirement. It's not at all clear it is possible for the working 2/3 to support the nonworking 1/3 at ever-increasing living standards.

Social Security was originally set at about the LE of its time, and it was mostly intended to provide basic subsistence to those too old to work, a laudable and easily funded goal when there are ten workers for every retiree. But because it ignores rising life expectancies the system is now headed for 2 workers for every retiree -- and because the cost of living adjustments are based on CPI, which drastically understates the actual increase in living standards (it doesn't even attempt to measure most qualitative gains or efficiencies to consumers such as WalMart; this is a known problem in economics) it's expected to deliver living standards far in excess of the average living standards at the time SS was enacted. It's no longer a security blanket, and no longer subsistence.

posted by Dave at 01:20 PM | Comments (8)

the mandatory unconstitutional emissions of the bulletproof bureaucratic superstructure

Back in the old days, our ancestors used to be awakened by the sounds of roosters crowing. Today's equivalent is the much more annoying construction/delivery/workplace vehicle backup alarm. Unlike roosters, though, the backup alarm noises do not settle down. All day long there's a relentless chorus of artificial BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! I find it grating to the senses and, yes, repugnant in a way that roosters, barking dogs, and even crying babies are not.

That particular backup alarm noise is so annoying that it's a major reason so many people hate neighborhood construction projects.

It is singled out as a noise issue at the many anti-noise sites. The City of San Francisco Department of Public Health notes that:

relentless heavy truck backup beepers are a common occurrence in many residential areas of San Francisco due to the flood of remodeling and new construction
And points out that it's a post-Noise Ordinance noise:
The San Francisco noise ordinance was written in 1972 and a wide variety of new specialized noise sources have come on the market since that time.


* Back up beepers on delivery trucks, garbage trucks, tractors, and construction vehicles.

Noise Free America has called on the federal government to do something about it:
The Federal government is called upon to declare noise a dangerous form of pollution, a serious threat to health and safety, and a public menace. To this end, Noise Free America recommends the following:


(3) Limitations on back-up beepers: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should reexamine its requirement for back-up beepers and trucks and vans. At the least, it should require back-up beepers of diminished volume.

But that is specifically not allowed! The awful noises which torment so many people are mandated by the federal government in the form of OSHA regulations -- which stipulate that back-up alarms on construction equipment be "audible above the surrounding noise level."

In other words, they ear-piercing beeps are intended to be annoying. You must be able to hear them above the normal noises associated with construction. Not just workers, but neighbors, who might be able to tune out the sort of "white noise" associated with construction vehicles. The dump trucks, backhoes, delivery trucks and cement mixers don't really bother me; it's the damn relentless, federally mandated beeping that does.

When I rented an ordinary pickup truck last year in Berkeley, I was shocked to discover that it emitted that awful noise whenever I put in in reverse. I didn't want to be emitting that noise, and I found it highly disturbing.

What I learned only today is the reason for it. OSHA regs activate fears of litigation and result in preemptive action. OSHA regs state that:

(4) No employer shall use any motor vehicle equipment having an obstructed view to the rear unless:
(i) The vehicle has a reverse signal alarm audible above the surrounding noise level...
That's any motor vehicle used by an employer; not just construction vehicles. And because it's likely that any motor vehicle used by an employer might have an obstructed view at one time or another, the damned beeper alarms are installed in nearly anything. Even golf carts.

Will wheelchairs be next?

If I really wanted to get ridiculous I could go into my full-bore Constitutional Literalism mode, and ask what in the Constitution gives the federal government the power to require that noise pollution be inflicted on every last neighborhood in the United States regardless of what the citizens might think about it, but that would be so passe. So anarchistic.

So instead of screaming for the five hundredth time about how they're violating the Constitution, I thought I would make an appeal to pragmatism, and cite this CATO paper, which concluded that OSHA is unnecessary.

..the pre-OSHA drop in the frequency of workplace fatalities from 1947 to 1970 was 70 percent larger than the post-OSHA drop from 1970 to 1993. OSHA might actually have slowed the downward trend in fatal injuries.


In 1993 the chance of dying in an accident at home was over two times greater than the chance of dying in an accident at work.


The leading causes of work-related deaths are now highway motor-vehicle accidents and murders by customers and coworkers, which are difficult to control
using workplace safety standards.

Murders in the workplace?


I wonder how many of them were caused by nervous stress as a result of being subjected to that awful federally mandated workplace noise day after day.

As anyone who has been to the giant retail stores knows, the damned alarms are also required indoors, and they are so annoying that they are frequently disabled:

Reverse alarms on powered industrial trucks are loud, annoying, and create workplace stress. After a day on the job with several vehicles in service, alarms create fatigue and even, perhaps, physical illness. That may be the reason a dealer says backup alarms are useless. He tells us that one out of three has been altered by the users and when they are repaired, the operator quickly disables them. Visual backup alarms are no better. Together, they add a level of stress that can make a work site an awful place to be.
Brad Templeton calls them major noise pollution, and solicits opinions on alternatives:
As such, as we all know, the sound is really piercing. And more to the point, it travels, often for miles. It's a major noise pollution anywhere near any work site. I presume part of the problem as well is workers wearing hearing protection need it even louder.
This drew some great comments. This is a classic:
It does not supprise me that you want to do away with safty features like the beeping on backing up vehicles. You simply do not care about morals, children, and society in general.
Children? OSHA regulates the workplace, and these regs were not written for the protection of children. But I suppose that if screaming about The Children is mandatory in this discussion, it ought to be pointed out that children's ears are more sensitive than adults, and that they are more traumatized by these awful noises.

You think I am making this up? Think again. OSHA-approved alarms are typically 97 decibels (they range from 87-107 decibels), and all noises above 85 decibels can damage hearing, with children's ears being more sensitive:

All noise above 85 decibels will do damage to your ears. Many regular daily noises are above that range. If you experience damage, you may just kill a few hair cells at a time in your inner ear. Slowly, but surely, it will take greater sound levels to adequately stimulate the auditory nerve that leads to your brain. Permanent hearing loss can't be reversed by pills, hearing aids, therapy or surgery. Once you destroy too many hair cells, you are out of luck. I am trying to do everything in my power to save what hair cells I have left. I want to be able to hear my grand children without having to use a hearing aid. It may be too late. When I do seminars, I often have to cup my hand over my ear to amplify a person's voice. I think I have major problems.

Watch Your Children!

Children's ears are more sensitive than adults. It takes less noise to cause damage.

So while I'm not going to SHOUT about it, I'm inclined to agree with this commenter:



The post really hit a nerve, as other commenters describe what it's like to live in what one calls "backup beeper hell." Another commenter likened the noise to torture, and concluded with a threat:
I've been woken up this morning, as I do every day, by a cacophony of alarms mainly from construction vehicles. There's a major development about 400 yards away and I happen to live in an area where every other resident is continually engaged in some kind of (usually hideous) 'home improvement'. It's incredible; first off are the vehicles performing 40-point reverse turns, so you get groups of about 8 beeps again, and again, and again. Each group of beeps has a distinctive pattern, the first beep being longer than the others; this has an effect similar to chinese water torture. Then there are the idiots who are trying to reverse down the residential streets, and all the other machines. It's like listening to some kind of nightmarish orchestral arrangement for beepers.

I'm very very annoyed. It's been going on for years and will continue to. It amazes me that the human race managed to survive in days before these beepers. Do they actually honestly serve a useful purpose, or are they just a typically overprecious and unnecessary health and safety measure? Please, please bring on the white noise beepers. Before I start going out at night and sabotaging them.

Another commenter said that the legislature belonged in hell:
I agree. There is a hot spot in hell waiting for the "well meaning" legislature that came up with the back up beep. It's a classic example of solving a problem with a much worse one.
While he's basically right, he is wrong in the sense that no legislature actually sat and voted to mandate the infliction of these noises.

The beeper mandates took the form of regulations which were written by nameless, anonymous, unelected bureaucrats. Possibly one little petty tyrant, who got a thrill knowing that the words he wrote would torment millions of Americans to near madness. The fact that there are no identifiable congressmen to blame is no accident. Congress likes it that way. As to the Constitution, bring that up and they just roll their eyes. Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if they just told me to get over myself and face the fact that we are ruled by a bureaucratic superstructure that none of us (least of all members of Congress) can do anything about.

Well, at least FDR (though he's not often thought of as a Constitution lover) had reservations about the system that was to come:

Based on one study, Roosevelt commented that the practice of creating administrative agencies with the authority to perform both legislative and judicial work "threatens to develop a fourth branch of government for which there is no sanction in the Constitution."
I think that calling it a mere fourth "branch" of government understates the problem, because in practice, today's superstructure is more powerful than the other branches.

To illustrate how utterly bulletproof and undemocratic this superstructure is, imagine if you tried to actually stop the beeper noises in your own neighborhood. You would hear the same vast chorus echoed by everyone -- from the vehicle operator, to the foreman, to the builder, to the building inspector, to the zoning department, and yes, even the city's noise ordinance enforcers -- along the following lines:


The worst thing about it is that they'd be right. Because these federal regulations are written by the nameless, faceless bureaucrats who enforce them, there is no one specifically to blame.

That awful beeping sound is a daily reminder of who actually rules.

posted by Eric at 11:32 AM | Comments (10)

Stocking Up

It seems that Israel is stocking up [pdf] on gasoline and jet fuel.

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2010 - The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Israel of unleaded gasoline, JP-8 aviation fuel and diesel fuel for an estimated cost of $2 billion.

The Government of Israel has requested a possible sale of 60,000,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline, 284,000,000 gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel, and 100,000,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The estimated cost is $2 billion.

Uh. Oh.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:44 AM | Comments (1)

The Power To Do Good

What is the common thread between liberals and conservatives today? They are believers in the power of the state to do good. Or in the short hand form statists. Or in the common vernacular fascists.

All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. Benito Mussolini
I have always been an enemy of the State. Not totally. But nearly so. In accord with our founding father:
Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Geo. Washington
Our founders thought the state should be on a very short leash. Chained to the deck with a VERY short chain. Most of what passes for politics today follows from: "there is no limit to the good that can be done by putting a gun to a man's head" liberals and conservatives alike. As a friend of mine likes to say: "we are doomed".

There are only Progressives in politics these days. In the early days of the Progressive movement Economics and Morality were combined. Now a days the movement has bifurcated. We have Liberal Progressives who want the state to "fix" economics and Conservative Progressives who want the state to "fix" morality.

In any case the Progressives are now in control of America left and right. Which is why you see Government "Conservatives" working with the left some times on economics and Government "Liberals" sometimes working with the right on morals. It is the common interest in the power of the state keeps them joined at the hip.

I like the Tea Parties (so far) in that they seem to be more libertarian oriented. And there seems to be an interest growing in libertarian politicians such as Rand Paul.

What encourages me in my war against the statists is that a little over half the country sees the Tea Party in a favorable light.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:53 AM | Comments (5)

the war against fun just got funnier!

I just learned that Right Wing News is the first sponsor of HomoCon 2010:

Today, I want to make an announcement: Right Wing News is the first sponsor of Homocon. We're going to be supporting the event, promoting it, and encouraging Republicans in New York to attend. Thanks to GOProud for giving us the opportunity and thanks to Ann Coulter for creating what's sure to be a memorable event that people will want to attend.
Check out the poster over at RWN.

GayPatriot has more.

But not everyone is happy. Americans for the Truth about Homosexuality spokesman Peter LaBarbera, "issued a press release urging Ann Coulter to reconsider headlining GOProud's Homocon 2010 in New York City." (warning that "Coulter is sending a dangerous message to young Americans that homosexuality is OK"). GOProud suggested that LaBarbera go out and "Actually Read an Ann Coulter Book."

I'm sure LaBarbera is not alone in being upset. Along with him, many leftists are gnashing their teeth.

Coulter's style is a bit shrill for my tastes, but at least she has a sense of humor. And I've always liked the fact that she's a Deadhead.

(I'm sure there are people on both sides of the taste wars who hate her for that, too.)

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all fun lovers. (Hey, even fun haters are welcome here.)

Comments always appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 10:20 PM | Comments (22)

It Has Started

In response to my article The Karl Rove Plan about the potential Democrat Plan to use legalization initiatives to get out the vote a commenter has given me a heads up.

Fritz said...

Yep. And I am planning to throw some money at the "Just Say Now" campaign that firedoglake is pushing. Here in WA state we are committed to having our initiative on the ballot next year.

If Republicans were bright they would go for legalization. But, well, they aren't.

Of course I had to see what firedoglake - Just Say Now was up to. The site is impressive. They have polling data for the different states on legalization. If, like Fritz you want to donate here is the place to go. It is time to put an end to the culture wars. This is one Progressive program that has lived far beyond any conceivable usefulness. And it is way past time for my Conservative friends to stop being so Progressive. Get back to your American Conservative roots. Smaller government. Lower taxes. Let us together wipe out the $25 bn a year the Feds waste on making illegal drugs easier for kids to get than beer.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:46 PM | Comments (2)

Loving my hatefest at America's favorite hate site!

I realize that with all of the pressing problems in the world this is a goofy thing to be doing, but when I saw Glenn Reynolds' "FUN WITH Google AutoComplete" link I just had to play.

Play with hate, of course.

I wanted to know who hates what, what hates who, what hates what, and who hates who.

So, in the order they popped into my mind, I present the Google AutoComplete results for some of the most important and sought after hates in the online world today.

I thought I would start with the two leading higher powers:



I would have thought that Allah hated the F-people more than God, but Google AutoComplete disagrees.

Next came three important earthly powers, starting with the power that makes this powerful search for hatred possible:


As one of the targets of Google AutoComplete's hate is said to be America, I thought it fair for Google AutoComplete to explain what America hated.


Naturally, because America hates Islam AutoCompletely, I felt compelled to ask what Islam hates AutoCompletely:


Fascinating. The only thing Islam hates more AutoCompletely than America is women!

Not wanting to neglect leading individual human leaders, I tried a few.


Compared to Obama, Bush's AutoComplete hates look pretty tired:


Also-ran McCain also has a few, but considering how hateful he was said to be during the campaign, his results are pretty parsimonious:


Unlike Rush Limbaugh, whose hates are obviously much sought-after:


And no hate search would be complete without Michael Moore, who is probably the most hate-filled leftist of them all:


I would have had more representatives on the left, except that big names like Keith Olbermann, Nancy Pelosi, and Barney Frank don't show any AutoComplete filled-in hates. And the AutoComplete results for Jimmy Carter and Oliver Stone are so small as to be not worth a screen shot. (Jimmy hates only Jews, while Oliver Stone hates only America. Go figure.)

And had I not done this, I wouldn't have realized that Google is in fact the world's leading hate site. Seriously, where else can you find the world's most popular hates?

Who'd have thought hate could be so much fun?

Oh, I should add that as a courtesy to Glenn Reynolds (whose link generated this hatefest), I did endeavor to find out what he might AutoCompletely hate, but there was absolutely nothing. Just the dead blank.

(Which is odd, especially if you consider the stubborn, longstanding rumors about his ties to Mussolini. Hey, why is that PJM link for members only? Are they trying to hide something?)

MORE: I should add that the censored ("private") video is titled "Glenn Reynolds & Mussolini: Filthy Lie or Fantastical Fact?" and the caption reads as follows:

The InstaInquisition is on! You, our PJTV viewers, submitted the questions we've all wanted to know about the Instapundit himself... Mr. Glenn Reynolds. Did he influence Mussolini? Does he hate puppies? Find out.
While it would be easy to call the video a whitewash, the fact that it was made at all indicates that sooner or later the real facts are going to come out.

UPDATE: I am surprised and delighted that Glenn Reynolds linked has this hate-filled post, and a warm welcome to all hate lovers. (And hate haters, I suppose.)

I should add that I really can't blame Glenn for not mentioning that stubborn Mussolini meme. Had it not been for that mysteriously private PJM video, I wouldn't have brought it up.

But seriously, check out this screenshot which I took from the suppressed video they won't let you see:


What are they hiding?

posted by Eric at 11:56 AM | Comments (19)

The SSTF And Other Hallucinations

Paul Krugman has always been a hack on fiscal policy, but at this point, I'm becoming concerned about his mental health. First there was the bizarre exchange with Paul Ryan in which he made numerous factual mistakes, now this:

But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won't have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program's actuaries don't expect to happen until 2037 -- and there's a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.

The only problem with that reasoning is that the SSTF doesn't actually exist, as Krugman must be aware. Far from being "banked," Congress started spending that money every year back in the 1970s. You can't spend the same dollar twice. This is why Al Gore campaigned on creating a SSTF "lockbox" in 2000.

Now, leftists will argue the SSTF is real because there are a mountain of IOUs somewhere in a D.C. fault vault, but the bond markets don't care if you write IOUs to yourself; borrowing to pay back the SSTF money will make even today's alarming trillion-plus deficits seem mild by comparison, as Krugman well knows. That is a real crisis, and when Krugman claims otherwise he isn't merely making a bad argument, he is delusional.

posted by Dave at 11:08 AM | Comments (4)

The Karl Rove Plan

It looks like the Democrats may take a page from Karl Rove's playbook in the 2012 election. So what did Rove do?

Turning out an extra few percent can be the difference between winning and losing in swing states, a reality Karl Rove exploited in 2004 by papering the nation with anti-gay marriage initiatives.
Swell. Just swell.

Well the Democrats have a plan of their own.

Putting the question of marijuana legalization on state ballots in 2012 may be one of the most effective ways for a dispirited Democratic Party to get reluctant voters out to the polls. The wild card in the coming midterms and in 2012 will be the "surge" voters -- people who were driven to the polls in 2008 through a once-in-a-generation mix of shame at the outgoing administration and hope in a new, barrier-breaking candidate. Democrats are investing millions in figuring out how to get those voters out, and the marijuana issue is getting increasing attention from political operatives.

A survey making the rounds among strategists, which has yet to be made public, indicates that pot could be just the enticement many of these voters need: Surge voters, single women under 40 and Hispanics all told America Votes pollsters that if a legalization measure were on the Colorado ballot, they'd be more likely to come out to vote. Forty-five percent of surge voters and 47 percent of single women said they'd be more interested in voting if the question was on the ballot. Most of these were energetic, with 36 and 30 percent, respectively, saying they'd be "much more interested" in coming out to vote. Roughly half said it would make no difference. For Latinos, 32 percent said they'd be "much more interested" in voting and another 12 percent said they'd be somewhat more attracted to the idea of trudging to the polls.

Surge voters said they would support the measure by a margin of 63-35. Young single women would back it 68-31. Latinos, meanwhile, oppose it 52-46, according to the survey. "Whether it can pass or not is another question, but I think it's clear that a marijuana legalization measure has the potential to increase turnout among voting groups that are critical to Democratic success in November," said a Colorado Democratic operative, who, like most strategists employed by campaigns, prefers not to talk about marijuana on the record -- highlighting the difficulty Democrats will have threading the political needle.

Republicans could head this off in the legislatures if they had the smarts and the nerve.

What are the chances that the stupid party will Get Smart? I do not believe there is a number small enough to represent the odds of that happening. Maybe in an alternate universe.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:05 AM | Comments (1)

The Leave Us The F* Alone Coalition

Michael Tanner has a few things to say about big government "Conservatives". Let me start off with a headline:

Memo to Republicans: It's Big Government, Stupid!

Then how about some meat:

Despite their repeated threats to stay home if Republicans deviated from a commitment to conservative social issues, it wasn't the Religious Right that deserted Republicans in 2008 (or 2006, for that matter). Turnout among self-described members of the Religious Right remained steady from 2004 to 2008, and these voters remained loyally Republican. Roughly 70 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted Republican in 2006, and 74 percent in 2008, essentially in line with how they have been voting for the past two or three decades.

It was suburbanites, independents, and others who were fed up with the Republican drift toward big government who stayed home -- or, worse, voted Democratic in 2008. Republicans carried the suburbs in both 2000 (49 to 47) and 2004 (52 to 47), but in 2008, suburban voters -- notably wealthy, college-educated professionals, many of whom consider themselves moderate on social issues but economically conservative -- voted for Barack Obama by a margin of 50 to 48. The switch among voters in the suburbs of Columbus, Charlotte, and Indianapolis, for instance, was largely responsible for moving Ohio, North Carolina, and Indiana into the Democratic column. Democrats also continued their gains in the more independent, libertarian West.

Here is my take on that. Let me start with one of my favorites:


And guess what? The libertarian West is anti-prohibition (just look at California). Doesn't give a rats ass about gay marriage. And they think that government has no place in their or their mate's vaginas.

Now are they a majority? Hell no. Are they the people who swing elections? Hell yes.

If the Rs go back to their culture war ways they will deserve to lose. I promise you this: I will vote Republican in the next election, probably the one after. But if the Rs get all Culture War on me I'm going to speak against them every chance I get. Just to ruin their days. Kind of like a bad haircut only worse. Because a bad haircut lasts only a few weeks. I promise to last as long as it takes to destroy them politically.

I'm a proud member of The Leave Us The F* Alone Coalition. I am not interested in government improvement or uplift. If any one is going to improve or uplift me it is going to be me.

Mr. Tanner has written a book:

Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservativism Brought Down the Republican Revolution

I found the reviews (mostly written in 2007) interesting from a historical perspective. Here is a good one:

Odysseus "A Traveller" (Virginia, USA)

Mike Tanner's book provides a valuable service for those believers in limited government who have been left wondering what happened to their values during a period of Republican control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.

