1979 all over again?

That's what Michael Ledeen is saying is true in a number of ways. One is that as was the case with the Shah, Mubarak is being sent mixed messages:

...Mubarak has to know exactly what we want.  Do we know what we want?  My impression is that we are confused, just as in 1979.  Obama's statement the other day (yesterday if I remember rightly) was not encouraging.  "The future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people" and we will support them.  What does that mean?  There's a fight going on, and we have to take sides.  I think Mubarak is entitled to wonder just what we want, and that's dangerous, because it means that his decisions will be driven at least in part by guesswork and suspicion.

As I've said, that we have come to this impasse shows a long-standing policy failure, just as it did in Iran in 1979.  We should have supported democratic opposition forces all along (footnote:  it's quite amusing to hear former officials proclaiming "we can't support dictatorship" when they did precisely that when they were in office.  Including some, like C. Rice, who promised to support democrats and then didn't.).  But we didn't, the London Telegraph's misleading headline writers notwithstanding.  Now we have no attractive options.  Too bad.

It's always nice to support democracy, but what happens when democracy is not nice? What if "democracy" takes the form of a populist uprising in support of an Islamic state? Are we to support that, even if the result is a loss of democracy itself? Many movements which resulted in total loss of freedom began as populist in nature. What if the majority are willing to jettison democracy in the name of Islam? Is that democratic?

And what is populism? Is that necessarily good by definition? Why? Because it's "The People"? How many people have been killed in the name of "The People"?

Even in this country (and sometimes even among people I like), I have seen a sloppy tendency to follow the thoughts of others rather than reach a conclusion as a result of independent thinking. An egotistical loudmouth I will not name glared at me for not applauding him when he loudly proclaimed what it was that he considered "the number one issue in this country!" I didn't mean to hurt his feelings or anything like that; I just didn't think it was the number one issue, so why would I have applauded? I mean, we are Americans, right? It's not as if we have to applaud a line in a speech just because everyone else applauds, and it isn't as if the speaker is Stalin and penalties attach. But I have seen too many Americans (across the spectrum) who are just willing to go along with the loudest voices and the biggest numbers, and it worries me, because if it's that way here I can only imagine what it's like in a place without our long tradition of freedom. In fact, if I had more balls I should have yelled "HOW DARE YOU GLARE AT ME FOR FAILING TO APPLAUD!" at the guy, whom I am too cowardly (or too sensible) to name, and whose "number one issue" I am too cowardly to mention. It's a peripheral point involving a much-discussed domestic issue having nothing to do with Egypt, and I neither want to single out anyone or start an argument. Because whenever you say you disagree with a self-appointed leader, some follower or another will interepret that as an invitation for debate, and I find such debates tedious -- especially debates with someone who is a follower of someone else.

If you think something because someone told you that you must think it, do you really think that thing? Or are you following? There is something about being obligated to applaud when you don't agree that strikes me as inherently tyrannical, and if there is one thing I distrust more than leaders who demand obedience, it is their followers who enforce it. Debating such people is a complete waste of time. (Probably another of my personality problems, but it's a reason I prefer blogging to getting in people's faces and yelling at them.)

Crowds are fickle, though, because people tend to go along with whatever the group seems to demand, and they are easily herded easily. People want to be leaders and followers. What starts as a democratic movement can quickly be manipulated into something tyrannical. 

Calling such a process "democracy" is just a step away from joining in the crowd's applause.

Needless to say, there was plenty of applause when the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran:

...on December 10 and 11, a "total of 6 to 9 million" anti-shah demonstrators marched throughout Iran. According to one historian, "even discounting for exaggeration, these figures may represent the largest protest event in history." [104]

It is almost unheard of for a revolution to involve as much as 1 percent of a country's population. The French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917, perhaps the Romanian Revolution of 1989 - these may have passed the 1 percent mark. Yet in Iran, more than 10% of the country marched in anti-shah demonstrations on December 10 and 11, 1978.[13]

I realize that the 10% figure is hardly "democracy," but just look at the election results when a referendum was held:

On March 30 and 31 (Farvardin 10, 11) a referendum was held over whether to replace the monarchy with an "Islamic Republic" -- a term not defined on the ballot. Khomeini called for a massive turnout[149] and only the National Democratic Front, Fadayan, and several Kurdish parties opposed the vote.[149] It was announced that 98.2% had voted in favor.[149]

Probably wouldn't have been a good idea to vote "NO."

Much less be caught not applauding.... 

posted by Eric at 10:01 AM | Comments (1)

Hate Is The Object

In my post Hating The Andromeda Galaxy I looked at the necessity of hate in politics. I discuss some of the repercussions of that in Strange Connection.

Today I came across a site discussing those very issues from a biological perspective. The Market for Sanctimony.

Two unspoken questions that religions and quasi-religions, in practice, have to answer are "Whom do I have permission to use as a scapegoat?" and "What lies may I tell myself in order to feel morally superior to my competitors?" In Jerry Falwell's church, you have permission to use homosexuals as scapegoats. At a Green Party meeting, you have permission to use capitalists as scapegoats.
Yep. Which is one of the reasons I suggested the human race unite in hating the Andromeda Galaxy. We could then be united in hatred.
When it becomes too embarrassing for people to engage in a particular kind of moral fraud, they will usually substitute a different kind of moral fraud rather than give up their feelings of moral superiority. Thus, to a first approximation, we have a principle of "Conservation of Irrationality:"

(1) much of the irrational behavior associated with religion is related to people having a craving for ego justification,

(2) changing a person's theological beliefs has little effect on his tendency to crave ego justification, and

(3) politics is the continuation of religion by other means.

Irrationality is Conserved? All the more need for a War On Andromeda.

Andromeda - 405px-1869_Edward_Poynter_-_Andromeda.jpg
Andromeda (1869) Edward Poynter

Well that last bit was just an excuse for a picture of a naked lady. Art don'cha know? Besides. I'm partial to red heads. And blonds. And brunettes. And given the right circumstances even green hair. Uh. Where was I?

...it's impossible to diagnose a problem correctly if the actual cause is not a member of the approved boogieman list, and one is committed to only blaming members of the approved list (having "ideological blinders" or what Eric Raymond called "historical baggage").
Question: "Why do you keep hitting that nail when what you have to do is tighten the screw?" Answer: "I hate nails. I'd rather be hitting nails than screwing." Yep there are folks out there like that. Almost all of them in fact.

The next bit doubles down on that question and answer in spades. (Can you double down in Hearts?)

Part of the reason for the "slippery slope" phenomenon is that Progressivism is a positional good. The point of Progressivism is to distinguish oneself as being smarter than and morally superior to the average voter. One consequence of this is that Progressives have no fixed goal for the optimal size and scope of government. There is no such thing as "enough." Whatever the average voter has become acclimated to has to be "not enough" so that the Progressives can be smarter than average.

The solution for out-of-control government is not constitutional change, but psychological change. To paraphrase what Andrei Codrescue said of the USSR, what we need are not economic advisors (or constitutional lawyers), what we need are psychiatrists.

Progressives want mommy to make it nice (especially for them) and Conservatives want to find the designated miscreants and punish them. Libertarians just want to be left alone. Forgetting Trotsky: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Which is to say that in more than a few cases it is better to get them before they get you.
Different flavors of moral fraud may be equally irrational, but they are not equally harmful. By analogy, smallpox and cowpox are both diseases, but smallpox is very often fatal, whereas cowpox almost never is. Furthermore, cowpox provides immunity from smallpox, just as, to a lesser extent, I claimed above that different flavors of moral fraud (ie. various flavors associated with Christianity and Socialism) tend to compete with one another (conservation of irrationality). Mencius Moldbug describes "Revelationist" Christianity as a "counterparasite" for "Universalism" (the modern Left).
I'd rather live without parasites (dogma). But that is just me. Evidently most people can't live without them.

There is an answer:

We know enough about the sociology of religion to identify a number of key properties that a good religion should have. A successful religion will inevitably have scapegoats; ideally these scapegoats should be beyond human capacity to harm, and should also be unlikely to inflict harm on humans as a result of being vilified. Gods or god substitutes (demigods) are also pretty much unavoidable, for reasons that are outside the scope of this essay. (See Paul Bloom regarding people's cognitive biases, but also Laurence Iannaccone on the advantages to practitioners of the supernatural of having gods on whom to blame their failures. Supposedly irreligious people often project semi-divine qualities onto the State.) A low religious Herfindahl index is good for society, so it is desirable if a religion forms schisms easily or can be given features that limit its market penetration to a few percent. It is desirable for a new religion to have a cosmology that is compatible with its target audience (we need naturalistic demigods, not supernatural ones, to attract scientifically literate converts). A spectacular eschatology (ie. fire and brimstone) is also nice to have to add color and purpose. Any scientific claims that an attractive religion makes should be at least as plausible as global warming catastrophism.
Well Christianity comes pretty close so what is wrong with it?
Q. ...why don't you embrace Christianity?

A. Do you mean "embrace" in terms of me joining a Christian church, or "embrace" in terms of applauding the spread of Christianity? I am relieved to hear reports of evangelical Christianity spreading in China and Latin America. Also, as a living religion, Christianity continues to evolve, so I think it's possible that some new versions of it will make a major comeback in the first world. But as it stands, Western intellectuals have had plenty of exposure to it, and they have turned their noses up at it. And it is the rich, powerful West, where I live, that I most care about. So I do embrace Christianity in the sense of wishing there were more "skeptical enlightenment" Christians in the West, and fewer "radical enlightenment" types, but I'm not holding my breath. Also, I don't really trust Christianity in any of its many versions not to revert to its romantic roots, which historically is where much of the impetus of the American "progressive" movement came from (Jonah Goldberg documents this in Liberal Fascism, for example pp. 215-220). In other words, the Christian "cowpox" doesn't provide reliable enough immunity to the Socialist "smallpox."

Well I'm not promising Utopia. Which is where most religion goes wrong. I'm promoting war on the Andromeda Galaxy.

I have only excerpted from the exposition. The essay is both amusing and confronts a real problem at the interface between human nature and governance. Go read the whole thing. And if you have to hate: the Andromeda Galaxy is just out there waiting for your attention.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:51 PM | Comments (14)

A river WHERE?

I'm back from the Michigan Republican Party State Convention in Grand Rapids, which was nowhere near as raucous as the one in Lansing in August. The strength of the Tea Party is undeniable -- so much so that the candidates were clearly competing for Tea Party support. I wish I had been quicker with my camera because at one point (during one of the many candidate videos) all four big screens behind the convention stage displayed the Gadsden Flag! A great moment for photo journalism, except I had to turn on my camera and by the time it was on with the lens extended, no more Gadsden. So I'm stuck having to whine about what a great photo it would have been in this blog. Tough to recreate a Gadsden moment with mere words. 

Oh, well.

Rick Snyder, the new governor, seems quite determined not only to cooperate with the Tea Party people, but he just exudes that Big Tent optimism which in fairness to him really did heighten the crest of the November 2 Republican wave. His "tough nerd" approach was seen as genuinely refreshing as well as reassuring -- and having him at the top of the ticket drew in centrists, independents, and a number of Democrats. A lot of conservatives and Tea Partyers grumble about him being a RINO, and while only time will tell whether he is that, the fact remains that he broadened the scope and the base of the Republican victory here. I think his presence at the top of the ticket might have even made the Tea Party revolution less frightening to those "squishy" independents and namby-pamby liberals who believe the tripe they're fed by the MSM. Something like that results more from human psychology than any genuine coalition, but I have never seen so many signs for a Republican in Ann Arbor as there were for Rick Snyder, and a lot of people have told me the same thing.

Anyway, from what I have been seeing, I would venture two observations. The Tea Party has become the backbone of the Republican Party in Michigan, and best of all, the coalition is holding. Libertarians and social conservatives not only coexist, but from what I have seen firsthand here, they are working together.

My biggest worry right now is premature, so I probably shouldn't be discussing it. There is an issue which has largely been avoided and which is fortunately not looming large before us. It has been on the back burner, and hopefully it will stay there, and I'd like to imagine that because it is not technically a Tea Party issue, Tea Partyers can just sort of agree to disagree where necessary and work around it the same way libertarians and social conservatives have been doing -- by focusing on the more important issues involving the oft-stated Tea Party Principles of --

Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

For a moment, I would like to contemplate those simple principles.

What makes them so beautiful is their serene silence about so many of the issues which divide conservatives.

Damn, there I went, using a word that doesn't appear in Tea Party Principles. Far from merely being silent about social issues like abortion, same sex marriage, or the legalization of drugs, Tea Party Principles say nothing about conservatism -- whether economic or social, or libertarianism in any of its manifestations, or even Republicanism.

It's just that the word "conservative" is used so much that it is beginning to serve as a catchall for everyone right of RINO (including libertarians and social conservatives).

What Tea Party principles are also silent about is something I am so reluctant to discuss that I feel like quitting this post right now and putting it off for another day. That would not constitute procrastination so much as it would simple avoidance.

Denial. There it is.

I want to deny that this issue exists, OK? It is potentially mean and ugly and divisive in ways that even the hottest button social issues are not. It strikes more at what it means to be a country, and I am feeling guilty for having avoided it as long as I have.

Funny thing I'd say that. Because the issue I'm avoiding has a long history in this blog.

War. You know, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all that national security stuff? The issue that has made Republicans and conservatives traditionally win with the voters, which seemed to nearly vanish in the last election as conservatism shifted its focus to the economy.

My point is that not only is war not a Tea Party issue, but it doesn't seem very "conservative" now, nor has it been "conservative" for some time. What a relief that has been!

If I may back up for a moment to the not so distant past, I can remember a time when the word "conservative" was synonymous with "war supporter." It was that way for the first five or six years of this blog. I complained about such an illogical definition, and so did a lot of people, because it placed many bloggers who were not philosophically conservative in the conservative camp. 

To say that times have changed would be understatement.

War has faded into political irrelevancy, and it is not a Tea Party issue, nor is it seen as factoring into whatever you want to call the current ideological debate for the heart and soul of conservatism, or even the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

I'm not comfortable with this issue, and much as I would like to stay in the nice state of denial, there's that saying that denial is a river in Egypt. (Not!) In an odd coincidence, Egypt came up as a topic of discussion yesterday among Tea Partyers I know. I may be hypersensitive, but I immediately detected an undercurrent of serious disagreement and I was so relieved that everyone had Barack Obama to blame. Having a convenient villain makes it so much easier for the Ron Paul libertarians (the backbone of the Tea Party in my area) to find a common philosophical ground which acts as a buffer between very different views on war and national security.

And anyway, I am so glad to be able to report that war and national security are, barely, still not Tea Party issues!

Is my denial still flowing?

How long can it last? 

(Anyway, I'm glad M. Simon is blogging about Egypt.)

MORE: I'm probably just being paranoid, but what I find most disturbing about the unreset in Egypt is a possible Zawahiri/al Qaeda connection:

Perhaps the president believes that the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian who headed the U.N. nuclear agency, will emerge from house arrest and take over.

Revolutions are seldom so neat.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's Egyptian-born right-hand man who merged al-Qaida with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, has long had designs on his native land.

In the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaida, "The Looming Tower," Lawrence Wright notes that Zawahiri's "strategy was to force the Egyptian regime to become even more repressive, to make the people hate it. In this he succeeded."

Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was as afraid of real capitalism as of political dissent. The Heritage Foundation's latest Index of Economic Freedom gives Egypt poor marks despite recent "incremental reforms to liberalize the socialist economy."

Egypt's GDP growth fell markedly in the wake of the global financial crisis, and government corruption and the lack of a dependable rule of law in the economic sphere are factors that have kept poverty and unemployment painfully high -- poisonously mixed with political repression.

Even so, should Mubarak fall, there is real danger of the Islamic Brotherhood imperiling this U.S. ally. Barack Obama sure picked a foolish place to give a community-organizing speech.

Zawahiri cut his political teeth in Egypt:

By the age of 14, al-Zawahiri had joined the Muslim Brotherhood. The following year the Egyptian government executed Qutb for conspiracy, and al-Zawahiri, along with four other secondary school students, helped form an "underground cell devoted to overthrowing the government and establishing an Islamist state." It was at this early age that al-Zawahiri developed a mission in life, "to put Qutb's vision into action."[13] His cell eventually merged with others to form al-Jihad or Egyptian Islamic Jihad.[14] Al-Zawahiri graduating from Cairo University in 1974 with gayyid giddan. Following that he served three years as a surgeon in the Egyptian Army after which he established a clinic near his parents.[14] In 1978, he also earned a master's degree in surgery.[15]

He was obsessed with killing President Sadat (for making peace with Israel), and of course eventually helped facilitate the deed:

He eventually became one of Egyptian Islamic Jihad's leading organizers and recruiters. Zawahiri's hope was to recruit military officers and accumulate weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch "a complete overthrow of the existing order."[23] Chief strategist of Al-Jihad was Aboud al-Zumar, a colonel in the military intelligence whose plan was to kill the main leaders of the country, capture the headquarters of the army and State Security, the telephone exchange building, and of course the radio and television building, where news of the Islamic revolution would then be broadcast, unleashing - he expected - a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country."[23]

The plan was derailed when authorities were alerted to Al-Jihad's plan by the arrest of an operative carrying crucial information, in February 1981. President Anwar Sadat ordered the roundup of more than 1500 people, including many Al-Jihad members, but missed a cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who succeeded in assassinating Sadat during a military parade that October.[24]

[edit] Imprisonment and torture

Al-Zawahiri was one of hundreds arrested following Sadat's assassination. Al-Zawahiri's lawyer, Montasser el-Zayat, contends that Zawahiri was tortured in prison.[25]

In his book, Al-Zawahiri as I Knew Him, Al-Zayyat maintains that under torture of the Egyptian police, following his arrest in connection with the murder of Sadat in 1981, Al-Zawahiri revealed the hiding place of Essam al-Qamari, a key member of the Maadi cell of al-Jihad, which led to Al-Qamari's "arrest and eventual execution."[26]

Al-Zawahiri was convicted of dealing in weapons and received a three-year sentence, which he completed in 1984 shortly after his conviction.[27]

After that it was on to Saudi Arabia, and the formation of Al Qaeda.

If a "populist revolution" led to Zawahiri being welcomed back to Egypt, that would mean war. (Needless to say, the "hawks" would have to support the Commander in Chief.)

Thus, there are legitimate concerns (which I heard expressed yesterday) about whether "democracy" can be carried too far.

MORE: Speaking of democracy, Zawahiri's name keeps cropping up in reports like this one today from CBS:

"The Islamic Brotherhood has assumed a role as the key representative of Egypt's underdog. In a volatile situation as we have today, these people have the perfect opportunity to be heard as never before," says a second Arab diplomat who until 2009 served at his country's embassy in Cairo. Speaking to CBS News (also on condition of anonymity), the diplomat warned: "Once Hosni Mubarak is gone, there will be calls for a more representative democracy. It would then be impossible to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out (of power), especially if Egypt holds elections."

For the U.S. and Israel, the political rise of the Islamic Brotherhood may translate into a hardening of Egypt's policies towards the two countries.

Egypt has the distinction of being the first Arab country which restored diplomatic ties to Israel after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, in spite of opposition from Islamic groups across the Muslim world.


Meanwhile, security officials in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region also warn of an uncertain future tied to ongoing U.S.-backed efforts for confronting hard line groups, notably the Taliban and al Qaeda. On the one hand, an abrupt regime change in Egypt will likely work to inspire dissident groups in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia to step up campaigns against their rulers.

On the other hand, there may be further uncertainty surrounding the future of an ongoing campaign by Egyptian security forces to target Islamic hardliners connected to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second highest ranking leader of al Qaeda.


The Egyptian doctor-turned-militant, who is the second-highest-ranking figure in his movement after Osama bin Laden, has been rumored to have quietly expanded the network of supporters in his native Egypt.

"I believe events in Egypt have a real chance of spilling over. This is a volcano with real lava waiting to spill over," said a Pakistani security official who spoke to CBS News on condition that he would not be named as he is not authorized to speak to journalists.

History shows that irreversibly bad stuff can happen fast. I will never forget the way so many Americans applauded the downfall of the Shah of Iran.

MORE: Richard Fernandez looks at who might be involved in "The Race for the Keys":

...it is quite likely that the Iranian secret service, the Syrians, and al-Qaeda are probably running as had as they can to get their hooks on the keys.  Those intelligence assets represent, depending on how you look at it, a record of brutality or incalculable value. Maybe they represent both. How hard will the administration fight to protect them, to snatch them up before the enemy does, is an interesting question. Or is that also beneath them?

You'd almost think this administration didn't believe in basic loyalty.

posted by Eric at 11:47 AM | Comments (5)

Blue Plate Special Jan.30

*For those who don't know it, the blue plate specials are back-list short stories which I will throw up here periodically.  For those fearing reading and being left hanging, it is a full short story.*

Stock Management

 Look, detective, my name is George Drake. My parents had a sense of humor, which -- I see, from your blank expression -- you don't appreciate.

Continue reading "Blue Plate Special Jan.30"

posted by Sarah at 10:47 AM | Comments (1)

The Muslim Brotherhood Liked Me

With the Muslim Brotherhood so much in the news because of Egyptian happenings and Instapundit's reprise of a 2005 Michael Totten piece I thought I would repeat a blog conversation we had in 2007.


I got a link from The Muslim Brotherhood. I asked Michael Totten if this was a good or a bad thing. He replied:

Considering which post they linked to, it is neither good nor bad.

The MB tries to put on a moderate face. And they are moderate compared with, say, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hezbollah. But they are only really moderate compared with the armed factions. They aren't our friends.

My response to him was
Thanks for the reply. And you got it exactly right on the mark. Brilliant.

What they linked to was:

I Found A Moderate Muslim


Which is to say they were trying to moderate their image without moderating their behavior.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:32 AM | Comments (0)

Strange Connection

The more reason, the more food.

The dogma ate my lunch.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

Egyptian Roundup 29 Jan

Al Jazeera streaming Internet coverage. Love the Brit accents of its reporters.

Al Jazeera's Egypt coverage embarrasses U.S. cable news channels

America-hating Jihadists in the Muslim Brotherhood well-positioned to take over after Mubarak toppled

Michael Totten: Egypt On Fire

Belmont Club Text Like An Egyptian

Telegraph UK - Egyptian News Roundup

New York Times - Egyptian News Roundup

Culture in the Islamic World:

Taliban stones woman to death, shoots man in ditch accused of Adultery.

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome. - Winston Churchill

Not much has changed since Winnie said that.

UGANDA: Leader of Gay Rights movement Brutally Murdered in his Home

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:59 AM | Comments (5)

Stripper Shortage In Texas

The end is nigh. Would that be front or rear?

TMZ.com reported that some strip clubs surrounding Cowboys stadium are looking for an additional 10,000 girls to entertain the overwhelming crowds expected during the Packers-Steelers matchup.

According to the website, Arlington city officials are expecting 300,000 visitors over Super Bowl weekend.

John Walsh, the manager of one local strip club, told the website he's looking for another 100-120 dancers that week.

Looks like a job opportunity for those who can meet the qualifications. Time to brush up your pole dancing. Shakespeare will not be in high demand.

There are educational materials:

The Art of Exotic Dancing: Striptease Series - Pole Dancing (exotic dancing)

Art of Exotic Dancing: Ultimate Striptease 3 DVD Set (lapdancing, pole dancing, dance moves)

Dr. Amy's Pole Workout! Volume One For Beginner to Intermediate Pole Dancers!

And even if you decide not to entertain in Dallas there is still your SO. Who will be eternally grateful. For a while.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:47 PM | Comments (3)


I'm going to be away in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the next couple of days, so my blogging will be light to nonexistent.

And alas! Snow is forecast for today and tomorrow across the entire state! (That's because of that Global Warming Killer Freezing thing, of course.... Freeze till you boil!)

Fortunately, there has been so much great blogging here lately that I can afford to get caught in a drift of snow, and my drifts of thought can wait till I get unstuck. 

posted by Eric at 08:52 AM | Comments (5)

Al Jazeera Live

Al Jazeera

Live streaming video and audio of happenings in Egypt. English.

posted by Simon at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

Getting Ready For The Revolution

Or War, or Anarchy, or Natural Disaster. Instapundit is looking at the question and the idea (necessity really) of amateur radio comes up. Now two way communication is excellent. But just being able to listen is good too.

I like this radio:

It covers from 150 KHz to 29.999 MHz in 1 KHz steps (with fine tuning you can get as close as your fingers will allow - good for SSB [Single Side Band]). It can do that funny Amateur Radio stuff like CW (Morse Code) and SSB. Plus the FM band (88 to 108 MHz) And 100 presets. Very handy come the revolution.

I must say that if you want to tune around a band it is kinda clunky. Everything is buttons (except for fine tuning). It has a search function that is kinda iffy for weak signals. So you kind of have to step around if you are searching for weak station DX (distance in radio parlance). But if you want to listen to Radio Moscow at 11,720 KHz - no problem. Or the comrades say they are going to be at 7,251 KHz USB (upper sideband) - easy. A few keyboard entries and you are done.

The radio also has an alarm (several in fact) plus you can wake up to the radio or fall asleep to it.

BTW with modern wall warts (plug in power supplies) you need a strong local station to overcome the power supply noise. So if battery use is an issue get rechargeables (4 - AA cells). This one looks nice. And the price is decent.

Sony Cycle Energy Power Charger with 4 2500 mAh AA Batteries

You are also going to need an antenna. This one for quick field setup (one like it came with my radio) is nice:

Sangean ANT-60 Short Wave Antenna

A pretty nice radio if you want to keep up with what the comrades are up to without giving away your location with a transmission.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:24 AM | Comments (5)

Hating The Andromeda Galaxy

I'm discussing (well a monologue so far) the nature of politics at Libertarians Are Not Anarchists!. Commenter Peter Jackson thinks he has figured it out.

There are three types of politics: the politics of social justice, the politics of public order/social virtue, and the politics of individual freedom.
But he misses something deeper.

There is another unspoken force in politics:

It does not actually want to solve problem xxxx. It wants an outlet for feelings of moral superiority. i.e. some one to punish. A scape goat.

Here is another take on the same idea:

"Distrust anyone in whom the desire to punish is powerful" Friedrich Nietzsche

Such folks are immune to reason. Why? Because what they do is not based on reason. It is based on a need for, as George Orwell put it: "two minutes of hate". I acknowledge that it is a powerful force in human nature. So I propose hating the Andromeda Galaxy. It should be safe from our hate for at least another few decades. Maybe longer.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:07 AM | Comments (8)

Cuts and Bleeding

With a $1.5T deficit in the news and the GOP sweeping into power promising spending cuts, I'm seeing a return of the left's hallowed 1990s standby: how dare we think of "balancing the budget on the back of the poor."

It would be nice if we could give everyone all the things they want or deserve on the basis of whether they are good, hardworking people rather than the value of their contributions as measured by the willingness of other people to recompense them for their efforts in voluntary exchanges -- especially if we could do so without seizing the production of other, more productive people. Unfortunately, we can't, and when we do seize the production of more productive people for the sake of the less productive (again, as measured by voluntary exchange), that tends to lead to people being less motivated to produce value (which is hard work, often the hardest part of which is determining what skills are valuable and obtaining them) and the effort to "fairly" distribute the fruits of production often leads to a general loss of freedom with often horrific consequences, such as the 50M who died in the Great Leap Forward. The question of whether we can do away with the marginal propensity to produce was sufficiently answered in the 20th century for anyone not living in North Korea -- even Cuba is now abandoning the notion.

Now, that doesn't mean we can't feed the less productive -- I have yet to hear anyone suggest cutting food stamps -- and help house , clothe, and provide medical care for them. It does mean we cannot promise them the ability to consume an arbitary amount of goods and services paid for by other people -- the more gov't seizes from those whose production is highly valued by society, the less incentive to produce.

It's all very well to moralize about the "most vulnerable," but remember even at 1998 levels of spending they still enjoy a standard of living almost unimaginably luxurious for the whole of human history -- again, paid for by other people. If you're going to suck the blood out of the productive for the sake of the unproductive today, you'd better be sure your sanguinary enterprise leaves the victims healthy enough not just to do it again tomorrow but also still able and willing to keep their shoulders thrusting against that grinding wheel of growing prosperity for all.

posted by Dave at 07:55 PM | Comments (3)


That would be:


Note that at four minutes into the video she has some very good words to say about libertarians.

Palin/Johnson 2012!

And do you know what comes after WTF? Stagflation and WIN buttons. Whip Inflation Now.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:20 PM | Comments (6)

Expensive Habit

Eric just did a post which lightly touched on a subject near and dear to my heart. So I'm crossposting this to add my 2¢.


I was discussing the Drug War with a Conservative friend. And the friend was all for it. So I had some thoughts.

Ah. I get it. You do not actually want to solve the drug problem. You want an outlet for your feelings of moral superiority. Very expensive habit. That. But it is all right. I know a LOT of people with the addiction.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:33 AM | Comments (4)

Why the have-nots covet the haves

Dr. Helen reviews a book which explores a vexing social problem of long fascination to me, and what I appreciate the most is the author's contribution of a new word to describe the phenomenon: "UNDERDOGMA."

I am reading a new book by Michael Prell called Underdogma: How America's Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power. The title pretty much describes the book which defines Underdogma as "the reflexive belief that those who have less power (underdogs) are good, and that those who have more power (overdogs) are bad."

This sort of thinking has long been dominant on the left, but I hardly think they invented it. It might reflect a natural tendency of those who have less to resent those who have more, exacerbated by another unfortunate natural tendency of people getting together and sharing their grudges, which tends to result in the collective "realization" that their resentments are entirely legitimate. 

Innumerable human interactions are increasingly being measured, judged, and penalized by the extent to which it is determined that there is some sort of "power imbalance."

What ought to frighten the more rational among us is that psychological research has shown that people are quite willing to destroy the wealth of others -- even when they have to expend their own wealth in order to do it.

Author Prell notes that the researchers called this Phenomenon "the dark side of human nature." He calls it Personal Underdogma.

Whatever name is used, it is a problem that needs a solution because as long as jealous citizens and politicians are willing to sabotage success even at expense to themselves, and thus society, losers will prosper and winners will lose. This can't be good for any society.

The phenomenon of resenting what belongs to others is at least as old as the Bible. They even have a commandment against it which everyone thinks is ridiculous. When I learned the commandments as a kid, I remember there was unanimous agreement over the impossibility of obeying "Thou shalt not covet." While this is ostensibly a very wise commandment (and the world would truly be a better place if everyone followed it), the very impossibility of obeying it tends to fuel resentment directed towards whatever wealth is desired. After all, if children are told it is bad to covet, it is quite natural for them to start thinking that what is coveted must be bad. But is not the goal of Christians to be generous and good? So this natural childish desire to have -- and if not have, destroy -- the coveted wealth becomes further transformed into a stated goal of attacking the wealth in an "unselfish" manner. Not for one's personal benefit of course, but for the benefit of everyone else. The Robin Hood syndrome. Jesus's condemnation of the greediness of rich people has doubtless supplied a considerable religious rationalization, and of course where religion left off, Marx picked up big time. 

The evil Nietzsche (who is of course blamed by certain moralists for Hitler and Stalin and nearly every modern wrong) criticized the religious aspects of this process as amounting to rule by the weak, and a slave morality. A graduate student in philosophy offers this explanation:

Nietzsche begins with a story of how the terms 'good' and 'bad' got their meaning: Originally, there were two kinds of people--"the noble, the powerful, the superior, and the high-minded" and the "low, low-minded, and plebeian." The former had an unquestioning hold over the latter--they had a feeling of ruling and superiority that was justified by the fact that they were ruling and they were superior. Nietzsche calls this feeling of the superior over the inferior the pathos of distance. He thinks that it is through the pathos of distance that 'good' and 'bad' first acquired their meaning. That is, 'good' was associated with those who were superior, noble and privileged, while 'bad' was associated with those who were common, plebeian, and low.

However, descendants of the lower class began to resent being so powerless; they began to resent being bad. Their hatred toward the superior class resulted in a "radical transvaluation of their values." That is, 'good' and 'bad' began to reverse in meaning such that 'good' now applied to the common, low, poor and powerless, while 'bad' now applied to the superior, privileged, rich, and powerful. In this way, the deprived, poor, sick, and helpless become pious, whereas as the powerful, noble, and rich became impious. This transvaluation of values is possible when the ressentiment of the lower classes for the superior becomes so great that they find compensation only in imagining or creating a different moral code. It is this creation of an opposing moral system that Nietzsche calls the slave morality. So in order for the powerless to feel better about the situation that they are in, they create for themselves a morality--a slave morality--where they, the powerless, are 'good,' while their superiors, the powerful, are 'bad.'

That certainly sounds like underdogma to me.

I'm glad to have a new word for it, because if you run around invoking Nietzsche, you will be condemned as an evil and selfish Nazi.

Talking politely about "underdogma" also strikes me as preferable to citing the demonized Ayn Rand -- even though her criticism of altruism strikes at the heart of the underdogma creed:

Why did capitalism, the truly magnificent benefactor of mankind, arouse nothing but resentment, denunciations and hatred, then and now?  Why did the so-called defenders of capitalism keep apologizing for it, then and now?  Because, ladies and gentlemen, capitalism and altruism are incompatible.

     Make no mistake about it -- and tell it to your Republican friends: capitalism and altruism cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society.

     Tell it to anyone who attempts to justify capitalism on the ground of the "public good" or the "general welfare" or "service to society" or the benefit it brings to the poor.  All these things are true, but they are the by-products, the secondary consequences of capitalism -- not its goal, purpose or moral justification.  The moral justification of capitalism is man's right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; it is the recognition that man -- every man -- is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others, not a sacrificial animal serving anyone's need.

     There is a tragic, twisted sort of compliment to mankind involved in this issue: in spite of all their irrationalities, inconsistencies, hypocrisies and evasions, the majority of men will not act, in major issues, without a sense of being morally right  and will not oppose the morality they have accepted.  They will break it, they will cheat on it, but they will not oppose it; and when they break it, they take the blame on themselves.  The power of morality is the greatest of all intellectual powers -- and mankind's tragedy lies in the fact that the vicious moral code men have accepted destroys them by means of the best within them.

There's much truth in what Rand says, but if you cite her in polite communitarian society, some self appointed moralist of another will start injecting distractions about what an evil, atheistic, abortion-loving woman she was instead of focusing on the merits of what she said.  

So I'm intrigued by the underdogma meme, and I can't wait to read the book.

It's nice not to have to rely on demonized figures from the past.

A lingering question, though, involves the new power imbalance that results from the weak underdogs defeating the strong overdogs. Wouldn't the dispossessed former overdogs tend to become the new underdogs? (Little wonder the Communists thought to kill the expropriated, formerly productive classes.)

I would hate to think that the process might become a vicious cycle of dogma eat dogma.

If only human psychology weren't the culprit....


OK, that should have been the end of this post. But for reasons that elude me, I feel obligated to add a personal anecdote.

