My Abortion Politics

Some one asked in a comment if at the very least Social Conservatives and Republican libertarians couldn't agree on no Federal funding for abortion? As a small government guy, I'm absolutely on board with that.

Now my social conservative friends let me ask you a question. Do you see the perniciousness of instituting Vagina Police?

I do like the approach of this anti-abortion group. The short version: "It is none of the government's business. We can solve social problems without government help. Thank you very much." I liked their attitude so much I blogged them. If you click the links you can get to their www site to help with their efforts. And where did I meet these people? At a TEA Party.

The iron rule of government: "Every power you give the government to do good will eventually be used by the government to do evil." A close reading of the Bible (which my social conservative friends claim to be experts on) shows this to be true. Didn't Samuel say that appointing a king would be a BAD idea? Yes He did.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5 and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
Now as I understand it the Israelites wanted a strong central government to combat the sons who did not walk in the way of the Lord. And Samuel said: this is a very bad idea - on practical grounds. And the people said: but every one else is doing it.

Well, whether you believe in the Lord or not, I think the advice is quite practical. You make the government bigger and stronger and it will steal you blind. Even if your intent is to apply the rod of correction to errant children.

Now of course reaching errant children one at a time instead of collectively through the force of law is longer and harder. But way more sure. Why? Because they will teach their children, who will teach their children. As time goes on the effort gets easier. With government? Well you know how that works.

One example I like is The Drug War. When Nixon ramped it up it was costing on the Federal level $100 million a year. Now it costs about $25 billion a year. About 250 times as much. Even adjusting for inflation that is a huge increase for not much or no improvement in the situation. Think of it. There are two grow op stores in my town of 150,000. They have been operating for 10 or 15 years. There were none when Nixon started ramping the war. Some progress.

Well, Samuel is still speaking to us. If we have the wit to listen.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:59 PM | Comments (15)

Solar power!

A friend just sent me a link to a red hot horror story:

Las Vegas hotel guests left with severe burns from 'death ray' caused by building's design

Guests at a new hotel in Las Vegas have complained of receiving severe burns from a 'death ray' of sunlight caused by the unique design of the building.

Due to the concave shape of the Vdara hotel, the strong Nevada sun reflects off its all-glass front and directly onto sections of the swimming pool area below.

The result has left some guests with burns from the powerful rays and even plastic bags have been recorded as melting in the heat.

Chicago attorney Bill Pintas felt the power of the dangerous ray first hand last week.

'It felt like I had a chemical burn. I couldn't imagine why my head was burning,' he said.

'Within 30 seconds, the back of my legs were burning. My first though was, 'Jesus, they destroyed the ozone layer!'

Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM Resorts, which owns the Vdara hotel, said they was aware of the issue and designers were working with resort staff to come up with a solution.

Maybe they could charge the guests for the extra energy.

Whether it's truly a "death ray" is debatable. If it is, then holding a magnifying glass over an insect to fry it in the sun constitutes deploying a death ray. (And sunburned people are death ray victims.) I think it's merely an example of solar power.

I remain a death ray skeptic, and I have always loved this cartoon:


posted by Eric at 11:06 AM | Comments (4)

Can "social" be separate from "state"?

M. Simon's post has generated an interesting discussion about the conflict between libertarianism and social conservatism, and I am reminded of what I said when I praised Christine O'Donnell.

What makes this so potentially important is that it might indicate a bold and positive new trend among social conservatives away from statism.

As most readers know, I have a serious problem with statist social conservatism. (I think Newt "death penalty for victimless crimes" Gingrich typifies the breed.) As to why so many social conservatives are statists, I don't know, but I think it renders their conservatism suspect, for the simple reason that statism is not conservatism.

That O'Donnell is a personal social conservative is obvious. But if it turns out she is not a statist social conservative, that would be a wonderful development. As I told Simon, if she opposes masturbation, porn, or homosexuality, it doesn't concern me unless she wants laws passed reflecting her views. Nor am I threatened by the religious belief that is wrong to break the Sabbath or make graven images; it's when they want such religious law enacted by the state that freedom is threatened.

Again, I do not have a problem with social conservatives unless they are statist social conservatives. Being sexually monogamous, observing the Sabbath, being opposed to pornography, homosexuality, or even masturbation -- these and more could be called socially conservative things. But demanding that people conform to such rules at gunpoint (which is what laws do by their nature) is the essence of statism.

Anyway, my hangup with labels -- and terminology -- sometimes gets the better of me, and this morning I wondered whether it is wishful thinking to say that people who want the state out of their lives can be socially conservative. Might that be a contradiction?

What is social conservatism?

Is social conservatism without statism, possible? Or does positing such a thing gut the term of any real meaning?

For, if we are we talking about personal conservatism (or religious conservatism), take the example of someone who opposes sexual hedonism, porn, gay sex, and dutifully observes the Sabbath, yet who does not believe the government should enforce these views. Isn't that person already something other than a social conservative, at least according to the conventional view?

So, my question is a simple one. Is the term "non-statist social conservative" an oxymoron? Was I wrong to apply it to Christine O'Donnell?

It's a simple question, really. If the "social" inherently implies statism, then isn't calling someone a "non-statist social conservative" a bit like calling for "non-statist social security," or even calling someone a "non-statist statist"?

Or can "non-statist social conservative" also mean advocacy of social conservatism without resort to the heavy hand of government intervention? I hope so.

But damn, these labels torment me.

Perhaps we ought to ditch the word "social":

The adjective "social" is also used often in political discourse, although its meaning in viveks a context depends heavily on who is using it. In left-wing circles it is often used to imply a positive characteristic, while in right-wing circles it is generally used to imply a negative characteristic. It should also be noted that, overall, this adjective is used much more often by those on the political left than by those on the political right. For these reasons, those seeking to avoid association with the left-right political debates often seek to label their work with phrases that do not include the word "social". An example is quasi-empiricism in mathematics which is sometimes labelled social constructivism by those who see it as an unwarranted intrusion of social considerations in mathematical practice,
A lot of that makes sense, but I am a bit troubled by the phrase "in viveks." I suspect they meant "invokes," but that's a pretty wild typo.

But what the hell, I can't even define the word "conservative," so I probably shouldn't spend too much time worrying over what it in viveks.

I'm almost tempted to say that people who use these terms know what they mean, except I don't think they always do. Much time spent arguing could be saved if people agreed over the meaning of the terms they toss about, but who am I to talk? I just spent a post arguing with myself!

But as I'm feeling so very social, I thought I would end with a San Francisco flashback:

I'm dumbfounded whenever I try to come up with a definition, but I will never forget as long as I live seeing an elderly Chinese man interviewed on a local San Francisco "man in the street" television program. He was asked his opinion about a controversial left-wing proposal to do some damn thing I've long forgotten, and he flatly refused to say what he thought. This didn't satisfy the questioner, who kept pressing him, and finally asked him outright why he was so reluctant to speak.

"Because I might get in trouble with people!" the man said.

This only led to further questioning, and at that point the reporter really wanted to know why he'd be in trouble, and with what people.

Finally, the old man allowed a slight twinkle in his eyes, and said,

"You know.... The social people!"

I do know. It's the social people. They are everywhere, and you really don't want to get in trouble with them.

Almost makes me wanna become an antisocial conservative.

MORE: Acting on a shady bit of advice from Veeshir, I decided to shorten the last link, which became

posted by Eric at 10:42 AM | Comments (6)

Let The Bidding Begin

There is quite a spirited discussion going on at They Could Never Lose about the relationship between social conservatives and libertarians. And of course the question is, "can it last?" I don't know. What I do know is that the social conservatives can't win nationally without the "Leave Us Alone Party". Of course the social conservatives say, "our way or the highway, after all, where else can you go?" Good question.

So what is the other side offering? Social liberty (more or less). Not unattractive to us Leave Us Alone Party types. Now of course neither side offers a pure product. So we won't start in on that.

So my social conservative friends. Time to start the bidding. How bad do you want me? As a sign of good faith I intend to vote and work against the current crew in DC. With the usual grumbling of course. I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't indicate my concerns.

So tell me. What social issues will you give up to attract me once the current crisis abates? And to my friends on the other side. I like your social credentials (mostly - watch out for that food and tobacco police bit though). What can you offer me in the way of fiscal conservatism? Any departments you would like to cut? I'm sure the DEA would be easy for both of us to agree on. To start. How do you propose to get the golden goose laying again? How will you keep the budget in line (some trust building would be required here)?

So ladies and gentlemen. What am I bid?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:40 AM | Comments (5)

No, Classical Values is not "malware"

In yet another example of how much online annoyances suck, it has recently come to my attention that because I was once stupid enough or naive enough to use Blogrolling on the Classical Values blogroll, and because the company died or something, what were once good faith linking attempts on my part have now turned into "malware."

getting a malware warning when trying to visit the site
I looked into that, and learned that it's because of the blogrolling code in a template, which used to automatically list the links.

The links disappeared (which sucks, because I linked each blog for a reason), but the code remained. It is explained here:

Some people have recently seen malware warning notices whenever they access any blog that contains a blogroll (or link list) sponsored by BlogRolling. Among the blogs that have been affected are two blogs belonging to 1389AD, namely 1389 Blog and 1389 Message Blog.

You may be relieved to know that the security alerts are a false alarm. I have since moved the Blogrolling link lists to a separate page, so that the messages will not come up when readers attempt to access blog posts.

If you own or administer a blog or website that displays a link list via BlogRolling, you will need to be aware of this. Malware warning notices can frighten and upset visitors to your blog, even if the notices are bogus.

Anyway, I deleted all those damned code snippets and java crap, so the "malware" problem should be solved.

But that does not solve the problem of the lost links. I have never intentionally deleted any blog from this blogroll. No delinking has ever gone on here as I don't believe in it. The blogroll is disorganized to say the least, and it is very old, and while I should probably go through it and clean it up one of these days, it still upsets me to see the blogrolling links disappear. I am going to try to find them and get them back, but that will probably involve manually entering each one. (Ugh!)

So, if anyone who reads this was blogrolled here via Blogrolling, please bear in mind that I did not delink you or remove your blog, as I do not do such things. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me if your blog has disappeared, and I will make sure it gets back on the blogroll.

A pox on whoever is responsible for this annoyance! (Although I am sure that whoever that is will undoubtedly say it wasn't his fault. And why should it be? Nothing is ever anyone's fault.)

posted by Eric at 10:26 PM | Comments (2)

If you don't agree with me, it's because you're selfish!

Life is difficult and then you die. In the interim, I try to get by and one of the things I do with the limited time I have is write blog posts.

That is never enough to satisfy some people, and one of the things that never fails to annoy me is the way some people write blog posts just exuding this attitude that because they wrote about this issue and you didn't that you really don't care, or don't care enough. It's haughty, sanctimonious and judgmental. There are plenty of things I care about that I don't write about or don't write about often, and I don't care to list them. But it just fries me when some asshat of a blogger gets into that scold-everyone-who-doesn't-care-as-much-as-I care mode.

If you don't blog about what I blog about, that means you don't care about what I care about, and it's obviously because you're selfish. Or self-absorbed.

"How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It's something we'll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed."
Those selfish, uncaring Americans!

If only such sentiments were limited to the left. Then the people on the right could argue the virtue of selfishness and politely ask the moralists to please fuck off.

posted by Eric at 09:37 PM | Comments (1)

Martha Coakley Puts Innocent Man In Prison For Life - The Movie

In case you have forgotten Coakley is the person Scott Brown wiped the floor with in Massachusetts. I think her opponent in the Attorney General race, Jim McKenna, needs to wipe the latrine with her. Click on the link if you want to help.

H/T Hill Buzz which has more of the story.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

They Could Never Lose

I was talking to a rational liberal friend last night (he is an engineer) and as per usual we got to talking politics. He said something I totally agree with. To wit: "If Republicans stopped trying to get their way on social issues through force of law they would never lose an election." Think about it my R friends. Long and hard.

Me? As long as we have two parties interested in using big government to get their way by force I will continue to play balance of power politics. Which explains my vote for Obama in 2004.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:21 PM | Comments (12)

Christianist wiretapping theocracy on the rise!

Damn! I hate it when politicians inject their religious views into matters of state:

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is getting more public about his Christianity.

First he raised his Christian faith at a White House news conference this month. Then he went church for the first time in five months. And on Tuesday he responded to a question with an expansive talk about how he chose Christianity, how Jesus Christ influences his life and how he prays every day.

Whatever happened to separation of church and state?

Jefferson would be appalled.

Will no one challenge this steady decline in our traditional secular values? Seriously, we are all human and we all have our shortcomings, so it's tough to keep our religious views private, but at least when Bush did spoke up about his religious beliefs, it was considered bad. Evil! And when Bush even hinted at wiretapping, he was not only roundly condemned, there were calls for impeachment.

But now we have a Christianist theocrat occupying the White House, whose administration seeks new technology to allow the government universal wiretapping capabilities on the Internet, and that's just fine.

Where's the outrage?

posted by Eric at 11:30 AM | Comments (2)

I write to friends about creeping totalitarianism, and for my efforts my ISP accuses me of "spamming"

Exhausting as it is to keep track of the latest attempts at totalitarianism, I try.

So earlier I read Declan McCullagh's piece about the latest attempt by the Obama administration to crackdown on encryption:

The Obama administration will seek a new federal law forcing Internet e-mail, instant-messaging, and other communication providers offering encryption to build in backdoors for law enforcement surveillance, The New York Times reported today.

Communication providers, apparently including companies that offer voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, would be compelled to reconfigure their systems so that police could be guaranteed access to descrambled information.

It could become illegal for a company to offer completely secure encrypted communications--through a protocol such as ZRTP, for instance--if its customers held the keys and the provider did not.

This is yet another unconstitutional attack on the Fourth Amendment.

And if the president embraces this, he will be violating a campaign promise:

If President Obama does embrace the FBI's proposal, he runs the risk of alienating civil libertarians who supported him in 2008, when he ran on a platform that said as president, he would "strengthen privacy protections for the digital age."

In response to a CNET Technology Voters' Guide survey, then-candidate Obama said at the time that: "I will work with leading legislators, privacy advocates, and business leaders to strengthen both voluntary and legally required privacy protections."

Of course, this is an old issue. Back in the 1990s, the Clinton administration tried the same thing with PGP. And they lost:
Philip R. Zimmermann is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy, an email encryption software package. Originally designed as a human rights tool, PGP was published for free on the Internet in 1991. This made Zimmermann the target of a three-year criminal investigation, because the government held that US export restrictions for cryptographic software were violated when PGP spread worldwide. Despite the lack of funding, the lack of any paid staff, the lack of a company to stand behind it, and despite government persecution, PGP nonetheless became the most widely used email encryption software in the world. After the government dropped its case in early 1996, Zimmermann founded PGP Inc.
I've been using PGP for years, no thanks to the bastards who want to read every last thing we write whenever they want.

God bless him. Interestingly, according to Zimmermann, PGP was Biden-inspired software.

Biden's bill -- and the threat of encryption being outlawed -- is what spurred Phil Zimmermann to write PGP, thereby kicking off a historic debate about export controls, national security, and privacy. Zimmermann, who's now busy developing Zfone, says it was Biden's legislation "that led me to publish PGP electronically for free that year, shortly before the measure was defeated after vigorous protest by civil libertarians and industry groups."
Anyway, the reason for this post is not so much to kvetch about the latest Obama outrage so much as it is to speculate about some possibly Orwellian behavior I noted earlier which seems related.

Phil Zimmmermann is not only the creator of PGP, but he has a new product called Zfone, which is still in the beta testing phase and looks great. Wired took it for a test drive in 2006, and liked it:

How easy is it for the average internet user to make a phone call secure enough to frustrate the NSA's extrajudicial surveillance program?

Wired News took Phil Zimmermann's newest encryption software, Zfone, for a test drive and found it's actually quite easy, even if the program is still in beta.

Zimmermann, the man who released the PGP e-mail encryption program to the world in 1991 -- only to face an abortive criminal prosecution from the government -- has been trying for 10 years to give the world easy-to-use software to cloak internet phone calls.

On March 14, Zimmermann released a beta version of the widely anticipated Zfone. The software is currently available only for OS X (Tiger) and Linux, though a Windows version is due in April.

The open-source software manages cryptographic handshakes invisibly, and encrypts and decrypts voice calls as the traffic leaves and enters the computer. Operation is simple, and users don't have to agree in advance on an encryption key or type out long passcodes to make it work.

It's even better now, as there have been many improvements. Better yet, it's free, and it works with many of the existing VOIP products, including Magic Jack.

So I thought I would let some friends know about not only the latest Obama administration move, but about Zfone.

Especially after Glenn said this:

THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN, THE GOVERNMENT WOULD WANT EXPANDED INTERNET SNOOPING POWERS: And They Were Right! "The Obama administration is developing plans that would require all Internet-based communication services -- such as encrypted BlackBerry e-mail, Facebook, and Skype -- to be capable of complying with federal wiretap orders, according to a report published Monday."
If you ask me they are already implementing an unofficial plan to thwart some of the software by thwarting any discussion of it in emails.

I send and receive tons of email each day, and all of a sudden today -- for the very first time -- I have had personal emails to friends being blocked by Verizon, which claims I am sending spam -- but only if I mention the following link:

Or any link such as this one pointing to zfone site.

I have tried multiple times with a friend with whom I regularly correspond. I can send this:

Read and weep:

This development is a reaction to Zfone

But if I try to provide a link to Zfone or attempt to send any email at all with a link to Zfone (such as saying "I would suggest downloading it here before they make it illegal:"), I get this:
Unable to send e-mail: 550 5.7.1 The message you attempted to send was determined to be spam. Please visit for more information.
Ok, I did, and they're spouting the usual big corporate big government bureaucratic doubletalk:
What does it mean if I get an error message that indicates that I sent spam?
The error message is intended to notify you that a message you attempted to send was blocked because it was determined to be spam. It also provides you with a link to this FAQ page for more information.

What should I do if I receive a spam notification message when I attempt to send email?
Sending spam from the domain is prohibited by the Acceptable Use Policy

If you feel we identified your email in error, you may forward the suspected email message as an attachment to . The message will be examined by third party anti-spam experts. If the message is found to be legitimate, Verizon is notified to adjust or modify the spam filter which caught your message. You will not receive any notification following the review process.

How does Verizon determine whether my E-mail is SPAM?
Verizon uses a third party vendor to scan email messages for spam. Their systems use a combination of proprietary anti-spam techniques and spam complaints sent from users across the Internet to create spam filters. The false positive rate is very low.

Riiiight. I think they're simply blocking any and all links to Zfone.

And I don't need a review process, damn it. I just want to be able to communicate my thoughts in an email.

But it gets better. As I was writing this post, I got an email from M. Simon on another subject, so thinking I would use him as a guinea pig, I replied thusly:

It may be a power sharing deal.

But I'm glad you just emailed me, as I wanted to know why my isp is not allowing me to mention any links to zfone in any emails.

I hope you don't mind if I conduct an experiment with you.

Earlier, I tried to email another friend thusly:


Read and weep:

This development is a reaction to Zfone

I would suggest downloading it here before they make it illegal:


OK, so let's see if this goes through.

Same thing. it won't go through. Same idiotic Orwellian scolding as before.

So I edited out the last line so it read thusly:

I would suggest downloading it here before they make it illegal:

Went right through.

What could possibly be up with Verizon? I have been using them for at least a decade, and sent a gazillion links to a gazillion people over the years, and tonight is the first time that an email from me to anyone has been blocked as "spam." I hate spam and spammers, and I consider this borderline slander.

But I can't help wondering whether Verizon might be doing the bidding of Obama and Biden.

Maybe Phil Zimmermann should sue and get into discovery.

Yeah, it sounds sarcastic and facetious, but our freedom may depend on such things.

MORE: After forwarding one of the blocked emails to Verizon's "spamdetector.update" with a complaint, the situation seems to have been remedied, and I can now mention in emails.

Still no explanation, though.

Should I now be grateful?

BOTTOM LINE: The federal government is trying to make encrypted communication illegal. For all the faults of the Bush administration, they never tried this.

This move strikes at the very heart of our freedom, and any such regulation or legislation would violate the First Amendment (by telling us what we cannot say) and the Fourth Amendment (by infringing the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects).

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

The Drug Culture Takes A Hit

A perfect illustration of my previous post Cultural Socialism

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:59 PM | Comments (6)

Cultural Socialism

I wrote a very short post on Cultural Socialism that got some very interesting comments given the length of the post (Two lines - a total of 16 words). So I thought I'd Google "cultural socialism" to see how popular the term was.

Not very. A total of 2,580 hits. Pathetic. And the post linked above? Number two on the list. So that is something. My mission in life will not be complete until that phrase gets millions of hits. So may I ask a favor of those so inclined? Use the term early and often in speech and comments and blog posts.

And for my more "conservative" friends I think the term deserves some further elucidation. What is cultural socialism? It is state management of the culture. What you can smoke. What you can drink, what your relationship to favored and unfavored groups or individuals should be. It is epitomized in Orwell's novel "1984" by the daily two minutes of hate against Emmanuel Goldstein. And don't forget that love for Big Brother is mandatory.

So who can you currently hate in America? Well wreckers of the state and destroyers of children. And who would those be? Well # 1 on the list are users of heroin. You can hate them all you want. And how effective has the hate been? Before the hate was sanctioned and users were punished by law about 2% of the population were users. Since that time the number of heroin users is still about 2%. Which is to say heroin is not very popular. But what has gained popularity? Cultural socialism. If you ask the question: should heroin users be subject to state sanction the numbers in favor would run about 60 to 80%. Maybe more. So we find that cultural socialism is way more popular than heroin. And in my opinion a bigger threat to our liberties than heroin could ever possibly be.

I read a book once that made that very point. Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State. I think the title itself makes my point as well or better than I can. Of course you have to buy the book to get the details. Or you can read my review of it How To Put An End To Drug Users for only a little investment of your time.

So who else can be hated? Well hating gays is very popular on the right and is not uncommon on the left. But that is dying out. We can see that in the Massachusetts Governors race where an openly gay guy is on the ticket in the Lt. Governor spot.

Richard Tisei, a member of the Gay Republican group Log Cabin Clubs and minority Senate leader, is Baker's running mate.
And this next bit of information will make some conservatives really mad. The top of the ticket is a gentleman named Baker. Who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
Baker owns the respect of political insiders on both sides of the aisle. He can also inspire confidence among business leaders. Conservative Republicans may not be thrilled at Baker's libertarian tendencies, but at least he is one who can be influenced by reason.
Yeah. Us libertines/libertarians don't get no respect. Which just goes to show you how popular cultural socialism is. But if you judge by St. Augustine being a libertine is a path to sainthood. Should you believe in saints. Which a fair number of Americans do. And more power to them. As long as they don't try to enlist government to enhance their power.

What the power mad do gooders (cultural socialists) seem to forget is that the road to hell is paved by good intentions. Or as C.S. Lewis put it:

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Get it my cultural socialist friends? Cultural socialism is a form of tyranny.

It is not just Economic Socialism we have to worry about.

So does that mean I'm against changing the culture? Of course not. I just think it is more effective and longer lasting if done without the benefit of government guns. Not a very popular position at this point. But as I said at the beginning. I'm out to change that.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:57 PM | Comments (4)

Anti-colonial is bad! Colonial is good!

A wonderful comment to a previous post told me exactly what I wanted to hear:

"most folk will consent together with your webpage."
I don't want to hear that the commenter was not legitimate, and I refuse to delete it.

Besides, I would hate to be running a non-consenting webpage.

Geez, I was supposed to be writing about the losing issue of colonialism. Yes, I do mean losing. Ever since this republic was formed, colonialism has been on the losing side of things. The former colonists who broke with colonialism when they signed the Declaration of Independence started a stubborn American meme. It's a meme which goes to the heart of what this country has always been about. Colonialism is about as un-American as you can get. Sure, there are people who might maintain otherwise, but they are on the losing side of history, and they have been ever since our founders ran them (in those days colonialists were known as "Loyalists") out of the country.

The problem is, there's a side of me that is very corrupt and always willing to compromise, and I have to say that under certain circumstances, colonialism can be a good thing. I am 100% in favor of colonizing space, for example. Yet there comes a time in the history of any colony where the people become self-sufficient, and the more self-sufficient they become, the more they tend to resent rule from a far-away power in some distant place. If Americans were to successfully colonize Mars, after a few generations the American-Martians might very well decide they were sick of Washington (or Brussels) telling them how to run their lives.

And when that happens, it's Declaration time, baby!

Consent is the key. And once a government lacks consent of the governed, it is doomed.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that while there is plenty wrong with Barack Obama, I don't think attacking him for being an "anti-colonialist" is a politically sound idea. I don't think we have had a president who was not anti-colonialist (except possibly Theodore Roosevelt to a limited degree). This is not so much a criticism of Dinesh D'Souza so much as it is a criticism of Newt Gingrich. The former wrote a book, but the latter is running for president, and while his remarks might have been initially appealing (especially for people who are always hungry for new anti-Obama red meat memes), when the dust settles Gingrich is the one who going to look foolish.

Of course, in the man's defense, it should be pointed out that he wrote a Ph.D. dissertation praising Belgian colonial rule in the Congo. I lived there (when it was called Zaire) for three months, and I will never forget the anti-Belgian resentment that I observed from talking to people. While I think it's natural for people who are occupied by any foreign power to be resentful, the way the Belgians had behaved in the Congo was particularly dreadful -- inexcusable by any civilized standard.

The baskets of severed hands, set down at the feet of the European post commanders, became the symbol of the Congo Free State. ... The collection of hands became an end in itself. Force Publique soldiers brought them to the stations in place of rubber; they even went out to harvest them instead of rubber... They became a sort of currency. They came to be used to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas, to replace... the people who were demanded for the forced labour gangs; and the Force Publique soldiers were paid their bonuses on the basis of how many hands they collected.
Estimates vary, but under King Leopold's rule it does appear that many millions of Congolese were killed. Things improved once the Belgian government took over from their king, but it was hardly the sort of thing that most Americans would ever approve.
...the city centres were reserved to white population only, while the blacks were organized in «cites indigenes» (ironically called 'le belge'). Hospitals, department stores and other facilities were often reserved for either whites or blacks. In the police, the blacks could not pass the rank of non-commissioned officer. The blacks in the cities could not leave their houses from 9 pm to 4 am. This type of segregation began to disappear gradually only in the 1950s.
The war to get the colonialists out was messy and nearly led to a Communist state, and things haven't been much better since. In fact, since 1997 millions more Congolese have died in what has been called "The Deadliest War In The World."

It is of course tempting to say that colonialism would be a better approach, but despite all the killing and chaos, the Congolese have still not invited the Belgians back to rule, and I don't think they will.

Nor will Kenya invite their former British rulers back. Gingrich has taken to calling Obama a "Kenyan anti-colonialist," which is a clever choice of words, as it implies that not only is the president a colonialist, but he is at heart Kenyan.

True, he is half Kenyan, and his father was involved in the struggle against British colonialism in Kenya, and he doubtless shares his general worldview.

I realize that as code language, "anti-colonial worldview" embraces more than just opposition to colonialism. But I think that when the dust settles, people won't be interested in what the term might mean to think-tank insiders. Instead, there will be a collective sigh of SO WHAT!

Of course the president could be expected to be opposed to British colonialism in Kenya. That's such a no-brainer that I can't believe it has become a criticism. As a criticism, it makes about as much sense as it would to accuse JFK of being an Irish anti-colonialist (which he undoubtedly was).

What would anyone expect Obama to be? A colonialist?

I think that once again, Gingrich has made himself look foolish, and he is stuck with his words, which can easily be construed to make him look like a colonialist. And because he is running for president in a country where hating colonialism is as American as apple pie, it might not play well with the voters (a majority of whom are probably not supporters of British colonialism). There are a lot of important issues facing this country, but I think this one is a real loser for conservatives.

Besides, in light of Panthergate, the president may have violated his constitutional duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

After all, assuming the president is an anti-colonialist, isn't it fair that he be held to a standard that was written by anti-colonialists?

posted by Eric at 02:37 PM | Comments (1)


Cultural Socialism validates government power.

For me that is the heart and soul of the matter.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:22 AM | Comments (4)

Good mourning to you!

Earlier I got an email telling me about the new "Mourning in America" video.

It's a clever takeoff on a vintage Reagan ad from the 1984 campaign:

It strikes me that strategically, those who remember it (and thus make the connection) would tend to be older voters with good memories.

Although I am loath to admit it (and such an admission would hardly be expected to endear me to conservatives), I didn't especially like Reagan, and I never voted for him. (I didn't vote for a Republican on the GOP ticket until 1996, and since then I have been loyal to the GOP.)

However, Reagan certainly looks great by way of contrast to Obama.

So does Bush.

In fact, so does Richard Nixon!

But somehow, I just can't see anyone with any influence on the right resurrecting any of the Nixon campaign ads.

I looked through the YouTube hits pretty carefully. None of them are a fit -- not even as political satire.

Political surrealism, though, is another matter. And it just so happens that in that department, I did find a vintage Nixon campaign ad video that I liked.

Astounding as it may sound, the ad includes a shot of Jerry Garcia.

12 seconds into the Nixon ad, Garcia has a frame all to himself, wearing his American flag hat, and right at that moment Nixon is saying this:

"American youth today has its fringes. But that's part of the greatness of our country."
No, seriously; I liked it so much that almost immediately I began to worry that the People Who Take These Things Seriously might want it taken it down, so got a screenshot:


Here's the embed:

Sorry. I know that the above has absolutely nothing to do with this morning's mourning meme.

Unless, of course, you still mourn Nixon. And Garcia.

posted by Eric at 11:36 AM | Comments (2)

Who Comes First?

In the war between social and fiscal conservatives the question on everyone's mind is: who (or what) comes first? Lawrence Reed may have an answer.

"If you politically win on all the economic issues, you could lose on all the social ones and still have an avenue as a social conservative to advance what's important to you," Reed said. "When there's a smaller government, families, individuals, private, voluntary organizations and churches have a bigger role. It's on the strength of those institutions, not mandates from the government, that allow for a healthy culture to blossom."
Ah. But the social conservatives have an issue with that.
Social conservative Bob Patterson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society thinks Americans must focus on social issues first, and that's the main difference between social and fiscal conservatives. He said economic conservatives have traditionally been a lot better than social conservatives at furthering their interests, though.
I think Mr. Patterson has given us a clue. Unwittingly. Fiscal conservatism without the social conservative trappings is the bigger tent. i.e. more likely to win elections.

But I'm willing to run the experiment again. Let the social conservatives start passing laws or continuing government caused disasters (putting the distribution of some drugs solely in the hands of criminals) and we shall see if they can keep winning elections.

I mean what the heck? Two, or four, or six, or eight years of communists in power would be worth it to find the outcome of the experiment. How bad could it hurt?

We did run the experiment in Illinois a while back. The year was 2004. Given the choice between a flaming socon who disowned his lesbian daughter and a communist in 2004 I voted for the communist.

And the name of the communist? You might have heard of him.


Other than that race I voted straight R.

BTW I wasn't the only one:

Obama/Keyes vs Kerry/Bush.

But if socons want to try that on a national level I say go for it. Maybe they will learn something. The hard way.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:51 AM | Comments (11)

Doing It By Hand

posted by Simon at 11:33 PM | Comments (5)

Let the losers be as cocky they want

Not only do I completely agree with Glenn Reynolds that the Republicans should not get cocky, I think the avoidance of cockiness ought to be Rule Number One in politics. In fact, I don't even think that winning an election is a license to get cocky. Even less is it a license to be a sore winner; if anything, the goal of whoever won should be to prove their worthiness to the voters. Unfortunately, that is not the way politics works.

However, some of the signs I see might incline me towards cockiness if I were that type of person. The other day I saw that Barney Frank needed Bill Clinton to campaign for him -- and that's in a Democratic district supposedly as sure as they come.

On top of that, I saw today that Barbara Boxer cannot even manage to get the endorsement of the left wing San Francisco Chronicle! If she can't even get their endorsement, her situation is indeed hopeless.

Which means that unless conservatives snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, there is hope.

But I hasten to add that hope is nothing to get cocky about.

posted by Eric at 10:36 PM | Comments (3)


Tom Friedman, champion of central planning:

China is doing moon shots. Yes, that's plural. When I say "moon shots" I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers... and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country's leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities.