Tanner explores and explains the roots of "big-government conservatism," influential thinkers within the Republican tent that were never really believers in limited government to begin with. Instead, these groups, which included religious conservatives, so-called "neoconservatives," "national greatness conservatives," and followers of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others, did not seek to arrest the growth of government so much as to direct it towards ends of which they approved. "Conservatism" thus came to mean many things unrelated to limiting the reach of government, encompassing the likes of Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer, who spoke of conservative social values, but who often opposed addressing the factors (such as the increasing cost of federal entitlement programs) that cause government to grow. The goal of many of these thinkers (Gingrich being a prime example) was not to restrict the size of government, but to bolt new programs whose design they favored, on top of the old ones.

I intend to do my best to drive a stake through the heart of Republican Socialism and do my best to destroy Progressive Conservatives. If they stick with their claim that they are for limited government and fiscal responsibility and act on it, I'm with them. If not I'm going to be agin them. They could start with the Federal Drug War at $25 billion a year and go from there.

H/T Eric of Classical Values via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Individual freedom is behind the times, because we all pay!

One of the more comical aspects of the mess in California is that despite the state's terrible financial crisis, legislators continue to busy themselves with utter nonsense -- such as defrocking the official state rock. When I wrote a post about the idiotic campaign, I had not seen Ron Bailey's Reason piece, which after noting the bill's origination with trial lawyers, dubbed California "The Laughingstock State."

I like to think that at least here in Michigan, legislators would be more down-to-earth and in touch with that Midwestern spirit of common sense. While I know it would be unreasonable to expect that of all legislators, you'd think that Republicans in this hardest-hit-of-hard-hit states would at least have the sense not to pass legislation which would hurt businesses while encroaching on personal freedom.

And you'd be wrong. Michigan's draconian smoking ban (a bill which passed in May and was immediately signed by Governor Granholm), not only had vigorous Republican support, but the bill had thirteen Republican sponsors. The following Republicans are named in the text as having introduced this obnoxious legislation:

Reps. Ball, Calley, Crawford, DeShazor, Green, Haines, Knollenberg, Lori, Marleau, Moss, Proos, Schuitmaker, Paul Scott.
The ban is sweeping in nature, and even includes private clubs:
Q: Where can't people smoke?

A: Public places, such as an auditorium, arena, theater and concert hall, food-service establishments and place of employment, unless exempted.

Q: Will smoking be allowed in private clubs such as Veterans of Foreign Wars halls?

A: No. If the place has employees and serves food or drink, it is considered a public place.

Smoking is banned in all bars, and on all patios or decks of bars, as well as in all hotel and motel rooms. Got that? No more smoking rooms.

(Much as I like to laugh at the California legislature, I'd actually prefer it if the Michigan legislators frittered away their time renaming state rocks, as I'd feel safer.)

While it's only been in place a few months, the ban is already hurting businesses:

For Kyprianides, the impact hit like a bomb as soon as the ashtrays were removed and "no smoking" signs were affixed to the interior wall. For many bargoers, a drink or beer go hand-in-hand with a cigarette, he said.

"I was down $2,000 or 80 percent of my business on the first day," he said. "I would say 25 to 30 percent of my customers are smokers and they represent 90 percent of our business. The remaining non-smokers have not stepped up to fill the void."

That's a similar story being heard around Michigan, according to Andy Deloney of the Michigan Restaurant Association.

In addition to a slide in business, Deloney said some bar and restaurant owners are being harassed by local municipal officials when the law is supposed to be enforced by the county health department.

Naturally. Thanks Republicans!

Meanwhile, other businesses hurt by the ban are boycotting the state lottery.

But what inspired me to write this post is the fact that there remain pockets of resistance, and I was delighted that one of them was featured on the front page of today's Free Press. The elderly war veterans who fought for our freedom are still standing up for it, God bless 'em:

BARAGA -- The veterans at the American Legion Post 444 see it as pretty straightforward.

Smoking tobacco is legal. They own, run and risk failure at their post's tavern in tiny Baraga at the base of the Keweenaw Bay in the Upper Peninsula.

So they get to decide whether patrons get to smoke.

That wasn't an issue before May 1, when a statewide ban on smoking in places of employment took effect (with a few, minor exceptions and one major one: Detroit's three casinos).

Now Foucault-Funke Post 444, where the ashtrays never came off the tables and smokers line the bar each afternoon and evening, is at the center of what could be a decisive showdown for the new state law and -- as the vets see it -- for the individual liberty and self-government they fought to defend.

Earlier this month, the post sued the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department to strike down as unconstitutional the department's order to end indoor smoking.

"It's not about the smoking," said post spokesman Joseph O'Leary. "It's about the right to choose to allow the use of a legal substance on our property."

Well good for them! They know more about freedom than the legislature. And they know more about totalitarianism than the bill's Republican sponsors:
The new state smoking ban, Shepard said, is just one more encroachment on personal freedom, a decision handed down by out-of-touch politicians 500 miles away. She likens it to restrictions on gun rights and creeping government intrusion generally.

"We're not a communist country yet, but we're only one step away from it," she said.

The leaders of the Baraga post said they didn't go looking for a confrontation with the state or local health authorities. But when the new law was signed, they decided it was time to take a stand.

"These are guys who put their lives on the line for their country," said O'Leary, an honorary member of Post 444.

"They said, 'Wait a minute. This is our property. This is not heroin. Nobody in the world who doesn't like smoke has to walk through that door.'

"They just decided, enough is enough."

When May 1 came, Post Commander Rick Geroux issued a notice to members and employees that, until ordered by a court, the new restrictions would not be observed on its premises.

During the next two months, several citizen complaints were filed about the post's noncompliance, and local health department officials sent notices of violation. Geroux responded with a news release July 16 that described the new law as unconstitutional and un-American.

Further, the exemption for Detroit's casinos (which was based on their need to compete with American Indian casinos not covered by the state law) is "wildly unfair" to the Baraga post, which lies within a mile, and competes for customers, with two alcohol-serving, smoking-acceptable tribal facilities, Geroux said.

After getting a cease-and-desist order from the health department July 20, the post decided to sue.

As far as I'm concerned, these veterans are fighting an enemy which is uncomfortably similar to the ones against which they risked their lives. They are not alone, but they are being targeted for their defiant attitude towards the ruling bureaucrats.
Post spokesman O'Leary, also the Baraga County prosecuting attorney, believes noncompliance with the law, especially in the libertarian-leaning Upper Peninsula, is more widespread than health officials acknowledge. The legion post has been targeted, at least in part, because it is openly defiant, he said.

That high profile has helped in some ways, as well, generating donations to a legal defense fund and drawing support from all over the state.

If there are any freedom lovers who'd care to contribute, the address is here:
American Legion - Foucault-Funke Post 444
505 Superior Ave., P.O. Box 160
Baraga, MI 49908
While intrusive legislation like this goes against my grain, I do understand the argument that people have a right not to have their air polluted by secondhand smoke. But banning smoking in private establishments -- especially private clubs -- is simply wrong. No one has to go there. If you are concerned about your health, then don't patronize bars or join private clubs which allow smoking. Suppose some scientists proclaim that loud music or barbecue smoke is unhealthy; should the state intervene there too? I think smoking bans like this violate basic principles of freedom, and history shows that one law leads to another.

But I guess my thinking is behind the times; they're already trying to implement numerous food bans.

In the interests of fairness, I thought it was worth briefly examining the thinking of the bill's leading Republican sponsor, who made the bill his first piece of legislation upon his election last year:

Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, is making the smoke ban bill his first piece of legislation, along with a bill that would repeal the Michigan Business Tax surcharge. The smoke-free bill is expected to be introduced to the House on Thursday.

Scott, whose campaign focused mostly on the economy, said he chose to introduce the smoking ban because of concerns he heard from constituents.

"It's a health issue," Scott said. "People are dying from secondhand smoke. There's no doubt about it. I don't understand how you can make exceptions when it comes to public health. If you agree this is a public health issue, you can't then turn around and say we're going to make exceptions for people to be contracting cancer."

Actually, there is a doubt about it. As M. Simon was kind enough to point out here:
The second hand smoke study was junk science:




Scott added that he thinks your health is not your business, and that Michigan is "behind."
In response to smokers who are aware of the risks and still want a social place outside their home to smoke, Scott said, "To me it would be an odd argument for them to say they don't care, that's their own prerogative.

"I just think, given the data we've seen of what this does, we really can't deal in extremes anymore, and that we're just behind. Michigan's behind in a lot of things."

So, saying that your health risks are your own business is "an odd argument"?

Since when?

Since guys like Scott came along and decided that personal freedom is behind the times? And if "health" trumps the rights of the individual, then what's to stop the government from banning smoking anywhere? Or reenacting Prohibition? (And while they're at it, why not reenact sodomy laws as an AIDS prevention measure?)

To the argument that government shouldn't be getting involved in the private sector, Scott answers that what's important is the good of the community:

"For a lot of conservatives, this isn't the role of government; government shouldn't be getting involved in the private sector," Scott said. "This is kind of thought of as a Democratic bill. I don't have a problem throwing my name behind it, because I believe it's right for the community."
That's the sort of social engineering mindset I was complaining about yesterday. Except I was talking about the type of people who think like Matthew Yglesias. Not Republicans.
I think the problem comes down to diametrically opposed views of what we call "leadership." Some people think that the purpose of "public service" (often a euphemism) is to do those things that the voters and taxpayers want done. To serve the people. Others think that public service means doing what they deem to be best for them, which is not the same thing at all. If you believe that you have a right to decide for people what is best for them (even though they don't like it), then engaging in deception just goes with the turf.

Which means that from a lefty perspective, Yglesias is right.

And to be fair, so are some Republicans.

The most malignant aspect about communitarian statism is the way it tends to transform people who might otherwise oppose it into supporting it. The grim irony is that Republicans end up saving these awful programs by making them work. It's the very tempting "we all pay" argument. As I have tried to point out, that falls into the trap of using socialism to justify socialism:

...they want me to pay not only for [other people's] junk food, but for the additional consequences of eating it. The result is communitarianism, and a nation of busybodies and government informants.

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

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

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

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

At the rate things are going, Republicans will be the ones who will have to end up making socialized medicine "work."

posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (7)

A Thousand Words.

This really says it all.

Do Muslims have a constitutional right to build a mosque or Islamic center there? Sure, and under our Constitution one could hold a Japanese Pride Parade down the streets of Nanking. But no one should confuse either notion with any semblance of decency, especially coming from an imam with undisclosed funding who refuses to call Hamas a terrorist organization and says that big smoking crater happened because America isn't sensitive enough to Islam.

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

Bought And Paid For

This is one I published at Power and Control in September of 2007. I think it deserves a wider audience.

Update: it appears that this was published at Classical Values in September of 2007 also. Normally I keep track of these things by adding a "Cross Posted at Classical Values" to my Power and Control posts. I forgot to do it in 2007. Which has since been corrected. Still worth a read.

Another update. Trinity United Church of Christ, Obama's former church, is likely in on the scam.

Located in the heart of Chicago's impoverished Southside, Trinity UCC's vast array of ministries include career development and college placement, tutorial and computer services, health care and support groups, domestic violence programs, pastoral care and counseling, bereavement services, drug and alcohol recovery, prison ministry, financial counseling and credit union, housing and economic development, dozens of choral, instrumental and dance groups, and diverse programming for all ages, including youth and senior citizens.
This paints Bush's Faith Based Initiative in a much darker light. Not that it started with Bush.


I have been wondering for a long time why the Black Community supports the drug war, which is doing so much damage to that community. My old friend Cliff Thornton provides an answer. Cliff comes at politics from a Green point of view, but he is spot on about this one.

Racism, classism, and the war on drugs are inextricably parts of one huge lie, one cannot address one part effectively without addressing the other. This is not a war on drugs but a war on poor people, primarily people of color. I can talk about the race issue, which is well documented and blacks as usual are the perceived primary pariahs, but what I want to talk about is the burgeoning class separation. The religious community has always been the backbone of the black community. We have seen this through out our history with slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement. Why are they (black politicians, preachers and leaders) bemoaning racial profiling and not the war on drugs, when racial profiling is a direct result of the drug war? Why are they not talking about AIDS and that the war on drugs is the primary culprit for the spread of this incurable disease in their communities? Why do they have this dumb look on their faces when you mention that intravenous drug users, through homosexual and heterosexual encounters are the primary conveyers of AIDS in prisons and our communities? Is it because the religious community is tied to local, state and federal funding and the authorities forbid discussion? Is it because they have become employers and employees of the drug war through rehabilitation centers and drug counseling etc.? Is it because they have become gatekeepers where their prosperity depends on not solving the drug problem but perpetuating it?
I really had no idea that Black ministers were colluding in the destruction of their own people for money. What self delusion it must take to keep "helping".

posted by Simon at 01:37 AM | Comments (10)

Plan 9 From Outer Space

You can download a free legal copy of Plan 9 From Outer Space at Moving Image Archive. They have quite a few downloads available including the hilarious His Girl Friday which shows the popular press in quite an unflattering light. They seem no different from the press of today except that today there are citizen controlled alternatives. If you watch "Friday" you might want to look up Production For Use before getting into the movie.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:15 AM | Comments (0)

Get Off The Plantation

You can find out more at runawayslavemovie.com.

Also there is a nice discussion at The Runaway Slave Movie: Truth That Must Be Heard For Our Survival .

H/T Jccarlton Talk Polywell

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:26 AM | Comments (1)

Good Questions

In response to a Wall Street Journal article by Kim Strassel a Journal reader asks an interesting question.

JIm Altfeld wrote:

I am a fan of Kim Strassel and think she is a helluva good writer. I also think she and many others good writers are missing a very interesting point. Why now, in 2010, is the entire country up in arms and against re-electing any incumbent regardless of party ties (myself included), but not so during the FDR administration? FDR trounced Alf Landin in 1936 after 4 years of nothingness. Four years later, more of the same. Obama is virtually following FDR's playbook to a T and dancing as though he and FDR were Fred and Ginger. The interesting story is why now and why not then? Are we just more in tune? Are we just more disbelieving? Are we just more cynical? What!?! And why is it that FDR remains listed as the greatest president ever to hold the office, only behind Lincoln?!? Yet, Obama will probably end up somewhere right behind Jimmy Carter, our other totally Not Ready for Prime Time President of recent memory. If you get a moment, let me know YOUR thoughts on the matter. Thank you.

Any ideas?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:41 PM | Comments (4)

"I'm never going to go down there again"

So says Ute Linhart, a fashion merchandise director who made the mistake of riding the New York subway and was suddenly pushed into an oncoming R train:

The incident occurred around 8:00 p.m. when Linhart was waiting for an uptown train. According to the Post, Jose Rojas, a cook at Cipriani, was "on the platform pointing in a menacing gun-like gesture at several other straphangers when he made a beeline for the victim." She says, "He stood next to me for a few seconds and stared at my face. He looked insane." Then he allegedly pushed her into the train's path. When she was thrown back onto the platform--suffering suffering ribs, a broken left arm, and right cheek--another person waiting for a train grabbed her, softening her blow.
Others stopped Rojas from leaving the station.

When the cops asked Rojas his name, he allegedly answered, "My name is Osama bin Laden, f--k you!" and was taken to Bellevue because he was so drunk.

Angry drunken psychos are quite familiar to anyone who has lived in a big city, but it isn't very often they try to kill people.

Whether the incident is an argument against public transportation, I don't know. At the risk of sounding claustrophobic -- again -- I think that being trapped in any sort of crowd situation creates an inherent conflict with a basic human instinct to be aware of personal space, but it's tough to do that when you're reduced to being another sardine in a can.

Civilization just isn't for everyone.

Interestingly, I read about this incident while I was pondering a post Glenn Reynolds linked -- about Matthew Yglesias's advocacy of lying. Like so many political activists, Yglesias seems to believe that lying is a good thing if done to advance a socially desirable goal. And in the post which was cited, Yglesias endorsed lying to advance the lofty lefty goal of public transportation:

On the idea that ridership estimates are unrealistically optimistic, it seems to me that the sad reality of politics is that it would be irresponsible for advocates of any large-scale infrastructure project to do anything other than present unrealistically optimistic measures. For better or for worse, that's politics.
Yglesias reiterated this principle recently on Twitter:
"Fighting dishonesty with dishonesty is sometimes the right thing for advocates to do, yes," said Yglesias.
When pressed on the point, he became quite adamant:
In concluding his interview with The Daily Caller, Yglesias said "go fuck yourself" and hung up the phone.
As I said, civilization just isn't for everyone.

But I am fascinated with the idea of lying to the masses when it's for their own good. Government programs like gigantic public transportation boondoggles, invasive restrictions on human activity because of alleged "carbon footprints," and reducing the quality of health care by government takeover and rationing -- all of these things are unpopular with the little people, whose money is used to pay for them, and who get to vote. If you take the view that some people know better than others what goals are socially desirable, then lying in order to advance the goals just goes with the turf.

Which means it's probably "irresponsible" to report ugly incidents which occur on public transportation, because people might avoid it. As things are now, liberal policy wonks are having a very tough time with women who fear public transportation.

But that's only the fear factor (which of course isn't limited to women). There's also the dislike factor, and you certainly don't have to be a woman not to like this:

Someone had turned on their radio so loud that I jumped in my seat. I looked around for the offender, couldn't pinpoint him, opened my book, couldn't concentrate, gazed out the window, couldn't relax, tried to eavesdrop on the man wearing two sets of glasses talking to himself, couldn't hear him, surveyed the other passengers like a sniper peering through a riflescope and then realized: the noise was coming from the television suspended behind the driver. A television on a bus?

The news was playing - LOUDLY, did I mention that? - and I was forced to listen to reports of murder, violence, betrayal and hundreds of thousands of newly-lost jobs. In my life I choose not to watch the news because it is chock full o' tragedies and negativity, and all that does is permeate my mind and ferment like pickled ginger. (Honestly, how is knowing all the grim details of a man dismembering and eating his family on the other side of the country useful to me?) But, trapped on a moving, public vehicle, I was stripped of that choice. I couldn't read, I couldn't daydream, and if I'd been with a friend, conversation would've been difficult. That's how loud and obnoxious (due to the newscaster's typical monotonous and nasal voice) the metro-television was.

And to make matters worse, every 5-8 blocks the computerized voice announcing the next stop blared over the top of the news report, so that it sounded like a screaming match between sports commentators trying to out-do each other. The TV distracted me from clearly hearing the next stop, and the stop announcer prevented me from clearly hearing just how many women a certain celebrity has cheated on his wife with (wait, was that fifteen or fifty? My life depends on that detail, goddammit!).

Not only were my senses of sight and sound violated, but with the shock-absorber-free wheels hitting potholes every few yards, my spine was collapsing and expanding like an accordion. I got up to give my seat to an older woman with several bags but I felt like I was betraying her warm thanks as I rubbed my freshly bruised ass and stretched my neck.

As I stood there, one hand on the bar above me, the other keeping my purse strap on my shoulder, being flung to and fro like knickers on a clothesline, I couldn't help but shake my head (which was actually quite involuntary) in wonder. The whole ride had been jarring, loud, distracting, unnerving and totally unpleasant.

And they want us to abandon our cars for this?

Yes, they do. And they are quite willing to lie about it, because they claim to know what is best for us.

I think the problem comes down to diametrically opposed views of what we call "leadership." Some people think that the purpose of "public service" (often a euphemism) is to do those things that the voters and taxpayers want done. To serve the people. Others think that public service means doing what they deem to be best for them, which is not the same thing at all. If you believe that you have a right to decide for people what is best for them (even though they don't like it), then engaging in deception just goes with the turf.

Which means that from a lefty perspective, Yglesias is right.

And if you don't like being herded onto public transportation, being harassed by the Gonad, Safety and Lightbulb police, losing your medical privacy while paying more and more for deteriorating health care, having your body fat electronically monitored and carbon footprints regulated, well, tough!

Such things are deemed to be good for you, and you must learn to like them.

It's called authoritarianism. Except, the authoritarian liars are quite fond of calling the people who want to be left alone "authoritarians."

Maybe it's because I majored in Rhetoric at Berkeley, but I have to admit, there's a dark side of me that finds such shameless demagoguery in the name of morality highly entertaining.

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

Can The State Force You To Buy A Loaf Of Bread Or A Pair Of Shoes?

And if they can, do we still live in a free country?

What's more, the paper says, taxpayers are on the hook for Medicare and Medicaid. "In that respect, health insurance is unlike virtually all other consumer products. Americans are affected by its influence over the healthcare system even if they don't have policies." Finally, forbidding insurers to deny coverage, as Obamacare does, makes it possible for people to "game the system" by waiting until they get sick to purchase a policy. The individual mandate prevents system-gaming.

There are two problems here. First, the state of affairs described is hardly unique to health care. No one can withdraw from the food market, either. (See Wickard again.) Nor can anyone withdraw from the housing market, or the clothing market. So if we accept the notion that the government can compel you to buy a health-care product, then there is no principled reason it could not also compel you to purchase other consumer goods.

Read the whole thing. This is a watershed moment in American politics. The precedent that could be set here is very scary; whatever you may think the social good will be, there is going to be a serious diminution of individual rights that comes with it, and the consequences of that may ripple in unexpected and ugly ways.

Ronald Reagan once noted that a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything away. Pete Stark thinks that's just fine: "The Federal Government can do most anything in this country." Whose America do you want to live in?