Much as I hate being honest with myself, I have to admit that I have been guilty of coveting those with less supposed "power" in this racket we call life. Years ago, I worked in a law firm I absolutely hated, doing the worst kind of drudgery which gave me nightmares by night, and having to keep track of "billable hours" which was a much worse nightmare by day, for I am one of those unfortunates who cannot perform mental work (which litigation is) if I have to simultaneously handle keeping track of time blocks and putting pricetags on it. I was miserable. And one day, a young guy about my age came in to fix the light fixture in my office. This was something I could have done myself, of course, as I am a very handy person and I love to work with my hands. But the guy was so happy and unperturbed -- after all he was doing real work, which is its own reward -- and I simply envied him. I knew that he would not only be able go home at the end of the day, but that he would not be awakened by litigation nightmares. He would not have his vacation weekends nullified by the last minute manueverings of opposing counsel, and he could not be forced to put in 80 hours a week. He was doing work which I saw as preferable to the work I was doing, he got paid a good wage (no doubt with full benefits) and at the end of the day his work was actually done (which mine never, ever was). Yet if normal people had compared us at the time, he would have been the "underdog." Far from seeing him as that, I coveted his life in the way that others might covet the life of Bill Gates. Whether that was my personal form of "underdogma," I don't know. Did I envy someone for having "less" than I did? Under the circumstances, he seemed to have more. Far more. Can less be more? I don't know, but I do know that I coveted what I did not have.

MORE: Speaking of the cyclical nature of haves coveting have-nots and vice versa, Glenn Reynolds links Mark Oppenheimer's "The Unholy Pleasure -- My life-long recovery from snobbery."

An admitted snob who has spent his life trying to recover, Oppenheimer attempts to explain how it originates:

It is not unusual for snobberies to begin as self-defense--they are almost necessarily the province of minority groups worried that they might any day be vanquished: The landed English were surrounded by the peasants, the educated Ivy Leaguers by hoi polloi. Beneath the airs of superiority one can quickly discern the grounding of insecurity. After all, if the war comes, sheer numbers dictate that the snobs will lose. And given how much of the snobs' privilege is unearned, their snobberies can also be seen as strategies of obfuscation, enabling them not to see the important injustices that their cherished order perpetrates. Consider the banker who refuses to hire people with working-class accents: Because they sound as if they lack money, he deems them unworthy of making money.

But self-protective armor can be used in the offensive, too; judgment nearly always turns judgmental. Nobody likes to relinquish a snobbery, even when it becomes safe to venture forth without it....

Snobbery requires reinvention. Unbearable snots have to start anew, by pretending to be original and pretending to reject their origins, while actually repackaging themselves in a way that perpetuates the class they supposedly disdain.

(Makes me wonder whether the experts will discover a "snob gene.")

It is no exaggeration to say that this is complicated stuff, and probably worth a Ph.D. thesis for some self-hating Ivy League snot.

Don't think for a moment that I am exempting conservatives or libertarians (populist or otherwise). We all tend to be unbearable snobs -- especially once we have displaced the ruling snobs.

I especially include those with a studied disdain for snobbery (like yours truly). I have not learned much in life, but I have learned that trying to escape its clutches can make it worse. This stuff is a no-win. You are a snob if you do, and a snob if you don't. Even humility becomes an affectation.

Anyway, I highly recommend Oppenheimer's piece.

posted by Eric at 11:17 AM | Comments (7)

This Article Does Not Exist

* A guest post by Robert Anson Hoyt aka #1 son -- who has suspected he's an elephant since he was about two, in the same way I've often suspected I'm a cat. So excuse the pachiderm-o-centric imagery. He is what he is. :) And, oh, yeah, he does overthink it. (Wipes furtive tear.) My boy.*

Postmodern Blues

Or: This Article Does Not Exist
Also: How Not to Practice Zoology

 I'll be blunt. Postmodernism makes me itch. There are very few viewpoints on this planet that annoy me to the extent that postmodernism does. Postmodernism actually manages to be worse than Nihilism.

Oh, you think they're the same? They aren't, and I'll tell you why. Sure, a Nihilist will raise their nose and tell you that all values are subjective. But it takes a Postmodernist to look at the Nihilist and tell them that - not because of the ideas they asserted, but merely because they asserted ideas - they are wrong.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. To understand my position, let me lead you back through the mists of time to Hell, also known as my high school classroom. I am, for my sins, an IB graduate, and like all IB graduates, that meant I had to participate in a class called Theory of Knowledge. I won't lead you through the details as to what the class was supposed to teach, because no matter what it was, it didn't succeed.

Not to say the class taught me nothing, it just didn't teach me anything the prim and proper IB heads in France would dream of putting on their brochure. It took me along the bowels of the nightmare carnival from Hell known as postmodernism, showing me in loving detail its every blemish, often saying those were features rather than bugs. Then it spit me out into the world with a philosophical certainty etched in my heart that -  many demons though I might have -  I will never resort to postmodernism.

Continue reading "This Article Does Not Exist"

posted by Sarah at 12:59 AM | Comments (11)

Pope Condoms

Pope Condoms.PNG

The story is from Catholic.net

The search was for: moscow bombing - news entries.

posted by Simon at 07:28 PM | Comments (1)

Energy Is Wealth
Energy vs GDP

The graph is from Wiki Media based on data from the International Energy Organization [pdf].

I think the graph maker intended that the KW measure be averaged over 24/7/365 which would make sense (which is to say multiply by 24*7*365 to get the KWh total). Leave it to an engineer. In any case that is not the only one out there. Watts Up With That has a nice one with tons of oil equivalent.

What does this mean (generally)? Anything that lowers the supply of energy is a bad thing. Anything that lowers consumption is a bad thing. Efficiency tends to take care of itself. Engineers are always looking for cost effective ways of increasing the efficiency of use. But according to Jevons Paradox increasing efficiency INCREASES consumption. Dang.

Howard T. Odum in his book Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy discusses what energy flows mean for the bioisphere. I haven't read this edition but the previous edition Environment, Power, and Society, was excellent.

Anther book on the subject is The Second Law of Life: Energy, Technology, and the Future of Earth As We Know It. The product description makes a very good point.

Even actions we take to improve the environment may actually do more damage than good. For example, recycling is considered environmentally, socially and politically correct. Under the influence of entropy, however, it is a prolific waster of energy; we must look at entire systems, not just parts.
A point also well made at Energy, Efficiency, and Technology Magazine.
My friend Terry and I had each finished off a bottle of beer. I looked around for a recycling bin while Terry just pitched his bottle in the trash.

Was Terry indifferent to the environment? Nah. He works at one of the biggest breweries in the U.S. and knows first-hand what happens to recycled glass. "We can't use recycled glass for making bottles. It's just too brittle. So glass put in recycling bins generally ends up in landfills anyway," he explains.

Terry knows what he's talking about. Canada's National Post reports that all the glass collected last year by recycling programs in Calgary, Edmonton, and several other Canadian cities ended up landfilled because there were no buyers for it. The situation is similar for plastic. Reports are that Germany has millions of tons of recyclable plastics piled up in fields because nobody wants the stuff. And it is literally more expensive to collect some recyclables than to just pitch them. San Francisco's Dept. of Waste figures it pays $4,000/ton to recycle plastic bags for which it receives $32/ton.

And it is not just money/wealth that is affected by energy flows. It also affects politics as discussed in A thermodynamic explanation of politics.
There are major evolutionary implications in the ability of a species to distribute itself across space and time, not to mention the curious thermodynamics associated with this distribution. That is, species that can modulate their thermodynamic properties in response to environmental changes dramatically increase their probability of survival. In humans, there is no better example of thermodynamic modulation than conservatism and liberalism.

One of the more prominent biogeographic variations between conservatives and liberals is population density. The conservative-liberal asymmetries in population density are easily seen in the voting patterns of urban, suburban, and rural environments. As a general rule, the greater the population density, the more liberal the population.

Well isn't that interesting. Politics may have more to do with energy consumption habits than right and wrong. Dang. Right and wrong may in fact be defined by energy consumption levels.

So who is correct? No one. It depends on where you live. Now can we all get along?

Update: 6 Myths About Oil.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

Making nanny statism perfectly clear

"When people are doing things that are detrimental to their own well being, then government should step in."

So proclaims New York State Senator Carl Kruger in response to concerns that his proposal to ban walking while talking on cell phones or listening to music players might be too nanny statist. (The article fails to point out that Kruger is a Democrat.) Of all the idiocies I have read about recently, this one takes the cake:

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - After targeting distracted drivers, some New York lawmakers want to go after distracted walkers. They are looking to ban them from using iPods, music players and cell phones while walking and crossing the street.

At E.A.T. restaurant on Madison Avenue they still haven't gotten over the death of co-worker Jason King, killed last month when a truck hit him as he crossed the street while listening to his iPod.

"He was everything to us. He was always laughing, always in a good mood," co-worker Nunny Sanchez told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.

"We all miss him dearly like crazy. He was the light of E.A.T. I miss him a lot," Josephina Medina added.

Jason was just 21 and his death and along with other accidents involving people using electronic gadgets while walking is why Brooklyn Sen. Karl Kruger is looking to ban things like cell phones and iPods for pedestrians crossing the street.

"We have people who are literally dying in the street," Kruger said.

Dying, Kruger said, not because they are distracted drivers but because they are distracted walkers. Charles Tabasso, 14, admitted he's one of them because he listens to his iPod constantly.

"I would probably get run over right now if it weren't for my awesome parents," Tabasso said.

His mom agreed.

"As a parent I am definitely in favor of banning these things," Tullia Tabasso said.

As a parent of a 14 year old, you already can ban "these things" lady! It is called parenting. What has happened?

Is parenting no longer for parents?

But maybe I should cut it out with these sarcastic rhetorical questions, and try to analyze the problem in a calm and logical manner. The reasoning seems to be that because there are people who either have no sense in their little heads or else they're so stupid and uncoordinated that they can't walk and chew gum at the same time, then I shouldn't be allowed to walk around while talking on a cell phone or listening to an mp3 player.

It's also driven by the fact that children do in fact walk right into traffic listening to and staring into these things. I live near the University of Michigan campus and I see it all the time. I regard them as fools, yet others regard them as victims in need of protection. The old "if we could save just one child" thinking. These mindsets are incompatible and irreconcilable; the nanny staters see my thinking as cruel, heartless, and dangerous to society, while I see theirs as deluded, irrational, and dangerous to freedom. So I write blog posts, and involve myself in local Tea Party politics.

Similar thinking drives gun control, bans on pit bulls, attempts to regulate people's sex lives, and prohibition of substances like alcohol, drugs and even foods. Because some people cannot handle their whatever, the government is going to preempt the problem by taking away your whatever.

It is easy to ridicule this particular ban, and clearly it goes too far for most people, so I think it's unlikely to pass. 

But the mindset behind it will not go gently into the good night.

We should all be grateful to Senator Kruger for his very clarifying remark.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Based on what I see around here, it occurs to me that the real danger does not lie in the cell phones or music players themselves, so much as it does in jaywalking by people who are using them.

But jaywalking is already illegal, right? So if the jaywalking iPodders are already not being protected against their own foolishness by laws against jaywalking, why would another law protect them?

posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (8)

Punishment And Moral Disapproval

As some of you know who read me regularly I have a great deal of interest in the Drug War. In one of my early pieces on the subject Heroin, I came to the conclusion that addiction was a response to pain. i.e. people chronically take pain killers to deal with chronic pain. I have come across another book which makes the same point:

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
Here are some words from the author.

I've written In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts because I see addiction as one of the most misunderstood phenomena in our society. People--including many people who should know better, such as doctors and policy makers--believe it to be a matter of individual choice or, at best, a medical disease. It is both simpler and more complex than that.

Addiction, or the capacity to become addicted, is very close to the core of the human experience. That is why almost anything can become addictive, from seemingly healthy activities such as eating or exercising to abusing drugs intended for healing. The issue is not the external target but our internal relationship to it. Addictions, for the most part, develop in a compulsive attempt to ease one's pain or distress in the world. Given the amount of pain and dissatisfaction that human life engenders, many of us are driven to find solace in external things. The more we suffer, and the earlier in life we suffer, the more we are prone to become addicted.

The inner city drug addicts I work with are amongst the most abused and rejected people amongst us, but instead of compassion our society treats them with contempt. Instead of understanding and acceptance, we give them punishment and moral disapproval. In doing so, we fail to recognize our own deeply rooted problems and thereby forego an opportunity for healing not only for them, the extreme addicts, but also for ourselves as individuals and as a culture.

Which is pretty much what I found out ten years ago by reading Dr. Lonny Shavelson's book:

Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System

Which I reviewed in my post Heroin.

The Author Gabor Mate' has a few More words:

The human brain is exquisitely capable of development, a capacity known as neuroplasticity. But, as with all development, the conditions have to be right. My pessimism about my clients' future is based not on any limitation of their innate potential, but on their dire social, economic and legal situation and on the essential indifference of policy makers--and of society--to their plight. In short, the resources that could go into rehabilitating people are now sunk, instead, into persecuting them and keeping them marginalized. It's a failure of insight and of compassion. We are simply not living up to our possibilities as a society.
My estimation is that the rear guard in the support for the Drug War consists of people who need an object for their two minutes of hate. They get more value out of hating than they do out of solving problems. Very strange from this engineer's point of view. But not everyone thinks like an engineer. Pity.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:28 PM | Comments (7)

Thank you Lord for what I did not get

I didn't watch the SOTU, and I'm glad I didn't. But even though I didn't watch the speech, I still agree with what Roger Kimball said about it

I am not quite ready for the 2012 campaign yet...

Me neither. So I'm glad I don't have to play this idiotic game.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who said that Kimball "gets the joke." Well, thank God somebody gets it so I don't have to.)

posted by Eric at 11:21 PM | Comments (3)

Freedom of expression for fundamental assumptions?

A writer at the Daily Caller maintains that having a gay group at CPAC will lead to the  "crack-up of conservatism," but what fascinated me the most about the piece was to read that it is the conservative position that human sexuality is fixed and unchanging. Apparently, the acceptance of gays is causing a lot of people (gays included) to believe that gays can go straight -- which directly contradicts conservatism:

....the acceptance of same-sex relationships is metastasizing into a postmodern notion of sexuality as fluid and changing over time.

For example, an article in the Utne Reader highlights individuals who came out of the closet as homosexual, but were later attracted to heterosexual relationships again. The article quotes psychotherapist Bret Johnson explaining that people today "don't want to fit into any boxes -- not gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual ones." Instead "they want to be free to change their minds."

What we're seeing, Johnson concludes, is "a challenge to the old, modernist way of thinking 'This is who I am, period' and a movement toward a postmodern version, 'This is who I am right now.'"

In other words, yesterday I was straight, today I may be homosexual, and tomorrow I could be bisexual. One's psychosexual identity is said to be in constant flux.

In the past, homosexuals employed the defense that they were born that way. But now they are beginning to embrace the postmodern idea that you can be anything you want to be along a sexual continuum.

This contradicts conservatism at its philosophical core. Conservatism bases human rights on the recognition that there are certain non-negotiable givens in human nature, prior to the state, which the state is obligated to respect.

Does conservatism really maintain that human sexuality is a non-negotiable given in human nature which cannot change?

How can I have missed that? 

Will someone please tell the anti-gay activists (most of whom have long echoed a very steady chorus of "homosexuals can change") that they are contradicting the philosophical core of conservatism while gay activists like Andrew Sullivan are upholding it?

If anti-gay activists are actually into a form of post modernist liberalism, while traditional gay activists are actually into a form of conservativism, then I would say a lot of people are in for a crack-up. Especially those who don't believe in leaving people alone.   

But the author has an anwser to those who do believe in leaving people alone to choose the sex of their partners. What others do in their bedrooms does affect you!

The CPAC walkout is a chance to highlight what is at stake. Jesse Hathaway at NewsReal Blog defends CPAC, saying "I'm a bit fuzzy on why it matters what a person does in the privacy of his or her bedroom, as long as it doesn't affect me."

But it does affect him -- and everyone else. Every social practice is the expression of fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human. When a society accepts and approves the practice, it implicitly commits itself to the worldview that supports it -- all the more so if the practice is enshrined in law.

Every social practice is the expression of fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human?

That statement sounds supiciously like the sort of thing I used to hear in Berkeley. And while I have trouble seeing private sexual conduct as "the expression of fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human," even granting for the sake of argument that it is, so what? 

Unless he has asked my opinion about them or is trying to harm me, why would someone else's "fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human" be my business?

posted by Eric at 04:22 PM | Comments (5)

at-risk fragile egos need hugs and apologies, not vitriolic rhetoric!

Via an email from a friend, I learned that a girls' basketball team is facing severe criticism for beating the opposing team by too large of a margin


It's been called unsportsmanlike. It's been called ugly. The question now is whether Christian Heritage (Utah) High, which routed West Ridge (Utah) Academy, 108-3, in a girls basketball game last week, actually did anything wrong by blowing out an overwhelmed opponent.

The winning team has apologized, but the damage was already done. To "fragile egos"!

Don't anyone laugh, as this is very serious:

While Christian Heritage has already apologized for the lopsided scoreline and administrators at West Ridge have said the school harbors no ill will and has moved on from the incident, there are still lingering concerns about what could happen when the teams play again. The two are scheduled to play Feb. 3 for the second half of the schools' home-and-home league meetings.

Much of that concern comes from McGill's personal philosophy. The coach said he refuses to force his players to back down just because they have all but assured a victory, citing a desire to promote values that he feels are limited by contemporary culture.

"Too many people in the world right now allow the youth to not be as good as they can be, allow them to be lazy," said McGill. "Here, I'm giving them an opportunity to live up to the best of their abilities and be proud of what they're able to accomplish. If that's what I'm being blamed for, then OK, I accept it."

That "commitment to excellence" comes at a cost. In this case, it was the ego of teenage girls that was affected by the effective implementation of McGill's personal philosophy. Given that West Ridge is a school for at-risk youth, those egos in question may be even more fragile than most.

It must have been an unbelievably traumatic experience. But at least the winning team had the decency to issue an apology:

"I want to personally apologize to the team," said Crusaders co-captain Brittany Hurlbut. "To just say if we hurt any members of the team or the school, we sincerely apologize."

Where's my box of tissues?

(Sniff sniff. There there.)

I don't know much about girls basketball, but my tears for them were barely dry when I got to thinking about the serious mental trauma I experienced as an at-risk spectator when I witnessed what happened this past season to my favorite team: the poor Michigan Wolverines. It was so painful seeing them get slaughtered by the Ohio State Buckeyes 37-7 that I couldn't stand to watch it.

I felt their pain. So badly that my fragile ego was damaged by Traumatic Spillover Effect.

Those mean and spiteful Buckeyes had no right to rub it in like that, and dammit, I think they should apologize!

But as far as I can tell, they have not!

And as if that isn't bad enough, at the New Years Day Gator Bowl, I was forced to watch as the Mississippi State Bulldogs behaved in an even more egregious and unsportsmanlike manner -- deliberately running up a devastating 52 points against the Wolverines' 14.

And instead of an apology, the behavior they displayed after the game can only be called a blatant display of triumphalism! 

Moreover, instead of showing compassion or demanding apologies as they should, the media only seemed to aid and abet a climate of vitriol, with headlines like "Bulldogs Crush Wolverines, 52-14." (So much for the idea that they are eschewing violent speech and eliminationist rhetoric.) How do they think my at-risk fragile ego felt when I saw my favorite team being described as crushed?

Is that the kind of climate we want to be creating? Words matter, right?

So where are the apologies?

posted by Eric at 11:47 AM | Comments (4)

Hoyt On Heinlein - A Forest Of Jungian* Knives

As some of you know I got to read Learning Curve by William Patterson in Advanced Reading Copy format, and I was dissatisfied - through my own fault - with my blogging about it at Tor.com. (I was NOT dissatisfied with the book, which I think every Heinlein fan should read.) Not blaming anyone save myself, because I tend to get emotional when it comes to Heinlein. Frankly more so than I would expect. And one of the ways I fit the stereotype of the Latin female is that I am... excitable. At least that's what my husband says.

I will start the serious Heinlein blogging next week, and hopefully do one post a week.

This one is sort of a general Heinlein blogging thing.

Continue reading "Hoyt On Heinlein - A Forest Of Jungian* Knives"

posted by Sarah at 12:51 AM | Comments (7)

the Internet can be dangerous

Speaking of royal proclamations, a bill has been introduced which would give the president the ability to turn off the Internet:

...the point of the proposal is to assert governmental control only over those "crucial components that form our nation's critical infrastructure."

Portions of the Lieberman-Collins bill, which was not uniformly well-received when it became public in June 2010, became even more restrictive when a Senate committee approved a modified version on December 15. The full Senate did not act on the measure.

The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government's designation of vital Internet or other computer systems "shall not be subject to judicial review." Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include "provider of information technology," and a third authorized the submission of "classified" reports on security vulnerabilities.

The idea of creating what some critics have called an Internet "kill switch" that the president could flip in an emergency is not exactly new.

A draft Senate proposal that CNET obtained in August 2009 authorized the White House to "declare a cybersecurity emergency," and another from Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) would have explicitly given the government the power to "order the disconnection" of certain networks or Web sites. House Democrats have taken a similar approach in their own proposals.

Lieberman, who recently announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, said last year that enactment of his bill needed to be a top congressional priority. "For all of its 'user-friendly' allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets," he said.

Damned right the Internet can be dangerous. We all know that. But granting the president the ability to shut it down is even more dangerous.

The last time I worried publicly over whether the government could shut down the Internet, I was told by commenters that that was the sort of thing could not happen.

So I'm probably being paranoid.

So never mind!

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

The Edge And The Center

I was reading The Science of Libertarian Morality, H/T Instapundit, and got to thinking.

1. Humans are herd (troupe) animals.

2. Most want to live in the center of the herd. They have to know what the rules are. Some want mommy rules, some want daddy rules. They are in agreement that rules (lots of them) are required. It minimizes friction in the center. Every one knows where they stand in the hierarchy and they also know what to do. Novelty is kept to a minimum.

3. And then you have the crazies who want to live on the edge - and of course they want as few rules as possible. You never know what might come up. Or what novelty is available. New combinations!

4. Civilization is carried on the backs of the rule makers. It is advanced by the rule breakers.

Now can we all get along?

Wouldn't you know it? Amazon has a slew of books on libertarian morality:

Libertarian Morality

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:23 PM | Comments (2)

A bugger of a proclamation, from the mouths of top bug men!

Speaking of religious issues, according to a Breitbart report, some of the worlds's top bug advocates, invoking the sacred UN as a planetary authority, are demanding that we learn to eat bugs:

...head of entomology Marcel Dicke knows that changing Westerners' mindset will take more than disguising a worm in chocolate.

"The problem is here," he tells AFP, pointing at his head while examining an exhibition featuring a handful of the world's more than 1,200 edible insect species including worms, gnats, wasps, termites and beetles.

Three species: meal worms, buffalo worms and grasshoppers, are cultivated by three farmers in the Netherlands for a small but growing group of adventurous foodies.

"People think it is something dirty. It generates a Fear Factor response," citing the reality series that tests competitors' toughness by feeding them live insects.

Dicke said Westerners had no choice but to shed their bug bias, with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation predicting there will be nine billion people on the planet by 2050 and agricultural land already under pressure.

Ve haf no choice!

That is the Royal Proclamation, and so, in the name of the Holy Planet Mother Gaia, we must comply!

In fact, royal proclamations ordering human subjects to go on the Dicke diet are nothing new, and I was reminded of one of my all time favorite movie scenes.

By my imperial order, YOU WILL WATCH IT!

I honor you Herr Doktor Dicke!

posted by Eric at 11:24 AM | Comments (5)

Religious right?

Not that what I think carries any legal weight, but I don't think spanking should be a crime. This is not a judgment over the rightness or the wrongness of spanking so much as it is my opinion that whether and how parents discipline their children is one of the places where government does not belong.

OTOH, there is such a thing as child abuse, and while I cannot come up with an overarching definition of what it is, I don't think ordinary spanking qualifies. At some point, though, a line is crossed, and common sense would suggest that it is crossed when a child is severely or permanently injured. It might be possible for that line to be crossed if a small child were brutally spanked for a long period of time, or if, say, belts, whips, canes, rods, car aerials, or electrical cords were used -- especially if they caused contusions or lacerations. However, even corporal punishments using belts, whips and canes were routine not that long ago, and it is worth remembering that what might have been done to a child in the 1920s could well constitute child abuse in many states today. At-home spanking is not a crime in any state in the U.S., although it is in a number of countries.

Not being a parent, this is not an issue I had never spent much time pondering. But what piqued my sudden curiosity was a Wall Street Journal piece on legal action taken against a "Slavic Christian" immigrant family:

SALEM, Ore.--Dmitriy Kozlov waited until nightfall to place a 911 call to Oregon authorities, alerting them to a terrible case of child abuse in an immigrant community that existed, almost invisibly, in this city's midst.

The alleged victim was 14-year-old Dmitriy himself. From a pay phone on July 20, 2009, he reported that his parents regularly beat him and several of his six siblings. Their parents, he said, struck them with wires, branches and belts for wearing makeup and getting a fake tattoo.

Police quickly arrested Oleksandr and Lyudmila Kozlov and placed the children, who ranged in age from newborn to 15 years, into foster care. The couple was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison and later stripped of most parental rights. The Kozlovs denied wrongdoing.

News of the case spread through this state capital, sparking outrage. Yet one subset of the community sprang to the Kozlovs' defense, holding demonstrations, filling the gallery at court hearings and flooding state officials with letters.

Many of these supporters, Russian-born Christians like the Kozlovs themselves, believed the parents were disciplining their children according to Biblical law. In their view, the government was out to "destroy the family because of their faith," says Tatyana I. Bondarchuk, a counselor who helped brief authorities about the group.

OK, what happened was either child abuse as defined under the law or it was not. I think the religious views of the parents are irrelevant. So is the interpretation of Solomon's "spare the rod and spoil the child" saying. If it is a crime to beat a child with wires or "rods," even those who believe in using the rod have the same legal duty to obey that law as anyone else.

And while I don't think it should happen, if spanking ever were criminalized in this country, I think it would be a mistake to allow a religious exception. The groups that are taking up the Kozlov's cause would do well to remember the old "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" saying, because there is no reason I can think of that granting a religious exception (for "Slavic Christians" or whatever group) for child beating would not also require granting a religious exemption to Muslims for wife beating.

Wife beating, is of course sanctioned in the Koran.

...those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.

Doesn't sound very grand to me. However, I can see how people who consider themselves bound by religious texts might interpret that as an order from God to beat an arrogant or disobedient wife. And while there is nothing in the Bible which authorizes (much less advises) wife beating, I see very little difference between a religious exemption for beating a child with rods as Solomon advised, and a religious exemption for beating a wife according to the Koran. 

Or for that matter, a religious right to smoke pot. I realize it might be appealing to libertarians as a drug war workaround, but how far does the principle go?

posted by Eric at 10:46 AM | Comments (12)

Headline Of The Day - 24 Jan. '11

Never Bring a Lap Dog to a Grizzly Fight

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

Blue Plate Special

*There's a tradition I started over at my conference, in the baen's bar at baen.com and which I've lately let fall into disuse, which is that of posting Blue Plate Specials.  My conference is Sarah's Diner, so... you see the theme here, right?  Anyway, the BPSs are full short stories.  Of course, I still have copyright and you are not allowed to copy/distribute/claim it's yours or change it BUT otoh you do get to read it and share the link as far and wide as you wish.  I think I can do that here too, because -- frankly -- I have a lot of published short stories I can share.  I won't promise one a week, but if it's more than a week and you want one, feel free to poke me -- I'm very forgetful when I'm writing, which is practically always. 

So, below find Ariadne's Skein, set in the world of Darkship Thieves, a few centuries earlier.  [when I find and integrate my Future History, I'll blog that, too.])




Ariadne's Skein

Continue reading "Blue Plate Special"

posted by Sarah at 10:29 AM | Comments (3)

The Sun Erupts

My post Some Interesting Science Papers drew some sceptical responses. Fine. Theories should be picked apart until we can be sure they will hold water. But we should also be on the look out for new data.

And here is a piece of new (for me) data that will knock your socks off. Vast Solar Eruption Shocks NASA and Raises Doubts on Sun Theory. That would be the old sun theory: the sun is a big ball of mostly Hydrogen gas that gets its energy from the fusion of that gas.

We are forever being told that the sun is a vast gas ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of our solar system. But new evidence may help prove this isn't the case after all, according to solar experts who say the sun has an iron core.

A stunned NASA admits, "Astronomers knew they had witnessed something big. It was so big, it may have shattered old ideas about solar activity."

The vast global solar eruption covers ~10^9 km of the solar photosphere. The US space agency reports, "The whole solar hemisphere erupted simultaneously in an avalanche effect that had been triggered in the tiny solar core and propagated outwards" (NASA: Dec 13, 2010).

That is interesting. To get a whole hemisphere to erupt something has to happen in the core and propagate outward. It can't happen on the surface that way. If it was a surface effect the disturbance would have a different center.
Scientists have confirmed that the explosion that occurred on August 1, 2010 is unprecedented in recorded history and caused filaments of magnetism to snap and explode creating enormous shock waves that raced across the stellar surface. This caused billion-ton clouds of hot gas to billow out into space.

This unprecedented event is claimed to give support to an alternative theory long held by Professor Oliver K. Manuel, a Postdoctoral Fellow of the University of California, Berkeley.

Oliver and I have joined in a number of discussions about Global Warming on the 'Net. He is a sceptic of the CO2 theory (not the effect - the magnitude).
Controversy about our understanding of the sun has been fomenting for years. In 1980, solar science researcher, Ralph E. Juergens lamented, "The modern astrophysical concept that ascribes the sun's energy to thermonuclear reactions deep in the solar interior is contradicted by nearly every observable aspect of the sun."

The astrophysics establishment has long shunned the idea of the sun having any such iron core. But this momentous event is consistent with the theory that there is a tiny dense neutron core the size of a city powered by neutron repulsion. Professor Manuel believes there is a super-conducting iron-rich shell the size of a moon or small planet surrounding the neutron core.

Backing the theory is astrophysicist Carl A. Rouse, who calculated a tiny iron-rich solar core from helioseismology data, but he has also been ignored up until now.

Up 'tll now. The times they are a changin. FYI Oliver is the University of Missouri-Rolla and ex-NASA man.
The delighted University of Missouri-Rolla and ex-NASA man says that the event, contrary to modern theory, is new evidence for the Sun's tiny (~10 km), dense neutron core being powered by neutron repulsion, and/or the super-conducting iron-rich shell (~10^3 km) surrounding the neutron core.

"The August 1st event really opened our eyes," says Karel Schrijver of Lockheed Martin's Solar and Astrophysics Lab in Palo Alto, CA. "We see that solar storms can be global events, playing out on scales we scarcely imagined before."

The four key points made by the iron core theorists are:

1. We do not "see" the Sun;
2. We see waste products emitting light when they reach the top of the Sun's atmosphere (photosphere);
3. The "smoke" we see is (H and He) from a neutron star;
4. The global eruption was triggered by the tiny, energetic, dense neutron-rich core of the Sun or by the iron-rich mantle that surrounds it.

Time for 'Truthing' Says Solar Professor

This monumental solar eruption may finally challenge the accepted theories about how the key driver of Earth's climate actually works. Manuel sagely observes, "Although NASA seems to be catching up, after decades of 'group-think' it will be very difficult for NASA scientists to comprehend the Sun."

Indeed, this latest evidence is unsettling not just for accepted ideas about how our Sun works but it also impacts assumptions of how the Sun effects Earth's climate. Oliver insists " Science is a continuous process of 'truthing' without ever claiming that you have the 'whole truth.'"

So there may be something to the idea that the sun has a neutron/iron core. We shall see.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:41 PM | Comments (9)

Social is bad, and who is social?

I've been blogging for nearly eight years, so I like to think that I know what this medium is. It allows me to write and share whatever thoughts and opinions I have with whoever cares to read them. Whether I write about ideas, politics, culture, or mundane details from personal life -- and whether I am serious, humorous, or sarcastic -- that is unpredictable and depends on the whims of a mysterious inner source I cannot define. I don't know whether to call it an inner muse or an inspiration, and often seems beyond my control. It is not always there, and when it isn't, I tend to crank out posts mechanically, the same way I force myself to do my pushups because of the self-imposed sense that I "have to." 

Anyway, whether I like it or not, I see myself as a blogger, and I see this site as a blog. Over the years I have seen many attacks on the medium, by people who constantly attempt to characterize and define it, often belittling bloggers as nuts, cranks, haters, or as sick people in need of treatment for Internet addiction. 

What worries me right now (and I may be wrong) is that there seems to be a subtle new attempt to derogate and trivialize blogging by sweeping it into the much larger rubric of "social media." A blog post is a twitter is a Facebook comment, and all are equally silly, and diverting our attention from serious issues! All are therefore under fresh attack as a "tide of cyber-skepticism" sweeps the US:

An intellectual backlash in America is calling for a rejection of some of the values and methods of modern communications. "It is a huge backlash. The different kinds of communication that people are using have become something that scares people," said Professor William Kist, an education expert at Kent State University, Ohio.

The list of attacks on social media is a long one and comes from all corners of academia and popular culture. A recent bestseller in the US, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, suggested that use of the internet was altering the way we think to make us less capable of digesting large and complex amounts of information, such as books and magazine articles. The book was based on an essay that Carr wrote in the Atlantic magazine. It was just as emphatic and was headlined: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Another strand of thought in the field of cyber-scepticism is found in The Net Delusion, by Evgeny Morozov. He argues that social media has bred a generation of "slacktivists". It has made people lazy and enshrined the illusion that clicking a mouse is a form of activism equal to real world donations of money and time.

Other books include The Dumbest Generation by Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein - in which he claims "the intellectual future of the US looks dim"- and We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst, which describes the problems of self-control in the modern world, of which the proliferation of communication tools is a key component.

The backlash has crossed the Atlantic. In Cyburbia, published in Britain last year, James Harkin surveyed the modern technological world and found some dangerous possibilities. While Harkin was no pure cyber-sceptic, he found many reasons to be worried as well as pleased about the new technological era. Elsewhere, hit film The Social Network has been seen as a thinly veiled attack on the social media generation, suggesting that Facebook was created by people who failed to fit in with the real world.

Turkle's book, however, has sparked the most debate so far. It is a cri de coeur for putting down the BlackBerry, ignoring Facebook and shunning Twitter. "We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us," she writes.

While I hardly use Twitter, I do check out Facebook, but it hardly dominates my life. I'm not quite getting how it would "diminish" me, but what worries me is that the attack on Social Media will become a convenient new way to diminish and dismiss blogs. 

The logic would work this way:

Social Media is bad for society and is making us less human.

Blogs are part of Social Media.

Blogs are bad for society.

Am I just being paranoid? Or has this blog suddenly been declared to be part of the larger problem of "Social Media"? If so, what should I do? I'd like to just use this medium to say what I think, and I am not trying to make anyone less human or isolate people.

