AP begs questions raised

Check out the first paragraph of this AP "news report":

President John F. Kennedy's aide and speechwriter, Theodore C. Sorensen, a symbol of hope and liberal governance, died at a time of contempt for Washington and political leaders.
Sorenson had been sick for years, ("a stroke in 2001 left him with such poor eyesight that he was unable to write his memoir"), and yet the AP seems to be reading magical revelatory timing into his death.

But it might be that they're simply resorting to irony. After all, these are people who are quick to criticize "superstition" in any of its forms, so they would never resort to religious or magical thinking in an obituary, would they?

Horrifying as the thought may seem, it strikes me as inevitable that sooner or later, most of us will die during one "time of contempt for Washington and political leaders" or another. But it depends on who's in contempt of whom, and who's raising the questions, doesn't it?

Looking at the big picture, I think it might be better to die during a time of contempt than a time of respect.

But I don't know yet, as I haven't died.

posted by Eric at 10:52 PM | Comments (2)

Happy Halloween Everyone!

According to my annual tradition, I finished carving my jack-o-lantern just in time, which is just before sunset.


It's a deadline I dare not miss, lest I be turned into one myself.


posted by Eric at 06:32 PM | Comments (5)

Crushed by stereotypes and feeling the pain

Frank Rich has never been a fan of the Tea Party movement. In fact, it's quite clear from his columns that he sees them as evil. But that doesn't stop him from pausing to briefly switch stereotype channels and portray them as victims:

...whatever Tuesday's results, this much is certain: The Tea Party's hopes for actually affecting change in Washington will start being dashed the morning after. The ordinary Americans in this movement lack the numbers and financial clout to muscle their way into the back rooms of Republican power no matter how well their candidates perform.
Where are these sinister "back rooms," and how come I never get to see them? Are they like the back rooms of places like the notorious Mineshaft?

Rich invokes plenty of right wing demons, including oil barons, Karl Rove (who owes me a lot of money, and if I can ever muscle my way into his back room I'm collecting bigtime!), and Mitch McConnell, who Rich claims "will be certain to stop any Tea Party hillbillies from disrupting his chapter of the club." Aww come on Frankie boy! This country has a long history of uncouth hillbillies spitting on the carpets of the elite.

In another solemn declaration, Pastor Rich pontificates thusly:

"What the Tea Party ostensibly wants most -- less government spending and smaller federal deficits -- is not remotely happening on the country club G.O.P.'s watch."
How could Rich possibly know that? Is he privy to the darkest inner sanctums of the GOP's back rooms? And if he is, then what does that suggest about Rich? Is he, um, into that kind of stuff?

Or might this all be just wishful thinking on the man's part? I guess Halloween is as good a time as any to be whistling past the graveyard.

Accompanying the piece is a cartoon depicting a generic "Tea Party hillbilly" type stomping on a prone demonstrator, while hovering over his head is a gigantic, corporate-looking wingtip shoe, about to piteously crush both the hillbilly and his Code Pink victim.


OK, so I don't know whether to laugh or get into another one of my rages against stereotypes, but it strikes me that stereotypes -- be they villains or victims -- are all Frank Rich and his ilk know. This latest piece is about as sensitive and insightful as a conspiracy tirade about the usual Bilderberger Bush Kerry Skull-and-Bones Trilateral-Commission Council-on-Foreign-Relations 911 stuff. Just throw in whatever stereotypes you like, set the mix on "blend," and VIOLA! Another conspiracy column!

As for me, I keep trying to find my proper stereotype and I can't. Clueless fool that I am, I'm a Tea Party supporter who just can't quite appropriately channel the hillbilly thing, any more than I could appropriately channel the corporate back rooms (wherever they are). I'll never make it as a corporate hillbilly from Hell, because people like Frank Rich won't let me.

Hell, last night I even had trouble channeling Andy Warhol.

Oh the pain.

Just don't ask me to channel a corporate fat cat like Frank Rich.

I simply lack the guts to appropriately stereotype his doughnut-munching authoritarianism, even if he deserves it.

posted by Eric at 12:39 PM | Comments (5)

Utility: Disparity's Despair?

I've been hearing the complaint that only the top 10% of income earners are benefitting from productivity growth because middle-class personal incomes are stagnating, with the implication living standards are only rising for the rich, but I think (outside of monopolies) for the large majority of goods and services it's generally not possible for productivity improvements to only benefit the top 10%. Over time, competition ensures prices approach costs, so all productivity benefits eventually flow to the consumer -- with the exception, of course, of that small portion of products and services consumed only by the top 10%. But new technologies tend to be aimed at the mass markets -- for instance, 20 years ago no one could use Google or Facebook, few had email, and telephone services were on average considerably more expensive -- precisely because they have the most consumers and thus the most potential for profit.

I've seen this claim justified on the basis that productivity improvements tracked wage growth until about 20 years ago, with the notion being that by improving productivity employers could offer higher wages, but I don't think that reflects reality. As a greedy self-interested rationally acting factory owner, I don't want to pay my workers more just because they're more productive. In fact, of course, I would prefer to pay them minimum wage, or better yet nothing at all -- and the only reason I don't is that it's hard to get people to work for free. So I'm not sure there was ever a cause and effect relationship there, and if there was it must have been because more productive workers, being more specialized, were harder for employers to find. The reason the correlation to median wages has dropped off in recent years is likely that as the range of worker productivity has expanded the expansion has increasingly happened in the upper quintiles -- the highly specialized are getting more specialized, the relatively unspecialized less so.

There's also a fairly well-known phenomenon in studies of income distribution, which I've seen referenced in some papers from Brookings (sorry, couldn't find the link), that the lower income quintiles have seen living standards improve considerably more than is measured by incomes in real dollars. At least some of this effect is ascribed to the fact CPI ignores supplier-consumer efficiencies such as those created by WalMart, as well as qualitative improvements (MIPS per dollar, cell phone capability, etc).

It's really a shame we don't have a standard measure of median utility per capita (as fanciful as that notion is, given that everyone defines their personal utility a bit differently). When you realize that the marginal utility curve is logarithmic for dollars (i.e. the first $1000/yr of good and services keeps you alive so it's almost infinitely precious, while the 49,0000 - 50,000th dollars mean relatively little, the thousand between 99K and 100K even less, and so forth), then you also realize the utility disparity has been falling even as the income disparities have grown (esp since the mass markets are the most attractive for new utility-improving ideas), making it hard to justify the notion income inequalities are a major societal problem as opposed to an inevitable result of the increasing specialization necessary to continually grow overall consumer utility.

posted by Dave at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

posted by Simon at 01:18 AM | Comments (1)

Something Wicked This Way Comes - To South Carolina

The Boyz at Hill Buzz are on to something. What it is ain't exactly clear. But it has to do with South Carolina.

So, last night someone in the Democrat political world here in Chicago read my post about something weird going on in South Carolina...and the mystery of why so many people are digging into what happened to Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democrat primary there.

I was warned not to dig into this, and to "just let it go".

So what was the Buzzer in Chief's response?
Apparently, whatever South Carolina is about involves something the Democrat Party does not want to be revealed, because it would destroy them.

I want to burn the Democrat Party to the ground and then salt the Earth with its ashes so that it never reconstitutes itself again. I am sick and tired of the thuggery the party engages in. I have had enough of everyone being too scared to stand up to these people. I am through allowing the media to keep quiet about whatever evil things the party does, because everyone is in cahoots on this...or just too afraid of reprisals to stand up to it.

Kevin is not afraid.
So, I don't know what exactly is in South Carolina to find. But, I've been told not to put myself in danger by digging into it. I've been told there will be massive blowback by writing about whatever happened down there...and that I should just leave it alone.

Well, you know what that means...I have found my new hobby because there is no way I am going to be bullied away from a mystery.

I made a few calls today to people on the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign to find out what they thought could possibly be the South Carolina Mystery. No one wanted to talk about it, because they said it involves race, and what the Obama campaign did to the Clintons in South Carolina to brand them racists and racialize the primary against Hillary.

People are still terrified of being called racists or having the Left lob these race bombs at them...so they won't come anywhere near whatever the Hell it is in South Carolina that's the heart of the mystery.

There's also this: whatever it is that happened down there is so bad that it could take down the Democrat Party for good, and the Clinton people I talked to don't want that to happen because Rush Limbaugh is right -- Clinton people are indeed of the belief that once Obama is defeated in 2012, the Clintons can rebuild the Democrat Party and resume control over it. Thus, Clinton people want to do enough damage to Obama and the Left so they lose control...but not too much damage because they want to use whatever's left post-Obama to rebuild the party.

This is not what I want -- I want the Democrat Party burned to the ground...because the Democrat Party turned the Alinsky weapons on fellow Democrats, like me, and used accusations of racism, thuggery, ACORN, the SEIU, the Black Panthers, and other Democrat tools to intimdiate, bully, commit fraud, and personally destroy anyone that stood in Obama's way.

The Democrat Party should not be allowed to exist anymore. Americans need to stop supporting it, and to relegate it to either the dustbin of history or to marginalize it with the other radical, Marxist, lunatic fringe minor parties that exist for the entertainment and masturbatory enjoyment of radical Leftists in this country. Mainstream America needs to stop seeing the Democrat Party as a mainstream political party -- because what the party sanctions is diametrically opposed to what America, and 99% of Americans, stand for.

I have absolutely no fear of whatever Democrats will do to me for digging into what happened to Hillary Clinton in South Carolina in 2008. I've been under constant attack since January of this year for speaking out about things Democrats didn't want me talking about. They used their race bomb on me, and I was indeed heavily harmed, but not obliterated.

Still here!

Still standing!

Not giving up!

There is way more but let me leave you with this little bit where Kevin (the Buzzer) tells his enemies where he stands. He was discussing the drama in terms of a movie plot.
But, this time the protagonist gets to be a gay dude from Boystown who refuses to be intimidated. Folks, never F&%$ with a fag who's got nothing to lose...and a readership in the tens of thousands.

They say, "don't get involved in this, or else".

I say, "Welcome to Thunderdome, bitches".

I've got your six Kev.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:42 PM | Comments (12)

We have always been at war with partisanship

Contending that negative political ads have "taken dirty to a whole new level,"
CNN's Anderson Cooper
is reaching for his smelling salts. But as Reason documents, political attack ads even dirtier than the ones which horrify Cooper are "as American as apple pie." (That reminds me of a post in which I pointed out an astonishing fact: that Saul Alinsky did not invent political ridicule!)

Ridicule and political attack ads might not be pleasant, but they are at least honest in the sense that it usually doesn't take a genius or a political junkie to determine who they're for and who they're against. Ordinary voters might not like the ads (and thus they can backfire), but in general, if a candidate is being accused of having an affair or cheating on his taxes, the voters can fairly assume that the dirt was dug up and disseminated by his opponent (or by his opponent's supporters.)

The process might be dirty, and if the dirty allegations are false, it might also be dishonest, but hell, at least it's traditional, and people know how to deal with it.

Modern technology, though, has added a new wrinkle to political campaigning, and I think that what we used to call "dirty tricks" are arguably taking ordinary political deception to a new level.

I don't know whether it violates any of the campaign laws, but I recently received an invitation from at least two Facebook friends which on its face appears to be part of a non-partisan get-out-the-vote drive. There's a red white, and blue ribbon image, and a picture of the friend, who asks,


[Name of Friend] asks: Will you join me in committing to vote?

Join the Commit to Vote Challenge and inspire your friends to vote

[Name of Friend] committed to vote by November 2nd.

Now, if you are dumb enough to click on the button or the link, it takes you to a site called the Commit to Vote Challenge site. That last link is a sanitized version of the link sent to me which had been coded in such a way as to automatically tell the site who I was and who my friend was -- even if I had gone no further.

Which of course I didn't, once I read the link and saw that the site was MyBarackObama.com. How many people are politically savvy enough to see that coming, I don't know.

But as an article in Forbes ("Are You Willing To Be This Committed To Voting?") explains, it is anything but a harmless get-out-the-vote drive:

Not to be outdone by the Republicans when it comes to technology and data-mining, Barack Obama has launched a new "Commit to Vote Challenge" Facebook application. You can access it through the Barack Obama website.

The Facebook application lets your friends know you plan to vote and encourages them through posting inspirational messages and videos to your wall. Not only does the application want to know all about you, it also wants to know who all of your friends are, along with their religious and political beliefs.

If you're willing to give up this much information about yourself, you must be seriously committed, indeed. Here are the permissions the application seeks when you choose to take the challenge:

The author concludes,
I'm impressed by the innovative use of Facebook for data gathering, but given how freaked out everyone is about privacy violations by third party applications on the social networking site these days, it seems like a questionable political move at the moment.
OK, I'm not as Facebook savvy as I should be, but I don't especially want whoever runs the official BarackObama.com site messing with my permissions, and entering my friends into some sort of White House database! It's entirely too easy to be tricked these days.

I mean, go ahead and attack the other side and pile on the lies if you must, but there's just something about sending me political spyware through friends who think they're sending me a non-partisan civic participation reminder that kind of puts a new face on political dirty tricks. That the new face comes deceptively packaged as a super-friendly, helpful "Facebook friend" face makes it more insidious than even the most vicious or dishonest partisan attack ad.

The worst aspect of this is that some of these kids might not even think they're being partisan. My worry is that in their minds, directing a friend to a BarackObama get-out-the-vote site is actually a helpful thing to do. Because as the slogan goes, "Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Republican." And because we all agree on something as basic as that, then it's non-partisan, right, dude? And if the spyware detects conservative or libertarian tendencies and rats your friend out as a possible Republican supporter, then isn't that a good thing? It might help nudge him along the road to recovery! That's what non-partisan is all about. As Paul Krugman says, "Divided We Fail," which means it's those partisan Republicans who are being unpatriotic and ruining the country. This country is supposed to be non-partisan!

See what I mean? A good case can be made that the "Commit to Vote Challenge" Facebook application really is non-partisan!

And I'm the one who's being partisan! I must sound like a real ingrate and an asshole for not wanting a little non-partisan help from my friends.

I think I prefer the old system of mean, snarky attacks.

It might suck, but it just seems less Orwellian.

I'd snark that "Orwellian" is what the "O" in the "VOTE" logo stands for, but I'm afraid that would sound too partisan.

After all, who wants to be unpatriotic?

posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (2)

Witching Hour

It could also be the Season Of The Bitch. But that is a different race.

Which race am I thinking of? The O'Donnell/Coons race in Delaware.

Obama is heading to Delaware again in a last-ditch firewall effort to salvage Commie Coons' imploding campaign.

Coons has now canceled the two debates he was scheduled to have with O'Donnell between now and Tuesday.

Canceled them.

Because he was afraid to debate her.

The woman the Democrats keep hitting with every sexist, misogynistic attack they can conjure. The woman the call stupid. The woman they make fun of relentlessly.

Why are they so scared of Christine O'Donnell.

Because, she really is YOU...and she is WINNING.

According to the latest polling data O'Donnell is down by 10 points in Delaware. Maybe. But you don't send the President in to campaign in the last three days before the election for a candidate who is really down by 10.

Also note that the No sex sex scandal that Eric wrote about hasn't hurt O'Donnell a bit so far. In fact maybe it has helped.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:59 AM | Comments (3)

Low Ratings

I was reading an article about Drug Prohibition Violence in Mexico and as usual I had to say something. It went like this:

It is not drug related violence. It is Prohibition Related Violence.
That comment made my user rating drop like a stone. So I thought I would make another comment in response.
With just one comment my user rating went from +1 to -29! Let me see if I can lower it further:



I'm now at -64. Evidently some people are paying attention.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:11 AM | Comments (11)

Forgive me if I don't gloat over the sweep

With front page headlines like this talking about a GOP sweep, I'm tempted to disagree.

Not so much out of kneejerk skepticism, but also for reasons of political pragmatism. I cannot agree more with the warning "Don't get cocky," and I don't think it is possible to stress the importance of that wisdom enough.

A sweep is not a sweep until it has swept. My worry is that all the yammering about the Republican sweep might have two effects:

1. tending to promote cockiness among conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans, while simultaneously -

2. causing independent voters to have buyer's remorse in advance of their "purchase."

All in all, this is bad. The more a right wing victory is made to appear inevitable, and the more they are portrayed as (or perceived to be) gloating, the more likely that independent voters will have last-minute second thoughts.

This may explain the GOP sweep headlines. And even if the polls do confirm that there will be a sweep, since when does the liberal media enjoy reporting anything that might help Republicans?

So I think it's a bad idea to be cocky over the sweep that hasn't happened. And I also think it would be a bad idea to get cocky over it even if it does happen, but I don't want to get ahead of my present state of self-inflicted gloom.

There will be plenty to time to refuse to gloat later.

MORE: FWIW, I have been too busy campaigning to have buyer's remorse. Sure, I have my usual complaints about Republicans, and as a libertarian I have my usual complaints about conservatism. But this time around, I feel so strongly about getting the Democrats out that rather than holding my nose and voting per my usual style, I am holding my nose while campaigning!

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link and for quoting me.

I also notice Glenn has repeated his warning.

The only thing I might add to what I wrote is that in addition holding my nose while campaigning, I have also held my nose while contributing. If you don't have time or your lower back pain prevents you from doing the pain-in-the-ass campaign things like hanging leaflets on doors or making phone calls, then your money can make such nitty-gritty stuff happen, and it can also help pay for those expensive TV ads.

Comments welcome, agree or disagree, from gloaters or non-gloaters.

(Heck, I'd even enjoy hearing from the patriotic "non-partisans" who are encouraging their friends vote in a "non-partisan" manner....)

posted by Eric at 12:23 PM | Comments (22)

If it's all about sex, can we just have sex instead of taxes?

We pay taxes, and politicians are elected to figure out how to manage the tax money, and the country is just about bankrupt.

But over and over, we are told that that the real issue is sex.

In terms of politics, this generally takes the form of the culture war. One party says sex is good, so do it! The other party says sex is bad, so be celibate! Both parties are populated by people who have sex, which means that the people who say they're on the side of sex tend to come out ahead of the people who say they're against it. Everything goes according to stereotype.

And even when we're on the verge of bankruptcy, it's still about sex. By mutual consent of both parties.

It's easy to see why they do this. What's harder to understand is how they get away with it.

You'd almost think the sex scam was working.

MORE: Thanks to Memeorandum for the link!

posted by Eric at 10:31 PM | Comments (5)

Chickamauga! Chickamauga!

I liked this short history of the Battle of Chattanooga.

Reeling from defeat at Chickamauga on September 19-20, 1863, Army of the Cumberland forces under the command of William S. Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga to regroup. Braxton Bragg's men drove to the summit of Lookout Mountain and retook the peak without a fight. With this advantage on the Rebel side, Old Rosy feared losing the city.
After stopping flank attacks by W.T. Sherman and "Fighting Joe" Hooker the rebels faced General George Thomas, "The Rock of Chickamauga" in the center. And something interesting happened.
In the center of the rebel line sat Thomas. Over the past 3 weeks his men had been subject to taunts from Hooker's and Sherman's soldiers over the defeat at Chickamauga two months earlier. At 3:30pm, after word reached headquaters of Sherman's inability to reach his objective, Grant ordered Thomas to advance on the first line of defense on Missionary Ridge. The rebel line resisted at first then gave in to the advancing Federals.

Fully aware that the men of Sherman's and Hooker's armies were watching the men began to move up Missionary Ridge. Shouting "Chickamauga, Chickamauga" the men advanced on the entrenched rebels. The artillery line had been misplaced at the top of the ridge instead of the crest. The cannon fire was less effective and the Union advance quickly overran the Confederate forces.

Bragg ordered a retreat to Dalton and gave General Cleburne the grim task of guarding his rear. Safely back in Dalton, he wired Davis of the defeat and asked to be relieved of duty, admitting it had been wrong to leave him in command when Davis visited in October.

Some men do not take defeat well. It inspires them to do better. Likewise some do not handle victory well. Yes Mr. Obama, I'm talking about you and your party.

And that was not the first time in the Civil War that such chants arose from Union troops. Gettysburg was another such time and place

Some of the Rebels in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, may have heard the voice of Sgt. Benjamin Hearst before they met the withering Union fire at the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. Hearst, a veteran with the 14th Connecticut, yelled at the advancing mass, "Now we've got you! Sock it to the Blasted Rebels. Fredericksburg's on the other leg!" And as the doomed men fell, the Federals behind the low stone wall shouted, "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!"

Why did an engagement fought seven months earlier, on December 13, 1862, become a battle cry? Because only now, with the tables so perfectly turned, was the Union avenging its own dead thousands, struck down in front of a different stone wall in what turned out to be the nadir of the war for the North.

Well America took a walloping from its own citizens in 2008. Now the shoe is on the other foot. One can only hope the Republicans have some fight in them.

Such a hope is by no means a certainty. At least if we have Republican John Boehner (likely majority leader in the next Congress) to go by.

"I think the American people want us to find a way to work together to address the concerns that face the American people every day. We're going to drive for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington, D.C.," Boehner says. "And to the extent that we can find common ground in that direction, I would welcome it."
What kind of common ground is he thinking of? A nominal reduction in the rate of acceleration in spending? I dunno. Maybe that is not what the voters have in mind. It will not be the first time in war that the troops will have to make up for the deficiencies of the generals.

I'm not dismayed. Before we can put Boehner's feet to the fire we have to win a battle for him. So what is the battle cry for 2 Nov.? 2008! 2008! Or if you like TEAnami! Let us out vote and overrun the sons O bitches. After that whispering (with a powered megaphone) in the ears of our generals might be in order. Lead, follow, or we will push you out of the way.

TEA minus 5 and counting.

Tea Party Difference
Click on the above image and learn how to spread it around.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:55 PM | Comments (6)

The difference between crime and, you know, crime-crime

Most of us would agree that crime sucks. But when we talk about crime, what do we mean by the term? All crime? Or crimes that we fear, because they are of the sort that would personally threaten us?

Glenn Reynolds recently linked a Reason piece by Radley Balko titled "More Democracy, More Incarceration," which grapples with the "30-year incarceration binge that has made America far and away the democratic world's leader in putting people behind bars."

The numbers are staggering. In 1970 one in 400 American adults was behind bars or on parole. As of 2008, the number was one in 100. Add in probation, and it's one in 31. The number of people behind bars for drug crimes has soared from 40,000 in 1980 to about half a million today.
It isn't surprising if we consider the gigantic increase in legislation that criminalizes nearly anything and everything. Overcriminalization is a hot topic among legal scholars, and many a law professor has been known to tell his students that most of them are technically criminals. As Glenn put it last year, "everyone is a criminal of some sort, whether they know it or not."

And we're not just talking about a crime a day. According to Harvey Silverglate, the average American commits Three Felonies a Day (which is the title of his book).

Now, if we are all criminals who commit three felonies a day, then this country has achieved virtual saturation with a crime rate of 100% -- which means it should not surprise anyone that the incarceration rate has quadrupled, because if all criminals were properly incarcerated for their crimes, there would be no free citizens in the country walking the streets. (What a shameful thing to have happen in a free country!)

Which is why I was baffled to read that the "crime rate" has actually fallen dramatically:

America's soaring incarceration rate may be largely due to the fact that we have one of the most politicized criminal justice systems in the developed world. In most states, judges and prosecutors are elected, making them more susceptible to slogan-based crime policy and an electorate driven by often irrational fear. While the crime rate has fallen dramatically since the early 1990s, polls consistently show that the public still thinks crime is getting worse.

In response to these fears, legislators have increasingly eroded the discretion of prosecutors and judges (already subject to political pressures) in charging defendants and imposing sentences. Under the theory that more punishment is always better, lawmakers have imposed mandatory minimum sentences, made parole and probation more difficult, and decreed that mere possession of drugs above a certain quantity is automatically treated as distribution. The democratic demand for such policies may be clearest in California, where it is relatively easy to pass legislation through ballot initiatives. Such initiatives have led to some of the toughest crime policies in the country--and nearly twice as many prisoners as the state's prisons are supposed to hold.

This all left me thoroughly confused.

How could the crime rate be going down if we are all three-felonies-a-day criminals?

Reading the piece that Balko linked, I began to understand that what we call "crime" does not consist of the ordinary felonies we normal people commit in our daily lives:

The murder rate rose and fell over the 20th century, climbing to an early peak in 1933, then dropping sharply and staying low through the Depression, World War II, and into the 1960s. It rose to a record level in 1974, broke that record in 1980, and stayed prodigiously bloody through the early '90s. This is when Bill Clinton boosted funding for local police forces, and police began experimenting with radical new approaches to policing, such as those employed in the so-called Boston Miracle. In 1994, the murder rate started to fall, and it's been falling ever since. Rape, robbery, and aggravated assault have dropped along with it. Last year was no exception. According to preliminary FBI data, the murder rate dropped 10 percent from 2008 to 2009, robbery fell 6.5 percent, aggravated assault fell 3.2 percent, auto theft was down a whopping 18.7 percent.

But as the crime rate has dropped, Americans have missed the news. The number of people who told Gallup that crime is getting worse climbed to 74 percent last year, a figure higher than any year since the carnage of the early '90s.

So, just because Americans are committing more crimes than ever before thanks to the overcriminalization problem, that does not mean crime is getting worse.

We have to distinguish between "crime" and crime. (Or maybe I should Whoopify things and call it "crime-crime.")

in 2002, American worries about crime resumed their upward march. The Gallup poll that year found that 62 percent of Americans believed crime had increased over the previous year - while in reality, according to FBI statistics, crime had fallen by 1.1 percent.

By "crime rate," they mean FBI crime statistics.

The FBI crime statistics are divided into Violent Crime and Property Crime.

Violent Crime involves unlawful force or threat of force:


In the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.

Property crime
is committed against property without force:

In the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims. The property crime category includes arson because the offense involves the destruction of property; however, arson victims may be subjected to force. Because of limited participation and varying collection procedures by local law enforcement agencies, only limited data are available for arson. Arson statistics are included in trend, clearance, and arrest tables throughout Crime in the United States, but they are not included in any estimated volume data. The arson section in this report provides more information on that offense.

Yet the prisons are crammed full of people who are convicted of drug offenses, as well as people who have committed white collar crimes, or one of the numerous offenses against the bureaucracy. (There are now so many thousands of federal crimes that no one can count them.)

But this still begs the question of what is crime? Do we know what we are talking about?

To the FBI (and to those who refer to "the crime rate") crime is either the use of force or violence against another person, or an act directed against another person's property. (Geez, that sounds awfully like the libertarian definition.)

What the FBI defines as crimes consist of hostile acts by criminals of the sort that we typically would live in fear of happening to us.

Crimes that we fear. Yet the prisons are filled to an unprecedented degree with people incarcerated for committing the sort of crimes we do not fear.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider whether prison should be used that way.

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

Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

AND MORE: In an earlier email to my co-blogger M. Simon (whose writing about the war on drugs is second to none), I sent a link to Milton Friedman's 1989 open letter to Bill Bennett which I'd been staring at for a couple of days. Some of Friedman's thoughts might be instructive:

Had drugs been decriminalized 17 years ago, "crack" would never have been invented (it was invented because the high cost of illegal drugs made it profitable to provide a cheaper version) and there would today be far fewer addicts. The lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent victims would have been saved, and not only in the U.S. The ghettos of our major cities would not be drug-and-crime-infested no-man's lands. Fewer people would be in jails, and fewer jails would have been built.
That was written in 1989, when Friedman looked back at what he had written in 1972, and could say "I told you so."

It's too bad that twenty one years later, he's not around to say "I told you so!" again.

posted by Eric at 12:51 PM | Comments (22)

Present President's Poor Performance On Par With Presidential Precedents

I have to agree with Simon -- it's the Chicago Way, the way of Daley and Ryan and Blago. These Illinois politicians don't know any other way to be.

I think this partly explains why Pelosi and Obama seem incapable of admitting the reality that the GOP is taking the House -- they're deeply worried that when the investigations start, this White House is going to look very dirty, far worse than Nixon's cover-up or Clinton's sexual and financial escapades.

I was looking at the Gallup graph of approval ratings for U.S. presidents today and I was struck by the fact nearly all of them could be called "failed." Truman? Failed so badly he didn't run again. Same for LBJ. Nixon, Ford, Carter? Failures. Bush I -- failed to win re-election. Bush II exited with very low approval.

The only Presidents who can make much claim to success are Reagan, Eisenhower, and Clinton (who never received 50% of the vote, and was notably impeached for lying under oath about an adulterous affair with an intern after calling her mentally ill until his DNA was found on her clothing). JFK can, at least, lay claim to not having failed, by dint of not surviving long enough.

This, perhaps, explains why John F Kennedy and Reagan are so revered: it has been so rare in the modern era that a Presidency has not failed.

posted by Dave at 10:01 PM | Comments (4)

Post Election Scandal?

I was reading the latest bit of insider gossip (fiction?) from Ulsterman called: White House Insider: "President Obama is lost. Absolutely lost." A very interesting read. As is the rest of the series. Let me give you the gist of the "Lost" story:

In your email to me last week, you indicated a scandal was coming to the White House. Could you elaborate a bit more on that now?

Sadly, with this White House it is no longer a matter of a scandal, but of scandals. I see you did a story recently on the Justice Department situation surrounding the voting rights case. Continue watching that - it's going to break open more soon after Republicans take the House. As you stated, it's going to be investigated.

A lot of people think the scandal will revolve around voter intimidation (The Black Panther case) and vote fraud.

The boyz at Hill Buzz think so too. They recount stories of vote fraud in the Democrat primaries and in the Democrat Party in 2008. You can read all about that at the link. Here is how they see the essence of the scandal.

This morning, I had pancakes with a friend in the Chicago political world, ostensibly to start planning our anti-Rahm Emanuel efforts (beginning November 3rd, to save Chicago from that tyrant in what I hope becomes a national effort against Rahm), but we ended up spending most of breakfast talking about that Ulstermann "Big Scandal".

"You are too close to the trees to see the forest", my friend told me. "It's right in front of your face but because you were in the thick of all this stuff, and have lived and breathed it for two years, you forget just how damning this stuff is and how this could destroy the party for generations".

I now believe I know what Ulstermann is talking about, and why this "Big Scandal" could indeed be bigger than Watergate, as his "White House Insider" claimed. I still don't think there really is a "White House Insider", but I give Ulstermann props for seeing the bigger picture on this.

Essentially, the scandal is the Justice Department under Eric Holder and the "Voting Rights acts don't apply to white people" attitude the Department has taken in regards to the activities of the Black Panthers in 2008. This is the equivalent of someone discovering "plumbers" breaking into the Watergate complex in the Nixon White House. Holder personally ordered the prosecution of the black panthers quashed...on a direct order from "president" Obama.

The reason this scandal is going to explode and be "bigger than Watergate" and could destroy the Democrats is because it ties directly into activities of the Obama campaign in 2008 -- where a coordinated voter fraud and intimidation effort was run with ACORN, the SEIU, and the Black Panthers to elect Obama at all costs, using race as a weapon.

The ramifications of all of this are explosive.

Yes they are. And people are noticing this year. Instapundit has a roundup of the voter fraud cases that have shown up so far. I'm going to relist them here for convenience.

But first compare how slot machines are audited vs voting machines. When Money Is At Stake. Quite a difference huh?

Now for the links.

Fraud In Nevada

North Carolina

A Pattern Of Fraud?

Stephen Green

New ACORN effort is mobilizing voters, run by woman indicted for violating election laws.


And something I did in 2008 about confidence in elections and paper ballots. Electronic Voting. Plus another one I did in 2004. Why I am against machine voting.

We have to give the Rs enough votes and enough seats so that cheating will not tiurn the results. Then post election we have to prevail on our Congress Critters to open up on anyone, individual, or party that is involved in vote fraud.

Also it would be a good idea to look at The Secretary of State Project and the Soros connection to it and how fraud at the very final stage of an election can change the results at The Soros Connection in the Minnesota Senate Race Vote Count. Plus another instance of the same see 2004 Washington State Governor Election (yeah - I know) Wiki.

These are not isolated incidents. There is a pattern. And most of the fraud appears to be coming from the Democrat side (there were the Ohio votes for Bush in 2004 that seemed suspicious).

As I said: post election put the heat on your Representative to get some hearings going - at the minimum. If it looks like there is probable cause it needs to go to court. If we can find some honest judges.

Let me add that In From The Cold explains what we need to do on election day. Something I have already said but wish to emphasize.

The remedy for conservatives is simple. Turn out in such huge numbers that it becomes impossible for Democrats to steal the election. But in the blue states, that's easier said than done. Besides, if the machine can't conjure up enough votes on election night, there's always Step Two in the Democratic playbook. Flood the zone with lawyers and start recounting until you achieve the desired result.

If you can, make a last-minute donation to Mark Kirk or Bill Brady, or volunteer some time for their campaigns. They need all the help they can muster in defeating their opponents--and the Democratic machine.

Let me add that I'm not too happy about either candidate. The alternative is to let the Democrats win without a fight. I'm totally against that.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:42 PM | Comments (3)

Time to sober up and let the truth be trolled!

I get a little tired of attempts to manufacture hysteria, and the latest example is a campaign against mixing caffeine and alcohol being ramped up by doctors:

Mixing alcohol and caffeine is hardly a new concept, but a rash of cases involving students and others who landed at hospitals after drinking beverages that combine the two in a single large can has alarmed college and health officials around the country.

The drinks are dangerous, doctors say, because the caffeine masks the effects of the alcohol, keeping consumers from realizing just how intoxicated they are.

A brand called Four Loko -- a fruit-flavored malt beverage that has an alcohol content of 12 percent and as much caffeine as a cup of coffee -- has come under particular scrutiny after students who drank it this fall at Ramapo College in New Jersey and Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., ended up in emergency rooms, some with high levels of alcohol poisoning.

"This is one of the most dangerous new alcohol concoctions I have ever seen," said Dr. Michael Reihart, an emergency room doctor at Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pa., who said he had treated more than a dozen teenagers and adults over the last three months who had been brought there after drinking Four Loko. "It's a recipe for disaster because your body's natural defense is to get sleepy and not want to drink, but in this case you're tricking the body with the caffeine."

It may be one of the most dangerous new alcohol concoctions Dr. Reihart has ever seen, but the deadly combination of ingredients is not new at all.

As the Times says, "Mixing alcohol and caffeine is hardly a new concept."

They are right, and our culture has been asleep at the wheel as this dire threat has metastasized.

Does anyone remember Rum and Coke? Cuba Libre? Why there was even an Andrews Sisters song (obviously targeting naive young soldiers in World War II who didn't realize the danger they faced) deliberately encouraging and tempting them to try this risky form of speedball.

Videos exist showing them actually singing it in the 1940s, and while fortunately the children of today are protected by our copyright laws, apparently someone has discovered a loophole which makes it legal to shoot video of a Victrola playing the insidious song that helped pave the way for this cultural plague:

And if you think that's bad, the diabolical Irish invented an even more deadly combination -- deceptively named Irish coffee.

I was shocked to learn that the recipes are all over the Internet, there is a Wiki page devoted to the deadly concoction, and there are even videos like the following -- in which a young girl (barely above college age) demonstrates how to manufacture what really ought to be called dangerous combination drug.

We need legislation now! Write your congressman demanding something be done about the deadly plague, lest we go the way of Ireland -- and fall like Rome!

Not only should the videos be banned, but bars should be absolutely prohibited from combining these ingredients. No place which serves alcohol should be allowed to serve coffee, tea, or coke to any customer who has consumed alcohol!

Except now that I think about it, banning videos and prohibiting the deadly combination in bars might not be enough. After all, almost all of the grocery stores which sell alcohol also sell coffee, tea, coke and they are also allowed to sell caffeine pills like the notorious NoDoz. Which means that we need to make the stores to stop facilitating this combination, if not by banning the sale of the precursor ingredients entirely, at least by prohibiting any customer who purchases alcohol from simultaneously purchasing caffeine products. That's the least we can do.

I realize that a few libertarian nutjob cranks might complain that it's inconvenient, but hey, we already make people sign and show ID when they buy Sudafed, don't we? If we can save the life of one child, no sacrifice is too great. The burden on law-abiding citizens is minimal, and countless children's lives will be saved!

And at the very least, where are the warning labels we need on the caffeine products? I just looked at my coffee can, and it says absolutely nothing about the dire dangers of combining it with alcohol. Where's the FDA when you need them? Has MADD been asleep at the wheel too?

This is a shocking situation, and something must be done.

Our children and the future of our civilization are at stake!

Unfortunately (perhaps it's because of the election), this issue is not getting the attention in the blogosphere that it should. I found the link to the Times piece at Memeorandum, and the only blogger to link it did so only in order to mock the New York Times for "concern trolling about college students and alcohol."

Concern? Considering the long-term, ongoing nature of this threat to civilization, the Times' puny attempt at "concern trolling" is barely a drop in the bucket.

It's time to sober up and face the big picture. We are looking at a specter of gigantic lakes of coffee mixed with oceans of distilled damnation!

posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (7)

The Law As Blackmail

David Bernstein is discussing his forthcoming book Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights against Progressive Reform in this audio clip. You can download the clip for casual listening.

The good stuff begins about 4 minutes in. The title of the post comes about 7:20 into the audio. The short version: a case of union extortion gone mad. Note: when I worked for a union packing house in Omaha we regularly had to do unpaid overtime. One day I messed up and didn't punch out until I was leaving the floor and the union steward was kind enough to "fix" my time card.

Unions do provide some worker protection, but the thing they are the very best at is providing union protection. They have in fact reached their peak in the competitive sector of the economy with the bail out of Government Motors. In the coercive sector of the economy (government) the peak has not yet been reached. It is coming.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:42 AM | Comments (3)

The group dynamics of activism are predictable, but rarely dull!

An incident I don't want to blog about has reminded me of the dangers of the phenomenon of the agitated "choir." When activists get together, what starts as a chorus of agreement can escalate to the encouragement of obnoxious, even illegal behavior. Activists compete with each other, and sooner or later someone -- perhaps an agent provocateur -- will do something extreme or stupid or violent, and then he'll be cheered on, and the result becomes a victory for the other side.

The reason I put the word "choir" in quotes is that what starts as a choir of activists tends to turn into something else:

I am hardly alone in noticing that like-minded, single-issue activists often associate with -- and tend to exclusively surround themselves with -- other like-minded, single-issue activists. The result is what many call an echo chamber -- or "the choir." But I think "echo chamber" and "choir" are less than accurate terms, because the implication is that people are simply getting together and agreeing with each other in groups. When group dynamics are factored into single issue fanaticism, a lot more happens than mere group agreement. Because people are naturally competitive, many activists want to prove to the group that they are not only devoted to the cause, but more devoted than the others. This leads to extreme hyperbole, and the taking of positions which normal people would consider laughable.
It's easy to understand the mechanism; after all, what could be more boring than an echo chamber of people sitting around agreeing with each other? Someone always has to liven things up, and tell people that they really aren't doing enough, that their positions are too moderate! Voices of reason are ridiculed or deemed suspect, rhetoric is ramped up, and things can go beyond merely taking positions normal people would consider laughable.

And I don't mean group hugs.

posted by Eric at 11:18 AM | Comments (6)

Soros buys "Culture War" issue, and donates it to the left

Regular readers know that I consider George Soros one of the most detestable characters on the political horizon.

So, I was quite upset to read that he is supporting a cause I also support.

George Soros, the multibillionaire investor who helped bankroll three initiatives to change drug laws in California, endorsed the marijuana legalization initiative Monday and plans to make a major financial contribution to the campaign.

Soros, who invested $3 million in the medical marijuana initiative and two other measures, made his announcement in an opinion piece published online by the Wall Street Journal. "Proposition 19 already is a winner no matter what happens on election day. The mere fact of its being on the ballot has elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy in ways I could not have imagined a year ago," Soros wrote. The article is scheduled to appear in Tuesday's print edition.

That may be the kiss of death to Proposition 19, as it shifts the debate completely. Were I running the No on 19 campaign, I would promptly start calling it "NO on the Soros initiative!" and refocus the ads by asking whether Californians want this meddlesome billionaire telling us what to do.


I've talked about this before in the context of Pat Buchanan, but there are few things more disturbing than agreeing with someone you can't stand. Knowing that this feeling is profoundly illogical only makes it worse.