(via Glenn)

posted by Dave at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

Cast Your Fate To The Wind

By the Vince Guaraldi Trio. This a long version which I had never heard before. The short version of Cast Your Fate To The Wind was a Top 40 hit in 1963.

I was reminded of it by #3 son who was practicing it on the piano. (He is really into jazz and electronics). He was quite surprised that I had heard of it. You can find more Vince Guaraldi Trio on Amazon.

Let me add that this one is dedicated here to Eric who is on the verge of blogger burn out. Better days my friend.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:11 PM | Comments (3)

desperate disparities and fraudulent impacts

I'm an inch away from total writing burnout mode today, but I thought I would try to squeeze out a couple of Friday tidbits from my dying fingers....

Much to my amusement, it turns out that Glenn Beck has (via the other Glenn) joined Dick Cheney and Laura Bush in being to the left of Obama on gay marriage. I don't know Glenn Beck well enough to be surprised, but many people seem to be. Most likely, they're desperate promoters of the Conservatives Hate Homos narrative -- the sort who found it surprising that Elton John and Rush Limbaugh were friends. But hey, Elton John is a traitor for performing at Rush's wedding! And if you don't agree, you're a homophobe if you're straight and a self-hating homo if you're gay!

I really should do a better job of following these things.

I should also have taken the time to watch the Comedy Central piece that
Jonah Goldberg
watched, after which he opined that the race card is maxed out and the payment is coming due.

He's hardly alone. Commenting on a racialized New York Times scolding about "baseball coaches from minority groups" being "found more often coaching at first base than at third base," and "third-base coaches become managers more often than first-base coaches," Thomas Sowell argues that it's past time to throw the statistical differences race card out of the deck:

This may seem to be just another passing piece of silliness. But it is part of a more general bean-counting mentality that turns statistical differences into grievances. The time is long overdue to throw this race card out of the deck and start seeing it for the gross fallacy that it is.

At the heart of such statistics is the implicit assumption that different races, sexes and other subdivisions of the human species would be proportionately represented in institutions, occupations and income brackets if there was not something strange or sinister going on.

The "disproportionate representation" argument has paralyzed the country. As I said when I discussed the "disparate impact" doctrine, it is wholly fraudulent, because anything that happens can be said to have one sort of disparate impact or another on someone or some group:
Suppose I decide to sell my used car, and I run an ad offering it for $10,000. Right there, I would be having a disparate impact on the people who did not have $10,000. (I realize none of them would complain, but be patient. I'm still a low level "operator.") Suppose I decide it would be easier to sell the car if I offer financing, but only to those "with approved credit." Another disparate impact. But still no one complains. Eventually, I sell the car, use the proceeds to buy another one, then two, then five, and ultimately I find myself renting an unused parking lot for the 500 or so cars I have accumulated as my inventory. At that point, my "discrimination" will begin to attract enough public attention that one of my hapless credit-unworthy "victims" (someone I've turned down) will find a lawyer, and claim that my credit practices (which had nothing to do with anything but covering my bottom line) have a "disparate impact" on a particular group of people to which he happens to belong.

Sound unfair? You bet. But this same basic operating principle lies at the heart of the heart of the crisis.

But the fact that the doctrine is fraudulent is the whole M.O. It is a fraudulent logic concealed inside a loud, false claim of racism:
The "disparate impact" movement is not about minorities. It is not about racism.

It is a lie. A lie grounded in labeling as "discrimination" things which are not. A lie promulgated and perpetuated by those who want to control the business sector. A lie which is always driven by the dishonest accusation that someone is guilty of discrimination. A lie backed by an ever present witch hunt mentality.

I realize, though, that "lie" might have too inflammatory a ring to it for some readers. But I think most reasonable people can agree that "disparate impact" is at least an error in logic.

I think it's a huge, tragic error. One for which we are all paying a very dear price.

But if you don't go along with the fraud, you're a racist!

There's no better con than fraud accomplished through intimidation.

posted by Eric at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

Sharing The Data

The video is a survey from the advent of man to the invention of the computer mouse and what it all means. Highly entertaining and well worth your time.

And just today Instapundit linked to an article exactly illustrates the concepts discussed in the video: Progress on Alzheimer's.

H/T to Bishop Hill for the video.

And should you wish to delve further Matt Ridley has written a book:

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

There are traditional values, and then there are Gingrich values...

I don't know exactly why, but of all the potential Republican presidential candidates, it is Newt Gingrich who most makes me see red. There's more to it than disagreement on issues; if I sat down and went through their various platforms and statements I'm pretty sure I would disagree with Huckabee more than Gingrich. Yet contemplating Huckabee -- or even a Huckabee presidency -- does not drive me into a rage the way Gingrich does. Perhaps it's a personality thing; Huckabee seems more reasonable and self-effacing. More human. Less calculating.

And what could be more inhumanly calculating than cornering his wife in her hospital room where she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery, insisting on discussing the terms of the divorce he was seeking, and then refusing to pay alimony and child-support? As Frank pointed out in the comments, the local church took up a collection for the family:

"The First Baptist Church in his hometown had to take up a collection to support the family Gingrich had deserted. Six months after divorcing Jackie, Gingrich married a younger woman, Marianne, with whom he had been having an affair."
To which I replied sarcastically,
Well, at least he won't be lecturing us about sexual immorality or family values!

Will he?

If anything, my sarcasm was understated. For Gingrich isn't just one of those guys who merely falls short of the standards he preaches; he apparently doesn't think they apply to him (which of course is very different).

Ann Althouse quotes from another former wife (I don't know which one, as I haven't kept track) who confronted him about the admitted cheating he had asked her to tolerate -- right while he was shamelessly giving a "speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values":

She said, "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?"

"It doesn't matter what I do," he answered. "People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."

If he said that, it is not the same thing as if he fell short of standards in which he believed.

People who believe in their standards do not say "it does not matter" when they violate them. The word "hypocrisy" is bandied about too much and is often misused, but in Gingrich's case, I think it applies in spades. Arrogant hypocrisy. And what he did to his wife when she was in the hospital is worse than hypocrisy; it is downright cruel. I realize that's not a nice thing to say, but in all seriousness, I don't think Newt Gingrich is a nice person. Not that being nice is what it's all about, but do we really want a cruel Machiavellian who doesn't even believe in his own rhetoric as president?

Glenn Reynolds was right to call him "the Al Gore of the 'traditional values' world," and while I would think that's funny (because Al Gore is the Newt Gingrich of the climax climate change world), it's sobering to remember that Al Gore did nearly win the presidency.

I'd be more depressed about the whole thing had Ann Althouse not said this:

you don't have to be much more than 3 to call bullshit on Newt.
Leave it to Ann Althouse to cheer me up and make me feel young again!

MORE: It occurs to me that I may have been a bit harsh on Gingrich. So let me add that I do think he is a very intelligent man, a shrewd rhetorician, and a gifted speaker.

However, if those things made a great president, we'd already have one, wouldn't we?

posted by Eric at 04:31 PM | Comments (8)

Setting UP Win 7 Pro

I bought a copy of Microsoft Windows 7 Anytime Upgrade [Home Premium to Professional Upgrade]. Microsoft says the upgrade will be easy and it has an XP compatibility mode for all those old programs I need to run. Plus I can set up Virtual Machines for things like DOS, Win3.3, Linux, XP, and who knows what else my devious mind can conjure. Maybe a Z-80 partition and virtual machine. Microsoft says it is going to be easy and will take around ten minutes. They lie.

You start off going to the Windows Anytime Upgrade gizmo under the Start button and give them the secret code that came with your (almost)empty box. You then can go to the download page and Microsoft gives you the privilege of downloading 500 MBytes of code. My speed was on the order of 1.5 MBytes a second. Not too shabby. If you have nothing else to do for 4 or 5 minutes. Then you run the sucker. It restarts the computer (the shutdown dance) 3 times with varying delays and dead times. Give it at least a half hour before you give up on it while it is in one of its idle modes.

Then I went here to get the VFirtual Machine stuff. Another significant load for your ISP. Well fine. You can fool around with that and see if you can get it to work. Or you can Read The Effen Manual. Which I highly recommend.

So any way I get some insight in the process and then I find this page which seems to work better. Which then takes you to this other page where you can do the actual downloads.

Click on XP Mode download then run the program. You then have to do the shutdown dance. Again. Only once though.

Then Virtual PC Mode - another shutdown. This is getting monotonous. And a lot longer than 10 minutes. And finally you get to do the Windows XP Mode update. Another restart. Yarghhhh!!!

Finally I'm done. More like an hour and a half or two later. Well there is the Virtual Machine Maker Icon under the Start menu. Excellent. I made a 2 GB virtual machine to see how it works. Looks good so far. I'm going to fool around some and see what I've got - by poking at it. Out of that 1 GB (roughly) of software there ought to be something useful. Like maybe I can use my schematic drafting program. After roughly three months without. But I do have about a fifth of a ream of schematic scribbles I have produced in the interim. Some transcribing is in order.

If I learn anything interesting or amusing I'll have another post. And if you would like the previous chapter of the saga you can go back to The Partitioning of An Area. Which has a link to the one before that.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Satellite Failure

It would seem that one of our satellites may have been misreporting Earth temperature data for as much as a decade.

US Government admits satellite temperature readings "degraded." All data taken offline in shock move. Global warming temperatures may be 10 to 15 degrees too high.

The fault was first detected after a tip off from an anonymous member of the public to climate skeptic blog, Climate Change Fraud (view original article) (August 9, 2010).

Caught in the center of the controversy is the beleaguered taxpayer funded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA's Program Coordinator, Chuck Pistis has now confirmed that the fast spreading story on the respected climate skeptic blog is true.

However, NOAA spokesman, Program Coordinator, Chuck Pistis declined to state how long the fault might have gone undetected. Nor would the shaken spokesman engage in speculation as to the damage done to the credibility of a decade's worth of temperature readings taken from the problematic 'NOAA-16' satellite.

'NOAA-16' was launched in September 2000, and is currently operational, in a sun-synchronous orbit, 849 km above the Earth, orbiting every 102 minutes providing automated data feed of surface temperatures which are fed into climate computer models.

NOAA has reported a succession of record warm temperatures in recent years based on such satellite readings but these may now all be undermined.

World-renowned Canadian climatologist, Dr. Timothy Ball, after casting his expert eye over the shocking findings concluded, "At best the entire incident indicates gross incompetence, at worst it indicates a deliberate attempt to create a temperature record that suits the political message of the day."

Let me add that this error - if confirmed - will have no effect on the climate. It will, however, hugely affect the Global Warming debate. Except I think the science does not matter. After all it is the political agenda that drives things. Jeff Id agrees. Tim Ball seems to be leaning in that direction as well.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

A story that defies analysis (and it may also defy the "narrative" approach)

Perhaps because I have a strange compulsion to obtain facts so I understand the human motivations behind crimes, every once in a while I'll find myself utterly baffled over a news story, and a really creepy series of fatal stabbings in Flint, Michigan has left me without a clue.

It was widely speculated that the stabbings -- invariably involving unprovoked attacks on frail or elderly black men allegedly by a white man -- might have been perpetrated as a hate crime, and a sketch of the suspect was widely circulated. The story was on the front page of the Detroit Free Press and it has been receiving national attention.

Something about the stabbings made me suspect a very twisted, most likely emotional, possibly even a sexual motive. It occurred to me that if this was a white man, he might have a bizarre fixation on black men as a target of revenge. Why didn't he also target women? Why didn't he target whites? What sort of grudge might this man have had? Was he harmed by black people (possibly in prison) and might this caused him to blame an entire race in a psychotic rage?

I didn't blog about it only because there was nothing I could do but speculate, but now that the guy has been arrested, I'm even more baffled. They caught him trying to board a plane to Israel.

FLINT -- Police have a man in custody in connection with the Flint serial stabbings that left as many as five dead, officials said this morning.

The man was arrested Wednesday evening at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, airport spokesman Al Snedeker said this morning.

The man who has "strong ties" to the Flint and Leesburg, Va., areas was arrested after "one of the tips developed into a strong investigative lead," Leesburg, Va., police spokesman Chris Jones said in a statement this morning.

He's being being held on unrelated charges, according to Jones.

"While this is a key step in the investigation, there are still many issues that need to be addressed before we identify this individual as the person responsible for this horrific crime spree," Jones said.

• MORE: At Flint party store, anger suspect wasn't caught sooner

He was scheduled to board Delta's 10:15 p.m. flight to Tel Aviv from Atlanta, airline officials said this morning.


So what does that mean? Why would this suspect be trying to flee to Israel?

And now that they have given his name, I am even more baffled:

FLINT, Michigan -- A warrant was signed Aug. 12 by Flint District Court Tracey Collier-Nix that charges Elias Abuelazam, 33, in connection with the Flint serial stabbings.
(An earlier report stated that he was "taken into custody in Atlanta late Wednesday as he attempted to board a flight out of the country," but there was no mention of the country.)

The only thing I could learn in an online search for the name "Elias Abuelazam" was this court record which states that a man of that name had been employed as a mental health worker for a Leesburg psychiatric facility, and pursued an unsuccessful disability claim acting as his own attorney:

The parties stipulated that, on December 8, 2002, the claimant was an employee of Piedmont Behavioral Heath Center, the employer had three or more employees regularly in service and the claimant was involved in an incident arising out of and in the course of his employment.

The employer defended on the grounds that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations, that there was no injury by accident and that medical treatment was not causally related to the December 8, 2002 accident.

The evidence is summarized here only to the extent necessary to explain our conclusions reached on Review.[2]

The claimant testified that, on December 8, 2002, he was employed as a mental health technician with the employer. On that date, he was monitoring the residents in a basketball game when his foot got caught on the carpeted basketball court when walking to the left causing him to trip and twist his ankle. He stated he reported it that same day to his supervisor Mike Johnson at which time an accident report was completed. The claimant stated he was given a copy of the accident report.

Etc. He lost the claim. But that's nothing there that would offer any clues as to a possible motive.

Now for my cynical analysis. As race narratives seem to determine the fate of these stories, and as this was said to be a "hate crime," I think the most salient fact will be whether this man is determined to be white.

In that regard, his name might matter. For example, what if "Abuelazam" is phonetic for something like "Abu al Assam"? He would still be white, but there are some multiculturalists who might argue otherwise. Not that whiteness should matter to any rational person, but since when is this stuff dealt with on a strictly rational basis? And what if he turned out to be a Muslim? Might that present, um, narrative issues?

Again, it's all speculation. I assume the facts will eventually come in and be reported.

But I am more puzzled than ever; hence the speculation.

MORE: The AJC is reporting that the man had an expired Israeli passport:

A suspected serial killer captured at the Atlanta airport had an expired Israeli passport and was about to board a plane to Tel Aviv when agents from several law enforcement agencies swooped in Wednesday, according to authorities and news accounts.

It was not clear if the man had passed through security at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport or if he was simply changing planes in Atlanta, but he had reached a boarding gate. The spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Authority told The Atlanta Journal-constitution air traffic into and out of Hartsfield-Jackson was not affected.

And now the racial motivation has been dumped, because he is also said to have killed whites:
Investigators first thought there was a pattern based on the victims' race. Initially they were frail, elderly black men. But two white men and a 17-year-old have since been added to the list. Three victims were in Leesburg, Va., one was in Toledo, Ohio, and the rest were in Flint.

The most recent attack was the one in Toledo, according to a Detroit television station. In that case, a minister who had stepped outside his church to smoke was stabbed, Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton told the television station.

Survivors said the man would ask for directions or help with a broken-down car and would suddenly pull a knife, stab them and then drive away.

His employer said he was "a nice guy," and flirted with female customers:
The store manager told Local 4 the man worked there less than a month and he had not been back since Aug. 1, the Michigan station reported.

"He was friendly. He was a nice guy," manager Abdullah Farrah told Local 4.

Farrah said the man was polite to all customers and he never treated African-Americans one way and white customers another.

Regular customers knew the man as "Eli," according to the Flint Journal.

Beecher resident Monica Butler told the paper he was flirtatious with female customers.

"He would always try to pick them up or get a number," she said.

Now that the Narrative is officially "NOT A HATE CRIME," I'm thinking that the story won't be on the front pages for long.

AND MORE: Here's a story describing the suspect as "white to Middle Eastern":

A nationwide hunt continues for a serial killer who's accused of stabbing several men, including one in Toledo.

The random acts of violence-- from Flint Michigan, to Leesburg Virginia, to Toledo --are similar.

Police say a white to Middle Eastern man asks for directions or help with his broken down car, then attacks.

Almost all the victims have been black men. Authorities warn the suspect is extremely violent.

If they are "random acts of violence" then why are "almost all" the victims black men?

The more the facts change, the more my compulsion to know the facts becomes insatiable.

MORE: An ABC video report:

I have tried embedding it twice, but the code doesn't seem to work. The link is here.

And here's the police sketch that the Free Press ran:


What annoys me the most about this story was the way that it seemed people wanted it to be about race.

What people want should play no role in reporting facts.

But hey, at least this doesn't appear to be one of those crimes that can be linked to those awful Tea Party nuts!

MORE: According to a report by his ex mother-in-law Abuelazam is Catholic:

She said her daughter, whom she did not want to identify, married Abuelazam on July 30, 2004 in Leesburg, Va. Hirth said she knew that her daughter and Abuelazam had fought at times and divorced in 2007.

Hirth said her daughter and Abuelazam met in Texas while he was visiting cousins who lived there. She said Abuelazam was Catholic.

In Leesburg, he worked at a hospital, Hirth said.

She said Abuelazam has a sister who lives in Leesburg.

"He's originally from Israel and his mother lives there and his uncles," Hirth said.

Hirth said she thinks Abuelazam was born in Israel and that he had been in the United States for 10 years before he met her daughter.

I guess that will be disappointing to those who wanted him to fit the Jihadist narrative.

MORE: Even though they saw the car which had been described in reports, the suspect's neighbors failed to report him because his Middle Eastern appearance did not fit the description of a white man:

Neighbors said they had seen a green GMC Jimmy-type of vehicle at the house on the 3700 block of Maryland until recently.

Neighbor Janet Hutchinson said the man who lived in the house kept to himself, though it's a tight-knit block with neighbors recently forming a neighborhood watch after several recent home break-ins done by kids in the area.

"It's a total shock," she said of the possibility that she was living a couple of houses away from the suspected killer.

Neighbor Carrie Strang said she last saw a green GMC Jimmy with gold trim around the bottom "right after they came out with the description of it."

She said she and other neighbors had said they didn't think to notify police, because the sketch and description was of a white man and the man who lived in this house was of Middle-Eastern descent.

What is white, precisely?

Can anyone tell me?

Is there no end to the national obsession with race?

UPDATE: This story is being spun in many media circles as an anti-Israel narrative.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, it's time to play "Name that ethnicity."

Can't say I didn't see it coming.

posted by Eric at 11:43 AM | Comments (6)

Pot, kettle, civil forfeiture!

Speaking of marijuana, I think it's high time that we cracked down on huge landowners who know or have reason to know that Mexican drug cartels are growing the stuff on their land.

This sort of outrage is typical:

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Several people have been arrested in a raid on a large marijuana growing operation at national forest in Wisconsin, state officials said Wednesday.

More than 200 federal, state and local agents raided the field in the Nicolet National Forest in northeast Wisconsin overnight, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said.

Those arrested are scheduled to be arraigned later Wednesday in Green Bay. State authorities have not released details about their identities or what charges they may face. They also have not said how many people were arrested.

National forests and parks have become prime targets of Mexican drug gangs setting up expansive marijuana fields in the United States in recent years.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, drug agents around the country have seized about a millon plants a year more between 2004 and 2008. In 2008, agents seized or destroyed 7.6 million marijuana plants from about 20,000 illicit plots.

This is not news; it has been going on for years:
...Mexican-based drug cartels have been using Wisconsin's national forests and wildlife-management areas for large-scale marijuana gardens in recent years. This includes an 8,000-plant "grow" in Shawano County's Navarino State Wildlife Area in 2009, and a 9,000-plant grow in 2008 in the Nicolet National Forest in Oconto County.
The Mexican growers have gotten quite savvy; not only can they cross the border freely, but they have learned that government-owned land is the easiest to grow on -- even easier than growing elsewhere and smuggling it in:
A bureau report said Mexican drug traffickers have expanded marijuana cultivation in the United States since 2004. As the U.S. government increased its efforts to stop smuggling and illegal immigration along the U.S./Mexico border, cartels found it easier to grow marijuana on our public lands than to transport it in large quantities across the border.
Hey, if I owned land and the Mexican cartel guys were growing marijuana on it, the feds could come in and seize the land, and sell it, right? Asset forfeiture, baby!

The burden of proof would be on me to prove that I didn't know what was going on. And here the government is fully aware of what is going on, and has been for years.

Think of how much money the government could get if the government treated the government the way it treats private landowners! Sell off all that land that's being used to grow dope, and they'd have billions. Even trillions. Why, the United States government alone has "direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) - nearly 30% of its total territory." And if someone is growing pot on it, I say seize it and sell it!

No more double standards! It's time to close the government loophole!

posted by Eric at 06:25 PM | Comments (2)

Are You A Big Government Conservative?


As seen at a Tea Party Rally.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

If all politics is tribal, then have I got a flag for you!