And if having this blog makes me guilty of being a part of the giant conspiracy to isolate people from reality, can anyone tell me why books, movies, television and newspapers should get a pass?

Are some media "better" than others?

posted by Eric at 12:33 PM | Comments (9)

Better Good Lovin'

Since it is Sunday I think some religious music is in order. The video starts a little slow with an announcement followed by a so so version of "I Need A Miracle" and then segues into one of the best 'Dead versions of "Good Lovin" I have heard so far.

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

Reigning cats or dogs?

As I was reminded in an earlier comment that the focus of this blog really ought to be on dog blogging, and as Coco has been deeply concerned (if not actually offended in the true sense) by some of the blatant cat blogging which has been going on at her site recently, I thought it might be time to point out a few obvious differences between cats and dogs.

Via Glenn Reynolds, I learned about "the most emailed "New York Times" piece ever." It documents that while cats may be able to sit near computers, dogs are learning how to use them.

For the last two weeks, Anna has been spending more time than usual with José de Sousa Saramago, the Portuguese water dog she named after her favorite writer. (If José Saramago bears an uncanny resemblance to Bo Obama, the First Pet, it's no coincidence: the two dogs are brothers. Anna's father was an early fundraiser for Barack Obama; José Saramago was a gift from the President.)

Anna takes José Saramago's paw in her hands and whispers in his ear. He taps the iPad and the web browser opens. José Saramago gives a little yelp.

"It's entirely conceivable that a dog could learn simple computer functions," says Dr. Walker Brown, the director of the Center for Canine Cognition, a research facility in Maryland. "Word processing, e-mailing, even surfing the web: for many dogs, the future is already here."

This will not come as news to the many fans Coco has here, who have read about her numerous abilities -- which include blogging (compare that to sitting idly on shelves next to a computer), driving (although as I admitted, the learning process was tough), astute political analysis of telephone ring tones, proficiency with -- and knowledge of -- firearms, classical scholarship, and a long list of accomplishments and skills which would be considered impressive for a human being. 

Much as I hate to repeat myself, Coco has reminded me that human memories do tend to fade with time, so she worries that recent readers who have been coming here and seeing hordes of feline invaders might tend to forget. So I would be doing Coco an injustice if I failed to quote from the above:

Accomplishment-wise, Coco is ahead of most dogs. While I don't like to brag about her excessively lest she develop a swelled head, I had a chance to review some of her many accomplishments today, and I have to say, she could cobble together an impressive resume.

Not only has she reviewed and tested a number of dog toys, gourmet foods and chocolates, but Coco has tested a number of human consumer products and gadgets. Beyond that, she's dabbled in many different fields, including science, politics, diplomacy, engineering, organizing, art and writing. I think she has gone far beyond the normal canine call of duty by any standard.

While her career so far spans less than three years, she has tested a shredder which doubled as fax machine in the heat of litigation, strange cell phones which didn't impress her much, Carlsberg beer and Danzka vodka in solidarity with Denmark (which did).

As a consumer advocate, Coco tested the design of a car trunk, and she unearthed what I initially thought was a buried gas cylinder but which turned out to be deadly WMDs.

A ferocious Second Amendment advocate, Coco believes in standing up for her rights, and actually took on the very nasty James Wolcott in a political debate. While Coco has been known to have nightmares about Democrats, she need not worry. For, despite a size disadvantage, Coco bested Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a political debate.

As an naturalist and environmentalist, Coco has debunked false nature claims on bumperstickers, has dissected owl pellets, conducted ecological research, dabbled in mycology, and as a climatologist Coco actually challenged Al Gore to set an example on the offsets issue, and then decided to go the denial route before working a "coldening" miracle of her own.

In the cultural area, Coco's accomplishments include being a Valentine Queen, a film reviewer, an accomplished artist, a lighting consultant, and accomplished online music critic! Little wonder she has hosted international guests at least twice!

As longtime readers know, Coco has repeatedly tried her hand at blogging, and she was even dragged into Al Franken's Air America war as a product endorser.

And remember, Coco is a dog!

Notwithstanding her obvious superiority, Coco wants to let it be known that she favors a policy of civility in these matters, and is against fueling any sort of climate of hate. She considers the traditional animosity between cats and dogs to be grounded in unfortunate stereotypes often promulgated by unthinking humans. In fact, she has many times gone out of her way to try to get to know cats better, but they often arch their backs at her, spit, snarl, and run rapidly away -- obviously because they have failed to overcome the residual legacy of the bigotry from the past.

So Coco is against catophobia and for tolerance.

[Hmmm... Perhaps I should say "cat-o-phobia," so as not to offend anyone at the CATO Institute.]

And while she might accept the principle of equal opportunity, she does not think that means equality of result. I mean compare and contrast this:


With this:

Hostile working conditions

All of the above notwithstanding, I would be less than candid if I did not admit that the recent spate of cat-blogging might make a majority of the members of my household feel deeply threatened. 

I refer to my seventeen fish -- every one of which has reason to believe that these -- and all -- cats constitute a clear and present danger to them. To illustrate their vulnerability, watch as my fish come right up to -- and even leap at -- my hand as I extend it down through the top of their uncovered aquarium. 


So while Coco is not threatened, I really can't blame my fish if they feel vulnerable.

MORE: Let anyone think either I or my dogs have it in for cats, they have a long history of peaceful coexistence, as this picture of Puff with a kittie in 2004 will attest!


This means that Euclid, D'Artagnan, Miranda, and Havelock (especially D'Artagnan and Havelock, who are probably reading this post!) can consider themselves welcome.

Coco is overwhelmed and outnumbered. (Plus, I often suspect she's part kittie herself...)

posted by Eric at 01:42 PM | Comments (4)

At least Dr. Gosnell wasn't running a Hooters!

Anyone who wants to read the gruesome details about that Philadelphia butcher who performed unsanitary and illegal abortions which killed women and babies should check out Clayton Cramer's post on the subject.  The following is from the Grand Jury report:

This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy - and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels - and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.

The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again.  Medical equipment - such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff - was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn't used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.

As to why it took them so long to catch up with this guy, it appears that for political reasons the bureaucrats who are supposed to police these things simply looked the other way.

...the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be "putting a barrier up to women" seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.

The only exception to this live-and-let-die policy was supposed to be for complaints dumped directly on the department's doorstep. Those, at least, would be investigated. Except that there were complaints about Gosnell, repeatedly. Several different attorneys, representing women injured by Gosnell, contacted the department. A doctor from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia hand-delivered a complaint, advising the department that numerous patients he had referred for abortions came back from Gosnell with the same venereal disease. The medical examiner of Delaware County informed the  department that Gosnell had performed an illegal abortion on a 14-year-old girl carrying a 30-week-old baby. And the department received official notice that a woman named Karnamaya Mongar had died at Gosnell's hands.

Yet not one of these alarm bells - not even Mrs. Mongar's death - prompted the department to look at Gosnell or the Women's Medical Society. Only after the raid occurred, and the story hit the press, did the department choose to act.

It seems the doctor (who is black) had a higher standard of care for white patients from the Philadelphia suburbs. Go figure that one out if you can. (I suspect he realized that the white patients were more likely to complain.)

Cramer's wife asks a good question:

As my wife pointed out this morning: isn't this what making abortion legal was supposed to prevent?  Dangerous, unhygenic abortions that mutilated and killed women?

Yeah, where are the feminists who wave the coat hanger signs and scream "keep abortion safe and legal!" when you need them?

If they were true to their "principles," they would be citing this case as an example of what happens when abortion is illegal (which Dr. Gosnell's abortions were, which is precisely why he was running what amounted to a sub rosa, gray market "clinic"). But respectable feminism is not comfortable with political advocacy of third-term-abortion-on-demand, so I suspect they won't say a thing.

Surprise! A search at the NOW site turned up nothing about this case. Obviously, NOW is too busy blaming Sarah Palin and hate speech for the Loughner rampage, and filing complaints against Hooters in order to prevent the "exposure of minor children to sexual entertainment."

Scantily clad women are of course far more dangerous than a man who butchers women and preemies.    

Oh the irony.

posted by Eric at 11:01 AM | Comments (5)

Biofuel Revolution!

Commenter Brock at my article Biofuel Breakthrough? had a few very interesting words on the subject that bodes well for the future.

Well I'm cautiously excited anyway. Biological systems have been producing simple sugars and lipids for a few trillennia now, and it's only the laws of Darwinian Fitness (not the laws of physics) which have discouraged them from adding even more carbon atoms to the chain. I know many teams have been working on this (a good friend who is a VC in this space tells me about it all the time; and Craig Venter has received mid-nine figure funding from Exxon-Mobile for this very thing), and if Joule has spoken prematurely, I'm sure someone will get there within a decade.

And frankly I hope it's multiple someones. I don't want a cartel (OPEC) replaced by a true monopoly. Talk about obscenely enriching monopoly rents!

This should be cheap to build out too. All the sophisticated equipment is reproduced biologically; human labor just needs to build some really big petri dishes. Sort of like how babies are enormously complicated but the cost of production is food and shelter for the mother. Just $1/day in Africa!

The ironic thing is that the limiting resources of this technology will be diffuse sunlight, and thus empty land not otherwise being put to productive use. You know what country has tons of sunlight and otherwise useless real estate? Saudi Arabia. Ha ha! Long after they stop digging it out of the ground Europe will still have to import oil from Arab deserts. At least America has New Mexico.

Eventually though Russia, China, India and Indonesia are going to want sources they control - but they lack the land or sunlight for. This will lead to really big floating petri dishes out on the ocean near the equator and far from land. Today's deep sea oil rig is tomorrow's equatorial E. Coli farm, surrounded by thousands of acres of (what looks like from an airplane) a whole bunch of lily pads. Oil tankers will then bring it to shore.

Brock did make one minor error. The company in question, Joule, is using a genetically modified form of cyanobacteria. Other than that I believe he is spot on.

posted by Simon at 07:55 AM | Comments (4)

Palin, Pat, And Pot

A while back I did a post on how Pat Robertson had changed his stance on pot (at least for a while). And I quote:

...something else we've got to recognize. We're locking up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana and the next thing they know they've got 10 years. They've got mandatory sentences and these judges just ... throw up their hands and say there's nothing we can do."

"We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes and that's one of them," Robertson added. "I'm not exactly for the use of drugs. Don't get me wrong. But I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot and that kind of thing, it's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people."

They go into prison "as youths and they come out as hardened criminals, and that's not a good thing."

That was late December of 2010.

So what did Sarah Palin have to say around mid June of 2010?

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin said Wednesday night that law enforcement should not focus its energy on the "minimal problem" of marijuana.

Palin made the comment during an appearance on the Fox Business Network with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

The libertarian Paul said enforcing marijuana restrictions specifically and the war on drugs more generally is a "useless battle," a point Palin somewhat agreed with, though she was clear that she does not support legalization.

"If we're talking about pot, I'm not for the legalization of pot," Palin said. "I think that would just encourage our young people to think that it was OK to go ahead and use it."

"However, I think we need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts," Palin added. "If somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society."

Palin then urged law enforcement to "not concentrate on such a, relatively speaking, minimal problem we have in the country."

So is Robertson a Sarah Palin follower or is there a shift of opinion happening on the right? Or both? Or just coincidence?

My guess is that we are coming to our senses as a nation. Good.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:20 AM | Comments (1)

It's not betrayal if we do it!

There are two things I love about Sarah Palin. One is that she's the overall best chance that small government libertarians and constitutionalists have of getting someone of a libertarianish bent into the nation's highest office, and the second is that I love the way she drives the left wild, and causes them to seriously miscalculate.

That the left will target her at every opportunity is something I have come to expect -- the attempt to blame her for the deranged acts of Jared Loughner being a perfect example. 

This is not to say that criticism of or opposition to Palin has been limited to the left. Far from it. While I am not a kneejerk Palin supporter, I have tried to address Republican criticism of her before. I well remember the idea that those on the right who criticised Palin were guilty of "betrayal," and I spent some time in this post attempting to address the concerns John Hawkins expressed in a PJM piece titled "Why Sarah Palin Fans Feel Betrayed -- It's bad enough when she is mercilessly bashed from the left. But it really stings when Republicans lay into her."

Even though I like Palin I didn't feel personally stung or betrayed, so I had some trouble understanding why some people on the right felt more stung than I would as a libertarian. 

Right now I find myself wondering whether all of the conservatives who complained about feeling stung by conservative criticism of Palin then are feeling stung by it now. 

Professor Jacobson has a couple of posts discussing a prominent conservative call for a sea change in thinking about Palin -- the idea being to ditch her candidacy now before the presidential race has even begun. Jacobson asks, simply, why now?

Why now?

Of all the moments to let loose on Palin, why on the cusp of the media assault over the Tucson shooting, which was not only a media attack on Palin but also on the entire conservative movement?

Remember, while Palin was the focus of media attention because of the phony supposed connection of her electoral map to the shooting, there was a broader media attack on "right-wing vitriol," conservative talk show hosts, and other Republican politicians such as Michele Bachmann.

Why at such a critical moment in time would one of the most widely read conservative blogs run a headline declaring the candidacy of Palin over?

I can't be certain that I know why. But I do have this blog, so I feel like speculating, OK? 

I doubt that it is a coincidence that this is happening as Newt Gingrich is positioning himself as the best choice to be the presidential nominee. In the spirit of the same clever Machiavellian opportunism that has always characterized him, he and his supporters are trying to take political advantage of the latest bout of (IMO) shamefully manufactured media outrage.

Don't think people on the left aren't noticing; Cythnia Tucker was almost clucking with glee yesterday:

On Tuesday, a remarkable thing happened among the possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination: Newt Gingrich warned Sarah Palin to be more careful about her incendiary rhetoric.
Yep, you read that right. Newt Gingrich, the king of incendiary rhetoric, champion of rhetorical fireballs, the emperor of verbal excess, cautioned Palin about watching her words. Watch him, interviewed by ABC's George Stephanopoulos...


That's just one more sign of how worried Republican leaders are about the prospect of a Palin presidential run. Her negatives are climbing; a recent poll gives her an unfavorable rating of 53 percent, the highest disapproval she has scored since John McCain chose her as his running mate. A long line of establishment Republicans, including Barbara Bush and Karl Rove, have suggested that she should not run. Ross Douthat, conservative columnist for The New York Times, insists that the news media should stop talking about her ...

Many people on the right think that this is a great time to get her out of the way, and they are perfectly happy to use the manufactured outrage which resulted from the media attempt to pin the Loughner shooting on her for their poliotical gain. Timing is of course leverage, and I think it answers the "Why now? question.

I think it's shameful.

But for similar reasons to the ones I gave last year, I am not feeling particularly "betrayed." I'm just smelling that same old stench that has long made me have to hold my nose and vote for the bastards.

Once again, I truly hope I am never asked to pull the Gingrich lever.

posted by Eric at 11:16 AM | Comments (34)

Some Interesting Science Papers

My friend Physicist Oliver K. Manuel has a paper out explaining that the sun is not an ordinary star that "burns" strictly Hydrogen, but a neutron star with a Hydrogen mantle. The paper is rather technical but I can give you the flavor of it with an excerpt from the Conclusion.

Dynamic competition between gravitational attraction and neutron repulsion sustains our dynamic universe, the Sun, and life on planet Earth. Nuclear matter in the solar system is mostly dissociating rather than coalescing (fusing together). As shown in the above table, the potential energy per nucleon in the solar core is almost twice that available from hydrogen fusion. If the bulk of the Sun's mass is in a central neutron star and luminosity comes from the reactions listed above, then solar luminosity might have been higher by ~1-2% during the critical evolutionary period when the Standard Solar Model predicts frozen oceans and a "faint early Sun" [121]. Circular polarized light from the neutron star may have been separated d- and l-amino acids before the appearance of life [101].
The paper seems to explain a lot of things about our solar system and the sun. Like why life on Earth is made up of almost exclusively right hand molecules.

The second paper deals with superconductors. The Talk Polywell guys gave me the hint. What is so special about the new superconductor? It is made by shining laser light on a non-conductor.

The team from Oxford [England - ed.], Germany and Japan are said to have observed conclusive signatures of superconductivity after hitting a non-superconductor with a strong burst of laser light.

'We have used light to turn a normal insulator into a superconductor,' said Prof Andrea Cavalleri of the Department of Physics at Oxford University and the Max Planck Department for Structural Dynamics, Hamburg. 'That's already exciting in terms of what it tells us about this class of materials. But the question now is can we take a material to a much higher temperature and make it a superconductor?'

The material the researchers used is closely related to high-temperature copper oxide superconductors, but the arrangement of electrons and atoms normally act to frustrate any electronic current.

In the journal Science, they describe how a strong infrared laser pulse was used to perturb the positions of some of the atoms in the material. The compound, held at a temperature just 20 degrees above absolute zero, almost instantaneously became a superconductor for a fraction of a second, before relaxing back to its normal state.

Why is this important? After all we already have superconductors that operate continuously at that temperature without lasers.
'We have shown that the non-superconducting state and the superconducting one are not that different in these materials, in that it takes only a millionth of a millionth of a second to make the electrons 'synch up' and superconduct,' said Professor Cavalleri. 'This must mean that they were essentially already synched in the non-superconductor, but something was preventing them from sliding around with zero resistance. The precisely tuned laser light removes the frustration, unlocking the superconductivity.'

The advance immediately offers a new way to probe with great control how superconductivity arises in this class of materials.

The researchers are hopeful it could also offer a new route to obtaining superconductivity at higher temperatures. If superconductors that work at room temperature could be achieved, it would open up many more technological applications.

So right now it is all about research. But you never know what you might learn if you start poking with the proper stick in the right places.

Some books:

The Diversity Of Neutron Stars: Nearby Thermally Emitting Neutron Stars And The Compact Central Objects In Supernova Remnants

Superconductivity: A Very Short Introduction

Introduction to Superconductivity: Second Edition

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:01 AM | Comments (1)

Biofuel Breakthrough?

I have just been notified by my friends at Talk Polywell of a break through in the biologic generation of liquid fuels. The Globe and Mail reports on the breakthrough (although my friends at Talk Polywell think the report is garbled by a not entirely science literate reporter).

In September, a privately held and highly secretive U.S. biotech company named Joule Unlimited received a patent for "a proprietary organism" - a genetically adapted E. coli bacterium - that feeds solely on carbon dioxide and excretes liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (U.S.) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, "fossil fuels on demand."
Not only that. They can tailor the organisms to produce specific fuels using only CO2, water (fresh or salt), and sunlight.
Joule says it now has "a library" of fossil-fuel organisms at work in its Massachusetts labs, each engineered to produce a different fuel. It has "proven the process," has produced ethanol (for example) at a rate equivalent to 10,000 U.S. gallons an acre a year. It anticipates that this yield could hit 25,000 gallons an acre a year when scaled for commercial production, equivalent to roughly 800 barrels of crude an acre a year.

By way of comparison, Cornell University's David Pimentel, an authority on ethanol, says that one acre of corn produces less than half as much energy, equivalent to only 328 barrels. If a few hundred barrels of crude sounds modest, recall that millions of acres of prime U.S. farmland are now used to make corn ethanol.

So is this reputable or just a bunch of scammers?
Joule acknowledges its reluctance to fully explain its "solar converter." CEO Bill Sims told Biofuels Digest, an online biofuels news service, that secrecy has been essential for competitive reasons. "Some time soon," he said, "what we are doing will become clear." Although astonishing in its assertions, Joule gains credibility from its co-founder: George Church, the Harvard Medical School geneticist who helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984.
Well how about a look at what Biofuels Digest has to say.
In Massachusetts, Joule Unlimited has won a second key patent for its genetically modified cyanobacteria that directly convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into n-alkanes, and other diesel fuel molecules. The patent is the first awarded for a bacteria that makes fuel directly from water, sunlight and CO2, as opposed to organisms that make fuels from sugar or other cellulosic biomass, such as those engineered by LS9, Amyris or Solazyme.

As reported previously in the Digest, Joule is using a genetically modified form of cyanobacteria. Two weeks ago, Joule received its first key patent for "methods and compositions for modifying photoautotrophic organisms as hosts, such that the organisms efficiently convert carbon dioxide and light into n-alkanes."

Those reporting the death of the US as a world power may have been somewhat premature. Joule is reported to be building a prototype plant in Leander, Tex. At this stage of course nothing is certain. It will probably take a couple of years to prove this out and get the "bugs" out of the system. And probably a couple of decades to scale up the idea until the production becomes a significant fraction of US liquid fuel use. Time will tell.

Here is another possible approach:

Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports And Engineer Sustainable Food And Fuel

Thanks to Power and Control reader clazy here is a link to the Joule patents.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:48 AM | Comments (6)

Aaron Zelman Of JPFO Has Died

Aaron was a great defender of gun rights. He was a totally stand up guy. I explained to him how the Drug War was a danger to gun rights and after some discussion he changed his position. He will be sorely missed.

Memorial Page

JPFO Home Page

Books By Aaron Zelman

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

My major worry

My congressman, John Dingell, is one of the oldest and richest members of the House; he's so old that his Washington career literally began under FDR.

Now 84, Dingell intends to seek re-election, and he is taking advantage of the tragic shooting of Gabrielle Giffords by claiming he and his wife received death threats "in" the last campaign. He also blames "rhetoric" for violence.

"We had a very, very nasty campaign against us in which I got death threats, my wife got death threats," Dingell said. "I don't mind them for me - I've had them for years. ... But what does bother me is when they threaten my wife."

In referencing the Tucson, Ariz., shootings that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Dingell said rhetoric has created "a hideous unproductive climate which I think is very dangerous."

It just so happens that I majored in Rhetoric. Little did I know that I was majoring in the art of manufacturing hideous unproductive dangerous climates.

What I want to know is if "Rhetoric" is responsible for violence, then why isn't "English"?

And after all, didn't Jared Loughner identify the culprit as "Grammar"?

Obviously, these are very dangerous subjects.

What would have been a safe major?
posted by Eric at 04:27 PM | Comments (9)

Slush Funds?

I have an interesting report on political slush funds in the Vatican Bank from a source whose reputation I'm not aware of. Anyone know how credible this report is?

Slush fund accounts of major US politicians identified and seized at Vatican Bank

(Rome). Connection established with Daniel Dal Bosco RICO indictment, which cites Giancarlo Bruno, Silvio Berlusconi & Ban Ki Moon.

On Wednesday 5th January 2011, it emerged that US establishment-related slush fund accounts had been located in, and seized from, the Vatican Bank in Rome. The source of funds for these accounts in almost every instance was found to be the US Treasury.

Beneficiaries of the covert Vatican accounts include Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and each of the Obama children, Michelle Obama's mother, all the Bushes and the Clintons, including Chelsea Clinton, Joe Biden, Timothy Geithner, Janet Napolitano, several US Senators, including Mitch McConnell, several US Congressmen including John Boehner, several US Military Chiefs of Staff, the US Provost Marshal, the US Judge Advocate General, the US Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Roberts, several US Judges, the Pope, and several cardinals.

Big money was found in each of the accounts. The longer the beneficiaries have been in office, the greater the account balances were found to be. They range from a few million USD to more than a billion USD in the case of John Roberts. The total number of slush fund accounts so far identified at the Vatican Bank is said to be between 600 and 700. This number is likely to grow as international élite corruption investigations spread worldwide.

The disclosures have split the Roman Catholic Legatus organisation down the middle. Elizabeth Windsor (Queen Elizabeth II of England) is in the know and is intimately involved in the swirling and fissiparous covert power plays.

Seems like another big conspiracy theory to me. Sure to be making the rounds shortly. Time for supporters and debunkers to get to work.

So far all I can find out about the "situation" is from conspiracy sites. I also note that Daniel Dal Bosco is also referenced as Daniele Dal Bosco. A sex change operation maybe?

The most reputable site I have seen on the subject is called The Rumor Mill News, which was promoting this nonsense (if you can believe their date stamp) on or before 23 August 2010.

There was a time when I thought the Masons ran the world. Now I'm sure it is the Shriners. Dad was a Mason so I think I'm OK. For now.

Update: since I posted this a few minutes ago guess which site is now number two on the conspiracy theories hit parade? Power and Control. Heh.

Further update: I have found a secret video on YouTube which explains it all.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:47 PM | Comments (5)

Chester Obama has ruined my chance to be president!

The more I think about M. Simon's previous post, and this Ann Althouse comment discussion, the more I am having some serious hypothetical worries about my future.

The reason for my concern is the growing insistence by a large number of people that the so-called "Short Form" -- the standard issue birth certificate which most states issue these days -- is insufficient to prove birth in the United States, at least for purposes of running for president. This comment is typical:

The "proof" (COLB) you refer to does not constitute lawful proof under presidential circumstances.

Not long ago I ordered a Pennsylvania birth certificate, which is the same type of raised seal "short form" as Obama's, similarly containing very little information.




As you can see, in the interest of total paranoia I blacked out everything. But trust me, the above is what Pennsylvania will give you if you order a birth certificate and their records agree that you were born there. It is considered proof of birth by various government agencies (passport, social security, drivers licensing, etc.)

Out of curiosity, I called the Secretary of State and asked whether I could get "my Long Form." I was told that there is no official Long Form, but that if I requested a "Long Form," they would issue a certificate which would include my parents' names.

I don't have an original Pennsylvania "Long Form," and while I remember seeing my hospital birth certificate (with the little baby footprint, I believe) my mother is the one who had it, and it is long lost.

Does this mean I cannot run for president? If so, then that's not fair! How many presidents in our history have had to show "Long Forms"?

Do we know that every one of them even had a birth certificate?

The constitutional language is not especially helpful as to what proof of birth is needed:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In the days before each state kept official vital statistics records of every baby born, what would have stopped a candidate from simply lying about his birth? President Chester Arthur may have done just that:

Most official references list Arthur as having been born in Fairfield in Franklin County, Vermont on October 5, 1829. However, some time in the 1870s Arthur changed it to 1830 to make himself seem a year younger.[2]:5[5] His father had initially migrated to Dunham, Lower Canada, where he and his wife at one point owned a farm about 15 miles (24 km) north of the U.S. border.[2]:4 There has long been speculation that the future president was actually born in Canada and that the family moved to Fairfield later. If Arthur had been born in Canada, some believe that he would not have been a natural-born citizen (interpreting the law to mean that to be a natural-born citizen one must be born on U.S. territory) and would thus have been constitutionally ineligible to serve as vice president or president. During the 1880 U.S. presidential election a New York attorney, Arthur P. Hinman, was hired to explore rumors of Arthur's foreign birth. Hinman alleged that Arthur was born in Ireland and did not come to the United States until he was fourteen years old. When that story failed to take root Hinman came forth with a new story that Arthur was born in Canada. This claim also fell on deaf ears.[2]:202-203 In any case, Arthur's father was not naturalized until some years after his birth, resulting in Arthur having dual citizenship.

So maybe Arthur was not constitutionally qualified, yet got away with it. Presumably, candidates who lie about their qualifications are taken care of by the normal political process. Had Arthur's opponent made an issue of it, voters could have raised questions and voted against him. No one ever saw a copy of Chester Arthur's birth certificate, because Vermont didn't start keeping such records until 1857. But suppose it could be established by some sort of expert historical sleuthing that Arthur was born in Canada. Does that mean he was not the president? Or was that settled by the election? And if he wasn't the president, how far does that go? Did the bills he signed (including civil service reform, the country's "first general federal immigration law," and a law banning polygamists and bigamists from holding office) become invalid retroactively?

It's probably worth noting an interesting argument by Obama Birther Leo  Donofrio. While conceding that Arthur was born in Vermont, Donofrio asserts that because his father was a British subject, Chester Arthur was not a "natural born citizen"and thus was ineligible to be president. I suspect that is exactly the argument which will be made if and when the Obama people provide the legendary "Long Form" which it is claimed the Constitution demands. 

Will the claim that Obama is "not natural-born, even if born in Hawaii" work? It doesn't need to work, for the goal is to fuel the cause of the Birthers.

That cause, as I have argued many times, is ultimately more helpful to the president than it is to people who want to defeat him on actual policy merits, for it diverts the issue, and if there actually is a "Long Form" or other similar documentation somewhere (which common sense suggests there probably is), the best Obama strategy will simply involve the proper timing of its release.    

As I said in a comment,

I think the Obama team is playing games to keep the issue on the back burner, and are waiting for the opportune moment to release further original documentation. If states pass laws requiring something more than an official short form to run for president, Team Obama will roll their eyes and come up with it maybe in the summer of 2012.

(And the narrative going into the election will be "We told you all along those birthers were being unreasonable!")

If the president was born in Hawaii as the state says he was, that's not a bad narrative -- especially for a president who wants to play victim and doesn't have much to run on.

posted by Eric at 12:07 PM | Comments (12)

Women Hate Women

Brought to mind by a post on Why Palin Hatred?

This unhinged hatred of Palin comes mostly from women. That is an awkward observation for us to offer, because a man risks sounding sexist or unchivalrous when he makes unflattering generalizations about women.
Noted sociologist Chris Rock (in the video above) clarifies the whole social phenomenon of women hating women. However, not all women are like that. Thus Mama Grizzlies.

Note: The video is Not Safe For Work.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)

A Melodrama in Three Cats (plus one)

(The onslaught of felines on CV continues!  I have no idea how to say "felines to victory" in Latin, but consider it said anyhow.)

First there were Euclid and D'Artagnan. And Euclid and D'Artagnan were inseparable. I mean, really inseparable. Couldn't separate them with a water hose inseparable:

Miranda cat, the girl in the house, was not impressed. Good thing she didn't want to be friends with those PLEBIANS anyway!

Continue reading "A Melodrama in Three Cats (plus one)"

posted by Sarah at 06:36 AM | Comments (1)

Who's whipping up all that anti-government hatred?

According to a post Glenn linked, a study of action movie villains from the 1980s to today revealed that the most frequent and persistent overall characteristic of Hollywood bad guys is that they work for the government:

I tracked ten of the best-loved action stars over the past 30 years: Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson and James Bond (he may not be real, but he's definitely an action hero). I looked into each of their films (most of which I have not seen) and deciphered the villains' ethnicities/races/affiliations. (I hope I did this all correctly but in some of the lesser-known films it was hard to tell so let me know if you find errors!) I discarded categories with only one or two entries: deranged wives ("Presumed Innocent"), clones ("Blade Runner"), the IRA ("The Devil's Own") and split the rest into ten categories: African-Americans (light green on the graphs below), Nazis/Germans (purple), Russians (light orange), Middle Easterners (red), American military/government/law enforcement (dark blue), the mob/organized crime (brown), South/Central Americans (dark orange), North-East Asians (dark green), non-governmental white guys (light blue), and American companies (yellow). I should also note that I tried to get to the root villain--not just the people causing damage. So in Bond films I didn't count the henchmen and "The Jackal" went red as the men who hired Bruce Willis were Middle Eastern.

As you can see the overall winner of the villain tally is American military/government/law enforcement.  Our own protectors even beat out the Russians in the 80s! We are a country that distrusts government innately and that has translated to film. It's also just fun when the bad guy is the NSA director or a dirty cop because that adds another level of paranoia and danger from within. The interesting thing is that by 2000, Middle Easterners have fallen off the chart completely (as have Nazis, but what do you expect). 

 (Emphasis added.)

So if we are a country that distrusts government innately and that is reflected in Hollywood films over the decades, then what's with the attempt to blame the Tea Party?

posted by Eric at 12:04 AM | Comments (3)

They Lost It

No. Not the media over the shootings in Arizona. They lost Obama's birth certificate. Maybe lost it is the wrong term. "Can't find it" is more like it.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie suggested in an interview published today that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health.

Abercrombie told the Honolulu Star Advertiser he was searching within the Hawaii Department of Health to find definitive vital records that would prove Obama was born in Hawaii, because the continuing eligibility controversy could hurt the president's chances of re-election in 2012.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, Abercrombie's spokeswoman in Honolulu, ignored again yesterday another in a series of repeated requests made by WND for an interview with the governor.

Toward the end of the interview, the newspaper asked Abercrombie: "You stirred up quite a controversy with your comments regarding birthers and your plan to release more information regarding President Barack Obama's birth certificate. How is that coming?"

In his response, Abercrombie acknowledged the birth certificate issue will have "political implications" for the next presidential election "that we simply cannot have.

Well isn't that interesting.

The infamous Ulsterman secret source has a few words on the subject. He is discussing Palin's chances in 2012 and the birther issues come up.

I still find her appeal a fascinating thing to watch unfold, but she will not be a factor beyond some version of a conservative political cheer leader IMO. Unless, and I will throw you a bit of a bone here, UNLESS something comes out on the birther stuff. Yeah, I'm bringing it up myself here. Something is out there but nobody wants to touch it. The topic is coming up amongst us more than it ever has. I'm talking people who mocked it, dismissed it before, who are now quietly saying something is stirring out there on this subject and it's got the WH very concerned. Big time worried. There are discussion in the WH about the issue. And I think some of the Republican leadership has a whiff of it but all indications appear to be they want nothing to do with it. It's being buried deep. For now.

Barring something on that subject coming to light, I don't see Sarah Palin playing a significant role as a candidate in 2012. And the birther thing is not the scandal I have spoken of before. THAT event is still unfolding. Maybe. Issa and Co have sent out some interesting smoke signals in-house. I think he may actually pursue something there. If he does follow through, here is how it will likely go down based on the admittedly general information I have been told. Something along the lines of the DOJ being investigated. Perhaps the NBP case or similar. Within the context of that investigation things will be lead back to Chicago. Banking, election fraud, organized crime...so many possibilities there. The activity in Chicago by WH operatives has been significant in recent months.

Everywhere I look, they pop up. The damn unions are proving a real PITA for us. They are still in big time damage control mode. If Issa pushes hard, things will happen. If he has been compromised somehow, it could all get buried. I maintain as I always have that it starts in DC and then back to Chicago. This is the path that could collapse the Obama White House. On that I remain completely convinced. So much depends on Republican led investigations though. Thought NYT had lead on story but now believe that to be incorrect. WAPO information still seems credible though. They continue to circle it I believe and WH knows this.

Well who knows? It could be smoke and mirrors or smoke and fire.

Wouldn't it be a hoot though if we found out we haven't had a President for the last two years? I wonder if any bills he signed could be considered law?

In any case a LOT of people would be pissed.

H/T a friend of mine who is rather energetic. I'm working with him to display some of that energy.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:55 AM | Comments (14)

Facilitating magical thinking

For different reasons, both M. Simon and Sarah have made me want to sound off about something that has long annoyed me. 

Magical thinking. Seeing things that aren't. Making connections that are not there. In movies, the Michael Moore approach. (Bush swings golf club. Truckload of dead Iraqi babies. Voila! Connection made!) 