From a strategic standpoint, however, Soros is doing the left a much-needed favor whether they realize it or not. His huge donation to the Prop 19 campaign will (because of the kneejerk hatred he inspires) do much to inject ugly and divisive culture war politics into an election which had otherwise been about economic issues. But most importantly, there has been talk about opposition to the war on drugs in Republican, Tea Party, and conservative circles -- specifically in relation to Prop 19. I can think of few things more calculated to hijack the issue and put it into the left wing camp than big-time backing from Soros. Regardless of whether the initiative wins, the Soros money will do much to place it on the left.

Soros is basically buying a potential right wing issue right from under their noses. Theft through financial contamination. I don't think he really cares whether it passes, though. In fact, I think if he really just wanted it to pass, he would fund it covertly and quietly, while keeping his highly inflammatory name out of it.

The man is truly sinister. But I have to admit that psychologically, it's a brilliant move.

(So much for the idea that Soros was sitting things out....)

UPDATE: Thanks to Memeorandum for the link.

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

States' rights. A morally as well as legally irrelevant concept?

I've been grappling with the abortion issue lately, and not in the usual way. I have stated my opinions on the moral issues before and this post is not to revisit that topic.

Rather, I want to consider abortion in the context of the changed, evolved, Constitution. A lot of activists talk about getting rid of Roe v. Wade, and whenever I hear that I am reminded of states' rights.

Whether they are liberal, moderate, conservative, libertarian, or something else, most Americans believe that Roe v. Wade, by declaring that most state prohibitions against abortion violated the constitutional right to privacy, essentially removed from the states the power to prohibit abortion. So, if Roe v. Wade were reversed, in theory each state would be free to pass whatever laws the various legislatures wanted, which would mean that a woman who wanted an abortion in a state which banned the procedure might have to go to a state which allowed it.

But is that necessarily true today?

Remember that the Roe v.Wade right to privacy derived in turn from Griswold v. Connecticut, which had held that state laws prohibiting contraceptives violated the right to privacy. So, reversing Roe would mean reversing a long line of case law grounded in right to privacy, including not only Griswold, but Lawrence v. Texas. Not only would whatever state anti-abortion laws are still on the books be reinstated, but so would whatever anti-contraceptive laws and sodomy laws are still on the books.

But would a rollback of Roe v. Wade be accompanied by a rollback of federal power? I don't really see how it would.

So my question becomes one of federalism. Assume Roe v. Wade is reversed. Would this mean that the federal government could simply outlaw abortion? And contraceptives? And sodomy? Most conservatives would say that it would not mean that, at least most states' rights conservatives. But what about conservatives who don't believe in states' rights?

...there's the Declarationist philosophy, which finds a giant, extraconstitutional moral veto power in the Declaration of Independence. To put it simply, if something is deemed immoral, then neither Congress nor the states can do it, and constitutional protections do not apply. I remember hearing one of the leading proponents of Declarationism warn that conservatives should not put much stock in getting rid of Roe v. Wade, because state legislatures would simply pass laws allowing abortion. Instead (he argued) conservatives should unite around the Declaration as a "moral basis for conservatism" and that the Declaration it would trump any and all state law anywhere in the land, "states' rights" be damned. (As well as any "freedoms" allegedly found in the Constitution.)
My question, then, becomes, who needs to resort to a philosophical interpretation of some hidden religious emanations from the Declaration when federalism itself has already been nullified? The Declarationists would need only embrace Nancy Pelosi's restatement of the current state of the law, and viola! Mission accomplished.

The Declarations believe that states' rights are morally irrelevant, while the liberals believe states' rights are legally irrelevant. (Not that either "side" has asked, but I think this greases the skids for future collusion...)

Seen this way, there really was no need for the 13th Amendment, for Congress could simply have passed a law prohibiting slavery, or the 18th Amendment, for Congress could have voted to prohibit alcohol the same way that they prohibited drugs.

I've called the 18th Amendment the "telltale amendment," because I think it provides clear evidence that the Constitution once meant something, and I think the 13th Amendment provides only further evidence. Even after fighting a huge and costly war driven in large part against slavery, they still had to amend the Constitution to actually make it illegal. Why? For the simple reason that Congress lacked the constitutional power to do something so simple as pass a basic law abolishing slavery -- all language in the Declaration to the contrary notwithstanding. (So much for the Declarationist position that slavery was somehow abolished by the Declaration.)

Of course, now that Congress has the power to do anything it wants, why would any moralist need the Declaration, much less the Constitution?

They are both dead. All hail total federal statism!

I'd call it federal totalitarianism, except they're not quite there yet, and I try to be accurate. The reason the federal government has not become totalitarian in the full sense of the term is not because they lack the power to go there, but only because they haven't fully used it.


posted by Eric at 01:18 PM | Comments (8)

Does Michigan need a Pallbearer? Or a Doctor?

To say that Michigan's economy is in the dumps would be understatement. In many charts which compare states by factoring in unemployment rates alongside population exodus, Michigan ranks at the absolute bottom, because it has the highest unemployment rate and the highest population exodus rate.

But there's a little bit of "competition" (if you'll forgive the gallows humor) over who gets to be at the absolute bottom. In this report, Michigan is ranked as only the 48th worst.

What keeps pushing Michigan's numbers to the bottom is the plummeting economy of the greater Detroit metropolitan area.

Two charts I found here (which should also be of interest to people in many other areas of the country), illustrate graphically that this area is at the absolute nationwide bottom in two key categories:

First, the Net Domestic Migration rate.


And here's the Employment Growth rate.


The DMA decline is shocking -- and nearly twice that of the second metropolitan area.

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, it took time to reach such such a low. This sordid state of affairs is a product of years of economically ruinous government policies:

[I]f and when they do have to bury Detroit, I hope that all the current and past representatives and senators from Michigan have to serve as pallbearers. And no one has earned the "honor" of chief pallbearer more than the Michigan Representative John Dingell, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who is more responsible for protecting Detroit to death than any single legislator.

That seems awfully, um, harsh, doesn't it? What mean-spirited, extreme right-wing pundit would say such a thing?

Oh, it was Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times.

The problem is, Dingell is not running for pallbearer in chief. He is running once again for the office he has held for the past 55 years. I don't think he wants to leave that office until he is carried out by pallbearers, and his title is inherited by his wife Debbie (who would be in the unique position of being the hereditary pallbearer of both a husband and the area his policies destroyed). We read about ruinous political dynasties in countries like Argentina and North Korea, but it appalls me to see such a thing happening in the United States.

How anyone in this area could even consider voting for Dingell is beyond me. But I have only been here for two years, so I'm lacking in feelings of nostalgia, or whatever it is that keeps the man in office.

If you think this sounds like another shameless campaign pitch for Dingell's opponent, Dr. Rob Steele, you'd be right. It isn't often I see a non-politician who has been successful in life and in business running against someone who so epitomizes everything that is wrong in politics today and who has done so much to devastate the economy.

People of Southeast Michigan, wake up! You have nothing to lose but your pallbearer!

Why vote for a pallbearer when there's still time to vote for a doctor who can save you?

posted by Eric at 10:09 AM | Comments (4)

Lassie is a blasphemous Jewish bitch!

Is Batman Jewish?

How about Superman?

It would never have occurred to me that either show had a religious theme in any way, shape, or form. But if you watch the latest "Poliwood" with Roger L. Simon and Lionel Chetwynd, you will learn that some Muslim activist film maker has declared that because these shows were written by Jews (maybe they were and maybe they weren't -- like anyone should care!) then there should also be action flicks with Muslim characters (including burka-clad women heroes). I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it, but seeing is believing, and the Poliwood segment actually shows this Muslim director making this ridiculous claim. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Naturally, because multiculturalist fairness dictates that Muslim hero shows must be shown to American kiddies to compensate for the "Jewish" Superman and Batman, his tripe is soon to be broadcast for the American kiddies not on some alternative Jihadi-sympathizing network, but on the very mainstream Discovery Channel.

The Discovery Channel is certainly within its First Amendment rights, but I must ask a question.

Are we insane?

It's a rhetorical question. No answer is required.

And may I ask what's next?

I mean, suppose the "Lassie" series were discovered to have been written by sneaky Jews with a secret agenda of brainwashing American children into first tolerating, then accepting, the very un-Islamic behavior of loving dogs. Think about it. Have not Americans over the years been systematically conditioned by Hollywood Jews to think of an unclean animal as a "member of the family?" Or even as "the family dog?" Isn't it high time that traditional Islamist family values (as promulgated by the activists at CAIR) be presented?

The neat thing about blogging is that I don't have to make this stuff up, and these lunatic absurdities are not all that much of a stretch.

What's absurd satire for me is honest truth for others.

Pity the Republic.

posted by Eric at 10:59 PM | Comments (5)

Getting A Hold

It is a good thing that many Americans have a low tolerance for Moral/Cultural Socialism. It will make it harder for Sharia to get a hold on the country.

Conversely every place we allow government to act is another place it can act differently later. And often does.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:58 PM | Comments (12)

On the sentimental road to hell, I violated Godwin's Law with myself!

I'm having an argument with myself over sentimentalism. Last night I left this comment over at Dr. Helen's blog:

I don't believe in the inherent goodness of man at all (often just the opposite), yet I often have feelings I would describe as sentimental.

I think it is very possible to hate humanity and still be a sentimentalist. It can be an emotional survival skill, and I don't think it requires any belief in the goodness of humanity.

The Wiki entry is interesting:



(1) An overindulgence in emotion, especially the conscious effort to induce emotion in order to enjoy it. (2) An optimistic overemphasis of the goodness of humanity (sensibility), representing in part a reaction against Calvinism[citation needed], which regarded human nature as depraved.


The two are very different. But it also shows Wiki bias. You don't have to be a Calvinist to regard human nature as depraved.

This was in response to a quote from the The Anchoress:
"Sentimentalism is an upbeat overemphasis on the inherent goodness of mankind that judges what is good or evil according to how well it accords with our feelings, or the feelings of people we want to impress."
I have never believed in the inherent goodness of mankind, yet I do tend towards sentimentalism. Movies and books can reduce me to tears if I allow it; the other night I had to turn off Cast Away because I became so annoyed with myself for having these emotions. I mean really, what sort of crackpot can be made to cry over a soccer ball lost at sea? Then there are the classic tearjerker flicks -- deliberately and calculatedly designed to make us feel these emotions. People love to be made to cry over tearjerkers, and I would be willing to bet that included among the ranks of the criers are many people who are deeply anti-social, even misanthropic people who think humanity is inherently evil.

As I debated this with myself, an absolutely awful thought popped into my mind. The fact that Adolf Hitler (hardly a man who believed in human goodness) cried for days over the death of his pet canary. Now, I don't know how true that story is, and it might be apocryphal. But the fact that it even crossed my mind means that I had carried my internal debate too far. I violated Godwin's Law having an argument with myself!

Such follies should not be.

I think it's better for me to "butch it up," and not give a rat's ass whether I am a sentimentalist.

But see, Hitler crying over the dead canary is no canard; according to an OSS profile, it was part of his Jekyll and Hyde personality. So if I reject my sentimental feelings, I might end up becoming sociopathic, and murdering millions!

I just can't win, can I?

MORE: Speaking of sentimental mass murderers, what about the environmentalists who want to wipe out humanity? Are not many of them driven by a grotesquely misanthropic form of environmental sentimentalism?

Does an excess of sentimentalism trigger misanthropy? Or does misanthropy trigger an excess of sentimentalism?

Or don't these things matter?

My concern is not so much with the "rightness" or the "wrongness" of sentimentalism as it is whether people are being manipulated without understanding the mechanisms that manipulate them.

UPDATE: An interesting comment from Lin W cites the following dictionary definition from the1888 Worcester's Academic Dictionary, A New Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, which according to Lin:

defines "Sentimentality" as "affectation of feeling". "Affectation" being defined as "false pretense; artificial show; insincerity; artifice."

Which tells me the meaning has shifted from "pretending to be emotional about something" to the feeling itself.

My standard reference is Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, 1957 -- a book so humongous (3194 pages) that I keep it on a dictionary stand so I can flip through it without getting a hernia or having my legs put to sleep. What I like about it is that it shows the plain meaning of English words in their modern sense before the politically correct language cops got behind the controls.

First of all, we are talking about sentimentalism, not sentimentality. According to my dictionary, sentimentalism is defined as "quality or state of being sentimental." Sentimentality OTOH, is defined as the "quality or state of being sentimental, esp to excess or affectation."

So the two words have slightly different meanings. The latter implies insincerity, while the former does not.

However, the second definition of "sentimental" can imply insincerity:


Deliberately overemphasizing inherent human goodness in the face of clear evidence to the contrary would fall into the second definition of the word. And judging what is good or evil according to how well it accords with our feelings -- while that would also be a form of sentimentalism, I would call such blindness to reason sentimentalist extremism.

posted by Eric at 01:54 PM | Comments (5)

Wiki War

Glenn notes that the Wikileaks doc dump further discredits various well-debunked antiwar theories.

Four things to remember here in 2010:

1) 90%+ of civilians killed in Iraq were killed by Al Qaeda or Iran-affiliated militias, not coalition forces, who lost about 5,000 troops -- most killed defending Iraqi civilians from those groups.

2) Saddam's use of WMD against the Kurds, state sponsorship of terrorism, and refusal to cooperate with WMD disarmament in combination with a collapsing, corrupted sanctions regime required that we either live with the increasing likelihood of a WMD terrorist attack or remove a Stalinist dictator and attempt to kickstart freedom and democracy in a stagnant, repressive region.

3) Saddam's regime killed an average of 3,000 to 7,000 people a month by most estimates, even including the 12-year period in which the no-fly zones curbed his most genocidal tendencies. We've probably saved around 500,000 lives net by removing him, even considering the additional number killed by Iranian militias and AQ before those problems were largely brought under control.

4) Life is far better in Iraq in 2010 than in 2003 by virtually every measure -- basic services, basic rights, and GDP per capita are all at levels unseen in the Saddam era.

posted by Dave at 11:10 AM | Comments (1)

Desperate Dancing with Dynastic Democrat Dinosaurs

While I have written about the race between Dynasty Democrat John Dingell and cardiologist Rob Steele, there's an interesting new development which may catapult the battle into something other than the local news category.

Bill Clinton is coming to town!

From NBC's John Yang
Is Michigan Rep. John Dingell (D) -- the longest serving member of the House ever -- in trouble?

Despite the anti-incumbent political environment, Michigan's devastated economy, and the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, few thought the race would be competitive. After all, the district -- in the state's southeastern corner stretching from Ann Arbor to the Ohio border -- is so heavily Democratic that John Kerry swamped George W. Bush by 20 percentage points in 2004. And Dingell, who has not won less than 60% of the vote since 1994, has far outspent his underfunded challenger, cardiologist Robert Steele.

If an upset like this were to actually happen -- if a Democrat titan like John Dingell lost his seat -- it would be a game changer.

Trouble is, no one really knows what's going to happen. That's what makes the Clinton visit so mysterious:

There's little reliable public polling in the race. But, with barely a week to go before Election Day, there are unmistakable signs of concern. One example: Former President Bill Clinton is making a hastily arranged visit to Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon for a Dingell rally at the University of Michigan. In addition, there are signs that organized labor is shifting resources to the race as Democrats try to hang on to their House majority.

Steele, who says he was motivated to run by health-care reform, is using the slogan: "Time for a change." The seat has been held by someone named John Dingell for 77 years -- first the current congressman's father from 1933 until 1955, and then John Dingell Jr. ever since.

Dr. Steele is one of most refreshing people I have ever seen running for office, and what I like about him is that he's anything but a politician. He is a doctor who decided to take time out from his practice and devote himself to bringing down not so much a man, but a dynasty that has ruled over this congressional district since most people's grandparents were born. Steele is the kind of guy who ought to be in Congress, for the simple reason that guys like him normally have better things to do with their lives. I wish there were some way to require that of congressmen. Imagine if the only people allowed to run for office were people who didn't want to run because they had better things to do!

I know. It's just a dream. But Steele is very refreshing. So refreshing, in fact, that I'm seeing his signs on front lawns right here in the People's Republic of Ann Arbor!

Clearly, something had to be done.

So in comes Bill Clinton to save the Dingell Dynasty!

Not that I blame Bubba. After all, Hillary lost to Obama, and while that may have delayed the Clinton dynasty from flowering fully, I'd be willing to bet the man has a soft spot in his heart for dynasties.

If you don't like dynasties and want to help stop the Dingell Dynasty, you can contribute to Rob Steele.

While I couldn't find an official picture for the Ann Arbor occasion, I did find one showing the dynasty lovers taken last year (on Dingell's 19,420th day in office) and I am utterly fascinated by it:

The caption reads:

Congressman Dingell (D-MI) Is Honored As The Longest Serving House Member

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 10: US Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (2nd L) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) (R) attend as former US President Bill Clinton (L) honors US Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) (2nd R), who on February 11 2009 will set a new record for career service in the US House of Representatives, at the US Capitol on February 10, 2009 in Washington, DC. Dingell was first elected to his seat in 1955, and will set the new record with his 19,420th day.

Geez, you'd almost think that having been in Congress that long was something to be proud of. I think it's a disgrace.

But clearly the guy loves being a lifer -- so no wonder he's on Life.

As to why Henry Waxman is clearly in focus while Clinton and Dingell are all a blur, there has to be a reason. If there's one thing Life is known for, it's photography, so they must know something.

Perhaps Waxman is hoping to be a Lifer too. But he's only been there for 35 years, so even though he's 71, he's still just a baby dinosaur. To match Dingell, he'd have to make it to at least the year 2030, which of course he might. Sometimes it seems these career politicians with nothing better to do than run for office have cornered the life extension market. (Which really isn't fair, if you believe in concepts like that.)

MORE: Glenn Reynolds points out that THE "D" STANDS FOR "DESPERATE.

This made me realize the title of this post was insufficiently alliterative, because I missed a key "D" word. The title should be "Desperate Dancing with Dynastic Democrat Dinosaurs," and I corrected it.

I hope this has not caused undue confusion.

posted by Eric at 04:30 PM | Comments (4)


No, it's not about Obama butchering a Reagan quote on government's role, or another Scalzi post; I've concluded the writing of lefty fiction writers should be held only to the standards of fiction, and am swearing off taking their thoughts on the real world seriously enough to criticize, unless they hold elected office.

Speaking of taking oneself too seriously, the formerly major newsweekly recently sold for less than the change in your pocket (word is a second buyer opted instead at the last minute for a McParfait from the Dollar Value Menu) apparently still thinks they're not just relevant but such a primary, unchallenged source of news that you won't notice their poll contradicts all the others.

Notice a small outlier here?

This might explain why:

Notes: Data are weighted so that sample demographics match Census Current Population Survey parameters for gender, age, education, race, region, and population density. In addition, data are weighted to correct for different probabilities of selection associated with the number of adults in each respondent's household and their telephone usage patterns.

As best I can tell, they never disclose what atrocities they actually performed on the hapless raw data to make it look like this. Here's a lesson for all you poll-watchers out there: always look at the re-weighting... and when a poll mentions that it did re-weighting, but doesn't give you any quantitative data, there's a good chance it hides something horrifying.

What's odd is that Newsweek should know this is a huge outlier to polls done at the same time, and yet they frame it as news, as though they don't realize people have access to other polls. I expect them to cheerlead for the Dems, but it's a bit jarring that they seem to be doing so from within their own little Pauline Kael bubble of reality.

posted by Dave at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

We are now Russia's Mexico! And we must crack down on deviationists!

Viktor Ivanov is a fascinating character. A KGB man and Soviet war veteran of the old school, according to his Wiki bio Ivanov

...served in the KGB Directorate of Leningrad and its successors in 1977-1994.

In 1987-1988 as a KGB officer he took part in the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

In December 1990 together with Boris Gryzlov and Valentin Chuykin he founded the small-scale enterprise Blok engaged in various businesses and became its director.

In October 1994 he resigned from FSK and was appointed Chief of the Administrative Staff of the Saint Petersburg Mayor Office. In 1999 he succeeded Nikolai Patrushev as the Head of the Internal Security Department of Russia's FSB. Since January 5, 2000, he has been a Deputy Head of the Presidential Staff for personnel appointed by Vladimir Putin. Viktor Ivanov is considered one of Putin's closest allies.

The KGB veteran now heads the Russian equivalent of our DEA, making him their top drug warrior:
Since May 15, 2008, he has been a Director of Russia's Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics and a Chairman of State Anti-Narcotics –°ommittee, which includes 29 Heads of Russian Ministries.
To say that Russia has a drug problem and an organized crime problem would be understatement. They have a huge problem, and what we call the "Russian Mafia" is much more powerful than the American version, because of the way they are embedded in the government:
As in the United States, there is no universally accepted definition of organized crime in Russia, in major part because Russian law provides no legal definition of organized crime. Analysis of criminological sources, however, enables one to identify some of its basic characteristics. These include organizational features that make Russian organized crime unique in the degree to which it is embedded in the post-Soviet political system.

At the same time, however, it has certain features in common with such other well-known varieties of organized crime as the Italian Mafia. The latter has a complicated history that includes both cooperation and conflict with the Italian state. Much more than was ever the case with the Italian Mafia, however, Russian organized crime is uniquely a descendant of the Soviet state.

Gang warfare is so widespread as to not merit attention in the press, as this 2007 BBC report noted:
The Moscow grenade attack which injured 16 seems to bear the hallmarks of the continuing struggle in Russia's underground world of sleaze and gang warfare.

Bombings and shootings linked to Russia's criminal underworld are so commonplace these days that they barely even feature in news bulletins.

This latest attack in Moscow is the third such incident in Russia this week.

On Monday, three people were killed by a bomb in a market in Ryazan, about 200km south east of Moscow; and, on the same day, an explosive device was thrown into a boutique in St Petersburg, damaging property but causing no injuries.

For good measure, there was also a shooting in Moscow on Wednesday, as a result of which a businessman lies critically ill in hospital.

I don't want to get lost in details, but one gang alone (the Tambov Gang) is a multibillion dollar operation which spills over into Europe.

Sound familiar? It reminds me of Mexico, except the situation is far away. Most Americans rarely think about the Russian Mafia, or the Russian war on drugs.

I hadn't even thought about the problem until today, when I learned that Viktor Ivanov has delivered a sound scolding to the bad, bad United States. He blames us (not the Russian drug importers) for Russia's drug problem, and he connects opium in Afghanistan to the California Marijuana Intitiative.

No, seriously. He has even traveled to California to do something that in the old Cold War days would be considered "interfering in our internal affairs."

Russia's top drug official warned in an interview with Foreign Policy on Friday of what he called the "catastrophic" consequences of marijuana legalization measures like California's upcoming ballot initiative, saying darkly that widespread legal drug use would produce "psychiatric deviations" and will only encourage drug addiction.

Viktor Ivanov, a former KGB officer and prominent member of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's inner circle, even took the unusual step of going to Los Angeles earlier this week to "conduct a campaign against legalizing marijuana in California," as he said in the interview. He also came to Washington this week to meet with U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske and U.S. Afghan envoy Richard Holbrooke to discuss anti-poppy measures in Afghanistan and call for an intensified program of aerial eradication.

The United States has largely abandoned eradicating the poppy crop in favor of a narrower strategy focusing on cutting off funding to the Taliban and cracking down on traffickers. Ivanov says that isn't enough to counter the flow of heroin into Russia, which kills tens of thousands of users every year.

But California's laxity, it seems, was particularly startling to him. "I hadn't known about it before and I was absolutely shocked when I was in the city and saw these posters saying that you can get marijuana for medical purposes," he said. He met with Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Sheriff Leroy Baca to voice Russia's opposition to the measure. Noting that U.S. President Barack Obama has also expressed his opposition to legalization, Ivanov described it as "one of the cases where Russia and the U.S. agree completely."

He continued: "I'm afraid that the consequences of [legalization] will be catastrophic. Even the Netherlands, where they sell marijuana legally in coffee shops, they are now reversing on this. Because there, and everywhere, drug addiction is becoming stronger and the people who are addicted develop psychiatric deviations. They say, 'What does God do when he wants to punish a person? He deprives him of his mind.'"

Actually the Netherlands controversy was fueled by EU pressure, as drug tourists from other countries poured in. It worked quite well for users in the Netherlands.
Mayor Leers says that would mean throwing away a drugs policy which has been shown to work, for the sake of uniformity. He wants all of Europe to treat cannabis as tolerantly as the Dutch, eliminating drugs tourism, and has summoned fellow civic leaders from other nations to a conference to tell them the advantages that would bring.

"If you look at the figures you can see that only a small percentage of the youth in the Netherlands is addicted to cannabis. In Germany, Belgium and France the figures are much higher," the mayor says. "So our policy works. It is a good policy."

If drugs were legalized in New York, druggies from around the country would clutter the streets.

Ivanov demands action in Afghanistan, and naturally, he is blaming the U.S. (as if we should have learned a lesson from the Russian experience):

Ivanov, who served in Afghanistan with the KGB during the Soviet Union's war in the 1980s expressed skepticism about the war effort in Afghanistan. "During the last five years the perception of the foreign powers by the local population has changed," he said. "Now they take it as a military occupation of their country."
Yes, and I'm sure that once the Americans start defoliating their poppy fields, they'll just love us.

At the rate things are going, pretty soon the Drug War will become World War IV.

I find it fascinating that Ivanov's scolding comes right on the heels of a similar scolding by Mexican President Felipe Calderon:

TIJUANA, Mexico -- President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that a California ballot measure to legalize marijuana represents hypocrisy in U.S. drug policy for encouraging consumption while at the same time demanding that Mexico and other countries crack down on drug trafficking.

"For me, it reflects a terrible inconsistency in government policies in the United States," the Mexican leader said late Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.

California voters will decide on Nov. 2 whether to allow possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Proposition 19 would also clear the way for local governments to permit retail sales of pot.

Calderon said he was certain that legalizing marijuana will lead to an increase in drug consumption.

"It's very sad to see how drug consumption is, little by little, tearing apart American society and, if we don't watch ourselves, it will tear apart ours," the president said.

Calderon spoke as Tijuana opened a two-week festival to showcase the city's economic prowess and cultural riches -- a $5 million victory that portraying the city across from San Diego as a beacon of hope in the Mexican government's war on drug traffickers that Calderon launched in 2006.

Yes, and we know how well the war on drug traffickers has worked, don't we?

There are willing buyers of drugs, and willing sellers. Wherever there is demand, there will be supply. A few weeks ago, I discussed the situation in Mexico until I was blue in the face.

Sorry, but I have to repeat myself. It's easier than wearing myself out by saying it again with new words:

All of these drug-supplying countries, kingpins, and fiefdoms, whether large or small, near our border or far way, are as replaceable as worn out tires. They are as irrelevant to the Drug War as Al Capone was to Prohibition. Sure, Al Capone could have been taken out (and eventually was -- for income tax evasion), but had he been taken out at the height of his power, that would have accomplished little more than creating a new opportunity for another eager, probably more vicious, entrepreneur.

What really complicates the War on Drugs (and please forgive my inconsistent capitalization; I don't know what the rules are for this; although I see that the War on Poverty is capitalized) is that it might just be on the verge of turning into a real war. At least the War on Poverty never did that.

The present situation in Mexico involves not one or two cartels, but eight of them: the Beltran Leyva Cartel, the La Familia Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Juarez Cartel, the Los Negros Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel, and the Los Zetas Cartel. Most of them have sub-cartels and are headed by the usual lineup of completely replaceable "kingpins." (It would take at least a day to become knowledgeable about all of them.)

It's turned into a real, hugely complicated shooting war, and our border is now direly endangered.


Because American consumers want what these now-warring suppliers have.

At some point, I think this country needs to ask itself whether it's worth it and how far it should go. Sure, we could go to war with Mexico for its failure to pursue the cartels to our satisfaction, and in the case of an all out war, things might get difficult enough for the suppliers of American consumers that they might decide to move their operations to safer places, or even close up shop.

But as we have seen before, there are other countries in the world.

American is the country with the biggest demand. Yet America is literally at war internationally with supply, which is seen as the enemy. And domestically, America is at war with demand.

We are waging war against a vast demand and an infinite supply during a period of economic crisis.

The enemies and potential enemies in this war are everywhere.

The situation in Russia is analogous to our own in that there are willing consumers, and external suppliers.

But the difference is that here the Americans are being blamed for the demand, while in Russia we are being blamed for the supply!

It is all our fault.

I find this situation supremely ironic. In fact, I find it insane.

There are "psychiatric deviations" all right. I think the Drug War itself has led to "psychiatric deviationism" from the top down, on a grand scale. Turning human appetites into crimes has resulted in a gigantic worldwide underground economy and demand, and the harder the war is fought, the larger the underground economy gets.

Assume that drugs produce "psychiatric deviations." Why do so many people believe that criminalizing illness will prevent it, when that illness is known to be the driving force behind a huge economic demand?

When "psychiatric deviations" are outlawed, then psychiatric deviants will be outlaws.

Is that an improvement on psychiatric deviationism?

It doesn't matter to those who believe illicit substance use is inherently immoral, because that's precisely the idea. Illness = crime.

Studies in many countries are showing that giving the deviants their drugs is not only cheaper but more effective.

Such deviationism has been with humanity for a long time, and it is impossible to stamp out. While waging war on human appetites is foolish in itself, transforming them into an industry is, I think, sheer madness. Check out M. Simon's work on the subject.

It's no accident that a KGB control freak like Ivanov wants to ramp things up while blaming us for his country's appetites. There's a lot of power and money at stake.

And it's comforting to know that we are to the Russians as the Mexico is to us.

We are both supply and demand!

Nice international racket. No wonder they want to keep it up.

posted by Eric at 12:41 PM | Comments (2)

The Devil Made Me Do It

A few weeks ago, I attended Fencon, a science fiction convention in Dallas. I was hoping to get some pictures of it and do a post about the ethos of Science Fiction cons (as opposed to the Athos of Science Fiction cons, which involves swords and quantities of wine.)

However, for various reasons, I ended up not taking pictures. (Okay, okay, it started with a white shirt and a cup of starbucks coffee. I should know better than wearing white and having coffee. I washed the shirt in the bathroom, but that left it semi-transparent. I really didn't feel equal to playing photographer while walking around in a peek-a-boob shirt. But also, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I only went for my appearances and didn't hang around.

All the same, one of my panels made me uneasy. One of my co-panelists was Robert Sawyer, author of Flashforward and he was pushing, rather hard as in "Scientists think that...." the idea that animated the novel (which was made, I understand, into a now-cancelled TV show.) The central idea of his book is that the future is as hard set as the past and individual will is an illusion.

Continue reading "The Devil Made Me Do It"

posted by Sarah at 11:37 PM | Comments (16)

I am not a crocophobe -- and that's no croc!

Glenn Reynolds linked a thought experiment that intrigues me:

let's do a thought experiment. We won't use the word "Muslim." Instead, let's use the word "crocodile." OK? So the question is, do you qualify as a lunatic if you say, "You know, it's certainly not completely rational, but when I see a crocodile on the plane with me, it makes me jumpy and nervous. I don't have anything against crocodiles, but on airplanes, they sort of freak me out."
I'm the wrong person to be doing this thought experiment, as I like crocodilians. For years I had a pet alligator, and I have always defended them against unwarranted MSM attacks (such as the unproven "alligations" that they were eating people in New Orleans).

But if I saw a crocodile walking about an airplane -- especially the one described in the news piece as being small enough to fit in a gym bag -- I would not hesitate to pick it up, especially if I thought that would avert a panic.

That's just me, though. What I think killed the passengers was not the crocodile (which was too small to kill anyone), but crocodile-phobia. It is analogous to ophidiophobia -- the fear of snakes, which I have discussed in at least a couple of posts.

There is no question that a number of people are afraid of these sorts of beasties. Just because I do not feel that fear does not mean I don't acknowledge that people have it. People tell me that they're afraid of pit bulls a lot, and I have to respect that fear even if I don't share it. What I cannot understand is the idea that being afraid of something and admitting your fear is somehow evil. Which it must be, or else why would Juan Williams have been fired for it?

Would he have been fired had he admitted to a fear of snakes or crocs*?

Of course not. So what's up here?

If you're afraid of something and you honestly admit it, should a moral judgment be inflicted on you for that? I don't see why. If Williams honestly suffered from Islamophobia, why is he "worse" than if he suffered from claustrophobia? If these things are diseases, then isn't he being discriminated against for his illness? So where are the ADA bureaucrats?

And what if you're genuinely afraid to have a stranger pat down your genitals? I have to say that I would have a serious problem with that, and if the comments to my post are any indication, so do a lot of people.

Which means that as a practical matter, if you can't get past whatever the fear of unwanted genital touching is called, you won't have to worry about Islamophobia or crocodile-phobia.

It's a nutty world out there, and getting nuttier by the minute.

* NO, NO, NO! I don't mean those kind of crocs, of which I am deathly afraid, and for which I need help to cope. These things are relative.

posted by Eric at 10:46 PM | Comments (1)

If killing my dog is progressive, then I vote for "backwards thinking."

Via Glenn Reynolds, I learned that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (who is running for Colorado governor) is complaining about "backwards thinking" in Western rural areas, and he has invoked the name of Matthew Shepard for political gain -- clearly implying that people in rural parts of his state are the type of people who would enjoy killing homosexuals:

...the tragic death of Matthew Shepard occurred in Wyoming. Colorado and Wyoming are very similar. We have some of the same, you know, backwards thinking in the kind of rural Western areas you see in, you know, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico.
Not only is that a despicable thing to suggest about rural people, but I don't think Hickenlooper is in a very good position to accuse anyone of murderous bigotry.

If we look at his prolonged and ongoing campaign against pit bulls, Hickenlooper has to be considered one of the nation's leading bigots:

Denver, Colorado has the most oppressive Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in the country. Denver has engaged in an aggressive seizure program, which involves taking family pet pit bulls from their homes and killing them.

Between 2005 and 2006, the city euthanized 1,454 dogs. Since the ban began in 1989, the city has killed thousands. Last year, an animal control worker leaked photos of the situation. (PLEASE NOTE: these images are extremely graphic.) This situation is dire.


* Visit Maggie's Oh My Dog! A Dog Blog and create an electronic postcard (or ten, the more the better!) telling the Mayor you oppose his law. It's ridiculously easy, even if you're not a techie.

Maggie's goal is to print 10,560 postcards, a mile-long message for the Mile High City, and flood Mayor Hickenlooper's office with your words. She has more than a hundred already and would love a hundred more from us this week. We can surely beat that!

In 2004, Hickenlooper actively fought to keep the pit bull ban active when it was struck down by a state law. However, the state prohibits municipalities from passing BSL (Denver was grandfathered in when that law passed). Mayor Hickenlooper is currently campaigning for governorship of Colorado. If the would-be governor is able to redeem himself by taking a stance against the breed ban, he may gain votes from the animal welfare community. Now is the time to save thousands of pit-bull-type dogs' lives!

OK, let me admit that I tend to get emotional about this issue, and that is because I have owned and loved these dogs for most of my life. As I have explained, Coco is like family to me, and I consider anyone who would kill her to be my dire enemy.


People who want to kill my dog because of her genes are bigots, period.

Mayor Hickenlooper can invoke the specter of Matthew Shepard's death at the hands of Wyoming thugs all he wants, but as far as I am concerned he is nothing but a dirty, low-down, dog-killing bigot.

I'd cast my lot with the "backwards" rural folks this demagogue condemns as would be murderers over him any day.

And so would Coco.

posted by Eric at 02:55 PM | Comments (12)

the suppuration of free speech

Sarah's comments about consequences which are meted out to writers who dare to say anything critical of Islam -- by people who have no problem at all with vicious criticism of Christianity -- make me wonder about the nature of free speech.

We have the First Amendment, but that really does not guarantee free speech; it only guarantees that the government can't censor or restrict speech. If you say the "wrong" thing, you can be excoriated, denounced, boycotted, or fired. Who gets to decide what is wrong? Certainly not the majority. As we saw in the case of Juan Williams, these things are decided by small numbers of vocal activists. Their goal, simply, is to intimidate the majority.

But I shouldn't say that there are no critics of Islam who are not also critics of Christianity, because there are a few exceptions -- Richard Dawkins being one.

The 69-year-old author and scientist told of his 'visceral revulsion' when he sees women wearing the controversial Islamic clothing.


In 2008, he said: 'It's almost impossible to say anything against Islam in this country, because you are accused of being racist or Islamophobic.'

Of course, you can slam Christianity all you want. At least Dawkins has the intellectual honesty to be consistent; most atheists are intimidated by Islam and restrict their criticism of religion to Christianity.

The double standard is horrendous, and while it has to be expected in a country like Britain, it shocks me to see it in this country with its tradition of free speech.

While I can quote him here, people who are in positions of leadership or responsibility are simply not free to quote Dawkins on Islam. Nor can they quote de Tocqueville:

I studied the Koran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. So far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.

* Letter to Arthur de Gobineau, 22 October 1843, Tocqueville Reader, p. 229

Will they demand the firing of de Tocqueville for saying that?

Or will his words be made to disappear by airbrushing?

It really doesn't matter whether I agree with Dawkins or de Tocqueville. Frankly, I don't like seeing people hiding under burkas any more than Dawkins or Williams does, and while I don't know whether "Islam" was the principal cause of the decadence in the Muslim world in de Tocqueville's time, I think that in modern times when Islamic theocracy is implemented, the results are deplorable. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan under the Taliban are examples. The other night I watched a horrifying documentary about coerced genital mutilation which is routinely performed on effeminate gay men in Iran (under the euphemism of "sex change surgery") and it gave me nightmares. The men who were facing this surgery admitted in interviews that they did not want it, and one of them poignantly mentioned the United States as a place where people can live any way they want. The alternative to having the surgery is of course the death penalty. I saw the film as supplying more evidence that Iran is, like other Islamic theocracies, a savage and evil place. Yet to the left -- and unfortunately to most gay activist groups -- it is the United States which is evil, and Christianity which is the greater oppressor. What happens to gays under Islam is downplayed. And that's just one aspect of life under Islamic rule, which I'm mentioning only because I happened to stumble upon the movie on HBO. At the rate things are going, it wouldn't surprise me to see films like that suppressed, lest some Americans get the idea that life under Islam might just suck.

We're still allowed to think that life sucks under Islamic law, aren't we?


But if you dare to say so in public, better make sure you don't have an employer (or editor or publisher) who can be bullied by the activists who devote themselves to ensuring that criticism of Islam is marginalized, and kept out of the public square.

The result is the decay in free speech that we have been witnessing.

Maybe de Tocqueville had a point about decadence.

MORE: Matt Welch has an interesting take on Islamophobia in the context of the Williams firing:

Williams' firing is a clarifying moment in media mores. You can be Islamophobic, in the form of refusing to run the most innocuous imaginable political cartoons out of a broad-brush fear of Muslims, but you can't admit it, even when the fear is expressed as a personal feeling and not a group description, winnowed down to the very specific and nightmare-exhuming act of riding on an airplane, and uttered in a context of otherwise repudiating collective guilt and overbroad fearmongering.
What would we call this fear of admitting Islamophobia?


UPDATE: Regarding the refusal to run the most innocuous imaginable political cartoons, I think it's fair to point out that M. Simon linked and discussed the cartoon here -- a full two days before Matt Welch did.

Sometimes my memory is more selective than it should be. My bad!

posted by Eric at 10:31 AM | Comments (6)

Flash Mob Politics

I think one of the reasons the Democrats are losing political battles (they have already lost the zeitgeist) is that the Internet and instant money transfers have brought us into an age of flash Mob politics. Political parties no longer get to decide on a monolithic message. The people can bypass the parties and directly support candidates - instantly.

Take my support for a Rocket Scientist for Congress who is going up against a Democrat who got 62% of the vote his last time out. And the Rocket Scientist, Ruth McClung, has a chance of winning. Send her a few bucks and improve her chances of winning.

Or take the Christine O'Donnell race in Delaware. She has a 24 hour money bomb request out to raise one million dollars. Sadly - she fell short. She only raised about $880,000 in 24 hours.

RS McCain - you know the other one - has called forth cash for a lot of candidates. Right now he is assisting Charles Lollar, a Marine who is going after Steny Hoyer. And if you want to help - the RS McCain link will get you there.

And this is going on all over the Internet. The Democrats have organized to fight an army and what they are actually facing is an insurgency. And for the Democrats one problem is the tooth to tail ratio. For an insurgency you don't need much tail. What you do need is popular support. And that does not have to be 50% - probably as little as 30% will work - if the insurgents focus on picking off a few of the opposition. Make an example of them. Pour encourager les autres.