Good for them. Of course, by far the most likely outcome is that these dollars will turn out to be poorly invested relative to the uses China's private sector would have turn them to, but... I don't know, it's like going to the moon or something. Hurray! As we all know, the Moon turned out to be chock full of useful resources, such that half a century later we're considering going back sometime in the next half century, maybe.

Tom's sure we're missing the boat by not building electric cars, but there's little reason to think there will be widespread demand for electric cars anytime soon, and the notion Moore's Law applies to auto batteries is pretty silly (and even if it were true, it would mean the best bet is to hold off on massive investment until electrics are more than competitive with gas rather than make huge numbers of cars no one wants with manufacturing processes that will shortly be obsolete). Naturally, Tom's solution to the demand problem is... massive state intervention (bet you didn't see that one coming!).

Europe is using $7-a-gallon gasoline to stimulate the market for electric cars; China is using $5-a-gallon and naming electric cars as one of the industrial pillars for its five-year growth plan. And America? President Obama has directed stimulus money at electric cars, but he is unwilling to do the one thing that would create the sustained consumer pull required to grow an electric car industry here: raise taxes on gasoline.

Oddly enough, most Americans aren't interested in voting themselves 200% higher energy prices for... something or other. Hypothetical future jobs making cars that people only buy because we imposed massive energy taxes, I guess. Once again, democracy stands in the way of progress! Why can't we have five-year plans? It's just not fair.

posted by Dave at 04:11 PM | Comments (4)

In the war on drugs, all patients are suspects.
But not all suspects have the same rights!

As a libertarian who opposes the drug war, I voted in favor of the Michigan Marijuana initiative out of simple reflex, not because I thought it would result in legalization (relegalization, really) of that particular substance, but because it was a step in that direction. Interestingly, what I saw as an argument for the Initiative was used as an argument against it (the "foot in the door for legalization" claim). Whether voters saw it as a foot in the door or not, the Initiative passed overwhelmingly.

Predictably, the new law is already causing confusion and consternation, especially among law enforcement authorities, who see the law as legalizing what should be illegal.

Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved a 2008 law to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from chronic pain and nausea, as well as serious illnesses like cancer and HIV.

The law contains restrictions about how much marijuana a patient can have, and where he or she can get it.

But here are some of the problems that have arisen:

• Police and prosecutors contend that some doctors are prescribing medical marijuana to patients they meet for the first time, after a brief exam, for a fee ranging up to $200. The law does not require extensive documentation about the patient's ailment -- only state-issued identification cards -- and law enforcement contends some people are getting approved for marijuana use for very minor ailments and are, in effect, using marijuana as a recreational drug.

But marijuana advocates say it is not the role of the government or law enforcement to judge a patient-doctor relationship, even one that is brief. They argue one patient's back pain may be another patient's anguish.

Using marijuana as a recreational drug.

The more I looked at that statement, the more confused I became; hence this post. Are we talking about morality here, or are we talking about the practice of medicine?

It is beyond dispute that the voters did approve of legalizing marijuana if a patient gets certification from a doctor. That has to be presumed from what the text of the law says:

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).

When a patient complains, say, of severe and chronic pain or severe and persistent muscle spasms, that is clearly is a matter between the doctor and the patient, and it is up to the doctor to decide whether the patient should be certified.

The complaint by law enforcement that people are being certified by their doctors for "very minor ailments" is beginning to remind me of the ongoing, well-documented conflict between the war on drugs and the war on pain relief. In this war, the medical standard is being subordinated to the dictates of law enforcement. Instead of a doctor being allowed to decide whether a pain patient has pain, and how much pain he is having, the cops want to step in and decide. As I pointed out in a long (but as you'll see, not long enough) post, huge prescription drug databases are now being created, and police (who have no training in medicine) are demanding access to them. In the name of the war on drugs, all patients are suspects, and they are to lose any expectation of privacy in their medical records. The idea is that because some patients lie to their doctors to get the drugs they want, all medical records should be subject to police review. Sorry, but that's not supposed to be the way the system works. If the cops think someone is breaking the law, they can damned well get a warrant from a judge to search based on probable cause. They don't have a right to sift and search through the medical records of everyone in a hunt for suspicious patients.

At least, they shouldn't.

So in this context, I am very suspicious of the claim by law enforcement that "some people are getting approved for marijuana use for very minor ailments." I think they're looking for a general license to go fishing through what are supposed to be patients' private medical records -- again the idea being to treat all patients as suspects. And fortunately for marijuana patients, the law does not allow that:

(f) A physician 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 the Michigan board of medicine, the Michigan board of osteopathic medicine and surgery, or any other business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, solely for providing written certifications, in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship and after the physician has completed a full assessment of the qualifying patient's medical history, or for otherwise stating that, in the physician's professional opinion, a patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of marihuana to treat or alleviate the patient's serious or debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the serious or debilitating medical condition, provided that nothing shall prevent a professional licensing board from sanctioning a physician for failing to properly evaluate a patient's medical condition or otherwise violating the standard of care for evaluating medical conditions.
So what that means is whether a physician has had adequate medical justification to certify a patient is not up to the police. Thus, the claim that some patients are "getting approved for marijuana use for very minor ailments," even if true, is not a matter for police to decide.

Of course, an interesting question is, what precisely are "minor ailments"? While there is no language in the marijuana law excluding "minor ailments," obviously whoever said they were has rendered a medical judgment (or would it be a moral judgment masquerading as a medical judgment?) that some patients' ailments were minor, and that therefore their doctors had no right to certify them. I guess if a patient complained of pain or muscle spasms, how severe and chronic these symptoms were would be a medical judgment. So unless they had an independent medical expert review the records, how would these cops possibly know? There is no way they could know; I think it's pretty obvious that they merely suspect.

Do police suspicions about some give them a right to treat all patients and all doctors as suspects? No, because according to the law, being certified is not probable cause for a search, and the underlying records are confidential:

(g) Possession of, or application for, a registry identification card shall not constitute probable cause or reasonable suspicion, nor shall it be used to support the search of the person or property of the person possessing or applying for the registry identification card, or otherwise subject the person or property of the person to inspection by any local, county or state governmental agency.

(h) The following confidentiality rules shall apply:

(1) Applications and supporting information submitted by qualifying patients, including information regarding their primary caregivers and physicians, are confidential.

(2) The department shall maintain a confidential list of the persons to whom the department has issued registry identification cards. Individual names and other identifying information on the list is confidential and is exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information act, 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 to 15.246.

(3) The department shall verify to law enforcement personnel whether a registry identification card is valid, without disclosing more information than is reasonably necessary to verify the authenticity of the registry identification card.

(4) A person, including an employee or official of the department or another state agency or local unit of government, who discloses confidential information in violation of this act is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both. Notwithstanding this provision, department employees may notify law enforcement about falsified or fraudulent information submitted to the department.

This is reflected at the Department of Community Health's website:
Question: Who has access to the patient registry list?
Answer: The state will maintain a confidential list of "qualified patients" and "approved caregivers" to whom the department has issued registry identification cards. Individual names and other identifying information on the list must be confidential and is not subject to disclosure, except to:
(a) authorized employees of the department as necessary to perform official duties of the department; or
(b) authorized employees of state or local law enforcement agencies, only as necessary to verify that a person is a lawful possessor of a registry identification card.

Question: Is my confidentiality protected?
Answer: Yes. The MMMP does not give out lists of patients or caregivers. Law enforcement personnel may contact the MMMP only to verify if a patient or caregiver registration card is valid. The MMMP will tell law enforcement staff if the patient or caregiver is registered. The MMMP will disclose patient information to others only at the specific written request of the patient. MMMP computer files are secure and paper files are kept locked when not in use.

So no one -- least of all a law enforcement officer -- gets to rifle through the records of patients who are receiving marijuana for medical purposes.

But contrast this approach with that of Michigan's prescription drug database:

333.7333a Electronic monitoring system.

Sec. 7333a.

(1) The department shall establish, by rule, an electronic system for monitoring schedule 2, 3, 4, and 5 controlled substances dispensed in this state by veterinarians, and by pharmacists and dispensing prescribers licensed under part 177 or dispensed to an address in this state by a pharmacy licensed in this state. The rules shall provide an appropriate electronic format for the reporting of data including, but not limited to, patient identifiers, the name of the controlled substance dispensed, date of dispensing, quantity dispensed, prescriber, and dispenser.


(2) Notwithstanding any practitioner-patient privilege, the director of the department may provide data obtained under this section to all of the following:

(a) A designated representative of a board responsible for the licensure, regulation, or discipline of a practitioner, pharmacist, or other person who is authorized to prescribe, administer, or dispense controlled substances.

(b) An employee or agent of the department.

(c) A state, federal, or municipal employee or agent whose duty is to enforce the laws of this state or the United States relating to drugs.

(d) A state-operated medicaid program.

(e) A state, federal, or municipal employee who is the holder of a search warrant or subpoena properly issued for the records.

(f) A practitioner or pharmacist who requests information and certifies that the requested information is for the purpose of providing medical or pharmaceutical treatment to a bona fide current patient.

(g) An individual with whom the department has contracted under subsection (9).

That's a heck of a lot of people who are allowed free access to the formerly confidential prescription drug records of all Michigan citizens.

"A state, federal, or municipal employee or agent whose duty is to enforce the laws of this state or the United States relating to drugs" means any sworn law enforcement officer, i.e. any cop.

Hell, no wonder they're pissed about the medical marijuana law. It clearly gives special privileges to marijuana patients which are not shared by regular patients.

Shouldn't regular patients be entitled to the same protection that marijuana patients get? According to the law, they are not.

Perhaps we need a "Michigan Medical Prescription Drug Patient Protection Initiative."

MORE: Speaking of prescription drugs, the latest wrinkle is that they cause crime:

...from rural New England to the densely populated South, law enforcement officials are combating a sharp rise in crime tied to prescription drugs.

"We're seeing people desperately and aggressively trying to get their hands on these pills," said Janet T. Mills, the attorney general in Maine. "Home invasions, robberies, assaults, homicides, thefts -- all kinds of crimes are being linked to prescription drugs."

In Harpswell, Me., a masked man broke into the home of a 77-year-old woman in June, knocked her to the ground and snatched her Oxycontin pills at knifepoint. And in Hyannis, Mass., three men armed with a knife, a bat and a revolver broke into a home in 2008, bound the owner's hands and feet with duct tape and tore through drawers and cabinets until they found her husband's Oxycontin.

I just hope none of those criminal invaders obtained the names of their victims from the prescription drug database. Considering the number of people allowed to access this once-confidential information, how can we be sure that it won't fall into the wrong hands? What I also find fascinating is the attempt to place the blame for such crimes on the drugs themselves. The only reason these drugs (which cost pennies per pill in drugstores) are valuable to criminals is their enormous -- and escalating -- illegal resale value.

Naturally, the tougher the government makes it for patients to legally obtain pain meds, the higher the illegal price becomes, and the greater the likelihood that the patients will become crime victims.

They are of course crime victims, but they are also victims of the war on drugs.

However, if past experience is any guide, I wouldn't expect the drug war policy advocates to admit that. Instead, they'll most likely use these crimes committed against pain patients as an argument for further restricting pain meds.

Is this all worth it?

posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (1)

Plant Breakdown

Over the last few days I have been piecing together a number of reports on the Iranian nuclear efforts. The reports lead me to some interesting conclusions/speculations. More on the conclusions/speculations later. First let me start with the breakdown of Iran's enrichment centrifuges from July of this year.

Iran has suffered a series of technical setbacks to its nuclear programme in the past 12 months, triggering suggestions that western intelligence agencies are sabotaging its likely ambition to build an atomic weapon.

As Iran continues to defy international sanctions, western security analysts say the country is making progress towards the ability to test a nuclear bomb in the next few years.

But a series of recent reverses, notably affecting Iran's ability to enrich uranium, is prompting debate over whether the programme is being undermined by sabotage, sanctions, or the incompetence of the regime's scientists.

In the past year, a dramatic reduction has taken place in the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at the regime's nuclear plant in Natanz.

In May 2009, the International Atomic Energy Agency said there were 4,920 operational centrifuges. Twelve months later the IAEA stated that Iran was running only 3,936, a reduction of 20 per cent.

Iran also appears to be having difficulties on other fronts. Ivan Oelrich, of the Federation of American Scientists, said the centrifuges were only working at 20 per cent efficiency. The latest IAEA report says that 4,592 centrifuges are installed at Natanz - but are sitting idle and doing nothing at all.

Well isn't that interesting?

And that is not the only interesting thing. We have some recent reports about the Stuxnet computer virus. More accurately described as a worm. But virus will do for generic discussions.

Iran's nuclear agency is trying to combat a complex computer worm that has affected industrial sites throughout the country and is capable of taking over power plants, Iranian media reports said.

Experts from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran met this week to discuss how to remove the malicious computer code, or worm, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Friday.

The computer worm, dubbed Stuxnet, can take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants. Experts in Germany discovered the worm in July, and it has since shown up in a number of attacks -- primarily in Iran, Indonesia, India and the U.S.

The ISNA report said the malware had spread throughout Iran, but did not name specific sites affected. Foreign media reports have speculated the worm was aimed at disrupting Iran's first nuclear power plant, which is to go online in October in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Iranian newspapers have reported on the computer worm hitting industries around the country in recent weeks, without giving details.

Some folks think it was targeted at Iran's nuclear power plant which is due to come on line in the next few months.

By August, researchers had found something more disturbing: Stuxnet appeared to be able to take control of the automated factory control systems it had infected - and do whatever it was programmed to do with them. That was mischievous and dangerous.

But it gets worse. Since reverse engineering chunks of Stuxnet's massive code, senior US cyber security experts confirm what Mr. Langner, the German researcher, told the Monitor: Stuxnet is essentially a precision, military-grade cyber missile deployed early last year to seek out and destroy one real-world target of high importance - a target still unknown.

Note the bolded text. I'm going to develop that theme further.

But first some old news (July 2009) from Israel.

In the late 1990s, a computer specialist from Israel's Shin Bet internal security service hacked into the mainframe of the Pi Glilot fuel depot north of Tel Aviv.

It was meant to be a routine test of safeguards at the strategic site. But it also tipped off the Israelis to the potential such hi-tech infiltrations offered for real sabotage.

"Once inside the Pi Glilot system, we suddenly realized that, aside from accessing secret data, we could also set off deliberate explosions, just by programming a re-route of the pipelines," said a veteran of the Shin Bet drill.

So began a cyberwarfare project which, a decade on, is seen by independent experts as the likely new vanguard of Israel's efforts to foil the nuclear ambitions of its arch-foe Iran.

And there are more clues.

German IACS security researcher Ralph Langner has successfully analyzed the Stuxnet malware that appeared to be a miracle. Stuxnet is a directed attack against a specific control system installation. Langner will disclose details, including forensic evidence, next week at Joe Weiss' conference in Rockville.

Stuxnet logbook, Sep 16 2010, 1200 hours MESZ

With the forensics we now have it is evident and provable that Stuxnet is a directed sabotage attack involving heavy insider knowledge. Here is what everybody needs to know right now.

Fact: As we have published earlier, Stuxnet is fingerprinting its target by checking data block 890. This occurs periodically every five seconds out of the WinCC environment. Based on the conditional check in code that you can see above, information in DB 890 is manipulated by Stuxnet.

Interpretation: We assume that DB 890 is part of the original attacked application. We assume that the second DWORD of 890 points to a process variable. We assume that this process variable belongs to a slow running process because it is checked by Stuxnet only every five seconds.

Fact: Another fingerprint is DB 8062. Check for the presence of DB 8062 in your project.

Fact: Stuxnet intercepts code from Simatic Manager that is loaded to the PLC. Based on a conditional check, original code for OB 35 is manipulated during the transmission. If the condition matches, Stuxnet injects Step7 code into OB 35 that is executed on the PLC every time that OB 35 is called. OB 35 is the 100 ms timer in the S7 operating environment. The Step7 code that Stuxnet injects calls FC 1874. Depending on the return code of FC 1874, original code is either called or skipped. The return code for this condition is DEADF007 (see code snipplet).

Well that is clear as mud to anyone but a code geek (me, me, me). So how about a layman's explanation?

Interpretation: Stuxnet manipulates a fast running process. Based on process conditions, the original code that controls this fast running process will no longer be executed. (Some people will now want to have their process engineers explain what the DEADF could mean.) After the original code is no longer executed, we can expect that something will blow up soon. Something big.

Now that everybody is getting the picture let's try to make sense out of the findings. What do they tell us about the attack, the attackers, and the target?

1. This is sabotage. What we see is the manipulation of one specific process. The manipulations are hidden from the operators and maintenance engineers (we have the intercepts identified).

2. The attack involves heavy insider knowledge.

3. The attack combines an awful lot of skills -- just think about the multiple 0day vulnerabilities, the stolen certificates etc. This was assembled by a highly qualified team of experts, involving some with specific control system expertise. This is not some hacker sitting in the basement of his parents house. To me, it seems that the resources needed to stage this attack point to a nation state.

4. The target must be of extremely high value to the attacker.

5. The forensics that we are getting will ultimately point clearly to the attacked process -- and to the attackers. The attackers must know this. My conclusion is, they don't care. They don't fear going to jail.

6. Getting the forensics done is only a matter of time. Stuxnet is going to be the best studied piece of malware in history. We will even be able to do process forensics in the lab. Again, the attacker must know this. Therefore, the whole attack only makes sense within a very limited timeframe. After Stuxnet is analzyed, the attack won't work any more. It's a one-shot weapon. So we can conclude that the planned time of attack isn't somewhen next year. I must assume that the attack did already take place. I am also assuming that it was successful. So let's check where something blew up recently.

But what if it is not something big breaking down? Suppose it is a lot of not so big somethings? Like centrifuges. And suppose the code was designed to misregulate the speed of centrifuges so that they break down from overspeed. You want your code to only go into operation only when the centrifuges were at operational speed. It is not very destructive if the code starts working when the centrifuges were at a relatively slow speed. You can hit the master power switch manually if erratic operation is observed at slow speed.

One thing this points to is that who ever designed the virus/worm had to know exactly what parts of the control computer were used to control a vulnerable processes. The kinds of controllers used to control machinery have lots of options in terms of how their internal computers are configured to control a given device. Is it Timer 1 or Timer 6? Port 0 or Port 7? And other such details. So inside information is definitely required. Speculation is that the Russians designed the control system. So did the Russians design the virus? Or did they hand off the details of the design to some one else to design the virus?

Which reminds me of something that happened during the 2007 Israeli attack on a purported Syrian nuclear installation where a defense system provided by Russia didn't work as advertised. Curious. Perhaps the Israelis had inside information on the vulnerabilities of the Russian defense system. Or the Russians told the Israelis of a backdoor that they could access in real time by sending the right sequence of pulses (say via a radar jamming device) to the Russian system.

Now for the speculation I promised at the beginning. Such a software attack depends on a few things. First off Iran had to do research and development to design the uranium enrichment equipment. This takes time. Once such a system is developed and the hardware and software are working the production of the systems had to be ramped up. Any attack on the systems before a significant number are deployed would blunt the attack. Such an attack could only have maximum effectiveness when the systems were in production and significant quantities were deployed. Any attack would have to be timed with some precision. Too soon and the attack is ineffective. Too late and well... it would be too late. So there is a window of opportunity maybe a few months. A year at most. So who ever did the attack had to have inside information, not only about the equipment used but also the deployment rate. That kind of attack is best done when as much system integration as possible was completed in order to maximize the damage.

So where do the Iranians go from here? Basically they have to start from scratch because they do not know if there are any unknown vulnerabilities still hiding in their systems. Which means they may still have a good design for centrifuges but all the supporting control equipment must be redesigned from the ground up. This could take several more years (or more) depending on the level of testing being done. And the testing will be much more severe than it was the first time around to prevent (as much as possible) a repeat. In this case the advantage lies with the offense. This is because they must fill all the security holes while the attackers only need to find one or a very few vulnerabilities.

The question for the regime in Iran is: can they keep a lid on their population until they are successful? Only time will tell.

So what would I do? Accelerate the collapse of the Chinese real estate bubble so that petroleum demand falls below a price level that can sustain Iran. Bleed them economically.

I covered the economic war against Iran at:

Iran to Enter Cash Flow Jihad Zone

and Iran's economic vulnerability (actually written by A. Jacksonian) at:

Oil Outlook

A lot of food for thought.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:45 AM | Comments (2)



H/T Diogenes via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:54 PM | Comments (5)

posted by Simon at 07:38 PM | Comments (1)

Ensuring Failure

Matthew Yglesias, writing about the case of a girl with a tragic medical condition, is typically confused:

It's true that covering Emily will mean slightly higher costs for everyone whose kids don't get sick. But this is how insurance is supposed to work.

No, Matt, that's not what insurance is for, that's what socialism is for. Insurance is a contract designed to calculate the risk and cost of an event and allow one to pay the expected cost x expected risk over a period of time to avoid incurring a large cost at one time should the event occur, not a means to spread costs among a group of people for events that have already occurred. The possibility that the person or entity you contract with may (or may not) have other insurance contracts is entirely incidental to any given contract.

Forcing companies to offer insurance against events that have already happened is equivalent to demanding that racetracks honor bets made after the race is already over.

Some carriers have responded to the provision by ending the sale of child-only policies.

Shockingly, they won't voluntarily enter into arrangements guaranteed to lose money. Hey Matt, maybe you'd like to sell poor little Emily such an "insurance policy" yourself? What, isn't it her right to buy one from you? How dare you refuse? I'm sure Matt's response would be "But I'm not an insurance company!" but that's nonresponsive: any individual can contract with any other, laws permitting. No one wants to lose their own money, but leftists are happy to insist that other people be forced to lose their money (for the children!). That's the difference between insurance and socialism: one is voluntary, the other only works at the point of a gun.

Yes, it's tragic that sometimes people become ill and incur large debts through no fault of their own, but a greater tragedy would be creating a system in which it is no longer profitable to develop new and expensive ways to heal the sick, and thereby ruining what is indisputably the best health care system in the world. It's a terrible mistake to think the government cudgel is the answer to every tragedy. The proper response is to encourage voluntary help:

The Thompsons were fortunate that Children's Mercy Hospital, across the Missouri line in Kansas City, agreed years ago to take Emily as a charity case for her annual rounds of testing, which run nearly $10,000. They were charged only $10.

Well, imagine that: people responding to tragedy without a government bludgeon.

Turning insurance into socialism will cause more problems than it solves. Statists need to realize there is a reason even Cuba is now abandoning the socialist model -- without incentives to produce and voluntary exchange, everyone ends up poorer, no matter how much gov't repression you throw into the mix to "encourage" them. The main reason we all get up and go to work in the morning is that it ensures we can pay for medical insurance and other things we voluntarily contract for. If you want to live in a utopia where you never have to worry about paying for food, clothing, shelter and health insurance you'd better be prepared to accept a Cuban standard of living because no one else wants to work to provide those things for you.

posted by Dave at 01:43 PM | Comments (4)

Justice Is Racist

The above video is pretty much all you need to understand the gist of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panthers. The politics is somewhat (an understatement) more convoluted.

So what has happened to bring all this into the news? The Washington Post reports.

A veteran Justice Department lawyer accused his agency Friday of being unwilling to pursue racial discrimination cases on behalf of white voters, turning what had been a lower-level controversy into an escalating political headache for the Obama administration.

Christopher Coates's testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was the latest fallout from the department's handling of a 2008 voter-intimidation case involving the New Black Panther Party. Conservatives and some congressional Republicans accuse Justice officials of improperly narrowing the charges, allegations that they strongly dispute.

Filed weeks before the Obama administration took office, the case focused on two party members who stood in front of a polling place in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008, one carrying a nightstick. The men were captured on video and were accused of trying to discourage some people from voting.

Coates, former head of the voting section that brought the case, testified in defiance of his supervisor's instructions and has been granted whistleblower protection. Coates criticized what he called the "gutting" of the New Black Panthers case for "irrational reasons," saying the decision was part of "deep-seated" opposition among the department's leaders to filing voting-rights cases against minorities and cases that protect whites.

It seems that black folks are incapable of racism or voter intimidation according to our current executive branch. You know. The post racial one. As exemplified by this bit:
"I had people who told me point-blank that [they] didn't come to the voting rights section to sue African American people," said Coates, who transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina in January. "When you are paid by the taxpayer, that is totally indefensible."
Equal justice? I guess they take the Animal Farm approach to justice. "All are equal. It is just that some are more equal than others." And how is "equality" determined? Easy. Just check out the citizen's pigment.

I could go on at length about this but there are so many who have joined in that I'm just going to do a link fests.

Instapundit has a roundup on Coates' testimony.

Justice Dept. Voting Rights Lawyer has some words.

Transcript of Coates Testimony

Video Interview Of Justice Dept. Civil Rights Lawyers. The watchword? This is only the beginning.

"Can you believe that we are going to Mississippi to protect white voters?"

USA Today chimes in.

Ed Morrissey has some words.

Eric at Classical Values looks at how the Democrat Congress runs distractions in the hopes that any controversy can be avoided before the upcoming elections.

And my point with all this? Well my point is blatantly political. This situation is only going to get serious investigation if we have a Republican Congress in January. Which means: Vote this November. Throw the enablers out.

I didn't march for equal rights in the 60s for this kind of crap. And I have just a little voice - but I'm going to shout as loud as I can. Equal justice for ALL.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:00 PM | Comments (2)

Humorless Democrats can't run a distraction right!

Can't the Democrats do anything right?

I mean, consider that the biggest White House scandal yet (dubbed "Panthergate") has become impossible to ignore, with even Justice Department officials calling the case a "travesty of justice". And just as Christopher Coates, former voting chief for the department's Civil Rights Division was "testifying in a long-awaited appearance that had been stonewalled by the Justice Department for nearly a year," the Democrats had the incredible good fortune of being presented with a perfect opportunity for a distraction in the form of an "appearance" in front of Congress by comedian Stephen Colbert.

Leave it to those humorless Democrats to miss the opportunity. Colbert might have provided an excuse for the MSM to ignore Panthergate, but geez! Just a quick scroll through the many links at Memeorandum shows that while he might have been a distraction, Colbert made the Democrats look even more foolish than they are.

"Mockery of Congress"; "Reporters not amused"

"knocked Democrats off message"

Colbert embarrasses Dems; Conyers asks comedian to leave (Conyers, btw, is a clown who takes himself very, very seriously.)

Making the Democrats look more foolish than they are is very hard work, and it took Colbert to do it. I think Glenn came up with the best bottom line:

"the presence of a professional clown among a bunch of amateurs"
But if I could elaborate on the, um, "bottom" line, I think that what really demonstrates what a humorless and foolish bunch of incompetents the Democrats are is that they apparently wouldn't even let the man enter his colonoscopy video into the Congressional Record.

What a humorless bunch of dorks. Hell, even the TaxProf Blog featured the Colbert colonoscopy video, and that was back in February when there wasn't such a pressing and urgent need for a major national distraction.

As I say, the Democrats can't do anything right.

Once the dust settles, I am enough of an optimist to think the Justice Department scandal might be considered more pressing and urgent than the bowels of a professional comedian. Perhaps when that time comes some of the more sober and reasonable minds in Congress can take a closer look into the details of the distraction, and at that time the colonoscopy video could be put into the record and shown in its entirety.

(Not as a Filibuster Video, mind you, but as a serious illustration of the ineffectiveness of the Democrats' distraction management capabilities.....)

posted by Eric at 11:04 AM | Comments (2)

Wars And Rumors Of War

Will there be a reopening of the war between North and South Korea soon? Some people think so.

In Moscow's bleakest assessment of the situation on the Korean peninsula yet, Russian deputy foreign minister Alexei Borodavkin said tensions between the two countries were running at their highest and most dangerous level in a decade.

"Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could not be any higher. The only next step is a conflict," he told foreign policy experts at a round table on the subject in Moscow.

His prediction came two months after North Korea vowed to wage "a sacred war" against South Korea and its biggest backer, the United States.

And that is not the only hot spot that could erupt. Japan and China are not exactly on the friendliest of terms these days.
The USS Hawaii, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, arrived earlier this month at Yokosuka, home port of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, one more asset in America's naval buildup in Northeast Asia, which can be viewed as a direct result of Chinese assertions of hegemony over the East China and South China Seas.

In July three Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines surfaced more or less simultaneously at Pusan, South Korea, Subic Bay in the Philippines and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The three are converted Trident missile submarines, having been stripped of their intercontinental ballistic missiles and stuffed with Tomahawk cruise missiles - 140 per sub - armed with conventional warheads.

The Hawaii is part of new class of attack submarines that are configured to operate in shallow, near-shore waters. As the submarine's captain was happy to tell the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper on arrival, the sub has the ability to maintain a "persistent presence off shallow waters."

It is nice to have a strong American President in office during these troubled times. Ah. Oh? Well never mind. Which reminds me: Miss Me Yet?

Miss Me Yet.jpg

Don't forget to put up your down payment for the next gang of rascals come this November. And do not forget. If you choose unwisely in November you will have another chance to correct your error in 2012. Because, we are Americans and we can vote them out.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)

Had Enough?

H/T Hill Buzz. Some gay guys I can really get behind. Heh.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:45 PM | Comments (1)

Anti-drinking activists drunk with power

When I was awakened early this morning, I made the mistake of turning on the TV in the hope of being bored into drowsiness so I could go back to sleep. I turned on C-SPAN, thinking that boring speeches would do the trick.

Big mistake. Instead of boring speeches, I was greeted by passionate, in-your-face activists from M.A.D.D. The hard core of that organization consists mostly of people who have lost a family member because of an accident with a drunk driver, and who have clearly sublimated the normal grief which accompanies the death of a loved one into political activism. They think that their loved ones died because of lax laws, and they press for endlessly tougher laws, which they claim will stop drunk driving.

M.A.D.D. activists are now pushing to make drunk driving a felony, and to lower the blood alcohol level standard for DUI from .08 (already lowered from .10 thanks to MADD activists) down to .04.

.04 is the BAC you'd get from a glass of wine.

It doesn't take much imagination to see that this would create a gigantic new group of felons.

Now, I do not defend drunk driving. But the direction in which this hysteria is going -- making driving after a glass of wine with dinner a felony -- is simply an outrage. This isn't a crackdown on drunk driving; it is neo-prohibitionism.

The M.A.D.D. speakers were also calling for a return to the 55 mph speed limit, because drunk drivers are said to be much more dangerous at high speeds. Saying that because drunk drivers are more dangerous at higher speeds no one should be allowed to drive at high speeds makes about as much sense as saying that because drunk drivers are dangerous in cars, no one should be allowed to own a car. In typical nanny state fashion, this would punish the many for the crimes of the few, and another example of the national kindergarten mentality I have complained about till I'm blue in the fingertips. Also, this argument makes the ridiculous assumption that drunk drivers (who are already violating the law by drinking and driving) will somehow be law-abiding and not exceed the speed limit. (Right. Like criminals planning armed robbery or murder will nonetheless be deterred by gun control laws.)

Aghast, and now finding myself far too awake for that hour, I continued to watch M.A.D.D. on C-SPAN and I heard the repeated claim that "drunk driving is a violent crime." Is it? Certainly, it is irresponsible as well as negligent to get behind the wheel after having too much to drink, but aren't a lot of people saying it is also irresponsible and negligent to drive while talking on the phone? Or while putting on makeup and disciplining the kids? How about getting behind the wheel when it is clear from your conduct that you don't know how to drive? (Something I see all the time in this student town, btw.) How about mentally-impaired people driving? Or people who are completely lacking in basic motor skills, and who lack spatial awareness?

Impaired driving is never a good thing, but my worry is that once we start calling irresponsibility and negligence "violent crime," the term will lose its meaning. If I dig a hole in my yard to repair the sewer pipe and negligently forget to cover it, sure, someone could fall in and get hurt, but have I committed a crime of "violence"? If (as M.A.D.D. activists insist) getting behind the wheel after a glass of wine constitutes a crime of violence, then almost any form of negligence could be.