I hate the way stoned people like to jump to whatever conclusions manipulative Commies like Michael Moore might want to place in their heads, OK? Perhaps I am biased, but I remember at the peak of the AIDS epidemic when huge numbers of impressionable fools were absolutely, totally convinced that government scientists had created the virus in biowarfare laboratories at Fort Detrick Maryland. That was what they wanted to believe, and smoking dope made it seem more "real." Now, you could say I was running with the wrong crowd, but the point is, I observed this phenomenon, and it annoyed me at the time. Seeing evidence of the fragility and instablility of the human mind always does.

Sarah was not talking about marijuana-induced magical thinking, but the human tendency to look for "messages." We do have that tendency even without cannabis, and some of us have it worse than others.

If you have nothing better to do and want to see "messages," first smoke some pot. Then take some nice stream-of-consciousness music (this Captain Beefheart CD works quite well), and play it to randomly selected television with the sound muted.

The way it all seems to "fit" will amaze and even astonish you.

But hey, I don't actually recommend doing what I just said. You can skip the marijuana-induced "magic" and just take my word for it, and your "insights" will be just as valuable.   

I would never deny, however, that marijuana can also fairly be said in many cases to facilitate creative thinking, as well as what we might call "magical thinking." Great music can be created by great musical minds with a nudge from cannabis at the right time. Ditto art, and certain writing. (See M. Simon's post.)

But the stoners' conclusions can sometimes flow in the wrong direction. (Bad logic and conspiracy thinking.) I have long believed that the stoner mindset needs to be tempered with what used to be called "critical thinking." Only by rigorous application of logic and reason can it be determined whether Bush's golf game is related to dead Iraqi children. But alas, some people are able to do this better than others. Some don't want to, and some don't even try. This is aggravated by the unfortunate human tendency of wanting to "belong."

If the substance could be made legal and above board, at least that part of the illogical magic that results underground allure factor (aggravated by a misguided cultural sense of "belonging" to a persecuted "group") would fade away.

Stoner culture needs to be subjected to ruthless scrutiny under the bright light of legalization instead of being persecuted. The more mundane and boring it becomes, the better. Ridiculous laws that make boring substances cool only encourage magical thinking.

The problem is that many people believe that such laws will "help society" fight a "menace" and that their enforcement constitutes a "war" that can be "won." 

Sounds suspiciously like the magical thinking of the stoners, except the anti-stoners are not supposed to be smoking pot. So what's that about?   

Is the common denominator that marijuana makes people irrational whether they smoke it or not?

Pot, kettle, golf!*

It's all clear now. 

* Please note that I didn't use the racist expression "pot, kettle, black," because I am trying to avoid inflammatory rhetoric!

posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (9)

Staying "on target"

CNN is trying to avoid inflammatory rhetoric:

CNN's John King: "Before we go to break, I want to make a quick point. We were having a discussion about the Chicago mayoral race. My friend Andy Shaw used the term 'in the crosshairs' in talking about the candidates. We're trying, we're trying to get away from that language. Andy is a good friend, he's covered politics for a long time, but we're trying to get away from that kind of language."

Very wise of them. Wouldn't want to trigger anything or set something off.

I mean, otherwise, it might blow up in their face.

And the guest might bomb

Excuse me, but fuck CNN.

What good is the land of the free and the home of the brave without the rockets' red glare or the bombs bursting in air?

Is there a polite way to tell John King to blow it out his ass?

MORE: My thanks to Memeorandum for the link!

posted by Eric at 12:35 AM | Comments (5)

A Wilderness Of Mirrors

First and before I go into this post, I want to make it clear that I don't believe in writing-with-a-message. I am in full agreement with whoever said "if you want to send a message, use western union." Since everything became infused with "message" which somehow always comes down to politics and since everything local became political, (it never was the other way around. Or at least they never believed it.) they've done their best to politicize that most localized of personal events - the thoughts in your head. Which are supposed to be worthwhile and useful and... socially relevant.

The obvious problem with "message literature" is that it requires the message to be open and obvious enough to satisfy even the most obtuse of readers. It also requires it to be in full accord with the visions of the gatekeepers. In fact, message-literature only invaded the field when the publishers and editors themselves started believing literature should send messages. Since, of course, most of the artists doing message-art nowadays view themselves as counter cultural, there's a delicious irony there. It's just that it hurts when I laugh.

Continue reading "A Wilderness Of Mirrors"

posted by Sarah at 11:45 PM | Comments (4)

My life? My health? My doctor?

My doctor in California -- an internist I have been seeing since the 1970s -- is a real doctor. By that I mean he has a private practice and is not beholden to some faceless institution which treats doctors like apparatchiks and their patients as little more inventory in a public policy study. His records are private and not stored in any database, and he is acutely aware of the consequences to his patients of recording information which can and will be used against them. In short, he is a doctor in the finest traditions of the Hippocratic oath.

As my goal is to eventually return to California, today I heard some distressing news. My doctor does not like Obamacare, and he does not intend to hand his medical records over to a giant federal database. Sounds great, except after 2014, he will be up against a federal mandate requiring him to rat out his patients to this Orwellian electronic database.

So he says he is simply going to retire. He's not that old either.

While I have complained about the Electronic Health Records mandate before (as "the most monstrous invasion of privacy I have ever seen") this is not a political take on a statistical analysis, damn it. It's a real life hardship. For me.

When I return to California, where the hell am I supposed to find another real doctor?

Obamacare is making them an endangered species.

I am not alone. Even ordinary people (you know, the kind who join the Tea Party?) are getting pissed off, as this news program reveals:


I'm also drawn to something from my earlier rant: that now seems eerily prescient:

just how long do you suppose it will be before citizen's EHRs are integrated into gun buyer's background checks?

These people are relentless. (Unfortunately, blog posts cannot stop them.)

And now they have Jared Loughner as an excuse.

I can just hear the chorus saying "Just think how many lives will be saved with an electronic medical records database!"

Can I be allowed to decide whether or not I want to save my life by giving up more freedom?

It is still my life, isn't it?

posted by Eric at 07:13 PM | Comments (2)

The Logistics Of The Impossible

Bob Ramsey who has some interesting links on this page suggested I have a look at a book excerpt which explains why supply interdiction in the Drug War is an impossible task. Not just difficult. Not just expensive. Impossible. It is an excerpt from a book published in 1991:

Undoing Drugs: Beyond Legalization

So let me fill you in on some interesting facts from the text. Keep in mind that the dollars mentioned are 1991 dollars.

Much of the earth's surface is suitable for growing and processing psychoactive plants, the raw materials for drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Only a trivial fraction of this area is needed to produce the flood of drugs now coming into America. Even if we could wipe out all of today's sources of supply, a virtually inexhaustible set of alternative suppliers would remain. Many of the people who inhabit the primary producing areas, including South America and Asia, face starvation if they spurn the drug trade, and death at the hands of traffickers if they try to stop the trade. No credible threat or inducement will convince foreign growers and processors to give up their livelihood. Once produced, the drugs can enter America by any number of methods, across any of thousands of miles of open borders, and our efforts to stop smugglers serve chiefly to drive up the profits of those who succeed. Short of employing our entire armed services as a domestic drug militia, there is no feasible way to prevent drugs from entering the country. Even here in America, in locations ranging from national forests to bedroom "grow closets" and basement laboratories, psychoactives can be grown or concocted in quantities sufficient to satisfy the most demanding drug appetites. Thus, even if we somehow stopped the flood of foreign drugs, domestic producers stand ready, willing, and able to jump into the breach.

The bottom line is short and simple. In attempting to eliminate the world supply of drugs, the federal government has been building sand castles against the incoming tide. Despite occasional fleeting satisfactions, in the long run there is no realistic chance of success. If we are to undo drugs, we shall have to look elsewhere.

Expensive sand castles. And they get taxpayers to pay for the privilege. Doesn't it just give you the warm fuzzies to know you get to pay through the nose (heh) for someone else's hobby?

Well you don't really know anything if you haven't got the numbahs. So how about some facts and figures about agriculture.

The marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa) is one of nature's ultimate survivors. Quite literally, it grows like a weed, flourishing in the wild on every continent except Antarctica. Left untended, the plant reaches a height of up to fifteen feet within a few months, at which point its crop of leaves and buds is worth $500. Pruned, watered, and fertilized regularly, a single pampered plant can fetch $2,500, Marijuana will grow high on mountainsides, on open plains, and in dense forests. It thrives in pots hung from and hidden among the branches of trees, or can be trained to grow close to the ground in the midst of other, legal crops. Moreover, with less than $100 worth of equipment, an individual can produce a thriving crop year after year in his or her own closet or basement.

Roughly 75 percent of the marijuana consumed by Americans is imported, chiefly from Central and South America, although domestic production is expanding rapidly [3] The leading producer states are California, Oregon, Kentucky, and Hawaii, but the legal authorities have confiscated plants from Alaska to Florida, and from Maine to Arizona. Cannabis is a plant for all seasons and every locale.

Despite the diversity of conditions under which the principal psychoactive crops will grow, remarkably little arable land is presently devoted to their cultivation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that more than 2.5 million square miles in South America alone are suitable for growing coca, yet less than 1,000 square miles (less than 0.04 percent) is currently used for that purpose. [4] Elsewhere in the world, the combined land area suitable for coca exceeds the amount available in South America, and yet almost none of it is now under commercial coca cultivation. If coca eradication attempts had any appreciable success in causing supply disruptions, vast tracts of land could rapidly be cultivated as a source of supply.

Most of the 4,000 metric tons of marijuana produced in the United States each year is grown in only a dozen or so counties scattered across the principal producing states, and total U.S. production represents a trivial fraction of worldwide marijuana output.[5] And since marijuana cultivation is eminently suitable for commercial cultivation indoors as well as outdoors, one must realistically view the entire surface of the earth as a potential source of supply.

The link above has facts and figures on other drugs. I thought excerpting the relevant info on pot (California's largest agricultural crop in terms of dollars) would interest more people since the number of pot consumers in America runs between 5% (15 million people) and 15% (45 million people) of the US population. The numbers are fuzzy because taking good surveys about illegal behavior is a difficult proposition.

So how about drug smuggling? Stopping growing is impossible. Maybe we can keep the stuff (the fraction that is not home grown) from crossing the border. Well how about a little musical interlude?

Well don't that get your adrenaline pumping? And how about an adrenaline pumping story?

Who is more motivated - a drug trafficker, or the enforcement agent trying to stop him? A drug smuggler, describing the duels between drug runners and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in fast boats along the Florida coast, gave this answer:

There are places [along the coast] where the water is two feet deep and less, and the channels that you have to use are unmarked. Now, a good doper knows those channels because he studies them. He's also making ten, twelve, fifteen thousand dollars - it depends on the load - for four hours' work, and for that kind of money he is expected to take the risk of getting it wrong. The guy chasing him is making maybe a hundred bucks for a shift, on which he is going to pay tax, and if he hits that sandbank at sixty miles an hour he isn't going to collect his pension because he's going to be dead. Now, you're in the Customs boat heading for the sandbank: Which way do you want to push the throttle?[30]

This simple story helps illustrate why both innovation and adaptation in the drug wars so often favor the bad guys. For drug dealers, the rewards of developing new ways of bringing drugs to market (or of adapting to the latest methods of the drug warriors) are enormous, compelling enough for them to risk prison terms or death, or to murder anyone who stands in their way.

Compare this with the incentives facing law-enforcement officials, who are paid whether they catch the dealers or not. Quite simply, the drug warriors have little economic stake in the success or failure of their efforts, and equally little incentive to risk life and limb. Certainly, some may get publicity, and others may even get salary increases; but these are small compensations for risking their lives. Because their expected rewards - huge profits - are so much greater, drug dealers are willing to face a far greater risk of violent death than are drug-enforcement agents, and they are more willing and able to innovate and adapt as well. The common notion that drug warriors are a group of dedicated individuals constantly thinking up ways to outsmart the bad guys surely has an element of truth to it, but by and large, it is the bad guys who spend their time trying to figure out ways to outsmart the good guys. It is the drug dealers who are constantly seeking new products and delivery systems to give them a competitive edge, and it is the dealers who adapt the most quickly to changing conditions, because the bad guys - the dealers - have greater incentives to do so. The rate of innovation and adaptation in the drug-enforcement agencies is much slower than it is within the drug trafficking business, simply because the rewards are structured to make it so.

Of course we can change the reward structure easily enough. We can do it the same way we solved the crime problem associated with alcohol. End prohibition.

There is WAY MORE at the link. Read the whole thing. And weep.

The Drug War in popular culture:

Miami Vice: The Complete Series

The French Connection

Smuggler's Blues (as made famous by Glenn Frey)

Smuggler's Blues: The Saga of a Marijuana Importer

And NO! I'm not going to include any Rap Music. I hate that crap.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:37 PM | Comments (2)

it's the honest 9/11 truth!

According to his friends, Jared Loughner hated Bush, and he believed in the 9/11 Truther conspiracy theories.

Assuming the man's mind was capable of a political classification (a big assumption, IMO), that would have tended to place him on the left at the time. Because Bush was president and the official government position was that the 9/11 attacks were done by foreign terrorists, he could also have fairly been described as "anti-government."

While I have not read anything to indicate whether Loughner hated Obama or subscribed to Birther conspiracy theories, I'm pretty sure that if he did, the media would have had a field day declaring that this was proof that he was a rabid right wing nut, etc. 

I'm not saying he was on the left, but the double standard is appalling, and unfortunately quite unremarkable. If I decided to blog about nothing but double standards all the time, I would never run out of material, but the blog would become quite boring, and while I hope my complaint about the Loughner double standard is not too tedious, I want to focus on another double standard --

the conspiracy theory double standard.

Without defending any conspiracy theory, it is clear that some conspiracy theories are more respectable than others. This does not depend so much on the credibility of the theory so much as it does on what "side" of the political spectrum the theory falls. The more a theory tends to advance a left wing position, the less likely it will be called a conspiracy theory by liberals, and the more it advances a right wing position, the less likely it will be derided by conservatives. Non-politicized theories involving things like UFOs and chemtrails are usually safe for people on both sides of the spectrum to ridicule, and so are grand plots involving the Illuminati, Bilderbergers, Skull and Bones, the Masons, the Royal Family, etc. 

While assassination conspiracy theories tend to advance political agendas on the left, It has long fascinated me that the three biggest political assassinations -- JFK, MLK, RFK (four if you include Malcolm X) -- occurred while the federal government was run by Democrats, yet they are almost invariably spun as being "right wing" conspiracies involving the government. 

As yesterday was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and as a serious attempt was made to invoke the King Legacy in regards to the Loughner massacre, I have been thinking about the King assassination lately. 

What started me wandering towards King conspiracy theories was the attempt by the AP to spin the theme into one of "gun violence." I reacted with irritation:

Wait a minute. Since when is one of the most harmful and malicious political murders in our history to be reduced simply to "gun violence"? That phrase implies that no human agency or evil is required; the guns either just do it all by themselves, or else they inspire evil men to shoot people. I would love to hear the "reporter" explain exactly how James Earl Ray's Remington .30-06 rifle made him look down that Redfield 2x7 telescopic sight, draw a bead on King as he came out of the balcony of his motel, and then place an accurate fatal shot.

Except that many on the left would disagree, and call me a dupe of government propaganda for saying that. There is a huge conspiracy industry which cranks out books, videos and web pages all devoted to the idea that King was murdered not by Ray (who is portrayed as a innocent patsy who never shot anyone), but by the U.S. government (including the FBI, CIA, and military special forces) working in conjunction with the Mafia, and the trigger man was not Ray, but Memphis Police Lieutenant Ed Clark. (Conveniently, Clark had died in 1987, before his name was recalled via hypnosis retrieval of a repressed memory, so the man never had a chance to offer his side of the story.) 

Remarkably, the King Center (featured prominently in the piece attempting to make the Loughner tie-in), is one of the leading proponents of this theory.

Coretta Scott King: There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court's unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame. I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law. As we pursued this case, some wondered why we would spend the time and energy addressing such a painful part of the past. For both our family and the nation, the short answer is that we had to get involved because the system did not work. Those who are responsible for the assassination were not held to account for their involvement. This verdict, therefore, is a great victory for justice and truth. It has been a difficult and painful experience to revisit this tragedy, but we felt we had an obligation to do everything in our power to seek the truth. Not only for the peace of mind of our family but to also bring closure and healing to the nation. We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience. I know that this has been a difficult case for everyone involved. I thank the jury and Judge Swearington for their commitment to reach a just verdict, I want to also thank our attorneys, Dr. William Pepper and his associates for their hard work and tireless dedication in bringing this case to justice. Dr. Pepper has put many years of his life, as well as his financial resources, into this case. He has made significant personal sacrifices to pursue the search for the truth about my husband's assassination.

To delve into all of the details of this theory would require much, much more than a blog post, but briefly, attorney William F. Pepper arranged for the King family to "sue" an elderly man named Loyd Jowers, who basically confessed to his involvement in a civil trial, and the jury agreed based on his confession that he was liable and the government killed King.

The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame." Following statements by Dexter King and other family members, Dexter was subsequently asked by a reporter, "there are many people out there who feel that as long as these conspirators remain nameless and faceless there is no true closure, and no justice." He replied:

"No, he [Mr. Lloyd Jowers] named the shooter. The shooter was the Memphis Police Department Officer, Lt. Earl Clark who he named as the killer. Once again, beyond that you had credible witnesses that named members of a Special Forces team who didn't have to act because the contract killer succeeded, with plausible denial, a Mafia contracted killer".[2]

United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division started investigation on Jowers claims August 26, 1998. The investigation was completed in June 2000, and found no reason to believe Jowers' allegations.[3]

I was a bit annoyed by that last link to the Justice Department investigation, because it is dead, and it took a bit of sleuthing to find the report, which is titled "United States Department of Justice Investigation of Recent Allegations Regarding the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." (I also updated the Wiki entry.)

The report is incredibly detailed, and meticulously documented. It calls Jowers into serious doubt, and makes mincemeat of numerous unsupposed allegations presented the manufactured jury trial. While this post is burdensome enough already, I'll quote just one small excerpt dealing with the supposed linchpin of the conspiracy theory, Loyd Jowers:

At the time of the assassination, Loyd Jowers owned and operated Jim's Grill, a tavern below the rooming house where James Earl Ray rented a room on April 4, 1968. Until 1993, Jowers maintained in several public statements that he was merely serving customers in his tavern when Dr. King was shot. He did not claim any involvement in the assassination or significant knowledge about it.

In December 1993, Jowers appeared on ABC's Prime Time Live and radically changed his story, claiming he participated in a plot to assassinate Dr. King. According to Jowers, a Memphis produce dealer, who was involved with the Mafia, gave him $100,000 to hire an assassin and assured him that the police would not be at the scene of the shooting. Jowers also reported that he hired a hit man to shoot Dr. King from behind Jim's Grill and received the murder weapon prior to the killing from someone with a name sounding like Raoul. Jowers further maintained that Ray did not shoot Dr. King and that he did not believe Ray knowingly participated in the conspiracy.

Since his television appearance, Jowers and his attorney have given additional statements about the assassination to the media, the King family, Ray's defenders, law enforcement personnel, relatives, friends, and courts. Jowers, however, has never made his conspiracy claims under oath. See Section IV.C.1.a. In fact, he did not testify in King v. Jowers, despite the fact that he was the party being sued. The one time Jowers did testify under oath about his allegations in an earlier civil suit, Ray v. Jowers, he repudiated them. Further, he has also renounced his confessions in certain private conversations without his attorney. See Section IV.C.1.b. For example, in an impromptu, recorded conversation with a state investigator, Jowers characterized a central feature of his story -- that someone besides Ray shot Dr. King with a rifle other than the one recovered at the crime scene -- as "bullshit." Consequently, Jowers has only confessed in circumstances where candor has not been required by law or where he has not been required to reconcile his prior inconsistencies.

When Jowers has confessed, he has contradicted himself on virtually every key point about the alleged conspiracy. See Section IV.C.2. For example, he not only identified two different people as the assassin, but also most recently claimed that he saw the assassin and did not recognize him. Jowers also abandoned his initial allegation that he received $100,000 with which he hired a hit man to kill Dr. King, claiming instead that he merely held the money for the conspirators. Additionally, Jowers has been inconsistent about other aspects of the alleged conspiracy, including his role in it, Raoul's responsibilities, whether and how Memphis police officers were involved, and the disposal of the alleged murder weapon.

Equally significant, the investigative team found no credible evidence to support any aspect of Jowers' varied accounts. See Section IV.D. There is no corroborating physical evidence, and the few isolated accounts allegedly supporting Jowers' claims are either unreliable or unsupportive. At the same time, there is evidence to contradict important elements of Jowers' allegations. For instance, investigators did not find a trail of footprints in the muddy ground behind Jim's Grill after the murder, undermining Jowers' claim that the assassin shot Dr. King from that location and brought the rifle to him at the backdoor. Similarly, there is substantial evidence establishing that the assassin actually fired from the bathroom window of the rooming house above Jim's Grill.

The genesis of Jowers' allegations is suspect. See Section IV.F.1. For 25 years following the assassination, Jowers never claimed any specific involvement in or knowledge of a conspiracy. It was not until 1993, during a meeting with the producer of a televised mock trial of James Earl Ray, that Jowers first publicly disclosed the details of the alleged plot, including the names of the purported assassin and other co-conspirators. He also initially sought compensation for his story, and his friends and relatives acknowledge that he hoped to make money from his account.

Jowers' conduct also undermines his credibility. He refused to cooperate with our investigation. See Section IV.E. Even though he repeatedly confessed publicly without immunity from prosecution, he was unwilling to speak to us without immunity. We were willing to consider his demand, but he refused to provide a proffer of his allegation, a standard prerequisite for an immunity grant, particularly where a witness has given contradictory accounts. His failure to provide a proffer demonstrates that he was unwilling to put forth a final, definitive version of his story. It further suggests he is not genuinely concerned about obtaining protection from prosecution, but instead has sought immunity merely to lend legitimacy to his otherwise unsubstantiated story.

From the beginning, Jowers' story has been the product of a carefully orchestrated promotional effort. See Section IV.F.2. In 1993, shortly after the HBO television mock trial, Jowers and a small circle of friends, all represented by the same attorney, sought to gain legitimacy for the conspiracy allegations by presenting them first to the state prosecutor, then to the media. Other of Jowers' friends and acquaintances, some of whom have had close contact with each other and sought financial compensation, joined the promotional effort over the next several years. For example, one cab driver contacted Jowers' attorney in 1998 and offered to be of assistance. Thereafter, he heard Jowers' conspiracy allegations, then repeated them for television and during King v. Jowers. Telephone records demonstrate that, over a period of several months, the cab driver made over 75 telephone calls to Jowers' attorney and another 75 calls to another cab driver friend of Jowers who has sought compensation for information supporting Jowers' claims.

In summary, we have determined that Jowers' claims about an alleged conspiracy are materially contradictory and unsubstantiated. Moreover, Jowers' repudiations, even under oath, his failure to testify during King v. Jowers, his refusal to cooperate with our investigation, his reported motive to make money from his claims, and his efforts along with his friends to promote his story all suggest a lack of credibility. We do not believe that Jowers, or those he accuses, participated in the assassination of Dr. King.

I don't believe they did either, and I think it is very unfortunate that such utter nonsense is promoted at such high levels, simply because some people desperately want to blame the federal government. I find it ironic that the assassination occurred during a Democratic presidency, and the more recent Justice Department investigation was conducted by the Clinton administration, yet still this is all spun as a dastardly right wing plot.

I also think it is worth pointing out that the theory's leading proponent, attorney William F. Pepper, is a leading proponent of 9/11 Truther conspiracy theories.

William Francis Pepper (born August 16, 1937) is a attorney based in New York City who is most noted for his efforts to prove the innocence of James Earl Ray in the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sirhan Sirhan in the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

He has been active in other government conspiracy cases including the 9/11 Truth movement and has advocated that George W. Bush be charged with war crimes.[1]

While I don't believe there is any conceivable common thread or tie-in between the King assassination and the Tucson massacre, it strikes me that the demagogues who love to search for such connections could find one in the 9/11 Truth department.

Hey, at the rate these things go, it might not take long for them to start saying that Loughner was under hypnosis like Sirhan Sirhan

There's no end to these right wing government plots, is there?

MORE: It ought to go without saying that the common thread between most of these assassins and patsys involves CIA activities -- especially on college campuses:

Substantial evidence exists linking members of this country's intelligence community (including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Office of Naval Intelligence) with the esoteric technology of mind control. For decades, "spy-chiatrists" working behind the scenes -- on college campuses, in CIA-sponsored institutes, and (most heinously) in prisons have experimented with the erasure of memory, hypnotic resistance to torture, truth serums, post-hypnotic suggestion, rapid induction of hypnosis, electronic stimulation of the brain, non-ionizing radiation, microwave induction of intracerebral "voices," and a host of even more disturbing technologies. Some of the projects exploring these areas were ARTICHOKE, BLUEBIRD, PANDORA, MKDELTA, MKSEARCH and the infamous MKULTRA.

Loughner, who complained of being "brainwashed" by "grammar" (at his "genocide school") is obviously just the latest victim of this sinister plot.

Isn't it obvious to anyone who can connect the dots?

MORE: While I don't think I need to point out I consider the idea that Loughner was brainwashed in an MKULTRA program to be utter nonsense, it is already considered the truth by thousands of conspiracy theorists.

To their way of thinking, he's a perfect fit.

(But I don't expect that there will be much of a call to tone down the conspiracy theory rhetoric....)

posted by Eric at 12:23 PM | Comments (3)

Marijuana Makes Some People Smarter

Does pot make some people smarter? I have no studies proving that. I do have an anecdote

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The late astronomer and author, Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996) was a secret but avid marijuana smoker, crediting it with inspiring essays and scientific insight, according to Sagan's biographer.

Using the pseudonym "Mr. X'', Sagan wrote about his pot smoking in an essay published in the 1971 book "Marijuana Reconsidered.'' The book's editor, Lester Grinspoon, recently disclosed the secret to Sagan's biographer, Keay Davidson.

Davidson, a writer for the San Francisco Examiner, revealed the marijuana use in an article published in the newspaper's magazine Sunday. "Carl Sagan: A Life'' is due out in October.

"I find that today a single joint is enough to get me high ... in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater,'' wrote Sagan, who authored popular science books such as "Cosmos,'' "Contact,'' and "The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.''

In the essay, Sagan said marijuana inspired some of his intellectual work.

"I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of gaussian distribution curves,'' wrote the former Cornell University professor. "I wrote the curves in soap on the shower wall, and went to write the idea down.

Of course it could have been showering with his wife that did it.

Lester Grinspoon has another book of interest.

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine

And this one not by Grinspoon got five stars from all twenty reviewers.

Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:08 AM | Comments (5)

Doing the Democrats' bidding

What's up all of a sudden with certain Republicans these days? 

I mean, I might have expected Democrats to be pushing gun control, but coming on the heels of Peter King's inanity, stuff like this is getting ridiculous:

Lugar pushes to renew assault weapons ban

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) this weekend called on Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

Lugar is the first GOP senator to call for increased gun control following the Tucson tragedy that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. But Lugar, who supported the initial 10-year-long assault weapons ban when it passed in 1994, said he's not optimistic about the chances for passing gun control legislation this Congress.

"I believe it should be, but I recognize the fact that the politics domestically in our country with regard to this are on a different track altogether," Lugar told Bloomberg Television's Al Hunt Jan. 14.

A different track altogether?

I think it's Lugar who has jumped the track.

He might be hoping to switch parties and collect some sort of double secret retirement benefits.

Fascinatingly, in the last election, the Democrats did not oppose him. Only the Libertarians did:

On the day of the final 2008 presidential debate, Lugar gave a speech at the National Defense University praising Obama's foreign policy approach, and warning against the isolationist, reactive policies espoused by Senator McCain.[17] At that debate, Obama also listed Lugar as among the individuals "who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House."[18] There were rumors that either Obama or McCain would select Lugar to be Secretary of State, but that he would rather keep his Senate seat.[15][19]

In the 2006 election, Lugar was opposed by Steve Osborn, the Libertarian candidate. The Democratic Party did not field a candidate - in part because of Lugar's popularity in Indiana - deciding instead to focus on key state and national races. Lugar won the election with 87% of the vote, the highest percentage of the 2006 senate elections despite a Democratic take-over of Washington.

Although Lugar's party is in the minority in the Senate, he has good relationships with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Lugar was named an honorary co-chairman of their inauguration.[20]

On March 18, 2009, Lugar cast his 12,000th Senate vote, putting him in 13th place for all-time most votes. In 32 years in the Senate, he has a better than 98% attendance record.[21] Senator Lugar has announced that he will run for reelection in 2012,[22] and has an official campaign site.[23]

Who needs Democrats when you have Lugar?

Little wonder they don't run against him.


posted by Eric at 12:03 AM | Comments (1)

Science Fictional spam bot!

Okay, so Classical Values might be the blog (proudly) devoted to overthinking everything and I might be the resident (cat infested) science fiction writer, but oh, heck, for thinking outside the box we've got nothing on spambots.

In the process of springing my last comment from spam -- I'm dangerous, what can I say?  's okay.  It's a process -- I noticed this mind-boggling one:

My mother suggested I might like this website. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann't imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

My mother... he... dang.  This is Left Hand Of Darkness stuff.  :)

Like this, with no further explanation, it is a self-contained, mind-bending science-fictional construct.  Not that this will tempt me to clear it OR press its link button.

(Yeah, okay, it's the cats fault.  They drive you insane sooner or later.  Besides, if I can't have fun with spammers, who can I have fun with?)

posted by Sarah at 11:02 PM | Comments (1)


Sarah mentioned Heinlein flame wars in her recent post. So I'm cross posting this piece (with some additions) to see if I can get one going.


Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking.

R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1963


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein


Buckminster Fuller Stuff

Robert Heinlein Books

Sarah Hoyt Books

Cross Posted (more or less) at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:05 PM | Comments (15)

The Rule Of What?

Stacy McCain is bemoaning the destruction of the property market in Maryland caused by a ruling against the banks who created fraudulent documents. From a report he linked to:

In a major ruling Friday, a coalition of nonprofit defense lawyers and consumer protection advocates in Maryland successfully got over 10,000 foreclosure cases managed by GMAC Mortgage tossed out, because affidavits in the cases were signed by Jeffrey Stephan, the infamous GMAC "robo-signer" who attested to the authenticity of foreclosure documents without any knowledge about them, as well as signing other false statements.
What? The banks don't have to follow the law Mr. McCain? They can lie and the lies have to be accepted? I dunno Stacy. What ever happened to your respect for the rule of law?

You are correct about the destruction of the property MARKET. The alternative is the destruction of the rule of LAW. Choose one.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:56 PM | Comments (8)

What those big money, snarling-headed libertarians won't permit

While there doesn't seem to be much in terms of earth-shaking news yet today, over at Memeorandum I found a thoughtful and amusing essay, even if it sometimes borders on the outrageous. The author "Freddie" is primarily irritated at the mainstream left for excluding genuine leftists (the sort who are honest enough to admit to being socialists, or, I suppose, Communists). He certainly has a point, because what we call "the mainstream" tends to be about getting and keeping power, and appearances are always important if power is the goal. Which means that self-identifying as a socialist is not a good idea, even if you are a socialist.

But Freddie is not just mad at the mainstream left; he is also mad at mainstream libertarians. While he doesn't use the term "Big Libertarianism," he thinks libertarians are small in number, but have disproportionate influence primarily because of money:

...while libertarians are tiny in number they are mammoth in influence. This is the case because they've got money, money to fund enterprises like Cato or Reason or smaller outfits. I'm not saying that this is illegitimate. (There's something awfully poetic about libertarianism getting influence by buying it.) I'm just saying that there's no sense in which the lack of a leftist blogosphere is necessarily the product of small demographic representation.

If there was a different libertarianism.... I frequently imagine that an ideology with "liberty" right in the title might be a mad, teeming collection of every flavor of crazy and dreamer, a loose confederation rife with difference and disagreement. Difference so vast that it might, by god, lead some to find common ground with someone like, well, me.

Well, this blog is not funded by anyone except myself. I've been accused of being a Karl Rove front, and while I have repeatedly asked Rove for money, he has never responded or paid. Furthermore, not only have the billionaires at CATO and Reason not given me a cent, I pay for my own subscription to Reason magazine. (I think they just sent me a nagging letter saying it had expired.) As to who is buying influence from whom, I don't know. No one at Cato or Reason has ever tried to tell me what to say or think. Nor have any big-money libertarians in any minarchist hierarchy of which I am aware tried to influence me.

Perhaps, though, by calling myself a small-l libertarian, I have placed myself outside the ideological boundaries of what Freddie sees as libertarian orthodoxy -- policed primarily by Matt Welch, "the snarling head of Reason":

Instead, we have only the libertarianism that exists. And that libertarianism is the America ideology least accepting of difference, most committed to policing orthodoxy. It is, on balance, a model of lockstep adherence to the standard libertarian cause. Who could be a better symbol of today's libertarianism than Matt Welch, the snarling head of Reason, a man notorious for keeping those under Reason's banner within the small grounds of the libertarian reservation? I have searched but found no libertarians particularly amenable to seeing the tension between an ideology dedicated to freedom and an institutional apparatus that enforces orthodoxy. I bring all this up because I have always thought that there is room for libertarians to at once disagree totally with left-wing policy but to support the idea that the left-wing should be given a seat at the table. The reality, I'm sorry to say, is the opposite. I find it so hard to take, when libertarians complain about how misunderstood and oppressed they are, because nobody redbaits like libertarians do. Nobody. Nobody is more eager to excise the dirty commies from the realm of acceptable opinion than your average libertarian, while the similarly berate the powers that be for confining them to the intellectual ghetto of their imagination.  

I am by no means an orthodox libertarian, but in nearly eight years of blogging (unless there's something nasty in my unopened overdue subscription notice), not once has Matt Welch deigned to utter even a growl at me, much less a snarl.

As to offering leftists a place at the table, what table would that be? It is all libertarians can do to get a place at the conservative table -- a table over which they are not in charge and have very little control. Surely Freddie doesn't think libertarians should be demanding a place for leftists at the conservative table (or the "Tea Party table," if such things be). Or does he mean leftists should have a place at the libertarian table? That would be a little silly, for libertarians are libertarians and socialists are socialists. I can imagine that they might be able to eat together at a luncheon (I have left-wing friends), but people who simply do not share the same opinions cannot be expected to join (or to want to join) each other's organizations or write for each other's magazines, journals or blogs. If, say, Mother Jones started running pieces from the writers at Reason, and vice versa, they would both cease to be what they are. People read Reason because it does not promote socialism, and if Matt Welch hired a prominent socialist as a writer, pretty soon the grass roots (in the form of subscribers) would be calling for the board to cut off his snarling head. (Ditto for the editor of Mother Jones.)

Should I add a leftie socialist co-blogger here? I don't see why -- any more than I should add an anti-gay, pro-drug-war social conservative. People who want that stuff can find it at plenty of other blogs.