In an earlier post, I defended Andrew Breitbart (who probably doesn't need me to defend him) against a snarky left-wing remark by John Dean that he was some sort of tribalist:

Now, while they love accusing people who disagree with them of "tribalism," I suspect this might stem from the fact that people like Glenn Greenwald and John Dean are actually bigoted cultural tribalists themselves. So they naturally assume that those who disagree with them are enemies -- people from another "tribe."
And surely no rational and free American would want to belong to a tribe, right?
Does tribalism necessarily have to beget tribalism? In the United States? What if you're just an American? I wouldn't go so far as to call that membership in a "tribe" because I like to think I am living in a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, free country where I don't have to see myself as a member of any tribe. But even if we assume that American citizenship has its tribal aspects, what if you're just an American who doesn't want to belong to an additional tribe? I would submit that if people like Andrew Breitbart belong to a "tribe," it is one which has largely been aided, and abetted and created by tribal warfare started by people who consider themselves a rival "tribe."

This sucks, bigtime.

Identity politics is tribalism.

M. Simon's last post made me worry that I was whistling past the graveyard. As I said to him in an email,
The problem for me is that despite my reasoned dismissal of the idea of conservative "tribalism," I worry that there is such a thing. Tribalism makes my skin crawl, and while I realize many people want to belong, I don't like tribes, because I abhor groupthink, which is the next thing to the mob. And if you don't like mob thinking and say so, you will only be hated by the mob.
And the worst part of this is that even if I did harbor some inexplicable need -- some inner longing -- to belong, it probably wouldn't turn me on to belong to a tribe of angry men who call libertarians names and insult pot smokers in the name of "manhood."

Sheesh. I guess that makes me a "libertarian pansy." Is there a tribe for that too? Let me know so I can avoid it. I'd probably be bored. (Probably because my father was born to a frontier family of homesteaders, and my grandmother was more of a man than most men today....)

But wait! It occurs to me that if there's a libertarian pansy tribe, they might need their own flag. And while I hate to re-wave old false flags, it's been some time since I've featured it here, and as no one flies it, I thought maybe I should dust it off.


True, I never called it the "Libertarian Pansy Flag" before, but then, this wasn't really my idea and I'm ever the opportunist always willing to help supply people with their Goddess-given rights!

posted by Eric at 11:15 AM | Comments (3)

Some One Else At The Controls

From the comments at Washington Rebel. Emphasis mine.

Well, there's no such thing as "conservatism", and hasn't been for a while. The clue is in the snarky references to marijuana.

Marijuana and cocaine are bad for you, and that's a fact; I don't want either, and I'm not promoting the use of the weed. I'm no libertarian, either; Government is both necessary and inevitable, and it's impossible to tell which is cause and which effect.

But if you're anxious to put together a gang of goons effective enough to put a stop to it on the grounds that it's bad for you, you're just a Progressive with a slightly different agenda. The same goon-gang has the power to stop you from getting a greasy hamburger, because that's bad for you too. All the whup-ass comes from the same can, and the spoons used to dig it out are interchangeable.

And if you're too self-satisfied to admit that a "police force" (or an "army") is a gang of goons with snappy clothes and a cool-sounding Mission Statement, you need to go register Democrat and join the O-fellators, because you're contributing to the problem rather than finding a solution. The whole thing starts with "my goals are Good and theirs are Bad, therefore I'm entitled to beat up on Them." Then you wake up one morning and discover yourself Them, and you resent it. F* you. You built the Machine; you got nothin' when somebody else takes the controls.


Posted by: Ric Locke | 08/01/2010 at 03:27 PM

Themes I have been harping on for quite some time. I look forward to the day when we have conservatives untainted by Progressive Dreams - "With enough power we can FORCE people to do the right thing." As my friend above says: F* You to that.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Let's make sure there's no shortage of fun!

While I haven't had as much time as I might like to sound off on the issues of the day (and don't really have the time now), I want to take the time to say this:


No, really. I cannot stress the importance of such, um, inclusion, especially near the place where this country was attacked on September 11, 2001.

This is America.

However, I am bit taken aback by the idea that religious bigotry might stand in the way.

It seems that if there is to be a mosque nearby, then there can be no gay bar, because apparently no bars are allowed near religious establishments:

New York state issues liquor licenses, not Bloomberg's City Hall. And no bar can be within 200 feet of a place of worship. Will the state rule the Islamic site is such a facility? Or a mere "cultural center"? As it is, there's no shortage of watering holes downtown...one can certainly unfurl a gay pride rainbow flag with a crescent superimposed...
As Glenn says, "Fun Galore!"

(I'm all for that.)

So, it occurs to me if there can't be a gay bar next door because of religious issues surrounding alcohol, then how about a gay bathhouse? (New York only has three....)

It's always good to have a backup plan.

Anyway, I just wanted to toss the idea out (or would that be slip the idea in?). And even though I agree that there's no "shortage of deliberate provocations in today's America," I see no harm in adding my suggestion to the surplus.

MORE: Out out, damned but!

Why can't there be more loopholes in the Koran?

posted by Eric at 11:01 PM | Comments (4)

If this is "our" debt, isn't it a little odious?

In a post Glenn Reynolds linked the other day, John Hinderaker touches on something which has long intrigued me: whether or not debts created by governments are in fact owed forever by the taxpayers:

The injustice is obvious. Yet the retired or soon to be retired public employees have a point: the law of contract. They took their jobs and worked for years or decades in reliance on promises by taxpayers (in effect) to, among other things, fund lavish pensions. Forever. Public employees all across America will sue to force taxpayers to make good on those obligations. The result could be significant demographic shifts, as taxpayers flee jurisdictions that have massive liabilities to former government workers. The result, presumably, will be municipal, county and state bankruptcy.
While I am not an expert on the subject, I did take contract law in law school, and I am not at all sure that the taxpayers are necessarily the contracting party. Not only do most taxpayers have no say in these matters, but many of them were not even born when the contracts were entered into, many more were not of voting age, and still more did not live in the jurisdictions in which the contracts were made. Moreover, considering that the funding of these lavish pensions is agreed to by people in the government, for other people in the government including themselves, I would argue that they have not behaved in good faith towards the taxpayers who entrusted them with their money. In legal terms, they have breached their fiduciary duties to the taxpayers, and by any fair standard (either at law or in equity), the taxpayers are relieved of any obligation to continue such funding.

But what fascinates me even more than contract law is something Thomas Jefferson touched on when he said this:

The question, whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here, on the elementary principles of society, has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be transmitted, I think very capable of proof. -- I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living: that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severality, it will be taken by the first occupants, and these will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to its creditor. But the child, the legatee or creditor, takes it, not by natural right, but by a law of the society of which he is a member, and to which he is subject. Then, no man can, by natural right, oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the payment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come; and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living, which is the reverse of our principle.


...by the law of nature, one generation is to another as one independant nation to another.

So how far do these so-called taxpayer "obligations" go? Are taxpayers supposed to sit around passively and watch the government go bankrupt? And what if it does go bankrupt? Whose bankruptcy is it? If we analogize to a corporation, when it fails, the shareholders' stock becomes worthless, but they are not personally liable for its debts. As to the corporation's bondholders, they have to stand in line and collect whatever they can of whatever assets remain. If the U.S. goes bankrupt, bondholders will be SOL, and so will the rest of the country's creditors. But if a corporation can go belly up, I don't see why a country can't. Sure, it would be very tough, and the currency would be worthless, but the idea of holding American citizens personally liable for the previous actions of its political classes after the bankruptcy of the country would be so violate basic standards of legal fairness as to be morally egregious. (That's what drove the Weimar Germany into the hands of Hitler, BTW.)

Besides (and I know we're nowhere near "there" yet), there is plenty of historical precedent for telling the country's creditors to go pee up a rope:

A politically unstable state is anything but risk-free as it may, being sovereign, cease its payments. Examples of this phenomenon include Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries, which nullified its government debt seven times during a century, and revolutionary Russia of 1917 which refused to accept the responsibility for Imperial Russia's foreign debt.[3] Another political risk is caused by external threats. It is most uncommon for invaders to accept responsibility for the national debt of the annexed state or that of an organization it considered as rebels. For example, all borrowings by the Confederate States of America were left unpaid after the American Civil War. On the other hand, in the modern era, the transition from dictatorship and illegitimate governments to democracy does not automatically free the country of the debt contracted by the former government. Today's highly developed global credit markets would be less likely to lend to a country that negated its previous debt, or might require punishing levels of interest rates that would be unacceptable to the borrower.
In extreme cases, there's also the legal doctrine of odious debt. The idea is that it is unfair to hold citizens responsible for debts to which they did not consent and which were not for their benefit.

An article by economists Seema Jayachandran and Michael Kremer discusses the doctrine in more detail:
Our analysis is related to the legal doctrine of odious debt, which holds that debt should not be transferable to successor regimes if (a) it was incurred without the consent of the people and (b) was not for their benefit (Alexander N. Sack, 1927; Ernst Feilchenfeld, 1931).1 The underlying principle is that just as an individual does not have to repay money that someone fraudulently borrows in her name, and a corporation is not liable for contracts that its chief executive officer enters into without authority to bind the firm, a country should not be responsible for debt that was incurred without the people's consent and was not used for their benefit. The doctrine arose after the Spanish-American War when the United States contended that neither the United States nor Cuba should be responsible for debt that Cuba's colonial rulers had run up in Cuba's name. The concept attracted considerable attention in 2003 when the Secretary of the Treasury and other senior U.S. officials suggested that debts incurred by Saddam Hussein should perhaps be considered odious and not the new Iraqi government's obligation to repay.2

Yet this doctrine remains a minority view among legal scholars, and U.S. policymakers eventually backed away from the odious-debt rationale when arguing for debt relief for Iraq. This is largely out of concern that the concept of odious debt could prove a slippery slope. Countries could claim that previous debt was odious as an excuse to renege on legitimate debt. More generally, any adjudicating body that had the power to declare debt void might nullify legitimate debt if it placed a high value on the welfare of the debtor country. If creditors anticipated being unable to collect on legitimate loans, the debt market would shut down. We argue that this time-consistency problem could be addressed if loan sanctions applied only to future debt contracted by a country, not existing debt.

The Cato Institute has another piece on odious debt:
Most debts created by Saddam Hussein in the name of the Iraqi people would qualify as "odious" according to the international Doctrine of Odious Debts. This legal doctrine holds that debts not used in the public interest are not legally enforceable.
Far be it from me to compare people like Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to Saddam Hussein. They didn't build huge palaces or massacre their political enemies. But how can reckless policies which are certain to bankrupt a country ever be considered to be in the public interest? Saddam Hussein would say that his were, and I think all tyrants would make the same claim. As to consent, once again, all the Saddams would argue that of course the people consented. Just ask Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; I am sure he will say that the people love him and he is acting in their interest.

But tyranny is tyranny. It doesn't have to reach the bloodthirsty levels of a Saddam Hussein. Tyranny is arbitrary power, especially illegal and unconstitutional power.

Which raises the question of the day: Are we now living under tyranny?

I sometimes get myself worked up into emotional states, and when I do I try to avoid writing about the topic that upset me, because I find I am more capable of being logical, analytical, and rational when I am calm. And it is really easy to get all worked up and scream that these people who want to invade our privacy, steal our money, and run every last aspect of our lives are tyrants.

But the other day I was calm, collected, unemotional, relaxed, you know, completely sober in every sense of the word, and I concluded that, yes, it is beyond question that the United States government has become tyrannical.

On sober reflection, I still agree with my sober and reflective thought.

(I should probably be more emotional about such a disturbing thing. Maybe it's a sign of age.)

posted by Eric at 01:24 PM | Comments (13)

The Partitioning Of An Area

Some times you have to divide things up to make them work better. At least in the computer world. Which is why disc users who work with legacy systems often partition their systems. What to do? And how to do it? Well I found the testimonial on this page very helpful. Well what does it say? Just this:

My four stars for "Paragon Partition Manager 10" are to reflect the quality of the product as I found it to be. I was tempted to give it only three stars due to the major limitation that I had with it, however went with four due to the overall effort that the developers put into it. It is four starts because "I like it", however I doubt that I will be using it in the future. Others will likely find also that it is a good program, but not needed as there are free alternatives ("Partition Wizard Home Edition", "GNU Parted") that completely fill their needed.

*** "Paragon Partition Manager 10": Works with Windows and (primary drive) Linux partitions. Sadly, does not work with Linux partitions on logical drives.

*** "Partition Wizard Home Edition": Free. Works with Windows partitions. Does not work with Linux partitions.

*** "GNU Parted": Free. Works with Linux partitions. Does not work with Windows partitions.

*** Having both "Partition Wizard Home Edition" and "GNU Parted" will likely do everything that you need.

Partition Wizard is free? I like that price. So I down loaded it from Partition Wizard Home Edition. And then I tried it out. I decided to allocate 10GB to a new partition. The software was simple. It asked me how many megs I wanted in my new partition. I entered a number and clicked. And I got back the usual warning: "Open programs - do you want to shut them down or change partitions during reboot?" I chose "reboot" as the preferred option. It seemed the safest. So I rebooted. I got one or two unexpected screens (transient) during the reboot and then everything was back. Whhheeeww (always backup before changing your fundamentals - you will be more relaxed during operations). So I checked. Sure enough 10 GB was now in an unallocated partition.

When I add Linux to the system I'll check out GNU Parted and give a report.

Let me add that this is part of my ongoing saga about a failing hard drive and this is actually where I planned to start if my hard drive had not started to go bad. As the saying goes: even if it does not profit me I have had a profitable experience. I learned something.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

Chin Up
obama chin up.jpg

Benito Mussolini chin up.jpg

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:05 PM | Comments (5)

Confiscating property and imposing federal rent control in the name of a new "right"

I just learned about a new idea that's floating around in the left's ongoing war against private property rights. It's called "right to rent" and it would require lenders to rent foreclosed properties their former homeowners for an indefinite period.

The idea is being promoted as as a reasonable win-win solution; in the Washington Post there's a piece titled Right to Rent: A Non-Bureaucratic Solution to the Foreclosure Crisis which makes it sound downright sensible:

It has been almost two years since the foreclosure crisis first became headline news. In this period, President Bush, Congress and most recently President Obama have put forward a variety of programs. None of them has had much impact on stemming the tide of foreclosures. It is time to try a different tack.

There is a simple solution that requires no taxpayer dollars, requires no new bureaucracy and can immediately help millions of people facing foreclosure. Congress can simply temporarily alter the rules on foreclosure to allow homeowners facing foreclosures the right to stay in their home for a substantial period of time (e.g. seven to 10 years) as renters paying the market rent.

Excuse me, but where in the Constitution is Congress given power to write the rules on foreclosure, much less alter them? (Sorry, I guess something like that would only matter to kooks who believe the Constitution means what it says.)

The logic of this change is straightforward. Due to the housing bubble, ownership costs grew out of line with rents. As a result, in many bubble-inflated markets, mortgage payments plus taxes, insurance and other costs could easily be twice as high as the cost of renting a comparable unit. "Right to rent" legislation would allow homeowners who cannot meet their mortgage payments the right to stay in their home as long as they pay the market rent.

The lender would take ownership of the house and would be free to resell it, but the lease would carry over for the duration of the period designated by Congress, or until the former homeowner decided to move. In this period, normal landlord-tenant laws would apply, with the exception that the lender would not have the option to evict the former homeowner without due cause.

normal landlord-tenant laws would apply? What that means is that the banks (and presumably private lenders, such as former owners who carried financing) would have to pay all taxes and do all repairs and maintenance -- for the guy who defaulted on his payments! And naturally, he could be sued for code violations, negligence, etc. Rent could be withheld if the "landlord" failed to perform repairs which used to be the responsibility of the "tenant." Banks would suddenly become landlords, under a new draconian federal rent control scheme, and they would not be able to evict their "tenants."

Such a deal! Naturally, the goal is to to alter an "imbalance of power":

Needless to say, lenders will not be happy about a right-to-rent rule. It alters the balance of power between lenders and homeowners in the homeowner's favor.
It does more than that; it essentially confiscates the property for an indefinite period of time, puts the government in charge of setting rents, and forces a lender to become a landlord against his will.

The congressional bill is H.R. 5028 (the "Right to Rent Act of 2010"), and it simply asserts federal jurisdiction over all mortgages, regardless of whether they are held by banks, S&Ls, or private citizens.

(1) COVERED FORECLOSURE PROCEEDING- The term `covered foreclosure proceeding' means a foreclosure proceeding with respect to an eligible mortgage, and includes any foreclosure proceeding authorized under the law of the applicable State, including judicial and non-judicial foreclosure proceedings.
So it supersedes private arms-length contracts as well as state law. (Naturally, it is to be monitored and overseen by HUD.)

This amounts to federal confiscation of private property as well as federal rent control.

Whether they are serious and whether the bill has any chance of passage, I don't know.

posted by Eric at 12:13 PM | Comments (6)

The Long-Deserved Death Of Keynesian Economics

Tim Cavanaugh has a devastating cite from just-retired Obama economic adviser Christina Romer:

The generally precise Romer spells out the difference for us: Using this approach, the estimated multiplier for monetary policy is 0.823 and the estimated multiplier for fiscal policy is -0.233.

You don't say. Gee, that would have been nice to know a few trillion dollars ago.

Democrat Party water-carriers like Paul Krugman love Keynesian economics, with its assumed large fiscal multiplier, because it meshes so perfectly with leftism's general preferences: more government, bigger government, more public-sector employees, higher pay for those employees -- and, naturally, higher taxes to go with all that. Their continued insistence we need to spend (and tax!) more, more, more even as unemployment goes higher and deficits mushroomm is growing ever less credible with each additional "unexpected" signal of economic failure.

If there's one positive to come out of the Great Recession, it should be the end of Keynesian economics as a serious policy choice. The notion you can grow the economy via North Korea-style command economics should have been long-dead even before Romer's 1992 paper, but Obama's miserable failure may finally drive a stake through this productivity-sucking, economy-killing meme.

Let me put this simply -- and contradict a too-widely-held assumption of macroeconomics:


Government spending is not demand, it is command spending (at least for purposes of stimulating the economy). To "aggregate" it with private sector demand is like counting your dog's ringworm as a "pet" on a census form. It does not follow the same rules as private sector spending, as it is always seized and distributed according to law/fiat by bureaucrats indifferent to costs and benefits, not exchanged consensually between self-interested private parties seeking to maximize their utility. That's why Keynesianism is "unexpectedly" falling flat on its face before our eyes: it relies on a fallacious aggregation.

(Now, generally about this time someone on the left perks up and says "But... roads!" Yes, we need roads (but tend to also get Bridges To Nowhere), just as we need regulation, laws, etc. My point is not that all government spending is wasteful, just that government is 1) not very good at allocating resources to what is actually useful versus wasteful/cronyist/populist, and 2) is spending far more than it should, esp. given #1. Optimal government spending levels (i.e. those associated with highest levels of economic growth) appear to be something between 20% and 30% of GDP, whereas in the U.S. those levels are now exceeding 40%.)

posted by Dave at 11:48 AM | Comments (1)

Skip The Numbahs
Consequently he who wishes to attain to human perfection, must therefore first study Logic, next the various branches of Mathematics in their proper order, then Physics, and lastly Metaphysics. - Maimonides
It seems the trend these days is to skip all the hard stuff like logic, math, and physics (including chemistry) and go straight for the metaphysics. It leaves out all that tiresome stuff subject to experiment and proof and goes straight for the ineffable. Which no one can possibly eff. Very convenient.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:54 PM | Comments (7)

Disease or wisdom?

Ah, the joys of being herded into packed rail cars in the hot summer!

As many as 70 people were involved in a massive brawl at two Metro Stations in Washington D.C. on Friday night.

At least four were injured in the incident which began at Gallery Place station in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. Fire and EMS reported that a "large brawl" took place at the L'Enfant Plaza station, involving "poss mass casualty." EMS claimed to treated at least 7 patients and 3 teenagers have been arrested and are in custody .

Poss mass? What is that? I haven't heard the expression before, but it hardly endears me to the idea of riding public transportation.

Yet all around the country, bureaucrat rulers, city planners, and left wing thinkers of all varieties sit around trying to come up with strategies to try to "nudge" people into these awful metal boxes teeming with humanity.

Maybe I am anti-social, but it is my personal opinion that being crammed into buses and rail cars is profoundly unnatural. It triggers my yuck reflex -- and if there is anything to the theory some have call "the wisdom of repugnance," then maybe my instincts are telling me something wise. After all, as Dr. Leon Kass famously observed,

repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason's power fully to articulate it.
But I'm not one of those windbags who tell other people what to do.

Why should my repugnance be controlling?

I mean, some people get turned on by getting crammed into things; back in the day, fraternity boys used to enjoy stuffing themselves into telephone booths.


So, if people are into that, it's not for me to judge them simply because of my repugnance, whether it is wise or not. If people want to cram themselves into crowded rail cars, that's their thing, and as a libertarian I would never tell them not to do it. As long as they don't ask me to pay for it, their behavior is not my legitimate concern.

Besides, I might be the one who is neurotic. There's even a phobia diagnosis for my repugnance, which is one of the oldest of them all.

Claustrophobia is typically thought to have two key symptoms: fear of restriction and fear of suffocation. A typical claustrophobic will fear restriction in at least one, if not several, of the following areas: small rooms, locked rooms, cars, tunnels, cellars, elevators, subway trains, caves, and crowded areas. Additionally, the fear of restriction can cause some claustrophobics to fear trivial matters such as sitting in a barber's chair or waiting in line at a grocery store simply out of a fear of confinement to a single space.
At the risk of sounding like a bigot, I think it may be wise for people who suffer from claustrophobia to avoid public transportation -- especially in light of the possibility that their claustrophobia may be a form of wisdom!