The stuff I saw last night made it clear to me that regardless of its original mission, M.A.D.D. has now become a theater of the absurd. It is yet another example of what happens when activists get together:

...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.
However, it would be a mistake to laugh these people off.

M.A.D.D.'s political clout is so enormous that just last year, they almost got their own leader to head the NHTSA (which would have made him the "highway czar"):

Charles "Chuck" Hurley is the head of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). He's also a totalitarian nanny-stater who wants arbitrary check lanes and a 55 mph national speed limit. Hurley also hearts a .04% Blood Alcohol Content limit, which would make you DUI after one drink. Oh, and he has ties to the red light camera industry.
The Washington Times editorialized against him, and other voices sounded the alarm. At the time Eric Peters warned that "when Big Things are going on, little things often slip by unnoticed."
Why be worried? For openers, Hurley is a former leader of Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- arguably the most unreasonable and totalitarian-minded "special interest" in all of D.C. Its original mission -- a public campaign to make driving drunk unacceptable -- has metastasized into a crusade against any consumption of alcohol whatsoever. The legal standard for "drunk" driving has already been lowered to .08 BAC -- a level well below the .10 and up at which people have actual accidents as opposed to running afoul of "sobriety checkpoints."

But even that isn't enough. MADD wants the legal threshold reduced to .04 BAC, which would turn anyone who had a glass of wine over dinner into a "drunk driver" as far as the law was concerned -- and subject them to penalties more severe than those applied to many violent felons.

Hurley was the chief cheerleader for this grossly disproportionate, factually unsupportable crusade. As NHTSA head, expect him to push the MADD agenda as far as he can -- including mandatory in-car alcohol detectors for everyone, not just those already convicted of DWI. "Sobriety checkpoints" -- where random people are randomly subjected to Gestapo-like stop and frisks, for absolutely no reason other than they happened to be driving on a particular road at a given time -- will be stepped up.

Putting him in charge of the NHTSA would have been like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. What would have stopped him from slanting official statistics to favor M.A.D.D.'s activist agenda? As things stand now, NHTSA and M.A.D.D. engage in statistical flim-flammery to deceive the public. "Alcohol-related fatalities" is one example:
For some time, the NMA has taken on the lonely role of objecting to certain elements of MADD, SADD, BADD, DADD, RADD, etc. campaigns against drunk driving. (For the 300th time, we are not in favor of drunk driving.) Admittedly, our stands have been pretty radical, e.g., police should have probable cause to stop and test motorists, BAC standards should be reasonable, and that people charged with DWI should have access to a fair trial.

We have also objected to the use of terms and statistics that are deliberately designed to deceive the public and build support for the political and financial benefit of certain organizations and agencies. One of our favorites is NHTSA's "alcohol-related fatalities".

This statistical misnomer implies that virtually any measurable amount of alcohol in a victim's system is clear evidence that alcohol was the cause of the fatality. A pedestrian, with one drink, run over on the sidewalk by a sober driver becomes an alcohol-related fatality. By the time MADD gets done massaging the message, "alcohol-related" becomes "killed by drunk drivers."

These statistics seem almost designed to conceal whether or not the alcohol was actually responsible for the accident, because often the police test everyone involved in an accident. And even though it is quite conceivable that a driver with a BAC of .08 was not at fault in any way (say his car was broadsided by a driver who ran a stop sign), the accident will still be considered "alcohol related." And if they lower the DUI BAC to .04, there is going to be a huge uptick in alcohol related accidents.

Geez. You'd almost think these people wanted more "alcohol-related" fatalities.

Isn't that almost like a conflict of interest?

Last year Reason's Radley Balko warned that the Hurley appointment would politicize the NHTSA by putting activists in charge:

With Hurley in charge, MADD's goals will become NHTSA's goals. That's troubling because at heart, MADD is an activist organization. The groups once-admirable goal of raising public awareness about drunk driving has over the last several years morphed into a zealous, evangelical teetotaling campaign. When a coalition of college presidents recently asked for nothing more than a new debate over the federal drinking age last year, for example, MADD called on parents to boycott the presidents' schools. MADD has supported prison sentences for parents who allow alcohol consumption at chaperoned parties for underage teens, and fought efforts to allow underage veterans to have a beer on base after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Even MADD's founder, Candace Lightner, has renounced the group, calling them "neo-prohibitionists."

MADD is no longer merely a group of concerned mothers raising awareness. They've become very powerful, pushing for laws based on questionable data and that involve real trade-offs between safety, privacy, and individual freedom. That's what makes the organization's close relationship with the government so troubling. Hurley isn't the first MADD exec to make the jump to NHTSA--or the other way around. MADD regularly receives funding from the federal government. Members of MADD have even been known to help man and run sobriety checkpoints. MADD also runs many of the mandatory classes DWI convicts are forced to attend (and pay for).

Fortunately, the nomination was killed -- but for the wrong reasons.

M.A.D.D. is out of control, and they have way too much power. And if they are in fact making money on every DUI arrest as is claimed, then no wonder they want the BAC lowered.

The more "drunk drivers" there are, the more M.A.D.D money there is!

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for quoting from this post. Glenn is absolutely right to call M.A.D.D. "another example of a non-profit gone wrong," which "should disband, now that their work is basically done." Instead of disbanding, though, they're being subsidized by the taxpayers. (Like this anti-M.A.D.D. site, I thought that was supposed to be illegal....)

Your comments welcome, agree or disagree.

(Incomplete link fixed.)

posted by Eric at 05:27 PM | Comments (37)


A really interesting thing has happened on the way to the election.

PJTV's Tea Party TV today unveiled the results of a special Tea Party poll, which revealed that about one-in-three (32%) African Americans who are likely voters would vote for a candidate supported by the Tea Party movement.

"Questions of racism within the Tea Party have been raised for months now," said Vik Rubenfeld, PJTV's Polling Director. "Our survey found that more than one-in-three African Americans support the movement. Moreover, the data revealed that 32 percent are also likely to vote for a congressional candidate whom the Tea Party supports."

"PJTV's Tea Party poll shows that, for many black voters, race no longer serves as a rationale for supporting policies that undermine their economic interests," said Joe Hicks, PJTV's host of the Minority Report and a former Executive Director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Democrats and leftists have attempted to define the Tea Party movement as a collection of angry white bigots. However, the PJTV poll of black voters shows the wheels on the race card bus are beginning to fall off."

Or perhaps another liberal meme has been thrown under the reality bus. (Note: if you are interested in more links the above linked Yahoo article has them.)

You can see Vik discuss the results on Pajamas TV.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:59 PM | Comments (3)

A Woman Of A Certain Age With An Ageless Message

I'm not sure of the cause but I must say Republicans have much better script writers this year.

H/T Hill Buzz

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

Hippies Punch Back

It has come to my attention that there is a contingent in the nation interested in hippie punching [in the comments]. It has become so pervasive that Instapundit has noticed the trend.

Well some of us hippies are from the Peace, Love, Watch Out MOFOs contingent of hippiedom. i.e. firm believers in armed non-violence. Unless things turn ugly. And evidently I was well ahead of the trend. I have evidence.

Hippies for McCain -1

We have not yet begun to fight. But if this sh*t keeps going down look for things to get ugly. Very ugly.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

What is wrong with them? (A good question.)

A friend emailed me a link to this post about Republican senators keeping Lisa Murkowski in her position of seniority despite the fact that she was roundly rejected by Alaska Republicans in the primary election.

My friend was so infuriated that he sent Joe Miller $100 on the spot (he also says he wished he'd helped fund "It's Not Your Seat, Lisa"), and he wondered why the GOP would be deliberately courting a rift with the Tea Party movement. He asked,

What is wrong with these people?!

Are they that oblivious to voter mood?

I find myself wondering whether they are merely dysfunctional, or truly insane. Because if the GOP leadership spurns the Tea Party candidates (which they clearly seem to be doing), they are likely to trigger a third-party challenge on the right, and if history is any guide, that would end up helping the Democrats.

Why would they do such a thing? Could there be any rational explanation?

My worry is that some of these entrenched Republicans so fear doing what has to be done that they'd rather be placed in a permanent minority position, so they won't actually have to do it. Better (so they think) to let the Democrats stay in and get the blame for not doing what has to be done.

The fact is that spending is so out of control that it's surreal. Worst of all, this is happening just as the country is on the verge of a huge entitlement showdown of catastrophic proportions when the baby boom generation retires and the giant bad check all comes due. I suspect that everyone in power knows this dirty secret, but no one in power really wants to deal with it. It's seen as a political third rail. Assuming that there are strategic thinkers within the entrenched GOP elite, they might be weighing the consequences of the coming catastrophe in a supremely Machiavellian manner.* If the GOP allies itself with what is seen as the economic scorched earth position of the tea Party movement, and that position were to actually gain political ascendancy, then what? Might they think the country will be plunged into chaos and they don't want their precious GOP to take the blame? If they are thinking along such lines, it might explains their seemingly insane thinking.

However, it's pure speculation on my part and it assumes that there's something resembling rational (if mistaken) thinking going on. OTOH, they might just be so stuck in their old boys club that they've merely become blind to reality.

How much difference is there between being blind to reality and refusing to face reality?

* In other words, they all know the shit's gonna hit the fan, and they're all trying to position themselves to make sure that someone else gets the blame when it does.

posted by Eric at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

Nice Campaign Commercial

Note that Christine O'Donnell and Rand Paul get face time in the video. And this is an official Republican spot? I like it.

H/T McCain - you know - the other one

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:14 AM | Comments (0)


I had never heard a live version of this (well it is a kind of a medly) before. I like it. I must say that I miss Grace. But this girl makes up in enthusiasm what she lacks in Grace's talent.

And the graphics on this one are spectacular:

posted by Simon at 01:00 PM | Comments (3)

Something To Look Forward To

You know. I would really hate to see it happen but this may be a case where God needs to sort these folks out.

I think I have a slogan appropriate for the age. "Give me liberty or I'll give you death."

Update: 24 Sept. 1010, 0119z

Instapundit links to a piece by Austin Bay that touts a book by a follower of Islam, Militant Islamist Ideology.

Bay's article makes this point:

Aboul-Enein says faithful Muslims play a central role in defeating Militant Islamism, arguably the key role.

"Unlike communism," he writes, "against which free enterprise and democracy were used as ideological counterweights, Militant Islamist ideology can be opposed among the Muslim masses only by Islamic counter-argumentation. We cannot contain Militant Islamist ideology but only work to marginalize, de-popularize, and erode its influence and mass appeal by identifying it as different from Islam or even from Islamist political groups."

They had better get a move on before Wretchard's Three Conjectures comes to pass.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

The Enriching Rich Get Richer

Megan McArdle has a good post on "Why Are the Rich So Rich?" though I think she's missing an important angle: larger markets.

If the market for a product is one million people, and I build something everyone wants with a profit margin of a dollar, I can make a million dollars. If my market is 100 million people, I can make $100M. This is a function of globalization, technology, and population growth. That probably explains quite a bit of the growth in income disparity at the high end.

This is why Sergey Brin is a billionaire -- he built something (Google) that maybe a couple billion people use on a daily basis. That would have been impossible without the Internet, globalization, and the fact there are now 6 billion people around. The same logic applies to the markets for other specialized skills -- athletes, entertainers, CEOs, financial traders.

Of course, the rich are generally enriching everyone else's lives as well, in ways subtle or obvious, because consensual exchange generally leads to gains for both parties. That's why you get paid in dollars, so you have a medium with which to efficiently exchange the fruits of your work for the fruits of other people's work.

There is of course a mechanism by which the rich can change the rules to ensure they stay rich, as the rich have tried to do since time immemorial, and its name is government.

posted by Dave at 12:46 PM | Comments (1)

Towards a more culturally expansive Constitution

The discussion in the comments to my post about a Saudi citizen convicted of rape in Colorado raised some interesting questions about presidential power, in particular, presidential pardon power. As the topic of my post involved my frustration understanding Saudi morality (or "morality" depending on your POV), it struck me that the issue of presidential pardon power (which is interesting in itself) merited a new post.

Responding to comments, I pointed out that the president only has the power to pardon federal offenses, and that therefore the group of influential Saudis who are lobbying President Obama to pardon the rapist are misdirecting their efforts. They should be lobbying the governor of Colorado.

This is a very basic, long-settled constitutional issue. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
So the president simply lacks the power to grant a pardon for an offense committed against the state of Colorado; only the Colorado governor can do that.

End. Of. Discussion.


Well, leave it to Veeshir to up the ante by raising what he called "an interesting question":

What happens if Obama does pardon him? I mean, Obama doesn't appear to see (or respect) any restrictions on his power, so I could see him doing it.
Especially as he might not even understand that distinction.
But we have as president a man who has been a professor of Constitutional Law, do we not?

By what theoretical stretch of the imagination might he claim that he has power to pardon state criminal offenses? Does he think he has the same power to disregard the plain language of the Constitution that, say, Congress has?

While he might have sounded bitterly sarcastic, Veeshir raised a good point. Why couldn't the president just do it?

Suppose he were to simply sign a document purporting to be a pardon of Mr. Al-Turki. Let's just use the same language President Ford did in his pardon of Richard Nixon as a template:

I, Barack H. Obama, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Homaidan Al-Turki for all offenses against the United States which he, Homaidan Al-Turki, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from 1995 through 2006."
Interestingly, the man has become a cause celebre, and he has a Wiki page, which lists a number of federal crimes with which he was originally charged.
Al-Turki and his wife were arrested by federal and state agents at their home on December 6, 2005. They were accused with forced labor, aggravated sexual abuse, document servitude, and harboring an illegal immigrant. Additionally, federal authorities told them they were subject to a "full fledge investigation" because Mr. Al-Turki is suspected of being "closely aligned to terrorists and may be providing material support to terrorism."

The U.S. Department of Labor also filed a civil suit against the Al-Turki's for illegally paying the woman below minimum wage and failing to keep employment records. They allegedly owed her roughly $62,500 in unpaid wages.[6]

So a theoretical Obama pardon would certainly cover all of the above federal crimes, and would also include any other federal crimes relating to that time period that might have been charged (or could be in the future) regardless of whether he was ever charged and convicted.

But it is very clear that what sent him to prison in Colorado were the state crimes. Here's what was alleged:

Arapahoe County District Court initiated criminal trial proceedings against Homaidan Al-Turki and Sarah Khonaizan on February 16, 2006, with the defendants both entering not-guilty plees. Prosecutor Ann Tomsic began the state's case by explaining how the couple brought the young Indonesian woman to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia to work as a housekeeper when she was a teenager. The affidavit states her domestic services included child care, cooking, and cleaning for 12-hours a day, seven days a week without time-off from 2000 to 2004. While not working, she was confined to an unheated basement and repeatedly sexually assaulted by Homaidan Al-Turki. Tomsic added that the woman was allowed out of the house alone only to remove trash, bring in mail and clean the yard. Prosecutors claimed the couple intentionally created a climate of fear and intimidation through aggravated sexual abuse, which was intended to cause the victim to believe disobedience would result in serious harm. The couple also allegedly threatened the victim with abuse of law and the legal process, confiscating her Indonesian passport and visa for the purpose of obtaining labor for little or no pay.
Al-Turki's attorneys mounted a defense which is novel but growing trend -- that the case resulted from cultural bias:
A strategy utilized by the defense contended that Turki's Arabian cultural norms are alien to most Westerners, and hence, vulnerable to prejudice and cultural bias. For example, court documents filed by Al-Turki's lawyers illustrated that "there are Saudi Arabian customs regarding a host family's retention of funds for their domestic servant until she leaves their service."

In his testimony, Al-Turki denied any wrongdoing and said authorities had targeted him because of his religion. He insisted that the woman was treated the same way any observant Muslim family would treat their daughter and defended his actions to District Judge Justin Mark Hannen, saying that:

"The restrictions placed on her contact with non-relative males were also the same as those applicable to my daughters and other Muslim women in our community. You cannot ask somebody from a different religion to be American to the fullest. You cannot ask them to go dancing, go to the bars. We are Muslim. We are different. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors is a focal point of the prosecution."

--Homaidan Al-Turki,[10] District Court Testimony

However, Prosecution lawyer Natalie Decker adamantly contested the accuracy of this statement, stressing that the trial proceedings had nothing to do with the defendants beliefs or ethnicity and instead "has to do with what he did to her (the maid) for five years" and that Mr. Al-Turki's actions represented "a clear-cut example of human trafficking." The prosecution also pointed out that the alleged victim, the Indonesian maid, is also a Muslim.[11] Responding to rising accusations of cultural bias, prosecution attorney Ann Tomsic requested that Judge Hannen should strive to treat Al-Turki as he would any American citizen who committed similar crimes. Tomsic further emphasized that "the world is listening, and the court needs to make a statement that in the United States, or at least in...(Colorado), this kind of slavery will not be tolerated."[12]

So, if slavery is part of your cultural heritage, then it really isn't fair that you should have to face criminal charges if you are caught holding slaves.

Hmmmm.... I wonder how that defense would work out if some demented KKK activists decided to reinstitute their hallowed cultural heritage of slavery. I can think of many more examples, and in fact there was an article about this in the California Bar Journal, titled Cultural differences: New defense tactic?:

A Mexican-American man is convicted of second-degree murder for shooting a poker companion who used an offensive slur about the defendant's mother. A Muslim Albanian man in Texas loses his parental rights for touching his daughter's genitals. A Thai man who shows no remorse or other emotion for his part in a Garden Grove robbery in which two people were killed receives the death penalty.

All three were influenced in their actions by their native culture, says University of Southern California professor Alison Dundes Renteln, and that culture, she believes, should have been considered in each of those cases, an argument she makes in her chapter of the new book, "Multicultural Jurisprudence: Comparative Perspectives on the Cultural Defense," which she co-edited with Marie-Claire Foblets of the University of Leuven in Belgium.

"Cultural differences deserve to be considered in litigation because enculturation shapes individuals' perceptions and influences their actions," she writes in the book. She is calling for formal acceptance in the legal community of a cultural defense in which legal systems acknowledge "the influence of cultural imperatives" in illegal acts.

Obviously, a lot of people felt very strongly that Saudi cultural standards should be controlling on the Colorado state criminal courts, but he was convicted by a jury anyway. After which the people who were screaming about "cultural bias" erupted:
After two and a half weeks, Homaidan Ali Al-Turki's criminal trial concluded on June 30, 2006. In the end, a jury of citizens from Arapahoe County convicted him on twelve felony counts of unlawful sexual contact with force, one felony count of theft of services over $15,000, and two misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment. On August 31, 2006, he received a sentence of twenty-eight years-to-life in state prison by Judge Mark Hannen. The unusual courtroom atmospherics while the verdict was announced are worth noting. Dozens of representatives from the Metro Denver Muslim community, including Al-Turki's friends, relatives and the Imam (prayer leader) of the state's largest masjid, packed the courtroom. Another prominent attendee was Mohammed Jodeh, former president and chairman of the Colorado Muslim Society. Many had written to the judge expressing their support for Al-Turki. Other letters of support came from several faculty members and academic colleagues at the University of Colorado.

Nine sheriff deputies attempted to keep the peace while nearly two dozen of Al-Turki's supporters "howled at the verdict that was delivered after only one day of deliberation. One man had to be forcibly removed because of his loud sobbing. Al-Turki's supporters contended that the rape charges were primarily based on circumstantial evidence, and complained that neither DNA or material evidence were exhibited at trial. A woman collapsed at the courtroom door after seeing Al-Turki taken away in handcuffs." As for Al-Turki, "wearing a white robe, at first showed little emotion - touching his left index finger to his nose - as Judge J. Mark Hannen read the verdicts. After the jury vacated the courtroom, Al-Turki began to cry and embraced his family and friends." During these histrionics, the Indonesian woman who accused him "wept and plugged fingers into her ears to shield the sounds of wailing family and friends." As of May 29, 2009, Homaidan Al-Turki is currently incarcerated at the Limon Correctional Facility in Lincoln County, Colorado.[13]

The case has been affirmed on appeal and it was appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Obviously, there's a lot of money behind it. (Probably some of it comes from the damned money we pay at the gas pump whenever we fill up.)

As to why they're asking for a pardon from President Obama even though that would legally be an idle act on his part, who knows? But I'm thinking that maybe the idea is to apply the "Cultural Differences" standard to the pardon process, and the executive branch of the U.S. government. After all, in Saudi Arabia, the king has the absolute right to pardon any criminal convicted within his realm, so why not treat Obama as our king, with similar privileges?

And maybe he could try invoking his new-found privileges, you know, to promote the idea that cultural differences ought to be respected.

It is an interesting idea. Progressive, even!

Seen in that overall context, he most important thing to remember is that the conviction was grounded in Islamophobia:

Homaidan Ali Al-Turki (born 1969) is a Saudi national convicted in a Colorado court for sexually assaulting his Indonesian housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave for four years. On August 31, 2006, Al-Turki was sentenced to 28 years in prison on twelve felony counts of false imprisonment, unlawful sexual contact, theft and criminal extortion. Despite the allegations, Al-Turki has consistently denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the fraudulent charges resulted from a government conspiracy, cultural differences or "cynical Islamophobia" and rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.[1]
Hear hear!

So with that standard in mind, let's try reworking the pardon to make it culturally inclusive:

I, Barack H. Obama, President of the United States, pursuant to the power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Culturally Expanded Constitution, as evolved in recognition of cultural differences with a view towards eliminating racism and Islamophobia in all of their various emanations, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Homaidan Al-Turki for all offenses -- whether committed against the United States or whether committed in any state therein, which he, Homaidan Al-Turki, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from 1995 through 2006."
I realize that many of the backwards-thinking constitutional literalists like me will argue that he simply doesn't have the power, because the Constitution doesn't give him the power, but haven't we already been proven wrong many times, and by better minds than our own?

Don't laugh. When I venture out into the real world of trendy leftist cocktail parties and the topic of the Constitution comes up, occasionally I'll mention what the document says and what the founders intended, and I get that rolled eyeballs look, as if I am worthy of ridicule. So maybe I should get with the times, and get with the program. Laughable though I might think the idea is, if I asserted that the Constitution should be culturally expanded and the presidential power should be made culturally inclusive, few would laugh. Hell, if I kept a straight-enough face, I might even be taken seriously.

After all, who wants to be laughed at?

posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (5)


It's been a long day, so I'm glad I found the proper subject for a "short" post.

Anyway, I was so distracted by this picture of Rand Paul that I could only think of Ann Althouse.


Above the picture, it says that "chances are good he will soon be the most radical member of the U.S. Senate," which I like.

Senators have to be over 30, but they don't have to look or act like it.

It is my sincere hope he is elected, and that he continues to do exactly what he is doing in that picture.

(Well, maybe minus the shorts.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: Hey, I didn't mean "minus the shorts" the way you people with dirty minds might have thought! I meant maybe put some long pants on.

And frevvin's sake don't tell Ann Althouse.

posted by Eric at 10:39 PM | Comments (1)

Obama's Mother-In-Law Practices Santeria

Well there are reports. But does it matter? Not a bit. Unless this is some kind of counter spin to the Christine O'Donnell/Witchcraft craziness.

And Santeria? I belonged to one of those groups once. Not exactly traditional Santeria though. It was designed to attract American Wiccans and fans of Aleister Crowley. In Chicago. On Halsted Street. Around 1975. The group had a book/herbal store and the services featured naked dancing girls. On the appropriate holidays.

You know if more Republicans switched to that religion they would have no trouble attracting hormone addled teens to services. Or voters to political rallies. Well among the men and appropriately disposed women anyway.

And if you dig deep, Santeria is sort of a paganism based very loosely on Catholicism. Which is a sort of Christianity loosely based on paganism rather than being a Christianity true to its Jewish roots. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Well I knew some Christians once who celebrated all the major Jewish holidays and especially Passover. Those people had the right idea. Time to get back to the old time religion. These days? I'm mostly Jewish with a little Aleister Crowley thrown in for spice. It suits me. Any way the Hebrew comes in real handy when studying Crowley. Who might be considered something of a Kabbalist. The give away is the copious Hebrew in his book 777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley: Including Gematria & Sepher Sephiroth.Not for beginners. But very interesting. It is kind of a pagan Connections. Without all the explanatory text.

And my politics? I'm a libertarian Republican. Unless the Republicans piss me off. In such circumstances I might go so far as to vote for a Communist like Obama. In fact in 2004 I did vote for Obama.

Amazon has a few pages of books on Santeria.Should you need some more bedtime reading.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:05 PM | Comments (1)

A good argument for riding a bicycle

Try as I might to understand things, there are some things that elude my grasp.

What sort of "culture" tolerates heterosexual rape, while executing men who engage in consensual homosexual conduct?

Why, Saudi culture.

John Burgess has a post about what he thinks is a hopelessly misguided effort by influential Saudis to get President Obama to pardon a Saudi man convicted of imprisoning and raping his maid in Colorado. Burgess (an expert on Saudi Arabia) describes the case as "unfathomable" and thinks a presidential pardon is unlikely:

This is a story I find unfathomable. In 2006, Humaidan Al-Turki was found guilty of numerous crimes ranging from sexual assault to false imprisonment of a domestic worker in his employ while he was a student in Colorado. He was found guilty by a jury, not a Star Chamber. He appealed his case to the state Appeals Court and Supreme Court where the verdict was upheld.

Al-Turki, however, has something of a fan club. They asked Pres. George W. Bush to pardon him; Bush did not do so. The group now appeals to Pres. Barak Obama to pardon him. So far, there's no word from the White House, but I doubt that a pardon will be forthcoming.

The question to ask is, 'Why would Barak Obama want to pardon Al-Turki?' There's no indication, beyond his lawyers' assertion, that there was anything untoward about his trial. Presidents don't exercise their pardon power simply because of assertions. [That there are politics involved in pardons is true, but another matter.] The crimes for which Al-Turki was convicted are not petty crimes. They are crimes that particularly offend American sensibilities. Unfortunately, they are also crimes for which Saudis (and Saudi Arabia) has a reputation for both committing and ignoring, however fair that reputation might be.

I find it unfathomable as well, although unlike John Burgess I cannot claim to understand such people. They simply make no sense to me.

Nor did the video:

(Via Saudi Jeans.)

Many convicted criminals have families and friends who love them. The only difference I can see between this man and the vast majority of rapists in American prisons is that he's a Saudi citizen who apparently thought he had the right to rape domestic servants, and whose fellow countrymen likewise see little or nothing wrong with his crime, or else they wouldn't be demanding a pardon.

Even though I realize that morality can be a relative thing, I cannot but see this as yet another piece of evidence that Saudi culture is (at least by American standards) simply a savage and brutal culture. Male rapists are considered deserving of mercy, while consenting adulteresses and consenting homosexuals are tortured and killed. Sorry, I don't get it, and I never will.

I only wish I didn't have to give them money, but I love being able to drive my car.

Such freedom is not without its price.

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

A Ms. here and a Ms. there, and pretty soon you're talking real Msanthropy!

Noting that men are facing systematic discrimination while affirmative action for women is de rigueur, Dr. Helen discusses a book that looks at the problem:

I read a short book from Encounter Books today entitled How Obama's Gender Policies Undermine America. The book highlights how women are doing much better than men in today's America. They live longer, face a significantly lower unemployment rate, are awarded substantially more BAs, and MAs and have lower rates of incarceration, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Career feminists constantly harp on how women need government intervention and hand-holding because they are treated unfairly. For the most part, however, women in the academic world are treated better than men.
Asks Dr. Helen,
why are "fierce feminist lobbyists" largely unopposed?
I don't know why, but I thought a Ms. Magazine cover that I saw earlier might shed some light on the question.


Is the picture real or fake? Politics Daily declared it a Photoshop, but by whom? By "fierce feminist lobbyists" at Ms.?* The latter certainly seemed unapologetic in their explanation of the cover:

When the chair of the Feminist board, Peg Yorkin, and I met with Barack Obama, he immediately offered, "I am a feminist." And better yet, he ran on the strongest platform for women's rights of any major party in American history.
So maybe we have a president who is into "Msandry."

And if I consider that this makes two Mses (IMO that's the better of the correct plurals) in one day, I'm beginning to feel like a shameless Msanthrope.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Lest anyone think I'm a male chauvinist reactionary, I should point out that according to a test I took, I am a feminist. And not just any old feminist, but a total feminist:

You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).
You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.
As far as I'm concerned, "should be treated equally" means no affirmative action. Especially not affirmative action for women in an era when women have moved ahead of men.

* I think it's fair to point out again that some of these "fierce feminist lobbyists" have a long history of supporting bloodthirsty misandry:

...Ms. Magazine editor Robin Morgan and New York Now leader Ti-Grace Atkinson were more than ordinary misandrists; they went to far as to embrace the notorious Valerie Solanas, the psychotic who shot and nearly killed Andy Warhol, and who wrote the SCUM Manifesto -- which specifically called for "gendercide" (the killing of men -- SCUM stands for "Society for the Cutting Up of Men")
That might also explain why they're "largely unopposed."

posted by Eric at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

more or less unforgivable msspellings

A grammar and spelling maniac I am not. When I write, I often make mistakes. When I hurriedly type, words will sometimes appear that aren't what I mean (buy becomes but, then becomes than, own becomes won, etc.). I misspell words, use the wrong words, and worst of all, leave out words entirely. The latter drives me the most crazy; missed words are a lot harder to catch than misspelled words, and spell check does not ask whether you forgot to put the word "not" before or after a verb.

This sometimes makes me worry about my cognitive skills. In a state of exhaustion the other day, I wanted to type the word "software" (a word I know), and right on the screen in front of me the ugly non-word "softwhere" appeared. That actually frightened me, for I would never deliberately type such a word. Yet something inside me -- some lurking demon, perhaps -- had made me do it. Only because I saw it and changed it immediately was I spared the indignity of having someone catch me having written this:

The portions I quoted above are taken from the scanned text, which I put through my scanner's OCR softwhere, and then edited.
The fact that the above atrocity was never published and did not appear does not alter the fact that it once emanated from my untrustworthy fingertips. Or is it my brain which is becoming untrustworthy? How am I supposed to know? Why would the appearance of such an embarrassing word on the screen frighten me so much more than if I had written "but" when I meant "buy"? What if it had come out as "softwear"? Would that have been "better"? (And from the "blame the fingers" standpoint, a less embarrassing misspelling might have been something like "softwaer," because it's a lot harder to blame fingers for putting "where" where "ware" belongs.)

But never mind me! What might an embarrassment for me is someone else's good fortune!

So, word usage drives me crazy because I try to get things right and I never do. This makes me very forgiving of other people's mistakes. I have never liked the snarky use of "sic" to imply a writer is idiotic or illiterate -- especially when the goal is to attack or undermine the writer's opinion. A bad speller might be dyslexic; and many a thoughtful person has been dyslexic, and even famous writers have been known to make spelling errors.

What really hurts is to be told that I have been misspelling a word for years, and the other day I was told in no uncertain terms that I was wrong to put a period after the word "Ms" because "Ms" doesn't have a period. And I always thought "Ms." did have a period, damn it! However, even if this no-period rule applies I suspect that there would be a loophole if you end a sentence with Ms. And maybe even if you end a sentence with "Ms." Oh yes:

In the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic.
So regardless of who is right about the period, "Ms" will have a period at the end of a sentence if the word is contained in quotation marks.

The debate over the period seems to revolve around whether the "Ms" word is an abbreviation, like "Mr." or "Mrs." -- both of which take periods in the United States, but not in the UK (and the "Ms" not in Canada). The history of the word is fascinating, and it seems to date back to 1901, when it was suggested that it be used as an abbreviation for "Mizz."

However, in a Grammarphobia piece titled "Should 'Ms.' have a period?" it is claimed that despite an apparent usage rule to the contrary, feminists like Gloria Steinem who popularized the term do not use the period. Moreover, there is a distinction between grammar and style:

Q: The Chicago Manual of Style says "Ms." should have a period, but Gloria Steinem and the other feminists who popularized the term don't use a period. Which is right?

A: In matters of style, there's no absolutely correct or incorrect call. In grammar perhaps, but not in style.

Most American stylebooks, however, will advise using a period for an honorific, with the exception of "Miss," which is not an abbreviation. One might argue that "Ms." isn't an abbreviation of anything, either. But the fact remains that it is not a noun on its own, and exists only as a courtesy title before a name.