And that touches on something that Freddie (despite his apt observations about the left) does not seem to get. No one is in charge of the blogosphere. Yet he thinks "it" is some sort of monolithic superstructure with the ability to permit or not permit a genuine left wing:

I'm not a proponent of any kind of a Fairness Doctrine. Yes, it's true; I think the blogosphere would be a truer, more productive, more interesting, more entertaining, more generative, more self-effacing, more American place, were it to permit an actual left-wing. 

Anyone can start a blog about anything, just as I started this one. And I think that Freddie is a pretty articulate advocate for the actual left wing he claims is not permitted. I was drawn to his post by the Memeorandum link, and I don't doubt that many others will read it too. If something is interesting and people like it, there is no way to stop it. 

Hell, I'll even stick my neck out and say that I am willing to permit an actual left wing in the blogosphere! And I am willing to allow Freddie be the Head Honcho of the Actual Left Wing, but unfortunately I can't make him a "snarling head" as long as Matt Welch still holds that title.

And if these things are not for me to permit or allow, that's not fair!

I am sick and tired of being misunderstood and oppressed, excluded from virtually all tables, and confined to the ghetto of my imagination!

Time for some libertarian liberation!

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

Hostile Working Conditions

See, I don't think we've seen enough cute doggie -- or fish -- pictures lately, so I thought I'd pick up on Eric's slack. (grin)  Of course, this means CV, a staunch dog blog, is being taken over by the cat-blogging side.

Frankly, the internet consists of fifty percent cute kitteh pictures and fifty percent Heinlein flame wars.  I serve you up the cute kitteh pics today, on the promise of Heinlein flame wars tomorrow.

Hostile working conditions

Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

(Yes, those are little platforms that pull out on either side of the desk.  Yes, D'Artagnan [left] and Havelock [right] think they're there so they can supervise me.  No, I can't argue with them.  They're CATS.)

Update: my older son pointed out that's only the part of the internet that you can read while retaining the use of both hands -- i.e. no porn or onanism-inducing politics. :)

*cross posted at According to Hoyt*


posted by Sarah at 11:46 AM | Comments (8)

They Are Walking Away From Their Mortgages

Who is this "they" kimosabe? Home owners? Nope that is old news. The Banks are walking away from mortgages they have underwritten.

...the United States, much of Europe, and China have severe balance sheet issues that are ravaging their respective economic prospects. The media, analysts, and investors are gingerly mozying along as if this is not the case. Well, no matter how hard you ignore certain problems, no matter how hard you try to kick the can down the road - the issues really do not just "disappear" on their own.

With these points in mind, let's peruse this piece I picked up from the Chicago Tribune: More banks walking away from homes, adding to housing crisis blight: the bank walkaway.

Research to be released Thursday, the first of its kind locally, identifies 1,896 "red flag" homes in Chicago -- most of them are in distressed African-American neighborhoods -- that appear to have been abandoned by mortgage servicers during the foreclosure process, the Woodstock Institute found.

Abandoned foreclosures are increasing as mortgage investors determine that, at sale, they can't recoup the costs of foreclosing, securing, maintaining and marketing a home, and they sometimes aren't completing foreclosure actions. The property, by then usually vacant, becomes another eyesore in limbo along blocks where faded signs still announce block clubs.

"The steward relationship between the servicer and the property is broken, particularly in these hard-hit communities," said Geoff Smith, senior vice president of Woodstock, a Chicago-based research and advocacy group. "The role of the servicer is to be the person in charge of that property's disposition. You're seeing situations where servicers are not living up to that standard." City neighborhoods where 80 percent of the population is African-American account for 71.1 percent of red-flag properties, according to Woodstock.

So why is the concentration so heavy in African American (which used to be Black and before that Negro - changing demographics dontcha know) neighborhoods?
...this is definitely not an "African American" thing. As a matter of fact, the reason that this is concentrated in this primarily "African American" community is that this is one of the demographic groups that have been heavily targeted by predatory lenders. You will see other demographic "concentrations" start to show similar attributes and behavior from the banks - lower income, lower educated, higher LTV, lower mean rental income, lower property value, higher mean time to disposition from commencement of marketing areas, etc.
Shades of the Great Depression where people were going hungry and farmers were destroying food.

Speaking of the Great Depression it reminds me of Amity Shlaes' book:

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

The book discusses in great detail how government intervention made that Depression worse. In the current instance we have government interventions like the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which got the whole ball rolling. Downhill. (What? You were expecting the ball to roll uphill? Well actually it did for a while. You can do a LOT of anti-entropic things if you burn enough green).

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:40 AM | Comments (5)

Meth Arbitrage

The Government has scored another drug war success. Homeless people are now supplying meth precursors to underground drug labs.

At the height of the methamphetamine epidemic, several states turned to a new weapon to disrupt the drug trade: electronic systems that could track sales of the cold medicine used to make meth.

Tracking sales by computer allowed pharmacies to check instantly whether a buyer had already purchased the legal limit of pseudoephedrine -- a step that was supposed to make it harder to obtain raw ingredients for meth.

But an Associated Press analysis of federal data reveals that the practice has not only failed to curb the meth trade, which is growing again after a brief decline. It also created a vast and highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.

In just a few years, the lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld.

"It's almost like a sub-criminal culture," said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. "You'll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They'll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit."

Inside their vehicles, the so-called "pill brokers" punch out blister packs into a bucket and even clip coupons, Boggs said.

In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or even college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.

But because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.

The tracking systems "invite more people into the criminal activity because the black market price of the product becomes so much more profitable," said Jason Grellner, a detective in hard-hit Franklin County, Mo., about 40 miles west of St. Louis.

You would think that the people writing the laws have never heard of supply and demand.

But it is the same story ever since we declared War On Some Drugs in 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics act. Politicians write new laws. And the market adjusts until supply meets demand at the supply/demand equilibrium price.

You would think that the people writing the laws could figure out some way to fix what needs fixing without setting up price supports for criminals. You would be wrong. Drug user are smarter. And their suppliers are continually outsmarting the enforcers. Politicians and those who support their anti-drug ventures are dumb as a box of hammers. Like Wily Coyote they keep getting fooled by the same tricks and yet keep repeating their failed strategies. I wonder if the problem is genetic? Or maybe it is a matter of incentives. Politicians keep promising the impossible ("We can curb human appetites by passing laws.") and the voters keep voting for them. I guess the continual dog and pony shows - the piles of drugs, guns, and money trotted out every time the prohibition agencies are looking for funds are enough to fool most of the people marks most of the time.

What is striking to me is that leftists who normally can't evaluate the economics of almost any situation can do an exquisite analysis of drug prohibition and those on the right who are normally excellent at economic analysis are suddenly idiots when it comes to drugs. Proof positive I guess that drugs make people stupid. Especially people who don't use them.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:51 PM | Comments (2)

In "honor" of King's legacy, the AP scolds Arizona

While I am accustomed to scoldings from the left (especially on Sundays), it surprised even the jaded me to see a Sunday scolding in the form of an Associated Press news report titled "Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings":

ATLANTA (AP) -- The federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. has taken on added meaning for most Americans this year, as they try to make sense of the violence in Arizona that left six people dead and a member of Congress fighting for her life.

Added meaning? A mentally ill man who thinks he is being brainwashed by grammar goes on a shooting rampage, and that has to do with the federal holiday a week later?  

Yes, because according to the AP, the shooting happened in Arizona, which was slow to adopt the King holiday:

A state that once resisted the notion of a federal King holiday - and last year was the setting for a sharp-tongued debate on immigration - now finds itself in search of solace after the Jan. 8 attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the throng of people around her outside a grocery store in Tucson. The balm of choice is King, a pacifist Southern preacher whose own life was cut short by gun violence.

Wait a minute. Since when is one of the most harmful and malicious political murders in our history to be reduced simply to "gun violence"? That phrase implies that no human agency or evil is required; the guns either just do it all by themselves, or else they inspire evil men to shoot people. I would love to hear the "reporter" explain exactly how James Earl Ray's Remington .30-06 rifle made him look down that Redfield 2x7 telescopic sight, draw a bead on King as he came out of the balcony of his motel, and then place an accurate fatal shot.

Not only does calling Ray's actions "gun violence" trivialize one of the most serious crimes in U.S. history, but imagine if the standard was applied uniformly, to all crimes which happened to be committed with the use of firearms. The Einsatzgruppen murdered at least a million Jews by lining them up and shooting them. The Jews who died in the Holocaust were victims of the Nazis, and it would be a disservice to their memory to call them victims of "gun violence" -- just as it would be to call the Rwandan Tutsis victims of "machete violence." None of these people were the victims of the weapons that were used to kill them, but of the evil humans who used the weapons to kill them. And what about the Jews gassed at Auschwitz? Are they to be seen as victims of cyanide? This strikes me as so basic as to not require serious discussion, but apparently it is not at all clear to the AP.

According to the logic of association advanced in the AP piece, the Arizona tragedy is now related to the King holiday for the fortuitous reason that it happened in a state considered worthy of a scolding for reasons having nothing to do with the shooting:

"Dr. King's message was about inclusion and the recognition of human dignity, of human rights and making sure that all of our voices are heard," said Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University. "I hope people in Arizona, in particular, embrace that part of his message. The politics in Arizona recently have often seemed to revolve around excluding people."

To be fair to the professor, I suspect the "excluding" he is referring to consists of Arizona's immigration policies, and not Jared Loughner's feeling that he had been snubbed by Congresswoman Giffords.

But if that is the case, what has the shooting to do with Arizona's immigration policies? None that I can determine. 

Remember, folks, this is supposed to be "news."

Anyway, the AP thinks it is relevant and newsworthy that Arizona didn't adopt the King holday until 1992. 

Arizona established, then rescinded, a King holiday in the 1980s, but finally joined the federal observance in 1992. New Hampshire was the last state to honor King, in 1999.

OK, let us assume that Arizona is "bad" because of foot-dragging over the King holiday two decades ago. And let us further assume that it continues to be "bad" because it has immigration policies of which the Associated Press disapproves. How does it follow that a tragic massacre committed by a mentally ill man is related in any way to the state's "badness" -- and therefore, that the state is all the more to blame because it's the King holiday? 

Can the AP be sure that Dr. King would approve of his name being used to opportunisically scold a state in the wake of an awful tragedy under the pretext of news? 

posted by Eric at 02:27 PM | Comments (1)

Too much originality, and girls go wild?

While the psychotic shooter was in the midst of murdering people, I was trying to solve a far less important puzzle -- one which struck me as frivolous once I heard the awful news of the tragedy in Tucson, so I put it off.

Still, whenever classic texts are censored, Bowdlerized, or edited, I am immediately fascinated, and I want to know what was taken out, and if possible, why. In my post I discussed the removal of the n-word from Huckleberry Finn, and the removal of at least one full chapter (and other things) from a purportedly original McGuffey Reader. The former is no mystery, but the latter really had me scratching my head.

That's because the publishing house bills their edited version as the "Original" McGuffey Reader from 1837, and it is their stated intent to restore the original as a children's textbook.

By their own admission words that might be misunderstood today have been changed, and at least one chapter has been taken out entirely as "inappropriate." I wanted to see the chapter which had been removed, as I very much wanted to know precisely what it was that the publisher deems inappropriate, but it is not easy to find a copy of the 1837 Edition of McGuffey's Third Eclectic Reader. Children's textbooks printed on cheap paper don't have that long of a shelf life, and 174 years is a long time. 

So yesterday I managed a workaround. As McGuffey was a professor at Miami University, the university has a large, very complete collection of McGuffey Readers, and in this list of finding aids, I found a thorough inventory of the Third McGuffey Reader (PDF), with each chapter listed by name. Lo and behold, Chapter 2 -- removed as "inappropriate" -- has the following title:

2. The Wild Girl (Pleasing Perceptor)

That made it relatively easy to track it down even without the 1837 textbook, despite a slight mistake by the curator. The original book from which McGuffey borrowed the chapter is actually titled "Pleasing Preceptor," by Gerhard Vieth, but that is only a partial title, the full original of which reads thusly:

The pleasing preceptor; or Familiar instructions in natural history and physics, : adapted to the capacities of youth, and calculated equally to inform and amuse their minds during the intervals of more dry and severe study: / taken chiefly from the German of Gerhard Ulrich Anthony Vieth ... ; intended for the use of schools, and illustrated with cuts.

Hmmm... Nothing like being informed and amused during dry and serious study.

Anyway, getting Vieth's original words into an easily disgestible format was not easy. Most of the later books which include "The Wild Girl" as a chapter have edited it severely, taking out some of the more fun stuff. The original is replete with the archaic "f" instead of "s" and if you read it as it would appear in modern phonics, you would sound like a Monty Python character with a "fpeech" impediment.

What I would like to know is why it is considered inappropriate. Especially because if the goal is to teach modern children to read by having them read what children learned in 1837. There is certainly a moral lesson, and it is described in the first paragraph:


How much reason have you, my young readers, to thank Providence, for having caused you to be born and brought up among civilized men; for what would you have been, had you, bereft of parental care, and left to yourselves, grown up remote from human society ! It is through the means of society alone, that we become human creatures. Even the savages, as they are called, of America and the South,Sea islands, live together in society; and in consequence art not wild, they are only less polished than europeans. Do. you wish to know what man would become, if deprived of human society, and uneducated by his fellow men, you may learn it from the following account of a wild girl, which is well worth your reading. 

For those who want to read the whole thing, it is appended it as an extended entry.

Without tracking down and reading the actual 1837 Reader, it is impossible to know whether McGuffey included Vieth's orginal chapter in its entirety, or used the later edited versions. I consider myself lucky to have found it at all. But still, why was it taken out as inappropriate? Is it racist? Might it be inappropriate because the girl was thought to be a stolen Eskimo ("Esquimaux") child? Are they afraid of letting modern children read about such things happening lest they talk to their less educated friends who might tell them that "The Wild Girl" offers partial confirmation of the multiculturalist drivel and Howard Zinn texts? Or might it have been removed because the poor girl ate her food raw, was unable to adapt to the modern diet, and had to be placed in a convent? Might it have been thought that kids reading that today could get ideas about the desirability of switching to the Paleolithic Diet? Maybe these reasons are a stretch, but I'm speculating out loud.

Why would the champions of The Original McGuffey have removed this chapter?

Any ideas?

As if that wasn't bad enough, when I continued to examine the Miami University inventory, and compared it to my "THE ORIGINAL MCGUFFEY" edition, I saw that two other chapters were also missing. 

Chapter 5 is supposed to be "Conflagration of an Amphitheater at Rome" (by Croly). Yet in the edited "original," it has been changed to "Punctuality and Punctuation." Croly's "Conflagration of an Amphitheater at Rome" can be read here. It is not a happy scene (animals and a slave are burned alive), and it occurred to me that the publisher might have considered it too gruesome for modern children. But can that be right? Is it really more gruesome than what's on TV or at the movies?  So I'm clueless there too.

Another omission is Chapter 29. "The Noblest Revenge (English Magazine)" -- originally by Arnaud Berquin. Not a bad morality story with a surprise twist. An aggrieved boy seeking revenge returns good for evil, and it caused his adversary to mend his ways. Original here. As to why a modern Christian publisher would decide to take that out, I have absolutely no idea.  

Another omission is "Chapter 40. The Giraffe (Anonymous)." My guess is that the story is this one. A charming little narrative by a giraffe in a zoo who discusses the differences between giraffes and people. If I had a child, I would read it to him, and I don't see how it would offend anyone except maybe the activists at PETA.

So what am I missing?

Is too much originality a bad thing?

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm no absolutist, but if original is relative, then why isn't tradition?

Continue reading "Too much originality, and girls go wild?"

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

Days Of Future Past

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the future - a future in which people have flying cars and flying houses; where diners were run by sentient bots embedded in the walls; where there are colonies in other planets.

You see, I read Clifford Simak when I was very young, and that was the future I'd thought we have.  I understand there are many reasons - many of them having to do with regulation more than with anything else - why we don't.  (For instance, I suspect that the main reason we don't have space colonies is the treaty that says no one can own a piece of space.  It's unnatural, unrealistic, and it stops exploration - but not a subject for this post.)  I also understand in some instances that future might have been impractical.  Flying cars seem a particularly quixotic idea.  But that world had a dreamy, rosy glow about it, being invested with the dreams of childhood.

I'm not displeased with the world we do have, mind you.  For one, our computers are better than theirs.  But I am forever enthralled of the idea that there is some other universe where this future of gadgets and regular moon flights is true.

This story below, Wait Until The War Is Over is based on the idea that the real world is that future, and that some people can perceive it/cross over.  It was published in Gateways (a DAW anthology.)

Needless to say, this is in its unproofed state.  The one published was properly copyedited, but not this one.


 Wait Until The War Is Over


 Sarah A. Hoyt

"And then the aliens came," My father said.

Continue reading "Days Of Future Past"

posted by Sarah at 11:07 AM | Comments (1)

Hoyt, Harmony, and Hayekipedia

Classical Values gets results! No sooner does our own Sarah Hoyt tell the Instaworld "there's no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship" than this happens:

Tunisia's popular uprising is all the more surprising because it wasn't part of a narrative that had been given a name and assigned a colour months in advance. To most people outside Tunisia, distracted by events in the United States and elsewhere, this came out of nowhere, in a country too often described as a "benign dictatorship," one of those places we happily visit on package vacations because the torture chambers are kept well out of sight.

One of the ironies of this sort of thing is that your Pinochets and Syngman Rhees are much more likely to be forced from office by an uprising than your Saddam Husseins: a little bit of liberty is like a crack in a glass house.

Liberty is something uniquely precious for those who call ourselves "libertarians."  The statists on the left and the social conservatives on the right will both praise liberty in certain favored conditions, but they also view their kind of coercion as necessary and right and desirable. And that's ultimately why I'm a libertarian --  built around the primacy of freedom and faith in the ability of a free society to self-organize for optimal outcomes with minimal coercion, libertarianism is easily the most intellectually consistent and empirically-driven of the political ideologies. 

Not to be missed: an utterly fascinating article on Wikipedia and its Hayekian origins over at Reason.

posted by Dave at 11:57 PM | Comments (3)

Hey, I was just kidding! I didn't mean to create a climate!

In a post about the FDA's ban on caffeinated alcoholic beverages, I resorted to sarcastic ridicule by calling for a crackdown on old standby drinks like Irish Coffee and Rum and Coke.

....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!

I also included YouTube videos featuring "Rum and Coca Cola" from 1946 and a lesson on making Irish coffee, and I thought I was being funny, in a reductio ad absurdum sort of way.

But now I'm thinking that maybe I should stop kidding around in these posts, lest my sarcasm be taken seriously by impressionable minds, with serious consequences as the result.

No. Seriously. Little could I have imagined when I wrote the post that what was obvious humor for me would be seen as deadly serious business for some politicians. 

"Iowa Legislator Seeks to Criminalize Cocktails"

The Food and Drug Administration can ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages such as Four Loko, but it cannot stop bartenders from mixing Red Bull with vodka, coffee with Irish whiskey, or cola with rum. Fortunately, Iowa state Sen. Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington) has proposed a bill that would close this dangerous gap by making it a misdemeanor for any business with a liquor license to "manufacture for sale, sell, offer or keep for sale, import, distribute, transport, or possess any caffeinated alcoholic beverage." The bill defines "caffeinated alcoholic beverage" as "any beverage containing more than one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume, including alcoholic liquor, wine, and beer, to which caffeine is added." Hence it apparently applies not only to drinks with a noticeable caffeine kick but also to coffee-flavored liqueurs with detectable amounts of the stimulant, such as Kahlua or Tia Maria, and any cocktails made with them, such as a Black Russian or a Mudslide. In addition to jail time and fines, violators would face revocation (not just suspension) of their liquor licenses, and therefore loss of their livelihoods--a pretty harsh penalty for following the instructions in a Mr. Boston book.

The bill even bans mere possession of the beverages, which would carry a fine and/or jail term.

Presumably, though, bartenders and people living in their homes would still be allowed to serve coffee under the bill, as long as they didn't mix it with alcohol. But what if the deadly mix were made to occur in the stomach of someone who has already been drinking? What would prevent a bar patron from ordering coffee after already consuming booze, thereby circumventing the law with still-legal precursors? 

Surely, such a legislative oversight would create a loophole that must be closed! 

See? There I went again, trying to be funny.

I should remember that there are a lot of impressionable people in the government, and they might not get my humor.

I'd hate to be creating a serious climate.

posted by Eric at 10:32 AM | Comments (7)

Smart Drugs

Boy is this going to piss off a LOT of people. Odds are the more recreational drugs you consume the smarter you are. Counter intuitive huh?

According to Psychology Today, people who use more drugs are more intelligent. "Intelligent people don't always do the right thing," they write, "only the evolutionarily novel thing."

According to a study conducted by National Child Development, "more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children." These drugs include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, alcohol and tobacco.

The chart on the left shows the findings of the study. It depicts the latent factor for the consumption of 13 different kinds of psychoactive drugs, (cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, amyl nitrate, magic mushrooms, cocaine, temazepan, semeron, ketamine, crack, heroin, and methadone). There is a clear association between childhood general intelligence and adult drug consumption.

My theory is a little different. The brain conditions that give a propensity to drug use also give a propensity to intelligence.

In any case this is so totally hilarious and unexpected that it is going to blow minds. The stereotype of the stupid drug user is just plain wrong. Why might that be? Let us think: only the stupid drug users get caught. The smart ones are getting away with it and the smart ones predominate.

The stupid shits are the ones supporting drug prohibition. This is just funny as hell. It reminds me of the old joke "Drugs make people stupid. Especially the people who don't use them."

So was this true in the US?

"Very bright individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than very dull individuals," says Psychology Today. They ran the same study in the U.S. and found similar results.
I can see an explosion of illegal drug use coming if the word on this gets out as everyone tries to prove they are smarter than average.

This may explain why Drug Testing Lowers High Tech Productivity.

It is true beyond a doubt that stupid people are running the drug war and smart people are against it. Why stupid? We in the US pay $70 billion a year (according to this video) to make criminals richer and to make it easier for kids to get an illegal drug than a legal beer. How stupid do you have to be to support that? Dumber than a box of rocks.

The smarter police are catching on. Check these guys out:

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Citizens Opposing Prohibition

Here is a video by some really smart guys about the drug war.

American Drug War: The Last White Hope

Here is the trailer:

My advice to anyone who wants to try this at home? Be careful out there. Because if you are not smart enough you are likely to get caught.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:52 AM | Comments (13)

Pushing Humpty Dumpty

Back when I was eight I read Alvin Toffler's Future Shock.  I've since heard it has a globalist sub-text, or whatever.  I don't know.  I haven't re-read it since I was eight.

At eight, what I took away from it was the mechanics of change in society and how people react to change.  Also, that things would change REALLY fast.  And so far what I took away from it has served me very well.

Change came at me at a higher speed and in scarier aspects than it did at most of you.  Portugal in the sixties and early seventies - due to stupid government tricks, like a mercantilist philosophy (among other issues) - in the place where I lived (it varied greatly by region) was stuck somewhere in the early twentieth century.

When I grew up - seems like a vanished country - there were two private-home televisions in the entire village.  Most nights, people got all dressed up and went to the coffee shop to watch TV, which had two channels, showed in black and white, and would run to soap operas and recycled American shows as well as to recordings of the symphony and/or lectures on various subjects.  Other people stayed home and listened to programs on the radio

Continue reading "Pushing Humpty Dumpty"

posted by Sarah at 12:07 AM | Comments (5)

The Tight Rope Over The Lion Pit

Today at the breakfast table, the entire e-publishing thing flipped on me. It started with nothing more significant than a flutter, a feeling of excitement.

Now, you know - if you've read me - that when it comes to technology and how it affects our lives, I'm a "the glass is brimming full" kind of girl. In fact, I have to stop and make myself THINK of the drawbacks of any technology that makes my life easier or safer or more interesting.

But I confess that lately, with the doom and gloom climate prevailing everywhere in publishing, with the confusion of non-paying bookstore chains and sinking numbers and the editorial houses seeming to scramble in the darkness, I've been having the sinking feeling that the entire field that I spent two decades breaking in/working in was turning to ashes and nothing under me and that, a couple of birthdays from 50 I'd find myself with no significant professional experience to do anything at all. Yeah, I used to be a multilingual translator, but like music languages are something that must be either practiced or lost. And I haven't practiced in twenty years.

UPDATE: In light of Sarah's marvelous InstaVision interview,Eric decided to bump this post to increase its visibility.

By the way, readers who want to see all of Sarah's posts can simply click on this category link.

Update -- by Sarah -- I was unavoidably away from the computer all day.  Thank you to Instapundit for the link!  Welcome instapundit readers!

Continue reading "The Tight Rope Over The Lion Pit"

posted by Sarah at 11:41 PM | Comments (28)

A Narcotics Officer Speaks Out

If you want to leave a comment on the video at YouTube you can use this link.

Links to the organizations mentioned at the beginning of the talk.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Drug Policy Forum Of Texas

And another organization not mentioned headed by retired Detective Howard Wooldridge:

Citizens Opposing Prohibition

Some thoughts on the video:

The video provides statistics that will knock your socks off. Among them:

Before the start of the War On Drugs (WOD) in 1970 1.3% of the population had an addiction problem. After 40 years of effort what is the number? 1.3%.

OK what was the number before the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914? About 1.3%.

He argues that the WOD is actually the vector that has spread drug use. He provides facts and figures to back up that assertion.

He talks about addicts being able to go to a clinic with a prescription to get their drugs. I don't think that will work because it assumes the addict doesn't value his time. Think about having to go to a clinic 4 or 6 times a day for his fix. Possible if there is a clinic is on every corner. What are the odds?

How do you hold down a job if you have to go to that clinic 4 or 6 times a day?

You don't. So what will happen in such a regime? The dealers will be back to sell a day or a weeks supply.

We don't make pain patients visit a clinic every few hours for their pain meds. Why should drug addicts be any different?

Russ Jones (the speaker in the video) has a blog. Let me quote you from a letter Russ received.


Steve and I have had this conversation many times. This is a tough issue but here are the facts. I've been a recreational drug user. Not now, but in my earlier college years, the years I was on the dean's list and getting selected to be the commencement speaker at my graduation. Steve has been a recreational drug user for a while, the whole time maintaining an impeccable record in school and work.

Even Jimmy Allison was a recreational drug user while finishing medical school and excelling in his career (he hasn't used for many years though). The point is, the concepts that people have of drug users is that of the homeless junkie or the woman with seven kids on welfare. All these are racially charged notions, particularly of the black and Latino populations. The reality is that the vast majority of people who use recreational drugs are professionals, educators, and students on their way to becoming leaders (take Clinton and Bush, for example).

I believe that if drugs were legalized, then they could be regulated. Once regulated, the government would nullify the illegal trade of narcotics and turn billions of dollars for stopping the drug trade into billions of dollars earned. They would also be able to officially recognize the problem and start addicts on programs that could help them kick the habit.

Drugs don't fry your brain. Trust me. I and most of my friends are living proof

The author of the letter is still falling for the "drugs cause addiction" line. No they don't. If they did why isn't "Terry" still a user? Other than that he makes some very good points. As does Russ Jones.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

What if they made disease illegal, and jailed the sick?

M. Simon's post about heroin drew an interesting comment from reader Bob Sykes:

In the past, I have often thought you were somewhat of a crank on drug legalization. But your link this morning to Dr. Shavelson is a revelation. I have a brother in-law who is a long-term drug addict and who is suicidal. He has never gotten any meaningful treatment for his problems. And I now see somewhat that his pain must be severe....

As I noted in another comment, at some point it was decided to label opiate drugs as "pain killers" and declare that "real" pain consists only of physical pain. A moral line was therefore drawn between emotional pain and physical pain, and it was deemed "immoral" to medicate emotional pain. This in turn led to treating people who medicated their emotional pain as common criminals.

As to why a society would countenance such cruelty, I speculated it may be that some people have a primitive instinct to hate and persecute those seen as weak, but because this cannot be done rationally, they must first be labeled immoral. But at any rate, the use of once legal drugs like heroin to treat emotional pain became a crime -- whether the drugs were provided by doctors or consumed by individuals who medicated themselves.

Anyway, Simon's post and the comments reminded me of a scientfic article confirming something I long suspected: that addicts have a high incidence of social anxiety.

Yet, despite this, conventional "treatment" methodology forces them into 12 step groups! The authors acknowledge this problem:

As most treatment facilities rely heavily on traditional group therapy and 12-step treatment approaches (such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous) for the treatment of SUDs, individuals with social anxiety may have considerable difficulty engaging and participating in such group-oriented activities.

I have known people who would rather die of an overdose than attend 12 step groups. That sort of "treatment" is not for everyone, and you don't have to suffer from social anxiety to see it as invasive of dignity to be forced to attend touchy-feely meetings in which you confess your sins while being relentlessly indoctrinated to believe in a collection of answers to everything in what is called "The Big Book." While no one disputes that this works for some people, those who disagree with the approach are often accused of being "in denial." One man I knew said that they even had a label for his objections to the group-think philosophy: he was told that he suffered from a condition known as "terminal uniqueness." 

It reminds me of religious therapy to cure another "immoral disease" -- homosexuality. As someone who believes in freedom, however, I have no problem with people voluntary deciding to submit such "treatments," and it would be tyrannical to stop them. However, unlike Exodus-style religious therapy for homosexuals, the 12 step regime for addiction treatment is often imposed on individuals by court order -- which means at gunpoint, under penalty of being sent to prison.

Nor are doctors allowed to manage addicts as they see fit. Giving an addict drugs to help him maintain functionality is not considered within the "legitimate practice of medicine," and any doctor caught doing this will lose his license and can easily be subjected to a lengthy prison term. 

Almost everyone agrees that addiction is a disease. Why should the DEA get to dictate what should be done with these people -- even to the point of regulating the practice of medicine? (Anyone who thinks government control of medicine began with Obamacare should read the history of the regulation of medical narcotics.) The DEA has that power because the medications are illegal to use for emotional pain or addiction treatment, which means that not only is self-medication a crime, but all doctors and patients are possible suspects to be watched and monitored.

The problem is compounded by the fact that very few people are sympathetic to drug addicts, as they have been systematically conditioned over the decades to think of them not as sick people, but as bad. (Or maybe both sick and bad.) That's because they break the law, and breaking the law is bad, whereas in the old days when heroin was sold over the counter, addicts were not bad people. The old "when heroin is outlawed then only outlaws will use heroin" truism.   

While truisms like that may be true, they are also tired, so I tried to think of a better analogy which might be made to a still-legal activity engaged in by sick people who have not yet been turned into "bad" people by operation of law.

It's an old issue in this blog, but there's not much debate over the fact that most schizophrenics smoke to self-medicate. So I thought, "Imagine if tobacco were made illegal and people who self-medicated faced imprisonment for the crime of smoking."

Except that analogy really doesn't work.

Society would never be so deliberately cruel to sick people.

posted by Eric at 03:11 PM | Comments (4)

What Baen Does Right

I've talked a lot about what publishers are doing wrong in the analysis of the current transformation of book marketing and publishing.

Let me talk about some things one of my publishers is doing very right.

First, let me admit to some built-in bias. For those who haven't heard the sob story at cons or panels, my first book came out a month after 9/11. This was back when people - even I - still went to bookstores on a regular basis. Only at that time we didn't. We sat at home and watched the news, and waited for the other shoe to drop. (Well, I did. While writing the third book of the series.)

Because of this, many of the copies weren't even unpacked at the various bookstores; never made it to the shelves. The sell through was terrible, the laydown on the next book was lower and on the third lower still (according to the iron law of book death spins.)

Continue reading "What Baen Does Right"

posted by Sarah at 10:10 AM | Comments (4)

Arbitrary discrimination is the only way to promote fairness and equality

One of the many ironies about life in our mega-egalitarian, discrimination-obsessed country is that not only does discrimination abound, there may be more discrimination than ever before. Most of it is government mandated, whether in the form of affirmative action hiring programs, requirements that government hire minority contractors, numerous programs for the "traditionally disadvantaged" (such as having a Spanish -- but not Portuguese! -- surname), special "HOV" lanes giving advantages to people who have larger families, building code requirements that all the closest spaces in parking lots and shopping centers be reserved for people whose doctors have signed forms stating that they have a disability, and I could go on and on, but I think I made the point.

Our society tolerates, encourages, and often mandates a lot of discrimination. There is no consistent rule. I'm glad I don't have a child, because if he asked me, "Dad, what is discrimination and why is it bad?" I wouldn't know where to begin. Discrimination has become a basic government function of special privilege allocation. Whether it is public or private in nature, all decisions about who gets preferences, and who gets what ahead of whom are to be decided upon by the government. 

Occasionally a crank who doesn't get it what really can't be gotten will come along and complain about discrimination. A perfect example is the story Glenn linked earlier about the man whose lawsuit against "ladies night" was tossed out by the Supremes

A Manhattan lawyer who has filed a series of antifeminist lawsuits in recent years -- with little success -- has suffered his latest defeat: the United States Supreme Court refused to hear what he calls his "ladies' night lawsuit."

In 2007, the lawyer, Roy Den Hollander, filed a class-action suit against Manhattan nightclubs like Copacabana, China Club, Lotus and Sol, claiming that they discriminated against men by offering free or reduced admission to women on "ladies' nights." Mr. Den Hollander contended that these offers violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The suit, filed in federal court, was dismissed, and so was a subsequent appeal. Mr. Den Hollander then submitted a petition to the United States Supreme Court on the same issue. He said he received word on Wednesday that the court had refused to hear the case.

"Of course, the three females on the court probably voted against it," Mr. Den Hollander said on Thursday. "Fighting for the rights of men is not very popular thing to do in America these days.

Mr. Hollander said that the basis of his case is that feminism is a religion. "The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that religion is a belief system that occupies the same space in a person's activities as a traditional religion like Catholicism or Protestantism - a system that dictates your ethical and moral standards and activities."

"The feminists have taken control over every institution in this country -- they want to take control over men," he said. "I'm going to fight them to my last dollar, last breath."

Good luck with that. He might as well file a lawsuit against movie theaters and museums which allow "senior citizen" discounts. They are entitled to a discount simply for being over a certain age, and when I get there (which won't be long), I'll be "entitled" to it too! As to why, who knows? (Maybe older people are considered "poorer" than younger people or something.)

These things are just the way of the world, and if someone doesn't like it, why, it's all up to the gummint!

People must look to the government to find out what is allowed and be told what to do, and the rules must be revised constantly. If you are lucky enough to belong to some group or another, you might be able whine your way into a new special entitlement category. Otherwise you're SOL. The laws and their enforcement must be made as arbitrary as possible.

Only that way can true fairness be acheived.

posted by Eric at 09:31 AM | Comments (6)


Here is an oldie but goodie I wrote back in 2001. Republished on my blog in 2004.


Here is what got me started on the Chronic Drug Use is Caused by Chronic Pain track. The important thing is to read Dr.Shavelson's book. The drug war in essence is a persecution of tortured children.


Heroin. The name itself strikes terror into the heart these days. But originally it was named by the Bayer people from the word heroine. Or female hero. Why? Because it was so effective in relieving pain and suffering. If it were legal it would still be one of the most effective pain relievers in the doctor's arsenal. It was also considered such a safe and effective medicine that it was available over the counter until 1914.