Now here is where it gets even more interesting. As the insurgents start picking off the various Democrats and succeed the Democrats switched to a fire wall strategy. But the firewall is not holding. Every time the firewall is breached the effort put into those candidates just behind the wall is wasted. Hot Air has a bit on the wasted effort.

The DCCC did not spend money on behalf of Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.), Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), the filings show. Republicans believe those seven seats are all but guaranteed to fall their way.

Even in some races where Democrats did spend money, their advertising indicates little more than a token effort at salvaging seats that are also likely to fall to the GOP. The DCCC is spending just $30,000 for Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), who polls show trailing ex-Rep.Steve Chabot (R) by wide margins. That follows reports that the DCCC was pulling out of Driehaus' district.

Things are still fluid and moving the Republican's way. I have seen some pretty wild predictions. One hundred seats. One hundred and seventeen seats (that is pretty finely calibrated). I dunno. I'm sticking with 65 seats in the bag. I sure wouldn't mind being surprised if that number was low.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:53 AM | Comments (2)

Taller and Older Dave

Tall Dave, who writes for Classical Values and who is an avid Polywell Fusion fan is having a birthday. I'm not at liberty to divulge his age.

Happy Birthday Dave

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:24 AM | Comments (6)

Making The Pledge

Evidently saying the Pledge To The Flag is now an unusual occurrence before a political event. The whole thing got everyone in an uproar.

Had I been there I would have pledged to the Constitution. Talk about increasing the uproar. Which brings up something I wrote the last time this craziness about pledges and flags came up. It was first published on 03 Sept. 2002 at The Sierra Times. A now defunct libertarian survivalist www site. Reposted at Power and Control in Sept. of 2004. I have made some minor additions to the original. Noted in the text. And thanks to Instapundit for bringing up the subject.


The original pledge of allegiance was written in 1892 by utopian socialist Francis Bellamy who's cousin authored the novel "Looking Backward" to express the utopian ideas Francis espoused. Their idea was to create a planned economy to insure social, economic, and political equality for all. So far it hasn't worked as planned. He wrote the pledge for a flag ceremony to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus coming to America. Francis was big in the NEA. (The National Education Association) so the pledge got distributed to schools all over America.

The original pledge reads: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' Obviously there have been a few changes over the years. There is a site by a man who wrote a book about the pledge who gives a good short history of it. [Note: the link is 404ed. May I suggest instead the book reviews at To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance and at Pledging Allegiance: The Politics of Patriotism in America's Schools for some history on the pledge. Better yet - buy a book. - ed.]

Let us deal with the pledge as currently written:

"I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands one Nation under God indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all."

Starting at the beginning: "I pledge allegiance, to the flag ". Why on earth would rational humans pledge to follow a flag? No matter what. Flags have covered the good and the bad. Nixon loved to cover himself in a flag. Does that make me an automatic follower of Nixon if he cover's himself in the flag? I hope not. No real American would ever pledge to a flag. What s/he might pledge to I will get to later.

Then we have "of the United States of America," which was added so that immigrants would know which flag to keep in mind during the flag presentation at the flag ceremony. This at least keeps your average tin horn dictator from appropriating the fine symbol of our freedom or slavery depending. And for a while that flag did represent actual 100% slavery. These days for most of us it has been reduced to about 33% not counting the aggravation. Such a deal.

"...and to the REPUBLIC ". What does it mean this Republic? Why not democracy? We have a Republic because a Republic stands for a government of limited powers. There are things that cannot be decided by a majority. Like the right to speak freely. The right to petition the government for redress of grievances. The right to practice the religion of your choice or none at all. These rights are so fundamental that even if the sections of the Constitution that guaranteed them were repealed they would still be in effect. This is what it means to live in a Republic. The individual can stand up to the state and sometimes win.

"...for which it stands". Well the flag can stand for one thing one day and something else the next. This is not a standing you can navigate by.

"...one Nation". By 1892 this had been pretty well settled but not to every one's liking. So we needed a reminder. The Civil (such as it was) War and the War for the Theft of California had pretty well settled the issue. One nation - sea to shining sea - with a few minor exceptions. Like women. But I'd say the sentiment was correct if not the actual policies. We are doing better even if progress seems to come by the inch.

"...under God" - requested by the Knights of Columbus was added in 1954. Making the oath a pubic prayer. Well we all know what Jesus said about public prayer. But hey, this is a Christian God fearing Nation. No need to listen to Jesus.

"...indivisible" That civil war thing again. I hear some Mexicans want California back these days. Some things are never properly settled. I note they haven't asked for Texas. Probably too many Texans living there. Some still remember the Alamo. History is hardly ever settled. On any side. Americans are for the most part rational about this though. They want to forget history. It is usually so inconvenient. And thank God Americans hate inconveniences.

"...with liberty and justice for all." A very noble sentiment. And the proper purpose of the government of a Republic. We do not wish to have a government where wealth has its privileges. Neither do we want a government that steals from the poor or the rich. Government was one of the traditional means by which the rich stole from the poor. Today we also let the poor steal from the rich. Pretty soon only the thieves will have any money. We are a work yet in progress on liberty and justice. Gaining ground in some areas losing it in others.

So what would I replace the pledge with?

"I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the Republic which it creates, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Since I have already covered the pledge let me cover the changes and one part that I didn't change.

Why the Constitution? Any one can wrap themselves in a flag. It is more difficult to wrap ones self in the charter of a strictly limited government. Every Federal Office holder in America is sworn to preserve and defend the Constitution. It is part of the military induction oath. Ordinary citizens should join in the effort to preserve and defend the Constitution. Especially ordinary citizens.

"...and the Republic which it creates" this is the key. The Constitution founded the Republic. It defined its nature. Codified its limits. We are a Republic defined by a written Constitution.

Now the part that ought to be changed but I left the same. I'm against the "under God" bit as long as it is government mandated. But I will grant that there is a segment of the population very sentimental about its public displays of Godliness so for the sake of sentiment I'm willing to let this pass. We can come back to this some other day. No point in alienating everyone all at once.

That is it. A real American pledge.

At one point though recited in public schools across America the pledge was a private document subject to citizen input. In 1942 it was made a part of the official government flag code by Congress. There was a war on and patriotism needed to be enforced. It says in the flag code that any changes to the pledge must be made with the consent of the President. Well I got news for him. The country is run by the people not the President. At least according to the Constitution. So if you want to pledge to something infinitely more important to the country than the flag pledge to the Constitution.

One other slightly extraneous point. We are supposed to be a free market driven society yet a course in economics is not a requirement for graduation from public school. Why is that? How will we ever keep our Republic free if we don't teach our children well?


Which reminds me:

Tea Party Difference
Click on the above image and learn how to spread it around.

TEA minus 11 and counting

posted by Simon at 05:02 AM | Comments (4)

If you don't like it, vote!

A post by Clayton Cramer confirms my longterm suspicion that we are being ruled by near-total idiots. (I said "near total" only because they are intelligent enough to implement this zero-tolerance-based nonsense.)

A friend works for TSA, and tells me that under certain conditions, TSA screeners will be taking actions that ordinarily involve dinner and a movie first--including patdowns to the genital area for explosive devices hidden there. He is not thrilled at this prospect--actually, he is absolutely horrified.

I have several reactions:

1. Please explain why such an intimate search is preferable to ethnic profiling.

2. If this is response to the underwear bomber, why is it taking so long to get implemented? That was ten months ago.

3. If it is not in response to the underwear bomber (there were the Chechen women with explosive bras who took down Russian airliners), why now? Is there something that they aren't telling us?

All good questions, and I have been speculating about this stuff for some time. When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow himself up here in the air over the Detroit area, I asked a similar question:
If we're going to talk about giving up some rights for the safety of everybody, doesn't it seem logical that the fewer people who have to give up rights, the better?

Instead, there seems to be growing tacit acceptance of an absurd proposition -- that it is better to let people who want to blow themselves up fly and look up everyone's butthole than look up the buttholes only of people who want to blow themselves up.

I might as well ask this again too:
What am I missing here?

Is the goal to move toward a world where people who believe in religious suicide have a right to fly, and to better facilitate this we will all bend over to accommodate them?

Whose country is this, anyway? A country that kowtows to the sensitivities of people who are sympathetic to suicide bombers?

The worst aspect of this, is that if you are in any position of responsibility, you're not allowed to say what I just said.

As a perfect example, Juan Williams was fired by NPR today simply for speaking his mind. A tyrannical but vocal minority of people who are sympathetic to suicide bombers demanded and got his head. It's an outrage, and NPR's web traffic is overwhelmed by angry commenters.

We are being tyrannized. It is an outrage.

Fortunately, there is still time to express that outrage at the polls.

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

As Sarah's comments below caused me to write a new post about free speech, I thought I should mention it here.

Also, I see that Glenn has purchased Fangs for the Mammaries, which includes Sarah's writing. (I'm very proud to be able to call Sarah a co-blogger.)

I just ordered a copy, and with Halloween approaching, it's a good time for anyone to buy Fangs!

posted by Eric at 07:48 PM | Comments (17)

the invisible immorality exception

Last week I emailed a link to M. Simon about the Obama administration's threat to intervene federally if the California Marijuana Initiative passes.

If California voters were still under the illusion that Proposition 19 would legalize marijuana, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sought to disabuse them of the notion last week. "We will vigorously enforce the (federal Controlled Substances Act) against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law," Holder wrote in a letter to nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration who had lobbied the Obama administration to oppose California's overreaching ballot initiative.
So much for the pose that Obama struck during the election. If he's willing to use federal force to enforce federal drug laws when a state does not want them enforced, then he's hardly the pro-legalization candidate he pretended to be.

Or is something else at work? Might it be that even if Obama favored legalization or decriminalization at the federal level, allowing a state to pass a marijuana initiative inherently threatens federal power?

This was on my mind when I read a recent Reason piece by Jacob Sullum about the "Amazing Elastic Commerce Clause." In was in another marijuana case (Gonzales v. Raich) that Justice Clarence Thomas took a very different view than that of the Obama administration. He said that if the Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate the tiniest speck of marijuana in a home, then they can regulate anything (presumably including health care):

In 2005 the Supreme Court said the federal government's power to "regulate commerce...among the several states" extends to the tiniest speck of marijuana wherever it may be found, even in the home of a patient who grows it for her own medical use in compliance with state law. "If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause," Justice Clarence Thomas warned in his dissent, "then it can regulate virtually anything--and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."

The Obama administration, which was in court this week defending the new federal requirement that every American obtain government-designed health insurance, seems determined to prove Thomas right. But despite seven decades of stretching by a Supreme Court eager to accommodate every congressional whim, the Amazing Elastic Commerce Clause is still not expansive enough to cover the unprecedented command that people purchase a product from a private company in exchange for the privilege of existing.

"Never before has the Commerce Clause...been extended this far," noted U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson when he declined to dismiss the case he heard this week, in which Virginia is challenging the insurance mandate. Last week, allowing a similar lawsuit by Florida, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson agreed that the Commerce Clause has "never been applied in such a manner before."

That's saying a lot, because the Commerce Clause has been used to justify some audacious assertions of federal power...

I think it's quite obvious that state laws at odds with federal law (whether with marijuana or health care) strike terror in the hearts of all who believe in massive federal statism, because they threaten to undermine the unlimited federal jurisdiction afforded to them under the modern interpretation of the Commerce Clause.

That the Commerce Clause has swallowed the entire concept of enumerated powers (and federalism itself), thus turning a limited federal government into a Leviathan -- is as beautiful and wondrous to liberal progressives as it is horrifying to conservatives and libertarians. "Progressives" of all stripes see their precious Commerce Clause the way Ronald Reagan once saw the Panama Canal:

"We built it, we paid for it, it's ours, and we're going to keep it."
Last year's Pelosi manifesto was basically a liberal declaration that total federal supremacy over every speck of our lives is a done deal:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued a press release in September of 2009 that read, in part: "[T]he Constitution gives Congress broad power to regulate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce. Congress has used this authority to regulate many aspects of American life, from labor relations to education to health care to agricultural production. Since virtually every aspect of the heath care system has an effect on interstate commerce, the power of Congress to regulate health care is essentially unlimited."
Progressives have come a long way since Woodrow Wilson. Hard as it is to believe today, that sainted founder of progressivism actually wrote in his book, Constitutional Government in the United States that there were certain things the federal government lacked the constitutional power to do:
Its power is "to regulate commerce between the States," and the attempts now made during every session of Congress to carry the implications of that power beyond the utmost boundaries of reasonable and honest inference show that the only limits likely to be observed by politicians are those set by the good sense and conservative temper of the country. The proposed Federal legislation with regard to the regulation of child labor affords a striking example. If the power to regulate commerce between the States can be stretched to include the regulation of labor in mills and factories, it can be made to embrace every particular of the industrial organization and action of the country. The only limitations Congress would observe, should the Supreme Court assent to such obviously absurd extravagancies of interpretation, would be the limitations of opinion and of circumstance.
I hate to say it, but I think Wilson was right -- at least when he said that. Obviously, he changed his views not much later, for notwithstanding his qualms, as President he signed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916.

So much for his earlier concerns. However, the Supreme Court in those days still had qualms, and the Keating-Owen Act was held unconstitutional. So were other child labor laws until 1938:

Although the Keating-Owen Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional in Hammer v. Dagenhart 247 U.S. 251 (1918) because it overstepped the purpose of the government's powers to regulate interstate commerce. In its opinion the Court delineated between the Congress's power to regulate production and commerce. A second child labor bill was passed in December of 1918 as part of the Revenue Act of 1919 (also called the Child Labor Tax Law). It also took an indirect route to regulate child labor, this time by using the government's power to levy taxes. It too, was soon found to be unconstitutional in Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Company 259 U.S. 20 (1922). The Court reasoned that "The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce does not extend to curbing the power of the states to regulate local trade."

Despite the nation's apparent desire for federal laws against child labor, the Supreme Court's rulings left little room for federal legislation. A constitutional amendment was soon proposed to give Congress the power to regulate child labor. The campaign for ratification of the Child Labor Amendment was stalled in the 1920s by an effective campaign to discredit it. Opponents' charges ranged from traditional states' rights arguments against increases in the power of the Federal Government to accusations that the amendment was a communist-inspired plot to subvert the Constitution. Federal protection of children would not be obtained until passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, which was also challenged before the Supreme Court. This time, the movement to end child labor was victorious. In February of 1941, the Supreme Court reversed its opinion in Hammer v. Dagenhart and, in U. S. v. Darby (1941), upheld the constitutionality of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

I don't mean to be reciting history of constitutional law here, and I think most readers know what happened in the Depression Era under a nearly dictatorial president who threatened to pack the Supreme Court to get his way. Authoritarianism seems to have run amok in the 1930s, and Americans succumbed to the temptation.

What fascinated me about the Hammer case, though, was its acknowledgment of a previous exception to the limitation on federal power -- one based on immoral (or "inherently evil" products):

Justice Day, for the majority, said that Congress does not have the power to regulate commerce of goods that are manufactured by children, and that the Keating-Owen Act of 1916 was therefore unconstitutional. Drawing a distinction between the manufacture of goods and the regulation of certain goods themselves "inherently evil", the Court maintained that the issue did not concern the power to keep certain immoral products out of the stream of interstate commerce, distinguishing previous cases upholding Congress's power to control lottery schemes, prostitution, and liquor. The Court reasoned that, in those cases, the goods themselves were inherently immoral and thus open to Congressional scrutiny. In this case, however, the issue at hand was the manufacture of cotton, a good whose use is not immoral. The Court further held that the manufacture of cotton did not in itself constitute interstate commerce. The Court recognized that disparate labor regulations placed the various states on unequal ground in terms of economic competitiveness, but it specifically stated that Congress could not address such inequality, for it was within the right of states to enact differing laws within the scope of their police powers...
So, while opium might have been "evil" (even though founders like Thomas Jefferson grew it), cotton could not be. But doesn't cotton have an evil carbon footprint?

Depending on whom you ask, there always seems to be an inherent "immorality exception" (one said to be grounded in good versus evil) to almost anything in the Constitution. Many would contend that the First Amendment does not apply to certain evil forms of speech or expression (like pornography, depictions of cruelty to animals, or even commercial speech). Similarly, many claim that the Second Amendment does not apply to certain evil weapons, like "assault weapons" or even switchblade knives. Advocates of child protection and animal welfare enforcement often claim that search warrants are unnecessary because a child's or an animal's life or safety might be at stake.

Morality is the invisible but ultimate trump card -- the foot in the door which allows a massive exception to constitutional restraints on federal power. It's as if the entire Constitution has an implied asterisk leading to an implied footnote:

Except in case of immorality.

Similarly, there's the Declarationist philosophy, which finds a giant, extraconstitutional moral veto power in the Declaration of Independence. To put it simply, if something is deemed immoral, then neither Congress nor the states can do it, and constitutional protections do not apply. I remember hearing one of the leading proponents of Declarationism warn that conservatives should not put much stock in getting rid of Roe v. Wade, because state legislatures would simply pass laws allowing abortion. Instead (he argued) conservatives should unite around the Declaration as a "moral basis for conservatism" and that the Declaration it would trump any and all state law anywhere in the land, "states rights" be damned. (As well as any "freedoms" allegedly found in the Constitution.)

If you think about it, having that sort of veto power based on immorality -- whether through an invisible morality clause or a philosophical interpretation of Jefferson's words -- is far more powerful than the modern liberal interpretation of the Commerce Clause.

But I think it's at least as irresponsible. For, once you grant an immorality exception based on good and evil, you have already prostituted the Constitution, and all that is left is the argument over price. To some, homosexuality is evil. To others, it's drugs. To others, it's not having adequate health care. And to still others, its that inherently evil carbon that befouls the air we breathe.

No wonder constitutional originalism is so threatening.

MORE: Whenever anything relates to protecting "The Children," it is considered perfectly acceptable to disregard the Constitution. A perfect example is proposed legislation in Detroit which would jail parents for failing to attend teacher parent conferences:

Detroit -- Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is pushing for a law that calls for jail time for parents who skip parent-teacher conferences, a plan some call inspired and others consider the nanny state run amok.

Worthy pitched her plan Tuesday to the Detroit City Council and is shopping it to the Wayne County Commission and state Legislature. Drawing a link between parental involvement and youth crime, Worthy wants a sponsor to guide the idea to law.

Her plan would require parents to attend at least one conference per year or face three days in jail.

Well, if it's for the children, then we shouldn't let the Constitution stand in the way.

posted by Eric at 10:17 AM | Comments (5)

Shovel Ready Project

Bury the Democrats on election day.

TEA minus 12 and Counting.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:45 AM | Comments (5)

They Need Help

My God is so powerful he doesn't need any boosting from government.

It is the weak gods that give us all the trouble. Always needing government help.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:36 AM | Comments (0)

The Trouble With Hold Your Nose Voters

They might let the other side stink up the place for a while.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:33 AM | Comments (1)

Slipping Away

Watch this video. It is about a minute and a half. I'll wait. And just in case you are not up to following orders from disembodied voices on the Internet. Good for you. Here is the money quote:

"I don't want to be in Washington another six years and watch the Republican party betray the trust of the American people again. I mean, we had the White House. We had a majority in the House and the Senate. We voted for more spending and more earmarks. Most of our senior members seem to be focused on taking home the bacon. I'm not going to be in a Republican party like that and that's not what the Republican Party is across America," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) told FOX News.
So how does the changing Republican Party relate to the social conservative right? Things do not seem to be going well. At all. You see, the Social Conservatives make up 80% of the Republican Party (or is that 80% of Republican voters? No matter.), but without that other 20% they can't win elections. And that 20% is very much not interested in a Republican culture war. At all. And they will drop the Rs in a heartbeat if they go down that road.

Newsweek (yeah they get it right this time) looks at the issue.

It's just smart electoral politics; there's no good reason to bring in divisive issues when conservatives are united on fiscal discipline. But will the more staunchly libertarian members of the Tea Party--the 20 percent who aren't Republicans, or who are adamant that libertarianism means the government shouldn't decide who can and can't get married--be alienated? Perhaps, Samples says, but he hasn't seen it yet. Indeed, despite hopeful prophecies to the contrary as far back as February, there haven't been any high-profile defections. Part of it is that libertarians are holding their noses for the time being. "The socially conservative emphasis didn't really work very well as an issue and they don't want to blow this one," Samples says. And in fact, it's the values voters who are starting to panic, he adds: "Two or three weeks ago I was at the Family Research Council, and there seemed to be an almost desperate sense that the train was leaving the station and they weren't on it."
No government that gets involved in social issues is going to be a small government. Those issues - if enacted - will need to be policed (do you have any idea how much a Drug War costs?). The days of "I'm against abortion so pay no attention to my spending habits" politicians on a national level are about over. The libertarians won't stand for it. Thank God.

H/T Instapundit

Update: 21 Oct 2010 0951z

Dick Morris sees what I'm seeing.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:17 AM | Comments (8)

The best defense against bigoted cultural tribalism...

In response to a four year old post I wrote about the bigoted cultural tribalism of Glenn Reynolds (which Glenn has twice acknowledged as true!), reader Alan Massey emailed me this very incriminating photo:


He also tried to leave a comment which couldn't go through because the post is so old, and which I'll just have to answer here:

I've just read your post on "The Root Cause of Bigoted Cultural Tribalism". It makes no sense, why on earth would he take time out to hate gays when all his time is taken up hating puppies?
Considering the totality of the circumstances, I think Mr. Massey may be a bit naive. Because, when you're dealing with someone as diabolical and fiendish as Glenn Reynolds has been documented to be, no mere "either/or" dichotomy will suffice. It's very possible and therefore very likely that he hates -- and hunts -- both gays and puppies! That was precisely the subject of my earlier post. And I can't help noting what Glenn said when he linked it the second time:
"Be afraid -- be very afraid -- of Glenn Reynolds." Heh. Indeed.
So, yes I am and should be very afraid of Glenn Reynolds.

And not only do I take this ongoing threat very seriously, but so does Coco!



Bigoted cultural tribalists beware!

MORE: Much as it pains me to have to dwell on unpleasant matters, I think it is only fair to point out that because of his devious nature, Glenn Reynolds also has a long history of shameless hegemonic infiltration and manipulation of left wing causes.

He has admitted to the authenticity of this picture -- clearly showing him behaving towards Jeremiah Wright and Bill Clinton in a manner so calculated and so devious that it evokes the evil deception George W. Bush meted out to the troops in Iraq:


How low can Bigoted Cultural Tribalism stoop?

UPDATE: Once again, my fears have been officially confirmed!

And while I reawwy twied, I was unable to be vewy vewy quiet.

Because, the world needs to know! Together, we can stop the hateful coverup!

posted by Eric at 06:01 PM | Comments (13)

Hayek Book Sale - Serfdom

I don't usually straight up flog books. But this sale is too good to pass up.

The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2) is available for $8.72. And if you order three of them (you have a friend or two who need an education. No?) shipping is free.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

when the wrong guy signs

Years ago (geez, at this point it's almost two decades ago) I was in the night club business, and I got way over my head in debt. It was out of control (as was I), and eventually I ended up filing for bankruptcy. A disgraceful and shameful situation to be in, and of course I had no one to blame but myself, as I took the risks and had to face the consequences. Now, you might argue that filing for bankruptcy in itself constitutes a refusal to face the consequences, and you would be right. So I compounded my badness with further badness, and I admit it. I like to think I learned from my mistakes, but this post is not about that. Rather, it is about following the rules, and the rule of law. Rules and laws are there, and even when they are wrong (or inherently unfair or dishonest), in theory they are supposed to apply to everyone.

The stuff I have been reading (and I refer to a plethora of posts and articles about the "foreclosuregate" scandal) reminds me of one annoyingly unforgettable aspect of my financial ruin.

I was fraudulently sued. More properly, I was sued on the basis of a forged promissory note. My business partner (fellow shareholder -- whose credit was not as good as mine) signed my name to a personal guarantee so that the business (a corporation) could obtain credit with a distributor. Naturally, when the business went belly up, that creditor sued me personally. I was so damned depressed that I never contested it (and they obtained a default judgment), but there was just something about seeing a note that I never signed being the basis for a lawsuit and a judgment against me that always stuck in my craw. Had I been so inclined, I might have been able to beat the lawsuit by avoiding personal liability on the note. Yet still... they did extend credit based on "my" signature, and the corporation did use it, so I suppose that it could be argued that by relying on the credit I ratified my partner's conduct, so I was morally obligated if not legally obligated.

The reason I remember my own experience is that I think it highlights the distinction between a moral obligation and a legal obligation. What we call legal "technicalities" may not square with morality, but like it or not, rule of law is built upon technicalities. Like, it does not matter how egregious your conduct was in a given situation, if you are sued you have to be served properly. Likewise, if you are wholly innocent of wrongdoing, that does not allow you to ignore service of process.

In terms of the banking scandal, whether a borrower was in over his head and ought to be held accountable is a moral argument. It has nothing to do with the legal obligations of the lender or its successor in interest (or successors to a fraudulent 1000% interest in his mortgage). If they want to foreclose, they have to do it correctly. If they have obtained the mortgage fraudulently (or find themselves without the necessary documentation to proceed), they might just be SOL. That does not make the borrower a "victim" nor does it make him morally innocent, but it might just provide precisely the technicality that the borrower can use to avoid foreclosure.

We can argue over who is more morally "right" (as if one wrong is to be weighed against another wrong), but where it comes to rule of law, that's about as relevant as whether a criminal actually did what no one can prove he did in a court of law.

Is that justice?

Depends on your definition. The law does not guarantee "justice" in the moral sense.

But isn't the fact that these legal "technicalities" apply to everyone equally is a form of justice? If you irresponsibly signed a piece of paper and the people who want to sue you on it irresponsibly can't find it, then justice requires that you escape being "held accountable for your actions." If the owner(s) of the paper can't find it and thus can't put you out of your house, then in the legal sense they're being held accountable, and you aren't.

We can trash-talk "technicalities" all we want, but at least there's a chance that somewhere, someone will be held accountable. Maybe even the Wall Street securitizers, who seem awfully quick to engage in trash-talking:

Wall Street does not sympathize. "You had people putting zero down to get massive houses they couldn't afford to be in," he said Monday morning, "but now they want to stay. And the government wants to let them stay, because they're voters." A few hours later, the Goldman Sachs arm Litton Loan Servicing said it had suspended certain foreclosure proceedings, too. "Talk about a financial scandal," a Wall Street Journal editorial this weekend joked. "A consumer borrows money to buy a house, doesn't make the mortgage payments and then loses the house in foreclosure--only to learn that the wrong guy at the bank signed the foreclosure paperwork. Can you imagine?"
Yes, I can.

Sometimes the wrong guy signs, and when that happens, it can often mean that another wrong guy walks.

Life can be tough, especially for the wrong.

Who is deserving of the most sympathy has little to do with it.

MORE: To put this more simply, if borrowers can be foreclosed against because of their shoddy financial planning, I don't have much sympathy for them. But if they can't be foreclosed against because of the bank's shoddy paperwork, I don't have much sympathy for the bank either. And if it's because of fraud, I have even less.

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

They Got It All Wrong

News Weak says the TEA Party folks have made a fetish out of the Constitution but worse - they get it wrong.

In legal circles, constitutional fundamentalism is nothing new. For decades, scholars and judges have debated how the founding document should factor into contemporary legal proceedings. Some experts believe in a so-called living Constitution--a set of principles that, while admirable and enduring, must be interpreted in light of present-day social developments in order to be properly upheld. Others adhere to originalism, which is the idea that the ratifiers' original meaning is fixed, knowable, and clearly articulated in the text of the Constitution itself.

While conservatives generally prefer the second approach, many disagree over how it should be implemented--including the Supreme Court's most committed originalists, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Thomas sympathizes with a radical version of originalism known as the Constitution in Exile. In his view, the Supreme Court of the 1930s unwisely discarded the 19th-century's strict judicial limits on Federal power, and the only way to resurrect the "original" Constitution--and regain our unalienable rights--is by rolling back the welfare state, repealing regulations, and perhaps even putting an end to progressive taxation. In contrast, Scalia is willing to respect precedent--even though it sometimes departs from his understanding of the Constitution's original meaning. His caution reflects a simple reality: that upending post-1937 case law and reversing settled principles would prove extremely disruptive, both in the courts and society at large.

Ah. So we can no longer follow the law because it would be inconvenient? An interesting argument. However, there is opposition to that sort of thinking.
Tea Partiers tend to sound more like Thomas than Scalia. Every weekday on Fox News, Glenn Beck--"the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters," according to a recent poll--takes to his schoolroom chalkboard to rail against progressives like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. "They knew they had to separate us from our history," he says, "to be able to separate us from our Constitution and God." In Beck's view, progressives forsook the faithful Christian Founders and forced the country to adopt a slew of unconstitutional measures that triggered our long decline into Obama-era totalitarianism: the Federal Reserve System, Social Security, the graduated federal income tax. True patriots, according to Beck, favor a pre-progressive vision of the United States.
Me too!

Election day will give us a chance to test those ideas with the electorate. And where do the ideas come from? The Libertarian Party has kept those ideas alive until they could flower.

TEA minus 13 and counting.

Tea Party Difference
Click on the above image and learn how to spread it around.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:34 AM | Comments (0)

"We knew all along what she meant!"

A friend emailed me a link to Michelle Malkin's post about how moronic leftists embarrassed themselves by accusing Palin of being a historical ignoramus.

Sarah Palin wisely warned Tea Party activists to keep working hard right up until Election Day -- and not to "party like it's 1773" yet.

Intellectually superior leftists from Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas to PBS "moderator"/Obama cheerleader Gwen Ifill took to Twitter to snicker about Palin's historical illiteracy.

The problem is, they're wrong. As any student of American history knows, Palin was right to refer to the 1773 date.

Her critics obviously thought she meant 1776!

Talk about falling for your own rhetoric. They have said she's a moron for so long that they're actually starting to believe it. Honestly, I was so shocked by this that, bleeding heart that I am, I was actually embarrassed for them. Not that they need my embarrassment on their behalf; they'll probably snark that they "knew all along" that the original Tea Party happened in 1773, but it was obvious to them that Palin didn't.


Oh the pain.

Anyway, I emailed back:

You're so right about Palin driving the left crazy. The fact that she was right and they were wrong in "correcting" her and they're having an Emily Litella moment only makes it more pathetic.
Except I was wrong.

They're not having an Emily Litella moment! Having an Emily Litella moment requires admitting that you got it wrong:

The news anchor interrupted Litella to point out her error, along the lines, "That's death, Ms. Litella, not deaf ... death." Litella would wrinkle her nose, say something like, "Oh, that's very different...." then meekly turn to the camera and say, "Never mind."
I wouldn't expect Markos Moulitsas Zuniga to do that.


Rather than admit that he mistakenly thought he had caught her in a historical error, he's probably shameless enough to say that the purpose of his snark was to chide Palin for bragging about her superior knowledge.

After all, doesn't it smack of intellectual hauteur to expect ordinary working class folks to know about the events of 1773?

How dare this effete impudent snob from Alaska do that!

(What, do I have to write the script for these historically illiterate morons?)

MORE: Hell, if I have to script shameless explanations for them, I might as well offer another one as an alternative.

That dumb bitch Sarah Palin deliberately led her opponents into a trap by cleverly making it appear that she was mistaken while knowing all along she was right! Which makes her not only stupid, but evil!

I hate not being thorough.

posted by Eric at 11:35 PM | Comments (7)

First they came for the "nuts"....

Coco is quite the socializer these days, and she has a new friend, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named "Grendel." Grendel is so big that he makes Coco look like a little dog. Which is good for Coco, as she likes to have an opportunity for unlimited, no-holds-barred, canine roughhousing. Not fighting, just rough play. Coco will get along with almost any dog, but she always has to hold back with dogs her size or smaller, lest she hurt them.

Anyway, as Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to hunt lions, Grendel is the perfect playmate for Coco in her unleashed, uninhibited state.

I tried to take pictures, but because the dogs were never still and it was late in the day, they're blurry like this.


I tried to shoot some video, but I had trouble following them with the camera:

I really ought to be writing about politics, though. All over the country, there are elections coming up, which are being called the Deathly Midterms.

Like many libertarians, I worry about some of the candidates who claim the mantle of the Tea Party. My worries are twofold; on the one hand, I worry that they're not libertarians but social conservatives who might want to use the government in extra-constitutional manners, and I also worry that they might be too kooky to win.

I am not alone. More properly, I am not a lone nut.

Tunku Varadarajan has one of the most thoughtful analyses I have seen on this issue:

It's easy for a libertarian to wish for all-around Republican victories in the midterms. What's more delicate is supporting political aberrations like Angle, Paladino, and O'Donnell.

He reminded me that if you're a libertarian, you can end up feeling schizophrenic:

Do we back candidates like Carl Paladino and Christine O'Donnell--people we wouldn't ask home to dinner, except in a Dinner for Schmucks sense? Put another way: Is our thirst for a resounding defeat for the statist Democrats so great that some of us would be prepared to swallow a mouthful of "Paladonnell" rotgut along with the premier cru of a GOP victory in the House, the Senate, and elsewhere?

Personally, I would love to see Paladino and O'Donnell lose, since they've distracted attention from the small-government message by adding in their own social conservatism and cultural weirdness. Republican primary voters need to be reminded to be more grownup, and practical. But there are, of course, many libertarians who would tend to think that anything is better--yes, even Paladino and O'Donnell--than Democrats endorsed by public-employee unions.

And his conclusion:
My other libertarian wish this election is to see the mainstream media thoroughly miserable with the results. I've never been so appalled at the MSM as in reading their hysterically biased coverage of the Tea Party, and of libertarians like the Koch brothers. The MSM is so threatened by any challenge to its closed, statist mind-set that it is ever ready to demonize dissenters.

This time, with any luck, we'll all get to demonize the demonizers.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who framed the issue thusly:
What should libertarians want from the 2010 elections?
What I want is a little breathing room. Maybe by creating as much gridlock as possible. And I'd like to see things become as tough as possible for the relentless demonizers.

Back to Coco. One of the reasons she is so normally inhibited is because I constantly worry about that awful pit bull stereotype. Sure, there have been horrifying incidents involving pit bulls (even though they're very few in proportion to the number of pit bulls), and for decades there has been a relentless campaign of MSM demonization of the breed. This causes people to freak out at the sight of a "pit bull" -- causing adrenaline levels to go up all around. So if I'm walking Coco and someone is walking a dog or a child and they start freaking out, then I start freaking out and Coco picks up on my freaking out and their freaking out, and it's a testament to her good nature that she doesn't freak out. All that demonization takes its toll on my nerves, and I would love to be able to strike back. But how? I can't unleash myself and go charging a dog that was bred to hunt lions. Fortunately, Coco can. And fortunately, her friend is as nutty as she is, so there's no problem. It takes a nut to charge a lion. And it takes a nut to charge a lion hunter. However, had a lion appeared on the scene yesterday (extremely unlikely, although possible), I suspect that Coco and Grendel would have quickly united around a new common goal.

There are plenty of nuts on the right who libertarians think are nuts, and plenty of libertarians who think those who think libertarians are nuts are nuts. And there are plenty more people on the left who think that not only are the former and the latter both nuts, but they are nuts who should be demonized.

Demonized nuts need to stick together. It's the old hang-together-or-hang-separately principle.

And while I don't know how much of a coincidence it is, there is actually a growing campaign to demonize Rhodesian Ridgebacks and target them for restrictions or bans.

Yes, Rhodesian Ridgebacks! I have to say it was a shock to learn about this, but I suppose that any dog which offers protection against invaders (which is also what Ridgebacks were bred for) will be targeted for elimination by those whose bureaucratic powers include the power to invade people's homes. (Large and powerful dogs are akin to weaponry, and we know how the ruling class feels about guns, weapons, and other forms of citizen self defense.)

For years I have complained about breed specific legislation, and I have warned people till I'm blue in the face that once the principle of banning dogs becomes a done deal with one breed, bans on other breed can quickly follow, as the demonizers need only to update their lists. Internationally, various laws have been enacted against the Rhodesian Ridgeback -- in the Bahamas, in Ireland, and in Bermuda. And in Canada, at least one group has already formed to fight proposed laws there:

You NEED to know that various jurisdictions in Canada have either enacted breed specific legislation (BSL) or are proposing enacting legislation that SPECIFICALLY names Rhodesian Ridgebacks as a restricted breed. More information about a recent case of BSL legislation in Newell County, Alberta will be posted in the future.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of Canada has formed a committee whose sole purpose is to fight BSL across Canada.

Think it can't happen here or that it will only happen to the pit bull? Think again. The demonizers don't care if your pitbull or your Rhodesian Ridgeback is a loveable nut, nor do they care whether it wears lipstick.

Once they have a list of nuts, more nuts will be added.

A Pitbull is a Ridgeback is a libertarian is a bible-clinging gun nut....

posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (8)

Boomer Revenge

Well all you boomer haters (hippie punchers) on the right, Real Clear Politics has some news for you.

This senior surge is, like the electorate overall, coming from the right. Democratic seniors and baby boomers are less engaged than past midterms. But at least seven in 10 GOP seniors and baby boomers, including right-leaning independents, are highly engaged. That's roughly 20 points above past norms and their Democratic counterparts this cycle.

The tea party momentum is one factor. Nearly a third of tea party supporters are seniors, according to New York Times/CBS News polling. Almost half are baby boomers.

The people who brought you the Internet Revolution seem poised to bring you the TEA Party Revolution. Oh. Yeah. We have better music too. Suck it up. More seriously. Let us all work together to bring down this abomination.

TEA minus 14 and counting.

Tea Party Difference
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Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. May I also suggest The Weapons Shops of Isher

posted by Simon at 10:06 AM | Comments (33)

The Weapon Shops Of Isher

The Weapon Shops of Isher By A.E. Van Vogt is one of my all time favorite science fiction books. It tells of a shadowy organization "The Weapon Shops" designed to redress the grievances of a corrupt galactic empire.

It was brought to mind by a story Instapundit linked to about the breakdown in the mortgage market. Middle Class Anarchy. And what a story it is.

On Saturday October 9th the Earls and their attorney followed thru with their previous threats and took the law into their own hands. They hired a locksmith to break into the Mustang home. They had arranged to have t.v. news cameras filming their actions, and then proceeded to hold a press conference stating that they were within their rights and that we (Conejo Capital Partners) had somehow violated the law. All along the Simi Valley Police Department sat idle and refused to get involved no matter how much proof was offered supporting our legal rights and position. We were told that we needed to resolve it in front of a judge even though it had already been decided.
That is the "bank's" side of the story from a news report.

The story asks a very important question. Where did the lawlessness originate? The banks. And despite admitted fraud no one at the banks, or those who were contracted by the banks is being prosecuted. (Just so you know - I'm using "banks" as a sort of generic term for the money movers. Loan arrangers as it were.)

Evidently there is a problem with the law. To wit: judges unaware of the existance of the Constitution.

If the foreclosure was unlawful and initiated with "robosigned" and bogus documents then it was. The Earls apparently attempted to demand a jury trial on the facts (including these facts) and were told to go to hell. Someone hasn't read their Constitution lately - it says that for all controversies exceeding $20, you have a right to a trial by jury (7th Amendment). It doesn't say that if it's inconvenient for a bank and might expose criminal fraud for which bank officers could be imprisoned the judge can tell you to pound sand. That, standing alone, broke the chain of lawful behavior in the instant case.

This is where lawlessness leads us - to more lawlessness. Once you commit a lawless act against someone and are not punished for it you have invited them to retaliate with complete disregard for the law in their response. You are only required to deal ethically and morally with an ethical and moral entity across the table - one who ignores the law loses their right to demand that respect in return.

This mess begins with the securitization and sale of these mortgages in the first instance. It begins with whether or not the original banks actually transferred the notes at all (there's plenty of evidence they did not) and whether the representations and warranties were complied with when these securities were sold to investors (we know in many cases - if not all - they were not, from FCIC sworn testimony.)

A very hard rain is going to fall. In fact I predict 20 ton (metric) blocks of hail.

The article closes with:

We are not far away from a complete and total breakdown of lawful behavior among the population of this nation. If it happens, it will not be because of people like the Earls. While I cannot recommend a lawless response to any insult suffered by people like them I will understand what has happened and why - and who's to blame.

This has and will in the future occur because the government has refused to enforce long-standing laws against "favored people", allowing the general public to be asset-stripped mercilessly through various connivances and frauds, even though such conduct is blatantly unlawful - and the people have simply had enough of being treated like a turkey drumstick at an amusement park.