Now that's baffling. What might be grammatically correct ("Ms.") might be stylistically incorrect according to Steinem et al.

I can't help but notice that these people are political activists, so I am wondering whether what is called a matter of "style" might actually be an emerging form of political correctness. One of the hallmarks of p.c. is that rules change according to the diktats of those who make the rules. Within my lifetime, the politically correct "black" was replaced by the more politically correct "African American," and not only is the latter a mouthful to pronounce, it's also a monster to type, and I never know whether it's supposed to be hyphenated, which I suspect it isn't. There's just something about the activist mindset that always wants to correct people, whether the purpose is education, indoctrination, or simple "I'm smarter than you are" bullying; but because that's what these people like to do and so few stand up to them, the result is an endless game of rule changing. "Koran" has to be changed to "Quran," and "Montezuma" to "Motecuhzoma", and so on. The consonant and vowel movements involved are enough of a pain in the ass to give me a politically incorrect case of Motecuhzoma's revenge.

Whether I break these "rules" or not, I'd like to know once and for all what they are, and I'm still not totally clear on whether "Ms." has gotten rid of (or should get rid of) the period. But seeing as Gloria Steinem and company are supposed to be the last word in feminist p.c. jargon, I remembered that not only did she help popularize the term, she also created a magazine bearing that (undoubtedly trademarked) name. If she's so gung-ho anti-period, then wouldn't it be reasonable to expect that the very magazine which she created to help put the word on the political and grammatical map would use it as she intended?

Well, take a look at a recent cover:

Ms Magazine cover Fall09_lg.jpg

Ms. has a period.

Moreover, that's Ms. Steinem herself, right on the cover of the magazine she started. Connect the dots any way you want, but there's a period right there, and she seems to be staring at it. I hate to say that it's "her" period, but the fact that the period is there would seem to contradict any claim -- by her or anyone else -- that it shouldn't be.

I realize that I cannot dictate style, but as far as I'm concerned, the period stays.


posted by Eric at 11:43 AM | Comments (7)

Happy Belated International Talk Like a Pirate Day!


Or should I have said "Arrrgh"*?

From the blogosphere's Number One Pirate International Transnational Nationalist, I just learned that yesterday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

In an incredible coincidence (perhaps my pirate radar was on without my knowing it), I took this picture yesterday:


Go figure.


It has been speculated that the rolling "rrr" has been associated with pirates because of the location of major ports in the West Country of England, drawing labor from the surrounding countryside, West Country speech in general, and Cornish speech in particular, may have been a major influence on a generalized British nautical speech.

posted by Eric at 10:23 PM | Comments (3)

Clean Sweep
Cleaning House.jpeg

H/T for the photoshop: Hill Buzz

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:20 AM | Comments (11)

Ideological airbrushing -- a view by dissection

In case there are any readers crazy enough or obsessed enough to be interested in seeing a detailed comprehensive picture of the butchering of Isaac Asimov's "All Four Stanzas," I spent a considerable amount of time going through the original version and the butchered version to come up with a complete view of all the edits. Tedious though it was, I thought I would share it, because it reveals an inside look at how ideological airbrushing works (and it's also a glimpse inside the minds of the petty people who laboriously crank out the sort of disinformation that floods the Internet via endless fraudulent emails and crank billboard postings, etc.)

It's frankly amazing to see how little of what Asimov actually wrote was left alone. Nearly every sentence has been messed with in one way or another. They took out almost everything personal to Asimov, such as his background, references to his writing; even the reference to the Dutch Treat Club where he sang the national anthem is deleted. His discussion of Roseanne Barr is likewise struck out. One illustration of the truly petty nature of the minds of his censors is the deletion of Asimov's reference to The Anacreon as a "drinking tune." Instead, it had to become an "English tune." Why? To "correct" him? There are innumerable nit-picky "edits" like that, as if these anonymous censors thought they had a right to edit Isaac Asimov. (I don't like seeing them getting away with it.)

Words in red are the words that were deleted. The bracketed bold face words are the words that were added. The remaining words were the ones that Asimov wrote that were allowed to remain in.

I hope the html works, and that I have not made too many errors.

[It's a monster, as gruesome as an autopsy and far too long to clutter up the blog's front page. If you think you have the stomach for it, you can read the extended entry.]

UPDATE: As I suspected, there were many errors in my html, and unfortunately I have had to edit them after publishing the post, as I don't have full WYSIWYG capabilities which allow me to see the red in draft.

So I had to spend nearly an hour combing through and re-editing the extremely tedious html. My apologies for any confusion.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Dr. Asimov's article is reprinted by permission of F&SF, copyright (c) 1991 by Mercury Press, Inc.

My thanks to the folks at F&SF for kindly granting me permission.

Continue reading "Ideological airbrushing -- a view by dissection"

posted by Eric at 10:37 AM | Comments (4)

How Dogs Got Domesticated

A friend of mine saw this on the tube and found it interesting. Which got me looking around for more.

Here is the wiki for Dmitry Konstantinovich Belyaev.

Fox Farm Experiment [pdf]

Adrenaline to Melanin

Melanin Metabolism

The full video: NOVA: Dogs and More Dogs

That should get you started.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

The Threat Of Sharia
Sharia - The threat

H/T Hill Buzz where you can read much more.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:44 PM | Comments (1)

Dowdifying Asimov is bad enough, but kitschifying him goes too far

I have a weakness.

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping peaceably in my bed at night because I know that rough men stand ready to do violence to quotations on the Internet.

I should probably point out that I am not losing my mind. Yet. I was merely expressing my frustration by deliberately mis-paraphrasing a famous misquotation of Orwell and morphing into it a well-known cartoon which offends me because it ridicules my plight.

I have a long history of getting annoyed by lies, misrepresentations, and misquotations on the Internet, and back in the day, I used to imagine that I could "correct" or "debunk" them, and that they would stay debunked. While I suppose such a thing is possible, the Internet does have its limitations, and one of them is that it is in many ways a gigantic popularity contest. If something is said that tells people what they want to hear, the audience, because of its non-passive nature, will tend to repeat it and amplify it. If whatever it is that people Want To Hear is attributed to a famous person, and it is repeated enough times, the very repetition of it makes it appear more and more true. Thus, a misquotations or even out-and-out lies (like a fictitious law or a fictitious famous person) tend to become "true" with age.

I was thinking about this the other morning when I contemplated smallpox-infected blankets allegedly distributed by the U.S. military in the hope of wiping out the Indians, soap allegedly manufactured by Nazis from murdered Jews, and a Star Spangled Banner analysis allegedly written by Isaac Asimov.

There is no evidence that smallpox blankets were ever systematically distributed (much less as United States policy, as is frequently alleged); but there does exist correspondence between British officers during the French-Indian war suggesting that blankets from the military hospital (filled with soldiers who had smallpox) be given to the Indians. While it is not known whether the blankets were effective, it has been pointed out that standard warfare tactics of the time would have been much more effective (if unintentional) as a smallpox vector:

In 1763, Fort Pitt was under siege by Indian forces under the command of Chief Pontiac...Pontiac Rebellion (Tebbel). With smallpox in the garrison at Fort Pitt and Indians attacking the fort, two blankets would have had little to do with the spread of smallpox among the Indians. A by far greater source for spreading the smallpox virus would have been infected blood from mutilated soldier and settler bodies, scalps, clothing, and in some cases cannibalism, which occurred during the Pontiac Rebellion. Every warrior that returned from Fort Pitt to Indian villages up and down the East coast with smallpox infected war trophies carried the smallpox virus with them. Contaminated warriors spreading the smallpox virus is never mentioned by proponents of Indian Genocide; it does not fit their biased agenda. This statement on smallpox is going to make a lot of people furious...good, that is the purpose. Before venting your ire, take a few minutes to read the entire article, think about it with an open mind, and then please respond with facts to back up your argument.
As to the Jewish soap, there is no evidence that this was done on any sort of systematic basis (Nazi officials wanted to keep the Holocaust a secret, and making soap from corpses would have been inconsistent with that agenda), although at one camp it appears to have been done experimentally.
The idea that "human soap" was manufactured on an industrial scale by the Nazis was published after the war by Alain Resnais, who treated the testimony of Holocaust survivors as fact in his noted 1955 holocaust documentary movie Nuit et brouillard. Some postwar Israelis also referred disdainfully to Jewish victims of Nazism with the Hebrew word סבון (sabon, "soap").[21]

Mainstream scholars of the Holocaust consider the idea that the Nazis manufactured soap on an industrial scale to be part of WWII folklore.[22] Among others this view was held by the reputable Jewish historians Walter Laqueur,[23] Gitta Sereny,[24] and Deborah Lipstadt.[25] The same view was held by Professor Yehuda Bauer of Israel's Hebrew University and by Shmuel Krakowski, archives director of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center.[1][2][3] However, historian Yisrael Gutman is very specific, stating that "it was never done on a mass scale."[15] And Holocaust historian Robert Melvin Spector concludes that the Nazis "did indeed use human fat for the making of soap at Stutthof," albeit in limited quantity.[16]

Today Holocaust deniers employ this controversy to cast aspersions on the veracity of the Nazi genocide.[26]

Which is all the more reason that the "Jewish soap" meme should be discredited. People who go around yelling it is true because they want it to be true are unwittingly fueling the cause of Holocaust deniers.

As to Asimov, there are innumerable links, quotations, and bulletin board posts quoting an Asimov article titled "All Four Stanzas" (this is the most widely circulated version) which discusses the history and meaning of the Star Spangled Banner. Something struck me as odd about it, and I wasn't sure what. While I am not a science fiction fan, I've read Asimov enough to understand that he usually explains things thoroughly. Yet the way this piece reads, I was left wondering exactly what he meant, and why he uncharacteristically didn't explain himself more thoroughly. While there is a pretty thorough historical discussion of the history of the writing of our national anthem (which he recites stanza by stanza with commentary) when he gets to the fourth stanza, he seemed to just issue a giant hurrah! without much explanation.

The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung more slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling.
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I hope you will look at the national anthem with new eyes. Listen to it, the next time you have a chance, with new ears.

And don't let them ever take it away.

--Isaac Asimov, March 1991

And that was the end of the article? Sorry, but it just didn't pass my smell test. I realize that many people would love for the above to have been written by Asimov exactly like that. But was it?

I know this will sound obsessive-compulsive, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt my wanting to know turning into needing to know.

First of all, Asimov was hardly the uncritical jingoist that the above article makes him appear. To call him a skeptic might be understatement, for he called himself an atheist, although he did venture opinions on what his ideal of God might be:

In his last volume of autobiography, Asimov wrote, "If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul."[27] The same memoir states his belief that Hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term? Asimov rejected the idea that a human belief or action could merit infinite punishment. If an afterlife of just deserts existed, he claimed, the longest and most severe punishment would be reserved for those who "slandered God by inventing Hell".[28] As his books Treasury of Humor and Asimov Laughs Again record, Asimov was willing to tell jokes involving the Judeo-Christian God, Satan, the Garden of Eden, Jerusalem, and other religious topics, expressing the viewpoint that a good joke can do more to provoke thought than hours of philosophical discussion.
For a guy who thinks like that (whether he's right or wrong) there's just something about the Star Spangled Banner essay that just didn't quite seem entirely Asimovian to me.

Of course, I am no Asimov expert. Far from it. And the piece is widely circulated by sources I respect, one of whom (Jerry Pournelle) knows a lot more about Asimov than I do.

So while I was very curious, I also wanted to be very careful.

I noticed that the "All Four Stanzas" link had once been included on the Wiki Entry for the Star Spangled Banner, and then later taken down, with this notation:

took away chain-e-mail glurge not really written by asimov
So (I thought) this ought to be a relatively straightforward matter to settle. Either Asimov wrote it or he did not. If he didn't, then the Asimov piece is another in a long line of clever hoaxes; if he did, then the Wiki writer was engaging in deliberate dishonesty.

Asimov either wrote it or he didn't, right?

I did find some discussion and debate, and the consensus was that he probably did write it, as there is a piece with that title in an online Asimov bibliography:

All Four Stanzas
Subject: /story of the U. S. national anthem
First Published In: Mar-91
Looking further, I learned that sure enough, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction lists it too in the back issues:
Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem; all four stanzas, incl. the lost, or dropped, 'gloating' third stanza; has 22nd & last coll. of his F&SF science essays, The Secret of the Universe(1991); has nf book with Frederik Pohl, Our Angry Earth(1991)
At this point, my curiosity had gotten the better of me, and I decided to blow six bucks so I could read the actual article for myself.

It arrived on Friday. I read it, and I reread it. It was deeply moving, and left me with a deeper appreciation for our national anthem than I had ever had. Precisely Asimov's intent.

Yet at the same time that I found myself deeply moved by Asimov's words, I also found myself deeply offended at one of the most dishonest examples of Dowdification I have ever seen. The version that is quoted online everywhere is a brutal hack job -- selectively cutting Asimov's 4166 words down to 1321 words (nearly three fourths of the piece), yet there is no mention that the piece was severely edited. Edited hell!; it was deliberately, ideologically butchered. It is no exaggeration to call it political Bowdlerization.

As to why these nameless nobodies would do this, I think anyone who takes the time to read the article in its entirety will surely understand. Far from being the God-fearing jingoist that people might think he is, Asimov makes it clear that, to many conservatives, he would be considered nearly the exact opposite. After beginning with a 1300 word summary of his life and his work (which you really should read for yourself but I will not quote in its entirety), Asimov turns to the subject of the national anthem. And he did in fact refer to his love of it as "a weakness" (which is where the online version starts) -- but by way of explanation just before that he proudly admits to being a (gulp!) globalist:

I am not one of your professional patriots, you must understand. I am not a flag-waver (I don't even own a flag) and I eschew nationalism. I'm a globalist, who believes that human beings should not divide themselves into any divisions less than "human being." Let everyone be merely different facets of an overriding humanity.

However, even the best of us have our weaknesses, and I have one -- I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem. The words are difficult, the tune is almost impossible, but I sing it frequently when I'm taking my shower -- all four stanzas -- with as much power and emotion as I can possibly manage. And it shakes me up every time.

To many people's minds, not owning a flag is suspect in itself, but admitting to being a globalist? That's tantamount to admitting to treason. Little wonder that the word butchers saw fit to start with "I have a weakness -- I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem." (Which was their convenient way of rephrasing "However, even the best of us have our weaknesses, and I have one -- I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem.") By this savage act of rhetorical butchery, the bastards scrubbed Asimov's ethos right out of his own piece.

The ethos expurgation continues, as the the nameless "editors" remove the real Asimov whenever he doesn't suit their fancy. What follows immediately after "And it shakes me up every time" is completely absent from the online version:

It bothers me no end, then, that hardly any American can sing the tune, hardly any American knows the words even to the first stanza, and hardly any American cares. They'll wave the flag assiduously, but they won't sing the song that celebrates the flag. And they don't know the absolutely thrilling story behind it. When they want to sing something they think of as patriotic, they sing Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," with words and tune as trite as you can imagine.

In fact, most national anthems are hymns, slow and stately and sleep-provoking. The only two anthems, beside our own, that I can think of as blood-stirring, are the French "Marseillaise" and the old Soviet "Internationale" (which they have replaced with something that is incredibly dull). But our national anthem takes first place, and easily.

Naturally that all had to be removed. We can't have a posthumously minted right wing blowhard dissing "God Bless America" or praising the "Internationale" can we? Yet that's what he said, and it's integral to his point. This was a great writer (writing the year before he died), attempting to educate his largely skeptical audience of mostly sci-fi fans about their national anthem, and maybe win some of them over to the idea that it shouldn't be dismissed as a bunch of 1930s kitsch.

I think he did a great job too. Are his words really so threatening that they have to be so widely and systematically erased?

I realize my writing will never rank high enough to rate such outrageous meddling, but if anyone did that to my writing after I died, I'd rise from my grave and subject him/them to the most horrifying and gruesome torments my rotting corpse could inflict. I hope there is an afterlife, and I hope Asimov takes revenge on these scum suckers. I really do. But considering the man's atheism, I don't know what the routine should be; perhaps some of his fans could get together as Asimov's Avengers.

On with my own weakness. As I said, the article made me appreciate the national anthem as never before, and certainly not because he quotes all four stanzas and tells them "Sing them because they're good for you!" like some imaginary right wing hack, but because he explains why they exist and why he savors them.

But please read it for yourself; I'm not writing this post to savor the piece for you; only to attempt to correct what I think is a grievous error, and criticize what I think is a profound literary sin.

As to that last, fourth stanza, that's where the hatchet job gets it the most wrong. Yes, Asimov did say that it should be sung more slowly and with deeper feeling, but far from ending with a mindless order that we should just sing it, he changed the wording a bit (highlighted in red), and he explains why. In detail:

That leaves the fourth stanza, which is a pious hope for the future and which has the atmosphere of a hymn at last. It should, to my way of thinking, be sung more slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling. Here it is:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, while our cause it is just.

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The fourth stanza as I've given it here is the way I sing it. I have taken the liberty of making two small changes from the way the song appears in the reference books and, presumably then, the way that Key wrote it.

In the fourth line, Key wrote, "Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just." Key was writing about the War of 1812, when, as I believe, our cause was just, but I am not ready to assume that our cause is always just. The United States is as capable of fighting an unjust war as any other nation is, although I earnestly hope it doesn't do so often.

The Mexican War was an unjust war, a naked war of aggression, a war to fasten slavery on Texas after Mexico had freed the slaves there and to seize territory to which we had no real right. But we won every battle just the same, established slavery in Texas, and took the entire southwest. The Spanish-American War was not particularly just, either.

The southern states of the Union, after seceding to form the Confederate States of America, stood between their loved homes and the war's desolation and did so with magnificent bravery for four years, but lost in the end and (in my opinion) rightly so, for they fought for slavery.

The Vietnam War (again in my opinion) was an unjust war, for we travelled 6000 miles to take part in a civil war that was not really our business and held no threat whatever to our vital interests. The old "domino theory" was just a fraud used to justify what could not really be justified. And we lost, as we should have.

But now (as I write) Iraq has invaded Kuwait and taken it over. This was unjustified aggression and does affect American vital interests, for Iraq intends to control the world's oil supply to its own advantage. If we take measured action, I will consider our cause to be just.

Let me go on. The other change I have made is in the next to the last line where Key apparently repeated that the star-spangled banner "in triumph shall wave." I don't think that the third and fourth stanzas should end equally. I want the end of each stanza to represent a new and higher climax, so I replaced the last "in triumph" with "forever."

When I sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," I don't try for vocal tricks, which I don't have the voice or the technique for, never having had even a day's training in voice. I try only to enunciate carefully so that the audience hears every word with out fail.

Nevertheless, when I sing that last stanza, I do try one little trick. I linger over the "forever" and make my voice louder and even more emotional and I can feel the audience respond to that.

I sang all four stanzas in public only twice, but each time it was a memorable experience for me, and, I believe, for the audience as well. Now I do it for a third time, in print only, and without the additional dimension of my voice (such as it is).

I can only hope that you get a bit of what the national anthem means to me and that you will look at it with new eyes, and listen to it, the next time you have a chance, with new ears.

And don't let them take it away and substitute "God Bless America," for goodness sake.

Imagine, you don't have to be a flag-waving, my-country-right-or-wrong type to appreciate the national anthem! Little wonder the word butchers would take all of that out. They didn't like what lies at the very heart of what Asimov is saying. The supreme irony is that with that taken that out, the broad appeal of Asimov's argument is hopelessly lost.

I hope I have done something to put it back, because by kitschifying the words of this great man, his petty little censors did precisely what Asimov warned against in the very words they censored; they took his words away in the hope of substituting their own equivalent of "God Bless America."

They kitschified his argument against kitsch.

I think it's an awful insult, and I have tried to remedy it.

May they not triumph.

Obviously people will want to verify what Asimov really said, and they should. But as the full text of "All Four Stanzas" is nowhere to be found online, I took the liberty of scanning the piece in its entirety. The portions I quoted above are taken from the scanned text, which I put through my scanner's OCR software, and then edited. (I hope I caught all of the OCR errors, but scanned text follows.)

Asimov Scan 1

Asimov Scan 2

Asimov Scan 3

Asimov Scan 4

Asimov Scan 5

Asimov Scan 6


I have to say, this was a lot more work than I usually put into a blog post. But I'm glad I went to the trouble, because the experience leaves me with a much deeper appreciation for the national anthem, and for the man whose fine essay made me appreciate it more.

Nothing kitschy about it, or him.

UPDATE: OCR of scanned text has its limitations, and I didn't catch all of the errors. I appreciate the corrections in the comments.

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

I always appreciate the comments, and the corrections have been especially helpful.

And in case anyone is interested in seeing Asimov's original version juxtaposed with the butchered version I have compiled a complete, color-coded view of all the edits in a new post.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Dr. Asimov's article reprinted with the permission of F&SF, copyright (c) 1991 by Mercury Press, Inc.

My thanks to the folks at F&SF for kindly granting me permission.

UPDATE: Many thanks to F&SF for linking this post. I really appreciate the comments there too!

UPDATE: And a big thank you to Rand Simberg for the link!

UPDATE: The links keep coming. Thank you my old friend Donna Barber at Opining Online, and John Kranz at Three Sources for the links and the very kind compliments.

Continue reading "Dowdifying Asimov is bad enough, but kitschifying him goes too far"

posted by Eric at 02:02 PM | Comments (25)

Christine O'Donnell Was A Witch

Any friend (or former friend) of Aleister Crowley is a friend of mine.

You know. I'm getting more respect for The Tea Parties, The Tea Party Express, and Sarah Palin ALL The Time.

H/T Hill Buzz

Update: The Other McCain calls it a A Witch Hunt

More: Christine Counters The Lies

Witch ODONNELL2010.jpg

Above from: Three Beers Later....

posted by Simon at 08:24 AM | Comments (9)

Behead those who insult robots!

I hate to insult robots, as nothing could be more wastive of time. But a spam commenter named "Kendrick Treine" tried to leave a comment that had me laughing so hard that even though it was caught by the spam-catcher, I was almost tempted to un-junk it.

According to Kendrick (who obviously writes from the virtual heart), I am loved. At least, my blog is loved. But there's a catch!

Well let me to just say that I love your blog first of all. Besides that, I want to mention that I am a big believer in quality in my camping gear. I believe that it's better to buy costly, but quality equipment rather than spend very little money on poor craftsmanship gear. It really pays off in the end.
The topic was how our petrodollars pay for the "education" of Salafist idiots who want to behead their critics.

So now that I am in literal robot mode I am forced to wonder how the comment might relate to that.


Maybe the money we spend at the gas pump should go to better quality camping gear.

Like more of these swords, perhaps?

They're certainly useful for chopping off things.

Of course, they might cost an arm and a leg!

(Have to keep a cool head, you know...)

posted by Eric at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

Leftist Dogma

Thad McCotter, U.S. Representative and Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee is discussing leftist dogma. Thad goes into details but I'm just going to cover the bullet points. They are:

1. You are a victim of yourself and others
2. You are a danger to yourself and others
3. Nuts Who Scream "Death to America" Need Love, Too

There are statists on the right who subscribe to at least two out of the three points. The Rs need a House cleaning as well. Case in point: the large core of support among Republicans for the Drug War. I believe support for that fits #1 and #2. And you know - it ain't working. Kids can get illegal drugs easier than they can get a legal beer. Doing nothing would work better and cost less.

But let me see if I can get this right. By 1914 Americans were no longer competent to deal with opiates and cocaine. Formerly over the counter drugs. By 1920 they couldn't handle alcohol and by 1937 they lost the ability to deal with cannabis. Oh. I forgot. In 1933 their ability to deal with alcohol in the environment suddenly returned. All it required was passing a law (an Amendment to the Constitution actually - but still - law).

Pot (heh) meet kettle.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:39 PM | Comments (3)

Christine O'Donnell just keeps looking better and better!

I continue to be very pleasantly surprised by Christine O'Donnell, who is showing herself to be an outspokenly non-statist, constitution-loving social conservative. M. Simon emailed me a link to an LA Times piece headlined "Christine O'Donnell says rigid moral views are part of her youthful past":

The Republican nominee for a Senate seat in Delaware says she will be guided by the Constitution, 'not my personal beliefs' about abstinence, masturbation and other social issues.

Asked at a candidates' forum Thursday night if government has a role in regulating sexual acts -- she has promoted abstinence and publicly opposed masturbation -- O'Donnell said such issues are personal:

"When I go to Washington, D.C., the litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it's constitutional," she said.

O'Donnell offered the explanation amid accusations that her views made her too extreme in the eyes of many voters.

"Yes, I have my personal beliefs," she said when asked about her views. "These are questions from statements I made over 15 years ago. I was in my 20s and very excited and passionate about my newfound faith. But I can assure you, my faith has matured. And when I go to Washington D.C., it will be the Constitution on which I base all of my decisions, not my personal beliefs."

Coupled with her opposition to the federal war on drugs, I think it's time for libertarians to get behind her. And if the damned GOP can't, then it belongs in the ashcan of history.

Hell, at the rate things are going, I'm about an inch away from sending her some money.

posted by Eric at 06:01 PM | Comments (3)

"disinclined to acknowledge [strong emotions] in daily journal entries"?

Years ago, I was told that I was a Type A personality.

But more recently, I find myself intrigued by the idea that I might be a Type D. It's come under increased scrutiny lately because of a spate of medical research correlating it with high cortisol levels and numerous health problems. From an LA Times article in India Express:

In boardrooms, classrooms, bedrooms and the playing field, we all recognise the classic signs of a "Type A" personality. And most of us know that these hard-chargers seem to be at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.

But who has ever heard of the Type D personality? Depending on whom you ask, D stands for distressed. Or it follows sequentially from Type A; Type B (A's opposite -- laid-back, cooperative, slow to anger); Type C (a martyr -- compliant, eager to please, and prone to hopelessness and depression; studies have shown Type Cs to be vulnerable to cancer and other malfunctions of the immune system).

In any event, Type Ds are notable for negative thinking, worrying, suppressed anger and a tendency to respond to stress by withdrawal and denial. They stew. They simmer. They blame themselves -- and others.

And when it comes to feelings, they're given to stoicism: They rarely give voice to strong emotions, such as anger, and are likely equally disinclined to acknowledge them, say, in daily journal entries.

Geez, that sounds too much like yours truly for comfort!

Perhaps it would behoove me to say "FUCK YOU!" more often, and maybe start obnoxious blog feuds. (Might be good for traffic too....)

Except if I am a true Type D, imposing such unnatural behavioral changes on myself would hardly improve my health, as we're not talking about a disease or disorder; despite the distaste the description evokes in persons who insist that only happiness as they define it is normal, Type D is considered a normal personality type:

The wide range of negative emotions characteristic of Type D patients may have led to the common misconception that Type D is nothing more than negative affect or 'old wine in new bottles' [8]. However, due to the inclusion of the social inhibition component the construct is clearly more than a measure of negative affect or depression, as it also points to how patients cope with this affect. Only those patients who score high on both traits (the Type Ds) form a high-risk group, suggesting that social inhibition moderates the effect of negative affectivity on clinical outcome [3]. In addition, studies have shown that Type D still predicts adverse clinical outcome when adjusting statistically for measures of negative affect, such as anxiety and depression [4, 5]. Table 1 summarizes the differences between depression and Type DThe Type D personality construct further distinguishes itself from other psychological measures currently being studied in the context of CVD, such as depression. Whereas depression reflects psychopathology, Type D represents a normal personality construct [2, 6].
(Emphasis added.)

According to the Wiki entry on the subject, "the prevalence of Type D personality is 21% in the general population," which is nothing to sneeze at.

Hell, that's one-fifth of this blog's readers, so I should probably be careful what I say about this, lest I drive them away.

And now that I think about the relatively few comments that these posts draw considering the number of hits that the blog gets, perhaps my readers are so "disinclined to acknowledge" what they think that they are also disinclined to leave comments! (FWIW, I love you for it, whoever you are.)

Even if my normal reaction is supposed to be along the lines of,

"Fuck you and I don't want to talk about it!"

AFTERTHOUGHT: Type Ds of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your privacy!

(Hey, should those who would psychiatrically diagnose people online be denounced as enemies of the people?)

posted by Eric at 12:06 PM | Comments (8)

Socialist Conservatives

Far too many social conservatives are socialists. They believe "Government can....". Well I have news for them. No it can't.

posted by Simon at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

Socons Watch Out

I'm hanging over at Belmont Club and found a comment I rather liked.

121. sgi

If there is one thing and one thing only that will alienate other American voters from tea party candidates it is their social conservatism. Personal freedom must be extended to all Americans, even if their personal choices are offensive to social conservatives. Small government, freedom and responsibility are birds of a feather.
September 15, 2010 - 2:12 pm

It is the hubris that gets you. The "We Won" mentality. The Tea Party successes are not a call for Republican Socialism. What do I mean by that? The idea that you can eliminate vice by an act of Congress. What you really need is an Act of Congress AND a police state. I do not think the American people will stand for such a thing. One good example is the coming vote in California on the legalization of marijuana. Even five years ago such a vote was unthinkable. Win or lose in California - the tide is turning against pot prohibition. Eventually we will take the Swiss example to heart and legalize all drugs, for the simple reason that taking distribution out of the hands of criminals will make our streets safer and better protect our children.

So my socon friends, if you are really interested in smaller government and wish to stem the drift into an American police state you must consider the will of the people. Keep in mind:


Funny thing is that a contender for the Republican Presidential Nomination in 2012 agrees with me.

Gary Johnson, former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, supports legalization of marijuana and argues that it will lead to a more effective fight against drugs. He blames the stalemate on the federal government and on both Republicans and Democrats.

"For the most part, politics is about following the herd as opposed to providing leadership," Johnson, who is speculated to be considering a run for the White House in 2012, told ABC News. "For me, it was a cost-benefit analysis, period. It's the fact that half of what we spend in law enforcement and the courts and the prisons is drug related, to what end?"

Johnson disagrees with the idea that dabbling in the politics of drugs would be harmful -- he cites his own approval rating as governor, saying it was steady even after he made his position known.

"It's a really good political issue because it's the truth. It's the emperor wears no clothes," he said.

One thing to keep in mind about the Swiss exaple so far is that they were against the legalization of pot. Why? Well you know - it is a REALLY dangerous drug. Still. The prohibition regime is breaking down. Socons can either get with the program or get drowned when the next tide of change rolls in. That would be unfortunate because we really do need smaller government.

But I do have another arrow in my quiver. Mexico. And Mexico is a disaster area and is getting worse.

It is wrecking the government of Mexico. It is financing the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is throwing 11,000 Britons into jail. It is corrupting democracy throughout Latin America. It is devastating the ghettoes of America and propagating Aids in urban Europe. Its turnover is some £200bn a year, on which it pays not a penny of tax. Thousands round the world die of it and millions are impoverished. It is the biggest man-made blight on the face of the earth.

No, it is not drugs. They are as old as humanity. Drugs will always be a challenge to individual and communal discipline, alongside alcohol and nicotine. The curse is different: the declaration by states that some drugs are illegal and that those who supply and use them are criminals. This is the root of the evil.

By outlawing products - poppy and coca - that are in massive global demand, governments merely hand huge untaxed profits to those outside the law and propagate anarchy. Repressive regimes, such as some Muslim ones, have managed to curb domestic alcohol consumption, but no one has been able to stop the global market in heroin and cocaine. It is too big and too lucrative, rivalling arms and oil on the international monetary exchanges. Forty years of "the war on drugs" have defeated all-comers, except political hypocrites.

Ah. Yes the hypocrites. That would be my socon friends who are all for smaller government except when it comes to their pet social engineering projects. Making people more moral at the point of a government gun.

Most western governments have turned a blind eye and decided to ride with the menace, since the chief price of their failure is paid by the poor. In Britain Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown felt tackling the drugs economy was not worth antagonising rightwing newspapers. Like most rich westerners they relied on regarding drugs as a menace among the poor but a youthful indiscretion among their own offspring.

Not to mention three American Presidents. So far. How is it that the elite are never subject (effectively) to their own laws? It is a mystery. None the less when there is one law for the common man and another for the aristocrats support for the rule of law breaks down.

But things get funnier. Much funnier. And not in a good way.

In countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, drugs are so endemic that criminalising them merely fuels a colossal corruption. It is rendering futile Nato's Afghan war effort, which requires the retraining of an army and police too addicted either to cure or to sack. Poppies are the chief source of cash for farmers whose hearts and minds Nato needs to win, yet whose poppy crop (ultimately for Nato nations) finances the Taliban. It is crazy.

The worst impact of criminalisation is on Latin America. Here the slow emergence of democratic governments - from Bolivia through Peru and Columbia to Mexico - is being jeopardised by America's "counter-narcotics" diplomacy through the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Rather than try to stem its own voracious appetite for drugs, rich America shifts guilt on to poor supplier countries. Never was the law of economics - demand always evokes supply - so traduced as in Washington's drugs policy. America spends $40bn a year on narcotics policy, imprisoning a staggering 1.5m of its citizens under it.

Cocaine supplies routed through Mexico have made that country the drugs equivalent of a Gulf oil state. An estimated 500,000 people are employed in the trade, all at risk of their lives, with 45,000 soldiers deployed against them. Border provinces are largely in the hands of drug barons and their private armies. In the past four years 28,000 Mexicans have died in drug wars, a slaughter that would outrage the world if caused by any other industry (such as oil). Mexico's experience puts in the shade the gangsterism of America's last failed experiment in prohibition, the prewar alcohol ban.

Just like alcohol prohibition the effort to stamp out vice (harming one's self) has corrupted institutions and individuals.

I think we ought to put an end to this foolishness before America winds up like Mexico and socons get a semi-permanent black eye (nothing is permanent in American politics - after all socons have come back despite the failure of one of their pet projects - alcohol prohibition).

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:40 AM | Comments (11)

all atwitter about Coco's liver enzymes

I spent all morning at the vet with Coco. She was tweaked, prodded, poked, punctured, infused and X-rayed for the second time in a month, and they seem to be getting closer to figuring out what was wrong with her.

I can't blog while waiting at the vet, and while I am not a Twitterer, I do have an account, and it occurred to me that by using my cell phone, I could twitter. So I did:

Waiting at the vet for coco:s blood work is so boring that i thought i would twitter :-).
Coco s ALT is 114 which is high. Ongoing problem would seen to be with her inflamed gut. about 2 hours ago
And finally, I asked a question no one will answer at Twitter, because I almost never use Twitter:
Is there any way to set up twitter so that it automatically feeds into a blog post ?
Is there? Does anyone know?

It would be a nice feature, as it would allow me to sneak in an occasional post from a cell phone when I'm in a pinch.

Regarding the ALT, it's a liver enzyme test and does not necessarily indicate liver diease:

ALT levels may go up four to five times the normal level even in non-hepatic disorders like inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, hemolytic anemia, and heart failure.
So I think Coco will be fine in a couple of weeks. The vet thinks it must be something she ate which caused an enormous, persistent inflammation.

I don't know whether it's a coincidence or not, but it seemed to start right after her close encounter with a skunk in the backyard.

She's resting comfortably now, and licking her lips in anticipation of the nice meal I just gave her ("Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal High Energy" dog food plus yummy yogurt).


posted by Eric at 02:17 PM | Comments (4)

A social conservative who is not a statist? Is such a thing allowed?

While I felt like a dupe of the social conservative agenda yesterday (not a new feeling, unfortunately), I was very encouraged to see M. Simon's earlier post. If what Eric Dondero reports is accurate, Christine O'Donnell disapproves of the federal war on drugs, and thinks such matters should rest with the state:

Libertarian Republican has since learned from another source, that O'Donnell went on record in firm oppositition to the war on drugs with at least one other well-known libertarian organization.
Will she have the political courage not to back down from this position? The story is developing, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because this may be wonderful news.

Not merely because it's news about Christine O'Donnell, who after all is only one candidate for office, who may or may not win. What makes this so potentially important is that it might indicate a bold and positive new trend among social conservatives away from statism.

As most readers know, I have a serious problem with statist social conservatism. (I think Newt "death penalty for victimless crimes" Gingrich typifies the breed.) As to why so many social conservatives are statists, I don't know, but I think it renders their conservatism suspect, for the simple reason that statism is not conservatism.

That O'Donnell is a personal social conservative is obvious. But if it turns out she is not a statist social conservative, that would be a wonderful development. As I told Simon, if she opposes masturbation, porn, or homosexuality, it doesn't concern me unless she wants laws passed reflecting her views. Nor am I threatened by the religious belief that is wrong to break the Sabbath or make graven images; it's when they want such religious law enacted by the state that freedom is threatened.

So if by her personal example Christine O'Donnell is standing for the proposition that social conservatism does not have to be statism, all I can say is "wow."

Might she be heaven sent?

MORE: From Glenn Reynolds, some good advice:

Small government is the big-tent issue. Forget that and you'll blow it, big time.

posted by Eric at 01:36 PM | Comments (4)

Public Service Announcement

Goverment spending does not help the economy.

Here's how we can cut government spending.

That is all.

(Please forward this message on to the unenlightened and Paul Krugman.)

posted by Dave at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

I Feel Like A F**king Dupe

One of my e-mail correspondents sent me an e-mail bemoaning the turn to hard social conservatism of the Republican Party. He was also regretting that he supported so many Republicans who have now turned on the Tea Party (he also worries that the Tea Party may be turning into a socon movement rather than sticking strictly to fiscal conservatism) . So I decided to do what I could to buck him up.

Here is my reply. With a few added notes in brackets [ ].And amended for the sake of the privacy of my correspondent:


I feel like a fucking dupe.

Aren't we all? It is like any revolution. The old order gets shaken up and no one knows what will replace it. A new birth of liberty or just a different kind of totalitarianism.

Maybe it is time to form some groups of our own - may I suggest: LiberTea? Kinda catchy don't you think?

BTW O'Donnell was a member of the Delaware Republican establishment until she had a chance of winning. [note: O'Donnell may be a socon with libertarian political beliefs. Kinda like Palin.]

For the most part I run on hope (well I do have my bad weeks) and I do believe I can change some minds at the margins. So I keep hammering away at the same old themes. You never know who may have missed my last polemic. In advertising most advertisers give up on a winning idea when the advertiser gets bored of it. Well before the audience gets tired. I try to avoid that mistake.

We are at war with the statists of the right and left. So what do we have? I'd say at this point maybe 10% to 20%. Not enough to move things yet. But more than enough to work with.

Just remember Captain Jones. His ship is sinking. When he fires his guns more of his crew die than he kills of his enemies. So what is his reply when the opposing Captain asks, "Have you struck?" And of course his reply has gone down in history (maybe not exact), "I have not yet begun to fight". He maneuvers his ship into close quarters, grappling the opposing ship, and the Marines in the foretops clear the decks of the opposing Captain's ship and they board. After a bloody hand to hand fight he takes the Serapis and watches his ship sink. Victorious.

In battles things often look darkest when you are close to victory. Both sides are exhausted. The side that can at that point surge wins.

We are (IMO) far from that point. But we are wearing them down.

It has taken us 40 years to come even close to ending the drug war. But victory is in sight. Once that blows up in the faces of the statists they will have a lot of answering to do. "Don't give up the ship".

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:37 AM | Comments (4)

Medicalize the "debate"!

If you disagree with me, it's not so much that you're wrong, it's that you're in denial!

As we all know, denial consists of disagreeing with someone after the debate is "settled." Or "over."

Denial is a treatable disease.

What you think is a disagreement is actually a symptom.

posted by Eric at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

I Can't Believe It - Chris Matthews Gets It

H/T Legal Insurrection

Also watch this: Biggest Trust Deficit Since 1776

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:59 PM | Comments (2)

Do the "Wackos" really have a "road map to paralysis"?

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer features an editorial about the Tea Party movement which made me feel oddly optimistic. Asks the Inky, what would the Tea Party movement do?

The unanswered question is what the tea party movement would do if its candidates arrive in Congress in January.

Since they perceive cooperating with Democrats as treasonous, would they rather shut down the government? And let's not forget the movement's fringe obsession with questions about Obama's citizenship, or the percolating hysteria that he's a socialist.

Joe Miller, the Senate candidate from Alaska, believes government shouldn't pay for unemployment insurance. Sharron Angle, the Senate candidate from Nevada, said in a radio interview that unemployment insurance "really doesn't benefit anyone." (That's not too far from the rhetoric of Pennsylvania's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Corbett.) Rand Paul, the GOP candidate for Senate in Kentucky, said private businesses shouldn't be forced to abide by civil-rights laws (although he wouldn't try to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act).

Gov. Rendell was right when he said recently that the GOP is being "taken over by wackos."

Checks and balances are necessary for any administration, but these election results are shaping up as a road map to paralysis.

Considering what government in general has been up to recently, paralysis is cool with me.

Especially if it means taking over the government, and then leaving you alone.

I only hope the wackos are serious.

AFTERTHOUGHT: What the Inquirer seems to be forgetting is that the American voters have a long history of wanting gridlock. Or paralysis. Whatever.

posted by Eric at 11:32 AM | Comments (4)

Wake up, Rove! Payment is long overdue!

I am still the same small-l libertarian I was when I started writing this blog. I think it's fair to say that there have been many major issues, and many more "latest outrages" over the years. Yet I haven't changed my mind about a single major issue I can think of.

To some of the louder voices these days, I guess that means I am now a RINO. Or, better yet, a member of the "ruling class." I might as well enjoy my status, and I should probably be grateful because of all the wonderful perks that go with the privilege. In a post Glenn said I had to read "whatever else you do," (so whatever else could I do but read it?) Doctor Zero mentioned that a barony might be in the offing, which intrigued me:

People are drumming each other out of the conservative movement, pointing at formerly solid allies and doing the Invasion of the Body Snatchers howl. Promotion to the "ruling class" has become so easy that I'm thinking of endorsing Castle just so I can join the aristocracy. I'll settle for a barony. I'm a cheap date.
I'm even cheaper than that. I wouldn't have thought to ask for anything. (And I know I'll never qualify for a peerage.)

But still.... Right is right, and I took a lot of flak over the years writing countless posts as the Karl Rove operative I was. The man owes me money, and despite my many repeated requests, in all of these years he has never a paid me a cent.

So, while I am not demanding a barony, I would at least like my check now.

(Remember, I am not getting personal here. This is strictly business.)

posted by Eric at 09:30 AM | Comments (4)

All You Need To Know In Illinois

Obama Illinois.jpg

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:21 AM | Comments (3)

Clearing The Decks

At Hot Air there is quite a discussion going on about what the O'Donnell victory in the Republican Primary means. As a Navy man I liked this comment:

Murkowski: Hit to bridge.
Bennett: Hit to aft, rudder destroyed, propulsion damaged.
Castle: Direct hit to the magazine.

You sunk my Battleship Yacht! WHAAAAAAAA!

Tea party/Conservative base: "Can you hear us now?"

portlandon on September 15, 2010 at 8:59 AM


The Tea Party is just clearing the decks of supernumeraries in preparation for action.

Which is not to say I care much for O'Donnell despite my recent favorable posts. What I like is that the PEOPLE are finding their voice and putting their thumbs in the eye of the establishment. Democrat and Republican.

This will not be a business as usual election.

In November the people of Delaware will have the choice between a nutty Republican and an avowed Marxist. It will be very interesting to see how that one turns out.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

Who is encouraging the trampling?

Speaking of constitutional rights that can't be taken for granted, via an email I learned that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has made an analogy between burning the Koran in protest, and shouting fire in a crowded theater:

We... saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on "GMA" that he's not prepared to conclude that -- in the internet age -- the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

"Holmes said it doesn't mean you can shout 'fire' in a crowded theater," Breyer told me. "Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?"

First of all, there is a huge difference between an burning a Koran in protest and shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. The former is an expression of a particular point of view -- an opinion -- while the latter is not the sharing of any viewpoint at all, but the deliberate fomenting of panic by falsely declaring an emergency when there is not one. It is no more "speech" or "expression" in the First Amendment sense than it would be to pull a fire alarm or phone in a fake bomb threat.

I'm wondering what Breyer is smoking. He seems to be conflating the possibility of irrational and murderous reactions by angry Muslims to the burning the Koran with the act itself. Essentially, he is saying that the standard for when the government can prohibit opinions should be grounded in whether they might cause people to become violent. That could be said about any number of things. Like the assertion that Hitler was right to kill the Jews, that Muhammad was a child molester, that black people deserve to be enslaved, etc. We take for granted that no matter how wrong such opinions might be, they nonetheless are constitutionally protected speech.

Breyer, though, seems to believe in true mob rule. If enough people resort to violence over an opinion they don't like, then it's fine for the government to prohibit the expression of the opinion. Imagine if what Breyer suggests were to become the legal rule. People who engaged in rioting and violence against opinions or even people they disliked could get them banned because of the violence they committed.

As my friend put it in the email, it's the "rioter's veto."

Those who trample the most on the rights of others become the winners.

If enraged patrons who didn't like, say, the film "Fitna" were to start a riot and trample on people in a crowded theater, I guess Breyer would ban the movie. Far from saving us from such people, Breyer encourages their trampling by giving them their way.

posted by Eric at 04:43 PM | Comments (4)

In Honor Of The Latest Tea Party Victories

The lyrics are most apropos.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Because we are all suspects, we have "no reasonable expectation of privacy"!

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds linked a very thoughtful discussion of the Fourth Amendment by Julian Sanchez, which I think everyone who cares about the topic should read. It's an eloquent reminder that the Fourth Amendment is not merely a remedy for accused criminal suspects seeking to get the results of illegal searches suppressed and their charges thrown out. While the Amendment is a sentence long, all too often (because courts naturally focus on litigation arising out of criminal charges) we focus on the secondary "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause" part and forget the dominant, primary language:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated
Sanchez notes that the jurisprudential focus on what is called "privacy" has neglected the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, and looks at a better approach:
An alternative approach--more firmly anchored in the text of the Fourth Amendment, and yielding something more closely resembling a genuine standard--is offered by Yale's Jed Rubenfeld in his article "The End of Privacy," which I wrote about last year. Rubenfeld's Big Idea is that we have ignored the crucial role of "security" in the Fourth Amendment. We're now accustomed to arguments over the "tradeoff" between the competing values of "security" and the "privacy" protected by the Fourth Amendment, but by its own terms, the Fourth Amendment stipulates that "the right of the people to be secure...against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." We tend to read this, in effect, as simply saying that the right against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated--so that the words "people" and "secure" don't end up doing any real work. But as Rubenfeld notes, "security" was actually a significant legal concept in the minds of the Framers--something free people enjoyed by contrast with the insecurity generated by arbitrary and discretionary government power. Returning to the question of informants, consider the type of insecurity experienced by East Germans under the Stasi, as illustrated in the magnificent film The Lives of Others. The effect of that kind of total surveillance state was not limited to those who were actually being informed upon or wiretapped, because the terrifying reality was that you could never be sure. Any call might be recorded; any friend or colleague or lover might actually be on the payroll of the secret police. This knowledge could wreak havoc on interpersonal intimacy and chill potential dissent even for those whose individual privacy was never actually invaded.

To think of the Fourth Amendment this way--as not exclusively about privacy, but about "the right of the people to be secure"--is necessarily to take a more architectural view of its protections. But Rubenfeld offers something closer to an applicable test: Rather than asking whether an individual reasonable expectation of privacy has been violated, we ask whether people would remain secure in their liberties if a particular search method were pervasive. If it would not, we ask what restrictions--such as requiring a probable cause warrant or "specific and articulable facts"--would sufficiently narrow the method's application so as to leave reasonable citizens secure.

What happens is that when the government creates systems that are invasive of the security of people's homes, papers and personal effects, the courts have ratified the evil by dismissively acknowledging that because these routine invasions happen to everyone, that there is therefore "no reasonable expectation of privacy."

Which means, ultimately, that if the government puts everyone under surveillance, it can then assert that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, and thus the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects" simply disappears.

Sorry, but that shocks me to the core. I think it is truly Orwellian. What could be more Orwellian than using surveillance to justify surveillance?

Once we take away your privacy then you have no reasonable expectation of it.

Unfortunately, when I read the Sanchez piece yesterday, it was so late in the day that I simply lacked the energy to revisit an issue I raised, but under-discussed in a previous post about invasive and overinclusive roadside drug testing.

And I do mean under-discussed. Damn it, I am not a think tank with endless resources and a research staff. I'm just a 56 year old man with a limited amount of energy typing my opinions on a computer. It grieves me that I cannot do this topic justice. But let me back up to the roadside saliva testing bill. Once they pass that (which I am sure they will), then Michigan residents will have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their bodily fluids. Not just while driving, for as I pointed out, these tests don't test just for whether a person is presently intoxicated; they search for the presence of metabolites which can linger for many days. So we all become criminal suspects whose bodily fluids can be searched by the state, without a warrant, for past drug consumption.

What about the right of the people to be secure in their persons? In light of such legislation, can any such right be said to exist any more? Aand as if the roadside saliva testing wasn't not bad enough, just as I finished my post, I stumbled onto a possibly even worse violation of our right to be secure.

I barely had time for a hurried update:

Naturally, this Orwellian bill is bipartisan.

MORE: Just saw this Drudge headline:

Database Dangers...
Factor in roadside drug testing, and they'll have an additional reason to go fishing through people's medical records.

You'd almost think we didn't have the Fourth Amendment. (Much less privacy.)

The Nanny State Liberation Front has more, and patient advocates are calling this development "a devastating blow to privacy rights."

Unfortunately (again, because of the limited time I have in the day) I did not realize when I saw the story that the "devastating blow" was a done deal before the North Carolina cops' latest demand to see the list of citizens' names. The done deal consisted of the creation of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Database in most (meaning nearly all) states. Urged on by the DEA and an organization I had never heard of called the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, which runs the Prescription Drug Monitoring Project. These people are activists ("bipartisan" naturally) who have systematically been lobbying to get these laws passed basically at the behest of the DEA.

Since its inception, NAMSDL has assisted states with efforts to address to diversion of, abuse of, misuse of, and addiction to prescription drugs. In fiscal year 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Justice Assistance designated NAMSDL as the technical assistance provider for the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. NAMSDL continues to assist states with legislative and policy questions related to Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PMP's). For assistance with programmatic and operational questions about PMP programs please contact the Alliance of States With Prescription Monitoring Programs at
It is typically required that the PMP (also called PDMP) databases electronically compile the following information:
* First and last names and middle initial
* Date of birth
* Full address
* Drug identification by national drug code number for drug prescribed
* Date drug was prescribed
* Date drug was dispensed
* Quantity of drug dispensed

Pharmacy and practitioner information

* Identification of dispensing pharmacy
* Identification of practitioner who prescribed the drug

Florida's PDMP website recites the typical reasoning behind the database creation. To prevent "diversion" as well as "doctor shopping":
# FS 893.055 creates the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP): and the accompanying Public Records law FS 893.0551 limiting access to confidential and private information in the PDMP database.
# Establishes the Patient Advisory Report (PAR) for use by practitioners to alert them of patients that are possibly "doctor shopping."
# Requires dispensing practitioners to report dispensed II - IV controlled drugs to the database electronically no later than 15 days from the date of dispensing.
# Allows practitioners to request access to the patient's prescription history information during office visit to ensure better patient standard of care, avoid prescribing medications that may be dangerous when taken in combination and identify possible "doctor shoppers"
So the North Carolina database that's causing all the fuss is merely typical. These databases have been surreptitiously established in most states over the past few years.

If you have had a pain killer prescribed by a doctor, a dentist, or a podiatrist, your name is most likely on one. Does that make you feel secure in your houses, papers, and effects?

There is a serious point that is being lost that I cannot stress enough here. The Fourth Amendment was violated by the creation of these databases. Once they are there, the mischief will only begin. The longer they're in place, the more busybodies (and organized busybody groups) will appear wanting to know whose name is in them. Lawyers, insurance companies, employers, political dirt diggers, even parents wanting to know whether their child's teacher or child care provider is possibly "on drugs."

Thanks to the under-the-radar lobbying efforts by the groups that sneaked these database laws through, few people knew about their creation, and fewer still had an opportunity to object. I like to think I keep myself informed about what is going on, but I had no idea -- just as I was asleep when certain wood became a federal felony.

The creepiest thing is not that this stuff makes me feel paranoid; it's that it makes me feel that I am not being paranoid enough. There are too many government encroachments like this, and it just isn't possible to keep up with them.

One of the few voices to speak up against these unconstitutional databases has been Bob Barr. I stumbled onto a piece he wrote in March that I had never seen, but which makes me wish I had voted for him for president:

Federal and state drug agencies want Georgia to create a database of doctors who prescribe pain medications, pharmacists who fill prescriptions for pain medications, and patients who receive prescription pain medications. And law enforcement agencies are employing a full-court press in the General Assembly to get what they want. Whether they succeed against a coalition of state senators and representatives concerned about such a privacy-invasive database, remains very much up in the air as the General Assembly enters the home stretch of its 40-day session. Hanging in the balance is the question of whether law enforcement and regulatory agencies across the state and across the nation will have ready access to Georgia citizens' private medication records -- to be analyzed, cataloged and manipulated in ways they will never know.

It isn't that law enforcement is interested in data basing every prescription a doctor writes and which a pharmacist fills; at least not yet...

Well, it didn't take long, did it? Anyone could have seen this latest move by law enforcement coming once the database was there, but how many people saw or realized that the problem was in its initial creation?

At least Barr tried to stop it, but he's a lone voice against a relentless juggernaut. Because some patients are criminal drug diverters and abusers of the system, the idea is to treat all patients as suspects:

Granted, these pain medications obviously can be and are abused (as are many medications that do not appear on the federal list); and some people do obtain bogus prescriptions for them, or collect multiple prescriptions and have them filled at different pharmacies in order to disguise the large quantity of the pills they are obtaining. However, the solution being touted by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), by the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, and by similar law enforcement agencies across the country, is the typical one preferred by government at all levels - monitor everybody in order to catch the [relatively] few abusers.

Leaving aside for the moment the fundamental principle that what a doctor prescribes for a patient should be the concern of the doctor and his patient, and not law enforcement or government regulators, the bill pending before the Georgia General Assembly (currently, SB 418) to create a mandatory electronic database to monitor prescription drugs, sweeps far too broadly and raises serious privacy and other constitutional concerns.

I wish more people could grasp the idea that the Fourth Amendment is violated by the database's creation.

But if what I have seen in the legal system is any indication, what I expect will happen is that it won't be the database and its violation of the rights of all the people in it that will be challenged. Instead, individual criminals will be arrested (say, some drug-dealing thug is caught selling morphine he diverted from his cancer-stricken grandmother), and he will say that the use of the database to catch him violated his Fourth Amendment rights. And because the Fourth Amendment has in practice become little more than a remedy for accused criminals, the legal wrangling by a particular thug (and whether the evidence against him should be thrown out) will be seen as "the issue," while the violated rights of millions are ignored.

So, along with Julian Sanchez, I don't think the founders ever meant the Fourth Amendment to be limited in such a narrow way.

But of course, how could they have known that there would be a "War on Drugs." Much less that it would degenerate into a war on pain relief, and that all citizens' bodily fluids and their medical records subject to search -- any "right of the people to be secure" notwithstanding.

What good is a right of the people if the people have no way to assert it?

AFTERTHOUGHT: The worst thing about writing a post like this is the feeling that these encroachments on the rights of citizens have all become so terribly routine.

Is tyranny supposed to be that way? Stultifying and dull in the hope that people lose interest?

MORE: Aside from Fourth Amendment considerations is the government intrusion into the once-confidential nature of the doctor-patient relationship by encouraging outside parties to second guess a doctor's treatment regimen.

In light of Obamacare, perhaps the ruling bureaucrats think physician-patient confidentiality no longer matters.

posted by Eric at 12:10 PM | Comments (3)


Another commenter decries the rush to purity of the Republican Party/Tea Party Movement. The focus is on the recent Delaware Primary Where O'Donnell (the Tea Party insurgent) beat Castle - a noted Republican squish. (I have another take on this race at No Quarter)

Many conservatives feel empowered in the current environment. This empowerment hurt Castle in two ways. Many conservatives felt as though they could take a loss in Delaware and were willing to risk it on O'Donnell. They also felt as though a wave of public anger could indeed propel O'Donnell into the Senate and restore the GOP to "purity."
Fook purity. I just want the so called party of small government to live up to its advertising.

The fools could start with the Drug War.


H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:33 AM | Comments (0)

No Quarter

Instapundit is taking a lot of looks at the just concluded Delaware Republican Primary. He has after action reports (O'Donnell won). I also like this before action report he linked. The question addressed is: can O'Donnell win the general election.

You couldn't ask for a more vexing political conundrum than the Delaware Senate primary. It's like something a poli-sci professor dreamed up to torture his students. Mike Castle is the kind of liberal seat-warmer that should be trimmed from a Republican Party getting into fighting shape for the battle of its life, against a dying super-State that will be immensely difficult to bring under control... but he's got a far better shot at winning the general election than his more conservative primary opponent. The Democrat, Chris Coons, is loony and Marxist enough to qualify for a position as one of Obama's czars. As bad as Castle might be, it's not difficult to make the case that putting Coons in the seat would be far worse.
For me, the deal is - like NY23 - the Tea Party can make a fight out of it. They can put the fear of God into even a Democrat winner.

I say lets fight. No quarter.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:31 AM | Comments (4)


This used to be the theme music for WFMT in Chicago. It may still be. I was an engineer there when I went to UChicago.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:37 AM | Comments (0)

Hoyt On Heinlein - My Heart Belongs to Daddy

In July invited me to participate in a blog event to launch the first volume - Learning Curve - of William Patterson's Heinlein biography.

(For those who aren't science fiction fans, this sporadic and irregular series of posts will all be called "Hoyt on Heinlein" with the added subtitle. So if you wish to scroll on past, that's fine.)

After hesitating for a long time because the man's influence in my life made this seem akin to reading about your father when he was young and stupid, I read the book through twice and marked all the interesting places I'd like to talk about. In a way Heinlein's history was the history of the 20th century in America, at least for that subset of the population that was interested in speculation and intellectual work. In a more precise way, it was the history of science fiction at the time. And because science fiction is the way we think about the future, it provides fascinating material for exploration.

Continue reading "Hoyt On Heinlein - My Heart Belongs to Daddy"

posted by Sarah at 11:11 PM | Comments (15)

Going Gaga over double standards in understanding death

To show you how behind I am on some of the more earthshaking news events in today's world, I just got an email from a friend expressing surprise that I hadn't said anything about an incident I'd never heard of until the email:


I am surprised that you haven't said anything about PETA's condemnation of Lady Gaga for wearing a dress made out of raw meat at the MTV award ceremony 2 days ago. That seems like your kind of story.

It sure as hell did seem like my kind of story, and I don't know how I missed it. Of course, I'm still a bit unclear on the Lady Gaga concept. I take it she's some kind of celebrity, but not actually a member of the Royal Family.

Anyway, it wasn't very hard to find the juicy story ("Lady Gaga's meat dress angers animal rights groups"), so maybe I should be ashamed of my ignorance.

...when Lady Gaga took to the stage to accept an award at last night's MTV Video Music Awards in hat, dress and boots apparently made of various cuts of raw meat, it was a touch outr;é, even for the queen of extreme.

The singer's decision was fiercely criticised by animal rights campaigners. Ingrid Newkirk, the Peta founder, said the outfit - which is thought to have been real meat, although that has not been confirmed - could have a detrimental effect on the artist's record sales.

"In her line of business, Lady Gaga has a hard time being 'over the top', and wearing a dress made from cuts of dead cows is offensive enough to elicit comment, but someone should whisper in her ear that more people are upset by butchery than are impressed by it - and that means a lot of young people will not be buying her records if she keeps it up," she said.

What I find most interesting about the story is Newkirk's definition of meat:
"Meat is the decomposing flesh of an abused animal who didn't want to die..."
How can she know whether any animal wants or does not want to die? Does she think animals understand death?

Obviously, she must think so, otherwise why the statement that the animal didn't want to die?

And if that's the case, then how does she explain PETA's well-documented animal killing campaign? Does anyone know whether the dogs and cats that PETA killed wanted to die?

In light of the picture accompanying the article, I'm also wondering why Cher wasn't also singled out for criticism -- and I don't just mean for holding Lady Gaga's meat purse.

Take a look.


Unless her outfit is fake, Cher is wearing a leather jacket along with high leather boots!

Is not leather the skin of an abused animal who didn't want to die? What's the difference?

Can it be that some cows are more willing to die than others?

posted by Eric at 05:34 PM | Comments (3)

Union Muscle In California

The SEIU has come out in favor of pot legalization.

A ballot measure to make California the first state to legalize the sale and use of marijuana has won the support of one of the state's most powerful union, officials said Monday, offering the proposition a shot of mainstream legitimacy as well as a potential financial and organizational lift.

The decision by the executive board of the Service Employees International Union of California will be announced in the next few days, according to officials who have been briefed about it but were not allowed to speak publicly before it was announced.

The measure has faced strong opposition from law enforcement groups, including Sheriff Lee Baca of Los Angeles County, who said he would lead a campaign against it as a threat to public safety.

I'll have more to say about this after looking at another union.

A Teacher's Union also has come out in favor of legalization.

Teachers union boss Randi Weingarten thinks it's high time marijuana is legalized.

Weingarten - head of the American Federation of Teachers and former president of New York's United Federation of Teachers - came out in support of a California proposition to legalize pot for personal use.

"Everything in moderation is pretty much fine," Weingarten said when asked by "Real Time" host Bill Maher whether she'd back the measure.

"Wow," said fellow guest Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart. "Teacher-approved!"

Now how about an economic analysis? State Governments are hurting for money and especially the State Of California. Which is why we have a union (police) vs union (SEIU, teachers) fight. The pro legalization unions are hoping for a tax windfall from legalization (taxing sales). Plus a lowering of police and prison costs will mean a bigger share of the budget for the SEIU and teachers.

I really hate having such allies. Well Hitler first. Then Stalin. I really wish I had more allies on the right. But unfortunately allies are where you find them. Ah. Well. As a former Communist I know how to blend in well enough. For the time being.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:32 PM | Comments (2)

Oops! We made a mistake!

According to the highly influential best selling author Jared Diamond, the development of agriculture was "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race."

As population densities of hunter-gatherers slowly rose at the end of the ice ages, bands had to choose between feeding more mouths by taking the first steps toward agriculture, or else finding ways to limit growth. Some bands chose the former solution, unable to anticipate the evils of farming, and seduced by the transient abundance they enjoyed until population growth caught up with increased food production. Such bands outbred and then drove off or killed the bands that chose to remain hunter-gatherers, because a hundred malnourished farmers can still outfight one healthy hunter. It's not that hunter-gatherers abandoned their life style, but that those sensible enough not to abandon it were forced out of all areas except the ones farmers didn't want.

At this point it's instructive to recall the common complaint that archaeology is a luxury, concerned with the remote past, and offering no lessons for the present. Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we're still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it's unclear whether we can solve it. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a 24-hour clock on which one hour represents 100,000 years of real past time. If the history of the human race began at midnight, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day, from midnight through dawn, noon, and sunset. Finally, at 11:54 p. m. we adopted agriculture. As our second midnight approaches, will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? Or will we somehow achieve those seductive blessings that we imagine behind agriculture's glittering facade, and that have so far eluded us?

While I am not sure that it is entirely fair to attach the "we" pronoun to actions taken by Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, let's assume for the sake of argument that Diamond is right. What are "we" supposed to do? How do "we" reverse our greatest mistake, and restore the glorious hunting and gathering existence which Diamond thinks was our proper destiny? Were Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution mistaken too?

How are "we" to correct ourselves?

And what are "we" to do about the billions of "us"? Can they be erased too?

posted by Eric at 12:39 PM | Comments (13)

"A moral wrong cannot be a civil right"

That's a meme that I guess is supposed to be conservative, even if it is liberal. I saw it earlier on a T-shirt opposing gay marriage.

OK, I have written countless posts taking issue with the idea of gay marriage. There are many arguments which can be made against it, but the above is not one of them.

Anyone who thinks a moral wrong is not a civil right should reread the First Amendment, and the Constitution.

The right to be wrong is a civil right.

It goes to the heart of our freedom.

posted by Eric at 10:04 PM | Comments (2)

Think I'm going to endorse such people? Think again!