And to say that claustrophobes need treatment, wouldn't that be just as judgmental as it would be to say that people who like being crowded into metal boxes need treatment? Judgmentalism is bad, right?

The trouble with "to each his own" is that it sounds so dull, so unexciting. As boring as new age schmaltz. Value judgments about the relative wisdom of disease (or diseased wisdom) are much more exciting.

So I'd say that calling something a disease is as much a value judgment as calling it wisdom, except if I said that I'd be making a value judgment. However, if I make a positive value judgment about others, and a self-deprecating one about myself, few are likely to be offended, even though I am making the same point, right?

So I can say, "your disease is wisdom, and my wisdom is disease."

But not vice versa.

(God Heaven forbid that I might offend!)

posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (10)

Texas Is NOT Happy

I was reading Watts Up With That and came a cross this link to a pdf in the comments which describes the response of the State of Texas to the EPA intent to rule us by regulating CO2 production.

In order to deter challenges to your plan for centralized control of industrial development through the issuance of permits for greenhouse gases, you have called on each state to declare its allegiance to to the Environmental Protection Agency's recently enacted greenhouse gas regulations - regulations that are plainly contrary to United states law.
And that is just the first sentence.

Now catch this one:

On behalf of the State of Texas we write to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.
And that is with 5 1/2 pages to go. Read the whole thing. Some very nice intemperate language.

From the sounds of it you would think the government of Texas has gone over to the Tea Party movement in whole or in part.

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

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:46 AM | Comments (2)

Your opinion is a breach of the peace! And so is your camera!

A relatively minor incident in the news serves as a reminder of the importance of the First Amendment -- as well as its inherent fragility.

If the reports are correct, a New Haven, Connecticut man was arrested merely for stating that he understood the mindset of the man who went on a shooting rampage at a Connecticut company which the shooter said was racist:

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Connecticut police say they arrested a man at a management company after he mentioned the shooting rampage across the state that killed nine people and said he understood the killer's mindset.

Fifty-eight-year-old Francis Laskowski of Derby was charged with breach of peace Wednesday after making the comments while working at Fusco Management Co. in New Haven.

Nine people died in the shootings Tuesday at Hartford Distributors in Manchester, including gunman Omar Thornton. Thornton told police in a 911 call that he wanted to avenge racial discrimination, allegations that company officials denied.

Laskowski told The Associated Press on Friday that his comments were blown out of proportion. He says his arrest was "ridiculous" and he didn't make any threats.

Laskowski posted bail and is due in New Haven Superior Court on Tuesday.

He is absolutely right to call this ridiculous; I mentioned the same incident in an earlier post, and while I didn't say that I "understood" the shooter's mentality, I am sure that countless bloggers did. I would note that it is possible to understand such a mentality from either a sympathetic or unsympathetic POV. For example, I could say that I understand why Palestinian gunman Sirhan Sirhan would shoot RFK while still thinking he deserved the death penalty. Or the Fort Hood gunman. Or even Charles Manson. Understanding does not mean approval. But whether it does or not, if saying you understand someone's mentality is an arrestable offense, then the entire blogosphere belongs in jail.

Now, at the risk of sounding a bit paranoid, what intrigues me about this case is that I think it touches on an ugly nexus between corporatism and statism. Notice that in another article, it is pointed out that the arrested man was an employee of the Fusco Corporation, where company police initially made the arrest:

Francis Laskowski, 58, allegedly made the statement at Building 4 at Science Park in the city's Newhallville section.

Police released only basic details and did not release where he worked.

Police were initially called to the Fusco Corp. offices at 555 Long Wharf Drive on a threatening complaint and were informed by security officers there that an employee "referred to the shooting incident in Manchester and that he (the employee) understood the shooter's mind set," police spokesman Officer Joe Avery said.

What this boils down to is that corporate security police were the ones who arrested this guy, and the local police came in and dutifully hauled him away.

On a completely bogus charge which will be tossed out of court.

Now, the company had every right to tell the man to keep his opinions to himself (and, I suppose, fire him), but arresting him for breaching the peace? Come on.

Does anyone think that if a podunk mom and pop business had called the cops over a similar comment by an employee, he would have been arrested?

Fusco, bear in mind, is no ordinary corporation, but a huge contracting company. It has built many of the most important buildings in the state, and its president also heads the state public broadcasting corporation:

Lynn R. Fusco, President of the Fusco Corporation -- one of the leading construction and property management companies in New England -- has been elected as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Inc. (CPBI), parent company of Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) and Connecticut Public Radio (WNPR). The election took place during the CPBI Board of Trustee meeting on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, in New Haven, Connecticut.

Fusco oversees the operations of the company founded by her grandfather in 1924. Headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut, the Fusco Corporation is a third-generation family-owned business that has built many of the region's landmarks, including the Shubert Theatre, the Yale Baseball Stadium, Goodwin Square/Hartford, Time Warner Cable/Stamford, the Long Wharf Maritime Center, the Connecticut Tennis Center and the newly renovated Payne Whitney Gymnasium. In addition, Fusco is the president of the Fusco Management Company, a property management firm that manages over five million square feet throughout the state of Connecticut.
Hmmm.... I wonder what would happen if I showed up with my little camera and decided to take a few pictures of the company buildings. Would the corporate police detain me? And if they did, would the local police follow their direction and haul me in on bogus charges? (Much of the harassment of photographers involves not actual police harassment, but harassment by corporate security, with police arriving almost as if they are meant to be "backup.")

Why should a large corporation have more say-so over the First Amendment rights of citizens than you or I? I don't mean to sound like a Communist, but it does seem that they have unfair leverage.

And there is something unseemly about a bogus arrest like this taking place at a company run by the Chair of Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Connecticut Public Television, and Connecticut Public Radio.

You'd think they'd display a little more First Amendment, um, sensitivity.

posted by Eric at 09:59 AM | Comments (1)

Had A SMART Event Lately?

As you may or may not know I was able to get a Gateway DX4831-01e thanks to the generous help of my readers. I LOVE the machine. If you can't get one locally Amazon has them.

About a month after I got the machine (a very nice one it is - Two eSATA ports [high speed external drive interface] and lots of USB ports plus various memory card readers) I started getting SMART Event reports. i.e. your hard drive is going south - do something quick. I backed everything up and went on using it. It has been another month now. The drive seems to be working fine.

So how good is this SMART stuff? Well I dunno. I haven't worked in that area. So how to find out? PassMark Software has a free tool that gives you a read out of the codes plus it tracks them to predict drive failure. What I found was that I was running out of spare sectors (they are used to replace failed sectors). So the dive is going to fail. From what I can tell, I have about 100 days or so to get the issue totally resolved (drive replaced). DiskCheckup™ is very nice tool that you should run at least daily.

Which brings me to backup. I tried using the Win 7 backup software and I found it useless. I had enough hard disk space for the backup but the Win software wasn't satisfied. Yaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrgh! I have used Paragon 9.0 on my old HP Box and I was very happy with it. It made my transition to the Gateway painless. Once I downloaded the free trial version of Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition (64 bit) 10.2 and used it to do an extraction of my saved files backup was relatively easy - well the menus are not exactly intuitive but the help files help and you can get through it. And why did I have to try the new version when I still had the old version? Well you see Win 7 (and I believe Vista - but I'm not sure) is not compatible with a lot of XP software. But not to worry. Intel has a Win 7 Upgrade.

OK so I tried the latest Paragon and I got all my old files back. After a couple of months I saved enough to get the Paragon Backup & Recovery Suite 10so I could backup my Win 7 box. But I had a leetle problem. You have to uninstall the free Paragon Backup 10. Not too tough. The Uninstall worked fine. But then you have to look for an errant directory entry or two and delete them. With the usual reboots and other time wasters. Well all is well that ends well. The software is up and I'm doing daily backups (the drive is failing) which take 4 hours 14 minutes to backup 720 GB (it gets compressed to about 570 GB on the drive). I used the eSata interface instead of USB in order to speed up the transfer. But you do need special cables for that. I used Tripp Lite P952-003 eSATA to SATA Signal Cable, 7P-M/7P-M - 3ft. Everything went well, with transfer speeds on the order of 50 M bits a second (total read and write). With indicated speeds (the Paragon has a nice window where you can watch the action) of around 145 M bits a second. Judging by the time it is about 3 G Bytes a minute actual transfer speed. Not too shabby.

Now I have to erase my spare drive and find some tools I can use to partition it with. I need places for Linux, XP, and even DOS. I'll report on that when I make some progress.

I have been using this tool: Cables To Go 30504 USB 2.0 to IDE or Serial ATA Drive Adapter (Black) both for its USB interface and just for its power supply when I was using the eSATA connection. I have found it to be invaluable for working out my current issues and for reading out those old hard drives you have laying around. I'm told you can get them cheaper on eBay but I like the security of having recourse with Amazon. YMMV.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:38 PM | Comments (0)

Why do we need more housing insanity?

In a post appropriately titled "Housing Insanity," Megan McArdle expresses astonishment over the fact that despite the horrendous consequences of the housing bubble and its fallout, the federal government is going full steam ahead to promote no equity home purchases:

If you want to know why us libertarian types are skeptical of the government's ability to prevent housing market bubbles, well, I give you Exhibit 9,824: the government's new $1000 down housing program.

No, really. The government has apparently decided, in its infinite wisdom, that what the American economy really needs are more homebuyers with no equity.

Reading the details (100 percent financed vanilla mortgage, unemployed no problem, not even a mortgage insurance requirement) it all makes the head spin. Noting that "commentators left and right can agree that this is not a good idea" (because zero equity buyers have to suddenly sell their houses, they'll be unable to pay even brokerage fees and closing costs), McArdle speculates that the reason behind the reckless policy might be votes:
The government is less worried about protecting itself from default than protecting itself from voters who want to buy a home at cheap rates. Small wonder they've decided to "help" low income homeowners into dangerous loans.
Insane as such a policy is, reports like this make me worry that getting votes might not be the only reason behind them.

A fundamental debate is occurring throughout America regarding who is best able to make decisions regarding the use of property -- individuals in a free market or government officials. Nowhere is this debate more prominent than through local zoning and planning controls often referred to as "smart growth."

Genesee County has taken government control of private property to a whole new level with the Land Bank; a centerpiece of the Genesee County Urban Land Redevelopment Initiative. Utilizing the legal authority of PA 123 of 1999, which makes it easier for local government to obtain tax reverted property, county officials have aggressively moved to acquire tax- foreclosed properties. According to an investigation by Cathy Shafran of WJRT in Flint, the Land Bank is now responsible for more than 7,000 properties, including 2,300 abandoned homes.

Private ownership of property has been a mainstay of the American political and economic system since the founding of the country. Private property rights are guaranteed in both the U.S. and Michigan Constitutions. Americans have been traditionally supportive of government ownership of property when it serves a public purpose such as a school, highway or park. The Genesee County Land Bank, however, seems to go well beyond the traditional purposes of government ownership of property. The county is in effect acting as a real estate agent and landlord. Some have accused the county of being a slum landlord due to the blighted condition of much of the property y in the Land Bank.

The very existence of the Land Bank sends a chilling message to property owners as well as potential real estate investors. County officials have a free reign to implement their utopian vision of smart growth land use policy through the Land Bank. It is not hard to imagine the removal or relocation of entire neighborhoods "with the community's needs in mind."
Right. Tear down the houses to end "sprawl." Move people into denser housing! Make them use public transportation! East German worker style housing where people are crowded together and told what to do is their idea of a "utopia."

Now, while the above is just local government action, I worry that left-wing ideas get shared, and that the idea might be beginning to sink in that the ultimate beneficiaries of foreclosures in general might simply be government.

If so, then it doesn't take much imagination to understand why encouraging irresponsible risk-taking and failure (in the name of "fairness," of course) would be seen as another way to hasten the destruction of private property.

So maybe the government's housing policy isn't as insane as it seems.

MORE: Glenn Reynolds thinks the problem is that these people are idiots.

Idiots who've been entrusted with nuclear weapons, and their economic equivalents.
At least idiocy is a somewhat more reassuring explanation than my little fit of paranoid speculation.

Problem is, it takes the patience of a Zen master (which is a lot more patience than I have) to be reassured by the thought that the government is run by idiots.

posted by Eric at 11:24 AM | Comments (6)

A Revolutionary Act

Eric says that "the assertion of our constitutional rights is now a revolutionary act." I agree.

So in that vein I think it is time to repeat:

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

posted by Simon at 07:44 AM | Comments (1)

All He Lost He Shall Regain

Eric's post A revolution both revolutionary and constitutional deserves some music.

And a comment I left at a previous post:

I remember back in the day when the lefty-revolutionaries got ALL the chicks.

And to be living in one of the "centers" Bezerkeley? You just can't imagine. Well since you [Eric] lived there then you don't have to.

What amuses me as a "true" revolutionary (I side with the outs against the ins) is all the radicals now stuck in their orthodoxy. They are now "the man" and don't even know it. Eff-em. I think they will really begin to notice in November.

And when the new guys get comfortable in their power it will be time to throw them out.

Yes it will. Permanent Revolution.

posted by Simon at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

A revolution both revolutionary and constitutional

Glenn Reynolds linked a post by Gay Patriot the other day that touched on a very familiar issue:

Are we facing another American Revolution?

Gay Patriot links this widely circulated piece that appeared in Investors Business Daily, and adds,

It is interesting to see a number of people now thinking the way I have been since August 2009. I certainly am not advocating armed revolution. But I also know that we have the right to it under the Declaration of Indepedence.
Except I don't think we need to reach back quite that far. Our right to a revolution is something we have here and now, in the form of the United States Constitution.

Few people knew that better than Thomas Jefferson when he faced an out-of-control federal government which was directly violating the Constitution by asserting powers it did not have. Jefferson (the author of the Declaration of Independence) could easily have reached back in time to assert the natural rights of the Declaration, which was a mere 22 years old in 1798. But he didn't. Instead, he asserted -- in the Kentucky Resolution -- the revolutionary rights found in the Constitution itself :

Resolved, That the Constitution of the United States having delegated to Congress a power to punish treason, counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States, piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the laws of nations, and no other crimes, whatsoever; and it being true, as a general principle, and one of the amendments to the Constitution having also declared, that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people,"--therefore, also, the same act of Congress, passed on the 14th day of July, 1798, and entitled "An Act in Addition to the Act entitled 'An Act for the Punishment of certain Crimes against the United States;'" as also the act passed by them on the 27th day of June, 1798, entitled "An Act to punish Frauds committed on the Bank of the United States," (and all other their acts which assume to create, define, or punish crimes other than those so enumerated in the Constitution,) are altogether void, and of no force; and that the power to create, define, and punish, such other crimes is reserved, and of right appertains, solely and exclusively, to the respective states, each within its own territory.
(Emphasis added.)

You can take out "An Act for the Punishment" of this or that, and plug in any or all of umpteen thousand federal laws -- every one of which Jefferson (who would be a federal felon were he alive today) would agree are null and void.

And Voila! There's your revolution. Call it a constitutional revolution if you will, but right there in the Constitution there is a constitutional right to what would absolutely be a revolution by today's standards.

Let me repeat, the assertion of our constitutional rights is now a revolutionary act.

I realize that many in the so-called "ruling class" would throw a fit over this idea, and they would argue that such thinking would bring about what they'd undoubtedly call a "Constitutional Crisis."

Hey, when the Constitution has been ignored and violated as long as it has now, when we have reached the point where the final coffin nails are being driven in, I'd say that we're already way past the "Constitutional Crisis" stage.

An ignored and violated Constitution is a Constitution in crisis.

We have the right to do something about it, and the state of Missouri is leading the way.

Jefferson's Kentucky Resolution was shortly followed by Madison's Virginia Resolution, which echoes the same central point.

That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government as resulting from the compact to which the states are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties, appertaining to them.
I shouldn't have to point out the obvious, but as Madison had been the principal author of the Constitution, I think it's fair to conclude that he knew what it meant.

Interestingly, Jefferson biographers have argued that the idea of asserting the revolutionary rights which are within Constitution would come back to haunt the country:

Called forth by oppressive legislation of the national government, notably the Alien and Sedition Laws, they represented a vigorous defense of the principles of freedom and self-government under the United States Constitution. But since the defense involved an appeal to principles of state rights, the resolutions struck a line of argument potentially as dangerous to the Union as were the odious laws to the freedom with which it was identified. One hysteria tended to produce another. A crisis of freedom threatened to become a crisis of Union. The latter was deferred in 1798-1800, but it would return, and when it did the principles Jefferson had invoked against the Alien and Sedition Laws would sustain delusions of state sovereignty fully as violent as the Federalist delusions he had combated.[5]
Far be it from me to defend Thomas Jefferson against charges made by his biographer, but the insinuation made there (by Merrill Peterson in Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation: A Biography) clearly involves the Civil War. And I hate the way liberals try to chain-link federalists to constitutionalists, to states rightists, to racists, to "neo-confederates" and probably to Nazis, in demagogic connect-the-dots fashion.

The simple fact is, just as it did not prohibit murder or any other non-enumerated activity, the Constitution did not prohibit slavery. It now does. That's not simply by action of war, but because of the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. So, in addition to having only the enumerated powers that Jefferson and Madison made clear, the Constitution prohibits slavery, allows women to vote, allows taxation of all income from whatever source derived. And for a time, it prohibited booze.

All the rest is unconstitutional.

And we have a truly revolutionary remedy.

All we need to do is assert it.

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

beware of marginalized outsiders who don't give a damn!

In a piece Sissy Willis linked titled "The Tea Party vs. the Intellectuals," Lee Harris touches on what I think is the principal reason for the Tea Party movement's resiliency. It is at essence a movement founded on the principle of non-conformity -- of saying NO. (Even "EFF YOU"!)

Quite fascinatingly, this arises out of their refusal to be co-opted by a process Gramsci long ago called "Cultural Hegemony."

A generation before Orwell devised the idea of Newspeak, the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci had developed a concept that in many ways foreshadowed it, but with one major and considerable difference. Before Gramsci discovered Marx, he had been a student of languages. Gramsci was especially fascinated by what happened when two languages collided. Throughout European history, conquerors had routinely moved into new territories where the inhabitants spoke a different language. In some cases, such as the Normans in France, it was the conquerors who picked up the language of the conquered, but more frequently, it was the other way around. What explained this fact? Why did a conquered people so often abandon their own language in order to learn the language of their conquerors?

Gramsci argued that what led people to discard their native language was the greater prestige of the conqueror's language. The idea of prestige, which had never played a role in classical Marxism, became the key to Gramsci's most famous concept, cultural hegemony. For Orwell, the cultural hegemony sought by the totalitarian state had to be imposed on the masses through diabolically cunning devices such as the telescreen, a reverse television system that permitted the Thought Police to watch and monitor the activities of citizens in the privacy of their own homes. People did not watch the telescreen. Instead they were watched by it, fully cognizant that if they did anything to displease Big Brother they could face the most ghastly consequences imaginable.

For Orwell the basis of cultural hegemony was terror. For Gramsci, on the other hand, it was prestige. Cultural hegemony, according to Gramsci, did not have to be imposed on the people through threats and intimidation. It didn't need to be imposed at all. Conquered subjects sought to emulate the prestigious language of their conquerors, while they simultaneously came to look down on their own native tongue as gross, defective, and inferior. In modern liberal societies the same principle has been at work, but with different players. As education became the ticket to worldly success, it naturally became a source of prestige. Prestige no longer came from conquest by arms, but from earning a Ph.D. In modern secular societies, the eminence of the intellectual elite allowed it to unilaterally allocate prestige to select ideas, thinkers, and institutions. Objects imbued with the magical glow of prestige did not need to be pushed on people -- on the contrary, people eagerly vied with each other to obtain these objects, often at great personal sacrifice. That is why prestigious institutions, such as major universities, well-endowed foundations, and posh clubs invariably have far more candidates for admission than can possibly be accommodated -- a selectivity that makes them even more desirable and prestigious. That is the beauty of prestige: It doesn't need to lift a finger. It can just sit back and relax, confident that people will flock to its feet, begging for the crumbs from its luxuriant table.

Except there's a problem with that. Gramsci didn't invent Cultural Hegemony; he just found a new, highfalutin term for something as old as man --


There is no culture on earth that has been free from peer pressure. Looking up to people, whether they are the "ruling class" or those who are glamorous, handsome, successful high-achievers, or just "cool." Gramsci was no magician, and there's nothing magic about any of this; it's just that they -- the followers of the Gramsci school and those who went along with them -- often imagined that they were into something new, so they set themselves to work trying to do what various ruling classes have done for thousands of years: create peer pressure and then apply it. The difference was that like Gramsci, his initial followers were not actually of the ruling class. The goal was to use ruling class tactics to undermine and ultimately overthrow the ruling class. From without and (if at all possible) from within.

What has happened is that there's been a cultural shift. An emperor-has-no-clothes shift. One of the problems in creating any sort of class to which people might want to aspire is that there has to be something likable about it, and there has to be something in it for the people who are asked to follow it. I think it is no accident that the left wing ruling class is really losing its luster now that it's been discovered that what they're offering is about as cool and has about as much appeal as asking people to wear a hair shirt. There is nothing cool about national bankruptcy, rationed health care, being told you can't eat the food you like, being forced to take public transportation, and the rest of it. No amount of Hollywood propaganda can make people like austerity. Sure, it might be possible to sell rationing during wartime, but only if there's a promise of future victory. The left now promises nothing like victory; instead it's all doom and gloom, lowered expectations, and an end to American exceptionalism. The agenda just plain stinks, and calling it "progressive" does nothing to sweeten its appeal.