The blame for this incident and those like it rests squarely with Mr. Holder, President Obama, Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, President Bush, Hank Paulson and the 50 States Attorneys General who have all refused, collectively, to prosecute the rampant lawlessness in our financial system for the previous two decades - and are still refusing today.

You know. This sort of thing is enough to turn elections. And if that doesn't cure the problem we should consider ourselves lucky that America has plenty of trees. And matches (well lighters mostly these days). And fire arms. Fortunately only a moderately enraged populace so far.

I am definitely in favor of seeing this mess solved without violence, arson, or any of the other of the Devil's tricks. But that means the devils who caused this mess must be constrained and then banished. Because unrestrained deviltry breeds more Deviltry.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:32 PM | Comments (9)

"I've never met George Soros"

I often kvetch about activists, and how ordinary people stay the hell away from them. I can't stand them either, but there is one stubborn problem with activists.

Just because you stay away from them does not mean they will stay away from you!

Activists are quite happy to have the playing field all to themselves, and the more ordinary people stay away, the better. Ignoring them can actually help ensure that they get their way, and then they get to rule. So, it is a big mistake to think that if you just leave them alone, they will leave you alone.

An editorial in the Sunday Detroit Free Press reminded me that most ordinary people in Michigan have no idea who is running for Secretary of State. A pity, really, as the Secretary of State is entrusted with the election machinery.

Even fewer have heard of something called the "Secretary of State Project." Nor would they want to, and I can't blame them. Who the hell would want to read about something as tedious-sounding as that? The Project run by and for left wing activists and it was started by George Soros. The goal (which typifies the Soros machine) is to put as many Secretaries of State as possible in the hands of solid left-wing activists.

History's most notorious Georgian-turned-Russian, the politically astute Joseph Stalin once remarked, "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."

The lesson has not been lost on the increasingly notorious Hungarian-cum-American George Soros.

A group backed by Soros is gearing up to steal the 2012 election for President Obama and congressional Democrats by installing left-wing Democrats as secretaries of state across the nation. From such posts, secretaries of state can help tilt the electoral playing field.

This is, of course, the same Soros, the same hyperpolitical left-wing philanthropist who makes no secret of his intention to destroy capitalism. In an interview with Der Spiegel last year, Soros said European-style socialism "is exactly what we need now. I am against market fundamentalism. I think this propaganda that government involvement is always bad has been very successful -- but also very harmful to our society."

The vehicle for this planned hijacking of democracy is a below-the-radar non-federal "527" group called the Secretary of State Project. The entity can accept unlimited financial contributions and doesn't have to disclose them publicly until well after the election.

A primary goal of the Soros Secretary of State project is to put the Michigan SoS office in leftist hands. Meaning the hands of Jocelyn Benson, who (presumably because she has taken her husband's middle name as her own, if that's the current protocol trend) writes law review articles under the name of Jocelyn Friedrichs Benson.

Anyone who doubts in the least that the Soros Secretary of State project is throwing its considerable weight behind her need only go to the Project's web site. You will see activist Jocelyn Benson's picture at the top of the home page, with her name listed first in the donations box:


They are actively campaigning for her. To not see that, you would have to be wearing blinders.

Of you might be the Detroit Free Press, which proclaimed in Sunday's editorial that the allegation of Benson's support from Soros is "not supported by the evidence."

Since winning her party's nod, [Ruth Johnson] has repeatedly insinuated that her opponent is sponsored by billionaire activist George Soros, an allegation not supported by the evidence.

The word "insinuate" has a sinister ring to it, implying dishonesty.

As a Ruth Johnson supporter, I am quite familiar with what she has said about the Secretary of State Project. Far from insinuating anything, Johnson has raised very troubling questions which Benson has not answered:

LANSING, MICHIGAN - The Ruth Johnson campaign today called on her opponent, Jocelyn Benson, to fully disclose the relationship between her campaign and liberal out-of-state activists, like George Soros and his Secretary of State Project. These entities are funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into some states in an attempt to buy changes in election laws for partisan purposes that will result in voter fraud, undermining the integrity of our elections.

George Soros's Secretary of State Project has contributed thousands of dollars to Benson's campaign, and Benson has also accepted over $130,000 in out-of-state contributions to her campaign, including the Secretary of State Project. These groups require the candidates they fund to support changes to Michigan law, such as implementing same-day registration and eliminating photo identification. It has been shown in other states that same-day registration allows illegal aliens and criminals to vote in an attempt to influence an election result.

In particular, the Soros-backed Secretary of State Project demands that those it endorses "Specifically affirm that you support the following principals...photo ID laws must be opposed...Election Day Registration should be endorsed and actively supported."

"Voters are questioning the influence George Soros and liberal interest groups are having on Benson's campaign. These groups are attempting to literally buy the Secretary of State's office to implement procedures that open the election process to possible fraud, just to benefit partisan political goals," said Denise DeCook, spokesperson for the Johnson campaign.

Those are not insinuations; they are accusations supported by easily verifiable facts.

Benson is a hard core left-wing activist posing as non-partisan. Even the Soros Project tries to represent itself that way. In terms of sheer audacity, it's amazing, and I think they're relying on the fact that non-activist voters don't have time to check these things.

Not that the Free Press doesn't know about the Soros connection; they just uncritically accept the way Benson reframes it:

In addition to her work for the DNC, Democratic campaigns and the Poverty Law Center, Benson's campaign is backed by a national network of progressive groups, including the Secretary of State Project (which is partially funded by liberal billionaire George Soros) and Democracy for America, former DNC Chairman Howard Dean's political action committee. Benson said she has never met Soros and hasn't sought national help for her campaign.
A leading left-wing Michigan blog amplifies on the "never met Soros" theme:
Another frequent target by the GOP candidates was George Soros, the billionaire investor who often backs liberal causes. Three of the four candidates referred to the Secretary of State Project, a non-profit group that is helping raise funds for liberal candidates for that office in various states, including Michigan. That project, which has received a grant from the Soros-backed Democracy Alliance, has endorsed Jocelyn Benson, a Wayne State University law professor and candidate for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.

"Most of Benson's contributions," Sen. Cameron Brown told the audience, "come from out of state and from George Soros."

In an interview with the Michigan Messenger, Benson denied that.

"More than half of our contributions have come from inside the state of Michigan," noted Benson. "People in 50 of 83 counties in Michigan have donated money to our campaign -- 1,200 individuals in all, which is more than any of my Republican opponents."

As for the alleged ties to Soros, Benson said, "I've never met George Soros and I doubt he knows who I am. The Secretary of State project is a national PAC that has talked about our campaign, but he has never given me any money and I've never met him. I'm running because I've spent a career working to protect voting rights. No one handpicked me to run. The only people who I hope pick me to run are the voters."

The point is not whether she met George Soros. No one is accusing her of meeting Soros, hanging out with him, or being his friend. It would not surprise me if the vast majority of people receiving Soros money have never met him and never will. Soros is a guy who moves money around in order to obtain wealth, power, and influence. Whether the targets of his money have met him personally is as irrelevant as whether he met the owner of a popular barbecue restaurant he acquired:
Syracuse, NY - Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, the popular Syracuse eatery, may have been founded by bikers. But now, it has a big corporate backer.

Soros Strategic Partners LP, a private investment company launched by one of the world's wealthiest people, billionaire financier George Soros, owns 70 percent of the business, Dinosaur co-founder John Stage said today.

Obviously, Soros targeted the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que because he thought it was a good investment. But did he need to meet the guy behind it?

Of course not:

Stage declined to say how much Soros Strategic Partners paid for the shares. As for George Soros, "I've never met the man," Stage said.
And why should he? A guy like Soros works in the background, directing his money at things that will pay off. It is not in the interest of a behind-the-scenes character like that to be out glad-handing, and I am surprised that anyone would think that in order to be connected to Soros, you would have to meet him.

Hell, Howard Hughes controlled a vast empire and very, very few people who worked for him (much less people whose companies he controlled) ever met him. As a matter of fact, his chief aide and surrogate Robert Maheu -- described in a NY Times obituary as the guy "who engineered the deals for the Hughes business empire that helped change the face of Las Vegas"... "never once met his boss in the decade and a half he worked for him."

The issue is not whether Benson has met Soros, but whether her campaign has substantially benefited from his money. It has, and it does.

I can't believe that the Free Press is allowing Benson to take the initiative and frame the issue that way.

And if she thinks Michiganders will fall for it, she must believe they're total rubes.

BTW, Benson's husband, Ryan Friedrichs, is a prominent left-wing "youth vote" expert, and has been described as being on the board of Progress Now and as heading an organization called State Voices. Progress Now is listed among the many organizations funded by Soros.

As to State Voices, the links connecting Ryan Friedrichs to that organization's leadership have largely disappeared. Does he no longer head State Voices? Who knows? What irritates me is that his former biographies seem to be disappearing from the Google cache. For example, last month a Rockwood Leadership Institute biography that was scrubbed from the site said this:

Ryan Friedrichs | Executive Director, State Voices
Ryan has worked to build diverse collaborations that empower historically underrepresented communities for the past thirteen years. Ryan is currently the Executive Director of State Voices, a national organization that links 550 state and community organizations through sixteen state networks, founded in 2004 as by the current Secretary of State of Minnesota, Mark Ritchie.

Ryan is a Michigan native and a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He began his social change work with the United Farm Workers, and has served as a director of the Youth Vote Coalition, Young Voter Alliance, Michigan Voice, and conducted and co-published the first randomized field study of cost effective partisan young voter engagement in 2002. He has worked as a teaching/research assistant or consultant with Skyline Public Works, HillPac, Atlas Project, Senator Al Franken, and Professor Marshall Ganz. Ryan lives and works in Detroit.

You'd almost think they didn't want people to know that the organization he's supposed to head was founded by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Why would that be? Might there be some embarrassing issues involving funding?

Or is it the connection to Ritchie? Why would these folks not want people to know that State Voices was founded by Mark Ritchie, the greatest Secretary of State the left owns, and the man who gave us the great Senator Al Franken? (And naturally, State Voices has been listed among the many organizations funded by Soros.)

And why does the "Center for Civic Participation" no longer want people to know this?

Ryan attended Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. His master's thesis was a study for Michigan Democratic Party of cost effective young voter mobilization in Michigan's 2002 election.

At the Kennedy School Ryan also served as a research assistant to Al Franken and David King, and as a teaching assistant to Marshall Ganz.Ryan attended Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. His master's thesis was a study for Michigan Democratic Party of cost effective young voter mobilization in Michigan's 2002 election.

At the Kennedy School Ryan also served as a research assistant to Al Franken and David King, and as a teaching assistant to Marshall Ganz.

Why, he is even mentioned in Franken's book; in Lies: and the lying liars who tell them: a fair and balanced look at the Right, Franken lists "Ryan Friedrichs" as NUMBER FIVE under "MEET TEAM FRANKEN."

In terms of leftist achievements, such an accomplishment is impressive. I also find it very impressive that he managed to get academic credit -- his Harvard graduate degree, in fact -- by doing Michigan political campaign work. But alas! These days, his masters thesis seems of more interest to right wing bloggers than to the very people who benefited from his political work. Which isn't fair, if you think about it, because he spent a lot of time studying whether door hangers were more effective than personal contacts, and stuff like that, and his academic observations are interesting.

From his paper:

Mobilizing the Party Faithful: Results from a Statewide Turnout Experiment in Michigan

Recent large-scale field experiments of get out the vote (GOTV) drives have been non-partisan and may not accurately capture the effectiveness of partisan campaign outreach. In the 2002 Michigan gubernatorial election, a large field experiment across 14 state house districts evaluated the cost effectiveness of three mobilization technologies utilized by the Michigan Democratic Party's Youth Coordinated Campaign: door hangers, volunteer phone calls, and face-to-face visits. The results indicate that all three GOTV strategies possess similar cost-effectiveness.

Cool. Maybe the Republicans can learn from that. I'm glad academic research is so non-partisan.

The study is also quoted here, and the Democratic Party is thanked for funding it:

David W. Nickerson is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Yale University. Ryan D. Friedrichs worked on these experiments as Masters in Public Policy Student at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. David C. King is Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. We thank the Michigan Democratic Party funding the experiments reported here. We gratefully acknowledge assistance from Don Green, Tom Patterson, Amanda Stitt and the many volunteers who were made available through Michigan's Youth Coordinated Campaign.
Hey, can the Republican Party fund "experiments" to be carried out on its behalf by Harvard students who earn academic credit for their political activism?

Just think. Maybe I could get academic credit from Harvard if I conduct "experiments" which benefit the Tea Party movement!

Why not? After all, the very partisan nature of the work is what makes it so academically valuable. No seriously:

The results presented in this paper are the first to use large-scale field experiments to study partisan voter mobilization. Despite the many virtues of the non-partisan experiments conducted by Gerber and Green, the results could not speak to the response from voters to partisan appeals. This paper addresses that gap and suggests that partisan face-to-face and phone voter mobilization drives do not behave differently from non-partisan efforts. The results from partisan campaigns are statistically indistinguishable from past non-partisan studies. Thus, it appears that the lessons learned from non-partisan studies can be applied to partisan settings.

The one major point of departure is that door hangers are found to be an effective means of boosting turnout. A boost in turnout of 1.3 percentage point is not enough to swing most elections, but could be a deciding factor in very close elections. At a cost of $29 a vote, door hangers are competitive with more personal tactics and can quickly blanket entire neighborhoods. Thus, we believe door hangers are useful arrows in a campaign's quiver.

Academic credit for doing the thankless tasks of campaigning? Can I get some too? Let's spread that wealth around! You know, the idea of academic redistribution?

Perhaps all Tea Party volunteers should be given academic credit at Harvard!

Of course, regardless of whether or not any of this runs afoul of the campaign finance laws, some Michigan voters (and perhaps even some of the more humorless political junkies) might consider the practice of earning a Masters at Harvard for Democrat-funded partisan campaigning to be a bit dishonest. But what do I know? I'd just like to share in some of that academic credit! Perhaps even for writing this blog post. Isn't it high time to make the case for a redistributionist view of peer review? (Seeing as the higher education bubble is due to burst, I'd better try to get my piece of the turf now....)

The Johnson campaign is asking about Friedrichs too:

The Johnson campaign released information that Ryan Friedrichs is the executive director of State Voices, a board member of Progress Michigan and a board member of Progress NOW Nationally. State Voices is a 501(c)(3) entity that educates voters on grassroots activism and voter engagement. Progress Michigan is also a 501(c)(3) organization that, according, to its mission statement, promotes "progressive ideas" in "a campaign that never stops", including a press release last week that reported on protesters of Johnson at the SOS statewide debate and carried significant portions of Jocelyn Benson's message.

"Jocelyn Benson needs to disclose what role she and her husband have in various political and issue related corporate entities which are involved in voter education and/or advocacy. Benson refuses to disclose what compensation she or her husband received from these entities and what level of involvement these organizations have in the SOS campaign. Voters need to know what influence these organizations have with the Benson campaign," said Ruth Johnson.

I doubt Friedrichs has ever met Soros either.

And while the same thing can't be be said for Al Franken, I'm just jealous that Friedrichs, his wife Jocelyn Benson, and Franken all have degrees from Harvard.

As to Benson's opponent, Ruth Johnson could barely afford a community college degree:

When she was 13, her father died. She and her siblings worked to help pay the bills. Johnson took a paper route.

She held a variety of jobs and traveled by motorcycle. When she finally got a car, she changed the oil. When her muffler broke, she fixed it.

Accepted to Michigan State but not able to afford it, Johnson instead went to Oakland Community College and then Oakland University.

"She never came to me and said, 'Mom, can I have some extra money because I want to go to college?'" said her mother, Virginia "Ginny" Johnson, 83. "She knew things were not easily done."

At 24, Johnson married Nanney, and they dabbled in flipping houses, and started and sold a print shop. She also taught school.

I think it's high time to "redistribute" some of that academic wealth, and I don't think it is fair that a Harvard degree should constitute an entitlement to power as so many gullible people think it does.

The whole thing reeks of class entitlement and class warfare -- something the Ivy-league egalitarians claim to be against, but which they are actually for.

Let me put it as simply as I can. I don't want Harvard leftists who seek to legally redefine voter fraud running the Secretary of State's office.

Don't worry. I am not going to bore readers with a long dissection of that atrocious excuse for legal scholarship (especially because Harvard won't give me academic credit for my dissection...)

But I can't think of a better reason to vote for Ruth Johnson.

A FINAL THOUGHT: This may sound like Tea Party extremism on my part, but I'll say it anyway.

A vote for Ruth Johnson is a vote against the Ruling Class.

(I say that as someone who is against class war, and opposed to classes.)

MORE: I realize this post is already too long, but speaking of the Tea Party movement, it's probably worth adding that the Freep editorial also condemns (suprise!) Ruth Johnson for courting Tea Party support:

...Johnson's road to her party's secretary of state nomination contrasts sharply with Benson's methodical approach.

Johnson ardently courted Tea Party support in a five-way GOP contest...

All the more reason to support Ruth Johnson.

I don't go for Benson's, um, methodology.

UPDATE: Soros Donates $1 Million to Media Matters.

Does that mean they never met Soros too?

posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (7)

Republicans Have Everything Going For Them

Well at least three things. Says E.J. Dionne.

1. Flexible Platform

At the first level are the party's candidates, who can be as reasonable or as angry, as moderate or as conservative, as their circumstances require.
You mean the Republicans are not a Borg? I dunno. That sounds like a pretty good feature to me. A range of ideas and candidates get tested.

2. Lots Of Money

Next come the outside groups that refuse to disclose their donor lists. They are doing the dirty work of pounding their Democratic opponents in commercials for which no one is accountable. The Republican candidates can shrug an innocent, "Who, me?" Deniability is a wonderful thing.
This may be true. But Mr. Dionne should look up election law. The law Democrats once championed. Outside groups can't co-ordinate with candidates or parties. And as for anonymous money in campaigns? It is a tradition since the founding. Something about free speech without retaliation or something.

3. Turn Out

And then on the far right, Glenn Beck and his allies cast President Obama as the central figure in a conspiracy against America itself, fueling participation by the most extreme 10 percent or 15 percent of the electorate.
A LOT of people who normally wouldn't bother with elections are coming to this one? You betcha. And so totally unfair. Heh.

Plus. E.J. is getting smarter. Much smarter. He has figured out who is behind this nefarious plot that claims to want smaller government and lower taxes. And it is a block buster. The John Birch Society. No really. I can quote him:

Their crackpot ideas, as the historian Sean Wilentz documented in The New Yorker recently, originated in the 1950s and '60s, in the paranoid theorizing of the John Birch Society. But whereas responsible conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. denounced the Birchers and the rest of the lunatic fringe back then, Republicans this time are riding the radical wave. In some cases (think Sharron Angle in Nevada), the extremists are their standard-bearers.
Run for your life E.J. the lunatics who want smaller government, lower taxes, and adherence to Constitutional limits on the scope of Government (where was that drug prohibition amendment again?) are coming to gettcha.

I could let him say more but he already looks foolish enough. Instead let me turn a little attention to Tim Rutten.

Though the actual voting is still 17 days [TEA minus 15 and counting as of today. - ed] away, it seems clear that this midterm election cycle will be defined by a surprising presence and a remarkable absence.

The presence, of course, is the "tea party," and what's absent are the social issues that so bitterly divided the electorate in recent campaigns. Demography and evolving public opinion are well on the way to making an electoral dead letter of same-sex marriage, which played a pivotal role in the 2004 presidential campaign. Despite the best efforts of Democratic candidates like Barbara Boxer to rally their base around protecting access to abortion, most voters' attention is fixed firmly on their ability to feed and clothe the children they already have. The Roberts court's declaration that the 2nd Amendment confers individual rights was an unintended gift to the Democrats because it essentially took gun control off the table

Damn. The right refuses to have a serious internal war. Oh. There is some sniping. I have engaged in it some myself. But the all out - take no prisoners - action of the past is over - for now. Reminds me of when the capitalists and communists united to defeat the Germans (Godwin prevents me from saying more). It really sucks when your enemies unite against you.

See. I have discussed the abortion question. And my opinion is that other than regulation the Federal government for sure should not be involved. That Constitution thing all us crazies want followed. So we all agree on that. That it is a States Rights issue. So that takes a lot of the fever on both sides off the table. Now personally I think any states which enacted such laws would find them unenforceable. i.e. a lot of expense for not much result, kinda like the drug laws. But that is just me. And where exactly did the Feds get drugged on such power? They needed an amendment for alcohol.

OK. Tim (he is not Tiny) is just getting warmed up. And say. This is looking like he cribbed from the same notes E.J. Dionne got. Or he (or could it be E.J.?) is a psychic. Well never mind. Maybe they just read each other.

A secondary influence on this election is the novel role of so-called third-party money, much of it secretly contributed to groups unaccountable to either party. By election day, according to a report Friday in the Wall Street Journal, such committees will have spent $300 million in support of GOP candidates. And, unlike the Republican National Committee or congressional sources, these third parties have been perfectly willing to spend on behalf of those with tea party roots. (By contrast, about $100 million in independent contributions will go to Democratic candidates; organized labor will spend an additional $200 million, but the bulk of that is going to rally union voters, whose enthusiasm has waned.)
Dang. There is a market for smaller government, lower taxes, and Constitutional limits on government power? Who knew? And the union spirit not what it used to be? Maybe they know something about the looting of their pension funds. Which, with the Democrats going out, will no longer have an open tap on the US Treasury. Dang. Screwed just like the rest of us.

Tim is looking at the candidates and is just so damn annoyed that the Republicans seem to be running a few libertarians. That has got to hurt. Especially for a man who has never heard of the Republican Liberty Caucus in the now serving Congress. Nice of you to pay such close attention Tim.

At least three candidates are such programmatic libertarians that they'd really be more at home in that party.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that its pre-election analysis has 33 tea party-backed candidates running in congressional districts that are either leaning Republican or too close to call. Eight "stand a good or better chance of winning Senate seats," the paper says.

If that's correct, the next Congress is going to contain a significant tea party caucus, and that may bring social issue tensions back to the fore.

But Tim. We have already agreed that social issues are not a job for the Federal Government. The Gordian knot of social issues has been cut on the national level. I think that means some one is going to win big or something. Maybe for a long time.

And I guess since I'm shooting fish in a barrel I might as well have a few blasts at Lorelei Kelly at the Huffington Post. And she too has it all figured out. We are a lucky country to be full of such genius.

The Tea Party has done us all a favor. It has pointed out how absent we've been in building a common narrative about modern American citizenship. Their candidates are fascinating -- like watching campaign season through beer goggles. But every time I hear one of them speak in public, I realize what an advantage the rest of us have -- real stories, real characters, real democracy.

The Tea Party is taking a joyride through the world of American ideals.

She has that right. It is more than a joy to espouse smaller government, lower taxes, and Constitutional limits on Federal power.

Loreli says this is just a fantasy.

Along the way, it has grabbed the best revolutionary symbols, the cinematic frustration of the masses, and an irreproachable sounding plan (Fiscal responsibility! Constitutionally limited government! Free markets! Yay!)

But it's all emotions and fantasy. Despite the symbolic appeal, Tea Partiers don't really speak to tradition. They speak to nostalgia. These signals resurrected from the past are not representative. They are kitsch.

Just you wait honey. America is BACK. And it is taking no prisoners (metaphorically). We have the better symbols and the better arguments. We're gonna get your children (if you have any).

Enough time for her. Nodda clue.

Peter Berkowitz writing at the Wall Street Journal diagnoses the root cause of the misunderstanding so amply illustrated above.

For the better part of two generations, the best political science departments have concentrated on equipping students with skills for performing empirical research and teaching mathematical models that purport to describe political affairs. Meanwhile, leading history departments have emphasized social history and issues of race, class and gender at the expense of constitutional history, diplomatic history and military history.

Neither professors of political science nor of history have made a priority of instructing students in the founding principles of American constitutional government. Nor have they taught about the contest between the progressive vision and the conservative vision that has characterized American politics since Woodrow Wilson (then a political scientist at Princeton) helped launch the progressive movement in the late 19th century by arguing that the Constitution had become obsolete and hindered democratic reform.

There are a fair number of us who do not think the Constitution is obsolete. And we intend to do something about it. For starters we intend to start winning elections. Starting this November 2rd.
Enough Tea Party-supported candidates are running strongly in competitive and Republican-leaning Congressional races that the movement stands a good chance of establishing a sizable caucus to push its agenda in the House and the Senate, according to a New York Times analysis.

With a little more than two weeks till Election Day, 33 Tea Party-backed candidates are in tossup races or running in House districts that are solidly or leaning Republican, and 8 stand a good or better chance of winning Senate seats.

While the numbers are relatively small, they could exert outsize influence, putting pressure on Republican leaders to carry out promises to significantly cut spending and taxes, to repeal health care legislation and financial regulations passed this year, and to phase out Social Security and Medicare in favor of personal savings accounts.

TEA minus 15 and counting MOFOs.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:44 AM | Comments (1)

What Coco doesn't know won't hurt her

Not much time to blog today, but here are some pics of Coco (who has recovered nicely from her illness) and her friend Pearl.




Pearl is a Redtick Coonhound. We didn't see any raccoons, but there was a carved wooden squirrel statue, and they both checked it out.


And now that I'm back, I have to say that Coco would have been incredibly pissed had she known I was off in the countryside feeding buffalo today. Check out this guy.


And look at his tongue!


MORE: Feeding the buffaloes.

No one tell Coco.

posted by Eric at 11:01 PM | Comments (4)


Buy Low, Sell High = FREE TRADE

Buy High, Sell Higher = NO TRADE

Any questions?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

runny ruins

While the subject is the same, I think this:


leaves more to the imagination than this:


It's all a question of scale.

Not as in balance, though.

MORE: In other news of runny ruins, "Facebook draws 7,000 to anti-Muslim pork sausage party in Paris." When I was a kid, rebellion took the form of long hair and loud obnoxious music. Now it's eating what fear has made uncool.

Pig is "out," so pig out?


G-g-gotta p-p-problem with t-t-traditional p-p-ppork?

MORE: You think the above is bad? For the first time in my memory, people in the United States are getting death threats for publishing cartoons and caricatures not of Muhammad, but of the president.

Run of the mill political stuff.

Like this:


And this:


Above images via Glenn Reynolds, who was kind enough to link an older post in which I tried to make light of Those Who Take Themselves Deadly Seriously.

These people (most of whom would probably be delighted to call themselves atheists) seem to have absolutely no sense of humor.

The way they act, you'd almost think they were followers of some tyrannical deity.

But that can't be right, because they claim to be against theocracy.


Who'd have ever thought it would be so easy to commit heresy in modern America?

posted by Eric at 11:17 PM | Comments (1)

Craigslist Crackdown Conspiracy Coverup

There's a raging battle over what sort of ads should be allowed on Craigslist. The more Craigslist attempts to comply with the demands of prosecutors and various self-appointed monitoring groups and advocacy organizations, the louder their demands. First it was demanded that they monitor the "Erotic Services" section. Then they had to take it down. And the latest is the demand that they remove the "Adult Services" category:

In November 2008 the site began requiring a phone number and small fee to place an advertisement in the Erotic Services section.

In May 2009, after coming under further fire from state and local law enforcement from around the country, Craigslist replaced the Erotic Services section of its regional sites with the new Adult Services section. All advertisements in this section, according to Craigslist, would be screened by the site's employees before being posted and cost $10, rather than the previous $5 cost of an Erotic Services advertisement.

State attorneys and law enforcement have remained unsatisfied with Craigslist's efforts to curb illegal activity.

"In our view, the company should take immediate action to end the misery for the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by these ads," last week's letter stated. "Because Craigslist cannot, or will not, adequately screen these ads, it should stop accepting them altogether and shut down the Adult Services section."

I'm wondering whether the word "ADULT" is becoming a completely new word, which no longer means what it once meant.

In fact, I would be willing to bet that in a lot of communities (whether real life or online), the word "ADULT" alone is a red flag.

If you doubt me, try putting a neon sign in your front window with nothing more than the word "ADULT." A Bud or Corona sign is one thing, but neighbors would call the cops at the sight of that filthy word, and something would be done.

ADULT has come to mean filth, raunch, sex. So I guess if the censors get their way, Craigslist will have to stop allowing all things adult. Craigslist does not have as many defenders as it should, and I think that's because it's seen as a giant company.

And giant companies exploit victims! That's something all activists can agree on, right?

I don't know where the ACLU stands, but the EFF is concerned that whatever rules are concocted for Craigslist could be applied to all ISPs, meaning the entire Internet:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group, describes the various complaints against Craigslist as "increasingly bellicose rhetoric." The site, the EFF notes, is protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shields providers of "interactive computer service" against criminal liability for content posted by outside users.

"The notion that Craigslist and [its] officers should be held responsible for third-party content on their site because they didn't do enough to satisfy the individual whims of respective state attorneys general is wholly inconsistent with the law," says EFF senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman.

The implications, Zimmerman suggests, are enormous: By flexing their muscles against an entity such as Craigslist, state leaders are paving the way for a vastly regulated Internet that could be void of many of its current freedoms.

"If site operators were forced to screen all third-party contributions under risk of civil or criminal penalty, the Internet would lose many of the vibrant services that have made it so dynamic," Zimmerman says.

"Under such a radical re-envisioning, the Internet would ultimately become the province of rich and cautious media companies who would actively serve as gatekeepers to decide whether and how users could engage with the world."

While Craigslist's move may have a come as a result of its own internal decision, the company's willingness to cave under pressure still sends a troubling message about the power of states' legal threats. The conclusion of this battle, in more ways than one, is anything but a happy ending.


But I don't mean to end this post on such a sour note, and my inner conspiracy theorist is wondering whether there might be other factors behind the demonization of Craigslist. Might some of its ads be upsetting people in high places?

For example, those mean, filthy, Craigslist ads caused Poetess Extraordinaire Maya Angelou (as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July) to look ridiculous after she was forced to read them through a surrogate.

I kid you not.

Here is "Maya Angelou," with her poetic rendition of a Craigslist passage titled "Crazy Contortionist":

And here she solemnly reads from a Fourth of July Craigslist passage titled "My Face, Your Ripe Feet"

And finally, she reads "Two Chubs To Make Me Their Midnight Snack"

My theory is that people in high places might very well have decided that the above is inappropriate material for White House readings, and that's what's really behind the crackdown on Craigslist. This real reason, of course, is being systematically covered up.

I find it hard to believe that the crackdown is based on "individual whims of respective state attorneys general."

There are whims all right, but I think they're emanating from the penumbra of a much higher authority.

If we could save just one adult!

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

Comments welcome, even from those who don't think "adult" is dirty.

posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (15)

A Shift On The Left?

I am a member of a mostly lefty anti-prohibitionist list. The question to the list was: given Holder's recent Oct. 2010 announcement that he would go after Calif if Proposition 19 passes, how would the youth vote break? Would Proposition 19 bring them out? Would Holder's remarks make them vote R?

Which made me link to this post in my email response.

Richard Lee, the founder and president of Oaksterdam University, is a veteran activist who also is sponsoring a statewide ballot measure that would allow adults 21 or older to possess and grow relatively small amounts of marijuana. The initiative also would allow cities and counties to tax and regulate marijuana sales and cultivation.

Lee calls himself a "Libertarian Republican."

So I'm searching around the 'net to see if I can get a feel for the zeitgeist and came across this comment at a FireDogLake article about Federal corruption in the drug war.
I'm beginning to think the Teatards are right, maybe we should drown the Fed Gov. in a bathtub.
When even lefties start catching on I think the current game is OVER.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:10 AM | Comments (5)

NY Gay Parade.jpg

It turns out that Carl Paladino has an adviser. The adviser is pictured above at the Gay Pride Parade that Palidino said was unfit for Cuomo's children. Probably. And just so it is clear. He is the person getting his ear licked.

His name is Roger Stone and he has a few things to say about a few things.

Stone has been an adviser to Carl Paladino's campaign efforts, and Paladino said Monday that the parade is "disgusting." Tuesday evening, as he apologized for remarks that offended many gay leaders, Paladino said he still believed it was bad judgment for Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo to attend the parade with his daughters.

Paladino did not attend the parade.

UPDATE: Stone wrote to point out why he was marching -- he says he worked on the same-sex marriage bill and helped Sen. Joe Bruno draft a statement urging his former Republican colleagues in the chamber to vote yes.

He also has written on his website in favor of same-sex marriage, and told the Daily Beast that he rejected Paladino's remarks.

Yeah I marched with KRISTIN DAVIS in the Gay Pride Parade. Proud of it," he wrote. "I'm a libertarian Republican. I support Marriage Equality."

There is a nice picture of Kristin marching at Libertarian Republican. Along with the lady who had Roger's ear in the above picture. Needless to say you can guess where I got the idea for this post.

Kristin is also running for Governor of New York.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Is sexual freedom now an official heresy?

Sometimes I find the statements that come out of our leaders so mind boggling that I don't know where to begin.

Earlier I read that President Obama is complaining about a rise of "tribal attitude". It's one of my pet peeves too; I have written several posts about tribalism, which I think is indistinguishable from identity politics. Tribalism begets tribalism, and the struggles between oppressor tribes and oppressed tribes (whether the oppression is genuine or only perceived) fuel endless cycles, with each tribe taking "turns." While I am not saying that there are not occasional elements of tribalism on the right, for the left to accuse the right of tribalism (as Obama seems to be doing) is the height of hypocrisy.

I cannot think of a more classic example of modern leftist tribalism than gay identity politics. Things have reached the point where it is considered a form of "bigotry" to even say that there such a thing as a "gay lifestyle."

Glenn Reynolds (who was once accused of "demonizing" gays to strengthen his "cultural tribalism" by one of the leftosphere's leading gay chieftains) linked a post by Ann Althouse which attempts to examine how Obama spokesperson Valerie Jarrett ran afoul of the newest tribal rules, and was forced "to apologize for the heresy of calling homosexuality a 'lifestyle choice.'"

Here's what Jarrett said:

"These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay; they embraced him, they loved him, they supported his lifestyle choice," Jarrett told Capehart. "But when he left the home and went to school, he was tortured by his classmates."

Blogger Michael Petrelis slammed Jarrett for the reference, accusing her of taking "talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council," a socially conservative organization that condemns homosexuality.

Personally, I think the kid shouldn't have been ashamed, and he would have probably been better off taking a Pink Pistols firearms course than hating himself and jumping off the bridge, but what's news to me was to read that the Family Research Council thinks the "gay lifestyle" is a talking point. Last time I looked, I thought they refused even to use the word "gay." So in terms of the big picture, if they are now talking about the gay lifestyle it may be progress.

Anyway, Jarrett groveled about her poor word choice:

"I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words," Jarrett said. "Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice, and anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans."
Ann Althouse points out that the "rules" seem to be changing over what you can and cannot say:
I remember back in the 1980s, in the radical enclaves of the University of Wisconsin Law School and similar places, when it was heresy to say that sexual orientation was inborn. I remember getting snapped at by a very prominent left-wing lawprof for referring without scorn to research that showed some evidence that sexual orientation was innate. It was all about choice back then, and the choice model was deemed to be the framework upon which gay rights would be built.
I've written about this till I'm blue in the face, but once again, I will point out that I disagree with the all-or-nothing dichotomy. I don't think there is any one explanation for human sexuality. There are too many variations, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, fetish-object-sexual, or asexual for anyone to assert with any degree of confidence that there is but one "cause," and that whatever "it" is, it has to take place before birth. This is not to say that there aren't many gays who were born with that propensity, but many is not all. And lots of things can influence the development of sexual tastes along the way. Why are some gay men into big hairy muscular guys, while others are into smooth, slim, and hairless? Why are some turned on by raunchy hippie types, and others by clean-cut all-Americans who look like Brooks Brothers models? Were they born with genes for those attractions? Why are some straight guys into women's breasts, others into legs, and others into specific articles of clothing? Are some heterosexual baby boys born programmed with a genetic attraction to high heels?

The idea that all gays are necessarily by definition born that way just reeks of identity politics, and tribalism. It violates common sense, and beyond that, I think it violates sexual freedom, because the implication of sexual attraction being innate reduces the rights argument and sexual freedom theory to irrelevancy. It is determinism, and I think determinism is tyrannical because it is at odds with free will. Determinists argue that none of us have any control over what we are or what we do, and I can't think of any system more calculated to lead to tyranny.

No one has the right to tell people how they have to be. Neither the bigoted gay tribalists (better known as Gay Inc.) or their bigoted opposites, the anti-gay tribalists (which I have called "Anti-Gay Inc."). The former like to say that being gay is not a choice, while the latter say it is a choice and an evil one.

I will grant that I think there are a number of people born with the gay propensity. Whether it's genetic or whether it's a result of the prenatal environment can be debated, but these people certainly exist and I think they have every right to be homosexually inclined, and they also have the right to live the "gay lifestyle" -- whatever that may be to them. That right is grounded in freedom, though, not in genetics. Genetics does not convey rights, nor should it. It mixes apples and oranges to suggest otherwise. But I don't see how anyone who is thoughtful and objective can deny that far from a single "gay lifestyle," there is a spectrum of lifestyles. I have long been puzzled over the idea, for example, that gay men should like the music of Barbra Streisand, or prefer certain occupations. It makes no sense. There are people who have homosexual feelings but do not acknowledge or express them. Call them "repressed homosexuals" if you will, but that is their lifestyle, and unless they are hurting anyone, it is their inherent right to live that way, even if they were born with an irresistible homosexual inclination. Then there are those we would refer to as being "closeted." There are many degrees of being in the closet; some are open to themselves and family, but not their workplace, while others are open in the workplace but haven't told their mother. Are these not lifestyle choices for them to make? Or should the ruling tribal leaders have a right to intervene? And there are of course, totally open and "out" gays who have told their friends, families, employers, and everyone else. That too is a lifestyle choice I would defend without reservation.

But just as lifestyles are not inborn, there is hardly a monolithic "gay lifestyle" which someone must choose or reject, and in that respect Jarrett was wrong. But that's not what she was made to apologize for; her crime was in saying something contrary to the determinist view, which has apparently become politically dominant in gay identity politics. I see an additional problem with her phraseology, though. To say that "sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice," while that is apparently an endorsement of identity politics, it also means that there is no freedom to choose these things. Which is tyrannical in a free country. That means that not only does a gay man or a lesbian have no right to become heterosexual, but a man or a woman who is heterosexually inclined has to right to become gay. Why not? If there is a right to change one's gender, then why isn't there a right to change one's sexual orientation? What if you just want to do what doesn't come naturally? Who gets to decide what is natural? If you are bisexual and can enjoy sex with either gender, how is the way you have sex not a choice? Or is the fact that you have a choice said through determinism to be not a choice? Philosophically, that could mean that determinism has swallowed free will, which the determinists probably consider a delusion. Fine, but don't we have the freedom in this country to be as deluded we want in the eyes of some, and actually believe that they're the ones who are deluded? There is still a right to be wrong, is there not?

Who put Valerie Jarrett in charge of our sex lives?

And what about the Bonobo chimps? What gives them the right to screw around any way they want without being dragged into identity politics? Why should they have more sexual freedom than humans?

Sorry, now that I'm ranting, I didn't mean to neglect the culture warriors who insist that being gay is always a choice, and a wrong choice! and that gays must be encouraged to "leave the lifestyle." Presumably, these people think that teaching gay men the fine arts of penile-vaginal intercourse will benefit them and society, although I have never been able to understand why. Especially if you factor in the inborn/genetically gay people, it strikes me that if they were rounded up and forced to attend whatever kind of therapy sessions Anti-Gay Inc. demands, the success stories would consist mainly of those who learned to be facultatively heterosexual. More likely they'd be quasi "bisexual" -- a sort of gay equivalent of the straight guys in prison who learn to do without women and sexually use men as the equivalent. Common sense suggests that just as the straight guys in these circumstances seek women and not men after they leave prison, over time these "converts" would tend to revert to what they liked before, regardless of what sexual identity they might claim. In whose interest is that? Theirs? The women they've been hooked up with? For the life of me I don't get it, and I have never understood why so many cultural conservatives who insist that gay is always a choice and can be "cured" also tend to say that pedophilia can never be cured. Which is it?

I wish all of these various people didn't care so much about the sex lives of others, but it has become big business, and highly politicized.