The story these days with heroin is different. It not only is not available over the counter, its not available anywhere in America legally.

So where does this leave us today? We have black markets and addicts. Black markets of course require police and addicts require treatment.

An interesting study by Dr. Lonny Shavelson looks into the world of the addicts and their treatment. What do we know? What works? How can addicts be helped?

First we start out with an unusual point of view. Most addicts are in pain. This is quite surprising. It surprised me. I thought they were just in it for the euphoria.

Here is what Dr. Shavelson found in his study of 200 addicts: a high proportion of severely abused children (beatings, rapes, rapes of siblings). He questioned his study methodology. He thought there must have been a flaw in how his sample was selected or in how the questions he asked were framed.

Then while he was doing his research, an article came out in the Journal of the American Medical Association that said that the addiction rate goes up for male sexually abused children. And it doesn't just double or triple. It is 25 to 50 times higher than the rest of the population. Approximately 70% of the women in drug rehab experienced sexual abuse before they started on drugs. In other words, those heroine addicts not in actual physical pain are suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. What is the preferred treatment in America today for these hurt and humiliated souls? We don't deal with the pain that made them liable for drug abuse. We ask that before they can be healed that they heal themselves by giving up drugs. And then we wonder why rehab for hard-core addicts does not work too well. But how could it when the treatment does not match the disease.

So the next time the TV expose shows the junkie with the spike in his or her vein think of what torment that person must be in internally in order to put them in the place they are in. And all too often our response to those suffering is to jail them. Barbaric. Or treatment that deals with symptoms and not causes. Stupid.

Dr. Shavelson has written a book called Hooked about his experiences with addicts. A recent transcript of an interview by NPR with the doctor is available here.

Hooked - NPR interview.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:29 AM | Comments (5)

Sarah Talks With Instapundit

Sarah Hoyt who blogs here at Classical Values is interviewed by Glenn Reynolds on Instavision.

The title of the video? There is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship.

Way to go Sarah!


If you want to look at some books Sarah has written have a look at Sarah Hoyt - Books .

Update -- hopefully Simon won't mind I add this -- for a more complete look at my work (look for links to samples on the right side or on the bottom of the front page), try my Website

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


This is an excellent follow up to my post: Maybe It Isn't All In Your Genes. About 50 minutes and worth your time.

The above video on DVD:

Ghost in Your Genes

Related video:

NOVA - Cracking the Code of Life

A book for laymen:

The Genie in Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention

H/T a friend (you know who you are - so do I)    ;-)

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

Stoking the fear in San Francisco

While I don't know whether to call it Palin Derangement Syndrome or Palinphobia, a poster has sprung up in San Francisco which I think reveals more about the anger and fear on the left than it does about the anger and fear on the right it purports to condemn:


Enrage them with fear? Who is really enraged here?

The artist explains,

"Enrage them with fear until they feel justified in their violence." explains the artist, "I've associated it with a number of people from Glen Beck to Palin, Pinochet to Pol Pot, Hitler etc. Sometimes events unfold in such a way that your message becomes so much more relevant and you have an opportunity to really make an impact and communicate. That's timing and timing is important."

The recent Arizona shootings made the timing of Colla's piece especially poignant. The tendency to oversimplify the issues turning them black or white, leaving room for minimal, if any, intelligent discourse struck a chord in the politically conscious street artist.

"Fear mongering, simply intensifies the likelihood of violence. If people are made to feel that they are in eminent danger or threatened, there is a fight or flight response. Based on that principle you are guaranteed a percentage of the responses are going to be violent." says Colla.

And what's with the fire burning behind her? Is it supposed to be a burning cross? Is the man behind the sign wearing paramilitary gear? Isn't the whole idea that we should all be afraid -- and VERY AFRAID -- of Sarah Palin. Is that not fear mongering by any logical standard? 

And if, by the artist's own admission, fear mongering intensifies the likelihood of violence, then wouldn't the image share the same goal as the words he stuffs into Palin's mouth?

Who is trying to guarantee that a percentage of the responses are going to be violent?

You'd almost think that what they're attributing to her is exactly what they're doing.

MORE: Dave has similar thoughts about projection.

posted by Eric at 11:23 AM | Comments (3)

An Utter Disregard For All Truth And Decency

Ace catches the media doing... well, what the media does.  The shamelessness is breathtaking.

James Taranto has, I think, the best take on all this.

Burning an effigy, like burning an American flag, is constitutionally protected symbolic speech. It is also about as eliminationist as speech can get, short of a true threat or incitement. To Krugman, it is a fun party activity. It is shockingly hypocritical for such a man to deliver a pious lecture about the dangers of eliminationist rhetoric.

The Times is far from alone in responding to the Tucson massacre with false accusations and inflammatory innuendoes against its foes. We focus on the Times because it is the leader--the most authoritative voice of the left-liberal media, or what used to be called the "mainstream" media.

What accounts for this descent into madness? We think the key lies in this sentence from yesterday's Times editorial: "But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible . . ."

This is a particularly vivid example of the Ann Coulter Projection Principle: if you want to know what kind of vile behavior leftists are engaing in, listen to what they're accusing their opponents of.

When James says this is about "competition for authority" he could not be more right: this phenomenon is a direct result of the fact we just witnessed the rise of a truly grassroots minarchist movement, culminating in the takeover of the House of Representatives, and the statists are running scared, grasping desperately for any advantage in any crisis that could help them regain the reins of power.  They still believe their problem was "messaging" and so their new message will be "our opponents' rhetoric causes shootings!" Never mind that the numerous examples showing they engage in exactly the same sort of rhetoric, or that the shooter in the recent tragedy was obviously deranged and described by friends as left-leaning, or that people have died (including a Republican judge), perhaps most tragically a nine-year-old girl whose father showed incredible grace in asking she not be used as a martyr to further restrict our freedoms.  None of that is relevant to them.  What matters is that they bring a gun to every partisan knife fight.  And with the MSM in their hip pocket, they feel they can not only lie and smear with impunity but simultaneously claim to be paragons of decency compared to their opponents... and get away with it.

UPDATE:  More from Taranto.  And Glenn Reynolds is all over this issue -- just keep scrolling.

posted by Dave at 05:51 AM | Comments (3)

Maybe It Isn't All In Your Genes

Joseph Nadeau is trying to find the missing link between heritability and genetics. What? You thought Gregor Mendel had it all figured out in the 19th Century? Well he did. But then DNA sequencing came along and upset the apple cart.

What we know about the fundamental laws of inheritance began to take shape in a monastery garden in Moravia in the middle of the 19th century, when Gregor Mendel patiently cross-bred pea plants over the course of several years, separated the progeny according to their distinct traits, and figured out the mathematical foundations of modern genetics. Since the rediscovery of Mendel's work a century ago, the vocabulary of Mendelian inheritance--dominant genes, recessive genes, and ultimately our own era's notion of disease genes--has colored every biological conversation about genetics. The message boils down to a single premise: your unique mix of physiological traits and disease risks (collectively known as your phenotype) can be read in the precise sequence of chemical bases, or letters, in your DNA (your genotype).

But what if--except in the cases of some rare single-gene disorders like Tay-Sachs disease--the premise ignores a significant portion of inheritance? What if the DNA sequence of an individual explains only part of the story of his or her inherited diseases and traits, and we need to know the DNA sequences of parents and perhaps even grandparents to understand what is truly going on?

The news for the "genes are destiny" folks are grim. Reality is more complicated than previously imagined. This will probably put the kibosh on full blown genetic engineering - at least for a time.
Large-scale genomic studies over the past five years or so have mainly failed to turn up common genes that play a major role in complex human maladies. More than three dozen specific genetic variants have been associated with type 2 diabetes, for example, but together, they have been found to explain about 10 percent of the disease's heritability--the proportion of variation in any given trait that can be explained by genetics rather than by environmental influences. Results have been similar for heart disease, schizophrenia, high blood pressure, and other common maladies: the mystery has become known as the "missing heritability" problem. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, has sometimes made grudging reference to the "dark matter of the genome"--an analogy to the vast quantities of invisible mass in the universe that astrophysicists have inferred but have struggled for decades to find.

Joseph H. Nadeau has been on a quest to uncover mechanisms that might account for the missing components of heritability. And he is finding previously unsuspected modes of inheritance almost everywhere he looks.

Nadeau, who until recently was chair of genetics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and is now director of research and academic affairs at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, has done studies showing that certain traits in mice are influenced by specific stretches of variant DNA that appeared on their parents' or grandparents' chromosomes but do not appear on their own. "Transgenerational" genetics, as he calls these unusual patterns of inheritance, fit partly under the umbrella of traditional epigenetics--the idea that chemical changes wrought by environmental exposures and experiences can modify DNA in ways that either muffle a normally vocal gene or restore the voice of a gene that had been silenced. Researchers have begun to find that these changes are heritable even though they alter only the pattern of gene expression, not the actual genetic code. Yet it's both more disconcerting and more profound to suggest, as he does, that genes an ancestor carried but didn't pass down can influence traits and diseases in subsequent generations.

There are studies confirming this. One of them has to do with the heritability of PTSD.

An article in the UK Telegraph discusses this in relation to the 7 July terrorist attacks in Britain.

It is often said of a particularly dramatic event - such as the September 11 attacks or the July 7 bombings - that its consequences will "reverberate for generations". It can seem like hyperbole, yet new evidence suggests that traumatic events can affect the genes, and lives, of children as yet unborn. Take the July 7 London bombings. As the harrowing evidence continues to emerge, the psychological impact on the survivors has been all too clear.

As many as 30 per cent of those directly caught up in the atrocities have gone on to develop full post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is in line with similar incidents: after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, 41 per cent of survivors were diagnosed with PTSD after six months, and 26 per cent were still suffering after seven years. Among soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the British Armed Forces reckon that 10 per cent develop PTSD. However, an American study gave a figure as high as 30 per cent.

Yet new evidence suggests that the trauma is not just psychological, but biological and even heritable. By altering the chemical mechanisms regulating gene expression, these modifications may become embedded in the male germ line, and can be passed down to the victim's children.

"The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons..." is more than asocial construct evidently.
Embedded within the DNA sequence are epigenetic regulators, chemical marks that control which genes are expressed and which are not. This is a crucial function, given that every cell in our bodies contains our entire lexicon of DNA. It is the regulators that selectively silence some genes so that particular cells become, say, skin or brain cells, and stay like that when they divide.

The heretical proposition here is that these epigenetic marks can be transmitted along with the DNA. It is the result of intensive research into how these mechanisms work. The best understood is DNA methylation, in which methyl molecules latch on to some areas of the DNA strand and act as switches that render a gene active or inactive.

Too much or too little methylation, and a host of problems occur, from fragile X syndrome to a variety of cancers. The latest findings, however, indicate that psychological conditions, such as trauma and stress, also leave an epigenetic mark. Professor David Sweatt and his colleagues at the University of Alabama have found that maltreating rat pups for just one week is enough to trigger epigenetic changes that deactivate the gene for a protein important in memory formation and emotional balance. This same agent - brain-derived neurotrophic factor - is often abnormally low in schizophrenics and those with bipolar disorder.

In a similar experiment, Professor Eric Richards at Washington University, St Louis, showed that the way rats are nurtured affects the methylation of a crucial receptor in the hippocampus. After a positive nurturing experience, the appropriate gene gets turned on at a vital early stage; after a bad one, the gene remains unused. The same is found in humans. A study of women in Holland who were pregnant during a prolonged famine after the Second World War found that their daughters had twice the normal risk of developing schizophrenia.

Hmmmm schizophrenia. A lot in the news these days.

In his 1997 article Addiction Is A Brain Disease And It Matters [pdf] the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) from 1994-2001 Alan Leshner says:

The bad news is the dramatic lag between these advances in science and their appreciation by the general public or their application in either practice or public policy settings. There is a wide gap between scientific facts and public perceptions about drug abuse and addiction. For example, many, perhaps most, people see drug abuse and addiction as social problems, to be handled only with social solutions, particularly through the criminal justice system. On the other hand, science has taught that drug abuse and addiction are as much health problems as they are social problems. The consequence of the gap is a significant delay in gaining control over drug abuse problems.
From twin studies about alcohol we find that the heritability of addiction propensities runs about 50% to 60%. What accounts for the other 40% to 50%? My article, Heroin, provides a clue. And the clue points to trauma. There are more clues in my article PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System.

So does that mean that a DNA study would find the same level of heritability as twin studies? Given what we now know I think that is doubtful. But we also now know that DNA is not the only path to heritability.

What does all this mean for policy? I don't think putting a government gun to people's heads is going to fix a brain disease. Unless of course the people promoting that idea contemplate pulling the trigger. Every time.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:26 PM | Comments (5)

Asparagus pee from me, but not from thee!

As there has been a pretty steady series of posts about Jared Loughner's massacre, I though I would pause for a post about something which seems irrational to me, and may gross out some readers. 

The other night I realized that I have a double standard where it comes to asparagus pee.

Many -- but by no means all of us -- who have eaten asparagus (which I love) are familiar with the characteristic smell that it often imparts to urine. This has long fascinated people; Benjamin Franklin called the odor disagreeable, while Proust thought it smelled like perfume:

Attempts to identify the compounds responsible for the odor date back to 1891, and observations extend beyond the world of science. Benjamin Franklin noted the "disagreeable odor" caused by a few stalks, while the French novelist Marcel Proust had a more amenable take on it: "As in a Shakespeare fairy-story transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume," according to the researchers.

I don't know that I'd go as far as Proust, but I have to admit that I enjoy the smell of asparagus pee. I would even go so far as to call it emotionally satisfying on a certain level.

But something that happened the other night startled me. After attending an event with many people present, I went into the men's room to do my business, in a urinal which happened to have not been flushed. No big deal there, as I really don't care about the contents of urinals, or even whether they've been flushed. But all of a sudden, there it was! That normally satisfying asparagus pee smell was wafting up into my nostrils... except it was not mine, for I had not eaten asparagus! But whoever the guy was who peed before certainly had. 

And much as I like the smell of my asparagus pee, I found myself intensely disliking the smell of another man's asparagus pee! I was feeling a sense of disgust in a normally pleasant smell simply because it was someone else's. I had not realized until that moment that my enjoyment of the smell is conditioned upon it being my own. This caught my attention because it struck me as irrational -- for according to simple logic if I like an odor I should always like that odor. 

Perhaps this means I am a odor hypocrite, or an antisocial misfit. I don't think this qualifies as full-blown urophobia, though, because I don't fear urine, nor do I have any particular revulsion to the smell of other people's urine. So why should a smell that I like when it's mine be disgusting when it's somebody else's? This is especially puzzling because if I am not grossed out by the smell of stranger's urine in the absence of asparagus, why would I be grossed out by a smell in strange urine that I like in my own?

I suspect that because the enjoyment of odors is an inherently irrational process, logical analysis is a pointless exercise in overanalysis. (In this case, overurinalysis.)

Who knows? In some quarters, this very post might be considered insane. And we can't have that, can we?  

IMPORTANT NOTE: It used to be believed that only some people had smelly urine after eating asparagus, but it now appears that while everyone puts out the odor, only 22% can smell it:

It was originally thought this was because some of the population digested asparagus differently from others, so that some people excreted odorous urine after eating asparagus, and others did not. However, in the 1980s three studies from France,[27] China and Israel published results showing that producing odorous urine from asparagus was a universal human characteristic. The Israeli study found that from their 307 subjects all of those who could smell 'asparagus urine' could detect it in the urine of anyone who had eaten asparagus, even if the person who produced it could not detect it himself.[28] Thus, it is now believed that most people produce the odorous compounds after eating asparagus, but only about 22% of the population have the autosomal genes required to smell them.[29][30][31]

Geez, if I hadn't written this post, I'd have never knew I was born that way.

Is that fair?

Shouldn't whether you smell something, and what you smell, be a choice you can control? 

Perhaps I should resent my non-inclusion in the asparagus-odor-blind majority.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Snowflakes from Hell (apparently not a 22%-er) for the link!

posted by Eric at 03:49 PM | Comments (10)

Climate-blaming Sheriff with climate to hide?

Speaking of television, according to a post linked by Michelle Malkin, it turns out that Jared Loughner did not watch TV. Nor did he listen to the talk radio said to have created a "climate" which was responsible for his actions.

Friend says Loughner "did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn't listen to political radio. He didn't take sides. He wasn't on the left. He wasn't on the right." Over to you, Sheriff Dupnik...

Dupnik, of course, has earned notoriety for blaming Rush Limbaugh and the "climate of hate" for the shooting, without any evidence at all.

Now it turns out there is evidence -- and it shows Dupnik is just plain wrong.

Bad as it is for left wing hacks to seize upon this tragedy to advance their political goals, what this sheriff has done is far worse.

If this report is as credible as it seems, Dupnik is systematically using the "climate of hate" meme as a simple coverup.

Jared Loughner has been making death threats by phone to many people in Pima County including staff of Pima Community College, radio personalities and local bloggers. When Pima County Sheriff's Office was informed, his deputies assured the victims that he was being well managed by the mental health system. It was also suggested that further pressing of charges would be unnecessary and probably cause more problems than it solved as Jared Loughner has a family member that works for Pima County. Amy Loughner is a Natural Resource specialist for the Pima County Parks and Recreation. My sympathies and my heart goes out to her and the rest of Mr. Loughner's family. This tragedy must be tearing them up inside wondering if they had done the right things in trying to manage Jared's obvious mental instability.

Every victim of his threats previously must also be wondering if this tragedy could have been prevented if they had been more aggressive in pursuing charges against Mr. Loughner. Perhaps with a felony conviction he would never have been able to lawfully by the Glock 9mm Model 19 that he used to strike down the lives of six people and decimate 14 more.

This was not an act of politics. This was an act of a mentally disturbed young man hell bent on getting his 15 minutes of infamy. The Pima County Sheriff's Department was aware of his violent nature and they failed to act appropriately. This tragedy leads right back to Sherriff Dupnik and all the spin in the world is not going to change that fact.

Via RS McCain, who adds,

Might be kind of interesting if, instead of Rush Limbaugh's "vitriol" being to blame, the blame belongs with Sheriff Dupnik.

It strikes me that the under-reported fact of the shooter's mother being employed by the local government might very well shed light on why nothing was done to protect local Tucsonians from a sick man so obviously in need of help.

It certainly goes a long way toward explaining the sheriff's stubborn insistence that on-air "vitriol" was to blame -- never mind that Loughner never heard it.

If these suspicions prove correct, Sheriff Dupnik is morally a lot worse than the left-wing hacks he's pandering to.

posted by Eric at 01:36 PM | Comments (1)

Reading this post may be dangerous to your health!

A TV (as in television) fan I am not. But when I saw a headline that "watching television damages the heart," I took notice. We all hear about the dangers from cell phones and brain cancer, but the idea that the omnipresent television can cause heart damage -- why, that strikes at one of the pillars of American culture.

Can it be true?

Reading about the study, I could not determine precisely what mechanism is involved that is unique to television.

Metabolic factors and inflammation may be partly to blame, the report said.

Research revealed those who devote more than four hours watching television, surfing the web, or playing compuer games are more than twice as likely to have major cardiac problems.

Dr Emmanuel Stamatakis of University College London's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health said: "People who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen - primarily watching TV - are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heart-related problems.

"Our analysis suggests that two or more hours of screen time each day may place someone at greater risk for a cardiac event."

The study was the first to examine the association between screen time and fatal and non-fatal heart attacks - found there was a 48 per cent increased risk of all-cause mortality and an approximately 125% increase in risk of cardiovascular events in those spending more than four hours

The risks were irrespective of factors such as smoking, hypertension, BMI, social class, and even exercise.

The scientists called for recreational guidelines to be issued because a majority of working age adults spend long periods being inactive while commuting or being slouched over a desk or computer.

Wait just a second! The headline screamed "watching television" and now they change it to being slouched over a desk or computer. (I do the latter for much of the day.)

Is it the TV that poses the danger, or is it a sedentary lifestyle?

The more I read, the more intrigued I became over the possibility that the study's "scientific" author might have an axe to grind.

The piece changes its focus to "screen time":

Data indicate that one fourth of the association between screen time and cardiovascular events was explained collectively by C-reactive protein (CRP), body mass index, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol suggesting that inflammation and deregulation of lipids may be one pathway through which prolonged sitting increases the risk for cardiovascular events.

CRP, a well-established marker of low-grade inflammation, was approximately two times higher in people spending more than four hours of screen time per day compared to those spending less than two hours a day.

The next step would be to try to uncover what prolonged sitting does to the human body in the short and long-term, whether and how exercise can mitigate these consequences, and how to alter lifestyles to reduce sitting and increase movement and exercise.

Well, if the problem is sitting, then it wouldn't matter whether it is for work or recreation. And even "screen time" seems misleading, because sitting and reading books would constitute sitting every bit as much as watching Gilligan's Island reruns, or writing blog posts.

In another article about the study, the author makes a statement which reveals what strikes me as revealing a personal bias against television:

The study found that people who spend 4 hours or more in front of a TV or computer screen are 48% more likely to die in general and 125% more likely to have some sort of heart attack or stroke than people who spend less than two hours in front of a screen.

"This is excessive," Stamatakis said. "And besides, TV watching [is] a waste of time in the most passive and uncreative way, in most cases. It also displaces hugely beneficial physical activity and, according to our findings, is also linked to unique and distinct risks for health."

I see his point, and I tend to agree with him about a lot of television being passive and uncreative, but I certainly wouldn't say that about watching biased news programs that make you want to attack your set. Nor would I say it about, say, watching a good Alfred Hitchcock film on TCM. It can be an experience in art appreciation. But even if we assume he is right about TV being a waste of time, that's not a scientific observation, but an opinion -- and one which makes me wonder whether his study is biased and opinionated.

Before scolding the couch potatoes, I would like to see a study including bookworms as a control group.

posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (1)

Dreading Libertarians

Ah. Yes. The dreaded libertarians. If they get into power they want the government to leave the people alone. Despicable.

We should be glad that True Conservatives™ want to replace the meddling left (the fount of all evil) with the meddling right (the home of all that is good).

The cry of the Conservative is "if only we were in power".

The cry of the libertarian is "if only the government had less power."

Which do you think is more attractive politically?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:40 AM | Comments (3)

Which Political Party Do Paranoid Schizophrenic Shooters Prefer To Target?

I think the title of this post is a sufficient answer to a Slate article which asks: Are Assassins More Likely To Target Liberals?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:17 AM | Comments (2)

"Sarah Palin made him do it!" means Narrative failure

While it's still too early to say this conclusively, I think that people who want to read their various political narratives into Jared Lee Loughner are ultimately in for a disappointment. The man's mind is so messed up that he's the political equivalent of schizophrenic word salad (schizophasia):

Judging from Mr. Loughner's own website, his mind was a mess of conspiracy theories, influenced by tracts like "Mein Kampf" and the "Communist Manifesto." His main complaint about government seems to be that he believes it is trying to control American "grammar." Yet this becomes an excuse for the media to throw him in with the tea partiers as "anti-government."

His mental illness, while obvious to nearly everyone now, did not stand out enough for him to merit attention (which means he won't be much of a poster boy for advocates of new laws targeting the mentally ill):

Interviews with friends, as well as online comments attributed to Mr. Loughner, suggest the 22-year-old high school dropout had struggled with mental-health issues.

Officials say Mr. Loughner had psychological problems but plotted his attack in a deliberate and orderly manner--buying a Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol in November and bullets the morning of the shooting. He wrote notes that suggested a grudge against Ms. Giffords over a perceived slight during a 2007 public event.

Mr. Loughner's parents told investigators they didn't realize the severity of their son's mental problems, say people familiar with the matter. Campus police had been notified of his disruptive behavior during classes at a community college. He was expelled in October.

Mr. Loughner has a petty criminal record, but investigators have found no evidence he was ever treated for mental-health problems.

Obviously, if he was never treated, they will never find any such evidence. Even his parents didn't seem to know:

The parents told investigators they didn't realize the severity of their son's problems, say people familiar with the matter.

Of course, it could be argued that they should have known, and should have been put on notice by the meeting with college administrators:

From February to September 2010, Loughner had five contacts with Pima Community College police for classroom and library disruptions. On September 29, 2010, college police discovered a Loughner-filmed YouTube video in which he claimed that the college was illegal according to the United States Constitution. The college told Loughner that if he wanted to come back to school, he needed to resolve his Code of Conduct violations and obtain a mental health clearance indicating, in the opinion of a mental health professional, that his presence did not constitute a danger to himself or others. On October 4, Loughner and his parents met with Campus administrators and Loughner indicated he would withdraw from the college.[8] During his time at Pima a teacher and classmate both said they thought Loughner might commit a school shooting.[9]

In retrospect, it seems the college came pretty close to predicting what he would do.

Every time I look at Loughner's picture and see his pointlessly vapid stare, I am reminded of Arthur Bremer, who nearly succeeded in assassinating George Wallace in 1972. While there was no Internet or blogosphere in those days, Bremer had plenty of nutty-sounding thoughts:

After Bremer's arrest, his apartment was searched. Found were Wallace campaign buttons, a Confederate flag, boxes of shells, old high school themed pornographic magazines, newspapers, Black Panther literature, a booklet entitled 101 Things To Do in Jail and various newspaper clippings, including one on the difficulty of providing security for campaigning politicians. In Bremer's diary were comments such as "My country tis of thee land of sweet bigotry", "Never say colored, say Negro, so here is a negro card", "My blood is black", "Cheer up Oswald", "White collar, conservative, middle class, Republican, suburbanite robot", "A Thundering of hooves and out of the western sky came the colored man" and "If I live tomorrow then it will be a long time".

Confederate flag plus Black Panther literature? Evidence of resentment over words and expressions commonly used to influence or control people's thoughts? As to where he fits on the political spectrum, Bremer is impossible to call. Politics wasn't really the point. He had wanted to kill President Nixon but found it too difficult. The man's real motive seems to have been a desire to prove his manhood:

On March 1, 1972, Bremer began his diary with the words, "It is my personal plan to assassinate by pistol either Richard Nixon or George Wallace. I intend to shoot one or the other while he attends a campaign rally for the Wisconsin Primary". Bremer's purpose was "to do SOMETHING BOLD AND DRAMATIC, FORCEFUL & DYNAMIC, A STATEMENT of my manhood for the world to see".[12] The following evening, Bremer attended an organizational meeting for Wallace at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.

Although Bremer's main aim was to assassinate then-President Richard Nixon, on March 23, Bremer attended a Wallace dinner and rally at Milwaukee's Red Carpet Airport Inn. During the next two months, Bremer would trail Wallace, across the USA, travelling by car, plane, ferry and bus.

It's a hell of a way to prove "manhood," but the guy seems to have been a loser with women.

As to whether Loughner had issues over proving his "manhood," who knows? No one seems interested in the slightest. There has been no discussion over his sex life, whether he had girlfriends, and the girls who have known him and been quoted have said he was angry and aloof.

Lynda Sorenson said she took a class with Loughner last summer at Pima community college. He was "obviously very disturbed", she told the Arizona Daily Star. "He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts."

Gabriella Carillo, 22, said she remembered Loughner as a tall, intelligent teenager who was good at basketball, liked to read and worked hard in his high school band classes, but didn't seem to apply himself in other courses.

"I know that he caused a lot of trouble in his classes other than band," she said. "If he tried, he would probably be at the top of our class. But he kind of just wasted his life.

"There are some guys who are just angry," she said. "I never really saw a smile on his face at all."

Don Coorough, 58, who sat two desks in front of Loughner in a poetry class, described him as a "troubled young man" and "emotionally underdeveloped". After another student read a poem about an abortion, Loughner compared the young woman to a "terrorist for killing the baby", he said.

OK, I am not much of a feminist theoretician, but there is something I find odd about the way people -- especially on the left -- are not looking at this case.

What cannot be denied is that the target of his assassination attempt was a female politician. A prominent woman. And Loughner had been stalking her. Shooting any woman strikes me an awfully peculiar way for any man to prove his manhood, but then, I'm not a shrink. What might Freud say?

Might the "manhood" issue be implicated, even remotely?

Has any female politician or powerful woman ever been the subject of an assassination or attempted assassination before? I can't think of any in this country, although there was the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. In her case, the identity of the assassin seems to be in dispute, and certainly no one has been tried:  

Al-Qaeda commander Mustafa Abu al-Yazid claimed responsibility for the attack, describing Bhutto as "the most precious American asset."[100] The Pakistani government also stated that it had proof that al-Qaeda was behind the assassination. A report for CNN stated: "the Interior Ministry also earlier told Pakistan's Geo TV that the suicide bomber belonged to Lashkar i Jhangvi--an al-Qaeda-linked militant group that the government has blamed for hundreds of killings".[101] The government of Pakistan claimed Baitullah Mehsud was the mastermind behind the assassination.[102] Lashkar i Jhangvi, a Wahabi Muslim extremist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda that also attempted in 1999 to assassinate former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is alleged to have been responsible for the killing of the 54-year-old Bhutto along with approximately 20 bystanders, however this is vigorously disputed by the Bhutto family, by the PPP that Bhutto had headed and by Baitullah Mehsud.[103] On 3 January 2008, President Musharraf officially denied participating in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as well as failing to provide her proper security.[104]

While there is disagreement over which Al Qaeda/Taliban faction did it, there is little doubt that the assassination was carried out by sexist men. To say they do not believe in equal rights for women is understatement; one of the alleged assassins said in 2005 that women should be punished for the crime of voting, and advocated "a complete ban on female education."

As to what Jared Loughner's views of women might be or whether he has any, who knows? Other than the reported statement that he thought a woman who had an abortion was a "terrorist," there's nothing.

Yet he tried to kill a prominent, politically powerful woman, and her sex is irrelevant.

It baffles me that the feminists are not screaming in the usual predictable manner.  If we suppose that Loughner's victim had been black or hispanic, I think there would be a pretty loud chorus on the left that the racist motivation for the shooting was obvious. Similarly, had Barney Frank been shot, there would have been immediate cries of homophobia. (And of course the "racist" and "homophobic" Tea Party movement would be blamed.)

So why the total silence over possible sexism? Didn't this man stalk and shoot a woman?

Feminist writer Jessica Valenti is quick to blame guns, and what she calls "violent masculinity." And while she notes that Giffords is "the first female politician in America to be the subject of an assassination attempt," she studiously avoids attributing any sexist motivation to the shooting. Instead, she goes out of her way to twist the shooting into a rampage against conservative women:

What's not being discussed, however, is that a fair amount of this violent language and imagery is coming from female politicians on the right. Giffords was a "target" on a map created by Sarah Palin's political action committee - Giffords's district was marked with an image of gun cross hairs. In a March interview that would prove eerily prescient, the congresswoman criticised the image, telling MSNBC: "When people do that, they've gotta realise there's consequences to that action."

In June, Nevada politician and former Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle suggested that if Congress "keeps going the way it is", people would turn toward "second amendment remedies". (The second amendment of the US constitution outlines the right of Americans to bear arms.) And in an interview with a local Nevada paper, Angle said: "The nation is arming ... If we don't win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?"

Stephen Ducat, author of The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity, says that masculine and violent language is often used in elections and campaigns - especially by men on the right - because of a fear of being perceived as feminine. In a sexist society, what could be worse than being called a girl? So it doesn't seem unlikely that conservative female politicians feel the need to peddle their ideas in gendered and violent language in order to fit in with the masculinised right.

After all, the phrase - and sentiment - "man up" was one of the most popular in the 2010 elections. In the Colorado Senate primary, Republican Jane Norton accused her opponent of not being "man enough"; in the Delaware Senate primary, Republican Christine O'Donnell said that her opponent was "unmanly"; Angle told Harry Reid to "man up"; and Palin praised Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer as having "the cojones that our president does not have" to enforce immigration laws.

In a country that sees masculinity - especially violent masculinity - as the ideal, it's no wonder that this type of language resonates. But it's a sad state of affairs when women in politics have to resort to using the same gendered stereotypes that kept all women out of public service for so long.

The convoluted argument seems to be that conservative women have become victims of some male-generated need to "peddle their ideas in gendered and violent language" in order to prove that they have balls or something. Conservative women have some misdirected neurotic need to to prove their "manhood." As to how all of the "violent masculinity" of which she complains might "trigger" a man to shoot a liberal woman, I am not sure. It just strikes me as very odd that despite the considerable hoopla and demagoguery on the left, no one has called the shooting sexist -- especially when it would otherwise be a very obvious call.

There is only reason I can think of that they don't, and that is because it is at total cross purposes with the left-wing narrative that Sarah Palin made him do it.

Ditto the Tea Party movement, which is heavily female.

Let's face it, as narratives, go, "Sarah Palin forced man to commit sexist killing" just doesn't make it. Nor does "Tea Party forced man to commit sexist killing."

A major problem for the left is that they would love to be able to accuse Sarah Palin of being a sexist and a male chauvinist but they can't because the claim is ludicrous on its face. And obviously, making her into a "victim" of the male chauvinist sexist culture of violent masculinity isn't working too well either.

While Sarah Palin is a true feminist in the literal sense of the word, she has done incalculable damage to left-wing hack feminism. They are being forced to throw core beliefs (in this case, the time-honored sexist narrative) under the bus.

Seriously, if "Sarah Palin made him do it!" is a feminist narrative, it speaks volumes about the current state of feminism.

It is also a total failure of a major left-wing narrative.

I just hope they keep it up.

MORE: Speaking of "manhood," it isn't much, but my search did turn up a line from a poem Loughner wrote, titled "Meat Head":

Looking around, the cute women are catching my eye...

probably waiting for their hot boyfriends wandering in the locker room.



Looks more like envy of manhood than manhood, but that's not much of a narrative.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn for the link, and for quoting from this post!

A warm welcome to all!

Looking at this post again, I'm afraid I missed an important point that needs to be emphasized. When I said this:

If we suppose that Loughner's victim had been black or hispanic, I think there would be a pretty loud chorus on the left that the racist motivation for the shooting was obvious. Similarly, had Barney Frank been shot, there would have been immediate cries of homophobia.

I should have noted that it would not be true if the black, hispanic or gay victim happened to be on the right side of the political spectrum. Thus, if, say, Clarence Thomas or Alberto Gonzales were assassinated (especially by leftist gunmen), they would not be seen as victims of racism. Similarly, when Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by an anarcho-primitivist nut, this was not condemned as homophobic by the PC classes.

It is a basic law of identity politics that such identities are conditioned upon being on the left. Which is another reason that no indignity heaped on Sarah Palin can ever be condemned as sexist.

No, not even this:



I admit, that's a pretty sickening example (to be fair, I have friends on the left who would be sickened by it too), but I think it's worth keeping in mind the next time we're treated to another scolding about "incendiary rhetoric."

MORE: As the story continues to unfold, I see that today's Wall Street Journal has a front page article detailing Loughner's "Rejection by Women."