Those who want to impose this hair shirt mentality on Americans may think they are possessed of "prestige," but a growing number of people not only see through it; they reject it out of hand.

Parenthetically, I should note here that nothing terrifies the cool and prestigious classes who want to be looked up to more than seeing people they thought they had "owned" embrace something they have deemed un-cool or worthy of censure and regulation. (Gun-toting gays and pit-bull-owning lesbians are two examples that immediately come to mind. And what if the Tea Parties become cool?)

Harris explains how this "prestige" racket is supposed to work:

A governing elite that has a monopoly over the allocation of prestige has immense power over a culture. It can decide what ideas, thinkers, and movements merit attention, while it can also determine what ideas, thinkers, and movements should be dismissed with scorn and contempt -- assuming that the elite even condescends to notice their existence. Needless to say, such a setup will lead to a high degree of intellectual cronyism, in which members of the "in" group mutually endorse and reinforce each others' prestige; but like crony capitalism, this is standard operating procedure of all elites and should come as no surprise. Relying on the natural human desire to gravitate towards prestige, the intellectual elite has no need to resort to the ham-fisted methods of Orwell's Big Brother.
The problem for them is that people are no longer looking up to them. The same thing is happening to their ruling class that happened to the ruling class they thought they were replacing.

Perhaps it was because he was writing in the early part of the last century, Gramsci did not forsee another problem:

Despite the fact that Gramsci regarded himself as a Marxist, the central role that he gave to prestige led far from Marxist orthodoxy. In Marxism the ruling class can be easily identified: it has a monopoly on the production and distribution of things. For Gramsci, there is a new ruling class, which has a monopoly on the production and distribution of opinions.
Well, we know what happened to that "monopoly," don't we? (Dan Rather, call your cubicle!)

I especially like Harris's characterization of the Tea Party movement as one of "marginalized outsiders" -- and his contention that it is that feature which makes them revolutionary (even, dare I say it? in the Gramscian sense):

The only defense that the marginalized outsider has against this onslaught is to not give a damn. And the fact that the Tea Party movement does not give a damn about the current standards of intellectual respectability makes it problematic for the intellectual, who cannot take the same attitude. But it is also the characteristic that justifies the Tea Party's claim to be revolutionary. To be sure, this is not the revolution envisioned by Marx, in which the working class overthrows the capitalist class. It is rather the revolt of common sense against privileged opinion makers, and, by its very nature, it can only be carried out by men and women who are not constrained by the standards of intellectual respectability current in polite company. Again, it is precisely their status as marginalized outsiders that allows them to defy the monopoly of prestige possessed by the cultural insiders. This fact may put them beyond the pale as far as the conservative intellectuals are concerned, but it is precisely what makes them a force capable of resisting the liberal elite's efforts to achieve cultural hegemony -- a resistance that conservative intellectuals had hoped to mount but which they have not mounted, which explains why the Tea Party movement has so little use for them as a whole. As the Tea Partiers see it, what is most needed right now are not new ideas -- we have already had far too many of those. What is needed is the revitalization of a very old attitude -- the attitude shared by all people who have been able to maintain their liberty and independence against those who would take it away from them: "We do not need an elite to govern us. We can govern ourselves."
Self government is supposed to be an American birthright.

Quite wisely (IMO) Harris also warns that pure democracy is an illusion and that "elite rule may be unavoidable." But I think (and I hope) that it's going to be tough for anyone to coopt the Tea Party. By its nature, it is resistant to peer pressure -- outside and even inside.

Cultural hegemony is a two way street. This is something that the intellectual con artist Gramsci knew full well.

In the interest of disclosure, it's probably fair for me to point out that as a traitor to the intellectual left, I've been a marginalized outsider for many years now. So I can say I think the Tea Parties are cool and there's not a damned thing they can do except ignore me. Fine. Being ignored by them is cool with me!

MORE: My assessment that the Tea Party movement is cool is borne out by the results of a poll Roger L. Simon discusses:

Interesting: 54 percent supported the Tea Party Movement strongly or somewhat. The two categories of support were equally divided. Only 41% opposed the TPM (28% strongly, 13% somewhat).

Startling: 31 percent of self-identified Democrats support the TPM either strongly or somewhat.

Most Startling: Of the 54 percent who support the TPM, 52 percent do so privately [italics clearly deliberate]. Furthermore, just 9 percent consider themselves members of the movement but an additional 21 percent state they have friends and families who are.

In other words -- despite all those demonstrations and town hall meetings you may have been watching, reading about or participating in -- the Tea Party Movement is still largely sub rosa. Why? Well, a variety of answers suggest themselves (and I am sure you will have more), but, as a Hollywood screenwriter who voted for Bush, I know full well the necessity of keeping your mouth shut. And if we are a nation of people who have been keeping our mouths shut, look out in November.

Ah, the joys of being sub rosa! (I'm old enough to remember when underground was the epitome of cool....)

posted by Eric at 09:35 AM | Comments (2)

My Experience Is Similar

From a comment at Dr. Helen's.

Dr.D said...

The only schools that offer some hope of being conservative, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, are engineering colleges. Those where the faculty are regularly in contact with industry, particularly if they come and go between industry and academia, tend to be quite conservative. This is not true for schools where the faculty have little or no exposure to actual industry.

The contact with industry, with the constant demands for schedules, the need to produce an acceptable product at an acceptable price, the concerns for safety, etc. all of these things make engineers, and engineering faculty very conservative people. The focus is on what is possible, what will work, what can actually be accomplished as opposed to imaginary theory of what would be nice. The continuing effects of economic reality are extremely important in all of this, something of which people in liberal arts and humanities often seem to be unaware.

I can't say much about engineering school (I never went to one or finished college), but my experience in industry (aerospace engineering) is that most engineers tend to be libertarian/conservative with the libertarian faction predominating. That would be the socially liberal, economically conservative faction. Colloquially referred to as the pot smoking faction of the conservative movement. Also with a tendency to be gay friendly. Engineers don't care. Can you do the job faster than schedule and below budget is the only concern. Even meeting schedule and budget is considered a very good thing. Compare and contrast that with government.

And then my friend Eric had this to say in the same thread.

Eric said...

I am considered a conservative by liberals. But there is a problem in my saying "I am a conservative" because at that point my argument will not be with liberals, but with conservatives.

I have noticed the same thing. Conservatives and I agree that government should be a good steward of the economy. The goal should be to reduce the friction without giving up minimal required controls (like enforcement of contracts). Now where I disagree with Conservatives and Progressives is that government can be an improver of men. Government can keep criminals off the streets (I should add has been traditionally empowered to) and create an environment conducive to honest dealings (contract/business law). But government can not bring into being the New Socialist Man, The New Libertarian Man, The New Conservative Man, The New Christian Man, etc. Why? Because the ideal can't exist. Why you ask? Well it is a principle supposedly enshrined in Conservative thought. Self interest. And you know this may come as a surprise - my estimation of my self interest may not coincide with your estimation of my self interest. This may be for various reasons. One could be you are right and I am wrong. OTOH I could be right and you wrong. The principle of maximum liberty dictates that if you are not scaring the horses in the street or stealing then the very maximum deference should be given to the person closet to the "problem". The self whose self interest is in question.

Evidently this used to be called the night watchman theory of government. I think that was in the era of Peace Officers. Before the era of Enforcers.

The founder of a certain religion was against using law for moral uplift. You have to wonder how so many who claim to be followers can square that circle? About all you can say is that humans is very interesting creatures. I aspire to be one some day. Well maybe not. I try to treat people in a way they prefer (individually) to be treated. An idea that seems to be rather unfashionable these days. Every body (well almost) has an agenda for the other guy. I don't see how they can do it. I can barely manage my own agenda. I can do without busy bodies and the "it is all so unfair" folks adding to my load. I am certainly not interested in moral uplift at the point of a gun.

Eric has more on the subject here.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:58 AM | Comments (2)

I try to be what I am. But what should I say I am that I haven't already said?

As Dr. Helen's post reminded me, the left wing considers right-leaning libertarians like her (and like me) to be conservatives.

Which means I am considered a conservative by liberals. I could accept that if it ended there. I agree with conservatives about 80% of the time (as online tests confirm).

Yet that "minor" twenty percent disagreement can become awfully annoying at times. Disagreement on the social issues is considered fundamentally wrong by social conservatives, and there isn't any easy way to paper over that stubborn fact. And there are some loud and shrill conservatives I simply cannot stand, and I would never support them. (Some of them annoy me so much that even when I agree with them I hate it.)

So, just as there would be an honesty problem for me in saying "I am not a conservative," there is also a problem in my saying "I am a conservative." The difference is that in the latter case my argument will not be with liberals, but with conservatives.

Yet OTOH, to say "I am not a conservative" also invites trouble, for not only isn't it honest, but it sounds as if I am trying to cozy up to the left. Which I absolutely am not -- but which the speaker Dr. Helen mentions absolutely was:

He had to let the audience know, "I am not a Conservative" before discussing the decision, I guess just to make sure his colleagues knew he was in "their tribe."
It gives me the creeps to feel as if I should belong to a tribe, and as I explained sarcastically here, I wish Americans didn't feel pressured to do it.

So where does that leave me? What do I call myself?

Here are a few options that come to mind:

  • I am a conservative because I agree with conservatives 80% of the time and various online tests show I am a conservative, but many conservatives would call me a RINO;
  • I am not a conservative because I can't stand blowhards like Newt Gingrich and Michael Savage who claim to define the term; or
  • I am a right-leaning libertarian who rejects labels, but if you liberal ideologues want to call me a conservative to attack me, then I'll gladly agree with you; or
  • I am a right-leaning libertarian who rejects labels, but if you conservative ideologues want to call me a liberal -- or a RINO -- to attack me, then I'll gladly agree with you; or
  • I couldn't care less about your stinking labels, because I have the right to think what I think, and I have spent over seven years explaining what I think right here in this blog.
  • It's easy to complain that it shouldn't matter what I call myself, but the point is that it does matter to some people.

    It matters most to those who want to tell me what to do and what to think.

    Annoying though they might be, perhaps I should be glad that they care.

    posted by Eric at 10:12 PM | Comments (3)

    Winning by running against litmus tests

    Many Michigan conservatives are undoubtedly disappointed by yesterday's gubernatorial election. Here are the results:

    Governor - GOP Primary

    5732 of 5732 Precincts Reporting - 100%

    Snyder, Rick 380,489 36%

    Hoekstra, Pete 280,326 27%

    Cox, Mike 239,752 23%

    Bouchard, Mike 126,991 12%

    George, Tom 16,965 2%

    It was quite fascinating to watch the dynamics of the race, because it reminds me of something I touched on in my recent post about Newt Gingrich: the more candidates there are running in a primary, the more likely it is that the winner will not represent of the thinking of the majority. (Depending on your POV, that may be a good or a bad thing.)

    Hoekstra and Cox battled for months over which one was more conservative, the true conservative, etc. It got quite vicious, and while a lot of the arguments involved the abortion issue, in the end that didn't seem to be the top voter priority, because Cox was endorsed by Michigan Right To Life, and he came in third. Not only that, but the top vote getter, Rick Snyder has been repeatedly denounced as a "RINO" for being soft on abortion. He says he is against abortion, but refused to say when human life begins, has endorsed stem cell research (which RTL considers murder), and he has gone out of his way to duck social issues -- so much so that it is no exaggeration to characterize it as a hallmark of his campaign. I suspect that he and his campaign realized that all that "wrangling on the right" would cause the non-activist voters to default to him. So very shrewdly (IMO), he repeatedly said that he didn't want to be measured by ideological litmus tests.

    Abortion thus became a very important issue, because Snyder very slickly (and without ever embracing the pro-choice position) appealed to those who found it tedious, wanted it to be less important, or even wanted it to be a non issue.

    Never mind that the Michigan governor has very little say in the matter of women having abortions, which are legal because of Roe v. Wade. Never mind that in the minds of Michigan voters, the economy is number one. Michigan voters were subjected to one a classic "mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most conservative of them all?" debate, in which the social issues ordinary people don't consider the most important issues loom large, and this forces the candidates to try to out-do each other.

    Who is the most anti-abortion of us all?

    (And while the question who is the most anti-gay? might not be asked directly, it certainly comes up indirectly. Wink wink.)

    Additionally, it is also possible that voters might have seen Snyder (a local Ann Arbor businessman, the former Gateway Chairman, who claims to be against higher taxes and spending) as being in the best position to defeat the Democrats, who have been very strong in Michigan. I don't know whether Snyder can win or not, but I have to say I found his "I'm a nerd" campaign amusing and refreshing. But then, I don't like ideological litmus tests either:

    ...with ideologues, it isn't enough to sincerely oppose statism and believe in the Constitution. To be a conservative, you have to acknowledge, at least respect, an ever more irritating litany of memes and conspiracy theories, and you have to denounce "elitism," "intellectualism," "secularism," "RINOism" and all things Ivy League. It all evokes class war, which is predicated on the ad hominem fallacy. It was what made me detest the left, and it hardly endears me to the right...
    However, if Snyder is elected and turns out to be another tax-and-spend, Big Government Republican, he will earn my wrath. (I find the fact that he refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge disturbing, to say the least.)

    Returning to the main issue of abortion (which as I explained, was not the main issue but became a central issue as the primary became a de facto voter referendum on abortion as a litmus test), here's now the race looked just weeks ago:


    Though Cox has the Right to Life of Michigan endorsement, Hoekstra has a slight advantage over him among voters who are anti-abortion advocates. Cox trails Hoekstra among anti-abortion voters 29.1 percent to 26.5 percent, but he leads Hoekstra 28.7 percent to 17.9 percent among Republican voters who favor abortion rights.

    Larry Galmisch, director of the Right to Life of Michigan political-action committee, said the level of support for Cox could change when the organization sends postcards this week to its 160,000 members announcing its endorsement.

    The west Michigan congressman also "best reflects the values" of voters, according to the poll, which had Hoekstra at 25.6 percent, followed by Cox at 21.2 percent and Snyder at 16.8 percent. All three candidates oppose abortion. Cox and Hoekstra oppose embryonic stem cell research, while Snyder favors the research.

    Yet voters rate the economy as the number one issue. And Snyder was the businesman:
    The economy was named the No. 1 issue facing the state by a whopping seven in 10 voters. The state budget and taxes finished a distant second at one in 10 voters. Snyder, a businessman with no political experience, was seen as the candidate with the best plan to improve the state's economy and create jobs by 22 percent of respondents, followed by Hoekstra at 20 percent and Cox at 19.8 percent. Snyder has called for eliminating the state's unpopular business tax and replacing it with a 6 percent levy on profits. He also advocates reducing the time it takes to get a permit and reforming the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

    Jake Suski, spokesman for Snyder, said the campaign will attempt to extend its reach to independent and Democratic voters this week. "Rick has broad appeal to cross over and independent voters who vote in this primary," he said.

    Such an appeal is limited, though, because as I pointed out yesterday, any Democrat who crossed over to vote for Snyder would be unable to have any say in the Democratic Primary, which in most cities, means having no say at all in the election.

    The comments to "Mike Cox for governor Hoekstra is no conservative" reflect the fierce, single-minded devotion to the abortion issue which did so much to give Snyder the winning leverage.

    Here's one of his campaign ads which shows how he used such conservative bickering as a way to pitch his message:

    The more Cox and Hoekstra yelled at each other, the better Snyder looked.

    If there's a lesson here, I think it's a litmus test lesson in races with multiple candidates. The more candidates there are competing over ideological litmus tests, the better the chances of a candidate who runs against the litmus tests.

    MORE: It occurs to me that if they really wanted to be fair and maximize the will of the majority in these primaries, they ought to consider requiring runoff elections in case such as this. (Why shouldn't GOP voters be allowed to decide between Snyder and Hoekstra?)

    AND MORE: I should point out that the good news for Republicans is that the total number of votes for all Republican candidates was 1,044,523, while the total number of Democratic votes was only 527,203.

    And the top GOP vote getter Rick Snyder, with only 36% of the GOP vote, still got more votes (380,489) than the winning Democrat Virg Bernero (308,764)

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

    Global Warming Enhances Erectile Function

    In a soon to be unreleased paper the journal Nature will announce that Global Warming Caused by CO2 is statistically connected with increased erectile function in human males. One participant in the study was especially enthusiastic. "With another doubling of CO2 I could go all night." His sorely taxed partner was unavailable for comment.

    Prompted by this comment.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:29 AM | Comments (0)

    Is there anything those awful homos won't do?

    It has come to my attention that PFC Bradley Manning -- the leaker at the center of the Wiki Leaks scandal -- is openly gay.

    According to Ace, Manning was upset because of a breakup with his lover or something like that, and decided to betray many American allies to the Taliban. Great. So the guy is a traitor who betrayed his country out of purely personal spite. Ace thinks he should be hanged, and if he is ever tried and convicted of treason or espionage, he very well could -- and should -- get the death penalty. (But isn't the federal punishment now lethal injection?)

    What I'm having trouble understanding is how his being gay is an argument against gays or against allowing gays to serve -- any more than it would have been an indictment of heterosexuality had a straight soldier freaked out over a cheating spouse and committed some awful crime in retaliation.

    Apparently it is considered relevant -- at least by Accuracy In Media, which argues that the man's conduct is an indictment of gays in the military:

    "The revelations of Manning's openly pro-homosexual conduct suggest that a more liberal Department of Defense policy, in deference to the wishes of the Commander-in-Chief, had already been in effect and has now backfired in a big way. The result could be not only the loss of the lives of U.S. soldiers, as a result of the enemy understanding U.S. intelligence sources and methods, but damaged relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan and a possible U.S. military defeat in the region as a whole." - Accuracy in Media
    So, because a gay soldier committed an awful crime, that means gays are unfit to serve?

    I've heard a number of arguments against gays in the military, but this one takes the cake.

    But if one bad fruit spoils the whole batch, hey, as I pointed out to M. Simon in an email, John Wayne Gacy was gay, too!

    And come to think of it, so was Hitler.

    Clearly, those awful gays will stop at nothing!

    MORE: According to Manning's Wiki entry (which notes that Daniel "Pentagon Papers" Ellsberg has been praising him), Manning seems to have also engaged in heterosexual conduct:

    Before being arrested, Manning had been demoted for assaulting another soldier, and was to be discharged early.[5][9] In the chats, Manning also told Lamo about his demotion and some of his personal problems - that he had been through a break-up with his girlfriend and that he was feeling lonely and unsupported by his family[5][9] - but whether these events occurred before or after his discovery of the material or his release of the material to Wikileaks, is not made clear from excerpts of the chat logs released by Wired.[11][18]
    Might he be a bisexual?

    They're probably the worst traitors of all!

    AND MORE: It gets worse better. According to this Gawker story, Manning may be a preoperative transsexual.

    But does that mean he is gay? Possibly. Considering his relationship with a woman, if he is himself a "woman in transition," depending on your interpretation of these things, then "she" may have already been in at least one lesbian relationship. And while that wouldn't make him gay, it would make "her" a lesbian.

    MORE: Another tough question is whether Manning would be "gay" if "she" had sex with a man. Hmmm....

    I honestly don't know. I try to be logical about these things but it's been a long day and I'm genuinely getting confused. Transgender arguments especially exhaust me.

    It seems clear, though, that if Manning still has a penis, unless has had sex with men he cannot be considered gay. Nor is it IMO really fair to call him a lesbian until that point where he legally becomes a woman.

    MORE: If this article in the Telegraph is correct, it's pretty clear that Manning is gay.

    Mr Manning, who is openly homosexual, began his gloomy postings on January 12, saying: "Bradley Manning didn't want this fight. Too much to lose, too fast."

    At the beginning of May, when he was serving at a US military base near Baghdad, he changed his status to: "Bradley Manning is now left with the sinking feeling that he doesn't have anything left."

    Five days later he said he was "livid" after being "lectured by ex-boyfriend", then later the same day said he was "not a piece of equipment" and was "beyond frustrated with people and society at large".

    His tagline on his personal page reads: "Take me for who I am, or face the consequences!"

    Mr Manning was arrested at the end of May on suspicion of leaking a video of a US helicopter attack, and quickly became the main suspect when the Afghan war documents were leaked earlier this week.

    As to why none of that appears in his Wiki writeup, who knows?

    FINAL NOTE: I agree with Ace that the full story is being covered up. I am sick of stories being buried out of fear of harming the Narrative -- which is why I wrote this post about it.

    People who think that a gay traitor means gays are traitors are bigots, but that does not mean that the story of a gay traitor should not be reported.

    MORE: A man who went on a murderous rampage apparently claimed he was motivated by racial discrimination:

    After hunting down and killing coworkers that he thought were racist, the gunman at the Connecticut beer distributorship called 911 and calmly explained that he was done shooting but wished he had murdered more.

    "You probably want to know the reason for this," Omar Thornton said in a relaxed tone."This place is a racist place. They treat me bad over here and all the other black employees bad over here too."

    "So I took it into my own hands and handled the problem," he said. "I wish I could've got more of the people."

    Suppose the man had been gay, and said the following:
    This place is a homophobic place. They treat me bad over here and all the other gay employees bad over here too."