I used to think that modern gayness in the western sense was a reactive stage (gay to anti-gay) of human evolution on the path towards full sexual freedom (which I would define as that point where people no longer cared about such things), for sex ought to be the business of the people involved.*

But sometimes I wonder whether some people just want not individual freedom, but sexual tribalism -- with endless reactions and counter-reactions to keep it going. Anti-Gay Inc. has at least as big an investment in gayness as does Gay Inc.

To not care is heresy.

*Barring harm to others, of course. (Accuse me of inconsistency if you will, but I don't think sexual freedom includes pedophilia or bestiality, because they are non-consenting activities that do harm.)

posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (11)

Cheery News - It Is Way Worse Than We Thought

As most of you know by now there has been massive incompetence or fraud (take your pick - the initial net result is about the same) in the mortgage issuance and foreclosure markets. I covered that at Who Has The Title? You might want to visit there for some background.

The Financial Times finds that at least at Wells Fargo Bank it was straight up fraud.

Unlike its rivals, Wells Fargo has not halted foreclosures. The San Francisco-based bank said on Tuesday it was reviewing some pending cases, but it has maintained that it has checks and balances designed to prevent serious procedural lapses.

In a sworn deposition on March 9 seen by the FT, Xee Moua, identified in court documents as a vice-president of loan documentation for Wells, said she signed as many as 500 foreclosure-related papers a day on behalf of the bank.

Ms Moua, who was deposed as part of a foreclosure lawsuit in Palm Beach County, Florida, said that the only information she verified was whether her name and title appeared correctly, according to the document.

Asked whether she checked the accuracy of the principal and interest that Wells claimed the borrower owed - a crucial step in banks' legal actions to repossess homes - Ms Moua said: "I do not."

Ms Moua nevertheless signed affidavits that said she had "personal knowledge of the facts regarding the sums of money which are due and owing to Wells Fargo". The affidavits were used by the bank in foreclosure proceedings.

Ms Moua added that before reaching her desk, it was her understanding that the foreclosure documents had been reviewed by outside lawyers.

Ah but it gets worse.
In an effort to rush through thousands of home foreclosures since 2007, financial institutions and their mortgage servicing departments hired hair stylists, Walmart floor workers and people who had worked on assembly lines and installed them in "foreclosure expert" jobs with no formal training, a Florida lawyer says.

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn't define the word "affidavit." Others didn't know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers' accusations about document fraud.

"The mortgage servicers hired people who would never question authority," said Peter Ticktin, a Deerfield Beach, Fla., lawyer who is defending 3,000 homeowners in foreclosure cases. As part of his work, Ticktin gathered 150 depositions from bank employees who say they signed foreclosure affidavits without reviewing the documents or ever laying eyes on them -- earning them the name "robo-signers."

The deposed employees worked for the mortgage service divisions of banks such as Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, as well as for mortgage servicers like Litton Loan Servicing, a division of Goldman Sachs.

The bankers were running the banks as if they were casinos. Except that the wheel has come up double zeros. And that is not their number.

H/T Tyler Durden Tyler also has a long explanation of why this is so bad. Money For Nothing And Houses For Free

Update: 15 Oct 2010 1111z

Head of Freddie Mac dead of apparent suicide.
The Best Congress Fannie Could Buy might explain it.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:22 AM | Comments (2)

When Money Is At Stake
When Money Is At Stake.gif
Click on picture to enlarge

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 12:43 AM | Comments (11)

Protect us from the toxins we consume -- and the toxins we emit!

My earlier post about big government's systematic elimination of large denomination currency -- ostensibly to fight the war on drugs -- made me wonder whether big government's need for the war on drugs is based not so much on a realistic goal or genuine desire to eliminate illegal drugs so much as it is the need for a contrivance. The drug war rationale thus becomes a pretext to trick citizens into supporting measures they would not otherwise support. Because people don't want to give up their freedom lightly, they have to be provided with a plausible rationale. Citizens instinctively and rightly don't want the government to be able to rifle through their financial or medical records (or bodily fluids) but if they are told it's to fight the war on drugs, or money laundering, they're more likely to be pliant. Citizens are willing to give up substantial amounts of their freedom if they think it's for a "good" cause.

In that respect, I wonder whether the mechanism at work in the Drug War is similar to the mechanism being deployed in the Carbon War (war against Anthropogenic Global Warming). Whether you agree with the principle involved in the former (saving society from people with destructive drug appetites), or the latter (saving the planet from people with destructive carbon appetites), my suspicion is that the stated goals in both cases are not only unachievable, but are not the real goal, which is simply to have as much state control over the lives of citizens as possible, as well as a rationalization for taking ever more. In this respect, the fact that existing controls are "not working" becomes an argument for increasing them.

So, to those in control, it does not matter whether the measures work or the stated goals are achievable.

It is better that they are not!

To those who rule, the issue is not whether the draconian measures involving substantial losses of citizens freedom are "worth the price," for they operate under a very different pricing scheme -- one which is geared towards taking away freedom. Debates over whether the restrictions are "worth it" are off the mark, and help rationalize existing losses of freedom as well as further losses of freedom, for they validate the statist position that the government has the right to take away freedom in the name of protecting people from harming either their bodies or the planet.

Has the drug war "worked"? This question has been asked a million times, and the proponents simply assert over and over again that if it has, it must be continued, and if it hasn't, it must be stepped up. Evidence that drug use has gone down means that this is no time to let down our guard and our efforts should be increased. And, of course, evidence that drug use has gone up means that we have to redouble lest the war on drugs be "lost."

Will the war against carbon "work"? If experience with the war on drugs is any indication, such a question will simply become a similar rhetorical foot in the door. Evidence that global temperatures or CO2 have gone down means that this is no time to let down our guard and our war against carbon should be increased. And, of course, evidence temperatures have gone up means that we have to redouble lest the war on carbon be "lost."

Human lives are at stake. The very planet is at stake!

This is no time to let up on our war against our toxic greed.

Any loss of freedom is a small price to pay!

posted by Eric at 01:19 PM | Comments (2)

Yes It Does

I posted this over at Power and Control. Sort of a subtle way of saying it is my birthday. I generally don't make a big deal of it but since Eric let the cat out of the bag.... Thanks!!!!!!!!!! and hippie hugs. Oh. Yeah. I'm 66. I still feel 19. So I'm doing the 19 year old thing today. Don't ask. Because I won't tell. ;-)

Update: Sarah Palin advises me that it is also Maggie Thatcher's Birthday. Maggie has a few years on me. She is 85. My mom has her beat. Age wise. She will be 91 in a few weeks. I'm very lucky to still have her around. One of the best gifts I have gotten today. And thanks to Internet traffic making long distance more or less "free" I talked to her twice today. And I didn't have to get everything said in under three minutes. (Yeah. A "kids these days...." riff. LOL)

posted by Simon at 06:31 PM | Comments (3)


Yes, today is M. Simon's birthday, and I won't say which one as it just sounds too spooky (especially being that his birthday always falls on October13th, which looks Halloweenishly inverted). And I don't want to get into numerology here. One superstition at a time.

For this this special occasion, I decided to do something I hardly ever do, which was to make a YouTube video instead of writing a blog post. After consulting a very worthy and time-tested astrological text, I learned things about my co-blogger which I was at first hesitant to share, because they seem so personal in nature -- if not invasive of privacy. But the reason I decided to share them is because anyone else could have learned the same thing, armed with nothing more than his date of birth. So the more I thought it over, the more it seemed to me that it was my duty to share it with the world.

Happy Birthday!

If the video won't yet stream at this site, it's because it's still being processed.

(Link here.)

posted by Eric at 02:42 PM | Comments (5)

We have to DO SOMETHING!

Human behavior being what it is, if we consider the sheer number of people on the planet (or even limit our considerations to the 300 million or so Americans), it should not surprise anyone that each day, a number of incidents occur which are capable of generating outrage. It used to be that local news tended to be treated as local news. If a kid got attacked by a vicious dog, beaten up by vicious thugs on the way home from school, or found himself victimized by bullies in one cruel manner or another, these things were not considered national events, and they didn't serve as fuel for the public imagination. This is not to belittle any victim of crime, but things have changed. It just so happens that if the right factors are present (certain emotional triggers), then local tragedies can be rapidly catapulted into national outrages. When that happens, the reaction tends to be along the lines of "how could this have happened in the United States?" and of course "Something must be done!" If a victim is different from his attackers (say of a different racial or sexual orientation -- or physically different, as in the case of obesity epidemic victims), if an attacking dog has the wrong genes (such as "pit bull"), then all of us in society are said to be collectively involved, and our attention is demanded one way or another. Why is that? Simply because there's an Internet to blast these events into the public imagination? At the rate ordinary tragic occurrences are becoming national outrages, pretty soon we will all be conspicuous outrage consumers. It's the "outrage of the day" phenomenon, and I have touched on it before. I make no claim to be innocent, as this blog is just as guilty of feeding upon outrage as any other outrage-fueled blog. Seriously, if it weren't for conspicuous outrage, what would there be to be conspicuously outraged about? We can't be outraged about nothing can we? Actually, we can. The epidemic of cultural nihilism itself can and probably should engender profound feelings of collective outrage. And is not apathy worse than outrage? Shouldn't we be more outraged by apathy in the face of outrage, than by outrage in the face of outrage?

What would happen if there were to emerge a cultural divide between people who care and people who don't? Political demagogues could exploit this, and already it is happening, especially when the outages involve "hot-button" issues of deep concern to single-issue-political activists. If you either don't care or can "see both sides" of, say, abortion issue or the gay marriage issue, you are likely to incur the wrath of those who have "selflessly" dedicated their lives to either combating the evil or (depending on your POV) remedying the evil. You're liable not only to be accused of apathy, but you might even be likened to the "good Germans" who stood by and did nothing while Hitler slaughtered millions and laid waste to Europe. (Oddly enough, we don't hear much about the "good Russians." Or the good Cambodians or good Rwandans.)

I'd call this entire situation outrageous, except I wouldn't want to succumb to outrage, lest I become a victim of the outrage epidemic.

Clearly, there is an outrage epidemic and clearly something must be done. But what? What sort of epidemic is it? Is there such a thing as addiction to outrage? If so, maybe the first step is admitting it. There can be no denial where it comes to outrage, because living in denial would be another outrage. But it would also be an outrage to admit that we are addicted, yet to go right on living as if being outraged is simply a fact of life. How dare we not be more outraged?

Either way, we should be more outraged. Anything less would be an outrage.


I should beware of the power of negative thinking. Expressing such negative thoughts about outrage could easily hamstring my efforts to tackle the outrages of the day. I have not read any news, blogs, or email, and I am still in a state of blissful unawareness of the emerging outrages of the day.

What, I should try to be more positive?

UPDATE: As M. Simon reminded me, "it's open season on Carl Paladino." Does that mean I should attack him or defend him? From what I've read, he fits the stereotype of being a loose cannon. It's tough to be honest without seeming to side with his attackers or defenders, yet as I have tried to explain, there is nothing more pathetic than not having especially strong feelings about something that everyone has strong feelings about.

Much as I wish the GOP had a better candidate (and if I had to vote in New York I'd need to be clutching my puke bag in the polls), is it OK for me to say that I just find the whole affair a little exhausting?

Hey, watch this vintage video of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal (neither of whom I have ever been able to stand) going at it. And watch the reaction of 83 year old Janet Flanner. (I remember the show, and I loved her at the time.)

Janet Flanner I am not. But sometimes I feel like having a Janet Flanner moment.

posted by Eric at 09:00 AM | Comments (3)


I have been writing for the last week or so about how much I don't like Paladino in the New York Governors race. You can find the articles:

From The Beach

Wedge Issues

I think Warren Redlich is probably the best man for the job of those running. But let us be real. The odds are not in his favor this close to the election. (Yeah. Never tell me the odds.)

Which brings me to something Instapundit pointed out yesterday. Did Paladino smear our current Attorney General (who deserves it) or not?

It's open season on Carl Paladino, the homophobic, racist email-forwarding Republican candidate for governor of New York. And much to the delight of the Cuomo campaign, everyday seems to bring a new scandal. Now Paladino stands accused of using salty language about Attorney General Eric Holder, apparently telling a voter that he would say "fuck him" if he attempted to try terrorists in a Manhattan court.
But did he actually say that? It looks like (from the linked post) the answer is no. Dang!

OTOH I have learned from surfing the 'net that in one of Cuomo's past elections the unofficial slogan for Cuomo was "Cuomo not the homo".

You have to wonder why New York State puts up with any of these mopes?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:56 AM | Comments (0)

Got 401s?

Union pension plans in America are falling apart. Congress has a plan to fix that.

Democrats in the Senate on Thursday held a recess hearing covering a taxpayer bailout of union pensions and a plan to seize private 401(k) plans to more "fairly" distribute taxpayer-funded pensions to everyone.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee heard from hand-picked witnesses advocating the infamous "Guaranteed Retirement Account" (GRA) authored by Theresa Guilarducci.

In a nutshell, under the GRA system government would seize private 401(k) accounts, setting up an additional 5% mandatory payroll tax to dole out a "fair" pension to everyone using that confiscated money coupled with the mandated contributions. This would, of course, be a sister government ponzi scheme working in tandem with Social Security, the primary purpose being to give big government politicians additional taxpayer funds to raid to pay for their out-of-control spending.

The plan has been in the works for a while.
In February, the White House released its "Annual Report on the Middle Class" containing new regulations favored by Big Labor including a bailout of critically underfunded union pension plans through "retirement security" options.

The radical solution most favored by Big Labor is the seizure of private 401(k) plans for government disbursement -- which lets them off the hook for their collapsing retirement scheme. And, of course, the Obama administration is eager to accommodate their buddies.

Vice President Joe Biden floated the idea, called "Guaranteed Retirement Accounts" (GRAs), in the February "Middle Class" report.

You have to love the names they give these abominations. More correctly it would be called Guaranteed Retirement Accounts for Unions. If you are an ordinary citizen all Guarantees are off.

Here is a report from 2008 on the topic which names some more names.

GRAs would guarantee a fixed 3 percent annual rate of return, although later in her article Ghilarducci explained that participants would not "earn a 3% real return in perpetuity." In place of tax breaks workers now receive for contributions and thus a lower tax rate, workers would receive $600 annually from the government, inflation-adjusted. For low-income workers whose annual contributions are less than $600, the government would deposit whatever amount it would take to equal the minimum $600 for all participants.

In a radio interview with Kirby Wilbur in Seattle on Oct. 27, 2008, Ghilarducci explained that her proposal doesn't eliminate the tax breaks, rather, "I'm just rearranging the tax breaks that are available now for 401(k)s and spreading -- spreading the wealth."

What she means by "spreading the wealth" is straight up theft by the government.

Well 2008 was a good year for warnings about this stuff. Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher tried to warn the 53% among us who were about to do something foolish.

Wurzelbacher said he planned to become the owner of a small plumbing business that will take in more than the $250,000 amount at which Obama plans to begin raising tax rates.

"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" the blue-collar worker asked.

After Obama responded that it would, Wurzelbacher continued: "I've worked hard . . . I work 10 to 12 hours a day and I'm buying this company and I'm going to continue working that way. I'm getting taxed more and more while fulfilling the American Dream."

"It's not that I want to punish your success," Obama told him. "I want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success, too.

Then, Obama explained his trickle-up theory of economics.

"My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Well that is history now. You know what this administration is up to. No excuses this time. The only recourse short of appeal to the Gods of War is to vote the Democrats out. Every single last one of them. No exceptions.

H/T Vox Populi and I think I got the Vox link from a comment at Riehl World View. But I can't find which post right now.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:18 AM | Comments (5)

Don't let the quasi-Orwellians catch you blinking!

I don't like being lied to, and while I have come expect it, what irritates me even more than being lied to is seeing other people being lied to. Especially in the name of "democracy."

A perfect example of the kind of stuff that just pisses me off is the way the Democrats have run their campaign against Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young. (Here's his Wiki bio.) I met him, and I watched him give a short talk and answer questions in a small group setting. He is a rare breed in that he is not only a black conservative, but a black conservative who went to Harvard Law School. To the left, this makes him not merely a traitor, but a double traitor.

To my mind, this makes him a man of great courage, and whether I agree with him on each and every point is irrelevant. (I doubt there is a human being on the face of the earth with whom I agree on each and every point, myself included. Hell, I argue with myself daily right here on this blog!)

The Democrats -- per Party Chairman Mark Brewer -- have decided to ridicule Justice Young by accusing him of sleeping on the bench. That was the agreed upon "narrative" as it worked the last time they campaigned against a Republican Supreme Court justice. The trouble is that this time, they couldn't find any footage of him sleeping, so they had to invent it out of whole cloth. Or whole video. That's right; the techies who work for the Democrats have learned that if you obtain video of people, you will find that because they are human beings they will close their eyes occasionally. It is called blinking, and if you don't do it, your eyes will dry out and become injured. So, those of us who are not suffering from paralysis or brain damage will necessarily and involuntarily do it from time to time. It has nothing to do with sleep, but in the right hands, it can be made to appear that anyone is asleep.

Precisely what the Democratic Party activists did to Justice Young. Fortunately, the underlying video they used was discovered, and someone was able to painstakingly go through it frame by frame to prove that the purported "photographs" showing him sleeping were simply frames in which he momentarily blinked.

Just watch:

This could be done to any living human being and I find it beyond irritating. It's almost Orwellian.

The reason I said "almost Orwellian" is that for something to be Orwellian in the full sense of the term, the government has to be doing it. Here it isn't really the government, but a party that wants to run the government.

I will be blunt here. The people who do this sort of thing are lower than low, and I am glad their behavior at this stage is only quasi-Orwellian. So, it is not enough for me to just say that the above video constitutes good cause to vote for Bob Young in Michigan, or contribute money to the campaign to retain him on the Michigan Supreme Court.

I would go so far as to say that the tactics exemplified by the above video provide an excellent reason not only to support Justice Young, but to vote against the Democratic Party in any way, shape or form. I say this fully aware of the problems I have had (and have) with various GOP candidates, and fully aware that I may not agree with Justice Young on every issue.

The selective editing involved (which makes it look like the opposite of what occurred) reminds me of the time a video showing a Nazi crackpot being exposed and denounced at a Tea Party was edited to make it appear as if the Nazi spoke for the Tea Party.

If Republicans were caught doing the same thing, I would feel the same way. I realize there are those who think the Republicans ought to engage in similar tactics by way of retaliation, but I couldn't disagree more. Two wrongs are simply two wrongs. I think people who engage in such quasi-Orwellian behavior are unworthy of holding office, period.

If they'll do that to get elected, what do you think they'll do when they get power?

DISCLOSURE: I have donated to the campaign to retain Justice Young, and I am proud that I did.

posted by Eric at 11:14 PM | Comments (2)

Big government war on big bills?

An issue that has long fascinated me is high denomination currency. There used to be quite a bit of it in circulation, but it died out. In the late 1960s:

The Federal Reserve began taking high-denomination bills out of circulation in 1969. As of May 30, 2009, there were only 336 known $10,000 bills in circulation; 342 remaining $5,000 bills; and 165,372 $1,000 remaining bills.[2] Due to their rarity, collectors will pay considerably more than the face value of the bills to acquire them.
That is no understatement. There is a web site devoted to collecting high denomination currency, and they explain:
Highdenomination.com is all about U.S bank notes of denominations $500, $1000, $5,000 and $10,000. - These high value United States Federal Reserve Notes and Gold Certificates are out of print and prized by both collectors and investors. Unlike many other currency issues, U.S. small size high denomination notes are Federal issues. By law, they still carry legal tender status. It is specifically this legal tender status, rarity and of course high face value that offer an unparalleled draw. This desirability makes high denomination notes, arguably, the most exciting area in collectible US paper money.
Even a completely trashed $500 bill with burn holes through it sells for $545.00.

In the United States, high denomination paper money dates back to 1861 (the "very beginning of U.S. Government issue") and it always included notes with face values as high as $10,000. Considering that the inflation-adjusted value of $10,000 would be $235,942.42 in today's money, that's a heck of a large bill, today. Almost a quarter of a million dollars.

So why is it that we can't obtain high-denomination notes if we want them? The highest value note is the $100.00 bill, but that was also the highest value note in 1969 when they decided to withdraw the higher-denomination notes, so I guess the government thought no one would need anything larger. But what about inflation since 1969? That hundred dollar bill would be $578.63 in today's money. So why hasn't the government at least re-introduced the $500.00 bill, just to keep up with inflation?

The answer seems to be the drug war.

Up until the mid-70s, and possibly later (I no longer recall the date), there were at least $500 and $1000 bills available to the public. They were withdrawn as part of the so-called "war on drugs"; the theory was that if large bills were unavailable, it would be more difficult to move large amounts of cash. In recent years, some people have suggested that since the change made no visible dent at all, the $100 and even the $50 should be withdrawn as well.
He's right about that; in 2008 the Providence Journal suggested that the $100 bill be withdrawn:
When was the last time that you had any need for a $100 bill or perhaps a $50 bill? Indeed, most purchases that Americans conduct over $20 are in the form of a check, wire transfer, credit or debit card. This begs the question: Who has the need for the $100 bill?The answer is clear -- the underground economy and criminal economy thrive on paper cash, especially the $100 bill.Because paper-cash transactions are non-transparent, anonymous and untraceable; paper cash has allowed criminal activity and the underground economies to thrive. In fact, the payment of choice by drug cartels and terrorist organizations is the $100 bill because it is easy to store, launder and transport.
Is the war on drugs really the reason? Or is the goal to monitor all cash transactions, and use the war on drugs as an excuse? Naturally, the war on "money laundering" is a subset of the war on drugs, but that, too, begs the question of whether the war on drugs supplies a very convenient pretext, to be used by those whose real goal is controlling our money.

As M. Simon keeps saying,


I understand why he put it in large caps, so I left it that way. Big government deserves to be fought in big caps.

Big Government, give us back our big bills!

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

Comments invited, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 01:39 PM | Comments (32)

From The Beach

Watch this video. Or this one:

Needless to say the videos are Not Entirely Safe For Work.

I posted the above to illustrate a point. Beach wear. Now I could have done a bit with guys in Speedos but I'm partial to the ladies. And my point? I'm getting to that. There is a race in New York that I have been giving some attention to. And the gay punching is getting rough (Hippie punching does not work as well as it used to. I guess the hippie menace is no longer so menacing.)

Which brings me to Carl Paladino.

Carl Paladino, the volatile GOP candidate for governor of New York, refused to step back yesterday from his comments disparaging gays over the weekend, saying that children should not attend gay pride parades because they featured men in bikinis "grinding at each other and doing these gyrations.''

"I don't think that's proper; I think it's disgusting,'' Paladino told NBC's "Today.''

In appearances before Orthodox Jewish groups Sunday in Brooklyn, the Buffalo developer and Tea Party-backed candidate created an uproar by saying that children should not be "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is acceptable.''

He also took a swipe at his opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade with his children.

He spoke as the state was still absorbing the news that nine young men had lured a gay man and two teenagers to a building and for hours savagely beat, tortured, and raped them with a baseball bat.

I'm not much up on public displays of affection by guys. But my eyes have not offended me so much yet that I'm interested in plucking them out. And my kids have to live in the real world. All the time. I have never seen the point of overly restricting them. I never put internet filters on their computers when they were growing up. Curfews were flexible. I tried to keep the reins as loose as possible without letting them go slack.

So given the choice between a society that tolerates gay guys prancing (yeah, what a cliche) in the streets or one that creates a truly vile atmosphere towards my fellow humans that makes some folks think acting out their violent fantasies towards people who are different (actively despised) is in the spirit of the age, I'm with the prancing gay guys all the way.

I'm kinda like Grant when it comes to moral panics. I don't scare worth a damn. And there are more citizens joining the unafraid ranks every day. I'm hoping that they represent enough New Yorkers to defeat Palidino. Pour encourager les autres.

Update: In case you are not comfortable voting for a Democrat and don't want to sit this one out Warren Redlich has been giving Paladino the HELL he deserves on the campaign trail.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:01 AM | Comments (28)

Clinging To Hope

Nate Silver over at Five-thirty-eight is clinging to hope. His latest headline reads:

Incumbents Polling Below 50 Percent Often Win Re-Election, Despite Conventional Wisdom

So I wrote him a little something to cheer him up.


You sound like me in 2008. Every tiny spark of hope magnified into a lightning flash. Look at what is happening in AZ. A no name, no money, rocket scientist is statistically tied (latest numbers show her two points ahead) with a 4 term incumbent.

Morale keeps going up on the R side. Races that were not even on the radar become first competitive and then fugedaboutit. The fire wall is not holding. Money is not working. A word from Sarah Palin and the money starts flowing. And her endorsement is GOLD. Politically and in terms of cash. She is going to have between 20 and 50 allies in the next Congress.

In fact Palin has been our shadow President ever since she stopped being Governor. The Democrat campaign to drive her from the Governorship of Alaska has epic failed. Oh. It worked all right. It just didn't have the intended consequences. She is stronger than ever. It is an old Jedi trick I'm told.

I believe, based on the zeitgeist, that a 100 seat change is within the reach of the Rs. If you are a Democrat you have to consider that the mood of the country is murderous. If you are an old school R the mood is horrible. If you are with the rebels it is looking very good.

Yeah. I'm with the Rebel Alliance. You're welcome.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:14 AM | Comments (0)

Celebrate Crimes-Against-Humanity Diversity!

Happy Columbus Day!

As Glenn Reynolds noted earlier,

Many in the West will demonstrate their fierce originality and intellectual independence today by condemning Christopher Columbus using the same shopworn cliches they used last year.
Gee, ya think?

How about "Christopher Columbus & His Crimes Against Humanity"? That seems as good a nomination as any for this year's Indigenous People's Day Award for Fierce Shopworn Originality and Intellectually Independent Cliches!

It's too bad I'm not into historical reenactment, though. Because it's always struck me that the people who talk about crimes against humanity think that some crimes against humanity are worse than others.


Hey cut it out!

MORE: As we all know, it is important not to be judgmental about gruesome scenes of torture and cannibalism:

"Then they kicked the bodies down the steps, and the Indian butchers who were waiting below cut off their arms and legs and flayed their faces, which they afterwards prepared like glove leather, with their beards on, and kept for their drunken festivals. Then they ate their flesh with a sauce of peppers and tomatoes."

Gruesome as these practices may seem, an ecological perspective and population pressure theory render the Aztec emphasis on human sacrifice acceptable as a natural and rational response to the material conditions of their existence. In Tristes Tropiques, the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss described the Aztecs as suffering from "a maniacal obsession with blood and torture." A materialist ecological approach reveals the Aztecs to be neither irrational nor mentally ill, but merely human beings who, faced with unusual survival problems, responded with unusual behavior.

merely human beings who, faced with unusual survival problems, responded with unusual behavior?

Now why can't they say that about the Europeans?

UPDATE: And a very Happy Columbus Day to Glenn Reynolds, who was not only nice enough to link this post, but who is very much a native American (and a forgiving one at that).

Diversity and divisiveness strike me as close cousins. If we all came from Africa, then we are all invasive species. (I'd say "Kumbaya y'all!" or maybe even "Can't we all get along?" but I'll spare the shopworn cliches.)

Thanks for coming.

Your comments are welcome, agree or disagree.

MORE: Don't miss this.

In our age of political correctness, when did such gleeful bashing of a day held dear by Italian-Americans become so tolerable? Columbus may have been an imperfect man, but his legacy and inspirational explorer spirit is directly tied to the Italian-American immigrant experience. Belittling Columbus may elicit knowing nods on Brown's campus, but in Little Italy, it only makes you look small.

posted by Eric at 04:40 PM | Comments (11)

Krugman Vs Reality


Here's what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending.



That level of government spending compares unfavorably even to profligate Japan, which is at 36%.

More Krugman:

Consider, in particular, one fact that might surprise you: The total number of government workers in America has been falling, not rising, under Mr. Obama. A small increase in federal employment was swamped by sharp declines at the state and local level -- most notably, by layoffs of schoolteachers. Total government payrolls have fallen by more than 350,000 since January 2009.

This is pretty misleading, since as Fabius Maximus pointed out in January, government payrolls swelled by 326,000 from 2007 to 2009 -- while private payrolls fell by 7 million. And since Obama's Democratic congressional majority took the fiscal reins in 2006, government payrolls have galloped ahead by 575,000. As late as May 2010, there were 22,959,000 government employees, which appears to be a record high.

Krugman's unfalsifiable thesis (apparently he's been taking notes from Al Gore) is that more government spending would always make things better than whatever they are. But this argument fails for a simple reason: the marginal usefulness of government spending tends to fall pretty dramatically at higher percentages of GDP. The first 1% of GDP spent on roads, rail, and regulations have enormous marginal utility, Bridges to Nowhere and million-dollar educrat retirement packages at 45%, not so much. If government could efficiently allocate resources at any arbitrary level of GDP, countries that eliminated the private sector entirely would be leading the world in GDP instead of collapsing or instituting free market reforms.

But there is one notable nugget of wisdom in this piece: Krugman does at least manage to accurately describe his own column.

"...the usual combination of fact-free assertions and cooked numbers."
posted by Dave at 02:47 PM | Comments (4)

Housing Is Not The Only Sector Underwater

It seems the Presidential sector is in a similar condition.

Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November's elections.

With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.

And I'm going to plagiarize myself again because it fits so well.
Obama did not turn out to be an orthodox liberal. He turned out to be a Communist. Community organizer? Black liberation theology? Share the wealth?


Any one who didn't see this guy coming wanted to be rolled.

I really like Instapundit on self plagiarism.
I prefer to think of it as "They came at us in the same old way, and, you know, we beat them in the same old way."
Well. As they say in the song See You In November.

Instapundit has a great take on the media change:

IS THE MEDIA GIVING UP ON OBAMA? Hey, they'll go down for you, but they won't go down with you. . . .

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:37 PM | Comments (2)

He's Not Here
Where's Mo.gif

My friend Atlas aka Pam Geller vents at length on the story of this cartoon's non-publication in some places.

Libertarian Republican discusses a New York Times Hit piece on Atlas.

And for those among you who are looking for a cheap thrill (and thrilling it is) here is Altas in a bikini - mostly - vavoooom - oh yeah she is discussing the news of the day (2006). Brains. Beauty. Libertarian. And Jewish. What is not to like?

Come to think of it Dave's not here either

posted by Simon at 01:20 PM | Comments (3)

To boost sluggish Amazon rankings, give your book a lift!

There are a lot of ways to drum up publicity for your own book, but I think throwing it at the president takes the cake.

As I just told M. Simon in an email related to his post, it's obvious that the authorities know the title, and equally obvious that they don't want ordinary people to know:

The Secret Service says it was aware of the incident when it happened.

A spokesman says the book was thrown by an "over-exuberant" individual who wanted Obama to have a copy of a book he had written.

The Secret Service says it interviewed the book thrower and deemed there was no threat - just bad judgment on his part. No arrest was made and the Service declined to give his name.

The reason they don't want to name the book is that it's most likely a liberal lefty tome!

Which probably explains why the incident hasn't been much reported in the American press, so we had to learn about it via Glenn's link to the Brits.

MORE: From a local Fox News story: "There are no confirmed reports as to what was the book's title or subject matter. A Reuters photographer seems to have snapped the clearest picture of the book. And it isn't very clear at all.

Damn it, I just want to know the title!

It's hard to judge a book when you can't see its cover.

AND MORE: Many of the commenters at the WaPo writeup are speculating that the book thrower was a Tea Partier, although a few are saying the opposite.

But wait a minute! The Tea Partiers are a bunch of illiterate morons, right? So, if the book was thrown by its author, according to elementary leftist logic, he could not have been a Tea Partier.

MORE: Via a tip from a commenter here named Dennis Madden, I learned that a man (said to post Internet writings "about how 'wisdom is a fragrance of the brain' and 'why the man's sperm is tiny while the woman's egg is huge') is claiming to be the book thrower:

The man who threw a book at Obama in Philadelphia yesterday is a New York antiques dealer called Sajid Ali Khan.
The man has a web site in which he explains what happened, and at Amazon.com there is a book -- titled How to Become Wise which I think has one distinct similarity the one thrown. There's a swan on the cover and even before I saw that book I noticed what appears to be a swan shape on the rear of the book cover:


From the Amazon description:

This book offers the guidance to learn exactly what is wisdom and how one can become wise. All the philosophers from the ancient times to the present have tried and failed to define wisdom beyond defining it by its attributes. Sajid has taken wisdom from the realm of philosophy and put it firmly in the realm of science. The 200 aphorisms contained here, first published as 'knols' on the web, give exact insights into the nature of the self and how it can be mastered. Lack of emotional intelligence education is a very big factor in the current world mess from economics to education and everything else in between. This book provides practical answers to many of these problems. It provides an opportunity to create a super mature society through emotional intelligence education which at the highest super mature stage is wisdom. These knollettes are remarkable for their beautiful clearness and simplicity of form. Wisdom is no longer a mystery any more and everyone can become wise.
Well, maybe not everyone.

I don't think throwing a book at the president is a very wise thing to do.

And I hope I haven't promoted the book; what happens to me is that I get curiouser and curiouser, and I can't quit until I have some sort of answer.

MORE: The picture above is a closeup from the picture circulating everywhere which shows the book as it passes the president. I think it is most likely the back of the book, as I assumed that the price sticker would normally be on the bottom, I turned the book upside down and saw what looks like the outline of a swan.

Amazon only shows the front cover (featuring a swan):


So while I could be wrong, my guess is that that's the book, and that the outline of the swan on the airborne book is part of the rear cover design.

MORE: The author denies that he threw the book at the president:

look how history is written I threw my book when the President was off the stage and I actually threw the book away from the President even though I very much wanted to get it to his attention and I know what lines I cannot cross. But it made it in the news as 'someone threw a book at the President'!

Some of my friends said that they saw it on TV and heard it on the radio. I am so grateful that America produces such great leaders. The Vice President is an original and he saved the day for me.

MORE: I find it fascinating that neither the title of the book nor the identity of the author are being reported anywhere -- despite the discussion of the event at the author's web site.

Had a conservative, Tea Party-supporting author had thrown a book at the president, and posted his version of what happened, I think the reaction would be very, very different.

MORE: Please bear in mind that I am only speculating about the title of the book, based on the shape of the swan, and the fact that the author has only one book listed for sale at Amazon, and that is the one with the swan on it.

Likewise, just because a man named "Sajid Ali Khan" has admitted he's the guy the Secret Service approached does not necessarily mean that he was. He could theoretically be making his story up.

However, I think it's worth noting that in 2008, a man with the same name wrote "An open letter to Senator Obama."

posted by Eric at 11:35 AM | Comments (4)

The scolded squishy independents will soon have their turn

Nolan Finley (editorial page editor of The Detroit News) is warning the Republican Party about the inherently fragile (and often seemingly fickle) nature of independent voters:

The country is tilting more conservative, in reaction to the extreme liberalism in Washington, just as it leaned more liberal in 2008 in a rebuke of Bush. But there's hardly a far-right revival under way.

It's the middle that's moving, the independent voters that now decide most elections. Those voters can switch loyalties in a heartbeat, as we've seen over the past two years.

What they're looking for is a government that works for the people who pay the taxes and not for the special interests who pay the politicians. They don't want to be jerked too hard left or too hard right.

And they're sending a message this year that they don't want a government that dominates their lives and usurps their individual freedoms. They seem to be looking for a blend of fiscal conservatism and social moderation.

Republicans would do well to remember that if they're tempted to stray from attacking spending and the deficit and start dabbling in the divisive social issues.

It would be a mistake for hard core activists to conclude that these independent voters are simply "squishy." It is true that most of them are not activists, but there are plenty of people who are deeply distrustful of political activists, yet who nonetheless vote. They're the kind of people who don't wear their politics on their sleeve, don't put bumperstickers on their cars, and probably don't want to talk about their preferences at work. Nor do they particularly want to answer the door to strangers with placards and leaflets. But it would be a big mistake to call these people apathetic. Many of them not only fear the government, but they also fear the activists at their door (for they know these people have barely disguised contempt for their non-activism), and above all they fear too much power of any sort in the wrong hands. And right now, they think the Democrats have too much power, and have abused their trust. As Nolan puts it,
Learning nothing from the Republican pummeling, Democrats stopped listening to voters as soon as the ballots were counted, reading their victory as a mandate to march to the left and impose one-party rule. They acted against the will of the people and ignored their aversion to massive spending and deficits.
It's not so much that they're for the GOP as that they want to apply the brakes:
The GOP is benefiting from the self-destruction of Democrats more than it is from the strength of their own platform.
Their own platform? I'd rather not know they had a platform (or platforms), and I would rather keep my blinders on and not have to read the details. Can I please not be subjected to such an ordeal and just be against the Democrats? I mean, considering some of the stuff that activist crackpots put into party platforms, the GOP ought to be trying to get it classified, to ensure that ordinary people never find out about it. I'd hate to see buyer's remorse creeping into the minds of independent voters.

The country remains deeply divided on social issues, but right now there is a huge wave of concern over economic issues, and over the fact that the Democrats have behaved tyrannically. They want to tell the American people what to do with their lives in so many ways that it is mind-boggling. As I keep saying, for the first time in many years, the Republicans and conservatives are sitting pretty. They are in the position to give back to people something that the authoritarian hair shirt Democrats want to take away.

So it's probably not the greatest time to be screaming about homosexual depravity or waving bloody fetus placards at people.

Let the authoritarians on the left do the screaming.

posted by Eric at 09:56 AM | Comments (2)

Wedge Issues

I have been meaning to write a post about wedge issues (with the usual delays and procrastinations) when commenter Fritz obliquely brought up the issue. So I went a lookin and found this. So - procrastination over.

Carl Paladino, Tea Party darling and New York Republican gubernatorial candidate, went on a shocking anti-gay rant, telling a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders that homosexuality is unacceptable.

Speaking in Brooklyn Sunday Paladino claimed that children should not be "brainwashed" into thinking that homosexuality was a "valid" or "acceptable" option.

Paladino's harsh words proved to be a stunning example of homophobia. Paladino's tone and words serve to foster and perpetuate a hostile environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) people.

I believe the days of wedge issue politics are numbered. Why? Well there is a tale in that.

To start it is always wise to know what you are talking about.

A wedge issue is a social or political issue, often of a divisive or otherwise controversial nature, which splits apart or creates a "wedge" in the support base of one political group. Wedge issues can be advertised, publicly aired, and otherwise emphasized by an opposing political group, in an attempt to weaken the unity of the divided group, or to entice voters in the divided group to give their support to the opposing group. The use of wedge issues gives rise to wedge politics.

Wedge politics are the key to understanding the behavior of both candidates and voters during political campaigns. Among the voters most likely to be responsive to campaign information are those with conflicting predispositions--partisans who disagree with their party on a policy issue. For these cross-pressured partisans, campaign messages from the opposition can be persuasive if they are focused on the incongruent issue.

Of course this kind of thing could backfire. In fact it often does. As it did in Illinois in 2004

Currently Wisconsin is also embroiled in a culture war.

The economy has dominated the debate in the race for governor, but groups opposing abortion and supporting reproductive rights say the stark differences between the candidates mean results of the Nov. 2 election will have repercussions for years to come.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat in the race, and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the Republican, have spelled out their positions over the years, and groups on both sides of the abortion divide say the distinctions are clear.

"We look at Tom Barrett as a retread of (outgoing Gov.) Jim Doyle on our issues," said Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life.

Walker "is really out of the mainstream when it comes to basic health care for women," said Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.

OK. Republicans are doing again. I knew it couldn't last.

Despite these examples (and how the two races turn out and the exit polling afterward) I think this tactic will get deep sixed. Why? Well to figure out that question we have to look at why wedge issues are used. That is not to hard - it is used because there is not a dimes worth of difference between the major parties on general issues - you know - one party wants socialism hell bent for leather. The other party is not quite in such a rush. Some choice. So you need wedge issues to crank up your base and maybe gather a few votes from the other side.

The down side is that you get a culture war. Straights vs gays. Dopers vs alkys. Pro abortionists vs those who prefer a black market in abortion. And on it goes. And you know this kind of thing works. In some places at some times. And when it does the outcome is always ugly. How do I know? Because it has worked before in Germany against the Jews. In fact it seems to be happening in this country against gays. Just suicides so far. I'm not encouraged. Still. I don't think Americans will stand for this. It is not in our nature generally. Most of the time. People who push this crap are playing with fire. Why? Because there are some of us who would rather vote bankruptcy than culture war.