Rejected by women, he stalks and tries to kill a woman. But it's not sexism, because Sarah Palin was responsible.


MORE: Loughner's rantings included writing "Die Bitch" on a letter from Congresswoman Giffords, and get this:

They are peppered with displays of misogyny.

Back in the day, the narrative would have been about sexism.

posted by Eric at 11:25 AM | Comments (39)

Mental Health

It is amusing to see the rantings of a paranoid schizophrenic elevated to the level of rational discourse. Starts to make you wonder if there are enough sane people in the US to make it work.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Let me add that the comment posted here by snakeoilbaron is very much worth a read.

posted by Simon at 05:51 AM | Comments (4)

Did words kill people?

Gabrielle Giffords's brother in law, a commanding officer at the International Space station, seems to think so:

Hours earlier, the nation observed a moment of silence for the victims of the rampage, from the South Lawn of the White House and the steps of the U.S. Capitol to legislature beyond Arizona and the International Space Station.

There, Giffords' brother-in-law, Scott, the commanding officer, spoke over the radio. Flight controllers in Houston fell silent.

"As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful," he said. "Unfortunately, it is not."

"These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words," he said.

I understand the man is grief-stricken, but I would think that as an officer he might have better control over himself. What evidence is there that "words" -- whether irresponsible or not -- inflicted "unspeakable acts of violence and damage" on anyone? The only evidence I can see is in the insane mind of the shooter -- who seems to have had serious issues with what he called "grammar." 

So what is going on here? Are we to simply agree with his diseased mind and conclude that "words" drove him to murder?

If we do, then "we" become as crazy as he is.

posted by Eric at 06:44 PM | Comments (6)

I Blame The Drug War

There are a lot of reports about the Arizona shooter, Jared Loughner, being a pot smoker. But then Dave at Classical Values says that he quit smoking pot and drinking alcohol in August of 2010.

There are reports that cannabis helps some people who have schizophrenia. In other words they are self medicating for their symptoms.

Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia report obtaining subjective relief from cannabis to control various symptoms associated with the disease, according to survey data published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing.

An investigator at Flinders University in South Australia interviewed 30 patients aged between 18 and 65 who had a DSM-IV comorbid diagnosis of schizophrenia and cannabis 'abuse.' The investigator reported that over half of the respondents reported using cannabis to control schizophrenic symptoms. Of those interviewed, 25 patients reported that smoking cannabis reduced their anxiety; 21 patients said that marijuana helped them to forget childhood trauma; and 12 stated that cannabis "enhanc[ed] their spiritual awareness."

So I blame cannabis prohibition. If pot use wasn't socially condemned and illegal he might still be on his meds and six people now dead might still be alive. I understand he had a minor conviction for marijuana and usually one of the conditions for release/probation is drug testing. So to stay out of jail he probably was forced to give up his medication of choice.

So as long as we are doing the blame game I'm going to blame the Drug War for the death of six people in Arizona. It makes more sense than anything else I've heard so far.

There is a book on the subject:

Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence

The author of the book, Dr. Mitch Earleywine, has said about the patient testimonials I referred to above:

...these patients' testimonials lend credibility to the theory that a large part of the association between marijuana and schizophrenia may be explained by self-medication.

"It's not that cannabis use is causing schizophrenia," he said. "It's that patients notice the initial symptoms of schizophrenia and turn to marijuana for relief."

Which is the same thing I heard from a hospital psychological intake nurse here in Rockford, Illinois two or three years ago. Evidently it is now common knowledge in the medical profession. So why isn't it common knowledge among the general population? I have my theories. But if I voiced them I'd probably get labeled a paranoid. Possibly schizophrenic. And definitely a danger to society.

I still blame the Drug War.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:12 PM | Comments (5)

Of Pinning And Pining And Puffing

OK, so we can all agree it's pukingly hilarious that a bunch of lefties immediately blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of a politician and several innocent bystanders... by a deranged lefty.

And it's no surprise that the same media who urged us to wait for all the facts when someone shouted "Allahu Akbar" before shooting the place up has immediately jumped to blame the Tea Party and Palin... again, for the actions of a deranged lefty.

And for Paul Krugman to denounce extremist rhetoric is... I don't think there are words in the English language to describe such an act of complete unself-awareness.  Again, this is in the wake of a shooting by... a deranged lefty.

And yes, of course it's well-documented that most political violence comes from the left.

But really, at the end of the day, I just miss those halcyon days of 2004, when Bush was hung and burned in effigy and dissent was the highest form of patriotism.

UPDATE:  I have to get back to productive work (if I blog too much, the terrorists win!) but I'd be remiss not to link this and this and, of course, this.

Phase 1: Sarah Palin publishes a map.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Gunfire.

OK, ONE LAST UPDATE: A lot of people are calling the shooter a "left-wing pothead," but it appears he had actually quit smoking and drinking -- and then got a lot worse, culminating in the shooting.  So let's not chalk this all up to Reefer Madness, okay?

posted by Dave at 11:47 AM | Comments (2)

Who are the lunatics who helped create this grammar-driven climate?

As I explained in earlier posts, the fact that so many people are trying to blame the Tea Party and Sarah Palin for the actions of a deranged gunman does not surprise me, because placing blame is what people do. When a horrible violent crime is committed against a loved one, the enemies of that person tend to become suspects in the minds of those who love the victim. When the loved one is a politician, obviously those with political motivations become "likely suspects."

While this might make sense when there are no suspects in the shooting of a politician, it becomes irrational when the culprit is known, as Jared Loughner is. And it becomes even more irrational once it becomes clear that he is as nutty as a fruitcake, and has no conceivable connections to the political enemies of his victim, much less any indication that the victim's political enemies were directing him.

But the fact that it is irrational does not stop anyone from having a field day with irrational speculations. While such irrationality might be understandable in the case of a victim's family, in an earlier comment, Frank quoted Andrew Sullivan as saying things which I thought were about as logical as the shooter's "thoughts" on grammar and currency. 

One of the constants in Sarah Palin's worldview is violence. You see it in her reality show where most wildlife is immediately identified as a threat to be guarded against or killed. You see it in her inflammatory language, and the ways in which she corrals supporters to sometimes shockingly violent threats. You see it even in completely innocuous Facebook postings on sports. 

And this:

The entire psychological structure of the "Tea Party" is rooted in the theme of patriotic armed revolt against an illegitimate tyrant. Violence and the rhetoric of violence is embedded within it. When you do that, someone somewhere will take you seriously.

If we are to entertain seriously the above argument, all sports and hunting discussions, talk about the American Revolution, even displays of the Gadsden Flag could all be seen as things which "someone somewhere" might "take seriously."

So what does that mean? That some "impressionable" mentally ill person somewhere might consider them a justification for going on a shooting spree? Are Sullivan and others (like Paul Krugman, who according to Frank had complained of a "climate") seriously suggesting that political discourse should be limited according to a new threshold set by what might be misinterpreted by most impressionable members of the mentally ill population? 

I have heard of lowest common denominators before, but this one takes the cake.

However, in light of my admitted penchant for overanalyzing things, I am going to try to be patient here, and entertain an idea I consider completely loony.

In future, all subjects which might trigger impressionable minds.... No, I can't say that! I just said "trigger"! Who knows what that might trigger? And what if the word were heard the wrong way, because of another word it rhymes with? At the very least, there should be no more discussion of trigger, which means no mention of Roy Rogers' horse. And now that I think about it, wasn't Roy Rogers an armed man, prone to acts of violence? And wasn't "Trigger" an exploited and abused enslaved animal?

See what I mean? Scratch the Roy Rogers climate, and you'll find the Sarah Palin climate. Impressionable mentally ill people may be listening and reading everywhere and anywhere, and it doesn't take much to trigger them. No, not trigger; I should say "set them off"! No, but I can't say that either, because setting off implies bombs and acts of war, and an impressionable mentally ill person might read that and then "go off." (I guess I shouldn't say that either.)

Sorry, but if I had to hold myself to the impressionable mentally ill standard, I would be unable to blog.

Some ideas are too loony to be taken seriously. 

Perhaps I should stick to issues of grammar.  

I just said that, didn't I?

And you know, it almost just slipped out unconsciously, and but for the impressionable mind of Jared Loughner, it might have almost been funny in a reductio ad absurdum way.

But according to the news reports, if the man's loony crime had a motivation, it was grammar-driven:

On both the MySpace and YouTube web pages, Loughner mentions his concern over literacy rates and the fact that few people speak English. He also talks about his distrust of the government and suggests that anyone can call anyone a terrorist.

"I can't trust the current government because of fabrications," Loughner wrote in a YouTube slide presentation. "The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar."

According to property records, Loughner lives with his mother, Amy Loughner, in a north Tucson subdivision. She could not be reached for comment.

The scene around Loughner's modest ranch house was chaotic Saturday afternoon, with sheriff's deputies and FBI blocking access to the street and standing guard outside.

Officers wrapped caution tape to prevent anyone from getting near the house.

Neighbors said they were shocked by the shooting. They described Loughner as a loner and outcast with a tendency to dress in all-black "goth-type clothes."

Those Goths again! Just like Columbine! Why do these atheist punks want to kill us?

The shooter's purported cultural attributes (flag-burning, pot-smoking, etc.) have not been lost on the WorldNetDaily crowd, who have seized on that as evidence of his "liberalism." In some circles, tattoos or piercings are probably considered "leftist."

But these irrational notions persist, whether in the form of Andrew Sullivan's linking of metaphors, or the claim that cultural attributes are to blame.

Sorry to get sidetracked by the Goth issue, but I don't want it to appear that I am singling out Andrew Sullivan here, and I do think it is fair to point out -- again -- that the blame-anything-and-anyone for the actions of a mentally ill individual meme is not limited to the left.

That stuff is a very old issue here, so please let me beg my readers to try to return to the latest shooter's most conspicuous "motivation" (if it is fair to call it that) and keep the discussion within the realm of grammar. I used to think that grammar was a fairly dry subject, and one which could be discsussed in more or less rational terms, but after this shooting spree, all I can say is that I would hate to be a grammarian in America today.

Think I am making this up? They are actually exploring the shooter's grammar links! To so-called "grammar extremists."

So, like it or not, grammar has now become one of those touchy issues, like sports, hunting, firearms, and the American Revolution. Perhaps we should avoid grammar too, lest rise be given in some impressionable mind to feelings of being brainwashed!

And why not? According to the Sullivan-Krugman-WND schools of thinking, grammar is just as likely to create a climate as anything else, and it's hard to deny that this shooter was driven by -- dare I say it? -- 

A CLIMATE OF GRAMMAR! (Or maybe a grammar climate...)

In the most shocking irony of all, when the shooting occurred, I was writing a post about the McGuffey Reader which is not only a book about grammar, but was intended for use in grammar schools! My post (published at 2:20 p.m. EST) was started right after my earlier 11:22 a.m. post, and the shooting occurred at approximately 10:15 a.m. Arizona time -- (12:15 p.m. EST).

What this means is that that the grammar-driven shooting occurred right while I was in the middle of writing a grammar-driven post.

I now shudder in abject irony over the implications.

Do I share blame for helping to create the same sort of grammar climate that drove Jared Loughner to mass murder?

The thought strikes me as lunacy. 

But if the goal is to hold us to a new standard dominated by impressionable lunatics, then we are all lunatics. 

Should such ridiculous ideas be taken seriously?

I'd like to think they should not, but I cannot shake the creepy thought that ridiculous ideas have become serious questions. 

AFTERTHOUGHT: To the extent that it is possible to put politics aside, I would like to politely suggest that the mentally ill mind is an absolutely terrible yardstick.

I hope it does not become a new national standard.

MORE: Glenn links some very apt thoughts from Jack Shafer on the idea of words that might set off impressionable nuts:

For as long as I've been alive, crosshairs and bull's-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such "inflammatory" words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I've listened to, read--and even written!--vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I've even gotten angry, for goodness' sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I'm not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people--most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds--can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.

Ann Althouse has more on the word war.

I think the idea that we could ever hope to avoid cross-contamination of the word salad of nuts is nuts.

To avoid any further confusion, let the record note that while I used the phrase "word salad," the proper term should be schizophasia.

Because words matter, right?

MORE: In today's editorial, the Wall Street Journal characterized grammar Loughner's "main complaint":

Judging from Mr. Loughner's own website, his mind was a mess of conspiracy theories, influenced by tracts like "Mein Kampf" and the "Communist Manifesto." His main complaint about government seems to be that he believes it is trying to control American "grammar." Yet this becomes an excuse for the media to throw him in with the tea partiers as "anti-government."

I've spent a lot of time with Tea Party people, and I can't remember a single complaint about grammar control.

AND MORE: In an interesting twist, one of Glenn's readers says that "by Underpants Gnomes logic, Loughner's actions can be blamed on a vast conspiracy of Black Gay Dyslexic science-fiction authors."


I guess that means my question about the identity of the lunatics who helped create this grammar-driven climate has been settled.

Oh what a relief it is!

posted by Eric at 11:12 AM | Comments (4)

No Heat

The question "Why was no one at the event packing heat?" has been coming up frequently with respect to the shootings in Arizona.

My guess is that those at the event were Democrats.

Yeah. Some Democrats are pro-gun. Like Rep. Giffords. But if you are looking for anti-gun folks you will have better luck sampling Democrats than sampling Republicans.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:38 AM | Comments (6)


Yes, that is what exactly what they will say, if they haven't already.

As I just said to M. Simon in an email, I find the uproar over what happened yesterday so predictable that I can barely stand it. I have seen the same type of opportunistic demagoguery in reaction to every shooting incident -- from Oswald to Sirhan to James Earl Ray to Columbine to David Purdy to whoever -- right on down to the latest loony tune asshole.

I loathe having to listen to these reactions, much less write about them.

It makes me detest the human mind.

But unfortunately, because of the way the human mind works (and as Kathy reminded me in a comment last night), had exactly this same guy shot Sarah Palin, many conservative activists* would be screaming that he's "on the left." WRONG. He's not on anything -- especially his meds.

But we will be told we need new laws.


As today is Sunday, maybe I should just admit that what happened yesterday was all my fault and join in the traditional national mantra:


Ever since [Oswald], it' it's been the same mantra.

Which means I should confess.

I killed the kids at Columbine, and my collective guns regularly murder hundreds of children in Philadelphia. I have murdered millions of unborn babies. I tortured Iraqis at Abu Ghraib! I pulled the tube from Terri Schiavo! I also clubbed the baby seals, and probably helped Richard Speck murder all those nurses in Chicago in 1966.

(Oh, yeah, I also owned and transported lots of slaves. Lots and lots of genocide was committed by the "we." I am therefore guilty as charged!)


OK? Now that I have confessed again, can I just go on with my life?

Or will more laws be needed again?

* Some of this takes the form of retaliation. "You said he was on the right, so we'll say he was on the left!"

AFTERTHOUGHT: My biggest worry is that this incident will be used as a pretext to eliminate the last vestiges of privacy in medical records.

posted by Eric at 10:36 AM | Comments (7)

They Don't Have Politics

I know Eric is covering the Arizona shooter well. But I just had to have my say. And I'll make it short and sweet:

Paranoid Schizophrenics don't have politics. They have voices.

But if you want to do politics at least one of his acquaintances has said he was a lefty.

And if you are looking to condemn, how about a system that knew he was troubled and did nothing for him. We don't treat our mentally ill worse than dogs in Bedlams any more. We are better than that. We are indifferent to them.

Let me say this: for all its fiscal stupidity Illinois has a decent program for those with mental afflictions. Once they get in trouble with the law (the shooter had run ins in Arizona) there are special courts for them. Not only that, Rockford, Illinois has special police trained to deal with the mentally ill.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:57 AM | Comments (11)

Making a pot-smoking, flag-burning, schizophrenic fit the narrative

By any reasonable standard, the man accused of killing at least six people (including a federal judge) and critically wounding U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is mentally ill. He thinks there is a big conspiracy to "brainwash" him which involves "grammar" and "currency," and he has posted garbled and incomprehensible Youtube videos to that effect, including one which shows him burning the American flag, with this caption:

If there's no flag in the constitution then the flag in the film is unknown.
There's no flag in the constitution.
Therefore, the flag in the film is unknown.
Burn every new and old flag that you see.
Burn your flag!
I bet you can imagine this in your mind with a faster speed.
Watch this protest in reverse!
Ask the local police; "What's your illegal activity on duty?".
If you protest the government then there's a new government from protesting.
There's not a new government from protesting.
Thus, you aren't protesting the government.
There's something important in this video: There's no communication to anyone in this location.
You shouldn't be afraid of the stars.
There's a new bird on my right shoulder. The beak is two feet and lime green. The rarest bird on earth, there's no feathers, but small grey scales all over the body. It's with one large red eye with a light blue iris. The bird feet are the same as a woodpecker. This new bird and there's only one, the gender is not female or male. The wings of this bird are beautiful; 3 feet wide with the shape of a bald eagle that you could die for. If you can see this bird then you will understand. You think this bird is able to chat about a government?
I want you to imagine a comet or meteoroid coming through the atmosphere.
On the other hand, welcome yourself to the desert: Maybe your ability to protest is from the brainwash of the current government structure.

He reportedly has a criminal record and a history of substance abuse.

Is anyone surprised?

While there are voices of sanity who still recognize that crazy people do crazy things, there is a growing chorus of people on the left who are determined to blame the right wing, the Tea Party movement, and Sarah Palin.

I'd like to say this has to stop, but I know it won't. I say this in full recognition of the fact that had he somehow managed to shoot Sarah Palin, a chorus on the right would be accusing him of being on the left.

He's not "on the right" or "on the left," OK?

He's mentally ill.

Yet because his victim happened to be a Democratic congressional rep, a growing chorus on the left is trying to spin this paranoid schizophrenic (whom Glenn rightly calls a garden variety nut) as some sort of right wing ideologue.

"Sounds like something you'd read at Free Republic," is how one insightful genius at the Democratic Underground characterizes his writings. 

Another leftist blogger has a post titled "Jared Loughner - The Consequence of Right Wing Propaganda" which says,

Early indications are that Jared Lougner was a greatly misguided and easily manipulated Tea Bag supporter.

But OTOH, someone claiming to actually know him says this:

...he was a pot head & into rock like Hendrix,The Doors, Anti-Flag. I haven't seen him in person since '07 in a sign language class" and "As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal. & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy."

It's a shame people have to make political hay out of a mentally deranged man when the issue is is why such people can't get help when they need it.

As if these examples weren't enough, Stacy McCain linked a post titled "Sarah Palin's Hit List" by the highly regarded leftie blogger TBogg. The latter maintains that Sarah Palin put the guy up to it because a map she released in September showed districts of the House Dems who voted for the health care bill with a "target" symbol over them. That, plus her statement "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" made this guy shoot people.

Seriously, that's what they say. (I think it's as crazy as the rantings of Jared Loughner.)

A commenter accuses the GOP of,

spamming their mentally ill constituency that it is, "OK to kill people if they don't share your beliefs"

And another says,

The sickness is all on your side of the political spectrum. Whatever the motivations or mental state of the shooter, the increasingly violent and eliminationist rhetoric of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Bachmann, and all the others unquestionably fed this act.

Sorry, but I think this paranoid, pot-smoking, flag-burning, God-denouncing schizophrenic would have been just as likely to have taken aim at Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, or Bachmann had he had the chance. 

Except I don't think we would be hearing much about the left wing "eliminationist rhetoric" that drove him to it.

posted by Eric at 12:55 AM | Comments (5)

Bowdlerization for thee, and rebowdlerization for me!

A lot of people are upset over the bowdlerization of Huckleberry Finn by a prominent publisher, and a number of prominent bloggers have weighed in with various thoughts.

I tend towards First Amendment fanaticism, and I would be absolutely rabid with rage if it turned out the government had a hand in this. OTOH, I think that purely private censorship (by private individuals and entities) is a First Amendment right. There are numerous versions of the Bible, and even Thomas Jefferson created his own heavily edited version. Anyone with a printing press can run off an expurgated version of anything.

Ann Althouse thinks a Huckleberry Finn edition without the "n" word should be available:

I must say that I think there should be an edition with the offensive words removed. It's not as though the uncensored versions disappear as a result of its existence. If you think seeing those words is crucial to understanding the book, that's fine, but not everyone does, and there's also the opinion that it's detrimental, as Professor Butler explains very well. I think high school and middle school students are inclined to dislike anything you impose on them. They might be more interested in Mark Twain if they knew the teachers were pushing the censored version and an uncensored version is accessible -- like porn -- through the internet. Here, kids, you can get right to it, the instant you want.

I think that's right, although I am one of those people who gets annoyed when I am not allowed to see something that some authority figure does not want me to see. I was that way as a child and I am that way now. 

In an odd coincidence, after a recent book purchase, I inadvertently stumbled onto a very annoying bit of censorship by a publisher most people think of as doing just the opposite. I am fascinated by the way the "old" and "outmoded" McGuffey Readers did a far better job of imparting literacy than whatever techniques are today. Just as I wondered in a comment to Dave's earlier post whether the one-room schoolhouse might do a better job than than the administration-top-heavy educrat edifices of today, I find myself wondering if Detroit -- with its 47% illiteracy rate -- might do better to just try the McGuffey reader. The Sixth Eclectic Reader offers selections intended for sixth graders that would qualify as college-level literature today.

Anyway, I have been collecting some of these old McGuffey Readers for my entertainment. Like many textbooks, they were occasionally revised to fit the times, and some of the stuff that was thought to go a bit too far towards Christian evangelism in the original 1837 Reader was heavily edited in the latter part of the 19th Century. However, I learned that some of the modern fundamentalist Christians who home-school their kids have revived the 1837 version, which they see as the perfect way to not only teach their kids to read and write, but also to instil in them what they see as ideal Christian values.  (Which is their absolute right to do.)

This series is called "The Original McGuffey's," and I assumed that it would be word-for-word the same as the original Reader from 1837, so I bought one.

Imagine my shock when I learned that it, too, had been censored!

From the "PRESENT PUBLISHER'S PREFACE" by Mott Media President George M. Mott:

Slight changes have taken place for the sake of clarification. These changes are as follows: a. some punctuation has been changed to keep it consistent with current usage; b. some words were rewritten with their current spellings; c. Lesson I was divided into two lessons because of its length; d. Lessons II and two paragraphs of XI were omitted because the materials are not appropriate; e. the following words have been changed; religion to Christianity, gay to happy, intercourse to communication, copse to woods, oblige to cause, declivity to slope, distracted to distraught, suspense to anxiety, repaired to run, faculties to mind, poorest to slowest, and philosophy to physics.

Now that just ticked me off, because I bought the book believing it was an accurate and unexpurgated reprint of the original reader. It is not. The above changes are not "slight," but are of a substantial nature (far more so than replacing the n-word with "slave"). For starters, I am dying to know what's in missing chapter II and the missing portion of chapter XI. So I need to find and buy a true original (do I have to Whoopify the term and say "original-original"?), and they are not cheap.

Alas! Gutenberg only seems to have the revised 1879 version online, and not the original.

Again, I think people ought to be able to print what they want and buy what they want, but still, the word "original" ought to mean something other than "the newly Rebowdlerized Edition of the Formerly Bowdlerized Original." 

It makes my head spin.

You'd almost think censorship was relative.

posted by Eric at 02:20 PM | Comments (4)

Lessons from Japan "we" fail to learn

Remember back in the days when the conventional wisdom held that the Japanese were going to overtake us and everyone else?

Sean Kinsell has a great discussion of why Japan is slipping behind China and South Korea. He begins with a mysterious title I can't quite fathom:


That might mean Happy New Year. How that's going to render here, I don't know; last night I tried to say "Merry Christmas" with Cyrillic characters but utterly failed. It came out looking like this:

З Різдвом Христовим!

Ð-- РÑ-здвом Христовим!

(The first line is the actual Cyrillic, while the second is copied from the way it appears.)

The gobbledygook is probably about as sensible as the bureaucratic edicts from Kasumigaseki (a subway station name I remember from past travels) which have hamstrung Japan vis-a-vis their more productive neighbors. Here's Sean:

...Japanese youth don't see a good chance of bettering their circumstances through hard work. Japan is publishing fewer academic articles on physics and chemistry than the PRC, and the literacy rate of its fifteen-year-olds is lagging behind that of Shanghai, Korea, or Hong Kong. But there's nothing new about the ideas, except the comprehensiveness and relentless directness with which the Nikkei has expressed them. The system by which elected officials, unelected federal functionaries, and leaders of key industries simultaneously work with one another to their mutual enrichment and push against each other to keep reforms from happening was identified decades ago. It's all very well to tell the government that it will play a key role in helping the Japanese economy adapt to external reality; it's another thing entirely to convince those who actually populate key ministries in Kasumigaseki that their endless "administrative guidance" is choking economic development at the root and that they need to lay off the control-freak-ism. And for the love of Pete, if someone finds a politically viable way to deep-six the current farm-subsidy system, please tell us in America about it. We're all ears.

Also note that many of the elements of the Japanese government and corporate systems that the poor Nikkei is pleading to have changed are the very things that used to be held up as the reasons Japan was going to overtake the West--and, indeed, the very things that were seen as the key to the success of Korea and the other Tiger Economies as they "followed Japan's example." Now they're moving away from that example, and in the process they're leaving Japan behind.

Yet another piece of evidence that the more government runs an economy, the more the economy is run into the ground. 

You'd think we could learn from the failures of others.

Instead, we insist on repeating them.

Why must we?

The problem with that damn "we" word is that it isn't being done by the we as in "we the people"; it's being done by them -- the people in the government and their elite minions -- imposing their will on us. Unfortunately, "we" inevitably becomes we the country, and because of the usual conflationary rhetorical processes, "we" become the government. And much as I dislike being conflated with meddlesome government bureaucrats, the "we" error makes me one.

(Not a wee error, and I wish I could avoid it.)

posted by Eric at 11:22 AM | Comments (7)

Is It Religion?

David Harsanyi is looking at the Death of the Constitution. A document widely ignored by both parties when it gets in the way of something "really important". Like preventing gay marriage. Or prohibiting drugs.

Perhaps the flaw in the document is its ambiguity rather than its complexity. Giving Congress the wide-ranging authority to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" to provide for the "general Welfare," for instance, gives every do-gooder who can cobble together 50 percent-plus-one of the vote the authority to define the common good.

This includes conservatives, who would often have trouble passing their own originalist constitutional purity test.

Under what authority does government dictate the parameters of marriage, for instance? What in the Constitution allows Washington to prohibit the peaceful economic transaction between individuals -- whether it be marijuana or anything else? (Alcohol prohibitionists had the decency to pass a new amendment.)

So, because the Constitution has become too complex for many of us to decipher, and thus irrelevant, its time to boil the whole thing down to its troglodytic and/or graceful basics and engage P.J. O'Rourke's rules of governance in a free society:

1. "Mind your own business."

2. "Keep your hands to yourself."

Such attitudes were common at the founding of the country.
The early currency of the United States was printed with the slogan "Mind your business"!

The slogan, which is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, appeared on early US coins and paper currency.

Today we have liberal conservatives and liberal liberals. The common thread? Both see government as a force for good if only they were in charge. Neither sees government as a necessary evil.

Harsanyi in another column lays it out with respect to troubles on the Right.

...it's social conservatism that will most often turn those with secular sensibilities away from the right. Even within the movement, a libertarian vs. social conservative debate has roiled on forever. This dynamic is only going to change when political expediency becomes a force more powerful than faith -- which is to say the day after we pay off the national debt.

Now, it's true that social conservatives can be unfairly ridiculed as bigots in these debates. But sometimes, as it happens, they act like bigots.

When, for instance, a bunch of influential organizations decide to boycott the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) yearly confab simply because a gay Republican group named GOProud happens to be participating, we have stumbled upon such a moment.

Eric at Classical Values makes fun of these "conservatives" who do deserve it. The only "rational" explanation I can come up with is that these "conservatives" think gayness may be catching.

David continues:

...let's remember that last year leading GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee skipped CPAC, explaining that the event had become "increasingly libertarian and less Republican."
Ah yes. The dreaded libertarians. Whose #1 sin is that they want government to leave them (and every one else) alone. I suppose the "conservative" answer is "What good is it being in government if you can't mess with people? There are eternal souls at stake. That must be saved. By force if necessary."

In the comments at Clayton Cramer's blog I present the secular/Jewish perspective on the "conservative" desire to save souls by government force.

There is going to be friction. You see I do not need saving. You can't imagine how offputting it is to hear that I do. I don't need my sins to be forgiven. What I need to do is to get busy and right any wrongs I have committed.
So how do you square that circle? Mind your own business. Jesus managed to save souls (so some believe) without recourse to government force. Why can't you? Or as some wag put it:

The persuasion of Jesus is better than the sword of Rome.

I suppose the persuasion is more effective if you have a "persuader" in your hand. Al Capone had a handle on that:

"You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone."

Which may be true. But is it religion? Or better: is it Christian? Well once upon a time it was Christian as the pogroms and expulsions the Jews of Europe suffered attest. Do we want to go there? Again? It is the kind of thing you get when you marry church and state. The past history of Christianity and the current history of Islam attest to that. Which is why Jews are especially twitchy about any move that seems to marry church and state even in the smallest particular. Such marriages have meant death or disabilities for Jews every time they came into being.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:00 AM | Comments (4)

From A Usually Reliable Source

Detective/Officer Howard Wooldridge (retired) of Citizens Opposing Prohibition who works tirelessly for Drug Prohibition Repeal informs me via e-mail that a Federal Marijuana Prohibition Repeal bill will be submitted to Congress in a few weeks. I don't have a lot of hope for passage of the bill this time around. But it is a start.

Visit Citizens Opposing Prohibition and drop them a few bucks. It keeps Howard going.


Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

Boycott Christmas? Nyet!

Yes, instead of boycotting Christmas, I'm celebrating it twice! Just as there have been two Christmas Eves this season, it is now Christmas for the second time.

Merry Christmas everyone!



З Різдвом Христовим!

The code didn't render Cyrillic, but here's what I was trying to say:

Merry Christmas UA RU.jpg

posted by Eric at 07:47 PM | Comments (6)

Smoking out contradictory conspiracy theories

I am having trouble keeping up with conspiracy theories about CPAC.

First there was the "boycott" of CPAC by angry WorldnetDailyers and FamilyResearchCouncilors who complained that CPAC had been taken over by homos.

And today I read that CPAC has been secretly taken over by radical Islamists.

Excuse me, but isn't there a rather major contradiction here?

I mean, if both claims are true and CPAC has been simultaneously taken over by homos on the one hand and Islamists on the other, then it is truly on a collision course with itself.

If that's the case, the only way to resolve this might be for CPAC to issue a demand that it be stoned to death.

Oh, now I get it!


Finally, the subtext of Pat Robertson's puzzling new stance on marijuana is revealed.

Glad that puzzle is solved.

posted by Eric at 01:37 PM | Comments (5)

Sorry we were down!

Thanks to a credit card issue, the blog was down for a couple of hours this morning. My card (with which I pay online bills automatically) expired and a new one was issued, but for some reason that caused absolute chaos. I fail to understand why in this day and age, a credit card for the same person with the same numbers but with only a new expiration date cannot automatically update itself. But it can't. All the information has to be reentered manually. A pain in the ass.

The problem was compounded by an old email address on file for the account, which meant I had no notice.

At least it's a relief to know it wasn't the spammers.

posted by Eric at 12:09 PM | Comments (1)

The Amazon Tax

It seems the State of Illinois is so desperate for revenue that it is instituting an internet sales tax.

CHICAGO, Jan. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Internet Tax Bill (HB 3659) was passed in the Illinois Senate on January 5, by the House of Representatives on January 6 and brought to the Governor, who may sign it into a law as early as Friday, January 7.

The tax legislation relates to out-of-state merchants like Amazon.com and Overstock.com that do not have a physical presence in Illinois but have relationships with Illinois advertisers and publishers like CouponCabin.com. By this law, these merchants are deemed to have a presence (nexus) in Illinois and are therefore required to collect Illinois sales tax.

The goal of this is to increase tax revenue for the state, but what has happened in the four states that have passed similar laws (New York, Colorado, North Carolina and Rhode Island) is that instead of collecting sales tax, these merchants have severed their relationships with publishers in that state. Twelve other states have rejected similar legislation.

In response to this Amazon sent me the following e-mail:
Greetings from the Amazon Associates Program:

We regret to inform you that the Illinois state legislature has passed an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that, if signed by Governor Quinn, would leave Amazon.com little choice but to end its relationships with Illinois-based Associates. You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Illinois. If our records are incorrect, you can manage the details of your Associates account here .

Please note that this not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Amazon Associates Program. But if the governor signs this bill, we will need to terminate the participation of all Illinois residents in the Associates Program. After that point, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for sales referred to amazon.com, endless.com and smallparts.com nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Illinois residents.

The unfortunate consequences of this legislation on Illinois residents like you were explained to the legislature, including Senate and House leadership, as well as to the governor's staff.

Over a dozen other states have considered essentially identical legislation but have rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states' residents.

Governor Quinn's office may be reached here.

We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and wish you continued success in the future.



Here is the note I sent to the governors office:
Veto the bill.

I'm retired on Social Security and make a few dollars a month selling Amazon products. This is very helpful as I have a disabled son I have to take care of. This action on the part of the legislature is going to hurt my family greatly. You have no idea what an extra $20 or $30 a month means to my family.

If you would like to help out before the State of Illinois closes the window on my fingers order something from Amazon using this link:


I think the State of Illinois is doing its best to strangle business in the State. Once upon a time we had a fairly reasonable Republican government in this state. Until George Ryan ruined it for Republicans. The crook. Now all we get are anti-business Democrats. At least the Republicans had some idea that the goodies they were passing out had some connection to the productive economy. At least the Republicans before Ryan. It is Illinois after all.

Update: A nice link filled post on the subject from Backyard Conservative.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

Vee Hav Vays Und Means

So, ebooks throw the publishing field wide, but have some drawbacks.

The first drawback is giving readers a way to weed out the truly awful. Not that readers can't weed out the truly awful themselves. Of course they can. I weed out bad books by the score any day of the week. I read two pages and put them down. Or download the preview from Amazon, then erase it.

The problem is even getting to the point you know the book exists - the equivalent of browsing your favorite brick-and-mortar bookshelf and finding new books. Amazon "people who bought this also bought" does that, if you make it a regular practice of browsing those - I do - and of downloading the free samples for the kindle. I think - it's been a few weeks since I bought from them, and the holidays and my anniversary happened in between, so it feels like years - fiction wise allows you to download free samples as well. However the "people also bought" is limited.

What we need in that respect are the equivalent of the books they used to publish, called "what do I read next". I understand the kindle boards do some of this. That's a beginning to the solution.

Continue reading "Vee Hav Vays Und Means"

posted by Sarah at 01:12 AM | Comments (15)

Have You Seen This Man?

Evidently he is a "name" in the PUA community. And what is a PUA? A Pick Up Artist. i.e. a conman other wise referred to in polite society as a salesman. In the argot of the street he is a "player".