    "So I took it into my own hands and handled the problem," he said. "I wish I could've got more of the people."

    Neither claim of discrimination (whether true or false) would be a defense against a murder charge, nor would either incident be a valid argument for or against hiring anyone (except the shooters involved).

    Whether Manning's conduct was in retaliation for whatever "homophobia" he may have perceived remains to be seen.

    posted by Eric at 06:00 PM | Comments (3)

    The Veneer Of Civilization

    Historian Will Durant wrote in his book The Story of Civilization:

    "The Mohammadan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within."
    You have to wonder what Islam has in store for the rest of us.

    The above quote and its preface shamelessly cribbed from: Trembling Fingers

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

    Who is sharing your child's "publicly available information"? And with whom?

    There's an AP article floating around headlined "New ID theft targets kids' SS numbers." Apparently, there's a huge market in stolen Social Security numbers, and according to the piece, the bad guys consist of those who sell the numbers as well as the credit companies that allow people to run checks on them.

    Online companies use computers and publicly available information to find random Social Security numbers. The numbers are run through public databases to determine whether anyone is using them to obtain credit. If not, they are offered for sale for a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

    Because the numbers often come from young children who have no money of their own, they carry no spending history and offer a chance to open a new, unblemished line of credit. People who buy the numbers can then quickly build their credit rating in a process called "piggybacking," which involves linking to someone else's credit file.

    Many of the business selling the numbers promise to raise customers' credit scores to 700 or 800 within six months.

    OK, what I want to know is this: where are they getting the children's social security numbers in the first place? What is meant by "computers and publicly available information"?

    As the word "computers" can mean almost anything, I'm thinking that the leak comes from what the piece calls "publicly available information."

    What "publicly available information" might that be?

    The purpose of a social security number is to keep track of wages and earnings, right? The IRS and the Social Security Administration have a right to demand them at tax time, and for the purpose of paying benefits.

    But as children aren't allowed to work yet, have not established credit, and have never paid taxes, the only places where I'd expect to find their numbers would be maybe hospitals and the Social Security Administration. But I may be out of the loop because I don't have kids, so I checked the SSA web site. Sure enough, I was wrong; there are other possible places (including the IRS) where a child's number might be needed:

    You need a Social Security number to claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return. Your child also may need a number if you plan to:

    * Open a bank account for the child;
    * Buy savings bonds for the child;
    * Obtain medical coverage for the child; or
    * Apply for government services for the child.

    OK, so assuming the online identity thieves are getting the numbers from somewhere (as opposed to running random numbers to see whether they work), that must mean that people in either government, the banking industry, or the health care industry must not be safeguarding them.

    Who's the culprit?

    And why does the article only single out the companies that get these numbers for blame?

    Could it be that the AP is downplaying the possible role of crooked or incompetent bureaucrats?

    MORE: Apparently, there is also a way for hackers to come up with usable SSNs solely by using a date and place of birth.

    If it's that easy, then the government is too incompetent to be trusted with anything.

    posted by Eric at 11:36 AM | Comments (1)

    Two words too good to miss

    Perhaps I didn't mean to be as facetious as I thought I meant to be when I used the Glenn Reynolds phrase "FASTER, PLEASE" in an earlier post, but I thought this merited a new post, because I think this is worth stressing.

    By merely clicking on that InstaPundit search phrase, it is possible to see the best collection of posts about new high tech developments available anywhere online.

    169 of them, to be exact.

    Clicking the link again this morning made me stand in awe. As an InstaPundit search term, it's than Heh. Or Indeed. Or even Heh. Indeed. (And there's the ever-popular "THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR MCCAIN," but don't tech developments beat ironic nostalgia?)

    For those who are concerned with breaking technology, FASTER, PLEASE is one of the most useful tools on the internet.

    posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)

    For Those Who Like Out-of-Control Big Government -- A Shining Example of Statist Spending!

    Weekly Standard Editor Andrew Ferguson takes a look at American voters' confusing on-again, off-again love affair with statism:

    A paradoxical people, these Americans: eager to have an incompetent government that they don't trust do more of the things that they don't want it to do.
    That's not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of Ferguson's piece, and I suggest reading the whole thing.

    But as I read it, the more I thought about the tension between the anti-statists (almost invariably libertarians and small government conservatives) and the big government conservatives, the more I thought about one appalling example I stumbled onto yesterday.

    Drug War Spending.

    It's gone up.

    At the end of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, the United States was spending a mere $66 million in the battle against illegal drugs. Four years later, at the end of Nixon's first term, the War on Drugs cost $796 million. By 2000, President Clinton and a Republican Congress had approved $19.2 billion for the drug war.
    OK, I lived through the '60s when LBJ was president and I remember Nixon ramping up the drug war. Ever since, it has been ramped up, and ramped up, and ramped up. Yet I see very little difference in the number of people using drugs; now as then, some people use them, others don't. I do remember that in those days you could go to a doctor and get drugs; uppers and downers were omnipresent; even opiate pain killers required only a simple prescription. That was before the federal DEA-monitored system of "triplicate" prescription forms which most doctors are terrified to write, and I am sure federal harassment of doctors will get worse. So, while in the old days there used to be an officially-tolerated legitimate medical system of supply for drugs, today adults who want uppers, downers, and even pain killers have to look for them on the street. To that extent, the drug war has "worked." Also, we now have SWAT Teams in nearly every city, ready to bash in doors and shoot dogs and citizens in their search for drugs. Back in the old days, there were "vice squads" -- and they had to knock on the door like Joe Friday. This gave users time to flush their stash, and we can't have that, can we? Now, we target them military style, with lightning speed, with SWAT Team firing flash-bang grenades. So while plenty of people still use drugs, they've been pushed further and further into the criminal fringes, as police state tactics have "improved."

    I realize that many conservatives think this is all hunky dory, and that it represents, um, "progress."

    But let's say you're one of those who likes the Drug War. How much do you think we should pay for it?

    According to the War On Drugs Clock, so far this year, the federal government has spent over $11 billion on the drug war, while the states have spent over $15 billion.

    Are are better off now than we were when we spent only $66 million a year? I don't think so, and I think what has happened is that the drug bureaucracy has simply been running amok for decades, because it has never been challenged in any major way by either party (neither of which wants to be seen as "soft on drugs").

    To be honest, had the drug war not been ramped up, I realize that we would have to adjust for inflation. So to be fair I decided to use the inflation calculator here.

    That $66 million in 1968 dollars would be $402,517,395.96 in 2009. That is less than half a billion dollars. So how do we get from that figure to $20 billion? By my calculations, that's an adjusted-for-inflation increase of over 4000%.

    Is it worth it?

    Putting aside the rightness or wrongness (or constitutionality) of federal criminalization of substances, can anyone explain how?

    posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (5)

    A voter's dilemma

    Today is Election Day. Michigan's primary election, that is.

    So, because I live in a left wing city, I feel largely disenfranchised. That's because I have a choice between having a voice in selecting the Republicans candidates who might win the higher offices (and having no say at the local level, because whichever Democrat wins the primary wins in the fall), or else I could vote Democrat to have a say in the Ann Arbor government (and have no say in choosing the Republicans at the state level).

    Like this guy, who faces the same problem:

    I am a Republican, and I'm usually content with sticking to the GOP primaries. My most enthusiastic vote Tuesday will be for Hoekstra for governor. Our longtime congressman is in a very tight race and will need every West Michigan vote he can get.

    But I also live in the 92nd State House district, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. Since that's the hard reality, I would like the opportunity to help pick the Democrat who will represent my district in Lansing. But I can't do that because I'm voting in the Republican primary.

    The situation gets really silly when it comes to county offices. I will never understand why candidates for the county board of commissioners have to run on a partisan ballot. The traditional labels -- Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative -- mean nothing at the local level. We simply need intelligent, reasonable people who are willing to work together for the betterment of the community.

    Unfortunately, the candidates have to run as Democrats or Republicans. And I happen to live in a county board district where nearly all the candidates, and most of the voters, are Democrats. That means I won't be able to help choose my new county commissioner, since I'm voting in the Republican primary and the candidates are in the Democratic primary

    We should seriously consider adopting a new primary system before the 2012 election cycle. My first thought would be opening up the primary, so voters have the right to choose one candidate from each party for any particular office. That would allow voters to help determine the choice they will face in the November general election. What would be so bad about that?

    I'm sure it could be argued any number of ways, but Michigan's primary system forces you to choose one party or the other, and if you live in a town ruled by Democrats, you're SOL if you vote Republican. Sure, Republicans can run for local office here, but it's a joke.

    Take, for example, the local mayor's race. I have discussed it twice here, and I would like to be able to vote for the opposition candidate Patricia Lesko. Similarly, I might want to vote for Pam Byrnes for State Senate --simply because she is being smeared by her opponent because an ad supporting her was allegedly run by wicked "right wing Republicans."

    Progress Michigan today issued a warning to Washtenaw County voters, saying a right-wing group funded by leading Michigan Republicans is behind a series of misleading ads supporting Democrat Pam Byrnes.

    The postcards, which laud Byrnes for her "progressive values" and attack opponent Rebekah Warren, were mailed to voters by the Great Lakes Education Project PAC.

    Byrnes and Warren, both state representatives who represent different parts of Washtenaw County, are facing off for the 18th District state Senate seat in next Tuesday's Democratic primary, along with Thomas Partridge.

    Progress Michigan issued a statement today warning that the Great Lakes Education Project promotes privatizing schools and opposes public education funding. The group is financed by leading Republicans, including Betsy and Dick DeVos and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser.

    I know a smear when I see one, and I'd like to vote for her too. But if I do, I lose the ability to have any say in the Michigan gubernatorial primary.

    I don't know what the solution is. Allow cross voting for different candidates in different races? Allow all voters to vote in all primaries? Or perhaps hold local primaries on different dates?

    Of course, this dilemma cuts both ways. Democrats who want to influence the GOP races at the state level lose the ability to have a say locally.

    MORE: Via Stephen Green, some worrisome news. Not only are the Democrats now trending ahead in the polls, but the Republicans seem to be sitting on their nonexistent laurels.

    Americans are sick of the Democrats already, but aren't yet ready to trust the GOP again. And what I'm seeing out of the Washington crowd makes me think that the Republicans are counting almost exclusively on the former and ignoring the latter -- to their own, great peril.
    For the last several (national) election cycles now, the Republicans have seemed unable to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    posted by Eric at 08:30 AM | Comments (3)

    Utopian technology transcends supply and demand

    In early 2004, I discussed the idea of "using genetic engineering to end the Drug War":

    What fuels the Drug War, in my opinion, are the absurd prices people are willing to pay for otherwise worthless, commonly available substances -- simply because they are illegal in this country, and have to be imported at great risk from the Third World. (Or, like OxyContin, manufactured for pennies, then resold on the blackmarket for small fortunes.)

    Anyone ever heard of a real grow-your-own campaign? While it is no more in the interest of drug cartels than it is the DEA to do such a thing, I see no reason why some anonymous visionary somewhere might not be able to graft the morphine-producing gene from Papaver somniferum into, say E. coli.

    Or even common yeast! (Or the whatever-producing-gene into whatever....)

    That way, the addict could brew up his own fix in a pitcher of sugar water in the kitchen, leaving a little bit of the Morph-a-Yeast at the bottom, so that he can add a little more sugar and water (nutrient agar or other medium in the case of E. coli), and have tomorrow's batch ready overnight.

    I can't think of a better way to take the money out of the drug market.

    No money for criminals.

    An impossible situation for law enforcement.

    In short, a utopia!

    I have to say that when I wrote that I had no idea that the technology would be just six years away, but a couple of news item I read ealier made me wonder whether my utopian blogdream might be on the verge of becoming a reality

    First I read about a student researcher who got an E. coli culture to actually manufacture morphine:

    Opiates for the masses may not be far off. Scientists have figured out two of the final steps in the chain of chemical reactions that synthesize morphine in the opium poppy.
    It's very technical stuff, but here's what happened:
    Years of research, gift plants, a bit of luck and the "Herculean effort" of then graduate student Hagel led to the discovery, says Facchini.

    The researchers began with three high-morphine varieties of opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, and a mutant plant that makes the morphine precursors thebaine and oripavine but can't make morphine itself. Hagel constructed an enormous DNA library from these plants, which the team used to determine which genes were turned on in the morphine-making poppies. She then compared this activity to that of the mutant plant that couldn't put morphine together.

    After determining the genetic blueprints of the genes that differed, Hagel and Facchini checked those DNA sequences against a database to reveal the enzymes' identities. To verify the enzymes' role in making morphine, Hagel stuck one of the genes into the bacterium E.coli, put the critter in a flask with some thebaine, and left it overnight.

    "When she came back the next morning, the thebaine was all gone," says Facchini. "That's when her eyes got big.... Finding it all had been turned into morphine -- that gives a grad student a great sense of power, when they can make morphine." The scientists dubbed the enzymes thebaine 6-O-demethylase and codeine O-demethylase.

    Yeah, I think it would give anyone a sense of power to make bacteria do that. (It is one thing to have an idea, but quite another to see an idea -- which gene-splicing is -- physically do something.)

    This inspired me to look further, and I learned that just a few months ago, some Canadian genetic engineers created morphine-producing yeast -- an achievement said to have raised "profound ethical and social issues":

    Building on the discovery of two elusive genes that enable the opium poppy to make morphine and codeine, researchers inserted synthetic versions of those genes into yeast and coaxed it to produced the potent painkillers.

    It is an important step in a Canadian project that aims to produce the analgesics from a cheap raw material like sugar, says the University of Calgary's Peter Facchini, who along with his research team member Jillian Hagel discovered the genes. They collaborate with Concordia University's Vincent Martin, who genetically modified yeast to produce the narcotics.

    While obstacles remain, the work raises profound ethical and social issues. It could lead to a cheaper source of codeine, an over-the counter painkiller that is too expensive for many people in the developing world.

    But there is also a risk it could offer an inexpensive new source of illicit, more powerful drugs like heroin, which is made from morphine.

    "It is a typical dilemma of dual-use technologies," says University of Calgary communications professor Edna Einsiedel, one of several researchers looking at the implications of the federally funded experiments. Nuclear technology, for example, can produce medical isotopes, electricity, or nuclear weapons.

    "While one can try to rely on regulation, there is of course no guarantee about a technology falling into the wrong hands or used for nefarious purposes," she says.

    Once such yeast found its way into the hands of end users (thanks to a leak from a disgruntled or utopian-minded grad student), there would be no practical way to stop it. All that would be needed would be some sugar and some water, and the junkie would have his own inexhaustible supply. Naturally, the yeast could be expected to be shared.

    The Drug War would become unwinnable, because the chain of supply would cease to exist. Directing a fight at dealers who who buy from smugglers who buy from growers in distant lands would be pointless.

    The result is what I called "A lifetime supply of whatever -- whenever...." When I wrote that I had no idea that the technology I was speculating about would soon become a reality.

    And if they can do this with morphine, they can do it with any naturally occurring substance.

    I'm tempted to say "FASTER, PLEASE" but that's not my line.

    Plus, I doubt the DEA would agree. To them (as well as the criminal cartels they pursue) a major industry could be facing a dire threat from disruptive technology.

    posted by Eric at 03:16 PM | Comments (9)

    Religion for thee, but not for me?

    What do you call someone who advocates religion for the masses but not for himself? Most people would call such a person a hypocrite. At the very least, such a political position evinces a mindset normally thought of as condescending -- the sort we would typically associate with the "ruling class." Doubtless this factored into Marx's denunciation of religion as the "opiate of the masses." (And while I am no Marxist, there's some intriguing research linking religious ecstasy to the release of endorphins.) So if Marx was right about religion supplying people with a need, why would that make religious advocacy by nonbelievers any more "hypocritical" than, say, the advocacy of sports or entertainment by a non-fan? Would I be a hypocrite if I said that attendance at sporting events or NASCAR races was a good thing, but failed to attend these things myself? I hate television, but does that mean I can't suggest that it meets some people's needs? If we look at it this way, why wouldn't it be possible for even an atheist to advocate religion for those who needed it?

    There's one of those much-quoted wise sayings along these lines which is often attributed to Seneca the Younger:

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful."
    There's no confirmation that Seneca ever said that, though. Instead, someone seems to have paraphrased Gibbon, and improperly attributed what he said to Seneca. From The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. I, ch. II:
    "The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord."
    What's fascinating about this was that the official Roman state religion easily lent itself to such advocacy and even practice by nonbelievers. Just throw some incense into the fire and say the magic words. It didn't matter whether it was a superstition, and the fact that the gods had typically human traits made them much easier to identify with. Like believing in people just like you, with all the common petty vices, flaws, and squabbles, only they were immortal, so they were always there! And if you wanted more, they could always be added or created. The official religion was thus very tolerant of the religions of conquered peoples, because it wasn't a big deal to add a few more gods into the pantheon. But they couldn't add Yahweh or Jesus, because their followers wouldn't let them. Moreover, they refused to tolerate images of the Roman gods, and huge riots would break out if they were put up in the wrong places. Many a Christian martyr died for refusing to throw a little incense on a Roman devotional fire; magistrates found it utterly incomprehensible that given the choice of throwing incense to a Roman god or being put to death, the Christians willingly chose death. (No adding Jesus to that Pantheon.)

    But what about the many Roman nonbelievers? Whether they were skeptics, atheists or agnostics, it didn't matter so long as they were willing to acknowledge the traditional gods. Moreover, some of the wisest Romans were nonbelievers who nonetheless saw the utilitarian value of religion. You don't have to rely on Gibbon's words stuffed into Seneca's mouth.

    Here's Ovid:

    'Tis expedient that there be gods should exist; and as it is expedient, let us believe them to exist. Let frankincense and wine be placed on their ancient altars.
    And Plutarch:
    The atheist thinks there are no gods, the superstitious man wishes there were none; but he believes in them in spite of himself, because he is afraid to die, and like as Tantalus seeks to evade the rock suspended over him, so does the latter evade his fear, by the weight of which he is no less oppressed, and would be content with, nay gladly accept the Atheist's state of mind, as a state of liberty. But as it is, Atheism has nothing in common with Superstition: for the superstitious man, though by inclination Atheist, is yet far too weak-minded to think about the gods what he wishes to think.
    (Plutarch, BTW, was not an atheist, but a temple priest who tended towards the Platonic belief in one god.)

    Superstition is something that does not easily go away; it manifests itself among agnostics and atheists, environmentalists who think "The Earth" is striking back, first ladies who believe in astrology, etc.

    I think that what made the Roman religion easier for both superstitious believers and practical non-believers was the gods' very human nature. Fierce, pure monotheism in the form of worshiping an all-powerful, all-knowing, yet totally invisible GOD is a hard sell, because you're asking people to believe in an entity with which they cannot readily identify. Indeed, they are not supposed to identify with such an all-encompassing deity; they are to fear HIM, and above all, they are to SUBMIT. It just isn't enough to throw a little incense on the fire of the god you personally like best.

    When people have a pantheon of gods that act like humans, they are spiritually undisciplined, and if they are to be made to submit to monotheism, the latter is best imposed by force. Fortunately for Rome, when it encountered monotheism, the monotheists -- in the form of the Jews -- had no interest in converting the Romans. The trouble resulted from their devout refusal to allow Rome to coopt them.

    Interestingly, Egypt (polytheistic for many centuries) had been briefly monotheistic (worshiping only Ra as the only for a time under the Atenist dynastic period), something the monotheist rulers tried to accomplish through force:

    In Year 9 ( 1344/1342 BC ), Akhenaten strengthened the Atenist regime, declaring the Aten to be not merely the supreme god, but the only god, a universal deity, and forbidding worship of all others, including the veneration of idols, even privately in people's homes - an arena the Egyptian state had previously not touched in religious terms. Atenism was then based on strict unitarian monotheism, the belief in one single God. Aten was addressed in prayers, such as the Great Hymn to the Aten: "O Sole God beside whom there is none".

    Akhenaten staged the ritual regicide of the old supreme god Amun, and ordered the defacing of Amun's temples throughout Egypt, and of all the old gods. The word for `gods' (plural) was proscribed, and inscriptions have been found in which even the hieroglyph of the word for "mother" has been excised and re-written in alphabetic signs, because it had the same sound in ancient Egyptian as the sound of name of the Theban goddess Mut. Aten's name is also written differently after Year 9, to emphasise the radicalism of the new regime. No longer is the Aten written using the symbol of a rayed solar disc, but instead it is spelled phonetically.

    It didn't go over well, though, as the dispossessed priests of the old order eventually overthrew the new religion. Still, a seed had been planted and some analysts (notably Sigmund Freud) have speculated that Judaism was a direct offshoot of Atenism.

    With Egypt being polytheistic, Rome's later conquest did not present any major religious problems, although monotheism was to return to Egypt big time, in the form of Christianity. It spread rapidly in Roman-occupied Egypt, and the Roman authorities had little luck in stopping it.

    The most revolutionary event in the history of Roman Egypt was the introduction of Christianity in the 2nd century. It was at first vigorously persecuted by the Roman authorities, who feared religious discord more than anything else in a country where religion had always been paramount. But it soon gained adherents among the Jews of Alexandria. From them it rapidly passed to the Greeks, and then to the native Egyptians, who found its promise of personal salvation and its teachings of social equality appealing. The ancient religion of Egypt put up surprisingly little resistance to the spread of Christianity. Possibly its long history of collaboration with the Greek and Roman rulers of Egypt had robbed it of its authority.
    Might the Roman rulers have suddenly realized how vulnerable the older polytheist religions were to this new form of monotheism?