And with all the economic issues on the table a "Culture War" is unnecessary unless you have nothing generally different to offer. I don't care who the TEA Party darlings are, if they are culture warriors I will work against them with all my power. So - Thanks Fritz!

Because I will be God Damned if any of these bastard sons of bitches are coming after any one, because Jews will always be on that list sooner or later. Which is why I take this sort of thing personally. And why Republicans have such a hard time attracting Jews. You stupid fucks.

OK. Deep breath. Anyway I think this will end in time because unity on financial issues is the most pressing issue now and we will not have a culture to fight over unless we get our economic house in order.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:43 AM | Comments (4)

Who Has The Title?

Someone threw a book at Obama during a rally to raise morale among Democrats. Does any one know what the title of the book is?

Which brings us to another question about titles. This time the titles in question are the documents that prove ownership. It seems that with the slicing and dicing of mortgages clear title is rather unclear.

Evidently when people are in a hurry they make mistakes.

Bank of America is delaying foreclosures in 23 states as it examines whether it rushed the foreclosure process for thousands of homeowners without reading the documents.

The move adds the nation's largest bank to a growing list of mortgage companies whose employees signed documents in foreclosure cases without verifying the information in them.

Didn't read the paperwork? I thought it was Congress' job to avoid reading the paperwork. In theory banks are supposed to be held to a higher standard.

One cause of the problem is that banks relied on one company to do all the work and they weren't up to the job. Kind of like the Democrats in Congress.

Some of the nation's largest mortgage companies used a single document processor who said he signed off on foreclosures without having read the paperwork - an admission that may open the door for homeowners across the country to challenge foreclosure proceedings.

The legal predicament compelled Ally Financial, the nation's fourth-largest home lender, to halt evictions of homeowners in 23 states this week. Now it appears hundreds of other companies, including mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, may also be affected because they use Ally to service their loans.

As head of Ally's foreclosure document processing team, 41-year-old Jeffrey Stephan was required to review cases to make sure the proceedings were legally justified and the information was accurate. He was also required to sign the documents in the presence of a notary.

In a sworn deposition, he testified that he did neither.

The reason may be the sheer volume of the documents he had to hand-sign: 10,000 a month. Stephan had been at that job for five years.

Let me see. that would be 10,000 times 60. Or about 600,000 mortgages. See? Unlike the Democrats in Government I can do numbahs.

Well this may be a case where Obama did the right thing.

President Obama stepped into a growing political furor over the nation's troubled foreclosure system Thursday by vetoing a little-known bill that critics say would have made it easier to evict homeowners who missed their payments.

The decision to block the measure, which Congress passed without debate, came as members of the president's own party have urged the administration and federal regulators to more actively address the crisis over flawed foreclosures.

Meanwhile, attorneys general from about 40 states vowed to band together to investigate reports of fraudulent documents and of banks seizing property without having clear ownership of the mortgages.

At least 10 states - with Iowa and Delaware being the latest - are seeking to expand a voluntary freeze on foreclosures by some of the nation's largest mortgage lenders to include more companies and more regions. And calls have increased for a nationwide moratorium - a move that could deal a blow to the earnings of big banks and grind to a halt the sale of millions of properties in foreclosure.

In the middle of a heated election season, a growing number of politicians have been eager to weigh in on the matter - and are taking pains to rebuke the financial institutions at the core of the controversy.

Evidently the reason for the veto is that there are more home owner voters than banker voters.

And the central problem? Bankers created new "security" instruments while bypassing the safeguards meant to prevent fraud in the real estate market. Then they sliced and diced the mortgages. You could buy the income from the interest on the mortgage. Or you could buy the income stream from the repayment of capital. And probably other things I'm not even aware of (I'm an engineer - not a banker). And the income streams from many mortgages were bundled together and sold as "securities". And every time the securities changed hands the title got cloudier. And at this point it is not exactly clear who owns what.

And that is causing problems for title insurance companies.

Sales of foreclosed properties, already stalled by mounting evidence of widespread flawed documentation practices by lenders and attorneys, may hit another roadblock: New buyers might not be able to get the title insurance required for a mortgage.

New House Title, owned by a large Tampa foreclosure law firm under state investigation, this week denied coverage for a 2009 Deerfield Beach condo foreclosure that its own attorneys had handled, citing potentially defective court filings.

The New York Times last week also claimed Old Republic National Title, the fourth largest title insurer in the country, had sent a memo to its agents in some states saying the company would not cover homes foreclosed on by JPMorgan Chase until "objectionable issues have been resolved." Earlier, the company had taken the same stand on homes foreclosed by GMAC Mortgage, now owned by Ally Bank.

All I can say is that if I designed airplanes they way these bankers handled their obligations, no one would dare step foot on an aircraft.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:25 AM | Comments (3)


I didn't know it before, but thanks to Glenn I realized that today is 10/10/10.

And right now it's 10:10 p.m.

So I better get this post up quick before I turn into a pumpkin!

AFTERTHOUGHT: It came and went pretty fast. I don't think I'll ever live to see another 1010101010.

And I just wasn't quite fast enough to get the post published at 10:10 p.m. and10 seconds (10:10:10 p.m.) Give me a break, OK?

It occurred to me that next year there will be another chance for those who are into numerical repetition. Assuming the planet lasts that long, and that we survive, most of us who are here now will live to see 11/11/11. And the following year there will be a 12/12/12. But there won't be a 13/13/13, nor will there be a 14/14/14 -- so my advice is to enjoy the few remaining numerically repetitive dates of this century while you still can.

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

"There is a major change occurring within conservative thought."

That's what one advocate says about an idea floated by Michael Savage (a man I can't stand) to impose a 20% tariff on all Chinese goods:

In his book that just came out today, "Trickle Up Poverty," Conservative talk show host Michael Savage has proposed a tariff on Chinese goods in order to restore America's manufacturing sector, specifically:

20 percent tariffs on all China made goods immediately; rising by 5 percent each year for each year China refuses to revalue their currency.

Savage calls his collection of proposals his "Manifesto for Saving America." There is a major change occurring within conservative thought.

That's just the kind of "conservative" change we need. A Freeper calls it the Smoot-Hawley-Savage Tariff:
One of Savage's proposals is to raise tariffs on China. Maybe he can call it Smoot-Hawley-Savage .

That's been tried already. When we raise tariffs on other countries, they raise tariffs against us. You can forget any exports if you raise tariffs like that.

Imposing protective taxes on Chinese goods (along with Savage's related proposal to tax all foreign automobiles, including those made here) is anything but conservative, if we assume conservatism means economic freedom and free markets. And if history is any guide, protective tariffs are just about the worst thing that could be done to the economy right now.

But that goes to the merits of what he says about one subject. There is more to Savage than merely bad ideas.

It's not so much that he says things that irritate me so much as the way he says things. I would hate hearing him say something I agreed with, for the guy's voice just plain grates on my nerves, and gives me the creeps, and has since I first heard him at the young and impressionable age of 41.

At 56 I might not be young, but I'm still impressionable. Or maybe it's just that whatever the process is that causes grating things to grate on the nerves worsens with age. Grating things seem to grate more than they used to, and not only was Savage one of more grating things I have endured, he seems to have gotten even more grating. So while I'm less tolerant, he's also less tolerant -- which makes him less tolerable for me. And life is too short.

Perhaps I should ignore him in the hope that he will just go away, but I have long suspected the man was a Democratic or leftist plant of some sort, and he has been caught giving money to Democrats.

But I'm not sure that this proves he is necessarily part of some grand conspiracy to confuse and destroy the right. He might simply be doing what he does for the money. He has a personality that is unique in its ability to simultaneously enliven and stimulate his "choir," while nauseating those who aren't in the choir. Interestingly, the latter group includes people who might agree with him on the issues:

Something about Savage has always rubbed me wrong. I share his outrage at the immigration disaster, and several other issues, but I just get the willies when I listen to him.
I always thought it was no accident that he started in San Francisco. I first heard him when I was disgusted with the Clintons and leaning towards the right, and I have to say that he would have given me pause, but I was smart enough not to take the bait. I believe he has kept many a leftist on the left, especially those who are not capable of suspending their emotions long enough to realize that he does not speak for everyone on the right, much less conservatism, and disliking him should not translate into disliking the right (any more than disliking Keith Olbermann should translate into disliking the left, much as we who are to the right of Olbermann might hope it will). I think Savage could use a lesson in civility from Ann Coulter, but I should be careful what I wish for.

As to why his book with its tariff advocacy is being released now in October (on the heels of an election), that might just be another coincidence.

After all, no genuine conservatives would support protective tariffs, would they?

It's the sort of thing that might encourage divisions.

MORE: It occurred to me that the call for protectionism may be Savage's way of attacking Glenn Beck (who advocates free trade, especially with China), and I learned that Savage has ridiculed Beck's eye problems:

Michael Savage attacks Glenn Beck; calls him the 'hemorrhoid with eyes', crazy, and a fraud (among other things) after Glenn announces he may be going blind.

He also predicts 'something is about to happen' to Glenn that will conveniently increase his ratings.

I was surprised to see what a low regard most of Freepers have for Savage. Just look at these:
"I shut that guy off a long time ago. He is mentally ill."

"... they're going to have to throw a net over him eventually."

...personally I think he's a moron."

"I don't listen to or pay any attention to Savage. I think he's a nut."

"Indefensible. If somebody at the polar opposite end of the spectrum from where I stand...Nancy Pelosi, Michael Moore, etc....announced they were going blind, they would get my prayers and sympathy as basic human decency would demand."

"Savage is nuts. He lost me with his mad rants a long time ago."

"There's only one man from whom I'll take negativity and crankiness over the airwaves, and it isn't Michael Savage. Heard him once and that was all I needed."

"I really dislike savage. [...]..he is everything the left accuses conservative talk radio of being."

"...I used to think he was an entertaining nut. However as he got more and more nasty, even when there was no need to be, I got turned off big time. Now I avoid him."

"Not a Beck fan, but Weiner Nation is the biggest imbecile of them all. "

"I think he's a fake.

He's a liberal who adopted an over-the-top populist (not really conservative, or at least not a thinking conservative) persona and is GOING crazy as a result."

"Savage hurts our cause."

"Something is wrong with Savage. I dont listen to him, ever."

Wow. I would have expected him to be more popular there.

While there is no way to prove it, Savage's call for protectionism may very well be a politically insincere ploy, calculated simply to target Beck.

If the guy is in fact the trollish provocateur I have long suspected him to be, perhaps I shouldn't be writing about him at all.

posted by Eric at 02:54 PM | Comments (6)

"deep down I know exactly -- and anonymously -- how you feel"

On Friday, I flagged a quote on my daily calendar which illustrates the pitfalls of either/or thinking. It didn't seem important enough to merit a post at the time, so I set it aside. But now that I'm ready to make a stab at the post, I found my mental processes interrupted by the usual smart alecks who abound online. I was ready to cutely tag my calendar as a "dogophile" calendar (because it is one of those schmaltzy sentimental dog lover things with cute puppy pictures and daily quotes from dog-lovers), but as I knew I couldn't have been the first to make up such a word, I thought to Google it, and learned that the word has an entirely different meaning. One which would distract readers from the cuteseyness at hand, and draw me back into the endless debate over whether it is possible to logically justify tolerating certain sex practices but not others. That's simply not what this post is about, OK? Which is why I specifically refuse to deploy the word "dogophile" -- a word I hereby disclaim, denounce and utterly reject.

So here's what my calendar said on Friday:

"My dog, she looks at me sometimes with that look, and I think maybe deep down inside she must know exactly how I feel. But then maybe she just wants the food off my plate."

-- Anonymous

First of all, bully for them in admitting that the quote is anonymous and not trying to stuff the words into the mouth of some famous person.

But being careful (for life online has taught me that if I am not careful, there are always lurking smart alecks just lying in wait to catch me at it), it did occur to me to Google the quote. After all, what if it had been said by a bad person whose identity had been airbrushed out by Anonymization? I mean, suppose Hitler had said the above about his beloved dog Blondi? The world would then be able to accuse me of helping to sentimentalize Hitler, and I'd never live it down. Indeed, perhaps I shouldn't dare to hypothesize such things. What if one of those anonymous emailers who spend their time misattributing quotes happens to be a dogophobe, and decided to put Hitler's name on the above and then spams millions of gullible people? Would it be my fault? Don't laugh; there are people out there who are so sick and twisted that if you tell them not to do something, they'll run right out and do it. Years ago I knew just such a man, and one day, back when the Cold War was still hot, I told him in no uncertain terms not to drive by the Soviet Consulate at 2790 Green Street in San Francisco, lest he irritate the spies who owned the turf around there. As we were in the neighborhood, I rationalized my cruel experiment by telling him not to come back and complain to me if he got dirty looks from the guys in trenchcoats. Boy was I right! He of course did exactly as I told him not to, and drove his highly conspicuous, wreck of an out of state car around and around, wasting the time of the surreptitious cameramen who filmed every suspicious movement, but even that wasn't enough to satisfy his desire to not heed my warnings. He actually found a parking place in the area, then got out and started walking back and forth in front of the building like a clueless asshole, wearing out the welcome he never had with the KGB, the CIA, and the NSA -- doubtless earning his place in the files they are required to keep of all suspicious persons. He told me that he could not believe how many angry dirty looks he got for his spy game walkthrough, and of course I told him that I had told him so. This was around 25 years ago, and now that the statute of limitations on Idiotic Interference With Espionage has run (my clueless friend is long-deceased, as there were other warnings he failed to heed that might have saved his life), I guess I can now admit to the world my awful crime.

I deliberately told him not to go there -- knowing full well that he would do exactly what I told him not to do simply because I told him not to do it.

Now my conscience is clean. So where was I?

Oh, the Friday dog quote. I Googled, and I found an all but identical version. Only the gender was changed:

"My dog, He looks at me sometimes with that look, and I think maybe deep down inside he must know exactly how I feel. But then maybe he just wants the food off my plate?
But the quote continues,
"I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts."
Which is similar to the point I wanted to make on Friday.

They may very well think we are nuts, but having had and raised many dogs, I know well that look that seems to say either "deep down I know exactly how you feel" or else "I want to know exactly how you feel." The mistake is in positing "maybe he just wants the food off my plate" as if there is some kind of either/or dichotomy.

Of course the dog wants the food off your plate!

That has been precisely the goal of many thousands of years of canine evolution. Where it comes to sussing out us humans, dogs are the keenest opportunists in the animal kingdom. They have made it their very business, on a genetic level, to be constant, ever-watching analysts, obsessed with our every move, as if they are in a state of always trying to hack our innermost thoughts, to figure out what it is that we want so that they can maximize the chances of their getting what they want. Sort of a win-win deal. What we humans may sentimentally perceive as "understanding our feelings" or even "love" constitute some of the most basic behavioral weapons in the canine arsenal -- the goal being to maximize their control over us. I would go so far as to agree with "Anonymous" that yes, they absolutely, even desperately, want to understand our feelings, but this should not be seen in opposition to wanting the food off our plate. Rather, the two goals are inextricably intertwined at the genetic level. They want the food off our plate so they love us, and they love us because they want the food off our plate.

It might actually be love, too. As a dog lover I certainly hope so. But that begs the question of what is love?

A topic beyond this post. Some would say that the human variety is more opportunistic -- and especially less loyal -- than the canine variety, but I'm not going to go there. I'll just leave it with two favorite dog quotes, supposedly from famous people; Harry Truman and Mark Twain.

First Truman:

"If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."
The trouble with Harry is that he never seems to have said that. I am bitterly disappointed, but just because Truman never said it does not mean it isn't true. I'll call it "anonymous but often attributed to Harry Truman." And my personal preference is for Richard Nixon to have said it.

So it's a good idea to use the Twain quote as backup:

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
I wish I could prove to Wiki that Twain had said that, but the Wiki editors have listed it as "Unsourced." So it's anonymous but attributed to Twain.


It isn't my job to be cleaning up Wiki (and I was all ready to conclude that whatever the source, the sentiments expressed are true), except I kept looking, and it just so happens that I found the very same quote, verbatim, in the Wiki entry for Pudd'nhead Wilson (Twain's 1894 novel). What's up with that? Can't Wiki accept its own authority? The book is still in print, and the entire text is online here, including the quote. And the full quote is better than I thought; believe it or not it comes from the Twain character's calendar!


Sold Down the River

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous,
he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a
dog and a man.

--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

Which means I can safely quote Twain (again!), and opine that at least in the general sense, he was right. Sure there are exceptions; some dogs will bite a helping hand, and some men won't. But these are exceptions that prove the rule.

I almost feel like saying I wish the world really could go to the dogs, but that would be a schmaltzy antisocial sentiment (if it is possible to be antisocially schmaltzy).

Besides, Coco just gave me that look...

posted by Eric at 11:05 AM | Comments (3)

The Noblest Nobel

Finally, someone who actually deserves a Nobel Peace Prize gets it. The Chinese government's response accentuates the necessity.

I have to think there is a causative relationship between the government lying to the people and the people lying to each other. The reasons only liberal democracies become wealthy (aside from windfall wealth) involve a lot of trust, debate, and painful truth-accepting, which makes me wonder how soon China's long boom may suddenly crash.

posted by Dave at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

It Is Intentional

The Wall Street Journal is looking at Republican chances in November and uncovers the secret Republican Strategy.

GOP strategists said the party's focus this year on fiscal issues rather than social wedges such as abortion and gay marriage has helped give centrists comfort in backing Republicans.
You see. Republicans can win elections if they want to. The only question is: can it last long enough to Beat Socialism?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Gipsies, tramps and... socialists????

Hi. My name is Sarah and I'm (strongly inclined towards being) a libertarian. The last time I ate a baby for breakfast was yesterday (eggs count, right?) and I spend my days oppressing the poor and persecuting minorities (imaginary characters are minorities, right?) when I'm not off stomping on the downtrodden (how in heck could they be downtrodden if no one treads down on them? I'm just holding up the side) when I'm not committing acts of unimaginable depravity, laughing as the helpless sink into hopelessness or greedily refusing to share any of the money I earn.

Right. Now that we've disposed of the stereotype, let's get serious. At least as serious as I'm capable of being, since -- paraphrasing Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land -- laughter is what happens when a situation is too tragic to cry over.

One of the most tragic alignments of the last two centuries is the lockstep unity between the oddballs, outliers and creative minorities and the most oppressive statist regimens (or, when that choice is not available, the more oppressive of two regimens). Mind you, this alignment usually lasts only till the statists achieve their goals. The oddballs, weirdos and misfits - my people, broadly speaking - are inevitably the first ones against the wall in the regrettable and always unexpected purges needed to achieve the glorious utopian future.

Continue reading "Gipsies, tramps and... socialists????"

posted by Sarah at 02:09 PM | Comments (11)

Facing the Spartan invasion, from an actuarial perspective

A statistician I am not. Nor do I believe in predicting (much less judging) what individual will do based on which statistical group an individual is said to belong. One of the things I hate about the insurance industry is the way they translate statistical correlations into individual judgments, and a perfect example is the way an occupation or credit credit score will be used in determining the cost of something seemingly unrelated to credit -- like insurance, which ought to be based on a person's driving or health records. But because the companies are worried about the likelihood of a claim, the more marginal a person appears, the more likely he is to make a claim. I'm not denying that people with worse credit are more likely to need money and thus more likely to make ungrounded or frivolous claims, but there ought to be some other way of taking that into account. Perhaps they could penalize actual claim making with higher deductibles. OTOH, perhaps someone with financial problems actually is more likely to get into an accident. It always seems unfair when I read stories like this:

Eric Poe, chief executive officer for CURE Auto Insurance, a not-for-profit reciprocal exchange based in Princeton, N.J., that fights for fair insurance practices, says a credit score is just one of eight factors used to determine rates.

"Age, how long you've been licensed, gender, where you live, how you use your car (how many miles you drive to work or annual mileage), the car's cost, and your driving record used to be the seven things that determined rates," he says. "Unfortunately in the past decade, the largest auto insurance companies have introduced many income proxies such as credit score, your highest level of education completed, and your occupation to determine whether you are eligible to receive the lowest rates."

Poe says even if a driving record is spotless, a less than perfect credit score could lead to excessively high premiums.

"It's unfair," says Joe Goodwin. When Goodwin's job became a victim of the recession, his credit score dropped nearly 100 points. "I got behind on bills for the first time in my life." When renewal time rolled around on his home and auto insurance policies, Goodwin says his premiums jumped 27%. "I had never filed a claim and was a 20-plus year customer."

Goodwin says when he asked his insurance agent what prompted the spike in rates, he was stonewalled. "I got the runaround. It wasn't until I started shopping around and learned [from agents] that my credit score is factored into premiums that I connected the dots and realized I was being punished for my credit dropping."

For whatever reason, my auto insurance rates dropped dramatically when I moved to Michigan. Yet the drivers don't seem any safer around here; they seem more dangerous. Perhaps it's the fact that Michigan is a no-fault state, and perhaps it's the fact that I'm older and haven't had so much as a speeding ticket in ages. The only accident I had in Pennsylvania was because I made the mistake of stopping at a red light, and was rear-ended by an inattentive driver. (I wrote a post about it, which is probably not a wise thing to do.) So I'm probably in one of the lowest statistical risk categories you can get. Plus, I don't drive here as much as I did in PA; I generally walk to the store and everything is nearby. But if I got behind on bill-paying, I really don't see how that would make me personally more likely to have an accident or make a claim, yet statistically it would. Actuarial assessments are not personal, and whether they can be called "judgmental" in the true sense of that word is debatable.

Bottom line is that I see both sides here, and even though I hate being seen as a statistic, that's the name of the game in insurance.

With that in mind, I thought I would be an actuary for a day, and conduct an experiment which may seem wildly implausible to some, but which I will base on real, tangible data.

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds (who can always be relied on to keep readers abreast of the latest developments in both academia and sexuality) linked a fascinating post by the TaxProf about Sexual Health College Rankings, based on a study by the Trojan Condom Company. Along with Glenn, I recognize that while there may be no holes in the company's products, there are definitely holes in the methodology of the study, for the simple reason that the company is in the business of marketing sex-accessories, and predictably introduced its own biases into the study. I think it's fair to conclude that the following factors (Four and Five respectively) reflect the company's own financial interests:

4. Contraceptive availability and cost

5. Condom availability and cost

How closely such availability correlates with the actual sexual "health" of the students is highly debatable. It seems to me that there is nowhere in the United States where people who want condoms cannot get them; as we all know, condom shortages only occur in sexually backward places like Canada.

So like most people who saw it, I wasn't taking the study very seriously until something very serious dawned on me.

If there is one thing the University of Michigan is deadly serious about, it's football. I realize that not all of my commenters like the Wolverines, but I have become a huge fan, especially this year as I have witnessed the emergence of a super athlete -- Denard Robinson -- who has skyrocketed to college football superstardom in just these past few weeks. I have never been much of a football fan, but there is something about seeing a superstar emerge out of seemingly nowhere that's both exciting and inspiring. He outclasses everyone else on the field, and maybe I haven't watched enough football, but I have never seen anything quite like it.

A number of sports commentators have observed that he's carrying the team, and I could go on and on with my thoughts, but they're incidental to the very serious subject at hand, which is the correlation I noticed from looking at the Trojan Sexual Health Rankings.

As many commentators have noted, Michigan has won every game so far this season. They always haggle over which college is ranked higher and for which reason. But I don't know of a single sports commentator who has bothered to check the Sexual Health rankings of the colleges, and see how they compare to football rankings. In the case of Michigan, I did just that, and I was astonished to find a 100% correlation staring me right in the face.

In terms of Sexual Health, Michigan outranks every college the Wolverines have beaten. Michigan is the fourth sexually healthiest college on the list, and if you look at every team it has beaten (UConn, Notre Dame, Massachusetts, Bowling Green, and Indiana) and then go to the Trojan's Sexual Health rankings, you will see that (except for the University of Massachusetts, which is not listed, probably because it's too uptight) Michigan outperforms them all in sexual terms.

Hey don't laugh. This is serious actuarialism!

But here's what worries me. There are two schools on this year's game roster that outrank Michigan. One is their notorious and deadly enemy Ohio State (a name which can only be spoken here in association with filthy epithets), and the other is Michigan State. Michigan State is ranked second with Ohio State ranked third.

I find this worrisome, because today is game day against Michigan State. I very much hope that the Wolverines kick the asses of the Spartans and that by so doing, they will prove my actuarial theory wrong. Because if they do, then that evil Ohio State will not be able to hide behind its Sexual Health rankings!

I'm also hopeful because I suspect there might be another element of bias which may have crept into the study, which has nothing to do with the sexual health of students, but has more to do with a similarity of logos.

If we juxtapose the Trojan logo which TaxProf displays with that of the Michigan State Spartans, the similarity simply cannot be ignored:


For a number of reasons, these logos could be used interchangeably to promote either athletics or sexual accessories. And while most of us have heard stories (often conflicting) about the sexual practices of the Spartans, the Trojans seem to have largely escaped scrutiny. A pity, really. Because according to at least one analyst, the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans was "the world's first morality war." And the result was the imposition of marriage onto Western culture! I kid you not:

Western patriarchal authoritarian culture began with the Trojan War about 1200 BCE. Yes, that's right, the world's first morality war. Before the Trojan war marriage was not a mandatory condition. Females were free to live a life according to their own sexuality and were not the property of a man.

Then Helen of Sparta ran off with a young lover to live a life of sexual abandon in Troy. King Agamemnon of Micea (Mycenae) was Helen's brother-in-law, and he gathered a coalition together and roused their passions with speech of submission, adultery and war. This was an affront to marriage and therefore male authority, the Greeks would have nothing of the rebellious Amazon sexuality of the Trojans (Troy-ans). The armies boarded ships and waited for the wind to blow.

But the wind did not blow. Alarmed, King Agamemnon consulted the oracle of Apollo. The oracle said the king would need to sacrifice his daughter to the gods. After all, she was only a female and certainly many males would die in the Trojan war so the gods expected females to die too. King Agamemnon's wife Clytmenestra was horrified, as the practice of human sacrifice had been unknown. Despite this, Agamemnon's daughter Iphegenia obediently allowed her throat to be cut by her father. She died and the wind blew toward Troy. God had given his blessing to the morality war.

The goddess worshipping matriarchal Trojans were not a warlike people. The war in Troy went in favor of the marriage enforcers, forever altering the course of history. The legend of the sacrificed female and the victorious warriors grew and sacrificing virgins became as commonplace as a civic duty. God had given favor to the pro-marriage soldiers, and marriage was now a mandatory enforceable contract. Unmarried females were called bad names like Fates, Sirens, Amazons, Witches or Medusas.

The authoritarian propaganda machine has been so effective the Trojan war is today blamed on a beautiful woman named Helen of Troy who intentionally fomented a war for her own selfishness. Ever since the Trojan war females have been made into evil monsters, greedy, selfish and maliciously ruining men's lives. Civilization can only continue if we allow males to dictate female's sexual behavior.

As to precisely how the Trojan company's logo choice fits into the "authoritarian propaganda machine," I don't know. However, the ancient struggle between these cultures may have had sexual dimensions which are still unresolved.

And in any case, it is undeniable that the logos are as similar as they are ancient in nature. I am willing to stick my neck out here and hypothesize that the high ranking of Michigan State may reflect company bias grounded in (dare I say it?) sexual cultural hegemony!

Whether I am right can only be determined by the final results of today's game. I live very close to the Michigan Stadium complex, and as I write this, the neighborhood is alive with pregame activity. There are parties everywhere, even though it is only eleven in the morning and the game doesn't start until 3:30 p.m.

Of course, the correlation I have discovered may be no more than simple coincidence. The extent that football performance correlates with sex never seems to have been seriously studied, although there are a lot of football sex humor jokes.

However, I did find one intriguing study from 2004, which appears to show that men who participate in fantasy football leagues are more likely to think about football than sex:

The online survey of men age 22 and over showed that more than 40% of respondents rate Fantasy Football as their number one thought during the day, as compared to only 30% who say that thinking about sex still remains as their top daily thought. In terms of how much time during the day men are actually thinking about Fantasy Football, 58% of respondents say they spend from one to three hours each day thinking about it, as opposed to 48% of respondents who are thinking about sex from one to three hours a day. Even more surprising, a full 25% of respondents claim to spend from four to eight hours a day thinking about Fantasy Football; in comparison, only 12% of respondents think about sex for that amount of time during the football season.
Of course, that's a biased sampling, because of the focus on men who participate in fantasy football leagues.

While most people would not think of football in sexual terms, it is undeniable that there is a correlation between sex and balls. I think it's fair to say that it might be more than just a correlation, too, but a direct connection.

And the connection may be more basic and more primal than we humans realize.

During a much-too-serious comment debate over human sexuality, Veeshir left a link to a video showing some very humorous animal behavior. Of course, the poor turtle (tortoise, more specifically) didn't think it was funny at all, which is what makes it so funny from a human perspective.

Laugh all you want, but I think that provides graphic evidence -- from one of the lowest representatives of the animal kingdom -- of a connection between sex and balls. True, the object of the tortoise's sexual attention happened to be a soccer ball. But would anyone deny that he (or she) might have been just as interested if not more interested in a football? If you watch the whole video, you will surely notice the rivalry and competition that occurs once the other tortoise sees the "action." Is their behavior really all that unlike humans?

And now that I have finally plodded through to the end of my post, I can only say that I wish I had more time for more scientific rigor.

I just hope the Wolverines prove my theory wrong on the playing field!

It's time to get serious about the game.

MORE: (5:55 p.m.) If there's one thing I hate, it's being proved right when I wanted to be wrong. The score is now 31-10 in favor of Michigan State, and I don't like what the Spartans are doing.

So I thought it might be time to issue a public service message.


I still want to be wrong, and I hope the game somehow turns itself around.

AND MORE: I was right.

Oh, the pain!

posted by Eric at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)

Is This October? I'm Surprised

What really surprises me this October is that the October surprises are coming so early in October.

The normal time for them is the Friday before the election. Certainly no more than a week before the election. You don't want to give too much time for counter battery fire.

I think the Democrats are panicked. Bad panicked. Pissing, crapping, moaning in the fetal position panicked. When the troops get disorderly it is no longer just a defeat, it is a rout. Everything they do makes it worse and they are terrified of doing nothing.

How will it all end? Republicans at 100+ House seats is looking better every day.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Commenter filbert makes an excellent point:

Early voting is, I think, coming back to bite the Democrats in the posterior . . .

He also says that now is no time to let up. Pursue, pursue, pursue......

posted by Simon at 09:13 AM | Comments (1)

They Have It All Figured Out

The KAOS kiddies have figured out an Internet strategy that will help them win this election. While checking their strategy this comment caught my attention.

You do not have the choice to opt-out.
Just like health care. OK. That was a cheap shot. And the comment was taken out of context. But still.

This commenter was closer to the mark:

It's petty, stupid and ineffective. In fact, it might be the opposite of effective if the other side is able to publicize that you're doing it.
And just so you don't have to go there to find out what it is all about (I have done your dirty work for you - you're welcome) I'm going to tell you their big plan. Increase the Google rankings for stories that make Republicans look bad. Yep. That will turn it. For sure. Keep up the good work guys and gals. The longer you remain clueless the better for your opposition.

H/T Judith Weiss via Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:00 PM | Comments (3)

We Don't Do Numbahs

This is a reprise of an oldie but goodie with an addition or two. The oldie can be found here if you want to see exactly how much I am plagiarizing myself. (can you do that?)

In the video California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who is a Democrat, obliquely takes a shot at the Republicans for focusing on the Culture War instead of bread and butter issues like controlling State spending. But he really opens several new orifices on Democrats.

And now. For some really old stuff brought to you by Clayton Cramer. Federalist Paper #62. And other creamy goodness. So when you are done here go there.

...great injury results from an unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government? In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go forward which requires the auspices of a steady system of national policy.
So some white guys 200 years ago figured out that discontinuity in government is bad for business? And the new guy came in promising to remake America? And voters thought it would be a good idea? Well voters, a little more change than you had hoped for? You betcha.

Here is a nice low cost printed version of The Federalist Papers.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:43 PM | Comments (6)

Only An F?

I think he should get a "U" too.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Political Dynasty? Or American Dream? (The choice is yours.)

This morning Glenn Reynolds linked the Blog Prof's discussion of the race between political titan John Dingell, Obamacare sponsor and lifetime advocate of socialized medicine, and Dr. Rob Steele, a cardiologist who has had enough of what's happening and decided to run for Congress.

OK, Dingell happens to be my congressman, and FWIW, I wrote to him about Obamacare. Even though he is a longtime Democrat (he's so old that his political life in Washington literally dates back to FDR), voters in his Detroit area district are fed up with him. Quite an accomplishment if you consider that the area is about as heavily Democrat as it's possible to get. Not only is Detroit itself 96.93% Democrat, but Ann Arbor is to the left of almost anyplace but Berkeley and Cuba (and these days I'm not so sure about the "political reliability" of Cuba). The polls must be a shocker for Dingell:

A new independent poll has the dean of the U.S. House, Rep. John Dingell trailing his Republican opponent, Rob Steele, by 4 percentage points.

The automated phone survey of 300 people in the 15th Congressional District showed Steele getting 43.8% of the vote. Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat and the longest-serving member of Congress, got 39.5%. About 11% were undecided. The gap is within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points. The poll was conducted Monday.

The Blog Prof has a great collection of YouTube videos, and for those who can stand to watch them, they show how hard Dingell has worked to earn the wrath of his voting constituents. Dingell did all of the following:
  • admitted on air that ObamaCare was all about 'controlling the people:'
  • called local radio talk show host a terrorist for opposing ObamaCare
  • was Booed At Town Hall - Said Tort Reform Not Included Because "Congress Can Only Handle So Much...")
  • compared townhall protesters to the KKK
  • Sheesh. I guess he thinks I'm part of the KKK too, as I'm one of those annoying Tea Partiers.

    The Blog Prof concludes that it's"time to put Dingell in the Smithsonian where he belongs," and urges a donation to Dr. Steele. I have met Dr. Steele, and I think he would be a great congressman. I donated to his campaign, and I would urge any readers who agree with me to donate too. To see Dingell and the Dingell Dynasty being defeated by a doctor who is fed up by Obamacare and decided to run for office is true poetic justice. If socialized medicine makes you sick (as it does me) I can think of no better medicine than electing Dr. Steele.

    The Blog Prof has assembled such a damning collection of videos that I would normally have just ended the post here.

    However, I thought I should add a few thoughts, especially in light of a political mailer I received the other day.

    Here it is:


    It's "Paid for by the John B. Dingell for Congress Committee."

    The grand patriarch of the ruling Dingell Dynasty seems to think that all he needs to do to get elected is run a snarky campaign against the Tea Party.

    On the other side of the leaflet is a pathetic attempt to smear Dr. Steele for being wealthy. The Dingell Dynasty has indicted him for his wickedness in owning a nice house and a vintage car collection. Sorry, but that won't fly with me. In fact, it backfired big time; hence this lengthened post.

    Steele is a man who worked for many years as a cardiologist in the private sector, and God knows how many lives he has saved. In this country, people who work hard and achieve success in a demanding profession like that are supposed to enjoy what is called the American Dream.

    Is there something wrong with that?

    Or is it more virtuous for great wealth to be obtained at the taxpayers' expense? Dingell is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and the fortune he has amassed does not include that of his heiress wife:

    Last November, The Detroit News reported that Dingell is the wealthiest member of the Michigan delegation, with a net worth of about $2.6 million, not including the assets of his heiress wife Debbie, who has been quite successful as a Washington lobbyist (often on issues under her husband's jurisdiction).

    And as far as campaign cash is concerned, who is getting what from whom?

    According to Open Secrets, Dingell's campaign committee and leadership PAC had raised $1,155,698 as of July 14, with 75 percent of it coming from political action committees and 24 percent coming from individuals.

    Steele had raised $213,486, with none of it coming from PACs and 89 percent from individuals. (The remaining 11 percent came from Steele himself.)

    Normally, politicians' spouses are considered off-limits, but Debbie Dingell is anything but a normal spouse. To call them a power couple would be understatement; their names routinely appeared on lists like this of top Washington power couples. For years it was a very nice arrangement:

    John Dingell U.S. congressman (D-Mich.), and chair, House Committee on Energy and Commerce Debbie Dingell executive director for public affairs, General Motors

    He's the auto industry's staunchest ally in Congress, and has consistently sidelined efforts to raise fuePeconomy standards. She was a top lobbyist for GM, and is now a senior executive at the company. He's been in the House for 51 years--nearly as long as his wife, 52, has been alive.

    Naturally, there has long been talk of her being her husband's political heir and successor. But in order for that to happen, the Dingell Dynasty must go on. How nice it would be for a doctor who earned his wealth and was fed up with Obama-Dingellcare to put an end to the sort of arrangement that should have gone out of style in 1776.

    Regular readers know that I dislike criticizing people for being rich, and I hold no grudge against Debbie Dingell for her status as Fisher Body fortune heiress. However, fair is fair, and if the Dingells are going to attack a self-made man who earned the American Dream, I have a question for them as a taxpayer. How much money did Debbie Dingell get when she left GM last year and took a buyout? Was any of this buyout funded by the bailout? Because if any of it came from the taxpayers, I think the taxpayers have a right to know about it -- especially because it makes their smear against Dr. Steele worthy of recognition for setting a new height in political hypocrisy.

    You don't have to be a conservative, a Republican, or a Tea Partier to be fed up to the point of outrage by such stuff. Lots of Democrats around here are supporting Dr. Steele. Rule by political dynasty should have gone out of style long ago, and I agree that Dingell and his Dingell dynasty belong in the Smithsonian museum. Better yet, the ash heap of history. That way the taxpayers wouldn't have to pay for the space.

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

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    I'm still mulling over the idea that I should "keep quiet on stuff like this and let them finish their self-immolation." The problem with that is that in the election coverage, so far, the media is keeping awfully quiet about the Dingells' wealth.

    posted by Eric at 11:41 AM | Comments (10)

    Some American Music

    posted by Simon at 07:43 AM | Comments (1)

    A Stoner Song - C&W Syle

    This video is Not Entirely Safe For Work. And it isn't just the lyrics. There are hand gestures.

    posted by Simon at 07:32 AM | Comments (3)

    Beat Socialism

    One of my social conservative friends and I were having the usual acrimonious discussion and he let slip that he didn't give a fig about pushing social issues this cycle because the most important thing was defeating the current wastrels in Congress.

    Good. Because I really like working with social conservatives. Really.

    But it got me thinking. Suppose my social conservative friend thought it would be a good idea not just to beat the current wastrels but beat socialism. Which is to say turn it into a very fringe cult. After all we still have a few National Socialists in America. That would mean keeping social issues off the table for 20 or 30 years in order to keep the current coalition together. And not just keep it together but also make it stronger.

    When the chips are down social conservatives can be really smart. The trouble so far is that they do not stay smart. At least not enough of them.

    And yes. I also have a lot of social conservative friends who get it. Politically libertarian and morally as straight as they come. What a pleasure it is to work with them. We may differ as to how to live but we have no practical difference on how we want to be governed. Now that is truly a stout coalition. Stout enough to restore liberty and defeat the socialists.

    Beat Socialism

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:18 AM | Comments (1)

    guns don't kill people, cameras kill people!

    I'm pretty sure it was Glenn Reynolds who linked this video of a woman having a fit and threatening a Human Events photographer, but WTH, I can't find his link so maybe it was Memeorandum. I do try to be accurate in attributing links, but I also have to sleep.

    Nothing pretty about it unless you get titillated by fantasies of imminent leftist ultraviolence directed your way.

    Personally (and especially in terms of my bastardized theories of rights), I think there is just as much right to act like an asshole in front of a camera as there is to act like one behind a camera. Bend over and take it from the lens! Except in this case, the photographer wasn't acting like an asshole. He was simply covering an event, and the irate woman didn't like having the camera pointed at her, and probably hated photographers she thought were "conservative" and therefore evil.

    Clearly, some people lose control around cameras. And clearly, they see it as the fault of the camera. (Or maybe the cameraman. I'd say "cameraperson" except spell check doesn't consider it a word, and I care deeply about the opinions of anonymous code writers.)

    Much as I hate to say it, in light of the gay suicide case in New York and the well documented propensity of some people to experience more emotional distress than others (all emotional distress not being equal, of course), I expect some sort of "crackdown." On cameras.