In my humble opinion, Mike Castle sucks. As a pro-gun control East Coast Republican, he epitomizes the word "RINO."

And it is my considered opinion that his opponent, Christine O'Donnell, also sucks. But maybe it's not PC to say that about a woman, so I need to stress that I don't mean that literally. From what I have read, she is an extreme social conservative with personal problems that will make her unelectable in the general election, and the consensus is that she has no chance of winning.

Still, I like the idea of derailing a RINO who is being shoved down the voters throats by an arrogant party establishment.

OTOH, I also like the idea of winning elections.

The case can be argued either way. I honestly don't know whether it would be better to hold my nose and vote for Castle, or hold my nose and vote for O'Donnell. Either way (if I lived in Delaware), it would mean holding my nose to vote for whichever Republican makes it onto the ballot.

Plus, Delaware is not my state. So, in balance I haven't weighed in on this stuff and I wouldn't have, but I think the idea of calling Mike Castle gay carries things too far. I wouldn't like the spreading of this rumor if it were true, because it evinces a clear attempt to appeal to the basest and most irrational prejudices of the voters.

That would be bad enough if Mike Castle were gay. But it seems beyond debate that Castle is not gay. So the attack on him for being gay is not merely grounded in anti-gay prejudice, it is dishonest.

For that cheap shot alone, O'Donnell deserves to lose.

The problem is that Castle does not deserve to win.

Delaware Republicans are faced with two awful candidates.

(Nothing new about that.)

MORE: I cannot stress enough that I have been holding my nose and voting Republican for many years now in general elections. And I am sure I will continue to be some sort of loyal nose-holding Republican in the general elections in years to come.

What I find especially annoying here is that in order to vote for either Castle or O'Donnell I would have to hold my nose in order to vote in a primary election.

Sorry, but that is just unfair.

I know I can't control everything, but I wish there could be a rule against having to hold your nose when voting in primaries.

Having to hold your nose should be limited to general elections.

MORE: GayPatriot has an interesting take (and many damning links) about O'Donnell, and thinks she is a mistake.

The quality of a candidate matters. Just because someone is running as the conservative insurgent against a moderate from the party's establishment does not mean conservatives should rally 'round her banner.
Commenter Fred Beloit offers the "What's Worse Razor" as a way to decide:
What's worse?
O'D embarassing herself, those who voted for her, and the Senate or putting in someone who too often supports Reid, Obama, and the deranged libruls? Some senators embarrass the Senate every day, Biden was one. Little harm done. Voting in lib policies? Catastrophe!

I'd vote for O'D. Could she win? That depends on how many think like me. I will never knowingly vote for a lib Republican. Never.

I think that just as a good a case can be made that Castle is worse as can be made for the proposition that O'Donnell is worse (if for different reasons).

What annoys me the most about this is that there are many small-l libertarians in the Republican Party who don't like either candidate, but have so little say in the matter that they are being virtually disenfranchised.

UPDATE: O'Donnell won 53%-47%.

If I lived in Delaware I guess I would have to hold my nose and vote for her.

Democracy sucks, but I guess it beats the alternative.

posted by Eric at 09:00 PM | Comments (9)

A more perfect "union" compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical...

- Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson would be rolling in his grave over the crooked, Third-World-style scheme that has been cooked up in Michigan. Day care providers who work out of their own homes and run their own businesses are automatically forced by the state government to join the United Auto Workers Union, which is then automatically fed "dues" money by the state which sends the day care workers their checks. It's a convoluted scheme, but the theory is that if any of a day care provider's clients qualify for government subsidies (which many do), then the government essentially becomes the "employer." And so, because Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm made a sweetheart deal with the unions, the state now insists that subsidized day care providers are state "employees" and must belong to a union and pay dues. Even if they never consented to join any union and don't want to:
(09-12) 10:43 PDT DETROIT (AP) -- Peggy Mashke tends to 12 children for 12 hours a day at her home, so she was surprised to get a letter welcoming her to the United Auto Workers union.

"I thought it was a joke," said Mashke, 50, of northern Michigan's Ogemaw County. "I work out of my home. I'm not an auto worker. How can I become a member of the UAW? I didn't get it."

Willing or not, Mashke and 40,000 other at-home providers are members of a labor partnership that represents people across Michigan who watch children from low-income families. Two unions receive 1.15 percent of the state subsidies granted to those providers, or more than $1 million a year.

Mashke has given up about $100 this year, and while she says it's not a huge amount of money, she's among a small group of home-based providers suing in federal court to break free from organized labor.

"It's the principle. It's my constitutional rights," she said.

The plaintiffs claim they were driven into the union and forced to support it financially even though they work at home, are hired by families and are not state employees. In some cases, they are even related to the children in their care.

In 2006, the UAW and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, were formally approved as partners in a union called Child Care Providers Together Michigan. Only 15 percent of the providers cast ballots, but 92 percent were in favor.

The lawsuit, filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, claims that Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and her administration cleared the way for the union in exchange for valuable political support from the UAW and AFSCME.

What this means is that not only is the state forcing people to join unions against their will, they're taking tax dollars supposedly intended to subsidize day care for the poor and giving the money to fat cat unions. Naturally, the latter can be depended on to contribute to the political campaigns of whatever crooked politician supports the scheme.

I see this as violative of more than just the rights of the day care providers. Because the money which is diverted to the unions ultimately comes from the taxpayers, it essentially forces all taxpayers to pay the unions. It's bad enough when crooked unions contribute to whatever grafting politician does their bidding, but when they're using my money, it's simply an outrage.

The Wall Street Journal
had a piece about this unconstitutional scam last year, and it was made clear that because so many things are now subsidized, the idea that receiving subsidies equals being a government employee could spread.

Sherry Loar, who owns a day-care center in Petoskey, Mich., is the lead client in a lawsuit brought against the Department of Human Services in state court by the legal arm of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank for whom we work. (Ms. Berry is petitioning to join the suit.) The case is based on the grounds that state law presumes that no one is subject to public-sector bargaining unless state legislation has made them so, and in this case, there is no legislation--only the flimsy interlocal agreement. "I'm not opposed to unions," Ms. Loar says, "everything has a place. But when we enter my door, this is my home."

The larger question, not part of this lawsuit, is whether this sort of unionization violates the U.S. Constitution. The freedom of association clause prevents compulsory unionism except, courts have determined, when it is necessary for "labor peace." But in this case, whom would the day-care providers riot against? The parents?

The federal question may be raised soon, as other states have pursued similar unionization schemes over the past decade, primarily at the behest of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, better known as the SEIU. Fourteen states have now enabled home-based day-care providers to be organized into public-employee unions, affecting about 233,000 people. And nine have done so with home health-care providers. The idea to unionize in this way was hatched in California, though ironically Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed legislation to unionize child-care providers.

Well, that's a nice twist. California of all places saw the scam coming (and good for Arnie!), but that didn't stop the shameless idea from spreading.

It's the subsidies, of course that provide the foot in the door for the government to engage in this dishonest fiction:

It's telling that in several states that have gone down this road, state and federal subsidies are the source of the union dues. In Michigan, the scheme is essentially throwing a cash lifeline to unions like the UAW, which are hemorrhaging members.

There's another, ironic twist to the story in the Great Lakes state. Last month the Michigan Economic Development Corporation granted a for-profit SEIU subsidiary, the SEIU Member Action Service Center, a $2 million refundable tax credit to locate a new business facility in the state that will provide administrative services for the union and other local labor organizations. The subsidy strikes us as inappropriate because it categorized the SEIU subsidiary as a business and occurred just before the 5,000 member SEIU local 517M granted the state wage concessions. Shamelessly, the SEIU requested the credit because Michigan has high labor costs.

Some states are redefining straightforward terms--a union as a business, an employer as an employee--primarily to aid organized labor. This highlights the need to re-examine public-sector collective bargaining. Shielded from market pressures, public employee unions have driven up taxpayer costs for decades. Now labor leaders are shanghaiing entrepreneurs such as Ms. Berry and Ms. Loar into government unions because their clients receive government aid. Who will be next? Grocers? Landlords? Doctors?

Well, grocers accept food stamps (or whatever the new equivalent is called) because they have to. Landlords are often forced by law to accept subsidized tenants. And doctors? We all know that they are going to be forced to accept government-run health care. So if a day care provider can be required to become a government worker and contribute to a union, then why not grocers, landlords and doctors?

The idea being that we should all have to contribute to the unions so that they can continue to fund the campaigns of those who vote to force us all to contribute to the unions!

Such a scam!

Juan Peron couldn't have done it better.

posted by Eric at 12:28 PM | Comments (8)

The Word Virus

So where do Conservatives go wrong in pattern recognition:

There is no problem so complex that it can't be solved by putting a gun to people's heads.

1. Not true - excesses in that direction lead to revolutions.
2. If there is not excess you merely get black markets.

It is an anti-liberty stance to be sure. Liberals of course take the same stance (that should be a clue right there of the inherent defect of the position). The objects of their desire for power and control are just different from the conservatives. The impulse is the same. (I see a pattern).

So let us look at the not excess case further. Opiates.

At the time before the Harrison Narcotics Act when the drugs were over the counter, opiate use in America was 1.3%. After nearly 100 years of opiates being outlawed in America opiate use in America is 1.3%.

In other words several trillions of dollars have been spent to no effect. And yet our Conservatives who claim to be no supporters of government programs now think that the waste has some good effects. Like keeping some people who would be harmed away from opiates.

Well the evidence is in: prohibition doesn't matter when it comes to affecting opiate use. Those who want them get them. Those who don't want them don't get them. The big con is that by enacting a prohibition law some people actually fooled by words believe that prohibited means: unavailable. When what it actually means is available outside legal commercial channels. Wm. Burroughs calls this effect of words: "the word virus". The scary part? Liberals AND Conservatives are addicted to the word virus. The evidence is in: no matter how many times their plans fail those addicted to the word virus press on. Liberals can't learn from the failures of socialism and conservatives fail to heed the lessons of the USSR (where many items of commerce were prohibited) and alcohol prohibition.

A few Burroughs books that explore the word virus:

The Ticket That Exploded (Burroughs, William S.)

The Soft Machine

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:45 AM | Comments (2)

Throw the bums out BAMN Bomb Post!

I can't keep track of the dates of these things or why I am doing them. I don't even know the meaning of "Google Bomb!"

So bombs away!

The title is "A Negative Article About Democrats In Key Congressional Races"

And you must read them all!

Travis Childers
Dina Titus
Carol Shea-Porter
Ann Kuster
Harry Teague
John Hall
Michael Arcuri
Larry Kissell
Earl Pomeroy
Steve Driehaus
Mary Jo Kilroy
Zack Space
Kathy Dahlkemper
Bryan Lentz
Patrick Murphy
Chris Carney
Paul Kanjorski
John Spratt
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
Roy Herron
Chet Edwards
Ciro Rodriguez
Glenn Nye
Tom Perriello
Denny Heck
Mike Oliviero
Julie Lassa
Steve Kagen
Steve Raby
Ami Bera
Joe Garcia
Trent Van Haaften
Stephene Ann Moore
John Callahan
Jon Hulburd
Jon Hurlburd
Stephen Pougnet
Lori Edwards
Ravi Sangisetty
Pat Miles
Tarryl Clark
Tom White
Matthew Zeller
Paula Brooks
Manan Trivedi
Brett Carter
Suzan Delbene
Colleen Hanabusa

Robert Dold
Cedric Richmond
Lisa Murkowski
Barbara Boxer
Michael Bennet
Alexi Giannoulias
Robin Carnahan
Paul Hodes
Lee Fisher
Joe Sestak
Harry Reid
Scott McAdams
Kendrick Meek
Charlie Crist
Jack Conway
Patty Murray
Russ Feingold
Richard Blumenthal
Joe Manchin
Chris Coons
Ron Wyden
Kirsten Gillibrand
Mike McMahon
Scott Murphy
Bill Owens
Heath Schuler
Charlie Wilson
Betty Sutton
Kurt Schrader
Mark Critz
Lincoln Davis
Rick Boucher
Gerry Connolly
Rick Larsen
Ann Kirkpatrick
Harry Mitchell
Jerry McNerney
John Salazar
Betsy Markey
Allen Boyd

Alan Grayson
Alan Grayson
Suzanne Kosmas
Jim Marshall
Debbie Halvorson
Bill Foster
Phil Hare
Baron Hill
Leonard Boswell
Frank Kratovil
Gary McDowell
Mark Schauer
Mike Ross
Dennis Cardoza
Christopher Murphy
John Barrow
Melissa Bean
Bruce Braley
Dave Loebsack
John Yarmuth
Chellie Pingree
Tim Walz
Russ Carnahan
Rush Holt
Carolyn McCarthy
Dan Maffei
Bob Etheridge
Mike McIntyre
David Wu
Jason Altmire
Tim Holden
David Cicilline
Jim Matheson
Ron Kind
Bobby Bright
Gabrielle Giffords
Jim Costa
Loretta Sanchez
Ed Perlmutter
Jim Himes
John Carney
Ron Klein
Sanford Bishop, Jr.
Walter Minnick
Joe Donnelly
Ben Chandler
Gary Peters
Ike Skelton
John Adler
Martin Heinrich

posted by Eric at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

A sorry state of affairs

Yesterday, President Barack Obama observed the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by issuing a call for tolerance. I'm all for tolerance, but I certainly hope he meant to include our "friends" the Saudis.

There's a very under reported news item about a Saudi defector -- a diplomat who has asked the United States for asylum. Reason? Saudi officials learned that he is gay and has a Jewish friend, so they have refused to renew his passport. If he is sent back to Saudi Arabia, he faces torture and death:

A ranking Saudi diplomat told NBC News that he has asked for political asylum in the United States, saying he fears for his life if he is forced to return to his native country.

The diplomat, Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, has informed U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials that Saudi officials have refused to renew his diplomatic passport and effectively terminated his job after discovering he was gay and was close friends with a Jewish woman.

In a recent letter that he posted on a Saudi website, Asseri angrily criticized his country's "backwardness" as well as the role of "militant imams" in Saudi society who have "defaced the tolerance of Islam." Perhaps most provocatively of all, he has threatened to expose what he describes as politically embarrassing information about members of the Saudi royal family living in luxury in the U.S.

If he is forced to go back to Saudi Arabia -- as Saudi officials are demanding -- Asseri says he could face political persecution and even death.

"My life is in a great danger here and if I go back to Saudi Arabia, they will kill me openly in broad daylight," Asseri said Saturday in an email to NBC.

They certainly will. As to which of his crimes is considered worse (being gay or being friends with a Jew), I don't know, but he has formally applied for asylum, and I find myself thinking about this in the context of the president's moral message yesterday:
"It was not a religion that attacked us that September day -- it was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion."
Sorry or not, it is being forgotten that the sorry band consisted of overwhelmingly Saudi men who believed they were acting in the name of the same sorry version of Islam which runs the sorry government that wants to torture and kill their own emissary to the United States.

His defection presents an excellent opportunity for the president to point out that tolerance is a two way street.

Little wonder the story is hardly being reported.

posted by Eric at 10:23 AM | Comments (5)

Another Defection

The American prosecutor who prosecuted a Canadian for exporting pot seeds to America has defected from the Drug War camp and has joined the legalization camp.

In a Seattle Times op-ed Saturday, former US Attorney for the Western District of Washington John McKay defected to the other side. As the federal prosecutor in Seattle, McKay oversaw the indictment and prosecution of Canadian marijuana seed seller and pot advocate Marc Emery, who now sits in an American federal detention facility awaiting the formal handing down of a five-year prison sentence later this month.

But while he thinks Emery and most pot-smokers are "idiots," McKay has come to see the futility of continuing to enforce marijuana prohibition. "As Emery's prosecutor and a former federal law-enforcement official, however, I'm not afraid to say out loud what most of my former colleagues know is true: Our marijuana policy is dangerous and wrong and should be changed through the legislative process to better protect the public safety," he wrote.

Marijuana prohibition "has utterly failed," McKay concluded. "The demand for marijuana in this country has for decades outpaced the ability of law enforcement to eliminate it," he declared, ready to throw in the towel.

Well what do you know. At least in so far as pot prosecutions go the War On Drugs is not improving public safety. In fact it has (according to McKay) worsened it.

Well it is a typical government program. It costs lots. Ruins lives. And produces results that are the opposite of its stated intentions.

The Drug War is just another bubble waiting to burst. I can't say when. The if is not in question.

This post was in part inspired by my friend Eric's look at the Demonization of Pot Users.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

The China Bubble

When it comes to China everyone who is even slighly familiar with their financial problems is waiting for the first shoe to drop.

Imagine that your local city and county controlled all land rights, and the only ownership a private builder or developer could secure was a long-term lease. Now imagine that 40% of the city and county's revenues come from the lease fees paid by developers. Next, imagine a giant real estate bubble has priced most residents out of the market, and that the local governments are reaping huge gains as the development rights and leases they sell are skyrocketing.

Can you say conflict of interest?

That's the Chinese real estate dynamic in a nutshell. Local governments have every incentive to push lease prices higher, further fueling China's real estate bubble, and zero incentive to build low-cost housing for the average citizen

Our problems in America stem from the opposite impulse. Getting low income people into houses. But the fundamental impulse is the same: government can distort markets in ways that will benefit the country. No it can't.

Here is another parallel to the current economic problems in the US.

"With access to almost unlimited no-cost credit from the state-controlled banking system," he wrote, "these behemoths have abused their financial clout and plunged headlong into the real estate market, snapping up high-priced land and investing in high-end residential housing units that now sit empty across the country."

Once you understand this dynamic, it's not difficult to see why China's housing bubble will end badly. Local governments are so heavily dependent on development fees and taxes for their revenues that any fallback in new development will spell catastrophe for city and regional government budgets.

Who will lose when the bubble inevitably deflates?

Residents will suffer because government services will have to be slashed as revenues from development fees collapse.

The Chinese investors who overpaid for grossly inflated luxury condos will suffer massive losses, developers dependent on a fast-rising bubble market will go bust, and somebody will end up covering the losses as bankrupt developers renege on their loans.

Since most of the loans came from government-owned banks, then that "somebody" will be the Chinese taxpayer. Sound familiar?

Yes it does. Here in the US we can name names. Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac. Barney Frank. Chris Dodd. And don't forget Senator ∅bama.

And then there is this effort by China to meet energy saving targets.

BEIJING (AP) - Chinese steel mills and mobile phone factories are being idled and thousands of homes in one area are doing without electricity as local governments order power cuts to meet energy-saving targets set by Beijing.

Rolling blackouts and enforced power cuts are affecting key industrial areas. The prosperous eastern city of Taizhou turned off street lights and ordered hotels and shopping malls to cut power use. In Anping County southwest of Beijing, an area known as China's wire-manufacturing capital, thousands of factories and homes have endured daylong blackouts over the past two weeks.

"We can't meet deadlines for some orders and will have to pay penalties," said Han Hongmai, general manager of Anping's Jintai Metal Wire Co. "At home we can't use the toilet" on blackout days due to lack of power for water pumps, he said.

While the U.S. and Europe struggle with flagging economies, the power outages are symptomatic of China's torrid growth and officials' capricious use of their powers to meet the authoritarian government's goals.

China's economic expansion, which hit 10.3 percent in the latest quarter, blew holes in government efforts to curb surging energy demand, pollution and emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Beijing told local leaders to clamp down and stepped up pressure by sending inspectors to see the order was carried out.

Curbing the production of plant food (AKA greenhouse gases) is an economy killer. Fortunately we live in a free country where Present ∅bama has promised to make the price of electrical energy skyrocket. Different method. Same result.

When the US has problems similar to the problems of a country run by Communist Dictators you know we are in a world of hurt. For the same reason. Central planning is an economy killer. We do have an advantage though. We can vote the bums out.

See you in November.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:05 AM | Comments (0)

Long Ago, It Must be, I Have the Photograph

I am a big fan of British fantasy writer Terry Pratchett and my favorite of his works is Night Watch. In it the main character goes back and meets his own younger self. There is a moment - over a political discussion when the older version of the character hears the younger give his opinions and thinks, "Was I ever that young?" and also that if there were something he could tell his younger self he wouldn't, because the younger self wouldn't "get" it. He had to go through years of experiences and kicks in the teeth, till the twerpitude of youth burned away and he became the older character.

I could say the same, looking back on my younger self. How brash, how foolish, and what strange opinions I held.

Only there's a hinge that divides the me then and the me now, and the hinge swings around 9/11/2001. There was a me before then. There is a me after then.

Continue reading "Long Ago, It Must be, I Have the Photograph"

posted by Sarah at 09:34 PM | Comments (9)

Klean kettle hates scorched pot!

M. Simon's post (as well as an earlier one) reminded me of a fascinating phenomenon, which is the profoundly irrational hatred of drug users by non-users. They often claim not to hate them, but that is belied by the plethora of snarky remarks like this:

Do you hate marijuana smokers like I do?

I hate pot smokers so much. I believe they should die a slow and painful death because they are killing themselves with an illegal drug and then make up silly lies about it curing different ailments and treating diseases. They disgust me to no end. Pot has been proven to cause cancer and brain damage and very little is done to rid the country of these ignorant sickos. I'm sure all you non-stoners would agree with me.

Now, I don't smoke pot, but it would never occur to me to hate anyone who does, and I don't understand this mindset. It reminds me of anti-gay bigotry, and while I have never understood that either, at least it can be argued that the people who hate homos are afraid that they might be propositioned in the shower or something. The fear of anal rape is at least based on something that could theoretically happen, but what the hell is a pot-smoker going to do? Offer you a joint?

Here's another one, titled, simply "I hate marijuana smokers":

I believe they are more deserving of jail time than any other type of criminal that exists. They represent the notion that breaking the law and destroying your health is okay. I'm sick and tired of the media portraying this extremely addictive and unhealthy vice in a positive light. I'm also fed up with constantly seeing so much support for legalizing yet another substance for people to **** themselves up with. Everyone that supports legalization of marijuana smokes the stuff. They want it legal just so they can **** themselves up without worrying about getting busted. If pot were legalized, more and more people would use it and the amount of health problems among the general population will increase. I blame pot smokers for everything wrong with America. They are a sick bunch that need to be done away with and all non-smokers of pot would agree with me.
I don't know how prevalent these sentiments are, but I find it amazing that anyone would care that much.

Surely it isn't because pot smokers are destroying themselves, for lots of people destroy themselves and are not hated for it.

Are fat people hated like this?

Even when someone is actively annoying me (and I hate being annoyed), if he is harming himself in the process, that tends to ameliorate whatever feelings of hate I might have. For example, there are plenty of young assholes who drive around blasting the neighborhood with the awful BOOM BOOM BA BOOM BOOM! bass sounds on over-amped car stereos. But I calm down when I remind myself that they are physically damaging their hearing and they'll be half deaf by the time they're middle aged. So, assuming that pot smokers were damaging their health, if I hated them for smoking pot, that would be mitigated by the knowledge that what they are doing delivers its own punishment. Like cigarette smoking, over eating, over drinking, over gambling, etc. Hating any of these people for what they do to themselves strikes me as a pointless waste of time.

A lot of people have self-destructive vices, but some vices seem to be hated more than others. I think the desire to imprison some people for some vices is so illogical that I often wonder whether it's based more on hatred than anything else.

Lest anyone think this is some sort of scolding sermon, please bear in mind that I am not seeking to condemn hatred (I happen to think hatred can be quite healthy, even beautiful) so much as to raise the question of whether it is there, and if so, why.

FWIW, I suspect that a major reason people hate drug users is that there's a basic human ecological niche for hatred, and there's a shortage of people whom it's still socially permissible to hate.

posted by Eric at 08:34 PM | Comments (9)

Grieving the death of a friend I never knew

I just learned that Dean Esmay lost a good friend. Her name was Dianne West, and while I'm sorry to say I never met her (because I heard so many good things about her from Dean), she lived right here in Ann Arbor, and when Dean would come to visit her we would get together. As she was not suffering from an immediately terminal condition, news of her death came as a shock to me.

I can't begin to imagine what a shock it was for Dean, whose beautiful words speak eloquently about what a wonderful friend she was to him (and obviously, what a wonderful person she was):

I will never again feel depressed and uncertain what to do, miserable and afraid for my kids or my future, and call to have her listen to me, and give me sound advice, and reassurance that I was doing the right thing-or warning me that I might not be doing the right thing, and tell me what maybe I should do instead. Or telling me what to look out for with an autistic child, what to expect, including how to expect the unexpected, and how to handle other people. How to deal with an older non-autistic teenager-she reminded me endlessly how badly he would need me in the coming years. She would endlessly remind me of what was important, and how important I was to both those kids and should never, ever, ever, ever give up in despair.

Or just have her tell me how happy she was to hear from me, and talk to me about... well, anything. We could talk about anything. Religion. History. Medicine. Politics. Raising children. Interesting food. Travel. Nature. Good books. What made the world an interesting place.

Dean is experiencing a gamut of emotions, like this honestly expressed reaction:
I feel very, very lonely. And as is the case sometimes, even though it's not right, I'm actually angry with her. Damn it Dianne, did you have to die NOW?!?
Speaking as someone who has been through the dying process far too many times, I feel obligated to point out that it is normal and healthy to feel that way, and we shouldn't be taught that it's abnormal and unhealthy. It is part of what grieving is all about, and it is very important to acknowledge and experience it.

And while Dean's post is very sad, it highlights something very important about the blogosphere, and the way people can connect. Dianne's last days were made happier because Dean got his other blog friends to help out:

Unable to leave, unable to afford to make many outgoing phone calls because of ridiculous hospital phone charges she couldn't afford. Stuck in a sub-acute care facility almost like a prison, because the hospital said she couldn't go home but didn't have room for her.

But I found out they had wifi, and members of this blog community helped me cobble together a laptop for her, and it got her back on Facebook and got her back to her email and she was able to contact her friends in the outside world and play her Facebook games, her Farmville and her fish tank and her virtual garden and such, and now I know-it made the last four months of her life less cold lonely and miserable, and I'm convinced probably extended her life. She had a purpose, she had connections, she could do research on things she needed to get done. The hospital charged insane phone rates, but she could email us, she could Facebook us, she could ask us to call and we could, or we could just send notes.

I think that's wonderful. Almost too wonderful for words, except there they are!

This stuff can now be shared. Total strangers can move us, we can help them, and when they die, we can honor them and grieve them in personal ways that were impossible in the days of three sentence funeral notices in the daily newspaper.

Right now, this whole experience is reminding me of a man I never met but came to love -- one of this blog's first and most famous commenters -- the legendary Steven Malcolm Anderson. He spent his time here and at Dean's World, and when he died suddenly, he was eulogized at both blogs. Countless other blogs noticed too. At the time Glenn Reynolds linked the Carnival of Tribute when a post about Steven was at the top) -- and keep in mind that Steven was a reclusive, quirky sort of guy who but for the love his comments engendered in the blogosphere would hardly have been known or remembered by anyone.

And now Dianne West has gone where Steven has gone.

One was a real friend even though I never met him, and the other is someone I heard about, never met, but feel as if I knew anyway. They won't be forgotten.

R.I.P. Dianne West

posted by Eric at 01:29 PM | Comments (1)

Lest we forget

While radical Islam has been at war with the United States for decades (at least since the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini in the 70s), today -- September 11, 2010 -- is the ninth anniversary of what was the single worst attack. The horrors of that day should never be forgotten, nor should it be forgotten that the war is ongoing.

Thanks to current government policies, it is now the war that dare not speak its name, lest we give offense to our enemies. (The war on terror can't even be called the war on terror; the official euphemism is now "overseas contingency operation.") Somehow, it is believed that what is not talked about will just go away, or at least be somewhere else. This is not a new idea; that head-in-the-sand policy was tried for years and it led directly to the attacks of 9/11. The idea was to finally get the attention of a country which had largely ignored attack after attack after attack, and boy did they ever. (I was listening to Howard Stern nine years ago, and when he suddenly screamed "This is World War III!" I realized he was deadly serious, and in that instant I knew that everything had changed.)

Howard Stern was right. It was -- and still is -- World War III.

The people who got our collective attention have never surrendered or signed an armistice. Nor have they agreed to downgrade their war to an "overseas contingency operation." They constantly regroup, and would love nothing more than to get our attention again with another, if possible much bigger and more dramatic, attack. The more determined we are to deny and to forget, the more determined they will become.

For those who like to think the war has somehow reverted to an overseas contingency operation, I suggest taking a look at the collection of posts that Glenn linked earlier.

It's a day we have to remember.

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

Interview With A Police Officer

This is an article I wrote some time back. About 2003 or so. Eric reminded me of it when he sent me a link to this article by another LEAP Officer. The themes explored are similar. Why do people take drugs. And what, if anything can be done about it.


I have been discussing the ramifications of the War On Drugs (WOD) with a Canadian police officer, John A. Gayder. He has started a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). It's most prominent American member is Sheriff Bill Masters of San Miguel County, Colorado who has been an elected Libertarian Sheriff since 1980.

John, tell me a little about your police career?

I am a currently serving Constable with the Niagara Parks Police Service in Niagara Falls, Canada. Having said that, I need to tell you right off that the opinions I express regarding drug policy reform are strictly my own! They may or may not reflect the official position of my employer.

The policing profession has always been a central part of my life. My late father was a career police officer who rose through the ranks to eventually become a Chief of Police. My sister was a police matron for a time. I grew up in a policing household. I was hired in June of 1989 and have almost exclusively worked uniform patrol, which I consider to be the best job in the whole field of policing. I am also a certified health and safety worker representative and am the services rope rescue team instructor and coordinator. A partial c.v. is viewable on the web.

What is your opinion on the war on drugs? What made you come to that conclusion?

The war on drugs is classic proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is a noble idea to not want people to ruin their lives through drug abuse. Unfortunately, the way society continues to go about achieving that aim via the WOD is not working. In fact it is making things worse. Almost everything we hate about drugs is a result of them being illegal.

I came to this conclusion via a lot of different evidence. I had seen people take drugs in public and high school and they didn't go nuts and start killing or raping folks. When I was about 8 yrs-old a very close family member of mine was arrested for international trafficking in narcotics. Naturally his actions were very unpopular within the family. It was a bad time - lots of anguish and embarrassment. Yet to me he was still someone who I loved unconditionally. I couldn't understand why he was in trouble for buying the oil of a plant. He hadn't hurt anybody or stole something. I had another relative who became addicted to FDA approved, Doctor prescribed happy pills that ruined her life - yet the Doctor worked out a full career and then retired to Miami. After I became a police officer, I saw more first hand examples that confirmed the laws weren't working.

What do you think about drugs being used as self medication?

This speaks to the heart of the very important question; why do people take drugs. The situation of people in chronic physical pain through injury or disease using drugs to relieve it speaks for itself and is a no brainer. We desperately need to stop interfering with these people. We are not helping them by arresting them.

The deeper question involves recreational drug use by seemingly otherwise healthy individuals. I'm no scientist, but I believe many people use drugs and alcohol to alleviate a whole host of what are widely referred to as anxiety problems. Whether the severity of these anxieties warrants drug use versus cognitive therapy, or better yet prevention, is a valid question. Another thing I wish I knew more about was whether or not these anxieties are part of a self-perpetuating cycle caused by drug addiction itself, or whether people are masking over a mental trauma or pathology. It may be a chicken or the egg scenario. I guess looking at it on a case by case basis would be the best approach, but our current response involves helping all the case subjects by arresting and then fining or imprisoning them. I wish there was more research in this area, although the point is kind of moot as far I am concerned& who the hell is society to tell people what they can or cant do to themselves, so long as they don't hurt others?

If you could say anything to all the children who have broken families due to non violent, drug related, law violating, what would you tell them?

Been there and done it. If its a case involving a hopeless addict who is unable to care for themselves and has sold everything in the house to buy drugs, I tell the kids that the person is ill. I tell them that their sickness has made them do crazy things. In some ways, that is the easiest situation to deal with.

The worse situation occurs when you are partnered with a gung-ho officer who insists on arresting a mom or dad in front of their children after he finds a small bit of marijuana or blow. What the hell can you say to a kid then? It is beyond hollow to tell them that their folks arent really bad people, its just that they've broken the law. What does that tell a kid about their parents? What does it tell them about the law? Its the police that are breaking the home up in that case. What a mess.