And for your further amusement may I present the female of the species. And there is a www site: Fast Seduction. They have their own language and social networks. And there are books and audio CDs.

Player's Handbook Volume 1 - Pickup and Seduction Secrets For Men Who Love Women & Sex

Player's Handbook Volume 2 - Advanced Pickup and Seduction Secrets For Men Who Love Women & Sex

Player's Handbook Volume 3 - Make Her Squirt! A Quick and Dirty Guide to Female Ejaculation and Extended Orgasm

I guess the theory is that if the sex is good enough she will never notice you are a jerk with no prospects greater than tossing burgers at McDonalds. Perhaps a good line is in order. "I'm living in my mom's basement while my mansion in the Hamptons is being remodeled." Well, it could work. All the guy would have to do is sell it.

I dunno. I sort of played this game when I was very young. But it didn't take long to find out that if there was no love involved the effort was useless. After waking up a few times with ladies I couldn't wait to get away from I gave up the enterprise of just picking up women. I switched to ladies with whom I had a connection. The pickings of course got much slimmer. But me and the lady involved had a much better time and a relationship.

My favorite pick up line? "Just sleep naked with me. No sex." To those ladies who would agree I would do exactly that. In 75% of the cases (the lady slept naked with me) the ladies would come back raring for action. I married the last lady I ever tried that line on. Twenty-eight years ago and still going strong.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:12 AM | Comments (2)

Marijuana Mushrooms

No. This is not some new way to make THC with genetically altered mushrooms. (it is just a matter of time though). It is about a follow up to my story Mutiny In Montana. The Helena Independent Record has a story called Missoula marijuana 'mutiny' mushrooms.

Call it the Pot Shot Heard 'Round the World.

Oh, wait. Somebody already did that.

The Examiner online news site -- one of many news organizations that picked up on the story of a Missoula jury pool that dug in its heels last month at the prospect of trying a case involving "a couple of buds" of marijuana -- put a variation of that headline on its story.

Others likewise had fun with it. "The Great Montana Marijuana Mutiny," the Wall Street Journal's legal blog termed it.

"Where There's Smoke, There's Change," pronounced the Toronto Star.

And Huffington Post declared in a possible first that "Sanity Broke Out in Missoula, Montana, Today."

Headline hijinks aside, the jury pool's action -- and the reaction to it -- has serious ramifications for continued prosecution of low-level nonviolent drug crimes, not just in Missoula County but around the country.

"It was almost like a slap in the face to the system," said John Zeimet, of the moment on Dec. 16 when he watched his fellow prospective jurors, one after another, tell Missoula County District Judge Dusty Deschamps that not only were they disinclined to convict, but wondered aloud why taxpayer money was being wasted on the case.

"The people stood up and spoke out."

Yes they did. We could use a lot more of that in this country. The judge in the case is also speaking out.
The judge and former Missoula County attorney said he's "more or less" convinced that marijuana should be legalized in some form, despite being "much alarmed at what I consider to be rampant abuse of what I think was a well-intentioned initiative" -- that being the 2004 statewide voter initiative that legalized medical marijuana in Montana. Deschamps also voted for that initiative.

"We've seen some downside in the medical marijuana thing, but I'm reasonably convinced that, over the years, I haven't seen very many criminals go out and commit horrible crimes under the influence of marijuana. Alcohol is 10 times the problem marijuana is, a hundred times."

Yes. Alcohol is the biggest drug problem in America. And yet, we are solving that problem, little by little over time without further recourse to prohibitions.

Which brings up the other bette noirs of our prohibitionist friends. Cocaine and heroin. A recent headline from the UK says it all: Alcohol 'more harmful than heroin or crack'.

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, beating heroin and crack cocaine into second and third place, according to an authoritative study published today which will reopen calls for the drugs classification system to be scrapped and a concerted campaign launched against drink.

Led by the sacked government drugs adviser David Nutt with colleagues from the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, the study says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.

Today's paper, published by the respected Lancet medical journal, will be seen as a challenge to the government to take on the fraught issue of the relative harms of legal and illegal drugs, which proved politically damaging to Labour

The caption on a picture included in the article encapsulates the findings.
Heroin causes harm to users, but alcohol causes considerably more harm in the wider community, study finds. Photograph: Action Press/Rex Features
Why is that? From my studies on the subject recounted in my article Heroin, only the most abused children turn to heroin. And even those must be genetically susceptible. Most people are not interested in the stuff. But suppose you are one of those who got a habit from medical use? For those people with no history of abuse detox works well. What detox does not fix is the pain in the brain left over from child abuse. We have no fix for that. Which is why addiction is different from habituation.

We are spending tens of billions a year in America on what appears to be a minor problem. In fact if we could switch alcohol addicts from alcohol to pot we might have a LOT less trouble with alcohol. In fact just such switching was considered a valid treatment for alcohol addiction before cannabis was prohibited nationally in 1937. So not only is the spending a waste, it may actually be counter productive.

Way to go my "sufficient punishment can cure any social ill" friends.

No it can't.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:53 PM | Comments (5)

Socialism and prescription porn welcome here!

(And I hope comments are too!)

One of the things that makes spam such a pain in the ass in blogging is the way it increasingly tends to inhibit the ability to discuss ordinary topics. If you have been blogging for any length of time (I'm going on eight years now), you have no doubt been dragged into battle against these insidious spambots, and forced to deploy defensive software which often relies on blocking certain words and phrases in the hope of preventing spam comments.

A classic example from my personal experience was the way my anti-spam software was blocking the word "cialis" in any comment. Now, normally I can live with a limitation like that, and so can most commenters, because the topic of "cialis" is not a frequent one here. (In fact I don't think I have ever talked about it as a substance.) But what happened was I kept getting email from different people who could not leave comments, and could not figure out what was wrong. I had to painstakingly try entering one of the comments, editing out one word at a time until I found the offending word:


Yes, socialism is offensive, but I never wanted a ban on the word! In fact, I have used it in countless posts. I kept staring and staring, and finally I figured out what was wrong: my software considered "socialism" to be containing "cialis." Which it does. So I had to adjust my settings to allow socialism, and since then socialism has been welcome at Classical Values.  (Er, you know what I mean.)

M. Simon learned that writing about pornography is also very problematic, because if the word "porn" is in the title, any and all comments are blocked! And we can't have that can we? So the workaround was to use a zero in place of the letter "o." But the spammers already do that to get their p0rn spam through, so there's no perfect solution.

What set me off about this was to learn from SayUncle that writing a blog post using the word "prescription" now presents spamblematic problems.

You do a post with the word prescription in it, and wordpress thinks all comments are spam.

Fortunately in this case, I don't use Wordpress, but MovableType, which I just upgraded, but which is still not perfect. Had I been using Wordpress, though, I'd have probably been reduced to fits by now, as I have writtten a number of posts about the unconstitutional (IMO) prescription drug databases which have been stealthily sneaked through most of the state legislatures at the behest of an elite group of public policy wonks. Which means that the cops can rifle through grandma's medical records and treat her like a suspected drug dealer, because some damn welfare grandma in some damn Ohio town learned she could make a lot of money selling her damn pain meds.

I like to discuss these and other things without worrying that I'm inadvertently becoming an auto-spamming trap.

Damn those spammers.

MORE: Speaking of damn spammers, I just discovered why a series of important emails on an important subject requesting advice from a friend had gone uncharacteristically "unanswered."

They weren't unanswered, but for no reason at all, my friend (with whom I have been in regular correspondence for some time) was suddenly deemed a spammer, and all of his replies were automatically junked. And meanwhile I spent days worrying why my friend would all of a sudden not answer me. 

This leaves me incredibly pissed off -- first at Verizon but most of all at the spammers, who are making it ever more difficult to communicate. 

Yeah, yeah, I should regularly check the spam folder, just as I should regularly and constantly be checking everything else.

Why bother to have a spam folder if you have to read through it anyway?

Things have reached the point where spam is consuming a lot of time.

I am so angry that I am willing to consider a constitutional amendment adding a spammer exception to the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

They should be rendered mentally and/or physically incapable of spamming.

posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (8)

No constitutional compromise in pursuit of happy sartorial values!

One of the first things I read this morning was Steny Hoyer's accusation that Tea Party supporters have unhappy families:

There are a whole lot of people in the Tea Party that I see in these polls who don't want any compromise. My presumption is they have unhappy families. All of you have been in families: single-parent, two-parents, whatever. Multiple parent and a stepfather. The fact is life is about trying to reach accommodation with one another so we can move forward. That is certainly what democracy is about. So if we are going to move forward compromise is necessary.

And as if that's not bad enough, the unhappy Tea Party Family is being blamed for something even worse -- the bizarre idea that the Constitution somehow has "relevance":

As we reported this morning, House Republicans will kick-start the 112th Congress tomorrow with a spirited recitation of the Constitution, a document whose recent relevance is due largely to the ideological and sartorial interests of the Tea Party.

Sartorial interests? I have lost track of the number of Tea Party meetings and events I've attended, and depending on the occasion, I have worn anything from a T-shirt and blue jeans to a suit and tie. While I like to be creative where it comes to ideas, it has never occurred to me that what I wear is of constitutional dimension in any way. (Other than perhaps in the general sense that freedom of expression under the First Amendment means citizens have the right to wear what they want.)

The word "sartorial" connotes tailoring. Try as I might, I simply cannot come up with any sort of sartorial generalization about Tea Party people. Here in Michigan, they seem to dress like most of the other people I see running around, but a majority of them don't hesitate to put on nice clothes when the occasion calls for it. There's no formal dress code, but from personal experience I can truthfully relate that when I have been with Tea Party people at the State Capitol in pursuit of their goals, the majority of them (myself included) try to show respect for the occasion and look respectable in the presence of government officials. This does not strike me as being of any particular sartorial significance, though. Nothing especially exciting or unusual about it.

How what Tea Party people wear connects to the relevance of the Constitution leaves me feeling completely baffled. Unless there is a sartorial subtext I'm missing, I'm clueless. (Perhaps someone can explain what I might be missing.)

Sorry to sound so boring.


I think I need to sex up this post.

Hey now, how about some happy family values, with sartorial splendor supplied by the fashionable Ramones!

UPDATE: M. Simon wanted lyrics, and by the gods, he gets 'em!

We're a happy family
We're a happy family
We're a happy family
Me mom and daddy

Siting here in Queens
Eating refried beans
We're in all the magazines
Gulpin' down thorazines

We ain't got no friends
Our troubles never end
No Christmas cards to send
Daddy likes men

Daddy's telling lies
Baby's eating flies
Mommy's on pills
Baby's got the chills

I'm friends with the President
I'm friends with the Pope
We're all making a fortune
Selling Daddy's dope

Oh, the nostalgia!

To think that was all the way back in 1977.

Those damn traditional values just keep a-cummin, don't they?

posted by Eric at 10:03 AM | Comments (5)

Froth And Fortune

Via Glenn, an interesting Right Coast piece on academics with anger management issues.

Schama and Sachs are not isolated cases, of course.  This sort of talk has become commonplace among people who used to be liberal but serious, sophisticated, and certainly not hysterical.  You hear it from public figures like Schama and Sachs, and you hear it very commonly in private, from left-of-centre (or once left of centre, but now seethingly leftist) friends and acquaintances.

In any case, Schama is very obviously wrong, which perhaps explains why he's frothing, rage being a common, if deficient, substitute for reason. Income inequality that is not created by some use of force (such as we see in tinpot dictatorships -- even the Communist ones) or windfall resource wealth can only come about by one means: increasingly efficient production of increasingly desirable goods and services. 

It's fatuous to assert growing income inequality is intrinsically a "problem." Look at the living standards of the bottom quartile in the U.S. today versus 1950 -- they not only enjoy far better access to food, they generally have air conditioning, major appliances, computers, Internet, cell phones, microwaves etc, not to mention vastly superior medical care and the ability to place a phone call to anyone else in country for almost nothing. While it's true income inequality has grown since that time, that's largely because people got rich making those cell phones, microchips, Amazon, Google, the router, fiber-optic trunks. etc. Other people got rich figuring out ways to make a given appliance a bit more efficiently or by inventing a new medical procedure. Others got rich inventing new and better ways to grow corn, wheat, etc.  Sam Walton became a billionaire by creating a brutally efficient supply chain to attract low-income shoppers with low prices.  Those people are why the poor, and everyone else, are better off today.

It's natural, of course, to be jealous when other people are doing better than you (and to feel guilty when others aren't), which is why this tripe has always had an audience. But delicious though he may be, the reality is we're far better off with the goose that lays the golden eggs in the barn than on the dinner plate.

posted by Dave at 07:39 AM | Comments (7)

We've Got Trouble, Right Here In Ebook City

Okay, so - as a commenter told me yesterday - why do writers still need publishers? What is the point? Why can't writers self-publish on the web and be done with it?

Let's dispose of the silly stuff, first. I have had people tell me they could never self-publish because they need "editors" by which they invariably mean copy-editors, btw; or because they need a cover; or even because they need to format it.

These are ridiculous objections because there are free-lance copy-editors. If you can't afford that, find a friend who will do it for a dinner. If what you need is a REAL editor, you can hire those too. Ask friends or look through the adds in writers' publications. Ditto for covers. Believe it or not most artists are not that expensive when it comes to using their illustration for a cover. Look over at deviant art or another place where artists post their work, hoping to be noticed. As for formatting, you can usually find instructions on line. (It has occurred to me that if I were unemployed right now and were marginally more tech inclined than I am, I'd start a business formatting books for writers, and arranging them to fit the various publishers/services.)

Now, the real objections

Continue reading "We've Got Trouble, Right Here In Ebook City"

posted by Sarah at 01:46 AM | Comments (11)

I have a tree

At the last minute on what we consider to be our Christmas Eve, I got a Christmas tree from Home Depot.

I paid only ten dollars, as there were only three trees left, and it was a pathetically scrawny tree. I wasn't sure that I hadn't been ripped off entirely, but I considered myself lucky to have gotten a tree at all. While it looked nearly dead at the time, I took it home made a fresh saw cut at the bottom, then I put it in the Christmas tree holder which I filled with aquarium water. To say it came to life would be understatement. Not only has it not dropped a single needle, but it seems to be growing.

With a start, I suddenly remembered that in some circles, today is Christmas Eve. Which means that without too much of a stretch, even I can consider today to be Christmas Eve "again." Perhaps I should have given that more thought when (not realizing the possible implications) I took a picture earlier.




It's shocking how hideously tacky it looks, because earlier this evening I had obtained a copy of The Trial of Eichmann, which I was watching when I took the picture, so there is his unapologetic, sneering face, staring from the TV. (A more guilty man has rarely if ever been put on trial.)

It is probably in bad taste to share a picture like that, but there it is. Unplanned but real.

I suspect that the suffering it touches upon is probably profoundly Christian in a way beyond my comprehension, and on that point, I think Buddhism and Christianity might be in accord. But I am not a professional theologian. 

In a coincidence, a few hours ago I learned (via my relentless email) that there's an AFA boycott of Home Depot.

Whether that means that I should apologize to the various activists -- whether for buying a Home Depot tree, taking a picture of it tonight while watching the Eichmann documentary, mentioning the boycott which I just learned about from AFA activists who email me on a regular basis, or writing this post -- I do not know.

Being tired of having to apologize to activists is irrelevant, because to an activist all apologies are suspect, and no apology will suffice.

Even saying "Merry Christmas" under the circumstances might strike many an activist as a suspicious exercise in relativism. 

But what the hell heck. It's Christmas Eve somewhere.

posted by Eric at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

As they beat a retweet...

Via Ann Althouse, I learned that CNN is all atwitter over Sarah Palin's retweet of Tammy Bruce's pro-gay twitter

Normally, it's what Sarah Palin tweets that makes news. This time it's what she has re-tweeted.

The former Alaska governor Monday relayed a comment from gay conservative pundit Tammy Bruce, who was expressing her criticism over continued Republican opposition to the Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy that won congressional repeal late last month.

Now the political world is wondering just what Palin meant to express.

"But this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already-the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed," Bruce's original tweet read that was subsequently relayed by Palin.

Bruce was thrilled with Palin's re-tweet, saying it constitutes a clear signal the former Republican vice presidential nominee is a friend of the gay community.

What aroused my curiosity was the spin in CNN's headline -- "Palin re-tweet raises questions."

What "questions" are being raised? That this was out of character? That Sarah Palin makes no sense?

MSNBC goes a step further and cites speculation that Palin is a technologically clueless idiot who had no idea what she was doing:

Gawker said Palin is not "in the context of her party, rabidly homophobic," then wondered if perhaps she didn't understand the tweet or pushed the wrong button.

Um, I don't think so. Sarah Palin is not only thoroughly familiar with the technology, but she has been a guest on Tammy Bruce's radio program, since at least last summer, when this live podcast was posted.

Tammy Bruce relates the background of the tweet, and goes out of her way not to put words in Sarah Palin's mouth:

...I am a firm supporter of the governor in all of her endeavors and will support whatever she chooses to pursue politically.

That said, let me remind everyone the context of that tweet-the issue that spurred my tweets was the production of homoerotic/homophobic/misogynistic videos by Capt. Honors of the USS Enterprise. I found that revelation, combined with the military's public position regarding DADT and the 'disruption' supposedly posed by gay men and lesbians serving openly, rather hypocritical. That was the ultimate context of that tweet-military hypocrisy on the issue.

So, at the very least I do think it's fair to say anyone, regardless of their position on DADT, would indeed find the situation on the Enterprise rankly hypocritical. My tweet was also a condemnation of DADT as an attempt to continue to marginalize gays and lesbians in the military and beyond. In a previous tweet I mention the absurd "boycott" of CPAC by certain anti-gay groups which call themselves "social conservatives" simply because conservatives who happen to be gay will be there. I do take the Governor's RT to also be a condemnation of this social ostracizing.

When it comes to Sarah Palin's position on DADT, I have never asked her about it and she has never spoken to me about it-but I assess her as a Conservative with Libertarian influence. Both her husband and son are Independents, with Mr. Palin serving as his wife's primary adviser. I will remind people of things already in the public realm about the governor-she refused to veto partner benefits legislation as governor of Alaska and is a firm believer in fairness and "live and let live." She is not a Culture Warrior, however. She is, which should be apparent by her Facebook postings and opinion pieces, a Policy Wonk. She is also, which is clearly evident, a charismatic leader who remains grounded by her character, faith and family.

Some have suggested this 'completely changes the 2012 election.' Not really-perhaps for some who believed the LSM and Gay Gestapo lie that Sarah Palin was somehow a bigot or homophobe, I hope this does cause some to take a second look at Palin, away from the left's predictable "She's a Hater!!" meme.

I have addressed the "She's a hater" meme before, and I also hope this will cause some to take a second look away from that nonsense.

However, nothing Sarah Palin might do or say would ever make the left do anything other than gnash their teeth in irrational rage. Seriously, if she decided, say, to go on record as supporting gay marriage at a press conference, they would relentlessly recontext her remarks as somehow bigoted or stupid.

I have to say, the way the left reacts to these things is very entertaining, and I reminded of the way all hell broke loose over Glenn Beck's remarks about how gay marriage would not harm the country.

Sometimes I suspect that one of the basic commandments of political collusion is along the lines of

"Thou shalt always live up to the narratives which are ordained by others."

posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (3)

The Still Small Voice Of Writers

Continuing my view of the coming of ebooks, I'd like to go into the good things brought by ebooks first.

This is important. There's a feeling of doom and gloom in the air. Publishers tell us daily they're on the verge of collapse *because* of ebooks. (This is not exactly true, in my opinion. Look both at yesterday's post here and at my Mad Genius Club Post on 1/5 for reasons that are pushing the collapse of publishing, reasons that are ushering in ebooks.)

This makes both readers and writers feel odd and insecure. We have people vowing never to read in electronic format, never, never, never, and others reading in electronic format only. We have strange movements in the used-book-sales field. We have people debating anew concepts of copyright and fair use.

For writers it is still more anxiety-making. Our publishers are convinced ebooks are bankrupting them, which has turned their publishing routines upside down and made our careers very precarious.

So, it's good to remind oneself the coming change has many good features. Perhaps the most important is letting an author take charge of his/her career.

Continue reading "The Still Small Voice Of Writers"

posted by Sarah at 06:05 AM | Comments (4)

There's No Business Like Book Business Like Any Business...

I promised sometime ago to do a series on my views on ebooks - where I think all this is going, and what it means for the future.


First, though, I need to set up the stage - as it were - and explain what, from my perspective, is wrong with the current system of publishing and distributing books. Not my point of view as a writer, so much, though some of the "features" of the current system make any writer except the lucky top 1% want to scream with rage at times.

The thing about being a writer is that you can't evaluate your own work. You just can't. It's entirely possible my work - for instance - gets kicked around by the current model because in some way - quality, thrust, execution - it deserves it. I'm not going to - cannot - dispute that. It is what it is.

However, as a reader, I can complain about the deficiencies I see in connecting with the books I would love, if only I knew they existed. As a consumer, I can complain about the inefficiency of the supply system.

And, because I'm a writer, and know some of the processes behind the scenes, I can hazard some guesses as to why the system is falling short.

Now, like a foot soldier in a corner of the battle field, it's unlikely I'll see everything. It's also likely much of what I see will be inaccurate. I'm not averse to being told I'm full of it. I can only be sure of the results and guess at the causes.

Continue reading "There's No Business Like Book Business Like Any Business..."

posted by Sarah at 02:25 AM | Comments (13)

Let there be light loopholes!

While I like to think that my light bulbs and what I do with them are my own business, as we know, the government does not.

So I was delighted to see Glenn's link to a new rebellion against the ban on incandescent lights in the form of a hot new loophole:

Skirting EU law: The rebranding of incandescent bulbs as 'Heat Balls'

A German businessman is getting around a law banning incandescent bulbs by selling them under a different name.

You gotta hand it to German businessman Siegfried Rotthaeuser, who came up with a brilliant run around the European Union ban on conventional incandescent light bulbs -- he rebranded them as "Heat Balls" and is importing them for sale as a "small heating device."

Heat balls! Now, that's good. Almost sounds like a sex device, doesn't it? And we can't have the puritanical police banning sex devices, can we?

They are also surprisingly efficient:

...incandescent bulbs are fairly efficient when they are used as heaters, throwing off around 95 percent of the energy they draw as heat. In colder climates, using the bulbs for lighting isn't always an inefficient choice as the bulbs add to the warmth of the home.

The problem is that people will buy Heat Balls primarily as a way around the ban on incandescent bulbs. Rotthaeuser's Heat Balls could end up taking off in a market starved for the familiar warmth of the incandescent bulb.
Oh piffle! Heat balls (especially when the heat relates to a sex device) are a human right!

And, if marketed correctly, they are also an animal right. Yes, many animals need what are called heat lamps -- both as a heat source as well as a light source, Especially pet snakes and other cuddly herps:

Incandescent light fixtures are an inexpensive way to add heat to a pet reptile's habitat. Place the bulbs in protective metal light fixtures and clamp them on the lid of a metal-wire-covered cage for a secure daytime heat source. Incandescent bulbs make it possible for reptiles to bask in the glow of warm, bright heat in a similar fashion to basking in the sun in the wild.

   1. Standard household incandescent bulbs (tungsten or halogen) with clear or frosted opaque glass warm reptile habitats during the daytime. Twelve to 14 hours of white light is an average requirement for reptiles, according to Animal Planet. Special red or blue nocturnal incandescent heat bulbs are used at night. These bulbs emit heat without the glare of bright, white light. Incandescent bulbs can be attached to a timer to regulate basking hours. Most reptile set-ups also require lighting that provides UVA and UVB to maintain health.
   2. Although temperatures vary for different species of reptiles, as a rule of thumb, most habitats should maintain a temperature of 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Reach these temperatures by attaching incandescent heat bulbs to the outside of the reptile habitat, according to Animal Planet's online Reptile Guide. Heated rocks, under-tank heat pads and ceramic infrared heat emitters also elevate the temperature of a reptile habitat.
   3. Heating created by incandescent bulbs and other heat sources reduces a reptile's chance at developing infectious diseases and boosts his immune system, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual's Reptile Management guide. Providing additional heat sources replicates the animal's native habitat, making him happier and helping him aclimate faster to his captive environment.

Those government bureaucrats better not mess with animal care advice from the Merck Veterinary Manual, by God!

Incandescant bulbs are also a handy heat and light source for many other animals, from the lowliest aquarium fish to puppies and kittens. Why, it is no exaggeration to say that this right is grounded in natural law.

As long as the packaging says "NOT TO BE USED AS A LIGHT SOURCE FOR HUMANS," both buyers and sellers in this emerging gray market can probably get away with a lot of new wrinkles in their quasi-legal trade.  

I love it.

posted by Eric at 10:54 PM | Comments (3)

Up from hopelessness, and up with truce!

The Myth of American Religious Freedom, which Glenn linked earlier, looks like a great book:

In this new and compelling examination of American religious history, Sehat argues that this country did not extend freedom of religion to all, but until recently was controlled by a Protestant Christian establishment that sought to impose its will in coercive and often exclusionary ways. An assistant professor of history at Georgia State University, Sehat shows how state and federal courts sided with the Protestant moral establishment in battles with Roman Catholics over public schools, with Mormons over polygamy, and with freethinkers over the right to be irreligious. This argument might surprise 21st-century Americans convinced their country has always been a beacon of religious liberty, but it is precisely this flaw in the national religious image that Sehat attempts to illuminate, if not always concisely. His argument is timely in light of the controversy over a proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York City. It is also an important corrective to the ongoing culture wars between the religious right, which claims this country was birthed on a Christian foundation, and secularists, who insist that the First Amendment spells out a separation of church and state.

(Reminds me of why I like Mormonism; its existence broadens the definition and scope of Christianity.)

Whether I have time to buy and read the book or not, the above Publishers Weekly review is a reminder that (as I keep saying) religious disagreements are hopeless. Religious debates by their nature involve competing views over the unknown, which I think are by definition impossible for any "side" to win. 

Which is why we need to remember the distinction between coalition and compromise. They are not synonymous. It is possible to work together toward a shared goal without anyone compromising his or her principles or beliefs. This may entail a truce.

More specifically, A Truce In The Culture Wars As Voters Focus On The Economy:

American history is a long chronicle of, among other things, people with different views on religious and cultural issues living in more or less close and amicable proximity with one another. Sometimes that's hard, when government faces binary issues (should abortion be legal?) that must be decided one way or the other.

But on the cultural issues that have been the focus of political contention we seem to have reached a status quo that, while not acceptable to some with strong views on both sides, is one most Americans can live with. The truce that Mitch Daniels called for and that his critics decry is a fact of life.

I like to hope it is. But the devil is in the details.

posted by Eric at 12:42 PM | Comments (4)

No wonder King George stuttered!

This morning I read a piece in the Journal about how videogames are changing the economy.

Even the entertainment and media businesses will be transformed.

That is certainly true. I see it in the way things are advertised, and even in the way people drive. Some younger drivers seem to think they're in a game which consists of zipping in and out of the smallest spaces possible as quickly as possible between other cars -- prompting me to exclaim "There goes another video game driver!" Whether this is "good" is not up to me.

However, I found myself annoyed by a byproduct of hyperactive media yesterday. I went to see The King's Speech at a local Multiplex theater and while it was a great film I can recommend wholeheartedly, I do not recommend seeing it if the adjoining theater is showing Tron: Legacy, as this one was. Before I get too carried away, let it be noted for the record that I have nothing against Tron or its legacy -- although I learned that it seems to be about video games:

Sam Flynn (Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Bridges), a man once known as the world's leading video-game developer. When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn's Arcade -- a signal that could only come from his father-- he finds himself pulled into a digital world where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Wilde), father and son embark on a life-or-death journey across a cyber universe -- a universe created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced with vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.

All fine and good, especially if it's good for the economy. But what did not strike me as good was to have my movie nearly ruined by constant, impossible-to-ignore rumblings, vibrations, and literally shakings of the walls emanating from the Tron film. (It introduced a whole new wrinkle to the king's stuttering problem, as I couldn't stop thinking that maybe he was hearing what I heard -- and feeling inhibited by it!) 

I don't know whether they're still using Sensurround or whether they have a modified form of it, but trust me, it is very distracting to be watching a quiet drama about a man struggling to overcome a speech impediment and have that interrupted by recurrent, weirdly unsettling noise.

Sure, I could have asked for my money back and left. But I had driven to the theater in the cold and I didn't feel like having to get in an argument with teenie boppers who are only paid by the hour and don't care (much less demanding to speak to a manager on a Sunday), all because acoustics engineers are apparently either unwilling or incapable of preventing this dramatic leakage of unwanted sound.

I have no idea whether I am a lone crank or whether other movie goers are having similar problems. But writing a blog post strikes me as preferable to surrendering to a silent grudge.

Or worse, succumbing to neo-Luddite thinking!

Hell, if Tron's legacy rattled my cage and shook my building while I was trying to make a speech, I might stutter too!

posted by Eric at 01:42 PM | Comments (10)

geo84 - geoclock.gif

The above is a screen capture of a very old application I was using back in the days of DOS or was it Win 3.x? Well anyway, it has been updated for Win 7 32/64 and I'm using it on my computer. You can see where the sun is shining and it gives sunrise/sunset at your location plus lots of other features. It is shareware. You can get the download at GeoClock.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

Objective fatigue from a conservative viewpoint

In my ongoing attempt to understand the consequences of plunking down hundreds of dollars for a new monitor (which, I am told, would allow me to use a higher resolution than my current 800x600 without having to wear glasses), I have gotten myself more confused than ever. What I do not want to do is spend money only to find that I have the same problem. Right now (with my 19 inch Dell LCD monitor), 1024x768 means tiny fonts, while 800x600 means easily readable fonts. Commenters suggested that I simply change to a higher resolution, then change the settings to larger fonts. When I did that (from the default 96 dpi setting to 120 dpi) the fonts changed -- they became skinny and spindly and abnormal -- and very uncomfortable for me to read. 

The bottom line is that I want to see what I see now, except without the damned and dreaded horizontal scrolling problem which results from the fact that web designers have now largely abandoned support for idiots like me who still insist on using 800x600. Intuitively, it would seem that a larger monitor might solve the problem and enable me to see the fonts at a 1024x768 resolution the way I see them now, but I want to be sure, as I don't want to have to enlarge the fonts and end up with the distorted ones.

Reading about the flaming debates over typefaces and fonts convinces me that on this issue I am very much a conservative:

Typography is a skill and an art. It is also very conservative. The letter shapes that we refer to as "modern type" are in fact over 150 years old. There is some justification for this conservatism: we have not yet fully understood the physical and psychological aspects of reading. To illustrate this, sans serif typefaces have, since their inception in 1816, inspired numerous flaming debates about the legibility and aesthetics. But even today, although we are now amply accustomed to sans serif letters and although numerous experiments have been conducted, there is no consensus on whether sans serif fonts improve or decrease legibility. The large amount of research on the subject is inconclusive.

Our typographic knowledge evolves this slow, because reading performance is difficult to measure. Reading is a very intelligent behaviour. Even when letters are barely decodable, we read the text without much difficulty since we see the letters in their context. One way to test the appropriateness of a typeface is to pull the letters out of their context. For this purpose, you can either use nonsense texts (the most famous of these texts starts with "Lorem ipsum dolor"), or use a standard text with deliberate spelling errors (proofreading tests).

The criticism on these tests is that people do not read individual letters. The eye picks groups of letters or even complete words. Studies on reading for comprehension attempt to simulate the real reading process by testing how much people understand from texts they just read and by measuring their fatigue. Getting decisive results from tests on reading for comprehension is, however, rather difficult. Objectively measuring fatigue is not easy and what people understand from a text is influenced by what they already know.

This certainly explains why I want to see the same style of characters that I have grown accustomed to having for the past decade or so. Distorted skinny characters are fatiguing to read, and I don't want them in my life or on my screen.

However, I am told that 1024x768 is "better." I have tried it repeatedly, and all it gives me is a bigger overall picture on the screen, and whether the details are any finer doesn't matter if I can't see the details without glasses. For example, if I open up the home page of this blog, there's more open space and tinier type. What is "better" about that? I only want clear, easy to read text (the same as what I am seeing now), minus horizontal scrolling.

I hope a new monitor will give me that, but I worry that I'm missing something else, but I don't understand what.

posted by Eric at 10:02 AM | Comments (13)

When a loss is a gain

In a post which touches on a basic difference between the sexes, Dr. Helen notes an irony:

"Pretty sad when something all teen males fantasize about happening to them is considered a crime."

This is a typical response to a story linked by Drudge about a mother and daughter who both abused the same teen boy who is now 17 years old (but was 14 when the abuse started)...

The woman in these cases is legally a child abuser, although the boy sees it as not only desirable, but as a rite of passage.

A step towards manhood.

Few of them seemed to consider the abuse a crime, just a privilege that a teen male had two women showing him the ways of the world.

But as a commenter, pointed out, the standard vis-a-vis girls is completely different, and we are supposed to be fair:

Plenty of 14 year-old girls dream of having an older male lover, and would greatly enjoy the experience. Yet society will condemn a male that takes advantage of that fact. Why should the consequences for a woman who violates a 14 year-old boy be any different?

Because society demands that the sexes be treated the same, that's why. What is a rite of passage for a boy is often a cheapening, degrading, and traumatic experience for a girl. It's not fair, and it must be made fair.

In Mexican culture, it is relatively common for a father to take his teenage son to a prostitute so she can show them the ropes (I have heard that in the Mideast, widows provide a similar function) and while the custom is not unheard of in this country, in the unlikely event that the son complained, the prositute could be arrested for pedophilia and the father might face conspiracy charges. But whether that's a desirable way to ensure that a boy learns how to be sexually functional or not, it is very hard to imagine any normal mother taking her daughter to a hired male prostitute to have sex. For a boy, losing virginity means gaining experience; for a girl it means being damaged.

Traditionally, the sexes simply don't see the "loss" of virginity the same way. What is gain for a man is loss for a woman.

Whether calling it sexist and treating the sexes equally will change this, who knows? 

Glad I don't make the rules.

MORE: Speaking of rules, RH Hardin points out in the comments that while "a young girl is not expected to understand the bargain, a young man has no such constraint to start with."

And Frank notes that because a new revision in the California Penal Code criminalized even a "come on" by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (of The Graduate) would now be a criminal.


Does that mean that in the hands of a clever prosecutor, maybe Playboy centerfolds could be charged with "raping" the fifteen year olds who get all hot and bothered when they look at them?

Maybe not. But I find it ironic to the point of ridiculousness that if a teenager actually managed to hook up with a Playboy centerfold who had been the subject of his masturbatory fantasies, she would be the criminal.


posted by Eric at 05:42 PM | Comments (23)


So far it seems the same as it did ten minutes ago, which is probably good!

I hope this year is a good one for everybody.

Thank you all.


MORE: And since everyone is celebrating, here's a blast from the past!

Grateful Dead New Years Eve 12-31-85

posted by Eric at 12:09 AM | Comments (5)

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