    OTOH, I wouldn't want to be photographed in the act of lovemaking in the "privacy" I still have in my own bedroom, and I don't think most people would.

    But going bonkers at an event isn't lovemaking, it's hatemaking, right? And isn't it in public? Yes, but the more they blur the distinction between public and private, the more the distinction is extinguished. Public is private and private is public. Sex is politics. There is no privacy and we are all victims.

    Which means that ultimately, some people -- and only some people -- will allowed to do their hatemaking in public. And if you point a camera at them, you'll be invading their privacy.

    My worry here is that because the personal has become political, unless those who oppose selective privacy speak up, the right to privacy may depend on partisan political considerations.

    Hope I'm just being paranoid.

    posted by Eric at 12:47 AM | Comments (1)

    You Are Required To Buy A Musket

    Bet ya didn't know that. Well it must be true because a few Federal lawyers say so.

    The attorney generals' suit argues that the federal government can't force people to buy a product merely because they are U.S. citizens. But federal attorneys say Congress can regulate interstate commerce and has imposed laws for more than 200 years requiring men to buy muskets and ammunition, for example.
    Who knew?

    Shouldn't there be a tax break or something for such purposes? We do have ∅bama doing his best to stimulate gun and ammunition sales. Which I guess is the best we can hope for under the current administration.

    Maybe the next administration will start fining people who don't own a firearm. I can't wait. The only way to opt out would be to be convicted of a felony. I see a lot of possibilities here. If it wasn't such a stupid idea. And totally unsupported by any facts.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:41 PM | Comments (6)

    A smoking chimp is a slippery slope

    I love the story of Charlie the Smoking Chimp, and I am sorry to read that he died, although I am delighted to see that by making it to 52, he outlived "normal" (which I assume means non-smoking) chimps by a decade.

    Charlie the chimp, known for his cigarette habit, has died at his home in a South African Zoo.

    After picking up a smoking habit because of cigarettes being thrown into his enclosure at the Mangaung Zoo in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Charlie began to bum smokes from zoo visitors by gesturing to his mouth with two fingers, mimicking the actions of smokers he'd watched. (See photos of the world's most endangered primates)

    Chimps are the closest relatives to humans in the animal kingdom, and that worries me. Because, while I oppose "animal rights" theory, I am somewhat inclined to make an exception for the higher primates. Their intelligence can be compared to human children in many ways, and were I running the world, I would be disinclined to allow humans to kill them, torture them, or conduct experiments on them. I might even be willing to go so far as to say they have a right to life, but then I'd run afoul of the people who know more about right to life than I do, and I might be accused of opening a can of worms or starting down a slippery slope which would ultimately ban hunting, fishing, meat-eating, or even fly-swatting! Except I don't see why I can't make an exception for these intelligent animals to my normal "rule" against rights for animals. Who makes my rules, anyway? It's not as if I'm Ayn Rand charged with coming up with a Single Unifying Philosophical Theory of Everything. I think I have a right to favor certain animals just because I want to. If I think dogs are man's best friend while cows are man's best food, who is to tell me I shouldn't think that? Who makes my rules?

    I've also been reading about the legal snarl-up over the girl who claims it is her religious right to wear a nose ring. If it sounds laughable, it's only because her family's church (yes, her parents "raised her that way") -- the Church of Body Modification -- is of recent origin and considered ridiculous by most people. Hey when I was a kid the Nation of Islam was considered not only ridiculous, but dangerous. Especially to we "blue-eyed devils" who were said to have been created by an evil black doctor in test tubes. Seems pretty kooky to me, but then so does the crackpot "Thetan theology" invented by the crackpot Church of Old Father Hubbard. These people have their rights, and if you worship "body modification," I'm not sure the government has any right to stop you.

    But still, I wouldn't allow a family to amputate their children's legs. Does that make me a latent fascist, who would use the power of the state to tell people what to do with their own private lives? Or does it make my self-proclaimed "libertarianism" suspect? Why? Again, I never claimed to be anything but a small-l libertarian, and to many large-L Libertarians, my support for the Iraq War made me a dangerous heretic. A pseudo libertarian and a phony libertarian. That's what someone calling himself "Hesiod" said repeatedly. Unlike the real Hesiod (an ancient Greek poet who actually existed), my self proclaimed more-libertarian-than-thou critic was unwilling to put his real name on what he wrote, and his blog no longer exists. I can understand the need some people have for anonymity, because after all, if you put your real name on what you write, people might know who you are, and if you're in a sensitive position, you might not want people to know who you are. But why take on the name of a famous person instead of just calling yourself Tom, Dick or Harry? Does it add pizazz to the writing or something? Like, would I be more persuasive or interesting if I hid my real identity (of which I should probably be more ashamed) and called myself Ganymede? Nah, that's too ancient and pretentious, and besides there was no real Ganymede. So how about Edgar Allen Poe? Nah, he's too well known, so it wouldn't seem appropriately "clever." Say, how about Andre Gide? Yeah, that's who I should be! After all, the man started out as a Commie, but ended up vehemently rejecting Communism (which means he was probably not entirely consistent), and he also... Uh oh! While I've read him before, I just saw something on his Wiki page which makes me have second thoughts about taking on his identity:

    "It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not"
    So If people loved me as "Gide" and I really wasn't Gide, I'd be worse off than I am now.

    Scratch that, I guess.

    Anyway, I was trying to think about the smoking chimp (what a name for a blog that would be if it isn't taken which it is, as is "thesmokingchimp") and then my thoughts became mutilated by the body modification nose ring thing, so let me work my way back. Anyone who says body modification is not a religious issue should think again. Genital mutilation -- whether done to please the demands or needs of deities, or the demands or needs of men -- is as old as man. A huge war got started because a Roman emperor tried to stamp it out. Personally, I think Hadrian should have been more specific in his law (which was intended to stop castration) and more tolerant of religious practices, but it's too late to offer advice at this point. Like Hadrian, if I were emperor, I would not allow castration either. Except I'm not a Roman emperor; I'm an American small-l libertarian who claims to believe in freedom! (Yay!) And allowing men to castrate other men against their will is something that I think almost all of us -- even libertarians -- would agree that the law should prohibit. But what about men who go to doctors because they want to become women? Most Americans would allow that if there has been an appropriate medical diagnosis of -- what is it? -- gender identity disorder. But suppose the guy just wanted to lose his balls. Should he be allowed to hire a surgeon to perform an orchiectomy? Or is that not in the best interests of society? Let's suppose it isn't. It could lead to a slippery slope of castration fads, or even parents castrating boys so they can have lucrative singing careers. Eunuchs are unsettling to the modern world; Jesus's discussion of eunuchs is lost on most people, but then, so was his underlying argument, which was the condemnation of divorce. So, even though we have decided that allowing women to pay doctors to cut out their fetuses is in the best interest of society, let's assuming that allowing men to cut off their balls is not. Do the interests of society mean the state should dictate what people should be allowed to do with their own bodies? What single, all-encompassing theory of freedom might consistently resolve this seeming contradiction?

    Hey, don't look at me. I'm not Ayn Rand.

    And the freedom thingie gets even more complicated if we get to the circumcision thingie. You know, where parents pay doctors to slice off a perfectly good part of their male child's penis? Some do it for religious reasons, many do it for what they think are valid medical reasons (although this can be debated), and some do it just because cutting off part of their baby's thingie is just the thing to do.

    Am I sounding like I'm against circumcision? Sorry to disappoint the anti-circumcision fanatics (again!), and perhaps I'm a psychopath, but I really don't care. I think it should be up to the parents. If I had a son I don't know what I would do. There are medical reasons, and purely aesthetic reasons -- reasons which might result from cultural biases and which might change over time, but I certainly don't think the government has any right to tell people what to do in this matter.

    Yet as I say that, I recognize that the state does have a right to prevent female circumcision. How's that for consistency? Well, it's what I think.

    May Ayn Rand strike me dead.

    Freedom is not always neat and tidy in all its manifestations. Allowing male circumcision is not the same as allowing castration or female circumcision. And while I'm at it, I would not allow the painful custom of footbinding. And all claims of inconsistency to the contrary, I would allow parents to have braces placed on their children's teeth.

    I believe in legalizing all drugs. But suppose I favored legalizing only marijuana. Would that obligate me to also favor legalizing angel dust? Why? And if I favor legalizing drugs, does that mean that I necessarily "have to be in favor of" selling heroin to children? Hell no. For the life or me, I see no inconsistency in applying principles of common sense to freedom. If you think there's a slippery slope, fine, but don't expect me to agree with it. Likewise, if you don't think it's reasonable to apply common sense to freedom, then don't, but it's hardly fair accuse me of lacking the common sense that you have subtracted it from my arguments.

    And for the umpteenth time, sex between consenting adults is not the same thing as sex between adults and children. Because I would allow the former, it does not follow that I would have to allow the latter. This strikes me as too obvious a point to require serious debate, but some people are hell bent on reading into my views some sort of duty to agree that the freedom I speak of necessarily countenances the freedom for adults to have sex with children. Nonsense.

    Back to the more pressing issue of Charlie's rights. How do I allow myself to get so distracted?

    OK, I already said I was for him having certain rights, so I didn't like reading about how humans were trying to take away his rights in the name of rights:

    Visitors continued to indulge the chimp, bringing on a hailstorm of accusations from animal rights activists when videos surfaced online not long after, prompting Bloemfontein zoo officials to try to cut Charlie's nicotine supply off entirely.

    Zoo officials claim that smoking was not a factor in the Charlie's death, who at 52, lived ten years beyond the normal life expectancy of the average chimpanzee.

    (More on NewsFeed: Stop Smoking To Improve Your Sex Life)

    "Even though he has been receiving special care, and a special diet including protein shakes, vitamin and mineral supplements, he succumbed to old age," Zoo spokesman Qondile Khedama told the BBC, which also reports of another chimp in Russia who entered a rehabilitation process after "he started pestering visitors for alcohol and cigarettes."

    Now that just plain sucks! I think that if animals have rights, then they have the right to smoke if they want to!

    And notice the way the piece is loaded with anti-smoking propaganda ads? They even try to sneak it by throwing in sex, when those of us who grew up in the Golden Pre-Airbrushed Days of Hollywood all know that smoking is much sexier than not smoking.

    But that poor chimp! He touches on so many human contradictions, simply because he loved smoking, and lived too long.

    We can learn a lot from him.

    I'd say that I wanted to give him a great big kiss, except that some wise guy would probably come along and accuse me of countenancing bestiality.

    MORE: Veeshir's comment about the quality of life reminded me of an old lady I used to know:

    I came to know a woman who had finally retired to a rest home at age 97, and she was one of those loquacious grand dames who would sit and hold court on the porch. While smoking like a chimney. As I got to know her, she complained to me about the staff's attempts to get her to stop smoking. I will never forget the way, in a loud voice, she bellowed,

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

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

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

    But I'm sure many self appointed scolds know better, and would have loved to make her death as healthy and miserable as possible.

    posted by Eric at 11:45 AM | Comments (5)


    The only thing government does well. Provided it can do it at all.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:25 AM | Comments (2)

    Thank You Friend

    Our favorite commenter here at CV (well Eric's and mine, I haven't checked with Dave) has a very nice one in response to "for the good for society"? Or for the good of the state?

    In America we think that improving our society does improve our country. But there's a hidden assumption that many other countries' populations don't make.

    Most countries seem to define their country as their gov't.

    We have a country so we had to put a gov't in charge.

    So working for the gov't and working for society aren't the same thing the way they are in other countries.

    It seems to me that when Americans wanted to improve things, they did it themselves, they didn't go to the gov't.

    We used to be more likely to try to keep the gov't from "helping" us than getting it to help us.

    Certain statists (of all parties) are trying to change that. They're seeing the pushback now. I'm rooting for us, but the pushback will take the decades it's taken to get here.

    Or one huge cataclysm.

    I don't think we have the attention span and the will for the first and the second would mean serious ugliness.

    Veeshir October 6, 2010 03:43 PM

    Pretty good stuff. Except for the bit about attention span. I have kept my mind on the Drug War for 40 years and the end is now in sight. It can be done. But it requires that a few people dedicate themselves to it totally. Just like the Drug War.

    And we have better tools. When I started promoting Polywell Fusion in November of 2006 (thanks Eric) very few had heard of it and the DOD had cut off funding. By August of 2007 due to constant efforts on the 'net by myself and a few others the project was refunded. Early results are not definitive (it will work, it won't work) but so far promising. Well any way. Now a days when a blog post or article comes up on fusion Polywell is almost always mentioned in the comments. My point is that a very few DEDICATED people can change the culture in significant ways in short order. If you are honest (Polywell might not work - but it is definitely worth a try) and tireless.

    And I'm here to help. Have an idea on how to change the country for the better that can start small and grow? That does not require a government program and in fact rejects any government help. Let me promote it. You want to start a commune? Let me help. You want to set up a tax free village? Let me help. Any thing voluntary. Let the results speak for themselves. (I always like to bring up these anti-abortion folks in my town Rockford Pro Life in that regard).

    Comments are open.

    And my point? Stop being lazy and waiting for government to do it. We have the best tools ever invented for the job. Stop bitching or moaning "there ought to be a law" and get to work. One person can make a difference. And if we do enough stuff on our own we can retire government to what it ought to be. Minor functionaries in a free country. Some tips on how to get started on your crusade.

    1. Set up a Google alert on blogs and a phrase that will pull up posts on your topic of interest
    2. A file full of canned responses, links, and frequently used HTML
    3. Put out at least a little something new or use a different phrasing every time you comment. You are not a robot.You are a human.
    4. If you don't have a blog start one. Blogger will help for free.

    The rest of what you need to know you can learn by doing. Stuff like simple HTML.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:42 PM | Comments (4)

    Mark Kirk Ad

    I've been seeing a lot of Mark Kirk ads on the 'net today.

    The teaser to get you to click is:

    The Problem is HIM
    Now which HIM did you think of? The ad is being run by Democrats.

    Own goal.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

    Why The Ultra-Keynesians Are Almost Certainly Wrong

    So, apparently the theory emanating from the left, especially in the person of Paul KKKrugman, is this: we need massive government spending, trillions of dollars, to grow the economy, and then everything will be great. Otherwise, we're doomed.

    There's a very simple, easily-understood reason why Krugman and the other statists are almost certainly wrong: marginal government spending at 45% of GDP is not likely to create much real growth. Real growth happens when someone figures out a way to provide a product or service that is either new and desirable, or a cheaper substitute for an existing product or service -- in other words, productivity gains that make consumers' lives better. Now, obviously government can add value -- if there were no roads or rail between, say, Chicago and New York, it would be useful for the gov't to exercise eminent domain and get them created. And obviously preventing monopoly, fraud, external costs like pollution, etc is also economically useful. But after it's paid for all the economically efficient regulations, roads, and rail (note that even at current supply, rail is generally not a paying proposition) an economy can support, mostly what government can do is inflate bubbles. Someone remind me, how'd messing with housing via Fannie and Freddie work out?

    Government spending is at 45% of GDP; post-WW II federal revenue has generally been in the range of 18-22% under all tax schemes, overall revenue is around 28% by most estimates. Krugman argues we need gov't to spend 65% of GDP. It's a ludicrous notion that there are trillions of dollars of economically useful things to buy with that money, surpassed only by the even more ludicrous notion government knows what those things are but the markets don't. We are not Afghanistan, bereft of basic roads, schools, rail, bridges and airports. Building Bridges to Nowhere is what Japan tried in their Lost Decade, and it didn't work. What we need is capital working in the private sector to generate more productivity gains.

    If we want to free up capital for that currently unknown genius, sitting in his garage right now about to create the next Google or Amazon or Intel, then government spending must be cut to match government revenues. Here's some ideas on where to start.

    posted by Dave at 08:12 PM | Comments (1)

    I Have Done A Terrific Job

    H/T commenters at Hill Buzz

    Our very own Tall Dave, in the comments here, suggests this video too.

    "for the good for society"? Or for the good of the state?

    Damn it I hate definitions -- especially when the definitions lurk within definitions.

    In yesterday's post about the definitions of work and the work ethic" I fell into a trap of my own inadvertent creation by treating the word "society" as almost a synonym for government.

    the weaselly phrase "the work ethic" avoids taking sides on the "work hard, and you'll make more money" versus the "work hard for the good of society" argument. It is not surprising that the more the government takes, the more people are questioning the value of the work ethic.
    The more I thought about, the more I thought it merited a new post because the underlying issue is very serious. The words "society," "government" and "state." They are not the same. So I was wrong, right?

    Actually, it depends on your point of view. To many people (ever growing in number), "society" is indistinguishable from state.

    I think much of this conflation between society and state is being accomplished by the tax system. The bigger a chunk of money is owed to the state, the less relevant it is to talk about society. Society and the state are one.

    And because of the redistributionist philosophy the ethic of "work hard so that society benefits" means work hard so that we all benefit. And "we all" means the state, because the state is the common purse-holder. It's an all-encompassing formula.

    All that the state owes is owed by all of us and all that we all owe is ultimately owed by and/or to the state.

    So according to that philosophy, whether we are said to work to benefit the state or to benefit society is a distinction without a difference.

    It's odd that I would miss such an egregious error, because the other day I was discussing whether "social" could be separated from "state".

    The more the state regulates us, the more society and government become indistinguishable.

    No doubt the ruling class wants it that way. (For all the right "public policy" reasons, of course. While it's an issue beyond this post, few words are deadlier to freedom than those two. If there is anything that does not involve public policy, I have not found it. )

    posted by Eric at 02:45 PM | Comments (6)

    The Golden Rule Of Politics

    If you want government to leave you alone you must leave others alone.

    It is a hard lesson to learn. And painful. Because there is so much evil in the world. And having government guns at your side to confront it is so comforting. Until the government turns its guns on you.

    Our socialist friends on the left were going to fix the economic evils of the world. And our socialist friends on the right were going to fix the cultural evils of the world. So how did it turn out? They wound up empowering each other. And so neither side is happy. So to all my socialist friends may I suggest a way out of the impasse? Give it up. Socialism that is.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:17 AM | Comments (2)

    I Had Hopped

    I had hoped by voting for Bush in 2004 that the situation in the Middle East would be so set that even an unsympathetic President couldn't undo what Bush had done if he did a good job in the Middle East.

    Bush did a good job. The price he had to pay to the Democrat Congress was to open the government pocket book. That has now come back to haunt the Democrats. Heh. Outsmarted by the dumbest President ever. It has to gall.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:17 AM | Comments (0)

    we have always been seriously at war with humor

    According to A. O. Scott of the NYT, homophobia has a sneaky way of making itself acceptable by allowing its own ridicule:

    ...lampooning homophobia has become an acceptable, almost unavoidable form of homophobic humor...
    Why those sneaky homophobes! I find this development deeply worrisome.

    That to ridicule something is to encourage it?

    Put aside homophobia if you can, and think about the larger ramifications. If I am encouraging by ridicule, and I ridicule everything, then I am encouraging everything.

    I can't think of a better argument for shutting down this entire blog.

    Except then the serious people would win, wouldn't they?

    posted by Eric at 11:23 PM | Comments (4)

    Democrat - We Must Preserve Theories

    Seriously. I've always suspected this but to get a lefty to say it out loud? It must be desperation time. Maybe the end of the line? One can hope. Except my friends on the right seem determined to over reach. Starting the cycle all over again.

    "This isn't about President [Barack] Obama," Rendell said on MSNBC's "Last Word" Monday night. "It's about whether the Democratic Party, not perfect, but certainly bent on trying to preserve theories in government and progressive practices, is going to be in charge of the Congress or the Republican Party. And it's not the Republican Party of old. This is a scary Republican Party."
    Preserve theories? I guess that is all they have. Of course they could always come on over to reality and do what works instead of putting all that effort into preserving theories.

    Oh yeah. Socialism. Nice theory. It doesn't work. That may be the core of Ed's angst. And his fear of the "scary Republican Party." The Republican Party is being purged of economic socialists. Now if the cultural socialists could only hold their mud. But they can't. It is not in their nature. And so socialism begets more socialism. It is no wonder the Republican Party has acquired the appellation "the stupid party". They earned it. Fair and square.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    Booze vs Pot

    I absolutely will not be drinking three beers in short order, followed by smoking a blunt for this report. The contest I'm speaking of is the alcohol lobby versus the pot legalizers in California.

    The California Beer & Beverage Distributors disclosed it donated $10,000 to defeat Prop 19 -- which would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. The alcohol lobbyist's funds will help spread the lie that employers must tolerate stoned employees, and the talking point that 'California doesn't need another legal, mind-altering substance.' Alcohol causes an estimated $38 billion in costs in California each year from emergency room visits, arrests, etc, according to the Marin Institute. There are roughly 3,500 deaths annually from alcohol-related illness and more than 109,000 alcohol-related injuries in California. Conversely, pot caused 181 emergency room visits in 2008, according to a study by the non-partisan RAND Corporation, despite being used by more than four million Californians monthly.

    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition spokesperson and retired Orange County, CA. judge James Gray said the booze lobby's decision was probably financial. The move echoes the tobacco and alcohol industry's help creating leading drug war group Partnership For a Drug-Free America.

    "It was a really wise thing to do from a merchandising standpoint to reaffirm the distinction between a legal and an illegal drug," he said. "They are protecting their own economic self interest."

    So it has come down to that. Just a money deal. Market share. Given all that, I'm sure the alcohol lobby would prefer you didn't read this book:

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

    Bad for business doncha know?

    It is funny that the beneficiaries of the repeal of alcohol prohibition are pumping for the continuation of pot prohibition. "It's just business." Yes it is. And better 'twere it legal.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:43 PM | Comments (9)

    Can You Guess Which Party?
    dennis for congress 2010.JPG

    From the tide is turning files.

    ...John Dennis. The San Francisco Republican - a frequent attendee of Tea Party events who is waging a perhaps quixotic war to unseat most-powerful San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi, to whom he has referred as a "wicked witch" - made a campaign stop Sunday at the Cow Palace, where the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo was in full swing. His campaign even altered its signage for the marijuana-appropriate occasion: instead of red, white and blue, the name John Dennis was featured next to Rastafarian red, gold and green. Instead of a star, there's a pot leaf.

    The new signage caught Dennis slightly off guard: "Volunteers in my campaign came up with the idea," he said. "I didn't even know they had made the posters [until the weekend], but I think it's definitely appropriate for the venue."

    Dennis spent "about an hour" at the event on Sunday. While not every attendee was a San Francisco voter, Dennis says he was met with nothing but kindness and support.

    "People were very mellow," he said. "They were pleased we were picking up on this issue."

    While he says he neither partakes nor promotes use of the miracle plant - "I'm not telling people to go out and smoke pot, but if you do, it's your choice and your responsibility" - the Pacific Heights resident has made his support of marijuana semi-legalization measure Proposition 19 no secret. He's attended Americans for Safe Access meetings, and endorsed Proposition 19 as early as July.

    A Republican? In a high profile race? Supporting legalization? You betcha.

    Here is a bit of biographical information on him.

    I ask Dennis--whose campaign website describes him as "a successful businessman and entrepreneur"--what the difference is between supporting "corporatism" and being pro-business. He suddenly lights up. "That's a really great question," Dennis says, shooting me a conspiratorial look. The secret is this: He's not actually pro-business. "I'm really more pro-market. Pro-business would lend itself to a kind of corporatism...what I object to is the government picking winners and losers--getting involved in corporations and creating legislation that gives them an advantage over their competitors. "

    The anti-business businessman has been forced to reconcile more than a few contradictions during his quixotic campaign. In his bid to attract voters to Pelosi's left, Dennis has attacked the speaker for not pushing hard enough to repeal anti-gay measures like Defense of Marriage Act and the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy. "The government shouldn't be in the marriage business in the first place," he says.

    And if you want to donate:

    Defeat Pelosi

    And believe it or not Mother Jones has an article on TEA Party legalizers. No surprise to those of us paying attention given that some one saw this sign at a TEA Party a while back:


    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:08 PM | Comments (2)

    Hard work is the glue that holds society together!

    In light of the recent discussions of John Galt and his refusal to work pursuant to the demands of society, I've been thinking about the definition of work, especially in the context of the work ethic.

    Is work personal and individualistic, or is it social and based on what's good for the community as a whole?

    And most important, what is work?

    I thought about this when I pondered a recent post by Dr. Helen, who quotes from a poll indicating that 58% of Americans don't believe in the work ethic.

    A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 26% of Adults believe it's still possible for just about anyone in America to work hard and get rich. That's the lowest level measured since regular tracking on the question began in January of last year, down from 33% at that time. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

    Fifty-eight percent (58%) do not think a good work ethic will pay off, while 16% more are not sure.

    As someone who often finds himself caught in a competing cluster of damned-if-you-dos and damned-if-you-don'ts, I like Dr. Helen's conclusion:
    if you do get "rich," that is, make over whatever amount the government sets as "rich" such as $200,000 or $250,000, more of it is confiscated by the government (unless you are Warren Buffet and make your money in capital gains), so what's the point? Learned helplessness at its best or worst or whatever.
    I think fostering a sense of learned helplessness (perhaps that should be indoctrinated helplessness) might be in the interests of certain segments of what we often call the ruling class.

    "The work ethic" is a term so loaded as to almost be incapable of ready definition. Lots of people work hard, and some people love their work, while others hate it but they do it anyway, presumably to make money for themselves and their families. To maintain that there is an "ethic" -- or some duty -- to work aside from and beyond the point of providing for one's self and one's family is too much of a communitarian stretch for me. However, that is how some people would define "the work ethic." One works because it is the moral thing to do -- not so much to make a living, but by way of performing a duty to society. Of course, being that American society is traditionally grounded in the free market, and is choice-based, workers are theoretically supposed to have a money incentive. The harder they work, the more they should theoretically make. But as we all know, life is unfair, and there is no guarantee of that happening in practice. A hard working teacher, no matter how creative and talented, simply cannot expect to make what a hard working and creative engineer can. Rewards do not correlate strictly with hours of work performed, although socialists want to change that. But the weaselly phrase "the work ethic" avoids taking sides on the "work hard, and you'll make more money" versus the "work hard for the good of society" argument. It is not surprising that the more the government takes, the more people are questioning the value of the work ethic.

    After all, we don't want to end up being like Boxer the horse. Say what you will about him, but Boxer (the hard-working horse in Animal Farm) certainly was imbued with the work ethic. And after he had spent his life toiling and sweating to build the great workers paradise out of the sheer goodness and altruism in his strong heart, he inevitably found himself getting older as we all must, his physical health declined, and he suffered a workplace injury. Naturally, he had expected to get decent health care and then have a happy retirement at pasture, but the porcine ruling class death panels had something else in mind.

    But I digress from my point, which is to examine what it is that we consider work. Maybe I shouldn't have said "we." Perhaps work is not a "we" thing.

    I have always loved Mark Twain's thoughts on the subject of work. He didn't think work was work at all:

    What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it.

    Who was it who said, "Blessed is the man who has found his work"? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work--not somebody else's work. The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man's work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great.

    But did Twain say that? I certainly hope he did. The quote is attributed to an interview with Twain by a New York Times reporter in 1905, but I always worry about fake quotes on the Internet.

    Fortunately it does appear that he said exactly that, as it is also quoted in Mark Twain: the complete interviews. The book is described as "an annotated and indexed scholarly edition of every known interview with Mark Twain spanning his entire career," and as author Gary Scharnhorst is a professor and Twain scholar, I think we can safely assume that the quote is actually Twain speaking. And what a relief that is! I would hate to be laboring under the misimpression that Twain thought play was work and have it turn out that some unknown libertarian crank hedonist impostor had been putting words in Twain's mouth.

    OTOH, does anyone who questions the work ethic really need to appeal to Twain (or anyone else) as an authority? If an argument is legitimate, it should not be necessary to appeal to authority, even one as fun as Twain. While the man seemed to take sheer delight in questioning the moral underpinnings of the work ethic, he really had a point.

    Am I working right now? In the Twain sense I am, because I am doing what I want, not someone else's work. Yet I am not being paid. Does the definition of work hinge on being paid? Lots of people perform work without being paid for it, including volunteers, starving artists, hobbyists, and even DIYers. If I spend two weeks rewiring my house, is that work? Or would it only be work if I rewired someone else's house and he wrote me a check? How about if I buy several houses, and rewire them or otherwise fix them up so I can sell them or rent them? That's work, right? And I am making money off my work by not hiring a tradesman, which means I am ultimately being compensated, and if I work smart, I might ultimately make the dollar equivalent of a lot more than what I might pay the tradesman.

    But if I am not paid in any way for my work, then what is it? If I like it, it's pleasurable activity, but what if I don't? Suppose I hate rewiring houses but I'm possessed of a neurotic OCD disorder and I cannot stop doing that, so I join Habitat for Humanity and devote hundreds of hours to rewiring old houses, even though I hate doing it. (There are people who do such things; I know someone who devoted years to picking up litter on a citywide scale.) Is that self-imposed slavery?

    Do slaves work? By any reasonable standard, they do, but working for nothing is not what most of us consider work. Whether they were enslaved blacks in the antebellum South, enslaved political prisoners in Stalin's Gulags, or enslaved Jews in concentration camps, they performed work.

    Not Twain's work, though.

    Much as I like it, there is much unresolved tension in Twain's definition. Something about the philosophy of doing what you want to do without regard to what others want you to do (whether in the form of a boss or "society") will always strike some people (on both "sides") as selfish, anti-social, even anarchistic.

    Which does not answer the question of whether the work ethic is good or bad. It is one thing to say "if you don't work, don't expect other people to take care of you," but I don't think that's really the work ethic. Nor is the work ethic grounded in mere self interest. It's not really "work hard in order to make lots of money, because the more money you have the happier you will be." It's more along the lines of "you should work hard, and not necessarily to get rich, but because it's right and proper for society and therefore the moral thing to do." That's a hard sell, and the more the government takes, the harder it becomes to sell.

    In the wrong hands "the work ethic" is little more than a con game.

    Ask Boxer about the glue.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, a poignant story from a professional couple illustrates perfectly how what we used to call "the work ethic" is being destroyed by the tax system.

    Realistically, I could choose not to pay my mortgage and live in my house for at least a year (more if I can get creative about it). I live in a state where I can actually quit my job AND collect unemployment for 2 full years. Here is the math. If I collect unemployment and my husband stays employed, we can continue to live "fine". We'll be paycheck to paycheck and won't have any disposable income but I would have oodles of time. I could volunteer at the kid's school, scrapbook, exercise every day and watch Oprah.

    When people like me seriously question whether or not to work, there is something very very wrong with our tax system.

    Read it all.

    Who is being immoral? The people who no longer have an incentive to work, or the government which destroyed it?

    UPDATE: Wow, an Instalanche! And a two for one Instalanche, which includes a link to Dave's great post about Scalzi and Atlas Shrugged.

    Thanks Glenn, and a warm welcome to all.

    Comments welcome, agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 12:51 PM | Comments (38)


    His latest column (safe link, goes to HotAir) begins with an offhand premise (not even an assertion, mind you, just an assumption) that the Tea Party wants to re-enact Birth of a Nation, the KKK-celebrating silent film of 1915.

    Fine, let me respond in kind. Paul, you may think you're re-enacting Triumph of the Will or Mission to Moscow, but reality more closely resembles Atlas Shrugged or The Road to Serfdom. The welfare state is collapsing, and neither socialist thuggery, nor race-baiting, nor imaginary bonds in the SSTF are going to save it.

    This is the Year of the Minarchist -- 45% of GDP is too much government, and that's why the Tea Parties have coalesced into the most important political movement of this election cycle, and perhaps beyond, despite the elites' casting of aspersions running the gamut from inane to insane.

    posted by Dave at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

    Liberal? Or conservative? Dream on!

    From time to time I need to explain why being a libertarian sucks, and it is not a state I would wish on anyone.

    Because of the nature of the ruling political dichotomy, for me being a libertarian reduces itself to an equation which is very emotionally unsatisfying.

    I am against the left more than I am against the right.

    That sounds pretty negative, doesn't it? Perhaps I should put it another way.

    I hate the left more than I hate the right.

    Nah, that's even worse. Makes me sound like a bigot. So how about,

    I am more against the left than I am against the right.

    So what's to be for?

    Stuff that can't happen? Stuff that probably won't happen? The stuff dreams are made of?

    That's not very satisfying either, as I am too much of a realist to be for dreams. Another reason reality sucks.

    Still, I think it's better to be for my dreams than against them. Perhaps the problem is that dreaming sucks.

    Maybe I should figure out whether I am more against reality than dreaming.

    Maybe not. A mind is a terrible thing to wake up.

    posted by Eric at 09:37 AM | Comments (13)

    Letters to Scalzi: Atlas Snickers

    Of all the reviews of Atlas Shrugged I've ever seen, this one has the maximum ratio of words to sense, which is quite a feat given the competition. I salute you, sir. Of course, it probably helps to miss the point when you make it a point to skip all the "rants." (Given recent pronouncements, I suspect several members of Congress are applying this same literary comprehension skill to the New Testament.)

    Calling Galt's actions "genocidal" is so strange it's astonishing you claim to have to read the book even once. Galt only refuses to be forced to help try to save society from its inevitable collapse. Since Galt's society is going to collapse with or without him, the salient question is whether something better can replace it, and that's Galt's new society in which coercion doesn't reduce the marginal propensity to produce -- a notion that the 20th Century proved to be of paramount importance as everyone not living in North Korea now acknowledges. Given that the book was written in 1957, it can fairly be called both prescient and brilliant, and you an intellectual lightweight out of his depth here.

    Ironically, I seem to recall you, John Scalzi, got quite self-righteously irate when Amazon's Kindle pricing was unfavorable to your income, so at least enough Randian sense has penetrated for you to pay hypocrisy's compliment to the virtue of selfishness -- and never mind about the consumer's pocketbook. Social justice is always wonderful when other people are being forced to pay for it, isn't it?

    (A previous Letter To Scalzi can be found here. Yes, that wasn't the most direct route to the piece -- but it's the more scenic, and I encourage you to stop and smell the Instaroses. Like this one.)

    UPDATE: Thanks to you-know-who for you-know-what.

    I wanted to add, I like John's writing quite a bit, but Ayn Rand is one of the great thinkers of the 20th, whereas John writes clever little sci-fi fluff in a society she had a big hand in making rich and free enough for him to bitch about Kindle pricing here in 2010. It's just a bit grating for him to stand in judgment, like Matt Groening criticizing Michelangelo or Da Vinci (and I say that as a diehard Simpsons fan).

    posted by Dave at 07:56 PM | Comments (32)

    I'm A Swinger

    No. Not that kind. (Although if I got an invitation from some nice people I might consider it pending the first mate's approval. But you already know how that ends.) What I am is your quintessential libertarian swing voter. A proud member of the Leave Us Alone Party.

    So I'm having discussions at Power and Control and Classical Values about this and that. Mostly abortion. And I must say that the social conservatives have done a right nice job of coming my way on 75% of the issues important to me. And of course we are totally down on the money issue. Mostly.

    But the abortion issue seems to be a deal killer. Not for now. The financial bleeding must stop. But there is a future. If my conservative friends think there are government cures for our most contentious social issues I think they are mistaken. And I will fight as hard as I can to see that those collective solutions are never implemented. Sorry about that. My mind is made up.

    In politics it is the tail that wags the dog. So unfair. Yes it is. But there you have it. Balance of power politics. So where am I for now? Economics in '10. Social Issues in '12.

    It is my intention to wipe the floor with statists of every stripe. If you worship the fasces I intend to wipe the floor with you. To the best of my ability. God willing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:52 PM | Comments (18)

    Find Another Way

    Abortion has come up and as usual the discussion gets abrasive. Well I like being abrasive as much as the next guy. So let me start with a fragment of a recent comment well tied to the zeitgeist.

    Your attitude reminds me of that recent 10:10 adverting campaign. You know, where they blow up the children that doesn't agree with them?
    I'm much kinder. I merely intend to deny you the government power to implement your dreams.

    Find another way.

    posted by Simon at 05:33 PM | Comments (6)

    Alcohol, Tobacco, And Firearms

    Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms should be a convenience store not a government agency.

    Yeah. I have posted this before. Consider it an oldie but goodie suitable for the election season.

    posted by Simon at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

    The Eternal Truths Of Religion

    Villainous Company is looking at some studies on the effect of daycare on children. And comes up with this stunner:

    It's amusing, in a way, to see the very same arguments being arrayed against Science that have been used for centuries to argue against Religion. In both cases, essential truths about human nature are too often discarded because they can't be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt.
    Yeah. The essential truths of religion. Don't mix milk and meat. Don't mix fibers. If you have sex with a guy (and you are a guy) we will kill you. If you have sex with a guy not your husband we will kill you.

    In fact that seems to be the essential truth of religion as practiced. "We will kill you." And given the current rise of the Islamic nutters we forget the essential truth of religion at our peril.

    And where did we go wrong? Organized religion. Collectivized religion. If every one had their own religion, religion wouldn't be such a mess. In fact I favor direct talks with God (spirituality) over religion. It is generally safer. And from my experience more comforting. Plus the advice is way better than anything I ever got from a Rabbi. Why would that be? The Rabbi talks to the congregation. God talks to me. i.e. collective advice vs personal advice.

    So how do I know I'm talking to God and not the Devil? Well it is a risk. Just like figuring out if the minister is a man of God or of the Devil. At least in my case if I am mistaken it is one man led astray. In the case of the minister it could be whole congregations, ministries, and worst of all whole religions. I'll take my chances with individuals to avoid Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:59 PM | Comments (17)

    Making freedom "greater"

    Senator Jim DeMint recently spoke at an event billed as the "Greater Freedom Rally." The goal of the rally was "to close the chasm between 'economic and social conservatives.'"

    If what he said constitutes "closing the chasm," I'd hate to think about what he would say if he wanted to open it:

    DeMint said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn't be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who's sleeping with her boyfriend -- she shouldn't be in the classroom.

    "(When I said those things,) no one came to my defense," he said. "But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn't back down. They don't want government purging their rights and their freedom to religion."

    What rights is the government purging? The right not to have a homosexual or an adulteress teaching? And why did he single out females? What about adulterers in general? Are they OK?

    What is the "greater freedom" we are talking about here? If there is a right not to have a gay or adulterous teacher, then don't cab drivers also have a right to refuse to transport gay passengers? Who holds these rights, and under what theory of freedom are they found? Freedom of religion? Does that mean that religious people have a right not to have their children taught by an atheist?

    Do Christians have a right to demand that Jewish, Hindu, or Muslim teachers be fired too?

    I'm not quite following what DeMint means. I do not doubt that homosexuality and adultery are considered sinful according to his religion, but so is not honoring the Sabbath, worshiping the wrong gods, and many other things.

    Do people who believe certain things have a right to not have their children taught by people who don't? I think they do if they are willing to pay for schools that uphold such beliefs. For example, I would not compel a religious school to hire a homosexual, an adulterer, an atheist, a Sabbath breaker, or a Hindu. But on what basis can the government require government employees to conform themselves to certain religious dictates?

    Presumably, though, DeMint thinks schools should fire all gay teachers and all women who sleep with boyfriends, in order to uphold freedom of religion.

    Is that what freedom of religion means?

    The First Amendment is supposed to restrain the government from "prohibiting the free exercise of religion." How is the right of any parent to freely exercise his religion violated by the existence of a gay teacher or by a woman who has somehow been discovered to have been sleeping with her boyfriend? What right to free exercise of religion has been forfeited by that? Unless the parents are prohibited from expressing religious disapproval of such teachers' lifestyles (which is not what DeMint complained of), I don't get it.

    It hardly endears me to Senator DeMint and his concept of freedom.

    If people like him keep trying to limit sexual freedoms according to the religious dictates of others, they're just begging for the hedonists to start their own religion. You know, something like the Pan-Priapic Temple for the Advanced Worship of Human Sexuality. Then they could demand the schools fire all teachers who engage in celibacy, so that the government wouldn't be able to purge their rights and their freedom of religion.

    (Worshiping together in the filthy church of your choice? That freedom thingie really sucks, doesn't it? Fortunately for me, this is just a blog post and I'm not a priest....)

    posted by Eric at 12:37 PM | Comments (33)

    unconstitutional usurpation in the news

    Over the weekend I saw a photograph taken at Saturday's "One Nation under Ed Shultz" rally, and because I like to know what people are thinking (and if possible why), it continues to fascinate me.