    Or should Christianity be called "quasi-monotheism"? Unlike Judaism, Christianity offered believers something unavailable to Jews: a god who was a man. To polytheistic peoples, immortal beings that were half-man and half-god had a long history, and even though the Christians concocted a doctrine called "the Trinity" to explain this away ("launder" might be too strong a word), the fact is that ordinary pagans of the time could much more readily be expected to identify with this new deity -- whether they thought of him as half-man, half-god "son of God," a man who was a god, or a God actually coming down to earth in the form of man. That the offer of eternal life has a certain appeal is undeniable too, as it was if they were saying, "you too can become an immortal." It beats the idea of a soul mysteriously disappearing in the nether worlds, or the view of many Stoics that there was no such thing as a soul. Add the Virgin Mary, and there's even a quasi-goddess to worship. The enormous religious appeal of virginity to the Romans is a well documented phenomenon, and it is no surprise that calls for Christian religious celibacy arose in the very infancy of Christianity when it was a Roman religion.

    My view is that Christianity is basically a classically Roman form of religion, and a hybrid of polytheism and monotheism. I realize that there was a time when saying such a thing could get you killed, but not now! If atheists are free to denounce the existence of God, I am just as free to speculate that Christianity is founded upon -- and contains within it -- a still unresolved struggle between polytheism and monotheism. Perhaps the struggle is irresolvable, and perhaps it really doesn't matter. Little wonder the Islamists consider Christians to be unredeemed heretics engaged in quasi-pagan idolatry. For that very reason alone, I'll take Christianity over Islam any day! Unfortunately, the Islamists' ferocious monotheism seems to supply fuel for those who seek to radically "purify" Christianity and make it more resemble the intolerant form of hard monotheism that wants to destroy it.

    But I seem to have digressed from my original point, which was to discuss nonbelievers who advocate believerism. (I still don't know what they are to be called; "religionist" isn't the right word, nor is "religiosity.") It strikes me that it is a lot easier to advocate something you don't believe in if that something makes no demands on you. For example, it is not an easy thing to convert to Judaism, and if I advocated Judaism as a non-Jew, few would take me to task for it. But if I were to advocate Christianity, atheists would be upset, and they as well as some Christians would demand that I "practice what I preach" (even though I preach nothing), and I'd run the risk of being called a hypocrite.

    Is it easier to sometimes just throw the incense on whatever fire people have burning, without regard to belief? Why not?

    If there is such a thing as infinity, there's probably a tolerant deity out there somewhere in the unending void who would understand.

    And if there isn't then what's the harm? And if OTOH, there is only the bigot God of the Muslims out there who will surely put me in hell, then hell is where I belong, as I would rather not be with such a deity.

    Are these things not all ultimately unknown and unknowable? Sure, there are innumerable texts claiming to know them, but being texts, they constitute little more than appeals to authority -- written by people who claim to have been acting on behalf of ultimately unknown and unknowable authorities. So religious disagreements are disagreements over the unknown.

    Seen this way, advocacy of religion boils down to stating that because of the nature of infinity, it might be easier on some people to take a position one way or the other. Even if Marx was right and religion is like an opiate, I favor legalizing opiates, so why would I seek the abolition of religion? Whether religion is "good for society" (as many claim) has less appeal to me, as I am not a communitarian, and although I certainly do not want a bad society, I'm uncomfortable with trying to control the minds of others. I think it's arrogant. Especially the idea of making people behave by telling them that God made the rules which they must obey under penalty of eternal death. Such things are not knowable, and I could never in good conscience advocate imposing on people things I don't believe are knowable.

    What about the view that religion is basically grounded in fear of death? It's certainly true that we all fear death to one extent or another; even though I am very familiar with death and have come close to that ultimate unknowable state myself (and thus I do not live in inordinate fear of it), I sincerely believe that there is something out there, even though I cannot prove it. Still, I am honest enough to acknowledge that there might in fact be nothing out there. It is that fear of the possibility of nothingness which makes me very impatient sometimes, because I have less and less time, and I hate seeing it wasted. When the dreaded "hourglass" icon randomly appears on the screen (whether from a stupid freeze caused by Firefox, an Adobe PDF-caused browser crash, one of the endless anti-virus updates, or other torments from cyber hell) it stops me from whatever I am doing, and I am reminded that what limited time I have left on this planet is being utterly wasted.

    It reminds me that in my case, the fear of death is really the fear of running out of time, which sucks.

    Hell, it even inclines me toward an occasional exercise in superstition.

    posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (4)

    Less Power More Control

    The EPA under rules developed during a Republican administration has a plan that will shut down up to 20% of the coal fired electrical plants in the nation.

    In March 2005 the federal EPA issued two new rulings that mandate significant reductions in air pollution and mercury pollution. These federal regulatory requirements will have significant impact on utilities in the US. The timeframe for these emission reductions will take place in two phases with the first phase occurring during the next five years and the second phase being completed within the next twelve years.
    And the rules for the first phase will do what exactly?
    Some plants could have a hard time meeting the proposed cap, which could push domestic cement production into countries with even less stringent environmental standards, said Andy O'Hare, vice president of regulatory affairs with the Portland Cement Association.

    The proposal comes at a down time for the cement industry. Three plants in the Great Lakes region shuttered in December 2008 and January 2009, according to Portland Cement Association records. The Alpena plant announced in March a 45-day kiln shutdown.

    Ah. So it is just another plan to ship jobs to China.

    But wait. It is not just coal fired cement plants. It is also coal fired power plants.

    [The rules] would force utilities to invest tens of millions of dollars on technologies to remove the substances. Many of those plants are about 50 years old and are already inefficient. "Those investments are just not going to be justifiable," said Dan Bakal, director of electric power programs at Ceres, a group of environmentalists and institutional investors.

    Francois Broquin, a co-author of reports on coal by Bernstein Research, said the combined rules could push as much as 20 percent of U.S. coal-fired electric generation capacity to retire by 2015. "Obviously that will have an impact," he said.

    So where are the shut downs going to be concentrated?
    The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed a new federal plan to reduce the pollution from electric power plants that wafts hundreds of miles across state lines.

    The new rule would require pollution reductions in 31 states and the District of Columbia -- most of the Eastern half of the U.S., from Texas and Minnesota to the coast.

    To make the cuts, power plants would be required to install new equipment or use lower-sulfur fuels.

    The plan is one of the most significant steps the EPA has taken toward cleaning the air for millions of Americans who live in areas where the quality of the air doesn't meet national standards.

    It comes after many months of planning since a federal court ordered the EPA to revise its 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule . Coincidentally, it was announced in the middle of an Eastern heat wave, when smoggy air was at unhealthy levels from North Carolina to New York state.

    So the East Coaster will have no choice. Cleaner air so important to a few (and very important for them) but no air conditioning in the summer for tens of millions. Who ever worked out the political calculations didn't do their homework. Let me add that the East Coast electrical grid infrastructure is not in the best of shape and if the shut downs are concentrated in that area the loss for the area could be much more than 20%. Let me add that with the current grid power does not ship well over distances longer than about 300 or so miles. And if the grid is already congested with power flows from inside the area? Dark energy will be a proven reality.

    So how about nuclear power to replace the power that will be lost? Well enviros hate nuke plants. Especially East Coast nukes. They stopped the Shoreham nuke plant. And Vermont Yankee and Indian Point are being targeted.

    I wonder what the marginal price of electricity will have to be to make supply and demand come into balance on a hot day on the East Coast? And how are the residents going to feel about it? You would think the California experience would be a cautionary tale for the political classes. You would be wrong.

    And in case you hadn't guessed about the title: You get less power. They get more control. All this enviro wackiness is a bubble. And the bubble is going to burst. When it does things are going to get ugly. Attacks on power plants will not go over well.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

    My Political Source

    I like to get my politics from engineers. Engineers are schooled in:

    "What can possibly go wrong? In truth just about everything."
    While the general electorate dreams of:
    "Laws? We just pass them and the words (and government guns) will give us what we are dreaming of."
    You can't bust that kind of thinking with reason. It is pure faith.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

    the bigoted nature of identitarianism makes me want to find a "tribe"

    What is bigotry?

    Let's start with a common definition of bigot.

    a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.
    We typically think of bigotry as prejudice which is acted upon. Prejudice means pre-judging an individual, usually according to membership in a group. When an individual is judged according to the standards associated with a group instead of being judged according to who he is, that is prejudice. When he is treated with intolerance (and say, discriminated against) that is bigotry.

    But doesn't that go to the definition of identity politics? Judging or measuring an individual according to how he or she aligns with the group standard, and excluding him (making him an un-person) if he does not? Are not the members of the group who do this "obstinately or intolerantly devoted to [their] own opinions and prejudices," and are they not treating the non-conforming members of the group (along with those in the excluded group generally) with hatred and intolerance?

    Other than the alleged "power imbalances" between dominant culture and minority group statuses, I see very little difference between that form of bigotry and the one it is supposedly intended to combat. In many ways it is more intolerant, because the shunned and excluded individual may find himself as an outcast who does not fit in anywhere. (One of the most tragic examples of this is a former Israeli Arab I know who worked as a tracker for the Israeli Army; he was considered a "spy" by his supposed cultural tribal group, yet he never felt that he was fully trusted by the Israeli group, so he emigrated to America which he loves because he says no one cares!)

    Which is why I like (as I explained earlier) what Andrew Breitbart is doing.

    I find it fascinating that in the despicable attack John Dean launched against him (quoted earlier), he mentions the word "tribe":

    ...conservatives like Breitbart will not play nicely merely because they have been taken to court. These authoritarian personalities, and those who share their thinking, go ballistic when confronted with legal actions. They resist being held accountable, and feel particularly threatened by legal actions. What Breitbart will do if Sherrod files a lawsuit against him is to quickly create a legal defense fund, with the support and financing of like-thinking conservatives, and he will hire as nasty an attorney as is available in his tribe.
    I didn't know that Breitbart belonged to a "tribe," but hey, John Dean says so! And now that I'm on the subject, I can remember that Glenn Greenwald (one of John Dean's more enthusiastic supporters in the leftosphere) attacked Glenn Reynolds as the root cause of "bigoted tribalism." No seriously, he did, and I had a lot of fun with the idea of how to be a bigoted cultural tribalist:
    It's simple, really. To activate the process, you have only to disagree with Glenn Greenwald.
    Now, while they love accusing people who disagree with them of "tribalism," I suspect this might stem from the fact that people like Glenn Greenwald and John Dean are actually bigoted cultural tribalists themselves. So they naturally assume that those who disagree with them are enemies -- people from another "tribe."

    Does tribalism necessarily have to beget tribalism? In the United States? What if you're just an American? I wouldn't go so far as to call that membership in a "tribe" because I like to think I am living in a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, free country where I don't have to see myself as a member of any tribe. But even if we assume that American citizenship has its tribal aspects, what if you're just an American who doesn't want to belong to an additional tribe? I would submit that if people like Andrew Breitbart belong to a "tribe," it is one which has largely been aided, and abetted and created by tribal warfare started by people who consider themselves a rival "tribe."

    This sucks, bigtime.

    Identity politics is tribalism. And if it isn't outright bigotry (but instead is mere prejudice plus discrimination), it's damned close. So close as to be within a "racist hair."

    I hate to repeat myself to longtime readers, but here I go.

    I think that what we call bigotry goes to a basic, possibly universal problem with the human mind. Hmm... perhaps "problem" is a problematic word. Humans have a need to simplify and categorize things and other people, and the more complicated things get, the more this need tends to express itself.

    While politics lends itself perfectly to this (because of its unfortunate tendency to "tribalism"), it also tends to cloud any analysis, so if I gave modern American political examples, people would take issue with me. It's a shame, because when I was a kid, there were conservatives and liberals, but they agreed they were Americans, and not only did they generally get along with each other, they were allowed to be friends. The way things have gotten, conservatives with liberal friends or liberals with conservative friends run the risk of having their label credentials revoked.

    So I think a better example for the purposes of illustration is the ridiculous Burakumin class of Japan. While they are racially indistinguishable from other Japanese, because their ancestors once worked with hides, they face discrimination and prejudice, even today:

    The burakumin (village people) of Japan are tainted by their association with death, the impurity of killing and being near carcasses, and leather work. Also known as: hisabetsu buraku (discriminated communities), eta (abundant pollution or leather workers), binin (nonhuman), kokonotsu (nine-one less than ten and, therefore, imperfect), the burakumin have existed for centuries as the untouchable caste of Japan. During the feudal era, burakumin were the most despised and untouchable group in Japan. They struggle with the myths and hatred associated with the occupations of their ancestors. In a nation that prides itself on a modern way of life Japan's hidden people still fight to gain equality.

    Burakumin During the Feudal Era

    In feudal times, burakumin gained their reputation by holding jobs disdained despite their necessity. Working as gravediggers, tanners, entertainers, executioners, and undertakers, they became associated with death, impurity, and lower living standards. Discrimination came from Buddhist mores against killing and Shinto disdain of pollution. The impurity of burakumin was deemed hereditary. Society scorned them as naturally as evil and filled with a contagious impurity. Burakumin were an incurable social disease that would be ravish anyone who had contact with them.

    There was no refuge for the burakumin-from their identity or the cruelty it elicited. Until recently, koseki (family registration) tied burakumin to the addresses of the ancestors, which made it impossible for them to hide their identity or ever escape from it. Like prisoners in a concentration camp, they were shunned into staying in their villages. Being discovered as a burakumin in regular social circles served as an acceptable reason for every rejection (a marriage cancellation or being fired from a job). The burakumin existed on the periphery of society, awaiting the daily the daily massacre of every dream they held dear.

    Another example of bigotry which hits closer to home for many Americans is the implacable hatred between racially indistinguishable people in Ireland, who claim to believe in the same god. When I ran a nightclub, one of my favorite employees was an immigrant from Northern Ireland who told me he had been raised in a militantly "Orange" household, and he actually had been one of the drummer boys who marched each year through the Catholic neighborhoods. You know, the guys with the bowler hats and orange sashes?


    Cute, in a way. And like the Arab Israeli guy, my bartender also was happy to come to America because it was a place where no one cared. And while as an American he really didn't care about Catholicism or any of that stuff, I got him to loosen up a couple of times when no one was around to listen, because I really wanted to know, like, what is going on with such stuff? One night (after he'd had too much to drink) he confided in me that he "still hate[d] the bloody Catholics" (in Ireland, to be sure, but not here, where they're OK). So, when I pressed him to explain how he could even tell who they were, he said this:

    "I can tell them by the way they walk."

    He meant it, too, and while I took him at his word, I have never forgotten it because it was so baffling. Even today I am baffled.

    Can anyone tell me how a Catholic walks? I'm all ears, believe me.

    Moving from distant Ireland to the closer and more emotional Hollywood, it's fascinating to look at the history of bigotry in the movies. Back in the old days, blacks were presented as at first evil subhumans (in the Woodrow Wilson-endorsed Birth of a Nation), then later as eyeball-rolling, foot-shuffling inferior beings who said "yassuh," and eventually that stopped, because Hollywood wasn't supposed to be prejudiced anymore. Sure, enemies were always portrayed in a prejudiced manner, but then, prejudice against foreign enemies who are actively trying to kill you is just not the same thing as prejudice against fellow countrymen.

    But I can remember when Arabs were fair game in Hollywood. Hollywood Arab stereotyping seemed to come to a grinding halt right about the time we were attacked -- by Arabs. Which, whether it's right or wrong is counterintuitive. Now the bad guys tend to be evil WASP businessmen, malevolent American military members, or dim-witted but evil "redneck" hicks. It's still considered "safe" to be bigoted against members of the so-called dominant oppressor classes, because it isn't considered bigotry.

    But there are growing tribal undercurrents to all of this. I often feel as if I might be some sort of traitor to my tribe, except I don't know what my tribe is supposed to be. Am I because of my elite background, education, world travel, and cultural experience, supposed to be a member of the ruling class? I don't rule anyone and I don't want to. Besides, the ruling class to which I don't belong is under savage populist assault (often led, so it seems, by people who are also sophisticated, intelligent and well-educated). Why would I want to belong to such a class?

    And even my dog, Coco, because of her breed, is increasingly under attack. Many cities have banned pit bulls, and if I lived in them they would destroy her, not because of anything she has done or ever will do, but only because she belongs to the wrong group. I hate that. So would Coco, if she understood.


    I sometimes suspect that the reason people enjoy resorting to bigotry against breeds of dogs is because it's become so taboo with humans that dogs are one of the few targets people have left for the unfortunate human tendency I have tried in vain to define all these years. A pity, really, because in my heart I know that there are some very nice people who would nonetheless want to kill my dog. Hell, owning Coco would prevent me from joining the military. Such officially-implemented bigotry not only discriminates against these dogs, it is a slap in the face to members of the military who own them and love them. Nevertheless, the policy is being praised in many editorials as an appropriate policy for governments to implement:

    While the Texas attorney general decides on the constitutionality of breed-specific legislation, U.S. Army officials, following the lead of Fort Hood, have decided on their own that breed-specific rules are a sensible way to address breed-specific problems. Fort Hood banned pit bulls from all on-base housing two months ago. Now, according to this story in the Killeen Daily Herald the U.S. Army has expanded the pit bull ban to other bases -- specifically for American Staffordshire bull terriers and English Staffordshire bull terriers -- and gone one step better by adding Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chows, wolf hybrids and any others that display a dominant or aggressive behavior.

    What I like about this rule is that it will not require existing owners to give up their dogs. All it says is that new residents will be barred from bringing those dogs into base housing, nor will existing residents be allowed to bring new pets from these breeds onto bases. If there's any question about whether a mixed-breed dog falls into one of these categories, the base veterinarian will make the call.

    This rule doesn't just look at dogs that bite, it distinguishes between those that bite and those that maim because, when they attack, their bite is so powerful that it often leads to severe maiming or death. Of course, military bases are governed by federal law, not state law. But it's nice to know that officials at the federal level see this problem for what it is. I hope the attorney general takes note.

    In other words, if you have a dog that might be efficient at doing its job of defending you, you can't have the dog. Nice. Parenthetically, Fort Hood's ban on allegedly-hard-biting-canines was implemented several months before that deranged Islamist psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage there against our defenseless disarmed soldiers. I'm almost tempted to point out that had one of that Ford Hood shooter's victims had a dog like Coco who wanted to defend her master, the nutcase might have been bitten in the ass and possibly distracted long enough to be subdued. But I'm too old to be in the military, so it just isn't my issue.

    Still, Coco feels threatened by this rising tide of canine identitarian politics and she has a question which I'll pose for her.

    If soldiers shouldn't be discriminated against for loving the humans they love, then why should they be discriminated against for owning the dogs they love?

    I don't think I'll ever find a tribe.

    (Much less quit one.)

    AFTERTHOUGHT: It sometimes feels to me that my argument is with human nature itself. Except that is not right, because not all humans are that way, and to claim that they are is just another form of bigotry.

    And what could be more bigoted than to be bigoted against human nature?

    I should learn to be more tolerant.

    posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (6)

    Who gets to elect our "cultural" representatives?

    Sometimes I don't know what to do with what I guess should be called "news."

    Like this um "book" um "review" that was linked on Drudge. Something about Angelina Jolie putting urine in a Mountain Dew bottle intended for her dad Jon Voight's girlfriend, and how her mom helped her lose her virginity at age 14. Stuff like that. Oh and she took a shower with Leonardo DiCaprio, and nothing happened. (Which means I should be surprised?) What's the point of all this? I am supposed to get titillated? Or am I supposed to get outraged? This woman is an actress (I also vaguely recalled the important detail that she was -- and then I was told that she apparently still is -- married to actor Brad Pitt), and the author of the book wants to sell it, so presumably they all get excited over other people getting excited and/or outraged, and everyone makes money.

    Or I guess maybe there's a "moral lesson" to be found in reading about a single tawdry and seedy life. What moral lesson can that be? People like this are "destroying" the "culture"? What culture? Theirs? Or are they supposed to be "us"? If "they" are "us" then I guess I am Angelina Jolie. Or an Angelina Jolie wannabe? Or maybe it's a Brad Pitt wannabe that I'm supposed to be?

    Should I go pee in a Mountain Dew bottle now and blame her?

    I'm baffled.

    This feels like one of those "important" things that I am just supposed to know why it's so important and urgent. And I'm taking issue with the supposed to part, because I don't see why I'm supposed to.

    If anyone can explain, I'm all ears. My Congressman John Dingell was a leading sponsor of the Obama/Pelosicare bill (it bears his name too), but I didn't vote for him and really don't feel represented by him. Still he has power, and arguably does things in the name of his constituents, of which I am one. I never voted for Angelina Jolie for anything, and I don't even know whether I have seen any of her films... (I just checked; she has 40 film credits, and I have seen one -- ''The Good Shepherd" -- which wasn't that great and I didn't notice her.) So not being her fan, I can't be said to have voted for her and am not represented by her in any capacity. But if Dingell doesn't represent me, how can she?

    Some would say that Angelina Jolie is an official unelected representative of my "culture," and that therefore I should not only care, but care deeply. But would she say that she represents me? I doubt it.

    I think the people who would tell me that she represents me are running some sort of con game. They're the ones who elected her, not I.

    posted by Eric at 09:24 AM | Comments (3)

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