Tell a bit about LEAP. What is your member base?

We started up in March of 2002. We recruit current and former members of law enforcement who believe the current drug policies have failed in their intended goals of addressing the problems of crime, drug abuse, addiction, juvenile drug use, stopping the flow of illegal drugs and the internal sale and use of illegal drugs.

The mission of LEAP is:

(1) To educate the public, the media, and policy makers, to the failure of current drug policy by presenting a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug abuse and the crimes related to drug prohibition;

(2) To create a speakers bureau staffed with knowledgeable and articulate former drug-warriors who describe the impact of current drug policies on: police/community relations; the safety of law enforcement officers and suspects; police corruption and misconduct; and the financial and human costs associated with current drug policies;

(3) To restore the publics respect for law enforcement that has been diminished by its involvement in imposing drug prohibition;

(4) To reduce the multitude of harms resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition.

We went public with in July and in eight months have gained over three hundred members. LEAP has twenty-five speakers scattered among 15 states of the U.S., and in Canada Australia, Colombia, and England. Concerned citizens who have no law enforcement background have also joined us as Friends of LEAP. We have had little time to recruit members because our directors and speakers were immediately invited to speak at international drug policy conferences in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Italy, Mexico, Russia, and the United States. By the end of May 2003, we will have also conducted at least 82 speaking appearances at business, civic, benevolent, and religious organizations, as well as at universities and colleges.

What is the biggest obstacle preventing officers from changing their minds about the drug war?

Except for the most ardent drug warriors, a large percentage of officers will privately admit that the war on drugs is flop. Their minds don't need changing, they just need motivation and an outlet to do something about it enter LEAP.

For those who understand the failure of the WOD, there are a few factors at play that keeps them from admitting it publicly or doing anything about it.

Firstly, the policing profession is a paramilitary environment. There is a rank structure. Those wanting to climb the rank ladder require the approval of those above them on the ladder before they are allowed onto the next rung. Achieving and maintaining each position on the ladder is somewhat dependent upon toeing the line. (As an aside, I feel this requirement for conformity is a major, though hidden cause of work related stress for officers: knowing something is one way but having to say it is another is not good for your psycho-emotional health.)

Anyway, I guess the biggest obstacle to be overcome is to get officers to think about the consequences of the WOD in relation to the way it negatively affects their profession. Like Ben Franklin said, logic is often not the best persuader self interest is. Unconvinced officers need to see the harms to their image and profession that the inherently contrary nature of the WOD is creating.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:49 PM | Comments (1)

True Tea Party "Leanings" -- at last divined by top scientists!

Well, it's official. "Science" has weighed in on "the Tea Party"! (a site which bills itself as an "international scientific journal") has turned its "scientific" eyes on the Tea Party movement, which it sees as anti-science. Among the evidence for this, the scientific critics cite alleged "leanings":

The Tea Party's leanings encompass religious opposition to Darwinian evolution...
OK, I have been to at least six Tea Party rallies, and a number of meetings, and not once have I ever heard the word "evolution" or the name "Darwin" so much as mentioned. I did hear a debate about the importance of the abortion issue once, but even then the people present didn't seem to feel it was a Tea Party issue.

So where did the authors of this scientific screed find these "leanings"?

I find myself wondering whether they might have some leanings themselves.

posted by Eric at 12:24 PM | Comments (1)

No Varnish

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives the teachers union of his state a well deserved reaming.

I'd like to see a lot more politicians who can run the numbers. Refreshing.

Note to CV readers. I picked this up yesterday on my personal blog Power and Control and it appears that as of today it has gone viral. Roger Kimball has a few words on the subject.

posted by Simon at 11:28 AM | Comments (5)

More shutdowns, more fires

The dark humor in a previous post notwithstanding, it isn't my purpose to be running a conspiracy theory site here. However, I don't think that questioning the timing is quite the same thing, and I find the timing of a recent series of suspicious Detroit fires at least as suspicious as the fires themselves. The fires -- mostly still unsolved -- occurred on Tuesday evening:

About 85 fires ravaged city neighborhoods in a four-hour period Tuesday. Fire Commissioner James Mack said eight of the fires were related to downed power lines and two were attributed to arson, but investigations continue on most of the undetermined blazes.

A citizens group is calling for an investigation into the cause of the fires and plans to have a news conference on the issue at 11 a.m. today on Robinwood, a street where more than a dozen homes burned.

City officials are blaming wind and downed power lines:
During a press conference in his office Wednesday, Mayor Dave Bing defended the city's response to the 10 fires, which spread to 85 structures throughout the city, calling it the result of a "natural disaster." He was referring to the wind gusts of up to 50 mph and arid conditions Tuesday night. Downed power lines also contributed, he said.

Of the 66 Detroit Fire Department companies, eight were idle Tuesday because of budgetary constraints -- but Bing insisted that the reduced number of active companies did not play a role in the spread of the fires, eight of which were blamed on 62 downed power lines, with two others the result of suspected arsons. Illegal hookups to utility lines also may have contributed.

Idle? According to Rochelle Riley, eight fire companies were shut down:
Of the city's 66 fire companies, eight were shut down Tuesday because of budget cuts, according to news reports. And that happens regularly.


What will it take for the mayor and City Council to recognize a crisis? It is as if those elected to care aren't taking this seriously. Ten fires? 85 structures? Business as usual?

Bishop Edgar Vann, pastor of Second Ebenezer Church, dismissed the idea that this was a "natural disaster."

"It was Devil's Night all over again," Vann said.

When a string of arson-related fires hit Flint back in April, city officials speculated that they were deliberately set in political retaliation to firefighter layoffs. Whether they were or not, Flint an immediate influx of federal stimulus money to hire more firefighters.

In Detroit, there seems to be quite a hurry to call these fires a natural disaster, while calling for more money for firefighters.

I hope these fires are going to be thoroughly investigated, but If the Fire Department's investigations are as thorough as their firefighting, I'm skeptical.

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Acumen vs. Curriculum

Glenn has another post in a continuing series on the higher education bubble, this one asking if bypassing college might be a better deal.

My wife, as it happens, is an object example. She is an excellent Java programmer, beloved by IT directors and VPs everywhere she goes. She is also fluent in two languages and literate in a third. Her English vocabulary is in at least the 90th percentile despite it being her second language. She does not have a degree... but she does have around 12 years Java experience, and she never had to pay back a college loan.

In the Philippines, because the country is very poor, she started out being paid next to nothing by our standards (around $3,000 a year) for consulting work. Apparently their system is very much "sink or swim" -- those who can do the work are given raises and bonuses that can be around 40% of salary. Of course, once she was able to emigrate she was immediately able to almost double her pay again, despite our atrabilious job market (which is even worse in our area than the U.S. average).

The lesson here, I think, is that you can learn marketable skills without college. Now, if you're in a highly cartelized profession like law or medicine, it may not be a good choice to do so because the prestige of a college may have a large effect on your earnings. But for jobs that are more about technical skills and professionalism, the question of where you went to college is usually secondary to what you're capable of accomplishing.

(Oh, and yes, dating professional women is where it's at. Women who are intelligent and capable are far more interesting to be with. They just get it. Though I can see why nonprofessionals may find them intimidating or difficult to be with.)

posted by Dave at 10:24 AM | Comments (4)

Blow Job

An article on automatic pilots sent me to the above video. I was amused.

Just another bit to add to The History of Sex.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

Feisal Abdul Rauf, The Useful Idiots' Best Friend

If there was any lingering doubt that Rauf was playing for fools the fringe of Americans who have been shouting "bigotry!" at anyone who thinks building a victory dialogue mosque in the 9/11 debris is offensive, these last tidbits should now put those doubts to rest.

First, Rauf enthusiastically endorsed the Iranian Revolution... and hasn't walked back from that a bit.

Second, this apologist for Islamofascism is now saying we need to build this mosque because -- get this -- if we don't, the radicals will be upset.

As Ace points out, this fully exposes both the lie that Islam is no different than other religions and the mafia-like extortion tactics of some so-called Islamic "moderates." If the radicals are just a tiny, misguided minority of Islam that don't represent the Islamic faith, why are moderates telling us (a predominantly Christian country, mind you) that we need to appease them? Rauf seems to be essentially saying "Gee, nice country you've got there. It would be a shame if some radicals attacked it. Maybe you should build this mosque at Ground Zero, so there isn't another Ground Zero next year." Sure. Any other jizya we can pay while we're at it?

I really feel for the truly liberal Muslims out there, especially those that have spoken out against the GZM. They've got Christian idiots burning Korans on the one hand, and their fellow Muslims trying to build a mosque at the site of Islamic radicals' greatest modern atrocity on the other. Theirs is a narrow place, beset on all sides. All I can really tell them is: hey, turning the other cheek isn't always easy for us either, but stick with it and maybe you can lead Islam into the Enlightenment.

UPDATE: James Taranto agrees:

What was initially marketed as a gesture of conciliation has turned into a protection racket: Give Rauf what he wants, he tells us, or there's no telling what those angry Muslim extremists might do. Rauf's outrageous comments ought to erase all doubt that the construction of the Ground Zero mosque would be a victory for terrorism.
posted by Dave at 01:15 PM | Comments (8)

Just what we need -- invasive roadside saliva testing!

If a bill introduced in the state legislature passes, Michigan will become the first state to have roadside drug testing:

The legislation would authorize police to administer a roadside saliva test for illegal drug use, just as they do breath tests for alcohol, when they stop a driver suspected of being intoxicated.

State Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, a former Eaton County sheriff and sponsor of one of the bills in the package, said the tests are easy to administer, reliable and cost effective. The tests could largely replace costly and time-consuming procedures, often requiring search warrants and hospital-administered blood tests, Jones said.

The test kit under consideration for Michigan can detect drug use in six categories, including marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

There is a serious problem with this saliva testing technology. It does not determine whether someone is under the influence, or even whether someone has taken these drugs recently; only whether the metabolites for these substances are present in the saliva at the time of the test.

The metabolites are in the saliva for days (long after the substance was consumed, whether legally or not):

Detection in saliva tests begins almost immediately upon use of the following substances, and lasts for approximately the following times:

* Alcohol: 6-12 h[13]
* Marijuana and hashish (THC): 12-24 h[13]
* Cocaine (including crack): 1 day[13]
* Opiates: Up to 2-3 days
* Methamphetamine ("Tweak," "crank," "ice") and ecstasy (MDMA,) : Up to 5 to 13 days.
* Benzodiazepines: From time of ingestion up to 2 to 3 days
* Amphetamines 3 days[13]
* Phencyclidine (PCP) 3 days[14]

What this means is that while this test is a search, it is not a search to determine whether a driver is under the influence. It is a search for past drug use. Officers have no right to pull over drivers and search them for past drug use, because it is driving under the current influence of these drugs which is illegal. As they don't have probable cause to search for past drug use, any testing for past drug use would be unconstitutional. Whether these tests can be used as a job screening tool is another matter, but they simply are not designed to determine a current state of intoxication.

So, it is disingenuous to say that the tests are comparable to breath tests for alcohol, which determine whether a driver has been drinking recently. "Similar to tests for alcohol that have been given at roadside traffic stops for years" my ass! They are not similar at all.

They will not "replace costly and time-consuming procedures, often requiring search warrants and hospital-administered blood tests." Instead, they will result in lots of litigation. By, for example, the many motorists who take prescription painkillers, but are careful never to drive under the influence of them. Or people who might have smoked pot the previous day but didn't drive.

Driving under the influence means just that. The state has a right to determine whether someone is under the influence, but that is not a blank check to go on a fishing expedition into our bodily fluids.

It may sound paranoid, but you'd almost think the goal is to make invasive drug testing as routine a part of our daily lives as an ID check.

Naturally, this Orwellian bill is bipartisan.

MORE: Just saw this Drudge headline:

Database Dangers...
Factor in roadside drug testing, and they'll have an additional reason to go fishing through people's medical records.

You'd almost think we didn't have the Fourth Amendment. (Much less privacy.)

posted by Eric at 10:20 AM | Comments (2)

Tom Friedman, Useful Idiot To The World

Seriously, are there any benighted semi-despots out there Tom Friedman doesn't have a bromantic poli-crush on?

Some eight years ago, in February 2002, I interviewed then-Crown Prince-now-King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at his horse farm outside Riyadh. I shared with him a column I had written -- suggesting that the Arab League put forth a peace plan offering Israel full peace for full withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and Arab East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state -- when he feigned surprise and said: "Have you broken into my desk?" The Saudi leader said he was preparing the exact same plan and offered it up -- "full withdrawal from all the occupied territories, in accord with U.N. resolutions, including in Jerusalem, for full normalization of relations." He added: "I wanted to find a way to make clear to the Israeli people that the Arabs don't reject or despise them."

Yeah, I'm sure a fake peace deal will totally obscure the fact the Arab ruling class rarely misses a chance to make clear how much they despise Jews in general and Israel in particular. You know, like when they went to war with them. Three times. The Arab elites want to negotiate the destruction of Israel, nothing more or less, but they're more than happy to trot out these fake initiatives for the likes of Friedman to pant and drool over. Why not? It doesn't cost them anything, and the exercise gives them good PR with the gullible.

With the Cubans now apparently heading to the Chinese model, I expect Raul Castro will be the next authoritarian recipient of our modern day Duranty's wistful glances. "There's someone getting things done, unlike our messy constitutional republic with its obstructionist notions of rights and elections," he'll sigh and coo. It's really too bad he doesn't live in either country so we could chuckle when they respond to his global warming nonsense by eliminating the emissions from his palatial estate. I suppose despots are prettiest when admired from afar.

Anyways, I just want it on the record that many of us recognized Tom Friedman was a fool well before the China bubble burst.

posted by Dave at 09:46 PM | Comments (17)

Who wants the Tea Party to be a bunch of violent bigots?

The anti-Tea Party left are having a field day over the discovery that a violently anti-gay bigot was heading a Montana Tea Party group.

One of the favorite headlines is "Tea Party president jokes about murdering GLBTQ people." (Right. As if this clown is the president of the Tea Party itself!)

Then there's "Montana Tea Party Leader Endorses Violence Toward Gay People."

And to convince the recalcitrant few who have any doubts about those awful Tea Partiers, try "If you still think the Tea Party isn't a bunch of violent bigots...."

What's being downplayed in the haste to indict the entire Tea Party movement as a bunch of bigoted homophobes is the undeniable fact that the board of the Big Sky Tea Party in Montana voted to expel the bigot who joked about hanging gays as decorations. Moreover, they did so quickly:

Montana Human Rights Network organizers said they became aware of the Facebook posting on Friday after a couple of Montana political blogs reprinted the exchange. Organizer Kim Abbott said her organization immediately called for Ravndal's removal and for the Big Sky Tea Party Association to clarify its position.

Two days later, Ravndal was gone.

"We think that they moved swiftly, they condemned the anti-gay rhetoric," Abbott told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We're especially happy about the unequivocal statements that the tea party will not welcome this type of inflammatory, bigoted behavior into their party, and we hope they stick to it."

I think that's the real story, and speaks rather well for them. It also speaks well for the Tea Party movement, which (as I have noted before) has become a major target for infiltration by hard core anti-gay activists. Fueled by the kooks at WorldNetDaily, these people use the term "family values," "Christianity," and even "conservatism" as code language for their anti-gay bigotry, and they are fond of calling those who disagree with them RINOs. I think they're getting desperate, and I find myself wondering about the timing of all of this (which couldn't be better from the point of view of the Soros anti-Tea Party machine*).

I have been going to Tea Party meetings and events since July of 2009, and the vast majority of Tea Party people I have met -- whether organizers or rank-and-file members -- do not endorse anti-gay bigotry at all. (Parenthetically, this would make the Tea Partiers less bigoted than the Montana State GOP, which recently declared in its platform that homosexuality should be a crime in Montana. I think that by any reasonable standard, wanting to put gays in prison is anti-gay bigotry.)

Now, while Tea Partiers I have met have not been anti-gay, it is important to remember that the gay issue -- pro or con -- is not and never has never been a Tea Party issue. Yet seemingly of nowhere, it has recently erupted up with such intensity that I'm wondering about the timing. Might Glenn Beck's recent remarks about gay marriage have something to do with the present uproar?

As I keep saying, gay activists on the left and their dedicated anti-gay counterparts on the right have a common goal.

They want anti-gay bigotry on the right.

So, if that is the common goal, Beck's remarks must be a bitter disappointment.

Especially to poor old George Soros who has launched a major new effort to portray the Tea Party as a bunch of violent bigots.

* Soros's new anti-Tea Party website is prominently featuring this story with a huge headline at the top, of course.

posted by Eric at 07:35 PM | Comments (2)

Heroin Has Been Destroying America For 100 Years

A newspaper report out of Connecticut paints a dire picture of heroin use in America. The destruction of the country by these evil drugs is nearly complete. We have zombie Armies roaming the streets whose only motivation is drugs and death.

Painter also sees a misconception about heroin addiction, and the hysterical fears of a zombie army of junkies roaming the streets.

"The heroin addiction rate in this country is 1.3 percent and has remained steady for the past century," he says. "We are going to have heroin addicts no matter what we do. We are going to have alcoholics and nicotine addicts too and a lot of recreational use of these drugs. Finding drugs in urine is a violation of parole. We will never get rid of this scourge by sending people to prison for drugs in their urine. It's ridiculous. If they rob, OK, send them back. But so many people are in jail on technicalities, for dirty urine. What have we gained?"

Talk of the problems with drug sentencing eventually leads to the subject of prison policy. Brooks likes to cite the TV show "Lock Up" in which a squad does nothing but go through mail to find out how the drugs are getting inside the prison.

"If we can't keep drugs out of the most secure places in the country, how are we going to keep them off the streets? It is just unrealistic, a fantasy, to think that we can have a drug-free society," says Brooks, then adds, "The privatization of prisons is partly to blame. What's the best way to make a profit? By keeping the prison cells full. What's the best way to fill prison cells? Arrest and convict non-violent drug offenders, who will quietly serve their time."

Well OK. despite the fact that drug use is as bad as it has ever been (no worse than it has ever been?) there are no zombie armies in the streets looking for children to molest. In fact what has the spending on the drug war done about drug use? If heroin use is any guide - zilch. It is a typical government program. It costs a lot of money and accomplishes the opposite of what it pretends to accomplish - make drugs hard to get, increase public safety, protect children (is is easier for kids to get illegal drugs than legal beer). I'm really surprised that more conservatives don't have alternatives. If for no other reason than:


Government can't make economies (deep thought, that). It can break them. But according to my conservative friends government is the perfect tool for stamping out vice (harming one's self). I fear my so called conservative friends have bought into progressivism. "Government can.....". I've got news for you: No it can't.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:07 PM | Comments (5)

How like a dog can you get?

I'm a bit late to weigh in on the president's complaint that he's being talked about like a dog, but Glenn has a nice roundup of posts. The consensus is that the president plagiarized a Hendrix line, and that's received a lot of attention -- including from non-Hendrix-fan John Hinderaker.

I like Hendrix, and there is an obvious similarity of word choice but I don't think that ends the inquiry. As M. Simon was reminded of a Big Mama Thornton song, I suppose I have him to thank (or blame) for this flight-of-fancy post.

Music has a strange way of invoking mental associations, so the first thing Simon's Big Mama Thornton video reminded me of was not hound dogs, but the great John Lee Hooker. I made a beeline for YouTube, but alas! My favorite Hooker song ("We're All God's Chillun") was nowhere to be found.

"That's not fair!" I thought. So I had to create one. (Forgive the garbling at the beginning; my cheap-ass software doesn't convert low-bitrate mp3s to YouTube very well.)

Now, I realize that a song about how we're all God's children has nothing to do with the president's view that his critics are talking about him like a dog.

But is it really so bad to be talked about like a dog? One of my favorite topics in this blog is my dog Coco, and before that it was Puff. If I talked about the president like a dog, it would be in loving and always forgiving terms. So surely, the president cannot be including yours truly as among those who talk about him like a dog.

And what about those who talk about themselves as dogs in sympathetic terms?

Fabian's "Hound Dog Man" is a perfect example!

I think that if the president had some dog sense, he could adopt the Fabian song for propaganda purposes, and people might trust him more. What could be more heartwarming than a president who says "I wanna be your hound dog man"?

But what do I know? What the president said was "they talk about me like a dog."

Do they really? Is that strictly accurate?

To answer that, I think it is necessary to ascertain exactly how a dog talks about Obama.

Here's how one dog -- Mishka -- talks:

Surely where there's one, there are more.

I say, howl if you like Obama!

posted by Eric at 12:59 PM | Comments (2)

Start your own conspiracy theory -- in the privacy of your home!

George Soros is one of those people I absolutely cannot stand. IMO, there is no wicked deed, no sort of foulness, of which I would deem him incapable. Yesterday, I wondered out loud whether someone like him might consider funding the elimination of humanity by mad scientists using killer organisms:

...what would stop a rich billionaire from funding it; suppose someone normally considered a "philanthropist" like George Soros decided to embark on a kooky "philanthropic misanthropy" mission to save the planet from mankind?
Then today I read Roger L. Simon's piece about Soros and his declaration of war against the Tea Party movement, and I really got an earful. Soros was a traitor to his own fellow Hungarian Jews during World War II -- actually helping the Nazis loot them of their possessions. And he's not ashamed in the least. Breaking the Bank of England in 1992 was probably child's play for the guy. As a former protege of Karl Popper who turned socialist, Soros is arguably a traitor to the libertarianism as well. (I hope Hell has a special place for libertarians who become socialists....)

So as there isn't anything I don't think Soros is capable of, and as one of my worst fears is a presidential assassination by left wing operatives posing as right-wing nuts, I wondered whether any conspiracy minded crank had ever speculated about a possible Soros connection with such a despicable plan.

While I didn't find what I was looking for (other than the fact that Soros has expressed dissatisfaction with the president for not being left wing enough), my search was not a total disappointment in the conspiracy theory department.

I'm afraid that my blog posts have been boring lately (I've been distracted with some of life's realities), but there's nothing like a good conspiracy theory or two to liven things up. If you enjoy being entertained by utterly fantastic conspiracy theories, I suggest taking a look at a long screed titled "Bernard Madoff and George Soros Linked to Bush-Clinton-Cheney-Mossad-Gary Best "TRUE COLORS" Assassination Teams." (It is one of the most convoluted and fantastic conspiracy theories I have ever read, with great pictures and superb flow charts!)

I soon learned this same crack investigative outfit has uncovered a number of gay sex rings at the White House, apparently under the direction of the Mossad, which the media have been dutifully covering up.

Here are a few stories the media might be interesting in covering because it fits their modus operandi:

1. When will the media divulge that a secret White House video tape exists showing former illegal White House occupant George W. BushFRAUD engaged in hot homosexual sex with his lifelong lover, former Yale classmate and former Ambassador to Poland, Victor Ashe, and White House male prostitute Jeff Gannon?

2. When will the corrupt media divulge the 1990s state of Virginia Police report detailing former First Lady, now dysfunctional Secretary of State Hillary Rodenhurst Clinton's felony assault on a former U.S. Secret Service agent with a heavy glass ashtray after the Secret Service agent caught Hillary engaged in hot lesbian sex with former Clinton Administration era female White House prostitute "Susan"?

3. When will the corrupt media report why alleged President Barack Obama is being blackmailed? The answer is, of course, President Obama's previous homosexual affair with cocaine snorter Larry Sinclair and his association with current White House Chief of Staff, closet homosexual and Israeli Mossad agent Rahm Emanuel to noted gay bath houses in the Chicago area.

The reason these misfits in the American media do not want to address these stories is because at least half of them are closet homosexuals and lesbians all being financially compensated by the Israeli lobby AIPAC and simultaneously being blackmailed by the Israeli Mossad.

And if that's not enough for you, if you're in the mood you can create your own gay conspiracy theory in the privacy of you own home! The neat thing about this is that you don't have to be gay to do it! In fact, it works even better for happily married heterosexual couples.

All it takes is a little imagination, and this checklist of suspicious behaviors compiled in a handy marital assistance guide titled "Is My Husband Gay?"

Right now in America there are over 2 million couples secretly struggling with homosexuality in their marriages. Are you one of them? Are you having intimacy issues? Are you suspicious about your husband's late night activities? Or are you oblivious to a problem that could be putting your health and the livelihood of your family at risk? Don't tell yourself that you're simply being paranoid without taking a closer look!
Some of the symptoms may surprise you, and this is only a partial list.
late night use of cellphones and computers

lack of interest in spiritual issues

Overly fastidious about his appearance and the home

Gym membership but no interest in sports

Sassy, sarcastic and ironic around his friends

Love of pop culture

going shirtless in the back yard or at picnics when other men are around

heavy drinking

These are just a few of the suspicious symptoms. I would suggest reading the whole piece and then connect the dots until you have created your very own household homosexual conspiracy theory.

My only complaint about the above is that they left out the most suspicious and telling symptom of them all: does he deny being gay? Because, as anyone conspiracy buff will tell you, denial proves the truth of any conspiracy theory!

In light of Soros, though, having fun with conspiracy theories might seem like an exercise in frivolity. After all, who needs conspiracy theories when you've got a living, breathing, conspiracy?

Compared to him, the most sordid sex scandals look like a 1950s Disney flick.

posted by Eric at 07:24 PM | Comments (4)

A higher standard for those who don't need it

Among many of life's seemingly minor petty annoyances is the disparate treatment meted out by the City of Ann Arbor's garbage collection unit. Whether they enforce the rules depends on trashiness of the residents, and their willingness to comply with the rules.

Now, you might assume that they would be harder on the trashier and less rule-abiding people, but this is not the case.

In my neighborhood, homeowners who live in their own homes are expected to follow the rules. A violation (typically having too much trash so the lid won't close or not putting the refuse cart in the street so it can be picked up by the trucks automatic grabbing arm) will earn a refusal of service with a sticker placed on the cart spelling out the "violation." Ditto recycling violations. Homeowners quickly learn that if they are not neat and rule-following, their trash will not get picked up.

However, where it comes to tenants occupying rentals, the situation is very different. Typically, these are students (often five or more males sharing a rented house), and they could care less about neatness, recycling, or complying with rules. They routinely put their carts in the wrong place and they are often overflowing to the point that the top won't close at all. But if the place has that trashy, non-law-abiding look, then noncompliance with the rules is no problem. The refuse takers will get out of the truck, move the cart to where it belongs (on the curb in the street with three feet of space around it), and they completely ignore it if the cart is so overflowing that the top won't close. It's as if they have an intuitive sense for which households can be expected to follow the rules and for which households following rules is a complete joke and a lost cause. In a way, I can understand this, because if they enforced the rules against trashy student renters the way they do against neater homeowners, the trash would just stay there because the students don't care. More would be thrown on the pile or on the ground, and I guess someone would eventually have to issue a citation to the landlord. Obviously, that's a lot of hassle, so the unwritten rule is that if the tenants are slobs, they get cut plenty of slack.

This is such a minor annoyance that it wouldn't be worth a post except that it touches on a larger issue, which is that laws are not only for the law-abiding, but they increasingly tend to be enforced only against the law abiding. If a homeless man takes a leak in the park, he will not be cited, but if a guy wearing a suit took a leak in the park and the cops saw it, they'd nail him. I can understand why; the latter is more likely to have ID, to show up in court, to pay the fine, and much less likely to give lice and bedbugs to the arresting officer. I have to say that if I were the officer, I would feel the same way. And who is more likely to have Child Protective Services called on her for, say, whacking her disobedient brat? A trashy welfare mom or a nice middle class working woman? I think the answer is obvious. And of course, the most frequent violators of the recycling laws are the homeless types who make a living basically stealing from the City the cans and bottles for their ten cent deposits, which are of course loaded into their stolen supermarket shopping carts. Not once have I seen one of them cited. (If an annoyed citizen complained to a cop about this, he would do nothing except maybe roll his eyes over the citizen's cluelessness while giving him a lecture about "police priorities.")

Need I mention littering? The few trashy people who litter (I mean the true littering classes who routinely throw garbage and diapers wherever they want and create 90% of the litter) are the very last who would get cited. That's because littering is what they do, so the laws aren't meant for them.

The worst offenders have become an exempt class.

Philosophically though, why should the laws (which are supposed to be the same laws for everyone) have more of a tendency to be enforced against people who are more law abiding? Aren't they in less need of the laws?

So instead of singling out the generally law-abiding classes, wouldn't it be better in the long run to treat everyone the same way?

MORE: To illustrate, I just photographed the carts placed in front of a typical student rental around the corner from me for collection.


Carts are supposed to be at the curb three feet apart, with lids closed all the way. If my trash looked like the above picture, it would not have been collected.

Hell, I might have even been cited for obstructing the sidewalk.

These kids make me feel like an old chump!

posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (5)

A Hound Dog

I thought I'd add a little to the dog treatment the Present is currently complaining about.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:18 PM | Comments (1)

Fraudulent Facebook "settings" I never created and cannot delete

Quick question for anyone who understands Facebook better than I do. (Which is probably most people, as it still baffles me.)

Earlier when I went to my Facebook homepage, I saw that someone using my name had posted the following phony endorsement -- as me!

Eric Scheie

I thought this survey stuff was BULL** but i swear I just used the Best Buy giftcard they sent me here to buy a laptop!

28 minutes ago via Mobile Web • Comment • Like

Thinking someone must have hacked my account, I deleted the fraudulent post and changed my password. But I don't have Facebook Mobile Web and never signed up for it. When I went to my account settings, it urged me to "Activate a Phone." I never did and I never would. So how on earth has someone posted to my FB account using a service I never activated?

Moreover, when I clicked on the settings I saw this:

Upload via Email
Use a personalized upload email to post status updates or send photos and videos straight to your profile. Your personal email is:
Send my upload email to me now
Find out more
[There is an email address showing, but I deleted it from this post.] Why would I have a personal email when I never signed up for one? Naturally, I can't delete that, because when I click on this settings button it shows I don't have an account. This goes in circles, and there seems to be no way to fix it.

And of course, there is no way to report this or contact Facebook.

I'm beginning to lose patience with Facebook.

Wish I could sic Coco on 'em.


MORE: The link to the laptop that "I" supposedly posted --

is of course bogus.

Spam is bad enough, and I hate to get it. But do I have to post it, against my will?

UPDATE: I went through Facebook's account recovery process twice, and now another version of that same spam has somehow been posted. The new one reads as follows:

Eric Scheie I thought this survey stuff was BULL** but i swear I just used the Best Buy giftcard they sent me here to buy a laptop!

17 minutes ago via Mobile Web • Comment • LikeUnlike • UnsubscribeSubscribe • View Feedback (2)Hide Feedback (2)
Frankly, I don't think my account was hacked at all. I think the Facebook system has been. I suspect that whoever is doing this has figured out a way to post in my name without ever logging into my account.

MORE: It gets worse. One of my Facebook friends just gave me this lovely news:

"Hey Eric, Its not just posted on here it sent me a private message too saying to check out apps I know you would never go to or send... Just wanted to let you know it was sent to me and a bunch of others."
And I suppose it (whatever "it" is) will just keep doing that.

I'm beginning to think that Facebook sucks.

AND MORE: Dave just sent me a link to a site which explains that the spammers have figured out how to use (the portal designed for mobile users) to send their spam:

code has been published on more than one site that uses the Facebook mobile portal to push status updates to a facebook profile.
Great. They did this both before and after I changed my bleeping password -- which means the password had nothing to do with it.

I don't use "Mobile Web," and never have. But obviously, someone has figured out how to use it and make it look like I did. Naturally, there is no way to deactivate a "Mobile Web" account I do not have. Typical.

posted by Eric at 03:22 PM | Comments (6)

Since when have mass extinctions saved this planet?

In a piece in the Washington Examiner, Glenn Reynolds looks at a very scary doomsday scenario -- mass annihilation of humanity by violent scientific nuts. Glenn notes that so far, radical environmentalists have only committed "regular" acts of terrorism, but worries about scientific nuts crossing the line:

Holdren has since distanced himself from these views, but still. Lee was a violent nut, but not a scientist. Holdren is a scientist (who held nutty views, at least at one point) but he's not a violent nut.

But here's what worries me: What if we get the two in combination?