    Fox News is "unconstitutional"? Initially, that made me laugh, and it seemed so absurd on its face that I thought the woman might be a lone crank. Under what possible theory might anyone think that a news network -- regardless of its editorial stance or degree of bias -- was unconstitutional?

    I dismissed the sign as ridiculous, of value only for purposes of humor, until I read Paul Krugman's latest column. It turns out that Fox News has carried out a coup d'etat while no one was watching! The network is in charge of the Tea Party movement, conservatives are not allowed to criticize it, and they have become the Ministry of Propaganda and seized control of our precious Politburo!

    I kid you not:

    Fox News has gone from merely supporting Republican candidates to anointing them. Christine O'Donnell, the upset winner of the G.O.P. Senate primary in Delaware, is often described as the Tea Party candidate, but given the publicity the network gave her, she could equally well be described as the Fox News candidate. Anyway, there's not much difference: the Tea Party movement owes much of its rise to enthusiastic Fox coverage.

    As the Republican political analyst David Frum put it, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox" -- literally, in the case of all those non-Mitt-Romney presidential hopefuls. It was days later, by the way, that Mr. Frum was fired by the American Enterprise Institute. Conservatives criticize Fox at their peril.

    So the Ministry of Propaganda has, in effect, seized control of the Politburo. What are the implications?

    The implications are very serious indeed. And if the situation is as Krugman describes, they are certainly of constitutional dimension.

    To think that it took an economist to finally figure out what happened while the rest of us slept!

    The United States Constitution has no provision for a Ministry of Propaganda, nor does it say anything about a Politburo. For Fox News to have both created and seized control of these things ought to terrify everyone.

    Fox News has no right to create and run entirely new ministries or branches of government. No news network does. And even the federal government lacks power beyond that given to it in the Constitution:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
    So, far from being a lone nut, the woman holding that sign is no more crazy than Paul Krugman himself.

    And if Krugman is right, we need to overthrow Fox News right now before it's too late.

    I'm glad I was told about this important development, because I hardly ever watch Fox News. On those rare occasions that I'm in the mood to watch the government, I usually go to C-SPAN. Little did I know the real government was on another channel.

    And I should be very careful what I say lest Fox shut me down and silence me as they did David Frum.

    What I want to know is why does the Ministry of Propaganda allow Krugman to continue to operate? What gives?

    Might the man be actually be a Fox fabrication?

    We can't be too careful.

    posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)

    Calling all conservatives for Obama!

    The latest Gallup poll results are in, and the president's approval ratings remain low. Right now he's hovering at 45% approval -- just a hair above his all-time-low of 44%.

    In their endless quest to indict racism in America, liberals are focusing on the huge approval differential between black (91%) and white (36%) voters. If disapproving of Obama is racist, then it follows that not only is "racism" on the rise, but lots of Americans who voted for Obama have now become racists even though they weren't before. But as I've noticed before, such racism can be very fickle; during the last presidential campaign, there were at least four statistically-documented "mammoth waves of racism" during which McCain was actually ahead of Obama in the polls. And as top racism expert Frank Rich noted,

    A theoretically mammoth wave of racism, incessantly anticipated by the press, could materialize in voting booths on Nov. 4.
    You can be sure that the experts on racism will be watching this election closely, and in the event of a mammoth wave of racism, they will deliver a good scolding.

    What particularly fascinated me about the latest Gallup poll, though, was to see that there are nearly twice as many conservatives (23%) who approve of Obama as there are Republicans (12%). There's something counterintuitive about that, as according to the conventional wisdom, conservatives are more conservative than Republicans, so what's up?

    Are these people being honest? I mean, is it possible for a real conservative to approve of Obama?

    Or are these self-identified conservatives not real conservatives?

    And how about the self-identified Republicans? Why are they less approving of Obama than the conservatives? Are they more, um "real?"

    Are people more likely to lie about being conservative than about being Republican?

    It's hard for me to assess total strangers, but speaking purely for myself, I have no choice but to self-identify as a Republican, simply because that is my party of choice whether I like it or not. But "conservative" is a label I tend not to use without at least adding the modifier of "libertarian," lest I cause confusion. Liberals will of course label me as a conservative because they think it's a term of derision, and I can accept it as a sort of badge of honor when it is directed against me as an attack. But if I embrace it, then the "real" conservatives will inevitably come along and tell me I am not a real conservative -- which I also must accept as another badge of honor, simply because it is directed against me as an attack. So I get all confused and the only way to sort it out my confusion is by writing blog posts.

    But that does not solve my confusion over the fact that there are twice as many conservatives for Obama as there are Republicans for Obama.

    Perhaps some conservatives for Obama could weigh in and clear this up.

    posted by Eric at 09:59 AM | Comments (1)

    Some People Were Missed.

    Eric is looking at the pictures of the number of people on the Washington Mall for the "Steal America Blind" rally yesterday to try and figure out how many people were actually there. I think the discrepancy in the numbers was caused by some people missed by the people counters:

    And if you judge by the trash left behind

    There was no one at the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor rally.

    H/T Chicago Boyz

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

    my preliminary estimation of mysterious satellite activities

    As I kept reading about "preliminary satellite estimates" of the crowd at the lefty Ed Schultz rally yesterday, I wanted to know what the term meant. It is repeated verbatim at countless left wing blogs, but it seems to have originated with a statement from a person named Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars:

    Preliminary satellite estimates put the crowd size at 175,000 to 200,000 at about noon EST.
    That's it. No link to any "data," not even so much as a quote from anyone purporting to work for whatever satellite data entity is supposed to be providing the "preliminary" estimates. Nor is Ms. Belle's statement attributed to organizers.

    My preliminary opinion is that it's pure political hogwash wrapped in an official-sounding lie. Like making something up and attributing it to "top scientists."

    PJM's Charlie Martin is also skeptical, and has a good question:

    Where do they get these satellite estimates? PJM has been completely unsuccessful finding satellite companies that can give us these sorts of pictures on demand; there isn't a satellite passing over Washington, D.C., any time you want one.
    Aside from "they" who linked her, the only source seems to be Nicole Belle, who has not said where she got her alleged satellite estimates.

    What I'd like to know is why she would call them "preliminary." There either are available data from satellites or there are not. If someone has already done preliminary estimates based on that data, then presumably there is another, more definite estimate soon to come. How could the analysis and estimating be going on without anyone anywhere identifying whoever is supposed to be doing the estimating or citing any actual satellite source? There is a video showing Joe Madison speaking to the crowd about a "satellite image" alleged by the organizers to exist, but nowhere is anyone quoted by name who actually saw it, or even who says he saw it.

    So where is it? Freepers are saying it does not exist, and that if it did, it would be all over the Internet. But what is all over the Internet is Nicole Belle's claim of "preliminary satellite estimates."

    That there are a lot of gullible people ready and willing to believe anything that sounds as if it confirms what they want to hear does not surprise me. But for them to be claiming to rely on satellite data when no one has provided a single confirming reference or link, that's too much. I think it's worse than vandalizing Asimov, and I got pretty worked up about that, so writing this post seemed to be the least I could do. However, unlike the case of the butchered Asimov essay, this problem is not so easily solved, for there really was an original Asimov essay, but I am completely unable to find any satellite image of the rally.

    It's odd that the lefties who are citing it and claiming estimates based on it can't seem to provide a copy, isn't it?

    So I am forced to ask some questions.

    Since no one has the image, what happened? Why would the satellite fail to provide it? Precisely what did this satellite look like?

    Because if there was something hovering over the crowd (and surely there must have been, or why all the commotion?) then how do we even know it was a satellite?

    To leave no stone unturned in my search for the truth, I'm going stick out my neck and pose a few more questions.

    Might it be that what Ms. Belle thought was a satellite actually looked more like this?


    And can this "Nicole Belle" prove to everyone's satisfaction that she has not added that e to her name in the hope of disguising the fact that she's related to Art Bell? (All of this confusion could easily be cleared up!)

    So, much as I'd like to give her the preliminary benefit of the doubt, there's that old saying that goes "Trust but Verify!"

    I just want to see the data.

    Hell, it might be of assistance in evaluating this mysterious animated gif (link from Charlie Martin) contrasting the Glenn Beck rally with the Ed Shultz rally.


    I have a preliminary explanation as to why they are so different. Notice the huge swath of lawn on the left hand side they deliberately kept clear by moving away the hundreds of thousands of people that whatever flying object it was estimated?

    I think the most obvious explanation (which may be the Mother Of All Explanations) is that they wanted to keep it clear as a landing pad.

    I admit that this is speculation on my part, but I consider it my duty to be as helpful as possible in clearing up this baffling mystery, and I remain open to alternative theories.

    posted by Eric at 05:46 PM | Comments (1)

    Gratuitous advice to the Republican leadership that isn't there
    (from a political nobody who doesn't follow them anyway...)

    A Republican Party insider I am not. Well, in August I was elected as a precinct delegate, and at the County Convention I was elected as a delegate to the Republican State Convention, where I finally voted, but as a Tea Party supporter and recent Michigan transplant, I don't expect my opinions to count much with the Republican leadership either here or nationally.

    Or am I making an erroneous assumption that there is such a thing as Republican leadership right now?

    I don't know. But whether there are Republican leaders or not, I would be arrogant to expect them to listen to me. Which means I might as well write a blog post offering some free advice to the leaders who probably are not there, and who wouldn't listen to me if they were.

    It concerns the legalization of drugs. (Or, as I like to call it "relegalization.")

    I think the issue is more of a winner for Republicans than for the Democrats. That's because the Democrats are in power, and they cannot afford to bite off more than they can chew or look ridiculous. Nor can they afford to appear "soft on drugs." (Which can easily be translated into being either coke-snorting potheads or lovers of coke-snorting potheads.)

    However, because the small government, anti-statist philosophy is deeply embedded among conservatives and libertarians (if not the weak, vacillating "Republican leadership"), Republicans have a much better chance of getting away with opposing drug laws without being seen as wanting to lie down with coke-snorting potheads. It comes down to basic political stereotypes, which can almost be reduced to math; Republicans have for decades been steeped in the law-and-order, tough-on-crime, culturally conservative ethos, and they have always been more vociferous in their support of law enforcement generally, and drug law enforcement particularly. From that perspective, who do you think has more credibility in opposing the drug war? A former cop or prosecutor who spent years putting druggies away, or a long-haired, earring-wearing ACLU lawyer who has devoted his career to whining about the druggies' rights? This is not to say that all Republicans are like the former or all Democrats are like the latter, but there's no escaping that general stereotype. (Especially in the minds of voters.)

    Whether they know it or not, the Republicans are sitting pretty. Some Democrats know it too, although it isn't being discussed much. It's easy to understand why; they know it's a loser for them. I think their worst fear is that the more the issue of drug legalization becomes open for public discussion, the more likely it is that there might be a general political awakening of the sort described by Russ Belville in the Huffington Post. Commenting on some wishful thinking by California Democrats that the state's marijuana legalization initiative is analgous to the anti-gay-marriage Prop 8 (and will somehow draw liberal voters the way Prop 8 was thought to draw conservatives), Belville warns his lefty colleagues that they may be in for a surprise:

    I think the Democrats are in for a surprise. See, Karl Rove and the Republicans really believed in the initiatives they were pushing. They had a frame for it -- "one man one woman" -- that resonated with their voters and the overall worldview espoused by most of their downticket candidates. So when that Religious Right base came out in 2004, energized to vote against dreaded homosexuals and for the continuation of all that was good, true, and Christian in America, they had George W. Bush and a whole slew of Republicans to vote for that echoed that sentiment.

    What do Democrats have to offer the cannabis consumer who comes out for a 2010 election? Unlike Rove and the Republicans, the Democrats don't really believe in these initiatives (publicly). Sen. Boxer, Sen. Feinstein (a former mayor of San Francisco, c'mon now!), and former Gov. / current AG Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown all publicly oppose Prop 19 (really, Jerry? You toked with Linda Ronstadt! Please!) Democrats can't even go on the record to discuss this strategy. They haven't yet framed it other than to murmur a bit about tax revenues, which is a lousy frame easily countered with "Well, if taxing crack made the cities money, should we legalize that?" Tax revenues resonate well within Assembly committee hearings, but they make for a ghoulish appeal to the average voter.

    There's also the disappointment factor. A lot of cannabis consumers were very excited about supporting Barack Obama for president. He wrote candidly of his youthful marijuana and cocaine use! No more "I didn't inhale" bullshit; we even got an "I inhaled, frequently, that was the point." He ran for Senate saying "The War on Drugs is an utter failure and I think we need to re-think and decriminalize our marijuana laws."

    Leave it to a guy like Belville (a NORML activist) to point out the obvious. There is no reason to believe that the Democrats are any more in favor of legalization than Republicans. They are stuck having to oppose it.

    But are the Republicans stuck? Hell no. In fact, some of them are tantalizingly close to doing what the Democrats would most fear, by simply reaching out and stealing what Belville calls the "low-hanging fruit":

    Democrats may still benefit from the cannabiphiles flooding the polls if only due to the "who else ya gonna vote for?" strategy championed by folks like Rahm Emanuel. But how long will it take some younger, Tea Party-friendly Republicans to realize they have a potential windfall of new, young, diverse voters if they steal the low-hanging fruit of marijuana legalization for their own?

    Republicans already have the frames of "small government," "personal responsibility," and "states rights" to work within. If marijuana legalization in California passes by a wide margin and sees support from the women, minorities, and young people the GOP desperately needs to rebuild their party, how long before they begin framing the War on Drugs as the "big government," "nanny state," and "federal overreach" that it is? They've got revered conservative figures like William Buckley and Milton Friedman they can quote to bolster their position. They can easily point to the Democratic Congresses of the 1980s that created the mandatory minimums and the last three Democratic presidents who supported decriminalization and inhaled or didn't inhale yet arrests kept increasing (at the greatest rate under Clinton, they'll note).

    The GOP isn't quite there yet. Marijuana is still associated with hippies, counter-culture, leftism, atheism, communism, heathenism, and a few other isms the Republicans still rail against. When I was arguing for marijuana legalization back in my home state of Idaho, I used to ask the hippie-hating, pickup-driving, hardest-right Republicans I knew why, if they hated marijuana and hippies so much, did they support hippies making a living without ever paying taxes? "Why is it that you have to clock in at 8am every day," I'd ask, "and 30% of your check is gone before you ever touch it because of taxes, while a hippie gets to sleep til Noon, grow a plant in a closet, never leave the house, and make twice as much as you do, and never pays a cent in taxes? It's not like you see a bunch of hippies opening up brewpubs." If the GOP can use their base's continued engagement in the culture wars of the '60s and '70s by framing legalization as the only logical way to control and punish (through "sin" taxes) the users of cannabis, they could radically revitalize their party.

    Just in time for 2012 when a vocally pro-marijuana legalization, anti-prohibition former governor of New Mexico named Gary Johnson will be fighting for the Republican nomination.

    If you ask me, supporting legalization (especially if that is done from the safety of a strict constitutionalist as opposed to openly libertarian perspective) is almost a no-brainer.

    Drug legalization is a loser for Democrats, and a potential winner for Republicans.

    So take that and do nothing with it, nonexistent Republican leadership!

    posted by Eric at 01:48 PM | Comments (2)

    "fast and loose with the facts"?

    Like most people, I have opinions, and I naturally tend to be biased in favor of my own. I know I am partisan, but I do try to admit my biases as honestly as I can, and where it comes to facts, I try to be as accurate as possible. When I am clearly wrong about facts -- especially facts that are vital to an argument in a post -- and someone shows that I am, then I have a responsibility to admit the mistake and make corrections as necessary. When a commenter accuses me of dishonesty, I often feel forced to go the extra mile and check my facts as carefully as possible. Even though it takes time, and I find it very annoying, sometimes it's part of the price I have to pay for writing these posts and allowing comments.

    Such is the case with a commenter who took issue with my contention that a single glass of wine could result in a .04 blood alcohol content (BAC):

    Your argument would be more persuasive if you yourself didn't play fast and loose with the facts. You do not get to a .04 after a glass of wine -- not unless you're talking about a much bigger than normal glass or MUCH higher than normal alcohol content. Or, I suppose, unless you're a tiny person. A normal 4oz glass of wine consumed over an hour dinner by a a 120lb female would get her to about a .02. Make that a 180lb man and you're less than a .01.

    There are several online BAC calculators you can look at. One decent one is www.bloodalcoholcalculator.org/. It seems pretty unbiased (they even include a link to help you find a lawyer if you get arrested for DUI).

    Second, if you DO get to a .04, you probably SHOULD NOT be driving. All of the science on this demonstrates that impairment begins far below a .08. Much of the world has a much lower BAC limit. Finland - .05. Germany - .05. Greece - .05. India - .03. Israel - .05. Japan - .03. Russia - .05. Taiwan - .05.

    Even wine-loving France and Italy are .05.

    Drug-loving Netherlands are .05.

    I don't care whether you like MADD or not, but you do a disservice to reasoned debate when you present inaccurate or misleading facts.


    OK, while my post was not about the rest of the world, it just so happens that "much of the world" is run by governments which are totalitarian in nature and much if not most of the world has gun control. Is that an argument in favor of totalitarianism or gun control?

    As to the accuracy of my "single glass" claim, while I wanted to sound off when I saw the comment, it seemed premature until I had a chance to carefully verify the accuracy of my claim with calculations.

    The exact BAC which might result from a glass of wine would depend on two things:

  • how much alcohol is in a glass of wine; and
  • how much the drinker weighs.
  • Obviously, there are a lot of people out there, and I cannot be expected to perform detailed calculations for everyone. But because this is my blog, and the argument involved my post, I thought I would personalize this by looking at what my own BAC might be if I had a glass of wine in my usual manner.

    I am a red wine drinker (I like Spanish wine the best), and I took a picture of a label from one of the bottles in my basement.


    Its alcohol content is 13.9%. (I am sure some wines have more and some have less, and while I never gave the matter much thought, that just happens to be one of the wines I drink.)

    As to glasses, I have several wine glasses, and they vary in size. Here are three which were recently used and still sitting around unwashed:


    I have accumulated them at random, and until now I never paid any particular attention to size, but in the interests of accuracy, I used a standard graduated kitchen mixing cup (marked in ounces) to fill each glass with water. The Cherry Creek Cellars glass on the left (from which I was drinking last night) contains exactly seven ounces, the unmarked glass in the middle contains six ounces, and the Robinette Cellars glass on the right contains five ounces. I was not trying to see how much they might possibly hold; I just started by filling the larger one and because I saw that it comfortably held seven ounces, I figured the middle one might hold six (which it does), and the smallest one would hold five. In fairness, the small one is probably considered a four ounce glass, but nevertheless, when filled, it will hold five.

    As to what constitutes a glass of wine, I don't know. It strikes me that any one of the above glasses, if filled with wine, could fairly be called a glass of wine. Or am I wrong? The commenter seems quite insistent that a glass of wine is only four ounces. Is that a universal rule? A technical term, perhaps? Am I allowed to drink from a larger-than-four-ounce glass? Or does that destroy the integrity of my argument?

    Now, I can't speak for my readers (I'm sure some are larger and some are smaller), but my weight ranges from 130-150 lbs, and I drink red wine most evenings. Because I stand accused of dishonesty by that commenter, my question is a simple one.

    Would be possible for me, drinking at home in my usual fashion, to achieve a BAC of .04 after consuming one glass of wine?

    Geez, this is starting to sound like one of those debunking-the-myth style reality shows. Perhaps I should get a breathalyzer and do a YouTube video!

    OK, I realize that none of this is scientific, but using the blood alcohol calculator cited by the commenter, I entered my weight, but because of the size of my glasses and because the commenter's argument is based on the assumption of a four ounce glass, I thought I should try to come up with six ounces, which would work out to 1.5 glasses if the calculator is based on a four ounce glass size.

    Guess what? I'm over .04 with either the glass on the left or the glass in the middle:


    However, that approximation really doesn't satisfy me, because what I really want is to arrive at the most accurate possible calculation of what my actual BAC would be.

    It didn't take much looking to find a much more mathematically precise way to calculate my BAC based solely on my body weight and the actual weight of the alcohol in a glass of wine.

    From "How to Calculate Blood Alcohol Content":

    Convert the ounces of the drink consumed to grams for easier calculation of percentage. Multiply the number of ounces by 28.35 to find the number of grams. If you have consumed five ounces of alcohol, you have consumed 141.75 grams of alcohol.

    Determine the drinker's weight. Convert pounds to kilograms for easier calculation. Divide the number of pounds by 2.205 to find the number of kilograms. Multiply the kilograms by 1,000 to find the number of grams. For example, a 150 pound person weighs about 68.03 kilograms, or 68,030 grams.

    Use the drinker's weight in grams to determine the amount of blood in the drinker's body. Men typically have 58 percent blood or water and women have 49 percent blood or water in their body weight. This number may vary, but these are good estimates. For a 150 pound man, multiply 68,030 by .58 to determine that he has 39, 457.4 grams of blood in his body.

    Divide the grams of alcohol consumed by the grams of blood in the body and multiply by 100 to find the percentage of alcohol in the blood. A 150 pound man who has had 10 shots of 100 proof liquor has roughly a .36 percent blood alcohol content. At this level he has probably blacked out.

    OK, that might not be precise enough to satisfy a scientist in a laboratory, but I think it's precise enough to settle my question beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.

    A six ounce glass of my red wine (6 divided by times 13.9% *) contains .834 ounces of alcohol. According to the above formula, that's 23.6439 grams of alcohol by weight.

    I weigh 63,492 grams, so according to the formula, my blood should weigh in at 36,825 grams. Dividing the weight of the alcohol in my six ounce glass by the weight of the blood and multiplying times 100, I get a whopping BAC of....



    That is not enough to be legally drunk now, but considerably over the .04 which is being advocated by M.A.D.D. activists as a national standard.


    I hate math, but the above number inclined me to do more calculating. Damn, I wish these commenters didn't put me to so much work, but the more I contemplated having a BAC of .06 after a six ounce glass of wine, the more I wondered whether I might hit the .04 BAC after drinking merely a four ounce glass of wine.


    13.9% of 4 ounces is .556 ounces of alcohol, which multiplied by 28.5 yields an alcohol weight of 15.486 grams. Divide that by my blood weight of 36,825 grams, and my BAC becomes......


    (drumroll please)



    That's after drinking the wine out of the smallest glass I have, yet not as filled as it is in the picture.

    And remember.

    The M.A.D.D. activists want to make me a felon for getting behind the wheel after drinking a small glass of wine.

    I repeat. This is an outrage, and I think I just proved what I had thought was a fairly simple point.

    Anyone who still thinks I am playing fast and loose with the facts, feel free to sound off.

    MORE: I should probably add that the commenter's insistence that a glass of wine contains four ounces may be mistaken, as I have been told the standard glass of wine is five ounces.

    So, assuming my single glass of wine holds five ounces, then my BAC would be .0538 -- well above the proposed .04 standard.

    No matter how I figure it, if the law is changed as the activists demand, I'd be a felon behind the wheel after a glass of wine.

    AND MORE: I missed a decimal place in the BAC. It should have been .04205.

    Corrected. Thanks Charlie!

    * My Windows Accessory calculator gives me the same result whether I press the divide key or the multiply key, as long as I press the "%" key after 13.9. Yet this is wrong. Does anyone know why the answer would be the same?

    posted by Eric at 12:35 PM | Comments (15)

    Forward To Liberty

    From time to time my friend Eric gets a good pixel lashing for not discussing what some commenter thinks he should cover.

    So let me discuss the more profound event. The things not asked for or discussed. Because that which is empty is as pregnant with meaning as that which is full. What is not being discussed (much) is social issues.

    This is purely anecdotal but, in a comment I had a social conservative give way on issues I would never have expected. With the usual quibble of course ("as long as I don't have to pay for it" - fine with me, in fact I think that is the point). Of course there is still the contentious issue of abortion. But I have an answer for that: You Want What??????????????

    Now in years past such a post on abortion would have started a right nice flame war. Crickets.

    And about time too. Because David Axelrod has a plan.

    The president's influential counselor, David Axelrod, attempted this week to insinuate into the election what Democrats used to deride as "wedge issues." In an interview he said abortion will "certainly be an issue," for Democrats. It will be raised "across the country."
    Well good for him. I have provided an answer that should shut him down in short order. Here. Again: You Want What??????????????

    I think my social conservative friends are getting it. A libertarian stance towards politics is safest. Any thing else just feeds the beast.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:03 AM | Comments (2)

    A Song For This Season

    This Peggy Noonan piece matches the music most excellently.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:52 AM | Comments (0)

    Good Advice

    You won't believe this but every once in a while Peggy Noonan gets it.

    "Congressman Smith cheated on his wife." That's her problem. Cut my taxes.

    It is one of the reasons I'm supporting Christine O'Donnell in DE. I don't care about her private views on anything. In fact I find them endearing. She's not perfect? Perfect! As long as she doesn't try to legislate her views. And reduces government. Cut my taxes indeed!

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:44 AM | Comments (0)

    You Want What??????????????

    You want to put the government in charge of my daughter's reproductive organs not to mention my mate's?

    Are You Fucking Nuts?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:13 PM | Comments (3)

    There is not enough, because there is never enough

    One of my ongoing arguments with the blogosphere in general (and this applies to left and right) is this idea that what you don't write about is not only significant, but that your "omissions" are somehow damning. Not writing about something is taken by self appointed scolds as evidence that you don't care, or even that you might be hiding something. A classic example of scolding bloggers for not writing about something would be Andrew Sullivan's attacking on Glenn Reynolds for not writing about one or another Matter of Great Importance to Sullivan.

    Fortunately for me, I am not in that league where high-profile bloggers will be keeping a tally of what I don't write about, so most of the "pressure" I feel is not direct pressure coming from other bloggers. To the extent I feel pressure, it is self-imposed, and entirely my fault, for unless a post takes me to task personally, I am entirely free to ignore any post intending to scold the blogosphere for its omissions.

    However, what should matter to me is not what other people think I should write about, but what I think I should write about, and I freely admit that there are things I don't write about as much as I think I should. Sometimes it is because I don't want to repeat myself or appear to be a scold, other times it is because I feel ignorant about the topic, and sometimes it's because the topic is just too vast, too complicated, and too gigantic for me to intelligently cover in a blog post. Blogging has its limitations, and one of them is that I cannot crank out Ph.D. dissertation-style material and have it all ready and perfect by noon with just two cups of coffee as fuel.

    A perfect example is the drug war. Or would that be the War on Drugs? No, they're supposed to be dropping the term now, so the war on whatever. Or is it a war? If it is, then I'm not a war blogger, as I have said countless times. Luckily for me M. Simon does not hesitate to blog about the War On Drugs. Every time he does, I feel as if a great burden has been lifted.

    But still.

    There is this nagging sense that I am not doing my job, because not only do I have very strong feelings about this issue, but the issue has gotten so incredibly complicated that it's almost unbloggable. Hell, I spent two long posts just kvetching about a single bureaucratic program (the prescription drug database), and even there I feel that I fell short. Think tanks spend years coming up with these fiendish and invasive schemes, and then I come along and imagine that I can make headway by spending a few hours on a post? The idea is almost laughable. Yet I have this blog, and I have to speak up. How loudly and how often and in how much detail -- therein lies the rub. For I hate to be a broken record or a scold. Regular readers know how I feel, and I don't think I am going to persuade anyone with these posts. The drug war is a hot button issue, and like most hot-button issues, people's minds are made up one way or another. The best I can hope to do is maybe point to something people haven't thought about before, and in the case of the prescription drug database, I noticed that it was one of those things they slipped through under the radar. So whether people are for it or against it, it strikes me that letting them know about it is entirely legitimate pursuit -- regardless of whether anyone agrees with me that it violates the 4th Amendment rights of citizens.

    I think the ever-increasing complexities of the drug war are making intelligent discussions next to impossible. Which is why most drug war discussions focus on the simple issue of whether drugs should be legalized. It's an easy way to avoid having to slog through incredible amounts of detail.

    I do it all the time. I just say RELEGALIZE DRUGS. I see it as a simple issue of morality, and while I know I have said this countless times, in the interest of being upfront about my bias, once again let me restate the simplistic moral argument I uttered in 2004:

    Those who would imprison their fellow citizens for medicating their pain are without conscience, and it's scary. Those who hurt those for the "crime" of hurting themselves (if that's what medicating pain is), who put them in prison, are guiltier of far more heinous crimes.

    They better hope there isn't a hell.

    Pure emotion. I get carried away where it comes to putting people in prison, because prison is a terrible place where terrible things happen, and I think it is deeply immoral to send people to prison for the crime of self harm.

    Which means I think the war on drugs is deeply immoral, and it makes me ashamed to be paying taxes in a country which is waging a war against human appetites considered harmful. And of course, the federal part of the war is also unconstitutional, as the Constitution was never properly amended to give the federal government power to prohibit drugs as it was in the case of alcohol.

    So much for the simple, morality and the Constitution-based arguments.

    Where the drug war starts to get complicated is when we move to the economic side and start treating business transactions between consenting parties as criminal activities. It is tough to analyze any market, but the complexities of the illegal substance marketplace is mind-boggling, and it becomes even more mind-boggling when we consider the international dynamics.

    There have always been and there will always be consumers and distributors of drugs. If we look at the history of drug criminalization, while most people think it started with the 1914 Harrison Narcotic Act, a close examination reveals that the Act was seen by many at the time not so much as a domestic law, but as an international treaty obligation. Some background:

    Following the Spanish-American War the U.S. took the Philippines. Confronted with a licensing system for opium addicts, a Commission of Inquiry was appointed to examine alternatives to this system. The Brent Commission recommended that narcotics should be subject to international control.

    This proposal was supported by the United States Department of State and in 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt called for an international opium conference, the Shanghai Commission in 1909. In 1906 an imperial edict, had been published prohibiting the cultivation and smoking of opium in the Chinese Empire over a period of ten years. This was being implemented with greater success than had been anticipated [ [http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/bulletin/bulletin_1959-01-01_1_page006.htmlm UNOCD:The Shanghai Opium Commission] ] The British Empire had since the Opium war in the 1840s by military means forced China to allow a large import of opium from India.

    A second conference was held at The Hague in 1911, and out of it came the first international drug control treaty, the International Opium Convention of 1912.

    The Secretary of State "urged that the law be passed to fulfill the obligation of the new international treaty." Support for the law was fueled by blatantly racist sentiments, and it of course passed without much worry over whether it was constitutional.

    But the issue of international opium distribution underlying the Harrison narcotics was hardly new and did not start with the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. In the previous century, China fought two Opium Wars with the British, and lost. The merits of the Chinese position against opium can be debated either way, and there were other dimensions to the debate (including the way Chinese wanted British merchants to degrade themselves), but it illustrates the complexities of applying a simple market analysis to international transactions. The Chinese government was trying to stop importation of something many of its citizens wanted, and I think that planted a kernel that ultimately led to a modern trend.

    If people in Country A want something, and people in Country B have that thing, there exists supply and demand. When the government interferes for whatever reason, economic analysis is complicated, and the picture changes. Laws passed in Country A can create enormous opportunities for Country B.

    Lots of Americans ("consumers" if you will) want drugs. Because Americans are affluent, if the drugs they want are to be found in other countries, then it is simply inevitable that these countries have an economic incentive to supply what Americans want. We are Country A, and throughout the long and twisted history of the drug war, many a country has been in the position of being Country B.

    Back in the old, pre-SWAT team days, when there were still guys called "narcs" who actually wore suits and knocked on doors to serve search warrants, drugs came from countries like Turkey, and they would be refined and routed through Sicily, Corsica, France. A fun (now nostalgic) flick from those days was "The French Connection."

    As the European routes drew the focus of the authorities, naturally the production and distribution routes shifted, and the Golden Era of the Golden Triangle (Burma, Laos, etc.) began. And a lot of heroin now originates from Afghanistan and Mexico, so naturally these places are the focus of the interminable effort to strike at the supply of what American consumers want.

    But as I'm still mired in the 1960s, I thought it might be worth sharing a link to an interview with Dr. Robert DuPont, who headed the Nixon era Narcotics Treatment Administration. I realize modern Americans might find it surprising that there ever was a Narcotics Treatment Administration, but there was, and it was something that happened under the much-maligned Richard Nixon. Like him or not, any accurate history of the war on drugs would have to acknowledge that he was the first American president to dabble with drug legalization. He was the guy who legalized methadone for addicts. Here's an excerpt from the DuPont interview:

    And the NTA got a lot of criticism about methadone treatment?

    Methadone was just horrible from a political point of view, just a total disaster. It was an orphan from beginning to end, and it is today. I think the simplest way to say it is that it's an addicting drug. How can you treat addiction with an addicting drug? At the end of the day, you're not going to make that sale. It's not going to happen. So we never got over that problem, and it was always pushing a rock up a mountain, only to have it fall back down on you over and over again. . . .

    I remember meeting one of the leaders of Washington society, who was a very famous man. I'd seen his name in the news for years, and to meet him and his wife at a reception, I was very proud. I was very much in the news at that time and so he introduced me. He had known me from some context to do with NTA, and he introduced me to his wife. She spit on me and said she wouldn't talk to me, wouldn't shake my hand. And I was dumbfounded by that. What happened? I never met her before. And the answer was that she was really upset about methadone, and to her, I was the guy who was bringing methadone to the city, to the country and she was registering what she felt about it. That was very shocking. . . .

    But it was much more difficult even than that. Nixon was tremendously unpopular, especially toward the end, especially with the human services. The kind of environment in which we live was full of people who had animosity toward Nixon. The fact that we were associated--that methadone and its expansion was associated with Nixon--that was a tremendous problem. And then there was the racial aspect of it, which was very difficult for me to deal with. Ninety percent of the patients were black. The city was seventy-one percent black, and I was obviously white. There was a charge that this was racist, that this was a form of enslaving the black, young men in the nation's cities. That was, I think, the most vicious of the anti-methadone kind of arguments. . . .

    Another time, I was on the Howard University radio station. I was talking with a young black man was the deputy head of the local competing drug treatment program. He and I were talking, and he announced that the community had to get rid of people like me, and that he was recommending murder--that I be killed because of what I was doing to the community. The host of the show acted as if this was a normal kind of conversation. And this was on the air. . . .

    It was a pretty painful experience for a young guy who saw himself as trying pretty hard to do something helpful--to realize that, to an awful lot of people, I was only a symbol. And it was not a symbol they liked, and it didn't matter what I said. . . .

    What did methadone symbolize that was so terrible?

    Enslavement. It was enslaving the black underclass. It was robbing, it was the narcotic, the opiate of the masses, being given out by the government for political purposes, to make docile the revolutionaries who were otherwise going to free themselves and change the society. That's the way people thought, what some people thought. And it was done for political purposes. I was the agent of Richard Nixon and it was anti-black, anti-poor. . . .

    But the epidemic was stopped cold in 1972. That is so amazing, how you see 30 years later, that was one experiment that seemed to work.

    We started NTA on February 18, 1970, and we had a goal of treating all the addicts in the city, with the goal of having an impact on heroin addiction and crime and life in the city. And the most remarkable fact about it is that we did it. The crime rate was cut in half, and heroin overdoses almost ended in the city. We couldn't find addicts to get into treatment by 1973. It was an experiment that worked, and it worked to a very high level, way beyond anything anyone could have imagined. It went on to have a profound effect on national policy. That's the good news.

    I realize that this long-lost story fits no one's narrative, but I find it fascinating that "black leaders" who opposed methadone were acting not unlike the Chinese who were trying to stop the British from bringing in opium.

    The common denominator always seems to be one of trying to stop some people from supplying other people what they want.

    By modern standards, the drug war was pretty measly under the Nixon administration, although I think the man made a couple of noteworthy points, whether he meant to or not. One is that drug legalization in one form or another (in Nixon's case, methadone, which is basically the medical model of legalization) can be more effective than law enforcement. The other he unwittingly proved through Operation Intercept, which shut down the border with Mexico and wreaked such economic havoc. Vigorous enforcement of the law creates absolute chaos. It also creates opportunities, and it was Operation Intercept that ironically planted the seeds which led to the realization by the sharper Mexican entrepreneurs that thanks to the Drug War their country had become a true land of opportunity:

    In the end, the crisis did push Mexico into committing more resources to a concerted drug eradication and enforcement policy, and led to Operation Condor in the 1970s, which included a defoliation campaign using the toxic "Paraquat" herbicide. But whatever the intended outcome was, Intercept also led to a series of unintended consequences that undermined the lessons the U.S. longed to teach Mexico.

    Combined with effects of the global war on drugs during the Nixon administration, Mexico's attack on marihuana growers and the end of the opium trade in Turkey resulted in a new and hungry heroin market in the United States, which incipient Mexican crime organizations were only too happy to fulfill. The introduction of Colombian cocaine in the mid-1970s helped transform Mexico's traffickers into a powerful mafia that could afford sophisticated technology to protect its interests, and the enormous drug profits that ensued threatened to destroy Mexican law enforcement with new levels of corruption.

    But in my haste to simplify (and also because I am getting hungry and haven't had a bit to eat), I got ahead of myself and nearly forgot another major player.

    Ronald Reagan. Say what you will about him, but everyone makes mistakes, and I think the ramping up of the drug war under Reagan was his biggest mistake. This is not to imply that the War on Drugs itself is a Reagan creation and a Reagan mistake, for he built upon and enlarged upon what was already there. However, there has been a persistent pattern (IMO a mistaken one) which became policy during his administration: the focus on and singling out of individual countries -- and even individual dealers -- as if here at last we have found and solved the drug problem.

    It was Columbia!



    No, it was Pedro Escobar!

    Manuel Noriega!

    The Medellin Cartel!

    The Cali Cartel!

    The endless focus on evil countries and the innumerable "drug kingpins" they contain has such a long history that I could spend an entire day just writing about them, and it would be inadequate to cover the subject. I realize the above is a greatly abbreviated list, but it's just off the top of my head based on my memory of living through those ridiculous years. The public imagination was constantly titillated with images of lavish palaces, official corruption on a grand scale, and how our patriotic boys from the DEA were working with Delta Force so that this time, they would at last bring the criminals to justice and "the war" would come that much closer to being "won."

    All of these drug-supplying countries, kingpins, and fiefdoms, whether large or small, near our border or far way, are as replaceable as worn out tires. They are as irrelevant to the Drug War as Al Capone was to Prohibition. Sure, Al Capone could have been taken out (and eventually was -- for income tax evasion), but had he been taken out at the height of his power, that would have accomplished little more than creating a new opportunity for another eager, probably more vicious, entrepreneur.

    What really complicates the War on Drugs (and please forgive my inconsistent capitalization; I don't know what the rules are for this; although I see that the War on Poverty is capitalized) is that it might just be on the verge of turning into a real war. At least the War on Poverty never did that.

    The present situation in Mexico involves not one or two cartels, but eight of them: the Beltran Leyva Cartel, the La Familia Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Juarez Cartel, the Los Negros Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel, and the Los Zetas Cartel. Most of them have sub-cartels and are headed by the usual lineup of completely replaceable "kingpins." (It would take at least a day to become knowledgeable about all of them.)

    It's turned into a real, hugely complicated shooting war, and our border is now direly endangered.


    Because American consumers want what these now-warring suppliers have.

    At some point, I think this country needs to ask itself whether it's worth it and how far it should go. Sure, we could go to war with Mexico for its failure to pursue the cartels to our satisfaction, and in the case of an all out war, things might get difficult enough for the suppliers of American consumers that they might decide to move their operations to safer places, or even close up shop.

    But as we have seen before, there are other countries in the world.

    American is the country with the biggest demand. Yet America is literally at war internationally with supply, which is seen as the enemy. And domestically, America is at war with demand.

    We are waging war against a vast demand and an infinite supply during a period of economic crisis.

    The enemies and potential enemies in this war are everywhere.

    Sorry I can't solve it in a blog post. No wonder I don't blog about it enough. I couldn't blog about it enough even if I tried.

    Reminds me of that saying about drugs, once is too many and a thousand times is not enough...

    (No, it looks as though that particular saying was about booze. Not to change the subject, but might the wars against addictive substances become addictive wars?)

    Anyway, I think the war on drugs is immoral, unconstitutional, and unwinnable.

    And I have to eat lunch.

    posted by Eric at 01:13 PM | Comments (3)

    Bill Whittle Has Moved

    He is going to be doing a lot of things. The best one is he will be on YouTube for free. And you know what you have to do.


    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:39 AM | Comments (2)

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