There are plenty of nuts out there. There are also a lot of scientists.

So far, we've been pretty lucky that there aren't more scientists who are also nuts. Though the "mad scientist" is a staple of literature, they're fortunately pretty rare in real life.

But biotechnology is getting more common and -- thanks to folks ranging from Paul Ehrlich (Holdren's coauthor) to Al Gore -- so are apocalyptic environmental views that treat humans as a cancer upon the earth.


With such views spreading, and with technology making it steadily easier for individual or small groups to try creating their own viruses or diseases to, in their mind, level the score, perhaps we need to hold the environmental movement responsible for its frequent use of eliminationist rhetoric.

(I'm all for that; yanking Al Gore's Nobel Prize might be a good start.)

Unfortunately, there already are scientists who fall into the nut category, and some who fall into what I would call the dangerous nut category. While none of them has yet put into practice what he preaches, that is hardly reassuring, because their existence is a warning sign that a scientifically engineered mass human holocaust may well be in the offing.

Four years ago, I wrote about professor Eric Pianka and his bizarre -- yet in his view scientifically reasonable -- ideas about saving the planet. He has stated that "Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Roaston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people,", and in a lecture before the Texas Academy of Science, this "world-renowned ecologist, advocated for the extermination of 90 percent of the human species in a most horrible and painful manner."

I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola.
The point here is not so much whether Ebola is the best mass killing agent; as Glenn put it, technology is making it "steadily easier for individual or small groups to try creating their own viruses or diseases to, in their mind, level the score."

In Pianka's mind, any virus or disease agent would do provided it is efficient, because leveling the score is what it's all about:

One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, "What good are you?"

Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, "We're no better than bacteria!"

Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it's too late.

Well, if we're no better than bacteria, that would presumably mean Pianka is no better than E. Coli. (He is certainly more dangerous to humanity, because by his own admission, he is a sworn enemy of humanity.)

Ebola to him is a favorite simply because of its efficiency:

AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs.

After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, "We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that."

Suppose a suicidal environmentalist nut like James Lee were willing to carry out such a program?
Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping former student might someday become a professional biologist or physician with access to the most deadly strains of viruses and bacteria? I believe that airborne Ebola is unlikely to threaten the world outside of Central Africa. But scientists have regenerated the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed 50 million people. There is concern that small pox might someday return. And what other terrible plagues are waiting out there in the natural world to cross the species barrier and to which scientists will one day have access?
Considering the standing ovation and cheers that Pianka received from young future scientists, its inevitable that among them are people who would eagerly encourage and cheer on the prospect of mass genocide by means of a genetically engineered super killer.

It is beyond dispute that such people are the common enemy of humanity. There are few of them, and a lot of us. But how do we stop them before they stop us?

It has long struck me that the biggest problem with the thinking of many environmentalists is the view that humanity is not -- or should not be -- a legitimate part of the environment. This illogical, irrational hatred of humanity is probably grounded in self hatred.

I agree with Glenn that radical environmentalists who spout eliminationist rhetoric should be condemned the same way that Holocaust advocates are condemned. The less legitimate they are, the less likely they are to work their way into positions of trust in the sciences. But that's not going to stop the availability of the technology. If a student can create morphine-producing yeast (which they have -- a development I think is ultimately for the good), then what's to stop a student from using similar technology for a genocidal purpose?

And what would stop a rich billionaire from funding it; suppose someone normally considered a "philanthropist" like George Soros decided to embark on a kooky "philanthropic misanthropy" mission to save the planet from mankind?

We can only hope that the same technology which would be used to destroy us to save the planet could be quickly harnessed as counter-technology to destroy the destroyer. If not, we might also hope that the same thing would give them pause that makes many a would be suicide bomber wimp out.

You know, the simple goal of wanting to live?

I think someone ought to be keeping an eye on the radical environmentalists who don't want to live...

What I would really like to understand is why this planet is so infinitely better than the species that happens to dominate it right now that the former must be "saved" at the expense of the latter.

It strikes me as a highly judgmental, earth-centric, and naively moralistic view -- the childishly simplistic essence of which boils down to this:

Earth good, man evil!

Can anyone explain how that passes for science?

Come on, where's the scorn and ridicule?

Where are all the usual skeptics? Are they asleep?

(You'd almost think they'd been intimidated by terrorists....)

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

Your comments are appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 11:56 AM | Comments (32)

A Deficit Of Understanding

Paul Krugman argues:

What's less well known is the extent to which the public drew the wrong conclusions from the recession that followed: far from calling for a resumption of New Deal programs, voters lost faith in fiscal expansion.

Having just finished Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man this weekend, I can say that while their attitude may confuse Krugman in 2010, Americans in 1937-8 had seen fiscal expansion's failure first-hand. Unemployment was still in the teens, compared to 3% in 1927, and the Dow was still far below where it had been ten years earlier. Over the 1930s GDP per capita had gone from being a third higher than Great Britain's to roughly equal (the Economist blamed "institutional obstructions to the free flow of capital"). The undistributed profits tax was stifling investment, FDR was outlawing holding companies (saying he wanted a "death sentence" for them), and the TVA was deliberately driving private competitors out of business. Even Keynes had written to FDR complaining the government's hand was too heavy.

Meanwhile, the Russian economic triumph FDR's programs were modelled on had begun to take on a very bad odor -- Stalin's paranoid, barbaric show trials of Russian heroes he perceived as threats to his rule were upsetting even his supporters in America. And the planners in Germany and Italy were turning out to be even worse.

Government spending had not even brought the economy back to pre-Depression levels, let alone delivered the economic growth proponents had promised, and everyone could see the ugliness unrestrained government was capable of. The mystery is that anyone alive in 1938 thought yet more government was the answer.

The other argument Krugman makes is that WW II was a giant fiscal stimulus that produced prosperity, and therefore another one today will do the same. To the extent this is true of the war effort, though, all that extra GDP really "produced" was death and destruction in Europe, financed by war bonds that would not have been sold in normal circumstances. This is truly the broken windows fallacy writ large -- the overall effect of the war spending was to devastate the world economy out of all proportion to any benefit to the United States. Does anyone really doubt we'd have been better off overall if WWII had never happened?

While Krugman argues the war "boom" created long-term prosperity, it's much more likely the economy was finally experiencing a natural, long-delayed rebound as the onerous yoke of FDR's experiments was gradually eased, the economy reflated due to capital flight from Europe, trade resumed under the Bretton Woods agreement, and businesses went back to creating productivity improvements and innovative products and services.

If there's one lesson to be learned from the 20th century it's that you cannot centrally plan long-term prosperity. Massive government intervention can sometimes produce illusory short-term growth in GDP, but only at the cost of creating inefficiencies and misallocating resources in ways that willl hinder long-term growth.

posted by Dave at 10:59 AM | Comments (4)

Personal Preference vs. Economic Activity

John Derbyshire in a critique of the Glenn Beck Million Christian March (Well really Restoring Honor Rally - but...) mentions a few things about "conservatives" he doesn't like (I agree with his list - mostly). This is one of my biggest pet peeves:

the infantile narcissism of believing that all life's ills have a remedy in law
Ya know Derb? I have this problem with "conservatives" all the time. They have as much faith in the power of the state as the socialists do. They just want to use it for different purposes. You know how it goes with them "well surely the state can't create economic utopia, but it can cure vice."

Except vice is when you do something bad to yourself. Well assign a policeman to every house, street, and place of business. And they need not be regular police - secret police will do. Or as we prefer in the US - undercover cops and informants. That will stamp out vice. Unless the informants and undercover cops are on the take. Which they are in any well established system.

There are some things about human nature that can't be fixed at the point of a gun. Economic activity and personal preferences are the big two. The best that can be hoped for is reasonable regulation (which is to say regulations that >99% will follow with no enforcement). Generally these days in America we have a Personal Preferences Party and an Economic Activity Party. Each side does its ratcheting against the other side and very little deratcheting is going on.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

Not That It Matters, I'm Just Saying

Isn't this more or less an act of war?

posted by Dave at 02:03 PM | Comments (3)

What about my right to a state fair?

I was somewhat saddened to read that a 160 year old Michigan tradition has ended -- without my ever having seen it.

I refer to the Michigan State Fair. Having recently fallen victim to Governor Jennifer Granholm's budget cuts, it is to be no more:

DETROIT - Rabbit breeder Rob Usakowski typically spends the week before Labor Day helping his daughters show their Jersey Woolies and Holland Lops at the Michigan State Fair.

This year, he and his family are home after Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm canceled the fair, saying debt-ridden Michigan could no longer afford to subsidize it. Granholm's decision makes Michigan the only Midwestern state and one of few nationwide without a state fair.

The Michigan State Fair had been a state tradition for 160 years and held at Eight Mile and Woodward, within Detroit city limits, since 1905. But the fair had been running deficits and needed $360,000 from the state in 2008 to cover losses. Fewer than 220,000 people passed through last year. At its peak in 1966, the fair drew 1 million.

Well, I guess if people aren't going, few will cry if they eliminate it. One of the problems with government-owned land (and the State Fairgrounds complex includes historic buildings like Ulysses S. Grant's home), though, is that there are maintenance costs. Advocates for some sort of state fair have pointed out that the money saved is inconsequential. Here's a proposal to "get real" (although I should add that "getting real" is outlandish considering that this is Detroit):
Let's get real. The State contributes a whopping $300,000 to $500,000 a year for this event that is a family affair for thousands. Did you read the number right- 300 to 500 thousand. Not millions, not billions- just thousands. Heck, as one person blogged, that's chump change for the State budget that is in the billions.

Many think the Fair should be self-sufficient. I couldn't agree more, and believe it could be if located in Lansing or basically anywhere else but Detroit. Let's face it, the Fairgrounds are old and in ill-repair. And the location- one of the worst in Detroit limits the number of out-state people who will pay to visit the fairgrounds.

I think Jenny G and all those other people we pay to look over our tax money ought to consider a new location. They should appoint a state fair czar and give him three years to make it self-sufficient. Now I know that's been done in the past- but that was expected at the current location, and Bill Gates, himself, couldn't make that situation profitable.

Now it would be somewhat, gutsy, because Detroit lawmakers will scream bloody murder. Don't you dare take our State Fair from Detroit, they will say. But let's face it, no one- and I mean no one, has been able to make that parcel of property work. It's in a terrible location and the buildings are ready to crumble. Like its surrounding, its an urban wasteland that needs to be demolished. In its place maybe Walmart or Meijer would build an inner city store.

I think the area might be a poor choice for a Walmart or a Meijers, though. (Detroit's lawmakers, BTW, had a chance for a NASCAR racetrack at the fairgrounds some years ago, which of course they filed a lawsuit to stop. These days, even a Metropark looks impossible.)

In a New York Times piece discussing the future of the fair last year, "development" was mentioned. So was "the value of the property."

Ms. Boyd said that while Ms. Granholm was open to private efforts to continue the fair, she also recognized the value of the property on which it is located -- a 164-acre site along Woodward Avenue near Detroit's northern border, where the fair has been held since 1905. "It's property that could be developed to create jobs in southeast Michigan," Ms. Boyd said.
I continue to be fascinated by Detroit real estate values, which simply cannot be beaten. Seriously.

Take a brief look at some of the Detroit properties listed here. They start at $1000, and yes, that buys a fully functional house, into which anyone could legally move.

I found a three bedroom colonial brick home almost next to the fairground:

Nice 3Bedroom 1Bathroom 2 Story Colonial Brick Home. Hardwood floors. Fireplace in livingroom. Would make a Great Investment.

Contact Owner for additional Information

Asking $2,000

Where else can you get a nice brick house for $2000? That could easily be the cost of one month's rent for a similar place here in Ann Arbor.

And because the fairground neighborhood is rapidly disappearing, it would almost be like living in the country!

The State Fair neighborhood has all sorts of different, unique pockets, but the common characteristic of the area remains the eerie, spreading countryside that replaced what was long ago a stable residential neighborhood, where people could walk to stores and restaurants and churches in safety and comfort.

Today, the neighborhood is post-apocalyptic, having passed through the worst standard stages of neighborhood decline: falling housing values, longtime residents moving to the suburbs, crumbling properties converted to rentals, a growth of criminal activity, abandonment by anyone who can afford to leave, and finally the disappearance of the houses themselves.

Now it's the realm of crickets and meadows, where besides the dope dealers, the hookers, and the walking dead ambling past empty fields, are regular but poor people who have to live surrounded by decay and misery, in a neighborhood most others are too scared to drive through, surrounded by grinding poverty and the dregs of society, the only world they know, utterly unaware that a normal, safe neighborhood once stood here but was wiped off the face of the earth.

While I can't promise that Meijers or Walmart will open up next door, if you're well armed and have a few pit bulls or something, and possessed of that pioneer spirit our ancestors had, it's like getting something for nothing.

Lest anyone think that the end of the Michigan State Fair spells doom for state fairdom, the article points out that other state fairs are doing better, and some are turning a profit:

The 11-day Iowa State Fair drew about 970,000 this year. Along with typical fair fare, including 4-H livestock judging, a cow sculpted from butter, and chicken and husband calling contests, it had a musical lineup led by country music star Keith Urban and pop singer Sheryl Crow.
I seem to remember that there might have been some sort of trouble at the Iowa State Fair which was covered up.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: The Iowa State Fair coverup continues full bore, and a police spokesman has found herself "reassigned" simply for admitting to the possibility that what her officers had heard the attackers describe as "beat whitey night" might have had "racial overtones." I guess the "National Conversation" demands zero tolerance for such talk.

I have no idea whether similar problems might have been anticipated here, much less whether that factored into the decision to kill the fair. Unlike the Iowa fair, the one in Detroit didn't draw big name acts:

In contrast, the Michigan fair's top entertainers last year were the aging rockers in Starship and Survivor, along with Billy Squier. Several little-known country acts also performed.

"The Michigan State Fair being canceled, that's just tragic," said Jerry Hammer, general manager of the Minnesota State Fair.

He thought one problem was the fair's reliance on state subsidies because when those ended, the fair essentially collapsed.

"We don't have any government support here, and that is critical to our success," he said.

The Minnesota State Agricultural Society controls the fairgrounds in Minneapolis, approves the $36 million budget, sets rates and raises money for the event. Last year, the fair drew 1.79 million people and made $1.5 million in profit.

Imagine not having any government support being critical to success! I'm surprised that worked its way into the piece.

But what seems to be getting no mention at all in the write-ups lamenting the loss of the official State Fair is that there is a very successful alternative in the form of the Upper Peninsula State Fair -- now billed as "Michigan's Only State Fair." Like the fair in Detroit, the Escanaba fair in the north also faced the budget axe, but local citizens and businesses raced to the rescue and it was saved:

Thankfully for fans of the fair, and the businesses in Escanaba and surrounding Delta County, it wasn't news that was taken lying down. The U.P. State Fair Authority worked since Oct. 1, 2009 to secure the funding and the sponsorship needed to ensure the fair came back to the area. Thanks to that tireless work, Escanaba can proudly boast this year that it is playing host to Michigan's one and only state fair.

There are a slew of events -- like every year that has come and gone before -- for fairgoers to enjoy. Of those are the notable Kenyan Safari Acrobats as well as the Whispering Pines Animal Kingdom, which features exotic animals. Of course, there will also be the Upper Peninsula International Raceway Triple Crown Race, an Antique Gas and Steam Engine Village and the Miracle of Life exhibit.

It's nice to know that state fairs can survive if they can escape from the government.

Government bureaucrats are too inefficient to run important and complex industries like state fairs.

They should stick to running simple industries like the health care system, and then we would all be safe.

posted by Eric at 10:18 AM | Comments (4)

Saudi savagery paid for by "betas" at the gas pump

News reports about the beheading threat against Geert Wilders caused me to Google the man who called for the beheading, one Sheikh Feiz Muhammad. There's an in-depth profile of him here. He's considered the most dangerous sheikh in Australia:

Here, we profile Feiz Muhammad (a.k.a. Feiz Mohammad, Sheik Feiz), an Australian citizen now residing in Malaysia, who has been labeled Australia's "most dangerous sheikh" due to the number of connections he has to known and suspected terrorists.1

Muhammad's target audience is young Muslims worldwide who feel disaffected and disassociated from local Muslim communities, where mosque clerics show "a lack of interest toward the youth."2 His lectures frame the United States as the enemy of all Muslims, including those living in the United States and in other Western countries. He emphasizes that Muslims should regard Western culture as corrupt and immoral, and Muslims should not associate with non-Muslims.

Which means that Muslims who share his views are sworn enemies to be combated, right? Or has the war been called off unilaterally by their number one enemy?

As to where this disgusting specimen of human savagery got his "religious education," look no further than the petrodollars generated by your own gas tank. Yup, Saudi Arabia:

Feiz Muhammad's parents emigrated from Lebanon to Sydney, Australia, where Muhammad was born in 1970.3 On his web site, he describes his family as being "so-called" Muslim, and wrote that while growing up he "never placed any effort in understanding the deen of truth due to the negative influences that surrounded him."4 He participated in boxing and bodybuilding at a competitive level, and trained horses professionally.5 After a troubled adolescence that included the use of drugs and heavy drinking,6 Muhammad became serious about Islam. At the approximate age of 19, Muhammad went to Saudi Arabia where he spent two years studying Arabic, and subsequently, he attended the University of Medina to study Islamic law for four years.
By that time, he was a full-fledged jihadi, ready to condemn everyone who disagrees as heretical. Like your average garden-variety bully, he switches seamlessly into being the victim:
Currently, Muhammad is living in Malaysia where he is reportedly working toward earning his doctorate in Islamic law. He also teaches at "various places in Malaysia, and also on the Internet."11 According to Muhammad's YouTube channel, he lectures every other week at the Al-Khadeem Centre in Sg Kayu Ara, Malaysia.12

In a 2007 interview with The Australian, Muhammad said that he was reluctant to return to Australia because he felt that Muslims were treated with suspicion there. "I can't walk through the airport without hundreds of eyes on me. They are like foxes trying to eat sheep."13

Aww, the poor little lamb!

His views are typical Saudi Salafist fare. Muslims who disagree are not even considered Muslims, but apostates.

Feiz Muhammad is a Salafi jihadi and refers to Muslims who are not Sunni, as well as those who do not practice the faith according to the strictest interpretation, as apostates. For example, in a series of talks that can be found on YouTube titled "The Deviant Sects," Muhammad rails against the Shia, calling them "kuffar" because they give their leaders "divine attributes of absolute infallibility."17
And we know what the penalty for apostasy is, don't we?

Americans are, he claims, causing Muslims to have diseased thoughts:

"Those American pigs, the Zionists. . .they are also attacking in a secret, subtle way . . . The ideological attack is more devastating than military warfare. The eventual outcome will be that Muslims will be diseased in their thoughts." "He will want to wear a Yankee shirt! . . . We will love what they want you to love." "They [Americans] are evil. . . We've given allegiance to the non-Muslims by befriending them. . .They are evildoers." "What happens when you become loyal to the kuffar? Our further destruction."
And of course women are to be kept down, while homosexuals must be executed.
In another lecture titled "Ruling on Mixed Colleges/Universities", Muhammad states that if a man allows his wife to attend a university in which there are co-ed classrooms then he is a cuckold.
Interesting definition of "cuckold," which I always thought involved physical impregnation. But the comment makes me wonder whether he and his idiotic followers fancy themselves to be some sort of "alpha males."
In a lecture simply titled "Homosexuals", Muhammad stated that if Islamic law were to be implemented then homosexuals would be killed. However, because "we live in the West we can only warn against his homosexuality; the worst, disgusting, scummy, dirty, filthy, abominated, act on the face of this earth."24
That's funny, because I was having similar thoughts about Salafism. I mean, even if you think homosexual acts are gross, I think most reasonable people would agree that it is scummier to behead people than to give head to people.

Among those his teachings have helped inspire have been "Duane Reasoner who was Major Nidal Hasan's protege from his Killeen, Texas mosque," and Rabiah Hutchinson, aka "Australia's 'Jihad Jane.'"

Moreover, he is said to have a following in the United States:

Feiz Muhammad has a large following of young Muslims worldwide, including in the United States. His speaking style is engaging and persuasive, and, although he is not as well-known as Anwar al Awlaki, Ali al Tamimi, or Abdullah al Faisal, his lectures are often featured with theirs on radical Islamist web sites.
I'd like to think that the FBI is keeping tabs on such followers. But I have repeatedly worried that the people who are charged with going after these guys are instead having fun conducting psychological experiments:
I'm wondering whether the terrorists who want to kill Americans are regarded as the Alphas, by the social experimenters who regard the rest of us as Betas.

Look, I'm not into being a macho male or any of that stuff, but it just bothers me to think that these guys are seeing us as total wimps. And laughing.

If that's the game that's being played, then the terrorist "alphas" are not really the alphas they might think they are.

Just primitive savages being manipulated by the men behind the curtain.

posted by Eric at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

The letter wars are turning us into alphabet soup!

Via Dr. Helen, I am reminded of the obvious fact that the Alpha Male is dying in Hollywood:

The masculine, alpha-male movie star - brought to life in films such as "Rambo," "Die Hard," and "Rocky" - is becoming extinct in Hollywood, according to actress Michelle Rodriguez.

"The alpha man is dying in film, the warrior is dying," she told us. "Hello geek."

This may get down to the definition of alphahood (and I don't much care how that is defined as I'm sick of definitions), but I think that there are still alpha males in Hollywood films. It's just that they tend to be the bad guys. You know, mob thugs, gangsta rappers, etc. There are no good alpha males. But then, perhaps alpha males aren't supposed to be good. Good is a sissy thing or something.

Like I'm supposed to care? I don't take direction from Hollywood, and I have little respect for people who do. Nor do I care whether someone is an "alpha male," or thinks he is.

But the "geek is better than alpha" thing is not limited to Hollywood. Here in Michigan, Rick Snyder won the Republican gubernatorial primary on precisely such a platform.

His campaign slogan is "One Tough Nerd"

Nerds have active, curious minds. They seek input from many sources. Nerds pay attention to what's going on around them. They develop plans, and follow though, no matter what. Nerds know how to work with others to get things done. Nerds don't take "no" for an answer - and they quickly tire of those who say "this is the way we've always done it." Nerds aren't concerned with taking credit. In fact, they understand that amazing things can be accomplished if one doesn't worry about who gets credit.
I guess that's not Alpha.

What the hell. Obviously, they're screwing around with the pecking order.

And I predict that no matter how much they screw around, some people will always end up on top.

MORE: I should point out that as an individualist, I tend to dislike pecking orders, especially those based on unearned authority, as they are often based on tyrannical groupthink authoritarianism.

Whether alphas belong "on top" is a secondary consideration.

AND MORE: What does "on top" mean?

Sorry if I am dense, but I have known too many tops who really aren't.

(Little wonder the bigots like to accuse the homos of ruining society and the culture and all that everything stuff.... You've gotta, um, respect the roles. Because, when roles fail, Rome falls. Or something. The less sense things make, the more sense there isn't.)

posted by Eric at 09:01 PM | Comments (3)

So Few Jewish Libertarians

In a comment some one was complaining about the tiny clique of Jewish libertarians. Tiny but influential. Take Alisa Rosenbaum for instance. A lot of people have.

posted by Simon at 05:00 PM | Comments (4)

Nobody Likes Them Either

Pat Caddell, Jimmy Carter's pollster, says the Republicans will do well this November despite their unpopularity.

On Monday, Gallup released a new weekly poll showing Republicans leading Democrats by an unprecedented ten-point margin, 51 to 41 percent, in congressional voting preferences -- the largest gap in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot. "I have never seen numbers like this," Caddell says, shaking his head. "Unless Republicans can find some way to screw it up, they will win big, even though nobody really likes them, either."
Now, my Republican friends, you might want to contemplate why you are unliked. Is it the failure to keep your promises? Or maybe too much emphasis on the Culture War? I'm sure the overspending in the Bush years didn't help. Which is not to say culture is unimportant. It is just a job the government can't do much about under our system. Why? Well our system safeguards liberty - mostly. Which means that suppression of unwanted (by some) cultures just forces them underground. Think about it: would you rather face underground cultures or face them openly and honestly?

The use of government in the culture wars is an admission of weakness. And given the choice between the strong horse and the weak horse, what do most people generally choose? As long as our system is biased towards privacy, a government enforced culture war is a losing proposition. I suppose that is why so many culture warriors are on about "there is no right to privacy in the Constitution", despite the plain wording of the Fourth Amendment. But that is not the real determining factor. The question is: do the people want to be free from government intrusion? Because privacy from government intrusion - a cherished American value - is a threat to the culture warriors' social engineering schemes.

So maybe there is a clue - the Republicans should stop threatening the American people with more laws. Maybe it should be like a balanced budget. No new laws unless older ones are repealed. The proportions are harder to define of course. But it wouldn't hurt to uphold the sentiment.

What would I like to see? A fiscally responsible party that was amenable to social liberty. I'm tired of the "there ought to be a law" party. I have a friend or two who feel the same way. Could be a signal. Or a trend.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

The End Of Krugmanomics?

Is Krugman-style Keynesianism dead? This sure sounds like a funeral for the kind of massive government spending the left's premier Nobel prizewinner has been arguing for. (I've lately become increasingly skeptical of this quasi-superstitious notion shiny pieces of metal conferred by leftish Swedish officials really grant one particular perspicacity anyways.) Is the administration tuning him out?

Krugman, of course, had been saying we actually needed a much bigger stimulus, something in the multi-trillion range. The problem with this argument is that government isn't very good at efficiently allocating resources, and gov't spending is already at 45% of GDP. It seems unlikely that the amount of government spending we have now is healthy (studies suggest optimal gov't spending rates for growth are about half the current rate), and so the notion gov't can efficiently spend another 10% of GDP seems wildly fantastic, especially when a recent Harvard study found pork spending actually hurts the private sector.

Really, I don't know why anyone familiar with the 20th century thinks we can centrally plan prosperity -- had every major country embraced good free-market policy rather than experimenting with unhealthy levels of government control, the increased growth rate might have us enjoying a per capita GDP of around $100K today. We need private enterprises developing productivity improvements and innovative products and services, not politicians sending their political buddies taxpayer money.

Of course, the good people at CATO (and a couple hundred economists) have known this all along.

posted by Dave at 09:22 AM | Comments (4)

Set the Wayback Machine for a deadly Flashback!

In the wake of the psychotic environmentalist gunman who took hostages at the Discovery Channel, a lot of people are wondering what it is with Al Gore and his vast power to do what the left so loves to accuse Rush Limbaugh of doing?

As Glenn puts it sarcastically in his roundup,

"Won't Al Gore please stop it with his extremist, eliminationist rhetoric before he inspires still more violence?"
It's painfully obvious that there's a double standard where it comes to eliminationist rhetoric.

This is a topic I have discussed in so many posts that it's painful to repeat myself, and I wouldn't normally consider Al Gore and his books to merit another post but for the fact of a very disturbing pattern.

Anyone remember Al Gore's Earth In The Balance? It was loaded with junk science and half truths, and so much New Age nonsense that it reads like a religious tract. (Among many other mis-truths, Gore blamed the "ozone hole" for blind sheep in Patagonia, and it turned out the sheep were suffering from pink eye.) I am sure Gore would love to have us forget about the inaccuracies of Earth In The Balance, and while some die hards are still calling him "Ozone Al," for the most part, few remember.

Even fewer remember the role of Al Gore's book in inspiring ecoterrorist Ted Kacsczynski.

among his only possessions was an underlined copy of Al Gore's Earth in the Balance.
It was more than just underlined; Kaczynski seems to have been almost obsessed with it:
Kaczynski apparently was quite taken by Al Gore's missive. His copy of Earth In The Balance was dog-eared, underlined, marked and well worn. He obviously saw himself as some sort of "resistance "fighters.
Many who slogged through the rantings of Al and the rantings of Ted noticed a distinct similarity in writing style:
the Unabomber is known to have owned a well thumbed copy of Earth in the Balance. Indeed, parts of the book are indistinguishable from his manifesto. Lest I be accused of engaging in the same type of insidious comparison that I just accused the President of, let me make it clear that I don't believe that Al Gore caused the Unabomber. But I would note that the two men display a similar kind of dysfunctional animus towards technology and human innovation that smacks of a modern day Luddism.
Anyone who doubts should take a walk down memory lane, and check out the quiz which was linked at a Tim Blair thread:
Did Al Gore say it? Or was it the Unabomber?

It may be more difficult to decide than you think.

Now, I am not seriously suggesting that Al Gore is personally to blame for the terroristic acts of his readers. That deeply antisocial environmentalist psychopaths would read deeply antisocial tomes should surprise no one. However, the incongruous way that Gore is treated compared to the way a conservative writer would be treated simply cannot be ignored.

The double standard notwithstanding, I of course support absolute freedom of speech for Al Gore -- even though he has made it clear that he takes a dim view of freedom of speech where it comes to disagreeing with him.

But in light of the violence his dishonest rhetoric has repeatedly inspired, might it not be time to reconsider the propriety of awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize?

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

Friday Trivia Question

Via an email from a friend, who commented on Palin's latest victory ("another win for Palin, and I love how she drives the left insane") comes a trivia question he likes to ask his leftie friends:

"Who's the most significant US politician to come out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana?"
He then watches their heads explode at the answer.

Last night when I was feeling very gloomy, I complained about the bad choices we get and said that "sometimes, a choice is not a choice."

Well, a choice between Palin and Gingrich is a choice, and a real choice. I would vote for her over him in a heartbeat without any hesitation. (Had to strike "in a heartbeat," because they can hesitate.)

posted by Eric at 10:08 AM | Comments (4)

Sometimes, a choice is not a choice

In the second part of his excellent series (Part I of which I discussed here), Zombie concludes with a question:

It all comes down to a matter of intent. WHY does each side mutilate the truth? To what end?

In the case of the left, the ultimate goal is to overthrow the United States as we know it.

In the case of the right, the ultimate goal is to preserve and strengthen the United States.

What choice do I have, therefore, but to support the conservative side as the lesser of two evils?

(Via Glenn Reynolds.) The answer is of course that there is no choice but to support the conservative side. I have been supporting it for years, and I have been nauseated in the process. Every time I get my hopes up about a conservative candidate, it will turn out that there's a catch. Someone I might think is wonderful and refreshing will turn out to be all gung-ho Newt Gingrich and the Drug War, someone else will turn out to be in league with the anti-gay bigots, another will be a RINO. It just goes on and on.

So, while I am always willing to support the conservative "side," just don't expect me to like it. And don't expect me to respect people I don't respect (and who don't respect me).

If I were forced to choose between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, of course I would choose Ronald Reagan. But at the rate things are going, the choice might become like one of my worst fears: having to choose between a Jesse Jackson and a Jerry Falwell. I can't vote for the Jerry Falwells of the world, so I would have to vote libertarian.

Why should such choices be forced upon us? Why should a country in which the vast majority does not agree with either the Jesse Jacksons or the Jerry Falwells be forced to make such a disgusting choice?

What is wrong?

It's as if the majority does not count.

posted by Eric at 07:23 PM | Comments (7)

Peace Declared

Despite some people who insist on fighting a war, President Obama has announced the forthcoming peace in the Middle East, declaring that war will not be an impediment to peace.

WASHINGTON - Condemning Mideast peace "rejectionists," President Barack Obama convened a new round of ambitious talks Wednesday and vowed not to allow a fresh burst of violence dim hopes for an accord creating a sovereign Palestinian state beside a secure Israel.

Obama, who met separately at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, assailed those responsible for the killings of four Israelis near the West Bank city of Hebron. The militant Hamas movement, which rejects Israel's right to exist and opposes peace talks, claimed responsibility.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke off nearly two years ago, in December 2008, and the Obama administration spent its first 20 months in office coaxing the two sides back to the bargaining table. Obama was adamant Wednesday that extremist violence would not derail the process.

Let me see if I can wrap my head around this. Having sex is no impediment to keeping your virginity. Or better yet, death is not a serious impediment to voting.

You see he learned everything he needs to know about politics in Chicago.

Or maybe he is a George Orwell fan.

War Is Peace

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:38 PM | Comments (2)

Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate. - Ulysses S. Grant
I believe Grant was a Republican. I wonder if he could get elected these days.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:51 AM | Comments (6)

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